I winced and gave Danny a look. Danny shrugged, “Probably.”
Gerry didn’t look amused. I laughed, “You’re like the only gay guy here, you’re golden.”
The bartender walked over with a picture, “You have to sign this for me, please. I almost had a stroke from the other side of the bar, when I saw it was you guys.”
I pointed, “Told you they would know who you were.”
Lochlan sighed and signed it, sliding it over to Gerry. “Look man, we’re just trying to have an uneventful night out.”
He winked, “Mums the word. I won’t say shit. Thanks guys, I’m a huge fan. I drove all the way to Boston to see you perform, twice.” He was glowing.
Gerry smiled at him, “Thanks man. We appreciate the support.”
The bartender looked like he might hug them, but he turned and took the picture of the band back to the bar. He tacked it to the wall. I laughed and nodded. They never noticed he was doing it.
Danny tapped his fingers against the wooden table, “So I was thinking that maybe, if we run a couple charity concerts to start you off with the humble U2 vibe, people would have that impression of you. It might help get them past Loch getting kicked off the show. You know, the bad boys of rock and roll are kind of over. Girls think it’s sexy when the lead singer has a puppy and hugs his grandma, ya know?”
I was lost. Danny never said nearly intelligent stuff like that.
Lochlan grinned at Gerry, “We have a gay drummer who is totally comfortable with his sexuality, we’re fine.”
Gerry laughed, “Asshole. I’m not being the poster child for gay musicians; Elton John has that covered.”
Danny gave them both a serious look, “I’m serious. You all need to decide which direction, you want that to go. Me and Lenny and Vic were talking about it. I want to maintain this positive type of public perception.”
I pointed, “Are you working for them?”
Danny beamed, “Yeah.” He said it like it was obvious, I should have known it.
I looked at Lochlan. He shrugged, “He was right about the dramatic pauses. The intensity of the show was upped. The lights on the crowd only—he has good ideas.”
Gerry nudged him in the booth, “And he’s cute.”
Danny blushed, “Anyway, you want AIDS or kids in Africa, Romanian orphans, or what?”
Lochlan sighed, “Why didn’t Vic and Lenny decide? They started Thin Ice.”
Gerry looked confused too.
Danny drummed his fingers against the table, “Lenny has kids and a wife. He wants to take a serious backseat in all this. He never started the band and was never comfortable with a leadership role. That was Harris’ job and they don’t want it.”
Gerry nodded, “It is typically something the front man would control.”
“What about Vic?”
Gerry looked at Lochlan and shook his head, “He never wanted this. He liked it being a small Boston band. He’s starting a company and leaving the band. He’s going to tell you all, when we get back. He emailed me yesterday. It’s too big.”
Lochlan looked upset, “Is it me?”
Gerry shook his head, “No way, man. You’ve been the best thing that ever happened to Thin Ice. Me and Mike want this to be big. We hunted you for a reason. If we have to just hire a keyboard and guitar, then so be it. Drums, singer, bass, and one guitar are the most important anyway.”
Lochlan looked stressed. My buzz was killed. I sipped my glass of red and looked around the bar. A girl waved at me from across the dance floor. I smiled and pushed Lochlan, “Let me out.”
He looked confused but climbed out. I kissed his cheek, “Be back in a minute.” The shoptalk was boring, and somehow I felt like I might be to blame. Lochlan had been moody since he met me. I pushed it to the back of my mind and ran to the girl across the bar. “Serena, hey.”
She had been my roommate for the months I was at dorms. She was an it girl, popular and slightly mean. She had been in love with my brother, thank God. It earned me a place in her world. I never had to worry about being bullied or tortured. I was Serena’s friend.
I wrapped my arms around her. She seemed thinner than before.
“How are you?” she smiled.
I shrugged, “Good. Law school in Boston. How are things with you?”
She looked around the bar, “Same old. I’m a project manager for a construction company.” I assumed it was her dad’s, but I didn’t say that.
She tilted her head, “I’ve never seen you let your hair go curly like that. You always did the sleek look.”
I grabbed a curl, “Oh yeah.” I sounded like I was from North Dakota. I cleared my throat, “My boyfriend likes it curly.”
She glanced at the table of good-looking guys I’d just left, “Is that you boyfriend?”
I nodded, “Yeah.”
“He looks like that guy from that America’s Most Talented Stars.”
I laughed, “Yeah.”
“So he tells you how to wear your hair?” It was a shitty thing to say and my face made her backpedal, “I mean it’s just weird. You were always so strong and never cared what people thought. You were independent and free. I always thought that was so cool.” She used the term like that part of me was long gone.
I nodded, “I still am.”
Her pretty face got serious, “How’s Danny?” I was grateful for the change in subject.
I wanted to say awesome, he’d just landed his dream job, and was happy like he’d never been. Instead I shrugged, “You know Danny.”
Her eyes got lost in thought for a second, “That I do.” She snapped out of it and became the blonde, tanned, queen of the mean, “So law school. That always was the dream, wasn’t it?” Her tone was patronizing.
I ignored it, “Yes, it was. I’m pretty excited.”
She smiled, “I’m really happy for you.”
“Thanks. I’m happy for you too.”
Her glossy lips stayed frozen in her fake smile, “It’s great we’re both doing so well.” I caught her gaze travel to the table again, “Say hi to Danny for me.”
“I will. Anyway, I have to go the bathroom. It’s good to see you.”
She smiled, “Yeah, you too.” I hugged her again and walked away, “See you around.”
She waved. A pop song started to play really loudly. It had hit eleven, the magic dancing hour. The lights dimmed as the dance floor started to get crowded. I walked to the bathroom, weaving through the crowd.
The bathroom was nearly empty. I washed my hands and looked at myself. I looked different. I felt different. The way I’d gushed about law school felt fake, like what I wanted to gush about was Lochlan. I wanted her to know I was dating him. It was for petty reasons. The other girls left in a pack. I’d never had a pack. I’d never made female friends with anyone, who I had maintained.
I walked out of the ladies’ washroom, stopped cold by the stare bearing down on me.
I slipped my hand in my pocket. It wasn’t there. He was there but it wasn’t.
My throat closed. I backed into the washroom, choosing the wrong place to flee. He didn’t chase me. He walked slowly, methodically, as if he’d imagined this moment a thousand times. He closed the door, slipping the lock into place. I was back against the far side of the wall. My breath was stuck, my scream was behind it.
His brown eyes looked crazier than I remembered them being. He pointed at me, “I missed you.”
Tears fell from my eyes, “Mitch, please.”
He laughed, “You going to hold out that piece of paper you got, to stop me from seeing you?”
I shook my head as the tears streamed down my face, “No. I swear, I’ll leave and never come back, I promise.”
His face grew angry, like it had before, “Why would I want you to leave? We’re just getting reunited.” How was he out already? Why had no one told me?
My back was pressed against the wall. With my eyes closed, I could see my mace on the bedside table, where I’d left it.
I jumped into a stall, slamming the door and locking it. My hands shook as hard as the door that he pounded the shit out of. I dialed Lochlan’s cell. It rang and rang, but went to voicemail. The door bent. I could see the screws were getting ripped out. I screamed, “HELP ME!”
“HOW COULD YOU, ERIN? HOW COULD YOU FUCK HIM? YOU THINK I DIDN’T SEE YOUR SLUT FACE ALL OVER THE BLOG SITES? YOU LET HIM SHAME YOU, LIKE A WHORE!”
I closed my eyes and redialed. It went to voicemail again. I spoke into the phone, “I’m in the bathroom. Help me.” I hung up and texted, ‘I’m in the bathroom, he’s here.’
I was dialing 9-1-1 when he kicked the door in completely, knocking me onto the toilet. I slid the phone along the floor, as he grabbed my arm and dragged me out over the broken door. He slammed me into the counter. I screamed but he hit me hard. I was scratching and flailing, but his hands were everywhere. He held my arms to the floor and sat on my stomach.
“You and me are meant to be together, Erin. I love you. I always loved you.”
I shook my head, “Please, stop.”
He screamed, “I LOVE YOU! YOU UNGRATEFUL BITCH!”
I nodded, “I know. I love you too. Let’s just go out to the car. I don’t want to be in the bathroom anymore. Please.” I pleaded through the tears, “I love you too.”
He didn’t buy it but he looked like he wanted too. He snorted, “Not yet you don’t, but you will.” He ripped at my shirt. I screamed again, “HELP ME! I’M AT BIG D’S, HELP ME!” I screamed in case I was connected to 9-1-1.
I heard a bang and screaming. The lock turned and the door flung open. There was a series of flashes and movements. I saw the tattooed arm around Mitch’s throat. Mitch was ripped off me and tossed. I jumped up, leaping into Lochlan’s arms, wrapping myself around him, getting between him and Mitch. I whispered, “Don’t baby, don’t hurt him. He’s not worth it.”