We arrived at the second last hotel of the tour in plenty of time for the gig that night, and everybody except me seemed to be in relatively high spirits. While they moved en masse up the stairs towards their rooms, talking and laughing and shouting, I trudged behind them with Jackson, half-heartedly lugging my suitcase behind me and already dreaming of home.
I was barely through the door of my room when there was a knock and I turned around to see Jackson already standing there, waiting for me to dump my stuff so we could hang out and be lonely and sad together. He stepped into the room and we both stared at the door as it swung very slowly closed behind him, creaking.
'Do you think everybody's doors are like that, or is it just mine and I'm going to be violently murdered in this room tonight?'
'My door's like that too.'
I considered this, but Jackson was as depressed as me. 'Dying violently then,' I concluded, dropping my suitcase on the bed and not even bothering to open it.
'Don't be so negative. It might be quick and painless. In the meantime, let's go hang out downstairs.'
I groaned. 'Can't I just have a nap?'
'No. You've been sleeping far too much and it's not good for you. Do you want that Chilcott woman to be right? Do you want to start wasting away and refusing to even get out of bed?' Jackson demanded, folding his arms.
'What's up with you?' I asked instead of answering him. 'You're supposed to be depressed too.'
'I am. And I'm using babysitting you as a buffer so I don't have to deal with my own problems.'
'You're a great role model.'
'I'd rather be a coward than attack rockstars in bathrooms,' Jackson countered, quick as a flash, grinning in response to my scowl. 'Come on. I'll even let you have a drink if you want it.'
I blanched, like he'd known I would. 'I'm never drinking again.'
'I'll shout you lunch then. Soak up some of that hangover.'
Not even the promise of greasy pub grub made me want to stay in the lobby, however, when we arrived and found the entire Tiny Manatees/Name Withheld ensemble already present, getting nicely tipsy in preparation for that night's performance. I immediately turned around and made to walk back upstairs, but Jackson grabbed me by the elbow and stopped me mid-step.
'Oh no you don't. There's only room for one coward in this relationship, and I've got that shit covered. Step up.'
I groaned, again, but let him drag me over to the group. There were two perches available; on the arm of Josh's chair and on the arm of Sally's, and I charitably let his take Josh's, opting instead to sit by his girlfriend. We were decidedly the largest group in the lobby and either the noise or the presence of the bands was attracting the attention of everybody else around. That, or the fact that Daniel and Tarquin had monopolised the television, and were flicking rapidly through the channels.
'Wait! Wait, go back,' Rachel leaned forward on Josh's lap, pointing frantically at the TV and shouting at the two boys over the noise of the group. They turned and glanced at her, but backtracked a couple of channels until she shouted, 'Stop!' We all stared up at the screen as, unbelievably, a familiar face filled it. Slowly, warily, everyone's attention turned to Conor as we noticed his jaw setting, his eyes filling with surprise. Then the still image disappeared and our attention returned to the show as the presenter made her introductions.
Unsurprisingly it was Conor's very own stalker, Carrie Chilcott, sitting in the presenter's chair. She was hosting what was obviously a very-low budget production called "Carrie Undercover", the premise of which seemed to be that instead of hounding actual celebrities – unlike her job at KISS Magazine – she instead went after their not-so-famous friends and family to get the big scoop. What she could have gotten on Conor from his family seemed a little dubious however, as they were all in Ireland and would never dream of speaking to her about him.