The boys are back and there's a party thrown in their honor. Lola has a heart to heart with someone she didn't expect.
An intense investigation would no doubt be launched. I mean, I was in Pete's bed, without a stitch of clothing, no less. Yes, one long, drawn out interrogation would result from such suspicious activities. I was almost tempted to prolong my foray into casual nudity; if I continued to be naked, Joe couldn't ask me any questions regarding my whereabouts. But then again, it was 20 degrees outside. That would certainly not be conducive to a new, bare lifestyle change.
With much reluctance, I slowly dressed in yesterday's clothing and headed downstairs to greet the guys. Dirty, Patrick, Andy, and Joe were scattered about the living room, chattering and laughing. All the commotion ceased immediately after my presence was known. OK, so Andy caught a glimpse of my goodies...in my ex's room, of all places. It's not that weird, right?...Right?
"I'm going out front for a smoke. Wanna join me, Lola?" My brother asked as he casually unsheathed a pack of Marlboro Reds. I knew his game and I wasn't interested in playing along.
"I don't smoke anym-"
"Yes you do, c'mon." He placed his hands on my shoulders from behind and gave me a sharp jolt toward the door.
"No, really. Remember my smoker's voice revelation?" I asked. But sadly, it was all in vain. I was going out for a smoke whether I wanted to or not. We grabbed out coats and headed outside. My sorry excuse for protection against the elements did little to mitigate the effects of the bitter Chicago air. I was more or less a popsicle.
"So," He began before sticking a cigarette between his lips and lighting it. "What have you been up to?" Was that a trick question?
"Not much. Just hanging out with Pete." My sibling chuckled, emitting plumes of gray smoke from his mouth.
"So I've noticed." He grinned slightly and effortlessly flicked some ashes off his cigarette. I watched as they plummeted to the brick walk way. "Are you guys dating again?" There is was. The hopefulness.
"I'm not sure."
"Listen, I've never been able to, nor will I even attempt to tell you what to do. I can only offer a suggestion and hope you think about it. I don't know exactly what made you break up with him in the first place, but maybe you should give it another try." Perhaps he was right. "I mean, he's going through a hard time right now. He needs you."
"I'll take it into consideration." He took at long drag and released billowing puffs of dreary clouds.
"That's all I ask." I nervously picked at my already chipped nail polish as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other.
"So...are we OK now?" He grinned and threw his arm around me.
"Yeah, we're good now." We were silent for a moment before he spoke again. "So where is lover boy?" That was a good question; one I didn't have the answer to.
"I have no idea." I said sheepishly as I shoved my hands into my pockets in an attempt to keep them warm. A small grin tugged on the corners of his lips.
"You are a terrible babysitter. I hope Dale isn't paying you." In money, no. In doing laundry and making dinner, yes.
"He left just before you guys got here." He nodded before he dropped his cigarette butt to the ground and extinguished it with his shoe.
"I guess I'll have to call his cell phone. A friend is throwing us a welcome home party at 8 o'clock and I'm sure he expects Pete to be there. You're on the invite list too." He ruffled my red curls and turned to head back inside.
It was 8:24 when we pulled up in front of a large, suburban house. Boisterous music could be heard pumping through the walls and echoing into the night. I could see tons of moving shadows, suggesting the house was crawling with people ready to welcome the boys home.
Upon entering the smoke filled living room, the guys were immediately surrounded by friends offering hugs, high fives, and pats on the back. Dirty and I managed to slip out of the mob.
"Do they really know all these people?" I yelled my question over the music.
"Probably not. Most of these people are here for the free beer. Speaking of which, you want any?" Dirty screamed back. I shook my head and watched with amusement as he made a beeline for the keg. Typical Dirty.
"Hey you." I turned to see the ever lanky William towering over my small figure with Christine by his side.
"Hi!" I said with a huge smile. He bent down to give me an awkward hug.
"I heard you were back from Long Beach. It's so good to see you." His girlfriend added and embraced me as well.
"Thanks. It's great to see you guys too." He nodded.
"Yeah, I've been bumping into people I haven't seen in forever. It's so weird. Like today, I ran into Todd Roman at the gas station, Julia Emerson at Homer's. I saw Jeanae somewhere around here, um...who else?" I arched an eyebrow at the male. Jeanae's here?
"Jeanae?" I repeated, praying I had heard wrong.
"Yeah, she came with Pete. The last I saw, they were in the kitchen."
"Would you two excuse me for a second?" Without waiting for a response I charged toward, what I could only assume was the kitchen. They were just where Christine said they'd be. Their backs were to me, but their identities were undeniable. The petite female was sitting on a bar stool, red plastic cup in hand, while Pete stood beside her. His hand was settled at the small of her back while his other arm supported his weight against the wooden island in the center of the room. He leaned in close to her ear and whispered something, which caused her head to be thrown back as she erupted with laughter.
My tongue suddenly rivaled sandpaper as I watched him place small kisses on her pale neck. Unexpected tears sprang to my eyes, but I didn't dare let them fall. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction. I turned and headed for the front door. I would sooner brave a Chicago winter than stay in that house, knowing he was in there with her.
I sat on the cold cement steps leading up to the house and placed my head in my hands. Now I knew where he was all day...he was with her, doing only God knows what.
My lips quivered as hot tears seeped from my eyes and rolled down my face, soon becoming cold from the frosty air. And to think, I swore I'd never cry over this man again. Boy, was I wrong.
Though I was upset, deep down, it felt like it wasn't warranted. Did I really have a right to be angry? I didn't want to be with him, but I certainly didn't want Jeanae to have him. Isn't the human thought process great?
"You OK out here?" A soft voice asked. I wiped at my face fiercely, hoping to somehow eliminate all evidence of lamentation before turning to see who dared to interrupt my pity party. The bright light coming from the house outlined a dark, obviously male figure.
"Yeah, I'm fine, Patrick." Without an invitation, he sat down on the icy steps next to me.
"Liar. Look at you, you've been crying. What's wrong?" He asked, concern apparent in his gentle voice.
"I think that...I must have misread some signals. That's all." I felt pathetic and infantile. Here I was, 19 years old, and weeping over some boy.
"Well, do you wanna, like, talk about it?" I tilted my head and looked over at his fretful face. Why was he being so nice? Sure, Patrick and I have always been friendly, but we never really had a conversation or anything. He was just one of my brother's friends; nothing more, nothing less.
"I'm being stupid. It's my fault for assuming anything."
"Might this have anything to do with Pete and Jeanae?" Was I that obvious?
"Unfortunately. But I have no right and no excuse to react this way. I think more than anything, I'm pissed that I care this much. When I broke up with him, I promised myself that I would never, ever cry over him again. And yet, I'm out here bawling like a fucking baby." Instinctively, I buried my head into his chest and continued to sob, letting his shirt absorb my angry tears.
"I have nothing against Jeanae. I think she's a very nice girl. But to be honest, she's convenient for Pete. She's Miss Right /Now/. He has no long term intentions for her. And he sure as fuck never talks about her the way he spoke about you." Oddly enough, conversing with Patrick was making me feel a little better.
"I just feel so...inadequate compared to her." He sighed.
"Well, you shouldn't. I mean, you're quite pretty...especially considering you and Joe share the same genes." I let out a small chuckle.
"I guess it could be worse. I could look like him." We dissolved into giggles.
"I can't imagine why you'd feel inadequate next to her. Like I said, she's a nice girl, but sometimes, at certain angles, all I see is...manliness." I nodded, agreeing completely. "Why do you feel that way when you know you have nothing to worry about?" I sighed. I never told anyone about the real reason for the breakup. So why did I feel like it was OK to spill everything to him?
"Listen, if I tell you, you can't tell Joe. Or Andy 'cause he'll tell Joe." He nodded. "You promise?"
"Cross my heart and hope to die." He held up his hand as if to reassure my secret was safe with him.
"When Pete and I were together, I caught him cheating on me with Jeanae." His mouth dropped.
"What?" He asked with wide eyes.
"I was in high school at the time and I decided to cut out early to see him. And well, you can imagine the rest."
"And you kept quiet about it all this time?" I nodded. "Why didn't you say something?"
"Do you have any idea how Joe would react?"
"That would be the end of Pete."
"The end of the band. Joe loves Fall Out Boy. I didn't want him to screw up a great thing for my sake."
"That's very noble of you. Stupid, but noble. As the lead singer, I thank you." He placed his warm hand on my shoulder.
"But you know what? I think, even if he hadn't slept with Jeanae, I couldn't foresee being with him forever." He cocked his head to the side.
"Why not?" I shrugged.
"Pete is very....draining. He's moody, he's dramatic. He's cocky. He has a horrible tendency to overanalyze. But sometimes...he could be so...great. Sometimes/, he made me so incredibly happy. But how long can you settle for /sometimes before you realize you shouldn't have to?" He nodded.
"True. But I think he's grown up a little since then." I scoffed.
"How's this for personal growth. I slept with him last night. And when I told him I wanted to slow down, he got all pissy and showed up here with Jeanae." Patrick laughed and shook his head.
"I can't even begin to defend that." He removed his hat to run his hands through his hair before placing it back upon his head. "Wait, how about this. He's going through a rough patch right now." I rolled my eyes. If one more person sites his current love/hate relationship with anti-anxiety prescriptions as justification for acting like an asshole, I'm going to fucking scream.
"How long is that going to be a plausible excuse for his shitty attitude?" The male shrugged.
"With Pete, who knows how long he'll milk it."
It was becoming clear to me that he was never going to change. This was a man capable of loving one person and one person alone: himself. There just wasn't enough room for me.