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Rated: E · Fiction · Music · #1933231
A step back
Chapter 9

         After two days of home life Josh said goodbye to his family at the airport, promising to stay in better contact with them in the future.  He landed in Denver that afternoon.  The day was as clear as a church bell and he could see the tall mountain peaks towering up into the sky west of the city.  “This is going to be wonderful,” he thought to himself.  He looked forward to the solitude and serenity he would be surrounded by for the next five weeks.  Part of him hoped that he would eventually grow weary of the calm and quiet so that when it came time to go back to L.A. he’d be ready for it.  “Fat chance,” his mind responded.
         He rented a jeep and, following the map his friend who owned the cabin had given him, motored into the Rockies.  Two hours later he finally found the dirt road near Vail that took him miles off the beaten path and led him to the most tranquil spot he’d ever set foot upon.  The cabin was a modest one-bedroom A-frame with a toilet, a shower and a small kitchen.  A generator behind the cabin supplied electricity for when he needed it and a propane tank provided fuel for a space heater if the fireplace wasn’t up to the task on severely cold nights.  If he chose, he could draw water from a crystalline stream that flowed only yards away from the house.
         He unloaded his things from the jeep, found an axe and went to work chopping enough wood to make a decent pile.  It didn’t take long for him to realize how out of shape he was.  At one point he stopped for one of many breathers, stood and listened.  The silence was almost total.  The only sounds were those of the wind blowing through the tree tops and the occasional cry of a bird.  As the sun began to dip behind the peaks Josh lit the wood he’d stacked in the fireplace, unpacked his new 12-string Guild acoustic guitar and poured a glass of wine.
         “I’d like to retire here someday,” he thought to himself.  “Then again, I may never leave.”

         Ten days later Joshua Kelly looked more like a mountain-dwelling hermit than a rock star.  He’d grown a scraggly, rude beard and his hair was wild and tangled.  But the contented, beatific look on his face reflected that of a man without a care.  With no telephone, radio or television around he’d completely lost track of the outside world and he found himself feeling creative and clear-headed for the first time in a long while.  His first encounter with reality came when he realized that his food supply had dwindled to crumbs and he wasn’t stupid enough to think he could forage for his own sustenance.  He would be forced to reenter the world of madding crowds for a few hours.
         He hopped into his jeep the next morning and bounced his way down along the winding dirt road that led back to the highway and civilization.  He’d decided to drive into Vail and see how things had changed since he was there for a week playing in a club called the “Nu Gnu” with a Top 40 cover band six years earlier.  The town had been a delightful place to be back then and he hoped it hadn’t changed.  A light snow was falling but the road had remained ice-free and he arrived in town within thirty minutes.

         There were tourists and ski buffs all over the place but they gave the village a festive atmosphere and Josh was actually glad to hear the sound of people again.  His initial stop was the grocery store where he drew more than a few stares not because of his celebrity but because he wasn’t wearing the fashionable ski wear like everyone else.  Truth be told, he looked like someone you’d want to avoid.  He ignored their impolite sideways glances, imagining himself to be Robert Redford’s character in “Jeremiah Johnson” as he pushed his cart up and down the aisles.  He relished the idea of being an outsider.
         While looking for the coffee section he turned a corner and suddenly found himself looking straight into the two most alluring eyes he’d ever seen.  He was shocked by the woman’s beauty and he could’ve sworn he heard an electrical snap go off inside his brain the instant he saw her.  He flashed a quick, sheepish grin and asked, “Seen the coffee?” while pretending to search the shelves in front of her.
         “Right behind you,” she said, pointing over his shoulder.  She then strolled away.
         “Oh, yeah.  Thanks,” he said as he watched her turn at the end of the row.  “Yes, Joshua, old boy, it has been kinda quiet and lonesome in that cabin,” he thought to himself.
         Not many women could turn his head but this girl was extraordinary.  He shrugged and pushed onward, thinking as most men do, “She’s bound to have a husband or boyfriend somewhere that’s big and mean and easily enraged with homicidal fits of jealousy.  Forget about it, chump.  She’s way out of your league.”
         Even so, he crossed her path intentionally two more times before arriving at the check-out stand.  He toted his groceries to the jeep before heading for the hardware store to buy a new, sharper axe.  He leisurely shopped around in the place and found a few more things he thought he might need.  After a few minutes of browsing he looked up and found himself once again gazing into the same beguiling eyes that he’d so recently stalked through the aisles of the grocery store.  She acknowledged him and smiled, then walked up to the elderly man behind the counter.
         “Hello, Mr. Patterson,” she said cheerfully.
         “Why, hello, Tenni,” he said.
         Josh acted like he was thoroughly intrigued by a set of brass fireplace utensils as he eavesdropped on the nearby conversation.  “What an unusual name.  Tenni,” he thought to himself.  “I think I’m in love.”
         Indeed, on the outside she was the epitome of his ideal woman and what she should look like.  Light brown hair falling just below her shoulders, adorable but classy facial features, delicate hands, soft voice, slim and dainty without appearing frail.  She was a goddess in need of a worshiper.
         After purchasing a new flashlight she turned and walked toward the door, pausing for a second to find something in her purse.  As she closed the door behind her Josh stood, staring as if in a trance.  The old man noticed.
         “Nice girl, that Tenni,” Mr. Patterson said.  “Why, if I was about thirty years younger…”
         “I understand.  Completely,” Josh said in agreement.
         “She’s a sweetie.  Always stops in to say hello whether she needs anything or not.  I think she must live up in the hills somewhere nearby,” Mr. Patterson said.
         “She has a husband, I’ll bet,” Josh said.
         “If she does, I’ve yet to see him with her.  She’s always by herself,” the clerk replied.

         Josh bought an axe and the sundry items he’d picked out and headed back towards the jeep once again.  The snow was still falling only lightly but he wanted to get back to the cabin before it turned into a blizzard.  His eyes spied a bakery shop, however, and the temptation to treat himself to a delicious, hot donut and maybe a sugary bear claw or two for the trip back into the mountains was too strong to resist.  He locked the jeep again and entered the bakery, only to encounter the same incredible eyes for the third time in less than an hour.  She put her hand over her mouth, blushed slightly and stifled a giggle when she saw him.  Josh couldn’t believe his luck.
         “Um, do you get the feeling that we knew each other in a former life or something?” Josh said to her.  “I’m not following you, honest.”
         “Likely story,” she replied with a wry smile.
         “Um, can I buy you a donut or a cup of coffee or both since we can’t seem to avoid each other?  Or, better yet, how about joining me for a hot toddy in the bar on the corner?  Please?”
         She paused for a second and looked him up and down.  “Well, normally I wouldn’t think of doing such a thing.  But since you’re obviously not a ski jock I’ll accept your invitation.  But just one and then I’m on my way back home,” she said.
         “You won’t regret it,” Josh said, opening the door for her.

         One hour later they were still sitting across from each other in a booth inside the bar.  They talked so freely that anyone listening in would’ve thought that they were old friends who’d met up for drinks and conversation.  Josh was particularly impressed with the fact that she’d never even heard of Josh and Gabe.  In her defense, she’d met her quota of con artists in her day so she naturally harbored doubts about his story of being a semi-successful singer/songwriter with two hit records and as many albums under his belt.  Yet Tenni was intrigued by the fact that Josh treated her as a human being with a brain, not a cute little nymph to be conquered like the town’s playboy wannabes saw her as.
         The snow was falling harder outside the windows and Tenni finally said that she had to get going.  Josh went for broke.
         “Say, how about you having dinner with me some night?  I’m going to be in the area for another month or so and I’d love to see you again.  I clean up real good,” he said.
         “I think I’d like that, Josh.  When?” she asked.
         He thought fast.  “Well, how about tomorrow night?  We could meet up right here at seven.”
         “You’ve got yourself a date, Mr. Kelly.  I will see you then.”
         Josh drove back to the cabin tingling all over.  Tenni had generated a sensation in him that he wasn’t used to experiencing at all but it was one than ran through his entire frame.  He didn’t know what to make of how he was feeling.  All he knew was that he had met someone out of the blue that was different from any woman he’d ever met and he couldn’t wait to see her again.

         The following night a clean-shaven and freshly-showered Josh was sitting at the designated spot in the bar at 7:15.  He’d been there since 6:45.  He’d trimmed his unruly hair some, put on a dash of English Leather cologne and was wearing a new sweater his mom had given him a few weeks earlier.  This was a vast improvement over the grizzled appearance he’d sported the day before.
         Tenni Richardson arrived fashionably late five minutes later, a normal ploy for pretty young ladies.  She looked absolutely angelic in her black jeans and lily white sweater.  Josh’s mouth almost fell open when he saw her come in.  He was hooked like a gulf stream Marlin.
         After enjoying an elegant dinner in the local Italian joint down the street they walked over to one of the nicer hotel lounges for cocktails.  The soft lighting and subdued atmosphere made for a romantic setting.  There was a lone singer/guitarist in the corner who actually played “Since You Took Your Love Away” at one point but Josh said nothing about it.  They sat close together on a large, comfortable sofa near the fireplace.
         “You said you’re an illustrator, but what does that entail?  How’d you end up living in a house in Vail?” he asked.
         “I was a typical struggling, starving artist for about a year and a half after earning my bachelor’s degree from North Texas State University.  I found myself stuck in a dead end job, toiling my life away drawing menial fluff pieces for an advertising agency in Dallas.  It wasn’t anything like what I’d had in mind but that’s the decidedly unglamorous existence of your average commercial artist.  Well, to make a long story short, I got my first break when I got to illustrate a children’s book that ended up being a best-seller.  That led to me landing a job with a publisher in New York and, after illustrating a dozen more successful kid’s books there, I’d saved up enough money to go independent.  I’ve always loved the mountains and, after looking for a while, I found a great place near here.  Now all my work is done through the mail.  I receive a manuscript, get a feel for the story line, talk to the author on the phone, draw my interpretations of the characters and scenes and then send them to back to the writer or directly to their publishing house for approval.  Then sometime later I get a fat check in the mail.  I also get recurring royalties on past work.”
         “Dang!  That sounds like the perfect job.  I kinda wish that’s how the music business worked.  Simply.”
         “Well, it’s not always all that simple and not every illustrator has it so good.  I’m fortunate.  I had to wait a long time to set things up the way I wanted them to be.  I paid my dues but I had a plan and I stuck with it.  I’ve been living here almost a year now and I never want to live anywhere else.  Now tell me how your noble profession functions.”
         “Noble?” Josh chuckled.  “Let’s see.  Basically, I work with this guy named Gabe Brewer and we write songs together.  We record them and put them on thin, vinyl Frisbee-sized dealies and our record company distributes those things to every corner of the planet so people can go to a store and purchase them for home use.  Then our manager makes a bunch of phone calls and sets up concert dates with shifty scoundrels called promoters in every corner of the planet so those same people can come see us play the songs they heard on that thin, vinyl Frisbee-sized dealie they bought.  Now, the success of all this depends on how close our records come to topping the popularity charts.  And that depends on how often the radio stations play our records after they’ve been paid to do so by the record company reps.”
         “All that sounds a little bit silly, Josh.  I’m sure it’s more complicated than that but I do believe that’s what you do now.  I stopped in Vail’s only record store today and your two albums were on display right up front.  I bought them both but haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet.  I mainly listen to classical music around the house.  I guess I’m not very hip,” she said.
         “You’re right about it sounding like a silly business because it is but I must admit that I love it.  The creative aspect of writing songs and recording them with professionals is highly satisfying and addictive.  My path was a lot like yours, though.  I had to wait a long time and I had to pay some steep dues before I realized any measure of success.”
         “Well, then tell me this.  Since you’re one of those constantly-on-the-move, wildly adored rock stars what are you doing all by yourself in the middle of the Rocky Mountains?”
         “And what’s a charming, beautiful woman like you doing without a boyfriend, I might inquire,” he said.
         “I asked you first,” she said.
         “Right.  I reckon I’m just real particular when it comes to the opposite sex.  I won’t deny that there are a lot of willing women hanging around, begging for my attention in my line of work but most of them have no ambition or goals other than being seen with someone famous.  I have no interest whatsoever in being a part of their ego trips, though.  I prefer to spend my time with a woman who’s a lot more…  Who has a lot more substance, I guess,” Josh said, looking straight into her eyes.  “Now it’s your turn.”
         Tenni sighed.  “Fair enough.  I’ve had my share of heartache, you might say, and that’s one of the reasons I moved here.  I definitely wanted to get away from a lot of my past in Texas and New York.  I haven’t been all that lucky in love.  But don’t misunderstand, I’m not down on relationships.  I’m still a hopeless romantic at heart.  Since I’ve been living here, though, all I’ve met is a horde of dumb, spoiled rich dudes who think they can have any woman they desire just by flashing some cash around.  They make me ill.  I just haven’t met a man who’s interested me much at all.  Until now,” she said, looking back at him.
         When she said that Josh felt the same electrified tingle rush through his body as the one he experienced the day before.  They talked a good while longer, then she invited Josh up to see her house.  They arrived about eleven and she gave him a quick tour of her cozy, comfortable hillside home that overlooked the village below.  It was like something out of a magazine.  The view of the snow-covered valley glowing in the moonlight was awesome.  As they stood together, taking in the view, they both felt they’d reached a pivotal point in their lives whether they wanted to or not.
         Josh slept with Tenni two nights later.  A love had begun to sprout between them and the passion that erupted that evening fertilized it so quickly that it grew into a towering pine almost overnight.  There was no avoiding it so they just gave in and went swimming in the overwhelming flow that engulfed them.  They both had come to the end of a long, drawn-out spell of loneliness and neither of them wanted to play it safe or to venture ahead cautiously.  The magic that everyone craves to know and feel enveloped them at the same exact time.  It was a brand new sensation in their lives, as if the soul mate of their dreams had drifted to earth one day, appeared in the flesh and beckoned them with open arms.  Nothing that came before could compare.

         Josh and Tenni were inseparable throughout the rest of January and for most of February.  They both found that, instead of being a distraction to each other, their individual creative output had doubled since the start of their relationship.  Josh would play guitar and compose new melodies while Tenni would sit with her sketch pad, drawing colorful scenes and characters.  They would spend a day or two at Josh’s secluded cabin, then move back to Tenni’s.
         They consciously avoided talking about the day when Josh would have to leave.  In the first week of March he was due back at Chris’ office in L.A. to map out the schedule for assembling the third album.  On one hand he was anxious to show Gabriel his new song ideas and to hear the lyrics and harmonies that he would add to his rough compositions.  On the other hand he knew that women like Tenni were extremely rare and he hated the thought of leaving her behind.  But he knew all too well that she didn’t fit into the crazy rock & roll environment that he had to work in and around so there was no way he could ask her to come with him.  Yet their separation could last months as they put the next record together and then the inevitable touring would crank up in earnest to promote it, putting even more distance between them.
         There was nothing to do but hope that their love could survive the massive strains that would be put upon it.  He was determined that they wouldn’t end up like Gabriel and Amy did but he knew the odds were stacked against them.  In the end Josh and Tenni chose to not worry about things that were out of their control and to enjoy the warm love and companionship they had while they were still together.  Tomorrow would just have to wait.

         After having a particularly vivid dream the first night of his vacation in which his mother kept calling his name from inside a deep well Gabriel’s conscience got the best of him and he relented.  He decided that his estrangement from his family had to cease.  Amy’s family had embraced him as one of their own and their acceptance had reminded him of the difference the fellowship of kinfolk can make in one’s well-being.  Now that she was gone from his life, he thought it would do him a lot of good to try to reestablish a connection with his own parents and siblings.  A phone call would be inappropriate, he felt, so he boarded a plane to Nashville and rented a car.
         Newell hadn’t changed much since he’d left.  He’d changed a lot more than it had.  He wasn’t at all sure about what kind of reception he’d get from his mom and dad.  Not a word had passed between him and either of them since that tragic day at the University of Tennessee.  They might embrace him or they might slam the door in his face.  The latter response would be understandable and deserved, he figured.  He had not done them right.
         It was hard for him to keep from thinking about that day on the practice field as he drove through the small burg of Newell.  That day’s horrible event had marked the end of the life he’d known and had, to some extent, tainted everything that had come after.  He had a lump in his throat as he turned down the street he’d grown up on.  The Esso filling station was still there on the corner, but he didn’t recognize any of the fresh-faced boys pumping gas and wiping windshields.  The trees in his old front yard had grown some and his mom’s colorful flower beds were neat and well-kept, as always.  He couldn’t believe he was back home.
         He pulled up to the curb in front of the house, then slowly walked up the sidewalk to the front door.  His mind was full of apprehension.  What would he say?  What would be their reaction?  Their golden boy son, missing for over six years without a trace, now would be standing at their front door as if he were the paper boy collecting his monthly stipend.  He rang the bell and waited.  He could hear the familiar chimes ringing in the hallway inside.  His mother opened the door.  She froze.
         “Hi, mom.  I’m home,” Gabriel said, his eyes filling with tears.
         His mother gasped, then stood completely still for a moment, staring at him in utter disbelief.  Her mind couldn’t process the shock of the moment.  Warily, as if she didn’t believe what she was seeing, she finally opened the screen door and stepped outside.
         “Gabriel?  Is it really you?  Is it?” she cried as she wrapped her arms around him and burst into tears.  “Praise God!  You’ve come home!”
         She held him so tight it was hard for him to catch his breath.
         “Is dad here?”
         “He’s still at the bank but he’ll be here in about half an hour.  I’ll call him and he’ll come home immediately.  Oh, Lord.  He will be so relieved!”
         “No, wait.  Let him see me when he comes home as usual.  I want to talk to you first, mom.  One on one.  I’ve got a lot to apologize for.”

         They went inside and sat down on the sofa.  Dorothy was shaking.  Gabriel held her hands in his.
         “I have so many questions that I don’t know where to start.  I can’t think straight.  Gabriel, why did you run away without a word?  Your father and I didn’t know if you were alive or dead.  Why didn’t you contact us?”
         Gabriel sighed and looked down at his feet.
         “I don’t really have a good answer for that, mom.  I just couldn’t face anyone or anything I’d ever known after murdering that kid on the practice field.  I think…  I think I lost my mind, more or less.  I’d done something unforgivable and nothing made sense to me except running away from it all.  I guess I was hoping I’d just disappear one day.  It took me this long to build up the courage to face you again,” he said with tears streaming down his cheeks.
         He then told her the full story of what happened that day at college.  He left nothing out.  It was identical to the one he’d related to Amy years earlier.  Being only the second time he’d verbalized it, it wasn’t easy to tell this time, either.  He broke down several times.
         Dorothy listened without comment.  When he finished she put her arms around him and held him tightly again.  Gabriel had always had a close, open and relatively honest relationship with his mother and he knew that his actions had hurt her more than anyone else in the family.  He was thankful to have some alone time with her to clear the air before everyone else arrived home.
         “I’m so very sorry, mom.  Sorry from the deepest part of me.  I can’t imagine what you’ve been going through over the years,” he said.
         “I’m struggling to take this all in, Gabriel.  I won’t try to downplay the fact that your sudden disappearance devastated all of us.  Fact is, I never knew the details of what happened until just now.  None of us did.  Of course, it was a huge story about that boy being killed in what they called a freak accident at UT but, until this very moment, I had no idea that you felt personally responsible.  Why would you do that to yourself?”
         “Because I know what I did, mom.  They can call it an accident if they like but I can’t hide the truth from myself.  I pulled as hard as I could on his facemask.”
        “But Gabriel, we spoke to several of the coaches and players that witnessed it and not one of them thought you did anything malicious.  Not one.  They said it was a rough tackle but nothing out of the ordinary.  Nobody ever suspected that it was anything other than a sad tragedy.  The worst thing was that, because of all the hubbub over the incident, nobody realized you were missing until several days afterward.  When we didn’t hear from you later in the week we got worried and started to investigate.  All anyone knew was that you’d gone back to the locker room, changed into your street clothes and walked out without saying a word to anybody.  It didn’t make any sense to us at all.  Gabriel, were you afraid that you’d be charged with that poor boy’s death?” she asked.
         He shrugged.  “Yes and no.  I fully expected that I’d be charged with manslaughter but I wasn’t scared about owning up to what I’d done.  I knew I deserved punishment but I didn’t want anyone else to decide what that punishment should be.  I judged myself guilty and I simply wanted to stop existing.  I hated who I was and didn’t care what happened to me.  I thought maybe I could run away from the monster inside me that was hell-bent on betraying my own family’s decency.  I thought maybe I could run away from who I was turning into.  I even thought maybe I could run away from the callous God who just stood by and let me do the unthinkable.  So I just… ran,” he said.
         “Oh, Gabriel, we tried everything we could to find you.  We had the police looking for you and then we asked the FBI to get involved but, since you were an adult and had committed no crime, there was only so much they were willing to do.  They told us that thousands of young people vanish every year and that they couldn’t spare the manpower to search for every one of them.  They said that some drop out of society and join communes, others get involved with weird cults or fall into the drug culture and that some boys leave the country to avoid the draft.  We knew that none of those scenarios applied to you but they wouldn’t listen.  We had posters of you printed up and we sent them to hundreds of police departments in the seven-state area, hoping that someone would recognize you and let us know where you were.  But weeks turned into months and months into years.  I won’t hide the ugly truth about what you did to your family, son.  It was a living hell in this household.  We almost fell to pieces.  There came a point when we had to accept the possibility that you’d suffered some kind of mental breakdown that may or may not have had anything to do with the accident and wandered off in some kind of state of amnesia.  Even worse was the thought that you’d been the innocent victim of a terrible crime and were dead, your remains buried in some remote locale.  Not knowing what happened to you was a constant nightmare.  But I never gave up hope.”
         At that point she broke down in tears.  Gabriel paused before speaking again, trying to digest what his mother had just told him.
         “I thought for sure that all the people on the field that day knew that I’d intentionally tried to injure that guy.  I mean, how could they not?  I guess it doesn’t matter now.  Not really.  Carrying the guilt of his murder around in my head was bad enough but imagining the shame and disgrace that would come upon my family because of what I’d done was more than I could deal with.  I reasoned that by running away you’d be able to distance yourselves from me and better deflect the blame that was bound to come your way.  You and dad were the best parents anyone could ask for but I didn’t appreciate you.  I was living a lie.  On the outside I looked like the good, moral Christian man that you raised but on the inside I was full of selfish ambition and I had a complete disregard for anyone else.  You didn’t deserve a son like me and I figured that if everyone thought that I was no longer among the living then you could wash your hands of me and go on with your lives.  I stayed away because I couldn’t stand the thought of seeing the profound disappointment and disgust that would be reflected in your eyes if you were to ever to meet up with me again.  But I missed you, mom.  More than you’ll ever know and I finally came to the conclusion that I owed you an explanation for my disappearance, even if you flat out rejected me and told me to stay far away from you and the family.”
         “Gabriel, my dear son, that could never happen.  You’re ours and you always will be ours.  You have nothing to fear from us, son.  Nothing is as important as you being alive.  You’re home now and that’s all that matters.  Frank and I never stopped loving you for a moment.  Our constant prayer was that someday, somehow you’d come back to us and that day has finally arrived.  Praise be to God.”

         His father had the same stunned but overwhelmingly thankful reaction when he got home from work.  When he saw Gabriel standing arm in arm with Dorothy in the living room he turned pale as a sheet of linen and had to catch his breath.  The three of them stood and hugged and cried together for the longest time.  Gabriel wondered how they could possibly forgive him so quickly after putting them through so many years of torturous worry and uncertainty about his whereabouts.  Maybe that Bible story of the Prodigal Son was the real deal, after all.
         Not surprisingly, some of Dorothy and Frank’s friends and neighbors had asked them from time to time if their missing son Gabriel was the same young man named Gabe they’d seen on television and heard on the radio but they never considered it possible.  The clean-cut, burr-headed boy they raised would never wear his hair that long and, besides, he’d never shown much more than a passing interest in music.  There was a resemblance, for sure, but they didn’t see how it could be their long lost son.  They thought it just a cruel coincidence.  As far as they knew, he was either deceased or aimlessly drifting around in another part of the world.  Only now did they realize that he was the same person they’d heard about over the last few years.
         Gabriel asked them to keep it quiet about his being back in town but soon everyone in the area had heard about the rock star staying at the Brewer’s house.  After all, he had been one of the most popular high-schoolers ever to live in Newell and even the newspaper reporters from Shelbyville were coming by to see if they could get an interview.  But Gabriel refused to have anything to do with anyone except his parents and his younger brother and sister since he had no intention of spending this part of his vacation being glorified as being some kind of a hometown celebrity.  He also didn’t want to field any uncomfortable questions about why he dropped off the face of the earth for so long.  He just wanted to attempt to make up for lost time with his family and escape from the pressures of his career.
         He stayed inside the house for well over a week, mainly talking to his mom, catching up on the local gossip about who’s with who these days, sleeping in, watching television and doing a little reading.  He tried to write some new lyrics and poems but nothing of quality was flowing into his cranium.  He started to get bored and restless being confined to the house after a while.  He brought up Amy to his mom and told her how she had drastically changed his life for the better but the memories his sharing stirred up only caused the ever-present pain in his gut to rear up again in earnest.  Dorothy expressed that she wished she could’ve met her but all she could say in the way of advice was “Well, son, heartache happens to everyone at least once in a lifetime.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” which didn’t make him feel any better at all.  He was still walking around with a huge hole in his heart that never stopped aching.  Agony was his constant companion that never left his side.
         By the end of the second week he was anxious to move on to Phoenix.  He knew he could stay with B.W. and Michelle for as long as he wanted to.  It would also give him an opportunity to inquire about Amy and possibly meet up with her.  He knew he could never be sure about anything or move forward until he knew that all her love for him had evaporated.  If he found her happier without him then he would at least know that he took the time to find out.  If she was apologetic and remorseful about leaving him he could be a complete man again.  He wanted so badly for the latter to be the case.  Ultimately, though, he felt that whatever he found would have to be a vast improvement over living day after day with nagging doubts and unresolved questions.
         He promised his parents and his brother and sister that he would stay in touch with them from that day forward and try to visit whenever he could.  They begged him to stay longer but by then Gabriel had his mind made up to travel to Phoenix and wild stallions couldn’t have held him back.  He made flight reservations on the phone and drove the rental car back to Nashville.  As the plane left the runway behind and climbed into the blue skies over western Tennessee Gabriel closed his eyes, leaned back in his seat and pictured in his mind the way things had unfolded right after he’d first set eyes on Amy as if he were watching a home movie.  It was always a treasured series of magical moments he loved to mentally revisit whenever he needed to be reminded that life could be wonderful at times.

(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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