I was wearing purple footie pajamas the night I met Alfie Evans for the first time.
I was wandering the house, this sprawling monstrosity of a mansion in the hills above Hollywood in Los Angeles where I grew up, discreetly checking out the night’s party situation.
My mother, beloved rock and roll star Sara Adams, despised two things equally though neither more than me: silence and the word no. Her house was constantly crammed with sycophants in varying degrees of insobriety. These people listened to records and played their instruments and vacuumed up the mounds of cocaine offered to them by their teetering hostess.
This night was no different until the doorbell rang. When I heard it, I scooted back through the cavernous foyer on the pads of my pajamas and shot up the giant marble staircase and out of sight.
Sara didn’t like it much when she found me roaming the house when I was supposed to be asleep. Stumbling upon the living embodiment of your biggest mistake while actively trying to obliterate it from your mind is a real buzz kill, I imagine.
With my face lodged between the rails of the banister upstairs, I watched over the foyer as a random party-goer answered the beckoning ring of the front door. I heard the muffled voice of a man on the other side of the threshold ask for Jett.
Jett had moved out that week, but Party Guy was apparently not in the know because he wandered off in search of my soon-to-be-former stepfather, leaving the visitor alone at the door.
That was the moment I caught my first-ever look at Alfie Evans in the flesh. His messy black hair and those tortured black eyes that woman around the world have swooned over for more than three decades now.
This moment always comes to me in slow motion when recalled by my mind, watching him step up and into the foyer. He had dipped his chin and flicked his head to free his eyes of the curtain of messy bangs invading them as the door closed behind him. Or maybe that’s just how he walked back in those days so everyone had a chance to catch a good glimpse of him. Arrogant prick.
I hadn’t known then who the hell Alfie was in the context of my mother’s life, but I did recognize him. He was the man on the cover of my favorite album. The album had been a gift from Jett that previous Christmas, our last together as a family, if it could ever have been called that.
It was two decades ago now that the music world was stunned by the news that legendary rock band Wonderland was disbanding at the height of their fame. This tragedy came after a now infamous brawl backstage after what ended up being their last show together. During this fight, in a fit of drunken rage, their bassist, Stephen Moriarty, had let slip his affair with Sara, the band’s singer and the love of Alfie’s life, and that she was pregnant with his child.
I am that child.
My mother has hated me since the day Alfie left her and their band because of me.
About a year after Alfie quit Wonderland, beating Sara to the charts as a solo artist by one month, he released an album called Little One.
The first single off this album, its title track, is a broodingly sweet ballad about a mysterious child that he refers to only as the Little One. Throughout the song, Alfie espouses life advice to this child and expresses vague regrets about vague events that may or may not have had something to do with that child. Think Hey Jude meets The Cure.
Everyone in the world, at least everyone familiar with Wonderland’s story, assumed the song was about me. Women rallied in droves around their guitar god and his wounded soul after it hit the airways. For them, it was a heartbreaking glance at the pain the affair had caused their hero. For Sara, it was a passive aggressive slap in the face from her ex-lover. In large part because of the song, she ended up taking the brunt of the blame for Wonderland’s split.
It is quite possibly the most beautiful ‘fuck you’ song ever written.
Alfie has never bothered to confirm or deny the song is about me. Over time, the legend has grown to ridiculous heights. I’ve been saddled with the nickname “Little One” for as far back as I can remember and sometimes it feels like I can remember every goddamn moment of this life I was born into.
Jett had played the song for me on that Christmas morning and I had liked it. I liked the pretty man on the cover of the album. Jett explained that I could listen to the song whenever I was feeling sad and it would make me feel better.
He left out the part about how it might have been written about me by my mother’s pissed off ex-boyfriend, but the pieces fell into place eventually. I’ve always been like a pet to those in Sara’s circle and the song was a big reason for that.
Jett, I should say here, is the Jett Andrews, the longtime road manager for Wonderland and its individual members after the split. He and Sara married not long after I was born and were divorced by my sixth birthday.
If you're wondering why Sara married Jett and not the father of her child, the answer is one of the less complicated ones in Wonderland’s world: Stephen never asked her.
Their affair destroyed a lifelong friendship, broke up rock’s most beloved couple, and effectively ended the greatest rock band in the world up until that point, but the idea of settling down was apparently taking it a bit too far for my father.
Why she married anybody at all, I don’t know. I know Jett asked her to marry him after Alfie left, and she said yes, but I have no idea why. Jett’s a good man, far too good, especially considering his choice of career, so I guess maybe he wanted to make sure somebody who was responsible was around for the incoming child.
I suppose the prospect of Jett being around to take the responsibility of having that child off her shoulders was appealing to Sara. Sara’s made a lot of decisions that I disagree with but her choice to marry Jett is one I’ll always be grateful for. To this day, that man loves me like I was his own child and pays more attention to me than Stephen ever has or likely ever will.
Don’t get me wrong. Stephen isn’t a bad guy but he’s never been much of a father. He’s a rock star, through and through. He prefers to live his life that way, and I’ve never felt the need to get in the way of that. He’s good at it. Even I can see it’s what he was meant to do. Through the years we’ve become pretty good buddies but when I hear the word “father” it’s Jett that my mind sees.
When I saw it was Alfie at the door that night, I skipped off to my room to get the Little One album so I could show it to him. I don’t know why I wanted to show it to him. I was five. Why the hell does a five-year-old do anything? Your guess is as good as mine.
I think probably I had a crush on him and wanted to impress him. Okay, I know I had a crush on him and wanted to impress him, but I will never, ever admit that to anybody, least of all him.
When I got back to the stairs with the album, Sara was just wandering into the foyer. She was in her favorite white silk robe and was swaying a bit. Her fragile hand was barely grasping a flute of champagne as she froze at the sight of him. She had that look on her face.
It’s not something you can get used to: the look of surprise on your own mother’s face every time she sees you. Like she thought you were part of some horrible dream she’d had and that you should have been gone by morning. A look that says: you shouldn’t be here.
She was looking at him like that and I’d never seen her look at anyone else but me that way. I think that’s probably the moment I realized there was a correlation between me and him in her mind. I was too young then to recognize it but, looking back, that’s probably when my obsession with that man began.
Alfie reacted as if he’d happened on a bear in the woods, his arms freezing in mid-air as she shuffled into the room.
This would have been a great time for me to back away slowly without being spotted, and retire to my bedroom, but I hadn’t realized then the historical significance of the moment. I learned later that it was the first time Alfie had returned to that house since Wonderland disbanded.
Apart from a handful of industry events they were forced to co-attend in the immediate wake of the break up, due to contractual obligations, it was the first time the two of them had seen each other in over five years. This fact had clearly not been lost on the voyeur partiers who were slowly gathering in the archway of the Great Room in my peripheral vision.
Alfie cut the awkward silence first that night in the foyer. “Jett needed some paperwork,” he offered with a slight shrug of his shoulders.
She blinked, and her voice was barely a whisper. “Jett left.”
“He left,” she said, still swaying, but her voice was a bit stronger this time as a sneer pulled at the corner of her mouth. “They always leave me, baby. You know that better than anyone.”
In hindsight, the bitterness in her voice was palpable. I hear it now, looking back. Knowing what I know now, it must have hit him like a slap in the face but, at the time, it didn’t even faze me. I was too excited to show him that damn album.
“Jett tell you he left?” Sara continued.
“You here to rub it in?”
“To torment me for old times’ sake?”
“Stop!” Alfie pleaded, and those eyes of his were even more tortured than when he’d first stepped into the house. He folded his arms across his chest and took a step back as if trying to fold into himself.
And do you know what she did? She stopped. Sara never listened to anyone, especially when she was that far gone into the substances, but she stopped when he asked it of her. Just like that.
As I made my way down the steps, unknowingly steering myself into the wake of a storm of my creation, they faced off against each other again. He relented first and spun around for the door. She hurried after him and reached him as he reached it, stopping him with her hand on his shoulder.
“You can stay,” she said.
He hesitated, his hand was on the door handle. “I can’t.”
She turned him to her and he allowed it, releasing the door. His eyes transformed from pain to warmth as he looked down at her. Kindness.
In the movies, this would have been the moment they kissed passionately to the crescendo of the ending credits and, presumably, lived happily ever after.
But this was no fairytale, so this was the moment he spotted me. Little chump me wandering up to him with his album held up, grinning like a goddamn idiot.
Hi there! I’m the thing that ruined your life. Nice to meet you. I think you’re swell.
I even grabbed one of his fingers. Ugh.
He jerked his finger away from me so hard that he almost fell over.
“You’re supposed to be in bed!” shouted Sara, grabbing me by the arm.
She dragged me across the foyer and deposited me on the steps. I’m sure she looked pissed off but I couldn’t look away from Alfie. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those horrified eyes unblinkingly boring a hole right through me.
“I never should have come here,” he said.
He tripped over himself turning back for the door and Sara launched herself across the foyer to reach him before he did.
She grabbed at him, clutching on to him, but he pried her fingers off and slipped out the door. As it slammed behind him, she threw herself against it.
"Come back!" she cried, pounding the door with her open hand. "Please come back."
She shoved away from the door and hurled her glass at it with a scream. I clamped my hands over my ears as it shattered and she collapsed onto her haunches, putting her face in her hands.
I was frozen in fear and confusion and so not digging that damn album anymore.
I don’t know how long we stayed there like that. I felt like I shouldn’t move until she did and when she finally pulled herself to her feet, she turned to me.
“Happy now?” she asked, her voice low.
She shuffled past me without waiting for an answer and disappeared up the stairs. I looked down at the album in my hands.
Moments later, I was stomping into the Great Room and shoving my way through a sea of unsteady legs to the fireplace. I yanked the gate open and shoved Alfie’s stupid album into the flames.
“Yeah! Burn it up, Little One!”
Perched on the corner of the stoop in front of the fireplace was record producer, Chuck Wall. Chuck was one of Sara’s newer regular party guests and he was cutting cocaine with a razor blade on the glass of a picture frame. It would have been a perfectly fucked up moment if it had been a picture of me inside the frame but there were no pictures of me in that house. Sara didn’t keep any photos of me around.
He wasn’t Sara’s boyfriend yet, but it wouldn’t have been long before he sunk his claws into her. He became a mainstay in that house not long after that night, and he lasted there much longer than I did.
Sometimes I think if only Jett hadn’t left… but the thought isn’t fair to him. She was driving him crazy. She drove everybody crazy, most of all herself. He would have lost himself eventually if he’d stayed, trying to keep her out of her own way. And then where would I be now?
There at the mantle, Chuck arranged some of the powder in a neat row on the glass and put his face to it. A quick sniff and the line disappeared up his nostril like in the movies. Most kids learned about life by watching movies. I learned about what was in the movies by watching my life.
He watched me watching him as he arranged another line and then stood up, holding out the frame.
In a flash of movement, I was plucked from the floor and hoisted into someone’s arms. Stuart held me close to his chest with one long arm, and his free arm lashed out to slap the frame from Chuck’s hand. The glass broke on the floor and the cocaine cascaded off of it, leaving a tiny white plume in its wake.
Stuart is Wonderland’s drummer, Stuart Townsend, an unabashed admirer of inappropriately-aged groupies who enjoys just about every other rock star cliché even now, into his fifties, but he’s a good man. He claims to be my godfather but nobody has ever found any evidence that this is true. It’s charming though, and so is he.
He’s always tried to protect me, along with Jett, when my parents were too busy with other things. He would have been my second choice in the dad department, second to Jett, if I was given the choice, but apparently Sara and Stuart were never close in that way. At least not that he can remember, which isn’t saying a whole lot.
Stuart growled at Chuck through clenched teeth. “She's only five.”
"Looks like she could use it too," said Chuck, seemingly unconcerned about his fallen drug. He surely had more nearby. "Thirty seconds with Evans will do that to anyone."
A few people within ear shot chuckled. Stuart did not. My face so close to his, I could see the bunched-up muscle rippling at the apex of his stubbled jaw. He continued to shield me from Chuck and stared the producer down until Chuck put his hands up in a show of surrender.
"Come on," said Stuart readjusting me in his arms as Chuck had staggered away. "Let's get you back up to bed."
He carried me upstairs to my room and told me the oh-so-tragic tale of Sara and Alfie as he tucked me into bed.
And that ended the night I met Alfie Evans for the first time. It would be a decade before I saw him again.