Chapter 17: March 1999

It’s March. A year since I killed Ami. Still, no one’s missed him. I blew him out like a candle and that was that. I walked away. It was all fucking nuts and I left it behind me. None of it matters anymore. No one’s coming for me.

I’m fine.

The best thing I can do is forget about it and be grateful.

Because here I am.

Me.

Not Ami.

The way it was always meant to be.

And now – at last – Carlito’s putting us on the road. When he tells us, we cheer and bundle him. He looks worried.

“You cannot go bonkers.”

Chambers pats him on the back. Sawyer smiles. David shakes his head and I do too. Ace pretends to be doing something else. And no one actually promises not to go bonkers.

That night, I can’t sleep. It’s dark but I know Chambers is awake too.

“I can’t believe all of this,” I say.

“It’s what we wanted,” Chambers replies like that’s all that matters.

Maybe it is. All those hours, practising and writing. This is what it was for. Maybe it feels so weird because nothing else in life ever worked out the way I hoped it would. Maybe this kind of shit is normal for most people. I mean, we have worked hard in our own way. When all the other kids were playing sports, playing computer games, doing whatever they did, we were sweating out songs. We chose a path and we followed it. When our peers were going to parties, making friends and drinking, Chambers and I were learning how to play the guitar.

“Are you okay?” Chambers asks, like he can sense what I’m thinking about.

Which of course he can.

I don’t need to say anything.

He knows I’m both okay and not okay.

Like always.

When I eventually sleep that night, I dream of school. Ami’s there. I see him being pushed around the back of the football field, and shoved further and further back in the lunch queue. I notice all the tiny things that might have seemed accidental if you hadn’t been looking properly, but to Ami were so fucking obvious and so fucking deliberate.

The next day, I’m up with the sun. I’m desperate to escape the night. I climb quietly upstairs, open the curtains and look out at the small public garden on the other side of the street. There are flowers growing. When Chambers gets up, he pours us both glasses of orange juice and we sit in silence until Carlito arrives, then Sawyer, then Ace, then David. There’s only a week until we go away, and we rehearse as if we’ve been attached to a circuit board, thrown into a washing machine and then chucked down a lift shaft. Musicians at the bar talk to us and reminisce about their early days on the road but they’re old men and their stories mean nothing to us. We are solar-powered.

At some point over the next week, Sawyer has a moment of panic.

“Why are we going on a full tour without even making sure we can get through a set first?” she asks.

I don’t know what to tell her, but David does.

“It’s better to make your mistakes when you’re a million miles from anyone who knows you,” he says.

The comment makes me think about the mistakes that David assumes we will make. I look at Carlito for assurances that he isn’t sending us out on the road just so that we don’t embarrass him closer to home.

“It will be the time of your life,” is all he says.

I need to clear my head.

“I’m going for a ride,” I say.

Sawyer looks over at me.

“Can I come?”

She glances at Chambers.

“Is it’s okay to borrow your bike?”

Chambers nods and Ace gets up.

“I’ve got to go,” he says.

“I won’t be long,” Sawyer explains. “Just a scoot around the block.”

“Whatever. You do what you want.”

It’s clear Ace doesn’t intend to wait for her and I can see Sawyer changing her mind about the bike ride. But Ace is already halfway out the door and although for a moment I think Sawyer is going to chase after him, she doesn’t.

How did JD and Chambers end up here? Go back to the prologue.