A growing line of slightly annoyed customers had begun to form behind Chord. They all clearly had somewhere important to be because they were at a tiny dépanneur just off the highway during the middle of the week at eleven in the morning. The sarcasm didn’t lessen the sting of humiliation that bubbled up with each passing second.
Static Shadow had a rare one day break in their tour schedule – no interviews, photoshoots, meet and greets, or shows – and opposed to laying around the tour bus all day, Chord had begged and pleaded with Tan to go to the museum with him. That hadn’t worked. Not that Chord had any expectations that it would. If Tan didn’t have cause to move, he wouldn’t.
All it took was Kian mentioning that he wanted a bag of dill pickle chips and a coke, and Tan was lacing up his shoes. Chord may have called him a lazy asshole under his breath as he followed him off the bus, but at least he was out. And that’s how he and Tan had wandered to the nearest dépaneur a few blocks from where they parked for the night.
He regretted it almost immediately. Having lived in Vancouver since he had been 8, he’d forgotten about Central Canadian humidity. It wasn’t like the West Coast where they didn’t drink their air, and a light hoodie wasn’t out of place in the shade at the height of summer. The weather wasn’t even the worst part.
All Chord had wanted was a bottle of ginger ale and a bag of gummies to snack on, but the debit machine mocked him with its claim of insufficient funds when their latest single was sitting smugly at number one on the Billboard charts. Breathing through his nose, Chord swiped his card through the reader again. The message on the tiny screen flashed DECLINED for a second time and beeped its condescension at him.
Chord licked his lips and struggled to swallow. His mouth felt dry. His junk food craving barely broke five dollars, and he was rejected.
Still a minor until his birthday in December, Chord didn’t manage his own money. Every month, a small percentage of his steadily increasing income was deposited into a small personal chequing account for him to use as he pleased. Still, his assets were entrusted to his father until he was legal.
It had been a point of contention for years. Chord was old enough to manage his own money. Kids his age had jobs. Their parents didn’t have a stranglehold on their paychecks.
Granted, the stipend was more significant than the average seventeen-year-old’s allowance or part-time job. Last month, Chord bought seven brand new games for his Playstation 3 and paid Shauna’s rent and car payment. He didn’t want for anything, so he could afford to be generous. At least that’s what his belief had been until he failed to pay for a bag of Sour Patch Kids.
“What’s the holdup,” Tan drawled as he shuffled over to Chord from where he had been staring out the store’s front window.
Chord attempted to pull the card out of the machine before Tan caught sight of the humiliating message, but the bassist said nothing. Instead, Tan shoved his hand into the pocket of his jeans and fished out enough change to cover the snacks, which he dumped on the counter before he tugged on one of Chord’s belt loops.
Silent, Chord picked up his purchases and allowed his friend to lead him out of the store where the humidity of an Ontario summer day once again made him regret wearing his black Ramones t-shirt.
Tan shoved his hands into his pockets and wandered down the sidewalk with his own bag of junk food and a carefully concealed box of condoms dangling from his wrist. He remained silent when Chord fell into step beside him.
That’s what Chord liked about Tan. He didn’t pry unless he deemed it necessary. Something about it being too much of a drag to insert himself into other people’s drama. As much as he liked to act indifferent, Chord knew no matter what, Tan would be there if a crisis arose. It didn’t matter if oceans separated them. Tan would make it happen.
The walk back to the tour bus ended much sooner than Chord was prepared for. But as Tan disappeared into the back where Kian was studying, he patted Chord on the shoulder, and suddenly Chord was alone in the main room with his father.
Seated in the small breakfast nook with a half-drunk cup of coffee that had likely gone cold a few hours ago, his father read the morning paper because that was a thing he still did like the dinosaur he was. His glasses rested on the tip of his nose, but his usual tie was missing.
Taking a seat across from his father, Chord powered up his laptop to check his account’s balance. It took a few seconds more than Chord’s patience lasted, but the screen loaded, and Chord stopped breathing for a few seconds.
“Trente-deux sous,” Chord whispered in disbelief. That couldn’t be correct. Money was supposed to be deposited at the beginning of the month.
“Hmm? Did you say something?” Chord’s father asked in French. He turned a page and shook out the paper to straighten it.
“No, sir,” Chord responded. But he was already clicking the online account summary and scanning the bank statements. Money had never been deposited into his account at the beginning of the month.
For several long minutes, Chord stared at his computer screen, not fully able to believe what he was seeing. The only person authorized to manage his money was his father.
Glancing over the edge of the screen, Chord cleared his throat. “Uhh… papa?” he said. His father grunted, as if that somehow assured Chord that he was listening. Hesitant, Chord spun his computer around to show his father his findings. “Something seems to be wrong with my account.”
His father glanced up from the newspaper, took a brief look at the screen, and snorted before returning his attention to the paper. “If you have already spent your money, I’m not authorizing another deposit. Time to learn financial responsibility.”
Chord flicked his snake bites with his tongue and closed the screen of his laptop. “But… it wasn’t deposited this month.”
The pages of the paper crinkled as his father flipped to the next section. “I’ll look into it,” he said, and snapped the paper.
The sharp glare over the edge of the paper was enough. Chord’s shoulders slumped, and he studied the table in front of him.
Now was not the time. They were on tour. They didn’t need to have a screaming match on the bus where they’d be trapped for weeks together. As much as people claimed he loved drama, he hated conflict. His father had said his piece.
End of discussion.
Static Shadow’s tour had finally taken them into southern Ontario, and between appearances and interviews, they had what could almost be considered free time if they squinted at it just right. Kian had dragged Tan, in the literal sense, to see Star Trek in the theatre, again. Not much watching would likely happen. As long as their faces didn’t end up plastered all over the news for public indecency, Chord didn’t care what they did. However, Chord’s father had tracked down the nearest Starbucks to enjoy his pretentious coffee to read the paper in relative peace.
So, alone for the first time in weeks, Chord had taken the rare opportunity to video chat with Shauna away from prying eyes. He sat cross-legged on the bench seat at the pull-out table with his laptop in front of him. Shauna’s slightly grainy image was on screen. Every few minutes, Chord gave into his compulsion to glance at the door, prepared for his father to burst in and catch him.
His father – as overly involved in his life as he clearly was – disapproved of his current relationship with the band’s former merch girl. Good thing he was completely unaware of Chord’s previous romantic entanglements, exploits, or his sexuality and sex life. Life in general, really.
Actually, if Chord were honest, only two members of his family were privy to that little piece of information about his raging bisexuality. Namely, his older sister Ayla, and his grandfather on his father’s side, whom he called Papi.
The day he had come out to his sister, he stumbled and stuttered, struggling to find the words to convey his deepest, darkest secret for ten minutes until she finally laughed at his inability to say a word. Chord had jumped, ready to run because his sister laughing hardly ever led to anything good. The woman was terrifying. He loved her, but she was the scariest person he knew, edging out his father by a wide margin.
But Ayla had pulled him into a tight hug and whispered, “sweetie, I already know.” Because of course she did. She knew everything. Absolutely everything. God, he loved her.
Chord had never doubted his sister again, and she became the driving support behind him first stepping foot into his high school GSA club. Thanks to her, he had learned to accept himself, and the band met. Static Shadow had been born from an awkward blowjob and a slice of pie to the face on a Tuesday afternoon.
Kian always acted a little weirded out about his first sexual encounter with Chord. Never happened again, but he’d met Chord before Tan, and constantly worried that Tan would be jealous. But really, anyone who knew Tan would realize it wasn’t in him to get worked up over anything, so Chord liked to tease Kian shamelessly about it when he walked in on them. Which happened more than he was comfortable with. Seeing two hot guys get it on would ordinarily be the dream, but when they were your two best friends, brothers even, it was all kinds of weird.
Shauna scowled at Chord from the screen. She was sitting in a deck chair on her downtown apartment balcony. The sun glinted off the lenses of the designer shades Chord bought her before he left on tour.
“I need more money.”
“I know,” Chord said. He stared down at his lap. His fingers twisted in the hem of his hoodie’s sleeve, and his tongue played with the silver rings through his lower lip. “I’m working on it. It just… it might take a few days.”
“What do you expect me to do in the meantime?” Shauna snapped.
Chord squirmed in his seat, fingers picking at a loose thread. “I can borrow from… Kian?” he mumbled. “Maybe.”
Borrowing from Kian carried the lowest risk. He wouldn’t ask questions beyond an immediate response of ‘sure how much?’ and possibly whip out his bankcard. Really, he’d probably hand it over freely with the PIN written on a post-it note stuck to the back, whereas Tan would prod with unnecessary questions. Zeroing out your bank account at the dep was one thing; easily explained with excuses of spending a little too much on junk food and video games, but asking to borrow a few thousand dollars was another. Tan’s sharp instincts would kick in.
A small smile snuck up on Chord, and he felt the corners of his mouth curling up despite his better judgement. Sometimes, he loved Kian. If Kian hadn’t absolutely fallen head over heels in love with Tan, Chord may have considered dating him. His best friend was the ultimate form of oblivious patience and understanding.
The camera shook, and the image blurred for a few seconds as Shauna moved. “Figure it out,” she said.
Chord kept his gaze lowered, daring to peek through his bangs, but nodded along in absolute agreement. Submission was usually the easiest method to avoid a confrontation with Shauna.
It hadn’t always been like this. Chord still remembered the days he and Shauna snuck away to a park, any park, and lie under the stars cuddled together on a smuggled blanket. Shauna had been sweet and cute, and adorable, and just perfect.
Chord had ruined everything. He had been the one to screw up, not Shauna. It was his fault. He knew that. At the time, he hadn’t even considered the consequences of his actions. Only that he needed to be on tour, and he would do anything to accomplish his goals, even if it meant leaving her behind.
“You’re not home for Christmas, right?”
Chord’s head shot up, and he shook his head.
The background had changed. Shauna was no longer outside, but now seated in the recliner in the living room. There was a huge bookshelf filled with vinyl records against the wall behind him. The collection had grown since the last time Chord had been there.
“Then, don’t you think I deserve my Christmas present now?” Shauna said. She pulled off her sunglasses and tossed them aside.
Chord blinked at the screen for a moment. He had just gone over his current financial dilemma. “But-”
Shauna leaned forward. “I think you owe me. So why don’t you be a good boy, and shimmy out of those pants for me. Nice and slow.”
For a moment, Chord gaped. Mouth opening and closing like a goldfish. He glanced at the door for the millionth time and shifted in his seat. “Shauna…”
Closing his eyes, Chord breathed out through his nose. Finally, he picked up his laptop to move to the relative safety of the back of the bus to give Shauna what she wanted.