Life After Dark
Chapter 18

“Oh, good, you’re home,” Brenda said as Robin entered the cottage. “Come here. I’ve been watching a video of the bands who played last night. DJLS really rocked the crowd. Come see.”

Robin placed her purse and sweater on the railing that led up the staircase. Rubbing her temple, she said, “I’m really not in the mood.”

Brenda paused the tape and turned to face Robin. “Things didn’t go well with Jason?” she asked, her voice full of sympathy and concern.

“I think he really means it,” Robin said without emotion. “We’re over. For good.”

Brenda rose from her seated position on the coffee table and crossed the room to give Robin a hug. As she embraced Robin, she said, “I know it hurts now, but maybe it’s for the best.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Robin said, releasing herself from the hug.

“You’re agreeing with me?” Brenda asked, confused. She was sure Robin wouldn’t be so accepting of her words. She was surprised when she was.

“Yeah, I am,” Robin said, running her hand through her short, brown hair. She sat on the sofa and picked up the remote control, simply holding it in her hand.

“But why? I thought you didn’t have a problem with his business,” Brenda said, as she moved to sit beside her.

“Brenda, if you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about it right now. I’ll just say that the Jason I love no longer exists and let’s leave it at that.”

“No longer exists? Did something happen to him? Robin, you have to tell me what’s wrong.”

Robin shook her head. “No. Jason and I are over and that’s it. End of story.” She handed the remote control to Brenda and said, “What did you want me to see?”


“The tape, Brenda. Nothing else,” Robin said with a look on her face that told Brenda that she meant it.

“Okay. Fine. The tape, “Brenda said. She pushed the play button and DJLS came to life on the TV screen.

“Who is this again?” Robin asked as she concentrated on the screen.

“DJLS. Dawn Jensen, Jordan James, Lucky Spencer, and Sly Eckertt. Cute way to come with a band name, isn’t it?” Brenda said with a small laugh.

Mm, Dawn, Robin thought. Judging by the way she was dressed, no wonder Nikolas was in a hurry to get back to her. Aloud, she said, “They seem to know how to work a crowd.”

“Definitely. I’ve watched their set several times, and I can’t get over how in sync they are. Lucky told Jax that they haven’t even been together very long,” Brenda said, as she bobbed her head to the beat of the fast-paced song.

“Oh, really?” Robin asked. When Brenda nodded and a huge smile crossed her face, Robin became suspicious. “Brenda, what’s going on in that head of yours?”

“Well…L&B could use a new act,” she said, her eyes bright with excitement.

“And you want them?” Robin asked with a frown.

“I think they would be great! Listen to them!” Brenda said. She increased the volume on the TV. “Look at them! Look at the crowd!”

Robin grabbed the remote control and lowered the sound. “But they’re kids.”

“Not really. Besides, teenaged bands are where it’s at these days. There are three delicious guys to choose from and Dawn is amazing, too. I think we’d be stupid to pass them up. Mark my words. They will be big one day. Think of the possibilities if L&B gets them there,” Brenda said, grabbing the remote to increase the volume again.

“What if they don’t want to do it?” Robin asked.

“What is with you?” Brenda asked. “I thought you’d be excited. L&B could really use an act as good as they are. I thought you’d at least be excited because of Nikolas.”

“What does he have to do with this?” Robin asked with a frown.

“He’s your friend and Dawn’s boyfriend. Imagine how happy he’d be if his girlfriend signed a record deal,” Brenda said.

“I suppose, but…” Robin began, but stopped. Her mind drifted back to the last time she and Nikolas were together. Thinking back on it now, she couldn’t believe that it happened. Or that he pushed her away.

“But what? I thought you two were friends. Did something happen?” Brenda asked as she stopped the tape and pressed the rewind button.

“We are.”

“So why the misgivings? I think this would be a golden opportunity, especially for you. Since they’re new to the music scene and so are you, I’d be willing to let you both find your way together. Come on, Robin! I know you’ve been dying to get your feet wet and maybe this could help you get your mind off…things.”

“You mean Jason?” Robin asked with a sigh.

“Yeah. What do you say? Maybe you should listen to them again," Brenda said as the tape stopped rewinding.

Robin took the remote control from her and said, “I don’t have to hear them again. I’ll do it.”

“Robin!” Brenda squealed as she moved to embrace her friend.


“I’m gonna have to see some ID with that.”

“Excuse me?” AJ asked, as he threw a wad of bills onto the counter beside the bottle of Jack Daniels he had placed there.

“Sorry, pal, but we card everyone. If you don’t like it, leave,” replied the convenient store cashier as he scratched his chin.

“Fine. Whatever,” AJ said. He pulled out his wallet and held it open, revealing his driver’s license. The cashier looked at the tiny photo and then at AJ. When he was convinced that they matched and that AJ was of age, he rang up the sale. AJ left the store and went outside to his car.

After carefully placing the bottle on the passenger seat, AJ strapped on his seatbelt and started the car. He drove endlessly. The only thing he focused on was keeping his mind as blank as possible. He didn’t want to think about what happened with Keesha because he wasn’t ready to deal with it.

As the lights from the other cars became farther away from him, the more isolated he felt. Keeping his eyes on the road, he allowed his right hand to reach for the bottle. He grabbed the bottle and after placing it between his legs, he opened it. As he was about to bring the bottle to his lips, a dog ran out in front him. He swerved to miss the dog and the car went off the road into the embankment. The bottle flew from his hand and the contents spilled onto him and all over the inside of the car.

AJ’s head hit the steering wheel and for a split second, he had no idea what happened. As he raised his head, everything came flooding back to him. The picnic with Keesha. The awful pain of his heart breaking. The hopelessness he felt when he left the Quartermaine mansion and headed into to town. The despair which possessed him and made him stop at the convenient mart. The relief he expected to find when the first taste of the whiskey burned his throat and continued on to burn his soul. Now, as he sat on a darkened road in the middle of nowhere with blood oozing from a small cut on his forehead, he allowed himself to face the hollowness in his heart.

As the tears poured down his face, he reached inside his glove compartment for his cell phone. Through a blurry haze, he slowly punched in the seven digits. The phone was answered on the other end after the first ring.

“Baldwin residence.”

“Lee? This is AJ,” AJ said.

“AJ. What’s wrong? Where are you?” asked Lee Baldwin, AJ’s AA sponsor and friend.

“I almost lost it tonight,” AJ said tearfully.

“What happened?”

“My world fell apart and I wanted to lose myself in a bottle. Why, Lee? Why can’t I be strong enough? Why do I always have to run back to it?” AJ asked.

“You are strong enough, AJ! You said almost. Remember? You didn’t drink and you didn’t lose it. Why don’t we meet somewhere so we can talk about this?” Lee suggested.

“I can’t. My car is wrecked, I think,” AJ said.

“Wrecked? Okay, I can call a tow truck to help you or I can come myself. Whichever you prefer.”

“I’d rather you came,” AJ said quietly. “There’s alcohol all over the place in here and I don’t want to have to explain myself.”

“Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can. Where are you?” Lee asked.

After AJ gave Lee the directions, he turned his phone off and put it back in the glove compartment. He bent over and picked up the bottle from the floor. Holding the bottle up to the pale moonlight, he could see that only half of the contents was missing. He put his nose to the opening and breathed deeply. Instead of the usual euphoric feeling that came with the smell of alcohol, he felt himself become sick. He opened his door and ran to the side of the car. After the wave of nausea left him, he leaned against the car. He looked at the bottle which he still held in his hand and without a second thought he poured the rest of the contents out onto the ground and then threw the bottle as far away from him as he could.

Chapter 19

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