Chapitre Vingt Sept
Par Jo Lee
A choir of applause rose through the large crowd, from the nosebleeds section to the costly front-row seats. Ayara’s London Tour had kicked off to a monumental start with fans standing in all rows to give a standing ovation. Laurent’s chest rose and fell following the frantic beat of his heart. He had danced his ass off tonight, even more than he needed to, as if he had something to prove. If he was going to cash in a fortune because of his tour, he wanted to give it his best — whether he was favored by the star of the show or not.
“Thank you! I love you all!” Ayara screamed into her mic before strutting off the stage, followed by dim lights allowing the dancers to make their exit.
The lights came back on after about a minute to allow the fans to start making their way out of the podium. Backstage, Ayara was quickly escorted to her dressing room and the dancers gathered around the refreshments’ table filled with bottles of water and Gatorade. Lau walked over to Larry to give his brother a big hug. They were grinning at each other, the testosterone high and running, and exchanging daps. Laurent felt good to be regaining focus on his career without any distraction and realized how much he missed his brother. Between dance practices where they were in the midst of other dancers, dealing with his current situation with Jen and Ayara, Lau really hadn’t hung out that much with his brother. Luckily, they’d be sharing rooms for the short duration of the tour. They would be in London for two more days before traveling to Belgium and then back to Paris. The weeklong vacation seemed to be doing them both a world of good. They followed the rest of the dancers on the way back to the hotel. A celebratory event at the club would ensue shortly and they were all understandably in dire need of a shower.
Larry felt so alive on that stage that he needed a few moments after the concert to snap himself back to reality. It had been surreal, dancing to the energy of the adoring fans who sang and jumped along for almost two hours. Two whole hours in which he hadn’t thought of Jen once. He had such a good time that even though his body was a little sore, he was ready to do it all over again. Anything to keep him from thinking about Jen. It was approaching three weeks since that night when he’d told her about his feelings and she didn’t even acknowledge them. He understood if she needed the time to figure things out, and the more he thought about it, the more he realized he also needed time. For the first time in his life, he’d been honest about his feelings and meant every single word he’d said. But the circumstance was less than ideal. Realizing that if he continued pursuing Jen, he risked losing his best friend and brother, Larry held out on reaching out to her. If he could undo his feelings for her, he would gladly do so. He’d even prefer to fall in love with Lola than with Jen but he had no control. Sadly the more time passed, the more ache built in his chest, the more he couldn’t deny that he was falling for her, if he hadn’t already. Everytime he saw her at home, even if it was brief, he wanted to stand still — pause time and admire her.
Laurent made a vow to himself to stop stressing over Jen and enjoy his life, enjoy the precious moments he was so blessed to have. He was living out his dream, surrounded by other talented, experienced dancers and doing what he loved everyday. There was no reason to be unhappy. If Jen wanted time to think, she was entitled to it but he shouldn’t have to endure it when he’d done nothing wrong. Being in London was rejuvenating, like growing a second personality during a vacation, he felt liberated and free. Not seeing Jen everyday, even if it was just for a few minutes on his way home made the situation less daunting and serious.
A few fans stopped Lau and Larry on their way out of the podium for photos and autographs and they were more than happy to oblige. The shuttle bus from the hotel arrived and one by one, the dancers went in and found their seats. Larry let his body fall in one of the seats while Lau sat down with grace. As soon asthe bus door closed to begin its journey, Larry reached for his headphones but Lau stopped him.
Lau: Hey, we never talk anymore. What’s up?
Larry: Just tired.
Lau knew there was something else Larry was holding back from him. It felt unfair that he spent so much time talking and complaining about his situation with Jen to his brother but he didn’t even know what was going on with his twin.
Lau: What’s going on with Lola?
Larry scoffed at the mention of Lola’s name. He never wanted to see her or speak to her after the scene she put on at the hotel, how she disgustingly assaulted Jen. She’d tried to reach him a few times but after her calls went unanswered and her texts unreplied, she finally got the hint and left him alone. He couldn’t be happier.
Larry: I’m over her.
Lau: Sooo why are you so quiet now? I tell you about Jen, Jen, Jen all the time. Talk to me..I’m your brother.
Larry never thought he’d feel his heart break for his brother. He couldn’t tell him that he also wanted to talk about Jen, because he couldn’t get her off his mind, because when they slept together, he didn’t feel so empty afterwards. He couldn’t tell Lau that the girl he was trying to get over, he was falling for more and more every day. He knew Lau, calm on the outside, raging tornado temper on the inside. Could they recover from something like that? How do you accidentally sleep with your brother’s girlfriend twice and then keep dreaming about doing it again?
Larry: I’m just focused on the tournament. It’s so soon after the tour.
Just like that Larry had managed to divert the topic back to their competition that was approaching. Lau didn’t think twice about Lau’s roundabout answer, he was too involved in his own thoughts that he picked up where his other half left off. He hadn’t even really given much thought to the tournament. He figured they didn’t need it as badly as they did before the exposure they were getting from being a part of Ayara’s tour.
Lau: Pfft, we’re going to kill that.
The bus came to a halt in front of a luxury hotel and Lau was the first to get up and exit. With a renewed sense of confidence, he strutted into the lobby of the hotel, Larry walking behind him with a small duffel bag. They shared the elevator with a few other dancers, some of whom were also on their floor. Laurent opened the bedroom door and immediately walked over to the washroom to take his shower. Larry sat on the bed, watching TV and trying to tune out his brother who was singing in the shower. Bored out of his mind and wondering why his brother was in such a good mood, Larry began to fool around with some apps on his phone. He had a few texts, mostly from his siblings which he quickly replied to, one from an ex who saw him at the concert and wanted to see if he was free after the show. Too late, Larry thought as he sent her a cordial reply. The last one was sent right before the beginning of the concert when he shut off his phone.
” Jennifer : Good luck! “
He looked again at the name to ensure it really was from her. There was only one Jennifer in his phone contact list yet he couldn’t shake off the surprise of receiving a text from her. After brief deliberation, he hit reply.
” Thanks. How are you? “
Just then, Laurent opened up the bathroom door letting out a gush of heat and steam from his shower. Looking at the fogged mirror in the washroom, Larry locked his phone before grabbing a towel and heading in. Laurent was beginning his prep ritual to go out by towel-drying his hair and picking out his clothes. He turned on his phone and started browsing through his audio library for a song to hype him up. A message popped up advising there were unread texts which he promptly checked. Yelling out to Larry, Lau said,
“Jen sent me a text saying good luck!”
Larry heard him and instantly felt silly for feeling special. She’d sent the text to both of them. A song Larry was familiar with started playing then rang a few octaves louder after Laurent plugged it into his radio speakers. At least one of them was feeling spectacular. Laurent danced around the room while gathering his necessities and going through his clothes. He was excited to go clubbing, it seemed like an eternity since he’d been. And he was planning to have the time of his life.
Double-checking again on the airport timetable of arrivals and departures, Jen returned to her seat and reassumed her crooked position. She could hear her mother screaming at her “Sit up straight” and straightened her back at the thought. Plenty of impatient and patient friends, lovers and families alike stood around in the terminal’s waiting area for arrivals. Everytime the sliding door opened, all eyes anxiously drank in the person coming out. A look of deceit and impatience would follow if it wasn’t who they expected. After standing around for a while, Jen figured she might as well take a seat. There was no other exit than the door she was staring and Em would be coming through soon enough.
An older woman passed her to find a suitable waiting spot in the middle of the lounge, her son following in her steps. Holding a box of fried chicken from KFC, Jen found the smell incredibly unappealing and nauseating which was odd because she loved the fast-food franchise and its menu. However when the teenager passed her, she felt like her entire insides wanted to press the eject button and had to concentrate on holding her vomit down. Vaguely aware that she was making a very unappealing face, she got up and put some distance between her and the chicken-eating teen. The episode was enough to leave her with traces of vomit in her mouth and a headache. She clutched her stomach and forced herself to inhale and exhale deeply. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
At the moment, the revolving door swung and she saw a face she’d once known too well. All 5’11 feet of pale and preppy Em were present, with his beautiful cerulean eyes fixated on her, followed by a face-splitting grin. Jen hurriedly stopped her breathing exercise, long enough to walk over to hug him. He greeted her with a tight hug and she could tell he really did miss her.