Romance Fiction

We were pinching ourselves in case it was all just a dream, one you would wake up from and find yourself back in your room laid down on your familiar bed. But we were really inside the room we could only wish to be in.

Back in high school when I first saw James strum the guitar, I thought he looked awkward. There was a bit of an oddness in the way he carried himself. It made him unqualified to be among the campus crushes. He was too quiet to be even noticed, and he was also not one of the boys known for their laudable skill on the stringed instrument. He would just pick the guitar when no one was playing it, then quietly play and sing to himself.

Yes, I found that cute. I always had a different way of seeing boys even at that age. I didn’t really see the point of making a big deal out of the bullies or straight pretty boys. There was little intrigue in them. They were predictable characters bound to lose their appeal or become employees of the nerds. James was not studious either to be part of the soon-to-be vengeful skinny, bookworms. There was something in him that I wanted to discover myself.

They wouldn’t have a field day talking about us if I had been as wallflower as James. But I used to be a class muse. Two of the tallest guys in the batch were my suitors. For a time, I had a mutual understanding with the taller one who played in the varsity team. But that quickly ended when I and James started becoming friends. As fate plotted we were seatmates after our adviser fixed the seating arrangement one morning. She thought having him sat beside me kept me away from a boy who comes to classes to merely woo a girl instead of passing his quizzes.

“I heard you humming that new song called ‘Zombie,’” he asked once to open a conversation. I responded by telling him that I found the lady singer’s voice behind that track distinctive and powerful.

Many years later he was at work when he called me and said that Dolores was found dead in a London hotel. He was sad informing me and quite frantic to let me know of the tragic news as he always knew how I liked her singing style.

We started jamming while we were in our freshmen year in college. He was too shy to showcase his growing talent in guitar-playing when we were in high school. I knew he wanted to be part of the performance that saw some of the popular boys in the batch rock it out even if they’re slightly out of tune. I was the singer and I felt like I was really an attraction.

The moment he was able to convince me to go to the same school when we moved past high school was a turning point. I didn’t lose him like most of the faces I used to see on a daily basis. Our jamming became frequent and in no time, we formally formed our own band. You bet we covered songs from Dolores’ famous band. Our drummer somehow knew how to write songs so we would play a couple of his originals sandwiched by covers that mostly fitted into my vocal range.

“You appear sexier when you start singing and hitting those high notes,” James would often say.

In one of our little bar gigs, we officially became boyfriend and girl after our set climaxed by our cover of No Doubt’s breakthrough hit.

For all his quiet demeanor, James stood his ground and acted as our band’s leader even if it was our drummer who was writing the songs. He pulled in his friend Roy to play bass and to somehow neutralize our drummer’s tendency to dominate.

Our gigs often served as our date nights as me and Roy would eat dinner at a restaurant before going to the venue. Then after playing and gulping down a few buckets with the rest of the band, we’d prolong the nights by going to some food stop for midnight snacks or going to motels to retire at night.

James easily trusted people. Something Roy took advantage of. I will never forgive myself for not doing enough to keep him at bay one evening when James passed out from having taken too much beer and Roy and I were left in his house awake. In the back of my head, I knew for long that Roy had a crush on me as my eyes would catch him looking in my direction as I pretended not seeing him in my peripherals.

Roy started by asking questions he wouldn’t ask with a conscious James around. My alcohol level may have to do with me feeling extra vulnerable but it wasn’t an excuse. It happened on a sofa while Randy was knocked out in one of the chairs in the backyard.

Their friendship was doomed a few days later when I admitted to James that I cheated on him. He kicked Roy out of the band. God knows if he literally kicked him. But one thing was sure our group was over before it could even get a break which we thought we deserved.

“We’re over. I don’t deserve you. Find someone who’d be faithful enough to you,” I told my boyfriend.

I never saw him wept until that Saturday when I wanted to formally break off from him. I wouldn’t ever want to see Roy, too. It was just the right thing to do: leave my boyfriend and allow him to find someone who deserves him.

Sobbing while I rub his back, James took the courage to say something I’d never expect to hear in a million years. He cracked, “I know this is wrong but I don’t have a choice. I don’t see myself being with someone else. You are my forever muse. Not even Roy could change that.”

Hearing him say that, I thanked heaven for giving me a chance to redeem myself. I knew I couldn’t undo a shameful incident in our journey together. I didn’t ask for forgiveness either. We all wanted a second chance, and I won’t let go of that opportunity to fight for our bond and nurture our togetherness furthermore.

From then on, I never drank liquor again, unless I’m at home with James. Right after college we started working together in the same company. Our time had been too occupied with work to even pursue the band life. One day, on a clear blue sky during a lazy afternoon at the office, he surprised everyone, and me of course, by proposing at the center spot of the lobby for everyone to see. He just asked me to join him for a walk as he cued the security guards to lead the necessary audience impact.

Company policy stated that one of us had to resign once we changes our status to married. He chose to stay for regular income and he asked me to stay home and do freelance work. In a few months I was pregnant with our first child who turned out to be a bouncing baby boy.

“Can we call him Bill?” he asked. That was his way of acknowledging our former drummer’s sparkling persona.

Bill was the most hurt when we disbanded and decided not to continue by replacing Roy.

Baby Bill became the ultimate source of happiness in our union as husband and wife, practically replacing sex. It felt like everything had become smoother with him around. Our house became a happy home.

That peace was disturbed one day when we learned that Roy’s been shot by a business associate. He’d gone spiral and went to illegal substances.

To my surprise James asked that we attend Roy’s funeral. It was his way of finally forgiving his friend for that mistake of a lifetime. At the wake we saw a familiar face. Bill was all smiles reintroducing himself as an A&R of a record label. He said that one of his officemates plays the guitar like hell and wanted to form a band with him, in their forties.

“I never asked any artist to record that song of mine we used to sing because I felt this day would come,” Bill teased.  

It was a weekend afternoon, one that’s not lazy but full of excitement, that James and I entered the recording studio we could only wish to be in. A few days ago we rehearsed with Bill and the guitar player he was raving about. It felt good to be singing in a band again. Bill was really upbeat. James hugged me tight. James Band’s back!    

February 19, 2021 19:03

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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