It took a lot of convincing on both Zahara and my part to let Jacob agree to let me do a little performance at Bo’s bar. He had a lot of requirements like the whole thing being recorded for a special on my YouTube page, and I wasn’t allowed to play any of my new stuff. I wasn’t allowed to have a lot of fans in the building, without payment for meet and greets, and I couldn’t sing more than 2 songs. I was happy that I was allowed at all, knowing there was a lot of things that go into a performing rather than just walking on stage, especially if you’re Grammy award winning recording artist. As we got closer to the bar performance, and closer to the end of our trip, the looming shadow of fear hovered over me. Not only was I going to see Braum and Demetra at the bar tonight, I was going to have to tell Braum everything before I left.
“Lorelei is down for the count,” Laila says, coming downstairs into the kitchen.
“Are we ready for a great night?” Zahara says.
“We are!” Alec says happily clapping his hands together. We leave together, I ride with Geo and Laila, and Zahara, Calum, and Alec take the rental car. I remember going to Bo’s Fathers bar a few times in high school, he was always really nice to us, and gave us free drinks. We would sit in a booth all night watching the drunk adults make asses of themselves, and sometimes I would even perform for the crowd. Walking into the building, I can see not much has change, the updated the furniture and slapped a few coats of paint on the walls, the attendees of the bar are far younger than I remember, a lot even knowing me and asking for pictures.
“Thank you for coming Deya, this means a lot!” Bo says, pulling me into a tight hug.
“It’s nothing really,” I say, pulling away. “You met my friend Calum, but this is one of my managers Zahara, and our friend Alec,” I say.
“It’s nice to meet you all, thank you for coming,” he says. “Geo, Laila, nice to see you,”
“Ditto,” Laila says, with a fake smile.
“Well the crowd was absolutely ecstatic that you were performing,” Bo says.
“I’m glad they’re happy to see me,” I say.
“Well everything is set up, and I’m sure the band knows your work,” he says, gesturing to the stage.
“Good luck,” Laila says pushing, I make my way to the stage. The crowd bursting with excitement, it wasn’t my first time gracing a crowd, I’ve face bigger than this, but my stomach still twisted. Because amongst them was Braum and Demetra, their eyes judging me, knowing what these songs were about.
“Hi everyone, my name is Adeya,” I say, the crowd roars. “If you didn’t know, I’m actually from Open Crest and I used to come to this bar a lot when I was younger, and it feels like a full circle being here now performing, Tonight I will be playing two songs one from my first album and one from my second album, this first one is called Needy,” I say. The band starts, and they’re a little early but I go along with it. When I finish, I get a standing ovation, I have to wait until the crowd calms down before I begin again. “This next song was the leading single of my second album, this is called What A Time,” The music starts, and I spot him. Standing amongst the crowd, Demetra at his side. I cruise through the song, ignoring the drop in my stomach. When I finish the crowd cheers, and Calum and Alec help me make it back to the bar where we stay behind a cheap velvet rope.
“You did amazing baby!” Zahara says, pulling me into a hug. “How do you feel?”
“Good,” I say.
“Amazing love, just amazing,” Alec says from the touch, holding up his glass.
“Adeya! That was great!” Bo says, coming up behind me, I turn around just as he scoops me into his arms. “Thank you, thank you so much!” he says, setting me down on the ground.
“It’s nothing really,” I say, pulling away. “I’m glad everyone enjoyed it,” I say.
“You’re amazing,” he says. “There are some people who want to see you,” he says, pointing towards the bar where Braum and Demetra waited.
“Great,” I say, I follow Bo behind the Bar, getting ambushed by flashing lights, and questions I wasn’t allowed to answer.
“Oh my god Adeya!” Demetra says, reaching across the bar and hugging me. I accept is squeezing her back, pretending she was just another fan at a meet and greet, and not the girl who basically stole the love of my life from me. “You were so amazing!” she says pulling me away.
“Oh, thank you,” I gush. “I’m glad you guys enjoyed the show!” I say.
“It was amazing,” Braum says, forcing me to look at him. I just push out a smile.
“Seeing you on TV is one thing but live is something totally different!” Demetra says. “How are you? One day you’re in my science class the next you’re in Hollywood?”
“It was kind of a sudden thing, a lot of things happened,” I say.
“We need to catch up! If you have the time! I’d love to hear about everything! All the juicy details,” she says, with a wide smile.
“Actually, my parents are throwing a little barbeque, and you are all invited,” I say.
“All of us?” Bo asks.
“All of you!” I say, clapping my hands together. “It’ll be fun! Completely private,” I say.
“That sounds so fun! Thank you for the invite!” Demetra says, I pull away from the bar.
“I should get back to my group, it was really nice seeing all you guys,” I say, before turning and quickly walking over to my group.
“Are you okay?!” Laila immediately says, but I feel dizzy.
“I need alcohol,” I say, grabbing the cup in her hand and downing it in one go. Zahara immediately snatches the cup away from me.
“Slow down girl, America’s sweetheart doesn’t need to be plastered at a dive bar,” Zahara snaps.
“I invited them to the barbeque, all of them,” I let, everyone looks at me like I told them I shot someone. “I don’t know what I was thinking, but I just…”
“Breath,” Laila says beside me. She pulls me down to the couch, pulling me into her side.
“And what did they say?” Geo asks.
“Yes, of course they said yes,” I say.
“So, what are you going to do? You’re just going to drop the Lorelei bomb on him in front of everyone like that?” Zahara asks.
“Fuck I don’t know,” I say. “Now I feel stupid,”
“No,” Laila says.
“Not stupid, just impulsive, the most impulsive person I know,” Zahara says kneeling down in front of me, and handing over her drink. “Just breath, it’s going to be okay,”
“I feel like a hurricane,” I admit, all my feelings rushing over me. “I feel like I crash through people’s lives leaving nothing but destruction,”
“You do not!” Laila says. “You’re the best tropical storm I know,” she squeezes me. “Do you know how boring life would be if you weren’t you?”
“You’re amazing Adeya, so you made a few mistakes, but no one is perfect” Calum says.
“It is almost 2 in the morning, are you on drugs!” Laila hisses, as we swing open the front door Lorelei clinging to my body. Laila follows me outside, my path across the street, all I had to do was knock on the door, all I had to do was let it happen. “I don’t think you’re thinking this through,” I stop when I make it to the curb.
“I don’t do this now…. I don’t know when I’ll be able to do this Laila,” I say, turning around. “I will admit I’m a bit drunk, and I’m not thinking straight but, I think that’s what I need,” she doesn’t say anything else, and I turn around continuing to the front door. I ring the doorbell and wait in silence. The front porch lights flicking on, and the front door open.
“Adeya?” Mrs. Clifford says, sleepiness and confusion covering her face. “What’s going on? Is Lorelei okay?” she asks.
“I need to do this now,” I say, gripping Lorelei tighter. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. She gives me a tight nod opening the door wider, and allowing me in.
“Is your friend just going to stand on our lawn?” Mrs. Clifford asks, I look back at Laila who waits patiently at the sidewalk.
“Yes,” I say, Mrs. Clifford closes the door.
“I think he just got home, I’ll be right back,” she says, before caressing Lorelei’s sleeping form. Then Braum appears, he is also tired and confused, and all I want to do is run away.
“Adeya? What’s going on?” he asks.
“Please don’t hate me forever,” I say.
“What are you talking about?”
“This is Lorelei,” I say, pulling the blanket from Lorelei’s head, she slowly wakes up. “And she’s your daughter,”
We stand in silence, for what feels like forever. He stares at her in my arms, and I can see the gears turning in his head.
“She’s how old?” he asks, after what feels like an eternity of silence.
“3, she’ll be 4 in December,” I say, he covers his mouth, the pain finally settling on his face. “You don’t know how many times I wanted to tell you, I am so sorry Braum I never wanted to keep her away from you,”
“Who else knows about her?”
“My label does, they help me keep her out of the public eye for the most part, Laila, and Geo were the first to find out, and my parents, and your parents, and your brothers,”
“Please don’t be mad at them, if there is anyone you want to be mad at it’s me, I made them keep her away from you and I wish I could tell you why…. I was hurting and I never wanted you to hurt,” I say.
“We’re you ever going to tell me?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say, I didn’t know whether that was the truth or not. “I’m really sorry,”
“Stop apologizing Adeya, dammit,” he says, dropping onto the stairs.
“Mama?” Lorelei says, waking up. I wipe away the forming tears bouncing her in my arms.
“Sorry I woke you baby,” I say, rubbing her back. “I wanted you to meet someone,” I turn her to see Braum and she is still waking up, so she looks confused. Braum stands up, pain and confusion plastered on his face. “This is your papa,”
“Hi,” he says, his voice strained. “Wow you are beautiful,” he says, I could see the tears forming in his eyes.
“Do you want to hold her?” I ask, he nods, and I gently hand her over to him. She is still confused, but she was also tired and allowed it to happen, it wasn’t the first time she was woken up in the middle of the night and given over to someone. “We don’t have to talk about everything right now, we can talk more at the barbeque if you want….”
“We can, I just need to process everything” he says, holding a now sleeping Lorelei. He gently hands her back over to me, and I step back.
“I will see you at the barbeque then,”
“I will see you there,”
When I return back home, I spend the rest of the night thinking about facing Braum at the Barbeque. In the morning I had to face the backlash to my rash decision at breakfast with everyone. “What were you thinking exactly?” my dad asks, for the hundredth time while sipping his coffee.
“I wasn’t but now everything is out in the air, and I just have to handle it now,” I say.
“And you invited not only his new girlfriend, which Allison says is a handful I might add, to the barbeque?” my mother asks.
“The private barbeque,” my father asks.
“Yes, thank you for listing all the things I did wrong last night,” I say. “Care to add more to the list?”
“Sorry honey, I just think you’re biting off more than you can chew! You don’t want to overwhelm yourself,” my mother says.
“I can do this mom, I’ve dealt with scandals and harsh talk show host, I can handle this,” I say, slapping my hand on the table.
“But have you thought about what’s going to happen moving forward? Braum lives in New York, he is still in school and you live in Hollywood California, you are living two different lives and now that he knows about hers, he is going to have to make a lot of changes,”
“And who says he isn’t just going try and take custody?” my Father adds.
“Henry!” my mother snaps, slapping my Father on the arm. I sink in my seat, biting my nails.
“We have to think of all possibilities,” My father says. “Now I don’t think Braum would do that, but you have to think of all the possibilities honey,”
“Thanks dad,” I say, pushing out of the seat. “I should start getting Lorelei ready for the barbeque,” I say, moving quickly out of the kitchen and upstairs to my room. Lorelei is still peacefully sleeping, and I’m forced to pull her out of her slumber and take her a bath getting her dressed in one of the many outfits, packed for her by Zahara. When she’s finished, I send her downstairs and force myself to get ready.
I hadn’t really thought about custody. What if Braum tries taking her away from me? I kept her away from him for 3 years, what if they think I’m some selfish mother? He could say I work too much, I practically leave her with a babysitter to go to the bathroom. What if they said I was an unfit parent?
“There she is,” Laila says, pushing into the room. “Did you get any sleep last night?”
“What do you think?” I ask, turning in my seat to face her.
“Everyone is waiting downstairs, people are arriving” she says.
“Great,” I say.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks. “You know I’m here for you,”
“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” I admit. “I love her more than life itself, and I can’t lose her,”
“You’re not losing anything Adeya,” Laila says, crossing the room and kneeling in front of me. “I’m right here with you, until the end of the road, you can do this Adeya,” I just nod, figuring I couldn’t hold off forever. We pull away moving out of my room and downstairs. Where everyone is already conjoined outside. Alec is with my father at the grill, drinking beers and laughing about god knows what, my mother and Mrs. Clifford sit in the shade drinking wine coolers. Geo runs around the yard chasing Lorelei and Braum stands with Demetra, Bo, and his brothers.
“Thanks for finally join us,” my Father says, I walk over grabbing a beer from the cooler beside him. “
“You know I have to look my best,” I say, popping off the top. I join Zahara and Calum sitting on the lawn basking in the sun.
“How is my superstar?” Zahara asks.
“Self-Destructing,” I admit.
“I heard about the big reveal,” she says, looking behind me and forcing me to look back at Braum who stood watching Lorelei. “How are you feeling,”
“Like I’m going to vomit,”
“You’re a big girl, who took on Henry Connolly and the worse podcast on earth?” she asks.
“Me I guess, but my music and my baby are two different things,” I say.
“Your music is your baby, and you’ve got this,” Zahara says giving me a thumbs up.
“Mama! Mama!” Lorelei squeals running in my direction, I scoop her in my arms. Just as Geo comes barreling towards us scooping Laila in his arms.
“Did you put on sunscreen?” I ask, checking Lorelei who begins pushing me away. I put her on the ground and she’s off again racing around the yard like an excited dog.
“Uh Adeya,” Braum says, turning my attention to him. “Can we talk?” he asks. Go back inside, I sit on the living room couch and he stands near the TV.
“You can hate me, and you can be mad at me but please don’t take her away from me, she is all I have,” I burst out, It explodes out of me like a can of worms. All of my Fathers possibilities ruffling through my hair. “I can’t lose her,” I say, attempting to cover my face but ultimately failing.
“Adeya I’m not taking her away from you,” Braum says. “Frankly, I can barely take care of myself let alone a toddler…. You are obviously fully equipped and have been doing so for all this time,” he says. I wipe my eyes, leaning back on the couch. “I don’t know why you kept her from me though, you know I would have done everything to help you…”
“I was scared,” I admit, staring now at the carpet. “I’m still scared,”
“You know why,” I say, meeting his gaze.
“Please, I don’t want to talk about this, not now,” I say.
“Then when?” he asks.
“Never, I never want to talk about this, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page with Lorelei,” I say.
“Why do you keep running?” he says.
“Why did you stop loving me?!” I snap, silence fills the room and I push out of my seat. “I leave on Sunday, I can’t miss work and Lorelei has school, she can sleep over your house tonight as long as it’s just you and her,”
“Okay,” he says.
“We can talk about everything, moving forward later….” I say, before walking towards the back door and sliding it open, escaping to the open backyard. I speed my way to Laila, Geo, and Alec who sat in the corner drinking beer.
“How did it go?” Laila asks.
“It couldn’t have gone better,” I lie, dropping in front of them. “I feel like I’m going to vomit my heart out,” I squeeze my eyes shut. “Why does he still make me feel this way?! It’s unfair,”
“That’s love for you,” Laila says.
“And he moved on, he just gets to move on when all I have to think about is him, when I listen to my music, when I look at Lorelei it’s only him,” I say, dropping my hands in my hair.
“Pull it together now girl,” Alec says, shoving a beer bottle in my face. “You are Adeya Waterson, not some bitch who got dumped on prom night alright?
“Do you think you’re the first person on this earth to have their heartbroken? Do you think you’re not the only person who has been through this pain? You’re not alone Adeya and stop acting like it,” Alec snaps.
“Sorry,” I say.
“Stop apologizing, okay,” Alec says. We continue the barbeque, I let Lorelei run and play until she’s too tired to move and then the adults stay out and eat, and drink until the moon is high above us. When it turns was time for people to start heading home, I make sure Lorelei is dressed in her pajamas before handing her off to Mrs. Clifford who takes her over. I don’t get any sleep that night, spending the entire night packing my bags, and thinking about Braum. Before I knew it, It was Sunday and we were preparing to leave.
“Adeya, can we talk?” Braum asks, pulling me to the side as my Father moves my bags to the car. Lorelei stays near my legs, holding on. “Listen, I’m graduating in the spring of next year, I was going to move back home, but I’m willing to move to California to be closer to Lorelei,”
“That sounds like a good plan, is everyone on board with that plan?” I ask, referring to his girlfriend.
“They’re coming around to it, but we have a lot of time to adjust,” he says, he kneels down. “I’ll see you later baby girl, okay?”
“See you later,” she says, he pulls her into a hug, and she gives him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. He pulls away and I pick Lorelei up, putting her on my hip.
“And for the record Adeya, I never stopped loving you,” Braum says, before stepping back and walking away.