Home > No Tomorrow(5)

No Tomorrow(5)
Author: Carian Cole

I pull Archie against my body and pet his head, but he jumps off the bed and bolts out of the room, leaving me feeling rejected and lonely.

The soundtrack of the movie quickly pulls me back into the story, and the sad tune tugs at my soul, making me want to smile and sob uncontrollably at the same time. The park guitarist’s music makes me feel exactly the same way.

Chapter Three

I never go to the park on Saturday. That’s my workweek thing to help get me through the day. But I see no reason why I can’t do my laundry tomorrow instead of today as I usually do. The sun is out, the sky is filled with fluffy white clouds, and I’m in the mood for some fresh air. And I have to admit—curiosity has me wondering if Evan plays guitar in the park on the weekends. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of his music and seeing Acorn’s paw waving around without having to rush to get back to work.

After a quick stop for a soy vanilla latte, I’m reminded it’s the weekend by the fact that the park and surrounding area is filled with people who also aren’t working today and all the parking spaces are taken. During the work week, I never have to find a place for my car because I walk from my office. After circling three times, I finally find an empty spot and shove a few coins in the meter to buy me some time.

There’s a crazy number of adults and children in the park today, and I’m bummed to see my bench occupied by a woman and her two kids. Nervously, I peer around as I scout a quiet place to sit and finally settle on a mossy, shady spot under a big willow tree.

Leaning back against the thick tree trunk, I pull my book out of my bag and pick up where I left off, but my thoughts keep drifting away from the words on the page, as I hope to hear the beautiful sound of Evan’s guitar. Perhaps he plays somewhere else on the weekends or does something entirely different. What does a homeless person do with his time? I can’t picture him standing on the corner of a busy intersection, holding a “will work for food” sign, the dog waving frantically at traffic, but I guess anything is possible.

“You hiding from me way over here?”

I almost drop my book at the sound of his voice but quickly recover and squint up at him. His guitar case is slung casually over his shoulder, a black toothpick hangs from his lips, and the sun shines behind his head like a golden beacon. Acorn lies down in the grass next to me and leans his body against my leg. He’s decided they’re staying.

I try not to smile, but I think I already am. “Someone took my bench.”

“I saw.”

He sets down his guitar and sits on the ground a few feet from me.

“I wasn’t sure if you came here on the weekends or only when you work.”

“I usually don’t. I was actually just wondering if you played here on the weekends.”

“So you were thinking about me?” The teasing tone of his voice sends tingly zaps through my body like the static shock from rubbing on carpet. I wonder if we were to rub against each other if it would feel as electrifying as I think it would.

“No.” The word comes out of my mouth too quickly. “I just like hearing your music.” I wave my book in front of him. “While I’m reading. It’s nice.”

A mischievous glint flashes in his eyes. “I like watching you when you listen to my music. I can tell which songs you like the most.”

“Really?” I ask, amused. “And how can you tell?”

“Your breathing changes. It’s subtle, but I see it.”

Knowing he watches me makes my heart and stomach feel like I’m in an elevator endlessly riding up and down because someone has pressed all the buttons and the lift has no idea where to stop.

“This is a different look for you,” he says. I look down at my off-the-shoulder black shirt and my favorite pair of faded jeans and wonder if he thinks I look frumpy. “Not many women can pull off sexy secretary and adorable girl next door. I like both.”

Compliments from good-looking men are rare for me, and I have no idea how to react. Do I thank him? Tell him even though he’s wearing ripped-up clothes that probably haven’t been washed in days or weeks that he still looks smoking hot? Comment on how the scent of sandalwood enveloping him is alluring?

None of those things come out of my mouth. I just sit there basking in the idea of being sexy and adorable with—knowing my luck—no doubt a super goofy smile on my face.

He touches my paperback and looks over the cover of the man and woman in a heated embrace. The man on the cover has long dark hair, just like his.

“You’re reading romance?”

“Yes.” I hope he doesn’t think it’s silly. “I read mysteries, too.” I’ve literally never read a mystery, but it sounds good and diverse.

He pushes his hair out of his face and takes on that faraway, reflective look I’ve seen on his face before. “Romance is a bit of a mystery in itself, isn’t it?”

I ponder that for a few moments. “In a lot of ways, yes, I think it is.”

“I used to read a lot. It was a good escape from the bullshit of life when I needed it. But now music and people-watching do that for me.”

“Reading books and watching movies are my escapes. You don’t want to know how many times I’ve watched Titanic.”

“Ahh.” He smiles and nods. “Devastation masked in a love story. I see the appeal.”

I laugh. “I know it’s wrong, but it’s so addicting.”

“Trust me. I get it.”

Acorn rolls onto his back. As we both reach to rub his belly at the same time, our hands accidentally touch. I pull mine away, startled by the weird shiver that travels up my arm and into my chest.

“Do you ever sing? Or do you just play guitar?” I ask.

I catch the briefest clench of his jaw muscles. “I sing sometimes. I just don’t like to.”

“How come?”

He stares at the dog, who has all his paws up in the air. “I guess I prefer to be in the background and not the center of attention. Less seen and more heard.”

I know all about fading into the background of life. “I’d love to hear you sing someday.”

He frowns, then smiles before he unlatches the guitar case and pulls out the scratched and scuffed-up instrument. “I’ll make a deal with ya,” he says. “I’ll sing for you, just this once, if you let me buy you an ice cream after.” He nods his head toward the ice cream cart across the park.

My leeriness of him is fading; all thoughts of him being some kind of big bad wolf fall to the wayside with the promise of singing and ice cream. I realize if all it would have taken to lure me in was ice cream and a song I probably could have been easily kidnapped as a child. But something about Evan isn’t evoking that stranger-danger vibe I initially felt with him. I want to trust him, and even more, open up to him a little.

“Deal,” I reply. “Ice cream is my weakness.”

He sits cross-legged, the guitar in his lap and his tattooed knees shoving through the frayed holes in his jeans. Cocking his head to the side, he looks up to the sky.

“All right, Ladybug,” he finally says, taking the toothpick out of his mouth and putting it in the pocket of his blue and gray flannel shirt. “I’ll sing you a song I wrote a few days ago. It still needs some work, but it’s a start.”

Intrigued, I set my paperback aside as he plays a slow, faint melody that gradually grows deeper. When he begins to sing, the passion in his voice reaches straight into my soul and latches onto it. Possesses it. Despite the warmth of the sun, goosebumps scatter over my flesh in response to his unique, gravelly, but emotional tone. His eyes are hooded and downcast as he sings, and I realize when he performs his own music, he gets intimately involved—consumed by the melody. He pours his heart and soul into it, and the words and music carry traces of him along with them. And he was right when he said my breath changes when I listen to him play, because this song and his voice have made me breathless.

Now it makes sense—all the times I watched him lose himself in music. Those were his songs. The songs I recognized from the radio? He was different when he played those. Although he performed them perfectly, he didn’t close his eyes to shut out the world or move his hands so passionately across the strings. The connection wasn’t there.

But this, this private performance just for me, is like he’s sharing his devotion to the art of words and sound. It’s obvious he deeply loves what he creates. I’m honored and awed and quite enamored with him, his music, even his dog. The lyrics are dark, seductive, and sad:

And then there was you,

Slayer of my heart,

The one I would destroy,

Keeper of my heart.

You came like a dream, and I snuffed you out.

I’d love you if I could, but I don’t know how.

I just don’t know how, baby.

I’ll make you cry, I’ll make you sigh, and you’ll beg for more.

Slayer of my heart,

Sweet as sugar,

Sexy as sin.

You’re just my everything.

Then there was you,

Keeper of my heart,

Wish of my soul.

Don’t ever leave, baby, and I’ll never let you go.

Just like that, there was you.

Keeper of my heart… wish of my soul… Don’t ever let go.

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