“You’re going to be amazing.”
This earns a tiny grin.
“I’ll get you drunk later, regardless.”
Calvin laughs. “Keep telling me that, too.”
I can tell Calvin is intimidated by the crowd that’s gathered near the stage to hear his first rehearsal. He seemed so much more laid-back at the audition—but of course he did. He’d had nothing to lose, then.
With a little shoulder-squeeze of solidarity, I let him go at the top of the center aisle and watch him make his way toward Robert. I’m relieved to see that Ramón isn’t here yet.
In the distance, my husband and uncle shake hands, and then Calvin is pulled into a hug. Bless Robert’s intuition for nerves, and bless Calvin for collapsing into him so readily.
Brian comes up beside me, lifting his chin toward the stage. “Well. That certainly looks chummy.”
I roll my eyes but otherwise stay silent. He’s wearing a dark blue shirt covered in suns and tigers and snakes and I don’t care that it’s probably Gucci, it’s ridiculous. I’m not sure if the idea of him paying eight hundred dollars for a cheesy polo makes me happy in a really catty way, or sad about the state of my own finances.
Either way, Brian is a dick.
“How lucky for him that there was an eligible young lady with spinster tendencies and a poor outlook on the future.”
“Did you need something?” I ask, curling my hands into fists so I don’t reach out and slap him.
He raises a single brow in warning at my tone. “We’ll make sure everyone knows you’re married. Robert mentioned we can’t have rumors that it’s fake.”
I don’t even know what to say to this, so I just mumble, “Thanks.” I can already feel the way Brian wants to insert himself into this craziness, wants to collect truth and gossip like coins in a treasure chest.
He turns and looks at me. “I have to tell you, even at that meeting . . . I never thought you’d actually do it.”
We so rarely stand this close and look at each other so evenly, but there’s a perceptible shift in the dynamic this morning, and once I understand it, everything snaps into focus: He can’t deny I did something of value. He needs to bring me down a peg again by pointing out how insane I am to marry a stranger.
“You seemed pretty sure it was an out-of-the-box idea,” I remind him.
“I was fucking joking,” he says. “I mean, who does something like that?”
He snorts out a laugh and disappears back out to the lobby. His superior attitude always makes me want to scream, You know it’s pronounced supposedly, right? Not supposably? You know there’s no ‘r’ in Washington? You realize you have your read receipts on your text messages so we always know how long you draw out your power trip before responding?
And yet, I don’t. I carefully pull my camera out of the bag at my hip and head down the aisle to capture some pictures of Calvin and Ramón: day one.
For a while, Robert and Calvin talk quietly, heads bowed. It reminds me of watching Dad coach out on the football field, with my oldest brother, Thomas, the high school star quarterback: their heads together, plotting out plays, feeling the pressure of hundreds of eyes on their every move. In some ways, this seems not altogether different, except the scale of celebrity here is colossal.
The thought of Dad and Thomas makes my chest hurt a little with homesickness. I’ve stood still for so long, and suddenly my life is this moving train; having a secret this enormous makes them feel even farther away.
In front of me, Calvin steps away, pulling his guitar out and tuning it with mannerisms that seem oddly familiar already. I get a phantom whiff of coffee and tea—he’s been tuning in the morning, wearing barely anything while I pour our respective mugs—and I know what he’s going to do next before it happens: he rolls his neck, squeezes his hands into fists, and then flexes his fingers. My heart is drumming in my throat, and when Calvin looks up to Robert for guidance, the drumming melts into fire.
Robert lifts his hands, counting down, and then music seems to spill out of Calvin’s instrument and along the aisle, a river overflowing, flooding us all. No one moves, no one speaks, and the richness of the music gives me that odd sense of déjà vu, of something far away that’s suddenly so close again, and I’m smothered by it in this way that makes me turn my face to the ceiling, trying to inhale it, swallow more.
He doesn’t need the sheet music; he rolls through the pieces. Every time Robert stops him to correct something it leaves me feeling like a sneeze has been cut short, or a breath punched out of me. At one point, when Robert stops Calvin again and again during a single four-measure stretch, the gathered mass groans, unconsciously, together.
Robert turns and playfully tells them to be quiet. “Let me run this show.”
Someone calls out, “He’s giving me chills.”
“The chills will be better when he gets the syncopation right.” Robert turns back around and counts down for Calvin to start again.
It’s so much like a dance—conductor and musician. Robert moves like water where he stands, and music pours out of Calvin. It’s an hour into the rehearsal before I remember I’m supposed to be doing something. I lift my camera up clumsily, balancing it on my cast to look through the viewfinder. Through the tiny square, I watch a six-foot-seven, Broadway-baby-turned-Oscar-winner, grinning, clapping Ramón Martín step onstage.