The front door slammed,
shaking the walls in our small apartment. I snuggled closer to Anna’s side and buried my face in her hair.
Logan’s agitated voice
cut through the fog of near sleep.
“Dude, wake up!”
Whatever mess my best
friend had gotten himself into, he’d have to solve it on his own. This was one
of Anna’s rare mornings off, and since we’d had the apartment to ourselves, we’d
stayed up late, listening to the rain and having lazy sex until we’d passed
Smiling at the thought
of a repeat, I grumbled in Logan’s general direction, “Go away. I don’t have
any condoms. Carry your ass to the store like a normal person and leave us
His footsteps echoed in
the tiny room, and then he was beside me, his long fingers digging into my
shoulder as he gave me a hard shake. “I’m serious. Get up.”
A frustrated groan
escaped my lips when Anna twisted in my arms. She propped herself up on
one elbow, wiping the sleep from her
eyes. “What do you need, Lo?”
swift kick in the ass.
Rolling onto my back, I
smothered my face with the pillow, hoping he’d get the hint. Of course, he didn’t.
Cursing under his
breath, Logan rooted around under the comforter.
“Hey!” I snarled,
tossing the pillow at him. “Whatever you’re looking for, I don’t have it.”
Running an agitated hand
through his blond hair, Logan glared at me.
“Where’s your remote?”
Anxiety laced his tone when I didn’t answer right away. “For the TV,
douchebag—where’s the remote?”
Anna fumbled around on
the nightstand and then handed him the clunky device. “What’s wrong with the TV
in your room?”
Logan walked to the end
of the bed and took a seat.
Anna sat up,
scowling. “Make it quick.” She slumped against the headboard, glaring at
the back of Logan’s head. “Seriously, Lo, hurry up. I have to pee.”
Logan ignored her, all
his attention focused on the screen as he flipped through the channels. His
shoulders sagged when he reached CNN.
Cable News? Now he had
my attention. The only things Logan ever watched were MTV, VH1, or the Cartoon Network.
I popped up to see what
was so important, but something told me I didn’t want to know. “What’s going
Buttoning my lip, I
reluctantly focused on the screen where a stone-faced commentator stood in a
field, fat droplets of rain pelting her microphone.
“…live footage from the scene of the tragic
accident outside of Fredericksburg, Texas this morning where two members of the
super-group Damaged lost their lives in a fiery crash. At this point, we’re
unable to confirm the identities of the deceased. Damaged, arguably the hottest
band in the country, just completed a series of shows in the Southwest and...”
The camera panned out
for a wide-angle shot. Wisps of smoke rose from the wreckage, dissolving into
the gray morning sky.
A gasp from Anna. “Oh my
She crumbled against me,
her small hand curving around my waist as she buried her face in my chest.
Unable to make sense of what I was seeing, I stroked her hair with numb
After a few moments of
stunned silence, Logan jumped to his feet. “What the fuck is she smiling
Confused, I blinked at
“The fucking reporter.”
He pointed at the TV with a shaky hand. “What the hell is she grinning for?”
I shifted my gaze back
to the screen, and sure as shit, the reporter was smiling. Just a slight upturn
of her glossy lips.
I tightened my grip on
my girl. “It’s her job, man. She doesn’t...” Emotion clogged my throat, and I
struggled for breath. For words. “She doesn’t know them.”
But then, neither did we.
Not really. Damaged hailed from Austin, our hometown. And over the last five
years, as their star ascended, our paths had crossed on occasion.
Our band, Caged, was one
of the many groups on Sixth Street that loosely followed the Damaged blueprint.
Since high school, we’d been playing the same bars where Damaged got their
start, hoping a little of their magic would rub off.
The news report abruptly
cut to KVUE, the local ABC affiliate. Terri Gruca, the nighttime anchor, sat
stoically behind the half-lit desk, her co-anchor nowhere in sight.
“Thank you, Sandy.”
Terri blinked into the camera. “We’ve just got word at the studio that Rhenn
Grayson, lead singer for the Grammy winning band Damaged, and Paige Dawson,
lead guitarist, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident on Highway
290 this morning.” She looked down at the copy wobbling in her shaking hand. “Rhenn’s
wife, singer Tori Grayson, and drummer, Miles Cooper, were airlifted to
Brackenridge Hospital via Care Flight. According to band manager, Taryn Ayers,
Mrs. Grayson and Mr. Cooper are both in
critical condition. The bus driver was also pronounced dead at the crash site.”
Still photos of Rhenn and Paige appeared
on a split screen in the background behind Terri’s head. “Our prayers go out to
the families. After a brief commercial break, we’ll cut to the CNN studio for
further updates on this tragedy and a look back at the lives of these two
My head pounded as a
commercial for toaster strudel flickered across the screen. Smiling faces and
cheery voices, touting the virtue of strawberry jam tucked inside a fluffy
pastry shell. Somewhere, people were probably eating that shit.
But not Rhenn or
“They were twenty-four
years old,” Logan murmured.
As he turned to face me,
questions clouded his arctic blue eyes. The same questions I’d seen every day
since the first time we met. About death, and why it visited some while leaving
others alone. Death was what brought Logan and me together, after all. Our
shared bond. Two kids whose mothers would never sit at the long table in Mrs.
Varner’s classroom handing out cookies. Because our mothers had “passed.”
That’s the polite term
people used when someone died. The same folks made sure to tell you they were “sorry
for your loss.”
Which I always found
funny, since my mother wasn’t lost. She was dead.
Rhenn’s voice boomed
from the speaker on the worn-out TV. Smiling his most iconic smile, he stood
back to back with Paige as he crooned the band’s latest hit.
I leaned forward to
drink it all in. Because that’s all that was left now, bits of light and shadow
caught on tape.
Slithering from my loose
hold, Anna stumbled to her feet. “I’ve got to pee.”
Before she got away, I
swung my legs over the side of the bed and then slipped my arms around her
waist to pull her between my knees.