28. Who thinks Joe deserves a lady friend?
"Hello? Hey, Andy." I flop down on the couch and rip open a bag of Funyons. "No, I'm not eating junk food," I answer him, stuffing one in my mouth.
"You are such a liar. How're you holding up?"
"Not too bad. I got me some Vicodin, so I'm pretty set."
"Sorry I, we, you know, all of us. Sorry we weren't there. I didn't even hear about it until yesterday afternoon, and Joe said you were fine and you were being released soon, so..."
"Nah, man. Don't worry. I slept most of the day anyway."
"So, I, uh. I heard about your mom."
"You okay? I know you didn't get along or anything, but it's still hard losing a parent."
"To be honest, and I know I'm going to hell for this, it really hasn't affected me at all. I'm sure it'll hit me eventually, but I hadn't even spoken to her in three, almost four years. We didn't even talk when I lived with her. I barely knew the woman."
"You're okay though? Like, you're sure?"
"Definitely. I'm just going to eat something and start getting ready for tonight."
"'Kay. See you at Pete's."
I toss my phone towards the other end of the sofa and sigh. Today was so fucking surreal. All I want right now is a beer and a nap, and a look at the clock tells me I can't even have one of those. Tom's going to be picking me up in less than two hours, and I need some serious work if I'm going to look even a little decent.
"It's open!" I scream as I scramble around, trying to put in an earring, buckle my shoe, and stuff this goddamn tiny purse at the same time. Okay. Breathe. ID? Check. Lipstick? Check. Painkillers? Check. Condom? Hey, you never know.
"Knock, knock." Tom peeks his head in the door and stops short. "Wow. You look... wow."
"Thank you, that's exactly the look I was going for." I do a little spin so he can absorb the full impact of the dress.
"Are you sure you don't want to just stay in tonight?" He runs his fingers down my arm and I shiver at his touch.
"Keep it in your pants, tiger." I lean up for a kiss and he smiles against my lips. "At least until after the party." I wink and move toward the door, but he wraps his arms around my waist from behind.
"You are such a tease," he whispers as he trails kisses down my neck and shoulder.
"Hey, no fair," I whine. "You know that's my weakness." Suddenly the room gets hazy and I feel myself fall back against him.
"Are you alright?"
"Oh, I'm fine. Just a little lightheaded." I smile and give him a little push. "See what you do to me?"
He grins and puts his hand on the small of my back, nudging me towards the stairs. "Let's get going before I really do something to you."
"I know. You don't look too bad yourself." Lucy's all decked out in fire engine red, her platinum hair hanging in loose curls. "If that dress were any shorter, you'd be in prison."
She snorts. "You're one to talk. One wrong move and you'll be the next Tara Reid."
"Oh, no. That's where you're wrong. Double-sided tape is my new best friend."
She laughs and nods knowingly, and Tom fidgets a bit behind me. "Don't worry dude. Pete'll be down any second and you'll be saved from the girly talk. Oh man, wait until you see him."
Just then, as if he'd been waiting for an introduction, Pete appears at the top of the stairs.
"White? What's so crazy about... Oh. My. God." In addition to his black Converse/white suit/black shirt/white tie combination (which he wears quite well, I'll admit), Pete is rocking some serious eyeliner. "Peter! What in the hell is on your face?!"
He skips the last two steps and lands next to Lucy with a thud, grinning. "It looks good, huh?"
Lucy rolls her eyes. "He made me teach him how to put it on a few days ago, and now he won't stop wearing it."
I laugh as Pete pouts. The doorbell rings and Tom rushes to answer it, obviously grateful that someone not in makeup may have arrived. "Joe, thank god you're here. You would not believe... you're wearing pink. Has the whole world gone mad?!"
"Man, just wait 'til you see Andy." Joe slaps Tom on the shoulder and walks in, his arm around the waist of a pretty girl I've never seen before. "Hey, everyone. This is Madeline."
She waves slightly and tucks her auburn hair behind her ear. "Maddie," she smiles.
"Mad, this is Tom, Lexi, Lucy, and Pete you're wearing makeup."
"Jesus! It's eyeliner. It's not like I'm wearing lipstick here!"
Maddie hides her smile behind her hand, while Lucy and I take the less ladylike approach and laugh uncontrollably.
Tom rounds the corner and lets out an exasperated sigh. "I'm screwed tonight, aren't I?"
I cock an eyebrow at his disembodied voice but smile in understanding as Andy appears, clad in a vintage tux the exact color of orange sherbet, complete with ruffled shirt. Tyra, looking like Andy's much better half in floor-length emerald green, scoots over and gives me a hug.
"That dress is beautiful. It really sets off your hair."
"Oh, thank you. I was afraid I'd look like a Christmas tree but Andy just loved it. I just wish I'd had some input into his wardrobe for the evening. He kept telling me 'it's a surprise! It's a surprise!' And for some reason, that wasn't a warning sign." I smile and her eyes flick up to my stitches. "You look really good, you know, that," she nods her head toward my eyebrow, "not withstanding. How are you feeling? I heard about your fall."
"Oh, I'm good. The pain pills make me a little tired sometimes, but without them I can't even see."
"That bad, huh?"
"That bad. I didn't think a concussion was supposed to hurt this much. But mostly, I'm great."
"Oh, she's more than great." Tom slides an arm around my waist and I rest my head on his shoulder, smiling. "You are spectacular."
"And you," I poke a finger into his chest, "are trying to butter me up for later tonight." He grins and I kiss him, using my thumb to wipe the smudge of lipstick off his mouth.
"Is it working?"
"Like a charm." I laugh as Tyra puts on her 'ew' face. "Hey, has anyone heard from Trick?"
"Patrick, I swore to myself as a little girl that I would never date anyone who took longer than I did to get ready. You are skating on thin ice."
I slump down on the bed as Anna walks in, glaring. "What are you doing? We're late."
I hold up my unlaced shoes pathetically. "I don't know what to do."
"You don't know how to lace your shoes?"
"No, I don't know which laces to use. Black or white? Thick or thin? Bar laced or crosslaced?"
"Uhm, is it really important?"
"Yes! It is. The shoes are black so the black laces might be overkill but white might look dumb but the white would match the pinstripes. And the shoes are wide so would crosslacing look stupid? I could bar them but I don't want to look like I'm trying too hard even though I really am. Maybe I could bar them with the skinny laces, wait that's really geeky. Why the hell did I even buy skinny laces?!" I drop my face into my hands and Anna sits down next to me, rubbing my back.
"Are you done?" I nod. "Are you okay?" I nod again. "Good. Now what's really wrong?"
I sigh and mumble into my hands and Anna leans in. "I can't hear you, sweetie."
"I don't want to be a failure! What if the record flops? What if Island pulls our contract? What if everything we worked so hard for falls out from under us and the guys all blame me and I lose my band and my friends and..."
"Hey, hey. Calm down. The record is incredible. I love it, the guys love it, all your friends love it, the label loves it. Don't you remember all the listenings you came home from, completely excited because Jay-Z, of all people, loved your music?" I nod despondently. "Trust me. Your band is going somewhere, you are going somewhere. And we're all coming with you. Stop worrying."
"Okay. Now we're late, and Pete will kill you, and probably me, if he doesn't get to make his grand entrance as scheduled. So let's hurry." She grabs my left shoe and my white fat laces and starts working. I sigh and kiss her cheek, and she smiles back at me. "Trust me Patrick. Everything will be fine."
"I love you, Anna."
"I know you do baby."
"Thank god you're here get out of the house get in the limo we're going to be late go go go!" Pete runs around screaming like a banshee and trying to herd us all out the door. Once we're all outside, his luck runs out, as the girls all stop to greet Anna and Anna has to introduce herself to Maddie and they're all touching each other's hair and doing that air-kissy thing that would be totally stupid if they all weren't so damn gorgeous. Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out why Joe and Andy are wearing pastel, Joe's asking me why Pete's wearing makeup, Andy's wondering aloud how we all got such hot girlfriends, and Tom's just standing there, probably wishing he was anywhere else.
Pete throws open the limo door. "God dammit! Everyone get off my fucking lawn and into the goddamn car! I swear to god I will leave without you!"
We all laugh and regroup with our respective dates, piling into the limo Pete insisted we rent. Since we're 'bigshots' now, and all.
"Hey, Alexis, you okay?" I sit down next to her on the couch and look her over, worried.
She turns her head and nods slowly at me. "I'm fine. My head's killing me, but I'm okay."
"I never got a chance to tell you how beautiful you look tonight. Tom's a lucky guy."
"Thanks, Lunchbox. You look great, too. The pinstriped shoes were a nice touch. The white laces really make the stripes pop."
I blush at the memory of my earlier lace freakout. "Where is Tom, anyway?"
"Oh, I sent him away to dance and be merry. Me not feeling well is no excuse for him not to have a good time." She closes her eyes and I notice she looks pale under that scar. I reach out to touch it and she draws back from my hand.
"Sorry. Does it still hurt?"
"Eh, it's a bit sore but I don't mind. It's just ugly, is all."
"Alexis, you could never be ugly. You know, you really didn't have to come if you weren't feeling well."
She rests her fingers on my arm and smiles at me. "You know better than anyone that there is no way I would have missed this. My little boys are growing up!" She wipes a fake tear from her eye and laughs lightly. "I've been waiting for this day as long as you have. Of course I'm here. I am so proud of all of you."
"You really don't know what it means to us, to me, that you're still behind us."
She just nods and smiles, squeezing my hand.
"Oh look, here comes your boy-dot-friend."
She laughs. "Anna told you, huh?"
"You know, you're gonna have to get over this fear of commitment someday. Tom's a good guy."
"I know he is. Thanks, Patrick." I lean down and kiss her cheek, waving to Tom as I walk away.
"Hello, girl. How are you?"
"Everyone keeps asking that. I'm good, I promise."
"Good. Wanna dance?"
I laugh and shake my head. "I'm still having little dizzy moments, which is a better excuse for not dancing than the truth."
"What's the truth?"
"You don't want to see me dance. It is not a pretty sight."
"Alright," he chuckles. "I'll sit this one out with you."
"Thanks, boy." He leans against the back of the sofa and I snuggle into his shoulder. We sit like that for a while, enjoying the music and one another's company, but eventually my headache gets the best of me and I start feeling sick. "I'm going to the ladies' room, I'll be back in a bit." I stand up and my knees wobble, and Tom has to catch me to keep me on my feet.
"You sure you're alright? You look really pale."
"My head's just hurting really badly, and it's making me nauseated. Plus I've been lightheaded all day. I probably just stood up too fast." Tom frowns but doesn't say anything, just walks me to the bathroom and opens the door for me.
"You'll be okay? You promise?"
"Promise. Thank you. I put my hand to his cheek, then walk slowly into the restroom.
"Lexi, hey!" I look around and see Maddie fixing her hair in the mirror. "Wow, you do not look good."
"I don't feel good."
"Yeah. You ever have a migraine?" She nods. "Well, you know how the pressure makes you feel nauseous after a while? That's how I feel right now."
"Oh, poor baby. Here, wait." She sits me down and fishes around in her bag, pulling out a hair tie and pulling my curls off my shoulders and into a low ponytail. Then she grabs a stack of paper towels and places them around the base of the last toilet. "In case you do puke, we don't need that dress on the floor."
I smile. "You're a natural mom."
"God, I hope so. I've got a little girl at home."
"Yep, she's almost two." Her eyes light up. "Wanna see a picture?"
"I do, but right now, I'm gonna hurl." I stumble to the stall she's set up for me and release the day's food, Funyons first. I groan and sit back on my heels. The pressure in my head has lightened slightly, so I guess I'm thankful for that. Maddie crouches next to me with a plastic cup of water.
"Rinse." I obey. "Better?" I nod.
"How old are you?"
I smile. "Joe's always had a thing for older women." She giggles and helps me up, adjusting my dress and helping me back to the bench against the wall.
"Okay. Now show me that baby."
She smiles wide and pulls out two pictures. The first is a slightly younger-looking Maddie in a hospital bed, cradling a baby and displaying the biggest grin I've ever seen.
"She's beautiful. What's her name?"
"I know, thank you. And Tara."
I flip to the other snapshot and laugh. Tara's wearing a black and white striped bathing suit and an eyepatch, dragging a stuffed parrot by the tail.
"She loves that suit. It reminds her of pirates for some reason. When she saw it in the store, she immediately started shouting 'pie-pie! Pie-pie!' So I figured, why not go all out?"
"It's a good look. Does Joe know about Tara?"
"Oh, of course. She's number one, everyone knows immediately. I was with her father almost three years, and he left me the day he found out I was pregnant. After that, I swore I'd be alone for the rest of my life before I was with anyone who couldn't handle it. Joe's actually really excited to meet her."
"He would be; he's just a big kid himself. How did you two meet?"
"I run a coffeeshop, he ordered a latte and a date with me." She smiles at the memory. "I said no."
"What did he say?" I laugh.
"'Then do you have any green tea?' It was so cute, I agreed. He took me to lunch, and here I am, hanging out with rockstars."
"Technically, you're hanging out with a puking groupie."
"You're not puking anymore."
"Do you feel better now?"
"My head's gotten a bit better but it still hurts like a bitch. But I'm not nauseous anymore. Thanks, by the way. I appreciate you helping me."
"Please. Like I'd leave you here to vomit alone. You ready to head back out there?"
"Yeah. Tom's probably got his panties all in a bunch, with me being in here so long." I stand up and the room goes grey, and I put my hand to the wall for support.
"Lexi? Hey, you okay?"
I close my eyes and try to get my balance back. "I'll be fine, just a headrush."
"Maybe you should sit back down, put your head between your knees. You know, breathe."
I shake my head and stand up straight. "I'm fine, don't worry." To prove my point I start walking toward the door. Two steps in, the room starts spinning and my knees give out. I hear Maddie calling my name, then running for the door. The last thing I feel is strong arms lifting me up, then I let go and it all goes black.
Chapter title from "Black Eyes, Blue Tears" [or something like that; I'm too lazy to look it up] by Shania Twain. Good song.