(If you missed it, you can read chapter 1 of Broken Magic here.)
What is Broken Magic?
We all have our kryptonite. People who push just the right buttons, who make some idiot part of your brain start singing about capital R Romance. That’s just about when you run head first into a wall. Whatever it is about them that grabs your brain and shakes it is fantasy, and fantasy works best from afar. Get too close and things get real. The fantasy breaks. Or you break, hoping if you do, the fantasy will stick around. It’s not always the other person’s fault. It’s yours, and your fantasy’s. You can become a slave to chasing it if you let yourself.
Magic’s like that. Uncontrollable, as likely to burn as to bless. But seductive. Not in spite of. Because of.
Broken Magic is about fantasy and magic, and the cost of trying to control them. Also theater, and high school, and finding yourself through painful and embarrassing mistakes. I could have stopped that sentence at “high school.”
Now, chapter 2.
2. Thanks, Babe
Somehow, I go from sitting next to Laura, feeling uncomfortable, to sitting at a table with Ridley, Celeste and all of their trendy, musically literate friends – and feeling way more uncomfortable. I think this is what happened: Laura accepted an invitation to hang with Ridley for a bit, and I followed her without a thought.
Here’s what I’m not so sure about. Did I follow Laura because I wanted to be close to her, or because it happened to put me at a table with Celeste? If I said I did it because it got me away from the teen thespian squad, would you pretend to believe me?
The musicians and groupies, or whatever you call the group of friends every local musician brings with them to gigs, have pushed four tables together. At one end of the line of tables sits Ridley. And Laura. I am not at the end with them. Through confusion that may or may not have been faked, I became separated from Laura as soon as the tables were rearranged. I took the first convenient, open seat. That put me directly to the left of Celeste. Go figure.
Everyone starts heaping praise onto the musicians. They say intelligent sounding things that really aren’t intelligent at all. It’s like someone opened up Rolling Stone and started reading random phrases out of the music reviews. But Ridley’s expression makes it clear he’s digging it, so who knows? Attention turns to Celeste, and I finally have an excuse to really look at her without having to stare. I don’t bother to pay attention to what everyone is saying. I could care less.
I try to figure out how I’ll describe her to people, later. I can’t say she’s beautiful, because that doesn’t get it right. I know I said cute before, but I’m talking about someone I can’t take my eyes off, not my cat. It’s like her features are a bit off, but somehow fit together perfectly. Eyes just a little too large. Cheeks slightly too pronounced. Hair too messy to have been styled, yet too tame to be unplanned. Pale, but not vampiric, skin. She sounds more like a deviantART drawing than a person, doesn’t she? I’m doing a terrible job of this.
By this time, the hangers-on have turned their attention back to Ridley. In response, I think, to something Laura has said. I must have missed it. This leaves me with a second more to watch Celeste before it gets creepy. Unless, of course, I say something. Which is impossible. I’m a coward. I’m a coward with nothing of worth to say.
“You sounded great.” Ugh. Should have kept my mouth shut.
Celeste’s eyes move to me, and she smiles. When she speaks, she sounds just a little bit shy. Shy I was not expecting.
I tell myself this is not time to turn into jelly and mumble off a few idiotic comments and spend all week regretting it. Then I squeak out a pitiful, “Yeah.”
“I don’t know. I’m just filling in. I don’t have much experience on stage yet, you know? This was just practice,” she says, continuing to smile, like I’m doing nothing wrong. Like she’s not already looking for the exit ramp for this conversation. Like she wants to talk to me.
“Then I guess I can’t wait to hear the real thing,” I say, sounding suddenly all confident and smooth. Like I’m good at this. Only I’m not. It’s just her that smile is making it impossible to feel awkward.
“You mean that?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Wow. Thanks, babe. That really means a lot, coming from someone who just met me.” She grabs my hand, the one I’ve got lying on the table, and shakes it. “I’m Celeste, in case you missed it the ten times Ridley introduced me.”
“Neil,” I say, and let go before I give myself the idea that the cool touch of her hand means more than hello. Boyfriend. She has one. She’s friendly, not interested.
Ever notice that the outside world has a real problem keeping to itself? It sends its favorite agents of annoyance, the trio of doom, straight to the table to make a scene.
“Hey, some of us need to work tomorrow, Laura.” It’s Karen who speaks, with the other two standing behind her, nodding. I look up to watch, and so does most of the table.
Laura, interrupted in the middle of flirting with Ridley, doesn’t turn immediately. I know that kind of look. She’s trying to come up with a reason to stay that doesn’t give her away to Ridley. Flirting is like that. Owning up to your interest kills the whole game. Admitting attraction comes later. With open mouths. And tongues.
Or so I hear.
“You guys drove separately. We don’t have to go home together.” It’s a weak try, especially for Laura.
Karen glances back at the table, pretending to care about other people and their needs. The only time she can act is when she’s screwing someone over. “Sally has to work, too, but she didn’t want to say anything.”
Laura relents. She was Sally’s ride. “Give me a minute, ok?”
Karen smiles. A win. “Sure. We’ll get our coats.”
Celeste is still over my shoulder, but I can’t bring myself to look at her. I don’t want to say goodbye right now. I’m never, ever going to see this girl again. What was the point of even meeting her? It’s not like I can ask her for her phone number.
“So,” she says, maybe a little disappointed. Maybe. I turn before she finishes the sentence. “I guess that means you’ll be going, too.”
“Unfortunately.” I manage to say it with a smile.
Ever watch any anime? You know how, when they get surprised, their blinking makes this plink plink noise? That’s basically my response.
“Neil,” I hear Laura say from behind me, “let’s go.” She sounds pissed. If she can’t stay, no one can.
I try the talking thing again, one last time. Not to Laura. “Well, it was great getting to meet you. Maybe I’ll get lucky and run into you again.”
“Yeah,” Celeste says, still smiling. Then she, I don’t know, bounces in her chair and makes a sort of “Oh!” noise. It’s a little weird. “I’ll be playing again in two weeks at the Quiet Storm. Eight o’clock. There’ll be some kind of party afterwards, too. You definitely should come.”
Is she…inviting me to a party? What the hell is going on? “The Quiet Storm?”
“Neil!” Everyone’s impatient with Laura, so she’s taking it out on me. I gracefully ignore it.
“It’s on, um,” Celeste nods quickly as she tries to remember, “oh! Yeah. Penn Avenue in Bloomfield. You know where that is?”
Laura again: “Neil! Come on!”
“No, I don’t,” I say, getting up from my chair as I talk. “But I’ll find out.”
Celeste gets up too, and, God help me, she’s still smiling. Boyfriend, boyfriend, boyfriend. She says, “Great! It’s Saturday at 8. Not the next one. The one after.”
“Cool. Right. I’d, uh, better go. Now.”
“Thanks for the support. Seriously.” She waves. “See you Saturday.”
I can’t wave. I’m pushing in my chair and trying to back towards the door before I get killed. I nod and smile, and hope I don’t look like a moron. When I reach the door, I’m greeted by glares from just about everyone. I ignore them. There’ll be plenty of time later to worry about Laura hating me. First, I need to figure out how to get myself back into the city in two weeks.
Broken Magic will be available for Kindle, Nook and in print in September 2012.