Chapter 24

       "Cheers, everyone! Our second album is now complete!" Symphony chimed happily, as she passed a flute of champagne to each of her band members. When April declined a glass, she immediately knew something was up. Eyeing her curiously, Symphony asked, "Is everything alright? This is your favorite brand of champagne."

       Turning towards Dylan, April smiled and said, "we have some great news to share. Dylan and I are expecting... I'm pregnant. We've been in a relationship for over a year now."

       With a shocked expression on her face, Symphony was at a loss for words. She knew April had a soft spot for Dylan but had no clue the two were dating. Now thinking back, she should have known. Whenever Dylan was in the wrong, April would always try to calm the situation.

        Enveloping April into her arms, Symphony beamed with happiness and said, "congratulations, you two! I'm so happy for you."  

       Dylan chimed, "so you're not upset?"

       "No, of course not! Symphony exclaimed. "This is wonderful news!"

      "Thanks, Symphony. But uh, Dylan and I have decided to quit the band. Our focus in life has changed course." April sighed. "God, This is so hard. We're going to miss creating music with you and Nicolae, but being in a band isn't in our foreseeable future."

      Taking April by the hand, Symphony smiled tenderly and said, "April. Please listen to me. There is nothing wrong with choosing a different path in life. I'm happy for you and Dylan. As you all know, I've always said if our band wasn't signed by my 30th birthday, then I would call it quits. And well, my birthday is next week. Things happen — plans change. Please don't hesitate to ask if you two should need anything."

       Dylan smiled. "Thanks, Symphony. I know I haven't always been the easiest to work with, but I've enjoyed being apart of this band. I wish you much happiness in pursuing your music degree."

       Through teary eyes, Symphony hugged him and said, "Yes. Though we've had our differences, I've enjoyed you being a part of the band as well. You're an amazing drummer. You two be good to each other and don't be strangers."

        Mustering up a fake smile, Nicolae shrugged his shoulders and said, "yeah. Congratulations, you two. Well, since that is that, I'm going to head out now. Nothing else for me to stick around for."

      As Nicolae walked briskly towards the door, Symphony ran behind him. She knew he didn't have much going on besides the band, but he was a talented and smart guy. He could do anything he wanted. The only problem was that he didn't believe in himself. On many occasions, Symphony tried convincing him to get work as a studio musician and go back to school, but he always shrugged her off —  there was only, but so much she could do.

       Originally from Romania, Nicolae had no family in the states and had come to America for a change of pace. He wasn't on good terms with his family and had left home at the age of sixteen before finishing high-school.

      Catching up to Nicolae before he exited the studio, Symphony tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hey! Don't leave so soon. We just finished our second LP, and we have good news to celebrate. We should be happy for Dylan and April. I know the sudden break-up of the band is bittersweet. But we've all spoken about this, and had a mutual understanding of my decision."

       Speaking in a quiet but icy tone, Nicolae bit the inside of his cheek and said, "bullshit! You're selfish... April and Dylan could have easily been replaced. You don't care about anyone but your damn self. I've told you how much I love this band, but this is how easily you give up? Your only concern is sucking Dr. Black's dick! You're probably only dating him to land a solo record deal or something."

       Symphony scowled quietly. "Get the fuck out! For five years of my life, I've always put the band first. You're full of it!"

       Looking her up and down in disgust, Nicolae threw up his middle finger at her as he exited the studio. "I hope he's worth it," he hissed.

      "Asshole!" Symphony muttered, closing the door behind him.

        Trying to regain her composure, Symphony inhaled and exhaled deeply. Never in her life had she felt so disrespected. She knew Nicolae was hurt, but what he said was uncalled for. As his words continued to sting her heart, she blinked back her tears. Though none of what he said was true, his words had hurt her deeply.

     When Symphony returned to Dylan and April, they gave her a knowing look. They, too, knew how Nicolae felt about the band breaking up and didn't need any further explanation for his sudden departure. "We're sorry, Symphony. We didn't mean to spring this up, but we wanted to let you know in advance. Since we don't have any gigs lined up, we thought this was the perfect time to do so," April spoke apologetically.

     "Thank you. And please... Really. It's quite alright. Things happen for so many reasons. There's no need to be sorry. Now, let's get back to celebrating your good news! I have some fantastic Apple Cider you can drink instead of Champagne," Symphony smiled warmly, as she retrieved the bottle from her bag.

       After pouring April a glass of the non-alcoholic beverage, Symphony cleared her throat and said, "I'd like to propose a toast... To new beginnings."

       "To new beginnings!" Dylan and April chimed, as they all clinked glasses simultaneously.

      

***

       When Symphony arrived at her condo later that evening, she smiled at the sound of Michael singing in the shower. A few weeks prior, the two had exchanged keys to one another's homes. A symbol of trust — it was the next big step in their relationship, and since the two were now spending almost every night together, it made sense to split their time between their homes.

       Initially, Michael had asked Symphony to move in with him, but she politely declined. It wasn't the right time for her personally, and she much rather wait until she finished taking his course.

       After plopping down on the sofa, Symphony went through a stack of mail she had meaning to open. Though she dreaded seeing all of the bills she had to pay — she needed a distraction. Nicolae's harsh words were still stinging her heart, and she didn't want to tell Michael what he had said. With all that had happened with Raven, she didn't want to make him upset.

      As she picked up an over-sized envelope addressed from France, she opened it hastily, wondering who it was from.

      "Dear Ms. Wilson, you have been cordially invited to perform 'Claud Debussy's Greatest Hit's' with the 'Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra.' Myung- whun Chung, our conductor, saw you perform 'Arabesque' last year and would love for you to perform at our 'Debussy Tribute Show' on December 18th. If you choose to accept our invitation, we'll cover the cost of your flight and hotel. You may also bring a guest if you'd like. Please give us a call no later than Thursday at the number listed below so that we can quickly arrange your accommodations."

      When Michael entered the living room, he took a seat next to Symphony and said, "I was just about to call you. Is everything alright? I was expecting you to be home a bit earlier."

      Symphony smiled weakly. "Checking up on me, Dr. Black?"

       "No... But I know your schedule and routine," he spoke concernedly, noticing a glint of sadness in her eyes. "Have you been crying?"

      Gazing down at her lap, she spoke in a barely audible tone. "I'm alright, sweetie."

       "No, you're not. What happened? I know when you're sad. Please talk to me," he spoke softly, tilting her head upwards, looking deep into her eyes.

     Symphony sighed. "Well, I have both good news and bad. We completed the album... Finally. But the band is no longer together."


     "Shit! What happened? I know your birthday is next Sunday, but I didn't expect you guys to break up a week before."


     "I didn't have a choice, but I'm fine with it. Dylan and April, my two band members, are expecting a baby. They felt it was time they moved on... I'm happy for them."


       "And?" 


      "And what?"

     

      "What else happened?"


      Symphony chuckled, holding back her tears. "You know your woman, don't you?"

        "Yes. I do. Now tell me what in the hell happened! Did Raven say something to you? Did someone hurt you?" he spoke rapidly, feeling his body temperature increase.

        "Michael, please calm down. It wasn't Raven. I just don't feel like talking about it right now."


      "Then, who? Don't hide things from me, Symphony. I want us always to be honest with one another. You can tell me anything."


      "Yes, baby... I know. But whenever you don't feel like discussing something, I always give you time. Please extend me that same courtesy," Symphony blurted in frustration. She knew Michael meant well, but she was tired of negativity affecting their relationship. She desperately wanted to forget what Nicolae had said, but that was proving to be difficult for her —  his words had cast fear into her heart.

      Though Symphony knew Michael loved her, she never wanted him to feel uncertain. Albeit he was no longer an entertainer, he was still rich — surely some women sought after him with ulterior motives.

       Stroking the side of her face with his hand, he breathed deep and said, "That's fair, I guess. When you're ready to talk, I'm here."

        Symphony smiled as she rested her head on his shoulder. "Thank you for understanding, sweetheart. And with that being said — I'm truly happy for Dylan and April. They make such a cute couple."

       As Michael reclined on the sofa, he pulled Symphony against him, wrapping his arms around her. "I'm happy for them as well. And congrats on completing your album... I know the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that brings."

       "Thank you, Michael. Though it's bittersweet, I'm happy with how the band ended. It wasn't all bad, you know? Dylan and April's new journey made me view things a bit differently."

     "How so?" Michael asked curiously as he stroked her back.

       Symphony spoke candidly. "Well, for starters... You. If my band would have gotten signed to a label, then our lives would have changed significantly. The band most likely would have gone on the road, and me going long periods without seeing you was not an option."

       Michael's voice quivered as he spoke compassionately. "Symphony, Please. I don't want you to give up your goals for me. While your band getting signed would have been a challenge, we would have gotten through it... Together."

      As Symphony toyed with the material of his white v-neck teeshirt, she listened to the drum of his heartbeat and said, "Yes, Michael. I know. But this is my decision as well. Sure, I would have loved for the band to have gotten signed, perform at award shows, and have our music heard the world over. But truth be told, I would have quit much sooner, but I didn't want to let the band down. Being in a band was never apart of my original plan."

       His voice laced with curiosity, Michael placed a gentle kiss upon her temple and said, "so what was your original plan?"

       Symphony smiled. "Do you really want to know?"

       Patting her gently on the head,

       Michael chuckled and teased, "Sure, sweetheart. I'm interested in knowing how you planned to take over the world."

       Symphony giggled and said, "as all seven year old's do. But seriously, from age seven until putting the band together, I only wanted to be a pianist or a music teacher. I wanted a husband, a pretty house, three puppies, and five squishy babies. I had it all planned!"

       And what changed? Michael asked, feeling excited and intrigued by what she was telling him. And though they had been together for a little over two months, he still hadn't asked her if she wanted to have kids or even a husband for that matter. Part of the reason was that he didn't want to scare her off. And quite honestly, he didn't want to get his hopes up.

        Closing her eyes, Symphony relished in the comfort of his arms as she answered his question."Well... I had always been shy as a child, but at around age twenty-five, I started exploring the indie music scene. I made friends and gained a bit more confidence as a woman. I met a few musicians I got along with really well, had a few jam sessions with, and then one night we all thought, 'Hey, let's start a band!' We fell in love with the music we were creating and wanted it to be heard. But as I've told you from the beginning, if we hadn't gotten signed by the time I reached thirty-years-old, I'd obtain my degree in music and become a teacher. In essence, I guess I just circled back around to my original plan."

       In a hushed tone, Michael placed a delicate kiss atop her head and said, "does that plan still include the husband, pretty house, puppies, and squishy babies?"

      Symphony smiled. "Yes, it does... But I'd like to double the number of puppies and squishy babies."

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