Whether he’s enthralling hundreds, or moving above me staring unfocused at my lips, or quietly plucking away at his guitar on the sofa at noon, I wonder how I lived such a solitary, mediocre life before him. Even then, watching him so briefly create magic as he played at the station was the highlight of my week. But now he’s become this consuming force of nature in my world. How could I possibly not fall in love with that?
I reply to his sister, and despite Calvin’s insistence that she’s not much of a texter, she writes me again. Back and forth like this every day—at first with little innocuous tidbits and then with photos and stories—we get to know each other. Each little bit of him in my life is another nail building the home our hearts can inhabit, and with a hunger that is nearly aching, I want to bring his mother and sister out here to visit. I know he misses them. I don’t have a lot of extra, but together Brigid and I scrounge it together and buy two tickets to surprise him.
One night, it’s the climax of the second act and Ramón is singing near the lip of the stage as his character watches his daughters move farther into the forest. Calvin accompanies him in the orchestra pit just a few feet away. This is the moment everyone waits for, where the attention of an entire audience is held by a single set of spotlights focused on Ramón. I can barely breathe during this song, and make a point each night of finding my way to the door to listen, to watch, to wait for that single note that—
“Mama, is it going to be over soon? They’re only singing for hours.”
A ripple of laughter moves through the auditorium at the sound of this boisterous kid voice, but Ramón plays into the entire thing, nodding in sympathy as the sheepish mother waves and carries the little girl away. The audience erupts into applause.
Live theater is unpredictable, and most performers will say that’s partly what they love about it. Whether it’s an unruly child or a missed lighting cue or a wardrobe malfunction, the energy of the audience and these tiny uncertainties are exactly what makes it addicting.
For Calvin, performing seems to be an intoxicating aphrodisiac. He finds me that night after his final bow and can hardly contain himself, trapping me against the iron frame of the forest set. His eyes are bright with the mischievous joy I’ve grown addicted to. Dropping his arms to my waist, he lifts me just high enough for my feet to come off the ground.
By now, the theater is practically empty, but he walks us both deeper backstage, dropping sucking kisses up my neck.
“You were fantastic tonight,” I tell him just before he puts his lips on mine.
He speaks into the kiss. “I dropped a few notes on ‘I Didn’t Expect You.’?”
“Yeah, but only two,” I say, pulling back a little, “and Ramón was really belting it out tonight, so I think only you and Robert noticed.”
“And you,” he whispers.
I nod toward the side exit. “Are you doing the stage door?”
Fans of the show wait outside behind the theater, hoping for a glimpse or a photo of one of the cast as they leave for the night. Ramón almost always stops by, and lately Calvin has had quite a fan club gathering there, too.
He places me back on my feet and the front of my body drags along the front of his. He’s half-hard for me beneath his dress pants, and it’s almost impossible not to wrap my legs around him and shimmy myself back up.
Just over his shoulder, I catch Brian as he looks away from where we’re tucked into the shadows. I see the tail end of his disgusted sneer, and the expression communicates so much that I feel, for a second, like I’ve been punched.
I can practically hear his voice: You are such a fucking fool, Holland.
I close my eyes, press my face into Calvin’s neck.
This is real. It is.
“I’ll go for a few minutes.” He looks down when my phone buzzes in my back pocket.
“It’s Lulu,” I tell him, “asking ‘where the fucking hell’ we are.”
“She’s so demure,” he says, deadpan. “I can’t wait for her to come out of her shell and be more assertive.”
This makes me laugh. “Go sign some autographs and I’ll meet you out front in ten.”
“I don’t want to stay out too long.” He brushes his lips over mine, lingering meaningfully. He shaved this morning but his chin is already rough, and I’m strung like one of his guitar strings—tight and vibrating—knowing how that stubble feels between my thighs.
We’re meeting Lulu only about a block from the theater, at Dutch Fred’s for burgers and drinks, but when I slip out the side door to grab Calvin twenty minutes later, he’s still surrounded by fans, and looks up at me with wild, helpless eyes.
I’ve never seen him look overwhelmed before.
“Sorry, everyone! Five more!” I yell, pretending I have the authority.
But sometimes pretending is all it takes. Calvin signs the last one, and apologizes to the twenty or more people holding their programs. We duck down the alley, escaping via a secret route I use all the time when I don’t want to run into Brian on my way out at the end of the day.
“This way.” I tug his sleeve, and he follows. There are a few puddles we avoid, and the smell down here isn’t exactly fresh, but it will be a quick walk to the bar, and easy to avoid the crowds.
After only a few steps, though, we hear footsteps and I realize . . . people are following us.