The vibration from the phone in his front pocket sent excitement coursing through him. He knew it was from her. He had been anticipating it all day. It seemed like she only liked to text him when she knew he was doing something important. Right now, meeting with his manager and a rep from the label was the perfect time. He fiddled with the metal object before giving into temptation and sneaking a look under the table. The rep droned on about numbers and release dates, the new album, and publicity photos, but it was white noise to Mack.
The text was brief. “My place.”
Instantly, he felt flush. His pulse quickened. There was so much implied with such simple words. It meant she was thinking of him. She wanted him. Maybe even needed him. Mack was eager to oblige.
“Doing something,” he wrote back after a long pause, not wanting to seem too available. It was still new. They were still in the game phase, trying to feel each other out, trying constantly to gain the upper hand. If she waited five minutes to respond, he would wait ten.
He was used to getting everything he wanted. But Sharra was the same. The last two weeks had been a constant power struggle, but it almost made it more exciting. She made him work for it and he liked it.
“Fine. Then all this goes to waste,” the reply read. The photo attached was Sharra in her bathroom mirror, completely naked. She covered one breast with her arm that was holding the camera, and the other she covered with her hand that was flipping the bird. The photo sent him into overdrive. He gave up playing it cool.
“You got this, right?” Mack patted his manager on his shoulder as he got up to leave, never taking his eyes off his phone.
“What? We aren’t done yet. Sit down,” he scolded but Mack was already out the door.
He looked forward to seeing her as a kid looked forward to Christmas morning. Every time was new and different. She was exotic, powerful, and exhilarating to be around. No matter how much he got, Mack wanted more.
It wasn’t a far walk between the record label’s building and Sharra’s. He took his usual route, the one she had told him to take. At first he thought it was strange that she had it scoped out and could rattle off the intricate path with ease. But he figured she was a big enough star, she probably used it herself to avoid the paparazzi. As he made his way through the trash filled alley ways, he found it hard to picture Sharra letting her thousand dollar heels come within even an inch of the retched sludge that flowed through the alley. On second thought, there was no way Sharra had ever stepped foot back here.
After passing the second homeless man passed out amongst heaps of garbage Mack stopped.
“What the hell am I doing?” he said out loud. It finally hit him. He realized the truth in the situation. She was in control. She doled out her time as she saw fit. It was always in private, always kept hush hush, and almost always on her terms. The power struggle between them was all for show. In reality, they both knew who held the upper hand. There was no question.
Mack kicked a pile of trash.
This ends now, he told himself. Sharra was good in bed. Really good. But no chick was good enough to warrant being played like a whipping boy. He started to rehearse his speech as he made his way to the back entrance of the high-rise condo building. He’d put her in her place.
Doesn’t she know who I am? She can’t walk all over me like that. Telling me to “come here” “do this” “go there,” and expect me to obey. I’m not her puppy or some love sick little kid. I’m one of the biggest names in the game. I can get any chick I want and it is about damn time she recognizes that and shows some respect.
By the time he got to her door, he had worked himself up into a huff. He puffed out his chest and steeled his nerves. The moment Sharra opened the door he opened his mouth to talk but the words seemed to get lost in throat. Nothing came out. He didn’t tell her she had to start coming to him. He couldn’t articulate that he was not her boy toy. He couldn’t even put her in her place about making him take the back entrance.
Seeing her in nothing but one of his tour t-shirts and heels made his mind go completely blank. She pulled him into her penthouse apartment and he happily followed.
The smell of bacon woke him. Mack groggily rubbed his eyes to pull himself from his slumber. He rolled over to find the other half of the bed was vacant. A quick check of his cell phone showed six missed calls. He didn’t even bother to check who they were from. He could guess they were all from his management for skipping out on that meeting. He groaned to himself thinking about having to deal with them.
For a moment, he thought of getting it over with and calling them back then. If he was going to get yelled at, it might as well be when he’s in a good mood. But again, the smell of breakfast cooking pulled at his attention. He checked the clock. It was four in the afternoon.
He threw his phone on the bed and put on his jeans. A quick search of the floor proved fruitless for finding his shirt. He assumed it was in the living room, or hallway. It was hard to say. Everything was a blur once the front door had closed. It was a frantic mix of skin and passion. His heart raced replaying the bits in his mind he could focus on.
Sharra was in the kitchen when he found her, humming as she cooked. She had on over-sized sweat pants, a loose fitting t-shirt, and her hair was up in a messy bun. It was a new look for her. Mack couldn’t think of a single time he had seen the singer when she wasn’t completely dolled up or aggressively dressed. As he watched her for a moment from the hallway he couldn’t help but think she was beautiful. Not sexy, not sultry, not hot; beautiful. There was something about her when she was toned down and real that made her more stunning.
“Strange time for breakfast, no?” he asked.
Sharra shrugged but didn’t look up from the pan. She never felt the need to explain herself. It was one of the things Mack liked best about her. She was confident to no end. Sharra was who she was; take it or leave it.
“Any for me?” Mack saddled up at the bar stool across from the range.
“You eat pork right?” she asked very seriously.
He gave a hardy laugh from deep within his gut. It wasn’t what he had expected her to say. He nodded.
“Because this ain’t no turkey bacon, good for you shit. This is the real deal,” Sharra warned.
“I eat bacon,” he answered with a chuckle.
“Good. It’ll be ready in five.” She waved the spatula at him as she spoke.
Mack was mesmerized watching her move through her grand kitchen with ease, humming as she did. It was a side of her he had never seen and something about it took him off guard.
It felt real.
Not that what they had been doing hadn’t been real, but it had been completely different. Everything up to this point was more like a torrid love affair: hot, heavy, and secretive. They had been sneaking around, hiding from the press, and even lying to their own people about where they had been. Their encounters were brief with a sense of urgency that was exhilarating.
But this was different. They slept in the same bed together. They ate together. It was what people did when they were in a relationship.
He let the idea rattle around in his head: a relationship. He thought of their life together; what their future would look like. Eventually they would both finish their albums and it would be time to leave the city. Then they would both be on tour, likely on the other side of the globe from one another at any given time. They would have to make special trips to spend time together. They could video chat when apart, but that would only give them a small sense of comfort. The press would eat their relationship alive. Stories would be run that they both would know were false, but it would put enough doubt in their minds to start eating away at whatever trust they had built up between them. Eventually, they would implode. Hopefully it would happen before they did something crazy like get married or have a kid. And when they did eventually fall apart, they would have to release a joint statement saying something along the lines of “We are still the best of friends, but realize that we couldn’t give each other the time and attention the other deserved for a relationship.”
A Relationship, he mused again. A foul taste formed in his mouth. If this became a relationship, it would be completely ruined.
He knocked his knuckles a few times on the counter.
“Hey, I gotta bounce,” he said.
Sharra looked up with a questioning glace but didn’t say anything.
Mack offered no explanation.
“I’ll see ya,” he said as he gathered the rest of his clothing and headed for the door.