Josey is a unhappy journalist who runs into a young man one Christmas eve. His name is Ethan, and he he happens to have a few life problems of his own. He's got a bitchy girlfriend, crazy family, a...
Story Summary: Josey is a unhappy journalist who runs into a young man one Christmas eve. This boy named Ethan, happens to have a few life problems of his own. He's got a bitchy girlfriend, crazy family, and he's the lead singer of one of Chicago's hottest rock bands.
It was December 25th and the streets of Chicago were thoroughly aligned with a thick layer of black ice and broken glass. The Christmas season always had a way with placing a damper on the busy city lifestyle parading the streets so rampantly during the common week. On the outskirts, people of every nationality burrowed into their houses with high hopes for a warm cozy night spent by the fire. Others were most likely asleep in their beds, dreaming of the joy that would soon precede them the following morning on Christmas day. However, not everyone had someone special to spend the evening with.
Tonight, the roads outside appeared empty and lifeless as the hour slipped past midnight. An exhausted young woman walked alone down the street, tightly clenching onto the lining of her black knee-length coat. She proceeded quickly with anticipation. Wishing to avoid further confrontation with the cold, she walked into a bar called Nick’s Cocktail lounge. Entering calmly, she politely sat herself at the bar and waited to order a drink.
She brushed a hand through her butterscotch colored hair, removing snow and other flying objects that made its way through the wind. She perked up promptly at the sight of the person she’d intended to see. Waving her hand towards the man behind the counter, she exclaimed, “Ted!”
“Josey! What are you doing here so late?” he asked, appearing a little surprised at seeing a clean-cut regular customer on such an important holiday.
“I came here to see you!” she over-enthused, earning a sarcastic look from her acquaintance. After a moment, she settled herself into the bar stool before admitting, “Okay, you caught me. It’s Christmas and I have no where else to go.”
Raising a gray eyebrow, Ted asked, “not even a friend’s house?”
Shrugging, she replied, “Not tonight; Ayla’s visiting family. Oh, and I’ll have the usual tonight, Ted.”
Ted expressed a concerned look before turning his back and sighing. Josey wasn’t a very unique character. Instead, it was almost as if she popped right out of a sleazy self-help book that sat on the shelves of second-hand bookstores everywhere. She was the kind of girl who found herself dwelling in places that she knew she didn’t belong and questioned why. Surely, everyone has known a person like Josey in his or her lifetime.
Nonetheless, Ted enjoyed having her company, especially during the night shifts in the evening. However, lately he’d noticed a pattern forming from the temporary visits she’d used to make to the lounge compared to her recent escapades of visiting three or four days a week.
Josey, on the contrary, didn’t find anything wrong with wanting to spend her time in a crowded room of strangers. It was better than drinking by herself at home. It was comforting to know that there were others that were feeling the same she’d always felt.
Ted finished pouring her drink before he turned around, sliding the drink across the marble countertop. Josey sighed soothingly, and took a long swig of the sweet liquor that burned faintly as it slid down her throat.
“So, how’s your boy-toy- what was his name again?” Ted inquired curiously, sparking up some small talk.
“Seth,” Josey replied with a groan, “and that’s ex boy-toy now. To say the least, we had our ‘artistic differences’. I guess I spent too much time doing work and he had too much time ‘taking pictures’ of models.”
“Aww, how many is that now? Is that three boys in the past couple months? I take it you need a break, eh?” he replied, trying to lighten up the mood. Chuckling, she replied, “Ha, I think I do too.”
Reaching for her third drink, Josey asked, “So, how’s your wife?”
Smiling edgily, he answered, “She’s doing better than she was. Chemo has been a little hard on her but she’s managing to stay optimistic. Saying she’ll be back on her feet in a few days.”
“That’s lovely to hear,” Josey said warmly while spinning in her chair, “Send my regards to her, will ya?”
“Of course,” he muttered, a smile making its way across his face before he courteously warned, “Don’t you drink too much; I want you going home walking a straight line.”
Laughing, she pried out a pack of cigarettes from her purse, and replied, “I wouldn’t bet on it, old man,” before lighting her smoke and taking a drag. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, enjoying the tingly sensation spreading throughout her lips.
“How’s work going?” he asked, now diverting the subject.
Chuckling eerily, she replied, “It’s been a crazy month. A lady in the department I work at left on maternity leave and they’re pinning her editorial duties on me. Lots of pressure, that’s for damn sure.”
“Isn’t there anyone who can help you out?”
“Not really. My boss tries to claim some of the responsibility but really, he just makes everything more difficult, so I guess it’s better if I’m the one to blame,” she explained with hard sigh. “Being in this industry, you have to be somewhat independent or you’ll get eaten alive.”
By this time, the alcohol had set in motion. Her head felt light as air and her body just swayed on it’s own in time with the rhythm of the music blaring from the tiny radio under the bar.
“Uhhh,” she groaned, biting her lip in dismay at the reminder of going back to work the following week. “Such a ‘painful’ truth to endure,” she thought detachedly as she swallowed another gulp of her cocktail.
“I really should go,” she said finally, sighing at the thought of going home to an empty apartment. She then scoffed at the indirect spectacle of her anxiety. Surely, an adult like herself could survive another night in the big bad city alone. Although, tonight felt different than the other nights and she couldn’t quite place her finger on why that was.
“See you around, kid,” Ted waved her off as she slid her overcoat on top of her sweater, tugging her purse onto the level of her shoulder blade. “It will be okay,” she told herself; there wasn’t that much out there that could scare her anymore.
“Night,” she whispered as she walked out those doors into a fury of white flakes that awaited her beneath the winter sky.
“I’m just going out for a breather. I’ll be back in a little bit,” he said before shutting the door behind him and tearing eagerly down the street.
He walked alone, leather jacket tucked close to him in small attempt to keep warm against the damp Chicago breeze. Ethan wasn’t really the type who liked to openly display negative emotions, but rather write them down in a little black book he so ‘wittingly’ titled, “The little black book of torment”. He mostly liked to joke amongst his peers; rather than focus on the major or minor details in his life. That’s why on this very night, he found himself walking down a narrow path to nowhere in particular on this snowy Christmas Eve.
Biting his lip, he thought about earlier this evening. He’d been spending Christmas Eve with his friends and things had appeared to be going well until the conversation drifted to his place of business. Ethan didn’t want to talk about business, at least not after he’d finally gotten himself situated with the whole “big time” lifestyle that had literally dropped down on him like an atomic bomb. All he really wanted was to get out of it and find some inspiration, if anything.
“That’s what I need,” he thought optimistically, “a vacation. A way to step out of myself for a while. To feel like someone else. Someone with a normal life.”
As he continued walking with no immediate destination, his eyes looked up toward the sky. Although he was in the midst of a classy Chicago snowstorm, there was an opening in the clouds that revealed an immaculate display of stars. He smiled to himself thinking, “You never get to see the stars when the city’s all lit up.”
Staring at his feet, he continued to endure the frost nipping at his nose and cheeks until he couldn’t take it anymore.
”I’ll just stop for a break in this little path,” he thought as he paced forward, sharply turning in a miniature alleyway between a couple buildings, accidentally knocking over a person in the process.
She crumpled to the ground and appeared to be rather relentless to getting back onto her feet. Quickly extending his hand, Ethan exclaimed, “Oh! I’m sorry about that! I was just-”
He cut himself short as the girl looked up at him, revealing two remarkably beautiful orbs that reminded him of sapphires. The girl was so attractive that it actually startled him to find such a gem like her alone in the streets this late at night.
Shaking himself out of it, he resumed his last sentence, “trying to get out of the snow,” wearing a dumbfounded expression as he backed up and took a better look at the girl he’d just smashed into.
Ethan stared scarcely; his mind cluttered with thoughts of the event that just partook a portion of what he thought would be a boring night. As he looked up finally, he saw the girl wore a similar expression as his; only this one had traces of irritation.
“Well, watch where you’re fucking going then,” she muttered angrily as she picked up her broken cigarette as if to show him what he’d done, “That was my last one, asshole.”
‘She’s got quite a mouth on her. Gotta love these young city folk,’ he thought, chuckling softly as he collectively repeated, “I’m really sorry about that,” just as he pressed a new smoke from out of his own pocket between her lips. “Here, I’ll light it for you.”
Extending one of his long arms over towards her, he blocked the wind his right hand and lit the cigarette with his left. The girl narrowed her eyes at him before taking a drag and muttering a discrete, “Thanks.”
There was an awkward silence as Ethan waited for her to finish her smoke before asking curiously, “What’s a young and lively woman like you doing out so late?”
“None of your business,” she grunted, but then added a quirky grin as she brushed a strand of sandy colored hair out of her eyes. Ethan, now fascinated by the young woman standing before him, continued to say, “This neighborhood may not be in the heart of the city but it’s still dangerous for you to be out alone. What’s your name?”
“Josey,” she slurred as she leaned against the wall of the building that overshadowed where they stood. “Josey,” he repeated to himself, a smile making its way onto his already confident exterior, “That’s a very pretty name.”
Josey raised her eyebrows almost as to ask herself indirectly ‘Is this guy for real? That’s the dorkiest thing I’ve ever heard.’
This, to which Ethan responded indirectly an expression that read, ‘Yeah, I’m that cliché. Don’t rub it in.’
“So…I really need to get home,” she started to say exhaustedly before Ethan blurted, “Let me walk you home!”
Judging by her wide-eyed reaction, Ethan thought grimly, ‘Great. Now she’s going to get the wrong idea.’
Stumbling for a good cover, he stuttered, “It’s…not safe for a girl in your state to walk home alone. How much did you have to drink tonight?”
Josey breathed out a relieved sigh as she said, “Only four vodka tonics… so what’s your story?”
She turned down the alley and started walking as Ethan jogged to catch up before sarcastically mumbling, “Oh, where can I start? Should I go on about my troublesome friends or my troublesome life?”
“Just start with why you ended up here…” she trailed off as if trying to recall a name before Ethan took notice and said, “My name’s Ethan.”
Sighing, he began to explain the topic that sparked onto his personal well being during an informal Christmas dinner with some friends. Ethan skimmed over the details, not wanting to further inflict a shocked response over his career of choice, so instead, he asked, “What about you?”
“Uh,” she began while biting her lip as if to think it over before she resumed, “To say the least, I was spending Christmas Eve by myself and I got a little drunk in celebration. Please don’t think lowly of me for allowing you to walk me home. I swear I don’t usually do this kind of thing. I’m just tired of doing the same thing every day of my life.”
Ethan was surprised at her sincere honesty but had a sense that he understood how much it took to drown out whatever it was that stopped her from being honest on a regular basis. He had a feeling this wasn’t quite an every night thing. Tonight was a special occasion reserved for two individuals, whose lives weren’t exactly on the ball.
After five minutes of walking, Josey stalled and muttered, “This is my apartment building.”
Ethan’s eyes grew wide as he looked up to find a large building, adorned with an outdoor garden outlining it. There were cut green bushes lining the front door of building 1221 as Josey approached the door loosely, oblivious to the fact that Ethan stood ten feet behind her gawking at the complexity of the place she’d lived.
“It’s not that great,” she mentioned modestly while brushing the snow off her coat standing now inside the lobby of the building. Ethan sauntered over curiously before asking, “What exactly do you do for a living?”
She chuckled expectantly before muttering, “Can you keep a secret?”
“Only if you can keep mine,” he joked lamely. Smiling now, she explained, “I’m a little embarrassed by my job because most people are so ridiculous in the business. But generally, I’m a journalist for Spin magazine.”
“That’s really cool,” Ethan, answered honestly, smiling dumbfounded as she asked, “What do you do?”
“Oh,” he suddenly felt like his breathing jerked to a stop as he suddenly remembered exactly who he was. This whole time, he’d been communicating like he was a completely average human being for the first time in at least two years. He’d forgotten, in the time he’d spent speaking with this strangely attractive girl, the true status that society had labeled him under.
He wasn’t just a guy she ran into. He was Ethan Combs- lead singer one of Chicago’s biggest uprising bands. But would he have wanted her to know the things he’d told her about himself when he wasn’t aware she was a journalist?
Thinking quickly, he started to say, “I’m sort of in a band. But hey…I should really get going. I’m sure my friends must be worried sick about me by now.”
“I have a phone upstairs. I wouldn’t want you to freeze. Please come warm up for a little while,” she insisted, a little confused by his sudden edginess.
“Sorry, I can’t but I hope I’ll see you around, Josey. You can hold me to it,” he said as he clenched onto his jacket and started down the sidewalk hurriedly leaving Josey utterly confused.
“Well, that was weird,” she muttered as she walked upstairs to her apartment, feeling a little hurt but expectant.
‘Way to be a jerk,’ Ethan sighed as his thoughts centered on his last conversation with the girl he knew now as Josey. He groaned; disappointed in himself for ruining the one chance he had to meet someone who was actually down-to-earth. He was tired of the replicated people who walked in and out of his life on a daily basis. Sighing again, he sauntered back towards the direction of his band mate’s house, mentally kicking himself for letting go of such an interesting individual.