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Love by Popular Demand by David Horne (1)

Chapter One

The weather was quickly changing. The sky had been a clear blue when we had started but I could see the dark clouds shifting over it. The clap of thunder was almost inaudible over both the fans and the sound system – almost. My hands were numb from the cold where they held onto the microphone as I sang the final chorus to the last song of our set. I stared up at the sky. I could tell that my band was just as nervous as I was. None of us wanted to be on-stage when the rain started to pour down into the stadium. Our fans, on the other hand, did not seem to mind all that much.

In the end, it seemed as though we were safe. I laughed into the microphone as the relief flooded through me, yelling out my thank you to both the audience and the skies above us. The bassist performed one final riff and I could feel that he was just as relieved as I was. It was coming through the sounds of his bass guitar. They came up to the front and we all linked hands, taking a deep bow. With that, we were off. We ran to the back where our stagehands guided us through a door that led underneath the stage.

As we stepped off of the stage, I wondered absently if my hearing would ever recover. We could still hear the cheering from backstage but it had dulled somewhat. Nevertheless, I always felt half-deaf after escaping from the jarring sounds of people cheering and screaming and whistling for us, as if everything had been slightly muted. The boys were laughing and I was laughing with them, though my hands were shaking from the adrenaline coursing through me. All of a sudden, it seemed like it all came to a halt.

Outside, the cheering had changed from the average screams to something else. My whole band paused, no longer moving down the hallways to the dressing rooms. We could hear the crowd chanting something over and over again. I shut my eyes as if the sensory deprivation might help, my ears straining to hear what it was. It sounded like…

“Are they calling out for Kayla?” The bassist, Mike, asked.

“It sounds like they are, dude.” The drummer, Kyle, said.

The two guys grinned at each other before racing to the back where our dressing rooms were. My guitarist, Jake, and I ran after them. We arrived in time to catch them frantically banging on Kayla’s door. We were all slightly out of breath. The boys and I had gotten one room to get dressed in. Being the only female, Kayla had gotten a room all to herself.

She wrenched the door open, shock registered on her face. Her door had received quite the pounding. She stared at all of us, her brow furrowing in confusion. “What the hell?”

“Do you hear that, Kayla?” Kyle asked with that same grin still on his face.

I watched Kayla’s face. Her shocked expression had turned into one of both confusion and concentration before returning to shock once more. Her blue eyes went wide and I was sure that a pink flush had crept across her high cheekbones. I smiled. Her mouth had dropped open and she clapped her hands over it.

“Kayla, Kayla, Kayla…” The chants continued. The cheer was steadier and more insistent than before. They really wanted her back out there. I could only imagine how exciting it must have been to have that kind of support. It was only our first gig after being signed, after all.

One of the producers had made his way down the hall after us, a hand on the piece wrapped around his ear. “You had better get out there. They don’t call out like that for just anyone. It’s going to start raining soon.” He said. He looked between all of us. He was obviously repeating the words of someone else; whoever was speaking into the earpiece. “It’s now or never, Miss May.”

Kayla turned around and went back to her room. The door was ajar but none of us peeked into it. She returned moments later. She had a headset on top of her head, stark pink against the bubble-gum blue color of her hair, and an acoustic guitar in her hand. “I guess it’s now,” she said.

We fell into step behind her, heading back to the door. On the last few steps, Kayla moved a little quicker. She had a literal skip in her step. I had never seen that before. It showed how excited she was and I thought that was just adorable.

The door opened and we were once again hit with the booming sound of the crowd going wild, along with a breeze that made Kayla’s hair blow backward. She did not seem to care as she darted out onto the stage. The crowd’s chanting quickly turned to cheers and applause for her. I held the door open so that my band and I could watch her, along with the producer who had come to fetch us. If the clouds had looked dark before, they looked downright menacing then.

Watching her, I would never have guessed that this was Kayla’s first gig after being signed. She was a natural on stage. Of course, like us, she had had plenty of gigs before this one. She carried herself as though she had far more experience.

This was the biggest one that any of us had had though, as far as I knew. Kayla danced across the stage; her fingers were somehow still managing to strum the chords correctly and her voice was steady and in tune as she sang one of her original songs. They loved her. At one point she even reached into the front row to touch people’s hands. I could see a man holding a little girl up to reach Kayla and that little girl got a high five that probably made her entire year.

Another clap of thunder hit and lightning flashed through the clouds above. I did not need to look up to know that it had started to drizzle. I could see it on the stage. The floor was wooden and it had started to look kind of glossy in some areas. I might have been imagining it but I was sure that it looked like Kayla was struggling to move at that point in time. The wetter the stage got, the more slippery it became. At the very least, Kayla had stopped dancing and was standing still while she performed. The band had taken over because she was no longer playing her guitar but the music was still playing. It was no doubt due to the cold.

I remembered our manager telling us that our set should be over by the time that it started to rain but that if it was not, we should get off the stage. It would be slippery and unsafe. Kayla was in that position.

Before I could think about it, I was heading out onto the stage. I grabbed an umbrella near the door – leave it to the agents to make sure that we were prepared with a handful of them. The crowd cheered as I appeared and made my way over to Kayla. They probably had no idea why I was even there. I had to walk slowly. My shoes were slipping and sliding on the wood. Kayla looked surprised as I reached around her waist and began to guide her to the door. I did not bother saying anything because she would never have heard me out there over the crowd and the music and the rain. Thankfully, her song was basically over by that point so my arrival was not greeted with the booing that I had expected.

“It looks like I’m being rescued by a knight in shining armor,” Kayla said into the microphone for the audience to hear. As she did, she stepped in beside me underneath the umbrella. I noticed that she was walking as slowly and carefully as I was – possibly more considering she was wearing wedges. “Thank you to all of you! It has been amazing performing. We will be back!”

“That’s for sure,” I said. I was close enough that my voice echoed through the microphone, too. The crowd whooped in response.

“Thank you for that,” Kayla said as the door shut. “I thought I was going to fall off the stage or something.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Our manager warned us not to stay out there when it starts getting wet because it’s dangerous.”

Kayla laughed. “I’ll say.”

Speak of the devil and he shall appear, as the old saying goes. Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t think that the tour manager is quite that bad. What I will say is that I have been warned not to trust him too much. That was the entertainment industry for you. My band had learned pretty fast after the first almost signing that we had to read the fine print. The fine print was written all over Simon’s skin.

“That was brilliant, Kayla. You guys, too,” Simon said, turning to the band. “How are you feeling?” There was a chorus of “Great!” and “Brilliant!” from all around. Our tour manager was pleased with that response and he clapped his hands together. “I was thinking, since it’s your first night, you might want to celebrate.”

I noticed that I was not the only one who seemed a bit skeptical. No one really wanted to celebrate with the person who was ultimately their boss when it came down to it, did they? Maybe it was just me.

“Well, I’m keen to celebrate,” Kayla offered reluctantly. She looked between all of us, shrugging her slim shoulders.

“Uhm, okay…” Mike said. “What did you have in mind, Simon?”

Our manager, the pudgy man with the walrus mustache, looked confused. He stared from Mike to me to Kayla. “Oh,” he said. He gave a rumbling chuckle, his hands falling onto his rotund belly. “I didn’t mean with me! You guys should go and have fun. This is the first big venue but we aren’t going to be here for very long.”

So far, we had been getting a lot of offhand comments like that. The tour dates were yet to be set up, as was the line-up of locations. All we knew was that we were going to be traveling quite a bit in the next little while. The record company wanted to surprise us. In the meantime, we were getting booked for a few local venues much like today’s, almost like a tester of how we would sell.

“Oh, yeah, I’m down to hang out.” Mike said. “There’s this cool bar that we once played at a couple of years ago.”

“Wait, there is?” I asked. We had played at a few places over the years. Getting gigs was, admittedly, a bit more difficult than getting likes and follows and shares on the internet. I did not know which one Mike was referring to.

Mike rolled his eyes. “Yeah, there is.”

Kayla smiled, watching the interaction. Dimples appeared on her cheeks and I thought that she was quite pretty. She had a heart-shaped face. “I’m up for it if you guys are.” Kayla had a tinge of a European accent and I made a mental note to ask her about it sometime. I did not know if I ever would.

“Let’s go then!” Kyle said, giving a drum roll in the air. Kyle could rarely ever be found without his drumsticks. If they were not in his hands, he usually wore them sticking out of his hair in a Chinese stick bun.

I was not surprised when they all looked to me. I was considered the band leader; no matter how many times I had told the guys that I wanted us all to have an equal say. I had had the big idea to start a band and that made me leader by default. “What is it going to be?” Mike asked.

I sighed and gave an exaggerated eye roll. I grinned at their expectant faces, shaking my head. How could I say no? “Okay, okay! Let’s go celebrate!”




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