Butterflies….

Rotoglow - band picHere is another scene from PS, in which Brendon, Elyse, Jon and Claire (Elyse’s best friend) are all in the same place at the same time — but not all of them interact with each other. In fact, Claire is completely unaware that Elyse knows any other young man in the room than Jon. In other words… Elyse has managed to keep her friendship with Brendon completely to herself.

Hmm…. Why do you think that may be? 😉

Mood music.


EXCERPT FROM: “PS, BOOK 1”
CH. 10, TOIL & TROUBLE

“Agh!” cried Abby, “It’s so freakin’ loud in here I can’t hear myself think.” Apparently, Abby wasn’t as into local rock stars as Claire and I were. She had her hands over both ears and was wildly rocking her head from side to side to emphasize the pain we were putting her through just by walking in the door of the pub.

“Don’t worry,” Claire told her, “this isn’t the band we came to see. I’m sure Jon and Drew’s music will be easier to listen to.” Claire looked at me cautiously knowing she had just told a little white lie. I went along with it. No sense ruining the evening yet — we’d just arrived.

“Well… I need to redo my lip gloss,” Abby retorted, probably hoping to seek shelter elsewhere. “Anyone wanna come with me to the girls’ room?”

“Sure,” said Claire as I declined. I had an experiment to get underway and I couldn’t do that by wishful makeup-ing myself into a better reality like Andie Walsh in the back room of Iona’s record store.

I surveyed the crowd stealthily and located Jon at the foot of the stage talking with the manager of the bar. It looked as though they were working out some last-minute details. I watched the way Jon interacted with him. He was very sure of himself. Very in control. He did this sort of thing all the time, I imagined. Nothing new in the experience. Kind of like my dance performances, I guessed. It’s all a routine: You show up with your gear — or, in my case, in costume — and prepare to reveal all of your creativity and effort up on a stage over the course of an hour or so — to a room full of strangers.

As soon as the manager left Jon, a swarm of girls encircled him, but when he turned around, his eyes landed on me and a smile beamed across his face. I raised my arm up to wave to him above the crowd, twisting it to let the pendant of my bracelet swing delicately through the air. He didn’t seem to notice. Then again, he was about twenty feet away and there were three times as many people as that standing between us. He held up a hand to let me know he’d be over soon but, for the time being, he preoccupied himself with the girls within his current reach.

“So,” said a suggestive male voice coming up from behind me, grabbing my waist in both hands, the words manifesting quietly, close beside my ear, “in the mood for a little live music tonight, huh?”

“Please don’t,” I snapped, placing my hands on top of those of the offending stranger, attempting to jerk them away from my sides. He wouldn’t let me. This was all I needed… to be seized upon by some drunken creep. I wished Claire and Abby would come back soon, but I realized I was going to have to handle this head on without them.

I turned over my shoulder ready for battle — only to find myself a breath away from Brendon’s cheek, staring straight into the slight curve of his neck where his skin was smooth, soft and sumptuous against a crisp charcoal gray shirt collar. I watched his pulse beat three times before I managed to look up into his eyes. His hands were still on my hips, suddenly feeling impossibly good, but he removed them quickly and shifted his grasp to my wrists. My own pulse fluttered. He took a step back. Then he let me go.

I missed his nearness instantly.

“Have you seen them before?” he asked.

I caught my breath.

“This band on stage? No. We came to see the next one… Now Then. Claire and I actually know them… kind of.”

“Oh, really?” Brendon stated in mild wonder.

“Yes… in fact, I think one of them gave me this bracelet for my birthday.”

Brendon lifted my hand in his and held it between us. He inspected the bejeweled object suspiciously and, when he spoke, he exhaled lightly against the inside of my wrist, “I see. Why do you say you think one of them gave it to you?”

That’s when my self-imposed Moron Alert went off. Did I really need to tell Brendon that some guy gave me a gift of jewelry? Especially when I didn’t know who it actually came from at all? “Well, the truth is… I don’t know who gave it to me.”

Brendon raised his eyebrows at me and lowered my arm down to his side, still holding on.

I continued, “Remember that day I returned from my birthday trip to Mystic… and you and I were chatting online?”

“Yes,” Brendon nodded, somewhat amused by my interest in explaining this to him.

“Well, someone left this gift under my front door. My cat Charmant found it, actually. There was no card or anything, so I don’t know who gave it to me.”

“Look what the cat dragged in,” he teased.

I frowned.

Brendon held his smile a moment longer before going on, “So, you’re guessing that it was this band guy over there who delivered it?”

“Well, yeah,” I told him confidently, “or possibly Rowan in our Lit class.”

“Wait. What?! Really? You think it could be from Rowan?” He released his hold on me. If Brendon had been wearing glasses, he would have been looking over them at me like a professor, or maybe the dean of a department. He teased me without remorse, “I didn’t realize you and he were that close.”

“Well, we’re not,” I acknowledged, “that’s why I don’t know if it’s from him or not.”

Brendon shook his head at me, “Oh, I get it. You’re just wearing fine jewelry to random events in hopes that the gift-giver will step up and announce himself?”

Wow. It was almost as if he knew exactly what my experiment was all about; like he actually knew me better than I thought he did. I hesitated to confirm his suspicion, but I couldn’t help myself, “Well… I thought that maybe if I wore it tonight Jon would see it and say something like, ‘Oh, hey… you got my gift.’”

“I guess that makes sense,” Brendon said, now totally amused and shaking his head at me. “So… what will you do if it’s not from him? Wear it to class on Monday so Rowan can see it?”

“Oh, no!” I said, completely horrified. “I can’t do that!”

“Why not?” he asked sincerely.

“Because what if it is from Rowan? I can’t accept a gift like this from him! We’re barely even friends. He’d get the wrong idea…”

“And what idea is that?” Brendon was clearly just taunting me now.

You know….” I spun my hands around in the air as though they could do all of my talking for me…

“Uhh, yeah… no. I have absolutely no clue what you could possibly be talking about.”

I glared at him. “Oh, never mind. Anyway… you can’t hang out over here with me or else Jon — the band guy — won’t come see this thing on me!” I shook the bracelet in the air again, more purposely now, so Brendon could acknowledge the object in question again.

“Well, I hope you figure out who gave it to you soon. I wouldn’t want you to have to go through life asking every man you meet if he’s ’The One’.”

“HA. HA.” I over-pronounced the simple words in a fully sarcastic tone and turned my back on him.

He pressed himself against me and squeezed my waist in his hands again. “Well… it’s a beautiful bracelet,” he whispered. “It may be about as priceless as your sense of humor. Be sure to take good care of it. Have a good night, Elyse,” he finished, half-laughing, and I shuddered when the warmth of his breath cascaded against my neck.

I watched him walk slowly toward the back of the room where he joined three other fairly stylish young men at the bar. Their presence reminded me that I still didn’t really know much about him yet — I didn’t know who his friends were. But I was thrilled not to see Lucie or Quinn waiting for him there. It was such a relief to know there were still places I could go where I didn’t have to contend with their ever-present need to mock me.

Claire and Abby returned to our table talking each other’s ears off. I figured Claire was trying to preoccupy Abby with words so that she would ignore the loud music. A moment ago they had stopped off near the stage, where Claire introduced Abby to Drew. Now they were formulating their opinions about whether or not he should ditch his dreadlocks for a more mainstream hairstyle. Claire seemed to have come to the conclusion that dreads were passé. Abby was on the fence about it — she figured he could adapt a more mature look later in life, but for now he should enjoy his hair, while he’s still got it.

As trivial and funny as it was, this was not a debate I wanted to get in on. I had more important things at stake tonight, particularly now as Jon was walking my way.

“Hey, Elyse,” he said sweetly, extending his hand for me to shake.

I took the opportunity to dangle the bracelet openly in front of him as I reached forward to greet him. He still didn’t seem to notice it. Either this experiment wasn’t going very well… or it was, but in Rowan’s favor instead of Jon’s. “Hi, how’s it going?”

“Great,” he said. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Sure,” I told him, suddenly concerned that something was wrong.

He pulled me away from the table and began to say the last thing I thought I’d be hearing him say, “So, I just wanted to let you know that my girlfriend’s coming to see us play tonight.”

The stunned look on my face appeared midway through his sentence. I tried to cover it up with a believable friendly smile, but speculated that I wasn’t doing it very successfully. Since when did he have a girlfriend?

He continued, and filled me in slightly, “I’m actually breaking up with her, but I didn’t want you to get weirded out or anything, if you see me with another girl.”

Umm… so, I thought to myself, trying to fully understand his meaning, this is a good thing for me, right? He is breaking up with his girlfriend so that he can date me, right? And he’s mentioning this to me now because he cares about how I feel… right?

What Jon didn’t know was that I also cared about how his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend felt. Right now, she might be dolling herself up, anxious to see him tonight thinking everything was great between them… but later, she would be going home with a broken heart. Possibly because of me. Ugh.

“So, are you okay with that?” Jon’s tone implored me to respond.

“Umm, yeah, sure,” I conceded. “Maybe I should just go, though, so you won’t have to worry about me being here.”

“No, that’s not necessary,” he assured me. “She won’t be here till about midnight anyway.”

“Well, still… I—”

“I’m sorry I didn’t mention her to you sooner. But I was hoping you and I could go out sometime, if that’s alright.”

Uhh, yeah. After you break up with your girlfriend, I suppose that would be fine, I thought. What I actually said to him was, “Okay, sure. Let’s… go out sometime.”

He touched me on the arm and leaned into me, “Thanks for understanding,” clearly not realizing that I totally did not understand at all.

Claire was trying to read the bewildered look on my face as I returned to the table. I sat in silence for a moment trying to construct an actual, full thought.

It was Abby who broke my concentration. “Claire and I were just discussing whether or not we wanted to stay tonight. There aren’t too many cute guys here,” she stated, searching desperately for a face that appealed to her.

I followed her eyes to the back of the room where Brendon was still standing with his friends, leaning against the bar with his ankles crossed. He sort of looked like a model — the kind you find in a black-and-white magazine ad, propped against a brick wall on a back street in London with a rain-drenched breeze blowing handsomely through his hair. I enjoyed the scenario for a moment before realizing he had raised his eyebrows at me. I guessed that he wanted to know if my bracelet experiment had been a success.

I frowned lightly and shook my head, speaking to him without using any words: No it was a complete failure, and I think we’re leaving now.

He offered a look of consolation and held up his hand to wave good-bye. I offered a half-smile and turned away. My evening’s disappointments crashed into each other. I couldn’t decide whether I was more dismayed about Jon having a girlfriend, or Jon not being my mystery gift-giver, or me having to leave Brendon behind for the rest of the night.

Claire and Abby were halfway out the door before I finally spun around and spied them again. Their impending departure clearly indicated that they really didn’t want to stay, and I totally understood. Things weren’t going so well for me, either.

“Let’s go to that little diner we ate lunch at that one time, Elyse,” suggested Claire. “We could get omelets and coffee or something—”

“And pancakes,” Abby added, nodding enthusiastically.

“Okay. Sounds good,” I said, trying not to sound like the wind had just been taken out of my sails.

We moved out the door onto the sidewalk where I lingered near the windows and stared inside, through the inconsequential hoard of people hovering in chattering clumps around the small round tables, across the room to the bar where Brendon was now seated on a stool watching Jon and Drew take the stage. My heart leapt just remembering what it felt like to be tucked within his arms for a fleeting minute that ended too soon. I cast the thought aside and strained to hear the first few notes of “Butterflies” begin to fill the room we had just escaped.

Brendon glanced out the window at me as I backed away from it, hesitating, and I felt the appropriateness of the band’s song choice take hold as Claire, Abby and I flew away into the night.

(c) 2009.

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