Chapter One

There is an art to wandering.

To become a part of the crowd without really being there.

Bradley Jones had practiced this art for a long time, merging into the crowd and losing himself to the unknowingly charted waters. The simple thinking members of the New York streets are a welcomed distraction to the man’s always moving mind.

There is, of course, a familiarity to the path Bradley’s practiced footsteps take. Broadway Street, a constant middle point, as so much of his life used to revolve around that little street.

The memories of an eight year old boy standing on stage to sing his heart out is prominent in Bradley’s mind. Eyes lingering on the theatre’s that catch his attention. He hadn’t stepped onto a stage in almost two years, the aftershock of an injury too damaging to move through a blow to the resume he had spent fifteen years building.

If I ever write a memoir,” Bradley’s voice was soft, his eyes matching as he looked down the street that used to be his home. He tapped a new melody against his pant leg, mind automatically storing the words away, the smallest part of him hoping the melody would stick as well.

The need to dodge taxi’s as the man crossed the street distracted his train of thought, his eyes lingering on the world around him. People passed by, smiling faces, shouting voices, a few lingering stares, it was home.

Everything seemed to be dulled in the world, like it was moving on and Bradley Oliver Jones was stuck in the same spot. He was left behind, a tragic and forgotten stain on everything that is Broadway. People tend to forget about someone not in the forefront of their world.

Broadway forgot about Bradley, but he didn’t particularly mind.

It was easy to move on when there was nothing left behind for him.

In May of twenty-twelve, Bradley had been in a car accident.

The headlines said he was “gone too soon,” that “Broadway had just lost a star” but Bradley didn’t go anywhere. Every part of him screamed that he was still there, that the hospital he had spent six months in was a testament to his dulled existence. The room decorated in well wishes and ‘get well soon’ cards that left a hollow taste in Bradley’s mouth.

The world moved on and Bradley was stuck in his hospital room, everything was a learning curve from that moment on. Walking, running, dancing, even the brilliance of his smile dulled in the fluorescent hospital room.

Bradley’s concentration faltered, his eyes catching on a familiar marquee, a recognizable name he only wished to forget written in lights. The feeling of being forgotten once again at the forefront of his mind, Matthew Dowdry had taken his role, and then the next, and the next.

Not that there was any blame directed towards Matthew, the star was kind enough, a little full of himself, but mostly nice. He just embraced the opportunity that was in front of him, despite the harm that it brought to Bradley.

Unconsciously he picked up the pace, a frown silencing all other thoughts as he focused solely on his clunking right foot and silently stepping left.

The uneven gait was a side effect of his time in hospital. For years, Bo had gone about his life treating every day as though it would never end. Hours at the theatre working on performances to make sure that every crowd would walk away with a sense of hope or wonder that could ignite the same spark that it had in him when he was just a child.

Every show had to be brilliant, every performance uniquely wonderful, and to achieve such magnificent hours were spent perfecting it, and one time, just one time, the man left an hour later than usual. His mind was full of distracting notes and rhythms he had yet to master.

Bradley woke up three weeks later with a tube shoved down his throat and a police report that filled the gaping hole in his memory.

He had been told it was an accident, but Bo had not seen it that way.

An understandable accident is being out with friends and having just a bit too much to drink.

But how can someone “accidently” get behind the wheel of their car? How could someone “accidentally” decide not to take a cab home? How could a car run three red lights and barrel into a motorcyclist paused to let pedestrians past?

Bradley looked the man in the eyes as he was given three years in jail, though the man was remorseful, Bradley could barely remember the interaction. The hospital had his pain meds running too high for too long, the trauma of the accident too much for a fully awake mind to handle.

Despite everything that the trial put him through and learning how to move through his injuries, Bradley had kept up the smallest amount of hope that he would one day be able to step back onto the stage again.

Though it would not be on the same two feet he had stood on before. His right was gone, a side effect of the car accident that had left a gaping hole in the heart of Broadway, and a terrorizing injury on the mind and body of Bradley Oliver Jones. The uneven walk is a testament to what he had gone through, and a destroying mark to his career before the accident.

The hope would stand, no matter how many years past, and for now Bradley wrote, and composed, and sang for his own enjoyment. Helping high schools and community theatre departments in an attempt to make an impact on the world round him, no matter how different it was to the original plan.

The constant piano tune playing in the back of Bradley’s mind crescendoed just as he started to cross the street, the cars around him making him all the more nervous as they paused briefly to let him pass. The constant heart pounding anxiety revolved around vehicles, something he did his best to expose himself to, in a safe way of course, to move past. It would not do well for him to spend the rest of his life terrified of cars, though it was to the point where he would walk, or take the subway everywhere.

The red cross walk man began his ominous countdown as Bradley limped his way across, a much harsher action than usual. This morning had not been a pleasant one, the limping was evidence of that. Bradley had woken up to no tea bags in his apartment (because he had idiotically forgotten to buy more) which meant settling on a cup of coffee to make up for the missing caffeine. Ever since the accident, the bitterness of a cup of coffee was something his stomach couldn’t hold, so tea it was (usually).

Bradley’s foot galumped loudly as he crossed, mentally he would give anything to be able to jog across the street and get out of the way of the impatient car drivers. Just as he reached the curb, the beep of a horn telling him to get out of the way, the sound startled him in a way that he would have never admitted to anyone.

He made an attempt to step onto the curb, though the action was much faster than he would have preferred, the unmoving heel of his right foot caught on the ledge and Bradley was falling to the ground before he could even think about it.

If he had just fallen to the ground Bradley would have been able to stand and push away the embarrassment of falling in the middle of a crowded street, but to his extreme terror he crashed into someone else.

A yelp passed through both Bradley and the unknown figures lips, the smaller landing just beside Bradley, the latter’s chin thumping painfully into the sidewalk as they fell, a tangle of sharp elbows and false limbs. The people on the sidewalk barely gave them a glance as they continued down the street.

“Holy fuck.” Bradley muttered, grabbing at his chin quickly to make sure the skin hadn’t broken (it hadn’t). The person on top of him made quick work of pushing himself off, and for just a moment, Bradley felt as though the stranger would leave him sprawled across the sidewalk.

“Whoa, you alright?” The voice was distinctly masculine, an apologetic undertone combined with Bradley spinning over, and punctuated with an outstretched hand.

Despite the fact that he had been in possession of a prosthetic leg for nearly two years and been using it for all that time, some of the actions that should have come easily, didn’t. One of which (out of many) was standing up from a fully inclined position. Though his leg bent enough to put it underneath him, keeping the foot in one spot while putting all his weight onto both feet almost always ended in a second fall.

Which is why the extended hand was accepted with a grateful smile. “More embarrassed than anything.” Bradley’s voice was just above a mumble, trying to calm his nerves as he tried to not put too much weight on the man’s hand as he pulled him to his feet. “Sorry about that.”

The man huffed out a laugh, “I should be the one apologzing. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, you alright?”

Bradley was obviously embarrassed, shown in the way he made an attempt of not looking the man in the eyes, “I’m okay.” 

“That’s, that’s good.” The only true description that Bradley could provide about the man was that his voice was smooth like honey, and the more he spoke, the more Bradley realized that he recognized the man. “You look alright, er, well, you look like you didn’t hurt yourself, er-”

He kept backtracking, trying to be polite while also keeping the conversation going, Bradley just smiled, reaching his hand out to catch the man’s attention without actually touching him. “I’m alright, promise.”

Bradley watched as the man copied his smile, lifting a hand to rake it through his own hair as he looked Bradley up and down, and for just a moment he’s starstruck at how good looking the man in front of him was. Big brown eyes, hair just a bit long, brushing the tops of his shoulders in a way that made him look sophisticated. He wasn’t sure what to say next, his mouth opening and closing repeatedly.

The urge to quote an old musical popped into Bradley’s mind, but he pushed it away in favor of dropping his hand and beginning to say goodbye.

“I’m Oscar-Michael Torres.” The man, Oscar, extended his hand, and Bradley paused, not wanting to seem rude, but not wanting to shake his hand, as the staggering number of germs shared between the simple action jumping to the forefront of Bradley’s mind.

“Sorry, I don’t-” Bradley, motioned to the hand, pulling his own close to his chest, as he tried to push away the embarrassment of his germaphobia.

Oscar-Michael looked confused, before making an acknowledgement face and dropping his hand, “Oh, right, that’s alright. It’s still nice to meet you-?”

It was framed as a question, only because Bradley hadn’t provided his name yet, and no matter how familiar the man looked, he didn’t feel comfortable providing his full name. “I’m Bo.”

The smile that the name brought to the face of Oscar-Michael was bright, a glaring smile that reached his eyes and would have extended to his toes if at all possible. Bradley found himself smiling as well, despite the little bit of regret he had at not giving his real name, though the nickname was used by enough people that it could be considered a real name.

The fact that the pair was standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk seemed to slip both of their minds, before coming back to them, and Bradley smiled, motion over his shoulder.

“Sorry, but I’ve got somewhere to be.” He wasn’t sure why he decided to lie, but he took a step back, not missing the way his leg shifted slightly in its socket. The jarring action of falling to the floor messing slightly with the way his stump fit into the socket of his prosthetic.

“You don’t, but that’s okay,” Oscar-Michael frowned softly, before shrugging before speaking again. “But I do have one question before you go, Bo.”

It was obvious that Oscar did not believe that Bo was his name, but Bradley paused, motioning for the man to ask his question.

“Can I get your number?”

This was not the question that Bradley had expected, but it wasn’t unwanted. He nodded, waiting for Oscar to be ready before rattling off his number.

Bradley was quick to dismiss himself after that, ducking his head and merging into the crowd, not missing the lingering eyes of Oscar-Michael Torres on his back until Bradley rounded the block. A strange feeling of genuine comfort came from the interaction, and no matter how much his mind told him it was a bad idea to give his number out to the stranger, he didn’t regret it.

He smiled the entire walk home, words of first meetings decorating his mind and lips, piano tunes dancing through his finger tips.

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