Breath By Breath Ch. 05
It was not until one in the morning that they made it back to their rooms. They had probably emptied all the vodka at the bar, and then stumbled into the car, plastered. Kyle had crashed on his bed fully clothed and started to snore right away. The others had not been any better. Brandon could tell he was soberer than the other lads because he was still awake two hours later.
He fumbled for his phone in the dark, accidentally knocked his watch down, and then finally decided to switch on the lamp. Kyle had rolled over, now only in his underwear. He had probably stripped off his clothes in his sleep. Brandon wondered how he did that.
Phone in hand, he debated if he should remain in the room or go out. Kyle was drunk and unconscious, so it would not matter. It was late. He was tired and tipsy. But he could not sleep. Not without…
He pressed the number on speed dial. Isabel had a mobile phone but she hardly ever used it. So he tried the house phone. One of the extensions remained in her room, and with Ben’s parents staying over in London for the night, she would be the one to pick up, if at all. There was no way Elsa was answering a call at three in the morning. Not even a bomb could wake her up.
When the phone started to ring on the other end, Brandon sat up, bouncing his legs uneasily. It was wrong to wake her up at that ungodly hour. She had school the next day. She needed to sleep well.
And just then the call connected.
His breath caught. Isabel’s sleepy, throaty voice down the line poured into his ears and ran through his veins.
“Izzi?” he said, his voice almost a whisper, not wanting Kyle to hear him. A long pause followed.
“Brandy?” There was recognition in her voice. “It’s three in the morning.”
“I know.” He glanced at the sleeping form of Kyle, then shuffled down from the bed, opened the door, and walked barefoot out of the room. “I couldn’t sleep… I…”
“You’re drunk.” It was a statement. Isabel did not like people getting intoxicated. She could never understand why anyone would want to drink so much that it deprived them of their senses.
“I’m still a lot better than the other lads,” he tried to explain. “I’m just… I’m sorry I woke you up–“
“No. I was awake.”
Brandon frowned. “Awake? At three in the morning?”
“I woke up an hour ago. Thought of going over the lessons for the test today.”
“Couldn’t sleep?” There was a faint smile on his lips, but he felt bad deep inside whenever she could not sleep well. She was on sleeping pills, but she often cheated and tried to sleep on her own. It would hardly ever help and she’d go through the next day with tired eyes and a confused mind.
“I’m fine,” she said. “Why aren’t you sleeping?”
“Because I’m missing you.” He leaned against the wall, the overhead light drawing his silhouette on the carpeted floor of the hallway. “You didn’t say you wouldn’t be here today.”
“You didn’t ask.”
“Ben said you’d be here for the show.”
“I didn’t tell him anything. He must have lied.” There was a pause again and the sound of turning pages. “How was the show?”
“Amazing,” he sighed, closing his eyes. His legs were wobbly. He looked around for someplace to sit, but there was nothing except a long, deserted hallway. “Wish you were here.”
“I’m not fit company.”
“That’s what you think. To me, you’re the best company in the world.”
“That’s because you’re an eejit.”
He did not miss that. Eejit, was it? The realisation that she was catching onto Irish mannerisms made him smile.
“No, just in love with you.” He sank to his feet, crouching on the floor. “So in love with you. You’re beautiful.”
“And you’re really tipsy. Please go to bed. Don’t you have anywhere to be in the morning?”
“I can’t remember. Anto will remind us.”
Anto was their tour manager, always trying to herd them, discipline them. He only ended up frustrated most of the time, because they were wild and uncontrollable. Just what you’d expect from lads barely out of their teens.
“Poor Anto,” Isabel sighed. “You give him grief.”
“We’re only kids,” he pouted.
“Kids with sudden fame and money, huh?” She yawned, and he heard a page turn again. “I think you should go.”
“I’m bothering you?”
“Kind of. I’m trying to revise my lessons here.”
Brandon laughed quietly, adoring her sweetness. Despite all that she had experienced in her young life, she was never mean to anybody. His mother had loved them together from the first day and gone on to tell him that she’d be a fine woman in future.
“What about the writing contest?” he suddenly remembered.
“I’ve sent my entry. Not hoping for anything though.”
“Your smile,” he sighed. “You don’t smile anymore.” He wanted to say she did not cry either, but it did not matter.
“There’s nothing to smile about.”
They’d had that conversation before and she had always said the same thing. At three in the morning, it did not make sense to argue about it again, especially when he was drunk.
“I should be home in two weeks,” he said, his speech turning a little slurry. He rose to his feet because he feared he would fall asleep right in the hallway. “Is there any way I can see you before that?”
“Yes, if you can come home sooner.”
“Doesn’t seem possible. We’ll head to Tenerife for a shoot, but it’s a one-day thing and we’ll be heading to Dublin right after…” He sighed again. “God, I miss you so much. Are you okay?”
“Hmm. How’s everybody?”
“Great. We’re having fun. It’s like a whirlwind but we wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Izzi…” He breathed, then swallowed. “I wish I could see you. Haven’t seen you in weeks now.”
“I miss you too.”
“Oh, god.” He dropped his head back and winced when it made a hollow thud against the wall. “I’m keeping you… I better go.”
“Please try to get some sleep.” His tone was concerned. “You’ll fall ill.”
“I won’t. Please go.”
“I love you.”
There was a pause. He knew she would not say anything in reply to that, knew it was too soon for her, but…
“I love you, too.”
His eyes snapped open. Did he hear that right?
“You’re serious?” he mumbled. On the other end, Isabel was probably rolling her eyes.
“Why would I joke about something like this?”
“It’s the first time you’ve said that to me.”
“I needed time to perfect it inside my head.”
“It’s too late for this, Brandy,” she groused. “Now go. Please. Goodnight.”
He clutched the phone to his chest, trying to remember how to breathe. And then with slow, unsteady steps, he made his way back to his room, the happiest man in the world.
The middle-aged gent was talking about their new single from their first album, which had debuted on No.1, making it their second song and their second hit. It was early, they were at a radio show in Dublin for an interview, and were scheduled to go straight back to the hotel for breakfast. They were starving.
Brandon and Nathan usually did most of the talking. Mark was the quiet one, only talked when spoken to. Kyle handled the difficult questions- marketing, budgeting. They joked he had Louis’ number on speed dial, always talking business with him. Ben was the funny one. You asked him something and then spent the next ten minutes trying to get your breath back.
They talked about their new hit single, their upcoming album, and how it felt being small-town lads from Ireland dominating the pop scene. They were used to those questions and also had set answers for them. They did not have a lot of control over these things. They needed to listen to management, whether it was their clothes, their food, or their relationships. They knew the systematic crap they had to repeat at interviews, when to smile and when to act totally unaffected.
It was not going to be an easy life. But they would not want to change any of it. That was their dream, and they were living it.
Ben was answering a question about his dual identity and if he preferred one over the other. Nathan was next, talking about the similarities and differences between being on the football pitch and on the stage. He also said that he had wanted to join the guards, but Pentoniac was the most amazing turn of life he could have expected.
The interviewer asked Brandon about his childhood obsession with Michael Jackson. The frontman enlightened the listeners that he had indeed taught himself to do the moonwalk, knew all the moves to Bad, and used to sit his sisters down and practise dialogues on them. He spoke about his first break on stage as Artful Dodger in his school adaptation of Oliver Twist when he was fourteen and how playing Danny Zuko in Grease cemented his fate as an entertainer. He also responded to questions about his talent for rugby, golf, and horseracing.
A pang of sadness welled up somewhere inside him. Growing up, it was not smooth sailing all the time. Money was often short in their family of nine, and on many days they only had leftovers from the restaurant for dinner. What they did have in abundance was chips, and cans of Fanta and Coke. It was cheap and easily available and he did not blame his parents for trying to cut corners raising a big family. He loved having several siblings, never got picked on because he had three older brothers to protect him, and being part of the busy restaurant always made him happy.
Today, he had a million-pound album deal and growing money that allowed him to upgrade the barn, drive a fancy car, and make plans to buy his parents a house. If that was not grace, he had no idea what was.
“Hey.” Kyle whispered to him in the van on their way back to the hotel. Brandon looked away from the window and gave him a small smile.
“Hey,” he said to his blonde friend. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I just…” Kyle bit his lip and glanced around quickly. “I wanted to say… I’m sorry about what I said that day in London. About you and Izzi…”
Brandon stared at him, then nodded, accepting his apology. Kyle did not always apologise, was kind of arrogant, so it felt nice that he’d had good sense. He only wished he had not said that at all.
“I can understand those who call her weird without knowing her story,” Brandon murmured, looking out of the window again. “Hadn’t expected it from you, though.”
“I know. Shit.” A hand fell on his knee. “I hurt you. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay.” He looked at him, tapping the hand that was on his knee. “Just don’t repeat it.”
“You really love her, dontchya?” he smiled. Brandon laughed a little.
“Funny you should ask that, after all this time.” He raised an eyebrow. “How long have you known me, again?”
“Have to go back a few decades then,” Kyle laughed back.
“A few? You haven’t even been here for two.” The soft, smirking voice was that of Ben, beside the driver. “We are heading straight to breakfast, right?”
“Oh, yeah.” Brandon yawned. “I need food.”
“Me too.” Mark raised his hand, half-asleep in the other corner. They laughed, as Nathan punched him lightly in the belly.
It was only after they reached the restaurant that he saw it. Nathan had picked up the newspaper from the lounge, wondering if there was anything about them.
“Look, lads. Here’s our interview.” He held up the entertainment section of the paper so that the others could see.
“Which one?” Kyle asked. The Dubliner shrugged.
“Don’t remember. But this was probably last week.”
“Show me.” Brandon snatched the paper from him, his eyes falling on the file picture of the five of them in black leather. He skimmed through the text, reading only his parts. There was a certain fun in reading your own interview. His family always became so excited every time they were shown on TV or featured in the paper. If he was not mistaken, his mother even recorded some of their interviews.
And then he saw it.
“What?” He had not realised he had said that out loud until Kyle, who was also reading the interview while he held the paper, glanced at him. Brandon shook his head, his eyes refusing to leave that paragraph.
Interviewer: Brandon, you’re rumoured to be dating X-Factor finalist Jessica Forman. Is that true?
Brandon: No! (laughs) I’m single, not dating anyone. It’s so hard to date when you’re in a boyband. The schedules are hectic, you’re always travelling, and it’s also hard to trust people now when you’re getting famous. I’m happy being single as of now. When I find someone good enough… we’ll see what happens.
“Shit, shit, shit.” He threw the paper away and dropped his face in his hands. That was disastrous. Everyone would see it. His family. Ben’s family. Isabel.
Brandon knew she read all of their interviews, she had told him so. She would definitely read that one too. After all, it was Ireland’s leading paper.
He knew he’d been asked by management to say that. The lads knew it too. But no one else did. And now everyone would think he was playing with Isabel’s feelings.
“Geez.” Mark shook his head, sympathetically. “Are you in trouble?”
Brandon did not know. He only prayed he was not.