On page three, I came across a wedding photo. I clicked through.
The page had been built by her agent, and it showed a beachside extravaganza the likes of which I could only aspire to waitress. I scrolled down, looking for his face. I found him here and there with people I didn’t know or side-by-side with his bride. A picture at the bottom stopped me. I sighed as if the air had been forced out of my lungs by an outside force. Jessica and Jonathan stood together, separated from the crowds. Her back was three-quarters to the camera, and he faced her. He was speaking, his eyes joyous, happy, his face an open book about love. He looked like a different man with his fingertips resting on Jessica’s collarbone. I knew exactly how that touch felt, and I envied that collarbone enough to snap the laptop closed.
I tapped my foot. Studio time was bought by the hour and not cheap, yet Gabby and I were the only ones there. She was at the piano, of course, running her fingers over the keys with her usual brilliance, but it was only therapy, not real practice. Darren’s drums took twenty minutes to set up. The chitchat and apologies would take another fifteen minutes, and I still had to practice some dumb standards for the solo gig at Frontage that night.
I sat on a wooden bench facing the glass separating the studio from the control room. The room stank of cigarettes and human funk. The soundproofing on the walls and ceiling was foam, porous by necessity, and thus holding cells for germs and odor. Though I thought I’d rubbed away the ache Jonathan had caused, I woke up with it, and good scrub and an arched back in the shower did nothing to dispel the feel of him. I needed to get to work. Letting this guy under my skin was counterproductive already.
I whispered, “I’ve got you, under my skin.” Then I sang, I’ve got you, deep in the heart of me. So deep in my heart, that you’re really a part of me.
No. But yes. It was a good song. It was missing how I really felt: frustrated and angry. So I belted out the last line of the chorus, I’ve got you, under my skin, without Sinatra’s little snappy croon, but a longing, accusatory howl.
“Hang on,” Gabby said. She took a second to find the melody, and I sang the chorus the way I wanted it played.
“Wow, that’s not how Sinatra did it,” she said.
“Play it loungey, like we’re seducing someone.” I tapped her a slower rhythm, and she caught onto it. “Right, Gabs. That’s it.”
I stood up and took the rest of the song, owning it, singing as if the intrusion was unacceptable, as if insects crawled inside me, because I didn’t want anyone under my skin. I wanted to be left alone to do my work.
Having the guys here to record it so I could hear it would have been nice, but I could tell I was onto something. The back room at Frontage was small, so I needed less rage and more discomfort. More sadness. More disappointment in myself for letting it happen, and begging the pain away. If I could nail that, I might actually enjoy singing a few standards at a restaurant. Or I might get fired for changing them. No way to know.
I did it again, from the top. The first time I sang the word, “skin,” I felt Jonathan’s hands on me and didn’t resist the pleasure and warmth. I sang right through it, and when Gabby accompanied, she put her own sadness into it. I felt it. It was my song now.
My phone rang: Darren.
“Where the hell are you?”
“Harry just called me. His mother is sick in Arizona. He’s out. For good.”
I would have said something like, so no bassist, no band, but Gabby would have heard, and she wasn’t ready for any kind of upset.
“And you’re not here because?”
He sighed. “I got held up at work. I’ll be there in twenty. Tomorrow night, I have a favor to ask.”
“I have a date. Can you get her home after your gig and make sure she takes her meds?”
“Go get laid.”
I clicked the phone off and used the rest of the time to work on our performance.
Thursday afternoon shift at the Stock was slow by Saturday night standards. I earned less money, but the atmosphere was more relaxed. There was always a minute to chill with Debbie at the service bar. I liked her more and more all the time. I tried to keep it light and hold my energy up. Just because this gig tonight wasn’t my own songwriting, I still wanted to do a good job. But after Darren’s call and the sputtering dissolution of the band, I lost the mojo, and I just sounded like Sinatra on barbiturates. I had no idea how to get that heat back.
Debbie got off her phone as I slid table ten’s ticket across the bar. Robert snapped it up and poured my rounds.
“I think he likes you,” Debbie said, indicating Robert. He was hot in his black T-shirt and Celtic tattoos.
“Not my type.”
“What is your type?”
I shrugged. “Nonexistent.”
“Okay, well, finish with this table and go on your break. Could you go down to Sam’s office and make a copy of next week’s schedule?” She handed me a slip of paper with the calendar. The waitstaff hung around waiting for it every week as our station placement and hours determined not only how much money we’d make over the next seven days, but our social and family plans as well. And here she was giving it to me two hours early. She smiled and patted my arm before walking off to greet three men in suits.
I went to the bathroom and freshened up, then headed for Sam’s office.
It wasn’t a warm, fabulously decorated place like Jonathan’s at K. It was totally utilitarian, with a linoleum floor and metal filing cabinets. The copy machine was in there, and I put the schedule on the glass without turning the lights on. The windows gave enough afternoon light.
The energy saver was on, meaning the copier was ice cold. I tapped start and waited. Lord knew how long it would take. I stretched my neck and hummed, then whispered, I’ve got you, under my skin. I’ve got you, deep in the heart of me. So deep in my heart—
I gasped when I smelled his dry scent. When I turned, Jonathan stood in the doorway with his arms crossed. That was the first time I’d seen him in daylight, and the sunlight made him look more human, more substantial, more present, and more gorgeous, if that was even possible.
I realized the deal with the schedule copying just then. “Debbie sent me up here.”
“You didn’t know she was a yenta?”
“You’re very persistent.”