Ebook ISBN: 9781311696588
Print ISBN: 9781500463779
[ Contemporary Romance, FFM ]
When Winter Green’s estranged mother dies, the two remaining members of her folk trio ask Winter to come on tour. Steven and Virginia hold the secret identity of Winter’s father. Will her desire to meet him be enough to bring her to the folk music fold?
When they asked me at the funeral, I thought… no, there’s no way. My mother had just died. Why would they even broach the subject at a time like that? It felt so crass I was actually angry with them for the first time in my life. And I’d known Steven and Virginia all my life, for as long as I could remember.
My earliest memory is of waking up from a nap on the tour bus before one of their gigs. Steven was holding me in his arms. I remember the look of wonder on his face as I reached for his beard, as I grabbed it with my tiny fingers and tugged. He winced and said, “Ouch, Winter! Let go!” but he never stopped smiling.
I don’t know how my mother managed, come to think of it, raising me on the road while she toured with the trio. Crazy. Who even does that? But, honestly, those pre-high school days, the days before I settled down with my grandparents, were the best of my life.
My mom never thought of herself as a single parent, and I sort of understand why. She relied on Steven and Virginia the way most moms probably relied on their husbands. Not that I know much about families. I mean, I grew up on a tour bus with three folk singers. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to spend my formative years in a conventional suburban household. Although, I did often beg for a puppy…
Oh, another early childhood memory: I must have been five years old. It was late in the evening and I was reading a picture book in my makeshift bed. They must have thought I was asleep, because Steven spoke in a hushed tone. He said to my mother, “We’ve been talking, Virginia and I, and we think maybe a dog wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”
Virginia added, “Life on the road can’t be easy for a child. A puppy would provide Winter with a little more stability. Don’t you think?”
My mother sounded hurt, insulted. “Are you saying we’re not enough? Three adults who love her, who spend every day and night by her side? That’s not enough stability for my daughter?”
“Our daughter,” Virginia said, calmly. “You know we’re just as committed to her as you are, even if she’s not our flesh and blood.”
“Winter means the world to us,” Steven said, almost pleadingly.
My mother hesitated, and I remember thinking, “This is it! I’m going to get my puppy!”
But then she snapped, “We’re not getting a dog,” and my hopes were dashed.
That was… twenty years ago? Wow. Twenty years. It feels like a lifetime ago, and it feels like only yesterday. Weird how that happens.
I can’t say it offended me when Virginia and Steven showed up at my door three weeks after my mother’s funeral. By then, I felt… I felt… it’s hard to describe, actually. There was no animosity between us, but I’d said goodbye to my mother when I was fifteen years old. Since then, she only existed at Christmas and whenever the trio had a concert in town. I know how strange that sounds, but she had her life and I had mine. That’s just the way it was.
“Do you like your job?” Steven asked me as I cleared a pile of laundry off my couch.
I shrugged. “It’s okay, I guess. Entry level, but that’s how it goes. Gotta work your way up the corporate ladder.”
“Are you happy, living here?” Virginia asked.
My studio apartment was such a mess. They must have thought I was a total pig. “Happy enough. Rents are high. It’s all I can afford right now.”
I tossed the laundry on my bed, feeling self-conscious because the covers were so dishevelled. It was more than just a feeling of embarrassment. It was like they were seeing me naked after all these years.
“There are other possibilities, you know.” Virginia looked to Steven, who was seated on my sofa. “You could live the way all four of us used to, when you were little.”
“Driving around the country?” I laughed. “Not sure what I’d do for money. Do you want some tea? Or I could make coffee, I guess. I only have instant, but…”
They shot each other a powerful gaze, and the sizzle that passed between them sent a shiver up my spine. What were they thinking? Why were they looking at me like that, like they wanted something they couldn’t get from anyone else?
Virginia took a seat and patted the couch cushion. “Come, Winter. Come sit with us. We have a question we’d like to ask you.”
“Are you sure you don’t want coffee?” I blurted. “Or… I have some cranberry juice, I think. No, it’s cran-apple.”
Steven mirrored Virginia’s motion, his hand touching hers on the sofa. “Sit down, Winter.”
Slinking across the room, I set myself awkwardly between them. They were both so close that one of my knees touched Virginia’s while Steven’s thigh blazed against mine. Her perfume and his cologne spiced the air, and the combination made me dizzy.
“We have something we’d like to ask you,” Steven said, taking my hand.
Virginia took the other. “And, please, don’t feel you need to rush your decision. Take your time. Really think about it.”
I swallowed hard. My heart pounded in my throat, choking me.
“We want you to come on tour with us, Winter.”
Looking up at Steven, I said, “What? What do you mean on tour?”
“We heard you singing at the funeral,” Virginia told me. “Your voice is magic. It’s like your mother’s, but purer. So pure.”
The tears that had been building in my eyes dissipated, and I laughed. “Me? I’m not a singer.”
Steven said, “If you can sing, you’re a singer. And, Winter, honey, trust me—you can sing.”
“But I don’t have any training,” I said. “I’ve never even joined a choir!”
“Training?” Virginia squeezed my hand. “I consider your entire childhood a kind of training. You sang with us all day long. You even came onstage a few times.”
“I did?” Maybe I’d blocked it out for some reason, but suddenly I could see the lights. They shone bright enough to blind a person. Bright enough that you couldn’t even see the crowd. “Oh yeah… I did. I sang with you when I was little.”
“You were a natural,” Virginia said, and let go of my hand.
She and Steven stood from the couch, and he told me, “We’re not asking you to make any decisions today. Just think about it. We’ll be back.”
They left my apartment, just like that. Left me standing in front of my couch, feeling like I’d been struck by lightning. Touring as the third member of a folk trio? This could be the start of something amazing, or it could mark my pitiful demise. I guess I wouldn’t know until I made a decision.