The members of A-Game slowly roused themselves, and as they did so, Corey searched her memory for everything she knew about boy bands and began sorting the four men into easy-to-remember archetypes.
One actually got off a couch and shook her hand. “I’m Deaver. Big fan. Seriously.”
Deaver: Shy, Quiet One. Ironically, the first off the couch because he was likely the most polite, and was meeting her halfway to avoid an awkward silence. He was slighter than the rest, with fine features and doleful eyes, and she appreciated him trying to put her at ease.
“And this is Brody,” said Deaver.
Even though she went out of her way to avoid all things A-Game back in the day, their videos were inescapable, saturating every screen and tabloid in the early aughts. Indelible even to her was their conventionally handsome leader, Brody, who sidled up next to Deaver. Wasn’t there something about him dating Carmen Shields or were there rumblings he wanted to go solo? Or was it both? Regardless, he was the heartthrob who sang most of the verses.
Brody: Front Man.
“RJ,” said RJ, nodding from the couch with a sly smile. “Corey Lyondell…” He was muscular in a beefy, corn-fed kind of way, as if he had carried a hay bale from the subway. His voice had a slight twang and his eye had a slight twinkle. “How do I know you?”
“I told you,” said Professor Drop. “Damsel Underdressed?”
RJ made a confused face. There was no apology or embarrassment in his expression. He had no idea.
“The Toddlers…” said Drop.
“Oh shit!” said RJ, leaping to his feet.
Please don’t, thought Corey.
He crouched down and screamed into an imaginary microphone. “I’m shouting to myself! Why can’t I be someone else!” He started slam-dancing with Brody.
“Ha,” said Corey. “Yeah, that was us, alright.”
RJ: Bad Boy.
Brody shoved RJ away. “I met Anders once,” said the front man. “A few years back.”
“Get out,” said RJ, stopping his antics. “Where?”
“We were both guest coaches on The Pipes. He was promoting that heist movie, I think. He was so fucking cool, man.”
Of course he was, thought Corey. To your face. She remembered Anders prancing around on their tour bus to one A-Game’s singles, singing in a mockingly high falsetto as the rest of the band cracked up. She even remembered him referring to their smash album Ascent as Ass End. Now that she thought about it, The Toddlers were already broken up when Ascent came out, so that was probably just her.
“How is he?” asked Brody.
“Good, I think. Haven’t really kept up…” Eager to cut off this line of questioning, she turned toward the possibly deceased member on the couch and looked at him with an expectant smile. His head, atop a jacked body, slowly swiveled toward her.
“Hey,” he said in a deep, rich voice. “I’m Kriss.”
He shook his head. “Kriss.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t—”
“Kriss is like the visionary of the group,” said eager Deaver.
“And the best dancer,” said RJ. “Just ask him, he’ll tell you. Wait, don’t ask. He’ll tell you anyway.”
Kriss: the Inscrutable One. He looked to be a few years older than the rest of them. She remembered the posters in the music stores. Brody front and center, Deaver looking out with his sincere eyes, RJ with a devilish smile…and Kriss, with ever evolving configurations of facial hair and combinations of sunglasses and headgear. Dreadlocks and a van dyke beard. Mutton chops and a shaved head. Fedora and Fu Manchu mustache. He looked to be in an entirely different band…or different planet.
Everyone had a good-natured laugh at Kriss, who smirked beneath the bill of his cap and his dark sunglasses. Then there was an awkward pause and everyone looked to Corey.
“Oh,” said Corey. “So, I guess you guys need some help?”
“Help?” said RJ.
Shit, she thought. Strike two.
“A-Game doesn’t need help,” said RJ.
“We just need people to recognize,” said Brody.
“Yes,” said Drop, nodding sagely. “Our mission is to remind the public.”
“Who the fuck they’re dealing with,” said Kriss. His sudden speech startled Corey.
Everyone seemed to be in agreement with Kriss.
“Oh, okay,” said Corey.
“So how would you help with that, Toddler?” said RJ. This elicited a couple of laughs, but Deaver looked uneasy and Brody looked genuinely curious. All eyes were on her again.
“‘Great songs,’ she says,” said RJ, and this was met with a couple of snickers.
This was going south quickly, thought Corey. She hadn’t signed up for this, but she knew there was no turning back, not unless she wanted to face the formidable wrath of her manager. And she realized one more strike and she was out, so she might as well swing for the fences. She exhaled.
“Well, I do have another idea.”
“Oh yeah?” said RJ.
“Yeah. Let’s go get shitfaced.”