Everyone scattered when they finished soundcheck, knowing they had about an hour before the doors opened at the venue. Justin talked Chris into a game of Horse in the bus parking lot. They had made it to “R” when Brad turned up.
“Where is everybody?”
“Sue’s showing Darryl Twitter and Tom’s with Mark.” Justin shot a basket.
“Um, excuse me,” an unfamiliar voice piped up.
Chris and Justin stopped playing ball and found the guy from the merch table near the front of the bus. He wore tight black jeans tucked into red cowboy boots and a red leather jacket circa Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video. Seeing him up close, Justin gained a special appreciation for the man’s puffy pompadour mullet hairstyle. Justin and Chris broke into big grins.
“Yeah?” Brad answered.
“Hi, um, I’m supposed to be on the list? But they say I’m not.”
Justin took a few steps forward. “You’re Mike, right? From before?”
“Yeah! Sue told you about me?”
“Oh, yeah.” Justin nodded.
“She’s been talking about you all afternoon.” With the basketball tucked under his arm, Chris walked over and shook Mike’s hand.
Mike perked up as Justin turned his head to hide a laugh. Part of him thought he should offer the guy some free advice about trying too hard. A bigger part wanted to have some fun at Sue’s expense. And he knew Chris would go along with it.
“She has?” Brad asked.
“Totally, man. She’s gonna be psyched to see you,” Justin said to Mike.
“It must be a mistake that you’re not on the list.” Chris patted Mike’s shoulder. “Come on, I’ll bring you in and get you a pass and everything.”
“Sue’s working the merch table though, so she might not be able to hang out right away,” Justin added. No need to go too hard on the woman.
“But you know where it is. You can chill there while she works.” Chris led Mike in the backdoor. As soon as the door closed behind them Justin burst into laughter.
“Sue met a guy?” Brad asked, arms crossed.
“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t put his name on the list on purpose.”
“But she wanted to?”
“She was messing with Chris, but then the guy kept coming back. He’s really bad at flirting.”
“So she felt bad for him?”
“I don’t know.” Justin gave Brad a confused look. “When we kicked him out for soundcheck, Chris asked him if he was gonna be here tonight and right in front of Sue he said ‘she’ll put your name on the list.’”
“And she agreed?”
“Not really, she just smiled and kept walking.” Justin shrugged. “The guy’s sister is dating the bartender so he really doesn’t need to be on our list.”
“So she’s not interested in him.”
“What does it matter?” Justin asked.
“Just curious.” Brad shrugged.
“You sure that’s the right word?” He studied his friend closely. The night they had first met Sue there had been plenty of jokes about the hot chick in the tight jeans. Justin thought nothing of it until Sue flew to Montreal. Brad came back from meeting with her on a high Justin hadn’t seen since they signed their record deal. He’d been watching Brad ever since.
“Positive.” Brad glowered.
Justin decided to call his friend’s bluff. “Let’s go in and watch the mayhem unfold.”
Justin and Brad caught up with them as Chris led Mike out to surprise Sue. Mike seemed excited and asked a million questions about her.
“I don’t think she’s seeing anyone, man.” Chris clapped a hand on Mike’s shoulder.
“How often does she travel?” Mike asked.
“Oh, she’s practically in a new city every day.”
“Do you think she’s open to a long distance relationship?”
“I’m sure she’d consider it for the right guy.” Chris grinned and gave him a sideways punch.
“Cool. Any tips on what I should talk to her about?”
“Wow, that one’s tough. I don’t know her that well.”
Knowing that Chris didn’t care how awkward things were about to get, Justin decided to throw the guy a bone. “You should talk about work. What do you do for a living?”
“What?” Mike asked, looking over his shoulder.
Justin gave Mike a quick wave. “Your job, what do you do?”
“I’m a furniture salesman.”
Chris openly snickered.
“Talk to her about that.” Justin nodded.
“Yeah, why not?”
Brad flicked Justin in the back of the head.
Justin didn’t respond verbally, but quickly turned and punched Brad in the shoulder.
Brad mouthed “Ow” to him.
Justin gave him a wide-eyed nod and went back to the conversation with Mike and Chris.
“Do you think I should offer her a discount in my store? It might make her want to come back sooner, right?” Mike asked with a guffaw.
“Oh, sure, chicks love shit like that.” Chris offered Mike a fist bump. “Sue!” he boomed when they were all in view of the merch table.
Justin left Brad looking annoyed at the back of the pack. He and Chris maneuvered so that they were in the front of everyone. When Sue waved, Chris and Justin each took a step away from the other to let Mike come forward. The smile on Sue’s face immediately fell. It took her a moment to regain her composure.
She obviously forced enthusiasm. “You made it!”
“Yeah! Lucky for me these guys were outside!” Mike seemed a little too happy to have been acknowledged.
“Yeah, Suzy, you forgot to put Mike on the list.” Chris’s grin got impossibly wide.
“Did I? Wow. Well. Sorry about that. But you made it in anyway.”
“Yeah, Chris brought me in and set me up with this pass.” Mike held up the all access badge. “So I can follow you around all night. Isn’t that great?”
“Oh. Yeah. Wonderful.” While Mike admired his pass Sue threw the pen she had been holding at Justin and managed to get him in the forehead.
“Ow!” Justin rubbed his head.
“Yeah, uh-” Mike looked around.
“Brad.” Brad waved. “Listen, Sue has to finish getting this stuff set up. Why don’t I give you a tour backstage.”
Sue mouthed “Thank you” to Brad. He gave her a subtle nod in response. “You can come back out here and hang with her when we hit the stage.”
Sue immediately narrowed her eyes and threw Brad a glare to rival the one she had given Chris a moment before. Brad grinned but led Mike away. Justin and Chris followed, but Sue called them back.
“Hey, Chris? Justin? Hang on a sec.”
“Sure.” Justin gave her a grin, ready to accept the scolding he had earned.
Chris rolled his eyes, but followed.
Sue leaned on the merch table, her chin on her fist. “You guys really took to Mike, huh?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Chris said.
“Well, listen, I really appreciate you doing that for me.”
“Uh oh,” Justin said.
“Yeah. Uh oh is right.” Sue leaned even further forward.
“Aw, come on, Sue.” Justin patted her shoulder. “This is normal razzing. We’d do this to Tom.”
“Yeah, because Tom is too distracted to ever do anything about it. I, however, can multitask. Set up an interview with one hand, lure a few cute, bi-curious ladies far, far away from you with the other.”
Justin laughed. “You should be more open minded, Suzy. This guy could be the great love of your life.”
“Oh, I’m sure.” Sue’s cell phone went off with a text message. “Saved by the bell,” she muttered, shaking her head. “Tom needs you guys backstage. I guess I’ll have to finish threatening you later.”
“Chin up, Sexy Sue,” Justin said as he jogged off. “I bet he doesn’t last past ten.”