“Well, I care if I’m going to be seen with you,” Lizzie added.
“I’m sorry that I embarrass you that much. I guess you should have thought about that before you got in my van and started driving around the country with me!” I replied with more tone than I felt and turned around to go back to Riley.
“Calm down,” she said, rushing in front of me. “I have an idea; let me give you a makeover!”
Before I could answer, she grabbed my hand to pull me along behind her. “Come with me.” She smiled back at me. “With my special expertise, Hawkins will be like putty in your hands.”
We walked through the girls’ section, but passed all the cute t-shirts created under the Miley Cyrus line for the store. I went to reach out for one of them when Lizzie slapped my hand away. Walmart is known for being a family store, but that didn’t stop Lizzie from finding the most revealing, trashy clothes the store had to offer before we headed over to the dressing room.
Humoring her, I tried on top after top while grumbling in frustration. At times, she literally had to help me get out of some of those contraptions. I turned around to flatten out my dark, static-charged hair, but it only bounced back up. I tilted my head to examine myself in the mirror. Always noticing my big, brown eyes first, probably because I thought they were my best facial feature. I then glanced across my wide cheekbones and finally down to my small, pouty lips. The look was a little less alien and a little more like Victoria Posh Beckham without the snotty off-putting air of confidence or at least I’ve been told.
Lizzie brought me out of my inspection by handing me a purple mesh-like material. I assumed it was supposed to be a shirt, but it was barely enough material to cover a toddler let alone an adult. After pulling it on with some effort, Lizzie clapped her hands excitedly and announced, “This is the
Turning around to look in the mirror, I gasped. OMG. First, the purple was a bold purple, not mixed with anything, just straight out of the crayon box. Not that purple is a bad color or a bad color on me, but it helped the shirt scream, “Here I am.” Next, the shirt went loosely around my waist and then two sections went over each shoulder but the front was left completely open down to my bellybutton. A little golden clasp was the only thing that secured the material together in the front. The sight of it horrified me.
“No, this is
In the next second, she ripped the price tag off the shirt and said determinedly, “You
for my help.”
“What are you doing? I can’t just walk out there in this,” I hissed. “And anyway, I don’t remember asking you for anything.”
“Just wear this to the concert tonight,” she said innocently enough. “If it doesn’t get you noticed then you can go back to your sweat pants and tank tops.”
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll get noticed. It screams look at me, just not in a good way.” I hiked the shirt over my head.
“What are you doing?” Lizzie stopped me from pulling the shirt off. “You’re going to wear it to the concert
My mouth opened to argue, but Lizzie was insistent so, crossing my arms over my chest, I did my first walk of shame through the store to the checkout lines. The girl behind the cash register, who looked like I had personally offended her somehow, handed Lizzie back the change like we had cooties.
When we met up with Riley at the door, Lizzie smiled brightly and asked, “Doesn’t she look hot?”
He looked like he was trying very hard not to laugh. “Wow, I really like the contrast between the white of your stomach and that vibrant purple.”
“I am so not wearing this.” I glared at Lizzie in protest.
“What does Riley know, he’s gay,” she said, like she was really explaining something to me.
Wrapping my arms around myself, I headed towards the exit. After we left the store, I was already attracting looks from people in the parking lot, but I literally just grinned and beared it. I was only doing this for Lizzie until we reached the van. There was no way that I was going to wear this trashy top to tonight’s concert. I didn’t want to see J.T. Hawkins looking down at me full of disdain once again. I had had enough of his looks for a lifetime.
Once we settled back into the van, Lizzie was insistent on giving me a complete makeover with makeup included. Although I flat out refused, she ripped open her makeup bag like she was on a mission. Yawning, I watched Riley boot up his laptop beside me in the passenger seat. I was tired from all the traveling and decided to take a quick nap because we still had a few hours to kill until the concert started. I crawled in the back and lay down beside Lizzie, who without being asked, started applying mascara to my eye lashes. Giving up, I closed my eyes as she went to town with the makeup. I was just relieved that I had packed face wipes as one of my toiletries before I left the house. I was only brought out of my semi-asleep mode when I heard Riley mummer, “Oh, no.”
Lizzie stopped mid-swipe before we both looked up at him.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Riley turned around in his seat, and I noticed that he looked a few shades paler than his usual tan self when he said to me, “Don’t kill me.”
“What is it?” I asked, propping myself up on my elbow so I could give him my fullest attention.
“Remember when we were trying to find that exit?” He forced a smile.
“Vaguely, ah huh.” I nodded, not knowing where this was going.
“I wrote your review in an email because I was late submitting it and somewhere in all the confusion when I dropped the laptop,” he grimaced, “your review accidentally got sent. As in
Oh, my god
,” I groaned as Lizzie stifled a laugh. “You can email them back, right? You can fix it, right?”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “I’ll do it right now, don’t worry.”
I went to cover my face with my hands when Lizzie slapped them away. “Don’t…you’ll ruin your makeup.”
I looked up at her like, seriously?!
“Well, whatever, your face,” she clucked and rolled over on her side of the cot.
I was so embarrassed that anyone, outside the three of us, was going to read that review, especially my vivid account of my nightmarish elevator ride with J.T. Hawkins. Surely, this was the type of thing they would edit out. No one wanted to hear, what was it that I had said exactly? That he was a shadow of the man in person than when he was on stage and that I had felt sorry for him? Sighing to myself, I tugged the sheet over my face in humiliation. Hopefully someone will get a good laugh out of the review and then delete it. End of story. I was so exhausted from traveling that this last embarrassing blow put me out for the count.
I woke up to Lizzie snoring—or as she called it, “fluttering”—beside me while slowly gathering my bearings. Sitting up, I looked out the back window of the van where the curtains didn’t obscure my view of the outside. Noticing that the sun was far across the horizon, I rubbed my eyes and turned around to look up front at Riley. He was slumped down in his seat, with his computer still on his lap as he slept. I stumbled up to the driver’s seat and checked the time on the dashboard clock. It was already seven o’clock! The same time the opening act was scheduled to take the stage. If we didn’t hurry we were going to be really late for the concert which was the equivalent of Riley being really late for work. Frantically, I pulled on Riley’s arm until he stirred beside me. Then I started up the van and gunned it out of the parking lot.
“Oh, no.” He jolted up in his seat.
“Battle stations.” He quickly closed his laptop and dropped it onto the floor. He grabbed up the MapQuest directions as we sailed down the highway.
Lizzie finally stopped
in the back. A few seconds later, she outstretched her arms and yawned. “Are we late?”
“Yeah, that’s if Riley here still wants the job.” I glanced over at him. “Have we heard anything?”
“I haven’t had a chance to see if they emailed me back,” he explained. “I’ll check when I get a minute.”
Well, that opportunity never came because just five minutes later I saw red, white, and blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror. It would figure that the only time the van was cranked up to an uncharacteristic sixty-seven miles an hour that it would be in a fifty-five mile an hour zone. The officer glared down at me, and I could only imagine how I looked to him while still dressed in the scanty purple top. Thankfully, Lizzie was there to dazzle the officer with her super flirting abilities and we were let off with only a warning. Still, an unspoken tension was building among everyone in the van as I drove along at the snail pace of fifty-five miles an hour to a concert we were already late for.
It was eight o’clock when we finally reached the venue. The sun was setting behind us as we made our way down the packed lawn full of people who were already waiting for the band to take the stage. We held out our tickets to the staff before walking down the aisle to pavilion seating next to the stage. Stopping four rows back from the stage, Riley checked his ticket and waved for us to follow behind him. We inched down the row when suddenly the crowd erupted into loud screams as the band took the stage. Camera lights were flashing around us like it was the Fourth of July. After finding our seats, I looked over at Riley and Lizzie on either side of me, smiling at each of them because we had made it to the show on time.
Hawkins gazed back and forth at the fans standing in the orchestra pit in front of him. I had seen the gaze before, calling it the drug he took each night in my silly review. I watched him look out across the crowd once more before his eyes suddenly locked with mine. I watched those blue eyes suddenly turn dark and menacing. My heart raced when his eyes stayed fixed on mine. Stepping backwards towards the drums, where a crew member waited with his guitar, he curled his lip matching the spiteful expression in his eyes. He pulled his eyes away from me long enough to grab his guitar, giving me a second to exchange a panicked look with Riley. Surely, they didn’t post the review on their website. It was unprofessional. It was arrogant. It was a stream of babble over my bruised ego.
Hawkins swung his guitar over his shoulder and hit the first chord as the lights went up above him, but something was different in his demeanor tonight. I wasn’t quite sure what it was. It didn’t fully hit me until he dramatically strutted back and forth across the stage way too many times to be inspired by anything but anger and resentment. I covered my mouth in shock as it all unraveled before me. Lizzie, who was dancing beside me, seemed to be the only one of us who hadn’t noticed Hawkins was enraged. He finally stopped strutting across the stage while the music continued as usual in the background. He glared down at me for such a long time that I knew, he knew, what I had written. Riley dropped to his seat beside me with dread. Hawkins continued to hit the same chord on his guitar over and over again while glaring down at me. He continued to do this for so long that the other band members started to look around at each other in confusion.
Lizzie tugged at my arm and exclaimed, “He’s looking at you!” Peeling my eyes away from the hypnotic stare of Hawkins, I looked over at Lizzie in bafflement. Was she really that clueless? Lizzie gave me a small, smug smile and hooted, “Oh, yeah.”
I knew she thought somehow the attention I was receiving was about her makeover which reminded me to tug at the JLo monstrosity. After making his point, Hawkins wandered over to the microphone to sing, never giving me a second glance throughout the rest of the night. Not that I personally cared, but with Riley involved, I knew that this might mean something else for him entirely. He could get fired. I was still quietly damning my big mouth as the lights went down at the end of the show.
“That’s my cue.” Lizzie flashed her backstage pass, which was supposed to be used for her to visit Ryan backstage—until she met Warren last night. I was stunned for a moment as I contemplated the consequences that a clearly clueless Lizzie may encounter with Hawkins backstage since he couldn’t take his frustration out on me. Before I could reach out to grab her, she had taken off down the aisle. Riley and I exchanged a quick look of panic before I took off after her. The packed crowd made it hard to navigate my way down the aisle as I bumped into people to the left and right of me who were also trying to exit the arena.
“Watch it!” a girl shouted over her shoulder at me after I stumbled into her. “Nice shirt,” she mumbled sarcastically.
I stood up on my tip toes and looked down the aisle for Lizzie, but I couldn’t see her. I was finally freed from the pack when I reached the vendors on the outskirts of the lower pavilion. I turned towards the wall to my left that extended down from the stage to a door that was surrounded by three large bodyguards. They were equivalent in size to that of James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Casey Hampton from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
My shoulders slumped when I realized that Lizzie was already backstage. There would be no quick intervention as I had hoped. I thought about my “rules,” one of them being no backstage visits, while I paced back and forth for a minute. I watched through the corner of my eye as the three bodyguards zeroed in on my strange behavior. Shaking my head, I remembered the pure spite in Hawkins’ expression as he glared down at me from the stage. I then visualized Lizzie running back to us in tears and decided that some things were just more important than my rules.
I headed over to James Harrison’s look-alike and before he could even open his mouth I held up the extra backstage pass. I didn’t get frisked, since let’s face it, where was I going to hide anything in this outfit? After shutting the door behind me, I froze.
“I wasn’t invited, I wasn’t invited,” I mumbled like a nut to myself before I remembered why I came here in the first place, Lizzie.
I wrapped the pass around my neck to deter any questions and frankly because it added more coverage over my shirt. I felt lost in the labyrinth of the backstage filled with crew members that were rushing around in every direction. Just then someone opened the door behind me. It was the bodyguard I dubbed as Woodley. He glanced over his shoulder to look at me quizzically for a second before he veered down a pathway to the right. Wherever there is a guard there needed to be a body so I decided to follow behind him.