The silence on the bus is deafening. Sobs wrack my body even as I struggle to control them because all eyes are on me. Diesel just dropped a bomb, leaving self-destruction in his wake. Sevyn walks out of the bedroom, and I wonder what set this chaos in motion. My eyes meet his briefly, then I’m delivered yet another verbal blow. This time from Xander, but it was just as unexpected.
“How long has this been fucking going on, Lourdes?” he booms. He is usually even-keeled and hard to rile up, so seeing this side of him is new. I did this, and I don’t know what to say.
“Xander, I’m sorry. We wanted to tell you. Just—” I begin, but he cuts me off.
“Save me the fucking excuses. How long, goddammit?” I cringe at his sharpness. Renewed tears follow the dried path of the old ones. “Save the damn waterworks too. I want answers … now!” To say he is livid is an understatement.
“Well, it started at the lake house—” I try to explain, but he cuts me off yet again.
“Just as I thought. You’ve had plenty of time to come clean. Here I am, thinking that you wanted an opportunity of a lifetime when, in actuality, you’re just another groupie. Another easy mark ready to spread her legs for a chance to ride his notorious dick. That’s right. I said notorious because he is known to fuck around. Hell, just the number of the women he’s been with on this tour alone. Did that not matter to you?” He shakes his head in disgust.
That reprieve is short-lived, though, because his rant continues. “How could you do this to us, Lourdes? To me? Do you realize that you have single-handedly dismantled our fucking group because you couldn’t keep your skank ass legs closed? I trusted you. Yes, Diesel played a part in this, but you’re family. At least you were until you shit on my dreams. God, I can’t even stand to look at you.”
“Xander, stop!” I hear Lily and Gable shout simultaneously, but it’s too late. His words inflict their intended effect. I can recall only one other time that I’ve felt like I do at this very moment. His vile words pierce the armor I’ve worked so hard to construct. The words that Thomas would spew were often worse than the rape itself. He made sure to tell me what a slut I was and that he could tell I wanted it.
“No, it’s okay. He’s right. I’m a slut, and I deserve his wrath. I’ll get my shit and leave.” I watch as Xander shudders, but he doesn’t try to stop me. His hate for me is evident, and he wants me gone.
Keyser pulls him aside, but I can’t hear what he says.
“She didn’t act alone. How can you put all of this on her?” Lily yells as she pokes him in the shoulder.
“The band was a solid unit before she came aboard, that’s why. I foolishly wanted her to have an opportunity of a lifetime. I wanted her to be a part of our rise to fame, and instead, she will be the fucking source of our downfall. She betrayed me,” he accuses harshly. His voice is an octave or two lower, but the bite is still very much present.
“That’s bullshit, and you know it,” Lily huffs. I walk over and grab her hand to pull her away. I don’t need another fight on my conscience.
“I’m so sorry, Lourdes. That was unfair. I’ve never seen him like this,” Lily says once we’re out of Xander’s earshot. “This will blow over, and he’ll regret saying all those mean things to you.” We both watch as Xander storms off the bus.
“No, Lil. He’s right. Me spreading my skank ass legs is what caused all this. I mean, who can blame Diesel for any of this? He is, after all, a guy, and it’s normal behavior for a guy to fuck around. I should have thought about the repercussions of my actions on the band and acted accordingly for the both of us. We both knew the consequences, which is why we kept it a secret. Still, I should have been the one to say no, right?”
My question is rhetorical. Regardless of Xander’s harsh delivery, I’m to blame. Take me out of the equation, and none of this would be happening.
“This is not all on you, Lourdes,” Sevyn says, finally speaking up. I forgot he was even still here. “None of the things your brother said is true either, and he knows it. He just feels betrayed right now. Give him time to calm down.”
“Exactly.” Lily nods. Gable walks up and pats me on the shoulder before he and Keyser exit the bus, I’m guessing to go look for Xander.
“I think I can help fix this,” Sevyn offers. I don’t know what he can do to fix this mess, but it’s all too much.
Diesel and Xander’s words replay in my head, and I just need to get the fuck off this bus too. On shaky legs, I make a run for it. I’m already through the door before I hear Lily call after me. Once my feet hit the pavement, I gain momentum. I let the fear, hurt, and anger propel me forward. I don’t even know where I’m going. I don’t have any money or any identification since I just left what little I do own on the bus. Luckily, my phone was in my pocket, but I refuse to call Brooke. I don’t need to bring anyone else into this mess or have another set of eyes looking at me with pity.
After running several blocks, my legs betray me, so I slow to a walk and then come to a complete stop in front of a bus stop. My lungs burn with each breath I inhale. I heave, bending over at the waist. As I look around, I have no idea where I am, but the haunted gray skies and petrichor are a pretty accurate depiction of my melancholic mood. My world is collapsing on itself, and the trickling domino effect has been set in motion. The thought of shattered dreams, broken friendships, and irreversible lost suffocates me. I can’t breathe. A few drops of rain splatter across my back, but I can’t will myself to move. I see a Starbucks across the street where I can take shelter, but that would require my spent body to cooperate and this darkening haze to recede. I lean against a bench mere inches in front of me. When someone grabs my shoulder unexpectedly, my fight or flight response gives me just enough energy to jerk away from the stranger’s grip, a scream catching in my throat. Luckily, it’s Sevyn. He grabs me by the waist and covers my mouth.
“Shhh. It’s me,” he says, before releasing his hold. “You know you really should be more aware of your surroundings. I’ve been running a few paces behind you this entire time.”
“You scared the living shit out of me. Why the hell are you following me anyway?” I huff, still trying to fill my lungs with air. “I need to sit. I feel dizzy.”
“Well, apparently it’s a good thing I did since you were so oblivious to everything around you.” The rain droplets turn in to a downpour. “We need to get you out of this rain.” Without hesitation, he swoops me into his arms and begins a slow jog toward the Starbucks. I’m too tired to fight. We’ll wait out the downpour, but I know that the shitstorm I sprinted away from will still be waiting when I return.