“How’s it been out front?” Sarah asked, handing the tablet back to Nina. The overall numbers for the concert were excellent, with only a few minor security incidents to report.
“It’s been awesome!” her on loan assistant gushed. “The performers have been stellar and everyone’s having a great time. One of the main cameras did go down but Aaron and his crew were able to replace it with one of theirs.”
“Good,” Sarah replied with a nod. “What’s left?”
“Well, we’re almost done,” Nina answered, first looking down at her tablet and then out at the stage. “Rennie’s out there now with Ty, which means we’re about twenty minutes from the last song. Of course, there’ll probably be an encore, but after that, we’re done. The Sheriff’s Department and our security people are in place and will handle getting everyone out of the park. All that’s left then is the after party.”
“What about the teardown and clean up?”
“All that’s still planned for tomorrow,” came the reply. “Dexter and his crew say they’ll have all their stuff packed, loaded, and gone by two. Vendors have until four, and final cleanup should be all finished a couple of hours after that.”
Sarah smiled at the diminutive woman who’d quickly become someone she considered a friend. “Well done!” she declared, raising her good hand for a high five. “Girl, you’ve been worth your weight in gold. Thank you so much for all you’ve done!”
Blushing at the compliment, Nina murmured self-deprecatingly as she slapped Sarah’s hand. “You’ve been pretty awesome yourself,” she said quietly in response, as she moved in and gave the taller blonde a gentle hug, mindful of her braced arm and wrist. Moments later Nina headed out front to enjoy the end of the concert, while Sarah was left by herself backstage.
Well, she wasn’t actually alone. Glancing off to her right, she could see Helen’s sister, Heidi, busy recording the goings-on out on stage on her cell phone. As for Helen herself, she was nowhere to be seen but Sarah suspected she’d retreated to the Green Room. Her girls, meanwhile, were across the way with Josie and a few stagehands.
Rennie and Ty had wrapped up their first song together and were now on their second – both of which were ones from early in Ty’s career and had been written by Rennie. Adding the songwriter’s guitar and voice to the performance really added to the quality of the songs, Sarah mused to herself. This was quickly followed by the insightful realization that the concert recordings of each of those songs could be released for radio airplay and give new life to those early hits. Knowing that was something she’d need to bring up with Mr. Lanci, her thinking quickly moved over to the matter of the settlement and job offers Grant gave her earlier.
A disappointed cry from Heidi, however, interrupted her train of thought. Looking over at the other woman, Sarah could see her trying to do something with her phone. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear to be working.
“What’s wrong?” Sarah asked, walking over to her.
“I was recording Ty and Rennie together but suddenly it stopped,” Heidi answered, still working with her phone. “Oh, crap! I’m out of memory!” she exclaimed, letting out a big sigh.
“Don’t worry about it,” Sarah tried to console her. “Everything’s being recorded and will be turned into a DVD set. That number on your ticket guarantees you a free copy.”
“I know but those probably won’t be available for a few months,” the other woman responded, looking up from her phone – clearly disappointed. “My husband’s a big Tyler Dawson fan and I just wanted to show him something right away of him and Rennie singing together.”
“Actually, they should be ready to go in a couple weeks,” Sarah corrected.
The tall blonde nodded in reply to Heidi’s surprise. “GAC’s production people are already working with the footage shot yesterday. I saw a bit of the digital feed from their studio this morning and it looks pretty good,” she explained, then pointed out to the stage. “The channel’s been given exclusive right to broadcast this and they’re going to want to have it ready to go as soon as they can. Our folks and theirs are assuring us that having the DVDs in box sets ready to ship when they air the concert two weeks from today is very doable.”
“Oh my!” Heidi exclaimed. “That’s incredible!”
Sarah shrugged. “The marvels of digital technology, so I’m told.”
About that time, several familiar women and a young girl came out of the changing area in tank tops, grass skirts, and sandals.
“What’s that about?” Heidi asked, gesturing over toward them.
Sarah held up a finger to pause the conversation momentarily. “What, no coconuts?” she called out to the group as they passed. It was Terrance’s daughter Hailey who responded.
“Daddy looked but said he could only find fresh ones,” she tried to explain.
Jenna, however, finished it for her. “Rance said it would take too long to carve them out and make bikini tops out of them. Now if we knew about this a few days ago...” she added, trailing off. Nicole and Megan, meanwhile, just nodded their heads in agreement.
“Don’t blame me,” Sarah tossed back glibly. “Ty made the change this morning.”
“It’s going to be so awesome!” Hailey answered excitedly, bouncing a bit on her toes.
An urgent wave from Manny, however, brought any further conversation to a halt. They quickly shuffled over to the stage manager for last minute instructions.
“Hailey’s father, Terrance, is married to Rachel,” Sarah explained, turning back to Heidi and pointing to the tall man himself now standing over by Josie. “Rachel and he met and fell in love in Hawaii, so Terrance – who goes by Rance – asked Ty this morning if he could surprise Rachel with a serenade.”
“Wait ... is Terrance – Rance – actually going to sing to her ... in front of all these people?” Helen’s sister asked, her eyes as large as saucers and her head swiveling between Sarah and the stage.
Sarah nodded, a huge grin sweeping across her face. “He is. Pretty romantic, isn’t it?”
“I’ll say!” Heidi responded, glancing over at the man who was surprisingly calm for what he was about to do.
“Just wait ‘til you hear the song!” Sarah offered with a giggle.
Moments later, the transition started. The girls took Rennie’s ukulele out to him and brought back his guitar to Josie, while Rance and the four females in grass skirts went out and took their places.
Just as that was happening, Manny was accompanying the very pregnant and very curious Rachel up to where Sarah and Heidi were, so she could look out on the stage, too. “What in the world are they doing?” the model asked no one in particular.
At that moment, the song started. Ty’s steel guitarist, Henry, gave a very Hawaiian-sounding intro, followed by Rennie on his uke, and then the whole band joined in. Rance’s voice was smooth and steady, but it was the lyric he sang that soon had them all amused, Rachel included.
Well, I packed my bags and bought myself a ticket For the land of the tall palm tree.
Aloha, Old Saint Louis. Hello, Waikiki.
I just stepped down from the airplane When I heard her say,
“Waka waka nuka licka, waka waka nuka licka, Would you like a lei?” Hey!
Let’s talk dirty in Hawaiian. Whisper in my ear.
Kicka pooka mok a wa wahini, Are the words I long to hear.
Lay your coconut on my tiki. What the hecka mooka mooka dear?
Let’s talk dirty in Hawaiian. Say the words I long to hear.
The song had two more verses, and, by the end of the second, young Hailey had come over and led her stepmom on stage by the hand. The audience responded with cheers and clapping, momentarily distracting Terrance but he recovered nicely. Sarah thought Rachel looked adorable, amidst the grass skirted females and mimicking their movements as best she could with a huge grin on her face.
When the song ended, she walked up to her husband, and, clearly amused, lightly slapped him on the chest with her open palm. “You goof!” she exclaimed, which the microphone picked up and rebroadcast. The laughter of the crowd grew even louder at this point, but shifted to cheers and catcalls when Rachel and Terrance kissed.
Taking her husband’s hand, she turned back to the microphone. “Excuse us,” she told the audience with a wiggle of her eyebrows, “we’re going to go practice our Hawaiian now.”
By this point, Sarah was laughing right along with practically everyone else, so much so that she almost missed what Rachel said to her as she walked past. Almost, being the key word. “You’re next,” the supermodel said cryptically, before heading away with her husband in tow.
Practically everyone backstage knew what was coming next, except for Sarah. Even Josie knew. Rennie had told her about Ty’s plan earlier in the day and had sworn her to secrecy. Now she kneeled down and clued in her two little charges. Katie and Lena clapped with glee.
While the stage was being reset a bit from the last song, Ty explained to the audience that he wanted to introduce someone to them. He went on to explain that this person was the sole reason behind the concert even happening. In moments, Sarah’s smiling portrait was posted up on the screens and Ty invited her to come out on stage.
To say that Sarah was shocked would be an understatement. Josie looked over as her friend just stood there, staring out at the events on stage with a facial expression somewhere between baffled and terrified.
Knowing what she needed to do, she glanced down at the two girls. “Go ahead and take it out,” she told them, referring to the stool they were both carrying. “Let your father help you and go by your Aunt Heidi when you’re done. Okay?” They nodded and did as she said.
Josie, meanwhile, walked over to Sarah and touched her good arm. “Ready to go?” she asked.
Still clearly a bit befuddled, Sarah looked her way with furrowed brows but managed to nod her head. Taking her left hand, Josie led her out on stage. As soon as they cleared the curtain, the applause started and just continued to swell. By the time they got out to the center of the stage, practically everyone in attendance – and not just those up by the stage – were on their feet showing their appreciation.
It was a pretty moving moment and Sarah was understandably affected. Thankfully, the stool that Katie and Lena had brought out was where it needed to be on stage. Josie guided Sarah over to it, helped her sit down, and then went over and stood beside Rennie. He and his ukulele would be the only accompaniment to the next song. Josie’s role was to share his mic and provide background vocals along with him.
Standing next to the love of her life, Josie watched as her friend quickly adapted to the situation, managing to smile and wave to all those cheering her presence on stage.
“Now that we have her out here,” Ty petitioned the crowd, “I was wondering if y’all might help me with something.” He couldn’t help but chuckle at their exuberant response. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he told them. “We’ll soon be serenading this lovely young lady to show her how much we appreciate her. You’ll know the song and when I point to you,” he explained, pointing to them, “you sing the chorus. Okay?”
He again took their enthusiastic cheering to be a yes. With a wink to Sarah and a nod to Rennie, Ty lifted his microphone to start. Rennie started to strum his ukulele and Ty began to sing.
Wise men say, only fools rush in,
But I can’t help falling in love with you.
Shall I stay? Would it be a sin,
If I can’t help falling in love with you?
Sarah’s eyes grew as large as saucers when she recognized the well-known song by Elvis Presley, her good hand quickly going to cover her mouth in surprise. Ty had turned back to her and his eyes never left hers. When he got to the line “Take my hand”, he reached out his to her. Josie watched as her friend laid her hand in his. Ty finished the line, and, without looking away from her, pointed back to the crowd with the microphone in his other hand. They responded.
“For I can’t help falling in love with you.”
Josie was impressed. Yes, the crowd was loud, but she could actually hear clear harmony being sung, as well. Ty proceeded to the reprise of the bridge, obviously now singing only for Sarah – who, for her part, had tears in her eyes. His voice, filled with emotion she’d never heard from him, however, started to break. Glancing over at Rennie, Josie could tell he heard it, too. She gave him a nod and he immediately shifted over vocally to the melody to support his friend.
By the time they made it to the second singing of the “Take my hand” line, it was only Rennie’s voice being heard. Thankfully, they were near the end. Josie pointed to the audience at the right spot, and they joined in for the chorus line one more time. Rennie slowed his strum for the last run through the chorus when Ty glanced his way, his own eyes more than a little watery, and nodded. His voice back, he closed out the song ... and the crowd went absolutely bonkers.
It didn’t seem that Ty and Sarah were paying all that much attention, though. He had leaned down his head to her, while she lifted her left hand gently to his cheek, and they shared a lingering kiss.
“Hey, you guys did great tonight!”
Rennie glanced up, only to see Hector, one of the sound guys, rolling up cord and packing it in large tote boxes. He was smiling and giving him a thumbs up.
The concert was over, the people had left, and the after party was in full swing. Rennie, however, had slipped out from that scene and headed back to Stage B to pack up his own instruments and other gear. That wasn’t the main reason for his escape, though. His whole day had been pretty much wall to wall people and he was looking for a bit of down time. A half hour or so on his own loading his stuff, with just a few roadies and techs all doing their own thing, was just what he needed right now.
Snapping the case closed for his own wireless gear, Rennie gave the wiry Hispanic man a warm grin and a nod. “If we did,” he returned, “it was because you guys made us sound so good!”
The man was about to say something in reply, when his eyes shifted from Rennie to something or, more likely, someone over his shoulder. Judging from Hector’s expression, he knew exactly who that someone was. With a weary sigh, Rennie stood and turned. There, anxiously wringing her hands and shifting a bit on her feet, was who he expected to see.
“What are you still doing here, Helen?”
Rennie had kissed his girls goodnight, with the promise that he’d see them at church in the morning, and watched them head off for the hotel with Heidi and their mother. Evidently their mother had other ideas.
“I was hoping that ... maybe ... we could talk.”
Resisting the desire to roll his eyes, Rennie reached up with his hands and rubbed them instead. “That’s what we were going to do tomorrow afternoon,” he explained, knowing full how she would respond.
“I know,” she replied, hesitantly. “But I couldn’t bear to wait that long. I had to see if I could get to you now.”
If there was one thing Helen hated to do, it was wait. She was not a woman of patience. The problem for her was the anticipation. Appointments of any kind, whether they were doctor or otherwise, were always scheduled in the morning – the earlier the better – so she didn’t have to wait. Having something metaphorically hanging over her head for any length of time, especially something potentially hard or unpleasant, was like death to her.
Rennie had to admit, there was a genuinely practical aspect to her impatience. In the past, he’d likened it to ripping off a Band-Aid. But sometimes, like now, it was more a matter of Helen getting what she wanted right away rather than later. Knowing his choices were few at the moment, Rennie walked over to the edge of the stage and sat down, with his legs dangling over the side. Looking back over his shoulder, he beckoned her to join him – which she did.
“All right, I can give you a few minutes,” he began abruptly, looking over at her. “Whatcha got?”
“Andy...” she more whined than said.
Refusing to play her game, he stayed silent and waited her out. It wasn’t out of anger, though. Interestingly enough, he found that much of that was gone. In its place was a well-worn and curiously comfortable weariness.
She looked at him with pleading eyes but when she saw she would get nothing from him, she let out a small sigh. She glanced down at her hands. “It wasn’t all bad ... was it?” she asked, slowly lifting her eyes back to his face. “I mean ... there were good times, weren’t there?”
Surprised by the direction of her questioning, Rennie paused before responding. “Sure,” he finally replied, as his mind touched on some of the more pleasant moments of his and Helen’s life together. “That’s never been an issue.”
“But don’t you want more of them?” she asked intensely, searching his eyes with hers. “More times like we had at Yellowstone? Maybe we could go skiing up in Canada like you wanted to, or we could take the kids to Disney World like we talked about. We could even go back to Houston and take the girls to an Astros game. Don’t you want that?” Her eyes started to tear up with that last question.
Rennie, for his part, didn’t know how to respond. He knew what he was thinking but he also knew it would not be helpful to say it. Helen, however, beat him to it.
“You do want to do those things,” she murmured insightfully, before turning away, “just not with me.”
“Helen, you hate baseball,” he tossed back, trying to lighten what was becoming a very heavy conversation.
“But I could learn to love it like you do!” she entreated, spinning back to look at him. “I can change! I just need a chance, please?”
Rennie just looked at her as the tears streamed down her cheeks. He was moved by her impassioned plea, but even Helen could see that it wasn’t enough.
“But you won’t, will you?” she eventually stated, more than asked, while wiping the tears away with the back of her hand.
“I already did,” Rennie replied, softly.
They sat there for a bit, watching some of the cleaning crew picking up trash from the vacated audience area.
“So ... this is it, then?”
Rennie nodded his head slowly.
“Do you love her?”
Surprised by the question, he glanced her way. Anger momentarily flared but he quickly tamped it down.
“Sorry,” Helen said with a sniff, no doubt catching a fleeting glimpse of that heat in his eyes.
Rennie just shrugged and looked away. If he had yet to admit it to Josie, he sure as hell wasn’t going to tell Helen.