It's an accident – literally. She's not a fan, not really (although she has heard the singles and grudgingly accepts – only in private, to herself – that he isn't half bad) but her roommate is, and since the already unstoppable fan that Erin is becomes about a thousand percent more unstoppable upon learning of Mindy's history with a certain Drake Parker, there really isn't a conceivable way to get out of it.
It's at a ballroom in Santa Monica, a relatively small venue with festival seating. Erin, of course, wants to be right up front and so they file in at the first possible moment they can, grabbing a primo spot right in front of the stage. For two hours, they clutch the steel bars separating the floor from the stage, fiercely defending their spots as more and more people appear. As the floor fills up and her body space dwindles, Mindy vows to herself to extract revenge.
The show starts surprisingly on time, with a local rock band opening the show. When Drake finally comes onstage, the crowd erupts in noise. The music starts and the shoving begins – pushed and pulled within an inch of her life, Mindy reaches the edges of her composure and drags Erin to the edge of the crowd.
"Mindy, I was right in front of him!" Erin whines in her ear. "And I wanted to see if I could get a guitar pick."
"It was for your own good." Mindy rolls her eyes and motions to the bar. "I need a drink."
The show passes quickly with the help of a few beers, and to her halfhearted surprise, the music isn't all that horrible to listen to. Mindy fends off a few unwanted, drunken advances, but by the time the show ends, she's actually in a pretty good mood.
"Omigod, that was amazing! Wasn't it amazing?!" Erin starts jumping up and down and generally emulating a six-year-old as soon as Mindy finds her in the crowd. "It was. Totally a-ma-zing. Right?"
"It wasn't bad." Mindy laughs, staggering backwards as Erin pokes her mercilessly. "Okay, okay, it was amazing. Happy?"
"Very," says Erin. "I can't believe you used to know him."
Mindy takes a breath. "I dated his brother for awhile. He and I didn't exactly get along."
"How could you not get along with Drake Parker?" Erin asks, shaking her head. "I wonder about you sometimes." Mindy simply swallows hard and shrugs.
Traffic going home is murder. They get stuck trying to get out of the parking lot. "We should've waited," Erin says, looking at the long line of cars dismally. "We're not getting out of here anytime soon."
Mindy concentrates on her touchy, ancient car, which has a habit of freaking out on her when breaking and accelerating over and over like this. Sure enough, as she presses the gas to inch forward another few feet, the brakes stick and she rear ends the car in front of her. "Shit. Shit, shit, shit!"
Erin jerks up from her half-asleep stupor and blinks. "What, what? Oh, Jesus."
Feeling her night souring rather quickly, Mindy shuts off the ignition and climbs out of the car, feeling her heart drop to her feet as the driver ahead of her does the same. "Drake?"
Turning, Drake Parker does a completely obvious double-take, face breaking out into a wide grin. "No way."
"Oh my…God!" Erin bursts out of the car like a tidal wave, nearly tripping over Drake's crumpled bumper in her haste to reach him. "It's really you, omigod! Mindy told me she knew you but I didn't really believe her but I don't know why I didn't cuz why would she lie about something like that? She doesn't even like your music – " Erin breaks off abruptly, wincing, and Drake's grin widens. "Sorry, um, I'm Erin and you're amazing and I'm gonna shut up now."
"I'm sorry," Mindy says, as Erin retreats behind her back. "The brakes on my car stuck – I have insurance."
"I'm thinking that's not our biggest problem right now," Drake replies, stepping over his fallen bumper gingerly. Mindy swivels her head to see people in the cars around them blatantly staring and pointing. She hears horns start to honk and people emerging from their cars as Drake waves sheepishly. "Walk."
"Walk," Drake says insistently, impatience flitting across his face. Jerking his head back toward the ballroom, he pushes at her arm. "Unless you want to be on Extra tonight, move your ass."
Bristling, Mindy narrows her eyes and heads for the ballroom, cursing under her breath. Beside her, Erin keeps a running litany of speech. "Oh my God, he's even hotter in person. Can you get me his phone number? Do you think he seemed happy to see you? Omigod, maybe – maybe he and I could date and you can get back together with his brother and that'll be awesome!"
"Erin!" Mindy hisses. "Chill!"
"Okay, okay." Erin nods and bends across Mindy to sneak a look at Drake, more than likely hearing every word from the look on his face. "I feel you. We're cool."
Drake pulls them into the main lobby of the ballroom, quickly shutting the door behind them. "Whew." A few employees, sweeping the floor, jump a foot in the air and stare at him, gobsmacked. "Uh, hey. Mind if I lock this?" Outside, Mindy can see people gathering at the double doors, excited chattering and yelling echoing through the wood and glass.
"Uh, no, no." One of the employees, an older woman, comes forward with a set of keys. Fitting one into the lock, Mindy hears a deadbolt slide into place.
"Is it always this crazy?" Erin asks, a glint of something in her eyes. Outside, people start to jump up and down in an effort to see through the high windows at the top of the doors.
"Uh, yeah," Drake replies distractedly. Pulling out a cell phone, he types out a text message and sends it, glancing up at Mindy with one eyebrow raised. "Backup should be on its way."
Mindy takes a breath, head spinning. "What about the cars? They're stuck in the middle of the parking lot."
Drake shrugs. "Somebody will move them."
"Well how are we supposed to get home?" she goes on. "And what about insurance? You need my information."
Drake shoots her an amused look and Mindy realizes with a start that he can probably afford to buy five brand new cars to replace the one she'd hit without even blinking an eye. "It's cool," he says. "It wasn't even my car, anyway."
"Whose car was it?" Erin cuts in, desperate to be involved in the conversation. "Was it Taylor Swift's? Cuz I heard that you guys are friends."
Drake pauses, closing his mouth abruptly. Mindy sees the barest hint of a smile when he does reply. "It was my assistant's," he says. "I like to drive around after shows sometimes. Jess lets me use her car as long as I bring back Taco Bell."
"You…drive around?" Mindy repeats. Feeling a spark of something she recognizes, she follows on instinct. "Casing the joint?"
Drake grins. "What are you doing here anyway?" he asks, ignoring her question. "Never thought I'd catch you at a rock show. Let alone mine."
"Well, I was coerced," Mindy replies. "And it's been a long semester. I can't be held responsible for my actions."
"I would never." His voice is biting but he looks her straight in the eye, and Mindy is startled at the fission of heat that sparks beneath the skin of her throat.
Mindy falls silent, skittering her eyes up and away. There's something unnerving about his presence, a kind of calm that he exudes that is absent from her memories of him. She doesn't want to dissect it (she is not the kind of person who dissects. Honestly). Next to her, Erin launches into a monologue about Drake's second CD's cover art or something, and Mindy watches them from the corner of her eye, watching as Drake deflects and distances like a pro.
The assistant, Jess, eventually appears with four beefy-armed men with 'Security' penciled across their chests in tow, lurking in the background like theme music. Jess is platinum blonde with thick mascara and shirt-sleeves of tattoos that cut off abruptly at her wrists in even, blunt lines. "My family," she says in-between phone calls, when she catches Mindy studying them. Holding out an arm, she indicates the ghostly image of a woman on a bed of stars stretched out along a forearm, inked brown hair leaking down an elbow. "My sister. She broke her neck in a car accident ten years ago."
"I'm sorry," Mindy replies, startled.
Jess laughs and shrugs and dials another number on her phone. She wears her pain on her skin, thinks Mindy, and there's something in her heart that admires the courage.
The decision is made, as the crowd outside grows louder and larger, that escape is necessary. Jess and the Security team work efficiently and quickly, negotiating with the employees and navigating an exit through the back way. It's dizzying to watch, and Mindy can see Erin flitting about excitedly, still capturing Drake in her incessant conversation.
Erin is a novelty in Mindy's life, an experiment of sorts. They have nothing in common but a dorm room and although Mindy doesn't feel any particular attachment to her or her frenzied brand of friendship, she entertains it for reasons she herself can't decipher. There are moments, though, when Mindy has spaces of clarity in which she realizes how far apart they are from each other, and as she observes Erin throwing herself at Drake shamelessly, the ridiculousness of it descends upon Mindy like a rain cloud.
Drake, however, seems completely ambivalent to his surroundings. Mindy watches from a ways away as he mostly nods and smiles at Erin, glancing back over and catching Mindy's eye ever so often. He's a bit taller than she remembers (or maybe he was always this height and Mindy has just diminished him in size in her memory, proportionate to the importance she'd believed, wished or hoped he'd had in her life – she does this, sometimes). His hair is long, falling into his face, in need of a haircut. Mindy notices him squinting whenever he looks at Erin – glasses? Allergies? She wants to know, but just looking at him makes the panic rise in her throat.
"Okay, we have a plan," Jess announces. "Security will handle the crowd, we'll duck out the back. Darrin's picking us up and Jake is on his way with a car for you." She points at Drake. "Some pissed-off motorist called the cops, they want you and her," she jerks a thumb at Mindy, "to come down to the station and file a report." She smirks. "For discretion, they're towing the cars for us. Whoo."
"You're leaving?" Erin says, slightly panicked. "With Mindy? I mean – "
"Don't worry," Jess says, and pulls her away. "He'll take good care of her."
Mindy blinks as Erin gestures frantically at her as Jess corrals her away, pantomiming something undecipherable. She nods and smiles, as often is the best action with Erin, and even goes for a thumbs up.
When she turns back around, Drake is looking at her.
"Hi," he says.
"Hi," Mindy says back, and nearly chokes on the unspoken words.
He shuffles his feet awkwardly, and she coughs into her hand. It's excruciating.
"So," he finally says. "Been awhile."
"Yeah." She nods. "Um."
"So you're still in school?"
"Yeah. Yes." She clears her throat. "Grad school."
"Oh." He ducks his head, hair falling into his eyes. It's long and she can tell that somebody's been all over it with a straightener. "That's – that's great."
She nods. "Yeah, it is," she echoes, and thinks, why did I say that? "How's Josh?"
"Good. Med school."
"Yeah. I uh, heard." She nods, and he nods, and they've officially run out of safe topics.
"Look," he finally says. "You don't have to come with me. I'll get someone to take you home and I'll do the report myself."
"No," Mindy says. "It was my fault. I'll come with you."
He nods silently and sits down on one of the couches in the lobby and stares at his shoes. After a moment of internal deliberation, Mindy sits next to him.
"It's good to see you," Drake says to his boots.
Mindy looks over at him, an impression of him sinking into her head like a photographic exposure. Hair, denim, shoulders, silence –
"Yeah," she says, and settles into her seat. "It is good."
The police station is, mercifully, quick and painless. It's somewhat surreal, of course, and Mindy still can't quite wrap her mind around the fact that nameless police officers are asking him for his autograph. Mindy remembers her first car accident vividly, in high school, when a half-blind old woman had rear-ended her at a stop light in her father's car, and she knows with certainty that it'd taken a hell of a lot longer, with a lot less smiling and hand-shaking.
They sign a few things and she promises to get her brakes fixed about thirty times and the thing that takes the longest is listening to the secretary babble for twenty minutes about how she'd seen Drake in concert once and it was amazing and did he like her scarf cuz she bought it after she saw a picture of him wearing one like it in People magazine, isn't it awesome?
Mindy wonders if he ever gets headaches.
There's a few photographers hanging around the entrance to the police station when they leave, and Drake smiles and waves a little as he curses softly to himself.
"Seriously?" Mindy mutters. "How did they know you're here?"
"Who knows?" Drake's shoulders tense up tightly and he lays a hand on her elbow, steering her to the parking lot. One of the photographers leers at her as he flashes his camera at them in bright, fast succession. "This'll be all over TMZ in like, an hour." He sounds resigned, and when he looks at her he looks sheepish. "I'm sorry."
"I was the one who crashed into you," Mindy says for what feels like the millionth time.
He shrugs and reaches the car. He opens the passenger door for her, and when she looks up at him surprised, he's looking away, seemingly not noticing the novelty of the action. "Still. Jess will handle it, but they might, you know. Follow you around a little. So – sorry."
"It's…all right. I guess." She moves toward the car, but doesn't get in. "Don't take me to the dorms, okay?" Drake raises an eyebrow and she shrugs. "My parents have a house down here. I stay there when I need peace and quiet."
"Okay." Drake accepts it without further questioning. "Where?" he asks, and pulls out his car keys.
His car is older looking and clean. This one is his, he'd explained to her earlier – well, one of many, apparently. She doesn't know much about cars, really – she dated a guy in undergrad who was really into classic cars though, and she thinks it looks classic. Or something. She quirks a small smile and runs her hand down the dashboard, thinks, classic. Classic.
The streetlights flash rhythmically as they pull out onto the street, illuminating the car with moments of yellow. Drake drives in silence, but Mindy can almost fool herself into thinking she can feel his body heat enveloping her, tangling with her own. She leans her head against the glass of the car window and tries to breathe, but it's like she's underwater.
"Mansfield Street, you said?" Drake says.
She nods. "Yeah."
"Kay." He shifts in his seat slightly as he turns and leaves his hand on the gearshift, inches away from her leg. He drives fast, but carefully, and she likes that. "I'm sorry about this whole thing. Sucks that I kept you up so late."
"That's all right," Mindy replies quietly. "I didn't really notice."
There's a pause, and she can't really look over at him because she might blush, and that would be almost humiliating. "Well, we're almost there," he says.
"Yes," she replies, and the insinuation is there.
He parks in her empty driveway and as she climbs out of the car, she sees it highlighted against the house, strange and unfamiliar. Something like satisfaction bolts through her, and she doesn't understand, doesn't get any of this.
Drake pops up on the other side of the car, glancing furtively into the dark. "No paparazzi," he says, an eyebrow raised.
"Why don't you come inside," Mindy replies.
The house is dusty and empty. Her parents bought it when she'd moved down here for grad school, thinking she'd want a place of her own to stay. But it'd seemed too empty to her, too full of implications. So she'd applied for a room in student housing and met Erin and the rest is history, or something.
"Nice place," he comments.
She shrugs. Her parents had had it decorated in the style of her childhood home – huge paintings on the walls, gold lacquered lamps and white leather furniture. "I guess," she says. "I don't come here that often."
"Mmm." He slides out of his jacket fluidly and drops it on the stair banister. "You're normally at the dorms?"
She tosses her own jacket over Drake's and he catches her wrist, pulling her in close. There's a long moment of quiet as they stand in delicate silence, breath mixing in the interim between his face and hers.
"I like it," he says, after a minute. "Big."
Mindy swallows. "Follow me."
She leads him upstairs, into the main bedroom and stops at the bed to kick off her shoes. When she turns around he's startlingly close and all the air leaves her body, all at once.
"Um," she says. "I – "
"What?" he replies, almost angrily, and takes a step forward. Then he seems to pause, eyes closing briefly. "What?" he says again, softer.
"I want." She shakes her head, mortified but unsurprised at the emotion clogging her throat. "I just want – "
"Okay," he says, and they fall back into the sheets.
There is no morning after, really. Drake gets a call in the early hours before dawn from somebody named Rick, and he sits up in bed and starts arguing on his cell phone about flight times and bodyguards. He hangs up the phone, visibly irritated, and reaches for his shirt.
"I'm sorry," he says, and Mindy thinks she's heard him apologize more tonight than in all their years growing up together combined. "I have to do this talk show thing in New York tomorrow, my plane leaves in a few hours." He pauses and tilts his head at her and frowns, and she has an inexplicable urge to touch his face. "I gotta go."
"Okay." She sits up, gathering the sheets up around her like an anchor. "What talk show?"
"Uh – " he trips slightly as he pulls his jeans up his legs, shaking his bangs out of his eyes. "One of the ones at night, I think?"
Mindy grins a little. "Conan? Leno? Letterman?" He shrugs. "Jon Stewart? Jimmy Kimmel?"
Drake shoots her a little exasperated look. "Does it matter?"
"If I'm going to watch you, it does."
He collapses onto the bed on his knees, leaning over and balancing his weight on his hands. "I'll have Jess call you."
"That's fine," she murmurs. He kisses her, and it's an acquiescence, an unspoken promise of more, more of this, this whatever it is.
After he leaves, she lies back in the wrinkled, soiled sheets and debates heading back to the dorm – Erin is back by now, probably worrying about her – but falls asleep instead, cotton sheets light and soft on her body. She awakes twelve hours later, late afternoon, with seven texts on her phone and dried sweat on her skin, but she smiles as she dresses, and it's a change.
She sleeps at the house again that night, and when she wakes up she tugs on a pair of sweatpants and goes running for the first time in months, meandering through the neighborhoods in an aimless path. Her muscles feel worked and stretched and healthy, her skin a bit cleaner, her hair a bit fresher. She finds her way back to the house and discovers empty cupboards – her parents haven't been here in months and neither has she – so she calls a taxi and goes to the grocery store and buys fruit, bread, cereal, milk, eggs.
When she returns, she finds a Prius parked in the driveway with rental tags on the windshield. Picking up her cell phone, she finds a missed call from an unknown number and dials it to find Jess on the other line.
"Courtesy of Spin City Records for the inconvenience," she says. "No charge. And we're fixing up yours, too."
"But," Mindy replies, bewildered. "It was my fault – "
"So?" Jess's voice is perpetually hurried, slightly frantic. "He's on The Craig Ferguson Show, by the way. Eleven o'clock."
Mindy hangs up feeling light-headed, and decides to take a nap. When she awakes, she makes herself an omelet and watches Drake on CBS.
She comes back to the dorms on Monday morning, a few hours before her first class. Erin isn't there, but when she heads to the cafeteria for lunch, Mindy sees her sitting at a table near the cappuccino machine, staring at her plate with a frown on her face.
"Hi," she says, when she looks up, and Mindy's inexplicable guilt triples.
"Hey." Mindy picks at the pasta laying limply on her plate and tries to look normal.
"So, you stayed at the house?"
"Mmhmm." Mindy thinks, I am a logical person. I know what's happening here and there is no reason for me to apologize. "How'd the rest of your weekend go?"
Erin shrugs and sips at her soda. "Good." She swallows slowly. "Miles finally asked me out."
"That's great," Mindy says, and smiles. "Right?"
Erin narrows her eyes slightly and nods, mouth pursed. "Yep," she says briskly, and smiles back, too wide.
Mindy's dissertation is a growling monster, sprawled out over half her hard drive. Over the last three years, it has spread from her laptop screen to the rest of her apartment, leaving ink-stained footprints on every corner of her life. Recently she's even been finding traces of it on her own body – scrawled notes on her palms, cracks in her spine from too many hours in hard desk chairs, imprints on her elbows from spiral notebook spines and jittery fingers from overcaffeination.
Mindy sits at her desk and stares at the massive Microsoft Word document, backed up on a million different blank CDs. The file size is so huge that it takes her computer five minutes to open it, so she's resorted to keeping it continually open, minimized on her desktop as a foreboding reminder of the deadline that rules her life.
She hates it.
It's a realization she's come to slowly and painfully after months of near panic attacks and random bursts of emotion. She remembers undergrad, when she'd spent hours at the library, when numbers and facts had brought her comfort. Now, she can feel them strangling her and she can't quite figure out what changed.
She's supposed to have thirty more pages done than what she already has, according to her schedule, but she hasn't been able to bring herself to work on it for weeks.
Sitting up in her desk chair, she scrolls through it aimlessly, trying to find the motivation to type a sentence, or crack open a book. She sighs and presses the 'x' at the top right corner of the document and opens up her email.
Hello, she types, and then erases it. Then she types Hi, instead.
I saw you on Craig Ferguson. Do you always wear your hair like that or was it an unfortunate accident?
She scrutinizes it for a split second and presses 'send.'
It isn't more than half an hour before she gets a reply back. She's reading spoilers for next week's Lost when her computer dings.
I knew it looked stupid. This is why they should let me dress myself.
What's your number?
She bites her lip, and then sends him her cell phone number. She's done with overthinking.
She stares at her phone for ten minutes and jumps a foot in the air when it finally rings. Unknown number.
"Hey," she hears. "Save this number, okay? It's my private line."
"Fancy," she says, and places a hand over her racing heart.
"Yeah, well. Just don't sell it to Perez Hilton and we'll be fine." She laughs.
"I read that story, when it came out," she says. "You and Zac Efron, huh? Explains a lot."
She hears him grumble good-naturedly. "Even if I was gay, I'd find someone a little better than him," he says.
"I hear Neil Patrick Harris is single again," she offers.
She grins so widely her face starts to ache. "Where are you?"
"Still in New York." She hears him shuffling around, some muffled voices in the background shouting and laughing. "I stayed a couple more days to hang out with Josh."
"Josh is there?" Mindy's heart freezes for a small beat. "Did you tell him that you…ran into me?"
"Yeah," Drake says, as if it were actually a stupid question. "Well, I didn't – I mean, he doesn't know about the, uh, stuff, you know. Back then." Mindy gets a flash of the old dune buggy and all its implications, a visceral shock of memory that makes her pulse race. "But I told him all the stuff that happened this weekend."
"So he knows about the new stuff, but not the old stuff?" Mindy says, letting a mocking bite creep into her tone without thinking. Drake is silent on the other line. "Sorry. Sorry, I didn't mean for it to come out like that."
"Yeah." He sighs. "You make me feel really stupid sometimes." Mindy bites her lip, trying to figure out how to react to that. Her throat aches. "I'm not saying that to make you feel guilty or anything."
"Okay." She looks down at her knee and starts pulling at the loose threads, where the denim is wearing thin. "Maybe – maybe we should talk about it. What happened back then, and you know. What's happening now."
"Yeah, that sounds like such a fun conversation," he drawls.
"Drake – "
"Yeah, yeah." She hears a door close, and the background noise decreases in volume. "What is that we need to talk about, exactly?"
"Well – I don't know." Mindy pulls her feet up on her chair, knees pressing up against her chest. "It just seems like one of those things that you're supposed to talk about."
"Okaaay," he says. "Well."
"Well," Mindy replies.
"We had sex."
"Yes, we did." Mindy gulps slightly.
"And…it was really fun?"
He laughs. She thinks it's a little deeper than she remembers it, a little throatier. "I dunno, Mindy. What do you want me to say?"
She giggles a little and he keeps laughing, and then she's laughing with him at the absurdity of it. "Okay, never mind, then. No talking."
"Kay." She hears the flick of a lighter and pictures him lighting a cigarette one-handed, like he'd done that night. She'd let him smoke in the bedroom with the window cracked, and he'd offered her a drag and grinned when she wrinkled her nose and told him that it would give him lung cancer, and he'd barely taken two drags before throwing it in the sink and climbing back into bed. His breath had tasted like smoke. "So you're in grad school, that's what you said, right? What are you studying?"
She lets out a breath, leans back, starts to talk.
She'd been recuperating in her great big empty house over the weekend, so standing in the line at the grocery store, the tabloid cover comes as quite the shock.
Drake Parker's New Flame? it asks. Exclusive Photos! Below the headline is a snapshot of her and Drake at the police station, squinting up and away from the flashbulbs of the cameras.
Snatching it off the rack, she flips through it to the story, finding multiple captures of her and Drake in what could possibly be construed as compromising positions, where the angle of the camera happened to make it look as if they were standing closer than Mindy knew they were. She hisses a breath through her teeth and scans the meager text, getting to the last line where "Drake has made no official statement, although an inside source tells us that he's been preoccupied for the last few days, spending an unusual amount of time on his cell phone. Texting his new lady? Guess we'll find out!"
Mindy scoffs in disgust and throws the magazine aside. Feeling eyes prickling the back of her neck, she turns to see the lady in line behind her holding the same magazine, trying to stare at Mindy without being obvious about it.
Rolling her eyes, Mindy decides that the loaf of bread isn't worth it. "Evil twin," she says, and abandons her cart.
Climbing into her rented car, she grabs her cell phone and dials her mother's number, who treats The Sun as her Bible. "Mom?"
"Mindy!" Mindy winces, letting her forehead fall forward to bang into the steering wheel. "I have been trying to call you for days, do you ever answer your phone?!"
"Mom, you haven't," she says.
"Yes I have!"
"No, you haven't," Mindy says. "I've had my cell on me the whole time. There are no missed calls from you."
"Well, I – wait." Mindy's mother sounds perpetually out of breath. She's not sure if it's an affectation or just a side effect from years of standing in the background. "Your number is 887-4578, right?"
"No, it's 4587, Mom," Mindy says patiently. "Didn't I program it into your phone last time I was home?"
"Oh, well, yes, but I had to change phones. I dropped the other one in the toilet." Mindy muffles a laugh into her sleeve, snorting slightly. "Did you just sneeze?"
"Gasuntheit. Well, now that I have you on the line – did you have an exciting weekend?" she says pointedly. "I sure did."
"Mom," Mindy groans. "Please don't make a big deal out of this. Drake and I – we're just – "
"Aha! So it is true!"
"Mooom! You knew that I knew him in high school," Mindy says. "We just ran into each other. Caught up a little, that's all."
"Oh, this is so exciting. Just wait until I tell your father – he didn't believe me when I told him that I'd seen you on TMZ, but – "
"Oh God, please don't tell Dad," pleads Mindy. "He'll freak out and want to meet Drake and ask him what his intentions are, or something."
"Well, that's a good point." Mindy's mother pauses slightly. "Well, I can sure tell Daphne Treeger, that'll show that old bint. Always gloating about how her daughter married a Rockefeller, pfft. What's a Rockefeller nowadays compared to a rock star?"
"I'm hanging up now," says Mindy flatly.
"Oh, don't be embarrassed, honey, this is a good thing – "
"Goodbye," Mindy replies, and snaps the phone shut. "For God's sake," she mutters, and turns the car on.
She's been staying at the house more and more, out of listlessness or maybe longing. Erin's been strange lately, anyway, ever since Entertainment Tonight started leaving messages on the machine, asking for interviews. Really didn't help that Jess had come over a couple times to have her sign papers for her car.
"That was Drake's assistant, right?" she asks once, in a dangerously neutral voice.
"Oh." Erin stares studiously at the stereo. "That's cool."
Mindy can't deal with it, doesn't want to feel the tension, and so she sleeps at the house. Not like she feels all that normal there, but it's better than being on campus, dodging lingering glances and snickers. She's become a novelty at the school since her tabloid debut and has found a whole new reason to not have a social life.
Jess comes and takes her out to lunch one day, after some girl asks her what Drake's like in bed in a loud voice in the middle of a class.
"Look," she says, gesturing with her glass and seemingly not noticing the iced tea swishing over the side. "I'll tell you what I told Drake, when he first realized what being famous was really about." Noticing the spill, Jess frowns and sets the glass down. A few seconds later, she forgets and picks it back up. "I won't lie to you and tell you that it doesn't suck, but I can tell you that it's sort of a hidden blessing, in a way."
"How's that?" Mindy asks incredulously.
"You learn who your real friends are," Jess says. She smirks a little. "My dad was a movie star, did Drake tell you that?" Mindy shakes her head. "Yeah. He did a bunch of B movies in the eighties. He's no Clint Eastwood, you know, but I still grew up with my face plastered all over the tabloids. Nothing worse than going through puberty on the cover of People magazine."
"So trust me when I tell you that it's definitely not the end of the world." Jess shrugs and twirls her shockingly blonde hair around one finger, smiling wryly. "If your roommate is that hung up on it, then fuck her anyway. Not worth it."
Mindy chortles. "Thanks for the sound bite."
"Anytime." Jess raises an eyebrow and grabs her wrist. "Seriously."
That night, Mindy goes sits in her horrid, white-leather living room with a bottle of wine and downloads all four of Drake's albums from Amazon and listens to all the songs one by one, in chronological order. By midnight, she's almost through the last record when her cell phone rings. It's Drake.
"Speak of the devil," she says by way of greeting.
"Thinking about me?"
"You could say that." She gulps the last of her wine, clicking the music from her laptop off.
"Was that my album?"
"Yeah." She giggles a little sheepishly. "I figured I might as well listen to it."
"Oh. Okay." She giggles again. "Did you like it, at least?"
If she hadn't had so much wine, she wouldn't have answered his question honestly. But she has had a lot of wine. "Yeah, I liked it. It's not really my taste, exactly, but you're very talented. I'm not a big fan of the trumpet stuff. Or the overwhelming Beatles homages." She leans back on the carpet, head spinning pleasantly. "You love the guitar, don't you?"
"Yes," he says, and sounds surprised. "Wow. Thanks."
"What? I just gave you a mediocre review."
"No, you were honest." He laughs a little. "Not even Josh does that for me."
"Josh always loved your music," she mumbles sleepily.
"Josh loves everything. He listens to gangster rap, too." Mindy snorts. "He's great, but if I started putting out country albums or something, he'd love it just because I was playing it."
"That's Josh," Mindy says, the colors of the ceiling blurring together hazily.
Drake's laugh is low and rumbly in her ear. "Have you been drinking?"
Mindy's eyes fly open. "Um, yeah."
"Drinking alone?" Drake laughs alone. "Not a good sign."
"I wouldn't be alone," Mindy says dreamily, and trails off.
"You wouldn't be alone…" he prompts.
"If you were here," she finally finishes, and lets her eyes fall shut.
"No, you wouldn't," she thinks she hears him say, but she can't be sure as she slides backwards into darkness.
She wakes up the next morning with somebody knocking on her head.
No, not her head – door. Ow.
Sitting up gingerly, she brings one hand to her cheek, rubbing it and wincing. Great. Blinking, she sees her now-dead laptop and the empty bottle (s) of wine, and cell phone, beeping plaintively for some battery charge.
The door pounds again and she groans, pulling herself up by the arm of the couch. Stumbling to the front door she opens it to find Erin on the other side, tapping her foot impatiently.
"Finally!" she exclaims, and pushes her way inside. "Okay so I know I've been kind of lame lately about the Drake thing. But I got an idea this morning, and you desperately need to hear it." She pauses slightly. "Is that – rug burn on your cheek?"
"Um," replies Mindy.
"Whatever. Okay, so you guys are like, dating now, or something, right?"
"Uh – "
"Well, you obviously are. You've been walking around with your head in the clouds ever since the concert." Erin shrugs a little, walking through the foyer, absently touching and straightening things on her trek through the first floor. Mindy follows slowly, head pounding and mouth dry. "And while it's kind of uncool for you to hook up with someone you knew that I liked," Mindy can't help but snort at that, "I realized this morning that I've been looking at the situation all wrong!"
"You have," Mindy replies flatly.
"Of course!" Erin hopped up on a stool by the kitchen counter, grabbing an apple from the bowl and tossing it from one hand to the other. "Think of all the perks of dating a celebrity, Min!" Erin tilted her head back, eyes taking on a dreamy, far-off look. "All the hottest clubs, restaurants, award shows, movie premieres…"
"I – I don't think Drake goes to…movie premieres, Erin."
"He could, if you pushed him a little." Erin nudged Mindy's knee with her foot. "You are his girlfriend."
"He's not – we're not – like that."
"Pfft." Erin waves a hand dismissively. "What's the point of dating him if you don't get the perks?"
Mindy takes a breath, trying to tamp down the rising frustration. "I'm not dating him for…perks."
"So you admit you're dating him?" Erin says gleefully, eyes glittering.
"No! I mean – "
"Look, just ask him if he can get us into The Burgundy Room next Tuesday. I've been trying to get into that place for years."
"I'm not going to ask him to get you into a nightclub, Erin." Mindy starts rummaging through the kitchen cupboards, looking for the aspirin she knows is hiding somewhere between her plates and cups.
"Well, it's the least you could do, I mean," Erin smirks a little, her tone joking, but all it does is grate on Mindy's headache. "You are dating a rock star. I should be able to enjoy some of the benefits."
Mindy slams the cupboard door closed abruptly, leaning on the kitchen counter and clenching her eyes shut tightly. When she turns around, Erin is staring at her warily.
"What?" she says innocently.
Mindy scowls and takes a deep breath. "Get out."
Erin's eyes go wide. "What?"
"You heard me."
"Mindy – "
"Erin, now," Mindy says, deadly calm.
"Fine." Erin stands up jerkily, knocking the kitchen stool over with a clatter. "You know, just because he wants to fuck you doesn't mean you're suddenly better than everyone else." Erin's mouth thins into a nasty, flat line. "He'll move on to some other bimbo soon and then where will you be? Just a sad, pathetic bitch, all alone in your big, expensive, empty house."
Mindy's breath hitches, her eyes sliding shut. "Get out."
"Whatever." Erin flounces out of the kitchen, heels stomping loudly on the floor. The slam of the front door echoes through the house, rattling the windows ominously.
Mindy winces and turns around to the cupboards jerkily, resuming her search for the aspirin. Fumbling with the coffee cups on the top shelf, Mindy knocks one off and lurches back as it falls to the ground and shatters. Pressed up against the sink, Mindy looks at the mess and collapses into tears.
Mindy spends the rest of the week at her house, blowing off her classes. She runs every morning and cooks all her own meals and slowly, slowly, starts to gain back her equilibrium.
On Friday morning, Jess calls her.
"So Drake gets back tomorrow night," she says. "He's already told you this, I'm sure." He has. "He wants to take you out to dinner, though, and so I'm supposed to find out what kind of food you'd like to eat."
Mindy laughs and feels a little bloom in her chest, slightly overpowering the prickle of uneasiness that's been there since her confrontation with Erin. "He asked you to ask me?"
"No, actually he asked me to spy on you, or something?" Jess replies. "He told me to be sneaky. Whatever that means. But I wasn't really listening, so whatever."
Mindy smiles, wide. "I like Italian."
"Italian, oh good. So does he." Jess made a satisfied little sound. "I'll make you some reservations."
"Oh you don't have to do that, I – "
"Mindy, please," Jess says. "This is what I do." Well. Mindy doesn't have an argument against that.
She debates with herself for an hour about returning to the dorms. She has underwear, books, makeup there, and also this amazing black dress that she really wants to wear to dinner – but Erin's there. And who knows what she's done with Mindy's stuff? She sighs in frustration. She thought she'd left all this petty girl shit behind years ago.
She decides enough is enough and heads back to her room the next morning, walking slowly down the hallways with her head down and hair in her face, ready for any opportunity to duck away and out of sight. Then somewhere in-between the front door and her dorm room she realizes she's being ridiculous and pulls her hair back into a ponytail, just because.
Erin isn't there, thankfully. Mindy sets to work quickly, grabbing everything she can carry in her duffel bag and leaving anything that can be replaced. She feels vaguely like she's escaping from a war zone, or something, and knows she's being stupid, but she's totally gotten over her confrontational phase, okay, and she's way too old for this shit.
What she ends up taking is surprisingly sparse, and as she stands in the half-empty room and looks around, it feels suspiciously like an ending. She's still enrolled in classes, her dissertation is 85% done, but she's just – she's just done, and it feels incredibly liberating.
That feeling carries her all the way out of the building and to her car, until she runs into five paparazzi photographers in the parking lot, two of them smoking cigarettes and sitting on the trunk of her car.
"Mindy!" Flash. "Mindy, are you and Drake serious?"
"How do you feel about what he said earlier today? Any reactions?"
"How long have you been dating? Have you been hiding it?"
"Mindy, are you going with him to the Grammys? Who will you be wearing?"
"Mindy! Mindy, are you sleeping together? Has he made a commitment?"
Mindy blinks and tilts her chin down, shoving through the throng to her car. In the corner of her eye, she can see people gathering around, staring at the commotion and she inwardly cringes. Outside, the photographers are still clamoring at her, yelling questions through the window. Cameras flash at her through the glass, nearly blinding her.
Taking a deep breath, she mentally yells at herself to calm down, then scrambles for her purse, digging her cell phone out of the pocket. Dialing Jess's number, she tries to ignore the growing crowd of people around her car.
The first time she tries, it goes straight to voicemail. Cursing, she redials and this time, it rings, and Mindy breaths a sigh of relief as the call is picked up.
"Yo," answers Jess, sounding flustered and hurried.
"Jess," Mindy tries to control the panic rising in her voice, but it's a losing battle. "Jess, I need help. These photographers, they're everywhere, and there's people all around watching and – "
"Oh God," Jess says. "I didn't think they – okay, where are you?"
"Campus parking lot." Hearing a car pull up, Mindy curses. "Another van just pulled up. There's two more photographers."
"Okay, sit tight, stay calm. Don't try to drive away, I'm gonna get some people to come and help you, okay?"
"Okay." Mindy swallows and digs in her purse for a pair of sunglasses, sliding them on her face to shield against the harsh photographic bulbs.
"I have to make some calls, but don't hang up your phone, okay? Pretend like you're still talking."
"What – what am I supposed to say?"
"Anything. Say the alphabet over and over. Just don't look at them, don't acknowledge their questions, nothing. Okay?"
"Kay. Keep the line open so I can call you back." Jess sighs. "I'm sorry, babe."
"Yeah," says Mindy shakily.
Outside the car, the photographers are still shouting questions at her. She hears the grinding sound of engines and turns around to see campus security pulling into the parking lot in their golf carts, shouting at the reporters congregating around her car. Mindy shakes her head, huffing in frustration as she watches the security "officers" (seniors from the criminal justice department, actually) try fruitlessly to herd everyone out of the parking lot. It's almost funny, in a really ironic sort of way.
She sits in the front seat for twenty more minutes, mouthing the alphabet and the lyrics to every Fleetwood Mac song she can remember. She's halfway through "You Make Loving Fun" when her phone rings again. She brings the phone down from her face casually and presses 'answer.' It's Jess, again.
"Okay, there's a security team headed your way. They should be there, like, now."
Sure enough, a car pulls into the lot and three bulky, frowning men climb out, waving their arms and yelling at the crowd around her car. One of them knocks on her window and she rolls it down.
"Yes, yes, thank you so much."
"No problem." He looks like a linebacker or something, all bulked up and grumpy looking. "We're gonna clear everyone out of the way, we'll give you the signal when it's safe for you to pull out, all right?"
"Okay, that's fine. Thank you."
"Our pleasure." Stepping away, he starts herding the photographer back from the lot. The campus security people obey as well, hopping back into their golf carts and driving them onto the grass in front of Mindy's parking spot as an extra barricade.
When most of the paparazzi are herded behind the golf carts, Jess's security guys keeping them behind the cement, the one that Mindy had talked to turned around the wave at her, gesturing for her to back out.
"Mindy, you still there?" Jess asks, in her ear.
"Yeah." Holding the phone between her ear and shoulder, Mindy turns the engine on, pulling it into reverse and backing slowly out of the parking lot. Holding her breath, she pulls out of the space and out of the parking lot, only letting her breath go once she's safely on the street. "Okay, I'm on the road."
"Good. Good," Jess says, relieved. "I am so sorry."
"What happened?" Mindy asks. Her hands are shaking and so she drives slowly. It'd be just the perfect time to rear-end somebody, really. "It wasn't like this, before. I mean, there were a few who took pictures of me in really public places and stuff, but they were waiting for me," she says. "They were like, sitting on my car. They probably followed me to campus."
Jess sighs heavily. "I am so, so incredibly sorry about this," she says. "Drake was at the airport in Chicago, waiting for his connecting flight, and he was talking to me on the phone. Somebody in the waiting area with him recorded his side of the conversation, and it got leaked, and it's just – total nightmare, I'm telling you."
"And you guys were…talking about me?"
"Yeah," Jess says apologetically. "Nothing bad, or even embarrassing, really. I told him that I made reservations for La Trattoria for you guys tonight? And he said something like, 'I hope Mindy will like it,' and then he told me he hadn't been on a real date for awhile, and that he was kind of nervous."
"Oh." The purely female part of Mindy's mind starts squealing in excitement at Drake's overheard comments, while the rest of her remains shaky and confused. "And so there's a huge frenzy over just that?"
"Well, it just sort of confirms the rumors that have been flying around you two," Jess says. "Believe it or not, what just happened wasn't actually that bad. You should've seen what happened when Drake got nominated at the Grammys. He couldn't leave his house for weeks."
Mindy pulls up at a stop light and takes the opportunity to rub at her eyes tiredly. "So now that we're officially 'dating' or whatever, it's gonna be like this all the time?"
"No, no," Jess hastened to say. "It'll probably die down, especially after Drake makes an official statement. They're just like sharks in the water, jumping all over the new blood. Things'll calm down with time, trust me."
"Okay," Mindy says slowly.
"Are you all right? Still shaky?"
"A little," Mindy replies. "I'll be fine."
"Okay. Why don't you come to the office, here? Drake's getting in any minute and we can talk and figure out what to do next, okay?"
"That's fine," Mindy says. "Wait, office? You guys have an office?"
"Yeah," Jess says. "Well, an office in a record studio."
"A record what?"
Mindy pulls into the Spin City recording studio twenty minutes later, hands shaking even more violently than before, on campus. She hadn't dared to stop driving, irrationally afraid that the minute she stopped, paparazzi would come swarming over her again, like a crowd of ants.
She sits in the car for another ten minutes with her forehead pressed to the steering wheel, taking deep, calming breaths and trying to stop the shaking in her hands. When she finally feels centered enough to exit the car, she climbs out of the driver's seat and promptly collapses against the body of the car, knees giving out.
She finally makes it through the front door and is caught by yet another bulky, linebacker security guard who leads her through the crowded, busy first floor. They reach a secluded cluster of offices sandwiched by two large rooms with tinted windows, tucked in the very back corner of the building. Looking in, she can see a recording studio with a huge soundboard, two chairs and a keyboard hooked up to a dozen different plugs and wires.
"Mr. Parker's recording studios," Linebacker Two informs her. "His office is in here." He leads her to a glass door and holds it open for her, gesturing inside.
"Thanks," Mindy says, and then loses her voice.
Drake stands up from the couch, rumpled and frowning, and holds out a hand. "Hi."
Mindy gives him her hand and he uses it to pull her forward, sliding her into a hug. It's a little strange, but she feels an overwhelming sense of relief brought by his mere presence. "Hi," she says into his chest, and feels some of the tension leave her shoulders.
"I'm so sorry," he says into her hair, and she kind of wants to cry.
"It's okay." Mindy pulls back slightly and smiles up at him, a little wobbly. "I'm okay."
"It's not okay." Jess is sitting cross-legged on a desk, punching at a laptop perched on her knees and a phone wedged between her shoulder and ear, chord snaking around her arm like a bracelet. "It's the opposite of okay, actually. I'm still trying to track down who leaked that freaking audio clip, but whoever it was is getting their ass sued, you can bet on that."
Drake pulls her down to sit on the couch, kicking the door closed with one foot. "It's best to nod and keep quiet when she's angry. It'll pass eventually."
"Are you all right? I'm really, really sorry," he says, looking apologetic and nervous all at once.
"It's fine," she insists. "Why are you always apologizing all the time? Cut it out."
He shrugs and his grin nearly knocks her over. It's like a physical blow to her stomach, all the air in her lungs catching in her throat, leaving her head spinning. "If you say so." She blinks at him, trying to keep from smiling back like a complete idiot.
"Don't you fucking put me on hold again, you motherfucker. No, you – aarrrgh!" Jess slams the phone down angrily. "Fuckers."
"Tell us how you really feel," Drake says.
"Ugh, don't start." Setting the laptop aside, Jess climbs down, grabbing a spiral notebook from the desk. "Okay, here are our options. You can call somebody with a quote – not US Weekly, since they're the ones who posted the audio clip on their website and we're totally mad at them right now – and confirm that you are dating, which will most likely lead to a huge frenzy for like, a week or something, before it dies down. Or," Jess pauses briefly to take a breath, flipping through the pages of her notebook rapidly. "You ignore it and hope it goes away, which probably will lead to a sort of John Mayer-Jennifer Aniston situation, with lots of coverage and rumors and misinformation." She cocks her head and raises an eyebrow. "I don't recommend that one."
Drake frowns and looks at her out of the corner of his eye. "Er," he says.
"Jess," Mindy says. "Could you maybe…"
"Oh! You guys wanna talk. Right. Okay, I'm outtie." Grabbing her laptop, she grins and waggles her eyebrows. "Got people to yell at anyway."
"Thanks," Drake says dryly, snorting as Jess winks at him. "Get out of here."
"Fine. Bye!" Cell phone ringing, Jess flips it open and gives a little wave as she backs out of the room, a frown clouding over her face. "Hello? What, no, that's not what I asked you for, you douche bag – "
"You should really give her a raise," Mindy says.
"I think she gives herself raises, actually," Drake replies. Then he blows out a short breath, drumming out a nonsensical beat on his knees nervously. "So."
"So," Mindy replies.
"So, I'm really sor – "
"Don't," she interrupts.
"Right." He clamps his mouth closed, eyebrows raised to his hairline.
"Drake," Mindy starts, biting her lip. "Um…look, I – "
"Okay," he interrupts, raising to his feet. "If this is the part where you say what a great guy I am but that it's just way too complicated for you, well – we've done that before. So if we could skip it, that'd be awesome."
"I wasn't gonna say that," Mindy says, a bit taken aback.
"Okay." Drake rubs his hands down the sides of his jeans, awkwardly, not meeting her eyes. "Well – "
Mindy sighs in frustration. "See, this is why I thought we should've talked about it!" she says. "Cuz it can't be like – casual, with you and me. Not with everything that happened before, and especially not now, with the added issue of – " she gestures vaguely towards the door. "Crazy photographers that follow us around. Jesus." She raises a hand as Drake opens his mouth, glaring at him sternly. "Don't apologize again, I will hit you."
"Fine." He sighs. "Why don't we talk about it, then. And not chicken out this time."
"Okay." Mindy nods vigorously. "Great."
"Great," he repeats. "Awesome."
"Uh huh." They stare at each other in silence for several stilted moments. "Well?" Mindy prompts.
"Well what?" Drake replies. "You start."
"Why do I have to start?"
"I dunno," Drake says. "You're the woman. You start."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Mindy asks, bewildered.
"Whatever," he bites out impatiently. "I'm not good with this stuff, okay? Just start."
"Fine, fine." She worries at her lip, sorting out her thoughts. "I think – I think I should apologize, first off."
"I thought we were done with apologizing," he says wryly.
"You are," she says. "I'm not. I never – " she breaks off and swallows. "I never really said I was sorry, about everything that – that happened. I wasn't fair to you, and it…it just sucked."
She can see his Adam's apple bob as he swallows, nodding jerkily. "Well," he says. "I wasn't exactly pushing you away," he says. "And – you know – Josh," he stutters. "He was my brother – is, my brother. I – you were right. Back then, I mean, about it being too complicated."
Mindy stares hard at a spot on his shoulder, clenching her hands in the material of her shirt. "Did he ever…I mean, he wasn't too…" she tries to finish the sentence but fails, words failing her.
"He was kind of broken up, for awhile," Drake says hesitantly. "He didn't know why you broke up with him, and it kinda bugged him. But, you know. He went to college. He got over it." He shrugs. "He's dating this girl Cara, now. She's really good for him."
"Good, good," she says earnestly. "That's – that' s good. Was he mad? When you told him about – what happened at the concert?"
He sighs, coming over to sit next to her on the couch again. "Well, that's why I stayed long in New York," he says. "We…talked. He wasn't thrilled, but." He shrugs again, trailing off helplessly.
"Are you guys okay?" Mindy asks, feeling the not-forgotten feeling of trapped powerlessness.
"We'll be fine," he assures her. "I told him that I, you know, liked you. For real." He rubs his hands together slowly, staring down at the carpet. "And I do."
Encouraged, Mindy scoots a little closer to him on the couch, smiling a little wryly. "I do, too," she says. "I did back then, and I still do now."
"Oh, good," he says, relieved, and then he kisses her.
So it turns out that they don't make their reservations that night at all, but Drake does make the cover of People magazine for the fourth time that month. (And so does Mindy, coincidentally.)
They do spend the rest of the night in the small office, eating Chinese food and Mindy sorta ends up telling him about how much she hates being in school and how she hates Erin and doesn't know why she pretended to like her for so long, and how she thinks there might be a deeper problem behind all of this, and when Drake shrugs and tells her to just drop out if she hates it so much, she blinks several times, stunned as to why the notion had never occurred to her before.
"What do you wanna be a college professor for, anyway?" he reasons. "You'd go crazy, shut up in a school all year. You need a job," he says definitively, and Mindy has to start blinking again because fuck. That makes a lot of sense.
"My father is going to kill me," she says, and then steals his egg roll.
At one point, Jess brings them her laptop and shows them the TMZ video of the snafu back at the campus, and Drake immediately collapses into laughter.
"Shut up," says Mindy automatically, then, "what?"
"The look on your face," he says, chortling. "That is priceless."
"No really, shut up," she says more confidently. "And that one guy asked me 'who I was wearing' to the Grammys. What does that even mean? Is it dirty?" Drake snorts and starts laughing again, leaning back against the couch. "What?"
He drives her back to her house – home, he drives her home – and invites himself in this time because he can barely keep his hands off of her. She drops her keys three times and they dive for the nearest flat surface the second they get inside, which happens to be the floor. She has rug burns on her back but, um, so does he.
Later, they grab the bowl of fruit from the kitchen and take it upstairs, sharing slices of apple as they lay on top of the covers.
"Are you really sure about this?" she asks at one point, because she's been gearing up to this question all night.
"You know. This." She gestures meaningfully at the bed. "Me."
He frowns. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," she says impatiently, "I'm not, you know. Rihanna, or Amanda Bynes, or Hilary Duff. I've never been on The Hills and I hate dressing up." She raises an eyebrow. "I'm not exactly Hollywood material, you know. I'm never going to really fit in, you should know that right away."
"Duh," he says. "That's kind of what I like about you."
"Oh," she replies, and lets him roll her over, head flopping over the edge of the bed, hair trailing down to the ground. Her head feels spinny with blood and adrenaline and a shiver races down all the inches of skin that are brushing against Drake.
"Besides," he murmurs, and rests his chin on her collarbone. "The dressing up stuff – you'll get used to it."
"Will I," she answers back, and grins.
Two months later, he takes her to the Grammys. (She wears Versace.)
-fin-<!-- end story -->