Los Angeles, 1997
Breaking away from the kiss, John’s head felt heavy. His mind was clouded by misty figures, all approaching him. Straddling him. Laying him down and mounting him.
He staggered to his feet, immediately fingering his dressing gown. John felt his cheeks heat, two sets of beady eyes roaming him. The tent in his boxers that they didn’t know his running mind had caused. His wilder days. His Wild Boy days. His coke fuelled party days in New York. Two Supergroups full of icons. An eighteen year old baby mama would never truly suffice, quench that thirst. Diminish that hunger.
Neither would the stick thin woman submerged in the pink fluff that was her bed, four pillars deeming the thing her own private castle. He was the jester, the newbie who was working his way up. Sleeping his way to the top. Today was the first time they had lain together in her castle, the first time his presence had muted the flaming pinks and golds that were splashed on the walls. The leopard print he once loved was now everywhere, choking him and blinding him all at once.
“John?” There was a ruffle of fabric from behind him, she hadn’t taken off her night gown. “Is everything okay?”
John paused, calloused fingers already surpassing halfway to the diamond encrusted doorknob. He gulped, it was audible, tearing his eyes, no glasses were to be worn around her yet, from it as he pivoted round. John fought with himself to bring his fingers to his lips to know at them: the ultimate tell that he was nervous. But she didn’t know that, yet.
“John? What’s wrong?”
Biting into his bottom lip, John shuffled his way through the fluffy cream carpet and plopped back down on the edge of the queen sized bed.
Surely the would be Queen Of His Universe should have a king size bed, maximum space for a the two of them and for… other things.
Things they were still yet to do. Things he didn’t dare to do.
He stiffened, her manicured and tanned hands had found his shoulders but she wasn’t massaging them. Just touching, with a light and barely there grip. John tried not to react to her, he let his shoulders slump and head tip down. Running his fingers through his scarily short hair, the crunchy mullet was long gone and it was set in stone to never return, he groaned.
“John, what is it?”
Her dainty fingertip was invading his personal bubble, searching for the chin that he was burying away. She found it though, circled it, bought it up to meet her icy gaze.
He stuttered and stumbled a little, a few moments of intense looks and John felt it in his core. The heat, he couldn’t escape it. The guilt, it radiated from him. It was burning him up. Ready or not.
She knew exactly what he was thinking.
Crucial minutes of we promised to be honest and it’s in your past, you can’t change it and neither can I style stuff that felt incredibly meaningless later and John was still being choked by his traitorous thoughts.
“Let’s get it out in the open, John.” Her voice was taught, not exactly inviting. John questioned why he thought she would be more inviting.
“Okay” he breathed, turning so he could see her face. An arduous task.
“How many, John?”
He dropped his gaze, it fell straight to his clammy hands. He cursed himself, this wasn’t like him, the nervous shakes and the pitiful jitters. That was Nigel talking. If he was even still there, buried somewhere not too deep inside.
He was John Fucking Taylor, once the sexiest man on the planet: a title he prided his arrogant, powder fuelled self with for a decade. But that’s over now. All of it. Nobody wanted him, not like that anymore.
Except her, right?
“I- I, uh.”
“John, look at me.” It was harsh but John figured he had it coming.
“How many women, John?”
“Over a hundred” he muttered, eyes falling to the plush carpet that was crunching under his bare feet, “and… and um” he trailed off.
John felt the figure stiffen, her hands were cold on him.
“And?” She parroted.
Swallowing his pride, he cocked his head. Inhaled a deep breath and released it shakily; running a hand through the shortest hair of his life. He fingered his goatee, already sick of it.
“Almost… one man” it dropped off of his lips like a curse, he couldn’t hold his gaze.
“Please, please say something… I mean, I, oh god, I… you think I’m a—”
She steamrolled straight over him.
“Who?” Razor sharp, pouncing like a Tiger Tiger.
John stopped his rambling. He was caught, shivering at the thought of being captured in that particular tuna net. His shoulders quaked and his cheeks were a flush scarlet, he wouldn’t get upset. He just couldn’t. She wasn’t here to play psychiatrist, yet.
Trying to compose himself, he whispered, “Dunno.”
Why should she even be surprised?
“I spent… uh, you know, fourteen years drinking” his shuddered, the savoured whisky taste making his throat dry, “years… on coke. There’s not much chance that I, you know, would… um, would remember.”
Another long, excruciating silence.
“Can’t you tell me who it could be?”
“What, like, the contenders?” He internally cursed, how idiotic.
“Well yeah,” she fell back into the mattress, a blonde mish mash of hair surrounding her.
John did the same, flopping onto his back so they were side by side although he didn’t look at her. He couldn’t. He focused his gaze on the silver chandelier dangling above him, the way in which the glimmering stones caught the light as it crept in through the window. It was dizzying somehow. He screwed his chocolate browns shut.
“John, we said no secrets and I don’t want you being happy. It’s obvious that this is hurting you, whatever the hell this is.” She began, a strange softness trying to creep into her tone. “Let me help you.”
John figured that there wasn’t much more to lose. They wanted an honest, true relationship. Recovering addicts wanted to live together, breathe the same sober air. He couldn’t hide his notorious past, even if she didn’t really know anything about him until now. He didn’t know why he would want too.
“Let’s talk, John.”
She was supposed to become the new Queen Of His Universe. How could he hide?
Grinding his head to one side, they were inches apart. Reaching forward, his shaky hand fingered her hair and tugged her over. They didn’t kiss, their noses didn’t touch but there she was: right there; maintaining distance. Why he didn’t lean in was beyond him. The nerves, the lack of courage in his veins, perhaps.
“Over a hundred women” John gulped, throat suddenly drier than the ‘desert’ in Union Of The Snake, “and… almost one man, Gela. Almost one man.”