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Chasin' You

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Dead Zone is packed tonight, so much so that the back of Clarke’s black tanktop is sticking to the sweat on her back. She tucks a stray piece of blonde hair that fell out of her high messy bun back behind her ear before she takes the next customer’s order. Clarke leans over the bar, entirely aware of the way it pushes her generous cleavage up, and raises her brow at the two guys waiting to order. 

“Two shots of Jack Fire and two bud lights,” the one guy screams over the music.

Clarke smirks as she quickly moves to pour the shots, expertly flipping the bottle in her hand. 

Jack fire , she thinks. 

She should have known that Dead Zone hosting a country music night would draw the type of people who drink Jack Fire. Her people, really. Or at least, who used to be her people. Then again, back in those days, they drank the sickly sweet Fireball or any knockoff variation that was even cheaper. She brings over their drinks and wordlessly excepts their card, bringing it back a minute later. Already serving another customer, she looks up to see the back of their plaid shirts already disappearing back into the crowd. When she picks up the receipt a moment later, she isn’t surprised to see the large tip attached to it. Clarke smirks. Her low cut tank top has done its job again. 

Luke Bryan’s voice echoes throughout the bar as she continues to work, her feet aching at this point. She takes a mere ten second break to chug a water bottle, noticing the scowl on Murphy’s face as he pours four shots.

“Aw what’s the matter, not having fun at the country hoedown?” Clarke teases. 

“This is Vegas ,” Murphy retorts, like that explains everything. 

Clarke shrugs. “Nobody’s ordering cocktails and the place is absolutely packed, which means more tips. Don’t complain,” she chides, slapping a hand over his shoulder. His t-shirt is just as sweaty as her tanktop.

Clarke takes the next order and moves around Murphy to pull two cans of Coors Light out of the fridge.

“Isn’t this the scene you were trying to escape?” Murphy taunts.

“Don’t pull me down to your level of cranky,” she laughs. “It’s just for a night, it’s not a big deal.”

It’s true, it feels a little strange to be listening to country music. She’s stayed away from it since the very night she left Arkadia. The ghosts of too many memories attached to every tune, every lyric. Dead Zone was typically a dive bar that played 80s and 90s alternative rock music - all the classics that were fun to sing along to, and a far cry from the type of music the other clubs in Las Vegas played. But their manager had the idea to have a country night to attract a new crowd and promote the bar. Clearly, it was working. So sure, Clarke didn’t love hearing all these songs that reminded her of her youth, but there were also so many new country songs that meant nothing to her these days. Besides, she was so busy she was hardly listening.

Murphy and her weren’t the only ones working the bar, but the other two were relatively new hires, whereas she’d been working with Murphy for over two years now. That lovable asshole was like a brother to her at this point.

It happens when it’s nearly 1am. Clarke knows because she thinks she remembers checking her phone right before it, and it had read 12:53am. She’s pouring a couple vodka shots when she hears him.

We used to chase that Chattanooga freight
Couple of kids in a Chevrolet
Catch a little air when we cross the tracks
Sipping on something from a paper sack

Clarke nearly throws up at the sound of his voice, right there behind the bar. She sets down the vodka bottle, tightly gripping the edge of the bar. 

You hang your shirt on that maple limb
Slipping through the moon to the river bend
Wasn't very long til I was jumping in, jumping in
I guess I'm still doing now what I was doing then

It feels absolutely impossible, but she knows it’s him. She knows his voice better than anyone else’s, even after six years. But this is the first time she’s hearing it since she left. 

Chasing you like a shot of whiskey
Burning going down, burning going down
Chasing you like those goodbye tail lights
Headed west to anywhere out of this nowhere town

Clarke glances up from the the bar counter, still gripping it. The girls who ordered the shots are looking at her with concern, which she doesn’t have time to process before she feels a hand on her shoulder. She looks up to find one of the new hires wearing a worried expression.

“You okay?”

Chasing that freedom, chasing that feeling that got gone too soon
Chasing that you and me, I only see in my rear view

Murphy answers before she can, coming up to stand next to her on her other side.

“Go get some air, Clarke, I’ve got it.” He takes the bottle of vodka from her hand before giving her a gentle shove towards the back door to the alley. Clarke walks towards it numbly, hearing him sing the end of the chorus before she steps out into the cool night air.

Yeah, I'm laying here tonight holding someone new
Still chasing you, still chasing you

Clarke squats on the ground, holding her head in her hands. 

Fuck , she thinks, right before she’s puking on the brick wall of the building. She probably looks like a drunk girl on vacation who can’t hold her liquor. 

When she’s done, she fishes out a cigarette and her lighter with shaky hands.

Fuck, she thinks again, inhaling the smoke. 

It was the sound of his voice alone that first sent her spiraling, but now the lyrics of the song are catching up with her too. Is he singing about her? Could that really be about her? She isn’t sure, she needs to listen to it again. She didn’t catch every word, but the words chasin’ you echo in her broken mind.

Well, he did it. He really did it. She always knew that he could, just how talented he was. It was him that never believed it. Swimming through the messy emotions flooding through her at the sound of his voice, at the news that he has a song popular enough to be on the country Top 40 charts, she realizes one of the loudest feelings is pride. 

He made it

Of course, the idea that the song he’s singing is a reflection of him not moving on from her only breaks her heart, overshadowing any of the good feelings. She takes a deep breath and another drag of her cigarette. She’s got to pull it together and go back in if she doesn’t want to be fired. At least his song will have ended by now.

After ten more minutes, Clarke drops what’s left of the cigarette on the ground and grinds it into the pavement with her heel. 

You can do this, she tells herself. 

She takes her hair out of the bun, running her hands through damp, blonde waves, died pink at the ends, before putting it back up again. Her scalp is damp from sweat, her body clammy after lingering in the cool dessert air.

Murphy doesn’t say anything when Clarke comes back in, nor does he say anything when she takes not one, but two shots of Jack before returning to work. She’s all business after that, compartmentalizing the incident. She’s good at that - has been doing that for six years. 

--∞--

“So, we’re not going to talk about it, huh,” Murphy prompts.

Clarke hugs her leather jacket tighter to her body. She found it at a thrift stop last year and loves it, even if it is a size too big for her. It’s nearly 2:30am and Murphy and her are walking back to their apartment. It’s only about a fifteen minute walk from Dead Zone, which makes their lives much easier.

Clarke sighs. “Not my best moment.”

“No shit.”

“The guy singing, the song playing…”

“Yeah?”

“That was my ex.”

“Oh. Your ex is a famous country singer?”

“Apparently so.”

“That’s awesome. You should tell him he knocked you up and see if he’ll pay you to keep quiet.”

“Murphy!” she laughs, knocking into him. “You’re such a dick.”

“A smart one.”

“Smart one,” she scoffs. “Where would I get a kid from?”

“Don’t you volunteer with the art stuff at the hospital? Just borrow one of them.”

“There are...so many concerning parts of this conversation,” she laughs.

Clarke glances at him and realizes that getting her to laugh was probably the point.

“Did you guys end on bad terms or something?”

Clarke’s gut twists at the question. She’s never talked about him with anyone, despite the fact that she hasn’t gone a day without thinking about him since she left.

“We didn’t end on any terms. I didn’t tell him I was leaving town.”

“Damn, Griffin. You’re cold.”

“Yeah, I know,” she agrees. “So I don’t think I really deserve the fake baby money anyways.”

Murphy laughs at that, throwing an arm around her while they walk the rest of the way home.

When they get back to the apartment, Murphy heads straight to bed, even though she knows she’ll hear him and Emori fucking as soon as her and Raven get back from the club they work at. It’s a high end strip club, one where they make a decent chunk of cash from wealthy clients. Clarke wishes she had the confidence or talent for it, but it was out of the question when Raven suggested it. So Raven hooked her up with a gig at the bar with Murphy instead.

Clarke heads to the kitchen and pours a generous serving of $4 red wine before wandering out to the balcony. Their apartment isn’t in a great neighborhood and the building is kind of shitty in general, but it’s not the worst she’s lived in since leaving Arkadia. Plus, living with Emori, Raven, and Murphy makes it better. She collapses into one of the cheap folding lawn chairs they keep out there and takes a sip of wine before setting it down so she can pull out another cigarette. She sits there for a little while, just smoking and staring at the other shitty apartment building balconies, trying to gather the strength to google him. To look him up on spotify. It’s going to send her spiraling, that much she knows. But she also knows she has no choice but to look now. Emori and Raven come home soon after and Raven steps out onto the balcony to say hi, but is tired and heads to bed instead of staying out there.

Okay , Clarke tells herself, trying to gather her strength. It’s time.

She takes another sip of wine and another drag of her cigarette before she begins to type his name into the google bar of her cracked iPhone. She’s never let herself before, and without any social media, it had been relatively easy to avoid any news about him. 

Bellamy Blake.

She momentarily wonders if he might have picked a stage name, but he always did have a solid celebrity name. Once upon a time, she had told him as much. With a shaky finger, she scrolls through the results. Articles upon articles about him. Country music’s breakout star of the year. The new country singer, as attractive and talented at writing as he is at singing. The song she heard in the bar - or at least she guesses, since its title is Chasin’ You - was his album’s first single and is also the title of the album. The whole album has been out for just over a month and he’s already on tour, has already played two shows according to his website tour schedule. Apparently he was the primary writer for every song on his album, which is pretty unique for someone so new. Still, she isn’t surprised. Song writing was his talent, even more so than singing. 

Reading about him isn’t as difficult as she thought it might be. There’s something detached about it, reading about him like he’s any other celebrity she knows nothing about. But then she goes to his spotify profile and knows that hearing his voice will undo her, just like at the bar. Her heart begins to race as she scrolls down his page and she starts gnawing on her thumbnail. 

She can see that he has two singles, released before the album. ‘Chasin’ You’ and another song titled ‘Black.’ It doesn’t escape her notice that he’s apparently featured on multiple spotify playlists - Hot Country, Country Kind of Love, New Boots. In fact, it’s his photo on the album cover of the New Boots playlist. Swallowing thickly, she clicks on the album. She wants to listen to the whole album, from beginning to end, but first, she needs to finish listening to the song she heard at the bar. She clicks on that single, sets her phone down on the arm of the chair and takes another sip of her wine after snubbing out her cigarette. At the sound of his voice, her eyes fill with tears. 

We used to chase that Chattanooga freight
Couple of kids in a Chevrolet
Catch a little air when we cross the tracks
Sipping on something from a paper sack
You hang your shirt on that maple limb
Slipping through the moon to the river bend
Wasn't very long til I was jumping in, jumping in
I guess I'm still doing now what I was doing then

Chasing you like a shot of whiskey
Burning going down, burning going down
Chasing you like those goodbye tail lights
Headed west to anywhere out of this nowhere town
Chasing that freedom, chasing that feeling that got gone too soon
Chasing that you and me, I only see in my rear view
Yeah, I'm laying here tonight holding someone new
Still chasing you, still chasing you

You always used to talk about LA
I heard you got as far as Santa Fe
Well you know I tried to track you down
I only got as far as Guitar Town
Singing about a girl I used to know, used to know
Well you should know that I haven't given up
I'm just on your radio

Chasing you like a shot of whiskey
Burning going down, burning going down
Chasing you like those goodbye tail lights
Headed west to anywhere out of this nowhere town
Chasing that freedom, chasing that feeling that got gone too soon
Chasing that you and me, I only see in my rear view
Yeah, I'm laying here tonight holding someone new
Still chasing you, still chasing you


Chasing you like a shot of whiskey
Burning going down, burning going down
Chasing you like those goodbye tail lights
Headed west to anywhere out of this nowhere town
Chasing that freedom, chasing that feeling that got gone too soon
Chasing that you and me, I only see in my rear view
Yeah, I'm laying here tonight holding someone new


Still chasing you, still chasing you
Still chasing you, still chasing you

There are tears streaming down her face by the time the song ends. It’s her. It’s all about her.