I kissed the side of his face, “I’m sorry, baby.”

Chapter Nineteen

November rain brings December pain

My parents flew in, taking up all the room in everyone’s minds. Mom doted on Judith like it was her job, not that Judith minded the crazy distraction. At one point, I whispered into her ear, “You see what I’m saying?”

She gave me the two blinks and we moved on from the conversation. My dad went for a couple runs with Lissie. He never stopped talking about her. I was ready to strangle him. Danny and Gerry made arrangements for the band to move to Nashville. It was better for them anyway.

I lay on the bed beside him, staring at his lost face. “Mike and Gerry, and the new guy Leon, they’re moving. Gerry bought a house, and he, Danny, and Mike are thinking about sharing it.

His eyes flicked on me, “I can’t ask them to do that.”

I shrugged, “It’s done. No one wants to see Judith in a home. Your dad worked hard to keep her here, everyone wants to be here.”

He bit his chapped lip, “I’m the newest member, they can’t move and lose Lenny.”

I smiled, “Lenny sent a huge bouquet of flowers and a long letter, basically saying he was leaving Thin Ice in your capable hands. He wanted your mom to have you, and he wanted you to have your dreams.”

He closed his eyes, “I need some more sleep.”

I grabbed his jaw, “Look at me, Loch.”

He opened his eyes.

I shook my head, “No. You need to get up and help your family. Your mom lost her husband and support. She’s scared, and she doesn’t need to add you to the things she needs to worry about.”

He kissed my nose and climbed out of the bed, “Okay.” He left the room, leaving me there.

Danny came in the room and closed the door. He lay on the bed next to me, “How the hell did this many things go wrong, all at once?”

I shook my head, “I don’t know, but damn.”

He nodded and looked at me, “Did they used to live under power lines? How the hell are they so sick and so young? Look at our mom and dad compared?”

“I know. In some ways I think our parents have done a couple things right. They’ve been selfish, but they take care of themselves. Yeah, they’ve always been number one their books, but at least that involves health. We can at least give them that.”

He snorted, “Yeah, the fucking line draws there. Mom has been a complete psycho about Judith, she even talks to her like Judith doesn’t speak English. And Dad was chatting up some young thing on the road, when I went outside for a minute.”

I grimaced, “I swear he hit on Lissie.”

He scowled, “I’m gonna hit him. He needs to remember he’s fifty-seven.”

I sighed, “Maybe they are doing the right thing, they act young. They look young and live young.” I glanced at him, “Do you see yourself getting married, having kids, and adding to the stress and shit in your life? Or do you see it as more enjoyable to be like mom and dad, and just have fun and be carefree?”

He sighed, “I don’t know.”

I snuggled into him, “Me either.”

“What about Loch?”

I shrugged, “We can be young and fun together maybe. He can show me how.”

“Fat chance, you won’t ever be fun. Let’s face it.”

I slapped his belly and closed my eyes.

The funeral was lovely. His old friends and workmates came with their wives. Lissie had put Judith in a beautifully-elegant dress she’d bought for her. She looked beautiful.

Lochlan stood, stoic. He didn’t cry; he hadn’t since the courtyard at the hospital. He didn’t hold my hand or even stand near me. He’d shut me out, except in his sleep. He needed me then. He whispered things like begging me not to leave.

We got back to the house, all exhausted and ready to sink into a pit of despair. I pulled off the heels, I had to get my mom to buy me, along with the dress. I didn’t have anything that was worthy of a funeral in my tiny bag. The kitchen was where I lost it. I made coffee and slumped against the counter. The kitchen was Al’s domain. He made the coffee and the snacks. He made the meals and catered to everyone. He had never done it in all their years of marriage, until he had to. Then he learned how to cook. How to make everything the way she liked it. How to guess on the things he didn’t know and how to make everyone in his home comfortable, regardless of the fact his life was hard.

He was mother, father, and friend to his children. I knew him for a couple weeks and I loved him like he was my family. I felt warm hands on my back. I looked back at Gerry, wiping my face, “Sorry.” He took a tissue and wiped away my tears and mascara.

“Wanna go for a walk?”

I nodded.

We left the house. Danny and Mike came. We left the Barlows to grieve alone. Mom and Dad had gone to their hotel rooms.

We didn’t tell them we were leaving. We just did. We walked, the four of us, looking too fancy and dark for the peaceful neighborhood.

Gerry walked up to a huge, fancy house in the new area. It had a sold sign. He produced a key, “Want to see it?”

I smiled, “You bought in the same neighborhood?”

He nodded, “Yeah. Alex and Lissie are too. Everyone has agreed that we should all be as close as possible. This is my close.” He turned the key and stood back, impressed. It was a huge home, double-car garage, two stories and a basement. I frowned, “What are you going to do with all this room?”

He grinned and opened the huge door. We stepped into the grand front entry. The floors were slate and maple hardwood, with a slightly-reddish stain. The kitchen was slate and marble with stainless everything. Two sinks and a huge island. It was spectacular. The master bedroom was the size of our entire apartment and the ensuite was worthy of royalty. Gerry grinned, “It’s nice, huh?”

I shook my head, “Nice is like insulting this home.”

He patted Danny on the back, “The best is downstairs.” We followed him to the unfinished basement. He held his hands out at the drywall and framework. “This is going to be a state-of-the-art sound room. It will be soundproof and finished for us to record and rehearse, and whatever we need it for. It’s only a block from Judith’s, so we don’t have to worry about being far from her while we work.”

Danny beamed, “That’s awesome.” None of us could get very excited, and honestly, he didn’t even sound impressed with himself. Mike sat on the stairs, “Our first concert isn’t until March, so we’ll have plenty of time.”

Danny shook his head, “No. We have a new keyboard player to get used to, we have three new songs that we just bought, and we have to get the rest of the album cut. There is zero time. How long till this is complete?”

Gerry thought for a second, “They said three weeks, first week of January.”

I wondered how much money they all had suddenly? Even Danny seemed flush.

I looked around, “This will be perfect for you guys. Good choice, Gerry.”

He grinned, “You are welcome to stay anytime you want—you know that, right?”

His tone made my stomach feel like it fell. I nodded, “Of course. Thank you.” I pointed, “I’m going to head back.”

They stayed at the house, plotting or avoiding. It didn’t matter which.

I entered through the backyard and sat on the huge, sofa-like deck swing. I curled up and watched the fluffy, white clouds. The skies in Nashville were bluer and clearer than Boston’s. It was more like North Dakota. I missed home. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

I woke to voices. I opened my eyes and looked through the dark yard. The sun had fully set and night had claimed the sky. Lochlan and Alex were standing in the yard.

“You owe her more than that.” Alex said. I was about to come to Loch’s defense, assuming it was about his mother.

Lochlan crossed his arms, “I want her to go home. I just want her gone. I don’t want to have to think about this anymore.”

Gerry’s comment about me staying with him, made me instantly sick. Was I the last to know I was being dumped, on the day Al was buried? I stayed perfectly still.

Alex shook his head, looking down, “You haven’t changed at all. Everyone is always focused on poor Lochlan, Brave Lochlan, Sad Lochlan, ADHD Lochlan, Successful Lochlan. Everything is always about you.” He walked past him, leaving Loch staring at the backyard.

Silent tears streamed down my face. What had I done? Why did he want me gone? I wanted answers but I could see the darkness in him from there. Provoking him seemed like a… oh fuck it. I sat upright. He turned. I could barely see his eyes in the dimly-lit yard.

“I just want to know why. Alex is right, you owe me that.”

He didn’t walk to me. He looked down, “I just want you gone. I don’t want to do this anymore. I have to focus on my mom and Thin Ice and I don’t have room. You’re too much work.”

I got up and slowly walked to him, “You’re making a decision for me?”

His face stayed frozen, “Just run away, like you always do. I’m giving you permission to go this time.”

I looked up at him, “I always saw you as so brave and strong. You overcame so many things and saved that Andrew guy.” I nodded, “You had me fooled. I have to give it to you. I always believed you were the better one; I wasn’t worthy because I couldn’t shine as bright as you.” I turned to leave but he grabbed my arm and spun me.

He looked desperate and angry, “I need this.”

I shoved him, ripping the mace from my dress pocket and holding it out, “YOU RUINED MY FUCKING LIFE!” I pulled my other arm free and wiped my face, “I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN! I WISH I NEVER MET YOU!” I took a deep breath and calmed my fury, as I backed up with my mace still out, “I hate you, Lochlan Barlow. I hate you.”

I turned and left the yard. I ran as fast as I could to Gerry’s house. I knocked on the door. Gerry answered, his face broke. He wrapped around me but I shook my head, “I just need a ride to the airport and my shit from Judith’s.”

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