Chapter 44: Rhymes With

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A/N: Lengthy author note at the bottom to put the next few chapters in context, as we soon head into the final third of this book.

A few minutes before Blunderbelly's gig in a dive bar in Alberta, Jesse called Indio from outside the building.

"Can you get me in? Do you even check your messages on weekends? I just rode down from Olympia in a t-shirt and I'm fucking freezing and I've been texting you all afternoon."

Indio let Jesse in the back door. "Isn't there a house rule about wearing leathers when you ride your bike?" He slung a roadie pass around his brother's neck, adding, "You need to stay out of sight."

He found Jesse a sweatshirt and directed him through the green room, which was packed with people, to the tiny kitchenette. Jesse made a beeline for the kettle on top of the bar fridge in the corner, to make himself tea.

"What were you doing in Olympia, anyway?"

"I had a date, sort of. A bunch of us went to Evergreen for a lecture this afternoon, and she wanted to ride with me on the bike. She wanted to see Blunderbelly, believe it or not, and I was gonna make the trip anyway to see if your drummer's learned his left from his right yet."

Indio glanced around to check Eduardo wasn't within earshot.

"So, after the lecture we had a discussion about Libertarianism that turned... unpleasant," Jesse continued. "She went back to Seattle in someone's car—still wearing my jacket."

"You can't watch from the floor, Jess. The owner's a good friend of ours. I'm not gonna risk him getting into trouble for having an underage kid on the premises."

"I'll stand in the wings. I don't mind."

"There are no wings. You'll have to stay in here. And you can't smoke or drink."

"I'll be a good little boy, I swear."

Jesse hovered over the kettle so he could flick it off early, as he always did, because, allegedly, tea tastes better if you pour the water before boiling away the oxygen. He rummaged around for a tea bag. His movements were a little jerky and Indio sensed something was bothering him. He didn't have time for a heart-to-heart, but it was no fun seeing Jesse stressed.

"So, Caleb shipped out today, right?" Indio said, just in case that's all it was. Caleb had been stationed at Key West for two weeks before his cutter sailed, so Jesse had already been alone in the house for a while—maybe he had a weird sort of cabin fever, coming home to an empty house every evening, fending for himself. During high school he'd stayed at friends' places when Caleb was away for any length of time. Maybe Caleb leaving the country at last was making him nervous.

"He's been bullying Joy into spending a weekend at the house next month," Jesse said, dunking his tea bag so viciously the water splashed out of the mug. "Wynter can't visit unless she's there as the supervising adult. You don't count cuz you're, y'know, a delinquent. I heard all about how you charmed your way into Rosa's heart, but the social worker's not so impressed. Anyway, it's never gonna happen, but if it does you have to be there cuz I'm not at all comfortable in Joy's presence, even with Wynter there. I'm gonna start another unpleasant discussion and ruin the whole thing."

"I doubt Joy cares about Libertarianism one way or the other."

Jesse brushed that off. "It'll be about reincarnation or homeopathy or the primal stream or something. I don't think she has the intellectual rigor to hold her own in an argument. I'm not saying she's dumb," he added quickly. "She's uneducated and that's not her fault. But I might accidentally overpower her with my relentless logic."

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