The Standalones

Chapter Seven

Ken Preston

04 June 2024

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

It’s us versus them, Chloe thought, looking at Matt. At least I’m not the only one who thinks we should take this money to the police. And what about my clothes and my song sheets? How am I going to get anything back?

“And here’s another reason not to go to the coppers,” Chris was saying. “They’ll keep us forever, answering questions and filling out forms and stuff. We can’t afford to waste the time, we’ve got to rehearse.”

“And we need to check out Bass Girl here, find out if she’s as good as you say she is,” Scarlett said. “We’re taking an awful chance taking on a new lead singer and bass player this close to our next gig.”

The four of them were sitting at a table in Mac’s Cafe, known for serving the best pie and mash in London. Chris and Scarlett were sitting on one side and Chloe and Matt the other. Chloe had been relieved when Matt sat next to her. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the others, but Matt seemed more in tune with her, and perhaps a little protective of her, too.

Plus, she couldn’t help but keep noticing he was cute.

Since they had sat down in the cafe, Matt had seemed a little subdued. At first, Chloe thought it was because of all the discussion they were having about the bag of money and what they should do with it. But then a new thought occurred to Chloe, and she wondered if he was upset about Lexi. After all, if they had been girlfriend and boyfriend once, Matt could easily have some feelings left for her. Was he maybe feeling guilty that he had left her behind? Was he even wondering if he had made a mistake in breaking up with her?

Chloe needed to get his attention, get him noticing her and forgetting all about Lexi.

And maybe now was the perfect moment to do just that.

“Why don’t I show you how good I am?” Chloe said.

Chris had hauled the bag of money into the cafe with them, nervous about leaving it unattended in the van, and stuffed the bag under their table. Chloe had brought her bass guitar with her. This was the only possession she had left, and she wasn’t about to let it out of her sight. Without her guitar, she was useless to the band, and she might as well go home.

Chloe extricated her legs from beneath the formica table, stood up, and pulled her bass guitar from its case. She slung the strap over her shoulder. A few customers turned their heads at the sight of this young woman with her feet planted wide apart, guitar at the ready. Were they about to be treated to an impromptu concert?

Swallowing a sudden onrush of nerves, Chloe began playing. Her fingers raced across the frets as she plucked and strummed at the strings. Without an amplifier, there was no power to blast the bass notes around the cafe, but the rest of the band seated at the table could see and hear well enough.

“She’s good, alright,” Scarlett murmured.

“She’s better than good, she’s amazing,” Matt said.

“I told you,” Chris said, leaning back in his chair and grinning.

Now to really hit them with it, Chloe thought.

Writing in the Shadows is a reader-supported publication. To continue reading, receive all posts and support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber.

>