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“Did you sleep at all?” Jon asked, sitting on the bench seat across from Lars at the small dining table beside the kitchenette.
Lars Xanthos turned to Jon Franklin and smiled before he returned his attention to the world beyond their tour buses’ windows.
“No. I’m too excited,” he said, his dark eyes scanning the horizon where the sun was just starting to crest and cast its warming light on the world; it glittered on the surface of the water that could be seen in the distance and on the windows of every building it touched. The world seemed to be alight with the magic of promise, of a new day that held great things.
Jon kept forgetting Lars would be seeing the ocean for the first time, and that he’d never thought he would be alive to do it. He could only imagine how excited he was; the twinkle in Lars’ eyes reminded him of a small child discovering something they loved for the first time. As far as he knew, there were no words that could express the wonderment he thought his friend was experiencing. It warmed his heart to watch. Lars was like a brother to him. They’d grown up together and had been through some rough times together.
Jon, and the band, had a difficult time when Lars was diagnosed with cancer. As the bass player, he was a key member of their band and they’d almost fallen apart complete. Especially when Lars was so sick because of his chemo that he couldn’t even get out of bed. They’d made the hard decision to limit their touring and use an alternate bass player when they had to perform.
Once Lars was in remission and had recovered from the side effects of his treatments, the band had also made a comeback. Now they were on the way to their biggest event ever. It was hard to say if it was the new life Lars’ recovery had breathed into their music, or if it was the excitement of their fans for his return. Honestly, it didn’t matter. They were together again and FLXS was doing great.
Tonight they were performing a concert for a sold out crowd of over nineteen thousand fans at “The Rock” Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. And tomorrow they would be taking a trip to the ocean. Their families were coming by train into Newark Penn Station. They planned to all go together and celebrate being alive in the sand and sun. They were excited to have their families come to visit, since a concert of this magnitude was a dream come true. It seemed to be the perfect time to have everyone together.
“There it is,” said Bob Simmons from behind them as he sat down on the couch that ran six feet along the opposite side of the bus.
They both turned and looked at the newcomer with a smile before focusing on the world beyond the window again.
The tour bus moved along Mulberry Street, exposing them to the grand view of the Prudential Center. The four thousand, eight hundred square foot display—divided into two screens—showed “FLXS” and “Stigmata” in huge, bold lettering over dancing flames.
“Sweet,” Lars said.
“It’s epic,” Jon said in agreement.
“It better be epic,” Jenny said, joining the other members of the band, sitting her tall slender frame down beside Jon, forcing him to move over and give her room. “We didn’t travel all this way for the biggest show of our careers for anything less than epic.”
The guys chuckled their agreement as their eyes darted back and forth, taking in all the sights.
The bus maneuvered around The Rock, heading to their entrance destination.
“Wow, there’s a lot of cars here already,” Bob said, standing to get a better view.
“And fans,” Jenny added, rising up slightly to get a better look around before sitting again.
“Well, I know I always like to get to events early to try and beat the rush, or get a sneak peek of the talent,” Jon said. “And since we’re the talent, we shouldn’t keep our adoring fans waiting.”
They laughed, rose from their seats, and wrestled each other to see who would be the first to get to the small bathroom on the bus to check their appearance. They wanted to look perfect to greet their adoring fans…and the press crews that were coming early to interview them before their performance. From the time they stepped off the bus until the concert was over, they would be going nonstop with interviews, sound checks, a short rehearsal to go over their newest songs once more, and then getting ready for the big event. In between all that, there would be fans, especially those who bought backstage passes and wanted to feel like they were one of the band, or as close as they could be, for the evening.
The three that didn’t make it to the restroom first, sat back down on the couch to wait their turn, continuing to take in the sights.
Cars were already filling the parking areas. There was a line waiting to get into the closest parking garages, and there were people milling about everywhere in FLXS gear. They wore hats, t-shirts, face paint, and wild hairstyles.
The sight brought home what a dream come true it was to have so many fans that wanted to see them perform. It brought home what a big deal tonight would be for them.
The band watched it all with a mixture of nerves and excitement.
This was only the beginning…
The bus came to a halt at the entrance Wilson, the bus driver, had been directed to go to when they’d passed through the security gate. But, since the place was huge and there was a lot going on, he wanted to make sure they were indeed in the right place before they started to unload cargo and passengers.
“I’m going to make sure we’re in the right place,” he shouted before he exited through the folding doors. “You guys sit tight until I come back!”
Once he was outside, he pushed a button on a remote he carried to shut them and keep out any desperate fans. He was glad he had when he saw a group spot the bus as they rushed around the corner of the building, screaming.
He darted toward the closest door of the brick building and just made it inside, using the keycard he’d been given by security, before the fans reached him.
Once the door went closed behind him, he sighed. He was glad he’d been at the correct entrance and the keycard had worked.
He went in search of someone who could confirm this is where the band was supposed to be, and where their cargo could be unloaded.
“Holy shit!” Jenny said, as she stood and watched the fans run toward the bus. “Wilson barely made it alive.”
Lars laughed. “But will he make it back out in one piece?”
“We’ll see,” Jenny grinned at Lars, her white teeth contrasting with her dark skin.
“Maybe they’ll send security out with him,” Jon said, coming out of the bathroom in time to catch their conversation.
“Maybe,” Lars said.
They stood together at the same window they’d been staring out earlier, looking out on a new sight while Bob took his turn in the bathroom.
Beyond, and about a foot down from the edge of the glass, was a crowd of a little over a hundred adoring fans. They were elbowing and shoving each other, vying for the closest spot and hopefully the bands’ attention. They held handmade signs that read: I LOVE LARS!; JENNY CAN STRUM ME ANYTIME!; POUND ME, BOB!; and JON IS SEXY!
“Intense,” Bob said, coming out of the bathroom to view of the fans.
“Are they biting each other?” Lars asked, pressing up against the window to see the far reaches of the crowd where a fight seemed to have broken out.
The shoving was more intense where he was looking. People weren’t only elbowing, but were grabbing others by the head and practically ripping them off their feet. The victims would disappear for a moment, and a then reappears, struggling with their assailant who seemed to be trying to bite them.
“I can’t tell,” Jon said, squinting at the area. “They’re either biting or having very heated, clipped words with each other.”
“Here comes Wil,” Jenny said, drawing everyone’s attention closer to the goings on close-by the bus. “It looks like Jon was right, he’s coming back with protection.”