The next month went by in a blur. It seemed my employer heard rumors I was associating with famous musicians and while they didn’t have proof, the paper suddenly noticed me. They were giving me assignments that weren’t high school sports, and were more prone to let me work on music-related articles: there had been an impromptu concert given at a local coffee house by a band I had never heard of, but was apparently popular, and then they sent me to meet with a local artist who’d just signed to a major label. Today I woke to find an email requesting I go to the local music festival, Aphrodite’s Hymns, on the water. It had been sold out for weeks, so I wondered who they snubbed to give me a ticket. The editor probably hoped my rock star lover would be there, but I knew he was somewhere in Canada on tour. The invitation only served to remind me it had been a month since I had seen him and two weeks since I heard his real voice. We texted almost every day, but he was in so many different time zones that it seemed we always missed each other. It took days to have a five minute conversation about how our days were going.
“Earth to Emma,” Mark, my co-assignee said, waving his hand in my face. “You there?”
I shook my head. “Sorry, Mark. Where to next?”
He shrugged. “I have no clue. They have some special guest we need to meet.”
“Right,” I muttered more to myself than him as we made our way to the next stage.
I wasn’t a fan of crowds and this event was starting to get to me. There were people rubbing up against me and jostling my thousand dollar camera. Mark didn’t seem bothered by it as he plowed through the crowd in front of me, but then again, the only thing he had in his hands was a fifty dollar recorder that was the newspaper’s property. My camera had taken six months of slave labor and a month’s worth of rent to purchase.
“So who’s this special guest—will they be performing?” I called to Mark over the sound of the music.
“Not performing—they aren’t on the schedule. I don’t think Main even knows who it is. There was an anonymous tip,” he said, nodding towards my pocket. “Have you checked your mail today at all? Or are you too busy snapping pretty pictures?”
I rolled my eyes at him and dug out my phone. I was trying not to look at my phone every five seconds because it made envy run through me. I opened the email, but it said nothing besides we needed to meet with some musician at Concourse A.
“Well, that’s on the other side of the pier, right on the water,” I said, nodding over his shoulder through the thickening crowd.
“You go ahead, I need some funnel cake. I’ll meet you there later,” he replied, and from the look on his face I knew he was abandoning me. He had no plans to meet this mystery person and worse, he had no interest in doing his job by helping me.
“I guess I’m on my own,” I muttered to myself as I clicked on the world clocks icon. Wherever Evan was, it was somewhere in the early morning. I heaved a sigh and shoved the iPhone back into my pocket before heading to the meeting area.
I showed my press pass to the bouncer and was let behind the metal gates. “End of the pier.” He nodded over his shoulder past the blockades up to give the artists some privacy.
I heard the ringtone of Evan singing and fumbled for my phone, but when I looked down, his picture wasn’t on the screen; in fact the screen was black. I was going insane. I could still hear the music playing. Slipping past the blockade, I saw him. There he was playing a worn acoustic guitar as he sat on a stool framed by the backdrop of the ocean.
I froze as he looked up with a smile before sliding the guitar behind his back and standing. He had stopped singing, and despite the noise behind us all I could hear was the sound of the waves as they crashed over the wood of the pier. My body seemed to catch up before my brain, and I found myself running into his arms. I closed my eyes as I took in scent of his cologne, relishing the feeling of his arms holding me as he swung me around before setting me on the damp wood. The wind swirled my hair around us as his hands cradled my face; his forehead pressed against mine as he whispered, “I wasn’t dreaming…you really do exist.”
“I should be the one saying that,” I replied, breathless as I took in the intenseness of his eyes.
He looked like he hadn’t slept in a long time, for there were black circles under his eyes, and his black button-up was wrinkled from sitting. “I couldn’t take it anymore,” he admitted. “I needed physical proof.”
“Like what?” I asked, and his lips found mine.
“Your body against mine,” he whispered into my ear as he slipped his hands to the small of my back and pulled my waist closer to him.
I took a deep breath of the salt air and sighed. “How long do we have?”
My eyes widened and I pulled away. A week? A whole week? I had to be dreaming.
“I thought you were touring Canada?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I’m all toured out right now.”
“Isn’t that unheard of and really bad publicity?”
“It’s fine—don’t worry about it.”
“Where are you staying?” I asked as we walked towards the end of the pier. I rolled up my jeans, slipped my flip flops off and dunked my toes in the cool water of the Atlantic.
“I hadn’t really thought it that far through. I’m sure I can find somewhere that has an open room,” he answered, following my example and slipping off his Converses.
“Seriously? There’s nowhere with open rooms right now—especially not with the festival in town!”
Evan cringed. “I’m sure I can find something at the casino.”
“You don’t seem thrilled with that idea.”
“Place is filled with smoke—it permeates everything.”
I swirled my feet in the water before putting my head on his shoulder. “I don’t know if you’d be interested, but you could stay at my place.”
“You don’t think it’s too soon?”
“One date and you’re staying at my place? Yeah, normal circumstances would say it is…but being who you are it’s not like we can date like normal people do.” I stopped myself as I thought of how many assumptions I had made with the statement. “I mean, not that we’re dating.”
He laughed and pulled me closer to him. “I thought we were.”
I let the breath I was holding out.
“Well, you still get the pull-out couch,” I informed him.
I felt his shoulders rise as he shrugged. “That’s better than the casino and smelling like an ash tray just exploded for a week straight.”