Changing Beats (Book 1)

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Chapter Nine

Cortney

Tonight, was actually nice and relaxed at work. We had a sick child, most likely an ear infection, a woman with a broken arm and a mysterious patient that had dropped something on her head; so, she said. We all assumed that it was some sort of a domestic dispute.

“Cortney, you’ve been requested in one-fifteen.” I turned to see Cheryl’s short fat foot tapping at me. Her stout body matched.

“This is the ER. People can’t make requests.” I rolled my eyes and went back to charting on my mysterious head injury patient.

“I told him that.” She rolled her eyes and muttered something about how ridiculous young people are nowadays, “Anyway, he wanted me to ask you how it was hanging, said it would be a dead giveaway.”

That was what I’d said to Jason when we met on the street that first night.

We’d been texting all day. All day- every day, for a little over a week. Not to mention that he’d stayed every night at my apartment.

I didn’t have time to think about that now, I was on my feet, rushing to room one-fifteen.

What had happened? If he was here, he was hurt. Was he okay? It couldn’t have been that bad, considering I hadn’t heard the ER alarm.

“Hey, Pretty Lady!” Jason smiled at me from a bedside chair when I walked into the room.

I let go of the air I’d sucked in, in a large huff of relief.

“I thought you were hurt again,” I relaxed a little.

“Awe, were you worried about me, Princess?” He teased, a flirty smile on his face. I couldn’t help but return the smile.

“Hey, Cortney.” Chris smiled from the bed, pulling my attention away from Jason, “Good to see you again.”

“Chris?” I sighed, oh no another band member down. I examined his face to see the extent of whatever damage had been done. It looked like another fight. He had definitely lost.

“What the hell happened to you now? Did you walk into a wall or something?” I asked with deep sarcasm and was amazed when he started to chuckle.

“You were right, Dude.” He ignored my question and smiled widely at Jason, “Sarcasm and all.”

“Told ya’, Man.” He chuckled back, trying to cover it as anger grew.

The doctor came in before I could get my answer and ordered a bunch of tests. By the look of it, he would most likely be here the night, with x-rays and MRIs.

Once we had him on his way to testing I turned to Jason.

“What the hell do you guys do all day? Is there, like, some kind of Metal-Head Fight Club that no one knows about but you guys?”

“No, but that’d be awesome.” He smiled widely at me, “Hey, do I get a kiss for bringing him in? It would be a nice reward.”

I smiled, but didn’t move. It actually took effort not to go to him. I wanted that kiss horribly. The one he gave me when he left this afternoon had me weak in the knees.

“You didn’t answer my question.” I crossed my arms.

“I know that there’s subjects we skirt around, like my band mates... Did you ever look up our band at all?” He looked down, wiping something off of his pant leg.

“I did. A little.” I admitted, “Black Heart. You guys are pretty cool. I like your newer stuff, without the yelling, it’s a little less ear shattering. Your vocalist is a complete dick though.”

Jason was quiet, thoughtful. He just sat there staring at me, watching me. What was he thinking? I know I’d overstepped, but it needed to be said.

“I’m sorry, but it’s true, Jason. I saw it online. He’s out of control. The partying, the women and how many hotels has he been kicked out of? He did this to Chris, didn’t he?” I asked pointedly, “He needs to know that this isn’t okay. He can’t go through life treating people like this. Karma will catch up to him and it will bite him hard.”

“I knew someone who used to say the same the same thing about Karma.” He continued to watch me. “She used different words, some cuss words too, but it was the same.” Tears were filling his eyes.

“You fuck with Karma and it fucks with you.” His voice trailed.

The girl... The one who I reminded him of... That was another issue we skirted around.

“You miss her.” I acknowledged with a nod, suddenly feeling brokenhearted, “Whoever she was.”

“You’re so pretty,” He gave a timid smile, with a dry huff. “Even at three in the morning, when you look like the walking dead.”

“Jason.” This was messing with my emotions. I really liked this guy, but how could I compete with someone he held on a pedestal? He held up a hand to stop my words before my tears spilled over.

“Please don’t be upset,” He was standing, pulling me into a hug, “It’s not like that. Do you remember when we were in my car that first night and you asked me if I missed Maine?”

“Yes.” I gave a nod.

“I said that I missed how it used to be, remember that?” He reminded me.

When I gave a nod, he backed away to look into my eyes.

“I was thirteen when we decided to get a band going. This all started with Chris, Asher and me. The guys were only twelve at the time, I was behind in school so we were all in the same grade. We all grew up together in the same small town and everything.”

“So you put up with him because he’s from the same town?” I asked.

“No. I put up with him, because I know the type of person he was, before all of this bullshit started.” He told me, his eyes turning cold and closed off. “I try to help him and stop his bullshit, because I know what he went through and we’re family. Asher is my brother. He has been since before we formed this thing. Not by blood, but he’s my brother.”

The look on my face must have shown my confusion, because after a moment he continued.

“It’s hard to explain, but I’m going to try, because I want you to understand.” He pulled up 2 chairs and turned them to face each other. Sitting in one and motioning for me to sit in the other. Once I did, he pulled my hands into his and looked into my eyes.

“This can’t be repeated, okay?” He eyed me, “It can’t get out and I shouldn’t even be telling you. I feel like you need to understand why we do this though, because I feel like you and I have something here and I don’t want you scared off by this bullshit.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” I assured him.

“Okay,” he sighed heavily, “We grew up in a tiny ass town, between the mountains and the ocean. Everyone knew eachother all through school. When we first came together Asher was different. He was still pissy, but it wasn’t anything like it is now. He smiled, he laughed and he enjoyed music. Gabe and Nick followed his lead into the band. They were our friends from school and knew how to play, so the shit was just natural. Gabe played strings and Nick played keys. They believed in Asher’s vision, just like we did. It was perfect.”

“He was different. He had friends,” I gave a nod of understanding, “Got it.”

“Asher was a completely different person back then, Cortney.” He smiled sadly to himself, a dreamy look on his face. “We were all happier back then.”

“We’d been at it for a while. Asher would write, we’d add the music and together we came up with a couple decent songs. We would practice night and day, whenever we could. We had a good thing going. Then, one day, a year or so down the line Asher shows up with this kid, a girl with purple hair.” He huffed with a dreamy smile.

“We knew her from school and around town. She’d grown up there too, but she was quiet and didn’t talk to many people. She was twelve at the time and a year behind us in school. I had seen her hanging with him a lot around that time and she seemed cool. She was scrawny and gangly just like Asher, but she was quiet and reserved where he wasn’t.”

“We were all in the garage practicing one day and in he came with this girl in toe, begging us to let her jam, “Just give her a chance.” he said, “She needs this, just one song. Let her sing just once. It’s all I’m asking.” When I asked him why we should he just smiled and said, “You’ll see.” So we let her jam with us. What harm could it do, right? We set her up and gave her an easy one. A Blondie song, that we’d punked-out. We honestly didn’t think she could hit it. If you’d seen her you would have thought the same thing.”

“Believe it or not though, that girl left us all feeling stupid. Every one of us had our jaws on the floor,” he paused and raised his index finger to point, “every one of us, except for Asher. The fool stood there with a stupid ass grin on his face. The best part though, was when the music stopped. She turned around, looked right at me and asked, “Can I have something a little harder?””

“She was that good?” My brow wrinkled. I didn’t know him from Adam, but the idea of Asher McGhee actually wanting a female around sounded odd.

“You have no idea.” He shook his head, eyes wide. “At only twelve this girl could blow. I mean, her voice was just phenomenal and her writing skills made Asher’s writing look like a kindergartener. She had no background in music, no voice lessons, nothing. I’m telling you, the thought of her voice still gives me goosebumps.”

“Bree… she was one tough kid.” Tears hit his eyes, as he tried to hold back his emotions. “She told me later on, that her mom had just died the week before she came to the garage with Asher. She’d had cancer for a long time, which is why Bree kept to herself. When her mom was sick from all the chemo, Bree would do these little performances that comforted her. After she was gone, singing was Bree’s way of feeling that her mom was still with her.”

“Wow.” I was legitimately speechless. What did one say to that?

“Yeah,” he blinked rapidly, pushing the tears back, “but that wasn’t it. Asher’s writing picked up and we REALLY saw the way he looked at her. Not just when she hit the tracks we gave her, it was all the time. I’m telling you, it was like he worshiped her. He was in heaven when she was around. Then when they were on stage together it was like he was in another world completely. They both were.”

“He loved her.” Could that man ever love anyone?

“Cortney, what happened between the two of them, it was more than love.” He shook his head, as though he didn’t understand it.

"We loved her.” He told me, “She became a sister to everyone in the band. Our families accepted her as one of their kids... Everyone was protective over her. She only had her dad and people were mean to her, because they didn’t understand her, so not only were we together for band jams, but we were with her all the time. She really did became family.”

“She needed me and the guys, but her and Asher? That was everything. To both of them. They were more than anything I could ever describe. It was like she was his counterpart. With the two of them, when one was going off about something the other knew how to bring them back. She calmed his crazy and absorbed just enough of it to be tough. She was, and still is, his inspiration, his muse, his vice. She’s what drives him, even now. That’s why he’s the way he is.”

“Where is she?” I asked softly. She obviously wasn’t around anymore.

“Don’t know,” his eyes fully glossed over and he shook his head, “But could you imagine losing your soul mate at eighteen? It was hard enough for me to lose her as my little sister. Now the thought of her just drives him insane. They were a couple for nearly four years and we had known her for a hell of a lot longer.”

“She just disappeared?” This was insane. I hated where my mind went with all of the questions. “No one knows where she is at all?”

What did Asher do to her? Was the poor girl in a shallow grave somewhere in Maine? Is that why they were all the way across the country?

He sniffled, “She was gone before we moved to New York to start our career. We were a family. She was part of the plan. We’d all stick together and wait it out for her to finish school, like her dad wanted her to. We even got jobs lined up in town to save money while we waited. We had a huge party the night we graduated. I mean we blew the doors off of this warehouse we’d rented out. Asher was going to tell her the plan that night. The next day she just wasn’t there. She was just gone. Asher went to get her, as always, but came back alone and destroyed our equipment screaming that she’d just taken off.”

“Do you really think that she just ran off?” I asked, “You said that they loved each other.”

He gave a nod, “I was just as surprised as the guys. I went to talk to her dad and he was basically comatose. He had the police there and everything. They said it looked like she’d just packed a bag and took off. It wasn’t like her, Cortney, and that’s what’s eating us all up here. She wouldn’t just run away.”

Tears fell from his eyes. He didn’t look at me anymore. He just watched the floor.

“She never came back, you know?” he told me, “We waited for her for months. We figured that she’d be back by fall, but she didn’t come home. Her father hired some people to find her, but eventually came home alone… empty handed…”

“He said that they had a lead, but she was gone when he got there. No note, nothing.” More tears fell and he wiped them away. “That was when Asher changed. He wrote some really hateful shit, forced us to work harder, longer hours on our music and we got our asses out of town. We never went to New York, because Asher didn’t want the original plan without her. We came out here instead.”

“She never had her own career?” I swallowed hard, “She just disappeared? No one has heard from her? No one at all?”

“Not a word,” he huffed, “Music was her thing, Cortney. It was her life. Music and Asher, that’s what she lived for. Bree wrote songs, played strings and, man did she have a set of lungs. The girl lived and breathed music. There’s no way she just left.” 

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