Jess appeared next to my elbow. “Is it time to go yet?” she asked me.
“Where have you been?” Chloe said.
“I had to get something from the car,” Jess said flatly.
“Remy, hey, there you are.” John Miller popped up beside me. “You seen Scarlett?”
“She was over by the door last I saw her.”
He jerked his head around, eyes scanning the wall. Then he started waving his arms. “Scarlett! Over here!”
Scarlett looked up, saw us, and smiled in a way that made me think I’d been right on in assuming she’d been hoping to leave in-conspicuously. But John Miller was waving her over, oblivious, so she had no choice but to work her way through the crowd to us.
“You were great,” she said to John Miller, who beamed. “Really good.”
“We’re usually a lot tighter,” John Miller told her with a bit of a swagger, “but Ted was off tonight. He was late for the last practice, didn’t know the new arrangements.”
Scarlett nodded and glanced around her. The crowd at the bar was thickening, now about three deep, and people kept jostling us.
Lucas came up behind John Miller and managed to flick him on the back of the head while balancing two beers. “Hey, in case you, you know, have a minute, we’re talking to this A &R woman over here and she’s probably getting us a great gig in D.C. if, you know, you care in the least. ”
John Miller rubbed the back of his head. “D.C.? Really?”
“That big theater, the one where we saw Spinnerbait that time.” Lucas grimaced. “Hate Spinnerbait, though.”
“Hate Spinnerbait,” John Miller agreed, taking one of the beers. “That’s a band,” he explained to Scarlett.
“Ah,” she said.
“Come on,” Lucas said. “She needs to talk to all of us. This could be big, man.”
“I’ll be back in a minute,” John Miller said to Scarlett, squeezing her arm. “This is just, you know, official band business. Management decisions and all that.”
“Right,” Scarlett said as he followed Lucas over to the booth, where Ted made room for both of them. I could see Dexter sitting in the corner, against the wall, folding a matchbook and listening intently as Arianna Moss spoke.
“Poor you,” Chloe said to Scarlett. “He’s obsessed.”
“He’s very nice,” Scarlett said.
“He’s pathetic.” Chloe hopped off the barstool. “I’m going to the bathroom. You coming?”
I shook my head. She bumped a couple of guys aside and disappeared into the crowd. As the bodies around us shifted I could catch the occasional glance of Dexter. He looked like he was explaining something while Arianna Moss nodded her head, taking a sip of her beer. Ted and Lucas were talking, and John Miller seemed totally distracted, glancing over at us every few seconds to make sure Scarlett hadn’t made a break for it.
“John Miller’s very nice,” I said, feeling obligated to do so just because he kept looking at me.
“He is,” Scarlett agreed. “A little young for me, though. I’m not sure he’s really parent material, if you know what I mean.”
I wanted to tell her that this, at least in my experience, wasn’t as big of a factor in a relationship as you’d think, but decided against it.
“So how long have you been dating Dexter?” she asked me.
“Not long.” I glanced over again at the booth. Dexter was waving his hands around while Arianna Moss laughed, lighting a cigarette. You would have thought they were on a date. If you didn’t know better.
“He seems really great,” she said. “Sweet. And funny.”
I nodded. “Yeah. He is.”
Ted suddenly appeared next to me, bursting through a crowd of large girls in tight shirts who seemed to be celebrating a bach elorette: one of them was wearing a veil, the rest Barbie hats. “Two beers!” he shouted at the bartender in his typical vexed way, then stood there and seethed for a second before noticing us.
“How’s it going?” I asked him.
He glared back at the booth. “Fine. Dexter will probably be in her pants within the hour, not that it’s gonna help the band any.”
Scarlett looked at me, raising her eyebrows. I said, “Really.”
“Well,” he shrugged, as if only now realizing that maybe I wasn’t the best person to say this to. Not that it stopped him: this was Ted, after all. “It’s just how he is, you know. He hooks up, things end badly, and we’re out a gig, or a place to live, or a hundred bucks in grocery money. He always does this.”
Now, standing there, I felt so stupid I was sure it showed on my face, if that was possible. I picked up Chloe’s drink-now all ice-and took a gulp from it, just to do something.
“The point is,” he growled as the beers were dropped in front of him, “if we’re going to work as a group, we have to think as a group. Period.”
And then he was gone, bumping the girls behind us hard enough to trigger a wave of curse words and lewd gestures. I was stuck there with Scarlett, looking like Band Floozy Number Five.
“Well,” Scarlett said uneasily. “I’m sure he didn’t really mean that.”
I hated that she felt sorry for me. It was even worse than feeling sorry for myself, but not by much. I turned my back to the booth-damned if I cared what happened over there now-and sat back on the stool, crossing my legs. “Whatever,” I told her. “It’s not like I don’t know the deal about Dexter.”
I picked up Chloe’s straw, twisting it between my fingers. “Just between you and me,” I said, “it’s kind of why I picked him in the first place. I mean, I’m off to school in the fall. I can’t have any big commitments. That’s why it’s perfect, you know. A set ending. No complications.”
“Right,” she said, steadying herself as a stray elbow bumped her from behind.
“I mean, God. All relationships should be this easy, you know? Find a cute guy in June, have fun till August, leave scot-free in September.” This was so easy to say, I realized, that it had to be the truth. Wasn’t this always what I’d said about Jonathan, and any other of my seasonal boyfriends? Of course this wasn’t different.
She nodded, but something in her face told me she wasn’t the kind of girl to believe this, much less do it herself. But then again, she had a kid. It was different when other people were at stake. I mean, in normal families.