I managed to exceed all the targets I sat myself for picowrimo this time round, even if I didn't quite finish the story within the month. It's almost there, and here follow the final week's excerpts:
[Michael is still chatting with his new friend...]
He finished his pint. "You want another?"
"I'll go. It's packed over there, and I can duck under some of those guys' elbows better than you."
"Let me pay, at least." He pulled a note out of his wallet, careful not to let anyone see just how packed it was with tens and twenties. Stowing it back in his inner pocket, he watched Mina walking to the bar, the hem of her skirt bouncing off her bum. Sweet Zeus, he'd thought Patricia wore skimpy underwear.
As Mina returned from the bar, carrying two pints of beer, as well as a bottle of differently-coloured juice to her previous drink, the crowd surged back towards the stage.
"You can go down the front, if you want," he said as she placed the glasses in front of him, and counted out his change. "I'll stay here."
"Not going to dance with me?"
"Not tonight." He wasn't quite sure how good his balance would be if he got jostled, and besides he was on a mission to learn about sound quality and effects, not to play with pretty girls.
[Michael has agreed to rent Jimmy's spare room in the hope that getting some space will help him figure out how he feels about Patricia...]
"Oh, Michael." She set the phone down next to the iPad, and sat on the bed beside him, sliding her arm around his shoulders in a friendly, rather than seductive manner. "What must you think of me?"
Michael shrugged. What was he supposed to think?
"Did you stay out all night because of what happened?"
"Went to see a band. Stayed with a mate. He's asked me if I want to rent his spare room."
"And do you?"
"I... I really like you, Patricia." He reached across and took her lace-gloved hand. "If we're going to make a go of things, I need some space first. I can't risk our friendship, or the band, over some fling that we haven't thought through."
"It wouldn't be a fling. Not for me."
"That's what I mean. We can't rush into anything, if we want it to last." He gave her hand a squeeze. "We can go out together properly, away from the rest of the band. Figure out what we want, one thing at a time."
Roger yelled something from downstairs.
"He's got new contracts for us all," Patricia said.
"Have you signed them yet?"
"I was waiting for you. I think there's wording you'll want changed slightly."
Roger handed a folder of papers to Michael as soon as he stepped off the stairs.
Michael sat down in an armchair, and read through them very carefully. Roger was listed as second guitar and the band's manager; Simon Smith, appearing as Simon Faust, was the new double-bass player; Monty Summers was named as booking agent and promoter; Michael's role was described as 'sound mixing and effects'.
"Monty's our agent now?"
"I sacked the old firm. They were all right in the beginning, but they've been useless recently. You missed a lot of it, but there were some tremendous cock-ups after the accident."
"But why Monty?"
"I've checked him out, and he's good." Roger's tone implied he was unlikely to back down on this point.
"And here." Michael pointed to the words that he was even more keen to have changed. "What's this you've put down for me?"
[Michael has been putting himself about a bit...]
"You need to slow down," Jimmy said, one afternoon when he'd dragged Michael outside to help him weed around the older graves in the churchyard. "You can't keep up the pace indefinitely. Take it from one who knows."
"How would you know?" Michael hauled on a clump of bindweed, harder than was strictly necessary. "You were lead guitar and vocals. You must have had girls flocking after you all the time."
"And you didn't before?"
"Competing against four other blokes? Even Nigel got laid more often than I did."
"And what about Patricia? You're still carrying a torch for her. What if she finds out what you've been getting up to?"
"She won't. She's not going to any gigs at the moment." Patricia was doing some kind of uni project in between rehearsals. With voluntary work on top of that, he doubted she'd have the energy, much less the time to find out what other local and not-so-local bands were doing, the way that Michael was.
"You can't keep her waiting forever. What if she meets someone else? What if you meet someone you want to keep on seeing?"
"I won't. I just need some time to figure stuff out." If he left it long enough, the memories of Patricia dead in the mortuary would fade, and with them the fear that touching her would trigger another of those horrific flashbacks that had totally ruined the mood before. "And it's not like we're avoiding each other completely."
[Michael has gone to watch the others rehearse...]
Patricia looked as pale as ever, and she appeared to have lost more weight in the few days since Michael had last seen her. He had to stop messing her around; it was evidently doing her no good at all, pining for him like that. Not that the guys looked much better: too many late nights and too many daylight hours rehearsing had left all of them looking more than a little washed out. Only the new guy, Simon, looked healthy: remarkably so for a guy who'd supposedly been at death's door less than a month ago.
[Then a little later...]
Patricia hung back, as the others carried their gear out of the hall. She set down the drums she had just picked up.
Michael manoeuvred his own bundle of amp and leads onto the stage beside him.
"Well? What did you think?"
"You need a keyboard player."
"What do you think?"
She took a step forward and wrapped her arms around his neck. Then she tilted her head up to kiss him. Her lips were cold, and dry in spite of all those sips from her water bottle, but Michael found he didn't care.
Not that much anyway; he pulled away before Patricia could take matters any further. "One step at a time, remember?"
[Michael works stuff out, and continues to worry about Patricia...]
They usually ate somewhere after rehearsals. Not always at posh restaurants; sometimes they'd just go for coffee, or they'd have a slap-up meal in a caff. Michael found it easier to keep his distance in public, and he had Jimmy's house-rules as an excuse for not inviting Patricia in when she took him home late, and for not inviting her up to his room when they went straight back without eating first.
"Let's eat in," Patricia said. "Roger will be at the pub with the others for ages yet. We can order a pizza when we get back to mine, and I promise to make sure you get home before midnight. We don't want you turning into a pumpkin, do we?"
"Suppose not." Michael felt his world shrinking around him, as if a trap had been sprung.
Patricia bounced up, and kissed the tip of his nose. "That's settled then. We can have some proper couple-time for once."
[Patricia has been sneaking around in Roger's emails, and reported back to Michael that the band will be touring sooner than expected, and in more impressive venues than previously. Of course then they end up back on the topic of why Michael doesn't want to stay the night (the possibility of Roger doing the protective older brother thing notwithstanding)...]
"Then it must be me. That's it, isn't it? You don't fancy me any more."
"Don't be daft." Michael slipped his arm around her waist, and pulled her close, careful to ensure she ended up resting her head on his shoulder, rather than sitting in his lap. "You know how much you mean to me."
"But it's complicated? How long are we going to go on like this?"
"As long as it takes me to get my head together." He ran his hand through her dry, brittle hair that never seemed to hold colour for more than a day or two since the accident. "Surely it's better this way? Don't let's spoil it by arguing."
"You're right." She snuggled into him. "Besides, we can't break up now. There's a tour to plan for."
[Michael has offered himself as a musical duelist to save the others...]
Michael felt the words like a punch to the stomach. If Simon won for Monty, there'd be no band and, he suspected, no graves to visit either. He reached out to the tomb for support. "What would be an acceptable prize?"
"How about me?" Jimmy stepped up beside Michael.
"How did you get here?" You can't do this. I'm not worth it. None of us are worth it.
"I pressed redial on the phone. Told the taxi company I was concerned about one of my flock, and could a driver pick me up and take me to wherever their man had dropped you?"
"A vicar," Monty said. "Now your soul would be a prize worth having. Shall we shake on the deal?"
"One moment." Jimmy slung his arm across Michael's shoulders, and leaned down towards his ear. "Are you certain you want to go through with this yourself? I might be able to negotiate terms that keep you out of trouble altogether."
I've written 1,000 words since the end of PicoWriMo, and should get the story finished in the next three days or so. Then I have much, much editing to do and stoories to send to be beta'd.