The steady beat of the heart rate monitor kept me sane. Still shook up over the news of the accident, I needed to remember Brandt was going to be fine, the most important take away from this whole incident? My children still had their father and I still had my husband... for now.
He was drinking and driving. When Tony called the house and woke me up out of a restless sleep I knew right away he had screwed up again after he told me he would stop. Tony gave me time to dress and met me at the door with Aaron, his partner. Aaron kindly stayed with the kids while they slept and Tony drove me to the hospital. They were both good friends. Aaron, having never even met Brandt, chose to help us out and I wasn’t sure what I would have done without the two of them lately.
Tony seemed like he had been in my life forever. We met for the first time after a hospital stay resulting from my kidnapping. He helped Brandt to find and rescue me from an ex-boyfriend who hurt me and ended the life of our first child. It seemed a million years ago when in fact it was only a decade and a half since the ordeal.
Looking down at Brandt’s bruised and swollen face, I couldn’t understand how our life turned in this direction. We didn’t always have a perfect life, but I thought all our tragedy was over. I was kidding myself. Things between us changed over the last year but I didn’t want to face it. I didn’t want to accept us growing apart having loved him as much as I did, but he headed down a path away from me. I guess we both headed down a path I swore was together, but in fact, we split into parallel trails with a river of doubt separating our footfalls, and it killed me inside.
Marriage got hard. I went into it with the understanding that we would need to work on it together but I guess I didn’t realize just how hard it could be. The life of a rock star proved challenging enough but Brandt struggled with his fame over the last couple of years. The pressures of stardom weighed heavily down on the band, and they almost seemed to implode. Feelings were hurt and lives were wrecked. It took a toll on all of them but Brandt took it the hardest.
Brandt loved me. He loved his children, I had no doubt about it but without his music, it was like cutting off his arm. He would never be the same without it and I couldn’t help feeling I had a hand in causing the demise, at least a little.
Social Offender, Brandt’s band, was on top of the world right when our second son came into the world. Donavin Stennet, or mostly Vinny, was born at a time when our twins weren’t even two years old. Vinny was a surprise although we both wanted a large family. The stress with delivery took a toll on my body. When we had a scare and I almost lost the baby, Brandt told me he was going to take a break from the music. He gave it up to help me with the kids, and just when he felt ready to start touring again, we had another surprise: Angel.
Angelica Chelsea Stennet was never supposed to be born. Neither Brandt nor I thought it possible to conceive any more children after the difficult delivery with Vinny. When I found out about the pregnancy and my dismal odds of survival, there was no way I could convince Brandt to return to the road. I needed him at home. Although tremendously glad he stayed behind for me it cost him time on the road with his fans, and they started to forget about the band.
Brandt loved me and loved the children but his life was on the road with the fans. The time off made it hard for him to go back to touring. Pulled between his two worlds, by the time the band did return, the fans became fickle. They still sold tickets but the number of sold-out shows started to dwindle. Their record company put them down as washed up and passed them over for younger talent. Hearing his songs on the oldies station was the last straw for Brandt, and he started to internalize his feelings. Way to kick a man when he was down.
It wasn’t just the lack of fame of the band, the rest of the bandmates had a rough time of it too.
Quade, the bass player, had found out his son wasn’t his biological son. It led to him leaving his wife Mackenzie and falling off the face of the earth for the next several months. Worse yet, the father of his child turned out to be Social Offender’s guitarist, JJ Harries.
JJ had hit rock bottom by then. He had a drinking and drug problem brought on in part by Mackenzie coercing him into sex when he was high on drugs she supplied him and had gotten pregnant out of the night. Deep in his heart, JJ knew Quade’s son was his and the guilt ate away at him to the point he hated himself. It led to him slowly poisoning himself until there was just a shred of a man left. Luckily, he was able to pick himself up and ask for help. My help. Brandt hated it and it caused a fight when I went against his wishes and supported JJ, but I couldn’t let him die.
JJ hated hospitals and his past stints in rehab failed regardless, so we chose to help him through detox at his mother’s house. With the help of his two sisters, we each took an eight-hour shift to watch and took care of him. The studio wanted to wash their hands of him already, but they did get us a physician to prescribe medication and give us direction to help him. We would give him medication around the clock at any sign of a seizure or worsening symptoms. It was so hard to watch him go through it. I cried most days. He went through his own personal hell and lashed out when it got really bad. He even tried to get me so upset I would leave so he could score some more drugs.
JJ told me stories of Brandt’s past relationships with women to get me to leave him alone but it didn’t work. Relationships were a loose term for what the guys had with their female fans back in the early days, and my husband was no exception. He would fuck women. Lots of women. Some stuff they did was far from considered tactful. I learned early on in our time together that I didn’t want to know. Brandt of years ago was different from the Brandt I knew and I had decided nothing good would come from me finding out about his indiscretions. Raised in a ‘good religious family’, my philosophy differed greatly from what Brandt and the rest of the band did on a nightly basis before he met me. Brandt and I falling in love were like black and white, summer and winter, yin and yang. Complete opposites, our love conquered all. At least that was what I thought. Now I wasn’t so sure.
When I left JJ’s side that day, I couldn’t help picturing Brandt in a different light. He had left all of it behind for me but it fed on my insecurities that I wouldn’t measure up to the exciting life he had before me and I would never be able to stoop to that level. I went home a mess and when Brandt found out he nearly killed JJ. It caused a huge rift between them, and they haven’t talked since. Brandt kicked him out of the band and without a guitarist, the band faltered. Quade had since forgiven JJ. In fact, JJ helped to bring a doctor in to deliver Quade’s child with his girlfriend when he couldn’t bring her to a hospital. So it seemed if they could work it out, then Brandt should be able to as well. But Brandt held grudges. It ate him up inside, but he couldn’t let it go. It made me wonder if it was more about JJ betraying him for shit he did years ago or if Brandt still kept so much guilt he couldn’t let it go on his end. Either way, Social Offender disbanded and Brandt seemed lost.
The beeping wavered from its steady rhythm when I noticed Brandt’s hand twitch. Coming closer to the bed I made sure not to touch the leg they set during surgery. I watched carefully as his eyes fluttered open fighting to wake up. The swollen part of his left side cheek and jaw looked painful as well as the bruise and cut above his left eye. The doctor had to warn me of what he looked like before I saw him. It was hard to prepare myself for the sight in front of me. The airbags deployed saving the right side of his face, but he hit the side window and it caused most of his wounds to his head.
When his eyes finally open he looked confused, dazed. As much as I wanted to rejoice in him being awake, I held back showing any affection. I couldn’t help feeling his survival meant he wouldn’t take his reckless lifestyle seriously and would only try it again the next weekend. The feeling was morose, a no-win situation. Instead, I brushed a tear away from my cheek that managed its way out and leaned forward until he saw me.
“Hey.” Brandt’s eyes fluttered again, and then he turned to me trying to focus his gaze.
“Hey. What... what happened?” His voice was made hoarse either from the accident itself or the tube positioned down his throat during surgery.
“Brandt you were in an accident. Do you remember any of it?” His brow furrowed as he closed his eyes again.
When he opened it he shook his head slightly, “No.” Too drunk to remember? It just made me sadder.
“Your car veered off the road and hit a boulder. It took almost an hour to extricate you from the car. You just got out of surgery.” I used the same terminology the paramedics did as I hoped he would see the seriousness of his actions. He looked confused but I couldn’t tell if he had a worse concussion than what the doctors had thought or it was due to the anesthesia wearing off.
Brandt lifted his head to look down at his body but winced at the pain. “Don’t try to move. Your head will hurt from the concussion.” His hand went up to his face but it got caught on the sheet with his IV.
“What... where am I injured?”
“Your face is swollen and bruised on the left side and you may have broken your nose. They think you swallowed the two teeth you knocked out as well. You bruised your ribs and left hip and you have a broken left ankle. They surgically repaired the ankle with pins and screws and you won’t be able to walk for a while.” I didn’t want to sugarcoat it. He should know the consequences of his actions as hard as it was.
Brandt’s hand fell back down to his side with a soft thump on the mattress, “Is that all?”
His sarcasm pissed me off. “You were very lucky not to be injured worse. Brandt you could have...” I couldn’t finish. Emotion swelled in my throat making it hard to talk and I refused to cry anymore tonight.
“I swear Chelsea, I don’t remember what happened. The last I remember I was at Corey’s house and...” His eyes widened as he understood what he revealed to me. We had so many fights about Corey I finally gave him an ultimatum, him or me. I guess he made his choice.
“Honestly Chelsea it isn’t what you think. I just went over to--”
I stopped him letting the sadness creep into my voice, “It doesn’t matter. Please Brandt, you just concentrate on getting better. They are monitoring you overnight. I will be bringing the kids tomorrow to see you and we will talk more then.”
He accepted what I said, “Yeah, I think that would be wise.”
Long nights I stayed awake worried about Brandt. Corey was a bad influence on him. They met on the set of a B movie I had taken a small part in. Corey Marta made a name for himself being the bad boy of Hollywood and soon destroyed many reputable leads to big-name film companies. Drunk and addicted to whatever drug he could get his hands on he still had a name that would draw a crowd if not only to watch the train wreck that was his life unfold. He took any job he could to keep up with his lavish lifestyle and hooked in Brandt at a time he was most vulnerable. Corey played to Brandt’s damaged ego and Brandt had a momentary spike in his fame due to parties he attended with the two of them and made them big shots in the eyes of the tabloids.
I should have never started back in the industry. When my children left for school I started to get restless. My life revolved around driving them from sports to religion to all their extracurricular activities and it didn’t give me any of my own satisfaction. I thought being a full-time mother would complete me as I never wished for anything more. Helping out at school, being part of the parent-teachers association, helping to fundraise for the new soccer stadium even though half of the parents could afford to just donate the funds without it hitting their pocketbooks, none of it seemed to matter because it was just what mom did. If this was the only thing I ever dreamed of doing, then why wasn’t I happy?
The kids grew to expect everything I did for them. Over the past year, their expectations hit an all-time high. Probably more since watching their parents’ marriage dissolve. Being a mom was a thankless job. I shouldn’t think it would be different with my own kids but somehow they took me for granted. I did it to myself. I mean, I raised them this way, didn’t I?
Standing up, Brandt followed me with his eyes. A look of unease clouded his ocean blue eyes. Even if he didn’t remember everything about what happened tonight, he did seem to remember my ultimatum. “Get some sleep, Brandt.” I shouldn’t be mothering him but old habits died hard. Leaning down I kissed him on the top of his head. His lips too bruised for me to chance hurting him.
“I will see you in the morning.” Without taking another look at him, I turned and left the room knowing it would be the last kiss he would receive from me.
I lied to myself that night about another topic though. I thought I was done crying over us. What I didn’t know was it was just the start.