I woke up the next morning and it was almost like my memory had been wiped, like I had constructive amnesia. Until the haze of sleep washed away and reality landed on my shoulders.
Yesterday had happened. I took a deep breath and sat up, today was a new day and I wasn’t going to let it rule me. My mantra was moving forward, not holding on to the past and even though yesterday was still fresh in my mind… it was the past.
I got out of bed and walked into the living area of the suite. Ben was already up. He had his bags packed and was on the phone.
“Yeah I know DJ.” He said quietly.
He was quiet for a minute then finally replied.
“Yes I agree.”
More silence. Had Ben told DJ about the letter? I frowned. I guess I should have expected it. After all, Ben was my tour manager before my friend. He had a responsibility to uphold. I prepared for the inevitable change in plans.
“Of course. You’ll be my first port of call.” He turned and smiled at me. “Anyway Sleeping beauty has awoken. We’d better get ready to hit the road.”
He ended the call and threw his phone on the bed. “DJ just wanted to see how you were after last night. He’s taking a day off before meeting up with the guys in London.”
“Oh okay. Everything okay?”
Ben smiled and nodded. “Everything is fine. He just wanted to go over the itinerary and insure everything was ready.”
I smiled and nodded. So he hadn’t said anything, I breathed a sigh of relief.
“So when are we leaving?”
Ben picked up his phone. “In about forty minutes.”
“Alright. Let me shower and pack.”
“Great oh and Scarlett,” Ben called as I began walking away “You kick ass… You know that right?”
I felt my skin blush and I smiled awkwardly at the random compliment. “Thanks…”
Ben grinned and turned his hand, he tapped on his wrist. “Time is money… I’ll go make sure everything is set for check out okay.”
“Sure.” I called out as I walked into the bathroom, the less chance of running in to Ryan again, the better.
I took a long shower, which was unusual for me, you know unless Xavier was in there with me. The warmth was relaxing and relaxation was something I so desperately needed, the problem was, as soon as the water went off, everything came flooding back.
Part of me yearned for my old life. My old house, my cats, reality TV and Cheetos. Part of me missed how simple and mundane it had been. It hadn’t really been a life. Not by any stretch of the imagination, not for me, not for what I knew I was destined for… but it had been without drama, without millions of eyes watching me and waiting for me to screw up.
This was my life now and I while I had no regrets, I missed what once had been.
I dressed quickly then left the room and packed my bags. Ben returned as I left the bedroom wheeling my suitcase and guitar case out to the living area.
“You certainly don’t travel like a diva… Have I mentioned that?” He exclaimed with a grin
“I’m not a diva, so I’m glad I don’t travel like one.” I replied with a laugh.
“You’re right and thank the lord. The other promo tours I’ve done were with complete divas…. Lovely girls… but oh my god. Do you really need a whole suitcase dedicated to lip gloss?” He grinned.
“I think I have like two lipsticks. Isla gave me one, and the other one my makeup artist sent with me when I left the Going Nowhere tour. She said it was my shade and as long as I wear I will kill my audience with awesomeness.” I shrugged and pointed to the case. “They’re in there somewhere… but I can’t be completely sure where.”
Ben laughed and walked over to his case. “God I love ya, Can I just stay your tour manager forever and ever and ever.”
“Sure, I don’t have a problem with that.” I smiled.
We walked out of the room and made our way down to the lobby. I’d hoped to avoid Ryan, but he’d bee-lined straight over to me the minute we exited the elevator.
Ben stood between us. “Back off huh.” He said sternly, sounding unlike the joking Ben from upstairs, and more like the Ben I’d first met in the airport.
“It’s okay. I know him… actually, I’m surprised you don’t recognize him.” I murmured pulling on Ben’s elbow.
Ben tilted his head and looked at Ryan long and hard. Then he took a step back. “The tape?” he whispered.
“The one and only. Meet its star.” I scathed.
“Oh well then he can really back off…jerk.” Ben frowned at Ryan, he put his arm around me protecting me. We walked toward the foyer doors. “Scarlett wait.” He called out. “I really am sorry. I want to make it up to you.”
I stopped and turned around.
“If you really want to help Ryan. Call that smarmy news agency you gave the tape too. Call them and tell them you lied. Tell them it isn’t me having sex on camera and clear my name… once in for freaking all.” I exclaimed.
Ryan nodded. “It wasn’t me. I swear. But I’ll do it. I should have done it back then.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
I turned on my heel and continued walking from the lobby, leaving Ryan and the sex tape scandal behind once again. Luckily once we left the hotel we managed to make it to the car unscathed.
“I was meant to ask if you wanted to change the road trips to plane trips.” Ben said as the car pulled out. The driver looked in the back seat. “And put me out of a job…” He croaked with a fake laugh.
“Don’t worry uh…” I stopped, I hadn’t caught the driver's name.
“Malcolm.” The driver replied. “Pleasure to meet you Miss Jackson.”
“You too Malcolm, and please call me Scarlett.” I urged, “As I was saying, don’t worry. I like the idea of travelling around by car. It offsets the insane hotel tabs the record company is stumping.”
Ben laughed. “The car and the chauffeur and his accommodation kind of all cost more than a plane trip Scarlett.”
I rolled my eyes and looked out the window. “I’ve already seen America from the sky... I want to see it from down here.”
Ben sat back and nodded. “You’re the anti-diva. I’m sure of it. If I wasn’t gay, I think I’d fall in love with you.”
I laughed for a moment, then remembered Xavier. My love. We had talked since my last interview and in a few hours it would have been a whole 24 hours. We’d be arriving in Chicago as he arrived in London. Maybe we’d talk then. God I hope we would. I missed him so much.
“You okay?” Ben said. “You’ve gone really quiet.”
“Oh yeah. I’m great. So this car trip... it must be like ten hours or something?”
“12 give or take we should be getting in around 8 or 9pm. We’ll stop for lunch along the way and let Malcolm have a solid break.”
“Hey I’m an easy fix. A big mac and a giant coffee and I’m good to go without stopping.”
Ben looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. “Are we down with McDonald’s?”
I smiled and nodded.
“Anti-Diva… I tell you…. If I could bottle your essence and spray it on any future pop or rock star, I would.”
“Ben.” I laughed. “Stop inflating my ego. We’ll need to deflate it the way you’re going or I’ll float away the minute I get out of the car.”
“Nonsense, the McDonald's will weigh you down.”
The car trip was laced with the same humorous banter. I was having so much fun, that even thinking of Xavier didn’t hurt my heart so much. We’d see each other again soon, but for now our careers were coming first. We were young. After we stopped for a quick lunch I fell asleep in the car. When I woke the sky was dimming and the familiar, yet not familiar concrete buildings surrounded me.
“Wait, we’re here.” I grumbled pulling myself up. I wiped the saliva from my cheek and ran a hand through my messy bed hair. “I slept since lunch?”
Ben laughed. “Someone isn’t going to be sleeping tonight!” He teased.
I looked at my phone. It was 8:30pm. “I guess I can prep for tomorrow.” I murmured. “We’ve got what… five TV spots?”
“Yeah and a signing at a music store.”
“Well there you go. I don’t have my autograph decided. Maybe I’ll stare for hours at my scrawled signature deciding which looks the least pretentious.” I murmured.
Before Ben could say anything my phone began ringing. I picked it up and smiled. It was Xavier. It had been over 24 hours since I’d heard his voice.
“Hello.” I crooned.
“Oh good god, I’ve needed to hear your voice. I’ve been sitting across from Lovebirds A and B and they’ve been driving me crazy with their insane cuteness.” Xavier exclaimed. “We’ve just landed in Heathrow. It’s around 2am here. But I slept on the plane so I’m surprisingly awake. How are you?”
“Just arriving in Chicago. I’ve been asleep since lunchtime, so I’m awake too.” I murmured. “Seems you were right Xavier, our bodies are still in tune with one another thousands of miles apart.”
Ben made an aww sound and I blushed, I’d forgotten we weren’t alone.
“Was that your tour manager” Xavier exclaimed.
“Ben? Yeah.” I looked at Ben who leaned in.
“Hey Xavier. I think you and Scarlett might just be two cute for words. I feel like I’m in the front row of a chick flick watching all the romance happen.”
He moved away, not expecting a reply. I heard Xavier laugh, which was a good sign.
“He sounds kind of like the male version of Isla.” He noted. “DJ matched you well. When we were promoting he put us with some old battle-axe who hated music. Not just our music… but all music.”
I could hear the smile in Xavier voice. I wanted to see it too, to touch the corners and to kiss his lips. An overwhelming sadness took over and I felt tears begin to form. I was confused by the sudden change in mood, but went with it all the same.
“I miss you Xavier.” I murmured.
“I miss you too Babe.”
“How many more days until I see you?”
“14. I’ll be there two Mondays from now.”
“Wrong answer.” I pouted. “You were meant to say right now.”
“Call me when you’re settled in at your hotel... You can see as much of me as you like okay?” He whispered. “But uh, lose Ben first…”
I smiled and ignored the blush that was rising in my cheeks. “It’s a date.”
“Love you too.”
I hung up and looked at Ben. “You look scandalous… and believe me, I mean I know I’ve only known you two days… but you don’t really seem like the scandalous type.”
“It’s always the quiet ones you should look out for Ben…”
“That’s what they say. But when has that rule ever be foolproof.”
“Touché. Sorry I just talked to my fiancé, who I haven’t seen in a week, I’m thinking about him… you know?”
Ben laughed and pat me on the shoulder. “Why do I get the distinct impression you’re incredibly innocent.”
I huffed and shifted away from Ben. He and Xavier and their opinions on my innocence. I was no more innocent than Ben was gay.
“Did I say something wrong?” Ben mused.
“I’m not innocent.” I said in a sad school girl moping in the corner kind of way.
Ben burst out laughing and pat me on the shoulders once again. “I swear, a laugh a minute.”
We pulled into the hotel valet before I could bite back. We hopped out and headed up to our rooms.
We weren’t sharing a suite like in New York which took a little of embarrassment off calling Xavier for X-rated purposes.
Oh man, I really was innocent.
When I called Xavier back he didn’t answer right away. In fact I thought that voicemail might pick it up when he finally answered.
“Hey baby.” He crooned. “Sorry I almost missed the call. I wanted set up the tripod.”
“Is that what we’re calling it these days?” I mused.
“Ha ha very funny.”
“I’m turning my camera on.”
The minute his face popped up an unbreakable smile hit my face. He took away all of the frustration that may have been simmering from the day before, and literally everything was forgotten.
“New rule.” Xavier whispered as his eyes steeled over and he smiled back. “Every call is a goddamn video call from now on.”
“I like that rule.”
Xavier nodded. “Me too.”
We talked for ten minutes about work related things, his tour and the upcoming hiatus. Then he held up a serviette. “I wrote you a song on the plane.” He murmured.
I eyes brightened and I could feel my smile deepen into my cheeks
“An ode to Scarlett’s boobs.” He coughed, clearing his throat “Don’t laugh it’s completely serious.”
I held back a giggle and waited for him to pick up a guitar.
“I am a man of simple things
Simple wants, simple dreams.
But there is one thing I need like air
Without them Oh for my life I would fear.
I love her eyes, I love her skin
I love the way she smiles like there’s a secret she wants let you in on
I love her heart, and I love her soul
But I love her boobs, most of all.
Scarlett my girl, so true to the world.
I love so, But I love her boobs most of all.”
“You, are the funniest guy in the world Xavier Smith. I love you so much.” Tears had gathered at the corners of my eyes. Half from the sheer amusement, and half out of sadness.
“I aim to please. Though really, it’s a very serious song.” Xavier put the guitar down and shifted himself until he was comfortable again. He looked at me dead on and gave me his best serious face. I almost died on the spot. Broody Xavier had always been my weak point. His hypnotic hazel eyes staring intensely at me, harnessing the power to make melt with a simple look.
“Well… I better give the man what he wants.” I shrugged as I removed my top and bra. The phone was perched up the book shelf part of the desk in my hotel room. I knew from the angle there was no way he could see anything other than my bare shoulders. He frowned and picked up his guitar again.
“I love her shoulders
I love her wit
But not quite as much
As I love her Ti-“
“Xavier.” I warned. “Don’t be crude. I’m innocent you know.”
“Baby, you’re teasing me in twenty different ways right now. You’re not innocent. Not completely.”
I smiled and moved the phone down slightly. Xavier grinned. “Oh compliments are the way to a girls…. Erm, Heart.” He held his hand up and air quoted ‘heart’
“How am I teasing you Xavier? I’m yours for the taking.”
“Except right now, I can’t take you.” He groaned. “In any capacity.” He jaw clenched and he sat back a little.
I moved the phone down a little more. I watched as Xavier’s face changed from cheeky to lustful. He licked his lips and sighed. “You have no idea how hard this is.”
“What is?” I said with a smirk, my face was still in the shot, but only slightly.
“Not being able touch you.” He swallowed hard.
I bit my lip and moved the phone back up. “You satisfied?”
Xavier shook his head and smiled. “Nowhere near, not even close. I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep tonight, now I know I won’t.”
“You’re so hard to please Mr. Smith.”
“Wait till we see each other baby. I’ll be so easy to please it’ll be over in seconds.” Xavier burst out laughing, so hard that he knocked his phone in the tripod over. I giggled as well then bit my lip.
“Are we playing with fire?” I questioned. “You know doing things like this on video call?”
Xavier picked up the phone and straightened it, he was frowning when his face came back into view. He shook his head, “Baby, we’re adults, we love and trust each other. This is different to that piece of shit video from high school okay. We’re different.”
I nodded, “You’re right.”
Once we ended the call 30 or so minutes later I lay in bed singing his stupid little song about my boobs. Because it made me laugh, and cry, and think about all the things I love about him.
Real life was tough, full of people ready to just take what they can get… but with him none of shit mattered, and it never would. We were, and always would be an unbreakable chain.