Flo waved at me, beaming, from across the room. I forgot the name of the guy she currently had draped around her... Anthony? Louis? There had been so many recently. I knew that she was happy on the surface but that didn't stop me from being concerned. Florence was so open, so innocent. Yeah, she was the bad one in all of these flings. She was the user, drawing people in with that special magnetism of hers and casting them off as soon as they were noticeably attached. I still pitied her more than any of the guys, though. After all, they would get over her quickly if they had any sense about them. Flo, on the other hand... Well, I wasn't sure that she had been okay in a long while.

You know why.

Reed pulled on my waist, laughing when I jumped a little. "Where did your thoughts take you?" he asked.

I forced a faint smile. "In fact, I was thinking about Florence. I'm worried."

A furrow appeared in Reed's brow. "She's fine."

"Reed, you know I love you and all but honestly, how can you possibly be so dense?"

"I'm choosing not to take offense. It is your party. I think that means you get special treatment or something."

I wrinkled my nose. "Tell me again why I let you talk me into a birthday party?"

"Parties are kind of our thing, aren't they? I mean, that's where we met."

I blushed thinking about it. "Yeah, when I was wrapped around your friend. Some meeting."

Reed grinned, disappointing me a bit. I kind of had been hoping that he would show even the tiniest bit of jealousy. "You know, if we ever have kids that is going to be a great story to tell them."

I didn't bother hiding my surprise. "Kids?"

Reed shrugged, only now looking vaguely embarrassed. "Yeah. Heidi and Helga, I was thinking."

I burst into laughter, glad that he had been kidding. No one would seriously consider those names, not together. "Right, of course. And if we have a boy, he'll be Hector."

Reed pouted. "No need to be mean. Besides, weren't we talking about Flo?"

Odd. Now that I looked at him, he did look a little hurt. I brushed that aside. He was right, Flo was more important. "She's unhappy. No, that's wrong. She's perfectly happy on a superficial level. If she ever bothers looking deeper, she's going to shatter. And Reed... it's only a matter of time before that happens. How did you say Marcus was doing?"

Reed coughed uncomfortably. "I think he's been seeing some girl. Alison, maybe? Or was her name Alyssa? Don't count on him coming back and fixing everything, Rhea. It's too late. Now I'm sorry to leave you on this note, but I kind of have to get up there." Reed indicated the stage, where Back to Bach was setting up. They weren't letting me play tonight, it being my birthday party and all.

I had been wondering what they were going to do without me but now it became clear: Reed was filling in. You see, since Marcus had gone away, Gus and I had taken turns singing. He covered the songs I played in, while I stepped in for those which didn't require a violin. It wasn't the same and it wasn't as good, but the band had talked it over and we had all agreed that we weren't ready to start looking for someone to replace Marcus. We were all still hoping, I think, that he would move back and slip back into his spot. The bass part was being covered by Gus, though that meant the loss of his little fill-ins with the dozen instruments he usually played.

When I saw Reed strapping on a bass, then, I was not alarmed. Gus had a keyboard out and was stretching out his fingers. He looked glad to be able to play it tonight, as this had become a rare treat for him. When Reed walked over to the microphone, I froze in place. He was a terrible singer. He wasn't tone-deaf, just really bad at keeping his pitch where it should be. This meant that he was as aware as I was that he was not someone who should be singing.

Reed cleared his throat. "Hi, everyone. I've talked the band into letting me play a couple of songs for my girl Rhea's birthday. I have been asked to emphasize that I am not a member of Back to Bach and that they are in no way responsible for what you're about to hear." Lionel started a backbeat and Reed laughed. "This one's for you, Rhea Sophia. I love you."

Reed sent off a wicked grin my way and started belting out the lyrics to 'With a Little Help From My Friends.' I grimaced. Not even the line "What would you do if I sang out of tune" made this in any way forgivable to listen to. Not only that, but he had just revealed my middle name before the whole mass of people. I ducked my head, trying to think of a time I had been more embarrassed. Reed's voice cracked on a note that wasn't even very high and I grinned. No, this was a new level for me. Reed at a party was definitely the most embarrassing thing I could experience.

Was it any wonder, then, that he was so good for me? I had always known that embarrassment was a sure sign of happiness.

Hi everyone! This is the end of Fifty Words... but not the last words I have for you. I have an epilogue written, which will go up sometime next week AND I'm making a sequel, one that follows the Flo/Marcus story, since that is completely unresolved right now. Besides, Florence's perspective is fun (:

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has read the story through and that those of you who commented have made me smile so, so very much. You are all fantastic.