Center Stage – 5

“I hope so, but I don’t know. He’s been with Julianne forever, he’s pursuing music.” He shrugged. “And then there’s Dylan…”

Marina looked up startled. “What’s wrong with Dylan?”

Jared frowned. “She’s dating this schmuck…”

“Oh, you ass!” Marina scolded. “My son is a perfect gentleman.”

“Z, a perfect gentleman? Please.”

“I’ve never had to worry about Z. Despite his unconventional upbringing, he’s been a solid, grounded kid. I mean, his dad is a great guy, even if we weren’t meant to be together. But, Z… sometimes I think he takes after you.”

“Me?”

“Yeah. He has your sense of loyalty and warped sense of humor. Must be a product of his environment.”

Jared snickered. “Must be why Dylan likes him.”

“Must be.”

“So, you’ll talk to Alex? Give him a chance?”

“I’ll try.”

 

The following morning, Alex let himself in Jared’s apartment, carrying Starbucks. He found Jared out on the fire escape sneaking a cigarette.

“Gracias, mi amigo,” Jared accepted the steaming latte.

“De nada,” Alex grinned.

“So?”

“So…” Alex ran his hand through his dark hair. “Marina…”

“Yeah?” Jared raised an eyebrow.

“I still haven’t heard from her. I’m trying to be patient and give her time, but I want to see Mollie and I have to go through Marina to do that but if I reach out, she’ll think I’m hounding her.”

“So, you want me to talk to her on your behalf?”

Alex nodded. “Pretty much.”

“Done.”

“Seriously?”

Jared nodded, putting his cigarette butt out in a coffee can. “To be honest, I encouraged her last night. But I will mention the Mollie aspect.”

“Thank you.” He was visibly relieved. “Oh, hey, so I’m moving in to my place today. I was thinking of having a mini housewarming. You, Will, Adam, Chris… adult beverages, shooting the shit. You in?”

“Definitely. When?”

“I was thinking Sunday night.”

“Perfect. I’ll make arrangements at Curtain Call.”

“Great. And thanks again. I hate putting you in the middle of Marina and me, but I’m desperate.”

“I know. And as far as Mollie goes, she deserves to have you in her life.”

“I appreciate that, J.”

 

Alex was unpacking a box of books he’d procured at his parents’ when he received a text from Mollie.

– Uncle Ale, Mom says I can invite you to hang on Saturday. Meet @ CC @ noon. ❤ MM –

He found himself smiling, knowing Jared had worked his magic. Immediately, he replied.

– It’s a date! ❤ ❤ –

 

Saturday morning, Alex woke up early and made coffee. He wanted to go to the gym and unpack a few more boxes before heading uptown to meet Mollie. At eleven-thirty, he walked to the Subway at 14th and 8th St and boarded the A train, getting off at 50th St. He let himself into Curtain Call and found Tristan stocking bar glasses.

“Aye, mate,” Tristan greeted him.

“Hey,” he grinned, removing his scarf.

“What brings you ‘ere? Little early for a pint.”

“I’m meeting Mollie.”

“Ah and here the beautiful lass is now,” Tristan nodded at the door.

“Mi bonita,” Alex grinned.

“Hola. Que pasa?” she smiled, dressed in jeans, black Converse high tops and a red pea coat. Her long dark curls were pulled into a haphazard bun.

“Nada. So, what’s the plan for today?”

“I was thinking we could pretend we’re tourists. I mean, you’ve been gone so long… it’ll be cool.”

“So, you’re going to be my personal tour guide?”

She nodded. “Exactly.”

“Alright. Lead the way. Later, Irish.” He replaced his scarf and followed Mollie outside.

She led him to the Theater District Shopping Court, a flea market type corner a few blocks up from Curtain Call.

“How long has this been here?” he marveled.

“Dunno,” she shrugged. “They have the best crap!” she informed him proudly.

“Does your mother know you hang out here?” he asked, skeptically eyeing the eclectic wares housed in garage-like structures. Upon first glance, he noted knock-off designer purses, scarves and hats, traditional New York City memorabilia and even Christmas ornaments.

“Who do you think first brought me here?”

“Why am I not surprised?” he shook his head with a smirk. “Looking for anything specific?”

“That defeats the purpose. It’s about discovering something you never knew you needed.”

“If you say so,” he remarked, following her. “So, how’s school going?”

She shrugged as they entered a booth of hand knitted items. “Okay. I like music, history and English. Math and science are necessary evils. But I get all A’s.”

“Nerd,” he teased.

“Yeah, well, I want to go to an Ivy League school.”

“Impressive.”

“It’s no big deal.”

“Mollie Jane, that is a huge deal.” He felt like he looking at her with new eyes. She was no longer a little kid, but morphing into a beautiful, intelligent and ballsy young woman.

“Don’t get so excited,” Mollie warned, picking up a pair of mittens and trying them on. “I still have every intention of being an actor and singer but I aspire to be the next Emma Watson – smart and talented.”

Alex grinned madly, “Not a bad role model. What about boys?”

Mollie raised an eyebrow. “Maybe I should be the one asking all the questions here.”

“What do you mean?”

“What’s going on with you and Momma?” she asked, moving on to a purse kiosk.

“Nothing. I wrote a show honoring your dad’s memory. I want your mom to star in it with me. And Jared and Chris… I gave her the script but I haven’t heard anything back. I don’t want to pressure her.” He shrugged. “So, I am trying desperately hard to be patient.”

Mollie nodded, pursing her lips thoughtfully. “Can I read it?”

Alex scowled. “I don’t know.”

“Come on, please…” she whined, batting her big brown eyes at him.

He rolled his eyes. “Maybe. If your mother says it’s okay.”

“Did you tell Momma about my theory?”

“Not my story to tell.”

“Did you tell her you love her yet?”

“Knock it off,” he groaned.

She shrugged innocently, checking out some knock off Coach bags.

“You know, I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you were growing up. I should have been here.”

Mollie looked at him curiously. “It’s not like you weren’t part of my life, I got to come to London every summer and we’ve written letters and phone calls.”

“I know, but I still regret it. I missed so much of your childhood.”

“Well, you’re here now. Keep it that way.”

“I will,” he gave her a chagrinned look. “Find anything you like?”

She shrugged. “I kinda like this one,” she replied holding up a small hipster styled bag covered in recycled Subway maps.

“At least then we’ll know you’ll never get lost.” He paid the vendor the fifteen dollars and then continued on their way.

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