So many things can happen to a person on a Central Park bench. For Emerson Kingsley, falling in love happened, despite her broken monster of a heart.
Emerson knows more about listening than she does about love, whether it’s listening to artists as a music producer or listening to stories as she people watches.
Months of watching Maddox Bailey from a park bench are to blame for her infatuation. In her mind, the moment they meet will be spectacular if she ever finds the nerve to speak to him.
But when the two share an awkward cab ride, she realizes that maybe fantasies are meant to stay that way.
The only problem is, now that they’ve met, he keeps popping up in her life. Each time he does, Emerson finds the real-life Maddox to be better than anything she could’ve dreamed—sexy, passionate, and sweeter than his chocolate brown eyes.
A woman in love with possibilities meets a man determined to make them happen.
My eyes water and I blink in order to keep myself in check, but I can’t help the way I react to him. He sings all of his parts, skipping over mine, and I’m jealous that his first run through is without fault. He knows exactly what his voice needs to do to compliment the music. Not a second is flat and nothing is anything less than perfect.
When he exits the booth, I’m pretending to be unaffected. My wine glass is back in my hand and I’m smiling.
But can he see the fading pink in my cheeks, the glassiness of my eyes, the way my hand clenches around the glass to hide its shaking?
“Your turn,” he announces before he sits down beside me. Inside, I’m a zoo and my heart is the main attraction.
“Really, you could sing the whole—”
“Go, Emerson.” I sigh and he takes my wine from me. His hand brushes mine and I look down at where our skin met. “Go.”
My eyes crawl slowly up to his face and then his eyes and he gently nudges me, his face telling me to go. I can’t say no, so I slip off my heels and I’m a good three inches shorter. I pile my hair on top of my head and rub my hands together, hoping it helps them steady. He’s looking at me, and I feel like I have to tell him why I’m so hesitant and afraid.
“I don’t sing in front of people,” I explain.
“The good thing is, I’m only a person.” He turns to face me and leans his elbow against his desk.
Have you looked in the mirror?, I want to ask him. Only a person? Pfft. Only the most beautiful man I’ve ever stood this close to and I’ve been around some of music’s finest. I walk inside the booth and all I can hear is my breathing. Because I don’t want to worry him, I get right to it and place the headset on and listen to his verse. Then the hook begins and I’m harmonizing with his already laid down singing.
You arrest my senses,
And I’m left defenseless.
I want to tell myself not to cry, but I can’t because of the wine and because of the words. This song means too much not to cry. I only worry that I’m going to sob so hard that the words are unintelligible. Now would be a good time to look at Maddox and see if I’m doing all right, but I can’t do that either. I keep my eyes closed as I sing my love letter to no one and to him.
The songs ends but I don’t want to leave the booth. Thankfully, my tears are gone with one swipe under my eyes. I look down and wonder what comes next because I can see all of the secret pieces of me scattered before me in this small closet. If Maddox sees them, I don’t know what that’ll mean. It’ll likely mean my embarrassment because there’s no way….
“You can come out, Em,” he says, and I figuratively pick myself up off of the floor and join him. “Where the fuck did that come from?”
I grab my glass and gulp it down. My hands are steadier by the time I’m through, and I take that as a good sign.
“Don’t tell anyone,” is all I say. He nods and I don’t think he knows that I’m not just talking about the singing. Then again, why would he? I want to take every small moment we’ve shared and hold them to my chest. I want to go home with them in my arms and lock those moments in a safe, and on days where I feel like I need more, I’ll look back on the many almosts we shared.
“Yeah? Well, what the hell do we do with the song now?” I hear something in his voice and I can relate to it. I wonder if other artists feel this way after they create a masterpiece. A little empty, a little shaky. Like somehow their life source is depleted. Like sharing a bit of your soul leaves you with less and less each time.
“Nothing?” I need to sit and rest and maybe try to get back what I lost. But the more time that passes, the more comfortable I am with this piece of myself existing outside of my body.
“No, no. This is too much to keep it to ourselves.” He hands me a copy of the song on a flash drive and I toss it in my purse.
He’s so intense right now, and I just want to lie on the floor and breathe him in. So I do. I squat down near his couch and let my butt hit the ground with a thump before spreading my limbs out. The floor is hard beneath my back, but I feel a little saner down here.
He plays the song, and I can’t help but shudder when our voices sing together. How could anyone not feel something when they hear music?
“You talked so much tonight. You do realize I’m never going to let you go quiet on me again, right?” I look forward to his coercion.
He sits beside my body, and I want him to touch me so badly. Always wanting when it comes to him only to be disappointed when nothing happens. I’m drunk on his presence more than I am on the wine, and before I know it, he’s lying next to me on his hardwood floor. All of this space and he chooses right here, nearly touching me. Does he feel the world slowing? Is he reaching out for my hand?
“I love this. It feels so honest.” I hear the way he gulps after he says this, but he doesn’t know how honest it is. He doesn’t know that he’s gotten something from me that no one else has. We were at it for hours, the music making us numb to time, so I’m not surprised to see that it’s nearly three in the morning when I look at the digital clock on his wall. He’s relaxed beside me as the song plays on repeat, and we talk about random things.
I can feel his body heat and I wonder, as he tells me he’s a Leo, if he knows that his pinky is so close to mine, I can almost taste the way it’d feel to touch him. I try to remember if it felt like this before, but the same way Maddox demands every part of me belong to him without ever even knowing, he erases what used to be. Funny, it took nothing from him to erase everything from me.
I searched high and low for a way to forget the pain, and he was here all along. All I needed to do was sit in his presence.
Maybe it’s the wine, but I could lay here forever.
Cynthia A. Rodriguez hates writing her own bio. In her down-time, you can find her watching movies, ranging anywhere from classic movies to action flicks (she has a weakness for Marvel adaptations), and reading steamy novels. She is stationed in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and their Miniature Pinscher, Winnie (as in Pooh).
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