Long Cold Winter: Chapter Forty-One

Amanda divided the stack of files in half and then looked at Matt. “Is there a portable CD player anywhere in the house? Or even a small stereo?”

Matt shrugged. “I really don’t know. Maybe one of the boys left their old CD player behind. Look in one of their rooms. Egypt can show you where. If she doesn’t have one.”

She nodded. “Thanks. I will be back for the other half of the files when I go through these. I will help you narrow the list down to about ten. Maybe more. But definitely less than twenty.” She had mentally counted the files, both the ones in her arms and the ones left on the desk.

He smiled. “Make a list or each you pass on as to how they can perfect their style. It comes in handy when I have to write the rejection letters. And before you ask, yes. I do write rejections. Mainly because I know how it feels to witness a rejection that is left unexplained. It is more devastating than receiving advice on how to better yourself as a musician.”

She nodded. “OK. I may enlist Sandy’s help. She young and knows what they youth like.”

He nodded. “Sounds good.”

She left the office with the first half of his workload. “E,” he heard her call as she passed the kitchen, “Can you help me find a CD player?”

He heard Egypt’s reply. “Walkman or a simple stereo?”

Amanda’s voice followed. “A simple Stereo, I guess.”

Egypt was agreeable. “Sure. I’ll just slip into Thomas’s room and get his.”

Amanda replied. “Thanks. I owe you.” then he heard he speak to Sandra. “Sandra, would you be willing to help me go through these demos?”

Sandra sounded excited. “Sure!”

He smiled. They were going to be fine as a family. He turned his attention to the matter at hand. Star and Rainbow were on their way. So was Sam and Al. Marnie and Lady Jane would accept whatever the rest decided.

They were headed his way because he had called them. His purpose was to show them the test results and introduce them to their newest niece. He only hoped they would be accepting. Of course, he had to tell them of his relationship with Amanda as well. And that had him all nervous.

Getting them to accept Sandy was going to be the easy part. Getting them to accept his relationship with a younger woman…not so much. But, ultimately, it was his life and they would let him live it as he saw fit. After all, he had given them theirs by saving them from the commune.

Still, they would grill him about how well he knew her. And they would question her about what she really wanted from him. And how they saw their future. But nothing would change how he felt.

His children would accept any decision he made. Besides. It had been Egypt who’d brought the two of them together in the first place. And he owed her for that.

Sandra and Amanda found a nice spot in the library to begin their odyssey in music. Amanda plugged in the CD player and turned it on. Opening the drawer where the discs went, she slipped the first one in. She wasn’t ready for the horrible sound that would be emitted when she pushed play.

She looked over at Sandra, who’d covered her ears and wrinkled her nose. “Is that a no?”

Sandra nodded. “That is definitely a no. The guitar player can’t play, the drummer is grandstanding, and their singer is abysmal.”

Amanda smiled. “Slow down. I have to come up with a way to give positive input.”

Sandra grimaced. “On that?”

Amanda nodded. “Actually on each that we reject right off.”

Sandra shrugged. “OK. Drummer: take a backseat. Quit trying to overpower the audience. Guitarist: relearn you chords and how to properly string them together in a song. Vocals: Just learn how to sing. The bassist and keyboardist was fine. Next.

Amanda wrote down Sandra’s comments. “So you would tell the bassist and keyboardist to kick the guitarist and vocalist to the curb?”

Sandra nodded. “Yup.”

Amanda opened the drawer and took out the disc, replacing it with the next one in line. She closed the drawer, then pushed play. It was the total opposite of the first. Immaculately produced. Beautifully orchestrated. Wonderful vocals. But the lyrics left a lot to be desired.

Amanda looked at Sandra. “So?”

She shrugged. “It’s good. But the lyrics lack something. Maybe it is me, but they didn’t seem complete.”

Amanda pushed. “Are they keepers, though?”

Sandra looked at her. “Put them in a ‘maybe’ pile.”

Amanda smirked. “Alright.”

She took the disc out and put the next one in. Pushing play, she was braced for anything. Instead, they got something amateur, yet with more heart and soul than anything they had ever heard on the radio.

Sandra didn’t hesitate. “Oh yeah! That is definitely a keeper.”

So now they had three piles. The ‘maybes’. The rejects. And the keepers. This was going to prove interesting.

Thirty files later, they had five keepers. There were three maybes, and the rest were rejected. But some had not been too harshly rejected. Some had sounded halfway decent, but still needed major work before being even close to being marketable.

Amanda took the reject pile back to Matt’s office, keeping the maybes and the definite keepers until she had both piles complete. She also took her notes on Sandra’s reactions and comments as well and handed them to Matt.

Matt looked at her. “How many keepers so far?”

She smirked. “Five. And three maybes.”

He smiled. “Want to take a break?”

She looked at him. “Sure. Let me take this pile to the library and I will bring Sandy out with me.” she turned, then looked back and winked. “Oh, and watch out for that first demo. It’s a doozy.”

He chuckled and watched her walk out of the office. A few minutes after she vanished, Al and Sam appeared. Behind them came Star and Rain.

Matt nodded to them. “Glad you all could come. We have some things to discuss.”

Sam looked at Matt. “Like your drinking?”

He smiled. “I haven’t touched alcohol for at least a week. Or cigarettes, at that.”

Albert’s mouth dropped open. He had not been expecting that admission. Both had been a part of who Matt was for decades. What had changed?

Matt returned his attention to the matter he had called his siblings to his home on. “I have two announcements. Well three.”

Star was first. “Like what?”

Matt handed her the test results. “I have a daughter. And there is the proof.”

A stunned silence filled the room. Star looked at the results. she looked back up and smiled. “Congrats! Do we get to meet her?”

Matt gave her an incredulous look. “Well, of course!” Sandra entered the office at that very moment and Matt pulled her to him. “Meet Sandra. My daughter.”

Rainbow rushed forward and hugged her, as did Star. Star smiled. “Welcome to our family, Dear. As dysfunctional as we are.”

Matt looked at her. “Do let your aunt kid you. We are very close.”

Albert looked at him. “OK. So where’s the reason you stopped smoking and drinking? You and booze go together like politicians and lies.”

Sam smirked. “Only a woman can get you to stop drinking, we all know that. So who is she and where are you hiding her?”

Matt was grinning from ear to ear. “Amanda, I know you are outside the door. Come on in, Love.”

Amanda walked in coolly. Every eye in the room drifted to her.

Sam smiled big. “To quote Goober Pyle: Sha-zam!”

It was Star’s reaction that surprised Matt. She reached out and took Amanda’s hand. “Honey, anyone who can get Matt to kick his drinking and smoking habit is welcomed in this family.”

There was no third degree. No usual questions. No ‘but don’t you think she’s a bit too young’ quips. They had simply accepted her.

Albert smiled coyly. “so when’s the wedding? And am I invited?”

Laughter once again filled the house. The family was whole once more. Matt was whole once more. Amanda and Sandra went back to the library and finished their work.

Dinner was a family affair. Everyone pitched in and fixed a dish. They sat around the table and talked. And joked. And reminisced.

Hours passed and finally, they were gone. Amanda sat, looking at Matt. “I hope we can do that again. I like your sisters.”

Matt smiled. “Oh, we will. I am hoping to re-institute the family Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings we used to have.”

She smiled radiantly. “That would be wonderful! And all your kids could come back and visit! It’ll be great!”

He took her hand and helped her to her feet, then led her toward the staircase. “Well, not all. Some won’t be able to get off enough time for those holidays. But most will.”

He led her up to bed. Egypt and Sandra had already gone. It was late. It had been a very long day. And Matt was tired.

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2 thoughts on “Long Cold Winter: Chapter Forty-One

    1. Amanda is the second love of Matt’s life. His second chance, so to speak. And, yes, this is the lasting love he has always sought.

      Juanita was brought into the story to teach him how to love and to ready him for the one who would be with him for the rest of his life. Until her, he only knew how to use and be used. When she entered his life, he learned that love wasn’t always forever. Sometimes it was just for a short time. He also learned that true love could hurt.

      As you have noticed, this all has helped him grow. He now wants to find any children he might have fathered in his youth. He wants his family close. And most of all, he gave up the two vices he had left.

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