Chapter Three

Saturday, December 8th


The next time I see Sam Wilcox, he’s sitting at the same table, completely pissed. It’s only the beginning of my set and he’s already drunk enough to be flushed. His tie has now come off, but he’s stunning anyway. I think he’d be stunning in anything.


I hate this place with a passion. I could be home having a couple of beers with one of my friends or hanging out in the park with my fluffy dog, Muppet. Instead, I’m here just to avoid pissing off George. I mean, the Club is nice, and the drinks are nice to try instead of my usual brew, but it’s just not my thing.

He insists I need to start socialising with our people since I’m supposed to inherit the Club when he passes. I’ve already told him I won’t. I love my career, and although the course I chose to study got me kicked out of his house, we somehow mended our relationship in the past year.

I’m much more of a stay at home or go to a local pub kind of bloke, and honestly, it’d be even more awful to be here if it wasn’t for the piano bloke.

Only his profile is visible to me from where I’m sitting, but it’s enough. His black hair is long –just how I like it–and slicked back. His nose is long and a little crooked at the tip, like someone punched him there, although if you ask me, he looks too posh to be in a fistfight.

Tonight, he’s wearing a burgundy suit and he looks just lovely in it. Since I first sat here last week, I noticed his long, slim frame and how nicely his shoulders move when he’s playing a fast song.

I've never cared much about piano music, but coincidentally this week I listened to a ton of classical music playlists on Spotify. Andrea says I’m being an idiot. She’s the manager and works here to pay her way through Grad school. Her parents still help her with money, I think. We met when we were twelve and we’ve been best friends ever since the first time we spoke. I think George was kind of hoping we’d end up dating, but once her boyfriend came into the picture, it was pretty clear it wouldn’t happen.

Andrea is cute with her dark eyes, but she’s not my type. I don’t think we ever saw each other as more than friends, not even after the time we kissed in a truth or dare back in secondary school. We just laughed about it and moved on. During my twenty-four years, I’ve dated two women, and more recently, a man too. I don’t think she was surprised when I told her I was into guys too. We were having lunch at a café when I dropped what I thought was a huge bomb on them.

She shrugged and said, “Yeah, I think we all knew,”

Jack nodded and patted my shoulder, “Yeah. I mean, it makes sense. Good for you, dude.”

I think the only one who was surprised was me. It was like the world was more in tune with it than I truly was. Although I’m still trying to figure out what I am, I don’t think it’s necessary to label myself as anything right now because it’s still new, and I want to get to know more people before I decide on something. Before I have to tell George.

For years, I've wondered why he adopted me in the first place because he’s never once been affectionate. I mean, yeah. He gave me a place to stay and food from eleven to nineteen, but that was it. After he came back from war, he decided to do something for charity, I guess. So, he took me in, dressed me in nice clothes and sent me to a private school, where Andrea and I met. I think he secretly wants me to marry someone already, but that’s just not where my heart is at the moment. Not in the way he’d want, anyway.

My heart is currently racing as the piano bloke is doing a faster song now. His hair is falling around his face like a curtain, and his eyebrows are all scrunched up together. There’s so much happening on his face in contrast to his straight back and squared shoulders.

I love the way his body seems to be static from afar, but if you stare, you can see the movement of his hands and his leg as he plays and pours his heart into the piece. I didn’t know someone could be this interesting to look at. Anyway, Andrea says I’m being an idiot because she’s worked with him for over a year and he’s never spoken more than a couple of words to her.

She told me his name is Theo, which already makes me think he doesn’t only look posh, he actually is. According to her, he’s very reserved and never bothers with casual conversation. I try to think about how I can get him to talk to me, just to at least get him to know I exist, but I honestly can’t find an excuse.


I’m in the middle of playing Fly me to the moon, one of the crowd’s favourites when the manager, Andrea, places a tall glass filled with a colourful drink on top of my piano. I raise an eyebrow at her. The only person who buys my drinks is Lyla, and she’s not here tonight. She places a thick card next to it, nods at me as I mumble a weak “thank you”, and leaves. I force myself to play one more song after this one before I can check it. I don’t want to seem desperate, and I’m bracing myself for the disappointment of knowing that whoever bought me a drink is not who I want.

I finish playing one of my all-time favourites, “Vienna”, take a deep breath and find the Wilcox guy leaning back on his seat, looking at me. I sneer at him. Fine then, I won’t check it now. The crushed ice is halfway melted when I notice he’s gone. Quickly, I take the card and place it over the piano keys as I open it carefully, almost as if it was cursed.

I really like the music here. -SW

What the fuck is this even supposed to mean? Thanks, I guess. If I’m not being too delusional, he’s the one who sent me this, and as I sip on it, I can’t help but love the taste of strawberries and gin. Such an odd choice, and if I didn’t know who sent it, I’d be even more mortified, because almost no one knows about my sweet tooth.

Sure, beer is great, but I have a weak spot for sugary drinks. Lattes, cappuccinos, milkshakes… Even regular soda. I know they’re not good for your health, and I try to avoid them as much as possible, but I can’t help but indulge here and there.

I’m almost dizzy with both the drink and the idea that he sent it, so I take the glass and decide to go up to the roof for a breath of air before I head home. God, I am attention-starved. My set was finished, anyway.

I clock out on the old fingerprint machine and follow the marble staircase until I’m up and out on the roof. It’s nice here if you have a date. More private. It’s more of a rooftop garden, with rose bushes, peonies and all kinds of beautiful pink flowers around and in-between small wooden benches. There’s even a couple of swings, I think.

During the night, there are fairy lights faintly illuminating the atmosphere. Thankfully, it’s not rainy tonight, and although it’s cold, it’s nice to watch the city from above.

There’s a couple of people sitting on the benches between the bushes, but I barely glance at them as I head straight to the metal railing. Back when I was a teenager, I used to come here when Father would force me to come to weddings and the like, and I’d just think about how I wanted to move out and live a different life from what was set out for me. Sometimes I’d even get pissed with my friends with wine we’d steal from the party.

And well, look at me now. I guess my life is different from my family’s, but at the same time, I’m still here, ten years later. Still pining over someone…still a hopeless romantic. I guess a very cautious one, but still one. 

I feel someone approaching me, and I resist the urge to turn around. I close my eyes and pray to whoever’s up there, that they’re who I want them to be.

He rests a freckled hand next to mine on the cold railing and clears his throat, “I like your hands,”

I feel my stomach drop to the floor. What an odd thing to say to someone you’ve never met.

I look at him and lift an eyebrow. He’s flushed and running his other hand through his curls, “I mean, yeah. What you do with them. I like the piano. I like how you look so into it when you’re playing,”

I exhale and turn my body towards him. I’ve received so many compliments over the length of my musical career, some even coming from experts and recognised musicians, and I somehow don’t think they would top his.

I tip my glass at him and take a sip from the thin straw, “Thanks, that’s odd but nice to hear.”

 His flush is even deeper now, and I can tell he’s scrambling for something to say.

I won’t let him. 

“If you’ll excuse me, I was enjoying the peace from up here,”

I start turning away from him, but then I see the look of confidence on his face falter and I stop and stare. He’s so fit and soft. He’s barely spoken a few words to me and I’ve already memorised the tone of his voice so I can replay it in my head.

He gives me a dazzling grin and tries again, “Yeah. I mean. I’ve heard piano music before, but I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to enjoy it.”

 “Yeah. It takes listening to the right pieces for one to love it,” I reply, nodding.

“You do it for a living? Because mate, what are you doing here?”

Mate. Mate. Mate. Clearly, he’s looking for a friendship and I’ve already managed to misread the situation in under ten minutes. Which is disturbing ways, typical for me. Always looking for a connection.

“No. I mean, yes. I studied it professionally, but I don’t play for a living.”

He leans in a little closer, and I don’t know if it’s because he can’t hear me over the soft jazz music playing up here or for a different reason. I take a step back.

He rubs the back of his neck and fiddles the button on his jacket, “You should be at the Royal Albert Hall,”

I can’t help but chuckle, “I’ve played there before. Six times.”

 He looks genuinely impressed, so much so, that his eyebrows shoot up, “Alone?”

He’s so pretty with his mouth hanging open like that. I fiddle with my straw.

 “Mhmm. Twice. The rest I’ve played with an orchestra,” I tell him, and then wonder why I’m telling him all of this.

“You’re so bloody talented. You should play for a living,” he says, and I can tell he means it.

I shake my head, “I didn’t want the thing I love the most in the world to become a monotonous job. I intend to keep it that way.”

Again, I don’t know why I’m sharing all of this with him when I could have laughed his compliments off.

He nods, “Yeah, yeah. I get it. Completely. It’s just, you’re so good. You make it sound so alive. It’s–Um, my name’s Sam, by the way. Sam Wilcox. Just Sam, not Samuel.” 

He’s babbling endearingly now. He extends his arm towards me and years of character education and enforced politeness makes me shake his hand.

“Theo Oblinger.”

His eyes never leave my face as he says, “I like your name,”

He's either playing dumb or literally has been living under a rock because well… The Oblingers are known. Especially in these circles.

I take a long sip of my drink. “Yeah. Thanks. Yours is not terrible, either.”

It is. Of course, it is. Who names a bloke like this a three-letter word. I wonder if he realises how close to flirting this whole interaction has been.

He doesn’t say anything, so I take it as my cue to leave. “Well, Wilcox. If you'll excuse me, I still have to drive home and I am exhausted.”

He nods at me and smiles again, his eyes meeting mine. “Yeah. I’m heading home, too.” 

I don’t give him a last glance as I weakly say, “See you around,”

I turn and start walking toward the stairs when I hear him again, “Theo?” 

Who does he think he is?

I stop but I barely turn my head to look at him over my shoulder, “Yeah?”

He’s looking down, suddenly interested in his black dress shoes, “We should hang out sometime,”

My heart was already hammering in my chest betrays me by kicking it up a notch, making my breath catch. Is he…? No. He probably means as a mate. We could watch a game or something, I guess.

“Yes. Sounds good to me.”

He looks up, and his smile could light up the whole sky. He’s the sun and I’m flying dangerously close to it.

As a last thought, I add, “I’ll see you next weekend.” 

I don’t wait to hear his reply. I only allow myself to breathe out once I’m sitting in the safety of my car, my stomach still filled with a wonderfully uncomfortable sensation it hasn’t felt for years.

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