I sang along with the radio on my way home. I couldn’t help myself. And I couldn’t stop grinning as I went over the night’s performance, thinking of when Mark had even tilted his lips up at some of us before we’d left.
The miles passed quickly as I went over and over the dance sequence, happy to realize I hadn’t made any mistakes. Maybe the time had come to try it while wearing heels.
I’d obviously gone crazy.
I was glad to see an outside light had been left on for me. It was usually my responsibility to turn them on every evening, and I’d forgotten to ask someone to take over that job. I assumed Eli had remembered. It was those little things that made me realize he loved me.
My friends and I talked about it occasionally. Erin often complained how she felt her husband took advantage of her and didn’t appreciate the ways she cared for him. When we asked for an example, Erin said he didn’t buy her gifts for her birthday anymore. Sarah and I had looked at each other, trying to determine if that was acceptable.
“Romantic love changes the longer a couple is together,” Sarah said, vaguely.
Erin scoffed. “You mean it dies.”
“It changes. They show us in different ways how they feel. So do we.”
I understood what she meant. I cooked for my family because I enjoyed spoiling them. It was the daily way I showed them how I felt. I wondered if they knew.
I’d asked Erin, “Well, what did you do on your birthday instead?”
“He arranged for my sister to watch the kids and took me out to my favorite restaurant.” She paused. “Actually, it was pretty sweet. She kept the kids and we talked for hours.”
“That’s romantic, Erin.”
“Maybe. But he didn’t buy me anything. I have nothing to look at to help me remember the day. I might forget the dinner years from now. But if he’d gotten me shoes or jewelry or like, clothes, I’d always know he cared enough to go shopping.”
“He cared enough to voluntarily spend an evening in your company,” I said. “Isn’t that better?”
“Than jewelry?” she asked, horrified. “No way!”
We’d laughed at her, but she’d been completely serious.
The nicest things Eli had ever done for me was when he filled my gas tank or called to say he was coming home, and could he pick me up lunch?
I’d never turned down a present, though.
But I cared more about how he waited up for me at night. I knew he had because the moment I walked in, he turned off the television. It had only been a ruse. He’d been subtly making sure I’d gotten home safe.
I smiled and held out a hand to walk with him toward our room. “How were the kids?” I asked. I’d texted both of them before the show started but I hadn’t heard back. I hated when they didn’t answer. What was the point of giving, and paying for, your kids to have a way to stay in contact if they didn’t use it? My teenagers were the only ones I knew who weren’t obsessed with their screens.
“Simone was just going to bed when I got home. She said Jayce went up after dinner and ignored her when she knocked.”
“Do we think he snuck out?”
“No,” Eli said. “I checked on him.”
“So she just gave up? That doesn’t sound like our daughter.”
Eli laughed. “She didn’t say.”
They got along pretty well for siblings, but Jayce found Simone’s energy exhausting. We all did, really, but at least Eli and I didn’t let her know that. Jayce wasn’t so accommodating.
“How was the show?” Eli asked once I’d changed into my pajamas.
“Good,” I said, surprised. But I chastised myself. Eli wasn’t a villain who didn’t care what I did with my life. “Better than yesterday,” I added.
“You did a great job.”
“Thanks, baby.” But I was too interested in his bare chest to continue rehashing the latest production.
As the weeks went by, I did notice his lack of bringing up the play. And his increasing comments on how busy I’d gotten. Little ones like, “Will you have a chance?” if I suggested baking something before I left, or “I guess I’ll see you tonight if you get back in time.”
If he was home, he waited up for me with the obligatory, “How was it?” and not much else. If he had a show, I fell asleep before him and didn’t wake until hours later, usually with his arm wrapped around my waist.
I never offered any intricate details.
Never told him how Lincoln and I had almost tripped during our dance number. While we sang, we held each other a little tighter to keep from falling. And once we were safely backstage, we laughed, the momentary horror of the episode forgotten.
I never told Eli how knowing I’d be singing soon made getting up every morning easier. How I felt like I had finally found the one thing I was good at, or how depressed I was becoming at the idea of it ending.
Harper had told us the show would be making its initial run for two months. That meant we only had three weeks left. I was trying not to think about it, but I’d already started a countdown in my head, and every night, I crossed another performance off the list.
I really wished someone would record it for me, so I’d at least be able to look back at what I’d done one day, when I was back to living my regular life.
“Dyana! Where have you been?” Stevie asked as I helped Eli carry in his drum set. The last time I’d seen him had been my brother’s wedding, and now we were meeting at a small club the band had played plenty of times. They were nice to us there, turning the other way as we snuck Simone and Jayce in with us.
I met Eli’s eyes, looking for an answer with my eyebrows raised. He shook his head, and I understood he hadn’t mentioned to anyone what I’d been doing. For weeks, everyone must have thought I was, what? On vacation?
“Oh, you know,” I said evasively to Stevie while shooting Eli a disbelieving look. “I’m sorry I missed the last few shows. I heard you guys were good, though.”
Stevie nodded but focused on Adam. “Yes. It’s been interesting.”
That seemed like a story. As the show started, I could see what they’d meant. Normally, the band worked together to enhance each other as a group. But the singer’s antics that night were almost funny. He came out after the opening chords were played, his shirt unbuttoned to right above his stomach, wearing sunglasses. At one point, about a half hour into their set, he took a napkin from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his face. Then he threw it into the crowd, probably expecting someone to grab it eagerly, but it fell to the floor, untouched.
He danced around the stage, too. On time with the music, sure, but that didn’t help him look anything but silly.
“What’s he doing?” Simone yelled to me over the music.
“I have no idea,” I laughed. “He’s entertaining at least. I think.”
Simone took in the standing crowd, who I noticed in that moment was made up of a lot of couples that didn’t seem to love Adam’s rendition of the classics. But they sang along anyway, and when Eli handed over his sticks and Jayce let out an impressive drum solo, they cheered while Adam stood off to the side, gulping water as he prepared for the rest of the show.
“I don’t know,” I continued. “Do you remember Phil? He was their singer about two years ago?”
“No. You guys wouldn’t let me come with you back then,” Simone said, sourly.
“Oh, right. We wouldn’t let you follow us to seedy bars filled with smoke and alcohol. We’re horrible parents. How do you stand it?”
She ignored me. “Anyway. What about him?”
“Nothing, really. He moved away, but he was great. Much better than this.”
I waved a hand toward the stage, where Adam had pulled a woman from the audience and sat her on a stool, crooning lyrics. It was ridiculous, though I have to admit the woman didn’t seem to mind.
“Do you think Dad would let me sing with them sometime?” Simone asked, slowly, as if the idea just occurred to her.
I considered it. “I don’t know. Have you ever asked him?”
“No.” She shrugged. “But, it would be fun.”
“Well, he lets Jayce play. I’m sure he’d let you, too.”
“It’s funny how all of us became performers.”
I sat up straight. I’d never thought of myself that way. Performer was the best word for who I’d been, lately anyway. What would Eli say if I told him I wanted to audition for another play after Nowhere to Hide was finished? I knew he’d be disappointed. But I did. Where would that leave us?
“We should form a band and tour the world together,” Simone said, beginning to ramble. “Too bad none of us writes songs. We could do covers but, would that be enough to sustain a career? I guess we could do other things, like Dad does.”
I patted her hand. “I don’t think we could ever keep up with you, honey.”
She nodded. “Probably not.”
When Eli and Jayce finished, after a very decent drum duo that made me proud, they came to our table while customers sent them admiring looks they pretended not to see. It wasn’t like they were famous. But sometimes people still treated them that way and would engage them for hours if a conversation got started.
Like the woman who approached us. I sized her up and instantly knew she was the lean in too close toward my husband type of woman. And I was right. “You guys were amazing,” she said. “When’s your next show?”
I didn’t hear Eli’s answer as I watched Jayce glaring at the woman. He didn’t like it when fans of the band, especially touchy female ones, came up to his father. I’d tried to tell him over the years it wasn’t their interest that was at fault. It was their reactions to Eli’s wedding ring, and me, that told what kind of person they were. When most of them figured out he was married, they left him alone. It was the aggressive ones that sent him looks filled with promises of dirty nights he could hate, not every single woman that wanted a quick word.
I’m not sure he listened to me, and people like this Patricia, as she introduced herself, didn’t help give my son positive views on women. He was honestly more territorial than me.
To Eli’s credit, and the reason our relationship hadn’t imploded at his success, he never engaged the women who flirted with him. Like when Patricia caressed his arm, he pulled back.
After we first got married, I admit, I’d watched him with concern. We hadn’t been together long and sue me, I’d felt insecure. But as he always behaved properly, I dropped my guard and learned to relax, knowing he wouldn’t encourage their interest.
The few times we joked about it, the few times I complained how women hit on him, he insisted there were just as many men flirting with me. I never believed him until the day I started looking around and saw the appreciative glances coming my way. I went back to not noticing.
“Well, my niece is getting married in a few months. You’re exactly the type of band she’s looking for,” Patricia carried on. “I’d love to bring her to one of your shows.”
Eli looked uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure why until he said, “That would be nice, but I’m not sure we’ll be available. Our singer might not be with us much longer.”
“Oh. That’s too bad.” Then she said with an inviting smile, “I sing, too, you know. If you ever need someone to fill in, you should give me a call.”
“Actually,” he said. “My wife sings a little. If I ever need a fill-in, I’m sure she’d agree to help us out.”
I gave a wave of my hand. “That’s me.”
“She’s starring in a play right now,” Simone announced, proud.
“Is that right? Maybe I should come see it,” Patricia said, continuing to push herself on us for some reason.
What was her game? Why were we still talking to her? I’d wanted a nice quiet time with my family. I guess if I’d really wanted that, we would have left the bar immediately.
It was Eli’s turn to make a face, then he smiled. “She’s amazing, but her show’s all sold out for the rest of its run.”
I was surprised. “It is?”
“You didn’t know?” Simone asked.
I shook my head. “No. But that’s pretty cool.” I’d never checked any reviews for the play, so I’d had no idea how it was being perceived. But there’d been a full audience every night. That was all I’d cared about.
Once we got rid of Eli’s admirer, we decided to take the kids out for a late dinner. The woman had irked me. I guess I was tired of people acting like I wasn’t there when they talked to my husband. It was just rude.
“Are you gonna have Patricia sing with you?” I asked, sweetly under my breath as we walked to the car. “I mean, I’d be fine with that,” I continued. “Although, I’m not sure I’d want some sexy woman singing in front of you.”
“You dance and make out with some guy onstage six times a week, and you don’t hear me complaining.”
“We don’t make out,” I said, a little shocked. “It’s a kiss on the cheek.”
Eli scoffed but didn’t comment all the way to the restaurant. Though it was way past dinner, we were all starving and didn’t hesitate to order a full meal of burgers and fries. I even decided to get a milkshake, not caring about the stomachache I was sure to get.
When the bill came, I took it without a word and put some cash down before Eli could say anything. He didn’t know I used money I’d gotten from the play. That was one of the downsides to not working. Eli and I shared a bank account, and he never made me feel guilty or that I was in any way not his partner in this world, but I hadn’t had a real job since Jayce was born. Okay, I helped the band with their books, but I never got paid for that.
And I was happy to help out. I was. But there’s something satisfying about earning my own money. Sure, the checks I’d gotten so far weren’t that impressive, but they were mine. Even though I’d most likely spend them on my family, I still wanted more. So I made a decision.
After the play was done, I needed to find a job.
Doing what, I wasn’t sure yet.