“Yeah, I’m good.”
He nodded in acceptance of my answer. “Who was that who dropped you off?”
“Just a woman who was kind enough to help me out last night.”
“A good-looking woman,” Dad said with a smirk plastered on his face as he nudged me in the shoulder.
“Really? I didn’t notice. I was just trying to make it home.”
He chuckled. “Liar.”
True. It was almost impossible to not notice Emery’s beauty. If I were a different man with different struggles, I would’ve asked for her number. But the world I lived in didn’t really match the world where she resided. Her world seemed more stable.
Plus, there was Cam.
I wondered how many messages I’d received from her on my dead cell phone.
“You want to talk about what happened yesterday?” Dad asked as we walked up the stairs of my porch.
“Okay. When you’re ready, we’ll be here.”
If patience were human, it would be my parents. They never pressured me to talk about the thoughts that were flooding my mind. Most of the time, they simply randomly showed up and cooked me a lot of food as we listened to music and talked about anything and everything outside of my career and emotions.
I knew that the day I was ready to open up to them, they’d be there for me. There was a comfort in knowing that even when one was lost, home was always right there around the corner. As I ate my meal and chatted with my parents, I felt a little less alone.
Then, without my permission, my mind wandered to Emery. She was one of the better places that my mind had wandered as of late, and I didn’t hate the fact that she was there.
My sister and I used to be best friends.
We used to tell one another every secret and comfort each other whenever our parents were too harsh on us. Too harsh on me. My parents were never hard on Sammie. Maybe because she was the youngest. Maybe because they loved her a little more. Maybe because she was the golden child who’d never done anything wrong.
Over the past five years since Reese was born, our relationship had shifted. We didn’t talk like we used to, and when we did, the conversations felt forced. Though sometimes we’d chat, and it would feel like the old days when she had my back and I had hers, and we’d tell one another all the best secrets in our hearts.
That afternoon when she called me, for a small amount of time, Sammie and I felt like my favorite memory of us. We felt like best friends again.
“Ohmygoshhhh! Tell me everything! Every. Single. Thing! Don’t leave a single bald spot out,” Sammie squeaked over the phone as I walked into my apartment with a stack of résumés in my grip. Coming home felt like returning to a closet after dropping Oliver off at his oversize mansion. The moment I got a second to breathe, I texted Sammie and filled her in on everything that had gone down with Oliver the previous night.
Needless to say, she was having a panic attack about it all. If anyone loved Alex & Oliver as much as I did, it was my sister.
Her voice shook with excitement as she continued talking. “What did he drink? How was his hair? Were his eyes as dreamy as ever? What did he smell like? For the love of all things righteous, please tell me what he smelled like.”
I snickered. “Um, whiskey and vomit?”
She swooned over the idea of whiskey vomit like it was top-of-the-line cologne.
“You lucky girl,” she sang through the phone receiver. “I would give anything to smell Oliver Smith’s vomit.”
“You’re insane,” I laughed.
“Maybe, but oh my gosh, Emery. This is wild! I cannot believe you ended up front row and center at the Oliver Smith show—kind of. It’s like your biggest dream came true.”
“This wasn’t exactly the way I dreamed about hanging out with Oliver.” In my mind, I figured we’d randomly cross paths in Venice, where we just so happened to get on the same gondola by accident, then laugh at the same moment due to the mistake. Then our eyes would lock, our bodies would respond, and he’d sing to me as we traveled down the endless stream of love. We’d have five children, the first being named after Oliver. Then, somewhere along the line, E! Entertainment would offer us our own sitcom, yet we wouldn’t accept because I’d see how power couples had been destroyed time and time again due to reality shows. RIP Nick and Jessica, Jon and Kate, and Kendra and Hank.
Then, we’d spend our fiftieth anniversary taking that same gondola ride, only this time surrounded by our children and grandchildren.
That’s how the dream romance went between Oliver and me.
The reality? Not so many swoon-worthy moments. Definitely more gag-worthy situations.
“So, are you seeing him again? Was there some kind of connection?” she asked, as if she didn’t hear me mention his aroma of vomit.
“The only connection was I learned that celebrities are just regular people who are messed up, with paparazzi and money. It wasn’t as dreamy as you’re imagining it to be.”
“Yeah, okay, I get it. I’m sorry it was such a letdown.” She cleared her throat. “But like, before the vomit, what did he smell like?”
I smirked, shaking my head. “You really want to know?” I asked, walking over to my couch and plopping down.
“Yes, yes, a million times yes!”
“Like a smoky forest oak that burned for just the right amount of time.”
“Oh my goodness, I knew it,” she blew out, “pleased” being an understatement. “Did you cut a piece of his hair for memories?”
I giggled. “You’re ridiculous. But I have to say—”
Before I could finish my thought, I heard a voice in the background of Sammie’s phone.
“We’ll be ready for you in a few minutes for the fitting,” they said.
I arched an eyebrow. “Who was that?”
“I heard a voice.”
Sammie snickered. “I’m just leaving a coffee shop; it was a woman coming in. But enough about that. Tell me more. What happened when you were with him? I need all the details.”
“Well, he peed in my plant.”
“Oh my. Um, is that some kind of sexual code word?”
“What? No. He legit peed in my houseplant.”
“Did you ask him to do that?”
“Why the hell would I ask him to pee in my plant?”
“I don’t know. Fangirls are weird sometimes.”
I laughed. “Well, no, I didn’t. He was so drunk that he thought he was peeing in the bathroom but went straight into my houseplant.”
I could almost see Sammie’s frown through the phone. “I’m going to be honest, that’s pretty disappointing.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint,” I chuckled, shaking my head at my sister’s comment. Man. I missed her. I could’ve really used her around me as of late, but I knew I wasn’t able to ask her to come visit. If I did, the phone calls would get more distant. Sammie had a way of pushing things away when they became too much for her.
As I was talking to her, I received a message from Joey at Seven, telling me to come down to the bar as soon as possible. “Sammie, I have to get going. We’ll talk later, okay?”
We said our goodbyes, and I hopped into my car to drive over to Seven. I tried my best to completely shake the past twenty-four hours from my brain. If I could go back in time, I would’ve never gone in to work that night. Then, my fantasy of the man who made the music that had saved me through my darkest days would still be fully intact. I’d still be a crazed fanatic, and I wouldn’t have to face the reality that he was merely human after all. I remembered when I met him at a meet and greet years ago; I still felt as if he was Superman. Now I understood he was just a man who struggled like everyone else in life. I couldn’t blame him for his struggles. He literally lost his other half.
My mind kept betraying me by wandering back to Oliver, the man who’d destroyed my fantasies. In a way, he’d been such a big part of my life growing up. A huge part of my sister’s story too. His music is what got Sammie and me through our parents’ strict rules. We’d sit in our bedroom, listening to the songs quietly with our earbuds in, because as Mama often said, “Satan’s music does not belong in a house of God.”
Just to be clear, any music that wasn’t Mama approved was Satan’s work.
Did people really get to listen to One Direction growing up? I sure didn’t.
Mama said the only direction those boys were going was down to the devil’s cave.