The Borscht Bowl Club, April 17, 2019 11:35 p.m.
Ema caught Maya’s astonished expression in the mirror and turned to face her look-alike with a friendly smile.
“You must be Maya Fey,” she said warmly, extending her hand. “I’m Ema Skye. How nice to finally meet the woman I’ve heard so much about in the flesh.”
Maya shook the other girl’s hand, all the while desperately trying to shake the notion that she was in some sort of Sci-Fi, alternative universe, and tried to regain her composure.
“Whatever you’ve heard, it’s lies, all lies!” She joked, returning the smile.
“Oh, I doubt Phoenix would flat out be deceptive, a rarity in his profession, I know,” Ema grinned. “But he did fail to mention just how lovely you were. The photo I saw in his wallet doesn’t do any justice to you at all!”
If Franziska Von Karma insists on maintaining that knowing smirk any longer, or harder, Maya thought in annoyance. Her face is going to become completely frozen that way!
“Thank you, Ema.” Maya was touched by the genuine sincerity that radiated off the pretty brunette. “So, you’re celebrating your sister’s stagette are you? Sounds like fun!”
“We’re having a blast, although it’d be really great if Ja Fool pianist took requests. Or at least stopped butchering every song he sings with that frog in a mailbox voice of his! Poor Sinatra is spinning in his grave in protest!”
The two girls giggled, then Maya noticed the pinkish stain on Ema’s white lab coat.
“Oh dear, what happened?”
“Ugh!” Ema rolled her beautiful eyes heavenward. “It’s so packed out there that I decided to speed things up and order my own drink at the bar, in hopes of more quickly achieving enough of a drunken stupor to drown out the tone-deaf tenor. Just as I was turning around and leaving the bar area, a G-String in each hand…”
Franziska finally spoke, her tone rich with amusement.
“You are referring to yet another ridiculously named American cocktail, yes?”
“Of course! I still haven’t yet had a chance to get so smashed that I began discarding my actual underwear! Which, scientifically speaking, is the number one way to achieve chafing in the posterior region if worn too long! Anyway, as I turned, this idiotic, clumsy….glimmerous fop of a guy crashed into me, leaving me covered in G-Strings and still devoid of my much yearned-for buzz!”
“The fool!” Franziska huffed. “He would have felt the wrath of my whip for that!”
“He should have at least offered to buy you another round of drinks to replace them,” Maya agreed.
“Oh the pretty boy offered of course,” Ema said grumpily. “He even had the nerve to try to sweet-talk me after that, and said he could perhaps atone by playing a ‘private concert’ for me sometime. Apparently he’s some wannabe rocker in a boy band. I told him exactly where he could shove his electric guitar and high-tailed it here to attempt to do some laundry on my lab coat.”
“Really, a boy band?” Maya asked, never one to pass up the chance to be a star-struck fan girl. “Anyone I’ve heard of at all?”
“Argh, I dunno, his thick accent made it almost impossible to understand him, especially in that noisy crowd! The Garblers I think? Something stupid like that.”
Maya watched as the forensic student scrubbed frantically at the offending spot. “Try blotting first,” she suggested. “With a dry paper towel, before you start the soap treatment.”
Ema complied, and smiled with relief when it appeared the helpful advice was working. “Thanks so much, Maya! I don’t know why I didn’t think of that myself. It’s mostly gone now.”
“Ask the bartender for some club soda when you go back out there,” Franziska advised. “That should do the trick for that last tiny remaining bit.”
“You guys are so great!” Ema beamed. “Is there anything I can do for you at all?”
Maya smiled sheepishly. “I don’t suppose you happen to have any eye makeup stashed in those pockets, do you?”
“Hey Pal, I see the girls coming back now,” Gumshoe told Phoenix
in an unnecessarily hushed tone, as nobody else could have heard him over the
roaring din of the bar. “Now’s your chance to talk to Maya!”
“Really?” Phoenix craned his neck to see over the crowd and in the distance could make out a perfectly serene looking Maya leading the way back to the table with Franziska. He turned to his friends with a frantic expression. “Nrrgh! What do I say to her?”
“What?! You mean you haven’t been utilizing all this time rehearsing your ‘I’m sorry, I completely suck n’stuff ’speech, Nick?”
“Candid as always, Butz,” Edgeworth deadpanned. “Although, surprisingly, not entirely off the mark this time. While I propose a more eloquent use of verbiage when you speak to Miss Fey, Wright, I can’t completely disagree that outright groveling may be indeed be the route to take.”
“Thanks a lot guys! I haven’t come up with any sort of apology script because you all know I’m not any good at delivering rehearsed material. I’ve always been a fly by the seat of my pants kind of guy, you know? Moment to moment…”
“That is most grand, Wright. And how has that impromptu path been working for you lately?”
Phoenix was just opening his mouth for a scathing retort of exactly where Edgeworth could stick his unhelpful, sarcastic barbs when suddenly, Franziska and Maya were upon them, and he closed it hurriedly.
Anxiously, he searched Maya’s pretty face, which was composed and still flawlessly made up, devoid of any evidence of the indignant rage that it had bared an hour ago. It was also impossible to read further, seeing as how she was presently gesturing to Larry and therefore not looking at him at the moment.
“Could you please pass my purse, Larry? Thanks. You know guys, it’s not quite midnight, and still plenty early enough for me to grab a cab back to the office, fetch Pearly, and catch one of the last trains back to Kurain. I don’t want to ruin your night though by ducking out so prematurely, so you all stay and enjoy yourselves now, and I’ll be…”
“Wait!” Phoenix cried, anxiously reaching out and grabbing Maya’s arm as she turned to leave the table. “Maya, please don’t go. We need to talk.”
“And we will Nick,” she replied dully, still not quite looking him in the eye. “It’s just that I think it’s best if we just go our separate ways right now and perhaps have a discussion when we’ve both cooled down a bit.” She forced a smile. “Don’t worry, it’s not like I’m going anywhere. You know where I live, right?” She awkwardly patted his arm and started off towards the exit.
Phoenix stared after her, completely disheartened. Maya was really going to leave, while things were still such a complete and total mess between them. Circumstances were now very different from the many insignificant spats they’d had over the years. This time, he couldn’t just sweep things under a rug and figure he’d make things up to her later, or just apologize in the morning, like he had when she’d worked for him and knew he would see her the next day.
He cursed himself for how many countless times he’d taken for granted that he was going to see her again because she’d also lived with him, and his home was hers as well. Regardless of how many mini-fits Maya had thrown or how many doors she’d dramatically slammed behind her when she’d stormed off in the past, he had never been too worried that they wouldn’t make up again, because he knew eventually, she’d have to come back.
But that was then. This was now.
This time around, it would take more than the appeasing promises of wallet-straining, bountiful burgers or brain-numbing Steel Samurai or Pink Princess movie tickets to atone for whatever wrongs he’d done, or whatever she’d thought he’d done. This time, he had screwed things up so badly beyond probable repair that it would take a bloody miracle. Because Maya Fey wasn’t his assistant or roommate any longer. She didn’t have to come back the next day.
She didn’t have to come back at all.
That dawning realization made Phoenix feel a panic building inside him unlike any he’d ever experienced; even worse than when he’d crossed that burning bridge. Because the fear of losing his life hadn’t even come close to the terrifying concept of losing the love of his life. Without Maya Fey, life had no meaning.
He had to do something drastic, now. And do it fast.
“Somebody, stop her!” He shouted at this friends as he shot out of his seat and made his frenzied way up to the piano while Franziska jumped up and hurried after Maya as quickly as her high heeled boots would allow her.
Phoenix reached the piano breathlessly, Edgeworth in tow, just as the musician completed his wince-worthy rendition of Mel Torme’s Jeepers, Creepers.
“I’m so sorry buddy,” he rasped, grabbing the pianist by the arm, hoisting him up and shoving him off to the side. “But this is an emergency!” He plopped himself down in the bench, vaguely aware of Edgeworth leading away the outraged, affronted young man and speaking soothingly to him in the corner. He spoke quickly into the attached microphone. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves and don’t mind a little change in tonight’s musical repertoire.”
To Phoenix’s surprise, an unexpected loud cheer roused from the crowd at his announcement, suggesting that the change of pianists from the tuxedo-clad blond guy to himself was most definitely not an unwelcome one.
With pink cheeks, he continued. “I’d like to dedicate this song here as a token of my affection to the dear birthday girl, standing there at the back of the bar.” With relief he noted Franziska had indeed reached Maya in time and was now pulling her back towards their table. “She’s the ravishing lady in red at the corner table there, and the most beautiful girl in this bar tonight. Maya baby, this is for you.” He took a deep breath and raised his trembling fingers to the piano keys.
Here goes nothing…