Tommy goes to the show at the Rainbow.
The night of the concert, I fix up my hair and steal some of my sister’s makeup, lathering it on liberally. It’s the first time I’ve ever worn eye shadow in public, and I’m a little nervous as I edge downstairs, but thankfully Mom, Dad, and Athena—my sister—are gone. I scribble a quick note, then I run out. Randall is waiting for me in the driveway; I slide into his car and he looks me over, laughing.
“They’re gonna eat you up tonight!” He smiles at me as he backs out of the driveway, and I smile back, a bit uneasily. I hate it when Randall tries to flirt with me; I’ve known him nearly all my life, and I can’t imagine myself in a relationship with him. Plus that, he’s almost thirty, and he has a girlfriend. Sick.
When we arrive at the Rainbow, I feel my heart rate quicken. Randall parks his car and we get out, crunching the gravel beneath our feet as we walk forward. We hand in our tickets and go inside.
London’s already onstage, blasting a cover of the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy”. Those who aren’t too smashed to stand are on their feet, screaming the lyrics and pumping their fists, cheering. I blend in with the crowd, losing Randall as I make my way to the front. I think Nikki sees me, but I’m not sure. I could just be another face in the crowd to him; after all, we haven’t spoken or seen each other in seven days.
After the show, I head backstage with the rest of the crowd, pausing at the entrance to let Randall catch up with me. We all surge into the dark, smoky back of the Rainbow, plopping ourselves down on the leather couches and getting comfortable, waiting for London to arrive. I lean against a wall and halfway close my eyes, trying to look much older than I actually am. At least I’m not the only guy in here wearing makeup.
At length, London appears: Nigel, curly-haired and laughing; John, with a girl on each arm; Lizzy, his hair teased to the skies; Nikki, hands wrapped around a bottle of Jäger. Randall looks at me.
“You gonna introduce me?” he asks. I shrug.
“Maybe.” I’m not too keen on going straight up to Nikki; I want him to notice me first. Still, I stand up from the slightly slouching position I’ve assumed, and I step out a bit.
A moment later Nikki notices me—I think. It’s really hard to tell with all these people in the room. He’s walking towards me, smiling; lifts his hand and waves once. I lift my hand to wave back… but then he stops. He’s pausing in front of some skinny blond girl, probably the same one that looks like Vince Wharton, and she’s putting one manicured hand on his shoulder and saying something; her shoulders are shaking with laughter. He tilts his head to one side, watching her, his emerald-gray eyes sweeping over her face; then, suddenly, they flick to me. He narrows them slightly and nods once at me, then says something to the blond girl that makes her take her hand off his shoulder and step back. He walks past her and comes up to me, and for the first time all night he looks genuinely happy.
“Hey, Lee,” he says. “Wasn’t sure if you’d show up.”
Meaning he didn’t see me in the crowd. Which is okay, but he probably also didn’t see me back here at first… which means he was smiling at the girl. Not me. Waving at her… and not me.
“Sixx,” I start, and I’m surprised and a little embarrassed by how shaky my voice is coming out. He looks at me strangely for half a second, his face flashing with what could be called concern, then he puts his hand on my shoulder. I can feel the heat radiating off his body.
“What’s wrong, kid?”
I swallow. “Um… it’s just… that girl you were talking to? Who is she?”
“I don’t know, just some groupie who shows up at all our concerts. Why?”
“A-are you… I mean… with her?”
He tilts his head, looking confused. For a second I think he doesn’t get what I mean, but then he steps back a little, and I can tell he does. He frowns, reaching down to grip my hand and dragging me to the bathroom. He flicks the light on and locks the door.
“Goddammit, Lee,” he snarls. “Why the hell would I be with her? I’m not into chicks. Never have been.”
“But… you… you smiled at her—”
He grips me by the shoulders, pushing me back against the wall. I can feel the cold tile pressing against my back, and a brief wave of fear rushes through me.
“I was smiling at you, fuckhead! I walked back there all hot an’ sweaty and I wasn’t feeling too great, and then I saw my gorgeous, pure boyfriend and I knew everything would be okay.” His throat muscles constrict downward as he swallows, and he looks like it physically hurt him to say that.
I’m still stuck on one word. “You said I’m your boyfriend…?”
Another strange look, though this one is more like he’s trying not to smile.
“Yeah…? What else would you be?”
Suddenly I’m feeling better than I have all evening. I lean forward and wrap my arms around his waist, and again I feel him tense briefly—but then he relaxes and kisses my forehead and murmurs something about drugs in his apartment in a low, soothing rumble. I nod and let him lead me out, barely even glancing at Randall as we walk past him.
Jesus, Lee is so fucking innocent. It’s beautiful and it’s different, but Nikki’s not sure how long it’ll last. He’s had his share of guys, and he knows how cruel heartbreak can be—though usually he’s not on the receiving end of it. He knows Tommy’s a virgin, and intends to take it fairly slowly for his sake, but he also knows that Lee is going to get sick of him. Everyone does eventually. He can’t help it—he’s arrogant and self-centered and controlling and cruel and sadistic; it’s just the way he is. Lee might admire him now, but come a few weeks down the road and the kid is literally going to be begging to leave.
Nikki sighs. Lee’s a good kid. It’s too bad he had to get dragged in with him. He reaches over and takes Tommy’s hand, and he smiles at him, lightly kissing his shoulder. “Oh, Sixx…” he sighs, but not in an I want something way. Nikki smiles back briefly, but his thoughts are still dark.
It really is too fucking bad.