Home > Heart Strings(7)

Heart Strings(7)
Author: Melanie Moreland

He held up his hands in supplication. “Sorry, I was only teasing. I’m sure you’re great at what you do.”

I shrugged, picking up my mug. “I try to be.”

“Do you like your job?”

My gaze drifted around the diner and settled back on Logan’s face. He lifted an eyebrow, studying me. “If you have to think that hard about it, I would say the answer is a resounding no.”

“I’m not sure anyone actually likes their job.”

He pursed his lips with a fast shrug of his shoulders. “I do.”

“Not all of us can wander the streets and play music for fun.”

He indicated my plate. “Are you really not going to eat that?”

“No.”

He pulled it closer and picked up the burger, demolishing it in moments.

I worried about how often he was able to eat. He was lean, but he didn’t look undernourished. He was well muscled and in shape.

He caught me staring and chuckled, waving Macy over. “More coffee, please. And a piece of the spice cake. Two forks.”

She filled both our cups and took away my now-empty plate.

He wiped his fingers and mouth and balled up his napkin. “I can see what you’re thinking. I assure you, I’m quite capable of taking care of myself.”

“Oh, ah…”

Macy set down a large piece of cake and the two forks.

“Enjoy.”

Logan speared a piece and bent over the table, holding his fork. “You have to try this cake—it’s amazing.”

I let him slide the fork into my mouth and sat back, enjoying the richness of the cake. It was dense, moist, and the flavors of the cinnamon and nutmeg burst on my tongue.

“Delicious.”

“My favorite.” He hummed, taking a large bite. “I have it every time.”

“Do you come here a lot?”

“Enough. I’m not a very good cook—unless it’s brunch. I rock scrambled eggs.”

“And, ah, you have a place to cook?”

He laid down his fork and bent closer. “I’m not destitute. Just because I don’t have an office to go to or wear a fancy suit doesn’t mean I’m homeless. But no, I don’t live alone. I have a place I share with some other friends. I, in fact, have a job. I even have a bank account and a credit card.” He smirked. “Not everyone measures their success by what they do for a living.”

Embarrassment colored my cheeks. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you.”

“You didn’t. I simply want to correct your thinking when it comes to me. I understand we’re opposites in our views on success, and about how we live our lives. But you know what they say about opposites.”

I frowned in confusion. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“You’re part of the corporate world. You work endlessly, trying to please an unpleasable master. I choose not to be a slave to anyone. I come and go as I please. I don’t answer to anyone.”

“We all answer to someone. You have to be accountable.”

“I’m accountable to myself. I live a simple existence, and I like it. I don’t need all the trappings of what is considered a normal life.”

“But what if you get sick…or hurt?” I asked, thinking how often I heard of muggings in the subway. “What if someone stole your guitar—how would you live?”

Macy laid the bill on the table, and I grabbed it. Logan frowned and reached for it from me.

“Don’t even think about it. I asked you for coffee.”

I held it to my chest. “No. I want to.”

“Don’t insult me, Lottie.”

“I’m not insulting you. Please let me. I can afford it.”

His eyes darkened. “And you, once again, assume I cannot.”

“I…”

“Give me the damn bill.”

Stubbornly, I shook my head.

“You’re making me angry.”

“I want to pay.”

He stood, digging in his pocket. He flung a couple bills on the table and grabbed his guitar case. “There. You already did.”

He strode away, and I looked at the table, recognizing the bills. They had been smoothed and straightened, but were badly wrinkled, as if they had, at one point, been balled up tightly. I was certain they were the bills I had tossed into his guitar case the other night.

Macy came over, frowning. She picked up the bills with a sigh. “He always leaves too much.”

“He comes here a lot?”

“He has for years. Three or four times a week—and even when he was going to school to get his degree. First time he has ever brought anyone with him, though.” She studied me. “He must like you.”

“School?”

She pocketed the money. “He’s a teacher. Didn’t you know that?”

I shook my head, my mind reeling. A teacher? Why was he playing for money in the streets if he was a teacher?

I stood, pulling on my coat, feeling sad. I had upset and insulted him, so now I would never have the answer to that question. I doubted I would see him again. My heart grew heavier and my eyes stung as I realized I would probably never hear him play either. His music, his presence would no longer be there at the end of a long, grueling day. I gripped the top of the chair as emotions swelled.

He was right. I had made assumptions about him based on what I saw. Because he played music in the subway, I assumed he was homeless, jobless, and broke. That he needed my help.

The truth was, I needed his help.

Wearily, I made my way home, my footsteps slow and dragging. Once in my condo, I brushed my teeth, changed, and slid into bed, completely drained and feeling ancient.

Logan’s words kept echoing in my head. I knew he was right. I made assumptions about him without actually knowing him or his story. He did the same to me when I told him where I worked. Most people did when they heard my name in connection with my father’s business.

We had both wrongly judged the book by its cover.

I rolled over, clutching my pillow. I hated my job. I hated everything to do with it—the meetings, the business executives, dealing with egos, strict timelines and schedules. It consumed my life, and I detested it.

I never had time to do anything I enjoyed. I gave it all to my father and the company he loved so much. Hoping one day, he would, in turn, love me that much. That both my parents would wake up and see me. Not the sibling who couldn’t help her brother. Not the girl who let them down. Me.

Except it would never happen.

I buried my face in the pillow and wept.

 

 

The next morning, I was listless, still exhausted and disconnected. I was grateful it was Friday. If I worked late again, I could take the weekend off. I only had to make it through one more day.

I paused as I stepped outside, the welcome cold hitting me. I inhaled slowly, smelling the snow in the air. Everywhere, it was fresh and white, thanks to the flurries that blanketed the city overnight. I pulled on my mittens, startling when a throat cleared in front of me.

I met Logan’s eyes. He looked as tired as I felt.

“What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for you.”

“I didn’t think I’d see you again.”

“I’m sorry about last night.” He stepped forward. “I’m sensitive when it comes to money. I don’t want you thinking I’m some impoverished street person you have to help.”

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