Written by Ella Muyot
It was Friday afternoon; exams were over and Billy Rush and Nate Daniels were enjoying the luxury of doing absolutely nothing at all – except music. Nate lolled on the sofa in the music studio his step-Dad had built for him and strummed a new chord sequence. Billy sat at the drum kit and picked up the beat. The sound was good – it was really good and the boys were both smiling. The door opened and Molly, his sister, came in. Nate stopped.
“S’up?” she called to Billy.
Billy saw Nate’s face and nodded at Molly then looked away.
“Leave.” Nate said. “You know this is my space, so get.”
Molly wandered over to the Drums and ran her finger along the cymbal, flicking her nail against it and making it ring.
“I don’t have to, do I Billy?”
Billy shrugged. He loved this place – it was so cool – and Nate was his best friend, always had been, but he wished to God he didn’t have to put up with Molly. She made him uncomfortable. Nate didn’t have any time for her, called her ‘The Limpet’ because she was always clinging on, hanging round and sucking the life out of them he said. Billy didn’t mind that; he just hated the way she played him off against his mate.
“See,” she spat at Nate, “Billy said I didn’t have to leave.”
Nate sat up. “Billy didn’t answer you which amounts to a no vote so you’re out. Go away Limpet.”
Molly shook her head like Nate was a lost cause and threw Billy one more look before she headed to the door. That look said it all and it made Billy cringe. Thankfully Nate was looking down at the strings on his guitar and missed it. One mistake Billy thought, just one mistake and she’s gonna make me pay for it forever. He stared down at his hands until he heard the door close and then he let out a breath and looked at Nate.
“So?” Nate said, “Are we or aren’t we?”
Billy narrowed his eyes. “I’d like to mate, but…” He rubbed his two fingers together; the sign for cash – or in Billy’s case – lack of it. “I’m making £4.50 an hour at the arcade on the pier and that’s less than minimum wage. I just can’t afford any costs.”
“What costs?” Nate said. “You know my old man will bank roll the whole thing. Man, he’d love it. His boy in a band, finally doing what he dreamed I’d do. Besides, it’s kinda compulsory when you go to BIMM, to be in a band. You look like a right loser if you haven’t been in at least one before you start.”
Billy nodded. BIMM; Brighton Institute of Modern Music; the best. He dropped his Vic Firth drum sticks onto the drums and stood up. Correction; not his, Nate’s. He crossed the room and slumped down next to Nate on the sofa. Everything about this house, about this music studio, the instruments, the latest version of computers and software, even the black leather sofas that smelled of money whenever you sank into them, he loved every little bit of it. He so wanted to be part of it and yet, yet none of it was his; it was all Nate’s and he wasn’t a sponger.
“I just don’t know Nate. It’s a dream, you know it is, but I don’t want to feel like a leech.”
Nate swivelled round to look at him. “A leech?”
“Yeah, you know those black things they used to use in seventeenth century medicine to let blood when people were sick.”
“Right.” Nate rolled his eyes. “Billy, no-one, not my Mum or Simon or anyone would ever think you were like, erm, like…”
“Oh, right. Yeah, money grabbing. They love you man, ‘specially my Mum.”
Billy leant back and put his feet up on the glass coffee table. “Well… when you put it like that…” He grinned. “An all-male Indie band. That’s what we should do.”
Nate sat forward. “Yeah! An all-male Indie band!” He repeated the sentence, rolling the words round in his mouth to see how they sounded. “I like it. An all-male Indie Band.” He jumped up.
“Up Billy, get up!”
Billy got to his feet. The boys had been friends since they were at nursery and now, at seventeen and sixteen they were alike in so many ways and yet completely different. Nate was taller, over six foot and skinny, always a bit wired as if he had something to do, somewhere to go and Billy was shorter, five foot nine and more powerfully built. He had calmness about him, a presence that seemed to tell people that he knew who he was and he knew where he was headed only he didn’t have to shout about it.
Nate held out his hand; Billy took it. “Hi, I’m Nate Daniels,” he said, “I play in an all-male Indie band.”
Billy grinned. “Poseur,” he said. He sat down again. “An all-male Indie band called the Peaches.”
Nate suddenly chucked a cushion at him and it hit him hard and square on the head.
“The Peaches?! Get a life!”
Billy picked the cushion up and threw it back. It hit Nate on the legs.
“It’s ironic. Duh!”
Nate made a dive for him and dragged him off the sofa by the legs. He was about to wrestle him when the door opened.
“Nate?” He shoved his knee onto Billy’s chest. “NATE?!” He stopped and turned.
Jumping up he looked at his step dad Simon at the door. “Nate there’s a letter for you. It’s from BIMM,” he said as he handed Nate the large white envelope.
Nate stopped for a moment. This was it; his acceptance offer. He only a split second of doubt then he beamed with excitement as he hastily tore at the opening of the envelope. He knew he had what it took to get into this college – the talent and the money – and there was no doubt that he had been accepted. He took out the paper that held his ticket to success and read on:
The BIMM Admissions Committee has reviewed your application and after careful consideration, I regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you a place in the upcoming academic year of 2013…”
Nate felt the world stop. A shiver ran down his spine. No. This must be a mistake. He shook his head beginning to sweat. This had to be a mistake, surely? Carefully he went back over the letter and, just as he had feared, it was still the same. He hadn’t go it. He looked up at his step dad and Billy, both staring at him, both smiling and suddenly he crumpled up the piece of paper in his hand and angrily turned away.
As if on cue, Nate’s mum, Felicity, strode into the room on her six inch stilettoes, holding a very expensive champagne bottle, Molly toddling behind her with champagne glasses.
“Congratulations, darling!” she cried, popping the cork. Billy watched her long, French manicured nails twist and turn it and then a stream of bubbles exploded like a water fountain.
Nate looked at her then violently kicked through the Pearl bass drum in front of him, leaving a hole in the middle of it. He stormed out of the room. She turned and looked at Simon who sighed heavily and gestured for them to go after Nate.
Billy watched on, astonished by Nate’s carelessness. It wasn’t just the fact that these instruments which cost the same as his mum earn each year; it was his total lack of respect for them that wound Billy up. How could he? Kicking in a drum like that was thuggish. He had acted like a spoiled brat. Billy’s thoughts were interrupted by two slender arms encircling his waist from behind. He immediately untangled himself from the embrace and stepped two feet away from her. Molly.
“What the hell are you doing?” He asked.
Molly only smiled slyly as her index finger reached to twirl a strand of her curly brown hair. “Come on, Billy. Why so hostile all of a sudden? That’s not how I remember you last month at Rachel’s party.” She made a step towards him, he took a step back.
“Look, that was a mistake, okay?” He stared off softly; he didn’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Molly stared at him, still smiling, disbelieving. “That’s not what you said at the time…”
Billy swallowed hard. “Molly please,” he tried again, “I’m really sorry, but I’d had too much to drink and I don’t really remember. It didn’t mean anything Mol, I’m sorry, honestly.” He walked backwards towards the door, picked up his bag and then suddenly turned and exited the room.
Molly heard the door slam, but she didn’t watch him go. She felt the prickle of tears in the corner of her eyes and the engulfing feeling of shame.
“Five, six, seven, eight!”
The electric rhythm of the soundtrack played in the background as Stevie stepped up to the microphone, centre stage. She was ready to belt out the number, just as she’d rehearsed, but as she opened her mouth to sing, instead of hearing her voice, she heard an over-edited version of someone else’s. She stopped. Lip synced again.
How did they manage to do that? She clenched her fists, made a mental note to talk to her “bandmates” and manager about it and tried to mime and keep up with the dance routine. But she was out of step, she’d missed the cue and now she couldn’t remember if it was slide left and then right, or slide right then left and turn or step back to catch Chantelle… or was it Sharmaine…?
“STEVIE! “ Her manager, Ron, roared from the audience seats. “You are completely out of time! You missed your bloody cue again!”
Stevie was so caught up in trying to remember the routine that she had missed catching Chantelle… or Sharmaine – whichever – and the girl had landed hard on the floor with an almighty wallop. She was now weeping hysterically.
“Oh my God, look at my nail extension. It’s broken! I’ve fallen on my nail extensions! You’ve made me break my nail extension! Oh My God! I only got them done yesterday!”
As if she had just announced that she was dying of some terminal illness, the rest of the girls rushed to her side, assuring her that it was all going to be fine, helping her up, offering tissues, looking at the damage. All Stevie could hear in her head was ‘nail extensions…’
She turned and looked at them. Stevie never held back.
“D’ya know what? I don’t want to be the next Saturdays or Sugababes or whatever girl band ridiculousness is out there! I thought we were gonna be a real band that actually plays the instruments and sing the songs and I thought those songs were ones that include words other than ‘yeah’ and ‘baby!’” She glared at them all.
“I don’t want to be a part of this anymore! I’m out!” She strode off stage on her platforms, a towering goddess with a mass of wild black hair and picking up her vintage green duffel bag, she shrugged off the glittery pink jacket and silver elbow length gloves, leaving them in a heap on the chair and walked up the centre aisle of the theatre towards the exit.
“STEVIE, get back here!” Ron shouted after her. She ignored him and carried on walking.
Behind her there were worried murmurings.
“What are we gonna do?” Chantelle hissed, “We can’t have a band called Stevie and The Wonders without a Stevie! It’ll totally and completely confuse our fans!”
A chorus of exaggerated and panicked responses filled the auditorium: “OH MY LORDY.”
“OUR LIFE IS OVER.”
Stevie took one last glance and knew that for once in her life she had made the right decision.
She fished out her glasses from her bag as she reached her ‘state of the art’ 1989 Vauxhall Astra that her dad had fixed up for her from old bits of car for her 17th birthday. Miraculously, even with the odd bit falling off along the way, the car still ran… most of the time.
She took a hairpin from her hair – she always has at least ten in to tame her frizzy black hair – she stretched it out and expertly picked the lock to her car. It was broken and no amount of jamming the key into it would fix it. This was the only way to get into the car. At least it won’t be stolen she thought, as she settled in the front seat and adjusted her glasses to drive. She turned on the engine, heard the familiar chug and saw the small cloud of black smoke from the exhaust. She shifted into gear and pulled away. She wanted to be in a band, not a fashion show and that’s just what she was going to do.
“Mum?” Billy called out as soon as he stepped inside the front door of his flat. “Mum, I’m back!”
He picked up the pile of mail and leaflets off the doormat and headed towards the small kitchen, dropping his bag on the floor as he went. There was a note from his mum on the table; she was working an extra shift and wouldn’t be in until late.
He reached for what was once a silver kettle, now too black from being overused, and filled it with water from the tap, lighting the gas and placing it on the ring to boil. They should have got rid of the old thing years ago, but his mum never parted with anything if it still worked. He sat on one of the plastic chairs by the dinner table and flipped through the mail as he waited for the water to boil.
Right at the bottom, there it was. He knew it would be here; having seen Nate’s and, as he looked at the white envelope, his hands began to shake. It was a letter addressed to him with the BIMM logo stamped on the envelope. He hadn’t told anyone he’d applied, he had kept it a secret and now that secret would either stay that way or have to come out.
His palms started to sweat as he thought about what it contained. Has he been accepted? No, of course no, he thought, I’m a self-taught drummer without any instrumental grades at all. No, he can’t have been good enough at the audition…
Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, he slid a knife along the edge of the envelope and took out the neatly typed letter. Taking a deep breath, he began to read:
The BIMM Admissions Committee has reviewed your application and after careful consideration, we are delighted to confirm a place for you in the upcoming academic year of 2013. Furthermore, owing the outstanding quality of your performance and application we have decided to offer you the full scholarship…”
Billy dropped his head in his hands. He didn’t read any more. He had got in! Wow! Him; Billy Rush, he had got in!
He sat like that for some time and then he read the letter again and again and, after the fourth time, he grinned. Then he laughed. Then he stood up and did a little dance, rapped a tune on the side of the table, jumped up and down a few times, shouted really loudly and waited for the knock on the ceiling from the couple who lived above. He’d done it!!
Reaching for the mobile phone in his pocket, he wrote a text message to his mum telling her the good news! It was just him and his mum, always had been, always would be and he adored her. He couldn’t wait to tell her. As he scrolled down his contacts to the M section, the kettle started to whistle loudly. Quickly hitting send, he got up to turn off the stove.
He grabbed a mug from the cupboard, filling it with the hot water and a tea bag. He really couldn’t believe it. Until now, he thought that his life would be spent as a builder, earning the money needed to provide for his mum and himself. Now he could do what he loved and have the chance of being successful… even famous!
His daydream was interrupted by the buzz of his phone – probably his mum congratulating him. He opened his inbox but instead, there was a text from Molly. He let out a groan. He’d sent the bloody text to Molly, not to his Mum! With a heavy heart he read her reply:
Well done, Billy! I’m sure Nate would be happy to hear about your acceptance to BIMM.
I can tell him if you want. Then again, you know I can keep a secret. ; ) As long as the favour is returned of course…
Billy sank back down on the chair and closed his eyes in despair. Just at the moment when he thought things might finally go his way it would seem that they could also, if Molly had anything to do with, go right against him. Was it all about to get better? Or worse…?