FACT : You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.
The view from the middle of the venue parking lot was hardly spectacular. Surrounded by tour busses, loading vans, and semi trucks Cassia felt out-of-place; insignificant; lost. A black “CREW” shirt had been thrust in her direction soon after arriving on the premises and she had slid it on over her tank top and attempted not to look so important. Roadies and tech guys moved around her with the same timed precision as an army ant colony raiding their newest location. With her picture on the “ALL ACCESS” tour lament that hung from the karabiner on her belt loop she appeared to be one of them, but the garbled speech reaching her left ear from the two-way radio that was affixed to her shoulder sounded too much like a foreign language to be directing her to do much of anything. Feet stuck, sinking into cement, held her in place as she observed the clockwork around her.
Her cell phone vibrated from her back pocket. It was surely another text message from Regina insisting that she would arrive soon, but Cassia didn’t bother to even look. It would be around the 15th message received from her best friend that morning, all promising the same thing, yet Cassia was still alone regretted how easily a pair of warm brown eyes had convinced her to join them on this tour. Maybe once Regina arrived she would no longer have such a strong desire to leave, maybe Regina fawning over Brendon uncontrollably would only make that desire more intense. She didn’t even want to think about Jon. There was no telling how his arrival would affect her. For now, she inhaled the early October air attempting to enjoy the last hours she’d spend in San Diego.
Only a mile away, Jon fidgeted in the backseat of a cab that was just a yellow dot in the grand scheme of traffic unlike he had ever seen before. The route from the airport to the arena shouldn’t have taken very long, but with an overturned semi-truck on the highway he found the meter’s dollar signs increasing every time he blinked. Tossing his phone onto the leather seat beside him he exhaled a heavy breath, unloading his current worries onto the cab driver wouldn’t ease the challenges this tour was sure to bring so he just closed his eyes. Enjoying the pleasant temperature brought by the early October afternoon through his open window he debate whether or not he should send her another message. She had not responded to the first two he had already sent this morning and the longer he went without talking to her the harder it became to envision her actually wanting him as part of her life. And he wanted to be part of her life, if not only because it was the right thing to do.
Like a honeybee whizzing past his ear, his phone buzzed. Glowing like a firefly against backdrop of the dark seat, the phone did not illuminate her name. “SPENCE” showed up on the screen instead. Jon answered with gruff hello, and in a failed attempt to hurry his friend off the phone, he reassured Spencer he was “almost there”. When Spencer mentioned two bags neatly placed on the extra bunk, Jon gulped down the lump fighting to choke any fleeting ability to speak.
“They’re probably Cassia’s.” Jon explained quickly recalling the fact that Spencer was one of the two people who hadn’t yet been informed, “She’s selling merch or something this tour.”
“Don’t tell me Brendon found her on myspace...”
Jon couldn’t help but chuckle, now that his taxicab cocoon was zooming down the exit ramp at a speed that while meant to make up for lost time could hardly be considered safe, the impending doom of seeing her again didn’t seem nearly as life shattering.
Cassia sensed his arrival even before the garbled words had found their way through the static of radio waves. Uneasiness She turned her back on the yellow taxicab unwelcome against the dreary grays and blacks only to find a much more pertinent issue invading her personal space in silence.
“What are YOU doing here?” She spit her words at him like the venom of the deadly black widow.
“I had to hear it for myself.” Ethan replied shrugging off her distaste as though she had greeted him in a warm hug, “You know better than anyone that Sabrina can’t keep a secret.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say.” She wanted to appear busy long enough for him to disappear back into her past, but unfortunately she still couldn’t decipher the directions the radio was feeding her. Ethan placed a warm grip on her wrist. It was a grip that radiated none of the love the same hand used to caress her with. The touch felt like betrayal, it tore apart her heart all over again and yet the smallest glimmer of what had been kept her from tearing away from him.
“I want you to say that your sister has completely fabricated this story about you running off the night I married her, sleeping with some stranger to mask the pain I caused you. There’s no way perfect little Cassia could be pregnant with some rock star’s bastard child.”
“You’re an asshole.” Cassia growled finally finding the courage to recoil from his touch. The last sentence he had spoken had split the last strings of longing for what they had been.
“That really doesn’t clear anything up.” He chuckled stroking her hair as she turned away from him, “This means it’s really over between us now.”
“It was over the day you said ‘I do.’” She admitted finding it easier not to cry than not to yell.
Even having seen the scene flit around in his peripheral vision, Jon could tell from across the parking lot that Cassia wasn’t please with the conversation she was having with an unidentified man. Quite unwillingly his feet had carried him close enough to where she stood to be hear when he uttered a somewhat uneasy, “This guy bothering you?”
Cassia's neck snapped in Jon’s direction. Her expression falling to disappointment because Ethan’s words still had an effect on her.
“This can’t be him,” He had chuckled, “Way to downgrade Cassia.”
Jon contemplating throwing the first punch, but the guy was both nearly a foot taller than him and had probably spent more time at the gym in his life than Jon has spent playing in a band. He was still fighting the urge to strike when Cassia’s high-pitched rant apparently brought him down to size. She called him Ethan, Jon recognized that name from the story of heartbreak she had told him after the lights were out in the hotel room they shared.
Ethan was still cowering in the background of the parking lot scene when Cassia approach Jon with heavy steps. She was deliberate in her stern warning, “I am no damsel in distress, so do not think I need you to save me.” Jon nodded hesitantly watching as she then pounding cracks in the blacktop. The bouquet of flowers he had picked up from the airport had a card with her name on it, but the gesture no longer seemed like such a good idea. And in a beeline to the tour bus, Cassia wasn’t concerned about the impression she would be making on people she had yet to meet.
“Regina!” She screamed without even scanning the bus for her best friend before beginning her rant, “I love you Hun, but I should have never agreed to do this. I’m going to grab my things and call a cab back home before we even leave San Diego.”
From their adjacent seats at the “kitchen” table Spencer and Ryan blinked in joint confusion. Zach, their friend and bodyguard, appeared from the hallway that led to the bunks. His wide frame blocked enough of the doorway to keep Cassia from even attempting to move past him. While his size alone could cause intimidation, his smirk gave him an almost teddy bear quality.
“You must be Cassia.”
“You gathered that from the shrieking too?” Ryan scoffed immediately diverting his gaze to where he was twisting a pen through his long willowy fingers as if to avoid the scolding gaze that was surely aimed in his direction.
“Let’s go,” Zach nodded towards her, “You’ve got a lot to learn before you coordinate your first meet and greet in a few hours.”
“Sorry,” Cassia stuttered now obviously uncomfortable to repeat the decision she had made even before preaching about who did and did not need saving, “I...I don’t think that...”
“Don’t tell me that whining means you’re homesick already.” Regina sighed heavily. She always did know exactly how and when to make the biggest entrance. Cassia’s gaze was pleading but it would take far more than that to pull at Regina’s heartstrings. “I just saw a certain millionaire leaving in his mustang, and whether or not this has anything to do with him you’re going to forget about it, go with Zach, do your job because this tour is your job, and you’re going to have an amazing time...you may even fall in love.”
Ryan and Spencer exchanged nervous glances, each afraid they would be reluctantly volunteered by Brendon or his new girlfriend to fulfill the last part of that statement. The growing tension multiplied as Jon entered the scene.
With thoughts swarming like mosquitoes about her head Cassia caught herself unable to tear her eyes away from him. Around the bus Regina was sighing, she saw her friend breaking down. Zach was growing impatient, while Spencer, Ryan, and Brendon (who had entered just behind Regina but had yet to rambunctiously made his presence known) appeared to be attempting to keep themselves preoccupied until the dramatics were over.
The garbled mess of language that had been floating from the radio affixed to Cassia’s shoulder broke the silence chorusing with a similar radio clipped onto Zach’s belt. Swallowing the last lump of uncertainly Cassia forced a smile, “Can we start my lesson on how to understand what they’re saying?”
Taking the contraption from her Zach twisted a few knobs as he led her off the bus. Ryan who still hadn’t learned to hold his tongue shrugged his shoulders and announced ominously to all present, “And this is why we don’t bring girls on tour.”