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Excerpt #1 (from Chapter Eight, © 2014 Nancy Koenig)
Raindrops dance across the windows, to the exact beat that blares from the stereo. Each bolt of lightning marks a place I should be – like the Abnormal Psychology class that I’m cutting – or something I should be doing, like mailing out resumes. Instead, I’m at my favorite bar, flirting with my favorite bartender. What else is new?
“I could listen to Chris Cornell’s voice all night long,” I say to Zakary, who is providing our first experience of “Superunknown,” by Soundgarden. I’ve been waiting for this album since my very first listen of “Spoonman” last month. Love at first sound.
“You can,” Zak responds, leaning closer with his inviting smile. “I’ll play it all night.”
“This is only a cameo,” I say, my heart rate quickening with his proximity. “I’m leaving as soon as it stops pouring. And I’m taking this CD with me.”
“No chance. The library is closed until you return the last ones.”
I laugh as I do a mental inventory of the CDs I have recently pilfered. Crash Test Dummies. Candlebox. Meat Puppets. Zak is my personal DJ; he always knows what I’m going to like.
I’ll go to Tower Records tomorrow. Some guy on campus signed me up for a credit card, the greatest invention ever. When I hit the $500 limit in one day, Chevy Chase Bank raised it to $5000, as if to say, “We like the way you think, Vienna!” The card already funded my trip to California and I promised Dad I wouldn’t use it again until I paid that off, but what’s a few CDS?
“Yeah, maybe hold onto this one,” I say. “You’ll never get it back if you loan it to me.”
“I never get any of them back!” I love the playful sound of his laughter, and how his eyes glow when he smiles. There’s nothing like a new crush; you notice these things.
“Want to hit Tower tomorrow?” he asks. Mind reader.
“If you want to meet me in the city. Let’s go to the one in the Village, and then Bleeker Bob’s! I’m going to need a lot of music therapy after I bomb another interview.”
“Another record company?”
“Yeah. I want to see if I can break my rejection record this month.”
“Why don’t you look for something else?”
As one of my closest comrades and also a fellow music worshipper, Zakary should be the last to question my career ambitions.
“Working in the music industry is, like, the only way I’m ever going to be able to stomach a real job,” I explain, frustrated that I have to.
“Real jobs are overrated.”
“Maybe, but my parents are getting sick of admitting their daughter is still a waitress and bartender.”
“They think it’s totally pathetic. They have a point.”
“So I’m pathetic?” His defensive tone matches how I feel.
“Don’t put words in my mouth Zak. It’s different for you. You’re gonna open your own place. And you make more money in one shift here than I do in a month.”
“Probably not this one.” The storm has kept most of his regulars away; his one customer isn’t drinking. Not that it would matter. I haven’t paid for a drink here in months. “You didn’t even graduate yet. What’s the big deal?”
“If I wait for graduation, I’ll have even more competition than I do now. Competition that can type.” Zakary has typed all my papers this semester.
The harmony of our laughter melts whatever tension was brewing. The warm glow in my chest returns. I feel giddy again.
This is quickly turning into the ultimate obsession, just in time to replace my outgoing one: The Vampire Chronicles. From boys to bands to books, there has always been an obsession. I don’t know who I am without one. I wonder how long Zakary will reign supreme. Once the fangs sink in, how long will my appetite last?
Zak takes a bottle of my new favorite beer out of the ice bin and places it on the bar, but off to the side, as if for an imaginary friend. Tempting, but not blatantly pushing me. If I don’t leave now, I’ll be here all night. Plus, who needs alcohol when you’re already buzzed on crush rush?
Ever observant, Zak slides the beer a few centimeters closer, like a chess piece. My move.
“Get that away from me!
“It’s a good luck drink.”
“It’s bad luck to turn down a good luck drink!”
“I’ll take my chances,” I protest. My voice hints at a faint degree of weakening, which he is quick to capitalize on.
“One beer, one game,” he says, nodding toward the pinball machine. “Then I promise I’ll kick you out.”
This is how it always starts, Zakary never openly confessing his preference for me to stay, or his desire to rip my clothes off and throw me over the pool table, for that matter. He has to play it safe. One last drink, one quick game or in times of real desperation, one more song I have to hear – which inevitably turns into the entire CD.
I wonder if he knows I’d stay without an excuse if he’d just admit he wants me around. I’m no better. I have come about as close to confessing my feelings for him as I have to circling Jupiter in my very own rocket ship.
This flirtatious dance of ours is getting predictable but there’s a big reason I don’t learn any new steps. If we start something as incredible as I believe Zakary and I will be, one thing is inevitable. Someday, it will come to an end.
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