one of country music’s earliest stars, and we’ve been told it’s an incredible place.
The label had actually sent an image consultant over earlier in the week to take us shopping for the clothes we would wear tonight and give us pointers on ways to polish - her word not mine - our appearances.
We’re in the back of the limousine and on the way when Thomas says, “So this is us. Spit shine time.”
“I guess,” Holden says. He looks at me, and even in the dim light of the car, the color of his eyes deepens.
“You look beautiful, CeCe,” he says.
“Yeah, you do,” Thomas agrees.
“Thanks,” I say, keeping my voice light and looking down at my hands. “You two look pretty great yourselves.”
We’re quiet for a couple of minutes while the car rolls on, sleek and plush beyond anything I could possibly feel deserving of.
“Anybody else feel like we’re standing on the edge of a cliff about to jump off?” Thomas asks, breaking the silence.
“Yeah,” Holden says. “I do.”
“They’re making some crazy predictions about this record,” Thomas says.
“Isn’t it all just guessing?” I ask.
“I agree,” Holden says, “except that by now I think we know they don’t do much investing in guesses.”
“Well, with the album going live at midnight,” Thomas says, “We’ll know pretty soon whether they were right or wrong.”
I glance out the window at the city’s skyscrapers retreating into the distance.
“If y’all could go back,” I say, “to the moment you started dreaming this dream of coming here and making it in music. Would you still go after it if you knew how the dream would end up coming true?”
The weight of the question settles around us.
“Probably not,” Holden finally says in a low voice.
“No,” Thomas echoes.
“Me, either.I guess we’ll never know whether we would have made it to this point without the shooting and all the media stuff.”
There’s another question I want to ask. And that is this.
If our dream is transformed into something other than what we had imagined, will it change us as well? A year from now, will we be the people we came here as?
But I keep this one to myself. I honestly don’t know if I want to hear the answer.
THE HOUSE IS enormous. Three stories high with wings that jut off to the right and left. Boxwoods that appear to be a hundred years old line the front like guards standing watch. Cars are parked on either side of the winding driveway, and a flutter of nerves erupts in my midsection.
“Incredible,” I say, and I’m pretty certain in that moment I cannot go in that house and do what is expected of me.
As if he’s felt my conclusion, Holden reaches over and presses his hand on mine. “They’re just people,” he says. “You’ve got this.”
“I really don’t know if I do or not.”
“Yeah, you do.” Thomas places his hand over my other hand. I feel unbelievably lucky to have them both in my life.
“How about I just stay between you two all night?” I ask.
“We can be a CeCe sandwich,” Thomas says with the grin I have begun to see more of recently. I’ve missed it in these past months.
“Fine by me,” Holden says, looking down at me without the usual censoring.
“Will your dad be here?” I ask, forcing myself to glance away.
“I think so,” he says.
Thomas’s mom stopped by the apartment earlier in the afternoon and showed us the dress she had bought to wear. She’d been so excited and proud, and I couldn’t help but envy Thomas a little.
Mama won't be here tonight. She’d had a terrible sinus infection for the past ten days and didn’t think she was strong enough yet to make the trip. She’d made me promise over the phone this morning that I would FaceTime her while at the party so she could see what it all looked like. I tried to hide my disappointment because I know how much she wanted to be here. Since the shooting, she’s all but put her own life on hold, driving