Hey, guys! If you’re loving my story ‘Really’, I have the extended version on Dreame called ‘Practice Kissing with the Bad Boy’. Do check it out :)
NEW YORK CITY
“Well?” Hallee came right in, bombarding my personal space as soon as I’d stepped out of the auditorium lobby.
Her eyes were wide, full of hope and expectancy. I gave her a small, sad smile and sighed, “I didn’t get in,”
“Aw, man! Are you serious? I really thought you had it in the bag. I mean, the Juilliard admission was all over you, flying you out to New York City for a damn audition too,”
“Meh, it’s okay. I’ll get it next time,”
It really was nice of the Juilliard Academy to fly me all the way over here for an audition into their selective conservatory program. A representative of the school saw my graduation piece at UCLA and she loved it so much, she came to me after the show to talk about the possibility of me having a future in New York City—Broadway and all that jazz.
I never even thought that something like this would be an option. So of course, I took her up on her offer and flew three thousand miles east to do the audition. Hallee was nice enough to let me stay with her in her studio apartment, and she even took the time to go with me to the audition for moral support.
“I’m really sorry, Tay. But, don’t worry too much about it. If it’s meant to be, it will be, that’s my motto nowadays,” Hallee smiled brightly.
“Wow, look at you all mature and accepting,” I gave her a dry laugh.
“Breaking up with your boyfriend of four years over a long distance phone call can do that to a girl,”
“That really sucks. I really did think you guys were gonna make it. I mean, if anyone can handle long distance relationships, I figured it’d be you two,”
“Yeah, me too. But it’s out of my control now. I’m letting the universe decide. Maybe someday we’ll find each other again, who knows,” she shrugged and sighed longingly.
I was just looking at her, and she looked back at me. Raising one eyebrow up, she then said, “What? You don’t agree with me?”
“I don’t know, Hals,” I shook my head, “I just happen to believe that love is a choice we make. You have to make choices and sacrifices for it to work. We can’t just leave it up to chance,”
She threw her head up to the sky and let out another sigh as she said, “Maybe you’re right. But I’m at a point right now where I can’t force it anymore. I’m tired. He’s tired. We’re all out of sacrifices,”
Long distance relationships could be a real bitch. Judah and I had a taste of that for the past two years, me being in Los Angeles and him in San Francisco. To be fair, those two places were only a four-hour drive away. We would make time and see each other on the weekends, but still. I was spending all of my days just counting down the hours to the next time that we would meet. All our energies were focused on making plans for phone calls or plans for weekend drives, and they could really take a toll on a relationship.
Thankfully that was all but over now. We’re graduating in a few weeks and Judah’s secured himself an internship at a top architecture company in L.A. Finally, we’re gonna be together again, and I’m beyond ecstatic. I mean, that’s all I ever wanted in the first place. Judah and I, together in the same place.
“I’m sorry for you and Jesse,” I said to her after a while of silence, since that was all that I could say for now.
“Yeah, and I’m sorry for the stupid Juilliard audition too. I know you’re trying to be all cool and cavalier about being rejected, but I’m here for you if you need me. Alcohol, ice cream, or sad movies, whatever it is, I’m your girl,” she replied with a soft nudge to my elbow.
“Thanks Hals, but I’ll be okay. There’s gonna be so many more auditions I’m gonna flunk in my lifetime anyway. I’m well prepared for that. And I’m just glad that you’ll always be there for me no matter what,”
“Aw!” Hallee pouted and gave me a weak shove, “If only you weren’t taken and I’m not so goddamn straight, we’d be perfect for each other,”
“Wow, talk about being desperate,”
“Just kidding! I’m not that far gone. I mean, hey, if Gabe Serrano could get his heart broken twice in one summer and still get back on his feet, I know I can too,”
“That’s the spirit,” I beamed at her.
“I heard he’s dating this tough-looking chick, Sera or Serava or something, I don’t know this girl, do you know this girl?”
“Ava. Yeah. She’s... cool,”
I couldn’t help but smile seeing how things worked mysteriously and marvelously for the both of them.
“Look at that, Taya Williams knows more about the gossip in town more than me. The East Coast had really screwed me over,”
“Oh shut up, you love it here,”
“Yeah, I do,” she laughed brightly and paused for a moment before saying, “Man, I really was hoping you’d get it so you can move to New York City and I can have my best friend here with me,”
“Yeah,” I sighed and swallowed hard, “me too,”
I couldn’t lie, living in New York City as a resident Juilliard Academy performer would be a dream come true. I had only spent a few days in this city and I had never felt more alive.
Sure, at first, New York City smelled like a combination of a car’s exhaust, salty hot dogs, and pee. But once I was able to look past that, I realized that the New York air was filled with creativity and possibilities.
People were always on the grind. Buildings were tall and lights were bright. Parks were colorful and music was loud. Everything was always in motion here. There was never anything dull about the city, that’s for sure.
Best city in the world, they say.
But as amazing and full of wonder as the city was, it was greatly lacking in one department: the Judah department.
My hand went to check on my phone instinctively. With all the busy audition prep all morning long, I didn’t get a chance to talk to Judah at all.
Sadly, there was no new notifications on my phone and my heart sank to my feet.
“That’s weird, Judah’s never missed a ‘good morning’ text before,” I mumbled to myself.
“Call him,” Hallee said almost instantly. A weird, suspicious look was plastered on her face.
But before I could press her for anything else, she quickly stepped aside and said, “I’ll be right over there,”
I wanted to question Hallee further, but the line rang for a few times and I heard the call being picked up. My heart leapt up in excitement as I heard Judah’s soothing voice.
“Hey, how was the audition?”
Hearing his voice after a long day felt amazing. Seeing him and actually being able to interact with him face to face would be even better.
“I… sucked. They hated it. They said I wasn’t Juilliard material,” I groaned slightly into the phone.
Judah was quiet for a while, not saying anything, and somehow that got me feeling a little nervous.
“You got in, didn’t you?” he said finally, and I felt as if I had been struck by lighting.
“What? Didn’t you hear what I just said, I sucked,” I repeated myself.
“Liar. You got in. I can tell,” he stated firmly and confidently.
Shit on a stick. How did he know that?
I managed to fool Hallee who was face to face with me when I told her, but how could I not do the same thing with Judah over the phone?
“What? How did you know?” I sighed in defeat.
“Your hands can’t stop fidgeting when you lie. It’s your tell,”
“Well, how do you know my hands are… wait—”
Suddenly I realized that his voice wasn’t just over the phone, it felt much, much closer.
I whipped my head around instinctively, and there he was. Standing tall in all his handsome glory. My boyfriend.
I ran and leapt into him without a second thought. He even had to take a step back because I was coming after him with such force. He laughed softly as his arms went to cover me, and his chin rested gently on my head.
“What are you doing here?” I muttered into his chest. Although, I didn’t care much for the answer, I was just glad that he was here and not a figment of my imagination.
“Came to surprise my girl,” he said as if it was no big deal, “Took the red-eye flight so you wouldn’t notice I was gone. I got in this morning and waited ’til you’re done with your audition. Hallee told me you guys would be here,”
My body was melting into him. His words. His actions. How could I stand here with him and not be moved by him? It’s just plain impossible.
“Congratulations for getting in, by the way. You’re a goddamn star and I fucking knew it,” he said again as he tilted my chin up so that we’re looking at each other.
“How’d you know I was gonna get in?”
“Meh, just something called faith. I have a lot of ’em in you,”
“Why did you lie about getting in? Thought we said no more lies,” he narrowed his eyebrows, giving me a fake-judging look.
“It’s not a lie because… I’m not gonna go to Juilliard,” I stated.
“What? They’re only the best performing arts school in the States, if not the world. They offered you a full scholarship and a permanent place in their line-up. Why the hell not?” Judah pressed on as gripped my elbows firmly.
Honestly, I was impressed that he knew all that. Surely, he did his research.
“Because Juilliard’s not where you are,” I replied simply.
“It’s a two year program plus another year for performances. That’s 1,095 days without you by my side,”
“I’m tired of long distance phone calls and missed face time calls and not being able to see you whenever I want to. I want to stay in L.A. with you, spending all my days with you, and—”
“Taya,” he cut me off again, this time putting his index finger over my mouth to shut me up.
“What?” I murmured against his finger.
“Don’t be such a baby,”
“Just because we have to be apart from each other for a little bit more time, doesn’t mean our love’s gonna change. Go and chase whatever dream it is that you have. We’ll always find our way back to each other in the end,”
Judah had said all that with such conviction, as if he was certain of it. I, on the other hand, wasn’t buying it. What he said was nice and all, but I was always a realist. I knew that I must make some sacrifices for this to work between us. I wanted this to work more than anything, and I would do everything for that, including giving up this smelly and beautiful city.
“That’s one hell of a line, Judah, but I’ve made up my mind. I’m staying in L.A. with you and that’s final,”
“Taya, listen,” he paused for a beat before saying, “You will always have me, all of me, all of the time. Have some faith in that,”
“And if that’s not enough, maybe this will,”
Suddenly, he pulled out a small velvet box from his jacket pocket. With shaky hands, he opened the box and a small ring with bright blue stone was perched inside.
“What is this?” I gaped at him.
“Crazy story. You’re not gonna believe this. But I was walking around the Pier earlier, waiting for you to come out of your audition. I was bored, so I spent hours walking by the river. And suddenly, I saw this little thing stuck below the railings,”
He was laughing nervously as he picked the little ring out of the box and he was holding it between his thumb and index finger.
“It’s your favorite color too. It must be a sign from the universe,” he said again, meanwhile I just stared at him in wild confusion.
“Judah, is this…?” What I think it is?
“Go chase your dream. And I’ll be right with you,”
I was still trying my hardest to process everything when all of a sudden, he bent down and got on his knees. Looking up at me, he gave me his signature smile took my hand in his. At this point, I didn’t know how I was still standing and not melting into a puddle of goo at the sight of him.
“And once you’re done taking over the world, marry me,” he didn’t say it as if he was asking me, he’d simply stated it.
“In three years time, we’ll find a place to settle down together. I’ll build you a house. A castle. Anything you want. As long as we’re together ’till the end,”
“Judah… I…” My free hand went to cover my mouth that was hanging open in shock.
I wanted to say something clever, or just to say anything, but my brain wasn’t having it. It had literally flat lined.
“I’m not that bad of a boyfriend, and I think I’d make an even better husband. And who knows, maybe someday you’ll give me a chance to be an even better father,”
He killed me ten times over. And he wasn’t even done.
“So what’s it gonna be? Be my wife, or be my wife?” he said again, somewhat playfully, somewhat seriously. Typical Judah.
That was it. I had died and gone to Judah heaven.
“Judah, you know me. You know what my answer’s gonna be,” my voice cracked as tears began to trickle down my face.
“I know this is kinda crazy and unplanned. But when you know, you know. And I know. I’ve thought about building a home with you ever since we were seven years old and we played house together,” he said as he held hand even tighter this time.
“I know what my future’s gonna look like. Do you?” he said as he looked up at me, hanging on my every move.
With every bit of strength I had left, I said to him, “I do. Of course, I do,”
How could I not?
He blinked at me a few times before the biggest smile grew on his face. He slid the ring on my finger and it miraculously fitted me perfectly. The stone shone brightly against the sunlight and I just couldn’t contain it anymore.
It really was heaven sent.
I pulled Judah by his collar and he stood right up. Knowing exactly what I wanted, his lips crashed down right for mine. I felt like exploding into a million tiny pieces, but his strong arms were holding onto me tight, as if to say that I was secured.
Everyone, everywhere was always searching for something. Be it money, be it love, be it answers. We were always in wanting of something to better our lives or ourselves.
But me, right now, I don’t really want anything anymore.
I was holding and being held by the love of my life, standing together in the middle of the greatest city on earth. What else was there to want?
After our kiss, he would stare at me and just marvel at the sight. Then he would lean his forehead against mine, and he let out a breath of relief because he knew that he got me.
It would never be lost on me, how these simple actions could say so much. How lucky we both were to be able to have each other in this crazy, messed up world. And how we didn’t need to worry about what’s coming at us anymore, because what was in us was always stronger and greater than what was in the world.
Our love is our rock, the anchor in the roaring waves. It is light at the end of the haze. We’d be lost without it. So hold fast to it, and it shall set us free. It will give us perspective on what matters, what is true, and what is real.
And when it’s real, it’s real.
“It’s game over now,” he said as if he could read my mind, his breath softly hitting my cheeks.
“Yeah. And you know the best thing about it?”
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