Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chapter 21: Vibes


It makes no difference that the Café Rio website indicates that there is no Café Rio anywhere near San Diego.  There is one.  As a matter of fact, it’s conveniently located near Adam’s house.  And, as another matter of fact, this is precisely where Kris was when he kissed Tori.  On the mouth.  Lips parted.  A little tongue.   
Half an hour before Kris had had absolutely no intention of following through on the plan Tori had laid out in the car on the way over.  No intention at all.  But what Kris was beginning to realize was that Tori, though seemingly short-changed in the smarts department, was surprisingly shrewd and cunning when it came to getting what she wanted.  And through no fault of his own, Kris had become a key player in getting Tori her little heart’s desire.  
Looking back now it was almost silly to think that he fought it.   Going against Tori was a lost cause from the get-go.  But fight it he did….for a while. 
Kris had stood in line deciding on what to order.  He usually went with the sweet pork salad with black beans & rice, no pico, tomatilla dressing, and extra tortilla strips.   However, knowing Simon was on his way made him think twice about his ole standby.  Salads weren’t exactly manly after all (even if a Café Rio salad was the most un-salad-like salad ever made).  And Kris would never forget how much Simon ridiculed him when, during his one four hour shift at Chuck E. Cheese, Kris ate his “on the job meal” completely from the salad bar.  You would think Simon had never seen a man eat a piece of lettuce before the way he berated Kris and attempted to emasculate him.   No, Kris wasn’t going to put himself through that again.  He ordered a much more manlier sweet pork burrito—enchilada style, for good measure. 
“Um, I’ll have the salad….oh no, no meat.  Just the beans, rice and cheese….” Kris could hear Tori ordering behind him.   It was a good reminder of her ridiculous food issues.  Just what he needed to firm up his decision to absolutely not help her out of her love triangle catastrophe.   After all, what did he have to gain here?  Nothing.  How would this help him move closer to a meaningful relationship with MJ?  It wouldn’t.   Why would he want to damage his relationship with Simon, his only link to the music business?  He didn’t.  Did he want a drink with his burrito?  He looked over at the drink choices and spotted Diet Dr. Pepper on tap.  Yes.  Yes he did.  Kris was feeling like he had all the right answers today.
Kris paid for their food, filled up their drinks and joined Tori at a table. 
“Now remember, when we see Simon pull up you need to skooch your chair over here and look into my eyes all lovey-dovey and stuff, I’ll do the rest,” Tori said as she dumped her dressing on her salad and began mixing it all together.
“I’m. Not. Helping. You. With. This,” Kris said as seriously as he possibly could, emphasizing each word.  “I already told you in the car.  No friggin way am I getting involved here.”
“Kris, puulleeeeeeeaaaaazzzeeeee,” Tori said in the whiniest baby voice Kris had ever heard.  She was stamping her feet under the chair a little as she said it as well.  The people at the table next to them looked over.
“No…stop” Kris said, putting his hand on hers in an attempt to steady her body from bouncing up and down.
“Exactly.  Perfect.  Just like that.  But with more eye contact,” Tori said looking down Kris’ hand on hers.
Kris recoiled his hand immediately as if he had just touched Parking Lot Willy’s toothbrush.  “I’m not kidding here, Tori!” Kris was getting agitated now.  He decided the best way to convince her was to simply be honest. “Look, judging from your comment earlier about MJ, you’ve probably figured out that I really, really like her.  I really, really want to get to know her better.  And I really, really don’t want to screw anything up with her more than I already have.” 
Tori looked at him with an expression of complete sympathy and understanding.  Good, thought Kris, maybe this is working and she’ll leave me out of it.
Tori’s sympathetic expression vanished and her eyes narrowed.  “It won’t screw anything up with MJ, believe me.  My plan is foolproof!  MJ will never even know why Simon has called off the wedding.  Besides, MJ has adored you since the second she met you.  No wait, since BEFORE she even met you.  She’s always known what she’s wanted in life.” Tori looked down at her salad, “I envy her that.”  The last sentence was uttered so quietly Kris could barely hear it. 
Gosh dangit, Kris thought.  He’d never seen Tori look so genuine.  Do not let her suck you in, he told himself.  She does look kind of pathetic sitting over there eating a meatless salad though…no no no!  Stop it.  You’re not doing this.
Tori looked up at him.  “Why are you squeezing your eyes shut & shaking your head?” she asked, back to her usual self.
“Was I?  Well, it’s probably because you’re making me insane,” Kris said clenching his jaw.  “Do you not see what is at stake here?  For ME?  Look, I’m sorry Jimmy showed up and you are now having second thoughts about marrying Simon.  I really am.  I know what it’s like to think you love one person only to realize you…” Kris hesitated, “…love someone else. I mean, no one understands more than I do.  But, even if MJ weren’t a factor here, there is no way I’m jeopardizing what I have going with Simon.  He’s my manager.  He’s my only link to the music business.  I’m not throwing that away for you Tori.  I’m just not.”
Tori laughed. 
“Why are you laughing?  I’m srs here,” Kris said, even more agitated than before.
“I’m laughing because you’re such a sucker,” Tori said, still laughing as she wiped her mouth with a napkin.  “Simon is hardly a manager in the music biz,” she continued, making air quotes as she said “music biz.”  “What was the last gig he booked for you?  Huh?  Karaoke night at The Shack?  What music producers have you met with where Simon has set up the meeting?  Any?  Didn’t think so.” She sat back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest, practically daring him to answer.
Kris stared at her.  He could hear the words coming out of her mouth but they made no sense.  Of course Simon had helped further his career.  He had… well, that one time he… actually, come to think of it, all he had done was criticize Kris’ music and told him to get a better haircut.  Kris had to admit his new I’m-Not-Trying-Too-Hard-Disheveled-Do was a brilliant move style-wise but what had it done for him career-wise?  Anything?  Simon had made all the arrangements when Adam and Kris recorded their demo tape but even at the time Kris wondered if they were just in the basement of one of Simon’s friend’s mom’s houses.  The equipment was pathetic and the sound quality awful.  And, as far as he knows the only person to ever hear that recording was MJ. 
“Don’t get me wrong,” Tori said, leaning forward, “Simon wants to be a manager more than anything. He loves music and he thinks you and Adam are superdee dooper talented.  But being the youngest manager in the history of Chuck E. Cheese doesn’t happen because you’re spending all your time helping someone else crack into the music industry, ya know?”
“But what about that $2000 Adam and I gave him a couple of months ago as an advance?” Kris asked, still a bit bewildered. “He said he needed it for his travel expenses for when he goes up to LA to promote us.”
“Oh….I don’t know….” Tori said as she absent-mindedly began to twist her engagement ring around her finger.
Kris could feel the blood rushing to his face.  He knew exactly where that two grand went.  He gripped the sides of the table in an effort to keep himself from throwing a chair across the restaurant.  Breathe, just breathe, he repeated to himself while at the same time picturing himself choking Simon until his pompous British accent no longer existed.  He obviously had no proof of this but he knew it was the truth.  All the little inconsistencies he had previously ignored instantaneously added up in his mind to form the whole of his realization.  Tori was telling the truth.  Even if she chose this moment to tell him just to get him to go along with her plan it was still the truth.   Now the question was what is he going to do about it?
Kris needed to walk around.  He needed to think.  He got up, without saying a word to Tori, and went into the bathroom.  He got out his iPhone to send a text to Adam.  He slid his finger across the screen to unlock it and immediately saw the text he had typed out to MJ but had never sent: MJ, I desperately want to hold your hand.  I ache to hold your hand.  I can barely think straight when I’m around you and your hand is within my reach—Kris was so annoyed with himself.  He hated it when he didn’t send texts right away.  Now, after all this time had passed, this text was going to be so stupid.  But at the same time he didn’t want her to think that he had forgotten about her.  He backspaced the entire text and decided to lighten the mood a little: Will your hand be available for the holding sometime this evening?  My hand’s schedule has been completely cleared and anxiously awaits your reply.
Send.
Kris’ small smile that had crept onto his face while thinking of MJ vanished as he remembered why he had checked his phone in the first place.  He went to Adam’s name and typed out a text: Dooooood, have you heard anything from Simon about his trips to LA?  I was just thinking he probably should have given us an update or something by now.
Send.
Kris didn’t want to say anything too damning over text.  What he really wanted to do was talk to Adam in person and figure out what their next move should be.  He hoped this text would at least get Adam thinking. 
He stood against the bathroom wall for a few minutes hoping either MJ or Adam would text him back but neither did.  As the seconds ticked by, Kris’ anger rose steadily.  He kept replaying in his mind all the things Simon had said to him in the past.  He thought of all the times Simon said he was “this close” to getting them a meeting with Sony Records and how his “contact down at RCA was very interested in Kris’ vibe.”  Who says vibe anymore anyway?  No one.  Certainly not anyone who works at a major record label, that’s for sure.  Kris was practically shaking with rage at this point.   He pushed away from the bathroom wall determined to face punch Simon the first chance he got. 
As he walked back to the table he looked at Tori and realized his chance to hurt Simon was right in front of him.  What better way to get revenge than to break up his engagement?  Kris knew his unreasonable side had taken over but he didn’t care.   He was determined to put Simon in his place and the perfect opportunity was being served up to him as easily as a cheeseburger at a McDonald’s drive-thru. 
Kris scanned the parking lot through the glass wall which spanned the entire front & left side of the restaurant.   He saw Simon’s Ford Fusion pulling into a parking spot a few spots away from his pearl-toned Suzuki XL7. 
“Ok Tori, let’s do this,” Kris said as he touched her on the shoulder.
Tori turned and looked at him, eyes wide with surprise.  “You really mean it?” she asked, her voice squeaky with excitement.
“It’s now or never,” Kris said. “Look.”  He nodded toward the parking lot.  Tori turned and saw the back end of Simon’s car sticking out of its parking space.  Now Simon had opened his door and was getting out.
“Ok…ok…um….ok…” Tori said as she stood up to face Kris.  “Let’s just, um…ok…let’s just act like we’re talking and then I’ll…”
“Ssshhh….” Kris said, pressing his finger to Tori’s lips.  He looked out of the corner of his eye, waiting until he was sure Simon could see them through the glass.  He was inches away from Tori’s face and they stood toe-to-toe.  He felt the vibration of his phone receiving a text in his back pocket and heard the muffled doodledoot but decided to ignore it for now.  If it was Adam he didn’t really need to consult with him on what they should do next now.  “Just hold on a second here…” he said, patiently waiting for the perfect moment. 
            “Kris,” Tori said, “you don’t have to….”
“It’s ok,” Kris replied, with a devilishly handsome grin, “I want to.  I reeeeeeally, really want to.”  Just then he could feel Simon’s eyes on them through the plate glass window. 
“Showtime,” he said as he reached down and took a hold of Tori’s face in both his hands.  He pulled her to him and gently kissed her.  Unlike MJ, Tori was obviously experienced in kissing and she immediately began to kiss him back.  Their lips parted.  The classic “plum” kiss began, but only lasted a fraction of a second before they heard—
“What in the bloody hell is going on here?” Simon yelled as he swung open the glass doors leading into the restaurant. 
Kris and Tori broke away from each other and Kris turned to face Simon, shoulders back with confidence.  He could not wait to hear what that lying, cheating jagbag Simon had to say about this.   Simon remained standing in the doorway, unsure of how he should handle what he had just seen.  Kris smirked a little as he had never seen Simon unsure of anything.  Kris’ smirk vanished immediately, however, when he noticed Simon wasn’t the only one standing there in the doorway. 
MJ was there too.