Finding Perseverance(97)

By: T. E. Black

“I’d like that. But, don’t tell anyone. Please? I’m not ready to have unannounced visitors yet.”

“Fair enough,” I agree. “Can I have your number at least instead of this unknown caller bullshit?”

“I’ll text you with it,” he answers.

I believe Gunner when he says it. He and I haven’t ever been close per say, but I was the one he reached out to, so that has to count for something.

“Sounds good. Make sure you do, all right?”

“Promise.” He pauses. “I have to get back to work now. I just came out for a smoke quick. I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

“Looking forward to it,” I answer before he hangs up.

That is one surprise I didn’t see coming. I never thought my mystery caller could be Gunner. I’m happy it was him, though. I have so many questions about why he left without saying good-bye and where he’s been all this time, and I’m not above taking a trip to Burlington to get answers.

I lean back in my seat, tracing the wood grains on the bar with my fingertip. As I scan the room, my eyes land on the vintage jukebox I had refurbished with the new music systems. It was a risk, putting something so high-tech in the bar, but my customers really love being able to pick and pay for their music by using an app on their phones.

There’s a twist, though.

When I had it converted, I made sure they kept the vinyls in it.

I think about my favorite record sitting inside it and stand, fishing a quarter out of my pocket, using the jukebox for its original purpose.

I press the buttons on the front panel until I land on Boston’s album and then I hit the numbers for the song I want.

The song “Foreplay” fills the silent bar as the intro begins. Little by little, my body relaxes as the beats and rhythm of the music fill the air around me.

“There’s just something about Boston when you’re deep in thought.”

Glancing over my shoulder, I find Rook standing behind me. A black T-shirt hugs his muscles like a second skin, all the while showcasing the gorgeous ink covering his arms.

I give him a tight-lipped smile, nodding in agreement. “There is.”

His face morphs into an expression of sadness as he moves toward me with large steps.

“We need to talk, Leigh.”

“I know,” I say on a sigh.

Taking a deep breath, I grab a seat at the nearest bar table, and Rook follows, taking the seat across from me. I look away, staring at my jukebox instead of him. I don’t want to have this talk, but there’s no other choice.

“I’m sorry if Luke caught you off guard. I didn’t know he was stopping by.”

I shrug it off, acting as if I don’t give a damn, even though I do. “You can have whomever you want at the apartment. It’s half yours.”

“Leigh,” he pleads.

Emotions bubble just under the surface, and I fight to contain them. “No. It’s fine. I don’t hold a say over what you do or who you see.”

I can’t sit anymore. I’m too anxious. I stand and begin to pace.

“Don’t say that. You know it’s not true.” Do I know that? Is there even a single thread of truth in that statement? I don’t know. I just keep pacing as I turn it over in my brain. Does the answer even matter? No. There is really only one question I should ask. I stop and turn to Rook.

“Did you tell him you would go back?”

“I haven’t given him an answer yet.”

A sarcastic laugh rips from my throat as I feel a tiny crack form in my heart. “I thought we weren’t lying to each other anymore. I thought you wanted only the truth, yet here you are denying what I saw with my own eyes. When he mentioned you coming back, you looked …” I blow out a slow breath. “You looked happy.”

Rook’s chair goes flying backward as he jumps from his seat. He slams his hands down on the table so hard I’m surprised the legs don’t give out. With a long, pointed look, I tell him that my rickety bar furniture has done nothing to him so he needs to chill.

“Why are you doing this, Leigh? What reasons do you have not to believe me?” His voice grows angry.

“What reasons do I have to believe you?” I shout back. “You’re obviously planning on leaving, again! It shouldn’t surprise me, though. I’ve always known your dreams were to be a fighter—not to be stuck in Boston.”