So, wrapping up the story this morning, this last fragment still not proofed so you’ll find lots more flubber to laugh at. I’ll wrap up Elemental Mysteries this week, and clean this up too, post a unified version later next week. Awful, sleepless night, pain meds not doing their job, mood dark. I wonder how that affects what I write…what I’ll change when the pain is gone…? What music I’ll listen to…?
OutBound Part IV
She was wearing the deepest blue, blue – like her eyes.
Shocking electric blue lingerie. And she was so beautiful sprawled out on the bed. My sweat mingling with hers.
“God, I’ve missed you,” she whispered.
“I can’t keep doing this, Terry,” I cried. I can’t keep leaving you, wanting you and not having you. It’s going to kill me, and I’m afraid it might kill you too.”
“What’s happened, Aaron?”
I told her about Niki and she smiled.
“So, you think she wants to trap you?”
“What else could it be?”
“Hormones. Hormonally induced insecurity. She wants to be loved right now, to be spoon fed love until that baby comes, but be careful; by then she won’t have any left to give you.”
“What should I do?”
“Give me your cock.”
And she worked me back to life – and I fell inside her again, like Lucifer falling through the clouds. Her physical perfection was all that I craved, her seared emotional landscape the only place left where life made any kind of sense. Her blue silk legs cradling my face, licking the sides of her feet while I arced into her, electric need spilling between us in endless electron flows, and when her trembling began again I turned to pure, solid spasm and yes, my seed drifted within her honey – again.
Her hands on my face, she is licking me. Her legs have wrapped around me and she is pulling me inward again. I am on my hands over her now, breathing hard, sweat falling again and all I feel is this liquid warmth between us. My spreading seed, her encasing flows all mingling now. Her hands coaxing me down, my lips to hers, all warm breath as tongues join, as I feel my skin so perfectly mated to hers. We fit. Together. Perfectly.
She is moving under me again, trembling anew. I feel it in her thighs, then inside her, and she has hands inside her womb milking me. Something inside grasping me, pulling me, forcing every drop of need from my body – into hers.
“I love you so,” she whispers.
I am shaking my head, now totally aware there is only one woman I’ll ever truly love, and she is here, under me, and I feel so ashamed. A deceiver. Only the one person I have deceived the most is me. My deceptions have led these other women on, inward into unjustified hope. Maybe I would burn in Hell if only I believed in such things, but for now I will burn inside Terry McKay – and let the rest of the world look away. The world can burn away without me now – just please, leave me inside Terry.
“I can’t spend another day without you by my side,” I said.
– And she looked away.
A telling look. The kind that makes you think about the handwriting on the wall.
“I’ve met someone, Aaron. I’m leaving soon, for England. I may not be back, as a matter of fact.”
“Really? What was this, then? My goodbye fuck?”
“No, I love you, but I wasn’t sure I could go on like this. So I, well, I started to look for options.”
“And you’ve found one?”
“I think so.”
“It’s what you want?”
“No, it isn’t. Not really.”
“But you’re going to anyway?”
“Yes, I think so. Because I think it’s what you need, too. Get me out of your system, put these dalliances out of reach, someplace where you can’t easily get to me. Take care of Jennie and Tracy – and Niki, too.”
“Maybe you weren’t listening just now. You know, the part where I can’t live without you?”
“You can. And you will.”
“So, marry me, Terry. Stay with me. Let’s finish this thing together. See where life takes us, you and me.”
She shook her head, smiled at me. “I’ve got to let you grow up now, Aaron. Let you live up to the burden of your responsibilities. These are your children, Aaron, not mine, and not ours. You’re going to have to face that. That you are a father. That people depend on you.”
“And then what? I die inside – I die every day we’re apart?”
“You raise your kids. You give them all the love I know you can. You teach them music, you teach them to paint. You love Jennie, maybe not like you’ve loved me, but you love her. You be a mensch, not a nobody.”
“I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Aaron? If you need me, as a friend, I’ll be there.”
I shook my head, looked at her like she’d just knifed me in the gut, then I stood, held out my hand and helped her up. We held hands as we walked to the shower, and I bathed her, now trying to program the feel of her through our wet skin. While she dressed I noticed all her clothes are gone from her closet, and I know she’ll be leaving soon. While I’m drying off I hear the phone and go to take the call, and it’s Shelly.
“So, you’re in?”
“Meeting at MCA, ten in the morning. Iron out the contract. I think I got you good terms.”
“How’d you make out from the concert?”
“So, I made some money too?”
“You didn’t get me statement?”
“I’ll bring it along with me tomorrow, but you did well, Aaron. Pops would be proud.”
“So, where’s Niki?”
“At the Beverly Hills. Registered as Rooster Cogburn, if you want to call her.”
“Yeah. Original, isn’t it?”
“Right. Well, I’ll see you in the morning.”
When I turned around Terry was nowhere to be seen. Her car was gone, too, and the only thing she’d left was her lingerie and heels. I went to the kitchen and got a Baggie and put her things in the bag and sealed it shut, then walked around the house looking at her life – and Pop’s – spread out among all the little things in the house. The place was, I saw, more a museum now that any kind of home, and I walked down to the studio, now wide awake despite the hour. I looked around the studio and my keyboards, then the phone rang and I walked over and picked it up.
“You’re going to be okay,” Terry said.
“The spare key to the car is on the kitchen table; it’s parked in the garage opposite International Departures, building 7, third floor, space C79. Do you have something to write with?”
She read out a phone number, where she’d be in London, and I committed the number to memory. “If that changes, I’ll leave word with Shelly.”
“Aaron? Don’t ever think I did this because I’ve fallen out of love with you. I haven’t. I can’t. But we can’t go on like this, can we?”
“Marry me, Terry. Stay with me.”
“Call me in a few months. Do the right thing, Aaron. Not for me, but for all of us.”
Then the line went dead and I sighed, looked at the numbers on the paper like they were a lifeline, and I sat down and looked around my studio again.
I’d be bringing this room back to life tomorrow, but could I – without Terry? Without her behind me?
What could I do without her?
I sat in the near dark thinking about what she really meant to me, and I knew she was right. Life would go in. I would write music without her. Good music. Maybe not great, but we’d see.
Then the phone rang again and I snatched it up: “Hello?”
“It’s me. Niki. Are you still up?”
“I slept on the plane.”
“Could I come over?”
“Sure. Door’s open, I’m downstairs.”
“Is it close enough? Could I walk?”
“You could, but it’s not something I’d recommend at three in the morning, not it LA.”
“Don’t you have a car there?”
“No. Terry left it at the airport – I’ve got to run out and get it.”
“Sounds that way.”
“I’ll be right there,” she said, hanging up the phone.
And sure enough, I heard the front door shut about ten minutes later, then heard her coming down the stairs and into the studio. I was still sitting, inert, in the darkness. Still think about life after Terry – and she came right to me and sat, took me in her arms and cradled me.
I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I felt too burned up inside for tears, for much of anything, but Niki got that…
“How’s the baby?” I asked after a bit.
“You been writing any songs?”
“I tried, but I’m not sure I know how, really. I think I’ll rely on you this time out. Maybe teach me the basics, how you go about it.”
“Got any lyrics yet?”
“Yeah. Ten songs I think are okay. A few that aren’t.”
“Oh? We’ll look at those first. Got ‘em with you?”
“I brought everything with me.”
“I wanted…could I move in with you?”
I thought for a minute, then nodded my head. “Yeah, sure.”
Terry was right. Niki was insecure. She needed love. And in the end, I was sure there’d be nothing left for me – but what the fuck, ya know? What the fuck. I couldn’t do this alone.
I tried to pretend Niki was Terry, that Niki could be my muse, but the energy was different. Not wrong, but different. Niki was a hot, wet towel draped over my face, suffocating, maybe, after the initial surge of comfort. Her lyrics were inconsequential, too, mid-western white bread. Empty love songs, all longing without purpose.
She liked country music, the real old southern country stuff, and she liked rock, but she was trying to blend the two without any idea of the structure she wanted. Creating something new out of the two forms was going to be tricky at best, because country music wasn’t structured like rock, not in those days. Also, there was a fairly generous antipathy between Southern Country and the rest of the music world. Yet that’s where she wanted to go, into shallow, uncharted waters.
So it would have to be soft-rock infused country music, a commercialized amalgam of styles I’d never tried before. I wasn’t even sure why she wanted me to help her with this, as there were others who could take her into these waters a lot better than I. Still, she like to curl on the bed, and she even got into the whole lingerie and heels thing too, which was odd. Like she wanted to be Terry McKay, but could never be. She wanted to be sexy, and she tried to be without realizing sexy is not something you can try to be. You either are or you are not, and she wasn’t.
And that was a problem, too. She wanted to project sex in her album, which meant photoshoots for the album art would have to project sex, but who the devil thought sex would appeal to the Southern Country audience?
Well, color me wrong.
MCA hired a photographer who normally shot wide open spaces for the likes of Penthouse, and with makeup artists in tow, they worked for two days getting just the right look. Kind of Nashville’s idea of a cowboy’s hooker from hell, with no pubes or nipples and just a little symbolism to placate the Baptist set, the image reflected what I thought would be the best song of the lot, a mushy ballad called Rocking Chair. The engineers thought my Mellotrons and Moogs sounded a little too insincere so I yanked those out and inserted a seventy piece orchestra into the mix, to the tune of about 20 grand at union scales, but it sounded nice. When the single of Rocking Chair was sent to country stations around LA for a tryout it shot to number one in two days.
Then Jennie called.
“You ever coming home?”
“Yeah. We should wrap it up inside a week.”
“She’s gone. Left for London, for good.”
A long pause followed, then: “How’s Niki?”
“She’s not Terry, so don’t worry.”
“She told Dad she’s pregnant. Any idea who the father is?”
“Nope. But nothing would surprise me. She’s gotten kinda popular out here.”
“What are you doing…for company?”
“Waiting to get back home.”
“Yeah? You? Playing it all faithful?”
“Am I that bad?”
She laughed. “Aaron, you’re a four-wheel drive cock. Always on the go.”
I laughed at that. “Wow. Now that’s an image.”
“I don’t know why I love you, but I do.”
“Yeah? Well, I love you, and I know why.”
“Oh, yeah? Why?”
“I’ll show you when I get home.”
“Eating like a horse. Asking about you.”
“Yeah. She needs her daddy.”
“I need her, too. How’s the spud?”
“She’s kicking a lot. I think she wants to get out, go for a walk on the beach.”
“Maybe I should get a bigger house, one I could put a studio in, ya know?”
“If that means you stay here more, I’m all for it.”
“This stuff with Niki might take off. Her first single is going to be big.”
“This is exciting…!”
“Unexpected, but I think we make an interesting team. Kind of like Electric Karma meets Hank Williams, Jr.”
She laughed again. “Oh, gawd…”
“Yeah, driving me nuts. Deni would kill me, but it’s a challenge, in a good way. Stepping outside my comfort zone…learning a lot.”
And I was. That was the funny thing about it. Even the western musicians who came over to the studio had something to teach, and they learned stuff from me, too. Because in the end we were musicians, just trying to tell the stories, ya know?
Once we wrapped up the sessions we sent the tapes over to Burbank and waited for the word, and Niki went seriously Terry on me, nasty lingerie and nasty talk, and that night the L-word started slipping into her conversation more and more. I guess it had to happen. The thing is, I was starting to have real feelings for her too. I was gentle with her that night, like I didn’t want to give the baby a rough ride, but I felt a tenderness towards her I hadn’t felt before, too. The way I held her face, kissed her. The way she took me in her mouth, the way she hungrily told me she wanted it all. The way she swallowed, then looked up at me.
The guys at MCA were effusive the next morning, and there was talk of a concert deal.
“Count me out, guys,” I said. “I’ve got kids to take care of.”
So yeah, a studio musician could take my place on the road, no big deal, but with Niki starting to show concerts weren’t what she needed to be setting out to do.
“Maybe after the baby,” she said, and the studio reluctantly agreed.
So, I picked up the house, called an interior decorator and when the gal came over I told her I wanted the house redone, completely – “Just leave my studio functionally alone,” then Niki and I packed up and left for Auckland.
Jennie knew, of course, by then. I don’t know how, maybe Niki told her, but no doubt she could see it in her sister’s eyes, too. Yet it didn’t seem to make a difference. I was back in the same bedroom with her and that was all that seemed to matter. I found a nice place on Mellons Bay and started work on a bigger studio, met with an architect to get the project going, met with a musician’s group and a few local politicians, outlined plans for a few new albums to see if I’d have community support, then I turned my attention to Troubadour.
She’d been neglected, and it showed, but the damage was cosmetic and easily fixed. I started taking Tracy out several times a week, getting her used to the motion, and Jennie asked if she could come and I was adamant: not until after the baby. Same with Niki, for that matter.
Michelle was born that autumn, well, it was spring down there, and with her mother’s reddish-blond curls she was gorgeous, a real green eyed lady. Granma Michelle came down to spend a month with us, and that turned into four months – but only because the weather was so damn nice. Uh-huh, right.
But Granma Michelle also picked up on the Niki vibe. She was lady enough to not ask about it, but I could see the awareness of us in her eyes. I was also the one behind her oldest daughter’s sudden stardom, her debut album shooting up the country charts and earning her daughter some serious money, so maybe she didn’t want to rock the boat, or maybe she just didn’t understand – whatever – she was polite to me, but that was all. And that was enough, for me. I couldn’t help who I was any more than I could stop Niki or Jennie from feeling about me the way they did, and everyone was copacetic about things so there wasn’t any point in rocking the boat, was there?
In the end, I was father to all their grandkids, but Tracy, and they considered Tracy their’s too.
Which brings us full circle, to Jenn. Poor Jenn.
Her father had what was reported as a massive heart a few days after Jenn was released from the psychiatric hospital in Laguna, and I think, from what I was able to gather from news reports, she finally broke him down and tore him apart. That was the official version, anyway. So yeah, then I got a call from Shelly later that night, and she told me that I needed to come up to LA on the double, and that it had something to do with Jenn.
“Should I bring Tracy?”
“Not this time,” Shelly said – cautiously.
“You mean, like I need to run to the airport right now?”
“Now would be good.”
She picked me up at the airport and we drove down to Newport Beach in near silence.
“What’s happened, Shelly?”
“Jenn, well, she shot her father.”
“Right in the main pump. He dropped to the ground, dead as a doornail. Her mother watched it go down, then ran out of the house. She’s in the ER, doped up and out of it, but she asked to see you. Won’t talk to the police until she talks to you first.”
“You got it.”
So I shut up the rest of the drive, tried to ignore the heavy traffic on the 405 – at two in the morning – and by the time we got to the hospital, and to the room where she was “under observation” – I was really in a funk.
She shot him? I kept saying over and over.
A detective was there, waiting, and he went in with us after I’d been searched for weapons and drugs. Jenn was wide-eyed, staring out the window at Newport Harbor, and she turned to me, slowly, when we came in.
Her hands were cuffed to the bed, her eyes bloodshot, an angry red.
“I wasn’t going to let him hurt me anymore,” she said. “Not again.”
I pulled a chair up to her bed, took her hand. “I know. Something had to give, didn’t it?”
“He kept talking about getting Tracy back. So he could love her the way he loved me. I couldn’t let him do it, Aaron.”
The detective leaned over. “The way he loved you? How was that, Miss?”
Jenn ignored the cop, just looked into my eyes. “Jenn, you’ve got to tell someone. No one will understand until you do. You’ve got to tell me, at least…”
“He wanted to fuck her like he used to fuck me.”
“When did he start doing that to you, Jenn?” I asked.
“Always. He did it as far back as I can remember…”
We talked about it some more, but really, what was the point. That was what she wanted me to know. Then I asked her one more question: “What do you want me to tell Tracy?”
“Don’t tell her about me. She’ll never remember, anyway, but don’t you ever tell her about me. I don’t want anyone to remember me like this…”
“Look, if you change your mind, want to see her…”
“No!” she screamed. “Go away – now! I don’t ever want to see you again…”
Newport Beach’s finest escorted me from the room, and I talked with the detective for a while, and besides learning he was an Electric Karma fan I told him all I knew, and about the custody hearing a few years back, and that was that. Shelly drove me back to Foothill Road, and after I got my bags out of the trunk I walked around to thank her, then walked up to the house.
Lights were on, music was playing gently in the background and I turned, looked at Shelly. She looked at me and smiled, then drove off.
The door was open so I walked in, followed the music to the bedroom, found Terry laying there in her latex catsuit, a minor bullwhip already in hand, ready for her next performance.
We did not come up for air for days.
We went to Gladstone’s for soup and shrimp when we finally emerged. She’d had enough of London, she told me. Enough of life without me. Without California, too. When Shelly called and told her about Jenn she called British Caledonian and was on her way. I didn’t ask any questions, just told her I was happy to have her back in my life. Because I was. I called Jennie, told her what had happened, and that I’d hang around here to finish up work on the house, be back in Auckland as soon as I could. But yeah, the work was done, the house looked cool and the bedroom serene, but we didn’t get out of the room much after that day. We lived in a state of pure fuck, pure, nonstop fuck, like two shipwrecked people just plucked from their deserted island and turned loose on a Sunday brunch buffet.
“Should I stay here?” she asked me at one point. “Or should I go to Moorea?”
“You’re Commonwealth. Come to Auckland.”
And so began the most exhilarating time of my life.
The next seven years were astonishing. Raising kids, and I do mean kids, as Jennie and I had Rebecca two years after Michelle, and after Niki gave birth to Deni – and yeah, I know, but it had to happen – I gave her Victoria. I took the girls sailing together all the time, the babies and their mothers, and when I wasn’t tied up with them Terry tied me up with her whips and chains. I was surrounded every waking moment by three women who loved me completely, and then I had five girls whom I doted on – completely. Niki and I produced three more albums in that span, each better received than the one before, and, near the end of that time Jennie decided she might try for her MD.
Then all sorts of things started turning sour.
The first? Warren, working at the clinic on Moorea, simply stood up from a chair and clutched his chest, said “Oh, my,” on his way to the floor – and he was gone. Just like that. Except he was with me and Tracy when that happened. I called Jennie, in Auckland, and she hopped on a flight to Papeete with Niki and the girls. Michelle was devastated, and even Terry was, too.
I was left to settle Warren’s affairs, and he declared he wanted a chapel built on the island, and he’d left funds to make it happen. No one was surprised how many lives he’d touched, or how many who came to the dedication of the chapel, but his ashes were interred there, as I mentioned earlier, and everyone was there for the service – even Terry, who Warren fantasized about ‘til the end.
A year later Jennie found a lump in her left breast, and lets just say treatments were not as effective in the early 80s as they are now. She fought it for a little over a year and everyone was with her at the end, but she wasn’t ready and she fought it. I didn’t know you could fight death like that, the way she did. She was scared, and angry, said it wasn’t her time, then she screamed and literally started to pass, then crawled back to life, only to get hysterical and start the struggle again. That lasted a day and it was horrifying to watch, but in the end it didn’t make any difference, and we carried her ashes to Moorea to rest with her father’s.
The girls, all of them, were as shattered as I by her passing, but what left me reeling was the thought that we never got to finish our trip together. On Troubadour. And yet the little boat was still sitting down there on the water, waiting for my return. Then I heard that Jenn had finally succeeded, in a psychiatric prison. I didn’t hear how she did it, only that she had finally succeeded, and I was left to reconcile the two of them, my two Jennifers. One doomed to a life of hell, the other doomed to a life too short. One who’d had too much life, too soon, and one who’d never get enough – linked to me through Tracy, now and forever.
And so it was Tracy who first went to sea with me, to finish Jennie’s voyage. We sailed up to Moorea, then to Hawaii, when she was nine years old, when she was already a good sailor. Michelle was next. She wanted to see Japan, the temples and castles around Kyoto, and we spent a year on Troubadour exploring the Sea of Japan. She dove with the Ama and we walked mountain trails alive with cherry blossoms, and we took hundreds of pictures of temples. When we got back to Auckland we started painting everything we remembered. Rebecca was next, and we sailed from Japan north to Alaska, then down the coast of North America, to Newport Beach, and Troubadour had a homecoming there. I re-powered her there, replaced her rigging and her sails, then Michelle rejoined us and we sailed her back along the track of our original voyage, from San Diego to Nuku Hiva, Papeete and Auckland.
I thought about selling Troubadour then, but Niki wanted her girls to experience life at sea, with me, so Deni and Victoria and I set sail for Australia when they were 14 and 12, then we pushed on to Cape Town, South Africa, before getting on the conveyor ride back to New Zealand. Niki wanted to take a trip with me, so we sailed up to Moorea and visited her father and Jennie in their garden. She flew home and I sailed south. It wasn’t long until Victoria left for college, and I, now in my mid-fifties, took Terry, now in her mid sixties, to London – and we finally did the deed, got married.
And she still cleaned my clock, her love still left me breathless and feeling more alive than was humanly possible. We left London and returned to LA, and we decided it was time to put the place in New Zealand on the market, and that was one of the last projects Shelly oversaw for me. She passed a year after the house sold, a year after Terry and I set sail from Auckland, two drifters headed out to see the world, outbound to see what we could see. My huckleberry friend.
We sailed from Auckland to Australia, she and I, then on to the Yemen. We transited the Suez, sailed to Greece, then Sardinia. She turned into a goddess in Porto, on Corsica, and we made it on the beach – for the first time in our lives without lingerie. We stopped in Gibraltar, spend a week getting some skin cancers cut out, then we crossed to the BVI and, eventually, two years later, we transited the Panama Canal and sailed on to Hawaii, technically completing a circumnavigation somewhere along the way.
Terry fell in Honolulu, hurt her hip so we flew home to LA and I let her recuperate for a year while I wrote my first serious classical work. I filed it away for posterity when it was done, for after I was gone. Maybe someone would play it someday, but that would be for the girls to decide, not me. I did write one more Electric Karma album, and I called it Troubadour. The last of the San Francisco clan came to the house and we worked on it for three months, then Niki came and filled in the vocals, with Deni helping – everything coming full circle on the master recording.
Troubadour fell into disuse again, languished in Hawaii for two years before I returned to her and worked her over one more time. When she was perfect again when we left, alone this time, for a last voyage to California.
As Jenn and her father once had, I arced north towards Alaska, then cut east for Vancouver and picked up the currents that pulled me home. I bypassed Seattle and made for the Golden Gate, spent a week walking Berkeley, found Deni’s purple paisley house had been painted an olive green that made it look vaguely like a military barracks, and I had a laugh at that little irony. I walked around, tried to find some of the places we haunted, but like the Fillmore everything was gone. Troubadour and I went outside again a few days later and we turned south, bound for Santa Barbara and, finally, Avalon.
Off the casino, in that shockingly blue water, it felt like a spring day fifty years gone. LA in the distance, still lost under a blanket of brown haze. Sparkling sunlight dancing on the water, a few dozen sailboats at anchor with a cool breeze blowing out from Long Beach. The hand on the outboard’s tiller is mine but I don’t recognize the skin on those fingers, but that’s about the only thing I can see that’s changed.
Even Troubadour looks unchanged. The same white hull, the same blue cove stripe, her varnish still gleaming. A few details have changed, to keep up with technology, perhaps, but she looks ready for the next fifty years. And who knows, maybe she is. Maybe she’s in that same petrified forest me and Pops were stuck in, right after he married Terry. I turned away from my feelings after that, turned away and looked outbound, away from all my yesterdays. I went out looking for a Terry of my own and found my way to Troubadour instead. Funny how life takes you places you never thought you’d go. Maybe love is the funniest thing there is, the places you go following love.
I heard the Grumman fly over the harbor and turned, watched it line up with the wind and land on the water just off the point, and it taxied into the harbor, pulled up next to the float off the town dock and helping hands tied it off. A moment later girls started pouring out of the old Goose, my girls, all five of them, and Niki too. I came at them through the anchorage and Tracy saw me first. They turned as one, like fish turning in unison, and they waved at me. The children of three women – and me. Sisters…what a thought. All so different – all the same. Mine. All bound together by our time in Troubadour, by the journeys we shared. By the Time we shared.
I have a new inflatable now, still too small for all these girls to cram into, so as I hopped up on the float, after we hugged each other to death, I turned the Zodiac over to Tracy and let her run three of her sisters out to Troubadour, then come back for the rest of us. She is the oldest and, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, the steadiest of the girls. Starting her second year of medical school soon; she, of course, plans on going into psychiatry. She left Deni and Niki and I standing there in the morning sun, breathing in the new day, same as any other day out here…
“You know,” Niki said, “I’ve never been out here before. Funny how far away LA feels.”
“None of you have,” I said, “but this is where it all started. My love for sailing, my love for Tracy’s mother.” I turned, pointed at an old corner restaurant. “Right there, as a matter of fact, and more than fifty years ago. Time has been kind to this old place. Change never took root out here.”
“How’s Troubadour?” Deni asked. She was my secret favorite, of course. She was singing, learning to play the guitar now, after mastering the piano by the time she was five. Kind of like her old man, if you know what I mean.
“Kind of like me, Deni. Old, but serviceable.”
We smiled at one another; Niki looked at me and came over, slipped under my arm. Deni came too and we hugged until Tracy made her way back through the anchorage. We loaded up and road through the morning, lever looking back.
We sailed to Newport Beach, to where Troubadour was born, and I had her hauled – again. Her hull needed attention now, her gelcoat was tired and cracked, so she was due for a facelift – and maybe another engine, too. It was funny if only because one of the guys who helped build Troubadour was the owner of the yard now, and he remembered me, and Troubadour, and the day she was born. We got caught up on her travels and he kind of teared up when he realized what I was telling him. That his hands helped create something so strong and vital, and so important to all of us.
Then we made our way to the Beverly Hills Hotel, to two bungalows out back, and after they were settled in I walked over to the house. Terry was waiting for me, of course. Still the most beautiful woman in the world, she looks half my age now, most people mistake her for fifty. I never fail to get weak in the knees when I come into our room and see her laid out in her lingerie and heels, and today was no different.
I’m going to give Troubadour to the girls tonight, when we meet up for dinner. Shelly drew up the transfer a long time ago, one of the last things she did for me, and I think it only fitting now. They all live in Auckland, have been Kiwis all their lives, and they’ll have to get Troubadour home, somehow, to keep the journey alive, to keep me alive in them. To keep reaching, moving outbound, moving into the light, into the music of our lives. I know they’ll begin the journey in Avalon, but of course I wonder what they’ll find out there…beyond our common horizon?
And I see, in the dimness, that Terry is wearing black today, which means that goddamn bullwhip is lurking under the sheets somewhere. Oh…the things we do to keep our women happy…
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