Martin looked up to see Shay less than a half a block away, walking determinedly toward him. But then recognition relaxed the set to the drummer’s jaw and he slowed his pace. It only occurred to Martin at that moment that he might have appeared to be some sort of intruder. He was sitting on the steps of Shay’s house, hunched over his knees as he texted. Several days’ worth of uncharacteristic beard growth covered his face. He’d let his dark brown hair, longish on top and short on the sides and back, fall forward so that he was mostly concealed. A new tattoo—a continuation of the vibrant Japanese sleeve he had completed not long ago—edged out from the collar of his fashionably distressed red and gray flannel shirt.

Straightening up, he pushed his hair back from his face and stood. He waited for Shay to reach him before offering a sheepish smile and a wave.

“What are you doing here, Marty?” Shay asked.

The question was a good one. Martin was supposed to be home in Dublin. He was supposed to be making up for lost time with his wife and three sons after having been on tour with the band for almost nine months. As the bassist for Rogue, Martin had been a steady part of the rock foursome since its inception when they were all only teenagers. He had loved music as a kid, though he’d never dared to dream he could be a musician. But he had been pulled into Gavin’s grandiose plan of forming a band, simply by virtue of being his friend. Gavin was, of course, the singer. Conor was Gavin’s oldest friend and had already claimed the position of guitarist. Shay had been beating on just about anything he could to create a rhythm since he was little, so he was the natural drummer. That left Martin to fill the position of bassist. He’d become proficient at the instrument and ridden the coattails of his more inspired and passionate bandmates. Much to his surprise, the band had quickly rocketed to world-famous status. The thing that had kept him grounded while Gavin and Conor had their public misadventures was the normality his wife Celia provided. But that stability was now on perilous ground, which was the reason for having unexpectedly come to impose upon his friend and bandmate.   

“Hoping you don’t mind having me for a time,” Martin said.

Shay watched him silently, assessing him in that way that he did. “Come in, man,” he said, stepping past him to unlock the front door.

Martin had never been to Shay’s San Francisco home. It was the house Shay had purchased once he’d made the decision to leave Ireland to be with his American girlfriend. Following him inside and upstairs, Martin admired the contemporary design. It was bright throughout, with large front windows showcasing stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay.  

“Your floors are gray,” Martin said.

Shay smiled, amused. “They’re reclaimed oak. And the finish is called ‘storm gray,’ thank you very much.”

“Never seen wood like that.”

“There’s a bit more style in America than what you’re used to.”

The slight condescension in Shay’s comment was typical. And something Martin was used to. He had long been a sort of willing punching bag to his bandmates. After one too many times where he’d stuck his foot in his mouth, Martin had earned a reputation as being a bit slow on the uptake. An early example of this, and one he had never outlived, was when he had mistakenly called a Rhodes Scholarship a “Rogue Scholarship.” It had made his friends laugh, but the error had turned in his favor when they all decided “Rogue” was a perfect name for their fledgling band. It stuck. And so did the notion that Martin was an affable fellow with not a lot of depth. He’d resigned himself to this perception, and even played into the role of the “unsophisticated” one. It was easier than trying to correct the image, and it fit with his instinct to go along with the flow of things. But that didn’t mean it didn’t rankle at times, and especially more so lately.

Shay stopped at the open-air white-marble kitchen. “Something to drink?”

“Beer?”

After a slight hesitation, Shay opened one of the doors of the large stainless steel refrigerator. He pulled out some sort of local microbrew Martin didn’t recognize. Not that it mattered what he drank. Sure, it wasn’t yet two in the afternoon, but he was thirsty for something that would take the edge off. And hell, wasn’t he still on Dublin time? It was plenty late to start drinking.

“Join me,” Martin said when he saw that Shay only brought out the one bottle.

“Nah, I’m good.”

Shay filled a glass with tap water, downed it, and refilled it once more. He leaned against the wall that served as a subtle divider between the kitchen and the living room and watched him.

Martin knew Shay’s patience was nearly limitless and that he’d have to confess his reason for being here before being asked again. But because he was in an ornery mood, he stood at the kitchen countertop silently, drinking his beer. Though he kept his gaze on the stunning view of the bridge, he felt Shay watching him. Let him stare. He could be just as insufferably patient, too, if he wanted.

When Martin drained his beer, Shay wordlessly replaced it with a new one. This spot of kindness softened Martin’s resolve.

“Jessica home?” he asked.

“No, she’s at the school. She spends ten, twelve hours a day there.”

The school was the ballet school she owned. She had once been a professional ballerina, dancing in the corps de ballet with San Francisco Ballet Company. Now, she ran a school geared toward training and building opportunities for kids of color.

“And where have you been?” Martin asked. He had called and texted Shay to no avail.

“Sailing. Or trying to learn how, really,” Shay said with a laugh. “I don’t check my phone when we’re out.”

“You have a boat, do you?”

“I don’t. I’ve gotten to know some cool lads that do, however. It’s a sailboat that raced in America’s Cup.”

Martin raised his eyebrows with a little shake of his head. “I suppose that’s something prestigious?”

“Ay, it is.”

Again, his friend fell silent. Conor would have methodically laid out the history of whatever this “America’s Cup” was. Gavin would have riffed off the thing to bring up his encyclopedic knowledge of music and the songs he knew that had to do with boating or the water. But Shay, of course, was his usual reticent self, somehow still, after all these years, under the impression that others weren’t interested in what he thought. It was a product of the shortcomings of his childhood, Martin knew, and though Shay had loosened up some, he still wondered when he would ever fully get over it.

“So, I’m just here to bother you like, because, well, I’ve been put out,” Martin said, finally getting to the point. He might as well admit what was happening. To himself and to Shay.

“Put out?”

“Celia. She rather forcefully suggested I find myself somewhere else to be for a while.”

Shay digested this information, then nodded. “Ashley, was it?”

Hearing Ashley’s name sent Martin’s heart thumping. And Shay jumping so quickly to the conclusion that she was to blame for his marital problems was even more anxiety-inducing.

“I did not cheat on my wife,” he said emphatically.

“Did you not?” Shay asked softly, with simple curiosity in his voice.

 

© Lara Ward Cosio