My first instinct on hearing the front door crash open was to panic that we were being burgled. I was home alone, curled up on the couch watching E! News. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled as I weighed my options – did I fight or take flight?
Then I heard my husband’s keys land on the marble side table and he hollered out that his dinner meeting had been cancelled. I exhaled in relief, a wry grin at the thought that Curtis arriving home early was so out of the ordinary, a visit from our local break-and-enter squad seemed far more likely.
“Where’s everyone?” Curtis asked, bumping my wine glass as he leant over to grab the TV remote and switch to the news bulletin. “And what’s for dinner?”
I had been looking forward to a quiet night to myself while he was out schmoozing clients over sashimi and sushi. Reminding him that the kids were at his parents’ house for the weekend, my suggestion that we head out for a nice restaurant meal, just the two of us, was met with a massive sigh as Curtis flung his socked feet up on the couch.
“Too tired, babe,” he whined, loosening his navy Hermes tie. “It’s been a long week, I need to chill.”
As he raised the sports presenter’s voice to ear-shattering levels, I downed my wine and stomped off to the kitchen. With its polished black stone benchtops and top-of-the-range stainless-steel appliances, it looked like it belonged in the pages of a glossy home interiors magazine. It really deserved an owner who liked nothing better than whipping up gourmet meals, standing at the island bench in a floral shift and dainty heels, looking orgasmic as she sliced onions and crushed garlic.
Instead a more usual sight would be me, in my tatty cargos, tank top and Ugg boots, looking peeved as I popped a frozen meal into the microwave or washed the dishes by hand because I’d never figured out how to get the dishwasher on the correct cycle.
Peeved was definitely my mood now as I surveyed the fridge to see what wonders it contained. My eyes landed on a hunk of cheddar cheese and slices of leg ham.
Toasted sandwiches, perhaps?
“I worked through lunch so I’m starving,” Curtis yelled from the lounge.
With a sigh, I resealed the bread packet and switched on the oven. There was a roast lamb and rosemary pie in the freezer somewhere, from the regular food parcels sent by his doting mother.
“A beer would be nice!”
“In a moment,” I yelled back, then muttered to myself: “Or you could always come and get it yourself, and give me a hand while you’re at it.”
It surely wasn’t that long ago that Curtis was more than happy to join me getting dinner ready. We’d whizz around our local Marks & Spencer food hall, then cram into our tiny kitchen with the putrid lime-green walls to pop the dish in the oven and prepare the vegetables. Still in our honeymoon phase, we’d often get somewhat distracted, and Curtis would have to pick the burnt-to-a-crisp coating off his chicken Kiev. But he never complained.
Now, with the potatoes simmering along with my frustration at having to step into the kitchen at all while the kids were away, I served Curtis a frosty beer and perched on the armrest to flick through the junk mail.
Curtis prodded my bottom with his foot. “So what did you get up to today?” He cast a disparaging eye around the room, the discarded newspapers on the coffee table, the tangled mess of gaming controllers in front of the TV, the laundry basket in the corner I’d been planning to sort while watching The Bachelor. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been flat out all day either, squeezing in a gym visit and vital medical appointment between errands. In fact, I’d been so busy I hadn’t even had time to check my emails or Facebook.
“The usual,” I replied before turning my attention to the post-news panel discussing a Hollywood wild child’s run-in with the paparazzi. Jade Farrow made Lindsay Lohan look like a saint; her crazy antics surely gave her Christian evangelist parents heart attacks on a regular basis.
Then the next story nearly made my own heart stop.
“AJ Dangerfield, lead singer of rock band Danger Game, has been arrested for driving under the influence in Los Angeles. Dangerfield was charged and then released on a three-thousand-dollar bail, after failing sobriety and breathalyser tests.”
The screen cut to a mugshot of the singer looking sheepish – his usually mesmerising green eyes half closed, his dark hair sticking out at odd angles. “A police spokesman said the thirty-eight-year-old singer was pulled over about two am after his red Pontiac Firebird was seen speeding along the 405 freeway. He had allegedly earlier side-swiped a garbage truck.”
Cue footage of Dangerfield out front of Danger Game, arms raised in the air leading his besotted fans through a rendition of the heart-wrenching hit Runaway. “He was driving home from the studio where the band had been recording its long-awaited follow-up to smash-hit album Tomfoolery. A spokesperson for Dangerfield was not available for comment.”
“That guy is such a moron.” Curtis tossed me his empty beer bottle. “How long ’til dinner?”
As I returned to the kitchen to find the potatoes boiling over, I muttered to myself: “That moron, I’ll have you know, was my first love.”
Two decades earlier
I could barely make out the stage from where I was standing, nestled next to the hairy armpits of a guy with a serious need for Lynx deodorant. A splash of warm beer slopped down my legs – at least I hoped it was beer – as I tried to avoid the two dolled-up blondes in front of me who seemed intent on pressing their stiletto heels into my toes.
I patted the back pocket of my jeans, checking that my twenty-dollar note and fake ID were still there. Even though my card stated I was twenty-one – three years older than my real age – I preferred to keep under the radar and stay well away from nosy security guys.
I startled as someone tapped me on the shoulder but it was only to ask where I got my band T-shirt. It was such a cool design – an orange sign with a skull and crossbones on the front and Danger Game written graffiti style across the back. They were selling them near the entrance for fifteen bucks, I told the guy.
“Check, one, two. Check, one, two.” Lifting on to my tiptoes, I spied a roadie moving about the stage. It’ll only be a few more minutes now, I thought, squeezing through the raucous crowd to get closer to the action.
Gerry, the floppy-haired bass guitarist, catapulted out from backstage, trying to rev up the four-hundred-strong crowd. Dom, shirtless and wearing baggy black shorts with a baseball cap jammed over his curly mop, took up his position behind the drum kit, carefully placing his bottle of Jack Daniel’s to minimise the risk of spills.
Lead guitarist Heath sauntered out, winking at a group of girls pressed up against the stage. He was gorgeous and boy, did he know it. As one of the girls lifted her top, he grinned appreciatively at her bare breasts. Then the three band members launched into the opening riff of Rare Acceptance.
The scene was set for frontman AJ Dangerfield to burst on to the stage. Ignoring the guys headbanging beside me, I gazed up at the singer as he slammed away on his guitar. With messy brown hair, crooked teeth and a long pointy nose, he was certainly not your usual pretty boy pin-up. He was wearing a Sex Pistols T-shirt, with one sleeve rolled up to reveal a tribal tattoo, and snug-fitting black jeans that had faded almost to grey. But with his intense green eyes, to me he was the most gorgeous guy on the planet.
And I was certainly not the only one under AJ’s spell. Though he was in a small, sweltering warehouse on the outskirts of LA, he performed like he was in front of a massive stadium crowd. He handled the hecklers, he cajoled the cheers and he raised the roof.
After a few rock numbers, the pace slowed and the singer swapped to his favourite red and black acoustic guitar. As Heath burped into his microphone and Gerry leant down to pour beer into the raised plastic cups of the front row, a girl clambered on to the stage to fling herself at AJ. Unable to play his guitar because of her vice grip on his arm, he started singing a cappella. The girl shimmied her bottom against him, wobbling her double D cups at the cheering crowd. Those headbangers’ eyes were popping like Roger Rabbit’s did when he clocked Jessica Rabbit’s ample curves.
As the song came to an end and Jessica Rabbit was steered offstage, AJ’s eyes picked me out of the crowd. He smiled, shrugged and launched into Going the Distance, a bittersweet song about the pain of being miles away from your lover. It felt like he was singing every word to me.
Later with backstage in my sights, I weaved through the throng. Maybe my luck was in tonight and I could get the singer on his own for a while. From a distance I could see Heath surrounded by his usual fawners. Dom was downing his second bottle of whiskey with a gang of bikies. And Gerry was bouncing up and down, still on a performance high.
But I couldn’t see him. For one despairing moment I imagined Jessica Rabbit had got her paws on him. She’d pushed him into an alcove, on her knees showing her appreciation. It made me feel sick.
Lifting my long hair off the back of my sweaty neck, I scanned the crowd frantically. I tried catching Gerry’s eye but he turned away.
Then the drummer spotted me. “AJ’s gone to have a slash.”
And then I could see him being backslapped as he made his way back to his bandmates. He reached me, pulling me into a tight hug. “We killed it, tonight, baby.”
“You certainly did, Andy,” I said to my boyfriend, leaning it to give him a long drawn-out smooch. Out of the corner of my vision, I could see Jessica Rabbit giving me the evil eye.
Continue to Chapter 1