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One More Song
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My band, Absinthe, is sent to the middle of nowhere to get our shit together.
She’s a single mom carrying it all on her own with an ex on her heels.
I’ve run out of second chances.
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“I’m going to hell,” I mumble, standing in the middle of the grand foyer of what was once considered one of the most elegant houses in Stanton. As a kid, I’d been scolded more times than I can remember for running up and down the double marble staircases and through the maze of halls that used to contain priceless paintings, imported Persian rugs, and porcelain vases that had been in my family for generations.
It’s all gone now. Auctioned off to the highest bidder. My grandmother’s beloved chaise lounge has been replaced by a used sofa I found at a garage sale. Where the massive, antique dining table used to loom is a faux-wood table from IKEA that took me six hours to assemble.
The only thing I couldn’t bring myself to part with is the vintage Steinway piano that sits in the front room like a giant reminder of everything that used to be.
“You’re doing what you need to do to survive.” Millie, my best friend and the only reason I’ve been able to keep my sanity these last few years, gives me a sympathetic smile. She’s also my only mom-friend. Meaning we’re both raising six-year-olds. The only difference is, she’s doing it with a partner.
“I know. But if my grandmother ever thought I’d turn this place into a bed-and-breakfast, I’m pretty sure she would have donated it to the church before leaving it to me.”
“You could always sell.”
I chew on my bottom lip and frown. She’s right. I’ve had offers. Not for the house of course, but for the land. I won’t lie and say it hadn’t crossed my mind more than a dozen times, but I hadn’t spent the last two years struggling to keep the house from being condemned only to have the five acres it’s sitting on be turned into a subdivision or retirement center.
“I promised I wouldn’t.” I run my fingers over the yellowed keys of the old piano, wincing at the out of tune B-flat that vibrates through the room.
I may have broken other promises – like the one to love and obey. A promise I had no choice but to break four years ago when I found my lying, cheating ex screwing some random woman in our bed. But I won’t break this one.
This house, with its creaky floorboards, yellowed wallpaper and hundreds of unfinished tasks, is the last thing I have of the girl I once was. A girl I lost a long time ago.
A cold shiver races down my spine as I think of those years nearly wasted. Not just with the memory of the betrayal, but everything that came after. The slander, the backlash, the lies, the threats. The loss.
Not that I’d been fully innocent in it all. I’d made my own mistakes. A lot of them.
Through it all, only one thing kept me fighting – my little girl. She’s more than worth the heartache her father put me through. The reason I keep fighting, even when some days it seems easier to just give up.
I glance at the clock on the wall. Forty minutes and the bus will drop her off at the end of the long, gravel driveway, and the emptiness in my chest will be filled with her giggles and smiles.
And soon, our house will be filled with a stranger’s voice as well.
I take in a deep steadying breath. “She should be here by now.”
“I still can’t believe you’re booked for three months. I mean who rents a bed-and-breakfast, in Stanton, for that long? It’s odd, don’t you think?”
I twist my fingers together, glancing out the large bay windows. “She said she needed someplace secluded. Plus, she paid for all three months upfront. And a generous bonus for meal prep.” I shrug, trying to play off my anxiety.
Millie is right, the whole thing is odd. But I’m not in a place to question the woman’s motives. I need the money.
I readjust the flowers on the side table, hoping they distract a little from the meager furnishings. But Maryll, the woman who I’m expecting any moment, had seemed more concerned about the lighting in the great room than the quality of the new drapes I’d just bought from Walmart.
“This place is too big for just Cadence and me, anyway.” We don’t even use the second floor, which contains four bedrooms and two baths. Cadence’s bedroom is on the main floor next to mine. Other than mealtime, I doubt we’ll even see much of the woman. “It’ll be nice to have someone else to cook for now that Grams is gone.”
Millie gives me a look that tells me she doesn’t believe me. “You mean it’s another excuse for you to stay holed up in this place.” She sighs and puts her hands on my shoulder, like this a serious issue. “You, my dear, need a life outside of this house.”