Status: complete.

Follow My Heart

The Record Shop

Target isn’t as crowded as I thought it would be on a Saturday, and I get my business done quickly. I felt too guilty to ask Luke for some money before he left, even though half the stuff I buy is for the apartment we share, so I end up almost emptying my wallet by the time I’m done. I’ll admit, I buy a few things that aren’t on my mental list of necessities, but what can I say? Target has that effect on me.

After I drop the shopping bags off in my car, I decide I have nothing better to do than roam the area a bit. I can at least eat lunch at one of the local cafés before making any real plans for the day. I set off on a walk, strolling down the street casually, congratulating myself on getting some well-needed exercise.

I end up at a tiny record shop that I often frequented in my teenage years. Of course. As I said, I’ve always been a little crazy about music, and this particular shop has a special place in my heart because its owner was the one to introduce me to David Bowie.

If things don’t work out with Zeke, I’ll always have David to go back to, I think wryly as I push the heavy door open. A bell jingles somewhere overhead as I enter.

The owner I used to know and love is nowhere to be seen, but a dude about my age with gauges and a deep V-neck greets me from behind the counter. I wave back halfheartedly; I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him here before, but that doesn’t lessen my annoyance at him replacing my fond old geezer who always rambled at me about how, whatever band I was buying, he had seen them in concert.

After deciding that, even though there were two other patrons in the shop, I would be able to look at music in peace, I wander over to the CDs. I don’t bother even looking at records anymore now that my record player is gone, broken years ago in a fight between my brother and me. Still, I gaze at the shelves and shelves of vinyl longingly before returning my attention to the CDs.

I wander up the wall, starting with the Z’s and moving backwards, thumbing through almost every row of albums until I’m at the C’s, where I’m forced to stop because one of the other customers has placed himself resolutely in front of the A’s and B’s. I consider glaring at him until he moves, until I notice the tattoos on his arms.

My eyes shoot to his face.

I am absolutely certain that, at that very moment, my heart has ceased to beat.

He glances up at me quickly and then steps aside uneasily. “Sorry, am I in your way?”

I still can’t speak. I shake my head and move closer, pretending to examine every CD as it passes my fingers, while really I’m devoting every ounce of my attention to the petite man standing a foot away, reading the back of a CD. I listen to his every sound; the soft rush of air as it enters and exits his lungs, the scuffling of the carpet under his Toms; I can even imagine I hear the rustle of his hair as he flips it away from his face—adorable, to say the least.

Then the soft clearing of his throat. I look at him inconspicuously, wondering if the sound was directed at me, and my heart does a flip when I realize that it was. He shuffles forward, leaning around me to put the CD back in its place on the shelf. I hold my breath, imagining I can smell him as he stands so close, his perfect hair barely an inch from my face. It’s getting too real, he’s actually here, by himself, daring me to make a move but I’m stuck and I can’t fucking move, can’t make a sound—

Don’t be a teenage girl, I scold myself as he leans back again, ready to walk do a different section of the store, away from me. Talk to him!

So I shove aside the nervousness. I shove aside the feeling of my heart ready to explode from my chest and the fact that my brain is completely frozen. I shove aside the absolute ridiculousness of the situation, and my new suspicion that God is looking after me after all. I shove aside everything so wrong, and so right, with this situation, and quickly look at the CD case he was reading the back of.

I don’t recognize the cover, but as soon as I read the words Follow My Heart, everything settles into place in my mind.

“So, you, uh.” I clear my throat. “You like Automatic Gunfire?”

Zeke glances at me as he moves around me, going down the wall of CDs. He begins flipping through the D’s as he answers. “Yeah, they’re okay. Not really my taste, but most of my friends love them.”

Wow. Not the answer I was expecting, but I press on. “They’re one of my favorite bands.”

He shrugs, skinny shoulders rising and falling under the sleeves of his navy blue T-shirt, and after a moment says, “Yeah, I figured as much from your shirt.”

I look down in horror, and the realization hits me like a blow to the stomach.

I put on my fucking Automatic Gunfire T-shirt this morning without even realizing.

I laugh nervously. Maybe I can still save this conversation. “Yeah, like I said. Love the band. Real inspiring stuff.”

He’s at the G’s now, picking up a Grateful Dead album and examining it. He’s barely glanced at me the whole time we’ve been talking, which admittedly hasn’t been long. Still, it reminds me painfully of the even shorter interaction we had the night before. “Inspiring?” he says now, uninterestedly, and I notice for the first time how hoarse his voice is. “Nah. It’s mostly bullshit. I think so, at least, but maybe that’s because I don’t see things from the perspective of the songwriter.”

A slight frown creases my forehead. I’ve always assumed Zeke writes all the songs, though now that I look back on it, it was always other members of the band discussing the lyrics’ meanings in interviews. Come to think of it, Zeke hardly talked in interviews at all. No wonder his speaking voice sounds so strange to me, though no doubt the last night’s concert and partying have something to do with it as well.

“Maybe,” I agree with him now, running my fingers absentmindedly over an old copy of Yellow Submarine. “It inspires the fans, anyway.”

He gives a short, dry laugh that I don’t like much at all. “I’ll bet it does.” He gives me a cursory glance before putting the Grateful Dead down and moving on to the H’s, then quickly on to the I’s. “But you’re a fan. Does it inspire you?”

I don’t answer for a few seconds, debating on whether or not to say it, and then throwing all caution to the wind and answering in what I hope is a nonchalant voice, “I guess, but I think I mostly like them because they’re singer’s gorgeous.”

I watch carefully as he stiffens up, his hands resting over where I theorize that Korn’s discography is stacked. His dark locks cover his face, so I have no way of knowing whether or not the cat is out of the bag. I’m barely breathing as he puts his arms down at his sides, rubbing his palms over the thighs of his jeans uneasily. He looks like he’s a wild animal about to be attacked, and I wonder if maybe the comment was a little too brash, too offhand. It certainly doesn’t do him justice, the word “gorgeous.”

Well, only one thing to do now.

“The show was great last night, by the way.”

His head whips up and now I can see his face, his wide brown eyes, features pale in the sunlight streaming in through the shop’s windows, completely shocked.

Then he blinks.

Then, though I hadn’t thought it possible, his eyes widen even more and he begins stammering, “Oh, fuck—you’re—um, you’re—I saw you, I met you, I remember—oh, God, you’re—”

“Seth,” I help him out.

“Shit, yes! Seth, Seth, Freddy’s brother, Seth! Oh my gosh, how could I forget?” he gushes, and I notice with raised eyebrows the pinkish hue now rising to his cheeks. “I’m so sorry, man, I just—I swear, it’s not you, I’m just not good with faces and I don’t really remember a lot about last night, I started drinking almost right after the show—”

I find myself actually laughing at his flustered state, both because I find it funny and for the sheer cuteness of it all. “Don’t worry about it, dude,” I grin. “I get it. You meet a lot of people, it’s hard to remember everyone.”

“Yeah, but you—well, I mean, you were backstage and everything, and your brother said you were a fan. Thought sure I could remember—but never mind!” He grows redder and redder as he stutters through his apology, and he doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands, and luckily for him he’s spared by the young employee behind the counter.

“You two gonna buy something? If not, take your little reunion somewhere else.”

I glare at the guy, but my heart soars as Zeke gestures to me with his head to follow him out. I do so, giving the shopkeeper a last scowl as the door closes behind us with a last jangle of the bells.

Then we’re standing outside, on the sidewalk, surrounded by other shoppers that are forced to go around us as we face each other. I can’t stop watching him; my eyes refuse to stop taking in and analyzing every single feature they can find. I see the way his eyes sparkle and pupils shrink in the sun, the curl of hair resting slightly over his left eyebrow, the freckle on his jawline, the pink, oh-so-bite-able lips parted slightly, perfectly. Everything about him is perfect, so perfect it takes away my breath.

I also notice the way he almost cringes when I look him directly in the eye, and that his hand drifts up to clutch the opposite arm the same way it did when I met him last night, and that he seems to almost double over slightly, shyly.

He avoids my gaze for a few seconds, his eyes drifting to the shop windows next to us, and then bites his lip and looks down contemplatively. My stomach twists; I wonder suddenly if he’s about to tell me to fuck off. After all, I was pretty forward with him back in the record shop, not to mention the teensiest bit manipulative. I wouldn’t blame him for never wanting to see me again.

Then, still staring at the ground, he says in a low, uncomfortable voice, “So, uh. Automatic Gunfire’s singer is gorgeous, huh?”

I try to remember how to breathe. “Pretty much,” I somehow answer. “Uh . . .” I have to clear my throat. Apparently neither of us is very good at flirting. “More than gorgeous. From what I’ve seen onstage, pretty damn talented as well.”

He looks up at me then, and I can’t fathom why he looks so sad.

I must have done something wrong. I begin to panic. I am too forward. I bet he’s not even gay, just because he kissed goddamn Joel onstage doesn’t mean he’s a homo, and now he’s trying to think of a way to turn me down but he’s too nice to just come right out and say it—

“Gorgeous and talented enough to get your number?” he asks in a very small voice.

It’s so adorable my heart breaks right then and there. I laugh out loud; I can’t contain it any longer, and though I sincerely hope that it doesn’t offend him, I laugh for a whole fifteen seconds, practically crying with joy. It’s not actually funny, of course; god, no, this is one of the most serious things I’ve ever done in my life. I’m just so fucking happy.

When I’ve calmed down enough to meet Zeke’s eyes again, there is no trace of laughter in them. He’s staring at me with a mixture of so many different emotions that it’s hard to pinpoint just one; there’s hurt, offense, concern, disappointment, and maybe just a hint of fear.

“Darling,” I pant finally, placing my hands on his bony shoulders. “I’d give you my parents’ fucking home address if you asked for it.”

His face finally breaks into a smile, albeit a weak one, and he digs out his phone from his back pocket and readies to enter my number.
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