Authors: Melissa Toppen
Copyright © 2014 Melissa Toppen
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events
are entirely coincidental.
The Two Hearts Series Book Two
Written by Melissa Toppen
Table of CONTENTS
“Gracie. Times up girl.” Becca nudges me from the side, pulling me from my daze. I am only through half of my set for the night and already I am exhausted.
Sleep has not been a friend of mine here recently and my new found love of partying with Jake and Becca til all hours of the morning certainly does not help. I glance over to see Becca studying me intently, her tongue working her small lip ring into circles.
“What?” I blurt, which comes out a bit rude. “Why are you looking at me like that?” I ask, my voice coming out much softer this time around.
“He's here again.” She says, her eyes trailing to the end of the bar before settling back on me. Even though I tell myself not to look, I can't control the overwhelming urge to see his face.
When my eyes finally settle on him, a mixture of excitement and sadness stirs through me. He looks tired but otherwise perfect. I quickly glance back to Becca and then without really meaning to, my eyes settle on him again.
I thought for sure him showing up two days after we said our goodbyes was a one time thing. I never expected to see him again the next day, or the next, or the next. But each time I think for sure he's not going to show up, he does.
He has been here every night that I have played at
for the last three weeks. He never speaks. He avoids looking at me when he knows I'm looking at him. He always sits at the end of the bar. And he always leaves during the last song of my set, allotting him just enough time to slip away before I am finished.
It takes everything I have to rip my eyes away from his perfect chiseled jawline and messy bedroom hair that I want nothing more than to run my fingers through.
“Come on girl. Don't give him the satisfaction.” Becca says, pulling my attention back to her. “Get your ass up there and do what you do.” She says, patting my arm and gesturing towards the stage.
“Hey Jake.” I holler down the bar to get his attention. He stops restocking the refrigerator and pops his head up in question. “Shot of tequila.” I mouth but then changing my mind, I speak out loud. “You know what, make it a double.” I say to his backside.
I see his shoulders vibrate with laughter as he makes quick work of pouring my drink. When he turns back around and sits the drink in front of me, there is a knowing look in his eyes.
Jake and Becca, of course, know the whole story about Zayne. While Becca thinks I would be mad to ever give him the time of day again, Jake doesn't agree, which surprises me. Maybe as a guy, he thinks he can relate better to the guys perspective but for whatever reason, he thinks I should at least talk to him.
I plaster on a smile and just shake my head at him. No way am I going down that road again. It's one thing to have to look at him night after night and to get up there and sing knowing his eyes are on me. But talking to him, hearing his voice, being close enough to smell his scent. That is something else entirely.
I pour the liquid down my throat, a slight shiver running through my body as the alcohol burns its way down. Jake grabs me a bottle of water and twists off the cap before handing it to me. I give him an appreciative smile and take the bottle from him before spinning on my stool and pushing myself to my feet.
It only takes me fifty-seven steps to get to the stage from the bar. I know because I have counted these same steps for the last three weeks. Fifty-seven painfully slow steps to take every night, feeling Zayne's eyes burn holes through my back.
Reaching the stage is like reaching my safe haven. Once I am there, Zayne can't hurt me. I lose him in the lights and sounds and like every other time I have played, the world around me fades away until all that is left is me. Me and my guitar.
I wish I could say that the last three weeks have not been pure and total hell but I can't. Truth is, they have been some of the hardest days I have faced in a very long time, increased only by Zayne's need to show up here every night and torture me further.
I know he's not doing it on purpose. I know that in his own way he really does care about me. But that doesn't change one thing, not really. At the end of the day we are still the same broken people with the same problems.
There's no magic that will fix my need to push everyone away nor is there any that will change the person that he is either. Sometimes I find myself imagining that in some alternate universe maybe we could be each others answer. Maybe all we really need is each other and everything else will fall into place.
But then I am reminded that life simply does not work that way. There are no fairy tales or happily ever afters. Life is hard and cruel and finds ways to keep you down, no matter how hard you fight to get back up.
I am not foolish enough to believe that the type of happiness I could have with Zayne could ever truly last. Some things really are too good to be true.
I begin strumming the opening chords to “Turning Tables” by Adele. It took me weeks to figure out how to make it sound right on the guitar but I figured out a really cool arrangement that slows the chorus down just a fraction and makes it even more intimate.
As my own voice fills my ears, my focus immediately turns to the words, the feeling, the emotion behind each and every note I sing. There is something so painfully beautiful about the way Adele can lay her soul bare in a song.
As much as I want to find Zayne, to focus on his beautiful face, to let his very presence ease some of the pain that is slowly taking me under, I don't look for him. I know he's here. I can feel his eyes on me. Even in a crowd of at least twenty people, I can tell his eyes from the others.
There is something about the way my skin prickles and my heart rate increases. I don't know how to explain it, but when I feel it, I know it. I know it's his eyes skating across my face. His eyes trailing the length of my body. His eyes peering directly into my soul.
Each song I sing holds a piece of me in the lyrics. Like every night before this one, I purposely pick songs that I can relate too. It's the only way I can escape. For the three minutes of a song, I can lay my entire heart on this stage and no one will know otherwise.
Well, no one except for the one man who seems to see right through every wall I have built and surround myself with.
By the end of my set, a heavy sadness settles over me. I know without looking to the end of the bar that he is gone. I know that I will have to wait until next Sunday to see him again and that's if he decides to come back.
I never thought I would dread the end of my work week so much. But the thought of not seeing his face for the next three days sits on my chest like a hundred bricks, making it near impossible to even breathe.
I don't know what I hate more. The fact that he continues to show up here night after night and remind me of what I can never have or the fact that I look forward to it and continue to be devastated at the end of my set, knowing that he's gone.
“Another amazing night Gracie.” Becca sings from the dance floor as she sweeps. I latch my guitar case closed and throw it over my shoulder before joining her on the floor.
“You guys sure you don't need help this weekend?” I ask, pouting my lips out in a pretty please smile.
“Not a chance. You have worked the last two weekends. At this rate, you're likely to work yourself into a coma. You need sleep. And a lot of it.” She says, pushing me towards the door.
“But.....” I start to protest but she cuts me off.
“Not a chance.” She laughs, leading me to the exit. “Get some rest. We will see you on Sunday.” She says, holding the door open for me.
“Careful. I'm on the verge of thinking you're getting sick of me.” I whine, stepping out into the warm night air.
“I don't think it's possible to get sick of you Grace. You're too fucking sweet.” She laughs. “But you will eventually burn yourself out if you work too much and I like having you around so I refuse to let that happen. Now go.” She says on a laugh.
I scuff my feet as I turn to walk away, throwing a half wave over my shoulder as I make my way down the empty sidewalk. I hear Becca chuckle as the door snaps shut and I readjust my guitar case on my shoulder before quickening my pace.
I live within minutes of
but that doesn't change the fact that walking home by myself is extremely freaky. I mean, it is New York City after all. Definitely not the safest city for a woman to be walking around in the middle of the night.
I round the corner and quicken my steps to a light jog when my apartment building comes into view. Some nights I enjoy the walk home. Other nights I freak myself out with every little noise thinking that someone is going to jump out and attack me. Tonight is one of
I breathe out a sigh of relief as I reach the top of the stairs leading to the entrance of the building. Pushing my way inside, I opt to take the elevator instead of the staircase.
Feeling overly anxious, I finally make it to my front door but nearly trip over a package sitting in front of it in my attempt to get inside as quickly as possible. Not really paying much attention, I scoop up the rectangle box and push my way inside.
The apartment is dark as I slide the lock into place and quickly make my way down the hall to my bedroom. Honestly, I'm a little surprised that Emma isn't waiting up for me. After she found out that I ended things with Zayne, she has become somewhat of a leech.
I know it's because she thinks I am going to break down and she wants to be there when it happens so that she can help me put the pieces back together. I just wish I could make her see that all of the pieces are so withered and torn that piecing them back together would never be a possibility. My pieces no longer go together and there are holes and gapes where some have simply disappeared.
I flip on my bedroom light and prop my guitar next to the door. Realizing I am still holding the package that was outside the front door, I flip it over in my hands to see who it's addressed to. To my surprise, it's my name I see staring back at me.
Not really sure who it could be from, I flop down in the middle of my bed and open the box. It takes me a few seconds to get the tape peeled away from the seam but once I do, the top opens up revealing white tissue paper.
Even more confused, I begin slowly sorting through the tissue paper to find the contents inside but the more tissue paper I pull out, the more I am starting to believe that it is simply a box filled with tissue paper.
Finally reaching the bottom of the box, my fingers stumble upon a white envelope. Peeling it open, I reach inside and pull out two pieces of thick paper, similar to card stock. The back is an advertisement for something so I flip them over to the front.
My mouth falls open when I realize that I am holding two tickets to see
live at the
But who? Why?
I look back into the envelope and am relieved to find a small piece of folded paper in the bottom. Peeling the corners apart, I quickly read the note.
As soon as I found out about this I knew I had to get you tickets.
Everyone has things they dream about doing Gracie.
It's about time you start experiencing some of yours.
My eyes instantly gloss over at reading my brother's message. Somehow, someway, he knew I needed this. He's right. There are so many things I want to experience in this life. Places I want to go, things I want to see. So many things that I am giving up by merely existing.
Propping the tickets on my nightstand, I text Alec a heartfelt thank you before changing into an old t-shirt and climbing into bed. I can't believe that in just under a week I will be getting to see one of my all time favorite bands live.