AN: You wouldn't believe how chaotic my life has been up to this point. My old computer stopped working AGAIN, and we don't have the money right now to fix it. I have an iPhone, but I can't plug my USB drive into it to upload chapters for my stories. Trips to the library to upload will likely be few and far between. On top of that, we recently transferred apartments, and my mother has had surgery and other illnesses. I've dealt with some writer's block, too. I haven't abandoned my page her, and I'm sorry if I'm disappointing my readers. I appreciate your patience with me, and I hope you keep my mother and I in your prayers. Anyway, this chapter is about party-planning and an on-the-road visit. Hope you enjoy.
"So, what do ya wanna do?"
"Geez, Big T. Say it. Don't spray it."
She rolled her eyes at the slight laugh he made. Theresa and Tommy were having lunch at a local cafe, and they were discussing plans for her eighteenth birthday party.
Tommy took a a couple pulls from his beer and said, "Seriously, though...ya gotta give me some ideas here."
"Well, what did you do for your eighteenth?"
He raised an eyebrow, a naughty smile teasing in the corner of his mouth. Theresa shook her head. She was probably better off not knowing.
Then, her brother said, "A'right. Let's start wit' the food. What kind do ya want?"
"Um...barbeque would be great. But the sweet variety. I don't want anyone to burn their mouth off."
He went onto say how Gyp had offered up his mansion as a location for the party, and that he'd planned a fireworks show as the finale for it.
"He wants to do fireworks?"
"Ain't dat what I just said?"
"But...But he barely knows me. Why is he doing this?"
"It's called bein' nice."
She shot back, "Yeah. You should try that some time, dude."
She squealed, giggling when he threw a French fry at her. Tommy then asked her how many people she wanted to invite. She told him there were a couple of friends from high-school she was thinking about, but that she still wanted to kept it small.
She said, "The less people we bring in, the less we have to worry about the press catching on."
A few days later, Theresa was vacuuming her living room, when she was surprised by a knock on her door. Once again, Tommy was there, but he'd brought Bob along this time.
"Hey, Rees. How are you", the keyboardist asked as he hugged her.
"I'm fine, Bobby. I'm glad to see you."
"Dat's great", her brother chimed in, "So, ya ready to go?"
He laughed and replied, "'Go where', she says. I thought we could take ya shoppin' and getcha some stuff for your birthday ahead of time."
"Really ahead. This is April. My birthday's two months off."
"No kiddin' Sherlock. We were there for the last one, rememba'?"
"Seriously, Tommy. Why are you guys so adamant about taking me birthday shopping now?"
It was then that Theresa noticed something important. They weren't looking her in the eye. When Bob cast a nervous sideways glance, it hit her.
"You're going out on tour again, aren't you?"
Their silence was enough of an answer.
"And when did you plan to tell me, hmm? When I got the first post card?"
"Look, Rees. We're sorry. Okay", Bob said, "We didn't even know, until this morning when Crewe called with the new schedule. It's why we didn't warn you about this visit. We felt bad."
He put his hand on her shoulder, watching as her gaze drifted over to Tommy.
Popping a strip of gum into his mouth, the guitarist asked, "So, am I forgiven, or what?"
Taking a quick breath, she told him, "Here's a phrase not unfamiliar to you. You're on probation."
He smiled and said, "I'll take dat."
About forty minutes later, they'd crossed into New York and were pulling into the parking lot of a mall. Tommy handed Theresa a rather fat envelope, saying it was another early gift from Gyp. He chuckled under his breath, as he watched her eyes widen in shock.
"It can pay to have friends in high places, Lil' T."
"That's not very comforting in this case."
"Relax. The bread's legit. He said he wanted ya to spoil yourself. Like the sayin' goes, don' look a gift horse in the mouth."
"I don't use people, Tommy."
Then, Bob chimed in: "We just wanted you to have a good time, Rees. We're going to be gone for a while, and we wanted to get in one last hurrah."
Theresa replied, "Hey, speaking of 'gone', and I know Nick's got a cold, but-"
"Frankie's got somethin' with his wife", Tommy interrupted, "She was supa'-pissed, when he told her about the tour. If dat dame makes me nuts, I can only imagine what she does to him."
The seventeen-year-old recalled how Frankie had yelled over the phone, when she told him about Mary's beeline for the bottle after she'd babysat the girls. She hoped the issue her brother had mentioned didn't have anything to do with a fight. With all the chaos an upcoming tour usually brought, the last thing he needed right now was more of it. A nagging thought crossed her mind. She didn't want to sound like a child, but the question still had to be asked. She tapped Tommy's arm to get his attention.
"You'll be home in time for my birthday, right?"
"Ya kiddin'", he said, putting an arm around her, "We wouldn't miss it."
He kissed her temple to emphasize his point. The trio parted ways soon after entering the mall, promising to meet up again at the food court in two hours. Theresa decided to go the more practical route first, picking up a couple new pairs of jeans, a denim skirt, and three blouses for the upcoming summer weather. She picked out more casual clothes from discount racks, wisely saving most of the cash for later. Then, feeling like the proverbial fish-out-of-water, she walked into a very upscale department store. Theresa immediately spotted a rack of playful-looking party dresses near the back of the store. A frilly emerald-green one brought out her eyes, but the material was too heavy for the summer. A silver one made her look wider, and it also made her appear shorter. She tried on two other dresses, in teal and butter-yellow, respectively, but there were flaws in each that she couldn't get past. Finally, tucked between two dresses that looked more like costumes for Vegas showgirls, a piece of salmon-colored fabric caught her eye. She felt a little trepidation, as she carried it back to the fitting room.
Everything changed, once she actually had the dress on her body. The color complimented her skin tone perfectly. The thin, black bow-belt highlighted her waist. And she knew no man would be able to overlook her chest, given the way the halter neckline held it up. A smile bloomed across her face. She felt sexy. She felt, dare she even think it...like Mary Valli. Her heart fluttered, her cheeks turning red as Frankie's image flashed across her mind. That was wrong. So wrong. She shook her head to clear the picture, ignoring the tiny nip of pain in her neck. She did a twirl, loving the way the skirt flowed out around her. That settled it. Theresa indulged her nerdy side, purchasing a couple of books, before heading to the food court to meet Tommy and Bob. She should've been surprised to see them, throwing french-fries at each other, but she wasn't. Boys will be boys, after all, no matter how old they were. Stifling a giggle, she cleared her throat to get their attention. Tommy froze mid-throw, the corner of his mouth curving upward in a smile. Bob smiled, too, but his looked a bit more embarrassed.
Cupping the back of his neck, he said, "Hey, Rees. We, uh…", and he glanced back at the small mess on their table, "we tried to wait for you, but—"
Letting the laugh out this time, she told him, "Relax. It's fine."
"Relaxin' is a foreign concept to him, princess. Trust me", Tommy said as he shoved another cluster of fries into his mouth.
Bob shot him a dirty look, but he didn't say anything more. On the drive back to her house, Theresa asked them to thank Gyp for his generosity, the next time they spoke to him. She claimed to be too nervous to thank him herself.
Tommy said, "What's to be nervous about, Lil' T? Gyp adores ya."
"I know. I know he does, but…I-I guess I'm just not used to all this stuff yet."
"You think we are", asked Bob.
"Well, you definitely are. You've been in this game since you were only slightly younger than me."
Shrugging, he mumbled, "Fair enough."
Theresa then looked at Tommy and said, "And you've adapted to everything better than a lot of people expected."
He didn't give a response, beyond a soft chuffing noise. It was painful for her to say goodbye to them at her front door, but she comforted herself with the knowledge that they'd be back soon. She couldn't wait for the party. In the back of her mind, she sensed that her turning eighteen would mean more than what it did on paper for the average person. Unfortunately, something negative came before the positive. Theresa received an unexpected opportunity to visit the guys, while they were still on-tour. Crewe sent her backstage passes along with the tickets, and he promised not to tell the guys she was coming. She didn't know why, but she kept wanting to fidget with the small ruffle along the neckline of her blouse as she made the drive. Thank goodness, the crowd wasn't too bad yet when she got there. She waited with anticipation, hoping she wouldn't overdo it with her drink and need to use the bathroom either before, or worse, during the show. She'd brought along a wooden whistle, which her maternal grandfather had carved into the shape of a bird and given it to her for her tenth birthday, and she hoped its special noise would get the guys' attention near the end of the concert.
Her heart pounded, as she sang along with every number. If it looked like one of the guys was glancing in her direction, she made sure to lower her head. She didn't want them to see her yet.
Then, Frankie briefly stopped the show to say, "As a way to close things out tonight, we got a new song we want to share with you. Hope you like it."
It felt like he was talking to Theresa, even though he was looking at the other side of the room. She chalked that feeling up to her crush on the man. When was that going to go away? She nearly rolled her eyes over it, but she was torn from that feeling by the beginning of the song:
"My eyes adored you.
Though I never laid a hand on you, my eyes adored you.
Like a million miles away from me, you couldn't see how I adored you.
So close. So close, and yet so far away.
Carried your books from school.
Make pretend you're married to me.
You were fifth grade, and I was sixth
When we came to be-"
Theresa took a tissue from her clutch bag and dabbed it at the corners of her eyes. While everyone else was thinking how sweet of a song it was, just as she did, she also felt something more. More than feeling like he was singing to her, she now also felt that he was reading her mind. The lyrics seemed like everything those fuzzy feelings wanted her to say to him, the feelings she again chastised herself for having. She took a deep breath, wanting erase the sadness from her face. She couldn't endure it anymore. It was the end of the concert, anyway. Perfect. Taking whistle from her bag, the corners of her mouth twitched upward as she blew it. That smile grew even more, when she saw the look on Bob's face. He was the one closest to her, so it made sense he heard the whistle first. He'd never heard that particular type of noise come out of a crowd before. What was it? His dark eyes scanned the first five rows, searching for the sound's source. Then, he heard it again, along a shouting of "Hey, genius". When he finally spotted Theresa, she playfully waved at him, and the new smile on his face matched hers.
Now, phase two of the plan was in motion. She made a "shush" gesture, before making a second one that told him not to signal the rest of the guys. He gave a quick nod of understanding, before returning his attention to finishing the song. Theresa showed her pass to one of the security guards, who led her backstage. It didn't take long for her to find the guys. When she opened the door to their shared dressing room, they weren't paying attention to much of anything. They were deep in conversation, Tommy leaning back in his chair with legs resting on and crossed atop the counter. He, Bob, and Frankie each had cigarettes in their hands, while Nick held a glass of what appeared to be scotch. Bob looked at her over Tommy's shoulder and smiled slightly, but he didn't say anything.
Using a sing-song voice, she said, "Knock, knock."
That got the rest of their attentions. The reactions were a mix of "What the hell"s and "Hey"s. As he'd done so many times before, Nick laughed as he lifted her up in a hug and spun her around a couple of times.
"A'right. A'right, Nicky. My turn now."
She giggled as Tommy folded her into his arms. Still in that embrace, she reached out and squeezed Bob's hand. She did the same to Frankie's shoulder, and she was secretly grateful that her brother's arm remained around her waist during that. She cleared her throat, ignoring the new heat in her cheeks, and she explained to them how she was able to be there. They were still talking about it later in their hotel suite, which Tommy politely informed her she'd be spending the night in.
"Ain't no way we'd letcha drive home in the dark", he said.
She wanted to tell him he focused too hard on the "baby" part of "baby sister", but she knew he'd ignore her. A short while later, they were all gathered around the television, watching a movie. Part-way into it, Theresa started feeling a little weird. She began messaging the space between her eyes, and she realized her vision was starting to get a little blurry.
"No. No. Not now", she thought.
It didn't take long for Frankie to notice what was going on, too. Reaching out and gently tapping the side of her arm, he asked if she was okay.
She replied, "It's fine. It's just a headache."
"That doesn't look like just a headache to me", he told her.
"Or me", Bob said, obviously paying more attention than everyone realized he was.
Nick asked, "What's goin' on?"
Theresa's unwillingness to answer prompted Tommy to give her a light shove and say, "Out wit it, Lil' T."
Sighing out the word "fine", she proceeded to tell them that she'd been getting migraines since she was a child.
Frankie said, "Yikes. My grandmotha used to get those. She used to put lemons-wait a second."
"What is it", she asked.
He stood up and told Nick, "Go downstairs to the kitchen. Ask 'em if they've got lemons."
After he left, Frankie said, "Damn. I forgot to ask him to bring back a knife."
"No need", Tommy said, taking a pocket knife from his wallet.
"What's this all about? What do you need this stuff for, Frankie", Theresa asked in a woozy tone of voice.
He replied, "As I was sayin', my grandma used to wrap lemon slices in a thin cloth and put them over her eyes, when she'd she lay down. She said the smell helped her migraines."
He went into the kitchen when Nick returned with the lemons, as well as some aspirin. Bob helped her to a different couch in darkened corner, fluffing a couple pillows and arranging them for her.
When Tommy came over with the aspirin as a glass of water, she told him, "I'm not a fragile flower, you know."
"Yeah. Yeah. Just take the pills."
She made a "tsk" noise, before doing what he asked. After Nick placed the lemon-filled cloth over her eyes, it didn't take long for her to doze off. Satisfied that she'd be okay, the other guys went back to watching the movie. Frankie, however, didn't follow right away. He watched the ghost-like touches her upper eyelashes gave her cheeks, as they twitched in sleep. The corners of her mouth twitched, saying whatever she was dreaming about must be good. This made him smile, too. Unable to help himself, he brushed his knuckle along her cheekbone, gently pushing aside a stray lock of her hair. His sigh over this was cut off by Bob, who'd glanced back over his shoulder and asked what his friend was doing. In that same moment, Frankie yanked his hand away from Theresa's face, grateful the shadows hid everything.
He walked back over to the guys, saying, "Nothin', Bobby. Nothin'."
And it had to stay that way.
AN: But will it stay that way? Hmm...(giggle) The next chapter will feature Theresa's eighteenth birthday party. There's a HUGE milestone in it.