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Authors: Jade Goodmore

Winter Blues (7 page)

BOOK: Winter Blues
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11

Darlene

 

Four missed calls and seven text messages later I finally pluck up the courage to talk to Blue. It has to be done, I owe him that at least. I’ve shaken off the last of my hangover with the help of a late breakfast and I’ve prepared for the possible cold my makeshift bed may have given me by dosing up on medication. Touch wood, I’m fine.

Calling Blue’s number, I fidget incessantly with the corner of my gold pillow, burying myself deeper into my chair in the hope of finding some comfort. It offers zilch. I know exactly what I want to say but I don’t know how easy Blue is going to make it for me. Maybe I should have just text him...

He answers, “Finally!”

...Too late now.

“Hi, I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier. It was a mad night,” I explain, feeling mortified again at my actions.

“Did he hurt you?” he asks, sharply.

“What? No! Don’t be ridiculous.” I’m completely shocked that he would jump to that conclusion. Is that how our relationship comes across? He couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Despite what you think, Reid isn’t like that.”
              “He seemed pretty violent last night.”             

“Yeah, to you. Are you surprised, Blue? You really didn’t have to antagoni
ze him like that.”

“He came
barging in demanding to see you. I wasn’t about to let him drag you home. You don’t have to put up with him, you know,” he says without a hint of irony, as if Reid is the bad guy.

“Are you for real? I’m his wife and he didn’t know where I was
or
what I was doing. Of course he was going to be a little mad. Just thank God that he never suspected what I was actually doing.”

“Are you saying you regret it?”

“Of course I regret it!”

“You shouldn’t. I don’t
.” He really is shameless.

“Well, you should.”

I breathe out loudly, trying to push out the frustration and reign in some control.

“That’s what I was calling to tell you. Last night was a huge
, drunken mistake. I’m not that girl and I don’t ever want to be that girl again. Which is why, like I said last night, I won’t be performing at The Nest anymore, and I certainly won’t be drinking there again.”
              “Pilgrim...”
              “No, I’m not Pilgrim,” I interject, finding it a little painful having to scold him when he regards me so sweetly. I close my eyes, needing to continue with this. “I’m Darlene
Daley
. But that doesn’t really matter anymore, because I can’t see you again, Blue.”
              “Not even as friends?”

“Not as anything.”
              “Now you’re being ridiculous. It was just a kiss,
Darlene
.” He says my name with sarcasm. “A kiss fuelled by way too much tequila.”

“And I can’t risk it happening again.”

“So don’t drink.”
              “You think it’s that easy?”

“Sure,” he insists and he actually sounds believable. “Look, I know you want to perform and I know everyone wants to see it. We don’t have to make this out to be such a big deal, because it’s not. It was a little slip. We’re friends, Darlene,” he says, cutting right to the core of my hesitance. That’s inevitably what I would miss the most.

His friendship.

A
Friendship.

I’m dithering for what feels like forever as I weigh up my options, running my hand through my matted hair as if it has any chance of soothing me. I naively thought that maybe he felt the
same pull toward me, but perhaps it really was just a drunken mistake. Maybe I’d imagined all of the flirting beforehand and the chemistry onstage. Maybe he wants me back purely because he has a slot to fill at the bar and me and my guitar can fill it. I guess it all boils down to whether I can believe him.

“I don’t know if I can trust you,” I admit.

“So don’t. You don’t need to trust me if you trust yourself.”

Ah, touché, Blue
.


And that’s the million dollar question. Do you trust yourself, Darlene?”
              “Yes,” I answer, confidently. Whether either of us believes it is questionable.

“Then problem solved. I’ll see you tonight. You’re on at eight.”

With that he hangs up the phone. How did the conversation get flipped from me refusing to ever see him again to seeing him tonight? Either that man has a magical way with words or I am a complete pushover. I think it may be both.

I can’t deny that I want to perform tonight. The stage is calling to me and refusing it feels completely wrong. But will it be putting my marriage at stake? Reid made it perfectly clear last night that he holds no warmth for Blue, but surely he’d want me to be happy? And he knows how happy performing makes me so how could he say no? He wouldn’t say no, because I’m not asking his permission. I never ask permission of anyone, but I will warn him. Actually, I’ll ask him to come. God, I hope he does.

Picking up the phone again, I dial his work number. I get through to the office secretary who patches me through. “Hey, how are you feeling?” Reid asks over the top of rustling papers.

“Fine, thanks. I ate, I medicated, I rehydrated.”

“Good.” I actually hear him sigh with relief. I don’t know why he feels so guilty. That emotion should, and does, fall on me.

“I actually called to see what time you’d be finishing tonight?”

“Probably late if I want to finish up before the weekend,” he says on a long exhale. “Why?”

“I thought about it, baby, and I’m still g
unna perform tonight.” I sense him about to interrupt so I cut him off. “Before you say anything, I won’t drink. And if you don’t trust me then you can come with me.”

“Of course I trust you, Darl, that’s not the issue. I just worry about you
is all,” he says, sounding a little hurt, or maybe exasperated. My guilt doubles.

“So can you come?”

“I’ll try. Really, really try.” For once, he sounds genuine and I allow myself to believe that he’ll be there.

 

Ordinarily when dressing for a gig I would wear something a little more notable than jeans and a loose fitting knit, but considering the situation, I’ve played down any minute sex appeal that I may secretly be emitting. My hair is restrained in a messy bun and my makeup is minimal. I’ll probably feel a little underdressed once I’m on stage but I know that the music will be a good distraction for me.

I wait around at home much longer than I should, hoping that Reid is going to come barreling through the door. But he doesn’t. With only fifteen minutes until I’m due at
The Nest
I disappointedly get on my way.

It’s with faint annoyance that I notice the burnt out sun hiding between the buildings around me. I wonder if R
eid notices the sunsets anymore or if he’s oblivious like he seems to be oblivious to the slow sunset of our marriage. It’s a painful metaphor.

The bar is already busy considering that it’s still early and I begin to wonder whether there is a mistake. Maybe
someone else is performing. But when Nile calls me over in a flutter of excitement I can accept that it is me they are here to see.

In a soft voice Nile instructs me to leave my purse behind the bar and get a move on. Apparently everyone
is eager for the night to begin. He hands me a bottle of water and practically pushes me toward the stage. I’m greeted politely and eyed expectantly as I walk through the thickening crowd. When I get to the stage I see a stool, a mic and an amp already waiting for me. It’s only now that my nerves kick in. Thank God. I welcome them with open arms, knowing that without them this means nothing. Regardless of my longing to see them, their appearance has me regretting my decision to abstain from alcohol. A Corona would go down very well right now.

As I sip resentfully at my bottle of water I scan the room for Blue. He’s nowhere to be seen. Maybe he’s decided to hide and give me the space I need. Somehow, I don’t believe that. I have no doubt that he will appear eventually. I wish the same could be said for Reid. I can barely see the door from all the way back here, especially with the crowd between us, but I know I’m going to be checking it all night.

I lift my guitar onto my lap and notice the subtle quietness of the audience. I wonder how many have heard me before and how many are here out of habit or coincidence. I hope I don’t disappoint. I have a rough playlist in my head but I’m going to just play what I think the room needs, what I need.

Strumming the strings once, further
hushing the room, I reach out and lightly alter the microphone’s placement before I speak into it.

“Evening
, everyone. I have to say I’m both thrilled and terrified to see so many of ya’ll here, so tonight could go one of two ways. I’ll either be dancing along with the rest of y’all or I’ll be spending the majority of my time in them there toilets.” I cringe a little at the country twang in my voice that becomes more apparent whenever I take to the stage; a byproduct of growing up in the thick of a country band. The crowd chuckle though and I relax some.

It’s a little unnerving having no country music in my set list. Country is my comfort blanket but I just don’t feel it here. Country is the old me and the old me isn’t welcome in Chicago. Or at least that’s how it feels.

“We’re going to start off a little slow but we’ll pick it up later if y’all are still with me.” I smile a little knowing that I’m about to depress the fuck out of them. I don’t care, they’ll be dancing later and this song has been on my mind for months, so it’s about time it got played.

As I start to play Radiohead’s
Creep
I am instantly in my own little world. My voice is haunting as I sing the lyrics that I feel so connected to right now. Lyrics that tell of my loneliness, of my hate for that loneliness, and how that loneliness is only exaggerated by how easily Reid fits in here.

I wish I was more like him.

I’m singing it to Reid, telling him that I’ll try, that I’m trying. I’m doing my best to fit in when I feel so far removed from my comfort zone, to everything I know. I beg him to notice me like how he used to. I want him to feel this mass of space between us like I do.

I sing about running, not physically but m
entally because that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve mentally put the space between us and I want to run back. I will do anything but it feels impossible, because I don’t belong here.

I’m surprised at the thunderous applause that this melancholy song gets as it finishes. Not everyone appreciates sad, especially not in this self-deprecating version, but like I initially thought, this place loves great music regardless of genre or meaning. I almost blush at the praise but I gather myself and thank the reception before moving swiftly onto the next song.

While I was lost in my own little musical bubble, Blue has planted himself behind the bar. I don’t know how long he’s been watching me but his eyes are kind rather than bitter and his smile is warm. I smile back appreciatively before looking around for Reid. In times gone by he would have made his way to the very front, pushing and shoving and creating all sorts of havoc so that he could be as close as possible to “his girl.” I wish that were still the case.

I sing for hours, anything from Florence and The Machine to Amy Win
ehouse, from The Avett Brothers to Imagine Dragons, and everything seems to be well received. Drinks are brought for me and requests are called out, and the whole while Blue has watched me with a serene smile. During a quick break he gives me a Corona, and I take it, feeling a little rebellious in the face of Reid’s no-show. He drinks with me and talks happily about my set. Begging me to sing some blues and me refusing since I don’t really know any.

Not once does he try his luck and he doesn’t mention anything that transpired between us yesterday, and for that I am truly grateful. When it’s time for me to take to the stage again he walks with me and helps me step up. I contemplate asking him to duet with me but I don’t, for fear of once again feeling the chemistry that I know accompanies our singing together. Maybe when I know hand on heart that there is nothing between us we could try again, but for now, with the smidgeon of doubt that is
shelved neatly in my mind, I think it’s safer that we perform separately.

Perhaps I’ll sing something for him though.

Regardless of what happened between us just twenty-four hours ago, Blue has proven himself to be a true friend and I am so grateful. I really need him right now.

My heart
stumbles upon King’s Of Leon’s
Use Somebody
and I don’t refuse it. Blue smiles immediately, recognition and appreciation residing over his stunning features. I sing softly, concentrating on each word and recognizing them as a reflection of my own thoughts. I pick up at the chorus, adding volume and pace to intensify the spirit, the crowd singing along to the wailing oh’s. The room is electric but all I can concentrate on is Blue’s unwavering eyes.

He gets it.

BOOK: Winter Blues
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