Sweat beaded Jett’s hairline as the phone rang. She clutched the phone tighter, walking faster with each ring. Stomach clenching, she took a deep breath in through her nose, then let it out slowly. She needed to get a grip. She was a professional, not a scared child in trouble with her parents.
Straightening her shoulders, she paused in front of a gas station. The phone rang again. She dipped her fingers into her pocket and retrieved her pack of cigarettes. She was almost out, and Koty was the one with the cash. She sighed. She had become the kind of woman she never wanted to be.
“Yeah,” Griff said, cutting into her thoughts.
Jumping, Jett dropped the cigarette. She stooped to pick it up. Fumbling for words, she lit the cigarette. As soon as she inhaled, she felt better, more in control.
“Did you butt dial me?” Griff sighed.
“No, I’m here.” She blew out a slow stream of smoke.
“What’s up?” Unlike the last time she spoke with him, there were no sirens in the background. She wondered where he was.
She dropped onto a bench at the Ashmont T station. Her mouth opened, but no words came out. Mind racing, she tried to think of something to say.
“Are you there?” An edge of aggravation crept into Griff’s voice.
She didn’t have much time to waste. “You said you were in LA.” She took another drag. “What are you doing out there?”
“What does it matter to you?” His voice was light, teasing.
Relief swept through her. He sounded more like the old Griff, the way he had been before things started falling apart in Perpetual Smile. He was suddenly the same person who had held her while she cried on the floor of Phillip’s hospital room after they lost him. It felt like ages ago, yet little more than a year had passed. Shaking the memories away, she took another drag off her cigarette. “We didn’t get to chat much this morning.” She kept her voice light, despite the ache in her chest.
He laughed. “Yeah, how did you make out with the band?”
“That depends on what you’ve been up to.”
He paused. “Just dealing with some hockey stuff.” She heard the flick of a lighter as Griff lit his own cigarette.
She missed sitting with him, smoking cigarettes and talking about the band. Her heart sank. “Hockey stuff,” she repeated. “Are you training for this season?”
He cleared his throat. “What do you want, Jett?”
She sighed. It was time to kill the small talk. “We’re going to play the show.” She paused, waiting for his reaction. He said nothing. “I’ve got a bassist and a keyboardist. We’re meeting tonight to rehearse.”
“You’re serious.” Griff laughed, a short, incredulous bark that was more merry than condescending.
“Of course I’m serious.” She tossed the rest of her cigarette into the street.
“So . . . what do you want from me?” he asked, his tone still light.
Her heart raced. Wiping damp palms on her thighs, she plunged forward. “I need a drummer.” She let her words sink in. He was probably going to say no. When Perpetual Smile crumbled, he had left without a single word. He hadn’t even called to see how rehab went.
“Why are you telling me this?” He exhaled a long breath. She couldn’t tell if he was still smoking or sighing.
“You’re the best drummer I know.” She watched as the train rumbled to a stop in front of her. Watching as people boarded and stepped off, streaming past each other, she crossed her legs.
“You couldn’t find anyone else?”
“Not on such short notice.” Her lips curled into a rueful smile. She wasn’t sure if he was teasing her again, or if he was being sarcastic.
“Shocking.” He lapsed into silence.
A lump formed in her throat. “When does the season begin?”
He snorted. “You still don’t know the minor league hockey schedule. How long have you known me?” He chuckled. “The season already started.”
She wanted to stick her tongue out at him. She thought of one of the last times she had seen him. They had sat where Perpetual Smile’s tour bus had once been parked, smoking cigarettes until she was ready to go to the rehab facility. Tears sprang to her eyes. He had been the one to organize the intervention. He had even convinced Koty to team up with him, against her. Sucking in a deep breath, she pushed the pain away. The past was in the past. “So, what are you doing in Los Angeles, then? Shouldn’t you be playing a game?”
“I’m officially retired,” he said, a smile curving through his words.
Her eyebrows shot up. “Why?” she blurted.
“Thank you for the congratulations,” he said.
“I didn’t mean it like that.” She lit her last cigarette. “I’m just surprised. I figured that after the band went south, you would focus more on hockey.”
Griff sighed. “Jett, I’m not getting any younger. It’s a rough sport. It would only make sense for me to stay in the game if I’d gotten picked up by a pro team by now. That hasn’t happened, and it isn’t going to.”
Her shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry.” She wished she had been able to attend more than a couple of his games.
He laughed. “I’m not. I get to focus on music now.”
“Is that why you’re in LA?” She looked down. She should have known that Griff would try to sign with another band. He was too talented not to.
“Sort of. You said you need a drummer.”
“I was going to ask you.” She shrugged, even though he couldn’t see her.
“I figured,” he said. “I’m broke, and I want to play. I don’t want any drama, though.”
Her heart raced. He couldn’t possibly mean that he was going to join her. It couldn’t be that easy. She swallowed hard. “Are you saying you’re in?”
Griff cleared his throat. “I’m saying that, if you can stay sober, this could work.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I’ve been sober for months. If you’d bothered to call once in a while, you would know that.” Her hands curled into fists. She stared down at the dwindling cigarette, wishing she had more. “Why don’t you trust me?” She wanted to ask him why he had sent Koty to pick her up from the treatment facility instead of coming himself. Tears sprang to her eyes as she remembered looking up to see Koty instead of Griff. He had been the last person she expected to ditch her. She squared her jaw. If she was ever going to truly start over, she needed to let go completely.
“Did you hear me?” Griff asked, cutting into her thoughts.
“What did you say?” She bit down on her lower lip, cheeks blazing.
“I said, I’ll join your band on one condition.”
Her heart leapt into her throat. “What is it?”
“I’ve been in LA, talking to different booking agents I knew from when we were in Perpetual Smile. One of them has agreed to scout your show.”
Jett’s jaw dropped open. He knew her better than she’d thought. “How did you do that?” The tears dribbled faster, splotching onto her jacket.
“If we can land the agent,” he continued, “I’ll stay.”
She blinked, still processing his words. “Wow.”
“I’ll take the next flight out.” She could hear the smile in Griff’s voice as he said goodbye. “See you soon.”
She remained sitting in the shelter of the T station, staring down at her phone with numb hands. Her cigarette dangled from the corner of her mouth. She let it drop to the ground. It rolled past the toe of her boot and into the street. A smile broke out across her face. Griff was joining South of Forever.
Jett wondered why he was going out on such a limb for her. He could have signed with any band he wanted. He could have secured the booking agent for himself. Relationships, she decided, were confusing—even friendships.
Keeping her head down was the safest bet, even if only for a little while.
Jett might be sober, but she can’t kick her addiction to Koty.
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