‘Mr. Blaine! Is your son home for good now?’
‘Is there any truth in the rumour that you sent him away because of his behaviour?’
‘Will your son be going into the army, Mr. Blaine?’
‘Mr. Blaine! Dylan! Look this way!’
Rolling his eyes Ethan ignored the papparazzi lining the street outside his home, pulling into the driveway and immediately locking the electronic gates behind them. A cursory glance in his rear view mirror told him that none of them had followed the car inside. Looking at the passenger seat, he grinned at his nervous son.
‘Come on, Dylan. Everyone’s waiting for you!’
Dylan’s face lit up and he scrambled out of the car and up the porch steps into the house before his Dad had even thought about taking off his seat belt! Launching himself into his Mother’s arms, he clung on tight.
‘Hi Mum,’ he squeaked.
‘Hey kiddo!’ Ivy cuddled her son close, touched at the display of affection. ‘How was the trip over?’
‘Alright. Loads of journos outside.’
‘Well we did think there might be. Anyway, no need to worry about that now. We’ve got some candles to blow out!’
Carefully applying a final slick of lip gloss in the car’s mirror, Ivy worriedly smoothed her fringe and straightened her skirt. She could hardly keep still.
‘Ivy, what’s up?’
‘You know what’s up! What if he’s not enjoying himself? What if he’s being bullied? What if he’s-‘
‘Ivy, shush!’ Ethan quickly placed a calming hand on his wife’s, trying to multitask driving with soothing Ivy’s fraying nerves. ‘We’d know if he wasn’t happy. He writes to us twice a week and you’re constantly on the phone to him. He’s fine!’
‘Ivy, will you get out of the bathroom!’
‘I’m in the bath! This house has a million bathrooms, go use one of the others!’
Grumbling to himself, Ethan picked up his towel and slouched down the hall to the main bathroom, dragging his aching muscles. He’d recently had a treadmill installed in the bedroom he shared with his wife, fearing that he was losing his muscular frame as he aged. El Tigre were on a performing break while they composed some new material, and Ethan was fast realising just how much exercise he actually got racing around on stage three times a week! Not that it felt like exercise, mind you. Not like the half an hour he’d just spent on the treadmill, resulting in protesting limbs and an ungodly stench!
Throwing his towel over the radiator, Ethan pulled off his sweaty tshirt and ran a hand over his chest, contemplating shaving it. Looking closer, he was convinced he saw… No… A grey hair? And another one! He looked up at his reflection in horror. Suddenly his face was sagging before his very eyes, lines and wrinkles etched into every inch of his once-youthful skin.
Ethan decided against the whole ‘fake birthday party’ idea in the end. It was a bit of a non-starter; both Andy and Leon knew exactly when Ethan’s birthday was, knew that Ivy’s was months away, and were both godparents to Dylan. He did know that Ivy was right though, he needed to speak to Leon and get Andy to do so as well. He missed Leon. He knew that Andy would too, no matter how angry he was with him. Forgive and forget was a long way off, but Andy had a good guy and, once the initial hurt had died down, would want to hear Leon’s side of the story. He’d hear him out at least.
After putting it off for a few days, a little anxious of what Leon would say to him considering he’d not spoken to him for weeks now, Ethan rang his friend. They arranged to meet for a drink at Eugi’s, the group’s favourite bar where they’d performed their first official gig, the next Tuesday when it would be quiet. He didn’t mention that he would be inviting Andy, who he asked to come around an hour later than the time he was meeting Leon. He just wanted to talk to Leon face to face first, see what he had to say for himself.
Ethan was a bit lost in the weeks following the wedding. With no band rehearsals, no tours, no publicity to carry out, he just sat around the apartment watching television and playing with Dylan and Puzzle. It wasn’t that he minded being at home with his young family, far from it; after all it had been the thing he’d been wanting to do ever since Ivy moved in with him all that time ago. The circumstances that had led to it being possible were what was bothering him.
No more El Tigre. The band, finished. Just like that.
The media had had a field day, the papparazzi who had been hidden around the park trying to snap a picture of the happy couple witnessing the entire event had written many a scandalous article to go with their ‘exclusive’ pictures. Amelia had already sold her story to a glossy magazine, stating that Leon had bullied her into having an affair with him and that Andy had been horrible to her. Neither of which were true, of course, and not even Ethan – who hadn’t spoken to Leon since the revelation – believed that she was telling the truth.
Mixing away furiously, Ivy cursed as her waffle mixture refused to thicken. She was determined to keep her husband’s spirits up and so was preparing his favourite breakfast while he sat in his pyjama’s watching television as usual, with Dylan playing with Puzzle on the kitchen floor, his other toys forgotten.
Carefully zipping her dress up, Ivy smoothed down the voluminous skirt and adjusted the row of pink flowers that edged the top, ensuring that they laid perfectly against her pale skin. Next, she reached for the matching salmon clip that lay on her dresser and swept her hair back into a loose up-do that cascaded down her back. Examining her face in the mirror, she applied one last coat of shimmering lip gloss, fastened her necklace around her neck, and stood back.
She felt like a princess.
Clutching her hand tightly, Ethan led Ivy up the steps out of the underground. He was a little nervous. What if she didn’t like it? What if she was getting bored of life in Bridgeport? He knew of her love of the outdoors, naturally, but there weren’t many green spaces in the city. The odd park, yes, but that wasn’t the same as the hillsides of Sunset Valley – tamed, organised hedgerows and artistic flower bed arrangements didn’t have the same appeal as the rugged, wild outskirts of the small town they had both left behind some weeks ago. Still, he had one more ace up his sleeve, one place he hadn’t yet been able to take Ivy to. Work, work, work. He dearly loved his job, but when he had his beautiful girlfriend mooching around the streets surrounding their appartment all day while he was in the studio he did wish he could take a few weeks off to spend time with her. Still, better late than never.
As they crossed the road, Ivy was faced with a large, glass dome, not unlike the one that lay next to science facility Tristan worked at back home. She was confused. Was this Bridgeport’s science complex? Why was Ethan bringing her here?
Entering the small building to the side of the dome, Ethan took Ivy down the stair case, along the corridor, and up the next flight of stairs. ‘Well, Ivy? What do you think?’ he asked with an air of uncharacteristic shyness.
Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, Ivy tried to make sense of where she was. The taxi had gone down endless streets, which all had the unfortunate habit of looking exactly the same. Skyscraper after skyscraper towered above the ant-like Sims rushing around on the pavements, all with their phones attached to their ears or typing out an email as they walked. Ivy cowered, peeping through the window with a swarm of butterflies fighing to get out of her stomach.
There were a hell of a lot of people in this city. She hadn’t quite realised just how tranquil Sunset Valley was until she saw this hive. Gulping, she tried to focus on the task at hand – finding Ethan’s building in this enormous labyrinth.
‘Where’d you say you were going, love?’ The taxi driver looked at Ivy in the rear-view mirror, a little wearily as his long shift was due to end soon. ‘Veranda Villas?’
‘Um…’ Ivy scrambled in her bag for the piece of paper she’d scribbled Ethan’s details down on. She found it, and wished for the eighteenth time that day that she’d written it down neater. Her phone had run out of battery before she’d even boarded the plane, so she couldn’t even call to confirm anything. ‘I… I think that’s what it says here…’
‘Well, that’s here. I’ll drop you off, if it’s not the right spot then you can at least use the phone in there. Can’t let you use mine I’m afraid, company policy. Good luck, love!’
Ivy waved as the taxi pulled away, thankful that despite Bridgeport’s overwhelming business, she was at least anonymous here. No more awkward questions from overbearing taxi drivers! Nervously, she headed into the building and hesitantly pushed the button on the intercom for the penthouse.
‘Hey, aren’t you that girl who was in the news the other day? You’re dating that rock star ain’tcha, Ethan Whatshisface…’
Ivy sighed, slumping down in the car seat as she tried to think of yet another excuse. Ever since that bloody article had been published she hadn’t been able to go anywhere in the small town of Sunset Valley without being recognised. That was the pitfall of living in such a tight-knit community; everyone knew everyone, and once your face was out there it was impossible to slip about town unnoticed, as Ivy liked to. She didn’t want this.
‘No. That wasn’t me.’
‘You look just like -‘
‘It wasn’t me! Right here, please.’
Sensing that she didn’t want to talk any longer, the taxi driver shut up and turned right. Thank gnomes Ivy groaned to herself. That was one problem out of the way. Now for the other… Her heart sank a little as the house came into view. ‘Um… Can we stop here please?’
Pulling over, Ivy hopped out the taxi and shut the door. The driver gave her one last look as if he were thinking about questioning her identity further, but one fierce look from Ivy dissuaded him and he drove away, wisely. This newfound, unwanted ‘celebrity’ status was not doing good things for Ivy’s grumpy side.
Lead Reporter of the Sunset Valley Post. Award winning journalist. Winner of Splash magazine’s Gossip Mongerer of the Year five years in a row. Tanya Johnson had a habit of being in the right place at the right time. She was there when Tom Wordy gave an impromptu performance in the subway of Bridgeport. She was there when Lola Belle’s son Jupiter fell in the deep end of a pool on holiday in Al Simhara. She was there when Matthew Hamming forgot his lines in the first performance of The Simpest. And now, she was the first to spot Ethan Blaine with a mystery woman. She smugly opened her laptop and plugged in her camera, uploading the photographic evidence before writing her article. She took her time, she knew that few journos came through the Valley looking for celebrity news and those who were based here were nowhere near her standard. She was confident that she was first to the scoop. She was already mentally placing her sixth Gossip award on her wall…