"You should be up there," Will said.
It was Thursday night, which meant it was open-mic night at Louis's shop. The place was more crowded than I'd ever seen it; every seat was taken and people lined the walls, craning to see the stool and microphone that was set up near the back. It had been pretty hectic for Will and I at first, as we tried to fill all their orders, but things had slowed down by now and we were leaning up against the counter, listening to a woman softly strum her guitar. Her breathy voice filled the room, and everyone was quietly listening.
I just shook my head. I wasn't ready for that. Not yet.
He shrugged and turned away, clapping along with everyone else as the woman stood up and made her way off the tiny stage. She was followed by two guys in their twenties who told us they were only there because they lost a bet. They then proceeded to sing a Whitney Houston song, loudly and off-key. Will grimaced, turning back to me.
"You'd be better than them," he said.
"How do you know?" I asked. "Maybe I suck."
"There's no way you suck this bad," he said, shaking his head. "No way."
"Excuse me," an irritated voice said. "I'd like to order a cup of coffee, please."
I turned around. A man who looked to be about thirty was standing there, his arms crossed, an annoyed expression on his face. He was wearing a ratty old T-shirt and his jeans were covered in paint. I figured that he hadn't changed before coming here after he got off work.
"Sorry," I said "Didn't see you there."
"Obviously," he muttered, scowling. "I would expect a little better service. I've heard god things about this place."
Something inside me snapped. "I said I was sorry, dude. You were standing there for a what, a minute? Get over it!"
The man looked taken aback, his brown eyes widening. He was kind of cute, I noticed, before mentally slapping myself. Being cute did not make up for the fact that he was a complete jackass.
"Sorry," he mumbled, having the decency to look a bit ashamed. "I've been having a bad week. My wife left me. Took our daughter with her."
"Oh," I said, feeling a bit uncomfortable. "Well, I'm sorry to hear that."
He shrugged. "Whatever. She'll come back. Probably."
"Er, can I take your order?" I asked, desperate to change the subject.
After he walked away, Will chuckled. "Jesus," he said. "Did he mistake you for his shrink? Or a bartender. That was too much information."
"Poor guy," I said, watching as he went to stand in the corner by himself. "He's here by himself."
"Yeah," said Will, his gaze drifting back to the stage. He was already losing interest in the man, I could tell. I should have been too, but for some reason I wasn't. I felt an odd sort of connection to him, one that I couldn't really explain.
"I'm gonna go talk to him," I said suddenly.
Will looked at me like I was crazy. "Why?"
"Dunno," I said, shrugging. "But yell if you need me, okay?"
I walked around to the other side of the counter and made my way through the crowd of people, until I finally reached him.
"Hey," I said.
The man looked up, a surprised look on his face. "Hey."
"I'm going to have a baby," Kate announced.
The two of us were sitting at home on the couch, watching television.
"What?" I shouted, completely caught off guard. "You're pregnant! Who the hell did you sleep with?"
"Calm down, Lou," she said, rolling her eyes. "I'm not pregnant. I just meant that I've decided that I want to be. That conversation we were having last week got me thinking and I realized that I'm not getting any younger. I don't want to wait until I find myself a man. I want to have a baby now."
"So, you're going to get a sperm donor?" I asked.
She nodded. "Yup."
"Wow," I said. "That's…wow. Are you sure about this?"
She nodded. "Positive."
"Wow," I said again.
She picked up the remote and clicked off the television. "Louis," she said, her voice more serious now. "I was thinking that I wanted you to be my sperm donor."
"It would be great," she continued, as if I hadn't spoken. "I mean, you're gonna be living with the baby and me anyway, so why shouldn't you be its biological father? Besides, this way I know the baby's going to have great genes. You're handsome and smart. What else would I look for in the father of my baby."
"Whoa," I said, holding up my hands. "Slow down, Kate. Think about this logically for a minute, okay? If I donate my sperm to you, I will be that kid's actual father. We will both be the biological parents of some kid, raising it together, in the same apartment, but as platonic friends instead of partners. Does that not sound like a recipe for disaster to you? What if you meet someone and move out? What if I meet someone and move out? This whole thing sounds like it would end with the kid spending years in therapy. If you want to have a baby, than I am one hundred percent on board with that. But you're not getting my sperm, okay?"
She smiled. "Yeah, okay. Thanks, Lou. She scooted closer and laid her head on my shoulder. "Turn the TV back on," she said. "I wanna see how the movie ends."
"She ends up with the blonde guy," I said. "I saw this last month."
"Gee, thanks for the spoiler."
"It's a crappy movie. I was saving you from actually having to suffer through the whole thing."
"You just want to watch that stupid singing show."
"That's a good show!"
"No, it's not."
"Whatever," I said. "We're watching it."
"We can watch it if you promise to go out with guy I met today."
"I'm not going on a blind date."
"He's really nice. And actually gay. I made sure this time."
I rolled my eyes, remembering the last time Kat had tried to set me up with someone. I'd shown up at the restaurant and the guy had been totally freaked out to discover that I was a guy. I don't know how Kate got him to agree to go out with me without mentioning my name or my gender, but the whole thing had been an awkward mess.
"Kate, this is San Francisco. There are gay guys everywhere. Just because you happened to meet one of them today and discovered he's nice, doesn't mean that he and I would hit it off at all."
"Come on," she said. "Just one date. For me?"
"Nope," I said.
She grabbed the remote out of my hands. "Then we're finishing the movie."
"Fine," I grumbled. "But the acting only gets worse, I'm warning you now."
It was closing time. Will and I were making our way around the shop, wiping off tables and scooting in chairs.
"You were talking to that guy for a long time," Will commented out of the blue. There was something off in the tone of his voice, but I couldn't quite tell what it was.
"Oh," I said, as I scrubbed at a particularly nasty stain on one of the corner tables. "Yeah. He's actually pretty cool."
"Cool?" Will was looking at me with raised eyebrows.
"Yeah. Cool. Interesting. Entertaining. Nice. Whatever."
"Jackie, that dude's like thirty. He has a wife and kid. Stay away."
"His wife left him," I reminded Will.
He rolled his eyes. "Oh, right. Because that makes it okay."
"Shut up, Will," I said. "It's not like I shagged him or anything. I can take care of myself, you know."
We were finished cleaning at this point, and Will was turning off the lights. We headed toward the door in silence.
"Jackie," he said quietly, as he locked up behind us. "I know you're still heartbroken about Nick –"
I stayed silent.
"—but that doesn't make it okay for you to start behaving recklessly. Stay away from this guy, okay?"
I let out a heavy sigh. "Okay, Dad. Whatever you say."
He shook his head. "I'm saying this because you're my friend, Jackie."
"I know. I know. But you don't have to worry about me, Will. I have plenty of other people to do that for me."
"Who?" he asked. "Your parents back in England? They're not even here."
"Louis is," I reminded him.
"I think it's obvious that Louis has no idea how to deal with you," Will said.
That was true. Louis seemed to think that I was nothing but a moody, uncontrollable, suicidal slut who slept with people she'd known for only a day. He still thought that Will and I had shagged, and he was still pissed. Over the past few days, he mostly avoided me, except for the occasional reminder to go to work or take out the trash. I think he was seriously regretting telling my mum that he was fine with me coming here for the entire summer.
That night, as I lay in bed, I thought about the guy from the shop. Tyler. There had been something about him that had drawn me in. At first I hadn't been sure of what it was, but after talking to him for a few minutes, it had hit me. His eyes. They were so similar to Nick's that it was almost eerie. Brown with flecks of gold. They were wide and gorgeous, both sets framed with thick lashes.
For a moment, as I looked into Tyler's eyes, it had been as if Nick had come back to me.
Yeah, this chapter is way too short and it's not very good, but it's been forever since I updated this story so I thought I'd put it up anyway.