Chapter Thirty Eight

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Dear Diary,

The stage was black, so black it felt like I was walking into space with no stars. I couldn’t see the audience but I knew they were there because I could hear a low rolling boom in front of me. I felt Leo behind. I wanted to hold his hand. I wanted to know what that pale boy had just given him. I felt him move to the right of the stage and position himself in front of his synthesizer. I sensed Jimmy doing the same to get behind the drums.

I walked forward holding onto my guitar with steps so small I look back now and am glad I got to the microphone. I held onto it as though it had only been put there to help me stand up. No sounds came from the mountainous speakers either side of the stage. All I heard was an abundance of murmurs from the ocean of people.

I knew I had to wait. We had no set list, no list of songs we already knew we would play. Leo said we shouldn’t so we decided to perform according to whatever came along at that moment. I had no idea what song Leo would choose. For a moment I thought he didn’t know either but sure enough, after a few more moments of dark silence I heard the first few notes of a song I’ve sung a hundred times before.

As I began to play my guitar a warm light started, slowly slowly, to glow above the stage. As I started to sing the light got warmer and stronger until the whole stage was lit up. A sound like low thunder came from the audience. We were there.

The lights shone like a row of suns above us, so bright it was hard to see the rest of the venue. I could make out the faces closest to the stage but I could only imagine how far back the sea of heads went. It felt like it could’ve been endless. High up at the sides were wings full of more people.

Leo was just to the right of me, running his fingers along the keyboard of his synthesizer. I saw a tiny bit of scrunched up paper lying just above the keys. I remembered – that must’ve been what the boy had given to him.

I couldn’t see if anything was written on it and I hardly had time to think as I turned to the audience and lost myself in the song. Despite the size of the audience I could feel their mood just the same. I sensed they were sort of holding back ever so slightly, not sure who we were, not sure what to expect.

I was aware of the gold leaves of my dress sparkling, the heat of the lights, Jimmy belting his drums behind me. The song was perfect – by the end I could feel the audience starting to loosen up.

Once it was done I put my right hand above my brow, shielding my eyes from the lights. There was Cheryl not too far back waving at me. I put the microphone to my mouth:

‘Hello, New York!’

The crowd roared.

‘We are The Dovetails!’

Another roar.

I turned to Leo, a thrill of joy running from my head to my toes, I wanted to share it with him. He didn’t look back at me. He had one finger on the paper in from of him. He was reading it then he turned his head to the wing above the stage, over to the right. I couldn’t see what he was looking at. I turned back to the audience.

‘We came all the way from England, specially for you.’

The cheers grew louder. I glanced upwards towards the wing. Marilyn. Stood right at the end looking down on us from above. I turned back to the crowd.

‘We love New York!!!’

Thunderous applause.

I looked to Leo for the next song. He glanced back with hollow eyes then pulled his head back towards his keyboard as he began to play the next song. By that point I had lost every scrap of nerves. I was there. I was enjoying myself like never before. I moved back and forth along the stage, feeling the audience responding more and more.

About half way through the set I felt Leo’s attention on me, as though he wanted to say something. Once we had finished that song I bent down to him.

‘It’s the guy about twenty people back with the blue top on, tell Cheryl,’ he said.

His face was etched with unease and I had never seen that amount of sweat pouring from him before. As I stood back up to address the audience I realised I had forgotten about agreeing to find those guys from last night. At that point it was like none of it had ever happened anyway.

The next song started up, I had to carry on singing. I danced this way and that and took my moment once I was at the side of the stage where I knew Cheryl stood. I bent myself sharply below the lights. There she was. I knew she would be ready.

I carried on with the song. After a while I looked out to the audience, the lights blazing in my eyes, spotted the blue shirt about twenty people back and pointed to him for a split second, hoping Cheryl would notice.

All I knew is that later on, when I looked to see her again, she wasn’t there. I continued on with the performance, loving every last second of it. By the end it seemed like the audience were ablaze with excitement. We ended with our biggest song as gold leaves showered all around us, shimmering across the whole stage. All I could think was how much I wished Mum and Dad could’ve seen us now.

As the lights went down and we headed off stage Jimmy ran to me from behind and picked me up, whooping and kissing me. I hugged him back and once he let go I bounced up to Leo, following him down the stage stairs.

As I grabbed onto him I felt his body rigid. I spun him around to face me. He was an odd shade of white, like the world might just be about to crumble around his feet.

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