Wish You Once More

Chapter 1 - Mat


“What do you say, little bro? Are you in?”

The answer to Jonny’s question should have been simple.

Sorry, no, Jonny. The timing isn’t great and I’m not sure our manager would approve of me taking a week off to play a gig with my brother for a tiny festival no-one’s heard of. Not to mention how pissed off Scott would be.

Harsh, but true.

But the words which came out of my mouth totally contradicted my thoughts.

“Yeah, sure. Sounds like a blast.”

“Brilliant! Thanks, Mat. You don’t know what this means.”

I did, actually. It would mean a shitload of increased interest in the festival, which our hometown didn’t always relish. Having the bassist from Trash Gun take up the vacant slot in his brother’s band was as newsworthy as it got.  Jonny babbled on about how much he looked forward to seeing me, how my sister-in-law and nephew would appreciate me being around for a while, not to mention Dad.

“Look, J, I’ve gotta go. We’re on deadline here, and if we don’t get these tracks down, we won’t hit the release dates.” While I enjoyed chatting with Jonny, now wasn’t the time.

“Sure, give me a call later and we’ll sort out all the details.”

We said our goodbyes and I ended the call, a sinking sensation in my stomach.

Scott would kill me.

As if on cue, he appeared at the door to the studio’s kitchen. We’d already had several heart-to-hearts in here, when he was sorting things out with Rosie Tatton, his now girlfriend. It seemed odd seeing Scott so settled, much calmer than the loose cannon he used to be. Maybe he wouldn’t flare up as much as I feared.

“You okay, buddy?” he asked, stepping up to the counter and pouring himself another coffee. For Scott, caffeine was about as far as the addictions went these days, unless you counted the joints we sometimes wound the day down with.

“All good.” I waved my phone at him. “My brother wanted to ask me something.”

“How’s Jonny doing? I haven’t seen him in years.”

If I had to guess, it would probably be around two years. In the past, we used to go down to my hometown by the river during summer breaks from uni. Manchester wasn’t as pretty, plus we had the advantage that my family ran a holiday home business. We had often taken advantage of a last minute break if there was a cancellation. But since Trash Gun had rocketed up the popularity charts, visits had become a lot less frequent. I hadn’t been home since Christmas, and even then I’d only been there three days, and barely left the house. 

When Jonny told me his bassist was leaving his band to move to Bristol, which was shit timing for their most celebrated gig of the year, I knew what he’d be angling for. The band played the Dart Sundowner without fail every year, and had done since he was twenty and I was eighteen. Back then, neither of us had any idea how things would pan out. If I’d been a betting man, Jonny would have been the one fronting a rock band—he certainly had the talent—and I’d be the one maintaining rental properties and organising cleaning rotas. A guest appearance from one of indie rock’s most popular bassists—I had the internet magazine’s award to prove it—would ensure a record breaking audience in attendance. Ha, who was I kidding? I was no Dave Grohl. But it would probably increase donations and merchandise sales. I hadn’t meant to say yes to Jonny. But I had. Now I had to deal with the consequences.

“Yeah, he’s good.” I hesitated. I needed to gauge Scott’s mood before telling him. Fireworks wouldn’t be pleasant.

“Is he still playing in that band? The JRs or whatever they’re called.”

Jonny had thought it amusing to name the band after himself, not realising that his initials were also a hugely famous soap opera character from the eighties. Mum had taken great delight in educating him on all things Dallas. I’m pretty sure he only started wearing a stetson at gigs to take the piss out of its origins.

“He is. They’re doing the festival again this year.”

Scott sipped from his mug. “We should go down and support him. Be nice to take Rosie down there and show her some of my childhood.”

I swallowed hard. “I’ve already said I’ll go.”

“Cool, can you arrange a house for us? Get your dad to sort us something out on the waterfront?”

The floor was suddenly riveting and I avoided Scott’s gaze. “Sure, shouldn’t be too much of a problem.” I dragged a hand through my hair.

“What aren’t you telling me, Mat?”

My head snapped up. “Nothing. It’s nothing.”

“You’re acting shifty. What’s going on with Jonny? Or is it your Dad?”

Thankfully, it wasn’t to do with Dad. His health wasn’t the best, and every time Jonny called I panicked, thinking something had happened. When Mum passed away, Jonny and I were young, and Dad had been there for us ever since. We were tight. The Three Musketeers, until I deserted them for university in Manchester, and started playing in a band with Scott. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Dad’s fine, it’s…”

Shit, why was it so hard to tell Scott?

“I’m going to play in Jonny’s band at the festival,” I blurted out.

There was a moment of silence. Scott took another sip of coffee and I waited for the explosion. He nodded. “You are?”

I wished there was a beer around or something to wet my dry mouth with. Instead, I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, and gulped it down.

“What happened to his bassist?” asked Scott. His tone seemed calm enough, but it didn’t mean he wouldn’t mouth off at any moment.

“Moved to Bristol. Came out of the blue, apparently. His girlfriend got a new job there and it was too good an offer to turn down.” The explanation sounded lame. After all, musicians travelled the length and breadth of the country for gigs, so what was one more in his hometown? But his girlfriend had threatened to leave him if he didn’t move with her. True love won out, leaving Jonny in the lurch.

“Right. Not exactly committed to the cause then. And clearly doesn’t possess my excellent persuasion skills.” Scott quirked an eyebrow.

When Scott and Rosie got together, she had been adamant that a move to Manchester was definitely not on the cards. Fast forward a few months, and the couple had settled in one of the trendiest apartment blocks in the city. Rosie still kept her place in London, renting it out to some trustworthy friends, but she had definitely settled up north.

I frowned. “But you’re okay with me playing the gig?”

Scott spread his hands. “Who am I to stop you?”

“I thought there might be something in our contract, which prevented me from doing it?” I omitted to mention I thought Scott might stop me too.

“You could check with Tobias if you’re that worried?”

Our manager usually didn’t like us bothering him with things like that. Unless it meant an imminent arrest or law suit, he wasn’t interested.

“Will you be getting paid?”

I chuckled. Scott ought to know enough about the Dart Sundowner to realise that The JRs played for drinks, not money. As our family business contributed significantly to the coffers of the festival in substantial donations, it seemed crazy to expect payment. Particularly when we reaped a lot of benefit from the people who stayed in the town over the weekend in our properties.

“Only if Jonny slips me a few quid.”

“Then it shouldn’t be an issue.” He shrugged. “Like I said, I’m not gonna stop you. But you do have to arrange a shit hot house for us.”

I liked this new, less angry version of Scott. Rosie had done a lot to smooth off some of those spiky edges. He seemed a lot more chilled, a lot less angry.

“You got it.”

“Now, are we going back in there to get this EP done?” Scott threw the remains of his coffee into the sink and dumped his mug into the dishwasher. Seriously, he’d changed.

“Yeah, gimme a sec, I’m going to get a drink.” I faffed about with a mug, spooning coffee into it, and stalling for time.

When I was alone, I contemplated exactly what I’d let myself in for agreeing to play at the festival. While spending time with my family and catching up with some old friends for a few days would be great, there would be ghosts of the past I’d have to deal with. Ghosts I’d successfully managed to avoid the last few times I’d been home.

One in particular.

Going home for the festival would mean seeing Bree Sheridan again.