My parents have invited me to dinner at my mom's place. It's official. They're no longer a thing in private. They're an item in the eyes of the world but the media is so bad that none of us can go out in public anymore.
Becoming a star isn't what I thought it would be.
My front door is clear for the first time in weeks. I guess there are only so many pictures you can take of a person leaving their apartment before that becomes uninteresting.
Dinner is intriguing—some sort of casserole. I'm not really certain what kind and I choose to not ask. My mom's never been much of a cook.
We're busy discussing the schedule for the band and the new music I'm working on when my mom spies the ring on my finger. "What is that?"
She isn't going to like this. "It's a ring."
She knows. She doesn't have to ask. "Engagement."
"So he asked you to marry him?"
I'm not going there with the whole in a roundabout way issue. "Yes. Jack Henry has asked me to marry him."
My mother huffs as she looks at my dad. A look passes between them and I'm not sure how to decipher its meaning, but it pisses me off. I know it means they've been discussing us. "Laurie, you can't marry him."
I'm absolutely, positively, one hundred percent not shocked by this. "And why not?"
"Because he'll have you moving to Australia. If you do, your career is over, plain and simple."
I'm beginning to care less and less about this career of mine. "Would that be so bad if I was with the man I love?"
"Are you kidding? Of course it would be bad. It would be terrible to watch you walk away from this success after such a short time. If you're this big today, think of where you'll be in a year from now."
It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out. "I already know where I'll be—on a tour bus traveling from one show to the next. I've already been doing that, Mom, and I know what it's like. It's not great." I look at my dad. "Does it ever get easier?"
He looks at my mom and they have a silent conversation as they sit across the table from one another. "It takes some getting used to, but it gets better with time." I strongly suspect he's saying that because it's what she wants him to tell me.
I should tell them the way I feel so they'll understand. "It's like this. If Jack Henry hadn't come back into my life, I'd probably be thrilled to spend every day on the road, but that isn't the way it went. He came looking for me because he loves me. And I love him. I know what my life feels like without him in it, and I hated every moment of it."
"He just left. You haven't had time to get used to him not being here, but that'll get better in time." She's grasping at straws.
"I don't want it to get better. I want to be with him."
"Baby, being with him means you don't get to have a career and you don't get to be with me or your dad. We'll never see each other. Would you walk away from singing? And from us?"
That's not how it would be. "I would come back to see you when I could and you could come to Australia to visit us. You'd love it. It's beautiful and the people are so friendly."
"No, you shouldn't count on me coming down there because I won't."
My heart plummets when I hear my mom say she wouldn't visit me. I see the look on my dad's face and I think her resolution even surprises him, but he attempts to cover for her. "I think your mom's just not excited about flying over the ocean."
"Sure." I'm certain she wouldn't hesitate to fly anywhere with him if he asked. Nothing has changed. I'm still taking a back seat to Jake Beckett like I always have. Why would I give up the man I love when it's obvious she'll always put the one she loves ahead of me?
"Baby, you want to say yes. I can see it in your eyes, but it would be a mistake to give up your career and family for this man. You can find someone else to love—someone from here. Maybe even a man in the music industry who will understand what this kind of life is like."
She's such a hypocrite. "Oh, you mean find someone else the way you did?" She gives me that look that says she doesn't like what I'm saying—and it's because it's the truth. "Wait. I got that all wrong, didn't I? You didn't find anyone else because you could never move past loving him."
My dad puts his hands up. "Maybe we should all take a step back for a minute."
His role isn't to referee. I'm still undecided about what I think his part is here, but I've been handling this woman by myself for twenty-three years and I don't need his help now. "I'm outta here."
I don't have time for this shit. I have a decision to make and not with any of her kind of help.
I leave my mom's house and end up driving around for an hour before I park my car in front of Charlie's apartment. His living room light is on, so I take it as a good sign that he's probably home.
I sit in my car for at least fifteen minutes trying to decide if I want to do this—tell him I'm leaving the band. He's going to be so disappointed in me. I feel terrible doing this to them after they took me in the way they did. He was there for me when I needed him most, and now I'm going to abandon him just as things are really taking off.
I can't keep having these kinds of thoughts. I have to start living for me at some point and to hell with what's best for everyone else. They can figure that out on their own. I'm the only person in control of my destiny.
I'm nervous as I stand on Charlie's doorstep and want to run away when he opens the door. "Hey. What are you doing here?"
"I'm sorry. I know I should've called first, but I was out driving and found myself in front of your place. Can I come in?"
"Of course." He opens the door wide for me and I walk into his living room. My eyes go for the couch immediately to check for a chick and then I remember that's probably not where she'd be if he had a girl over. "You don't have company tonight?"
"Nah. I have a friend coming over in a while, but it's just me for the next little bit." He gestures for me to sit on the couch and I can't help but think how his apartment looks so bachelor. None of Jack Henry's houses look like this—like a bunch of guys should be sitting around drinking beer, watching sports. "Did everything go okay with Jack leaving today?"
"Yes and no." Charlie looks at me and I can tell by his expression that he's waiting for an explanation. "I let him board his plane, if that's what you mean. He should be arriving in Sydney in a few hours."
"I was wondering if you'd let him go," he laughs. "So what is the part that didn't go okay?"
"He wants me to marry him." I wait a moment before I drop the next bomb, but Charlie saves me from saying the words.
"And he wants you to move to Australia."
"Yes. But I haven't given him an answer." I think he's waiting for the rest of the story. "I love him and I know what being apart from him feels like. It's terrible and I don't want to do it again."
"So this is you telling me you're leaving the band?"
I tell myself to be strong because I'm doing this for Jack Henry and me. "It is."
Flip out is probably putting it gently. "I know. I hate doing this to you, but I can't stay when my heart isn't in it."
"I understand. And I'm not mad. I'd do the same thing if the situation were reversed. There's nothing I wouldn't do to have a love like what you have with Jack."
He doesn't seem disappointed or shocked. "Thank you for not making me feel like a asshat."
"I could never make you feel bad about loving Jack, but you may think I'm a huge ass after you hear the request I have for you."
What kind of request could make me think poorly of sweet Charlie? "I could never think that about you. You're too adorable for that."
"We'll see how you feel after I ask."
"Will you stay through the next tour so we don't have to cancel?"
That means I'd have to stay until the end of October. "That's over three months away."
"We don't have time to find a replacement for the tour, but we could start fresh with someone after we finish the tour and get back in the studio."
I don't want to do it. But I sort of owe them that after the way they took me in when I didn't have a chance in hell. "I can do that."
If Jack Henry knows I've decided to marry him, he'll want me to leave the band immediately. So I can't tell him yet. He won't care or understand my reasoning behind my obligation to help my band.
Besides…after what he did to me, he deserves to do a little ass-kissing.
I'm still in bed when I hear the annoying sound of my doorbell ringing over and over. Because of the time change, it was really late—or really early—when I arrived home. I'm jet-lagged and I prefer to lie in bed so the perpetrator will leave, but there's one problem with that idea: I can predict with one hundred percent accuracy who it is and I already know she won't go away.
Margaret McLachlan is here to see Laurelyn.
I disarm the security system and open the door to my mum's smiling face. No surprise there. "Mum. Couldn't you have waited until a little later? I've only been home a few hours."
"No. I couldn't wait or I would have. I'm here to see my future daughter-in-law. Where is she?"
I probably should've called and warned her ahead of time that Laurelyn wasn't coming with me, but I didn't want to be hassled or forced to explain the situation over the phone. "She didn't come back with me."