Part 4 of Thurmount Holiday. Check the category Thurmount Holiday for the other entries.
Will and I sit in the back corner of Thirsty’s nibbling on nachos and drinking beer while waiting for Blake. It had been Blake’s idea to meet after the tree lighting “to catch up.” Thursday is karaoke night and in honor of the tree lighting all of the songs are holiday-related. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a well-meaning, but vocally deficient person wail “Joy to the World” aided by a hefty dose of Daryl Hollister’s spiked homemade eggnog.
The current singer is doing a seductive version of “Silver Bells” and I know the instant Blake Hunter walks through the door because she stops singing and giggles. Then she yells into the microphone, “Hey, Blake Hunter, did you come to hear me sing?”
My stupid heart jumps and pirouettes. I angle to see Blake. He’s still not wearing a jacket though it is definitely below freezing outside. He is sopping up the attention, hugging and kissing the women and slapping the men on the back. I lean back and feel Will’s eyes on me. I dip a tortilla chip into guacamole and make believe I’m being nonchalant, but I know I’m not fooling Will. I will never fool Will.
It’s ten tension-filled minutes before Blake makes his way back to us. He shakes Will’s hand and then kisses me on the lips, again, as if he has some sanctioned right.
Angie, who was a couple of years behind us at school, is the waitress and she instantly materializes, her attention focused on Blake. She leans over, giving him an eyeful, which he takes full advantage of and always has, even when we were together. Let it never be said that there was a cleavage view offered that Blake Hunter missed. I spare a glance at Will and he is looking at me. That’s the way it’s always been. Blake looking around, me looking at Blake, and Will looking at me. It kind of makes you think.
After Blake orders a beer, he devours the nachos. “I’m only here for a week, what about y’all?” he asks, while chewing. “I’ve got to get back into the studio and start recording. Got anything for me, Will? Some new song that doesn’t work for y’all? There was that one about a girl I liked. Have y’all done anything with it?”
“I don’t think I have anything for you,” Will says before taking a long draught of beer.
“Nothing? What about you, babe? You were always one for those funny honkytonk songs about strong women and shit,” Blake says, snagging more chips and filling his mouth.
I wince. “Been awhile since you ate?”
“Crap, yeah. I have been so busy, you wouldn’t believe. Right before I got on the bus to come here, I had to do some charity crap in Kentucky. The only food they had were crappy little mini things like sliders and quiches that are about the size of a quarter, I kid you not. A man needs meat, whole frickin’ sides of beef,” Blake says.
When Angie returns with his beer, he slides his arm around her and practically buries his face in her cleavage. She laughs and pushes him playfully. Blake seems to be taking full advantage of his country star persona.
“Isn’t she a treasure?” Blake asks and looks at me and Will before refocusing his attention on Angie. “Are you new in town?”
“This is Tom Dalton’s little sister,” Will says.
“Tom Dalton? Do I know him?”
I can’t stop rolling my eyes. “You’re kidding, right? Tom Dalton was the running back. You used to hang together.”
“That’s twelve years ago. You expect me to remember twelve years ago?” Blake asks, his mouth hanging open, as he holds his hands up and looks around. “Am I right? I have been living the life, babe, the life. Not sitting on my ass and going down some frickin’ memory lane like you all. The Thurmount Trio. What kind of shit is that?”
You’ve heard about red heads and temper? It’s like Blake has flipped a switch on me and I am burning. Maybe I am being unreasonable. Maybe not. I grab my wallet from my messenger bag, throw some cash on the table, and then smile broadly at Blake who is watching me with a look I do know. He thinks I’ll have a tantrum and then five minutes later I’ll be running back in here, pawing at him, wanting him to forgive me. That woman disappeared two years ago and I was glad to see her go.
“Well, Blake, it’s been real . . .real what? I don’t know. Entertaining? Enlightening? Are those words slightly too big for your comprehension? Are you coming, Will?” I ask and then yank on my red wool coat.
“Are you coming, Will?” Blake mocks me. “Of course, he’s going. He’s your little dog.”
I see Will’s hands clench into fists, which startles me. I grab his coat off the hook and put my hand on his arm.
“Will Garrett is more of a man than you’ll ever be, Blake Hunter, and don’t you forget it,” I say as I ineffectively push his shoulder with my forefinger.
As we leave Thirsty’s, aware of the stunned looks people are giving me, I grab Will’s hand. The sudden thrust of cold takes my breath away when we step outside. The wind is kicking snowflakes around. I stand there a moment to take it in and feel my temper immediately dissolve.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” I ask looking at the falling snow and the glittering Christmas lights that line Pendleton Street. The bare trees glisten with white jeweled blankets. I stick out my tongue to catch a snowflake and then grin at Will who is smiling at me.
“Very beautiful,” he says and my breath hitches with an unfamiliar reaction to my best friend Will.
Not knowing what else to do, I do what I always do when I’m nervous. I sing: “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow . . .”