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|Music of the Heart(Runaway Train #1) by Katie Ashley|
Jake motioned for me to have a seat in one of the chairs pulled close to the bed. I eased down as I watched him sit down across from me. Jake took Susan’s hand in his and kissed it. “Mama, I’m here,” he said softly.
I don’t know how long we sat like that—still as statues and waiting for some kind of response from her. I gasped when Susan’s eyelids finally fluttered open, and she gazed around the room. I knew exactly who she was looking for. Once Jake reached forward and grabbed her hand, a beaming smile stretched across her face. “Jacob.”’
“Do you remember the story I used to tell you about why you became a musician?”
Jacob’s brows furrowed as if he was confused by her question. “Um, yeah, I do, but what—”
She shook her head and then turned to me. “I’ve always teased Jacob that he owes all his success as a singer and guitarist to me.”
I smiled. “Does he?”
“Oh yes. Because of my studio and teaching dance lessons, he was surrounded by music while I was carrying him. He got hours of the greats like Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. I always felt him kicking the most when I was teaching a class. It was like he was letting me know he felt the music already.”
“That’s such a sweet story.”
Susan drew in a ragged breath. “You know I was never supposed to be able to have children. After four miscarriages, I had given up on ever giving birth to a child of my own. Mark and I had begun to look into adoption when I got pregnant again. With all the other pregnancies, I’d been so careful to stay off my feet in the early days and weeks, but this time I didn’t let myself get attached. Instead, I did everything I usually did—rode horses on my dad’s farm and taught dance classes from morning until night. I didn’t let myself believe that I could really be pregnant. But after another month passed and I was still pregnant, I began to hope and pray that this time it was for real. And when I got into my second trimester—weeks after I had lost the other babies, I knew I was finally going to have my miracle.”
She turned her head to gaze at Jake. Tears streamed freely down his cheeks, and he didn’t bother wiping them away. “My sweet son, you’ve always been the sunshine in my life—”
Pinching his eyes shut, Jake pleaded, “Don’t do this.”
“I have to say goodbye, honey, and you have to let me do this.”
His chest rose and fell with harsh sobs as he buried his face onto her chest. When her hand stroked the top of his head, I couldn’t hold my emotions back any longer, and I began to weep. At my sniffling, Susan smiled. “Abby, after I’m gone, I want you to remind Jacob of the story of his birth. When he gets so down and low that he cannot stand or when he thinks there isn’t any reason to go on, tell him the story. Remind him that he was a miracle and the most precious gift I ever received.”
Tears spilled across my face and dripped onto my lap as I leaned forward to take her hand in mine. “I will. I promise I will.” I brought her hand to my lips and kissed it before pressing it to my cheek. “I promise to make sure that he never, ever gives up, no matter how much he wants to.”
“I thank God he has you, sweet girl. You’ll take good care of each other.” She smiled as tears shimmered in her eyes. “You two are going to be so happy together and make the most beautiful grandchildren for me.”
Her words made both Jake and me cry even harder. “Oh Mama,” Jake sobbed. He reached up to tenderly kiss her cheek.
“You have to let me go, baby.”
He shook his head wildly back and forth. “I can’t do it. Please don’t ask me to do that.”
She rubbed her hand along his face. “It’s not goodbye for forever. We’ll see each other again. And until then, you live a full, happy life and make me proud.”
Susan smiled. “Now tell me goodbye.”
Jake’s anguished expression broke me, and I wept openly. His chest rose and fell with harsh breaths. “Goodbye, Mama. I love you so much.”
“Thank you, sweetheart. And I love you too.” Susan’s gaze then turned to me. “Abby, do you remember that angel song from Oh Brother Where Art Thou?”
We’d watched the movie together probably three or four times when I was recovering from my beating. She loved the Cohen Brothers films as much as she loved George Clooney. “Yes, Angel Band. I know it.”
“Sing it to me, please.”
I didn’t know how I could breathe through my sobs, let alone sing, but somehow I steadied myself and tried to draw on strength I didn’t know if I had. “My latest sun is sinking fast. My race is almost run,” I began.
“That’s it. So beautiful,” she murmured. She then closed her eyes while Jake kept his arms wrapped around her. As I kept on singing, a gentle smile formed on her lips. Her breathing grew more and more labored. When I got to the last verse, she drew in one last breath.
And then she was gone.
Jake fell apart, burying his face on Susan’s chest and crying hysterically. A symphony of wailing echoed throughout the room as Sally and her daughters began crying as well as Jake’s grandfather. I stepped around the side of the bed to wrap my arms around him. “I’m so sorry,” I murmured over and over.
Just when I thought he would collapse from exhausted grief, Jake jerked his head up. He unwrapped my arms from him. “I have to get out of here,” he muttered before he sprinted out the room. I met AJ in the hallway. “Go to him,” he urged.