“Yeah, Trey says they’re really good… Spinnerbait, I think they’re called.”
“Hate Spinnerbait,” I said automatically.
I looked at him, realizing I’d been in a complete fog for this entire conversation. “Oh, nothing. I just, um, I heard that band kind of sucked.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Wow. Really? Trey says they’re great.”
“Oh, well,” I said quickly. “I’m sure he knows better than me.”
“I doubt that.” He leaned across the counter and kissed me. “I’ll call you tonight, okay?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
As he left, the two bridesmaids eyed me appreciatively, as if I was due respect simply because such a guy was with me. But for some reason I was distracted, ringing up Mrs. Jameson’s hair streaking as a bikini wax and then charging her fifty bucks instead of five for some cuticle cream. At least it was almost time to go home.
I was getting into my car when I heard someone tap on the passenger window. I looked up: it was Lucas. “Hey Remy,” he said, when I rolled down the window. “Can you give me a ride home? Dex already left with the van and otherwise I have to hoof it.”
“Sure,” I said, even though I was already running late. I was supposed to pick up Lissa, and the yellow house was entirely in the other direction. But it wasn’t like I could just leave him there.
He climbed in, then immediately began to fiddle with the radio as I backed out of my parking spot. This, at one point, would have been grounds for instant ejection, but I let it slide because I was in a decent mood. “What CDs you got?” he asked, flipping past my main preset to the lower end of the dial and cranking up some experimental-sounding, shrieking-ish noise on the college radio station.
“They’re in the glove box,” I said, pointing. He opened it up and shuffled through them-they had been arranged alphabetically, but only because I’d had some extra time when stuck in a traffic jam a few days earlier. He kept making clucking noises, low sighs, and mumbles. Apparently my collection, like my presets, wasn’t up to his standards. But I had no need to impress Lucas. Thanks to Dexter I knew not only that his given name was Archibald, but also that in high school he’d had long hair and played in a metal band called Residew. Apparently there was only one picture existing of Lucas wailing on his keyboard in full-hair-sprayed mode, and Dexter had it.
“So,” I said, feeling the need to mess with him a bit anyway, “I hear Spinnerbait’s playing tonight.”
He jerked his head around and looked at me. “Where?”
“Murray’s,” I told him as we cruised through a yellow light.
“Across town, by the university. It’s a pretty big place.” I could see him in my peripheral vision; he was gnawing on the cuff of his shirt, looking irritated.
“Hate Spinnerbait,” he grumbled. “Bunch of poser rock assholes. Totally manufactured sound, and their fans are a bunch of pretty-boy, frat-a-tat blondies with good hair driving Daddy’s car with no taste whatsoever. ”
“Ouch,” I said, unable to help but notice this description, while harsh, did somewhat describe Trey, Paul’s best friend, as well as Paul himself, if you didn’t know him better. Which, of course, I did.
“Well, this is big news,” Lucas said as I turned onto their street. “But not as big as what else is going on.”
“What’s that?” I said, immediately flashing back to the van speeding out of Mayor’s Village earlier.
He glanced over at me, and I could tell by his face he was weighing whether it was even my business. “High-level band stuff,” he said cryptically. “We’re on the brink. Basically.”
“Really,” I said. “The brink of what?”
He shrugged as I slowed down, the yellow house coming up in sight. I could see Ted and Scary Mary in the front yard, sitting in lawn chairs: she had her feet in his lap, and they were sharing a box of Twinkies. “Rubber Records wants to meet with us. We’re going up to D.C. next week, to you know, talk to them.”
“Wow,” I said, navigating my way into the driveway, where the van was parked at an angle. Ted looked over at us, mildly interested, and Mary waved as Lucas popped open his door and got out. “That’s great.”
“Get this,” he yelled at Ted. “Spinnerbait’s playing tonight.”
“Hate Spinnerbait!” Mary said.
“Where at?” Ted asked as Lucas shut my door and walked around the front of the car.
“Thanks for the ride,” he said, knocking his hand on my half-open window. “I appreciate it.”
“Man, what is that all about?” Ted yelled. “They’re invading our territory!”
“It’s a turf war!” Lucas said back, and they both laughed.
He started to walk away, but I beeped the horn, and he turned around. “Hey, Lucas.”
“Yeah?” He took a couple of steps back toward me.
“Good luck with everything,” I said, then felt somewhat awkward, seeing that I hardly knew him. Still, for some reason I needed to say something. “I mean, good luck to you guys.”
“Yeah,” he said, shrugging. “We’ll see how it goes.”
As I pulled out, he was dragging up a milk crate to join Mary and Ted’s outdoor picnic as Ted tossed him a Twinkie. I glanced back one last time at the house, where I could see Monkey sitting in the doorway, panting. I wondered where Dexter was, then reminded myself that it wasn’t my concern any longer. But if he’d been home, he probably would have come out and said hello to me. Just because we were friends.
I started down the street, easing to a slow stop at the stop sign. In my rearview, I could see Ted, Mary, and Lucas still sitting there, talking, but now Dexter was with them, crouching down next to the makeshift table, unwrapping a Twinkie while Monkey circled them, tail wagging. They were all talking, and for a split second I felt a pang, as if I was missing out on something. Weird. Then, the car behind me beeped, impatient, and I jerked myself back to reality, shaking off this fog and moving forward again.
When I got home, the house was quiet. My mother was out of town, at a writers’ conference she attended every August, where she taught workshops to aspiring romance novelists, soaking up buckets of admiration for three days and two nights in the Florida Keys. As for Chris, he was basically living and sleeping at Jennifer Anne’s, where the bread wasn’t all butts and he could eat his breakfast staring at prints of cheerful flower gardens instead of fifteen-pound neoclassic breasts. Normally I liked having the house to myself, but things were still awkward with me and Don, so I’d taken Lissa up on her offer of sleeping at her house for the weekend, informing Don of my decision with a formal note I wedged under the growing pyramid of empty Ensure cans on the kitchen table.