The sound of his voice on the phone sends static along my skin, a low-frequency hum of nostalgia and want.
“Hey,” I say, biting my bottom lip so I don’t grin like an idiot. It is so good to hear him.
“Hey.” I can hear the smiling lean to the word, can practically imagine how he’s flipped his hair out of his eyes, how his happiness reaches every part of his face. “This is a nice surprise.”
“I have some good news.”
I nod, swallowing down my nerves and looking again for confirmation at the letter in my hands. “I wrote an essay about . . .” I don’t even know how to describe it, really. “About you? And me. Music and New York. I don’t even know . . .”
“Th’ one you were working on before . . . ?”
Before we split.
“Yeah. That one.”
He waits for more, finally prompting, “And?”
“And . . . I sent it off to the New Yorker.” I bite back a grin. “They accepted it.”
He pauses, and I hear his breath come out in a gust. “No way.”
“Holy shite!” He laughs, and the sound of it punches me right in the face. I miss him so much. “This is amazing, mo stóirín!”
His old nickname for me. There it is, and my heart goes boom.
“Do you want to read it?”
He laughs. “Is that a serious question?”
“I can trade shifts with someone on Monday, if you wanted to have dinner?”
Dinner, with Calvin, and this glow inside me that feels right for the first time in ages.
“Tell me where,” he says, “and I’ll be there.”
“You’re finally going to let us read it?”
It’s the first thing Jeff says when he opens the door Monday afternoon and sees me standing there, holding a large manila envelope containing the editorial letter and a printed copy of my essay.
“It’s even better than that,” I tell him, waving the envelope enticingly. I’m nearly drunk with glee. “Where’s Bobert?”
“In the kitchen.” Jeff grimaces in warning. “Come help.”
Once inside, I register that the air smells suspiciously of Robert’s cooking—a mixture of burnt bread and scalded tomato sauce. “Honey, come in here, I think I messed up the pasta.”
Although he also calls Jeff “honey,” I know for a fact he’s speaking to me. I slide the envelope onto the entryway table, pointing at Jeff. “Paws off. I have news.”
He holds his hands up in surrender, promising not to peek, and I meet Robert in the kitchen.
“You knew I was coming,” I tell him as he sits down at the kitchen table with a glass of red wine, surrendering responsibility. “Why didn’t you just wait for me to get here?”
“I was trying to surprise you with lunch.”
He’s adorable. I survey the meal: it’s really just pasta and sauce.
“Just dump it,” he says. “It’s scalded.”
I give him a sympathetic smile, and with one tilt of the pan over the trash, it’s handled. Robert orders Vietnamese delivery, Jeff brings the envelope into the kitchen, and it sits there on the table, silently throbbing.
We start off with a little bit of small talk, though every few seconds I can see them glancing down to the table.
“How are things?” I ask.
“Brian really stepped in it last week,” Robert says. I’m already feeling high from the impending dinner with Calvin, and the news that Brian fucked up somehow makes me feel plastered with thrill. “He got into a screaming match with a woman who was wandering around the lobby before a show, and she turned out to be some foreign diplomat’s wife, who was getting a tour and lost her way coming back from the bathroom.”
I wince; my happiness is tempered somewhat by the realization that the confrontation probably turned into a big mess for Robert and Michael. “Oof. Sorry.”
Robert shrugs. “Calvin seems a tiny bit more alive these last few days.” He says this carefully, knowing he’s just dropped a live bomb in the room. “Ramón got engaged, so the cast threw a big party for him last week.”
I know I should feel glad that Calvin looks more alive, but in a totally selfish sense it was a relief that he wasn’t bouncing around, happy-as-ever Calvin without me this past month. And on top of that, to realize that I’ve missed what was probably a really fun party . . . this update bums me out. Basically, I am a jerk.
Jeff sees this written plainly all over my face, and laughs, but not unkindly. “You know, Hollsy, you could take him back anytime you want.”
“I’m not sure about that,” I say. For as excited as I am to see him tonight, I’m still not sure that we’re in the same place emotionally. I’ve had so much time in my own head—on my runs, in the bustle of waiting tables—to understand how things got so intense between us so quickly, and how it could still happen even if he didn’t love me the way he thought he did. Joining Possessed was emotional for him; the relief of being here legally was emotional. Gratitude can be deceptively deep sometimes. This time apart has sucked, but it’s likely been a good barometer of how genuine our feelings are.