The live band stops playing and we all clap.
“We’re taking a five minute break,” someone says quietly into the mic.
“Thanks for the dance,” I say over my shoulder. The guy clutches his chest like I’ve stabbed him, but I walk away. I start toward the bar so that I can get something cool to drink.
Jason, my personal bodyguard, pretends like he doesn’t know me, so I lean into his side. “So, are you ever going to fuck me or what?” I smile and bat my lashes at him.
He grins a sideways kind of smile. “I don’t think my wife would appreciate it, Fin, but thank you for thinking of me.” He rolls his eyes and sticks his tongue out at me. Jason is pushing fifty, and he has been happily married for twenty-five of those years. He mumbles something about jailbait as a scantily clad young woman walks by us.
“How’s Norma?” I ask.
“She’s pissed at me. Apparently, I was supposed to have been a mind reader or some shit.”
I bump his shoulder with mine. “What did you neglect to do?”
He pretends to look offended. “What makes you think it was me?”
I look down toward his lap. “Because you have testicles, dude.”
He pushes his knees together. “Stop talking about my man parts.”
“I didn’t say I want to lick them or anything, Jason,” I say with a grin.
He looks down his nose at me. “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”
I freeze. He realizes his mistake immediately, because he reaches to grab me when I pull away.
“I’m sorry, Finny. I didn’t mean it.” He pushes me back onto the barstool. “I meant Marta.”
“Yes, I do kiss my mother with this mouth,” I toss back. I wave my finger around the room. “And I kiss other people, too. Some people happen to like my advances.” I glare at him. I like to mess with him but, truth be told, he’s like a comfortable old uncle. He’s been on my detail long enough that he feels like family.
“When you going to settle down, Finny?”
“Never,” I tell him, and I suck down the last of my water.
Someone taps the mic at the front of the room, then clears his throat. I look over at the stage. “I just heard a rumor that someone famous is here,” the club owner says. He shades his hand with his eyes and starts scanning the area.
Oh, shit. Jason grabs my arm and gets ready to pull me toward the back exit.
“Wait,” I say. I hold up one finger. He doesn’t let me go.
“You’re going to get both of us killed,” he murmurs at me. “And Norma will chop my balls off if I let you get hurt.” But he stands still and lets me see what they want.
“One of the members of Fallen from Zero is here. Their lead guitarist. Finch Vasquez,” he says, searching the crowd. Then he places his palms together like he’s praying. “Finny, the last time you were here, you graced us with a song.” He holds up a guitar. “Will you do us the honor?”
“What do you think?” I mumble at Jason.
“I think you’re stuck now,” he mumbles back. He walks beside me, presiding over me like I’m the most important person on the planet. Someone reaches out to touch my shirt, and he brushes the arm away.
I walk up to the stage and take the guitar. I hold the mic away from me. “Just one song,” I tell him.
The club owner grins and nods. “Just one.” He leans over and kisses my cheek.
“I have one condition,” I say into the mic. I reach over and take a hat off a guy’s head in the crowd. “If you want me to play, you guys have to fill up the hat. I’ll give the money to the homeless shelter on the way home. Deal?”
I wait to hear their enthusiastic responses. The hat starts to move around the room, and people drop cash into it. I see Jason clear it out and stuff the money in his pocket, and then start it moving again.
I settle on the edge of a stool and balance the guitar on my lap. I pluck at it.
“I can’t believe Finny Vasquez is playing my fucking guitar!” the owner of the instrument crows.
I grin and start to play. I have a new song I just wrote, so I might as well try it out, right? I suddenly clap my hands over the strings and stop.
“My sister Peck just had a baby boy two months ago,” I say into the mic. “This one is for her.”
I start to play again.
Sometimes when I see my sister with her baby boy, I watch them together. Her eyes fill with so much love and joy that it makes me ache. I never had that. Not for a moment. Not until I met Marta did I know the definition of unconditional love.
In the first minute,
I wondered how you could be so perfect.
In the second minute,
I wondered how you could be so small.
In the third minute,
I wondered how you could be so fragile.
In the fourth minute,
I wondered how you could be so bald.
In the fifth minute,
I watched you breathe.
In the sixth minute,
I watched you cry.
In the seventh minute,
I watched you stretch.
In the eighth minute,
I watched you love.
You were born knowing
That you were loved.
You were born knowing
That you were adored.
You were born knowing
That you would be cared for.
And in that moment,
Her dreams came true,
Because she was loved by you.
I repeat the beginning and the chorus a couple of times, and by the time I’m done, I’ve upset myself a little, because I wasn’t born knowing I was loved. In fact, it was just the opposite. I was born knowing I was hated.