The girl behind the counter, Kira, passed me my cone and said, "Trust me: the new flavour is awesome. And the Chocolate Truffle / Burnt Marshmallow combo tastes like a frozen s'more!" Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream hadn't steered me wrong yet, so I tasted the cone making sure to get both flavors.

 I made a weird mmm-ing, nodding and hopping in appreciation motion, and Kira beamed back at me.

 "You are so right. Thank you!"

I looked over to see Ashley getting change for our cones, thanking the cashier who I didn't recognize from my previous visits here. Ash's long blonde hair was swept up in a top bun, and as she tasted her Pumpkin Pie ice cream (my go-to choice, but in a cone not a cup), she looked like she was photoshoot ready. Even when she was in lazy holiday mode, she was effortlessly fashionable.

The cashier flipped on the stereo and "Ho Hey" came through the speakers in the shop, mid-song. Ashley grinned at me and began singing along. Not the Lumineers' lyrics, but my own. The segue from my song into theirs and back was Ashley's favorite part of the Red tour.

So please please stay stay stay
I been loving you for quite some time

No way was I letting my cone melt in order to sing along, so I did my best to adapt the "Stay Stay Stay" choreography to the confines of the shop. We were the only customers in there (I supposed 10:30 in the morning is a little early for ice cream, but we needed breakfast dessert after our vigorous morning swim!) Kira chimed in with the Hey's and Ho's while the poor cashier looked on a little stunned by the impromptu group singsong.

I was about to do my three little jumps that go with "mad, mad, mad" when Ashley pointed at my cone and with a laugh sang, "Drip, drip, drip!"

Oops! My dedication to my sick dance moves was distracting me from the cone! The drips narrowly missed my vintage yellow floral dress and landed smack on my Keds.

"Good thing these are washable. Only endorse klutz-friendly products, that's my motto." I grabbed a napkin and sat down at a nearby table to wipe off my shoe.

Cleaned up the best I could (I could see the gossip mag headlines, "Taylor Swift vandalizes her own sneaker line!"), Ash and I waved goodbye to Kira and started strolling along the bridge with no destination in mind.

Mystic, Connecticut, was so picturesque that I'd been bringing all my friends to visit.  It was the last day of my mini break before getting back on the road tomorrow (lucky 13). When I bought the house in Rhode Island, I'd vowed to make good use of it, especially during the glorious New England summers, and have friends and family and the tour family out to visit as often as I could manage. I had no problem taking this "work/life balance" thing my parents were always cautioning me about seriously when it amounted to barbecues, dance parties, poolside laugh attacks or deep conversations by the fire. And all with the people I love and admire the most. It was like that line in "Stay Stay Stay." Which reminded me.

"Ash, did I tell you what happened at Club Red in Pittsburgh?"

Ashley shook her head no, and popped her empty ice cream cup into the garbage can.

"Okay," I said, excitedly jumping into the story, surprised I hadn't told her about it as soon as it had happened. "This girl who was probably 25 or something -- she and her friends were all in the '22' video outfits and they had glowing neon signs that said happy, free, confused, and lonely. It was awesome. Anyway, her boyfriend had just proposed to her. At the show. And he did it by getting down on one knee, all traditionally like, pulling out the ring box and saying..."

I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and faced Ashley.

"'I'd like to hang out with you for my whole life.'"

Judging by the expression on her face, she thought it was as awesome as I did. When the bride-to-be had told me the story, I had just beamed with happiness and excitement for them, and marvelled at how cool it was to have lyrics speak to people and be used in so many awesome ways.

A smirk crossed Ashley's face. "Did she ever throw her phone across the room at him?"

Ha! I knew exactly what moment she was remembering. 

***

I hummed along to the Loretta Lynn song, and thought about how they always played just the right song here at Grimey's. I was flipping through the LPs, looking at the old cover art for some of these albums and dreaming about what my next record would look like.

Ashley was one section over in the middle of playing her favorite record store game. She'd cover her face with an album so it was like her body with, say, Lionel Ritchie's head and wait for me to notice. This time, I was letting her hold it up extra long, pretending not to see her, so Charlotte, who was on shift today behind the counter, would see. And maybe crack a smile.

We'd heard her on the phone earlier with her boyfriend and she was not happy. Ash and I had distinctly heard Charlotte say the words "want me to throw my phone at you again?" Yikes. Charlotte was usually so cheery, and I hated to see her so bummed out that she threatened to launch phone torpedoes at her beau.

The bell on the door jangled, and I looked over to see who was coming in. A guy, tall and lanky and definitely a musician type with his fit-just-right jeans, worn-in boots, music festival t-shirt and ... a football helmet?! He grinned in Charlotte's direction and said, "Okay. Let's talk."

Charlotte hopped up onto the counter to swing over and head his way, and before I could say "total rom-com moment," they were hugging and trying to kiss but that darn helmet was in the way.

Ashley looked just as wonderstruck as I felt. I put down the record I had absentmindedly picked up and motioned to Ashley that we should skedaddle and give these two a little privacy.

I looked back at them as I followed Ash out the door, and the helmet was off and actual make-out smooching was in progress. We started walking along 8th Avenue in the warm Nashville sun, and I thought about how what Charlotte and her boyfriend had was real love. Having stupid fights but getting over them, because what they have together is so worth being annoyed or mad every once in a while. That's how you know that you've found something real; when you want to stay even when you're mad.

Ashley and I ambled on in companionable silence toward the car, and I heard the first bits of a happy melody in my mind. I pulled out my iPhone and hit the voice recorder, singing,

Stay stay stay
I've been loving you for quite some time time time
You think that it's funny when i'm mad mad mad

I hit the Share button and typed a quick note to Nathan: "Old-school-Swift style number? A little more country? Will text to set up a recording session! xo Tay"

There was a hopefulness and glee to the song snippet that felt like a great counterbalance to the emotionally heavy stuff I'd been writing lately. I looped my arm with Ashley's, and she laughed at me, knowing my kooky songwriting habits well enough not to mind my sudden fixation on muttering and emailing.

"Let's get you home, order lunch in instead of going out, and you can get this song written," she kindly offered. "And I promise I don't mind on one condition: the lyrics have to mention the phone throwing and helmet wearing! Deal?"

"Deal!" I squeezed her arm, so grateful to have such an understanding friend, and started humming the melody as lyrics formed in my mind.

Stay stay stay...

***

I took the last bite of my cone and licked my fingers before answering Ashley's question.

"You know, I'm sorry to say I failed to ask her if she had ever thrown anything at him. Maybe he'll wear a football helmet in their engagement photos."

"Don't be absurd, Tay -- he'll wear it at the wedding!"

We giggled at our own lame jokes, clearly experiencing a sugar high. The whole day stretched ahead of us, and we could have no way to know what kind of magical romantic scene we just might stumble upon in Mystic, as long as we kept our eyes open for it.

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