Breath By Breath Ch. 10
“Stop bouncing, Brandy. Dammit!” Nathan screeched exasperatedly. “I can’t fix your collar if you don’t stand still.”
“I can’t wait to see her.” Brandon kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other, crumpling the necktie in his hand. “The town will hear her sing for the first time today. I can’t wait.”
He turned on his toe, heading towards the door of the dressing room. Nathan grabbed the end of his coat.
“This is a concert, for god’s sake,” he reminded him, snatching the tie out of his hands to fasten it around his neck. “It isn’t your wedding day.”
Brandon rolled his eyes, standing still for a moment as Nathan examined his hair and his suit. Then he was bouncing again, like the floor was a trampoline.
“Hey, lads.” Mark barged into the room. “Guess who I saw in the audience?”
Brandon and Nathan looked at him.
“Ginny,” he smiled, nudging Nathan in the ribs.
“What?” The Dub stared with wide eyes. “She’s here?”
“I saw her beside your mam,” Mark explained.“They’re chatting.”
“Holy cow!” Nathan laughed, and had just proceeded to head out when he noticed Brandon’s absence. “Where’s Brandy?”
Mark looked around but found no one because Brandon had already headed out of the dressing room, eyes still impatient to catch a glimpse of his love. The penultimate performance was on at the moment. Isabel was the closing act. It had been difficult to get her accommodated at the show after how she’d fared that first time, but they had accomplished it. They were the finest ambassadors for Sligo, after all.
Loud cheering filled the hall when the ongoing performance ended. The stage went dark for some time and then the spotlight came on, the emcee walking out to the front.
They had it all planned. Mark and Nathan came out of the dressing room to see if things were going all right. Brandon had finally stopped bouncing and was fidgeting with his necktie.
“There. All done.” Mairead appeared beside him with a pleased smile. “She looks gorgeous.”
“Wh—where’s she?” Brandon looked around. His sister pulled a face at him.
“She’s right where she has to be,” the blonde lassie explained. “You look grand, by the way.”
“You remember what you have to do, right?” Mark whispered to him. “You’re supposed to walk on to stage singing and take your place beside her. Oh.” He disappeared, and returned with a microphone. “Here,” he handed it to him.
“Presenting the final performance of the night!” the emcee said, drawing loud applause from the audience. “We know you’ve been waiting for this,” he quipped, leaving the stage as it went dark again.
Brandon’s heart was in his mouth. He just hoped she would not bungle up again. Closing his eyes, he said a silent prayer.
And then, there it was. The opening notes of the piano, expertly delivered by Ben. Followed by the guitar, deftly performed by Kyle. And then the flute.
With each note, the lights started coming alive, bathing the stage in a soft halo.
And then the voice.
“Come over the hills, my bonny Irish lad,
Come over the hills to your darling
You choose the road, love, and I’ll make the vow…
And I’ll be your true love forever…”
Brandon’s heart stopped beating as the rich, mellifluous voice cloaked the theatre. She was stunning in that red evening dress that she’d bought with some of the prize money from the writing contest. Of course, she would have been content spending it on books or not spending it at all, but his sisters had convinced her to come shopping with them and coaxed her into picking some fancy clothes. Her long hair had been styled to perfection, her dreamy eyes highlighted by the makeup, and her small, beautiful hands held the microphone with the practised skill of a trained singer. Adorning her was the necklace he had gifted her. She had not taken it off since he put it on her.
He saw Emily wipe tears, his own mother looking on without realising she was crying. Beside him, Mairead tried to stifle a sob by pressing her hands to her mouth.
Unbeknownst to him, Brandon’s eyes welled up. They had not heard that voice in so long and the sentiments were understandable. But Nathan’s mother and sister, who were seeing Isabel for the first time, were also in tears.
“Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows,
Fair is the lily of the valley…
Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne,
But my love is fairer than any…”
Mairead had started to cry. There were smiles on every face and tears in every eye by the time Brandon pulled himself together and made his way to the stage. Isabel looked at him and smiled quietly. He struggled to catch his breath.
“It was down by Killarney’s green woods that we strayed,
The moon and the stars, they were shining…
The moon shone its rays on her locks of golden hair,
And she swore she’d be my love forever…”
He could not help staring at her while he sang his part. She seemed like a different person, not the stoney and impassive Isabel. He could never have imagined that his dream of singing with her would come true in such a manner, with almost half of the town at the theatre that evening. It meant more to him than any gig he would ever do in his entire life.
His hand crept towards hers and their fingers entwined as they sang the chorus together. Isabel looked at him, smiled again with tears in her eyes.
“Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne…”
They held each other’s gaze, love coursing between them like electricity.
“But my love is fairer… than any…”
The hall erupted in a standing ovation, including the people who had so far only been mean to her. There were the three selectors of the concert, stunned that a girl so broken could also be so talented. Behind them, Ben and Kyle had risen, clapping. Brandon led her to the front of the stage and they took a bow together. And then, with the applause refusing to die, he pulled her close and kissed her. Felt tears against his face, not sure whose they were.
The lights dimmed, but the applause continued. Brandon looked at her face, tears washing her makeup away. She laughed, putting her arms around him.
“Thank you,” she whispered into his ears as he lifted her up in a hug. “This is the best day of my life.”
Brandon failed to form words. He only held her tight, wishing he could freeze that moment forever.
The familiar voice shook him out of his reverie. He turned from the photo wall to find a raven-haired beauty behind him with surprise on her angelic face, her pregnant body draped in a silk dress.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, stepping into the sun room of their Sligo mansion, aptly named Castledale. “All the guests have arrived. Everyone’s looking for you.”
“Sorry, got distracted,” he smiled, walking up to her and drawing her close to him.“You look gorgeous.”
“Oh, please.” She rolled her eyes.“I look like a penguin. But I appreciate the kind words.” With a laugh, she dropped her head back, her long, dark hair falling across her shoulders.
Isabel. His wife. Soon-to-be mother of their first child. His rock through the ten years that had made Pentoniac the most successful pop act in the world and the five lads the ninth richest celebrities of Ireland. Only weeks ago, they had ended their tenth-anniversary world tour with a massive show at Croke Park Stadium, and were raring to go for another decade at least.
“Izzi!” Kyle called out from somewhere down the hallway. Dapper in a casual suit, he appeared at the doorway and smirked when he sighted them together.
“You guys are shameless, you know,” he teased, leaning against the doorframe. “You see each other all the time and can still never have enough.”
Brandon laughed, and so did Isabel. She was Pentoniac’s chief sound engineer and a member of their production team, a music teacher for blind children, and an advocate for their local wildlife. But most importantly, she was their anchor, keeping them grounded with her wisdom, humility, and warmth.
“We’ll be there,” Brandon said to him.“Get lost now, will ya?”
“Fine,” Kyle grumbled, laughing, as he returned to the party. It was Brandon’s birthday, and Isabel had invited everyone dear to them. He put a hand around her waist as they headed back to the party, where everybody was talking at the same time. Brandon’s eyes passed over his parents, his siblings, their families, and his seventeen nieces and nephews. He saw Nathan, his wife Ginny, and their one-year-old twins Max and Jay. Ben and his girlfriend Susan were chatting to Mark and his boyfriend Kevin and Kyle and his fiancée Rose. There were Thomas and Emily, and the charming Elsa.
Everyone they loved was there. But Brandon had eyes for only one person.
“What?”Isabel asked when she saw him staring at her. He shook his head and kissed her. As their lips met, he found himself going back in time, recalling the shy, socially-awkward girl he’d fallen in love with. His passion for her had just deepened over the years. Only she was not sixteen, or shy, or socially awkward anymore.
“Let’s go, birthday boy,” she whispered to him, holding his hand. His heart fluttered when her soft, warm fingers pressed against his skin. “It’s time to see the cake that I made you.”
He blinked. “You made it?”
“Uh-huh. Just the way you love it.”
He watched Isabel walk over to Mark, gently chide him for biting his nails, and then ask Kevin to bring out the cake. Brandon broke into a watery laugh when he saw the three-layered whoopsie pie cake.
Fourteen number ones, thirty million albums, eight world tours, and two Guinness World Records were their achievements so far. But for him, everything paled in comparison to the love of his life. Because, despite all his successes, Isabel would always be his biggest dream come true.