Chapter 1: On My Way
"I'm sailing away. Set open course for the Virgin Sea. 'Cause I've got to be free, free to face the life in front of me."
I don't know why, but Come Sail Away is the song my mind always wanders to whenever I'm upset. One day, when I was ten, this song came onto the radio, and something clicked. And from that moment on, whenever something was bugging me, Dennis Deyoung's voice would always croon me back to reality.
Right now, as I sat perched on top of my bright, orange duffle bag (leftover from my mom's adventurous days in the eighties), the only thing saving me the brink of tears was Styx.
Because this had to be some sort of sick joke. I had been in London approximately four hours and twenty minutes (55 of those were spent making my way through customs) and I had yet to leave the airport. It was hard not to panic, knowing that your dad—who you haven't seen in a good two years—either didn't care enough to come pick you up from the airport at the right time, or simply forgot. I couldn't even figure out which was more likely. Not that I really wanted to.
I should've called my mom by now. But, I really didn't want to worry her. There was nothing she could do halfway across the world. I was too humiliated to ring my dad, as well. I figured he'd remember eventually, or I'd hitchhike my way to Hyde Park, where they were holding the opening concert tonight.
I couldn't stay here forever. Especially since I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. The adrenaline of entering a foreign country can only last so long. I clutched the thin, hard piece of plastic that was my phone, my thumb poised on send. "To call or not to call, that is the question," I muttered, before jamming the phone into my pocket.
I was just going to have to take a taxi. Hopping up, I dragged my bag to the nearest black cab available. A lanky, middle-aged man was leaning against it, waiting for customers.
"Hyde Park?" I questioned, dropping my bag down. It was heavier than one would expect. I'm not much of an over packer, but I going to be away for months. That required a little more clothing than I was used to.
The man nodded, climbing in the front seat. I pulled my bag in the back with me, clutching it tightly. In the last few hours, it had really become a security blanket.
At least it wasn't raining. London was known for its rainy days. However, nothing but bright blue sky stretched out in front of me. Once I dropped my stuff off at wherever I was supposed to be staying, I'd have to go out and sight see a bit. I've always wanted to ride on a Double Decker bus.
"Come sail away. Come sail away with me."
The ride to Hyde Park took longer than expected. I gave the cab his fare with some of the money my mom gave me "just in case." It was a good thing, too. Maybe in some twisted way, she knew this would happen. She had known my father quite well once upon a time. At least, that's what she tells me.
"Thank you," I said, climbing out of the cab, my orange bag in tow. The man nods his head, already poised for his next customer.
Not that I had a clue where I was going. I stood just inside the park, yet I was still surrounded by people—gaudy tourists with maps glued to their hands, Londoners rushing from one location to the next, and a few lounging old lady enjoying the nice day to walk their dogs. It reminded me a bit of Central Park. Only, you know, minus the creepy homeless guys perched on every twist in turn in the path.
Sure, there were probably tons of homeless people in Hyde Park. But at that moment, in one of my first seconds in this strange, magnificent city, I couldn't see any. It was as though someone had shined a big, bright light in my face, and my eyes were still adjusting back to normalcy.
I blinked a few times, as if to erase the imaginary color spots, only to be hit square in the shoulder by something. Or should I say someone. Stumbling, I fell right on top of my suitcase, my eyes filled with a green blob.
"Hey!" The green blob snarled. "Watch where you're standing. You're going to get trampled."
Slowly, the blob came into focus, revealing itself to be a green shirt. A very bright, green shirt. "Sorry," I mumbled, pushing myself up. "But you're the one who ran into me."
"Because you're glued to the middle of the sidewalk. 'Course I'd end up running into you. The sidewalks are for, you know, walking. Typical tourist."
"Hey," I cried indignantly. "You don't exactly have an English accent yourself." In fact, he sounded American—a New Yorker, probably. "I was just innocently standing in the street. You're the one at fault here yet you can't even…" I looked over at the guy for the first time, only to be caught momentarily speechless.
I'm not usually the type of girl to be rendered silent by some good-looking guy. But when my eyes connected to his face, his was as if someone had flicked the off switch in my mind. I could only stand there, like a buffoon, gaping at the guy's soft, green eyes, his curly hair, and the way his hand ran through it roughly in an expression of distress.
"Hello?" The boy asked. "You alright? I didn't give you a concussion, did I? Because I don't really have time for this. Though, you didn't hit your head. What's your name? How many fingers am I holding up?"
Yes. Definitely a New Yorker. Only they would talk so fast. "I don't have a concussion," I snapped. "Now, could you kindly go away? You're giving me a headache."
A bit on the rude side, but this had been a long day. And he's the one who ran into me, then proceeded to yell at me about it.
"With pleasure," he said, before maneuvering around me, and continuing to whatever "important destination" he was headed to before he unkindly knocked me over.
It took me 1.5 seconds to realize he might know where in Hyde Park the Ten Lights were setting up. "Wait," I called after him.
"What?" He demanded, whirling around, and shooting me a grimace.
"Do you know where the Ten Lights concert supposed to be?"
He let out a laugh. "Figures you'd be another freaking groupie. Come on, I'm heading that way actually. I'll show you."
I picked up my orange suitcase, glowering. "I am not a groupie."
"Right. Though, I suppose if you really were one…"
"What? And for your information, I don't even like the band." I didn't know why I felt the need to defend myself to this kid, but at that moment, the last thing I wanted was to let him think I was obsessed with some stupid boy band.
My thirteen-year-old neighbor liked that band.
"Sure. That's why you're asking me to take you there. Hey, you have quite a large suitcase. You're probably planning on following them all around Europe."
"Well, yeah. But not because I like them."
I struggled to keep up. He was a fast walker, and I was dragging a heavy bag behind me. And it wasn't like I had a paramount amount of energy today, either.
"You're following them around because you dislike them?" His voice was full of disbelief as her turned around to glance at me.
"I'm not exactly following them around. It's more like they're dragging me around."
We turned around the bend, and suddenly it was life Hyde Park had exploded. People, mainly men in black shirts with green lanyards around their neck, were hauling things out of trucks, setting up a very large stage in the middle of an expansive shirt, and other unidentifiable tasks. It was as if the circus had come to town, a circus that resembled dozens of people running around like chickens with their heads cut off.
"That doesn't make any sense."
We approached a large, metal gate with two hulking men standing in front. Security, I guessed. Ten lights were a very, very popular band.
"Teddy," I heard someone exclaim. "There you are. Jesus, kid. Way to disappear and not tell anyone where you were going."
"Sorry, Max. Got a bit fed up with everything and decided to talk a walk. And I ran into this lovely girl along the way—literally I might add. Though really, it wasn't my fault. Who just sits there in the middle of the sidewalk? No one."
I've known this kid two minutes and I can already tell he never shuts up. Wait. Teddy? As in the Teddy Douglas? The lead singer of Ten Lights.
Why, god, am I so freaking oblivious all the time? Really, you'd have to be thick to not pick up that the boy—who looks just like the guy plastered all over the media—was one and the same.
"Holy shit," I groaned, instantly covering my mouth. I wasn't much a curser (it's the crutch of the conversation cripple, my mom always says) but how could I have not noticed? "You're Teddy?"
"Who is this?" the other voice snapped, bringing my attention to the guy standing next to Teddy. More like lounging, now that I got a good look at him, and I unconsciously rolled my eyes. Just the way his sharp, brown eyes judged me warily, the way his hair was combed (but not too combed, mind you) to look as if he has just rolled out of bed, the way his black short sleeve shirt hugged his body, while his jeans hung loosely on his hips made me instantly dislike him.
He was one of those I-know-I'm-hot-so-just-get-out-of-my-way-because-I'm-too-good-for-you types.
"Uh. Now that I think about it, I don't actually know," Teddy said, sending me a goofy grin. Despite the fact was had a less than ideal meeting, he was quickly growing on me.
Angry man—it's a fitting nickname and I'm too tired to think of anything better—scowled at Teddy. "You can't bring random strangers back here. Especially not some slutty groupie. Remember how well that worked out for you last time?"
"She insists she's not groupie. Look, Max, she didn't even recognize me."
"Probably just some silly trick, Ted. Come on." Angry man ran a hand through his hair, causing it to stick up awkwardly on the side.
"I'm not a groupie," I burst out. Quite frankly, all I wanted to do was find my dad, and fall asleep. I could go sight seeing a bit later seeing it was currently only eleven in the morning. And these boys were giving me a headache. Well, mainly Angry Man.
He called me slutty.
"Look, all I wanted to do is find my dad and go to sleep, okay? It's about 3 a.m back in Colorado, and I'm exhausted."
"And you decided to look for you dad at a Ten Lights concert?" Teddy asked, clearly confused.
"Well, yeah. Considering he manages the band."
"You're Alan Daniels kid?" Angry man asked, his eyes going wide.
I narrowed my eyes, resenting the kid comment. He couldn't be more than two years older than me, and I was practically an adult. "Tessa."
"You have got to be kidding me." Angry man looked like he was about to heart attack. Which I wouldn't actually mind all that much. Maybe then he'd feel bad for being such an ass. "You're supposed to come tomorrow."
"No. Pretty sure it was today," I said slowly, a wave of tiredness washing over me. Suddenly, standing here trying to explain that I was in fact due to come today, not tomorrow, was the last thing I wanted to do.
"Jesus Christ. Alan's going to kill me. I was supposed to pick you up."
"So you're the reason that I spent four hours sitting at the airport?" Angry man was quickly turning into man-I-wanted-to-throttle.
"Look, sorry about that," MIWTT said. "But you would forget to if you had to spend all day running around after three teenage boys doing everything at their beck and call."
"Hey, man, I'm not much younger that you. Like two months top," Teddy said, frowning.
"Physically, yes. Emotionally, no. You have the maturity level of an eight year old and the attention span of one addicted to sugar."
"Oh yeah? Well, at least I don't have a stick shoved up my ass ninety percent of the time," Teddy quipped.
"Guys," I injected. "Can somebody please take me to my dad now?"
"Yeah, Max. Why don't you do your job?" Teddy laughed, shoving him in the shoulder. MIWTT grinned back, before flicking him on the back of the head.
"Yeah, yeah. I'll find you later."
"We've gotta finish our game before the show."
Wait, what? From the way they were acting earlier, I would've never guess they were friends. Yet, now, the acted like they were best buds. Guys. They were so confusing sometimes.
I followed MIWTT through the throng of people moving back and forth, over to a large, black tour bus. He opened the door and motioned for me to go forward. Hoisting the straps of my bag over my shoulder like it was a book bag, I quickly climbed up the steps.
"Alan…" He called, his voice echoing throughout the small bus.
"Max! Just the person I wanted to see. I left you a message on your phone ten minutes ago…oh, who's this?" A tall, lanky man with more gray hair than black appeared in the main area of the bus, clutching a notebook.
MIWTT looked at me, his eyebrows raised. I tugged on the edge of brown hair, my cheeks inflamed. "Uh, this is Tessa."
"Tessa? Oh, Theresa," my father said, setting his notebook on the table. "My, haven't you grown in the last year."
"Mhm?" He took is glasses off, as if it would give him a better picture of me.
"I haven't, um, seen you in three years."
"Well, no wonder you look different. Is that blue in your hair?" He asked, grabbing a few strands of my hair for inspection.
I blanched. I had forgotten that I had dyed a few locks of my toffee brown hair blue at the end of exams with my best friend, Lena. My mom had been furious, but she calmed down when she had learned it wasn't permanent.
Well, technically it was. But my hair would grow eventually. And I was thinking of cropping most of it off before senior year anyway.
"Interesting. Listen, I've got a load to do before tonight's show. So, Max, I need you to take Tessa to the hotel to drop off some of her things. Then, I want you to take her anywhere she wants to go today. Be back before five, though."
"All right, sir," Max said.
"Bye Dad," Tessa said, slightly disappointed that she hadn't seen her father in three years, yet five seconds after reunion she was immediately sent away. Typical.
We arrived at the hotel after a very long, very painfully silent cab ride. It was clear that I wasn't too fond of MIWTT—he had called me a slut, in my defense—and he wasn't too fond of me. You'd figure he'd be grateful that I saved him from having to work all day at the beck and call from my father, but instead, it seemed to make him more upset.
The hotel was surprisingly small. We entered an eclectic lobby, outfitted with a few shabby velvet couches and a large reception desk. MIWTT muttered something about how they stayed in joints like this to avoid the press. When I raised my eyebrows, he clarified, saying that most of tour members stayed a few blocks away, in a ritzier hotel. The main group—i.e. the band members, my dad, a few security guys and me took up lodgings in a place where they weren't so likely to get recognized and harassed.
"You're in room 104," he said, handing me an actual hotel key—who knew they actually used those still? "Your dad will be right across. Don't get too comfortable, though. We'll just be packing up again tomorrow. Drop your stuff of and meet me in the lobby in fifteen minutes."
"Okay," I grumbling, shuffling up the grand staircase—and probably the only staircase.
My room wasn't very big, but it was hideously small either. It had a double bed, covered with the standard flowered duvet common in any hotel, a bureau, and a private bathroom off to the left.
Hastily shoving my suitcase of the bed, a unzipped it, and yanked out my toiletry bag. My toothbrush. Oh, I had missed this thing. Fifteen minutes wasn't much time, but it was enough to brush my teeth and comb my hair up into a more presentable ponytail.
I changed my outfit as well, trading in my cotton pants for jeans and slipped on a bright green t-shirt. Figuring I wouldn't get back to the hotel until late, I also grabbed a light sweater.
Fishing my sack out of my suitcase and a trusty disposable camera—I packed at least thirty, knowing I'll probably have to run out and buy more later. I probably should've brought my digital camera, it took up less space, but disposable cameras were so much more fun. I slid out the door, locking it behind me.
"Took you long enough."
Though really, I wasn't all that sorry. This guy has been a thorn in my side since I first set my eyes on him less than an hour ago.
"Where to, then?" If it weren't for the brief moment I saw him smile at Teddy, I would've thought he was born scowling.
"Coffee." I needed caffeine, and I needed it now.
"What?" He looked momentarily thrown back.
"I need coffee. Desperately. So, I'm going to go find the nearest coffee shop."
"There's a starbucks a few shops down," he said, pointing to the bright, round green sign that could be found nearly everywhere back home. I sighed—it wasn't my first choice—but it was good enough.
Five minutes later, I was quickly shoving down a Grande Coffee Americana—in other words, a standard cup of java. And boy, it was good. I already felt a little better and a little more willing to deal with captain grumpy trudging behind me.
"Where are we going now?"
"The tube," I said, knowing this would be the quickest way to make my way to the London Eye. "You don't have to come, you know. I can handle myself."
He moved up, matching my step at my side. "There is no way I'm going to let you wander around London by yourself. Alan would kill me."
I whirled on him. "Just like he would kill you if he found out you left me at the airport this morning?" For a moment, he looked sheepish. "I didn't mention that, and I wouldn't mention this…you're free."
"I'm not leaving you," He said adamantly, crossing his arms.
"Fine." I stalked down the sidewalk. Honestly, it would be better if he just left me alone. He clearly didn't want to spend his day babysitting me just like I clearly didn't want to spend my day—my first day in Europe—being babysat.
"Fine," I heard him huff behind me.
This was going to be a long afternoon. I only hoped I could make it without chopping his head off.
A/N: I did not mean to take this long to update...but seeing as I only had the prologue up, I think you guys can forgive me? Senior year has gotten the best of me, I'm afraid.
Special thanks to Styx, and their amazing song, Come Sail Away. It's definitely the king of eighties power ballads. And Billy Boy on Poison because I stole their song title for my chapter title.
Song of the week: Hey Little Sweetie, by Little Man Tate. Best band ever. Seriously. Be sad they broke up and stopped sharing their fabulous music with the world.
Also, if anyone wants to send me a particularly awesome FP story they've been reading in their review, I'd very much appreciate it :)