I’ve always loved music. Especially country. The way the performer pulls at the strings. The heart-warming—or breaking— melodies. It’s magnificent! The way the words flow perfectly in time with the guitars. I can’t describe how it makes me feel. It makes me feel… alive. That’s the best word I can think of to describe that feeling. There aren’t enough words in the world to even come close to the word I’m looking for.
My biggest dream is to become a famous country singer one day. Like my idols Kane Brown, Jimmy Allen, Florida Georgia Line. You might say, well, aren’t they country-pop artists, not pure country? That’s technically true, but it doesn’t matter to me. Their music is the best, in my opinion. I hope that one day, I’ll be able to have my own stadium to perform in. Where my voice could be heard. Fans would be screaming my name for the encore. I’d have millions of fans worldwide, all cheering me on. I’d be able to go to the Grammy’s. I’d become the greatest country artist on the planet. I'd have tons of... glory. Okay, maybe not that last one. Glory. Nope, still not happening.
“Gloria!” Someone calls from behind me. Oh, I guess he was calling me by my nickname. I wasn’t fighting myself, trying to tell my brain that I wasn’t going to have any glory from country music stardom. Oh, well.
I turn and see my dad. Jackson Keys. The world-renowned country singer. Or at least, he should be. Instead, he owns a farm. Horses, cows, chickens, pigs, you name it. If it’s a domestic animal, we have it. He looks younger than his age, like my mom. At forty-five, he looks as if he was thirty-two. He’s been my only family for four years. Everyone else is either gone or doesn’t care to visit us. But I’m glad I get to have him, at least. He taught me things that schools couldn’t. How to make great friends. How to talk to people without letting my emotions control me. How to talk to guys. He taught me everything. Right now, Jackson— as he allows me to call him— is wearing skinny blue jeans, a button-down shirt, and of course, a cowboy hat. He loves country music, too. He bought me my first guitar when I was fifteen and I never looked back.
I’m not sure when I started liking country music, but I think it was just before my mom died. She passed away when I was twelve, thirteen? I’m not quite positive on the exact age I was when she took her last breath, but it was around then.
My mom was prettier than most middle-aged women. She had beautiful black hair and chestnut-brown eyes. I don’t really remember what she sounded like, not by memory at least, but I occasionally listen to recordings my dad made of her before I was born. For someone born in Tennessee, you’d think she had a country drawl to her voice, but I think along her familial line, one of her relatives was from Arizona. At least, that’s what it sounds like she got her voice from.
Like I said before, my dad made videos of my mom in their youth— they were in their twenties, I think. About five years before I was born. They had so much fun together. It makes me smile every time I listen to one of the videos. I was so happy for them, even though she isn’t here anymore. I knew that if she was here still, she’d be a great mom. I loved her. It was really hard when she died. That night is burned into my heart forever, waiting to heal, and getting so close, but never healing completely.
We lived in Seattle at the time of her death. we were taking a walk by the park, spending time together when we walked over to the horses that the police had enlisted to help the officers. We asked if we could pet the horses, they let us, but then, as we were petting them, one of the officers lost control of her horse—I think I angered it accidentally— and the officer lost her balance and fell to the ground as the animal trampled my mom. It would’ve stomped on me, too if she didn’t shove me out of the way, protectively. I can still hear her bones cracking as it killed her. I’m not ever going to forget that moment. It was truly terrifying, watching it destroy her body with its powerful hooves.
When the police officers restrained the horse, I ran over to her, sobbing, blaming myself for what happened. Amy, the police officer whose horse murdered my mom— told me it wasn’t my fault and that she was deeply sorry for the pain she caused. I assured her that it wasn’t her fault that she lost control of the steed. I told her that it was my fault because I forgot that horses have to be touched a certain way or they’ll be hurt, and I pet the horse the wrong way, causing it pain and angering it. Amy comforted me, staying by me until my dad got to the park. She told him what happened and I could tell he wanted to cry but was restraining himself.
As we were walking to the car, I could see my mom being carried away in a body bag. I felt utterly sick, seeing her body covered in blood and black and purple, hoove-sized bruises. I knew at the moment on that I’d never want to touch a horse again. Ever since I’ve been scared of them. Scared that I’ll hurt someone else. I felt really stupid and still do. I never forgave myself for that mistake. I sometimes wish my dad would stop trying to get me to trust myself and the horses again. But then again
I look up from my guitar as I play the final notes in the song: This is Us by Jimmy Allen and Noah Cyrus, my favorite song currently. I smile, weakly at Jackson when I see him, standing there. I haven’t been able to smile, fully since my mom died. It’s been extremely difficult to feel any amount of happiness since my life-taking mishap.
He smiles at me. “Hey,” he says, sitting next to me on a boulder nature put in the most convenient spot on the ranch, “what’re you playing?” He wondered.
I shrug. “Just some songs I like. Currently, that’s This is Us.”
He nods. “Good song,” he says, awkwardly. Jackson isn’t the best at social situations. He isn’t great at carrying a conversation, but luckily, I got my mom’s social skills, so I’m able to help him out.
“Yeah, it is,” I say, smiling a little, “did you need me to fill the sties again?”
He shakes his head. “I took care of it, but thanks for the offer. I actually wanted to talk to you…” he trails off which worries me.
“Am I in trouble?”
That guess earned me another smile. “No, I just wanted to talk to you about Rachel.”
Oh, I thought, looking down. I’ve always hated this talk. We have it occasionally, more frequently in recent events. As you can probably tell, my mom’s name was Rachel. Her maiden name was Scott before she married my dad and changed her name to Keys. Rachel Keys. “You know I hate this talk, Dad,” I complain, tearing up, “it’s too painful.”
“I know, sweetie, but we need to get you some help. You can’t try harder than you’ve tried in the four years. It’s not humanly possible.”
“What else is there to talk about? I’m getting help. Music is my help.” I say, lifting my guitar by the neck.
“I meant professional help. You’ve been really down lately. I appreciate the help, I really do, but you’ve helped me too much. It’s killing me to see you have so much determination to right a wrong you made half a decade ago,” He says, looking at me, “I just want to see you happy, okay?”
I look at him, tears streaming down my cheeks. “I know, dad, and I love that you care so much about me, but I killed mom. I killed her. You didn’t kill her. She didn’t kill herself. I killed her. I need to fix it.”
He sighs. “The past is in the past. You can’t keep dwelling on it if you want to move forward in life,” he pauses for a minute to let that sink in, “have you ever heard the expression forgive and forget?”
I nod, wiping my tears.
“It means to realize you did something wrong, forgive yourself, and then move on.”
I nod again, trying to stop the sounds coming from my throat. I guess it’s true that everyone’s an ugly crier. I’m the worst of all. When I cry, it repulses people. Well, some anyway. That’s why I hate crying. It makes me feel ugly and weak. I hate feeling repulsive.
“So, can you please try to do that?”
“I’ll try,” I promise, half-heartedly.
“I’ll tell you what. Next month, if you can forgive yourself for her death, I’ll sign you up for high school.”
I smile at his offer. “Like a real high school, with kids my age?”
He nods. “You need some friends. They can help with your depression.”
“I’ll try to forgive myself. For you.”
“Try to forgive yourself for yourself.” He corrects and I nod in response.
“Love you, kid.” He says, kissing my forehead.
“Love you, too, Dad,” I say, sniffling.
The corners of his mouth twitch up a little, telling me it’ll be alright. I nod, going back to playing my music when he walks over to the pens.
I was reminiscing over his words, smiling to myself when I see someone walking down the street, smiling as they pass me. Instead of continuing to walk, they stop in front of me when he sees me looking at him. “Hey,” I say, recognizing the boy. I’ve seen him walking past my house every day for the past three years. He has hazel eyes and platinum blond— almost silver hair. His tight blue shirt highlights his muscles. It looks like he just got back from school. I could tell by the way his backpack is slung over his shoulder. He looks cute, but I’ve never talked to him. Until now.
“Hey,” he says, smiling at me, “have we met?”
“No, but you’ve probably seen me working on my farm back there,” I say, pointing my thumb over my shoulder, “I’m Gloria. Gloria Keys.” I say, walking over to him, offering my hand when he’s close enough.
He smiles. “Trent,” he responds, accepting the handshake, “Trent Silk.”
What an unusual name, I thought, fighting a smile, “Nice to meet you, Trent.” I study his face, trying to memorize it just in case we meet again, “do you live nearby?”
He nods. “Yeah. Just by that river,” he says, gesturing to the river down the road, by a field of long, light-yellow clutters of wheat, “I think my mom works at the same cranberry farm down that way,” he adds, pointing down the opposite way.
I nod, remembering visiting the farm with my mom. “That’s right! Your mom’s Helen?”
He smiles, pleased. “Yeah. She says she misses you and your mom.”
“We miss her, too,” I say, adding, “especially me,” in an undertone, talking about not only Helen but my mom, too.
He must’ve noticed that my tone darkened because he asks, “Is everything okay? I’m sorry if I said something wrong.”
I shake my head. “No, it’s okay. I guess you deserve to know what happened,” I take a deep breath before I continue,“my mom was killed four years ago. I was petting a horse and she was right next to me, but I forgot that I had to pet its hair down and I accidentally hurt it. It got mad at me and trampled on her. She didn’t live to the see the day.”
He looks at me, giving me a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, Gloria. I didn’t mean to bring back those memories of your mom.”
I shrug, sighing. “It’s alright. You didn’t know. And you didn’t bring her back into my mind. I did. Awhile ago. I’ve been thinking about her a lot recently.”
He nods, knowingly. “Yeah, I wish you and your dad the best of luck in later years. This morning— not to sound like a stalker or anything— I saw you playing the guitar. It was really good,” he says, changing the subject— which I appreciate— smiling at the thought.
I smile, blushing a little. “You saw that?” I ask, embarrassed.
He nods. “You’re talented. You should play professionally one day.”
“I’m trying to figure out how to get noticed. It’s kinda hard here.”
“Yeah, I get it, but Nashville is famous for its country artists. Hunter Hayes, Noah Cyrus, Sheryl Crow, and so many more.”
Oh, my gosh! He likes country?!? I smile, brightly for the first time in like, forever. “You seem to know your stuff.” I compliment.
He shrugs. “I like music. It’s kinda my thing, I guess.”
I look down at my feet, blushing. He’s literally perfect! “Me, too,” I mumble barely loud enough to be heard.
“That’s cool!” He says, excitedly, as if I just told him I bought a new car, “you’ll have to teach me how to play guitar. I’m not good at it at all.”
I look up, nodding. “Definitely. Do you have one?”
He shakes his head. “Not enough money, but I’m saving to get one.”
“Yeah, I get it, I don’t have a ton of money either, but I’m glad you’re saving up. Playing guitar is really fun.”
He laughs a little. “I’ll try to get enough so I can buy one. Do you recommend any songs I should practice when I get one?”
“We’ll get to that later. I’ll have to teach you the basics first.”
He nods again. “Got it. Thanks again, Gloria.”
I smile a little. “Call me Glory. It’s what I prefer and since we know each other and are pretty much friends, you can call me that. If you want, I mean.” I clip on at the end, trying not to sound bossy.
“Okay, Glory, it is. I have to get home, but I’ll see you later?”
Definitely, I respond, mentally. “Mhm,” I say, not being able to speak aloud.
He smiles, walking up the road to his farmhouse.
I turn back to the ranch and walk to my room, smiling like never before. I don’t know what it is about him that makes me happy, but I can tell I’m going to love Nashville.