Authors: Courtney Giardina
Copyright © 2015 by Courtney Giardina
Behind the Strings
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover Design: Justin Giardina
Cover Photography: Fusion Photography (
) - Charlotte, NC
Behind the Strings is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people or real places are a product of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, or locations is entirely coincidental.
To all of the dreamers who see a world most cannot imagine… this is for you
It had been five years since I’d seen him. I should have been as excited and giddy as every other girl who surrounded me, but since our last encounter was anything but pleasant, I couldn’t help but feel anxious.
He had come home a dozen or so times since the night we stood on my front porch, and each time he came he would leave without a word. I had become accustomed to the drastic change in our relationship. The blame had been placed solely on myself, as it should have been.
I never wanted it to end like that. All those years, those memories, the good times we had… it felt like they walked away with him as his shadow disappeared into the night sky. I wanted to cry, tell him not to leave like this, but I was numb to heartache by that point in my life. Tired of chasing after people who didn’t want me. It wasn’t fair to put him in that same category after all he had been to me, but there was no fixing what had been done. He had poured his heart out to me, begged me to give him a reason to stay and all I could do was tell him to go. His dreams were too big for this town and too big for me.
Hamden, Tennessee seemed to be a breeding ground for some of country music’s top talent, but they didn’t get there by singing at local bars and coffee shops waiting for a big-time record exec to walk in. It was the moment they decided to be brave enough to make the three-hour drive west to Nashville that their dreams became reality. He had worked hard enough to deserve that chance. And if he was going to get it, he had to do it without me, and from the sound of screaming fans that were currently lined around me, I would say he did just that.
“We’re getting closer!” I heard a young girl squeal in front of me.
Both she and her friend were clad in pink cowboy hats, knee-length brown boots and white t-shirts that read “
We Love Logan.”
Behind them was a bachelorette party, holding black sharpies and 8 x 12s of the guy I’d spent my entire life leaning on.
I gripped the badge that lay on my chest. In big bold white letters it read “
Logan Kent: All-Access Media Pass.”
One of the greatest perks of my job was getting up close and personal with some of Nashville’s finest, but tonight I would have rather been anywhere else.
Logan Kent had girls swooning over him since he was thirteen years old. I’ll never forget his rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”
at the middle school talent show. Even then the girls in our class were pushing their way up to the stage to get a better look at him. He had spent all of his high school years playing Friday nights in front of a packed crowd at the ever-popular Sweetwater Bistro. I remember the long drives with him and his parents to Chattanooga Lookouts or Nashville Predators games where he’d sing the national anthem. Or the one time I stood beside him, calming his nerves, as he threw up backstage before he went to perform at the Tennessee State Fair.
He had come a long way since then. Signed to one of the most sought-after record labels in Nashville with his second single holding strong in the top ten. And now, here he was, on tour with one of the biggest duos in the industry. By the looks of the sea of girls surrounding me, it didn’t seem as if his career would be ending anytime soon.
“This side of the line, please,” someone from the event staff said as he motioned for the crowd in front of me to stop trying to peer around the backdrop that separated them from their dream guy.
With each girl who rounded the corner, the shorter the line became and the harder the butterflies fluttered in my stomach. I could feel my body shaking as I stepped backwards trying to separate myself from the meet & greet line. Just as I did, my right knee gave out on the final step and I stumbled backwards.
“Whoa, are you okay?” One of the girls with the bachelorette party asked.
“Yeah, thank you,” I said as I readjusted my blouse.
“No problem,” she said, “we are finding it hard not to faint as well.” She held the picture up to my view. “He melts my heart, I can’t even.”
I smiled as I took it in. It amazed me how much he had changed since our teenage years. His hair had grown out quite a bit. I could see it peeking out of the backwards ball cap that sat on his head. He stood against a white background in the cowboy boots I’d always remembered him for. The only time I’d ever seen him without them were the hot summer days we would dip our bare feet into the lake after playing hide-and-seek in the cornfields or capture the flag behind the old abandoned barn off of Maple Street.
“Ma’am,” I heard a voice call out. I switched my gaze from the picture to the guy waving me forward. “After this group we’re going to pull Mr. Kent into the press room, so make sure you’re ready.”
I waited behind the line with a few other journalists until it was time to go in. We all followed single file into the press room where Logan comfortably sat behind a table at the front of the room. I pulled out my notepad, watching as Logan sipped on a bottle of water, listening intently to whatever his publicist was whispering to him.
His eyes were greener than I remembered, and since he wasn’t wearing a ball cap like in his picture the girls were holding, the ends of his chestnut brown hair curled over his ears. A five o’clock shadow grazed his face and the tight blue t-shirt that accentuated his newly toned biceps had confirmed that the boy who left all those years ago had truly grown into a man. A man I never thought I’d see again…and now here I was, only a few steps away from him.
It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes for him to notice me. There was a quick flinch of his head as he turned to make sure. My pulse quickened as I gave him a half-smile. Just as quickly as our eyes met, he turned his away. I watched as he fidgeted a bit in his chair before the press conference began.
“We have fifteen minutes,” his publicist said as she gave the first journalist the go-ahead.
A couple more journalists went before I finally built the courage to raise my hand. I cleared my throat and in my most professional manner asked my question:
“With your first two releases both hitting the top 10, it’s clear fans are really enjoying music off your debut album. Can you tell us what we can expect from the rest of the songs on it?”
Logan leaned into the microphone. “I’d like to think it’s the type of album that fits every aspect of your life. Lots of music to dance to on the beach while on vacation, or to blast with the top down while hanging out with friends. Then there are the ones meant to be strummed on a six-string while roasting marshmallows by the campfire on a romantic night under the stars.”
I threw out another question before anyone could interrupt. “What’s your personal favorite?” I asked.
“I’m pretty proud of the whole album, but if I had to pick one it’d be ‘To Walk Away
’ Pretty powerful and hits close to home. I’m pretty sure you’d be able to relate to it.”
I swallowed hard. His last comment was terse and I could tell by the way his publicist looked at him that I wasn’t the only one to notice the abruptness behind it. I could only take that as confirmation that he still, after five years, had not forgiven me for the decision I’d made.
He shrugged at her as she quickly called on another question. Once I caught my bearings, I quickly wrote down the title, making a mental note to check it out later. The album had been released only a week ago, but I had already listened to it at least a dozen times. Though each time, through most of it, I found myself distracted. The sound of his voice would bring back a different memory on every song. On the slow ballads I'd see the two of us laying in the open fields during our midnight talks under the stars. The more upbeat ones were reminiscent of the many nights I spent sitting front row at Sweetwater Bistro during his set or listening to his laugh when he peeked his head out of his bedroom window after the sun went down. He was never surprised to find that I was the culprit of those rocks that hit it. I guess I had spent so much time thinking back that I didn’t really listen to the words of the songs in as much detail as I should have. I jotted down the song title to be sure to listen to it later: “To Walk Away.” There was time for one more journalist to go before Logan thanked everyone for their time and headed out to get ready for his set.
Front row, directly to the right of the stage. That was where the ticket that came along with my press pass had put me. I snapped a few pictures for my blog and jotted down some more notes as Logan sang. I didn’t sing along to either of his singles, but I knew the words to both of them. I had a countdown set so I wouldn’t forget and bought them both online the day they were released. Even if he didn’t want me to be, I still liked to think I was always his biggest fan. Maybe second-biggest, only to his mom of course.
The crowd cleared quickly once the encore was over and all
had exited the stage. It had been a long night and was still far from over. If I thought the press conference was awkward, it was about to get worse.
Nashville: Behind the Strings
was one of the hottest country blogs in the city. I’d been working there for a year now and had been given the official title of New Artist Media Manager
It was my job to introduce the world to the hottest newcomers of the industry. That meant mingling with them as much as I could. So after the concerts comes another perk of the job…the after party.
About an hour later there I was, walking through the lobby of the Opryland Resort to the ballroom written on the invite. I spotted him right away, surrounded by reporters, shaking hands and posing for pictures. I leaned my elbow on one of the cocktail tables off in the distance, sipping on some champagne I grabbed from a waiter who passed by. Once I came into Logan’s view, I watched him excuse himself and push his way through the crowd. My heart raced. I couldn’t read his poker face as he stepped closer to me.
“Twice in one night, huh?” he said as he placed his palm on the table next to me.
“Just doing my job,” I said.
“And what exactly might that be?” he asked.
“I’m a writer,” I said, “music blogger, to be exact.”
“I’m sorry, can you say that again?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.
He put his hand to his ear to make sure he had heard me correctly and stood there, waiting for me to repeat myself, but I didn’t. The only thing I did was continue to stare at him until he grabbed my hand and pulled me across the room and out through the hotel doors. Neither of us said a word as he led the way to the brick steps across the way from the lobby entrance. It reminded me of his parents’ 15
wedding anniversary party. That was when we snuck away from the black tie gathering and ran through the vineyards until we were both out of breath. Then we lay with our heads together, staring up at the stars. I think we were maybe 10 at the time. Now, over a decade later, we were standing side by side under that same sky, staring up at those same stars. But this time it was different.
“Logan?” I asked.
“Don’t,” he said as I stood.
“I didn’t come here to upset you.”
“Well I’m upset,” he said. “Damn it, Celia.” I walked over to him, placing my hand on his shoulder, but he pulled away. “The girl who wanted nothing to do with music. Who couldn’t even stand entertaining the idea of being a part of its world…now you
“I guess I realized I was spending my life blaming music for all the things I lost instead of the people who took them away from me.”
“Oh, good for you. I didn’t try and tell you that dozens of times or anything,” he said rolling his eyes.
“Logan, it’s been five years. I don’t want you to be mad at me anymore.”
“Who said I was ever mad at you?” he asked.
“You haven’t talked to me in five years. Not a single return phone call, not even a text. If you’re not mad at me then what the hell are you, huh?”
“Hurt,” his voice rose as he turned towards me. “You hurt me, okay? You and I, we were supposed to be in this together, you know and you just…you let me down, left me to do this all alone.”
“I did not!” I said.
I had told him not to stay in Hamden for me. That I wasn’t ready to leave yet, but that there was no way I was going to be the reason he gave up his dreams. Yes, for nineteen years we were inseparable. Our mothers were in the same birthing room of the hospital. That was where it all started. Apparently going through labor together forms an unbreakable bond. We spent so much time at “Mommy and Me” classes, on play dates…you name it, we did it all together. But that didn’t mean the rest of our lives were going to pan out the same. He knew what he wanted back then, he always had. I was still trying to figure it out.
“You may as well have,” he said, “That’s what it felt like to me.”
“That’s the last thing I ever wanted. You were my best friend. You still are.”
I was about to grab his hand, when a young girl with curly blond hair, dressed in sequins, yelled out his name. That was his cue to return to the party.
“And the high life calls,” he said. “You coming back in?”
“I think I should probably get home.”
“Now? That’s kind of a long drive home this late at night.”
I shook my head. There was so much Logan didn’t know about the last few years of my life. The fact that I too had moved out of our small town was one of them.
“4817 Blueberry Hill Rd,” I said as he stepped away from me. “Can you meet me there tomorrow morning, ten sharp?”
“What’s there?” he asked.
“Just say you’ll be there, please.”
No verbal commitment, but I saw the nod before he turned away and if there was one thing I knew about him, it’s that he always did as he said. Like the true Southern gentleman his mama had raised him to be.
When I arrived home that night, I sat the laptop onto the couch next to me and pulled up the songs from Logan’s album. I scrolled down until I came across “To Walk Away,” clicked for it to begin and listened closely.
She held my hand while I was shaking
Searching the words I had to say to her
I looked into those eyes
Bluer than they ever were
Underneath that midnight sky
As the rest of the song played it became very apparent what he meant when he said this song “hit close to home.” Every line brought me back to that night he said goodbye. Suitcase in hand, standing on my porch. The only real friend I had ever known was about to embark on a new adventure without me. As happy as I was for him, it was hard to let him go. We had been through so much in all of those years, I couldn’t imagine how the next chapter of my life would start without him there.
The bridge played again and I lifted my fingers to my lips, remembering how his had so gently brushed against mine back then. We both lingered, our lips locked together until I finally pulled away. I was so young and so confused.
My head was spinning as the song continued to play. I could barely understand the words once again as the vision of him walking down the front steps clouded my mind.
She was already moving on
Before I was even gone
I knew there was nothing left to say
She didn’t feel the same
So I had to love her enough to walk away
He really couldn’t have written it any better. It described perfectly the events following that kiss. I cried, he left. I watched him go and he never turned back.