His grip tightened, “He’s not.” His tone changed.
I jumped, “Sorry, I’m thinking aloud. I just mean that he’s like… well you know…the darkness sometimes it’s… like a demon.”
He glared slightly, “Erin, you have to see the strengths, not the weaknesses. I didn’t tell you this, so you would judge him. I told you so you would be fair with him and see the whole picture.”
I swallowed, “I’m not judging him, I swear. I just see so many things making sense, it’s all just my brain working. I have to say it out loud. It’s my own ADD.”
He pulled me into his embrace.
I rested my head on his chest and sighed, “You sure you’re gay?”
He laughed, “Unbearably gay.”
I laughed and then I cried some more. “Want to watch the show?”
He shook his head, “No. Let’s wait for Mom. Dad will be putting her to bed now.”
I nodded and we walked back, hand in hand. I tried to convince him to run away with me, and let me be his beard.
He never caved once, just smiled at me with his sparkly-blue eyes that never once turned into a dark look.
He led me to Lochlan’s bed. I curled up in the sheets and tried not to be creepy about smelling his pillow. It was bad enough I was in his boxers and tee shirt.
I woke to Lochlan sleeping on the bed, over the covers. He was still dressed. It was light out. I kissed his cheek and crawled from the bed. He was passed out so I got dressed and went down the hall, to find Al giving Judith a type of sponge bath on her face and neck.
“Good morning. Can I help with anything?” I smiled at Judith.
He shook his head, “No. I was just going to watch the boys’ show from last night. I recorded it. It makes her happy and they were playing too late.”
I smiled, “Can I get you anything, Al?”
He glanced at me, “Cup of the coffee that’s made, if you don’t mind. One sugar and one cream.”
Judith gave him an evil look. He chuckled, “One milk. No cream for me.”
I laughed and patted her on the shoulder, “I’ve got your back, Judith.” I wished his family were my family. They were amazing and sweet, and everything a person wanted in parents. I’d seen kids with ADHD act out. I couldn’t imagine being so brave, as to take him off his meds and have the patience to suffer through his music lessons. I got us both a coffee and sat on the couch. I sipped as he started the recording.
It was the same sort of set up as the one the night before it. They were on a small stage, ready to start playing their instruments. I sighed seeing him. They played my favorite song, Hold My Heart Tonight. It was amazing. His vocals were the best in that song. Mid-way a young woman came on stage with her microphone. She sang the lyrics with him. He laughed, beaming at her. He wrapped an arm around her waist and sang with her. She was beautiful, long red hair and a stunning face. The way she looked at him was intense.
Al pointed, “That’s Mikayla, the girl who was on the show with him. She was in the final four with him.”
I hadn’t watched the show, except for searching his performances.
The two of them were amazing together. They finished the song. She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. The cameras zoomed in. She kissed him with tongue. He kissed her back. The crowd cheered. The kiss lasted long enough, that I was down the hallway, pulling the ring off my finger and placing it on his pillow before the talking started. I left it there and grabbed my suitcase. I closed the door and walked to the living room, “I’m so sorry, Al. I need to leave.”
He was breathing heavily. He gave a sorrowful look, “I didn’t know. I’m so sorry, Erin. I won’t even try to defend his actions.”
I shook my head, “You are lovely. Never be sorry.” I kissed his cheek and knelt next to Judith. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. It broke my heart. I kissed her damp cheek, “It was lovely to meet you. You have a beautiful home and the best family I’ve ever met.”
She gripped my hand. I nodded, “I know. I’m sorry about the whole thing. I don’t want to have this here, making you uncomfortable.” I kissed her and hugged her and Al again. I left out the front door, dialing for a cab.
He picked me up on the side of the road, walking and pulling my carry-on. I climbed in, “Airport, please.”
He drove off. I slapped myself in the forehead, “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
I walked up to the counter, sunglasses covering my puffy eyes and paid for a ticket home. He was killing my cash flow.
I walked slowly to the gate. My phone was buzzing non-stop. Finally angry, in a way I couldn’t contain, I answered, “WHAT?”
Danny started talking fast, “Holy fuck. We asked Alex not to let you see it, until we got to talk to you. She kissed him. He wasn’t ready for it. He didn’t want to shove her off on camera. He kissed her, and the minute we were backstage, I honestly had to contain him. He was pissed. He tried calling you, but I wouldn’t let him. I knew if you saw the kiss you’d flip out and not know the whole story.”
I sighed, “You suit your new job, Danny.” I hung up the phone. He called back, so I turned it off. I boarded the plane in dead agony. I was flat and emotionless. It was the only thing that saved me from my fear of flying.
I heard him enter the apartment. My heart was pounding, but I couldn’t get a breath to save my life.
Danny walked into my room. He looked bad but I sighed when I saw it was him. He wrapped his arms around me, “I’m always your brother first. Always.”
I cried into his chest.
“I don’t expect you to forgive him, but I need you to go back, Erin.”
I pulled back, confused, “What? Fuck you, Danny. He’s not my kid. I don’t have to coddle him.”
He started to cry, “Me and Gerry were sleeping in the basement in the guest rooms. We heard the screaming, he was so mad. She took another stroke. She’s in the hospital and his dad’s almost there too. They’re scared his dad is going to have a heart attack.”
I grabbed my wallet and phone and we ran from the apartment. I didn’t need anything else as an explanation. In the cab I sobbed, “This is all my fault. I should have come with you. I didn’t want to mix that life and this one, I wanted the other him, not the star.”
Danny shook his head, “It’s that bitch Mikayla’s fault. She’s an asshole. He fucked her on the show; she’s obsessed and sees him succeeding and wanted to latch on to the rising star.” He gave me a grim look, “I actually phoned her and told her that this morning. Told her exactly what happened and how she was responsible for almost killing his mom.”
I’d never seen Danny get so emotional. “Is Gerry with him?”
He nodded, “And Mike.”
I turned on my phone, ignoring the constant stream of messages and voicemails. I pressed his name and held the phone up to my ear. We jumped out at departures and starting running for the counter.
I stopped running when he answered and let Danny get the tickets.
He sighed, “I’m so sorry. I get it, I know I fucked up. Just don’t leave me. We can go back, we can just be friends again. I deserve whatever judgments you have of me, princess.” His words were a whisper. It was devastating.
I shook my head, “I’m sorry. I should have kept our drama to myself. Her stroke… it’s my fault. I immediately assumed the worst of you. I did it in front of her. I’m an asshole. Baby, I’ll be there in a couple hours.”
He paused for a minute, “You’re coming back?”
I nodded, even though he couldn’t see me, “I’ll be there in a couple hours.”
“Thank you.” He hung up. I felt sick and dialed Gerry.
“Erin, we need you. He won’t leave his mom’s side. His dad is on oxygen and they’re monitoring him. Oh shit, he’s coming out of the room. He looks like death. Are you coming back here?” He was whispering.
“Yeah, we’ll be there in a couple hours. Is she bad?”
He whispered, “No. She’s hanging in there. They have her stabilized and said it was a very minor one. She’s being released tonight or tomorrow. She didn’t suffer any worse than last time. Some kind of fucking miracle or something. It depends on his dad and how he’s doing.” He paused and then spoke again quietly, “If you could have seen his face. Danny took his phone and made him calm down. I thought he was going to trash the dressing room. He was angry, like I’ve never seen before. Danny made us stay till he was calm and we nearly missed the flight.”
I glanced at my brother and nodded, “He’s a good guy.”
“Erin, he’d be on a plane if his mom wasn’t sick. He’s taking all the blame. His brother and sister are trying to calm him down. His dad is livid with him—said awful things to him.”
I sighed, “I’ll message you when we land.” I hung up and followed Danny to the gate. He wrapped an arm around me, “You’re going to fuck this up with your bad-boyfriend juju. You assume shit and treated him like the sucky guys you dated as a kid.”
I looked at him, “I didn’t make him kiss her.”
He laughed bitterly, “You made him overreact about it and act like a spazz. You’ve got him so wound up about you leaving him, he’s like suicidal once a week. I’m going to find him cutting himself and listen to all your favorite songs one day, I’m convinced.”
I swallowed, “He’s just so hard to trust, he acts so nuts.”
He grabbed my arms and held me tight, “Erin, that is your fault in a small way. Your self-absorbed bullshit has to end. He’s already stressed to the max about the band, the record deal, finding new members and making sure they fit in, and suddenly being handed all the responsibility of the band. You’re so fucking selfish and wrapped up in your own little problems, you don’t ever look at his side.”