“You'll hold me in your arms,
And say once again you'll love me,
And if your love is true,
Everything will be just as wonderful.”
-“Lover’s Concerto,” The Toys
Hannah walked slowly beside Josh, picking her way around the puddles left
from the evening drizzle. His cologne wafted over, and she breathed in the
strong scent before letting out a deep breath.
JC glanced over at her, hearing her sigh for what had to be the third
time since they left his hotel. “Something wrong?” he asked, nudging her
with his elbow.
She shook her head, slightly embarrassed that he had noticed her sighs.
“No, I’m just…happy.” She glanced sidelong at him and smiled. This was
what she wanted. Strolling companionably along with the person she loved. To
anyone they passed on the street, the two would look like any other young
couple. The thought of that made her warm inside, but she quickly stifled the
feeling with reality. Come on, silly, he’s with Bobbie.
“So…” JC began, searching for something to say. “How are your
“They’re great,” Hannah answered. “Still living in the same
house. But I won’t be able to see them for a while.”
“The itinerary was changed,” she explained regretfully. “Now
there’s no time to make a stop in Bowie before heading to L.A.”
JC nodded understandingly. “I know what that’s like. Well, be glad
that you can return to your normal life in a few weeks. The soonest I can see my
family is in August.”
“But that’s seven months away!” Hannah exclaimed. She observed
Josh’s shrug, and wished she could stop time and let him be with his family
for as long as he wanted.
“Yeah, but that’s the breaks. So be grateful that you’re leaving
Leaving soon. Hannah hadn’t even been considering that
inevitable fact. What would she do after the Grammy performance? Go home and
play matinee concerts again? She had just been reunited with Josh, but
apparently fate had a sick sense of humor, because he’d be gone as quick as
She looked up from the grainy wet pavement and realized that they had
stopped walking. The hotel loomed in front of her. The gleaming gold-framed
glass doors and sparkling lobby had never looked so depressing.
JC stood next to her, bouncing up and down on his heels to warm himself
up in the mid-winter cold. He watched Hannah as she stared motionless at the
“What’s wrong?” he inquired curiously.
She turned around and stared up at him, some sort of emotion shining in
her gray eyes. Suddenly, JC felt something in his throat tighten. He frowned,
puzzled, and cleared his throat.
“Nothing’s wrong,” she replied softly. “Thanks for walking me
“Sure, it was no proble-“
Before he could finish her arms were around his lower back, and her face
was buried in the front of his coat. He staggered back a tiny step before
regaining his balance and tentatively smoothing her disheveled hair.
“I’m sorry,” Hannah burst out, moving away before he was able to
say anything. Her cheeks were red, but it could have been because of the cold.
She awkwardly fixed her crooked glasses. “I’m just- I’m so glad that
“Hey,” he said quietly, “I’m glad too.”
She nodded, smiling, and gave him a small wave as she went into the
JC turned around, bemused but charmed at the same time. Stepping lightly
down the street, he pulled out his cell phone to tell Dre where he was.
“You’re getting better and better every day,” Hannah complimented,
smiling at the five men in front of her. The stage was relatively empty, the
musicians for the moment tending to their own business during the break.
They all smiled back modestly at her, even Justin, who had been visibly
strained the past few days. Well, all modestly except for Chris.
“Step back, child, because you should be impressed!” he
bragged, preening sickeningly. “I am the Diana Ross of their Supremes. The
Jagger of their Rolling Stones. The Uncle Jesse of their Full House!”
Lance quirked an eyebrow at him. “Why’d you say Diana Ross first? And
Full House is a TV show, not a band, idiot. And why do you keep obsessing about
Full House, anyway?”
“Yeah, man, I’m starting to think there’s something going on
between you and those Olsen twins,” JC joked.
“Olsen twins?!” Joey asked, immediately perking up.
“Good job, Jace, now you’ve gotten him started,” Justin groaned,
getting into the fun of the moment.
“Mary-Kate and Ashley. Ashley and Mary-Kate,” Joey began with fervor.
“I wonder why people always have to say Mary-Kate’s name first. Why can’t
Ashley ever be first? I bet she gets mad sometimes. I know I would. It’s all
like ‘Mary-Kate this’ and ‘Mary-Kate that.’ Why can’t it ever be
Ashley, huh? Why?!”
Hannah stared at him. “Oookay,” she muttered. “Well, I’m going to
grab a drink from the soda machine before Joey gets a little too excited.”
“I’ll come with you,” Justin volunteered, getting up from a
violist’s empty chair. He needed some help, from a female perspective.
“Yeah, I’m a little thirsty, too,” JC commented, standing up. But
at that moment Bobbie appeared on the stage, holding a bottle of water.
“I got some for you, babe,” she called out, waving the bottle in the
“Oh. Never mind, then,” he said, smiling dismissively at Hannah and
Justin and heading over to his girlfriend. My amazing writer of a girlfriend.
Hannah didn’t let her hurt show and instead led the way to the closest
vending machines. “What’s wrong, Justin?” she asked as she slipped a
dollar bill into the slot.
He sighed and leaned against the wall. “I don’t know what to do about
She looked at his miserable blue eyes and felt her heart soften. “Are
you two fighting?”
“No! At least, I don’t think we are,” he answered, confused. “The
thing is, she’s been acting so strange lately. I was on the phone with her,
and I think she was crying.”
She frowned. “You think she was?”
“Lily was trying to hide it,” he explained, appearing to be close to
tears himself. “I don’t get it! I’m her boyfriend, she shouldn’t hide
anything from me. I can help her!”
Unless, Hannah thought, whatever she’s hiding is about you.
She didn’t know what had made Lillian so distressed, but it wasn’t her
business to know in the first place. The only thing she could do was comfort
Justin as best she could, given the circumstances.
“Justin, you may feel that you can fix anything in the world, but in
Lillian’s head you can’t. And forcing her might make her clam up even
more,” Hannah said sensibly, grabbing the can of Coke and heading back to the
auditorium with Justin following her. “She’s coming here in a few days,
right? Well, show her then how much you care. Maybe it could lay her doubts to
He thought over her words, nodding slowly. “Alright. That sounds good.
When she comes, I’ll show her just how much I love her. How much I can help
her.” He smiled, the clouds disappearing from his eyes. “Thanks, Hannah.”
She shrugged sheepishly, wishing that she could help Josh that easily.
Now that his worry over Lillian was momentarily laid to rest, Justin was
able to offer some words of condolence. “Hey, I heard that you were a
little…upset. Because JC hooked up with Bobbie again. Sorry about that. I
thought they were breaking up, too.”
She peered at him. “And who told you about me being upset?”
Justin cleared his throat, getting the feeling that he wasn’t supposed
to know about that juicy little fact. “Um, Lance.”
Hannah sighed, resigned. “Lance wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. I
hadn’t even realized that he noticed my reaction. But it’s kind of useless
to feel this way, huh?”
To her surprise, Justin shook his head. “No,” he answered honestly,
“I don’t think so.”
She gave him a small smile. “Well, it’s useless when it’s me and
He chuckled and ruffled her hair as they climbed back onstage. “Keep
the faith, Hannah. Good things come to those who deserve it. You just gotta
wait, that’s all.”
“Okay, everyone, back to your seats and positions. Let’s make this
one perfect,” Sondheim boomed before she could reply.
Justin stepped into his place next to JC, who was guzzling down a bottle
of water. Justin gave Hannah a wink before turning around the face the empty
“Hey, Bobbie, can I read one of your poems again?” JC asked, looking
earnestly at his girlfriend who was stretched out on his hotel bed, watching
“Oh. Um…” Bobbie trailed off, trying to think of an excuse for not
having the notepad of poetry with her. She had returned it to Hannah earlier
that day. “It’s in my room right now. I’m working on a new one.” She
noticed JC’s disappointed expression. “Why?”
“I just like them a lot,” he answered. “I never knew you were such
an amazing poet. Why didn’t you ever tell me before?”
“Poetry is a private thing for me,” Bobbie replied, uncomfortable.
The tiny niggling of guilt was growing inside her. Stop it! I mean, Hannah
doesn’t know. And what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her. Besides, you’re
with JC again, and that’s what matters.
JC smiled at her, oblivious to her unease. “You can share anything with
me, baby.” He leaned over and kissed her lightly.
She laughed tensely. “Thanks, Jace. I know.”
Hannah sat in the middle of her bed, cross-legged and pensive. Letterman
was on, the light from the screen dimly illuminating the otherwise dark room,
but the volume of the TV was turned too low for her to pay any attention. Her
notepad was propped on her knee, and she tapped her pencil thoughtfully against
her lower lip, trying to think of a good line to end her stanza.
‘To know you is to love you, and to love you is for life.’ She
nodded to herself, quickly jotting down the line before flipping the notepad
shut and tossing it to the side. She clicked off the TV with the remote and
buried her face into the slightly lumpy pillow.
I just have to wait, that’s all.
“Oh my gosh, look at that one!” Hannah exclaimed, grabbing Lance’s
arm and dragging him over to the window display. She was tempted to press her
face to the glass like a little child, but managed to resist the urge.
The honey color of the wood at the neck of the cello blended into a warm
shade of caramel, and the f-holes on the instrument were lavishly and
exquisitely carved. Even the scroll and its pegs were elaborate and elegant.
Lance peered at the cello. “Yeah. It’s…pretty.”
“Isn’t it though?” she breathed, looking adoringly at it. A warm
breath tickled the back of her neck.
“What’s so pretty?” JC asked, gazing over her shoulder into the
display. It was filled with models of violins, flutes, and cellos, propped on
rich red velvet. “That cello?”
Hannah nodded excitedly, almost hitting his nose with the back of her
head. “Look at the quality of the wood. I bet it has the best sound.”
JC smiled, amused. It was an experience to go window-shopping with
Hannah. Instead of venturing into Manhattan, she had insisted that the three of
them head to the small alleys in the music district, explaining that she had
often gone there during her Juilliard days. And as soon as they had stepped out
of the taxi, she had run off eagerly, leaving him and Lance standing dumbly in
the middle of the sidewalk.
An hour and a half later, she still hadn’t calmed down.
“Well, let’s find out,” he heard himself saying. Then to all of
their astonishment, including his own, he was suddenly leading her into the
“Josh, I can’t!” she protested. “This is Litz’s! No one
actually comes in here except the prodigy musician children of philanthropists!
We’ll be kicked out or something.”
He shook off her objections and walked boldly into the refined
establishment, straight up to the mature man who was behind the glass counter.
“Hello, my friend would like to try that cello in the window. The one on the
His blue eyes looked assuredly into the dark ones of the man, who
contemplated him a second before nodding.
“Yes, sir,” the man answered. “Why doesn’t your friend have a
seat. I’ll bring the cello right over.”
Hannah sat gingerly on the high-backed cushioned chair in the middle of
the room, looking worriedly at Josh. He merely smiled confidently at her. Lance,
in the meantime, had wandered over to gaze at the big double bass in the far
“Here it is, miss,” the man said, coming over to her and placing the
cello in her grasp. “Is this bow acceptable?”
“Oh, it’s perfect,” Hannah replied dreamily, staring intently at
the cello propped between her knees. Her fingers ran gracefully over the
fingerboard before she placed the bow on the strings. Then, not even noticing
the two pairs of eyes observing her, she began to play.
JC watched her, not feeling the tender smile creep onto his face. Her
head was bent thoughtfully to the instrument, as if she were attuned to its
every utterance. Those quick fingers of hers darted about lightly, pressing down
the strings in the exact places to create an incredibly mellow sound. She was
right. The cello did have the best sound. And she had never looked so happy. Not
even when she had hugged him. A sudden surge of jealously wiped the smile from
his expression. Whoa. Where did that come from?
A few moments later, Hannah ended the quick song with a flourish and
savored the echo of the last note. She looked self-consciously up at Josh and
the employee. The dark, oddly bright, hue of Josh’s eyes took her off guard
for a second. Why was he looking at her that way?
“Wonderful, miss,” the other man said, smiling genuinely at her.
“I’ve never heard that cello played like that before. You make it come
Hannah thanked him, turning red. “I saw it in the window, and I knew it
was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”
“Well, thank you, miss,” he answered. “I crafted it myself.
It always makes me happy to hear a real musician compliment my
Crafted it himself? But that must mean…Hannah stared at him,
suddenly noticing the refined air about him and the knowledge in his eyes.
“I’m Sidney Litz,” he introduced, shaking first her hand and then
Josh’s. “Not many talented people come in here anymore. Only the clumsy
children of the local benefactors. But don’t tell them I said that.”
Hannah laughed. “Believe me, I’ve always dreamed of coming in
Mr. Litz smiled at her. “Then you should have done so sooner. Feel free
to come back any time. Maybe I’ll have a new cello next time.”
JC grabbed Lance, and they followed Hannah out the store, the little bell
on the door ringing as they left.
“He was nice,” Lance decided as they continued to stroll down the
sidewalk, the two men flanking Hannah. “Not snobby at all.”
Hannah agreed. “And he’s an amazing craftsman, too.” She turned to
smile tremulously up at Josh. “Thank you for dragging me in there. That was
the best experience I’ve ever had.”
The strange jealousy from before was pushed out of his mind, and JC
looked into her dancing silver eyes, catching the wonderment in them. He opened
his mouth to reply, but instead of a casual ‘you’re welcome,’ he found
himself saying, “Do I deserve hug in return?”
“A hug?” she asked, a little confused. Since when did Josh want to
“Yes, a hug,” he answered, taking her confusion for aversion
and getting offended.
“Well, yes, of course,” Hannah said. She launched herself into his
arms, overcome again with happiness. The woodsy, clean scent of his cologne
surrounded her, and she closed her eyes in bliss. This was where she wanted to
JC closed his arms around her, feeling incredibly warm and comfortable.
He chuckled a little at the enthusiasm in which she had hugged him. The equal
enthusiasm in his returning embrace didn’t register on his mind, nor did the
fact that he was firmly in the middle of a relationship with Bobbie. What was
important at that moment was the simple tenderness he felt.
Lance stood awkwardly to the side, looking discreetly at his two friends.
Even though they were merely hugging, the sight was strangely intimate. He
cleared his throat, loudly, and they broke apart, one appearing flushed and the
other smugly satisfied.
“So, back to window-shopping?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at them.
“Yeah, let’s go then,” JC said, briskly walking ahead.
Hannah followed more slowly, wondering what had just happened.