Changes, p.1Judith Arnold
The Magic Jukebox: BOOK ONE
By Judith Arnold
Copyright © 2014 by Barbara Keiler
Table of Contents
About the Author
It was love at first sight.
Diana had never believed such a thing existed outside the pages of romance novels, but the moment she spotted the object of her affection standing by the wall across from the bar at the Faulk Street Tavern, she was infatuated. Smitten. Over the moon.
“Oh, God,” Peter said, his voice as dry as burnt toast. “Can we leave?”
Of course they couldn’t leave. Not before she’d crossed the room, planted herself in front of that magnificent specimen and indulged in a few up-close-and-personal minutes. Maybe she’d run her hand along a curved surface. Maybe she’d touch the buttons, two neat, vertical rows of red. Maybe, if she dared, she’d press one of those buttons and see what happened.
Ignoring Peter, ignoring the niggling voice inside her skull warning her that he considered a mildly grungy watering hole like the Faulk Street Tavern so far beneath him that he’d need rappelling equipment to descend to its level, ignoring the certainty that if she spent more than five seconds here he was bound to be royally pissed, emphasis on royally… Ignoring everything but the target in her sights, she strode across the room. The dark pine plank floor was suspiciously sticky in a few spots. The booths lining one wall were crowded with patrons drinking, chattering, laughing, arguing. Most of the tables were occupied, too, and the long bar was insulated by a two-deep layer of people, mostly men, mostly clad in jeans or work pants, and flannel shirts layered over thermals. A few sported duck-billed caps.
Working-class, she thought as she moved through the room. No problem, as far as she was concerned. Peter was such a snob, though.
A waitress carrying an empty tray passed Diana en route to the bar. “You okay, hon?” she asked.
Other than being madly, wildly in love, Diana was fine. “Thanks,” she said with a nod.
“There’s an empty table over there.” The waitress tilted her head in the direction of one of the tables. “Grab it if you want it. Tables don’t stay empty long here on a Saturday night.”
“Thanks,” Diana said again. She glanced toward the door, trying to signal Peter to claim the available table. He remained where he was, his arms crossed, his handsome face twisted into a scowl.
Diana detoured to the table herself, tossed her jacket over one of the chairs, and then continued to the wall, to her destiny.
It was gorgeous. Utterly, heart-stoppingly gorgeous.
A Wurlitzer jukebox.
Her expertise didn’t run to jukeboxes, but a few had passed through the galleries of Shomback-Sawyer Antiques in the five years Diana had worked there, and she did know a thing or two about antique furniture.
This jukebox, while not exactly a piece of furniture, was a beauty. Burnished wood rose to a dome of gold-hued, marbleized veneer which ended in a graceful crown trimmed in red glass and chrome. Beneath that crown was a semicircular window, cloudy with age, behind which stood a stack of vinyl records. A horseshoe of mesh fabric covered the speakers, surrounding what looked like a stained-glass depiction of two peacocks, the male’s long tail curving down to cushion the female. Those red buttons, for selecting songs, stood in two straight columns on either side of the peacocks.
None of the buttons was labeled. Diana wondered how someone could choose a song.
Not that it mattered. Surely the jukebox didn’t actually work.
She tried to recall what the concierge at the Ocean Bluff Inn had said when she and Peter had asked what people in Brogan’s Point did in the evenings. “Besides what we have here?” The concierge had gestured with a generous sweep of her arm, encompassing more than just the inn’s charming lobby but the entire sprawling complex of buildings, gardens, multiple dining rooms, tennis courts and a path down to the beach. “There are plenty of places in town. Being an antiques buff, you ought to check out the Faulk Street Tavern. It’s an easy walk from here, less than half a mile away. It’s got an antique I think you’re going to fall in love with.”
So they’d checked out the tavern, and now Diana knew why. She was more than merely an antiques buff, and this was more than merely a jukebox. The concierge, a cheerful, chatty woman named Claudia, was right: Diana had fallen in love.
“Okay. You’ve looked at it. Can we leave?”
She’d been so transported by the jukebox, she hadn’t even noticed Peter abandoning the entry and crossing the room. Now he stood so close behind her she could feel the warmth of his chest against her back. “No, we can’t,” she said. “This is an amazing piece. I want to spend some time with it.”
Peter rolled his eyes. He was an elitist—well bred, well educated, well groomed, and overly condescending when confronted with anything, any place or anyone he considered inferior. Apparently jukeboxes weren’t worth his time. Or they might be, if they were in a museum. In a dive like the Faulk Street Tavern, no.
“I need to learn more about this,” she said, wondering whether the piece was truly an antique or whether the locals just fed tourists a phony story about it, like all those shops down the road in Salem which sold “genuine” witchcraft paraphernalia. Diana knew some people did practice witchcraft, but she doubted most of the ticky-tacky souvenirs sold in Salem had anything to do with that.
“What do you need to learn?” Impatience tightened Peter’s voice. “You’re not going to buy it for Shomback-Sawyer.”
“If it’s for sale, I might.”
“Oh, this baby ain’t for sale.” A man sidled up beside her and Peter, and she felt Peter growing exponentially more annoyed, as prickly as a porcupine under siege, its quills quivering. She reached for his hand with her own and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He had no reason to feel threatened by the man who had joined them at the jukebox. The guy looked to be in his forties, maybe older, his face grizzled and his chin hidden beneath a stubbly beard salted with gray. He was thin, his gangly torso clad in a heavy cotton shirt with Frank stitched in red thread above the chest pocket and Kreske’s Auto Supplies imprinted on the pocket itself.
“Do you know anything about this jukebox?” she asked the man. Peter tightened his grip on her hand just the slightest bit. Oh, for heaven’s sake, she wanted to snap at him. No need to go all caveman on her. She was talking to the guy, not inviting him back to her room for the night.
“Just that it’s a fixture here, and it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Gus would never allow it.”
“Owner of this bar. Nobody can remember a time before the jukebox was here. ’Course, anyone who could would probably be dead by now.” He edged closer to the jukebox and gripped its polished golden flanks with both hands.
Diana almost yelled at him not to touch such a treasure, but then she conceded that he knew a lot more about it than she did. That gave him certain rights. “So it’s always been here?” she asked.
“Long as I can remember. Were you planning to play something?”
“Does it actually work?” If it did, Shomback-Sawyer could make a fortune on the piece. Two fortunes. Diana might ju
“Wouldn’t be much of a jukebox if it didn’t,” the man said.
“But there’s no listing of the songs.” She gestured toward the buttons. “How do you even know what song you’re requesting?”
He laughed, revealing a mouth full of crooked teeth. “You don’t,” he said.
“You don’t know what’s playing?”
“Well, you do once it starts playing and you can hear it.” He shrugged and dug his hand into the pocket of his twill work pants. “You don’t get to choose, though. You just put in your money and press a button or two, and you take your chances. It don’t play nothin’ new,” he added. “Nothin’ more recent than the invention of the iPod. Just old songs and really old songs. Some folks say it plays what you need to hear.”
“What you need to hear?”
He nodded. “I don’t need to hear nothin’,” he added, “so I’m prob’ly safe.” He removed his hand from his pocket, a quarter pinched between his thumb and forefinger. “Ten cents apiece, three for a quarter,” he said. “Same price as when I was a kid and every diner, restaurant and bar had a jukebox.” He inserted the quarter into the coin slot and poked a few unlabeled buttons. “Let’s see what we get.”
The cloudy window in the machine brightened, resembling an upside-down smile. Diana heard a couple of clicks, a mechanical hum, and then the velvet-smooth voice of Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York.” A loud chorus of hoots and boos arose from the bar, although everyone—including the man who’d paid for the song—seemed amused. “Don’t think I need to hear this,” he joked.
“It’s a good song,” Diana conceded.
“If you’re a Yankees fan, maybe.”
She grinned. She might not be a baseball fanatic, but she knew Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “New York, New York” was the song played at every Yankees home game, just as Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” was played at every Red Sox home game. In this picturesque seaside town an hour north of Boston, fans of the Yankees—the home town team’s arch-rivals—were undoubtedly a rarity. The people carousing at the Faulk Street Tavern surely preferred “Sweet Caroline.”
The stranger grinned back at her. “If that’s what the jukebox wants to tell me, I ain’t listenin’ to it. Have a good one.” He nodded at Peter, an acknowledgement Peter probably didn’t deserve, given that he hadn’t even bothered to say hello, and then strode back across the room to rejoin his buddies at the bar. They continued their hooting and guffawing over the Yankees theme song, even as they slapped him on the back and handed him a bottle of beer.
Enthralled, Diana turned back to Peter.
“Can we go now?” he asked. He looked, if anything, even more annoyed. And sulky. And miserable.
“We’ve got to listen to all three songs,” she argued, trying to thaw him with a smile. “The man put in a quarter. I snagged a table. Let’s have a drink and hear the other two songs. Then we can go. All right?”
Peter eyed the bar warily. “Do I have to have a drink? I’m not sure this is the kind of place where they wash the glasses.”
She refused to let his attitude irk her. They’d come to Brogan’s Point to assess the Ocean Bluff Inn as a possible wedding venue. Peter favored a mansion they’d visited in Newport, but Brogan’s Point was easier to reach from Boston, and their money would go a lot farther at the Ocean Bluff Inn than it would in Newport. Not that their families couldn’t afford any venue Diana and Peter decided on, but she was a practical sort. If they booked a less expensive venue, she’d feel free to spend a little more on the band or the food.
She was glad she’d talked Peter into spending the weekend in Brogan’s Point. The inn was truly lovely. The facility had several different event rooms, ranging in size from intimate to ballroom-grand. It also boasted plenty of guest rooms for attendees who wanted to stay overnight, and a breathtaking garden surrounding a gazebo that overlooked the ocean. Weather permitting, they could have the actual ceremony in the gazebo.
They’d ordered tasting menus for dinner earlier that evening, sampling a variety of possible hors d'oeuvres, appetizers and entrees. The chef wanted them to try some desserts, too, but after all the crabmeat tartlets and apple-and-brie quiches, the tuna tartare and caviar blini, the fillet mignon and poached salmon, they’d been too full.
Peter might loathe this bar, but he’d liked the inn—maybe not as much as the place in Newport, but enough not to veto it out of hand. While they’d stuffed themselves with bites and nibbles from the catering menus, he’d been the open-minded, courteous fiancé with whom she’d agreed to spend the rest of her life.
When he got the way he was now, however, stuffy and grouchy and arrogant, she wanted to hurl the dazzling three-carat diamond solitaire he’d given her at his nose. He had a perfectly sculpted nose. Michelangelo could not have improved on it, nor could Dr. Kafavian, her mother’s favorite plastic surgeon. But the rock currently glittering on her left ring finger, if properly thrown, could give Peter’s pretty nose a nice, bloody gash.
She didn’t want to hurt him, of course. He was her husband-to-be, and she was fully prepared to gaze at his nicer-than-hers nose across tables in kitchens, restaurants and even seedy bars like the Faulk Street Tavern for the next fifty years. But honestly, when he got this way, he pissed her off. Maybe even royally.
“Just one drink,” she cajoled, leading him to the table and nudging him into one of the chairs. She removed her jacket from the other, draped it over the chair’s ladder-back and gazed around the room in search of the pleasant waitress she’d briefly spoken with on her way to the jukebox.
“Somehow, I doubt this place is going to have a decent wine,” he muttered.
“Then get an indecent wine. Or a beer. Or a martini. They probably can’t botch that.”
He mumbled something—she was pretty sure he was complaining about the likely uncleanliness of the glasses, although if he ordered a beer he could drink directly from the bottle and not have to worry about the bar’s hygiene. She hoped that once they were married, he would loosen up and be less judgmental.
She and Peter had known each other since childhood, and they’d started dating toward the end of high school. Even as a teenager, Peter had tended toward superciliousness. He came from an old Boston-Brahmin family and had upper-class tastes. He liked his clothing tailored, his cars expensive, his wines vintage and his scotch single-malt. He was fortunate enough to be able to afford it all, not only because of his family background but because he’d graduated from Harvard Business School and landed a ridiculously well-paying job at a private equity firm. He appreciated the good things in life. More than appreciated—he expected them.
Diana wished he could occasionally forget he was the scion of a top one-percent family and perhaps understand the appeal of a rattly pick-up truck, a greasy hamburger, and a joint like the Faulk Street Tavern. At least it was called a tavern, not a bar. Why couldn’t that be enough for him?
Frank Sinatra belted out the final notes of “New York, New York,” accompanied by a flourish of trumpets and a lot of jeers and catcalls from the tavern’s patrons. Diana found herself chuckling at their enthusiastic negativity, but a part of her mind focused on the music itself. Or, more accurately, the jukebox. That an apparently antique machine could produce such decent acoustics impressed her. The sound quality wasn’t quite like listening to an MP3 file through her high-end earphones, but if the jukebox was really as old as she thought it was, its speaker seemed awfully good. “That sounded great, don’t you think?” she asked Peter. “The trumpets, and his voice. It sounded almost stereophonic. I don’t think stereo had been invented when that jukebox was built.”
Peter shrugged, clearly uninterested. His gaze darted around the room, searching for a waitress. Evidently he wanted to get this drink over with so he could return to the more elegant environs
The waitress arrived at their table just as the second song began on the jukebox: a bright, bouncy tune, sung by a man in falsetto, about how someone made him feel like dancing. To Diana’s surprise, quite a few people left their seats in the booths and at the tables and filled the empty floor space at the center of the tavern.
“I didn’t realize this was a dancing club,” Diana said to the waitress.
The waitress grinned. “People react to the songs. What can I get you folks?”
Peter waited for Diana to order. She asked for an Irish coffee—something sweet to make up for the dessert she’d skipped at the inn—and he grudgingly requested a Sam Adams lager. As soon as the waitress departed, he leaned across the scarred oak table and muttered, “After this drink, we’re out of here.”
Diana sighed. She wished that when he’d leaned across the table it would have been to ask her to dance. Or to admit the song was catchy. Or just to crack a smile and concede that remaining at the Faulk Street Tavern for as long as it took to enjoy a drink wasn’t sheer agony for him.
But he remained scowling, his arms once again folded across his chest, his cashmere sweater smooth and much too tasteful in this room full of people in flannel and denim and leather. Lord, he could be such a pill. Most of the time he was a fine man, smart and clever, honorable and respectful, but every now and then he’d slip into curmudgeon mode. His temper could flare into a major blaze in a fraction of a second. Once they were married, she’d have to figure out a way to get him to lighten up and mellow out.
The waitress was back sooner than Diana expected; the service was quicker here than at the Ocean Bluff Inn. She set three square napkins on the table, then placed a mug peaked with whipped cream like a snow-capped mountain in front of Diana, and a beer in a sweating bottle and a V-shaped glass in front of Peter. His glass had tiny flecks of ice on the rim but it appeared clean. Diana wondered whether he would pour his drink into the glass or drink it straight from the bottle. Drinking from the bottle would protect his tender digestive system from whatever imaginary contamination the glass might contain, but it was so déclassé.
Her mug looked clean enough. She took a sip—hot coffee, cool whipped cream and soothing whisky, a blend of bitter and sweet that simmered down her throat. It was, in fact, the most delicious Irish coffee she’d ever tasted. She smiled at Peter, but he was too busy frowning at the beer bottle and glass to notice.
The song ended, and the crowd at the center of the tavern thinned as the dancers drifted back to their seats. Diana followed a couple with her gaze as they walked arm-in-arm toward the bar. The woman was plump, the man husky, and both were clad in plaid flannel and blue denim. She couldn’t see their faces, yet from their posture alone, the way the woman’s arm snuggled around the man’s waist, his arm looped over her shoulders, and her head leaned gently into the hollow of his neck, Diana could tell they were in love. She allowed herself an envious sigh, then wondered why she envied them. She and Peter were in love, too, weren’t they?
When the couple reached the bar, a man stepped out of their way. Tall and lean, he had on black jeans, a Henley shirt and a denim work shirt over it, his sleeves rolled up to expose strong forearms. His face was an intriguing arrangement of planes and hollows, shadows and light. He had a hard chin, a long nose—definitely not a pretty nose—and dark, dark eyes. His hair was dark, as well, thick and wavy and in desperate need of a comb.
His eyes met hers just as the third song began to emerge from the jukebox. It was an old song, from before her time, but she recognized it anyway. Her Uncle Martin loved British rock from the Sixties and Seventies, and when Diana’s family visited him on Martha’s Vineyard, he’d serenade her with his favorite songs. This one was David Bowie. Changes.
The man with the dark hair and the darker eyes was staring at her. She stared back, unsure why. Unsure why she couldn’t seem to look away from him. Unsure why he was gazing at her with such intensity.
The song’s familiar, stammering refrain filled the air: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.
Every other sound fell away. She heard no other voices. No clinks of glasses touching, no thuds of bottles being set on tables, no scrape of chair legs against the wooden floor. She heard nothing but the song—and she saw no one but the man.
“Diana!” An instant after the last soulful wail of a saxophone at the end of the song faded away, Peter’s voice intruded, forceful and demanding. “Diana!”
She flinched and swung around in her chair, as if by ending, the song had released her from a spell. Peter was studying her, his brows dipped into a deep frown. “Where the hell were you?”
“Right here.” Her voice sounded odd to her. She took a hot sip of her Irish coffee, as if that would wash away the fog in her throat, in her brain.
“Finish your drink.” He waved impatiently at her mug. “I want to leave.”
You’ve wanted to leave since the moment we arrived, she thought with a strange blend of irritation and…fear. Fear that something inside her was wrong, something had become unhinged. Something was falling apart.
Had the bartender added a dangerous extra ingredient to her drink?
“All right,” she said, nudging the mug away from her. “Let’s go.”
But even after she’d stood, donned her jacket and let Peter lead her out of the tavern, she knew she’d left a piece of her soul behind.
Changes by Judith Arnold / Romance & Love have rating 2.7 out of 5 / Based on35 votes