Euri stayed until all his clothes were dry and the rain had died down enough for him to make it back to his house. He lived nearby, just a block away. The rain was still going strong and I was certain we wouldn't have a busy night tonight at the bar.
I was assured whether busy or stranded the band would play tonight. Either they were very serious about playing no matter what or they just needed me to pay them their wages as well as decide about whether or not they would continue playing.
'I guess I'll see you tonight.' Euri said and walked out the door. It was drizzling and the sky was still a dark shade of grey. I closed the door tightly behind me and double checked that all the windows were securely shut. I had a few more hours before I had to go back to the bar so I carried on with my thesis.
I had been applying myself more than I ever did at high school during my college years. Mostly it was to keep my mind busy in the beginning but now I had come to like the work. I was in my final year at the local university. It had been hard to get in as it had one of the best English departments around, but I had somehow gotten accepted just before Wes died. I was going to put going off for a year but then I needed to keep my mind busy and changed my plans. I was close to graduating.
Time passed faster than I had expected. I was running late because I had to change my shirt for the third time that day before going to the bar and my hair had been a big mess so I had to get it to the point of being relatively normal.
The rain still hadn't stopped. Some people were walking into the door but it was still early. Nobody really pitched until ten. I had discovered that this was around the time middle-aged men needed to escape their wives and college kids came around to start their evening with a couple of drinks.
Sometimes I bumped into someone that took one of my classes and it was probably weird to be taking their money and serving them their drinks. It would have been weirder if it weren't for the fact that they had established that I was the owner before I had met them.
'Hey. So the band will start their set at around nine-thirty. They're in the back room if you want to talk to them.' Angie said sounding nervous. I wondered what her ties with the band were. She seemed to be just as nervous about getting this permanent gig as they probably were.
'No, I don't need to talk to them. I'll listen to what they've got and give you the verdict before we close.' I said and moved toward my office. It was only eight-thirty now so I had enough time for working through any paperwork that had gone unattended earlier today.
By the time the band went on the bar had filled up a bit more, but it was still quiet. I noticed some foreign faces. They were probably stopping in town for the night until the rain stopped. I only ever really went out to help with the waiting of tables and check up on the customers.
The band had already started their first song by the time I moved behind the counter where Billy was pouring beers and sliding them along to some of the older men.
There were five band members. I only recognized Euri who was the lead singer. One lead guitarist, a rhythmic guitarist/back-up vocalist, a bass player and a drummer made up the rest of the band. They were good. The crowd loved them and I had made up my mind.
'Hey.' A voice I recognized called to me. I turned my head and saw Kristy standing next to a couple. She didn't appear to know them. I was surprised to see her there. She seemed to notice that. 'Can we just talk please?'
I led Kristy out onto the porch. It was empty tonight because of the rain. Kristy stood under the small roof and I stood in the light rain.
'Look, I'm sorry for the way I treated you yesterday. I guess I was a bit harsh.' She said.
'Okay.' I said.
She seemed to be taking me in, looking at me thoroughly as if she hadn't in a while.
'You dress differently.' Kristy said. I looked down at my Pink Floyd t-shirt and leather jacket. My jeans had patches in them and my boots were edgier than what I used to wear. It wasn't intentional that I looked that way. I never really thought about it before.
'I like it. It's more edgy, kind of rock. It's way better than what you used to wear.' She said.
'Thanks.' I said wearily. I wasn't sure whether that was a compliment to what I looked like now or an insult to what I used to dress like. Kristy was looking at my face again. I didn't say anything.
'You're tougher, stronger.' She said now.
'Tends to happen.' I muttered. She didn't say anything. We stood in silence for a while.
'Do you think you'll ever go back to the way you were?' she asked. Something about her tone made me sad. She sounded like a child that had just lost her favourite toy. The problem was I wasn't a toy and she wasn't a child.
'Never.' I whispered. A single tear fell down her cheek and she stepped toward me. I opened my arms and she stepped in for a hug. I held her in my arms for a while. She didn't cry but she was sad, and so was I.
'I owed you so much more than this. I owed all of you so much more than this.' I murmured into her hair.
'I miss you and Bert. The way you guys used to be. Now I just feel like I should be so much more grown up.'
'Shit happens.' I said softly into her hair. Inside I could hear the band playing and the crowd cheering every now and then. The older men were leaving and more of the young kids were coming in now. They didn't take long to start enjoying the band.
'I should go. I've got someone waiting for me.' Kristy said and wiped away her tears. I hadn't even thought about how she had gotten here and what her arrangements were. I didn't ask any questions, instead I just nodded.
Watching her walk back inside made me sad. I wasn't sad because I wanted her to stay, I was sad because it had been our goodbye and I already knew that just like my old life, I wouldn't miss her. I never wanted to lose my best friend, but death changed people. Kristy had suffered and she had mourned but she hadn't changed her whole life the way Bert and I had. It just didn't seem to hit her as hard.
I couldn't bring myself to walk back inside so I stood outside in the cold. I could see Kristy and her friend leaving. It was a guy, an extraordinary guy that would probably make her happy until they got back home and had a big fight, but that was okay.
'Do you make it a habit of standing out in the cold or is it just today?' I heard Euri ask from the door a few minutes later. The band was taking a short break from playing before going back on to finish the set.
'I hardly know anymore.' I said. Euri walked toward me.
'Come inside.' He said softly. I hadn't been looking at him before, but now I turned my head to focus on him. He was wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans. He had an assortment of bracelets on his arms and his tattoos were clearly visible. I couldn't make out what they were exactly from where I was standing.
'I should go home.' I whispered and walked inside. 'You've got the job.'
'What?' he asked dumbfounded.
'You guys can play Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from ten to eleven-thirty.' I said and walked out the front door.
The night was cool around me. Usually there were people walking about and hanging out on the boardwalk but today it was just me and the occasional club-goer in the streets. I didn't stop along the way. When I got into the house I closed and locked the door. I walked into my room and pulled on a pair of old sweatpants and one of Wes's old shirts that I had taken as mine when he was still alive.
I picked up one of the shirts lying on my dresser and began to fold it. I didn't get too far before I spotted a drop of paint that dragged my attention away. I looked at it for a long time before sniffing the shirt to see if it still smelled like Wes.
I felt the tears burning in my eyes and before I could stop it I was a pathetic mess lying on my bedroom floor hugging a shirt to my chest. I cried for a while before I finally stopped. I was getting better at this whole meltdown thing. Two years ago I would have been crying throughout the entire night.
I knew I should have packed all his things up by now and they shouldn't have been all over the house the way they always used to be but I just hadn't reached that point yet. I was starting to doubt it would ever come. Did I even want it to come?
Once I had gained enough strength to get up and place the shirt back into the drawer I crawled into the big bed. At first I had thought the bed was too big for one person but as school had come along and paperwork followed term papers I had found a new use for the left hand side of the bed that had always been Wes's.
When I awoke the next day the air was cool but the sky had lightened. It wasn't warm out; it might even have been colder than yesterday. I was greeted by a message on my answering machine from my mother asking me to call her as soon as possible. The message had been left thirty minutes ago.
Coffee mug in hand I dialled her number. I sat down behind the wooden counter and sipped my coffee until she answered.
'Hey, it's Macy.' I said.
'Oh morning dear. Thank you for calling me back.' She said. She didn't sound upset so it couldn't have been too bad. 'I don't have a lot of time so I'm just going to try and make this brief. One of my friend's, Gloria, you remember Gloria right? Well Gloria has a son and he's moving to your neighbourhood and he needs a job. I was just wondering if you could organize something for him.'
I had expected anything besides my mother calling me to ask me to find a job for one of her friends. I sighed. I didn't keep a lot of staff, but I didn't need a lot of staff.
'I'll see if I can find him something to do, but he'll have to come in for an interview as soon as possible.'
'Thank you. I'll give him your number but as I understand it he's already in town with his brother's band. I don't know what they're called but you'll probably know about them.' My mom said. I could hear her bustling about.
'Yeah, I know about them.' I said.
I was about to say goodbye when my mom spoke again. 'Macy can I ask you something?'
'Of course.' I said.
'Have…have you packed up any of Wes's things yet?' My mother asked. Her voice sounded different. I couldn't make out what exactly it was that was so different in her tone.
'Why are you asking me this?' I asked after a few moments. I didn't want to say no because I knew that I should have and I was sure my mother knew that too.
'It's hard, isn't it?' she asked sadly.
'Yeah, yeah it's hard.' I whispered.
'I have to go now Macy.' She said. I didn't say goodbye. I hung up and placed the phone neatly in front of me. I stared at the phone for a while. I studied the numbers and the letters. I stared at it so long that everything became a blur and I felt myself mentally slipping away from where I sat in the kitchen.
I closed my eyes and let out a deep breath. I had to get to work.
I didn't know much about the band besides the fact that they were pretty popular around the college kids and that they had moved down here a few days ago. I didn't know whether they were well-known or what their names were, excluding Euri.
As I walked into the bar I was greeted by the sight of Euri and one the lead guitarist as well as an unfamiliar face. Angie, Billy and Becky were gathered around the bar and talking to those three.
'Morning boss.' Billy called across the bar. I nodded and walked into the kitchen at the back and poured another cup of coffee from the coffee machine. I was greeted by silence.
'So who's the one looking for a job?' I asked and stood next to Euri. He looked down on me. I hadn't really noticed how tall he truly was until now. He was dressed warmly today.
'This is Brad and Jared. Jared is the one that needs a job.' Euri said. I nodded.
'Come with me.' I said and walked into my office. Jared walked in a few seconds after I did. I was seated behind the desk in a chair and Jared stood. He looked slightly older than the other boys. His hair was long as well and he had a scruffy appearance.
'So what kind of work can you do?' I asked.
'Well I've had a job as a waiter for a while. I've done a bit of bartending here and there. I guess I'm pretty good at that.' He said.
'Okay. You can take the late shift on the days the band work and you can work the early shift on Tuesdays. Thursdays you get the bar because that's Billy's day off. You get Sundays off.' I said.
'So that's all? I don't need to bring you any kind of documents or resume?' he asked, flabbergasted.
'If you fuck up you get fired.' I said and looked him in the eye.
'I won't. I promise.'
'So why are you living with the band?' I asked and took a sip of coffee.
'I don't. I'd been planning on moving down here for a while. I guess moving down with the band had been unexpected.' He said. He sat down in the chair across from me.
'So you're not like some band manager or anything?' I asked.
'No.' He said with a smile. He had a nice smile.
'What do you do then?' I asked.
'Well I guess I'm an artist. You know, I paint, multimedia stuff. I graduated from art school a couple of months ago.' He said.
'The more I hire the more talented my staff seems to be.' I muttered.
'Oh yeah?' He asked, smiling again.
'Yeah. I've got the band, the artist, the hacker, the poet, the dancer, the scientist and the math geek.'
'Who would you be?' he asked.
'You figure that out by yourself.' I sighed
He looked at me. I smiled and stood up. We walked out to the others together. Brad and Jared spoke quickly. Brad thanked me and smiled. Angie was watching Jared from behind the bar with Billy by her side.
Billy was the scientist, Angie the dancer, Becky the math geek, Jared the artist, Joe the poet and then there was the band.
I hadn't discussed my secret talent with anybody before, not even Wes knew I could hack. I had learnt five years ago from a friend that I had met once. He was one of my mother's clients. I liked him, he was interesting. He showed me everything he knew about hacking and computers. I had a natural knack for it that I had never explored before I met him. He was the one that sent me a large sum of money right before he had been killed. It didn't take too long for me to figure out that he was doing work for criminals.
'Where's Joe?' I asked. It wasn't a rule that the staff had to be in during the mornings but most of the time someone was here. Mostly they just came in when they had nothing to do besides pester me and do some extra work around the bar that I usually did.
'You know him. He's probably still sleeping. I'm pretty sure he left with someone last night.' Billy said.
'I bet he recited some poem to her.' Angie said. She and Joe had a complicated relationship. In the beginning they had seemed to be romantically involved but as time went on their relationship changed. They became more and more on edge with each other; just being around each other caused them to start fighting instantly. I split their shifts after that.
'You mean the one he recited to you?' Billy asked. Angie punched him in the arm.
I smiled and turned around. Euri was talking to someone outside now. It was a girl. I had never seen her around in town before but Angie seemed to know her.
'What's Lisa doing here?' she asked. I saw Jared and Brad turn to look outside. Billy was looking as well. I appeared to be the only one here that didn't know who the girl was.
'She probably came to talk to him.' Brad said.
'No shit.' Angie muttered. It appeared that Angie had a lot of ties with the band and their friends. I didn't ask what the girl was here about or who she even was. I wasn't interested so I walked away into my office.
I had calls to make that I had been postponing. Mostly about stock and stuff like that. I didn't go back out for a long time but when I did Euri was sitting at the bar by himself. Becky was in her office and the others were probably out until their shifts started.
'Hey.' I said and sat down next to him.
'Hey.' He said.
'Are you paying for that?' I asked and pointed to the beer in his hands. He looked down and smiled.
'Yeah.' He said.
'So, what's bugging you?' I asked. He sighed.
'Nothing.' He muttered.
'This is a bar. You sit with your drink and pour out all the horrible things on your mind and tell me everything there is to know about you that I don't want to know. It's how it works. Trust me. I know half the town's secrets by now.'
'I don't think I got the memo.'
'To be honest neither did I until I met Billy.'
'I guess it's a bit early to be drinking.' He said.
'Don't sound so bitter.' I murmured. He didn't respond.
'Why do you stay here?' he asked after a while.
'What?' I asked.
'I know about that guy. Wes. If I were you I would have left all this behind and run away. So why do you stay? Doesn't everything remind you of him?'
'You know we were meant to get married two weeks before he died.'
'I didn't run away because I can't live without him and that's my problem. I don't know how to move on. I wish I could run away because that way I wouldn't keep reminding myself that he's gone.'
'When my mom fell into her coma I stuck around for a while. I thought she would wake up in a couple of days, then a couple of weeks, then a couple of months. Once it reached a couple of years I packed up my stuff and convinced the guys that touring would be best.'
'Was it best?' I asked softly.
'No, I guess it wasn't.' he muttered.
'Look, I need to do something and it's pretty important.' I said.
'I'll leave the money on the counter.'
'I need your help.' I said.
'What do you need to do?' he asked.
'Just come with me.' I said. We got up and left the bar. I led him all the way back to my house and closed the door behind me. I walked into the garage and pulled out some of the old boxes from when we had first moved here.
'My mom called me this morning and asked me if I had packed Wes's things away yet and I just thought about how stupid it was that I was still crying over some stupid shirt that he probably hated.'
'So you want me to help you pack?' he asked. He sounded confused.
'I asked for your help because I needed moral support. I needed somebody that wouldn't let me quit until I was done and I couldn't ask someone like Angie or Becky.'
'You shouldn't have asked me. I'm the master of quitting.' He said.
'Just help me. Please.' I begged.
He stood in front of me and looked around for a while. He nodded after a few seconds.
We walked into my room and I opened the drawers that held all of Wes's things. Most of the things hadn't been touched since he died. I took one of the boxes and began to pack. I felt the tears come but I fought them and I carried on packing until the first drawer was empty. Then the next and the next until all his clothes were in the box.
Euri was sitting on the bed watching me intently while I worked through the room and packed away the smaller things. His books and CDs were still in the living room so I worked through that until everything was gone and it was just me and my things in the house.
The first sculpture he had ever given me sat on a shelf next to all my books and I had left two pictures out. One was in my bedroom and the other was next to the sculpture. It was the closest thing to a memorial I could allow myself to have.
'Where's the ring?' Euri asked once I had closed all the boxes.
'You were engaged. Where's the engagement ring?' he asked.
I pulled the chain around my neck out. I had put the ring on the chain a few months after the accident because I didn't want people bugging me about the fact that I still wore the ring.
'Not the ring.' I pleaded.
'In all my life I've fucked up more than most people. I learnt that once you've got nothing left to lose it's a whole lot easier to build yourself up again. So please Macy just give it to me.'
'I said I'd move on. I said nothing about pretending he never existed.' I snapped.
'He's not coming back. He's never coming back. You'll never see him again, or feel his arms around you, or smell him around you. He's gone.'
I felt tears rolling down my cheeks but I didn't speak. I just stood there staring at Euri. My hand loosed around the chain and dropped to my side. His face was hard but his eyes were soft, almost confused.
'I'm sorry.' He said softly.
'You're right.' I said and pulled the chain off from around my neck. I dangled it in the air until his hand reached out to take it. His hand moved up until it was closed around mine. I guess it might have looked kind of strange. Two people standing apart with our hands joined in midair. I didn't really think about that then, I just thought about how nice his hand felt on mine.