Between Sleep and Wake (Piano Man chapter 8)


The fever got worse in the next few days. I had lost the battle with trying to convince myself that I didn’t need a doctor. Or Tim for that matter. His dedication to my health was nothing short of admirable. He sat on my bed, keeping a twenty-four hour vigil and telling me stories from his travels. On occasion, he would dissapear to the living room and come back with a guitar. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t his guitar, but David’s.

I wanted to tell him that he shouldn’t stir David’s things. But I was too weak to fight. And I couldn’t resist Tim’s voice.

On the worst days, he sang to me. Silly things, about butterflies. Serious things, about love. Anything he could think of,  he sang for me. He cooked for me, read for me and told me about the legend of the garden gnome that wouldn’t leave his truck.

He hadn’t kissed me since that one day. Probably for the best. I wouldn’t want him to get my lurgy.

He told me things before I fell asleep. Things I couldn’t hear. I think he said that he loved me. But I wasn’t sure. Could have said that he loved bees.

One day, the fever eventually went down, and I left my room to find Tim sitting at my kitchen table.

“Hey, you’re up! I was just going to check in on you. Come, sit, I made you breakfast if you like.”

I shuffled over to the table, sitting down on a chair he had pulled back for me. Ever the gentleman.

“Are you up for pancackes? Or eggs, or bacon or eggs and bacon? Tell you what, you need all of it. You get all of it.”

He plated up the single most gigantic plate of food I had ever seen and put it down in front of me. I could actually feel my stomach whimper.

“Go on, you need strength. We’ve got some healing to do.”

I groaned. I wasn’t in the mood for healing. I could barely walk. Gingerly, I pricked my fork at a pancake and fumbled off a piece. But when I tasted it… dear me, it was gorgeous. I could feel my appetite coming back to me, as I worked my way through the load of food. I’d nearly forgotten what it tasted like, and I was sure I was going to throw it all up again. But fuck, it was good.

All of this prompted me to ask Tim something.

“Are you a cook?”

He turned around with a smile. “Why do you ask, dear Jemstone?”

“You seem quite obsessed with food, and cooking to perfection. Have you ever worked in a kitchen?”

I studied his reaction. He was still smiling, but for the first time, I could see that Smiley Tim was a façade. There was something in his eyes that could have only been hurt.

“So, what are we up to today? Taking the tube to anywhere? I’d fancy Kew Gardens. I’d love to show you the beauty of..”

“Tim… have you worked in a kitchen?”

“Does it matter?” he said, trying to keep composure.

“You can let me in on your life a little, can’t you?”

“Don’t ask, Jem.”

“But Tim…”


His sudden roar made my heart nearly stop. I had never seen him angry and this was the most unwelcome surprise.

“Stop probing! If I don’t want to tell you about my past, I think I have the right to keep it to myself, don’t I? I mean, just because you deal with it by writing columns and moping doesn’t mean that I can’t deal with it in my own bloody way!”

Moping? What an awful bastard.

“Is that how you feel? Am I just a mopey pseudo-widow to you?”

“No, Jem, I’m sorry. I apologize. But fuck, just let me into your life. So that maybe I could let you into mine.”

He walked off to the bedroom and slammed the door, leaving me utterly shocked at his outburst. What could possibly have happened?

I did the polite thing and finished my plate. Afterwards, I tried to tidy up the table, but kept thinking about what happened to him.

And then I heard music coming from the bedroom.

Curious, I walked up to the closed door and listened. Tim was playing guitar and singing.

It’s your heart, it’s my mind

and it’s all trapped in time

and I wish you’d come back to me, lover…

I had never heard him so soulful and so raw. And I felt that this was him. Not garden gnomes, not silly ditties, but just… his essence.

I opened the door and watched him sing the blues, sitting on my bed. He clocked me and stopped.

“Between Sleep and Wake. I wrote it for my girlfriend.”

“Where is she now?”

He sighed deeply. “I’d like to believe she’s in heaven. Drinking from a fountain of ambrosia and whispering love words into the ears of old Hollywood legends.”

I climbed in to bed and let my head rest on his shoulder. “What was her name?”

“Amelia. Lia, to me. You should have seen her, Jem. She was the most beautiful creature. Almost angelic. Even when she stopped breathing, she was a sight to behold. Life and death became her well.”

“How did she die?”

“Suicide. She was deeply troubled, but I loved her enormously.”

Tim put a careful arm around me and continued. “I was a cook, like you had guessed. Fell into depression. Had to quit.”

“But why are you so happy now? How did you get over that?”

“Music. I started writing, learning piano. And then I travelled. Took myself to all the places she wanted to go and took pictures, lots of them. I took her spirit with me. When I came home, I gave them all to her family. And I miss her. Every day.”

“How do you comfort yourself?”

“By telling myself that she’s in a good place right now. And by playing and doing good deeds for other people. But lately, I’ve been comforting myself with the thought that you’re here.”

“Do I comfort you?”

“Yes. In more ways then one. I believe you are a kindred spirit and that our paths crossed for a reason. And don’t take this the wrong way, but I really want to kiss you now.”

He put away the guitar and leaned over to me. “Is that alright?”

I nodded.

And our lips met again. His tongue felt soft and hot. And that was comfort enough for now.

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1 Comment

  1. Oh, that is so bittersweet, I’ll have to chase down the rest of the story.

    If it matteres, I loved it



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