Isela, Yuli and her boyfriend Ben walked towards the venue where Bruno was performing.
“Holy cow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people in one place to see him….” Isela said as they neared the door.
“It’s amazing what a year can do…” Yuli expressed her surprise as well.
Isela opened the door to see a bright red light, standing room only and a large man standing at the door.
“And you three are?”
Phil’s wife yelled across the room. “Get the hell over here, Isela!” Even across the room she heard her voice being called.
“I’m Isela? And this is Yuli and Ben.”
“Oh. Yeah. Okay. GO ahead and head over there. There’s space for the three of y’all. Just be careful. It’s really, really crowded.”
Bruno was singing his heart out, which wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. She excused herself past a large group of people. “What a bitch. She’s not even interested in him…he’s so good.”
“Really?” Isela turned around to look at the girl who commented.
“Yeah, really. You look put out to be here.”
“Oh sweetheart. You have no idea how ‘put out’ I am to be at Grammy pre-party with Bruno Mars…and in the end Bruno Mars is going to have sex with me…”
“True story…” Urbana nodded her head in agreement.
The girl wasn’t sure how to react. “Yeah, for real.” Isela raised her eyebrow headed to the empty seat that was waiting for her.
“Did that just happen?” Isela asked the group as she sat down.
“Yeah…I think it did.” another girl, close to them said. They all laughed.
Isela was shocked by Bruno’s performance. She hadn’t seen him perform since her pretend date with Brian. They had spoken several times since then, but it was more of a check in, see how you were doing and I hope you’re doing well. Oh, my god. Was he always like this? Was this what I was always with? The emotions, the sweat, the hair, the smile, the laugh, the whole package. But it’s going to blow up again Why am I even pretending that this could work again? But, maybe for a night…maybe just tonight…no. no. no. I will not do that. I can’t. I won’t do it.
When everything ended a handful of people stayed. It was refreshing for her to be around people that she hadn’t seen, personally, since 2008. They chatted and made plans to see each other outside of work and she was so happy. And then he walked out and her heart dropped. He still smelled all sweaty- he still looked sweaty. He looked so perfect. He took her hand and walked her outside.
“You were so great tonight, Bruno…” she complimented squeezing his hand.
“You were too.” he smiled at her.
“I can’t do this.” she burst out. She couldn’t hold it in anymore. “I need you. I mean, not like before. I really mean it. No bullshit. It hurts. Not like 3 in the morning sex, or I need you to be with me to go the doctor with me because no one can go with me and you aren’t telling the hoochie you hooked up at the club, or I need you because I need a confidence boost today, but I need you because…because…Bruno. I just can’t do it anymore…even if this wasn’t happening now. I’d still be broken….I can’t move on without you in my life.”
“I swear if I see that one tear fall down your cheek, Isela Luz…” he laughed at her.
“Just please say you feel the same way.” she asked him.
“I need you, Isela. I’ve been trying to tell you that since last February. I tried to tell you in October. I tried to tell you in November. You wouldn’t listen to me. Typical.”
She kicked a beer bottle sitting in the parking lot thinking about what to say next. “I know.” she said under her breath. She wiped some make-up off. She knew she was going to cry. He lifted her chin with the tips of his fingers to look at her in the eyes.
“We can’t fuck this up this time.” He looked at her seductively.
“I won’t if you won’t.” she raised her eye brow at him.
“Pinkie promise?” He held out his hand.
“Pinkie promise.” They held out their hands, twisted them and kissed them at the same time to seal the deal.
“Woah, woah, woah. What type of shenanigans is this?” Bruno’s brother came walking out with pieces of drums in his hands.
They both laughed at him shrugging their shoulders in unison.
“I’m not sure.” Isela said twisting her hair around her finger.
“You two are never sure, are you?” he asked them.
“Naw, dude. I don’t think we ever are.”
“Just remember what time we have to be at Staples tomorrow, baby brother.” Eric said walking away.
“I will be there.” he responded dryly.
“I have to work tomorrow too….I have to be there at 2.” she looked at him with disappointment in her eyes. She looked down at her phone to see it was already 12:30. “I don’t like being a grown-up with you, Bruno.”
“Who says we have to be grown-ups tonight…” he said pressing his lips against hers. She felt two and a half years of emotions run through her head. Watching Vanessa and Bruno together, happy – in love, her mixed up relationships with random boys, working late and early in the mornings, her sister being happy with Ben, and being happy for her, but never finding that happiness in the things she was doing. It was all, so right with him again. But she knew that it wouldn’t last. She knew she was fooling herself with his sweet sweaty lips on hers.
Bruno threw himself down onto the couch next to Isela who was wrapped in a sweater, sweatpants and a blanket.
“It’s so cold!”
“Here, let me make you warm, baby!” he kissed her quickly and watched her smile as he pulled away.
“That helped a little.” She said clicking the remote to see what was on TV. She moved herself closer to him. He wrapped his arms around her to grab the remote to flip the channels.
“Hey, hey, hey! I didn’t say you could have that!” she said clenching the remote.
“If you choose we’re going to end up on Sex in the City…” he said clicking quickly.
“Wait! Selena’s on! I love that movie!” she screamed.
“But, baby…we watch that all the time…” he whined.
“How many times have we watched Ace Ventura? Anchorman? Come on!” She jumped up from the couch to cover up the TV so he couldn’t change the channel. “And you know it’s a special movie…”
“I know…I know…” he said giving her a sad face. He put his hand out to her. “Come sit next to me. Let’s talk…” She sat down facing him. She sniffed looking at him with tears in her eyes.
“I miss her…so much sometimes…” she dropped the remote burying her head in his shoulder crying. He rubbed her back. “Isela…you know she’s watching over all of you…everyday. Right now. She’s here.” he muted the TV to just be with her.
“But…but…it’s like…I want to talk to my mom sometimes. Even if I was five when she died…and Tasha is as much of a mother to as I’ll ever….” she started to sob. Bruno looked at her emotions. He knew everything about her past… but this was the first time she had cried so much about the death of her mother. She died in a car accident when she was five years old. Her mother was on the way to an art class after dropping off her baby brother and sister Max and Lola at their uncle David’s house after leaving Yuli and Isela at school. A wrong way driver hit her head on as she turned down the street. Her father remarried when Yuli and Isela were 12, Max was 8 and Lola was 7 to Tasha who had two children of her own – two girls named Sarah and Rebecca. Sarah was 10 and Rebecca was 6 when they were married. They later had two boys of their own, one in 2000 and one in 2003 – Julian and Christian. They were a big happy family, but Isela still felt like something was missing. They still remained incredibly close to the maternal side of her family, but not having her mother in her life still hurt – especially when it came to growing up. Looking back, later in her life, she believed that part of why she led the life she led as a teenager – several boyfriends, hook-ups and even experimenting with drugs, was because Tasha paid more attention to Sarah and Rebecca than to her. Bruno understood and loved her large family dynamic – deep down inside he knew she loved every single one of her family members the same way he loved every single one of his siblings. But, he also still had a mother and a father in his life. He started to sing Dreaming of You in her ear.
As he finished she pulled away from him to look at him in the eyes “Bruno….”
“Can we watch the end of the movie?” she moved her hand across his body to get the remote to turn up the movie. She settled into his body to watch the movie with him covering them with the blanket she had on the other side of the couch. At the closing of the movie, when Selena and her husband spoke about having children Isela started to talk, “We’re naming our daughter Selena.”
“That’s fine with me, Isela.” he said kissing her head squeezing her tightly.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then?” she asked him.
“Yes. I’ll see you tomorrow, sweetheart.” he responded biting his lip.
“Get away from me!” she knew exactly what he was thinking.
“Oh my god, Isela. Like I would actually try to get into your pants tonight…” he rolled his eyes at her. Shit, I would, he thought. Shit, she still knows me too well.
“I don’t break pinkie promises, Peter.” she got serious.
“That’s a good thing, because I don’t either.” he matched her seriousness.
“Geeeettt ittttt.” Phil walked past the two of them laughing. Isela shot him a dirty look. Urbana rolled her eyes.
“Shut up!” she flipped him off.
“Owww. Isela Ortiz hurt me…” Phil cried. Urbana soothed him laughing at the exchange.
“Will I see you tomorrow night, sweetheart?” she asked her.
“You will!” Isela gushed. Phil and his other half walked away toward the car leaving Isela and Bruno alone again.
Bruno leaned into her kissing her. She returned his kiss, but holding back slightly. She knew he would be able to tell. He’s not stopping…he can’t tell…I need to stop…this is going to be harder than I expected…Isela pulled away again playing with her keys in her hand.
“You need to go home?” he asked her.
“I have to get my beauty sleep, Bruno.” she smiled at him. “And no, you’re not coming with me.”
“But, Iselllaaaaa.” he whined.
“But nothing. “ she put her finger on his lips indicating that the conversation was over. “I will see you tomorrow evening. And you better look hot.” she winked.
“If only for you.” he smiled. He kissed her on the cheek walking her to her car.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” she said driving off past a handful of paparazzi waiting to see Bruno leave the party.
Isela arrived at the Staples Center prepared for a regular Awards ceremony. Dressed in a short cocktail dress for the pre-pre show she nailed the whole show. As they started to countdown the minutes until artists started to arrive her hands started to get sweaty and her eyeliner started to run.
“Hey, Kayla…” one of the directors shouted during a commercial break. “Come and touch up Isela’s makeup. It’s running a bit.”
“Dollface, it’s 55 degrees outside..why are you so sweaty. You’re always so calm and collected…”
“Oh..umm..I…Oh gosh. It’s obvious I’m all stressed out?”
“Yeah…” Kayla swiped some blush on her cheek and stared at her. “Is it boy trouble again?”
“Isn’t it always with me?” Isela sighed heavily. “Thanks for telling me. If I get any worse will you smack me in the face or something?”
“Someone else will probably do that for you…” she laughed at her co-worker.
“Isela, you’re on in two minutes!” Isela ran to her spot to get set.
A few hours later she was on the red carpet with glitz and glam completely in her element. She had forgotten about her confused love life.
“Isela…Bruno Mars and his guys are next…” she heard her director say in her earpiece.
She looked into the camera smiling her signature smile. And there they were. Wearing matching suites and sunglasses.
“Well, don’t you all look snazzy?” she looked him up and down obviously flirting with him.
“Not as fabulous as you do, Isela!” he spun her around showing off her dress to the camera.
“And who are you wearing?” she asked trying to steer the conversation into a more professional manner.
“We’re all wearing Dolce and Gabana…” he responded. They continued their conversation professionally. She asked them about producing and recording with other artists.
After Taylor, the camera guy, cued her off the air he spontaneously hugged her.
“Thank you for being there for me.” he told her kissing her on the cheek.
“No, thank you, Bruno. I couldn’t do any of this without you…” she told him quietly as Phil and Ari took in the scenery. Bruno and Isela were in their own world.
“Are you going to be able to see us perform?” he asked her.
“I’m going to try to run down there…” she responded. He gave her a sad face. “I know! I know! Don’t hate me!” she hit him in the shoulder. “But at least I’m here, right?”
“Right…” he said kissing her on the cheek. He squeezed her hand and walked off to the next reporter.
Isela watched the doctor come into the room with the clipboard. She was nervous. She felt this was every 6 months. Every six months, they swabbed her to see if cells were normal or abnormal. She should have been used to this by now. Dr. Lawrence sat on her rolling chair, flipped through several pages to the test results. She snubbed her nose and sighed.
“Isela…we’re going to have to do another LEEP.”
“Another one?” she was shocked. At only 23 years old she needed someone by her side. She needed someone there…
“It’s in the same place as last time…we just need to get them Ms. Ortiz. You’ll feel exactly the same thing.”
“I’m familiar with that.” Isela was blank.
:Well, at least I can get it done during Christmas Break…”
“Get everything scheduled and we’ll see you then.”
Isela flipped through her phone to see when she could possibly have her boyfriend by her side, her siblings and as many people as possible with her. She hated the way she felt during the last procedure. She sat off to the side trying to decide between several dates. She narrowed it down to two dates, both of which included away games for Jaric.
“I can’t be there, baby. I have to travel. You know we’re already down 3 guys. And I’ll be able to play….I’ll be thinking of you the whole time…” Jaric said to her over dinner.
“Ugh. Whatever. Just don’t expect me to run off to Europe with you when your season ends early, you jerk.” she stormed off out the door.
“No. You’re just lucky I have a large family that’s going to be there.” She got in her car, picked up her phone and dialed the first person that came to mind.
“Hey stranger! What’s going on?!” Bruno answered his phone.
“The chocolate, Bruno….the chocolate….” she cried.
“Who is it, baby?” she heard in the background.
He covered up the phone to answer the girl in the background. “It’s just a friend. Give me a few minutes…”
“Isela….what do you mean? Are you sure?” his friendly excitement turned into shock and concern.
“Uh huh…and I…I just don’t knowwww….I don’t know what to do, Bruno. I’m scared.”
“Where are you?” He asked her. “I just got home.” She responded curling up into her bed.
“Give me twenty minutes…leave your door open. I know you locked it.”
“Okaaaayyyy…” she replied through her tears.
“If you go her, I swear, Bruno. We’re done….” the girl yelled at him.
“It’s okay Christine. You weren’t that great in bed anyway.”
Isela and Chris, her co-anchor chatted on air about the best and worst dressed of the evening for the first 30 minutes of the Grammy’s. She continued on with work without skipping a beat. As they wrapped up promoting the station’s special coverage in the morning, she started getting antsy. She bolted off set the second they said they were off the air.
“Here, here...take this…” she threw her microphone at them switching into lower shoes and pulling down her hair.
“Where are you off to?” one of the set crew asked.
“There’s one performance I cannot miss….even if I’m standing at the door…” Isela said.
“Which one?” the crew member asked.
“The Janelle Monae one.” she closed the door behind her.
“That’s a weird one to run out to see.”
“Come on! Let’s go, go, go!” Yuli drug her sister out the door into the car to the car. They were headed out to some little bar that her friends had invited her to. Apperantly the cover band was really good. Yuli had a list of songs she wanted them to play.
“I don’t understand why you love 80s music so much…” Isela complained as she slid in the backseat of her sister’s Toyota Camry next to another friend who was also begrudgingly going to the bar with them. The only thing Isela was looking forward to was flashing her ID so she could drink – legally.
The bar was small, nothing too fantastic. They paid the $7 cover to see the band, order a few drinks and sat off to the side. The electronic jukebox was playing, a break in the set. After about 4 songs a group of three guys walked passed them. The last one was skinny, dark skin, almost as dark as hers. He had his head down looking as if he was thinking about his impending doom on stage. The fedora he had on intrigued Isela. She watched him walk past her.
“Damn. He’s kind of cute, no?” Yuli said over the music
“I bet he’s an ass…” Isela responded. “Either that or he thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread.” He flashed her a huge glittery white smile as he got up on the stage. He picked up his brown guitar, plugged it in and started to play a Michael Jackson song.
Isela leaned over to talk to her sister during the song, “Oh shit, sissy, it’s on.” Yuli nodded her head.