If you missed yesterday’s part 1, click here first, otherwise sit back and enjoy part 2.
It had been 18 months since Adrienne left, but to Josh, it still felt like yesterday. The empty spaces in his life seemed to grow larger by the day. He was living on a prayer and had long since said goodbye to “Mr. Brightside”. It seemed now, that the only friend he cared to see was the bartender down the street. The life he once led had been turned inside out since that day and was spiraling into virtual insanity. After weeks of pleading, his parents finally convinced him to come and stay with them in Austin just to get away from it all for a while. He reluctantly agreed, packed his bags, and headed southward.
As he crossed the Oklahoma-Texas line, a feeling of country comfort started to sink in, like he was home again. His mother came out to welcome him as he pulled up to the old rancher. Like a soldier coming back from war, her arms wrapped around him so tight he was barely breathing as he tried to say hello.
“Ma, you’re gonna crush me.” He said as he pried her arms off of him.
“I’m sorry honey.” She replied. “We’ve just missed you round here for so long.”
As they walked towards the porch, Josh looked up to see his father wrestling with a satellite dish through their bedroom window.
“What the heck is Pop doing up on the roof?” He asked his mom as they entered the old brick house.
“We had a big storm last night” she explained. “Have you ever seen the rain by the light of a full moon? Anyway, when the lightning crashes, it messes with the picture on the TV. You know your father needs his Babylon 5. He’ll never get it working though, come Monday I’ll be calling the repair man.”
Josh chuckled at his mother’s explanation; probably the first time he had laughed in over a year. He went upstairs to unpack and like a bridge over troubled water, he felt the warmth and safety of his old room taking control and protecting him like a keeper of the stars. He went to the windowsill and looked out into the night sky. A gentle breeze moved the blades of grass back and forth as if they were dancing a two step. It was little moments like these when he would think about Adrienne and how he never got to say goodbye.
“I gotta get through this.” He said to himself as he closed the window and headed back down the stairs. He wanted to go to bed, as he was exhausted from the trip, but his mom had insisted, “Have dinner with the old man and me.” They spent the next couple of hours eating and talking about everything from Mrs. Rita down the street and her 8 cats to Josh’s sister’s new house in Laredo. They were heading to her place tomorrow morning so they cleaned up, exchanged “goodnight, goodnight”, and went to bed.
The drive to Laredo brought back memories of his glory days, rolling down the interstate singing “Life is a Highway” without a care in the world. He thought about the road his life might have taken, had he me Adrienne back then. “Makes me wonder.” he whispered to himself. Quicker than he could imagine, they arrived at his sister’s house. Billie Jean was older than Josh by a few years and he always followed her example in order to make all the right moves growing up. Her attitude was that of “Miss Independent” and though she rarely included him in her fast cars and freedom type lifestyle, he always tried. Now, happily married and settled down, she greeted him with a hug that made him feel closer to her than ever before.
“Somebody told me my little brother was coming home but I didn’t believe it.” She joked. “I do apologize cuz here you are, right by my side.”
“Do you believe me now?” Their mother said triumphantly.
They all laughed but made quick work of the small talk as they had made a promise to attend Billie Jean’s church this lazy Sunday morning and the service would be starting soon. They all crammed into one car, turned out of the driveway and onto Forever road; the fastest way to the church.
“Do you remember when we used to go to church every Sunday?” Billie Jean asked Josh.
He smiled. “Yeah. We’d wait for people to reach for the holy water and yell, ‘Don’t drink the water!’” He started to laugh hysterically.
“Joshua!” His mother said sternly. “You are fortunate son that you never got in too much trouble growing up. Stop laughing about that!”
He was practically doubled over in laughter. “I can’t stop.” He said, trying to control himself. “we thought we could run this town back then; thought we were invincible.” He wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes as they pulled into the gravel parking lot.
They watched hundreds of people walk by, single file like ants marching, through the lot and into the church. As they approached the door, Josh couldn’t help but notice the words under the sign for the Hallelujah Baptist Church which said “Come On Get Higher…Higher With the Lord”. He chuckled as they entered. The folks around here were proud of their religion and their country; if you cut them, they’d bleed American. The pews were old and weathered and while they were not falling apart, they seemed to be hanging by a moment. The stained glass windows were so dark; it made it impossible to distinguish night and day.
“It’s so dark in here, I can barely see my way.” He said to Billie Jean.
A parish member overheard and interjected with, “Aint no sunshine in here, just the light of the Lord.”
Suddenly the room seemed to come alive as the choir made its way down what looked like a stairway to heaven. Their voices invaded the room like an unstoppable force and Josh could feel his spirit lift up with each note. As they made their way down the middle aisle to the front of the church, the congregation began to hold up their hands in praise as the pastor emerged from behind closed doors. The whole scene felt surreal to Josh, like something from the movies. He felt a little bit of life entering his body with each word the pastor spoke and good vibrations from each key of the old church organ.
Billie Jean could see changes taking place in her brother at that moment. She knew the pain he’d been feeling these many months and felt so much better when he started to smile. Blame it on the choir, the pastor, or the innocent children with joy in their hearts; but he was becoming a better man at that moment. She could feel it, like she was witnessing history in the making.
As church ended and the congregation filed out, Josh found himself back in the sunshine again and feeling good. He spent the entire drive back to Billie Jean’s house thinking about the choir’s songs and the pastor’s voice as if they were on replay in his mind. When they arrived back home, he asked his sister for the keys to her truck.
“Mind if borrow the Rain King for a few hours?” He asked, referring to her truck which had earned the nickname since it seemed to handle better in the rain.
She looked up at the sky, which was turning an ominous bluish grey and said, “So, you remember the name huh? Alright with me; he could use somebody to take him out for a spin.” Billie Jean tossed him the keys and headed inside. Josh grabbed the old red guitar he brought with him and left to find a place where he could think, alone.
He headed east and after about an hour or so, found himself driving over the dam at Otter Creek. He followed a red dirt road to the shoreline and as lightning crashed in the distance, he saw a street sign that told him he was on Thunder road. He pulled off the shoulder of the road, threw his guitar strap over his head, and walked down to the waterline. He sat quietly, with only the sounds of silence and the creek in the background, and picked at the guitar strings while trying to make sense of these complicated feelings he was having. For going on two years now, he had pushed his pain down, deep enough to forget about Adrienne and his life had spiraled out of control because of it. Now, whether it was being with family or just getting away from his troubled life, he was thinking about her again and he liked it. He stopped picking and looked up at the stars.
“She’s somewhere out there.” he thought as he started to stand up. His face showed a purpose and desire it hadn’t in a long time. He realized these feelings that came from the thought of her face were what had been missing in his life. He ran back to the truck, put it in gear, and headed back to Laredo. “I’m tired of being by myself,” He told himself as he glanced in the rear view mirror. “It’s not over, not yet.”
He got home and told his family he was leaving. They were sad to see him go so soon, but were happy to hear the reason. His mom fought back tears to say goodbye; they hugged and he was gone. An hour later, he was standing in line at the ticket counter at the airport. He took a deep breath as he told the teller, “One way ticket to Boston, please.”
Will Josh find Adrienne? Does Adrienne still care for him? Who really shot JFK? Find out answers to two out of these three questions here in part 3.