77. Bad Company

At eleven a.m. the phone began to ring and I wondered why I was getting a wake up call when I didn’t remember asking for one. I reached for the phone to shut it up and my hand collided with another hand on the receiver. Ziggy stared at me with wide, unseeing eyes.

“I got it,” I told him, and waved him back.

The prerecorded wake up droned in my ear. I hung up on it and lay back in bed. Belle said a driver was coming for us at noon. That made it my job to make sure everyone was up. Maybe I had asked for the wake up call. Or maybe Ms. Super-Competent did.

I wished I could go back to sleep, or at least pretend I was. Anything to avoid Ziggy. Potential conversations echoed through my head. In one version I told him I was sorry I shoved him like that. In another he told me he was sorry, yeah, sorry he forgot I was such an uptight prick. I didn’t want to say or hear anything of the sort. I decided to wait for him to say something first. I got up and puttered around the bathroom, picked out some clothes. I didn’t look at him but I had the feeling his eyes followed me around the room. I called to make sure Bart and Chris were up. While I was on the phone with them Ziggy got in the shower.

When he emerged, he finally spoke, all business. “So it’s all day at the BNC office today, eh?”

“Yup. Interviews and video shooting. They pick us up in a half hour.”

“And tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. We don’t leave until Sunday morning.”

He nodded and then got dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt. He pulled on his Charles River Records sweatshirt–Watt had given them to all of us. “It’s getting chilly outside,” he said.

I didn’t ask him how he knew that. “I wonder what happened to my coat.” Then I wished I hadn’t said it. I’d wanted him to be the one to bring up the subject of last night.

He looked at the floor and exhaled. “I’ll meet you in the lobby.”

The door closed behind him and I stood there listening to my own breathing for a while. Then Bart knocked at the door and I let him in.

“Are you okay?” were the first words out of his mouth.

“Yeah, why?”

He sat down on the bed and gave me a sideways look. “You just… disappeared last night.”

“I was kind of bugged out by all the…” I jittered my hands. “hoopla.”

His expression didn’t change. “This sort of thing I expect from Ziggy, but not you.”

I opened my mouth to tell him that we weren’t together, when I realized how doubly incriminating that might sound. “I’m okay now,” I said.

He sat forward more, as if he could see me better. “What is going on between the two of you?”

“What the hell kind of question is that?”

“I mean, what is going on? One minute you’re like reading each other’s minds and the next, you’re not saying one word to each other. I mean, the whole bus ride here…”

“Well, you know how he gets.”

Bart sighed. “Yeah, but…” he shook his head. “You’ve been acting pretty weird, too, Daron. I mean, I thought this on the road stuff was old hat to you.”

“Yeah, but all this p.r. and A&R b.s. isn’t.”

Bart chewed his lip. “Well, if it gets to you so bad, I think maybe we should think about that management arrangement, you know?”

I sat down next to him and rubbed my face with my hands. “You’re not making this easier, you know.”

“Well, fuck, Daron, you’re not letting me.”

“Okay.” I repeated it a few times. “Okay. Okay.” But I could not think of what to say after that.

Bart’s hand was on my shoulder. “Look, relax, alright? We’re golden. This should be one of the happiest times of your life, right? I am freaking ecstatic with how things have gone. I just worry about you. Fuck Ziggy and his prima donna mood swings. It’s you I worry about.”

I had a thought then. What if Bart knew? What if I told him? About me, about me and Ziggy. I always had the feeling that Bart wouldn’t give a damn if I slept with men or women or martians. But with our lead singer? The band suddenly seemed a very fragile thing, something that could shatter and fragment with Bart’s disapproval. And I knew he wouldn’t approve. And how would Christian take this? I wasn’t at all sure that Chris could even live with the fact that I had a thing for men.

“Daron, you’re shivering.”

I was. Bart put his hand on my forehead, my cheek.

“You’re completely feverish.”

“Jeez, and I just thought I felt like shit.”

The phone rang. Our driver was here a few minutes early.

“You can’t go out,” Bart said. “You need to get in bed.”

I stood up, a little woozy. “I’m sure Belle can medicate me. We’ve got to go.”

In fact, the driver had something for me, compliments of Belle-—a leather jacket, a kind of trim, black thing, with no big lapels or anything, and it fit me perfectly. It had some corporate logo on the collar, I didn’t even recognize whose. “God, she was right.”

“About what?” Bart asked as we got into the van.

“Belle said I’d catch my death of the cold if I didn’t get a new coat. Well, she’s a day late.” I was still shivering.

Ziggy and Christian were already in the back seat. “What’s up?” Chris asked.

“Daron’s running a fever,” Bart explained. I did not disclose the fact that I’d been sitting in the rain last night.

“I guess I picked up a bug,” I said.


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