I put on my Lexie-will-not-melt-under-Charlie-Tsui’s-glorious-smile face and braced myself for an over-wattaged onslaught.
“Welcome, ladies…Lexie,” Charlie said, arms outstretched as if he thought I was actually going to hug him.
When I didn’t move forward, he put his arms down and said, “Listen, I hope you’ll accept all of our apologies for what happened…you know…with…um…uh…”
“Jenny?” I finished for him with as much malice behind my voice as I could muster.
He coughed then said, “Look, I won’t give you excuses for my behavior where that’s involved. I just hope you’ll forgive me and move on. It’ll make living here a little less awkward.”
I lurched my head back. “Oh, so you want me to be the big girl and forget that the guy who I thought was interested in me allowed me to go out with a big fat fraud, is that it? And furthermore, that guy knew I would get blindsided by the fraudulent asshole because his plan was to tell me about Jenny that night. Hmm? And then when I fell apart, you’d be there with your arms wide open, ready to catch? Um no. So, if you’ll just show us to our rooms, we’ll get settled. ”
“Heh, well, okay then!” Charlie exclaimed, laughing nervously. “Your rooms are just up the elevator. I-If you’ll follow me…”
Elara let Lord Bloodmoon have it. He begged for hours.
Until, finally, Elara relented as he was pretty dang good on the piano.
Oh did I mean playing the piano? I meant ON the piano. Yeah…those two left little to the imagination. Dom yelled at them to “retire” to their chambers already.
The Heartthrobs had to delay their tour a bit because someone decided to punch out James. (Thanks, Dad!) It was pretty awkward for me because I was not going to talk to either Charlie or James, but they hung out a ton with everyone. That left me in my room for the most part.
But everyone else got so chummy that each decided to go with the boys on tour! Copper was done with her semester, Reese asked to take a leave of absense from her company, Dom could set her own hours at any time, Kate was between jobs and Elara…well…Elara ruled the world (in Larp-land). I guessed they were all certified Throbbers by now.
So, I had that huge penthouse to myself for six weeks.
I found the boys’ private library and read.
During that time, I decided I had to get out of there. It was like a guilded golden prison. I figured I needed to save up enough money to rent a small apartment with high security. The rabid Flamers still wanted to slit my throat. Word got out that my father hurt James’ pretty face so I was teen bubblegum target number one on their shit list.
So, I took a second job on the weekends as a hotdog at the flea market to pad my funds. No one would recognize me in that getup.
It was soooo humiliating. Luckily, I didn’t see a soul I knew.
And it was boring as watching cement dry. But it paid well.
To pass the time, I did a bit of people watching. There were five gorgeous guys who caught my eye.
Then my stomach plunged.
Oh. My. GOD! Did I see whom I thought I saw?
I walked over to the group quietly, trying to peek at them without them knowing I was peeking.
Then I saw his face.
Without thinking, (cuz that’s what I do) I bolted toward him. “CORY?” I yelled.
“Huh?” he said as he slowly turned around.
And I pounced on him like the mad clown hotdog I was. “Cory, it’s me! Lexi!”
“Lexi?” he asked, shock peppering his voice.
I couldn’t help myself. I thought I’d lost him all these years. Once I moved to San Myshuno, we lost touch. He didn’t have a simbook (I looked) and so I tossed it out as fate that we weren’t meant to see each other ever again and now…there was a party going on in my brain. My Cory was here in San Myshuno!
He stroked my face. “Lexi, is it really you?”
“Yes, you moron. I might look like a hotdog, but I’m still the same girl. Oh my God, I’m so glad to see you!”
“Me, too,” he whispered. I could tell he was still shocked.
I jumped down to see him better. He’d grown about a foot taller. I had to gaze up at him now and he was covered in some sort of surfer dude tattoos. Not a bad look at all. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m in a band…remember Wyatt?” He pointed at his tall bff from high school, Wyatt Roth. The guy got thicker, but he’d always been King Kong giant. I remember he wasn’t very good at skateboarding.
I wiggled my fingers at him and Wyatt said, “Hey.” Guy wasn’t much in the words department.
“SO…you’re living your dream then, huh?” I asked.
Cory nodded, smiling that million dollar grin of his. Oh my God, pinch me, I’d missed it so much. “Yeah, well, I don’t know about living the dream.” He laughed sheepishly. “We mostly play a bunch of cheap dive bars, but we’ll see. We’re here meeting with a producer. Want to get a drink and catch up? I’ve got a few minutes before we have to go.”
I soooo wanted to ditch this outfit and job for a few minutes with Cory, but…where would I find another one that hid my face so well? “I…can’t. I’m working. Maybe after your meeting?”
“Yeah, well, we have to fly back to Brindleton Bay right afterwards. Look, I’ll be in town again, I’m sure. I’ll give you a call. Okay?”
The way he said he’d call me filled me with gloom, but I kept a smile on my face. What was I thinking? I hadn’t seen the guy in years, jumped him in a hotdog suit, and I expected to pick up where we left off? Was I totally without brain cells or what? “Yeah…sure…we’ll catch up then.”
He wrapped me up in a bro hug and slapped my back. “Good seeing you again, Lex,” he said.
My throat thickened because I felt like we were saying good-bye forever all over again. “Yeah, good seeing you, too.”
After work, I looked him up online. He was in a retro surfer type band.
They called themselves, Surf’s UP. Totally fit him.
And then I thought back on our meeting and my cheeks warmed with embarrassment. He was in the industry. He had to have seen all the turmoil I’d been in with the Heartthrobs. Hell, the whole world did. God. According to the press, I was this total whore who went between Charlie and James at will and was living with them as they’d take pictures of me constantly coming out of their penthouse.
Tears flooded my eyes. No wonder Cory didn’t want to have anything to do with me.