All In (Full Tilt Book 2)(7)By: Emma Scott
I tapped back, Can’t. Have a date.
Should’ve guessed, Oscar replied. Try for next week?
How easy it’d become to lie. Lie to my coworkers, lie to my friends. It hardly bothered me anymore.
We’d all drifted apart after Jonah. He was the center of our goddamn universe and without him, we were starting to lose whatever pull it was that kept us in the same orbit. Oscar and Dena tried. My mom tried. But I couldn’t muster the energy to smile and laugh and bullshit my way through small talk. It took too much effort to keep the grief in check. Grief of losing Jonah, then Kacey.
I drove my truck out of the university parking lot, down side streets running parallel to the Strip. Taking back roads to the Wynn Hotel and Casino. I parked and knocked on the service entrance door.
All the security guards knew me. Wilson was on duty tonight.
“Evening, Theo,” he said, waving me in.
I traversed the back passages and innards of the hotel, down a corridor of cement and bright fluorescent light. Eyes in the sky watched me, but their gaze was benevolent. Nobody would question me. Eme Takamura, the gallery curator, had seen to that.
Three right turns, one left, and I pushed open a heavy door, emerging near the elevators on the first floor. I slipped down the hallway across from the clanging casino that never closed.
Paulie was standing guard over the locked doors of the Galleria. He’d shooed away the last visitors hours ago.
“How’s it going, T?” he asked, punching in a key code. The red light flashed to green.
“Can’t complain,” I said. “Thanks, man.”
He smiled, his smooth dark skin and white mustache rising in a small, sad smile. He pushed open the door and held it for me. “Have a good night.”
I nodded and stepped into the gallery.
After the funeral, I came here every night religiously. Then every other night. Lately I’d been holding steady at three or four times a week. When I had a shitty day, or when I missed Jonah too damn much, I came here.
Jonah’s individual glass pieces were long gone, all sold and now living in a hundred different people’s houses. The long end of the L-shaped gallery was now lined with sculptures, the work of some local up-and-coming. I didn’t spare them a glance. I rounded the corner to the short leg of the L. Here Jonah’s installation, a permanent fixture, rose up like a tidal wave on the far wall. The sun, always shining and vivid, beat down on waves and sea life that seemed ready to move at any moment.
I took my usual seat on the bench opposite, and leaned back against the wall. I crossed my arms over my chest and took in Jonah’s glass. The installation was perfect. Flawless. Like Jonah had been in my mind’s eye—the idol big brother who could do no wrong to his little brother who’d worshipped the ground he’d walked on.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the perfection. I knew if Jonah were here, he’d tell me it wasn’t my fault. He’d say Kacey was an adult who could make her own decisions.
Sometimes I believed him. Sometimes the gallery was my sanctuary, the cathedral of glass where I found peace. The same serenity Kacey discovered in Jonah’s glass paperweights.
Tonight, there was no peace. I’d made my brother a promise and failed to keep it.
I forced myself to open my eyes and look at Jonah’s masterpiece. The brilliant colors blurred in my unblinking gaze. The blue of the sea poured down from ceiling to spill over the floor. I could smell the salt, feel the cold water against my skin and the sting of salt water in my eyes like tears. An ocean of never-ending tears.
“This song is from my album, Shattered Glass. It’s called ‘The Lighthouse.’ I hope you like it.”
The audience at Le Chacal clapped and whistled their approval. Murmured conversations ended. A few clinks of ice in a glass and then the little jazz club went silent. Waiting.
Honestly, I didn’t give a shit if the audience liked the song or not. It just sounded like something I should say. I believed in it more than This song is from my album.
My album. Big fucking deal. Me and my album. As if it were a tangible object—a packaged CD or even digital files—instead of twelve songs I scratched into a notebook and slapped against some music. I sold my songs onstage and called it an album. People paid a cover to get into the club, I got a cut. Four different clubs, four nights a week. And since I packed every house of those four clubs, it was good money. Good enough to keep to a routine. I had a routine now.