Six Months Ago
Backstage was a hive of activity, guitars were being packed and the crew was waiting to collect the instruments on stage then break it all down to move on to the next show. Quinn handed his guitar off to one of their roadies then got out of the way of the festival crew milling at the edge of the stage. He grabbed a bottle of water from the depleted sponsor table then headed out back to when their tour bus was waiting to take them back to their hotel to shower then check out and climb back on board for the overnight drive to the next day’s location.
“You’re the first one back boss.”
He nodded at the security guard and gave him a thumbs up and a smile as the door was opened for him and he took the couple of steps up into the roomy interior. He bypassed the lounge area to retrieve his phone from his bunk then retraced his steps to collapse with a groan. He opened the bottle of water and dropped the lid into his lap before taking a long drink before he tapped in his security code to check his messages. There were the usual pre-show good luck messages from his moms and a mid-show one from his sister Max letting him know they were trending all over the place. Then a reminder from their manager of the schedule for the night which translated to ‘hurry up and don’t party’ which he ignored. He answered his moms and his sister and the phone buzzed in his hand. Incoming call from a random number.
Not many people had this number and he considered ignoring it, but someone might have changed numbers and was calling to let him know, or worst case, someone he cared about couldn’t make the call themselves.
“Hello? Is that Peter?”
Quinn let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding at the question. “Nope.”
“No? That’s not Peter?” The hesitant female voice asked as Quinn’s mind put together two and two and came up with a one word answer; asshole.
“No it’s not. Sorry honey, wrong number.” He winced at the feeble answer but it was all he had for the sweet voice on the other end of his phone.
“Really?” The one word was followed by an incredulous laugh. “Oh that’s just perfect. Why do men do that? Give out fake numbers?”
“Ahhh…” Quinn bit his lip and thought about just hanging up. He was wrung out from the show but the poor woman had already had one man act like a jerk tonight. “Maybe he wrote it down wrong?” he suggested hopefully.
“Yeah! Because it’s so hard to write down a few digits,” she scoffed.
“Well it can be when you’re faced with a beautiful woman. I struggle to remember my name let alone a phone number,” Quinn said with a low chuckle. He only defended the asshole in an attempt to make the woman feel better. He might pretend not to be himself to avoid the occasional avid fan but he would never give out a fake number.
The woman sighed loudly, a sound of defeat if ever Quinn heard one. “Massive assumption there but thanks,” she said quietly.
He hated the thought of leaving her sad, and decided he wanted to get a laugh out of her before she hung up. “Another thought, maybe he’s dyslexic. Wrote his fives as twos or his nines as sixes.”
“Yeah maybe,” she said sounding completely unconvinced. “Well actually, no…” There was the rustle of paper. “There is no nine in the number,” she said triumphantly.
Quinn frowned and mentally recited his number. “Ah yeah there is. It’s the last digit.”
“No. It ends eight eight,” the woman asserted then swore under her breath before there was a pause. “It doesn’t does it?” she whispered.
“Ah honey,” Quinn gave a low laugh. “Sorry to say that the number you called doesn’t no. But I’m guessing the one you’re now looking at does.”
She groaned in reply as he heard voices outside and knew he’d soon be joined by his bandmates. So he stood up and made his way back to the bunks, sure the boys would all collapse in the lounge for the short trip to the hotel.
“Ah crap,” she breathed. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, it’s an easy mistake to make,” Quinn consoled her as he slid into his bunk and pulled the privacy curtain across. He should say goodbye now, let her go call the right number, but he was strangely reluctant to end the call. He settled against his pillow and said, “Tell me about, Peter wasn’t it? Was he a nice guy? Well he must have been or you wouldn’t have called him, right?”
“Right. He was polite, good manners. Yeah, a nice guy.” He could almost hear her shrug.
“Manners are important,” he agreed. “So where did you meet him?
“At work. I’m a waitress.”
“Oh like the song?” He smiled and sung softly, “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar.”
She giggled and said, “Not quite. It’s a diner.”
“I don’t know a song for that.” Quinn grinned as she giggled again, such a sweet sound.
“That’s a pity. You have a nice voice, it’s kind of familiar… have we met… wow, how rude am I? I call you and abuse you then don’t even ask your name.”
“Well I wouldn’t exactly call it abuse,” Quinn hedged as his mind raced. After her reaction to the mis-dialled number he didn’t want to lie to her but at the same time he didn’t want to tell her his name and have her recognize him, a firm possibility since she’d just said his voice sounded familiar.
“You only say that because you couldn’t read my mind,” she admitted with a sigh. “I was thinking about all the bad things I’d like to do to you, since you’re a man and all men obviously suck.” She laughed and Quinn banished the ‘bad things’ from his mind after her last comment made it clear she meant very different bad things than the filthy ones he’d thought of. “So can I apologize… please… Bob? Jim? Gary? Paul? Ryan? Stop me if I get it.
He grinned at her guesses and settled on a compromise. “Kelly,” he supplied once she paused. “You can call me Kelly.”
“Kelly. Well I’m sorry I was such a bitch,” she said with a smile in her voice. “And I really want to thank you for talking me down.”
“Since you apologized so nicely I’ll skip the lecture on assumptions and just say apology accepted.” He paused for two beats then prompted her, “This is where you say your name…” He waited three beats for her sigh and answer.
“Um. No. Sorry.”
“No?” He repeated lightly. “Is that a hard no?”
She laughed nervously. “Yes it is. It’s not that I don’t trust you Kelly… well it kind of is really. But I don’t know you so how can I?” she rushed to say.
“Yeah, I get it,” Quinn muttered because he did, even if he wasn’t happy about it which she must have noticed as she came back in a teasing tone.
“The thing is, if I hear a story or read it online about some crazy woman who couldn’t even dial a number, if my name isn’t in the story, I can pretend it’s not about me.”
Quinn couldn’t contain his snort of disbelief that anyone would think he would leak some story online. She had no idea… “I get it,” he said again and even with that reminder he was strangely reluctant to end the call.
“Well… I appreciate that and ah, I should go.”
“Yeah, of course. Good luck with Peter.” Quinn pushed back the curtain with a flick of his wrist and slid out of the bunk. Beneath his feet he could feel the rumble of the engine, his body moved automatically with the movement of the bus as it cruised through the streets towards their hotel. He looked over at his bandmates, Dane sprawled in one corner of the couch, Tommy beside him, and Mac standing up near the driver talking quietly. He should be winding down with them, their enduring friendship was how the band stayed so cohesive, not flirting with some random nameless woman.
“Thanks Kelly. Bye.”
She ended the call before he could respond which saved him from saying something stupid like ‘let me know how it goes’. “Fucking idiot,” he muttered to himself then shoved the phone under his pillow and went to join his friends.
“Alright Quinn?” Dane asked with a lazy chin lift towards the bunks as Quinn braced himself against the back of the couch.
“Yeah fine. Just a wrong number,” he said with a shrug then tapped Tommy on the shoulder. “You were a little off tonight. Everything okay at home?”
“My baby is teething, I was on the phone with Gigi half the night. She settles a little when I sing to her,” he said then yawned hugely. “I’ll get some sleep tonight,” he promised them and himself.
“Don’t sweat it, no one but us noticed,” Dane reassured him. “And if you want to stay up tonight singing to her while we’re on the bus, I’m good with that.”
”Me too,” Quinn agreed and Mac called back his agreement too.
Tommy laughed and declined and Dane sulked and begged until the bus pulled to a stop at the back of the hotel.
“You all have got one hour, then I’m rolling out of here, with or without your whiny rock star asses,” their driver called and since he’d done it before, they all hustled off the bus and up to their rooms for a shower and change of clothes.
Forty minutes later Quinn was back in his bunk and the bus was on the move, the gentle sway of the machine lulling him towards sleep as he idly wondered if Peter had gotten that phone call …
Read the prelude here