The Standalones

Chapter Two

Ken Preston

30 May 2024

Silhouette of a rock band against a spotlight and the words The Standalones

Outside Euston Station, Chloe rested by leaning against the nearest wall. A red double-decker bus trundled past and a car horn honked as a pedestrian made a dash across the road as the traffic lights changed from red to green.

The city of London. This was Chloe’s first time in the capital, and already the excitement was fizzing up inside of her. This was where the action was, where her fame started. Soon enough, everyone would know the name Chloe Martino-Yamaguchi, although she was considering changing it. Martino-Yamaguchi was a bit of a mouthful, to say the least, and Chloe wasn’t exactly the most glamorous of first names. What she needed was a stage name, something unique and unforgettable.

Something like Jenna Madison, or Zoe Pink. No, maybe those were still a bit too normal.

What about a single name, like Moon, or Rain?

Nice, but they risked sounding a little pretentious.

There was plenty of time to think about that, though. First of all, she had to meet her new band mates and maybe show them the songs she had composed. Her holdall was stuffed not just with her clothes, but also with sheets and notepads full of song lyrics and notes. In some ways, that travel bag of hers was full of her future.

Chloe glanced up and down the busy road. So far, she had met only one member of the band, Chris Thomason, the keyboard player. He had been the one to interview her and listen to her sing. Then he had taken her audition tape back to the rest of the band and they had agreed to give her a trial run as their new lead singer. Once they saw her perform, Chloe was sure they would all agree that she should stay.

But Chris wasn’t the one coming to meet her. The last time she had spoken to him on her parents’ telephone, she could hardly hear him over the noise of what sounded like a massive party happening in the background. But she was certain he had said that their guitarist, Matt Sumner, would meet her outside Euston Station at three o’clock.

Chloe had forgotten to ask for a description, and now she was worried that they would miss each other. Surely, though, she was worrying about nothing; wouldn’t he realise who she was as soon as he spotted the guitar case attached to her back?

Thinking of the heavy bass guitar reminded Chloe of how much her shoulders hurt. And her feet. And, well, everything actually. As soon as she arrived at the band’s digs, she was dropping everything and collapsing on the nearest chair. She wondered if she would have her own bedroom for the night, or if she would have to share. Once again, her mind drifted off to daydreaming about a future where her every need was catered for and she lived in the lap of pop star luxury.

“Chloe?”

Chloe jumped and turned around. A young man was standing behind her, a half-smile on his face, and a hand undecided whether it should offer itself for a handshake or just stay where it was by his side.

“Yes!” Chloe held out her hand, and they shook.

“Matt, Matt Sumner.” The half-smile transformed itself into a full on beam.

Flipping heck, you’re gorgeous, Chloe thought, and snapped her mouth shut before she could inadvertently say what she was thinking. Because he was gorgeous. Dark hair swept back in a casual style, piercing blue eyes, and a beautifully clean complexion.

“It’s great to meet you, Chris has told us all about you,” Matt said.

He didn’t tell me anything about you, Chloe thought. Like, how good looking you are, for one thing.

“Are you alright?” Matt asked, a look of concern on his face.

“Oh, yes! Yes, I’m fine!”

“Good, you just looked a little distracted there.”

“No, not distracted at all,” Chloe said brightly. “I’m fine.”

Get a grip, girl, this is no time to start babbling.

“How was your journey?”

“Oh it was…” Do not say it was fine! “… very good, thank you.”

“Ah.” Matt nodded, looking like he was unsure what to say.

“How was yours?” Chloe said.

Matt burst out laughing. “It was great, you know, a nice, five-minute stroll around the corner, I can’t complain.”

Chloe’s cheeks reddened with embarrassment.

“Can I take your bag?” Matt bent down and picked it up without waiting for an answer. “Wow, it’s heavy, what have you got in here, a bag full of stolen cash?”

“No, of course not! I mean, thank you, but no, just clothes and… and…”

Matt burst out laughing. “I’m teasing! Come on, let me take you back to the Saveloy Hotel to meet the others.”

“You’re staying at the Savoy?” Chloe could hardly believe what her ears were telling her. Had they already made it? Were they more famous and successful than Chloe had realised? It looked like Chloe might be living in pop star luxury already.

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