As he pulled off, he asked, “What did the board say?”
I glanced once more toward my parents, who were still holding on tight, and swaying back and forth. My lips parted, and I grinned at their love. “Dance with me.”
We drove back to the house to fill Cheryl in on everything that was happening, and I watched her sigh with relief. “Good. Good.” She thanked me for coming to help. Brooks and I headed up to my bedroom, and we lay on my bed, with our feet hanging over the edge.
“They really love each other,” Brooks said, staring at the ceiling. “After everything they’ve been through, they still have that love.”
“Yeah. It’s beautiful.”
“Do you think we can listen to some music?”
His question was simple, but the meaning was huge. “Yes, of course.”
He stood up and grabbed the pair of earbuds from my desk, then plugged them into his iPhone. “What do you want to hear?” he asked, lying back down.
“Anything, everything.” He put it on shuffle, and we listened to all kinds of sounds.
“I sang today,” he said, as we listened to music going on for an hour. “Out on the lake. I went out there to sing this morning.”
“Oh, yeah?” I asked, sounding surprised.
“Yeah. I mean, I have a lot of work to do, but I think my voice will be okay. Maybe the band will be okay with me only on vocals.”
“Of course they’ll be okay with that, Brooks. Did you see Calvin’s reaction to seeing you today? All they want is for you to come back. I don’t even mean back to music; I mean come back to them. They’re your best friends. They just want you to be okay. You should call them.”
He nodded. “I will. I’m just worried about the fans, you know? A lot of them are buying into the rumors. They think I’m some deadbeat.”
“Brooks, come on. Anyone who knows you, and really sees you, knows those rumors aren’t true. For every negative comment, there are thousands of positive ones just wishing for you to recover and return to them. Trust me. I’ve been reading the comment sections, too.”
He smiled and kissed me. “Thank you.”
“I’m happy you sang today.”
“Yeah, it was hard without the guitar. I think once I get back with the guys, and they can play for me, I’ll be able to feel my way through it more.”
I sat up and shook my head. “You don’t have to wait. I can do it.” I rushed over to the guitar in my corner and picked it up. “I’ve been playing along with you guys since you taught me to play.”
We played until the morning sun began to rise, and he sang his best, which was always enough. When it became clear that neither one of us could keep our eyes open for much longer, we placed the guitar away and lay in bed. My head was on his chest, and he held me so close.
“I love you,” he whispered, as I started to drift to sleep. “I love you so, so much.”
There was nothing more special than being able to speak those words back to him.
The next morning Brooks and I drove together to return the boat he rented out. We were playing the guessing game of how much he’d end up owing for keeping it way past the date it was meant to be returned. Our current guesstimate: a-whole-freaking-lot.
“So, I was thinking. I’m probably going to have to start seeing a vocal coach and actually taking the steps toward recovery soon. That might mean I have to go out to Los Angeles for a while. To meet with the guys, to start working toward rebuilding my career. I know you have school—”
“It’s all online,” I cut in. “I can do it anywhere, and if need be, I can fly back home at any time.”
“You’ll come with me?” he asked, surprised.
I took his hand into mine and squeezed it twice. A sigh of relief left him.
“That makes me happy. It’s easier with you, you know? Everything’s easier.”
We pulled up to James’ Boat Shop, and I couldn’t stop smiling at the howling old dog on the front porch. As we walked up the steps, I moved over to him and started petting him behind his ear as he stopped his yapping. Good boy.
“I’ve been here a few times, and that’s the quietest I’ve ever heard him,” Brooks joked. When we walked into the shop, we were greeted by a man who looked to be our age, maybe in his mid-thirties.
“Hey, Brooks, it’s nice to see you again,” the guy said, walking over to Brooks, patting him on the back. “But I don’t think we’ve met.” He held his hand out to me. “I’m Michael. I run this place with my father.”
I shook his hand. “Nice to meet you. I’m Maggie.”
“My dad said if you want, you can walk around the dock and check out a few of the boats. He’s finishing up a phone call right now. He said he’ll meet you out back if that works.”
“For sure, that’s fine. Thanks, Michael,” Brooks said.
Brooks took my hand into his, and we walked around the back, waiting on the dock, studying the boats.
“Does this bother you?” I asked. “Being this close to boats? Should we go wait in the front of the shop?”
He shook his head. “No. It more so only bothers me when I’m dreaming. I’m okay.”
“Okay.” I glanced down at our hands and grinned. “This is weird, huh? We’re outside holding hands. We’re outside together.”
He pulled me close to him and brushed his nose against mine. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
It was more amazing than he’d known. I’d dreamed of that day for so long.
The door to the shop swung open, and an older man came out of the building smoking a cigarette. The dog in the front of the store started howling again. “Goddammit, shut up, Wilson! Shh! Shh! Freaking dog.”
My body tightened up. Brooks narrowed his eyes at me. “You okay?”
I nodded my head. “Yes. I’m fine. Sorry. Sometimes I just have flashes.”
His forehead wrinkled and he lowered his eyebrows as he studied me.
I gave him a tight smile. “I’m fine. Really.”
“Okay,” he said warily.
The man started in our direction, and I wrapped my arm around Brooks’ waist pulling him closer to me.