Music City Madness: Chapter 61

Leland woke up with Abby standing beside his bed. Still groggy, he rolled over to see his alarm clock flashing 12:00. “What time is it?”
“It’s after 7:30,” Abby informed him in her baggy shorts and a wrinkled T-shirt from the dryer. She wore her hair in a pony tail. “I’m going to be late for school.”
“I thought you hated school?”
“I don’t hate school. I hate being late for school.”
“Why didn’t you wake me up sooner?”
“I thought you were getting ready.”
Leland threw the covers off and reached for his jeans on the chair beside the bed. “Geez Louise, the power must have gone out again.”
“No kidding.”
“I need five minutes.”
“You’ve got two,” said Abby, holding up two fingers in the air as she left with the cat galloping ahead of her.
Leland rubbed his eyes and stretched his arms above his head. He put his clothes on and splashed cold water on his face at the bathroom sink. He brushed his teeth in rapid fashion and found Abby in the living room petting her cat on the floor. “I’m ready.”
Abby scratched her tabby’s chin. “Why don’t you get an alarm clock with a battery?”
“Because the one I have still works.” He could hear the cat purring loudly.
“Newsflash, Dad. The Civil War called. They want their clock back.”
“Very funny.”
“Why don’t you use the alarm on your phone?”
Leland looked at his flip phone. “What alarm?”
“Are you serious?”
Leland hugged his arm around Abby and kissed her forehead. “Are we good?”
“I talked to Nicole about Mom when you went to the hospital to see Mrs. Hamilton. Nicole agreed you should have told me about Mom sooner, but she also helped me see the issue from your perspective.”
“As opposed to hearing my perspective from me?”
Abby gathered her backpack. “Nicole’s smarter than I gave her credit for. She thinks you have real potential.”
Leland couldn’t decide if he wanted to thank Nicole or chastise her for inserting herself into his personal life again. “What else did Nicole tell you?”
“She thinks my mom has a right to see me despite what happened.”
Leland grabbed his keys and brought Abby outside to his truck. “Nicole should worry about her own problems.”
“I asked her what she thought. She gave me an honest answer.”
“You’re too young to have this sort of conversation with her.”
“She told me you would say that.”
Leland started the motor and backed out of the driveway. “Did she tell you how much I love you?”
Abby checked her makeup in the mirror. “Don’t be cheesy.”
“What’s on your face?”
“Blush. Nicole gave me some of her makeup before she left. I like black eye liner too.”
“You don’t need makeup.”
“I do if I don’t want to look like a thirteen-year-old girl.”
Leland drove through a yellow light up ahead. “You are a thirteen-year-old girl.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I think you’re perfect the way God made you.”
“When do you think I can see my mom?”
Leland bristled at the comment. “I’m not sure.”
Abby leaned back in the truck’s bench seat and zipped her lip gloss in her backpack. “Maybe she can have dinner with us sometime?”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t want her around you.”
“Are you telling me I can’t see her?”
“I worry about you.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I think you need to move slowly. That’s all I’m saying.” Leland kept both hands on the wheel and drove in silence for the last few miles. He’d been hard on Abby about her mom and about her challenges at school. Probably too hard at times. He wanted the best for his only child. He wanted her to be safe and protected at all times. He also wanted her to accept herself for who she was and be happy with the life she had.
“I want a horse,” Abby announced.
“Save your allowance.”
“I’m serious.”
“Me too.”
Abby’s eyes narrowed. “You still owe me like four week’s worth.”
“I know.”
“Jonathan and Adam had a horse, but their mom sold it. I told them they should get a job and buy it back.”
“Horses are expensive.”
“So are big houses and fancy cars. You don’t hear me asking for one of those.”
“Not yet. Wait ’til you get your driver’s license.”
“I don’t care about cars.”
“Then you’ll be happy to drive this truck.”
Abby looked away and twirled her hair.
Leland drove around a section of damaged roadway under repair. FEMA trailers occupied a parking lot across the street. “I can drop you in front of the school.”
“I’ll walk.”
“What about your ankle?”
“It’s fine.”
“What time should I pick you up from detention?”
“Detention’s over.”
“Your principal doesn’t think so.”
“My principal hates my guts. She wanted to throw me in jail for macing that bully on the bus.”
Leland slowed at the next intersection. “She thinks you have great potential.”
“What do you think?”
“I think you better hustle, or you’re going to be late again.” Leland eased along the curb and stopped.
Abby got out and slung her backpack on her shoulder. She gave her dad a fleeting wave good bye.
Leland drove slow enough to track Abby’s progress in his side view mirror. Regardless of the tragic events in recent past, he’d finally achieved some balance in his life. With the benefit concert looming and the promise of better things to come, he had momentum in his career—and new love in his sights.

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