Oh the hell with time
I’m gonna make you mine.
Singing those words together as we gazed into each others eyes sent a chill coursing through my body. He turned back to face the crowd, swung his boot up on an amp, and continued belting out the lyrics, reaching out to his fans reaching out to him, his fingers just inches from theirs.
I felt a momentary concern. Had he been singing those words with me or to me? And did he think I was singing them back to him?
Toward the end of the set, the entire room was riding close to a musical pinnacle. The band had been building up the whole show to the final climactic crescendo, getting the audience—including myself—more and more amped up with song after song of euphonic foreplay. Cymbals crashed in thundering metallic clangs and the guitars hurled harmonies in cascading waves of reverb. Strobelights flickered wildly while bright white flashes detonated and sent sparks flying across the stage. The intensity of the show had me so excited that my pounding heart felt like the kick pedal from the bass drum was smashing directly into my chest.
Jax moved his hands from his guitar to grip the microphone on its stand as he howled out the verses, his left foot stomping along to Chewie’s drumming and his guitar hanging around his neck. Still gripping the microphone with one hand, Jax’s other hand shot up above his head signaling for the band to immediately pause the high-octane song as he belted out a sustained note. His rich baritone voice reverberated in my ears sending tingles through me.
Standing in the spotlight maintaining the deep note, Jax kept his hand up above his head as beads of sweat dripped down his cheekbones. He was holding the note so long, I swear he must’ve had an extra set of lungs buried under all those muscles and tattoos.
Sustaining the note, he glanced back over his shoulder, his eyes darting around the stage. The rest of the band exchanged baffled looks with him, shrugging and shaking their heads. With his arm still awkwardly held above his head, I could hear the note start to strain against his vocal chords. His face turned red, then dark red, and then a deep shade of purple. It looked like his head was about to explode, but he kept singing.
Something was very off.
I held my breath in suspense. The faces in the crowd slowly shifted from wide-eyed euphoria to scrunched confusion as second after tense second passed.
All of a sudden, the pyrotechnician sprinted out onto the stage. Jax mercifully cut off the note and covered the mic with his hand. The two exchanged a few quick words, both of them pointing at all the pyrotech devices strategically strapped down around the stage. Jax shook his head and took a deep breath as the pyrotech ran off the stage.
"Sorry," Jax said into the microphone. "Our dumbass pyrotech f**ked up the show. But don’t worry, Denver, a little f**k-up won’t stop us from rocking you!"
Shit, the pyros! My hand flew to cover my gaping mouth as queasiness filled my stomach. He must’ve been waiting on the Monster Inferno Fountain as a cue the entire time.
The band collected themselves and broke into the next song. The crowd went berserk, seemingly unaffected by the mishap.
I wiped my forehead, relieved that my decision to cut the pyro didn’t ruin the show. But as I did so, I caught a look at Jax. He had an unmistakable scowl on his face that told me he was seething about the communication breakdown.
Wringing my fingers, I paced anxiously up and down the long, narrow hallway that led to the green rooms. The show had ended a half hour ago to a roaring applause, but Jax’s expression hadn’t changed since the pyro mishap. In fact, he looked even more pissed when I saw him leave the stage.
I knew I had to talk to him to take responsibility for the accident, but I was procrastinating, uncertain of the best timing to do it. Exhaling deeply, I finally decided it would be better to talk to him now and clear up any misunderstandings instead of waiting for him to cool down and risk the issue festering.
I rapped my knuckles against the door.
"I’m not talking to anybody right now." Jax’s voice boomed through the door, brusque and guttural, confirming my worry that he was still in a bad mood.
Nervous, I cleared my throat. "Jax, it’s me."
There was a shuffle and the door pulled inward. Jax’s statuesque silhouette filled the doorway. He was shirtless but still wore his patented leather pants; they fit so well that they looked like they were made for him. A hard expression on his face softened when our eyes met.
"Riley," he said with a gentler tone. "Sorry about that. I didn’t know it was you." He sighed, looking worn from agitation. "What’s up?"
I caught a glance behind him and saw that the room was a mess. Concert outfits were strewn along the floor and there was a broken guitar among them, the strings flexed in curls. It wasn’t the typical neatness Jax preferred. Had he done all of that?
"Jax, I . . . um, wanted to talk to you about something."
He studied my expression, his face becoming concerned. He touched his warm hand to my cheek. "What’s wrong?"
I took a deep breath. "I wanted to apologize for what happened with the pyro . . . I’m the one who cut it."
His hand brushing my cheek stilled. His brows turned to steep lines. "What did you say?"
"I cut the pyro, Jax. I’m sorry."
He pulled away as if I’d burned him. He then closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You need to leave."
"Stop." Pointing down the hallway, he looked me directly in the eyes. "Go wait for me on the bus. We’re going to talk about this," he said, his voice barely concealing his anger. Then he slammed the door in my face.
I stood there in disbelief. I had the urge to bang on the door and scream at him for treating me like a child, but I resisted the urge. Just barely. His tone shocked me and hurt me, making my throat constrict and my eyes sting.
Blinking rapidly, I backed away from the door and hurried out of the venue, trying to make sense of what just happened. As I hurried back to the bus, I thought about how in just a few hours we went from being closer than we’d ever been to being infuriated with each other.
I sat on the first floor couch with my arms folded across my chest and my flats tapping the ground impatiently. I was the only one on the bus, while everyone else was probably out partying. I felt ridiculous, stupid even, like I was back in kindergarten and Mrs. Elswick put me into timeout for jumping on the other kids during naptime. It’d been well over an hour since Jax slammed a door in my face. How long was he going to make me wait for him? If anything, he was the one acting like a kid.