“And the winner of the debut season of Song Slam…the rising star who is going to be awarded a one-million dollar recording contract with Starr Records is…Bobby Moone!”
I clap a hand over my mouth to stifle the sob threatening to escape. But my efforts are no match for the strength of the despair I’ve kept bottled up for the past eight weeks. Tears flow in torrents, streaking the eye makeup I didn’t have time to remove before flipping on the television just in time to watch my entire universe vaporize. AC/DC blares from my iPhone seconds after his name is announced, and I decline the call from my sister Kelly, finally allowing the devastating reality to fully consume me, just as I suspected it would months ago.
Because my best friend Bobby is just that talented, and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world figured it out.
I did the right thing when he told me about the audition. I pretended to be excited for him. Hell, I’ve never faked an orgasm that hard before. But that’s what you’re supposed to do when you love someone, right? Show them support and encourage them to take advantage of opportunities they would never have considered because they’re comfortable singing covers in dingy and sticky dive bars for the same crowd of drunks and groupies every weekend.
My shoulders quake as the grief takes hold. I was front and center for all of those shows, cheering on the love of my life and his grungy, greasy band members, who prioritized booze and weed leaps and bounds over personal hygiene. But despite the distaste I had for his musical friends, I always showed up.
I always left alone, too.
Those stupid bitches, decked out in their cropped tops, insanely high heels, and skirts so short the hems grazed their ass cheeks always turned his head. He always chose one of them over me.
Not that he knew I was an option, but still! He didn’t have to morph into the stereotypical lead singer, banging girls two at a time. But aside from my inner turmoil, it was a great life for Bobby. He was idolized, pursued, and paid for his passions. No risk…well, except for STDs, but I’m sure he’s had enough sense to cover the microphone if you know what I mean.
I figured he’d eventually grow up and choose a real career for himself. I had faith he’d actually mature and start planning a future, one which would have me in it. Of course, that required certain scenarios to unfold…things that would really get the ball rolling. The groupies would need to find fresh meat to pounce, his druggie bandmates would need to get arrested for possession leaving the group to fall apart…was it really too much to hope for?
The guitar solo intro to Back in Black screams out of my iPhone speaker once again, and I swipe at my eyes and sniff long and hard before clicking Accept.
I can’t even speak at this point, so I let Kelly handle both the greeting and the subsequent berating. “Steph, holy fuck! I can’t believe he won the whole thing!”
And there it is. The catalyst for my hysterics. I’d thought I was there before, but this round of wails is on a completely different level than its predecessors; wall-shaking, window-shattering shrieks that can summon all the cats in my quiet condo complex.
“Oh, sweetie. I’m so sorry.” Kelly’s voice is soothing, but there isn’t much at this point that can give me any degree of comfort when my best friend, the man I adore with my entire heart and soul, is about to be ripped out of my life forever. Forget the skanky groupies at the gross bars he’s used to. In a few weeks, he’ll be in LA, the beautiful people capital of the universe. Forget cropped tops and illegal-length skirts. They just waltz around in string bikinis. And ridiculously high heels.
Okay, so I may watch a little too much reality television. Sue me. I’m going through a massive quarter-life crisis right now.
I need a donut. Actually, scratch that. I need at least a dozen.
My stomach growls in agreement. I’d missed dinner because I was late finishing a report for a meeting tomorrow, and then I had to make time to watch my world crumble. And again, food took a backseat. Now, in the aftermath of the collapse, my body has decided I’ve lost too much in one night and my appetite is now raging.
“Are you going to speak, Steph? Or are you just going to drown your sorrows in jelly and glaze?”
Shit, she knows me too well. My fingers are poised over the donut box, hovering over my absolute favorite variety. It’s big, doughy, and dripping with sticky sugary goodness that will gift me with a jolt of artificial happiness. I need this. Actually, I need about eleven more…
The first bite erases some of the sorrow. When the sweet strawberry flavor hits my tongue, my lips curl into a smile. It’s hard not to with this deliciousness exhilarating my senses. However, the sensation doesn’t last long…just enough for me to swallow that first bite. This is me, self-soothing.
A loud knock at the front door makes my eyes widen. Oh no, she didn’t. I place the donut on a napkin and lick the drops of jelly from my lips before I pull open the door. Kelly is standing in front of me, phone to her ear, eyebrow cocked. “Do you feel better now?”
I nod, swallowing a second bite. God bless my sister for coming to rescue me during my darkest hour. She can just watch me eat my way back to sanity in person instead of listening to me chomp away my agony. “Mmmph.”
“Good. Now, what’s your plan?”
I furrow my brow and stop mid-chew. “Plan?”
She pushes past me and tosses her handbag and coat on the couch. “Yes. What are you going to do next?”
“You mean, like climb Mount Everest? Or hop a plane to Vegas and put it all on black? Or—?”
“No, Steph. I don’t mean what are you going to do now to distract yourself from the loss of your precious Bobby. I mean, are you going to finally fess up and tell him how you really feel before you lose the chance forever?”
Oh. That. Yeah, somehow, I think the bucket list would have a better end result.
I lick the remaining glaze off of my fingertips and swipe away the lone tear rolling down my sticky cheek. “Um, I did that already! And he still left. There are no more chances, Steph. He made his decision, and I wasn’t it. Now, he’s gone. The world has spoken, and they picked him to be their new superstar. He’s not coming back to this life, or back to me.”
“Maybe he would if he knew there was something to come back to.” She points at the empty donut box. “And thankfully, I’m not talking about donuts.”
“What am I supposed to do? Go out to LA, find him, and profess my undying love to him? Again? Beg him to pick me over fame and fortune?”
“Why does there need to be a choice?”
“Because nobody has it all, Kelly!” I throw my hand into the air. “You can’t have everything. It goes against the laws of nature! He’s my best friend, and that’s all he’ll ever be.”
“Why don’t you feel like you deserve him?”
“I don’t feel…I can’t even…what the hell are you talking about?” I grab an open wine bottle and head toward the cabinet for a glass since my stash of sweets has been completely depleted. I’m obviously a very bad planner.
She grabs the bottle out of my hands. “No, seriously. You’re not taking a sip until you answer the question.”
“It’s a stupid question!”
Kelly sticks a hand on her hip. “Is it?”
“Yes!” I roll my eyes. “I don’t have self-esteem issues or anything like that.”
“Then why did you hang in the background, watching his life move forward, while yours stalled out? Why didn’t you accept that promotion and transfer to Florida last year? You’ve always wanted to move down there, but you stayed and made up some bullshit excuse why the job wasn’t for you. They threw a ton of money at you, and you threw it right back at them.”
“The humidity…” I run a hand through my flat-ironed hair. “It would have been hell on my hair.”
“Mm-hm. And what about moving abroad your senior year? You had a chance to study in Paris, your favorite city in the world, and you chose to stay here?”
“It was better for me to intern here so I could get used to working in Manhattan,” I hedge, averting my eyes. As if that would end her interrogation. The Spanish Inquisition was probably a cakewalk compared to this line of questioning.
Especially since I know what’s coming next.
“And what about Brendan?”
I rub the back of my neck and turn away.
“You left him standing in a church with an engagement ring and hundreds of people watching.” She taps a finger against her chin. “Refresh my memory about that one again?”
“Argh! Fine!” I grab the bottle from her outstretched arm and pull out the cork. “Bobby came back from his little ‘finding himself’ tour and decided he wanted to be with me! That’s why I ran out on Brendan!”
“But then he freaked out after you kissed him that morning.”
“He felt guilty for breaking up my engagement.” I don’t bother with the glass at this point; I just guzzle directly from the open bottle.
“You broke up your engagement, not him. He finally decided he wanted you after all of that time you spent pining for him. Then he changed his mind, ran off to LA, and you were left to pick up all of the pieces.”
“Okay sis, so why are you telling me to go out there? You’re not making a really good case for yourself right now. You want to see me get my heart stomped on again?”
Kelly pulls the bottle away from me and takes a long sip. “No. I think we can both agree that Bobby has had his head up his ass for longer than we care to acknowledge. But…” She smiles and squeezes my hand. “You still love him. And let’s face it, his life hasn’t exactly been easy. I think he’s afraid he can’t give you what you want.”
“Is it? Look at the evidence. After that whole mess with Brendan, you and Bobby stayed friends. You were there for him when he put his band together, you were the one who tried to keep him on the straight and narrow. You were the one who never judged when he went into his downward spirals. And you were the one who convinced him to chase his dream.”
“Yeah, so what does that all say? I’m a freaking doormat? A glutton for punishment?”
“No, moron. I think he sees how amazing you’ve been to him, and how successful you’ve been on your own, and it makes him nervous because he doesn’t think he can do the same for you and support you and your dreams in the same way. He’s scared. I think that’s part of the reason he went out to LA. You challenged him to do something with his life, and he did. Maybe for him, but maybe a bit for you, too. To make you proud or happy or some combination of the two?”
“Since when did you become a psychologist?” I grumble, dragging my finger tip around the bottom of the empty box, scooping up any remaining remnants of my sugar-fest.
“Please. With a head-case like you for a sister, you didn’t think I’d major in anything else, did you?” Kelly giggles and points to my bedroom. “Now get your ass in there and start packing. I’m sure we can get you on a red-eye tonight.”
I stare at her, my mouth agape. “You’re serious?”
“As nuclear war. So move it!”