Colin’s phone chirps for the first time a little after nine thirty in the morning on a Sunday in early December. He tries wriggling toward where it’s sitting on the bedside table, then grunts when he can’t.
“Say it,” Ally warns, digging her knees into his narrow hips while she rests most of her weight on the backs of his thighs.
He peers back over his shoulder as best he can, considering she’s got his arms twisted up behind him. “Death first.”
“Ha, big words from a guy trapped under ninety pounds of tiny, defenseless woman.”
“You do not weigh ninety po--ow, ow!”
His phone chirps again and Colin looks back over at it and frowns. “Ally,” he whines.
“Say it,” she repeats, bouncing a little on his thighs and grinning wider when he groans into the mattress. She leans forward, across the length of his back and where she’s got his wrists pinned, then breathes warm against his neck. “Say it.”
“Mercy! Fine, fine, christ. Mercy, you win.”
She releases his wrists smugly. “Wuss.”
In the next second, though, she’s shrieking as he pushes off the mattress and flips them over, using all of his superior size to cage her in against the bed. “Oops,” he smirks, then laughs when she starts punching his chest indignantly.
His phone chirps a third time, but they’re too busy breathing each other’s air, then way too busy making out to pay any heed when it does it the fourth time. When five, six, seven, eight, and nine happen within fifteen seconds of each other, though, Colin lifts his head and stares at his phone with a mixture of confusion and betrayal.
“Ugh, just check it already,” Ally says, blowing hair out of her eyes. “I promise I’ll still have sex with you afterward.”
He doesn’t even have to roll off of her, just uses his freakishly long arms to snag the phone and bring it over to frown at, even as it chirps again. “They’re alert notifications.”
Ally props herself up on her elbows. “Ooh, who got arrested? 3C, calling it now.”
“Nobody got arrested,” Colin says, voice going a little strange.
Here’s what happened, apparently: some kid downloaded Colin’s band’s digital EP from their website and liked it enough to use it as the background music to his parkour video. A parkour video that, against all odds, went viral. That means four hundred thousand people have heard one particular song written and performed by one Colin Shea in the past fifteen hours. Four hundred thousand and counting.
It also means Colin’s band is now officially named “City Eyes,” which was the name they just happened to be using when the kid replied to the first few youtube comments requesting sources. Ally’s always thought it was kinda dumb that they went through so many names so often, and she definitely wouldn’t have picked “City Eyes” as the winner if she’d been given a say. But what’s done is done, and Colin spends most of the day cursing excitedly into his phone and trying to get their very, very crashed website back up.
Colin--as the voice of City Eyes or whatever--gets a call two days later from a record label. Ally pauses in the middle of adding a coat of lacquer to a figurine’s overcoat and listens open-mouthed as Colin paces around with his phone pressed to his ear, saying yes sir to this and no no, not at all to that and I dunno, I’d have to talk to the guys to most of the rest.
“Oh my god!” she says when he finally hangs up, arms wide, brush still caught between her fingers.
“Oh my god,” he echoes, running his hands through his already mussed hair. “Holy shit, right? Holy shit.”
“The holiest,” she nods, trying to keep a straight face and failing. Then she laughs and he gathers her into a back-cracking hug, her face pressed to the worn-soft cotton of his ancient grey hoodie.
Their first studio album has nine tracks and a cover photo that was taken on the threadbare couch up on their “off-limits” roof. Colin and Travis and Ben are done up in intentionally distressed skinny jeans and tight v-necks that stepped right out of an American Apparel ad and suit jackets, and the whole thing was artfully taken right at sunset, and Ally basically laughs herself sick when she sees it.
“Aw, come on,” Colin says. He’s turning a little pink, trying to hide behind his take out container of mini spare ribs and bottle of Bud Light.
Ally is slightly mollified when he models the jeans for her after dinner, but only because he lets her actually attempt to bounce a quarter off his ass.
By the time the band actually gets to play a live show, the original parkour video has six point two million views, and the “official” video for the song has over eight million and climbing. Their first official gig is in a bar that pastes their name up on the marquee outside like they’re actually headliners, the crowd is hundreds strong, and the set length is a little over an hour and a half, padded out with a few favorite covers and album rejects. Ally watches from just offstage, chewing nervously on her sleeve but eventually getting into it, letting the music strum through her ribcage and grinning through the racket of the crowds. It’s surreal, watching the guy who sits on her couch in his underwear, scrawling down notes on a yellow memo pad and filling in forgotten lyrics with fuck, fuck, fa-fuck, playing to an audience which is actually there to see him. Beats the hell out of a wedding or a bar mitzvah.
Colin finds her in the little hallway and electrical room that counts as “backstage” afterward. “What was that? What the hell was that?” he half-shouts as he swings her around, still deafened by the set, grinning like a kid. His new City Eyes tee is soaked, sticking to his skin, and he smells like sweat and beer. It should, by all rights, be really gross, but his excitement is infectious.
The next thing she knows, her back’s up against the painted black wall and his knee’s pressing in between her legs and his tongue’s in her mouth, and she hasn’t been this sort of girl since she let Dave Hansen fuck her against the door to the storeroom of the bar where he worked, almost a decade ago now. But hey, quarters aren’t appearing out of any orifices, and the noises Colin’s making are rough and scratchy from singing his throat raw, and hell yeah, okay, she’s into this.
“Sorry,” Colin whispers against her lips, drawing back a little. “Woo, carried away. Sorry.”
Ally just kicks the door to the electrical room shut and runs her fingers up into the damp hair at the nape of his neck before climbing him like a sweaty, ridiculously attractive tree and wrapping her legs around his waist. “Let’s be classy,” she grins, then bites his lower lip.
“You,” he mumbles, all surprise and sincerity, “are my favorite.”
(“You didn’t,” Daisy says, bouncing Delia in her arms and wearing her best disapproving face. Whatever. Ally is so over feeling guilty for anything.)
They’re told the rights to use the song were purchased by a major company and might appear in advertising, but that does exactly nothing to prepare them for hearing a very familiar chord open up a Pepsi commercial during the fucking Super Bowl. Ally is pretty sure her shriek can only be heard by dogs. So, y’know, one more thing to feel bad for Bandit about. Colin tackles her to the couch and they’re just beating each other and screaming for the entire length of the commercial, then they rewind the tivo and watch it again and scream some more. Then they call the rest of the guys, and Colin’s sister Anna, and Daisy and Eddie, and they all scream.
Within the month, they’re on the pop charts. The agent the label assigned to them starts pushing the idea of late night talk show appearances and wants to sit down with the guys to hammer out a summer tour schedule. Ally curls up with Colin’s laptop and a bottle of wine one night while Colin’s out practicing at Travis’s place and watches all of the covers and parodies and send-ups on YouTube. A college marching band from Ohio uploaded a video of them performing the song at a basketball game, the green-and-white-clad kids on the horns dancing around like crazy people.
Surreal. It’s so surreal.
They play SXSW, one band amidst thousands. Ben put in an application the summer before--the same as he had every summer for the past three years running--but this time, they were selected to showcase, a late-round pick that screams ‘oh, you’re a little bit famous now? okay.’ Colin makes a joke of complaining about missing St. Patrick’s Day in Boston, but everyone else tells him to kindly fuck off, because holy shit, dude, SXSW.
Austin is a nightmare and a half, and Ally is pretty sure she’s going to drown in a sea of fragile musician egos and guitar cases. It doesn’t help that she gets food poisoning the first day of the festival from a really super suspect taco truck and Colin spends that night grimacing and holding her hair back for her. It just adds a certain flair to the whole trip.
City Eyes plays on the third day, and Ally misses the show. She doesn’t have an artist wristband, just a general admission one, and she’s separated from the band as their performance nears. She can’t find the right stage and spends about an hour trying to find anyone who knows how, with absolutely zero luck.
how were we??, Colin texts her as she’s still trying to threaten her phone into pulling up the schedule, despite the cellular network basically not existing due to overuse. She hesitates for a long moment, then taps out great!!! xoxo in response.
She manages to find somebody’s iPad video of the concert and watch it in all its shaky, speaker-destroying glory from the comfort of her hotel bed before he gets back from the show floor, anyway.
Warmer weather brings tour season with it, and City Eyes is lined up to play several festivals and state fairs a week. By now “the song” is topping the charts and is projected to be one of the songs of the summer, which means demand for them is high. Ally is getting legitimately sick of hearing it on the radio, which makes her feel super guilty. They don’t have a tour bus or anything, just an old RV that Travis’s uncle lent them, and the A/C is way sketch, so they basically have a rolling sauna with shag carpeting. Turns out being a low-level rockstar isn’t all that glamorous.
In the middle of August, Ally snuffles awake to Colin kissing her temple. “Morning, beautiful,” he murmurs, then rolls out of bed and bangs around hopping into a pair of drawstring pants. She watches him, frowning, until he vanishes out to the kitchenette, then shoves her gross unwashed hair out of her face.
With a start, she realizes she wants to go home. She’s tired of being sticky-sweaty all the time. She tired of Colin’s old one night stands melting out of the woodwork now that he’s got name recognition. She’s tired of being buffeted around by smelly music fest goers while trying to catch Colin’s shows, or feeling like a bad girlfriend when she skips them--even if he assures her she isn’t. She’s tired of trying to work on her sculptures while they rattle down the interstate at seventy miles an hour, trying to make their next gig. She’s just tired, and she’s tired of acting like she isn’t.
“Hey,” she calls, sitting up. Colin appears in the doorway again, eyebrows raised and slurping the milk out of a bowl of cereal. For a brief moment she considers just tamping it all down, because who the hell complains when her boyfriend’s dream is coming true? And it’s not that bad, anyway. Then she shakes her head and sighs. “Hey, we need to talk.”
Colin’s surprisingly cool about it and helps her get a plane ticket back to Boston. By the next day, she’s riding the finally-fixed elevator to the sixth floor of their building. She’s glad she doesn’t have to look up the staircase and not see him waiting at the top.
She flicks on the lights in her apartment and breathes in the cool, slightly stale air. Her houseplants aren’t dead, which is proof that Daisy actually did drop by and water them every week like she said she would. Everything’s just how they left it in May, and she shrugs her tote bag off of her shoulder and slumps backward onto her bed with a long sigh.
They text, and every night ends with a phone call--sometimes long and rambling and fun, sometimes short and sleepy, sometimes sexy, sometimes terse.
“I’m proud of you,” he says once, a little after two in the morning. She’s back from a girl’s night out and a little tipsy still, and he sounds fucking exhausted.
She laughs. “What’re you proud for?”
“Was wrong about you, Ally Darling. Said one time that you were the sort of person who’d try to make a bad thing work.”
She frowns at the ceiling. She remembers that. It was well before they were even dating. “Are you drunk?”
He huffs, the sound loud through her phone’s speaker. “No. I just mean...I like you, and if tour-girlfriend wasn’t you, I’m glad you’re home now. Don’t wanna be the guy who makes you not-you.”
Ally bites her lip a little to keep from smiling, even though he can’t see it. “You said you weren’t drunk.”
“Ally, come on.” A pause. “Okay, but I’m only the tiniest bit drunk and it doesn’t change what I said.”
“I love you, you loser.”
His voice is warm over the line when he says, “I love you, too.”
Their second single gets considerably less airplay, but they’re still booked up through the fall. They have a stint of opening for a couple of big-name acts, and Colin sends her a series of excited picture texts of him making increasingly flabbergasted faces next to the sort of people who appear in magazines. Even if he’s the sort of person who appears in magazines now--someone from their building taped a torn-out page from People up on her door one day, with a candid of City Eyes splashed across it.
She gets to watch him on a couple of late night shows, and when the band spends a week in NYC, she drives up and meets them. They’re put up in a decent hotel for a change, and she gets to lounge around in a robe and eat things out of the minibar and wear nice clothes for a whole weekend without even being anyone’s beard.
The tour ends in Boston, where it started, at the Paradise Rock Club. Ally does up her hair and puts on a little black dress and wings her eyeliner like a fucking pro, and she’s front and center at the foot of the stage all night long, screaming so loud she’d probably be an embarrassment if she gave a damn. Daisy and Eddie got a sitter for the night and flank her, and she and Daisy form their own two person mosh pit by halfway through the set. At the end of the night, Colin pulls her up on stage and kisses her, right there in front of god and about a dozen former girlfriends.
When they get back to their apartment in the wee hours of the morning, buzzed and exhausted and grinning-happy, Ally snags his big suitcase, runs ahead, gets in the elevator, and presses the door-close button while Colin’s still blinking.
“Hey!” he says, offended, but instead of waiting for the elevator to come back down, he just sighs and starts taking the stairs. He’s made it to the third floor, guitar over his shoulder and duffel in hand, by the time Ally leans over the railing. He looks up, sees her watching him, her chin resting on her folded arms, and chuckles. “Okay, okay, I get it.”
She wakes up the next morning with his arm around her waist and his legs tangled with hers, and then it’s huevos rancheros, a bad movie marathon, and showing off all her new figurines while he keeps telling her how good it is to be home.