Brian is an angry, splotchy red. Robert’s lips have practically disappeared, they are so tight. Meanwhile, my head is spinning. I am far from Brian’s favorite person, but does he really think that’s a viable solution here?
“It was just a suggestion,” he says, scrambling to triage the situation. “Everyone here knows you’re the out-of-the-box thinker, Robert. I was trying to come up with an out-of-the-box solution.”
Michael speaks up. “It’s a bit more than out-of-the-box, Brian. It’s also illegal.”
If possible, the color of Brian’s face deepens and he swings his gaze in my direction. Brian is petty, and at times completely unreasonable, but he hasn’t always been wrong in his criticism of me. I don’t belong here. Someone more deserving and qualified should have this job. My stomach turns over, sour.
Done with the conversation, Robert slips his glasses back on and looks at the others around the table. “Brian, you can head downstairs. The rest of us need to get back to finding a realistic solution. We’re running out of time.”
Seriously. What the fuck, Brian.
I throw a frozen dinner in my microwave and pace the ten-foot length of my living room, back and forth.
“What an asshole,” I growl.
The microwave dings, but I ignore it, instead going to the fridge to grab a beer. I snap the top open and drink half of it before slamming the can down on the counter.
For the life of me, I can’t get this afternoon out of my head.
I’d excused myself from the meeting once they finally broke for coffee, leaving them to go over the list of possible replacements on their own. Even without eavesdropping in the hallway, I knew they were all lukewarm on the alternatives, no matter how talented they may be. Seth is a douchebag, but his charisma is undisputed, and he and Luis seemed to move in perfect unison when they performed together. We need someone like that for Ramón Martín—whose voice is like rich honey—and given the fluency of his playing, I know that person is Calvin.
I pick up the beer again, finishing it and crumpling the can in my left hand. Returning to the fridge, I grab another, making a mental list of the present circumstances.
1. Ramón starts rehearsing in two weeks.
2. Lisa isn’t even pushing to claim the lead violinist chair; in fact, she offered some names to Robert.
3. Robert brought Calvin in after listening to him play at the station for a mere three minutes. My uncle has a musical ear that goes beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed—and I spent a good part of my childhood in the symphony hall, watching him.
4. Without a doubt, we need Calvin.
How could Brian think I would do something like this?
I close my eyes, wondering at the ball of heat in my chest.
Sleep doesn’t come easily.
By midnight I’m back to pacing the apartment.
By one I’m on my phone, frantically researching visa requirements and examples of immigration leniency. There aren’t many.
By two my battery is almost dead. I decide I’m worrying over something completely beyond my control and spend the next hour going through my clothes and getting rid of things I haven’t worn in years.
By three thirty I’m on my bedroom floor, tethered to my phone again, which is itself tethered to the outlet. Scouring theater gossip sites, I look for productions that have lost two major leads at once, hoping I’ll identify a slew of shows that came back bigger and better than ever.
Spoiler alert: I don’t.
By the time the sun starts to brighten the sky, and after zero hours of sleep, I feel a little crazy, but Brian’s suggestion feels less so.
Empty hangers swing on the rod overhead as I stare at my closet ceiling. Exhausted and apparently beyond rational thought, I decide to make another list—this time of the pros and cons of marrying Calvin. This activity could probably be taken more seriously if I weren’t also wearing an old bridesmaid dress and a pair of knockoff Valentino flip-flops from Chinatown last summer.
“Pro: he’s gorgeous.” I sit up, searching a discarded handbag for something to write on. “Let’s start with that.”
The back of an envelope works, and I add the first item to the Pro column.
I don’t know him.
This idea is varying shades of illegal.
Oof. That’s a big one. I swiftly move back to the pros.
Robert really wants Calvin, even if he’d never admit it.
I adore Robert more than life itself.
Calvin was made for this role. I know it.
Robert has done more for me than any single person. This could be my chance to repay him. When will I ever have this opportunity again?
I can’t figure out another way to make this work.
There’s something else inside me, urging me forward. Why on earth does it feel like I nearly want to leap without looking? I look over the list, knowing what’s missing. Even in my head, my voice is a shameful whisper.
I sort of really want to do it.
But would I feel pathetic? Having had a crush on him all this time?