Chapter 26

His eyes said no. They blanched, like a doe trapped in an on coming car beams. His voice was weak and strained. "What?" He moved away from my form. "Why? Why now?" "Because I have to go, for a little while. I can't stay here, Miles is getting a divorce."

"So? What does that have to do with you? Is that who called? Wait, just because of this?"

"Yeah it was him.. Taylor, maybe you don't realize this, or can't comprehend it, but Miles and I are close." His eyes turned away, angrily. "Hey we're close friends." His eyes moved to the kitchen. "Listen to me here." He sarcastically sighed and looked at me. "Taylor do NOT even start with me here, this is not negotiable. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to realize that I can't drop everything for you."

"Yeah sure, you just drop everything for Miles." He sneered.

"That's not fair. You know it."

"You lied to me."

"About what?"

"You were suppose to want someone. Want to settle down, have kids. You can't just leave on a whim for an old friend like that. That's hypocritical."

"Well I guess my values have changed. My career and my friends have been a top priority in my life for years. Love has not." I sucked in my breath, I knew I'd crossed the line on that one.

"So you care more about your friends than your family.. great values."

"Well that's my choice."

"What about the 'well how many kids do you want to have'?"

"Just seeing what you'd say."

"Bullshit." He spit the word.

"Who are you to tell me whether I want kids or not? You have NO right." Taylor stopped, surprised and hurt. "If I need to do something, or be somewhere... If I had a call from my agent telling me to be at a book signing in twenty minutes, and then a lover called and told me to come over in twenty minutes.. I'd be at the book signing, no matter what. You're going to have to deal with that."

"You aren't mature enough to have kids."

"And you're not mature enough to deal with someone else's feelings."

"Oh, so you're saying that I'm always going to be put on the back burner, any time that you don't feel like making and effort?!" His voice rose and grew angrier.

"Since when have I had a person to come home to? Since when do I have kids to care about? Face it, a couple years ago I made the decision that what I was doing with my life was fine.. it's what I want, and if love doesn't fit, then that's acceptable. Before I wanted kids, now there's no way."

"You chose writing over making life."

"Damn straight."

"I thought you had more of a heart than that. I thought you'd want to try. I thought you actually cared about life." He rose and stalked off, I heard the garage door open and his car speed down the driveway and down the road. I sat on the steps, breathing quickly. A minute later I was packing.

Miles met me at the airport. He looked like Hell. At least we matched in that sense. As I hugged him that familiar smell of clove cigarettes and whiskey numbed my brain.

"He didn't want you to go." His eyes questioned me.

"We got in this fight about it. He reasoned that if I wanted to drop everything to help a friend, I didn't want to start a family and concentrate on that."

"Well you don't. Right?"

"Yeah, but.. it's just so goddamn confusing."

"You wanna go get something to eat?"

"Naw.. so where am I staying?"

"My place."

"She's really gone?"

"Yeah."

"Hey, Miles.. I'm sorry."

"Yeah." His voice was soft. "Me too."

On the way to his flat I thumbed through his CDs in the car. There were only about a dozen, he only really listened to vinyl, so I reached back into my bag and brought out an old Tori Amos album. I pushed it into the cd player's mouth and leaned against the car window.

"Do we have to listen to that shit?"

"Miles."

"What?" The slow beat of a mourning rhythm filled the small car. 'hey Jupiter' moved like mud across my mind. Tears filled my red eyes.

"Shut up." I closed my eyes as we drove through London traffic, through hoards of people, through different lives, lovers, and street signs. I saw my breath making a light fog on the cool glass of the window. A sign of life.

.

Chapter 27

"Can you pee for me?" Miles whined into my sleepy ear. "What the hell?" I knew what he meant though.

"I don't want to get up." I sighed and closed my eyes the morning light that had crudely shifted into his flat hurt my eyes. We were huddled under a couple heavy wool blankets on his fold away couch bed. The past week had been a swirl of drinking, eating entirely too much, and staying inactive. Although we were in the same room, going through the same emotions, I really couldn't put my finger on if we were really supporting each other. Drunk two nights ago I had told him about everything that had happened between Taylor and I. Miles hadn't answered, he'd simply sat there, swigging from his gin and tonic, refilling the glass, sitting. Staring at me. It was then, even in my haziness, that I realized how jealous he was. We didn't speak the rest of the night, but we'd slept together, clinging to each other like two spoons neatly tucked in a drawer. I knew he was going through this harder than I was, he'd married her for chrissakes, she'd left him for someone else. Somehow I knew that Taylor would never do that to any girl, ever.

Miles swore and dragged himself off of the bed and nearly tripped over an empty tequila bottle, I heard it roll. The hard ring of the phone in my ear startled me, my pulse racing at thecacophonous noise. I heard the drone of Miles pissing in the bathroom, and knew he wasn't going to pick it up, so I lifted the shiny black receiver.

"Hullo?" My voice sounded as if it was rubbing against sandpaper, rough and thick.

"Lane?" It was Rachel, my publisher.

"Yeah, it's me. What's up?"

"Just calling to remind you- phone interview in two hours with Rolling Stone. I gave them the number like you asked." I rubbed my eyes, the headache produced was hard and rhythmic.

"Okay, thanks for calling. I'll be ready. When does the book come out?"

"Two weeks."

"'Kay, thanks. Call me after the interview and let me know what's going on." I could hear her pause, almost with an afterthought.

"Hey Lane, you okay? You don't sound too well. Got the flu or something?"

"No. I promise I'll be fine for the call, honestly, I will."

"They wanted to make it a longer, feature article. But you'd have to meet with the journalist for two days, and I didn't think you'd want that, so I canceled." I paused, and sat up, the headache waned off a little bit.

"Well, should I do it?"

"Do you want me to be nice or honest?"

"Honest."

"I think you should meet them at the airport and bring him back home with you. They were pretty confident that it could be a cover story, but it's your call." I rubbed my temples, the headache faded.

"Okay. What do I have to do?"

"Nothing, just pick this guy up at 3:30."

"Alright what's his name?"

"Arthur Tanner." I scribbled his name on a pad by the phone. "Okay, over and out. Hey wait."

"Yeah?"

"How'd you know I would take this guy?"

"I know you." She hung up.

Miles came back in, unshaven and looking much more alive. He smiled a lop-sided grin, his coal hair was messy, but his lime green eyes were sparkling at me. "Mornin' miss."

"Morning you." He leaned over as I gave him a hug. Out of nowhere I felt a strong pull to him, it felt alien, but magnetic. His movements slowed, he realized I was watching him. His eyes caught mine as he laid back on his side of the bed. "What?" In an instant it was gone.

"Nothing, I was just thinking."

"Who was on the phone?"

"Rachel, I need to go pick up an interviewer later on."

"How long is he gonna stay?"

"Rest of the day I think, and I'll probably see him for a bunch of tomorrow."

"I'll miss you." His eyes were serious, as I realized how much I was going to miss him he moved closer.

"Miles I'm sorry but I need.." My words faded off as I pressed my lips to his. He accepted them, not intensely, but softly. I broke the kiss and held him, as he held me. We stayed close, not wanting to let go of the part of life that we'd held onto for so long.

"Yeah, I know." He whispered slowly in my ear. After a moment I let go.

"I gotta go." I cleared my throat and breathed deeply in the clove ridden air of his flat. I walked across the room and opened a window. It was crisp and cold out, but it felt cleansing to my tear dried face. I turned around and smiled, my mouth feeling strange in that stretching. "Life goes on my man." He looked at me curiously. I popped in 'Laughter and Lust' from Joe Jackson in his stereo and turned the little dial up. "I'm taking a shower."

Taylor softly swore under his breath, the piano he was working with was ancient, untuned and completely uncooperative. It felt like years since he'd last worked with an acoustic instrument. Ike pushed him off the stool and started playing a high step tango, which sounded ridiculous on the jumbled notes, out of step. Ike smiled at him. "C'mon, enough of that depressing stuff, let's just get out of here. Why don't you come over for dinner?" Taylor winced at his brother'sdemeanor, he knew he should be feeling just as upbeat, it wasn't every day that the announcement of the first child of the next Hanson generation occurred. Everything was just like bright blocks fitting into the coloured spaces perfectly. They'd just found the perfect recording studio, an old warehouse out in the country, not too far away from Tulsa but enough to be out of the craziness of the city. Ike was going to be a father, and Zac had just found his first apartment in town.

"Hey, I can't refuse that, I want to congratulate the new mom to be." Taylor smiled, pushing Lane out of his head. 'We could've made announcements like that.' he thought.

"Awesome, hey should we keep this thing?" Ike gestured to the piano.

"Naw." It reminded him of her.

"Aw, screw you we should keep it, get it fixed up.." Ike paused, looking at the dusty wood and ivory, then looked up to Taylor, his eyes were dancing with excitement. "Let's roll."

"Arthur, I really don't know about that. I may be a depressing sort of girl, but life isn't for saying how bad you feel. People interpret what they want out of my work."

"So you're saying that not everything you've written is biographical?"

"Well, it's definitely about me, but not everything."

"Okay." I could feel him thinking, this guy was young. He'd been hurling questions at me from the second he'd found me in the huge airport.

"Well where am I supposed to take you?" He was quirky, I liked him, but I also knew he'd have to start asking some original questions soon. He looked startled at my question.

"Anywhere you want, just so I can talk to you." I smiled.

"Cool, okay I got an idea." I veered off the main road and onto a semi familiar one. As we drove out into the country Arthur didn't ask any questions of where we were going. After about a half hour of driving, and passing empty fields I pulled over. "We're here." His reply was short, unafraid. I decided I liked him more for not complaining. I grabbed a couple blankets from Miles' trunk and set out for the middle of the field. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him preparing his tape recorder.

"Love is a very tricky emotion. Most people go through various partners before finding 'the one', others go through only a couple, then there's me. I rehash him and pick at the wound, I relive pieces of the relationship, parts of the contact constantly. It's fucking insane. My shrink calls it a form of depression, and it's normal. Ever listen to 'Quadrophenia'? The boy who knows he's mad, but his shrink doesn't think so? I've got parts of him in me. But I'm not going to end up drowning myself to death. And I'm not going to starve myself to death, I'm not that scarred, but I'm going to continue. And that's tough enough." Taylor's eyes widened as he read the introduction to the article in the bright glow of the supermarket lights. 'She never opened up to me.' he thought. 'But maybe she did, too much, and I didn't even see it.' His eyes averted from the article to the various pictures of her, she looked as if she was in a painting, a DaVinci. He smile was a characteristic of the painter's work. The background an extravagant, wet tropical scene. His eyes reverted back to the article.

"The men in my life, I think you'd have to get a head check to hang out with me. My closest friends have never dated me, it's hard to become intimate with someone I'm close to. I could be breathing a boy in and totally falling in love with him, but if he starts to become serious on me I bolt. Fear of intimacy is not a lonely condition, it's a painful one. My closest male friends- I'm really in love with all of them, but never sensually. Mentally, I'm married to each of them, physically.." Bronte pauses, swallowing, her eyes slightly clouded over. "Physically I'm a fucking teddy bear to them." I asked her what that meant. She smiles sardonically. "I give good hugs man." Is that a bad thing? I ask, seeing what she means, but not comprehending it. "No, it's not.. for them it's cool, and for me it's great. But when I'm sitting in the club, with a martini in hand, and they're hitting on various women, and I'm dateless because I care more about if they've hit it off, then it's not good. I'm not comfortable with doing a hunt on my own anymore. I dunno, maybe it's because I liked it too much, becoming so close to someone, and it scared me. Maybe I hated it, because I was so used to being alone. I don't know. The relationship I was in a month ago was sickeningly good, I wasn't used to not fighting with.. " She pauses again, swallows, clearing her tea warmed throat. "I wasn't used to being with such a caring boy, I was used to caging myself. Taylor didn't do anything wrong, I was the one. Communication, I thought was clear enough when done tacitly. It wasn't for him, and I couldn't pick up on that." I take a risk, 'Taylor? You've never mentioned any names in your writing, much less in interviews.' She looks me in the eye, coldly. "Taylor." 'That's it?' I ask. "Yeah, that's it."

Taylor wet his lips, learning more about what had gone on between them in the past five minutes than he had in all the hours he'd spent with her.

"Learning to deal.. to fucking DEAL. That's what my writing is about, that's what the book is about, underneath all the leaves and grubs. I went into the woods with a weak heart, it was small and petty. It was scared to, no.. I was scared that my life had hit a brick wall. Nothing was doing it for me. Not history, not art, not shoes, not writing, nothing.." Bronte pauses, then looks me in the eye. "Do you know how that feels? To not be able to deal with yourself? To doubt if there's a women under your perfumed flesh?" She doesn't wait for an answer. "I went into the woods to get some evidence that I was there, that there was more to the path that I was on. I wasn't going for a picnic. I was going to have the ants crawl on me, to feel them. To feel something." She stops suddenly, then smiles to herself. "I did. I did. I did. I had some chats with some trees, and with the bay. I got to listening to the water, and letting go of chains that had been binding me, and blinding me for so long. That's what the book is about. I learned it was okay to step back once and a while and realize why the past is called the past. It was a healing process to my mentality. With what I learned from the woods, I can use now. To find out why I'm so frightened of a serious relationship, and to deal with that. I'm a much different person than I was a month ago. I'm DEALING." She snickers at herself. "For the first time."

Taylor wet his dry lips, his mouth felt of parchment. He wanted to believe this so much. The pit of his stomach turned into butterflies. "Hey, watcha reading?" Ike's sudden cheerful tone startled him. Before he could close the magazine, Ike had seen it. "Well?"

"Things are changed." Taylor looked at his older brother, fearful, but eyes sparkling, much like the first time he saw her jeweled irises.

.

Chapter 28

"Is that all your stuff?" Miles handed me my last carry on bag.

"Yeah, that's just about it, I'll call ya when the next normal time is. I promise. You gonna be okay?" Miles smiled at me.

"Hey, I'll be fine. Thanks for coming." His smiling eyes stopped. "Thank you, I mean that."

"No problem. I'll call ya." I waved and stepped out to the plane.

Over blue skies I thought about what I was going to do, which was the problem, I didn't know. I fiddled around in my coach seat, signed a couple autographs and went to the bathroom. Fourtyseven minutes into the flight I was bored out of my mind. The inflight movie was boring, so I went to my discman, after checking for fresh batteries for the fifth time, realizing there were none, and cursing with more obscene language under my breath I began reading the Airline's company magazine. I noticed the same people that had requested my signature were looking at me, a little confused. Ten more hours to go. A stewardess was making another round to my aisle and I got an idea. I turned my head upwards and asked her to use the inflight phone. I knew that if I was going to get off this flight with my sanity intact I needed to call someone.

"Tulsa information, how may I help you ma'am?"

"Uh, hi, how's it going? I need a person's number." The operator's tone of voice grew a little warmer.

"I'm okay, it's a little late though."

"Ouch, I'm on a plane right now, from England, what time is it?"

"3:45 am dear."

"Oh man, well this is really important."

"I see?"

"You see I'm in a bad fight, and I can't tell this boy that I love him."

"What did he do honey?"

"He wanted to get to know me. He was very kind, and I.. uh.. I balked I'm afraid to say."

"Really?"

"Yeah, well it's not all my fault you see. I asked him to marry me."

"Goodness, you're brave. You must care about him quite a bit."

"Yeah.. I do."

"And he said no?"

"He really didn't answer the question, I ran off."

"Oh." I could tell that she was weighing this in her head.

"So I'm calling to apologize."

"You going to propose again?"

"I don't know! I don't think so, on the phone would be pretty impersonal, wouldn't it?"

"Yes dear, I would do it to his face."

"Operator, I'm scared." My voice was small.

"Girl, you've got guts, don't forget that. You tell him that you love him and go from there."

"I don't know if I can."

"Well would he shield you from a lemon parade?"

"I don't know what that means."

"It's a southern expression, children can throw insults at girls like lemons. A boy who'd keep you underneath his wing at the face of a lemon parade is one to keep." I thought about this, I knew he would, but I didn't know if I could accept it.

"Yes. Yes he would."

"What's his name?"

"Taylor Hanson."

"Now that used to be a common request. I don't believe I'm allowed to give that out."

"Please." The phone started ringing.

"Hullo?" It was him.

"Some kind of boy you are, leaving me."

"Lane?!"

"Yeah buster. I'm on my plane."

"From where?"

"England. I'm going back home."

"I don't know what to say, I thought this was it." His voice was low, a murmur.

"I love you." I said it. Finally. "A lot in fact. And I've never seen anyone that I've wanted to be with more than you. And you know what? I'm not taking any more chances, and I'm not going to take no as an answer. I'm not going to lose you again, do you hear me? You are driving me nuts, Taylor, you have taken my hand and I am not refusing to let go." I paused, barely breathing. "I'm sorry."

"I love you, but right now you're really hurting me. What you said hurt." Silence.

"I've never seen blue like the blue in your eyes, never... they drive through me, and.. " I swallowed, not sure what to say. "I'm sorry, I'm apologizing, I don't know what else to say to you."

"Apology accepted." Another short pause. "So, do you have any clue how early it is?"

"Yeah." I laughed slightly.

"So you're on your plane? Aren't those phones cool?"

"Uhm, yeah, actually they are. They're about 7 bucks a minute though."

"Thanks for calling."

"No problem."

"You bored?"

"Actually yeah, I forgot batteries for my walkman, and I don't feel like reading."

"Did you bring your laptop?"

"Yeah, but I don't feel like screwing around with that."

"Well, it's like, 4am here."

"Why were you up?"

"I couldn't sleep." He paused, chuckling lightly. "I was thinking about you."

"I have that effect on men you know." I laughed shakily. "So, we're um, cool?"

"Yeah. We are. For now anyways."

"Okay."

"Hey Lane."

"Yeah Taylor."

"You wanna come over?"

"Yeah I do, when?" My conscience nagged me of my upcoming book tour.

"Can you get a connecting flight?"

"I don't know, I'll have to see what I can do."

"I want you to stay."

"Can't. I've got a tour in three weeks."

"So stay for three."

"Two."

"Done."

.

Chapter 29

I wrote all the way back to Washington DC, my fingers blindly moving over my keyboard fragments of feelings strung together, my mind on his blue eyes. Staring out the window with words pouring out of my heart, words that had been suppressed, closed in, and honed by the lack of release. I started to see the way that he'd loved me, the way he would show it so quietly. How I would ignore it, not even notice it. How my light lies slid through him, he never used my weaknesses, he never tried to force this. The realization that I was going to Tulsa didn't fully set in until the plane's wheels skidded on the wet pavement of the runway. The fact that I was running head on into something that had been skirted for so long was terrifying. I didn't want to come into his soil, but I needed to.

At the airport I ran to the phone and called Miles. Appropriately, I got his answering machine. I didn't bother leaving a message, it was good that he was out. I held the phone in my hand, not sure who to call. I needed someone to convince me to go through with this. My hand reached for my pocket organizer for my numbers.

"Hey, is Mac there?"

"Lane?"

"Hey, how's it going?"

"Okay."

"You back in Maryland yet?"

"Yeah, just got here." I glanced up at a clock. "Fifteen minutes ago."

"Is something wrong?"

"Yeah." I braced my eyes to hold onto the tears. "Just tell me that we're even." There was a long pause on the line.

"Okay. We are."

"Thanks."

"Why?"

"I just needed you to, to say that it was okay."

"You sound a little shaky, everything okay?"

"Yeah, I'm off to Tulsa."

"Tulsa? Why?"

"A guy, who's serious."

"Good luck Laney."

"Thanks Mac, I'll call ya later." I placed the phone back on the receiver and waited for regret. None came. Glancing back at my screen I smiled and dialed another number. I hadn't spoken to Em forever, but he believed in romance, that I knew.

"Hullo, Em here." His thick, full Irish accent filled the phone line.

"Em? Hey it's Lane."

"Lane!? Las! Where've ya been? Haven't spoken to ya in centuries, where are you?" I smiled like a girl, he always made me feel warm, even when I'd been bad with calling him.

"Maryland, Washington. I was over in London with Miles for a couple weeks, recuperating for a bit."

"And you didn't come by?" His stern tone made me laugh.

"No, I'm sorry I don't think you'd want to have seen me Em, I was in not-so-good shape."

"Well, are you better now?"

"I think so, I'm better."

"Well then, what's the nature of the call?"

"Just sayin' hi."

"And?"

"I'm off to Tulsa."

"Whatever for? You're not on tour are you?"

"Nope, a boy's there. You need to talk me into going to him." His rich laughter made me smile again, I knew the request sounded silly.

"Why on earth would you want me to do that? From the sounds of it you've already got your bag and are off."

"True. But you've got to get me fired up."

"Fired up?!" His continuing laughter made me feel and more and more confident of my decision.

"Yeah, you know. Jumpin' up and down fired up."

"Lane dear, lemme get this straight. You love this boy, of whom I hope is a good one, and you want me to talk you into getting excited about seeing him?"

"Kind of. Okay don't help me. I'm just really nervous."

"Aw, no you're not."

"No, yes I am."

"You are NOT. Now get your hide to his door and be happy you're there."

"Okay?"

"One more thing."

"What?"

"Call me, and don't forget."

"Okay."

"Be well and the best of luck to you." I heard a small click and he was gone. I felt his laughter and envisioned his fiery red mane and quick grin. It had to have been a good year since I'd seen him. Then I heard my name on the intercom of the airport, I grabbed my luggage and tried to make it to the information desk as fast as I could.

"Lane Bronte?"

"Yes, you called my name."

"If you don't mind, could you sign something for me? My daughter's a fan of yours."

"Sure." I cheerily smiled at her and signed a luggage tag.

"There's a message here for you, and they've reserved seating for you on a number of flights out to Tulsa."

"And who might this person be?"

"I didn't take the message, but I'm to give you the message and the tickets."

"Okay, thanks." I took the stack of tickets and the message and moved back into a lounge where I could read the note.

'Lane- Sorry for rushing you, but I figured you'd have enough stuff from London to last you. I booked you flights to get you here ASAP. I'll be waiting for you. -Taylor'

I glanced through the tickets, I had to get to gate 27 in ten minutes or I'd miss the flight out. I'd have to go through 3 connecting flights to get to the Tulsa airport, my next day would be spent on different planes and in hangover time. But two things would happen: I was going to see him, and I was going to make this work.

Twenty seven hours later I acquired another two things: one, being a hard headache from lack of sleep, and two being a taste for the airline's wine. I was running on water, wine, and a sampling of the numerous meals that had been brought to me during my numerous flights. My body refused to quit. I couldn't calm myself down, it was as if I had just stepped off the stage and the energy that people had given me just couldn't be denied, it couldn't run it's course and leave me. My heart was racing, I knew that I had to have looked terrible, travel never did well with me, and this was ridiculous. I had a three hour hang time till my third flight, and was able to finally grab some batteries from a random gift shop, a big relief because I knew I couldn't keep up with the alcohol, it was the only thing keeping me in my seat and not bouncing around. When the plane wheels squeaked onto the wet Tulsa pavement my heart stopped, no more procrastination time. This was IT, and I was jumping out of my skin with fear. The ironic thing was that I had nothing really to fear, this was simply a visit, I was taking time from my schedule and visiting someone. I checked myself, he just wasn't 'someone', this was an 'invovlement'. I tried to think of the last time that I interrupted myself to meet an 'invovlement', or to visit. That would have to be Mac, somehow it always came back to him. Thinking more on it, I realized he was the only one that I had taken seriously, that I cared what he thought of me. I ran my hands through my hair and pulled it up in a make shift pony tail, I stared down at my last half decently clean outfit that I had packed for Miles, my paint splattered blue jeans and a plain white blous, untucked. I switched to my sunglasses so that I wouldn't be as quickly spotted in a crowd and tightly gripped my bag containing my carry on entertainment for the past 30 some hours. I rubbed some quick gloss my my lips, slightly torn from my nervous biting and sniffled, he was going to be in that building.

My thick black heels clicked on the wet pavement as I ran into the airport. I looked around, expecting Taylor to be there, waving or... something. Not in sight. He wasn't here. My boots moved quickly to the baggage claim area, quick, short steps. Words of doubt and panic ran through my mind, I scanned the crowds for that goldish blond, none. I struggled with my gear and bags, making it to an open faced area with rows of seats. It was lighted with flourescent beams, and it made my eyes even more heavy than they were. I let myself colapse on a cushioned chair and closed my eyes. I had come so far, where was he?

After moving my luggage to a small restuarant in the airport I slumped over in my seat. The small vase on the table came into focus and my eyes saw a small violet in the mouth of it. I smiled, ignoring where I was and rolled the stem in between my fingers. I had only been stuck here for around a half hour, I knew he probably got stuck in traffic, or got the wrong time, or something. I straighened up and ordered pancakes with cherries on top. At least I was going to get some breakfast, even if it was 10:45 pm. I put a couple packets of sugar on the table, I glanced around quickly at the empty dining area, then pounded the table lightly. The sugar packets moved across the glass covered table and jumped around. I smiled and whispered 'Really, that's okay, no applause needed ladies and gents.' Giggling, I placed them back in their basket, according to color. Over the sound system I faintly heard an old cranberries song, 'dreams'. I reached into my carryon bag and brought out my laptop. Quickly my fingers found the right keys as I hummed another cranberries song 'Can't be with You' I got my body into the beat as I typed. I knew I had to have those characteristic smudges underneath my eyes from working on the computer for so long. I had hardly done anything but that the whole way from DC. I was still alone in the restuarant, the place had typical decor, salmon walls, decently classy. I had been in too many of these places because of touring. My eyes wandered back to the screen, I heard a rustling, a mom with her child coming in. I heard her, no it had to be her Dad, telling her to hush. Then out of nowhere the kid was quiet, my eyes didn't leave the screen, I didn't know where to go with the next stanza. I sipped my glass of ice water, the ice cubes slightly numbing my upper lip. I set down the glass and felt aware of someone looking at me, I reached down for a pen because few people had them when they met me and looked up.

"I am so sorry. Zoe wanted to meet you, I was over at my parents and it got out that I was picking you up and she wouldn't leave me alone.." The sight of Taylor and this little girl with his same blue eyes who happened to be hiding behind him was explanation enough. "I'm really sorry I'm so late." I blinked and looked at the girl, just as frozen as she was. "It's really good to see you Lane." I moved my head to get a better look at his sister, she was moving farther and farther away.

"Aren't you going to introduce me?" Taylor looked a little startled, then took her hand and led her in front of me.

"Excuse me Lane, this is Zoe." His sister continued to stare. I realized that he'd spoken to me and grabbed my breath.

"Hi, I'm Lane."

"Hi." Her voice was very shy and quiet, a whisper.

"I'm getting pancakes, do you like cherries?" She giggled.

"But it's late, you can't get breakfast now." I laughed, she sounded amused with my order.

"Of course I can! I'm cool like that." I winked at her. "Do you want some?" She looked up at Taylor who was looking at me with amazement. She pulled on his coat sleeve and whispered 'can I?' he nodded. I shut down my laptop and invited her to sit down. "Taylor, pull over another chair."

"Not to be rude to you ladies, but can I run to the bathroom?" I just waved him away and started to chat with her, she was very cute for such a little girl.

"So Zoe, to start things off, how old are you?"

"Five."

"Wow, that's really cool."

"How old are you?" I smiled, I had no idea how she was keeping awake, it was pushing 11.

"Me? I can't remember the last time I was asked that. I'm 24."

"You're old." Her statement was a sigh.

"I know. You'll have to put up with me."

"Really? Are you that bad?"

"Sometimes, but your brother puts up with me."

"Oh." Her face grew a little confused. "But Tay likes you." Her voice grew giggley and quiet. "You made him nervous, he thought you'd be really mad."

"He said that?" I held back a smile. "Well he's full of shit, it takes a lot to make me mad."

"Hey!" Her squeaky voice grew grumpy. "You said a bad word!" She took me back, I hadn't been around little kids for years.

"Yeah, well.. " I didn't want to apologize, but I didn't know what to say.

"Do you know any more?" Her whisper was serious.

"Yeah, but I don't want your parents to think I'm a dork for using it in front of you."

"You're honest." I laughed at her remark. "Hey, my mom had eight kids, does it hurt a lot to have that many Lane? She won't tell."

"Well, I've never had any kids."

"Is it like eating a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich?"

"Sure." Taylor came towards us with a grin on his face.

"So ladies, did ya miss me?" Zoe looked up at him.

"No, Lane's fun."

"Well that's good." He lightly grinned at me.

"I want my pancakes." I gruffed and Zoe giggled.

"Me too."

.

Chapter 30

On the way back to Taylor's parent's house Zoe fell asleep in the back seat of the car. I rubbed my cold hands together, the air conditioning was on too high. I looked out the window at the lights that blurred and flashed before me. The radio was on softly, so not to wake Zoe, and Taylor had started to get a little figedity.

"So wha-" I reached over and turned the music up a little louder, one of my favorite love songs was on. Taylor started up again. "Who's this? I know that song."

"Tonic, 'If You Could Only See'. Makes me think of this boy I was into in high school."

"I thought you were with Mac."

"It was when things were rough with him, I fell in love with this Irish boy, exchange student. He was just a friend, but this album had just come out, and I would listen to this song and think about him."

"What happened?"

"For about two weeks I was in love with him, and I thought 'I could be with this boy, I want to be with him'. Then I found out he was with some other girl, I didn't matter to him in that way."

"He never told you? That's weird."

"Yeah, I don't know why. I still can't really enjoy this song like I used to." I smirked, if the boy had not been with whoever that girl was, I would've left Mac in a second.

"So, you tired? I know that it was a lot of flying."

"Yeah, I'm wiped and not nuts about that much flying. How far away is your place?"

"Well it's about a half hour away from my parent's house. I don't know if you're going to want to meet them now?" I shook my head. "You just want to sleep?"

"I'm gonna be out for at least 12 hours, I couldn't believe that you didn't let me go home before coming here." He squirmed a bit. "You owe me big time."

"Okay." His voice was quiet.

We pulled into a large driveway behind huge white gates. I couldn't see their home very well, it wasn't very well lit, but I could make out that it was white, and rather large. They had to be one of the few families that would take up that much space. It was colonial style, the grounds were neatly kept, I noticed the characteristic red lines of security lasers in a few spots. They weren't very close to the city, few houses were by theirs. I had to wonder how different growing up was for Taylor's younger siblings, compared to the regular life that he and his brothers led. My thoughts were broken by Taylor's slam of his car door.

"Were you asleep?"

"Why did you make me come so soon?" My crankiness was shining through.

"I didn't think you'd mind. I didn't think it as that big of a deal."

"Hm."

"How's Miles?" I turned my head to look at him, he was being honest.

"He's better, he took it pretty hard." I didn't volunteer anymore information. "It was kinda good to get away. I had a bunch of interviews over there which helped the hype."

"When does the book come out?"

"Came out last month."

"Wait, so shouldn't you be on tour now?"

"Actually no. I always give myself a month or so to read letters and see what people are saying about it."

"Fan mail you mean?"

"Letters. I'm calling Rachel as soon as I get into your apartment to give her the addie, so they can be forwarded there."

"Sure." I yawned, my jaw cracking. He was a little on the quiet side, just as a comfortable silence had entered his car, my stomach grumbled. I smiled, giggling. "You're still hungry?"

"I suppose so. Can we stop off somewhere?"

"No problem, there's a supermarket five minutes away." I slid up in my seat and moved towards him, lightly kissing him on the cheek.

"Thanks."

I liked the way he leaned on the shopping cart. It wasn't showing boredom, just patience to my everlasting indecisiveness. I could tell that he did his own shopping, he knew where everything was, and what he already had in his fridge. He was patient with me, not the kind where the person is humoring you, he wasn't in a rush for anything. My hands danced over a bushel of rosy peaches, their fuzziness welcomed my fingers. I brought a heavy peach to my nose and breathed in the orchard, ripeness, and sweetness within my hand. I quickly bagged a half dozen and added it to the cart.

"Well you've got your fruit and bagels, ready to go?" I paused, holding in the question like a hard candy in my mouth.

"No." He waited.

"C'mon, what else?"

"Can we get a movie?"

"What?"

"I'm in the mood for 'The Matchmaker'."

"No, you're going to sleep." He smiled, catching my bluff.

"Well, you're not going to watch me the whole time. Get it, it's one of my favorites."

"And why is that?"

"It's so funny, and David O'Hara is great in it. You've never seen it, have you?"

"No, but I'm going to sleep too, it's still," he looked at his wrist, "12:37 am."

"I'm sleeping till at least 11, just get it. I love that movie."

"Fine, whatever. Wait here a second, I'll get it." He sprinted off to the movie section of the store, a minute later came back with the tape in hand. "Okay, lets get you back to get some shut eye."

I fell asleep in the car. I felt lips on my neck that made me shiver with the unexpected kiss. I looked into Taylor's guiless eyes, that smooth, dark aqua. I knew I smelled of alcohol and traveling, not entirely entertaining scents, but he seemed to breathe me in. Completely. The magnetivity between our skin was quick and instinctal. As our lips neared I heard a whisper from his lips.

"I'm sorry."

"Why?"

"I never should have let you go." I felt a salty-sweet tear on my red hot cheek from him. "If you could only see the way I love you, you'd never leave me."

I leaned forward, drinking him in. He drew back slowly. "Promise me."

"Promise you what?"

"That you're not going to leave." I paused, looking into his desperate eyes.

"I promise." I took his hand and held it firmly within my own, holding his gaze and commiting to him for the rest of my life.