"Away the Morning" is my first original fiction attempt since the longest break ever. No excuses or reasons for the quality or flow -- I'm just taking this one as the words come, so it's going to be rough and uncut (but proofread, of course!). Let me know what you think. This first chapter's been broken up into two parts because of length.
Chapter ONE, Part I
"Can you feel the life flowing from these words
Maybe someday I will love you..."
- A Furious Whisper, Mercuric
The crowd applauded and hooted behind the curtain as Jordan and her band walked towards the wings. Mark, her guitar tech, was waiting with a chilled bottle of water and a towel, and she took them from him gratefully. "Thanks," she said, handing him her guitar while she twisted open the bottle top. Outside in the London theatre, she could hear the audience calling for the main act, the resounding thumping of their feet storming the ground where they stood.
"So," Lee, Jordan's cousin and second guitarist, grinned at her as she collapsed onto the small loveseat the second they entered the dressing room, "I think they liked you."
Jordan grinned back, exhilarated. She stood and caught herself in the mirror, her short dark hair plastered to her face and neck with sweat, her body vibrating, her green eyes bright. "They liked us," she corrected him. "This is amazing. I can hear them from here." She stared at her own reflection, then down to her shirt, stuck to her skin, the outline of the binder nearly visible. It was beginning to ache. A surge of adrenaline coursed through her, causing her to momentarily forget about the discomfort, and she turned back to her bandmates.
As they filed out the door to watch the headlining band play, Jordan stared in wonderment at Lee and their two friends, Laura and Emily, who played the drums and bass guitar, respectively. They'd started out as four teenage rascals with far too much time on their hands, and now were the opening act to 1500-seat crowds in big cities. Sure, as an indie outfit, they might never to hit the mainstream to the same degree as other more well-known bands, but right now she knew she would never give up what she had in this moment.
"Let's show another round of appreciation for Mercuric," the frontman was saying as Jordan slipped into the crowd. "Hopefully we can entertain you as much as they did."
Cara wound down the electric window of the taxi, only to have the driver wind it back up. "No windows down," he said to her with a thick foreign accent. "Hard to clean."
"Oh, sorry." She settled for staring at the lights of the buildings alongside them cruising by with her reflection in the window. They shouldn't really be cruising at all -- they should be whizzing, she was going to be late -- later -- otherwise. "Er, is there any chance you could go a little faster? I really need to have been there--" she looked at her watch and sighed "--seven hours ago." Having already missed the rehearsal, she'd been hoping to make it in time for dinner, but it was already nearly nine-thirty. The driver didn't reply. Cara wondered if he'd heard her, but then the taxi sped up with a lurch and the buildings outside cruised by at a slightly quicker speed. London seemed lovely and all, and she'd never really seen the city at night, but there would be time for sightseeing later. Maybe. If her father didn't kill her tonight.
Her cell phone buzzed in her back pocket. Extricating it with some difficulty and a lot of impatience, she pressed the button to answer without looking at the display. "I'm on my way, I'm sorry, I'll be right there, I promise I'm two minutes away."
"Make that two seconds," her twin brother replied. "Dad's worried now, but he's going to be annoyed in about that much time."
"I'm sorry!" Cara wailed. "I can't help that the flight was cancelled! And then delayed! Anyway, oh, I'm here now," she said, and hung up as the cab pulled up outside the house. She paid the driver as she hopped out hurriedly, and thanked him before dashing through the front door of her uncle's townhouse.
The smell of barbecued meat lingered throughout the largely empty living room and kitchen, where only a handful of people were left holding plastic cups of something most likely non-alcoholic. Sarah was big on that; the wedding was non-alcoholic, too. Cara recognised none of the guests as she dashed towards the backyard -- they must be Sarah's friends -- but they all acknowledged each other with a brief smile and nod. "Dad?" she called out from where she stood at the ranch slider to the backyard and swimming pool. There weren't many people left in her uncle's spacious backyard, but she still couldn't spot her father. "Hey, uncle Rob," she greeted her father's brother with a wave. "Where's my dad?"
"Ah, the prodigal daughter returns!" Rob exclaimed. At Cara's pained expression, he added, "He went to the bathroom. Fancy a steak?"
"Oh, uh, no thanks. Gotta find dad before he, you know." Cara made a slicing motion across her throat with a finger, and her uncle laughed. She turned to go back into the house and walked right into Jason Gallagher's solid six-foot frame.
"I'm so glad you finally decided to join us, darling," her father's smooth baritone sounded in her ear, and he punctuated the statement by mussing up her hair as he hugged her, making her feel like she was just a kid again. Cara massaged her nose where she'd whacked it on his shoulder, and looked as apologetic as she could.
"I am so sorry, dad. But at least I didn't miss the actual ceremony, right?" She tried to sway him with her brightest smile, but he merely raised his left eyebrow in response. And then he frowned.
"Oh, Jason, stop making her feel bad. She's here, safe, that's all that matters." Sarah, Cara's soon-to-be stepmother, waltzed over to them with a handful of empty plastic cups and plates. Nearly as tall as Cara, she leaned up and kissed her on the cheek. Her warm brown eyes danced with laughter. "She's just in time to help us clean up."
Her father's laugh boomed into the living room when he saw her resigned face. Taking the plates and cups from Sarah, he handed them to Cara and pointed to the kitchen. "Go on then, get started."
"Where's Jenner?" Cara asked, reluctantly receiving the load and searching for a rubbish bag. "He just called me, like, a minute ago."
At his name, her brother showed up. "Right here, sis. And look who I found." Jenner stepped to the side and bowed low at the waist, extending his arms towards the staircase with a flourish. "May I present to you... Miss Anna Duncan."
A shriek of joy escaped her throat. "What?! Where is she?" Cara hastily set down the rubbish and hopped up and down in anticipation. It seemed an interminable amount of time before a tall, fashionably dressed brunette appeared from behind the stairwell, smirking mischievously. "Oh my god, Anna!" Cara squealed, rushing forward for a hug. They squeezed each other tightly, and Cara's best memory from her childhood kissed her on both cheeks when they parted. "I thought you couldn't make it, what happened? Not that I'm not glad, obviously, but you said--" Cara stopped herself and clapped her hands. "Never mind, who cares, you made it! How are you?"
"I'm very well, thank you," Anna replied, her English-accented lilt far more measured and calm. The brightness in her eyes and the flush of her cheeks belied her tone, however, and she grasped Cara's hands tightly in hers. "I managed to take leave after all, so I came straight down. I thought you were to be here since the morning." There was a hint of accusation in her tone, but her eyes still sparkled and the corners of her mouth lifted teasingly.
"I--" Cara huffed, now even more frustrated that she'd missed out on a whole day of catching up with her best friend. She, Jenner, and Anna had been best friends since they were neighbours living in Kent, growing up together before Jason moved Cara and Jenner to New Zealand when the twins were eight. Physical meetings were few and far between for the twins and Anna now -- Cara and Jenner with their studies, and Anna, being a few years older and now fully in the workforce, finding it harder to adjust her busy schedule to suit the Gallaghers' infrequent trips to England. "I know," she finally conceded, "I should've left right after my scholarship exam instead of two days after, okay? Will you guys please stop hassling me about it now?"
"Hey," Anna laughed, squeezing Cara's hands again, "I was only teasing. Better late than never, right? Anyway," Anna turned to Cara's father, "I know she's meant to be cleaning up, but I was thinking that I could take her and Jenner out later. I'll have them home before the wedding."
Jenner snorted with laughter, then immediately quieted when everyone looked at him. "I don't know why I did that," he said quickly. "I'm, uh, just going to help clean up now."
As Jenner began clearing the plates and cups left on the counter, Cara turned to her dad. "Please? We won't be out long. You know it's going to be crazy once the wedding starts, and Anna probably doesn't have a lot of time off work -- this is the only time we'll get to hang out for real..." she trailed off, giving her dad her best puppy dog eyes, and then she turned it full force on Sarah, who could never resist her pleas.
It was Sarah who -- predictably -- caved first. "Of course, honey. You girls go and have fun." She looked at Cara's father, and Cara cringed inwardly -- Sarah and her dad had developed this uncanny psychic-type communications device, which meant her dad was going to say something like...
"But you three are going to clean up this house before you go."
That wasn't so bad. They readily agreed, and Cara and Anna joined Jenner in sweeping, cleaning the barbeque pit, and tidying up the living area and kitchen, though they had to wait until the last of the guests had left before they could do the job thoroughly enough. Together they made short work of the task, made lighter as they caught up on events that had occurred in the five years since they'd all last seen each other.
"I can't believe I only got to see you for half a day the last time you were here," Anna said to Cara later as they walked to the pub, a 'lovely little place that just opened a couple of months back,' according to the older woman. "And I can't believe it's been five years! The magazine was just starting out, then." Anna had started a music magazine with a fellow journalism major while still at university, and she was now the very busy editor-in-chief of one of the more popular underground publications in the country.
"Yeah," Cara agreed. "How is the magazine, anyhow?"
"It's doing well." Anna sounded pleased and excited. "We're increasing publication next year, and Patrick is coming on board full time -- he's our creative director -- and I think I'm going to take a break from it."
"You're what?" Cara gasped, but her shock was swallowed by the loud atmosphere of the pub as they entered. "You're going to quit? Why?"
Anna shook her head. "I'm not quitting. I'm just taking a short break. The magazine will be in capable hands, and I'll have time to do some of the things I've been wanting to do for a while, now."
"When?" was all Cara managed to ask.
"Let's all get a drink, and I'll tell you my plans once we're comfortable."