A long, tiring five hours later and Xoe was driving through her hometown, Kendra. It was located about an hour’s drive from Auckland’s North Shore. Overall, she had made good time with only short stops when she started to get tired and needed fresh air. Each time she stopped, it was at a beach so she could walk on the sand in bare feet and breathe in the sea air.
As she drove through the town, she was pleasantly surprised to see that it had been jazzed up some. She stopped at the main shopping area and took a brief stroll on the new cobblestone walkway as she thought about where she was going to stay while she was there.
The shops looked brighter as well, but then she shrugged as she thought that maybe this was her perception. When she had left town years ago, she had been on the road to discovery, and her town was too small for that.
As she sat on one of the lovely wooden chairs in the shopping area, she pondered her options for accommodation. She needed a roof over her head so she could work on her music.
She could hunt out a phone book and start ringing around for prices, or she could give in and ring Norm. After all, he would be up by now having coffee and reading the newspaper.
With a smile, she dug out her phone and hit the first speed dial number. She only had a brief wait before his happy, deep, masculine, fatherly voice answered her call.
“Hey, sweetheart, what can I do for you?” Norm, her manager, answered. He was always calling her sweetheart, hunny bunny, or some other cutesy name; he even did it in public! It was embarrassing! He had always treated her with kindness, almost like a father figure, well, maybe big brother since he was only nine years older than she was.
“Two things, Norm. One, I have decided to take that holiday like you said. I’m not sure for how long, maybe a couple of days. And second thing, do you know of a good hotel I can stay in while I am in Kendra?” she asked him as she sat on that bench, the late afternoon breeze on her face and in her hair, welcoming her home.
“Do you like the beach?” Norm asked.
It was the last thing Xoe had expected. “Sure,” she answered with a shrug even though he couldn’t see her. She watched as a couple walked past her arm in arm. A small pang of envy flowed through her and was quickly gone as Norm spoke again
“Okay, I will send the directions through to your mobile phone. You can stay in the bach as long as you want, sweetheart. It is one we bought in case you girls ever decided to go to your hometowns.” Norm said this last part as gently as he could, and the “we” he was talking about was the accountant/investment advisor, Toby, who Xoe had hired when she had first started to make some serious money from her music. Norm had been her manager even before the Hellcats. He was one of the best investments she had ever made.
She loved that Norm was always reliable, always there when she needed him. Sometimes he was there even before she realised she needed him. He was her rock, the one person she could rely on no matter what. He always treated her as a person, not a rock star. And if she was getting bigger than her britches, he would ground her back into reality. He was her Norm.
No matter what day it was or what time it was, if she needed him, he was available. Even if it was technically his day off, whenever that was, he was there for her. If she was just being a diva, as he called it, she would hear about it because Norm would give her one of his “talks.” She cringed, just thinking about the “talks.”
“I hope you know how much I appreciate you, Norm,” Xoe said just before she ended the call. She meant every word.
She reached for the guitar she had slung over her back and started strumming and humming a sad but happy song about filling up your senses like a night in the forest.
She thought about her three friends who had died in a stupid car accident on a slippery road. They should never have been on the road while drunk. Some days she was so angry with them. Other days, she was angry with herself for being sick that night.
She didn’t realise she had closed her eyes until there was some applause as her song came to an end. That’s what music did for her. It let her forget everything, or it let her remember everything.
The sad, happy song turned into a happier song, and she entertained the small group of watchers with a few songs while she waited for Norm’s text message. As she smiled at the crowd, a man with a blond mohawk caught her eye, not that she let it show.
He was a fine specimen of the opposite sex. He was tall and well-built with golden skin and a couple tats on his biceps peeking out under the sleeves of his black tee. She watched the muscles that rippled under his tight shirt. She almost wanted to purr.
After another song, she put her guitar away, much to the on lookers’ dismay. When they offered her money like a busker, she shook her head and told them to donate the money to charity.
Getting to her feet, she did some window-shopping while she waited for Norm to get back to her with the address for the bach. She saw a pair of boots she loved and made a mental note to come back and buy them when she was in the mood for shopping.
A few minutes later, her phone buzzed, and when she looked at the display, it was the message from Norm with the address, directions, and the contact number of who would be giving her the keys, but not the name. She almost felt like smiling but couldn’t quite make herself do it.