Thursday, February 18, 2016

Romance under the stars

Posted by: Sonya Clark
My contemporary romance Good Time Bad Boy is about a washed-up country singer who returns to his hometown and falls in love with a strong-willed waitress. My favorite scene in the book is also the one I think is the most romantic. Wade takes Daisy out stargazing but instead of the usual constellations, the stars he tells her about are all about music. He had thought to give her a romantic evening but in opening himself up to her, he finds his attraction to her becoming something deeper. It’s a quiet moment, full of blossoming love and the beginning of a real connection between two wary, scarred people. (Note: the music nerdery herein is another reason why I love this scene. Wade's "constellations" are all instruments in the Precious Jewels collection at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.)

*

Daisy joined him. Her hair tickled the side of his face. He wanted to take a lock and smooth it through his fingers, know what it felt like against his skin. He cleared his throat and pointed at the sky. “That’s the Big Dipper right there.”

“That one, I know.”

He moved his hand to the left. “Bet you didn’t that one is called the Gibson F-4. You can tell because it’s the shape of a mandolin.”

“Uh.”

“And that over there.” He moved his hand to the north. “That’s a Gibson L-5.”

“Okay, I’ll play. What’s a Gibson L-5?”

“Specifically, it’s the 1928 Gibson L-5 guitar that belonged to Mother Maybelle Carter, one of the pioneers of country music. That constellation right there shines so bright, it’s inspired countless stargazers for decades.”

Her throaty laugh sent pleasant shivers up and down his spine. She pointed at a section of sky over the lake. “Okay, what’s that?”

Wade thought for a moment. “That is a Gibson RB-Granada Mastertone, a banjo.”

“And who did it belong to?”

“Earl Scruggs. He was one of the greatest banjo pickers and bluegrass players who ever lived.”

Daisy scooted closer to him. “What else is up there?”

He moved his arm to let her snuggle up next to him. She rested her head on his shoulder, one hand on his chest. “Back over there’s the 1944 Martin D-28 that belonged to Hank Williams. So many songs that still define country today were played on that guitar. It’s practically a holy relic.”

“You really love music, don’t you?”

“It’s who I am.” He rested his hand on his chest, fingers not far from hers. The night was quiet but alive. The steady lap of the water was joined by the occasional sound of a car going over the bridge. Crickets sang a constant chorus. A pair of owls did a call and response in the trees that dotted the picnic area. Peace filled him with an easy lassitude.

“Tell me about your guitar.”

Wade smiled. “My guitar is a Gibson Hummingbird electric acoustic in the wine red finish.” He couldn’t keep the pride out of his voice.

“I do like that red.” She propped her chin on his chest and met his eyes. “And those hummingbirds are beautiful.”

“The only thing I like better than those hummingbirds is how beautifully it plays. That was my dream guitar. I wanted one since the first time I saw a picture of one. It didn’t hurt that Gram Parsons played a Hummingbird.”

“Who’s that?”

Gram raised his head to give her an incredulous look. “You don’t know who Gram Parsons was? The Flying Burrito Brothers?”

She ticked an eyebrow up. “Nope.”

“Shit.” Gently, he lifted her so he could sit up. She followed suit, crossing her legs and placing her hands on the blanket behind her. He picked up his guitar. “The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers are why the Eagles existed. Why country rock exists still today. They were legendary.”

“Never heard of them,” she said. “Well, I have heard of the Eagles.”

“Thank God for that.”

“Would you like me to get off your lawn, old man?” Daisy grinned.

He leveled his index finger at her. “Watch your tone. This is one of your country music lessons. There will be a test.”

Daisy threw her head back and laughed. He drank in the glorious sound, let it fill him up. She said, “If you’re gonna test me, I guess you better tell me about the Flying Enchilada Brothers then.” She tapped his leg with her foot. “Better play me one of their songs, too.”

“Burrito,” he corrected. “Get it right.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I like you calling me sir, you keep that up.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I was taught to respect my elders.”

Wade settled the guitar across his lap. “Keep on teasing me about my age. We’ll see who wears out who.”

It was hard to tell in the dim light but he suspected her cheeks were stained a red almost as dark as his guitar. For once, she didn’t have a snappy comeback. Mindful of his intentions for the night, he forced himself back to thinking about music instead of all the things he’d like to do to wear her out.

“The Flying Burrito Brothers were a California band. They played country but it was a different kind of country. Some people called it cosmic country. Their sound was mellow and melodic. Some of their songs were so gentle, playing them is like holding something fragile in your hands, afraid you’re going to drop it and shatter it to pieces. They had a different sensibility. Rockers like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were attracted to that sensibility. Gram Parsons wound up becoming the most famous member of the band.”

“What did he do to manage that?”

“Partly by being an amazing songwriter, partly by dying of an overdose when he was twenty-six years old. Out in the California desert of Joshua Tree.”

Daisy grimaced. “Shit.” She shook her head. “If he’d held on for a while, he could have made the twenty-seven club.”

The twenty-seven club, a group of artists who died at that age, included the likes of Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. “So you do know a little about music.”

“I like R&B and girl singers. I read about the twenty-seven club when Amy Winehouse died.”

“I’d heard of her but I’ve never really listened to her music.”

“You should. It’s really good.”

“What other girl singers you like?” Wade was genuinely curious about her taste in music. Finding out what kind of music spoke to someone, appealed to their sensibilities, always told him a lot about a person.

“Adele. Lana Del Rey. Pink.”

He had an Adele album but he’d have to look up the other names, check out their sound.

Daisy drew her legs up and wrapped her arms around her knees. “Play me something Gram Parsons sang.”

Wade launched into his favorite Parsons song, Return Of The Grievous Angel. The only thing better than the smile it brought to Daisy’s face was her asking to hear more. He played nearly a dozen songs before she became noticeably sleepy, and he realized what a long night it must have been for her. Rocky Top had been packed and here it was now long after midnight. He led her back to the truck and followed the directions she gave him to her place.

Her eyes were heavy as she unlocked her door. “I’m not asking you in.”

“I’m not expecting you to,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure you got inside safe and sound.” He paused. “And I wanted to do this.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek, resting his lips against her soft skin for a moment before breaking the contact.

“Thank you for tonight,” she said. “I had a good time.”

“Me too.” He touched her arm, just a quick, light caress. “Good night, Daisy.”

“Good night, Wade.” She opened the door then stopped. “Hey.”

“Yeah?”

“I just. I like it that all those holy relic instruments are the constellations that guide you. That’s really nice.”

Emotion clutched at his heart and clogged his throat. “That’s...that’s the most amazing thing anybody’s ever said to me.”

“I’m so tired, I was afraid it wouldn’t make any sense.”

“It makes sense to me.”

“Good.” Daisy smiled and waved, then went inside the trailer.

He listened for the sound of the door being locked before turning back to his truck. He sang more Gram Parsons to himself all the way home.

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