Hey, everyone. This is a story I've been kicking around for about a year now. Writing this first chapter out was the most fun I've had writing anything in I don't know how long. Having said that, I hope you all enjoy reading it, as well. Feedback is greatly appreciated, especially because I'm really just now getting back into writing things on a semi-regular/possibly-regular basis. Please note that I have posted this same story on Wattpad under the pen name ForeverIfEver.
*These are pictures of Brett, the main character. He's a country singer, and I happen to think that in some pictures, Chris Hemsworth looks like he could be one. Plus, he's just plain gorgeous.*
“It’s your manager again. Brett, you’re going to have to pick up the phone this time,” my exasperated older sister, Sheridan, told me while holding her palm over the receiver of my cell phone. Talking to Rick Sullivan was the last thing I wanted to do while I was at home, but considering it was the fifth time he called already, I didn’t have much of a choice.
I reluctantly yanked the phone from her hand, and she left me alone to take the call. She was busy watching my niece and nephew in the next room over and warned me not to yell over the phone, with the babies being within earshot, before leaving me alone in the kitchen to talk. I took a few deep breaths to prepare myself for what I could already sense was going to be a difficult conversation.
“Rick!” I greet him warmly, “What’s goin’ on?”
“I won’t sugarcoat this for ya, bud. We got problems down here at the label with Victoria. She’s backing out of the contract.” Rick, for the three years that I’d known him, was never a man of many words, and I honestly couldn’t remember the last time he called me and didn’t have bad news to deliver from the record label.
“What do you mean, ‘she’s backing out’? How? We’re supposed to be recording next week!”
“Turns out there was a loophole in the contract, and now it’s void. But that’s not why I called ya. Mr. Collins called me today. He’s giving you a one-month deadline to finish recording the record. We gotta start promo on this thing, so we can git ya out on the road again.”
I kept in mind the nine-month-old twins who were in the other room before carefully and quietly responding to Rick’s news. At that point, I had a legitimate fear that my forefingers were going to bruise my temples. I had a bad habit of rubbing the sides of my forehead when I was stressed out.
“But Rick, we’ve barely had any studio time yet. I just sent you guys the new songbook a week ago. I don’t even know if I can get the band together on such short notice. We’re all visiting family, and Jon has another tour he’s doing later this month, and we can’t record anything worthwhile without a drummer.”
“Brett, you know as well as I do that the label has plenty of drummers who are capable enough to record on this thing. You were coming down to Nashville next week to do the duet with Victoria, anyway. Now you’ll just have to plan on staying a little while longer.”
This was already turning out to be the longest conversation I’d had with the man in months, and I knew it wouldn’t do me any good to try arguing with him. So I caved.
“Fine,” I finally agreed frustratedly, absolutely certain there really were bruises on the sides of my forehead now. “I’ll call the guys up. What are we doing about the single, though? We aren’t scrapping that song. You and I both know that would be a bad decision.”
He sighed on the other line of the phone, so I knew I’d gotten at least one good thing out of talking to him, “Alright, I know. You gotta remember this isn’t my call to make, but I’ll push for it. They don’t wanna do it without the girl; I know that much.”
“Well, what if we got someone else to sing with me?”
“Do you have one in mind?”
“Not yet, but I’ll get back to you. We aren’t scrapping the song, Rick. Just tell them to give me a little time to figure it out. You know I will.”
“Okay, but kid, you know you don’t have a lot of time to do it. I gotta make some more calls before I leave the office, so I’ll let ya go on that note. Enjoy the rest of your vacation, and I’ll see ya next Friday.”
With that, we both hung up, and Sheridan slowly snuck back into the kitchen with Tucker and Erin each being held in one arm. I noted the usual distracted look in her eyes was replaced by a new curious one, so I smiled at her to assure her that everything was fine. She had enough to worry about with raising the little ones on her own, and she didn’t need me stressing her out any more than she already was with my budding music career.
“Brett Mason, I’m your sister,” she scolded me for trying to throw her off, “You know I can tell when you’re upset. What did Rick want?”
She set the kids down in their high chairs and fetched their dinner from the fridge before giving me the look that said, even though I’m busy right now, that doesn’t mean you can forget about what I just said. She handed me a spoon and a jar of baby food so that we could both feed one of them at a time.
“So, you gonna tell me what Rick wanted, or am I going to have to get some alcohol in you first?”
I wiped up the sides of Tucker’s mouth with a napkin after he messily tried to spit out his first spoonful of carrot and beef baby food. I told him telepathically that I didn’t blame him before turning to Sheridan, who was somehow getting Erin to keep her food off of her face.
“Victoria dropped out, so as of right now, the duet might be dead, but that’s not all of it. Sounds like the label wants to fast-track the new record in order to get all of the promotional stuff done and a tour set up. They want me and the band in Nashville next Friday in order to record everything. They’re giving us a month to do it.”
“That’s it?” I nodded slowly in her direction before trying once again to convince Tucker to keep his food in his mouth. “You guys got way more time with the first record.”
I just shrugged. I knew there wasn’t much else to do at that point, besides stew angrily for the rest of the night. I loved my job, I really did, but just like anyone else’s, mine caused me a lot of stress at times. This was definitely one of those times.
“I think I will take you up on your offer for alcohol, after all. I’m gonna need it tonight.”
“I lied about that in order to get you to talk. There’s no booze in the house with the kids around. I’ve only had one or two drinks since I stopped breastfeeding them, and those were at the bar. Why don’t you just go pick something up and bring it back?”
“Come to think of it, it’s been awhile since I’ve been to the Lighthouse. I kinda miss going to that old place.”
She then reached over and grabbed the food and spoon from me and shooed me out of the house. “I can take care of these two on my own. Tell Chloe I said hi, and have fun.”
The bar was a lot busier than I ever remembered it being the last time I went about a year earlier. It must have been because of the newly-installed dance floor near the back, as well as the live cover band playing loudly on the stage next to it. None of those things were here before, but it was nice to see the owners trying to fix the place up a bit. It had earned a reputation of being a dive bar over the years, which was actually probably one of the things I used to like about it the most. I was happy to notice the owners still kept the barrels full of peanuts near the bar for the patrons. The satisfying crunch the peanut shells made as I walked across the bar was something I always loved, even though I never quite understood why.
I softly hummed the Rolling Stones song the nameless band was playing as I made my way over to an empty stool at the end of the bar. The bartender was busy filling out another customer’s drink order when I took my seat, but she gave me a knowing glance to tell me she’d take care of me next. That was just as well. It gave me a little more time to appreciate the long legs she was showing off before I had to decide what I wanted to drink.
“So, what can I get for you tonight?” she asked as she flipped a small blue towel over her left shoulder and fixed her long, wavy black hair into a ponytail. She laughed at the expression I must have been giving her and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll wash my hands before I make your drink.”
I waved my hand at her and said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Your hair doesn’t look that dirty.”
I could see a smirk making its way to her mouth, letting me know she was comfortable playing along. She was the perfect bartender for the night I was having.
“It doesn’t? Working in a bar sure can make a girl sweaty.”
I smirked back, happy to be flirting with her. “You must not be working very hard tonight, then.”
“Hmmm,” she said, pursing her glossy lips together pensively, “I guess not.”
From the background, I could hear the band say they were taking a fifteen-minute break, which gave the crowd the chance to use the jukebox once again. I inwardly groaned when I heard a song off my first record start to play over the speakers.
“Don’t like this song?” the bartender asked me as she gave a man sitting a couple stools away from me a beer refill. It must not have been a very inward groan after all, I thought to myself.
“What? No, I’ve just heard it a lot of times, I guess. You?”
“Honestly?” she said, “I’m not a huge fan of it, but I seem to be outnumbered around here. I guess the guy who sang it is from around here.”
I decided instantly to have some fun at her expense. “Huh,” I said, “I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah. I don’t know who he is, though. I just moved here a few months ago. I’m Chloe, by the way.”
“Brett,” I answered with a smile. She really had no idea.
“So, Brett, do you know what you want yet?” She smiled again, to let me know that she was proud of herself for rhyming. As a singer, I could relate with the silly sense of accomplishment that sometimes came with doing something that seemed simple, but at other times was absolutely impossible.
“I’m enjoying myself just talking for now, but I’ll order something in a little bit,” I told her honestly. I really was having fun just talking to her and people-watching. To be honest, I almost forgot about what happened on the phone earlier. Almost.
“You’re more than welcome to tip me for this conversation,” she laughed, “but I figured you came here to drink.” As a joke, I then grabbed my wallet and slipped her a five-dollar bill as a tip. She just laughed and stuck it in the breast pocket of the red and blue plaid shirt she had on. “Thank you.”
The band members all sauntered up the bar in order to get shots before the last half of their set ended. I smiled to myself, knowing from experience that free drinks were definitely a perk for playing in small venues like the one we were in at the time.
Chloe dutifully filled their order while ignoring the now-drunk older man who was loudly flirting with her from across the bar.
“Good luck with the rest of the show, guys,” she told them with a big, genuine smile. I still hardly even knew her, but she didn’t seem like the type of person who smiled for someone else’s benefit. She was just a happy person, and I enjoyed seeing that in her more than I probably should have. It wouldn’t do me any good to get involved with someone right before I had to leave for at least a month, followed by an even longer absence after that for promos and the tour.
“Thanks,” the lead singer told her before handing everyone in the band their shot glasses. Before handing the last of them to the bassist, he accidentally bumped me in the elbow, causing him to quickly turn around to apologize.
“Oh, man, I am so sorry! I didn’t see you sitting there. You okay?”
I laughed and assured him I was fine. “Nah, I’m good. You just missed the funny bone, so I think I’ll manage just fine.”
He looked relieved for a moment until I saw a flicker of something else flash across his eyes. I’d seen that look enough times now over the past couple of years to know what it was: recognition.
“No fucking way, man. No way!” He turned back to the rest of the band and hollered at them. “Guys, look who I just bumped into.”
At that point, Chloe was watching the exchange with a confused look on her face, clearly still unaware of any reason why he would be excited about bumping my arm. I just looked at her and shrugged. For some reason, I was still having fun playing dumb with her.
“What are the odds of running into Brett Mason at the bar while his song is playing on the damn jukebox?! What a night,” he said wistfully as he looked at me and Chloe.
“Considering how little I make it back to Nebraska, let alone this particular bar, I can assure you the odds are pretty slim.”
Chloe had her arms folded and looked at me with a new expression on her face that I couldn’t quite read. It fell somewhere between anger and amusement, to be sure. Perhaps it was embarrassment, but it was too dark in the bar to see if her cheeks were red or not.
The band and I eventually finished our brief exchange so they could get ready to finish their set for the night, and I went back to sitting alone at the bar, still sans-drink.
“’Heard the song a lot’, huh?” she asked me teasingly once they left for the stage.
“Probably more than anyone else, I would imagine.”
As the music from the jukebox in the background slowly faded away, the band once again started playing covers of well-known songs from decades ago from the corner as dozens of people danced along clumsily. While they did so, Chloe busied herself with filling an empty glass with some Miller Light from the tap before eventually handing it to me.
I gave her a blank stare before she said, “There’s a line in your song that says you like drinking it, so I figured I’d get you a glass. I’ll do anything to keep the customers happy, you know.”
“’Anything’, huh?” I replied with a wink as I thought back to something my sister said before I left the house earlier. “Hey, you don’t happen to know Sheridan Atford, do you?”
“I do, why?”
“That’s my sister. She told me to say hi to you before I came out here tonight, but I forgot about it until just now.”
“Really?” she laughed to herself, “Small world.”
“Small town,” I amusingly corrected her, eliciting another short laugh. “Anyway, so I thought I better say hi. I wouldn’t want it to get back to my sister that I never did.”
A couple short hours later, I was feeling adequately buzzed, and the bar was just about to close. After the band finished playing, they all came over and bought me a beer which I later thanked them for. All in all it was a good time, but after I’d had a few more drinks than that, it was obvious to Chloe that I shouldn’t be allowed to drive myself home.
“Give me your keys. I don’t need you getting on the cover of one of those gossip magazines, because I got you drunk.” She was having a good time poking fun at me for being a singer, but I didn’t mind. I was in too bubbly a mood to care, actually.
“Fine, but…” I couldn’t quite finish the sentence. I lost track of the thought, so I just finished by running a hand through my blonde hair that I’d let grow out longer than usual.
“What?” she asked, urging me to go on.
“Nothin’,” I said, “You just have a fine butt.” I gave her a stupid grin as she led me to her car, and she opened the door for me as she supported my jello-like body.
“I hope you don’t say that to all the girls,” she joked as she loaded me into her Ford sedan.
I helped her get my seatbelt on and squeezed her hand for a second. “Only the ones that I like,” I then told her proudly before she shut the door in my face.
After she was certain I wasn’t going to fall out of the car as she drove, she walked over to the driver’s side door and climbed in. Neither one of us said a word after that, and I quickly fell asleep.
“We’re here,” she said, shaking my arm to wake me up. She had parked in front of a house I didn’t recognize. “I don’t know where you live, and I didn’t want to risk taking you to your sisters and waking up the twins.”
“So this is your place?” I asked curiously. It was small, but it was definitely well-kept.
“Yeah, you can sleep on the couch for the night. I’ll take you back to get the car tomorrow, but for now all I want to do is sleep.”