The Sweetest Fix

Page 36

She could all but see Lorna wringing her hands. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. I’m positive.” Instead of following her friends farther west, Reese found herself veering toward Times Square, suddenly wanting to lose herself in the chaos. “Go back to the Today Show. I’ll give you a call in a couple of days.” The homesickness swelled. “I hereby give you permission for that third cup of coffee.”

Lorna laughed hesitantly. “And I give you permission not to put so much pressure on yourself. Okay, kiddo?”

Reese closed her eyes. “Okay, Mom. Bye.”

It wasn’t until Reese saw the Pikachu up ahead that she realized she’d been seeking him out. Kind of like a sinner showing up for confession, secure in the knowledge that everything she said would be confidential. She sat down in the very same stone pillar she’d occupied the last time, after missing her audition with Bernard Bexley. Leo’s father. Duffel bag in her lap, she waited for the Pikachu to finish taking a selfie with someone in an I Love NY T-shirt.

He did a double-take when he saw her, ambling over. “Well, well. Look who’s back.”

“Hey, Link.” She waved. “I wasn’t sure you’d remember me, considering you see thousands of faces every day.”

“This might come as a shock, but I don’t have a lot of meaningful conversations dressed like this. You stood out.” He fell onto the pillar to her right and produced a cigarette, lighting it. “So. You stuck around, huh? How’s it going?”

“I met someone.”


“Yeah, it’s kind of your fault. Remember how I missed that audition? When I left you, I was on my way to convince his son into helping me out…”


“Uh-huh. That’s my someone.”

“Damn. Did he? Help you get the second audition?”

“I never asked him. I changed my mind. But he doesn’t exactly know why I showed up in the first place. Turns out, he’s had people use him before. To get to his father. And I didn’t want him to see me like that, so I lied about being employed. I’ve been lying about a lot of things and now I can’t see a way out of this without losing him. Or hurting him.”

The Pikachu gave a low whistle, pulled hard on his cigarette. “This is a quandary. It reminds me of my second marriage.”

Reese looked over at him. “How so?”

“Mid-twenties. I’d lost my job as a plumber. Did you know that people’s houses don’t have the same rules as hotels? They don’t want you to take the towels, robes and soap.”

Reese blinked. “Oh. You don’t say.”

He paused in the story to take a picture with two children, not bothering to put out the cigarette. Then he came back and picked up in the middle of his story. “I didn’t tell her I’d gotten fired. I mean, I was going to get another job, right? I just needed some quick money to get me over the hump. So I left every day dressed for plumbing. But she was a smart one. Smarter than me. She tracked my phone to Aqueduct Race Track where I’d been playing the horses every day for a month. Turns out, gambling with the grocery money is frowned upon.” He squinted over at her. “The moral of the story is, they always find out.”

A pit opened up in her belly. “This isn’t me. I don’t deceive people. What am I doing?”

“You’re saving him from one type of pain. Replacing it with another, worse one.”

“Ouch,” she breathed. “You were encouraging last time I was here. What happened to that positive rhetoric?”

“Ah, we’ll get to that. There’s a method to the Pikachu’s madness.” He tossed down his cigarette, ignoring the glare from a passerby. “So you never got that audition with this guy’s father, right? What have you been doing instead?”

“Trying to make it on my own. Hitting every open call. Trying to catch someone’s eye at a workshop. Practicing. I’m giving it everything I’ve got, but it’s not…” She took in a slow breath. “It hasn’t been good enough.”

He considered her. “You know, lies aside, you did technically do the right thing. You didn’t use the guy. You adjusted when your conscience said it was wrong. If he’s reasonable, he’ll appreciate the effort you put in instead of trying to take the easy road.”

“I don’t know.” She thought of him holding her in Bryant Park, the swaying motion of their bodies, the thundering of their matching heartbeats. “It’s gotten serious.”

The man hummed, leaned back on the pillar. “Well if you’re not employed, how are you still here?” He narrowed an eye. “Did you come here looking for a gig? I hear Dora the Explorer got a stress fracture. Maybe you could fill in?”

“I’m…good. Thanks. I have enough money for one more week.”

“And then?”

“And then…” Her mouth went dry. “If I haven’t gotten hired by then, I go back to Wisconsin. I won’t be able to justify sinking any more money into this…fantasy. Money that I didn’t even earn.”

“So the problem with the guy might take care of itself, right?” He shrugged and stood up, scratching a chin that looked like it hadn’t been shaved in days. “Give yourself the week. Hard work always pays off.” He spread his arms wide. “Just look at my success story.”

Reese tried to swallow a laugh and didn’t quite succeed.

“All right, we got a laugh out of her after all.” He opened his arms for a couple of tourists to rush in, slinging them across their upper backs and throwing a wink in Reese’s direction. “This is New York City, kid. Miracles happen. You’ll get yours.”

She wasn’t so sure of that, but standing and shouldering her duffel bag, Reese could admit to feeling better after confessing her transgressions out loud. Being honest with someone other than herself. Not quite ready to return to her rented closet, she went into a bodega and bought some Band-Aids, patching up her blisters as best she could. Then she roamed around the city for a couple of hours, stopping for a hot chocolate and walking the Hudson.

More than anything, she wanted to go to the Cookie Jar and see Leo. Get one of those priceless hugs, experience that security and happiness he made her feel. But if she were a chorus line dancer in Daliah’s Folly, she would be getting ready for the matinee performance, wouldn’t she? So she shot him a text, instead.

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