by E.E. Grey
An aspiring Broadway writer, Jamie spends most of his time working as a bartender and bothering his roommate, Drew, to actually write down songs for the musical they’ve been working on for two years. When Jamie meets Roman, a Broadway dancer, his dreams come to a sudden potential realization when Roman gives his book to a well-known director. Jamie’s feelings for Drew, however, may get in the way of his own happiness, especially when it comes to Roman and the prospect of Jamie’s dreams finally coming true. (M/M)
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Chapter 3: Taking Chances
Jamie’s mind wasn’t on the customers scattered around the bar. Instead, it was stuck on the book. Whoever had invented editing had to have been some kind of masochist. Sometimes Jamie wondered how he had ended up here, wiping down tables night after night in a bar then going home to stare at the blank screen on his computer for hours at a time, willing some sort of words to come out of his fingers.
It was the guy, his protagonist, who had no real ending. Jamie knew what was supposed to happen, but getting there was starting to become impossible. Drew had been right when he said the best friend needed work. Jamie just couldn’t make it happen. Coma boy needed to take charge of his life, prove he wanted to live more than he wanted to die. Right now, he was stuck in a rut with only clichéd ideas left to mine.
Really, what was so hard about waking up from a coma?
“Don’t let Drew scare off the customers with his songs,” Laurel said as she pulled on her coat, eyeing where Drew sat at the piano, running his fingers over the keys.
“I won’t,” Jamie promised. There weren’t many customers anyway though it was late.
“Mhm,” Laurel murmured, checking her watch. “I won’t be back, so lock up when you leave.”
Jamie knew she was gone the minute Drew started to play. He never played when Laurel was there.
A familiar melody, one of the songs Drew had been working on for a while, filled the bar. The few people scattered around at tables looked up at the sound, then continued on with their conversations.
Drew’s playing had always made Jamie feel calmer, and Drew always seemed much more relaxed when he played. Jamie had always felt that way ever since he’d found Drew playing in the empty band room sophomore year of high school. For a long time, Drew wouldn’t acknowledge he was even good, but Jamie had encouraged him so much that Drew had ended up studying music in school. Getting him to come to New York had taken a little more convincing.
Moving to the piano, Jamie leaned against it, watching Drew’s fingers dance across the keys.
“That sounds almost done.”
Drew didn’t look up but made a vague noise in return. “It’s coming along.”
“Coming along as in you’ve actually written down the music somewhere?” The bits of napkins littering the apartment with scribbled notes on them made no sense to Jamie. Drew had always been scattered, but lately, it was getting out of control.
Drew made another noise, his hands falling from the keys. “Where’d Laurel go?” he asked instead of replying, but Jamie wasn’t fooled by the abrupt change of subject.
“You know that’s why we came here,” Jamie pointed out. He didn’t need to remind Drew of that fact, but he did anyway. His dreams didn’t involve pouring shots for the rest of his life or living in a way-too-expensive-for-its-faults apartment. He saw people performing his shows under the glittering lights of Broadway, or even off-Broadway. Anything to get his writing out there. He couldn’t do it without songs, though.
“Yeah, I know,” Drew replied under his breath. “Jamie, you gotta get out more.”
“What do you mean? I get out plenty,” Jamie argued. Oftentimes, he just didn’t see the point of going to another bar after working all night in one. Plus, he didn’t make enough money to go see any of the Broadway shows he loved so much. He didn’t want to go out every other night like Drew did and bring home yet another nameless girl to the apartment.
“Yeah, okay,” Drew said, but Jamie bristled at his tone.
“Working a party doesn’t count as going to a party.” Drew shook his head. “How are you going to make your show happen if you don’t meet people here?”
“Our show, you mean?” Jamie crossed his arms as Drew shrugged.
“You can’t rely on me for everything,” Drew said, rising from the piano. “I mean, when was the last time you got laid? If you can’t remember, it’s been too long, man.”
Jamie frowned as Drew headed for the bar. First of all, he had met Roman the other day, although he’d conveniently forgotten to mention that to Drew. He didn’t need everyone knowing his business, and he didn’t need to bring guys back to the apartment to prove anything. Secondly, he did not rely on Drew for everything.
Jamie followed him to the bar, leaning on the counter as Drew grabbed a bottle of vodka from the shelf.
“I go out,” he insisted, receiving only Drew’s rolled eyes in response. “Just because I don’t sleep with every person who looks at me doesn’t mean I’m alone.”
Drew tilted his head to the side, with that pitying look that Jamie hated on his face. “Look, we both know David fucked you up but you don’t have to be a monk. There’s more to life than writing and watching black and white movies on TV. This is New York. You’re the always the one praising it so much. Go do something in it and stop riding me about the book.”
“It’s not like you’re working on it,” Jamie shot back, but he felt the sting of the David remark more painfully. He wasn’t the walking wounded.
“I gave you a song last month,” Drew said. “Isn’t that working on it?”
“And before we came here, you wrote five songs in one month. Since we got here, you’ve done two and those took you five months to write. It’s not like we have less time here. If anything, we have more.” Jamie didn’t understand what had happened to cause the sudden drop-off in production. There was no way Florida was a better place to write. There was no inspiration there.
Drew moved down the counter to mix drinks. “Florida was just better.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Jamie scoffed. “Florida was awful. If I never go back, I’ll be perfectly happy.”
Drew didn’t respond to that, shoving his hair back and watching the alcohol pour.
“Your songs are great,” Jamie said instead. “If you’d just write them down.”
“Do some more editing and maybe I will,” Drew replied, grabbing the glasses and leaving Jamie at the bar.
He hated to admit it, but Drew did have a point about the book. It had been years and he was still halfway through editing. At what point would he become one of those people lamenting their wasted dreams?
The thought was terrifying and Jamie shook it away. He wasn’t even twenty-two and he was already worried about becoming a Broadway failure.
Fuck Drew for putting that thought in his head, he found himself thinking as he leaned against the back counter. He wasn’t going to be that person, and he didn’t need Drew to have fun.
Jamie stared at the page on his laptop, the cursor blinking steadily. He’d tried everything he could think of to make this easier—printing it out and marking it with red pen, rereading it from front to back, even taking entirely too long showers to attempt to force his brain to work better and come up with fixes. Every time he edited a draft, something else seemed to go wrong. He felt stuck, and the cursor only made him angry.
His problem was the ending. It had been plaguing him for months. His main character was in a coma, but in his head, the world continued to turn like normal, but how was he supposed to get out of the coma? The plot had seemed simple enough when he thought of it, so long ago, but the logistics of two realities was more difficult than he’d guessed. It wasn’t just that but also getting the character across. Owen had lost everything, so what was he fighting for?
Sometimes, Jamie just wanted to give up on editing. Staring at the pages, unable to come up with a solution, made him want to cry in frustration some days. It seemed so easy but was so incredibly hard.
As he sat on the fraying couch, he found it difficult not to keep checking the clock on the wall as it ticked later and later. A half-empty box of Chinese food sat on the coffee table in front of him. He should have been focusing on the book instead of listening to the tick of the clock and stilling every time he thought he heard footsteps in the hallway.
Drew never told him where he went on nights like these, but Jamie knew what he did. It was pretty obvious when he’d wake in the morning to an unfamiliar woman making coffee in his kitchen. Jamie wondered what Drew would say if he ever had a guy stay over. He never had, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t.
Sometimes, he wondered why Drew even bothered going out, considering what he’d left in Florida. They never talked about Kristin except when Drew was too drunk to care. The texts and phone calls, which had used to come every day, had slowed significantly. That was totally normal, though, right? They’d broken up when Drew and Jamie moved to New York. Drew had been excited about coming. “A brand new adventure, Jai,” he had said. “Maybe you’ll sleep with a famous director. And maybe I’ll run into Billy Joel and get a few tips. Wouldn’t that be awesome?”
Jamie wasn’t sure where that enthusiasm had disappeared to, but Drew didn’t have many good things to say about New York these days.
He needed to work on the book, Jamie told himself firmly, not get distracted with whatever Drew was doing.
Typing a few sentences was all he got done before his eyes strayed to the clock again. It was incredibly easy to distract himself from writing, as much as he knew he needed to keep editing. All it took was a click to the internet and he would be lost in a cycle of email and social media checking. Pulling out his phone, he opened up the contacts folder, scrolling through the names. Most of the people in his phone, he hadn’t called in a while.
He stopped as Roman’s name scrolled into view.
He hadn’t told Drew about the other night, his momentary lapse of sense—it wasn’t often that he followed guys to bathrooms to suck them off and even less often that he called them afterwards. What did he have to lose? Just his dignity, and how much could be left of that these days? Calling Roman didn’t have to be a big deal.
Pushing the laptop away, he curled up in a corner with his phone, holding his breath as it rang.
Jamie sat up sharply. “Roman? It’s Jamie.”
Jamie could barely hear Roman over the background noise. Music and talking poured into the speaker.
“From the party the other day?”
“Oh!” Roman said loudly. “Hey! What’s up?”
“Is this a bad time?” He could barely hear Roman over the noise.
“No, no. Just my call’s coming up.”
“I was just, just wondering if you wanted to do something.” Jamie cringed to himself. He probably should have taken a moment to think through what he was going to say instead of sounding so incredibly lame.
“Do something?” Jamie could hear the grin in Roman’s voice. “What are you doing tomorrow? I’m having a thing at my place after the show. You should come.”
“I have to work until ten.”
“That’s perfect. I’ll text you the address.”
“You can bring your friend if you want.”
“No, Drew won’t want to come,” Jamie said quickly. That was a train wreck he didn’t want to witness. Besides, Roman seemed nice. He didn’t need to be subjected to Drew’s new disdain for everything New York.
“Then I guess I’ll just see you. Oh, shit, that’s me.” Jamie heard him fumble the phone. “I gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
“I-yeah, yeah,” Jamie said, but Roman had already said goodbye and hung up.
He lowered the phone, now feeling the thudding of his heart, his palms sweaty again. There was no need to be nervous, he told himself. It was just a party, just a group of people he didn’t know and a guy he’d met twice. He’d be fine, and he didn’t plan on telling Drew anything about it.
Glancing at the clock again, he shook himself finally and grabbed his laptop, snapping it shut and disappearing into his room. When Drew came home hours later, Jamie pretended to be asleep and not to hear the way he ran into the furniture on his way in or dropped his keys in the hall and the feminine giggle that followed.
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