Just Keep Breathing.
"Be cool," I remind Akiko as we exit out of the backstage parking lot and head up the hill to the stage.
"We parked beside 10FOUR's van. I got to touch the van!"
"Akiko!" I stop and glare at her. "Hold it together."
"Right, sorry," she nods and grabs for my hand, holding it like a girlfriend would.
A shudder goes down my spine. "Nope, can't do it!"
"I agree, the hands creepy." She frowns and kicks at he ground. "What are we going to do?"
"What if I put my arm around you?" I hesitate, stretch out, but every time she comes near I pull back.
"We're being ridiculous," she says, then she looks over my shoulder and starts to hyperventalate.
"What are you doing?" I ask.
She keeps wheezing and points behind me.
Taylor. He's running down the hill towards us.
"Be cool," I warn, "or I'll trade you up for a better model."
"How...dare you...threaten our friendship."
"Do you need an inhaler? Paper bag?"
"Hey Ray," Taylor says, slapping me on the back.
I cough and cover my pain with a smile. That boy is way stronger than he realizes.
"Whose this?" he says, outstretching his hand to Akiko.
She opens her mouth to speak then closes it. She repeats this until I'm wonder if she's purposely trying to look like a goldfish.
"My uh, girlfriend, Akiko," I say, stepping beside her and putting my arm across her shoulders. It's awkward, and even more so when Akiko starts to giggle. I kick her as best I can without Taylor noticing. But even a two-year-old could tell that we're not natural.
She places her hand in his, and practically swoons. "Taylor," she says slowly, drawing out each syllable.
If my arm weren't around her I'd slap myself in the forehead. No, better yet, I'd slap Akiko.
"Yeah, I'm Taylor. Nice to meet you."
"You Taylor, nice," Akiko sputters.
"Ok darling," I hiss, "You keep this up and I'll start getting jealous."
Akiko snaps her attention to my prodding look--you know the one were you furrow your brow, squint your eyes and sharply nod in warning. I'm pretty sure that's the look I'm giving her. But after she starts into another fit of nervous laughter, I can't be certain.
"Well," Taylor says breaking the awkwardness. "I was just coming to tell Ray we're starting sound check early."
"Ok, cool. I'll grab my symbol and be right there." Then I realize I'm forgetting Akiko, I can't very well have her standing side stage giggling like a lunatic the whole rehearsal. "Where can Akiko wait?"
Taylor smiles knowingly at me and leads us to the concession tent, it has black leather couches, a pool table, TV and all the food Akiko could eat. She doesn't even say goodbye but wanders like a zombie into the heart of the tent. I hear her mumble something about heaven as I turn to leave.
Taylor nudges me. "Dude, your girlfriend's a little intense."
If only he knew the extent of how intense she really is. I suck in a breath and am reminded by the sharp pain. She sure did listen when I told her to make sure the tensor was tight.