"Wow. You look…um…really…Jesus, Tommy." Megan shook her head in disbelief as she took in her childhood friend's appearance. She could hardly recognize him. But there was that familiar grin, breaking through the make-up and stringy black hair hanging in his face. His eyes shone clearly through his clumpy mascara-clogged lashes as he approached her, his hand reaching for hers. And again, Megan felt it: the hurt, the stab of pain that she had always felt, just by being near him. It took all her strength not to crumple on the spot.
As he pulled her into a hug and she leaned against him, inhaling deeply, her lips trembling against his neck, she fought back tears. Tommy Gnosis. She had known all along that he was special, that he would be one of those people who made it. Not like the rest of us who are destined to lead boring, clumsy lives, Megan thought with a sigh.
Over the past few months, while she had been at school, she had followed his career with a mixture of obsession and sadness. When she had first seen him on MTV, his video for Tear Me Down, she had just about had a heart attack. She had been in the rec room of her freshman dormitory. And all the girls around her had been commenting on the amazing breakout star, Tommy Gnosis. She hadn't said a word to acknowledge that she had spent every summer from the age of 11 to 15 camping with him in her backyard, had gone to the movies with him every single Thanksgiving night for years, their own tradition. That he had been the first boy she had ever kissed...
The last time she had spoken to him before she left for school was in church the summer before. He was playing his guitar at the Christian Youth Group mass. That had been her last weekend in town. He'd said hi to her as she was leaving with her parents and she had nodded at him indifferently, forcing herself not to confess her undying love for him, instead just walking by as if he were the last thing on her mind.
She hadn't even said goodbye to him before she had left for college. She had decided at the last minute not to go to State, since her scholarship for the Theatre Arts Academy had come through. She hadn't bothered to tell Tommy she was going to school out of state. He wouldn't care anyways, she had told herself bitterly as she had packed her trunk the night before she left, all the while hoping desperately that he would stop by or call. But he never did.
And now here he was, hardly recognizable, looking like when they had dressed up as punk rockers for Halloween in the eigth grade. She pulled back to look at him critically.
Tommy laughed at Megan's expression, his blue eyes twinkling. That same laugh, Megan thought, feeling another tiny stab through her heart, those same eyes. Her stomach again filled with those familiar butterflies that Tommy had always caused without even trying, without even knowing. Damn you, Tommy, she thought, suddenly not at all sure if this meeting had been such a great idea.
"What's the matter? Aren't you glad to see me?" he asked, still grinning at her, pulling her over to sit on the sofa with him. She looked back at him helplessly, suddenly at a loss for words.
"Well…of course I'm glad to see you. What…what made you call me?" she asked, swallowing nervously as he edged closer to her. She glanced around his apartment, smiling to see that he was still a slob. One thing they had always had in common.
Tommy reached over and brushed a lock of her dark hair out of her face. Megan's brown eyes widened as she inched away from him slightly. "I ran into your mom at the mall," he said, looking at her searchingly. "She told me you were home for the summer, and I asked her if it would be ok to call you. To be honest she looked a little scared of me, but she told me I should definitely call you and she invited me to dinner this weekend." Megan smiled at him sadly. Mom knows, she thought. She never gave up on me and Tommy. That's something we always had in common.
"Well wasn't that nice of her," Megan said sarcastically. "Still trying to meddle in my life." Tommy smiled at her. She looked down. "Well, I like your music. You really made it big, huh?" she mumbled, sneaking a look at him. "The songwriting…it's incredible, Tommy. I've never heard such beautiful songs before. Did you really write all those by yourself?" For some reason, Tommy looked a bit ill suddenly.
"I…of course I did. What…what do you mean?" he said nervously. "Yes, I wrote them. Why, did you hear differently?" Megan stared at him.
"No, no of course not. I just…anyway, are you…are you doing ok? How are your parents?" Tommy's face darkened.
"How the fuck would I know? I haven't talked to them in months. My fucking father…he…" he trailed off as Megan sighed. It was always the same old story. Tommy's Dad never really accepted him: they clashed like oil and water, and his mom wasn't any help either. Megan could only imagine what was going through their minds now that their son was a rock icon.
"I'm sorry, Tommy," Megan said quietly. "I know you guys have always had a hard time with each other. I didn't mean to bring it up." Tommy stared at her intently.
"It's ok, Megan. You can tell me anything, you know," he said quietly. Megan eyed him skeptically and he smiled. "What," he said, "You don't feel like you can? I'm still the same person." He moved a bit closer to her and reached for her hand. "Don't tell me that you're gonna get all shy around me now…" He leaned forward to kiss her neck.
Megan snatched her hand away from his, standing up abruptly, feeling her face start to turn red.
"Tommy, please," she stammered, "I really should get going. I only wanted to stop by and say hi. I'll…maybe I'll see you later, alright?" Tommy stood up, looking confused.
"Aw, don't go yet, we need to catch up and stuff," he said. Megan gasped as he suddenly grabbed her and threw her down on the couch unceremoniously. He laughed as he jumped on top of her twisting her arm over her head roughly.
"Remember when we used to wrestle like this?" he said, giggling as she struggled, blushing.
"Dammit, Tommy, get the fuck off of me. We're not little kids anymore, for Christ's sake," she hissed, trying to slide out from under him. But Tommy wouldn't let her, his eyes gazing down at her piercingly. He looked down at her body beneath his and grinned at her, leaning to kiss her neck.
"Yes, I can see that you're not a little kid anymore," he murmured as Megan's heart began to beat faster, her body responding even though her brain was telling her not to.
"What the hell is your problem, Tommy?" Megan pleaded helplessly. Tommy paused to stare at her, that damned innocent look in his eyes, as if he hadn't the faintest idea what he was doing to her.
"I just missed you, that's all," he said, staring down at her appealingly. Megan closed her eyes and sighed before gazing back at him.
"Well, I missed you too. I've missed you since Sophomore year when you stopped being my friend." The sentence hung in the air and Tommy stared down at her, looking stricken.
"I…I never stopped being your friend," he murmured blankly as Megan finally succeeded in pushing him away and standing up from the couch, nervously pulling her shirt, which had ridden up, down past her jeans again.
"Listen, Tommy," Megan said as she grabbed her purse off of the coffee table and headed towards the door. "I'm glad to see you too, but you just don't understand how I feel...you just don't…" to her dismay she felt tears sting at her eyes. She wiped at them impatiently as Tommy strode over to her and took her face in his hands.
"Then explain it to me, Meg," he begged, again that look in his eyes as if he had no fucking clue how much his mere presence was hurting her, making her ache down to her toes. "How do you feel? Can't we be together now? I'm lonely, Megan, I miss you so much…I've been on the road for so long, I just want to be with a true friend…"
Megan pushed him away gently, shaking her head. "Listen, Tommy, call me later, ok? I can't…I just can't talk about it now. I'm sorry. Call me…call me later," she choked out as she opened the door quickly and shut it behind abruptly. She stood out in the apartment hallway and leaned against the door, feeling as if she were about to pass out.
Oh, God, Megan thought to herself as she stumbled to out to the parking lot, and I thought it was over…after all these years I thought it was over. He hasn't changed a bit. Just make-up and hair dye, leather pants and MTV. He's still an insensitive ass who acts like a puppy dog but he's really a loaded weapon. And I'll be damned if he's gonna get to me again.
But as she drove home, she knew it was useless. She was already re-playing in her mind how his body had felt, how his hair had smelled, how his skin had been touching hers so wonderfully…and she knew it was too late. She couldn't wait to see him again.