Chapter One: Pizza.
“Here’s to the very successful, sold-out gig tonight,” Pete Wentz raised his glass, which was the signal for the other people who joined the small after-party that the band had created to raise their own glasses as well. Everybody was beaming at what the bassist had said, indeed proud for what they had done that night.
“Here’s to the rest of Fall Out Boy”—everyone looked at the four members of the band—“and to the unexpected guests which were the homeland security for coming to our venue after one of the residents nearby had reported about the nonsensical ‘ruckus’ we were making,” Pete said, which made most of the people in the room to laugh and smile at the memory of the surprising appearance of the police earlier that night.
“And of course, let’s never forget, here’s to the lovely and talented ladies – Abby and Viola – for their outstanding first night as our opening acts,” he turned his attention towards us at the same time as the rest of the people in there had done and raised his glass even higher. With a nod, he smiled at both of us. “Well done, girls.”
We both smiled back appreciatively at the raven-haired man before nodding at the others who were praising and congratulating us to thank them. Everybody then happily said, “Cheers!” and sipped from their glasses. That was really a wonderful toast, all thanks to Pete.
After the toasting, everyone went back to their own businesses and the DJ had begun playing the upbeat music again. I let out a sigh in relief and plopped down on the nearest couch, taking my boots off and trying to discreetly massage my aching feet and legs. I’m so not built to wear anything with heels, I thought to myself as I applied a bit of pressure to my calves.
“Need a hand with that, Abby?” I heard Viola ask me from in front of me, so I decided to look up at my best friend. She seemed very concerned of my condition as she jiggled a cup of coke on one hand. I shook my head as answer, because I knew that I was very capable of myself already, but she had frowned even more, her red eyebrows furrowing together. “You should’ve listened to me when I told you not to wear your heeled boots earlier today.”
“But I wasn’t expecting that we’d be standing for so long,” I retorted, huffing at my tired legs.
We were silent for a few long seconds, with me trying to alleviate the pain in my leg muscles and with Viola watching me as I tried to (desperately) relieve myself. After another minute or two, the redhead decided to break the ice with a click of her tongue. “Are you really sure that you don’t need my help, Abigail? Because, from what I’m seeing—”
“I said that I don’t need a helping hand, Vi,” I snapped at her, cutting her off. The tone on my voice could clearly tell her that I wanted to close the subject already. I didn’t like people thinking that I wouldn’t be okay on my own. I wanted them to think that I was an independent woman already. “I’m fine. Will you leave it at that?”
Viola was staring at me with wide eyes, perhaps surprised that my mood had shifted so easily within the span of a few minutes. Her shocked eyes then slowly softened, and she settled on letting them look down at her shoes instead. “Just call me if you need anything, okay?” she said, and then the redhead turned her heel left me without any other word.
I actually felt bad that I had suddenly snapped at my best friend (Viola was a really nice person, but there was just those moments, such as that one, that she could really piss me off right away), but I tried not to think about it too much so that it wouldn’t mess with my head. Sighing to myself, I went back on massaging my calves, hoping that the redhead wouldn’t take our small spat a bit too seriously.
To my surprise, somebody then suddenly plopped on the space beside me, making me gasp in surprise. I then realized that it was just Pete who had decided to sit with me, shooting me a toothy grin. A soft giggle escaped past my lips as I watched him swig from the bottle of beer that he was holding. “Hey Pete,” I greeted him, acknowledging his presence.
Pete and I had become really fast friends. I wasn’t even sure how I managed to easily befriend guys like him because a.) I wasn’t the friendly type of person (but I could be very polite, yes); and b.) Pete was a rock star of some kind. He was one of those people who were in a higher level than anybody else because of their fame, but when I had known a little bit more about him, he was actually someone… different. He was similar to me in a lot of ways. We craved for pizza, we were pretty good in basic etiquette (Andy Hurley, the drummer of the band, told me that), and we just generally liked each other’s company. But what really surprised me was how relaxed I felt whenever I was around this guy, and from what I had observed from him, Pete was also comfortable with me.
I watched as he gulped down the remaining contents of the bottle before replying a slightly slurred “Hello, Abby!” and then placing the empty bottle on the coffee table in front of the couch that we were sitting on. The bassist then noticed that I was still massaging my sore legs, which made him raise both of his eyebrows up. “Are you okay?” he inquired without tearing his gaze from what I was doing.
I rolled my eyes away from him, and he seemed to notice what I just did, which earned me a chuckle from him. “Do I look okay to you?” I asked Pete rhetorically, shooting him a playful glare and rolling my eyes away from him as I shook my head to myself.
“Give me your legs,” Pete instructed me, which I had found really odd, and so I arched a blonde eyebrow at him as if I was saying, ‘Are you out of your mind?!’ He looked back at me, and it seemed that he understood what my eyes were telling him because he had chuckled once more and said, “Oh, come on, Abby. I’m just going to massage them for you, that’s all.”
My eyes had turned into slits, looking over at the questionably overenthusiastic raven-haired man sitting beside me suspiciously. He was really starting to creep me out. I pursed my lips. “Are you planning to do something, let’s say, freaky, Mr Wentz?”
“No!” Pete exclaimed, grinning at me. “Do everything I do just have to mean that I’m planning of doing something, I don’t know… bad? I’m just being a good friend.” He patted his lap a few times, smiling at me as if he was urging me to place my legs on his lap so that he could massage it.
I shook my head, being the stubborn girl that I was (depending on the situation though; I was known as the goody-two-shoes in almost everything). I inched myself away from him, crossing my arms over my chest and looking away from him. “I can massage my own feet and legs myself, thanks.”
“Don’t test my patience, Abby.”
Inching a little bit further away from him, I let my back face him. “Nope, sorry.” I knew that I was acting like a child, but I didn’t care.
There was a small movement on the couch, which made me wonder what the heck was Pete actually doing since I couldn’t see him from my position, so I decided to sneak a peek over my shoulder, but I was surprised when his face had greeted me and his arms were wrapped around my waist from behind me. And then, to my horror, he started tickling my sides—my Achilles’ heel.
I let out a high-pitched squeal – the sound that had come out from my mouth was foreign to my ears; that was probably the first time that I had ever produced such noise – and started swatting Pete’s hands away from my sides, wanting him to stop the sweet torture. Giggles were erupting from me, and I could even hear Pete chuckling softly near my ear since his head was resting on my shoulder as I began to writhe in attempt to escape from him, but his arms were too strong.
“Fine, you can massage it for me!” I exclaimed in between my fit of giggles with a strained voice, my shaking hands trying to stop his fingers. “Just stop tickling me!”
To my relief, the raven-haired man had quickly obliged to my order, but he had kept his arms wrapped around me. He had buried his face on my blonde hair, chuckling against the probably tangled locks. I sighed as I tried to catch my breath. My cheeks were warm, and I was thinking that my whole face was red from all the laughing that I had done.
“And so you finally gave in,” Pete murmured as he placed his chin on my shoulder again. I could feel that he was smiling – maybe contentedly or triumphantly, I wasn’t very sure – even though I couldn’t see his face. “I knew you would give in eventually.”
“You’re such an ass,” I told him, my lips curved at the sides as I allowed my back to rest against his chest. Laughing, he had wrapped his arms tighter to me, and I didn’t complain. His warm embrace felt so good, and for a moment, I had forgotten that there were other people in the after-party with us. I pondered if they had been watching us and had seen us as we did our stupid stuff and when Pete had hugged me for a longer period of time, but then I realized that I didn’t care. I briefly closed my eyes and savoured the moment.
“Let me massage it now, then,” the bassist had muttered softly to my ear as he slowly unwrapped his arms from me, and I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from complaining or whining (about his stubbornness or about the loss of warm contact from him—that I wasn’t very sure of).
Opening my eyes and removing my teeth from my tongue (I hoped that my tongue wouldn’t bleed after biting it down a little too hard), I said, “Okay.” I then turned myself and faced him before I had lifted both of my legs and placed them on Pete’s lap. He then began massaging them right away, his fingers carefully pressing on the probably strained muscles and his warm palms soothing me and he started off with my calves. I sighed in relief. “Thank you,” I told him, smiling.
“For what?” he asked me, raising a dark eyebrow as he continued applying pressure to the tired muscles of my legs. Pete momentarily looked at what he was doing before looking back up at me, the blank look still plastered on his face. “For massaging you?”
“Not just this one. You know, for everything you’ve done for Viola and I. You gave us a break – a fresh start for our careers,” I replied, shrugging slightly. “If it wasn’t for you and the rest of the band’s help and moral support, we wouldn’t be here. And, really, thank you so much for all that.”
“Don’t mention it,” Pete said, winking at me. “I mean, the two of you are really talented, and I was thinking, ‘Why am I gonna just let these two girls slip away from my fingers?’, and so I thought about helping you and Viola when I would see you again.”
That made me really wonder a lot of things. There were probably fifty-three questions that had formed in my mind right away after he had uttered those words, but before I could even ask him, Joe Trohman (he was the lead guitarist of the band) had suddenly spotted us and walked by the couch that we were sitting on, holding two bottles of beer on one hand and a box of pizza on the other. “Getting all mushy tonight, I see,” he winked at us slyly.
“It’s not like that, Joe,” I assured the curly-haired guitarist. “We’re just friends.”
“She says we’re just friends, but look at what we’re doing. This isn’t what ‘friends’ are supposed to do,” Pete chuckled, looking over at Joe and gestured at my legs that he was massaging. And then, he focussed back on his task, grinning. The bassist just loved teasing me, anytime and anywhere.
“You two are so adorable,” Joe cooed.
I scoffed, rolling my eyes away from them and shaking my head in amusement. When I had looked back at the guitarist, he was wiggling his eyebrows at me just to spite me, but it only made me laugh. I tried to stifle my sudden burst of happiness with my hand, but I couldn’t really stop myself from laughing especially when Joe had smacked Pete’s back a bit too harshly, and Pete had punched Joe’s arm in return. “You two are so adorable,” I echoed, mimicking the curly-haired guy when he had said it.
“Not funny, Abby,” Pete said, sticking out his tongue at me, and I did the same to him. I couldn’t believe that I was eighteen and he was already twenty-five, with the way we were acting that night. We were acting as if we were little kids, but damn, who cares?
Joe had placed the box of pizza on the coffee table and opened the lid. My attention was instantly caught by the smell and sight of the delicious ham and cheese pizza. I knew about Pete’s craze and addiction for pizza (and I was also crazy about it as well), so I had immediately swivelled my gaze towards him, and I found him looking at me already, a smirk playing on his lips.
“Do you guys want some beer too?” the guitarist had asked us, and from the corner of my eye, I saw him holding up the two bottles of beer, but I didn’t tear my eyes away from Pete, and so did he. Joe seemed to notice that we were staring at each other as well – Pete and I got stuck in a ‘Who-can-stare-longer-without-blinking-wins’ contest – and had grinned widely at us. “You two should really stop that eye sex. Do yourselves a favour and just canoodle somewhere now to ease that tension, but absolutely not here, please.”
“Oh my god, Joe, we’re not gonna ‘canoodle’ or anything,” I giggled at him, but I still held Pete’s gaze. He was still smirking at me (that smug smirk on his face was tempting) and it seemed as if he was pointedly ignoring Joe and everyone else’s existence in the room, and he was just focussing at me. “As I told you, we’re just friends.”
Pete’s eyebrow had raised at what I had said. “Well, let’s see about that, Miss Coleman.”
The number of guests in the after-party had started dwindling as the wee hours of the night had come. Pete and I had managed to finish the contents of the pizza box by ourselves (it wasn’t much of a surprise though) and shared a bottle of beer. We were still lounged on the same couch, with my head resting on his shoulder as Pete rested his tattooed arm on the back of the couch, casually wrapping it around my shoulders.
I was thinking of leaving already as well and was about to look for Viola for us to go home together, but I spotted her talking with Joe, Andy and Patrick (the rest of the members of the band), so I guessed that a few more minutes of staying would be alright. As I listened to Pete hum a song that I didn’t recognize, a question had suddenly sprung from my head.
Turning my head to face Pete, I asked him, “What you said earlier tonight… What do you mean that you had seen us ‘again’?” My eyebrows furrowed together as I thought about it deeper. What was the only logical explanation for what he had just told me? “Does that mean you’ve seen us perform before?”
A smirk had immediately formed on his lips. “Well, you could say that again,” he said as he tore his gaze from my eyes and fixated his stare at his fingers instead, fiddling with the ends of my peroxide blonde hair. I could feel locks of my hair being entwined with his fingers as he continued speaking. “The band didn’t have a gig this one night, so I went to this bar with my friend, Chris, so that we could grab some beer. And it just so happens that you were in that very same bar too.”
“Oh my god, this is embarrassing,” I mumbled to myself as I buried my face into my hands, shaking my head in denial. I then took a peek from the spaces of my fingers when I heard Pete chuckle softly, and a blonde eyebrow of mine had arched up. I dropped my bottom lip at him. “For your information, it’s not funny, you know.”
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed of,” the bassist assured me, grinning at me as he took my hands away from my face. When I willingly let him hold my hands, Pete’s grin had widened, and there was this amused glint in his eyes. “You were amazing—and you still are right now.”
And, perhaps for the first time of my life, I was utterly speechless.
No, Pete Wentz isn’t hitting on you, Abby Coleman. That can’t be the reason, right? He’s just being friendly… or maybe not. Maybe he actually meant it, for all you know.
Although I was starting to panic inwardly, to calm myself down, I tried to take in deep breaths discretely, so as not to alarm him that I was very uncomfortable with our conversation already. With shaking arms, I looked at my wrist watch (it was struggle, because my eyes were unfocussed) and found that it was already past twelve midnight, and that I really had to go back to the apartment.
Try to change the subject and tell him that you’ve got to go home, a tiny voice in my head told me, and I realized that I had to oblige to it since there was no other way to escape from Pete. “I think I have to go back to our apartment already, Pete,” I told him, clearing my throat. “It’s getting late already.”
“Oh, right,” the raven-haired man said, and I had seen a twinge of disappointment flash across his features for a second. He managed to cover it with a smile, though. “Do you want me to walk you out?”
I bit my lower lip for a while, contemplating whether I should say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but I figured that saying ‘yes’ this time wouldn’t hurt me. “Okay, if it’s alright with you,” I shrugged as I grabbed my belongings from the coffee table and slipped my feet back into my boots. He then stood up first and extended his hand towards me to help me get on my feet (even if I could do it by myself).
Pete was acting really strange.
We walked side-by-side towards the exit of the bar in silence, with me zipping my jacket and with him humming a song softly as he tucked his hands inside his pockets. When we got to the exit, Pete then pushed the door open for me, and I think that he was about to say something – perhaps a goodbye to me – when the pitter-patter of the raindrops rang in my ears. I just couldn’t contain my disappointment when we both found out that it was raining heavily outside.
“It’s raining,” Pete commented, but I wasn’t sure if he just said it to close-caption my pain or if he didn’t really mean to say it out loud.
“Thank you so much, Captain Obvious!” I exclaimed as I turned to face him, mock-praising him. I wanted so bad to roll my eyes, but I guessed that it would be highly rude to him already. “If it wasn’t for your wits, I would have no idea that it was actually raining!”
“Abby, just for once, stop being so obnoxious,” the bassist snapped at me.
“You look so cute when you’re mad,” I cooed at him. My sudden whim in sticking my tongue out to him was rather unstoppable, so I stuck my tongue out at him. He seemed to think that it was funny – a blush had even crept on his cheeks – which made Pete let out a chuckle, softening his features.
After recovering from his laughing fit, with a heavy sigh, he told me a little while later, “Since it’s raining, if you want, I can drive you home. It’s not a big deal.”
Stop being so nice to me, I wanted to tell Pete, but I just couldn’t say the words to him. Don’t get me wrong; I’m really flattered, but please, stop. “No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine on my own,” I assured him. “I brought an umbrella with me, anyway, because I heard this morning from the news that there’s a storm coming. I can just get a taxi or something.”
“Come on, Abby. I insist.”
“I don’t want to cause much trouble to you.”
“You aren’t causing any trouble, okay? And I want to make sure that you’ll get home safe.”
Just say ‘yes’, Abigail. Pete Wentz is a stubborn man, and he’ll do everything just to get what he wants, my brain was telling me. Just give him what he wants and put him out of his misery. I inwardly cursed myself, because talking to myself was not a good sign that my sanity was still intact. Maybe it had slowly started to disintegrate into microscopic, tiny little pieces.
“But you’re drunk,” I whined playfully, smirking at him.
“I can handle my own liquor, thank you very much,” he countered, the corners of his lips curling upwards at the sides. “And you shouldn’t be scared that I’m driving for you; I’ve got a license.”
My eyebrow was then lifted up as he showed me his driver’s license from his wallet that he had tucked inside his jeans pocket. “That doesn’t mean that we’ll be safe on the road while you drunk-drive,” I told him after reading some of the basic information about him that were on his license, and he only responded with a loud chortle.
Feeling proud of myself for ‘winning’, I then stood up from the couch and was about to leave, but my tracks were stopped when I felt Pete pull my wrist gently, and I abruptly faced him. He was showing me a small smile, the kind of smile he usually makes whenever he sees pizza or a Starbucks. His fingers then reached for my cheeks, gently tracing my jawline, before he nimbly pulled the hood of my jacket towards him to cover my head.
He cupped my face with both of his hands and pulled me towards him, my face just inches from his. I could feel his hot breath on my skin. Pete rubbed his nose with mine, which tickled a little, making me smile as I closed my eyes. With a quiet voice, he inquired, “So, can I take you to your home?”
“Only when you can assure me that I’ll get home with my limbs still intact.”
“Whatever you say, ma’am.”