The Standalones

Chapter Twenty-Six

Ken Preston

23 June 2024

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

Listen to the audio version, or scroll down to read the post.

Chapter Twenty-Six

“Now what?” Chloe said, glumly.

No-one answered.

“There must be something we can do.” Chloe looked at Scarlett, Chris, and finally Matt. “Look, I know I’ve only been in the band for less than twenty-four hours, but I don’t want The Standalones to end now. We must be able to do something.”

Matt stirred. “Well, we’ve got the gig tonight, and maybe if we can put off meeting the studio heads, and delay the studio recording session, we can get some more gigs until we have enough money to pay.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Scarlett said. “Chris, what do you think?”

Chris shrugged and just stared at the tabletop, his head bowed.

“Aww, come on, Chris!” Matt yelled. “What’s wrong with you?”

Chris mumbled something.

“What?” Scarlett said.

Chloe suddenly had a bad feeling about this. There was something Chris wasn’t telling them, and it wasn’t good news.

“Speak up, mate,” Matt said. “Tell us what’s wrong, you look like you’re worried about something.”

“Nothing’s wrong with me, alright?” Chris mumbled. “Why can’t you all just leave me alone?”

Scarlett leaned forward, her elbows on the tabletop. “Talk to us, Chris. What’s going on?”

Finally, Chris raised his head and looked at the others. “Your plan’s not going to work. Another couple of gigs isn’t going to get us anywhere near enough money to pay for that recording studio.”

I knew it, thought Chloe.

Writing in the Shadows is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

“There were no recording sessions available at late notice,” Chris continued. “But I found a studio that had a space for us, but I had to pay top rate for it. Without Chloe’s bag of money, we can’t afford to pay.”

“Then we just cancel it,” Scarlett said.

“I told you already, it was an all-or-nothing deal. Even if we cancel, we still owe them the full booking fee.”

“Well, if we haven’t got the money, then we can’t pay for it, can we?” Scarlett said. “Problem sorted.”

“I suppose,” Chris muttered, dropping his gaze back to the tabletop.

A silence fell across the table. Chloe knew what everyone was thinking; they needed to find that holdall full of cash again. But it looked like that wasn’t going to happen. The money had disappeared, and probably for good.

And to be honest, Chloe was glad. If Chris had got himself in trouble booking a studio when they didn’t have the money to pay for it, that was his problem.

“Hey, what did Lexi whisper in your ear?” Scarlett asked Matt.

Matt gave her a haunted look. “You saw that?”

Chloe’s insides clenched with anxiety. There was something very wrong, she could tell.

“Of course we did,” Scarlett replied. “We were all watching.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I’ve forgotten.”

“Ooh, I think Lexi is in love with Matt still,” Scarlett cooed.

Even Chris perked up at that, and he sat up straight and looked at Matt. “Really?”

Something squirmed inside Chloe’s insides, and she realised it was jealousy. She knew Matt didn’t have any feelings for Lexi. She’d seen how he acted around her earlier, how he had told her it was all over. But if that was the case, why wasn’t he telling them what she had whispered in his ear? There was no way he had forgotten already.

“Come on, Matt,” Scarlett said, as though knowing exactly what Chloe was thinking. “What are you hiding?”

“Nothing,” Matt replied. “I’m not—”

“Seriously?” Chris yelled. “Come on, man, don’t go keeping secrets from us!”

“What, like the way you kept it a secret from the rest of us that you’d booked a recording studio?” Matt yelled back.

“Stop shouting!” Chloe hissed, gesticulating at Matt and Chris to calm down. “People can hear you.”

Several heads had turned in their direction on hearing Chris’s outburst, but immediately turned back to their drinks and food.

“What did she say to you?” Scarlett asked, leaning in close to Matt. “Is she still wanting back in the band?”

So that was why Lexi had been so unpleasant about Chloe yesterday. Chloe was Lexi’s replacement in The Standalones. But was that all there was to it? She glanced over at Matt, but he seemed to just want to disappear, to let the floor swallow him up.

Matt shook his head in response to Scarlett’s question. “I don’t know, maybe.”

“Then what did she say to you?”

Matt took a deep breath. “She told me she’s got the money and hidden it somewhere safe.”

“Seriously?” Now Chris was very interested.

Matt nodded.

“So come on, man, where is it?” Chris asked.

“I don’t know, she didn’t tell me that.” Matt paused. “She wants to meet up with me, and then she said she will tell me.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Scarlett said. “A massive bag of cash and Lexi wants to give it away? That girl’s never looked out for anybody but herself in all the years I’ve known her.”

Matt muttered something.

“What did you say?” Scarlett asked.

“I said she wants to get back with me.”

Chris burst out laughing. “It’s true! Lexi’s in luurrvve with Matthew.”

“It’s not funny,” Chloe snapped. She hadn’t meant to say anything, but the words were out before she knew she was speaking. The cafe seemed to be closing in on her, growing hotter and louder. She needed air, but her lungs couldn’t seem to take any in.

“Yeah, stop being an idiot, Chris.” Scarlett swiped Chris across the head.

“Ouch! What was that for?”

“For being an insensitive chump, that’s what,” Scarlett said. “Chloe’s right, this isn’t funny.”

Chloe was impressed, she hadn’t expected this reaction from Scarlett Rage. Maybe there was a sensitive side to her after all.

“Whatever.” Chris folded his arms, looking like a sulky boy. “But the fact is, she’s got our money and we need to get it back off her.”

Chloe couldn’t take this anymore. Leaning across the table so that she was right in Chris’ face, she snapped at him again. “It’s not our money!”

“And it’s not Lexi’s either!” Chris shot back.

Chloe slumped back in her chair. That boy was driving her mad.

An uneasy silence settled into place.

“I’m going to do it,” Matt said. “I’m going on a date with Lexi.”

Everyone looked at Matt, the astonishment plain on their faces.

And Chloe’s heart sank. “Really?”

“Yes, really. I know the money doesn’t belong to us, but I think it’s better that we have it than Danny Lamb and his mate Fred. Besides, I think I owe it to Lexi to go out on this date with her tonight. That way I can tell her once and for all that there are no feelings for her on my part. Not anymore. It will hurt her, but that’s better than me keep stringing her along by running away all the time.”

“But you’re going to wait until she’s given you the money before you dump her, right?” Chris said.

“Chris!” Chloe and Scarlett yelled at the same time.

“I’m just saying, we need the money, right?”

Chloe folded her arms and glowered at Chris. Just as she thought they were free of all that stolen money it looked like they were going to be getting it back. And even worse, just when she had started falling for Matt, his ex-girlfriend was manipulating him to go on a date with her.

Once again, the thought occurred to her that this wasn’t how she had imagined life in a pop band!