A walk by the sea (60)

Oh my god. I had a completely different plot but something happened and triggered this- this whole new set of events and I am just as excited as hopefully you guys. LOL.

Chapter 60

It was not looking good. With only an hour to go before his public performance aimed at putting him back on the map of music business, he felt purposeless and weak. He did not look forward to singing his soul out for dozens of rich fucks who only went to see him because the tickets were costly. He felt deep and inexplicable resentment towards them, which only added to his overall dejection: there was a time, not so long ago, when giving himself to appreciative fans was his main purpose in life. There was a time when performing music was what he lived for.

-Your suit is ready, love –Angela’s voice reached him from the depth of his bathroom where she was cleaning herself after their hectic and emotionless love-making during which he may have dozed off. He didn’t remember anything.

He nodded mostly to himself on the edge of his bed, looking at the hairs stand on edge on his thigh. He felt cold, but too lazy to get up and cover himself.

-You need to get dressed –she was standing before him in her underwear. He lifted his eyes to see her hips and the natural way her undies stuck to her sex. Not so long ago he would have been aroused. This time, he merely felt repulsed by the sight, like he was repulsed by so many things. Hence, it wasn’t his awakening sense of responsibility that got him to his feet, but his need to get rid of that horrible sight. She made him sick, that full, curvy, eager sex-machine.

By the time he reached the bathroom, his retching stomach made him bend over and vomit. The bile tasted as bitter as his whole life: dark, lonely, hopeless. He was losing touch with it all, it was all gathering on the pit of his stomach, despite things that should have given him hope. The contract. A future he may be able to shape and mould. Angela’s helpfulness. He did not doubt she wanted to help but she got on his nerves and he knew the time was imminent when he would finally tell it to her face.

-Oh, honey… –she stood in the doorway, sending sympathetic glances towards him bent over like a cripple, bile dripping from his mouth.

He had no strength left to send her to hell, he just flushed and stumbling to the sink, rinsed his mouth, splashing generous amounts of ice-cold water to his face. However strongly he felt against that fuckhead Ferguson and the whole contract, he could not afford breaching it and paying any horroristic sums of money the bigshots would decide he owed them. Pulling himself together was his one chance.

Walking past her without a word, he threw his shirt on, then pulled his pants up, stuffing the edges of the shirt inside them, not caring to arrange the creases. To hell with it all. The suit would cover it.

But Angela would not have her lover appear in an unorderly fashion and she unbuttoned his pants, patiently folding the shirt inside, all around his hips. He let her, he just didn’t care. He was tired and fighting her was the last thing he would have been capable of. She was definitely stronger, she had always been, from the moment she lay eyes on him from behind her desk. She saw his weakness and decided to create a fancy relationship-bubble for them which would make her feel better. She may have liked him, but he was too out of touch with everything to really consider her feelings and blame himself for not accepting her care.

-I already called a cab –she said quietly, helping him put his suit on, arranging the collar of his shirt under it.

He heard her words but couldn’t really focus. His eyes wandered above her head, past her, into lands of silent laughter and mutual happiness. His thoughts jumped from a time when he had taken Mary to the swing and pushed her back into her childhood, to the time when he and his brother first saw a small puppy sitting on his bed with a ribbon on its neck. Rain was rolling down his closed eyelids, soaking his jacket outside his new abode, a feeling of hopefulness permeating him with the tiny drops of water. The first time he sang before anyone, consciously holding out the notes, watching his mother first gasp, then shed a tear of joy, holding her blushing son to her breast. Walking by the sea alone, listening to the waves come and retreat, crash and break, then give birth to a new beginning. Spotting Susan in the audience, giving her the first uncertain kiss, searching her eyes for feelings similar to his own.

None of it was his any more. He lost his ability to sing with soul, he lost the unconditional support of his fans, he lost his mother’s tame love. He hadn’t seen her for so long, really seen her. The few times they met had gone by unnoticed; she asked him how he was, brought him food, told him about his brother and father, offered to help in any way possible. Each time, he had been reserved and happy in a calm, restrained way. He told her about the news on his contract, he even fleetingly mentioned Angela, when his mother spotted a bra behind a sofa cushion. He knew she tried to reach out to him but he was somewhere no one could have done that.

The sea was lost forever, too. A dream setting he must have only imagined. How else could it be paired up with such senseless bliss in his mind?

-Do you want me to go with you? –Angela’s harsh question that required as answer from him shot through the silence of his longing.

-No –was the first word he had spoken to her since the previous afternoon when she came into his flat and found him, legs sprawled and unconscious, on the bed. He did not remember any of what happened since then; hours went by in a daze, waiting for the Friday performance to happen and bring relief or havoc. Either was fine: he only wanted change. Of any kind.

He looked at her now as she was arranging his shirt collar for the god knows how manieth time, to see if she was expecting more verbal affirmation from him, but she seemed to be content with being his servant.

Disgust mingled with pity in his empty stomach when he left without not even a look at her. Deep down, under the darkness of his soul still lay part of what he used to be, and that part was telling him what a horrible person he had become.

In the bar of the fancy hotel he ordered whiskey to wake himself up and a plate of cheese and nuts to keep his innards from burning from the alcohol. Neither cheese, nor nuts tasted of anything but whiskey; when he finished the drink he paid and stuffed chewing gum into his mouth. The fresh mint scent crawled up his nostrils to make him slightly more alert and perhaps a little hopeful. The songs he had sung forever swirled inside his brain, and even though they threatened to be knocked over by any of the new melodies he was working on every day in the studio, the knowledge that he would sing his old songs gave him slight satisfaction. Perhaps hearing them he would remember what it all was about.

The heavy clinking of posh porcelain and silver cutlery filled the tall room full of strangers, who didn’t give a shit about who he was, every one of whom he hated now more than ever. They were calmly consuming food expensive enough to fill the bellies of a whole city of poor people somewhere in the third world. Before he knew it, his memories shocked his brain, sending waves of regret and sadness at how much he had left unfinished. His foundation that he had not even thought of for years, too busy trying to pull himself out of the bogs of despair, what had become of it? Was anyone taking care of it? Probably his father… How he missed his family now, standing on unstable legs behind the curtain, waiting for his cue. There was no one to get a kind word from; the make-up girl was young and cold, the assistant spoke to him as if he had been a veteran with one foot in the grave. Even unwanted Angela’s presence would have been more soothing.

-Mr Morgan, you’re on –he heard the words to which he blindly stepped through the curtains onto the stage.

The lights were dim, for which he was extremely grateful. He saw the whole room as a valley of tiny movements, indifferent chatter and an unstoppable wave of superiority that washed away most of his resolve to do his best. His best for what? They would forget what they heard even before he started. He had always felt his audiences, and had always been able to tell if they were ready to love him: the temporary inhabitants of the luxury hotel weren’t, and he was almost happy they weren’t. That would have implied a certain kinship which he, with the remaining sanity of his soul refused to acknowledge.

For a horrible moment he felt the piano was his enemy, as were all the people gathered to laugh at him. For a moment he was a child again who timidly sang to his friends before they threw mud at him, laughing at his vibrato. That had been the last time anyone laughed at his voice, but deep inside his guts he feared that those times were weighing him down again. Surely they would feel the steam of alcohol that filled his own nose, they would hear the raucousness he couldn’t help any more than he could help the shaking of his fingers.

An eternity had gone by, when he heard a throat being cleared somewhere, and he knew it was time. Even if he fell, it was time. He lifted his hands above the piano keys, undecided where and how to start, forcing his brain to send waves of recognition into his fingers before they dipped down into the keys gently, instinctively hitting them without his knowledge.

He sang the melodies that were engrained in his soul, songs that came back to him not during the rehearsals that week, but only now, for the first time for so many years. He felt them again as his fingers felt the black and white keys and his throat felt the waves of his breath that travelled forth in the shape of his voice. The notes soared and plunged with ease; they travelled on wings of voice, washed by waves of white key and sustained by rocks of black key. He sang to himself, or someone other than him did: the songs followed each other automatically, one melody starting a new one, tightly knit together like reassuring heartbeats. He had lifted so many people up with his voice which now, gaining courage with every song, was lifting himself up, and for the first time since he started singing, he understood the power of the gift he had been given. As the high notes tore his heart out from his chest and the low notes soothed his pain with their deep murmur, he felt he was reborn with every sound his throat emitted. His ragged memory brought back faces of all the millions and millions of people whose appreciation he accepted, but never understood; he heard their laughter and weeping echo within his soul, and he knew now what they had felt.

There was polite, but steady clapping after he finished the last song, and he sat for a moment, wondering if he should give an encore. Standing up to meet the faces turned towards him, he bowed and smiled weakly, too dizzy to stay long, too shocked to let them see him like that. There was a hair’s breadth separating him from collapsing when he turned to leave the stage; he lost his balance from the alcohol reverberating inside him and the scary revelation he had experienced, but a power beyond his weak will held him up and helped him arrive safely behind the curtains, away from the scrutinizing eyes of the members of the audience.

-You were amazing –the make-up girl breathed, squeezing her hands together. She didn’t look more than fifteen, and on her face he saw the familiarity of solitude: she would never see him for who he was any more.

-Thank you –he replied with a feeble smile, walking away, leaving the place, only taking the memory of what he had understood with him.

-Mr Morgan. Mr Morgan, someone would like to speak to you –the assistant came running after him and he turned indifferently.

-Oh? Tell them I’m not interested –he said and wanted to keep walking.

-He’s a very influential member of the Los Angeles Board of Artists and he would like to make you a serious business offer.

-What kind of an offer? –he asked, thinking it was a joke.

-He said something about a contract… –the assistant mumbled, apparently not knowing how to cope with an angry singer who smelled of booze.

Joshua stopped short, almost laughing aloud. Now they came with their offers, now that he had sold his soul to the Devil.

-Tell him I already signed a two-year contract with Capitol –he replied bitterly.

He went on, cursing life, cursing his horrible bad luck, craving alcohol. The beneficial effects of his own singing did not last long, as the only thing he could focus on now was that he should never have listened to Angela, he should never have become anyone’s servant.

-Mr Morgan –he heard another voice behind him and he turned on his heels, ready to send anyone he saw to hell.

-Had you arrived a few weeks earlier, there would be a reason for me to talk to you –he spat the words to a short, stocky character in a grey suit.

-I know you already signed a contract but I also know the best lawyers in town –said the stocky one who seemed to be resolute about his offer.

-What…? I… forget it –Joshua shook his head. –I don’t know what you want, I don’t know what you think of me, and I don’t have time to waste on rash decisions some rich bastard makes over a bottle of champage.

He didn’t even wait for any reply, taking long steps to get away from the voice of tantalizing regret. A reminder of what an idiot he’d been, how easily he let himself be fooled.

Hatred grew strong in his heart on the way home and by the time he arrived to his flat, his fist pummelled into the door with such force that his knuckles started bleeding. He was confronted by a wide-eyed Angela, but he grabbed her arms and threw her on the bed with the same merciless force with which he had banged the door shut.