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Authors: Jade Goodmore

Winter Blues (9 page)

BOOK: Winter Blues
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“Oh no, he’s looking for the one and he’s adamant that you’re it,” I say, inwardly cringing.

“Aw, he’s a sweetheart!” She reaches into her bag and pulls out a handily prepared thick marker pen. Yanking my hand across the table, she scrawls her name and number on my palm. Replacing the cap, she flicks her hair over her shoulder and twinkles her fingers in a wave toward James. I thank them for their time and make to leave when the brunette reaches out for my arm.

“Don’t you want
my
number?” she asks quietly. I can practically see the nerves dripping off of her as she worries her teeth over her bottom lip. Her big eyes remind me a little of Darlene, even if her lack of confidence is the complete opposite. Knowing that I’ll never even see her again I permit her this ego boost and allow her to put her number in my phone. She smiles a bright smile and I take a little pride in that as I walk away.

James is ecstatic when I thrust my pen covered hand in his face. I have to pry him away from wanting to speak to them immediately, telling him that he can meet them on his own tomorrow. I spill him the back story I fed them and he agrees
that he needs to play it cool.

Thank God.

Back in my room, I shower away the stink of the bar, the faint touch of the quiet admirer, the dirtiness of playing James’ games for him, and the thick ink on my palm, before jumping into bed. Tonight I feel more grateful than ever for the ring on my finger. I text Darlene a goodnight message, and she responds with her own brief goodnight. I wish I could call her and fall asleep to the sound of her sweet voice, but we both know that’s not going to happen. I was bereft of her nighttime company when I was in the same apartment as her, so why would it be any different when we are miles apart.

 

 

 

 

13

Darlene

 

For the first time all week I have woke
n up in my own bed. While it’s been the comfiest night I’ve had in days it’s certainly not been the most restful. With a million thoughts intruding my mind and an ever present cold spot on the other side of the bed, sleep was an infrequent friend. I have found myself on Reid’s side, sleeping on his pillow after having dreamed that I could feel his warmth residing there. No such luck. And from his drunken attempt at a text message last night it doesn’t appear that he’s feeling my absence in the same way.

Rolling out of bed to begin my day
, I vow to have a better time than yesterday. After moping around during the afternoon that Reid left I moped around all night too. Cash kept me company while I worked on some songs for Monday’s gig and when he failed to rouse some life from me I gave in to my melancholy and picked the first Nicholas Sparks novel off the bookshelf I could find and settled into bed.

Not again.

After a plentiful breakfast I shower and dress, paying more attention to my hair and makeup than usual because I need a little pick-me-up. I spend the morning picking up bits and pieces from Printers Row market. It’s nice seeing the park so busy and everyone is always so friendly. After stocking up on vegetables I treat myself to a bunch of flowers. I can get rid of the depressing reminder of my dry marriage that sits in my kitchen and choose something refreshing, something more to my taste. I opt for a calming palette of white gerberas and carnations with a splash of yellow courtesy of sunflowers. All are tied together artistically with large folded leaves and twine. I’m smiling as I leave the park and bump into Blue.

“You know, I can’t recall the last time I came to the park and you weren’t here,” I say by way of greeting.

“Well, that’s because I’m stalking you, obviously.” He pauses for dramatic effect but he’s smiling his telltale smile that tells me he’s joking. “Or maybe I needed to pick up veggies for dinner.”

“Ah. I’ll cancel the bodyguards then.”

He smiles before regarding my handful. “You really shouldn’t buy your own flowers, ya’ know,” he says, trying for playful but I think I detect a trace of a frown.

“Why not? I like to. Girl power and all that.”

“Girl power means that you can, not that you should.”

I shrug weakly as I look
toward my apartment block. I don’t want to have this conversation. It feels like he’s waiting to pick at Reid and despite my own annoyance with him it feels completely wrong for me to encourage Blue’s disdain.

“I thoug
ht I might see you last night, Pilgrim.”

“Well, I thought I’d give you a night off,” I reply, with an awkward smile. In truth
, I thought that
I
could use a night off.

“You don’t ever have to give me a night off
,” he says with a grin. “Are you coming tonight? We have a band on.”

“Really?”

He nods excitedly. “You’ll like them. They might teach you a bit about the blues.”

“Ah, well maybe I’
ve been doing a little research on that very subject.” I forget why I’m encouraging this little game that we have going on, but when he smiles with delight I can’t help but feel thankful that I am.

“Really? Am I going to hear
Little Miss Country go all bluesy for me come Monday?” he queries with an electric gleam in his dangerous eyes.

“If you’re a good boy,” I tease, but it play
s much worse than it sounded in my head.

“Never.”

I start drifting toward the direction of my building, needing to stop this flirting that we so easily slip into. “I should go. These flowers need water.”

“Okay. Tonight?” he asks
, although I’m not sure he really intended it to be a question. I nod in response before I even have time to work out whether it’s a good idea. I really do just rely on impulse when I’m around Blue. That can’t be a good thing. To the beat of my feet I repeat the words like a mantra in my mind

I shall not drink tonight.
I shall not drink tonight.

 

I put down the phone to Reid, having ascertained that everything is going great in regards to this new author. I tried to sound pleased for him and he tried just as hard to enthuse about my new job, but after everything that happened before his leave it all felt a little forced.

Eyeing myself in the mirror
, I smile a little, forcing a deep breath to clear the nerves that linger in my stomach. Inspired by the sunflowers, I have found my favorite black tunic dress with a scattering of yellow flowers over its entirety. It’s a tad girly for me, but teamed with my black cowboy boots, a leather jacket and big hooped earrings, I’m totally rocking it. Under the illusion that because I coped with the chilly air earlier today I can cope without the tights tonight, I leave my apartment and brave the streets of Chicago.

I was wrong to be so naive.

I practically run to
The Nest
, willing the exercise to warm my body. I’m instantly okay when I enter because it is jam packed. I manage to squeeze through to the bar to find Nile and Veda with an unfamiliar face; a young girl with hair that falls to her waist, even when it’s tied up high on her head. Her eyes are tight like a cat’s and they are the sharpest blue I have ever seen. She’s beautiful. She steps forward to take my order before Veda interjects, handing me a Corona with a big smile. She points toward the stage and when I follow her finger I see Blue laughing with a small group of men.

“He told me to send you over when you got here,” she explains. Of course he did.

“Thanks, Veda,” I call as she moves on to another customer. Cat Eyes creases her pretty little face with a deep frown. I hesitate before making my way over to Blue. The crowd is thick and even more raucous than normal. I don’t recognize many faces so I can only assume that the band has bought in new clients. I don’t want to interrupt so I linger a little off the dance floor, but when Blue sees me he bounces over and tugs me to the group of guys sitting on the stage edge.

“I’m glad you came,” he says directly into my ear.
“I want you to meet these guys; Jules, Chester, Dean and my uncle, Robbie.” He’s beaming as he points to each gentleman in turn. I smile and wave politely but Uncle Robbie pulls me into a bear hug that could shatter bones. He’s warm and smells comfortingly like tobacco.

When I can breathe
, let alone speak, I greet them all. “It’s nice to meet you. I can’t wait to hear ya’ll tonight.”

“That’s very kind of you. Blue tells us that we’re to educate you, and educate you we will,” Robbie claims with a smile so wide it rivals Blue’s, the whiteness of his teeth exaggerated by the darkness of his skin.

“You’ve been talking about me?” I ask, turning to a gleeful Blue.

“Of course. Robbie likes to know all about the local talent,” he answers
, covering himself well.

“Yes, but I don’t always believe Blue’s testimonies. He hasn’t always got the best of taste,” Robbie says with no malic
e. He’s teasing Blue, I figure, as he knocks him playfully on the shoulder.

“I’m sure we can tempt her to prove her ta
lent. Right, Pilgrim?”

“Oh no,
I’m taking a night off. I’ll be singing Monday,” I tell Robbie, feeling the need to appeal to the more senior of the two.

He chuckles but pacifies my nerves. “
I’ll just have to imagine that you have the angelic voice Blue brands you with then.” He pats me lightly on the shoulder before checking the time. “Let’s get it started,” he says to Blue and his band before leaning in to me and taking my hand. “Enjoy, sweetheart.”

When they take to the stage Blue guides me
toward two seats that he’s kept for us. I feel a little disappointed that I was so much of a dead cert, but I can’t help but be thankful that we at least have seats; it’s ridiculously busy in here. More so than when I have performed and everyone seems more intent on crowding the stage.

“Angelic voice?” I ask, maybe fishing.

“Don’t fish. You know you kick ass.”

I can’t contain my giggle, but it’s disrupted by a louder laugh behind the bar. I look over to find Cat Eyes staring and smirking with a clearly confused Nile.
“Are you not working the bar tonight?” I ask, tearing my eyes away.

“No, Nina came back yesterday so she’s covering.”

“Oh, she’s not new?”

“No, she’s just been visiting her ‘rents
in New York.”

“She’s pretty.” I’m aware of how my comment may come across before Blue looks at me and chuckles. “What? She is!”

“I know she is, but she knows she is too.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” I reply, knowing that it’s healthy for a girl to appreciate her own good looks, but still feeling a stab of dislike
toward her. I don’t know why.

Before he gets chance to respond the music starts up, shocking my ear drums into a state of hyper alertness and that’s how they stay for the rest of the set. I am introduced to a world of blues that I had never known about. They begin with the foundations, with Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson before slowly digressing into more commercially known tunes. Blue has found great pleasure in educating me, rattling off the names of the songs and the history behind them. I can hear him singing along to every single word and I know he’s dying to get up there and perform with them. It’s not
long before he gets his chance.

Taking to the stage in one swift movement
, he hugs his uncle and nods at the rest of the band. They infer for just seconds before an excited Robbie plucks with menace at his electric guitar. Jules kicks in with the drums and Dean with the piano. When Chester pipes up with the saxophone I smile knowingly, recognizing
Shake Your Money Maker
from my research as it spills effortlessly from Blue’s lips.

He loves every second of performing with this amazing band, grinding provocatively against the microphone stand and beckoning the audience, who suddenly seem
riddled with ladies. Some deep-rooted part of me flashes an incomprehensible shade of green and I have to blink back the alien thoughts. What a ridiculous thing to feel for someone that I have no ties to. I attribute it to mob mentality. I’m just going with the rest of the audience and being sucked into his glorious performance.

It’s his stage presence, that’s all it is.

I almost fool myself into believing my desperate excuses when Blue jumps off the stage and swaggers over to me. He has a devilish smirk on his face as he offers me his hand. I shake my head, highly aware of what happened the last time we danced, but he grabs my hand anyway, pulling me into the core of the crowd. Twirling me under his lengthy arm while continually singing, he has every eye on us. It should be discomforting, but my love of an audience lets me forget that.

Pulling my back against him, he di
ps us low and grinds against me, instructing me to shake my money maker, apparently. I’m not used to dancing this way, especially not as effortlessly as Blue, so my hesitance must be largely obvious.

During a small g
uitar solo Blue leans into my ear, pressing his lips heavily against my thick hair. “Stop fighting it. Just let go.”

I don’t know if his words hold any meaning off this dance floor
, but I give in. Everyone’s eyes are on me and I feed off of their attention, the inner performer in me needing to give them a show. I work with the sway of his hips, dipping when he dips and circling when he circles. Our bodies are paired, if only for this brief moment, and I savor the feeling, knowing that I’m not permitted anymore than this. It could be pretty sensual if I weren’t so aware of the crowd and if Blue wasn’t blaring the words to the chorus in my ear.

Blue kisses my hand, his eyes alight with appreciation, and hops back onto the stage. As he finishes the song he takes a bow and then turns to hug it out with his uncle.

As I make my way back to my seat I am slapped repeatedly on the back, as if I have also performed. Blue finds me, his energy double what it was when we were last seated here.

“That was amazing!” he calls, shaking my shoulders firmly. “
You
were amazing. I’ve gotta dance blues with you again, baby.”

Baby?

“Oh, I’m all danced out,” I lie, a little flustered by the endearment. I use that word all the time but I only truly understand the effect of it when it’s spoken by someone else, and when that someone is not my husband it feels…strange.

“Another time?” he asks and I nod, unable to
be the one to put a stop to his childlike enthusiasm.

The music continues long into the night and it’s well after midnight when the last song is played. Blue and I continue to trample on my mantra as we drink through the customers leaving and the band packing up. They join us for a round before
Blue sees them to their van, then it is just myself and Blue with his last two remaining staff. I’m too lost in my music bubble with Blue to realize just how late it is. Veda and Nina work around us as they clean up but we’re too busy relaying our favorite songs from this evening.

BOOK: Winter Blues
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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