Smile. It's a happy day. :)
“I can’t,” he laughed. “I’m so fucking excited!”
No surprise all the guys from both bands were there. Duff and Slash looked like they were about to fall out of their seats from how much they had drunk as well as Nicko but everyone else seemed reasonably sober. We were greeted by a few calls and me by a warm smile from Bruce that made the blood in my body rush up to my face.
Axl took the only open barstool between Slash and Adrian and motioned for me to sit on his lap. With much difficulty I finally made it up. Slash leaned against Axl playfully. “What’s up Ax?” he slurred.
“Your blood-alcohol content. Now get your ass off me,” Axl laughed, shoving Slash off and onto the ground with a heavy thud. Duff pointed at Slash and made a very loud, single laugh before turning back to his drink. The rest of the guys laughed too, even Slash.
“Aw fuck you man,” he countered to Axl, taking his seat once again. “Seriously though, I thought you guys would be getting busy upstairs.”
I looked at him. “Slash, shut up. That’s not all we do.”
“Nope, it’s just what we do the most,” Axl joked tightening his hold around my waist. I elbowed him in the ribs.
“You’re not helping.”
“I didn’t know I was supposed to be,” Axl mumbled, kissing me delicately. “Anyway I wanted to come down because I’ve got something I need to ask of Riley and I want everyone to hear.”
I cocked my head to the side and turned in to Axl more. He grabbed my hand and smiled. “Riley, you know I love you.”
“Yes…” I agreed apprehensively.
“And that I’d do anything for you.”
“Well, I’ve been wanting to ask you this for a while, but…” He reached into his pocket and drew out a ring, a ruby ring. My heart rate went up. “Riley Scott, will you marry me?”
I didn’t know what to say or how to word what I wanted to say. The ring had stunned me into complete silence. “I…I… Yes!”
Axl’s smile grew and he kissed me with more force. My eyes were beginning to water from how happy I was and as Axl began sliding the ring on my finger a tear spilled over. “I love you Riley,” he whispered. A flash went off in the middle of his sentence as one of the roadie’s took a quick picture.
“See, you know a ruby ring means so much more than a diamond ring,” I whispered into his ear as we hugged. “Less cliché.”
Most of the guys started clapping, but, as I looked around, I noticed one unhappy face out of all the smiling ones.
Bruce was frowning. And I hated it.
As much as I loved Axl, this shouldn’t have ever happened. I shouldn’t have even dated Axl. If Bruce hadn’t needed to leave all those years ago I would be married to him at the moment. I’d be sitting in his lap as he hung out with all the guys. Who knows, maybe Axl would have been proposing to another girl and Bruce would have been congratulating him.
But not now, he wouldn’t now. He was hurt. I wanted to fix it but to do so would require hurting Axl, a man I loved just as much as Bruce if not more, and I definitely couldn’t do that.
The guys started thinning out as they retired to their hotel rooms. Izzy and Steven left together, holding each other up and singing “Black Dog” aloud for the whole hotel to hear. Steve and Dave both left, deep in conversation followed by Nicko and Janick who were discussing the night’s show. Slash and Duff left a moment later, shoving each other around and finally Adrian left as well, humming an unknown tune.
That left Axl, Bruce, and me, stuck in a moment that was for me at least the most awkward I had felt. I was still in Axl’s lap though there were plenty of open barstools and he had begun whispering suggestive things into my ear. I giggled and tried to get him to stop but he wouldn’t. Bruce was staring at his drink intently, thinking things over.
Minutes passed when Axl finally asked me to get up so he could “take a leak” really quickly. I let him up and as he disappeared into the hotel lobby I took the seat next to Bruce.
“Hi,” I began awkwardly.
He half smiled. “Congratulations Riles.”
I sighed. “Bruce, I’m sorry.”
“That should have been us.”
“I know, and if I had ever gotten to see you again it would have been.”
“I should never have left. If I had known that leaving meant I would lose you forever I would have told the guys to get a new singer.”
“And I would have told you to quit being an idiot and go to London.”
Bruce met my eye and sighed. “And I would have even if I knew because it would have been what you wanted.”
I groaned and rested my head on the bar. Bruce rubbed my back. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be making you feel like this. It is your engagement day after all.”
I was quiet for a moment. “…you asked me to go with you…”
“You asked me to go with you to London, remember? But I said I couldn’t because I was still trying to get things finished up with Dad. But the truth is I was scared.”
“You mean you could have gone?”
I nodded my head against the smooth wood surface. Bruce stopped rubbing my back.
“Why were you scared?”
I lifted my head back up. “Think about it Bruce. London is where my dad died. I couldn’t go back yet. The memory of seeing my dad’s body in the taxi was too fresh. I just wasn’t ready to go yet.”
“Even though it meant a lifetime of happiness for both of us?”
“But it would have been months of nightmares and sleepless nights for me. Don’t ever think I didn’t… that I don’t love you, that I regret not getting over my fear and going with you because I do. I regret it every day.” I stood back up. “But… things move on.”
Bruce watched me. He caressed my cheek before standing up too and grabbing my shoulders delicately “And don’t you ever think I don’t love you too Riley. And that I don’t regret leaving before you’re eighteenth birthday when I could have married you.” He folded me into his chest and held me for a moment.
When I closed my eyes I felt like I was seventeen again, at the airport, hugging Bruce goodbye as he left for London. I’ll be back for you Riley, I’ll be back to marry you as soon as I can. If only I could have warned him then that as soon as he could wasn’t going to be soon enough…
He let go of me and kissed my forehead before leaving the bar for his room. As I watched him walk away the actual image blurred with the memory I had of seeing Bruce board the plane, but the pain I felt inside was the same for both of them.
Axl came back finally and said we should go to bed if we ever wanted to be able to sleep on a relatively normal schedule again. I agreed, praying that I could quiet my brain long enough to actually drift off for a few hours, but I doubted it would…