Ryan found herself with time on her hands. The sound check was finished for their next show and she'd had lunch. With a few empty hours in front of her, she considered a swim in the hotel's pool. Upon inspection, she rejected the idea. Green water was a nice decorative touch, but not something she wanted to swim in. She hoped Brody would call soon; she'd texted him a while ago but had held off on calling. When her phone rang, she was relieved to see his name on the screen.
"Hey there, rock star."
She smiled at the greeting. "Hey, yourself. How are you feeling?"
"How are you really feeling?"
He paused before answering. "I'm okay, I'm not great. The dizziness is less, which is good, and the headaches are almost gone. I'm not better, not by a long shot. They'll give me another neuro test tomorrow just to see if there's any progress."
"I'm glad you're improving. I'm sorry I can't be there. I wish I could."
"If you were, would you be naked with a guitar? I bet that would make me feel better."
Ryan laughed. "It amazes me you can even think about such things with a concussion."
"I have nothing to do but think right now. They keep telling me to rest. So I just sit here in the quiet and, you know, think about things."
"Like me naked with a guitar."
Ryan shook her head. "Well, I guess if it makes you feel better."
"It does, believe me. Anyway, how are things with you?"
"Oh, we've had some ups and downs, but mostly it's fine."
"Tell me. I need to hear about something besides concussion symptoms and testing and baselines."
"Well, the night after you were hit, we played to a club that had about twenty people in it. Somebody really fell down on promotion." She went on to regale him with similar anecdotes and tried to keep it light. She told him about playing a club in Delaware that had no air conditioning, which made everyone in the band sweat like crazy with the additional heat of the stage lights. "I think I lost a good three pounds that night."
Brody chuckled. "You're pretty impressive, you know that?" The warmth in his voice made Ryan relax a little.
"I don't know about that, but it's nice to know you think so."
"No, I mean, you don’t let any of this stuff get to you. You just deal with it."
"Oh, I have my moments but I don't—we don't—have a choice but to deal with it."
"Still, you're good at it." He went quiet.
Ryan waited, then asked, "Are you still there?"
"I am, I'm sorry. Just tired. Well, not exactly tired; not sleepy tired. It's the fatigue. It's hard to think of things to say."
"It's okay. I'm just glad we got to talk. Why don't you go get some rest?" She gave a short laugh. "Boy, I bet you're tired of people saying that."
"You have no idea. But you're right. And I'm going to the press box tonight, so I really should rest up."
"Tell everyone I said good luck. Take it easy, Brody." Ryan bit her lip. "I miss you. I can't wait to see you when we're done."
"Me, either. Break a leg tonight, Ryan."
"Thanks. Good night."
She hung up thinking that she was doing a whole lot more than missing him, but she didn't want to have that conversation over the phone.
Brody ground his teeth as he watched the clock tick down in the third period. There was less than ten minutes left, and the Capitals trailed by two goals. After losing game five and falling behind the in the series, the Caps had forced a game seven back in Washington by winning game six in Montréal two nights before. He'd insisted on attending this game in person, even though he had to stay in the press box. He didn't feel great and probably shouldn't have come, but he couldn't bring himself to stay home when his teammates were fighting for their playoff lives.
He glanced over at the general manager, who stared down at the ice with a blank expression. Brody knew the man had to be seething inside even though it didn't show.
Brody returned his attention to the game, a sick feeling in his stomach. The longer it went on the less time there was to score one goal, let alone two. His teammates tried, but the Canadiens had the upper hand. When time expired, he dropped his head. He couldn’t bear to look at either the Habs celebrating by their goal or his teammates waiting glumly by the bench to line up for the post-series handshake.
He left the press box and took a taxi home. He wished he could call Ryan, but he knew she had a show. A glance at his watch showed it was late enough that she was probably about to go on, wherever she was.
He shifted against the seat, wishing he was going home to see her and not just to his empty apartment.
His phone beeped as he was opening his door. He looked and saw a text from Ryan. I'm really sorry. Call me when you can. Miss you.
Brody stared at the phone and debated whether to call her back. Did he want to talk to anyone right now with the loss still so fresh in his mind? He smiled; he wanted to talk to one person, even if she only had a few minutes. He dialed and waited for her to pick up.
"Hey, rock star."
Ryan grinned at Lara as they played their last show. The final three weeks of the tour had gone by in a blur, and she'd loved every minute. It was hard to believe it was over, but over didn't mean they were finished. Their manager, Jocelyn, had been working to land them more dates, and said she didn't think they'd have to wait long. She encouraged them to write more songs and keep working the social media platforms.
Trout had done an outstanding job on their website, and each of them had taken turns blogging since it went live, cross-posting the blog entries to Facebook. They linked to fan videos, concert reviews and tried to personally respond to comments left on the blog. They all had Twitter accounts as well. Ryan found she enjoyed the give-and-take with the fans, although it was sometimes hard to keep up. It paid off in people spreading the word about their shows and their songs, so no one in the band complained.
They finished the show and gathered for their customary post-performance beer.
"Good job, guys," Mitch said. They clinked their bottles together.
"Absolutely," Ryan agreed. "We kicked some ass on this tour."
"Any word from Jocelyn?" Nate asked.
"No, haven't heard yet, but she said we probably wouldn't for a few days," Ryan said.
"Good, I can use a vacation," Nate joked.
They all laughed and nodded. "I wouldn’t turn one down," Lara said. "I'm definitely taking a few days to recover before I start looking for a job when we get back."
"Maybe you won't need one." Mitch grinned. "Maybe Jocelyn will get us our big break."
"So long as she gets it after I get a few days to sleep in," Ryan said.
After they returned to the hotel, Ryan checked her various e-accounts while Lara grabbed a shower. "God, I can't wait to get home." Lara sat on the bed and towel dried her hair. "This has been great but I will be happy to spend more than two nights in the same place."
Ryan closed the computer and yawned. "I'm with you. I'd say the good outweighed the bad and all that, but I won't be sorry to give up hard beds and bad wallpaper."
"What are you going to do when we get back?"
"I'm going to Brody's first, I guess. Then I'll see. Annette said I can crash there until I get things straightened out."
"I feel so bad for him." Lara reached for a comb and worked on de-tangling her hair. "For all of them."
"Me, too. And I'm still worried about his concussion. He says he's okay, but I know it can take a long time to get over them. I don't want him to do too much too fast."
"Yeah, those are scary." Lara frowned as she worked at a knot in her hair. "It's been almost four weeks, though, right? And now he has the whole summer to recover."
"I know, but he's not going to want to just lie around," Ryan said. "He said he's been trying some light exercise, and so far so good. He hasn't skated again yet, though."
"Have your brothers ever had concussions?"
"I don't know." Ryan considered that. "JT probably has, but they never said anything about it, at least not to me. Evan had a scare with his knee once a few years ago but I don't recall him ever having a concussion. With JT, though—it's football. I can't imagine he hasn't
had one, but college football is tough that way. They all try to play through everything, even with all the new awareness and rules for treatment. And JT's always bragging that he plays through pain."
"Yeah, that sounds like JT," Lara said. She dropped the comb and covered a yawn. "Okay, I'm done. I need sleep."
"You and me both." Ryan slid under the covers. "'Night."
Ryan turned over, trying to find a comfortable position. When that didn’t work, she punched at the pillows. At last, sheer exhaustion took over and she fell asleep.
The next day they stopped for breakfast and then began the trek home. Ryan and Lara split the driving, working on the band's blog in turns. As northern Virginia drew closer, Ryan found herself fidgeting in anticipation. She couldn't wait to see Brody. After his concussion, they'd dispensed with video calls, as he didn't want to risk a headache from staring at the screen. It worked better for Ryan anyway, since she tended to call while the band traveled. She wondered if he still had his playoff beard.
Lara pulled up in front of the apartment building and both women stared at it.
"It's weird to think we don't live here anymore," Ryan said.
"I was just thinking that." Lara smiled. "Come on, let's get your stuff out. Does Brody know you're here? Do you want to leave your stuff here first while you check?"
"I called a while ago, and he said he'd be home all day. I'll just grab my guitar and my clothes. If you could hold on to the keyboard and the rest, I'll get it as soon as I can."
"No problem." Lara stepped out and Ryan followed suit. "I'm going to my mom's first, actually, so I can put your stuff there. Then you can get it any time."
They dug through the luggage and instruments piled in the car and rearranged the load once Ryan had removed her suitcase and guitar.
"Do you want me to wait, in case he's not here?" Lara asked.
"No, that's okay, thanks. If he's not there, I'll check Mark's place. Maybe I can hang there. I'll be fine, don’t worry."
"Okay. Tell everybody I said hi." Lara was quiet for a minute, then laughed. "Wow, this is really weird."
Ryan grinned, hoping her nervousness didn't show. "Yeah, it is. Go on, say hi to your mom. Seriously, if I need a ride or anything, I'll call you. Or, hey, I'll stay at a hotel; I'm a pro at it now." She laughed.
"Aren't we all?" Lara grinned and moved to the driver's side door. "Take it easy, Ry."
"You, too. And let me know if you hear from Jocelyn."
Ryan took a deep breath and entered the building, then encountered her first obstacle: the security lock on the inside door. She buzzed the desk and waved at the guard. He smiled in recognition and let her in. They exchanged greetings as she made her way to the elevator.
Ryan's anxieties came up full force as she rode up. What if Brody wasn't home? What if he was and the post-concussion symptoms had worsened? Maybe she should have called. She'd phoned him when they were a couple of hours away and he had told her to just come up, but perhaps she should have double checked. The car jerked to a stop and the doors opened, interrupting her thoughts.
No point in turning back, she thought, and walked down the hallway.
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