This is super long and I'm still writing for Saryn so bare with me and kudos to you if you read the whole thing. 

Bar nights with Elizabeth had become a weekly tradition between myself, Elizabeth, Karl and Maxie, the other two execs at the label. Every Thursday night we would go to the nearest bar in town and grab drinks – Karl and I would get beer and wings, while Elizabeth and Maxie would get martinis or something way too classy for the two of us, refusing to eat any of the “garbage” bar food that each establishment had to offer.

It was more of a state of the union than anything else. Given the schedule between Bonnaroo and now, we hadn’t had a meeting like this for about three weeks and this week it had turned into a lunch thing given our schedules. “Saryn, why won’t you drink a martini like the rest of us?” Maxie asks, as I order another Bud Light, frowning a bit when the waitress tells me they don’t carry it. “Corona,” I then ask her which she smiles as she brings Karl and I two bottles. 

“I’m not fancy like you and Liz,” I say to Maxie and Liz laughs. Ever since she informed me of the whole Jack Miller being the face of Palomino thing, we had become increasingly more calm around one another. I guess she felt like she had been harboring that secret for the last two years. 

“So where are we with the whole Jesse Markham situation?” Liz asks, as Karl hauls out his iPad. “He’s booked with GMA for August 5th,” Karl states. “Did we seriously sign him?” I ask, laughing and Maxie snorts. “Those were my thoughts exactly,” Maxie adds and Elizabeth sternly glares at us. “He is going to bring in at least eight figures for us by the end of the last quarter,” Karl informs us and Max and I both shut up.

“I know he’s not the most likeable person but we need an artist like him on the label. You have your Michael Davys, Saryn and don’t get me wrong, he is phenomenal, but we do need artists who are going to generate funds for us,” Elizabeth explains. Maxie and I both roll our eyes. “He’s been rude to both of you, I know, but he does hold a bit of a candle for Sair,” Karl adds and Maxie laughs again. “Jesus Christ, why me?” I ask, turning a bit red. It was strange to hear that about clients on the label, even if they were douchey. 

“More importantly, I’d like to know what’s going on with the Jack Miller recording situation. It’s still Palomino business technically,” Maxie changes the subject, eyes twinkling, and I hear Karl and Elizabeth laugh. “It’s great,” I say, a smile forming on my face that was virtually uncontrollable. The album was already fantastic. We had over seventeen tracks laid down and it was now a matter of picking and choosing, maybe recording a few more, which would take the longest. Even if it didn’t for other artists, I knew Jack would drag it out until it was perfect. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Michael Davy has been offered a spot on Colby Merriweather’s tour,” Elizabeth adds and I nod. I was doing most of the work for Michael Davy, but when Colby came into the picture due to my personal conflicts, I asked Elizabeth if it was in Davy’s best interest to join her tour. Elizabeth had decided that it was. 

“Are you sure Davy’s style best fits with Colby?” Karl asks and I smirk a bit. Colby was trying to branch out in an “artistic” direction with her latest album, shying away from the more bubblegum slightly indie-pop thing that she was doing for the last nine years. “Wasn’t Jack with Colby at the Bonnaroo party? Jack should take Davy out on his tour,” Maxie brainstorms and I roll my eyes a bit, which I notice Elizabeth smirk at. “Jack was actually there upon Saryn’s invitation,” Elizabeth offers and I smile yet again, taking a sip of my beer as the conversation is steered by Elizabeth to Holland’s latest recording session with Noah. 

“You’re going to make me pick?” Jack asks me six and a half hours later as we sit at Dominick’s in the always crowded restaurant at the end of one of the tables. I laugh and nod at him. “I picked two songs to go on the album today, haven’t I chosen enough?” He asks, smiling at me, his hazel eyes twinkling. 

“It’s a bottle of wine and we both know they’re just going to give us whatever they have open. And even if they didn’t, you know you have way classier taste in alcohol than I do,” I say, referring to my torrid love affair with Bud Light. He laughs. “You want red or white?” He asks, even though I know he’ll choose red anyway, or at least the staff will. The waitress comes back to our table with a huge smile on her face. Jack and I used to come to Dominick’s every Friday for almost three years. They served the best Italian in New York. 

“It’s been a while,” The older waitress says and we both smile at each other. “Whatever wine goes best with the meal tonight,” He says to Gianna and she smiles at us again before setting the stuffed peppers we always used to get down on the table. We both laugh – it was strange being back here with Jack. Ever since Bonnaroo, he was less distant than he had been in the past and I appreciated it, but I still had my guard up. I didn’t know if this was a thing I really wanted. The idea of Jack Miller now seemed like a very complex puzzle that might have too many pieces to fit me into the mix. 

“What’s your schedule like next week?” I ask Jack, as we finish digging into the stuffed peppers. He looks up at me. “I think I might be heading to LA for a bit,” He says, before taking a sip of his wine. “Why? What’s up?” He asks, setting his glass down on the table. “What’s a bit?” I ask him, attempting to brush off my questioning. He narrows his eyes. He wasn’t buying it.

“Depends. Why did you ask?” His eyes gleam a bit mischievously. He was fishing.

“I’m scouting next week in Seattle. And… it’s nice to have a travel buddy,” I say to him.

Travel buddy? Was I 22 years old? Seniors in colleges had travel buddies. 26 year old label executives did not. But, I had been spending so much time with Jack lately, it would be weird to be gone for a couple of days without seeing him or working on the record. Clearly, he wasn’t in love with the idea.

He clears his throat and adjusts the glasses on his face. “You’re uncomfortable,” I immediately state. And he looks up at me with that same look I used to give him when I didn’t want to go somewhere. I could feel myself turning red. “Sair, why are you all red?” Jack asks smirking, back to normal in an instant, clearly soaking up the fact that I was now uncomfortable and embarrassed.

“I am not,” I say, touching my cheeks. He laughs at me. “Saryn, I’m not going to Seattle to scout new talent with you,” He says finally and I stare at him. “Alright. Well, at least that’s settled,” I say quietly, just as Gianna brings our mains to the table – shrimp linguine for me, and something with pancetta for Jack. He laughs at me as the older couple beside us gives him the side-eye before laughing to themselves at Jack’s upfront manner. 

I guess he wasn’t interested in us. 

“I hope if we were to travel to Seattle together, it would be because it would be the genuine reason why you wanted me there. None of this ‘scouting’ bullsh-t,” Jack says, air quoting “scouting” like it was something I wasn’t going to do there. 

“You’re going to LA anyway so no matter,” I retort and the older man besides me chuckles. “Tell me you just want me to come to Seattle because you want my company and I’ll cancel my plans right now,” Jack says, pulling out his phone. I smile at him.

“I’ll be scouting, Jack. And it’s a chance to work on the record somewhere else,” I say matter-of-factly.

“Bullsh-t, Sair,” Jack says again. “Should I confirm my flight to LA?”

I roll my eyes at him. The older man’s wife sitting beside Jack nudges him in the side, “You shouldn’t make her have to say it, dear. She’ll say it when she’s ready,” She says, winking at Jack. He smiles at her and so do I. “I shouldn’t have to but if you must know, she’s put me through a lot and I would appreciate the confidence boost right now,” He states, his eyes twinkling as I watch the woman blush a bit at Jack’s charm. 

Upon the finishing of our dinner, Gianna informs us that the meal is on the house. We both tip her tremendously before leaving and walking to Jack’s car, which he parked two blocks down. I loved the Bronx. It was very quaint despite its horrible reputation. It was like a small town in the midst of a huge metropolis. 

Jack hums along to some tune he had been singing all day and I know that the refusal of me asking him to come to Seattle was bothering him. He always hummed when he was overthinking something. He hummed a lot before we broke up. 

“You don’t have to come to Seattle,” I say. 

“I know I don’t have to, but if you wanted me to…” Jack responds, smiling at me.

“I want you to. We’re friends, I like spending time together, that’s all,” I add, as we walk down Arthur Ave together. “Friends?” He says, chuckling to himself, as I stuff my hands into the pocket of my huge boyfriend jeans. 

The car ride back to SoHo was excruciatingly long. The traffic was bad – it was a Thursday evening, as to be expected but Jack was playing Sinatra in his Land Rover and he knew I loved Sinatra. So when we park in his lot underneath his Mercer Street place, I’ve almost forgotten that Jack publicly embarrassed me at Dominick’s. 

“Are you coming up this time?” Jack asks, once we’re out of the car and standing in the deserted parking garage underneath his building. I smile at him and start walking towards the stairs. “It’s a possibility,” I say to him as he follows me up the stairs. When we get to the lobby, he presses the button for the elevator but I remain standing near the exit. 

He turns around to say something and then finds me unmoved. “Are you kidding me?” He asks me.

“Saryn, you are 26 years old. I’m 32. We’re not kids anymore and I am perfectly capable of having my producer and ‘friend’ up to my place without making a move or proposing,” Jack says to me, air quoting the word “friend” this time.

I huff before walking towards the elevator. 

“Thank God,” He says, once the elevator doors were shut and I was inside.

“Fair warning, I haven’t done much to the place,” He says to me as the door opens and we walk to the door of his loft. “You’re kidding,” I ask him as I walk into the foyer of his apartment, which was essentially just his living room. “Nah,” He says, laughing.

It was almost exactly the same – the way we had decorated it about eight years ago, give or take a few pieces of art and a couple more guitars and a new couch. I smile as I take my usual seat at the breakfast bar in his kitchen as Jack cracks open a beer for me.

“To the album,” He says as we clink beer bottles together. “The album,” I say, smiling at him. The first time I came to this place, we had just finished recording the fifth track and he had just bought it. He had one stool for furniture at that time – the stool I was sitting on and we made that same toast. 

“You want dessert?” He asks. “Jesus, no,” I say, patting my stomach from Dominick’s. “When are you booking the flights for Seattle?” Jack asks, leaning on the bar on the other side, smirking at me. He was coming the whole time. “You were going to come the whole time, weren’t you?” I ask, rolling my eyes. 

“You know I like giving you a hard time, Sair. And how the hell else would I get you to admit that you are deciding in your Saryn Markum kind of way that you may or may not have feelings for me?” He asks me, hazel eyes twinkling again. 

“I’m not falling in love with you,” I say to him bluntly, though that was becoming less and less true.

“Good, me either,” Jack retorts.

“Good,” I say, an uncontrollable smile on my face again.

“How long are we going to pretend this is true?” He asks me, taking a sip of his beer as he walks toward his record player, stopping to play Sticky Fingers on vinyl. He bought that for me on my eighteenth birthday and I refused to come get it after we broke up. 

“You’re the worst,” I say to him once Wild Horses starts to play and he laughs. Wild Horses was my favourite sing of all time. I thought it just captured pain and love so perfectly. 

“Oh sorry, Sair. I forgot, we’re just friends,” Jack says, sitting down on the stool beside me. I laugh and sigh, resting my head on his shoulder, my eyes fixated on a Grammy. I knew he had several but there was just one in his apartment. Beside the Grammy was a picture of us from the night that we won. 

I get up and walk towards the shelf. “Where are the other ones?” I ask him. 

“I have the one for Weighted at my studio in LA. I gave one to my dad, one to my mum, one to my brother. That’s the only one I really care about, to be honest,” He states, walking up behind me. “Because it’s your first?” I tease. 

“That, and because it was with you,” He says, making direct eye contact with me. He was definitely going to kiss me. “Don’t,” I whisper to him and he straightens up before shaking his head at me. 

“I should really go,” I say to him. He nods his head, stuffing his hands into his pockets, his cheeks turning red. 
“Yeah, of course. I can walk –“ 
“No,” I say, cutting him off. “It’s okay, I can see myself out,” I say softly before opening the door and letting myself out into the hallway, taking the stairs all the way down to the lobby, which was littered with paparazzi outside. A picture of the two of us had leaked out from the Bonnaroo party earlier and the press had been on high alert ever since.

Pushing the door open, I was hounded by six photographers, which my small frame struggles to break out of as they hound me to the end of the street before I turn to flag down a cab. 

I should have kissed him, I think to myself as I hop into the cab.
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