FACT: She’d be lying to herself if she said she had ever felt like this before
The show was the same every night. The crowd composed of mostly teenaged girls shrieking and screaming, and packing themselves together tightly all pushing and swaying, each with hope of getting closer to the stage. The large backdrop screens illuminated with flowers, and album artwork, and other images of whimsy. The stage set with microphone stands wrapped in silk flowers and Persian rugs. Cassia seated on trunk just left of the bass tech, Jon’s flip-flops where he discarded them at her feet.
Today was no different, as the Beatle’s inspired mix of horns and strings erupted with a flood of lights announcing both Panic at the Disco and “We’re So Starving.” Cassia pursed her lips and twisted the cap of her water bottle off and then on again. The show had been intriguing, even entertaining, the first few times she sat on the side of the stage to watch it. Today it was, just the same as every other day just in a different town and with different faces.
“You seem to be enjoying the show.” Regina jeers. Cassia’s body rocks as Regina squeezes to sit beside her. She looks at her best friend out of the corner of her eye, sending a message that is both warning and displeased.
Regina just holds both her palms up to prove the innocence of her comment. “I guess I shouldn’t ask how your date with Jon went then.”
“It wasn’t a date.” Cassia assured her, unscrewing the cap to her water bottle and taking a swig. As the cool liquid rushed down her throat she stole another sideways glance at Regina.
Her head was cocked to the side to communicate her disapproval. Of course it was a date! It was obvious to any onlooker that they were in love, even if they’d never admit it to themselves (or each other). “Well,” Regina chose not to push the subject of their relationship status any further, “I still want details.”
The clouds that had accompanied Jon and I in the parking lot just outside of Chicago hadn’t followed us into the afternoon. The uncomfortable feeling that had relieved the tension of our brief argument had faded too. Now, my head rested on Jon’s shoulder and I held his hand tightly in attempt to combat my fear of heights as we reached the very top of Navy Pier’s Ferris wheel.
“Now!” Jon coaxed gently. “Look now!”
I unclenched my eyes. From the ride’s peak I took in the Chicago skyline for the very first time. “It’s beautiful.” I smiled. Jon smiled back. He was fighting back the urge to say I was more beautiful then anything he could show me of Chicago. His palms were moist against mine because he still had not received an answer; I still had not told him if I would join him for his family’s celebration of Thanksgiving. He hadn’t the heart to tell me they were already looking forward to meeting me.
From the Ferris wheel it was in and out of museums, Jon showed me the typical tourist day in Chicago. As afternoon ticked on he hailed a cab near Grant Park and repeated a very familiar address to the driver. Lake Shore Drive, the shortest route to their destination was crowded, as it was typically, but traffic moved steadily north out of the Loop.
The cab pulled to a stop outside an old brown building on the near north side of Chicago. Jon thanked him as the two exchanged money. I yawned, ready for what had become my daily afternoon nap. Jon placed a ginger hand on the small of my back and turned my attention to the building I had stopped in front of.
“This was my old apartment building.” He said, “I moved back out to the suburbs earlier this year.” Unsure if I should ask why he brought me here, to somewhere he no longer lived, I admired the ivy vines that stretched up the side of the building. I could only imagine the green that would thrive against the brick come spring.
We walked just far enough for the November cold to sting my cheeks before ducking into a tiny Italian restaurant situated on at an odd angle in a triangular parking lot. Jon explained that this was THE place to get good Chicago style deep-dish pizza. And no onlooker would think anything more of us than another couple young and in love; that is how I’m sure we appeared, after all, stealing glances at each other from across the small table.
“It was nothing special.” Cassia lied, punctuating her statement with a shrug. Regina shifted her position on the truck to face her friend. Cassia sighed again; she knew it would be impossible to escape this situation painlessly. She and Regina shared everything, or at least they used to.
“He was surprised I’d never been here before.” Cassia summarized, replaying the actual scenario over in her mind while Regina yawned to illustrate her boredom.
“Let me get this straight,” Jon said taking a drink from his straw, “You lived in Paris for 3 years.” I nodded; that was correct. Regina and I had chosen a French boarding school instead of public middle school. But, today I could probably only speak “un peu français.”
“You’ve backpacked through South America.” Jon continued. I nodded again. Regina and I had traveled through Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile the summer after graduation. I know even less Spanish.
“You’ve flown to New York just for a shopping trip.” I nodded yet again, surprised at how attentive Jon had been to the stories I told. That had been another adventure I had embarked on with Regina, after we had had no luck finding the perfect prom dress shopping in Beverly Hills.
“And you’ve never been to Chicago before today?”
“Never.” I laughed, half because it was an amusing way to look at it and half because I realized that for the first time in my life I hadn’t expected Regina to be standing at my side. This day with Jon in Chicago only marked the start of experiences that wouldn’t involve my best friend. With the baby on the way, and Regina getting more serious about Brendon by the day, we were both moving on; drifting apart.
With Regina sitting next to her batting puppy dog eyes in attempt to get any morsel of information out of her, Cassia felt guilty for thinking that she didn’t need her best friend anymore.
“We had a really nice day.” Cassia smiled, blushing slightly. Oddly, Regina seemed satisfied with this brief show of emotion and casually leaned her head on Cassia’s shoulder. There had been times they would sit like this for hours, never having to say a word. Just knowing the other was there was comfort enough to get through the hardest times they had experienced in their twenty-odd years.
With a napkin in his hand, Jon wiped the marina sauce off my chin. It was like he needed an excuse to touch me, lean in towards me and inhale the remnants of my perfume (he had mentioned once he liked the smell of vanilla). As he drew close, I whispered I was only making such a mess because they put the sauce on top of the pizza. He laughed at my complaint and the moment was captured with a Snap! just outside the window.
The onlooker lowers his camera and rushed through the restaurants double glass doors as Jon and I sat looking bewildered out into the parking lot.
“Jonathon Jacob Walker!” The man who bounded into the restaurant chuckled, “What are you doing just wandering around? I didn’t realize you were in town.”
“Just taking a break from bus life,” Jon shrugged nonchalantly greeting the man who pulled a chair up to our table.
“I’m Tom.” He nodded toward me placing his camera down on the table so he can extend his hand.
“Cassie.” I replied simply. It was what Jon called me; I liked it. I admired his camera as he and Jon spoke, their words came too quickly to keep up for very long.
“I don’t want to hold you up too much.” Tom insisted after chatting for a bit, “But yo, rooftop at Nick’s tonight. You should come and bring your girlfriend.”
At the title Tom assigned, I shifted uncomfortably. Her uneasiness way noted by both men and Tom politely correct, “Bring Cassie.”
And when the set ended Regina stood to wrap her arms around Brendon’s neck. He lifted her about the waist and spun her around. “You were great babe!” She gushed. They were too engrossed in each other to care that they were still visible to the barricade, still full of lingering fans.
Jon slipped his shoes on quietly and Cassia just smiled. She followed him casually towards the green room, allowing her heart to skip two beats when he laced his fingers with hers. She’d be lying to herself if she said she had ever felt like this before.