The past week had flown by for Carla; she was so busy taking care of her grandmother and helping her sort out her final arrangements that she had barely had time to miss Shannon.
“And you want this casket for your burial, right Nana?”
“I’ve said ‘yes’ a hundred times now put those infernal catalogs away so we can do something fun”
Fun? The poor woman was nearing her deathbed and she wanted to worry about fun?
“Okay, Nana- like what?”
Her grandmother smiled. “Tell me about this boyfriend of yours”
“I am NOT giving you his dimensions, Nana” the redhead groaned.
The old woman shook her head. “No! I mean tell me about HIM; who he is, what he likes, what are his ethics, what does he do for you- all of those things”
Carla felt nervous; she’d never actually said any of these things out loud before. She didn’t know how to express how incredible of a man he was and all that he had done for her. Not to mention that she didn’t know how much time her grandmother had left on this earth- she didn’t want to waste it babbling on about Shannon.
“Wow, okay um… He grew up poor, like food stamp poor. His mom had him and Jared before she was eighteen and she struggled to provide for them, but she is a bit of a hippie so she encouraged freedom and expression in art and music. Shannon says that’s what him and Jared through the tough times; he was already playing the drums by the time he was six”
“I know: you should see the size of his arms! They are like- oh, sorry” she apologized, blushing “Anyway, he got a bit reckless in his teen years and made some mistakes”
Nana chuckled. “Don’t we all? I think you’d be a bit surprised to hear some of the things I did in my youth”
“I don’t want to know!”
“What don’t you want to know?” Woody asked, walking into the parlor.
She glared at her childhood friend. “Haven’t you heard of knocking?”
“Whatever” he replied, rolling his eyes “There is someone at the front door asking for you”
“How the hell should I know? He just says that a gift was sent to you from Europe and that you had sign for it”
Shannon had sent her a present from Europe? The redhead jumped up and ran to the door nearly knocking over the man standing on the front porch.
“What the fu- SHANNON?!?”
He grinned. “I told you I was going to meet Nana before left”
Carla jumped into her boyfriend’s arms and wrapped her legs around his waist, attacking his mouth with a huge kiss and running her fingers through his hair. The drummer pushed her up against the side of the house and returned the kiss, sliding his tongue past hers. A discreet cough brought them back to reality and Shannon set her down, earning a raised eyebrow from the ginger bearded man in front of him.
“You got something to hide?”
“Shut up, Woody!” the redhead snapped “I’m excited to see him and we don’t need to give Nana a premature heart attack”
“Why? What happened?”
Nana came rolling out onto the front porch and eyed up Shannon, looking at him up and down and turning to her grand daughter.
“Well?” she asked “Where’s the gift? Did your boyfriend forget to send it?”
Woody smirked in amusement while Carla blushed twenty shades of red, embarrassed for her lover who didn’t seem at all offended.
“Actually, Nana” she said, taking a hold of Shannon’s hand “This IS my boyfriend, Shannon”
“Pleased to meet you ma'am” he stated, holding out his other hand to shake.
The old woman looked at his glyph tattoos and scoffed. “You’re older than I expected… What are you? 53?”
The drummer chuckled. “It’s alright, LaLa. And no ma'am, I’m actually 45- a bit older than Carla, yes. But age is just a number when it comes to love”
“Mm-hmm: and prison is just a place” Woody mused “Hey Peaches, do you realize that he was in high school when you were being born?”
“Woody, SHUT YOUR MOUTH!” the redhead snapped.
Shannon squeezed her hand, trying to calm her. “Actually, that is not true. Woody, is it? I dropped out of school by then”
“A high school drop out?” Nana repeated, clearly not impressed.
This was not how Carla expected things to be; she thought her grandmother would be happy with her choice and things would go peacefully. As of now, things were going to hell in a hand basket and there was not a damn thing she could do about it.
“You went from a lawyer to a high school drop out?” Woody asked.
Carla growled. “No, I went from an abusive asshole of a man to a successful musician who is also a shrewd and well rounded businessman. Exactly, how much money do you make? I bet Shannon doubles what you have in a quarter”
“Okay, enough of that” the drummer interjected, keeping his cool “Say, LaLa- you want to help me with my bags? I have some actual presents in the trunk”
“I don’t recall giving you permission to stay here, young man” Nana snapped.
Shannon nodded. “I don’t either, Ma'am. If you’d prefer for me to stay elsewhere, I will do so; I just want to unload my things from the airport shuttle and give everyone their souvenirs”
“Nana, he IS staying here” Carla demanded “And if he leaves then so do I”
Woody leaned against the door frame. “You two sound pretty co-dependent if you ask me”
“Nobody did!” the redhead snapped.
Shannon smiled at his girlfriend. “And you seem to have done just fine without me; I’m proud of you”
Both Nana and Woody rolled their eyes at the nauseating display and the old woman threw her hands up in surrender.
“Fine! He can stay here; but NOT in the same room. He will be staying on the ground floor bedroom well away from you and all of my valuables.”
Carla couldn’t believe this: her grandmother had gone from encouraging her to try doggy style to suddenly not wanting her and Shannon within spitting distance of each other.
“Very well, ma'am” the drummer acquiesced, quickly grabbing his bags “You have a lovely home”
“I know” Nana stated “Now take off those filthy boots- I don’t need you tracking tracking dirt all over my Persian carpets!”
The drummer nodded and kicked them off. “Yes ma'am”
“How old are those things anyway?” Woody asked, eyeing the scuffed and dirty shoes “It looks like they’ve been on your feet since the 90’s… Can’t a rockstar like you afford some Zanotti’s or something?”
Instead of showing hostility, the musician simply shrugged- completely unfazed by the joint attack by the old woman and her lawyer.
“I have a pair. But why throw away something just because they aren’t perfect anymore? They’re comfortable, I still love them and I like how they tell the stories of where I’ve been; the sands of a thousand countries are all over these babies. And I love that”
Carla loved how poetic he could be whenever he talked about something he loved, Jared couldn’t even write this out for him- those words came straight from his heart. The redhead wrapped her arm around his and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“This way, Shannon- I’ll show you to your room”
“And leave the fucking door open!” Nana shouted, nearly rolling over the drummer’s feet as she entered the house before he could.
Shannon just laughed and nodded in agreement. “Thanks, LaLa”
Carla turned and saw her childhood friend with a look of disbelief and anger painted on his face; clearly, he wasn’t happy about her having a new nickname. A nickname indicated a relationship.
“Yes, Shannon calls me LaLa and I am perfectly fine with it so keep your comments to yourself”
Woody scoffed. “But 'LaLa’? Sounds like something you would name your pet”
“And 'Peaches’ isn’t?” she shot back “And for the umpteenth time- do NOT call me that!”
Shannon grinned and gently tapped his head against hers as they walked into the large house.
“Where did that come from anyway? I’ve never heard you talk about peaches”
“I gave it to her” Woody interjected “When we were children, we use to play hide and seek and each time we played- she would hide in the EXACT same place. In the peach tree her mother planted as a little girl. Hence, the name 'Peaches’
"And he would always hide in the woodpile behind the shed, hence HIS nickname; his real name is Thurston Earle Whitlock”
He knew he shouldn’t laugh (he had a female’s name after all) but it was so funny, the drummer couldn’t help but snort into the palm of his hand and giggle. His girlfriend was soon following after him and they were soon leaning on each other with laughter. Woody didn’t find it funny at all, particularly how “Shannon” of all people found him to be a joke.
“Come on, Shan… I’ll tell you more about 'Thurston’ while you unpack your bags”
The couple left the ginger-bearded lawyer standing in the hallway as they entered Shannon’s guest bedroom; it wasn’t as large or as furnished as Carla’s but it was comfy. A full bed with a with a matching dresser and nightstand completed the room with a window that showed a beautiful view of the lake.
“Sorry, it’s so small” the redhead apologized, knowing he was used to lavish things.
The drummer grinned. “That’s what she said”
Carla tackled her boyfriend onto the bed and gave him a big, wet kiss; all of her troubles now gone from her mind now that her lover was here with her. All of her time with Clayton, the fiasco with Dresden and Jared, even her grandmother dying had been completely wiped from her mind simply because of her boyfriend’s presence.
“I’m so happy you’re here” she whispered “I don’t know how much more I could have handled on my own”
Shannon kissed her forehead. “You’re stronger than you think, LaLa.”
“Not as strong as when you’re with me”
He tightened his hold around his girlfriend and allowed himself to relish in the moment of having her in his arms, being able to comfort her and keep her safe. Before either one of them could say anything, several loud bangs came from the hallway.
“I THOUGHT I SAID THE DOOR STAYED OPEN!!!”
Carla groaned; trying to remember how much longer her grandmother had left to live…
Three Days Later
“And close your mouth when you chew, didn’t your mother teach you anything? Wait- where is your napkin? Why do you have tucked in like a bib?!? Are you an infant?”
Carla massaged her temples as Nana consistently critiqued her boyfriends eating habits. The past several days had been nothing short of a nightmare; she couldn’t get a single moment alone with Shannon and her grandmother threw a fit if they were even touching. In addition the old woman had take to criticizing everything and anything about him: the way he ate, the way he talked, how he played, what he enjoyed- there was a never ending barrage of opinions and distaste coming from the old woman. Woody, of course, was taking extreme delight in watching Shannon being picked apart by piece by Carla’s grandmother. He added his own comments here and there and never failed to laugh whenever Nana made a particularly rude comment regarding his relationship with the redhead. Shannon, to his credit, had the patience of a saint and never lost his temper; he was the perfect Southern gentleman and always saw to it that his manners and respect stayed in place.
“Why are you reaching for another piece of bread?!?” Nana scolded “Finish what is on your plate, first!”
The drummer dropped the bread and nodded. “Yes, ma'am”
“Well, don’t put it back after you’ve touched it!” Woody shouted.
Carla reached her limit and slammed her fists on the table. “ENOUGH!!!”
Everybody turned to look at her and the redhead stood up. “Shannon may be polite enough to let your disrespect and outright abuse continue but I am not! I am sick of watching you two gang up on him and try to tear him down bit by bit! He is a kind and wonderful human being and he deserves to be treated as such- and as his girlfriend, and the soon-to-be lady of the house, I demand that you show him respect!”
The room was dead silent save for Nana’s slow tapping fingers against the table. The old woman leaned forward in her chair and looked straight at her grand-daughter.
“About that; I’m not so sure that I want you inheriting what I’ve built. You’ve shown nothing but poor judgement; in your career, your relationships, your friendships and everything else. If this is who you are, then you are no grand-daughter of mine: I don’t want anything to do with you and I think it best that you pack your bags and leave- oh, and don’t expect a penny from my death”
Before Carla or Woody could say anything in response, Shannon had jumped out of his chair and leaned forward into the old woman’s face.
“Now you listen up here, you crotchety old bag!” he hissed “I have put up with your comments and your judgement for the past three days and would continue doing so if it made Carla happy, but you have just crossed the fucking line!”
“Shannon…” Woody warned.
The drummer pointed a finger straight at him. “Shut it, Thurston!”
“As I was saying, I don’t care what you think about me- I don’t give a damn if you hate me and despise what I do or how I dress or the way I eat: I’m not in this relationship for you or your money. I am here because I came to support the woman I love; the woman who was strong enough to stay alive for years through an abusive relationship, the woman who gave up so much so that others could be happy, the woman who knows about my past and my problems and my mistakes but still for some crazy reason loves me anyway. Say what you want about me, but you go near her with either words or actions- and I will END you! Whatever money you cut her off of, I’ll double it for her. Whatever love and affection you deprive her of, I will be there to replace. And anything else that you try to take away from her- I will make sure she gets from me!”
Shannon turned on his heels and grabbed Carla’s hand, ready to walk to the airport and leave this place behind. Loud, slow applause stopped the drummer from actually leaving the dining room and he turned around; shocked to see Nana clapping with a wild grin on her face.
“Well, it’s about fucking time!” she exclaimed “I was waiting for you to show off those large Irish balls Carla is always talking about”
“Nana!” the redhead exclaimed.
The old woman shrugged. “What? I had to see who he really was and if he was good enough for you. Lucky he finally grew a backbone- I thought I was going to die or run out of things to bitch about before he finally stood up to me. Jesus, and what a waste of time! You two could have been fucking each other in the lake and telling me all about your lives in L.A for the past three days if your drummer had just spoken up…”
“Wait” Woody interjected “So you ACTUALLY like him?”
“I love him: he’s good to my grand-daughter, he’s takes care of her- in more ways than one, he’s helped her blossom into a woman and he’s is teaching her what it means to really be in a relationship. What else can I ask for?”
Carla let go of Shannon’s hand and rushed to her granny’s side. “So everything you just said; about not liking who I was, wanting me to leave and-”
“Hush now, little girl” Nana said “I had to say SOMETHING to push your man over the edge and that seemed to do it. Never mind those words; just a means to an end was all”
Tears of relief flooded the redhead’s eyes and she leaned into her grandmother’s shoulder, sobbing with happiness. The old woman patted her grand-daughter’s back for a few moments before gently pushing her away and looking up at the musician.
“Now that that mess is out of the way, how about we actually introduce ourselves- the right way?”
Shannon smiled and walked over to her, sticking out his hand. “Yes. It’s nice to meet you, ma'am”
She kicked the drummer in the shin. “Don’t think I haven’t Googled you and don’t know that you prefer hugs instead!”
He grinned and leaned forward, wrapping Carla’s grand-mother in a bear hug and lifting her out of her chair. Nana hugged him back and looked at her granddaughter over his shoulder.
“I really, REALLY like him” she whispered with a smile