I glance back over my shoulder on instinct.
“You.” He leans in, blue eyes twinkling. “Holland.”
He knows my name?
“I can, if you need photos?”
“Robert says you brought him to see Calvin play. I’d like to hear why you thought to mention him.”
He gestures for me to follow, and my blood vibrates right up against my skin.
I take a seat on the far end of the table in one of the thrones. I was actually hoping for one of the kid chairs—would have felt more at home there in this crowd—but instead I sat before really thinking. And Brian, who clearly wanted to be seated between Robert and Richard, ended up with the shortest of straws and looks like a scowling toddler across the table from me.
“Holland,” he whisper-yells, looking around incredulously and then back to me. “Why on earth are you in here?”
“I invited her,” Michael says breezily, waving away any concern. “So, Holland. Let’s hear it. Who is this guy?”
“Um, well.” My voice wavers a little and I sense Brian vibrating with irritation across the table. “He plays a few mornings a week at the Fiftieth Street station—”
“He’s a subway musician?” Brian cuts in.
“Brian,” Robert cautions, his voice low. “Just let her explain.”
“I saw him one morning when I was headed to a doctor’s appointment uptown,” I say, “and even though I don’t need to commute because I only live a few blocks—”
Robert clears his throat, an unspoken Get to the point, Holland.
“So,” I say, cheeks heating, “I listen to him all the time. Everyone at the station watches him while they wait. He’s so good, and I told Robert about him and, um.” I press my hand to my forehead. I feel overheated under the pressure of their eyes on me. “I wanted Robert to hear him. Turns out he’s Juilliard trained.” I see Robert nod in my peripheral vision, encouraging. “He’s amazing. Anyone can see that.”
“He is amazing,” Don says, “and I’m glad we were here for it. It’s always good to keep an eye out for talent, for whatever comes next.”
Inside, I deflate because they don’t seem to have clued in to the unspoken suggestion that we bring Calvin into Possessed, but I nod to Don—as if my agreement carries any weight. I don’t meet Robert’s eyes. I don’t want to see my disappointment mirrored there.
Now that my bit has come and gone, the attention is turned away from me and back toward Robert and Brian.
Robert tells Don about the circumstances of Seth’s departure, and Brian confirms the spectacle of it. Brian updates the Law brothers on the new set pieces that have been constructed to replace two that cracked in rehearsal a month ago. But through all of it, Michael is staring at the table, tracing his finger around a swirl in the wood over and over.
Questions are thrown out and answered, and I try to shrink as low as I can in my seat. I’m a lowly T-shirt seller, the unnecessary archivist; I’m not needed here. But because I chose a seat in the back of the room, it would be more disruptive to stand and leave than it would be to just sit here on my raised platform, listening in. Besides, no one seems all that concerned—or aware—of my continued presence.
Except Brian, who thinks it’s a great time to text me.
I don’t need to remind u that u should not repeat any of there conversation outside of this room
Honestly, his grammar. I type a quick reply—Of course—before putting my phone facedown on the table.
“Do you think . . .” Michael begins during a lull in the conversation, and then laughs, shaking his head. “I think Holland might have had a smart instinct bringing him here today.” He holds up his hands, and my breathing halts. “Hear me out: listening to you speak about Seth leaving, and given my concerns—which I know you share, Bob—about Lisa as a replacement . . .”
There is thunder in my chest. I look up and briefly catch Robert’s eye.
“I think we should consider the guitarist to accompany Ramón in Possessed solo sections,” Michael continues. “I’ll be the first to admit it feels like a big departure, and of course I defer to you here, Bob, but it feels like it might be the perfect change.”
I bite my lips to keep them from bowing upward, and blink down at the table.
At the other end of the room, Robert hums thoughtfully. “It’s certainly an interesting idea.”
“I do like him,” Don agrees. “I’m not the musical strategist here, but do you think the soundtrack couldn’t lend itself to a more rustic feel?”
“It would be unexpected,” Michael says, grinning.
Richard nods, smiling. “I think it’s a wild, wonderful suggestion. The music is sexy. That kid was blindingly sexy.”
Every head turns to Robert.
“Bob,” Michael says, leaning forward. “Does this ruin your vision? Would you consider it?”
A tiny grin—so brief I’m sure no one else would name it anything other than a wince—jumps across Robert’s face, and then he reaches up, rubbing his hand over his mouth. “Guitar,” he says, as if mulling it over. “A guitar . . .”
Robert looks at Michael, but his smile is only for me. “Holland does have good instincts. I think Calvin and Ramón could be brilliant.”