The Perfect Love Song

The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry

Book: The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Patti Callahan Henry
downloaded in a day. What began as an expression of love was fast becoming an expression of identity. Jimmy was becoming “the song.”
    Ellie was correct—there were lines of girls waiting at every stop. The backstage passes went from children and families wanting to meet Rusk and Hope to girls in white tank tops and cowboy boots just dying to meet and touch Jimmy Sullivan.

    He stepped off the bus and signed autographs, shook hands, smiled for the cameras. He posed with Santa Claus in a fake sleigh onstage, as if the sleigh were real, as if Santa were real, as if the fame were real. Of course, none of it was, but he did not yet realize it. Not yet.

CHAPTER NINE

    Here is where you must be careful:
Not all things are as they appear to be.
    —MAEVE MAHONEY TO KARA LARSON
     
     
     
     
    T he paperboy rode his bike through the frigid streets of Palmetto Pointe, throwing the plastic-wrapped newspaper over his shoulder with the same move he used for his fastball on the baseball diamond—this is how he practiced and made cash at the same time. He hated this time of year, not only for the cold but also for having to dodge the Christmas decorations people put in their front yards, the strings of lights and wires that caught his bicycle tires in the predawn dark. When he reached Charlotte’s house, he threw the paper, not
knowing he was delivering news that should have come another way, that should have come from that ole Jimmy Sullivan himself. If he’d known, if the paperboy had known what I knew, he would’ve skipped her house, avoided the neighbor’s silly lightbulb red-nosed reindeer, and gone on to the next driveway. But he couldn’t know, and I couldn’t stop him.
    The announcement in the Palmetto Pointe morning paper was splashed across the front page: “Palmetto Pointe’s Own Jimmy Sullivan to Sing at Radio City Music Hall on Christmas Eve.”
    Charlotte was already standing in the kitchen holding a cup of coffee and staring out into the beginning of the day when the thump of the newspaper hit her front porch. She opened the front door and grabbed the paper. Her mind on anything but the news, she unwrapped the paper, stuffed the rubber band in the junk drawer—just like every morning. The paper flopped open on the countertop, and she read the headline twice before she understood, before the words held any meaning. Then her hand shook; coffee splattered across the counter.
    She hadn’t spoken to Jimmy in three days, and now she knew why: He was off in his own land now. He was gone from her; she’d felt it, and now she knew it.
    The article remained unread, the coffee soaking through
the print as Charlotte walked into the living room. Really, why did she need to read the article? The headline told her everything she wanted to know. He’d moved on with this new life. He didn’t care enough to tell her he was singing in New York City and he wasn’t coming to Ireland. Of course he wasn’t. He couldn’t be in New York City and Ireland at the same time. She plugged in her prelit, perfectly decorated, but fake Christmas tree. She turned a key for the gas fireplace, threw in a match, and then sat in the threadbare lounge chair, the one she’d been meaning to re-cover but had not yet because she loved the old faded chintz on it now. She exhaled and stared at the tree, at the fake gas fire licking the fake logs, and wished it were all real: the fire, the logs, the tree, Jimmy’s love. But they weren’t. And maybe none of it ever had been.

    J immy awoke to his cell phone ringing. He groaned. God, he’d never been so tired. He glanced at the screen, but the leftover whiskey fogged his mind and his eyesight. He answered without knowing who it was.
    “Hey, bro! What is going on ?” Jack’s voice bellowed.
    “Hey, I’m sleeping. I’m finally getting some shut-eye. Can I call you back?”

    “Ah, have you seen the front page of the Palmetto Pointe Times ?” Jack asked.
    Jimmy’s irritation rose as it does

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