My best friend Ross is Adam Blue's biggest fan. Adam's the lead singer of the popular rock group, Viral Blue, but to Ross, he's some sort of rock god. I don't get it. Ross has all their albums, reads all their interviews, watches all their videos, and knows every little thing about the group -- and Adam -- by heart. He's convinced it's his destiny to run away with the band. He'll tell anyone he and Adam are soulmates ... especially me, and I'm sick of hearing about it.
In all the time we've known each other, Ross has never looked at me the same way he moons over Adam. I hate that guy, and I don't even know him! Sometimes I think he's Ross's BFF and not me.
When I hear VB's coming to town, I decide to treat Ross to the concert. Show him a good time, show him how I really feel. But with Adam Blue gyrating his hips onstage, will Ross even notice I'm there?
I climb out of the car and hurry across the wide, grassy expanse of their yard to the porch. Mrs. Carraway gives me a forced smile as she waits for me to come closer. Only when I'm a few steps away does she say softly, "He's upset about that damn blue virus thing."
"Viral Blue," I correct.
She shrugs that off. "Whatever. I told him if he wanted to mope about not going to the concert, he had to stay in his room. I didn't want him underfoot or I'm sure I would've accidentally said something ..."
I flash her a quick grin. "Thanks."
"Can you tell him now?" she asks. "I don't like seeing him this way. He acts like this is a matter of life or death."
Reaching for my back pocket, I feel the paper printout folded in front of my wallet. I had planned to tell him before school, but in the car where it'd be just the two of us. But Mrs. Carraway did give me permission to take Ross to the show, and she did promise she'd let me tell him about the tickets myself. The least I could do was cheer Ross up now rather than later.
"Sure. I have them right here."
She lets me into the house, but at the hallway, we go our separate ways -- she keeps straight into the kitchen to finish cleaning up the breakfast dishes while I head upstairs to Ross's bedroom. At the top of the stairs, I have to circle back around the railing; his bedroom's at the end of the hall, door shut. I tap on it lightly, then press my face to the jamb. "Ross? You coming to school today or what?"
I hear heavy footfalls on the floor moments before the knob turns in my hand. I let the door open, pulling me inside the bedroom. It's dark in here, the only light what manages to come through his closed curtains, but I can see books and clothing litter the floor, and the sheets are strewn about his unmade bed.
Ross himself stands behind the door, jeans on but unzipped, shirt half-tucked into the waistband as if I've interrupted him in the middle of getting dressed. His hair is a disheveled mess. No socks cover his bare feet, and his long toes curl into the shag rug as he waits for me to say something.
I give him the same, tired grin his mother gave me downstairs. "Hey. Your mom says you're sick."
Ross glowers at me. "I am not. She keeps screwing up the band's name." Leaning past me, he raises his voice and shouts down the stairs, "It's Viral Blue, Mom! Not blue virus! Jeez."
"So they're the reason you're not going to school today?" I joke as I step into the bedroom. Ross shuts the door behind me, locking me in his lair. "What happened, Adam call you up last night and finally ask you to run away with him?"
"Shut up," Ross growls. He sinks down on the edge of the bed, leaving me standing. "The show sold out already, can you believe it? I heard tickets went in less than a minute after the lines opened."
I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from correcting him. That's the sort of silly statistic radio stations make up to get fans all worked up for the show. Yeah, maybe it's sold out, now, but I got my tickets a half hour after the "lines opened," and we got pretty good seats. Besides, how in the world would they sell out a place like the Coliseum in less than a minute? It takes that long for the pages on the TicketMaster website to load, some days.
In front of me, Ross flops back on the bed and moans. "I'll never see him, ever. It's so unfair! My whole life has been leading up to this show!"
Digging into my back pocket, I start, "I know --"
"You don't know," Ross interrupts. "No one knows. No one but me, and Adam, and --"
"Me," I assure him as I toss the folded pieces of paper onto his chest. "Quit your whining or I'll scalp these on the street."
He sits up so fast, he makes me dizzy. He picks up the paper, which looks like just another school assignment creased and folded to fit into someone's back pocket. "What's this?"
Casually I cross my arms in front of my chest, hoping he can't see how hard my heart beats at the moment. "Open it and see."
He starts to, but before he unfolds it completely, he sees the TicketMaster logo and screams. Literally, shrieks, like a little girl. I never knew he could hit that note. I smirk at how wide his eyes get, like circles in his face, his mouth a perfect O of surprise. "You're welcome," I say, hoping to prompt a word of thanks.
"Oh my God, oh my God!" Ross launches himself off the bed at me, hitting me square in the chest and knocking me back against the door. He's about the same size as I am, so I'm surprised at the strength in the arms now pinning me down. With his face inches from mine, he cries, "You got tickets! I freaking love you, man!"
Then, before I know what's happening, before I can react, Ross presses his lips to mine in a wet, sloppy, honest-to-God kiss that makes my knees weak, my stomach drop, and my heart flutter like a bird trapped between my ribs.
Maybe he knows I'm alive after all.