"Jim are you insane?" Issey was on the couch in her apartment, an ice pack over her chest to ease the pain from her exercises. She rolled her eyes at the speakerphone and wished they were on facetime so he could see the shape she was in.
"Is, I know it's not the best time for you, but this guy is calling a in favor on me, he's done tons of last minute string pulling for me in the past, I can't let him down. Besides, we're not asking you to train the kid, just sit down and listen to him."
"They can send me a DVD or something. I'm in no mood to go smile through some executive's kids delusional American Idol type audition."
"It has to be in person, it has to be Vegas and it has to be in two days. Issey, I'm asking you, do this. For me?"
She sighed. "Jim you know I love you but I don't think you understand, I just had a drain taken out of my body. I'm icing myself down after holding a ruler in the air for 5 seconds at a time. My heartburn is so bad I feel like a dragon that could roast marshmallows with its breath and sleep, my dear old friend, has abandoned me almost entirely. Also I appear to have sprouted a belly almost overnight."
Her manager's frustration was palpable through the phone. He was anxious and desperate and didn't know what to do. He HAD to get her to take this assignment.
"Look its one night, in and out. I'll get your suite at the Red Rock, have the kid come up there, do his two songs and then get the hell out of your life. Spend the night in the suite, I'll even splurge for whatever spa pampering you want, then you can hop a flight the next day to see your new house. You haven't even seen it. Go check on it."
"You aren't going to let me rest until I do this are you?"
"Not really, no. I'm sorry Issey, you know I wouldn't ask you to work right now if it wasn't crucial."
"Fine, but I really do want the 180 suite and a pedicure."
"Done. I'll email you your plane ticket. Thank you Is, you'll never know how happy I am you're going to go."
He disconnected and her mother came into the room with a fresh ice pack. "You're going to work?"
"Just for one night. It's not even really work, it's just listening."
"Might be good for you, change of scenery, I'm sick of seeing you mope over missing that boyfriend of yours."
In bed that night she talked to Darren. They tried to connect every night before she slept, or attempted to sleep. She told him about working in Vegas.
"I wish I could be there. I love doing these solo shows because the fans are incredible but I miss you like crazy and I'm dog tired."
"It's not too much longer. Day after tomorrow I go to Vegas, after that I'll go to LA and see our place, you can fly home to LA instead of Boston if you want and I'll meet you there."
"Where will you stay in LA?"
"Chris said I can stay with him. He's never there now anyway; he's working on his movie around the clock."
"How're you feeling?"
"Gross. Completely disgusting. When they took the bandages off I thought I'd throw up. Its bad Babe, really, really horrible looking. I know it's necessary and life-saving and all of that but there are things you just don't want to know."
"There's not. If you have to go through it I want to know."
"I don't want to talk about it. Let's just say I'm getting through it. To be honest I'm kind of glad Jim pressured me into taking this job, it's a chance to get out of my own way and get back to what I do."
"Well don't overdo it. I'm jealous that you're going to be in the place we met without me. What did Jim tell you about this kid? Do I have to be worried?"
"What that he's some crazed killer or something?"
"That he's some handsome prince that's going to use the magic of that balcony to steal you away from me."
"The only magic thing about that balcony was you, and besides, no one would want to steal me now. Hang on; I'm going to send you a picture of my tummy."
"Whoa! That popped up quick! I mean, it's not like its really big, not like you look super pregnant but still it's noticeable."
"I swear I went to sleep looking fairly flat, everywhere, and woke up with this belly. It's like my belly is pushing out to make up for my boobs being gone."
Darren got a little quiet, "Babe, you sound sad. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Oh, I just have my moments, I'm really fine. Did you look at the flagstone I want for the upstairs fireplace?"
"You're deflecting but yes, I saw it, I really love it but are you sure it won't make the room too dark?"
"It's under a skylight and next to a floor to ceiling window, I don't think dark will be a problem."
"During the day, what about at night?"
"There are good light fixtures hanging down the entire room. I'm not worried about light. Do you want me to wait to have it put in until you get to LA and see for yourself?"
"No, you've got the whole room built around it, I'm sure you're right."
They went on like this until her head was bobbing with sleep and they said their I love you's and hung up.
The ticket Jim sent her got her into Vegas around 9:30pm. She was less than pleased about this, her plan had been to see this guy in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day on the balcony relaxing and thinking about those first nights with Darren. He'd be home in two more days and she felt like she hadn't been in his arms for months instead of weeks.
She arrived at the hotel and was met by the night manager, a tall, slim red headed woman who looked like a former model. "Ms. Mooney, right on time. Your room is ready; your young man is waiting on the balcony. I'll have Albert take you up."
He was here already. She had hoped at this point that she'd see him tomorrow. She was looking forward to taking a shower and calling Darren from the balcony and reminiscing. It wasn't long ago that they met here, but it felt like a lifetime.
Albert was uncharacteristically quiet on the ride to the suite. He'd always been the chattiest porter they had and Issey normally found him charming. She thought perhaps the word of her surgery had reached the staff and he didn't know what to say, or maybe she just looked like shit. She figured it was probably the latter.
When they reached the suite Albert asked her to wait while he brought in her bag and made certain everything was in order. He'd never done that before but Issey didn't really question it. If this kid she was here to see was anything like she imagined he probably wanted to make certain he hadn't trashed the room or gotten drunk from the balcony bar.
When he came out of the room he held the door for her and smiled fondly. "Have a wonderful stay Ms. Mooney."
She reached out to shake his hand and pass him his tip, as she always did for him. Albert was old school and did not just accept tips; they had to be snuck to him. Money was too crass a thing to flaunt in the open. He shook his head, took her shoulders and kissed her cheek. "Not this time, Ms. Mooney. This time it is my pleasure."
He definitely knows about the surgery and probably the pregnancy as well, she thought. The lights were low on the balcony, and the slider was closed. She ducked into the bathroom and called Darren, getting his voice mail.
"I wish I hadn't done this. I don't want to be here with anyone but you. My heart's going to break when I go out on that balcony and it isn't you waiting for me." She felt silly but left the message as it was and disconnected to get to work already.
It was darker than she expected out there but since the last time she'd been there small twinkling fairy lights had been strung along the top of the plexiglass wall and over the entire balcony like a sky full of stars. As her eyes adjusted to the dark she saw a figure at the piano, back to her. She had to blink a few times because from behind he looked like Darren.
When she'd stepped out he hadn't turned around, just continued playing a tune she didn't recognize.
The music stopped and he turned to face her.
She had been exhausted and sore but those things melted away in an instant.
"Darren!" she screamed it, unable to stop herself and ran the few feet to him.
He nearly knocked over the bench jumping up to catch her and wrap around her, trying to be careful of anywhere she might still be in pain. "Surprised?" he asked between kisses.
"Completely. Oh my god I can't believe it. What are you doing home now?"
"Couldn't wait…see you…hold you…" syntax was lost, not important now that he could touch her. He moved them to the day bed.
"I can't believe you're here. I thought the kid I'm supposed to listen to was up here now, I'm so glad I don't have to see him tonight."
"You're looking at him."
"Wait, it was you? But Jim..."
"Helped me get you here, for awhile he didn't think he'd get you to say yes."
"You'll get used to it." He put his hand on the little bump his kids were making under her skin. "It's hard. That's so strange, I'm used to you being all soft everywhere."
They kissed some and cuddled under the makeshift stars. She felt as if the fear and apprehension she'd held since before the surgery were drifting away from them, leaving them alone at last to just get to be in love, no other's between them, no terrifying surgery ahead of them, just their little family, together. When Issey looked up she saw the lights directly above them made a heart constellation. She laughed a little to herself thinking the hotel was missing the mark with trying to sell the suite as a place for two when it was clearly meant for a large group. The longer she looked though the more she realized, this was not a new addition to the balcony by the hotel, this was specifically for them.
Darren had hidden messages all through their personal sky, things only meaningful to them.
"How did you do this? I've never seen anything like it!"
"I wanted to give you the stars" he nuzzled into her neck sending a tingle down her spine, "this is the closest I could get tonight."
"It's perfect. We have to take pictures of it."
"Later, right now I have a song I want you to hear." He got up and got his guitar, perching on a deck chair by the pool.
He began to play but not sing, a few seconds in he broke a string and swore, his pick flying out of his fingers and into the pool.
"Shit! That was my signed pick, do you see it?" He busied himself with the broken string while she walked to the edge of the pool to look.
"I don't think...I…I…, Darren!"
He was on a knee beside her, and at the bottom of the pool flickering candles (apparently battery operated) spelled out the words 'MARRY ME?'.
He took her trembling hand and looked up at her with wide eyes, "I had a whole speech worked out but I can't remember a word of it right now. You take my breath away. I had a song to sing to you but I don't think I could get it out around the lump in my throat." Tears filled his eyes as he held out a tiny box, "All I can do is tell you that I will love you for eternity, and ask you to agree to marry me and let me spend the rest if our lives trying to make you as happy as you make me."