Left Behind - Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer's tale Chapter 2

Last week I posted chapter one, New York from MG's point of view. I'm continuing the countdown to the November 2nd release date today with chapter two. It's a first look at Steve's life post high school and post MG. He's starting to see where he doesn't want his life to go, but he has no idea what he does want to do. 

Enjoy and remember that you can preorder your copy of Popstars now on Amazon and it will be delivered to your Kindle on November 2nd.

Chapter 2

Steve’s afternoons with Carrie were the highlight of his week. Since his dad refused to get a phone for their apartment (“Don’t want anyone to call me”) he had to just hope he would see her pull up in Ben’s jeep on Tuesdays and Thursdays at three.

They watched reruns together, she brought him food from the restaurant where she worked, and being around her reminded him of high school, and MG. There was no way to justify how much he missed MG. She was never really his girlfriend so she never broke up with him, but she left him behind, just the same. Now she was in New York, with her mom, chasing some dream of big money and a big life. And he was here, hanging out with her best friend, clinging to the way he had felt when he was around her. 

His dad wandered into the kitchen, which could easily be seen from the living room. He and Steve worked the night shift together at Tricon, so he was just getting up and, as usual, he hadn’t bothered to put pants on. 

“Put some god-damned pants on,” Steve yelled. He had to tell him this every time Carrie was coming over. 

“Why? That lil cutie comin’ over again?”

Steve glared at his dad. It almost seemed like he wanted Carrie to catch him in his underwear. Like she’d be interested in some sorry-assed, middle-aged man. Steve looked at his dad, slumped over the door of the refrigerator, searching the contents for anything edible. He was tall, lean, and lanky; just like Steve. And like his son, he was also a lot stronger than he looked. Steve had seen him heft some seriously heavy boxes at the warehouse. But time and bad living was definitely taking a toll on him. He had blotchy skin on his face, some from too much sun, some old scars. His hair was starting to recede from his forehead, particularly on the sides. And he had the nastiest smoker’s hack when he woke up, like now. Coming up empty on his search of the fridge, he scoured the cabinets, lungs rattling, working up to a vile-sounding coughing fit. 

Steve snubbed his own cigarette out in the overflowing ashtray on the floor next to the couch. “Her name’s Carrie and she doesn’t want to see you in your underwear.”

“How do you know? She smiled at me last time she was here.”

Shit! Sometimes his old man just drove him insane, maybe because they were too much alike. At one point in time, Jim Shrader was a charmer and a flirt and a ladies man. Then he met Steve’s mom, his waterloo. He fell hard for her and was actually thrilled when she got pregnant their junior year of high school, the result being Steve’s older brother, Tony. To this day he kinda wondered if Tony really was his full brother. They were nothing alike, in looks or personality. He wondered if his mom had just decided Jim Shrader was most likely to marry her. A marriage that lasted all of ten months before she bolted, leaving Jim with a newborn. The other thing Steve never understood was why his dad took her back five years later, when she had Steve then left again. His best guess was that his mom was a drug addict and Jim thought he could save her, or she was reformed briefly, or something like that.

Not that he would ever know those answers. Neither he nor Jim was much for talking. They were both so laid-back they could be home together for days and never say more than two words to each other. Yep, him and his dad, two mellow-assed saps for women. It depressed the hell out of him how much his life was starting to look like his dad’s.

Carrie knocked on the door. Steve pleaded with his eyes for his dad to go in his room. Jim reluctantly complied. 

“They were out of chicken fried steak, so I got you meatloaf.”

She spoiled him. She went out of her way to do things to make him happy. With her boyfriend Ben away at basic training, it was like she needed someone to dote on as much as he liked being doted on, so it worked.

“Meatloaf’s great, thanks.” He held the door then closed it behind her.

“I grabbed a bunch of plastic forks and knives from the take-out bin too.”  

The first time she showed up with a meal for him they had to look under the couch for one of the three forks he and his dad owned. It took a lot of hot water to get the gunk off it. She had been bringing plastic utensils ever since. 

“Good idea.” He dropped his voice a little. “My dad’s here and awake, so let’s just go in my room.”

Carrie set the bag containing his dinner on the floor and plopped on his mattress, which sat on the floor. Her Swiss-themed uniform skirt poofed out in a circle around her. Steve shut the door, retrieved the bag of food, and propped himself up against the wall, sitting on his pillow, to eat his meatloaf.

“You will not believe what I heard today.”  Carrie lay down, her head on his out-stretched legs. This was something new, touching each other—nothing sexual, just touching in some way, filling the gaping affection void in both their lives. 

“Rat-boy got busted.” Rat-boy was their nickname for a kid from their class who, well, had a rat face. He opened a pizza place right after graduation, but everyone knew it was a front for his drug dealing. 

“Fuckin’ moron, probably sold to a cop.”

Carrie smirked and nodded. “If he names names, would you be in trouble?”

Steve popped another chunk of meatloaf in his mouth and shook his head no. He never bought from Rat-boy because he was a stupid fuck who cheated his way through high school. He doubted he’d changed much in the seven months since they graduated. 

Carrie rolled onto her back and picked at a torn cuticle. Steve finished his dinner. He set the plate on the crate he used as a side table, almost knocking the card off of it. It was a graduation card from MG and her mom, the only one he got. He set the card upright again. 

“Are you going out Friday night?” It would be New Year’s Eve, 2000. People were going crazy all over the place with big parties or fears of the world ending.

He shrugged. “Party at Chuck’s house. I might go. You?”

“Probably just stay at Casey’s and hang out with her and Gina.” Carrie looked up at him and smiled. “So tonight I’m gonna party like its 1999,” she sang. Steve chuckled softly and tugged at a tendril of her hair that was lying across his knee. He stretched and grabbed an ashtray with a half-smoked joint in it. He lit it, held the smoke in his lungs then blew it away from Carrie. 

“I definitely thought life after high school would be more exciting than this, didn’t you?”

He shrugged.

“Is this what you want to be doing? Ten years from now?”

He shook his head. “But I don’t have a fucking clue what else I could do.” He thought about his old man. Twenty-five years at Tricon, hefting boxes, moving crates, night after night.

“What do you say we just take off, start driving, see where we end up?”

He smiled at her. “In what?”

She smirked. “Good point.” Neither of them owned a car. He used his brother’s motorcycle while Stony was in jail and Carrie was using Ben’s jeep while he was in basic training. 

Carrie thought about asking him where he would want to go, if they could just take off, but she pretty much already knew the answer, New York.


On Friday night he thought about staying home ‘til his dad showed up with a bunch of his buddies and some rank looking women around ten o’clock. They gave him a beer and a shot of some nasty sweet liquor before he set off on foot. Chuck’s house was only three blocks away so he could walk there and not worry about getting too wasted and driving home, but he had to make a stop first at the gas station pay phone five blocks in the other direction.

He was still shaking off the cold from walking so far, standing in the doorway between Chuck’s living room and kitchen, when she approached him. The party was so loud there was no reason to attempt conversation. She held a torn-off piece of plastic plant over her head and looked at him with anticipation and waited. 

His eyes questioned if he was supposed to know her or know what to do.

“It’s mistletoe,” she shouted.

He chuckled. He wasn’t one hundred percent sure what mistletoe looked like, but the leaf over her head probably wasn’t it. He had to give her credit for creativity. She was kind of cute - petite, brown hair that hung to her shoulders, and a slightly crooked front tooth that she was not afraid to show when she smiled. He still shook his head no. She looked at him with sulking eyes, then walked away to try her mistletoe trick on someone else. 

A half hour later he was standing in the back yard, freezing his ass off, sharing a joint with a few people when she appeared again. She joined the group, standing next to him. She took a hit when it came to her, then said, “You’re Steve Shrader, aren’t you?” when she passed it to him.

He nodded his head while he took a hit then passed it to his left. “Do I know you?”

She laughed a nervous laugh and wrapped her flannel shirt tighter around herself. “No, but I was here before, a long time ago. I met a girl who told me you’ve got amazing fingers and a magic dick.”

Steve choked on the smoke in his lungs and started coughing and laughing at the same time. There was only one girl who would do that, MG. Fuck if she wasn’t trying to make sure he wasn’t alone after she was gone. He shook his head. “Yeah, well the girl who told you that is a pathological liar.”

She boldly looked him right in the eyes. “Yeah, well, I heard it from more than one girl.” 
She stuck out her hand like she wanted to shake his. “I’m Amanda.”

He moved his beer to his left hand so he could shake hers. Just as they touched the countdown started from inside the house. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.” Amanda moved in close and tilted her head up, her look daring him to turn her down. He couldn’t be an asshole and leave her hanging at midnight on New Year’s Eve. He leaned down and touched his lips lightly to hers. She snaked her arms around his neck and pulled him lower and deeper into the kiss. He dropped his nearly-empty beer and rolled with the momentum, wrapping his arms around her, sliding his tongue into her mouth, feeling for the cute, crooked front tooth. She went on tiptoes, sliding her body up his along the way, hoping she would feel him getting hard for her. He was. That was all the incentive she needed. She broke the kiss and took his hand, pulling him toward the front of the house. “Come on.”

He followed willingly, smiling at her boldness. “Where we goin’?”

“My apartment.”