Josh squinted as the full rays of the sun hit his face. He pulled his cap off his head and ran a hand through his hair. It felt greasy under his touch, and he realized that he’d skipped having a shower this morning. Drat her! he thought. He sat up and looked around. His head still felt sore, but the worst of the hangover had abated.

‘Back with us then mate!’ the deep voice of Luke boomed out from the back seat. His voice sounded muffled as if he was eating. Josh looked back to where the rest of the band usually sat. Mad Mikey was by the window, staring out at the rolling hills of Northumberland as if in a trance. Next to him, Luke was holding a package which had a strong smell wafting off it. He held it up to Josh, waving the paper as if it were a raggedy dolly.

‘Here, have a bite. You must be famished, you haven’t eaten anything all day. We didn’t want to wake you from your slumbers. Your girlfriend has been texting you all day. She wants to know where the next gig is. Didn’t you tell her?’ Luke grinned at him, enjoying his discomfort. Josh turned back and pulled on his cap.

It had become a standing joke now with the band: him and Anna. He had met her at one of the earlier gigs, about two years ago. She would stand at the front of the stage, swaying to the noise that came from the speakers. In those days, it was just a load of feedback and static. They had become more sophisticated since then, more stylish. After a few gigs, she had progressed to selling some of their CDs and t shirts from the sideline of the stage. As the gigs became more and more popular, they filled up, until a bunch of girls stood in front of the stage, bopping away. Most liked Josh, his good looks and strong voice sending them in raptures. The fans would know all the words to their songs, and would hold up their hands in raptures.

There was usually a party afterwards. Anna made sure she was at every one of them. Josh was flattered by her at first; the way she would hang onto every word he said, beer can in his hand, putting the world to rights. He remembered the first night they’d slept together. Or rather, he’d fallen into a spare room bed at Luke’s place, and Anna had snuggled up beside him. He had woken the next day, naked and disorientated, with a fuzzy taste in his mouth. A naked Anna had snored beside him, a small form under the huge duvet.

Since then, he’d spent most nights with her, or whenever there had been a gig. He still lived at his folks’ place, and his mother did not like him bringing women home. ‘Can you see how one night stands are the curse of society, Josh? I won’t have it in my house!’ she had bleated at him, whilst his dad had hidden behind a newspaper. Still, they had liked Anna. She had been nineteen at the time, but looked so much younger. Maybe his parents’ disapproval was the reason he had been put off by her? He opened his eyes a fraction, just as the van slowed down at some traffic lights. The road was bumpy and pot holed here, and his stomach lurched. He’d had to convince himself that he was not taking advantage of her, but she was totally mesmerized by him!

Two years later, they were an ‘item.’ Josh knew that he treated her badly, but she seemed to come back for more. She was like an irritating puppy, all wagging tail and gorgeous looks, that you could not ignore.  He ridiculed her in front of the other band members, but she was still around. He very rarely took her out on a date, and when he did it was always takeaway pizza on his mum’s couch and a quick fumble before he told her to leave. She would look at him with a disappointed look on her face, as he opened the front door into the cold of the night. Still, she came back for more.

As the van rattled and shook on the motorway, he thought of Sophie. Now, she was a classy girl! He had first laid eyes on her at an after party gig in a pub on the fringes of Newcastle, just a few weeks back. She was the landlord’s daughter, back home from university. She had been standing in the corner area of the bar with a young bloke, who had his arms around her shoulders. It was obvious to anyone in the room that they were a couple, but this had not deterred Josh.

He had made his way to where she stood, and introduced himself as the front man in the band. For once, a girl had not been impressed by him! His good looks and success seemed not penetrate her at all, and he had felt deflated by the experience. This was new to him, used as he was to the attention of women. He remembered grabbing Anna and dragging her upstairs that night. He had wanted to make Sophie jealous!

Now, he felt ashamed of himself. He had used Anna, and she did not deserve this treatment from him. Last night was proof of that. He would have to tell her that they were finished. Then maybe he could get with Sophie?

The thought cheered him up, and he sat upright in the passenger seat, just as the sign for Newcastle upon Tyne rushed past the window. The sun was setting on the horizon, and things were looking up.

Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

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