When Leti taps me on the shoulder, I spin around and throw my arms around his neck.
“How great was that?”
He laughs and asks me if I need to be “spun around or something.”
“YES!” I shout, barely getting the word out before he whips me around in a circle. My feet leave the ground, and I squeal and feel like kissing him or finding religion or, hell, stripping naked and going back onstage that way.
We played some of the new stuff, and the crowd ate it up. Not that I doubted that they would, but to hear them applaud the songs I helped write . . . songs played by The Last Ones to Know . . . it was indescribable.
“Here,” Shawn says, handing me a water, and to keep myself from jumping into his arms instead of Leti’s, I take it and gulp it down.
“I told you there was nothing to be nervous about,” he says, flashing me that heartbreaker smile that makes my skipping heart remember exactly why it was so nervous. His dark band T-shirt is damp with sweat, his messy black hair soaked at the tips and curling at the base of his neck. His skin is flushed and probably as scorching hot as mine, and I wonder if I pressed up against him, if we’d both burst into flames.
“One more song!” The crowd’s chant gets louder, pulsing under the soles of my feet. “One more song!” My scalp prickles, sending electric waves down my spine. “One more song!” My guitar pick calls to me even though the pads of my fingers are numb. “One more song! One more song! One more song!”
“You ready?” Adam asks me, and I nod as I finish my water. I wipe my arm across my mouth and toss the bottle in a bin, and then my guitar is strapped heavily around my neck and I’m walking back onstage in a line. Joel, Mike, me, Shawn, Adam.
The Last Ones to Know.
THE GUYS AND I play one final crowd favorite before we exit the stage, followed by a deafening roar of screams and applause. I almost feel bad for the post-concert hangover we’re leaving those kids with, knowing that each one of them is going to be going through withdrawal for days.
But for now, there’s only mayhem as we march right into the thick of the crowd. Shawn tells me to keep close, but in the chaos, I get thrown into a cyclone of fans and pictures and autographs—more fans and pictures and autographs than I’ve ever dealt with in my life. Sometimes, the pictures are of me and the band. Sometimes, they’re of me and a few girls. Sometimes, they’re of just me and a guy. And most of the time, those guys offer to buy me a drink or take me home.
“After merch,” Shawn manages to shout to me over the noise while Mike and I are taking a picture with a fan, “we’ll go to the bus.” Our group has been broken up by the crowd, with Shawn and Adam being swallowed by the teeth of it.
I shake my head and shout back at him. “No way! I was promised like thirty freaking drinks at the bar!”
Some random guy hollers his approval, and I laugh. The best way to get fans to love you is to love them back, and I already do. Come to see them, and they’ll come to see you.
“Joel!” Adam shouts with Rowan pinned to his side. “Kit says we’re going to the bar afterward!”
Joel looks up from a girl who’s uselessly trying to give him her number, giving a thumbs-up. It takes two and a half more seconds, but he weaves away from her like some kind of seasoned ninja, and then he’s at my side, his blond Mohawk adding another few inches to his already solid six-foot-two.
“You doing okay?”
I beam up at him. “I’m doing awesome.”
“She’s a pro,” Mike says from my other side, and I beam up at him too.
Joel’s arm wraps tight around my shoulder to escort me through the crowd, and Mike helps part the sea to get me to the merchandise booth.
It’s near the bar and absolutely swarmed, with girls buying Dee-designed T-shirts and asking where and when they can buy my dress. There are chicks with blonde hair and pink hair and brown hair and blue hair, but when I finally see Shawn again, the girl hanging off of him is one with auburn hair that made it through the show in much better shape than mine. I’m covered in at least five layers of dried-on sweat, with my runny mascara probably making me look like I belong in Twisted Sister instead of The Last Ones to Know, and she’s standing over there looking like she just had her lip gloss applied by Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist.
While the band and I mingle with fans at the merchandise booth, she waits. When the house music starts and we make our way to the bar, she follows. When we sit, she sits.
“Can I buy you that drink now?” one of the guys from before asks me, and I stop scowling at the girl’s stupid catwalk-ready face long enough to answer him.
I should be celebrating right now. I should be happy and excited and not daydreaming about swinging some chick around by her hair. I turn a manufactured smile on the guy and tell him I’ll have a rum and Coke, and he buys it for me while telling me how awesome I was, how hot I look, how talented I am.
I soak it all in, sipping on the drink he buys me and a drink another guy buys me and a drink another guy buys me, and there might be another guy or two but I honestly lose count. I mingle with girl fans and guy fans and try to give some of my attention to everyone who wants it, which isn’t nearly half as many people as those who are competing to talk to Adam and Shawn.
An hour after the show has ended, the house music is pounding against my eardrums, the alcohol is thinning my blood, and Shawn makes eye contact with me from down the bar. Most of the fans have left or gone back on the floor, but the auburn-haired girl from before is still hanging off of him. She’s treating him like her own personal jungle gym, talking his damn face off, and I’m suddenly on my feet.