The Pretender- Foo Fighters
Two hours later I am in the leather skirt and corset top. I am stewing in my room waiting for the guys to return. Wishing I would have just gone to the show with them instead of avoiding them all day. When I hear Charlie’s van and Josh’s truck pull up out front. I can hear the people with them laughing and talking already in the lower level of the house and I take another look at myself in my full length mirror.
“Now or never Raychel, you can do this.”
Josh’s slightly slurred voice sounds from just outside my door, “Hey Cinderella are you coming to the ball?”
I open the door and Josh takes a quick step back I feel rather than see his eyes take me in as I am still looking at the floor. His gaze is like a searing touch as it travels up my slim pale legs to the bottom of the black leather skirt with its slit nearly reaching the apex of my thighs. Then along my corset covered torso resting on my ample cleavage. I might be dressed like the town slut but my rack does look awesome in this shirt. When I finally raise my eyes to Josh’s face, he looks like he swallowed a frog. Just then a blonde skinny guys bounds up behind Josh.
“Hello momma! Are you Ray’s girl? Where is this dude I wanna meet the man that caught your sweet ass?” Josh smacks the other guy upside the head and looks back to me. The strange look he was giving me wiped from his face.
“Brando this is Ray. Ray this Jackass is Brando, stay far away from him for your own good.”
“Holy shit man.” A broad smile spreads over Brando’s face and he continues to ogle me. I am beginning to feel a little self-conscious when he extends his hand to me. I go to shake it and he kisses the back instead.
“Sorry Josh led me to believe you were a dude.”
“I get that a lot, not a problem”. I can feel my cheeks turn red under his gaze.
Josh pushes Brando further down the hall towards his room.
“We are just getting a couple bottles from my room. Why don’t you go on downstairs Charlie can introduce you to everyone.”
“Uh yea okay I…” I don’t finish my sentence I turn, close my door and flee down the stairs. My cheeks are burning from my slip of verbal diarrhea. I am in my own head again and practically flatten myself into a very large guy at the bottom.
“Oh sorry my bad”. I try and fail to maneuver my way around the sumo wrestler without making contact again. He turns to me and smiles, He looks like a big teddy bear with soft brown eyes, hair longer than mine and earlobes with plugs so large I might be able to fit my hands through his lobes.
“Hey sorry Just trying to get to the kitchen.”
“Making a quick exit from somewhere sweetheart?” He gives me a kind smile and his eye flick to the upper level. Towards Josh, and the hot mess I just made of myself up there.
“Something like that,” I flush again, “I’m Ray.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“You too. You are way too sweet looking to be hanging with Brando and Josh, you must be one of Charlie’s friend’s.”
“Actually I live here as of Yesterday.” My eye stay on his and there is no awkwardness or creepy feeling coming from this guy.
“You are that Ray? Wow okay. By all means then you can enter your kitchen.”
Jordan lets me pass to the kitchen where Charlie has set up a mini bar of sorts and is doing his best Tom Cruise “cocktail” impression to three girls who watch enraptured. He stops when he sees me and hurries over to wrap an arm around my shoulders. I can tell now, that he closer to me, that he is wasted.
“Ray my, sweet, beautiful darling you look fucking smashing”. He apparently also develops a British accent when he drinks. Now he is even more adorable. He walks me towards the three girls. All three are shorter than me, although I am freakishly tall for a girl so that’s not a big deal. There are two brunettes one with darker skin, maybe native or Latin. They are both giving me the stink eye. The other is a hippie looking blonde who’s smiling at Charlie like he hung the moon.
“Ray, I would like you to meet the Triplets, Triplets this is Ray, our newest roommate.” All three girls are similar height but they are all different coloring, definitely not real triplets. The blonde friendly one speaks up for the group.
“Hi Ray I’m Sammie, this is Jess and Raina. It’s really nice to meet you. When did you move in? Do you go to school here? What’s your major?”
“Sammie, sweets, give her a chance .” Charlie interrupts her line of questioning
“I moved in yesterday morning. I go to St. Augusta’s, majoring in Literature and Theater Management. Before you ask, I am 20 years old I work at The Moon and manage the Box Office at school.” As I finish my speech I can see already that Sammie is going to be my ally. She is practically bouncing in place. Raina and Jess are sporting matching resting bitch faces. I have a sneaking suspicion I am not going to win the ice queens over as easily as I did the third triplet.
“This is so great XX chromosomes are way underrepresented in this group. I am a pre-med third year over at State. Super excited to meet you.” She turns to her companions and only now seems to notice their not so warm reception to me. Her shine dulls slightly. Charlie picks this very opportune moment to place a drink in my hand.
“Amaretto sour for the nube.” He gives me warning glance, he has “big brother” eyes now. “Be careful with those they taste like candy and carry a punch.”
“Thanks daddy dearest, but I did grow up in a dinky little town, I have drank a few cocktails.” My words are snarky but I give him my best puppy dog eyes.
“Oh the kitten had claws too.” Brando enters the kitchen with flourish, passing the triplets and coming directly to me. I take a quick step back looking towards to dining room entrance behind me. I am getting more scathing looks from Jess and Raina. Great. Creepy dude is on the most wanted list along with Josh. Good to know.
A warm hand comes to rest on my shoulder from behind. I can feel the breath of the owner brush lightly across my exposed neck.
“Brando no kittens like to play with big hounds who drool all over them.” No truer words have been spoken. However I do not know the owner of that smooth voice, or the body pushed possessively against my back. I turn slowly and meet dark brown eyes. My breath catches, yes actually catches, and it brings a smile to my rescuers face.
This guy is a mixture of JC from N’SYNC and that super-hot man bun model from the Abercrombie Ads. He keeps his eyes and his body glued to mine. Leaning in slightly to whisper in my ear.
“Karl. You must be Raychel.” His vice is low and smooth like silk.
“Ray, you can call me Ray.” I can feel another blush creeping up my neck and over my face. The rest of the room melts away and Karl smiles.
I am quickly pulled out of my own drool fest by Josh’s voice from the kitchen doorway behind me. He must have followed Brando down the stairs.
“Ray I see you’ve met my brother.” Brother? What the? Now that I look into Karl’s eyes I can see the genetic resemblance. His long mahogany brown hair is pulled back in a low pony and his eyes the same shape and depth as Josh’s stare back at me with rapt fascination. Karl is a ringer for Josh is every way but the hunger I see in his stare is not anything I have seen from Josh before. He moves his hand from where I hadn’t noticed was resting on my bare shoulder down my arm to my clammy hand. He lifts it gently and places a whisper of a kiss to the back side. I finally find my voice
“I didn’t’ know Josh had a brother.”
“Yes well consider me his dirty little secret.” He says with a smirk that ruffles my feathers slightly. There is a warning in his tone but his face remains passive.
It’s as if the room has gone completely silent. I can feel Josh’s eyes burning a hole in the back of my head but I can’t tear my gaze from Karl.
“Well I’m glad everyone has met how about we get this party started with some rock band!” Sammie cuts in almost sounding nervous.
I turn to her and give her a smile, taking back my hand from Karl’s. There is a tension in the room, I don’t know why but I have a feeling Karl is the cause of it. I looks over to my housemates and waves a fury are coming off Josh. Charlie as well seems to have sobered considerably in the last few minutes. His eyes are darting back and forth between my hand,the one Karl was holding, to Josh’s eyes. There is something seriously wrong with this dynamic and I am determined not to get in the middle of it.
“That sounds like a great idea I get vocals.” I say to Sammie, the one person throwing me a lifeline. I walk around Karl being careful to give him a wide berth in the narrow doorway and walk with her into the living room beyond.
Once drinks are gathered and the game is set up everyone seems to have forgotten the incident in the kitchen. I take up vocals, Sammie and Charlie are on guitar Josh on drums. Raina and Jess never stray far from Josh and Brando’s sides. Jordan, who I find out is the band’s manager takes turns with me singing when we play heavier songs. I lose track of the drinks I have. I am having too good of a time to worry about anything like getting sick from alcohol or the imminent hangover I will face in the morning. I can feel Karl’s gaze on me when I sing Leather and Lace, by Stevie Nicks.
“I didn’t know you could sing like that Ray.” Charlie bellows after we finish with a high score.
“Yeah, I don’t sing in public unless it calls for it in a role.” I say my eyes straying to the floor as my cheeks heat with blood.
“You should sing with Grounded sometime!” Sammie says from her spot next to me on the couch. Her eyes twinkle. She is genuine in her praise and her intent.
“Naw. You already have a singer right Brando.” As I say it I look around for him. He doesn’t answer because he is busy inspecting Raina’s tonsils with his tongue in a dark corner. The group breaks out in laughter and Charlie throws one of my girly pillows at their attached heads. They break apart and Brando looks indignant.
“Hey what’s with the cock blocking?”
“Get a room. Preferably not mine.” Josh states although with Jess slung across his lap with her mouth pressed against his neck he looks like he is about to go there himself. I try to quell the knot that puts in my stomach. I can’t have Josh obviously. However he sleeps in the room next to mine and I really don’t want to listen to him screw another girl all night. Jordan gets up from the couch.
“Come on Brando I will take you and Raina home.” He looks to Karl. “You good or do I have to drive out to the sticks tonight too?” Karl takes a moment to look at me, then over to his brother.
“I think I will crash here if that’s okay, Charlie?” I notice he doesn’t ask Josh. Maybe he already knows what his brother’s answer will be. Hearing his name Charlie looks up from the remote guitar in his lap.
“Uh yea you can crash on the couch, Sammie you’ll just have to sleep with me or in Ray’s room.” He looks to me for confirmation that this plan is alright with me. I look at Sammie and she is making dreamy eyes at the completely oblivious Charlie. I decide to throw Sammie a bone.
“Oh, well I would be fine with that. But, ya know, I have the loft bed and it’s just a twin it would be more comfortable for Sammie to sleep in your room. Seeing as you have a bed big enough for six people.” I give Sammie I knowing look and I can see the thank you she is psychically throwing me.
While we were figuring out sleeping arrangements Jess has gotten more acquainted with Josh’s lap. He picks her up and sets her down next to him. Then takes her hand and walks up the stairs with her without a word. I can feel the bile rolling in my gut. Why am I so freaking jealous?
Karl takes Jordan’s vacant spot next to me and throws an arm around my back. His brothers exit seeming to be a green light to be physically near me again. Charlie looks at me with a slight frown, but it is fleeting. He huffs and gets up.
“Ray do you have some sweats or something for Sammie?”
“Uh sure.” I pull her up from the couch and she follows me to my room. Once behind my closed door she turns to me quickly.
“You should really stay away from Karl.”
“Huh? Why?” I knew there was something going on there.
“He’s not a nice guy let’s just leave it at that.”
I turn her words over in my mind before handing her some cute sweatpants that say "hit it" on the butt in neon pink lettering. She sees it and giggles forgetting the ominous warning she was just giving me.
“Wow that’s subtle.”
“They are from softball, goof. Also I think we may have to spell it out for Charlie because he is super clueless to the fact that you like him.”
“That obvious, huh?” She says her face getting a little pale at the thought
“To me, yes, to him, not so much.”
“He and I have been friends for so long. I have had a crush on him for the whole time and it’s just getting me nowhere.” For the first time tonight I can see the light shining from her eyes fade slightly.
“Uh huh, well as my best friend Stace would say, Fuck them if they can’t see the Fabulous.”
“I really do think we are going to be great friends Ray. I can tell you were nervous tonight but you did great. I know the other girls were a little worried you would be a bitch.”
“Yea, no offense but they are not exactly little balls of sunshine themselves.”
When we head out of my room I can hear the low thud of bass coming from the door next to mine. Well I guess the music will drown out any sex noises from Josh and Jess not that it will help my state of mind at all. When we reenter the living room the guys have a cozy set up of blankets and cushions on the floor and the couch. Charlie is putting a dvd in the player. Then he turns and addresses Sammie and I.
“I would like it on the record that I wanted to watch Spinal Tap,” he pauses as the guys in the room boo and throw popcorn at him, “but seeing as I was veto’d we are watching Evil Dead.” A woop goes up from Brando and Jordan. Great scary movies in a new house with people I don’t really know all that well. I scan the scattered bodies on the furniture and the floor looking for a spot and I find one right between Jordan and... Karl...awesome. I make my way over to the spot I was eyeing. Jordan opens his arms when I come close beckoning me into his space.
“Come on in Ray I will keep you safe from the zombies.” It might sound like a cheesy pick up line but I am getting the big brother vibes from Jordan unlike Karl who makes me nervous and turned on all at the same time. Giving Karl as large of a berth as I can I snuggle into Jordan. He has a bowl of popcorn for us to share and spreads a blanket over my bare feet. I look around the room Raina is gone but the guys are still here? I lean in and whisper to Jordan.
“I thought you were taking the neckers home?” He smirks at that.
“Jess came downstairs in a huff and Raina went home with her.” Jess came downstairs? I thought she was with Josh in his room? Guess he struck out. I here the squeaking of the stairs and see Josh reenter the living room. He slides into the chair he was sharing with Jess earlier and doesn’t say a word, just watches the movie with us.
After Evil Dead I get up to take a potty break and change clothes, if I knew tonight was going to be so chill I wouldn’t have worried about dressing up. I put on some yoga pants and a tank and open my door to head back downstairs. Karl is out in the hall waiting for me. What is with people waiting outside my door?
“Ray, I just wanted to speak to you quick away from the watchful eyes of my brother and his friends.” This should be good. “I know you are going to be warned off me from them and I want you to know that I hope we can be friends. I know I have a reputation but I am trying to get my shit back together. I hope to be spending more time with Josh this summer and if you are around I don’t want you to be afraid of me for any reason.”
He looks sincere, contrite even, but my gut says this is a ruse.
" Sorry to ambush you like this but I know if I said anything in front of my brother I would be banished from the house. I might still.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Ha, well lets just say Josh never did like sharing his toys with his little brother. Still doesn’t.” I am about to tell him that Josh and I have no type of friendship and I am nobody’s toy when I hear footsteps coming up the stairs. Before I see who it is Karl places a hand on either side of my face and pulls me in for a gentle kiss. It totally catches me by surprise and it takes me a second to pull away from him. When I do I meet Charlie’s eyes over Karl’s shoulder. I have been shoved between a rock and a hard place. I say a small, “Excuse me”, and rush down the stairs like my ass is on fire. What the hell was that? Was I giving out ‘kiss me’ vibes to Karl. I certainly wasn't trying to. He doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzy, like his brother. In fact he kind of reminds me of Mark in his demeanor. That should be a red flag in and of itself, but Sammie’s warning is still fresh in my mind too. I make it back downstairs and take my seat next to Jordan like nothing happened while I was upstairs. Charlie and Karl don’t rejoin the party for a few minutes after I get back. When they return I notice Josh has been staring at me. He meets Charlie’s gaze and they share another non verbal conversation before everyone’s attention is caught by the next movie.
I must have fallen asleep sometime between the second and third movies because I am woken up by strong arms lifting me off the couch. My sleep blurred vision catches Josh’s long brown hair and he whispers to me.
" Just getting you up to your room, Ray. Can you walk?” It takes some serious effort on my part because I had a few too many drinks, which equals heavy sleep but I nod and he lowers me to the ground. Out of the corner of my eye I can see Karl waiting to take his place on the couch. Jordan has moved from where I must have fallen asleep on him to a pillow and blanket on the floor. Karl steps up to us a hand catching Josh’s arm. “She could have stayed down here you didn’t have to wake her.”
“Ray is sleeping in her bed, alone. I will have my door open if she needs anything.” Josh tells Karl in a deep threatening voice. His tone wakes me up a little but I am still fighting passing out standing. Luckily Josh still has his hand resting on the small of my back. I don’t say anything I just start shuffling to the stairs. With a little help from Josh I am up the stairs and outside my room. He is still behind me, waiting for something.
“You need water or anything?” He whispers.
“No I’m fine. Thanks Josh.” I close the door and am ripping my clothes off to I can crawl in bed when there is a soft knock on my door. I cover up my top half with my just discarded shirt and open it a slit. Josh is still standing there.
“Lock the door okay?”
“Um okay.” I say with a little bit of hesitation. Why would I need to lock my door?
“Nite Ray.” He whispers. I finish undressing and am passed out again as soon as my head hits my pillow.
The morning after I am hung over as all hell. Our sleepover guests left before I make my way out of my room. Karl didn’t come up and say goodbye to me. The least he could have done right? If he was truly trying to be a better guy. Charlie makes his usual eggs and tofu with a side of bacon for me. Josh makes some kind of Hangover cure I do not want to know the ingredients of; and they sit with me as I nurse the hangover they caused. Both are still only wearing boxers.I am in my most comfortable yoga pants and an old softball t-shirt. After breakfast we all take places to lounge in the living room and watch some seriously terrible movies. Which Charlie claims are classics. We veg all day, the guys telling me stories about Brando, Jordan and The Triplets. Josh doesn’t mention Karl, at all. I think he is still pissed at me about the night before. Why, I wasn’t all that sure. I know he must have sent Jess home last night, maybe he is just pissy because he didn’t get laid. I am still wondering why he had me lock my door last night. Does he not trust his friends? My guess is he was just be cautious, but I am not going to ask him.