Blue Atkins walked the glossy concrete floor of the arena, trailing Flay, the lead singer of the band. His pulse jumped in time to the thump of drums and muted racket of cheers, whistles, screams. They rounded the last corner and climbed the steps to the back of the stage where the racket became an ear-numbing roar.
His stomach twitched along with his pulse. Sweaty hands made it hard to hold his guitar. He slid the strap over his neck so it didn’t slip from his fingers and crash to the floor.
The other two members of Towering Puddle were on stage for the drum solo they played at every concert. In the back of his mind, he wondered how they kept from getting bored, playing the same songs every night. He tried to push the question to the front of his mind to use as a distraction, but it couldn’t compete with the swirling flurries of panic.
He’d never played for a crowd bigger than five. This was a sold-out concert at BC Place, an audience of thousands. He didn’t know how many thousand exactly and promised to punch anyone who told him.
Flay rested a hand on his shoulder, leaning close to be heard over the crowd. He hoped Flay couldn’t feel the quivering under his skin.
“Got your earphone in?” Flay asked.
Blue nodded in short, quick jerks and touched shuddering fingers to the insert in his ear that allowed him to hear the music.
“You’ll go out first. Walk all the way across and stand near Ash.”
He pinned his gaze to the man on the far side of the stage, adding a hint of guitar to the crash of drums.
“When it’s over, take a bow and leave from that end, okay?”
“Got it,” he yelled.
“If you lose your place during the song pantomime until you pick it up again. It’s no big deal.” Flay squeezed his shoulder. “Rock and roll has only one unbreakable rule. No puking in front of the fans.”
“Big help. Thanks.”
The blast of cheers when Mason finished beating the drums swept the words away. Mason and Ash had time for a brief wave to the audience before the lights dimmed. Flay pushed Blue out of the wing and onto the stage. The torrent of sound rolling up from the crowd rattled his lungs and kicked his heart into a new rhythm.
Mason set the beat for the next song and Blue used it to move his legs, striding across the stage, unable to ignore the landscape of faces visible in the first several rows. Hands in the air, mouths open, they screamed while the remaining members of the band picked up their instruments.
Ash helped him find the waiting amplifier cord and plug in his guitar. Blue rubbed trembling fingers on his jeans and took a few deep breaths to calm the internal bedlam. It only made him dizzy.
The lights went up and Flay began playing. Blue mumbled a mantra to the same tune.
“I won’t barf on the stage. I won’t barf. Flay’ll kill me if I do. I won’t barf.”