The Standalones

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Ken Preston

25 June 2024

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

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Chapter Twenty-Eight

What was a group of snakes called? You had a herd of sheep, a shoal of fish, a murder of crows, but snakes? Chloe decided she would look that fact up when she next had the opportunity, because right now she had a large group of snakes in her stomach, and they were fighting each other.

After Matt had announced he would go on a date with Lexi, the band had headed back to the garage to see how Max Switchblade was doing and to get a change of clothes.

The good news was that Max had been fixed and was ready to go back on the road.

The bad news was that the band didn’t have enough money to pay the bill.

“I’m afraid we can’t let you have your campervan back until you’ve paid,” the mechanic said, wiping his hands on an oily rag.

“What if we left a deposit?” Scarlett asked. “Can we take Max with us then and pay the rest later?”

The mechanic looked confused. “Who’s Max?”

“My camper van, of course.” Scarlett glowered at the mechanic. “Didn’t you recognise him? It’s Max Switchblade.”

The mechanic sighed and rolled his eyes. “A deposit is what I should have asked for before I did the work.”

“So, is that a yes or a no?” Scarlett asked.

The mechanic glowered at Scarlett.

“I think that’s a definite no,” Chloe said.

“We’ll come back tomorrow morning with your money,” Matt said.

“You’d better, I’m not a car park, you know. If I don’t get my money in the next couple of days, I’ll sell your van for scrap.”

“Hey!” Scarlett yelled. “You can’t do that! Max Switchblade is not scrap!”

The mechanic raised an eyebrow scuffed with engine oil.

“I think I’ll grab my bag, just in case,” Chloe said.

“That’s probably a good idea,” Matt said.

They pulled their bags out of the camper van. Chloe also grabbed her bass guitar. She didn’t relish the thought of carrying it around London, but she’d rather that than have it crushed in a car compacter.

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Scarlett peered through the van’s window at all their musical kit. There was far too much for them to carry. “You damage any of this gear and you’re a dead man.”

The mechanic shook his head and walked off.

They headed back into the city centre on a red London bus. Chloe had always wanted to see the sights of London, and upstairs on the double decker she had a perfect view. Unfortunately, she was so preoccupied with Matt’s upcoming date with Lexi that she was blind to the sights and sounds on display through the windows.

You’re being silly, she thought. Matt doesn’t have any feelings towards Lexi. He’s already said he’s going to tell her that. So what are you worrying about?

Because I don’t even know if he has any feelings for me, that’s why.

Chloe balled her hands into fists and clenched her teeth. It was all she could do to stop herself from groaning with frustration. After last night in the camper van alone with Matt, whilst Chris and Scarlett slept, she was sure they had made a connection. That he was attracted to her just as she was to him. But then he had pulled away from her, withdrawn into his own shell. Was it too late now? Had she missed her chance to tell him how she really felt? Perhaps she should have been braver; insisted that he turn back to face her so that she could talk to him.

But she hadn’t, and here they were.

Since last night, they hadn’t had a moment together alone. How was she supposed to tell Matt that she really liked him with Chris and Scarlett always hanging around?

And now here she was helping arrange a date for Matt with his ex!

“Is everything alright?” Matt said, breaking into her thoughts.

“Oh yes, everything’s fine!” Chloe gave Matt a bright smile.

Chloe mentally kicked herself. There was that word again that she couldn’t seem to stop using; fine.

“Hmm, I’m not sure I believe you.” Matt gazed into her eyes. “If it’s that money that’s worrying you, try not to think about it. I agree with you, I think we should hand that bag of cash into the police as soon as we get it back.”

Chloe grabbed Matt’s hand and squeezed it. “Then let’s do that now. All we have to do is call the police and send them to your date with Lexi instead of you. She’ll give the money up right away.”

“And wind up in trouble with the police,” Matt reminded her. “I don’t want her caught up in this, her life is miserable enough at the moment, anyway. I’ve split up with her and we’ve kicked her out of the band.”

Chloe let go of Matt’s hand and slumped back in her seat. “You’re right, I suppose, we can’t get Lexi in trouble.”

A thrill of excitement ran through Chloe’s chest as Matt took her hand back in his. And the snakes paused in their fighting.

“It’s going to be alright, you’ll see.”

Ask him now, Chloe thought. Ask him if he still has any feelings for Lexi. Tell him how you feel before it’s too late.

“We’re here!” Chris said, twisting around in his seat to face Matt and Chloe.

Never a moment together alone.

They jumped off the bus and walked around the corner. Mac’s Cafe waited for them across the road.

“I reckon she got here early, and she’s already inside waiting for you,” Scarlett said.

Matt swallowed. “I think you’re probably right.”

“Let’s go and see, shall we?” Chris said.

Matt turned on him. “Don’t be an idiot, how do you think that will look, the four of us turning up and staring at her?”

Matt turned back to face the cafe across the road. There was no traffic, but Matt made no attempt to cross to the opposite side. It was as though he was still trying to make up his mind.

Chris slapped him on the back. “What are you waiting for, lover boy? Go in there and get our money back.”

It’s not our money!

“Alright,” Matt said, taking a deep breath. “But you lot aren’t hanging around out here spying on us. Go and find yourself somewhere else to wait for me.”

And with that, he crossed the road, opened the cafe door, and stepped inside.

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