A Beautiful Year – Spring
It took a miraculously short amount of time to get everyone seated and ready to watch the movie. Michelle felt like everyone else was as morbidly curious as she was to see what Robert and Ray had put together. She wracked her brain to remember when Ray had been around, what he might have seen and recorded. She was embarrassed to think that after a year of documenting Robert’s new album that Ray just blended into the background, she didn’t notice him anymore.
The lights dimmed and the flat screen above the fireplace came alive. The first shot was a screen cap of Robert’s phone. Michelle, tucked in on the couch between Robert and Audrey, squeezed both of their hands. Audrey who was only four, couldn’t read.
“What’s that say Mama?” She asked, knowing it was important from the hush that took over the room.
“It’s a text message sweetie. From Robert to Uncle Brian. It’s says:
She’s here. The girl with the eyes is here. At this lame party. She will be mine.
Audrey made a serious face, trying to figure it all out. Michelle remembered that party. It was lame. Jesse had dragged her there, it was full of film and television insiders and everyone was stuffed and boring. She had escaped to the balcony for some air and to take in the view. She liked almost nothing about LA, but the view was gorgeous.
She had been enjoying the twinkle of the lights and the soft breeze when a man joined her at the rail. She knew him instantly; she had been in love with his music for twelve years. Michelle, had never been so star struck. So lost was she in the idea that she was actually talking to Robert Pry that it took her minutes to realize that he was flirting with her.
“You know I’ve seen you before,” he said grinning. “Five years ago, the Grey Eagle. You sat in the front row on the right. I’ve been thinking about your eyes ever since.”
Michelle, not usually one to be at a loss for words, had nothing.
“Don’t worry, I’ve only sorta been stalking you. I didn’t know who you actually were until tonight, but now that I know, watch out.”
“That’s a very serious threat,” she said, her eyes twinkling, she loved this. “Or it would be if I hadn’t been following your career for more than a decade. So, I’m afraid you’re a little late to the stalking game.”
They both laughed and laughed.
“What’s so funny?” asked Jesse, joining them and wrapping his arm around Michelle protectively.
Michelle watched Robert’s face fall. “We were just laughing about some of the suits at this party, baby,” she said.
“ Suits mean money. There is someone you need to meet over there,” Jesse said, ignoring Robert and gesturing to the other side of the room.
“I’m playing in Asheville next month. Can I send you tickets?” Robert asked.
“I’d love that,” she answered, handing him a card. She wished that Jesse wasn’t there so that she could write her personal number on the back. She waved as Jesse pulled her across the party and she wondered what it meant that she would do anything to be out on the balcony again. Was it possible that he remembered her from five years before?
The movie moved on to a video clip from the show the next month. Michelle had been elated when her manager forwarded her the tickets. Robert was onstage, sweaty and sexy and Michelle could remember exactly what it felt like to be in the audience that night, the boom of the bass moving through her bones, the thump of the drum in her stomach. He was playing some new stuff and a drunk guy at the back kept heckling, wanting to hear old songs. Robert, not one to mince words finally let into the guy
“Dude. Shut up. I’m trying to impress a girl here. You’re not helping.”
Hearing that, Michelle who was still with Jesse at the time, looked at her girlfriend next to her with wide eyes. Allison said: “I think that’s you.”
The next clip was a still picture of the two of them sitting on a piano bench. The picture was from behind and you could only see their backs and their heads bent together, conspiratorially. This hadn’t been a date, she was still dating Jesse. They had gone out with friends but somehow found themselves alone more often than not. He was supposed to be showing her how to play her favorite song. Her dress was backless and his hand rested on the smooth flawless skin of her bare lower back. Michelle could still feel the warm pressure of his fingers if she concentrated.
A picture of their bare feet, side by side, resting on the rail of the deck filled the screen. Robert had moved some of his stuff into the garage apartment and they were hanging out, relaxing after some heavy lifting. Michelle remembered that Jesse was supposed to be there to help but bailed. He hated coming to Asheville, he always wanted her in LA. He had come so few times that he had never met her children. She knew it was a bitchy move to let Robert move in, that it would make Jesse jealous, but she hoped it would.
That night they sat out and watched the stars come out over the mountains.
“Are you pissed that Jesse isn’t here? Is it my fault he isn’t here.” Robert asked.
“Yes, and no,” she said. “People only ever inconvenience themselves if it is going to affect them positively. It’s my fault that he isn’t here. He knows that even if he doesn’t come, that nothing will change. Next chance I’ll get I’ll go to LA and see him and everything will be the same. “
“Why would you do that?”
“I can make a thousand excuses, he’s a big movie star, he hates travel, he hates kids, but that’s lame and a lie. And, one could argue that I’m willing to be inconvenienced because it will benefit me. He’s my boyfriend, if I want to continue dating him, I have to. I like to think though, that maybe it could be the opposite too. That maybe I could be the kind of person that is willing to do the hard thing just because it is the right thing to do.”
They sat in silence for while.
“It’s unlikely,” she said.
“That I’m that kind of person. No one is. Everyone leaves when it gets hard.”
Michelle didn’t want to hurt his feelings so she just smiled. He would, she knew. They all did.
The next picture was the two of them walking the red carpet at the premiere of her movie. Jesse had bailed and she had broken up with him over the phone. He had said the most terrible things to her, and broken she had called Robert. He took the red eye west to be with her.
A shot of Robert’s phone again filled the screen.
Michelle recognized the date. Robert’s things had finally arrived from California and they were sitting in the driveway. Sweaty from unpacking the truck they went to the back deck to drink cold beers.
“Where are you going to put all that stuff?” She asked.
“I have options?” He answered.
Smiling she sat in his lap and kissed him soft and slow. Michelle’s heart still raced at the heat of that moment. She had been so scared to make a move, and yet she was almost sure that he wanted it too. The tension of waiting, of the longing looks and the brief electric touches burst into flame between them.
Michelle, Audrey and Tatum reading in her bed filled the screen, followed by a picture of Robert with Michelle’s best girlfriends under a marquee with the name of her film in lights. A video of Robert singing the song he had written for her in concert with too many clips of her own beaming face as she watched in the wings. Next was the picture that his mother took of them and the children crammed into his childhood bed when they went to visit her for Easter.
Michelle didn’t know that picture existed, but she remembered how long that night felt. In the strange house the kids just wouldn’t stay in their beds. It was Robert’s idea in the wee hours to pile everyone together. Waking up that morning was one of the best of her life. She looked over the tangled limbs of her children to see him on the other side, Tatum’s tiny fist wedged under Robert’s jaw. Sheets thrown and brows sweaty, but they were together. Things had been really, really good.
The next image brought tears to her eyes. This was the part she was afraid of. She squeezed Robert’s hand and tried to hold it in. Another screen cap of his phone, a text to Brian.
I’m afraid I’ve lost her.
Do you need to start at the beginning?