The Chaos Begins
In a blinding flash. That’s usually how it starts, no matter how many times you’ve done the same thing, over and over. There is a moment before the door opens to reveal your face to the public, like the clichéd calm before the storm, and then it begins. Shockingly, rendering you frozen.
It took a while for Jessica Simpson to get used to these parties. It seemed that, over time, the press grew more virulent, seeping into every pore of an entertainer’s skin, and now that the twenty-first century had descended upon them, Jessica was oppressed by the ever-constant presence of the public’s powerful messengers. They wanted to know about her life, even down to the toilet paper that she used to wipe her ass with. It was still hard to get used to, even after three albums.
People called out her name. It was the ultimate symptom of adoration. It continued to overwhelm her, and sometimes it exasperated her. But she continued on.
She hung on to Nick’s arm as they made their descent down the red carpet. She could feel that he too was anxious to end the procession down the red carpet, but he dutifully smiled and posed for the flashing cameras. She posed for pictures, smiled until her face felt like it was going to crack.
They made their passage and into the stylish Blue Rendezvous for the party. The party was held for The Fray, and the music group had just released their second album to much success. The relatively new club was hopping with celebrities, music, and liquor. The first greeted her with smiles and handshakes and promises for lunch; the second made her head pound; the third had already rendered some of the guests sloppy and boisterous.
Nick leaned down and addressed her as “Hot in Herre” shook the walls. “Honey, I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.”
Jessica’s lips turned up in a smile. “Don’t take too long.”
He squeezed her hand, a gesture that quelled some of the discontent, then walked off.
If anyone had noticed Jessica at that point, they would have seen a happy young blonde wearing designer blue jeans and a trendy silk tank top embroidered with beads. They would have commented upon her smile as someone came and started a conversation with her. It was genuine, that was no doubt, but it was covering for her real feelings.
She was worried, but she didn’t want anyone to know. She preferred to keep this one to herself.
Things were not perfect between her and Nick, but she expected that. Their lives had been opened to the people like some kind of storybook existence, and the media attention had fractured more than she cared to admit. Her family had been supportive during the nights she called, crying, wanting to leave, and unsure of the next step she could take. During the last couple of days, they had reached a truce that Jessica wanted to strengthen. It made her slightly sick that she and Nick had been fighting; the funny thing was that now she couldn’t remember what had inspired the fight. It had probably been mundane, and probably stupid, as little things seemed to plague them these days.
CaCee Cobb, her best friend and personal assistant, was back at her home sick so she couldn’t attend the event with Jessica and Nick. CaCee had been excited about the Fray album launch party, and she ordered Jessica to go and made Jessica promise she would get Chris Parker to autograph their new CD for her. With a laugh, and speculation about who Chris was dating, Jessica clinched the promise for her best friend.
Jessica mingled around the bar, not wanting to immerse herself into the party until Nick came back. Even though she enjoyed parties a time or two, this time, she felt like she would have rather been at home. Still, she greeted people and surveyed the guests to see who came–and who didn’t.
When Jessica was alone for a moment, a woman came up to the bar who caught her attention. She was petite with long, shiny black hair. Jessica vaguely remembered her attractive Asian face from some magazines. Her lithe frame was draped in designer labels, and pearls even hung from her neck. She grinned and waved as someone called her name. Stopping at the bar, she ordered mineral water; she was a designated driver that night to a couple of her less-than-prudent drunk friends.
Before going away, the woman stopped and stared at Jessica. She grinned with recognition, placing the glass with clink onto the bar, and turned to her.
“You’re Jessica Simpson, aren’t you?” she asked. Jessica opened her mouth to answer her, but then she shook her head. “No, don’t answer that. You get that a lot, right?” They shared a laugh, and Jessica felt some of her inner turmoil settle. “You shouldn’t answer that question, either.” She held out her hand. “I’m Midori Tsukimori.”
Jessica shook her head. “Nice to meet you–” Then she paused, realizing who Midori Tsukimori was. Yes, the young half-Japanese, half-Chinese woman had been a model once upon a time in her more vain days, but she had sobered somewhat and became a world-famous and much sought-after photographer. Midori Tsukimori was an elusive figure, and only photographed by invitation. Being photographed these days by Midori Tsukimori was akin to getting passage to the Moon.
“Are you–?” Jessica began.
Midori smiled gently. “Guilty.” She shook her head in amusement. “It’s funny, isn’t it? Two big stars like us, star-struck by one another. You’d think we’d be used to all this star-gazing by now.”
“This does seem really silly,” Jessica agreed. “I mean, deep down, we’re just normal people just like everyone else.” But then Jessica’s giddiness got the best of her. “But you’re so talented! I can’t help but be a little struck.”
Midori laughed at that. “Could you believe that someone the other day asked me if I ever used a disposable camera?” Midori asked. “It’s all very silly, like you said. I feel like I’m constantly misunderstood.” She sighed at that point. “And I know you’ve got it worse than me. I’m not going to make any allusions to poultry and seafood…”
Jessica groaned. That too grated on her nerves at the moment. But then she laughed at Midori’s expression. Midori laughed, too. Kylie Minogue was crooning over the speakers about not getting someone out of her head. Nick had not returned from the bathroom yet, but Jessica hadn’t noticed at the moment. Without CaCee at the party, Jessica had no one she could talk to until Midori had showed up. It renewed her spirit.
“Do you know the Fray?” Midori asked suddenly, breaking through her thoughts. Jessica admitted in the negative. Midori gently took her elbow.
“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” she declared. “I promise, you’ll like them.”
“If they’re anything like their music…”
Midori gave a knowing smile that Jessica knew nothing about, and led her through the pulsing throng of party-goers.
The three members of the Fray were in a corner of the room. The spiky-haired blonde, Samantha Dunne, wore a jade-green embroidered tunic and jeans. Her spiky-haired counterpart, Chris Parker, wore a shirt that attested to his love for the ladies, a dark-colored blazer, and jeans. The raven-haired ingénue, Gretchen Thomas, wore a striped white and lime-green tube top, with a white fedora and white denim mini. When Midori and Jessica arrived, the trio was singing along with Lenny Kravitz and enjoying themselves tremendously.
Let’s go and see the stars
The Milky Way or even Mars
Well, it could just be ours
Let’s fade into the Sun
Let your spirit fly, we are one
Just for a little fun
Oh, oh, oh yeah
Chris grabbed Samantha and Gretchen by the waist and kissed them both. Samantha rolled her eyes in amusement and broke away. Gretchen, who had a bit of alcohol in her system, giggled.
“I don’t think we should be kissing in public, Chris,” Gretchen joked. “Then what would everyone think?”
Chris gave her a mischievous grin. “That we’re making more than music, love.”
Samantha fought the next eyeroll. She spied Midori nearby and walked to her. She hesitated a moment when she saw that her friend was standing with Jessica Simpson.
It wasn’t that Samantha hated Jessica or anything. The truth was, Samantha was a little put off by what she had dubbed “those flashy types” (as she had said in an interview in Rolling Stone) since she was a minimalist by nature. She wore little makeup in public, and only a little more in professional shots. She was P!nk to Jessica’s Britney Spears, in that way. But she had enough breeding and good sense to be polite. Besides, she had never formally met Jessica Simpson. She might actually be…nice. Or something. You can’t judge a shirt by its labeling, right?
“We were wondering where you went off to,” Samantha said to Midori.
“I got a little thirsty,” Midori admitted. She gestured to Jessica. “Sam, you know Jessica, right?”
“Who doesn’t?” Samantha held out a hand. “Samantha Dunne, one third of the Fray. Nice to finally meet you, Jessica.”
“Same to you,” Jessica responded. “I’ve heard your album. It’s great. I really liked that song that Chris sings–”
“Oh, ‘Becomes the Woman,’” Samantha clarified. “That’s one of my favorites, too. He wrote it about a friend of ours. It’s quite fitting.” Gretchen came up and wrapped an arm around her cousin’s shoulder. Samantha turned to her. “I think you should lay off the alcohol, Gretch.”
Gretchen laughed at that. “Look, I’m more drunk off this crazy thing called fame than I am on these silly drinks.” Samantha raised an eyebrow. “But since you are so worried about it, then I’ll watch my liquor.” She turned to Midori. “Tsukimori. Are you trying to recruit people for your calendar again?”
Midori laughed. “No. And that’s just a rumor anyway.” She winked. “Besides, Jessica over here had to meet you guys, so since I knew you personally, I brought her over.”
Gretchen eyes widened. She appeared just as struck by Jessica as Jessica had been by meeting Midori. She released her cousin and grabbed Jessica’s hand.
“Ohmigod, it’s THE Jessica Simpson!” she cried. “I’ve got all your albums. And your Dessert products? I swear, if I had a boyfriend, he’d have cavities or something.” Jessica laughed, a bit embarrassed and overwhelmed. “It’s so great to finally meet you! And your little sister kicks major ass, by the way. I’ve got her album, too.”
Samantha shook her head. “Gretchen, I think you’re scaring Jessica. Back off a little.”
Gretchen huffed. “Fine.” She addressed Jessica. “Sorry. I guess it’s the liquor.”
“No, it’s totally okay,” Jessica told her with a smile. “It’s great to know that a fellow musician appreciates…my work.”
“Good.” A new song rocked the walls and Gretchen clasped her hands together. “Now that we’ve gotten past that, I think we should dance. Come on!”
Nearby, Chris had been talking to Max Harris, a music producer and Samantha’s boyfriend. He spied Gretchen grabbing Samantha and Jessica. He yelled at the top of his lungs, “Get it on, ladies! I’ll be there in a second.”
Gretchen ignored him and kept her hold on Samantha and Jessica as they navigated their way through the pulsing throng of people dancing. Midori tried to follow along, and she held on to Samantha’s hand so she wouldn’t get lost. Gretchen paused after a moment and they danced.
You got me feeling hella good
So let’s just keep on dancing
You hold me just like you should
So I’m gonna keep on dancing
Somewhere, someone took a picture, but Jessica hardly noticed. She grooved with Gretchen, Samantha, and Midori, her worries lost. For a moment, she wasn’t Jessica Simpson Lachey–she was a young woman out at a club dancing with fellow members of the species.
It took Nick nearly fifteen minutes before he found his wife. When he came out of the bathroom, she was not where he had left her. He expected that, since the Blue Rendezvous was filled with drunk, happy people. But he couldn’t deny the hope that she would have still been waiting. And the nagging annoyance at the loud music, the dizzying guests.
He found her grinding with a young Asian woman and two members of the Fray. The last member, and the only male, danced up to them. Nick raised an eyebrow as he started grinding up on Jessica. A moment later, the raven-haired one slapped him away from Jessica, who was laughing, and told him to dance with her instead. Nick wove his way through the pulsing, trying to bring himself to calm. It was a club, and people danced at clubs. It wasn’t like they were on the floor having sex right in front of his eyes.
The spike of jealousy was probably attributed to the current state of things. Though, Nick was not consciously aware of this.
When the dj switched tracks, Nick used the interim to declare his presence. He placed a hand on Jessica’s forearm. Chris caught the wary look in Nick’s eyes and raised an eyebrow. He was well used to jealous boyfriends–and husbands. Samantha just kept on dancing while Gretchen went wide-eyed.
“Oh MY God–it’s Nick Lachey!” Gretchen exclaimed. She rushed forward and kissed him on the cheek. Samantha groaned. Jessica just blinked. Midori went slackjawed.
“Gretch–lay off the Sex on the Beach next time,” Samantha advised as she tore her cousin away from Nick. Gretchen blinked coquettishly at Nick. Nick couldn’t help feeling flattered. Jessica was stuck between feeling amused and exasperated.
“Sorry,” Gretchen said to Nick. “You’re on my top-ten list of the hottest guys on the planet. I just had to do it.” She sighed luxuriously. “If I died tomorrow…”
Nick chuckled. “Don’t die on my account. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the death of such a talented young woman.”
“Aw.” Gretchen blushed prettily. “You’re such a lucky girl, Jessica.” She paused thoughtfully. “Do you have a brother?”
“He’s married,” Jessica informed her.
She snapped her fingers in regret. “Shit. I guess I’ll have to go with someone else on my list.”
Chris patted her on the shoulder. “Sorry love, but Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Tom Welling, and Will Smith are all married. And I think Vin Diesel won’t walk your way, if you catch my meaning. But Paul Walker might be free.”
Gretchen looked more than a little bummed. “Oh fucking A. Johnny Depp was my first choice. I just wanted to eat him up in Chocolat.” She looked to Jessica and Nick. “Didn’t you? I mean, wasn’t he just scrumptious? Those beautiful brown eyes, that sexy dark hair…”
“I think I’ll refrain from eating Johnny Depp, thanks,” Nick remarked. “I don’t think my wife would appreciate it.”
Feeling sick with the image of anyone eating Johnny Depp like he was Gilbert Grape in her head, Samantha spoke quickly, wanting to change the subject before Gretchen actually laid down her top-ten list. “Um, yeah, I don’t think any of us would. So, um, I think we should sit down for a while. I’m hungry. How about you guys?”
* * *
Later on that night, when Jessica and Nick returned to the relative peace of their home, Jessica made a decision. This silly dispute needed to be over and done with. It needed to be forgotten. She wanted to be with her husband, and nothing was going to stop her, not even a ridiculous fight about…whatever it had been.
Once they had sat down, things had gotten a little easier for them. The tension between Nick and Chris had eased, and Jessica found herself liking Gretchen’s sense of humor and how she played off of Samantha. A photographer had taken a few pictures of them, but the good company had easily pushed that away. On the way home, she noticed that Nick spoke to her a little. Not completely to her, yet, as they talked about the party and the Fray. But Jessica could feel the truce strengthening. She wanted it solid.
While Nick was shaving, she wrapped her arms around his waist. She saw him smile a little in the mirror.
“Can we just make up already?” Jessica asked. She even missed the smell of him. Yes, this had been a good idea. “I’m sick of being mad at you for something I don’t even remember.”
Nick turned on the faucet and cleaned off his cream-filled razor. “Well, I remember–”
“Nick,” Jessica whined.
Seeing that it would do no good if he pressed the matter, he sighed and wiped his face. “Fine, fine. We’re made up. Happy now?”
Jessica’s voice came from behind him, muffled by his back. “Yes. I am very very happy.”
He turned and embraced her. It was another moment amid a myriad of other private moments that made him cherish the relationship he’d harvested with Jessica. There was no glamour involved here. No perfect lighting or hackneyed script. It was just two people, a man and a woman, who loved each other. Love could be as mundane as it could be exciting. All Nick wanted at the moment was normalcy. And Jessica, too.
As they lay in bed together, emotions stirred up in both of them. The pain of withdrawal became too intense to ignore. After they had made love, sleep in each other’s embrace came like a soothing balm.
“Fly Away” performed by Lenny Kravitz. Written by Lenny Kravitz.“Hella Good” performed by No Doubt. Written by Chad Hugo, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, and Tony Kanal.
GRETCHEN’S TOP TEN LIST OF THE HOTTEST GUYS IN THE WORLD (to date)
10 Benjamin Bratt
9 David Beckham (Can kick a ball through my net anytime!)
8 Vin Diesel
7 Paul Walker
6 Nick Lachey
5 Taye Diggs (I mean, damn–did you SEE Brown Sugar?!)
4 Brad Pitt
3 Will Smith (The shower scene from I, Robot is reason enough.)
2 Tom Welling
1 Johnny Depp
(But this all could change…)