Reckless In Love
Page 16

 Bella Andre

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“If that’s what they’re trying to get you to do, they’re wrong.” He’d never heard her sound so firm. So strong. “You should paint with whatever colors you want to use and never let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to use only primaries, awesome. If you want to create brand-new colors that no one has ever seen before, then you should do it. No matter what anyone else says.”
He’d never told anyone what his mother had said in the letter she’d written to him before she died, not even his siblings or his father. The letter she’d left for him to read that he kept with him always. It had already been a huge step for him to play “One More Time” last night, but now he found himself telling Ashley, “My mom wrote all of us a letter to read. After.” He suddenly couldn’t talk and walk at the same time. “It’s in my pocket.”
Ashley didn’t say anything, simply stood with him beneath the blazing sun and waited for him to say what he needed to.
“I wasn’t the easiest kid. I liked causing trouble more than any of my brothers or sisters. My teachers always said it was because I wanted to be in the spotlight.”
Ashley laughed softly. “No wonder you’re so comfortable in it.”
He couldn’t believe how easy she made everything for him. Even this. “I probably would have ended up in really bad trouble at some point if it hadn’t been for my mom buying me that guitar. Music saved me from myself. I always wonder how she knew it was what I needed.”
“She loved you, Drew.” Her hand slipped into his, and he realized he’d never needed another person’s touch more. “That’s how she knew.”
Ashley’s hand felt like his only lifeline as he finally reached into his pocket. He unfolded the letter with one hand so that he wouldn’t have to let go of hers, then handed it to her.
She hesitated for a moment before finally taking it from him. When she looked down and began to read, he heard her breath hitch in her throat. “Oh, Drew.”
“Read it out loud.” When she looked up at him in obvious surprise, he added, “Please, Ashley.”
He would never hear his mother’s voice again, but at least he could hear her words in the beautiful melody of Ashley’s voice.
She took a deep breath before beginning. “My dearest Drew. Do you have any idea just how much joy you’ve brought me? Right from the moment you were born, I knew how special you were. You were always moving. Always making noise. Joyful noise that was musical right from the start. And even when you were being naughty and I knew I should be telling you off, it would be nearly impossible for me to keep from laughing right along with you. I still remember the first time you sang. You were barely a year old and there was a James Taylor song on the radio. “Fire and Rain.” You had only just started to talk, but by the final chorus, I swear you had learned the lyrics. We sang together, even though I was off-key, and you were always so perfectly in tune with the song in your heart. And it just seems right, somehow, that those first lyrics you ever sang to me would come back around again for us now. Because I loved every single sunny day we shared together. And if it seems sometimes like there are too many lonely days, honey? Just know that I’m always here watching you make the beautiful music you were put here to make. Because when nothing else makes—”
Tears had been streaming down Ashley’s cheeks the entire time she’d been reading, but she’d been able to keep going. Until she couldn’t anymore.
So Drew filled in the words she was too emotional to finish reading aloud. “When nothing else makes the pain go away, all I have to do is put on one of your songs and it works every time. Every single time.”
Ashley sniffled and looked back down at the letter as if she knew that he needed her to say the final five words aloud, needed to hear the beautiful melody of her voice dancing with them. “I love you, Drew. Always.”
She didn’t reach up to wipe away her tears, simply handed him the letter so that he could carefully fold it up and put it into his pocket.
“She wouldn’t let me leave my tour to come home.” The desert was so quiet that in the spaces between his words, he swore he could hear their hearts beating. “Every time I tried, she sent me back after a few days. She said people needed to hear my music.”
“And she knew you needed to be playing it for them, too, didn’t she? That you wouldn’t be whole without it.”
He looked into her beautiful eyes—eyes that saw so deeply it stunned him. “My brother Grant finally called and told me to get on a plane. I had only a few weeks with her at the end. She was asleep most of the time, but whenever she was awake, she’d ask me to play. I’d never been into folk music, like I didn’t think it was cool enough. But in those three weeks I learned all her favorites—Dylan, CSN, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen. And James Taylor, of course. ‘Fire and Rain’ was always her number one favorite, even when she was lying in the hospital and knew she was never going to leave it.”
“She must have loved you playing all of her favorite songs for her.”
“She did.” And he had, too, even if he hadn’t been able to play any of those songs since. “Her throat was too dry to sing along, but when she had the energy, she’d mouth the words and even tap her fingers to the beat.”
He hadn’t talked this much about his mom for...he didn’t actually know how long it had been. Since even before she died. And maybe it wasn’t fair to lay all of this on Ashley. But he couldn’t stop now. He had to get it out.