Waking up for the second time in the hospital also woke up something inside of Vegas.
The moment she opened her eyes to the sunlight streaming into the room, she felt like she had been given a second chance. Her life would go on. She had to make it worth it.
What am I doing? She thought. How could I let myself get so carried away?
Her eyes fell on Jesse as he strolled into the room.
“Jesse!” she exclaimed through the burn in her throat. Her heart rate monitor beeped a half a beat faster. She was relieved to see a face she knew, even if Jesse looked as horrible as he did. He looked like he had slept on the floor and the nurses stomped on him all night.
“Vay, you shouldn’t be talking,” Jesse said as he sat in the chair pulled up to the bed.
“Why?” she asked, her voice hoarse. There was a constant flame in her throat and she knew it would be there for a while.
“Do you remember anything we talked about last night?” Vegas shook her head, eyebrows faintly furrowed inwards. Jesse ignored the sinking in his heart. He repeated everything the doctor said to him the night before. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
As Vegas opened her mouth to speak, Jesse put a finger to her lips. He grabbed the white board and dry erase marker and gave it to Vegas. She looked down into her lap at the objects, looked back up at Jesse and rolled her eyes.
“I remember there being blood. All over,” she choked out, ignoring the white board. “Nothing after that.”
Jesse sighed deeply, looking at the floor. He had a hand on the metal guardrail. Vegas wasn’t sure why he wouldn’t look her in the eye. She felt horrible for letting Jesse get so caught up in her mistakes. Vegas swallowed hard.
“Are you disappointed in me?” she asked. Jesse lifted his head to look Vegas in the eyes. Her electric blue rimmed sea foam green eyes. Those eyes could make any man, and many women, swoon.
“For what?” he sounded hurt. Vegas held up her hands as to motion to the situation she was in. “No. You’re here because you know you need to be. You could have left if you wanted.” Vegas stayed motionless. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Vegas had been asked this question many times before. Her body told her to flinch. Cover your face and head as best you can.
But her heart told her everything was fine. It was Jesse talking to her. Not the scary monster that comes out from under the bed at night.
“I…” she began. But she couldn’t tell him the truth; the truth that breathed down her neck with only a thought. At that moment, she knew to push the truth as far away as she could. Store it away, shred it, burn it. Vegas shrugged.
Jesse didn’t need to know every dark memory of her past. Not now, at least.
“I’m sorry. For everything. I was so selfish.”
Jesse grabbed Vegas’ hand and squeezed. Vegas squeezed back. Jesse asked, “Are you ready to fulfill a promise you made to me?”
Vegas thought about this. It had taken her long enough to admit it to herself. Saying her problem out loud would be hard. She squeezed Jesse’s hand a little harder, took a deep breath and said,
“I have a problem. I want help. I’m willing to do whatever it takes. I don’t want to live this way ever again.” She meant every word. Every syllable.
Jesse smiled. Vegas smiled back at her best friend. He may have known a lot about her. He knew more than anyone else. They told each other nearly everything. Jesse could read Vegas’ emotions from across the room. He could name her top five favorite bands, movies, colors, patterns or shoe brands at the drop of a hat.
But Jesse still had a lot to learn about her.
Those two years he missed, he never recovered. He had no inkling of the damage she suffered, emotionally and physically. What she witnessed. What she has been through. He couldn’t imagine, in his darkest nightmares, the pain brought to the girl in front of him. And she held it in like nothing.
And those two years were, maybe, the two most important years of her life, and definitely, without a doubt, the most devastating years.
So how can he really know her?
In that sense, did anyone really know her?
In recovery comes pain. Lots of medication. Opening up doors of the mind that are bolted shut. Acceptance. Education. Motivation. Growth. So much growth.
Vegas grew in the next two weeks more than she ever thought possible.
She was put on antidepressants. They helped. But the prescription ran out. Vegas didn’t need them anymore.
She was given supplements and vitamins. She took them as instructed without complaint.
A specialist in nutrition and psychiatry joined her in the cross-country journey that is tour life. In this Vegas found relief. And a learning experience. The specialist taught Vegas how to eat on the bus, at a restaurant, fast food chain, and prepped her for grocery shopping back home. She let Vegas confide in her to find the source of her issue and triggers.
Vegas knew her triggers; especially the ones she couldn’t talk about. But the specialist identified a major one Vegas knew to be true, and that was feeling lonely. Not necessarily being physically alone, but feeling that everyone was against her. Vegas agreed with this and rolled with it. The source, Vegas told the specialist, was the death of her parents.
Though Vegas wasn’t allowed to sing for two weeks post discharge from the hospital, she was at every show. On stage. Playing backup guitar for Jesse as he sang. She met with every fan until she was torn away.
During her first month out of the hospital, Vegas gained a healthy two pounds a week. Her hair became shinier, her nails grew stronger. She went into a dentist and had fillings in her back teeth, plus sealants on a few frontal teeth due to erosion from stomach acid. Vegas was feeling better than she ever had, day by day.
Now, still gaining weight and starting a new tour with The Maine and The Auditon, her specialist concluded Vegas could go on this tour on her own; but with weekly checkups.
The first stay at a hotel on tour always means a massive party and a lot of alcohol, which is exactly what the night entailed. Random girls invited everyone into their hotel suite just so they could say they held a party for rock stars. Brian and Jesse arrived together with Garrett and Pat at the raging party.
Jesse was feeling pretty good. New shoes make a man feel fresh, and Jesse felt brand spanking new in his Nikes. He felt double good when Danny Stevens got him to do a shot. Jesse had had a great day, and he knew this party would be the way to end it.
Then John O’Callaghan walked in with a following of girls. This tensed Jesse up a bit. John had been after Vegas since first laying eyes on her a few days ago. Jesse didn’t mind it at first, but hearing John constantly talk about fucking Vegas’ brains out got old. Seeing John with a group of girls made Jesse want to walk over and punch him right in the face.
Vegas knocked on the door about twenty minutes later, alone. The faces of the girls that answered the door transferred between envy, disgust, and admiration in a matter of seconds.
“Where’d you get your shoes?” They squealed loudly, gathering the attention of nearly everyone in the main room. Vegas is here, all of the Go Atlas crew thought at once.
Sure enough, Vegas walked into the room. She looked flawless from head to toe. My legs look so bony. I shouldn’t have worn a dress, she thought self-consciously. But every other mind in the room thought differently.
A man Vegas didn’t know offered her the full bottled water he was holding. Condensation on the outside told Vegas he had just taken it out of the cooler. She smiled and took the bottle, discreetly checking to see if the cap was secure.
“Thank you,” Vegas said politely and turned to walk to the group Brian stood in.
“Aren’t… aren’t you going to drink it?” he asked her, smiling a little too wide.
“No. Probably not.” She strode away, throwing the bottle into a trashcan on her way.
“What was that about?” Danny Stevens asked Vegas as he gave her a sideways hug.
“The cap was open,” Vegas said with a shrug of her shoulders. She wasn’t an idiot. She wouldn’t accept an open drink from someone she didn’t know.
Dan Waltrip’s face turned to stone. He walked over to the guy, who was now crowding a petite girl, and grabbed him by the collar.
“Who invited this guy?” Dan yelled over the noise in the room. Everyone quieted down, turning to assess the situation. A somewhat attractive brunette raised her hand and stepped forward.
“He’s my friend,” she admitted in a small voice.
“You should really get friends that don’t drug people’s drinks,” Dan suggested and took the man to the door. The noise level returned to normal once the hotel room door closed.
“Good looking out, Vay,” Brian patted her on the shoulder and Dan returned to the group. Jesse also walked over, hugging Vegas from behind. They stood in their group, conversing for a while longer, but the group dissipated. Vegas didn’t leave Jesse’s side.
“I’m surprised you came,” Jesse said once he and Vegas were alone, standing in the kitchen. He had his forearms on the countertop leaning over, looking out into the living room. Vegas was also looking in the living room at John and his groupies.
“I was bored,” she replied, sounding bored. Vegas wasn’t a party girl. She hated them, to be frank. But she’d wanted to get semi-dressed up and the party was the perfect occasion. Being the only girl on tour never really took a toll on Vegas. She had never gotten along with girls much, except for Dan’s younger sister Olivia.
Girls were too jealous and catty. Girls couldn’t handle being around Vegas without being bitchy and talking behind her back because simply, they were envious of her. Vegas learned early on having guy friends was the way to go.
“Sure, Vegas. Wanted to scout out the competition,” Jesse laughed, nodding at John’s girls. Vegas rolled her eyes and shoved Jesse’s arm.
“You caught me,” she joked back.
Vegas was extremely confident when it came to the opposite sex. She’s had enough experience. She knew she was pretty enough to get most guys. She knew her personality was quite reserved and somewhat odd but she also knew how to flirt. However, relationships were hard on her. Every boyfriend before Alex had problems with monogamy.
Therefore, trust became a big issue with her. And seeing John with all those girls sent up a red flag.
“I’m ready to bail,” Vegas said quietly. She had only been there for an hour. But the boys would be at the party until dawn, and she wanted to be alone in the hotel room.
“You’re bailing on me?” Jesse asked, sticking his bottom lip out. Seeing his face, Vegas wanted to initially say no, she’d stay. But she couldn’t stand being here any longer.
“I’m just tired. You can come if you want.” Vegas and Jesse never got sick of each other. Even when they were younger, living in New York City, they spent nearly every day together. Those two years, when Jesse moved away and the two were separated, was hard. Lines of communication between the two were completely shut down.
Jesse never knew what happened to Vegas in those two years.
“You want alone time,” Jesse began. “Go have alone time.”
Vegas smiled a close-lipped smile up at her best friend. She opened her arms for a hug. Jesse closed the space between them and tightened his grip around the tiny girl. He smiled, knowing she was getting to be healthier. Vegas breathed in heavily, taking in Jesse’s scent of Tom Ford cologne.
“I’m so glad I bought that cologne for you,” she said once they parted, walked around Jesse and out of the hotel room.
Jesse watched her walk out until she was out of sight. He looked straight ahead in the living room to see John, still surrounded by girls, who also watched Vegas exit. John and Jesse locked eyes, if only for a split second.
A tall blonde girl took Vegas’ place next to Jesse. She began talking to him. Flirting. He flirted back. She gave all the hints in their conversation that she wanted to do more with him. Jesse wouldn’t go any further, but he didn’t say it out loud. He went along with the conversation but internally wished he would walk away.
Jesse noticed movement out of the corner of his eye that sparked his interest. He looked to see John exiting the room alone. Jesse was more than tempted to follow him and give him an earful. Vegas is a big girl, he told himself. I taught her well. She’ll kick him in the balls if it comes down to it.
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