Without Words

By: Delancey Stewart
Chapter One


Rob

The club was packed. Saturday night, guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I liked it that way. Though crowds weren’t really my thing, if there were enough people focused on their own crap, not too many of them even noticed me. I was part of the scenery, just a voice and a guitar in the corner. Normally, no one bothered me. I could drink and play for a couple of hours, head back home, and feel better in the morning. Some nights, women would lurk around, trying to get me to notice them, but something about my attitude usually put them off before they managed to speak.

I didn’t generally even bother to look up. I didn’t need the crowd, didn’t want the money—though Trent always paid me the standard night rate and the crowd usually dropped tips onto the stage. But the anonymity and the hum of voices helped me lose myself, lose the chaotic spin inside my head. And that was something I did need.

But tonight, something was different.

It started like always. Trent called to let me know the place was busy and the stage was open. He had bands come in, or singer-songwriter types. But if nothing was planned, or someone bailed, Trent would let me know.

Trent stayed behind the bar on the nights he was there, smiling, chatting, flirting. I watched him sometimes, remembering what it was like to fit in, to interact with other people without a second thought.

Didn’t matter, though. That wasn’t me. Not anymore.

Tonight, I set up and started playing, my Jack and Coke on the small table by my side. I tried a few chords, tuned my axe, and started to play. As soon as my fingers connected with the strings, the crowd would fade away. I sang, too, which is funny if you think about it, since I don’t talk much anymore. But when the words are connected to my fingers, to the music, well, that’s different. And that’s why I come.

To hear the sound of my own voice without hating myself for it.

To feel the words come naturally, without each one being a fucking struggle.

To feel human again.

I rarely even look up when I play. The crowd, the people, they don’t really matter. I need them there, but they’re just a backdrop. I don’t see them as anything more than color and movement around me, like a warm, close shell. But tonight, something shifted for just a second. A little temblor, maybe just a jolt? We get those sometimes. San Diego sits on the Rose Canyon Fault, and earthquakes aren’t uncommon. I looked up to see if anyone else had felt it.

But when I glanced up, nothing was different. Except that the table to the right of the stage near the bar now held two girls. And one of them might as well have had a neon sign over her head. My attention was that drawn to her. My fingers froze for a second on the strings and I stumbled over the lyrics as I got myself back together.

What the fuck was that?

Since the accident, people really didn’t have much of an effect on me. I avoided them, they avoided me. It worked out pretty well that way.

But the girl with the wavy gold hair and curvy little body had my attention, whether I liked it or not.

They stayed a while, the two girls. And I managed to watch them without being too obvious and without screwing up again or calling attention to myself. I stuck with the covers I knew well, letting my brain and fingers connect and flow, giving my voice a chance to stretch.

The girls seemed close, sisters maybe. They laughed and smiled a lot, and the smaller one practically glowed. Her hair was wild, and she talked with her hands, waving them around, touching the other girl on the arm. She bounced on her stool and looked completely at ease in the mass of people around her.

She shone with clarity. She was happiness and light.

A little voice inside me told me she looked like hope.

I told it to go fuck itself and leave me alone.

I tried to figure out if I’d seen her before. If the jolt I’d felt when she walked in was my fucked-up brain trying to remind me of something I’d forgotten. But the more I watched her, the more I was certain I’d never have forgotten her. I didn’t think I’d be able to forget her now, though a big part of me wished her gone. I already knew what would happen.

I’d pack up. I’d go home. And after I took Sampson out for a run on the beach, I’d end up lying in bed staring at the ceiling, my dick in my hand. And now I knew exactly what I’d be thinking about.

Because I sure as hell couldn’t talk to her.

At one point near the end of my last set, I glanced up and our eyes met.

Fuck.

I wanted to play off that she’d caught me staring at her, to look away. But I didn’t. For a few seconds, our gazes locked.

I don’t know how I kept playing, because the world tilted wildly, like something had broken loose. My heart picked up some crazy staccato rhythm and my cock jumped to attention, throbbing painfully against the seam of my jeans. From zero to hard in one second flat. That was celibacy for you.

Her eyes were blue. She had a dusting of freckles across her nose and over her bare shoulders. She was wild-looking and gorgeous, like some kind of imaginary woodland nymph.

And whatever she is, she’s the last thing I need right now.

I didn’t look at her again. But I could feel her eyes on me as I finished playing. I needed another drink. And then I needed to get the fuck out of here.

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