Chapter 2

Yes, Jamie has a girlfriend. You know why I haven't mentioned her until now. They started dating shortly after Jamie and I had almost… well, after we'd had that moment. You already know why I haven't mentioned his girlfriend until now… I like to pretend that she doesn't exist when I'm with Jamie. I never said that my crush was healthy… and she was the reason why I had never admitted to Jamie that I had fallen for him after all this time.

Unable to even consider editing my expression my mouth dropped open in horror. A nearby waiter rushed over to close the door behind me.

For some reason, Jamie happened to look at me as he reached into his pocket. Our eyes locked for a moment and he faltered for a minute in surprise when he saw my expression. But then he turned back to Roshelle, who was obviously giddy with excitement. Everyone was quiet, holding their breath. "Roshelle… I love you," he said softly. "Will you marry me?" What about me, Jamie? I thought she was going to be me… which really proves how delusional I had become.

She shrieked instantly, "Yes!" That jarred me from my horror and made me snap my jaw shut as everyone applauded and cheered for the happy couple. He rose to his feet and they sealed their proposal with a kiss and I found myself numbly clapping along with the crowd.

"Hey…" Holly murmured as she reached my side but I wasn't interested in receiving her pity. I had to get the hell out of there because I could already feel myself beginning to fall apart…

Unfortunately I had no chance to get out of there. "Olivia!" Roshelle squealed to me, obviously the first person she found in the crowd. "Come here and see!" She waved me over. I pasted on a smile that would make Mrs. C proud and walked over, Holly hot on my heels. Blond, beautiful, tall, and delicate, Roshelle presented the large diamond ring to us and gushed to us: "Isn't it beautiful?" But she wasn't rubbing it in my face… we were friends in the loosest sense. She really was a sweet girl… I only pretended she didn't exist because I wanted Jamie, not because she was horrible. If I couldn't have Jamie, I would have settled with them being together…

after I had explained to Jamie I had been in love with him for seven and a half years and heard what he would say.

"It's so beautiful, Roshelle." I said mechanically. She was too thrilled to realize that I didn't sound quite right… and I could feel Jamie's eyes on me. Mr. and Mrs. Campbell had made their way through the crowd and swept Roshelle away to other people. Mrs. Campbell appeared as ecstatic as her Botox'ed face would allow.

"Olivia—" Holly began to say.

"I need some air." I mumbled and slipped away.

Numb. I was numb. Not only physically numb from standing outside on the freezing balcony but also mentally numb. I couldn't believe what had just happened.

The night I choose to finally tell Jamie how I have felt and he proposes to Roshelle? He had to pick this night?

Well, why did I pick this night? Luck of the draw, I suppose. I officially had shitty luck. I guess my chances of winning the lottery are crap too.

"Olivia." I turned and found Jamie coming out onto the balcony. He was the last person I wanted to see at that moment but I still forced a smile as he approached with his jacket in hand. He gave me a once over and then muttered, "You must be freezing," as he put his jacket around my shoulders. I nodded as I pulled his jacket on over my suit and then glanced above us through the glass ceiling at the heavy clouds… maybe it would snow tonight. It was certainly cold enough. "Are you upset with me?" I heard him ask me softly and somehow he didn't sound whiny or clingy. I envied him… every time I asked someone if they were mad at me, I sounded pathetic.

In that split second pause, I vowed to not ruin this night for him… I would be happy for him. I would not be his friend who ruined the memory of the night when he proposed to his girlfriend. "I'm not." I managed a real smile even if it was a little wan. Then I lied: "I'm just taking care of more Fizz stuff." I even rolled my eyes for a little extra theatrics.

But he didn't buy it and why would he? He obviously knew me well enough to know when I was putting on a show. He asked softly, "Is this about me proposing to Roshelle? You've been so busy with Fizz that I didn't get a chance to tell you—" Oh God. He felt bad… he thought that I was mad that he didn't tell me beforehand.

"No!" I exclaimed with a wave of my hand. "I'm so happy for you." I said but it sounded forced and mechanical and I couldn't meet his eyes. I couldn't lie directly to his face… apparently I would need to work on that as soon as possible before I ruined their wedding planning. Wedding planning… going to their wedding… my stomach turned over hard.

He stepped closer and touched my arm. "Olive… I know," he said quietly, which made me look up sharply. "Holly spilled."

Oh no she didn't. "What?" I gasped, horrified. How could she do this now, after Jamie had already proposed to Roshelle? I figured the best way was denial so I added, "It's not true." Again, Jamie wasn't buying it. "I mean, I did…" I paused and swallowed. "I did once have feelings for you but… that was a long time ago." And then I smiled the worst smile I have ever smiled and immediately regretted it.

"Wait, what?" Jamie asked, looking taken aback. That's when I realized, just a little too late, that he had been talking about something entirely different. "Holly just said that you were… freaked out about…" He trailed off as he stared at me. "You what?"

Well. The damage was done. It was too late to deny. "I lied. I'm in love with you!" I abruptly blurted out as the tears I had been trying so hard to hold back suddenly gushed out of me. So much for being happy for him. "I've always loved you! And I've waited for seven years and…" I trailed off and looked away, knowing that I was too late. I had waited too long.

"Seven years?" Jamie repeated, looking horrified. And that's what every girl wants from the guy she's been in love with for seven years: unabashed horror at the sound of her admitting how long she's been in love with him.

"Yes." I whispered and then pulled away. He sagged against the balcony railing without looking at me, obviously still in shock. I struggled to pull myself together as I announced quickly: "I'm an idiot. I'm so sorry. I'm just going to go… I won't ruin your night." I shrugged out of his jacket as I added, "You'll remember this night forever… for the good things." I hoped that the faster I spewed out clichés, the easier this would be… but so far it wasn't helping. I set his jacket down on the railing next to him and then turned to go back inside. He looked so defeated… our friendship lay in ruins…

But then: "Olivia," he said almost inaudibly when I had only taken a few steps away from him. Against my better judgment, I turned and found him staring at me, looking haunted. "I have always loved you," he whispered brokenly.


Now it was my turn to be horrified. I stared at him, my mouth agape, feeling like I had just been sucker punched.

But… he'd never… except… but he…

After all these years, he…?


After all the times that Holly had nagged me to tell Jamie how I felt…

There could have been… us?

I had to get out of there. Before I did something ridiculous, like throw myself into his arms and beg him to take back his proposal. I wouldn't be that girl for him… I would despise myself. I turned to go again without another word.

But he stopped me. Then everything changed.

He must have sensed he was about to lose me because he gasped, "Olivia," and then grabbed my arm, pulling me back. He stepped in front of me, blocking my view of the ballroom, and pulled me flush against him. After all the years of casual hugs, this felt different… my body buzzed against him. "Olivia…" he whispered as he touched my face. His hands were cold but I didn't care.

"Jamie." I whispered, my body aching with his touch but my brain was screaming, "No, Olivia, NO! Run for the hills! Get the hell out of here! He's with someone else, he's engaged to someone else, and fluttering your eyelashes at him will not make him change his—"

My screaming inner voice was silenced when he brushed my lips lightly with his cold thumb and his grip tightened around me. "Olivia," he whispered back. Kiss me, Jamie. Kiss me. For seven years I had waited for him and here was my chance… maybe my only chance…

But my conscious screamed louder: "Olivia, NO!"

I saw him look down at my lips and his hands tightened around my arms… but I couldn't ignore the burning guilt in the pit of my stomach. My thoughts became disjointed as he moved closer: oh… but I love… but… can't… Jamie…

I couldn't do this.

Finally, my brain won. I couldn't do this with a freshly engaged guy… I couldn't even do this with someone else's boyfriend. I definitely wasn't a boyfriend/fiancé stealer… I had too much self-respect. Why would I waste my time with a half-married man? "No." I whispered. The longing look on his face dissolved into confusion. "No. Jamie, I can't do this." I said, louder this time, as I pulled away from him.

"Olivia," he whispered, his confusion dissolving into pain. He reached for me again.

This may have hurt him but it was killing me. "No." I repeated myself and then babbled, "No, Jamie, no…" as I held out my hands to keep him away from me.

But then he grabbed my hands and desperately begged, "But I love you, Olive!" The use of my nickname twisted the knife in my chest and made the guilt in my stomach burn brighter. "Come on, Olivia, I've always loved you!" He reached for my face.

But I stepped out of his reach and pointed out, "You just got engaged to another woman!" But he was undeterred… his expression was still pleading as he wrapped his cold fingers around mine. All at once I wished that I had my gloves on, I wished that I could kiss his fingertips, and I wished that I didn't have fingers at all. But then, because he was so undeterred, I realized with an extra sucker punch of sickening dread that the only way he would let me go is if I hurt him. "I take it back." I stated abruptly as I yanked my hands away from his. "I never loved you." I said coldly. "I just loved the idea of being with you."

But he didn't buy it. I'm horrible at lying to him anyway. This is the problem of trying to convince your best friend, the person who knows you the best, that you don't feel something when he knows you well enough to know that you do. His face fell and he looked rather wounded but he still reached for me again. Jamie is nothing if not persistent. "Olivia, don't do this," he said sternly, obviously not believing a word I had just said. "We'll work something out. Roshelle—" Roshelle his girlfriend, his fiancé, my friend, our friend…

So, because trying to hurt him didn't work… I turned around and bolted without another word.

I heard him call my name but there wasn't a chance in hell that I was turning back. Once back inside, I caught sight of Roshelle beaming across the room as she talked to Jamie's grandmother. My stomach churned as I crossed the room. Holly found me almost instantly, she must have been watching for me. "Olivia, you look white" she said anxiously. "What's going on? What happened outside?"

"Nothing." I muttered as I got my jacket from the coat check.

"Olivia." This time it was Jamie. I glanced over my shoulder and saw him making his way through the crowd. I cursed under my breath… he was really coming after me. Someone grabbed for his arm but he snapped at them, "Mom, not now." His mother? He actually snapped at his mother?! In Jamie's wake I saw Mrs. Campbell clutch her chest in shock for an unguarded moment, her mouth open. But then she caught sight of me past Jamie, saw the path he was on, and regained her composure. Her eyes narrowed into little slits and she followed hotly on Jamie's heels. Shit.

"What the hell is going on between you two?" Holly hissed as I slapped the elevator down button. "What happened out on the—?"

"Holly, not now. I'm not doing this right now." I hissed back at her as I watched the numbers above the elevator light up as the elevator approached. Faster, faster, faster…

"I'm coming with you." Then she asked the coat check for her own jacket and gloves. I glanced at her and then shrugged as the elevator slowly made its way up to the top floor.

"Olivia…" Mrs. Campbell said as she reached me, somehow managing to keep her perfectly pitched society voice while sounding quite menacingly. I glanced over my shoulder at her and swallowed hard as I realized that, thanks to her, our previously unnoticed melodrama was now attracting a crowd of curious partygoers. Jamie took hold of his mother, said something lowly under his breath through his teeth, and moved her away from me. She looked shocked again… and then she glared at me. I was never going to be allowed at any sort of party from now on… but it was probably better that way. That would give me a perfect excuse to not go to Jamie and Roshelle's wedding.

Speaking of Roshelle: "Olivia?" She appeared out of nowhere and touched my shoulder. "Hey, are you okay?" she asked softly.

The lie slid off my tongue easily: "Oh I'm not feeling well." Then I forced an apologetic smile, then checked the status of the elevator and found that it was stopped a few floors down. I wanted to pull out my hair in frustration. Roshelle didn't know me well enough to realize that I was lying… so I pretended to confide in her lowly, "The champagne is getting to me," and then shrugged my shoulders faux sheepishly. The sooner she believed me, the better…

"Oh no!" Roshelle appeared sympathetic but she was still glowing beneath her sympathy… and why wouldn't she? Jamie, the man she loved, had just asked her to marry her. Why should my "illness" and misery keep her from being happy? She suggested rather halfheartedly: "Maybe if you drank some water?"

"That's okay." I needed to shake her off faster. Holly was no help; she remained silent next to me. I faked a wan smile and then told Roshelle, "I'm just going to head home… I have a huge meeting tomorrow morning." That was the truth, actually… but I couldn't be at this party for another second. Where the hell was the elevator?

Her full lips turned down into a pout. "Are you sure?" she asked softly. "It's not even midnight yet!" I knew that she wanted me to stick around to celebrate her engagement… oh get me out of here!

Then the elevator finally, finally, arrived. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Jamie had stopped at the edge of his crowd. His eyes were wild and he looked torn between pain and longing. I turned back to Roshelle and said softly, "Yeah, I'm sure." Then I added as I stepped onto the elevator: "I'll call you. Congratulations, you're going to have a great year." Holly joined me, still silent, but I'm pretty sure that I saw her flick a pointed look at Jamie.

I quickly glanced past Roshelle at Jamie, who was still watching me silently with his hands in his suit pockets, but Roshelle curiously turned to see what had momentarily caught my attention. Of course by the time she turned, Jamie had his expression in check. She called his name and began to frantically wave him over. Oh no. I sucked in a hissing breath through my teeth and hit the ground floor button inside the elevator, praying that the doors would close instantly, but Roshelle held out her arm to hold the elevator doors open. "Jamie!" Roshelle waved him over again. "Honey, Olivia is leaving!" Her use of honey twisted the knife in my stomach again. Roshelle's honey, who had just tried to convince me that he loved me after all, slowly ambled over. I wished for a timely death right at that moment. The elevator doors tried to close again but Roshelle pushed them back, harder this time, and the elevator buzzed angrily back at her. "Honey, hurry up! She's not feeling well." Roshelle admonished as she grabbed his hand and pulled him over. I couldn't help but catch sight of her new ring… the large diamond sparkled in the warm low lighting.

Jamie muttered, "Sorry," and then opened his arms. When we embraced, I closed my eyes against the sudden rush of tears that filled my eyes. "Olivia—" he began to say urgently in my ear.

No way. "Congratulations, Jamie! I'll call you tomorrow." I said loudly as I pulled away quickly like he had burned me while looking him straight in the… forehead.

"Please do… I'm so sorry you don't feel well." I heard him answer in the formal voice his mother had probably instilled in him since birth. It was the voice he used when talking to strangers. He added, "Happy New Year."

"You too. Bye." I stepped away and waved to Roshelle as Holly jabbed the door close button. The doors finally whispered shut.

Holly tried to burn holes into my face as I wearily slumped against the gilded mirrors and closed my eyes, suddenly exhausted. "Can we please talk about it tomorrow?" I begged.

There was a long pause. Then she finally asked, "Is it really that long of a story?"

I ran over the events in my head, opened my eyes, and then answered her hollowly: "Jamie has loved me just as long as I have loved him and I stopped him from making a huge mistake." Her eyes bugged out as she sucked in a breath. "There's the condensed version." I muttered before I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes again.

"But…" she began to say and then trailed off. Despite her curiosity, she finally dropped it, and I was eternally grateful. I didn't have any energy left in me to talk about Jamie.

Once we were outside, we approached the line of cabs that were waiting for drunk people to pour out of the hotel after the ball dropped at midnight. Holly turned to me and said, "Hey," as she opened her arms. We embraced and she held me for an extra minute. "Happy New Year," she whispered in my ear.

"You too." I whispered back. I managed a faint smile before we climbed into our cabs.

Do you want to know where I was when the ball dropped that night? I wish I could tell you that I called up my other friends and ended up with them in a fabulously exclusive bar. Then, when the ball dropped, a handsome man with no wedding band, broad shoulders, and perfect straight white teeth found me in the crowd and kissed me. Just like in the movies, right?

That was definitely not the end of my year.

No, I was in front of the television in my teeny tiny studio apartment, channel surfing numbly. I was momentarily cried out and was now avoiding the huge coverage of the event happening in Times Square just across the city from me… and that's when I landed on ESPN. Reruns of sports highlights sounded much more appealing than crappy VH1 reality shows…

I found myself blankly watching the highlights of an old Yankees game and then groaned out loud to myself. I couldn't believe I was watching highlights of baseball, the most boring sport on the planet.

And then the sport changed to hockey and I perked up slightly.

The smarmy announcer beamed at the camera before he reported, "In other hockey news, the Carolina Hurricanes played the Washington Capitals tonight. The Hurricane came out on top with the game winning goal by Jordan Taylor, star rookie player for the Hurricanes." I watched the previously mentioned Jordan Taylor fly down the ice on a breakaway, fake out the goalie, and then drill the puck into the goal. I let out a little whoop while the camera panned to show the fans leapt to their feet, a sea of red, as Jordan Taylor's teammates surrounded him. I grabbed my phone off the coffee table and texted Jordan: "Good job, little brother! Nice game winner!"

Yes, after years of playing hockey obsessively, Jordan was rewarded when he signed with the Hurricanes last year. He was heavily scouted for his first three years of college and signed last year with the Hurricanes just after he turned 21. The only reason why he didn't sign when he turned eighteen was because my parents threw a raging fit and demanded that he attend college for a while. Finishing college was now out of the question, backed up by the millions of dollars the Hurricanes had paid him when he had signed his contract. My parents were happy that Jordan was living his dream… but they were a still a little horrified about the not finishing school part. They tried not to complain but it was a bit of a sore subject in our family (My mom: "Couldn't he have told them to wait for just a year?"). But I was happy for Jordan… he was living his dream.

Speaking of million dollar contracts… I shut off the TV and made a note to call Jordan to congratulate him in person tomorrow.


The next day, the large pale man dressed in an ill-fitting navy blue suit announced: "Eight million. Final offer." Then he grimly pressed his lips together and sat back in his chair. He seemed to be under the impression that his words would strike fear into my heart… but I couldn't let myself lose control.

Sitting across the table from him, I too sat back in my plush leather swivel chair and sighed heavily. "I have already told you." I said in a just barely condescending, overly patient, and very steely voice. "Mr. Moore has no intention of re-signing for anything less than ten." I couldn't believe the performance I was pulling off… I had barely slept last night and I felt severely hungover even though I'd had only a few glasses of champagne. However, I was negotiating my way through like a pro… luck was with me today.

The pep talk that Holly had given me during my cab ride over to the company was still ringing in my ear. She had advised me grimly: "Since we both know they won't sign him for as much as he wants, blame the label. Tell Fizz that they were hard asses and suggest he move to another label." She paused and then added, "You know, he could potentially find that money elsewhere… he does have three hit singles."

"That might work." I replied as I carefully applied lip gloss and then almost jammed the wand up my nose when the cab hit a pothole. "I feel terrible." I groaned.

"Chin up!" Holly yelled back. "You're a brilliant publicist who has managed to convince the public that Fizz isn't a dirt bag even though he has three pending paternity cases! You can do this!"

"Yeah. That's the ticket." I agreed as the cab pulled up to the label's main offices. "I just got here. Wish me luck."

She chirped back hopefully, "Good luck!" I crossed my fingers… and now it appeared that I was negotiating like a pro.

However, back in the present: "Ten million dollars is a steep price, Miss Taylor." The man returned as he touched his tie with an uncomfortable little chortle. Gray skyscrapers filled the large windows behind him but I was too busy being steely to be distracted. "I think that the label's offer of eight million is a plenty generous offer for Fizz." I paused to see if he was wavering… and he wasn't. Uh oh. His expression was firm… and that was not a good sign.

But I pressed anyway. "Mr. Moore is adamant." I replied although I felt like my resolve was slipping… he really wouldn't budge? I knew that I couldn't let him see me sweat but I could feel my palms warming up. "After all, with three hit singles…" I trailed off, allowing for him to make his own inferences, and then shrugged with a small smile.

"Yes, we've taken into account Mr. Moore topping the music charts." Now he sounded impatient. Oh no. Then he asked condescendingly: "Where is Anita again?"

"She's been detained," I replied demurely without letting on that Fizz had let "that bitch Anita" go. "She sent me in her place."

The man, Mr. Thomas or maybe Thompson, harrumphed irritably. Was I losing him? I smiled amiably again as my stomach turned. Then he turned to the blond woman taking notes beside him. "Lisa, let's get Fizz on the phone." Wait, why was he calling Fizz? I swallowed my instinct to tell him no and waited a few agonizing moments while Lisa opened the file underneath her notepad, consulted the paperwork, and then picked up the phone in the middle of the table. She dialed and then pressed the speaker button. We all waited while the line rang and rang.

"Fizz's phone, this is his assistant Kylie." Kylie finally answered. They had undoubtedly spent the first few rings arguing over who was going to answer the phone… typical Fizz.

"Kylie, this is Peter Thomasville from Def Jam Records." Thomasville! Right, that was his name. "We're sitting here, discussing Mr. Moore's new contract, and I'd like to include Mr. Moore in this negotiation."

Kylie paused for only a minute. "Here he is," she replied and then there was rustling and muffled voices on the other end. She was probably begging him to take the call… also typical. Fizz liked to feel like he controlled his minions and answered to no one.

"Yo." Fizz finally said, sounding irritated. "This is Fizz."

The man in the ill fitting suit flashed a triumphant smile at me. I tried not to feel frantic as I wondered why… and suddenly the playing field felt severely uneven. "Fizz, this is Paul Thomasville," he said cheerfully. "Your publicist—" he shot a pitying look at me, "—and I are sitting here discussing your new contract." Fizz grunted in reply. "We think that offering you eight million is a more than generous offer… Ms. Taylor disagrees."

"Olivia?" Fizz barked abruptly into the phone. "Take care of this shit. Sign the contract for eight and get over here right now." I was stunned momentarily… he was going to sign for eight? He didn't sound happy at all… I took this as a very, very bad sign. Maybe… maybe the idea of blaming the label wasn't going to work out… I'd have to think of another angle on the way over.

"Okay." I managed to answer evenly as I swallowed hard. His anger had me a little rattled… but I swallowed again as Lisa hung up the phone and regained my composure. "Let's sign some contracts." I said, my voice even again. But the sinking feeling in my stomach didn't go away when Lisa placed the paperwork in front of me.

Fizz had flown in from California for the New Years festivities. His sprawling penthouse apartment was probably sixteen times bigger than my studio apartment. After the cab stopped outside his building, I paid the cabbie, and then stepped out into the freezing cold January air. Everything was gray… the sky, the building, and the doorman's suit. Or maybe it was just my mood that was turning things shades of gray. I had a bad feeling about this visit. "Hey Olivia." Paul the doorman greeted me cheerfully with his thick Queens accent. "You here to see Fizz?" I noticed a handful of men standing down the street, fiddling with their enormous cameras… the usual paparazzi that waited around for Fizz to do something stupid. One of them even lifted his hand in recognition when he saw me. Vultures.

"Yes." I nodded distractedly and then thanked him as he held the door open for me. I was in the middle of crossing the downstairs lobby when my phone began to ring. The ringtone wasn't "Let's Get Fizzy Tonight" so I checked the screen curiously.


A male voice broke into my thoughts: "Olivia?" Mark the elevator operator asked hesitantly. I looked up, momentarily forgetting where I was before I focused in on the lobby. Mark smiled awkwardly and asked from the elevator, "Are you coming?"

I ignored Jamie's call. "Yeah, sorry." I smiled briskly as I walked into the elevator. But my phone rang again as Mark pushed the penthouse button… I ignored the call again and turned my phone on vibrate. This was the second time in the last twenty-four hours that I anxiously rode to the top floor of a building. Once we reached the penthouse, I softly thanked Mark as I stepped into Fizz's garishly decorated apartment. Everything was decorated in black and white… and then there was zebra print (Fizz's favorite) everywhere. Zebra print rugs, zebra print towels, and zebra print throw blankets tossed artfully across the couches (by the housekeeper, of course). But the "best" part of Fizz's apartment are the large black animal statues… enormous elephants, zebras, and lions all over the apartment. Truly bizarre.

"Fizz?" I called, looking around the seemingly empty apartment.

"Hey Olivia." Kylie came out of the kitchen, looking annoyed. We shared a mutual and private dislike of Fizz… seeing her made me miss Anita a little. She too couldn't stand Fizz either. "Fizz is watching a movie in the theater… and he's in a mood." She rolled her eyes. "He's pissed about the contract."

"I figured as much." I sighed as I began to head toward the theater.

I opened the door and slipped into the theater. Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I found Fizz slouched in front of the screen as it blasted Bad Boys II. On either side of Fizz was a floozy… of course. They were both wearing bright short dresses… I wondered if they were left over from last night. I hoped not since that would be hell to try to explain to the waiting paparazzi outside. "Fizz?" I asked.

Three heads turned and then Fizz shut the movie off. He asked the girls, "Why don't you ask the chef to make you some food?" Uh oh… he was clearing the room. Fizz liked having floozies nearby at all times unless he was pissed. They scampered off; shooting twin death glares at me, and then left Fizz and me alone.

Regardless of his abrasive attitude, Fizz is a good looking guy. He has caramel colored skin and blindingly white teeth that he flashes at the ladies when he likes what he sees. But he certainly wasn't flashing those pearly whites right now. He folded his lean arms across his chest and snapped hostilely at me, "You didn't get me ten million."

"I tried, Fizz, I did." I replied, trying to sound calm and not as exhausted as I felt. My phone vibrated again… that better not be Jamie. Then I soothed him: "You and I both know you're worth ten million but the label wouldn't budge."

"Hmm." Fizz grunted in reply as he studied me. "You're fired." Then he actually shrugged indifferently as though firing me was the same as discussing the weather or picking up his dry-cleaning.

I blinked and then my jaw dropped open. "What?" I stuttered.

He turned back to his movie, apparently already bored with the conversation. "Ask Kylie for your last check on your way out."

"But Fizz, I tried—"

He held up his hand without even looking at me and then drawled, "We're done, O." He turned the movie back on and drowned out my sputtering.

He fired me? Even though I had gotten him eighty percent of what he wanted? I was still standing there, my mouth open and closing, when the two girls came back and flicked another disdainful look at me. Like they had any right to be disdainful of me when they were one step up from prostitutes.

I turned and somehow managed not to stumble out of there.

Kylie was checking her Blackberry when I barreled out of the theater. She looked up; appearing stunned, and began to say, "Olivia, I'm so sorry. I had no idea; he just sent me a text—"

"My check." I managed to get out as I held out my hand.

She still appeared stunned. She looked around the room as she muttered, "I guess it's… somewhere around here…"

"Now!" I blurted out angrily and immediately felt bad. Kylie and I had always gotten along and she didn't deserve my wrath. In response to my exclamation, she jumped and finally found a small envelope on the dinning room table. "Bye." I ran out of there.

Since I was unemployed and therefore soon to be penniless, I took the subway instead of a cab. I couldn't even cry… I was numb.

What the hell was I going to do? I had no job, no money saved because I had always lived paycheck to paycheck… and the chances of immediately getting another job in this horrible market? That would take six months to a year, if I was lucky! I couldn't keep paying rent for my apartment… and I wasn't about to ask my parents for a hand out.

As I was walking up the stairs out of the subway, my phone vibrated in my bag. I checked it and my eyebrows rose in surprise when I realized that Jordan was calling me. "Hey game winner." I tried to say cheerfully but it came out rather bland.

"Hey. What's your deal?" Jordan demanded in reply. I heard male voices in the background and clanging hockey sticks… I wondered if he was calling me from the locker room or practice. "You sound like you're about to slit your wrists." Trust my brother to have some gentle, soothing sympathy for me.

"Thanks, buddy." I replied dryly and then announced, "I just got fired and I'm probably going to have to move back in with Mom and Dad. Other than that, everything is just swell."

He sucked in his breath and then exclaimed, "You got fired?"

"I tried to re-negotiate Fizz's new contract and I didn't get him what he wanted." I explained blandly as I dodged a couple holding hands. Then I added flatly, "I got him eight instead of ten million."

"And he fired you?" Jordan demanded, appropriately furious on my behalf. "That's retarded."

Regardless of how politically incorrect that was, I felt my lips quirk a tiny bit. "Yeah. I have no idea what I'm going to do next."

"Move down here," he suggested almost immediately. "It's way cheaper and it's not as cold."

I chuckled once as I reached my apartment building. Not a chance. "Maybe. We'll see." I lied.

"Think about it, Liv," he advised me. "I gotta go, practice is about to start." Then he was probably sitting in the locker room. "You saw my game winner last night?"

"Definitely. Well, I saw the highlight on ESPN." I replied. "Awesome job."

"Thanks!" He sounded quite pleased with himself. "I'll talk to you later, okay? Good luck with finding a new job."

"Thanks." I said dully in reply as I climbed the stairs to my third floor apartment. We hung up as I reached the top of the stairs, panting slightly, and then stopped in my tracks.

Jamie. Jamie, who had been sitting on the dirty floor leaning against my apartment's door, was getting to his feet without taking his eyes off of me. "Hi," he said softly. He looked so good… he was wearing jeans, a soft black sweater, and a long black overcoat… his sweater was probably made out of cashmere. He looked quietly hopeful. "Could we talk?"

Author's note: I've actually already written several chapters of this story (to see what it was going to evolve into) so I'm going to upload them pretty quick.

To my one reviewer:

Aeryn MacDonald: That is INSANE! The likelihood of that happening is like one in a billion... crazy!


Please, readers, leave me a review and tell me what you think! :)

a smile that explodes