“Yo! Brother-man! Where are you?”
He awoke once more to the sound of Rainbow’s wonderful voice. How long had he been asleep? An hour? Two? Half a day?
He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “I’m in here!”
She appeared in the living room doorway. For as much as she had been through, she was still just as beautiful. He couldn’t tell that she was forty-nine. She still looked as she did at twenty.
But, then, she always did take care of herself. Even when the prick had been beating the shit out of her. Until he beat the prick senseless. Then the guy left. Only to return.
And she had been naïve enough to take him back. Three fucking times. But, then, the idiot had quit coming back. Star had just told him today that the prick was dead. Good. Someone should’ve put him out of his misery a long time ago.
She stood there smiling. “I dropped some Thai food off in the kitchen for you.”
He looked up at her, hope in his eyes. “Homemade?”
She giggled. “Of course. I wouldn’t feed my brother take out, not after he took so much time to teach me how to cook when I was a girl.”
He grinned. “You’re still a girl. Hasn’t anyone told you that yet?”
She shook her head. “You know what I mean. Star been here?”
He nodded. “Yup. And left Italian.”
She looked over at him. “Food?”
He let the smile drop from his face as if he was serious. “No. She left Luigi. You know, that little old Italian guy that lives next to her? He was stringy, but tasty.” He smiled. “Of course she left food. Chicken marinara.”
She shook her head. “Oh, you! Shoulda known you couldn’t be serious.”
He shrugged. “How’s the bratlings? Good, I hope.”
She looked over at him. “If you weren’t so busy doing all your star-stuff, you would know that Matthew, your godson, is about to graduate college. Melinda is going to graduate high school. And Jim and Lee are sophomore and junior; and Angie is a freshman in college. All are straight ‘A’ students. Thanks to your being such an awesome teacher to me.”
He sat stunned. “And your career?”
She smiled. “Matt, I am an actress. I have a steady role on a soap opera and make at least two movies a year. They may not seem like the most awesome, but they make enough to keep me satisfied and monetarily solvent. I don’t need to be rich. You taught me that.”
He looked over at her. “Star told me that the Prick is dead. Can you elaborate?”
She nodded, then looked down. “Yes. Stan thought he had found another lonely sucker. This last time, he went all the way to the Midwest to find her. And to get away from you.” She grinned. “He beat up on her one too many times, and she shot him to death. I went to testify on her behalf. A character witness to tell all they knew of him. I also took the pictures of all the women who hadn’t been so lucky as I. The ones he’d beaten to death and gotten away with. Their families begged me to.
“All the pictures, along with my testimony on what kind of man he was, kept her from going to prison for murder. Instead, I helped her get off on self-defense. She and I keep in touch.”
He bowed his head. “I’m sorry for bringing it up. I know it was painful. That whole period of time was. For all of us.” He took a deep breath. “I am thinking about quitting my drinking. Star said something when she was here this morning that got me to thinking. I may even quit smoking.”
Rainbow looked over at him, excited. “Really?”
He nodded. “Yes. And I figure I have run away from the past long enough. She is right. Mama’s gone. She can’t hurt me anymore. Or you. Or any of us.
“Besides. I have you guys to live for. I may retire and vanish from music. I am getting too old and am too entrenched in the old ways to be of any use.”
She looked away. “What makes you say that?”
He smirked. “Have you listened to pop music and metal lately? It ain’t even close to what I used to play. I’m a relic. Not a real player. Not anymore. No one wants a used up metal head.
“Sure I can go and do country. But even it ain’t the same anymore. It is so close to pop it ain’t funny. I feel out of place.”
She put her arm around him. “I understand. Have you considered acting?”
He chuckled. “Sure. You know any shows that would take me on? And don’t mention reality shows. I ain’t goin’ there. Reality crap is more like it. Too many selfish little rich brats already have their own shows. They don’t need me.”
She smiled over at him. “I wasn’t going to suggest reality television. Besides. Gene Simmons, Brett Michaels, Dee Snyder, and Ozzy have already beaten you to it. No one wants to see another old musician struggling to hold onto their fame and youth.”
He nodded. “Fuck youth. Been there, done that. Don’t want to revisit. At least not now. Was fun while it lasted.”
She rose from where she had knelt. “The soap I am on has an opening for an older role coming up. Male. Maybe if you audition…”
He smiled. “Sure. When will auditions be held?”
She was suddenly shocked. “In two weeks.”
He nodded. “I’ll be there. Can you get me a script? I should be a natural at this. Been acting since I was ten.”
She kissed him on the forehead. “I’ll put a good word in for you, Matt.”
He rose. “Heard from Marnie? Or Jane?”
She smiled. “Yes. Jane has her own band and travels. She has never married. Of course, she’s gay as well. You knew that, didn’t you?”
He felt a crooked smile creep over his face. “Aren’t we all at some point? I don’t see anything wrong with her living as she wants to. Hell. I raised you all to be individuals. Not carbon copies. Besides. We don’t always choose who we love or how. Love sometimes chooses for us.”
Again, she was shocked. He had taken that better than she imagined. She just wondered how he would take news of Marnie and Barry. “Do you know about Marnie and Barry?”
He smiled happily. “And exactly who do you think introduced them to each other? I knew Barry from the jazz band I worked with. He was Allan’s son, and about Marnie’s age. I thought they looked wonderful together. Hell if I remember correctly, I gave her away!”
Shit. She’d forgotten about that! And yes, he had given Marnie away.
“Allan Marcus was one of the best jazz trumpeters, not counting Miles Davis and Quincy Jones,” Matt continued, “And one hell of a great man. He taught his son true respect for women. Never saw him ever raise a hand to his wife. Or Barry.”
She smiled. She had never heard her brother praise anyone like that before. “He has been the best thing to happen to Marnie. Kept her from losing it when Dallas was killed.”
Matt suddenly felt the air knocked out of him. Dallas, one of his favorite nephews, had gone into the service. Had wanted to serve his country. Came back in a casket.
All had mourned his death. None more than Marnie and Matt. But, then, they had not been the only family to lose a member in Afghanistan. Others had too.
But the death had killed Allan. No more than two days after they buried Dallas, they were getting ready to bury Allan. And Al had not been that old. Hell. He was younger than Matt.
Helen followed her husband. Of course, she had been ailing with cancer before. But the death of her husband had taken her will to live. And Matt had begun to drink heavier. Almost like he was also trying to kill himself.
He was still not over any of the deaths. Maybe that had been what he had been hiding from. That pain. That angst. That feeling of helplessness.
But he had to face it. And he was going to. Now. Not later.
Rainbow walked to the door, then turned around. “Go eat. You’ll feel better. I will see you tomorrow. Marnie and Jane are going to be around to see you sometime between now and Friday. Albert is also going to be here. Sam will try to come for your birthday.
“Remember, we all love you, Matt.”
He smiled sadly. “I love all of you too. I always will.”
He watched her disappear. He went to the kitchen after he heard the door close. Thai. One of the best. And all was Rainbow’s special recipe.