“The winner of Smoothie Shack’s ‘Come Eat With Us’ competition will be announced in five minutes!”
Brendon winced as the ear-splitting voice boomed out of the speakers above his head. He suddenly realised why Brent, Freddie and Andy had all avoided this seat. Unfortunately for his band mates, the voice echoed off the walls just as loudly so that everyone received its full volume.
“Oh. My. God. Hi Brendon! Freddie, wow, I just love your moustache! You guys make totally fab music, like, seriously. I love Smoothie Shack so much oh my god…” Brendon tried to zone out as the over-excited fan rambled on, repeating the same speech he’d been hearing all morning. Somehow, he remembered to at least pretend he was listening and smiled at her. She appeared to be around 12 years old with bright blue hair and a Smoothie Shack tee. Brendon hated the band’s merchandise; it was so dull and unoriginal. Two spilt Smoothies leaked down to form the band’s name on top of a black background. He sighed as he recalled the numerous times he’d seen that shirt today.
Finally, after more fake smiles, nodding, and a signed CD, the obsessive fan skipped off to scream with her friends. Brendon glanced up at the queue and genuinely smiled as he realised that there was only one more fan left. The fan shuffled forward awkwardly and Brendon managed to get a good look at him.
The first surprise was that the fan was a boy. The second was that the boy was around the same age as Brendon. Probably about 17 or 18, which is around 6 years older than the usual fans. Chestnut brown hair rose into a fohawk, revealing scintillating chocolate eyes, emphasised by circles of dark eyeliner. A Beatles tee hung from his slim figure, accompanied by a pair of black skinny jeans and black converse. His cheeks flushed red as he noticed the singer staring at him.
“Erm, hi.” He murmured without taking his eyes off his shoes.
“Hey there, you got anything for us to sign?” Brendon smiled warmly. The boy fumbled around helplessly in his beige shoulder bag and presented them with a violet guitar pick, the initials ‘B.U.’ were inscribed on it.
“Could you, um, sign this? I caught it at one of your concerts.” He blushed further as Brendon inspected the pick.
“Oh cool, are you a guitarist too?” Brendon grinned. He always held a particular interest in guitars, which made sense as he was the lead guitarist of the band.
“I’ve been learning for, um, 9 years, I think…” the boy stared at the pick lovingly.
“Awesome. Well, unfortunately I don’t know if we’ll all be able to sign it-” Brendon began as he inspected the pick.
“That’s okay,” the boy butted in, “erm, I just want you to sign it. Sorry guys, um, no offence…”. The others smiled gratefully; they got to rest their aching hands at last.
“Okay so, ‘to…’?” Brendon glanced up and raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, George. But, er, most people call me Ryan.” Ryan’s cheeks went even brighter as he realised that his last sentence made no sense at all.
“To Ryan, cool pick, Brendon.” He read aloud as he struggled to fit the words onto the small triangular shape. He subconsciously added two kisses after his name before handing it back.
Ryan murmured a thank you and began to shuffle towards the exit, clutching his signed possession lovingly. Brendon watched the boy and was deafened by another announcement that the draw was about to begin. A thought hit him just as hard as the booming voice.
“Wait, aren’t you gonna enter the draw?” he yelled.
“I don’t really win things very often but, er, sure.” He smiled weakly and picked up the small notepad, adding his name to the excited scrawls of other fans before heading over to join the crowd surrounding the stage where the winner would be announced.
Brendon looked down at the notepad and smiled with realisation. The tiny handwriting at the bottom had elegantly swirled the name ‘George Ryan Ross III’.
The notebook was snatched from in front of him as Brent appeared, the band’s bassist and self-appointed manager. He tutted as he read the list, turning his nose up as he read the last name. Brendon, who’d been watching him, snatched the paper back protectively.
“They all sound like morons to me, but at least we’re getting a good meal out of it. We have to get on stage for the draw, get moving.” He grunted before waddling off.
Brendon pulled a face at the back of the bassist’s head and headed towards his fellow band members on the stage. They didn’t hold many competitions as they didn’t really have many fans to enter them. Although what the crowd lacked in numbers, it made up for in enthusiasm. Andy handed him a microphone and gave him a gentle shove into centre stage. Freddie was the singer but everyone knew that Brendon was the fan’s favourite member.
“Ahem, testing, one two three,” he muttered into the microphone. The crowd went silent and stared at him expectantly, “as you all know we are holding a competition where one of you could win the chance to have dinner with us at Esteban’s. Now, without further ado, I will announce the winner.”
Andy was at hand with part of his drum kit and began the ratatatat of a drumroll. The crowd all crossed their fingers simultaneously as they whispered fake messages such as “good luck” and “I really hope you get it” to each other. A wave of silence hit the room as the last tat hit the drum.
A tall, thin woman tottered onto the stage in 50ft high heels and an equal amount of make-up. She held a glass fishbowl filled with tiny folded pieces of paper with her manicured hands. Brendon took the bowl gently and dived into the sea of paper, his hand wove through the slips like a dolphin in the ocean. The dolphin grabbed hold of a tiny slip at the very bottom. Brendon lifted it out and unwound it, his face reflecting the same apprehension as the crowd.
“And the winner is,” he grinned into the microphone, “George-”
A young girl screamed and clapped her hands, hugging each of her friends before running towards the stage, arms flailing. Brendon watched her, baffled. She beamed at him as she got on stage.
“Erm, hi?” he raised an eyebrow inquisitively.
“Hi. I’m George. Technically Georgina. Or Georgie. Any of those really.” She babbled.
A movement at the back caught Brendon’s eye. Somebody had begun heading towards the exit. A lanky boy in a Beatle’s tee –
“Wait!” Brendon shouted. The girl stopped mid-babble and the boy froze, but didn’t turn round. He could hear Brent hissing at him from the side of the stage but he didn’t care. He knew he was being rude and the fans were waiting impatiently, but he just stared at the back of the Beatle’s tee, transfixed.
“I didn’t finish reading out the name,” he said, avoiding the panicked glances of the girl to his right, “the winner is, George Ryan Ross. The third.”
He smiled as the boy swivelled and his shocked eyes met Brendon’s. He’d won something. For the first time in his life, he’d actually won something. The crowd seemed to part, either out of awe or burning jealousy. Most likely the latter.
Georgina, Georgie, George, or whatever her preferred name was, glared at the boy. Her cheeks burned red with anger and embarrassment. Desperate to leave a mark on what used to be her favourite band, the girl grabbed the recently signed CD from her bag and smashed it on the floor. However, everyone was watching as Brendon congratulated the boy with the ridiculous name instead of her. Furious, she stormed off the stage with her head held high.
Brendon stared at the hotel mirror and sighed. If he had a dollar for every time he sighed, he could buy a unicorn. His phone bleeped. A message from Audrey. He sighed again.
Make that two unicorns.
He crossed the room and picked up his phone. Maybe it was a nice message saying that they should get back together. Or that he could have his house back.
You left your underwear in the bedroom, you filthy jerk. I burned it so don’t bother coming round to collect them. Oh and by the way, in case you were wondering, my lawyer said that this is definitely my house so get lost.
Nope, definitely not a nice message. He snapped the phone shut, adding in a third sigh in the process. Brendon lowered himself onto the worn, itchy fabric of his hotel bed and observed the tiny room.
A dull, brown wallpaper clung lifelessly to the walls, peeling off in a number of places. A bulb buzzed in the centre of the room, like a mosquito who’d lost all hope. The bed on which he sat was old and worryingly unstable, dotted with a collection of concerning stains. Opposite the bed stood a small set of drawers and a dusty, cracked mirror. He glanced at the door for the bathroom and its broken lock but dared not enter the room. The whole place just reeked of depression and unsuccessfulness.
Deciding that anywhere was better than this dismal place, Brendon gussied himself up in the mirror, sighed a few more times, and headed out in to the equally dreary hallway.
“Brendon! Hey, wait up!”
Freddie pranced down the hall in a frighteningly white suit, paired with an electric blue tie. He was almost too gay to function.
“Oh hey Freddie. Looking forward to dinner?” Brendon grinned. Out of everyone in the band, he got on with Freddie the most. It was almost impossible not to.
“Well, the food sounds fab-u-lous! But the boy? Not my cup of tea, my dear.” He laughed in his inviting African accent, hands flailing around like planes around King Kong. Like one of the fan girls from earlier, Brendon thought.
“Better than one of those Howler Monkeys. Oh sorry, I meant fans.” He winked, causing Freddie to erupt in laughter once more.
They hopped into the lift and whacked (literally whacked, some suspiciously sticky substance rendered a simple push useless) the ‘Ground Floor’ button. Blondie began to boom out of the speakers as they began their descent.
“Hangin’ on the telephoooone!” Freddie sang along loud enough for every hotel floor to hear. Brendon grinned and rolled his eyes mockingly as a ding bounced off the four, grimy walls.
Brent and Joe were waiting for them at the lobby bar; Joe sipped a Fanta and Brent stared at his watch impatiently. The sound of footsteps caused him to glance up as the duo approached.
“What time do you call this?” he complained.
“About quarter-to-seven.” Brendon replied, poker-faced. Freddie stifled a grin.
Brent’s eyes did a full 360° turn inside their sockets as he struggled to find the part of his brain labelled ‘sense-of-humour’. He eventually gave up the search and gestured towards the door.
Brent rambled on about how late they were going to be due to this major setback as the band clambered into their taxi. Brendon zoned out to the sight of the city lights. His mind began to wander; would Audrey ever forgive him? Did he want her to? Did he even regret it? These thoughts crawled through his head like cockroaches: relentless and indestructible.
The taxi screeched to a stop outside Esteban’s. A giant clock outside informed them that it was only 8:55 – they were 5 minutes early. Brent needed to chill out more and stop being so worried.
The interior of the restaurant was very… odd. Yet it was pretty, in its own way. Ribbon hung limply from the ceiling, dusting the heads of visitors. The main colour scheme seemed to be red, yellow and bright blue – not the most appealing combination. A blonde teenager sporting a tight shirt and mini-skirt was filing her nails at the till, smacking her lips as she tackled a piece of gum.
“What d’ya want?” she snapped as she spotted the band approaching the desk. Not your usual greeting at a restaurant.
“We’ve booked a table for five, but the fifth isn’t here yet.” Brendon smiled half-heartedly, hoping that she would mirror his mood.
“Whatever. Seats over there.” She huffed, proving the guitarist wrong.
They shuffled over to a bright blue sofa, decorated with a red and yellow striped blanket. Brent didn’t sit but instead resorted to pacing and complaining about anything he could find (Brent could find something wrong with rainbows if he really wanted to).
After a few minutes the door swung open, causing an extremely loud ding echo through the restaurant. Two lanky legs strode through the door, followed by a 3-sizes-too-big Beatles jumper. Brendon jumped up eagerly but regained his composure after a few suspicious glances from his fellow band members. He didn’t know why he was so excited – after all, it was just another fan.
The fan grinned sheepishly and wandered over to greet the band. Brent mumbled something about being hungry and signalled to the oh-so-happy waitress to assign them a table. A lump formed in Brendon’s throat which he couldn’t explain.