Chapter Two

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This fledgling fame, people who know my name, women who spread their legs. It's no different. Day after day. Nail after nail, buried to the head. Buried though I'm not dead. But I do need a pen. So I can write myself sane. So I can write myself onto your brain. Singing songs so you'll feel the same pain. -Jackson Killian

Chapter Two

The night Bettie gave me the CD stands apart as one of the handful of nights where I almost reached out to Jackson. It happened now and then, an all-consuming throat gripping need—just to talk to him. To tell him the things that swam through my head, to have someone in the world who might love Quinn the way I did. To reach through time and space and anger and regret, grip him firmly by his soul, and yank him back to me.

As I headed up the couple of steps into my house that night, I could feel the disc in my bag, a sharp square standout amongst the soft and squishy shapes under the canvas. A traitor mingling with my normal things.

His sharp edges, my soft ones.

Our marriage. I ached for it.

Jeanie opened the door for me as I was still climbing the steps, feeling off balance by the few ounces of Jackson Killian I carried with me.

"Fever's down," Jeanie said, pulling her sweater over her head, freeing her long beachy hair from its trap. "He finally fell asleep a few hours ago. His breathing's kind of congested, but he's A-Okay."

"Did he eat?"

"A little. Not much."

"Kay. Thanks, Jeanie."

"You bet. Goodnight Kate."

Jeanine was seventeen, the only daughter of Vivian and Mitchell Edgecomb. Vivian had not only provided me with a job and a rental, but a sitter too. Jeanie spent the evenings in my house with Quinn, sometimes falling asleep on my bed and staying overnight.

When I'd applied at MRAH, Dr. V. had offered me employment on the night shift, saying that everyone starts on the shite-shift. I'd explained that I couldn't work nights. I thought that would be the end of that. But it wasn't.

I've often wondered what motivated Vivian to do so much for me. Certainly—we get plenty of applicants at MRAH.

I dumped my bag on the counter and pulled the disc out, staring at it.

My fingers began peeling the back the plastic before I realized I'd decided to open it. Discarding the crunching cellophane to the side, I let it shift and un-crumple on the counter as I folded open the cardboard case.

He wasn't smiling in the photo on the inside flap. The expression he wore as he leaned over a mixing board in a white thermal with a cigarette dangling from his mouth was one of plain annoyance, his eyebrows raised, jaw stubbled. "You're interrupting me" the look said.

I wondered when his face would stop being that thing that stopped my heart. If it would ever happen.

I turned the page, finding lyrics but not reading them, sensing their weight nonetheless. This was his second album, and I'd managed to not hear a single song off it. It was safer to ignore him and his music. Since the day I'd cancelled my internet service, I'd avoided him like a junkie or a drunk. I knew I couldn't fall down that rabbit hole. I might never climb out. It was safer not to look for him, not to look for myself in anything he wrote.

I thought it might be altogether possible that I wouldn't find myself there at all.

Maybe one day, I reasoned, maybe one day it wouldn't matter, and I could just hear music or just see a man, but I wasn't there yet, not remotely there yet.

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