Sequel: If Only Until Morning

Pictures on Silence

Chapter 41

"I can't believe I have to go back to school on Friday," I complained. It was August twenty-ninth, the afternoon of the dreaded day of registration and school pictures, and the band was out for a last hurrah. Aromi had even decided to join us; I would have loved to hear the excuse he gave for getting off work.

"My picture sucks like a Hoover." It was nice to see all my friends again--I'd missed them--but I didn't want the summer to end. It had been magical, and truth to tell none of my friends except Bianca knew about the band touring. Sometimes I hate my friends.

"Your liar liar pants on fire is showing, Pen," Matt observed slyly. Jesse, Sean, and Aromi cracked up while I threw him a glare. He smiled, flashing bright white teeth. "You're gorgeous."

"Stai farmo, maschio puttana," I ordered, flicking one of Trill's French fries at him.

"Hey!" Trill protested indignantly, hiding his plate. "Throw your own food."

Sundance licked his lips. "You know what your Italian does to me, babe." He bit his lower lip and shut his eyes, head tilting back.

Right eyelid twitching, I got up, thoroughly freaked out. "O--kay, that's my cue to get the fuck out of here. At least the boyfriend from rich-land doesn't do... that." Matt opened one verdant eye and grinned.

"I highly doubt 'e doesn't," Sean said reasonably, swirling his soda. "No matter how straight-laced he may seem, Lyle's still a bloke." He raised an eyebrow at me. "And I thought you found him dead boring."

"I do!" I exclaimed, clapping my hands over my head. "All he talks about is rich people things. Money this and country clubs that! I wish he'd crack open a damn book!"

Aromi squealed, obviously not having listened past the word 'boyfriend'. "Is he a total babe? I bet he is! When do we get to meet your loverboy?"

I scoffed. "Never. You'd probably end up killing him, he's so dull. I can barely stand being around him, and you know how high my tolerance for that sort of thing is. If you guys met him, someone would definitely be dead within ten minutes."

Jesse frowned adorably in confusion. "Then why are you still dating him?" he asked.

I paused in fishing my car keys out of my bag. Licking my lips, I avoided their eyes, all settled on me and my noticeable hesitation. "I have my reasons," I declared. Their gazes demanded I tell them; I couldn't keep anything from the guys, even stupid shit like this.

With a sigh, I tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. "You know it's the best I've gotten. I'm... I don't want to give up something decent just because of a few minor character flaws." I'm afraid this is the best I'll ever get, I finished my thought miserably.

The guys didn't say anything; they probably knew what I meant. I put on a smile. "Who knows? Maybe he'll come across some sense and run screaming," I joked. Matt, Sean, and Jesse smiled indulgently. Aromi frowned, a wrinkle appearing between his eyebrows. I shrugged. "Non so. Ciao, amores."

"Ti amo, Penelope!" Aromi yelled as I exited the restaurant. I smiled back at the table, laughing when they all waved frantically.

"~I'm a terrible person~," I sang to myself, driving towards my destination. I rolled my eyes at myself. Don't be emo, Rhiannon, I told myself. Aiv's emo senses will start tingling and he'll make fun of you.

"So I told him, if you don't sell your stock now, you're a darn fool," Lyle relayed across the table. He sipped his coffee. Plain latte. No sugar. Boring just like him. Please kill me. "But he didn't listen. Lost a lot of money on that. Isn't that awful?" I nodded, disinterestedly. "Angela, are you mad at me?"

The question caught me off guard; I'd been wondering how much sugar it would take to send me into a diabetic coma. I straightened from leaning on my elbow. "What?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I just get the feeling that when I talk, you just sort of tune me out."

I blinked at him. Here was my grand opportunity, my big decision: I could tell Lyle exactly how dull he was, how intellectually (and to be honest, physically) non-stimulating he was. Or I could pick door number two and be a coward like I usually am and pretend everything's peachy. "No, of course not. I've just got a lot on my mind right now. School starts tomorrow."

Damn you, door number two. You doors are always out to get me. Like the government. And the number eight.

Lyle smiled. "That's good. I was afraid for a moment that--"

I never got to hear what he was afraid of, because my phone chose that moment to ring. Spencer was calling. I smiled apologetically at his dour expression. "I'll be right back," I promised, already getting up. Outside Starbucks (Lyle got our drinks for free), I answered freely, "Good afternoon, Spencer James."

"Good evening, Rhiannon Angela," Brendon greeted unexpectedly.

"Brendon Boyd?" I gasped. "What are you doing on Spencer James' cell phone?"

"Calling you. Duh." I laughed at the simplicity of his answer. "How was school?" he mocked.

I stuck my tongue out and made a childish noise, making us both laugh. "Not too terrible. My i.d. picture sucks, but whatever. What's up with you lot?"

"We're at the airport. I've never been so glad to be leaving for New York." I chuckled, leaning against the glass front of the store. "You're going to be watching the VMAs on Thursday, right?"

"And get the opportunity to see my four favourite Vegasites dance around on stage like the sexy bitches they are?" I continued, laughing. "You better believe it!" I turned my head and caught sight of Lyle watching me, an uncomforting look on his face. I cleared my throat, smiling diminishing, and turned away guiltily. "Scopatta. Bren, I have to go. I left Lyle in Starbucks alone. Again. Talk later." I hung up turned back into Starbucks with a manufactured smile.

Lyle's face was serious. "Angela, we have to talk." I frowned slightly. 'We have to talk' translates in date-speak to 'You're not going to like what I'm going to say'. "Look. You're an amazing girl and all, but I don't think this is working out."

I blinked stoically. Bwuh? I partied on the inside, but put on a straight face and nodded solemnly. "I agree."

"I just don't want to have to compete for your attention, you know?" Lyle stared at the phone still in my hand and I instantly understood. Lyle was jealous. "Whoever calls you so much obviously really likes you, and I don't want to get in the way of that."

I wanted to laugh in his face. "I understand," I said, putting a little compassion into my voice. "Honestly, I think this is the best for both of us." He looked a little confused that I was going along so easily, and idiocy makes my cruel sarcastic side come out. I covered his hand with one of mine and smiled.

"Lyle, you're nice, but you're intensely boring. I'm not interested in stocks or money or anything like that. I also need a boyfriend who's actually willing to get more physical than holding my hand or giving me a hug." His face pinked, and I thought back to what Sean said. Obviously Butch Cassidy was wrong. I stood up. "I'm sorry, Lyle, but you're just not good for me." I briefly kissed his cheek and left the store, never looking back.

When I shut my car door, I laughed loudly in elation. "I'm free!" I shouted, accidentally punching the roof of the car and hurting my hand. "Ow." I flexed my fingers and grinned. "That hurt like a bitch, but I'M FREE! Free from the weirdo who only calls me my full middle name! This calls for 'Freebird'!"
Because every life story needs a soundtrack.

On the phone with the standardised time voice, I looked at the clock. Fifteen seconds. I pulled out my cell and scrolled down to 'GRReat!' It rang.

"Ange, it's late," Ryan answered, sounding tired. "Our flight was really long and I'm fucking beat. Why are you calling?"

"Well," I drawled, listening to the mechanised womans voice, "As of... right now it's your birthday, and I wanted to be the absolute first to wish you happy birthday." I grinned, hanging up the house phone. "Happy Birthday, George Ryan Ross the Third!"

He laughed on the other end. "Only you, Ange. Thanks. That means a lot to me. But really, twenty's not a big deal. I still can't legally drink."

"It is a big deal," I insisted, skipping through my kitchen. "You're a year older and a year wiser. Plus now it seems like you're even older in comparison to me than you really are."

Ryan laughed and started to say something, but a woman's voice in the background asked, "Sweetie? What are you still doing up?"

My brain shut off connection to my mouth and I stopped in the middle of my hallway. Ryan answered her, but whatever he said came only as a buzzing hum to me. Woman. Hotel. Ryan. New York. "Who was that?" I asked in a whisper.

A moment's pause passed before he replied. "My girlfriend Emilie." I repeated the words in a stuttering hush. "Didn't I tell you?"

"No..." I couldn't get over the shock, and I couldn't figure out why it came as a shock. I forced myself to shuffle in a daze to my room and sat down on my bed.

"Oh. I could have sworn I did. Well, I've been with this girl Emilie for about three weeks now. She's really great. Are you sure I didn't tell you about her?"

Ryan's words passed over me like water; nothing past his second sentence registered in my brain. Three weeks. I couldn't feel my legs, though my head more than certainly made up for them in weight and motion. His girlfriend Emilie. My chest hurt with an overwhelming disappointment in the world. And I couldn't figure out why.

Ryan was saying my name on the other end. "Oh, uh, sorry, Ry. Kind of spaced out there," I said, putting a hand to my forehead. "I'm sorry I called so late. I'll let you get to sleep." Without saying goodbye, I hung up and stared up at the ceiling.

I couldn't feel anything. The words drifted across my consciousness numbly. His girlfriend.
Get over it, I told myself. It's really not that surprising. I mean, who wouldn't want to date Ryan? He's such a great guy, and he deserves a nice girl.

Still staring at my ceiling, I felt a lump form in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. Swallowing, I sniffed and burst into tears a second later, throwing myself on the bed. I cried so hard that my stomach hurt. I wanted to shut out the world. I wanted to never leave my room and never talk to anyone again. I wanted someone to tell me it didn't matter.

I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up.

Because I was going to die alone.