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Rated: E · Fiction · Music · #1932163
The price you pay
Chapter 8

         Gabriel wrote heartfelt poems and sent them inside his long letters to Amy but, in an effort to give her the space she said she needed, didn’t call as often.  When he did phone her she never sounded interested in hearing about the new album’s progress and usually seemed too busy or tired to talk to him for very long.  She admitted that she was seeing someone but swore that there was no sex involved.  She was going to parties, dinner engagements and even church services with the man she refused to identify, but insisted that their relationship wasn’t going beyond an occasional kiss goodnight.  She said if it was sex she was looking for she had all she could handle with Gabriel.
         His heart was beginning to show stress fractures.  He walked around most of the time with what felt like an iron cannonball sitting in his stomach.  He was lucky if he slept five hours a night without waking up repeatedly.  He’d tested the dating waters himself and had intimate relations with a few of the women he’d met through other musicians but those trysts were unfulfilling encounters.  For some reason the painted ladies he hooked up with did their best to dress and act like wanton tramps and an evening with one of them usually turned out one of two ways.  Either they were so sedated with pills or liquor that they were as responsive as rag dolls or they acted like they were trying out for the Olympic gymnastics team, leaving him bruised and battered.  Sex for sex’s sake was vapid and only served to make Gabriel miss Amy all that much more.  Making love to her had been the closest he’d ever gotten to heaven and he longed for those serene moments when he’d caress her soft, angelic skin in the warm afterglow of their shared passion.  Simply put, no woman on earth compared to her.
        He sensed that Amy was drifting farther and farther away from him with every passing day but he was helpless to do anything about it.  He couldn’t be in two places at once.  He started drinking more and smoking pot almost every night to try to deaden the throbbing emptiness that never left his heart but neither medicine lived up to its overrated reputation.
         As time went by he became desperate, calling her at home two or three times a week.  Usually no one answered but when she did pick up the phone he never knew what she’d be like.  Sometimes Amy would be genuinely happy to hear his voice and ask him to forgive her for being such a wimp.  Sometimes she would cry and say she felt like she was losing her mind.  Other times she’d be cold as an iceberg.  He wrote more letters and passion-filled poetry in an attempt to express to her the depths of his love and always tried to convince her to fly out to the coast to spend a few days with him.  She still claimed that she needed more time to think.  She had no answers to give him.

         On her end of things her relationship with Kenny was evolving and turning into a lot more than a close friendship.  His never-ending pleas for her to separate herself from Gabriel and reach out for the love he was offering wore her down little by little.  There were many things about Kenny that she didn’t like.  He was often an arrogant, bull-headed man who could be totally lacking in compassion or sympathy for those less fortunate.  Most of the time his idea of romance was a box of chocolates.  He also had a quick temper that would frighten her from time to time when he lost control of it.  But he was generous in his affections for her and his disarming smile and his silly jokes won her over to liking him more and more.  She usually had fun with him and that was so much better than sitting at home all by herself.
         One night before she and Gabriel had come to their agreement about seeing others platonically she and Kenny had celebrated a mutual friend’s birthday a little too much and they’d slept together in her and Gabriel’s bed.  The guilt ate her up so badly that she refused to even hug Kenny for two weeks after that but before too long she was finding a lot of comfort in indulging in sex with him even though she was hiding the truth from Gabriel.  Amy would never let herself get caught in a situation where she was sleeping with two different men so she finally made up her mind to move on and see what life would be like with a lover who didn’t leave.  She just didn’t know how to break the news to Gabriel.  In the end she took the cowardly way out.

         When several boxes of his clothes and belongings showed up at the hotel late one afternoon he called her.
         “Hello?” she answered timidly.
         “Hi, Amy.  It’s me.  I got a surprise delivery today.  You want to tell me what to make of all this?”
         “Gabriel,” she said slowly.  “Please try to understand.  I want to be free from this pressure I feel from you.  I just can’t live with it anymore.  I don’t know what I feel about anything.  Including you.”
         “So this is your solution?  Just turn your back, clean out my stuff and walk away?  Why can’t we work this out?  I need you.  I love you.  Doesn’t that count for something?  Don’t give up on us, baby.  Please.  You’re forgetting how incredible we are together.  Has it slipped your mind that we were planning to get married one day and have kids?  Did those hopes and dreams mean nothing to you?”
         “Don’t do this to me, Gabe.  I can’t handle it.  You were the best thing that ever happened to me but everything’s different now.  It seems like you’re never around anymore.  This isn’t easy for me to do.  I had to talk myself into falling out of love with you or I wouldn’t be able to do this.  I still love you and I always will but I’m not in love with you anymore.  Don’t you know it’s killing me to be the one who backs out first?  I never thought I could do it.  But I’ve got to be free.  Completely free from everything so I can decide what’s best for me.  My life has been a train wreck since you started playing music and you know that.  I’m no good to anybody and most of all to you.  Try to understand.  It’s not my intention to hurt you.  That’s the last thing I want to do.”
         “How am I holding you back from doing whatever it is that you want to do?  I’m on your side, baby.  We’re a team, remember?  I want to see you happy, too.  Just let me help.  Don’t turn your back on the one who loves you more than anyone in the world.  I am the man who was born to be with you.  You know that.”
         There was a long silence.  He could hear her sobbing on the other end of the line.
         “Please.  Please set me free, Gabe,” was all she could finally mutter through her tears.
         “Alright.  Whatever you say,” he replied solemnly.  “Fly away.  I’ll always love you, my lady.  Goodbye.”
         He lowered the receiver back in its cradle.  He was hollow from head to foot.  Every nerve ending exposed.  He’d been gutted and the pain was excruciating.

         A half hour later there was a knock on the door.  He opened it and Josh came strolling into the darkened room, talking fast.  Gabriel just turned away, went to the window and looked out at the city lights blinking on one by one as the night crept in.  Josh didn’t notice his downcast demeanor at first and started pacing in his excitement.
         “I just got some spectacular news, Gabe!  At Chris’ urging Globe agreed to foot the bill for the backup band!  How about that!  They must really like how the new album sounds.  This means no more dingy coffee houses and tiny cabarets.  We’ll be moving up from the basements and backrooms to concert halls!  Isn’t that great?”
         Gabriel didn’t move.  Josh knew something was wrong.
         “Somebody die?  What’s the matter?”
         Gabriel didn’t answer.  Instead he pointed to the stack of cardboard boxes in the corner of the room.  Josh gave them a quick glance.
         “Uh, oh.”
         Gabriel stared out the window as he spoke.
         “You were right, Josh.  About everything.  Earlier this month when I told Amy we were going to be hitting the road immediately she threw a fit and threatened to toss my stuff out on the sidewalk.  She gave me the same ultimatum you got.  Her or music.  I can’t believe she meant it.  Those are all my things from the apartment.  I called her just now and she, in so many words, told me to leave her alone.”
         Josh took a seat.  After a few moments Gabriel continued.
         “I didn’t think she’d go through with it but when they brought in the boxes it finally hit me that it’s really over.  I’m never going to get to touch her again.  Or lie next to her, listening to her breathe while she sleeps.  Or gaze into those beautiful blue eyes again.  Or hear her tell me that she loves me.  She’s all gone.  I’ve never felt so empty in my life and, believe me, I know what empty feels like.”
         After a pause, Josh spoke softly.
         “I’m sorry this is happening to you.”
         “I know, I know.  It happens to everybody eventually.  But this time it’s happening to me!”
         “You going to be okay?”
         Gabriel turned from the window and looked at Josh.  Tears lined his face.  He wiped them away.
         “Yeah, I’m a big boy.  I just feel cheated, that’s all.”
         “Cheated?”
         “Yeah, cheated.  I love music and I love Amy and I don’t understand why I can’t have them both.  It ain’t fair.”
         “Who said life’s fair?  Not me.”
         “She says she still loves me but she doesn’t know what kind of love it is anymore.  What the hell does that mean?  She might as well kick me in the nuts.  It’d be easier to deal with than a load of crap like that.”
         He kicked a plastic wastebasket across the room.
         Josh kept cool.  “All I can tell you, man, is that it’s just going to take some time to get past the pain.  More time than you’ll think necessary but give the agony a chance to subside.  Trust in the knowledge that you will get over it eventually.  As advice goes that’s pretty low rent but it’s all I’ve got.  But it’s also true.  This, too, will pass.”
         “But why didn’t it work?  I thought she was the one.  Why wasn’t she the one?  I thought…”
         Gabriel hung his head and sobbed.  Josh got up and walked over to him.  He gently put his hands on his shoulders and looked into his face.
         “You’ll be all right after a while.  Believe me.”
         Gabriel turned back to the window.  “Yeah, I’ll be fine.  I’ll tough it out.  Just give me some time alone.  And thanks for bringing me the good news about the band.  It’ll be great for us.”
         “Any time.”
         Josh turned and quietly left the room.  As soon as the door closed Gabriel fell to his knees and cried a river of tears.  A thick blanket of despair descended upon his whole being, blocking out all light.

                                                      *****

         No sooner had Gabriel plopped down onto his lumpy hotel room bed somewhere in Chicago, in hopes of catching a nap, when the phone rang.  “Duty calls,” he thought to himself while picking up the receiver.
         “Hello.”
         “Gabe Brewer?”
         “Speaking.  Who’s this?”
         “Norm Kramer, Los Angeles Times.  I’m doing a short feature on you guys in next Sunday’s edition and I wondered if you might have a few minutes to talk.”
         “No problem but let’s try to keep it short.  I’m beat.”
         “Of course.  This is long distance, you know.  Okay.  To begin with, your second album, It Takes One to Know One, is selling very well in a number of markets and is still inching up the charts five months after its release.  None of the critics like it very much but it’s selling anyway,” he stated.
         “That includes you, Kramer,” Gabriel interrupted.
         “You’re right, but I’ve got to call ‘em as I see ‘em, you know.  That’s my job.  I’m a frustrated rocker at heart so don’t take it personally.  Anyway, how do you feel about the LP continuing to gain ground?”
         “I feel real good about it, of course.  It just goes to show that there are a lot of people out there who want to listen to music that fits into their style of living and matches up with how they relate to the world around them.  People who need to know that they’re not alone with their feelings of disappointment as well as their moments of joy and contentment.  People who’ve sorta outgrown the frantic, rebellious rock & roll of their teens but aren’t ready for elevator muzak just yet.  Josh and I write lyrics about the deeper feelings and emotions we all must confront at one time or another.  About being hurt by the ones you love most and how we sometimes hurt them back.  About being confused and bewildered by the pace of today’s society.  About being sensitive and compassionate when it comes to the problem of pain.  A lot of people aren’t apologetic about being drawn to songs that address those issues.  You know, Norm, there’s a bunch of folks out there who’ve been made to feel that they’re weak to be indifferent about material things and that’s a shame.  They just want to be good people.  Josh and I are proving to our listeners that there’s a mellower corner in modern music where pensive souls can find solace, even though everything around them screams ‘be aggressive,’ ‘assert yourself’ and ‘take the money and run.’  I think our music belongs to the people who seek meaning and harmony in their lives more than Cadillacs.”
         “Well put.  What about touring, Gabe?  Do you enjoy it?”
         “Well, to that I’d say a large yes and a little no.  It’s an absolute gas to perform, but it really gets to be exhausting after a few months of non-stop traveling and living out of a beat up suitcase.  You have to turn everything in your life over to managers, booking agents, Dee Jays, record executives and promoters for four or five months at a time and all of that gobbledygook mixed together does its damnedest to work against everything you’re trying to accomplish.  But when you sign on the dotted line, man, you agree to promote the records the label is financing and there’s no way around it.  You’ve got to take it to the people in person.  It’s funny, though.  You work so hard to move up and out of the local bar scene to bigger and better things like making albums and gracing concert stages, only to realize that you sometimes wish you were back at that tiny little pub in Phoenix, singing your songs to your friends again.”
         “That’s interesting.  Do you feel that there’ve been a lot of compromises and sacrifices made along the way that, in hindsight, weren’t really necessary?”
         “That’s something none of us will ever know for sure, I suppose.  All I do know is that everything that happened, every decision we made somehow led us to where we are now so I guess we did most things right.  The fact is, Norm, you have to be willing to give up everything and everybody to make it in music.  That sounds harsh but it’s the hard truth.  All semblance of a normal life disappears.  For example, holding together a stable relationship back home is next to impossible.  But it comes with the territory, as they say.  I got what I wanted at the expense of what I thought I had to have.”
        Norm interrupted.  “Ooo.  That’s a heavy statement.  Can you elaborate?”
        “Sure.  What I’m saying is that I wanted records, recognition and an opportunity to share my art with the world and I got all that.  But I got things I didn’t count on, too.  One of which was a major, gut-wrenching dose of heartache.  It’s also a rude awakening to open your eyes in the morning and, for a few brief seconds, have no idea where you are or why you’re all alone in a strange room.”
         “Hmm.  You sound a tad disillusioned.”
         “Oh, maybe so.  But don’t make me appear ungrateful in your story.  That’s not how it is.  I love my life and our fans and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.  But constantly being told when to go, where to go and what to do when you get there just takes a lot of getting used to, that’s all.  We feel we’re getting better and better every night we play and that’s what really counts.  We’re making progress.”
         “I’d say you’re progressing rather well.  What are your immediate plans for the future?”
         “To get some sleep!  Look, I’d love to chat all afternoon but I really do need to get some shut-eye before tonight’s show.  This is our first time in the windy city and I want to be bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  Savvy?”
         “Right.  Thanks for your time.  By the way, what’s Josh’s room number?  I want to pick his brain, too.”
         “You found mine, now find his.  Goodbye.”
         Gabriel hung up the phone, laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.  As always, she came waltzing right into his mind.  “Amy, Amy, Amy,” he whispered.  “When will I stop needing you and when will this hurt you left in me go away?”
         
         It Takes One to Know One peaked at the number nine spot on the Billboard album charts the week before Christmas.  Two singles had broken into the top ten since its release in the spring.  “Lifeline” had gone up to number seven late in September and “Since You Took Your Love Away” had climbed all the way to the number four position early in December.  Josh and Gabriel were now rising stars.
         But the grueling pace of the road and the nomadic lifestyle had begun to take its toll on them.  Josh, who was no stranger to stimulants, often relied on speed tablets to get himself revved up for a gig and would then go through a bottle of Chablis to mellow out afterward. Gabriel, who’d never had much to do with drugs in his teens, found himself giving in more and more to accepting the “gifts” offered him by the backstage hangers-on who always had cocaine and downers to give away.  There was always a fully-stocked bar in the dressing room, as well.  And then there were the alluring, eager-to-please groupies who’d managed to get V.I.P. passes one way or another and they never said “no.”  They now had a four-piece band and two full-time roadies along for the ride and the whole entourage traveled on a leased tour bus that was, most of the time, a three-ring circus on wheels.
         Day by day, week after week everything kept moving, moving, moving.  There was hardly an opportunity to grab more than a few hours of sleep at a time.  There was nothing glamorous about it.  There was no privacy.  No time to think, even less for writing songs.  Long stretches of uninspiring inactivity when all they felt like doing was nothing at all.  There were recurring bouts of hoarseness in their strained vocals due to them having to shout to overcome terrible sound systems and lousy monitors.  There were the snooty, condemning critics who sat in the front row every night, spending more time flirting with girls than listening to the music.  The irritating screams for “rock and roll” that contradicted their intentions to touch their audiences on a deeper, more profound level.  On and on it went but they both firmly believed that it was all worth it in the end if it led to them being acknowledged as relevant singer/songwriters.

         On New Year’s Eve they played to a packed Santa Monica Civic Auditorium as the opening act for The Moody Blues to end the current tour schedule and they had the audience in the palm of their hands.  It was amazing to them what a difference a couple of hit singles could make in how they were perceived.
        They met with Chris Jackson in his office a few days later.  Chris had done well for himself and he had a corner office in a downtown skyscraper.  A bronze plaque on his wall read:

         The winners know a secret
         Losers never know
         The meek inherit the earth
         Sons of bitches steal the show

         The three of them were gazing out the window over the L.A. skyline.
        “They tell me that there are gorgeous, snow-capped mountains out there, ringing the city.  Somewhere,” Josh said, straining his eyes.
        “Yes, and they’re truly astounding to look at.  Especially from up here.  We get to see them about three or four days a year when the wind blows the smog away.  It’s always a shock,” Chris said.
        Gabriel shook his head.  “How do you stand it?  The dirty air burns my eyes every time I step outside,” he griped.
        “Well, like it or not, this is the hub of the industry.  Not much going on anywhere else.  In my profession I have no choice but to live in this city.  In fact, it would be to your advantage if you both got a place here, too.  I can find you a nice house to lease in the valley,” Chris offered.
        “Gee, thanks,” Josh said sarcastically.
        “It may be the city of angels but heaven it ain’t,” Gabriel said.
        They moved over to the desk where they toasted their fortunes.  After a celebratory round of aged bourbon whiskey, they settled in for their “state of the union” meeting.  Chris was smiling ear to ear.  He was the apex of the Josh and Gabe food chain.  He represented them in every aspect of their career.  He negotiated with the record company.  He handled the finances and hired the accountants.  He put them on a reasonable budget, helped them to invest their meager profits in safe havens and protected them as much as possible from the greedy fingers of the IRS.  He set up the tour dates and haggled with the promoters.  He arranged the recording sessions and served as their public relations man to the media.  He was the one with the ulcer.  He was aggressive but he was also honest in comparison with some of the other managers in tinsel town.  And today he was a happy camper.
         “Everything’s coming up roses, just like the parade in Pasadena, boys!  And here’s the best news of all.  The second album continues to sell like hotcakes.  It got off to a slow start but now it’s sitting pretty in the top ten of the charts.  “Lifeline” turned out to be the ice-breaker with the public but “Since You Took Your Love Away” is a bonafide smash hit!  It’s a classic that’ll be played for decades to come.  It’s the big one we’ve been hoping for!”
         “Nice to finally get some breaks in this business.  I say it’s about time,” Gabriel said.
         “Yes, sir.  I’m feeling gold in my bones,” Chris chirped.
         “Chris, I told you that ‘Since You Took’ would be a hit but, as I recall, you were skeptical,” Josh chided.
         Chris shrugged.  “Hey, what do I know?  No matter, it’s the one that’s going to take us wherever we want to go from here.  Now people know who you are.  That’s why we need to be organized and on the ball.  I want you back in the studio by the end of the month.  How many new songs do you have ready to go right now?”
         Josh and Gabriel exchanged a brief glance, then turned back to Chris who had his hands wide open on the desk.
         “Well…?” Chris drawled.
         “Some ideas, yes.  Songs?  No.” Josh said.
         There was a pregnant pause before Chris spoke.
         “No?  Are you telling me that during the last year you two didn’t even write one damn song?  What have you been doing all this time?”
         “Touring without a break, Chris.  That’s what.” Gabriel said.
         “Yeah.  So?  Don’t you understand what’s at stake here?  There are a lot of fast horses running in this race, dear boys.  If you’re lucky enough to get a hit single in this business you can’t waste time.  You’ve got to go for the jugular.  Immediately!”
         Josh sat up in his chair.  “Hang on.  We need to get something straight.  We don’t care what the other horses do.  We aren’t some factory assembly line that cranks out tunes like Ford trucks.  Ten months ago we finished the record and then went right out on the road to a hundred little college auditoriums and a few concert halls all over creation while you worked to get airplay for us.  Then once there was a demand for our services you attached us to the Moody Blues’ tour so we haven’t had a spare minute to catch our breath.  It’s time to take some time off.”
         Chris acted like he’d been sucker-punched.
         “What?  Just when things are about to explode for us?  Either you aren’t thinking this thing through or you just don’t understand the basics of “the biz.”  There’s no way you take your foot off the gas now, boys.  It’s time to buckle your seat belts and stomp on it!”
         “I think Josh is right, Chris.  Look at it from our angle.  We’ve just finished up all the dates we were contracted to do so we’re free and clear in that area.  No outstanding tour obligations to the label, right?  We should take about six weeks off to write some new material, come back to town and work them up with the band, then go in the studio with a batch of dynamite tunes even better than the last.”
         “That’s all well and good if you’re a landscape painter, Gabe, but you’re in the entertainment industry.  You’ve got to stay in the public eye!  They have a short memory.  You can’t score a couple of hit singles and then just disappear.”
         “Who says we can’t?  Why don’t we inject a little mystery into the plan?  Let’s take a low profile while this album continues to sell, then surprise everybody with another killer record later in the year.  Look at Simon and Garfunkel.  They were huge stars.  But none of their fans cared if they toured themselves to death or not, they just wanted to hear more great songs coming out of their stereo speakers,” Josh said.
         “A break wouldn’t just be good for us and our songwriting, it’d be good for the band, too.  We’re all burned out,” Gabriel added.
         Chris stretched back in his chair and studied them both in silence.  He sighed and shook his head in mock disgust.  Josh and Gabriel said nothing.  After a long minute he leaned up and folded his arms on the desk.
         “I reckon we could haggle over this for the next three hours but I’m not going to win this argument, am I?  I can see that.  Fine.  Have it your way.  My professional opinion is that this strategy is foolish and potentially career-wrecking but I’m just your manager who’s been in this racket forever.  If you both feel that a vacation is absolutely necessary then it’s a waste of time to argue about it any longer.  Anyway, it’s your songs that’ve gotten you this far, not your looks.”
         “Whoa.  I take that as an insult,” Gabriel said, capriciously running his fingers through his long hair.
         “An insult?  Have you checked out a mirror lately?  You both look like zombies!  At least get a tan or something!  I’ll use the valuable time you’re wasting to set up some decent tour dates in the fall.  I think you guys are ready to take the next step toward the big leagues by playing some mid-sized venues as headliners.”
         The intercom on his desk buzzed.  He frowned and growled, then leaned over and pressed a button.
         “Yes?”
         His secretary’s high pitched voice was loud in the speaker.  “There’s a Mr. Charles Waters out here to see you.”
         Chris rolled his eyes.  “Right.  Tell him I’ll be out in a second.”
         He got up and went to the door.  “Don’t you two go anywhere.  We still have a lot to go over,” he said to Josh and Gabriel as he left.
         Josh got up and stretched his legs.  Gabriel lit up a cigarette.
         “You know what I’m going to do with my time off?” Josh said, staring out the windows.  “I’m going to take an old friend of mine up on an offer.  He lives in Denver and he’s got a cabin about five miles outside of Vail that he said I could use any time.  I’m going to take him up on it.  I’ve got to recharge my batteries.  I need peace and quiet for a change.  And lots of it.”
         “Sounds nice.  But boring.  I think I’ll go stay with B.W. and Michelle for a while.  They’re the closest thing I have to family.”
         Josh turned in his direction.  “And look up Amy?  You don’t fool me for a second.  I know exactly what you’re planning on doing.”
         Gabriel rose and joined him at the window.  “I’m not trying to fool anybody, Josh.  I want to see her again.  Maybe if things continue to go well for us in this business she’ll reconsider and take me back.”
         “Are you hearing yourself right now?  Is that really the kind of woman you want in your corner?  One who sticks by your side only when the skies are bright and sunny?  Let it be, man.  Just leave her alone.  She changed.  You changed.  It could never be the same.  Old loves never come back as anything but ghosts.”
         “I don’t care.  I’d take her back on any terms.  I’m sorry, Josh, but you don’t know the internal hell I’ve been going through since she dumped me.  I’m wearing a happy-go-lucky joker’s mask on stage most of the time but that’s just what it is, a mask.  Underneath the anguish is as real as it gets and it’s killing me.  I truly feel like my heart is dying and I’m willing to do anything to save it.”
         John shook his head.  “Alright, then.  Hunt her down.  Some guys have to learn things the hard way.  But make sure you spend some time with pen and paper.  I’m counting on you to bring back some decent lyrics.  Pour your pain into them.”
         “Have I ever let you down before?”
         “No.  Just be careful.  I’m worried that you might end up getting hurt all over again.”
         “Don’t fret about me.  I’ve just got to find some closure.  You take care of yourself out in the wilderness.  Don’t go falling off any mountains or getting mauled by a pissed-off grizzly bear.”
         Chris returned, mumbling to himself unintelligibly, and they went back to their meeting.

         After the conclave adjourned Josh and Gabriel shook hands and left for their individual sabbaticals.  They’d been around each other almost every day since they met so they knew it would do them both a lot of good to take a break.  The miracle was that they hardly ever argued about anything important but it was time.
         Josh got his things together and took a cab to LAX.  His first stop was to be St. Louis.  His folks had settled down in a nice suburb there and he looked forward to spending a day or two around his family.  He slept most of the way there so he felt refreshed when he got off the plane.  His mom, dad and younger brother Brian met him at the gate.  Within the hour he was relaxing on his parents’ couch with their aging collie Emily sitting right next to him.
         “It’s so good to have you home, Joshua,” his mother said, hugging him for the twentieth time.
         “I’ve been reading about you and Gabe.  I’ve got a scrapbook filled with clippings about you.  The kids at school have even asked me to sign your albums for them,” Brian said excitedly.
         “You’ll have to show that scrapbook to me later.  I hardly pay any attention to the stuff the journalists write about us anymore.  They usually don’t say flattering things,” Josh said.
         “Well, I don’t care what they say.  I think your music is very pretty,” his mom said, hugging him yet again.
         “Yeah, I’m kinda proud of you, son,” his father admitted.  “I had a feeling you’d stand out from the crowd once you found your calling.  I just hope you’re putting some of your money back for a rainy day.”
         Josh was struck by how strange it felt to be comfortable in his own skin when in the company of his dad.  His mom had always been supportive but compliments from him had been rare when he was growing up and he often felt like a failure in his father’s eyes.  But he wouldn’t have had it any other way if it was necessary to get him where he was at that moment.  Maybe that was his dad’s way of toughening him up.
         He partook of the best meal he’d had in months and settled into a reclining chair right in front of the fireplace.  His family gathered around and asked to hear stories about his experiences.  He had about five years to catch them up on.  He talked about the different bands he’d been a part of and the odd characters that he worked with.  He told them details about the lady he almost got engaged to.  He told them of traveling around the country as a solo, playing in restaurants and cafes.  He related the tale of how he’d met Gabriel by chance in Phoenix, their stint at the People’s Pub and how Chris discovered them.  He then regaled them with stories of Hollywood, the record biz and life on the concert trail.
         Finally it was just Josh, the fireplace and Emily.  Just because he was on vacation didn’t alter his night owl ways.  The others had gone to bed and he sat staring into the glowing embers much like he did as a kid growing up.  He could see the faces of the women he’d known in his life.  The ones that betrayed him and the ones he betrayed.  The ones that inspired him and the ones that crushed his spirit.  All now slinky, opaque shadows wandering through his memory banks.  He’d lost touch with every one of them.  He wondered if he would ever fall in love again.  He wondered if there was a girl out there in the big, wide world who would understand him.  Love him.  Encourage him.  Accept him just the way he was.  If there was, he wondered if he would ever find her.


(Hear the music of Josh & Gabe on the album "Two Old Friends" by Davis-Anderson Project at Amazon, ITunes, etc.)
© Copyright 2013 Rollie Tom (odalomas at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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