Ashton Hill Naked Sundays


They had just gotten drinks when the announcement was made to move through to the rear of the building. The two men once again shepherded the girls, ensuring their safety. The rear of the property had been opened out, and large braziers held glowing fires and log seats as if they were there for a campfire. It was hard to distinguish anyone around the braziers, as the glow from the fire barely reached the people surrounding them. The audience appeared almost as ghostly apparitions. The stage was bathed in the same flickering warm glow, but from specialised lighting, and Estelle had to admit the whole effect was quite stunning.

The crowd hushed as the drummer came out onto the stage. He was difficult to see as he walked through the shadows at the back of the stage to take up position and noisily flex his drumming muscles. The guitarists followed him onto the stage, and, as the golden glow caught them, Estelle sucked in a breath, her eyes going wide.

"What's up?" Darren asked, leaning across Tarlee to speak in a quiet voice.

"I thought you said this bands name was Midnight Blue?" she asked incredulously, turning to Tarlee who sat between them.

"They are," she pointed to the sign.

"They used to be called..." Chris started to explain in that madly lecturing tone of his.

"Crossfire," she breathed, knowing it before he said the word.

"That's right! Did you know them before they changed their name?" he asked, suddenly more interested in talking to her than he had been for most of the night.

"It was a long time ago," she said shakily.

"It would have had to have been, they changed their name about five years ago," Chris informed her.

"Four." she corrected him, knowing it couldn't have been five. They must have changed their name after she left Jason. But why?

Estelle said nothing else as she watched the man she had wasted three years of her life with adjusting the guitar strap around his neck and over his shoulder with practised hands. He'd changed very little in the years since she'd left him, and she wondered if he would recognise her in the same way. It had been a long time, and she imagined the band had so many groupies fulfilling their every wish that he wouldn't even remember her name. Still, it was difficult to sit here and not relive being the needy girl so desperate for his attention that she had debased and humiliated herself for him while he felt nothing. She was just one of the many who serviced his needs back then, and she had let him treat her like that until she had finally wised up and realised she wasn't special to him at all. She had just been one of the many.

Estelle berated herself for giving in to Tarlee's shenanigans. When she had realised she was being conned, she should have just cancelled and stayed at home with a book, like the good girl she had become since moving to the country. She had restarted her life properly without having to worry about hiding from or avoiding people who were still in the music scene she had fled from. Here she didn't have to worry about running into him or breaking her resolve to stay away, although she had sneaked into their gigs more than once just to hear his voice again before she had graduated and moved away entirely.

"Sorry, what?" Estelle asked, coming back to the here and now, realising that Chris was still talking to her, and she blinked at him.

"Where did you used to see them play? When they were Crossfire?" He asked.

"The Zoo, a few times," she shrugged, not wanting to relive those days with a perfect stranger. She was being ridiculous. She was so absolutely over Jason Jones, even though the sick feeling she had in her stomach told her otherwise. The chances of any of the band recognising her, or even caring that she was there if they did recognise her, were slim to none. They had all been far too in love with themselves and the attention they got from their adoring fans to care about one girl who stopped showing up, and probably still were. She drew a deep breath and relaxed, telling herself she was stupid to think that seeing her would have the same effect on him as it had on her after all this time.

Estelle purposely bought into Tarlee's exuberance and danced along in her seat to the song, following the instructions of the directors to remain seated during the first number. She had to admit they were good, really good, and had lived up to their potential. She schooled herself to ignore the bodies on the stage and just enjoy the music and being with her friends. The guys were into the music as much as she and Tarlee were, and they cheered loudly as the song came to an end.

Between each song, the directors called out instructions to the small select audience. When they were allowed to form a mosh pit in the almost darkness in front of the stage, Estelle happily let Tarlee drag her up to the front and danced, keeping herself shielded from the band by taller people rather than risk the recognition she had almost convinced herself wouldn't happen. The longer the concert lasted, the more she relaxed and let herself believe it would all be okay. No one would recognise her, and no one would say anything about it. Eventually, they were instructed to return to sit around the braziers, and Estelle was grateful for the chance to catch her breath as they watched the stage lights lower and a soft golden spotlight settle on a single tall stool in the middle of the stage. She turned her head and locked eyes for the briefest of moments with Jason.

'Shit!' she thought, and just as suddenly as the panic rose in her, it died away. There was no recognition in that look, she was fine. It was all going to be okay.

"I love this guy's voice, I wish he sang solo more often instead of just doing the backup vocals," Chris said quietly as they watched Jason walk to the back of the stage and take a seat, seemingly subdued as he adjusted his guitar strap again and repositioned the instrument on his thigh.

If I could write the perfect song I'd write that song for you I'd fill it with the raging passion About the way, I felt for you Every melodic word Would heal your heart's deep scar And maybe for a moment It could be your guiding star To bring you back to me Come back to me Stella

Because I'm walking in the moonlight And it just doesn't feel right There's no stars in the sky 'cause I haven't got a reason why You disappeared the way you did Why you vanished, and you hid

If I could write the perfect song I'd write that song for you A melody of hidden treasures Filled with sapphire blue But a million jewels Couldn't say a thing That won't be said in three words That if spoken just might Bring you back to me Come back to me Stella

Because I'm walking in the moonlight And it just doesn't feel right There's no stars in the sky 'cause I haven't got a reason why You disappeared the way you did Why you vanished, and you hid

Estelle sat motionless, not hearing any more of the song. No one had called her Stella since she moved to Ashton Hills three years ago and began using her full given name, much to her mother's delight. Was she just being vain believing the song was about her? How many other Stella's could there be who had left him without seeing or speaking to him ever again? She knew it was her, and she felt the need to escape, to run and hide, as she had done so long ago. She knew she wasn't that girl anymore, but she didn't feel strong enough to face this love letter that was nothing like the reality of their relationship. He hadn't loved her; she was just one of many. He certainly wasn't heartbroken over her. She knew for a fact that he had dedicated a cover version of Jet's Cold Hard Bitch to her for several months after she had left him.

Hiding her numbness and uncertainty, she plastered a smile on her face and partied with her friends for the rest of the concert. As soon as the final song had finished and the director had called a wrap, Tarlee grabbed Estelle's hand and started dragging her through the small crowd.

"All that bottled water they gave us, I'm going to burst if I don't pee, like, right now!" Tarlee exclaimed as they reached the restrooms, beating most of the crowd and only having to wait a few minutes while Tarlee danced from one foot to another.

"This has been a great night, Tarlee, thanks for making me come," Estelle enthused happily, glad the night was over and they could leave before any of the band saw her in the crowd with the house lights on. For the most part the night had been wonderful, and she knew the knot in her stomach making her feel ill would disappear once they were on their way back to safe, quiet, boring Ashton Hill. No one would recognise her, and if they did no one would care that she was there. That song was just that, a song. It wasn't real. Jason wasn't begging her to go back to him.


Chapter 2.

Jason had stared out at the crowd as the director issued instructions again. This had been a great idea, only inviting local fans to film the video and making it a smaller intimate event as if they were all sitting around one campfire. The group of fans who had crowded the space before the stage for the last number all started retreating back to their seats. It was hard to see them in the dim gold light from the braziers, especially with the stage lights glaring back at him, despite the use of dimmers.

The girl in the red shirt looked over her shoulder back at the stage, and his breath caught. He strained forward, trying to see if he had imagined the girl who had disappeared from his world and his life years ago. He was about to jump from the stage and follow her when Eric grabbed his arm.

"What are you doing? You're up next!" he exclaimed, not understanding why Jason would risk jumping down into the circle of fans. Despite their good behaviour for the cameras and directors, it was only because the threat of ejection hovered over them that they restrained themselves, and the fangirls would still swarm the guy if given a chance. Eric may be the lead singer, but Jason was the dark brooding sex object in the band.

"What?" Jason shook his head as understanding dawned on him. It was time for his solo ballad. His song for her... Stella's song. If the girl he was desperate to find were here, she would be watching and listening and know he wanted her back. He turned to his friend. "I thought I saw her. Stella. I think she's out there," he said quietly as he walked toward the back of the stage where a stool had been placed for him. He always imagined what he'd do if she showed up at one of his gigs. Now he didn't know what to do.

"Seriously?" Eric murmured, his brows knitting. "Look, we're committed to this. We have to finish the gig, then you can go look for her. Sing your love song, and, if it's really her, she'll find you after the gig." He wondered if Jason could be right, but it seemed the girl who had vanished years ago had never looked back, or at least they'd never seen her since. Jason was usually so in control these days. It bothered Eric to see that control slip, even for a brief moment. Jason was the driving force behind their success to the point of obsessiveness. There was only one thing he was more obsessive about... Stella, and he thought he had just seen that obsession in the audience. If she'd moved to the country it would explain why they hadn't seen her, despite countless searches back in the city over the years.

"What's she wearing? I'll get Bruce to go check it out," Eric said to relieve his friend's anxiety at not being able to go after the girl himself.

"Red top, black skirt and boots, hair up," Jason said quietly. "Don't bother, I was probably just seeing things," he said abruptly. Eric saw the disappointment in his best friends face before the tight control slipped back over Jason's features.

"If it is her, she'll come to you after the gig once you sing this song. So make it good," Eric slapped Jason's back and moved off stage, looking for their long-term roadie who would have known Stella when she had hung with the band. He should be able to pick her out of a crowd as good as any of them could. "Have you seen Bruce?" he asked Red, their drummer, who was swilling water during their small break.

"Yeah, he's down at the board with Dave," Red said, raising the bottle to lips again as Eric made his way down to the front of the stage where their tech guy supervised the lighting and effects, despite the professional team from Crazy Horse taking over for the night.

"Yo! Bruce!" Eric called him over. "I need to you find a girl in a red shirt, black skirt and boots!"

"Shit, man, I thought you weren't doing this crap anymore," Bruce said disgustedly. He liked Eric's girlfriend, and didn't want him to fuck up the relationship yet again.

"Jase thinks it's Stella," Eric said, explaining why he was asking. "Just check it out. If it is her, don't tell her we know she's here, or she might disappear again. Just let the guys on the door know not to let her leave, and offer her and the people she's with passes to hang with us after the gig. Just have a look for now and see if it is her."

"Fuck, you mean 'the Stella', right?" Bruce looked up at the stage where Jason was pouring his heart out in the ballad he had written two years ago for Stella. "Still blonde?"

"I guess. Jase said her hair was up," Eric said. "Just have a look around and come let me know what you find." He went back up on stage as the ballad ended. "You good?" Eric murmured to Jason as he walked back on stage for the final two songs once Jason had finished the ballad.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Jason asked, moving the stool out of the way as the director called out directions for the next song. Red and Greg took their places, and the band launched into Salt, a new song they were testing out before its release. The band members harmonised beautifully, and this song had a heavy rock beat to it that had the small crowd on their feet again. Try as they might, neither Eric nor Jason could see the girl in the red top beyond the footlights of the stage.

The final song, their first big hit, came to a crashing end, and the crowd went wild, screaming and applauding for more. Without another glimpse of the girl in the red shirt, Jason had convinced himself that he had imagined her, and was glad the long night was over. He needed a shower and cold beer, not necessarily in that order.

"Bruce is pretty sure it's her, He's gone to offer them passes to hang out with the band," Eric said, watching his friend carefully as he delivered the news.

"Pretty sure?" Jason's head came up, and he turned as his gaze swept the room.

"Yeah, he didn't want to spook her, so he didn't speak to her during the gig," Eric turned to face the dwindling crowd from their off-stage vantage point. The lighting had been turned from the stage toward the crowd to light the way out of the venue to the carpark.

"What if she leaves?" Jason asked. His emotions fluctuated wildly between excitement at finding her again, disbelief that it really was her, and sheer panic that if it really was her and she would leave before he got to see her, speak to her, or find out what happened to make her just disappear from his life.

"Then you have your answer to the song. You couldn't have made your invitation to come back any clearer," Eric said. "Don't start getting soft on me now. You're the hard ass that rides the rest of us to look after business before pleasure."

"Yeah, but you need a kick in the ass, I don't," Jason chuckled. "Wish me luck," he jumped from the stage, wading into the crowd with a single purpose to find his vanishing girl. He saw Bruce, taller than most people, he stood out in the crowd as he walked toward two other tall men standing close to the restrooms. As he neared he couldn't see Stella, and he moved closer to where Bruce stood to overhear the conversation.

"Chicks, huh," Bruce said. "There's always a lineup. I thought I recognised one of your friends and came to say hi, but they disappeared before I got here."

"You with the band?" Darren asked, eyeing the man.

"Roadie," Bruce nodded. "I thought I recognised the girl in the red shirt. She your girlfriend?"

"He wishes," Chris snorted.

"Friends, we work together," Darren interjected.

"Yeah? You a teacher too?" Bruce grabbed at a vague memory, hoping she had finished her degree, but not confident that she had before she had disappeared.

"No, but I work at the same school," Darren frowned. The man clearly knew Estelle if he knew she was a teacher.

"Jason Jones," Chris said louder than he had meant to, and stepped towards Jason with his hand outstretched. "Chris Ashton," he introduced himself.

"Hey," Jason said in his quiet bass. "I heard a friend of mine was here, and I was hoping to say hello and invite you all to the after party."

"That would be so awesome! How do you know Estelle?" Chris asked.

"The one that got away," he smiled tightly. "Only I knew her as Stella back then."

"I think you've got the wrong girl," Darren frowned. "Tarlee had to con her into coming to the gig. She doesn't like concerts, crowds, or after parties."

"I guess we'll find out when she reappears," Jason said impassively, his hackles coming up at the possessiveness in the voice of the other man when he spoke of Estelle.

"Wait, our Estelle is your Stella? The Stella from the song?" Chris asked incredulously. "I've got to agree with Darren, here, she's not the type. She did look concerned when she realised you used to be known as Crossfire. She said she didn't know you'd changed the band name. She said she saw you at The Zoo a few times, but she never mentioned knowing the band, or you personally." The words hurt Jason, but he said nothing, looking up as a group of women exited the restroom.

"Crowded in there?" Bruce asked, moving to stand in front of Jason and block their view of him.

"Loser!" one girl hissed, and they moved away toward their waiting friends.

"I'm going to take that as a yes," he chuckled, but fell silent as Estelle walked through the door, laughing with her friend before stopping in her tracks and staring at him open-mouthed.

"Hey, I thought it was you, It's been a long time," Bruce grinned.

"Who are you?" Tarlee asked, seeing Estelle take a step back and go visibly pale.

"Bruce, I'm with the band. You can ask Jase," he stepped aside, exposing Jason fully to the girl's view.

"Yeah, he's with the band. Don't you recognise Bruce, Stella?" Jason asked in a low soft voice.

"Why don't we go back to say hi to the other guys and talk about old times, Stella. Your friends are invited," Bruce said with a grin. "I know Red is dying to see you again. Come, follow me."

"Seriously, we can party with the band?" Tarlee squealed with delight.

"Sure, I'll introduce you to the guys myself," he steered her away from her friend as Jason moved closer to Stella.

"I always wondered if I would find you at one of our gigs, and how this would go down," he said softly, aware of Darren's eyes on him. "Your friends want to meet the band, and we should talk. Please, Stella, just talk," he said in a calm and superbly controlled voice, despite the fact that his heart was racing and his stomach clenched as she flinched away from him. He saw her eyes flicker to Darren and spoke again. "The guys already told us that you're all just friends. And you wouldn't want to stop your friends from joining the party, would you? Walk with me, it's really good to see you again," he smiled softly and placed his hand on the small of her back, encouraging her to follow Bruce and the other two of her friends.

Estelle moved closer to Darren, brushing Jason's hand away. She still hadn't spoken a word to Bruce or Jason. She felt numb, but the sound of Jason's deep bass voice close to her ear and his hand on the small of her back had reignited something within her she wasn't prepared for. She was over Jason, she had lived almost five years without him in her life, she told herself, but couldn't deny her body's reaction to him. How was it possible after so long apart?

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