Status: complete.

Follow My Heart


Luke!” I shriek, no longer caring how feminine I sound as I slam the apartment door behind me with unnecessary force. I’m just so excited—no, excited is too weak a word. Ecstatic. Blissful. Elated.

“You are not going to fucking believe what happened!” I crow, throwing down my shopping bags and messenger bag and looking around the apartment for my roommate, on cloud fucking nine and ready to share the joy with my best friend.

Huh. He’s nowhere to be seen. I groan and throw myself onto the couch and kick my legs in the air, too overwhelmingly thrilled to keep still. I need to tell someone about this; how am I supposed to wait for Luke to get home?! My fingers inch toward my phone in my pocket although I know that Luke is probably still at the newspaper offices, getting coffee and rescheduling appointments for his jerk boss Avery. I throw myself to my feet, deciding to call my brother, even though I know he’ll have a million lectures waiting for me. I just need to get this out there to someone.

That’s when I hear the soft but unmistakable sound coming from Luke’s room.

I slowly put the iPhone back in my pocket, staring at the slightly cracked bedroom door worriedly. Then I begin to make my way to the door cautiously, biting my lip in concern.

When I push it open quietly, there’s Luke, still in his shirt and tie, sitting on his knees and curling in on himself on the bed, shaking with sobs. He clutches a crumpled-up tissue in his hand. His glasses lay abandoned on the quilt next to him.

“Oh, no,” I murmur, though I have absolutely no clue what’s happened. Every trace of excitement from a moment before has vanished, leaving a gaping hole in its place. I quickly join my roommate on the bed and wrap both arms around him.

“Shh, shh, it’s all right . . .” I had no idea whether it was all right or not. “What’s the matter, Luke?” What could be so bad? I rarely see Luke cry; I’m always the emotional one, and he’s there to comfort me, to explain how it’s no big deal, how life goes on, how I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe that wouldn’t be good advice for most people caught in a whirlwind of emotion, but whenever I get too upset about something I always need to be told that I’m overreacting. That it will all be over soon.

Something tells me that, whatever Luke’s problem is, it won’t be all over soon. If it there is any chance it would, he wouldn’t be such a mess.

“Seth,” he chokes out, clutching handfuls of my shirt in his fists. “I—I lost the internship.”

“What?! But—no way. But why?”

He shakes his head, burying his face in my shoulder and bawling harder than ever. I rub his shoulder, confused and worried. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him this upset before.

When he can finally breathe, though not without the occasional hiccup, he manages, “It was my fault—it was all my fault—if I’d just kept my stupid mouth shut I would still have a chance of being on the paper—” He pauses suddenly and wipes his eyes. I grab a few more tissues from the box on the dresser, anything to be of help. “I just—don’t get mad, okay?”

I furrow my brow, more confused than ever. “I won’t, I promise. What happened?”

He blows his nose one last time and finally gets it out. Everything comes out in a rush, and he won’t meet my eye. “For the last couple weeks Avery’s been—well, a little creepy, I guess. It wasn’t a big deal or anything, he never touched me, but, well, there were a lot of . . . comments.”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “Your boss was harassing you?” I’ve always known Avery was a jerk, even though I’ve never met the guy. Luke always comes home after long hours of pointless work, frustrated and exhausted by the ridiculous chores his boss forces him to do, day in and day out. But still. I never thought he would sink this low, never even considered the fact that he could be of a similar persuasion to Luke and me.

“I don’t know . . . Yeah, I guess harassment is pretty accurate.” Luke laughs without a trace of humor. “Like I said, it wasn’t a big deal, not really, but it started getting more frequent the last few days and . . . I just . . .” He’s starting to choke up again. I rub comforting circles on his back, trying and failing to suppress the anger building up in my chest. “I just couldn’t take it anymore!” he cries, covering his face with his hands.

“But why did they kick you out if you didn’t do anything? You were a victim, for god’s sake! If anything, they should have fired that disgusting scumbag of a boss for what he did to you.”

He nods. “Yeah, I thought so too. But he’s a big name in journalism, Seth—way bigger than I imagined when I reported him.”

Now I let go of him, clenching my hands into fists, my fingernails digging into my palms painfully. This is too much. It’s ridiculous, it’s crazy, it’s fucked up and I’m not going to stand for it.

I push myself off the bed and march towards the door, ready to go right down to the paper’s headquarters and give Avery a piece of my mind. And if he won’t listen, so much the better—all the more of an excuse for me to beat the living shit out of him.

Luke knows exactly what I’m doing. “No, Seth!” He jumps up and grabs my hand, tugging me back. “Please, you have to understand. There’s nothing you can do. Just let it go, it won’t even be a big deal in a few days, we’re just upset and overreacting—”

“I don’t care!” I whirl around, not meaning to yell but it’s just all too fucking much. “I don’t care if it’s your boss or a random guy on the street. If anyone ever says anything degrading to you, I’m gonna kick their ass.”

“Please.” Luke folds his hands below his chin, an actual pleading gesture. “If you ever want me to get a job at any paper in the city, you’ll let this go.”

I stand completely still, staring at him contemplatively, anger still raging through my veins but now accompanied by a hint of logic.

It’s Luke’s dream to be a reporter for a big-time news company. He’s been after a job on the press that he’s just gotten fired from for months, and now he’ll have to start from square one. Do I really want to jeopardize all that by throwing a tantrum in front of one of the “big names in journalism” as Luke put it?

I sigh and let my shoulders slump. Luke blows out a breath as well and lets go of my hand, settling back to sit on the bed. After a few seconds he begins to undo the knot in his tie.

watch him for a few seconds as he goes to his closet to hang up his tie and belt. He has his entire wardrobe arranged, an organizational habit I wouldn’t be able to pick up if I tried. He doesn’t lift his head once as he unbuttons his shirt and throws it in the hamper in the corner, and then hangs his khakis carefully, professionally. He’s staring ahead, trancelike, as he goes about the automatic business of changing. He looks so dejected, so hopeless. Beaten.

Nauseated just from watching my roommate suffer and angry at my inability to help him in any way, I storm from the room, slamming the door behind me. Even with the barrier between us, I can hear him let out a defeated breath he’s been holding.


“Wow.” Luke manages to look impressed as he sips from his can of Mango Mint Magic green tea. “So you actually gave him your number.”

I toss my iPhone A.K.A. my new best friend into the air and catch it deftly. Although I know Zeke isn’t likely to call until at least tomorrow, the phone hasn’t left my side in the eight hours since my little reunion with the vocalist at the record shop. I haven’t even set it down on a table, keeping it in my pocket, on vibrate and with the volume turned up halfway. I still can’t help but check it constantly for missed calls or text messages, but so far: zilch.

“Yep,” I answer my friend simply, unlocking the phone for the tenth time in five minutes. Maybe I should have gotten Zeke’s phone number in return after all. He told me with a friendly sparkle in his eye that he didn’t give out his number to just anyone, especially not guys he just met. He’s had to change his number more than once because one of his friends messed up and gave it to a fan.

“And he didn’t run away screaming when you said you’d give him your parents’ address?” asks Luke incredulously.

I giggle gleefully, like a child hiding a poorly-kept secret. “Nope. Just laughed and said I’d be hearing from him soon.”

“Wow,” Luke repeats, his eyebrows raised. He stares down at his half-eaten salad. I’m too excited to eat anything, but Luke made me order something anyway since we came out all this way.

After my roommate recovered shakily from his afternoon trauma, I suggested we go down to Fording and grab a bite to eat. He agreed, wanting to get out of the house as much as I did. It’s no coincidence that the café we’re currently indulging ourselves at is right across the street from the used record shop I just visited earlier.

For some reason Luke doesn’t look as enthused as I think he should about my triumphs. I pout at him across the table. “What? Aren’t you happy for me?”

Okay, so maybe I’m not being the most sensitive friend right now. I know that Luke probably thought, when I first proposed that we go out for dinner, that it was to take his mind off of his problems at the paper and have a little fun. Maybe he thought we would go bowling afterwards, or wander around the park people-watching and laughing at the couples making out by the pond. That’s why it’s so fun having other single friends.

Which is probably why he’s looking so unhappy that my real intent in dragging him out here was to give him the whole miraculous story on how I’d met Zeke earlier that day.

He looks up at me now, and the hurt shines through his features clearly. “I mean, yeah.” He shifts in his chair. “I guess I’m happy for you, Seth, but . . . I dunno. It’s stupid.”

But I know exactly what’s on his mind, just as he so often knows what’s on mine. “You think if things go well with Zeke I’ll forget about you.”

He shrugs, looking sheepish and sad. “Kind of. I mean, I know you won’t forget about me. You’re not that heartless. I just know how relationships take up a lot of people’s time . . . and, um . . .” He takes a breath and says, slowly and painstakingly, “I don’t want to be left all by myself again, Seth.”

My heart pangs at his words. I remember when we first decided to live together, when he told me, in a sad voice much like the one he’s using now, that his old roommate had moved in with her boyfriend and left him. Before that, one of his best friends from high school moved across the country for the job of a lifetime. His own father left the house and never came back when Luke was just a baby. Let’s face it; no one would blame the guy for having a few abandonment issues.

I breathe out a slow sigh and reach across the table for Luke’s hand, not caring who sees us or whether anyone I know is in the café. Most of the people who know me already think I’m dating Luke, anyway. “Listen,” I say quietly, refusing to break eye contact. “No matter who I hang out with, or date, or even move in with, I will never leave you by yourself. You’re my best friend; I wouldn’t do that to you. Okay?” I offer him a small smile.

He smiles weakly in return and takes back his hand to finish his salad.

“Besides,” I continue in a normal tone, leaning back and ignoring the untouched sandwich on the table in front of me. “You’re a fucking catch, dude. You’ll probably get a guy way before I ever will.”

He snorts around a mouthful of lettuce and dried cranberries. “Yeah, right. From what you’ve told me about your conversation with Zeke, I’d say at the very least a few dates are in order.”

“Eh.” I shrug. “Maybe.”

“Who knows? Maybe this guy will be special. The one who can finally make you commit.”

I don’t reply, instead picking the bacon from my sandwich and chewing it thoughtfully.

Yeah. Maybe Zeke will be the one. I already know he’s special; how many amazingly talented singers with bands on multinational tours have you ever known? But that’s not to say he’ll be able to keep my interest any longer than my past failures, who to this day I am ashamed to refer to as my exes. Just because he’s in a band doesn’t make him the messiah. After all, Freddy tells me that most musicians are just like normal people.

And normal people just aren’t enough for me anymore.
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