I shrugged and smiled—keeping it small because grinning still hurt my bruised eye. The contusion was just beginning to go yellow, a small elongated streak of it under my brow bone and another dark pocket under the eye itself.
Bettie smirked. "Well, at least one of you is handling it well."
"Yep. My three year old, showing us all how to get it done."
Bettie snorted. "I'm worried about officially meeting him. I'm really trying not to be starstruck, Kibbs. But... seriously. No. Fucking. Promises."
"Mmmhmm. How many more times are you going to tell me that?" I linked her arm with mine and kept her moving.
"How many more minutes do I have?"
She stopped again and turned to me. Her short hair was blown down over her forehead and then whisked back. Her freckles were prominent against her sudden snap and sparkle, and I felt that old Manderley ache. Almost a ghost weight pulling at my hands. I needed a shutter and flash. And fixer bath.
"Don't be nervous..." I began, but didn't finish. Bettie's head had pitched sideways, a curious expression pushing her brows together. I mirrored her, her tilt of head and pert listening expression. I heard it, then. Music. Bare, basic. Harsh acoustic strumming.
I smiled. "Devin's playing, come on."
I tugged her with me and she tossed the butt-end of her carrot into the shrubberies. As we rounded the final bend, I caught the gradual melody. "Oh yeah, that's the Stones. Definitely Dev."
It had taken me a moment to place the tune. I followed it as my ear caught it, trying to chase down the lyrics I couldn't hear, lyrics that would let me put a name to the song. It teased me, right there on the tip of my mind, bringing with it images of my mother: her when I was very young, when her hair had been short in the front and long in the back. My mother when she'd drive me around the lake with the windows down and the radio way up. My mother who, when I asked her why she was crying, would tell me it was what you did when you couldn't carry a tune.
When you couldn't sing along with a ballad, you had to cry with it. These memories bubbled in the back of my throat, like a word I needed to spit out or a harsh pill I needed to swallow. It inflated but wouldn't pop. Like the name of the song that wouldn't come.
When it did come to me, I felt silly for not immediately recognizing it. Not only was it a favorite of my mother's, but I knew it to be Devin's favorite Stones' song—though I'd never before heard him play it. The epic social unrest anthem, "Gimme Shelter."
I brushed back a yellow arm of early blooming broom, looked for and found Devin. He sat on the porch, bent into a "C" in one of my kitchen chairs. He strummed hard on his battered black acoustic, his dark hair down and swinging around his shoulders. He sang softly—abashedly—then abruptly stopped.
A familiar hand had reached from behind the cypress shielding my porch, tapped the neck of the guitar, then moved Devin's hand, just slightly.
I heard Jack. "You're working too hard, kid. Let your fingers do it, not your arm. No, I know. It'll get easier."
Jack's arm retracted and Devin played a few brash chords. The music deepened as another guitar joined Devin's, expanded again with the vibrant twangy wheeze of a harmonica.
I didn't realize I'd stopped until Bettie breathed next to me. "Wow. Is that Jack playing harmonica?"
Bettie stepped away from me, apparently not expecting me to answer when she could see for herself. I followed her.
YOU ARE READING
I'm still technically married. I still technically wear my wedding ring. It's on a chain around my neck. With his. He still won't sign the divorce papers. I still don't want him to.