Tuesday 24 May
~ Charlie ~
Daisy’s note was vague. Back soon. Maybe she’d gone to get some breakfast, or just to explore. I knew this was her first time in New York and I figured I ought to take her sightseeing at least. Where would she want to go? I didn’t do museums or art galleries. Ballet and opera brought me out in hives, and the theatre was only fun if there was a big crowd. Shopping I could do. And clubbing, of course. I could take her on a tour of night spots in a heartbeat, and feed her at a different restaurant every night for a month without getting bored.
I lay in bed and stretched, missing her already. The hotel was plush, but I’d prefer to have our own place. That’d keep her busy for a few weeks, looking at apartments. That and organising the wedding. I didn’t care about the details. I’d turn up wherever I had to, as long as it didn’t clash with my studio work. I wanted to focus on my solo album.
Thinking of music, I had a moody little riff bopping around at the back of my head. I climbed out of bed, grabbed my guitar and tried a few chords. Yeah, that was good. Engrossed, I didn’t even hear Daisy coming back until she cleared her throat.
I looked up and saw her leaning against the bedroom door. “Hey,” I murmured. “Where did you go?”
“Just having a look around.”
The riff didn’t have the tone I wanted. I switched to a minor chord instead. Better, but still not right. I remembered Daisy and looked up to meet her eyes. “You had breakfast yet?”
“Umm, no.” She fiddled with her phone and I recalled it waking me earlier.
“Who was so desperate to talk to you?”
“Mum and Steph texted. And Chrissie. And some others.”
“Okay.” On a burst of inspiration I slipped in a rippling seventh chord and just like that, the song came to life. Yeah. I broke off to jot down some notes. “Hey, Daisy. If you’ve got a minute would you give room service a call? Get some food up here.” I scribbled while I spoke. Inspiration usually struck at the most inconvenient times. To have a song coming to life while I had the opportunity to capture it was freaking amazing.
I realised a moment later that she hadn’t said anything and I glanced up, to see her staring at her phone. “Daisy?” I scrawled another couple of notes.
“Yeah.” She didn’t move, her eyes fixed on the tiny screen in front of her.
“I won’t be long, babe.” I strummed a chord, and then another. Her heartfelt sigh penetrated my concentration and I gazed up at her. “What’s the matter?”
She nibbled her lower lip, before sinking onto the sofa opposite me. “You’re naked,” she said.
I shrugged, and gave her an innocent look. “When I’ve finished this we can both get naked again.” I smirked at the flush that stole across her cheeks. “It’s not like you haven’t seen me before.” She gazed out of the window and I resigned myself to having to stop work. With a huge sense of reluctance I put down my guitar. “Come on, babe. What’s going on?”
Her eyes were troubled, her smile non-existent. “It’s the press. They’re saying stuff.”
I had to laugh. “That’s what they do. I don’t give a shit about the press, and never have. Ignore ’em.”
Her lips twitched. “That’s what Sylvie said.”
“Well then. Next?”
“What’s next on the Daisy-shit-list today? You’re doing a very good impression of someone whose dog has died, not just got engaged to the hottest rock star in New York.”
“Big ego, much?”
“You love it.” I winked at her. “Come over here. I’m feeling the cold all of a sudden.”
“Didn’t you want breakfast?”
“I could snack on you, my love, while we wait for room service.”
Her lips thinned and she looked away. I’d obviously hit a nerve, but what? I thought longingly of my part-written song. Guessing games were fun when I was a kid, but they bored me now. “Daisy. Babe. Either tell me what’s wrong so I can fix it, or go fix it yourself, and then tell me later.”
“You can’t fix this, Charlie. They’re saying I’m pregnant.”
“What?” I could probably fry eggs on her cheeks now. “Are you?”
“No.” She leapt to her feet and stared down at me. “Of course not.”
“Thank fuck for that.” I spoke, as usual, without thinking, only realising that might not have been the reaction she was hoping for.
Daisy stood there, eyes wide, and her arms wrapped around her body. “They think that’s why you’re marrying me. Because you knocked me up.” She snarled the words out. “Because I’m a lard arse.”
“Whoa.” This was getting out of hand. I leapt up and pulled her into my embrace. She went stiff at my touch, but I squeezed tight and felt her melt against me. “Look, babe. I know it’s tough, but sometimes they print stuff we hate. Just rise above it.”
“Rise above it? How the hell do I do that?”
“You didn’t ignore them when they broke the news about you being AJ’s half brother.”
Trust Daisy to remember that. “Well I should have.” I stroked up and down her spine, and tried to soothe her. At this rate I’d forget the song completely. “Babe, I’d kill for some bagels. Why don’t you sort out some food for us, I’ll just finish this, and then we can hang out together.”
“The wedding planner will be here soon.”
“That’s great. It’ll take your mind off this.”
“Should we meet her here? Or out somewhere?”
“We?” I pressed a kiss onto her cheek. “You don’t need me for this, babe. You go sort out the details. Go and check out some venues. And before you say it, I trust you completely.”
Thank fuck. I might get to finish my song.
~ Daisy ~
I sounded like a whining brat. No matter how much Charlie said he loved me, there was only so much spoiled behaviour he’d tolerate. So he wanted me to see the wedding planner by myself? Big deal. I was planning my wedding to Charlie Jones, and that alone made up for everything else. I pasted a smile on and went to the nearby desk to find the room service menus.
As I ordered a mountain of food, including lots of varieties of bagels, he played on, his face a study in concentration. I’d seen AJ like that, totally fixated on the music he was creating, and it gave me a secret thrill that Charlie could do that with me here.
I replaced the phone and glanced at the clock. We had an hour until the wedding planner arrived. Plenty of time for breakfast, and to get cleaned up afterward.
“Hadn’t you better get dressed, Charlie? The food will be here soon.”
“Uh huh.” He scribbled something on the pad resting on his knee, and then stuck the pen back between his teeth. He looked cute, like a student revising for an exam. I sank back onto the chair, happy to watch him.
A few minutes later, he lifted his head, a hungry look in his eyes. “You’re good for my music, Daisy. You’re my muse.” He drew his fingers over the guitar strings and produced a gentle waterfall of notes. “Which sounds better? This chord,” he played a haunting chime, “or this one?” A sombre ripple of tones emerged from the instrument.
“The first one.”
“Good call.” A teasing smile curved on his lips. “Let’s do another one. This chord,” he hit the strings in a jarring note, “or this one?” Another soulful tone.
“The second one.” I tried to sound decisive, as though helping rock stars write hit songs was an everyday activity. “Is this for the new album?”
“Yep.” He deftly plucked out a melody, smooth and sweet. “It’s a song I’m writing about you.”
I wanted to squeal with excitement. I settled for placing my hands on my burning cheeks. “Me?”
“Uh huh.” His gaze smouldered. “Come over here, babe. Sit on my knee and I’ll sing it to you.”
I didn’t need inviting twice. Charlie put his guitar aside and I climbed onto his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck. His brown eyes sparkled. Totally irresistible. He dropped a kiss on the tip of my nose and then hummed a few notes.
“Lost and alone. Fighting to breathe. Fighting to see. I open my eyes and the bed is empty. Calling your name.” His voice was husky, the words vibrating against my cheek. “Your touch anchors me. Your perfume guides me. Fighting to breathe. Fighting to see.”
I’d no idea what it meant, but the words grabbed my heart and squeezed tight. He pressed a tender kiss on my throat, and hummed a little more. “It’s about that moment when you wake up from a nightmare, when you don’t know if you’re still asleep. Or in another dream.”
A shiver ran down my spine. “Am I your nightmare?” I was teasing, but it came out sounding worried.
“What do you think? In fact, sit perfectly still and I’ll practice the chords on you.”
He pressed his fingertips in random patterns across my back and I giggled. “You’re crazy.”
“Crazy for you. Crazy for Daisy.”
Times like this, I could push all my fears away. Even the sharp knock at the door didn’t make me jump.
“Bring it in, please.” Charlie called back and I stared at him.
“You’re not dressed.”
His grin was unrepetentant. “You’ll have to stay there, and protect my modesty.”
The wedding planner—“call me Tia”—terrified me. From her toothpaste-commercial smile to the ash-blonde pixie cut hair, she oozed glamour and sophistication as though born to it. She probably wore Prada in the cradle. I sat next to Charlie on the sofa, clutching his hand, as she typed impossibly fast into her iPad. She tossed questions at us, and then made notes, her ridiculously long fingernails clacking on the screen.
“I don’t care what it costs. Just make Daisy happy.” Charlie lifted our linked hands to his mouth, and I tried to smile. He was paying her to do what he wanted, and that meant what I wanted. I was her client. She had to be nice to me.
“Of course. Happiness is all part of the service. Let’s bounce some ideas around.” Her eyes studied my face. “A themed wedding? They’re very popular at the moment. Or something classic?”
“Something quick,” said Charlie. This merited the faintest movement of her eyebrows. “Next week, or at a pinch, the week after.”
“Next week?” Tia squawked as though he’d asked her to pick up a dog turd from the floor. “Weddings take months of planning. The best venues are booked up to three years in advance. I can’t pull together anything in a week.”
“Sure you can.” He didn’t sound bothered. “But if you don’t want the gig, I can find someone else.”
Her eyes darted to my stomach. “Maybe a couple of months? I can work with the gown designer to, ah, expand it as necessary.”
“I’m not pregnant.” I blurted the words out. How far had this story spread?
“Of course not.” Her words were soothing, her voice saccharine sweet. “So why the rush for a quick wedding?”
It was a good question. I looked at Charlie. He loved me so much he didn’t want to wait any longer? He wanted to make our relationship official?
He shrugged. “I want to get it out of the way, so I can focus on my album.”
~ Daisy ~
Charlie’s words reverberated in my head, thudding inside my brain like golfball sized hailstones, each one hurting again and again. He wanted to get our wedding out of the way. That implied it was in the way. My flat shoes slapped against the sidewalk as I trailed behind Tia. Her superior sneer had morphed into over-the-top sympathy, and I wondered how I appeared to her? The maybe-pregnant girlfriend who’d snagged a rock star.
“There are a couple of hotels where they might be able to squeeze you in.” Tia herded me into a waiting cab and we shot forward into the traffic. “They’re small venues, so the guest list will have to be rigorously capped. Do you think you can keep it down to five hundred?”
“Five hundred guests?” I’d been thinking more of thirty or forty on my side.
“Charlie will have a lot of contacts. We need to go bigger.” Tia clicked away at her iPad again, and then snapped her fingers. “We had a cancellation the other day. I’ll see if the venue has been re-booked again. What about your gown?”
“You do have a gown ordered?”
“A wedding list?”
“We don’t have anything booked. At all. That’s why Charlie hired you. So that you can make us a wedding.” Get it out of the way.
Her look was scathing. “I can plan weddings. I draw the line at miracles though.”
The day flew by in a flurry of dress fittings, hotel receptions, caterers and florists. My head ached and my chest hurt. I hated this. Every single detail. At every turn, people were telling me what Charlie would expect. What he would want. When Tia tried to squeeze me into a breathtakingly beaded wedding dress easily two sizes too small, my frustration finally boiled over.
“I’ll never fit into this. Look at it.”
She tapped her iPad. “Three days of detox and some treatments, and you’ll be fine.”
“Treatments?” A massage would be nice.
She waved her hand in a casual gesture. “Seaweed wrap. Colonic hydrotherapy. You know.”
“No.” I tugged the dress down over my thighs and stepped out of it. My heart raced and my eyes pricked with unshed tears. If this was what Charlie wanted, really wanted, then he could have it with someone else. I wasn’t going to force myself to fit into a dress, no matter how pretty it was. I also couldn’t cope with the idea of hundreds of people watching me while we made our vows.
I grabbed my shirt and held it against me as a shield. Taking a deep breath, I turned to face Tia and the two assistants who stood behind her. “This isn’t what I want. For our wedding.” I pressed on before she could interrupt. “I want something small.”
“This is small.”
“Your definition of small isn’t even on the same continent as mine.” Any minute now and the tears would escape. “Please leave me alone while I get my clothes back on.”
Tia sighed, and pressed her hand to her forehead. “Get dressed and we’ll go over the plans again in a few minutes.”
“No.” For the first time since waking up today, I was in control. “Right now, I’m not sure there’s even going to be a wedding, but if there is, I don’t want you to plan it, Tia. Charlie will pay you for your time today. Now please go.”
I heard voices outside the changing room, but I ignored them. I slid down the wall to sit on the carpeted floor, and sank my head into my hands. What the hell was I doing? Charlie had sent me out to plan a wedding, and I’d just fired the planner. Without her, we’d never get it out of the way.
Dear God, why was he marrying me? Really? Was it just obligation? He’d made a promise and wanted to see it through?
A fat, salty tear trickled down my cheek and dripped onto the floor. We were too different. He wanted to party all night, while I wanted to stay home and watch movies. He wanted to get high on booze and drugs, while I hardly touched alcohol. He was a rock star, used to moving in celebrity circles, while I was used to walking on the beach, a small child hanging onto my hand.
I twisted the diamond solitaire on my finger and admired the way it caught the light. It was dazzling. I’d been dazzled. His charm, his confidence, the way he made me feel important. I loved those things about him. I should never have pushed him to propose to me. I should have pretended I was happy with his joke.
My phone jangled with Charlie’s ringtone, and I froze. I couldn’t talk to him. Not at the moment. Like a coward I waited until it pinged with a voicemail, and then I listened to his message.
“Hey, babe. I’m nearly done with the studio tour, and Nick’s invited us to dinner. It’s low key, no need to dress up. Meet us at the restaurant? We’re heading there now, so whenever you can get away.” He rattled off a name and address. “See you soon, gorgeous.”
Dinner with Charlie’s new record producer. Fantastic. This was hardly the time to say I’d rather we stayed in the hotel and called up room service. I gazed at my reflection in the many mirrors that stared back at me. My face was a mess, but I had emergency makeup in my bag. I wore my usual denim skirt, this time paired with my favourite silk shirt—my version of dressing up.
Whatever was going on in my head, whatever decision I eventually came to, I couldn’t let Charlie down tonight. I’d go to the dinner, and hope we escaped early. Maybe we could have one last, wonderful night together, before I told him I wasn’t sure about getting married.
Final part (7) coming next month…