“RISE AND FALL OF ZANDER ZANE”
“A FIST FULL OF GROUPIES AND A SHIT LOAD OF BLOW”
Every now and then we find ourselves slap bang in the middle of a moment that will define our lives.
We look back at our lives as a snapshot of memories, turning points and decisions.
Like ripples on a pond, these moments slowly spread out and influence every part of our life until we stand on the ledge wondering…
How the fuck did I get here?
This was one of those moments.
A defining moment.
Fame had come early to Zander Zane. Caught up in a world of drink and drugs, more money than I could shake a stick at – more than enough to piss away. Girls falling over themselves just for a mere glimpse of me, let alone a night.
That is how I live my life. Why would I ever change?
New Years Eve 2010. Ironically, my memory of that night is patchy at best. I remember the gig, I remember playing my ass off and I remember the group of girls that invited themselves backstage to party with the band. That much I remember vividly. Soon, the drinks were flowing and the drugs were a-plenty. That’s about where things got a bit hazy.
Fleeting glimpses of naked groupies working their magic, body shots and snorting lines. It all becomes a bit of a blur. Then black.
I recall waking some time the next day, the light streaming through the penthouse windows bright enough to burn a hole in my retina. Waking to the aftermath of the best fucking party ever. A sea of half-dressed bodies, arms and legs, tits and asses as far as the damned eye could see. As I surveyed my kingdom, feeling as high and mighty as the King of Rock on top of the world, I saw the sight that sent it all fucking crashing down.
I saw her.
From fifteen floors up, I couldn’t tell, but I knew in my gut it was her. Floating face down in the hotel’s private pool. That sight, that much I do damned well remember. That much I will never forget.
The defining moment.
When my dream of fame became my nightmare.
By the time I got down to the poolside, I knew damned well it was her. My Layla. I could tell even without turning her over. That damned bunny tattoo on her left buttock. I did what any fucking hero would do, diving into the pool to fish her out. Yet, there was nothing I could do.
She was stone fucking cold and blue.
God only knows when she fell in, but by the time my drunken ass had found her, she was well past dead.
These defining moments, like ripples on a pond.
How the fuck did I get here?
To really begin the tale, I suppose we need to start at the very beginning.
I suppose I had a fairly regular childhood. My parents didn’t fight all too much, neither did they bottle up their anger into some passive aggressive shitstorm that I got swept up into. They were just two people, trying their best to get by.
Born in the early seventies. My mother was a homemaker and as an only child, I was her world. She didn’t spoil me… We didn’t really have the money for that. But I never wanted for anything. My father, I suppose in a way he was my inspiration. A hard working session guitarist who tried as hard as he could to break the back of the music business and make it big time. He had the talent – that much I could tell even as a boy.
But his big break never did come.
It was a few months out from my twelfth birthday, when he left for a tour as a session guitarist for Fleetwood Mac. This, he had hoped, would be the moment that would launch himself. The break he was waiting for.
He was gone for a few weeks and returned more energized than ever. All seemed right with the world. That was until mother got an envelope in the mail one day. The envelope that changed my world.
No sender address. No letter. She opened the envelope and took out the contents.
I saw the fucking color drain out of her face.
More importantly, HE saw the fucking color drain out of her face.
She dropped them on the ground. Photos, a whole damned collection of them.
Photos of my dad, in bed with another woman.
No letter. No sender address. No idea who had taken them or why.
Photos that changed my life.
After the initial shock wore off and mother found her feet again, the yelling started. The shattering of plates started. The throwing anything she could get her hands on at the cheating prick started.
The smashing of his damned guitars started. And those photos, mother threw them in the fire.
Retreating to my room to cry into my pillow, I had understood the gist of what had happened.
The old saying goes “what goes on tour, stays on tour”. It appeared that my dear old dad had quite the affinity for hookers. Most recently from the tour he had just returned from. That would have been bad enough but what really pissed mother off was It wasn’t the first time, that much was clear. Mother said the photos were all of different times, different places, years upon years of photos. And all with the same fucking hooker.
I’ll never forget the feral rage in mother’s voice as she screamed at him.
“Tell me her name! You lying, cheating bastard!”
She kicked him out that night. With just a suitcase and a guitar to his name. Tossed them after him without a care in the world.
“Her name is Betty!” He yelled back up the steps at mother, as if that would make anything better. She didn’t say another word, just slammed the door on him and cried into a bottle of wine for hours.
It took them months before they were even able to talk to each other again. Years to work through their shit, but eventually she let him back.
By then, he had given up his dreams to save his family. He had sold his guitars. He resented the entire fucking music industry and everybody in it. His big break never did happen. But that was his own damned fault.
Instead, as a teenager, I got to witness my father turn into a bitter, resentful shell of a man. Ironically, it was that resent that pushed my into my only escape. The very music that he had come to hate.
Still, he never did fuck another hooker. So, he’s got that going for him.
“IT’S A KINDA MAGIC”
Fast forward a few years.
By the late 80’s, Zander Zane was starting to make waves. The Zander Zone had released their first record, scraping together all the pennies we had to make it happen. We were playing almost every night, taking whatever gigs we could find.
Getting the name out there. Getting noticed.
It was enough to get the attention of a young music producer. He introduced himself to me after one of our shows, one of those cliché seedy bars.
“Will Tame”, he announced with an extended hand. “I will bring you fame.”
That was enough. After a quick chat and a couple of beers with the boys, we signed on the dotted line. The rest is history… But that is a different story.
We rode the high and the signing bonus right into the next night. Played the damned gig of our lives. But it’s not the music I remember most. I remember her.
You ever look across a room and have that electric moment between two people? Where you lock eyes and can feel that instant connection?
I saw her from the stage. She saw me from the crowd. Eyes locked. Electricity. Instant fucking connection. A kinda Magic.
I’ve had my fair share of groupies in my time, but she took the cake. My Layla. The image of her on that first night will be forever burned into my mind. The tight leather pants. Hers was a body of a goddess and she had the best tits you’ve ever seen – the kind you can really sink your face into. But more than that, I remember her eyes. Piercing green eyes that stared right into my soul.
I could swear she spent the entire concert with her eyes locked on mine. I sure as hell spent the night with mine locked on her.
I was in the crowd almost as soon as the final chord had hit. I sure as hell didn’t want to risk her being the one that got away. Even in the crowd and chaos, our hands managed to find each other. I dragged her by the hand out of the side door and into an alley that smelt of booze and piss. It didn’t matter. We still hadn’t even said a word before our tongues were dancing. E-fucking-lectric.
When the kiss finally broke, we were both gasping for breath. I looked that girl dead in the eye and said the only thing that came into my mind.
“Hey… I’m Zander Zane.”
She smiled the smile of an angel and spoke with a voice equally as musical.
“I know.” Her hand seemed to flick the raven locks off her face in slow motion. “I’m Layla.”
Just like that, our connection was complete. Rocker and groupie, lovers… Who the fuck knows. We didn’t ever define what we were. All we knew was that we were young, that the chemistry between us was white hot and that we fucked like bunnies.
“LIFE IN THE FAST LANE”
From that moment, she never really left my life. We were never anything official, because I didn’t ever want to drag her into the spotlight. She didn’t ever want to live the life hiding from the paparazzi. She just wanted my music, and she just wanted me.
One thing I learned about my Layla very damned fast was that she knew how to party. I thought that I did my fair share of drugs. I thought that I drank enough, but that was nothing compared to the life that she showed me. New drugs that I wouldn’t even know how to acquire began to come my way. But it wasn’t just partying, not to me and not to her. In her own way, Layla fucking loved me. She never said it. She didn’t have to. And I fucking loved her back.
For years, she was at nearly every one of the Zander Zone’s shows. She was the number one fan that nobody really knew about. That’s what she loved about the whole thing, the secrecy. And after each one of the shows she came to, I knew we were going to be up all night.
We rose to fame, faster and further than any of us ever thought we would. The record deals kept coming and we kept writing. We played to bigger and bigger crowds, sold more and more records. Then the awards began to flow. Gold records, platinum records, best album. There was no glass ceiling for the Zander Zone. We rose to the very top of the damned mountain. And I took Layla along every step of the way, in the background.
It got to the point where the rest of the band didn’t like Layla all that much. Some time in the late 90’s, they really had it out with me about her. They didn’t like the influence she had on me, or some shit like that. Tried to stage some sort of intervention to explain to me that my partying had gotten out of control, and it was all her fault.
They gave me the ultimatum… The pussy or the fame. Music or Layla. The band or my favourite groupie.
I wasn’t ready to give either up. So, I went to the only place I could think of. I still don’t really know why. Perhaps it was the bender I was on messing with my head. I went to see my old man. And I took Layla with me.
I didn’t really know what to expect, I knew that the reception wouldn’t be with arms wide open but I didn’t expect what waited me.
Him and mom still lived together, somehow. We approached their house, a quaint little house in the suburbs, opened the picket fence and walked up to the porch. Both Layla and I feeling very damned out of place. I knocked on the door and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, the door swung open and there he was standing before me. I hadn’t spoken to the miserable bastard in years, but he didn’t greet me with so much as a hello.
He sure did stare at Layla though. His mouth hung open and the sorry bastard couldn’t even utter a fucking word.
“Hey pop. I’ve come to ask you a question.”
“I don’t know why I’m here. Really. This is Layla… And I have to choose between her and my music.”
Finally, he snapped out of his stunned trance. I expected him to at least invite us inside. Instead, the only sentence my father had spoken to me in years came like a hammer blow to the fucking chest.
“Get the fuck out of here and take your fucking groupie with you.”
Something about meeting my father didn’t sit right with Layla. Hell, it didn’t sit right with me. But in the end, she made the decision for me. In the kind of way that only Layla could. She took me on a three day bender, filled me full of booze and drugs until I was half dead… Then fucked off.
When I finally came to, I found her note:
‘Zander. I cannot stand between you and what you were meant to be. I’ll always be watching.’
She knew I would have chosen her. So she chose for me.
It would be over a decade before I even saw her again.
And when exactly was that? New Years fucking Eve, 2010.
One final night with the love of my life. One more wild party.
That was the night that broke the Zander Zone.
“So, nurse… That’s the gist of it. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t have all the compassion in the world for him.”
Zander Zane stands over a hospital bed. A bed in which his father lies, unconscious. Machines beeping and whirring, tubes in all different directions. He watches coldly as the nurse goes about her checks, noting information on his monitor and writing it into his chart. When she turns to him again, she has a look in her eye. The kind of look that somebody has when they are trying to find a way of saying something but not sure how to breach the conversation. Zander reads the look like a book and edges her on.
“What is it? Spill the beans.”
She looks down at her chart.
“He has been in and out of consciousness for a while. Zander. He’s a very troubled man. Maybe it’s the way he treated you, or the distance between you. There’s something that he wanted to tell you. He wanted you to have this.”
Reaching down to the clipboard, the nurse hands Zander an envelope. Tapping him on the shoulder she takes her leave, sliding the door shut as she exits the room. Zander turns the envelope over in his hands.
He looks over at his father, lying in the bed so lifelessly. Anger turns in his eyes and he crumples the envelope up.
“Not this time, you bastard.”
He tosses the envelope onto the bed and turns to walk away. He even manages to get to the door before stopping in his tracks. Perhaps it is curiosity, perhaps a deeper feeling, but Zander walks back across the room and picks up the envelope. He rips it open, expecting some heartfelt apology. What he gets instead, is but a single sentence.
‘Not everything is as it seems.’
It is at that point that his father’s hand reaches out and grabs his wrist. His eyes are open and he is very much awake. With a fair amount of coughing and discomfort, Rick Zane pulls out the tube placed in his throat. He speaks in a weak, hoarse voice.
“Zander. I don’t have long. Your mother will be back soon. Just listen.”
Zander begins to protest but his father stops him with a feeble hand.
“You need to know something. I saw it the first time that I met her. Layla.”
Zander stops dead in his tracks at her name formed on his father’s lips. The Rock God, stunned to silence.
“She is a spitting image of her mother.”
Zander’s face turns from shock to confusion.
“What are you talking about. How the hell do you know?”
“Her mother. A woman that I had a certain weakness for. A hooker. Your Layla is the spitting image of her. She had to be her daughter. I have no doubt in my mind.”
Zander’s mouth falls open. The photos, the argument. Now his life is forever wrapped up in his father’s lies. Then, the full realisation hits him…
“Fucking wait?! That means…”
His father nods, knowing what Zander has pieced together.
“It is possible that Layla was actually your half-sister.”
“Sis… Fucking what?! Are you telling me I potentially screwed my own sister for years?”
Rick Zane points a wary and shaking finger at the bedside table. Zander opens the drawer, still stunned in silence and trying to wrap his head around all of this. Inside, there is another envelope. This one in an official envelope – weathered and old, having obviously been carried around for a long time. On the front, reads the words ‘Paternity Test’.
“Zander. I wanted you to have this conversation long ago. But better late than never. I’ve never opened the envelope. But I did follow Layla, I needed a sample of her DNA to test. I needed to see if it was a match to my own, to your own. The answers are in that…”
Before he can finish, Rick Zane erupts into a fit of coughing. Sucking for air, the beeping on his machine soon kicks into overdrive. By the time the nurses rush into the room, he is already flatlining. Zander steps back, tears in his eyes as he watches his father die before him.
Only, the envelope in his hands is the final piece of that prick’s life. The final secret. Even as they perform CPR on his father in front of him, he slides the envelope open and takes out the report.
One word leaps out of the page at him. Enough to send Zander Zane heading out of the doors, leaving his father behind and to the nearest bar.