Lick (Stage Dive #1)(4)


by Kylie Scott

I loved Lauren and her loyalty was above question, but she didn’t have a subtle bone in her body. She’d punched a girl in the nose in fifth grade for teasing me about my weight and we’d been friends ever since. With Lauren, you always knew exactly where you stood. Something I appreciated the bulk of the time, just not when discretion was called for.

Happily, my sore stomach survived the bumpy landing. Soon as those wheels hit the tarmac I let out a sigh of relief. I was back in my hometown. Beautiful Oregon, lovely Portland, never again would I stray. With mountains in the distance and trees in the city, she was a singular delight. To limit myself to the one city for life might indeed be going overboard. But it was great to be home. I had an all-important internship starting next week that my father had pulled strings to get for me. There were also next semester’s classes to start planning for.

Everything would be fine. I’d learned my lesson. Normally, I didn’t go past three drinks. Three drinks were good. Three got me happy without tripping me face first into disaster. Never again would I cross the line. I was back to being the good old organized, boring me. Adventures were not cool and I was done with them.

We stood and grabbed our bags out of the overhead lockers. Everyone pushed forward in a rush to disembark. The hostesses gave us practiced smiles as we tramped up the aisle and out into the connecting tunnel. Next came security and then we poured out into the baggage claim. Fortunately, we only had carry-on, so no delays there. I couldn’t wait to get home.

I heard shouting up ahead. Lights were flashing. Someone famous must have been on the plane. People ahead of us turned and stared. I looked back too but saw no familiar faces.

“What’s going on?” Lauren asked, scanning the crowd.

“I don’t know,” I said, standing on tippy-toe, getting excited by all the commotion.

Then I heard it, my name being called out over and over. Lauren’s mouth pursed in surprise. Mine fell open.

“When’s the baby due?”

“Evelyn, is David with you?”

“Will there be another wedding?”

“When will you be moving to LA?”

“Is David coming to meet your parents?”

“Evelyn, is this the end for Stage Dive?”

“Is it true that you got tattoos of each other’s name?”

“How long have you and David been seeing each other?”

“What do you say to accusations that you’ve broken up the band?”

My name and his, over and over, mixed into a barrage of endless questions. All of which merged into chaos. A wall of noise I could barely comprehend. I stood gaping in disbelief as flashlights blinded me and people pressed in. My heart hammered. I’d never been great with crowds and there was no escape that I could see.

Lauren snapped out of it first.

She shoved her sunglasses onto my face and then grabbed my hand. With liberal use of her elbows, she dragged me through the mob. The world became a blur, care of her prescription lenses. I was lucky not to fall on my ass. We ran through the busy airport and out to a waiting taxi, jumping the queue. People started yelling. We ignored them.

The paparazzi were close behind.

The motherfucking paparazzi. It would have been surreal if it wasn’t so frantic and in my face.

Lauren pushed me into the back seat of the cab. I scrambled across then slumped down, doing my best to hide. Wishing I could disappear entirely.

“Go! Hurry!” she shouted at the driver.

The driver took her at her word. Our ride shot out of the place, sending us sliding across the cracked vinyl seating. My forehead bounced off the back of the (luckily padded) passenger seat. Lauren pulled my seatbelt over me and jammed it into the clasp. My hands didn’t seem to be working. Everything jumped and jittered.

“Talk to me,” she said.

“Ah …” No words came out. I pushed her sunglasses up on top of my head and stared into space. My ribs hurt and my heart still pounded so hard.

“Ev?” With a small smile Lauren patted my knee. “Did you somehow happen to get married while we were away?”

“I … yeah. I, uh, I did. I think.”

“Wow.”

And then it just all blurted out of me. “God, Lauren. I screwed up so badly and I barely even remember any of it. I just woke up and he was there and then he was so pissed at me and I don’t even blame him. I didn’t know how to tell you. I was just going to pretend it never happened.”

“I don’t think that’s going to work now.”

“No.”

“Okay. No big deal. So you’re married.” Lauren nodded, her face freakily calm. No anger, no blame. Meanwhile, I felt terrible I hadn’t confided in her. We shared everything.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have told you.”

“Yes, you should have. But never mind.” She straightened out her skirt like we were sitting down to tea. “So, who did you marry?”

“D-David. His name is David.”

“David Ferris, by any chance?”

The name sounded familiar. “Maybe?”

“Where we going?” asked the cab driver, never taking his eyes off the traffic. He wove in and out among the cars with supernatural speed. If I’d been up to feeling anything, I might have felt fear and more nausea. Blind terror, perhaps. But I had nothing.

“Ev?” Lauren turned in her seat, checking out the cars behind us. “We haven’t lost them. Where do you want to go?”

“Home,” I said, the first safe place to come to mind. “My parents’ place, I mean.”

“Good call. They’ve got a fence.” Without pausing for breath Lauren rattled off the address to the driver. She frowned and pushed the sunglasses back down over my face. “Keep them on.”

I gave a rough laugh as the world outside turned back into a smudge. “You really think it’ll help, now?”

“No,” she said, flicking back her long hair. “But people in these situations always wear sunglasses. Trust me.”

“You watch too much TV.” I closed my eyes. The sunglasses weren’t helping my hangover. Nor was the rest of it. All my own damn fault. “I’m sorry I didn’t say something. I didn’t mean to get married. I don’t even remember what happened exactly. This is such a …”

“Clusterfuck?”