anita darling © May 2011 – present
Not Watching For Love
Fleur Dorothy Hope is the Personal Assistant and Public Relations girl of the up-and-coming Australian band, The Clockwatchers. The band's bassist is the older brother that Fleur had never, ever wished for. The drummer is only nineteen and loves the ladies – except for the ones who tell him to give up smoking. The guitarist is having a fling with the Band Manager. Molly Hazlehurst is both the Band Manager and Fleur's best friend from high school. Andrew Prince is the lead singer and guitarist of the band. Of course, they're all gorgeous men. When there's a small miscommunication between Fleur and a member of one of the support bands, The Clockwatchers come to Fleur's rescue and she falls in love because of it.
These ideas and characters are entirely mine own. I was, however, inspired by a few YouTube videos from JET's tour bus.
I wasn't a usual tour-bus type, honestly. If you had've seen me walking the streets of my hometown, you never would have picked me. I wasn't a bandie, a musician, I was a personal assistant to the Clockwatchers, I made sure that their stage outfits suited their image and I was the back-up bus driver. I was just lucky to have a bus drivers' license, and that was pretty much the only reason I was ever on the bus with the Clockwatchers, their manager, Molly Hazlehurst, and the main bus driver, Samuel Graham. The bus had eight beds, that is four bunks, so we had one spare. At the back of the bus, there was a lounge with two tables, where the Clockwatchers smoked their cigarettes. And despite the fact that I hated them smoking, I couldn't very well order them not to, and other than Jameson Fisher they didn't listen to me anyway.
Sam didn't mind them smoking, even if he didn't smoke himself, but when the Clockwatcher boys whipped out their ciggies I retreated to my bunk to read a novel. Which was where I was now, lying on my bed, pulling on my pyjamas whilst they smoked themselves to death. I rolled onto my stomach and got my book out from under my pillow, opening it to the page I'd bookmarked.
The ground rolled along beneath us and soon enough I fell asleep, my head rested in the pages of my book.
I woke to my phone vibrating: it was from Sam.
Fleur, come and drive for me? I'm getting tired.
I got out of bed, not bothering to even change out of my PJs. "Hey kid," Sam said as I approached him, looking at me in the totally unnecessary rearview mirror. "You're good to go?"
"Just give me a few, I'm not awake yet, Sammy."
I stood behind him, staring out at the road, "You didn't get changed."
"Way too much effort, considering I'm only going to be driving."
Sam smirked. "What if the police pull you over?"
"That is a good point," I told him. "I'll go grab my coat."
"God, Fleur. It's summer. Just get changed."
"Fine." I took a blue skirt from my pathetically sized 'wardrobe' and a plain white t-shirt; I got into the toilet – which we never used, since we hated to clean it out – and changed before settling into the driver's seat.
By mid-afternoon, after about six hours of driving, three breaks and one lunchstop, we reached Echuca-slash-Moama, where we'd be staying, at a caravan park and not a hotel – for once – which I was looking forward to.
I pulled into the caravan park and stopped the bus, getting out to go and talk to the guy in the office, who proceeded to give me keys to two cabins next to each other.
"We don't get big bands here," he told me, grinning. "'Specially not at my caravan park. I don't s'pose they'd be able to take a photo with me and sign it?"
"I'd have to talk to the band manager," I said. "But I don't think it would be a problem. Oh, and where can I park this bus?"
"We have bus parking across the grounds; it'll be a bit of a walk, but I'm sure your boys'll manage."
He passed me a map and circled the two cabins, then drawing on a route that lead to the bus parking and then back to the cabins.
When we got everyone's gear back to the cabins, we stood on the verandah of the first and held out our fists, just like always. "Today," Julian Scott, our drummer, announced, "it's rock and scissors." We shook our fists three times and four of them came up with rock – those four being the Clockwatchers themselves.
"Did you guys cheat again?" Molly asked.
"Of course not," Oliver Scott, Jules' brother and the lead guitarist, smirked, shooting Molly a wink.
Molly announced, "We'll go alphabetically by first name, which puts Andy, Fleur, Jamie and Jules in twelve and me, Olly, Sam and Xavier in thirteen."
Xavier had only been added into our mix because it was four people per cabin, though he wasn't one of Sam's bus kids, and only an instrument organiser, the guys knew that he got along well with all of them, so when we needed another body, Xavier was usually the guy.
"How is it, that I am the only one not in with the guys?" Olly asked Molly.
"Because your name begins with an O, you idiot. Now get your bags inside!"
As a tour group, we had the five cabins that lined the East side of the bigger and not grungy pool.
I gave Molly key thirteen and smiled at Jameson as he practically jumped up and down, asking for the key – which I threw to him.
"C'mon, Strawberry. The quicker we get into this place, the quicker we can get you into a bikini and into that pool over there."
I rolled my eyes. "I don't do bikinis, Jamie."
He got the door and held it open for Andrew Prince, the leader of the band, Jules and I, all of us saying our thanks as we passed him.
I dropped my bag on the kitchen counter, "Do you guys want something to eat? I think we've got some food in the bus…"
They all looked at each other, apparently agreeing on something.
"Nah. I'm rather keen for bikini babes," Julian winked.
"Jules, you are way underage."
"I am not and you know it, Shortie," he ruffled my hair and walked into the bathroom, not even bothering to shut the door as he peed. "I'm perfectly legal, at nineteen."
When he came back into the tiny living space I rolled my eyes at him. "I'm gonna put my boardies on."
"No, wait." That was Andy Prince. "We should organise who's gonna sleep in which rooms. 'Cause we have one double bed and four singles."
"I think that Fleur should take the double," said Jamie, "'cause it's just – easier."
"What you meant to say is because I'm a woman?"
"Well, there is that," Jamie continued. "But I don't think you want Jules trying to sneak peeks at you. Or trying to hit on you." He shot a look at Jules, who just looked away into the distance and whistled a whimsical tune.
"I don't mind, you know. I sleep in the bus with you guys, a bunk room isn't exactly a problem if one of you wants the double."
"Okay, then," said Andy. "Jules'll take the double – that's not an invite to find some woman to get into your bed, though – and Fleur, Jamie and I will take bunks. Good?"
There was a chorus of yeses and then Jules went to put on his boardies, seemingly forgetting that I don't want to see his manly parts like I had a few days ago in the bus when I was handing out custard Danishes to all.
I turned away, getting myself a glass of water from the sink.
"Getting changed! We'll be a minute, I swear!" Jamie called back.
When a hand landed on my shoulder, I yelped and sucked in a deep breath. "Shhh, it's just me," Jamie breathed in my ear.
I cringed. "Don't do that!" I shouted, spinning around and slapping his chest. "That's just – just – ugh!"
"Sorry, Strawberry." I decided he looked genuinely sorry and smiled at him.
I heard Jules laugh, watched him shake his blonde hair from his eyes.
"I'm going down to the pool, okay, kiddliewinks?"
"Don't forget your floaties!" I called as he walked out of the cabin.
"I'll go watch him, make sure he doesn't drown," Jamie winked at me. "Put your bathers on and get your gorgeous bum down to the pool, all right?"
I nodded and grabbed my tankini from my overnight bag, went into the bathroom and locked the door behind me.
When I walked back into the living space, Andy was there. "Hey, what's up?" I smiled at him.
"I was just waiting for you."
"Hmm." I put my clothes back in my bag and picked out my sunnies and sunscreen.
"You don't have a towel," he stated. "And I have a spare."
"Oh, that's alright. I'll just use one from the bathroom."
He pushed his colourful beach towel toward me. "We need those white ones to shower, Fleur."
I took the towel. How could I not? "Yeah, of course, okay."
I led the way out of the front door, closing the door behind Andy.
"I'm just gonna check on Molly and Olly," I told him. "See if they wanna join us."
"Ah, I wouldn't bother. I think they're, ahem, busy."
"Oh, my God. I didn't even know –"
"Olly's kind of secretive, but we saw it," he said as we began to walk towards the pool.
"I didn't really."
"Oh. Oh, well."
And then, since we didn't have to walk far – only across a driveway, really – we arrived at the pool and Andy opened the gate for me and I smiled at him, dropping his towel over a plastic beach chair.
"Fleur!" Jamie yelled from the deep end, over the screams of a couple of kids down the shallow end. "Jump in."
I knew that he probably didn't expect me to run and jump, so that was what I did. I ran at the pool – after checking that those kids weren't looking – and jumped at Jamie, landing about a foot away for him.
"Dude!" Jamie said too loudly in my ear. "That was amazing!"
Jules, I then noticed, was lounging along the side of the pool by the fake waterfall, probably keeping his eyes open for 'unsuspecting babes'.
Jamie put his hands together and held them underwater, I placed a foot in his hold and put my hands on his shoulders to steady myself. He bounced as he said, "One, two, three, up!" I flew up into the air, grinning, and then landing with a huge splash back in the water.
When I resurfaced, everyone in the pool area was looking at me kind of warily, so I smiled to show that I was okay. Jamie swam over to me, grinning just as I was. "That one was good!"
"It sure felt like it," I told him, treading water whilst he stood on the bottom. Damn him.
"Shall we sit on the ledge, Shortcake?" Jameson Fisher asked with a smirk.
"Shut up, Fisher." I retorted, but swam over to the ledge, settling in next to Andy Prince.
"So Princey," Jamie began, sitting on my other side. "You up for a little game?"
"I know I'm not," I told Jamie before Andy could agree, shooting him a look. Since I figured that this game would probably involve me being squashed by blonde, hair-falling-in-my-eyes, Jamie and the brunette, Andy. "And if you even think about it, I'm gonna go and sit with Jules."
"Uh-oh," Andy muttered dramatically, probably to grate on Jamie's nerves.
Jamie just wrapped an arm around my shoulder, and I watched him eye Jules for a moment before laughing at him. Jamie was too protective, like the older brother that I never did have.
"Be quiet, Shortie. Unless you want to play the dunking game with me."
"Oh, no," I faked a groan. "How terrible."
He pushed me off the ledge and into the deeper water, so I just swam across the pool and came up beside Jules, getting up on the side of the pool next to him and kissing his cheek.
"What was that for?" he asked.
I chewed my lip, and shot a bashful look at Jamie, then whispered in Jules' ear, "I'm just stirring Jamie up. You know how he gets."
I watched Jules look over at Jamie with a smirk on his lips, he put his arm around me, resting his hand on the tile beside my leg.
"He's so easy to get to," Jules whispered.
I lifted the corner of my mouth in a half smile, "Sure is," I agreed. "However, I should probably go and do some sunbaking or something that won't get on his over-protective instincts."
"Sunbaking ain't gonna do that, Shortie. Imagine how many guys could perve on you." He winked.
"You'd be the only one perving," I chuckled, jabbing him in his ribs with my elbow. "I'll have to order in dinner for everyone soon anyway. Or cook…"
"I'm game for some homemade dinner," Jules said. "Now hop to it, woman."
I made dinner for eight, after a trip to the supermarket in a car that I borrowed from Xavier, though the guys complained that the serves were too small. I just told them to man up and that I'd brought snacks for the next two days and they were in the cupboard. "Should I be surprised that you cook?" Molly asked as the guys left us women to do the washing up – go figure.
"Probably not. You remember my mother, yeah?"
Admittedly, Molly hadn't actually seen my mother in a couple of years, but in high school when we'd had sleepovers, my mother had cooked the most elaborate amount of snacks and then these crazy dinners. Even when we'd both told her it totally wasn't at all necessary. Mol said she remembered and we got to washing up while the men flicked through the lack of TV stations.
"How come this place doesn't have pay TV!" one of them groaned. Maybe Olly?
"Because we're not paying for it, dammit," Molly retorted from beside me, where she was drying a plate. Definitely Olly, then.
For once in their lives, the Clockwatcher boys decided that they didn't need to go out to a pub tonight, and that they were happy to stay in the cabin and not get drunk – just tipsy. I rolled my eyes to myself.
Instead, they decided that they were going to use the four packets of Shapes I'd bought as poker chips and play a game of Texas Hold 'Em. "Does anyone else want to play?" Jules asked as they all settled in on the tiny dining table.
There was a loud "No" from Sam, because he probably wanted to sleep, since he very rarely got to sleep during the night.
Molly said that she was in, Xavier had disappeared off somewhere and I had no idea how to play, so I said no. Well and my poker face was non-existent. I'd always, always lost straight-face competitions as a kid.
I went into the bunkroom and settled down on one of the bottom beds, opening my tiny window and book, beginning to read.
I must've been reading for a while, though, because before I realised it, it was getting dark outside. I checked the time on my phone: eleven fifteen. I decided that I should make sure the boys were good.
It was clear that Andy had the most Shapes, so I figured he was winning, whereas Olly had close to none and the other three seemed pretty even.
"Strawberry! Come help me, I'm losing!" Jamie cried out. Did I mention? All of Jamie's nicknames for me stemmed from the cartoon character, Strawberry Shortcake, mostly because I was short and I had strawberry blonde hair, so go figure. Jamie wasn't all that imaginative.
"You are not," Olly muttered, and Molly patted his thigh.
I woke to someone pulling my curtains across and peering into my bunk, looking for something. I rubbed my eyes and looked up, seeing Jamie, "What do you want?" I asked him, though I'm pretty sure it sounded more like, 'Whaddayawant?'
"Andy wants his pre-concert ciggie and he said that I'd probably find it – oops! Probably shouldn't've said that."
I took Andy's cigarettes from where I'd hidden them and put them in Jamie's hand. "Not in the bus, please?"
He winked, "We'd never smoke on the bus, Strawberry."
"Just bugger off," I told him, pulling my curtains back across. I knew I wouldn't get back to sleep after that, so I grabbed my novel and opened it back up to where I'd been and began reading again.
My curtains were thrown open again, this time more violently, by Molly about half an hour later. "Come on, Fleur. Time to get up! The concert's soon!"
"Doesn't this ever get old for you?" I asked her, getting out of bed and taking the dress and shoes that she passed me.
"Not really. Now go get dressed, I'll wait for you."
"Don't you always?"
"Oi! Get going or I will leave you behind."
"Yeah, right," I muttered to myself, getting into the tiny bathroom cubicle and pulling on my dress and slipping the heels on.
"Aw, you look gorgeous as always, my flower!" Molly announced as I stepped out of the cubicle.
I rolled my eyes and linked my arm through hers as we got off the bus and headed into the venue, getting a couple of odd looks from the men who obviously worked at the concert hall. And I heard one of them mutter to another, "Must be lesbos. They're kinda hot."
I cast a glance heavenward as Molly pulled our backstage passes out of her clutch and put hers around her neck, passing me mine so that I could do that same. "Did you pick these up earlier?" I asked her as I hung the lanyard around my neck.
"Yeah, when you were sleeping-slash-reading."
"Uh-huh," I replied as we walked into the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, the main floor free of chairs, it was just standing room down here. Though from what I'd heard, they'd ended up selling out seats as well because people were still requesting tickets.
The guys were already onstage, doing a sound check, Olly stopped playing as soon as he spotted us and yelled into the microphone. "Hey Molly! Oh, hi Fleur!"
We just waved back, knowing that we were too far away for them to hear us even if we screamed like all hell. I looked at Molly out of the corner of my eye, who was blushing. I nudged her, remembering what Andy'd said when we'd been in Echuca. "You like Olly?"
She looked at me, her eyes wide for a moment, then she recovered. "I think he's hot, but all the boys are."
I eyed her, "That's not what I asked, though. Are you in love with him?"
"I dunno about love."
"Ha! I was right!" I span around, feeling young and graceful, despite my heels.
We were about halfway down the hall when the guys had all of the doors shut, all AEC staff outside so that the Clockwatchers could begin their secret pre-concert tradition. The opening notes to The Beatles' "Something" rang through the centre and by the time Andy'd sung the lyrics all the way through we were jumping the fence. I boosted Molly up onto the stage and then went to push myself up onto the stage. After a failed attempt, Andy walked to the edge of the stage and leant down, putting his hands under my arms and lifting me up onto the stage.
"Thanks," I smiled, squeezing his hand and looking around to find Molly – who was about a centimetre away from sucking Olly's face. "Molly! Come on, backstage."
I went and grabbed her arm, pulling her away from Oliver.
"Good luck, guys!" I called as we went offstage.
There was a chorus of thankses.
Molly made a kissing noise in Olly's direction and I rolled my eyes.
"The green room's this way," Molly said, pulling me down a few corridors to the green room, as she'd said.
In the room, there was a couch and their supporting act was already waiting in there. Jack Simon and Russell Ovens had been best friends since primary school, according to Wikipedia, and started their band, called Jack & Russell (original, right? And yes, like the dog), in high school.
Molly grinned and walked right up to them, "It's a pleasure to see you boys again."
"It's only been two nights since the last concert, Hazlehurst." Jack, the taller strawberry blonde boy, smiled at Molly.
"So where are the Mermaid boys?"
"I'm pretty sure they're outside having a ciggie." Russell answered, and my nose crinkled at the thought of the smoke. Ugh.
The opening act was called A Mermaid's Bath – a name which I had not enquired about – and considering they went on stage in an hour, it made sense that they'd be taking their last few breaths of fresh air (even if it was polluted with cigarette smoke) now. Even they had fans who would swamp them in less than a minute if someone saw them out on the street. Very few people actually arrived here an hour early, sometimes there was one or two of them, but still it was better to be safe than sorry.
"Hey guys," their drummer, Matty Fredricksen, almost sang as he walked in the door. "How's it going?"
"Jack, Russell," the Mermaid's Bath guitarist, Ben Lewis, smirked as he greeted them. "Molly, Fleur."
"What's up?" I replied easily to him.
"We were just havin' a smoke." I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, yeah. We all know what you think about smoking, now hush, Strawberry."
"Whatever, as long as you don't breathe on my face."
"Fleur!" Molly scolded quietly, bumping my shoulder.
I leaned up against the wall, their pre-concert drinks would begin as soon as A Mermaid's Bath and Jack & Russell's band managers joined us, along with the Clockwatchers.
Molly didn't know that a couple of weeks ago, before Echuca, I'd slept with Ben Lewis, despite his horrible smelling breath. It had been a once-off, but sometimes I caught these looks that Ben sent me and I wondered if he thought it had been more than it had been to me. Whilst he had been great in the sack, to put it bluntly, I wasn't interested in Round Two at all. If only because it would probably complicate –
"You okay there, Strawberry?"
"Huh?" my eyes snapped up, looking at the man who had his hand on my shoulder. "Hi, is everything okay with the sound, Andy?"
"It sounded fine to me, yes. You looked a little spaced, though."
"I was thinking – about stuff."
"Really now?" he replied, leaning against the wall beside me, the both of us standing away from the group as they sipped on their beers and bubblies. "Ben's looking at you funny, you realise."
I met Andy's eyes. He was cute, the easily best-looking guy in the room, in my opinion. "I don't want him to," I whispered to Andy. "He's a nice guy and all, but I don't want that, not now."
Andy pushed off from the wall, but I put my hand on his arm. "Yes?" he asked.
"Be more subtle than that, if you must."
"Actually, I was going to the loo, but I'll be sure to be subtle." He tapped the side of his nose with his index finger and winked at me.
As Andy walked away, I felt my face grow hot with embarrassment.
Across the room, Molly's eyes followed Andy walk out of the green room, then she glanced at me, smirked and raised an eyebrow.
I let my head drop, my hair falling around my face.
When I saw someone's feet in front of mine, I looked up. It was Ben. Of course.
I gave him a meek smile. "Hey."
"Strawberry," he replied, sweeping my hair away from my face with the back of his hand. "That name suits you right now. Your cheeks . . . you're as red as a strawberry." I felt my cheeks grow warmer. "Did Prince say something funny to you?"
"Oh, no. No, he didn't. We were just talking."
"You're just friends, then?"
Was this leading to…? "Um, yes."
Ben looked at me a little funny, like he wasn't sure if I was telling the truth. "I see," he said. "You wouldn't be interested in, well, us, tonight, then?"
As hopeful as he sounded, I couldn't lead him on, not at all. "No, Ben. No, thank you."
He looked a little disappointed, but he said: "Oh well, s'all right."
Ben went to talk with his band, discussing their set list for the night, and I felt a little bit guilty. But I stayed by the wall until A Mermaid's Bath left the room to go on stage to open.
As soon as Ben had left the room, Jamie brought me over to sit on one of the sofas on his lap. "I do like your dress, Shortie. It's nice."
"Thanks," I replied, turning around and smiling at him.
He wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me against his chest.
"What time do you guys go on tonight?"
"You're a terrible PA, you should know these things." I turned and shot him a look. "We go on at eight thirty. There's a short interval between Jack and Russell and us."
"Isn't there always?"
"There you go, you're learning." He leaned in close to my ear, breathing his question: "Was Ben giving you trouble before? Or Andy?"
"Andy, definitely no."
"Um." I bit on my lip. "Not exactly, no."
"You cannot say things like that, you know I worry about you –"
"Yes. You worry about me like an overprotective older brother would. Ben's not any trouble. We just –" Molly looked over at me then "– can we talk about this later?"
"Of course we can. Ah, it's eight fifteen," he raised his volume. "You guys! It's eight fifteen, we better get ready."
"Inspection time!" Molly announced, standing up.
Jamie lifted me up and stood.
The Clockwatchers stood in line and Molly and I stepped back, inspecting their clothes. We had to make sure that they were 'hipster' enough to please the teens in the crowd, but not so hipster that they would look try-hard.
Though, tonight they weren't perfect, they'd have to do. Somehow I'd forgotten their spare outfits.
"Okay," I told them. "You're good."
I looked at Molly, who grinned. "Now go and be awesome!"
Molly and I bummed around until we heard the crowd scream when the Clockwatchers went on stage; it was the usual reaction, of course.
Jack and Russell joined us in the green room for a moment, collecting their things before heading back out to their bus.
"Shall we go and see what is happening?" Molly asked, taking my arm.
"Of course," I smiled.
When Jamie, Andy, Olly and Jules finally met us back in the green room after two encores, Molly and I were getting closer to drunk, leaving tipsy far behind, dancing around the room to no music whatsoever.
"Are you two all right?"
I grinned widely. "We're great. Just a little bit – just a little bit – what's that word?"
"High on life!" Molly yelped as Olly wrapped his arm around her waist.
"I would've said drunk," Jules smirked as he said this.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Be quiet, illegal one."
"How many times do I have to tell you –"
"That you probably shouldn't get too wasted during a concert," Andy finished for Jules, though I knew what Jules had been going to say: I am perfectly legal, have been for a whole year. "Because then what if Sam gets too tired to drive the bus?"
Molly waved her hand, "We're in a hotel tonight. Who cares! And, oh, I'm sleeping with Olly!"
Even I looked over at my best friend with shock. "You're having sex with him already!"
"What? No. Don't be silly, Fleur."
Olly said, "I'll get her back to the bus. Jules?"
"Helping," Jules announced, pushing his shoulder under Molly's other side.
I felt my body sway over my heels. "I guess I'm stuck with you two," I slurred. I didn't think they quite understood what I'd said, 'cause Jamie and Andy looked at each other before Andy walked up to me.
The next thing I knew, I was in his arms. Curled up against his chest, no less. And Jamie was leading the way through the dark, I think.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. "Me and Molly should've been more pro – profen – pro – professional!"
"'S'all right," Andy told me, his mouth close to my ear.
When we reached the bus, Andy set me down on the ground. I wobbled – of course I wobbled, I was wearing heels and I was more than tipsy – and Jamie told Andy that he could manage from here.
Then Andy got on the bus.
"C'mon. Sit on the step for me." I did. "We need to talk about before. About Ben, remember?"
I thought hard about this, vaguely remembering something happening with Ben. "Clues?" I asked.
"He looked like he was giving you trouble."
"Oh, yeah." I said.
"Want to continue with that? You did say that you would."
"He asked me if I wanted to sleep with him. Again."
"We had sex before. Early in the tour. Don't 'member where. Once. I didn't really want anymore. But I think that he does. Or did. Or something…" I finished, losing my train of thought as I stared at the lights of the AEC.
"So he wants sex, maybe more. And you don't." I nodded. "I'll set him straight for you." Though it was barely above a whisper. "All right. Let's get you into the bus and to the hotel."
Usually Molly and I shared a hotel room, so I was a bit confused when I found myself in a room with Andy. I looked around the room. It was a double, like all of our rooms were. I blinked a few times, as I searched through my bag for my pyjamas, confused. "No PJs?" Andy asked from the bathroom, where he was washing his face.
"Um. No. I think I must've left them in the bus." I grabbed my keys. "I'll just go and get them. And be right back."
Though my mind was more than a little bit hazy, I thought this was a good plan.
Obviously, Andy didn't.
He grabbed me around the waist, holding me tight against his body.
"I'll lend you a t-shirt, if you need one."
"I think I have some clothes that I could –"
"I've seen your clothes, what Molly packed for you this morning. She put a dress in your bag, a skirt and a shirt that I know she would hate to see wrinkled." As well as some sexy lingerie, in case I was going to get lucky – which never happened, but Molly was forever optimistic. Had Andy seen those too? "Just don't fight me, okay? I really don't want to fight with you when you're wasted."
"How come I'm in your room?" I asked without thinking, barely realising that what I'd asked could cause offense. "I mean, I would've figured that Jamie –"
"Under more normal circumstances, yes. Jamie would've made you sleep in his room, but tonight he's got a girl in his room. And so does Jules, not that we'd ever let you sleep in his room. We had to organise a couple of extra rooms so that they could do their – thing. Anyway you're drunk. You just need to sleep it off. We don't have to leave early tomorrow morning, thank God."
I tried to let that all sink in, but I got the feeling that most of what Andy'd said had gone in one ear and out the other. I just knew that he'd said a lot of words.
"Bedtime," he said, more simply. "We can talk in the morning. Can you manage getting changed?"
I knew he was right. I should sleep. I was tired. But I couldn't get my muscles to move, I felt sluggish and horrid; there was no way that I'd be getting my dress off by myself. "Zip" was all I said.
Andy pulled the zip that ran down my back all the way to my bum before releasing his grip around my waist.
I took a deep breath. "I –"
"Don't worry," he told me. "You're wearing undergarments?" I looked at him quizzically. That was such a long word, I – "You're wearing a bra, and undies?"
That I understood. I nodded.
Andy helped me out of my dress and into one of his shirts, before tucking me into our bed.
I slept easily, lost consciousness quickly.
I woke once during the night, only to pull my bra off because it was too uncomfortable, the clasp digging into my back.
Jamie wrapped his arm around my waist as we walked from the Ballarat Town Hall back to the bus. "Are you driving? Sam looked exhausted before."
"I think he might've caught up on some sleep," I told Jameson.
"It's hard, though. When we have concerts two nights in a row."
"It's hard on everyone, Strawberry."
We walked silently the rest of the way, until we reached the bus when Jamie pushed me up against its side, almost as if he were going to kiss me.
"What are you doing?" I asked him.
"I'm giving that Ben Lewis a hint. He's over by their bus; he was looking at you. So don't push me away or anything."
"But we don't have anything. He must know that, see how you behave around me. Right? Everyone can see you're my big brother away from home."
"I suppose that's true… We could just room you up with Andy for the rest of the tour. I mean, Molly's always in Ol's room anyway these days."
"Let's get on the bus, okay?"
And we went and sat down the back of the bus, since apparently Sam was good to go.
Jules was smoking. I shot him a glare, but he just shrugged.
It wasn't until I coughed loudly, and pointedly, that he put that damn thing out.
"You suck, Fleur. It's just a cigarette."
"And what's that Ben Lee song? 'Cigarettes Will Kill You'. It would do you some good to think about that."
"Shortie…" Jamie said cautiously. "Don't. If he wants to die of lung cancer, he can."
I stared at Jamie. "I don't want to die of lung cancer, though."
Now Jamie gave me a look, a hard, unforgiving one. I shut up.
Olly laughed. Which was odd, because I never really thought that he paid much attention to me. "Why is it that Jameson's the only one who can make you be quiet about that whole ciggie thing?"
I took a deep breath, and willed myself not to get too angry at the guys.
"We have a bigger problem on our hands, here," Jamie announced. "It's to do with Fleur."
"Fleur can look after herself," Jules said, and for once, I nodded in agreement.
"What's this problem?" Molly asked, sipping on a raspberry Cruiser.
"Our Strawberry, here, has a stalker."
I whacked Jamie's arm. "He's hardly a stalker!"
"Maybe not, but I've seen you send him serious back-off signals, and he has all but ignored them."
"He's a bloke. I thought you lot let sex control your minds."
"That may be true." Jules said. "But even I know when to back off."
"Ben's nice," I said. But I'm just not that into him.
"He may well be, but he needs to know." Jamie added.
"It's true," said Andy, his first words in the conversation. "He needs to back off."
I wasn't sure I'd ever heard the guys being so, well, protective of me before. I supposed there'd never been the need, but it was nice all the same.
"Fleur, you all right?" Molly asked.
I swallowed and smiled at her. "I'm just feeling a little bit tired." And so appreciative I could almost cry.
"If you're tired, we should work out our plan of action. And then you can go to sleep. Sound good?" Jamie suggested, and I nodded. "Any ideas?"
"Tell Ben we'll kick his ass if he even thinks about coming near Shortcake?" Jules suggested.
"I like that idea," Olly announced and Andy nodded.
Jamie didn't seem to agree, shaking his head. "I was thinking more along the lines of . . ."
It was broad daylight now. And I was sitting on the wharf by Darling Harbour in Sydney. Jamie, Jules, Olly, Molly and Sam were all in the bowling alley. We'd seen the boys from A Mermaid's Bath walk around the area, as if they'd never seen Sydney before. But I wasn't alone. No, of course I wasn't. This was all part of Jamie's Master Plan.
The man beside me was leaning back on his arms, one behind me and the other out on his left side. He was wearing a hat and sunglasses, not saying a word.
I turned to look behind us, not seeing Ben Lewis, though that was our main objective. Because that was the case, I had my hair down, so that I would be fairly easily recognisable. And since it was a weekday, there weren't too many people around.
"No sign of him, then?" Andy asked, his voice lower than usual.
"This seems kind of pointless, if he doesn't see, doesn't it?"
"I suppose." However I wasn't going to be a downer, so I said "But it's not every day that a plain girl like me gets to go on a date with one of the most wanted musicians in Australia."
"That's not true."
"Huh? That you're one of the most wanted musicians in Australia?" I'd never picked Andy for a humble type, at least looks-wise and –
"No, Fleur. I meant that you're not plain."
"Oh," I said, feeling my cheeks warm a little.
"That is to say, you're pretty. Beautiful, even."
"Oh!" I said again, leaning forward so that my hair fell around my face.
Then Andy was pulling my hair aside, his sunnies in his other hand. "You don't have to hide from me. In fact, you shouldn't. Especially if we're supposed to be on a date."
I gave a small sigh and met his eyes.
"Fine. It's just been a long, long while since anyone called me that. Beautiful."
"You've been seriously wronged, then." I smiled at Andy, leaning in to kiss his stubbled cheek in thanks. "Because you're a really nice person as well. No wonder Jameson is obsessed with keeping you safe and sound."
"Did I hear my name, lovebirds?" Jameson's voice said from behind us, then he sat down on my other side. "How was the date?"
"We pretty much sat here the whole time," Andy admitted.
"That doesn't sound very date-like. Shouldn't you have been doing something?"
"We, um, decided that Ben would be more likely to see us together if we stayed in the one place. 'Cause he looked like he'd never seen Sydney before," I replied.
"Very logical," Jamie said; Andy shot him a look.
"Where's everyone else?" I asked.
"Oh. Getting ice cream, I think."
I rested my head on Andy's shoulder. "I want ice cream too," I said, biting my lip, looking up at him through my eyelashes.
"You're a devil," Jamie said.
"C'mon. That sounds pretty couple-y, right Jameson?" Andy asked.
"Haven't I told you to call me Jamie?" he asked as we stood, me tucking my arm through Andy's.
"Yeah, probably. But Jameson's such a cool name."
"Eh. James' son. It's not that great."
"More exciting than Andrew," Andy Prince threw in as we walked away from Jameson Fisher, sitting alone on the wharf.
Usually, now, when we booked into hotels, there were four rooms for our guys. Jules liked the women; he was nineteen, barely legal and hormonal as hell. Jamie had a room to himself, because he insisted that Andy and I keep up the façade – which apparently included sharing a room. Molly almost always slept in Olly's room now. Which left me with Andy. I didn't mind, of course. And it made our fake relationship look a lot more real to Ben Lewis.
Well, that was until Molly spotted the front cover of Entertainment Weekly.
"Fleur!" she shouted across the truck stop, her voice more nervous than I'd ever heard it. "You have to see this!"
I nearly ran across the large room from where I'd been sitting with Andy, of course, since A Mermaid's Bath's bus had pulled in as well, kissing his cheek quickly. I did sometimes wonder how long we'd have to keep up this act, even if I did enjoy it.
"'Scuse me, lady. You're gonna have to pay for that magazine if you wanna read it!" the check-out chick said. Mol just chucked a twenty on the counter and told the girl to keep the change.
We speed-walked back to where Andy was sitting, Molly not telling me anything until we sat down. "I'm not sure if this is going to pose a major problem for you two, but we're going to have to sort something out."
She set the EW down on the table and opened it up.
The feature of that page? A blown-up picture of Andy and me on the Sydney harbourside. Fortunately, my face couldn't be seen; it was hidden by my hair. Andy had just lifted up his sunglasses, so his identity was clear as day. The moment being the one where he'd just told me that I was beautiful; I felt my cheeks warming up again as I read.
Andrew Prince, one of Australia's hottest musicians, has been spotted on a date with an unknown girl. They were seen in Sydney's Darling Harbour relaxing together by the water on the day of the Clockwatcher's Sydney concert. It is not known whether they are an official couple, though they do look it, don't they?
"Well, shit," I heard Olly say as he sat down beside Molly. "And we were trying to protect you. Look at that, thrown into the spotlight."
"Let's just go," I said. "We've eaten."
"That sounds like a fantastic idea. Though I want a slushie. Ol?"
"I'm on it, Mollykins." Olly disappeared.
Molly took me by the arm and led me back to the bus.
Andy joined us a few minutes later, Oliver by his side, two slushies in hand.
"Hey," Andy wrapped his arm around my shoulder, "it'll be okay. I promise."
Molly's phone rang and Oliver gave Molly and me a slushie each.
"Hi, this is Molly Hazlehurst, what can I do for you? Oh, Gretel! How are you? Yes, I'm well thank you. What? No. I didn't know. Congratulations! Delia Jones wants a TV interview with Prince? Okay. We'll be in Noosa tomorrow. We can do it in our apartment. I'll text you our address later tonight, all right? Good. I'll see you then. Bye!"
"A mid-tour interview with Delia Jones?" Andy asked, his fingers tightening on my arm. "Delia Jones is more of a gossip type than one interested in our music, Molly."
"Maybe so. But it's better that we clear this up, or play it up. What do you think is best, Fleur?"
"I – I don't know. I have no idea what to do. Maybe I should call Amanda."
"That's probably a good idea."
I did call Amanda; she suggested that we play it up. It was probably the best way to go, but since I was so close to the situation, it was hard for me to see clearly.
Molly and Olly managed to squeeze into his bunk somehow. Jameson had been sleeping nearly all day and Jules, well, I just hadn't seen him – I assumed he was sleeping as well.
Which left only Andy, Sam and me properly awake on the bus.
"Don't worry about it, Fleur. You know it'll be fine."
Even with Andy's comforting arm around my shoulders, I wasn't sure.
"Will I have to be part of the interview too?"
"I doubt it. But you'd have to be there, right? Behind the scenes? Since you're our PR and PA all rolled into one."
"Yeah, I'll have to be there. I'm just worried that she'll see my hair and make me join the interview or something."
"I doubt it. Plus you can always refuse." I stared out the window, not really seeing anything. "Hey, look here," he said, holding my chin between his fingers he made me look at him.
What did I feel for Andy? Was it just friendship that I wanted? We'd been pretending that it was a lot more, but sometimes it felt so real that I got lost in between the fake and the reality. Did I like him? Love him?
I stared into his chocolate-brown eyes, knowing then that what I felt for him was above friendship. I'd never say I was in love with him, but he was . . . one of the best guys that I'd ever been in a relationship with. Fake or not.
So when Andy's lips descended on mine, I didn't lean away nor hesitate, instead I moved in to meet him halfway, pressing my mouth to his.
It didn't last long. There were no tongues, no parted lips.
"I, um," I felt myself blush. "Thank you."
Andy smiled, and I felt some of my heart melt. "It's getting late. We should go to bed."
"We should," I agreed.
"But I don't really want to."
"Me either," I murmured, leaning against him.
Andy ran his hand up and down my arm. "It's all gonna turn out all right. I swear it, Rosie. I really do."
"Rosie?" I asked.
"Well, you're a flower, aren't you? And you always seemed like a rose to me. Especially when your cheeks are so red. More so than a strawberry, really."
I stood up as I felt blood colour my cheeks. "I really should get some sleep. The interview'll probably be in the morning. And I don't want to look like I've been up all night." I kissed his cheek. "Goodnight, Andy."
"Let me walk you to your bunk," he smirked. And I wondered if he was joking – apparently not. He did walk me to my bunk.
But only so that he could press his body up against mine, embracing me before giving me a peck and letting me get into bed.
It turned out that the interview was in the afternoon, so we probably would've been all right staying up later. But I needed time to think about this. I wasn't having second thoughts – I mean, this is Andy Prince we're talking about – but it was like, so much to take in at once.
I tied my hair up in a ponytail, tucking it through the back of my trucker's cap. I'd decided, after a phone call to Amanda, that it would be best to dress so that I looked casual, but not horribly so. I was wearing a turquoise coloured skirt, a white tank top and gladiators. The trucker cap was more to try and hide my identity.
"Andy!" I heard Molly yell from the upstairs of our little apartment. "Get your butt in here now!"
I walked into the main bedroom, where Molly had Andy's suitcase full of on-stage and photo shoot outfits spread wide on the bed.
When they spotted me they both said "Help me!" in unison – except Molly's was a cry for help, whereas Andy just looked at me pleadingly.
I held my hands up, as if to surrender and got down to business.
When I was done, Andy was wearing a tight-fitting white- and grey-striped t-shirt and denim shorts that ended above his knees.
"Oh, and we should probably put some sunnies on you too."
Andy looked at me funny and I said, "On your head, not your face."
"I thought we were having the interview inside."
"Turns out," Molly said as she walked into the room, "that since the weather's so nice, they wanna have it outside, by the pool."
I sat on the poolside, dangling my legs in the water as Delia Jones chatted her head off to Andy. She'd started at first with questions about the tour and how the band was doing, the usual, trying to warm Andy up to her, I supposed. Though he wouldn't look it on TV, he seemed tense to me. He wasn't loosening up at all. And he needed to.
I got up, staying out of the camera frame; I walked over to where Gretel and Molly were standing. "Do you reckon it'd be possible to stop the interview for a few minutes?"
"Oh, of course," Gretel said, not even asking what for, though Molly looked like she wanted to. We waited for an appropriate break in the questioning to stop the cameras and Delia rolling. Gretel whispered something to Delia and they both got up, announcing that they were going to go and get a couple of drinks.
I went over to Andy, and Jamie followed me from where he'd been watching the interview. Jamie spoke before I could. "Dude, you need to lose the wrinkles."
"You're too tense," I agreed. "You need to relax a little bit more."
"It's hard to relax, Fleur. Because I know that she's only leading up to the big questions. And she'll only air the interesting answers that I give."
I glanced over at Delia, watching her eye the three of us keenly.
I closed my eyes and thought for a moment, kneeling beside him as if he were a child. "Let's go for a walk," I told him.
Jamie lifted me back to my feet, then offering Andy his hand – which was refused. "That sounds like a good idea. I'll talk to Molly, cover for you."
Andy and I walked out of the pool area, doing a full lap of the park before stopping just out of sight of where the interview was being held.
He took my face in his hands and gave me a short but sweet kiss. "Thanks for this." He said. "I think I'll be good now. By the way, are we in a relationship now?"
"Yes," I told him. "Delia needs to think so, anyway."
"And the real us?"
"I think we can jump that hurdle when we come to it." He gave me one of those funny looks again. "After the interview, okay?" He smiled and nodded.
He went back in and I followed him, sitting beside Jamie, who leaned in to ask me how it'd gone. I told him the truth, that it had gone quite well, I thought anyway.
It was a few days later when the interview actually aired on TV.
Delia smiled her way through the questions about the band and the tour before asking the few big questions.
"So Andy, we all know what the audience really wants to hear. The strawberry blonde, is she your girlfriend?"
Andy smiled wide. "Yes, Delia."
Delia grinned. "That's fantastic! How long have you been dating? And what does she think of you being on tour all the time?"
"It's our two-month anniversary this Saturday," he grinned. "But it's hard, not being able to see her all that often, but we Skype every other night so we're working the long distance!" he half-lied, convincingly.
"How lovely. Are you two serious?"
"Why kind of boyfriend would I be if I said no, Delia?"
She laughed at this.
They'd cut out some footage after that, closing with: "Well, Andy. Does Miss Strawberry have a name?"
"Of course she does, but that doesn't mean that I'm willing to tell the whole of Australia. I don't think she'd appreciate it."
"I guess we'll just have to keep calling her our Mystery Miss Strawberry."
After the interview had finished, the real life one, Jamie had waited until we were in our apartment before he broke down in a fit of laughter, grinning from ear to ear. "I can't believe how uncanny that is! I mean, that she'd call you Strawberry. It's just so crazy, my Mystery Miss Strawberry."
"Is that gonna stick forever?" I asked, leaning against the kitchen counter.
Andy moved to stand beside me, wrapping his arm around my waist, he murmured a "Probably" in my ear.
Jamie chuckled, "I'll leave you two lovebirds be." And he left the apartment, Andy and I alone in the kitchen.
"I think that went quite well," Andy said, moving so that he was pressing my body against the counter.
"Should we be celebrating?"
"Mmm," he nuzzled my neck. "I suppose we could celebrate."
"How do you suppose we do that?" I asked, almost choking on my words with anticipation.
Andy lifted his head, touching our foreheads together, staring into my eyes. I felt desire roll in the pit of my belly. He grinned. "I'm thinking spa time."
"W-we don't have a spa in the apartment."
"No, silly. That spa by the pool? It looked so exotic . . ."
Exotic rhymes with erotic . . .
Get your head outta the gutter, woman!
I took a deep breath, trying to calm my racing heart. "That sounds good." I thought of the Victoria's Secret bikini that Molly had ordered off the Internet for my birthday, and how little of my skin it would cover. "Yeah," I said, "that sounds really good."
He quirked his lips. "What do you have up your sleeves, Rosie?"
"No sleeves," I murmured, kissing his cheek.
Reviews are appreciated. I've enjoyed writing this and I hope you enjoyed reading it.