RUSH (City Lights_ New York City Book 3)(6)

By: Emma Scott

I had to remind myself that it could be worse. A lot worse. I could be in a rat-infested tenement in a scary neighborhood instead of Greenwich Village. I was making it in Manhattan. Okay, maybe not so much ‘making it’ as squeaking by. Hanging on by a thread, really, but in Manhattan. That had to count for something, didn’t it?

I yawned so wide my jaw cracked and Forrest looked up at me. “Did Collin’s impromptu poetry slam keep you up last night?” He jerked his chin at the living area that bore the scars of Collin’s get-together: butt-filled ashtrays, empty bottles, and sheaves of paper strewn all over. A thin haze of smoke—cigarette and pot—still lingered in the air.

“What else is new?” I said, pouring a cup of coffee.

“You should have played for them, put them out of their misery.” Forrest grinned. “The sad whine of a lone violin is probably all it would take to send them over the edge, into the black abyss of their pain.”

I forced a smile. My application to rent here just said I’d graduated Juilliard with a Bachelor of Music but I rarely practiced, and never at home. If they were curious at all as to why I didn’t audition somewhere, they never asked.

“Now Collin and Reya are going at it this morning,” I told Forrest, sliding onto the second barstool at our tiny counter. “Doesn’t it bother you? I can hardly sleep.”

Forrest shrugged bony shoulders under his plaid button down. “I’ve trained myself to require only four hours of sleep per day.”

“I wish.” I cracked another yawn and stretched, trying to relieve the seemingly permanent tightness in my shoulders.

Emily emerged from the shower in a robe, her short, blonde hair still damp. “Work this morning?” she asked me, and gave Forrest a peck on the cheek.

“Of course,” I said, heading back down the hall. I worked the same schedule every day for the last nine months, not that anyone bothered to notice.

Jesus, stop feeling sorry for yourself, I thought. The lack of proper sleep for God knew how many nights was making me whiny. A hot shower and a non-hurried subway ride uptown to work would cure me…

Except when I went back down the hall, I found the bathroom door was closed and the shower running. I rapped on the door. “I’m going to be late for work!”

“Two minutes, I swear!” Reya called. This was followed by Collin’s low voice and then Reya’s answering laughter.

I leaned my head against the door and closed my eyes. I envied Reya and Collin as much as I loathed them. They seemed to be so in love they could hardly keep their hands off each other. Or maybe it was just lust. Sometimes, like now, I wished that they’d just evaporate in a cloud of their own passion. Emily and Forrest too, with their steadfast devotion to one another, that wasn’t fire and fireworks, but sweet and stable.

The deep ache in my heart throbbed when reminded of what I’d had and lost, and it throbbed then, standing in the hallway of our tiny, overcrowded apartment.

It’s amazing how one can feel so lonely without ever being alone.

* * *

Thirty minutes later, I was finally showered, dressed, and grabbing my purse and sweater. I struggled at the door to get my shoes on while my roommates congregated leisurely in the kitchen.

“Don’t forget rent,” Emily called by way of send off. “Monday.”

The tension in my back ratcheted up a notch. I almost spat that it was infinitely easier to make rent when I wasn’t afraid of losing my job, but what was the point? I slammed the door behind me in reply and instantly felt bad. I hadn’t used to be like this, I thought. Wound up so tightly. But I could ponder it all I wanted on the subway. If I missed my train, I’d be late for sure.

I ran through the beautiful hustle and bustle of my Greenwich Village neighborhood, taking the briefest of moments to admire the tree-lined street and red brick buildings. It bolstered my mood a bit…until I made it down to the subway just as the One was screeching away.

I sagged as the train’s aluminum wind blew my coat up and tousled my hair. It wasn’t strong enough to push me, but I staggered back anyway. I felt the tightness in my bones and muscles grow tighter, as if I were lashed together on the inside.