When her son Max was diagnosed with autism, Avery Abbot’s life changed forever. Her husband left, and her own dreams became a distant fantasy—always second to fighting never-ending battles to make sure Max was given opportunity, love and respect. Finding someone to fight along her side wasn’t even on her list, and she’d come to terms with the fact that she could never be her own priority again.
But a familiar face walking into her life in the form of 25-year-old Mason Street had Avery’s heart waging a war within. Mason was a failure. When he left his hometown five years ago, he was never coming back—it was only a matter of time before his records hit the billboard charts. Women, booze and rock-n-roll—that was it for him. But it seemed fate had a different plan in mind, and with a dropped record contract, little money and nowhere to go, Mason turned to the only family that ever made him feel home—the Abbots.
Avery loved Mason silently for years—until he broke her heart…completely. But time and life have a funny way of changing people, and sometimes second chances are there for a reason. Could this one save them both?
I wait until she’s out of earshot before I ask Ray. “What’s Avery in therapy for?” I’m so damned curious, and suddenly all I want to do is spend my day gathering facts and putting together Avery’s puzzle.
“It’s not for her. It’s for Max,” he says, running a washcloth under the water and turning to wipe down the table. I grab a dry towel and follow after him.
“Oh. I get it,” I swallow. I’m dying to know what’s wrong with Max, but I feel like nobody wants to come right out and tell me. Unable to stand it any longer, I finally break.
“What’s wrong with him? Max? I mean…what does he go to therapy for?” My words are jumbled, and on instinct I brace myself for Ray to knock my teeth out. Last time I talked about Max I got slapped—hard!
Ray pauses at my question, refolding the washcloth a few times on the table before knocking his fist on the wood lightly. When he looks up at me, his lips are tight—serious. “Max is an amazing kid,” Ray starts, his smile full of conflict—pride and sorrow. “Avery…she lives her life for that boy. He’s her center, her sun and moon all rolled into one.”
“Yeah, I get that. It’s plain to see,” I say, trying to show my respect. I’ve only witnessed a little, but Avery has my vote for mother of the year the way she defends Max. My jaw hurts just from memory.
Ray finishes wiping down the table, chewing at his top lip and nodding, like he’s working out what to say in his head before he fills me in. He pulls out a chair finally and leans back, folding his arms across his body, not really looking at me, but more looking beyond me, before finally coming back to meet my eyes.
“Mason, Max has autism,” he says. I nod like I understand, and I try my best to match the face he’s making, but I have no idea what the fuck autism really means. I know the word, sure. And I’ve heard about it. But I don’t know if it’s something in your brain or if it’s something that happens over time. Isn’t it, like, mental retardation?
“Oh, okay. I…I didn’t know. I’m sorry. How…how do you fix that?” I ask, raising a brow, wishing like hell I understood more than I do.
“You don’t, Mason. You don’t,” Ray says, and I can tell by the crack in his voice that this—Avery’s life with Max, Max himself—is what real-life problems look like.Mason plays a song for Avery:
The whistles still get to me, and I can’t help the embarrassed smile on my face. I climb up and take the stool at the front of the stage while tonight’s crowd screams for me. It’s just the stool and a mic—that’s how I wanted it tonight. And even though it’s a crowd for Dusty’s—probably 150 people—it’s small compared to some of the places I’ve been playing.
“Hey there,” I say, my voice echoing a little, and more whistles coming back up in response. I laugh lightly, my cheeks hurting from the embarrassed smile filling my face. The people here have always been so good to me. It used to be the adoration that got me off—the girls thought I was sexy, the guys thought I was man enough to not want to kick my ass in the parking lot after the show. But coming back—playing here tonight—has my eyes wide open. These people don’t love me because I’m some hotshot musician. They don’t care that I have some stupid ounce of talent that sets me apart from them. They love me because I’m theirs—because this is home, and I’m family. The feeling that sinks into my chest is strange, but it’s good.
“First off. Thanks, Ray, for letting me hang out up here tonight,” I say, nodding my head to the edge of the stage where Ray’s still standing. Once Ray gets a few whistles, though, he stands up and heads back behind the bar where he feels more at home.
“So, I’ve got a few favorites I’d like to play for you guys tonight. Nothing new, just some songs that have always been kind of a big deal to me, if that’s okay?” I ask, hearing a few more squeals from some of the girls in the audience.
Normally, I’d scan the crowd, zeroing in on exactly where those screams are coming from to decide which girl—or two—I’d be talking into coming back to the hotel room with me. But my gaze doesn’t stray an inch tonight. I saw Avery the second I took the stage, and I can’t seem to look away. She’s floating from table to table, her hair piled on top of her head with a few lone strands kissing her neck. She’s keeping her back to me. And something tells me it’s on purpose. I was planning on starting out simple, to get my chops warm. But I’m man enough to admit that Avery’s part of the reason I’m doing this in the first place, and if she’s not willing to look at me, I’m willing to work for it.
“This first one is a song I never thought I got quite right. But a good friend…well…she told me otherwise. She’s pretty stubborn,” I laugh lightly as I set the song up, my insides just begging Avery to turn around. I can see her back at the bar, and she’s alone. I know she’s just listening, waiting to see if I’m going to do what she thinks I’m going to do. “This one’s ‘Wild Horses’.”
When her tray falls, my heart speeds up. I know I’m in trouble. But I’ve been in trouble before. I love trouble. So I start to play, and when I sing, I keep my eyes on her the entire time, just waiting for the moment she turns around. She never does. But she doesn’t move from her spot, either, and I think maybe she’s in trouble, too.
Avery fighting her attraction to Mason:
He’s watching me over his phone. I can see his eyes move to me every so often, and I just smile and continue on with my work. His attention scares the hell out of me, because I know how quickly it can latch on to someone else. But for now, I give myself this little moment. Right now, slightly drunk, Mason Street finds me pretty enough to flirt with, and damn it, I am.
“Do you ever just stop?” Mason asks, pushing his phone back into his pocket and dropping his feet to the ground. He leans forward on his elbows, looking at me across the table. His arms flex slightly, and I can’t help but shift my gaze to his bicep and the tattoo.
“What’s with the tiger?” I ask, changing the subject entirely.
“He was a makeup tattoo. Covering up something stupid I got when I was drunk once in Vegas. You didn’t answer my question.” He moves over a seat, so he’s closer to me, and I shift my tray to my other hip, just to add a barrier. He notices, and his lip curls up on the side in a devious grin.
“I know. I’m avoiding it,” I say back. He’s not going to charm me—this girl can dish it, and take it.
He sits back in his chair, and folds his arms now, propping a foot back up along the side of the table. He’s chewing at the inside of his cheek, and I’m just waiting for him to come back with a second round. I keep loading up my tray, and when it’s full, I turn to leave. I’m almost free when Mason catches up to me and walks me to the bar.
“I probably should have asked that differently,” he says, pulling the tray from my hands and putting the dirties in the bin before handing it back to me. “I’ve never met anyone like you, Avery. Not a girl in her twenties, anyways. You just go and go and go. And I was just thinking, you never take time to just stop—and to just be.”
I’m sure the face I’m making back at him isn’t flattering, but really…that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. How can I just be?
“You know what kind of girl does that?” I say, moving in a little closer just so Mason knows he doesn’t intimidate me. “A vapid one, without a kid, and who is planning a beach-house getaway with her girlfriends. That girl is a fairytale, Mason. Make-believe. Us realwomen? We have responsibilities—and we put other people first. Because it’s the right thing to do. So no—no, I don’t just ever…stop. Too much depends on me going.”
I can actually feel my hands shaking I’m so flustered by this conversation. All I want to do is smash my tray in his face and race off to the locker area to lie down and breathe. But I can’t.
I can’t, because somewhere in the midst of my rant, Mason grabbed my hand with his, and now all I can freaking focus on is the feeling of his thumb lightly grazing my fingers and how much it makes me want to burst into tears.
“One drink, right before close. That’s all I’m asking,” Mason says, his eyes boring into mine like lasers. “I’m not saying pick up and go backpacking across Europe. I’m just asking you to take a break, for once in your life. Have a beer with the guys and me while Ray closes up. We’ll shoot some pool, or throw some darts. Twenty minutes, and then you can go back to living for everyone else.”
Mason’s hand is still on mine, and my brain is tangled from the many emotions being mixed like a blender inside my chest. Whatever the cause, I nod yes slowly, and slide my hand from his.
Ginger Scott is a writer and journalist from Peoria, Arizona. Her new adult romance, “How We Deal With Gravity,” centers on a young, single mother of a child with autism and her
chance at love with a familiar face from her past. ‘Gravity’ releases July 8.
years. The story follows two characters, Nolan (a Tomboy with a baseball player’s name) and Reed (the quarterback she wishes would notice her) as they struggle with peer-pressure, underage drinking, bullying and finding a balance between what your heart wants and what society says you should want—even if you aren’t ready. You can read it, and the sequel, “Going Long,” now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other e-book outlets.She is also the author of “Blindness,” and the soon-to-be-released new-adult romance “This Is Falling.”
Twitter: – @TheGingerScott
Blog/Website – www.littlemisswrite.com
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/GingerScott