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|Melody of the Heart(Runaway Train #4) by Katie Ashley|
We lay there tangled together, not speaking and unmoving. When I dared to pick my head up and look at her, I found that she was smiling up at me. “I was afraid you might be having second thoughts after we did the deed,” I said.
“No regrets. What about you?”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Although she looked far more at peace than when I saw her earlier, there was still tension in her eyes. I pushed a strand of hair away from her face. “Lily, I want you to know I’m not going anywhere. These next few days I’m going to be by your side every step of the way.”
“You really mean that?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“I need you so much. I don’t know if I can get through the funeral…” Her voice choked off with her sobs.
“I’m here, baby. I’m here.”
I don’t know how long she cried. My shirt got soaked through with her tears. When she finally finished, her body went limp with exhaustion. I rose up on my knees to tuck my dick back into my pants. I then eased her dress back down her legs. Lily watched me without saying a word. When I finished, I shook out one of the other blankets and then brought it over us. I pulled her to me, wrapping her in my arms.
“Thank you,” she whispered. Before I could argue that she didn’t need to thank me for a raggedy blanket or taking care of her, she said, “I was thanking God for bringing you back to me.”
Her words overwhelmed me. I had such a range of emotions crisscrossing my body. Anger, remorse, grief, fear, happiness-it all threatened to burst out of me. Instead, I closed my eyes and let myself fall asleep with the woman I loved—my other half, my soulmate.
After so many years of performing, I rarely ever get nervous anymore. But as I sat in the front pew with Lily and her family, my nerves shifted into overdrive at the thoughts of singing at Paul’s funeral. I hadn’t anticipated being asked to sing. Anything related to music was the last thing on my mind with Paul’s death.
But after Lily and I came back from reconnecting in the treehouse, I went to see her mother. After hugging me so tight I thought she might crack one of my ribs, Marie had asked me if I would sing Go Rest High on that Mountain. The Vince Gill song had been a favorite of Paul’s. I’d never been much of a country fan, so I wasn’t very familiar with the song. Of course, there was no way I could tell a grieving widow no, even if she had asked me to sing while playing the tambourine.
I didn’t go back to my parent’s house that night. Instead, I stayed at Lily’s, and for the first time in our relationship, I got to sleep with her in her teenage bedroom. When she had finally nodded off, I’d gotten my iPod and headphones to listen to the song on repeat. I knew I had to give it all I had for not only Marie and Lily, but for Paul as well.
By the day of the funeral, I had perfected the music and vocals. No one but the immediate family even knew I was going to be singing. We had kept the information close to the vest, so the media wouldn’t get word of it and make some kind of spectacle. The local news stations had been covering the story and focusing on Paul’s heroism. I could only imagine what he would be thinking if he was alive to see it all.
When it came time to leave the funeral home for the church, the stoicism Lily had shown so far that day faded, and she became distraught. I thanked God I was there for her because I don’t know how she would have made it alone. When I started down the aisle of Roswell First Baptist, I had my arm wrapped around Lily’s shoulder. She leaned into me, weeping against my chest.
Once the family was seated, the minister began the service. I momentarily zoned out until I heard my name being called. When I didn’t immediately rise from seat, Lily nudged me. On wobbly legs, I finally headed for the pulpit where my guitar waited for me. After strapping it on, I stared out into the packed church. There were so many mourners that the doors were opened, and I could see people spilling out onto the yard.
Clearing my throat, I said, “Paul’s family asked me to sing one of his favorite songs. It doesn’t surprise me that it was a country song. I was just sixteen when I first met Paul, and every time I was at his house, he had the radio on to a country station.” I locked my gaze with Lily. “When someone dies, those who knew them often only focus on their good points. But when it comes to Paul, I’m not sure he had any faults. He could have hated me for dating his daughter, but he didn’t. We struck up an early friendship that last over the years. While he could have had his doubts about my career path and how I would support his daughter, he never vocalized those to me. Instead, he always encouraged me to chase my dreams as long as I could.” I swallowed the growing lump in my throat. “Two years ago, I sat down with Paul to ask for Lily’s hand in marriage. He not only gave me his permission, but he gave me such wonderful advice. Unfortunately, I didn’t heed that advice, and I let my newfound fame and fortune ruin the best thing in my life.” No longer able to fight my tears, I continued on. “I hadn’t talked to Paul in over year. I know the greatest regret of my life will be that I didn’t get the chance to talk to him one more time to tell him how much his love and support had mean to me. Most of all, I would tell him that I fully intended on doing right by his daughter and to take in all the words of advice he had given me.”
Lily’s gut-wrenching sob in the front row almost broke me. But I pushed on ahead and began strumming the opening chords of the song. Although tears streaked down my cheeks through most of the words, I didn’t mess up or sing off-key. When I finished, I felt like I had given my all. Although it felt oddly out of place, applause accompanied me back to my seat. “That was so beautiful, Brayden,” Lily whispered in my ear.