Songs came to Corey in bursts, when she was inspired. When they did, time was an abstract concept. She would write around the clock, sleeping when she had to, eating if she remembered. She would only work on any semblance of a schedule when the first drafts were done, when the editing began, when the music had to be hammered out. The studio was the final piece, and she would put in long days, but they were more regimented out of necessity—by then there were other musicians and engineers involved, they had families and lives, and perhaps they would work around the clock for a young artist at the top of their game and the top of the charts, but not for someone who hadn’t cracked the Top 40 since people were scared about Y2K.
After meeting A-Game, Corey tried to pen some songs for herself. She damn sure wasn’t about to write anything for them, not yet. If anything, she tried to pretend the meeting never happened—it was a long shot, after all—and she wasn’t going to waste her time conjuring songs for something she hoped wouldn’t actually come to pass. And she used the miniscule chance of it actually happening to give her a sense of urgency to write her own songs. If she was lucky, and struck a vein, perhaps she could wiggle out of any deals before they began.
She compartmentalized all thoughts of A-Game and focused writing about her Kyle-based euphoria, but everything sounded too forced, too saccharine, or both. It was easy for her to capture despair, fear, doubt, conflict, but hard to describe joy in any believable fashion. There were some good lines to salvage, but she didn’t feel a burst coming on. And she simply couldn’t concentrate enough to will a storm into existence.
So when Kyle proposed a surprise visit to Boston, she jumped at the chance to put off the real world for a little while longer. Kyle had turned in his latest “if-then” flow map-thingees to Charlie for processing, and his partner would be working on the software. It was a one-man job, and Charlie told Kyle it was useless to stand over his shoulder for three days.
“So you’re telling me you’re free?” said Corey.
“Yeah, but it’s not the weekend and I didn’t want to presume—”
“Get your fucking ass up here now, you idiot.”
“I packed a bag on the off chance you’d say that.”
“And this won’t get you into trouble with your partner?”
“He told me to ‘go undress my damsel.’”
“Ooh, my next prank will have to be vicious.”
“I’ll get on the road now.”
“You know, one day you’re going to fly to me.”
“Don’t bet on it, but I’ll see you tonight.”
If fear of flying was his worst quirk—and she worked hard to uncover them through poking, prodding, and outright interrogating—it was fine by her. Just another thing to tease him about…but tonight! He was coming tonight! She scooped up Iggy and danced around her condo with him as he yowled and wiggled at the sudden, inexplicable commotion. She had mentally prepared herself to wait until the weekend, but now that he was coming today, within hours, the wait would be unbearable.
She texted Lou and told her that Kyle was on his way and wanted to see if they could all get together.
Kyle is coming TONIGHT. Dinner
Damn, I can’t. In LA for Courtney and Ricki.
It never ceased to jar Corey that the same woman who managed her also managed a global pop sensation like Courtney Quick. She was happy for her old friend, but couldn’t help deflate, just a bit.
Tell Courtney I said Hi.
Don’t you dare.
Why not? Maybe she’ll want you
to write her a song.
Pretty sure she doesn’t need my help
with her Brinks truck full of Grammies.
Then I’ll tell Ricki you said Hi.
Ricki Fucking Parrish, thought Corey. Producer to the stars and legends. If Courtney Quick had a Grammy-laden armored truck, then Ricki would require a coastal freighter to tote her awards around.
Don’t even joke.
Sorry I can’t be there. I so want to meet him.
Can’t you at least send me a picture?
Corey spent most of the morning bouncing off the walls, so she wandered to Josh’s condo and banged on the door. He worked as a chef, but tonight was his night off and he was getting a little high, which Corey found fortuitous, so she joined him. Josh insisted immediately that she bring him for dinner. Corey had met Kyle’s friend, and now she wanted Kyle to meet some of hers, and if her hotshot manager wasn’t around, an amazing meal by her chef neighbor would be perfect. Almost perfect.
“What about Kincaid?”
“Behave? Will he even stay for it?”
“I think morbid curiosity will keep him seated.”
Corey went home, cleaned her condo, scrubbed the bathroom, tidied her coffee table, even attempted to open a heap of bills, but it put her in mind of her own looming, personal financial crisis so instead she stacked the envelopes in neat, squared piles…out of sight.
“There,” she said. That amounted to doing the bills.
She was hoping he would arrive by late afternoon, but he was two hours late. It was raining and he was soaked when he arrived, standing at her door with a leather travel bag with his initials on it. She pulled him into her condo and kissed him deeply, not caring that she was getting herself wet in the process.
“What the hell took you so long?”
“The rain. And construction on the Cross Bronx Expressway.”
“Should have taken the Tappan Zee,” she said, kissing him, “and the Merritt Parkway.”
She pulled away and raised an eyebrow. “Presumptuous.”
He pulled her back toward him. “Then let me audition.”
“Not so fast. We have to be at dinner in five minutes.”
“Dinner?” He looked down at the front of his pants sadly. “Now?”
“It’s with my friends. Come on, dry off…”
Ten minutes later, they were at Josh’s. Corey helped Josh in the kitchen, preparing the meal, while Kyle was installed at the familiar dining room table with a sulking Kincaid, who guzzled a cocktail. Corey peered out from the kitchen, intermittently, and the two men were hunched toward each other, looking grave and speaking intensely in low voices.
“Jesus Christ, Kincaid is already picking a fight.”
“Then why are you hiding in the kitchen with me?” asked Josh.
“Because Kincaid is already picking a fight. This was a mistake.”
“I can’t relax.”
“Because he makes you thirsty,” teased Josh. “Because you like like him…”
“Why are you shushing me? You’re the one who’s screwed him silly in three states…”
“Two. We haven’t had Massachusex yet. So hurry it up already. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
“Here, take the salad out.”
Corey carried out a massive bowl into the dining room, where the men were speaking quietly but insistently. She thought she heard the word “premium” before Kyle sat up straight.
“Corey, did you realize Kincaid works in insurance?”
“I literally had no idea.”
“I’ve only told her ninety times,” said Kincaid.
“I’m sorry, what did you say you did again?” Corey said to Kincaid.
“Come on,” said Kyle. “Josh here is a vital part of the risk equation. If I go to a business and help them sort out their risk, suggesting protective measures to mitigate it, and they implement them, Josh can lower their premiums. Everyone wins.”
“Well, if you count us collecting lower premiums a win-win,” and they both burst out laughing as if it was the most hilarious joke ever told.
“What is happening?” said Corey, looking toward the kitchen.
To Corey’s surprise, the conversation flowed as easily as the wine, and she relaxed. Kincaid was interested in Kyle’s Coast Guard career and everyone laughed at Josh’s lack of knowledge on all things military.
“Did you wear camouflage?” asked the chef.
“Not quite,” said Kyle. “But our work uniforms were blue, which never made a lot of sense to me. If I fell overboard, the last thing I’d want to do is blend in.
“You ever rescue anyone?” asked Kincaid.
“Other than this one?” laughed Josh, jerking a thumb at Corey.
“I think,” said Kyle, who looked at a smirking Corey, “I ended up rescuing those guys before they really pissed her off.”
“Good answer,” said Corey.