378. Close to Me

Jonathan snuck out at some ridiculously early hour and I had no trouble going back to sleep after his murmured “see you tonight.” I slept until the wakeup call came at noon. At that point I was ravenously hungry. I dug through what was left of my clean clothes, figuring out what to save for show clothes tonight and for Great Woods, and not caring much about the rest. For tonight, the shirt that Ziggy had left the hand-print on. I pulled a plain black T-shirt on for now, and a pair of jeans.

The fan encampment outside was still over a hundred girls, I learned from Tony when I stuck my head into the suite and ate a piece of fruit from some kind of congratulatory gift basket we’d received. I think it was a pear, though it looked more like an apple. I was too hungry to care. Christian was there, chugging a bottle of spring water.

“How’s it going,” I said, casual as I could, until I figured out if he was in a touchy mood today or not.

“Going good,” he said.

“Where’s Lacey?”

“She had meetings with her people this morning.” He yawned.

“You eat yet?”

“No. Just got up.”

“Me too.” I looked around. There was no sign of Carynne or Digger, or anyone to tell us what to do, or what not to do, other than Antonio. “Hey, Tony, you think all hell will break loose if we go down to the restaurant? Or you think we can actually get something to eat?”

He looked back and forth between me and Chris. “If it’s just you two, you’re probably fine. But if that’s what you want to do, let me walk you down there.”

“You could eat, too,” I pointed out.

“Already did, boss,” he said. “Come on.”

Chris nodded. “Okay. Sure.” And we followed Tony to the service elevator. He knew how to get us from there to the back of the restaurant without us walking through the lobby.

He had a brief conversation with the hostess, who seated us in a booth near the back. We ordered everything. I mean, everything. Eggs, bacon, toast, sausages, both pancakes and waffles, corned beef hash, strawberries and cream, ham. I think we would’ve ordered bagels, too, except they were already out of them at that time of day. Oh, and Chris got a side salad. I tried not to give him a funny look about it, but it was pretty comical, I thought.

“Lacey’s got me on a health kick,” he said with a shrug, clearly feeling self-conscious about it.

“Okay, sure, make it two side salads,” I told the waitress. Then she gave ME a funny look, but I couldn’t really give a fuck if she thought it was weird. “And a V8. You have that right?”

“Right,” she said.

“See, now I won’t have to go, hey, I coulda had a V8, because I’m having one.”

“Coming right up.” She kind of ran away after that.

Tony came back to the table shortly after coffee and juice landed in front of us. “Okay, they’ve figured out you’re in here,” he said. “I’m a little nervous about keeping them contained.”

I wished Courtney was there so I could bounce an idea off her, but she wasn’t. “Tony, does this sound crazy? They know who you are, right?”

“Oh yeah, they’ve got to know my face real well.”

“Is there one who’s like a queen bee sort of?”

“Yeah. There are a couple who are bossing the rest of them around, anyway.”

“Okay, look. Go to them and say Daron and Christian want to eat their breakfast, but if you’re calm and cool about it, you can come in two at a time, sit down with us and take a picture and get an autograph. But everybody’s got to be cool about it, or all bets are off. You know, like if we make a scene, hotel management will freak out and nobody wants that, but if everyone’s calm and orderly, we can make this work. We’ll go through as many as we can until we gotta go.” I looked at Chris. “Or at least, I will.”

Chris gave me a crooked grin. “S’alright, boss. I figured I was getting into something like this when you said we should come down here.”

“There you go,” I said to Tony. “Give us like fifteen, twenty minutes before they start coming in, all right?”

“You got it.” Tony went off to parley with the fans.

Food began landing on the table then, and we devoured a lot in the first five minutes, then Chris started to slow down. I didn’t until the plates were considerably more empty.

“It’s not just how much you can pack away that’s surprising,” he said to me. “It’s the sheer speed you do it with.”

“I went to a public school where we had 17 minutes for lunch, including the time it took to stand in line to get it,” I explained.

“Huh. I think we had 23 minutes when I was in junior high,” Chris said. “But I can’t really remember back that far.”

“That’s probably not what it is anyway,” I said. “Maybe I’m just a pig.”

That made him laugh, and that felt good. Maybe he was finally calming down. Maybe being out of the bus for a week had helped. I don’t know. I know it seemed like neither of us was the same person we had been the night I’d punched him in the neck. We were getting back to the way we used to be, I guess. Or at least we were more relaxed.

The first two girls came in then, and that started a steady stream of refilled coffee and autographs and photos for the next two hours. A couple of them had a lot to say, but most of them I think actually didn’t want to take up too much time. They knew we could be gone any minute, and they didn’t want to mess things up for the girls behind them.

And I think it helped that Ziggy wasn’t with us. We only had one almost-faint and only one burst into happy tears. She left a bright red lipstick mark on Christian’s face and left my cheek wet with tears. I got hungry again and ordered a BLT and ate it, explaining to Chris that it was okay since a BLT was half salad anyway.

I know we didn’t get to everybody, but we did well over 50 girls, probably closer to 75, before Carynne came down and told us we needed to get ready to go.


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