Set in Quebec, this story follows a young musician called Danny who deals with all the usual pains of teenage-hood - first loves, crazy family members and growing up.
Also, if you're uncomfortable with same-sex relationships you probably shouldn't venture any further.
Yesterday the Zenith Lyon, tomorrow night the Zenith Strasbourg and then after that it was the Paris Olympia before jetting off to London. The night after that, who knew? Maybe Manchester, maybe somewhere else, it didn’t matter really. He never had long enough anywhere to truly appreciate it – and after so many shows in so many different countries all the cities began to look all the same. Even the people were beginning to look the same.
Danny wished he could go home. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a decent night’s sleep; the days were all beginning to turn into one long blur and he could barely think straight. Wake up, seven o’clock, grab some coffee, no time for sugar, catch plane, fight with Charles – his manager – make up with Charles, grab a sandwich, do sound check, play concert, pass out. Start again.
Actually, perhaps that was a bit unfair. They did occasionally give him and the band some time to breathe. Today for example. Sort of. They’d arrived in Strasbourg sometime just after midday and Danny had promptly stumbled his way into bed to catch up with some much needed sleep. He was meant to have the day off, but at the last minute they decided to schedule an interview with some French music magazine without asking if he was alright with it. Not that his opinion mattered all that much really.
It was now six fifteen. The journalist was meant to have met him here fifteen minutes ago. He was late.
Danny contemplated going back up to his hotel room and sleeping again, maybe reading. There was that book he had been meaning to finish but had never quite got round to it. Maybe he should go do that. Or maybe eat a proper meal. He hadn’t had one of those in a few days. Fuck the interview, the guy wasn’t even here anyway. What was he called again? Marc Desmoulins? Something like that…
The café door opened and closed with a click, the little bell attached to the door rang, signaling a new arrival.
Danny didn’t notice. He was too busy observing the patterns the swirl of foam made in his cappuccino, as though if he stared for long enough it would give him some answers.
The reporter recognized him instantly. Who else would be sitting alone like that in a café like this? That boy looked quite ill. Pale gaunt face, a skinny frame that couldn’t quite be hidden by his ripped up jeans, pinstripe jacket or scarf and a messy head of shiny brown hair that half-hid his tired eyes and straight, thin freckled nose. His lower lip jutted out ever so slightly into what must’ve been an ever so irresistible pout when combined with the right amount of concealing make-up and airbrushing. This was his man.
“Salut, j’suis Marc, Marc Desmoulins. C’est toi Danny Rivault?” he had to make sure, after all. He had to send in a transcript of the interview by midnight to one of the editors and there wasn’t really any time to waste.
The young man snapped his head up and looked at Marc blankly. Marc couldn’t help noticing that those eyes were a lot less green then they made them look in press photos, but that they were fascinating nonetheless, all filled with flecks of brown and gold which you’d never see otherwise.
“Danny? Oh yeah, yeah that’s me – so you’re Marc from…?”
“La Scene. Do you know it?”
He shook his head. Somewhere Danny registered that the journalist was getting on very friendly terms with him – already tu-toi-ing him when they’ve only met for about three seconds. Any time else he’d have considered it a bit invasive but Danny took to this journalist.
He was hot. That’s all there was to it really. Marc was reasonably tall with dark curly hair, an easy smile which revealed dimples and he had a rather stocky build, but in a good way. Danny’s mind, who up until now had only been running on caffeine, felt his thoughts drift…
Merde. Concentrate Danny, concentrate. Let’s just get this done and over with.
Marc took out his voice recorder.
“So…is this your first European tour? Have you been to Europe before?”
Ah yes, tour. European tour. Was he new to Europe? Did they ever think of anything new to ask him?
Danny replied in French, his speech heavily accented – Canadian – but his French was otherwise very clear, Marc noted. He wasn’t used to the accent but for the most part could understand him perfectly well. In fact he found that there was even a little something charming about it.
“This is my second European tour, but I’ve been here in France before. My dad used to come here all the time for his tours.”
“Ah…I see. Your dad is Francois Rivault, right? He’s got quite a cult following here.”
“Yeah…he’s always been a lot more popular here in Europe than say, in the United States. He tried making it big there before, but that never really worked out for him.”
“Well, he is singing for a largely Francophone audience though, isn’t he?”
With a conceding smile and shrug, Danny nodded.
“That’s also very true.”
“So how do you like Strasbourg?”
“You mean apart from the airport and the hotel? I’ve not actually seen any of Strasbourg yet.”
Marc stopped fiddling with his equipment and looked up, slightly aghast.
“Sérieux? You’ve not been in town yet?”
“C’est pas vrais. Well, what are you waiting for? C’mon, I’ll take you on a tour.”
Was he being serious? Danny wasn’t sure. He definitely looked like he was being serious – Marc had already gotten up to his feet and he was getting his coat back on.
“What about the interview?”
Marc smiled charmingly.
“No worries, I’ll take care of it. You can’t come all the way to Strasbourg and not see town, that’s just ridiculous...”
Unconvinced Danny still wasn’t quite sure whether he wanted to follow Marc or not. Either way, it looked like Marc wasn’t going to wait for him and he’d have to make up his mind pretty soon.
“Alors, tu viens ou pas?”
Say no. You need to catch up with some sleep anyway.
Danny stood up.
“Yeah sure, I’ll come.”
Marc grinned. Those dimples were going to be the death of him, Danny was sure of it.
“Super – allez, let’s go…”
And they were off. The night was quite cool and windy – summer was over now and they’d just entered autumn. Danny pulled his coat around himself a bit tighter, though it wasn’t just the cold that was making him tremble a bit. Somehow you’d think fame would’ve made him a bit more confident, a bit more blasé about the whole meeting-people-thing, but it really hadn’t. Whether he liked it or not deep down inside he was the same skinny kid he’d always been – the kid that had too many freckles and the world’s worst haircut. The kid whose only ammo in the universal game of seduction was his self-deprecating humour and his guitar-playing. The kid who, up until he was sixteen, hadn’t even worked up the courage to kiss another boy. The kid who was now playing sold-out concert halls in Europe – through some incredible stroke of luck that Danny still couldn’t quite comprehend and didn’t quite believe to be real.
Of course, a professional stylist had done much to improve his tragic hairstyle – and although the freckles will never disappear, photo-shop had done miracles for Danny’s complexion in all his promo photo shoots. One could almost say he was good-looking, which was a description his sixteen-year-old-self would’ve found utterly laughable. But however much he’d changed, however much he’d matured and moved on, there were still some things that stayed the same.
Like the way his hand trembled whenever he was nervous.
And how he makes up for what he lacks in suaveness with reckless impulsiveness. Though he’s tried to keep that tendency somewhat in check. Too many disastrous experiences have since taught him that diving into something head-first without looking wasn’t always the best way to find a boyfriend.
Danny found that an unexpected side-effect of his relative-fame was how everyone he met already had some presumptions of what he would be like, typically based on rumours and second-hand accounts of possibly-true events. Usually they were way off the mark, and usually Danny found their assumptions amusing enough not to be offended; but it was an experience he found disconcerting, even now. He didn’t know why it’d shocked him as much as it did. It was logical really, if you thought about it. But the fact that people met him expecting him to be a certain way was something he hadn’t been prepared for at all.
He wondered what Marc thought of him, what erroneous preconceptions he might have. God knew how many there were out there – some of the rumours were downright hilarious. Like the one about his sister Vi getting married to Seb Grey from The Zolas.
Others rumours however, were less amusing.
“Would it bother you if I asked a question?”
“No, go ahead…”
“Is it true? What they’re saying...about you and Vincent I mean. That something happened? Is that the real reason he left the band?”
The question had taken him by surprised and stunned him into silence. He hadn’t realized that anyone had been saying anything about him and Vince at all. Out of respect for Vince’s privacy they’d tried to be as discreet about the whole affair as possible. Obviously not discreet enough. Danny glanced at his companion as he tried to gauge what exactly his motives were.
“C’est on-the-record ou off-the-record tout ca?”
“Why? Does it make a difference?”
Danny sighed. Clever boy.
The whole thing with Vince had been messy and it hadn’t ended well for anyone, least of all Danny. But it was over now, and as far as Danny was concerned it was all behind him. If Marc already knew about it then there hardly seemed a point in denying the whole thing.
“Ouais, c’est vrais.”
“Really?” Marc looked surprised, “I mean, when I asked around about it I’d been sort of under the impression that...well, that the party line was that Vincent is…”
“Straight and in a happy relationship with his lovely girlfriend?” Danny smiled, but it only served to emphasize the bitterness that underlined each word.
“Yeah. Well, that’s the party line alright. I think the only person fooled by it is Vincent though.”
They walked along the cobble-stoned streets, and without having ever planned it Danny told Marc all about Vincent – the day he’d auditioned for a position in the band and how they met, the way they used to talk to each other for hours into the night on the phone and how Vince used to drive him crazy with his smile. Small details, little things. He also told Marc about how Vincent broke his heart. Apparently you aren’t gay if it’s just about sex. All the while Marc listened with a surprisingly patient ear. Danny found that it was nice just to be able to talk like this, freely and openly to someone who wasn’t involved in the problem. Within his band the subject of Vince had become something of a taboo and Danny knew that there was some resentment there that was directed towards him – as if somehow he had been at fault for falling for Vincent. Almost like if he’d just ignored it and gotten on with his work, it’d have all been ok somehow. Which was completely irrational anyway, when so much of Danny’s work was affected by how he felt. As if each new song about heartbreak and unrequited love wouldn’t have made the tension escalate all the same.
It was then that Marc asked a question which caught Danny completely off guard: “Etais-tu amoureux de lui?” Had he been in love with Vincent? Well. If Danny were to be honest, he probably had been more than just a little – but he wasn’t sure. The only thing he knew was that he wasn’t anymore. Marc grinned.
“Good. He sounds like a real dick.”
Danny couldn’t help but grin despite himself. They continued to make their way through the cobbled streets of Strasbourg.
Before too long Danny felt Marc slip his hand into Danny’s.
Pull away. Tell him you’re not interested.
But if Danny’s mind was thinking one thing, his hand had an entirely different thought altogether as he linked his fingers with Marc’s.
“Putain, ca caille!”
“This? This is nothing – back where I’m from it drops to minus twenty in winter...”
They stood in front of a large sandstone Gothic cathedral.
“La Cathedral de Notre Dame” introduced Marc. Even at night Danny was impressed by the architecture. It was stunning. He felt Marc tug him into the shadows and for a while they both observed the sandstone carvings in silence.
They were very close to each other, Danny couldn’t help noticing. Marc had very round brown eyes and rather prominent cheekbones. If they’d stood any closer Danny would’ve probably been able to count the light dusting of freckles on his face.
Marc turned to smile at him.
Caught. Danny guessed it must be obvious by now that he found Marc more than just a bit attractive. He’d never been much good at hiding his feelings for someone.
Much to Danny’s surprise Marc moved closer.
“T’as des beaux yeux tu sais…”
Funny, no matter how often people used that line in whatever language, it always worked.
Not another French boy, Danny’s mind told him decisively. You remember what happened last time you fell for a French boy…
Too late, Marc had already leaned in for a kiss and Danny was not resisting one bit.
It was over all too soon though, Marc had already moved on.
“Viens, I have to show you…”
And Danny followed. One kiss on the cathedral steps, two kisses on the drawbridge, three outside that café, four in that alley…Danny had lost count. All evening he poured out his soul to Marc who offered far more comfort that he had ever imagined he’d ever received from a stranger. Everywhere Danny could hear people talking in French or German, getting on with their lives, getting ready for a night out but they barely registered – not when Marc was there holding his hand throughout.
The night drew to an eventual close. One last kiss outside Danny’s hotel room.
“You sure you don’t want to come in?”
Danny was reluctant for the night to end, and by the looks of it so was Marc. For a moment they both stood there contemplating each other and the possibilities the night could still hold.
But it was only a moment, and it was just as quickly gone.
Marc smiled that charming smile of his, only this time it was tinged with something like regret.
“I shouldn’t…I have a deadline…”
Stupid. Obviously he has a deadline. Stupid, stupid.
“C’mon – no need to make that face...here, gimme your number...”
“Right.” Danny couldn’t help but smile a little. He scrawled it quickly on a piece of hotel stationary and handed it over, “it’s my private number.”
“No worries, it’ll be our secret.” Marc winked as he took the sheet of paper and Danny had to grin.
And then he was gone.
Danny flopped onto his hotel bed. With a sigh, he flicked out his lighter and lit up a cigarette despite the no-smoking sign. He knew he probably wouldn’t be seeing Marc again. Still.
The night had been nice while it lasted.