Everybody expects me to break
but I'll never break down again
Everybody expects me to give up
but you'll never see me giving in
Everybody wants me to lose
but I'll never lose who I am
soundtrack: Sacrifice ~ Theory of a Deadman
Ocean Beach Arena - 9PM
Cooper wandered around back stage with Rayne trailing behind him as he pointed out various things and people out to her. It had been the first time he had been in an arena since he told his family he was going to quit touring. But this was no tour; it was a benefit, so technically he was keeping to his word. Despite the strong pull from the stage, the sounds of the crowd, he would prove to himself and to them that he could do this.
"Rainie, come with me, over here." Cooper led his daughter to the edge of the stage as they dodged stage hands and crew. As the crowd focused on the band that was warming up the audience, he drew Rayne's focus on them. "Watch the crowd, pick people out you can relate to on some level and use that connection to draw them in when you're on stage." He stood behind her and pointed while Rayne's eyes swept the crowd almost as if she was looking for one face in particular until she drew a quick breath and smiled.
Leading her back behind the stage he continued, "Never speak to the crew and they should never speak to you. Do not engage them in a lengthy conversation. If you need something done you'll have people for that so use them. That is what they're paid to do."
"You're acting as if I am already a star, Dad."
Watching the crew move around him like a well oiled machine, Cooper drew a breath as the rush of adrenaline pumped through him like an intense charge of electricity. Pulling his attention back to her Cooper frankly spoke, "By the time you get here you will be a star Rayne. You need to know what to expect and how to handle yourself. If you don't, people will take advantage of you."
"Did you give Wyatt the same lessons I'm getting?"
Cooper stood still absorbing the familiar sights and sounds that surrounded him. The intense rush of a live performance, even if it wasn't his own, overwhelmed him briefly.
"Daddy," Rayne gently interrupted his thoughts, "Did you?"
Cooper answered distractedly, "No I didn't Rayne. Look it's...different for Wyatt. People will treat you differently because..."
Rayne cut him off, "Because I'm a girl. That is so wrong Dad." Two stage hands laughed in the background as they hurried to setup the last of the equipment for Storm Warning.
Cooper sighed, "Of course it's wrong but that's how it is. It's up to you not to let the stereotype dictate who you are and what you become." His eyes were drawn toward Beth who stood out of the way of the crew looking tired and extremely uncomfortable. She had desperately attempted to convince him not to quit, distraught and in tears. He had rarely seen her cry but she had that night as she pleaded with him in vain.
Maybe it had been a mistake to insist Beth come with him but he wanted to prove to her that he was committed to his decision and to his family. Beyond her he noticed Stevie laughing easily with Shaun by her side. They were about to take the stage.
Rayne walked with him toward her mother and stood by as he kissed Beth gently on the forehead. Brushing a stray tendril of hair from her face he asked, "You ok?" Beth nodded once and smiled. His gaze quickly drifting to Stevie and back, Coop turned toward Rayne once more, "Wait here with your mom. I'm going to check on Storm Warning."
Myriad emotions played on Rayne's face, in her eyes. Unexpectedly, Rainie threw her arms around her father's neck. "That should be you going out there Dad. You belong on the stage, not behind it. Go out there, you really should. Please. For me.”
He wanted it, felt it, that overwhelming need to be in the spotlight working the crowd pulling at him hard. But he had been adamant about quitting, for them. "No, Rayne Drop, not this time." Cooper's mouth curved in a slight smile. He turned on the heel of his boot and walked away.
Hurrying down the stairs, Rayne slid between the rail and the stage, deliberately slowed her pace, and approached the boy who waited there.
He was watching her, leaning back against the stage, the stage lights crossing and recrossing his face.
“You made it,” Rayne greeted him, trying to breathe normally and not act like she was going to pass out or something from excitement. They were messing with the lights before Storm Warning came on, red and blue and yellow. She walked up between his legs and looked down at him. He looked exactly the way she remembered except maybe better. He wasn’t, he couldn’t be, the person she remembered. That was a long time ago, if it ever even happened, and he was her age.
“Yeah, I said I would try to get out of work. Got here as soon as I could.” Cruz slid off the deck as the stage lights flashed off. She blinked in the sudden dark. He smelled warm, like he’d been driving in the heat, or the smell of sunburned skin. He didn’t look sunburned. He looked like he never sunburned or maybe he was just permanently sunburned, dark tanned skin and those shocking blue eyes still focused directly at her.
She’d barely eaten, slept, thinking about meeting him, wondering if he would actually show up. Now that he was actually here, Rayne couldn’t come up with a single thing to say. She stepped back mentally, telling herself to wait, wait until he said something else. His attention wandered as he looked past her into the shadows backstage. “Damn,” Cruz remarked, “is that Cooper Stanfield? What’s he doing here?”
Rayne didn’t know the answer to that herself. She was still considering exactly how to tell him who she was when her father noticed her, aimed a brief grin and pointed in her direction before turning away.
Cruz evidently caught it because he stiffened, studied her carefully, and asked in a stunned voice, “Your name...Cooper…you’re related?”
The relation strode out onto the stage, stood there poised, his head thrown back, laughing into the crowd.
The place exploded in excitement. So, Rayne thought with satisfaction, maybe he would take it all back. Maybe he wouldn’t quit after all. She’d felt so guilty, like it was all her fault, and couldn’t imagine what he would do hanging out at home all the time. Was he going to mow the lawn?
“He’s my father!” She had to shout over the roar, the ripping opening guitar riffs.
Cruz said something; she couldn’t hear it. She had planned, if Cruz showed up, to get out of the place with him, but she waited, watching her father. He was prowling across the stage, his attention fixed on…she drew a sharper breath.
He’d been watching her the whole time, and he was still at it. Stevie. And he was like right on top of her. Now that had to be some great view down the front, unless she accidentally hit him in the face with her sticks, and that seemed like an interesting possibility.
And beyond, there in the dark behind the stage, stood her mother. Rayne looked up; Beth looked down. Their eyes met and held.
Rayne folded her arms and considered the woman she’d resented so intensely. What was going on? He’d said he wasn’t going out there; he’d made both of them feel like shit about it. Yeah she’d told him to get out there and she meant it but not if he was doing it because of Stevie Holloway. That was fucked up.
Cruz had been following the exchange in silence. He slid his right hand around her waist, one of the pyro effects exploding right next to them, heat blasting her face, leaned into her and said, “You want to get out of here?”
Cooper was working the other side of the stage. Beth had vanished back into the shadows. “Yeah,” Rayne muttered sourly, “let’s get the hell out of here.”
Stevie pushed past Tyler and Shaun, laughing, holding out her hands. “Come on!” she insisted, grabbing Cooper’s arm. “You’re coming out there with us! No way am I letting you hide back here with the crew!”
Beth watched him halfheartedly shake her off. She stared at the woman, looking over her husband’s shoulder right into her eyes, and Stevie met that gaze directly. Something in it was anything but friendly. I didn’t do this to him, Beth thought, suddenly angry. It wasn’t my idea.
She expected Cooper to decline and say something about commitment and making the decision; that was why he had insisted she come, so he could prove he meant it, that’s what he’d said.
And she’d come and stood around, knowing what she was going to face, the silent bullets, Tyler and Shaun staring at her, pinning her to the wall, pinning the blame on her. They didn’t know Coop if they believed she could make him do anything he didn’t want to do.
But he didn’t decline.
He hesitated. He did hesitate, then he moved, striding right out there with Stevie, the two of them sharing something, Cooper laughing, his face lit up, as they ran out together onto the stage to the explosive response from the crowd.
Stunned and confused, Beth started to edge back into the shadows behind the control booth when she saw Rayne standing at the foot of the stairs beside the stage. A boy stood close beside her, watching her, and then both of them lifted their eyes together and looked at her. She could see anger in Rayne’s face, anger duplicating her own, and for probably the same reason. Her father had turned down her plea to change his mind but it looked like he’d do it for Stevie.
She turned her back to them and paced down the length of the deck, stepping over cables, until she reached the railing at the back where she stopped, took a deep breath, steadying herself, and gazed out at the ocean. Big dark bluffs and that view, always that view, everything and nothing, water like sky and sky like water, nothing but dark blue with no end and no beginning one dark blue space….
She felt sick. I’m going to throw up. She was pregnant. She hadn’t told him. It would be one more reason for him to quit. She wouldn’t give him that reason. No more reasons. Beth leaned over the rail and wished she could just put her face against it, was it cold, was it at least cool. The crowd, noise like an animal, pressing and hot and sweating and right behind her.
What was she going to do? Nothing. There was nothing she could do. Not this time. The rail was gritty with sand. It got under the rim of her ring. The diamond he’d given her and she looked down at that diamond and watched the light sparkle down to the bottom of that fragment of ancient coal compressed and pressed and squeezed until somehow it became this thing of light and value, a symbol of love and enduring commitment. A symbol she had violated first.
Someone bumped her, a jolt so hard and so unexpected she almost lost her footing.
She straightened, made some sort of effort to push her hair out of her face and stared at the guy irritably. He didn't seem to notice or care. “Aren’t you Beth Stanfield, Cooper’s wife?”
In the dark and the flashing light and the flashing sound, Beth looked at him. He didn’t look like crew. Who was he? If he was wearing a press tag, she didn't see it. It didn’t matter. “No,” she said flatly. “She left a long time ago, if she was ever even here at all. And I can't think of one single reason why she would be.”
NEXT CHAPTER: Sessions Chapter 16