9 : Nostalgic

The clock read 1:34. Kyle stared at his laptop screen. It was the first time he got to read the interview—well, interviews—although the articles said they were posted about two years ago. 

Even after he'd spent almost twelve hours in the studio today, sleep wouldn't slip into his system. Hopefully his currently nocturnal sleeping schedule would be back to normal after recording.  It had become the norm ever since the band's first nationwide tour.

Some familiar knocks on the door made him exit the browser and get out of bed. He jerked the door open and wasn't surprised to find his favorite singer standing in the hallway, carrying their smallest keyboard. Sheets of paper were sticky-taped on the right corner of the instrument.

"Eureka moment!" Veronica beamed at him. She stepped right inside before he could fully open the door.

"It's midnight; we have the entire week."  Kyle ruffled his wavy hair that reached his shoulders. Only a few steps behind her, he watched his bandmate position the keyboard between his feet and the edge of the bed.

He grabbed the wires that hung on her shoulder, then plugged the instrument in. "You going to bed now?" Veronica asked before promising it wouldn't take a while.

"You got five minutes," he grouched with an exaggerated groan. He guessed she just wanted a quick opinion on the new song she'd been working on.

She snickered and played it to him, but she only played the first verse and the refrain she'd  composed. "Then just add a riff, or make it two phrases longer if you want." She raised her brows and gave him an inquiring look. "Good enough?"

"Yeah. Alright," he sighed. His eyes were somewhat stinging now. Shit. His migraine was starting up another episode.

"Been tryin' to rewrite the bridge but I can't close it with something solid. We could edit the last lines—  Make it ten seconds shorter?"

"Yeah. Tomorrow."  Kyle slouched by the closet and massaged the side of his neck;  it felt particularly strained now. How did she still have this much energy after putting in more hours in the studio? 

"What were you doing?" she muttered. Veronica glanced around the room. No rumpled sheets of paper on the floor, no empty soda cans on his desk, and only a stack of clean clothes was on the bed. 

"Lookin' at cover arts." He noticed the band shirt she was wearing. He bought it for her a couple of years back at a music festival in Berlin. "Why're you still up?"

"Tried to get more done but it's just..." She replayed the notes. The melody was catchy enough, and she hummed along for a few seconds. "They're expecting we'd have wrapped up everything before Kavanaugh calls again."

"I know," Kyle replied flatly. He grabbed a clean shirt from the closet before asking about how the whole thing with Mr. Top Model went.

"Fine; we talked about it," Via replied in haste, mumbling her words again. She kept playing the bridge, perfecting the beat and tempo with her pale, dainty hands.

"He's okay with it?"

"We can't just...give it a go." She cleared her throat. Her voice still sounded hoarse. "We're both unbelievably hectic right now. He's booking more shows and campaigns every season."

After hearing her confirmation, he wanted  to sigh in relief, no longer in the mood for shop talk. For now he could only focus on the thought that she did think about his advice. She put the band first, and most likely thought twice about staying in a long-distance relationship with Théo.

He took off his clothes and threw them into the hamper. Cool how easy it was for her to talk her boyfriend out of it. Perhaps she still didn't want to get that serious with the guy.

Better yet, maybe she never wanted it to get that serious. Maybe the idea of fully committing herself to someone didn't sit well with her personal goals at this point.

During a mutual friend's wedding, she'd even mentioned to him that she couldn't see herself being someone's wife—getting pregnant and having kids, raising a family of her own, et cetera. Veronica wasn't trying to sound indifferent when she was mouthing off about it. They were drinking and she was a little drunk, alright. But Kyle knew she meant most of it.

Or maybe she just wanted something else right now.  "Thought he was staying till the end of the month?"

"His agent called. Wants him back before Fashion Week," she sighed.

"So...he was okay with it?" Kyle hinted, to which she only replied with a quick 'Yep'. Clearly  she wasn't in the mood to go into details.  "So, all good?" he mumbled.

"It's fine. We talked about it. He's just..." She paused to shrug. "I just wanna deck him sometimes." A forced smile came with her choppy reply. "So stubborn. When he sets his mind on something...  Ugh. Drives me nuts."  

"You look like you been crying for a year." Kyle faked a grin and stared at her swollen eyebags.  

"What'd you expect? He told me he was stayin' here for three weeks." She forced another grin and stood up. She carried the keyboard now and distractedly stared as he unplugged the wires.  "Catch up on your beauty sleep. 'Night."

"Night."

•••

1 Message

-

From: Théo (New)

"Nearby. Wait for me in the lobby."

13 June 9:02 pm

-

He had sent the message half an hour ago.  Did he change his mind?

Maybe he copped out.  Ran off.  He might have decided not to see her when he realized just how terrible tonight's turnout would be.

Veronica clutched her phone in contemplation.  Alone, she sat on the sofa, hunched over and biting on her lip, anxious and impatiently waiting for his arrival.  Her eyes strained to focus on his last message while she hesitated. 

Should she reply?  Dare ask him if they could postpone?  She'd been dreading this day like it was the apocalypse.

The 30 or so times she'd checked her watch and the entrance already made her dizzy. Her back and legs also ached, tired from strolling around the city all day.  Last night's radio gig also allowed her little sleep;  she had to be up early because her mother came by to see her. 

"You don't make time for me anymore,"  her mom had complained the week before.

Veronica couldn't shift the blame, though.  Being a musician was her foremost passion, although it entailed having to be away from family and friends most of her life.

Songwriting and recording basically kept her closed off from the rest, and so, she just couldn't say no when her mom asked if they could go somewhere, hang out.  Their whole afternoon had been spent mall-hopping.  Then her mom left to attend a medical conference in another city.

Veronica dragged a hand across her face.  She should've just listened to her mother and held off meeting up with him tonight.  Yet guilt and indescribable anxiety pushed her to see him again.  She just couldn't wait another month. 

He deserved an explanation, at least. He deserved to know the other truth. He deserved to hear it from her face-to-face.

Her chest tightened at the mere image. Nothing could have prepared her for this day. Absolutely nothing. Even her mother's wise and comforting words didn't do much to ease her troubled thoughts.

Shit. This was so not the time to fink out. He could be walking through the door any second now. After reciting a short prayer in her head, Veronica stood up to try to walk off the nerves. A cold sheen of sweat made her hands glisten under the lights.

The elevator to her left made a ting, but no one came out. She gripped her phone and waited. It shouldn't take a while; she should just be upfront with him.

Be direct. Explain everything. Apologize. Apologize again. Kiss him goodbye, then leave.

Yeah. That could work. Perhaps he just wanted proper closure?  Any closure—they hadn't really talked since they last saw each other.

A quick and pleasant greeting from the receptionist made her look up from her phone.

Crap.  Did someone walk in just now? The front desk was only a couple of steps away, but a thick marble column hid her well from everyone's view. Veronica slouched behind a plastic-looking plant and listened.

"Evening." A guy spoke up seconds later, his voice deep and tired. The exhaustion in his voice sounded all too familiar it kind of hurt. "I'm, erm, here to see my girlfriend. Room 315. Last name Michel."

"One moment, Sir."

"Sure," he said with an audible sigh. Something was tapping on the desk.  "We'll be sharing the room till tomorrow. I'm paying."

Her senses stopped functioning after that. Veronica flung her hands over her face. Ample lighting brightened the place, but, a disturbing darkness seemed to loom over her. She wanted to sprint.

But her phone went off loudly. She almost dropped it on the floor. Her breath caught—his name and photo flashed on the screen like a gleaming warning sign.

Shit. Her legs wouldn't move; she'd gone as cold and still as the wall behind her. Her ringtone was loud enough that she was sure Théo had heard it from where he was standing. Veronica stayed fixed on the floor. 

The shock had sprung to total stupefaction when a tall, well-dressed guy stepped in front of her.   "What're you doing?"

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