an excerpt from
The Never Knights Trilogy
by Kailin Gow
Copyright © 2014 by Kailin Gow and published here with her permission
That night I made an extra effort to change before the auditions, although I would never have admitted it to anyone but myself that it was because of Danny Blue. He’d caught me in sweats and a ponytail – well, this time, if he ran into me on campus, he’d see me in my glam rock glory. I squeezed into my favorite white skinny jeans, matching them perfectly to a pair of high-heeled silver sandals encrusted with spikes I’d cut off my dad’s old jacket when I was ten. I had turned one of my dad’s enormous T-shirts into a fashionable halter – the disparity in size was nothing scissors, a needle, and thread couldn’t fix – fending off the night breeze with a black leather motorcycle jacket I’d picked up at a vintage store in San Francisco last summer. The perfect blend of glamour and grunge, I thought, intentional smearing my eyeliner just a touch to give it that studied “morning after” look.
Not that I needed to dress up for Luc and Steve. Their apartment was the epitome of “dressed down” – filled with beanbag chairs, empty Chinese food containers, a games console or two, and a few piles of dirty laundry Luc had given up ever bringing to the bathroom and seemed to have converted into miniature cushions instead. Typical guys, I thought, smelling the familiar aroma of two-day-old pizza as I walked in through the door.
“Looking good!” Steve laughed. “Did you get all dressed up for us, Neve? Or have you got a hot date tonight?”
“You know me,” I said, trying not to think about Danny Blue’s piercing eyes. “I’ve got two dates lined up, back to back.” I settled down on the black leather sofa in the middle of the room, before catching sight of a lacy red bra sticking out between the cushions. “So, guys, is there – uh – something you want to tell me?” I threw the bra over to Steve. “Funny, I wouldn’t have pegged Steve for a 32DD, myself. He looks more like a 36B to me.”
Luc turned redder than the bra itself, his eyes downcast on the floor. Steve, however, only grinned.
“One of those blonde twins, was it?” I looked over at Steve.
“One?” Steve looked like a cat that had finished all the cream. “You underestimate me, my friend.”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t even want to know.” I picked up a pile of dirty socks. “Come on, guys. If we’re going to hold auditions here tonight, can’t we at least try to make the place look professional, okay?” I began moving the laundry into the bedrooms. “Come on guys – help a girl out?”
The others hurried to tidy up.
“So, who’s coming tonight?” I asked.
Steve ran through the updated list. “We’ve got ten sign-ups so far,” he said. “And two recommendations that some other bands sent us.”
“We’ll be up all night,” Luc sighed. “If we want to get through all of them tonight.”
“We don’t have a choice,” said Steve. “It’s already Tuesday night. We need to decide tonight if we want to be ready by Friday. Even now it’ll be a real stretch.”
“So, okay,” I thought for a while. “So if we give them each five minutes to play and about two to introduce themselves, we won’t be more than an hour and a half, tops. That’s not too bad. Then we can sit and deliberate.”
“Hopefully we won’t need to do call-backs.” Steve smiled.
“Hopefully we’ll get enough good people,” I bit my lip anxiously. Would anyone be as good as Geoff?
Our first option wasn’t too promising. When we let “Farmer, John Farmer” through the door, he trudged in wearing a dirty white T-shirt that looked like it had never seen bleach in its lifetime and sneakers that had evidently been tracked through several fields’ worth of mud. His shoelaces were untied and from the smell it seemed reasonably apparent that he hadn’t showered for days.
Maybe he’s just a Kurt Cobain type, I thought to myself, trying to force myself to be more optimistic than I felt.
“So, why do you want to play with us, man?” Steve was trying to be as friendly as possible, but “Farmer, John Farmer’s,” surly demeanor wasn’t making it easy for him. Good old Steve, I thought. Always trying to be friendly – always trying to put the others at ease.
“I just think it’s time for my big break,” John said. “You know, I just need that one break-out gig so I can get famous, move into the big leagues – get my solo deal, you know?”
Luc and I exchanged looks. This guy was a textbook example of what we didn’t want in a band member.
“I hope he’s not good,” Luc whispered into my ear. “Then we’d have to put up with him.”
Luckily for us, he was utterly mediocre, and we felt no guilt when the door slammed behind him and we put a firm X next to his name on the audition list.
“Let’s hope the others aren’t all like him,” said Kyle, “or else we’re pretty screwed.”
The next few that we saw were better – and among the mediocrity we picked out two or three players that we particularly liked – talented guitarists that could do more than hold a pick. A few even jammed with Steve and Kyle – and our spirits started to pick up. But the nagging feeling hadn’t quite gone away. None of these guys is as talented as Geoff – even if they are easier to work with…
By the time the clock struck midnight, we’d all but decided on Eric Southey – a well-meaning USC senior with floppy surfer-blonde hair and a gravelly voice. We didn’t feel amazing about him – he didn’t quite have the “it” that Geoff managed to manifest when rocking out onstage on a Sunday night – but he was talented and solid and seemed like a hard worker.
And then the doorbell rang.
“My friend in The Taxi Cabs texted me this guy’s number,” said Steve. “Said we had to give him a chance. I know it’s last-minute, guys, but do you mind if we see one more.”
“Sure,” Luc shrugged. “Neve, what do you think?”
I shrugged too. “Can’t hurt.”
But no sooner had our final candidate walked in through the door than I turned bright scarlet. There he was again, Danny Blue, looking sexier than ever in a black T-shirt that clung to his ripped, muscular body, leaving little of the chiseled contours of his painfully perfect abs to the imagination. He was wearing leather pants and black combat boots, his hair shining in the moonlight. I could feel myself trembling as I put down my head, hoping he wouldn’t recognize me.
He still has to be good, Neve. We don’t pick on looks – you know that. It’s about the talent.
“Never Ever?” Danny Blue caught my eye. “I thought you looked familiar – why didn’t you say you were from the Never Knights?”
My mouth opened involuntarily. So that’s how he knew me.
“You know our work!”
“’Course I do. I caught your show at the Veridium last week. Pretty solid, if I do say so myself. That’s why I figured I’d come out here, see what you guys make of me. I’m sure you’ll tell me I’m bollocks and send me home, of course. But I thought – what the hell, it’s only an hour, I’ll have a go, make a wanker of myself…” He laughed a charming, self-deprecating laugh, sweeping his long black hair out of his eyes. “I’d tell you all sorts of nice things about your voice, but you’d think I was just buttering you up to get into the band.”
“I’m sure you’re above such petty tactics,” I said, unable to resist a smile at his easy charm.
“I’m sure you’ve heard all those nice things before. About your stage presence. About the way you sing like an angel and smile like a devil. All those things – sure you’ve heard them a million times! They won’t affect you one bit.”
And blush like a schoolgirl, I thought to myself bitterly. Still, if Danny Blue was trying to butter me up, he was doing a pretty good job.
“Aren’t you going to try to flatter all of us?” Luc said, his smile ever so slightly twisted. “Suck up to all of us.”
Danny laughed. “After,” he said. “But first – I thought I might play you a little something. How about ‘Rebel Rebel’ – David Bowie? My favorite!”
“Mine too!” I couldn’t resist blurting out.
And then he was playing, and all words died out like embers. From the moment his fingers first touched his guitar strings, I felt an energy buzzing through the room – an enormous, golden, pulsing force that seemed to enter each one of us in turn. All at once, it felt like we weren’t in a smelly college apartment, weren’t on some college campus – we were alone onstage just the two of us, me and him, feeling the rhythm of the music pulse through and overpower us. This is it, I thought to myself. He’s the one. I had never been so sure of anything in my life.
Danny finished playing, the music still echoing on the amp as it faded into silence.
“I hope I didn’t embarrass myself too badly,” he said, a twinkle in his eye.
We were all silent. Then, we looked at one another – silently trading imperceptible nods.
“Welcome to the band,” I said.
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