My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life doesn’t have to come last.
A sunny summer day. Birds singing and chirping, the scent of blooms and early ripened fruit in the air, the rustling of the breeze in the trees, providing faint relief from the heat.
Blake sat next to his father on a bench of the cemetery, in view a fresh grave.
The happy colors of the flowers belied the sad truth now buried beneath. Another life, gone too soon.
The funeral had been almost a week ago now.
Blake had asked his father to visit here with him.
The duo had been sitting in silence, each lost to their own thoughts.
Blake was the first to break it, clearing his throat, before he said quietly
“It’s all so unreal. Like a dream … nightmare.”
“It is.” Ethan confirmed.
“I don’t get it. Everything seemed okay. Why did she do that, dad?”
“Hard to say. She must have been hurting too much inside. Her father told me at the funeral that her condition was incurable, progressing uncontrollably fast. Nothing anybody could do for her. I can assure you, she never expected you’d be the one to find her.”
“Am I going to get it, too?”
“No. This is not something you can inherit. You’ll be fine, Blake.”
“She still loved you, right? And you still loved her, didn’t you?”
“In a way, yes. Amy was my first true love, and when we met we both fell hard and fast. We were about your age and I knew then that I wanted to marry her. We would probably still be married, were it not for this disease. She loved you, you know that, right? Her illness caused emotional detachment issues and she wasn’t able to show it anymore.”
“I guess. Why did she have to do that? Why didn’t she just tell you? You would have known what to do, and if not, grandpa would have fixed it. You two can fix anything!”
Ethan was unable to respond anymore, so he wrapped his arm around his emotional son, very moved himself by the realization that after everything they had been through, his son seemed to have so much faith in him, think so highly of him, bordering on something like a fatherly Superman, that he thought he, with the help of his father KC, could have fixed a very sick woman, whom no doctors could help.
If only that were the case, he definitely would have helped her a long time ago.
Blake’s question had hit home. Yes, he did still love her. Always had and probably always would. But no sense confusing that poor boy any further about love, life and his complicated family life.
Ethan closed his eyes, trying to not cry, but instead appear strong in front of his child, while thanking his father for having been the rock Blake needed when he didn’t know what to do.
In a roundabout way as a side-effect of her actions had Amy managed to bring father and son closer together again. Mercifully so.
As one would expect, finding his deceased mother in a blood filled bathtub had not only negated Blake’s plans for a night of bowling and a possible date the day after, but even now, weeks after the tragedy, Blake remained withdrawn into his shell missing all the fun activities teens customarily spent their summers with. KC and Evey felt accomplished getting the boy to at least come out of his room, or even sit in the sun on the patio every once in a while.
Instead of sleeping till noon like most teens would, Blake awoke nightly from terrible nightmares, screaming, covered in sweat and disoriented, until one of his grandparents managed to calm him down again.
This was a major setback, much to Ethan’s great disappointment it undid the mutually agreed plan of having Blake move back in with his father, step-mother and half-brother. Nobody thought it wise to risk scaring Elias with Blake’s nightly screaming, since the boys’ rooms were directly across the hall from one another.
So Blake spent most of his time at his grandfather’s home, on occasion an entire weekend at his father’s, but he avoided his friends, including Hailey. Blake just did not want to see anyone.
After much effort, KC managed to get him to go camping with him again.
Standing around, silently, no word had been spoken in a long time, when KC finally said
“I think you should go and spend time with your friends. You need to be around people you own age, not always an old geezer like me.”
“You’re not old. You are older than me, but not old. And I don’t feel like listening to all that trivial nonsense about new movies, concerts and second base with some girl and then another and all that shit. Crap. Stuff. Sorry.”
“No worries kid. If there was ever a time to overlook your cursing, it is now.”
“I don’t want no special treatment. I am not – like – sick. Just have a dead mother. Bet I am not the only one in the world.”
“Great attitude. So, if you are not sick, what about that one girl you like? Baylee or something. Invite her over. Or go do something with her like you used to.”
“Don’t play dumb, grandpa. You know full well her name is Hailey, you have spoken to her a million times, and she is not a girl I like. I mean, I guess she is a girl, and obviously I like her or we wouldn’t be friends, but not like THAT. Just friendly. Even though she is a girl.”
“Word of advice: never ever repeat those last words in that sequence around any of the Cameron or Gray women. They WILL skin you for misogyny. And just for the record, I was not implying you go and marry that girl, I thought she was your friend and you seem to always be in a good mood after you hung out with her. So, relax, bubba. I come in peace and would like to not leave in pieces. Retract fangs.”
“Sorry. I just hate that people always assume that when a boy and a girl hang out, they are into each other.”
“Which you are not?” it was a rhetorical question, and an implication, which did not go unnoticed by Blake.
“No, I am not!” Blake looked instantly angry.
“Are we sure? Touchy much?” KC smirked.
“Seriously grandpa?!?” Blake was visibly upset and trotted off immediately. KC just grinned, then said to himself
“Busted is what you are kid. You really are like me. Sorry Ethan, but this one of your sons is taking after grandpa for sure. For better, or worse. Well, at least he has someone else to be mad at other than himself now.”
Blake didn’t stay mad at his grandfather for long for his teasing. By the time KC felt he had enough catch for dinner, he went back to camp and could hear Blake playing his guitar from the distance.
“Sounding good, kid. You should take that to amateur night at the Skyline.”
“As if dad would allow that. ‘You are only 16 .. blah blah blah…'” Blake retorted, still with a hint of grumpiness.
“Well, lucky for you, you know the owner, who happens to be your dad’s dad. We can make that happen for you, if you think you are ready for that. Just remember, plucking away on your strings here in the woods or in front of your friends is a different animal from doing it in front of an audience. I cannot save you once you are up there.”
“Doubting my skills now?” Blake’s tone was testing and pouty, as he put his guitar down and plopped down in a chair facing KC, who had lit the fire.
“Not for a minute. But over the years of owning that club, I have seen a lot of very talented people turn into salt statues once they saw all those people staring up at them.”
“I am the kid in school who not only was put away for supposedly raping someone, but I also always had a nutcase of a mother who most recently killed herself. I am used to stares.”
“Good point, although you need to work on your delivery kid. Kinda offensive to some.”
“Me? Takes a lot more than that, kid.”
“Exactly. It’s just us, grandpa. I know everybody is worried about me, trying to analyze me, dad is on and on about therapy, and I admit, losing mom like this has been hard on me. But I am neither some delicate little flower, nor was it like she was ever really in my life much to begin with, so I am not damaged or something. I just need to get that image of her in that tub out of my brain. And I really am just not feeling all that social right now. Summer break still has many more weeks. I’ll hang with the others. Eventually. I’ll be okay, grandpa. You made me strong. Like you. Promise you, I am okay.”
“Damn, kid. A whiny baby is what you are making me for being so proud of you, so I better get them fish gutted so we can stuff our faces and quit getting all sappy here. Just glad you are okay. And if you are not, you know where to find me. Now and always.”
“Looks to me like I already knew that, grandpa, seeing that it is only you and me here and I am feeling better already.”
“Yeah, I can tell. The smart-assery is strong with you again.”
“How do you always say? ‘Aim to please’. I’ll help you with the gutting. Good way to help get rid of negative emotions. I like to imagine it is someone who pissed me off and I am ripping their guts out for it.”
“You really are like me, Blake. At least we’ll meet again in hell one day. Just hoping one of them fish ain’t me you are imagining while you’re gutting them.” KC chuckled.
“Nah, grandpa, no worries. You didn’t say anything that wasn’t true, I am just not ready for the truth. But – were you serious about the club?”
“Have you known me to joke about stuff like that?” KC asked dead serious.
“Next Thursday then?”
“Shy you are definitely not. I may still have one spot open.” KC smirked.
“Awesome! When we get home, you are booked solid. We need to practice.”
“As the owner and proprietor of the club I really should be a lot more neutral to make it fair to all the other acts, but screw that. You are my grandson and I we will make you shine up on that stage!”
The final sounds of the music that had been filling the Skyline began to fade out as the young man who had been moving the audience with his guitar play and songs thanked them for their support.
The crowd cheered as after the second encore, the young man exited the stage with his guitar, once out of view ran to his grandfather watching backstage, who was giving him the thumbs up
“I did it! I DID IT! I frickin’-frackin’ did it.” Blake exclaimed excitedly when he passed the curtain and was out of view.
“You sure did great, kid. Just know, on amateur night, we usually don’t do encores…” KC told him smiling.
“Sorry.” Blake said, but there was not a hint of regret in his voice.
“That’s all right, glad you did, or they’d’ve probably stormed the stage. Nobody would probably believe me that you never done this before. Damn, I knew you were good, but hot-diggity, you pretty boy making the kind of music young ones like … you got yourself some fans, I’d wager. I was never that lucky, me and my country music, not the flavor of the Bay area here.” KC said without any jealousy. Only pride.
Half an hour or so later, Blake was still on cloud nine, watching his grandfather talk to one of his bartenders about something while sipping on some soda, still reliving the high he had felt on stage during his performance and ever since.
Suddenly a man in a suit approached him.
“You did very well during your performance. You have stage presence, very important and a lot of young artists lack that. Tough thing to learn. And you have confidence. I take it you have done this before.” the man said.
“Been making music since I was old enough to hold a guitar, but that was my first time on a stage.” Blake told him.
“So a natural. Even better. How would you feel about making that hobby a career kid?”
“Are you like a producer?” Blake asked.
“I am in new talent acquisition. Basically a talent scout. We are looking to fill the lead role for a new movie, and need a young man about your age, who’s really easy on the eyes and who can sing and play the guitar and the piano. How are you on that?”
“All right I guess. Look Mister, I want to be a musician, not an actor. So, thanks but …”
“Wait – not so fast, young man. Don’t dismiss me just yet. See the show biz is a weird place, hard to really get in, but once you are in, you are IN. Whatever you want to do, you can do, no matter how you got started. This may be your ticket to wherever it is you are trying to go.”
“Can I help you?” KC’s deep voice roared against the music, as he had appeared next to them, he was looking at the man through narrowed eyes.
“Grandpa, this is … uh .. you haven’t told me actually.”
“I am Steven Collings, here is my card. I was just telling your son …”
“You are in a dance club on amateur performer night, wearing an expensive suit, talking to a young musician who just got through performing. I can guess what you want and we are not interested.”
“Grandpa! Just listen, please.”
“Blake …” KC tone was slightly annoyed.
“Please…” Blake begged.
“Fine. Talk, Mr. Collings.” KC hated the situation as he already knew how this would play out.
And he would remain correct.
Once Collings left, leaving his card behind, Blake had a date and time for an audition downtown San Myshuno for a potential movie role in Del Sol Valley.
All KC could think about how he would be the one having to break that bit a news to Ethan.
Especially at the off chance that something were to come of it …