Even if that meant less sleep and more calls. I was juggling my life in front of me. There were so many pieces to my puzzle. Raising a newborn. Searching for online colleges. Falling deeper in love from a distance. Working at the ranch. Each one of those things was important to me. So I did what I had to do to make time for them all.
The band and I had been going nonstop for weeks, it seemed. When November rolled in, I hardly knew what day and time zone we were in. Plus, I missed Hazel more than fucking words, and I hated the guilt that hit me from seeing those fake articles about me being single.
“All right, small-town boy, here you go,” Max said, walking over to me with paperwork in his hand. We’d started our week in NYC, and now we were back in Los Angeles spending day after day in the studio.
The guys and I were burned out. Autumn was flying by, and we hardly had any time to enjoy it. Everything in our lives was moving so fast it felt as if it were all a blur. We were exhausted yet happy. Tired but blessed.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Your tickets home for the holiday. I had Amy clear the weekend schedule for you guys. I got you all first-class tickets to go back to Eres. I figured you could need a bit of time out of the wildness of this world. It’s a lot to be tossed into. Plus, I was hoping I could head home, too, to meet with my family. My wife is chewing my ass out for planning to miss another Thanksgiving.” He reached into his bag and popped a few pills into his mouth. “If only she knew those missed holidays paid for those mansions she loves.”
I stared at the tickets and felt a knot in my chest as his words settled in. “Seriously? You’re giving us a break?”
“Well, seeing as how your single hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts, I figured we can give you a few days off. I know it’s not much, but—”
“No, no. It’s more than enough. Thanks, Max. You have no clue how much we need this. I appreciate this and everything you’ve done for us. Before I tell the guys, Max, I have a question. I was scrolling through the internet reading articles about the band—”
He shook his head. “Rookie mistake number one. Don’t read that shit. It’s toxic and will ruin your mood for years to come.”
“Yeah, but it was one of the interviews we did. The headline read that I was single and something about panties. I never said I was single, so that just rubbed me the wrong way.”
He shook his head. “I’m sure Amy told the interviewer that to up your sex appeal.”
Amy was in charge of making us appear as this badass band that women craved. I understood her job, but that felt as if she was crossing a line.
“I don’t want to send off the wrong idea, though. I have a girlfriend, someone I really care about, and I don’t want her seeing that kind of shit when we’re already struggling with long distance.”
“Right, of course. I hear you. I’ll talk to Amy about that. But for now, make it clear to your girl that tabloids run on lies. It’s just the name of the game, and clickbait is the easiest way to score points. Now, go ahead and pack.”
I did as he said, and for a minute I thought about calling Hazel and letting her know that I was coming home, but I stopped myself. I wanted to surprise her. I couldn’t wait to have my arms wrapped around her and her lips against mine again.
I knew she’d been feeling awful for being so overwhelmed and exhausted lately, but I didn’t think any less of her for it. If anything, it made me fall for her even more. She was the definition of giving. She always gave herself to others tenfold. It was one of her best qualities to me. Though, at the same time, I wished she would give to herself as much as she surrendered for others. She deserved the stars and the moon, yet she acted as if even a spark of light on her was too much attention.
When I arrived home the day before Thanksgiving, Hazel was passed out in her bed. Her hair was in a wild bun, and her T-shirt looked as if it had a milk-vomit stain on it, and she was still fucking beautiful.
Rosie was in her crib, staring at me wide eyed. She looked just like Hazel with those large eyes.
Rosie began to fuss in the crib, and when she started to holler, I was quick to pick her up.
Hazel leaped up from her sleep, alert and alarmed. “I got her; I got her,” she muttered, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“It’s okay; we’re good,” I said, soothing the baby, who was calming down a bit as I bounced her around.
As realization set in for Hazel that I was standing in her bedroom, tears filled her eyes. I didn’t know if they were from happiness or exhaustion, but she rushed over to me quickly and hugged me from behind as Rosie lay in my arms.
“I feel like every time you come back to me, I’m going to fall apart,” she whispered into my neck, gently kissing my skin.
“I feel like every time I come back to you, I’m not going to want to leave.”
Rosie fussed a bit more in my arms, and Hazel frowned a little. “She’s probably hungry. I can take her from you and go warm up a bottle for her.”
“It’s fine. I’ll hold on to her. You can go get the bottle. We’ll wait here.”
She hesitated as if she was going to argue, but instead she murmured a thank-you and hurried out of the room. When she came back up with the bottle in her hand, Rosie and I were sitting in the gliding chair, finding a nice rhythm.