“Holy shit, yo, check it out!” Jarod practically climbed over Zane’s head to get a better look out the bus window, a goofy grin plastered on his face. “Those are some crazy hot chicks!”
Zane backed up to the other side of the bus, and Rick snorted. “Uh huh, sure, Jar, sure. Have another jack and coke. And would you like some trash with your trash? Obviously, we’re having a special tonight.” He hefted his guitar and moved down to the door landing, waiting for security to clear a way through the dozen mixed-aged shriekers lurking at the back entrance of the venue.
Jar moved some his shaggy blond hair out of his eyes, and grimaced at his bandmate. “Don’t be a snotty asshole, Rick, they’re not that bad.”
Zane, who had sat down and picked up his book again, smiled slightly. “They’re really not. AHHH!” He jumped what felt like two feet in the air and turned around to give the hand that had clenched his shoulder a very dirty look. A sleepy gimlet eye peered at him through the space between the seats.
“Whoooooa. Stop the bus, now! Oh, wait, it is stopped.” Dustin stretched and yawned, rubbing his bald head and giving his stomach a scrunch. “Was that a suggestion of actual goupie attraction there, Zane? That’s not usual.”
Zane lifted his eyebrows and shrugged. “No. I simply wouldn’t go so far as to call them trash, that’s all. Seemed a bit much for your typical group of hipster rock girls. And you were a little behind on ‘Slow climb downward’ earlier.”
Jarod smiled blissfully. “Ah, hipster rock girls….”
“You’re a perv, Jar, try to keep them above 16. And don’t forget the make-up bag,” Dustin threw it to him and grabbed his sticks, “we got some serious shit that time in Philly when we forgot the damn eyeliner.”
“We’re almost out of eyeliner.” Rick noted. “Erica needs to get us more.”
“If you’re nice to me, you can use mine.” Zane said quietly, and Rick didn’t know if that was supposed to be funny or serious. He never did with Zane, not even after 5 years of playing together. Knowing the man wielded disarmament both on stage and off as a highly effective personal smokescreen didn’t mean it was clear exactly when it was happening.
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.” Rick smiled sardonically. “I think we can go in now.”
The bus driver opened the door, and they filed out past the screaming fans, Jar giving them his widest smile.
“WE LOVE YOU, ZANE!” Three girls of about 17, all pixie hair and tight shirts, threw themselves at the outstretched arms of the bouncer in front of them. One brunette looked like she was going to cry. “You’re so amazing! Sing “Silly Thing” for me!”
He looked at them for a brief second with a small nod and smile, and the brunette really did start to cry.
Inside, already familiar to them since they had rehearsed there earlier, Jarod shook his head. “God damn, man, why don’t you confer some of that power on us? Shit, I knew I should’ve been a singer. All that sweet honey WASTED. You’re like a fuckin’ priest! Erica built a band around you, everything most men have ever wanted wants you every night, and, well, damn!”
“You can’t sing worth shit, Jar, that’s why we keep you off the choruses.” Dustin pointed out helpfully.
“Not my point!” As they entered the large band dressing room, he put his bass down with a thud and poked Zane in the shoulder, who looked at the offending finger as if it were some sort of pesky fly. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do ya’ do, huh? Huh?”
Zane smiled a bit devilishly. “I drink.”
Jarod snorted. “BARELY!”
“I have a girlfriend.”
Rick leaned into the mirror, checking his freshly applied eyeliner job with a critical eye. “Barely.”
Zane knitted his brows together. “That’s not fair…”
Rick looked at him over his shoulder, eyes amused. “It’s more than fair, and you fucking know it. You see her once every few months, if that.”
“Do you like anything much at all?” Jar asked, frustrated and drunk, as Erica, their manager slipped into the room.
“I like you, Jar.” Zane smiled. “But the girls you can have.”
“Fuck.” He muttered, and shook his head. “Well, more for us, I guess.”
“True.” Dustin said thoughtfully, and then looked a bit sad.
“The roadies are almost done setting up, guys.” Erica said, pointing to the clock. “We’re only 20 minutes behind schedule, which is a concert miracle, but the Sins were pretty lame tonight, and they’re restless out there. So look sharp.”
“We always look sharp.” Jar shuffled out first with Rick and Dustin behind him, and Erica gave Zane a long measured look as he moved towards the door.
“What?” He challenged.
She shrugged and closed the door behind him. “Didn’t say a word, my dear. Knock ‘em dead.”
“Mina, please, please please get your boobs off my arm before Scott punches me.” I said testily.
Alright, no, actually, I said no such thing, and it was unlikely Scott would punch me. But she was making me uncomfortable and my best friend was beginning to pout, something I hated to see.
“Oh, my GOD the Sin were, like, total ASS!” She chirped at me. “I liked “Boom Goes the Clock” when it came out, I really did, but after THAT I’m really not into them anymore. What was the singer on, you think? His eyes were, like, dead!”
Mina really was ridiculously cute, and I had to admit I liked her as a person. But, Scott had to be right, for whatever weird reason she wanted me, and it was driving me crazy. She was tiny, with long curly brown hair and huge eyes… more curves than apparent at first, a fact Scott had called my attention to countless times. Not strictly classically beautiful, her face was so animated and warm I itched to sketch it in motion. Not my thing never my thing, though. If I had a thing. He was the closest I’d ever COME to a thing.
He, on the other hand, looked absolutely amazing. His reddish brown hair was perfectly gelled, a tight green T-shirt over a tight long-sleeved shirt with artfully faded jeans… He had really worked it to get her attention, and I didn’t understand why she didn’t see the wide shoulders, elfish face(He made me wish I had freckles and dimples), and puppyish devotion on his face. Ah, well, must mean she didn’t want to get together with him, she wasn’t a dense girl, albeit flakey. And he’d finally figured that out, unfortunately.
“Look,” Scott had said in the bathroom a few minutes before, his open face showing disappointment as clear as day, “I give up. This obviously isn’t going to work, she doesn’t want me. You’re a good friend, Ethan, but you don’t have to hold back for me. She’s all yours.”
“Huh?” I blinked at him, forgetting to turn off the faucet from cleaning my hands and getting hustled out of the way by a guy behind me. “I –“ I had been talking to her, sure, but that’s because my only other option was to tell her to fuck off. Which wasn’t going to happen, as I considered her a fairly good friend.
“No worries, dude.” He attempted to look noble, and I really wanted to smack him. “Come on, she’s waiting.”
“Scott!” But he was already out of the bathroom, through the crowd. We’d waited for almost an hour and a half beforehand in drizzly spring rain to get a prime spot, and now we were pressed against the railings in front of the stage, stuck starring at the mountain-sized bouncers in between acts. Yes, the last act had sucked. And the venue, The Blow, was sold out, a horribly ventilated place at the best of times that I always suspected put a few more ticket-buyers in there than strictly legal. I was grumpy, my best friend was grumpy, and I wanted out of here. Sadly it was a little late for that.
When I finally found them again, Scott was talking animatedly to some girls next to him, which gave me some hope for his mood. Mine was a goner, however.
There were cute boys here, I admitted grudgingly, but, hell, what did that mean? I couldn’t talk to any of them if my life depended on it. I was such a loser. There was a brief frenzy when the crowd mistook the nondescript keyboardist as an important member of the band, but a groan of disappointment made it clear he wasn’t what they were waiting for.
“OMG Zane, the singer, is the hottest thing, ever, EVER! Have you ever seen a picture of him, Ethan?” Mina gushed. “I really think you’ll be shocked, he’s SO….”
I had turned to look at her in surprise after catching a certain focused emphasis in her tone, wondering what she meant by that, when suddenly the lights were brought down and the crowd went nuts. Mina stopped mid-sentence to split my eardrum and wail with everyone else, and I braced myself against the railing as the hundreds of people behind us surged forward. Maybe, I prayed to myself, they’ll actually be really good and the urge gnawing at my gut to go hide in the bathroom will go away.
The drummer, the guitar player and the bass player came out first, strutting in that too-cool way that all hipster rockers must learn in rock school. I had to admit they were all very cute. The Guitar player especially, with his pageboy-blond-flip hair, tight black jeans and black T-shirt claiming “Everything’s bigger in Texas”. Well placed leather bracelets and a silver necklace, and I was curious what the rest of that snaking tattoo was. He also looked effortlessly bored.
Before I had time to really study the other band members, he stalked onto stage, and my mind froze. Wait… perhaps it wasn’t my mind.
But he was definitely the man with the tea and the book in the hotel earlier in the day… and yet with a very different energy. A dark red button up short-sleeved shirt, huge leather bracelets, a leather necklace tied tightly around his neck, hair unruly…. And his face. The lips. He was stern at first, but when he turned to the crowd, he smiled, and the room went INSANE. Those legs were long, and I watched them like I was hungry as he stalked across the stage. Later, when he got rid of the red shirt and was just in a tight T-shirt, I noticed his arms were muscled, and, unlike the guitarist’s, without tattoos. He had naturally tan skin, and cheekbones that made me think of David Bowie. Sketchbook, where the hell was it?!?!
“Why, hello there.” He breathed, and the screeching climbed back up the octave scale as a couple of scantily clad girls tried very hard to elbow past us. Mina and I held firm, as she was definitely tougher than she looked. Scott had inched over a bit to be near his new flirt focus, and was carried back.
“You silly, silly things.” The singer said, almost casually.
The collective shit was lost as he launched into their newest single, and I had to admit: they were good. Actually, Snowborne was more than good, they were AMAZING. Everything focused around the lead singer’s(Zane? How could I forget, with the girls exacting revenge for us not letting them by via shrieking his name again and again right in my ear at an inhuman pitch) voice, a sexy purr one second, a yell the next.
Chicken or egg, I wondered briefly, increasingly entranced as he stalked across the stage. Was he attractive because he was a rock star and had thus taken on the power that instantly conferred, or was he rock star because he was so incredibly attractive?
I wondered how tall he was, how an ass that skinny could still be so sexy, how he could sing with such power for so long, and somewhere in the back in my head I was desperately aware how turned on I was. I was NEVER this turned on. When he got on his haunches to sing their one slower song, “Vindicated”, I felt like a girl on the edge of hysteria. Well, I yelled and clapped, which was a lot for me.
The other band members were also very much the rockers. I could tell a lot of the crowd was focused on the guitarist, who barely acknowledged the adoration, and yet somehow made it clear he knew exactly how many people were looking at him. The scruffy bass player just looked like a dork, jumping around like a mad thing, but a cute one.
Zane didn’t chat with the crowd overly much, more like he teased us. “Bit crazy tonight?”
“Well, good.” The guitar kicked in, and he looked down, right at me, into my eyes. “We wouldn’t want you to be bored.”
I blinked, as Mina pulled my arm off. “HE LOOKED AT US HE LOOKED AT US HE LOOKED AT US!”
“Um, yeah!” I smiled at her. “Too cool!” Obviously, the personalized bit of that was in my imagination.
But, I was blushing, and I continued to, as he seemed to continue looking at us, singing down. Mina, I thought, my damn luck, he wants Mina, of course he does. Something about that theory, the smarter part of me whispered, the part I ignored, didn’t ring true.
At one point he was touching the hands of the other fans in front, and Mina leaped forward to overcome her height and touch him, blocking my physically robotic attempt to reach out as he crouched before us, and I swear he paused, narrowed his eyes at me.
Maybe, maybe, he heard me be dismissive of them earlier and he had something to prove to me now. That was pretty silly, though. But he was only human, wasn’t he?
And then it was over, after two expected encores, as they signaled it was done when they ended the second encore set with an obvious crowd-cooler and the lights going up. But I thought the ending cover of The Smith’s “Please Please Please….” Was inspired. And beautiful. Just like he was.
Erica beamed as the band came off stage for the last time, sweaty and pumped, clapping them on the shoulder. “God, boys, that was your best show yet this tour! And Spin was here tonight!” She chuckled gleefully. “Brilliant, Brilliant! Although…” She pondered. “I wish there was a way to drop the Sin from the ticket. God, they were ass. I swear they’re getting worse each show.”
Dustin rubbed his bald head. “Jay’s accelerating Scarface impressions can’t be helping.”
Rick handed his guitar to a roadie. “Sounds like a bad move from a political standpoint, Erica. I need a drink before we discuss pissing off our tourmates.”
Jar almost giggled. “Drink and girls! My favorite cocktail!”
Erica sighed and gestured in the direction of the backstage lounge. “The girls to whom you requested we issue backstage passes are almost all there. Remember, boys, flirting’s fine, but try to keep the tail you taste legal, hmmmmm?”
Rick rolled his eyes, Jarod winked, and they began filing down the hall.
“Zane…” Rick stopped and looked at the lead singer leaning against a wall, who was downing his second water, handed to him by Erica’s mousy little assistant. “You coming? You know-”
Zane glanced sidesways at him. “It’s me they want? They’ll be fine, you’ll all keep them busy enough.” He smiled devilishly. “I wouldn’t want to take up too much of their attention, for your sake.”
“Arrogant prat.” Rick playfully snarled at Zane, and walked away. “As you will.”
The manager looked at her lead singer, her shockingly low-maintenance golden goose, and slowly pulled herself out of her joyful self-congratulation at the night’s performance. Let her father tell her that rock band management wasn’t for women, the asshole! Snowborne was kicking ass and taking names.
“What’s up, Zane? You feeling okay? You really worked it out there tonight.” She put a hand on his arm. “Want to go back to the hotel now?”
“I’m fine, mostly.” He wasn’t looking directly at her, and pulled a hand through his hair. He hated to ask for things, and she knew he was about to when he minutely dropped his usual mask of unflappable cool and subtle, charming guile. “But I really want you to do something for me…”
Having that particular sinking feeling in my stomach of something incredible being over and conscious of the glaring lights, the stink of booze, smoke, and too many bodies, I looked over at Mina and Scott to see if they were ready to go. Dancing. Dancing would be good. I needed to get this energy out… Energy? That was a funny word for it. This alien sense I could fuck anything that moved right now, that I needed to touch someone, might perhaps be a better description.
Scott had wandered back to grace us with his presence, the two girls he had been talking to looking at us inquiringly and giggling at each other, but I was in a daze. In my head I was squealing, running over the concert and the beautiful rockers in my head. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t dead. But what was I attracted to, beautiful assholes? Charismatic older men, like Mike? And I had no doubt in my mind that someone that beautiful, that talented, that much a Rock Star was a total prick. I read art and music mags; they were a breed unto themselves.
“Scott!” Mina squealed. “You are the best friend ever for scoring us tickets! That was just incredible! They were even better than how I’d heard they were!”
He smiled with a touch of chill, the jilted and hurt suitor, and I had to admit I was tempted to smack him for at least the dozenth time that night. She was as impervious as she ever was, not noting the fact he was playing chilly for the giggling girls. “They were, weren’t they? Glad you liked it. Hey…” He shuffled a bit, not meeting my eyes. “Since we came in different cars, Mina, you two go dancing, I’m-”
Before he could finish and I could express my disappointment at his pre-eminent pulling out of our promised club date (not that I was surprised, this wasn’t a rarity when women were involved), I felt a hand on my arm.
Turning around, a 30ish woman in a T-shirt and fashionable jeans stood there, but she certainly didn’t look like a concert-goer. Pretty, a little stocky, she looked like a dressed-down business woman. It was in the body carriage, I think.
“Yes?” I blinked at her.
What, Erica thought as she led the obviously startled boy backstage, the hell am I doing? Is this a good plan? Does this make me some sort of manager/pimp? Not that she didn’t always feel sorta like a pimp, what with the boys and their groupie wrangling every night, but still. This was a wee bit more focused. She felt like she was fetching fresh meat.
“Boy in a tight black shirt, wolf design… ?” She had asked, startled. “What?”
“He may already be gone, but he was in front, and it’ll probably take a while to get out. I’d like to talk to him.” Zane had turned away. “Please.”
The manager part of her shrieked at her several scenarios of how huge he was with his female fans, as well as his publicized relationship with the lead singer of the Tears. What if it got out he was sending after boys? She had seen glaring flashes of evidence that he was attracted to men, of course, but only because she had been with Zane for so long. Acting on carnal desires was rare for him, something she appreciated to no end.
But, she had sighed inwardly, the group wasn’t mainstream big enough for such rumors to be that huge a deal (or to even get out), and who was she to say no to him? And would you have been, she asked herself chidingly, as unhappy at first if it was a woman, not a man? You know he’s not going to force himself on anyone.
But Zane, she had thought as she first caught a glimpse at the young man he wanted, never had to use force.
This Ethan had a shy quality that didn’t bode well for his resistance, she could tell from across the room. If anyone’s charm could be compared to a sniper shot, it was Zane's. And yet she couldn’t blame Zane for his boy-hunting, she thought with wry amusement, who could?
The kid was ridiculously good-looking. He was lean yet in a shape tailor made for tight T-shirts and artfully faded jeans like the ones he was wearing, fragile but not small. Huge blue eyes, light brown artfully-mussed hair, fine bones… it was the eyes, the dimples, and the lips. She’d say he was about 5’9, a bit taller than her, although he slouched a touch. The dimples she had seen when he had smiled in shock when she pulled the “meet-the-band contest winner” story out of her ass (thank god he was too confused to ask how he could have been entered in a contest when she didn’t even know his name), and the eyes were like lasers. And those eyelashes, she’d murder for them, as she would for his beautiful, peaches and cream skin. Kid should be a model.
This was all the more disarming because he didn’t carry himself like one, unconsciously pulling backwards the more she talked to him, his eyes getting bigger.
He had followed her when his friends insisted, but she couldn’t tell if he was excited or just following her because his friends had told him to. She had told them she she’d arrange a cab for him afterwards, a promise she swore to herself to keep. Ah, well. He wasn’t that young, thank god. She had made sure of that before dragging him back, since you could never tell with the pretty ones.
"You okay?" She found herself asking as they walked backstage, and then kicked herself. That wasn't exactly a question that would give him confidence.
“Um, sure,” He’d said, with a disarming, confused smile. Good god, the kid was blushing. She wanted to hug him, possibly seduce him, and then tell him what he was possibly getting into. The whole thing was weird.
This is weird, I thought to myself as Erica led me up the stairs and through the stage to the back. Very weird.
I hadn’t signed up for any concert, and the tickets weren’t in my name. Of course, she didn’t even know my name, so what did that have to do with anything? It all sounded very untrue, honestly. And yet – it’s not like I had anything better to do than gush at how great the band was before they sent me home. I mean, I figured that was exactly what was going to happen, my cousin Sara had reported in detail about the post-concert gatherings back when she was a jailbait groupie. They sounded like house parties with the Ultra Cool Set.
But Mina had expressed earlier in the concert she might be too tired to dance, and Scott had his new friends, so – what the hell. Not that I’d actually say anything, but I was still so overawed from their concert that just the thought of standing in the same room with them made me feel a little rush. I could find a corner and watch the lead singer, perhaps. I was really good at surreptitious eye-stalking; came from years of drawing strangers.
What was he like when talking to people in a normal conversation? Hmmmm, I wondered, is there a poster of him I can get somewhere online? They didn’t have any that weren’t their band logo at the concession stand.
We slipped into a yellow and beat-up hallway with a bunch of roadies running around and random people hanging out and chatting to each other; I could hear what sounded like a party at the end of the hall. Instead of continuing, however, Erica stopped at the second door in.
“Here we are!” She said brightly, and I swear with embarrassment. In hindsight, definitely with embarrassment. She gave a little knock to the door. “Zane, honey, the contest winner is here.”
Zane? I mentally panicked. That didn’t sound like what you called the whole band, uh uh. I don’t talk very well to strangers outside of work; I just babble. Then stop talking. Then babble some more, for good measure. Especially if I knew I had nothing to offer but babbling.
The door opened, and something in me mentally froze as he opened the door. Leaning against the door frame, sticking his hands into his back pockets, he was much sexier up close, in the light, than he was on stage. How did someone become so effortlessly cool as he was? Being hotter than hell certainly helped.
Hotter than hell? I smacked myself around a bit, Great singer, great singer! Do not stare at his neck, curving down to his shoulders, his long torso… you want to draw him, I said to myself, think of it like that, he’s so beautiful, you’re simply itching to get it down on paper.
This usually worked nicely on my psyche when my hormones were at all embarrassing me. Tonight, not so much.
“Concert winner?” he asked, lifting an eyebrow at Erica and smiling a bit. I was feeling increasingly foolish, and wondering if I was the butt of some bizarre Rock Band Joke.
What else do they have to do on tour but fuck with geeky idiots like me, I asked myself. Probably not much! However, the thought of fucking… Drawing, drawing, he has great eyes! And lips, and this isn’t working. I’m a damn 19 year old male.
“Concert Winner.” The manager said firmly, and pushed me forward by the shoulder. “This is Ethan, and Ethan, it appears, won a chat with you.” She turned away and started down the hall. “Make sure to sign a picture for the boy, won’t you.”
I watched her go, and I was sure she was muttering to herself; I also couldn’t help but note the sarcasm in her last comment.
“Um, Does ‘sign a picture’ have some deeper meaning that no one’s told me about?” I couldn’t help but ask the air.
“I don’t think Erica knew what she was talking about.” The singer said, amused, but with an edge. “She’s almost as weird as Dustin is, sometimes.”
Tensing up a bit when he spoke and already afraid I’d fucked up, I moved my attention from the hallway to my feet, so I was facing him yet anything but actually facing him. Damn, his voice was smooth and deep, just like when he sang.
Looking at him might cause me to faint, and thus probably a bad idea, so I concentrated on our feet. Wow, the thought came unbidden into my mind, Even his boots were sexy, does he polish them himself? Black and a bit strappy….
“Yes?!” His voice broke the bubble of my reverie, and my neck snapped up involuntarily.
“That’s your name?” He asked gently, and I nodded. Up close he looked younger then he did on stage, and yet better. His face was long and mobile, and there was a spot of red on his checks. Still flushed, I thought.
Must not stare at his mouth, must not stare at his mouth DAMN IT he smiled. It was wide and made his whole face move, highlighting those cheekbones, and I looked down again to see his hand held out towards me.
“Zane. Nice to meet you.” His hand was warm, and his fingers larger and stronger than I thought they’d be on such a lean man. I’m studying him like a painting. Beautiful, large hands – wasn’t that supposed to mean something?
Ha ha ha, Ethan, just RUN.
He pushed himself off from the door frame and tilted his head into the room. “Would you like to come in?”
Sometimes, we’re not as stupid as we’d like to think we are, and we have to face exactly what we’re getting into. At that moment, I was pretty damn stupid to the whole situation, and I wasn’t ready to face it head-on. But something, as I stood there, looking into the dimly lit dressing room, this beautiful man in front of me, told me, vaguely, where this was leading. And something inside of me, quietly but with great force, said “Yes, please.”
I nodded, unable to speak, and slipped into the room as he closed the door.