Chapter 20: Libby
I decide to walk to Juke’s, flaunting for once the beautiful state I am in.
Number 40: Dress up and feel pretty. I grin, giving myself a quick once-over as I walk past a shop’s window. This morning was long and dragging as I looked for the perfect thing to wear for this occassion - this thing I have to check off of Liv’s list.
Back home, I packed according to the list... But I must’ve accidentally skipped this one. Which caused me to go on a long shopping trip at six in the morning. I wandered aimlessly for quite a while until I gave up and went to the busy-as-hell American Apparel in Times Square.
I stop by Cornelia’s on the way, meeting the perky waitress at the front counter and ordering three black coffees (for Bentley, Liam, and me). Pipping a goodbye, I scooched out of there and returned to my ten minute walk to Liam’s work, balancing the three cups in my empty hands.
And here I am now, flaunting my new dress and strutting in my heels. The only killer is my black Jansport strapped on my back, carrying my camera, phone, Liv’s list, and wallet. Not much, but it’s not like I have pockets to carry them in.
Ten minutes later, after walking under the extreme heat the built up as the morning grew longer and walking step after step in four inch heels, my legs are almost dragging on the cement beneath me. When I approach the front door, I thank the Big Man Upstairs for having Bentley know to prop the door open for me. I pass through and enter the air-conditioned palace, Bentley’s smiling face greeting me, offering a hand with the coffees.
“I think the walk made them even hotter,” I remark, nodding my head towards the sauna outside. He chuckles, waving my comment off with the flick of his hand - or maybe he was waving off the steam from his coffee cup. I mentally shrug and carry on.
Bentley places the cup on the front counter, gesturing for me to do so as well. “Liam’s back in the storage room organizing, if you’d like to join him.”
Tilting my head over towards the storage room - the location I found him in the last time I was here, although it was an awful brief visit. “I think I’m okay for now,” I say, sitting down on a stool at the end of one of the small aisles, closest to where Bentley is. “I haven’t visited with you in a while.”
He grins, and his nose wrinkles. “You don’t have to be so sweet to me, Lib,” he replies, shaking his hand at me. “You can save that for someone else.” When he says that, his eyes wander behind him and at the figure standing behind him at the storage closet door.
Liam lets go a crooked smile, walking up to us with a box in his hands. “Hey Libby,” he calls, moving past me to the aisle I’m leaning against.
“Hi,” I smile, twirling in my seat to face him. “I brought you a coffee.”
He carefully drops the box onto the ground and his brows shoot up in surprise as he straightens and turns back to me. After seeing the proof in my hands, he gives me a sheepish smile and gingerly take the warm cup out of my hand. “Thanks.”
I kick him playfully in the shin, and he looks down, befuddled. “What?” I ask, suddenly insecure.
He laughs one of those one-syllable laughs, and nods toward my heels. “Didn’t peg you as a pumps kind of girl.”
I feel my cheeks rush with heat, and I automatically take a sip of my coffee in an attempt to hide it. “Uh,” I mumble, sitting my cup back onto my lap, “number, um, two: Wears heels for an entire day.”
He nods in understanding, he giving me another crooked smile before taking a sip of his coffee and setting it down on the floor adjacent to the box. “So you like your coffee black, too?” he comments as he bends down and grabs a fistful of CDs of all sorts from the box.
Watching as he travels through the aisles, knowing exactly where each of them go, I reply, “How else?” He laughs at this, glancing at me as he goes to the aisle on the other side of me.
The phone rings at the front counter, and I watch Bentley as he answers the phone - “Juke Box Hero, Bentley speaking.” - and listens to the caller with a formal expression on his face. When he hangs up, Liam’s standing beside me.
“What is it?” Liam asks, concern written all over his face. Could he read Bentley that well - without him having to even speak? My lips purse, envy seeping out of my pores. Thinking back on that thought, my nose shrivels up in disgust. Envy seeping out of my pores? Who thinks that?
Bentley saves me from my disturbing thoughts. “Yeah, yeah,” he waves Liam off. “I just need to meet Debby and Jere - her car broke down.”
Liam’s face falls. “I should come, too,” he says, turning back to the nearly-empty box on the floor and picking it up. “Jere might need me.”
Bentley doesn’t even have to think about it. “No.”
Liam nearly trips over his feet. He looks over at him, flabbergasted. “What?”
Bentley isn’t fazed. “No. You’re staying here - I need an employee to stay while I’m away, and you’re the only one.”
Liam looks torn. He knows that he has to stay, but he really wants to be there for his kid. “It’s almost a hundred degrees outside!” he seems to find as an excuse. “They’re going to get heat stroke or something.”
“Which,” Bentley says with a grunt as he slides himself onto the floor (as him being quite short), “shows how fast I need to get outta here and to them A.S.A.P., instead of arguing with you."
Liam frowns, but he let’s the subject go. “Be careful,” he calls, and I offer my own goodbye as he walks out the door with three cool waterbottles from some ice chest that must be beneath the counter.
After a few seconds of him being gone, I purse my lips and graze my eyes around the place again. To my surprise, I find something new: Band posters taped onto the ceiling, almost as if they are in some sort of collage. “This place is amazing,” the words slip from my thoughts and out of my mouth.
From the corner of my eye, I see Liam watching me with a smile on his face. “Yeah. Believe it or not, it hasn’t changed a bit since I’ve started working here.”
Nodding, I part my gaze away from the ceiling and look at him. “How old were you when you began?”
He hesitates, as if unsure how I will take the truth. “Fourteen.”
I nod, and say what needs to be said: “You know that you can tell me anything, and it’s physically impossible for me to judge you, right?” He just looks at me, as if I’m making no sense at all. “I kissed you in friggin’ Times Square out of nowhere, and-”
“And I can’t thank you enough for doing that for me,” he finishes my sentence, him walking over to me and giving me a sheepish grin.
I tilt my head. “For you?” He nods, his lips pursed. He continues his journey to me. “I thought it was for me.”
Shaking his head, he holds out his hand for me, and I pause before I take it in mine. “You saved my life,” he said, and for a second it doesn’t make sense. He walks me away from the stool I was sitting on, me stepping delicately onto the floor with my stupid heels that I have to keep on. “I was fired from Juke’s that day,” he explains, giving me a nervous look, and continuing to lead me to God-knows-where in the store.
I wait patiently as he tries to get the story straight in his mind.
“And I thought that was it - that that was the end of my life. I was trying to work out everything that had happened just a few minutes before while on my way home when, suddenly, I saw this strange girl staring at me,” he says, giving me a knowing look. My cheeks warm. “And I thought: What the hell is she looking at?” We laugh, our voices intertwining in the air around us. We continue to walk. “But then you’re right there, but closer this time. And I started having these crazy thoughts, and-”
“Like what?” I interrupt.
He looks at me funny. “Huh?”
I grin. “What kind of ‘crazy thoughts?’”
His lips roll inside his mouth and he shrugs. “Crazy thoughts.”
My eyes narrow at him. “Liam.” He looks at me, all innocent. “Please tell me.”
He groans. “Why do you keep asking me like this?”
“Like what?” I ask, suddenly being the one all-innocent. He laughs.
“Whatever. I was thinking about-” he pauses. Sighing, he says, squeezing my hand in his, “how your lips would taste.”
My heart drops to my stomach, and it warms up. My tummy is officially warm, and I can’t even imagine what my face looks right now. I squeeze back. “Well, I guess you found out, huh?” I kid, and he nods with a shy smile on his face.
“Anyways,” he continues, “when you kissed me... it felt like everything was going to be okay. So,” he says, stopping in front of a closed door, “I have you to thank. Libby Earnest, you are officially a life saver.”
“So I can check number twenty-eight off my list?” I ask playfully, trying to make the mood lighter.
“Which one is that?” he asks, dropping my hand and reaching for the doorknob to the closed door.
“Make a stranger smile.”
He nods. “Definitely.” Motioning with his hand to come with him, he opens the door and I walk into a room that I’ve always dreamed of having. “Pick one - any one.”
“To have?” I ask, narrowing my eyes at him.
His face almost goes white. “Heh, um, no, to play.” I nod, feeling not-so anxious about my choice of which record to pick. I scan over the diverse record albums that are splayed out on the ground. Liam runs his hand through his hair, as if as a nervous, habitual twitch. “Sorry they’re so messy. Bentley always nags me to organize this room, but I never do.”
I shrug, kneeling down on the ground so that I can pick one easier. Finally making my selection, I hand him the album and he cocks his head at me as he takes it into his posession. “What?” I ask, setting my hands defensively on my hips.
“You’re a Beatles fan?” he asks, his tone almost disbelieving.
I nod, shutting off the light in the small room and closing the door behind us. “Yes?”
He looks at the back cover, scanning over the songs. “Which song is your favorite.”
I look at him accusingly. “You can’t do that!”
He smirks. “Of course I can.”
Weighing out my options for a few seconds, he walks in front of me and over towards one of the sample record players they have in the corner of their store. Finally picking one, I open my mouth to say it when he says, “Please tell me it’s not Here Comes The Sun.”
I look at him as if he’s insane - which he clearly is since he’s asking that question. “What if it is?”
He turns back to look at me, walking backwards as he says, “It’s so cliche! Almost every person from the twenty-first century says that that’s their favorite song, most likely because it’s the only song they actually know.”
I groan in frustration. “You can’t just say that, Liam - you’re judging people without even knowing them. And what if it is my favorite song of theirs? Are you going to judge me and say that I’m not a true Beatles fan?”
His expression falls, and he fumbles with his words. “Uh- I- um... no.”
“And why?” I ask, a triumphant stare slowly coming to my eyes.
“Because,” he says, his voice strained. He stops in his tracks right before he was going to bump into the table holding the player, running another nervous hand through his light brown hair. “Because you’e you, Lib! I can’t explain it in any other way than that. I don’t even know your favorite color, but I know that you’re genuine, and I think that’s what matter the most.”
My triumphant expression fades, and is replaced with one that is open and honest. One that is confused, but not with the person standing in front of me - no, it’s one that is confused with myself and my true emotions. Without a word, I hold my hand out and he hands me the album, looking at me with confused eyes as I move past him towards the record player.
Setting everything into place, I get the player in motion, and one of their slower songs come on - Here Comes the Sun. My heart beating hard against my chest, I walk to Liam’s side of the table and hold out my hand. “Dance with me.”
Without a second to spare, his hand is in mine and pulling me towards him slowly, as I am going the fastest I can in these heels. This morning when I was putting them on, I had thought I was going to be the same height as him (finally), but I turned out not to be even close. His other hand slides to the small of my back, light as a feather, as if scared to hurt me in the slightest bit.
I squeeze his hand, reassuring him that he doesn’t have to be so gentle with me - doesn’t have to be so stiff. “It’s okay,” I whisper, as we are less than a foot apart from each other. My hand rests on the back of his neck, and I’m for once happy that I’m wearing the friggin’ heels - I can actually reach it without straining to.
“I know,” he whispers back, pulling me closer. I smile, and when he starts singing along with the lyrics, I laugh. “C’mon,” he says, his voice full with smiles, “sing with me.”
After he sings a few more notes, I join in with him, us barely even dancing anymore, but more like holding each other close - my head lying on his chest, and his head resting on top of mine - and swaying side-to-side. And that’s okay, because I can’t imagine anything even close to what I’d rather be doing at this moment, than with Liam, dancing to the one and only Beatles.
Together, we sing, ”‘It’s alright,’” and I can’t think of anything more suiting for this moment. Everything, for once, is alright. Right now, I can feel my own personal sun shining within me.