"Come on, baby, we can work through this. You and me, right? We said we
were going to try the distance thing before we decided to call it quits..."
Adia glanced up from her novel and sighed
heavily. She didn't like butting in, but Keelia had been on the phone with Cypress for an hour now. Even the bus driver knew
that the relationship was a sure-fire failure. If Cypress didn't want to try, nothing was going to happen, regardless of how
determined Keelia became.
"Cypress. Honey. I love you. A few miles and months aren't going to change that."
strolled down the aisle, whistling an old Stones song. He was sick and tired of the drama, and he was more than willing to
serve as the distraction that finally ended the phone call. He caught Adia's glance and winked at her, plopping down beside
her on the couch.
Before Adia had a chance to answer, Keelia let out a heavy sigh.
know it's hard. I miss you too. But it's been almost a week already. That has to be a good sign, right? The time's moving
Jason leaned over with a sad shake of his head. "You know, if I didn't know Keelia, I'd think she was a model
girlfriend. I'd have kicked this girl to the curb ages ago, but KiKi hasn't even blown up at her yet."
"I hate to say it, but..."
"What do you mean? When the hell have I ever been unfaithful to you? We've been
breaking up and getting back together so often that I haven't had TIME to be unfaithful!"
Jason nodded knowingly. "Ah,
there we go. I was starting to wonder whether or not someone had sedated her this morning."
Adia stifled a giggle.
well fuck you too!"
Both couch occupants grimaced at the volume that Keelia's voice had suddenly acquired.
that girl can yell..."
They looked up to see Shane wandering towards them. Jason held a finger to his lips to shush
the guitarist before Keelia had a chance to hear another sarcastic comment.
"You know what? I don't have time for this
right now. Hell, I don't have the patience for this right now. I'll call you after the show."
With that, the bassist
shut her cell phone off and hurled it towards the bunk area, letting out a scream of frustration with the clank of the cell
phone against the floorboards finally sounded. "Dammit, I am SO sick of dealing with her!"
Shane perched leisurely
on the arm of the sofa and smirked knowingly. "Trouble in paradise?"
Keelia leveled him with a withering glare. "Shut
Adia furrowed her brow in concern and closed the book she'd been reading. "What's going on?"
arched an eyebrow skeptically. "Nothing? No offense, hon, but that sure didn't sound like 'nothing' to me."
groaned. "The usual. She's pissed and PMSing and mopey and I'm just sick of dealing with her shit. She's so caught up in what
she wants from the relationship that she fucking forgot that there are TWO people involved."
Shane rolled his eyes.
"Now you know what it's like for us boys all the time. You girls are so freaking moody..."
Keelia resurrected the glare.
"Times like these, I don't wonder why you're single."
"That was harsh."
"It was not! I'm fucking pissed off,
and all you can do is whine about how you're too stupid to understand women!"
Jason exhaled forcefully. "Okay, kids,
"And you're one to talk, you stoner. I bet you've never even had something that resembled a serious relationship!"
that, Jason's eyes narrowed. "Low blow, KiKi..."
"And Adia, don't even look at me like that, because I know for a FACT
Jason reached out and pulled Keelia into a bear hug to shut her up. He had a pretty good idea of where
she'd been going with her comment, and he knew better than to let Keelia tear Adia down. Keelia would feel too guilty later,
and he wasn't sure that Adia could handle it.
"Enough, babe. Really. Chill out for a sec, okay? You're among friends
here. None of us think Cypress is all that stable either."
Adia nodded slowly. "Yeah, Keels. We've got your back regardless,
"Thanks, but I'll be fine." Keelia rolled her eyes, yet remained subdued as she shoved Jason off of her. "Is
there anything we need to do as a band, or can I go break shit in the next room?"
Adia stifled her smile. "Well, we
do need a cover song for this evening."
"That's a no-brainer," Keelia mumbled. "Untouchable Face."
I'd totally agree, but there's a slight problem with that song," Adia began.
"Yeah," Jason groaned. "It's got the word
'fuck' in it, and, much as it pisses me off, Adia's right when she said that we need to develop some popularity before we
start throwing four-letter words around onstage."
"I'm sorry, Keels," Adia offered with a frown, "but we really don't
want to lose our slot on this tour."
The bassist grumbled. "I know. I know. But I'm in a seriously shitty mood, and
I really want to play an angry break-up song."
Shane shrugged. "We've got plenty of 'em at our disposal. Most prolific
musicians are painfully unhappy anyway. Trust me, I'm sure there's another break-up song that doesn't use the word 'fuck'."
a good one," Keelia muttered angrily. Adia groaned.
"That's definitely not true. What else could we play?"
Got Issues?" Jason offered with a grin. Keelia cheered.
"That'd be so fucking funny..."
Adia flinched. "Talk
about scarring the teenagers."
"Oh, come on," Keelia retorted. "Like they're not having sex already? Puh-lease..."
sighed heavily. "Much as I hate to say this, I'm gonna have to side with Adia. Let's see what else we can think of before
we resort to the Offspring."
But Keelia was already singing to herself. "I don't know why you're messed up...I don't
know why your whole life is a chore..."
"Keelia, stop. We get the point," Jason asserted. "Anyone else got any suggestions?"
Fucking Hates Me," Shane chuckled. "Not that it's a realistic suggestion, but wouldn't that rock?"
"Yeah, that would
kick ass," Adia grinned. "Unfortunately, we have management regulations to comply with."
sat in silence for a moment, searching for inspiration on the floor of the tour bus. Keelia began flicking the edge of her
chair in frustration, and Jason leaned over onto Adia with a sigh.
"Man, there are no good break-up songs anymore..."
Everyone's eyebrows rose a good inch or so at Adia's unexpected outburst, but Shane was the first to speak.
"You've got it?"
"Matchbox Twenty," she smiled. "Their song, 'Leave,' is absolutely perfect for this kind of situation."
brow furrowed in confusion. "It is?"
She winked at him. "Think about it, Jase. Think about the lyrics."
sighed. "Man, I wish I actually remembered the lyrics. That'd be nice."
As if on cue, Adia's gentle soprano began to
echo along the aisle.
How you make your face just like a wall
How you take your heart and
turn it off
How I turn my head and lose it all
How just one move puts me by myself
you go just trusting someone else
Now I know I've put us both through hell
Keelia's perturbed frown slowly
gave way to a grin of her own as the music behind the lyrics began to play in her head. She was so enthralled, in fact, that
she took up the melody when Adia stopped to glance expectantly at the rest of the band.
I'm not saying
wasn't nothing wrong
I just didn't think you'd ever get tired of me
I'm not saying
We ever had a right to hold on
just didn't want to let it get away from me
Jason began a slow drumbeat on the edge of the sofa as Shane picked
up the melody with closed eyes, singing with Keelia's rough-edged alto.
But if that's how you're gonna leave
out from underneath
Then we'll see who's sorry now
And if that's how it's gonna stand
When you know you've been dependent
The one you're leaving now
The one you're leaving out *
Adia smiled softly at the group of musicians
in front of her. Times like these, she knew exactly why she'd chosen them to join her while she bared her soul before an audience
every evening. They weren't playing for the power or for the profit, the fans or the influence. They were playing for the
She frowned momentarily when she realized that Nick wasn't quite as lucky as she was.
"So this cover
Keelia looked up and smiled for the first time all afternoon.
"Yeah, Dia, I guess this cover works.
Do you mind playing a break-up song tonight?"
Adia laughed lightly. "For you, Keels? Never."
"Long as you're
not breaking up with us, anyway," Jason added with a grin. At long last, Keelia laughed.
"Yeah, right. I keep extra
Midol too ensure that that won't ever have to happen."
Shane wrinkled his brow in a frown. "Is that your way of inferring
that we have PMS?"
Keelia smiled politely. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I infer? I meant to say it straight out."
rolled his eyes. "You're lucky I like you, lady..."
And Adia smiled, because at that moment, there was no place in
the world she would've rather been.
* * *
Nick Carter adjusted his headphones and abandoned his sketch book to stare
out the bus window at the open road as it rushed by him. For three hours and counting, he had been awake and relatively unamused
by the miles and miles of farmland they'd been driving through. Before, he'd been content to sit, stare, sketch, and think.
Now, he was mind-numbingly bored.
When he had toured with the Boys, he used to love driving days. Bus rides with the
Boys meant Nintendo tournaments, snooze-fests, and lots of laughter. If he ever got bored, he could fill a sleeping Howie's
open mouth with random objects or pick a fight with a groggy Kevin. If one of them was on the phone with a significant other,
the other four would engage in inhumane amounts of cooing and catcalls. And if all else failed, he could always sleep the
He'd slept the boredom off until mid-afternoon. He'd poked shy fun at his bodyguard until the older man
warned him to keep quiet. He'd sketched until his fingers hurt and analyzed some of his favorite albums until all of the lyrics
started to blur together. He had no more excuses and no more entertainment. It was time to face the facts.
Maybe it was because his worn copy of Adia's Out Loud CD had finally reached the heart-wrenching
ballad. Maybe it was because he finally had time to think about the fact that he was all alone in the business for the first
time since he hit puberty. Maybe it was because he'd just completed a beautiful sketch of a cubist guitar and realized he
had no one to share it with. At any rate, the combination of "Tears Like Water" through his headphones, an empty traveling
space, and completed artistry beneath his fingers was making him more homesick than he'd ever been before. And he didn't even
With a labored sigh, he flipped the page of his sketch book and began tapping the eraser end of
his pencil against the blank surface.
The tour was a week closer to being finished. It had been a good week, too. The
reviews were better than he had expected, and the critics seemed to love Adia as much as the label had hoped they would. The
covers had continued, naturally, but Irving was no longer lecturing the group. Of course, Irving wasn't lecturing the group
because Nick assured him the second evening that his opening acts had come to him for approval.
That was a lie, but
it didn't matter. It satisfied Irving, and Nick liked the thought that he'd helped his fellow musicians. Now, if only he could
force himself to initiate conversation with them...
Adia and the drummer, Jason, had made it easy for him. They offered a kind
word every time he passed them, even if the encounter was only a few seconds long. He had yet to figure out the other two,
however. The bassist just seemed like a hostile person by nature, but he was getting distinctly negative vibes from the lead
guitarist. For whatever reason, the musician seemed to hold a grudge against him, so Nick made a point of steering clear.
hostility from the bassist and the guitarist didn't dim his attraction to Adia, though. The lead singer continued to surprise
him with every performance, taking her vocals and initiative a few steps further than Nick would have expected. The covers
especially piqued his interest. "I Want You To Want Me" had been brilliant, but the succeeding covers were just as alarmingly
The second evening, Adia had dimmed the lights for a one-guitar rendition of "The Rainbow Connection" while
the rest of the band sang along from the drum box. The crowd had cheered at the familiar tune, even going so far as to wave
a few lighters before security threw a fit.
The third show's set gave way to a sweeping remake of "Because the Night,"
an old 10,000 Maniacs tune. The lighting crew had improvised with a collection of blue and purple bulbs, and a breakdown in
the middle had the entire crowd singing along. Immediately following the sing-along was a painfully effective guitar solo,
followed by an impressive drum solo. He'd noticed then how Adia seemed to be extremely fond of showcasing the individual talents
of her eclectic little group.
The fourth set was interrupted by an energetic but intense cover of Cyndi Lauper's "I
Drove All Night," complete with a bass solo. Of course, Keelia's bass skills had paled in comparison to Adia's powerful vocals.
She had held her notes like a seasoned veteran, displaying more breath control than such a petit girl should have. He had
been impressed, to say the least.
Not nearly as impressed, though, as he was when she brought down the house with Alanis
Morissette's "Your House" on the fifth night. She'd done the song completely a cappella under the heat of a single stage light,
singing with enough passion to silence his audience.
She'd definitely silenced him. He had stood in the wings, just staring open-mouthed
as the sleeves of her peasant blouse billowed to the beat of the song.
When she'd left the stage, he had made a point
to congratulate her. She had merely smiled.
God, he wanted to be that nonchalant again. He wanted to be that talented
and that carefree.
He wanted to make that kind of music again.
He looked up expectantly
and pulled a headphone off as the bus driver's voice permeated the fog of the album's second and final ballad. "Yeah?"
kids radioed in to say that they're stopping for gas soon. Do you want to brake alongside them?"
He fought back a smile.
The kids. That's what the older members of the crew had taken to calling them. Their playful way of wreaking havoc
at rehearsal had made them quite popular among the roadies. Even sound check was relatively interesting when the opening act
"Sure, let's stop. I should grab something to eat, anyway."
"Works for me, boss. I'll let you know
when they start to pull over."
With a sigh, he replaced the headphone and smiled softly. In five
minutes, he would feel awkward and subdued, yes, but at least he wouldn't be lonely anymore.