Since I’ve Been Loving You
I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries as to whether or not NOLA’s Own would continue. I’m happy to let everyone know that the answer is YES! But it’s not Phil’s and Kenna’s story anymore. They’ll be there, don’t worry! But this one is from the minds and hearts (and possibly…spirits?) of Connor and Alys…and of course, X.
It’s been about a year and a half since I finished the first three books in the NOLA’s Own series. September 2014, I wrote “The End” to The Song Remains the Same. As much as I dearly loved each and every person in this NOLA’s world, holy shit did they drain me! I’d felt that I hadn’t just written about Phil and Kenna, I’d fucking lived it with them. I had to walk away, and close that chapter for a time.
I wrote three books, and started a fourth (which I will complete, but it’s been nudged to the side for now), but someone kept whispering to me in the back of my mind “It’s time to go back to NOLA.”
So, today I did. X has been whispering, and this fire is burning once again. I need their drama, their heartfelt songs of love and declaration. I need to go back, and hang out with Our Boys, and Alys and Lili and Kenna.
I feel it, and it’s like coming home in some respects. I’m so excited, so happy I see it all before me, enough to write it out.
So, here we go! This is the UNEDITED PROLOGUE (seriously, like I gave it one read through, so please excuse some messy grammar and possible spelling errors) of Since I’ve Been Loving You.
As I stared at my reflection in the mirror, the shame of what I’d just done coursed through me, pulsing hard with my panicked heartbeats. I knew what was coming. I’d known for a long-ass fuckin’ time.
I wondered why it had to be me.
I wondered if I had done the right thing, listening to Jason’s granny, and keeping my mouth shut. My brothers would have never chosen glory over my own fuckin’ life.
But I’d never have let them have any other life, than the one they are living now.
A deep breath steadied me as I stood up straight. I closed my eyes, praying to God that this would be quick. Jason’s granny had sworn her fuckin’ spirit guides promised it was supposed to be.
Eleven years or so ago…
“Not you, ginger. You stay here with me,” Jason’s granny says and grabs my arm.
“Why?” I ask. We were all getting ready to head out and do what needed to be done.
“Because I said so,” snaps the old broad.
Jason shrugs, but I ain’t ever seen him so shaken up. Phil looks fuckin’ pale, which makes me want to go even more, if for nothing else than to make sure he’ll be okay. Flipper is already out the fuckin’ door, ready to get this shit over with.
“We’ll come back quick,” says Jason.
He and Phil head out the front door. As I stand in the run down swamp shack that Jace grew up in, I hear Jason’s dad’s piece of shit truck wheeze to life, and then back out of the dirt drive.
“Come have a seat, son,” says Granny.
I follow her into the kitchen. I can’t help but stare at the floor where not ten minutes ago, I saw…
“I don’t need to tell you boys to keep your mouths shut, do I?” she asks, startling me out of my head.
“No, ma’am,” I reply.
“Good, good. Now sit. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Taking the seat across from her, I could smell the cleaned up gumbo she’d been mopping off the wrecked, brown linoleum floor when Phil, Flipper, and I came in.
“I’ve been told by my spirit guides to give you a message. A choice.”
“Oh, yeah?” That got my fuckin’ attention.
Granny is a mambo priestess, and while she scares the ever-loving piss out of me, she was fuckin’ fascinating, too. When Jason first brought us home to his granny, I swore I’d never cross him, not just because I thought of him like a brother, but because I didn’t want no fuckin’ voodoo shit cast on my ass.
“Whether you boys make it or not rests on you, Xavier.”
A chill passes through me, giving me goose bumps, making my flaming ginger hair raise off the back of my neck. “What do you mean?”
“Listen carefully, now,” she says—not that it’s needed. I’m hanging off her every fuckin’ word. “To achieve greatness, there must be sacrifice.”
She shakes her head, a few strands of her graying blonde hair coming loose from her ponytail. “I’ve been told that…for it to be a sacrifice, you have to know. Now, keep in mind, you boys will go straight to the top. You all have the talent, the brains, to pull this off. But it’s also a big stroke of luck, to make it with music. You have it in you, all of you…”
My fuckin’ heart is fuckin’ tripping in my chest. We’re sitting in a fuckin’ swamp, it’s hot as balls, but fuck me, it’s like the temperature in the room drops fifty degrees. “What’s gonna happen?”
“I’m gonna tell you. But you need to know before I do, that knowing is part of the sacrifice. Tell the boys, and shit will go to hell. You feel me, son? You will blow your chance, and their chance. I don’t deal in crap predictions. You know this. You’ve seen what I’m capable of. Do you promise not to say a damn word to anyone? Not Jason, and certainly not Phil. No one. Ever. You take this with you.”
In this one second, I know that if I do tell, I’m fucked, the guys are fucked, and this woman sitting before me will make sure I suffer my whole life for it.
“I promise,” I say, trying not to puke as the words come out.
“Say it,” she snaps.
“I fuckin’ swear.”
My head is ringing, feeling like I got a buzz or something. It’s not a good high. It’s like a brown acid trip is about to slap me in the face.
“You’re gonna have everything you dream of, Xavier. Money, sex, love…all of it. You’re going to have three great loves in your life. Three. Not many people can say they have one, let alone that many, and you already know the first one. Your family is gonna be wealthy because of this, too.”
My terror doesn’t go away, hearing this. If anything, it feels like it’s suffocating me. I can hardly suck air into my lungs.
“You boys will know fame. You’ll have the respect of the music industry, of your peers…”
I want to feel excited. Anyone hearing this sort of shit would be, but all I hear is…
“But you’re gonna die, son.”
And, there it is. “Do you know when?”
“Yes. For the sacrifice to count, you have to know it all. Are you willing to die for your boys, Xavier? Because any one of them would do it for you.”
They would. I know that. Even Flipper, whom we all just met a few months ago, he was as much my brother as Jace, as Phil…
Thinking of Phil brings a pain to my heart. There hasn’t been a say in the last fuckin’ decade that Phil hasn’t been in my life. I know I’m just as important to him, as loved by him, as he is to me.
Can I really do this? Hell, do I actually believe this shit?
Looking at this woman, her dark blue eyes told me that, yeah, this shit is for real, and I need to man the fuck up and face it. For my friends, for my brothers.
“For you, too, boy. You’ll live your dream, that’s a promise. But only if you can keep all of this, all I’m tellin’ you, to yourself. It’s a hell of a burden, knowin’ the hour of your own death. But knowin’ it is gonna give you everythin’.”
“Tell me,” I say.
I did it. I made it eleven years, and not a fuckin’ word to anyone. Not to Phil. Not to my wife—and fuck me, I was breaking inside, knowing what I was gonna put Alys through. More than anyone, my woman had my heart. From the moment she waltzed back into my life, along with her best friends, Kenna, and Lili…she had me.
She understood me. Alys accepted and loved me just as I was. I knew when I married her that I didn’t have all of her. I knew that Connor was the love of her life, but I also knew I wasn’t gonna live long enough to have to see her choose between us. So, I’d taken what I’d wanted. I’d made her my fuckin’ wife.
And I knew Connor was gonna make her whole once the pain of losing me was healed. I was fuckin’ counting on it.
My reflection finally showed me no fear. Just my freakin’ flaming hair, my eyes that were so blue, people didn’t believe they were really that color. I was pale, my fuckin’ freckles looked freakishly dark, a little shaky and sweaty, but it was now or never.
As the bus lurched, I closed my eyes, dropped my head back, and opened my arms, welcoming Death to come and take my ass.
The moment the glass from the mirror broke off and embedded in my throat, I was gone. I didn’t feel it. It was blessedly instant, and fuck…to feel nothing was so fucking liberating.
They didn’t know, but I saw everything.
A curious bystander, I stood, just watching as the tour bus careened out of control, flipping, rolling onto its side, tearing in half as it skidded to a stop in a snow bank.
They’re in there. My loved ones. My best friend and first love. He was going to be destroyed, but I was confident he’d pull through. They all had each other, and Phil had his Baby Girl. She’d heal him. She always did.
The roadie bus pulled to a stop, thank fuck, and Connor exploded out of it as though the hounds of hell chased him.
I got close enough to touch him, to reach out and pull him into the arms I no longer had. He was screaming, crying, Steve and Gordy grabbing him before he could dive into the black cavern that had torn the bus in two.
My brother, my heart cried out.
My third and final great love of my life.
In this frozen hell, I watched as Connor pulled free of Steve and Gordy, and dove into the busted bus.
“Fuck!” came his agonized scream from within.
I was about to follow him in, to at least be there for my brother, but I suddenly grew warm and weightless. A blazing white light appeared, illuminating everything before me from behind.
This is it. My existence on this plane was over. I was being called home, and though I was ready for it, it was with a heavy heart that I turned and stared into the white brilliance that blinded me to everything else.
Through the painless, bright light, I went…elsewhere. I saw things, knew and spoke things, but while I had no recollection of actually doing anything, I knew I had. I’d made peace with a part of myself along the way, and suddenly, I found myself somewhere—or some when—I had never been, but was all too familiar.
Before me stretched a concrete walkway up to the front steps of a house. Not just any house, either. One I had known, had shared secrets and hopes with those who’d lived inside. The flowers that surrounded this place were fuckin’ insane. The trees all around were blossoming the most technicolor blooms.
To the left side of the house, a man squatted down by a bush to prune it. He glanced at me, and when I saw his face, I got a jolt, thinking there was no way Phil could be here. I had done what was asked of me. I had done it for him. My first love.
But it wasn’t Phil. The man’s long hair was parted down the middle and hung over his shoulders in two braids, but was darker than Phil’s, almost black. And while the nose, the hooded, deep set eyes, and high cheekbones were similar, this man looked more Native American than Phil did.
The man smiled, and though he was beautiful, no, he wasn’t Phil.
Turning toward the voice, a little girl, maybe six or seven years old, was sitting on the front steps, smiling at me as though she was seriously happy I’d just shown up. She was missing her two top front teeth. She was also dressed as if she were snatched out of the 1960’s, in her Oshkosh overalls and floral print shirt. Barefoot, she stood, and I wondered if maybe these were Phil’s extended family or something. Like the man pruning, her hair was dark, in two braids, with a few feathers tied to the end of the one on the left. Her dark eyes twinkled with all the stars in the universe.
She held out her hand. “Come on! I’ve been waiting!”
I walked up, unable to help but return her smile. “Hey.”
She giggled. “Hey, yourself.”
“How do you know my name?” I asked, taking her tiny hand in mine.
“We go way back, man. Don’t worry. You’ll remember, once we go through the door.” She dug around in the front pocket of her overalls with her free hand, and pulled out a fuckin’ ancient-looking key.
The lock on the door looked pretty fucking ancient, too.
Looking back down into her sweet little face, I did get the feeling I knew her from somewhere.
She tugged on my hand and led me up the steps. I watched as she slipped the big key into the keyhole.
“Ready?” she asked.
“I think so. But, aren’t you gonna tell me your name first?”
She laughed, full of joy. “I have many names.”
“Yeah? Which is your favorite?”
“Most definitely…Mom.” She turned the key, pushed down on the handle, and the door swung inward. “But you can call me Laurie.”
Thanks, and MUCH LOVE.