Track One

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Before two minutes ago, there were three definitive times in my life when I felt more conflicted than I do right now.

The first was when Hazel Figaro, my best friend since grade school, butchered her hair to look like T-Boz from TLC. Somehow, the hairdresser selectively heard, "Make me look like Mr. T." I spent the remainder of the school year and most of the summer reassuring her that it wasn't that bad as it grew out.

Oh, hell fucking yes, it was that bad. Hazel looked as if she had been caught in a waterfall instead of chasing one.

The second time was the day I had to break down and tell my parents I wanted to put the kibosh on my plans for med school and pursue music. My very traditional Korean father and West Indian mother, both highly respected MDs in their chosen specialties, were not trying to hear that shit.

"Music is not a career," they said. "It's a hobby."

"But it's what I love...what I'm passionate about," I countered, feeling even smaller than my already pint-sized five-foot-one stature.

"Passion doesn't pay the bills, Roxanne. And neither will we if you don't finish your education."

And while I'll only admit it to myself, on days when I'm feeling particularly self-deprecating, they were right. Because music wasn't paying my bills. And since they had made good on their promise and stopped funding my apartment, car, and expenses, I had to swallow my pride and get a real job. While it was shallowly related to my passion, still, it didn't nourish my spirit and sing to my soul.

And the third time? Well, that's come back to slap me in the face hard enough to make me taste a decade worth of regret.

As I sit here staring at my laptop, rereading the email my editor just sent, I have to remind myself that rent is due on the 1st. And even though I traded in my ride for public transportation and a good pair of kicks, I can't damn well survive off of rice and beans for much longer. These hips can't take it.

He wanted me to do what?

I turn down the music pumping through my MacBook's speakers and I pick up my cell to scroll to his number. Surely Bari's email was riddled with typos and I don't want anything else to be lost in translation.

"This is Frost."

I have to bite down on my snort.

Frost is not Bari's last name. It's Feinstein. But...ok. These days, everyone has a moniker.

"Bari, it's Rox. Can you clarify your email for me?"

"What clarification do you need? I'm certain the assignment details were clear." I hear the squeak of his worn leather desk chair in the background, and can almost envision him reclining back in it, imagining that he's the king of the fucking world and not a prematurely balding dude caught in the hamster wheel of a mid-life crisis. Don't get me wrong; Bari is a decent boss. He tries to throw me a bone here and there. But he doesn't hear much outside of his own voice and his own self-indulgent bullshit.

"You know I don't do these types of pieces. Wouldn't this be a better fit for one of the Lifestyle writers? Or even Celeb Gossip?"

"Aren't you our resident music expert?"

"Well...yes, but—"

"And is he not a musician?"

"He is, Bari, but he's not the type of musician I usually cover."

He snorts in that condescending prick-ish way that's always followed by something snide. "What? Grammy award-winning artists are beneath you now?"

"Of course not, but—"

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