Generation 5 Chapters

Chapter 7.25

Kristie

“Oh my GOD, Kristie! Like the whole Dragon football team is going to be at this party. I’m sooooo freaking hyper I can’t stand it!” My friend, Piper James, was almost jumping out of her boots. She was in my sorority and had become my closest friend.

But she wasn’t Cheyenne. Even though she was a pre-law major like me and came from a prominent family, she was such a bubble head that it got a bit monotonous. She liked to copy off me whenever we studied and I practically wrote her senior level philosophy research paper.

But because of her, I passed my LSAT and had my pick of law schools to go to.

I walked into the dorm where the party was going on. I sighed. I really missed Cheyenne.

I was so happy I decided to SpaceTime her the other day.

I was so nervous before I hit her number. I mean, would she forgive me? What I did was honestly so shallow and mean.

And selfish.

But if I didn’t apologize and beg her to forgive me, I’d never see her again. I couldn’t let that happen. Sure I’d been mad she basically stole Zachary away from me. And although I’d told her that wasn’t the reason for me wanting a break from our friendship, my jealousy got the best of me. It’d happened like that almost my whole life with Cheyenne. Back at the acting camp when we’d first met Jack Rackham, I had a super crush on him, too!

Even though both of us didn’t know he was the real deal, I kind of had an inkling and a crush on “Jake”.

But he always sought Cheyenne out no matter where we were. And it was like she was the only person in the room.

It wasn’t lost on me so I gravitated toward his best friend, Hudson.

I knew Cheyenne was jealous of me spending so much time with him. But I couldn’t help myself. She always got the most popular guy and I got the sidekick.

In the end, everyone knew Jack Rackham was in love with her. Even though she couldn’t see it.

When Hudson filled me in that Jake really was THE Jack Rackham, it just stoked my jealousy even more. But I decided to not think about it.

Except it kept happening over and over.

Cheyenne would get all the lead parts in high school so I gave up my dream of acting and dancing. Cheyenne would turn the head of a guy I was too shy to even talk to. I hadn’t even told her I liked him so it was okay back then.

But with Zachary, I’d gushed about him all semester and I’d finally gotten to meet him at that party. He was flirting with me and I thought I was in heaven!

I knew I’d lost him to her once we started singing and then after I’d gone to the bathroom, I found them kissing in the cafeteria.

That was it! I was spitting nails. So tired of it. How could my best friend STEAL my crush? She knew I’d liked him.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed a break. Had to get away. When I couldn’t concentrate on my studies anymore I knew I had to split with her even though I sounded like a bitch.

And…I’d seen them on campus last semester. They looked so in love and by now, it was just stupid to stay away. I was over him and actually hoped the best for them.

I just wanted my best friend back.

Bracing myself for her to hit the end button, I was shocked when I saw her face. “Hello, Cheyenne. It’s me. Kristie.”

Instead of me seeing an angry face, Cheyenne actually smiled and waved. “Kristie! I’m so glad to see you. What’s going on? I hope everything is okay.”

“Everything’s fine…it’s just…I missed you. I wanted to…say I’m sorry. For everything.” I swallowed a lump that started to form in my throat.

My arms got tired and I flipped on my side. When she didn’t say anything, I added, “I hope you’ll forgive me.”

“Oh, Kristie…” She looked around, biting her lip. “I’m…not mad at you anymore. I just hoped I’d hear from you again. I mean, I’m hurt but…I knew you had your reasons. I honestly would have stayed away from Zachary if we still would have been friends. I feel so awful for what happened.”

Typical Cheyenne. She was sometimes too nice. I wanted her to shout at me. “But it wasn’t okay and I promise I’ll never do that again. If you steal my next crush, I won’t care. Chicks before dicks. Okay?”

She laughed then changed the subject. “Listen, Kristie! Some amazing things have been happening around here. My band just got a label and we’re going on a real tour. Can you believe that?”

Then she caught me up on her whirlwind life. I knew she’d left college to join BLITZED–Phoebe had told me but this was big news. I was so shocked, amazed and really happy for her!

“So, you and Pheebs need to come out before I go on tour, okay? God, I miss you both so much it hurts. It’s been hard being cooped up with a bunch of guys all the time. I gotta have some girl time.”

I giggled. It was just like we hadn’t had a falling out. And I missed her so much, I hadn’t realized it until we talked for hours, I hardly got any sleep that night.

But it was worth it.

I decided I’d stay for an hour at this party. I was so over college and couldn’t wait for law school. Then my life could really start.

I was crazy amazed at Cheyenne and what she was doing with hers. It seemed things always went her way. And that was okay. I’d grown a lot since last semester and looked at things differently. I was forging my own life, separate from hers. And just because it seemed like she was a firework that could drown out the lights of the stars in the sky, that didn’t mean I couldn’t be a sun in my own solar system apart from hers. That thought became so clear after we’d talked. I didn’t need to be jealous of her anymore. And that felt freeing.

I couldn’t wait until next weekend when Phoebe and I would visit her in Del Sol Valley.

*****

Zachary

“Come on, dude,” I said to one of my friends, Ryder Kirkland. “I really don’t want to be here. Why did you make me come?”

Ryder answered, “Because. This is a cool party and we’re seniors. Not ever going to get hot babes served up to you like this.”

“I don’t need ‘hot babes’. I already got one,” I countered.

He nudged me. “You’re not married yet. And besides, you need to let loose once in a while.”

“I see one girl who’s turning my head already,” one of my football friends, Malik Foley, added. He whistled. “See you, bros!”

I reluctantly followed Vance, Malik, and Ryder on the dance floor. Already, my friend, Dax was girating like he was on Dancing With the Sims. I shook my head. When I glanced up, I saw a girl winking at me. Oh God. People were already shitfaced.

Then I heard some black rock song erupt out of the speakers. It reminded me of Cheyenne’s band. BLITZED had driven a wedge between us so much that I wasn’t sure if we could survive it.

I walked up to the dj and she yelled over the loud noise, “I’m taking requests. Just put it on a piece of paper for me. Okay?”

I knew her–Samara Jenkins from my business administration class last year. “Hey, Samara, how’re you doing? Can you stop this toxic noise coming out of these speakers?”

She waved her arms. “Sorry, Zachary. I only play what’s requested. What would you like me to put on? I’ll play yours next. Okay?”

*****

Kristie

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Malik Foley was here. We’d kind of had a thing going several months ago, but neither of us wanted anything serious. And so we kind of drifted apart. But I’d love to talk to him again and catch up.

He looked a little lonely sitting next to a couple who were fighting.

He was one of the most handsome guys I’d ever seen. And funny.

Zachary

I pumped the keg for more beer. I’d downed two cups and was already feeling a nice buzz. Wouldn’t hurt to have more. I hadn’t thought about Cheyenne for the past half hour. That felt good.

A girl who’d been fighting with her boyfriend came up to me and started flirting. Although flattered, I didn’t need any temptations. Sure, me and Cheyenne were long distance and things weren’t rosy but we were still together, hanging on.

I gave her a quick answer and left.

Samara played a cool song and I was vibing, swaying to the music.

I noticed Samara for the first time. Maybe it was the booze getting to me but…she was so freaking beautiful. I’d never saw her that way before.

She kind of reminded me of Cheyenne in a way. Okay, so she wasn’t a goddess like Cheyenne. No one could hold a candle to her.

I shook my head. I was such a dumbass going over the same shit in my head. This wasn’t going to be a night where I was mooning over Cheyenne. She was my girlfriend who I’d see in a few months. Tonight, I was going to let loose and have fun.

I danced to one of my favorite songs that Samara played for me.

Kristie

Malik and I were playfully talking when one of his girlfriends came up to him all in a huff. He’d just asked me out and I was so over being just another number on his calendar. I didn’t want him as a serious boyfriend, but playing games like this wasn’t my style. Not anymore.

“Malik,” I said. “So…you’re taken. Is that it?”

He breathed out angrily. “Rosaly is NOT my girlfriend.”

She put her hands on her hips. “Then why’d you dance with me, huh?”

She stormed away.

Malik moved over and I sat next to him.

He said, “I’m serious. She’s just a girl I danced with when I got here. I didn’t even know her beforehand. I promise. S-She’s kind of crazy if you ask me.”

He looked so cute stammering like that.

Zachary

“What do you mean we’re leaving? We just got here,” I cried. My buzz was at all time amazing and I didn’t want to go just yet.

Ryder knitted his eyebrows. “We’ve got another party to go to, dude. You know that.”

“Well, I don’t want to go. You dragged me to this one and it’s not even dark yet. Let’s stay a few more hours.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Who’re you hitting on? Anyone I know?”

“Why do I have to be hitting on someone just because I want to chill at this party? There’s some rocking tunes and good beer. That’s all.”

He shook his head and left. I was glad I’d convinced him.

Next, I noticed Cheyenne’s former friend, Kristie Barnes tickling Malik. God, I’d have to warn him about her. She was like this psycho girlfriend who’d attach and never let go. I only looked at her at that party so many months ago and she thought she could lay claim to me. What a nut job.

But he looked like he was swilling her koolaid. Nothing I could do about that, I guess. It was his own funeral.

Damn. I was all out of beer. And I wanted something a bit stronger. If Kristie was here, I’d never get rid of the Cheyenne thoughts. Liquor might drive them away.

As I made my way to the bar, I saw Vance’s judgemental face. I knew he wanted to jet out of this party. He needed to chill. I told him that with my face. He rolled his eyes.

And then I saw Samara, toiling away in that dj booth.

She looked so cool just bobbing to the beat of the music. She was in the zone. I could tell she really got into music.

Vance waved at me. “Come on, Zachary. It’s time to go. Party’s getting lame.” That was code that no girls wanted anything to do with him. Poor guy. He just came on too strong.

I laughed at him. “Alright, dude, keep your pants on. Just two more songs and we’ll go.”

Dax pulled out a bottle from under the cabinet and came over to me. “How about we drink a little from this baby before we go. We’ll take a suber to the next party.”

Sounded like a plan to me. I grabbed the bottle and took a huge swallow. The satisfying liquid burned all the way down.

Chapter 7.24

Cheyenne

It was nearly 2 am. We’d just finished with our last set but I wasn’t tired. Zachary was so sweet to walk with me back to my place instead of taking a cab. My insides were like whizzing butterflies. I was DYING to know what that producer thought about our band but Grandpa had left with her early and texted me that we’d know more later. That wasn’t a good sign.

I sighed.

“What’s wrong?” Zachary’s low voice rumbled in the quiet morning.

I shook my head and covered my mouth. “What if she hated us, Zachary? We’ll be doomed. This is our only shot at getting a label. If Dusty Blair says we’re no good, who would want her leftovers?”

He stopped and held me close, kissing my forehead. “It’s not something you should worry about, Chey. Come on. I’ll give you a nice back rub when we get to your room.”

I snuggled into his chest. I loved having him with me. He knew just how to settle my nerves.

My mind raced through the night, waking me. But then having Zachary there would help me get back to sleep.

Why couldn’t I just pack him in my suitcase and take him with me wherever I went? I clung to times like this with him by my side. It was pure heaven.

The following morning, my nerves were fresh and fried. I paced around like a caged animal. Zachary went out and got us some coffee with tons of whipped cream. My favorite. He thought of everything.

He looked a bit nervous, hesitating.

I cocked my head. “What’s wrong?”

Swallowing, he said, “I…I was thinking, Chey. If this producer thing doesn’t work out, would you consider leaving the band and coming with me to Bridgeport? You know that city has the best theaters in the country. You could work as an actress. And in time, it could lead to what you’ve always dreamed of–maybe even a movie deal.”

I sipped the delicious carmel coffee. My heart wanted to instantly say yes but…I mean…I just started with the band and I loved it. It was a part of who I was now. Of course, he was right. My dream of becoming an actress still loomed over me. I DID want to do that but theater acting and commercial acting were two different things. And the odds of getting a movie break working in Bridgeport were basically zero. Zachary didn’t understand.

“Zachary…” I started. “I…”

He stopped me. “Look, I’m not saying you need to give me an answer right now but let’s give it until I start football in the fall. Okay? If things aren’t going as well as you thought, would you consider it? For me?”

If I was serious about us, I had to consider quitting the band. I knew that deep down but pushed those thoughts out simply because I wanted everything. Couldn’t I be a part of the band for a few years and have a long distance relationship? Many couples did that for years.

But it was obvious Zachary didn’t think the same way I did. I guessed I didn’t have to promise anything now. And he was right. Maybe in a few months I’d feel differently. “Okay…I’ll think about it.”

He smiled breathing out. “I know you won’t regret it.”

Just then, Mateo and the others burst into the room.

“Where’s my favorite singer?” Mateo cried.

My stomach dropped. “What’s going on?”

Angelo grinned. “Dusty Blair called. She wants to make a deal.”

Whooping, Mateo yelled, “Yeah, baby!”

I couldn’t believe it! Racing up to my band mates, we all gave each other a group hug.

This was it! Our dream was coming true!

I couldn’t believe it!

Zachary

I should have been happy for her. Hell, Mateo wasted no time in acting as if I didn’t exist, monoplizing Cheyenne. But I guessed I couldn’t blame him. I’d probably do the same thing in his position.

She was so giddy at what the news meant for the band.

It wasn’t lost on Angelo. He hated me since I’d tried to hit on his girlfriend earlier in the year. Heck, how was I supposed to know she was attached? And that was way before Cheyenne.

Being the dutiful boyfriend, I snapped some pictures of the band celebrating.

And before I knew it, the weekend was gone and it was time for me to go. I had meetings with my team and finals were coming up. I couldn’t believe I’d be graduating soon then off to Bridgeport for training.

I gathered her hands in mine. “Let me know what happens with that producer.”

She nodded, not saying anything. I saw tears in her eyes. We both knew we wouldn’t see each other for months. Would our relationship just fade away?

“I don’t want you to go,” she whispered.

“I’ll call you when I get home.” This sucked.

Cheyenne

I hated saying goodbye to Zachary. We’d have the most amazing time together whenever he visited. It was like time was on fast forward when he was here. It wasn’t fair!

And then poof. He was gone.

But my love life had to take a backseat to my job.

Before I knew what was happening, the guys and I were in an uber going to the famous Simy Fire building. It was shaped like a guitar. I thought that was so cool!

I had a knot in my throat and my whole body was shaking just being in front of Dusty Blair. She exuded fame. She’d produced some of the all time greatest rock legends!

“Well, look at what the cat drug in.” She tutted. “I expect you’ve already signed your contracts then?”

We nodded looking at each other awkwardly not knowing what her words meant. Cat drug in? Like…was she dissing us or did she want to produce our music?

She dropped her hands on her desk dramatically. “Listen, I’ll give it to you kids straight. My PA will take you to hair and makeup then you’ll do a modeling session for all the PR we’re going to give you. Everything’s gotta change. All your hair has to match. And good God, we’re going to give you a hair weave, Mateo, ridding us of that god awful mohawk. I mean what is this? The 90’s?”

Mateo’s eyes widen then he scowled. I honestly had to stifle a laugh. She did have a point. It did look a bit on the nose for a black rock band.

Then her eyes locked on me. “Because you have a beautiful goddess in your midst, we’ll be highlighting her and changing your group’s name to Edge of Eden–a play on the sexuality of this goddess. You’re quite lucky to have her, boys. Most rock bands are men only. That will help the hype.”

“What’s wrong with BLITZED?” Mateo grumbled.

He was so cute. He’d come up with the name himself and with her attacking his hair, I could tell his pride was a little hurt.

She plopped her boots on her desk. “It sucks. We’re elevating you, dear boy. If you don’t like it, the door is always available for you to leave. Do you wish to leave?”

Of course, Mateo backed down. And before we could say DREAMS! YES! we were in front of a green screen, all primped up and trying to look right for the camera.

It was hardest for Mateo.

He was always goofing off, doing the opposite of what the frustrated photographer asked of us. At one point Angelo couldn’t help it but he laughed.

Mateo was being ridiculous.

After about four hours and four thousand pictures later, we finally got a few pictures that worked.

Chapter 7.23

Cheyenne

Zachary just texted that’d he’d be here any minute. It’d been nearly two months since we’d seen each other and honestly, it was like a stone dumped in my stomach. I was so conflicted. A part of me couldn’t wait to see him but another part felt trapped.

Was I being stupid by keeping our relationship like this? My life just didn’t have time for him. He’d wanted me to join him at the SFL draft night. But I had a high paying gig and fought with my bandmates over it. Our first band fight. Mateo got so angry, he almost flipped a table and stormed out.

Zachary was so sweet about it when I let him know about our argument. But I felt like such an awful girlfriend. He deserved better. Draft night was the biggest night of Zachary’s life. I should have been there. His girlfriend SHOULD have attended and cheered him on but…I couldn’t. He didn’t get the team he’d wanted. Since he was taken in the first round, the awful, lowest ranked Bridgeport Bears snagged him. Bridgeport was on the other side of the country from Del Sol Valley.

I shook my head. A dozen times, I’d gone over and over about breaking up. But how could I? I loved him.

When I thought about it, I belonged with these guys. My bandmates. We were already so close. And I’d forget about Zachary until he’d call me. It was like Zachary and I were marching toward the end of a cliff. But he was at the other end without a bridge.

Rubbing my elbow, I sighed, steeling myself for what I was about to say to him. I was going to do it. Break up. I had to.

Suddenly, I heard a deep voice, “Hey, sexy.”

His handsome face enveloped me and I gasped, startled. “Zachary!”

“Is it okay if I come in?” It was as if he could feel my inner turmoil. But looking at his face made my heart melt. He was like coming home. I’d never break free from his spell.

Giddy feelings swept through me and I jumped into his arms. “Oh, God, babe. I’ve missed you so much!”

“I missed you, too.”

Our eyes locked and I wanted to take him to my bedroom right there!

Zachary

Cheyenne was so excited about her new living arrangements. I hated the fuck out of it. Living with four guys 24-7? My friends thought I was crazy for even considering sticking with this relationship. I knew I was nuts, too, but when you’re a man addicted, there’s no logic. You have to have your fix. Cheyenne Day was my drug habit I would not give up.

But was I happy? Where was our relationship leading?

Since she didn’t attend my draft, I saw the writing on the wall. We were sunk. Unless somehow her band would break up in the next year. That was what I was giving myself on us. One year of these once every two month meet ups. And if things didn’t change, we’d have to go our separate ways.

“What do you think?” she said, her voice bringing me to the present. I had to stop thinking about our future or I was going to mess up any good times we would have this weekend. She went on, glancing around. “It’s still a little rough but we got this furniture at an old vintage shop and I just fell in love with the vibe.”

I didn’t give a shit about what the place looked like. I just wanted to be with her.

Cradling her body, we just blended together like usual. I couldn’t get enough. “You wanna show me your bedroom?” my voice rumbled. I wanted those clothes off. Now.

Mateo

Fuck. Damned boyfriend ruined everything.

Just when I was beginning to think I was out of the friendzone, Mr. SFL had to come around and rip her heart away from me.

I’d been attracted to Cheyenne Day from the first time I’d seen her play at that party.

And now, we had a routine with each other. Like an old married couple.

We liked the same things–writing music, practicing, cutting up, being lazy if we wanted and just kicking back, talking.

She was the one for me.

But hell. She didn’t know it.

And now the guy who was all wrong for her was visiting.

I marched in unannounced, not ashamed for breaking them apart. “Hey, guys! How’s it going?”

Got a kick at seeing Jockstrap’s glare. He was onto me.

Cheyenne beamed at me. “Hi, Mateo. Are we all loaded up for tonight?”

I nodded. She was always thinking ahead. Ever since Cheyenne joined our band, we were more organized and flowed better once we got to our gig. “Yep. PA’s and mics are in the van. Just need to bring our instruments. Hunter’s going over our checklist now.” Yeah, I’m ignoring you, Jockstrap.

Cheyenne

Getting ready for our gig, butterflies hit per usual. This was a huge venue for us. Not big in the way of size, but big in future. Grandpa was going to bring a producer to watch us and if all went well, we might get a label. That’s HUGE for an indie band. It meant contracts, bigger tour schedules and social music support like Simify might pick us up.

I just couldn’t screw it up.

Glancing at Zachary in my big warehouse bedroom, he looked small and lonely in that corner of my room. Like he didn’t belong.

I shook my head. I couldn’t think like that. Didn’t we have an amazing time christening my Murphy bed?

And it was nice to know he’d be in the audience, supporting me.

I was praying for this break. It would be life changing.

Zachary

Mateo made it clear I wasn’t wanted in their band bus. Said there wasn’t room with the equiptment and all. The guy wanted Cheyenne. Might as well have tattooed her name on one of his pecs. And if I was going to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if I got a call one day with Cheyenne telling me they finally hooked up.

But here I was running around Del Sol Valley, taking in the sights until I got to the dive bar they were playing at. Like an unwanted fifth wheel.

The place kind of reminded me of their home–an old abandoned warehouse with a dirty street vibe.

When I walked inside, I was immediately hit with the musky scent of weed. I hoped I wouldn’t get tagged with that shit in my bloodstream. Second hand smoke was no joke and I couldn’t test positive for crap like that. Would ruin me.

I could hear the reverberating bass and fans screaming. Guessed BLITZED got started already. I thought they said they’d begin at 6 pm. Walking toward the back, I noticed a bodyguard narrowing his eyes.

Who did he belong to? Was there a mega star around here?

Then I heard a familiar voice. James Sanderson was here with some person who looked special. Didn’t know who she was. But they were in a heated discussion.

When James noticed me, he smiled and gripped my hand in a strong hello. “So glad to see you here, Zachary! Congratulations on your draft. First round. That’s amazing! I know Cheyenne is proud of you.”

I smiled, taking in the compliment. That meant a lot coming from a huge star like him. Although things were happening so fast with my career, it still was all surreal. “Thanks, sir. But that’s just the first hurtle. Gotta play my best and get the Bears from worst to first. Am I right?”

He patted my arm. “I’ve got no doubt you’ll do well. Hey, I want to introduce Dusty Blair to you. She’s the producer for one of the biggest labels in metal rock.”

He waved his arm at Ms. Blair. “Dusty, meet THE Zachary Hawthorne. Just got drafted in the SFL first round. He’s Cheyenne’s boyfriend.”

She took my hand and said, “I know exactly who you are, Hawthorne. I’m sad the Bears got you. Maybe you can work a trade and come to the Del Sol Valley Llamas, huh?”

“I will whenever I get the chance.” But I didn’t tell her that if I did well, I wouldn’t be going anywhere. Trades early in a career killed careers. “So…you’re here for Cheyenne’s band?” I wondered why Cheyenne didn’t tell me about this. If she was a producer, the band might get a label. That would change everything.

She scratched her cheek. “Like I said to Grandpa over here, the sound is right but the band members themselves are like a mish mosh of delapidated parts. Not sure if we can make a Smarley Savidson motorcycle out of them.”

James put his hand on his hip. “Bah! That’s all window dressing, Dusty! You could work your magic on them. It’s the sound that counts.”

The two argued for ten minutes and I grew tired. The stress of what could happen hit me like a laser slashing my flesh.

When I saw the fans screaming and heard the amped up beat of the metal music, my heart pounded.

My Cheyenne looked like a goddess in a garbage dump. She didn’t belong there. I knew that.

Maybe I could convince her to drop the band once and for all and pursue acting. That was her first love. Bridgeport had the top theaters in the country. Getting to work in some of them could catapult her acting career that would eventually translate to film.

The elation of the crowd buoyed her. She was such a natural performer.

If only she hadn’t said yes to this. Unfortunately, she was in the band deep. But I’d do my best to convince her.

I had to or we were finished.

Chapter 7.22

Cheyenne

Months had passed and I was a little dizzy on how things were going with the band. I had to confess, it was such a rush to be in a band like this that had its own following (albeit small in the grand scheme of things), groupies, people who knew who we were (when we entered small dive bars), etc.

Honestly, I was HOOKED!

And between rehearsals, creating new music, and our gig tour, I really hadn’t had time to miss Zachary. I didn’t tell him that though. But I was working! Doing REAL work! Not stuck in a dorm room, pouring over scripts or memorizing bogus stuff I’d never use again.

One thing we as a band had decided was we needed our own place to record music, rehearse, and lay our head down whenever we weren’t on the road. Doing that together would save us money. And believe me, money was tight. We weren’t rich. And honestly, the odds of us ever breaking out were low, but I liked how we were little by little gaining more followers. In ten years, who knew?

We were meeting with a realtor this morning who really thought she had the perfect place. She’d taken us to about five dumps that didn’t have enough space. But she promised this would be different.

“What do you think, guys? Isn’t it amazing?” she gushed.

It was a broken down, abandoned warehouse that in its heyday used to be an office building, manufacturing air compressors. I had to hand it to her–the place was super huge.

Mateo arched an eyebrow. “It’s rough alright. It’ll take years to remove all the rubble.”

“Can we afford this?” I asked.

Hunter gazed up and down the sides of the place. “Right on.”

Angelo shot a look. “Dude, don’t get happy with it yet. We haven’t seen inside. I’m not optimistic. It looks like it could crumble under our feet.”

Without going inside, the realtor took us out back to the enormous patio. She waved her arm over the surroundings. “Picture all your instruments here. Synthesizers, anything you want. Isn’t this a great place to practice? Of course, you could remove a lot of the garbage, but I know a company who will do it for free if you donate the junk to them.”

Gazing at all the weird contraptions, old cars, beautiful graffiti’d walls on the street behind us, my heart skipped a beat. This was PERFECT!

“How many bedrooms?” Mateo asked.

The realtor answered, “There’s a ton of space on the second floor that you could use for extra bedrooms. It’s some old offices. There are actually two formal bedrooms that have vintage furniture in them that you may like. Let’s go up and see. Shall we?”

I already knew this was our place. Sure it was filthy but the bones were stellar. And the price was just right. How could we pass it up?

Mateo wasn’t sure.

“God, I’d hate to know the size of the rats who’ve been living here for the past half century. The place stinks.”

After entering what used to be the cafeteria, a disgusting decomposing smell overpoured me. I almost wretched.

But I was determined. So what if we had to hire some exterminators? The guys had to listen to reason.

I sat down, sliding the metal, decrepit chair. “Look, we’re not rich so we definitely aren’t going to get a cozy pristine warehouse that would cost a million simoleons. But guys! Can’t you see through the dirt and grime? This is an amazing deal!”

Mateo clicked his tongue. “Are you going to clean it up?”

I laughed. “I’ll do whatever it takes to make this place shine. Think about how much fun that’ll be!”

In the end, Mateo caved. I already had Hunter on my side and it only took a little convincing for Angelo and Devontae to climb aboard.

And just like that, before we knew it, we were jamming in our own backyard with loads of room and a cool backdrop to go with our industrial tinged metal rock.

I waved my arms. “What do you think, guys? This couldn’t fit us more!”

Devontae plinked on his bass. “As long as the neighbors don’t call the police.”

“What are you talking about?” Hunter countered. “I think the neighbors are gonna be our biggest fans.”

Angelo crashed a symbol. “I give it one day and we’ll have to move inside.”

I shrugged. “Then we move inside. The top floor can be converted into a soundproof studio in time. Stop worrying!”

Mateo shook his head and fiddled with his controls.

We ripped rock riffs all afternoon and no one called the cops.

*****

“Do you like it?” Mom asked as we entered my room. She’d hired some movers to place things in my bedroom since I was basically broke. She brought in my old vanity and bought some rugs and a Murphy bed to save space.

It wasn’t perfect but it would do for now. The walls were still draped in that awful office drab brown and we still hadn’t removed most of the office furniture, but I’d do that in time. Grabbing her in a hug, I whispered, “Thanks, Mom. You rock.”

“Don’t forget your father was in on it, too. He wanted to be here, but couldn’t get away.”

I guessed Dad’s heart melted a little from the time I’d first told him about me joining BLITZED. I was relieved.

“How is it living with four guys?” she asked. “Is it strange for you?”

“We’re all best buddies. They might fart and smell a lot more than women, but all in all, it’s been fun.”

Mom got a weird smile on her face. “Well…be careful. Guys are not girls and I bet one or more of them might be attracted to you and then everything will change.”

I thought about how much fun I’d had hanging out with them. I could safely say that Hunter and Mateo were becoming one of my closest friends. They didn’t show that either one had any attraction even though I knew they didn’t have girlfriends. The drummer, Angelo, did have a girlfriend and Devontae was gay.

I loved joking around with them. They were so laid back and we just “got” each other. Mom had nothing to worry about.

“You don’t have to worry, Mom. Me and Zachary are doing fine long distance and…” I lifted the side of my mouth. “I’m just not attracted to them at all. They’re like having four extra brothers. Honest.”

“Well, if you’re happy, I’m happy, sweetie.”

Aww…I loved my mom. She was like having cold vanilla ice cream on a hot summer day.

Life couldn’t get more perfect. A few months ago, I’d never predicted that I’d be living in the heart of Del Sol Valley in an old abandoned warehouse with a rising indie band who were becoming my very best friends.

Pinch me now!

Chapter 7.21

Slight sexual situations ahead! 😉

Cheyenne

So much was happening at light speed, my life literally felt out of control. It was like I was on this 3 D rollercoaster, cranking to the tip top point, knowing there was a thrill about to happen but also totally knowing it was going to make me beyond uncomfortable.

Thinking about my future would envelop me sometimes, forcing me to hide out from everything–my parents, my bandmates, my friends…even Zachary.

Zachary…

I sighed and chewed my pencil. My therapist told me to write down my thoughts whenever I felt stressed. Zachary was the biggest stress in my life when he should have been the most peaceful.

But our lives were going in two different directions and I just couldn’t fathom how we were ever going to get to the same path.

As soon as he came back in town from the game, we couldn’t wait to drink each other up. My body vibrated as his warm touch sent shivers through me. It was pure ecstasy.

But the mood entirely changed afterwards once I unloaded what had happened with Mateo and Hunter and the band, BLITZED.

“You’re mad, aren’t you?” I asked. I could feel the tension between us like there was this hidden minefield and one of us was about to step on a bomb.

Not looking up from his phone, he said, “No, I’m not mad.” But he still didn’t look up and he didn’t look at me. He was mad. I could feel the frost coiling around us. Winter had arrived and not just outside.

Zachary

Okay so I was mad. How did she expect me to feel?

I’d finally found the girl of my dreams. Seriously. Me saying that was so out of character that it had been hard for me to wrap my head around it. I’d always dated around. Never had a serious girlfriend. But with Cheyenne it was different.

God, just being with her felt so amazing. Like we were one. I knew I had it bad when after the game, all I could think about was coming home to her, not celebrating with the guys or scanning for random girls.

I honestly had been thinking about shopping for rings, getting engaged once I hit the pros. In about six months. We’d even talked about it. She had actually told me she was going to look into acting gigs wherever I ended up and now she pulled this shit on me?

I didn’t want to get into it with her at that moment. I was still processing. But she wouldn’t let it go. “Zachary…come on. I know you. Tell me what you’re thinking.”

I glanced over at her. Damn. Why did she have to be so fucking beautiful? And why did she have to also be well…who she was? “What do you think I’m thinking?”

She flipped her hand. “Oh, I don’t know. Like it’s a stupid idea and I shouldn’t be so impulsive and this all could blow up in my face and I should slow down.”

Staring at her was like watching a butterfly molt from a cocoon. I knew I couldn’t contain her. People like her HAD to fly. And I was being this stupid selfish bastard wanting to have her to myself. But was that fair?

I wanted to say yes, dammit. It was fair to me.

But I just couldn’t.

I folded her hand into mine. “Babe, if your gut is telling you to do this–quit school and join this band then who am I to say a thing about it?”

“Really?” she asked, beaming.

Right then I knew I was going to lose her. I just clung to the notion that fate would somehow allow a miracle and we would end up together.

Cheyenne

Zachary was so sweet about everything but he couldn’t fool me.

He was worried.

And so was I but…I just went with it, trying to push out reality for as long as I could.

He made a joke about me having to dye my hair black and get a ton of nose rings and ghoulish tattoos.

I loved how fun he was. He could always make me laugh no matter the circumstances.

We cuddled there on the bed, legs like noodles, playing footsie.

Then he pulled me close to him, stroking my cheek. “I love you, Cheyenne Day. I always will.”

The way he said it was like he was saying good bye. Tears welled in my eyes. “I love you, too,” I whispered.

He leaned in, giving me a soft, tender kiss. I never wanted to let go of him.

I decided I’d do everything I could to keep us together. He was my soul mate.

Wasn’t he?

*****

Winter break was upon us and Kian and I along with Phoebe made the long journey to Oasis Springs. (Phoebe didn’t get along with her mom so she usually ended up with my fam most holidays).

Both of them changed into their swimsuits right away. One thing about the desert–it never got below 60 degrees on cold days. I thought it was too chilly for swimming but Dad heated up the pool for us.

I steeled myself a bit, walking around my dear old house.

I had tons of special memories here.

Mom and Dad never changed. They both were still focused on their research and archaelogical field work. I was happy to know they’d be home this winter break.

And I had something to unload on them that I’d been putting off.

I smelled something delicious smoldering on the grill. “Grandpa!” I blurted, so surprised to see him. “What are you doing here?”

“Can’t an old man visit his son and family?” he smiled, eyes crinkling.

I wrapped him up in a hug. “I love that you’re here. Hope you can stay for the whole time.”

Squeezing me, Grandpa answered, “I’ll be here for a few days, pumpkin.”

Oh right…it was Grandma’s turn to visit us for Christmas. That was a touchy subject with him. I was so glad my parents loved each other. Split families sucked.

With a twinkle in his eye, Grandpa said, “So…how’s the band coming along? Any new gigs I should know about? I want to see you perform, you know.”

Stomach jolting, I looked around for Mom and Dad. I hadn’t told them yet and I wanted to present it to them my way. “You didn’t tell them did you?” I whisper screeched.

“That’s a secret between you and me. Don’t worry.” He winked. “But you should tell them sooner rather than later. Remember. It’s your life. Hold your ground. Know I’m rooting for you.”

That little speech did nothing to calm my nerves. He knew as well as I did this was going to be a fight.

Just then, I saw Mom and Dad come up from behind him and my stomach jolted.

After they both gave me a hug, Dad said, “So…only one more semester until you graduate. I’m so proud of you, Cheyenne.”

“Eheheheh,” I fake laughed. “Yeah. So…um…I’ve got some news.”

“Really?” Dad’s eyebrows raised. “Spill, sweetheart. You dumped your boyfriend and got a new one?”

I shook my head. “Daaad…no. But can we go sit down to talk?”

Ugh. They both had these silly proud-parental looks on their faces. I didn’t want to disappoint them.

“So, what’s up?” Dad asked.

Like diving into an icy pool, I just had to muster up the courage and plunge in. “I got this really cool once in a lifetime opportunity. I was asked to join this indie band that totally have two hundred thousand followers on WooTube and thirty five thousand followers on Simstagram. Isn’t that amazing?” Oh dear God I was blowing it. Calm down, Cheyenne. You’ve got this.

It was like a wave of understanding hit both of my parents at the same time.

Dad gave me a look. “If they’re that popular then they must tour, right?”

“What about school?” Mom chimed in. She didn’t miss a beat. You couldn’t get anything past her.

“I’m…um…going to take a small break, you know. I mean…an opportunity like this doesn’t come around very often. Heh heh. It’s like winning the lottery.”

“What kind of band is it, honey?” Dad asked.

“Oh, well, you wouldn’t understand this kind of music. It’s sort of like rock and roll, ya know? Like throw back in the old days.” I seriously didn’t think they’d like me joining a black rock band…it was a bit edgy and my parents were anything BUT edgy.

Already I could see the tension filling Dad’s eyes. “If it’s oldies then why would you want to join it? That doesn’t sound like they’re going to be very popular.”

At that, Mom jumped up. “It’s her life, Liam. Let it be.”

“I’m just asking some questions, dear.”

“Okay, ask away, but whatever you do…be nice.” She threw all kinds of extra sentences at him with her eyes. Mom was always my biggest supporter of acting when Dad didn’t like it and now, I knew I could count on her to help me out except instead of staying and being on my side, she left.

My parents had a rule that if they didn’t agree, they wouldn’t argue in front of us kids. So she let Dad say whatever and then later, they’d talk. Sometimes she’d get through but other times, she’d side with him. I needed to stay strong. Just like Grandpa said.

“So…what kind of contract did you sign? You probably need an agent, honey.”

Agent? Wow. Contracts? They never mentioned anything. “I’m um…you know…going to get paid by the gig. We split everything five ways.”

“Do you know how much you’ll get per gig and how many gigs a week? These things are very important, Cheyenne. How are you going to support yourself?”

Omg…he was rattling off a bunch of nonsense! I mean…I guessed I didn’t think it through but those guys made it out okay. “I’m…in the process of figuring that out.”

Then his tone changed. “So you’re going to throw away everything you’ve worked for, toss out all that money we paid for all your schooling for the past three and a half years, to join a band you honestly know nothing about?”

“Dad…trust me. I know what I’m doing. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to school and finish. Okay?”

He shook his head. “No you won’t. Because once you stop, you’ll be out of the college mindset. You might do this for a few years, make a little money and for what? To barely make ends meet? What about acting, Cheyenne? That’s your passion. This band is just a flighty distraction.”

Ugh. He could be so unreasonable at times! Why couldn’t he support me for once in his life? He always had the delusion that I was going to end up like his dad or worse…his mother…who didn’t follow her real dreams and went on a whim with Grandpa to Del Sol Valley only to crush his whole family. “This is about Grandpa, isn’t it?” I almost yelled. “Well, I’m going to tell you once and for all I’m not HIM! I’m not THEM! I’m following MY path!” I flipped my hands. “Why can’t you just trust me for once?”

“I won’t support it.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Anger burst through me, making my eyes tear. “Fine. I don’t need it.”

Shaking, I bolted away from him. I couldn’t believe it was like I was a teenager, fighting with him over what I wanted to do in my life. Why wouldn’t he ever trust me?

Chapter 7.20

Mateo

The crowd was totally digging Cheyenne.

I was a little worried at first since I wasn’t sure if her style of singing would exactly match the band but I shouldn’t have doubted.

She threw her heart and soul into the music. It was amazing to watch. Iconic.

I could tell Hunter was really getting into the vibe with her, too. The music’s pace was heart pounding.

And her voice had this earth shattering range that I’d never heard before. God. She was miles ahead of that prick, Kade Phelps.

My next task would be to talk her into joining the band for good.

*****

Cheyenne

I learned something about myself when I got on stage. That it didn’t matter if it was in the theater or a dive bar, I loved performing.

Thankfully, the guys were cool with doing songs I knew. They put a heavy metal spin to some pop songs, and I honestly felt at home singing them.

The crowd cheered at some points when one of the songs crescendoed at the chorus. It surprised me but buoyed my energy and I sang even more passionately.

Glancing over to my left, I noticed my friends jumping and cheering, too. God, it was so surreal. What a rush!

After the night was over, the guys kind of just stared at each other. They didn’t tell me I did a good job or even thanked me. I felt kind of awkward and was just going to get my things and leave with Akia and Phoebe when Mateo finally spoke.

“What do you think, guys?” he said.

The drummer, Angelo gave him a look. “What do you think?”

The lead guitarist mumbled something to the bassist but I couldn’t hear him.

My stomach tied itself in knots thinking I must have sucked. I guessed the crowd just liked the music and the band must have felt my female voice was too different for them. After all, they’d been a heavy metal band with a deep male voiced lead.

I laughed trying to lighten up the atmosphere. “Well, it was fun, guys. Thanks for letting me sing with you. You’re all very talented and I’m definitely going to follow your band from now on.”

Angelo smiled and said, “Instead of following, how about joining us for good?”

That knocked my breath clean away. I stammered, glancing at Hunter then at Mateo. “Y-You mean…work on songs together and have me tour with you?” My mind whirred at the notion.

Hunter’s eyes held mine. My skin shivered at how serious he was. “Cheyenne, we’d be honored if you’d join our band.”

The bassist, Devontae added, “You fit us, dude. Please say yes.”

It was so strange. I hardly knew them and this was all so new to me and yet it was like I’d found my way home. Emotion welled up inside me and I wiped a tear as I simply nodded without even thinking through anything.

Once I got back to my dorm room, the thought of joining their band struck me.

“Oh my God. What have I done?” I whispered.

Peeking outside my window I could spy a few students chatting with each other as they worked on their homework.

I thought about my acting professor and how shocked she was going to be when I tell her I’m not coming back in the spring. Or finish out this semester for that matter.

And then another thought hit me. What were my parents going to say?

What about Zachary?

I knew my grandpa would support me. He’d been telling me not to waste my time at college. Acting classes were offered outside of universities, but I’d wanted to be with my friends. Kristie was a huge part of that decision and now she’d left me. What was really keeping me here? Grandpa said I should always grab any opportunity when it presented itself. Wasn’t this a golden opportunity?

Did I really want to be a singer in a band?

My mind went back to the exhilerating feeling I had singing with music I loved and hearing the shouts and adulation from the crowd and I could only answer one way.

YES!

Chapter 7.19

Cheyenne

It was girls night out and I was soooo ready. I’d been holing up in my dorm room studying for finals and Zachary was out of town this weekend for a game. Phoebe wouldn’t quit talking about her favorite band, BLITZED, a black metal band who was playing at this dive bar in town. I’d never heard of them but she was up on indie bands and would follow their social media, videos, and swoon. Guess the lead singer, Kade Phelps, was to die for.

When we entered the bar, Phoebe put her arms around us and announced, “Get ready to be slammed with breathtaking beauty, girls.” She gripped my and our other friend, Akia Irvin’s shoulders. “I see Kade. I think I’m going to faint.”

I didn’t know which one was Kade. They all looked fairly handsome–in a rocker sort of way. I was down for some amped up music and screamo death melodies. I’d hoped they were worth the $20 cover.

Mateo

“Sorry, guys,” Kade said, “but it’s got to be that way. My agent says I need to get paid more or move on.”

This guy. Why I let Hunter talk me into hooking up with Kade Phelps is beyond me. Sure he got us a bit of star power. He was known in the biz and had a few one hitters on his own but the guy was a fucking diva. I hated it. Now he was trying to take half our earnings for the night which would leave us to split the rest four ways. I clenched my jaw, trying not to say anything.

Hunter arched an eyebrow. “No fucking way, Phelps. Our deal was even split.” Hunter Rider was the band’s bossman–an awesome lead guitar. The dude shredded riffs like an Olympian.

Kade turned to me. Since I was best buds with Hunter, I guessed he thought I could convince him. Too bad Kade didn’t know I hated his guts. We were better off without him. I had a decent voice. I could lead sing and play the keyboard and synthesizer. Did it before he came along.

I didn’t look at him.

“Come on, Mateo. You know what I bring to this band. You’d be nothing without me. I’m worth it.”

Our drummer, Angelo Peters, sighed. “Give the drama king what he wants, Hunter. We’ve got a show to do.”

He cracked his neck.

Devontae Williams, our bassist, shook his head. “He’s out. We don’t need some greedy cocksucker. We’re supposed to be a team.”

Kade’s eyes locked onto mine. “Looks like it’s two to two. Break the tie and we can get on with business, Mat. We don’t want to keep our fans waiting.”

I snorted. Fans. It was five fricken thirty. Fans wouldn’t start showing until nine. “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.”

Kade straightened his shoulders. “Fine. Die in mediocrity, fellas. Peace.”

Cheyenne

“EEK!” Phoebe squealed. “He’s coming this way!”

I caught sight of a gorgeous tall-dark-and-handsome storming over to us. “Good God. What’s he want?” I asked.

We held onto Phoebe so she wouldn’t faint.

He stopped and said, “Good evening, ladies. Sorry to say, BLITZED is no more. You can get a refund at the bar.”

******

“Well shit!” Phoebe whined. “I can’t believe BLITZED broke up just as soon as they hit our town. I must have the worst luck.” Phoebe pulled her chair out and plopped down.

I hated not to share in her misery but I was over the moon. Zachary’s game was playing at the bar. I was such a horrid girlfriend. I really had no clue about anything football except that the game was out of town and it was today. But it looked like MY luck was on fire tonight. I’d tried in the past to watch a whole game but it was like jumping beans settled into my feet or my hands and I’d find myself drifting only to hear cheers around me and I’d miss probably the best play Zachary made in his game. At least I could sneak peeks from time to time here while sipping on a yummy cocktail.

I wanted to cheer Phoebe up. “Well, we’re at a bar together. Let’s order our favorite drinks and get the party started!”

Akia agreed. “Yeah, Pheebs. I’m DYING for a snaggle fluster!”

Phoebe nodded. “I guess I’ll drown my sorrows then. Snaggle flusters for us all!”

After I sipped the tasty fruity drink, I glanced at my texts and noticed some from Zachary.

Aww…he was the most romantic guy I’d ever dated. So attentive!

Even though both of us were extremely busy, he always made time for me and would think up the most romantic dates. I’d never met anyone like him before.

Last week, he’d surprised me by taking me to this harvest festival about forty-five minutes away. I didn’t even know it’d existed.

I gazed at all the hoe-down decorations everywhere. The haystacks were bigger than we were!

Zachary challenged me to some horseshoes. I was TERRIBLE at it. I figured he’d be good. He was good at everything athletic.

But he sucked.

The old man running the game quipped, “Good to know you throw a football better than them shoes, Hawthorne. I got two hundred bucks on the Lobsters next weekend.”

I snickered, teasing him. “I’m glad, too, or I’d be embarrassed at the games.”

“You guys are reeeeally funny,” Zachary said, shaking his head.

Next, he surprised me with a picnic at an area where a lot of people were eating and chatting. Even though there were many people around us, it was like we were the only ones in the world.

Zachary sidled up to me and said, “Come here.”

Whenever he said that, it meant he wanted a kiss so I puckered up, anticipating his soft kiss.

But then he threw me up in the air on his feet. He was crazy strong. “Put me down!” I cried, giggling.

He finally did then cradled me. “I wish we could stay like this forever,” he whispered in my ear.

Glancing at a family in front of us, I imagined a life with him. It’d look perfect just like them. Zachary was so easy going, thoughtful, handsome, and he was bound for the SFL. Our lives would be set. I couldn’t believe it, but I was actually rethinking my priorities. Acting didn’t seem feasible as an SFL star’s wife. Our relationship had grown at light speed but it didn’t scare me. I’d change everything for Zachary.

“Do you want another?” came a deep voice, breaking me out of my thoughts.

Blinking, I said, “Uh…yeah…sure.”

*****

Mateo

It was only seven thirty and one of our worst groupies showed up–Olivia Davis. This girl would NOT leave Hunter alone…or me for that matter. And she was going to lose her shit when she found out Kade left. Even though groupies were a pain in the ass, they were great for getting the word out and getting our stuff shared on social media. Happy groupies meant bigger crowds.

But I didn’t want to deal with her. Let Hunter figure it out. He brought the fucking diva to our ranks in the first place.

When I got to the bar, my stomach did a nosedive.

The girl from the party was chilling at the bar. It was like the Universe gifted me another chance. Maybe this time I would have the opportunity to ask her out.

I’d never forget listening to her voice when she was just fooling around on the piano. It was like an angel singing.

And her range was phenomenal.

I wanted to introduce myself to her then but also didn’t want to interrupt.

It figured. Some dumbass was in my seat. I had to rectify that immediately.

“What’s going on, jerk? You cutting in on my girl?” Tough guy speech always worked with wimps.

The guy’s eyes grew and he popped up, wheezed out an apology and the seat was vacated in seconds.

After I got my drink, I managed to grab her attention. This was my chance! “What are you drinking, angel? The next one’s on me.”

“Um…no thanks. I don’t think my boyfriend would like that too much.”

Of course she had a boyfriend.

But then it was like I’d saved up all my lucky chips with the Universe. A smoking idea hit me square in the face. “Then would you help me out with a problem?”

She looked at the tv screen. “See that guy with the football?”

I glanced up to see that douche Lobster quarterback. Hated football. Hated sports. But I knew the guy because he was hitting on our drummer, Angelo’s girlfriend a while back. The dick thought he was God’s gift to women.

With a smug face, she said, “That’s my boyfriend. So, if you don’t mind, please take your lines and throw them at someone else.”

And then my memories came together all at once. I remembered her mugging him in the middle of that party.

But that guy wasn’t someone’s serious boyfriend. He was a manwhore who dropped into a ladies pants like an emergency helicopter.

“Look, I’m not trying to hit on you with this. Honest. My band needs a singer and I’ve heard you’ve got a talented voice. Would you help us out? Just for tonight?”

At this her friend nudged her. “Oh my God, Cheyenne! You CANNOT say no! I’d die if you could sing with BLITZED!”

Her other friend chimed in, “Yeah, Chey! Please do it!”

She shook her head. “I don’t know any of their songs.”

“They do the most AMAZING covers to tons of songs you know. Seriously, this would make my night. Say yes, Chey! For me?” she winked.

“How can you say no to that?” I piled on, hoping she’d cave.

She sighed like a teakettle hissing. Then she groaned, “Okay, fine. I’ll do it.”

Chapter 7.18

It was Saturday night.

I sat at my vanity and incessantly filed my nails like I had any nails to file.

Why was I so nervous?

I was just going out with a guy I’d woken up with after a drinking binge. This said guy was none other than Zachary Hawthorn, who, according to my brother, Kian, was set to be an SFL first round draft pick. When I only gave a shrug at that information, my brother went on a tirade about how Zachary will be the darling of any pro football team and will probably be used as a weapon in trading but will most likely be swiped up by the worst team (the one who gets the first pick.) He actually felt sorry for him.

I didn’t care.

I couldn’t be bothered about football or any sport for that matter.

And here I was about to go out on a date with this star quarterback, not even knowing anything about the game he played.

And worse–I’d told Zachary I’d loved him. Like love at first sight!

Staring at myself in the mirror, I shook my head. “What are you doing, Cheyenne? You’re not compatible. It’d be better if you called the whole thing off.”

When I heard a knock on my door, all my misgivings melted to the floor and were replaced with psychotic butterflies whizzing inside me.

Escorting me out the door, I turned to Zachary and asked, “Where are you taking me, handsome?”

Handsome? Did that really come out of my mouth? I cringed so hard at myself. It was like I’d turned into a goofy fangirl at the sight of his dreamy green eyes and gorgeous body. And with his cocky ego, he didn’t need anyone to fan those self confident flames.

He smirked. “You’ll see.”

*****

I didn’t know why I was surprised that Zachary took me to one of the most luxurious asian restaurants in Del Sol Valley. I could tell he wanted to impress me since he basically had to stalk me to get me to cave into going out with him. Me telling him he’s handsome did nothing to add to my mystique. He probably thought I was gobbledy gook in the palm of his hands.

Laughing nervously, I quipped, “Listen, Zachary, we don’t have to go to an expensive restaurant. I’d be fine with a movie and some waffle fries at Freezer Bunny’s.”

Zachary huffed. “I don’t know how many dates you’ve been on but that doesn’t sound very romantic.”

I shrugged. Sounded fun and romantic to me, but I went along with him anyway.

A hostess brought us to a cozy table where Zachary pulled my chair for me. Wow. So formal!

I bent my head around and said, “Thank you,” trying to stifle those psychotic butterflies.

He caught my eyes and something clicked like time stopped. “Of course,” he said, smiling slightly.

After we’d ordered (I decided to go all out and got the jungle moss egg with lavendar whisps. Go big or go home. Am I right?), Zachary just stared at me, sending nervous jitters through my bones. God, there was something about him that made me quake!

Gripping my hands so they didn’t shake, I said, “What? Do I have spinach on my face or something?”

He leaned in. “I didn’t get a chance to tell you the other night but you were absolutely fantastic. You’ve got real talent as an actress.”

That caught me off guard. I wasn’t used to compliments. Just thinking about my future sent me into a spiraling caldron of anxiety. I plopped my face on my hand. “Tell that to the next casting agent. Do you know how hard it is just to get a read for a commercial?”

He shrugged. “You’ve got connections. Use them.”

I shook my head. “That’s not how you make it. Sure, I could use my grandfather to get in the door, but that won’t get you the part.” I sighed. “Acting isn’t much different from football. You’ve got to practice, practice, practice to win.”

He smirked. “But they never tell you that in football, you can practice all you want but it takes talent to win. You’ve got that talent.”

When I didn’t say anything he added, “Speaking of which. When are you coming to my next game? You stood me up last time.”

His face fell.

I giggled inside. He looked so cute. “Okay…I promise I’ll come next week and see you beat my university’s pathetic team. My brother is decidedly a turncoat. He says since I’m going out with you, he’s forever a lobster. I’ve got you to blame if he gets wrapped in duct tape and dunked in the pond by his fraternity brothers.”

That made him laugh.

For the rest of the evening, we got to know each other a bit better. He was the sixth child of a long line of very talented, overly competitive brothers. But he was also the only one who stuck with football. Every last brother who started in the game when they were young burned out by the time they’d reached college and decided to move on to other things–computers, insurance, graphic design, real estate, and one brother even took to ghost hunting off the coast of Brindleton Bay. I didn’t even know that was a thing!

After we ate and drank and laughed our asses off, Zachary pinned me down with a stare and asked, “Want to dance?”

The place was deserted as there was no dj–just some pleasant tunes coming from the ceiling.

Pulling me close to him, he said, “Come here.”

He had a look on his face like he was trying to tell me something.

And I didn’t know if it was the dinner or his yummy masculine cologne or the old 90’s music drifting through the air, but before I could stop myself, I touched my lips to his in a delicious kiss.

Pulling back, I said, “That was our first kiss, okay? The ones that I can’t remember don’t count.”

“Even when you said you loved me?” he asked.

“Especially that!” I teased.

Pulling away, he said, “You’re wounding my ego.”

Laughing, I said, “I think your ego is so huge it can handle it.”

Dear, Readers!

Yes, this story is back! And I plan on doing weekly updates. I’ve been planning this story all year so I should be able to pump it out on time. YAY!

And thanks for hanging in there with me. 2020 was rough but I can see clear skies in 2021!

HUGS!

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Chapter 7.17

Zachary

I’d given up all hope of dating Cheyenne. Hell, I’d never had to chase women before. They usually came to me. And I liked it like that.

I couldn’t understand why Cheyenne’s gorgeous red lips, her bright red hair and her tight jeans that showed her even tighter ass was now playing a never ending loop in my mind.

Vance said it was because it was the thrill of the chase. Hunter preying on pheasant. And once I got said quarry, I’d get bored and move on. I wondered if he was right.

Still…it was hard, but I’d decided not to think about her anymore. Vance, Dax, and I were headed to a party on the swanky side of town. Vance’s cousin knew a girl who was freaking rich and we were going to have the run of her father’s mansion–pool tables, hot tubs, and loads of hot babes. Just the ticket to get my mind off things.

Passing by the library, I noticed a familiar face.

My insides did a nosedive when I saw none other than Cheyenne Day holding hands with another guy.

“Damn,” I whispered.

Cheyenne had told me she was in a play but I was too interested in kissing her to really listen. And here it was. The opening night was in just a few hours.

Something clicked inside.

Turning to my friends, I said, “Hey, guys, listen, I just remembered I forgot to feed the cat before I left. But I’ll catch up with you later at the party.”

Vance’s eyes narrowed. “But…you don’t own a cat.”

“Yeah dude,” Dax added, “what the frick?”

“It’s my professor’s cat. Anyway, just go on without me, okay?” I said with my don’t-argue-with-me voice. This was code for I’m-going-to-hook-up-with-a-girl so don’t bother me.

The two shrugged and went on without me.

I took another look at the banner. Landgraab Theater was on the other side of town far away from the party but I didn’t care. Cheyenne was going to go out with me. I wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The play was actually a musical and a comedy. It wasn’t my thing but I got a few laughs out of it. And I liked listening to Cheyenne sing. Her voice was something special. Goosebumps prickled over me at one point in the song.

The girl was talented–that was for sure. Of course, I knew nothing about acting but I could tell she was a natural up there.

When the play was over, everyone spilled out into the atrium. I’d bought some roses to give her, hoping a little bribe might help tumble down those walls she’d put up in front of me.

But it looked like she was surrounded by her family.

Cheyenne

It was so fun to see my family together in one spot. Since I’d gone to college, we rarely got together except for Christmas. Oasis Springs is four hours from Britechester and five from Del Sol Valley. Grandma Lexie and Grandpa Cory couldn’t make it because Brindleton Bay was too far and my opening night wasn’t exactly an earth shattering event but at least Mom and Dad could come. Of course Grandpa was there. I got to see him practically every week.

“So, did it not suck?” I asked, my heart still beating from the excitement of doing the play. I always got such a rush when I heard laughter or applause.

My brother shot gun fingers at me and said, “You knocked us dead, Sis.”

“Oh, God, Kian,” Phoebe said. “That’s not what she wants to hear.”

I laughed. My brother meant well, but he could be awkward sometimes.

“That was an amazing performance, sweetheart! Come here!” Grandpa reached out his arms.

He swept me up into a bear hug. “I think you’re ready for the big time.”

He always said that. It was like his catch phrase for me. I giggled and said, “Thanks, Grandpa.”

“What about your old dad? I need a hug, too, you know.”

“Dad,” I whispered, hugging him close, “I missed you.”

Zachary

A huge problem for me was Cheyenne’s grandpa was a freaking mega movie star. Honestly, I didn’t give a shit about it. I mean, I really didn’t like going to movies. Couldn’t even tell you what the latest shows were or who starred in them. The only reason I’d recognized and knew who James Sanderson was was because my friends in high school made me see the Vindicators one night when we were binging shows. Afterwards, I’d made them promise not to bug me about watching again. I liked sports documentaries or the odd war history drama, but that was it.

And now I was staring into the face of a goon. Probably Mr. Sanderson’s body guard.

“Sorry,” the goon growled. “Mr. Sanderson isn’t giving out autographs. Now move along and allow him some privacy with his family.”

Shit. How was I supposed to talk to her now?

Cheyenne

I smiled after Dad hugged me. “Glad you liked it, Dad. I was kind of nervous it wouldn’t be your thing.”

“You’re right, Chey,” Mom said, giggling. “Your dad isn’t really into Fakespeare.”

He countered, “It could have been a spoof on alien invasions for all I care. You still would have nailed it to me.”

Aww…Dad was so sweet. To him, I was still his little girl and hey! I’d take it!

Just then, Mark Jackson, Grandpa’s bodyguard, interrrupted. “Excuse me, Miss Cheyenne. This guy says he’s your boyfriend. Is that true?”

I glanced over to see Zachary and my stomach fluttered. He came all the way out here to see my play? I had to hand it to him. He didn’t give up. And honestly, after the talk I’d had with Kristie, I was tired of turning him down. But I figured I’d tease him just a bit for his lie. “I don’t have a boyfriend, Mark.”

Throwing a finger out at poor Zachary, Mark shouted, “Okay, clown, I’m going to say this for the last time. Leave the family alone or I’ll escort you out of here myself!”

The stricken look on Zachary’s normally pompous face made me laugh.

But I was touched he’d actually come all the way out here to watch my play. And he was even holding a dozen roses. “It’s okay, Mark. He’s a friend.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Okay then if he gets out of line, just let me know.”

My stomach turned to knots almost instantly when our eyes met. “Hi,” I said, shyly.

“You look gorgeous as usual.” His pompous face was back. But I liked it.

Handing me the roses, he said, “These are for you. Did a great job up there.”

“So…” I said, “you like Fakespeare then?”

Twisting his lips, he said, “I like you. Come on, Cheyenne. Go out with me.”

My heart squeezed and before I could answer, I heard Grandpa say, “Go on, sweetheart! You don’t have to stay around us old people. Have fun!”

Mom pulled my arm and whispered, “He sure is cute.”

Smiling, I said, “He is. And he knows it.”

She laughed along with me.

Rubbing his hands together, Zachary said, “Look, that’s okay, I don’t want to take you from your family. Just…uh…can I come by tomorrow night and pick you up? 7 o’clock?”

Fireworks were going off in my head as my heart pounded. “Sure. See you then.”

Chapter 7.16

Cheyenne

God, I couldn’t believe the one job that could take me places got smashed by the most beautiful face in the world.

Jack Rackham was dreamier than his picture on the movie posters that were all over the world last year.

The real deal was always better. Thank God he didn’t see me.

Grandpa didn’t understand when I told him I couldn’t do the job anymore. I lied and said I wouldn’t have time because of my schedule with the play. (It was almost over and our practice times didn’t conflict at all but he didn’t have to know that.)

I wasn’t about to subject myself to the inevitable awkward moments when I’d have to attend Jack’s lot. And no way in hell could my self esteem survive if he didn’t even recognize me. Or worse. Didn’t remember.

Now that my job was over, all I had were me and my thoughts about Kristie. My bff! She wouldn’t talk to me no matter how many texts and calls I’d made.

What did I do that was so horrible? I tried to remember that night with Zachary but I’d drank so much, I just blanked it all.

But I did remember that morning. And he was…sweet…in his infuriatingly cocky way.

Well, there was only one thing to do. Blast her with texts until she caved.

Finally! I broke through her walls.

We decided to wait until the next morning since it was Sunday and no one would be around on campus. Everyone would be sleeping off hangovers or just be lazy since there was no school.

My body felt all jittery when I saw her sitting there on the bench.

The acrid smell of cigarette smoke wafted over to me. She’d started smoking again. I’d thought she quit last year. Guess not. In high school, she’d gone out with a dude that smoked and during her parent’s divorce, she took up the habit. Three years later, she vowed to quit and I thought she’d done it, too, because I never smelled it on her.

I walked closer to her with my peace offering in hand. She didn’t glance at me. She just blew out a cloud of smoke.

“It’s your favorite. Caramel Snickerdoodle Macchiato with extra whipped cream.” I inched out my hand, hoping she’d take it and we’d go back to how things were–laughing about our horrible professors, whining about not having the right clothes for a date, complaining about our parents being too nosy about our lives, and just being together most of the time. That’s who we were ever since I could remember.

“You know those are loaded with calories,” Kristie said not glancing up at me.

Guess she wasn’t in the mood for peace offerings.

I put my hand on my hip. “Come on, Kristie. Stop giving me the cold shoulder. I have no idea what I did wrong, so could you please let me in on the secret? It’s the least you could do.”

That seemed to snap her out of her funk.

Sheepishly, she took the coffee and said, “Thanks.”

I settled on the bench next to her as she looked as if she was thinking.

But I went ahead and spoke. I couldn’t help myself. “You know I’m really sorry. For whatever I did. I mean…I know you liked Zachary and I had no right to take him from you. I’m not seeing him. I won’t. He’s all yours.”

Kristie shook her head. “It’s not that, Chey…”

“Then what is it?”

She bit her lip as she squeezed the coffee. “I think we need a break is all. We’re just…going in different directions.”

I crossed my arms, not understanding anything. “A break? Like…we’re not a couple. That doesn’t make sense at all.”

“Yes it does, Chey. We’ve been friends for a long time but sometimes a person takes and takes from a relationship and the other one just doesn’t have anymore to give. That’s where I’m at.”

“What are you talking about? That I don’t give in our friendship? That’s not even fair, Kristie.”

“Chey, the night of the party, you got so wasted you didn’t even know what was going on. You were all over the place and then all over Zachary. Okay, yes, I was angry about that but seriously, you don’t care about what people think of you because you have a famous grandpa who’ll help you along no matter what you do. Partying is no big deal but for me, I want to get into the best law school in the country, and I can’t jeopardize that by hanging out with someone who…”

She stopped herself and got up as if she was done with the conversation. “Listen, I just think we should take a break. It’ll be good for us…for our friendship in the long run. I’ll go my way for a while and you go yours.”

I shook my head. “I can’t believe you’re doing this. Do you know how shallow you sound right now?”

She didn’t have the guts to answer me.

“Fine,” I practically spit, willing tears NOT to come to my eyes. “I’ll leave you alone and not dirty your precious reputation.”

“You know that’s not what I mean. It’s more that I need to concentrate on my studies. The bar exam is only months away and I have to score in the top. I can’t be tempted to lose focus.”

I was so hurt and angry, every fiber in my body burned. I knew the real reason. I wasn’t like her preppy sorority sisters. I didn’t fit in with them. I knew that but I didn’t think I was acting any differently than Phoebe. She’d gotten wasted, too, that night. But she was in her sorority, and I wasn’t. It didn’t make a difference these past three years and now, all of a sudden, she has a problem with me? There had to be something more.

I sighed then said, “Okay, fine, Kristie. Have a nice life.”

Without even a decent good bye, she left me, standing there. All by myself.

And just like that, I’d lost my best friend.

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