1: Chasing A Dream
“I’ll take steak and eggs. Eggs over easy, and the steak moo rare please,” the balding, fat man chortled.
Rachel jotted down his gross order. Then she collected his menu along from the rest of his company.
The man snorted, “Thank you sweetheart,” as Rachel walked away.
She took a huge deep breath, swallowing her urge to snap back at that hick, who she could feel staring at her rear-end. The ironic part was, if the man was buff, or just in general attractive, Rachel would probably like the unwarranted attention.
Donny’s Cafe was a good size place. On the left, upon entering, was an L-shaped bar where people who came in alone could seat themselves. There was an open window to the kitchen, placed in the center of the wall, behind the bar. On the counter below that window, sat outed restaurant industry coffee machines, and toasters. Extra counter space for the waiters to make the plates look presentable before going out to the guests. In the cabinets underneath, supplies were kept for restocking napkins, condiment bottles, salt shakers, and pepper shakers, etc…
In a nook, behind the bar, in the far right corner was the soda fountain and beside that a couple of fridges with looking glasses to serve juices and milk from, the fridges also kept the fruit toppings and whip cream for pancakes, waffles, and french toast.
An archway, adjacent to the fridges, led to a hallway that led to the bathrooms and a door to the kitchen.
On the right, upon entering, were bundles of blue-seating booths and matching blue-top tables. The walls to the whole place were speckled cool gray, sort of almost white. The tile was checkered black-and-white. The pictures and the framed newspaper articles decorating the walls told the history of the place and the baked goods that made Donny’s Cafe locally famous.
Daily, guests could buy loaves of bread, muffins, cinnamon rolls, and scones… but none of the goods lasted longer than an hour after the restaurant opened… By closing at 2 pm every day, the place came close to running out of the bread Mick baked for the cafe to use for the orders.
Rachel just put in baldy’s and his table’s order, and as she walked out from behind the bar, the last person she wanted to see walked in through the door… Mick’s son Skeeter… No, his name wasn’t a nickname. But Mick Goodrich and his ex-wife, Ursula, named their first born son: Skeeter Mick Goodrich. Yes, their names sound totally made up. But they’re not…
Skeeter’s matted, frumpy long brown hair was up in a messy man bun. Even though it was like 50 degrees out this December, he wore slides on his feet, cargo shorts, on his legs and a graphic tee on his torso. At least he wore an oversized hoodie to stay warm. Not taking his fists out of his hoodie pocket he lifted one hand in-pocket and waved using the pocket like a puppet.
“Hey Chel-Belle, just the beauty I wanted to see… can you take a break?”
If he didn’t have the icy-ist, bluest, killer eyes… Rachel would have the power to stay no to him. She asked Alisa to cover her tables for a few minutes when she went to the back room to grab her coat. Already feeling regret, Rachel went to the back of the building, by the dumpsters, to talk to Skeeter. The mesquite trees and wild-flower-looking weeds made for decent a view, as some of the natural desert surrounded the parking lot.
His beard was an inch longer than the last time she saw him, and it was already down to his chest. He lit up a cigarette, took a drag, and as a cloud of fume left his lips, he offered the cigarette to Rachel. In her purse, she had nicotine gum. She started smoking in high school while she dated Yeager… She ditched trying to quit cigarette’s today. She accepted the cancer-giving baton, and smoked away. The rush that the cigarette gave her system to cool her nerves was worth the tar taste.
“What’s up?” Rachel asked. Half hoping he wanted to get back together. Sleeping over at his house all the time was the perfect getaway from Mary. She also missed him. He hands down was the second best musician she knew… next to herself…
“Heidi’s out of the band…” He sighed, lighting up another cigarette.
Rachel leaned her head back and sought the sight of the clouds to stay calm… Heidi Burnum had pipes like Hayley Williams from Paramore, and she looked like Gwen Stefani from her No Doubt days. Originally, Heidi was the keyboardist/back up vocalist, and Rachel was the lead vocalist/guitarist. The band Byzantine Souls existed because of Rachel.
Skeeter was a solo artist with his own act, and he knew a lot of people from the independent music circuit in town and all up the west coast to Washington. The first day Rachel started working at the cafe, and she met Skeeter, she knew who he was from his music online… learning he was the boss’s son made him more attractive… because she knew she shouldn’t date him for that reason.
Only dating for a couple months, Rachel suggested starting a band. Him, her, and a few of his fantastic friends who were also struggling artists. The goal was to combine their creativity and their fan bases. All of hem had a slightly different sound, but Rachel found how their unique styles could blend into a new sound. Skeeter agreed and recruited the members: Heidi Burnum, Justine Forks- drummer, Sophie Tremblay- bassist, Skeeter Mick Goodrich aux keys or real violin, Smith Fitzpatrick- guitarist or saxophonist, and Rachel.
The six of them were complicated and all opposites from the other. Heidi did emo goth chick music, Sophie played way more than bass, but her sound was alternative rock. Skeeter too played a ton of instruments, but he was classically trained, and no matter how edgy he got, his sound stayed well-skilled in the classics. Smith was bluesy and soulful like Ed Sheeran… and as chance would have it… a ginger too. Then there was Rachel… uniquely her without any clue what type of music she wanted to make… Rachel rightfully named the band Byzantine Souls… They intricately needed each other to create this new sound, but very diverse and complex… byzantine with a lowercase ‘b’ can mean “intricately complex”. The band name was perfect.
“If I come back… the band name is mine… if I’m out or if I stay… the band name stays with me.” Rachel said in Skeeter’s face staring him down.
He chuckled, “You’re a real piece of work.” He cursed. “We didn’t kick you out of the band, we just tried to convince you, you didn’t need to sing lead on every song. You took it as mutiny and left… we didn’t kick you out.”
Rachel stomped her cigarette bud flat to the parking lot ground. She nodded yes admitting he was right.
“I’ll come clean… It was hard being in the band and not being with you,” Rachel confessed. She purposely pressed her body up against his, not breaking eye contact with him.
Not even hesitating he kissed her as he tossed his cigarette to the ground. He pushed Rachel up against the grimy back wall of the restaurant. She forget how scruffy the beard was against her skin, how it kind of tickled. This moment– regardless of how it felt on the surface– felt even better in her aching heart.
They’d been split up for a few months now, but she would go through hell with him all over again. The music they made together was gold. The sex was cosmic. And no one made her feel like he did.
When they stopped kissing to take a breath, Skeeter made his own confession, “I miss you.”
“So if I come back to the band, does that mean we can try again?” Rachel asked waiting to take in air, hoping that holding her breath would magically make him agree to her offer.
“Yeah, I want us again.” He said. Then he resumed kissing her.
All the warm feels and tingles flooded Rachel’s whole system. If she didn’t have to get back to work, she would go home with Skeeter and not leave his bedroom until they absolutely needed food and water.
He abruptly jerked his head back and said, “I just need to do one thing first before we get back together.”
Huffing, trying to take in more air at an accelerated rate, Rachel asked, “What do you have to do?”
Skeeter released Rachel from his arms and backed up a bit. He scratched the top of his head as guilt plagued his face.
Rachel picked up on what he was going to say…
“I have to break up with Heidi first.” He groaned over his words.
And in one second, all the good vibes her and Skeeter shared fizzled out faster than a bucket of water could put out a camp fire. Now, she just felt rage for making Skeeter cheat on his girlfriend.
“I thought you broke up with her, why else would Heidi be out of the band?”
“She needs to get vocal cord surgery… She won’t be able to talk for months, and she may possibly never sing again… and we’re going on tour next week for three months. Fans have pre-ordered tickets, a few shows are already sold-out, and online sales for merch are climbing every day. And at our LA gig… someone will be there from Limitless Op Records… This could be our big break…” He explained.
As if their entire relationship was on replay in her mind, Rachel remembered why they broke up. Skeeter was pretty petty. Not only that, he was extremely narcissistic. Also… a control freak… He needed to be with her at all times. Plus, he hardly had anything nice to say. Only when he wanted something from Rachel was he nice for five minutes. Yes, he bought her everything she needed. He massaged her feet, cooked her food, and took care of her when she had migraines or a terrible hangover. But the bad outweighed the good…
“Don’t bother… stay with her… but I’ll come back… I can’t take this dull adulting life anymore. I don’t feel alive not pursuing music.” Rachel said as she walked away from him, leaving him alone in the parking lot.
Later that day at home, Mary summoned Rachel to the kitchen as soon as she got home. The lights were off and the blinds were shut. At the kitchen table, Mary sat in her PJs and robe while drinking carrot juice and scrolling through social on her smartphone, and even the cellphone light was on low. Rachel remained standing, but near Mary to let her mother know she was there.
“Look at how much fun Danny is having Spain!” Mary held up her phone to Rachel’s face and she saw Danny with Javier, their father, and a group of men in a fancy bar.
Danny was two and half years older than Rachel. He graduated college at the top of his business college and scored a huge exec job oversees, for the same company where their father worked. Of course, he got the job because Papi put in a good word for his son.
Mary clicked the right arrow to go to the next picture, and pointed to a pretty Asian girl. She asked, “Do you think that is Danny’s girlfriend. She is in a lot of his online pictures.”
Frustrated and annoyed by her mother, she snatched the phone, and slammed it on the table, “Stop stalking your son… it’s creepy.”
Immediately, Mary rubbed her temples with her finger tips, “Oh… please be quiet… I have a migraine and the pain is pulsating.”
Rachel crossed her arms and fretfully shared her good news, “I’m back in the band and I’m going on tour with them for three months… so you’ll have to cover all the bills on your own… can you make that happen?”
“Are you sure that is a good idea? Skeeter isn’t very nice and he nearly drove you to suicide…” and as Mary went on to why Rachel needed to stay home and not go… Rachel recited a poem she wrote in her head- CHASING A DREAM MEANS STAYING ALIVE.
She wrote it a few days after she and Skeeter began the band. She hated being a waitress while going to college, and the thought of graduating and getting a 9-5 job, getting married, and having kids with no fun and adventure drove her to the brink of insanity… Skeeter teased her about how kiddish the poem was, and how it could never be a song, but then, Sophie said she had the perfect melody for it at their first official practice (after Rachel shared a bunch of poems that no one heard as lyrics to future songs) … and well… it was the first song on the band’s first EP.
The song did well enough to give Rachel the guts to quit college to focus on music. Mary was furious, but as long as Rachel threw money at the woman, she dealt with it.
“I’m going mom… this is my dream… just look at the bright side… I won’t be here to stress you out.” Rachel turned and walked away from her mother and tuned out whatever feedback the old woman blasted.
Rachel packed her things immediately anticipating her adventure ahead. The second she got done. Keith sent a text message.
Keith’s Text Message: Hey Rachel. I miss you. Don’t hesitate to reach out and catch up. I’m never too busy for you. I was in prayer earlier and I felt very strongly I should share this truth. Jesus loves you still, He will never stop. No ex-boyfriend or new guy could fill the void in your heart and neither can music. Even if you were about to go on tour and get your big break with some band. God will never let you down when you believe in Him. Be blessed. -Keith.
His texts were always way too long, but Rachel was officially creeped out. She used to attribute people’s ability to know secret things like that coming from God, but she’s been to enough psychics to know they can do it too.
One more came in from Keith.
Keith’s One More Text Message: And you can quit smoking, don’t give up!
Rachel cursed. No psychic through the phone or in person could read her mind. In the second prior to that second text, she doubted she could really quit smoking. She bought a pack of cigarettes after work and smoked like three on the way home. Somehow, hearing from Keith that she can give up the bad habit, helped her believe a little that she could.
In that moment, Rachel felt herself come to that wall in her mind. Right on the other side of it, she believed in God again, and peace would find her.
Uncannily on cue, the thoughts that rip her from that wall and into the dark, anxious abyss of her mind arrived in her head….
‘God hasn’t changed your mother. She’s still sick.
Your father never came back. He married another woman. He fathered more children he actually loves. Your father never fought to take you back to Spain.
Danny deserted your mother, but he is her favorite child, still!
The pastor said when you have faith, and you believe, all things are possible with God! If God was real, then your faith would never be good enough, because all the impossible things you asked for never happened.
How can Jesus love you? He isn’t even really a god! Your mother doesn’t love you enough and she claims to know Jesus? Your father doesn’t love you… and men, who have nothing going for them, can’t love you long enough to stay with you.’
Rachel started hitting herself in the forehead as hard as she could, screaming just under a whisper to not draw attention from her mother. She beat her head until it pulsated with pain. She shoved her luggage off her bed, and leaped into her bed face first, digging her face into her pillow to cry. If she didn’t leave for this tour she just might decide to leave the earth. She had to become somebody. She must become someone important, because if she didn’t then her life would be without meaning. She would be her own worst nightmare… a mistake that should have never been born.
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