Evan Carter looked out the window of the bus as they pulled into the parking lot in San Diego. It was late afternoon, and they would be playing at the festival that night. There were about fifteen people, most of them girls, waiting outside in the heat for the band to get off the bus, each one shouting for a member of the band.
“Don’t those people know that you’re married?” Cali asked, emphasizing those people like it was something repulsive. Evan turned quickly to Cali, his wife, who looked ready to skin someone alive. As the lead singer for the band Chellis, he almost always got more of the attention than anyone else, with the exception of Jesse Taylor, their guitar player, who, being the extroverted, flirtatious—not to mention, single—member of the band, enjoyed and encouraged the attention.
“They’re just happy to see us,” he said, trying to placate her worries.
“Yeah, right,” she said, and she went to the back of the bus to sulk, slamming the door behind her. He didn’t follow her, wanting to let her calm down before he went in to try and talk to her.
Jesse went over to the window, smiling and waving to the fans out there.
“Damn, I love hot weather fashion,” he said. Several of the girls had on tank tops or tube tops and shorts. “Think they’ll be at the show tonight?”
“Most likely,” Evan told him.
Gary Richards, their manager and lawyer, stood up and said, “You guys can stay in here while I go check in with the promoters,” and he left the bus. Those closest to the front felt the blast of heat when the door opened.
“And we’re supposed to play in this heat?” Jesse asked.
“At least it’ll be cooler at night,” Evan told him, lifting his ponytail off his neck to get the cool air to it. Even with a tank top, shorts, and the AC on, with all the bodies in the tour bus Evan was still hot. Everyone else was dressed in a similar manner.
Southern California was in the midst of a heat wave, although not too uncommon for June, it was still miserable. The air conditioner was on high, and no one wanted to get off the bus.
This would be the last stop of a short ten-city tour of California, Arizona, and Nevada to try out some of their new material. When they returned home, they would be going into the studio to finish recording their next cd, which would be released in
November. They would start their next full tour a week after the release, and be gone for a year.
Gary came back fifteen minutes later, and told them, “Everything is all set. You’ve got sound check in half an hour, then you can do whatever you want until eight o’clock tonight.”
“Which ain’t gonna be much,” said Sean Heaton, their bass player. “How’s the dressing rooms?”
“Just like we like them—cool and well-stocked.”
Gary had the bus driver pull around to the side where the entrance to backstage was, and everyone got off the bus. The fans that were waiting asked the band if they could take pictures or get autographs of them, and the guys said they’d be happy to. Gary watched and kept things under control as much as he could. A few of the girls there put their arms around Evan’s waist as a friend took their picture, and the girls took their time with him, keeping their arms where they were for as long as possible. After about fifteen minutes Gary told the guys it was time to go inside. Instead of going into the dressing room, though, Evan went back onto the bus to try and talk to Cali.
Cali was still in the back room of the bus. Stacy, Sean’s wife, had tried talking to her, but she wouldn’t come out. She shrugged as Evan went up to the door.
“She hasn’t said much to me,” she told him. “She saw everything out the window, though. I could hear the comments she made about the girls.”
Evan swore to himself, then said to Stacy, “Thanks for trying.”
Stacy grabbed her purse and got off the bus. Evan knocked on the door. “Cali? Baby, it’s me. Open the door.”
“I don’t want to come out and see those whores throw themselves at you!”
“Come on, Cali! They’re just kids, I’m not interested in them. You know that! I want you, and only you.”
“I’m not coming out!”
Evan sighed, and said, “Fine. But it’s going to get really hot in here with the air turned off.”
He waited for a few more minutes, but Cali didn’t come out. He wasn’t bluffing. It was going to get hot soon, and she’d have to come out. He left her to think about that, and went into the dressing rooms.
The rooms had been cooled to 70 degrees so when everyone was in there, it would still feel cool. On the table were snacks, fruits, and an assortment of beers, wine coolers, and bottled water.
Cali came in a few minutes later, looking like she was about to pass out. She stepped inside the room and said, “Thank God!” She had not liked being on this mini-tour for many reasons, but she had hated the hot weather everywhere they had gone the most, even more than the screaming girls everywhere they went. Everyone had hoped for a reprieve from the weather once they got back to California, but as luck would have it, the heat wave accompanied them to their last destination.
Evan said nothing about what had happened on the bus. The less he said about it, the better things would be for now.
“I’ll call my mom and have her or Kayla go turn on the air at our house for when we get there tomorrow,” Evan said, and he grabbed his cell phone to make the call.
Cali dropped her purse and collapsed onto one of the three couches in the room. Evan finished his call and got a bottle of water and gave it to her. “Thanks,” she said quickly, and drank a quarter of it down.
The guys each took a turn in the restroom and grabbed a snack before heading out into the heat once more for their sound check. The equipment truck had gone ahead the previous night while the band stayed in the hotel, so everything would be set up by the time the band arrived.
While the band worked out a song, a few fans from earlier gathered at the side gate to watch and listen. Jesse saw them and faced them while he played his solo. They shouted and whistled when he finished, and he winked at them. The song ended, and the fans cheered for them. When the band liked how everything sounded, they put their instruments down and started backstage, and the fans that had been watching shouted to them. Evan thought he heard one of them ask something. He stopped short of going in, and pulled Jesse with him closer to the side of the stage the fans were on.
“What?” Evan asked, leaning over their way to hear them better.
“Can you play ‘No Words’ tonight?” one of the girls asked. The song was one that they rarely played live because of the intricate guitar work on Jesse’s part. Jesse never felt it was up to the standard it was on the recording. Evan looked at Jesse. “What do you think?” he asked his friend.
Jesse shrugged. “We haven’t done it for a while, but we could try it, I guess,” he told him.
“Sure, we’ll throw it in,” Evan shouted back. The fans cheered, and the girl called out, “Thank you!” to them.
“But don’t expect it to sound like the cd,” Jesse told them. “It’s been awhile.”
Before they all went back inside, they wanted to go over the song a couple times while they were plugged in, and Evan asked David to count it out as he picked up his guitar. David hit his drumsticks together, and Evan started playing his part. They stopped suddenly after a few measures, and Jesse told Evan what he was doing wrong. Evan played it like Jesse told him, and it sounded better. The fans by the fence cheered for them, and Jesse threw a couple of guitar picks their way before going inside.
They went back into the dressing room and drank more water to cool back down.
“What took you guys so long out there?” Gary asked.
“Some fans that were watching us requested ‘No Words’ for tonight,” Evan told him. “So we went over the song a couple times, mostly for my benefit, so I can get that guitar part right.”
“You up to that, Jesse?”
“Sure, anything for a cute blonde,” Jesse told him with a big grin. Evan cringed.
“Cute blonde?” Cali perked up, looking quickly toward Evan.
“I didn’t notice,” Evan said automatically.
“And you went out there looking like that?”
“Like what?” he asked, spreading his arms apart and looking down at his clothes. He had on what he’d had on on the bus—shorts to his knees, a tank top, sandals, his hair pulled back in a ponytail, with locks of hair tucked behind his ears, and sunglasses. Definitely un-rock-and-roll looking.
“You know you look good onstage, and it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, women still want you.”
“My God, Cali, get a grip! I didn’t even pay attention to them until they asked a question.” He looked over to Sean. He was the only one in the band who actually had an ethical code and lived by it. Sean was hardly ever found out on the bus smoking a joint, though he did drink once in awhile, but very rarely to the point of falling-down drunk, and he was happily and faithfully married to Stacy, going on five years with her. He knew that Sean would tell the truth. “Did I flirt with those women out there when I was onstage?” he asked his bass player.
“Nope,” Sean said.
“And Sean ain’t gonna lie, you know that. So quit accusing me of things that aren’t true.”
“What about tonight during the show?” she persisted. “You gonna play to them like usual?”
“I play to everyone, Cali. Have I ever cheated on you?”
“I don’t have proof, but…”
“The answer’s ‘No’. Can we drop this, please, so I can go shower?”
Cali didn’t say anything more, and Evan went into the shower room to wash off the day’s sweat and grime from traveling.
Evan finished his shower in ten minutes. He dried and dressed, then came out to eat something before the show. They never really ate a sit-down dinner much on the road. Whatever and whenever they ate, they ate on the couches or in the chairs. They weren’t much for formalities on the road.
The catered dinner table consisted of barbecued baby-back ribs, orange chicken with vegetables, fixings for tacos, green rice, steamed white rice, steamed vegetables, fruit salad, and a variety of breads and cheeses, and to wash it down, pink lemonade Snapple, diet sodas, and more beer. The men never were shy about eating. Whatever they ate, they would most likely burn it off during the show.
Cali was still sulking after dinner, even though Evan tried to cheer her up. He decided that she wanted to remain depressed, and left her alone. He followed David and Jesse out to the tour bus for a quick joint before the show, and to get into the right frame of mind without Cali glaring at him.
Half an hour before the band was due onstage, Evan changed into his stage clothes. He pulled on a pair of well-worn and well-fitting low-rise denim jeans that barely left anything to the imagination. He then pulled on a T-shirt that at one time had been red, but with sweat, sun, and time, it had been bleached to a somewhat lighter shade. He tied on a pair of Nikes, and brushed his shoulder-length dark-blond hair. Cali came back into the dressing room and when she saw Evan, she rolled her eyes.
“I know, I know,” he said without having to hear what she would say. He’d heard it all before anyway. “But this is what I’m wearing. I can’t dress like a monk and perform how I do. I’ve already conceded to not ‘moving suggestively’ onstage, as you put it, but I’m not going out there dressed like Tony Bennett, for Christ’s sake.”
Cali didn’t say anything. The other band members were dressed in similar clothing, with the exception of Jesse, who decided he needed to go shirtless in the heat, since his long hair and guitar strap would be more than hot on his back. Evan knew that the women would have their eyes glued to Jesse that night. He worked out with weights even while on the road, and his abs were rock hard and his arms were well defined, but not bulky.
Cali left the room with Stacy to go out to their seats in the VIP area. Evan picked up a bottle of water and a bottle of beer, and followed the security guard and his band mates out to the stage.
David counted off the song, and Jesse and Sean started in on one of the band’s more popular songs. Evan grabbed the mic and mic stand and started singing. He loved being onstage. He didn’t think about anything except having fun, and it showed in his performance. Evan smiled as he sang, and between songs he played around with the other band members. He introduced the band three songs into the set, and Jesse got the loudest cheers that night as Evan knew he would, although he was a close second, much to his chagrin. It would mean that Cali would be irritable after the show, because she didn’t forget things like that.
Halfway through their set, they were all drenched with sweat. It had cooled down somewhat once the sun went down, but not by much. Their hair was clinging to their faces and necks, and Jesse poured a bottle of water over himself as he changed guitars between songs.
They went backstage after their set, and listened to the fans cheer and applaud for them. It gave them a renewed burst of energy when they heard that, and they went out to do their first of two encores.
“This next song,” Evan started, after the cheers had died down, and he had put on his guitar. “Is a song we haven’t done for a long time, but someone requested it, so we’re going to give it a shot.” Evan looked at Jesse, and Jesse started the intro to the song. The fans recognized the song immediately, and they cheered even louder than before.
Jesse concentrated intensely on his melodies during the song, barely moving or looking up while he played, to try to duplicate live what was heard on the recording, which he had accomplished with over-dubbing another guitar. He was a confident and talented musician, but Evan knew that he had doubts on this one song, even with Evan playing the second guitar part. It never sounded exactly like the recording, but close enough to where no one in the audience knew the notes he was leaving out. During his solos, which were less intense, he moved to the front of the stage, and played to the fans in the front rows, and winked at the girls that had requested the song.
After the last encore, the band went offstage. Evan caught up to Cali, and gave her a squeeze from behind, then turned her around and kissed her greedily, looking for some kind of spark from her. He wanted to make love to her, but she still seemed listless and depressed from the conversation earlier, maybe more so now than before. As the band had gone offstage this last time, the fans had shouted the names of the band members, with Jesse and Evan’s names more prominent. That always made Cali more upset than anything else. She pushed away Evan’s groping hands. He sighed and left her alone.
The band went to their dressing room for a few minutes before going out to the aftershow party backstage and out by the buses to see the fans. Stacy and Cali stayed in the dressing rooms to talk while their husbands went out to mingle with the people there.
Evan still hadn’t returned to the dressing room after almost forty-five minutes. Cali had been talking with Stacy the entire time, but had kept her eye on the clock, too. He’d been gone too long for just mingling, she thought. Sean had come back in to see Stacy a couple of times, and David had come in once to most likely get a quick hit of coke. Jesse and Evan hadn’t come in once, which led Cali to believe that they were together and probably with the “cute blonde” from sound check, or with any of the women that had screamed for her husband. She wasn’t happy at all about that.
Twenty minutes later Evan still hadn’t come backstage to see her. It was close to one o’clock in the morning, and Stacy had drifted off to sleep on the couch. Cali got up and paced the floor, wondering if she really wanted to go look for him, afraid of what she might find. She decided that she had to know, one way or the other, and started toward the door. It opened before she could get to it, and Gary walked in, followed by the rest of the band, Evan coming in last and shutting the door. He seemed to be more than just drunk.
“Where the hell have you been?” Cali demanded. “If you wanted a quickie, you should’ve been a little quicker with it.”
“What?” Evan asked, confused. “I know I’m a little out of it, but what are you talking about?”
“Sean’s been in here two or three times, and you haven’t been in once to see me. Which girl did you pick out from the audience to fuck this time?”
The room became dead silent after that accusation. Evan was caught and had to confess since everyone in the room had heard her, and she knew he couldn’t lie in front of them.
“Are you insane? Why the hell would I go out and do that when I’m married to you?”
“Why does anyone cheat? For the thrill, Evan. You can, so you do.”
“Cali, Evan wouldn’t do that to you,” Sean told her, trying to mollify her before she became enraged. “He was either on the bus getting high or out signing autographs, he wasn’t screwing around on you. He left the bus when Jesse, David, and the girls went inside.”
“What about when you were in here?” she asked Sean.
Evan answered. “I was backstage trying to come in here. I kept getting stopped every ten feet.” Evan walked over and quietly told her, “Let’s go talk about this in another room. We don’t need our dirty laundry aired out here.”
They went into one of the adjacent dressing rooms and turned on the light. Cali crossed her arms and waited for Evan to speak.
“I don’t know where you get these ideas, Cali, but they’re just not true,” Evan started. “I wasn’t out cheating on you. I wanted to make love to you, but you pushed me away, so I went and got high instead with Jesse. Coming back in from the bus I got stopped by some fans and other people, and because I’m the lead singer, they tend to talk forever about everything. I don’t encourage it, but I can’t be rude, either, and just walk out on them. Every time I was on my way in here someone stopped me. I don’t know how Sean manages to sneak back in here. I’ll have to stick by him from now on.”
Cali didn’t say anything for a long time. She wanted to believe him, but in his line of work, anything was possible. She loved Evan more than anything. She looked into his eyes. There was nothing there that said he was lying to her.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She dropped her defensive stance and went over and embraced her husband. He put his arms around her and pulled her close to him.
“I love you, baby,” Evan whispered into her hair. He pulled her head back and kissed her, and made love to her there in the dressing room.
The band stayed in a hotel one last night before heading home the next day. The buses drove into the parking lot of Gary’s office building, where there were several trucks to take the band’s equipment to Sean’s studio for the time being. The roadies unloaded the buses, and an hour later Evan and Cali were on their way home.
The two-story home was surrounded by a six-foot high brick and wrought-iron fence. At the gate was a security camera with an accompanying monitor inside the house that they rarely viewed, though it was always on. There had never been any problems with anyone getting onto the property, but there was a security system wired into the house, just in case. Evan opened the gate and drove into the driveway. His sister had brought back his black Labrador, BJ, and he came running up to the silver Jeep Liberty when they drove in. Evan got out and gave the dog a few strokes on his side.
“I’m happy to see you, too, puppy,” he said to the dog.
Evan took hold of Cali’s hand as they went up the steps, where he unlocked the door to let them in the house. His sister had turned on the air conditioner yesterday after he had called her, and the cool air hit them like an arctic blast. BJ came inside, and Evan closed the door quickly to keep the cool air in.
“It’s so nice to be back home,” Cali sighed, collapsing onto the couch.
“I’m glad I asked Kayla to turn on the AC,” Evan replied.
After having the lunch that his sister had left in the fridge for them, Evan and Cali went upstairs to their room to catch up on their sleep. Although it had been a short tour, the band had gotten into their road routine of partying and staying up until all hours of the night, and sleeping as they were driven to the next venue. Sleeping on the tour bus was not always the most comfortable place to sleep, so they always seemed to be tired. It always took a few days to get back into a normal sleep pattern when they returned home. They would sleep some now, Evan would unload the luggage from his Jeep when they awoke, then they would go out for dinner before going back to bed when they came home. It was a lot of sleep, but it was the fastest way for Evan to get rid of the effects of the tour.