Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chapter 41: Bellissima

"What am I going to do about your father?" Jacklyn asks when she goes down to nursery in the early morning. Her relationship with Nico happened so fast, starting with a drunken one night stand and moving too quickly into parenthood and an engagement. She was going to marry him, she gave herself over to love and trust in a way she never thought she would. He betrayed her, and now she's left alone with the daughter she hadn't meant to keep, the child Nico said he wanted, even while he was out sleeping with this other woman. "We'll get through this, Trill," Jacklyn sobs, glad her daughter is too young to feel her mother's pain.

Jacklyn isn't too happy to run into Debbie when she goes to the kitchen to find some breakfast, but she reminds herself that the girl just meant to help. From what Jacklyn understands, that's what girlfriends do for each other. She doesn't have much experience with girlfriends herself; her friends have mostly been the guys in the bands she's played in since she was a teen. The only girls she ever called 'friend' were her bandmates' girlfriends, and her friendship with them never outlasted the break up of either the couple or the band.

"I just got off the phone with Andrea," Debbie informs her, "He can come by any time today to pick up  any of Nico things...whenever it's convenient for you."

"Thanks, Debbie," Jacklyn says, "I'll get his shit together this morning I guess. And thanks for taking him in," she adds, making an effort to be grateful.

"Are you okay? Do you need to talk?"

"I'm fine," Jacklyn insists, "You don't have to stay here with me. I just need some time to myself." Get out, get out, get out, she thinks, she thinks while she forces a smile to show how fine she is. And then it occurs to her that Debbie might have some information she wants, "You knew he was having an affair, didn't you?"

"I'm sorry," Debbie stammers, "I didn't want to interfere..."

Jacklyn waves her concern away, "I understand. I would have done the same," she says. What she wouldn't have done was involve herself in another couple's life at all, but she doesn't blame Debbie for that, either. "I just want to know, do you know how long he was...he was seeing her?"

Debbie shakes her head, "I only know the first time I saw them together, and the first time I heard them, in the dressing room next to mine in Herb Glitts' studio."

Jacklyn bites her lip. wishing she hadn't asked. Maybe she doesn't need to know these kinds of details.

Andrea comes by for Nico's things later that morning. "I can't tell you how sorry I am," Andrea says, "I just want you to know, whatever happens with you and Nico, you will always be a sister to me."

"Thank you, Andrea," Jacklyn says, "I'm glad Trill has an uncle like you to look after her." Though she never got as far as marrying Nico as they planned, she has his child, and that means she's part of his family now, whether she wants it or not. Not that she doesn't like Andrea, Jacklyn just doesn't have a very high opinion of families in general. Too much involvement in other people's shit, too much interference in her own life. There's a reason she broke off contact with her own family, but for Trill's sake she's going to have to accept her membership in the Petrangelo clan.

When they are finally all gone and out of her way, Jacklyn has the peace to think about her new situation, to cry when she feels like it. It goes on like that for days, Jacklyn spends hours staring out into the ocean, doing nothing for herself, putting all her energy into caring for Trill. Andrea or Debbie come by every day to check on her, speaking in voices hushed with concern, like she has some terminal illness and not just a broken heart.

This house used to be hers alone, and her life never felt empty before she met him. But he came into her house, into her life, and gave everything new meaning it never had before. Now he's gone and nothing is the same, the house is vacant without his presence, every room, every corner, holds some memory of him she cannot let go of.

Then, after days of letting the heartbreak and pain fester inside her, she gives it outlet the only way she knows, through song. They come furiously once she picks up her guitar, her rage, her despair, the loss and betrayal, in lyrics that scream, howl and rasp everything she would say to him, if she could bear to see him.

Like Jacklyn, Nico expresses his heartbreak through music. He has no words, just this sad melody he's been working over for days, every note a prick of pain, a stab of guilt, a keening for what he's lost.

"Debbie wants me to turn it down, right?" Nico says when his brother enters the room. She has strict rules about when he can play plugged in. Staying here has been a nightmare in pink, Debbie is open in her contempt for him, and Andrea hasn't been much better, feeling almost as betrayed by Nico's lie as Jacklyn. As inhospitable as it is, Nico has put no thought into finding a place of his own. Doing that would just be an admission that he's never going back home, will never be with Jacklyn and Trill again, and that would be worse than suffering in this pink hell for all eternity.

"She's not here," Andrea says, "She has a shoot today."

Nico continues playing as his brother takes a seat on the bed. 

After a minute of playing while his brother looks up at him, expecting something from, Nico puts down the guitar. "How do you stand all this pink?" Nico asks when Andrea continues to keep his silence.

"It's her," Andrea says with a shrug, "It's like being surrounded by her all the time."

Nico imagines being enveloped in a ball of cotton candy, gagging on the sweetness. But as much as he would choke and starve on Debbie's diet of pink and sugar, it seems to provide real sustenance for his brother.

"Tell me, brother, do you love our father?" Nico asks quietly, changing the subject.

"I never meant to put him in the hospital," Andrea says defensively, "I just wanted him to stop."

"That's not what I asked," Nico pushes, "I want to know if you love him."

"Of course I do, Nico," Andrea says, standing up, "But I hate him, too. For hurting Mama, for his lies and betrayals."

Nico doesn't ask if that's how his brother feels about him, too. What he's worried about right now is Trillare. "I don't want my daughter to grow up hating me," he says desperately. Before Andrea can point out the obvious, Nico continues, "I know, I should have thought of that before I started fucking around. But I can't do anything about that now. I want to fix this, I want my family back, but I don't know how."

Andrea sighs, not having an answer for his brother. "Nico, listen, you've been cooped up in here for days, you never even leave this room. You don't sleep, you don't eat. You can't keep living like this. I'm starting to worry about you."

"I don't have a life, Andrea," Nico says, "I won't have one until I'm with my family again, with Jack and Trill. I need you to bring something to her for me."

Andrea looks reluctant and Nico hands him a carefully folded piece of paper. "What if she doesn't want it?" he asks.

"Just give it to her," Nico insists, "She can burn it if she wants. I just need you to put it in her hands."

Andrea did as Nico asked, handing it over to Jacklyn the next morning when he paid his daily visit. As soon as the soft, worn paper touched her hand, Jacklyn knew it wasn't a letter, it was music. Nico always transcribes songs as he writes them, working the notes over and again, and this sheet shows all his work, the erasure marks where he's made changes, the coffee stains telling of the hours he's put into perfecting this one piece. She knows how he works so well, polishing one piece at a time, lavishing all his care and attention on it until it's finished. Her songs come fast and furious, several at a time, all clamoring in her head at once until she can separate them. She never finishes one song before she's working on the next, trying to grow them all simultaneously as they come to her. And as her eyes scan over his notes, she hears his guitar, as distinct as his voice, and even sees his hands on his instrument, working the strings, playing this sad, beautiful ballad, telling her his love and regret.

His music stays in her head for the rest of the day, she hums it while she plays with Trill, and by late afternoon, she's written lyrics for it, different from the lyrics she's written for the songs she's been working on. Her songs have been about her anger, her anguish, but this one tells another side of their shared story, of the loneliness of their separation, the wrenching pain of love lost.

Before sunset, her drummer, Randell calls to catch up with her. He and Stacey had a son, Philip,  right around the time Trill was born. "When things settle down, we should get together and jam," he says.

"Of course," Jacklyn answers, "I've got a bunch of new songs to work up." 

"Great," Randell says enthusiastically, "When you and Nico get them worked up, send me a copy so I can get started on the drum tracks." She hasn't told him yet about what's been going on with her and Nico, and she doesn't say anything now, instead just agreeing to send him the music and set up a jam when they're ready.

Back in her father's mountain cabin, she had expressed her concerns to Nico about accepting him into her band while she was in a relationship with him. What she was worried about was the effect working together would have on them as a couple; she didn't anticipate what trouble in the relationship could do to her band. But here she is now, angry and heartbroken, never wanting to see Nico again, but at the same time planning to work her songs up with him. He's her guitarist, unlike any other guitarist she's ever worked with before, and she's not ready to replace him. She's not so sure he even could be replaced, not even a more technically proficient musician could do the things with her songs that Nico does.

The phone is still in her hand, Nico's cell is still programmed on it. It takes only the press of one button to talk to him.

"Jacklyn," he answers, his voce hoarse and eager.

"Listen," she says, then puts the phone down near her tape machine and plays back the rough tracks she's been recording here on her own. After three full songs play out, she turns off the machine and brings the phone back to her ear. "Well?" she asks.

The lyrics were scathing accusations hurled at him, but Nico knows that isn't what she wants him to respond to. What she wants is what she always wants when she plays a rough track for him, so, he picks up his guitar and starts to play her songs back for her, tightening up her sloppy notes, adding melody to her rhythm.

"Can't you plug in?" she asks, listening to the dull slap of strings against wood, unamplified.

"Not this late," Nico answers, "Debbie's rules."

 "Well, that sucks," is Jacklyn's heartfelt response. She takes a deep breath, "Do you want to jam?" she asks.

"I'll be right there," he says.

"Wait, Nico..."


"We're just going to play, okay? I'm not ready to talk yet."

Debbie's condo is less than an hour's drive away from the house, and Nico sped over as fast as he could, afraid she might change her mind on the way over and turn him away at the door. Though she never took his keys away, Nico thought it would be best to knock instead of letting himself in.

"I've got a bunch of songs to work on," she says as she lets him in. Just looking at him makes her want to cry, but she's good at holding her tears back when she needs to.

"Can I see her first?" Nico asks. He's been giving Jacklyn her space, not making any demands on her, only able to hear about his daughter from Andrea and Debbie after their visits.

Jacklyn nods, really working now at keeping her emotions in check. Nico catches himself crossing himself as he heads toward the stairs, a gesture he makes unconsciously during times of great stress. He casts a guilty glance in Jacklyn's direction; she always calls him superstitious when he does things like that. But she's turned away from him and doesn't see.

"Trillare, my angel," he whispers as he lifts his daughter from her crib, "I've missed you."

They get right into jamming, avoiding any conversation. Her ban on talking is almost unfair, as she gets to direct her rage at him in song, telling the story of his betrayal and her heartbreak over and again, making him listen without being able to respond. He takes it all, unflinching, feeding her extremes of emotion through his instrument. The fact that he feels her so deeply and responds so immediately to her vast and varying repertoire of passion is what makes them so tight as musicians. They spend hours like this, working on the catalogue of roughs songs she's sketched.

"I wrote some lyrics to your song," she says after they've worked up several of hers, "Do you want to hear?"

"Of course," he says, and starts to play the tune.

She fills in the rhythm, and sings her lyrics, giving voice to the loneliness and regret he put into his ballad. She exhausted from days of sleeplessness and her voice breaks and trills in odd places as she sings. When they finish playing, she looks at him expectantly.

"Bellissima," he says, touching his heart.

"Nico, why? We had such a good thing. Why did you have to go and fuck it up?" Jacklyn asks, breaking her own rule about not talking.

"Don't try to find a reason for what I did," he says, "There was no reason. I had everything, and I was so happy with you. And then she came after me and I was weak. There's no more to it than my own stupidity."

"How am I ever going to trust you again after this?" she asks.

"I don't have an answer for that, either. I'd be stupid to make you any promises now after breaking so many. I love you Jack, I always will. I know I fucked that up, and I'm sorrier about that, about what I put you through, than I can ever say."

Jacklyn forces the tears that start welling up in her eyes back, but one long sob escapes her. Turning away so she doesn't have to look at him, she picks up her guitar. "Let's get back to work," she says, her voice cracked and hoarse.

"You need some sleep," he says, taking the guitar from her hand.

"No," she wails, sounding like a truculent child. She has him here, and while she isn't ready to work things out with him, she also doesn't want him to leave her alone with it again. "I want to work."

"You can't work like this," he says, putting his arms around her. He comes so close to her, close enough to kiss her, and Jacklyn can't decide if she'd slap him or return the kiss if he tried.

But he doesn't try, he just lifts her up and carries her up to their bed.

He lays down beside her, just to see that she gets to sleep, and falls asleep himself as she curls up to him, hand on his chest.

After just a few hours of sleep, more than either of them has gotten since their separation, they are awakened by the hungry cries of their infant daughter.

"Let me," Nico says as Jacklyn starts to get up. She snuggles deep into her pillow as he rises, and as she falls back into sleep, he dares on light kiss on her shoulder before going down to Trill.

He gives Trill her bottle and sings to her, then settles her back into her crib. He thinks about going back up to bed with Jacklyn, but that isn't his place. She was too exhausted to kick him out before, he thinks, but she won't be happy to find him there when she wakes.

Not having the will to go back to his brother and his pink  lingerie model girlfriend, Nico goes out on the balcony leading out from the nursery, and watches the waves.

Jacklyn wakes again after a few minutes, and lays waiting for Nico's return. As the minutes pass with only silence, She gets up and throws on a shirt to find out what happened to him, and discovers him on the balcony.

"Are you all right?" she asks.

"No," he says, "How can I be after what I've done? I've lost you, Jack, and as much as I want to be a good father to Trill, I keep thinking she'd be better off if I just stayed away from her." Nico turns away from her to face the ocean; much like Jacklyn, he tries to hide his tears even from the ones he loves.

Jacklyn steps up behind him, wrapping her arms around his chest. "Trill needs you, Nico. Don't walk away from her." She presses her face to his shoulder, "I don't know what to do about us," she says, "But I miss you, I miss what we had. And I'm to tired to think about it right now. So, come upstairs, come to bed. We can talk tomorrow."


  1. Aaaaw. I admit to tearing up a bit. I really hope they can work through Nico's betrayl. And if he fucks it up again I will NOT be a happy camper.

  2. ^^Me three! *grabs tissue*

    I liked the last picture so, so much. It was perfect.

  3. Thanks, guy! Writing this chapter was pretty emotional for me too.

  4. Such strong emotions. They are speaking on a level that they both understand. Maybe this will work out ok, maybe Nico has learned. Look forward to seeing and reading more. great chapter :)

  5. If he gets a second chance he better not fuck it up.

  6. Thanks!
    I think Nico knows this is his last chance and he won't get another if he screws around again.

  7. Damn...Nico is finally seeing what he did. What's really bad for me is that he saw what it was before he even started off with Marilyn and then he did it anyway! Asshole. I'm so pissed at him still but he sounds like he really wants to try and make an effort. I really hope he doesn't fuck things up and I really hope Jacklyn makes his ass work for it. She really misses him and that's obvious. Now let's hope he does right by his family this time.

  8. If Nico hasn't learned a lesson from all this, he's pretty much hopeless. He and Jacklyn do have a long road ahead before they can be close to normal, but she really does miss him too much not to try.