"So What? I'm still a rockstar"
"I love your view," Jude declared.
She was standing at the large living room window of Sadie and Kwest's Manhatten loft which gazed out over a small park nestled between two high rise apartment buildings.
"It's nice to see a little green," Sadie agreed as she walked up beside Jude and handed her a glass of orange juice. "Most days it makes me miss Toronto and suburbia. I love New York, I live my job here but I don't think it's home forever, just now."
Jude nodded and took a sip of her drink. "When does Kwest get home?"
Sadie glanced at her watch. "Any moment now. Come on, let's sit down."
When she were seated together on the big black triangular shaped leather coach in the middle of the room, Sadie turned to Jude and clutched her hand between both of hers. "Now. Why are you here?"
Jude's eyebrows rose in amusement. "I need a reason to come visit my sister?" As she spoke the door behind Sadie opened and Kwest stepped in. He smiled at Jude and hung his coat on a hook beside the door. "and her wonderfully charming husband?" Jude continued with a smile. She stood to hug Kwest as he joined them at the sofa.
"What'd I miss?" He asked as he sat down.
"Sadie's grilling me." Jude remarked.
"Oh, my favorite part." He laughed.
Sadie rolled her eyes good naturedly and tilted her head to the side. "Come on honey, I know you. I'm absolutely thrilled you came to visit but it's not like you to arrive so suddenly, not with your album press tour about to start."
Jude sat back, shifting her shoulders against the sofa cushions as she prepared to say the things she wasn't sure she was ready to speak aloud and alive.
"Mark and I are getting a divorce."
She heard Sadie's sharp intake of breath but kept her eyes focused on a wall clock across from her, watching as the seconds hand bravely ticked on.
"We're not going to officially announce it until after my tour. He's in the middle of his right now and by the time that wraps I'll be in the middle of mine. We would have been apart anyway so we're hoping the press won't really pick up on the change. We don't want the personal dramas getting in the way of our careers right now."
"You sure Mark can keep a low romantic profile that long?"
"Kwest!" Sadie scolded.
"I'm sorry. I am but the guys an ass. I never said anything before and I probably should of."
"He's pretty good at keeping his going ons undercover," Jude said with a sigh. "I'm sure I didn't even have a hint of a clue of half of his indiscretions."
"That's why you're breaking up?" Sadie asked. "He cheated on you."
Jude shook her head, running a hand over the back of her neck roughly, letting the finger tips dig into the vertebrae and leave a red mark on the skin that slowly faded.
"He's cheated on me a lot but we came to an agreement before his tour. He tried to be better, to turn the girls away and I think he actually was being true. I can't be sure but he had nothing left to lose when he promised me. I had my spies on the tour too. I don't think he slept with anyone else but he did betray me. We decided it wasn't going to work, that we couldn't be what we needed to be to make the other person happy. No matter how much we wanted to."
"So it was a mutual decision?" Sadie asked.
"And a friendly one." Jude answered.
"I'm not sad to see him go." Kwest said.
"Me either." Sadie agreed softly.
They were silent for a moment until Jude noticed Kwest smiling softly to himself.
"Remember that time the two of you came to visit while you were in New York for the bands press tour for their last album?"
"The one with that dreadful live interview on Today?" Jude asked.
Kwest nodded. Sadie was watching him closely and Jude felt realization dawning.
"You had something to do with that?" She asked.
"You girls were in here talking and Mark was in the bathroom. I walked past the door and heard him talking on his cell phone and though I couldn't be sure I had this feeling that he was talking to a girl. I swear; that guy always gave me a bad feeling in my bones. Anyway, I went to the kitchen to make coffee and I might have added a little something extra to his drink."
"He nearly crapped himself on life TV," Jude said, cringing both at the vulgarity of the words and the memory. "What did you do, put laxative in his drink?"
Kwest nodded silently.
Her hands flew to cover her mouth as Jude stared at him wide eyed.
"And here I thought I knew you by now." Sadie said, fighting laughter.
"I can't believe you did that." Jude whispered. "He had to cancel all his press appointments for the rest of the day. He spent an hour in the bathroom at the studio. Johnny Depp was there to be interviewed after him. His manager tried to introduce them and Mark was in the middle of shaking Johnny's hand when he had to run back to the bathroom. He was mortified. Johnny had been his hero since he was a kid."
By this point Sadie was laughing hysterically and Kwest was grinning.
"Oh Kwest," Jude felt laughter beginning to bubble up inside her. "You are an evil, evil person… and my personal hero."
"You're right about this coffee," Jude remarked as she and Kwest walked down a busy New York Street. The air was brisk, around them people were bundled up in jackets and scarves, their breath glowing in front of them.
"Best in the city, for sure." He agreed.
Jude idly shook the coffee mug, stirring the liquid. "It must have been a vigorous search to find it."
He nodded, smiling. "It took a couple of years of searching. A new coffee shop each day."
Jude laughed and they walked together in silence. Eventually they reached a small park nestled between two high rises and took a seat together In a corner.
"Sadie seems really happy." Jude said.
He nodded. "She enjoys her job. It's the just right combination of challenge and security for her. Plus she's got some good friends in the city. I think she still misses Toronto though."
"Do you think you might ever move back?"
He nodded. "Probably. We've talked a little about where we'd like to start a family and neither of us particularly wants to do it here."
Jude's eyes widened. "I must have nieces and nephews, Kwest. At least five. Just so you know. You guys should probably start on that."
He laughed. "Yeah, I'll keep that in mind." He leaned back on the park bench, absentmindedly plucking a leaf from a nearby rose bush. "I hear you and Tommy's daughter have become close. She's a real sweetheart."
Jude glanced sideways at him, sensing a not so casual segway into a topic he'd most likely been planning. "Yeah, she's great."
"We still talk on the phone pretty regularly and he came to New York on business last year but I don't think we've spent any significant time together since Sadie and I's wedding."
"Really? I don't remember him being there."
He shook his head. "He didn't come to the wedding because of you. He figured sister of the bride had first dibs on feeling comfortable and he didn't want to make it strange for you."
"But he came to my bachelor party. Helped me pick out a tux, did the whole behind the scenes best man thing."
"I'm sorry he couldn't stand at the altar with you. I didn't realize that was because of me." Her voice was small.
"Not because of you, because of him."
She sighed and rubbed her forehead with her hand. "Oh what a tangled web we weave, right?"
Kwest stood up and crossed over to a nearby trash can. He tossed his empty coffee mug inside. "How's he doing?"
Jude paused, than shrugged. "I'm not sure. I haven't seen him since the funeral."
"Yeah, I felt awful I couldn't make it to that. When you called and said you were coming to visit, before we knew about Mark, I almost wondered if the visit had something to do with Tommy and Jessica." He turned back to face her and she looked away.
"Maybe a little."
He sat down beside her again and put his hand over hers for a moment, giving it a slight squeeze.
"It was strange enough before, our lives intersecting again. But Jessica made it okay. She was like the outline, the boundary that allowed everything to settle. Now she's gone but she's not, kind of at the same time. And I just feel like I should be running away or something. And now with Mark… I can't believe how much everything has changed in just a few months."
"So you can start your press tour after this visit then start your concert tour." He tapped the index finger of his right hand over the tips of his left, as if counting. "You can avoid spending any real time in Toronto for months."
"He kissed me Kwest." The words came out quickly and she instantly cringed. She'd intended that moment to stay a secret, shared with no one, not even her sister and now here she was, sharing it with her brother in law on an overcast winter day, surrounded by the cheerful faces of listening roses.
Kwest inhaled sharply. "When?"
"After Jessica's funeral."
He shook his head. "That's so Tommy."
"It's so messed up is what it is." She gritted her teeth. "I can't believe we did that."
"So you're running away because you feel guilty." It was a statement, not a question.
She felt angry suddenly. "I'm running away because I don't want to go in circles, because just because I'm married to an adulterer doesn't mean I have to be one. Because I'm sick of being the thing Tommy plays with to keep himself amused or distracted before he leaves to live his life with the person he actually cares about-"
"I don't think he's leaving again."
She scrunched her eyes closed. "That's not the point Kwest."
"I think you're leaving because you still love him. And you're not sure how to process it."
She shook her head and stood up suddenly. "I'm not. I'm mad at him. Sometimes I feel like I hate him."
"Love can feel that way sometimes."
She continued to shake her head as she walked away, blindly following a crushed quartz pathway through the maze of flowers.
"I'm sorry Jude." Kwest called behind her. His footsteps were following her, but at a much slower pace than her own. "I know I shouldn't interfere. But I've known Tommy since I was fifteen years old and I've been pretty much been there since day one when it comes to the two of you."
"So you think you see it clearer?" she asked, spinning around to face him.
"Just differently. And from two different directions. You're my sister in law and love and he's like my brother. I care about you both."
"Well I appreciate that, Kwest. I do. But he and I, this situation is far too complicated to be summed up in a couple of sentences."
He smiled; his expression apologetic. "Now there's a point we can agree on."
She shook her head, feeling a sad smile tugging at her own lips.
"Come here," he urged, holding his arms out to her. She accepted the embrace, resting her head on his shoulder for a moment. "Give it time. It can only get easier from here."
Jude gazed out at the crowded New York City street, some ten or so stories beneath her spare bedroom window in Sadie and Kwest's apartment. It was starting to rain, that gradual drizzle you easily ignored until you realized it had somehow turned into heavy raindrops and you were already half drenched.
Soft jazz music drifted through the walls from the living area. Sadie and Kwest were preparing dinner together. Kwest was singing softly, occasionally pausing to twirl Sadie around the kitchenette. Their laughter bounced off the walls, warming the space.
Jude ran her hands down her face, yawning sleepily, She was too close to home to suffer from jet lag but still the trip had thrown her off somehow. She felt as if she'd left some part of herself in Toronto and her body was yearning toward it, stretching itself across the distance.
She stood up and crossed over to the bed. Tucking one knee under her she sat down and picked up her day planner. Press for the tour started the following morning and it was time to plan her approach to the press. She'd already figured out her power words for the album, the best ways to sum up the theme and inspiration to make it all sound far more elaborate and academic then it actually was. 'I just feel something then spew it all out on paper' was not a romantic way of summing up the creative process; she'd learnt that during one of her first interviews in her teens.
Her phone buzzed and she glanced at it on her bedside table. It was set to vibrate and was slowly working its way to the edge. She reached out to catch it moments before it fell to the crisp, white carpet.
'Tommy', the screen read.
She sighed, her gaze drifting from the screen to the view out the window. The rain had truly set in now and she imagined the people on the street all rushing for cover, newspapers and briefcases thrown over heads in a desperate attempt to ward off the deluge.
She contemplated not answering, even reached forward to put the phone back, than stopped. Quickly, before she could second guess her decision she press the call button.
"Jude." Tommy was a little breathless, surprised. "Oh... I was hoping I'd get your answering machine."
Her eyes drifted to the ceiling in an eye roll, a wave of unwanted irritation rolling over her. "Right. I'll hang up then."
"No, Jude wait-"
She pressed the red call button and the phone went silent. A moment later it began to ring again and she swore under her breath. She tossed it onto the table and turned back to her day planner and the doodle of a flower she was working on in the corner of tomorrow's page. The phone continued to ring insistently, almost pleadingly then finally stilled. She glanced over to the see the screen still glowing optimistically.
The clock on the wall moved slowly as she waited, tapping her pen against the page. After a few moments a series of chirps signaled a new message and she reached for the phone, dialed in her pin and played back the message.
"Well my foot's firmly in my mouth." His voice was so familiar, like an old summer song. "That went great. Sorry about that. Look, that's why I'm calling and why I didn't want to face talking to you. I get that you're taking a step back and that's fine, I respect that. But I wanted to apologize for what I did the other night. It was entirely inappropriate and unfair on you. I had no right to put you in that position. I was…" he paused, sighed. She could imagine him sitting there, clutching the phone to his hair, the worry lines creasing his forehead. "I'm not sure what I was doing really. I wasn't entirely there. Most of that day is a blur now. I'm sorry. Please don't hate me." There was a moment's pause in which she could make out the faint sound of him breathing on the other end of the line, than a click and message ended.
Jude powered down the phone and clutched it in her hand. Rain drops bled down the glass before her and the hum of energy from the room next door continued to seep into the room - contentment in one space, confusion in another.
Teasers for Part 21
"So here were are in this big old room, staring at each other. Who's gonna make the first move?"
"Dude that was totally my fault." Spencer was mumbling nearby, "sorry about that."
"Dude," Tommy's voice was sarcastic and irritated. "Get lost."