After the gig, the boys were in a weird funk. Cade had disappeared off stage right as soon as he’d played his final, hurried note. Too bad—for a minute there, I'd convinced myself he'd be up for continuing what I'd started. Wishful thinking: an integral part of my skillset.
Back in the dressing room, Rem was too steaming pissed at my Cade-centric fanservice to speak. He sulked in a chair stationed as far away from me as possible, ominously silent and seemingly lifeless. My evil side wanted to crack up as I remembered the look of horror on his face after I’d dry humped Cade. Perhaps I’d been a bit out of line, but not without good reason. After all, a man has his needs, and I'd needed to feed the fans (and my ego); unfortunately, none of my band brothers seemed to understand.
I watched as Clive ushered a tight-lipped Ashley into the dressing room. It was only then that the high from my public groping started to wear off. Big yikes! I certainly hadn’t stopped to think about how my actions would affect Ashley. (Then again, when had I ever stopped to think?) But Lash was a big boy. He should understand that our fuck-fests hadn’t meant anything more than satisfying the mutual desire to get laid. He should know that I wasn’t going to miss my chance to flirt with Cade just to spare his feelings. He should realize that a relationship beyond sex and friendship was impossible for him and me to achieve. Anyway, what was he thinking, declaring his undying devotion for me? I’d never had a single relationship that wasn’t based on sex.
I love you. Lash’s words looped inside my head like a bad pop song hook. Yep, I was slowly realizing the epicness of my fuckup. Naturally, being confronted with my flaws brought out my defensive streak. If there was one thing I hated, it was being backed into a corner (unless, of course, there were legitimate sexual reasons driving such an event).
I sensed someone’s beady little eyes trying to laser through the back of my head.
“You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve.”
With exaggerated care, I swiveled around in my roller chair to face an enraged Ashley. Despite my deliberately detached look of disinterest, inwardly I was sorta losing my shit. I didn’t want to have it out with my secret lover in front of the others. That would just pop open a whole nother can of worms I wasn’t willing to deal with now (or ever). Plus, it might make hamper my efforts to tap into Cade’s backside. From experience, I’d learned my second head wasn’t good at multitasking, juggling customers, or working within a tight schedule. Squeezing into tight spaces, however...
I tried to sound dismissive. “Whatevs, yo. I was in the moment. Acting out according to my stage persona. Y’all feel me?”
Ashley sneered. “You were the only one doing the feeling.”
As if to calm him, Clive proceeded to wipe the sweat off Ashley’s brow with a hokey brown polka-dotted handkerchief he mysteriously produced from whereabouts unknown. I would've gagged at the cheesiness of his chivalry, but I was too out of breath from the encore to waste my precious energy making slights at Clive’s expense. Still, the notion was tempting.
“I’ll get you some water,” Clive murmured, gently patting Ashley’s head.
Oh, vomit. I wasn’t too tired to roll my eyes.
Clive caught sight of my contempt. “Don’t even start. You pulled a helluva stunt out there,” he hissed, angrily opening the mini fridge located uncomfortably close to where I lounged.
I smirked. “The audience ate it up. A crowd’s never gone as wild as they did for us tonight.”
Me + Cade (hands + hips) = group boner.
“Yeah, but you didn’t clear the fanservice with Cade first.” Clive jerked his thumb at himself. “Or me...or any of us, for that matter. That stunt was fucking wack, man.”
I snorted. “If ‘fucking wack’ means ‘so hot it makes you wanna jerk off,’ sure. What are you, a homophobe?”
Scoffing, he tossed Ashley a water bottle. “One of my best friends sucks dick, so I’m obviously not a homophobe...but c’mon, dude. The bros don’t do ‘blatant gay’ in this band.”
My withering glare could have shriveled his scrotum. “Right. We only do ‘subtle gay,’ huh, Clive? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, and all that jazz. Rim Shot's just queer enough to cream the Goth girls’ panties and tighten the nutsacks of closeted Floridian beach bums.”
He narrowed his eyes at me, accepting my staring contest challenge. “You can’t get out of control like that again. You went too far, and you totally ambushed Cade. Not cool.”
“He’s right,” Ashley suddenly interjected. He took a melodramatic swig of water. (I tried not to snicker as it trickled down his chin.) “Edan, you're the one who suggested at the beginning of the tour that you—that we—wouldn’t add more than a ‘hint’ of fanservice to our show.” His air quotes were so OTT that half the bottle of water ended up on the floor. Leaping to his feet, he sniped, “I guess I was stupid enough to believe that you’d stick to your guns despite some adolescent crush.”
In a fit of apparent jealous rage, he dumped the rest of his water on my head.
To my credit, I didn’t even flinch (mostly because I’d seen it coming). “That felt like overkill. Could you not have just bounced an empty beer can off my chest?”
“I’m going back to the hotel room,” he spat (literally, spit got on my face). “Don’t follow me.”
Reaching for his arm, I cajoled, “Lash, come on, it’s no biggie—”
“Leave him alone,” Rem commanded, his normally soft voice booming like a megaphone.
Startled, I jumped out of my seat, shaking droplets of Ashley’s spit out of my (attractively saturated) midnight-blue hair. “Don’t tell me what to do.”
“After tonight’s shenanigans, I’m not sure I want to have anything to do with you unless it’s absolutely necessary!” Rem shouted, pointing his finger at me. “Go to your room! You’re in time-out!”
Taken aback by his unrestrained anger, I squeaked, “Okay, Dad.”
“Count your losses,” Ashley added in a voice that called to mind a lisping snake. “I’m bunking with the boys tonight.”
I held out my palms in a defensive position. “Take it easy, I just—”
Shoving his fingers into his ears with a lack of consideration for his eardrums that made me wince, he caterwauled, “Shut the fuck up, Edan!” Then he lunged at me.
“Jesus!” I yelped.
Vaguely I was aware Rem and Clive were holding Ashley back, preventing him from pounding my face into a bloody pulp. As I tried to sidestep him to make a run for it, Ashley clutched the front of my sweat-soaked shirt with near-panicky tightness.
I grieved the loss of my neckline's elastic as he declared, “You’re not leaving! You’re not leaving until I say you can.”
“Are you going to stop me?” I affected an air of incredulity and removed his hand from my shirt with a simple flick of the wrist. “That’s hilarious.”
“You know what’s hilarious? Daring to act like you didn’t do anything wrong. You know you fucked up!” Ashley perspired and panted as Rem and Clive continued to silently restrain him.
I turned up the scorn. “Did I? Or did my gif-worthy fanservice generate more buzz for our band? Christ, Lash.” Ensuring my voice dripped with disdain, I added, “Where's your business sense? Don't you want our tour to go viral? The more scandalous the act, the more tickets we'll sell.”
Ashley’s shoulders slumped like a blowup doll devoid of air. “This isn't about money. You ruined our relationship. You swore me to secrecy about hooking up because you don’t love me—and you want to fuck my best friend! In front of me!”
Accurate. Horrified, I realized he was close to tears, and all because of my woeful insensitivity to his infatuation with me. “Hey, I never—”
“You don’t give a shit about me,” he interrupted, sniffling. “Now I know that what we had was meaningless.”
“Lash, we’re friends,” I reasoned. “You can’t just—”
His chin quivered. “You’re not my friend. You're my user.”
Rem and Clive released him from their hold, likely convinced he was over his impulse to rearrange my face. Stung by the truth of his words, I used the best defense mechanism available: my sharp tongue.
“Had I known you’d resort to theatrics when things didn’t go your way, I never would've bothered to fuck you in the first place.”
Untrue: I would’ve lied to us both to get him in bed if I were horny enough. "Know thyself" is a double-edged sword (or in my case, a double-headed dildo).
Ashley’s face hideously contorted. Rem and Clive looked like they wanted to smack me upside the head; I didn't blame them.
“Get out of here,” Ashley intoned, his eyes unfocused and vacant. “I don’t want to look at your stupid blue hair or your smarmy fucking face.”
I tried not to let his clichéd parting shot cause me pain, but I was beyond insulted (especially by his inaccurate comment about my amazing ’do).
“It's midnight blue.” Grabbing my backpack, I headed for the door. "I thought you knew your shades of cool. And if by ‘stupid blue hair,’ you meant, ‘fabulous royal hue,’ then yeah! It’s totally stupid.”
As the door swung shut, bopping me on the butt, I pretended to feel better. At least I had a decent comeback in the bag.
Stomping through the deserted venue like I was pounding the catwalk, I heard a muffled cough to my immediate left. There was only one person who sounded borderline sexy when he coughed. I almost kept walking, but then I changed my mind. Since the other three band bros had already tried to ream me a new one, what was the point in waiting for Cade to join the crowd?
“Might as well get this over with,” I muttered to myself.
Readjusting my backpack straps, I shuffled over to the storage room where Rem had earlier conducted his lecture about my tardiness and threw open the door, preparing to fling myself headfirst into Cade's immolating rage like a sacrificial lamb.
What I saw stopped me in my tracks.