I took a deep breath as I let the dollar gas station coffee drip into the cup. That’s all I could afford as a local journalist—a dollar coffee. I hated journalism, but my creative writing degree was a flop in the real world. As one publisher told me, every kid who ever wanted to write a novel has a degree in that, but it doesn’t mean you can write. No one can teach you how to really write—grammar yes but writing, no. So, what do you have to show besides a piece of parchment paper?
I didn’t want to wallow in self-pity, but I’d be lying to myself if I said my life had gone as planned. I couldn’t wait to get out of high school, then college and finally start my life. So why did it feel like my life had come to a complete stand still as soon as I had graduated? I didn’t feel like I’d moved any further forward than the moment I had taken my last step on the ground of my high school, and I had been gone five years. Five whole years.
As a student fresh out of college, all I had been looking for was an internship; anything to get me into that world. The first interview left me with no other choice but to find a job to pay the bills and my supposed passion just wasn’t going to be it. I cringed at the thought and put the top on the coffee with a bit too much force before taking out my cell phone to check my email. At least in journalism I could work from home; being a recluse really appealed to me.
I heaved a sigh and stopped paying attention to anything around me but the email from the editor informing me—no, telling me—I had to go to a high school basketball game—again. I closed my eyes for only a second and found myself ramming into the guy in front of me, throwing my cheap coffee over my shoulder and falling right onto my bony behind.
“I’m so sorry,” the hooded figure said, his face coming into view as he leaned down to help me up.
I blinked twice when I saw his hazel eyes, permanent five o’clock shadow and coy grin. Don’t drool, act normal…it’s just Evan Levesque. He held my hand as he pulled me up.
“Don’t be sorry. It was my fault; I’m a total klutz,” I managed to say in a collected voice. It was a miracle.
“I ruined your coffee,” he commented, his hand still in mine. “I know how important coffee can be.”
“It wasn’t very good anyways,” I replied with a nervous laugh.
“I still think it’s my fault—let me make it up to you with a real cup of coffee?”
“It’s no problem, really.”
He cocked his head at me saying, “It’s just one cup.”
He winked, and led me across the street to one of those trendy coffee houses where a large wasn’t a large and the drinks had names that sounded like a foreign language. I just couldn’t believe Evan Levesque was holding my hand, let alone bringing me to coffee. Evan Levesque, the lead singer and guitarist for Red Moon, which was one of the hottest rock-pop bands since the early nineties.
“Evan?” someone called out, but he ignored them as we headed towards the road.
“You ever try this place?” He nodded across the street as we waited for a car to pass.
“I was just buying a ninety-nine cent coffee, what do you think?” I replied, smiling over at him.
“I think,” he began as we rushed across the street, “you’ve been missing out.”
“I bet—but if I get addicted and go broke because of you it won’t be a good scene,” I teased, hyper aware of the fact I was somehow acting normal.
“Well, this place is quite addicting; you can get it almost anywhere in the world now, which, right now, is very nice,” he noted, glancing over his shoulder at me with his hood still up. “Who am I saving from a watered down cup of coffee powder?”
“And what do you do, Emma?” he asked, finally dropping my hand so he could hold the door open.
“I write for a local paper.”
He nodded. “You don’t say that with much enthusiasm.”
“You caught me on a bad day,” I explained with a shrug as the barista greeted us.
Evan finally pulled the hood off, and the girl behind the counter went pale before turning varying shades of red. She knew who he was too, but she was doing a bad job handling it.
“What do you want, Emma?” he asked as he put his hands in the back pockets of his jeans and rocked on the balls of his feet. From the look on his face he had suddenly gone from confident to nervous. I couldn’t peg why, but it was endearing that he could be nervous about anything.
“I have no clue—you pick for me?” I answered, fluttering my eyelashes for effect.
He burst out laughing before pointing a finger at me and saying, “You’ve got skill; you know that?”
“That’s how I managed to get you to up my buck coffee to a…” I looked up at the menu, “five dollar one.”
“Two vente caramel macchiatos, whip cream of course,” he ordered and the girl just stared at him. He looked at me, then her, and coughed. “Are you going to make it?”
The girl’s head snapped up, and she grabbed two cups and a permanent marker before using shaking hands to punch our order into the computer.
“That’s nine-eighty-five, please,” she managed to stammer out in a squeak.
Evan pulled out a black credit card and swiped it, his eyes following the girl as she began to brew our coffees. His eyes finally landed on me, his brows arched over them in amusement.
“I wonder if she really heard what I said,” he whispered into my ear.
“So what was so bad about today—besides me mowing you down in my mission for pizza Combos,” he teased. His elbow went into my ribs playfully, and I found myself grabbing at his arm in response as if we were old friends.
“I have to cover a high school basketball game tonight. I’m just not looking forward to it,” I explained as I bit at the inside of my cheek.
At least it wasn’t my old high school. I was dreading the day that would happen. I had vowed to not go back there willingly ever again. My body froze as memories started to flood my brain and nausea kicked in. I closed my eyes and pushed them back into the dark corners they belonged in.
“…That must be awkward,” Evan said, saving me from my thoughts.
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Getting hit on by sweaty high school ballers?”
I rolled my eyes. “Sure, if you say so.”
“I’m sure they do, even if you don’t notice it.” He chuckled to himself before continuing, “I might enjoy seeing your reaction to that.”
“You want to go to a high school basketball game?” I repeated as the girl came back to the counter and stuttered out our order.
Evan shrugged as he grabbed our drinks and headed in the direction of the lounge area. He sat down in a loveseat and nodded for me to join him before handing me my coffee.
“Welcome to Heaven on Earth,” he toasted before taking a sip.
I took a sip before pulling my knees up to my chest and turning so I was facing him.
There was a crooked grin as he looked over the top of his coffee at me. “So what’s it like being Lois Lane?”
I looked down at my own cup as a smile I couldn’t prevent spread across my lips. I glanced back up at him as I answered, “I don’t get to work with Superman, but I get to cover stuff like Mister Whiskers being stuck in a tree, the newest cookie flavor at Betty’s Baker, and of course, the basketball games.”
“What did you really want to be?” he asked as he leaned back in the chair with his eyes searching mine. It felt like he really cared even though every part of me cried out for me to believe otherwise because of who he was.
“I wanted to write young adult novels—I wanted to be the next Stephenie Meyer…a bestseller over night and rich as all hell—to just do what I loved.”
“Meyer is a lot older than you. You still have a shot at that.”
“Besides being rich as hell isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…it’s hard to make real friends that way.”
“I could understand that.”
“So who stomped on your hopes and dreams? Some big shot agent?”
I shrugged. “Let’s put it this way, I spent forty grand on a school loan that amounted to nothing…I used to be afraid to say that my degree was useless…because then I would be saying it didn’t teach me how to write–”
“It didn’t though; it’s just like no one could teach me how to really write music.”
“So you had no formal training?”
“I had a little—just like you, but it never seemed to matter… either I was a musician or I wasn’t—simple.”
“I wish it was that easy with writing,” I said with a sigh, my fingers tapping the top of my coffee.
“Why isn’t it?”
“The publishers didn’t give a crap about my degree, but they wouldn’t listen to me without it.” I shook my head. “I read an article once that said to be a bestseller you need to sleep with a publisher. That didn’t really appeal to me, though.”
“I can’t even tell you how many people have asked me who I slept with to get where I am. I was freaking sixteen—I’d never even touched a bra before!”
As I started to laugh my cell phone began to ring out one of his songs. I gritted my teeth together as the blush rushed up my chest and to my face. “Oh, this is embarrassing,” I muttered as I fumbled to shut it off.
When I looked up our eyes met; his were narrowed over the top of his coffee, paused half-way to his mouth.
“You know who I am then?” he asked, lowering the cup.
I nodded in response, trying to gauge his reaction—did he really believe I didn’t know who he was? Maybe that was why the shock and awe he instilled in the barista agitated him.
“Why did you act normal and not squeal and stop breathing?”
I let out the breath I had been holding and laughed. “Seriously? I don’t do that. You’re still a human being—God of pop-rock or not.”
“I wouldn’t refer to myself as a god,” he retorted, rolling his eyes.
I took a sip of my coffee and nodded towards the girl still trembling behind the counter. She was holding her permanent marker as if she wanted to ask but knew she shouldn’t.
“I think she’d disagree,” I teased.
“Ugghh…” was his deflated answer.
“I’m sorry,” I replied. “I just didn’t know how to bring it up.”
He nodded. “And still you sit here as if I’m completely normal.”
“As far as I know you are completely normal,” I pointed out before taking another sip of my coffee. “You stay out of the tabloids as far as I can tell, so you aren’t on the journalistic radar—just on my phone.”
He burst out laughing. “I’d much rather be on your phone than in your paper!”
“Especially my paper,” I said as I took a deep breath. “I thought I was going to die when it rang!”
His eyes looked playful as he nodded, his cup covering the smile on his lips. “So, this basketball game…”
“What? You want to go?” I inferred.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything so…normal.”
“Really, and that’s what you want to do? Go to a high school basketball game?”
He shrugged. “It’s not just any basketball game—it means I’ll be able to get to know you better.”
“I’m the bane of normal,” I advised him with my brow furrowed.
He lowered his cup to show his smile.
I shook my head at him. “You know, you seem abnormally normal.”
He chuckled to himself before nodding back up to the counter. “How about a glazed donut? Split it with me?”
I nodded and watched as he took the shaking permanent marker from the girl’s hand and signed a cup before pointing to the donut. When he sat down he broke it in half and smiled at me.
“What?” he asked as he looked at my expression.
“That was very nice of you,” I replied.
“Eh, I figured it would make her stop staring at us.”
“I don’t think so, but if it makes you feel better then I’ll go along with it.”
Evan had already managed to eat half of his portion of the donut before he mumbled, “So was the writing really about making money?”
“No, I always wanted to be a writer…there just came a point when others made me realize I couldn’t…far before I even hit college.”
“I don’t understand?”
My shoulders sagged as I stared at the donut looking for an excuse instead of an answer. An excuse would have sounded a lot better than the truth.
“I’ve tried to blame a few shot down job applications for my lack of being a real writer…but I know it really wasn’t that. I’d stopped really writing long before I even got to college.”
“So why did you dump all that money on a writing degree?”
“I thought I could still do it…but I’ve just felt detached from it for a long time. It’s like I’m writing without seeing it, without really feeling it. It’s coming out but it lacks the meaning it once had.”
Evan ran his hand through his hair that was already standing up without the appearance of any product being in it. He pursed his lips before letting his eyes meet mine.
“Would you believe me if I said I know exactly what you mean?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “You’re not trying to seduce me are you?”
“I’m not a siren for God’s sake!” he teased before his tone became serious; “I know this whole thing is odd, but I feel like I can be honest with you.”
“It’s a benefit of the bane of normalism,” I explained, and he looked down at my uneaten donut.
I rolled my eyes at him and popped a piece in my mouth. He smiled, but it disappeared as a shadow came across the window and blocked out the sun, groaning as it came to a stop.
“The tour bus?” he asked, not bothering to turn and look. I nodded as I tried not to laugh at his expression—he grimaced and squeezed his eyes tight.
“I guess you should be getting back.”
“I need your number and your address so I can pick you up tonight,” he reminded me.
“Are you sure they’ll let you out again?”
He handed me his phone and took mine from me. “Put the information in.”
“Okay, okay!” I replied with a smile I couldn’t stop.
“Yo, Evan, what the hell are you doing?” a guy with long hair I recognized as the bassist asked as he came in the door.
“What time?” Evan asked as he stood and handed my phone back.
“Six?” I handed him his phone, and he leaned down to kiss me on the cheek.
He whispered in my ear, “I’ll see you at six, and I’ll try to look as normal as possible.”
The bassist slapped Evan on the back and looked over at me with a smirk. I swore I heard him mutter something like; she must be special and watched as Evan nodded.