8 : Broken

// Recording studio //

"The 28th? Okay. Got it. Thanks."

After confirming their tour dates, Kyle put his phone away. He strolled back into the booth with his electric guitar clinging to his torso. Jay (the band's manager) had told him Veronica was informed of the schedule changes, so he didn't bother to check up on her today.

They were supposed to be busy in the studio, but she'd called in sick again. With her Frenchman back in the city for a short break, Kyle knew she'd been spending all week with the guy. Her voice had been a little iffy the last time they got to work on a song, but it could've been worse.

She must be in a pricey hotel right now with Mr. Supermodel eager to make the most of his "me" time. Maybe the lovebirds would be heading to the beach later, if Kyle knew any better.

He understood. She hadn't spent time with the guy in months, which was always the case. Even so, Kyle had a feeling his bandmate preferred it that way. After Veronica's last long-term relationship went down the toilet, she hadn't exactly been the 'going steady' type. Nor had she taken the time to explore the dating pool after Blake, her first record producer.

Until Mr. Top Model came along.

The first time she'd told him meeting Théo was more than a pleasant surprise, Kyle ended up laughing — he'd really thought she was being sarcastic. The guy traveled everywhere as much as the band did, and Théo always was in a jaw-dropping, libido-mounting sea of temptation for as long as he would stick to his current line of work.

Who knows what he'd been up to on lonely weeknights...after realizing Veronica wasn't exactly "just a phone call away".  Well, she was crazy about the guy. Kyle knew he shouldn't give a crap. It was evident she was happy. He could even tell she was all excited and worked up that day when she first heard of Théo flying out to propose. He just hoped Théo learnt to keep it in his pants by now.

•••

Past one o'clock, Veronica greeted Dan as she crossed the hallway to the booth.  Kyle made a face. They weren't doing any vocals today;  he was still working on the fifth song's chorus. Why did she report for duty?

"Hey. What's—  Oh, you look busy." Via stepped inside the booth. The scattered score papers and steno sheets everywhere made her chuckle. Empty soda cans littered the chair next to the guitar rack.

"You okay?" Kyle asked when their gazes met.

"Yeah. It's just my throat. We doin' anything today?" She smiled at him. Her voice was a bit pinched. Colorful patterns filled the front of her thigh-high dress. A scrunchie bound her braided hair and made her bangs cover her cheek. She had no makeup on.

He always thought she looked younger with less makeup. "You stayin' till tonight?  Still workin' on the chorus." 

"Finished the verses?" Once she'd grabbed a chair, Veronica sat next to him and picked up pieces of paper with his scribbles and notes. Then she leaned on the desk to check on his work. "These look good."

"I'm thinking of adding, like, two or three more lines." He pinpointed the second verse.

"Three more? Thought you wanted it short?" She squinted at the chorus, which was still half-done unfortunately.

"We can go over the whole song today. Goin' somewhere?"

"No. Just drove him to the airport,"  Veronica said.

Finally. Frenchman was out. Did she look vaguely dismayed? It seemed so. "Still in high demand, huh?" Tapping on the spate of papers before them, Kyle peeked at her left hand.  No ring.  Thankfully.

•••

The place was crowded enough. Just as she'd hoped. 

She wished it would be full to the brim before he got here. But this would do. The lack of privacy would make him give violent reactions a second thought. And her car was parked right outside.

If ever their conversation turned into an embarrassing scene, she wouldn't have much trouble walking out. The thought relieved her somewhat. Veronica picked the empty corner seat and slumped onto it. She then read an email from their tour manager, who had finalized the band's flight schedules.

Her grip on her phone slackened. She wanted to pass out at the thought of traveling again so soon. They were to head back to Baltimore to wrap up a few more things. Their new songs still needed some work, and staying in New York until they'd have finished the editing and mixing would bleed their savings dry.

Recording required money. A lot, usually. In their case: give or take their paychecks altogether after a long tour or two.

They weren't frickin' Nirvana. And they'd never be the kind of band that could sell out a one-night show at Madison Square Garden. Extensive touring, constantly writing new material, and producing new records at a steady pace were their only means to survive in the business.

As she tried to still herself, some boisterous customers stepped into the café. Familiar voices prompted her to look up. Four tall guys were heading to the counters. Veronica recognized the tallest and the blonde woman behind them. Even with the place nearly jam-packed, the group was hard to miss. An attractive bunch, definitely. Most were well-dressed, too.

Then her attention fixed on the guy near the entrance. There he was. Her date for tonight...

Hair ruffled and brows creasing, Théo slouched by the glass doors. His cellphone was in his hand, and he was busy scanning the crowd of hungry patrons. The tall, skinny guys must be some of his new model friends. The blonde older woman, she recalled, was an exec in Théo's agency.

Veronica noticed his clothes. The guy seemed oblivious to the breezy weather. His boring gray shirt was paired with ugly, mud-brown shorts. If this were their first meeting, she wouldn't peg him as a noted high fashion model. Even his shoes looked dull.

Despite his deficient fashion sense, to her, he was still the most gorgeous man in the room. And in a matter of minutes, she was going to break up with him, with his boss and friends around.

Shit. She was so screwed.

It didn't take him five seconds to spot her. A pleased smile widened on his tan face as he made his way toward her table. "Hey, angelface," Théo greeted. He bent down to kiss her on the lips.

Thank you, Jesus. This might just get easy for her. He was in a great mood. Veronica sat back and put on a smile. 

Théo pulled away to take a good look at her.  "Hungry?" he asked in a murmur, dumping his bag on the vacant seat. He sat beside her.

"No. You?"

"Not really." Théo put an arm around her waist and leaned closer. He seemed glad she met up with him regardless of her busy schedule. His flight to Paris had been cancelled last week, and he'd just flown back from L.A. for the cover shoot.

They hadn't really talked since.  Which was why she thought she should see him again before he was due to go back home. To clear up a few things. A few issues they hadn't had much time — or courage — to talk over. Their status, specifically.

"How was the shoot?"  she asked, faking enthusiasm.

He waved to his friends lined at the counter. The guys waved back, then greeted her with toothy smiles. "They're all gonna be in it," replied Théo, referring to the magazine he'd just modeled for. "Paid good." He smirked and drew her closer.

Veronica held in a comment; his breath smelled of cigarettes again. "When's your flight?" she asked instead. Trying to act perfectly fine wasn't easy, but she just couldn't cut straight to the bad news. She owed him that, at least. 

"Ermm...Sunday. Meeting up with Tomek Saturday night. You guys busy this weekend?" Théo muttered, his eyes somewhat hopeful. He knew they were aiming to finish recording before winter.

"Yeah. Sorry." She reclined, his face getting too close. As much as she wanted to match his steady gaze, she couldn't. Now she wanted to bring up what she came here for.

It didn't need to take a while. She should just get it over with. So she could stop overthinking everything. Put an end to the sleepless nights.

Her mind was jaded from constantly pondering the prospect of them being more than this. Would it work out? Would what they have be enough? Would he be worth it?

It had been three years.  Almost.

She loved him, but she was still too confounded whether she should just give it a shot, take whatever he had to offer. She just didn't think they'd stay in love long enough for her to adequately justify quitting the band. She would leave her one and only career, her family and friends behind. Then maybe she and Théo would take root in some Parisian suburb. Get married. Or just not get married. Have babies eventually, and so on.

Sheesh. It just seemed too risky. Too drastic.

Of course, he and their relationship mattered much, but she also loved her life right now. She wanted everything to stay as it was. A major life change, at this point, just didn't appeal to her.

She and Kyle were only months away from finishing their fifth masterwork. The thought that after four records, the band was thriving even more, only assured her of her standpoint. It made her realize just recently that making music was what she'd be doing till she grew old. 

Since Théo wanted her to try settling down with him, staying in the band would only cause bigger problems in their relationship.  It just dawned on her;  what they had just wouldn't cut it.  She could be wrong, though.

Perhaps she just lacked a little faith and optimism. But after Blake, her supposed-to-be Mr. Right but now nothing but a thing of the past, at least she was being realistic this time.

"With Théo? You can't be serious, Veronica," was her mother's immediate reaction last time.  She'd hinted at the prospect of marrying Théo sometime in the future, but, as expected, her family responded with anything but support. "If he really wants to get serious, he wouldn't have cheated on you in the first place." 

Truer words had never been spoken, but her mom never really took the time to get to know Théo better. Convincing her mom to approve of her ongoing relationship with Théo had only resulted in redundant arguments over the past year, so Veronica had also given up on that aspect.

"What?" Théo held her hand on his thigh. "Talk," he encouraged in a calm voice, observing her apprehension.

The noise of random conversations around them didn't matter anymore. At his point, she just wanted to start the talk. Veronica looked into his inquiring eyes, feeling guiltier by the second. "Frankly, I was half-expecting to see you again and...half-dreading having to talk to you."

A moment passed. Théo sat still, his dark brows creasing bit by bit. "You might wanna be more specific."

Veronica drew her hand out of his clasp as he kept watching her closely. This didn't need to get dragged out. She should just cut to the chase, lay it all out for him, and get it off her chest. Now. Not any later. "Let's talk in the car. Please?"

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