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Authors: Dena Rogers

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BOOK: Drive Me Sane
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Standing in the doorway, she looked out into the darkness. Uncle Roy lived down in a little holler, as the folks around there called it. It was a small gully carved in the hills where the sky darkened quicker than in town and the surrounding wilderness overpowered everything around, making the space feel like a box once night fell. Even after living in Cobb City for almost nine years and thinking of it as home, she still couldn’t say the word like everyone else.
Haller
, she pronounced to herself, unable to attain the accent that Eastern Kentucky folks had.
Hollow
, she said again. The word never seemed to run properly off her tongue.

“Only eight o’clock and it’s dark already,” she said, stepping through the open door.

• • •

Tyler turned with Sera’s voice. He didn’t need her to remind him that they had run out of daylight. Soon the darkness would also disappear, announcing another day had arrived, which meant two things. One, he had a call to make, and two, he was one more day closer to leaving. Three weeks had sounded like forever upon his arrival, but it was passing by too quickly. There was too much to do, too much to say, and way too much to make up for in too little of time. “Just think, in a couple of months it’ll be getting dark at like six,” he replied.

“Guess you’ll be living the high life again by then,” she said, smiling at him.

God, how he missed that smile. She was beginning to do it often too. Not that he was complaining. He enjoyed seeing the pleasure radiating out of her. “The high life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Glad she’d come out, he took a seat in the swing, and then patted the spot next to him for her to sit as well.

“Really?” she asked.

Tyler pushed off the porch with his legs setting the swing into motion. “It gets pretty stressful and tiring and lonely.”

“Doesn’t sound all that appealing.” She laughed.

Tyler looked over. Her cheeks still rolled from the giggle and her eyes flew wide with curiosity. Most days, life on the road wasn’t appealing, but then—“Actually when I’m up on stage there’s no better feeling. There’s something about looking out into the crowd and focusing on someone who’s singing right along with you. They know every word and you can see in their eyes that it means something to them. Whether it’s just a memory of a good time or a loved one, it lets you know what you’re doing is right.” He paused. “It’s the before and after that wears on you. Not to mention the politics of it all.”

“I thought the before and after would be the exciting part,” Sera said. “All the places you get to see.”

He gave another hard push with his feet, propelling the swing backwards, then forwards again. “If I got to see them, yeah, it would be. Usually, I’m too tired to do anything before, and depending on the show, sometimes I don’t get off stage until almost midnight. By the time we’re all packed up and ready to go, it’s well into the middle of the night and hard to fall asleep from the hype of it all. Like I said, it gets stressful and tiring after a while.”

“You forgot lonely.” Sera gave him a teasing nudge with her elbow.

Smiling back, Tyler said, “Yeah, it gets pretty lonely too.”

“You know, there’s medication to help you with stress. Also things that will help you sleep,” she offered facetiously, throwing Tyler’s words back at him.

“I’m well aware of the meds, but unlike you, I don’t have a problem with taking them.”

• • •

Tyler’s confession surprised Sera. She turned to fully face him, to see if he was joking, and knew by the way his lips pulled tight that he wasn’t. Worried that she might have offended him, she started to apologize. “Tyler, I didn’t—”

“It’s all right. No offense taken,” he interrupted.

“What do you take?” she asked.

“Why? Are you interested in seeing if I have better stuff than you?”

She nudged him again, letting him know she’d gotten his joke.

He laughed back. It was so good to hear his laugh.

“Xanax,” Tyler said. “A low dose for anxiety, but I mostly take it at night to help me sleep.”

“Been there and done that,” she said with a shake of her head. “I’m on Celexa and Trazodone now, but they keep changing it up every few months to see what works best.”

“And what works best?”

Sleeping next to you
. “Nothing really.”

“What happened over there, Sera?”

Tyler’s voice dropped and with it, Sera’s heart. She didn’t want to go there. Not tonight. The day had been good for her. No meltdowns or arguments. In fact, she’d enjoyed one of the more pleasant and peaceful days she’d had in a long time and she didn’t want it to end laced with bad memories.

“We’ve talked about me. I think tonight you should tell me what the problem is with your release.”

Staring straight ahead, it took Tyler several long minutes to respond. “You’ve heard the song. What do you think of it?”

Although she knew the answer, she asked anyway. “So that’s the song you want to release?”

“Actually no … ah.” Tyler ran a hand through his thick hair. “I don’t know.” Crossing his arms, he continued. “I do in a way and I don’t. My label is pushing it, though.”

Worried that the conversation may propel them into another argument, she tried to make herself comfortable by turning in the swing to face him. Her knee brushed against his thigh as she did, sending another zap of energy surging through her.

Taking a breath, she answered. “The song is beautiful. You should release it.” The words, although honest and simple, weren’t easy to say. So much emotion came along with hearing that song, she didn’t know where to begin.

With no movement—even the swing had stopped—Tyler stared straight ahead. “They’ll release it no matter what I say. They don’t need my approval. Please don’t placate me with what you think I want to hear. You know what the song is about. I need to know how you’re going to feel about hearing it on the radio.”

So it had nothing to do with her approval or his permission at all. The song would be aired whether either one of them liked it. She at least appreciated Tyler took how she might feel about it into consideration.

She thought hard before replying again, this time trying to convey more deeply how the song affected her. “The first time I heard it, I hated it. I ejected it out of the player and was about to throw the disk on the ground and stomp it into a zillion pieces like you said, but I couldn’t. Something wouldn’t let me. So I listened again. I’m pretty sure the urge the second time was even stronger, but still I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. It sat on my desk for a few days before I popped it in again. After the initial shock wore off, I was able to appreciate its beauty. I wasn’t lying when I told you it’s beautiful and that you should release it. I don’t doubt it will be a hit.”

When Tyler didn’t respond and turned his face away again, silently staring off into the darkness, Sera sat confused on what maybe she did or didn’t say. She’d told him how wonderful the song was despite how difficult it had been to hear.
He wanted to know how you felt.

Clasping her hands, she looked down. Her stomach knotted. She swallowed back the vulnerability that came with releasing her feelings. “It broke my heart all over again,” she said, thinking back to the heart-wrenching anguish of hearing their breakup—and how much Tyler had cared for her—played through music. The song implied he had some regrets and she wasn’t sure exactly what those were, but his feelings for her had been clear. It was a permanent painful reminder of the love that she’d lost. Yet in some way, each time she heard it, the pain lessened.

Tyler turned to say something, but Sera cut him off with a raise of her hand. He’d asked and she’d started, so he was going to hear everything she had to say before she changed her mind.

“But hearing that you had felt as deeply for me as I did you was comforting. I know it’s just a song and every word didn’t derive from our relationship, but I hope our time together didn’t leave you with a box of regret as the title states. I hope nothing I gave you or we had ended up being stuffed into a cardboard box, because there’s nothing about our relationship I’ve ever regretted, Tyler.”

CHAPTER 10

Tyler barely heard the loud thump that woke him. He hadn’t been in bed long enough to drift off permanently, caught somewhere in between reliving the day with Sera and the black clouds that take over just as you let it all go. Their talk, although difficult to swallow, did give him some respite with the song’s release. Hearing Sera’s confession had made him sad, but happy in a way too. He’d broken her heart not once, but twice. He’d come here, trying to work through the feelings of possibly doing it a third time—and now he knew he would do anything to make sure it never happened again. Their talk had also given him hope that Sera might still feel as strongly for him as he did her.

His chest burned with excitement from seeing her eye him all day. What he liked even more was she wasn’t acting shy about it. It was a glimpse of the old Sera. He missed the outgoing woman he fell in love with, but there was something captivating about the newer version too. It didn’t matter which personality was standing in, the introvert or extrovert. Both sides pulled at him in a way he hadn’t felt for a while.

He hadn’t realized just how bad of a funk he’d been in until he’d arrived there. The exhaustion was wearing on him. Most days he preferred to stay in bed with no care or concern for what was really going on. Other than his mom and Roy, he’d lost all contact with anyone from Cobb City and the constant rounds from state to state never left much time for making new friends. He had his band mates, most of whom spent their free time with their children and wives. Jayson, his drummer, was the one person he talked to on a regular basis other than his manager, Bradley. And Bradley was far from being someone Tyler trusted on a personal level. They were from two different sides of the spectrum. They worked well together, but that was where any relationship began and ended. Tyler had pretty much been on his own for a while. He worked all the time and when he wasn’t working, he was thinking about work. Other than that, he had nothing else going for him. Not even anyone to share all that he’d busted his ass for to achieve. He missed quiet dinners and watching TV. Sitting on the porch talking about the day. He even found mowing the yard and grocery shopping entertaining. Like Sera, he missed being normal. Their demons might be different, but they were fighting some of the same things.

When another loud sound came, he worried that someone might be trying to break in and got up. He looked first in the living room and kitchen, before checking both doors and the bathroom. Seeing that everything was okay, he knocked on Sera’s door last. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor with an open cardboard box in front of her.

“I’m sorry, some other boxes fell out of the top of my closet when I was trying to get this one down,” she explained.

“It’s all right.” Crossing his arms over his chest, he asked, “Need help?”

• • •

Sera looked up to see Tyler’s body fill the entire door frame. Unable to fall asleep, she already recognized the spiraling downturn of emotions that took her for a ride on nights like this. She didn’t want to succumb, but didn’t know how to stop it either. She wanted desperately to wean herself off the sleeping pills, but wasn’t having much luck. “I couldn’t sleep.”

Tyler crossed the room, sprawling out lengthwise next to her on the floor. “What’s in the box?”

She peeked in as if to see what it held, already knowing the few things it contained. The entire contents from her life in the army. “Mostly pictures. A Bible my mom sent when I was in Afghanistan. The St. Christopher’s medal Uncle Roy gave me when I left for basic training.” That piece in particular was odd, being that they weren’t really affiliated with any kind of church. However the gesture meant more than its spiritual meaning. “Letters I received.” There might have been a few other small items, but aside from the clothes in her closet, that was what she’d come home with.

She closed the lid and stood to put it back in its place in the closet. He rose with her.

“You don’t have to put that up on my account.”

“Trust me.” She smiled shyly. “It’s better that I do. Why aren’t you playing tonight?” she asked, taking a seat on the bed.

Sera patted the spot next to her, like Tyler had done earlier in the evening when they were on the swing.

Following her instruction, Tyler settled into the mattress and leaned against the headboard. “Thought I’d give it a rest. Maybe let you get some sleep. I see that didn’t work, though.”

She gave a small laugh. “I don’t sleep anyway. Hearing you play is actually comforting.”

“I’m glad you like it.” Tyler smiled.

“I always did.” She took in a deep breath. “I’m proud of you, Tyler. I really am. You went after what you wanted and you did it.”

“Thanks, that means a lot.”

Gone was all the bitterness of the last few days. She had left it at the railroad tracks. Once she’d made the decision to do so, it was much easier to do than she’d thought. In fact, she was happy Tyler was there and not just in Cobb City. The hundred reasons why she knew having him in her bed was a bad idea were all but forgotten by the simple fact that she liked having him close. She felt safe when he was near and knew she could tell him anything. Not that she intended to start spilling her guts, but merely knowing she could trust him was comforting. She hadn’t had many comforting moments since Afghanistan.

• • •

Sera woke thankful for another full night’s rest. Two good nights within three days, and this time, she hadn’t even woken in a panic. She felt pretty lucky until she realized that more had stirred awake than just her mind. The hard mass her body tucked into was a clear reminder of what she’d been craving. His arm snagged around her waist, fastening her to his side. She couldn’t move without waking him, even if she wanted to—which she didn’t.

How they’d managed to cozy up next to one another during the night, she didn’t know. They’d talked for hours. Mostly about the places Tyler had been. He seemed to have a memory of every venue he’d played. She remembered some of the stories from Merv’s, but he gave more in-depth details when relaying them to her now. She enjoyed hearing them, just as much as she enjoyed the silences that came in between that let her know he was getting tired, until finally his voice didn’t pick up again. He’d fallen asleep first. There was no question of whether or not she’d wake him, and after covering him with a thin quilt, she slipped back in bed. Afraid of what the uncontrolled urges might tempt her to do if they were close enough to touch, she left plenty of room, ensuring it wouldn’t happen.

BOOK: Drive Me Sane
10.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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