He hollered those last lines on repeat as security dragged him out of the building.
As we gathered our things, Donnie looked our way with a frown against his lips. “So about that video. Do you think you can get rid of it?”
“Oh, Donnie.” I shook my head. “I think we both know that we can’t remove it until after the new contracts are in place.”
“Fair enough.” He nodded in understanding. “Max said you small-town boys weren’t the brightest, but it seems you proved him wrong. It seems you can indeed hold your own. We’ll be in touch shortly.”
We all agreed, and as we walked away, Donnie said, “The grapefruit thing was worth it. It felt great against my dick as the girls worked their mouths.”
Marcus groaned as we left the room. “And just like that, I can never eat grapefruit again.”
I felt a bit of unease about the choice we’d made in the conference room that afternoon, but I knew it was the right one. We’d be able to release our album and our music on our terms. Sure, perhaps we’d never be able to have the superstar success we’d dreamed of without a huge company backing us, but at least we’d have our music—which was what it was all about in the first place.
Eric patted me on the back. “Good job, leader.”
“Yeah, that was great and all, but also why do I feel like my balls just dropped and I want to vomit?” Marcus semijoked. “Did we just tell Max Fucking Rider and the head of Mindset Records to fuck off? Is that the end of our careers?”
“Nah, I think we’re going to be fine. You know what they say: if it’s not okay, it’s not the end of the story. I think the Wreckage will live to see another day,” James said. “And if not, I’m sure we can get our jobs back at the ranch.”
Back to the pigpens and Hazel Stone.
Didn’t sound so awful to me.
Then again, I knew we couldn’t give up on the music. We were going to figure it out one way or another. Only this time, we were going to do it our way.
“So you threatened Max Fucking Rider and the head of Mindset Records, and you lived to tell the story,” Hazel said as we sat inside of the shed as the sun began to set. The guys and I had been back in Eres for about thirty minutes, and I’d already found my way to the shed to sit beside Hazel and stare up at the sky.
“I think we lived to tell the story. We’ll see after the nauseous feeling subsides,” I joked. “I don’t know what happens next with us, but I guess we start with trying to find a new manager. We have a meeting at the record label next week to see the new contract. We’re going to have our lawyers comb through it nonstop to make sure Donnie isn’t trying to screw us over somehow.”
She snickered. “Your lawyers. What a crazy thing to even say. You have your own set of lawyers. Who would’ve thought this was how your life would turn out?”
“In the best way. I, for one, think you guys are making the right choice searching for a new manager. Not just because I hate every piece of Max’s soul but also because you need someone behind you who believes in the same things that you do. Someone who believes in your dreams and will help you get to them. Someone who will stand up for you. I’m sure that manager is out there. Just give it time. You’ll find them.”
“You think so?”
“I know so.”
She rested her head on my shoulder, and we looked up at the darkening sky. The moon was full, and a part of me thought about howling toward it. I leaned down and kissed Hazel’s forehead.
“You know what I’ve been thinking?” I asked.
“That you should probably marry me someday. Soon.”
She lifted her head up from my shoulder and twisted it in my direction. “What?”
I snickered. “Don’t worry, I’m not asking you now, but I do plan on asking you someday, and when I do, I hope you’ll say yes to me. Because the idea of having you as mine until forever means more than you’ll ever know to me.”
She leaned in with a smile and kissed my lips. “I’d say yes, you know. Over and over again, I’d say yes.”
My chest tightened as realization set in. I was in love with a girl who loved me back. What could’ve been greater than that? No fame, no fortune, nothing. We were lucky to have found one another, lucky enough to not have given up when things got heavy.
Hazel Stone had changed me. She’d showed me what ultimate strength looked like. She’d showed me unconditional love, and I hoped to do the same for her for the rest of our lives.
As we lay there inside the shed looking up at the sky, I felt a fullness wash over me.
Hazel Stone was my best friend, my darling, my melody, my song.
And damn . . .
She sounded so good.
One Year Later
The barn house was packed as people danced in circles all night long. Rosie was on the dance floor with Marcus, and the two hopped up and down wildly as a Bruno Mars song blasted from the speakers. There were tables set up with the most stunning bouquets of roses as the centerpieces, and people sat at the tables eating the most yummy cake known to mankind.
I stood back from all of the action, taking it in from afar as happiness glowed throughout all of Eres.