Authors: Kay Harris
By Kay Harris
Copyright 2016 by the author
For Amy, Sarah, Rhonna, and Annie
“I don’t understand, Hank. How did this happen exactly?”
Really? She’s going to drill me about this now? I am sitting in an airport, barefoot, in terrible need of a shower, and I’ve just lost the best thing that ever happened to me.
“It’s a long story,” I grumble.
“Well, my flight landed early and my stupid brother isn’t here to pick me up yet. So you might as well tell me.”
I was just sitting here in the baggage claim when she showed up. I had completely forgotten that Stacey was flying in this morning for a week long visit with her brother and his wife.
I hadn’t come here looking for her. I’d come here on a doomed mission. Her finding me was just a huge coincidence. The fact that she’d somehow managed to spot me in the middle of LAX was something of a miracle.
I was feeling very alone when I’d first sat down in this uncomfortable chair. But now Stacey is here. She’s practically family, so I take a little comfort in her presence. The truth is, I probably need a shoulder to lean on right now, whether I am willing to admit it or not.
“Why are you such a mess?” She looks me up and down, taking in my crazy mussed-up hair, sweaty t-shirt, and workout shorts.
I don’t answer her. I just hang my head in my hands. When she’d first sat down next to me I’d told to her that I’d run through the airport like a madman, but despite my efforts I’d missed the damn plane, and now I’m waiting for my ride.
But she wants to know how I’d gotten into this fucked up situation in the first place. Explaining it to her seems almost impossible. How can I put into words how badly I’d screwed up? How can I tell her all the stupid I things I’d done, things that had led to this very moment.
I look at Stacey. She is a beautiful woman. At one time she’d tried to get me interested in her. And it would have worked, too, if she wasn’t my best friend’s little sister.
“Don’t worry about Sean coming to get you. We’ll take you to his place.”
“Okay.” She clicks away on her phone for a second. “I’m texting Sean.” When she’s done she slips the phone into her purse and looks up at me expectantly. “Done. We have plenty of time.”
She leans back in the plastic airport chair and folds her arms. It’s a move Sean pulls all the time. It usually works, too. When he stands like that, arms crossed over his chest, intimidating look on his face, people spill all their secrets.
I run my hand through my hair and sit back in my own chair. “I don’t know where to start.”
Stacey had been touring around the country with her play, so she’d missed everything that had happened over the last two months. Sean or his wife had probably told her a few things on the phone. But I was sure that she didn’t know the half of it.
“Well, while I’m dying to know where your shoes are,” she glances at my bare feet, “I suspect that part of the story comes near the end. So you might as well start at the beginning.”
“Fine. I’ll tell you the whole story,” I say. “It all started with your stupid brother…”
Two months ago…
“So I hear you got a problem,” Baby said, putting her bare feet on my knees.
She was fresh out of the pool, so at least they were clean. I grabbed one foot and started rubbing just above the arch, where I knew she liked it best. She leaned back in the padded lounge chair and closed her eyes.
The sun was starting to set, and it was not so bright out here on the poolside deck anymore, so I pushed my sunglasses up on top of my head and watched her.
“Is that what Sean called it? A problem.”
“What would you call it?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Problem sounds so… medical.” I rubbed a little harder. She groaned. “It’s
medical,” I clarified.
She laughed. “Okay, okay. Don’t get defensive.” She looked at me, grinning. “Sean said you didn’t like his advice.”
“Yeah well, his advice was stupid.”
“No it wasn’t.” My best friend walked up behind his wife and put a hand on her shoulder. Baby gazed up at him.
“Hi,” she said, her voice low and sexy.
Just to piss him off, I put my thumb into a spot I knew was super sensitive, and pressed. She arched her back and moaned.
“Really?” Sean said, giving me an exasperated look.
“I don’t know where he learned it,” she said.
“Yeah, yeah. Tell her about my stupid advice.”
Sean walked around her chair so that he stood between us. He handed Baby a beer. He handed me a Coke.
“Here’s your pop,” he said.
“It’s a soda, you Midwestern freak.”
“Your problem?” Baby pressed.
“My problem is,” I glanced up at Sean. It was one thing to discuss this with him. And it was one thing to discuss it with his wife. But for some reason it was weird to discuss it with both of them.
Sean and I had been hanging out since before I quit drinking. We didn’t always have to talk to communicate. He knew I wanted him to make himself scarce.
“Fine. I’ll leave you alone for your confession,” he said. “I’m going to put steaks on the grill.”
He leaned down and kissed Baby. It had been no more than fifteen minutes since the last time he kissed her. Newlyweds were such a pain in the ass.
I watched Sean walk away. As big I was, at 6’2 and well built – if I do say so myself – Sean was even bigger, a good four inches taller, with broad football-playing shoulders. He was also more heavily tattooed. I had a handful of tats on my shoulders and upper arms, but Sean’s arms were covered in ink. Where I had short light brown hair that spilled over my eyebrows, Sean had long, deep black hair that hung halfway down his back. Some people thought I looked like ‘a harmless bad boy’ and Sean looked terrifying. But in truth, he was much more of a regular guy than me.
I glanced at Baby. She was watching him, too. In so many ways, she was an ordinary girl. She was beautiful – stunning really – but in a natural way. She was thin and proportionate, with light brown hair and big brown eyes. She had regular-sized boobs, no ass to speak of, no tattoos, no lipstick, and no mini-skirt. She would look much more appropriate on my arm than Sean’s. But somehow, they had been made for each other.
When Sean disappeared into the house, Baby turned on me. “Come on Henry, spill.”
I couldn’t help but smile. Every other human being alive on this planet called me Hank. But not Baby, she always called me Henry. It had started when we first met. In retaliation, I’d given her the nickname Baby. It had stuck, so much so that absolutely everyone, even her own husband, now called her Baby. The last time I heard her real name was at the wedding six months ago.
“I don’t enjoy sex as much as I used to,” I told her.
I understood her shock. I was a major slut. Not a guy that got around, but a guy that got around
“It’s just not fun like it used to be.”
“You can’t get it up?”
“No! That’s not it! Damn it, Baby! I told you it’s
medical. Why would you jump to that conclusion?”
She shrugged. “I hear it happens. And you are approaching 40.”
“I am 38. 38!”
She laughed at me. “Okay, sorry. So I don’t get it. You’re not having a physical problem. You just don’t like it?”
“Yeah. Weird, huh?”
“Yeah. Weird. So what was Sean’s advice?”
“He said I should find my soul mate, marry her, and only make love to her for the rest of my life, and I’d be happy and have great sex forever.”
“Spoken like a man who knows.”
“Spoken like a disgustingly sappy newlywed.”
“Sounds like good advice.”
“Except it’s a little easier said than done. He found you in a diner in the middle of Nevada completely by accident. What am I supposed to do, hang out in that diner for a few years waiting for the right woman to come along?”
I placed her right foot on the ground beside my soda and picked up her left.
“I see your point. I have some different, more practical, advice.”
“Okay, let’s hear it.”
“Excuse me? I must have misheard you.”
“Are you crazy?”
“No. I think it’s just what you need.”
“You are out of your fucking mind.”
“You’re not enjoying it anyway, so what’s the big deal?”
“Baby, I said it wasn’t
fun anymore. I didn’t say I could live without it.”
“I don’t mean forever, Henry. Just for a while. How about the length of the tour?”
We were leaving in three days for a two-month tour. We would be traveling around the country in our giant bus and playing for thousands of screaming fans. It was our job.
I’d been making hard rock tunes as a solo artist since I was a punk kid. But instead of being billed as ‘Hank Tolk’ on my albums and at my concerts, I liked to use a band name. I called my band ‘Bantham.’ But we weren’t a real band, where everybody collaborates and shit. I wrote the songs and I hired musicians to play with me.
When I’d met Sean over twelve years ago, he was trying to make albums on his own in the same studio I worked with. But he was young and dumb, so I mentored him. We became close, very close. Sean had been the only real family I’d had back then.
We played the same kind of music, and like me, Sean preferred not to be billed as just ‘Sean Rush,’ so he called his band ‘Chrome.’ Rather than having to put up with opening acts and all the other bullshit that goes along with it, we just toured together. Whichever one of us had the hottest album at the moment was the headliner and the other one opened for him. We’d been doing it like that for over a decade.
Sean was hot right then, so like on the last tour, he would be headlining. Here I was his elder by four years and his musical mentor, but I was opening for him. Life’s a bitch.
I didn’t like Baby’s advice and I didn’t want to take it. So I used this segue to change the subject. “You feeling better about the tour?”
“I’m packed and ready to go.” She avoided my eyes, toying with her beer bottle.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
She sighed. “I don’t know, Henry.”
“I don’t know what you’re so worried about. All kinds of crazy shit happened on the last tour, and you survived that.”
It was on the last tour, two years ago, that Sean and I had walked into that diner and met Baby. We invited her to ride along with us. One thing led to another, and they fell insanely in love with each other. But a lot of things happened in the meantime, including Baby leaving Sean at one point.
She shrugged. I put her foot down, leaned forward, and tilted her chin up with my finger.
“Talk to me, little sister.”
I called her this all the time, especially when I wanted to comfort her. Baby and I had adopted each other. She was as important to me as Sean was.
She met my eyes. “Things have been pretty easy here in Malibu. But I feel like we’re going back out into the lion’s den.”
Poor Baby. She was a humble park ranger who’d fallen in love with a rock star. Sean was famous, as famous as me. Everywhere we went people knew who we were. And women threw themselves at us. It was hard on Baby, especially because she had a dark past that played havoc on her self-esteem. Second only to Sean, I was the most protective of her fragile psyche.
“You know that he would wade through a swimming pool of naked models to get to you, right?” I wasn’t exaggerating.
“So what’s the problem?”
“I don’t like them touching what’s mine.” She pouted.
She was right, they did touch. You’d have thought we were male strippers instead of rock stars the way some women treated us. And I’d seen Baby get downright mean when a painted fingernail worked its way over her husband’s chest.
I sat back and laughed at her expression. She grinned at me and took a sip of beer.
Sean called us to dinner a few minutes later. All three of us ended up sitting outside on the porch at a little round table.
“Did Baby tell you about our guest on the tour?” Sean asked me.
“No. What guest?”
“Oh, I just found out,” Baby set down her fork and got animated. She was so cute when she got excited. “My friend Susi is going to join us for the tour. We’re picking her up in Portland.”
“Is this the friend that was your roommate in college and you were all upset because she couldn’t make it to the wedding?”
“Yes, that’s her. And it wasn’t her fault. Her grandma died and the funeral was the same day as the wedding. Anyway, she’s going to join us for the whole tour.”
“The whole tour? Doesn’t she have a job?”
Baby frowned. “Not anymore. She’s been having a hard time. She lost her job last week, and her boyfriend. She’s having a little bit of a life crisis. So I invited her to join us. She needs a break.”