The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 13

Shasta got her mother and father onto the plane from Des Moines to LA in record time. getting them packed and into the car was like herding turtles…or maybe that was herding cats. She smiled. It was always a joy to do things with her parents. Too bad Nattie hadn’t seen that. Maybe she would have been in a different position now.

Still, Nattie had always been different. She had always marched to her own drum. There was no reason to her rhyme and no real rhythm to her life. Just a haphazard inconsistency that had marked every step of her life. Now was no different.

Chance Spencer had been good for Natalia, that had been apparent. Their lifestyle, however, had been less than desirable. But at least they had been able to supply a comfortable life for their children, at least at the beginning. But now, the year after Chance had died, Nattie was about to join him. the disease that had taken him was now eating away at her.

It was unfair. Nattie should be healthy and happy. But no. The minute she had found happiness, she lost it. Again. for the third and final time.

Shasta smiled sadly. The decade of free love had had its consequences. Seemed nothing had been truly free in the end.  But why did Nattie have to pay the price as well? Why couldn’t she get a get out of jail free card? After all, she still had a lot of life left in her to experience.

Her father’s voice brought her out of her thoughts.“Shaz. Shaz. There wasn’t anything you or I could have done to save her from this. You were never meant to be your sister’s keeper. Matt should have never had to do what he was forced t do either. Nattie was on a self-destructive path long before she left home. We tried to keep her on the straight and narrow, Lord knows we did, but she had a mind of her own.

“She put herself in the predicament that facilitated her rape. She fell for Toby’s lies. She wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell her that the boy was just pure evil. She thought he was the way she was going to find her key to happiness and stardom. Unfortunately, he shattered all those dreams for her and stomped on her heart by taking her innocence.

“I tried to fix it all for her after it happened, but I just didn’t know how to approach it. I had already taken away the power of his old man through shedding light on his fraud. I even tried to take away the boy’s power, but I failed.”

She smiled and took her father’s hand gently. “Pops, you did your best. Just think of the thousands of other girls you prevented Tobias from hurting after the rape. He went away to war to get away from going to prison. He went to Vietnam thinking he could go, then return a forgotten menace. When you chased him out of Des Moines, you save more girls than you realize.” She squeezed his hand gently to let him know that she approved of all that he had done for her sister and everyone else.

***

Yuri Venacek arrived in LA with his cousin Marty. The two had been business partners in Dallas for several years and decided to travel together to say farewell to their cousin. It was sad that it had come to this, but Marty had filled Yuri in on Nattie and her…alternative lifestyle. He could’ve sworn that he’d seen Nicolai Morrow at LAX and if that was the case, this was the end. Nothing had ever dragged Nick back into the family circle unless it was deep and extremely serious.

Still, he hoped to catch up on things with Nick as well as whoever else they would run into. It was always good to see family, even if it was during times like this. Not that Uri didn’t feel sad for Natalia, but everyone has seen this coming. Marcus, Uri’s brother, was somewhere in transit. He had said he would be there. But where was he?

Yuri shook his head. Marty’s sister, Dani, was still not in either. Neither were many of the others. Shasta had gone back to Des Moines to help his uncle Michael and aunt Valeria pack and make it to the plane on time. There were Morrows from all over the globe coming. Some had never met Nattie, others remembered her when she was young. Still, family was family and the Morrows were one family that believed in being close knit.

When one was hurt, the rest would come to their aid. When one died, the rest would come to mourn. And the Venaceks had become a part of that family.  A grand family it was too.

Yuri and Marty made their way to the hotel to check in. Once checked in, they headed for the hospital. There, they knew they would find the rest of the family. There, they would also find answers.

***

Matt sat at the judges’ table with Tandy and Sal. Before them, an aspiring vocalist was prancing back and forth on the stage. She certainly had the showmanship part down, but she still needed way too much work for them to consider. Beauty and showmanship were only two of the prerequisites, not the whole list.

Matt interrupted her. “Sorry, but you aren’t what we are looking for. If you like, I can add you to the list for possible backup singers.” He shrugged questioningly.

She blushed, having not anticipated his response. Usually, an audition got a thank you, we’ll get in touch with you later, not an invite to be backup after an initial rejection. But she had just received an invite to be backup. It was better than nothing. “S-sure, Mr. Morrow. That would be a dream!”

He smiled. “Good. it seems a better fit for you than fronting. You seem way to nervous for the lead. Being backup will help you work on that.”

She smiled nervously and nodded, then left the stage.

“Next.” Sal’s baritone made the command boom through the arena.

Savanna appeared on stage.

Tandy looked her over. “Name?”

She smiled. “Savanna Morrison.”

Matt smiled back, reassuringly. “Alright, show us what you’ve got.”

She smiled. “Sure bet.”

The music began. Matt watched her as she waited for the exact length of the intro and began on cue without being told. Her eyes, closed in concentration, periodically seemed closed so tight that they might stick shut. Then, she would relax. She seemed lost in the music, totally engulfed and a part of it. She fit the sound and the sound fit her.

Matt interrupted her, cutting the audition short. “You’ve got the job.”

She looked at the other two judges. Tandy and Sal nodded in affirmation. Even though she felt like screaming and jumping wildly, she knew it could blow her chances of keeping the gig. She smiled and threw her fist in the air triumphantly. “Rock on!”

Matt smiled. “We start rehearsal tomorrow on new songs. Bring any songs or lyrics you might have with you for possible consideration.”

She looked at him. “What time?”

Tandy cleared his throat. “Be at the studio by nine. Matt will be there when he gets done at the hospital. The rest of us will be there to work on rhythm and backing vocals.”

Matt smiled and winked. “I will be bringing in your contract as well, so be ready to sign your soul away.”

She stifled a giggle. She knew he wasn’t serious about the whole signing the soul away thing. It had just been made in jest. “I will be there bright and early.”

***

Belinda entered Tahoe at dusk. She had to find a motel quickly. She hated to be out after dark. She supposed that was the reason she had never really felt comfortable in her relationship with Matt. All those late nights.

Of course, she hadn’t cared much for his family either—not that she’d had one of her own. She couldn’t remember her parents but that was probably because she had run away from home at fifteen so that she could be a groupie. And she had lived her dream. She had lived the glamorous life of a rock groupie.

But it really hadn’t been that glamorous. Maybe the sex had been great, but the lifestyle itself left one empty. Longing. But for what?

Perhaps it had been over-glamorized. She took in a deep breath. What she needed was to find a musician who didn’t have any family. Someone she could…nudge closer to the grave until they finally fell in and left her with their entire fortune. It was a nice dream.

But who would want a used toy? Surely not the world weary legends. Of course not. And up-and-comers weren’t rich enough for her blood.

She snapped out of her thoughts as she pulled into the parking lot of a Holiday Inn. She parked and went into the office.

“May I help you?” The clerk didn’t even look up.

“I need a room for the night.”

The clerk scooted the register out to where she could sign it. “Please sign in.” he walked over to the board where the keys hung and took one down, then walked back to the desk and handed the key to her. “That’ll be thirty dollars.”

She handed him $30 and took the key. She turned from the desk and looked at the key chain. Room 231. That was cool.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 12

Nicolai Morrow was late getting in to LAX. He was the eldest member of the Morrow family. He had been away on business when he received Shasta’s call. Like his brothers, he had strayed from the family business. After all, Shasta had done well as CEO of Morrow Industries and had not needed anyone else to impede her progressive ideas.

Now, Halbrook, her eldest, had taken the reins and was leading the company into the new decade. Unlike their father, Shasta had known when to retire. Lord how he envied her, but in a good way. She’d been able to be a part of the company as it went through its changes while he’d fought in wars he knew to be unnecessary.

To Shasta and Nattie, he was a stranger. Neither had even so much as heard of him. After all, he had been away for most of Shasta and Natalia’ lives. Nick had served in Korea and Vietnam and had seen things he just as soon forget.

He’d even killed for reasons he knew to be wrong. He’d tortured for little to no reason, simply because his superior commanded him to do it. He had to live with that shame. At least his superior had not lived long enough to continue his reign of terror.

He smiled. Kendrick, the mysterious shadow warrior as he liked to call him, had appeared in the night with orders for Nick. Kill your commander and his lieutenants had been his command. Thus, he had picked those who had opposed Lieutenant Tobias French and had swept the command tents, killing all they could. But one had escaped.

His group had made it look as if the VC had swept through camp while they went on patrol. It wasn’t hard, since they’d swept a VC ammo and weapons dump a few days before Kendrick’s appearance. They’d used the Russian and Chinese made guns and ammo to do the deed, being mindful to not remove their service gloves until after it was over.

The one who had escaped had been on patrol and had been wounded, but had also escaped into the forest. Strangely enough, he had been the sole survivor of his patrol, making the whole thing suspicious. More suspicious than what Nick and his crew had done.

The following investigation concluded that the VC had indeed overrun the camp and had wiped out the whole command. Since his group had been slated for southern patrol, they had been discounted as suspects. One man’s word could not sway top command from their exoneration of Nick’s patrol.

After Vietnam, Nick had returned to the states after a brief assignment to Germany. Germany had been a side trip. He had not intended to do any more time in the military.

Once back stateside, he found that he was not wanted in many areas of the country. Iowa had been out as well. Few there remembered him and most of his friends had died in either war. He had been popular as a youth, but popularity was overrated now. He was more a shattered soul than a man. War had seen to that.

Korea had been his baptism of fire, Vietnam his descent into hell. Korea had been predictable. The Viet Cong had not. Korea had been a win. Vietnam had been a fail. There had been too many deaths between the two disputes. Too many young men had been killed. And for what?

Officially, they had died for their country and the concept of freedom. The reality was much darker. With the Cold War still in full swing, the U.S and other western countries that weren’t under “communism” tried to block the USSR and those countries considered Communist from spreading their influence to smaller, weaker nations. The problem was that Communism wasn’t a form of government, it was an economic system. The political systems that communist style economies tended to draw were authoritarian dictatorships that controlled everything from where you could piss to where you could die. Hell. they controlled the rationing of food that was supposed to be communally shared. In essence, those countries that were supposedly communistic were not really communistic. Communism, of and by itself, offered no real government structure. Ideally, communism allowed the leadership roles to be shared among all within the commune. There wasn’t supposed to be a central government, just the commune which supplied food, shelter, and all needed for the common good.

Still, the political parties in the US saw communism as a type of government and led their party members into believing the same pseudo-political crap that was designed to make the US feel superior to the countries that shared the same common economic system as the USSR. Of course, this did not help Americans in the pursuit of knowledge or understanding, just as their ignorance of world religions also kept them from fully understanding the Middle East and other countries that did not share a background in Christianity.

But America was never big in trying to understand much of anything except their own wants and desires. Hell. they didn’t even really understand how their own government worked or how the two parties should work together for the common good of all. No, they only understood that one party was supposed to be “liberal” while the other was supposed to be “conservative”. They feared homosexuals. They feared a new disease known as HIV/AIDS. They feared the atheists. They feared…just about everything.

They were blind to what was really going on. Corporations were creating reasons to send men and boys, even women, to wars that were unneeded. Corporations were taking over Washington. The common man had become a footnote in governance because of the growing greed of a minority. The same minority that tried to convince the masses to remain bigots and servants of the almighty dollar.

The noble experiment had failed. If Jefferson or Washington were to come back, they would definitely start another Revolution just to restore the government they had originally founded. hell. if Christ were to return, he would damn mankind for all his social blindness and unfounded hate. He would condemn the world so harshly for its distaste for growing in knowledge and wisdom. But, then, Americans-and their fellow “Christians” around the world-would probably institutionalize or re-crucify him simply because he would be preaching the exact opposite than what they chose to believe.

He shook his head. Sad how things went downhill in such a short time. the worst of it was that he was now too old to serve in another war, but he would want to die in battle before he had to watch the country sink any further in the gutter that both political parties had put it in. sure, Carter was a good man, and truly Christian too, but the President wasn’t the ones fucking things up. No, that responsibility lay with Congress. Their constant fighting, bickering, and the polarization that tended to separate the two halves seemed to keep the country from running at 100%.

Still, there were worse things out there. One in particular, a man by the name of Donald Trump, though still somewhat sensible, epitomized exactly the kind of person the country could not afford to put into office as President. Hell. he wasn’t even a man that Nick would stick in a management position. Yet, Don’s father had passed the young wannabe the reins of the real estate company he had built. That had been in the late 1970’s. Nick had watched as it happened.

Trump Real Estate would be lucky to survive Don. Nick shivered as he imagined just how inept and incompetent Don’s children would turn out to be. God. A monkey could do better than that prissy little shit.

Nick only hoped that the man would never run for President. That would destroy the country, polarize the nation even more than it already was. America couldn’t possibly be able to handle the strain of such a presidency.

Nick snapped out of his thoughts as he entered the hospital. Going to the information desk, he stood and waited for the attendant to come over to where he stood.

“Can I help you, sir?” The attendant seemed unnerved by his rough appearance.

“Natalia Morrow’s room.” He smiled, trying to break the tension.

“Morrow, Morrow, Morrow…no Morrows here, but there’s a Natalia Spencer in the ICU. She’s the mother of the rock star Matt Morrow, at least that is what she has said…”

Nick held his left hand up to silence the attendant. “That would be her. What room?”

“2218. That is second floor, room 218. The infectious disease wing of the ICU. Be sure to grab a mask to wear in if you want to go in and visit her.”

Nick didn’t like the attendant’s tone with that last comment. As if he was going to catch HIV through breathing the same air as his sister. God. What an idiot. He probably knew more about the virus than the doctor treating his sister and this idiot warned him to grab a fucking mask? Really?

He waved the attendant off and headed for the elevators. He would do this his way. He was the only one who could verify for his sister that the little asshole who’d raped her was dead. After all, he had been the one who killed the worthless little punk. As far as he was concerned, he had done his country a service that night. He had taken out Tobias French.

Hmmm….Again.

Did I lose y’all? I mean, I introduced you to Sal who is Matt’s bandmate and also happens to be a homosexual. Now I intro’d you to Matt’s Uncle and his lover. Are we having a tough time processing the sudden (but not really) appearance of a couple?

I warned you back when I started writing The Morrow Family Saga that I was not going with the sugar coated world. I was going to touch subjects that might actually make you uncomfortable. Well, I may not have reached too many in the 50’s, but I will begin hitting a few in the 60’s and 70’s (namely what took place during the “Summer of Love” and also during the sexual revolution of the late 60’s and 70’s that seemed to end with the death of the discos but continued underground and is even around today). I open on the 80’s with death and the revelations about different family members.

Natalia, Matt’s mother, is dying of AIDS during a decade where little is truly known about the syndrome. the 80’s were a time of uncertainty and few treatments. Now, we have a plethora of information dealing with recent (and not-so-recent) discoveries about how the virus works as well as new treatments used to keep it at bay. But then, they had just discovered and begun to study the virus.

Natalia, like many in the late seventies and early eighties, contract the virus through the porn industry and her inability to get away from the “free sex” mentality she has become used to. She is now in the latter stages of the illnesses that normally wouldn’t be fatal but which have become so due to her advanced state with HIV/AIDS. Her mother and father, fully aware of her lifestyle, still do not know that they will be seeing their baby girl for the last time even though Nattie’s siblings do.

Matt, too, is devastated because he realizes that this is one fight he cannot help her win and that he is about to lose the one person who matters most to him. Even though his first marriage has fallen apart, and a divorce is eminent, it doesn’t matter. He has already dealt with that and is now face-to-face with reality like never before. He is at a breaking point and everyone but him knows it.

If you don’t feel comfortable with things thought to be taboo, then by all means. Don’t read any more of the story. Otherwise, remember: this is history seen through a fictional family’s eyes. Reality tends to blend with fiction in this type of series. And also remember that I do not candy-coat things to make it acceptable to those who are of a religious nature. Long live the truth.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 11

Shasta had flown back to Des Moines to help her mother and father make the journey to L.A. She knew that this would likely be the last time either of her parents would make such a trip. They were getting too old to travel like they had when she and Nattie were young. Hell. they were too old.

Still, they deserved to see Nattie one last time. Perhaps she would give pops the forgiveness he so deserved and mean it. After all, pops needed to be able to forgive himself. The guilt had existed for too long. It needed to be laid to rest.

She snapped out of her thoughts as the taxi pulled into her parents’ drive. Mama stepped out to greet her. she hoped that pops was well. He wasn’t with her. She handed the driver the desired fare and got out of the taxi.

“Mama? Where’s Pops?” Her concern could be heard as she drew closer to her mother.

Valeria smiled. “He’s inside, dear. He-he is OK, just lost in thought lately. Mostly about how he might’ve handled your sister better when she was younger. What he might’ve done differently.”

Shasta smiled sadly. “I know how he feels. I doubt things would’ve been any different had he handled things any way but how he did. She was mentally shattered after Tobias did what he did. After that, it was a fight just to save her children from a life in hell.”

“And how are the children?” Valeria seemed unshakeable.

“With Matt as legal guardian now, they are well. Emotionally drained, but otherwise fine.” Shasta smiled sadly. “I fear for Matt, though. He has been the one who has had to be strong since the ’70.”

Valeria smiled knowingly. “Of course. After all, he is the oldest. Poor boy.”

Shasta put her arm around her aging mother. “Let’s go inside. We don’t have much time.”

“Alright, dear.” Valeria turned and went inside with her daughter. “Have you contacted Dmitri? What about Sasha?”

Shasta nodded. “Yes, mama. Both have been contacted. So have all who know Nattie.”

The two women grew quiet as they walked down the hall toward Michael and Valeria’s room. Michael emerged from the bedroom and Shasta rushed to hug him. “Pops.so good to see you.”

He put his arms around her. “Shasta, Dear. Wonderful to see you too.”

She hugged him tight. “Glad to see you too, Pops.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Come. We have much to do.”

They entered the bedroom, the three of them. Shasta would help them prepare for their journey. She had to. She was the only one of their children still close enough to help when it was needed. Dmitri, or Dee as he was better known by, lived in the Bahamas and had his own five-star restaurant. Dmitri’s was world renowned for world-class dishes that were well worth the price he asked. Dom, Dmitri’s boyfriend and business partner, had been welcomed into the family by Pops and mama almost immediately.

Sasha, the youngest of the siblings, lived wherever his research took him. At the moment, he was in the Patagonia. Tomorrow, he could be almost anywhere. Sometimes, Shasta believed that he had become the family’s Indiana Jones. In some ways, she felt that the boy had taken the Steven Spielberg movies too literal in his choice of what he wanted to do. Still, she was proud of him. he had done well so far.

***

Dee stood at the door of Natalia’s room. She was sleeping right now and he didn’t want to interrupt her. He hadn’t seen her in years, possibly since he was about five. Now, he wished he could have had more time with her. He dearly wanted to get to know his sister.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dom stop next to him. Dom’s arm went around his shoulder. Dee brought his hand up to rest upon the hand of his lover.

Dom smiled sadly. “I am so sorry, Love.”

Dee bowed his head. “I really don’t know her well. We were never that close. I was like five when she left home.”

Dom rubbed Dee’s shoulder. “Still, it ain’t easy knowing someone is that ill. I know it wasn’t easy for me when I lost my brother. It doesn’t matter how close you are or how well you know them, you still lose a small piece of your heart. What matters is how many people you have to help you heal.”

Dee nodded. “True.” He looked over at his lover. “Did you have family to help you?”

Dom smiled crookedly and nodded. “Yes. I had Cruella De Ville, Dumbo, and Attila the Hun. Mother never approved of my lifestyle, my father was a preacher who thought I was going to hell, and my little brother was just a confused little kid who tried-and failed-desperately to please mom and dad. But the grief of losing Gianni brought us together. Yep, the Candozas of Tampa were the most righteous Cubanos in Florida.” The bitter sarcasm in Dom’s voice was hard to miss. “Afterward, I was kicked to the curb and disowned. Maybe it was all for the best. Tomas rebelled after I left and was shot to death in a gang war. Guess being a minister’s son was too much for him. what hurt was that they never called me to ask me to come home and be at his funeral. Guess they were too ashamed.”

Dee turned Dom so that he could look him in the eye. “Their loss and my gain.’ He lifted Dom’s chin so that he was looking his lover directly in the eye. “No need to be ashamed for something that makes you who you are. You are a wonderful man. Don’t ever forget that.”

Dom smiled. “How can I? You continually remind me. for that, I am thankful…and I love you.”

“I love you too, Dominico.”

“How’s she doing?” A familiar voice asked, causing Dom and Dee to turn and find Sasha approaching.

Dee smiled sadly. “She is sleeping, which is why I have not gone in to visit.”

“Perhaps you can go to the commissary and whip us up one of those world class meals you’re known for.” Sasha was smiling. “Just a suggestion.”

***

Shasta loaded her mother and father’s luggage into the back of their station wagon. The drive would be a short one, but the journey would be long. She only hoped that they could handle what waited at the other end. Sure, they knew that Nattie was in bad shape. But how would they handle it when they realized that she was dying?

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 10

Belinda had taken her things. She had packed up and loaded her Corvette. She had left it all behind, never looking back. She had gone back to her world of one-night-stands and group sex.

Matt was glad to see her go. No one tried to control him. No one. And no one told him who he could or could not bring into his home.

Matt wanted to cry. Not because of Belinda’s leaving, but because he knew that his mother was dying. But he couldn’t cry. He had to remain strong.

He had his brothers and sisters  to think of. To be strong for. Only the oldest would know what was going on.  They were the most important part of his life, not some two-bit tramp who thought she had the right to demand his complete attention.

He couldn’t help smiling through the pain. It had been ironic, the whole incident about her demanding that it would be her or his family. There had really been no question. It had always been family. That meant that he would always step in and take care of the youngest in a time of need. He always had.

What had made her believe that she would ever get his way? She had been warned about him and how he saw life. Sal had told her. Tandy had told her. Hell. the whole band had told her.

Still, she had insisted that she could change him. But she hadn’t. instead, he had given her far less than she had been after. No house, no apartment, no millions…just a meager $10,000 trust account meant to build interest and a sports car. Not enough to even sneeze at.

Hell. She had probably already been to the bank to withdraw her trust to find that she had to allow it to mature over a couple of years. But he had warned her. He had told her that she would not be able to and she had not believed him.

Of course, the bank had contacted him to let him know that she’d tried and failed. It was funny, really. Some people never listened and she happened to be one of those. For her, the party never ended. As long as she could find sex, drugs, and a rock-n-roll star, she was happy. Maybe a bit too happy.

If it wasn’t for the pain in his heart, he would laugh. But the pain was more than he could bear at the moment. But pain let him know that he was still alive. Still, there were some days he wished that life would just leave him alone. And today was one of those days.

***

Belinda had closed her account at the bank. No need to remain in L.A. still, Matt’s lock on the trust he set up for her angered her. it was supposed to be her money. that had been the agreement. Yet what had he said to her when he told her that he had set it up?

“The account has a time lock. It has to remain in the bank for at least two years before you can begin to use it. That ensures that you will accrue interest enough to live for a good five years. Try to withdraw it right away and you will be refused.”

Damn him! Damn him to hell! He had tricked her, even though he had warned her. She frowned.

She had been such a fool. He would never change. Never. He was too set in his ways. His family was too important to him.

Maybe she should have taken things into her own hands and removed the threats. Maybe she should have just killed them all. There were too many maybes. She blinked back the tears.

No matter, it was better this way. She just needed to put distance between the two of them. Maybe the miles would deaden the pain. Maybe she just needed to find the next party. Or the next target.

Yes. That was it. She just needed to find another millionaire who was too stupid to realize what she was doing. She needed to be on the take. After all, that was what she was good at. Being a con.

***

Thirty-four years had led to this. Michael Morrow, now 90, knew that he had hurt his daughter in ’59 but had been unable to ask her forgiveness.  Even when he had reunited with her briefly in the 60’s, there was no asking for forgiveness, just a reunion as a family. And then, she was gone in the 70’s.

Now, before he could ask, his precious Nattie was dying. No parent should have to outlive their child. The child was supposed to outlive them. He fought back the tears.

Valeria hadn’t aged past the age of sixty. She was still so beautiful. He forced a smile even though he didn’t feel like it. She had been his greatest support over the past seventy years. Lord, how he loved her.

He had remained faithful throughout those years. Never once had he strayed. And they had been happy…happier than most. Even through the hardest years.

Yes, they had been the best years of his—no, their lives. They had been inseparable and fully immersed in love. Their children had been their lives and still were. As were their grandchildren.

He closed his eyes. Now, he was going to L.A. to say goodbye to his daughter. Yes, he had two of them, but Nattie had always held a special place in his heart even after she had run away.  And he had blamed himself for that. He had not taken the time to listen to her after Tobias had raped her.

He had tried to prevent that incident, of course, through his objections to her dating the detestable excuse for a man, but his objections had fallen on deaf ears. After that, it was too late to turn back. And he had handled the result poorly.

At the time, he hadn’t known how to handle it. He had been both angry at Tobias and hurting along with Nattie. He had lashed out blindly and spoken out without thinking. She had taken his words as an attack and fled. That had been in 1959.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4(1980’s), Book 1: “Once Around the Ride”, Chapter 9

Sal Giovanni had been with Matt since ’74. He had seen the endless line of groupies, male and female, hoping for their moment with the ambivalent Matt…whose sexuality was no secret within the band, but remained hidden from his fans. Unlike him, Matt was very heterosexual and was choosy where his dates were concerned. Rarely seen with models or actresses, or even the intermittent groupie, the press often speculated about Matt’s preference.

Then Belinda entered the picture. Magazines and newspapers conjectured about the engagement. She was clearly a groupie, out of character for Matt, and keeping some sort of secret. Was she pregnant? Was she blackmailing him? the rumors swirled immediately.

The quick, private marriage had raised the bar even further and the rumor mills began producing wildly untrue gossip that would have angered Matt had he not been as jaded as he was. But Matt had never cared what others had to say. Sure the man had dated off and on during the ‘70’s, at least since Sal had joined the band, but nothing serious. But, then, Matt had been a teen. Not an adult.

Sal smiled when the press compared Matt to David Bowie. While it was clear that Matt was no David, Sal knew that David had been no Matt as well. There was no comparison. While David had gone through his Ziggy Stardust androgynous phase, Matt had concerned himself with music and being himself. There had been no experimentation. No drugs. No genderbending. Just Matt doing what he did best.

He had left the genderbending and androgyny to those who wanted to be someone other than themselves. Not that he had any problems with the whole scene, he didn’t. it just wasn’t him. those in his band could do whatever they desired, but Matt would stick to sobriety and a solid self-identity.

Matt knew that Sal was gay. He was supportive and understanding. Hell. He supported what each member desired to do. Except drugs. Alcohol was fine.

But something told Sal that those days, the days of sobriety, were almost over. Matt’s reasons for remaining clean and sober were coming to an end. His mama was dying. His new wife had lasted only nine months, just long enough to pop out a baby and think that she could take Matt for all he had.

But Matt had shown her otherwise in classic Matt Morrow style. He’d had a post-marriage “prenup” drawn up and forced Belinda to sign. She had no choice. Unlike Matt, she had not went in with any legal representation. She hadn’t even had the presence of mind to hire one.

Unable to fight legally, she was forced to accept the terms of both the prenup and the implied divorce. She had rejected the idea that his brothers and sisters were to remain in his house, with him as their acting guardian and parent, and were to be treated with the same kindness as she would want. All she had wanted was money and fame, so she took the money and ran. Well, walked away.

Matt was left with a baby and several children to raise. He had, out of obligation, promised to raise his brothers and sisters. But the baby had been his attempt to create his own family as well. Unfortunately, Belinda had wanted nothing more than money and fame. Matt had seen to it that she had the money, but had stripped her of the fame.

In the end, Belinda had conned herself out of happiness. Once her relationship with Matt was over, no one else seemed to want anything to do with her. at least no one who had money and fame to bask in. Too many knew her to be a gold digger.

Sal was not sad to see her go. She had been trying to get in good with everyone in the band, including him. her flirting had given him a headache and the silence that had filled the void where she had once been was wonderful. He chuckled at the realization that she had never known his sexuality.

***

Tandy Lewis sat behind his drum set. He had been Matt’s drummer since the early days. At fifty-five, he was the oldest remaining member of the band. Norvis Sinclair had been bassist, but had retired and replaced by Sal Giovanni. Todd Haelstrom was still keyboardist, but Norm Lowthrup had left in ’78 after Matt had refused to record a full album of disco. Matt had wanted to try his hand at both new emerging styles, disco and punk. But rather than attempting a full album of both, he decided two or three songs of each.

There had been more, of course, but they had never been released. Something told Matt that disco was going to cause a major backlash. Tan and Todd had backed him up. Norvis had sat the sidelines, taking neither side, knowing that he was going to retire the next year. But Norm believed that disco was going to catapult them, meaning him, to stardom. When Matt refused to go all in, Norm left.

And Matt had been right. Though disco had a brief rise, the backlash had just begun. Matt had sensed this and had refrained from getting too deeply involved in the music. Or the scene.

Tandy was now glad that Matt had stood his ground. Rod Stewart and David Bowie were being ostracized and their careers were under attack. Matt, on the other hand, was not. And those who had stayed with him and stood by him had remained sheltered from the nightmare of scrutiny.