Sequel: If Only Until Morning

Pictures on Silence

Chapter 10


The two bands walked up to the venue, flashed our passes, and proceeded to the dressing rooms. Deborah, one of our costume crew, showed Matt, Sean, Jesse, and Angie where their dressing room was, and since we had nothing to do, the four of us followed along to see it.

The dressing room was basically an eight-foot cube with a mirror on one wall. "Well," Angie said cheerfully, "This is depressing." I grinned; her sarcasm amused me highly.

"Ah, screw it," Matt opted. "Let's just go to sound check."

The location didn't house as many people as our regular shows and the stage got kind of crowded with eight people plus equipment. But somehow we got through it, even though Jesse and Brendon got into a sword fight with two mic stands. Matt and Spencer didn't exactly help matters much by adding dramatic drum lines; to tell the truth, though, the rest of us just kind of stood back and laughed.

Eventually, we got the message to go backstage and headed to get ready. As always, everyone rushed around, trying to do everything at once. I moved away to a quieter section of mirror to do my make-up; insanely fun, in my opinion, creating designs on my face with eyeliner, but I guess most would disagree.

Just as I finished, Rachelle, one of our make-up artists, burst through the door in a huff and stomped over to her station. I picked up my hanger of clothes and asked her what was wrong. She spun around and glared at me.

"Those... sneaks!" she hissed. "I went to do their make-up-- whatever they wanted, mind-- and when I opened the door, there was already someone in there! They brought their own artist!" Rachelle slammed down a handful of brushes. "Whoever that redhead is, however the hell she got in here, she can't be nearly as good as me! She probably has no experience at all! Why are you laughing?!"

I continued hiding my laughter behind my hand, though other people were laughing outright, but soon composed myself. "Rachelle, Angie's Penny Dreadful's bassist," I informed the steaming woman. "She's in the band."

The colour flooded out of Rachelle's face. "You're joking," she demanded.

I shook my head. "I kid you not. Don't worry about it, I'll go talk to them." So I made my way out of the chaos-ridden room and into the dim hallway. The din of fans already followed me in echoes. I knocked on our opening band's dressing room door.

"Come in," came a call from inside.

Jesse sat in the middle of the floor, playing a random riff. Sean paced him in a circle, singing a very Irish-sounding song; which was weird because I thought he was English. Behind them and to the left, Angie sat in a chair with her back to the door, expertly spreading black eyeliner under Matt's right eye.

"Oh hey, Ryan," Jesse greeted. Sean and Matt waved, but Angie continued at her work. I wander over and looked at Matt: his eyeliner was simple, yet perfectly thick and smudged. She had a lot of practice at this.

"Good evening, Mister Ross," Angie greeted distractedly, still not looking at me. "Is there something you wanted? Perhaps to explain the psychotic woman who came in here a few minutes ago to swear at us in French?"

I exhaled a laugh. "Don't mind Rachelle. She's just a little high-strung about her job. Though judging by everyone's make-up, it's justified. Did you take classes?"

"Nope." Angie capped the eyeliner and smiled at me. "I just have a lot of free time and imagination. But now I have to do my own make-up, as we are going on stage in ten minutes, and you should probably go get dressed. How disappointed all your adoring fan would be if you came out in jeans and a t-shirt."

Realising that she had a point, I returned to Panic's dressing room and changed costume to Super Guitarist Rock Star Man. I heard the message 'Penny Dreadful to stage' over the loudspeaker, yanked on my shoes, and rushed out the door to meet up with the band.

The four already stood just out of the sight of the audience, sneaking peeks at them from behind the curtain. I stopped beside Angie, who was biting her lip and clutching her bass so hard her knuckles were white.

She turned suddenly and I started, thinking she hadn't noticed me. "Ryan, I can't do this," Angie blurted out, eyes wide and painted with colour.

"What do you mean you can't do this?" I asked. "You're going to do great."

"No, I'm not," she contested, breath coming quickly. "I can't go out there. It's too many people. I mean, normally I never get stage fright because I have no problem playing in front of strangers, but this is different. This could make or break my career as a musician." Her eyes became pleading. "I can't do this."

I thought of what to say as the lights in the house dimmed and the crowd cheered. "What's your first song?" I asked.

"Cover of Cheap Trick's 'I Want You To Want Me'."

Suddenly getting an idea, I took Angie's hand and followed her band mates out onto the stage. Screams arose when audience member recognised me. The guys looked confused, but I gave them a sign that said I knew what I was doing.

"Hi," I said into the microphone. People screamed. "I know you all know who I am, but I wanted to introduce you to some new friends of mine. These four people? One of the best bands I've ever heard, and the gods of tour decided that they should open for us for the next two weeks. Which is great for you guys because you get to hear more great music."

Angie was half-hiding behind me, so I tugged her by the hand up beside me. "This is Penelope. She's a little nervous, but I know you'll all love her, right?" The crowd cheered; some people whistled, making Angie's cheeks flush. "Are you all ready to be blown away?" The cheer became a roar. I gave Angie a supportive smile, which she returned weakly, and jogged offstage as they began to play.

I watched Angie step slowly up to the microphone and shut her eyes. She took a deep breath. "~I want you to want me... I need you to need me...~"

"Ryan!" I looked over my shoulder into the dark hallway. Someone wearing a headset waved a clipboard at me. "They need you in the dressing room."

I glanced back at the stage; Angie was becoming a little more into it, a little less nervous. "After this song," I promised and leaned against the wall to watch.

"~Feelin' all alone without a friend, you know I feel like dyin'... Didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin'?~" Angie twirled away from the mic, making her hair pinwheel, and danced around the stage. My eyes followed her move back and forth.

The riff dropped out and she brushed some hair out of her face; people were singing along. "~I want... you... to want me... I need... you... to need me... I'd love you to love me...~" Angie caught my eye from the stage and smiled. "~And I'm begging you to beg for me...~" I grinned back at her.

"Ryan! Come on!"

"Fine, fine," I sighed as the song ended to be drowned out by the crowd, but before I turned, Angie, beaming, blew me a kiss and went to put down her bass.

My foot jiggled as we listened to the audience cheering their lungs out. Right now, I thought, They're getting offstage and walking towards us. I picked up my guitar and followed Jon into the hall.

"Hey, guys," Brendon greeted. "They sound pretty crazy. Hope you aren't stealing our fans."

"You nuts?" Jesse panted. "We were just warming them up for you."

"Hey, where's Angie?" Spencer asked.

Everyone looked up and down the hall. "I think she said somethin' about needin' to use the bathroom," Sean said.

"But she went before she did my eyeliner," Matt said.

"...Which means she's probably in there throwing up," Jon said suddenly.

"I'll go- hey, Ryan!"

But I'd already shoved my guitar at Brendon and started up the hall before Jon even opened his mouth. I knocked on the door. "Angie? You okay?" It didn't sound pretty, so I opened the door.

Sure enough, Penny Dreadful's bassist and lead singer was bent over the toilet, retching. I crossed to her and gather her hair out of the way. Angie gagged again and spit into the bowl.

"Thanks," she croaked. She eased herself onto the cool tile and laid her head against the wall, eyes closed.

"Feel better?" I asked. Angie nodded slightly, but winced and put a hand to her temple. "You look like death warmed over."

She smiled weakly. "How can you tell it from normal?" I smiled and brushed a stringy curl away from her cold, clammy forehead. "Don't you have a show to do?"

"Are you sure you're okay?" I insisted.

Angie struggled to her knees, and I helped her up. "What doesn't kill me," she said slowly as I helped her out of the bathroom, "Makes me hard of hearing." I laughed, whilst she coughed and made a face. "And ruins my throat lining."

"There y'are!" Sean emerged from the darkness and nodded towards the stage. "You need to get out there right now." I looked at Angie again. "Don't worry, I'll take care of her. Run! Now!"

Run I did, making it just in time to throw my guitar strap around my neck and for the lights to go up. Soon I got lost in the music and forgot about everything else. I didn't worry about where wed go tomorrow, or whether Dad was sober at the moment, or where Mom was, or anything else. There were only me, the guys, the fans, and the music.

That's all that mattered.

I sunk onto a couch in the dressing room and breathed a sigh. Another great show down.
"Hello, Panic!," greeted a voice from the door.

Angie grinned and walked into the room. Brendon squealed girlishly and held a shirt up to his chest. "Some of us are changing in here!" he cried, voice high-pitched.

She paused to smirk at him. "Nothing I haven't seen before," she said levelly. Angie smiled at me and sat down beside me. "Heyya, Slim."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "'Slim?'"

"That'd be you, Ross," she said, poking me in the ribs. I made a noise and slapped her hand away. She pouted. "Meanie. Go take off your pretty make-up, Slim. You have autographs to sign for adoring fans."

I rose, unbuttoning my ruffled shirt, and crossed the room to hang it up on its hanger. As I made to change into my jeans, I remembered there was a sixteen year-old girl in the room and turned, but Angie was curled up on the couch, asleep.

Once everyone had become normal people again, Spencer woke Angie up by poking her incessantly, which really only succeeded in making her grumpy. We went out in twos to the bus with our bodyguard, signing things along the way for devoted fans.


I shuffled along after the guys down the hall. I was tired and wanted to go to bed, adrenaline or not. But when we got outside, shock made me wide-awake.

For a minute, I merely stared at all the people waving CDs and the occasional shirt at us. Manwhore split off first-- but what would you expect? Shyly, I waved at the people shouting for my attention.

A hand offered a Sharpie to me, and I looked up at Jon. He smiled and said, "Don't be too long now," before continuing towards the bus. I uncapped the Sharpie and took a CD begging to be signed.

I must have signed fifty Puzzlemen CDs and more than a dozen Penny Dreadful t-shirts. "How you do this every night, I'll never know," I said with a relieved sigh as I collapsed onto a couch in the bus.

"But was it worth it?" Brendon asked.

I lifted my head. "Of course it was worth it. But I want some damn sleep now, so if you would be so kind as to show me to my bunk."

Somehow I managed to wash my face, brush my teeth, and change into my pyjamas in the cramped, dark bunk before succumbing to the sweetness of sleep. It had been far too eventful a day. And tomorrow was looking just as great.