Maid for Success

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The bell on the door clanged as Alex pulled it open and stepped inside. He took a deep breath and scanned the coffee shop. Good. Frederick wasn’t here yet.

He ordered and took his coffee to a minuscule table, wedging his legs into the small space. He took his first sip and winced. Even the milk he’d added didn’t soften the bitter taste. The only positive to his drink—it was hot.

The shop must have changed their supplier since he and Frederick had met here last. Back when he’d made music. Back when life had been easy.


The bell on the door clanged again, a dissonant grating sound. Frederick came in, saw Alex and waved as he headed to the counter.

Alex traced patterns in the tabletop. He didn’t want to disappoint his friend. He didn’t want to live through the next thirty minutes of confession time. Only priests should hear confessions.

“Alex.” Frederick smiled, holding out his hand.

“Frederick.” Alex stood, banging his thighs into the table. “Good to see you,” he lied.

“How are you? It’s been ages since we talked.” Frederick took off his suit jacket and pulled a packet of papers from the inside pocket.

Alex swallowed. It was the contract he’d signed with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra almost eighteen months ago. Frederick let it drop to the table, and it thumped down like a big fat elephant.

“I’m fine.” Not really. “Let’s skip the small talk. It’s not done.”

His friend tasted his coffee and closed his eyes. “This is the best coffee in town.”

Alex took a sip, forcing himself to swallow. Nope. Still bitter. “I don’t know if the sonata will ever be done.”

Sympathy filled Frederick’s eyes. “What I’ve heard is wonderful.”

“Yeah.” He’d completed one movement before the magic had died. “I keep trying. It’s just …”

All he’d written lately were commercial jingles. At least he tried. He hadn’t finished any.

“How long has it been since your divorce was final?” Frederick asked.

“About a year.” Fourteen months, twenty days, two hours and a handful of minutes.

A small smile creased his friend’s face. “That long.”

Frederick’s smile evaporated. Able to control a full orchestra with a searing glare, his expression turned serious. “The orchestra took a risk when they commissioned the sonata.”

“I know.” Alex’s jaw ached from clenching his teeth.

“You need to work. You’re too brilliant to let a failed marriage ruin your career.”

“I’m trying.” Alex’s ex-wife had not only destroyed their marriage and the life they’d created, but her actions had sucked out every note and ounce of his creativity.

“I can buy you three more months, but that’s it. I’m sorry.” Compassion filled Frederick’s voice. “That’s as long as I can keep the board of directors off your back.”

Alex clenched his mug. He’d never let anyone down before, not when it came to his music.

When he’d taken the grant, ideas had poured out of him. He’d barely slept, needing to get the notes written. His music had been joy-filled.

After his world imploded, he’d had trouble writing meaningless dribble.

“Thanks for getting me the extra time.” Alex looked into his friend’s eyes.

“I’ll send the contract update to Aubrey,” Frederick said.

“Sure.” Maybe his business manager would stop leaving reminder messages about the deadline for a month or two.

“I’ll get it done.” The lie was as bitter in his mouth as the cold coffee he swallowed.