Home > Last Night at Chateau Marmont(3)

Last Night at Chateau Marmont(3)
Lauren Weisberger

Nola held her hands up in defeat and hung her head. “Yes, of course. You’re right.”

“You don’t sound convinced.” Brooke began chewing on her thumbnail. Any relief she’d felt from the wine had completely vanished.

Nola pushed her salad around with a fork. “Well, don’t they give out, like, a ton of recording contracts to anyone showing a modicum of talent, figuring it’ll only take one big hit to pay for all the smaller flops?”

Brooke was surprised by her friend’s knowledge of the music industry. Julian always explained that very theory when he downplayed his label deal and tried to, in his words, “manage expectations” about what such a deal really meant. Still, coming from Nola, it somehow sounded worse.

“A ‘modicum of talent’?” Brooke could only whisper the words. “Is that what you think of him?”

“Of course that’s not what I think of him. Don’t take it so personally. It’s just hard, as your friend, to watch you kill yourself working to support him for so many years now. Especially when the odds are so low that anything will come of it.”

“Well, I appreciate your concern for my well-being, but you should know it was my choice to take on the extra private school consulting work to help support us. I don’t do it out of the kindness of my heart, I do it because I actually believe in him and his talent, and I know—even if no one else seems to think so—that he has a brilliant career ahead of him.”

Brooke had been ecstatic beyond description—possibly even more than Julian—when he’d called her with the initial offer from Sony eight months earlier. Two hundred fifty thousand dollars was more than they’d collectively made in the previous five years, and Julian would have the freedom to do with it what he wanted. How could she have possibly foreseen that such a massive infusion of cash would put them in even greater debt than they already were? From that advance Julian needed to pay for studio time, hire high-priced producers and sound engineers, and cover the entire cost of his equipment, travel, and backup band. The money was gone in a few short months, long before they could use so much as a single dollar toward rent, utilities, or even a celebratory dinner. And once all those funds were being used to help Julian make a name for himself, it didn’t make sense not to see the project through. They’d already spent thirty thousand dollars of their own money—the entirety of their savings that had once been earmarked for a down payment on an apartment—and they were burning through more credit every single day. The scariest part of the whole thing was what Nola had so brutally spelled out: the chances of Julian ever making good on all that time and money—even with the Sony name behind him—were almost nil.

“I just hope he knows how lucky he is to have a wife like you,” Nola said, more softly now. “I can tell you, I sure wouldn’t be so supportive. Which is probably why I’m destined to be single forever . . .”

Thankfully their pasta dishes arrived and the conversation shifted to safer topics: how fattening was the meat sauce, whether or not Nola should ask for a raise at work, how much Brooke disliked her in-laws. When Brooke motioned for the check without ordering the tiramisu or even a coffee, Nola looked concerned.

“You’re not upset with me, are you?” she asked, putting her credit card in the leather folder.

“No,” Brooke lied. “I’ve just had a long day.”

“Where are you headed now? No après-dinner drink?”

“Julian’s actually got a . . . he’s performing,” Brooke said, changing her mind at the last second. She’d rather not have mentioned his gig at all, but it felt strange lying to Nola.

“Oh, fun!” Nola said brightly, draining the last of her wine. “Want company?”

They both knew she didn’t really want to go, which was okay, because Brooke didn’t really want her to go. Her friend and her husband got along just fine, and that was good enough. She appreciated Nola’s protectiveness and knew it came from a good place, but it was hard thinking your best friend was constantly judging your husband—and he was always coming up short.

“Trent’s in town actually,” Brooke said. “He’s here on a rotation of some sort, so I’m meeting him there.”

“Ah, good old Trent. How’s he liking med school?”

“He’s done actually; he’s an intern now. Julian says he loves L.A., which is surprising—born-and-bred New Yorkers never like L.A.”

Nola stood up and put her suit jacket back on. “Is he dating anyone? If I remember correctly, he’s boring as hell but perfectly cute. . . .”

“He just got engaged, actually. To a fellow gastro intern, a girl named Fern. Intern Fern, the gastro specialist. I’d rather not imagine what their conversation entails.”

Nola scrunched up her face in disgust. “Thanks for that visual. And to think, he could’ve been all yours. . . .”

“Mmmm.”

“I just want to make sure I still get proper credit for introducing you to your husband. If you hadn’t gone out with the Trent man that night, you’d still just be another Julian groupie.”

Brooke laughed and kissed her friend on the cheek. She fished two twenties out of her wallet and handed them to Nola. “I’ve got to run. If I don’t get on the train in the next thirty seconds, I’m going to be late. Talk tomorrow?” She grabbed her coat and clutch, offered a quick wave to Luca on the way out, and bolted through the door.

Even after all these years, Brooke shuddered when she thought how close she and Julian came to missing each other. It was June 2001, a mere month after she’d graduated from college, and Brooke was finding it almost impossible to acclimate to her new sixty-hour workweek, split almost evenly between her nutrition grad coursework, logging internship hours, and a make-ends-meet barista stint at a neighborhood coffee joint. While she’d had no illusions about the difficulty of working twelve hours a day for $22,000—or so she’d thought—she hadn’t been able to predict the sum strain of long workdays, insufficient salary, too little sleep, and the logistics of sharing a seven-hundred-square-foot Murray Hill one-bedroom with Nola and another of their friends. Which is why, when Nola implored Brooke to join her for live music on a Sunday night, she’d flatly refused.

“Come on, Brookie, you need to get out of the apartment,” Nola had argued while pulling on a tight black tank top. “There’s some jazz quartet performing and they’re supposed to be really good, and Benny and Simone said they’d save us seats. Five-dollar cover and two-for-one drinks. What can you possibly not like about that?”

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