Chapter 29 – Dance with me (Los Angeles)
Sean picks up the phone at the fourth ring and his voice when he answers seems surprisingly awake… considering it’s almost one in the morning. My heart races at the thought that they may have won, that they may be celebrating, and my stomach twists in a very strange knot as I begin to anticipate the possible consequences.
“Hey, man!” I’m greeting him, trying to look cool. “How’d it go?”
“Moose…”, responds Sean with obvious amazement. Of course, after all, that’s happened, he wouldn’t expect me to call him. However, he does have a… strange ring. Well, well… there’s the knot again. What’s wrong with Sean? What happened at The Vortex? A second later, though, my friend gets me out of it. “Yeah, we beat The Mob.”
Is it sadness I hear on the other side of the earpiece or am I imagining it? As Camille expected, this has affected him. But all I know is that he was dumped in L.A. and had to come to me.
“Wow, man. That’s great! I’m happy for you”, I congratulate him, cornering the bad thoughts as much as I can. Cam, from my side, beckons me to indicate that she feels the same way. “Oh, and… Camille’s happy, too.”
I don’t know if it’s convenient to mention her after my runaway to get my girlfriend back, but Sean doesn’t seem to care.
“Thanks, man,” he answers on the other side of the phone, before pausing and commenting. “But, anyway, that doesn’t matter much anymore…”
As if I’d been speared in the ass, I’m getting up at full speed. Something doesn’t add up, and I’m willing to find out what it is.
“Hey, hey, what do you mean, it doesn’t matter anymore?” I ask, without giving credit to what I just heard. “Come on, man, you’re LMNTRIX and all you have to do is beat…”
Suddenly I realize I don’t know who won the other battle in the semifinal.
“By the way, which group was the other finalist?” I ask, feeling like an idiot.
But, not knowing why, like a fatal intuition, a chill runs down my back when Sean responds:
“The Grim Knights.”
I stand for a moment in silence and remember the little fool in the cap who was interviewed in front of Caesar’s Palace before us. The group dressed in plaid vests in the knockout round. They’re not as good as us, I’m convinced of that.
“Come on, man. It’s nowhere near the best group in the championship”, I try to cheer him up, although his silence on the other side of the line worries me more than I want to admit.
“It’s no longer a matter of being better or worse,” said Sean in a tired voice. “It’s something much worse.”
“What are you talking about?”
There’s a dramatic pause at the other end of the phone, which only manages to raise my nervousness to stratospheric dimensions, before Sean answers:
“The contest’s rigged.”
Suddenly, it’s like I forgot to breathe. The world is spinning and I have to lie down again. Camille approaches me immediately with a restless gesture. And I, while trying to reassure her with a caress from my free hand, keep trying to process what Sean has told me.
“Rigged?”, I repeat, not believing it yet.
“Yes,” says Sean defeatist. “Alexxa Brava is the girlfriend of Jasper, the Grim Knights. And this whole… circus was just meant for them to have their damn show at Caesar’s.”
“And the crew…what do they think?”
“There are differences of opinion. But I’ve talked to your grandparents and they’ve given me an idea,” he explains with a bit more enthusiasm, or so I think. “Right now I’m going upstairs to apologize to ‘The Mob’.”
Okay, now I don’t understand half of what’s going on.
“With ‘The Mob’…”, I repeat for the umpteenth time. Camille raises an eyebrow in surprise at my side. She must think I’ve got a parrot complex. “But, Sean, it’s your old band…”
“That’s precisely why,” he answers me, determined before his tone drops again. “Oh, and I know I shouldn’t ask you this…”, Sean pauses and gives me goosebumps again. “But I would love for you to be here.”
I shake my head.
No, no, no. You can’t ask me that. Not now, I can’t.
“Sean, I’m sorry, man. I can’t.”
I know I’ve already told him that line and I backed out last time. But this time my will is going to stay where it is. And that’s it.
“I knew you’d say that,” Sean replies with something that sounds like disappointment in his voice. “Still, give my love to Camille, will you?”
I take a deep breath to avoid being noticed that his answer has deflated me, but I tell him that I’ll do it and hang up right away, then lie down looking at the ceiling.
“Well?” So Cam asks me, climbing up until our noses are at the same height.
“I don’t know,” I confess, shaking my head from side to side as I try to stop my mind from spinning with such crazy thoughts. “Sean told me that the contest is rigged for the Grim Knights to win, but he had an idea and “, I salivate at the sight of her, “he asked me to go.”
Camille, to my surprise, smiles with something like a mocking face.
“You heard it,” I answer firmly. “I said no.”
She twists the gesture more but says nothing but just rests her head on my shoulder again. We both remain silent for a long time until I hear her voice on my skin again.
“You should go.”
I close my eyes tightly, hoping to wake up from this nightmare at some point. It’s not possible. What have I done to the world that this is happening to me? For her part, seeing that I don’t say anything, Camille raises her head and looks at me, forcing me to look back at her.
Start over. Only this time I won’t let myself be defeated so easily.
“Cam, we’ve been over this”, I stand by it, stubborn. “I don’t want to go.”
“Yes, you want to go and they need you,” she insists with the same stubbornness that I do. “Besides, I’m sure that if you don’t, you’ll never forgive yourself…”
Oh, no. Not again.
Why does she know exactly where you have to hit me to get me to react? However, even if she’s right about everything she’s said, I know exactly what it would take to go to that final in Vegas… Because Sean said the contest is rigged, but what if a miracle happened?
So, after a microsecond of thinking about it, I opt to take a chance.
“Okay, I’ll go. But on one condition” ―before Camille can say anything, I add by bringing my face closer to hers― “dance with me.”
As I imagined, my girl opens her eyes wide with surprise and steps back a few inches, looking at me as if I had gone mad. However, I have never been so convinced of anything and now I don’t intend to back out.
“Moose, I don’t dance anymore,” she reminds me as she watches me stand my ground. “It was fun to go back to it in college, but…” he gestured across the room. I have other responsibilities now.
I knew you would say that, and so I decided to move on to the next point in my plan.
“Well, if you don’t go, I won’t either”, I reassure her, crossing my arms as in passing.
Camille begins to despair, which shows how she rolls her eyes before standing, imitating my gesture.
“You’re…” she reproaches me, without finishing the sentence.
And trying not to make my pulse quicker than it needs to be when I suddenly see half of her body without any clothes on, I get up to catch up with him and say:
“Camille. I’ve learned the bad way that you are a part of my life that I would not give up for anything in the world. But I also know that, if you don’t go up on that stage with me and for whatever reason, we win, I won’t feel like a victory”, slowly, I raise a hand to cradle her face. “I love you, Camille Gage, and I won’t let anything or anyone keep me from you. Okay?”
Cam watches me for a few seconds like petrified, and apparently, she doesn’t know what to say. But when I start to smile, she imitates me and then kisses me.
“All right,” she takes it, making me feel like the luckiest man in the world.
Then, at the touch of our skins, something is triggered again between us and we let ourselves go, happy and linked by our love. Anyway, there’s still a few hours to go to the plane, right?