Nicole loves Jake, until sexy rock star Ryan Ross sweeps her off her feet.
“Damn, Nicole, Jake’s mouth is huge!,” exclaimed Ray, who was straightening my thick chocolate colored curls. They brushed the curve of my back, soft as a whisper. Jake, my fiancé of four years, had a knack for giving me massive, obvious hickeys that pissed of my mom. Oh well. Tonight, Jake was in Wisconsin with his grandmother, and I was going to a Panic! At The Disco concert, so I could care less. It was the beginning of my last summer before college, and the hot June air was taking a toll on my decision making, such as, hmm, camping in the woods for two weeks with my hot boyfriend, totally alone, or Panic! concert? I chose the concert and left my baby in the woods with his grandparents. I caked concealer over my “love bite” while humming along to the Fall Out Boy oozing from my iPod’s speakers.
“The foreman reads the verdict: of the above entitled actions we find the defendant…,” I sang quietly while applying my eyeliner: bright green, with a dramatic swirl pattern that made it look like there were vines growing from the corner of my eyes.
“Guilty, guilty, guilty…,” belted Ray in her low alto voice.
“GUILTY!” My shrill, operatic soprano voice filled the room with the word. We burst out laughing; we didn’t need to talk to communicate our thoughts. As we both finished our makeup and inspected our concert outfits: Ray was in neon blue skinny jeans and a tight fitting 3OH!3 shirt, and I in dark wash skinny jeans, a Black Sabbath shirt I’d cut into a racerback tank, and a gold metallic cropped leather jacket. We slipped on our black Converse high tops and slid into my car: a 1986 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, cherry red. Ray reached her long, lanky arm into her purse (Did I mention she was six feet tall and incredibly skinny?) and produced her prized copy of High Voltage, 3OH!3’s first album, and popped it into the stereo as I drove down the long, country road leading to the place of the concert: the Verizon Wireless Music Center. Nat Motte’s words of shouting to the brink of unconsciousness flooded my ears as I pulled in to the parking lot.
“I can’t believe we’re actually HERE! With backstage passes!,” Ray exclaimed.
“Oh, the perks of winning radio contests,” I smiled. We slammed the door shut and made our way to our front-row seats; so close that I would be able to smell them, maybe touch them if I was lucky. The crowd was beginning to grow, and finally, after about two hours, the lights had dimmed and the harlequin boys had made their way onto the stage with an audience of screaming girls. But no one screamed louder than I as they started off their set with Camisado, my favorite song. I intertwined one hand’s fingers with Ray’s, while the other was reaching for Ryan Ross. He looked stunningly beautiful in a tight pair of green pinstriped pants, an orange paisley button down, shirt, russet colored vest, and awkward shoes. His hair was back to the way it was in 2008: Cut into an awkward semi-long bowl that framed his delicate baby face. Then, the unthinkable happened: His amber colored eyes met mine, and then, get this - he smiled at me. I’m pretty sure I would’ve died of cardiac arrest had Ray not squealed into my ear and squeezed my hand.
“They’re playing ‘There’s A Good Reason!” And they were: The drum and piano introduction to the song which Ray had dubbed her favorite Panic! song. The crowd of die-hard fans screamed as Brendon approached the microphone:
“Please leave all overcoats, canes, and top hats with the doorman…”
They played through all the songs on A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out and had made it to Pretty. Odd. After the big hits from that album (Nine in the Afternoon, That Green Gentleman, and Mad as Rabbits), I recognized the introduction to Northern Downpour. Having been to many a concert before, I knew they liked to prolong the intro and talk for a little bit. Ryan opened his mouth first.
“So, Brendon, I’ve noticed there’s this girl in the front,” said Ryan. My heart rose to my throat. Could he be talking about me?
“What, did she propose to you or something?,” retorted Brendon.
“Nah, but her fingers look like they’re trying to play all the songs on a guitar… We should bring her up.” Definitely me. Oh. My. God. Am I dreaming?
“You sure she won’t rape your ass, Ro?,” joked Jon.
“Okay then. Go get ‘er!,” said Brendon, followed by a purring noise. Every girl in the audience screamed as the one and only Ryan Ross approached the edge of the stage. But the screams were soon replaced with sounds of disappointment when he offered his hand to me. Ray elbowed me in the ribs, to which I replied to with a ’Bitch, that hurt!’ before Ryan laughed and pulled me onto the stage with his guitar calloused hands. “Good choice, Ryan. So, what’s your name, fan girl?,” asked Brendon as Ryan lead me to the microphone.
“Can I call you Nikki?,” asked Jon with a smile.
“Hell no. It’s Nicole.” The boys erupted into laughter before continuing their conversation.
“Feisty! So, what do you play?,” asked Ryan; his voice was caring and gentle.
“Guitar, cello, piano, and I sing some.”
“NOT SOME, SHE’S GOT FUCKING PIPES!,” shouted Ray from the audience. Oh, God, I might have to kill that girl.
“Well, in that case, you wanna sing with me?,” requested Brendon with a pout and puppy dog eyes. “Pweeease?”
“Um, sure.” A roadie handed me a cordless mic, and after Brendon had sung the first verse and corresponding ‘hey moon’s, he pointed at me. “Sugarcane, in, the easy morning. Weathervanes, my, one and lonely.” I heard Brendon harmonize, along with a chorus of profanity from the others. I glanced back at Brendon, who mouthed at me to go on until I missed, so that’s just what I did. “The ink is running toward the page, it’s chasing off the days, look back at both feet and that winding knee,” I belted.
“I missed your skin when you were east, you clicked your heels and wished for me,” sang Ryan, his mesmerizing honey eyes locked on me, as if he was trying to read my soul. As we all finished the song, I slowly came down from my high. I bowed for the screaming crowd as Ryan lead me back to my spot, while Ray gave me one of her famous “tackle hugs”. The rest of the show, Ryan kept giving me glances and smiles. As they moved through their most recent albums, as well as some Young Veins songs, my heart kept fluttering with every glance Ryan gave me.
As the show finally drew to a close, Ray and I made our way backstage, flashing the passes draped around our necks to the burly looking security guard. We made it to the dressing rooms marked Panic! At The Disco. I knocked on the door lightly and it opened instantly, as if the boys were waiting for us. Ryan’s warm, honey colored eyes greeted me, along with a sincere smile and a ‘sup nod.
“Hey,” he said; was that a hint of nervousness in his voice? Ryan Ross, nervous around me?
“Hi there. I’m Nicole… but you already knew that,” I muttered before extending my hand to shake his… oh, God, his hands. Long, skinny fingers, calloused fingertips.
“I’m Ray. Oh, Nicole here has been in love with you since she was nine,” spewed Ray. I seriously considered strangling her right then and there, but I decided against it.
“Nine?” asked Ryan, his brow furrowing adorably.
“Yeah, you can see me on the Live in Denver DVD. I went to the meet-and-greet, too,” I replied, my cheeks burning a bright, vivid red.
“That makes you eighteen, right?”
“And eleven years younger than me,” he said, his tone disappointed.
“Yeah,” I sighed before a loud crash scared me shitless.
“HEY PARTY PEOPLE!,” someone screamed. I turned around to see Brendon with a case of Red Bull in one hand and Jon and Spencer behind him.
“Oh, hey Nikki,” said Jon.
“Fuck no. It’s Nicole,” Ray retorted. They proceeded to have a tongue-sticking-out war ending with me standing in between them, saying ‘how much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?’. (For some odd reason, that always calmed down Ray.) She moved on to talking to Brendon, while I made my way to the back of the dressing room where Ryan was plopped onto a deep red faux leather couch, tuning a cream colored Epiphone Casino.
“Hey,” I said as I gently sat down next to him.
“Hey. You play guitar, right?,” he asked, his voice smooth as dark chocolate.
“Yeah, six, twelve, electric, acoustic, psh, guitar is my life!”
“Oh, really?,” he inquired. He raised an eyebrow suggestively and gave a crooked smirk. “Think you’re better than me?”
“Well, there’s one way to find out,” I replied, equally suggestive. He sighed and reached behind the couch to pull out the most beautiful thing I had ever seen: a blood red Fender Mustang that looked beat-up and well loved. He handed it to me with a reassuring smile.
“Play whatever comes to mind, it’s plugged in,” he cooed. I let my nimble fingers stroke the firm strings before they began to dance, playing the song that was currently stuck in my head: I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles.
“Fuckshit,” muttered Ryan. I looked up for a moment to see his eyes the size of golf balls and his jaw approaching the floor. I smiled, pleased with myself that I could stun the very person who’d inspired me to play. He picked up the guitar he’d been tuning and added the harmonizing part to the famous Beatles song.
“Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something, I think you’ll understand,” sang Ray, who was walking down the length of the long, narrow room to the couch where Ryan and I were sitting.
“When I say that something, I want to hold your hand!,” belted Brendon, who’d followed Ray to the end of the room. Jon and Spencer were also there, both of them texting on their sidekicks.
“I want to hold your hand, I want to hold your hand,” chorused Ryan. He looked up at me and smiled…but there was more than the simple joy of playing music behind that smile. Love? No. Longing? Perhaps. Lust? Definitely. But for me? True, him and Z Berg had broken up several months ago, but me? An eighteen year old fan that was eleven years his junior? Not possible.
“I want to hold your hand,” joined Jon. As Brendon finished the last note, I kept strumming, but this time, I was playing a song more near and dear to my heart, that was just as, if not more, famous. Everyone decided to go out to the clubs, but Ryan and I decided to stay.
“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. But I look around me and I see,” I thought for a moment about Jake, “it isn’t so.” Those last three words came out a pained whisper.
“Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs. And what’s wrong with that?,” he sang, his eyes meeting mine at the second line. My eyes met his, and for the first time that night, I let them trail down to his structured cheekbones, his awkward nose, and oh, those perfect pink bows of lips. They looked so full, so lush… Whoa there. No. You’re with Jake. Not Ryan Ross, no matter how much you wish you were.
“Nicole? Nic-oolee? Hello?,” said Ryan as he waved his hand in front of my face. That’s when I realized I had zoned out and stopped playing, choosing to stare at a wall as I contemplated the urge to kiss him. I sighed quietly, but just loud enough for him to hear, then looked back at his eyes.
“Hey,” I said, followed by a half-assed smile. His warm smile fell.
“What’s wrong?,” he murmured as he brought his hand to my cheek. His hand… Oh, God, his hand. His hand and his long, spidery fingers, calloused from guitar strings. My breath hitched in my throat. I swallowed the growing lump there.
“N-no-nothing,” I stuttered nervously. “I… Umm…” He brought himself closer to me, to the point where I could taste his apple-and-concert-breath heat on my lips.
“If you’ve been in love with me since you were nine, then you can tell me anything,” he whispered, seductive and inviting.
“Uhhhhhhh… Can I see your ink?,” I said awkwardly. There was no way I could get out of cheating on Jake tonight, not with him flirting like this, but I could do my best to postpone it. As soon as the words had rolled off my tongue, he backed away, and his face radiated hurt.
“Sure, I guess,” he said, pulling up his sleeves. He offered out his wrists to me, his pale, creamy skin smooth under my thumbs as I caressed the letters embedded into that skin.
“The shading on there letters is excellent, really,” I said, and it was.
“Thanks, got any tattoos yourself?,” he responded. Our banter was more easygoing and less awkward then when I’d initially stopped his advances.
“Well? Let’s see it, then!,” he responded energetically. In the middle of his words, he’d grabbed my left hand and was now caressing it.
“You can’t see all of it, lover boy,” I said, smirking and batting my lashes flirtatiously.
“And why is that?,” he asked, his tone equally flirtatious.
“Oh, whatever. Fine.” I slipped off my golden blazer and offered my wrists, which were decorated with an elaborate cursive inscription of Talk Like Lions on my left wrist, and Sacrifice Like Lambs on my right.
“Counting Crows, Round Here?,” he questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“Yup. It brings back good memories.”
“Of…?” He asked, making an adorable one-raised-eyebrow face. Of being in love. Of knowing that although I had gotten beat, I was breathing and she was gone. Of knowing Daddy was home and she wouldn’t hurt me.
“Just every good thing of my childhood. It reminds me the ashes I’ve risen up from,” I replied.
“Are you ever going to tell me what those ashes are?”
“Probably not. No one knows about them,” I said, my voice drifting off.
“Oh… Are those your only tattoos? Because I want to see all of them,” he said, his eyes sparkling like a little boy’s who’d just been taken to the Hot Wheels section of Toys R Us for the first time.
“No, one more…” I said as I pulled my tank top over my head.
“Whoa. Slow down, turbo,” he said, putting his hands up in the universal motion for stop, although his eyes were fixated on the D Cup breasts tucked behind the black satin fabric of my bra.
“Hey, you said you wanted to see all my tats. My last one is on my upper back. Calm yo dick, bro,” I said, giggling like a schoolgirl.
“My dick is calm! Now lemme see.” I turned around and lifted up my heavy, dark curtain of hair so he could see the quote. He stared for a while, then quietly, almost as if saying them to himself, he read them aloud. “You are at the top of my lungs, drawn to the ones who never yawn. My words.”
I turned around to face him as I calculated a reply that wouldn‘t reveal all my secrets. “Yeah, I got it done for my 18th birthday. That song helped me a lot. Helped me see the world for its beauty and not its hardships.”
“Really?,” he whispered, barely loud enough for me to hear, as he leaned towards me. His eyes looked into mine intensely, as if searching for something, anything. “That’s why I became a musician. To let people see through different eyes.” He licked his lips and gazed at the floor for a moment. After several silent seconds, he finally shattered the quiet with his sweet, raspy voice. “Wanna see the tour bus?”
After I slipped my jacket and tank top back on, Ryan took my hand tightly with his fingers interlaced with mine and led me to the parking lot.
“Presenting, the Panic! At The Disco house on wheels,” he announced gleefully, while gesturing to black caterpillar of a bus. He walked in front of me and led me in to what appeared to be the aftermath of a tornado. There were socks, shirts, guitar picks, empty beer and Red Bull cans, and hollow boxes of Capri Suns littering the floor. “This is the kitchen-slash-dining area.”
“Oh, um… Where do you eat?,” I asked, genuinely curious. He leg go of my hand and walked off to the side and proceeded to shove a pile of clothes off what appeared to be a table, and gently moved the guitars off of what looked like a booth seating area.
“Here’s the table. I can’t stand the mess, so I just eat in my bunk,” he explained.
“And am I going to get to see the bunks?,” I retorted.
“Um, sure, just, uh, follow me,” he said, slipping his fingers into mine again before he briskly walked in front of me and into an area that was even more messy than the previous one. “This is Brendon’s bunk,” he said as he pointed to the messiest bed I’d ever seen. “And, uh, this one’s mine.”
“Swedish Fish in your bunk? I’m taking these,” I said through giggles, snatching the plastic yellow package from its perch on his pillow of the slightly disheveled but neat bunk in a sea of messy floors and unmade beds. His long fingers gave my hand a delicate squeeze.
“Come on,” he said as he climbed into his bunk and offered his hand out with a smile. “No funny business. I swear.” With that, I reached up and pulled my curvy, five-foot-two, pear-shaped figure into the bunk. It was a small bunk, six feet by maybe three, so I had no other option but to bury my head into his chest and lie sprawled across him.
After several moments of awkward turning and giggles, I was finally able to look up at him and into his honey colored eyes.
“Hey there,” I said, out of breath from all my maneuvering.
“Hey,” he said delicately with a sincere smile. “So, darling, what kind of music do you like?” I blushed at the word darling, and pressed my lips together as I calculated an answer.
“I like a lot of British Invasion rock, 70’s metal, screamo, punk rock, My Chem, and there’s these two lovely bands, I’m sure you’ve never heard of them, well, one is called Panic! At The Disco, and The Young Veins.” He laughed and smiled at me before he answered.
“Nope, I can’t say I‘ve heard of them,” he said, his kind smile radiating from his thin face.
“Well, what does the great Ryan Ross listen to?”
“60’s rock, My Chemical Romance, Radiohead, Third Eye Blind, The Used, and a lot of indie rock.”
“Hmmmmm, just as I suspected,” I replied flirtatiously.
“You’re a hipster with an emo streak.” We both laughed as I snuggled up closer to him so that we were chest-to-chest, ribs-to-ribs, hip-to-hip, and face-to-face. We talked some more, about movies, about former (current) loves, about what the hell a Camisado was, about what this line in The Piano Knows Something meant, until we were all talked out, and the only hold barred was our childhoods; I knew that was one thing I could never be fully open about, and he respected that, because his was the same way.
The entire time that we were talking, his eyes sparkled with want, with need, with something I hadn’t seen since I’d left my Jake last weekend to go see this concert.
With the possibility of love.
“Yes, my Swedish Fish loving friend?”
“Would you be freaked out if I kissed you?” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt so foolish. Ryan was beginning to blush red and smirk as if to say, ‘Oh, just another fan girl who wants to kiss me’. I turned my head away from him in shame and made eye contact only with the floor.
“Hey, Nicole?,” he finally said after about thirty seconds of awkward silence.
“Yeah, Ry?” He reached out his slender hands and cupped my face, gently pulling it closer to his until our lips met. An electric current burst through my body, and I’m sure my heart was beating hard and fast enough for him to hear it. His lips were warm and soft on mine, and he was an excellent kisser. His lips melted into mine as his tongue slipped across my full lower lip, begging, no, pleading for entrance. And who was I to deny the wants of my celebrity crush, if his wants were me? His tongue slipped into my mouth, hot and tasting of tea and apples. My own tongue found its way into his mouth, which tasted even more of tea and apples, along with a hint of beer.
We were fumbling about on his bunk for a while until I felt his hands tug at my shirt hem. I suppose my jacket had fallen off in our tossing and turning, but I’ll never know. I pulled the racerback black tank top over my head, breaking our kiss for only a moment. I cradled his lower lip with my teeth, testing his reaction, because hey, every guy is different, and Ryan might not like that kind of stuff. He reacted with a sound that should be illegal. With that, I slowly traced my lip to his neck, to his overly pronounced Adam’s apple, to his shirt collar. My fingers skillfully unfastened each button, kissing the newly exposed flesh as I made my way down.
His dexterous fingers unbuttoned the fly of my pants and carefully wriggled me out of them, only to reach for my chin and bring my lips to his. He was breathing heavily now, inhaling and exhaling as if he was trying to intake my scent, and I know that’s what I was doing with him.
We fit together like puzzle pieces, in ways Jake and I were only awkwardly close. I needed Ryan’s heat, his experience, more than Jake’s puppy eyes and youthful sloppiness. And that night, wrapped in Ryan’s warm, strong arms and his thin blue sheets, I realized that I had just had sex with a rock star, to whom I was probably just another easy groupie fuck. And the sad thing was, I loved every minute, and would gladly do it again.