The first of the Austin shows went very well. I had the odd experience this time of looking down at the fans clustering at the front of the stage and recognizing faces.
The bruise on Ziggy’s face was like a blackish purple swirl leading from the corner of one eye down toward his cheek. It almost looked intentional, and he drew a matching curl on his other side, not quite as heavy, and hid some of it with makeup. Under the lights and everything, I barely noticed any difference from his usual.
It was a good show. I let it all loose. Christian played fine. It’s sort of too late to worry about falling when you’re already out on the high wire, you know? So you just go for it.
It was over too quickly, if anything. And for once, we didn’t have to pack the bus and get out right away. There were noises about an after party being put on by the local promoter. I took a shower and let myself be herded along to that. It was at some night club, in a back room. Carynne had made sure to let some of our fan club in, which was nice, because it meant I had some people to talk to who weren’t total strangers. The only problem, I thought, is that there was one girl who was maybe a little stalkery to me. I mean, I get it, she wanted to be glued to me and at the same time didn’t seem to really want to dare talking to me directly, so she shadowed me instead. She had a bleached streak in her hair and I thought I remembered seeing her in the crowd, though I didn’t remember meeting her the other night.
Megaton were there, too, and I realized the only one whose name I could match to his non-stage face was Cain. After Melissah and Kristah got latched onto Bart–so latched on I wondered if they weren’t going to end up in a threesome–I got talking to Cain a little. About equipment mostly. It was kind of too loud in there to have a substantial conversation, of course. A DJ with two turntables was live-mixing out in the main room and they were pumping it in. The Beastie Boys mixes with everything.
I was fine with stalker girl so long as she didn’t push the issue. What I didn’t want to do was get into a situation where I had to turn her down and start a cascade of ill will, and I knew I sure as hell couldn’t go through with it. I mean, I probably could, I mean, physically, given that I’d had a fair bit to drink, but there was no way I was going to live with myself if I did. Don’t ask me where I got the idea that it’d be wrong, but it would. It’s not like other guys, including guys I know very well, don’t sleep with girls they never talk to again. It being a one-night stand wasn’t the issue.
Honestly, I didn’t want to think about the issue, so I just hoped she’d go away. Or decide we should just be friends after all. Or whatever. Okay, maybe I drank a little too much. I ended up using Colin as a human shield.
I pulled him in front of me at one point, sort of blocking her way toward me. I had my hands on his shoulders. “I have to ask you a favor,” I said.
“Sure, boss. Anything.” Shit. Why did he have to be such an obedient puppy-dog? I mean, it was good, but for some reason it drove me batshit, too.
Useful, though. “There’s this girl stalking me. I’m just–”
“The one with the orange forelock?”
“The what? Oh, yeah, bleached-out streak in the front. I’m just trying to keep out of a… You know. Confrontation.”
“I got your back,” Colin said seriously. “Or, your front, as the case may be.”
“Actually, I kind of wonder if we should head back to the bus. Any clue how we get there?”
“There’s a limo outside. I’m under the impression it’s to take us wherever.”
I had a very strong image in my mind just then, of lying on top of Colin in the limo and licking his neck. Booze had taken my barriers down, and all the stress that had been building up since the arrival of Megaton wanted to come bursting out of me. I thought it had, on the stage, but I guess I was wrong. That night in LA seemed like a really long time ago.
“Maybe we should go,” I said.
“Sure thing. Come on.” He had an arm around me like I was unsteady on my feet. I wasn’t. But you know how these things go. Your bodies just get kind of magnetized together. I don’t know if he was reading my mind, but I had no doubts just then that something was going to happen.
At least, I thought, Colin was saving me from stalker girl.
I was wrong, though. Stalker girl ended up saving me from him. She burst out of the back door of the club after us.
She shouted, “Daron!”
Her voice sounded familiar. Colin rushed me into the back door of the limo. The driver was in the front seat.
She got there before we could shut the door. “Daron, seriously,” she said.
Colin was trying to play security guard, but he didn’t have much experience at it. “Excuse me, miss, we have to–”
“Seriously! Daron, don’t you recognize me?” She was grinning ear to ear, though, coy and thrilled at the same time, like she was happy I couldn’t recognize her. I couldn’t help it. I took a closer look. Crap, had I slept with some girl I didn’t remember? She had a round face, brown hair except for the streak, eyeliner heavy like Ziggy’s and black lipstick smeared across her lips.
“I’m his sister, fuckwad,” she said to Colin.
“Holy crap, Courtney? And don’t call my sherpa a fuckwad!”
Colin just looked back and forth between us.
“Fuck. Get in. Both of you.” I moved over so there was room. They both climbed in, Colin somewhat nervously.
The driver asked where he should take us. I couldn’t even remember the name of the venue. Maybe it didn’t matter, since Colin told him to take us back to the tour bus and the guy seemed to know where he was going.
Once we started to roll, I said, “Courtney. What the fuck.”
“Nice to see you, too, big brother.” She was still grinning, like she’d won a prize. I did the math in my head, probably doing it wrong given the alcohol, but she was probably… wait… could it be…
“You just turned eighteen,” I blurted out.
“Ayup. So where’s Dad? I thought he was with you.”
“He… waitasecond.” Being in a moving car wasn’t all that good for my brain all of a sudden and I found myself burying my head against Colin’s shoulder. Colin wrapped his arms around me without a second thought.
“Are you going to be sick?” he asked.
I shook my head. No, I just needed a minute. The world was all upside down.