Cleo followed Tyler into the coffee shop and over to the table where his bandmates already sat with steaming coffees.
“Hey, Cleo,” the lead singer, a skinny man with a lip ring, said with a smile.
“Hi,” Cleo replied. “Sorry, I don’t think I got your name.”
“Ryan,” he said, holding out a hand to shake.
She gripped it and he gave her a firm, confident handshake. “Oh, and sorry about the confusion. Claire was dealing with it with you, but Claire left the band and apparently forgot a few important things so…”
He didn’t seem inclined to elaborate, so Cleo didn’t ask. He let go and gestured to the person sitting beside him. “This is Edie. They’re our post-Claire upgrade.”
“Wow, thanks,” Edie said, rolling their eyes. “Hi, I’m Edie.”
They held out a hand to Cleo, who gripped it. Edie wore a faded denim jacket and had blunt cut black hair and heavy eye makeup. They sat casually draped across the bench with an elbow along the back.
Cleo felt a jolt in her stomach as she held Edie’s hand and immediately shoved it away. For crying out loud, she’d just slipped up and told her girlfriend she loved her when she wasn’t sure if she did or not. Was now really the time to feel a spark for someone new?
“It’s nice to meet you, Edie,” Cleo said with a smile.
“Want to grab a coffee before we head out?” Tyler asked. “My treat because Claire jerked you around like that.”
“Please,” Cleo replied.
“What do you want? I’m heading back up so I’ll grab it for you.”
“Small iced coffee. Black.”
He winked at her and went up to join the forming line. Cleo sat down in his vacated seat beside Edie.
“It’s too fucking early,” Edie said, rolling their eyes.
“Didn’t you go to bed at, like, ten last night?” Ryan asked.
Ryan shrugged. “Figured your homebody ass got plenty of sleep.”
Edie shook their head. “Never. Even when I’m home alone with a podcast and a face mask. Which is most nights.”
“I was sitting in for my buddy’s band last night at MacCarthy’s,” Ryan said. “Didn’t get in til two.”
“And who’s fault was that?” Edie asked. “You could have also been home in the bath with a banana, honey, and oatmeal face mask and mango slices within reach but nooooo, that was your decision.”
Edie looked at Cleo. “What about you?” they asked with narrowed eyes. “When did you go to bed?”
Oh, after the fight with my girlfriend, Cleo thought. Out loud, she said, “I’m not sure. Eleven maybe? I was watching TV with my girlfriend.”
Edie nodded approvingly. “See, Ryan, there’s someone who knows she’s going on tour in the morning and does the sensible thing. Anyway, I’m tired as hell. Who’s driving first?”
“Tyler,” Ryan said. He lowered his voice. “And he’ll probably want to drive the whole way. So if anyone has any objections, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
“I’m not gonna, like, keep people from driving,” Tyler said from behind him. “But if nobody wants to, I’d rather drive. Just more comfortable that way. Not that I don’t trust you, Cleo,” he added quickly.
Cleo shrugged. “I am completely indifferent.”
“Great!” he said, passing her a coffee.
She took a sip. It was watery but caffeinated, so she was satisfied.
“Alright, want to head out?” Tyler asked, picking up a leather jacket that was draped over an empty chair. He swung it over his shoulders and Cleo caught a glimpse of all the patches artfully arranged on the back.
God, she’d missed this while she was in New Winslow. She loved her friends deeply, but none of them felt the same way about music that she did. Not even Andrew. His interests ran more quiet and literary rather than loud clubs where the music rings in your blood. Seeing the gathered instruments and the band patches on everyone’s clothes made her feel so much more at home already.
Fifteen minutes later they were loaded into the van, and Tyler was carefully pulling out onto Comm Ave. Traffic was heavy. Somehow Cleo has forgotten that they were leaving right in the middle of rush hour.
“Probably could have planned this better, huh?” Tyler said as he tried to merge into a turning lane.
Edie shrugged. “Still gets us out of the city faster,” they said. “Once we’re on the pike we’ll be going against the traffic.”
A Prius inched into the lane in front of Tyler and he paused to avoid hitting it. Immediately the car behind them laid in their horn. Without even glancing back, Edie rolled down the passenger side window and flipped the other guy off.
“Some college kid asshole,” they muttered, rolling the window back up.
The van turned and gradually crawled toward the highway entrance. Cleo leaned her head against the headrest and sighed. Now that they were moving, she was aware of how tired she was.
“Podcast or music?” Edie asked, turning around to consult Cleo and Ryan in the back.
Cleo shrugged. “I’m good with either.”
“Music,” Ryan said. “I can’t do voices this early.”
“Agreed,” Tyler said. “Also, doesn’t the driver usually pick the music?”
“If you can reach the aux cord before me,” Edie said lazily, already plugging in their phone.
Cleo didn’t recognize the music that started playing seconds later. It was some kind of electronic music she wasn’t familiar with. But it was nice, calm and rounded, with just enough of a spark to keep it from becoming monotonous.
Traffic cleared up a little way onto the highway, and soon they were moving steadily away from the city skyline. Cleo rested her head on the window and gazed out wispy clouds above them.
She wondered what Jenna was doing right now. Did she go back to bed after Cleo left? Was she still asleep in Cleo’s bed as Cleo moved further and further away? And fuck, what had she been thinking, letting that love slip out?
Did she actually love Jenna? These days, it felt like Cleo was irritated with her more often than not. So, again, was it love or panic?
She’d decide later when she wasn’t so tired.