“I don’t know. My mom is talking about giving the baby up for adoption instead of having Garrett and his mom look after her. That breaks my heart. I know it sounds stupid, but this little girl feels like the only family I have . . . and now there’s the possibility of her going to someone else.”
“Don’t overthink that now. Try your best to focus on the baby getting better. Okay?”
She sniffled a bit. “Yeah, okay.”
“What’s her name?”
“She doesn’t have one yet.”
“Okay, then tell me about her. What does she look like? Tell me the good, Haze. There’s always some good in the bad parts of every story. What is the good?”
“She has a full head of hair,” she said. I heard the energy of her voice shift a little as she began to search her mind for the good.
“Uh-huh. It’s black as midnight. Thick too. Mama always said I was a bald baby and didn’t get hair until I was around two years old. But my sister has it all in abundance.”
“The nurse said her stats are looking up. With everything my mom did before getting pregnant, I’m surprised she doesn’t have more issues. She’s a fighter.”
“She must get that from her big sister.”
She chuckled lightly before she grew somber again. “What am I going to do, Ian? What will I do if they take her away?”
“Hey, come on. Everything’s going to be okay.”
“You’re sounding a lot like your grandma right now.”
“Over twenty years of life with Grams, and she has yet to be wrong about that fact. Just have a bit of faith. You don’t need much. Just enough to get you through until tomorrow.”
“Ian, what the hell? We need you inside,” Max said, barging outside of the studio to find me sitting against the curbside talking to Hazel.
“You said you were going to the bathroom, and I find you out here on that damn phone of yours.”
Shit, shit, shit.
“Haze? I have to go. We’ll talk later, all right?”
“Okay. Talk later.”
I hung up the phone and turned to see an extremely irritated Max Fucking Rider standing behind me. “I’m sorry,” I bellowed.
“You must not understand the opportunity you’ve been given here, Ian. Millions of people would kill to be in this studio, and here you are, wasting everyone’s damn time and everyone’s damn money, all because you had to take a freaking phone call to talk to some girl.”
“It’s not just some girl,” I disagreed. “She’s the girl, and she needed me.”
Max eyed me up and down. “Come on, man. You’re on the verge of your life changing forever, and you’re risking it all for some romance? Wake up. There are three bandmates of yours waiting inside for you to give this thing the same amount of respect that they all are. You’re the leader of this band, right?”
I grimaced. “Yeah.”
“Then stop acting like a damn child, grow the hell up, and lead them. People aren’t shitting you when they say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don’t blow it because of some small-town girl.”
My hands formed fists every time Max talked about Hazel as if she were nothing but a part of my past when I was trying to figure out how to pull her straight into my future. I didn’t argue with him, though, because on the surface of it all, I knew he was right. The Wreckage was being given a chance that millions of people dreamed of, and Eric, James, and Marcus were counting on me to show up and give it my all, the same way they’d been doing.
“Sorry, Max. I swear, I’m committed.”
He narrowed his eyes and stared at me, as if he wasn’t completely convinced, but he allowed it. “All right. Let’s get to work, then.”
He held his hand out toward me.
“Don’t play dumb, Ian. Give me your cell phone. You’re cut off during recording days.”
We didn’t get back to our apartment until well after midnight. I was certain Hazel was already asleep. When I received my cell phone from Max, I had a dozen text messages from her. She apologized a few times about getting me in trouble and taking up my time when she’d called earlier. She updated me that her sister was doing a little better, but they were keeping a close eye. And she also gave me a confession.
Hazel: Confession time. I wish you were here. I know that’s selfish, and I know it’s impossible, but I do wish that, Ian. I wish you were here to hold me tonight.
I texted her back and tried to push away the ultimate guilt that sat in my gut about not being there for her.
Ian: It’s late, and I know you’re probably sleeping. At least, I hope you are. But I wanted to say I love you, Hazel. I didn’t want to say that via text message. I wanted to wait until we were eye to eye again and I was holding you in my arms, but it seems that life has a way of keeping you from the places you wish you could be the most. But I need you to know that I love you. I know your world is messy right now, and I wish I could take the hard parts and hold them on my own back. I wish I could hold you. I wish I could kiss you. I wish I could say I love you against your skin and wipe your worries away. For now, all I have are these messages. I love you, Hazel Stone. And everything is going to be okay.