Chapter 08

Ash woke up at eight in the morning. Light was stealing in through the gaps between the curtains and making blurred lines on the blanket. She turned over to her side and studied the face of the young man beside her. She had no doubt that if anyone else saw them there, or if they found out later, they would not believe everything was perfectly innocent. They had just shared a bed, nothing more. And it felt good that way.

Very quietly she got up, collected some clothes, and went to the bathroom to change. Then she came back to put her folded night dress under a pillow and take the unfinished book downstairs with her.

Colin found her atten o’clockin the living room, lying on the sofa with the book in front of her. On the floor below was a mug of tea that had long since run cold. He kneeled down and kissed her in the hair.

“Good morning.”

“Morning,” she smiled.

“You didn’t have to let me sleep so long, you know.”

“I had to. You must’ve been tired.”

“Yeah, yeah I was,” he admitted. “Any plans for today?”

“I thought we’d call the guys and meet in the pub, to talk about the new album and everything…” she suggested.

“You said Harry had some idea for the new album, didn’t you?” he recalled.

“I did,” she nodded. “He liked the lyric you left here for me.”

“You gave it to him?”

“No, he gave it to me. He was the one to find it.”

“Ash, that lyric was a very private one. I wrote it for you, it wasn’t meant to leave these four walls, wasn’t meant to be read by anyone else than you.”

“I know. Harry wanted to talk to you, so he went with me. We found out you weren’t here, so I went to find him a bus connection home and he found the lyric meanwhile. You can’t blame us.”

“No, I suppose not,” he nodded. “So, what does Harry think we should do with it?”

“He had the idea to make an album called Love, which should contain songs on the topic, but not a concept. He thought you could fight, like you did with the vampire story, for love’s right to be mentioned aloud,” she paraphrased Harry’s words.

“Wow, he did understand the lyric, didn’t he?” Colin remarked.

“He’s good at understanding things,” she nodded. “Can you forgive us and at least talk about it?”

“I can forgive you, Ash. But we’ll have to find a different topic for the album. I don’t want that lyric to be used. Print it, frame it and hang it on your wall if you like it, but never, never let it leave this house. Please.”

“I thought you were braver than that,” she whispered a remark.

“That’s not about bravery. I’m well prepared to give our fans 99% of my soul, but there are some things I just have to keep for myself.”

She sat up and gestured him to sit beside her.

“When I was 18, I fell in love… He seemed just about perfect. Handsome, very kind, very intelligent… But he was married. I loved him (very strongly) for about two years, hoping at the same time he’d never find out. It was an awfully painful period in my life. And to dilute that pain, I wrote a few poems. Which turned out to be problematic, since at about that time I was starting my own website and wanted it to contain everything I’d written so far. Well, except the very first stories I wrote when I was 10 or so, they were terrible. But I really needed to promote myself with something good, and those poems were the best I’d written by then. So I had this dilemma: either reveal how depraved I am to fall in love with a married man, or to deprive the world of a few good poems. In the end I had this part of my soul stolen from my private universe, and now I’m glad I did that.”

“What happened after those two years?” he wondered.

“Someone else claimed my heart… It was a drastic relationship, I don’t want to talk about it now.”

“I’m sorry,” he responded almost automatically.

“Don’t be. He should be, but not you.”

“And is he?”

She shrugged. “Well, he did ask me not to hate him anymore, but I guess that’s just because he doesn’t like to be made to feel guilty; it’s not as if he understands he did something wrong.”

He silenced the stream of questions forming in his head, and promised her: “I’ll think about the lyric. We’ll go to the pub tonight if the others want to see me, but you have to give me time to decide. Can you do that?”

“I can. Can’t speak for the others, of course, but I guess they’ll understand.”

Colin did in fact think about the lyric, and about what Ash had said to him earlier that day, and about everything he had discussed with the other band members in the pub that afternoon. SMPDM had been so happy to have him back that they had limited their reproaches to merely a few sentences. After that, most of the conversation had been dedicated to the new album. They would let him have his time to decide, but everyone had liked Harry’s idea.

He still was not sure, even though he had had several hours to chew things over in his brain. Then he gave up, and switched on his laptop. Ash had given him the address of her website, and he just felt like reading those poems she had told him about. He found the link directly to those particular ones, thinking he would try the other ones later.

There were ten poems in that section, and of those just about four lines openly suggested the author’s love for a married person. The rest was purely depressing and suicidal, and though he loved how it was written, it was too painful for him to read. Dear Ash, that man must have meant so much to her…

“And I thought I knew you,” he said aloud. He clicked on the left-pointing arrow on his browser’s toolbar to return to the main poetry section, searching for something safer. The most recent poems there were three years old, and he clicked on the link to take a look at how her mood had developed since that unhappy period.

The link bore two poems, but he read just the first one.

“That’s it!” he exclaimed the moment he finished. “… makes me not afraid of love… this is totally perfect!”

The poem he was so happy about was called Silver Jesus. In fact it was about a white metal pendant Ash had found on her way from school, however, it seemed like a stream of metaphoric images:

 

„Today, in the dust of the road to the bridge

I found a bruised distorted Jesus

Falling under his silver cross

I picked him up, washed the dust

Hid him in my heart, he holds the keys

Protects me, but without me

Protecting him, his silver body and his cross

Would have never risen from the street

And my dear Jesus (with the job of St. Peter’s)

Now walks with me

And makes me not afraid of love

And not afraid of love’s end“  

He had a pretty good idea about what to do with this piece of writing. It was not a very original one, but he was sure he could handle it and turn this poem into something quite nice. The idea started looking even more promising when he found a link to Ashley’s old songs. It seemed they had been meant to be part of a musical or something, but apparently Ash had never managed to bring this idea to a successful end. Never mind. All the better for him.

When Colin had talked to Anna on the plane, he had discovered he was still quite good at Czech, and singing a song in the language was terribly tempting. He realised it would have to be a bonus song, but he was determined to try. Of course, he would have to get Ashley’s permission to use all the stuff first. And it would mean she would not be able to do another interview with him on the second album. Well, she had asked for it.

“Good evening, darling,” he said when she received his call. “I was just wondering if you had time tomorrow morning.”

“I do have time. But I thought you had to go to work.”

“Sure. Starting atone o’clock,” he nodded.

“Ok. So what’s the plan?”

“We meet in the studio at seven, have breakfast together and then you help me with something,” he suggested.

“At seven?”

“So that we have enough time for everything. Come on, you can do it for me once, can’t you?”

“Well, since you said please…”

“Oh yes, thanks. I forgot. Please?”

“Fine. I’ll be there at seven,” she gave up.

“Excellent. Thanks, darling. Good night,” he wished her, and ended the call with a smile on his lips. He was pretty confident he would get his way with this album.

Ash knocked on the studio door a couple minutes beforeseven o’clockthe next morning. Waking up so early turned out quite fine in the end and now she was really curious why Colin had invited her to this session more than anything.

“Morning, sunshine,” he smiled at her, as he opened the door for her and let her in.

“Morning,” she nodded. “Are you going to tell me why I’m here?”

“For the moment, darling, just sit down, have a cup of tea and let me tell you what I did last night.”

He poured her some tea, sweetened it with honey and gave the mug to her.

“Thanks,” she appreciated his care.

“Oh, and there’s plenty of food if you’re hungry, too,” he remembered and gestured to a table.

“Great,” she nodded. “So, what did you do last night?”

“I thought about the new album.”

“And?”

“I came to the conclusion that we can use the lyric, provided that you let me use some of your things.”

“Mine? Which ones?”

“Mainly Silver Jesus, because it fits the topic. And two more of your songs, if I like the melodies. Is that too much?” he asked her sweetly. “Don’t worry about the singing, I’ll do it,” he added.

“I thought you didn’t need anyone to write songs for you,” she remarked.

“That’s true. But I want to have a bonus Czech song, I love one of your lyrics, and I’m somewhat convinced you’re the kind of person who hates alterations once she writes something. It would be a sin to take a lyric and don’t use the melody you’ve attached to it, wouldn’t it?” he guessed.

“Certainly,” she nodded.

“Great. Can I have a bonus song, please?”

“Colin…” she began, then hesitated, not sure how to go on. “Look, I’m not the best person to co-operate with when it comes to sharing lyrics, let alone songs. I have to have absolute control of the result. And even though I’m pretty sure SMPDM can only be a benefit to those things, I’d hate to take chances.”

“Ash, I’ve already noticed you’re a perfectionist, but thanks for reminding me. You’re just like Mark, by the way. Anyway, the only thing I need you to do now is to somehow teach me the melodies of the songs. Don’t worry about anything, we’ll talk it over.”

Which they did. Colin explained the plan to her thoroughly, and eventually managed to persuade her to accept it and record a few things with him that morning. She read the Silver Jesus poem for him, played him both of the songs he had wanted, and when he tried to sing them, she corrected him if she felt he wasn’t doing the songs justice.

“You two are terribly scary when you speak that language,” they heard suddenly. They did in fact use Czech for most of the conversation they led about the bonus song, not really thinking about it. Now they both stopped and smiled at the newcomer.

“Hi, Jim,” they switched back to English.

“What’re you doing here, anyway?”

“Colin longed for a bonus song in Czech,” Ash explained. “So we were trying to find out if one of mine would be ok for the job.”

“It sounded cool,” Jim nodded. “I had no idea you wrote songs as well.”

“I used to.”

“But you won’t be able to do another interview with Colin if we use your stuff,” he noted.

“You know, Jim, I think you should worry about the album more than about interviews,” she winked at him.

“Of course,” he agreed. “So, will you let me listen to everything you’ve been working on this morning, or shall I make myself disappear again?”

The following week found Colin in deep contemplation. Having to go to work, even though he worked half as many hours as his colleagues, was becoming an awful drawback. He needed to concentrate on the writing, did he not? And he did not have to work anymore, Faith was selling well and he got enough money from the copyrights too…

But in a way Colin loved his job. He worked in a small café at John Lewis at St. James (not the place where he first met Ash), and had learned a lot thanks to that job. He observed people, tried to guess their tastes, trained the always-friendly approach, and developed his own method of making coffee so excellent that his colleagues envied him. He did not feel like giving this all up. Moreover, none of the other SMPDM band members even thought of quitting their jobs, or whatever it was they were doing. Harry, of course, worked in the hospital and had to stay that way even if he did not want to, Mark studied at the university, and Jim and Alan worked in the same company – Jim as a computer expert and Alan as a manager. And everyone was pretty much content. He would feel like a slacker if he left the café.

Still thinking his situation over, he suddenly found himself in front of Claire’s. He had thought about going there for a few days already, and felt he might as well do it now. He entered the shop, looking around to find what at least remotely resembled what he was looking for.

Ten minutes later he walked out of the shop, the collection of coins in his pocket reduced by five pounds and his hand a bit more trained in signing his name, since the girls at the counter had asked him for autographs.

In the evening he took a bus to Colinton and paid a short visit to Ash, who had just come home from school.

“Hi!” she welcomed him with a smile. “Didn’t expect you tonight.”

“When did you expect me?” he smiled back.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Why don’t you come in, though?”

He gladly accepted the offer, and took a seat in the living room. “How was your Easter?” he asked her.

“Easter…” she repeated rather dismissively. “We haven’t celebrated Easter for ages.”

“So you just celebrated your birthday?”

“Oh yes, we did that. My brother was here; he’d got some days off work so he was able to fly over fromPrague…”

“Sounds like fun,” Colin nodded.

“It was,” she agreed. “Did you do anything special for Easter?”

“No, no we didn’t.”

“Ok, why are you here?” she asked. She felt there was something he wanted to tell her, and thought he had better tell her straight away.

Colin reached for his bag. “I brought you something,” he confessed, fished into the bag, and handed her a small parcel.

Ash opened her mouth to protest, she had explicitly forbidden him to get her a birthday present, but could not find words to do the job.

“Colin, I… thought I told you…”

“You did. But this was something I just had to get you,” he gave her an irresistible apologetic smile, which she answered with a questioning look, took the parcel from his hands and unwrapped it.

The moment she saw what was inside, she gasped and her eyes filled with tears. Carefully, she took out a small piece of carton. There was a silver coated necklace attached to it, looking like a curled piece of string, with pink leaves and crystals scattered here and there… She had a pair of earrings to match it, but had never managed to find the necklace, no matter how hard she tried.

Still speechless, she looked in his face. He was smiling.

“How did you…” she began quietly, “…how did you find it?”

“I guess I was lucky,” he shrugged. “Can you forgive me for not obeying you now?”

She laughed. “I suppose I can. I just…”

“Don’t say anything,” he rescued her. “And sit down, for God’s sake, you’re making me nervous.”

She sat next to him, and before she could change her mind, she put her arms round him and kissed him.

“Thanks,” she managed.

“You’re welcome. But there’s something I’d like to ask you,” he warned her.

“What is it?”

“We’re doing a very short show tomorrow in the pub, and would love it if you could come.”

“Of course I’ll come,” she promised him immediately. “I’ll be looking forward to it.”

She enjoyed the following evening just like she had hoped to. She had never had many friends, and always used to spend her birthday with her family. Being with SMPDM was therefore a very refreshing experience. When she came to the pub, they were all there waiting for her. They talked for about half an hour, mostly about the new album (Ash found out they had rehearsed a lot while she was in Berwick). But then the girl’s patience eventually snapped, and she asked:

“Didn’t you say you were going to play something?”

“Did you tell her that, Colin?” Mark wondered.

“Well, I had to say something, otherwise I’d have no excuse to get her here,” Colin winked at him and earned Ashley’s surprised look.

“But we can play, can’t we?” Jim assumed.

“Yeah, we could,” the agreed.

“Right, let’s go,” Colin concluded the conversation. The rest of SMPDM obeyed this command readily.

Colin climbed on the stage and reached for the microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention for a while?” he began.

“I’m a werewolf. Thank you,” Harry whispered behind him mischievously, and Colin just narrowly managed not to crack up.

“Would you mind if we played a song?” he asked the audience. The crowd responded with a decisive “NO!”, and so the band grabbed their instruments and got ready for the performance.

“Today,” Colin began the introduction, “I’d like to speak about history.” He paused, and looked at Ash. She was watching him curiously. “Two weeks ago, I almost left the band. One week ago, we got together again, and started working on a new album. Exactly twenty-three years ago, my favourite writer gave birth to a baby girl. Today, that girl is like a sister to all five of us – and because we really love her, and she’s here with us today, and because she inspired me to write a song I like, we’d like to share it with you – and her.”

Ash smiled. She was absolutely certain the other girls in this room would give anything at all to be the one Colin’s short speech was referring to. But they did not understand. No one understood, except Harry, what her relationship with Colin was about. OK, they did not make it any easier for them. He called her darling, and they occasionally touched like a brother and a sister very fond of each other would. And they did love each other. But that did not give them a reason to become more than simple soulmates.

Colin sang, as usual, with his eyes closed. The song sounded like the kind you listen to on rainy nights near a fireplace. A bit melancholic, a bit soothing, a bit hopeful, and at the same time full of desperation, passion, urgency and longing.

Five minutes later, the audience saw them off the stage with a loud applause.

“Thanks a million, hearties,” Colin appreciated this. “We’ll be back soon with a few more songs, if you’re interested in hearing them. But not tonight.”

He jumped down from the stage and retook the seat at their table.

“We called the song ‘Love’, by the way,” he informed Ash. “Like the album. But there was no need to tell them that, yet. They’d think what they shouldn’t.”

“I’m afraid they already think that,” she said.

“Well, what can we do,” he shrugged. “Let them think what they will.”

“Think what?” Mark wondered. He was sitting next to them, but did not comprehend a word he heard.

“Think there’s a slightly different relationship between the two of us than there really is,” Ash explained to him, using her newly-defined skill of saying nothing with many words.

“Oh,” Mark understood. „I wish someone did know what’s going on between the two of you,“ he added in his mind. “At least the two of you.”

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