Monday, June 29, 2020

Chapter 24

Nick’s nervous energy would not let him stop wiggling all morning, as he  laid in that hospital bed, despaired and desperate to get another chance to speak with his one true love. He desperately wanted to apologize for taking liberties with Katie when he forced a shiver-full kiss on her earlier that morning, aggravating her all that much more. Each shiver-full move Nick made toward Katie, only drew her that much further into the protective safety of her Scotty’s arms. 
Annie watched as her brother lay helplessly tied to his gurney, with plastic tubing dripping fluid into his veins. Nick held his head in his hands, attempting to squeeze the pain from both his head and his quailed heart. Now that Kentucky State Trooper Scotty P. Well’s ring was back on Katie’s left finger, Nick grappled with the truth that his cockiness just may have been what lost him the only woman he knew he could ever truly love. 
“My head is killing me, Annie.” 
“I’ll get the nurse to give you something. I’m sure something’s ordered.”
“No, I need to stay awake. I need to get up to talk to my Teach. I have to keep my wits about me.” 
“Nicolas Paul, you can’t talk to her. After what you said to Shawn and did to her, there is no way she will be coming back down here.”
Annie left the room to summon a nurse to tend to her brother’s pain. The nurse followed Annie into the room, checked his ID bracelet and administered a strong narcotic pain reliever into his IV fluid, with the effects immediately taking place. Nick felt the physical tension in his body release, as a sleepiness started to take over his wakefulness. 
“Before I fall asleep, Annie, please take me up there.”  
“Nope, I won’t be a part of you getting busted. You heard Shawn say that the trooper said he would re-file the charges if you went anywhere near her.” 
“Then, will you go up and talk to her? See if she’ll come back down. Maybe Shawn is still there. Maybe I could talk to him, and he could help me out there.” 
“Wow, Nicky, you just never ceased to amaze me. What a jerk you are. Shawn is supposed to help you, now?  Didn’t you call him a traitor? Didn’t you tell him to go to hell, again? Now, you want him to run to your side? He may never even speak to you, again, let alone help you with her.”  
The devastating truth of all that Nick had done to force his best friend and his best girl out of his life, began to sink deep into Nick’s head and heart.  His blame shifting of his obnoxious and slanderous behavior on to Shawn was completely uncalled for and unwarranted. His licentious living over the past year closed up his true love’s heart even tighter, causing her to run as far away as she could from that heart-crushing shiver full love. He laid helpless and lost in that bed, as he fought the sleepiness that wanted control over his body and mind, in that order.  
“Please, Annie, I need to talk to her, or Shawn.”
Annie shook her head at her brother’s desperation. She pitied him, knowing that he was truly broken and scared. When she texted Shawn, he told her the room number, but warned her not to mess with Scotty. The threat of felony charges for hitting a peace officer with no statutes of limitations hung over Nick’s head to keep him from any access to Katie.
“Shawn’s gone, already,” she reported to Nick, who was fighting the effects of the narcotic. 
“Please Annie, go ask her to come down, maybe she’ll do it for you,” he slurred. 
“Fine, I’ll be right back, but don’t get your hopes up.” 
Nick soon lost the battle of the narcotic’s effect on him and he closed his heavy-laden eyelids. Even though sleepiness had overcome Nick’s eyes and body, his mind did not rest, but kept focused on his Teach and the long-suffering wait he had to endure those two years, since that magical night when they fell in love on her Valentine’s birthday. Annie returned to report a sign on the door, stating that they not be disturbed. Nick’s sleeping body did not respond to Annie’s report, as it should have. That sign meant nothing to her, but should have provoked Nick to worry even more, knowing that was his idea for sneaking a little recovery between the sheets for himself and Katie.  Annie decided it best to let her brother get some well-needed sleep.
A nurse came in to let Annie know that they were releasing Nick later that day. Annie called their mother, Jeannette Wilson Thomas Williamson, who had also rushed to Nick’s side from Nashville. Nick insisted that she spend the remainder of the late night early morning at a local hotel. Her  intrusiveness into her adult children’s lives, along with her distaste for Nick’s former rival, brought on by Nick’s provocation, only added to Nick’s stress and concussed-induced headache. He was going to have to come clean with his mother in identifying Katie as not only not a rival, but as his teacher, with whom he spoke of with such love and admiration all that time, embarrassing him all that much more with his family.  As Nick’s body drifted into a deep sleep, his mind wandered back to that magical night and the intricate details of the tale Katie called Operation Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker.
As he drifted into a deep narcotic driven sleep, echoes of his Teach’s voice, in particular her crying voice, drew him back to the tunnel of memories in his subconscious. This trip down the tunnel was different from the first. The images on the wall were not of his own life; rather they seemed to be images of a younger Katie and a younger Matthew, Katie’s former brother-in-law. He noticed images of a young man who looked similar to the younger Matthew; only this man was thinner with longer frizzier and more unkempt hair. He had a different look in his expression. He did not have that kind soft countenance, or comforting voice of Matthew, moreover, his voice was extremely similar in sound to Matthew’s, but had a cockiness to it. 
As his body floated down the tunnel, unfamiliar voices rang out from the walls, as well as some acid rock music. He felt himself falling out of the end of the tunnel, not into the warm amber light like before, but a moonlit darkened and empty hotel restaurant with thousands of stars shining above from the windowed ceiling. When he got his wits about him, he found himself sitting across from his Teach in the dimly-lit restaurant booth of the Embassy Suite’s Hotel, where they spent the last few hours of their magical first date. 
That wonderful night, Nick had become so completely enthralled in her exquisite portrayal of her elaborate plot, it was as if he was watching it on the big screen in his mind. Katie described with such vivid details, the ruse incorporating a whole band of family and friends of her first love, and how they worked together to change a cocky, playboy acid-rock lead vocalist, with a self-loathing problem, into the local town hero that magical summer of Katie’s eighteenth year.  


After leaving the manager’s office to return the pool key, the two new lovers made their way to the empty hotel restaurant. Nick made a hand motion for Katie to slide in first. As he started to sit on her side, she pushed him away. She darted a look up at him, with her eyebrows wrinkled.
“Ah, I don’t think so, Nicky, not after the smelly-feet comment.” Nick guffawed. “I think I’ll take my shoes off on this side, Nicky, you may want to sit over there,” she said with her lips pursed. 
Nick chuckled and shook his head, taking the bench across the table in defeat. He reached his hand across the table, wanting her hands in his, and that was as much physical contact as he was going to get, she warned. 
“All right, now Aunt Myrtle, I want to hear what I’ve been waiting all night for, Operation Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker.” 
Katie giggled, calling them even from the teasing they had done moments before in the hotel manager’s office. She popped out of her seat to jump into his arms. Nick’s face lit up, welcoming her with his opened arms.
“Aren’t you afraid the manager will see us?” 
“Nope, she was off duty a while ago.  She was just waiting for you to show up when I promised I’d bring you by.  She said she had a wicked crush on you, the little cougar.”  
“I can’t believe she waited all that time just to see me.”
“What, you don’t think she wanted a good close up so she could go home tonight and fantasize about the things she’d like to do with the parts she got close to, but couldn’t get close enough to grab, tonight?” He chuckled. 
“And are you going to do that same thing, tomorrow?” He asked. 
“Probably not as much as you are going to,” she cackled. They both laughed and Katie began the story of one man’s journey from pitiful to perfect. “Nicolas Paul, I owe you one hell of a story, and I intend to tell you the greatest story ever written, produced, directed and acted out by yours truly.  It took a huge array of people, but we pulled it off and turned an unscrupulous, selfish and yet self-loathing, playboy cad into the town hero. You ought to get some great songs out of this story.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this all night. Do you want publishing rights?”
“No, just some really good liner notes, okay?” Katie asked. She had not anticipated the media effect his eloquent and love-induced liner notes would have in the country music industry, on his album, and her life, six months later. 
“Deal, now let’s get that movie projector in your head rolling. I love how you tell your stories. It’s almost as if I’m in the story watching it play out in the wings. Nick had been waiting all evening for this story, and Katie did not disappoint.
“Now, before I get into the play which curtain’s rise was on June 29th, I have to give you some background information, otherwise, you won’t see the miracle involved and all the important people who played their parts superbly.” 
“How many people?” 
She pointed at her temple, like she was thinking and adding up all the faces of the gang involved. “Nearly the entire town I think.”
“Oh, now that sounds like a great story.” 
“Yes, by the time it was all said and done, Michael was a true hero, I had my man and poor Steven Schuler walked away with an unplanned   broken nose with multiple cuts and bruises about the face.  
Katie started to review the last thing that she told Nicholas about her Michael. She recalled the night that Michael had a bad fight with his father, and he planned to find a groupie to get mad between the sheets with to feel better about himself. 
“The only time Michael felt good about himself was when some groupie was hanging all over him wanting him to rock between the sheets. Prior to the night he rejected me in that back room that May evening, he would have a different flavor groupie of the week on that couch with him. I had been waiting three months for a second chance at his lips. Of course, little did I know then, that Michael’s want of me had grown so out of control, that he feared his passion would get the better of him. He later told me that he thought of me as way too classy and virtuous of a young lady, to do some serious sweating and petting on that famed brown couch. He felt that was surely not an appropriate place for him to deflower me, especially with all the groupies he had done previously there, and with such disdain for their reputation, or any kind of respect for them. To me, though, that night, all I felt was pure unadulterated rejection by him. He wasn’t the best of communicators back then.  
“Yeah, but you said it was after that night that he started seeing you as a much more serious love interest and possible bride, as well as a mother for his daughter, right?” Katie turned her head in a jerking manner, tucking in her chin. 
“My goodness, you have been paying attention, haven’t you?”
“To every lovely word that has come from those lovely lips, sweetness,” he said as he put his hand behind her neck and pulled her in for a sweet, yet passionate kiss. 
“Kinda like a kiss like that, was what I was hoping for, but Michael felt it would lead to much more. Then he saw us sneaking some rocking between the sheets at his parents’ house, and how complicated that could become. Nope, instead he decided that it was time for him to get a place of his own, so that when he broke me in, it would be under his own roof and not his Christian parents’ roof. He also took a good long hard look at what kind of father he was being to Laurie, and he realized that he needed to be a much more proactive role in her life as a Dad, and not just like an uncle of sorts, which was how he acted toward her. It was time for Michael to grow up, but before that happened, with the rejection I felt, it was also time for Michael to feel a little rejection himself. Finding myself my own groupie was just the trick.” 
“How did you do that?” 
“Well, first of all, Michael knew that he needed a full-time job and luckily for him, the weeknight bartender had just quit at the Rathskeller. The business genius of the owner, Ralph, saw dollar signs in having Michael tending bar during the nights he was not playing in his band, either there, or traveling. His assumption was correct. He took Michael under his wings and taught him how to be an expert mixologist. Michael did not need any training on how to flirt with the ladies to bring them in and draw them to the bar for some serious swooning. Ralph’s profits increased ten-fold that late spring, and he had the hottest pub going in Boston at the time. He packed the house most nights because the groupies came in droves, all vying for a spin on the brown leather couch, or some hospitality between the sheets.”
“Wait, so he was still fooling around then, even after that episode in May when he had the epiphany that he needed to get serious?” 
“No, but Michael was Ralph’s main attraction, and he practically prostituted him, goading him into flirting the girls into spending their hard-earned greenbacks on more and more drinks. It worked fabulously and his prior reputation as a fabulous one-night-stand lover created a buzz and filled the bar. The only problem was that the groupies did not know that he was waning in feeding his manhood, which was quite a challenge for him. That summer he was hot as all hell and making boo-coo bucks in tips. He was able to get his own apartment in no time and we were all so proud of him.” 
“Hold on a second, you keep toting how Michael was the beginning and the end and wanted by everything in a skirt, right?” 
“Yes, right.” 
“And, he wanted you.” 
“Yes, but I didn’t know that at the time.” 
“That’s regardless of the fact. You know that now. He could have had any female in the area, and he wanted you. Yet, you find it so difficult to believe that of all the women I’ve met, I want you.” 
“Well, that’s simple.” 
“Please expound.” 
“First of all, Michael wasn’t known on a national level or surrounded by thousands of drop-dead gorgeous women everywhere he went.” She turned to look at him with one eyebrow raised. His coy expression caused her to chuckle. “I mean the type of females Michael attracted were, how you say, less than debutantes, if you know what I mean. I also had an unfair advantage to all those girls. I had unlimited access to him. His daughter Laurie adored me, and I was good mother and marrying material. Michael was starting to see how having a potential wife would be better than just a few varied groupies who were only good for serving drinks beneath the sheets. The irony of it all was that he started to get serious about me, but kept more distance between us, because of his low self-worth, which kept increasing as the summer went on, with my help, unbeknownst to me.”
“How did you do that?”
“Well, I was mad still from that night he dumped me on the side of the road. I had just about given up on him, until I gave him a piece of his own medicine, and he balked. He didn’t like it one bit.” 
“How did you give him a piece of his own medicine?”
“I was the hope for Marjorie and Mark, as the means to ground their wayward and indiscriminately living son. As it turned out, I succeeded. I came into that family with a lot of baggage of my own, though. Matthew and Marjorie particularly contributed in helping me heal from the inner damage of a little, unwanted abused and neglected child. They showered me with more than double the love I would have received in any normal family, which embolden me on to become the woman I always wanted to be.” 
Nick interrupted her, again. “One who could inspire the world, as well as one who made everyone in your presence instantly fall in love with you, right?”
She turned back around and nestled into Nick’s arms in her favorite position with her back pressed up against his chest, and his arms wrapped securely around her. “No, only a tortoise-brained artist who’s gone off his meds,” she said with a giggle.
He squeezed her even tighter.  “Umm, I don’t think so, princess, it’s like Matthew said...,” Katie interrupted him. 
“Yeah, yeah, well, whatever, forget about that, and let’s get on with the story before the bewitching hour. Now, stop interrupting the teacher, again, and I’ll get to the best parts.” She reached back and tickled his belly, and in his wriggling, he grabbed her hands and held a firm grip.
“Keep your hands out here, princess, and go on with the story.” Katie’s shoulders shook with her giggling.  
“Well, his little rejection episode caused some serious tension between us, and I began to avoid him when I could. Michael, of course, saw my avoidance as rejection from me coming from Becca’s negative influence on me. He figured that she had no respect for him. Michael’s family was well-respected in that community as a good church-going family, and Michael saw himself as the family reject, or the black sheep, the troubled son.”
“Seems to me he was,” Nick said.
Katie turned to give him that annoyed look. “Sorry, princess, for the commentary.
“Oh, brother, this is going to take all night.”
“Sorry, I’ll stop. So, now, tell me more.”
“Well, his low self-worth was why it was so hard for him to give up the groupie groping, because in his eyes, they were the only ones who worshiped him and made him feel like he was a something or a somebody. Those groupie banging events were his only respite from his self-loathing moments when he couldn’t see any good in himself, mostly from his Pop’s nagging and antagonism. I’ll never forget all those nights, before he gave up his groupie loving, when he did have his flavor of the week. He used to come home in the wee hours of the morning. I’d hear him sneak up the stairs, making the floor boards creak. I could hear the old brass hinges on my bedroom door, and I felt his eyes penetrating my half-sleeping body. He was checking on me, to make sure that I was home, alone in bed. Seems it was okay for him to spread it around, but not me. I hated how he treated me like a kid sister in those days.”  
“I thought he was in love with you,” Nick asked.“Yeah, he was, but at the same time, he seem to teeter between fantasizing about loving me between the sheets in that guest bedroom and also seeing me as a virtuous little teenager, and he was hell-bent on making sure I stayed that way. He always made sure that Matthew kept me close by their side at the Rathskeller, as if they were my babysitters.”   
With vivid details and a precious tender spirit, Katie shared of the love and acceptance she found in Matthew’s family that she never found in her own. Katie paused a moment, closing her eyes, breathing slower as she pictured the scene, revisiting one of the more wonderful times of her life. She took in a deep breath, then let out a long sad sigh as her memory took her back to that very special summer, the best summer of her entire life. The projector began in her head as she laid out the entire scenario in vivid Technicolor for Nick, as she did with all her stories that night. 

BOOK  3   LOVE'S MUSES:  Rectifying His Life and His Love 

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