“That was an awesome performance, Sophie,” Ronnie said as they started for home. He glanced at her and frowned. She hadn't acknowledged him in any way. She merely sat there staring out the window. This was very odd.
He tried again.
“I thought because it was country music night that I would hate everything they played,” he continued. “There was lots that I never heard before, of course, but I really liked what you did though.”
He glanced at her again, but he barely got a shrug out of her. What the hell was up with her now?
Try it one more time.
“I especially liked that one that went... ♩ ♬ …What hurts the most...was being so close...watching you walk away...nothing much left to say..…♪ ♫
Sophie finally seemed to wake up. She sighed, shook her head and said, “Having so much to say and watching you walk away,” she corrected.
“Yeah...that's it,” Ronnie said, smiling to himself. He knew getting the words wrong would get to her. “Who does that again?”
“Never heard of them.”
“No, and you obviously don't know any popular country stars like Band Perry , Sugarland or Keith Anderson either,” she muttered. “No surprise there. Didn't expect you to since you don't like country.”
“I didn't say I didn't like it...just never heard any before that didn't have a stupid twanging banjo in it,” he said, laughing. He stopped when she didn't join in.
“Country music is a bit more diverse than that now,” she said. “I don't like that kind either...blue grass they call it .”
“But you do like some country. What kind?”
“New country, like Bob Dylan meets Tom Petty. My dad used to listen to it a lot and he liked me singing it for him. Those were some of his favorites that I did tonight,” she said.
Her dad. Well, that explains her strange mood, Ronnie thought, although, was it just her dad? Somehow he didn't think so.
They drove on in silence until he parked in front of Violet's house. It was all decked out in colorful Christmas lights and a nativity scene complete with the holy family, a lamb, a camel, the little drummer boy and the three kings bearing gifts.
“Kinda late for your Mom to be up,” Ronnie said.
“She's not. She just leaves the lights on for me. I get to turn them off before going to bed,” Sophie said, reaching for the door handle. “Well, thanks for taking me home.”
He reached out and touched her gloved hand, but quickly pulled back as if burned.
“What?” she said.
“You're awfully quiet tonight. Something wrong?” he asked.
She stared at him for a minute and nodded. “We're friends, aren't we, Ronnie?”
“Sure,” he said.
“I mean...like real friends. I want to be the kinda friends where I can tell you anything and you can tell me anything, too.”
“Uh...okay,” he said, cautiously. “Did you wanna tell me something now?”
“Well, go ahead,” he said, bracing himself.
“Um...you told me you didn't ever want to talk about...about Rachel,” she said, biting her bottom lip.
“Sophie...come on... give it up already!” he said, annoyed now. “Can't you just let her rest in peace?”
“That's what I'm trying to do, put her to rest so you can move on. Listen, I was thinking of you and her while I was on stage tonight. All those songs, they just... if you were listening carefully they had a special meaning...something important that you should know,” she said.
Intrigued now, he stared at her frowning and tried to remember the songs. Some stray lyrics came to him, but keeping thirsty guys readily supplied with liquor and chatting up the constant steam of would-be cowgirls, he didn't catch as much of Sophie's concert as he would have liked.
He shrugged. “Sorry, but I didn't find a hidden message.”
He shrugged. “Sorry, but I didn't find a hidden message.”
“It wasn't hidden. It was right there!” she said, earnestly. “I knew you wouldn't get it. I was hoping you would so I didn't have to talk about it.”
He sighed. “Why dontcha just tell me then?” he said, keeping his annoyance at a minimum.
“You won't get mad?”
He rolled his eyes. “I'll try not to,” he said through clenched teeth.
“It's nothing bad, Ronnie. I promise,” she said. “It's just, I know how you feel. You're taking the blame, but you shouldn't. You think it's your fault what happened to her, that maybe you could've done something that would have changed things so that maybe she'd still be alive, but it's not your fault!”
“Okay, I got it, it's not my fault. Are we done?” he said.
“No, not yet,” she said. “You should actually feel real good about yourself.”
“What???” he said giving her a whaddarya nuts kind of look.
“No, listen. Rachel obviously trusted you over everybody else, even her own family. She probably felt you were the only person that understood her, the only one on her side, and maybe you were!” she said passionately. “Ronnie, you were the best thing that ever happened to her and you should feel proud of that.”
“Ronnie gaped at her. "How the hell...you can't know any of that!”
“But I do, because I've gotten to know you and...I know who you are... inside where it counts. Listen, after everything Rachel did, after she became such a disgusting slut—through no fault of her own!--you still were her real true friend, you wanted to help her when nobody else did and she saw that,” Sophie said. “I listened to you, Ronnie, and I heard what you didn't say as well as what you did say, so I know."
“Know what?” he said in obvious confusion.
“The general theme of all the songs I sang tonight was that...even though Rachel was the love of your life...”
“Ronnie, it's okay,” Sophie said, taking his hand and squeezing it between both of hers. “Even though you think she's the only one you'll ever love, you are still very young and one day you'll fall in love again. I know you will! You'll find the perfect girl and she'll heal your broken heart. I'm not saying you'll ever forget Rachel, but one day you'll wake up and it won't hurt so much. It'll take time...lots of it, but...trust me it....”
She lifted his hand to her cold cheek for a moment. “You're a great guy, Ronnie, and Rachel knew it better than anybody. She died knowing you were her one and only true friend, her hero.” Sophie smiled and leaned forward leaving a tiny kiss at the corner of this mouth. “The best thing that ever happened to her was you. Don't ever forget that, Ronnie.”
He watched in stunned silence as Sophie opened the door, hopped out of the pickup and ran up to the house. At the front door she turned back and waved, then closed the door and turned out the lights. Ronnie sat staring at the mostly dark house, watching as the lights downstairs went out and one light went on upstairs, presumably in Sophie's bedroom.
“Dontcha just love her?” Richard said aloud.
“Yeah....that's the problem,” Ronnie muttered.
“Nah, that ain't no problem,” Richard said. “It's a good thing. Love always is.”
Ronnie nodded, then changed his mind and shook his head. “No, it's not, not in this case. Dammit, just when I thought I was over her, she goes and does this and...”
“So, then you really are heart broken over the dead girl?”
“No, I mean Sophie. Rachel was nice and all and I feel bad for her, but she was never Sophie,” Ronnie said. “I had started to believe... we kept arguing and stuff, just like siblings do so it was easy to think...I thought we could...but we have to...”
“Dude, what are ya yabbering about?” Richard asked. “Sophie likes you...obviously. So whattcha gonna do about it?”
“Kid, you don't strike me as stupid. So what do you think will happen if you let this one go? I'll tell ya what; She'll find someone else and then you'll be kicking yourself in the ass for decades.”
Ronnie put his head in his hands. “I already wanna kick myself. Sophie doesn't know that I already found the girl of my dreams, but I can't...she's way off limits to me.”
“Sucks to be you, then,” Richard said.
“Tell me about it,” said Ronnie as he stared at the only lit upstairs window. He imagined Sophie removing her clothing, slipping into comfy PJs and perhaps brushing her long, honey-blonde hair while sitting cross-legged on her bed, then slipping between the sheets and snuggling up with the tattered, old teddy bear he'd seen there the one time he'd been in her room.
He had been in her room once...
He remembered what she had asked of him that day; she asked him to be her first. It seemed like a million years ago now, but he suddenly got the urge to climb up onto the roof of the porch and sneak in through her window and... and then what? Give her what she begged for and while doing that accidentally tell her that he loved her?
“No way,” he mumbled to himself. When he looked up at the window, he saw the curtain pull away and there was Sophie staring down at him. “Shit, what must she think I'm doing here? Spying on her, no doubt.”
He could see she was holding something in her hand. He was pretty sure it wasn't a gun, but you can never tell with Sophie. She was as unpredictable as they come.
“Dude, she's not gonna shoot ya,” Richard said. “Maybe she should, but she won't!”
Just then his cell phone made a ding sound—a text notification. He ignored it, because he assumed it was the porn star wanna-be again. He could see Sophie waving at him, holding up her phone. “What is she doing?” he said.
“Not too bright, are ya?” Richard said. “Dude, she's texting you!”
“Oh...yeah.” He grabbed the phone and read her message:
Sophie: You okay?
Ronnie: Yup, just star gazing.
Sophie: LOL sure you are. Really, you ok?
Ronnie: Fine, just making sure you got in ok.
Sophie: That's sweet. I'm fine
Ronnie: I know, you should go sleep. me too.
Sophie: In a while, waiting for call.
Ronnie: Now? Kinda late
Sophie: He's on CA time.
Ronnie: Who's that?
Sophie: Told you about him. Leader of our band. he's my best friend. we talk nearly every night.
Sophie: Bug likes to chat late at night. we talk for hours sometimes.
Ronnie: cool. I Should go home. Good night
Sophie: Good night.
He set down the phone, waved goodbye and put his car into gear. All the way home and for over an hour before he at last fell into a fitful sleep he wondered about this Bug guy who Sophie called her best friend. She said she could talk for hours with him so what in the world did they have to talk about so late at night almost every night?
©2016 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved ♩ ♬ … …♪ ♫