“Are you excited?” Maggie looked over at me. The early morning sun was streaming in through the sheer curtains that covered our bedroom window and the light a heavenly glow across the bare skin of her naked body.
The grin on my face must have given me away as I went to lift the blanket off of her ass for a peek of what was underneath but she swatted my hand away playfully.
“Don’t even start, I have to start getting ready for work soon.”
Her words caused a groan to fall free as my lips contorted into a pathetic pout.
“No.” I pouted childishly before flinging my arms over her body and pulling her close.
She giggled and struggled to break free, only to give up and nuzzle her face against the crook of my neck.
“This is my favorite place.” The sweet words fell from her lips after a moment of comfortable silence.
I looked down at her quizzically, waiting for her to elaborate.
“Next to you. Preferably cuddled up, naked in bed— but anywhere with you is my favorite place.”
The biggest smile humanly possible broke free and I pulled her in as close as I physically could before repeatedly kissing all over her face, her giggles ringing out around us.
“I love you.” I spoke softly, pausing my kisses only for a moment to speak the words.
She was finally able to push me away but I snuck one more kiss before settling down next to her.
“You never answered my question, are you excited for tonight?”
Tonight was going to be one of the biggest nights of my life.
Not only my life, but the bands’ life.
Five years ago, my best friend Garrett and I took our passion for music to the next level and formed a band. It was a slow start in the beginning and we all had a lot of learning and maturing to do, but Monarchs has been my greatest accomplishment to date.
Tonight is our first big show.
The event coordinator told us that talent scouts usually frequented the club on nights that live bands played and a few small town artists even got their start at this exact club.
Tonight could be our big break.
“Of course. More nervous, but definitely excited.” I finally replied.
Maggie looked up at me, searching my eyes before leaning up and placing a gentle kiss on my cheek.
“You’ll do great. I’ve been listening to you guys perform for the last five years; you’re going to kill it.” Her grin spread from ear to ear as she folded her hands on top of my chest and rested her chin on her hands, looking up at me.
“I hope so.” I smiled down at her and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
Time moved too fast and our morning in bed came to an end with Maggie leaving for work.
Maggie was training to be an ER nurse at the local hospital. I watched her pull longer shifts than I could ever imagine, all with a smile on her face. She was my greatest inspiration.
After Maggie left for work, I ended up falling back asleep for a few hours, waking up to a huge crash somewhere down the hall. I sat up straight out of a dead sleep and sprung to my feet before rushing out of my bedroom to find one of my best friends and bandmates Luca sprawled out, butt ass naked on the hallway floor.
“What the hell?”
A long groan escaped Luca before both Garrett and our other best friend and bandmate Shane joined us in the hallway. As soon as their eyes zeroed in on the very naked body of Luca they both bursted into a fit of laughter, nearly doubling over.
Luca finally picked up both his body and dignity off of the floor all while wrapping the towel back around his waist.
“Who thought it was a brilliant idea to leave all of the equipment laying in the middle of the god damn hallway?” Luca fired at the group of us.
I held my hands up as if to say not me and looked to my left at the two others. Garrett’s face dropped and the look of guilt was written all over it.
“Sorry, man.” He scratched the back of his head and gave Luca a shy smile.
The next few hours flew by as the lot of us started getting ready; fighting over the one working shower before getting dressed and starting the task of loading all of the gear into Garrett’s 2014 Chevy Tahoe.
All that was left to load was Garrett and Luca’s guitars.
Garrett walked out of the front door, both guitar cases held in his meaty fists as he made his way to the truck with a goofy grin stretched across his face.
“Two hours fellas. Are you guys ready?” He finished his sentence in a guttural growl of a tone before tossing both cases into the trunk of the Tahoe.
“Watch it jackass. We can’t afford new ones if you break them.” I rolled my eyes and climbed into the passenger seat of the truck as Garrett took his sweet time moseying over to the driver’s side.
I honked the horn, catching his attention as he looked up from his phone screen.
“Hurry up or we’re leaving your ass here.”
“Chill, I was just replying to Sophie.”
So that’s where the cheesy smile came from. Sophie.
Garrett wouldn’t admit it, but he was in love. Usually he didn’t talk to a girl for more than a few weeks, but Sophie had been around for almost a full year.
“Is she coming to the show tonight?” I asked as he climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine.
He nodded his head and his cheeks flamed to life with a dark blush. “Yeah.”
I could tell he was nervous. Normally Garrett wouldn’t shut the fuck up. His response was probably the shortest I’ve heard from him in years.
“Someone’s in love” Shane sang from the backseat, leaning up against the driver’s seat and ruffling a hand through Garrett’s hair, causing his waves to stand on end.
“Shut up.” Garrett growled before backing out of the driveway and pulling out onto the road.
The venue wasn’t far from the house, only about an hour and some change, but the trip took almost two hours due to how many times we had to stop so someone could pee or get a drink. To say we were all feeling the nerves was an understatement.
We were about a half an hour away when Garrett pulled out a perfectly rolled joint, placing it between his lips as he lit it. He inhaled the skunky smoke into his lungs, held it in and then slowly released it before he passed it off to me.
Part of me was hesitant to take it, not wanting to be too stoned before our big show, but the other part of me— the part thats nerves were wreaking havoc— that part had me taking the joint from his fingers and placing it between my lips, sucking in as much of the potent smoke as I could, holding it in my lungs before letting it stream out past my lips. My lungs tightened as I tried to fight off a cough, but the cough won. I started choking out the smoke before passing off the joint.
“Easy there, greedy.” Luca called from the back seat as he placed the joint between his lips and sucked in an equally large amount of smoke before passing the joint off to Shane, and the circle commenced.
By the end of the joint, all of our eyes were glassy, red, and the group of us couldn’t contain our laughter.
“That definitely helped loosen me up a little. I felt like I was going to puke.” Garrett acknowledged.
“Same.” I ran my sweaty hands down the front of my black, ripped jeans and sucked in a deep breath.
“I hope Maggie gets out in time so she can at least catch the tail end of the show.”
Luca reached up from the back seat and patted my shoulder reassuringly. “Don’t worry. She wouldn’t miss this for the world, dude.” All three guys offered me a smile which did wonders to make me feel better.
Not long after, we arrived at the venue and grabbed all of our gear out of the Tahoe, lugging it inside of the club and onto the stage.
No one was there yet besides the staff, so when we walked in, it looked like a completely different place than it did at night.
The stale smell of smoke permeated around us and caused me to crave a cigarette in the worst way. I haven’t smoked since senior year of high school, but damn did the smell entice me.
“You guys are Monarchs, right?” A meathead of a man asked the group of us.
All of our heads turned towards the voice and I swear I saw Garrett jump back about a foot, in fear.
I nodded my head and held my hand out for the man. “Yes. I’m Riggs Anton.”
The man shook my hand, nearly crushing my fingers, before I gestured to the three others. “This is Garrett Becker, lead guitar, Luca Knight, bassist and Shane Oliver, drums.”
I tried offering the guy a smile but he just grunted in response.
“Sound check is in ten minutes. Don’t be late.” And just as fast as he showed up, he was gone.
“Well he was…inviting” Luca scowled.
“That’s an understatement.” Shane added, shrugging his shoulders before pointing towards the bar.
“Gonna grab some drinks. You guys want something?” All of us nodded in unison and rambled off our orders to Shane before we hopped up onto the stage and got our equipment ready for soundcheck.
Soundcheck went by as fast and clean as possible. Each of us had at least two drinks in us by then and we were definitely feeling looser than we had been before— ready to take the crowd by storm.
All of a sudden a loud squeal echoed from the side of the stage, causing all of us to look up.
“What the fuck.” I muttered to myself, my head whipping in the direction of the noise, when I spotted Sophie.
Garrett’s eyes lit up as he took off his guitar, setting it against an amp before he ran over to meet her. He picked her up in his arms and spun her around before placing a big kiss on her lips.
“Not in love, eh?” Luca whispered over to me with a roll of his eyes.
I couldn’t help but smile. It wasn’t often that I got to see Garrett smile like that, people who grew up like we did, rarely got that kind of happiness.
I met Garrett when I was thirteen years old, just going into high school and my foster family decided to take in one more kid— Garrett.
At first, I couldn’t stand the kid. He was overly goofy, and in my thirteen year old mind, lame as fuck. But one day I happened to walk by as a much older kid was beating on Garrett. At that age, Garrett was way smaller than normal thirteen year olds— he didn’t reach his big growth spurt until at least a sophomore year of high school.
The douchebag couldn’t have been younger than a junior. He was fully aware that he was picking on someone way smaller and younger than him, and he was getting off on it. Scumbag.
I walked up to them, pulled Garrett behind my back and puffed out my chest to seem bigger. I came to realize that the dickbag standing in front of me was no other than Brent Lockwood, the captain of the football team.
“Fuck off, Brent.”
He laughed at me, then a meaty fist came swinging my way. I ducked and instincts kicked in. I swung my fist back, clocking him right in the center of the face. He staggered back, clutching his nose as he let out a string of curses.
“Fuck you, Anton. You’ll pay for this.” Brent turned on his heels and ran away with his tail tucked between his legs like the mutt he was.
Ever since that day, I vowed to protect Garrett at all costs; for no reason other than my own pride at first, but over time he became a brother to me— the only family that I really had.
I shook the memories from my head and pulled my phone out of my pocket, missing Maggie.
When my phone lit up, I was met with my favorite picture of her. It was a picture I took a few months ago. I had just woken up and the sunlight was hitting her just right; I had to take a picture.
She was passed out in my arms with no cares in the world, her hair was fanned out around her and she was cuddled into my chest, mouth hanging open just slightly— and if I was remembering correctly, I’m pretty sure she drooled on me that night.
I couldn’t help but grin at the memory before opening up our text message thread. There were no new messages, but I knew that she was busy.
Riggs: I miss you. We’ll be going on soon and I’m nervous as fuck. I love you. I hope work is good. I’ll be looking for you in the crowd. Xoxo
I sent the message before tucking my phone into my back pocket.
“Ten minutes, fellas.” Tim, the same burly man from before called to us.
Since our first meeting, he warmed up to us a little bit. As intimidating as he was, deep down he’s probably the biggest teddy bear.
I gave him a nod of acknowledgement before the nerves started to ramp up. I sucked in a deep breath and counted to ten before slowly releasing it.
I tried imagining Maggie telling me that she was proud of me, and that I could do this— all words she has said to me before.
Instantly, I started to calm down and feel better.
“I can do this.” I whispered to myself, just as I felt a firm hand fall on my shoulder.
“What’s up, buddy? You ready for tonight?” Shane joined me.
I nodded my head. “As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.”
He nodded back in understanding. “Maggie gonna be here tonight?”
“Hopefully. She said she would try to get out as early as possible, but you know how the hospital is.”
Maggie’s job was very demanding. She was perfect at it, but with how good she was, came downfalls. Maggie worked herself to the bone, she’d give everything for that hospital and her patients— something I both looked up to and abhorred.
Despite my frustrations with her devotion for her job— a completely baseless frustration, at that— I was prouder of Maggie than I could ever put into words. I’ve watched her grow up from a young woman into the determined and beautiful woman I knew today. She’s not the same Maggie I met my freshman year of high school— this version is the one I always knew she’d be.
“Okay guys, only a few more minutes before show time. The place is packed and ready. Start getting into position. Final countdown is 3 minutes away.” Tim came back in to announce.
We all nodded our heads, too nervous to form words. Garrett and Luca grabbed their guitars and Shane spun a drumstick around in his hands, anxious to get on stage. I cracked my knuckles and rolled my head in a circle in hopes to relieve some of the nervous tension in my neck.
“Thirty seconds, guys.”
I rubbed my hands down the front of my jeans. They were soaked and I knew they’d just keep sweating with how nervous I was..
“Ten, nine, eight”
The nerves spiked even higher as the sound of Tim’s voice dimmed around me and I hyper focused on the sound of the cheers and voices in the crowd.
“Three, two, one.”
We got the cue from Tim and walked onto the stage with our own individual flair.
I grinned out at the crowd, coming to stand behind the mic. “We’re Monarchs. Thank you all for coming out and we hope you enjoy the show.”
The first half of the show went by so fast that when it was time for us to take a quick break, almost twenty minutes had passed.
There was a break between songs where the buildup of the instrumental was well over a minute or so before my vocals came in. I took this time to head to the back amp, grabbing my water bottle and chugging half of it.
I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket and my heart nearly bursted out of my chest. I pulled my phone from my jeans and saw Maggie’s name light up my screen, instantly causing a smile to grow across my lips.
Maggie: On my way, baby. Can’t wait to watch you guys perform! Love you!
Riggs: I love you too, sweetheart. See you soon.
My heart instantly swelled with the love that I had for her.
It was my cue. I walked over to the mic, picking it up in my hands and brought it to my lips as I unleashed the lyrics with everything I had in me.
Every song that I wrote had a meaning behind it. So every single time I performed any of our material, I gave it my all. My feelings and emotions poured out of me through every lyric that left my mouth.
The song went by without a hitch, and honestly it was probably one of the best times I’ve performed it. I couldn’t have been happier, but throughout my entire performance, I scanned the crowd, anxiously waiting to see Maggie’s emerald green eyes staring up at me.
Still no Maggie, but there was still time.
We started and finished the next song, and again my eyes scanned the crowd, looking for my special lady, but still nothing.
That’s when I started to worry.
I knew that with the anxiety I was feeling that I was going to have a rough time performing this last song, because I saved my favorite song for last. The song I had written for Maggie a few years ago.
I’ll never forget the day I played it for her the first time. She had tears in her eyes and afterwards she grabbed onto me so tight, I swear I almost passed out from lack of oxygen. It will forever be one of my favorite memories.
The music picked up, and I knew my cue was coming but my eyes incessantly scanned the crowd for her. Still nothing.
My heart ratcheted behind my rib cage and I almost missed my mark but caught on before it was too late.
My voice came out raspy and scratchy but no one picked up on the difference except Garrett who shot me a look. He knew something was wrong.
I tried relaying with my eyes, my worries but there was not much that could be said with a look.
The song ended and still, no Maggie. Panic was starting to set in quickly.
I thanked the crowd for their support before racing back behind the stage. I ripped my phone from my jeans pocket and instantly woke it up.
There was a slew of missed calls from unknown numbers and immediately my stomach dropped.
Something was definitely wrong.
I called back the first two numbers and nothing, and when I called the last one— the sinking feeling in my gut was cemented into reality when the women on the line answered with,
“Thank you for calling Hill Point Medical Center, how can I direct your call?”
“Hi, um, I got a few calls from you guys.” I tried to keep my voice steady but I could hear it jumping all over the place as I was trying my hardest to suppress my anxiety.
“What’s your name?”
“Ahh.. Mr. Anton. Your girlfriend Maggie has been in a car accident.”
“Is she okay?” The lady on the other end didn’t even get a chance to finish speaking before I interjected.
“There’s really not much I can say over the phone. I would come on down immediately.”
She sounded so matter of fact. I didn’t know if Maggie was dead or alive and she sounded like it was just some normal phone call, not life or death.
I shoved my phone into my back pocket and started gathering my belongings as the others started filtering into the room.
“Bro, what the fuck is going on? You ran out of there like a bat out of hell.” Garrett was fuming.
“Maggie’s been in an accident, I have to go.” I had my jacket halfway on and was practically running out of the door when Garrett grabbed me by the shoulders.
“Riggs, man. Chill. You’re not going alone. Just let us grab our shit.”
Garrett and the rest of us gathered our personal belongings before Luca went to find Tim to relay the information and let him know that we’d be back later to grab our equipment. Tim was super understanding, practically pushing us out the door and giving us his best wishes.
He told Luca to keep him updated and to let him know if we needed anything; which was a weird, yet extremely nice thing for him to say. He wasn’t as rough and rugged as we all initially took him for.
All four of us piled into the Tahoe. Garrett and I argued for a solid two minutes over who was driving until I eventually won. Garrett has never been able to win in a fight against me, physical or verbal.
My hands gripped the steering wheel so tight that my knuckles completely drained of any blood.
“Man, slow down.” Garrett spoke cautiously, death gripping the “oh shit” handle above his head like his life depended on it, while both Shane and Luca sat quietly in the back seat, both looking forlorn and lost.
“I can’t,” I finally replied.
“Yes you can. Killing yourself and all of us won’t fucking help Maggie right now. So, slow. the fuck. down.”
I’ve never heard Garrett raise his voice like that at me before. It completely took me by surprise and my foot instantly eased up off of the gas pedal before I nodded my head.
“Sorry.” Is all I said before the car went quiet again for the next ten or so minutes until we arrived at the hospital.
As soon as the car was in park, I swung the truck door open and raced towards the front entrance without even closing it behind me.
As soon as I got to the front desk, I instantly rambled off Maggie’s name to the lady, asking if she was okay and about a thousand other questions all in a single breath.
“Calm down. Breathe, and try that again, just slower this time.” The lady behind the counter was probably in her mid forties and sweet as pie, but in a moment like this, I didn’t care how sweet she was, all I cared about was finding out if Maggie was okay or not.
“My girlfriend. I got a call from you guys and all they said was that she was in an accident and I should get here as soon as possible.”
The lady nodded her head as she typed away on her keyboard.
I was getting more irritated with each click of her computer keys.
“Maggie Pierce, correct?” Her face turned downward for a moment but she caught herself.
“Sir. Just take a seat and someone will be over shortly to speak with you.”
I couldn’t comprehend in the moment exactly what her words meant. I just knew that it couldn’t be anything good.
The room started spinning around me and if it weren’t for my best friends behind me, I would’ve fell straight to the floor.
It wasn’t possible.
It punched me straight in the gut when I realized exactly what they were going to tell me.
They were going to tell me that she didn’t make it.
I’ve seen enough television, movies, and lived around Maggie long enough to know that it was never good when they didn’t offer up any information up front.
Garrett’s voice broke through the sound of the blood rushing behind my ears, “Let’s sit down, man.”
It wasn’t a suggestion either. He grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the waiting area, sitting down next to me.
No one said anything, which probably meant that they were thinking the same thing I was. All four of our legs were bouncing, almost in sync with all of our building anxiety, and when I reached up to rub a hand across my face, it came back soaked in tears— I didn’t even realize I was crying.
What felt like an eternity later, a doctor in his late fifties or so walked up to the group of us, pulling up a chair to sit in front of us.
His face was neutral, as if this was something he had to do every single day. I guess this was part of the job description.
“Mr. Anton, I’m sorry to have to tell you this- But your girlfriend, Ms. Pierce didn’t make it. Her injuries were very severe and we did everything we could to bring her back, but she passed before she made it to us.”
“If there’s one thing that may give you peace, it would be that it most likely happened suddenly and without any suffering.”
How could he even think that his words could possibly offer me any peace at all. He just told me that my fucking girlfriend was dead. How could anything bring me peace after hearing those words?
His words did worse than ruin my life, they fucking obliterated it.
As soon as he was done speaking I stood up and stormed out of the automatic doors. I could feel a slew of emotions bubbling up inside of me and I didn’t want to explode in the hospital, in front of all of those people.
As soon as the cool air hit my face my rage reared its ugly head first and as I was about to slide down the brick wall housing the hospital, I wound my fist back and punched it as hard as I could. I heard a gnarly crack— that didn’t sound too good— but I ignored the radiating pain and sank to the ground, letting the sadness and emotional pain take over and completely consume me as the sobs wracked my body.