Mistakes.  We all make them, I guess.  I guess you already know that I’m better at making them than your average screw-up.  Jamie would even tell you that nobody is a more supreme mistake magnet than she is.  I guess that’s why our fire burned out so quickly.  But man, when it burned, it burned hot.

Everybody has a past.  We’re all running from something, right?  But what if, instead of running away from something, we found something to run to instead?  

Look, I’m not the type to beat around the bush.  We all know I’ve done some things I’m not proud of:

Drugs; dealing and using.  Gangs.  You know there’s a reason why I don’t drink anymore, and it’s not just because those AA meetings are downright depressing.  The bottom line is, when you’re in as deep as I was back in L.A., things get out of hand.  There’s no way around that.

That’s why I came to Omaha in the first place.  At first, I thought I was just going to start over.  You know, find a singer, start recording and rebuild the dream.  But something else happened.  I thought there was absolutely no hope of finding somebody that actually understood me and that if anybody ever really started to know me, what they found would have them running for the door.

I guess Jamie felt the same way in a lot of ways.  Maybe that’s why we were so perfect for each other and so wrong at the same time.  There was no way it was ever going to last.

That’s not what happened though.  These people know me and they still love me.  The funny thing is, I think I love them too.

But what you need to understand is this:  Jamie and I may have been perfect for each other, but we were never meant to be more than friends.  We both understand that now.  What you need to see is how much I know you and I are meant for something more.

They were my beginning, but you are my end.  I will never love anybody the way that I love them and I will never love anybody the way I love you.  They are so different, but equally as powerful.  

Please, never forget.

A letter from Collin Lane to Sarah Mitchell

Jesse Mason was more frustrated than he had ever been in his life, and that was saying something considering some of the things he’d been through in the past.  It had only been a few weeks since he moved to the city, but Jesse was a dreamer.  And when real life didn’t agree with his dreams he had a hard time coping.

Tonight was the culmination of a string of frustrations and he just didn’t know how much more he could take.  Jesse was ready to throw in the towel, tell his mother she was right and move back home.  ‘Man, she would love that,’ Jesse thought.  ‘Nothing would make her happier than to know she was right, I was wrong and this whole thing was a bad idea.’

He had just managed to escape what seemed like the hundredth phone call from his mother since he decided to leave home.  Every single conversation boiled down to one simple message:  Jesse was making a mistake, he didn’t know what he was getting into and he was never going to make it.

His mother, Pamela, really didn’t mean any harm.  She was simply worried about him and she was having a hard time letting go of the baby boy she felt like she never really got the chance to know.  Being a single parent in a dead end town with a dead end job didn’t leave a lot of time for making connections, not even with her own children.

If she’d known better how to communicate her feelings, the message might have sounded something more like, ‘I love you Jesse, but I’m so worried about you.  Life in the city is hard and you never had anybody to really teach you how to handle the world.’  Sadly, she could never bring herself to say it like that.  She just didn’t know how and that killed her more than anything.

Jesse didn’t see it that way though.  How could he?  Especially after this latest conversation in which his mother, learning that Jesse had no other choice than to room with another man, who he barely knew, just to make ends meet, somehow used that information to leap to the conclusion that Jesse was gay.  ‘What would it matter if I was anyway,’ he thought.  ‘Would she love me less, if that was even possible?’

Right now, he couldn’t think about these things though.  It was cold out and he had been walking for nearly an hour.  With everything going wrong, Jesse just needed to get out and forget for a while.  ‘Music, that’s what I need.  Music always makes me feel better.’

Just as the thought hit him, his phone began to ring again.  If it was his mother again, Jesse was positively going to lose it.  Looking at the display, he let out a quick sigh of relief.  ‘It’s just Tina.  Thank God.  At least she tries to be supportive.’

+

Jamie Bostick just didn’t know why she bothered sometimes.  Here she was, alone again, because every guy she was stupid enough to fall for ended up being a complete waste of time.  She honestly couldn’t think of a single reason why she kept trying, but there she was.  Starting over again.

This last guy was probably the biggest disappointment she had ever had.  She honestly had no intentions of looking tonight, but what else was there to do on a Tuesday night?  Megan was already waiting for her and their Tuesday night traditions had to continue.

‘Not that it’s a great tradition,’ Jamie thought to herself.  ‘We scope out guys together, Megan finds something wrong with every single one of them and spends the rest of the night cracking jokes about it and I end up going home with the next notch on my bed post.  Real great system we’ve got.’

She was resolved that tonight would be different though.  Tonight it was all about her and Megan, with the express intention of ducking out and heading home alone at the first available opportunity.

+

Collin Lane had no idea what he was doing out.  He told himself he was on the hunt for his next recording vocalist and that he was going to start fresh and rebuild the empire that so very nearly took off in L.A.  This time, things would be different.  This time, he would stay sober, keep his head clear and focus on the music.  He only needed to find the right person with the right voice.

Things worked so differently in Omaha.  Back home, all he had to do was hang a few flyers on a few billboards and aspiring artists would flock to his studio to audition.  Here, from what he gathered, if you wanted to find a good singer, you had to go to a bar, of all places.  And not just any bar; a karaoke bar.  Collin shuddered when he thought about having to sit in a room full of drunken idiots and listen to them ‘sing’ when, in his sobriety, all he could hear was the truth.  And the truth was never pretty, especially when you hand a microphone to some moron that’s seven shots in on the night.

Every once in a while though, he would hear somebody that surprised him.  He was close and he knew it.  He only had to sit through a little more pain to find his diamond in the rough.

As he approached his bar of choice for the night, he noticed a rather attractive young woman walking up from the other direction.  As she drew closer, he couldn’t help but admire her.  Suddenly, she made eye contact, something he was not at all expecting for a girl like her to do with a guy like him, and his heart stopped.

‘My God,’ he thought as she smiled at him.  ‘I could actually fall in love with that face.’  This was not at all what he came here for, but Collin had lived enough life to know that sometimes you have to be willing to adjust course.  If he had to buy a pretty lady some drinks and hope she didn’t notice he was sticking to Coke, then who was he to argue with life?

Not that he had any bad intentions.  He just didn’t believe in forcing his sobriety on somebody that hasn’t been through experiences similar to his own.

They both approached the door at the same time and Collin was so taken with her appearance, he utterly panicked and had no idea what to do next.  He had every intention of putting on a gentleman’s show and opening the door for her to enter first, but the moment she smiled at him again and threw his entire thought process off with one simple word, everything went south.

+

“Hi,” Jamie said to the handsome (enough) stranger blocking the door.  As soon as she saw him she knew her original plans for the night weren’t going to work out.  He just looked so sweet and messy.  It was a good kind of messy though, like somebody she could clean up and turn into real relationship material.

Having no idea how to react, Collin just stood and stared at her.  “Umm,” she laughed awkwardly, trying to get him to say or do something.  Anything would do, but the staring was quickly becoming ‘a little much.’  “You first,” she said motioning towards the door behind him.

Shaking out of his panic long enough to think straight for a moment, Collin was finally able to stumble through, “No, I insist.  Ladies first,” but forgot to open the door for her or even move out of the way so she could pass by.

‘Well, this is definitely an odd start to the night,’ Jamie thought.  ‘Still though, he is kind of cute.’  Finally deciding that she’d given him enough time to act, she said “Okay…I really just wanted you to open the door so I could go through it first, like a lady.  Your loss though.”

Collin both loved and hated a challenge at the same time.  Any time he found himself in an even mildly confrontational situation, he resorted to his normal defense mechanism; sarcasm.  “A real lady would never ask to have the door opened for her.”

“A real gentleman would never need to be asked,” she barked back playfully.  Even though he was working her nerves somewhat at this point, she decided to give him one more shot and extended her hand in mockery of the way a ‘real lady’ would, expecting a ‘real gentleman’ to take it, kiss it and make her swoon with adoration.  “I’m Jamie.”

Surprising them both, Collin chose to take the playful-but-not-really argument one step further and said “Well, I suppose it’s a good thing we’re living in a crap city and there’s no such thing as a real gentleman or a real lady then, huh?” and proceeded to open the door, step through and leave Jamie standing outside in the cold.

In any other situation, she would have been completely outraged.  There was something about this guy though and Jamie felt herself falling into step behind him, as if being pulled by some invisible force to keep the engagement going.  “Touche’, jerk,” she shouted as she followed after him, “but you are so buying me a drink!”

+

Finding himself in another situation he desperately wished he hadn’t answered the phone for, Jesse approached the front door of the first bar he came to after deciding he needed a distraction.  He had been on the phone with his sister for only a few minutes, but it seemed like she was only echoing what he had already heard from his mother earlier that evening and he felt a pang of betrayal that Tina, of all people, would be trying to talk him into coming home.

“She’s never understood me, Tina, you know that,” Jesse sighed, completely fed up with the current conversation.

“Jesse, you know she’s just worried,” came Tina’s voice from the other end.  “She’s not so great at expressing it but she really just wants to protect you.”

“I know,” he sighed again, giving in a bit this time.  Suddenly, remembering the dream he was supposed to be chasing, he answered with renewed vigor, “She’s got to let me grow up though!  She was never around anyway when I really needed her.  You were more of a mom than she was, and now she thinks she can try to talk me out of becoming somebody!  I’m halfway across the country and she’s still trying to dig her claws into my back!”

“Okay, Jesse,” Tina gave in.  She couldn’t argue with his point, even though she shared their mother’s ill-expressed concern.  He was right.  Jesse was a young man now and it was time to let him discover the world for himself.  “You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I just worry about you, Jesse, that’s all.  Do you need anything?  I’ll send some money in the morning if you ask.”

“No, I’m okay.  Honestly.  Money’s tight for everyone out here, that’s just the way it is.  I’ll figure something out.  Look, I’ve got rent covered for two months, so I’ve got plenty of time.  Please don’t wor-”  Jesse’s words were cut short by the sound of Tina quietly weeping on the other end and the sound was enough to make him feel emotional as well.  Fighting back tears of his own, he choked, “Tina, please don’t worry.  I’m going to be fine, I promise.  Listen, I forgot to tell you, I’m actually about to walk into an audition right now and I’ve got a really good feeling about this one, so there’s nothing to worry about, okay?  I’ve got go.  I love you, sister.”

“I love you too, baby brother.”  Tina waited, not knowing what to expect, until Jesse ended the call.  She curled back into her spot on the couch and whispered, “Please be careful.”

Jesse, standing at the doorway to the bar he had chosen, took a moment dry his eyes, compose himself and sneak quietly into the furthest corner seat he could find.  Nothing about his plan was working out so far and tonight was certainly not helping.

+

Tonight was definitely not going as planned and that was perfectly fine as far as Jamie and Collin were concerned.  Jamie’s best friend, Megan, had to cancel on their plans to meet at the last minute and this normally would have thrown Jamie’s night into a tailspin.  Tonight though; tonight there was Collin.

Everything about him set her on fire in ways she had never experienced before.  From his adorable, slightly unkempt appearance to his jaded, yet experienced view of the world, Collin was a refreshing change from the meatheads she normally found herself with.  Based on the stories he was telling, here was a guy that had been completed defeated by the world and yet, somehow, managed to find the strength to pick himself up, start over in a new town and try to make something of himself again.

Collin was an (almost) extremely successful music producer from Los Angeles until he lost everything to his drug and alcohol addictions.  Rather than give in to what the world seemed to want for him, Collin moved halfway across the country, sobered up and started over.  His experiences were so vast compared to hers and Jamie was just…Jamie.  And she was completely enthralled with Collin.

Collin, for his part, found Jamie’s simplicity endearing.  There were no ulterior motives with girl, as far as he could tell, and she was extremely forthcoming with what she expected out of the night.  Surprisingly to both of them, Jamie made it quite clear that her intentions tonight were simply to get to know him and he was more than happy to oblige.

This random encounter blossomed, rather quickly, into an incredible attraction between two people who barely knew each other but were eager to learn more.  They both agreed to see each other again and found themselves in the most intense, albeit brief, relationship either would ever experience.

It wouldn’t be until years later that they looked back on that night and realized, if they had never met; if they had never made that first connection.  Everything that followed might have played out to arrive at a completely different end.  The strange thing is, despite the pain endured, neither of them would wish for anything to change, were they given the chance to go back and make different choices.

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