Sequel: Black and White
Status: complete;;


chapter three;;

I groaned lowly, turned over onto my back, and stretched as my eyes slowly opened. My phone screen said I'd only been asleep for a handful of hours ー certainly less than I wanted. I pushed back the curtain to my bunk and ignored the heaviness in my limbs as I rolled out of my bunk with an extreme lack of grace. I stumbled down the short hall into the kitchenette area, yawning widely enough to cause my jaw to pop, and Alan glanced up. His grimace told me I looked as bad as I felt. I peered through the window and saw that the bus was parked outside of a McDonald's, the other bus in front of ours. Alan patted the seat next to him, and I plopped down onto the couch.

"They went to get breakfast and coffee. We're on a pretty tight schedule today, so we'll have to leave as soon as they come back." He paused, eyes squinting as he thought. "Oh, we're gonna get a hotel after the show tonight since we have back-to-back shows and an interview for a radio station in the morning."


We didn't speak any more, and I rose to my feet and stepped off the bus. There wasn't much to do while parked in a fast food joint's parking lot, but I needed something to help me wake up. The brisk early morning air was perfect for that, the coolness causing my brain to snap out of its groggy daze. I stared at the rising sun as it peeked between buildings; voices coming my way made me look away. Louis, Harry, Jem, and Brett were heading toward the buses, their arms loaded with bags and trays of takeaway cups. Louis's face split into a grin visible even from the distance, and he shoved his two bags into an unsuspecting Harry's arms. I heard Harry protesting with a loud "Oi, you arse!", but Louis ignored him and started running toward me at full speed. Before I could say anything, he had me in his arms and was spinning us around. A shriek tore from my throat, but it didn't stop my laughing even as I buried my face in his neck. He finally set me back down, and I clung to him for a few more moments so that the dizziness would pass. When we finally parted, I followed my bandmates back onto the bus, waving goodbye to Harry and Louis at the door; Jem was handing out breakfast sandwiches and coffees by the time I shut the door behind me. I grabbed my food from him and headed to the lounge. I wanted to Skype with my mother before she went to bed.

"Hey, Mommy!"

"Oh, honey, hey! How is the tour? How is everyone?"

"Things are going so great. Everyone says hi and they send their love." I giggled as the guys started yelling at my mom from the kitchenette. "How's everything at home?"

"Perfectly fine. You know my job is entirely too predictable."

I shrugged and picked at my sausage biscuit sandwich. "Who knows, I thought Mister Laramie would have dressed in a tutu again by now."

"Oh, Erin. That was one time, and it was for a good cause!"

"I know."

"Why are you staring? Have I got something on my face?"

I shook my head as her fingers felt around her mouth for anything that shouldn't be there. "No, Mom. You're absolutely beautiful."

She grimaced and waved a dismissive hand, but it didn't change my opinion. She had pale green eyes and hair the colour of light caramel candies, and her full lips would give even the most gorgeous model a complex. Her appearance always made me wish I'd inherited her genes instead of my fathers, but I supposed that couldn't be helped. I'd rather have gotten traits from the troll in the Harry Potter movies than my father.

"Mom... you know you're my absolute best friend, right? You've been the only one there since the day I was born. Thank you for supporting me in everything I decided to do."

"Honey, what's wrong?" She frowned and leaned closer to the screen. "What's going on?"

"Nothing. Everything is great. I just, I just never tell you enough how much I appreciate all that you've done for me. I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too, baby."

"Okay, go to sleep, old woman," I said playfully when her words were interrupted by a yawn that she tried to hide. "Gotta get your rest if you're gonna teach rebellious teenagers how to be badasses with intelligence."

She was laughing as she ended the call, and immediately, I felt the loneliness settling in. I hadn't been lying; my mother was the best friend, even more than Amber. She'd been the one who'd worked two or three jobs and still found time to read me bedtime stories without complaint, no matter how often I chose the same story over and over and over again. When my father had left when I was five, she had held me tight and whispered that she would always be there for me and that she would never leave. And it didn't matter what I said or did ー my mother really was always there. She'd been disappointed when I got suspended from school at fourteen for vandalising the gymnasium in my school, but she'd loved me anyway. She hadn't even blinked an eye when I told her I was joining a band, just said "Okay" and saved up enough money to buy me a better guitar than the First Act I'd used to teach myself to play. She was our biggest fan ー my biggest fan ー from the very start. Seeing her today helped a bit with the pain of not being with her, but that relief only last while she had been on the screen. Now, my heart longed to be back home, curled up beside her in her bed while we watched stupid sitcoms from laughing so much, just like we used to do when I was growing up. I never asked her how she was doing after Patrick had abandoned us ー I never thought to ー but she'd never seemed to mind. She was always more worried about how I was holding up.

I wiped away the tears I hadn't realised were slipping down my cheeks. Thinking about her made me realise just how much I'd always taken my mother for granted. I sighed, closed the laptop, and stared out the window at the road. Cars passed outside, but they were unimportant blurs in the grand scheme of things. I had no idea what our next destination was, and at that moment, I didn't really care. I was well aware that I was luckier than I could have ever dreamed, being able to do what I always wanted and said I would, but it did very little to ease the homesickness that resided deep in my heart. I'd always imagined what it would be like to have finally succeeded with what we set out to do almost five years ago ー and those five years were full of relentless hard work and a lot of let-downs ー but it had never occurred to me that I would have a selfish desire to never leave my mother. I leaned my head against the window and thought back to the day that started my career in the band.

I paused to take a steadying breath before striding up the driveway to the garage with far more confidence than I actually felt. The vibrations from the amps jarred against my knuckles when I knocked on the white door; I wiped my clammy hands on my ratty denim shorts and knocked again. The music cut off with a loud squeal, and whoever was inside pulled the door up so they could see who was interrupting them. Three boys, slightly out of breath and sweaty, stared at me as if I was an alien with three extra heads.

"What do you want?" the boy behind the drumset said.

"Are you Jem?"

The singer raised his hand. "No, I am. What's up?"

"I'm here to join the band."

The silence was broken after a few minutes when they all began laughing. I crossed my arms over my chest and glared until they were done. The drummer stared at me with an amused smirk on his face, the bassist had to turn away because he kept chuckling anytime he looked at me, and Jem shrugged after exchanging a look with his twin.

"And what would you even play? Everything's taken care of."

"You could always use another guitarist," I said, stomping my foot when all they did was give me incredulous looks ー sure, my reaction wouldn't sway their decision to let me join, but my temper was close to snapping. "Look, let me see that Gibson, and I'll prove I'm not just some little girl trying to play with the big boys."

Doubt was still etched on the bassist's face even as Jem passed over his guitar. I swiped my palms against my shorts once more before tossing the strap over my head and getting the instrument settled. I strummed experimentally a few times, inhaled deeply, then took immense pleasure in watching their jaws drop during my "audition",
Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N Roses. Once I'd finished and passed the guitar back, I stood and waited as patiently as I could. Finally, the drummer spoke.

"Welcome to the band, little girl."

I was pulled from my memories when Amber plopped down beside me. She held out a bag of Twizzlers and waited until I'd grabbed one before taking an enormous bite off the candy rope.
"What'cha thinking about?"

"The day I joined the band."

"Oh, yeah, I remember that! You were crying like a baby when you told me about it afterwards," she giggled.

"I was not!"

"You totally were. I mean, I didn't blame you. It was super ballsy, what you did, and I definitely would never have been able to barge in on someone's rehearsal and demand they let me join their band."

"Eh, it seems to have worked out in my favour."

We sat in silence and ate the candy for a few minutes. She rested her head against my shoulder, her free hand coming to link with mine. I let my head fall back and closed my eyes. I hadn't gotten enough sleep, and my exhaustion was quickly making itself known. Amber exhaled heavily.

"Mind if I Skype with my mom before we get to the hotel?"

"Sure, go ahead. Want some privacy?"

"As much as I can get on a tour bus? Yes, please."

I nodded, pressed a kiss to her hair, and stole a handful of Twizzlers from the bag. She slapped half-heartedly at my hand but didn't bother moving the bag away. I dropped my breakfast wrappers into the bin on the way to the kitchenette; only Brett was there, but he had his earbuds in ー a sure sign to not bother him. I grabbed the tablet from its charging nook and went to my bunk to play Solitaire until we arrived at the hotel.