Authors: Noelle August
But thisâBrooks at my front door, with flowersâmakes it official. It's not just hanging out; it's a
“Good,” he says. “Now, pack an overnight bag, because I'm kidnapping you.”
“Yep. I decided we both needed a break and that neither of us would take one unless we physically removed ourselves from the city and anything to do with the film.”
That makes me feel a little panicky. Not just at the idea of being somewhere overnight with Brooks but at the idea of being
. I don't know why. I get this weird feeling, like I'll come unglued and spin off into space if I leave LA. But that's stupid and probably a perfect reason to
“So, um, not to put a damper on things, but wherever we're going, separate rooms, right?” After my debacle with Grey, I'm not ready to hook up, or attempt to hook up, anytime soon.
He smiles. “Separate but adjoining, just in case.”
I must get a look on my face because he adds, “Don't worry. It's going to be great. And I'll have you back by late tomorrow, so you can still do your Sunday brunch thing the next day, and I can prep for the week. Also, not to hurry you, but we have to get to LAX in forty-five minutes, so chop-chop.”
“Where are we going?”
He smiles again. “You'll see.”
Three hours and seventeen minutes later, I'm standing in the lobby of the Hotel Monaco in downtown San Francisco. It feels like a dreamâor like a movie. I'm the leading lady, swept away by the leading man. Only, this leading man isn't gay and allergic to every substance on earth.
“Wow, it's beautiful,” I say.
And it is, in a really funky way. Kind of Tim Burton meets Art Deco, with plush-looking furniture, an ornate gilded staircase, and super high ceilings painted with clouds and striped balloons. It's magical and inviting, and when Brooks actually checks us into two rooms, I feel like I can truly exhale again.
In my room, Brooks drops his bag on the carpet and relieves me of mine, setting it on a black glass coffee table. Then he moves in close, taking my face in his hands and looking down at me. I like his rough, wide features, his warm brown eyes that crinkle at the corners.
He gives me a surprisingly gentle kiss, pulling me in close to his body.
When we break off, he says, “I needed to do that sooner rather than later. Now we can go have a night on the town with a minimum of weirdness.”
I laugh. “I don't think I do much of anything with a minimum of weirdness.”
“Yeah, me neither. Let's go be weird.” He plants himself on the striped settee near the coffee table and picks up a copy of
. “I made reservations for dinner at Michael Mina and then thought we could go find some music. Sound good?”
“Sounds great.” I feel myself being swept along, like a leaf on a current. But it's comforting, like being cared for and regarded, not just moved around like a prop.
I sit down beside him, and he hands me the paper. “Find us something great. I'm going to shower and make a couple of calls.”
“I thought we weren't doing movie stuff,” I tease.
He grins, guiltily. “Just one shower and three phone calls. And then I'm all yours.”
Somehow, it's a relief not to be his central focus, to let whatever's unfolding between us happen in a way that feels casual and fluid.
After he leaves, I get up to drift around the room, which is bright and colorful, with mismatched Moroccan-style side tables and a vase with real flowers placed bedside. I love hotels. I always have. Maybe it's my dad's blood in me. I like discovering new things. And I like to think about the person who picked all the elements, who spent time designing a place so it would feel a certain way.
After a shower, I take a lot of time with my makeup, making my lips a perfect glossy red and rimming my eyes with black liner, which I haven't gotten to do in forever because that's not how Emma wears her makeup. She's subtle. I want to be dramatic. I straighten my pink hair and slip into a black shift dress with long lace-paneled sleeves and a sexy scoop back. It's looser on me now, but that's kind of the look, so it's okay.
While I wait for Brooks, I pick up the newspaper again to look through the entertainment listings. Not surprisingly, we have a ton of options, including a family jug band and a thirty-piece Bedouin ensemble from Mali.
And then I see it. The Forevers. My dad's band. Here, in San Francisco. Tonight.
How is that even possible? Isn't he supposed to be in Europe?
For a second, I feel that same spark of excitement I felt as a kid, when I'd get to go to some dank, smoky club to listen to him play. I'd sit cross-legged in a chair, either way in the back of the space, out of sight of the patrons, or in the wings beside the stage, where I'd feel the heat of the lights on me and get to see for myself the way people reacted to my dad. To music.
It feels risky, for some reason, to take Brooks to see my father play, but how often am I in the same city as my dad? And maybe I can shake some money out of him if I can get him alone for a second. It's an opportunity I can't let pass.
At dinner, Brooks sits beside me in a cozy booth, his warm firm hand tracing the bare skin of my back.
“Have I told you how much I love this dress?”
I smile. “Once or twice.”
“I'm restraining myself from untying these laces.” He trails his fingers over the bow holding the dress together in the back. “But it's a tough battle.”
“I appreciate the effort.”
“Believe me, you should.”
We eat and talk about the movie, and then we talk about how we're not going to talk about the movie. Every now and then I see him glancing down to the side, at what I'm sure is his cell phone. But I don't call him on it.
The food is so goodâespecially the white truffle pasta, which I could eat with a trowel, though I remind myself to go easy, limiting myself to six bites and filling up on pear and endive salad instead. My cocktail, something called a Lou Reed, goes down gently but packs a major wallop.
I lean against Brooks, and his arm tightens around me in the booth. “Sorry I'm making you eat with one hand.”
He laughs. “That's okay. I'm good with just one hand.”
I feel myself blush. He feels good. Just really sturdy and present. I try not to think about the fact that I was in bed with Grey just a few nights ago. That I'd come really close to making a big mistake.
By the time we leave the restaurant and grab a cab the few miles to the Independent, where my dad's playing, I'm sufficiently floaty enough to unload a bit about my father, something I've really only talked about with Mia and Beth. And Grey, I realize.
“I want to see him,” I say. “But I don't know how I feel about seeing him. You'll see. He'll charm the pants off you. Butâ
“But he's left you a lot to deal with.”
I nod. “And he always has. It's like he got to opt out of being a grown-up just because he plays music.”
“You play music, too,” Brooks says. “And you don't get to do that. I direct films. And I can't do that.”
“I don't even believe you're tempted to do that.”
He shrugs. “No, not really. I was one of those intense, overly mature kids who couldn't wait to get out of the gate. I think that's why Adam and I are buddies. We've both always just been good at putting our eyes on something and making it real.”
I like that about him. Really, I like so much about him.
We make our way into the club, which is crowded, dark, and hazy, and I go to look for the manager, so I can have him let my dad know I'm here. They haven't come out to play yet, but the front of the stage is packed, as are most of the VIP tables. It's going to be a good night for him. Again, I think that maybe I can get him to send some money home.
I spot a merch table over by the bar and wander over to take a look. They've got CDs for sale. T-shirts. It's all looking a lot more high-end than it used to look. Or maybe I've just been in a lot more clubs and seen a lot more merch.
They've got postcards with their tour schedule on them, so I pick one up, thinking it'll be good to know where to find him for a change. I find myself looking forward to hearing him again. I realize it's been a whileâa few yearsâsince I've heard my dad play. And longer than that since he's heard me play.
I can't find anyone to find my dad for me, so I buy a CD and take the postcard with me back to the table Brooks found us. I'm almost to him when I see it: my dad's next club date.
Los Angeles. Tomorrow night.
I'm stunned as I sink into my chair.
“What's wrong?” Brooks asks.
“My dad's coming to Los Angeles.”
“Really? That's great.”
I shake my head. “Tomorrow. He's coming tomorrow, for two nights. And he didn't even tell me.” My six bites of pasta sit in my stomach like cement. I can't make sense of it. It's one thing for him to be away all the time. To never be around when my mom needs him. It's another not to even think of me when he's in my city. When he's playing at a venue seven miles from my apartment.
I get up again, suddenly unable to sit still, feeling like I could shatter into a million pieces if I stay there. “You know what?” I tell Brooks. “Let's just go.”
“No, really. I'm okay. It was a dumb idea to come. Let's just go back to the hotel and get drunk in the bar. What do you think?”
He gives me a look, measuring my level of crazy. But I'm not crazy at all. I just know what I want. To get out of here. To go back to our charming hotel and have a few drinks, engage in some flirting, maybe more touching and kissing. Maybe a lot of touching and kissing.
I put my hand on the door at the exact moment they introduce my father's band. But I don't look back. I don't stop. I push the door open and lead Brooks out into the night.
riday night, we're all at the garage hanging out and waiting for Shane to show up for rehearsal. Nora, is coming, too. She's bringing her friend Juliette to meet me. For reasons I can't understand, the idea of meeting Kate Upton's look-alike has put me in a foul mood.
It's just that I need to focus on my music right now. Yeah. That's it.
Shane's almost an hour late when Titus gets a text. He takes his arm from around Beth's shoulder, where it lives now, and takes the phone from his back pocket.
“Aw, shit. Shane's not coming,” he says. “He's been puking all day. He has some kind of stomach bug.”
Rez, our slave driver, says, “Tell him to get his ass here. I'll put a bucket by the drum set.”
With only a couple of weeks left until the showcase, every practice session counts. We still have a few songs to dial in, one of which is “Runner.” I keep thinking of the ideas Sky gave me. I also keep thinking about Sky, who's on a date with Brooks. I missed her at the apartment earlier tonight, but I noticed all her toothbrush and bathroom stuff was cleared out. Which means Brooks took her out of town for the weekend. It's kind of his M.O. to come in fast and hard in the early stages then slowly back off.
Thinking about them together makes me sick. It makes me feel like I have the stomach flu, too.
Titus looks up from his phone. “Shane says he thinks he can practice tomorrow afternoon. He'll text in the morning.”
With no other choice, we do our best to practice without him. But without a drummer, our up-tempo songs sound spineless, and our ballads sound like they're missing a pulse, so we wrap early. Everyone's hungry, and after some discussion, they decide to go to Fatburger, but I make an excuse about running an errand for Garrett.
That brings out all the usual comments about me being Garrett's bitch, but whatever. I'm not up for hanging out. We're close to big things as a band, and it's like I can physically feel my life leaning in, preparing to take a big turn. I'm too amped to sit around and chill.