That's when I know there's no decision to be made. I've won over the triad of Southern Ophelia.
Three. Long. Fucking. Months. That's how long it's been since I've seen Laurelyn. And I don't think I can take another minute. I die a little more each day she isn't in my life.
She's been damn near impossible to find. Fate has worked against us every step of the way. The hoops Jim has jumped through for the smallest bit of information have been ridiculous. One step forward, two steps back—instead of the other way around. A criminal on the run would've been easier to find.
But I've finally found her. Laurelyn Paige Prescott—better known to the public by her stage name as Paige McLachlan—that's the woman I'm here to see tonight.
I still smile when I think about her taking my name, but I can't help but ponder why she'd need to use a stage name. She never mentioned using one before and it makes me wonder if something happened with the sperm donor. Or worse—maybe with Blake Phillips.
I enter the auditorium lobby and the thick crowd makes it difficult to push through. The Martin I'm carrying adds to my difficult navigation as I bump shoulders through the horde, so I have to apologize with each step.
I find my assigned seat. Because I'm a creature of habit, I'm happy when I see it's in a dark corner. I sit and place the Martin by my feet. I'm nervous and adrenalized as evidenced by my rapidly beating heart. I'm about to see the woman I love walk out onto that stage.
I look at the time and see it's only a minute until eight. My heart is pounding erratically, throbbing in my ears over the loud crowd. Finally, musicians begin filing onto the stage to take their places. That's when I see her for the first time in three months. My Laurelyn. All the time and distance that separated us disappears upon finally seeing her face again.
She looks the same, yet different. Her hair is a little longer and darker. Her honey highlights are missing and she's slimmer. She's still beautiful as ever but doesn't fit the image etched in my mind these last few months.
She's wearing brown boots—the same ones she wore the first time I saw her—with stonewashed jeans and a strapless white top. Her bare shoulders make me desperate to touch her exposed skin. And kiss it. Her top is fitted below her breasts while the bottom flows loosely over her jeans. I picture them riding low on her hips so I have easy access to kiss her belly.
She takes a guitar, which I strongly suspect is the instrument her sperm donor gave to her mother, and lifts its strap over her head. She should be holding her Martin instead of the one hanging on her shoulder right now.
Her back is to the crowd and again I'm reminded of that night in Wagga Wagga when I watched her do the exact thing. She mesmerized me beyond measure then and that hasn't changed. She still bewitches me.
My American girl takes her place behind a mic and then I notice the guy next to her and how crazy all the chicks in the audience seem to be about him. I take notice of the other two band members. Jim didn't mention this—that she was part of an all-male band—and the little green monster residing within decides he wants to come out to kick arse and take names.
When each of them is in place, an instrument in hand, the guy beside Laurelyn adjusts his mic. "How's everyone in Dallas doing tonight?"
The crowd goes crazy with cheers and whistles as the drummer begins beating his largest drum to get the crowd on their feet. It sounds like everyone in the auditorium is clapping in unison with the pounding percussion. "Anyone in this place ready to party?" he shouts, and the noise explodes. These people love them.
He picks out a sound on his guitar that I don't recognize and announces, "Ladies always go first and our lovely Paige is gonna start us out with one from our new album called 'Let It Go.'"
Her name is Laurelyn. Not Paige.
My beautiful girl closes her eyes and I remember that as her signal—she's getting ready to sing. It's her way of shutting out the world and going to that place where she uses music and lyrics to tell her story.
Music is what feelings sound like. Isn't that what she says?
I'm sitting on the edge of my seat. I confess I'm a desperate man only holding on by a thin, thin thread. All I've been able to hear in my head for months are the words I wish I'd told her. But I'm here with her now and this is my chance to prove to her how good we are together.
She told me she loved me once and I pray that hasn't changed.
She leans into her microphone as she sings of memories and goodbyes and I know her voice is the only one my heart recognizes. My core lures her sound into my chest and wraps it around the dead walls of my heart so it will have the desire to beat again.
She opens her eyes when she starts the chorus. Like always. I don't like hearing her sing these lyrics about letting go. I know she chooses songs that speak from her heart and the thought of her singing those words with us in mind kills me. Maybe it means she's still thinking of me. Loving me. Holding out hope that I'll come for her.
The crowd bursts into cheer and praise when she finishes her song, as they should. She's a fan-fucking-tastic performer. I already knew that but I don't think I realized the degree until this moment.
The other singer steps up to his mic. "That girl can tear it up, right?"
The crowd answers with louder yelling and clapping. "This next one we're gonna do is called 'Win You Over.'" He looks at my girl and smiles as he gives her a wink. What the fuck is that about? The guy is looking at Laurelyn as he sings about winning a girl's heart after it's been broken. He's watching her eyes as he sings and that's when it strikes me—the motherfucker isn't singing for the crowd. He's singing to my girl.
Don't look at him, Laurelyn. Don't fall for that shit—his seductive grin, his smooth voice, his deep dimples. I know those moves and it's all bullshit so he can fuck you.
I'm grasping the armrests of my seat so hard, I think I might crush them. What if I'm too late and she's already with this jerkoff? It's a real possibility. She wouldn't have a reason not to be. She has no idea how much I love her or the lengths I've gone to to find her. I'm certain she thinks I've moved on to my next companion. Why wouldn't she?
And then I think of the woman I almost made number fourteen. She gladly went up to a hotel room with me, a complete stranger, only minutes after meeting. She was going to let me fuck her because the man she loved didn't return her affections. She wanted him out of her head that badly, if only for as long as it took to get off. That's who I could be to Laurelyn—the man she needs out of her head so badly, she'd let this guy fuck her to erase me.
This is bad. Very bad.
I consider leaving my seat and walking toward the stage so she might see me and know I've come for her. I want to see her reaction. I need to look into her eyes so I'll know if I'm still the one she loves. Or if it's him now.
I get up but my feet are frozen in place. They won't obey the commands being sent by my brain. They're smarter than my head or my heart. As much as I want her to know I'm here, I can't because I'm certain security would stop me from moving closer to the stage.
The eye-fucker finishes his song and Laurelyn trades her guitar for another instrument—maybe a mandolin. She never told me she played anything but the piano and guitar, so I'm suddenly jealous that these blokes know something about her that I don't.
They begin the next song, a duet called "Tell Me What I Want to Hear." Great. That's exactly what I want to watch—the two of them sing together. There's nothing I can do about it, so I might as well take a seat and calm the fuck down.
They go through the rest of their set and I watch this bloke eye-fuck Laurelyn for almost two hours. It's brutal to see it happening when I can do nothing about it. I'm mad as hell, but do I really have the right to say anything? I don't know, but I damn sure plan to find out.
When it's time for the last song of the night, Laurelyn takes the stage front and center—as she should've done all night—and I recognize the song coming from her bandmate's keyboard.
"This song is one I wrote when my best friend and I traveled out of the country several months back. I found myself with a lot of time on my hands and took the opportunity to do a little songwriting. I began writing it while we were there, but I couldn't quite make myself finish until about a month ago. It's called 'Without a Goodbye.'"
I'm waiting for your heart to wake
So you will ask me to stay.
My heart is impatiently waiting around
To hear the words it's begging you to say.
But if I remain and the words never come,
It's a pain I don't think I can take.
So I should go now without a goodbye
And you'll never have to see these tears I cry.
I should go now without a goodbye
And I won't have to hide the pain in my eyes.
I made the decision to walk away
And now there's so much distance between you and me.
Now you're so far away, so very far away.
Will you always remain out of my reach?
It's easy to lie myself but
I fear my stupid heart will never be free.
And you'll never have to see these tears I cry.
And I won't have to hide the pain in my eyes.
Now it's been so long since I touched your face
I can't stop thinking of those days.
I'm looking back at your photos
And wondering if it's wrong for me to say.
I'm here all alone and I feel weak.
Maybe I made a mistake when I walked away.
And I was wrong to leave without a goodbye
Because now you'll never see I want to try.
I was wrong to leave without a goodbye
Because now you'll never see the love in my eyes.
It's a beautiful song, but so sad. The lyrics describe us perfectly, and I know in my heart, she's singing about us—at least I hope she is since the words describe making a mistake by leaving without a goodbye. It has to be us.