Abigail’s Prologue: Chicago.
It was Day 24 of our search for any – and I mean any – bar in the outskirts of Chicago (including the inside of the state itself, of course) to perform in, but still, Viola Summers and I had been rejected by all of the bars that we had visited after claiming that all of them were “fully booked”.
You see, Viola and I were newbie artists, sort of like new stars on our way to shine, that kind of thing. We had only tried playing for around two or three small – and very short – gigs (about less than half an hour long each), usually for only a small group of people who never bothered listening to us—not even looking at us. Although it was quite insulting to our part, we couldn’t blame anyone. After all, nobody knew us at all. We were just like two flower pots sitting on a windowsill, being ignored while everybody was gawking at the pretty pansies and tulips on top of our heads.
That might be a bit of an overstatement, but whatever.
Viola and I had known each other since we were around five or six years old. We went to grade school and high school together, so we were sort of inseparable even after our graduation. She was like the sister that I never had (which clearly meant that I was the only child), and I was really happy because we were just so alike in many ways. We both loved singing, which was why we vowed to each other that we would look for a place for ourselves after high school and look for – hopefully – a music career.
But it had been almost three months already, and all we had was a shabby-looking apartment with a quite unreasonable rent, me landing on a job in a record store a few blocks away and Viola ending up as a barista in a coffee shop just around the corner. It wasn’t much, though. It was a start, but our jobs weren’t what we really wanted.
Well, so much for that.
In the exact same way as the twenty-three other nights that had come and go, my best friend/roommate and I had gotten back into our shared apartment room with aching feet and tired bodies. Not to mention that we had lesser patience and lesser optimisms left. I mean, it had been twenty-four days and nights of disappointed hoping and pointless struggling already.
“Vi, are we still going to look around Chicago tomorrow?” I asked the redhead who had plopped on the couch, face first, as I kicked my boots off.
“We have to if we really want to earn money, Abby,” Viola replied in a muffled voice, groaning against the pillow on her face. She then lifted her head and turned to my direction as I looked down at her with both of my hands on my hips. She sighed, closing her eyes. “I know that we’re both tired – and my feet are seriously killing me – but we have no choice.”
“Especially because my salary from the record store and your salary from the coffee shop couldn’t pay for all of our expenses and dues every month, including the rent,” I stated, pursing my lips. “And we both promised to each other that we’ll strive harder this year, right? That’s why we both moved out after our graduation, because we wanted to find ourselves through music.”
“Fuck, Abby,” the redhead grunted, pushing herself up. “Stop reminding me that we’ve got so many bills to pay. Plus, the fridge is empty. And I think the light bulb on the bathroom is starting to become dim.”
I sighed in exasperation, running a hand over my hair. “We really have to get an extra job aside from the coffee shop and the record store,” I mused, humming slightly as I pressed my index finger on my chin. “It’s, like, our only chance of survival.”
Viola had stood up from the couch, and I followed her as she made her way to our shared bedroom. “Better go wash up and sleep early, then,” she told me tiredly, pointing at the door of our bathroom. I just stared at the closed door with both of my eyebrows raised. The redhead then patted my shoulder, making me focus my eyes on her. “We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
It was past nine in the evening when we both reached this bar in the heart of Chicago. There were lots of people queuing outside the venue, which meant that there were performers that night. “I think we have to wait until the gig is finished so we can talk to the owner,” Viola told me, sighing tiredly.
“Or we can ask the owner before the actual show starts so that we could go home and rest after Day 25 of having no progress at all,” I suggested, massaging my calves discreetly. My best friend stared at me as if I had an extra head growing from my left shoulder, but that didn’t faze me. I was dead serious.
“You know that we can’t fucking do that, Abby!” she scolded me, clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “That will be very impolite, and it might just piss the owner off. He might think that we’re just amateurs – something that we actually are but we’re not really trying to reveal – who are trying too much. We would have a lesser chance of performing in here.”
“Come on, Vi. Just give it a try,” I whined, pulling her shirt sleeve. “You’ve never done that before.”
She harshly shrugged my hand off her, earning myself a glare from her. “I’m doing it my own way, alright?” Viola snapped at me and I rolled my eyes as I followed her towards the queue of people lining up to get inside the bar. She smiled at a jet black-haired girl with a lip-piercing and asked her, “Who’s gonna perform tonight?”
“Fall Out Boy,” the girl answered right away, smiling widely.
“What’s ‘Fall Out Boy’?” I asked curiously all of a sudden, looking at the lip-pierced girl in confusion, which made Viola elbow me on the ribs. I growled at her in pain as she glared back at me with those eyes of hers that had turned into slits, telling me to shut my mouth.
“It’s not ‘what’,” the unnamed girl replied, giggling. My cheeks went red in embarrassment as she said with a friendly smile, “They’re a punk band, and they’re going to perform here tonight!”
“No, you’re kidding, right?” Viola scoffed, laughing dryly. “I know Fall Out Boy, and I’m pretty sure that they’re not playing in bars like this anymore. Come on, girl. You can do better than that.”
The smile from the lip-pierced girl’s face was immediately wiped off and was replaced with a frown. “Look, girl,” she raised an eyebrow at Viola, folding her arms across her chest. “I just answered your question nicely. And I think you should reply with something, I don’t know, not condescending, maybe?”
Viola had arched her own eyebrow as well, leaning towards the girl. “Or maybe you should stop fucking with people’s heads and pissing their asses off, especially those who needs the accurate information,” the redhead countered, mirroring the other girl’s actions.
“But what she’s saying is true,” a ponytailed brunette with bright purple highlights and a high-pitched voice standing behind the lip-pierced girl told Viola, making all three of us turn our attentions towards her. “Fall Out Boy is really going to have a gig here tonight. It’s sort of like a secret gig. We’ve seen them get inside earlier with the owner of the bar.”
My best friend didn’t say anything (since she had obviously lost the war), and I also didn’t say anything to back her up (since I had no idea what they were talking about, and saying something irrelevant would not help the situation). The jet black-haired girl faced Viola with a smirk. “Ooh, rush me to the burn unit,” she teased her with a laugh.
Her face was red in embarrassment, almost the same colour as her hair, and all Viola did was pull my wrist and drag me along with her as she walked away from the queue of people. “Bitches,” she spit out gravely. “And they think they know everything?” She looked back at them with a glare. “They’ll regret everything that they told us when we get filthy rich and famous soon!”
Huffing loudly – and sensing that Viola wasn’t in the mood to hear my own complaints – I let her pull me towards the entrance of the bar. A big, hulking black guy (he was most probably one of the bouncers) tried to stop us. “Little missies, I don’t think we allow VIP passes here,” the man said in a weird accent that I had only heard in movies. “Line up before you get in, just like what the rest are doing.”
“We’re not here to watch. We’re here to talk to the owner of the bar,” Viola informed him, lifting her chin up bravely. “The two of us”—she pointed both of us in a swift motion of her hand—“are performers, you see. And we want to ask the owner if we could perform here soon.”
The really big guy looked at both of us from head to feet, studying us and probably silently wondering how the heck two teenage girls such as us could be performers. Or maybe he thought that we just got lost in the city or that we were just drunk. We were neither of the choices—quite sadly.
“I’ll let you get in,” he finally told us. Viola let out an excited giggle after hearing that answer, but was cut off short when the bouncer had held a finger out at her warningly. “But, I’ll just give you ten minutes to talk with the owner, and that’s it. No more extensions whatsoever.”
“That’s good enough for us,” the redhead replied with a wide grin, and she had immediately pulled me along with her the second the big guy gave us some space and had let us get inside the bar. We were running through the empty hallway with Viola still gripping my arm a bit too tightly. I was thinking that her vice-grip might leave a bruise later.
“Who’s this ‘Fall Out Boy’ band anyway?” I inquired as we continued running, but my best friend had stopped her tracks upon hearing my stupid question. Was it my fault that it was my first time to hear the name of that band? Was it my fault that I loved listening to country and acoustic songs more than anything else? Was it my fault that the songs Viola usually play in our apartment always hurt my ears? Those songs sounded like cats being run over repeatedly by a lawn mower.
I was a Martian in the world of rock and pop and punk music. Those genres weren’t just my type at all, honestly saying. They were way beyond my music taste.
“Bitch, you’re joking, right?” she asked me incredulously in a high-pitched voice, her eyeballs almost popping out from their sockets. And then she started giggling, maybe a bit too much because she was holding her stomach already.
I felt really mortified since I was thinking that I was the only one who hadn’t even heard of them. Maybe I had to go and look for people who had never heard of the band as well to back me up, but since there were only the two of us in there, it was obvious that I was going to lose the verbal battle that was about to begin… I could feel it.
“You know, you call me ‘bitch’ a lot, okay?” I groaned, lifting my hand and aimed on hitting her arm, but she had easily dodged it to my disappointment. “That’s not even a term of endearment or whatever.”
She rolled her eyes as she pushed some of her red hair behind her ear. “Look, honey,” Viola began in a mock-sweet voice, smirking at the new term of endearment that she had used – sarcastically, I might add – to call me. Even though I had known her and we had become friends for years, I wanted to strangle her for sudden change of attitude towards me. “Enough of the band, okay? We’re here to look for the owner and ask him if we could perform and—” Viola abruptly stopped her sentence and tore her eyes from mine as she gawked at something behind me, her jaw slacked.
“Oh my god, act natural!” she whispered to my ear in a panicked voice, gripping my wrist harshly again and dragged me to stand near the walls of the corridor, as if giving space for whoever or whatever was going to pass by. I was so confused of her reaction and I was about to ask her what the hell was going on, but then when I had heard light footsteps a few meters away from us, and my head had faced the origin of the sound in reflex.
There was a guy walking towards us (well, he seemed to be walking towards us), with his head bowed down and with his hands tucked inside his jeans pockets. As what I had noticed, his skin was almost the same colour as bronze, and I could even hear him humming softly as he continued walking. A striped bonnet was placed over his raven hair which was covering almost half of his face and he was wearing a grey hoodie over a plain black shirt. I immediately wondered why Viola had freaked out and asked me to act natural around this guy. He seemed… normal.
And then, the guy had lifted his head and looked at us. Our eyes locked together – brown on brown. He was probably pondering why we were there for a moment since the area was supposed to be for performers only and one of his eyebrows had temporarily risen in confusion, but the eyebrow had immediately fallen down, and then he smiled. He had a nice smile. He stopped his tracks, just a few meters away from Viola and I, still smiling. “Hi,” he greeted us, his voice low and husky.
I could feel Viola’s nails digging into my skin (she was probably about to burst from the inside out) and I could hear her deep breathing not far from my ear, but I tried not to focus on those things and gave my attention to the guy instead. “Hello,” I replied in a small, shaky voice. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me and the effect the guy was giving me. Our eyes were still fixated on one another.
“What’re you doing here?” he asked us, not in a condescending, authoritative and demanding way, but in a soothing tone and with a friendly smile.
I was about to answer him, but Viola’s interruption had stopped me from doing so. We broke our eye contact after he had turned his gaze to my friend. I sighed inwardly, hoping that Viola wouldn’t say anything stupid (she had the tendency to do that whenever she was nervous). “We’re here to talk to the bar’s owner,” she told him, her voice unusually high-pitched, almost like a squeal. “We’re planning to perform here some time, if there’s still an available spot.”
He shrugged, almost nonchalantly. “I can talk to him for both of you, if you want. He’s a good friend of ours, anyway,” he said, the corners of his lips curling up in a small smile. He said it as if it was no big deal at all. “After all, I think you’ve got the potential.”
Viola’s eyes widened, and her mouth was opened. That made me even more curious of everything that was happening. Who was the guy we were talking to, anyway? “W-Wait, seriously?” she asked me in a stammer, her lips trembling slightly. “Y-You would really do that? For us?”
An eyebrow of the guy had risen; his lips pursed a little as he thought about it. “I’m not quite sure though, but there’s no harm in trying, right?” the raven-haired guy told us, winking (he had this ‘Why not?’ look). Just with that simple gesture, I could feel my cheeks suddenly turn warmer than usual. I wasn’t sure why, because I wasn’t even sure what was going on. “But, you’ve still got to perform in front of him and some of the staff before you two get to actually perform here. It’s like a screening of some sort.”
Before I knew it, Viola had already almost jumped towards him to thank him for everything if I only hadn’t been on her way. She settled on shaking his hand with both of her hands gratefully instead, smiling at him widely. “Thank you! Thank you so much!” the redhead told him, squealing with glee. The guy was looking at her as if she was this fragile, glass décor, but the friendly smile on his face was still there.
“May I know your names?” he asked us, tilting his head slightly to the side.
“I’m Viola. Viola Summers,” my best friend answered him right away.
After getting information from my companion, the guy then looked at me expectantly, patiently waiting for me to answer his question. I could also feel Viola’s gaze on me, urging me to say something. I wasn’t sure if I should answer him because he was a total stranger (and I didn’t want to give personal information to people I didn’t know; I was raised up that way), but I figured out that I had to, for the sake of our music careers. Clearing my throat, I lifted my head up to him, our eyes locking once more. “Abby Coleman,” I breathed out.
“Short for Abigail, I see,” he hummed, tapping his foot against the tiled floor. “My name’s Pete, by the way. Pete Wentz.” So, the guy had a name. From the corner of my eye, I could see Viola nodding too fast, the silly smile on her face was still plastered on there. I remembered when she had told me before that her crush was this band member named Pete Wentz, plus, I recognized him from the many posters Viola had hung in our shared apartment. Maybe he was the guy she was talking about.
We waited for him to break the short moment of silence, and fortunately, he did. “Well, I think I must go. We’ve still got a long night ahead of us.” He grinned at us before he turned his heel, but he turned back to us again. “Are you planning to watch us tonight? I can get you backstage, and I can talk to the band. You seem like really amazing people.”
“You could do that?” Viola asked him excitedly, clapping her hands together. When Pete had nodded, she couldn’t just contain the excitement rushing over her. “Oh my, thank you! It will be a great honour!”
Pete then excused himself to us, told us to wait near the backstage. Viola and I watched him leave, and realized that he had rounded the corner towards the comfort room. Oh, so that’s why he was alone.
I felt my best friend’s grip on my wrist again, and I looked over at her. She was absolutely flushed, with her cheeks so red they were almost the same colour as her hair, and there was this contented smile on her face. “I could die right now because I already met the Pete Wentz! And to think that I held his hand… I’m never gonna wash this hand!” she lifted her right palm for me to see, as if it was some prize.
“That’s disturbing,” I wrinkled my nose, which made her laugh. “But wait, are you sure that we’re gonna stay here for a while?” I inquired, my eyebrows furrowed together. “I thought that our plan was to talk to the manager and get the hell out of here already?”
“Change of plans, darling. We’re here to watch Fall Out Boy.”