Center Stage – 6

After browsing through all the booths, Mollie decided they should head over to Times Square.

“Okay, those characters are creepy,” Alex told Mollie in a stage whisper. “Not gonna, lie, I kinda prefer the hookers that used to be here.”

Mollie rolled her eyes, giving the pretense she was repulsed and Alex smirked.

“Sorry, I’ll save the hooker talk for Uncle J.”

“Hungry?” Mollie asked, hoping to change the subject.

“Always,” he admitted.

“What was your favorite place to eat here when you lived here?”

“I don’t know,” he thought back. “True New Yorkers only go to authentic New York restaurants, unless we’re trying to be ironic and lowering ourselves to tourist status on a lark.”

Mollie looked at him, perplexed. “Sometimes, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Good,” he laughed.

“Seriously? You never hung out in Times Square? Not even when you were in the show with Momma and Uncle J?”

“Well, growing up, why would I spend money eating out when I could eat Abuela’s food for free?”

“Good point,” she giggled.

“We would come into Manhattan to see shows, buying out tickets at the TKTS booth, so that meant eating slices of pizza, McDonalds or food trucks on the corners. When we were working, we had a lot of takeout and diner food, pubs like Curtain Call. None of these tourist traps,” he admitted. “Money was tight, time was short.”

“Okay, so if you were a tourist, where would you want to go? Work with me here.”

“I don’t know. Not Olive Garden.” He surveyed the current scene. “I guess the new Hard Rock.”

“New?” her brow furrowed.

He nodded. “Yeah, it used to be over on West 57th. Had this cool old convertible sticking out of the façade. The original Planet Hollywood was over there too. Before they turned Times Square into Disneyland on crack.”

Mollie giggled. “Okay, Hard Rock it is. That’s funny, because I know Momma and Uncle J went to the old Hard Rock to celebrate when Momma got called for an audition for Class Reunion.”

“See, Hard Rock is on that fine line where you can be touristy and still pretend to be cool.”

“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes.

 

“Oh, hey,” Alex said, startled to find Marina standing at his door. “I just got back from dropping Mollie off.”

“I know,” Marina nodded. “She texted me she was home.”

Alex unlocked the door and Marina followed him inside already feeling nostalgic for her old building and the friends she’d met there.  Before she was twenty, she had moved to New York, gotten a part in a Broadway show and moved into Everhouse. It was the most exciting time of her life.

The apartment’s decor bespoke Alex’s Brooklyn roots with glimpses of the fifteen years spent in London. Immediately, her green eyes fell on a photo of Alex and Danny; a photo from their wedding day; both in tuxedos smiling broadly. She shook her head as tears began streaming down her cheeks.

“I can’t do this…” she murmured, backing out the door.

“Marina! Wait!” Alex chased after her. “Please!”

Marina stood, impatiently pushing at the elevator button.

“Look, if you don’t want to come in, let’s at least go around the corner for coffee. A neutral location,” he pleaded. “Please.”

She nodded. “Okay.”

The elevator door slid open with a creak and they stepped in, filling the small space with awkward

silence.

“We had a lot of fun today. Thanks for letting me take her.”

“Welcome,” she nodded stiffly. “I’m surprised she didn’t con you into taking her to the Russian Tea

Room. She’s become obsessed with it. I was thinking we might do her sixteenth birthday there.”

“That’s not a typical teen hangout.”

“Have you met your niece? She’s not your typical teen. She’s into history and culture. She’s fearless.”

Alex smiled. “She’s you.”

The elevator opened and they stepped out. “Coffee or margaritas?” he asked, her answer would determine if they took a left or a right out his door.

“Margaritas,” she replied with little hesitation.

They went around the corner and Alex froze, frowning. “Um… where’s Mary Ann’s?” he wondered and Marina couldn’t help but laugh at the bewildered expression on his face.

“It relocated over a year ago,” she replied. “I know Jared was devastated.”

“Okay, so in order to find anything I want in this town from now on, I’m going to have to rely on Yelp?”

“Pretty much,” she agreed. “Come on, there are bars on practically every corner. I am sure we can find something that will work.”

He nodded, following her lead. “So, an Ivy League education, eh?”

“Yeah. She’s had her heart set on it since she read an article on the best drama programs. I think a couple schools in London were on her list, plus Columbia, Pace, Harvard, NYU, Julliard… Eastcoast only. Nothing in California. At the rate she’s going she’s going to be valedictorian of her class, and with her family background, she should have no problems getting accepted. You know, raised by a single mom, father filled in the North Tower… a decent resume.”

“That all blows my mind.” He noted a bar across the street. “How does that look?”

“Perfect.” They crossed at the crosswalk and Jared held the door open for her. “Thanks.”

Taking seats at the bar, they shed their coats as the bartender set cocktail napkins in front of them. “Don’t tell Jared I’m cheating on him,” she frowned thoughtfully.

“Your secret is safe with me.” Alex grinned. “Curtain Call is sensational. You two have done a fantastic job.”

“It’s all Jared. I write checks, sit at the bar and occasionally sing at open mic night, but everything else, is all Jared. He’s come so far since I first met him,” she replied, obviously proud of her best friend.

“Two top shelf margaritas on the rocks, please,” Alex ordered for them. “So, have you dated anyone since… since Danny?”

Marina frowned.

“I’m sorry, that’s none of my business. I just was trying to make small talk.”

“No, it’s okay. I’ve gone on a couple dates, but nothing serious. I believe in the three strikes, you’re out rule.”

“Should you really count Kyle in that?”

“I wasn’t counting Kyle,” she said pointedly. “We are what we’ve always been, good friends. He’s a great dad to Zachary. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had chosen him over Shawn, but then I wouldn’t have Zander, Zoe or Mollie and I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything. Mostly, I’ve just been busy being a mom, occasional acting jobs and volunteering, plus Curtain Call.”

The bartender set their drinks on the bar. “Thank you.”

“What about you? Were you seeing anyone in London?” Marina picked up her glass and took a sip, watching his reaction.

Alex shrugged. “I dated someone for about a year, but it didn’t go anywhere.”

“A year is a long time.”

“Yeah, but I had different priorities, working on the show. I wasn’t the best boyfriend.”

“Speaking of the show…” she hedged.

Alex raised an eyebrow, steeling himself for her input.

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