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J.A. Huss


Melissa Vetti’s lips were softer than the down blankets on her bed and they were equally as warm. We lingered in the kiss longer than we should’ve. Longer than ever before, not moving, not tonguing each other, not seeking more with wandering hands trying to pick at the buttons on our jeans. Just connected.

“I love you,” I whispered into her mouth.

“I know,” she giggled into mine. She always said that when I pushed, but at least this time it didn’t come with a litany of excuses. We’re too young. You’re leaving in three months. We have our whole lives to fall in love.

It was too late for me though, because I’d been in love with her since the sixth grade when we ditched the chaperones on the class camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park in the middle of the night.

We both lived next to that park. We wandered into that forest so many times, the woods were our home. And the spot the school chose for the class trip was close by. Our town is not really rich, even though if you want to buy a decent house up here in Grand Lake these days, it’s gonna cost you a million dollars. Our schools are not by any means well-equipped. Hell, most younger kids who live here, and there aren’t many, go to school in Granby, the next town over. But a trip to the local woods was something everyone could afford.

I knew the way—hell, she knew the way too. And when the small waterfall came into view, the moon making the water in the pool shimmer silver, we both got sweaty hands and chills up our spines.

Missy Vetti and I had our first kiss that night and I loved every moment of it. The sound of the forest at night. The cool midnight breeze whipping past our skin making us shiver, even though it was July. The heat of her breath mixing with mine and the way my fingers found their way into her hair and pulled her close out of instinct.

That’s all we did that night. Just one kiss in the dark. But it was enough for me to fall in love. And now that we were on the verge of college, it seemed like every moment had been wasted. Like I should’ve done so much more with her. Everything felt like a missed opportunity.

“You have to go before my dad gets up, RK.”

“I know.” I’d been sneaking into her house to sleep over for years. Not every night. And we didn’t fuck or anything. Missy Vetti was as pure as the water rushing down the mountain and her dad spent every night sleeping like a bear in the winter, so we never got caught. Or maybe he knew and didn’t care? Maybe he knew his daughter was perfect and would never let a boy spoil her with sex?

I reluctantly pulled away from our embrace and sat up in her bed, looking back over my shoulder. “Pick you up at eight?”

She smiled big. Big. Big. Big.

That’s all I got—a smile.

And I have seen that smile in my nightmares for the past five years and asked myself the same question over and over again.

Why did I kill her?

Chapter One

There are no words perfect enough to describe my memory of the Vetti twins so I had to write a song. A nine-minute masterpiece that flowed from my heart, to my mind, and finally out through my fingertips as I picked and plucked each note on the antique baby grand we kept in front of the music room window overlooking the mountain.

My description might seem excessive, but every word is necessary.

The length—an indicator of my reluctance to finish the song. I still consider it incomplete and that’s why I’ve never performed it in public, even though someone leaked the only video of it to Metal Notes Magazine Online and not a show goes by that they, the fans, don’t chant for it from the dark, hiding behind their fake lighters projecting from their phones.

The flow of creativity—because it all came from my heart. Broken as it was, as I sat in front of Melissa’s grave, tapping out the tempo on my leg, the rain pouring down on me in rivers. At the time I had no lyrics, only the melody, because the only words in my head were dark and I refused to give that darkness a place to live inside me forever. I refused to let Melissa be reduced to RK’s pathetic darkness.

The imagery—because I could see their bedrooms from the music room in my house. The flick of their lights sent me signals all growing up, lights that will never flick again because there is no them anymore. I breathe deeply as I sit in my truck and look through the thick fog mixed with a light snow to find their house.

Not their house, RK. Her house.

And I hate that in my mind I still call myself RK instead of Rowan Kyle. Or Rock, for that matter. I’m Rock to the entire world, to everyone but me. When can I stop being RK or Rowan Kyle and just be Rock?

I am wordy and incoherent most of the time, I know this. My lyrics are nothing but run-on sentences broken up with the bass guitar and the beat of the drums as the lead plays with the tempo just enough to make you stop and say, Yes. That’s nice. Who is that? What is the name of that song?

That’s how we became mega-rock stars in the span of five years. That’s how I pulled myself up from the darkness that surrounded me after Melissa died. That’s what got me through.

But now that’s gone too.

Because my band, Son of a Jack, the band I started when all five of us were penniless on the streets of Hollywood, desperate for change and opportunity, is as dead as Melissa.

It’s like my life is on song repeat when all I want is a shuffle.

I survived the crash that took Melissa and me over the edge of a mountain road five years ago, the night of our high-school prom. Melissa’s twin sister, Melanie, survived that car crash with me. She was not there. But she was a survivor nonetheless. Because I broke them apart. I cut them in half. And she, like me, had to learn to live on.

I survived the crash that took Son of a Jack over the edge of a cliff on another mountain road as we were driving up to Winter Park to ski. My drummer, Kenner, survived the crash with me. He was there. So he earned his survivor badge honestly. I broke the band apart too. And he, like me, has to learn to live on.

That was eight weeks ago.

I’ve been in rehab up in Steamboat Springs ever since. Well, until today. My larynx was fractured. A group II fracture that was elevated to a group III after they tried to intubate me and fucked it up even worse. They repaired it with resorbable plates in Denver and then sent me somewhere pretty to recuperate. They say it’s working now. That’s what they say.

I have no idea if the operation was a success because I refuse to talk. And it’s not because I don’t want to talk or I don’t remember so I have nothing to say. I remember every moment of the crash because I was not drunk. I was not high. I was not asleep. They said all those things about me afterward, but the blood tests came back clean, and I know I wasn’t asleep because I relive every second of that crash in slow motion every time I close my eyes.

So fuck them. I wasn’t asleep.

But the throat still hurts like hell, so I’m not gonna talk until that goes away. My thoughts are so crazy I’m almost afraid of what might come out if I do talk, so it’s better this way.

I shut the truck off and let out a sigh.

Melanie’s light is on. She lives alone now. Her sister is gone. Her father died of lung cancer two years ago. I never came for the funeral. I was in Bangkok getting sucked off after a show when I got the call.

And that night I was high and I was drunk, and the thought of traveling back to Colorado for a funeral, well, let’s just say that bitch’s mouth was a lot more enticing than a twenty-hour trip that would bring me right back to the place I ran from a few years earlier.

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