After everyone was finished eating they sat there and talked for a bit. Calla couldn’t help but hide a yawn and Gary noticed immediately.
“Well, I think it’s time to head to the hotel and get some sleep,” Gary said, taking out his wallet and placing the card on top of the check.
The waiter walked by, grabbing the card and returning in moments.
“Anyone need to use the toilet before we head out?” Jay asked, standing up to stretch.
Calla slid out after Jay moved and said she would be right back and disappeared into the bathroom. She checked her phone to see if she received any texts. Her heart sank when she read a message from her ex that said, “I know you’re in Memphis. I’m coming for you!”
Her hands started to shake along with her entire body after reading the text. She covered her mouth to muffle her panicking cry as she made her way to the sink to wash her face. Calla didn’t want everyone to know she was crying.
“Calm down,” she said to herself in the mirror. “Calm down…”
With a deep breath she washed her face and walked out the bathroom. Calla looked over at the table where everyone was sitting and noticed they weren’t there anymore. She looked around, panic setting in once again until she felt a familiar touch on her forearm.
Calla whipped around and faced him, her guard up but she relaxed when she saw his smiling face. “I thought you guys left…”
Gary shook his head and rubbed her arm gently, grabbing her hand. “I would never leave you. Are you okay”
He touched her face and rubbed her cheek with his thumb. Calla unknowingly leaned into the touch and internally sighed.
“I will be. I’m just tired,” she said, snapping out of her calm state.
Gary dropped his hand when she tensed up, his other hand still holding hers and with a smile he led her to the car, where his friends waited. Jay opened the door for Calla and she smiled her thanks.
The ride back was loud as usual. Jay and Joe Don talked loudly about past concerts again and things that happened. Gary listened but kept his eyes on Calla, who sat there staring out of the window and chewing on her shirt sleeve as if she was nervous about something. He reached over and touched the hand that was laying in her lap.
“Are you okay?” he asked, snapping her out of whatever trance she was in.
“Yeah,” she said, trying to reassure him with a smile.
She didn’t move her hand this time. Instead she grabbed his, and squeezed gently. Her eyes shifted from his blue eyes to the passing scenery. Gary sensed something was wrong and she wasn’t telling him. Jay and Joe Don were still talking loudly when they pulled up to the hotel.
“I’m telling you, man, her skirt was very short,” Jay was saying as they all climbed out of the car. “I don’t understand why women have to dress like that.”
“To gain your attention,” Calla threw in.
“It doesn’t work,” Jay said laughing.
“Got you to look though,” Calla giggled.
Jay was about to say something but he nodded when he realized she was right. Gary opened the hotel door and rolled his eyes with a smile. When Calla was about to walk in front of him he stopped her.
“You know you can tell me anything, right?” Gary whispered to her. “I’m not going to do anything to hurt you.”
Calla slowly nodded, her honey brown eyes searching his face. “I know… I just need time to build trust. I’m getting there.”
Gary smiled, happy to hear her say this. “I’m a patient man. Take all the time you need.”
He rubbed her back as they entered the hotel and made their way to the elevator. Gathering up in the tight elevator seemed to have made Calla a bit uncomfortable. She started chewing on her sleeve again, tapping her foot and closing her eyes. Gary grabbed her hand and made circles with his thumb to reassure her that everything was okay. His friends were right about being specific to God when praying for a significant other. Calla was beaten and broken up emotionally and physically but he didn’t mind it.
When the elevator dinged, Calla jumped, making a small squeak. Jay chuckled and led the way down the hall to their rooms. Gary and Jay’s rooms were right next to each other while Joe Don’s room was across from theirs.
“I’ll move my stuff over to your room, Gary,” Jay said, unlocking his door and leaving it open. “Call, you can come in, hun, and make yourself at home.”
Calla lurked in the doorway and watched as Jay went back and forth between rooms with his stuff. She wondered where Gary was as she slowly entered the room and sat on the soft bed. Her arms held close to herself as Jay came back in to grab one last item.
“What’s on your mind?” Jay asked, standing in front of her holding his guitar. “Gary is taking a quick shower if that’s what you’re wondering.”
Calla relaxed a bit and gave a small smile. “I’m okay… Just… tired.”
She felt as though she had said that phrase too many times when she was being beaten by her ex and when people would ask if she was okay. Calla was starting to believe maybe she really was just tired, but in the back of her mind those images replayed. Each memory more horrible the more she thought about it. Her body shook and Jay tilted his head curiously but he didn’t press the matter.
Calla felt her bottom lip quiver when Jay walked out without asking anything else but Gary stood at the door watching her as he always did.
“I don’t want you to feel pressured or feel like I’m pushing you, but I want to make sure you’re actually okay,” Gary said, still standing there, his arms crossed.
Calla looked at the floor, her bottom lip still quivering. There was no point in lying since he seemed to be able to tell something was wrong. As soon as she pulled out her phone, Gary sat beside her on the bed and read the recent text.
“Before we go horseback riding tomorrow,” he said, putting her phone down and kneeling in front of her. “We’re going to get you a new phone. Completely start over with a new number. How does that sound?”
“I would like that,” she said with a sniff as a tear ran down her cheek. “More than you know.”
“We’re going to protect you, Calla,” he added, wiping the tear and letting his hand linger on her face. “I’m going to protect you.”
She bit her bottom lips and nodded as tear after tear rolled down her face. He pulled her in and kissed her forehead, stroking her hair as she tried her best to cry quietly in his warm chest. This was the moment Calla cherished so much, the feeling of warmth and kindness that was being shown. She took a breath and let it out slowly as he continued to stroke her hair and hold her close. For the very first time, Calla felt safe and at peace.