Felix and Jenna meet on Hollywood Boulevard in the first chapter of Everything We Are. Read that scene here from Jenna’s point of view!
Spoiler warning for the first chapter of Everything We Are. (Obviously, right?)
“Ty!” I yell as I turn the corner. And there I see him down the street, my little boy in the sweater vest and button-down he insists on wearing even during the summer, his mop of golden hair picking up rays of sunshine. He’s standing in front of a busker with a cello. He turns and waves.
“Hi, Mom!” he calls brightly. Like he didn’t nearly just give me a heart attack.
My relief is immediate and near-overwhelming. I let out a breath, feel my pounding heart start to slow.
Still, for him to just run off like that, in this part of town…
“Ty!” I say, in the voice that usually precedes him losing video game privileges. “You can’t just run off like that.” As soon as I get close to him, I give him a hug, though—more for me than for him, since clearly he wasn’t the least bit afraid.
“I didn’t run off. I was listening to the music.”
And that’s when I really see the guy holding the cello.
The incredibly good-looking guy holding the cello.
“He’s good like Mason,” Ty says. “You should hear him play.”
The guy looks about my age, and has a kind of casual but preppy vibe, with a blue button-down shirt open over a plain gray t-shirt and nice, dark-wash jeans. The blue in his shirt heightens the clear blue of his eyes, and his blond hair falls just over his ears. He’s giving me the Look—the one that says he recognizes me but doesn’t know where from. I’m really used to that look, especially when I’m not with Alec.
He’s also giving me another kind of look I’m not totally unfamiliar with—the one where his gaze drifts down and back up. Where his lips twitch in a kind of stunned smile.
I feel my pulse picking up again.
“Is that right?” I say with a smile.
“Yeah, well,” he says. “I hear Mason is a douche.”
I hold in a groan and look at my son, who just grins innocently up at me. “Mason is a douche,” I concede. “But you don’t have to tell that to everybody.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” Ty says with utter seriousness. “He says he’s not the pope.”
I can’t help but laugh at that. When I’d told my son he wasn’t supposed to use that word in front of nanas, I’d added the pope to the list as an afterthought. The kind of thing I say for my own amusement more than anything else, because being a single mom, even to a great kid like Ty, can be crazy-making sometimes. Stuff like helps keep me sane, though mostly it just makes me wish I had someone in on the joke with me.
And then Ty takes it all so seriously, and that only makes it funnier, and I can’t bring myself to correct him. Which probably adds to the long list of my motherhood-related failings.
But really, he probably shouldn’t say that word in front of the pope.
“It’s okay,” the guy says, and his smile—wow, that smile—widens. “I get that a lot.”
I smile back at him, and for that moment someone is actually in on the joke with me, and I feel less lonely.
He gestures at me. “That game is terrible,” he says. I have a split-second of confusion before I remember the Game of Life cutting into my hip. “Have you played it lately? It’s all bankruptcy and dead-end jobs.”
“Like real life,” I return. I may be doing well now, but I’ve had my share of dead-end jobs.
He grins back, and my heart beats faster. “Yeah. Way too real.”
Ty bounces beside me. “I’m going to win. I always win.”
This is true. It used to be because I always let him win. Now I think it’s just because board games hate me, as a general rule.
I don’t imagine this one will be much different, but I shake my head at him anyway. “I might beat you this time,” I warn him, but he doesn’t look the least bit concerned.
“No way,” he says. “I’m going to be a doctor and have all the kids.”
I’ve never played it, classic game or not, and he was the one who studied the back of the game for like fifteen minutes, so I’m going to trust him that being a highly procreative medical professional makes for winning conditions.
“We’ll see,” I say. And I should probably take my son and let this guy get back to work, but I find myself unwilling to move. Instead I eye his cello, which is clearly not new, but appears well-cared for. Unlike Mason’s, which always ended up being the repository for stickers of whatever band or tv show he liked most at the moment.
Well, we do need a new cellist. Though I hadn’t planned on one this hot.
“I hear you’re a musician,” he says. So obviously, he’s not eager to send me away just yet, either. I am all too aware of a bead of sweat rolling down my lower back.
I shrug. I don’t want this guy to figure out who I am quite yet. To look at me like part of Alec and Jenna: Perfect Couple. “I play piano a little.” And then—and I can only blame ten and half months since the last time I had sex for this, because I’m usually not the forward type, especially in front of my son—I say, “But you look like you know how to straddle that thing.”
The guy’s eyes gleam; he grins and shifts a little in his seat.
And for the first time in that ten and half months, I find myself thinking that maybe Alec is right. Maybe discreet one-night stands could be a good thing. Maybe this guy would just be fun and satisfying and wouldn’t leave me feeling sick and lost and a little afraid. Like all those years ago when I’d wake up in some guy’s dorm room and only vaguely remember how I got there.
“Can I have one of your candies?” Ty asks, breaking me out of what is clearly an insane train of thought.
“No,” the guys says, quickly, and I realize that the ‘candies’ Ty is asking for are actually condoms sitting in the guy’s open cello case next to some coins and a few crumpled bills. He looks a little panicked. “I mean, I tried one earlier,” he says, “and they’re not very good.”
“What do they taste like?” Ty asks. Because of course, he does. He’s Ty.
The guy’s panic grows, and he looks at me. But I’m finding this all kinds of cute and hilarious, so I just meet his eyes and say nothing.
“Rubber,” he says, totally deadpan.
I laugh again, and he smiles back and I’m feeling achy in places that haven’t been touched by hands other than my own in way too long. “Why don’t you play for me?” I ask. “I need to see your fingering.”
I should feel terrible, saying something like that in front of Ty, who is looking back and forth between us curiously. But I know it’ll go right over his head, and frankly it feels good to be flirtatious and forward and—
Ten and a half months.
God, am I really going to do the next four years like this?
“Happy to please,” the guy says, clearly getting the real meaning of my suggestion, but still ready to play for me anyway.
He’s sitting behind Johnny Cash’s star, so I’m expecting him to play Ring of Fire or Walk the Line—both great songs, though not the kind of thing I would’ve immediately pegged him for. But he starts playing, and it’s not long before I recognize Metallica’s Enter Sandman. Not because I generally know much heavy metal, but because Roxie’s a fan and is often rocking out to Metallica or Megadeth when I get to the studio for practice, and this one’s a favorite.
But this version is beyond awesome. It’s moody and haunting and complicated, and I certainly find myself impressed with his fingering—deft and quick and god, this guy knows what to do with his hands—but also with the rich tone of it, the depth.
Ty was right, he’s good. Like incredible good.
Which tragically means I’m not about to find out if this guy will make me appreciate one-night stands. But it does mean we may have ourselves a killer new cellist.
Do I really want to be in a band with a guy that I’m this attracted to, but can’t ever be with?
I let out a breath when he finishes the song, my heart racing with the implications of what I’m about to do.
“I’m going to give you my number,” I say, digging in my purse for a business card.
He looks a little stunned again, but smiles. “I won’t argue with that.”
God, that smile. But it’s time to come clean. “I want you to audition for my band.”
He blinks. “Your band.”
I hold out my business card. “I’m Jenna, from Alec and Jenna. We’re going on tour in a couple weeks and we just lost our cellist. We were just about to put out a call for auditions, but you clearly have the talent.”
He’s blinking a little rapidly, and I can practically see him trying to fit all the pieces together—what he knows (or thinks he knows) about Alec and I, along with my comments about his straddling and fingering. Or maybe he’s just so stunned to get an offer like this on some random Tuesday spent busking on Hollywood Blvd.
His eyebrows draw together. “Your cellist is Mason Brenner. He’s good. I’ve heard him play.”
“He’s also a douche. So we’re in the market.”
He finally takes my card and stares at it, like he’s still trying to figure out what the hell is happening. And well, I can’t really blame him.
Also, his consternation is pretty damn cute.
“Let me give you my number,” he says, and my stomach flutters a little.
“Sure.” I take out my phone, and it occurs to me that I don’t know his name. I weirdly feel like I should by now—and not just because I don’t hit on guys that directly pretty much ever anymore, let alone ones I don’t know the name of. “And you are?”
“Felix,” he says. “Felix Mays.”
I find myself smiling as he gives me his number. “I really hope you’ll come audition for us. I’d love to work with you.”
Which is true. Unfortunately in more ways than one.
“What do you want me to play?” he asks.
I doubt it’ll matter much what he plays; he’s going to impress the others regardless. But this feels like a chance to get to know him a little more. “Anything. But preferably something you love.”
And then I give him one last smile and put my arm around my son’s shoulders. Ty waves, and then we start walking away, and I am questioning how smart this is.
It’ll be fine, I tell myself. He’s cute. Really, really cute. And funny. And he plays the cello with the kind of passion that makes me wonder what else he does like that. But I am a professional, dammit.
Even still, I find myself wishing I could look back, and hoping he’s watching me as I walk away.