Exit Stage Six: A Contemporary New Adult Romance Novella

BOOK: Exit Stage Six: A Contemporary New Adult Romance Novella
11.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Exit Stage Six

by A. J. Downey


Text copyright
A.J. Downey

All Rights Reserved



To my fiancé, the real rock star in our relationship who
more often times ends up more like a roadie than in the spotlight. You are an
incredible hardworking man and I love you. Keep on keepin’ on!



“There are five stages go the grieving process. They don’t
come in any particular order, they aren’t any of them pleasant… They just are
what they are and you can’t go around them or skip any of them, you just have
to go through them, feel them all and come out the other side. That’s his
reality right now, and he needs people strong enough to hold him up through the
worst parts. “ –London Greene



The news report came back
from commercial break with the loud and serious peal of music denoting an
intense story.

Breaking news! 
Flashed across the screen in bold gold letters on a
blue and white background. The news station’s colors…

“Singer songwriter Drake Tremaine
fame was found dead of
an apparent suicide in his lake front home this morning. Friends and bandmates
of the troubled rocker reported to Metro PD that they were concerned for
Tremaine’s wellbeing after he missed several recording sessions with them this

His body was found by his
best friend and band mate Dorian Metzger, who is the lead guitarist for the

A candle light vigil is
being organized for fans of the late singer at City Center for tomorrow night.
Stay tuned for more information as we receive it. I’m Alyssa Donning with MCTV

“Oh no…” I murmured, lowering
my plate in the sink. Like a lot of people I was a fan of Elysium’s music…

“What’s wrong sweetie?” my
mom asked.

“I like that band…” I said,
“They’re really talented.”

I had no idea how much the
late breaking news story was going to change my life. So often when things like
that happen, people have the same reaction that I did, a pang of sorrow, a
moment of silence and then the moment passes and it’s life as usual.

That was what I experienced
in that moment. I felt a moment of empathetic sadness for the band, for the
man’s family, and for the rest of his fans who would never enjoy another new
song written by him. Then I turned off the sink, set my plate and fork in the
drain board and went on with my evening…

What else could I do?


Stage 1

Denial & Isolation

Chapter 1


I got off the bus, hands loaded with two reusable canvas
grocery bags that were
, the straps cutting painfully across my
palms as I lugged them down the block to my apartment. It was so late it was
early and I was dog tired. I blinked and for a moment wondered if I was seeing
things right.

A small box truck was parked in front of my building, a
young man, my age, maybe mid-twenties unloading it by himself.

“Hi.” I murmured, passing him.

“Hey.” He grunted in return, a cardboard box that had seen
better days clutched between his hands.

He followed me up the stairs and I felt the spot between my
shoulder blades prickle. I reached the second landing and stopped in front of
my apartment door. He kept going, putting his sneakered foot on the first step
to continue up to the third and final floor when I heard rather than saw the
bottom of his box give way.

“Shit!” he swore with feeling as books, magazines and papers
scattered on the landing.

“Oh! Uh… Hang on.” I said and unlocked the door to my tiny
studio. I dumped my groceries in a heap in my entry way.

“You don’t have to do that…” he said but I was already on my
knees, pulling magazines together to shove them into one of my reusable bags
for him.

“No, really… you don’t… unugh… Thanks.” He muttered, giving
in and finally helping me when he realized I had no intentions of stopping. I
thrust the first stack into one of the bags and bit my lip to keep myself from

“This is really embarrassing.” He admitted and I nodded and
quickly helped him get the last of what was apparently his porn collection off
the landing. I handed him the bag and he reached out to take it.

It was dim out here in the stairwell and I had yet to turn
on a light in my apartment, I could see his lean arm was corded with muscle and
covered from wrist to shoulder in brightly colored tattoos. I looked up into
his face and my breath caught and I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner.

He was just masculine enough to keep him from being pretty.
His face was clean shaven, but his hair hung lank, like he needed a shower. It
was dark, dyed black rather than naturally colored that way. I could tell
because rather than reflect any of the ambient light out here it absorbed it.
His eyes were a light color, but I couldn’t tell which, and blinked at me as if
he expected me to say something. His lashes were long and the type any woman
would kill for and all I could think was
my God how do I get him to agree to
let me take some pictures?
He continued to stare at me and I realized I
must have missed something he’d said.

“I’m sorry, what?” I asked.

“I said thanks and asked what your name was.” He looked

“Sorry, yeah… long night. You’re welcome, I’m London, London
Greene.” I held out my hand and he shook it.

“Evan. Evan Lake.” He said. His palm was warm and dry
against my own, his long fingers curving around the back of my hand.

“London Greene?” he asked, “Really?”

“Yeah.” I said and winced, my two names together sounded
like they belonged in some novel or poem. People asked me all the time if it
was from some quote or other. No, nope… my parents had simply named me after
the city in which I was conceived. Yay me.

“Sorry.” He said.

“Taking the third floor?” I asked.

“Yeah, looks like I’m above you…” he let go of my hand and
palmed the back of his neck, the two grocery totes of porn hanging forgotten
from his other hand.

“Right, well, good night Evan. It was nice to meet you.” I

“Uh yeah, thanks for letting me borrow these, you going to
be up a minute?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m just getting home. The fabulous life of a
bartender.” I sang the last out. He quirked half a smile.

“I’ll uh be right back with your bags.” He said and took the
stairs two at a time.

I stepped over the pile of groceries in my entry way and
began picking things up, walking them past my bed and into the kitchen. A
studio was all I could afford. My mom doled out what I needed from what
remained of my father’s life insurance. That and a partial scholarship took
care of school, but I was on my own when it came to a place to live and the
arts college I went to didn’t have dormitories. So I worked three nights a
week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at one of the clubs as a bartender to
afford my one room palace.

Hey, at least the bathroom was big and had no windows. Made
a great darkroom with a little creativity.

A light rap came at my open apartment door. I went down the
short hall passed my bathroom door and reached out for the two empty bags.

“Thanks.” I said.

“Thanks again.” He said and waved.

“Sure, I’ll see you around.” I said cheerfully and he nodded
absently, waving over his shoulder as he went back down the stairs. I closed
the door on his retreating back and locked it at the doorknob, deadbolt and
shot the chain.

I sighed and finished putting away the groceries. Sundays to
Mondays were the toughest for me, I had to be to class by nine am and right now
it was four-thirty. I had just enough time for a three hour nap but sleep was elusive
tonight. My thoughts drifting to the new neighbor thumping up and down the
stairs and then around above me.

Who moves in at four-thirty in the freaking morning on a
Monday morning!? It was totally bizarre.

I didn’t have too much time to think about it. I put away my
groceries quickly and got ready for bed.

I had school in the morning.

Chapter 2


The next time I saw Evan was days later. I stepped out of my
apartment and was locking it up behind me when I smelled it. I turned around.
Evan was standing on the landing at the railing, looking out over the old brick
building’s courtyard. A black cigarette clutched loosely between the index and
middle finger of his hand. He stared vacantly out in the direction of the
courtyard but I could tell he didn’t really see it. He was leaned back against
the alcove, feet crossed at the ankle in front of him.

He was a cutting figure, standing there like that, elbow
propped on the railing, smoke curling lazily up before him. The thumb of his
opposite hand hooked in the belt loop of his jeans which were torn out at the knee
and even in a couple spots on one thigh, cuffs frayed and hanging sloppily over
half laced worn out black combat boots.

He wore a black wife beater and his tattoos radiated vibrant
and alive from shoulder to wrist, his entire right arm covered with a sleeve
depicting blue water, green lily pads, pink flowers and what appeared to be two
giant golden fish at odds with each other.

I raised my camera which I’d looped around my neck, oh so
carefully and lined up the shot. His left side was perfectly in shadow and the
natural light was perfect. Highlighting his angelic face with its vacant green
eyed stare… Green, his eyes were green and the most brilliant shade too…


His head snapped in my direction and his expression darkened
with a heat lightning flash of anger that swirled and diminished into surprise
when he saw me standing there.

“Did you just take my picture!?” he demanded. I lowered my
vintage Canon AE-1, hitting the switch to advance the film.

“Sorry,” I said, “The light was perfect and the way you were
standing… I’m a photography student at…” I stumbled over my words as his
expression grew darker and darker, he looked like he was going to yell at me
but then his expression softened and he raked a hand through his hair, holding
it back from his eyes which softened marginally.

“I don’t like having my picture taken.” He ground out and
looked down at his sweet smelling cigarette.

“I’m sorry…” I said and he glared at nothing in particular,
I swallowed. “I mean it’s really a shame, you’re kind of my idea of perfect…”
his head snapped up and I felt like I simultaneously went a whiter shade of
pale and flushed a brilliant shade of crimson.

“Just don’t do it again.” He said and went back to his vacant

“Okay.” I agreed, feeling vaguely ill at my classless word
vomit of a moment before.

I started down the stairs.

“Hey!” he called and I looked up through the slats of the
flight above me.

“Don’t show anyone the one you took either alright?” he asked
and he looked troubled.

“Evan are you all right?” I asked, brow wrinkling with
concern. Paranoid much?

“Yeah.” He said startled, “Yeah I’m fine.”


Uh huh… and I was the living embodiment of the city I’d been
named after. Queen of its country in fact.

“Okay.” I nodded and continued down the stairs and out of
sight. I turned and looked back up and he was still at the railing, staring
sightlessly out over the courtyard which was just beginning to turn green with
the first hints of spring. I ducked back into the alcove that would lead me out
to the street and raised my camera. The naked branches of the tree stood out
blurry in the bottom of the frame when I focused on my new mysterious neighbor.
It too would have been an interesting shot.

I hesitated.

I had told him I wouldn’t take any more pictures but… but…
ugh! I lowered my camera and huffed out a sigh. Telling me not to photograph
Evan Lake was like telling the neighborhood fat kid not to touch that last
piece of cake and then leaving him alone in the room with it.

I went to raise my camera again but Evan saved me from my
dilemma by stubbing out his clove cigarette on the sole of his boot before
tromping up the stairs, disappearing behind the brick façade of our building.

I felt a mixture of relief and regret.

It really would have made a great shot.

I sighed and moved out onto the street and began walking. I
needed to shoot an entire roll, get it developed, choose three photos, scan
them into my computer and manipulate them by adding color all by the end of the
next week for my midterm.

Didn’t seem like much when you thought about it buuuuut I
still had work, a full class load of other assignments. Unlike most people who
just shot digital, I still used film it made for quite a few extra steps in the
process but it was worth it in the end to me. What can I say? I liked, no
old things.

I made long strides up the cracked sidewalk and stopped
every once in a while to contemplate this or that before choosing to go the
direction of the park.

It almost always had something good for the camera in it.

I had a hell of a time, my thoughts constantly drifting back
to Evan and his vacant stare into the nothing. Something was wrong. I could
tell, but what I didn’t know was what. Maybe I would find out, maybe I

I finally decided that he looked hurt or sad about
something. I’d been seeing the look a lot on the faces of Elysium fans in the
last week. I paused at a memorial for Drake Tremaine in the park’s center and
focused my camera on a lit candle. I leaned forward and tried to get the candle
in perfect focus but the flowers, notes, letters and stuffed animals
surrounding it just out of focus.

I achieved what I was after and snapped the photo.

Evan certainly dressed the part of an Elysium fan. His look
screamed alternative rocker. Of course so did half my building’s inhabitants.
It was cheap studio apartment housing off campus yet close to campus for an
arts college. There were a lot of eclectic artsy folk that dressed one
stereotype or another. Myself notwithstanding.

Take today for instance. Today my long slim legs were
encased in warm black leggings, a black turtleneck sweater over them that hit
me mid-thigh. I had a wide black belt with a large silver buckle stylishly
canted at my hips. I completed the look with knee high black leather riding

My camera around my neck on its strap, my small black purse
crossways over my chest, my long straight chestnut hair in a chignon knot and
out of my face… I screamed photographer even without the benefit of the camera.
Of course I probably screamed fashion photog rather than photo journalist which
is what I was actually in school for, but still, the stereotype was alive and
well and embodied by me just the same.

I raised my camera and lowered it, thoughts trailing back to
Evan standing so still on the landing earlier… I huffed out a breath.

God, obsessed much!?

I looked at the frame count left on the camera. I had a roll
of 24 in it and hadn’t even gotten half way through it. I looked at my watch
and headed for home. I had to get ready for work.

BOOK: Exit Stage Six: A Contemporary New Adult Romance Novella
11.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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