The Standalones

Chapter Twenty

Ken Preston

17 June 2024

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

Chloe awoke to aching joints, and a grey light filtering through the van’s dirty windows. She rubbed at her eyes, her head groggy and confused. Why was she cooped up in this tiny van, surrounded by musical kit? Wasn’t she supposed to be in London right now? Playing her first gig with The Standalones?

But then the image of a lion entered her mind, along with the suspicion that maybe she had been involved in a fight. Chloe rubbed at her face and ran her fingers through her tangled hair.

A lion? In London? Had to be a dream, along with the visions of her travel bag stuffed full of money.

Chloe jumped when she heard a sudden, loud snore. She sat up as the memories of yesterday flooded back.

Oh dear. It wasn’t a dream after all.

This was her shot at stardom, at a spot on Top of the Pops, with her new band, The Standalones. It didn’t seem to be working out too well at the moment, did it? Sleeping in a broken down camper van in a lay-by, after having come face to face with a lion and just about surviving a fistfight in a pub, wasn’t Chloe’s idea of a path to stardom and riches.

At least she had her possessions back, although she had no idea how that had happened. It was as though the money had disappeared inside the bag and been replaced by her clothes and everything else she had lost.

Chloe was puzzled and delighted at the same time, but Chris hadn’t seemed happy. Of course, him and Scarlett had been keen to keep the money, and now it was gone. But it had never been theirs in the first place, so how could Chris be angry that it wasn’t theirs anymore?

At least that now solved the issue of what to do with the money.

Matt stirred by her side and crawled deeper inside his blanket, eyes remaining firmly closed. Chloe thought of their conversation last night, of the growing sense of intimacy between them. And then he had suddenly closed down, and pretended that he was tired. What had that been all about? Were her suspicions correct that he still had feelings for Lexi?

Today, she would do her best to find out if Matt wanted to get back with Lexi or not. If he did, then Chloe would back off. But if he didn’t, well…

Pushing Matt from her thoughts for the moment, Chloe twisted in her seat so that she could look out of the window. The rain had stopped, but the road was still wet. A car sped past, spraying water from beneath its tyres.

In the front of the van, Scarlett yawned loudly and turned around. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” Chloe replied. “How did you sleep?”

“Like a baby,” Scarlett said. “A baby with a bad case of colic, that is. How about you?”

“The same.” Chloe looked out of the window. “I could really do with a coffee right now, and a big breakfast.”

Scarlett sighed. “Sausages, bacon, tomatoes, scrambled eggs.”

“Don’t forget the baked beans, mushrooms, and fried bread.”

Scarlett tipped her head back and groaned. “Stop it, you're torturing me!”

“Wazhgoinon?” Matt muttered.

“What did he say?” Scarlett asked.

“Hmm, I’m not sure,” Chloe said. “I think last night’s excitement may have traumatised him so much he’s lost the ability to speak.”

Matt peeled a single eye open. “Chloe? I thought…”

“What?”

“Nothing.” Matt pulled himself up into a sitting position.

It seemed to Chloe that he was using the movement to turn away from her. Was he embarrassed about something?

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