FACT: You can see this as the end of a lot of things.
The heater in a typically unoccupied room blew stale air over their heads as they sat positioned lazily around two folding tables. The room, located just at the end of a rarely traveled hallway of a venue none of them could name, had been busy with excitement just a few hours before when tables covered in food lined the back wall. Jon, Cassia, Ryan, and Spencer had buzzed with excitement along with everyone else as they celebrated the last show of the tour. The crowd had mirrored their excitement; producing easily the most enjoyable show they had played in months. Hesitant to submit to the early morning hours, the 4 sat around their conversation spoke in hush tones punctuated with irregularly placed yawns.
“We didn’t think you’d make it.” Spencer admitted with a smile. Somewhere in the Midwest, once Cassia had become comfortable with the whole idea of being on tour, everyone had loosened up a bit. Now, they were all able to laugh and joke like they had always been friends. She was happier now that no hostility remained, Jon was happy to see he friends accepting her, they were all happier together.
Cassia smiled a knowing grin, her cheeks showing just the slightest blush, “Honestly, I didn’t think I’d make it either.”
“Your talking makes it sound so much like the end,” Ryan sighed with his typical melancholy way of talking. He didn’t look for or wait for a reply. His interruption had been meant solely as an observation. And despite the realization of the statement’s truth painted across everyone else’s faces, he continued to absentmindedly pluck at the strings of the guitar resting in his lap.
“It is the end, Ryan, man.” Jon replied with a chuckle. Cassia chewed her bottom lip, for an experience she never wanted to begin with, she was disappointed to see it ending.
A phone chimed before the lazy conversation could continue. Spencer reached into his pocket, before he could even read the text message that had caused the sound to begin with all three of the remaining phones in the room called out each their individual tones. All four of the text messages were from Brendon, they all read the exact same thing, “Bus Call” None of the group had realized the time. Standing quietly, they pushed in their chairs and filed into the hall.
Cassia paused in the doorway looked back into the empty room and switched off the light. When her slow footsteps caught up to Jon, he gave her a sidelong glance, “You okay, Cassie?”
Cassia shrugged pursing her lips and staling for time. She wasn’t sure which emotion she wanted to share, “It’s just crazy to think it’s over already,” She finally decided, “that Regina and I are going home tomorrow.”
“Haven’t you heard?” Jon felt as though he shouldn’t be the one sharing this news, “Brendon’s taking her home for the holidays...”
“Oh” Cassia replied. While it was obvious she and Regina had grown apart in their time on tour, she hadn’t been expecting that.
“He’s NEVER done that before,” Jon continued matter-of-factly, “He’s really got it bad for her.”
Cassia nodded as they exited the maze of hallways and exited into the parking lot, “Yeah, she’s never been this way with anyone before either...”
“You’re sure, your okay?” Jon asked again, frankly because he could read a sadness of sorts on her every feature.
“I’m fine, it’s just, can I ask you a favor?”
“Anything,” He smirked, hoping she knew that he meant it.
“I wasn’t completely honest,” Her confession was hesitant, “I’m really happy that you’ll be in California for my appointment, but part of the reason, well, um, Saturday is my parents wedding anniversary party, 25 years, and, well, going alone...”
“Are you asking me to pretend to be your boyfriend?” He joked. She was chewing on her lip again, words stuck in her throat, while she had been planning an eloquent explanation, she was glad he understood. Maybe some things weren’t ready to be revealed.
“Why don’t we make the party a test run,” He added, “That way, once you realize how undeserving I am, you don’t feel obligated to keep up the charade.”
Cassia smiled to herself, so it was official, not that their had ever been any doubt. “If anything, I don’t deserve you Jon Walker.” She admitted before kissing his briefly.
Pausing, their faces just inches apart their wisps of white breath mixed as they exhaled. “They’re waiting for you, Jon.” She whispered noticing the several small groups of girls that still lingered near the bus. Their quiet murmurs had turned into a chatter and mass of flashes when Ryan and Spencer approached. He squeezed her hand gently and left a kiss on her cheek before jogging to meet up with his band mates saying hellos and thank yous
to the fans who had waited since the show ended.
With her hands dug into the pockets of an oversized grey zip up hoodie, Cassia kept her head down as she crossed the parking lot, ducking around the small crowd. She typed in the bus door’s passcode out of habit rather than memory. The door creaked open and she could immediately hear the hum of the television and Regina’s laughter echoing from the back lounge. As her foot made contact with the first step there was a pressure on her elbow, a familiar voice saying her name through the night and the cold. Cassia whizzed around, letting the door slam behind her.
The shadowy figure that had caught her attention had a six-foot frame and attractive face. Though normally clad in designer clothes, he looked almost non-descript with a scruffy beard and simple beige t-shirt and black pants.
“Ethan!” Cassia exclaimed, quickly covering her mouth so not to draw attention to herself. He bobbed around to the side of the bus that faced the now empty parking lot that sat still in the dark. “You shouldn’t be here.” Cassia scolded.
Ethan’s gaze shifted uneasily over her shoulders then back over his own. He was sure he had been followed on his way from Los Angeles. “I need to talk to you.” He said in a shaky voice devoid of all of his typical arrogance.
“I can’t do this right now.” Cassia insisted, glancing around the bus still aware of the amount of people just a few feet away. She clenched her fists at her sides, clenching her teeth in frustration, “You shouldn’t be here.” She repeated.
“This is important Cassia!” He growled.
“I need to get back,” She argued, “I’ll get my phone, I’ll call you a cab.”
Waiting until she away from him, Ethan let his guard down. His statement was vulnerable and defeated, “I’m in trouble. A lot of trouble.” He groveled, “Just promise me you’ll be careful.”
“You’re crazy, Ethan.” She snapped without even turning to face him again.
“I’m not. At least, I wasn’t. But they are.” Ethan’s movements where jerky and tense; but he swooped around Cassia and grabbed her roughly. He held tightly onto both of her arms and spoke just inches from her face, “I don’t know what they’re capable of, but I know that they’re looking for you. I figured you should be warned.”
“Let go of me.” She insisted a lump growing in her throat the more he spoke.
Ethan’s hands fell to his sides in defeat. He bit his lip and hung his head. The sting that was building up behind his eyes was unfamiliar, especially considering his typical state of drug-induced euphoria. “I can’t bear to see anything happen to you.” He choked, the first genuine tear he had ever cried over her sliding unnoticed down his cheek, “Just get the hell out of California. Pleeeaaassse.”
“Cassie?” Jon’s voice interrupted Ethan’s desperate plea, “Is everything okay?”
Cassia’s entire expression changed when Jon came into view. A simple sort of happiness replaced the frustration that had creased her brow. “Everything’s great.” Cassia replied sending back a scolding glare at Ethan.
Ethan remained quiet in the dark as Jon placed a hand on the small of Cassia’s back and began to lead her away from him. She laughed as he whisper something in her ear causing Ethan’s blood to boil with jealousy. “Congratulations, dude.” Ethan called after them, “She used to be mine.”
“Go back to your wife, Ethan Price.” Jon countered.
“Cassia! Please, just consider what I said.”
“Go back to your wife, Ethan Price.” Cassia repeated as she disappeared onto the bus with Jon at her side. There was no longer even the tiniest part of her that longed for the time she spent with Ethan, that imitation of love; not now that she had begun living the best days of her life.