Chapter Five

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“Let’s go do something!”

“It’s three in the morning, Evie,” he whined, even as he grabbed his hat and keys.

“Exactly.”

 

* * *

Chapter 5

“We should go somewhere.”

“We are somewhere, Will.”  We were right where I didn’t want to be.

“Very funny.”

“Are you wanting to leave already?” I teased.  If that was the case then I would willingly follow him to wherever his heart desired.  I’d even feel generous enough to let the space calculator navigate for us.

“No way!  I mean, we should go somewhere besides the hotel,” he clarified unnecessarily.

“We did.”

“We ate dinner at the Texas Roadhouse before we even got downtown, that’s it.”

“It wasn’t the hotel,” I pointed out.

“Come on!  Let’s just get out of here.”

“Tonight?  It’s nearly nine o’clock.”  Which meant it was really ten o’clock back home, making it well past my school-mode bedtime. It hadn’t registered that I didn’t have to go back to work until September.  There were nearly three months of blissful, student-free nothingness to look forward to.  All I had to do was endure this vacation.

“Of course tonight.”

“Aren’t you tired from the road trip?  After all, you insisted on driving the entire time.”  I may not have been behind the wheel but assuming the role of co-pilot had been equally as exhausting.

It hadn’t helped that our adventurous road trip had ceased to be adventurous one hour outside of Russell.  Will had stopped in Bowling Green to run an errand for work that had ended up taking over three hours.   The rest of the drive had been tedious, and the cars had been grid-locked for the thirty miles between White House and Nashville.

The traffic in this city was one of the many things I didn’t miss.  I had forgotten how discourteous Tennessee drivers were—and that turn signals were a foreign concept in this state. My weariness had been compounded by my dreading our arrival and constant worrying over the outcome of the next two weeks.   But we were here now so there was nothing more I could do besides pretend to enjoy myself.

“You’d think I would be but I’m not.  It’s like the road gave me a shot of adrenaline.  Or maybe it’s just the energy in this place.  I mean, look at it!”  He gestured toward the brightened window that constituted the entirety of our eastern wall.

The neon lights on Broadway lit the night sky, drawing tourists to the strip like a miniature Vegas.   Here people gambled their lives away on stages instead of inside over-the-top casinos. I took in the familiar view, understanding the affect Nashville had on its first-time visitors; the city held possibilities and dreams.

“I’ve already seen it.”  The place had haunted me ever since I turned my back on it.  There had been tiny changes I noticed on the drive in—new establishments replacing the outdated ones and vacant businesses with ghostly windows, mere memories of the thriving tourist traps they had once been.

But the cityscape as a whole was the same as it had been ten years earlier.  The self-proclaimed world-famous honkytonks were still thriving on Broadway, their flourescence drawing people in like moths.

“Right.  I forgot.  Let’s go out and see the city together. You can show me around your old stomping ground and brag about how great life was back when you were in residence.”

“Not tonight,” I begged.  I wasn’t ready to face the outside world just yet and had contented myself with a birds-eye view for the time being.

“There’s no better time than the present,” he protested good-naturedly.

“As much as I’d love to, I have a wicked headache.”  It wasn’t a complete lie; I could feel the seed of a migraine taking root and growing in the base of my skull.  With any luck, I’d be incapacitated for the entirety of our time in music city. “Why are you making that face?”

His frown grew more pronounced and his eyebrows drew together.  “Don’t get mad, okay?”

That particular disclaimer indicated that I was probably going to get angry.  “What is it?”

“Are you P-M-S-ing or something?” he asked warily, moving one step closer to the door.

“What did you just say to me?” I seethed, attempting to keep my voice even.  The effect was more menacing.

“Nothing.  I said nothing.”  He continued back peddling.

“Did you just ask me if I was P-M-S-ing?”

“I told you not to get mad!”

He may have told me, but I had never agreed.

“How can you ask me something like that and expect me not to get mad?”

“What am I supposed to think?  You disappeared into the bathroom every time we stopped to get gas in the car.”

“Why were you keeping tabs on my bladder?  Maybe you should have paid attention to my liquid intake.  I drank six bottles of water!”  Ever since I was little, even the shortest trips left me dehydrated.

“Fair enough.  But you have been in a mood lately, and you’ve had a pretty constant headache since Friday night.”

His legitimate reasoning was lost in the face of my annoyance.  “Don’t even pretend to know what it means to PMS.  You’re a guy; you have no clue.”

Will held up his hands in surrender.  “It was just a question, Evelyn.  There’s no need for you to jump down my throat.”

“For your information, I am not P-M-S-ing—not that it is any of your business, Will.”

“Maybe it’s the stress,” he amended.

“That’s a much more appropriate guess.  It would have been smarter to start off with that one, don’t you think?”  Was it that obvious that my nerves were wound tighter than a redneck’s Wranglers?  Apparently not.  After all, Will’s first hypothesis had dealt with my menstrual cycle.

“I know that even though I tried to alleviate some of the stress, you were still pretty worried about this trip.”

“True.”

He took a cautious step closer to me, sensing that my anger was subsiding.  “I told you not to worry.”

“Easier said than done.” Much, much easier.

“I had everything under control, didn’t I?”

“Yeah.  You’ve done well.”  But the factors he couldn’t regulate were an entirely different story.

“Not good enough since you’ve been pulling out your hair ever since I told you I had time off.”

“That’s just me.”  It didn’t used to be, but worrying and a generally pessimistic outlook on life had become commonplace since the last time I had been in Tennessee.  There were too many unknown variables in my life these days, so many things that could go wrong with just a word.  Most were uncontrollable, but that fact didn’t keep me from stewing over the possible outcomes.  If I knew what could happen then I’d be prepared for anything.

“You really don’t look like you feel very well.”

“Thanks,” I muttered.

“Do you want me to run to the front desk and see if they have any Tylenol?”

At least he hadn’t asked if I needed Midol or a box of tampons.  “No, that’s okay.  I probably have some medicine in my purse somewhere.”

Ever since he had mentioned the destination of our relaxing vacation I’d kept a hefty supply of painkillers on hand.  Right now I could use something stronger, tranquilizers perhaps; it was doubtful that the front desk had those in stock.

“I hope you’re not coming down with something serious.”

“I don’t think that’s it.”  I wouldn’t be that lucky.

“Are you sure you don’t need anything?”

“I’m sure.  Now it’s your turn to stop worrying.”  That was my job.

“Okay.”  Will moved past me to sit on the edge of one of the double beds in the room.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I accused, unable to withstand the deflated look on his face.

He dropped his hands and stared at me.  “Taking off my shoes?”

“No, you’re not.”

“I’m not?”

“No.”

He pursed his lips as he tried to follow my broken logic.  “And why am I not taking off my shoes?”

“Because you should go out.” Why hadn’t I thought of this brilliant idea beforehand?

“Really?” he asked, as if the thought hadn’t crossed his mind.

“Yeah, of course.  Go out, have fun.”  Leave me be.

“Without you?”

“I have faith that you’ll survive on your own.”

“I haven’t been out without you in years.  It wouldn’t feel right,” he said.

“Lighten up.  I’m not telling you to go make out with the entire female population of the city, but you hardly need me as your chaperone.  Explore, have a few drinks, and come back when you’re tired.”

“I’d feel guilty leaving you here by yourself, bored out of your mind.  This trip is for you,” he said, falling back on his overused defense.

“Don’t even start that crap.  If I hear you say that one more time you’ll be sorry.”

“But—”

“Do you know what I’m going to do when you leave?”

He shook his head, likely afraid to speak for fear of incurring my wrath; Will was a smart man who learned his lessons quickly.

“I’m going to take a bath, wash the travel off of me, and then go to bed.  There’s no need for both of us to be stuck here.”

If he was gone that meant I would be able to wallow in pity by myself and not be subjected to any more probing questions for the night.  Who knew?  Maybe he would be out late and not get enough rest.  That would afford me a minor reprieve when I graciously allowed him to sleep in come morning.  At this point, even the smallest blessings were much appreciated.  Maybe he’d have too much of a hangover to go out at all.  One could only hope.

“You’re sure?” Will asked off-handedly, re-tying the laces of his Sperry’s and grabbing his jacket off the back of the sofa.

“I’m sure,” I responded woodenly.

“Are you positive?”

“Yes!  Go!  Just be careful though.  We’re not in Russell anymore.”

“I’ve been to Chicago before; I think I can handle myself in Nashville.”  He pulled me close and kissed my forehead tenderly.  “I love you, Evelyn.  Get some rest and feel better.”

“I will.”   Eventually.

* * *

“Evelyn?”  The voice calling my name was muffled but familiar.  “Evelyn?  Are you awake?”

I groaned as I opened my eyes to peer into the murky darkness.  The haunting shapes of the serviceable furniture lining the wall of my hotel room slowly came into focus.

“Oh, Evelyn!  I’m so glad you’re still up,” Will slurred as he stumbled toward his bed.  He caught his shin on the nightstand; there was a loud crash then a curse.  The lamp that had been sitting on top only seconds earlier was no longer visible.

“It’s really hard to stay quiet in the dark,” he added.

If that entrance had been quiet I would hate to have witnessed a loud one.  “Okay,” I mumbled, still half comatose.

“It’s too dark in here.”

“That’s because it’s nighttime.”  And most people were sleeping, reveling in the blackness of unconsciousness.

“I wanted to talk to you all night, but you weren’t there.  It was horrible.  I thought more than once about calling you but I was afraid you were asleep.”

“I was asleep.”  It had taken ages for my mind to stop reeling from my arrival, but I had blessedly succumbed around midnight.

“Well, I’m glad you woke up.”

“Is it really important?”  There weren’t any topics I could think of that couldn’t wait until morning—save one.  And I highly doubted that Will had schmoozed with any rock stars tonight.

“Yeah, it is.”

How important?”  As soon as the question was off my lips I regretted the words. Will’s internal calculator began computing a figure to accurately convey the exact importance of his story.

“Um…”

It was necessary to take a simpler approach, for both our sakes.  “Can it wait until morning?”

Again, he considered my question with a comical intensity.  “No, I don’t think it can.”

“You didn’t get arrested, did you?”

“No, I did not get arrested.  Seriously, Evelyn?”

What had I been thinking?  Will was too controlled to do anything crazy like get arrested.  I was actually shocked that he had consumed enough alcohol to be considered intoxicated.  “I was just making sure.”

“If I had gotten arrested I’m pretty sure I’d be calling you from jail.”

“Good point.  So, besides the fact that you did not get arrested, what did you need to tell me?” I asked, placating the tipsy man.

“I wanted to tell you that I had a great night.  Probably the best night in… well, in forever!”  His arms flailed as he attempted to use hand gestures to indicate forever.

“And I wasn’t even there.”

He surprisingly caught my insinuation.  “That’s not what I meant.”

“I know.  I’m very happy that you had a great night.  Now go to bed.”

“How can I sleep when I’m so excited to be in Nashville?  I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep the entire time we’re here!”

Something about the way his words ran together made me think that sleep would come easier than he predicted.

“Just try to close your eyes for five minutes,” I suggested.

“Nashville is such an awesome city.”

I sighed, knowing I was destined to be an active albeit unwilling participant in this conversation.  “Yeah, it’s great.”

“I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to visit.”

“Me either.”

“And it’s so close.  We could have come here on a long weekend if we wanted to.  We still can!”

“Maybe…” not.

“To be honest, if the vacation hadn’t come as a packaged deal I would never have thought to come here.  Originally, I had been thinking Jacksonville or Orlando.”

“I like Florida,” I confessed miserably.  Most of my affinity for that state was based solely on the fact that it wasn’t Tennessee.

“What made you leave this place?”

I was fairly confident he wouldn’t mind if I decided not to answer that question.  “Go to sleep, Will.”

“If I moved here I think I’d stay forever.  There’s so much to do.”

“It’s a city,” I reminded him.

“There are so many people!” he continued.

“Again, a city.”

He remained oblivious to my condescending tone.  “I’ve visited cities before, but Nashville is different somehow.”

“Yeah, it is.” Nashville was unlike any other place I had ever been.  It was almost as though the people, the businesses, and even the buildings shared the collective dream of making it big.  That dream and the music were palpable in the balmy air.

“But it’s weird though, too.”

“Weird?  Why?”

“Because it doesn’t feel like a city at all.  It feels like Russell, but with more people.”

“That’s because there are more people,” I explained for the second time.

Even as I teased him over his description, I understood what he had been attempting to convey.  Nashville was a small-town city where residents knew each other by name but things actually happened.

“Everyone is so friendly.”

“That’s the south for you.”

“Yeah.  I smiled and everyone around me smiled back.”

“Maybe they were all drunk.”  Very few sober individuals milled around the streets at this hour.

“No, I think they were just friendly.  Like me.”

“What time is it?”  Surely the blurry numbers on the digital clock were wrong.

“Four o’clock.”

“You were out for a really long time.”  And he would definitely be feeling the plague in the morning.  My evil plan couldn’t be going smoother.

“Sorry about that.  I didn’t even realize what time it was till I heard last call.  Although I figured it didn’t matter what time I got home because I knew you’d be asleep anyway and wouldn’t notice.”

“I was asleep.”  And then he had stumbled back and decided to rearrange the furniture.

“I found the greatest spot—and on a Monday night.  Go figure.”

“Really?”  He would probably be cursing the very same establishment in the morning, vowing never to return.

“Oh, yeah!  I thought I’d be out for an hour at most, get tired, and turn in.  But that didn’t happen.”

“I can see that.”

He continued as though I hadn’t spoken.  “In Russell every place is dead on Mondays.  Not much to see there besides alcoholics and bartenders.”

“I know.  I live there too, Will.”

“Of course you do.  I mean the place tonight was wedged with people from everywhere!  I met someone from England.  Isn’t that crazy?”  His voice was mystified by the mind-boggling events of the night.

“So crazy.”

“And there was live music—on a Monday night.”

“I told you they love their music down here.”  The name music city was warranted.

“Yeah, you were right.  Of course you were right.  I mean, you lived here.  Apparently they have live music all day every day!”

“I’m pretty sure I told you that too.”  So much for effectively communicating with one another.

“Yeah,” he said, preparing to skip to the next subject.  “Anyway, this place I found is on Broadway Street.  Broadway—just like New York but different, better.”

“How would you know it’s better?  You’ve never been to New York.”

“I just know,” he dismissed.  “Anyway, I started out at a purple bar then it got too crowded so I went next door.  I stayed at that place for most of the night.  None of the other bars even compared to this one.”

“Oh.”  Oh, no.

“I mean the others had entertainment, but those bands were mediocre at best.  I’m no connoisseur of country music but I really think the guy who played at this bar could go places.  You would have loved him.”

“What was his name?” I asked breathlessly, my heart in my throat.

“Adam maybe?  Or Anthony.  Yeah, that’s it… Anthony.  His last name was some sort of cookie but I can’t remember it now.  Anyway, the atmosphere was better there too.  I don’t know how to describe it.  I’ll just have to show you.  Maybe we can go there tomorrow night.  You have to see this place.  The walls were covered in dusty old pictures, which sounds dirty but it wasn’t.  And—”

“We can discuss it in the morning, can’t we?”  Pressing the snooze button on this conversation would afford me some time to formulate an excuse to avoid that particular bar.

“You’ll never guess what happened tonight while I was there.  This girl came up to me and—”

“Hey, Will?” I interrupted, sensing no end to his monologue if I allowed him to disclose more of the meaty details of his night on the town.

“Yeah, Evelyn?”

“Can we please talk about this in the morning?  I know you’re excited, and I am too, but my headache is only getting worse.”

He went silent before agreeing.  “Yes, of course.”

“Thanks.”

“Sorry for waking you up,” he said too loudly to be considered the whisper he was aiming for.

“It’s fine.  Goodnight.”

“You promise we can go there tomorrow?”

“I promise.” My sentence was met by a hiccup and then a snore.

At least the lie had sounded sincere to my boyfriend’s alcohol-muddled mind.  In reality, I didn’t ever want to visit the bar he had discovered and fallen in love with.  I didn’t need to hear how good the acoustics in the place were or about the fantastic drink specials. Will didn’t even need to tell me the name of the bar.

I already knew.

 * * *

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