When you love someone as much as I love you, you can’t imagine life without them. You make me happier than I ever thought was possible.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24
Avery stepped up to the microphone and looked out over the sea of faces that were staring back up at him. He was nervous, to say the least. Never in his life had he sang to such a large crowd of people. But despite his nervousness, he wasn’t scared. If anything, he was more exhilarated than he’d ever been before.
He’d worked so hard for this moment. The hours of rehearsing and trying to find his footing again left him feeling exhausted and overwhelmed but standing there now, the cold, smooth feel of the microphone in his hand, the lights illuminating the stage, and the rest of the band surrounding him, suddenly all his doubts just washed away.
He was ready for this. Hell, he was born for this. His entire life up until now, had been preparing him for this moment and he was ready to take the proverbial bull by the horns and own the stage. The concert hall was silent. All eyes were on him. He could hear the hum and buzz of the instruments as they were plugged in and turned on. The others were ready and waiting on him. Avery turned to Rick and nodded. Almost at once the music began. Rick was magic at the key board. His fingers moved across the keys with elegance as he coaxed the impossibly soothing and haunting melody from the instrument.
The bass came in next, followed by the guitar. Lastly Trash entered with a soft, rhythmic beating of the drums. Avery closed his eyes as he let the song over take him. It was his song, his music, his life. The others played harmoniously as though their instruments were an extension of their bodies. They were perfectly in sync with each other. Avery waited, the vibrations of the music making his body sway. He waited for his cue, then began to sing…
I was lost in a shroud of darkness
the world became a distant memory
I dreamed of finding someone
But was I dreaming him
or was he dreaming me?
A man moved before my eyes
and dropped down to his knees
So tender and so quiet
I heard his desperate pleas
He took me by the hand…
and led me through an opened door…
to a distant land
There I saw a body
bleeding beneath a tree
and when I looked down at it
I saw that it was me
The words flowed from him as easy as each breath he took. The song he’d written was a love song, but also a testament to the journey he’d undertaken as a singer and as a person. Each word he sang, he sang with such passion and emotion that it brought tears not only to his eyes but also the band members as well as the audience.
Now, everyone was privy to the pain he’d felt. The fear. The impossible longing to be rescued and pulled out of the darkness. Avery opened his eyes and saw the people below him, swaying and moving in time with the music. They were in awe, staring up at him, longing for the next verse.
I thought I knew all there was to know
I thought I’d seen it all
But you came and called my name
You taught me to stand tall
My heart is like a singing bird
when you are close to me
Like every song I’ve ever loved
your love has set me free
You’re a beautiful angel
nestled somewhere in time
A tender lover- All mine
Your eyes like amber flames
your voice is calm and strong
I want to lay my head against your chest
and hear your hearts love song
Like the sun you light me up
You set fire to my heart
Eternity will be our song
our souls will never part
The mood of the song had changed from slow and sad to something more light-hearted and vivacious. This was the part of the song that explained how Rick had come to Avery while he was in the hospital, and spoken his name. It was Rick’s voice that Avery heard while in the coma and Rick’s voice that brought him back. This was the moment when Avery remembered who he was and how in love with Rick he was. He remembered the love that they shared. It was the moment that Avery knew he had to return to him, no matter what.
Avery smiled as he looked out over the crowd. The over all mood of everyone had lifted with the song. Their cheeks were wet with tears but they were smiling. Avery had somehow managed to convey his own feelings and emotions to those he sang to, bringing him closer to his audience. As they rocked back and forth with the music Avery turned to Rick and Rick winked at him. It made Avery blush.
Avery took the microphone out of the stand and walked to where Rick was standing in front of the keyboard. Avery stood next to him, leaning his head on Rick’s shoulder. Without missing a beat, Rick turned his head and kissed the top of Avery’s. A chorus of oohs and awes rose from the crowd. Again Avery blushed. He looked up and kissed Rick on the lips and the crowd went wild with cheers. Avery held the mic between them and together they sang the last line verse of the song.
I thought I knew all there was to know
I thought I’d seen it all
But you came and called my name
You taught me to stand tall
You came and called me by my name
You taught me to stand tall…
As the song ended and the music faded, a stillness fell over the hall. The audience was awe-struck. They loved the song, they loved the band, and most of all they loved Avery. The other groups had played covers of other bands. A few had played originals but they were just words that rhymed. Avery had put his heart and soul into his piece and preformed it with the same amount of energy and passion as he hoped to evoke out of his audience. He walked back to the mic stand and stood before the crowd. Immediately the hush was replaced by a loud concession of cheers and applause.
The reaction of the crowd brought tears to his eyes. It was more than he had ever hoped for.
“I hope you enjoyed our original song, “You called my name.” It was inspired by true events in my life and the love and support that I received from my friends…” He turned and look back at the band, “and my family. This second song is one I’m sure all of you have heard before. It’s the perfect song for anyone that’s been hurt, over looked, pushed aside, and knocked down. It’s a song that tells each of us, in the face of adversity, you just have to stand tall and be stronger…”
Right on cue, the music began and the crowd erupted into cheers and happy shouts as the band started to play “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. Desire had always been a bit avant-garde in their style. They were a mixture of emo with a hint of heavy metal, mostly thanks to Trash. Rick brought in the classical aspect of their music and Avery brought the passion. With the addition of Cole and Kat, their music style became an assortment of sounds that messed well together and gave their group a totally unique feel. Because of this they were able to take a pop song and put their own spin on it and it worked.
Avery’s voice added something to the composition that was uniquely him. The song remained up beat, inspirational, and fast paced but with a slightly darker undertone, yet still had the feel of an anthem. The crowd went wild for it, many of them dancing in place and swinging their arms to the music. He’d captivate the audience with his original song, and amazed them with the second. As the song ended the crowd was still yelling and cheering. Many screaming “anchor, anchor!” at the stage. Avery waved to everyone, thanked them all and bowed.
One of the judges walked out onto the stage as the band began to pack up their equipment. He was tall, probably in mid thirties and had long black hair, numerous tattoos and piercings and was dressed head to foot in black.
He clapped along with the crowd and smiled at Avery and the others. “What an amazing performance!” He announced as he raised his hand to quiet the audience.
Avery waved again at the crowd, beaming from ear to ear as he walked off the stage to join the other musicians waiting behind the curtains.
“Let’s give a hand to all our performers tonight!” The judge shouted and again the audience erupted in applause. He gave them a minute to clap, shout, cheer, and then raised his hand to settle them down once more before speaking again.
“For those of you who don’t know me, I’m James Price, one of the judges and owner of Drummin n’ strummin musical outlet right here in town. I want to first thank you all for coming to this years winter fest, battle of the bands, here at the East-view park grand-band stand. I also want to thank all of the performers who came out today and gave it their best. Man, we had some great bands didn’t we? Everyone who played here today has talent and great potential for going far in this business. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner.
As judges we look at a few different things. Vocal range and quality, performance as well as stage presence, and the response of the audience. With this information our judges have reviewed all the bands and with careful thought and consideration have come to a decision. With that said I’m going to ask that each group select one member to represent their band and have that member join me here on stage.”
James turned to the side of the stage and along with the audience, gave a round of applause as the selected members returned to the stage. Most of the bands sent their lead singers up though Rick thought it best that Avery stay behind the scenes. He wasn’t comfortable having Avery and Mikey share the stage. Rick wasn’t too sure that he should go up either. At this point he was more concerned with knocking Mikey out than actually hearing the winner announced. The rest of the band seemed to agree with him on this because in the end they elected Cole to be the one to represent them. He was older, more mature, and well known to many of the locals.
Sending Cole up to the stage seemed to be the best course of action and it eliminated the possibility of any unwanted trouble. Rick was still certain that when the time was right, he was going to make Mikey pay for all he’d done. He couldn’t just let his latest actions just go without any repercussions. The longer they did nothing, the more Mikey was going to think that he could get away with what ever he wanted. He already tried to kill Avery once. The next time he went after him, Rick feared, he’d finally succeed.
Cole stepped up on the stage and took his place among the others. Mikey was standing about three people down from him, glaring angrily in his direction. Cole looked over at him, smiled sweetly, and winked. Mikey turned his head away, his face hot with anger. It made Cole chuckle some. The judge motioned for someone off stage to join him and the audience watched as a pretty young woman crossed the stage and handed him a small stack of envelopes.
“Thank you, Lisa.” James said. The girl nodded, smiled at the audience, then left the stage.
James held the first envelope up for everyone to see. “Now is the time I know you all have been waiting for.” He opened the envelope and pulled out a sheet of paper that he unfolded. “In third place, and winner of $500. dollars plus a $150. dollar gift card to Barb’s Steak house… Garden Party Riot!”
The audience cheered as the lead singer of Garden Party Riot, a pink haired girl with multiple tattoos and piercings, stepped up to the judge and shook his hand.
“Congratulations to you and your band.” He said as he handed her an envelope that contained her prize.
She thanked him, held the envelope up for everyone to see as the crowed cheered, then returned to her place by the other musicians.
James looked back to the card he’d unfolded from the first envelope and announced the next winner. “In second place,” He said, “And winner of $600. dollars plus a $300. dollar gift certificate to Drummin n’ strummin musical outlet located on Mulberry street… Queen Conundrum!”
Again the crowd cheered as the representative from Queen Conundrum stepped forward to accept their prize.
As they stepped back in place, the concert hall became so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Everyone held their breath as they waited for the first place winner to be announced.
James looked over the remaining contestants and addressed them all. “I want to thank each of you again for participating. Each of you played your best and won our audience over. I’ve never seen such a reception before in all the years of hosting this event. You should all be very proud of your accomplishments. Even if you don’t walk away with a prize today, you’re all still winners.”
Behind the curtain Avery’s stomach was in knots. Even Rick and Trash looked nervous as hell. Kat was holding onto Trash, tightly, bracing herself for the news, good or bad. Cole was the only member of the band that seemed calm and confident. In the audience Boomer stood proud. He gave Cole a thumbs up and Cole nodded in acknowledgement.
James turned and faced the audience now. He opened a new envelope, pulled out and unfolded the card inside, and looked at the name written on it. “In first place…the winners of this years winter fest battle of the bands, the grand prize of five thousand dollars, plus a one thousand dollar gift certificate to Drummin n’ strummin musical outlet-the band you voted for- let’s hear it for…”
Avery could hear his blood pumping in his ears. His heart was pounding. It was all or nothing now. Desire didn’t come in as one of the runner-ups, so they would either win it all or leave as total losers. He could handle losing he supposed. It would suck but as long as Screaming Metal didn’t win either he could deal with it. If Mikey won though, Avery would never live it down. He suddenly felt like he might be sick. Rick was holding onto him and he was glad for it. Any minute now he thought he might crash to the floor in blind panic.
The judge was facing the audience so Avery couldn’t see his mouth move and the pounding in his ears was drowning out everything else. The crowd exploded in a burst of shouts and hand clapping. People were jumping up and down, throwing their arms up in jubilation and cheering so loud that the sound echoed throughout the concert hall. Avery scanned the faces of the other musicians gathered on the stage. Mikey looked down right pissed and ready to kill someone. That was a good thing, Avery thought, as long as it wasn’t Avery that he wanted to kill.
Boomer was in the audience still and he looked elated. He was yelling and fist bumping the air. Trash and Kat came over and threw their arms around Avery and Rick, crushing Avery in the middle of them, knocking the breath out of him. Cole walked up to the judge and shook his hand. Avery watched all of this is utter shock and disbelief. He still couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
The other contestants were led off the right of the stage Avery and the others were ushered onto the stage from the left.
“Come on!” Rick hugged Avery tight then began to pull him along, back up onto the stage. That was the moment it hit Avery, they’d won.
Desire had won the battle of the bands. He still was having a hard time believing that it was real. Maybe I’m dreaming, Avery thought to himself. But he wasn’t dreaming, it was real, they had actually won.
James congratulated each of them by shaking their hands. He handed the envelope with their prize to Cole who immediately handed it over to Avery, their star. Avery stared at the envelope with tears in his eyes. It was an off white envelope with a gold border and the word “Winner” embossed on the front. The inside of the envelope was gold as well and within it was another smaller envelope that contained the check and gift card.
Avery was still staring at the check when Rick suddenly picked him up right off the stage and swung him around in a circle before setting him back down. He hugged him close to his chest. Avery gasped then laughed out loud as he wrapped his arms around Rick and hugged him back.
“We did it.” Avery gasped. “We really did it!”
“Hell yeah we did it!” Trash yelled. “We’re the best!”
“This is like, one of the best days of my life.” Avery wiped the happy tears from his eyes as he looked up at Rick. “We can do anything now.”
Rick touched the side of Avery’s face and smiled. “Babe, I never had any doubts.”
The security team watched as the members of Desire loaded up their gear and were safely in their vehicles before going back into the concert hall. Rick was glad for the security. He wasn’t as worried about someone trying to rob them as he was about Mikey coming after them. Rick was positive that Mikey was furious and probably out for blood. Desire winning was the ultimate insult to him and while that gave Rick a sense of triumph, it also worried him a bit. They knew by now that Mikey was capable of anything and while he was still free, they were all in danger.
Boomer was about to pull out when he saw a familiar car pull up behind them. He put the truck in park then watched as Hanson got out and walked towards them. Cole, Trash, and Kat watched from Cole’s van, wondering what was going on. Rick rolled down his window and greeted the detective.
“Seems like congratulations are in order.” Hanson told him.
“Yeah.” Rick said, the thrill of winning still evident on his face. “It’s a dream come true.”
“I’m happy for you, for all of you. You deserve it, you really do. Where are headed now?”
“Back to Shaggy’s for a celebration.” Rick told him.
Hanson nodded. “Well, if you want, I can follow you there. Just to make sure you make it safely.”
“You can spare the man power?” Rick asked, a little sarcastically.
Hanson sighed as he scanned the parking lot that was slowly emptying. “I’m off duty right now. Should be home with my family but you know how things are. I couldn’t stay away. Wanted to be here to support you kids and make sure there wasn’t going to be any trouble.”
“Trouble?” Rick asked, narrowing his eyes. “You mean like Mikey locking Avery in a broom closet and threatening him?”
Hanson raised an eye brow. “And when did this happen?”
“Right before we went on. He thought if we couldn’t find Avery we’d forfeit.”
“I’m sorry that happened to you.” Hanson told him. “I was assured by the security team that there would be no trouble between bands.”
“Yeah, well the security team here isn’t as vigilant as we’d hoped for.”
“Apparently not.” Hanson scratched his head, then nodded to Trash who was watching from the van. “Well let me follow you back to the bar. It’s the least I can do. And after I know you’re safe I might swing by and give ol’ Mikey a little piece of my mind. Unless you have proof that he actually was the one that locked Avery up I can’t do much but put the fear of God in him.”
“What about a witness?” Rick asked, sounding hopeful.
“This witness actually see Mikey and Avery together?”
Rick sighed and shook his head. “He saw Mikey afterwards, acting suspicious. He told us that he thought he might have done something to Avery, but he wasn’t sure. That’s when we checked out his story and found Avery so it at least puts Mikey there, right?”
“It’s circumstantial.” Hanson told him. “That wouldn’t stand up in court but it’s enough to warrant a visit.” Hanson winked at Rick. “At any rate he’ll know I’m watching him. Might make him think twice before messing with you kids anymore. He knows that if he breaks the terms of his bond that it will be revoked and he’ll be right back in lock up.”
“Good.” Rick said. “That’s all we want, just to be left alone to enjoy our victory.”
“I hear ya.” Hanson patted the door as he turned to walk back to his car. “I’ll take care of Mikey.” He told Rick. “You kids just enjoy your win.”
“Thanks.” Rick rolled the window back up. He picked up Avery’s hand and held it in his. “Things are finally looking up.” He said as he kissed Avery’s cheek. “After the hell we’ve been through, things are finally looking up.”