Wilson Edwards walked up the long driveway toward the house he'd just purchased. "Isn't this great?" he asked with a huge smile on his face. He could already feel the tension leaching out of his body. Greenish-brown grass stretched out to the Wyoming mountains, and as far as he could see, there wasn't a house, a car, or any evidence of another human being. In fact, the only thing he could hear was the wind rushing past his ears, and that was perfect. Trees and fences dotted the horizon, but mostly what he saw was land, land, and more land.
"No," Howard said sullenly from next to him. "It's dirty and there's nothing here." Howard somehow made his opinion sound like a pronouncement from God. "Willie, let's get out of here and find a decent hotel, preferably one with a bar."
Wilson whirled on the other man, balling his fists in sharp impatience. "Willie doesn't exist here. He's someone you made up to sell records ten years ago, and I'm really sick of Willie. I'm tired, Howard, and if I hear another crowd chanting my name right now, I'll wring your neck. I need a vacation, and this is where I'm going to take it." Wilson looked down at his manager in total exasperation. Howard was in worn cowboy boots, old-looking jeans, and even an old leather jacket. Well, actually, every stitch of Howard's clothes was very nearly new, just made to look old. It was a costume, just like the clothes Wilson wore. They were cut and made to look Western because that went with his image, but the clothes came from an exclusive shop on Rodeo Drive that made everything to Wilson's measurements, as opposed to the dry goods store or the JCPenney, where real people bought their clothes. "I don't want my life to be fake any longer." Wilson continued walking up the drive, ignoring Howard as he huffed behind him.
"Couldn't we at least have driven up here?"
Wilson looked over his shoulder. "No. I want to actually see the place," he snapped before turning back to look at the small ranch house. Someone had obviously taken care of it because even the shrubs around the house were neatly trimmed, and the house was painted. The barns and stables looked in good repair. Not that he'd really know, but things didn't look dilapidated or run-down. "It's perfect," Wilson said softly, a little more of the underlying tension leaving his body. For months, his back had ached from hotel beds and sleeping on a rolling bus as it moved from one city to another, but all that seemed to leave him as his lungs sucked deep and hard on the clean, fresh air. Wilson's mind settled and cleared as he got closer to what was going to be his home.
"It's a dump," Howard mumbled from behind him.
"I know it isn't Los Angeles, with its houses in the hills, swimming pools, movie stars," Wilson sang from the Beverly Hillbillies theme.
"How long do you intend to stay here before you come home?" Howard asked as Wilson stepped onto the empty front porch. Its new owner could see it decorated with a rocking chair and comfortable furniture.
"Howard, the house in Malibu has been sold, and the house in Brentwood is on the market. I'm done with that rat race and all the fake people living in fake Mediterranean houses on streets that look more like Hollywood sets than real life."
"What about rehearsals?" Howard looked around. "And where will the band stay, as well as the rest of the team?"
"They're not, and before you ask, neither are you. We've been joined at the freaking hip for a decade, and it's time I was out on my own."
"You're firing me?" Howard nearly shouted, and Wilson shook his head.
"No, I'm not firing you. I'm kicking you out of my private life. You've been living in my house, running my career, my personal appearances, everything, for a decade. You will continue to run my career, but that's all. I want my own life, so you'll need to get your own place to live." Wilson had grown to resent his friend and manager's intrusions into his life lately. He knew Howard was looking out for him, but Wilson was a big boy, and he could take care of himself.
Wilson fished the key to the house that the Realtor had given him out of his pocket, unlocked the door, and pushed it open. After stepping inside, he waited for Howard, who followed along behind like a kicked puppy.
"If you're really going to do this, you're going to need me here," Howard said and began looking around, and Wilson could see his manager's mind was already whirling. "We could blow out that back wall and enlarge the place, add a master suite and a great room with a studio off it."
"Howard!" Wilson raised his voice. "You are here for just a few days, and then you're going back to LA. I'm not adding on to the house so you can stay here. I want my own life, Howard. Why is that so hard for you to understand? I want you to do your job and to keep doing it as well as you have been. You're a great manager, but I expect you to listen to me."
"You can't be serious about living... here?" Howard asked him as he stood in the middle of the living room, motioning around him.