After spending all day looking for a job, I picked up Reese from summer camp, had dinner with her, and then dropped her off by Abigail’s so I could head to Seven for my shift. The bar was pretty much a hole-in-the-wall. You could walk right past the building without even knowing it was open. Still, people somehow seemed to always notice it.
I told the owner, Joey, that he should’ve invested in more signs and lighting fixtures outside the building, but he always just huffed and puffed about how business was fine—which it was. But it could’ve been so much better.
The bar didn’t have many people crawling in it that night. There was one guy sitting in the back-corner booth with a baseball cap on and a leather jacket. His hands were wrapped around a glass, and his shoulders were hunched forward. At the bar sat a younger couple who couldn’t have been over twenty-two, and it was obvious that this was their first or second date. The awkward exchanges and almost touches made me wonder if another date was a possibility.
Then there was another guy who sat down at the end of the bar—good ol’ Rob, the regular.
I swore, Rob had been sitting on that same barstool since Seven opened. He always had his coffee, which he brought in himself, with a few shots of whiskey that we added in for him. He’d do the crossword puzzles in the paper, or read about current events, but he never really spoke much.
I liked that about Rob—how he kept to himself and never minded anyone else’s business.
“A lively crowd tonight,” Joey said to me as I walked behind the bar to join him. He was just finishing up on his shift, and he nodded my way. “You think you can handle the wildness of this all on your own?”
I snickered. “I’ll do my best.” Tuesdays were the slowest days at the bar, and even though I would hardly make any tips, I figured it was better than nothing. On average about twenty to thirty people would wander in that night, which meant at least fifty dollars in tips if I was having a good Tuesday.
“Just a heads-up, there’s a big concert happening at the arena. So you might get a more lively crowd after the show.”
“A concert? Who’s performing?” I asked. Normally I tried to keep note of when big shows were happening, because I knew it meant busier nights in the bar, but I hadn’t seen anything over the previous days about a concert.
Joey shrugged. “I don’t know, some Oliver and Adam, or Adam and Oliver, or something?”
“Alex and Oliver?” I breathed out, stunned by his words.
“Yeah, that’s it. Sans one of the brothers, I guess. I heard it on the radio. One of the brothers was killed earlier this year. Sad.”
No way. Alex & Oliver were our favorite musicians. Their music defined my childhood. Not to sound like one of those fans—but my younger sister, Sammie, and I loved Alex & Oliver before they found fame. Even Reese knew every lyric to every single song. After Alex passed away, I cried for a good solid three days as I played their records on a loop.
After the third day of tears, it felt a bit silly to feel so much for someone I’d never truly known, but a part of me felt as if I had known him, through his music.
How was there a concert happening that night? How was Oliver going to perform without his brother by his side?
Joey seemed less interested in the fact that tonight was such a major night for Oliver Smith. “All right, then, I’m on my way out. Have a good one.”
“You too, Joey.”
After he left, I wiped down the bar and imagined the magical sounds that were gracing thousands of people’s eardrums as I listened to the same CD that Joey had played over and over again for the past forever years. The only way to get better music would be if someone put a dollar in the jukebox, and it seemed that the only ones to ever do that were drunken college students who loved to flash dollar bills like they were hundreds.
I wondered what song Oliver was opening with that night.
I wondered what song he’d end with.
I wondered how scary it was for him to get back onstage after the incident that had happened months ago. If it were me, I’d be so traumatized and heartbroken that I’d probably never perform again.
But Oliver’s voice . . . it needed to be heard. In every duo, a fan had a favorite. Sammie loved Alex, but me? I was an Oliver girl. Most of the world thought he was the less interesting twin, but I didn’t think that was true at all. Yeah, Alex was the heart of the duo, but Oliver was the soul. His voice dripped with emotion in a way that most performers only dreamed of discovering. His talent was almost surreal.
I should’ve been there to hear him, to see him wear his heart on his sleeve. I should’ve been singing his lyrics alongside him and all the others.
“Another one,” the man in the hat in the back corner muttered, holding his finger up in the air and waving it around for a while before he put it back down. He didn’t even glance toward me, and I wasn’t even certain what it was that he was requesting. I must have taken too long to walk over to him, because he held his hand up once more and shouted, “Another one!”
For a moment I considered whether it was DJ Khaled sitting in that corner booth of mine. Soon enough he’d be yelling, “We da best!” and telling everyone how he was the father of Asahd.
Normally, I would’ve ignored his request and had him walk over to the bar like every other normal customer to order another drink, but it was a slow night, and anything that would keep me busy so time didn’t feel like it was standing still was worth it to me.
I walked over to him, and he kept his head lowered.
“Hey there. Sorry about that. I just got in for my shift, and I’m not sure what you were drinking exactly.”
He didn’t tilt his head up so I could see him, but he nudged the emptied glass toward me. “Another one.”
Okay, Khaled, another what?
“I’m sorry—” I started, but he cut me off.
“Whiskey,” he hissed, his voice low and smoky. “Not the cheap shit, either.”
I picked up his glass, walked over to the bar, and poured him a glass of our best whiskey—which wasn’t really saying much. It was definitely not something DJ Khaled would shout, “Another one!” for, but it was the best I could do.
I went back to the table and set it down. “Here you go.”
He mumbled something, and I was 90 percent certain it wasn’t “Thank you.” Then he lifted the glass and took the whiskey as a straight shot. He held the glass out toward me, and my gut tightened at his rudeness. “Another one,” he muttered.
“I’m sorry, sir. I get the feeling you might have had enough.”
“I’ll tell you when that happens. Just bring the fucking bottle over if you are too incompetent to do your job and pour it yourself.”
Just what my day needed: a major drunk asshole.
“I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to—”
Just then groups of people came walking into the bar, loud and rowdy. They were young, probably all under thirty, and dressed as if they had just left Coachella. Within seconds, there were at least twenty-five people walking into the space.
The chatter grew and grew, and it was clear that they were all annoyed beyond understanding. I glanced outside the window, and it looked as if the streets were littered with people—something that only happened after a concert or a game ended, but it was only eight thirty. The late-night crowd shouldn’t have been out already.
“I can’t believe that. I paid over four hundred bucks for those tickets!” one hollered.
“What a piece of shit. I can’t believe he didn’t show,” another barked. “They better be giving refunds.”
“Oliver Smith is complete trash. I can’t believe you talked me into even thinking about going to that lame show.”
At the name “Oliver Smith,” the man’s head tilted up, and I caught his eyes. Those caramel-colored eyes that I’d been obsessed with in my past. His eyes widened and looked a bit panicked as he heard his name mentioned. Then he curved his shoulders more, tugged on his baseball cap, lowering it even more over his eyes, and wiped his finger against the bridge of his nose.
I was frozen in place.
More people entered the bar, and still, my feet were superglued to that very spot.
“Don’t stare,” he whisper-hissed, his voice becoming even more clear. That deep smoky sound was something I’d listened to over and over again on his albums. Oliver Smith was wasted in my bar, and a storm of upset concertgoers were surrounding him without any idea that it was him they surrounded.
“I’m, I’m sorry. I, it’s just . . .” I was stuttering like a lunatic. Holy freaking crap. I’d had dreams like this. Dreams where I’d run into my idol in a very low-key way and pour my heart and soul out to him while we shared a drink. Then, of course, we fell in love and he wrote a song about me, which I shared with our great-great-grandchildren years down the road.
Though this wasn’t exactly the perfect dream.
Reality never is.
That night Oliver was unwelcoming.