I didn’t look up when he spoke. Even though the office was dead quiet and I should have been startled, I knew he was there and he knew I knew he was there. Like two facing mirrors, I knew what he knew in an infinitely reflected line of knowledge between us.
“A happy non-denominational holiday to you, too.”
I dropped my pen as if it had always been hot and I was just sick of the temperature.
Drew leaned over me and kissed my forehead. I reached around his neck and pulled him down to me. I was entitled to a good, long Christmas kiss. There wasn’t a deposition in the world that was going to deprive me of his lips.
“Beer,” I said, kissing him again, tasting his tongue.
“I just had a few.”
“You had two. I’m getting something artisanal past the Heineken.”
He gave me his entire mouth, daring me to get every last flicker of flavor. I had it just as he yanked away.
“I’m going to take you right on the table if you don’t stop.”
“I was locating the bar you went to.”
He smirked and dropped into one of the mesh ergonomic chairs. His cuffs were rolled up to the elbows, showing his tattoos and forearms rippled with muscle from weekends and late nights playing guitar. He worked three blocks to the west at a small, quiet firm that had three big, loud clients.
“I went to Madigan’s.” He flicked a few pages of a deposition away and rested his elbow on a clean rhombus of conference table. When I was late in the office I kept the light low and directed at my work. It helped me concentrate.
“I know.” I slipped my right foot out of my shoe and put it on his lap. He caressed it. “And you were with Jaewoo, who made you try his…” I scrunched my face, trying to pinpoint the sharp, seasonal flavor at the back of his mouth. Sweet honey and cinnamon. “Glögg? Are they doing Glögg?”
“Of course they are.”
I slid down my chair so my heel could press the hardening flesh between his legs.
“Jaewoo’s such an effete little hispter.”
Jaewoo, on of two of Drew’s bandmates was also in his twenties and treated his parents like ATMs. The only way a musician could do experimental instrumental soundscapes in dark clubs and tiny venues was if they had generous parents, a trust fund, or a career in law.
“He wants us to tour this spring.”
Drew didn’t look at me when he said it. He considered the slopes of my foot as if he wanted to sculpt them. He was a fool if he thought that was going to distract me.
“When are you leaving?”
“You want me to come? That’s sweet.”
He finally looked at me, blue eyes dark in the night. The windows rattled against the winter wind. I wasn’t going anywhere and unfortunately, he wasn’t either.
“I want you to come, and you will.” He pulled my foot aside, spreading my legs, and sliding me to the edge of the chair. “Right in this office.”
In the wet heat of the moment, it seemed like a perfectly fine idea.
“No,” I gasped. “Home.”
“Losing your nerve? There’s no one here.”
I gripped the arm rests and pulled my butt to the back of the chair.
“It’s not my nerves I’m worried about. I don’t want to lose another job.”
He leaned back, letting me stand and organize my stacks. He knew I could afford to lose another ten jobs, but he respected my need to work. I loved practicing law. Loved fixing problems, putting pieces together, arguing, breaking a story down to get to the root of it. But the fact that I didn’t need to work meant I didn’t do well with authority. My mouth had gotten me in trouble more than once. I couldn’t stand bullshit and didn’t suffer fools easily. I could have started my own firm. I had the money and connections…in Los Angeles. New York was harder.
Drew got behind me, pressing his erection to my lower back and his lips to my throat.
“You should tour,” I said, trying to concentrate on putting my work away while he pushed against me. “You’re a great lawyer but—”
“I’m an adequate lawyer.”
“—you were meant to play music.”
“I am playing music.”
“You’re holding yourself back.” I put the last of my files in my briefcase and closed it slowly. His hands found my breasts and it was hard to decide if I had everything I needed to take home.
“I am. From fucking you. Right here. Now.”
Drew was a deft subject-changer, and he usually did it after he aroused me into bad decisions or when I was doing ten things at once.
He reached around me, laid his hands on the lid of my briefcase and closed it. I snapped the locks shut. His breath was warm on my neck. His lips traced a line from my jaw to my jacket.
“Don’t keep me up all night,” I said. “We have to get up in the morning.”
“Early,” he whispered back.
“Dead early. With the birds.”
I laughed, because I could. I’d cleared my desk, gotten my ducks in a row, put out the fires. Name the cliché, I had nothing on my docket but Christmas in Mykonos.
Two things consistently improve over the years. Wine and compound interest. Everything else had a way of dying off, souring or inspiring complacency. A state of gratitude is exhausting to maintain. Yesterday’s blessings are today’s entitlements.
Drew and I huddled together under the covers naked, smelling of sex and satiation. His breathing got shallower and slower. The windows were thinner and smaller than the office glass, so the rattling was higher pitched.
We’d bought the co-cop on 82nd street and Second Avenue when both our rents went up and we knew we were staying in New York. I could have bought it with what I had. I was willing to drop the downpayment and half the monthly nut, but he wouldn’t have it. He sold the studio in Palihood to buy the place. He wouldn’t be talked out of it. Wouldn’t be fucked or sucked out of it. I considered tricking him out of it, but no. I had to let a man be a man, so we split it down the middle.
I liked being away from my family and he loved the thrum of the city as much as he loved me. We talked about getting married, then just never got around to it.
We had everything we needed.
Except music. I didn’t care. I never needed music as much as I needed to grow up, but when he played the bar on Seventh and B, he came home smelling of beer and sweat. Those nights, he fucked me like a madman. He surrounded me with his energy and power. How could he not want that back?
We were packed and ready for the flight. Our first Christmas away from both our families. Just him and me on a Grecian island. The alarm was set for five-twenty, and mentioning this now, again, was irresponsible, but I had to.
“You should go on tour,” I said. His eyes opened before he sucked in a wakeful breath. “You’re miserable. I can hold down the fort here.” I sat up before he answered, cutting of his standard reply. “You don’t have to be famous. You just need to play.”
He licked his lips and turned onto his back.
“I mean it. I’m going to just kick you out.”
He put his forearm over his eyes. His tattoos were indistinguishable in the half-light. Swirls of black and grey instead of red and blue.
“You’re not going to kick me out. You love me. And I’m not going. I’m happy here.”
I didn’t hear him, or pretended I didn’t, or I ignored him.
“I know it’s not going to be like it was. You’re not twenty any more, nothing is going to be like it was. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get to be happy. You need to play music to be happy.”
He took his arm off his eyes and looked right through me. “You know what I think?”
“You think I should bring this up after we’re on the plane?”
He sat up. I kneeled with my hands on my knees, ready for him to finally tell me the problem. We’d be tired for the flight but we needed to fight about this. Again. I was going to wash away whatever hesitancy he had.
“I think this is about your happiness.” His words had the fresh bite of things never said before. “You want me to play because it’s what you want.”
“I’m never going to be a young up-and-coming act again.”
“It’s just me, Margie. No guitars. No music. No big shows—”
“I don’t want any of that.”
“—No best friend to share you with or knock you up while I’m sleeping.”
I should have been hurt. When he’d brought Strat up in past fights, it had brought me to tears. Now I just saw the insult for what it was. A last ditch effort to stop talking about this shit.
I crossed my arms over my naked breasts.
“Now that we have that out of the way,” I said.
He flicked the light on, bathing us in warm yellow light. His body was still toned and gorgeous. He kept his ink fresh and the casual playing he did kept his arms roped and strong. He put his eyes on me, grazing over my body from knees to throat as if he wanted to dress me in desire.
“God,” he shook his head.
“Why are you taking the Lord’s name in vain this time?”
“You’re so beautiful.”
“I said you were forgiven, you don’t have to flatter me.”
He laughed to himself, looking out the window into the winter sky.
“You get more beautiful every day and I just get older.”
He wasn’t that much older then I was, but the march of years was hitting him harder because he was unhappy.
“I’m taking a big risk, telling you to go out and meet a bunch of hipster girls.”
“Traveling across the country,” I straddled him. “A lone guitar string cowboy.”
He held his hands out and I took them, leveraging myself against him.
“More like twelve guys farting on a bus.”
“You’ll be happy and realize you don’t need me.”
I was just joking. There wasn’t a pretty young girl I the world who made me feel insecure or threatened. Drew was mine. I was his. Neither time nor distance could change that. But his expression changed, and I knew he didn’t take it as a joke.
“That won’t happen,” he said, serious as a death in the family. What had I said?
“You know what’s going to happen? I’ll tour with this little experimental band. No one will come. No hipster groupies. No A&R assholes hanging around. I’ll suck and everyone will know it. I’ll leave here a guy who blew his shot and come back a failure. You’ll realize I was just a twenty year-old pig falling for an underage girl. Then you’ll leave me.”
He’d never expressed this before. He’d always shrugged, grumbled, or said he’d think about it.
“Drew. You know that’s not going to happen.”
He put his hands over my face playfully, fingers splayed, their tips pressing a constellation of pressure at the edges.
“Right now, the only thing I have for sure is you. I’d rather stay Indy, the old Indy, in your mind. I know that’s who you see when you look at me. If I become this other guy, this disappointment…” He pulled his hand away and made an explosion with his fingers. “Boom. He’s dead and you’ll split.”
I wasn’t letting him get away with this bullshit.
“I’ll split in two so I can love you both.”
“I knew it!”
He twisted and rolled over until I was wiggling under him.
He pinned my arms down.
“That you wanted two of me.”
“I can barely stand one of you.”
“Liar,” he whispered just before he kissed me. I didn’t know if he’d changed his mind or if he’d even heard me this time, but he kissed me as if he was the old Indy, and I was Cin. As if he touched God with his music whenever he wanted, and his best friend was still alive. He kissed me as if he knew I’d never leave him, because I wouldn’t. I loved him more than my own life. I loved his insecurity and his power. Loved his past and future. His fluid mind and hard body.
And then the phone rang.
This type of chapter by chapter release is the absolute worst idea I ever had. It doesn't fit my process at all, but I owe it to you to find time to write this book.
So here's the deal. This is a group project.
I was just joking. There wasn’t a pretty young girl **I** (in) the world who made me feel insecure or threatened.
I loved the first book an I’m so happy you taking the time to write chapters for the second your an amazing writer
Misspell: Hipster. Jaewoo’s such an effete little hispter.”
Q: Was hipster a term that was around in 1999? Artistic license works for me if it wasn’t but just calling it out, like you asked.
Typo: One. Jaewoo, on of two of Drew’s bandmates
Typo: off. … cutting of his standard reply.
Co-cop should be co-op. Love your books.
Loving the complexity!
I just want to tell you how much I love your stories/books. I have them all. I have been sick for awhile but am doing better but let my emails go and am now just working through them. So just finding Sacred Sins and getting caught up. I know you are very busy but if you could let me know for sure if I have missed anything else you put out I guess I would have it. Also, I asked a long time ago if you were going to finish Carrie’s story. I have gleaned that she was sexually abused by a priest. I look forward to reading that book. Carrie and Margie are my favorites.👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍