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Rock ‘n’ Roll Baby
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Linc’s always had two loves – music and me. When his big break comes, though, it feels like he’s going to have to choose. I can’t be the one to hold him back so I’m going to keep a secret. He’ll hate me when he finds out, but I can’t crush his dream.
I’ve only ever had one love – Cherry. She’s the heart of my songs, the beat in my melodies. If I have to choose between music and her, she’d win every time. When my music blows up big on the scene, I need Cherry by my side. Only this time, she’s reluctant to leave home. I’ll need all of my songwriting skills to convince her that my guitar only sounds right when we’re together.
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The club smells like stale smoke and beer. The lights are dim and I can barely make out the face of Cherry, but she’s there, sitting in the spot she always sits in—just left of the stage. From the beginning, when I started playing gigs, she has chosen to sit on the side. She told me that she sees my face up close enough, but she’s really doing it because she wants me to get more fans.
“One look at this face,” she told me, “and they’ll all fall in love.”
“I want them to love my music.”
“Use them both.” She kissed me then. Or I kissed her. Not sure but we ended up sweaty and naked, that’s for damn sure.
“This next song is for all the lovers out there. Grab the one or the one for the night”—I pause as the crowd laughs—“and sing this next song with me.”
I scoot my stool over a little to the left so I’m closer to her and sing the song I wrote one night when Cherry’s parents were gone and we were lying in her backyard on a blanket. It was summer and it was too hot inside because the assholes that gave birth to her had forgotten to pay the utility bill before they went off to gamble in the Ozarks. To cheer her up, I sang about how we didn’t need them because we had the stars in the sky and they’d be our lights through the night.
I repeat those lyrics now.
It may be dark now
But the night can’t last forever
Just hold my hand
And we’ll reach the stars together
The crowd sings it with me. I’ve been here before. They’ve been here before. We’re old friends so I get up from my stool, stroll off the stage, still playing the guitar until I reach Cherry’s side. Nick, my drummer, holds the beat for me while Benjy, my best friend and bassist, plays the groove. While the crowd is singing and swaying, I lean over and kiss her until the crowd’s rowdiness makes me push away.
I hop back onto the stage, finish up and move right into the rock tune that everyone loves about how I messed up, can’t get up, too drunk to remember, but if she takes me back, I’ll promise to be good for this one night, sleep tight, I’ll get right. I promise to be good for this one night, I’ll get riiiiiiiiiiight.
Nick smashes the cymbals, Benjy makes the bass cry, and I…well, I must turn the ladies on because three pairs of underwear land on my feet. It doesn’t matter that I just tongued Cherry in front of them. They still think they have a chance.
The bar owner, Tim Owens, walks in clapping his hands. “Awesome set, my friends.” Tim’s an old guy with one of those gray ZZTop beards that hangs down to his chest. His face always has that alcohol flush but even if he’s drunk, he’s still smart as hell, knows the music business in and out, and has launched more careers than Jimmy Lovine. He started booking us a year ago and while we haven’t had much regional success, we’re a hit with the locals, which means there’s always space for us on his roster. As high school seniors, I don’t think we can ask for more than that. He pulls a giant wad of cash out of his pocket and thumbs his way through a few bills. He peels them off and hands them to Cherry.
“Make sure they don’t spend it all at once,” he tells my girl.
“I won’t, Uncle Tim.” He’s not really her uncle, but in the past year, he’s taken a liking to her and she’s confided some in him.
“I put a little extra in there for you since I know your shit-for-brain parents aren’t taking care of you. The only good thing they’ve done in their lives is stop after having you.”
“Um, thanks.” She ducks her head and kind of tries to hide behind me in embarrassment.
“You taking good care of her, boy?” He directs this at me.
“You know it.”
“Good. Good. I wouldn’t want to bust the chops of my rising star, would I now?”
“You would not,” I agree. One blow from his meaty fist and I’d be out for a good week.
“All right. You miscreants better get out of here before the cops haul you away.”
“That’d require my old man to tear himself away from the Donut Hole,” Benjy grunts. He flips the guitar case latches closed and swings the black shell over his back.
“Respect your elders!” Tim shouts as he walks out of the backroom.
I hustle over and help Nick tear down the drum kit. We shove it all in the bed of Nick’s truck. Nick hops over the driver’s side while Benjy holds his seat down so Cherry and I can climb in the back.