Here’s the first chapter of my upcoming book, Hurricane Move, about Andrew and Rushani.
The day the Saving Graces won the Grammy for Album of the Year was one of the worst days of Rushani’s life, right up there with the day Andrew was admitted to the hospital and the day of her sister’s birth. If forced to choose, she would probably rank the Grammys at number two, and Andrew’s hospitalization at number one. Her sister came in a distant third, because that had worked out fine in the end, although it had been quite traumatic at the time.
But the Grammys were an unmitigated disaster, at least for her, emotionally. It had nothing to do with the award itself. The band deserved it; she was thrilled; she was like a proud parent who had just been told that her child was the best and smartest kid in the class. They had all been walking on air for the past two months, ever since the nominations were announced. “We aren’t going to win,” James kept cautioning everyone, prudent the way he always was, determined to keep expectations realistic, but Rushani thought they had a damn good chance, and she was proud beyond measure: her band, her boys.
She shouldn’t even have been in L.A. for the awards ceremony. She was just the tour manager. It wasn’t her job to run industry events. It was Hakeem’s job, but while Hakeem was very good at marketing and strategic decisions and making phone calls, he was, to put it bluntly, fairly terrible at on-the-ground operations. “I’m an ideas guy,” he liked to say, which was true, and which always made Rushani roll her eyes. But she couldn’t fault him for it too much. He was responsible for much of the band’s success, and she knew he would walk through fire to do what was best for the guys.
But making sure everyone was wearing the right clothes and was in the right place at the right time was sort of outside of his wheelhouse, and it was exactly inside of Rushani’s wheelhouse. So when James called Rushani and begged her to come out and run the show, she had given in without making James prostrate himself too much. She needed to be in L.A. soon anyway to make the final arrangements for the Asian leg of the tour. And she had a hard time saying no to James. They had been through a lot together, and he was like a brother to her, someone she could always count on in a crisis.
And she wanted to see Andrew again.
That was the part she was less willing to admit to herself. Having a soft spot for James was one thing. Being secretly in love with Andrew was something else entirely. It was like comparing a housecat to a leopard. One of them was small, fuzzy, and harmless. The other would drag you into a tree and feast on your carcass for the next week.
Especially when the leopard in question was Andrew.
So she closed up her apartment in New York and put a hold on her mail—she wouldn’t be back for three months—and flew out to L.A. O’Connor came to meet her at the airport, wearing oversized mirrored sunglasses and a shit-eating grin. He squealed up to the curb in his outrageous convertible and said, “Hop on in, baby. I’ll take you for a ride.”
Typical O’Connor. He liked to act like he didn’t take anything seriously, but Rushani had been there during the months of Andrew’s slow decline, and she had seen exactly how seriously O’Connor took that situation. “Does Leah know you say these things to random women?” she asked. She tossed her suitcase in the back seat and got in the car.
“Leah thinks that everything I do is charming,” he said, and pulled back into traffic, cutting off a dark-windowed SUV whose driver promptly leaned on the horn. O’Connor didn’t take any notice. “And anyway, you’re not random.”
“No,” she said. “I suppose not. God, there was a baby in the row behind me that screamed the entire way from New York. I need a nap.”
“My sympathies, but you don’t have time,” he said. “We have wardrobe fittings in an hour, and James said he wants you to be there.”
“I don’t know a thing about clothes,” Rushani said. She smelled like airplane. Her sinuses were drier than the Atacama. She was in no mood to watch the band try on pants.
“Leah’s going to be there a little later,” O’Connor said. “You can catch up.”
He was trying to bribe her, and it was working. Leah was O’Connor’s girlfriend, a musician herself, who had filled in on bass during their tour last summer, after Kerrigan quit. That was how Leah and O’Connor met, and Rushani knew there had been all sorts of illicit sneaking around in hotel rooms and the back of the bus, but she was willing to overlook it. She liked Leah. They weren’t close, but they got along well, and Rushani was looking forward to hearing about what Leah had been up to over the last few months. She said, “I hope you’re going to ply me with wine.”
“Red, white, and rosé,” O’Connor said. “Don’t worry, sugarplum. We’ll take good care of you.”
“Sugarplum?” Rushani asked. “You’re in a good mood today.”
“There’s a good chance I might win a Grammy tomorrow night,” he said. “It’s put a little spring in my step.”
Rushani laughed, and leaned back against the headrest and closed her eyes. Maybe she could catch a little nap on the way.
Wardrobe fittings were at the theater, in a crowded room in the basement that was filled with overflowing costume racks. The others were already there, James and Nathan and Andrew, sitting in an alternately nervous and grouchy line along one wall while the wardrobe lady lectured them about French seams. They all looked up when Rushani followed O’Connor into the room.
James reacted first. “Rushani!” he exclaimed, and hopped up to give her a hug. “You came!”
She laughed, accepting his embrace. “You knew I was going to. I sent you my itinerary.”
“I’m making polite conversation,” he said. “Guys, look who’s here.”
Rushani shook hands with Nathan, their new bassist. He had only been with the band since September, and Rushani didn’t know him very well yet; she had spent most of that time on tour with Marcus Aurelius, who she worked for when she wasn’t with the Graces. He was a nice guy, quiet, very dry, and she liked him, but they weren’t on hugging terms quite yet.
And then there was Andrew, tall and lean, with his hair pulled up in that ridiculous bun that somehow made him look like a Viking god. He stood before her, hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched, and they did a little awkward dance where she held out her hand and he held out his arms, and then he laughed and drew her into a warm embrace and said, “Rushani, I’m so glad you’re here.”
She closed her eyes for a second and breathed in the smell of him. They had been apart for months, but he smelled just the same.
She was fully aware of how pathetic she was.
Then the moment was over. He patted her on the back and pulled away. He said, “You’re going to get us through this ordeal in one piece, right?”
She felt a little dazed. It was from the nap, mostly likely. She had nodded off in the car for about five minutes and woken when O’Connor slammed on the brakes at a stoplight, a thin thread of drool trailing from one corner of her mouth. “I’ll do my best.”
She had been in love with Andrew for what felt like a geological epoch, but was actually less than two years. She didn’t fall head-over-heels at first sight, or any of that nonsense. They worked together; they got along well; they became friends. Her first year with the band, she was so intent on doing her job well and figuring out the increasingly complicated logistics of running a tour for a band on the verge of going nova. She didn’t have the time or energy to think about romance, or even sex; she had gotten laid a single time that year, a frantic one-nighter with a guy who hit on her at the grocery store, of all places.
Sometime during the second year, she and Andrew were up late in the front lounge of the bus, her working and him scribbling in his notebook, and she glanced up and noticed the glow of lamplight along one side of his face, and felt a shiver go through her body. He was a good-looking guy, and she had known that for a long time, but she hadn’t really been aware of it before, not in a way that meant anything to her.
But once she had noticed, she couldn’t put that genie back in its bottle. He was tall and slim and devastatingly attractive, even with the absurd hair, and he was also funny, thoughtful, kind, and interesting to talk to. He watched the news religiously and always had something relevant to say about national and world events. Nothing was going to happen, of course. She worked for him; it was a terrible idea, and besides, she didn’t have any evidence that he was interested in her. There were times when he would look at her a certain way, usually after a show, his mouth curled up at the corners and his dark eyes bright with amusement, that made her think maybe, maybe… But she didn’t pursue it. She was content, mostly, to wait and see what happened. It was nice to have a secret crush to nurture. She got a lot of emotional mileage out of it. He was a couple of years younger than she was, and he slept around and did more drugs than she was strictly comfortable with, and she was waiting for him to grow up a little. She liked to think that they were both waiting, that it was inevitable, and that some Andrew would decide it was time and would confess his true and undying love for her. A ridiculous fantasy from top to bottom, but it made her happy. And anyway she was too busy to spend much time thinking about romance.
She was so busy that she didn’t notice at first when Andrew’s mental health began to deteriorate. He was a little irritable, a little short-tempered, but that was to be expected; the band’s third album was busy blowing up, they’d had their second number one single in six months, and they were all somewhat stunned by the sudden onslaught of media attention. She gave him some space and focused on fielding interview requests and corralling incompetent venue personnel.
Things kept getting worse, though. The rest of them adjusted to the new status quo, but Andrew couldn’t, or didn’t want to, or didn’t try. He turned mean. He stopped sleeping, or else slept too much. He drank a lot. He harped on everyone, constantly, picking at their weakest points, saying the one unforgivable thing. It terrified Rushani that they were all so transparent to him, that it was so easy for him to pick up on everyone’s most secret shame. He was so unpleasant to be around that Kerrigan, their bassist at the time, finally quit in a fury after Andrew told him that his bass-playing was pathetic and he would never amount to anything. That had been a fun week.
Then, less than a month later, Andrew had attempted suicide. He landed in the hospital, the band canceled the rest of that tour and eventually their planned European tour, and Rushani went home to New York.
She still wasn’t sure how she felt about the whole ordeal. She would never forget walking into Andrew’s hotel room and finding him passed out on the bed, motionless, hardly breathing. She had a nightmare about it at least once a week, except in her dreams, he wasn’t breathing at all, and she couldn’t wake him. In her dreams, she was always too late.
But she hadn’t been too late. He had lived. He was, James told her, better. He was in therapy and on medication. Everyone seemed convinced that he was back to normal and ready to tour. She had her doubts, but it wasn’t her decision. She was just there to run the show.
The next twenty-four hours alternated between frantic rushing around and the slow tedium of waiting for someone or something: an amp cable, a sandwich. After the wardrobe fitting—which came to an ignominious end when the wardrobe lady, sick of their complaining, declared them all hopeless and said they could show up wearing trash bags for all she cared, she was washing her hands of them—a small, mousy girl came to the door and escorted them into the main theater for a rehearsal, because the band was apparently performing during the ceremony, which nobody had bothered to mention to Rushani.
“It’s just one song,” James said, a little bit sheepish, because he knew he should have said something, even if the rest of them were clueless dolts. “Hakeem said it was a good idea.”
“Hakeem doesn’t have the slightest idea of what goes into a performance,” Rushani said crisply. “Where are your instruments? Who will be bringing them to the theater tomorrow? Have you coordinated with the sound and lighting personnel? How long will you have between your performance and the when the award is announced?”
“Uhh,” O’Connor said.
“Right,” Rushani said, and turned to the mousy girl. “Are you in charge here?”
“No, um, my boss, he, I can, um,” the girl stammered.
“Right,” Rushani said. There was clearly a lot of work to be done.
But the rehearsal turned out fine; even if the mousy girl was helpless, someone higher up the food chain clearly knew what he or she was doing, because all of the lighting and sound cues were in place, instruments magically appeared, and all the band had to do was go on stage. Rushani had the luxury of sitting in the front row and watching them perform. She was normally backstage during shows, and usually too busy putting out fires to pay much attention to the music.
They were really something. She knew it, but it was easy to forget in the humdrum day-to-day life of a tour. But they were the best in the business, skilled musicians with an impressive stage presence, and their songs just kept getting better and better with each album. Andrew was magnetic, the paragon of a front man. He prowled the stage and sang about true love, about finding it and losing it again. Rushani couldn’t take her eyes off him. Even when Leah showed up halfway through the third run-through, Rushani didn’t spare her more than a welcoming smile. She wanted to watch the rest of the song.
Andrew sang the last notes, and the stage lights cut off, leaving the band masked in darkness. She heard James let out a whoop.
“They’re pretty fucking great, huh?” Leah asked.
“They really are,” Rushani said, and leaned over to give Leah a hug. “It’s so good to see you again.”
“Stop hogging my girl, Rushani,” O’Connor said, hopping down from the stage and coming over to sweep Leah into a dramatic kiss. Leah fought him at first, trying to squirm away, and then gave in and wrapped her arms around his neck.
Rushani glanced away. PDA wasn’t really her style.
“You’re disgusting,” James yelled from the stage.
“Nice work, everybody,” someone said from the sound booth. “I think we’re good to go tomorrow night. Exit stage left as soon as you’re done and someone will direct you where to go.”
“All right,” Andrew said into the microphone. “Let’s go get wasted.”
There was no time for that, though, and they all knew it; and anyway Andrew knew he wasn’t supposed to be getting wasted. “I’ll kill anyone who shows up hungover tomorrow,” Rushani said. “Don’t test me.”
“She won’t really, will she?” Nathan asked, looking genuinely concerned.
“I wouldn’t try her,” O’Connor said. “We lost a roadie two years back, and we’re still not sure what happened to him. I think he pissed Rushani off and she buried him in her basement.”
“I don’t have a basement,” she said absently, already looking at her phone for the next thing that needed taking care of. Dinner, probably, and then some minor press event. She wasn’t interested in humoring the guys’ conspiracy theories.
They all went out to dinner at a nearby Mexican place that Leah swore was the best in Downtown. Rushani ended up sitting next to Andrew, through no efforts of her own, and probably spent too much time staring at him, because shortly before their food was brought out he turned to her and said, “Quit it, Rushani. I’m fine.”
Her face went hot. She hadn’t thought she was so obvious. “I’m just admiring your bun,” she said. “It’s gotten more, uh. Copious?”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re still a bad liar. Come on, Rushani.” He reached over and squeezed her shoulder. “It’s
been months. I’m really fine.”
Maybe he was, but she had only seen him once since he was hospitalized, for a three-hour tour-planning meeting the day after Marcus Aurelius played a show in Chicago, and they hadn’t talked about anything but business. He looked better. He had put on some much-needed weight, and he looked well-rested and—well. Happy, more or less. He was smiling more. He and James and O’Connor were back to cheerfully shit-talking each other the way they always used to, before Andrew’s sallies turned sharp and cutting, barbs aimed directly at a person’s soft protected places, the hook sinking in and catching. To all appearances he was the Andrew she had first met three years ago.
But something was off. She couldn’t have said what. His laughter was a little too loud, maybe. His eyes were a little too bright.
Probably nothing. She was a worrier. It was one of the traits that made her a good tour manager, but it also made her see trouble where there was none. She hadn’t been there to see his recovery, and so it was harder for her to believe that he really was better than it was for James and O’Connor, who had been there to witness the whole thing.
So she said, “I’m glad. You look better. Are you ready for the tour?”
He laughed. “Let’s get through the awards show, first.”
And everything was fine for the rest of the dinner, and afterward, when they went back to the hotel and had one beer each in James’s hotel room, before Andrew yawned and said he was going to turn in early; and in the morning, when everyone turned up for breakfast at the appointed time, variously surly (O’Connor, who was not a morning person) and cheery (Nathan, who definitely was). Rushani was beginning to think the whole thing would go off without a hitch She shuttled them all over to the theater an hour before they were officially supposed to be there, ignoring their collective groaning, and made sure that everyone’s instruments were on site and in working order. With any luck, nothing would go wrong.
And nothing did, until she couldn’t find Andrew.
“The ceremony starts in an hour,” she said to O’Connor and James, who were supposed to be keeping an eye on Andrew but who had instead been drinking in Banshee Rocket’s dressing room, and who were currently looking at the floor and shuffling their feet like naughty schoolboys, even though Rushani was trying very hard to sound calm. “You’re sitting front and center. And nobody knows where he is?”
“I texted him,” O’Connor said, as if that hadn’t been the very first thing Rushani tried.
“Okay,” she said, and took a deep breath, settling herself. “Okay. The two of you go back to the dressing room and stay there in case he shows up. I’ll go look for him.”
It was nothing, she told herself as she combed through the theater’s back hallways. He had stepped outside for a smoke. He had gone to take a last-minute shower. He wasn’t shooting up somewhere. He hadn’t taken too many pills. She wouldn’t walk into his hotel room and find him limp on the bed, eyes closed and mouth open slightly, like he was about to speak or sing. He was fine now. He was fine.
When she found him at last, in an unused dressing room at the end of a hallway, he wasn’t alone.
She stood in the open doorway, unable to speak at first, unable even to parse what she was seeing. There were two of them, both naked, one of them on Andrew’s lap and the other sitting on the countertop before him, her legs spread, touching herself languidly, letting Andrew look his fill. They had high, firm breasts and long hair. They looked at Rushani in tandem when the door opened, and one of them started giggling, high and girlish.
No drugs, at least. Only sex—pretty vanilla sex, to be honest. She should have been relieved.
“Oops,” Andrew said, without moving his mouth away from the breasts of the one sitting on his lap. “Busted.”
He didn’t care at all. He wasn’t even embarrassed.
She mattered that little. Rushani felt a giant, invisible fist squeeze around her heart.
“Put your pants on,” she said, which was all she could think to say to him in that moment. She didn’t have the right to say anything else. The foolish hope she’d held onto for so long left her abruptly, a physical sensation like a tooth being yanked out. All of her carefully honed fantasies about him waking up one day and realizing she was The One crumbled away into ashes. He would never, she realized, see her as anything but his shrewish tour manager. She nagged, scolded, soothed. She made sure he was taken care of. And that wasn’t sexy; it was anything but. She had been playing mommy for too long to recast herself now. There would always be women, women prettier than Rushani, younger, always younger as the years went on, more agreeable, eager to feed Andrew’s ego. She had no claim on him other than the one she invoked now, her arms folded across her chest, which she knew made her look stern but in this case was merely her attempt to hold herself in, to shield herself with her own grasp: “It’s almost time.”