The next thing I knew, my alarm clock was going off. I groaned; my head was reeling and I couldn’t see straight - I had a massive headache.
And then, as I turned over to turn my clock to sleep, Luke was walking into the room, not even looking at me as he walked over to the curtains and drew them back violently.
‘Hey!’ I yelled. ‘I had a late night last night!’
‘I heard,’ he replied casually, and continued to let the light into my room.
‘Luke, get the fuck out,’ I growled quietly, trying to stop the brightness by my pillow. I shoved my head back under the sheets, only to have them pulled off again - this time, by Ciara.
What is this? Is my bedroom a fucking public place?
‘Emma, get up.’
‘Why are you both in here? This is my room! How’d you even get inside?’
She shrugged, and opened a window, letting in some warm air.
‘I’m a receptionist downstairs, aren’t I?’
‘Yeah, well...’ I paused, trying to think of a good comeback, ‘It doesn’t give you the right to just barge in here, does it?’
She smiled smugly and moved into the mini bathroom, her voice echoing back out.
‘I suppose it doesn’t, but I got sent up by a guest, so technically I’m on duty. Ashton wants you in the auditorium.’
I vaguely remembered the conversation we had yesterday, which involved me agreeing to meet up with him today for a day out. Shit. When I made the deal, I definitely wasn’t accounting for this.
‘Where’s Calum and Michael?’
‘Where do you think? In bed still. They’re really knocked out - what’d you do with them last night?’
He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at me, but I waved him off.
‘We just went out after the concert to a bar, but you know, Calum being Calum kind of...’ I lifted my hand to my mouth in the signal of a bottle and pretended to chug it down. Luke laughed.
‘Right. And Michael too, huh?’
I sat up a bit straighter, finally adjusting to the light properly, the memories from last night flooding back into my mind.
‘Yeah - except he met someone... Lisa? Linda? Lynn? Yeah - Lynn, that was her name I’m pretty sure.’ I remembered how happy Michael was on the drive home. ‘He seemed pretty hooked on her.’
Ciara came back out of the bathroom, catching the end of our conversation.
‘Michael found a girl?’
Luke looked a bit disbelieving, but he nodded, moving over towards her to intertwine their hands together. I smirked. Wonder how close they got last night on their date?
I stood up, not wanting to be interrogated any further. My head was still throbbing, and I just wanted to have some peace and quiet for a bit.
‘I’m going to get changed so, uh, scoot.’
Ciara raised an eyebrow but reluctantly pushed Luke out the door.
‘Don’t go back to bed. I’ll be waiting for you outside.’
I sighed as they left, and shut the door behind them.
Fun day ahead.
He smiled at me as I walked in the door, and I felt my head spin a little - whether it was because of my headache or because of the way he looked, I didn’t know, but I didn’t like it. Ashton was sitting on his drum stool, clutching his drumsticks in his left hand. Unlike me, he was looking clean and happy, and his eyes were shiny, crinkled at the corners as he grinned.
‘Glad you could make it.’
I sighed, and sat down in a chair across from him.
‘I’m so sorry - we got home so late last night, and I’m just so tired, I feel terrible.’
He lifted himself up from his chair and slouched over to sit next to me, waving a hand, dismissing my apology.
‘It’s fine, I know what Calum’s like. Did Mali tell you, uh, anything?’
He bit his lip, and I blinked. She did tell me stuff, but Ashton didn’t need to know that.
‘Not really, just that you’re...’ I looked sideways at him, a smile creeping onto my face at his anxious expression, ‘...a total douche bag and that you shouldn’t be trusted.’
Ashton’s jaw dropped.
‘Hey! That’s not true!’
I laughed, and poked my tongue out at him.
‘Just kidding, just kidding. So what’re we doing today anyway?’
Ashton leant over next to me, and placed a warm hand on my forehead. I tried not to move away.
‘I think maybe we should put a raincheck on this day out, huh? You really should stay and rest. I’m sorry for making Ciara go and get you.’
He frowned and moved a little closer on the couch. Danger, danger! A warning bell went off in my head and I coughed, standing up.
‘No, I’ll be fine, really. I need fresh air. Are you ready to go?’
Ashton ran a hand through his curls, messing them up and making me feel even dizzier.
‘Em, I really think you should stay-‘
‘No ifs or buts, we’re going. I’m determined to do this job, okay Ashton? All I need is a panadol, and then I’ll be ready to guide you through this summer.’
‘Fine,’ he sighed, and reluctantly got up, leaving the room to get me a tablet.
I rubbed a hand over my eyes and resolved to kill Calum the first chance I got.
Ashton looked at me expectantly, and I scrunched up my nose, trying to decipher the map infront of me.
‘I think that if you wanted to see the harbour, we have to take this train-‘ I traced along a blue subway line, ‘and if you wanted to head into central Sydney and go to Hyde Park and that, we can get this one.’ My finger stopped on a green line. I looked up at Ashton, who was contemplating all of this with a thoughtful look on his face.
I had finally managed to convince Ashton to let me go out with him for the day, despite his great reluctance. Eventually our talking woke Michael up and he was extremely pissed off, telling Ashton that if we didn’t just get a move on and go, he would be playing his guitar on full volume next to Ashton’s ears that night while he was sleeping. Ashton made sure I was all okay before we left, him under a hoodie jacket so no one would recognise him. It was only now, once we had reached Central train station, that I realised I had no idea where to go, or what to show him. And my geography skills got me a C- in highschool.
Ashton had finally come to a decision, and he pulled his hood further over his head, looking at me carefully, excitement showing on his face.
‘What would you say to a day out in the city?’
‘I would say that might do very nicely.’
We entered the little cafe, the bell above the shop door jingling as we stepped inside. Soft rock music was playing out of the stereo system, and Rabia, my friend and waitress, smiled at me from behind the counter, motioning me to take a seat as we moved towards her. The place was almost empty, seeing as lunchtime had already passed - one family sat in one corner, and a middle-aged couple and a few business people occupied the other seats. Ashton smiled over at me.
‘How do you know about all these cute little places?’
A bit of research and some searching?
I winked at him.
‘I guess you could say my tour guide abilities stretch way beyond your knowledge.’
He chuckled before his eyes lit up and he reached for my arm, rushing me over to a cosy booth like a little kid.
‘Ooh! Let’s sit here - wow, look at that poster...’
We both turned our heads upwards, to the wallpapered image of All Time Low that stayed plastered to the wall. Ashton sucked in a deep breath when he saw the little signatures above each figure’s head.
‘No way...they were here?’
He looked at me in awe, and I giggled, sliding into the chair.
‘Yeah, this tiny cafe is more punk rock than you’ll ever be in your whole entire life - and look over there too...’
I leant over and put my head close to Ashton’s, pointing so he could see what I was showing him. Up on the far wall was a life-sized painting of Green Day, and just like the picture above us, the members had signed their names next to their faces. I felt Ashton shiver next to me.
‘This is so crazy,’ he whispered, eyes wide. I giggled. This was exactly the reaction I was hoping for. No one had told me what type of music Ashton was into, but judging from his own band, I was pretty sure he would like this place.
‘Do you like it?’
‘Are you kidding me? I LOVE it Emma, I can’t believe this - holy shit...’
He sighed in satisfaction, running his hand over the face of Alex Gaskarth with a little twitch of pleasure. I smiled happily. Ashton looked so amazed.
‘Do you want to look around a bit? I’ll order for you.’
He nodded ecstatically, and bounded off, circulating the little room, taking everything in.
As I opened the menu, I thought about how I used to come here all the time to sit away in the corner booth, dreaming of America, and getting away to the place where all the great bands began. I remembered ordering hot chocolates and reading my books under the watchful eye of wallpaper Kurt Cobain. I remembered reading books and just sitting, listening the tunes coming out of the old stereo. And I remembered one day scouring the paper for work opportunities and seeing an ad, offering a job at the Hilton Hotel. The Rock Bandit was my favourite café, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to share it with then Ashton.
‘Earth to Em?’
I shook my head, looking up into the gorgeous brown eyes of Rabia.
She shot me an appraising look, grinning. She looked as pretty as ever in her waitress uniform, and I couldn’t help but smile at the milky brown stains on her apron.
‘You been eating all the chocolate again?’
She laughed, and slid down next to me, balancing a pen over her ear, curling a strand of black hair behind it.
‘You know me too well. How’s everything going with the new job?’
‘I’m gonna get fired. I spend too much time doing, uh, other things.’
‘Like hang out with the world-famous Ashton Irwin and go on cute little cafe dates to old, ratty places like the Rock Bandit?’
I looked over at Ashton, who was gazing up at the 1975 poster in wonderment, then back at Rabia, who was smirking slightly. I rolled my eyes.
‘Fine. Yes, it’s him. And no, that’s not all I do - this is totally just a one-off thing, swear to god. It’s no big deal Rahbs.’
She raised one perfect eyebrow and glanced in Ashton’s direction before looking back at me.
‘Sorry to burst your bubble honey, but you know, getting a coffee with Ashton Irwin from 5 Seconds of Summer really is a big deal. What’s going on, actually?’
I was about to tell her everything, but Ashton had begun to move back over towards us, and I shoved her off the chair abruptedly.
‘Text me later! I can’t tell you now.’
She rolled her eyes sassily and pulled out her notepad.
‘Would that be the usual for you then, Miss?’
I smiled sweetly at her as Ashton sat down opposite me, still looking starstruck.
‘Yes, thanks. Oh, and can I get a Rockerfella shake too, for my friend here?’
Rabia nodded, jotting it all down, before leaving us alone - but I know I saw her wink at me before shuffling back into the kitchen.
I looked at Ashton and blushed. He was looking at me intensely and I couldn’t bring myself to focus on his face, so I stared at his bandana instead, praying he couldn’t tell what I was thinking.
‘This is the best place I have ever been to in my entire life. No, seriously,’ he went on, despite the disbelief on my face, ‘it’s even better than every single place I’ve ever been on tour to. And to think that this whole time, it’s been sitting right here, basically in my backyard, and I’ve never known.’
He reached across the table and squeezed my hand tightly, and I felt myself squeezing back.
‘I’m so glad you like it. This is my favourite place too, and I wanted to share it with you.’
He smiled, dimples showing. My breath hitched as he leant close to my ear and whispered in it.
‘You’re the best summer guide ever.’
And finally, I relaxed under the company of Ashton, because I knew right then and there that everything between us was going to be okay.