Home > The Idea of You(2)

The Idea of You(2)
Author: Robinne Lee

“Having a hard time deciding?” The tall one on the far end spoke. “Come, come stand near me. I don’t bite, I promise. Now, Rory, Rory might bite, and Ollie’s unpredictable, so…” He smiled this dazzling smile. Wide mouth, full lips, perfect teeth, dimples. Hayes.

Isabelle smiled and made her way in his direction.

“Ha! I win! I win … What’s your name, love?”

“Isabelle.”

“I win Isabelle!” He flung his arm over her narrow shoulders, protective-like, and then glanced over to me. “And you must be the big sister?”

Isabelle laughed, covering her mouth. Her features delicate, like a little bird. “That’s my mom.”

“Your mum?” Hayes raised an eyebrow, holding my gaze. “Really? All right then. Isabelle’s mum. Do you want to join us for the picture?”

“No, I’m fine. Thanks.”

“You sure? Promise to make it worth your while.”

I laughed at that. “I’d like to see you do that.”

“I’d like to show you.” He smiled, bold. “Come on. You’ll want something to commemorate our wild night in Vegas.”

“Well, when you make it so appealing…”

* * *

The first photo I have of myself with Hayes is of the nine of us, in the basement of the Mandalay Bay. He has one arm draped around me and the other around Isabelle. I’d ordered two copies. In time Isabelle would destroy hers.

* * *

“I’m impressed you flew out here just for us.” The guys were in full conversation with my brood, making the most of our ninety seconds. Liam was asking Rose about our trek to Sin City, and Simon was touching Georgia’s hair.

“I love these curls.”

“Do you?” Georgia gave as good as she got. She’d benefitted from an older sister.

“That’s quite an indulgence, flying in for the day.” Hayes was engaging Isabelle, leaning on her shoulder like a big brother. Like he’d known her all her life. I knew inside she was dying.

“Two days,” she clarified.

“It was a gift from her father,” I volunteered.

“‘Her father’?” He looked over to me. There was that raised eyebrow again. “Not your husband?”

“He was my husband. Now he’s just her father.”

“Well…” He paused. “That’s serendipitous, isn’t it?”

I laughed. “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

There was something about him in that moment. His ease. His accent. His cocksure smile. Disarming.

“Next!” Our time was up.

* * *

He humored us again at the end of the meet-and-greet. When everyone had taken their requisite photos and the group was signing autographs, we filtered over to him amidst a sea of moving bodies. Fish swimming upstream. All around us there was collective squealing and swaying and “Hayes, can I touch your hair?” But my group was holding it together. It might have been that jaded L.A. thing: that they were used to seeing the likes of the Beckham boys at the local park, or “Spider-Man” in the carpool lane at drop-off. It took a bit more to faze them. They were, despite all their exuberant canvassing of the resort that afternoon, surprisingly poised.

“I’m really loving the Petty Desires album. It’s deep on so many levels,” Georgia gushed.

“Yes,” Rose chimed in. “Such clever lyrics. I love ‘Seven Minutes.’”

“You like it, do you?” He glanced up from where he was signing a T-shirt.

“It’s like … you’ve really tapped into our generation. You speak for all of us.” Isabelle flipped her hair, an attempt at flirting, but the awkward pursed-lipped smile belied her youth. There were braces under there. Oh, sweet girl, in time …

She had my face. Large almond-shaped eyes, pouty French lips, a fair olive complexion. Her hair thick, brown, almost black.

I watched Hayes take the girls in. His eyes moving from one to another, amused. I imagined he was used to this. Finally, he landed on me.

“Where are you ladies sitting?”

The girls rattled off our seat numbers.

“Come backstage after the show. I’m going to have someone come and get you on the floor. Don’t leave.” He looked to me then. Piercing blue-green eyes and a mass of dark curls. He couldn’t have been more than nineteen. “All right?”

I nodded. “All right.”

* * *

There was something mind-bending about emerging from an intimate conversation with a member of the biggest boy band of the last decade and being thrust into an arena with twelve thousand of his shrieking fans. There was a shift of equilibrium, a disconnect. For a moment I lost sense of where I was, how I’d gotten there, what my role was supposed to be. The girls were buzzing with excitement and rushing to find our floor seats, and I was spiraling. I was not prepared for the onslaught: the roar, the pitch, the energy level of so many adolescent girls at the peak of arousal. That this, all of this, could be for the boys we’d just left in the basement seemed inconceivable. They were bewitching, yes, but still flesh and blood.

The screamfest started before the guys hit the stage and continued without pause for the next two and a half hours. Lulit had been right. It was at a decibel level that was near impossible to get used to. Particularly for a woman pushing forty.

The year I turned sixteen, I saw the New Kids on the Block at Foxboro Stadium during their Magic Summer Tour. A handful of us went for Alison Aserkoff’s birthday. Her father had finagled floor seats and backstage passes. It was loud and unwieldy and not typically my thing. Boy bands were not part of the prep school culture. We grew up listening to the Stones, U2, Bob Marley. Music that never got old. So five working-class boys from Dorchester, Mass., should theoretically not have had any appeal.

But there was something there. The rush, the hormones, the heat from the stage. The idea that they were longed for and lusted after by so many made them exponentially more appealing. And for a brief moment I thought I could let myself go, in the madness. But then I realized how indelicate that would seem, how unbecoming. And I remembered who I was supposed to be, at my core. And whatever wanton adulation might have occurred I stopped before it could take root. Well before the encore at the New Kids concert.

A near quarter-century later, it was threatening to play out again.

Despite the noise and the hormones coursing through the Mandalay Bay, the band put on a great show—although whether a group could truly call themselves a band if they didn’t play instruments was unknown to me. Rory stroked the guitar for a handful of songs, and Oliver sat down before the piano once or twice, but other than that, the only instrumentation came from the accompanying backup band. Mostly the guys sang and jumped about onstage like young virile pogo sticks. There was lots of roughhousing and clowning around and very little choreography, but the fans did not seem to mind.

“I love them! I love them! I love them!” Georgia proclaimed after a rousing rendition of “Fizzy Smile,” the titular track from the band’s first album. There were tears streaming down her doll-like face, and her curls had begun to frizz in the humidity. “They touch my soul.”

Rose was clearly in agreement, shrieking every time Liam walked the extended platform that brought him within feet of us. Isabelle was in her own trance, singing and swaying deeply with the music. They were a happy bunch. And in that moment, I forgave Daniel for welshing as he often did, because his flounder had gifted me the opportunity to witness the girls’ rapture. One could not put a price on that.

Like clockwork, a burly black man wearing credentials arrived at our section just as the band exited the stage after the final encore. Hayes had kept his promise.

“Is one of you Isabelle?”

I barely made out what he was saying through the incessant hum in my ears, the sense of conversing underwater. But we followed him to the gate, where he presented each of us with wristbands and all-access lanyards.

No words were spoken on the long walk backstage. I suspected the girls did not want to ruin the moment, to be woken from the dream. Their expressions were expectant, serious. They could barely look at one another for the excitement. Our lives begin tonight.

I got the impression that the security guard was used to this, plucking young girls from the audience to hand-deliver to the band. For a moment I feared what we might be getting ourselves into. Where was he taking us exactly? And at what point might I be liable for child endangerment? Because certainly handing over a trio of twelve-year-olds for consumption would constitute some sort of misdemeanor, if not felony. No, I would not let them out of my sight. This was Vegas, after all.

But as we entered the after-party it became apparent that my worries were unnecessary. Girls for consumption seemed few and far between: a couple of unrecognizable models, the Dane from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, a reality star, and an actress from the new Netflix series. Other than that, it appeared to be family and close friends: a bunch of Brits and industry types and a handful of well-behaved, lucky young fans. It felt decidedly safe.

Eventually the band emerged, freshly showered, hair damp and void of product. There was applause and whistles and the pop-popping of champagne. And I had to wonder if this happened every night. This sort of self-congratulatory celebration. Isabelle and her friends wasted no time flocking to Simon and Liam at the party’s core. Composure regained, they were once again on a mission. I wasn’t certain what that mission was exactly: “Make said member of August Moon fall in love with me” sounded about right, and yet surely they must have realized that was highly unlikely. As it was, Rory was chatting up the swimsuit model in a corner. Beanie pulled low on his brow, hands jammed deep into his pockets, forcing the waist of his black jeans lower than their already ridiculous latitude. The incline of his head and his body language conveyed all: he had claimed her.

Oliver was deep in conversation with what I took to be a record exec—some guy in a gray shiny suit who might or might not have been hitting on him. He was the most elegant of the group. Willowy and thoughtful with hazel eyes and golden hair. The type I would have fallen in love with in college only to discover he was gay. Or far too profound to be interested in an art history major. Either way, he would have broken my heart.

   
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