Isaias sat in his room until the next day. He had to figure out a way to get Whitney to the hotel room where Victoria was going to meet them. He got in his car and drove to her place. He sat in the car and called her from his cell phone.
Whitney hung up the phone. Isaias waited a moment and tried again. Whitney again answered the phone.
“Whitney, don’t hang up.”
Whitney hung up the phone again. This time before he tried to call her, he got out of the car and went to her door. He called her again. Whitney picked up the phone.
“Leave me alone, Isaias!”
Right before she could hang up the phone, Isaias rang the doorbell. He was going to talk to her if he had to force his way in. Whitney answered the door. Before she could close it, Isaias stuck his foot in the door.
“Honey, wait. Please. Don’t do this to me. I want to talk.”
She was really angry and in no mood to talk. “Get your foot out of my door, Isaias.”
Isaias shook his head and softly spoke. “Not until you let me in. I need to talk to you. Honey please let me talk to you.”
Whitney saw something in him that was different. She remembered that she loved him and decided to give him a chance to say what he came to say.
She opened the door and allowed him in. “You have three minutes.”
“I just wanted to say that I am ready to pour my heart out to you now. I will do it on neutral ground, and get a mediator. Baby please. Don’t leave me. I’m quitting the band, and moving out. Owen will not be able to destroy all we have built with his mouth again. I love you, and I will not let you leave me.”
Thinking back on what Desiree said, this came as a shock. “You’re quitting the band?”
“I will do anything for you.”
“Okay, Isaias. I’ll do it. Tell me where and when.”
“The Residence Inn on Fourth Street. Tomorrow at one o’clock. Room five thirty seven.”
“I’ll be there.”
“Thank you, Whitney.”
Not wanting him to say anything more, she reminded him, “Time’s up.”
Isaias smiled but dared not touch her. He blew her a kiss, and walked out of the door.
The next day Whitney went to the hotel. Isaias could see her pull up. When she arrived, Isaias knew he had to tell her who the mediator was or he was going to lose her forever.
Isaias turned to Victoria. “She’s on her way up. Go in the bedroom and close the door. I don’t want her to see you when she comes in.”
Victoria went into the bedroom and waited on her signal to come out. Whitney knocked, and Isaias answered the door. He looked into his woman’s eyes and knew he was sorry, and would never lie or omit any truth again. This would be his one and only chance to get her back.
He wanted to hug her, but was still afraid to touch her. “Thank you for coming, baby. Have a seat.”
Whitney sat down and spoke. “It seems there is more to you than what’s on the surface Isaias. I’m beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t just go our separate ways.”
“I don’t want that to happen. I love you. Please don’t say that,” Isaias begged.
“Well what else is there you want to tell me? And I promise you, if you don’t come clean this time, we’re through.”
“Well, remember the mediator I talked about? I thought Vic could help us so I invited her down.”
Whitney immediately stood up and stepped towards the door. “I’m outta here.”
Isaias grabbed Whitney’s arm to stop her from leaving. “Please baby. Listen to me. She wants us back together. She is only here to help us. She also wants all of us to be friends.”
Whitney looked at Isaias’ hand, and he let her go. “Why would she want to be my friend? I have the one thing in the world she wants most.”
“And that’s the reason.”
“What do you mean, Isaias?”
“She and I were close once, and we both miss the friendship that we shared. You have to know what I’m talking about. You have a best friend in your brother. You almost lost him because of me. But because he and I got together and we understood each other, now he and I are friends, and you didn’t have to choose between us.”
Whitney paused for a long time thinking Isaias was right. “Okay. Where is she?”
Isaias opened the door, and let Victoria in. She came in and sat down on the loveseat.
“Sit down, babe.”
Whitney sat down in the chair across from the loveseat and stared at Victoria for a long time before she said anything. She hated her, even though they’d only met each other once before.
“Tell me, Victoria. Why are you really here?” Whitney asked.
Victoria looked up at Isaias and he nodded. “I miss being his friend. I want that back. I realize now that since he loves you obviously more than he ever did me, I have to compromise.”
“I want to get to know you as well. We already have one thing in common, who knows we may have more. Isaias told me the story about when he met your brother, and I thought I could try it too. So, that’s what I’m here to do. I want to be his best friend again, and I hope you and I can be friends too.”
Her tone was threatening. “You do realize that I am now his best friend.”
Isaias interceded. “Vic, what I think she is trying to say is that she’s number one. She comes before anyone.”
“Understandable. I’m just here to help you understand Isaias more, and get to know me a little. I realize I misjudged you, and that wasn’t fair.”
“You’re right. It wasn’t. So why don’t you start by telling me the real reason you broke his heart? I mean Isaias is a good person. You know that just like I do.”
“I do know that. But I cared about his future just as much as I cared about him.”
“And that means what?”
“I’m not a genius by any means. I’m just a human with average knowledge and brains. If he’d stayed with me, I would have just held him back from his education.”
“So you broke up with him so that he could concentrate on his education.”
Whitney pursed her lips and shook her head. “I’m not buying it. There’s more to it than that. If you really loved him, you would have weathered the storm. Had you done that, you would have that special place in his heart instead of me.”
“Isaias and I were together young. We hadn’t yet discovered ourselves. I let him go so he could grow, and learn who he was. When he left home he was eighteen and the son of a steel mogul, who just happened to be very smart. Now he is all that and more. He discovered that he has other talents, and he has become a man that is capable of taking care of a family.”
“Does that sound right, Isaias?”
“Honestly honey, I never knew she felt this way about it. I only knew she thought that I would find someone better suited for me. That’s what she told me, but I didn’t understand until now.”
“Why didn’t you tell him this before he left home?”
“Honestly, I didn’t want to let him go entirely. If I had him wondering then, I would always have him wondering.”
“Fine. Tell me about his relationship with his mother.”
Victoria answered all of Whitney’s questions with Isaias putting in his input where necessary.
“…besides, Charlotte adores you.”
Whitney was confused. “She adores me?” she asked glancing at Isaias.
“Yes, she does,” he said quietly.
“Isaias that is a lie and you know it. Your mother would have adored me if I were like Victoria. Truth is she still prefers Victoria to me. And we both know why that is.”
“Because she knew me first.”
“No, Victoria. It’s because I’m black.”
Isaias shook his head. “Not true. It has nothing to do with you being black.”
“I will give you one more chance to tell me the truth, and if I don’t get the truth, I’m leaving.”
“Okay, okay. I was raised to believe that anyone who was not white was beneath me. I was not supposed to like or associate with those that weren’t white. I was raised to believe that if you weren’t white you were not pure.
“Leaving home changed me, and that’s the truth. Now I don’t see any difference in race. People are just people to me. If I don’t like you, you can best believe that it is not because you are different in appearance. It is simply because I don’t like you.”
Whitney paused and thought of Isaias’ closest friends. “Okay. I believe both of you. Victoria, you and I have more talking to do, but as far as you go Isaias, we are good. Just so as you don’t ever, ever lie to me again we won’t have anymore issues.”
“Whitney, I will always and forever be honest with you. Anything you want to know about me I will divulge. I love you, and only you. I don’t want to lose you after all it took to get you to love me.”
“All right then, we’ll give it a shot.”
“Thank you, baby.”
Isaias gave Whitney a big kiss in front of Victoria. Victoria was both happy and sad. She would eventually get what she wanted for her son, but still lose her beloved Isaias to another woman.
“Vic thanks for coming. I just wanted you to know that I still would like it if you limited your visits to my mother. I’m a grown man, and I would prefer it if she weren’t in all of my business. If you will excuse me, I would like to be alone with Whitney now.”
“I understand. See you later.”
“Loved you when…”
“Loved you since we were ten.”
Victoria left the hotel room very confident that she would be Whitney’s friend and then stab her in the back for stepping in her way when she wanted Isaias back. The winners in the game would end up being Heath, herself, her child, and her family. Victoria held all of the cards, and no one had a clue they were even playing her game. Whitney however, didn’t believe that Victoria wanted to be her friend, and she let Isaias know it.
“Honey I’m glad you came today. How about we take advantage of this room since we’re here.”
Whitney stared at the door. “Don’t trust her yet Isaias.”
“What? Why not?”
“She’s up to something.”
“But I thought you were going to try to be her friend.”
“I will do what I need to do so you can be happy. I’m not saying never trust her again. All I’m saying is that she is close to your mother, and your mother doesn’t want you and me together. I mean I may be wrong. But she is going to have to prove herself trustworthy if she wants to call me her friend.”
“I understand honey.”
“Now tell me about what’s going on with Owen? Why are you quitting the band?”
“I’m doing it for you. Baby don’t you get it? Before I met you, I didn’t have this wonderful feeling. Everyday I wake up I’m happy you are in my life. I don’t care about what anyone thinks about you. Including my mother. I love you and that’s all that should matter. I will do whatever it takes to make and keep you happy. What makes you happy makes me happy. Understand?”
“I do. So tell me what Owen was talking about. Why did you have a bet?”
“The way Owen told the story was wrong.”
“Are you saying he lied?”
“No. He just didn’t remember it correctly. The reason he bet me is that he saw how infatuated with you I was. I thought of every little excuse to be close to you. He knew I really liked you. I accepted his bet for one reason only. I wanted the most expensive steak and lobster dinner in town for free. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be with you. I knew that before I made the bet with Owen. I don’t see you as a prize that I won honey, because the bet was for food. And no. I don’t feel like you’re a trophy hanging on my arm. When people see how good we look together, they may think that, but not me. I can’t say it enough Whitney Matthews. I love you, and I really mean it.”
“Thank you for explaining that to me honey. I love you, too.”
“Baby, please don’t ever leave me again,” Isaias said hugging Whitney. “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have you.”
“As long as you keep your promise to always tell me the truth, I’m not going anywhere.”
“So are you going to apologize to Owen for hitting him?”
“How did you know about that?”
“Desi told me.”
“Well, are you?
Isaias let Whitney go and shook his head. “No. He was wrong.”
“Isaias, Desi told me he doesn’t even remember what happened.”
“Well since you know that, why are you still angry?”
“Because he hurt you.”
“He’s your best friend, Isaias. You’ve known him most of your life. Did he apologize?”
“Yeah he did. But I didn’t believe it.”
“Because Owen never says he’s sorry about anything. He waits a couple of days, and then he just goes on talking to me as if nothing happened. But he never says sorry out of his mouth.”
“Maybe perhaps he realized that this time he might lose you for something stupid that he did. Maybe this time deserved a vocal apology.”
“I don’t know honey.”
“I think you should give him a chance. For goodness sake, Isaias don’t give up the band. You love the band.”
“I suppose you don’t want me to move out either.”
“You can do that if you like. But don’t give up the band. You and Owen started Therapy together.”
“It was his idea.”
“Okay but you were right there with him. Then Smoke joined the two of you, and you were on your way. Don’t give that up.”
“I can start my own band.”
“You would only be doing that to spite him,” Whitney said shaking her head. “Honey I know you don’t hate him. You’re just angry with him. Why don’t you go home and talk to him? I bet he’ll listen.”
“You really want me to do this.”
“Of course. Because even thought you have me, you will still be lost without him, and you know it.”
Isaias sighed. “Okay Whitney. I’ll do it. I’ll do it for you.”
“No,” shaking her head. “Do it for you.”
Isaias turned pulled Whitney close. He looked into her eyes, gently placed his hand behind her neck, pulled her to him, and kissed her.
“Let’s go,” he said, pulling Whitney by her hand.
The two of them drove back to Isaias’ apartment. On the way there, Isaias could only think of what was going to happen when he laid eyes on Owen. Would he hit him again? Would he let him apologize again? Would he apologize himself? He didn’t know. All he knew is that he felt anxious about the situation.
Isaias put his key in the door and let Whitney walk in ahead of him. He closed the door, and went to the living room to discover Desiree watching television.
“Hey Desiree,” Isaias said quietly.
“Hey. Hey Whitney.”
“Is Owen here?”
“Yeah. He’s in the restroom.”
“Desi,” Whitney started, “come on let’s go shopping.”
Whitney reached for Desiree’s hand and pulled her off the couch. “Come on let’s go. Can I drive your truck honey?”
Isaias handed Whitney the keys. “Sure. Be careful with her.”
“I will. Come on Desiree, hurry up.”
The girls were gone. Owen had no idea that Isaias was sitting in the living room. He came around the corner and was surprised to see Desiree gone and Isaias in her place.
“Okay baby I’m back, what happened?”
Isaias spoke. “What’s up man?”
“Isaias. Where’s Desiree?”
“Whitney took her shopping.”
There was a long awkward silence between them. No doubt, both of them thinking who was going to apologize first. Both men feeling just a bit awkward at moment. Isaias swallowed his pride and decided he would apologize first.
“Hey man I’m sorry for hitting you.”
“That’s okay. I fucked up. I won’t get that drunk anymore. Desi told me that I couldn’t.”
“Yeah.” Owen paused for a long time, wondering if Isaias was going to stay in the band or not. “So when are we gonna start auditioning drummers?”
“We’re not gonna need to do that unless you are gonna fire me for messing up your pretty face.”
Owen was relieved. “You’re not gonna quit?”
Not really wanting to know the answer to his next question, Owen asked anyway. “You gonna need some help with moving? The fellas and I can help you if you need help.”
“Not gonna be necessary. I’m not gonna move out. I’d hate you to end up with a roommate you don’t like. We’ve been living together this long, and we only have a few more months anyway.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Owen’s next words were hard for him. “I know what you’re waiting for me to say. Let me apologize again for telling Whitney about the bet. I didn’t know you hadn’t talked to her about that, and it wasn’t my place to tell her. I swear I’ll never tell her about anything you and I talked about ever again. If you want her to know, I’ll let you tell her.”
“Who knew you would be so in love with her after only a year? I never would have guessed. You love her more than you did Vicki.”
“Probably because we had to work at what we have. Vic and I already knew each other. There was no effort there. I just took our friendship to another level.”
“I remember our early conversations about Whitney. I’m sorry I doubted you.”
“Hey. Let’s forget about the past. Let’s just move on.”
“Not a problem.”
They sat in silence for a while longer, thinking about how close they came to losing their life long friendship. Isaias was relieved that everything was back to normal.
“So, does your eye hurt?”
“A little, why?”
“Because it doesn’t look good. Can you play with dark shades on?”
“Nope. But don’t worry about that. I will just work this black eye into the act.”
“Can’t wait to hear it.”
“You know, Desiree was right about the two of us.”
“What did she say?”
“She said I would be lost without you.”
“She was right. Whitney said the same thing to me.”
“We’ve got some smart women in our lives.”
“Yeah, we do.” Isaias changed the subject. “So are you gonna let your mother throw your wedding?”
“If she’ll do it, I don’t care. I haven’t even told her I’m getting married.”
“Well I don’t suggest you wait to spring this on her. You probably should tell her pretty quick.”
“Yeah, I guess I should. When are you going to ask Whitney?”
“I don’t know. I have to find out what’s going on between my mother and Vic first. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I have to do something.”
“Was she down here the other day? I thought I heard her voice.”
“Yeah. I had to talk to her face to face.”
“So you made up with her?”
“I had to. I can’t do my angry ritual without her. Who else am I gonna talk to when I get pissed off at the world?”
“I’m not telling you what to do, but maybe you should try talking to one of us from now on.”
Two hours later, the girls returned from their shopping trip empty handed. When they walked in, they found Isaias and Owen laughing and talking as if nothing ever happened. This brought a smile to Whitney’s face.
“See Desi. I told you if we left them alone they would work this out.”
A week later they drove to a place in Sacramento named Harlow’s. This was a new venue for the band to play, and they were excited to get some new exposure. When it was time for them to go on, Smoke walked on stage and did his traditional introductions.
“Good evening ladies and gentleman, my name is Smoke, and welcome to Harlow’s...”
Owen walked on stage, and the crowd gave a standing ovation. Isaias sat on his stool behind his drums, and Owen moved to his piano stool. He turned on his mic and smiled.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Harlow’s. We’ve never played this venue before and since we have a packed house; it could only mean one thing. You’ve heard the album right?”
“Yeah!” The crowd yelled.
“Do you like it?”
“Well I’m glad. I heard the steak is pretty good here. Is it really?”
Owen chuckled and pointed at his eye. “Well, I’ll take one raw.”
The audience laughed.
“See I got this black eye and I heard that raw steak can help heal it. So why not one of Harlow’s best?”
“I’ll have to tell you later how I got this but now we just wanna play for you. You ready to listen?”
“Great. This first song is the one that took the longest to write. Our drummer Isaias wrote it. His beautiful woman Whitney inspired him. Whitney, stand up!”
Whitney stood up, and the crowd applauded.
“The name of the song is Philly. Ladies and gentlemen we are Therapy.”
Owen gave the count, and the song started. Whitney still got butterflies in her stomach when she heard this song. The set went on for thirty minutes. When the first set was over, Owen continued with his story.
“Thank you. Well we’re gonna take a break right now, but before we do, I have to tell you more about this black eye. See I have a good friend, and I pissed him off so bad that he hit me. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve always been able to talk out our differences. So here’s what I have to say to all of you. Never ever, piss off your best friend. You may get something you didn’t expect. At the end of the show, I’ll let you meet the man who did this to me. Be sure to take care of your wait staff. They’re doing a good job. We’ll be back in fifteen.”
The band left the stage and took a break. When they came back, Owen talked some more.
“We’re back ladies and gentlemen. I have to say that I’m blessed. A long time ago, I met special woman and I ended up falling in love with her. Her name is Desiree. Stand up honey.”
Desiree stood up.
“It took me a long time to tell everyone that I loved her, but now I tell everyone all of the time. I’m no longer afraid to tell the world how I feel about her. In fact, I’m so confident of my love for her, a week ago, I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. Show everyone your rock baby!”
The crowd cheered.
“Damn, I love that woman. I have a surprise for her at the end of the set. On with the music. The next song we are going to do for you is called, Master. Our bassist, Smoke, wrote this one. You like the bass don’t you!”
“Take it away Smoke!”
This time Smoke started the count, and the set began. By the time the show was over, they played the album in its entirety. When the last note played, the crowd went crazy. Owen was almost ready to say goodnight.
“Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Well I promised to tell you who gave me this shiner. Isaias come on over here. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the best friend I’ve ever had. I’ve known him since I was ten years old. He was so angry with me that he even considered leaving the band.”
“Yes. But, we worked it out and he’s gonna stay with us. You wouldn’t want him to go anywhere would you?”
“Me neither. So I’m glad he stayed.”
Just then, one of the waitresses walked on stage with a raw T-bone steak on a plate.
“Oh, what’s this?”
The waitress smiled. “On behalf of the owner, and wait staff here at Harlow’s we would like to say we enjoyed you, thank you for coming, and get better.”
Owen laughed aloud, and took the plate. Owen turned it so the audience could see. “Look! It’s my steak!”
“Thank you very much. Boys have a seat. I have one more song I would like to play.”
Everyone except Owen left the stage, and all got quiet.
“I wrote this song when Desiree was determined to let the world know how we felt about each other and she stayed on my ass. She doesn’t know this, but truth be told, I loved her, but was afraid to be exclusive. That is the real reason why I kept putting it off.
“The only way I could work out what I was feeling was to write about it. I love her with all my heart. No one and nothing will ever take that away from me. But at the time, I was confused. I never gave her a real reason why I didn’t tell anyone, and I used the album as an excuse. But since we are about to be married, I thought I should tell her.
“Desi baby I loved you then as much as I love you now. I just didn’t know exactly how to tell you. I didn’t want to lose you, but I was afraid to keep you. The name of the song is, Confusion.”
Owen began to sing the lyrics to the song. By the time the song was over, Desiree was in tears.
Owen leaned into the mic and quietly said, “I love you, baby.”
Everyone, including his own band, stood up and gave Owen a standing ovation.
Owen stood up and took a bow. He blew a kiss to Desiree and took another bow.
“Thank you very much you’ve been a stellar audience. Thank you to Mr. Kenneth Harlow, owner of Harlow’s, for having us. I would like to think of our music as the treatment of physical, mental, or behavioral problems that is meant to cure or rehabilitate someone. I hope you do too. Ladies and gentleman, we are Therapy.”
The crowd was still on their feet when he left the stage. The band ran up on stage and took another bow, accepted the praise and went to the table. Desiree stood up and hugged Owen so hard she almost suffocated him.
“You’re gonna kill me, Desi. Let me go baby.”
“Thank you honey. It was beautiful.”
“As are you.”
Isaias was surprised. “That was awesome.”
“You have a beautiful voice, Owen. I didn’t even know you could sing,” Whitney said.
“I have several hidden talents,” Owen said, tapping Desiree on her nose.
“I think we should have a meeting with marketing, and invite our agent,” Isaias said. “There is no way that these people should know who we are, but they do. I really think we are on our way to something that we didn’t expect.”
“Are you kidding man? This is what I wanted. This is what we all wanted except for you. Once you graduate it’s on to the corporate world for you.”
Isaias shrugged. “Maybe not.”