Insomnia

He’s a visiting musician, she’s lived in the city her whole life. He has millions of adoring fans, she has none. He can’t sleep at night and neither can she. In the city that never sleeps, neither do they.

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2. // part ii

jasmine // p a r t  ii

I glance at the clock longingly, only to be greeted with a feeling of disappointment as I realize that it’s still forty-five minutes until my lunch break. I shoot a longing look out of the window at the Starbucks across the road, my need for my favoured caramel Frappuccino becoming overwhelming. Today is promising to be just as hot as yesterday.

I wouldn’t mind working at my mother’s music shop – music is my biggest passion, after all – but we hardly ever get customers. Muso’s Garage, despite being the only music store in the minor area of Manhattan it vacates, rarely ever gets customers. Every visitor seems to merely browse, doing a quick circuit of the shop before leaving. It is incredibly disheartening.

It hasn’t always been like this. For about a month after my father passed away, customers were regular and the shop would be bustling with people coming to pay their respects and purchase something. Mostly, it was out of pity and not because they actually required any of our stock. But still, the rise in income was enough to cover the funeral costs at least.

My stomach churns with a nostalgic pang at the thought of my father. The wound is still fresh; grief still claws at my eyes and throat and writhes in the empty space where my stomach and heart used to be at unexpected moments. Trying to overcome it is like trying to walk with a broken leg. But unlike a broken leg, which will heal in time, longing for my father would always haunt my broken heart.

I choke back the tears which start to burn threateningly behind my eyes and busy myself rearranging a stand of music sheets into alphabetical order. By the time they are all neatly ordered, I have composed myself.

“Mum?” I call out into the rear of the shop, where my mother will inevitably be typing away on the computer to our supplier or tuning a new stock of guitars.

“Hmm?” I hear the muffled reply.

“Can I leave for my lunch break early? Only it’s a nice day outside and I want some air.”

“Sure, honey,” she says softly, emerging in the doorway. She hovers there, clutching a thick wad of paper work. “Make sure you’re back by two, though. I think I can hold the fort until then.”

I smile at her in agreement and spin on my heel, striding towards the doorway. But a wave of warm air floods into the room as someone opens the door before I can.

I consider exiting the shop quickly and letting my mother deal with the customer, but as my gaze shifts over the dark-haired boy before me, I decided to stay. He has headphones stuffed in his ears and is adorned in basic attire – a plain white t-shirt hugging his lean, chiselled figure. He looks vaguely familiar, and thanks to my best friend Stella, I’m able to identify him as social media prodigy and Calum Styles’ close friend, Shawn Mendes.

I blink at the unexpected visitor for a second. He must have wandered in here by accident. Like I said, customers are rare in Muso’s Garage – let alone famous punters.

“Um...can I help you?” I stutter.

He withdraws the headphones from his ears and paused for a second, his gaze lingering on me for a second too long. I take the chance to study him in more detail; taking in his wide hazel eyes and thick eyelids, rosy cheeks and an air of easy confidence. I feel myself shrinking a little in his presence.

“Do you work here?” he says in a thick accent.

I nod slightly, my mind wandering to why my mother let Stella have the day off in order to help host her younger sister’s birthday party. I can guarantee she would much rather be freaking out over Shawn Mendes than herding a group of hyper seven year olds to pin the tail on the donkey. “Yeah.”

He smiles at me and shoves his hands in the pockets of his jeans. I frown slightly. It’s far too hot out for jeans.

“I...um,” he fumbles over his words. “I was wandering. Do you sell guitar plectrums here?”

So he did actually intend on entering Muso’s, instead of stumbling in here by accident like most of our customers do. What’s more, he wants to buy something. And it’s not out of pity because my father died recently.

“We do,” I say, smiling slightly. “We have a whole range of selections over there. Sixty cents each or six for three dollars.”

I gesture towards the display and he grins at me gratefully, sauntering over to our vibrant collection of plectrums. I loiter around the doorway, eying the coffee shop across the road desperately.

“I always lose my picks,” he announces, scattering a handful across the counter. I run up to the till and ring up the items for him.

“Me too,” I agree vaguely as he hands me some change.

“But you have a whole stock here so it’s no big deal if you lose them, surely?” he protests lightly.

I laugh. “As if my mother would let me take the stock for free.”

“Oh, it’s a family business?” he inquires.

I gulp feverishly. “Um...yeah. Just me and my mum.”

He frowns and nods solemnly, his gaze somehow understanding. I stuff the plectrums into a small paper bag and hand it to him.

“Make sure you don’t lose them this time,” I joke. “They’re the finest picks in Manhattan!”

He laughs and takes the bag from me, his warm fingers brushing over mine briefly. My stomach churns and something unidentifiable flickers over his soft brown irises.

“I’ll certainly be more careful,” he grins. “Thanks.”

He turns around and a sudden urge to chase after him and ask for his autograph (for Stella, of course) rises within me. He’s almost by the door by the time I find the courage to make the request.

I open my mouth to speak, but he pauses by a display of brochures and leaflets. They’re advertisements by singing teachers, music tutors and invites to small gigs in the area – most of which have been there for months. Shawn stops and picks one up to investigate, rolling the thin paper between his long fingers.

I recognize it instantly and my stomach flips again. The most recent advertisement was put up by me. An invite to my gig.

I gulp and take hesitant steps to where Shawn in standing, reading the brochure with his brow furrowed.

“Is this you?” he asks, indicating to the small, pixelated image of me in the bottom corner of the leaflet. It was taken a while ago, by my father. I’m clutching a microphone and looking at the crowd with a nervous gaze, like the intoxicated audience were going to strictly judge my short set instead of overlook it.

Heat prickles on my cheeks. “Um...yeah. There’s this bar not far from here which lets young people perform some music to people whilst they’re drinking. I’m one of their...regular acts.”

Well, I was. Until my father died and I lost the will to perform. It wouldn’t be the same without him standing at the foot of the stage, adoration in his soft brown eyes as he cheered me on.

He looks at me, his gaze intense. “You sing?”

I swallow again, shrugging one shoulder. “A little.”

He studies the brochure intently again. My stomach writhes. Performing at the insignificant bar in a forgotten corner of Manhattan every few weeks had always been my thing, an intimate piece of myself that I seldom revealed.

“You’re performing tomorrow, huh? Part of the ‘Ice House Teen Talent Show?’”

I nod vaguely. “Yeah. It’s an unofficial talent show, though. Some kids just sing a few songs to some people who are only half listening.”

As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I realize that they are untrue. I’m not performing tomorrow; I won’t ever be performing again. Not without my father.

But somehow, I’ve already volunteered myself. And part of me still longs to perform; to let the lyrics spill out of my mouth and to blink in the harsh glare of the lights. To hear the muted round of applause which echoes from the crowd once I finish singing.

He nods as well and places the brochure back onto the display. He tilts his head to glance at me, staring at me with a questioning look, as if staring could answer the world’s most profound questions.

I smirk at him playfully. “You could come, if you want. I mean, if you aren’t too busy performing with the one-and-only Calum Styles.”

He smirks at my tone. “I take it you aren’t a fan, then?”

I shrug. “My best friend is, though. A die-hard fan.”

He nods understandingly. “You know, I might.”

“Might what?” I raise an eyebrow at him.

“Watch your performance tomorrow.”

I swallow, frowning slightly. I hadn’t been serious when I’d made that proposal. And now there’s no going back; he’ll expect to see me sing tomorrow night. At the place I resolved I’d never return to. All it took was four months and a handsome young man to change my mind. “Um...”

“If you want me to, that is.”

“No, of course. I mean, whatever. I mean-”

“I’ll meet you outside the venue at seven-thirty?” he resolves.

I smile at him. “Yeah. See you tomorrow.”

“Thanks for the plectrums again,” he says and slips through the door. It’s only once he’s left the shop that I realize I forgot to ask for his autograph for Stella. And that tomorrow she’s going to kill me.

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