Copyright© 2016 by Jay Cantrell
Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 59 - Travis Blakely had a comfortable existence. He had a decent job and good friends. He was comfortable with what the future held for him. Then he ran into a girl he remembered from high school. His life got a lot more interesting - and infinitely more complicated
Mary’s funeral was conducted Tuesday morning at a nondenominational church not far from the home she’d shared with Joe and Amber.
Liz and I arrived early and hid in the shadows while hundreds of mourners came in. Mary had been a high school teacher for four years before her illness and she must have been a good one. A lot of teenagers and young adults were present along with some of their parents.
We had paid a visit to Joe on Monday afternoon – ostensibly to ensure that the funeral expenses were paid and that sort of thing. In a move that surprised me, the school had conferred tenure to Mary a year early in order to vest her in the district’s life insurance plan. The financial aspects of death were well attended to.
Joe had confided that Mary had spent her final hours listening to a selection of Liz’s music while he held her hand. I saw Liz fighting back tears at the news, and I reached over to brush one away that escaped down her cheek.
The reason we stood inside the church on Tuesday was so that Liz could sing one final song to a woman that she’d met only once. We were in an alcove for the same reason that Liz rarely publicized any good deed. The day was about the departed and those that cared for her. It wasn’t about Liz Larimer.
The song was called “Your Story Will Not End.” I had read the lyrics and heard portions of it on her discs but hearing her sing it in person – while I was standing right beside her – was entirely different.
The message was simple: A person’s life doesn’t end with their death so long as there are still people left alive that love them. If the size of the assemblage was any indication, Mary Kozak’s life would span a lot longer than the brief time her body held up.
“The songwriter’s pen tells Mary’s story far better than I can,” the young minister said when Liz had ended. “Mary Elizabeth Kozak’s body lived only 27 short years on our planet but her message of hope, of determination, of perseverance, and yes, of love, will resonate far longer. Mary was Joe’s cherished wife; she was Amber’s beloved mother; she was adored by her parents, Timothy and Tera; she was admired by her siblings, Paul and Vicki; she was a friend, a teacher, a colleague to those in this room and many others who couldn’t be here today. She was my high school classmate and a friend to me since I was a small boy. Her story will not end because we will not let it end here. We will keep her in our hearts and in our prayers. We will tell stories of her in good times and in bad. We – those of us that loved Mary – will keep her alive and pass that love down to our children and their children. Today, we will mourn our loss while we take solace that Mary’s pain has finally ended. She is at peace. Let us pray.”
We slipped out of the church and departed with the rest of our group. We had scrapped the New York plans before we left Cabo. It seemed that all the females needed a few weeks to get their livers back into shape before making a foray to The Big Apple. We had planned to return to Nashville Monday evening but had decided to push things back a day. Stephanie and Ryan hadn’t even protested because we had a week before her appearance in Jacksonville.
Liz gripped my hand tightly and wiped away tears as we rode to the airport. I hated funerals. This was only the second I had attended (the first being my father’s) and I decided I wasn’t going to any others (including my own if I could swing it).
“That was a really nice song,” I said.
Liz wiped her eyes again and shook her head.
“It was a pure cash grab,” she spat. “They wanted it for a movie so I wrote it. I’ve never been to a funeral before today. Outside of your dad, I only really know one other person that’s died. I wrote it because a studio paid me a lot of money for it. I’m a total fucking fraud.”
“No, you’re not,” I said. “You might not know death but you know loss; you know disappointment and despair. That’s what that song was about. You can’t sing it with that much emotion if you have no frame of reference.”
“Today is the first time I’ve ever been comfortable with it,” Liz admitted. “I hate the song. I mean, I don’t hate the song. I hate the person I was when I wrote it. Now, I guess when I think about your dad and Mary, it’s better for me. I understand it and it makes sense. I just wish I wasn’t so horribly shallow when I wrote it. I just ... stole ... the concepts from other songs and books. It’s not just this song. It’s the entire fourth disc. I essentially sold my soul – sacrificed all my principles – for money. I don’t perform any songs from that disc. But when Joe asked, I couldn’t just tell him no. I still cringe whenever I see that movie title on TV.”
“I liked that movie!” Skye said. “I cried when I saw it at the theater!”
“Do you know they wanted me to play the lead role?” Liz wondered.
“No!” Skye said. “Why didn’t you?”
“A couple of reasons,” Liz said, a small smile coming to her face. “The most important is that I’m a really bad actress. Vida Katz was bad enough but I would have been worse. The other reason is that I was 20 or 21 years old and they wanted me to play a 15-year-old. I have some pretty crappy memories of being a real 15-year-old. I didn’t want to add being a hospital volunteer that falls in love with a coma patient to the list. Seriously? You liked that movie?”
“I was 16 or 17 when it came out,” she explained. “I thought ‘Terminus Street’ was high art back then. So, yeah, at the theater, I enjoyed it. But it came on a few months ago and I tried to watch it again. It was pretty bad.”
“The label really pushed for me to take the role,” Liz said. “I was in the middle of my worst times and I think they wanted to get as much money out of me as they could before I OD’ed or got caught doing something that would really lower my value. They planned to release the song as a single but the movie didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. I told them I wouldn’t promote it. I was ... better ... by then. It took a couple of years to get the movie released and I’d cleaned myself up and gotten my head straight. They were adamant that it was going to be released; I was just as adamant that I would never sing it live or do an interview to support it. I think they knew they could schedule me for stuff but they couldn’t control what came out of my mouth. When the movie opened weaker than expected, they dropped the idea. That was really the first big battle I had with RFN.”
“I think it makes your natural talent as a songwriter show,” Brian offered. “We played the song at my grandmother’s funeral ... I guess it was five years ago now. I listened to it, and it ... it made losing her a little better. I could still look back at all she did and all she was and keep her with me.”
“That’s what I was thinking about just now,” I mentioned. “I ... I’d read the words and I’d heard the song a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t really resonate until I put it into perspective of my own personal loss. My dad ... he and I were tight, you know. He never really pushed me to do anything specific but once I made a commitment he expected me to give it my all. I ... I don’t know Mary in any context besides Amber so I found myself looking back at my dad’s story. I guess I’m just really another chapter that we’re writing. I’m still trying to give my best because he taught me to give my best. I still try to ... look after people, I guess ... because he expected me to look after people. I almost always tear up when I think about him.
“At the church just now, I found myself smiling as some of the memories popped into my head. I still miss him. I’ll always miss him but he’s still a part of me. He’ll be a part of my children because I’ll try to teach them the lessons he taught to me. I hope they’ll pass stories of my dad down to their children. His book doesn’t end until he’s forgotten. I’ve been trying to do that to him. I’ve been trying to forget how much he meant to me and how much he influenced my life. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to remember Zane Blakely and who he was as often as I can.”
Liz squeezed my hand.
“It wasn’t just the song,” I said quickly. “That was part of it. It was watching him take down that little asshole at the talent show. It was thinking about some of the things he said to me during the time we knew each other. The song just ... tied it all together I think.”
“You showed her the video from the talent show?” Jill asked.
“In glorious living color,” I said.
“I so want to see that!” Jill insisted.
“What talent show?” Skye wondered.
“Travis’s dad took a video of Liz in ... ninth grade, I guess,” Jill said. “It was her first live performance anywhere.”
“Except the shower and my bedroom,” Liz said.
“Which, by the way, would be worth a lot more cold cash than one of you at 14,” I said.
“That’s pretty cool,” Skye intoned, completely ignoring my attempt at humor. “Why?”
I explained the new video camera Dad had bought and his desire to test it out before we started night baseball games.
“And?” Jill said.
“It was everything I remember,” Liz said, shrugging, “right up until Travis’s dad called some guy a ‘shithead’ for mocking me.”
“Was it bad?” Jill wondered.
“The performance was awesome,” I said. “It was even a little better than I recalled. The crowd and the emcee were...”
“Shitheads,” Liz supplied.
“Pretty much,” I said.
“I can’t blame them,” Liz related. “I looked like a total spaz. I had on a gingham dress and a paisley headband. It’s what I wore all the time.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” I said. Liz turned and lowered her sunglasses to glare at me.
“Yeah, OK,” I said, smiling at her. “It was that bad. But you looked cute that night. That’s what I noticed when we were looking at the old pictures. She was cute even then.”
Liz rolled her eyes.
“I didn’t feel cute back then,” she said.
“But look at you now,” Skye said. “This person was always inside of you. Yeah, maybe no one saw it at the time but it was there. Just like the person I am now was waiting inside that geeky girl I was when I was 14.”
“I was a total babe at 14,” Jill said with a wink.
“Was it an accident?” I asked.
“An accident?” Jill wondered.
“That turned you into the troll you became,” I asked.
“That’s going to leave a mark!” Brian said, laughing.
“On him!” Jill said, giving me a mock pout.
Liz seemed relieved to have the focus off of her and Jill gave me a wink.
The rest of the ride was done with Jill and I exchanging wisecracks and putdowns.
Unlike our previous trip to Nashville, Liz showed no interest in getting frisky at 30,000 feet. Instead she sat and stared out the window at nothing. I think we were probably over Kansas before she finally allowed me to engage her in conversation.
“That could have been me,” she said. My confusion must have been written on my face. “Instead of Mary Kozak, it could have been me – or you or anyone. Life is ... fragile. There are no guarantees.”
“No,” I agreed. I had learned that when my dad had died six weeks before his 50th birthday.
“It’s why I don’t want to wait,” Liz told me. “I want to get married and have kids as soon as we can. I don’t even care if I’m pregnant when I do the show in Dallas. I just don’t want to sit and watch my life go by. I don’t want to lie in a hospital bed and think about all the things I wished I’d done.”
“Honey...” I began but she cut me off.
“I know, I know,” she said, “you’re not ready; you need more time; you want to contemplate everything. I’ve heard you.”
“I wasn’t going to say that,” I said. “Yeah, we need to work some things out but I wasn’t going to bring them up right now. I was going to tell you that this is a natural reaction to understanding your mortality. You want to live better, harder. You want to dance in the rain and run with the bulls when you see someone that young die.”
“I don’t want to dance in the rain and I sure as hell don’t want to run with any bulls,” Liz interrupted. “Only an idiot would let something with horns that close to his ass! I want to get married; I want to start a family. I want to get married as soon as we can arrange a preacher and I want to start having babies even sooner. OK? That’s all I’m saying. I’m not talking about skydiving or bungee jumping. I’m talking about doing things every single person on this planet wants to do. I just want to do them immediately.”
I saw Jill’s head jerk around when Liz’s voice rose. When the words “marriage” and “babies” came out, Jill’s eyes went wide. Her head turned to where Skye sat on the opposite row – then immediately both women looked straight ahead, content to let me deal with Liz.
“Thanks a fucking lot,” I said to myself.
“Then we’ll start making plans as soon as the wheels touch down,” I said.
Liz looked at me and blinked.
“Really?” she asked.
“Really,” I said. “If you want to head straight to city hall and get a license, that’s what we’ll do. I’m not sure about the laws about residency or anything like that but we’ll figure it out. Do you have a prenuptial agreement ready?”
“What?” Liz asked as the question settled into her brain. “No.”
“You’ll want one,” I said. “Have your attorney get something prepared and I’ll have mine go over it. You know what? No, I won’t. Have him get it ready and I’ll sign it.”
“Wait!” Liz said. “This is...”
She tilted her head and chuckled lightly.
“Too fast,” I finished.
“Fuck you,” she said, still laughing.
“We can’t just run off and get married, Liz,” I said.
“Christ, we can’t have your lawyer look over the prenup,” she said. “We’d be 60 before he got it back to us. What’s the hold up on the employment contract?”
“Me,” I said.
Liz was silent for a moment as her mouth tried to formulate a reply.
“Are you holding out for more money?” she finally asked.
“I don’t want to be under contract to you while I’m investigating the Nashville PR scene,” I said. In truth I didn’t want to have a legal contract with Liz while I dealt with some of the people I wanted to meet in Austin and some of the other little sidelights I’d started on her behalf.
“I...” Liz stammered.
“There is an offer on the table and I have given my verbal acceptance,” I said. “But I want to be honest while I’m interviewing. I feel bad enough that I’m using them like I am. I don’t want to compound my sins by flat-out lying to them.”
“This is about the Texas show,” she said. “You promised me that you wouldn’t do anything without speaking to me about it.”