A Painted Symphony
Chapter One: Welcome Home
Way across the planes
the lights spell out a code
No one knows where they take us
but we'll search till we grow old
All the paths they lead
to a single solemn place
Then we'll stay for the weekend
and leave without a trace
It was funny the way life could change overnight, literally. It was easy the way many didn't value what they had until they lost it all, literally. But as Landon continued to play, his eyes wandering over the high, sophisticated people around the room—some engaged in a conversation, a few looking at him, others simply eating—the only thing that was on his mind was how easily he got used to it.
Maybe that was part of being an adult, not having the time to think about how his life used to be and what it was now. He used to be one of those people sitting, enjoying a bottle of wine that cost more than his rent. Now, looking at them, he just couldn't stand thinking that he was once like that. He didn't miss eating the expensive dinner with the even more expensive drink while listening to someone play the piano. He didn't miss it at all.
As he changed songs, he glanced at his worn watch, noticing that he didn't have long until he got to go home. Either way, he didn't mind working all that much. It was the only time he got to play the piano except when he was at the university.
As soon as he was out though, he placed a cigarette to his lips and loosened his tie before trying to find his lighter. It was getting warmer as they neared the beginning of summer, which after the biting cold, Landon could welcome it.
This reminded him, as he walked in the flat that the air-conditioner was broken. The windows were all open, but there was hardly any breeze. He immediately glanced towards the couch, noticing Gavin, a beer bottle held to his temple.
"I thought you were going to get it fixed," Landon said.
"Yeah, dude, I forgot," he said.
Landon shook his head and decided to let it drop, knowing it was useless arguing with Gavin; he had the memory of a fish.
Then again, he was proven pointless to get stressed over anything that was wrong with the flat. Many things were broken, old or ruined. Landon went to the small kitchen, opening the green fridge that was probably as old as he was which only half functioned. The freezer had long stopped freezing anything, but the fridge itself was colder than normal ones, which resulted leaving a little frost on some of the food and drinks.
He pulled out a beer, which instantly cooled off his fingers. He opened it and just as he expected it, little crumbs of ice melted on his tongue.
"Oh, this morning there was a chick here," Gavin said. "She came out of your room looking damn right confusing."
He laughed then, making Landon roll his eyes as he sat down on the yellow love seat. It just added to the mismatched room. The other couch Gavin was sitting on was black, the carpet beige, and the walls a gloomy brown that was painted by the person who lived there before them. But somehow, it made sense. It seemed to compliment the mess, or as Gwen put it, join it. The books that were mainly hers scattered the shelves, the counters, tables, and even the floors.
"So anyway," Gavin said, "she asked for you, but I told her you were gone so we had breakfast and then BAM!"
Landon's eyebrow curved as Gavin clapped his hands once.
"I screwed her," he explained happily. "She said she was your one-night-stand. So I didn't think you would mind."
He shook his head, chuckling at his friend. Whereas Landon usually had one-night stands, Gavin had one-week stands. He was famous for it.
"And I got a date with her tomorrow," he continued.
"What's the point if you already screwed her?" Landon asked before his gulped down his beer.
"Well, one of us, actually likes to meet women," Gavin stated. "I love them and I love knowing about them. Unlike you."
"I avoid complications," was his answer. "It's just a hell lot easier this way."
"Well, you said it, man," Gavin said.
Their conversation ended when Landon heard footsteps against the wooden floor of the hallway, than against the carpet. Seconds later Gwen was raising his arm as she sat down and cuddled closer to him.
"I thought you worked," Landon said.
"I didn't go tonight," she said, and then sniffled. "I had a terrible break up today."
Gavin chuckled. "Was it all name-calling-pulling-hair-out-and-scratching kind of break up? I always imagined break ups between girls like that. I would've liked to see it."
Gwen instantly grabbed a book from the floor and flung it at Gavin. "You're such a dick!"
"What the fuck did I do?" Gavin questioned as he sat up. "Jeez, Gwen, just chill the fuck out."
"You're being sexist!" she yelled.
Gavin looked widely at Landon, asking him to jump in, but he only chuckled and pulled Gwen back against him.
"I wasn't being sexist!" Gavin still went on, defending himself.
"Shut up," Gwen mumbled. "It's too hot."
Gwen sighed as Landon lit a cigarette. Gavin could go on for days and if he planned to, Landon preferred to be smoking.
"Some chick called you," Gwen said when Gavin had sat back down again with another beer. "Said you were supposed to meet her for dinner tomorrow. She seemed kind of upset that she couldn't reach your cell phone."
"Battery dead," Landon replied. "Was she nine?"
"I don't think so," Gwen said slowly. "I forgot her name, but something small and I just remember thinking that it was cute…dainty."
"Like Emily?" Gavin said.
"No, it wasn't common," Gwen said. "Started with a D, I think."
Landon inhaled and watched as Gavin sat up yet again, his brown eyes wide. "Dixie?"
"I think so."
Landon stared at Gwen, shaking his head. "But she's not due back for another month."
"Ah, Dixie is back!" Gavin exclaimed as he fell back on the couch. "That's awesome. I've always liked her. Hey, Landon, do you think she met someone while in Paris? That would be a blow."
"Who the fuck is Dixie?" Gwen asked as she glanced back and forth between Landon and Gavin.
"That's right!" Gavin said smugly. "You don't know her."
"What time did she call?"
"I'm not sure," she said. "But she left a message earlier."
Landon instantly stood and went over to the phone that was on a small table near the corridor. He skipped the messages until he found the familiar voice.
"Umm…Landon?" she asked, shyly. He smiled, imagining her looking at her shoes and running a hand through her hair. "You gave me this number, but I don't even know if it's right…Well, I'm at the airport and I thought you agreed to pick me up. I know it's unexpected, but…Uh, whatever, I'll call later."
"What time?" he asked Gwen.
"What time what?"
"That she wants to meet for dinner," he said, checking his watch.
"Seven," Gwen answered.
Landon would have called Dixie, but it was too late and if he knew her at all, then she would already be sleeping.
It had been five months. Five months since he had seen Dixie. Her decision to go to Sorbonne was overnight and he was too surprised when she told him. It had been in January and they were having dinner with Gavin when she said it. Her professors had always suggested that she took some classes there, but she was always too afraid. Being away from her family hurt her more than she let on, but being away and not have the possibility of visiting them whenever she wanted was even harder to accept. He still wasn't sure what trigged her decision. January had been a confusing time. Their relationship had been rocky, but the Tennyson's for once seemed to have only good news to share: Margaret was pregnant yet again, Andrea was going on a month vacation with her husband, Charlie and Evangeline were getting remarried, Evan had gotten accepted at The University of Texas, Raina had won a state soccer game and Sam had proposed to his girlfriend. Then Dixie chose to go to Paris for a term.
They had talked often on the phone in the beginning, but as Landon got settled in his new job and the flat and Dixie got settled in Paris, the phone calls had grown more and more rare. Not having Dixie around had been strange to a point that Landon sometimes didn't know what to do when he was supposed to be hanging out with her, but he got used to her absence. But now that he was eager to see her, he realized how much he had actually missed her.
Juilliard was everything Landon thought it would be and more. Though it was hard as he sat in classes and tried not to think how Andrew was supposed to be there with him. That it had been his dream first instead of Landon's. But Landon doubted he would be there if it weren't for him. Andrew invaded his thoughts frequently, something Landon thought would cease with time, but either he didn't want to forget his best friend or refused to.
He didn't have Andrew around, but he did have Gavin. He was an actor and a bloodthirsty one. Juilliard was competitive; there was no way to run away from that. However, Landon didn't blink an eye at the others in his classes. Many were good and were strong in points where Landon was weak, but the last thing he wanted was to make music a competition. Most of the times they picked him to be the soloist and those that didn't see him as a threat, were usually around him asking things.
It had only been in the beginning of the year that Landon realized the only thing he had was music. He probably couldn't offer the world much else. He had gone to Juilliard in hope to make up for Andrew's dreams. Still, he wasn't sure what he planned or wanted to do once he was out of Juilliard. It seemed like he was sure of it all when he argued with his father and would have done anything to be where he was now.
Landon hadn't talked to Viktor since that night, which appeared to be at least a decade ago. He was lucky enough to get by two years with the money he'd earned while working for his father. But now he had the exact amount for another year. It was in January that Dixie thought he should save it in case anything else happened and get a job to cover other expenses. Soon, Landon was walking away from everything he had ever known. In a way it calmed him; he could never take up the life of his father now. Everything was too different. In another way, he was, as Dixie said it, 'becoming less arrogant'.
Since the final exams were over, there wasn't much else to do for the year. It was their final week and Landon couldn't figure out if he was excited or not. However, when he met Gavin at a diner for lunch, his friend was more agitated than usual.
"Two more days, man!" he said. "Two more days and it's summer. Beach and hot girls and my Mom's food. But what about you?"
Landon chuckled and drank his coke. "I'm not sure."
"Don't you go back to Texas or something?" Gavin said.
"Yeah, with Dixie, but I'm not sure about this year," he replied. "I still haven't seen her."
"Oh, that's right," he said. "It's dinner. Tonight. I would like to see her too."
Landon checked his watched and grabbed his drink as he stood. "Just ask her on a date already. I should tell you though: she's not much into actors."
Gavin's face fell and he ran a hand through his curly, blond hair. "What are you saying? She only goes for broody musicians like you?"
He chuckled and winked at him before grabbing his bag and leaving. "Later, man," he said behind him.
Landon nodded at the doorman as he opened the glass door for him. He didn't have to check at the front desk; he was already familiar. He was surprised, though, when the elevator stopped at a luxurious apartment and he noticed suitcases against a wall.
"Hello?" he called out.
First, a maid came out, but after waving her away, he heard footsteps tumble down the stairs. He glanced at it just in time to see a blond head running toward him before tiny arms attacked him. She started tickling him but even before it was effective, Landon had turned the game around, making them fall on the floor as Anna's laugh filled the apartment. But the five-year-old soon grabbed his hair, pulling and giggling.
"Anna, off the floor, please."
Landon glanced at his mother as Anna stopped and sat on his stomach, looking mischievous. Eden didn't glance at him; instead kept herself busy by trying to fix the hem of her blouse, as if it looked wrong. He picked Anna up, settling her on the floor before he stood. Then he saw Tracey. The frown, the crossed arms should have been a hunch, but he couldn't figure it out.
"Your face is going to stay like if you don't stop," he said.
"But you promised!" she said, her frown dropping to a pout.
"I know, but something came up," Landon said. He had promised to have dinner with Anna and Tracey since it was his day off, but now with Dixie back, he had canceled it.
"But you promised," Tracey repeated.
"I know," he said as he crouched to be leveled with the nine-year-old. "I promise that on Friday I'll eat lunch with you two and then we can go out for ice cream. I'll bring Dixie, too."
"Dixie?" Tracey said, her tone already curious. "Is that what came up?"
Before he could answer, Eden snorted, though she didn't volunteer to say anything. Her gaze soon got occupied with the suitcases before she turned abruptly.
"Brenda! Where's my handbag?" she yelled. "I don't see it."
It wasn't a secret that Eden didn't like Dixie. Since Landon had first introduced them, Eden scrunched up her nose whenever Dixie was mentioned or decided to look away, ignoring whatever conversation was going on.
"Where you guys going?" Landon asked.
"Oh, Brice and I are going to Rio for a month or two," she said, a small smile curving on her lips. "Oh, Landon, you awfully need a haircut. And when was the last time you shaved? Jesus." His eyebrows rose as she shook her head and then turned, going the opposite way as if the mere sight of him could be a bad influence to her.
If it weren't for his sisters, Landon wouldn't deal with his mother. Her small, paid nose was always in the air. Most of the times she opted to not stare at him directly—or anything that she didn't find in her standards—and pretend like it wasn't actually there. She saw and heard what she wanted to.
In Eden's eyes, a few dinners and letting him meet Anna and Tracey was enough for what she had done in the past. Even though Landon didn't agree, he didn't mind it either. Eden could never be a mother to him and he had long accepted that. She too seemed to have accepted his presence sometimes. She invited him to events, that if things were different maybe he would know someone, but now it just felt like something he had been a part of and was way in the past. So they were mostly limited down to a few dinners. A few dinners that Dixie refused to go with him after her second one. Nevertheless, when Brice and Eden went away for these kinds of expensive trips, Dixie always accompanied him to see his sisters.
"Landon," Anna whined as she tugged his shirt. "Is Dixie really back?"
"Yeah," he said as he gave her his attention. "I'm meeting her tonight."
"Which is why you can't make it, but which is why you're going to make up for it?" Tracey said.
"I guess so," he said slowly.
"Well, you are, because I'm going to cheerleading camp next week and Anna is going to some other place," she said, then added, "For a month."
"All right," he said.
Landon was running late. He'd just finished showering and he had a rough twenty minutes to get ready and get to the Chinese restaurant he was meeting Dixie at. He had remembered just as he walked in the apartment that he didn't know where he was supposed to meet her. Luckily, Gwen was just leaving for work and quickly told him. He knew he could call Dixie, but now that she was in town, he knew it would ruin it. She hated phone calls, especially if she was seeing that person that very same day.
Fortunately though, the Chinese restaurant they frequented was nearer to his apartment than her dorms. So when he got there, he requested their usual booth, in a secluded corner.
There was something strange seeing Dixie for the first time in five months. Their lives were almost synched before, but then it had suddenly stopped. And now she was back and he wasn't sure how it would play out. A lot had happened to him in five months time and he didn't doubt that something had changed for her as well. Her calls were always short, mentioning how much he would have liked Paris, art, what she had learned about art, artists that she met, but she always finished the conversation with words like, 'I miss you, Landon. We would turn this city upside down if you were here'.
In the beginning he had also missed her, but he was forced to throw himself back into routines. He wasn't in Paris and he wasn't living an adventure.
Yet when he saw her, his breath got caught in his throat. Her long hair was down and swinging as she walked. Her smile widened when she too noticed him, her walk getting a little rushed. It was so familiar, but he had missed that simple thing about her: that innocent smile.
"Landon!" she exclaimed as she neared. He stood up just in time she reached the table and threw her arms around him. "Oh, finally!"
She held on tight to his arms as she pulled away to look at him.
"Hey, freckles," he said.
She smiled and ran a hand over his jaw. "You look so different now. I wanted to see you earlier but I knew you had classes and I had a lot of things to take care of."
When they took their seats, he noticed that she too looked different. She looked excited, her smile not leaving her face as she met his eyes. Her red hair had been cut into layers, which gave more life than the straight cut she usually had, but he was somewhat relieved it was the same length.
"I have so much to tell you," she gushed, reaching back and twisting her hair to get it out of her face, but no such luck; the shorter strands framed her face.
Someone finally came to take their order and afterwards, Dixie just jumped back where she left off, but before she could continue, Landon had to ask.
"I thought you were coming next month. What changed?"
"It's so beautiful there, Landon. A part of me didn't want to come back, but then I remembered you and everyone back home and everything just became unfamiliar again. Besides, if I came back in June I would have to stay another month to probably make up for some things, which wouldn't leave time to go to Texas," she said. "So I came back."
"Paris is beautiful, Landon," she repeated later, getting a dreamy look in her eyes. "It's basically built around cafes, but the art and the museums are fantastic! We even went to Rome to see the art there. And everything is so close!
"The people there are…well, different," she continued. "But I met a handful that was really nice."
Landon listened intently, smiling and nodding at the right parts. He knew that she would have enjoyed it above anything else. She would finally be able to get her passion for art and make more of it if she went since she would be seeing and meeting artists with different views from hers. It wasn't like she didn't have it in New York. He had met some people from her class and they were just as talented, but she was right; nothing beat Paris.
"So then I met Chaz," she was still saying after their food had arrived. "Men there can come off too bold, but he was sweet, and charming. He cooked this great dinner once for me and he took me to fancy restaurants where we danced and then to the Eiffel Tower. He was the real deal, but then when he didn't show up for one of our dates, the next morning he called, apologizing because his fiancée was back in town."
Landon raised his eyebrows at her as he chuckled.
"Yeah," she said, looking sadly down at her noodles as she shoved them around with her chopsticks. "A total blow off."
"Well," Landon drawled out, "did you think Mr. Perfect would be single?"
She winced, noticing her mistake. "Probably."
They were silent for a moment as they ate. In fact, it was the first time that Dixie had stopped talking. He smiled as he imagined a dark-haired, French man sitting across from her in a fancy restaurant, nothing compared to their little every-day Chinese place. Somehow, he had always imagined Dixie to be with a guy that did exactly what Chaz probably did. Taking her to dates, being romantic to a point that would have made Landon cringe, being the guy that would marry her and buy her a house with a white picket fence where they would first have a couple of dogs and then kids.
He wouldn't be at all surprised if that was her future. Besides, every man she dated so far had that characteristic. Landon had come close to being that guy, or the only guy in her list that wasn't like that. His first few weeks in Texas before they packed up and came to New York was full of late night kisses and cuddling at the beach, but it slowly began to fade. Landon's excuse was that they had simply missed each other after two years. And after being with her again he remembered that he wasn't the guy who would buy her a house with the white picket fence and she wasn't a girl that deserved to be lulled into his bed and wake up to not find him there.
Though with Dixie it would always be something blurred, vague. There was a line drawn between them that if they kept behind it, everything would be fine. Behind that line, Landon didn't think how his lungs took deep breaths to catch her flowery scent and he didn't think about her soft, cool touch when her hand covered his own.
"I missed your birthday," she said sadly, making him break away from his thoughts.
"It's just a birthday, Dixie," he said, waving away the future apology. "There'll be one next year."
"But you're twenty-two only once," she said.
His hands turned so hers fell in his and he squeezed her thin fingers reassuringly, before letting go. "It's fine."
"Yeah, but I feel bad. Anyway, what did you do?"
"Gavin and Gwen made this disgusting cake no one ate," he said. "Then we ended up crashing a party."
"It seems like it was fun," Dixie said, smiling.
"Not something you would've joined in," he pointed out.
"Yeah, I would," she said, shaking her head. "Of course I would."
"But you hate parties, Dixie," he said.
"I don't hate them. I just don't like it the way you do," she said. "But it was your day, so I would have been there. And who's Gwen?"
"My other roommate," he answered.
Dixie put her drink down. "Right, you're not at the dorms anymore."
She paused before she glanced up at him. "Can we go there after?"
There was something strange about showing Dixie the apartment. It didn't settle with him right that she knew how his life had been before and now seeing what it was, he wasn't sure how he felt. When he opened the door, the key getting stuck for a moment, she stepped in cautiously. He watched her as he closed the door with his foot, her eyes taking in the mess, the odd decoration, and the bar that separated the living room from the kitchen.
The windows were open, the warm air rustling the thin blinds. The sound coming from the streets made it seem like they weren't on the fourth floor, but actually had a front seat to it.
Dixie dropped her back on the black couch, turning around slowly, nudging a book with her foot.
"Well…" she said slowly as she faced him. He smirked when she got an amused look on her face, knowing what was coming. "I guess you're no longer Daddy's boy, huh?"
And that was about right. Landon relaxed and shrugged as she took a seat on the couch, placing her white Converse clad feet on the small coffee table.
"I like it," she said, looking up at the ceiling, noticing the loud sounds coming from the apartment above. "It got something."
"It certainly does, doesn't it?"
Landon looked up to see Gavin walking from corridor. Dixie immediately jumped up to meet his tight, and yet, a little intimate hug. Landon only shook his head and went in the kitchen, grabbing two beers.
"You didn't come back just to tell us you eloped, right?" he heard Gavin ask.
Dixie laughed. "Almost, but no."
"Good," Gavin replied. "So how was it?"
"It was good," she said just as Landon made his way back to them, handing Dixie her beer before taking a sip of his own.
"Where's mine, dude?" Gavin asked.
"You know where the fridge is," Landon said nonchalantly, making Dixie giggle. He looked at her, noticing that she hadn't really stopped smiling the whole night he had been with her. She was even glowing, her hair surrounding her and just making her seem, well, damn tempting—
Landon blinked when he felt his beer leave his hand.
"Sucker," Gavin said as he tipped his head and drank the beer, while moving cautiously away from him.
He simply stuck his foot out when Gavin was passing behind him, making him trip.
"Dude," Gavin said, pinching his shirt where he had spilled the beer. "I'm going out."
Landon shrugged and moved to one of the windows, getting out a cigarette and placing it between his teeth just as Dixie took a seat again, watching Gavin with humor in her eyes as he sat down next to her.
"So, Dixie," Gavin said slowly, "in your personal opinion, who is the hottest actor of all time?"
"What?" Dixie asked innocently.
Landon chose to inhale the smoke in a bad time. He started chuckling, and then coughing.
"Never mind," Gavin grumbled.
"Uh, okay," she said, then sat up straighter. "I want to see the rest of the apartment."
Landon watched as Gavin placed his arm around Dixie's shoulders, steering her toward the dark of the corridor. He could hear their voices rising, Gavin's jokes and Dixie's laughter as he finished his cigarette. He soon joined them, finding them in the bathroom.
It was probably dimmer than the living room and it did little to hide the stains and dirt that only acquired throughout years. Dixie took cautious steps further in as a puddle surrounded the bathtub.
"Well, this apartment certainly has some kind of character," Dixie said, as she pinched the plastic curtain of the bathtub and moved it aside a little, crunching up her nose in disgust.
"Yeah, there's Gwen," Gavin said as he placed his hands on his waist. "We tried to get her to clean or help around, but any comment you make toward women she'll hit you and say you're being sexist. I've tried to get her to cook, but she doesn't even do that. Say something that just because she's a chick she doesn't have to do jobs that was forced upon women just because."
"Huh," Dixie said, as if that answered a lot. "Well, you two shouldn't be taking advantage of her anyway."
"Yeah, well, I better go change my shirt," Gavin said as he glared at Landon.
"And where's your room?" Dixie asked him.
Landon cocked an eyebrow. "So excited to see my room, huh?"
She shoved him playfully, smacking her tongue. He followed her as she moved further down the corridor, going to the door near the bathroom. She hesitated, her hand on the doorknob before she looked at him. He shook his head and she dropped it, giving him a suspicious look before moving along.
There was only one door left, the last one at the end. She didn't even question this one and immediately turned the doorknob when she touched it. As she stepped inside, she looked around.
Landon kept it simple; a bed, his instruments, a desk, and the wardrobe were all he really needed. Therefore, it was hardly messy. Yet, his desk was littered with white pages where he composed his music. Some had fallen on the floor beside it and others were on his bedside table.
Dixie walked over, running her fingers through the pages, on the mug he had left there and then she touched the strings to his cello, letting the sound ring out between them.
She sat on the edge of his bed, looking out the window. Landon joined her, but then she stood up suddenly, looking alarmed.
"Wait here," she said.
He watched as she left the room, shaking his head slowly; she hadn't changed much. He had seen people go to these long trips to wherever and come back claiming it had been life-changing and they too were forced to change with it, like it opened their eyes in some way. And Dixie was livelier, but she had always been passionate and confident.
She soon came back, a small box in her hand, though she didn't give it to him until she was beside him again.
"What is it?" he asked, noticing the white bow around the black, heavy box.
"Open it," Dixie said, her feet swinging back and forth as she watched him.
"Dixie—" he started.
"Landon, just do it," she pressed.
He removed the bow in one quick motion, but when it came to opening the box, he did just what she did when she was guessing which one was his room and looked at her. After she nodded, he returned back and opened it to reveal a watch. The bracelet was made from dark brown leather, the watch itself giving off a vintage look, but the silver chain that ran from it until the latch gave it another view.
"Consider it as a belated birthday present or something," she said. "I just saw it and couldn't help it. It's so you."
"It's nice," he said, nodding. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," she said, smiling in a way only she could. "I like your room, by the way. It's cozy."
He looked up, shrugging his shoulders. "It's better than the dorms."
"Well," she said slowly, "you're a changed man, Poulton."
He turned back to her, lifting his lips in a smirk. "Not something you would have seen coming?"
"Definitely not," she scoffed. "There was a time that I would have paid to see this."
"That seems ages ago," he said quietly.
She laughed, running a hand through her hair. "Definitely."
It grew quiet as she leaned in, running a thin finger on the chain of his watch, her face close enough that their foreheads almost touched and their breaths mingled. He could see the light freckles on her nose, and a solitary one that was just above her lip.
She took a breath and then exhaled in one whoosh. For a moment he saw an emotion cross her face that was almost pained, sad. Then her sapphire eyes met his.
"I really missed you, you know," she said, her tone for the very first time that night carrying out more seriously.
He wondered what she was really thinking. Something about mentioning the past had trigged something in him and there was no doubt that it had done the same to her. Was she remembering how it was easy back then? About her family? Or how back then it had been simple between them; nothing ever mentioned and just letting things happen instead of the old elastic band they were now on that one hard, clean tug would make it break?
He didn't get to reply; Gavin exited his room loudly and recklessly. A second later he was standing on the doorway, smiling naively.
"It's Gwen's party tonight," he announced. "Why don't you two come along?"
"Gwen's party?" Dixie asked. She had already moved away from Landon and again she had adapted the upbeat tone.
"Yeah," Gavin said. "She DJs at a few clubs and sometimes she invite us. You could meet her."
Instead of answering him right away, she bumped Landon's knee with her own, making him look up.
In the end, Landon couldn't be certain if he was annoyed or just angry at agreeing to go. In a way, he was, in no doubt, relieved. Dixie couldn't handle Gavin by herself, which was one of the reasons he had gone with them.
As he guessed, once they got to the club, he ordered them a round of beer. Dixie hung with him by the bar for a bit as Gavin went to go talk to Gwen, who was in front of the club at the decks. By the time he came back with her, Dixie had put her hair up and was fanning herself with a hand. Landon was on his second beer.
He wasn't sure if Gwen and Dixie would ever get along. Gwen was loud, impulsive, and usually all over the place with her opinions, which wasn't at all like Dixie. Yet, even though Gwen had five minutes for her break, she learned enough about Dixie to say at the end that she looked like a doll, and was too nice and sweet. Landon had raised his eyebrows at her, but then again, near Gwen's short, jet black hair, leather pants, dark olive skin and tattooed arms enhanced with a glittery top, a light-blue dress, red hair and innocent blue eyes probably did look nice and sweet, which Dixie was, but was proven she could be otherwise.
After Gwen shook Gavin off and returned to work, he headed to the dance floor, pulling Dixie with him. Landon sat on the bar, knowing she wouldn't take it being near Gavin too long. He was hyperactive when it came to parties and in no time at all he would know half of the club. He was another one that was all over the place, but unlike Gwen, he was friends with everyone.
It didn't take long until Dixie was breaking away from Gavin and making her way back to him, her cheeks flushed and a few strands falling from her ponytail. She stayed near him for the rest of the night, talking more, enjoying the music, even leaning on his shoulder and closing her eyes at exhaustion.
Then the time came that Landon was forced to grab her hand as he searched the club for a drunken Gavin. Usually he joined him and they were always surprised when they woke up and wasn't sure just how they got there. Though today he was with Dixie and he knew enough not to drink a lot.
They hailed a cab once they were outside, Gavin between them as he stumbled and drank more beer. In the taxi, Landon looked at Dixie to see a smile on her face despite the fact that Gavin was talking things he didn't care to hear and laughing at it himself.
"Welcome home," Landon said ironically when Gavin turned to Dixie, placing the head of his bottle to her mouth and tipping, making her eyes widen.
"Thanks," she said, coughing when she was forced to swallow the beer.
Dixie wouldn't stop laughing as they tried to get Gavin up the stairs. Despite trying to put all of his weight on him, Gavin kept leaning on Dixie, his head landing on her shoulder as he mumbled. Landon couldn't help and join her laughing when she lost her strength and let him go accidentally. Gavin tripped, nearly missing the steps if it weren't for Landon who caught his arm.
"I don't even want to know when you two get drunk like this," she said when she calmed down a little.
"I wouldn't bring you with us," he chuckled.
"I thank you," she said, and grabbed Gavin's other arm. "Come on, superstar.
Landon dropped Gavin on the black couch, taking the beer bottle from him and placing it on the coffee table.
"Just leave him there," he said quietly. "He'll be out the whole night, if not morning too."
Dixie nodded, her hands on her hips as she tried to catch her breath.
"You should sleep here tonight," Landon advised.
"You sure?" she asked, grabbing his wrist to see what time it was.
"It'll be three soon, Dixie," he pointed out. He grabbed her hand and led her to his room.
He noticed how she instantly raised her hands to her hair, running her fingers through it.
"You can sleep there," he said, pointing to his bed before going over to his wardrobe. "And just find anything you want to sleep in."
"Where will you sleep?" she asked quietly.
"Gavin's room," he replied easily.
However, he did notice the tension in the air. It had been too long since they had last dealt with sleeping arrangements, so it seemed right offering her his bed. Even though he lost count how many times they had shared a bed, it was back then, back when they were teenagers, back when things like that came easy and effortless.
"Want to use the bathroom first?" he asked.
"Uh, no," she said, shaking her head. "Go ahead."
He nodded, taking his sweatpants with him.
He didn't go to Gavin's room when he was done. His door blocking the view of the room just made curiosity rise. He was quiet as he looked through the crack, watching as Dixie buttoned up one of his shirts. His fist clenched as he noticed her bare legs, her cleavage that still had to be covered. He almost cursed loudly when he realized what he was doing. He shook his head fast and went back to the living room.
He went to one of the opened windows, lighting a cigarette and inhaling deeply.
When he noticed her, she was coming toward him, her arms crossed over her chest, her hair down again.
"I thought you quit," she said.
"Eventually a lot do," he replied, and then shrugged. "Just lost reasons to."
"Well, I know a few," she said, almost pouting.
He didn't say anything. Not everyone could keep cool and sober as she could at all times, any time.
"I just came to say goodnight," she said eventually, finally looking up at him. Yet, her eyes didn't meet his. Instead it landed on his chest, making him well aware of the white scars that decorated his body. He turned, deciding it was best to look down at the still busy street.
"You got a new tattoo," he heard behind him. Almost unconsciously, his hand went to his left shoulder blade, where he could feel a thick scar. It was the worst one. Then he felt her cool fingers just below his, tracing the numbers he had there. A date, a date that had changed his life that led to what he was and where he was now.
He didn't turn, remembering her face when she had seen the one on his ribcage with Andrew's name back in November, a mix of pain and understanding.
"Goodnight," she eventually said, covering his hand on his shoulder as she stood on the tip of her toes to kiss his temple.
"Night," he mumbled as she walked away.
A/N: The song above is called Just For Tonight by One Night Only.
Okay, let's try again. Again, I'm sorry about this silly inconvinience. But it didn't feel write at all. The other plot always felt like it slipped through my fingers whenever I tried to get some understanding of it, never solid. And I once heard that stories somehow write themselves and I agree with that.
This chapter would have made it out earlier today, but it's still out. Hope it's not too late for a lot of you.
Anyway, this chapter felt right. More real, I think. More complicated. I would love some REVIEWS on it to see what the hell you guys are thinking, and I hope no one is really upset at me. I'm sorry to say that Olliver might not show up in this plot. I haven't found a place for him yet.
Thank you to everyone who's been following up. A thousand hugs for you. And if I don't update before this weekend, Happy Easter!
Now, go on, review and make me happy.