I looked around my studio apartment again to ensure I wasn’t missing anything. Cell phone charger? Check. Laptop? Check. Clothes? Check. Toiletry bag? Check. I couldn’t think of anything else I’d need for a weekend in the country. My wrist buzzed. Glancing down at my smart watch, I saw it was my business partner calling, so I grabbed my cell out of my pocket. I call her a business partner, but she’s my librettist slash lyricist. I’m a musical theater composer.
“Good morning, Janice,” I said into the phone. “Only have a minute. I’m finishing up packing for my weekend getaway.”
“Morning, Stephen. I totally forgot this was your weekend up in Woodstock with Kenya. Going to get all hippy on me?”
“Don’t worry. I don’t plan on coming back Monday singing the lyrics from Hair. So, what’s up?”
“I wanted to find out when I should expect new pages from you.” She said it like a statement, but I could tell there was a different question behind it. “Have you actually written anything yet?”
“I promise to have new music for you by the end of next week… I promise.”
“I’m holding you to that. Anyway, have fun in hippy land.”
“I’ll try.” I hit the call button. Well, fuck! I hadn’t even started writing.
God, I needed this vacation from my life. When my best friend, Kenya Abrams, invited me to spend a couple of nights in upstate New York, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. And I definitely needed to get away from the city. Don’t get me wrong, I loved NYC. It’s everything I imagined it would be and more. I grew up in San Jose, California. After getting my bachelor’s degree in musical composition from San Jose State University, I moved to NYC to pursue my MFA from the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at New York University.
I had been in high school when I’d watched my first Broadway musical. I had been flipping channels and landed on PBS, of all things, just at the beginning of a Live from Lincoln Center episode. A woman had been conducting an orchestra, so I had stopped to see what was happening. Then the words “Florence, Italy. 1953” had crossed the screen. Immediately, the aria sung by Katie Rose Clarke, who had played Clara in the PBS version, had filled my ears and applause erupted in the auditorium as Victoria Clark walked on stage. I hadn’t known what I was watching, but I was transfixed. I’d been in a couple of school plays, so the stage at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center intrigued me. I’d never seen a thrust stage before. The music had swelled, and Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel’s masterpiece The Light in the Piazza played out before my eyes. By the time the absolutely gorgeous Aaron Lazar—who was played Fabrizio Naccarelli—had caught Clara’s hat as it floated on the wind, the world around me had faded away, and I was transported to Florence, Italy…nineteen-fifty-three. That day… That show… My life had been changed forever.
A vibration in my pocket caught my attention. I reached in and grabbed my cell.
About a block away. Get your butt downstairs.
Aye, aye, captain, I texted back.
Hefting my duffle bag on my shoulder, I conducted one more mental checklist before I left my apartment. I lived on the fifth floor of a twenty-two-story building, so it was easier to take the stairs most days. I exited my building in time to see the ‘purple people eater’ turning the corner, which was what I called Kenya’s bright purple SUV. It pulled up to the curb, and I threw open the door behind the driver’s seat to toss in my bag before heading to the passenger side.
You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me! In what was supposed to be my seat sat a man I had not expected—Noah Miko.
“You should probably sit behind me,” Kenya said. “There’s more legroom.”
I climbed in behind her and did my best not to look disgusted.
Kenya pulled into traffic before I buckled up.
“Well, this is unexpected,” I said, drawing out the word.
Kenya looked at me through the rearview mirror and shot me a warning look.
“Hey, Steve. Good to see you again,” Noah said as he turned and gave me one of his brilliant smiles I’d seen on the pages of several magazines. Noah was a model and wannabe actor. I’d seen him last year in an Off-Off-Off-Broadway show, and he wasn’t good. He might have been pretty, but he couldn’t act his way out of a bag.
“It’s Stephen,” I said. “No one calls me Steve.”
“That’s right,” Noah said. “Sorry about that.”
He wasn’t sorry. We’d had this very conversation at least a half-dozen times since Kenya brought him into the friendship circle about two years ago. In retrospect, I think Kenya only befriended Noah because she wanted his sperm. Kenya had decided she wanted to get pregnant almost a year before. As a junior partner in a law firm, she’d tried going out with various guys, but she didn’t exactly have too much time for a very successful romantic life. She even dated other lawyers, but quickly realized lawyers were boring conversationalists over dinner.
So, about ten months ago, Kenya informed me that come hell or highwater, she wanted to be a mother.
“I’m going to have a baby,” Kenya had told me when she’d first raised the idea.
“You’re not pregnant?”
“Oh, God, no,” Kenya had said. “But I am getting in vitro fertilization.”
“Oh, are you using one of those services to find the perfect baby-daddy?” I had joked.
“No. I’ve already picked out my donor.”
“Oh, really?” At first, I had grown anxious because I feared she was about to ask me for my little swimmers.
“Oh, come on,” I had responded. “He may be pretty, but what else does he have going for him?”
“He has good genes. I figure between the two of us, my child will get my brains and his good looks. Kind of the best combination possible.”
I had wanted to say, “What if he gets your looks and his brains?” Thankfully, I’d stopped before I put my foot in my mouth.
A couple of months later, Kenya was pregnant. The Woodstock trip was to be our last big hurrah before the baby came. She didn’t look like she was quite ready to pop, but she was getting there. I had assumed it was going to be Kenya and me, so finding the sperm donor in the SUV was a shock.
“What a pleasant surprise,” I said, putting as much venom behind my words as I could muster.
“Well, it’s good to see you, Steve,” Noah responded. He was wearing sunglasses, so I couldn’t see his eyes, but I did see his smug look reflected in the front window.
“Play nice, boys.” Kenya once again looked at me through the rearview mirror. “This weekend is for me, so cut the gay drama shit.”
She glanced over at Noah, who nodded. I started to roll my eyes.
“Don’t even think about rolling your eyes at me, Stephen,” Kenya warned.
“There’s no way you could see that,” I said as a form of protest.
“I know you and those classic eyerolls too well. I don’t need to see them to know that’s your go-to whenever you don’t get your way.”
“Fine. I promise to play nice with the muscle queen. Just don’t expect me to like it.”
“Oh, you were checking out my muscles?” Noah asked. He didn’t look at me from his seat, but he twisted his head enough so I could see the smirk on his face.
“It’s hard not to notice your nude portrait in Times Square.” Noah was the fresh face for Alessandro Cattaneo’s latest menswear line, but the billboard had made me wonder what clothes the Italian designer was advertising. It was basically a nude of Noah standing in a pair of Cattaneo’s briefs with the designer’s name at the bottom of the billboard. The underwear was pulled so low on Noah’s hips that it left little to the imagination.
“Yeah, that was an interesting photo shoot. The photographer kept having me pull the briefs lower and lower. I wondered if I would have to tuck myself like a drag queen to get them low enough. Thankfully, the guy’s a genius, and the pics turned out amazing. The billboards in London, Rome and Tokyo will go up later this month, so my pretty face will be worldwide. My agent expects that I will have a lot of job offers coming through.”
“Yip dee doo,” I said under my breath. “Does this mean you’ll have to miss the birth? I mean, if you’re going to have jobs all over the world…”
“Nope. I already told everyone I had to be in New York for the birth.”
“You remember you’re not the father?” Kenya asked.
“That’s right.” I shot Noah a smile. “You’re just the baby-daddy. Maybe a spuncle, at best. You have no legal entanglements with Kenya or the baby.” Kenya had written an ironclad contract when she’d sought Noah’s sperm services.
“I remember. I’m not there to be a father. God knows, no one needs me as a daddy figure. I need to be there for Kenya. You know…to show her support.”
“As long as you remember I’m the one who gets to be with her in the delivery room.”
“Don’t worry, my man. I don’t want to step in on your parade. I know you’ve been attending all those Lamaze classes with our Kenya.”
“So, who wants to listen to some music?” Kenya asked before I could say anything else. She plugged in her phone, and immediately the latest anthem from some pop diva that I’d never heard of blared through the car.
Great! Pop music…my favorite. If it wasn’t recorded on a cast album, I probably hadn’t heard it, nor did I desire to. People have a range of eclectic musical tastes. I liked people who knew how to sing without damaging their vocal cords. Even better, I preferred singers who could enunciate, so you knew what the hell they were singing.