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Old 09-06-2010, 12:38 AM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 20

FAN FICTION. Big fan, even bigger fiction. As in really, really, really made up. Comments encouraged - thanks!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Returning to her camera, Raye had to laugh in spite of herself. All six men were standing in a loose circle, speaking over each other two and three at a time, trying to piece together what had just happened. Paul was the first to see Raye approaching and used his booming tenor to quiet the group and address Raye.

“Hush, now! Quiet! Here’s Raye – let’s get this sorted.”

Their voices drifted away until a hush fell over the group and those with their backs to Raye turned to face her with the others. Their expressions ranged from bewilderment to mild amusement. Paul questioned Raye first.

“What in Heaven’s name were you going on about on Dad’s phone? Is there a problem? Larry says that Bono and Edge attracted a crowd.”

“We did no such – “ Bono began, before being cut off again by Paul.

“Just a second, Bono”, Paul told him, stressing each word and pointing at Raye. “She has the floor first.” Bono didn’t attempt to say another word but glanced at Raye with a look somewhere between exasperation and pleading.

“They didn’t do anything wrong, Paul”, she quickly answered as she closed the distance between herself and the group. “Nobody did. And never mind that entire phone call – it was just a distraction.”

“Okay”, Paul said slowly. “But what crowd is Larry talking about, then?”

“Amber - your dad’s neighbor - and some of her friends”, Raye began. “Only, I didn’t know it was them at first.”

Lionel spoke up at the mention of Amber’s name. “Did she cause some kind of trouble?”

“No, no, nothing like that”, Raye reassured him. “When I went to find Bono and Edge they were just standing down by the water, but I looked up the beach and saw a group of people headed for them. I couldn’t tell that it was Amber and her friends yet. I just saw a half dozen people coming at these two and you know how a crowd attracts a crowd.” Raye nodded her head in the direction of Bono and Edge, pausing just a second.

“I’ve been worried about one of the guys being recognized since we were at the pier yesterday. Wrightsville Beach gets celebrity visits from time to time, thanks the studio here in Wilmington, but still – it’s rare enough that the locals aren’t jaded about it. This isn’t New York or LA - the rich and famous attract attention and I’m pretty sure you would all like a few more days of anonymity.”

“It has been nice, for a change, to have some peace and quiet”, Edge agreed. Jutting his chin in the direction of the beach he asked Raye, “But what was all that with ‘Reggie Gregory’? And what about ‘Donnie’ and ‘Pete’?”

“Reggie who?” Larry wanted to know.

“Yeah,” Bono piped up at the same time, “when did Edge and I become ‘Donnie’ and “Pete’?”

Raye held her hands up before continuing, “Hang on, hang on. I’m trying to explain.”

Adam commented for the first time since Raye had returned to the cove, speaking patiently to his band mates. “Let her finish, guys. She’s trying to tell us.” He gently smiled at Raye then and told her, “Go on, love – finish explaining.”

“Thank you”, she told Adam. The tone of his voice and his selection of words sent a charge through her, but she forced herself to ignore it and continue with her explanation. “This might help”, she told the group and reached into her front pocket to retrieve the card that she’d given to Amber and Brooke earlier. Holding it between her index and middle finger like a cigarette, she waved it around as she began again.

“Like I was saying, I thought to myself yesterday that we might run into a problem if someone recognized the band while we were out here on the beach. And I kept thinking, ‘How can we get around that?’ So I went upstairs before dinner last night and printed up a, quote, business card with an alias that I’ve used a few times in the past: ‘Reggie Gregory’– “

Raised eyebrows and intriguing looks from her audience required a quick detour from the subject at hand.

“It’s nothing”, she said, sighing and shaking her head. “I had an ex that I suspected was cheating. I went online, created a fake profile with the name ‘Regina Gregory’ for a gaming site that he used all the time and starting fishing for his attention. Sure enough, after about a week or two, he took the bait and starting trying to arrange a meeting with ‘Reggie’. Meanwhile, I’d printed out all their online conversations and busted him with it after he’d lied to me about having to break one of our dates so he could attend a dinner meeting with a regional supervisor who’d suddenly come into town. So, yeah, welcome to my life.”

She rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders before picking back up where’d she’d left off.

“Anyway, since I didn’t think I’d be able to argue that the guys don’t look like who they are, I came up with the idea to try to pass them off as their own tribute band. That’s why I printed up the card and brought it with me today. My plan was to flash the card around, do a bit of fast talking and try to convince any onlookers that there was nothing interesting to see.”

Raye handed her creation to Paul, who held it for him self and Lionel to read. They both laughed and shook their heads before attempting to pass the card to Larry. Instead, Bono greedily snatched it out of Larry’s hand and was inspecting it with Edge and Adam looking on from either side of him. Larry gave them about two seconds before he took the card back for himself.

“Manners, Bono”, he growled between gritted teeth. He read over the text of the card before looking at Raye with newfound respect. “Very impressive. I guess it worked, then?” He offered the card then to Bono, only to quickly withdraw his hand just as Bono reached for it.

“Larry, stop it”, Paul warned. The drummer reluctantly passed the card on.

Bono, Edge and Adam finally managed to get a good look before handing it back to Raye, who took a second to admire her work:

REGINA “Reggie” GREGORY
Management & Promotions

“U2 Pride”
A Tribute to U2
Charlotte, North Carolina

Regina.gregory @ u2pride.com


“Oh, it worked”, Bono confirmed to the group. No longer feeling under attack from Paul, he hooked his thumb at Raye and went on crowing about her act on the beach. “You should have seen the performance she just gave. Those kids never had time to slide a word in sideways.” Looking at Raye with mock irritation he told her, “But don’t think I missed that crack about us being taller than ‘the real thing’. You couldn’t pass up the chance for that dig, could you?”

“I caught that, too”, Edge confessed. “And it wasn’t easy keeping a straight face. I guess then that, ah, Bono and I have nicknames now, as well?” He smiled knowingly at Raye while she clarified to the rest.

She returned his smile and said, “I think ‘Bono’ and ‘The Edge’ are probably going to stay with you a lot longer than ‘Pete Hudson’ and ‘Donnie Edwards’.” Scanning the rest of the group and seeing the confusion return to their faces, she snickered a bit before pressing on. “That was an on-the-spot improvisation. The girls had seen the business card and heard the phone call from my, quote, ‘financial backer’ but for added effect, I called these two by fake names. Paul Hewson became ‘Pete Hudson’ and Dave Evans became ‘Donnie Edwards’. I don’t know”, Raye paused, a bit bashfully now, “it was the best I could come up with on short notice.” She shrugged and looked at the faces staring back at her, waiting for the rest of their questions.

But there were no more ‘whys’, ‘hows’, or ‘wheres’, just congratulations for her unique solution to a familiar problem. The joint opinion amongst the band was that Raye had done a bang-up job and they were impressed with her ability to think on her feet. Paul even offered that if she ever decided to go into band management for real that she should call him to form a partnership. He told her he’d be happy to have her on his team, based on her ability to not only silence Bono on command but to also have him follow her directions – something Paul said he’d not been able to accomplish simultaneously in 30 years. Raye told him she appreciated the offer but felt she was better suited to managing imaginary bands rather than real ones.

“So what if one of them get curious, though, and does a Google inquiry for ‘U2 Pride’”, Edge wondered out loud, “are they going to come up with anything? Or will they be knocking on Leo’s door later, demanding the truth?”

“No, they’ll get a result”, Raye answered with a soft chuckle. She’d half-expected Edge, what with his ‘tech geek’ reputation, to be the one who’d consider the Internet options. “There really is a U2 Pride tribute band out of Charlotte; I used to know the guy that does their lighting. And if Amber or Brooke or anyone else goes to the trouble, they’ll find a web site for the band, with show dates and biographies and stuff, but no photographs – that’s the reason I picked them. Their lead singer is really strange and absolutely refuses to let any pictures of him self at gigs be posted on their homepage. Some phobia he’s got. Anyway, it gave me the perfect cover if somebody casually tried to check up on my story.” She gave a crooked smile and shrugged again.

“What if someone tries seriously to check on your story?” Larry asked playfully.

Raye looked straight at him, crinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out before answering, “Then you’re probably screwed.”

When everyone had had a good laugh over Raye’s retort to Larry, they all agreed that it was probably best that they pack up and return to the house. They were all a bit hungry for some lunch and were beginning to notice that the skies were now filled with darker clouds than had hung over head at the beginning of the day. Worried that could mean rain and knowing she still had most of the week ahead of her, Raye decided that maybe it might be a good time to do some shooting in Leo’s library.

Reasoning that they wouldn’t all be needed to help Raye with her equipment, Lionel announced that he and Paul would go ahead of everyone else and begin setting things out for lunch. After making sure she’d be left with enough help to carry everything, Larry and Edge decided, they too, would head back to the beach house and shuffled off after the Arrington men. Raye had removed her camera from the tripod and asked Bono to please break it down while she and Adam made sure her camera body, lenses and film all went back into their places in her case. They had just finished closing the case when Raye looked up to see Bono struggling with one of the tripod legs.

“Ooh”, she said, standing to brush off her jeans where she’d been kneeling in the sand, “The legs got sand in them, didn’t they?”

Standing up him self, Adam pointed to where Larry had left Raye’s reflector screen lying on the sand and quickly stated, “I’ll just go get your screen.”

“Oh, thank you, Adam”, Raye told him a bit distracted. She walked over to help Bono with her tripod as Adam stepped away.

“Must have”, Bono was saying to her as she reached him. “But this is the only one that’s given me any real trouble. It…just… there!” Tapping the leg of the tripod against the sole of his shoe, several strands of sand could be seen as they were ejected from the hollow leg. Telescoping the last leg section back into its compacted position and securing the lock in place, he told Raye, “You know, you really should have one with wider feet for out here on the beach. It would keep the sand out of those legs.”

She looked at him with surprise and gently pushed his shoulder as she told him, “Well, well – look who’s a photography expert now.”

“Oh no”, he told her with a grin as he tucked the tripod under his arm, “as with most things, I’m only the apprentice, not the expert. Besides, it was just a friendly observation.”

“I know it was”, she reassured him as they returned to the spot where her camera case had been left. “And it was a perfectly valid observation. I should spend the money to have a separate tripod for beach use, but up until this week I’d never really needed my tripod out here. Any shots I’d ever taken at the beach were done with my mono pod and it doesn’t telescope.”

Raye sidestepped toward her camera case and had just grasped its handle when Adam appeared from behind Bono and grabbed it as well. Undeniably leaving his hand enclosed over hers, he looked at her intensely for what seemed like half a minute before quietly saying, “I’ll take that.”

Raye was too astonished to do anything beyond uttering a dumbfounded “Okay” and letting her hand fall away from the case. Adam simply lifted it up and started down the pathway toward the beach without another word to Raye or Bono.

“Shall we adjourn to the manor, m’lady?” Bono affected his best English accent and offered his right arm to Raye, who suddenly remembered that he was standing next her.

“Hmm?” she turned to him slightly puzzled, before recovering herself. “Oh – why, of course.” She pantomimed a curtsey before allowing Bono to take her left arm and escort her back along the beach where they could see Adam walking alone, approximately 40 feet ahead of them.

For a while they walked quietly, their eyes on Adam’s back, with only the sounds of sand shifting beneath their shoes, the wind blowing in their ears and the occasional cry of a sea gull flying overhead.

“You know”, Bono finally said, reaching over with his free hand to pat Raye’s right arm and jutting his chin forward in the direction of Adam, “I believe he’s quite taken with you.”

A million things came to Raye’s mind in an instant, but the only sound her mouth would allow her to vocalize was a weak, “Huh?” as she stared at Bono, slack-jawed.

His beautiful face lit up with a soft smile as he gently restated to her, “I believe my dear friend there is quite taken with you.” He continued to study Raye’s face as she formulated a reply.

Warning bells, alarms, buzzers, and sirens – any warning noise Raye had ever heard was going off in her head. This was dangerous, deadly territory and her deeply ingrained instincts were going into overdrive, attempting to send every emotion she’d ever known into shutdown. She blinked slowly several times before giving Bono a calm, measured response.

“I’m sure you’re mistaken.” She meant every word and turned away from Bono’s piercing blue eyes to stare straight ahead at their destination.

Bono, realizing that Raye had verbally said everything she intended to on the subject, quietly drew in a breath between his teeth and spoke a whispered “Okay”, knowing the conversation was at a dead end. He didn’t really need anything further from Raye, though. The crimson flush that was slowly climbing from her neckline to her scalp told him more than he knew she’d admit for the time being, even if threatened with bodily harm or death.
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Old 09-06-2010, 03:06 AM   #2
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Awwwwwwwwwwwwww! The ending was so cute!

And what a clever, clever girl.
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