Falling into You Read online

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The next song is all Colton. I’ve heard him practice it, so I’m looking forward to hearing him perform it live. Our guitars go quiet and Colton adjusts the tuning on his while he does the next intro.

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  “Okay, so this one I’m doing solo. You’ve probably heard the song before, but not like this. It’s ’99 Problems’, originally by the one and only Jay-Z. This arrangement that I’m doing, though, was put together by an artist named Hugo. I wish I could take the credit for the arrangement, honestly, because it’s f**king genius. So yeah. Hope you like it. ”

  There’s some applause, which fades when he starts a choppy, drum-like sequence of chords. I’m giddy with excitement and pride when he brings in the verse. The first time I heard him play the song, I wasn’t sure what I was hearing, because it was so unique, but then I recognized it and was totally wowed. He’s right about the arrangement being brilliant, because it is, completely.

  All too soon it’s my turn.

  “You guys are awesome. The rest of Hugo’s stuff is pretty killer too, but that’s my favorite piece by him. So anyway, Nell’s gonna do a solo for you next. ”

  He insisted I intro my own piece, so I adjust the mic closer and strum the opening chords as warm up. “Hey guys. I’ve never sung solo like this before, so be nice, huh? I’m doing ‘It’s Time’ by Imagine Dragons. ” I turn to look at Colton. “I’m dedicating this to you, because it reminds me so much of you. ”

  When I was jogging and listening to my playlist trying to figure out what song I wanted to cover for tonight’s solo, I came across this song. It’s an awesome song that seems almost eighties pop-inspired to me, which I knew would make for an interesting indie-folk cover. But it was the lyrics that struck me, the emphasis on never changing, on being who you are. Colton had been through so much, and had stayed true to who he was, refusing to change or give in simply because of the expectations of others.

  I struggled with that for a long time. I had chosen schools and career paths based on what others wanted for me, what my parents wanted for me. After Kyle’s death, I couldn’t choose, couldn’t think, couldn’t feel any desire for anything. I worked for my dad and went to community college simply because it was the path of least resistance. My dad had always sort of expected I would major in business and work for him. I’d never considered anything else. I’d never thought of my talents or desires, I just went along with their plan without question.

  Then Kyle died, and after a few months, I realized I needed an outlet. I needed something to distract me from my guilt and pain. The guitar came along almost as a fluke. I saw a flier stapled to a wooden power line pole advertising guitar lessons. The teacher was an older guy, gray haired and potbellied and genial. He was a talented teacher, patient and understanding. Best of all, he seemed to understand that I wanted a couple hours a week away from everything. He never asked any questions, just drilled me hard, pushed me, kept me busy, leaving me no time for anything but the chord progression. He gave me an aggressive practice schedule and rode my ass if I didn’t keep up with it.

  The singing seemed to be a natural extension of playing the guitar. I’d learn a song and of course, I’d sing along with it. Eventually I realized I enjoyed the singing more than the guitar playing, and then the music itself became the outlet. I’d spend hours and hours playing, singing, sitting on the dock watching the sun set and the stars come out and playing, refusing to think of Kyle, refusing to miss him, refusing to cry for him. I’d play until my fingers bled, sing until my throat hurt.

  Now the music is a thread binding me to Colton. The songs we sing to each other are statements. An ongoing discussion in music notes.

  So I sing, and I let everything out. I feel the eyes on me, feel Colton’s gaze devouring me. I finish the song, and the last note quavers in the air, and my hands tremble, my heart thuds in my chest. There’s a moment of silence, all eyes on me, faces shocked. I’m about to freak, since no one’s clapping, but then they explode, shrieking, whistling, applauding, and I realize they were stunned silent.

  Guess that’s a good thing.

  When the noise fades a bit, Colton draw his mic down to his lips and speaks facing me but looking at the audience. “Goddamn, Nell. That was incredible. Seriously. ” I hear the tension in his voice, see the emotion in his eyes. He’s hiding it well, but I know him by now and I can feel it radiating off him.

  We both let a tense moment pass in silence, then. We both know what song is next, and we’re both nervous.

  “I’ve never played this song for anyone before,” Colton says, clipping a capo to his strings. “It’s…a deeply personal song that I wrote a long, long time ago. Nell’s been badgering me—I mean, encouraging me—to play this song live for weeks now, and I finally gave in. So…yeah. Here it is. I never gave this a title, but I guess we can call it… ‘One More Hour’. I hope you like it. ”

  I can see how hard this is for him. The melody he plays on the guitar is slow and heavy and rolling, melancholy. Then he sings the lullaby, and god, the bar goes so silent you could hear a pin drop in between chords and sung notes. No one is moving, no one is even breathing. We practiced this together. He would only play it if I’d do backup and harmony, so that’s what I’m doing. I sing some backup vocals for him and play a basic rhythm, but I keep it low and quiet so he’s the focus. And he is. Totally. I see eyes shifting, throats constricting. There are tears. You can hear how intensely personal this song is to Colton, it’s clear in the passion of his voice. He’s singing to himself, again. He’s the lost boy again, alone on the streets of New York. I ache for him all over again. I want to hold him, kiss him, tell him he’s not alone.

  Again, the bar is absolutely silent and still when the last note hangs in the air, and then it goes wild.

  A few more popular songs Colton taught me, and then we do “Barton Hollow” together, our last number for the set. I’m exhilarated, shaking with excitement. I applied to the college of performing arts on a whim, as an act of rebellion, communicating to my parents that I was going to do things my own way. I’d never actually performed before.

  Now…I’m hooked.

  Colton gets our payment and hurries us out. I can’t read the look on his face, but I can see tension in his body language. I’m nervous as we stand side by side on the subway, guitars in soft cases slung on our backs, hands holding the rail by our heads. He’s silent, and I’m not sure if he’s upset, angry about something, jazzed from the show. I just can’t read him, and it’s making me nervous.

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  I reach out and take his hand in mine, threading our fingers together. He glances at me, at our joined hands, and then back at me. His face softens.

  “Sorry, I’m just…playing that song was rough. I’m distracted I guess. Not very good company. ”

  I sidle closer to him, pressing myself into his side. “I know it was, Colton. I’m proud of you. You were seriously incredible. People were crying. ”

  He lets go of my hand and wraps his arm around my waist, tugging me even closer. His palm rests on the swell of my hip, and suddenly the subway car falls away, replaced by lightning awareness of him, of his heat, his muscle. His touch is fire, singeing away the layers of clothes between us until I can almost feel his skin on mine. I need that. I need flesh to flesh, heat to heat. We’ve been dancing around it for too long now, and the slight taste I had of him wasn’t enough. I need more. I don’t know why he’s been keeping distance between us, but I’m done with it. I’ve been playing along, slowing down in our kiss when he does, not pushing it. The kisses have all been nearly platonic recently, quick touches of our lips only occasionally pushing into more, into the realm of heat and need.

  Now, my body singing from his nearness, my mind and heart buzzing from the post-show high, all I can think of, all I can feel is him, and my desire for him. His fingers dig into the flesh of my hip, and his eyes burn into mine, cobalt flames locked on