The Greatest Show (Willow Son #5/Brothers of Rock #20) (5 page)

BOOK: The Greatest Show (Willow Son #5/Brothers of Rock #20)
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Nothing.
It

s

I haven

t
talked to you in how long? And you call me when you

re drunk. Is this the guilt?


Come
on,

Brantley said.

What do you want me to do?
Everything was okay. Right? I mean, we

our plan and stuff
…”


Nothing
has been okay,

Emma said.

For a long time. I appreciate
the help, Brantley. The money you

ve
been sending. But it

s not
good with him. With Seth.

Brantley felt his heart tug.

Shit. Seth. I forgot that

s what his name was.


You
forgot? Seriously?


I
try to block it

I don

t want to screw up your lives.
Both of your lives. I thought this was the right thing. A good thing. But it

s not.


He
needs you,

Emma said.

He
…”

Brantley felt a fire kick up. It
was an old fire, one that didn

t
belong spewed at Emma. But the worst thing happened - that was him being drunk
and not realizing what he was about to say.


How
do I know he

s my kid?

Brantley asked.

In his drunk mind, it was an honest
question to ask.


What?

Emma asked.

Did you really just ask me that?


Yeah,
I did. How
…”


You

re an asshole, Brantley. A real
big asshole. You know why he needs you? Because he needs a fucking blood
transfusion. Apparently you and him have some special blood type. Everything
has gone wrong for that boy and he

s
done nothing to deserve it.

Then there was silence.

Brantley felt his eyes fill with
tears.

Okay. Fine.


Fine?
What

s that mean?


Fine.
He

s mine then.


No.
I

m not doing this. Not
like this. I get why we had our arrangement now. Thank you for calling and
helping me with that.

Emma hung up.

Brantley dropped the phone and fell
to the side of the bed. He clutched the sheets, a mix of anger, guilt, and
pain. He let out a long scream and then felt his stomach do a wicked back flip.

He made it to the trashcan just
in time.

 

**

 

The next morning Brantley stumbled
to the kitchen and made coffee. He ordered out for a huge breakfast and ate it
like someone who had never eaten before. The entire time he kept his cellphone
next to him. Bad enough all the wrong he

d
done but last night he tried to talk to Emma on the phone.

He knew what he said to her. He
knew how it came across. He didn

t
mean it to be that way.

Calling twice to Emma proved
nothing. She didn

t answer.
He sent her a text, apologizing and wanting to talk to her. He then took a
shower, dressed, and met the band at the studio.

They were halfway through a new song,
leaving off where Ryker and Jett were debating on a guitar solo.

Brantley got warmed up behind the
kit and was ready to rock. They ran through three takes on  two songs and then
listened back to them, trying to find out what sounded good and what didn

t.

The new music was killer. The riffs
were tight, the bass deep, and the drums moving. It was radio friendly -
something Portis loved - but it was still Willow Son sound and would sound
great as live songs.

Portis made it clear to the band
that the more singles they could produce for radio play the better off they

d be. Each one helped to secure
their contract for renewal and a lot of promotional opportunity. The last thing
Brantley wanted was for a Willow Son song to be used in a car commercial, but
hell, if it paid well


That

s good,

Ryker said.


I
don

t like the lyrics,

Colby said.

They

re boring. Nothing pops.


Write
new ones,

Van said.


How?
Think about it

I

m trying to put myself someplace
dark for this and it

s not
working. I joked with Tessa last night and told her she needed to leave me for
a month.


I

ll do it,

Brantley said.

I

ll write stuff.


What?

Jett asked.

You? Write?


What?

Brantley asked.


Bro,

Ryker said,

you could barely handle writing
your name on a deposit slip to cash a freaking check.

Everyone laughed.


I

m serious,

Brantley said.

Maybe if I get some of this shit
out of me, it

ll help.
Because everything we

re
listening to

everything we

re playing

it sounds like shit to me.

That made everyone go silent.


That

s up to you,

Colby said.

I mean, I could help you through
it. We can work into a process together with what you want to say. Are you sure
you want that out there? Millions of people hearing it? People singing it?


I

m good with it,

Brantley said.

I

ll
have plenty of inspiration, I

m
sure.

Brantley stood up. He squeezed his
drumsticks tight and then handed them over to  Ryker.


What

s this?

Ryker asked.

You
quitting the band?


Something
like that.


What?

Colby asked.


I
have to go,

Brantley said.

We

re set up here with recording for now. I tried
talking to her last night and that was a mistake.


When
you were drunk?

Van asked.


Yeah,

Brantley said.


Smart,

Ryker said.


I
need to just
…”


Go,

Colby said.

Do what you need to do. This is
family, brother.


You

re my family,

Brantley said.

And I

m sorry I never said anything to you about this. We
had an agreement of things, okay? I didn

t
bolt on a pregnant woman and a kid. It was agreed upon

I made sure money was sent. I did what I thought
…”


Bro,
get out of here,

Ryker
said.

Stop trying to sell
this to us.

Brantley left the room and stood in
the hallway for a few seconds.

He

d
played the biggest arenas across the world. Tens upon tens of thousands of
fans. But this show was for two people. A mother. A child.

It was the scariest show of
Brantley

s
life.

(7)

 

Emma caught herself waking up on
the couch. The sun forced itself through the blinds and curtains, spreading
across the floor. She stretched her neck and groaned. Sleeping on the couch was
uncomfortable but it beat sleeping in a hospital. She got to her feet and went
right for the stairs to check on Seth.

Upstairs, she heard noises.

She heard toys smacking together
and Seth making sounds.

At the door, Emma opened just a
little to spy on Seth. He was up, out of bed, and he was playing. He had a line
of monster trucks and cars set up and was pushing them forward, crashing them
into each other.

Boys

Emma smiled and pushed the door
open.

Hey, buddy.


Mommy,

Seth said.


Give
me a hug.

Seth climbed to his feet and ran to
her. She hugged him and casually put her hand to his forehead to check for a
fever. He felt cool and comfortable. He was normal. Himself.


Do
you want some breakfast?


Waffles?


As
many as you can eat.


Really?

Seth yelled.


Really.

He squeezed Emma tighter and she
stood up, taking him with her. It was so refreshing to carry him like any
mother would carry their son. Not rushing down the steps to find her keys, her
phone, and hurrying to get him to the hospital.

The
all you can eat
waffle
experience turned into only three waffles for Seth. He then watched cartoons
and went through all of his toys. There was a sense of appreciation in his eyes
and movements, one that he probably didn

t
even fully understand. More than once, as Emma sat with a cup of coffee, she
caught herself tearing up. Seth was a beautiful kid. He was going to have a
good life, too. A fighting kind of life, but a good one.

Seth took out three giant stuffed
animals. Two bears and a bunny her father had bought Seth last Easter. Seth
spread them out and then ran to the kitchen for a dishtowel.


What
are you doing?

Emma asked.

Seth froze and looked back. He
swung the dishtowel and said,

I

m a ninja. Those are bad guys. I
have to destroy them.

Emma laughed.

Oh?


I
saw this movie when I was in
the room

- Seth always called it
the room
because the word
hospital
scared
him -

about ninjas that
fought and won against bad guys. They were really fast, Mommy. I

m really fast. Want to see how
fast I am?


Sure,
Seth.


Here,
hold my weapon.

Emma took the dishtowel. She
smiled, amazed how yesterday the towel was used to dry off a dish but now it
was a weapon to destroy bad guys.

Seth bit his tongue and then ran
from the dining room to the living room window. Emma felt her heart stop for a
second when she saw how fast Seth was going straight for the window.

You

ve got let him live
.

That

s
what her father always told her.

Seth stopped and turned.

Did you see that?


Wow,

Emma said.

That was really fast. Here, come
get your weapon.

Seth raced back to Emma and took
the towel.

The rest of the morning into the
afternoon was spent playing ninjas, castle, superheroes, eating snacks, random
questions, and more cartoons. It was a dream day for Emma. She had two dozen
important emails to answer but she ignored them. This was about seeing Seth
being healthy. Watching him run and jump and play. Seeing him stand on the
couch, something he should have gotten told not to do, was a blessing for Emma.

Then, as fast as Seth started up,
he winded down.

He ended up on the floor, resting
on one of the bears, eyes dazed and glued to the TV.

Again, Emma casually checked him
for a fever. He was still okay. She got next to him and hugged him.


Tired
out?

she asked.


No.

Emma slowly started to scratch the
top of Seth

s head. She
then ran her finger down to the bridge of his nose and back up. Three times and
his eyes were shut. His mouth then opened and a small pool of drool formed.

Nap time.

Emma looked to the table. Her phone
had gone off a few times and not just emails either.

Brantley got in touch because he
was drunk. What was that? Just an intense wave of guilt? To do what? This wasn

t a situation about being drunk
and wanting to help. Yeah, he had called this morning, but Emma didn

t have time for that yet. She
needed to wrap her mind around the notion of him

There was a knock at the front
door.

Emma got to her feet.

It was probably Cassie again.
Probably with some banana bread and some fancy creamer for coffee that made it
taste like vanilla or something. She meant well. She was a good friend. Even if
she was a little overbearing.

Emma hurried to get the door, not
wanting Seth to wake up. If it was Cassie, she

d
take whatever she had and show her that Seth was napping. Then Emma could nap
with Seth and literally accomplish nothing for the entire day.

Which was fine.

Not every day in life had to be
demanding and purposeful.

Emma unlocked the door and opened
it.

She managed to gasp before she fell
to the right, her shoulder crashing against a wall.


Whoa
…”

Hands grabbed for her, touching her
sides.

Emma just stared.

At him.

He was here.

It was Brantley.

 

**

 

*THEN*

 


You

re going to be in New York,

Emma said. She put a hand to
Brantley

s hand.

I

m
not going to ask you to stay.


I

m not staying there forever,

he said.

This is what I do. I have to
tour.


I

m not saying not to tour,

Emma said.

You have to go. You

re a rockstar.


And
you

re pregnant.

Emma nodded. She took her hand away
from Brantley.

This is why
I didn

t want to tell you.
I didn

t want you to get
mad at me.


I

m not mad at you. I

m just

this isn

t
what it was supposed to be.

That hurt. Emma fought the urge to
cry.


I
know,

she whispered.

I

m
sorry I screwed this up.


No.
We both did. We were both there that night. It takes two.

It takes two


My
dad is going to help me,

Emma said.

I

ll be okay with everything.


What
does that mean?


Nobody
is going to hate you or judge you for whatever you do here.


Are
you telling me you don

t
want me around?


You

re not going to be around,
Brantley.


Wow.
That

s a little harsh.


Is
it true?

Emma asked.

She told herself she needed to be
strong. Tough. Ruthless even. This wasn

t
about herself but about the baby inside her. She couldn

t live her life chasing a rockstar around the
country, showing him baby pictures and trying to get him to spend time with the
baby. It wasn

t like she
was out on the street either.


I
don

t know what to say,

Brantley said.

I grew up different than you,
Emma. I never had

I don

t know. This just doesn't make
sense.


It
doesn

t have to. Just keep
it simple. You go your way, I go mine. Whatever happens, happens.


Like
what? I just pop into town and you

re
there? So I see you? I see the baby?


No,

Brantley said.

That

s bullshit.


Then
get off tour and quit your band,

Emma snapped.


Yeah,
right. That

s what you
want? Dig at me, I don

t
care.


You
…”

Emma felt herself ready to explode.
She was hurt. She was mad. But it was at herself. At the situation. At everything
swirling around her. She was also terrified. She was going to be responsible
for another human life. And the guy who helped make that life would be on the
road, partying, drinking, sleeping with women, living his dream.


Let

s just come to some kind of an
agreement then,

Emma said.


And
what

s that?

Brantley asked.

Emma slid out of the booth. She
stuffed her hands into the pocket of her hoodie. Her belly wasn

t showing quite yet but she
could feel it swelling a little.


I
don

t know,

she said.

Okay? We

ll have to figure something out.


Yeah,
okay,

Brantley said.

Emma walked away. She didn

t say goodbye to him because it
wasn

t supposed to be
goodbye to him. He was supposed to get up, throw money on the table, and then
chase after her. He was supposed to grab her, hug her, say something to make it
all feel okay.

But Brantley didn

t do any of that.

He just sat there.

Emma was in tears by the time she
got to her car.

She drove away telling herself this
wouldn

t be the last time
they saw each other.

But it was.

 

**

 

*NOW*

 


What
are you doing here?

she
asked.


I
tried calling you
…”


How
did you find out where I live?


I
have resources,

Brantley
said.

That doesn

t matter. How is

how

s Seth?


He

s napping.

Anger flooded her body.

Where were you? Huh? How many
women did you fuck since we last saw each other?

 


Oh.
Sorry.

You should be sorry. You son of
a bitch.


Brantley
…”

He stood in the doorway, easily
filling it up with his tall size. His shoulders had become more rounded from
all the drumming. The long sleeved shirt did nothing to hide the body under it.
A body that Emma got to experience a couple times and that was it. He had his
sleeves pushed halfway up his forearm, showing off tattoos that weren

t there the last time they
talked.

Fuck, why did he have to be sexy
still? Why did he have to be bigger and stronger? Weren

t rockstars supposed to get addicted to drugs and
burn out?


Look,

he said.

The second you called Harry I
should have been here. But I didn

t
do that. I tried to respect what we decided to do and that was a mistake by me.
I

m here now. I

m not asking you to welcome me
in and let

s be a happy
family. If he needs anything from me
…”

Emma burst into tears.

She remembered the first time
taking Seth to the doctors when he was just a few months old. That

s when they knew something was
wrong with him. She stood in the office, alone, listening to big words being
thrown at her. She knew that the road that would follow would be almost
impossible to navigate and she had to do it alone.

BOOK: The Greatest Show (Willow Son #5/Brothers of Rock #20)
4.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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