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|Music of the Soul(Runaway Train #2.5) by Katie Ashley|
She grinned. “I did.”
AJ rolled his eyes. “She never sleeps long enough.”
Mia yawned. “No, she doesn’t.”
“I’ll see you later, okay?”
AJ and Mia gave me a questioning look, and I nodded. They both smiled. “Go get her,” AJ said.
I laughed and then headed down the aisle. After pounding down the bus steps, I headed into the arena. As I started in the dressing room, Marion was talking with Frank. He must’ve asked her how Abby was because she was shaking her sadly. “Poor thing. She was an absolute mess. I never thought I would get her ready and out on that stage. Her eyes were so bloodshot and swollen I wasn’t sure I could make them look okay. I must’ve used two tubes of concealer.”
At the sight of me in the doorway, Marion clamped her lips shut and whirled around. “Ready for me?” I asked, when I caught her gaze in the lighted mirror.
“Sure,” she replied curtly.
It goes without saying that she was firmly Team Abby. She raked her nails a little harder into my scalp than she usually did, and the times when she usually patted on the stage makeup, she smacked my face instead. “I’m going to make it right,” I said softly.
She glared at me for a moment. “You damn well better.”
“Or you’ll take my balls?”
She grinned wickedly. “Yeah, something like that.”
I laughed. “Then I better do it fast, huh?”
When Marion finished with me, I didn’t lounge around in the backstage room. Instead, I made my way to the stage. I needed to see Abby. It’d been a long time since I’d actually just watched her perform. Just the sight of her in her sparkly, ice-blue stage dress and silver cowboy boots made my heart race. To the average eye, no one could tell there was something off with her performance tonight. She shimmied and shook her hips as she danced along with the music while her smile remained bright. She had the audience laughing in between songs at her little jokes and stories. But when she turned away from the audience, the pain on her face was visible. The consummate performer within her wouldn’t allow for her to give anything less than one hundred percent.
“We’re going to do a cover right now of an artist who means a lot to me and my brothers. Growing up, our mom was a huge Emmy Lou Harris fan. Even in the remote jungles where we were living, she had old records she would play. If I Needed You was one of the first secular songs I learned to play on the guitar. So Eli and I would like to sing it for you now.”
Eli eased down on the stool beside her with his guitar, and then they began harmonizing together. As I took in the lyrics of the song, I realized how much they were mine and Abby’s relationship. But the one that meant the most was “If you needed me, I would come to you. I would swim the seas for to ease your pain.”
Abby had always been there for me in my darkest times. Then when she was going through her own, I hadn’t realized her suffering. She’d had to go it alone, and that was so wrong. I’d vowed at our wedding to love her in the good times and bad. Regardless of what she had done with going off birth control, she had needed me, and I hadn’t been there. I had to make it up to her. I knew what AJ and my dad said was true.
After the song ended, applause and cheering rang throughout the auditorium. I knew this was my usual cue to get to the wings to await her announcing our duets. She took the microphone. I noticed her boot tapping on the stage floor, and I knew she was nervous about seeing me.
“And now, I want to bring someone to the stage to sing with me. I think you all know him pretty well. And that would be my husband, Jake Slater.”
While the crowd went wild, I stepped out on stage, my guitar slung over my shoulder. I waved to the audience as the roadies fixed the stools for Abby and me to sit on during our first song. Once they scurried away, I sat down. “Hello Birmingham! How the hell are you?”
Deafening applause and whistles erupted around me. “You been treating my lovely wife and her brothers well?” Once again they clapped and screamed. “First up tonight, we want to sing one of the first songs we ever did as a couple. It’s called All I Ever Needed.”
I strummed the opening chords, and Abby came in with me. Instead of looking at me, she kept her eyes down. When we got to the musical break, I stared intently at Abby, willing her to look me in the eye. But she kept staring down at her guitar. Pushing the microphone out the way, I took her chin in my fingers and titled her face up. When her gaze met mine, I smiled. “I’m so sorry, Angel.”
Her eyes widened. “Y-You are?”
When we didn’t pick up with the second verse, Eli and Gabe kept playing through the song. I’m sure they wondered what in the hell we were thinking for having a conversation in the middle of a performance. But I had no other choice. It was kind of weird have a musical interlude during your big apology scene.
I nodded. “Can you ever forgive me for the things I said? For lying to you?”
“Can you forgive me? For deceiving you?”
“I’ll forgive you, and you can forgive me.”
The corners of her lips quirked up in a smile at my words, but her expression remained grave. “Just like that?”
“I had a long time to think on the bus. And I talked to my dad.”
“Yeah, I did. Things are…good now.”
Tears pooled in Abby’s baby blues. “Oh, Jake.”