Running after the thief who’d stolen her day’s earnings, some advice she’d been given flashed through Meghan’s mind. Her grandmother had told her, “Hard work always pays off.”
Grandma clearly hadn’t known what the hell she was talking about.
The proceeds from Meghan’s hard work were currently in the hands of a teenaged boy who was racing too far ahead to catch, and about to disappear for good.
Meghan had been mid song when the boy had snatched her upturned cap from the ground in front of her and taken off like an Olympic-grade sprinter. She’d bolted after him, but it was hard to run while she was clutching her guitar. The sole of one of her boots was loose and flapping with every step, and her long dreadlocks kept falling in her eyes. Dammit, she’d been fit once. She used to run like this for fun.
With one last, breathless curse, she gave up the chase. The thief turned the corner, gave a final glance over his shoulder, and was gone.
Five hours of performing on the sidewalk, singing her heart out to indifferent passers-by, had been wasted. Tonight Meghan would have to sleep in her car. Again.
“Thanks a lot, slimeball,” she shouted after him.
A woman who was walking past gave Meghan a sideways look, probably wondering if she was crazy. Meghan had been wondering the same thing. At twenty-nine years old, she’d been working her ass off for years. Shouldn’t she be a teensy bit closer to achieving her dreams by now?
Fame and fortune would have been nice, but okay, she could settle for less. How about a place to sleep that didn’t have seatbelts?
With a breathless sigh – perhaps more of a wheeze – she turned and trudged back to where she’d left her rusty old Toyota. Her guitar case was in the back seat, on top of a pile of blankets and dirty clothes. Everything Meghan owned was in the car, because five days ago she’d finally peeled rubber out of Melbourne. Sydney was as good a place as any to start over, she’d figured. But that was before she’d realized that thieving sprinters were roaming the streets.
Meghan was hungry, her throat was dry, and she’d give a lot for a beer. A toenail, perhaps. Or even an entire toe, if the beer was ice cold, with condensation dripping down the sides of the bottle. Imagining that first, refreshing sip made her throat ache.
Enough people had dropped money into her cap while she was singing that she could have bought a bottle of Bud and a cheap room for the night. But thanks to light-fingered Usain Bolt, she had barely enough change left to order a Happy Meal.
What now? Was it time to swallow her pride?
Meghan put her guitar into its case and made sure it was secure on the back seat before getting in the car. Then she pulled out her phone and looked up Geena’s number. Geena was an old school friend, and the one person in Sydney Meghan had kept in touch with. But instead of hitting the button to dial, she stared at her phone, arguing with herself.
Which was worse, asking for help, or spending another uncomfortable night with the passenger seat wound back as far as it would go? If the last few years had taught her anything, it was that she couldn’t count on anyone but herself. Not that she thought Geena was anything like her ex-boyfriend or either of her ex-agents. She could trust Geena. But the thought of telling her friend she was homeless and needed a place to sleep still made her feel sick.
Meghan’s life shouldn’t be such a mess. How hard was it to have a roof over your head and a steady income? Everybody else seemed to manage it just fine.
Geena even had her own business, for heaven’s sake. Her friend owned an adult toy store, which practically made her a business tycoon, at least compared to Meghan. If Meghan called, she’d probably interrupt Geena while she was piling more money into her cash register, or telling lines of eager customers to wait their turn.
Meghan blew out a long, frustrated breath, then dropped her phone onto the passenger seat. When she was back on her feet with somewhere to stay, that’s when she’d call Geena. Then Meghan would be able to meet her friend for a drink instead of having to ask for favors. And without feeling like a failure.
What she needed right now was to follow her plan.
She tapped the steering wheel, counting off the steps she’d take. First, she’d go around all the bars and clubs that hosted live bands, and convince one of them to take a chance on a singer they didn’t know. Even if she had to knock on a thousand doors, she’d get a job somewhere. A regular gig would be a million times better than playing her guitar on the street, begging coins from passing strangers.
Step two would be to get her own place. Just hers this time. No more lying, deceitful, destructive men would be allowed in the door.
Step three, she’d get a real record deal from a real record label. Either under her own steam, or by partnering with an agent she could trust.
As bad as the last few years had been, they’d be a lot worse if Meghan didn’t learn from them. From now on, she was taking control of her life. She couldn’t wait for her good-luck fairy to wake up from the medically-induced coma she’d obviously been in for the last few years. Meghan was damn well going to turn things around for herself.
Yup, from now on everything would be different. Better. That was a promise.
She picked up her phone again, but only to search for Stronger by Kelly Clarkson. She sang along to it, belting out the chorus, and as the song reached maximum volume, she turned her car key in the ignition, pumping the accelerator and praying for the unreliable engine to turn over. Two false starts, then the engine caught and her car lurched forward into the busy Sydney traffic.
Into the path of an expensive-looking Aston Martin that was going too fast to stop.