Hello guys, sorry about the delay. Work is still being a bitch, lol. Anyways, here's the next chapter. Hope ya'll enjoy! I've used a song mashup that I heard and fell in love with. If you want to hear it, YouTube Sam Tsui's Thinking Out Loud / I'm Not The Only One Mashup.
Anyways, please continue to email me so I know someone is reading and liking what I'm writing. I also have a playlist of songs that I listen to while writing the chapters if ya'll are interested.
Another thing! Fellow reader made a playlist with most of the songs I've either used or will use in the series. If y'all want to listen to it while reading the chapters the link for it is this:
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"Are you guys excited?" Lea asked.
I looked over at her. "Well, if I have to be honest, I'm a little nervous," I said.
"What? Don't be, Alex. You've done this a shitload of times."
I gave Ralf a smile. "Yeah, but I haven't done this in a while."
"I'm sure you'll be alright," Lea leaned forward and smiled then looked over to where Jay was setting up in front of the piano. "By the way, what's the dish on Jay?"
"He's excited about the song," I said.
Lea rolled her eyes and smiled. "You know what I mean," she said.
I shook my head, embarrassed. "I don't know what you're talking about, Lea."
Ralf punched my arm from across the booth we were sitting in. "Don't give us that shit, Alex. Are you and White Boy getting it on or nah?"
"What?" I said, surprised at what he was asking. "No! Of course not! He's just a friend."
"A hot-as-fuck friend, yeah." Ralf shot me his shit eating grin again. "Look, all I'm saying is that if you aren't going to make a move then maybe you should let me."
"Ralf!" Lea slapped Ralf's arm causing him to laugh.
"What? I'm kidding! Obviously!" I met Ralf's eyes and could see a glimmer of his trademark mischief behind them. "Unless, of course, Jay is up for it and Alex is okay with it."
"Ralf!" Lea slapped his arm again but I couldn't help but laugh, too.
"Look, Jay and I are just friends. Okay?"
"Yeah. Okay," Ralf snorted and gave Jay another look.
"Anyways," I continued. "It feels too soon to move on, you know?"
"Alex," Lea looked me in the eyes, "Four months are more than enough time. Really, you deserve it."
"Even if I do," I looked over at Jay, "I don't even know if the guy is interested."
Lea rolled her eyes again, "Oh, please. Of course he is."
"Yeah," Ralf joined, "No way someone could spend that much time with you if they weren't looking to tap you."
"Fuck you," I laughed.
I played with the idea of Jay and me for a few seconds. I liked it.
"It doesn't matter, though. Once next semester starts, he's moving up to Austin for his senior year."
"So?" Lea asked. "You have one more semester here before you graduate. I'm sure he'd wait for you."
"What if he doesn't, though," I said, matter-of-factly. "Sometimes things just don't work out," I shrugged.
"Sometimes they do, though," Lea finished.
"Why can't you go with him?"
I looked at Ralf. "What?" I asked.
"Yeah, why don't you go with him? You still have that connect for the science program you wanted to join, no?"
"I do, but –"
"Yeah, Alex. Maybe you should leave, too."
"Guys!" I laughed. "I appreciate your concern, I do, but I just met the guy a few months ago. You want me to move to a new city with him?"
"I don't know, Alex. Just keep it in mind. I don't see you staying in this small town, anyways," Lea said.
"Well, whatever happens, I'll let you guys know."
"Sounds good, A." Ralf smiled.
Lea looked at me and nodded. A weird smile began to spread on her face. She leaned forward and whispered, "What if I could find out for sure, Alex."
I matched her weird smile with a weird look of mine. "What do you mean, Lea?" Before she could explain, a familiar voice broke through the room.
"Hello, guys. Jay here. How are we doing this fine Wednesday night?"
A few people mumbled back "okay" and "fine."
"Alright," Jay laughed. "Well, I just got one song for y'all tonight. It's The Day You Stop Looking Back by Thomas Rhett. Hope ya'll enjoy."
Lea leaned in close to me and whispered, "That hint enough for you?"
I shushed her but was sure she saw the smile I was trying to hide from her.
"Stop staring at the rear view – you ain't checking your hair.
That wheel has spun and them lights are out.
There ain't nothing for you back there.
Stop holding on so dang tight – bout time you let go.
Well, he's a heart-breaking, let-you-down, son-of-a-gun.
But I ain't saying nothing you don't know."
I smiled at Jay as his fingers moved across the piano. His eyes were closed and I could see how into the song he was. I wondered if I used to look that passionate, too.
"That sun's gonna come up – it's gonna feel good.
And after all the rain and pain you've seen I hope you soak it up like you should.
Now and then it's gonna stir up.
But when you hear that old song don't let it get to you, baby.
It's only three and a half minutes long."
Jay had opened his eyes and met mine. We both smiled at each other before I remembered that Lea and Ralf were there. I coughed and looked down at my knees. After a few seconds, I looked back up and saw that Lea and Ralf were both giving me their I-told-you-so looks. I rolled my eyes and looked back at Jay, trying to hide my smile.
"Well now, hey, girl why you looking back like that?
Don't you wanna trade tears for laughs and love?
That could be us tonight.
The day that you stop looking back,
You're going to find that the future sure beats the hell outta the past.
Now, he ain't no good – I guess he's good as gone.
The day that you stop looking back, girl,
Is the day you start moving on, yeah."
Jay met my eyes again, only this time, I didn't look away. I faced him and shot him a real smile. I smiled at him because he helped me see that I could be happy despite having my heart ripped out of my chest. I smiled because Jay showed me that maybe looking back wasn't the smartest idea. So I was going to stop looking back now. I was going to start moving on. I had been in a dark place for far too long and I was ready to find myself again.
"Stop staring at the rear view – you ain't checking your hair.
That wheel has spun and them lights are out.
There ain't nothing for you back there."
Jay shot me another smile that seemed to last longer than it actually did. He got offstage and headed back to the booth that we were in.
"That was really good, Jay!" Lea grabbed his shoulder and squeezed.
"Yeah, that was pretty sweet, man." Ralf nodded.
"Thanks, guys," Jay laughed. "You all coming Friday night to see Alex and me though, right?"
"Wouldn't miss it," Lea smiled.
I smiled with the rest of them until my eyes met Jay's. He was looking at me, not in a sexual way, but in a I'm-happy-you're-happy way. Jay wasn't just helping me look forward. He was helping me move forward.
"Thank you," I whispered.
Jay smiled and nodded at me.
Lea had texted Jay Thursday morning and asked him out for lunch. As she waited for him sitting on one of Chilli's booths, she made a quick call to Alex. After a few rings, Alex picked up.
"Lea, what's up?" He said.
"Nothing much, Alex." She absentmindedly played with her fork. "I'm actually waiting on Jay. We're having a lunch date today."
"Oh," Lea heard Alex's surprise and smiled. "Relax," she said. "Remember when I said I'd help you find out if Jay was interested or not?"
Silence. "Lea," She could hear the panic in Alex's voice. "Lea," he repeated. "What are you going to do?"
Lea gave him a small laugh. "I said relax! I'm just doing you the favor of being your wingman – wingwoman. Is that a thing?"
"Lea. For God's sake. Don't embarrass me in front of Jay."
"I won't embarrass you in front of anyone, A. You need this."
"I need you to stop your crazy plan and get –"
Lea noticed Jay's familiar face walking into the restaurant. She waved him over. "Oh! Sorry, Alex! Jay just walked in. I have to go."
"Lea! Don't you dare hang –"
Lea ended the call with a small smile and stood up as Jay walked up to her.
"Hey, Lea," he leaned forward and kissed her cheek.
"Hey, Jay," she replied.
As they said their hello's, Lea appreciated Jay's looks. Shaggy, dirty blonde hair, pretty eyes, fit body – he was handsome. After their waiter got their order, Lea started off the conversation with talk about Jay's past.
"Well," he smiled. Nice teeth, too, she thought. "I actually went to the same high school as Alex."
"Really," Lea raised her eyebrows. "Did you guys ever meet?"
Jay took a sip out of his drink. "What's that? Oh! Yeah- I think I ran into him on one of our theater program's talent show."
"Really?" Alex had never told her about this. "How'd he do?"
"Well, I wasn't supposed to stay the whole hour – it was lunch time and I was just getting the teacher's signature. I just remember hearing him sing The Man Who Can't Be Moved by The Script and I thought, `I have to stay and finish hearing this guy.' He got second, actually."
"No!" Lea couldn't believe it. "Who got first?"
Jay actually laughed after Lea's question. "You wouldn't believe it," he said.
"I don't believe it already," she laughed.
"It was these two girls who played a parody of Katy Perry's You're So Gay."
"No!" Lea laughed even harder. "Were they – were they good?"
"Oh, yeah," Jay hid his face – he was blushing, Lea noticed. "They were, ha-ha."
They continued to small talk a little after their waiter came back with their food. That's when Lea decided it was time for her to ask. "Hey, Jay. Can I ask you something?"
"Hm?" Jay looked up from his food. "Mhm," he said mumbled through a bite of his burger.
"Well," Lea took a deep breath. "I was wondering if you were talking to anyone."
Jay swallowed and took a sip of his drink. "Talking? What do you mean?"
Lea smiled. "I mean, are you seeing anyone?"
"Oh!" Jay laughed a little and Lea could see him blush for a second. "Uh, no. I'm not. Why?"
"Just curious, you know." Lea took a bite out of her own food and drank some of her tea. After a few seconds, she went back to the conversation. "Are you interested in someone, though?"
"What's that? Oh! Uh, I mean, I guess so. Yeah. Why?"
Lea leaned in forward, "Really? Who is it?"
"Oh," Jay looked away from Lea and then back at her, his face a slight shade of red. "It doesn't really matter, you see. They're not ready for a relationship or anything. Besides, haven't really gotten any signs that they're interested either."
Lea nodded and decided to backtrack a little. She talked about herself and how she was doing in school and at work. When things got comfortable again, she decided to try and get some more information off of him.
She decided not to beat around the bush too much and just went for it. "Have you told Alex how you're feeling?"
Jay's brows furrowed. "How I'm feeling?"
Lea gave him a small laugh. "Yeah, how you're feeling about working on the song together."
"Oh!" Jay looked relieved, Lea noticed. "Yeah, we talk about it a lot when he comes over for practice. He likes it. I'm really happy he's doing better, too."
"Yeah, we're happy, too." Lea looked Jay in the eyes. "Hey can I ask you something else, Jay?"
Lea could see the nervousness in Jay's face but, still, he gave her the okay.
"Don't take this the wrong way but why were you so invested in helping Alex?"
Jay stayed quiet for a few seconds. After a while, he spoke. "Back in high school, I had a friend – nice, sweet guy. He was president of his youth group, part of a few clubs in school – he had his life in order." Jay shrugged before adding, "Or as much as a high school senior could, I guess. Near the end of senior year, a year after Alex graduated, word got around about him being gay. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't. I didn't care because he was my friend, you know?"
Lea nodded and continued to look at Jay as he spoke. She realized something had changed in his demeanor but she said nothing as he continued to speak.
"Well, word finally got out of the school and his parents found out. He didn't go to school for about a week. I was worried about him so I went to his place to see how he was doing. His parents didn't let me in to go see him. They," Jay looked away from Lea and laughed. Only, Lea noticed, it was a dry laugh – more like a scoff. "They apologized to me. They told me how embarrassed they were about their son. They felt it was their civil – no – moral duty to lock him up in his room and fix him." Jay was silent for a second. He must have noticed this as he took a sip out of his drink. "I shouldn't be saying anything, though. I left when they didn't let me go see him. I didn't keep trying to."
Lea couldn't pry her eyes away from Jay. There was more to the story, she knew. She waited patiently as Jay composed himself and continued.
"A few more days go by and everyone in school is talking. I decide enough is enough and go try to see him again. Only, this time, his parents didn't open the door. They couldn't. They weren't home. That morning they had gotten a call about a car accident off the highway. Rudy – my friend – had snuck out of his house sometime the night before and had gone out. Only ... he didn't come back."
Lea couldn't form the words to ask. "Did he-"
"Yeah. He did." Jay finished. "Police said they smelled alcohol in his vehicle. If I – if anyone – had been the kind of friend Rudy had needed then maybe he wouldn't have had to sneak out that night. Maybe he wouldn't have felt so alone that night. Maybe he'd still be here." Jay sighed. "But he's not." Jay looked back up at Lea, "So, the night I saw Alex in the dorms all fucked up after doing whatever the hell he had done, I thought of Rudy. I couldn't live with myself if I let something happen to Alex, too. That's why I was so invested in helping him. I didn't want him to be alone like Rudy was."
Lea remained silent – she didn't think there was anything else to say.
Jay smiled at her. "I never planned on falling for him, you know?"
Lea blinked, surprised at his sudden revelation.
Jay gave her a small laugh. "Please," he said. "I'm not stupid. I knew what this was when you started asking if I was seeing someone, Lea."
It took her a few seconds to compose herself again but Lea smiled. "Sorry. I just wanted to find out for him."
Jay absentmindedly played with his straw. "Did he – does he know you're doing this?"
Lea remembered the panic in Alex's voice when she told him she was here. "Yeah, he knows."
"Oh!" Jay was surprised to hear that. "And what did he think?"
Lea laughed, "Well, he was very mad at me but I think he'll get over it."
Jay laughed, too. "I'm sure he will." He looked down at what remained of his food before adding, "Do you think I should go for it then?"
A small part of her hated herself for not being able to stay out of the middle of things but, when it came to people she cared about, she'd do anything for them.
Lea shot him a warm smile. "I think you should go for it."
After they had said their goodbyes, Lea called Alex and, without any specific details, told him that maybe he should go for it, too.
Friday afternoon came by and I met Jay at his apartment. There, we practiced our song one last time and headed to El Vaso to meet up with Ralf, Carol and Josh. All the time, I couldn't get Lea's advice out of my head and wondered if tonight's forecast of rain was a jinx.
Speaking of Lea, she had texted us earlier that she might not be able to make it in time but to save her a seat nonetheless.
It was beginning to drizzle when we got to El Vaso but, still, we went in and sat in one of the back booths with the rest of our friends. After exchanging hello's, Ralf and I got up and got a few drinks for our table. We laughed and drank for a bit while listening to other people perform onstage. A few minutes later, Jay told us that he was going to go set up his video camera and got up to do so. I explained to Carol and Josh how the video was for one of his music classes and why I had decided to help.
I looked back upstage and saw Jay finishing up and wave me over.
"It's show time guys," I smiled as I nervously walked upstage to where Jay was waiting for me.
I saw Jay press record and begin to introduce us as I got ready.
"Hello, guys. Jay Cook here. This is Alex and he agreed to help me with my musical project. It's a mashup of Sam Smith's Not The Only One and Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran. Really hope you guys enjoy it."
I smiled at the audience as Jay spoke. We had both decided on our songs and had worked extremely hard to get them to fit together. It had surprised us both how easily that had happened, though. He had picked Ed Sheeran's song. I had picked Sam Smith's. Now, after all our hard work, we were about to show everyone what we had created.
Jay took a deep breath and began to sing.
"When my legs don't work like they used to before
And I can't sweep you off of your feet.
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?"
I took a deep breath and began to join his song with my song.
"Cause, darling I will -
(You and me we made a bow.)
Be loving you `til I'm 70.
(For better or for worse.)
And baby, my heart -
(I can't believe you let me down.)
Could still fall as hard at 23.
(But the proof is in the way it hurts.)"
I heard a few people shout out encouragements as we sang and I couldn't help but suppress a smile playing my guitar. I looked over at Jay in his piano and saw him smile back.
"When my hair's all but gone and my memory fades
(You've been so unavailable.)
And the crowds don't remember my name.
(Now, sadly, I know why.)
When my hands don't play the strings the same way.
(Your heart is unobtainable.)
I know you will still love me the same.
Jay and I looked at each other as we continued to sing and I began to feel a slight warmth spread across my cheeks. Jay must have seen that as he smiled a little brighter and looked away. I didn't know what was going on but, if I had to guess, we were both beginning to get an idea of how deep the connection we had went.
And I think we were both okay with it.
"(I'm thinking `bout how -)
`Cause your soul –
(People fall in love in mysterious ways.)
Could never grow old – it's evergreen.
(Maybe it's a part of a plan.)
I'll just keep on making -
(The same mistakes.)
Hoping that you'll understand."
Maybe it was all part of a plan. Maybe I was supposed to have my heart broken by Sebastian so that I could meet someone like Jay. I didn't know if it was love or not. Hell, I sure thought what Sebastian and I had was love. Whatever it was, I couldn't think of a better person to feel it with than with Jay. I knew he'd never hurt me like Sebastian had. Then again, I never thought Sebastian would hurt me like he did.
It took me a second to realize what I was doing. I was comparing Jay with Sebastian. I was going back and forth between them. I was using one to avoid the other. It was in that moment that I decided – I chose – to put Sebastian behind me. Jay wasn't Sebastian. Sebastian wasn't Jay.
Jay locked eyes with me and smiled.
"I have loved you for many years.
(Maybe I am just not enough.)
You've made me realize my deepest fears.
(By lying and tearing us up.)"
Jay had never made me feel like I wasn't enough. Jay had never broken or lied or hurt me. He was kind and funny without being mean. He was smart without being condescending. I liked him and I was now convinced that he liked me, too.
"(You say I'm crazy.)
Take me into your loving arms.
(`Cause you don't think I know what you've done.)
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars.
(But when you call me `baby' -)
Place your head on my beating heart.
(I know I'm not the only one.)
I'm thinking out loud.
Maybe, we found love right where we are."
We finished our song and a large part of the audience clapped for us. Jay and I thanked them and got offstage. He and I shared another look before walking back to our booth. Carol, Ralf and Josh congratulated us on our performance as Jay went back to retrieve his camera. He got back with his camera and another round of beers for the table. I smiled at him as he sat down and whispered a thank you. We began to small talk as the next person when upstage when I felt my phone vibrate and I answered without seeing who was calling.
I recognized the voice immediately. "Lea? Hey where are you?"
"Sorry, Alex. Something came up and I can't make it. I'm sure you guys did great, though. Make sure Jay sends me a copy of that video."
I looked back up and saw Jay smiling at me. "Yeah, I'll tell him." I paused for a second. "And Lea?"
"Thanks for the advice," I smiled.
"Don't mention it. Alex. Listen, I have to go. Take care."
"Yeah, okay," I said. "Likewise." I heard Lea's end of the line click and hung up as well.
Smiling, I went back to talking with Jay while the rest of the group continued to drink and laugh.
Lea hung up the call. She let out a deep sigh as she stood outside of El Vaso.
She just couldn't stay out of the middle of things and she hated herself for it.
"Okay," she said, looking at the wet mess in front of her. "Talk."
"Can we go somewhere else, though," they asked.
Lea looked back through the window of El Vaso and could barely see her friends laughing and having a good time. If she could barely see them that meant that, if they looked, they might be able to barely see her, too.
"Okay," she sighed. "My place is a few minutes away. You can ride with me."
Lea got into her jeep and unlocked the passenger side of her car.
Her passenger got in and buckled their belt. "Thanks, Lea." He wiped some of the rain off of his face. "Really."
It might have been dark out but Lea could still make out the hazel in Sebastian's eyes as she turned on her car. "Don't mention it."
Lea just couldn't stay out of the middle of things and she hated herself for it.