“Where’s Dee?” I ask.
“She has class.” Rowan throws the last box of pancake mix into a cupboard before turning around. She leans back against the counter, her bottom lip red like she’s been gnawing on it all morning.
“We said good-bye last night,” Joel says from behind me, and when I look over my shoulder at him, he’s smirking at the memory. “She made sure I’d miss her.”
I scrunch my nose at his oversharing, and Mike chimes in with his hands full of wires, “I give it three days before you start whining like a baby.”
“I give it two,” I challenge, and Mike chuckles while he programs the TV remote.
“I give it one,” Joel confesses, and Adam laughs before finally reaching out and tugging Rowan into his lap. He nuzzles his nose into her hair, and her eyes close as she hugs his arms around her.
It takes another twenty minutes to get Adam to let her go, but when he finally does, Shawn practically sits on top of him to keep him on the bus. The roadies pile onto theirs; our bus driver, Driver, starts our titanic engine; and then we’re on the road and there’s no turning back.
The first venue is only a few hours north, in Baltimore, and we do an early afternoon soundcheck before breaking for dinner at a local hibachi place and then coming back to mingle with fans standing in line. We take pictures, sign autographs, and get to know all the kids who showed up over an hour before the doors are set to open. Then we head inside and hang out up on the shadowed private balcony to watch everyone file inside.
The first girls to enter practically sprint up to the barrier in front of the stage, securing their places front and center in hopes that they’ll catch Adam’s eye. They all dream that he’ll sing part of a song to them, which he probably will; or that he’ll reach out and touch their hands, which he might; or that he’ll invite them backstage, which he definitely won’t, not with Rowan waiting for him back home.
“Tonight’s going to be crazy,” Joel notes with his entire body stretched over the balcony rail as he watches the rows in front of the stage thicken from two, to three, to four, to five deep. “Was this one sold out?”
“Not as of this morning,” Shawn says, but as the rows continue multiplying, it becomes pretty obvious that more than a few tickets have sold between this morning and now.
“What are we doing after the show?” I ask, my stomach churning with nerves I wish I could control. Venturing into the pit after a show at Mayhem is one thing—most of the fans have seen the guys perform a hundred times and are used to having access to them—but performing out of town is different, and I have a feeling this crowd would eat us alive.
“We’ll hang out backstage until shit dies down,” Shawn says, calming my upset stomach. “Then we’ll head to the bus.”
My attention drifts to the pretty girls in the front row again, and I wonder if any of them will be coming back with us. Ever since my drunken night with Shawn, there’s been nothing to stand in the way of groupies and him after shows. I’ve made a habit of ending the night early just so I don’t have to see him go home with them.
“There will probably be some fans hanging out near the bus,” Mike adds, answering my unspoken question: Shawn won’t have to take them back to the bus, because they’ll already be there waiting, like hot and fresh delivery. “But it won’t be anything too crazy.”
AND HE’S RIGHT—it isn’t anything too crazy. After the show—a loud, manic, incredible first show of our tour—my tired muscles carry me across the parking lot and I realize that what is crazy is how groupies can dress in public without getting arrested. My eyes rove over tits hanging out of tops, asses hanging out of skirts, bellies on full display. A few of the girls have their boyfriends’ arms draped around their shoulders, but I’m guessing that isn’t going to stop them from slipping the guys their numbers, not if I’m judging by the desperate way they shouted at the band from the crowd tonight, or the panties that kept flying onstage.
I root a hair tie from my pocket and pull the thick of my long purple-and-black hair up into a knot on top of my head, casting a glance at Shawn while I fight with the flyaways. I wonder which hair color he’ll opt for tonight. Bottled red? Boxed brunette? Bleached blonde?
My eyes swing back to the group clustered in front of the bus, and I try to concentrate on only the fans—the ones with their tits and asses covered, the kids wearing gear they’ve purchased from the merchandise booth during other tours, the ones who look like a hot mess because they moshed their asses off inside and didn’t immediately run to the restroom afterward to straighten their hair extensions and reapply a metric ton of makeup.
Everyone applauds and whistles as soon as they spot us, with the groupies already pushing out their chests and playing with their hair. Adam uncomfortably hugs one who throws herself at him, and then he has to physically peel her hands from around his neck when she won’t let go. Joel sticks to one-armed hugs and his slip-away maneuver, intentionally throwing all of his attention at the fans who aren’t half-naked. Mike, the trooper that he is, intentionally intercepts the most desperate of the groupies when they won’t let go of Adam or Joel. And Shawn gives a lot of attention to the groupies too, but he looks much happier to be doing it.
I smile for pictures and sign things—and try not to glare at the blonde who’s busy taking a selfie with her lips on Shawn’s stubbled cheek.