Lovin Touchin Squeezin

Chapter Four

Weeks go by after that incident and Steve never saw that car again. At least in his neighborhood anyway. At the restaurant he has seen it parked in the parking lot but he tries to ignore it. Steve never mentioned it again and Nancy certainly didn't and wouldn't.

For awhile there the band's activities had slacked off. A couple of the guys were married and their wives were complaining so they cooled it for awhile. But then one of the guy's marriages did break up and the other guy's wives didn't complain anymore so they hit the road again. Or the clubs again. So for Steve it was work and music. And Nancy? Nancy would go with him to the clubs when she could but most of the time she was at home alone. Steve explained to her that they were trying to get their name out there. Their manager was trying to get their demo listened to but it seemed that nobody was interested. For whatever reason.

Weeks drag into months and Steve is being pulled in three different directions all at once. Work. Music. Nancy. So this upcoming Fourth of July weekend Steve unplugged the phone. The Fourth of July was Sunday this year so the warehouse closed down Friday and they would be closed on Monday as well. Steve has been there long enough now that he will get holiday pay. Woohoo! Nancy, being the assistant manager, scheduled herself off all weekend and that Monday as well. They figured they could both do with the time alone.

Friday they spent the day at the apartment. Steve figured they needed some catching up time. Saturday they ventured out and went to the movies and dinner. Sunday the town was planning their usual Fourth of July celebration. Picnic and fireworks, music, the whole nine yards. Steve had his own surprise planned. Steve packed a picnic basket and told Nancy that they were going to a drive.

They drove for an hour and a half. Steve finally turned down a gravel and grass road and when they got to a gate with a big "NO TRESPASSING" sign, he stopped. Steve was getting out of the car when Nancy grabbed him by his arm and she asked him,

"Steve! What are you doing? Don't you know what 'no trespassing' means?"

"Don't worry. I know the owners." He says as he winks at her. He opens the gate and he motions for Nancy to drive through. After he closes the gate, he locks it back. He follows a well-worn trail up to the top of the hill. Nancy and Steve get out of the car and Steve puts his arm around Nancy as they enjoy the view. This hill overlooks the town below. A great spot to watch fireworks from. Steve points out all the landmarks. Places they have seen a hundred times up close. The warehouse. The restaurant. The church. Their apartment complex. Steve takes a blanket out of the trunk and he spreads it out over the ground and they open the picnic basket.

"Steve why do I get the impression that you have been here before?" Nancy asks him. Steve looks at her and smiles and says,

"Whatever gave you that idea, Nan?"

That night they sat on the hood of Steve's car watching the fireworks. Steve sat behind Nancy with his arms around her leaning up against the windshield. If Steve could freeze this moment, he would gladly do it for anything in the world. After the fireworks they left and with all the traffic it took them a while to get back home and once there they fell into bed. Grateful they have another whole day to spend together.

Early Monday morning Steve is awaken by incessant pounding on his front door. After pulling on a pair of pants Steve stumbles to the door, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he unlocks the door and he sees Roger. Steve lets him in. Steve looks at him. Jesus he looks terrible. Steve hasn't seen Robert look this bad in years.

"Roger? Man! What's wrong?"

Roger paces back and forth. His hands in his hair.

"Steve! Steve! Where have you been? We have been trying to call you all weekend man!"

Steve goes over to the phone and plugs it back in. Roger walks over to Steve & he puts his hand on Steve's shoulders and he shakes him. Steve puts his hands on Rogers' upper arms. Roger looking at Steve, begins to cry. Steve pulls Roger into a hug as he says,

"Roger! What is it? Did something happen to Vickie? Man! Say something! You're scaring me!" Roger shakes his head 'no' at the mention of his wife. Roger mumbles something into Steve's shoulder that he can't understand. Steve pushes Roger back an arm's length and he says,

"Roger…I couldn't understand you! What…!"

"Chuck!!!! I said something happened to Chuck…!!!" Roger says.

"What…!" Steve is not prone to hysterics but now he's getting there. At this point Nancy has come to the bedroom door, having been awaken by this, clutching a robe closed at the throat.

"Oh Steve…. Chuck's dead…!!!"

Steve was sure that he heard Roger wrong. Nancy, standing in the doorway, covers her mouth with her hand. Roger by now is crying uncontrollably. Steve is shaking him.

"Roger! What did you just say! Chuck is…. dead?!"

"A..car…accident…yesterday…he was coming back…"

"No! Roger! No….Jesus…not Chuck!"

By now Roger has gone without sleep for almost 36 hours and the strain is too much. Rogers knees began to buckle and Steve catches him before he hits the floor. Roger falls to his knees and Steve goes with him. They land in a heap on the floor. Steve holding Roger.

"Steve! Oh Steve! I have know Chuck since we were….eleven!"

Roger buries his head in Steve's chest crying. Steve looks up at Nancy, tears streaming down his face as well.

Wednesday was the funeral and Friday the surviving member of Alien Project was having dinner at the restaurant where Nancy works. Nancy kept a wide distance away from that table. From where Nancy stood she could see Steve's face. Nancy knew what he had to be thinking. Steve had told her that week what was going on in his head and what he was going to do. He was tired, beaten down. He had enough. Chuck's death was the last straw. Steve was only half listening to Roger. Roger wanted to go on, find another bass player. Before Steve knew it Roger had a hand on his shoulder shaking him. Bringing him around.

"Steve" Roger says.

"Uh..?" Steve says looking at Roger.

"I said, I want to go on with the band, find another bass player. Pick up where we left off. How about you guys? Does that sound alright to you guys?" Roger turns and asks Peter & Robert. They both nod their heads yes. Then Roger turns to Steve and asks him.

"Steve, are you with us?" Steve looks up at Roger, Robert & Peter and he says

"No." Roger looks at Robert and all three of them look at Steve and all at the same time they say,

"WHAT!!!!!" By now the other people around them in the restaurant are looking at them. Steve fidgets under their gaze as he says,

"I said no. I don't want to do this anymore. We could get another bass player, sure, but for me it wouldn't be the same. Guys, my heart isn't in it, anymore. I can't…..just can't"

"Steve! You moron! We have worked too hard. You have worked to hard," Roger says.

"Yes! Damn it! I have worked too damn frigging hard! Years and years! Where has it gotten me Roger! Tell me that! No closer to what I wanted to do! What any of us wanted to do! Yeah, we cut a demo record but what happened to that! Nothing! I don't see a big record company heating down our doors with a record contract." Steve says but is interrupted by Roger before he has a chance to finish.

"Steve there was a record contract" Roger looks at him.

"What!!! When? How?" Steve asks.

"That Friday. Before Chuck had his accident. We were suppose to go that Monday and have a meeting with the record…." Roger puts his hand on Steve's arm. Steve shakes it off.

"And you were going to tell me this when, Roger!!??"

"Steve. We tried calling you Friday and Saturday. Your phone was unplugged, remember?!" Roger says as he puts another hand on Steve's arm. Steve shakes this one off as well as he gets to his feet so quickly that the chair he was sitting in tips over and hits the floor with a wooden clatter. Roger stands up as well.

"You know were I live…"

Steve turns and walks out of the restaurant. Nancy runs to the side door and she sees Steve get in his car. As he leaves the parking lot he leaves a mile of rubber, tires squealing, slinging gravel to the four corners of the earth, barely missing another car that was coming into the parking lot. Nancy turns and looks back at Roger, who is still standing; he shrugs as he looks down at the floor.

Nancy goes home that night after work but Steve isn't there and it doesn't look like he has been there either. Nancy waits up alittle while but she gets to a certain point where she can't keep her eyes open anymore so she goes to bed. The next morning Steve is still not at home. She calls everybody that they have ever known. Finally Steve comes in the door about two hours later. Nancy practically knocks him over when she throws her arms around him to give him the biggest hug that she could muster. Steve is knocked slightly off balance but that doesn't stop him from throwing his arms around Nancy and burying his head on her shoulder.

"Jesus! Where have you been? Oh my God! I have been so worried! You know I cam this close to calling the cops! Don't ever do that again! Where did you go?

"Thousand Oaks" Steve says.

"What?" Nancy asks him back

"I drove to frigging Thousand Oaks"

Steve was pissed and in a thinking mode and those things is a deadly combination. Once he got to the highway he picked a direction and stuck to it and before he knew it, he was in Thousand Oaks. He said he tried to call, the phone was always busy. Nancy said that was her trying to track Steve down. Steve had to go to bed; there was just so much happening and it all caught up with him at once. Sunday, Nancy kept an eye on him, she was afraid he might disappear.

For about three weeks there Steve lived a normal existence. Wet to work and came home. He worked overtime at the warehouse and since there was no longer a band to eat up Steve's free time he spent allot of time with Nancy. The weeks that Steve lived a normal existence he missed it. He tried not to think about it, but it crept up once again and it set up housekeeping. The music bug. He sang with the car radio, he sang in the shower, he just sang. Once day Nancy caught him looked at the Alien Project demo. Turning it over and over in his hands.

"I was just…." Steve said.

"It's called wishing, Steve" Nancy says as she puts her arms around him.

"You know you're pretty smart for an old roommate!" Steve laughs.

"Uh…old am I?" Nancy makes a face at him.

About the fourth week of normalcy for Steve he got a phone call at work from Nancy. Nancy told him that a guy has been looking around for him. He said that he has a tape of you singing that was sent to him. He wants to talk to you. Steve asks what is this guy's name. Steve hears Nancy shuffling through papers on the other end. Finally, she finds it and tells Steve the name of the guy. She told Steve that she would leave all the info by the phone. He sounded very serious.

That night Steve gets home and look at the name. Herbie Herbert. And the band is called Journey. Yeah. Steve knows this guy, and Herbie knows him too. Steve pestered him for awhile but they flat out told him they didn't need a lead signer. Well, obviously something has changed Steve, Steve thinks. Nancy said something about a tape. What tape? Steve thinks on it.

Over the next couple of days everybody and their brother call Steve and they always ask him the same question, "Did you call that guy back, Steve?" Steve would stumble, hem and haw, until finally he said no. One night Steve was at home when there was a knock at his door. Steve opens it to find Roger.

"Hey Roger."

"Can I come in, Steve?"

Steve lets him in and they go out to the balcony. Steve & Roger sit on the balcony drinking iced tea. Roger spots the guitar on the balcony but doesn't comment.

"I wasn't sure if I would be welcomed back here" Roger says as he looks at Steve.

"Yeah Roger I need to apologize. The scene in the restaurant. Well, you know Rog…it's just that….Jeez.." Steve gestures but he couldn't seem to get the words out. Roger laughs at him.

"You were being Steve."

"Yeah, I guess that's the best way to put it. Roger you are always welcomed here. Nothing that happened was your fault. I just felt frustrated. I saw everything disappear when Chuck died." Steve said.

"Well that's why I am here. Have you called that guy back with that band yet?" Roger asks him. Steve shifts positions in his chair and he looks at Roger.

"Roger did you send Herbie that tape?" Roger doesn't answer he just looks at Steve & smiles.

"Well how did you know…." Steve asks. Roger points behind Steve. Steve leans back and he hands his head backward over the chair and he sees Nancy upside down waving & smiling. Steve lets his chair back down to the ground and he says,

"It's a conspiracy."

Yeah. It was a conspiracy of love and friendship. So Steve called Herbie. They talked for a little while and he told Steve that he was sorry about what had happened to Chuck, their bass player. He wanted Steve to come to Long Beach on Friday. Sort of an audition, but Herbie asked a favor of Steve.

"Steve you have to do me a favor. Okay?" Herbie asked.

"What kind of favor?"

Herbie proceeds to tell Steve that when he gets to the auditorium in Long Beach, that his associate John Villeneuva would meet him and that Steve would be introduced as John's Portuguese cousin, who didn't speak English by the way. Steve laughs. He agrees but he doesn't ask why. He really doesn't care. So Herbie says that he will see him Friday. Steve says goodbye and now all he has to do is wait for Friday.

Friday Steve arrives at the Long Beach Auditorium. He meets up with John Villaneuva and they go inside. John has Steve take a seat and they let him know when they're ready for him. Steve waits. Steve didn't find out until later the subterfuge was because their old lead singer was still there and they had to come up with some story as to why Steve was there. Herbie came up with something to keep the old lead singer busy and then it was Steve's turn. This was during sound check. So the only people there were the crews and the band and of course, Herbie. Steve sang one of Robert Fleishman's songs. Herbie had heard all that he needed to hear. Steve and Neal talked a little bit afterwards. Steve has seen Neal two times previously, and Neal even gave Steve and his cousin a ride home once. Steve left before Robert came back and Steve went home. Nancy was dying to hear everything when he got home. Steve told her everything and Steve went to bed, soon after, exhausted but happy.

The next couple days Steve went to work as usual. Hearing nothing from Herbie until one evening the phone rang and it was Herbie.

"Congratulations, Steve. Welcome to Journey! October 28. The Old Waldorf in San Francisco. Do you know where that is?" Herbie asks.

"No but I'll find it. How big is that place anyway?" Steve asks.

"600 seats. We're doing three nights. You're not nervous are you Steve?" Herbie asks.

"Nope. It's funny. I don't get nervous. Only when somebody is throwing a beet bottle at my head. That makes me nervous! So I guess I can quit my job at the warehouse huh?" Steve says.

"Oh yeah Steve most definitely. We'll see you October 28."

And the next day Steve did. He was sorry that he couldn't give a proper two weeks notice but things can happen fast in the music business. Jerry shook his hand and patted him on the back and wished him all the luck.

Steve had a couple of days to get things prepared and Nancy helped him figure out what he was going to wear for his big debut. So they went out shopping. Steve found a white shirt and white pair of pants. Simple but nice.

October 28 and Steve's big debut, 600 seats. That's not big. Not to Steve. To Steve that is a nightclub.
Nancy was there. The guys from Alien Project, Tony and a host of others. Steve got up there and blew everybody away. Nancy had no idea that Steve was that good. In those nightclubs it's hard to tell. His folks knew how good he is and so did the guys from his old band and now Nancy knows it too. And Nancy was floored by the reaction of the crowd. People loved him. That didn't surprise Nancy.

When this three-night gig was over, Steve was at home packing his bags. Steve was happy but Nancy wasn't when she found out how long Steve was going to be gone for.

"A month Steve!" Nancy says.

"They want to see how well I blend in, basically. I know a month will seem like a long time, but it'll go by fast. And I'll call you every night, okay." Steve says.

A couple of days later Steve was on the road. He called Nancy every night just like he promised. Sometimes he called and she wasn't at home, so he thought she was at work. Working late or filling in when they were shorthanded. He would call home after the concert and Nancy could hear in his voice how tired he was. She asked him if it was rougher than the nightclubs he had played. Oh no this is allot easier. Bigger crowds. Not hostile. Not so far anyway Steve said. Bigger stage though. He had more room to maneuver. Steve said they were filming some of them. Filming? What for? Steve had no idea. Posterity maybe. Something to look back on & laugh at.

Time files when you're having fun and a month had passed. Herbie told Steve that he has a week maybe less to get his stuff together, make arrangements and whatever else he has to do because he was coming with them. A month earlier Neal had picked Steve up at his apartment and now Neal is dropping him off. It's late, probably 2 or 3 in the morning. Neal drives into Steve's apartment complex parking lot. Steve is dozing when Neal nudges him awake.

"Steve. Home sweet home man! Steve! Whose car is that?" Neal points out in the parking lot. Steve looks through tired eyes.

"I have no idea." Steve says as he gets a bad feeling come over him.

"That is a bad Vette!" Neal says as he points to the black corvette parking in the spot. Steve grabs his stuff and Neal drives off. Steve stands in the parking lot & looks at the car. Okay Steve calm down. There is more than one black corvette, you know. Steve looks up at the apartment and then looks back to the car. Jesus. Come on Steve, move your feet. Steve shifts his bag to the other hand as he crosses the parking lot and goes up the stairs to the apartment. Steve unlocks the door and he leaves his bad on the floor of the living room. Steve stops in the middle of the living room; he's suddenly scared. The hair standing up on the back of his neck. Please, let that be somebody else's car. Steve takes off his jacket and throws it on top of his bag. Then he goes up the hall to the bedroom. The door is shut and he tries to put his hand on the doorknob but he stops and pulls his hand back. Finally, he closes his eyes & takes a deep breath, and then he opens the door.

Steve opens the door slightly but he saw enough. Nancy and that guy that drives the corvette in bed. Their bed. After the fact. They were both sleeping. He is holding her in his arms. Steve carefully pulls the door to and he quickly goes down the hall through the living room, and out the front door. He shuts the door behind him. Steve leans up against the wall, eyes closed, hand over his mouth. Steve's eyes welling with tears. Willing himself to stay calm, Steve takes his hand away from his mouth and he takes a couple of deep breaths. He walks over to the metal railing and he holds onto it. Then he begins to shake it back & forth. He shakes it back & forth until he feels it loosen itself from its hinges. Then he stops. He paces back & forth. The picture of them together in his mind. Nancy and his bed. Whey did they have to pick here with damn frigging motels all over God's green acres!

Steve feels his rage start someplace at his feet and it slowly works its way up, like the red on a thermometer. By the time it gets to Steve's head he is back in the apartment kicking the bedroom door open. He kicked it open so hard that the doorknob was lodged in the sheet rock.

The sound was like a bomb dropping. They both shot straight up in bed. Nancy clutches the sheet to her chest. Steve thinks that she might have screamed but at that point he wasn't sure about anything. He had this murderous rage and that was the only thing that he knew. The look on their faces was one of horror. They both scrambled fast. Later, thinking back on it, Steve didn't really think that Nancy looked all that surprised or even concerned. Like she wanted Steve to find them together.

"Steve!" Nancy screamed.

"Yeah Steve! I'll give you, you bastard, five minutes to get your ass out of here!!!! And you're lucky that I don't have a gun because I would be going to jail!!! Get out!!! 1………2…….3…..4…" Steve didn't even get past four and he had his clothes on & he was running past him. Steve heard the front door slam. Steve clinches his fists at his side as he walks closer to the bed. Then he stops. He has to force himself to turn and walk out. He wanted to strangle her. Saw himself doing it. His hands around her neck, plain as day. Steve leaves the bedroom and he goes into the living room. He picks his jacket up and puts it on. Behind him he hears Nancy coming out of the bedroom.

"Steve. Steve. Wait!" Nancy says from behind him. Steve raises a hand to stop her. Steve doesn't turn to look at her. He can't look at her.

"Wait!!! For what?! What's the point? It's obvious you made your choice!" Steve says with his back to her.

"I'm sorry…it just happened.." Nancy says as she cries. Steve can't help himself. He turns & looks at her. He wants to go to her and hold her, but damn it, he won't. He can't after what he just walked in on. He stands looking at the woman that he …loved. They never said it out loud to each other but it was implied, in words, deeds and actions.

"You're sorry!? It just..happened?!! Nothing just happens, Nancy!!! You have to make it happen!!" Steve yells at her. "Nancy why? I don't…was I that bad? Did I hurt you in some way? Nancy, I loved you. Journey was a big hit, Nancy. People loved us, Nancy. Really loved us. Things were going to start to happen…for us. You and I. I thought so, anyway. Do you know what they told me, Nancy? They told me they want me as their lead singer. Herbie told me that we were going to be famous. The sky is the limit, Nancy. I had such big plans for us. I was even going to…." Steve can barely see Nancy because of tears clouding his vision. He takes the little ring box out of his pocked and sets it on the bar.

"Steve please….please. I am sorry. Can't we just start over? I was lonely, Steve. A whole month." Nancy says through tear stained eyes.

"No, it's too late. Maybe it's a good thing I found out now, Nancy, because they told me after the recording studio, I was going to be gone at least nine months. If not longer." Nancy looks at Steve. Steve stands with his hands on his hips, looking across the room at her.

"We couldn't even be separate a month. Could we Nancy?" Nancy comes closer to Steve but Steve backs up as he raises his hand up to stop her.

"No, Nancy. Don't come any closer because at this point, I may do something I would regret later and I have to carry around with me what I saw in the bedroom, and if I hurt you, that is too much. I can't carry all of that. My shoulders, aren't that wide. You can have the apartment; I won't need it any longer. I'll come back when you're at work and I'll get the rest of my stuff." Steve picks up his bag and as he turns toward the door Nancy yells at his back,

"Steve! Steve! Haven't you ever mad any mistakes?"

Steve opens the door and he leaves. Steve retrieved his car from the parking lot and went to the nearest motel. In the next couple of days he went by the apartment and took everything that meant something to him. His clothes of course, other stuff and knickknacks, and his guitar. Steve made sure that he got there after she left for work. He would even wait and watch to make sure that she left and then he would sit in his car another hour, just to make sure she didn't come back. It killed him each time he went back to the apartment. Too many memories. Everything had too many memories attached to it. At one point he sat down on the coffee table and cried. Cried like a baby for a good ten minutes he thinks.

After that day he never went back and never saw or heard from Nancy again. He sometimes wondered what she was doing. How was she doing? Was she married? Did she have kids? Was she still with the guy who drove that black Vette?

About a year later Steve heard through the grapevine that Nancy had come home one day and found the guy in bed with another woman. By this time, some of the sting was gone; Steve could look back on the good aspects of the relationship. There were plenty of them. When Steve heard about her coming home and finding him with someone else, a crazy line pop into his head and he couldn't get rid of it. He carried it around with him for weeks, until he scribbled it on a piece of paper.

"Now it's your turn girl to cry."

Steve looked at the piece of paper and he thought that he might be able to use this. Make a song out of the experience. He presented the song to Journey. They liked it and of course they wanted to know where he got the idea from so he told them about the guy in the black corvette, and how he saw his girlfriend at the time kissing the driver. The other he kept to himself. Some things had to be private.

"Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin." Steve calls this song 'Love Justice.'

The End.


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