Read Her Younger Man (A Country Music Romance): a Renny and Rachel Romance Online
Authors: Nancy MacLaren
I couldn’t decide whether to tell Renny about my conversation with Reade. In the end the decision was taken out of my hands since Renny swept back into our room, dove into the shower and told me to dress for a night on the town without missing a beat. Luckily dressing for a night on the town with Renny meant my best jeans and sweater. I hadn’t thought to bring a dress. After all he had said to bring nothing but men always say that, so I was glad I hadn’t listened to him.
We first took a cab to a Café Orleans in the center of town. It was a bit ritzy and I felt horribly underdressed. Renny seemed to know everyone there and we were given a great table with great service. The socialist in me thought it wasn’t fair that we got better service just because Ren is a celebrity. The hungry woman in me thought it was a great system. But I was wrong about why we had gotten such quick seating. It turned out Renny had gone to high school with the chef, Jerome, who came out and greeted us. He grabbed our menus from us and told us we didn’t need them because he had already created Ren’s favorite meal for us.
He didn’t seem at all surprised to meet me. Maybe it was the dim lighting, it seemed to make everyone look like they were in a glamour shot. Maybe the age difference wouldn’t bother me so much if we stayed in dimly lit areas. Now that’s a life to look forward to, living like some vampire who has to avoid sunlight. This whole relationship was feeling more and more ludicrous by the minute. I had tried to dismiss Reade's visit from my mind but I hadn’t succeeded. Surely he had just said what everyone who saw us together thought, “what is he doing with her?”
Turns out Renny has good taste in meals and because the rack of lamb was absolutely delicious, the wine superb, I didn’t even mind the pile of fried crawfish in front of me. We hadn’t gone out very much in this stage in our relationship (is going to the hardware store considered a date?) I didn’t realize what great fun Renny is around other people. I am naturally reticent around new people, a habit any good journalist acquires, but Renny and his friend (who came and sat with us and dug into our huge meal, enjoying his own food immensely) were so entertaining I found myself laughing and having a blast! I forgot about my age, my worries and nosy Reade and Garrett.
What right did they have weighing in on our relationship? If Reade wanted truth-telling I should tell him that I think his baby looks like a turnip. How you like the truth now, Mr. Reade? Not so fun being on the other side of it, huh?
It wasn’t until we were leaving the restaurant, stuffed to the gills that my bubble of confidence burst. As we were standing outside waiting for a cab several young women drove up, gave the valet their keys and started in the door. One of them let out a small squeal before coming our way.
“You’re one of the Taylor Brothers, right? I saw you last year.” She called to her friends to stop and come over. “Angela, Christine, this is one of the Taylor Brothers. Renny, right? I thought so. Can we get a selfie with you?”
She talked so fast neither of us had a chance to respond. She whipped out her phone as she and her two friends crowded around Ren and started snapping pictures in various poses. I was pushed back which was fine by me. I watched the four of them take the pictures, the girls all jostling for a closer position next to Renny, the twinkle in his eye. This is what it would always be like when we went out. As long as we stayed around people my age he could go unnoticed but the younger crowd, his crowd, they knew him. He was famous. He looked right with these women. Everything Reade had said rushed into my mind. Every doubt or fear I had about this relationship crowded my vision. I had to get away before I had a full-blown panic attack and totally embarrassed myself and Renny. I walked down the street, my back turned to the scene.
Ren caught up with me a few moments later. “Sorry about that,” he said, breathless and happy.
“No problem. Goes with the territory, I suppose.”
He tried to grab my hand but I deftly avoided it and kept walking.
“Why did you leave? Are you angry?”
“No, I just felt like walking a bit.”
“Great idea! Walk off the crawdads. I know a great place to view downtown. You game?”
He managed to grab my hand and I didn’t pull away, partly because I wasn’t ready to talk about my feeling and partly because it felt wonderful, walking in the cool night air, with this warm and funny man, our hands entwined. Still, each time we encountered other walkers, which was often, I ducked my head and looked away. We didn’t talk as we walked which I preferred since I had no idea what to say. My head was telling me to break away as soon as possible, to protect myself from this certain car wreck. My heart was happier than it had been in decades, and it was screaming STAY!
We found the bench with the view after climbing a few stairs and sat down to a panoramic view of Toronto. It was glorious! I generally think that Portland is the most beautiful city in the world but I am prejudiced by how much I love it there. Toronto, at least at night, was giving it a run for the title.
We sat quietly and I was finally calming down when Renny put his arm around me and drew me in. I stiffened under his caress and he broke the tension.
“What the hell is going on with you tonight?”
“What do you mean? I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine. You’re distant and weird. What did I do now? Was it the girls?”
“No,” I snapped too quickly. “You didn’t do anything.” I shifted in my seat, inching away just the slightest.
“But you admit you’re distant and weird?”
“I… just had a lot of time to think today.”
“I knew you were mad at me. I am sorry. I had no idea the piano issue would come up today. We usually don’t sound check until the day of the event. I’m glad we did today because the piano was in bad shape. It’s not what I wanted to do today. I didn’t invite you here to ignore you all day. I should have said no.” He tried to put his arm around me again but I pushed it away.
“It’s fine. I enjoyed the room and the down time. It really isn’t that.”
“It’s something. You won’t even let me touch you.”
I took a moment to ask myself if I was really ready to have this conversation. Did I want to remind Renny why he should send me back to Portland on the next plane? My heart told me to shut the fuck up and enjoy whatever time Ren gave me but my heart hasn’t been in charge of me for a long time.
He is a patient man, but he finally got up, walked a couple of paces and then loomed over me. “What? Tell me. Please, Rachel. You’re making me very nervous.”
“I guess I just wonder, I just don’t understand… what the hell you’re doing with me?”
“Aside from the obvious, I’m not where you are in your life. I have nothing to offer you.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“I wasn’t, no.”
He sat back beside me before speaking. His face was as earnest as it had been when he had sung that beautiful song he’d written for me. Was that just two weeks ago?
“You have nothing to offer me? You are, without exception, the most intelligent, compassionate and funniest woman I’ve ever met. You don’t know the women I meet Rach. You saw a sampling earlier today. They squeal or flirt or cake on the flattery. They aren’t real and I’m not a real person to them. I’m someone on the cover of a magazine, a pretty face, a dollar sign. They not only bore me but I find them all devoid of dimension, of opinion, of Rachelness.”
“Rachelness is not a thing.” I couldn’t help but smile. No one had said anything like this to me in years. I
smart and funny. I
care about the world and the mess we’ve made of it. I desperately wanted it to be enough to overcome all the obstacles.
“What is this really about, Rachel? The age difference? If it were reversed and I was 20 years older than you, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, would we?”
“That’s what I told Reade.” Oops. I hadn’t meant to blurt that out.
“Reade, huh? I’m going to kill that asshole.” His hands made fists and he looked slightly lethal. I had never seen Renny angry before. I was glad I wasn’t Reade at that moment.
“No, don’t. He was trying to protect you.”
“From what? The most amazing woman I’ve ever met? The best sex I’ve ever had in my life?”
“He told me to ask about your divorce. He said I’d understand what was worrying them after you told me about it.”
“Them? Garrett was there too.”
“No, no. Oh, I am in so much trouble.”
“You are in no trouble but my brothers ... let’s just say we need to have a few words.” Now he was pacing in front of me, seeing red, as in blood dripping from his brother’s faces. I had to make him see that they were thinking of his welfare.
“No, Renny! He told me the truth. That the reason the age gap doesn’t work is because … well… you can’t really have a future with me. I told him that his concern was premature, that we hardly knew each other. That we were just having fun.”
“Is that how you feel? That this is all just some sexual folly?”
“No! Yes. I don’t know.” He sat back down and took my hands turning me towards him, anger subdued for new.
“And what the hell does that mean –I can’t have a future with you? Why not, if that’s what we both want?”
“C’mon Renny, don’t be oblivious. You know what he meant.”
“Is he worried about the tabloids? Our reputation? That the girls won’t flock around me? That’s fine with me. I don’t care about all that, I’ve already sacrificed enough for our success, and it’s time for me to have what I want.”
“Like a family?” That stopped him cold.
“What do you mean?” How could he not know? Suddenly I was as furious as he was.
“I can’t have children Renny! I’m way past that. Don’t you get that? That’s why we have no future together. It has nothing to do with anyone else, not Reade or Garrett or the fans. I am too old to give you what you want. Period.”
He let go of my hands as though they were live wires and sat back, stunned. He’d never thought about that part of our age gap, I could see that. Why would he have? It was a fledgling little flame of a relationship. Men aren’t like us women who are picking out china patterns the minute our hearts go pitty-pat.
Now it was out. It was said. There was no going back or pretending we could be anything else than what we were right now, a sexual folly, as Renny had called it. I could hear Marlene’s voice in my head telling me what a fool I had been to ruin the best thing I’d had in my life in the last 20 years, telling me I should have taken what he had to give for as long as it was on offer. But I’m too brittle. I break too easily and I was falling in love with this man and to save myself some major heartbreak it was time to tell the truth; we were not made to last.
He sat staring at the city, gloomier than I’d ever seen him. He got up and walked away from where we had been sitting. His silence was all the answer I needed. He hadn’t thought about it. Well, to be honest neither had I until Reade mentioned it.
Why did Reade mention it? Why would anyone jump to the conclusion that we were serious about each other after two weeks?
I got up and stood next to Renny. “Damn him,” was all he said.
“I’m confused about one thing. Why did Reade feel the need to talk to me? It’s only been two weeks for God’s sake.”
“Because I haven’t been with anyone in two years.”
“Two years isn’t that long to not be in a serious relationship, it’s been a lot …”
“No, Rachel,” he stopped me, “I haven’t had sex with anyone in two years. Not even casually.”
That threw me for a loop. A sexy beast like Renny Taylor celibate for two years? It didn’t make sense. Or maybe it did.”
“Does this have anything to do with your ex-wife?”
“I don’t want to talk about that. Not here and not now. C’mon, let’s go back to the hotel.”
We walked back not talking, not touching. It was over. You could feel it in the air.
For the first time Renny and I went to bed without having sex. I tossed and turned but I realized he would never go to sleep as long as I was restless so I forced myself to lie quiet, to pretend I was asleep. My mind was far from the escape of sleep. It whirled and ran through every moment, every conversation, every feeling I’d had in the two weeks I had known the man next to me. It had been ill-fated from the very beginning. Even when he had tried to show me he cared with flowers and gifts I had found a way to fuck that up. I couldn’t stay here, not for another day and night as Renny was kind and considerate. I couldn’t stand to know he would never look at me the same again, with lust and longing. With hope.
I waited until I was sure he was asleep before rising, packing my bag and leaving the room. I didn’t know when the next plane to Portland would leave but I was going to be on it.
I cried all the way to Portland. Thank goodness the plane was full of sleepy people and no one took notice except the kind stewardess who kept bringing me tissues and 7-up.
I waited at the Toronto airport for several hours waiting for the 6:20 flight, hoping my luck would hold out and Renny wouldn’t wake up until it took off. Even if he had woken up and figured out where I had gone maybe he was just letting me go. It was for the best. Clean break. It was fun. See you in another lifetime. This wasn’t some romantic comedy where he would come rushing down the runaway shouting my name until I forced the plane to stop and we were reunited while all the passengers applauded. But a girl can’t help but wish.
I landed in the drizzly grey of a Portland afternoon. I rode the MAX train home as the rain got heavier and the sky got darker. The city and I were in the same mood and it suited me fine. This was reality. This was home. This was the rest of my life.
I checked my cell phone obsessively for the first few hours and then gave up. He was up by now, knew I was gone. He was letting me go. Smart man. Damn him.
I spent the rest of the day and night curled up sobbing. For a little variety I switched from the living room to the bedroom and even broke down using the john. It just proved that this was the right move; if I was this devastated after two weeks think what I would have been like after a few months, or years. Think what I would have felt watching him leave me for a younger woman, a woman who could give him all I had to offer and everything else. I needed to grieve, which I knew how to do from vast experience, and then get on with my life. The whole world seemed dull and lifeless.
I know, again from vast experience, that routine is very important when dealing with grief so I got up Monday morning, put on my best little reporter outfit and took the train into work.
How could everything still be here
, I wondered.
Doesn’t it know that the end has come? Don’t all the people on the train understand that all that awaits them in their futile, meager little lives was disappointment, sorrow before a welcome death?
I was a little bit depressed.
No one even noticed me as I came in and sat at my desk. I looked at my calendar, checking my appointments for the day; an interview with the new host of the AM drive radio hour at 10, a telephone consultation with the star of a series currently filming in town at 2 and then, nothing for the rest of the day. I had two stories I needed to finish for the deadline on Tuesday so I hoped work would absorb me enough that I wouldn’t think about Ren.
Not even close. If I’d still been overseas I wouldn’t have had a moment to give to him. One tends to focus on staying alive in those circumstances. But entertainment writing? In peaceful, prosaic Portland? Lots of room in the old brain for obsessing, wondering, hurting. This was not going to be as easy as I hoped.
I made it through the day without a major meltdown. A couple of times I took off to the women’s room a little faster than usual and Caroline raised her eyebrows. I think she knew something was up but luckily she had the same deadline I did and she types a lot slower than me. Still, as a precaution I went down two floors to use the restroom so she wouldn’t corner me and demand the details of my obvious unhappiness. She probably figured it out already anyway. It was a pretty easy guess that my fling with the sexalicious Renny Taylor had come to an end. Caroline is one of those people who doesn’t do the messy parts of friendship so she probably had no desire to have me cry on her shoulder. For once, I was grateful for her shallowness.
The week went by with more of the same; I cried at home and picked up the pieces of my life back at work. I was also very unsettled about everything. I had been so grateful to get the job at the paper because I was basically looking at food stamps to survive. Having taken an advance and not written a book I had been forced to give the advance back (some of which I had spent) wiping out the last of my savings. There I was, at 57, after 30 years working my ass off as a journalist, risking my life to be a journalist, and what did I have to show for it? A house with bad plumbing and no savings. No husband of family either. I felt as though I had made every wrong choice in life there was to make. It was like at every crossroads, every time I had to choose one thing over another I had stopped, asked myself
what is the very worst decision I can make
and that was what I went with.
I was grateful I wasn’t living under the Burnside Bridge but Renny had made me remember who I was and what I was capable of. I was a writer. A writer of things that mattered, like little girls sold into marriage.
I got out my manuscript and read through it. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered, in fact some of it was damn good. Although parts of the stories I told in the book still made me tear up and pulled at me, the feeling now was more of indignation and determination. Maybe I was strong enough to finish this? Maybe enough time, and distraction, had given me the distance I had needed.
I sent an email to my editor, enclosing a couple of the better chapters, and told her I was ready to give it another go. Just like Renny, I didn’t hear from her either. Seems I had burned bridges all over my life.
I still had Marlene though. A good BFF is the greatest asset a girl can have and I was blessed with Marlene. She didn’t ask all the gory details. She just made me dinner, fed me ice cream and watched re-runs of
with me. Late Sunday, a week after my flight from Toronto, she was finally demanded to know what was going on with me and Ren.
“Okay,” she said, grabbing away my Peanut Butter Cup Core pint, “enough ice cream. What happened in Toronto?”
I told her the whole debacle. I steeled myself for her ‘you’re an idiot’ speech but it never came. She just listened before taking my hand and saying, “Of course you had to leave.”
For some reason that made me cry all over again. Even Marlene, the most optimistic and romantically inclined friend I had saw that Renny and I were terribly wrong for each other. What I had deep down hoped would be a pep-talk, a ‘you go get ‘em Rach and damn the consequences’ had turned into an affirmation that my instinct to protect myself had been a good one.
She got up and took the melting Ben and Jerry’s back to the fridge and washed off the spoon. On her way back to the couch she saw my manuscript on my desk by the window. She picked it up and started reading. She sat down in my crappy office chair and read for another ten minutes before speaking.
“This is good. This is really good.” She brought it over to me placing it on my lap. “This is you Rachel. I know you feel you have nothing and have achieved nothing in your life, but this,” she pointed at the manuscript in my lap, “this is something the world needs to read. And my friend, this is something you need to write.”
“I wrote my editor,” I told her,” she didn’t write back.”
“Get a new one. Damn it Rachel, you are a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and this is another waiting to be won.”
Marlene grabbed her coat and purse, then came over and gave me a quick kiss on the head. “Think about it sweetie, that’s all I ask. I’ll check in tomorrow.” I looked down at the manuscript but didn’t touch it. Maybe Marlene was right. What was I thinking, Marlene was always right! What I needed was to get over this silly little love affair and spend my time productively, doing what I know how to do, write.
After she left I curled up on the couch and read through everything I had written up to that point. A lot of it was crap but that’s to be expected on a first draft. Some of it was really good though. In fact, some of it I don’t remember writing, that’s how bad my state of mind was. Funny thing was, the stuff I didn’t remember was the best. Maybe I had needed to be that emotionally immersed to get out my best. I thought about my favorite quote about writing;
Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed
I was bleeding, albeit internally, so now I needed to write.
I sat down at my desk and didn’t get up until the morning. By then I knew what I had to do; beg.
After a morning of persistent (and possibly annoying) phone calls to my editor’s office she finally got back to me Monday afternoon. I had emailed over several chapters for her to read and hoped she’d had time to look at them. I’m not great at begging but I needed my advance back to finish the book. I needed the advance to get on with my life, what was left of it after I’d emptied all my tear ducts and my heart was numbed.
“Rachel, so good to hear from you,” she said. I bet. It took you long enough to get back to me. “What can I do for you? We did receive the last installment on your advance some time ago so no apologies necessary sweetie. I know you were having a tough time.”
“I come not to apologize but to grovel Amanda. I need the advance back. I’m writing the book again.”
“Oh, well that’s great. I’m happy you’re back at it.”
“Before you say another thing I need to know, do you still believe in this story?”
“I do. I always did. It’s just that … well, the climate has changed here a little. I’m sure you heard of the merger.”
“I sorta did. Some big media company bought you out, right? But you’re still a senior editor?”
“True. And I can green light books it’s just that I’m talking about the war climate. People are getting a little bit of war-fatigue, if you know what I mean.”
“War fatigue, huh? You mean like the fatigue, anxiety and devastation the Afghani women and children have been feeling for the last 200 years?”
“Now Rachel, we know that it’s tough for them but…”
“No, you don’t. You haven’t been there. Very few Americans have any idea of what is happening there. If they did they wouldn’t be screaming for a withdrawal of our troops.”
“Still, Rachel, people are done with it. They want to move on to other stories. They want some happy endings and we both know we didn’t exactly win this war, right?”
“So you’re telling me that I missed my window of opportunity. I get it. Thanks anyway.”
“Wait, wait. I didn’t say that exactly. I was just letting you know it will be a hard sell with my higher-ups. The advance may not be as big. Let me talk to George, have him read the chapters you sent, which are brilliant by the way, and get back to you. When do you need to know?”
“Today. I just quit my job so unless you want to me to become a homeless, get me that advance back.”
“Rachel, Rachel, don’t quit your job. I read some of your articles, they were great. You really know how to get under the skin of some of those pompous celebrities. It seemed like you were having fun with it.”
“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. I had to quit Amanda, it was hurting my soul to be writing about such nonsense when the world is burning to the ground.”
“People like that nonsense, Rachel, it sells. But I will do my best. Smoochies.” With that she hung up.
I had lied to her. I hadn’t quit my job, officially. I just hadn’t gone to work today and wasn’t planning to for... well, ever again.
I sent out a prayer to the goddesses of female writers and sat down to open a vein or two.