I hadn’t really felt homesick until I arrived back in Twinbrook and sat in the cab on the way through town. I hadn’t grown up in this swampy place, but I missed it just the same. But mostly, I missed my family…Paul and Mom and Will. I pulled out my cell phone and called them to let them know I was home.
“Kara!” Paul cried when he heard my voice. “Have you landed? When will you be home?”
“I just got in. I’m in the cab now.”
“Awesome. Hey, you need to come to Euji’s once you get settled in.”
“Euji’s? I don’t know Paul…” I hesitated. I was pretty tired from the flight. “Maybe tomorrow night?”
“No, come tonight. You’ll be glad you did. I’ll introduce you to the band.”
“You formed a band?” I knew Paul had wanted to do that, but I didn’t think he had.
“Yeah. We’re called the Eclectic Shock. One of the girls works with me at the theatre. She’s a stage hand. The other works at the movie studio…does make up. The other guy, he’s a bartender. You’ll like them.”
I promised Paul that I would meet him there once I got settled in. When I got home, I was so thrilled to see my mom come down the stairs.
“Kara! My baby’s home!” She enveloped me in a huge hug. “Tell me all about France.”
So I told her everything. I told her about my classes and all the places I’d been. Then I told her about Vincent and François. “I really liked him, ma,” I said. “But I guess he wasn’t the one.”
“No. You’ll know when you find the right one. I knew with your dad. Took him a little longer, though.” She laughed. I was glad to see her so easy when she talked about Dad.
“Well, Paul wants me to meet him at Euji’s,” I told her. “He wants me to meet his band or something.” Mom got a funny look on her face. “What?” I asked. “Should I not go? Are they a bunch of losers?”
“No dear. They’re nice kids. Go up and refresh yourself. Gussy up a little so you don’t look so travel-worn when you meet them.” I nodded and headed upstairs to do just that.
When I arrived at Euji’s, I didn’t see my brother there at first. I came up to the bar because I was hungry and wanted a drink, but the girl already sitting there, an off-work cook, said the bar-tender had stepped away to use the bathroom. She was staring after him, and I looked too, taking note of the tight fit of his deliberately ripped up jeans.
“I don’t even mind waiting,” the girl said when the door shut. “He’s nice to look at as he walks away, right?”
“Right,” I agreed and sat down on one of the stools to wait for Paul and his friends.
I didn’t actually have to wait too long. I turned away from the bar when I heard the elevator ping and the sound of female laughter spill out when the doors swooshed open. I saw my brother and leapt up from my stool to run over and give him an enthusiastic hug.
“Pauly!” I gushed. He swung me around a little. When he set me down, he introduced me to the two women who were with him.
“Kara, these are two of my band mates. That’s Meili Kendrick and that’s Juliette Carr.” He indicated the blond and the red-head respectively. I smiled at both of the girls. I remembered that one was a make up artist and the other a stage hand. I figured the red-head did the make up. She didn’t look quite as tough as the blond.
“Where’s your fourth?” I asked.
“Oh, he’s probably at the bar,” the blond, Meili shrugged. “He’s still on shift.”
“He works here,” Paul said at the same time.
“Yeah, that’s why we come here. Cheap drinks and a place to jam,” the red-head laughed. She brushed by me and headed to the bar.
“Come on, I’ll introduce you to him,” Paul said. He had a queer smile on his face, and I wondered if this was going to be a set up. I reluctantly followed. I sincerely hoped that Paul wasn’t trying to set me up with his bartender friend. I had just gotten back from France, for Sim’s sake!
Paul sat down at one of the stools. “Hey barkeep!” he shouted to the guy I’d seen walking into the bathroom. He had his back turned to us a little as he mixed Juliette’s drink and was chatting with her. “How ‘bout a cold one over here!”
“Be right there, asshole,” the guy shot over his shoulder. Then he turned. “Paul, can’t you see I’m mixing something up for…” his words stumbled to a halt as I gasped in shock.
It was really him. I nearly fell over in shock. As it was, he was so startled he dropped the mixer he’d been shaking.
“Damn it, Shawn!” Juliette swore. “I was looking forward to that martini!” We both ignored her.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, my voice shaky with disbelief.
“Dude, you didn’t tell her I was in town?” Shawn asked my brother instead of answering me.
“Nope. Thought it would be more fun to surprise you both. More honest reaction, and a hell of a lot more fun to watch.” Paul grinned and Shawn glared at him. I just stood there feeling like I had stepped into a dream, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a good one or a bad one.
“Hi Kara. Why don’t you sit down. I’ll get you a drink.”
I sat, mostly because I couldn’t trust my legs. Juliette got up with a disgusted snort. “Guess I’ll never get that martini.” She walked over to my brother and grabbed his jacket. “Dance with me. If I can’t drink and we’re not going to jam, at least we can have some fun.”
“Welcome home, Kara,” Paul kissed me on the cheek and followed Juliette out to the dance floor. Before he went he whispered in my ear, “Cut the dude a break. He came here to find you.”
As Paul left me alone facing the boy that I had once loved, I could only stare mutely at the man he had become. He was different, but the same. His hair was longer, not as edgy as it had been. But he still wore the spiked collar around his neck. He also had tattoos in a sleeve up his arm. I couldn’t make out what they all were. The largest was a fish, right on his bicep.
“Nice ink,” I said somewhat inanely. Shawn made some sort of non-committal reply and started mixing up a drink.
“Heard you went to that Institute in France.” He set the finished drink in front of me. I took a sip. It was awful, but I made myself drink it.
Conversation was awkward at first. We both asked questions about what the other had been up to. Our answers were short and direct and really revealed nothing. In the meantime, Shawn continued to tend bar, fixing drinks for other patrons and bringing out plates of bar food.
“Have you been bartending here long?” I asked when he handed me another drink.
“Not long. This was the only place that would take me. I’m just learning. I’m moonlighting here until something better comes along.” I nodded. I sipped at my second drink which was almost as bad as the first.
“Are you really a member of Paul’s band?” I wondered if that had been a ruse to get me to come down to the bar. But it hadn’t been. Paul and Shawn always had talked about starting a band. When Shawn showed up at our house one day only to find me out of the country, he persuaded my mom and brother to let him crash there for awhile. He and Paul rekindled the old band idea and Shawn was still living at our house.
“You’re living at our place?” I couldn’t believe I hadn’t known about this.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said, sheepishly. “Your mom and brother kept it a secret from you because they didn’t want to interfere with your studies in France.”
“Oh.” I gulped at my second drink, too shocked to consider how bad it tasted. When I gasped and choked, Shawn came around the bar to pound me on the back.
“Hey, hey!” He soothed. Then his patting turned into a hug, nearly squeezing the breath out of me. “I really missed you Kara.” I hugged him back. It was surreal to have him in my arms again, but I couldn’t help but feel that it was right.
Unfortunately, no matter how right I felt to be hugged by Shawn, I didn’t know how to talk to him anymore. He got off of work early and we played a little darts. He was a lot better than he had been as a teenager. Then he and the band went up on stage and jammed for a bit. They were actually kind of good, but I kept feeling like I was living in a strange dream as I watched Shawn play the drums behind Paul on the bass, Meili on the guitar and Juliette on the piano.
And the whole time I was playing darts with Shawn or watching the band, I kept drinking whatever the next bartender (who made better drinks than Shawn) handed me.
“Drinks on the house,” he said. “Shawn’s paying.”
Needless to say, I paid the price of all of that alcohol. At the end of the night I was so sick! Paul and Shawn had to walk me out of the bar because I couldn’t stand on my own. I threw up a few times, I’m pretty sure.
And somehow…somehow I woke up the next morning in my bed next to Shawn. Ohmysims! What did I do? I wracked my brain trying to remember how I’d gotten there. Whether or not we had had sex. I peaked under the covers. I was in my night shirt, but Shawn was only wearing a pair of briefs.
“Oh my,” I whispered to myself. I eased off the bed as quietly as I could. I wanted to go rinse my mouth and take a shower and try to figure out what I’d done between the bar and home.
Just as I eased off the bed, Shawn said, “We didn’t do it, you know.” His voice was gravely with the edges of sleep. I turned toward him and saw him yawn and stretch. I was distracted by the heart tattoo I saw on his shoulder. It had something written on it I couldn’t make out. Also, I couldn’t help but admire the ripple of his muscles. He hadn’t been so fit as a teen. “Um..”
“Thought you’d want to know that,” he smiled and put his arms behind his head. “Not that I wasn’t tempted when I helped you into your pajamas. I’m not going to lie and say I kept my eyes closed. I totally looked.” He smirked and I groaned.
“I’m going to take a shower,” I muttered. I tried to head to the bathroom quickly, but I wasn’t quick enough. Shawn got out of bed and followed me in there.
“Hey! Just because you slept in my bed doesn’t mean you can come into the bathroom with me!”
“No problem. Just wanted to snag my pants. You puked all over me last night, but these are the only clothes I have up here. Your mom probably doesn’t want to see me in my underwear.”
I snagged his pants off the floor and threw them at him. “Get out!” When the door closed behind him, I rested my head against it. I puked on him. I couldn’t be more humiliated than if we’d had sex and I’d not been able to remember anything about it.