After the band practice, I fell straight to sleep, in my clothes again. I couldn't concentrate and I could see the questions in their eyes all night, "what's wrong with you, man?" "Where's Kat?" "You're a state, what's going on that you're not telling us?"
Of course I didn't tell them that I kicked Kat out because I'd had enough of her and I was bored of her, and I didn't tell them that I was a state because I can't make up my mind what to do about Gemme. As for what's wrong with me? Where do I begin?
When I wake back up, I feel like I've got a hangover, even though I didn't have more than a few beers last night. Urgh. I heal away the groggy headache and strip, shower, shave, find some clean clothes. I find myself in my car again, driving to Newberry. Again. I don't even know why. At least I can just say it's ‘cause I like that Alice kid, because I do. She's cute and being ‘Uncle' Luca for some reason made me smile.
I'm finding it hard to smile at the moment. Since Gemme came and found me in New York, I've felt weird and my thoughts haven't been totally clear. Sitting down with my knees up against my chest doesn't work when Gemme's in my head. I don't know why, and I wish I did.
I made Rayn write a note for me before I left - I write like a retarded five year old. Hey Gemme, we're playing a charity gig in the town hall at Orangeburg, wanna come? Should be okay to bring Alice. Luca. I'm letting the car drive itself as I stare at the note. It's still stupidly hard to read. Not that Rayn's hand writing is shitty, just that reading seems to be a life skill that no one thought to teach me. Why would they? I was the freaky little kid with the weird powers that would go out of control every time I was pissed off.
And teachers had a habit of pissing me off, to be honest.
Maybe I brought this one upon myself as well, then?
I pull up outside of Gemme's house, but leave the engine running. I shove the note in the letter box and drive away again, heading for Izzy's place.
Rayn was complaining about how he'd run out of coke. I guess it had felt like a good enough excuse to come back here. Even though there's a dealer in Cameron.
I get the drugs, catch up with Izzy, and go back to Orangeburg. I don't see Gemme while I'm driving through town, so I figure I should just go back and help set up in the hall and do the sound check.
I give Rayn his drugs when I get back and he hugs me. I shrug him off with a smile and start loading up the van, before driving us all to the hall. The sound check goes okay and we practice for a bit, jamming with a couple of the guys from the other bands that we're supporting. One of the guys from the other band is a straightedge and can't understand our love of drugs. Rayn says he's unnatural and that he can't understand why the guy hates them so much.
"They fuck you up man, they do weird things to your head that you can't change," he says, his eyes wide and his tone stubborn.
"You sound like you're talking from experience," I laugh and he turns to me.
"You have no idea." Oh, I do. I really do.
Eventually, the gig starts, the charity organisers introducing the cause and all that shit. I don't listen; I'm too busy looking for Gemme from the bar. We're not up for another half hour. I can't see her anywhere, and it's not like the crowd is huge. Rayn taps me on the shoulder and I follow him to the side door where Phil hands me my guitar and a tuner. I smile and light up a smoke as I tune the guitar.
"Uhm, Cancer?" a small mousey looking guy comes up to me and I glance at him, "you can't smoke in here," he squeaks and I look around.
"I don't see any no smoking signs," I counter and he looks around. I'm right. He doesn't argue anymore.
And then we're on.
Obviously, it's a charity gig. Our set list is small. Limited to all the songs we've got that haven't got any swearing in. And leaning heavily to the acoustic set. They might as well have told us to do an acoustic set, really. And the reaction is nowhere near as good as normal but, it's for charity, right? It doesn't matter that I don't even know what charity it is, only that we're supporting it.
I introduce is and look across the room full of people staring up at us, looking for just two faces. Alice and Gemme... mainly Gemme. Embarrassing. I glance at Rayn and we start to play. Ashes - the new improved version - is the first song we play and while I might not be putting my heart into it completely, I think it goes down pretty well.
When I next open my eyes, I finally see them. Well, I see Alice. She's sitting on Gemme's shoulders, waving madly at me. I wave back and smile, but I don't have time to stop and say anything about it - the organiser is watching us like a hawk. Alice grins and we smile back, my heart suddenly back in my performance. Weird.
When we finish, we hand the stage over to the next band and the other guys bundle outside, but I push through the crowd towards Alice and Gemme.
"Hey, beautiful," I say to Alice, remembering that was what I called her when she climbed up on stage with us before.
"Hullo Uncle Luca!" she squeals over the music.
"You guys alright?" I ask, smiling as I realise that on Gemme's shoulders, Alice is only the slightest bit above me.
"Great." Gemme answers, "Great." Alice echoes with a grin.
"Wanna get up on my shoulders?" I ask Alice.
"Yeah!" She smiles, and Gemme laughs.
"You'll get a better view on his shoulders. I'm too short."
"Exactly," I laugh, lifting Alice onto my shoulders and holding her there with telekinesis. "I'm not as unnaturally short as you." I say jokingly and wink, glancing up at the band on stage.
"Thanks." She murmurs, shaking her head and following my gaze to the stage. They're alright. Kinda dull. I wait til their set is done before turning back to Gemme.
"I'm gonna go outside. Wanna come with?" I don't know why I said that. I seem to be doing a lot of things without knowing why at the moment.
"Sure," she replies and I turn around, pushing my way out of the room, crouching as I go through the doors so Alice doesn't hit her head. I let her down, smiling slightly. I lean back on the wall and light up a smoke before looking back at Gemme.
"So has the phoenix found her way out of the ash yet?" I ask as casually as I can, but I'm not sure I want to hear the answer.
"I don't think so." She sighs, rather unhappily. I try not to let out a sigh of relief. I mean, I don't want her to be stuck in the ashes for so long, I guess, but I don't know how I would feel if she moved on from it all.
"Oh... umm..." I dunno what to say. "Sorry."