“Miss Bradley, I need you to guide these people to the band dressing room and –”
“Wait, what?” I gaped at Mr Jones in disbelief. That wasn’t what I was getting paid for.
“– look after their interests for the time they’re here,” he went on without paying any attention to my reaction. My mind was racing. It was hard to tear my eyes off the slender man talking to who I guessed was his band mate. The group had stopped in front of Jeff and me, much to my discomfort.
“ – get them some food, show them the city, anything they might want.”
Mr Jones bent towards me, a sly expression on his face, and whispered “You won’t regret it, if you know what I mean” into my ear. Shuddering in disgust, I tried to regain my ability to speak.
“I don’t know, sir,” I muttered.
“I know that isn’t your job but I need someone to do it and everyone else is way too busy. Instead of chatting with your friend here you could use the time to gain some extra money instead.” Now the look on his face turned pleading. I groaned softly. Normally, I wouldn’t be doing this. But the rent of a San Francisco city apartment wasn’t small and the numbers had begun to blink before my eyes. The weight of my purse in my jean pocket felt ridiculously light right now. ‘Fine, fuck it,’ I thought.
“Alright,” I mumbled into my invisible beard.
“Awesome,” Mr Jones beamed and waved at the band to pull their attention towards me. I felt like falling into a giant, dark hole without a bottom. Seven faces were looking at me, all but one with a friendly expression. The blank disinterest in his features wasn’t diminishing the slight feeling of dread pushing through my veins at his sight. I didn’t know what it was but I was sure that I didn’t like it.
“This,” my boss began, pushing me a bit forward, “is Miss Ana Bradley. She is going to show you where everything is located in case you can’t find something. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to contact her. – Now, I’ve got things to prepare. Have a pleasant day,” he said and stalked off, like the life-ruining person that he was.
“Uhm,” Jeff, who was – to my surprise – still standing next to me, made. “I guess I should be going, too. Have fun, Ana, see you,” he spoke quickly before he hurried away. Slightly angry I pulled my brows together but relaxed them soon after. Jeff was naturally shy when it came to ‘celebrities’, he tended to avoid them. I didn’t blame him.
“Well, my name is Ana Bradley, nice to meet you,” I said, making an awkward wave-motion with one hand. God, I was so ridiculous. The shortest of the men smiled cheekily; he was wearing big sunglasses and a very baggy pair of pants that were revealing his bare ankles. His upper body was, in comparison to the lower part, extraordinarily broad.
“Shannon Leto,” he introduced himself with an unexpected deep, rolling voice. “A pleasure meeting you.”
“Same here, Mr Leto,” I said, forcing my lips into a friendly smile. But my uncomfortableness wasn’t because of him, not in the slightest.
“Call me Shannon. Mr Leto makes me feel so anonymous.” Still that smile.
“Well, this is my brother,” Shannon introduced me to the person that I did not want to be introduced to. It was just a feeling, but it was opening up all the old wounds that I had spent my life with trying to conceal. I didn’t know the man, but this… this aura was rolling off him in waves. As if there was something familiar about him, too familiar to bear. The forced smile on my lips vanished as I greeted him.
He simply nodded to show he had heard me. He was wearing oversized sunglasses as well as a hat.
“Don’t mind him,” the woman by his side said, annoyed by his behavior. Her dirty blond hair hung freely around her shoulders and she was about my height. “His name is Jared. I’m Emma, his personal assistant.”
“Hello, Emma,” I said quietly. She seemed nice.
“And this are,” Emma went on, “Tomo” – a dark-bearded man with long hair and a friendly face raised his hand – “Vicki, his wife” – a woman even smaller than me, who seemed a little moody, waved – “Tim” – he smiled widely at me – “and Braxton” – he was a tanned young guy with a beaming face.
“Well I guess I’ll show you guys around,” I said and started the little tour through the venue.
The whole time I felt something eating away on me, I felt it engulf me. Whenever I turned around I saw him not paying attention, his eyes glued to his cell phone in general disinterest. His posture was stiff, like there was something bothering him, too. I wanted him, this man I didn’t know but that somehow managed to be so breathtakingly familiar, I wanted him to at least acknowledge me. I wanted him to realize what he was unknowingly doing to me and I wanted to ask him who the fuck he thought he was to deliberately ignore everything around him like he was the center of the universe. Realizing what I had just thought, I resisted the urge to slap myself in the face. He wasn’t doing anything mean, he was just caught up within himself. Like I was, in a way, too – because of him.
I snapped out of it and looked around in confusion. The hairy guy, Tomo, was looking at me, quite amused.
“We know that these are the bathrooms. We’ve been standing here for more than five minutes now.”
“God I’m sorry,” I stammered, embarrassed. “The, uh, the catering is right around the corner. I’ll show you the dressing room now.”
With that I started walking again, at a faster pace than before.
“Jared, dude,” I heard Shannon calling from behind me, “What are you doing back there, come on.”
Turning, once again, I saw him still standing by the bathroom doors. He was looking at us confusedly, apparently he hadn’t noticed that we’d started moving again. Comprehension flashed across his face and he walked to catch up with us in steady strides, again looking at the cellphone in his hands. My belly churned at the sight of him and I wanted to look away but there was something magnetic about him that I couldn’t resist. It was maddening. What on earth had I gotten myself into?
Once he had joined us I forced myself to turn around again. It wasn’t much of a release as I could still feel his presence creeping up my limbs. A neither cold nor warm sensation, heavy with meaning I couldn’t decipher. I had never hated and loved my job at this venue so much at the same time.
I was standing outside the dressing room’s door with nowhere to go. I felt uncomfortable with walking into the room because god knows someone could be getting dressed and I didn’t want to walk in on that. But on the other hand, I was supposed to take care of them and how was I supposed to do that without being where they were?
I resumed to stare at the “This Is War(drobe)” sign they had substituted the dressing room sign with when we had arrived here, trying to understand it. I didn’t get it but I doubted that staring at the thing would do any good.
Just then, the door opened and almost hit me square in the face. Tumbling back, I tried regaining my balance without falling to the floor and thus making a complete fool out of myself.
“Oh sorry,” I heard a voice say and someone grabbed my arm in order to steady me.
“’s alright,” I said and looked up. It was Shannon, looking a little flabbergasted. He hadn’t expected me standing in front of the door just about as much as I hadn’t expected it to open.
“I wasn’t eavesdropping, I swear,” I muttered, well aware of what it looked like.
Shannon let go of me and I took a few steps back. I saw other people as well coming out of the door behind him.
“Yeah, of course,” he winked.
Desperately, I shook my head. “I didn’t, scout’s honor!”
He started laughing at me.
Grumbling, I explained myself. “I was just looking at that ‘This Is War(drobe)’ sign because I didn’t get it.”
“That’s a long story,” he said, still laughing. “You can have my brother explain it to you because we” – he pointed at the people behind him – “are going to get some food now. See you, shorty.”
“I am not short!” I shouted after him but the only response I got was laughter. Once they were around the corner a sudden uneasiness began filling me and I understood that I was now alone with – what’s his name again – Shannon’s brother. Clenching my teeth, I took a tiny step closer to the door that they had left open. ‘Flight or fight, flight or fight.’
Was this my one chance to find out what he was reminding me of?
Or was it simply suicide?
I didn’t know. But I knew that something was pulling me closer and something else was pushing me away, like two sides of a magnet. ‘He’s just some random guy,’ I told myself. ‘You don’t even know him nor does he know you.’
That was true but there was something that told me that I did know him but I didn’t know from where. But how was I to find out without being able to stand being in the same room with him? I was sure he wouldn’t do me any harm. Or was I?
‘What the fuck ever,’ I thought and walked into the dressing room.
“Is anyone in here?” I asked, closing the door behind me.
I gazed around in order to find the person the voice belonged to. He was half sitting, half lying on the blue loveseat in one corner of the room. I had to admit, I was quite amazed that that was his voice, I would have thought it would be about as deep as his brother’s but it turned out to be velvet-y soft. He wasn’t looking at me, there was a book in his hands. As I took in his appearance, I felt the foreign memories creeping up my skin again. With all my might, I fought to ignore them.
“What are you doing?” I asked. Hello, Captain Obvious.
“Reading.” He held up his book, still not looking up at me. His sunglasses lay on the coffee table in front of him. ‘Demons under the microscope’ the cover read. I mustered his face; his big eyes almost completely covered by their eyelids, his brown hair peeking out from under his hat and messily sticking to his forehead.
His legs were crossed. It was rare to see guys do that.
Shakily, I took a deep breath. His presence was pushing in my chest, making it hard for me to breathe, in both the negative and the positive way.
“Your brother said you’d explain the ‘This Is War(drobe)’ thing to me,” I tried.
Putting his book aside, he looked up at me. I stopped breathing for a few seconds as his eyes found mine. My body went completely cold. Cold like his blue eyes.
“There isn’t much to explain,” he simply said. I still hadn’t gotten over his voice, it only added up to the ominous effect he had on me.
“Then what is there to explain?”
He was still to look away. He didn’t even blink.
“Do you know our band?” he asked.
“Not really,” I said honestly.
Sitting up straight, he uncrossed his legs and folded his lean hands in his lap.
“Our current album is named ‘This Is War’,” he explained. He was never providing too much information, always just bits. He wanted me to think on my own. I found a liking in that, which surprised me as I usually couldn’t stand it when people were being mysterious.
“So you thought it was funny to make ‘wardrobe’ out of ‘war’?” I concluded.
“No. But it is quite humorous, actually.”
“The people at a radio station once came up with it.”
“And it’s a tradition now?”
I nodded solemnly. Thinking about it, it was a nice idea to do such a thing. Silence followed our brief conversation, numbing time. He didn’t pick up his book again. Oh, and he looked like he was such a tiny creature. Not because of his height, but his body. Legs thin as sticks, petite shoulders. Overall, his body was very skinny, almost unhealthily so, from what I could see. I wanted to ask what his name was but I didn’t because it felt weird. His name had nothing to do with the familiarity that came from him nor with the person that he was. If his name had been relevant I would have remembered it.
Still, I wondered who he was. I didn’t know what to think of him, the more time passed the harder it was to push back the negative feelings he caused inside of me. I didn’t know what to make out of him. Apparently, he wasn’t interested in conversation, only speaking when encouraged. I waited, expected it to hit me like a ton of bricks but it didn’t. He remained, in a way, anonymous to me. Why did I even want to know, I wondered. I wasn’t the first “star” I got to meet due to my job and he was not going to be the last.
What made him so familiar? What made him so special? And why?