Here Comes Princess Daniella
Chris was the first of the Fray to visit Orlando, and, after the information he had heard from Moira-Selene, he made sure that he was the first.
The first thing that Chris noticed was that his roommate was awfully chipper for having a bump on the head.
“What kind of drugs do they have you on, mate?” Chris asked in disbelief. “And where can I get a doggy bag?”
Orlando felt good enough to chuckle. Chris continued to gape at him from the side of the bed, wondering just what had happened when Claudia-Michelle appeared. So finally, after making sure that there were no stray ears around, Chris just came right out and asked.
The answer? “Nothing. We just talked.”
Chris gave him a bland stare.
“What? I’m not messing around with you. We just talked, Chris. Nothing more.”
Another bland stare followed. “Don’t mess around with me, Bloom. I was the one who promised with my own precious blood that I would take that secret to the grave with me. And now you’re holding out.”
The nurse breezed in with lunch on a cart, and the duo quieted until the meal was arranged and the nurse was gone. Then Chris pounced on him again.
“I’m going to wager a guess that Claudia-Michelle wants to resume her affair with you,” Chris ventured.
Orlando picked up his fork and idly played with something that looked suspiciously like mashed potatoes. But he wasn’t too sure. “Claudia just tossed the idea out of us having lunch together. Totally platonic.”
Chris crossed his arms over his chest. “And with that young woman, the platonic leads to the bedroom.”
Orlando paused, his expression blank, but stormy in the eyes. “I hope you’re not making the assumption that Claudia is easy.”
Chris guffawed. “The only thing that’s easy with the girls in the Thomas family is a beating.” He sighed, sensing that Claudia-Michelle’s honor meant something to Orlando. A very big something. “I’m sorry, mate. I just…” He shook his head and let the sentence trail off. He didn’t bother to say whatever he was about to say.
“I have a date with Johanna Friday night,” Orlando told Chris. “She’s coming to Soul Love Live to watch you guys perform.”
Listening to Orlando’s tone of voice as he relayed this particular piece of information, Chris frowned. “And you say this with the same tone one would say, oh, I have a prostate exam Friday afternoon at two.” Orlando rolled his eyes. “I take it you’re about to drop the axe on this relationship.”
“Whether I am or not is my business,” Orlando said firmly.
“You know what?” Chris strolled to the window. “It didn’t register to me until just now what Johanna saw in you. Or vice versa.” He shrugged. “Well accept for the sex.” He turned to look at his friend. “She’s using you.”
“I wasn’t aware that I had anything to use, Chris.”
“You’re the best friend of the little sister of the richest woman in the universe,” Chris explained, watching his friend’s face slacken thoughtfully. “Not to mention our aforementioned wealthy woman is engaged to an up-and-coming movie producer. Very convenient, isn’t it?”
Orlando stared at him. He was quite aware that he had crossed a line that teetered on the edge of their friendship. The silence was enough to tell him on which side of that precarious line he stood.
The door burst open, and Gretchen and Samantha, both clad in work clothing, rushed in. Like a wave of feminine worry, they crashed upon him and covered him in kisses, hugs, and apologies. They commented on the bland hospital food, the lack of color on the walls, the nose-searing smell of medicine and sick people.
It was Gretchen who noticed that Orlando hardly said anything.-
Green eyes searching his face, Gretchen slumped down to the bed. “Lando, what’s the matter? Aren’t you glad to see us?”
Determined to erase that despondent look from her eyes, Orlando clasped her head in his hands and kissed her softly on the lips. He reached out for Samantha and did the same to her. Gretchen blinked at her cousin, head spinning from her second kiss from Orlando within a few days. (She was trying her best not to think about that.) Samantha frowned at Orlando.
“I’m just a little tired, that’s all,” Orlando told them. “And my head hurts a bit.” He squeezed their hands. “But I am glad that you’re here.”
“Good,” Gretchen, relieved, said with a nod.
Samantha was not convinced. “That’s all good and well and all, but what’s wrong with him?” She thumbed at Chris, who was standing at the window.
Neither man said a word.
Samantha crossed her arms over her chest. “You two Neanderthals were arguing about Johanna before we walked in, weren’t you?” When her inquiry was met with silence, she walked over to Chris and dragged him over to Orlando’s hospital bed. “Apologize to each other right now.” Chris opened his mouth but Samantha cut him off. “I don’t give a damn. Squash it.”
In grudging voices, Orlando and Chris apologized to each other. When that was over, Gretchen nudged Samantha. After a roll of her eyes, Samantha muttered, “I guess I’d better apologize, too.”
A little amused, Orlando peered up at Samantha. “Apologize? For what, dearest Samantha Brittany?”
At Orlando’s wry tone, Samantha’s cornflower blue eyes narrowed. “Do I really have to go through this?” Orlando just stared innocently at her. “You’re enjoying this, you prick.”
“This kind of thing only comes once in a lifetime,” Orlando insisted. He winced, remembering the back of his head. “Hopefully.” He took Samantha’s hand again. It was smoother than one would have thought. But that was Sam for you. Delightfully unexpected. “I promise I won’t make fun of you.” After a moment: “Much.”
“Orlando!” Gretchen scolded.
“Oh leave him alone, Gretchen,” Chris groaned. “He’s entitled to mess her around a bit. She did knock him in the back of the head with his own bedroom door.”
Having been reminded of the incident again, Samantha glowered at Chris. Orlando cleared his throat to shift her attention back to him. She sighed heavily and apologized for…the incident. Orlando lifted her palm to his lips and accepted her apology.
“It was very good and heartfelt,” Orlando said in a tone that bordered on wry. “You should try it again sometime.” A silent moment passed, then he added, “Oh, and I forgot to mention that Johanna will be joining us at Soul Love Live on Friday night.”
Samantha’s eyes flashed. Gretchen looked downright scared of what could break out in the hospital room at that moment. Smoothly, as if he were born to do it, Orlando brought Samantha’s hand up for another palm buss.
“I love you, Samantha,” he told her softly.
That seemed to do it. The flash diminished, and Gretchen sighed with relief. One friend in the hospital was enough.
“Fine,” Samantha said. “But your first multi-million-dollar paycheck is mine. For pain and suffering.”
* * *
That Friday night, the Fray was set to perform at Soul Love Live. Before they went out on stage, they hung out in the VIP area of SLL, sipping on non-alcoholic drinks and talking among their friends. It was the first time that Johanna had been out amid the whole bunch of them, and already Gretchen had a headache.
She tried to give the girl the benefit of the doubt at Orlando’s second insistence, but the truth was, she really did dislike the girl. Johanna was as snobby as a French poodle with pigtails and ribbons. Pink, no doubt.
The conversation varied. They talked about numerous things, including their daily routines. Miranda, who hadn’t had the chance to hang out with the gang in a while, decided she would feel out this Johanna character herself. So far, her friends’ descriptions were correct, but she wasn’t going to condemn someone completely on hearsay.
“So Johanna,” Miranda began, “are your people from here?”
Johanna raised an eyebrow. “My people?” she asked warily.
“Uh yeah, chica,” Miranda replied smoothly. “My people—my kin, I mean—are from Spain and Puerto Rico. I’m part of the first generation of American-born children in my family.”
“So are me and my sisters,” added Gretchen. “And Sam and Jen and Cassandra.”
Chris shook his head with amusement. “You can tell there’s some Spanish fire in those Thomas cousins—right Orlando?”
Gretchen laughed, remembering a certain morning when Jessica chased Orlando down the stairs at her mother’s house with a Louisville Slugger. “Poor Orlando. I don’t think he quite got over that incident.”
“Well, if you were chased down a flight of stairs by a woman who was half-asleep with dangerous aim, then you’d be quite traumatized, too,” Orlando contended.
“Hey, Jessica Thomas could impale a piñata in her sleep,” Megami remarked, and her relatives agreed.
Samantha, who was in a pretty good mood considering certain members of their group, shuddered with laughter beside Gretchen, who was trying not to laugh. “Not to mention,” Gretchen added while Samantha had to lean on her, “that Orlando had forgotten one important little detail while he was fleeing for his life.”
“Like what?” Orlando groaned as Chris looked at him, then Samantha, then Gretchen for answers. “Aw come on! There was something that you didn’t tell me when you recapped this event?”
“Orlando had a little—” Orlando kicked the giggling Samantha under the table playfully. “Fine, fine. I won’t talk about it.”
Chris declared that he would find out what really happened amid Samantha’s vehement protests that he wouldn’t, and Miranda directed her question again at Johanna.
“According to my parents, some of my ancestors made the voyage here from England to move to the colonies,” Johanna replied. “So I can say that I am a descendant of the original settlers. I’m an American, through and through.” She pointedly looked at Miranda as she said this, and Miranda felt a bit surprised. Not daunted, however, and she officially dubbed the girl a snob.
“Well,” Melanie began with a very serious voice as Gretchen picked up her glass of water, “It’s like what my mama used to tell me. A horse is a horse, of course, of course.”
Chris choked on his drink. Samantha and Miranda pursed their lips together, while Megami’s mouth dropped open. Gretchen, meanwhile, was so stunned that the water in her mouth came out in a spray all over Orlando and Johanna. Well, mostly Johanna.
Chris started coughing and convulsing, and Samantha slapped his back and tried not to laugh. Megami excused herself to the bathroom where she could laugh in peace. Melanie brought her drink to her lips and smiled into her glass.
Johanna, meanwhile, was not happy about Gretchen’s comedic spit take. She started squealing in anger and Orlando tried to calm her down (and wipe her down, but that, honestly, was making her madder).
“No, I will not calm down!” she cried. “That little bitch spat all over me!” –
Suddenly, the temperature of the room dropped a few degrees. All laughter (and the semblance of it) stopped. Samantha’s back stiffened, while Chris scooted back while Gretchen’s face turned red.
“Excuse me?” Gretchen asked in a low voice. “What the fuck did you call me?”
Johanna whirled on her defiantly, hands on hips. The bartender nearby started to say something, but a figure at the door raised her manicured hand and quieted him.
“I called you a bitch,” Johanna replied in a tone that indicated that she was willing to fight her on it. “Because that’s what you are, you little half-breed, uncouth piece of scum!”
Oh shit. Samantha stood up to defend her cousin, but Gretchen raised her hand to hold her back. She decided that the best way to handle this would be with words. She didn’t want to debone or desilicone her buddy’s, well, girlfriend (?). It would break a couple of rules, and possibly the whole VIP lounge.
“If you want to find a bitch, Johanna,” Gretchen began, “you’d better get out your mirror before you get seriously hurt. I don’t know if you realize this, but you’re outnumbered, and if you try anything those silicone mountains on your chest will become mediocre molehills. So do us all a favor: take your sorry ass out of here—and your ridiculous horse laugh—and never come back. Because we won’t be welcoming you back here.”
Frustrated that Gretchen hadn’t laid a hand on her and given her cause to whine to Orlando, Johanna grabbed her purse and prepared to make a hasty exit, calling out to Orlando over her shoulder.
A tall figure in the doorway stopped her.
A stylishly-dressed, steely-eyed Daniella Thomas gave Johanna a withering look, then started clapping.
“Bravo, hermanita,” she declared. She looked to Johanna. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I think you’re about to get the boot. Or,” she added with a laugh. “A boot in the ass. Either way, you should leave.”
Johanna growled. Danie stepped around her and came face-to-face to Orlando.
“Danie,” he said simply. Well, with Danie staring at him that way, that was all he could say.
“Orlando, it’s nice to see you after all this time, but I’m very ashamed of you.” Orlando opened his mouth to speak, but Danie placed her finger on his lips. “Hush. You’ll just get into more trouble with your booty call.”
Johanna turned around and huffed. “How dare you?” she demanded.
Danie shrugged. “Sorry, dear,” she said, voice dripping with disdain, “but I have to be real with you. I wouldn’t be right if I wasn’t.” She turned back to Orlando. “Do you mind if I have a word with you outside?” –
Orlando opened his mouth, but Danie grabbed him by shirt collar and dragged him out of the room. The others could only watch and pray to any deity that Danie wouldn’t kill him.
She dragged him through the pulsing club and to the outside where club-hoppers stood in line for entry. The three-hundred pound bouncer saw the movement of Danie dragging Orlando out of the corner of his eye and turned to watch. He wanted to intervene, but thought better of it. That man was on his own. There was no way in hell that he would cross that woman.
Danie slung Orlando against the wall and stood before him, nostrils flaring and hands on her hips.
“Orlando Jonathan Blanchard Bloom, who the fuck is that brainless little twit you’ve suddenly attached yourself at the dick to?” she demanded. “First of all, you should be ashamed of yourself for letting her insult your friends and run you like you’re a track in the Summer Olympics.”
“How the fuck do you come off yelling at me?” Orlando shot back. “You don’t know what’s going on enough to pass judgment on me. And you’re certainly not the pillar of morality here.”
“Damn right, I’m not, and damn you to the last circle of Hell for even referring to that—and we both know what,” Danie countered. “But I’m loyal at least.” She paused in her tirade. “Let me guess. The chick is your first ‘girlfriend’—and I use the term loosely because it’s obvious that you’re just purely having her around for a good time—in a while, and you want her to assimilate, but no one likes her, but you, being rock-bottom, dumbass stupid, and naïve to boot, figure if you can make her one of the gang. Guess what, Bloom? You can’t. She’s a fucking snob and those types do not—I repeat—do not want to change.”
“Says a girl who knows, Bloom.”
“You don’t know—” Orlando broke off when Danie punched him in the stomach. He doubled over, trying to catch his breath and keep his vision from blurring. “Dammit, Danie—”
“Dammit, you’re making this too hard. Now listen or it’ll be your balls. That woman in there is not for you. It’s obvious. She’s breaking through the bond you have with your bestest friends. When it’s all said and done, do you really want to say that you were separated by a woman?”
And Danie, he had to admit, was right. Chris, Samantha, and Gretchen were his best friends, his biggest supporters, his truest critics. Johanna, while she had seemed to be what he wanted, was vain, shallow, and selfish. The misgivings he’d had for weeks brought him to the conclusion he’d been dreading.
“Aha!” Danie exclaimed. He looked at her, shocked, but realized that he shouldn’t have been. “There we are.” She patted his shoulder as he straightened. “Sorry that we almost came to blows, but…” She smiled sheepishly. “Jess told me to do it.”
Orlando rolled his eyes. “Oh sure. So you got a royal summons to come and kick my ass?”
Danie remarked that he needed it, and hugged him tightly.
“Danie,” he said in a tight voice. “I…can’t…breathe…once again…thanks…to you…”
“That’s what’s I’m here for. That and keeping undesirable elements away.”
Orlando could do nothing but laugh and follow her back into the club. Danie was silly but she meant well. And that was what he needed.