Copyright© 2016 by Jay Cantrell
Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 144 - Travis Blakely had a comfortable existence. He had a decent job and good friends. He was comfortable with what the future held for him. Then he ran into a girl he remembered from high school. His life got a lot more interesting - and infinitely more complicated
The mood was maudlin when we finally retreated into the house. Our parents had done their best to remain invisible but they reappeared when Veronica put out something light for everyone to snack on.
Ben’s son, Spenser, climbed up on his father’s lap and gave him a hug.
“I thought it went well,” Melissa said.
“That will depend on how much the public accepts,” I reminded everybody. “Nobody likes to be reminded that they’ve been played for fools. They’re just as likely to reject the message as they are facts if they don’t line up with their worldview.”
Lucas was particularly bummed because someone had leaked the Ramblin’ Records private emails. The CEO had referred to country music fans as “fat, inbred hillbillies” and said “that anybody with a twang and tight jeans” could achieve the success that Lucas had achieved “if we can pick enough pockets” to give the right sort of push.
Lucas had watched his relationship with his label erode over the past two weeks and it imploded with the documents. The label hadn’t participated in the streaming scheme but the words had cut him deeply, not only because they disparaged his talent but because the CEO had taken shots at the fans.
Abigail, his daughter and my usual shadow, had left my side to stand beside her father with a hand on top of his. It produced the sly smile that had made him beloved by millions of fans across the world.
“I’ll retire before I ever drop another disc for them,” he said softly.
“They won’t survive long,” I assured him. “Six weeks or less, they’ll be bankrupt and you’ll be free.”
“Should he distance himself?” Liz asked.
“That’s up to him,” I said.
“I’d like your opinion,” Lucas told me.
“Immediately and as far away as you can get,” I offered.
“Would you put something together for me?” he asked. The news had come just as we were heading outside. Nobody had time to really get the gist of what had been released. Somebody had already dissected it by the time we got back inside.
“Just what you said,” I told him, “and with the same conviction. Do you want me to put you in touch with somebody to get it on the record?”
He glanced at his family and got a sad smile and a nod from Gwen.
I made a call to my favorite Internet blogger.
“I have an official statement from Lucas Black about the startling revelations from his label,” I told the man that I had once threatened to destroy.
“That was just bullshit,” Steven Morton declared. “I watched the news conference. Thanks for inviting me. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it. I stay with my daughter during the summers.”
“Probably the best job in the world,” I said, looking around at the children in the room.
“Yeah,” he said. “It doesn’t pay much in terms in currency but I’d do it fulltime if I could.”
“Me, too,” I said. “Here’s Lucas.”
Lucas kissed his little girl on the forehead and took a deep breath. Abigail moved over and crawled up on Bev’s lap. Liz’s mother cuddled the little girl who knew something was wrong, but didn’t know exactly what was causing her father’s unhappiness.
“I have Steven Morton from NashvilleDirt,” I told him. “He’ll get your statement up pretty quickly. A lot of other sites look to him for breaking news. It’ll be out by the time the TV news comes on.”
“Thanks, Travis,” Lucas said as he took the phone. “Hello, Mr. Morton.”
Lucas didn’t put the phone on speaker so I didn’t hear what Steven told him. Lucas just gave a slight chuckle and thanked him.
“I will never again work for anyplace that holds such a dim view of the people that give up their hard-earned money to support them,” Lucas said. “I am still under contract to Ramblin’ Records but I will never release another disc for them. I’ll retire first and pack groceries for a living.”
“Yes,” he said. “I am entirely serious. I can deal with how they think of me. I can deal with what they think of other people in the industry. I will never accept working for someplace that thinks so little of the fans. My fans...”
He shook his head but I didn’t think Steven had said anything. It was just one of Lucas’s mannerisms.
“Man, the fans are the lifeblood of country music,” he said, his voice a little firmer. “They bust their asses, day in and day out, doing shitty jobs they probably hate to put food on the table and shoes on their kids’ feet. Then they take what’s left and give part of it to me and places like Ramblin’ Records. Maybe I’ve lost touch with them. I hope not. I hope that I still have the same kind of work ethic my mom and dad taught me when I was growing up the same way the fans grew up. I’ll tell you this. If I ever get to make music in the future, I’ll do whatever I can to prove myself to them again. We all feel that way.”
Steven must have asked a question because Lucas nodded.
“That’s the thing, Man,” he answered. “All of us out here right now ... and the hundreds of people we’re in contact with ... they understand that we’re damned lucky to be where we are. Yeah, it takes talent but it also takes a lot of lucky breaks. This whole thing wasn’t about getting more for ourselves. I will admit that we wanted our fair share but we also wanted to make sure that the fans got their fair share. We wanted to make sure that the studio musicians got a fair shake. We want the songwriters to be paid fairly. We wanted to make sure the newcomers got a fair chance to succeed. There is no fairness in the system we now have. It’s tilted too far in one direction. Record labels are like the government. They don’t make money on their own. They take it from other people’s pockets and use it for whatever they want. We’re asking for equality and transparency. And we don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
Lucas was good. He kept to the talking points that everyone had agreed upon but used his own words.
He tilted his head to me for a moment.
“I don’t know if we know that or not,” he said into the phone. “Hold on if you could.”
He pulled the phone from his face.
“Did we know that RaveLand put up a link to their financials?” he asked.
“No,” Liz answered. “But it’s no surprise. She’s ... a label but not a label.”
“Black Hat did the same,” Lucas told us. “Glen said the numbers are old but he wants to show the fans that not everybody acts like Train or Caliphate. There are some good people in the business side of the industry, too.”
“Cool,” Conny said.
“Randi posted a link on Twitter,” Liz said, glancing up from her phone. That sent more faces downward to check their phones. “She posted her personal finances along with the label’s.”
Conny looked up first.
“Image says they will release theirs by four o’clock Los Angeles time,” she announced. “They’re inviting the feds to audit them anytime next week. They already released salary figures for their top-level executives.”
Ben and Melissa looked pleased at Conny’s revelation but shook their heads.
“Not a word from Vista,” Ben grumbled. “I’m not surprised.”
“TGI says the accountants are removing any proprietary information before releasing theirs,” Melissa groused. “It’s more likely that they’re fabricating the numbers. The used the new hashtag though.”
“Hashtag?” I asked. Lucas had my phone in his hand so I was completely out of the loop.
“IStandForTheFans,” Melissa said. I saw her type something on her phone and she looked up and offered a malicious smile. “I just told them to prove it and release the unedited figures. I’m going to release mine. I have them itemized from the divorce.”
Jill patted me on the shoulder and put her phone in front of me. I saw Randi Raver’s Twitter feed and followed Jill’s finger.
“I Stand with Liz,” it read. “Hashtag: IStandForTheFans”
It had been re-Tweeted more than a thousand times in less than an hour. I smiled when Lucas finished up his call and handed me the phone back.
“Thanks, Travis,” Steven told me.
“Right back at you,” I said. “We know you’ll give the story without embellishment. We’ll be in touch soon.”
Lucas gave his wife a hug and leaned over to tickle Conny’s daughter under the chin.
“Let’s go set some stuff on fire,” Ben suggested.
“We’ll host a bonfire and cookout at the house,” Kim said.
“We’ll shut off the phones and just spend time with our friends,” Melissa added.
“And families,” Liz said, putting one around her dad and the other around my mom.
“First thing tomorrow, we go shopping and ignore the whole thing to Monday,” Conny said. “I’m thinking leather pants and a halter top for the show tomorrow night.”
I smiled at her.
“Just wait and see, Buster,” Conny said. “And I’m going to make sure Melissa’s top is two sizes too small. That’ll show the world that we can bring in the younger male market!”
The bonfire idea was a huge success (likely because everybody elected to leave their phones somewhere else).
George Carter came and we got to meet his wife and his granddaughter – who immediately replaced me as the coolest person the kids knew personally.
I had expected Glen’s webmistress to be a gawky teenager with birth-control glasses and zits. I had not expected a young woman that was just as tall as Liz and just as well-built as Melissa. I was extremely happy that the event was not a pool party – and I think the rest of the males in attendance felt the same way.
But Chloe Carter was pretty cool and spent most of the evening hanging out with Skye, talking University of Tennessee athletics, instead of tormenting the male population.
“Are you still planning... ?” Ben asked when he, Lucas and I found ourselves alone.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Good,” Lucas said. “We have things worked out. We’re going to rehearse it tomorrow morning. Does anybody else know?”
“No,” I said.
“Even better!” Ben said, grinning at me. “I didn’t even tell Kim.”
“Speaking of wives,” I said, lifting my eyebrow at Lucas.
“I know!” he said. “Gwen told me that she’s going to start coming out there Monday morning.”
“She said she got a bad vibe off that therapist and she wanted to wait until she was completely gone,” Lucas said.
“Ciera was harmless,” I said. “I mean, come on.”
“Uh-huh,” Lucas said. “She’s going to sit with everybody tomorrow night. Is that cool?”
“It’s great!” I said.
Our conversation had to stop because Kim appeared and handed Ben his guitar.
He gave her a confused look.
“Do you remember last summer when I had the cast over for a party?” she asked.
Ben smiled so Kim turned to me.
“He did parodies of a bunch of different songs,” she explained. “I mean ... it got pretty bad later in the evening – sort of ... dirty. I figured with so many creative people here, it might be fun.”
I glanced to where Chloe was talking to my mother and then to Abigail and the boys.
“We’ll stay clean until they go to bed,” Ben said. “It’ll be fun.”
He was wrong. It was hilarious.
Even the non-musicians got into the act, cutting in with different words that rhymed. I was the only one that didn’t really join in. I’d make spoken suggestions but I didn’t break into song – even when really good ideas would pop into my brain.
“You’re going to perform at karaoke,” Jill informed me.
“If I have to do it, you have to do it!” Skye added.
I continued to shake my head in defiance.
“I haven’t been able to find the music yet,” Liz said. “I thought about just going in and putting it down myself but I figured you’d notify RFN just to block me.”
“I’ll do it,” Melissa said. “What song?”
Jill told her.
“Shit, that’s just guitar,” she said. “I can put that down next week. We’re still going to come out to exercise if that’s cool.”
“It’s great,” Liz said. “Make yourself at home.”
“Don’t say that,” Conny said. “She’ll...”
She pinched her lips together in deference to the children.
“Take home your bath towels,” she amended.
“Really?” I asked. “That’s the best you could come up with ... bath towels.”
Conny turned her body so I could see her give me the finger but nobody else could.
True to Kim’s prediction, the song parodies got more lurid as the night progressed. By the time that Abigail fell asleep almost every single lyric had sexual connotations. Conny seemed the best at putting together rhyming sentences that would never hear airplay.
“This is what you got for keeping all your perversions inside!” Melissa jibed.