"My God. What was that designer thinking, putting Jay's ass up there like that?" I asked, shaking my head. We were at the Fall Fashion Fest, something Siobhan had been stressing over for months.
"I know. She's created a monster," Siobhan agreed.
"Can you all believe this?" Jay hollered, whisking his finger in the air. "My ass is like a beacon of light in the fashion world. Bigger than the sun!"
"Looks more like the moon to me," I joked.
Siobhan laughed. "You can say that again."
"I don't care what you jealous people say, my E loves it. Don't you, babe?"
"It's the best billboard here. And I'm lucky. The original is all mine."
Kissing Siobhan's ear, I said, "Let's go inside before I die from the glare of that thing."
But once we arrived at the art showcase area where Siobhan's painting was, it was like I couldn't get away from Jay's ass.
I decided to turn my back to it and face Siobhan. "Nice work, honey. I love it."
She winced. "You're just saying that. You don't know the first thing about fashion."
"Well, I can say it's way better than Jay's scrawny butt. I'd love to see you dressed in that gown. It's sexy."
Jay cut in, "Look at Siobhan's piece, E. I thought she should have won the showcase, but my ass was too hard to pass up. What can I say?"
Usually, Siobhan would have laughed at Jay's silliness, but all she did was grimace. "Babe, what's wrong?" I asked. "Why are you so down tonight?"
"I don't know, really. I've had a dark cloud over me for the past two days. I'm not feeling well, I guess. And having to be here, wondering if any designers might take notice of me makes me feel worse."
That worried me. Siobhan often struggled with depression. She'd told me about it, but I'd never seen any signs or symptoms until now. I knew from my undergrad psych class that medications often didn't always work and stress would exacerbate the malady.
I tried to keep things upbeat. "You know you're very talented, so you don't have to worry."
Just then one of Siobhan's friends, Theo Wolff, came over. I'd met him a few times when I'd pick up Siobhan from school. He seemed pretty cool although I got the idea he had a thing for her--something that didn't worry me in the least. For one, he wasn't Siobhan's type. And for two, she was as crazy about me as I was for her.
"Whoa, Siobhan!" Theo exclaimed. "That is one beautiful piece. You're amazing!"
I wondered why he'd be here, but it looked as if he was the date of another classmate.
Frowning, Siobhan said, "Thanks, Theo, but I'm not sure anyone will notice it. There's so much talent here, it's humbling. I'm just lucky to have this opportunity. Mine can't hold a candle to Abby's."
Abby smiled until Theo interjected, "Abby's is really great, but don't count yourself out, Shiv. Your talent is something special. I know you're going to get noticed."
Dude. That's one way to piss off a date.
Before Theo could start slobbering even more over my girlfriend, I decided to make it known who she belonged to. Whispering in her ear, I said, "Theo is right. You are something special. I can't wait to get your something special home with me tonight."
She pushed me away like I knew she would and said, "Go away, you!"
I chuckled and asked, "Would you like a drink?"
"Sure," she said. "How about some coffee? Black."
"No problem. Be back in a flash."
My stomach took a nose dive when I saw Shivvy with that neanderthal. Of course, my sister had informed me she'd been dating that bloody git bouncer from three years ago. But I couldn't actually wrap my head round that one until I saw him nuzzling her ear just now. Good God, I'd hoped I'd never have to witness that again.
He passed by me with a self satisfired smirk. God, I wanted to tell him to bugger off right there. What did my Shivvy see in him anyway? He was bleeding full of himself.
But when I looked at her beautiful face, all of my anger faded. "Hello, darling," I said. "You look gorgeous tonight." I gave her a peck on both cheeks in greeting.
She smiled at me and said, "So glad you came. Naomi told me you planned on stopping by."
Apparantly since she was safely in another man's arms, I guessed it wasn't too uncomfortable for her to be friends with me again. Unfortunately for me, it was. But I'd do anything to see her even if it was on the pretense of being mates.
This was indeed a sobering thought. What if they were getting on smashingly, and I was doomed to be friend-zoned forever? "Are you happy, Shivvy? Because if you aren't, I could paste his numpty ass for you, you know."
She laughed, shaking her head. "I'm very happy, so you won't have to...what did you say? Paste his numpty ass?" When she stopped giggling, she pierced my heart with her eyes. "How are you?" she asked me, softly.
I shrugged. "Same as always, I guess. Working three jobs that don't pay much at all. My father is doing a little better, though. He's back to work, you know, so I may be able to quit that blasted outdoor pub job." That's when I first saw her with the jackass. When I worked that joint.
We chatted on for a bit, I admired her artwork, and altogether felt very happy with how our conversation went but then I saw her boyfriend standing in line for coffee. Sad feelings coursed through me as I swallowed down bitter bile. I couldn't stand to be with her another moment when she was with that conceited prat. It hurt too much.
"Oh, good Lord, look at the time. I'm nearly going to be late for my date." I kissed her cheek and added, "It's been lovely to see you again, my sweet darling. Don't be shy in texting me from time to time. Would love to catch up over coffee, eh?" I only said that to be cordial. I knew her neanderthal would never allow it.
She blinked and smiled, nodding sadly. I couldn't tell why she was so gloomy, but her melancholy face only skewered me with dread. Was she truly happy?
But that bit was something out of my control. I was no longer a shoulder she could cry on. I could only hope that one day she'd wake up and realize she needed me. Warts and all.
Oh my God! My dreams had just come true in the form of REPORTERS!
Luckily, I'd already come equipped with questions for them to ask me. Forget the boyscouts. Crystal Wilkins was the one who was always prepared.
Arching my eyebrow, I said, "So...I knew you'd interview me sooner or later. My question is...what took you so long?"
Shocked by even being in my presence, one reporter stammered, not able to utter a word. Obviously she was nervous being this close to me. Well, I couldn't blame her. It's not every day you witness genius being birthed. It's like viewing the formation of someone like Picasso, Rembrant, Da Vinci, or Matisse. Too bad those men didn't have internet or videos back then. I would have loved to compare our rises to fame and glory. Hopefully, I wouldn't end up like that madman, Van Gogh. I liked both of my ears, thank you very much!
"So, what part of my craft would you like for me to expound upon first? I'd like to talk about the little questions you have bursting within you first before we get to the real meat of my genius that you will tease out of me by asking these."
I handed each of them a card with a different interview question on it.
But then one rude man crumpled it up and bellowed at his associate, "What is she blabbing about? I think we made a mistake. There's no way she's related to Siobhan Day."
Another said, "I think you're right, Mario. Let's go."
Throwing my hands up, I said, "Wait! Don't go! Of course I know that despicable creature, Siobhan Day. I am her sister. I know her dirty little secrets, and I will divulge them all. After you ask me those questions."
I flicked my fingers toward the cards, but I noticed they'd already placed them in their pockets for safekeeping.
"So, you are related to Siobhan Day?" the redhead asked. "You say you're her sister. We heard she only had brothers. The woman over there told us you knew her. We want to do a story about her. So, what can you tell us?"
Glancing over to the woman they pointed to, I spied Tulip the Tramp wiggling her fingers at me with an evil grin. These reporters weren't here for me. They were here for...for...
Glowering, I spat, "I'll have you know that my time is precious and you're missing out on an incredible opportunity to interview someone of magnificence that will become so famous, you're going to slit your wrists that you threw away a time such as this. And mark my words, when I do reach the top, you, my pathetic little peons, will not even be allowed to kiss the tips of my very expensive Simmy Choos."
Then a deliciously wicked idea slithered in my mind. "But since you're bent on talking about Siobhan, why don't you interview her yourself? She's right over there. The blonde? Oh and fyi, she's been battling depression ever since she lost her father. And she's on loads of medications. Probably will end up in rehab one day...or worse. She can hardly make it out of bed to class, too. It's really a sad case. And do ask her questions about her relationship with her father. She loves to talk about him all the time!"
That did it. The centipedes wriggled over to her like the disgusting worms they were.
Take that, Siobhan, for ruining my night!
It was almost time for the designers to leave the runway and come in to look at our paintings and ask questions if they were interested. My stomach was tied up in so many knots, I thought I might puke.
But before I could blink, I saw four pairs of eyes staring at me, each holding a camera. They didn't look much like designers, but who was I to judge?
One of the men asked, "Are you Siobhan Day?"
I pulled at my lip nervously and clutched Seth as I freaked out inside. "Um, yes, I am."
"That's a nice painting you have there. Did you create this?"
I wondered which designer he was. I knew all the faces of the greats. Maybe he was an independent. I didn't care. I'd love to work with anyone who might like my style. Trying to calm down, I grinned. "Yes, well, I haven't sewed it yet. This is just an initial design."
Seth squeezed me for support. Having him here meant so much to me. I felt like I was about to fall over, but thank God he was keeping me upright.
The man went on, "So, Miss Day, how are you feeling now after the death of your father? Is it true you're battling depression and are on medication?"
Shocked by these personal questions, I tried to keep the smile on my face. "I...um....what?"
The redhead asked, "Your sister told us you're having a hard time after your father's death. It's been three years. Does it feel like you have a gaping hole in your heart still? Do you think you might have to go to rehab as well, following in your father's footsteps?"
Confused, a pounding headache seemed to rip the inside of my skull, making me stumble.
More questions peppered me like they were throwing hard line drives at my stomach.
"Look! She's about to pass out!" one of them cried. Then the flashes went off, disorienting me.
It was like my brain turned into a pile of cotton. I could barely feel anything except I heard Seth shouting at them to go away.
He dragged me through them forcefully all the while they sprayed horrible accusations at me, pinning me as the cause of my father's death.
And they were right!
I wobbled on my heels as Seth gripped my hand and said, "We're getting out of here, honey. Hold onto me."
But I couldn't move. My body wasn't responding. I didn't understand what was happening. Seth pulled me as hard as he could out of that den of clicking shutters.
It took all my training as a bouncer to keep it together for Siobhan. I wanted to punch out each and every one of those paparazzi dirt bags, but I knew if I did, I'd be in jail right now and that wouldn't help my girl. She cried uncontrollably all the way to my place. I'd never seen her like this. I was so worried for her. She'd been having such a hard time lately with her mental state and now this.
When she calmed down, she said, "They were right, Seth. It was my fault. Somehow I know I had something to do with my father's death. Did Emerett say something to the press about seeing my father stoned?"
God, I had no clue. E wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed. He might have said something about it to his buddies at the station and then who knew where it would go from there. Someone could have tweeted it out and then those assholes from the press would have been on it in a second. Back then if you hashtagged Jackson Day, it would catch on like fire in a flash.
I rubbed her hand and said, "Honey, please don't do that to yourself. There was nothing you could have done to change anything. Even if E did have something to do with it getting out that night, your father was doing drugs. Eventually some rag would have found out about it. And then your mother..." I stopped myself. Even though Siobhan hated her mother, I didn't want to dig up old wounds. "Just...let's think about something else, okay?"
She nodded and settled herself on my lap, finally relaxing.
Stroking her hair, I asked, "You want to take a trip with me? It's almost Fall break for you. I could take off work."
Sniffing, she asked, "Where would you want to go?"
"How would you like to go to Pongo? Meet my folks? It's gorgeous there. My mom is dying to meet you, too."
She snuggled into me and said, "I'll think about it." Then she put her hand on her head and said, "I need to rest right now. I'm not feeling well at all."
I felt helpless watching her go through this. All I could do was hold her and be her support. But what if that wasn't enough?