Alice in LalaLand


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4. 4

Charlie lives in the rough part of town. So rough, he arranged to meet me a bit down so I don’t get raped or..something.

He waves, leaning against a lamppost. “Dude, guess who just fixed us a bassist?” His grin gives it all away, even if it wasn’t already obvious.

“Are you serious? Already?” Damn, that’s quick. Charlie is one dedicated kid.

“Yeah man! I have my ways,” He flashes me a cheeky wink, and starts off towards his apartment. When he dropped school, Charlie’s parents kicked him out and he was left with a cheapo apartment in a grotty little hub for druggees. Well maybe not quite, but it’s something like that. Rain sprinkles lightly over our heads, and Charlie casts his middle finger up to the clouds.

            His place smells like alcohol and smoke, and I flick him a weary glance. He ignores it, popping open a can of beer.

“So, Ed,” He starts, sipping as he speaks. “You like him?”

I try to calm the enthusiasm that’s practically roaring inside me. “Yeah, he seems cool.”

He raises a mischievous eyebrow. “Mm’kay.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m not dumb, dude. He’s got a girlfriend, too old, and not my type.”

Too old? Alice, he’s nineteen, not ninety!” Charlie bursts. I shrug, and push open a window, letting some fresh air in.

“Hey, don’t you get too at home,” Charlie smirks.

“You think I want to?” I give the apartment a pathetic once-over.

“Al’, it’s pretty nice if you give it a chance. It’s not that bad, I’m not looking for a palace, just some place I can crash and eat.”

“And drink,” I add, focusing on the can of beer in his hands. He laughs, even though technically I wasn’t joking. “So you were saying, the bassist? Is he any good?”

She,” He points out. “She is the best there is.”

“Our bassist is a girl?” I can’t help feeling jealous. And pissed. I hate girls. They’re so...girlie.

“Yeah?” Charlie says, shrugging like it’s no biggie.

“We can’t have a mixed band, that’s just not cool!” I blurt.

“Well we have you. You’re a girl, and you’re our frontman, so you can’t exactly say that-”

“But we’re like Paramore, Charlie. One girl. Not a freaking mix. You just don’t do that,” I protest. I realize I’m slamming my fist against the kitchen surface to prove my point.

“We’re nothing like Paramore, Alice,” He shoots back sarcastically. I step back. Me and Charlie can’t argue. We’re..we’re like brothers. But that’s what siblings do, right? They fight sometimes. Then it’s all good after a while, they make up, like nothing happened. I try not to register my hurt.

“Maybe we’re not, but...” My voice disappears down my throat. I rub my temples with my fingertips. Come on Alice. Be the man. “Let’s not get immature about this. Okay, our bassist is a girl. I..I’m cool with that.” I had to force that last bit out. Kiss and make-up.

Charlie nods, fixing his eyes on something , thinking. “She’s called Harry.”

Harry?”

“Like Harriet.”

“Oh, of course.”

“But yeah, man she’s a pretty cool player. You’ll like her,” He says. He sounds more like he’s trying to convince himself rather than me. He looks at his empty can of beer. “Want one?”

I screw my nose up. “Nahh. Got any coke?” Classy, eh? Coke.

Charlie laughs a little. “Yeah, I’ve got coke.”

While he fixes us with drinks, I take the chance to check out his guitar collection. Each one looks like it costs millions. No wonder Charlie can’t afford a real place. My guitar is nothing compared to these, and I had to work a whole summer for that. And Charlie has about eight beautiful, priceless guitars stacked up in his shabby apartment block.

            I am so not cool with having a girl bassist. I’m the front man of this band. I should get a say. I mean, sure, it’s awesome that Charlie’s dedicated, but seriously? He should ask before picking out random people off the street to come join a band that could possibly change my life. And I don’t want a pretty little girl to ruin that for me. I mean, hasn’t Elsa already done that for me? She’s pretty close to Jay now, as I figured after last night. Even though I did kind of confirm that we were over. So that bit is partially my fault. But a girl bassist? I am so pissed. It’s a relief that Charlie’s agreed to let me pick the final member of the group. Another guitarist, who can sing and take up backing vocals. My mind keeps slipping to Jay. That’s how we got together, through music. We busked, did a couple of gigs and open mics... what happened to that? Oh yeah, he found Elsa. And just about every other girl that has a beating heart. Does Elsa even have a heart? Probably not.

I need to get that heartless bitch out of my mind. But Jay plays the guitar. Jay sings. He could fit the job nicely. No, what am I saying? That’s stupid. Jay is out of my life.

            ***

“So I found us our last member,” I blurt. The words are out there. So now I’ve got to tell him.

“Already? Do share.”

I stare at my phone, imagining Charlie’s face.  Imagining his reaction that’s about to come.

“Remember that guy from school who entered the talent show two years ago? Who came second? The one on the guitar? Him.” I take a deep breath. Charlie’s silence makes me uneasy.

“Charlie?”

“I’m thinking.”

“Oh, okay. Sorry.”

Another silence stretches out.

“Mm,” He finally says. “I think I do.”

He isn’t screaming or yelling yet. That’s good.

“What’s his name?”

I take a deep breath. Say it.

“His name is Jay.”

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