Beat of the Heart

Runaway Train 2


Katie Ashley


With my foot pumping steady on the bass drum, my arms flew in a frenzied flourish over the toms and cymbals, sending a deafening thunder throughout the auditorium. As stinging sweat threatened to blind my eyes, I quickly swiped my arm across my forehead and then focused on the song’s encore and my third solo of the evening. Jake and Brayden’s echoing harmonies had ended only moments before, and now it was a battle between the metal and drums on our most hardcore song to date, Ride the Pale Horse. Their guitars screeched to a halt, and then it was me, and only me, pounding out the rhythm. As the house lights flickered in a mosaic of colors, I felt the beat echoing deep within my chest. Although I loved any excuse to show off, I knew the importance of solos to my band mates—we were only as good as our last show or our last album. Even though I was in a stadium with twenty thousand people, moments like these always took me back to when I was a kid and was learning how to master the drums from my Tio Diego.

Just as I finished the last beat of the crescendo, everything went black in the auditorium. It took only a millisecond for the audience’s approval to begin as a resounding roar. For a full minute, we remained in the pitch black until the house lights slowly came back up. As I took off my headset, whistles, cat-calls, and applause stung my ears. I rose off my stool and made my way out of the drum set to join the guys at the front of the stage. During the blackout, roadies had taken Jake, Brayden, and Rhys’s guitars. I, on the other hand, stood twirling one of my drumsticks between my fingers.

Standing toe to toe with each other, we waved to the crowd before doing a united bow. Jake passed each of us the microphone so we could say our individual goodbyes. Once Brayden returned it to him, Jake grinned. “Good night, Oklahoma City! Keep it rockin’ til next time!” he bellowed, his voice echoing throughout the auditorium. With a final wave, we started jogging off the stage. When I got to the edge, I turned back. I kissed each of my sticks before chucking them out into the crowd. It was a wonder, after all the times of doing it, I hadn’t managed to poke someone’s eye out or inflict some other heinous injury with them. The potential liability and lawsuits were something that ‘legal-eagle’, Rhys, loved to remind me of constantly.

Security quickly escorted us into one of the backstage rooms where we’d gotten ready earlier in the evening. The members of Jacob’s Ladder—Jake’s fiancée, Abby Renard, and her twin brothers, Gabe and Eli, lounged on the over-stuffed couches, awaiting our arrival. With sweat pouring off of me, I gladly took an ice-cold water bottle, along with a towel, from one of the roadies. As I guzzled down the water, another guy thrust a clean shirt in my face. It was t-minus five minutes till Meet and Greet time with lucky fans.

“Ew, Jake!” Abby squealed. I glanced over my shoulder to see that Jake hadn’t bothered to towel off or change shirts. Instead, he was rubbing his sweat-soaked body over Abby’s glittering stage dress. When he nuzzled his face against her neck and whispered something in her ear, she grinned and didn’t seem to mind that her appearance to meet fans was getting shot to hell.

“Get a room,” I teased, as I whipped my old shirt over my head.

“We may have to call the room on your bus tonight,” Abby said with a giggle.

I groaned as I pulled on the clean, skin-tight, black Runaway Train T-shirt. “I thought the whole point of you two buying a separate bus was so you could keep it rockin’ without us having to know.”

Wrinkling her nose at my description of their activities, Abby replied, “Yes, but since Lily is with us for the next three shows, we want to give up the bed to her and Bray.”