Tony knew where to park a limo temporarily at the airport and left the two of us in there while he went inside to stand around with the other limo drivers holding up a sign with Jonathan’s name on it. I was sure J would recognize him anyway since he knew we were coming to pick him up.
That left me and Ziggy alone in the back of a limo.
I should explain something about the limo. I don’t know exactly how the deal worked but Tony didn’t own the limo and neither did Barrett. I’m guessing it was some kind of leasing/renting deal with a company that had multiple vehicles which is why we weren’t always in the same car. It would have made sense for the whole Weiland Thomas Agency to have a corporate deal with a limo rental company, but for all I knew it was just some friend of Tony’s. All I know for sure is that the other night we’d had a really large one that could’ve fit ten. This one was smaller but still big enough for four to six to sit in the back, with a privacy screen that the driver could raise or lower between himself and the passenger compartment.
Anyway, alone in the limo, waiting, with no distractions, some stuff I’d been keeping tamped down started to spring up.
“So I have a question,” I said. “And you don’t have to answer it now, maybe, if this isn’t the time, but I thought I should ask it.”
Ziggy put a hand on my forearm and looked into my eyes. “It must be serious for you to give that much preamble.”
“Well, maybe? You know how I am with relationship stuff.” And talking in general.
His eyes focused on my face even more. “A relationship question?”
“Maybe you should just spit it out.”
Right. Spit it out. “When you said I’m ‘one-hundred percent’ yours”–just saying the words made my adrenaline spike suddenly–“does that mean mathematically speaking you’re one-hundred percent mine, too? I mean, understand I’m not disagreeing, I’m just trying to be sure I know what you meant. Unless what you meant was only in relation between you and Jonathan, you know, relatively speaking.” I felt like I was making a mess of the question and I hadn’t even had anything to drink. “Does that make sense?”
“It makes perfect sense. I did mean it as a relative thing between me and Jonathan, i.e. like if he still held 20 percent of the shares in your heart–”
“He’s in the past, Zig.” And my heart isn’t a corporation. But Ziggy was agreeing with me.
“I know, but it’s still the kind of recent past and I’m still a little envious even though I’m sure you and me playing house like that would be a complete disaster.” His hair was gelled upward so none of it was hanging in his face and his eyes looked huger than usual. “But I didn’t intend it to be a, like, demand of monogamy if you don’t want that.”
I was breathing kind of fast, trying to keep up with the thoughts that were racing around in my head. “I…that’s a big can of worms.”
He nodded. “We don’t have to–”
“And it’s also not the first time you’ve brought it up. What I can’t figure out is does that mean you really want monogamy? Or is it that you think I want it so you have to act like you do too? Or do you think it’s some kind of goal, and achieving it’s going to prove something? Or, or–?”
“Deep breath,” he said, a pained, cautious look in his eyes. “Deep breath.”
I gulped in some air and it made me feel like a fool but I blurted out, “I just want to be happy.”
Ziggy’s hand tightened on my arm. “Then let’s work on that. What would make you happy right now?”
“Not freaking out? And not stressing about worrying that you’re going to be mean to Jonathan?”
“I’m not going to be mean to Jonathan!” Ziggy looked insulted.
“It’s just, you know, he’s still a close friend and I don’t have a lot of those.” God, I sounded kind of pathetic there but it was true. I don’t make friends easily and it didn’t seem likely I was about to change that, so the ones I have are precious. “Plus he’s been nothing but supportive about you and me working out our shit.”
“I know. I promise I won’t be mean to him.” Ziggy took a breath. “I know perfectly well I should be nice to Jonathan because he’s the shoulder you’ll cry on if things turn to shit between us. I need him to believe we’re better together than apart.”
Yes, as I mentioned, Ziggy actually coming out and being so honest that he was saying things no one would ever say was kind of terrifying. But in a good way, I guess? “Are we better together than apart?”
“Yes.” He leaned forward and kissed me gently on the cheek, right at the corner of my mouth. “I want us to be.”
We certainly seemed fine when not at odds about industry stuff, but I didn’t feel like bringing that up again. Beating a dead horse.
Then I heard/felt the trunk pop open and the weight of a suitcase land in it. A moment later Tony opened the door and in climbed Jonathan. “Well, hello!”
“Hello!” Ziggy gave him the cheek kiss greeting that I suddenly realized was kind of a New York thing, whereas I just hugged him while we were both sitting down.
“Whew! I seriously didn’t think that flight was going to land on time,” Jonathan said. “We had the tail wind coming from Colorado so we were going to be almost an hour early, but then when we got here the winds are so bad they aborted the first landing and we circled all the way out Long Island and back to try again. It was still too rough and turbulent–I thought I was going to be sick!–so they circled one more time and that time they finally got us down.”
“Nerve wracking,” Ziggy agreed. “Were you in Denver?”
“Yeah, at the Tattered Cover. Ten cities in fourteen days, basically, and now I am beat. It was worse than being on the road with a band!”
“You were by yourself?” I asked.
“Yep, just me and a pile of tickets and phone numbers. I called to check in with my publicist every day but once she would leave the office by, you know, six at night, I was on my own.” He stretched. “I did some bookstores, some libraries, one university.”
“And now the triumphant literary conqueror returns,” Ziggy said, pulling a bottle of champagne out of the chiller compartment. He had plastic cups, too. He popped the cork into a paper towel and poured for the three of us. “Cheers.”
Jonathan blushed and laughed as he said, “Cheers,” and then drank from his cup. “Goodness, and this is the expensive stuff! You shouldn’t have.”
Ziggy clucked his tongue. “Why suffer through drinking the bad stuff? I made dinner reservations, too.”
“Delmonico’s. Although if that’s not to your taste, WTA has an in-town concierge we could call.”
“Delmonico’s sounds fantastic.” Jonathan beamed. “What’s up with the two of you?”
“I’m in the break between legs of the Nomad tour,” I said.
“And I’m prepping for a fall international tour,” Ziggy said.
A puzzled look crossed Jonathan’s face. “Is the album out and I missed it somehow?”
“It’s getting international release first. It’s been in the can for a little while already.”
Wait, what? I did a doubletake. “It has? I thought you were still working on it.”
“Well, you know, in a perfect world I’d have another six or eight months to work on a US release,” Ziggy said. “But I don’t. ‘Do It’ did well as a single, remember, and with what’s gone on with the stealth campaign, they’re really wanting something out, but there are issues here in the States. So Japan, Brazil, Europe, Australia are going to come first and maybe the US will be ready for me by spring of next year?” He stretched like a cat. “But enough about that. Tell me what the glamorous life of a novelist is like.”
Jonathan laughed. “I dunno about glamorous. Most novelists don’t even get to do readings at bookstores at all.”
“They really sent you around the country by yourself?” I still couldn’t quite wrap my head around that, although it sounded kind of nice. Have pen, will travel. “They wouldn’t pay for you to bring someone along?”
“And double the cost of the whole thing? I’m sure they would’ve let me if I paid for it myself.” He was looking well, relaxed and robust, in a well-cut sport blazer. “But they wouldn’t pay for a handler to go with me. There’s no real money to be made in book tours.”
“Then why do it?” Ziggy asked.
“Prestige, I guess? Public relations? Ultimately it should help book sales, which means royalties. It’s not just how many people show up to your reading, it’s the newspaper mentions of the reading, the flyers, the display in the store leading up to it, those are the things you want to happen. But yeah, if I was doing it out of my pocket I’d never sell enough books to justify the cost of flying from store to store. At the biggest signing I sold maybe forty books?”
“Ah, right, because you’re not selling tickets, just books, and the venue is a retailer so…” It was beginning to make sense in my head now. “Wow, and you don’t even pass the hat or anything.”
“Nope. In fact I was lucky my publisher picked up the tab for my travel. Some would’ve just told me if I wanted to do appearances I was on my own.”
“But the book did well?” I asked.
“Pretty well. It didn’t hit the Times bestseller list, but most people don’t, especially on the first time out of the gate. Got some very prestigious reviews, which helped.”
“But how many did it sell?” Ziggy asked.
Jonathan shrugged. “Don’t know exactly. I know they printed 25,000 and it just went back for a seond printing, so that gives me a lot of hope that means 25,000 actually sold. Which would mean the book earned out its advance.”
Ziggy’s eyes narrowed. “Waitasecond. You mean what you got in advance was like twenty-five grand? For a novel that took, what, six years to write?”
“Something like that. Now you see why I haven’t quit writing for SPIN or wherever yet. At least I don’t have to share it with any fellow band members,” he joked softly.
“Jeez. It’s practically like they charge you to be a writer,” I said.
“Or it’s like being the opening act on a tour,” Ziggy said, “except there’s no headliner.”
Jonathan nodded in agreement, as if oddly content with this state of being. I suppose that he was. He was pursuing his art even if he couldn’t make a living at it. I suppose there was nothing wrong with that.