Home > Last Night at Chateau Marmont(6)

Last Night at Chateau Marmont(6)
Lauren Weisberger

“Save it,” Nola said with a massive roll of her eyes. “I met him a couple weeks ago at some work fund-raiser; he was there with one of my colleagues.”

“So you did hook up with him.”

“No! I may have hooked up with my colleague—”

Brooke groaned and covered her eyes.

“—but that’s not important. I remember his friend was cute and single. A med student, I think, but honestly, you’re not really at a point to be discriminatory about such things. So long as he’s breathing . . .”

“Thanks, friend.”

“So you’ll go?”

Brooke grabbed for the clicker back again. “If it will make you shut up right now, I’ll consider it,” she said.

Four days later Brooke found herself sitting at an outdoor Italian café on MacDougal Street. Trent was, as Nola promised, a perfectly sweet guy. Reasonably cute, extremely polite, nicely dressed, and boring as hell. Their conversation was more bland than the linguini with tomato and basil he ordered for them both, and his earnestness left her with the overwhelming desire to plunge a fork into her eyes. Yet for a reason she didn’t understand, when he suggested they move on to a nearby bar, she agreed.

“Really?” he asked, sounding every bit as surprised as she felt.

“Yeah, why not?” And really, she thought, why not? It’s not like she had any other prospects or even the expectation of watching a movie with Nola later that night. The next day she would have to start outlining a fifteen-page paper that was due in two weeks; besides that, her most exciting plans were the laundry, the gym, and a four-hour shift at the coffee shop. What exactly was she rushing home to?

“Great, I have just the place in mind.” Trent sweetly insisted on paying the check and, finally, they were off.

They’d only walked two blocks when Trent crossed in front of her and pulled open the door to a notoriously raucous NYU bar. It was possibly the last place in downtown Manhattan anyone would take a date he wasn’t planning to roofie, but Brooke was pleased they’d be going somewhere loud enough to prevent any real conversation. She’d have a beer, maybe two, listen to some good eighties on the jukebox, and be under her covers by midnight—alone.

It took a couple seconds for her eyes to adjust, though she immediately recognized Julian’s voice. When she finally focused on the front stage, she stared in disbelief: he sat in his familiar pose at the piano, fingers flying and mouth pressed against the microphone, singing her favorite of his originals: The woman sits alone in a room / Alone in a house like a silent tomb / The man counts every jewel in his crown / What can’t be saved is measured in pounds. She wasn’t sure how long she stood rooted in the doorway, instantly and completely absorbed in his performance, but it was long enough for Trent to comment.

“Pretty great, isn’t he? Come on, I see a couple seats over there.”

He took her arm and Brooke allowed herself to be pulled through the crowd. She arranged herself in the chair Trent pointed to and had barely placed her purse on the table when the song ended and Julian announced he’d be taking a break. She was vaguely aware that Trent was speaking to her, but between the noise of the bar and the vigil she was keeping on Julian’s whereabouts, she didn’t hear what he was saying.

It happened so fast she could barely process it. One second Julian was unhooking his harmonica from its piano-top stand and the next he was standing over their table, smiling. As usual, he was wearing a plain white T-shirt and jeans with a knit cap, this one an eggplant color. There was a light sheen of sweat on his face and forearms.

“Hey, buddy, glad you could make it,” Julian said, clapping Trent on the shoulder.

“Yeah, me too. Looks like we missed the first set.” Someone had just abandoned a chair at the next table, and Trent pulled it over for Julian. “Take a load off.”

Julian hesitated, glanced at Brooke with a small smile, and sat. “Julian Alter,” he said, offering his hand.

Brooke was about to respond when Trent spoke over her. “Christ, I’m such an idiot! Who taught me my manners, you know? Julian, this is my, uh, this is Brooke. Brooke . . .”

“Greene,” she said, pleased with Trent for demonstrating in front of Julian how little they knew each other.

She and Julian shook hands, which seemed like an awkward gesture in a crowded college bar, but Brooke felt only excitement. She examined him more closely as he and Trent exchanged jokes about some guy they both knew. Julian was probably only a couple years older than her, but something made him look more knowing, experienced, although Brooke couldn’t pinpoint exactly what. His nose was too prominent and his chin a touch weak, and his pale skin even more noticeable now, at the very end of summer, when everyone else had a season’s worth of vitamin D. His eyes, while green, were unremarkable, even murky, with fine lines that crinkled around them when he smiled. Had she not heard him sing so many times, seen him throw his head back and call out lyrics in a voice so rich and filled with meaning—had she just ran into him like this, wearing that knit cap and clutching a beer in a loud, anonymous bar—she never would have looked twice, nor thought him the least bit attractive. But tonight, she could barely breathe.

The two guys chatted for a few minutes while Brooke sat back and watched. It was Julian, not Trent, who noticed she didn’t have a drink.

“Can I get you guys a beer?” he asked, looking around for a waitress.

Trent immediately stood up. “I’ll get them. We just got here and no one’s come by yet. Brooke, what would you like?”

She murmured the name of the first beer that came to mind, and Julian held up what looked like an empty water cup. “Can you get me a Sprite?”

Brooke felt a stab of panic when Trent left. What on earth were they going to talk about? Anything, she reminded herself, anything but the fact that she’d followed him all over the city.

Julian turned to her and smiled. “Trent’s a good guy, huh?”

Brooke shrugged. “Yeah, he seems nice. We just met tonight. I barely even know him.”

“Ah, the always-fun blind date. Do you think you’ll go out with him again?”

“No,” Brooke said without any emotion whatsoever. She was convinced she was in shock; she barely knew what she was saying.

Julian laughed and Brooke laughed with him. “Why not?” he asked.

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