Today I’m buzzing with excitement about seeing Theo. I mean, I don’t actually know if we’re doing the hang out thing today, but he did say he’d see me next week, and it’s all I’ve been able to think about. In hindsight, I probably should have asked him for his number, but the way he seemed to be closing off made me think he’d just sneer at me and leave, so I didn’t. I’m hoping to get it today, though.
I’m fixing my hair in Andrea’s living room. Jack is here too, they’re going over wedding invitation samples and whatnot. Wedding stuff. Her sofa comes in handy when I need to crash in London, and it’s free, automatically making it better than any hotel.
Jack clears his throat. I look at him as he raises one of his perfect eyebrows at me, “Going to see someone?”
“Huh? No, I’m just off to the Club with George,”
Andrea shoots him a look. “Sam, don’t,”
“I’m not doing anything,”
She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest like a pissed off mum. “You’re actually parting your hair.”
I raise my eyebrows and continue putting gel on it, trying to make it look fancier. I need a good haircut. Urgently.
“So what?” I drop the comb on the console table. “I’m just bored with my hair,”
She giggles, and then Jack follows. I hate them. They know me way too well. They’ve pretty much figured everything out already. As they tend to do. In a way, they’re my family, always looking out for me when I’m sad or falling too fast. Although I’ve been known to be incredibly transparent, so I don’t think it’s that hard to read me.
I click my tongue, “Besides, shouldn’t you be working tonight?”
Andrea shakes her head and wraps her arms around Jack, nuzzling into his neck. Since he finally moved from America, they’ve really wasted no time in making up for all of the years they lived apart.
“I’m on holiday, remember?”
I grab my jacket and put it on and then I check my pockets for my keys and wallet.
“Yeah. Right. I’ll see you tomorrow. Mum, Dad.”
“Don’t get in too late, you rascal,” Jack yells after me, faking a stern voice. He insists on taking the piss by using British words that just sound weird with his accent, but it’s actually funny.
I used to live here, but now it’s turned into their wedding operation base. Whenever I stay over, they wow me with a big breakfast and then comes a long chat, until it’s noon and It’s time to grab my backpack, garment bag, and hop on a train back home.
I think that’d be problem number one if I actually dated Theo because I’m fairly sure he’s a Londoner. Most likely. He looks posh enough to live in Kensington or Chelsea. I shake my head as I close the front door behind me. I’m already thinking about distance issues and the bloke hasn’t even shown interest in me. Typical.
George picks me up and the car ride is terribly awkward. He keeps asking if I’ve seen someone I like at the Club and tries to give me advice on how to get girls like I’m twelve and not twenty-four. It makes me want to gag a little. It was the same all throughout secondary school and so on.
I lean my head against the window and sigh. He already called the veterinary hospital I work at a “shop” twice and offered me a job at the Club once, and we’re not even five minutes in. I really don’t know what’s the point of our relationship anymore.
The more we near Christmas Eve, the more effort the Club puts into the music. Ana, my longtime friend, a sweet psychology major comes in and sings with me. This is usually something that happens around the holidays or the few times we’ve been requested to play for a wedding.
Ana and I have our own shared history. We went to Oxford together, and all throughout Uni we were each other’s date for formal dinners and spent countless nights eating greasy pub food during exam season. All throughout it, she’s always talked about moving to America. This time though, she’s already saving up for it. I’m happy she has the balls to go through with it.
These songs are easier to play, giving me room to think about the week. This one was particularly rough. Sometimes, when I’m knee-deep in backbreaking work, I close my eyes and imagine myself with a backpack and a plane ticket in hand, boarding a plane to an unknown destination. Or moving near the coast, away from all the buzz of the city.
I’ve been in school nonstop for years, and I hate to think that I’ve given up on doing the things I love the most for Academia. To satisfy the idea that success is going to make me happy when it clearly hasn’t. Although that could only be my depression speaking. That’s what I like to tell myself.
Anyway, Ana and I had a lovely day yesterday, putting together a setlist that we both liked, and of course, including the occasional Christmas song. We messed around with a few songs and rehearsed all day in my flat, with the obligatory Chinese takeout break in between. Playing music that way always feels new, natural, and I always cherish the opportunity to do so. It’s a welcome distraction and working with someone is a nice change from the usual. Her voice is angelic and soft, but she can hit high notes effortlessly. It’s a perfect accompaniment for my piano.
I know Sam’s here, I’ve seen him, but I’m doing my best to ignore him. To pretend that our conversation from last weekend didn’t happen. He’s making it difficult. He’s already sent me a glass of rosé, and I’m a disappointment to myself for drinking it and blushing about the fact that he’s clearly watching me. He’s just a stranger, and yet I can’t stop caring about his opinion on the bloody covers we’re playing.
I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me longer to pick out my suit than it usually does, taking particular care with how my hair looked. I know the odds of us talking again are low, and having George hanging around makes it even harder, but I can't help but feel slightly hopeful...
I don’t know, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to let go of this mess of a human just yet.
At the end of our set, we perform a cover of “Don’t look back in anger”, and I’m relieved to see that people here love Oasis. I can tell how the crowd goes completely quiet and is actually paying attention to the music. It’s not difficult to play, I think the vocal part is the hardest, but Ana pushes on and her sound is breathtaking.
I brave a look to my right, and sure enough, Sam is mouthing the words as his right hand is in a fist over his heart. Lovely. I think even I am quietly singing the words, too. His eyes meet mine and he keeps singing, almost to me.
I can’t help but smile as I return my eyes to the keys, and then to Ana.
I press the last key, and the room erupts in polite claps and the occasional scream from a drunk customer. I snort, bow my head and follow Ana into the staff room. It’s stuffy and badly lit, but it’s great for privacy. As I am taking a drink of water, George comes in.
He claps my shoulder and kisses Ana’s cheek. “That was good. I think more and more people are coming here just to see you,” he points at me, and then turns to look at her, “But tonight was even better.”
She smiles politely and looks at me, but George prattles on, “My son is here tonight, and I think you should meet him,”
For a moment I think he’s talking to me, but then I quickly realise he’s obviously meant it for her.
She gives him a polite smile, “Sure, yes.”
I’m jealous of her blonde hair and her delicate frame, just for a quick second, truly. I know she’s not even into anyone at this moment in her life and I roll my eyes at myself. I don’t want to be here when he introduces her, so I decide to leave now. I’m exhausted, anyway.
I excuse myself and head out, wrapping my black coat around my body. There’s a slight drizzle now, but it’s thankfully less heavy than earlier. I look around and find myself surprised that Sam is here, leaning against the same lamppost as the first night I met him. I thought he was still at his table.
Of fucking course. I wish he’d just drop it, but he walks towards me, smiling like a giant puppy and I can’t help but let my lips curl into a small smile.
“Ready to head out?”
I frown, “Pardon?”
His smile falters, but he nods, “You said yes. To hanging out, I mean,”
“I meant it vaguely, not next week at midnight,“ I reply, dismissing him and searching my coat for my valet ticket.
“Yeah. You said, and I quote you see you next weekend, so, want to grab a bite?”
I roll my eyes and breathe out. It’s both mortifying and sweet that he remembers my exact words.
I yawn for emphasis, “Wilcox, it’s midnight. I’m sure you’re as tired as I am.”
He runs a hand through his curls, messing up the parting. This beautiful oaf. “Yeah, but you must be hungry,”
I hand my ticket to the valet. “That I am.”
He stays silent and bites his lip at me, l I shake my head, “Okay, sod it. Let’s get something to eat. And then you’ll be on your merry way home, okay?”
How bad can it actually be? In the worst-case scenario, I get him to talk about his pretty girlfriend or something. Then I’ll know and get over him.
He nods, “Yeah. I’m down,”
Good, I reply in my head.
TheoAt first, it’s incredibly awkward as we trudge together to my car. He waits until I’ve clicked my seatbelt on to follow me inside.Sam more or less stumbles into my car and grins at me from the passenger seat. He's lovely in his brown suit that compliments his curls, the perfect picture of formality, yet he carries the clothes like he isn’t used to them. As the rain starts falling harder, he shivers.“One I’d think these stiff suits would be thicker, but no, I’m freezing out here,” he says.I bite my lip to hide a grin.“That’s why you're meant to wear a coat over it. Seriously, Wilcox, how have you survived this long?”“Wearing comfy stuff. Sweats. Mittens and all the nice fluffy jumpers,” he replies like it’s obvious."Christ."My heart is racing with the endless possibilities this night is offering. I mean, I was tired, but I’ve been goi
Sam We’re outside his flat, and I’m not even surprised we’re in bloody Kensington. At first, I suggested eating in the car, but I could tell he wasn’t fond of the idea. He shook his head. “Sod it, let’s go to my flat. Promise not to murder me?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “Nope. My murder shift starts at three a.m. You’re good.” I think I’ve been here once before, during a flower delivery for Lyla. Those days, where I’d spend all day driving around London, visiting offices and posh apartments endlessly hold some of my favourite memories. During those hot summers, I’d drink Coke and fizzy lemonade on the van, and vibe to her 80’s cd’s, because of course, the van didn’t have Bluetooth. The rest of the year, I’d heavily lean on cheap gas station coffee to survive the day. It helped me become familiar with every nook and cranny around London. So, it’s not surprising that I figured it out on the way back from the bagel shop. All t
I’m telling him about my cousin, who lives downstairs when he yawns and rests his head on the arm of my sofa, clearly exhausted. I don’t know how, but we’ve been inching closer as the minutes pass and our stories keep going on. It almost feels like we’ve known each other for a lifetime, and not just a few weeks. That’s how I’ve been told it works. Chemistry. Compatibility. Old souls reincarnating to find each other life afterlife. I truly don’t believe any of that rubbish, but he’s fun to talk to, and as far as I’ve seen, is the least judgmental bloke I’ve met. Every time I think he’s going to look outraged by one of my old Secondary school studies, he laughs instead. A musical, loud laugh that makes me blush. “Am I boring you, Sam?”, I ask as I glance at my wristwatch. It’s three A.M. already. “God no, it’s just-“ he says before another big yawn, “I’ve been up for ages.”
December 21st I feel like a proper fool as I sit at the piano and see Sam out of the corner of my eye. Tonight, he is sharing his table with a red-haired woman, chatting and laughing like they’re the only people in the room. She has her long fingers wrapped around his wrist, and he’s only looking at her. His big curious eyes focused on hers, the rest of us unworthy of his attention. I wonder why he didn’t think of having some class and going somewhere else. I close my eyes and breathe in, thanking myself for replying vaguely to his texts this week about visiting him. I school my face back to casual boredom, trying to stop my hands from shaking. These feelings of rejection, I can handle. I’m familiar with them. Thank Christ it ends here. I can’t look at him again. I start playing Chopin’s nocturnes to match my mood and try to mute everyone around me. If I can get this set d
SAM Staring at Theo during his set is probably more than I should be allowed to do, but I indulged anyway. Now that I’ve gotten to spend a few hours with him, I’m latching onto the slightest possibility of us dating. Or seeing each other again. His accent is posh, and all his mannerisms are too, but I find myself relating to the things he says. Despite our wildly different backgrounds, he’s still figuring out who he wants to be. He’s a little lost, but that’s okay. I can be his company, as long as he wants me there. “Hey,” Rose taps my hand, and holds her drink up to my face, “Try this cocktail. It’s insane.” I grin at her and take a sip directly from her straw, “Oh wow, the peaches are really coming out. Lovely,” She laughs, and she’s pretty. Her long hair flows down her shoulders and back like a silky curtain, and her eyes are sparkling now. I do not doubt that she deserves to find someone who cherishes her and wants to try every singl
Sam“I, Uh-no,”Theo runs a hair through his hair and looks at the door behind me, “Then what the hell are you doing here?”“I wanted to talk to you, you weren’t outside,” I babble because I don’t know what I expected. For him to throw himself into my arms? Maybe.Instead, his gaze is cold and bored.“You shouldn’t be here, this is an employee-only area, so,” he stands up and straightens his jacket. He’s the image of self-control, poised and composed while dismissing me like I didn’t talk to him for hours on the floor of his living room.I know better than this, though.“Look, I get that you might be confused since we hung out last week,” he explains, “But trust me, it was just a one-time thing. We had a fun, experimental night, part of living out your twenties and all that, but I think that’s what it is. Y
It’s unsettling to watch Sam’s demeanour change completely. From confident and tender to stiff and withdrawn. His eyes immediately focus on the floor, on the sofa behind me, they roam the room looking anywhere but me. It instantly reminds me of an older version of myself, one where I hid behind a glass closet whenever my father was looking my way. It’s heartbreaking, but I understand why it has to be this way.I wait for him to say something, but he stays looking down at the floor. It’s awkward, and for a second, I consider darting out without a word, but that’d be a recipe for disaster. Not that whatever this is won’t be messy, but still.“Certainly, I-“ I try.He ignores me, “Son, what are you doing here?”He nods obediently, “I was talking to Theo about a piece, Um, that I heard tonight. That’s all, yeah.”Oh. My. God. Is he being purposefully obtuse?&n
Chapter twelve Sam Theo is coming over. Theo Oblinger, Economics professor and classically trained pianist is coming over to my dingy flat for dinner, and then God knows what else we’ll get up to after. I didn’t think he would accept, and he went ahead and surprised me by saying yes. It’s only noon, and I’ve just gotten back from London but I’m already planning what I’m going to make for him. The whole train ride I dozed off and then started thinking about what I could make for him. One of the things I like about me is that I’m ace at cooking. When I was a student, I couldn’t really afford to eat out except for the occasional cheap takeout, and my curiosity to try good food pushed me to learn to cook. Of course, I’m not a pro and my knowledge comes mostly from internet recipes, but I’ve been told I make a good meal. Andrea used to love my cooking, and she’d often volunteer to buy groceries so