Chapter Twenty-One
Word Count: 2,051

March 2003

"Did you enjoy watching?" Claude asked.

"Yeah, it was kind of fascinating. I mean, I've watched Melissa…"

"A little different, though," he said.

"Yes," Claire said.

"John and I would like to get it on this album if we can."

"Wait. On your album? I thought…"

Claude shrugged. "She's good. John and I both like working with her. It's very different then our usual stuff, but we're in a position to be able to do that. We've done it before."

"I know," Claire said with a sigh. Claude chuckled at that.

"You know what song I'm talking about?"

"I do," Claire murmured. She wondered if Claude didn't realize that the song was about her. She'd known. She'd known from the moment she heard it and hated it. Hated it in a she loved it way. It was another twist of the dagger in her heart. He cared enough, felt enough, to write a song about their day together but couldn't find it in his busy schedule to seek them out. She'd been irritated and hurt.

"You're not what I pictured."

"Is that good or bad?" she asked.

Claude shrugged, taking a sip of his Coke.

"I don't know. You're just not, you know."

"Oh," Claire said simply.

"I knew that song meant something, too, you know. John writes, better than he thinks he does but he's never pushed to get a song on an album so hard with any of his other songs. Usually he gets a chorus or a verse and then he stops."

"I didn't even know he wrote until I heard that song in my office one day."

Claude chuckled softly at that.

"He's written more than he wants people to think. He doesn't like to take credit for it, though, even that song. There was no agreement as far as the band being credited for everything. I tried for that song, but he didn't want it."

"How long does it take?"

"Well, we sent everything out already a few days before you got here for mixing and stuff. If we like this song we'd sent it along, too, but we're looking at a single release by June for a tour. If we got this song on the album, maybe even released it early as a bonus track I'd love it if she could tour with us for a while this summer."

"She'd love that."

"Not Mom, huh?"

Claire shrugged. "No, I would be fine with it if she wanted to. I know John's not going to convince her not to go to school in the fall."

"No," Claude said.

"You really think it's that good?"

"I do," Claude said.

"How does that work if your album hasn't been released yet and you're touring?"

"We don't play the whole album, just the tracks that we think will get the most airplay or are our particular favorites for whatever reason."

"And her song would be one of them?"

"If it gets done in time, yes."

"Huh," Claire said.

"And she's going to use your name," he said.

"We'd talked about it. I told her if she wanted to use something else that was fine."

"I think she liked the idea of that connection to him."

"Probably so. I understand her not wanting her friends to know, though."

"John said your school was kind of brutal."

"Oh, it wasn't all bad, but Melissa is like I was and hangs around with people who will drop you like a fly if you do or say the wrong thing. Once she's in college, though," she said.

"Ah," Claude said.

"Like you were in college?"

Claire laughed softly at that. "Yeah," she said, growing quiet then. Claude seemed to understand she didn't want to talk anymore and focused instead on John and Melissa in the next room who were playing together.

"I'm going to go on up to bed," she said a while later. The night before last John hadn't come up to bed until close to two in the morning. She suspected tonight wouldn't be any earlier. It was interesting watching them work, and fascinating listening to them sing and play together but she felt as if she was sort of intruding in a way.

"I'll let them know," Claude said.

"Night," she said.

"Night," he replied, but she could tell he wasn't focused on her at all anymore. He wrote something on a piece of paper and held it up to the window, facing toward John and Melissa.

MAKE IT POP it said she noticed when he drew it away from the window.

She stood by the door for a second, listening as they played the section again and sure enough there was a pop to it that had been missing just moments before. Even she knew what the note meant. She thought it sometimes when she heard a remake of a song when thinking what the difference was. Sometimes that was all that she could use to describe the difference and why she preferred one version over another, one popped and the other didn't.

She got ready for bed and slid into his bed. Everyone was gone by the time they got down here so they didn't have to worry about where Melissa would sleep this time versus last time. As far as Claire knew her daughter still had no idea that their rooms connected. She wasn't sure she was ready for her to know that yet.

One thing she liked about going to bed before him he usually woke her up in the most enjoyable ways when he did eventually join her. Tonight was no exception. She was going to get incredibly spoiled after these ten days she imagined. New Year's was different. She hadn't really expected to have sex with him. It had just happened. Her doing, for sure, but it hadn't been a thought before she walked into his room that night he'd offered to show her his bedroom.

"So," he whispered after he'd woken her up completely. Her body was still humming from it, too. His hand sliding along her thigh was helping it keep humming.


"I got an invoice in the mail today," he said.

"Okay," she said cautiously. Why would she care about an invoice?

"From your father's firm," he said.

"Oh," she said.

"Does he really charge $400 an hour?"

"I think so. I don't know."

"Well, he charged me $100 and I wasn't in there for more than ten minutes. I assume he rounded it up to fifteen minutes."

"I'll talk to him…"

"Don't you dare! I'll pay it. It makes him feel as if he has some sort of control over us."

"He's not a horrible…"

"Just stop. Don't make excuses for him. Do you have any idea what that felt like. Your dad showing up, laying it out for me. I barely had time to digest the fact you were pregnant and then he threw the rape charges in there."

"I'm sorry," she said, leaning over and kissing his shoulder.

"Why'd you tell him before me?" he asked.

"I didn't."


"I'm serious, John. My first instinct was not to tell my father that I was pregnant. I told Christopher."

"Oh," he said, sounding puzzled.

"I thought he'd help me. Listen to me and help me figure out my options."

"And he didn't?"

"No, he did the opposite. I always thought we were close and that he loved me, but he told me how he figured because I was so uptight about sex that exactly what happened would happen."

"Nice," he whispered.

"That wasn't all," she whispered. "He was the first one I'd told. I was still wrapping my mind around it. I mean, one time. How was that even possible? I know people who were having sex every weekend."

John scoffed softly at that.

"I was expecting support, to talk me through it. To just have someone to talk to for a little while before I told anyone else. He told our parents, after telling me that if our mom drank herself into a coma it would be my fault for stressing her out."

"And you still talk to him?"

"No more than necessary, honestly," she said.

"Good," he said.

"I was stuck, John. I couldn't support a child without being able to work and I needed a degree in order to do that. Dad didn't talk to me for a while. I'm not sure if during that time he wasn't speaking to me is when he visited you. I'm really not sure. My mother tried to talk me into having an abortion every day for months."


"Oh, yes. She was too young to be a grandmother and didn't want the blemish of me having one without being married let alone even a boyfriend that could be a potential husband."

"Jesus," he said.

"My dad presented me with the offer of still paying for my college, housing, and daycare."

"That was good, right? I mean I've never researched it, but I know Claude has talked about how much daycare costs."

"There was a condition, though," she whispered.

"Me," he said.


"Funny, he pretty much gave me the same condition."

"I didn't know what to do! I had no idea how you'd react. Bear in mind this was a matter of hours after I'd told Christopher so I had no time to process."

"I get that, yeah."

"I had to go to school. I didn't want to be in debt for the rest of my life just so I could support my child."

"And you had no idea I'd step up," he whispered.

"Not really. Reputation said…"

"I wouldn't have," he said, turning then to face her. Until that moment she'd been talking over his shoulder.

"I hated it. I hated he made me choose that, but I didn't know what else to do. If I'd had more time…"

"I get it. I probably would've done the same thing."

"I had no idea he was going to tell you he'd file rape charges against you. Honest. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he'd do that. I absolutely did not imply that's what happened."

"I didn't think you would, but I had no idea what you'd do to save face either."

"I loved you. I had no idea what it felt like until that day, but I wasn't going to tell you. I didn't want to be that girl who made that into more than it was. Then I found out I was pregnant. I thought it was fate, you know, that we were supposed to be together or something. Then when my parents found out and Mom kept telling me to get an abortion. I couldn't even think about it. That was our child."

"I'm glad you didn't," he whispered.

"Me, too. Every day. It hasn't been easy and I won't deny my parents and my brother are not my favorite people."

He scoffed at that.

"It was more than it was, by the way. You weren't the only one who had never felt that until that day. I would have talked to you, but I figured you got to school on Monday and decided I wasn't worth the potential blowback."

"I didn't want to be made fun of or give you a reason to tell anyone."

"I wouldn't have, Claire."

She shrugged. "I guess if we'd both known that things might have turned out differently because I would've certainly told you first if we'd been together."

"I hate to say it because I really hate to think it, but it probably wouldn't have turned out well. Neither of us would've known what to do, you know?"

"I think you might be right."

"I still hate your fucking dad, though."

She laughed softly. "I don't hate him, but I don't like him anymore," she whispered.

"And I swear to God if I ever see Christopher…"

"You probably will."

"I guess."

"John?" she whispered.


"I don't want to talk about that anymore."

"Sure, no problem. I wasn't trying to. I just wondered if that was really what your dad charged."

"I know. Can you do me a favor?"

"I will do my best to try. What?"

"Make love to me," she whispered.


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