Chapter 17

“You shoot the moon and miss completely

And now you’re left to face the gloom,

The empty room that once smelled sweetly.”

                        -“Shoot the Moon,” Norah Jones



            Hannah found herself in Litz’s cozy yet elegant music store for the second time that week. She didn’t understand what was happening to her and Josh, but she knew that she would rather be playing music than trying to deal with feelings that were completely beyond her.

            The beautiful cello had been taken out of the window display and was now propped up on a stand in the middle of the “sitting area” of the store. Sheet music was open on a music stand beside it.

            Hannah looked around the store to see if Mr. Litz or any other employees were in, but no one had appeared when the bell on the door had rung to signal her entrance. She shrugged and ventured closer to the sheet music.

            It was actually hand-written music in pencil, not a printed copy that could be bought. Probably someone’s composition. Maybe Mr. Litz’s.

            Feeling intrusive but unable to quell her curiosity, Hannah leaned down and read the notes, humming along to the tune. It was actually pretty good. She got as far as the second page before the back door opened and she hurriedly straightened again.

            Mr. Litz appeared in the doorway and a wide smile dispersed the small frown that had been on his face. “I remember you, miss. You were in here with those two young men a few days ago, looking at that cello, if I recall correctly.”

            “Yes, that’s right,” she answered, flattered that an esteemed instrument crafter like him remembered her. “I’m Hannah Coverly.”

            “I was on my lunch break, Hannah, so I’m sorry that I didn’t hear you come in.”

            “Oh, that’s alright. I was just looking at the music over there. Did you write it?”

            “Actually, yes. Did you like it?”

            Hannah nodded thoughtfully. “I liked the crescendo especially, but-” She broke off, embarrassed at herself.

            Mr. Litz nodded at her encouragingly. “Go on, I want to hear what you honestly think.”

            “Well, I thought that maybe instead of starting immediately with a new theme after the crescendo, you could first repeat your first two measures. And also-”

            He reached into his pocket and handed Hannah a pencil, gesturing at her to mark the changes she was talking about. She walked over to the music and immediately began scribbling revisions on it, explaining what she was suggesting while he looked on over her shoulder.

            “Yes, yes. I see. Uh huh,” he commented interestedly as she worked her way through what he had already written.

            A few minutes later, she trailed off and cleared her throat self-consciously. “Well, that’s just what I think.”

            “And it’s very good. Very nice suggestions,” he assured her. “Do you have a lot of time?”

            She checked her watch. “About an hour and a half until I have to get back. Why?”

            “Why don’t we work on it together? I would appreciate having someone to collaborate with. As you can see, I don’t get many customers on weekdays anyway.”

            Hannah smiled brightly at him. “I’d be honored to!”

            “Alright, you take that cello. Just play what you changed, and we’ll work our way through the song.”

            She nodded and eagerly began playing the notes.


*                       *                       *


            “Hey, where did Hannah go?” Lance asked, suddenly stopping in the middle of the Ralph Lauren store. He put down the bottle of cologne and looked to his friends around him.

            Joey frowned. “Wasn’t she with you?”

            “Like an hour ago.”

            “How’d you lose her?” Joey asked, exasperated. “Even I can’t do that.”

            “Well, it’s not like she’ll be completely lost. She did spend four years in New York.”

            Joey shook his head and went to inform JC of the news, who was wading through a rack of new shirts.

            “Hey, Jace, Lance lost Hannah.”

            “I did not!” Lance immediately cried, coming up behind them. “I just…seemed to have misplaced her. An hour ago.”

            “So you lost her,” JC replied. “Great. Now we have to backtrack and get her. Do you realize how many places we’ve been in the last hour?”

            “Can’t we just call her cell?” Joey suggested.

            “She doesn’t have one,” Lance pointed out.

            “Well, she’ll probably be able to find her way back to the hotel without our assistance,” JC reasoned. “She’s not an idiot, and she’s been in this area before.” He went back to examining the different shirt designs. He was in dire need of new clothes. Just because Joey was able to wear the same two t-shirts didn’t mean that he could.

            Joey nudged Lance, and they exchanged a sly look.

            “Alright, Jace, if you say so,” Joey said loudly, with a sigh to punctuate his words. “But I don’t know…”

            “Yeah, if you’re willing to just leave a poor, helpless girl like her on the mean streets of New York City, I guess we have no way to argue with you,” Lance quickly added. “Because after all, clothes are very important. Much more so than a human being.

            “Oh, most definitely,” Joey agreed. “But there are some seedy characters roaming the streets. And Hannah is not very big and strong, you know. No one would hear her cries in a dark, deserted alley, with rats and trash and dirt-”

            “I know what you’re trying to do,” JC cut him off.

            “Is it working?” Lance asked, an innocent expression on his cherubic face.

            JC turned away from the rack of clothes. “Yes. I hate you two.” He grabbed his jacket from Lance and put it on, then slid his sunglasses on. “I’ll be back as soon as I find her.”

            “Ah, the mighty hero, going to save the damsel in distress,” Lance commented as his friend left the store.

            Joey looked at him, his brown eyes critical. “Man, Poofu, you’re such a fruit.”


*                       *                       *


            JC walked past what seemed like the fiftieth street vendor. His stomach grumbled as the smell of pretzels and hot dogs wafted over, reminding him never to skip breakfast again. He stopped himself from hurrying over to the vendor, telling himself that he was a man on a mission. To find Hannah, and then strangle her.

            She knew better than to go somewhere without telling someone. And without a cell phone. Her mother would love to hear about this.

            He concentrated on his task, trying to think of anywhere she would go. It couldn’t be any of the clothes stores, because she hadn’t shown any interest in them. In fact, she had kept entirely silent the entire shopping expedition, speaking up periodically only to joke with Lance and Joey. JC frowned suddenly. Of course, she didn’t say anything to me at all.

            Instead of words, Hannah had merely stared at him. He was sure that she didn’t mean to, but he looked up a few times and caught her in the middle of it, before she could quickly turn away. He had no idea what he had done to deserve those stares, either.

            True, after Joey’s warning to not lead her on, he had backed off and limited his conversations with her. He was involved with Bobbie, after all. But why would she get offended at that? It wasn’t like she was interested in him anyway. She never initiated anything physical, and he had to request that hug from her that other day.

            JC paused in the middle of the street, realizing that these thoughts were not helping him get any closer to finding her. Did she say anything that would hint at where she would go? He searched his mind, quickly getting frustrated, before a light went on in his head. She kept wanting to go back to Litz’s! In fact, she had annoyed him about it for five minutes before giving up.

            He smiled and called a taxi. Bingo.


*                       *                       *


            JC stopped just short of opening the door to the music store. He paused and peered through the glass door, looking at the scene before him.

            Litz’s back was to him, as was Hannah’s. She was playing a cello while Litz stood and nodded every so often. Then one of them would stop and grab a pencil, write something on the music in front of them, and continue where they left off. JC almost laughed when Litz wrote something, Hannah shook her head and erased it and wrote something else, then Litz erased that and wrote again. Just before Hannah was about to snatch the pencil from Litz, he decided to interrupt them.

            The bell on the door jingled, and two heads whipped around to see who the newcomer was. “Sorry to barge in,” JC said, smiling charmingly, “But I’m here to retrieve something that my friend lost.”

            Hannah recovered from her shock and rolled her eyes, muttering something under her breath. Litz seemed not to notice and rose to shake JC’s hand. “Quite all right,” he answered, “It’s nice to see you again.”

            JC nodded, agreeing with him, and signaled Hannah to hurry up and come with him. She sighed and propped the cello back on its stand.

            “Thanks for letting me contribute,” she told Mr. Litz.

            He waved away her thanks. “My pleasure, Hannah, my pleasure. Maybe you’ll come back soon. Both of you.”

            JC pulled her out of the store behind him with one hand and slid his sunglasses back on with the other. They walked to the end of the block before he signaled a taxi down.

            Hannah sat beside him, staring at his profile with annoyance. He had remained silent and oddly in good spirits. “Well?” she prompted. “Aren’t you going to say anything? Like, ‘way to waste my time, Hannah. You should be more responsible.’ Just say it, Josh!”

            He looked down at her. “You just said it yourself. Why should I waste my breath?”

            She sighed and turned away from him, staring out the window. “It’s not my fault Lance wasn’t paying attention. He just kept going on and on about the differences between colognes. Forgive me for not being interested enough in sticking around.”

            Josh gave a short laugh. “And you wonder why I treat you like a child? Maybe if you acted a little more mature, I’d have more respect for you. Even if Lance was droning on about cologne, you could have at least told him you were going to traipse around New York.”

            “I didn’t go traipsing,” she shot back. “I am an adult; I’m able to make my way around here without trouble. Besides, I asked to go to Litz’s several times, and you just ignored me!”


            “Shut up.”

            “See what I mean?” He leaned forward abruptly and told the cabbie to pull over.

            “Where are we going?”

            I’m going to get something to eat,” he told her, looking at the street vendor. “You can stay put and try not to roam off again.”

            She glared at his departing back. He was so frustrating! Just days before he had touched her cheek so gently, and they had hugged. She had thought they were really making some improvements in their relationship. But apparently her thoughts were premature, because now he was the same old Josh. The same sardonic and removed Josh.

            She shifted in her seat and looked out the other side of the taxi. It was too bad that the great time she had had at Litz’s was ruined by their argument. It really had been exciting to work with Mr. Litz. At least he seemed to appreciate what I said.

            The taxi door opened again and Josh climbed back in, two hot dogs in one hand and a soda held snug in the crook of his elbow. “Thanks for waiting,” he told the driver as they pulled back into traffic.

            JC eagerly bit into his first hot dog, glad for the sustenance. He tried to ignore Hannah as she pointedly kept far away from him on the back seat and stared out her window, but the task was easier for her than him. He wasn’t mad at her, just annoyed. She, however, seemed genuinely mad.

            Before he realized it, he was nudging her. “Want some?” he offered, holding out his second hot dog.

            She shook her head and continued staring away.

            “Come on,” he cajoled, poking her insistently in the side. “You know you’re hungry. Hannah…”

            “Stop it,” she told him finally, whirling around to face him. He was surprised to see the emotions in her darkening gray eyes. “I don’t understand you, Josh. First, you’re affectionate and acting like a real friend. Then, you lecture me and practically insult me, and now you’re trying to ply me with food. What are you doing?”

            He looked at her. “I honestly don’t know.”

            “Well, me neither. Maybe you should figure that out before doing it, because it’s not fun being on the receiving end of your uncertainty.”

            “Hey, don’t start blaming me for something you’re responsible for.”

            “Me?!” she exclaimed, glaring at him. “What did I do?”

            “You ran off! That’s why we’re in this situation right now. I’ll make a note to never bring you along again when we need to go shopping.”

            “I didn’t ask you to take me with you,” she reminded him. “I don’t ask you for anything, Josh.”

            He scowled at her. He couldn’t refute her statement, because it was completely true. She hadn’t asked him for his help since they were kids living in Bowie. And even then, he hadn’t been very good at helping her when she needed it.

            I wish she would ask for something. Then he scowled even more at his irrational thought. His knight-in-shining-armor-complex was getting a little out of control. Why did he keep having that annoying urge to jump to Hannah’s aid? It had been so easy for Lance and Joey to convince him to run after her this afternoon. It was like he had convinced himself that she might need his help.

            “Well, let’s keep it that way,” he finally responded, coldly. “I try to be nice to you, and you just lash out at me.”

            She closed her eyes for a moment, getting her emotions back in check. “Yes, Josh, it’s all my fault. Just keep telling yourself that.”

            “Maybe we shouldn’t even try to be civil to each other. It doesn’t seem to be working all that much, anyway,” he shot back.

            “Fine. Don’t talk to me.” This will all be over in a couple of weeks. There’s no point in allowing yourself to get worked up over this. It will all be a bad memory soon.

            “Fine,” JC agreed. She’s only a distraction. As soon as I get back to the hotel, I’m going to concentrate on Bobbie.



*                       *                       *


            Joey sneaked a glance at Hannah, wondering what had happened when Jace went to find her. Half an hour ago, the two had arrived back at the Ralph Lauren store, both looking tense and mad. Hannah’s and JC’s expressions were matching each other, frown for frown.

            He sidled up along her and nudged her with his elbow. “You all right?”

            She nodded, although her face gave away her real state of mind. She turned away and began rummaging through a collection of sale items that she had already been through twice.

            “You know, Hannah, I doubt you’re interested in those belts that much,” he commented, smiling at her.

            Hannah looked up at him, cracking a smile. “You’re probably right, Joe. I’m just a little bored.”

            “Bored? While shopping?!” He clasped his heart, pretending to faint. “Oh, child, you have so much to learn!”

            This time her smile was genuine, and he was satisfied. “That’s the good ol’ Hannah I know. Now come on, if this isn’t fun for you, then you can at least help me shop.”

            “Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll go back to the hotel now. I need some time to think.”

            “Alright, fine with me. See you at rehearsal.” He waved as she left the store quickly.

            As soon as the door swung shut behind her, he rushed over to JC, who had just emerged from the dressing room.

            “What’d you do?” he demanded.

            “What did I do?” JC replied, confused. “I just tried these pants on, and you’re attacking me here.”

            Joey took a step back, realizing that he had been crowding his friend’s space. “Sorry about that, but I think you did something to upset Hannah.”

            JC gave a short, derisive laugh. “Yeah, like she’s the only one who’s upset.”

            “Jace, you’re always kind of anal. Hannah’s not.”

            “Look, Joey, it’s nice that you’re concerned about your new friend and all, but maybe I’m not the one who should be blamed for everything. It usually takes two people to get into an argument.”

            “Well, it’s usually one person who starts it,” Joey pointed out. “What I’m wondering is, which one of you kids started it this time.”

            “We both did.”

            Joey sighed at his recalcitrant answer. “Was it about what I told you before? About not leading her on?”

            “No, it was about our inability to actually get along. I honestly don’t know why, but every time we’re near each other for a certain amount of time, we get on each other’s nerves. It’s just an affect that we have on each other, and I can’t explain it.”

            JC took the pair of jeans that he had been trying on and grabbed two shirts before heading to the cashier. Joey followed him, losing much of his earlier heat. It seemed like JC was genuinely puzzled by Hannah.

            “Can’t you find a middle ground?” he asked. “Between leading her on and pushing her away?”

            “There is no middle ground in our relationship, if you could even call it that,” JC replied. “I’ve given up, Joey. You probably should too. It’ll just give you a headache.”

            Joey groaned. “It already is.”


and im missing you and nobody knows it but me

*                       *                       *


            “The nights are lonely, the days are so sad. And I just keeping about the love that we had…” Hannah trailed off, frowning. Where was her notebook? She couldn’t find it in her bag anywhere.

            After looking briskly throughout her room for it, she realized that she had let Bobbie borrow it. Unfortunately, Bobbie was staying with Josh. Which meant that to get her notebook back she might have to see him again.

            “Ugh. I guess I’ll have to violate our little no-talking rule.”

            She left her room and headed to the elevator, humming the same song softly to herself.

‘And I’m missing you, and nobody knows it but me.’

            “That’s a good song.”

            Hannah turned around, a little embarrassed at not realizing she wasn’t alone in the hallway. That embarrassment quickly turned to excitement when she saw who it was.


            The other girl smiled and hugged her quickly. “I haven’t seen you in a long time.”

            “Yeah, I know.” Hannah’s smile grew concerned. “You look a little tired. Are you okay?”

            “I’m fine,” Lillian reassured her. “Justin insisted on watching TV Land reruns the entire night.”

            “You’re staying in his room?”

            “No, he called me at 12:30 and wouldn’t hang up the phone,” Lillian answered wryly. “Anyway, I’m heading down to get a snack. Want to come with?”

            “Actually, I have to find something first. Maybe later.”

            Lillian nodded and smiled as she got into the ‘down’ elevator.

            Hannah sighed with impatience as the ‘up’ elevator still hadn’t arrived. She had some good verses in her head, and she needed to write them down before she forgot.

            The cheerful bell dinged, announcing the arrival of the elevator. “Finally,” Hannah exclaimed softly, waiting for the doors to open.

            When they did, she wondered if maybe she would have been better off taking the stairs.

            Josh and Bobbie were pressed against one corner of the elevator, making out furiously. They were so absorbed in what they were doing that they paid no attention to anyone else on the elevator.

            Hannah grimaced and tried to be quiet as she got into the small space with them. Maybe she could wait for her notebook after all. She wasn’t in the mood to interrupt their lovefest. As soon as the elevator stopped, she would leave discreetly and hopefully they wouldn’t notice.

            She turned away from them and looked pointedly at the elevator buttons, trying to ignore the noises coming from the other corner. She knew she should have only been annoyed and disgusted at their behavior, but a tiny amount of hurt tugged at her. Obviously, she was too childish for Josh. He found the woman he needed in Bobbie. Why did I even think we were making progress? He was just playing around with you.

            “Jace, Jace stop it.”

            Hannah heard Bobbie’s whispers. Great, now she’s noticed me.

            “Why?” JC asked.

            “Because there’s someone else in the elevator!”


            “Hannah! How are you?” Bobbie asked, smiling at her and unaware of her smudged makeup and messy hair.

            “Oh, just great,” Hannah replied a bit weakly. “Sorry to interrupt you.”

            Bobbie laughed. “That’s alright!”

            Hannah looked over at Josh, who was simply staring at her. He hadn’t attempted any cordiality, and instead had decided to keep his mouth shut. Well, if he’s not going to talk, I won’t talk to him either. Better for the both of us, right?

            “Bobbie, I was looking for you anyway. I need my notebook back.”

            Bobbie gazed at her. “What notebook?”

            “The one with all my poems in it. Remember, I lent it to you a week or so ago?”

            Bobbie smiled uncomfortably, looking surreptitiously at her boyfriend, who now appeared very interested in the conversation. “Oh yeah, I remember now. Um, I’ll give it back later, okay?”

            Hannah agreed reluctantly just as the elevator stopped. She wanted it back in her possession, but she didn’t want to accompany the two to their room to get it. “Fine, just as soon as you can, alright?”

            The elevator doors slid open and she stepped off without a second glance at Bobbie, and especially not at Josh. She didn’t even realize what her innocent request had done to the couple left in the elevator.


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