Maeve felt the expectant stare of everyone in the room as she wondered what to do. Sextus was glowering at her. Joanna’s look was concerned, one eyebrow raised and her lips pursed. Even the bar’s employees had come to see what was going on. The only sympathy she received was from Cooper, but even he was shaking his head just subtly enough for her to see.
For a moment, she considered listening to Sextus, but she remembered the pain in Duke’s eyes when she had first confronted him. It had returned, replacing the glare that had been there moments before. He was begging her now, not ordering her. It hurt her to see him looking so miserable.
She made her decision. He had suffered enough today. It was his secret to keep or tell, and she didn’t need to put him through any more. She would talk to him after, when everyone was less high-strung.
She closed her eyes and straightened her back, holding her chin high. “I don’t think it would be right for me to say anything,” she said. “It’s Duke’s issue, and if he doesn’t want it shared, then I won’t share it.” She quickly remembered that everyone was staring at her, however, and the surge of confidence faded. “I-If that’s alright.”
Duke sagged in relief, the sudden dead weight making Cooper stumble backwards. She suppressed a smile.
The others didn’t seem nearly as satisfied. Sextus’s glare intensified as Joanna sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Fine. We’ll discuss all this later. For now, everyone go get cleaned up,” she said. “Not you, Maeve. I want to talk to you. Outside.”
Eyes cast downward, Maeve followed the older woman into the parking lot. This had to be a record for the number of bad feelings she’d ever gotten in a single day, surpassing even the first time she had ever performed in front of an audience.
They stopped behind the van. Joanna shut the doors Sextus had left open and sat on the fender, arms crossed. She didn’t look mad, but she wasn’t happy, either.
“Explain to me what’s going on with Duke,” she said. Before Maeve could protest, she held up her hand. “I know you said it’s not your business to tell and I understand that. But if you really love him, tell me what he’s going through so we can get him the help he needs.”
“I don’t love him!” she sputtered. She felt her cheeks turn pink. Did she? They were just friends, as far as she knew.
Joanna chuckled. “I didn’t think you did. Not that kind of love, kiddo. I meant as someone you care about.”
Her cheeks only grew hotter. “I knew that.” She sighed. “He’s…he’s sick.”
“Sick? He looks fine to me.”
“Not sick-sick. Mentally sick. I found a bottle of pills and a note from a psychiatrist that said he should look into checking into a hospital. From a few weeks ago.”
Her eyes widened at the mention of the hospital. “Are you serious?” she asked. Maeve nodded, and she crossed her arms again. “God damn. I wish he’d told us sooner. Or at all.”
“Please don’t tell him I told you,” she said. “He’s already mad enough at Cooper for telling me. And I told Cooper I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“Wait, Cooper knew, too? Is that why…?” She mimed a punch.
Maeve nodded again. “Only about the pills, though.”
“Uh-huh.” She pursed her lips. “And you’re sure they were actual prescription pills and not…whatever it is people take to get high these days?”
“I’m pretty sure they were prescription. The label was peeled off of the bottle, but it looked legitimate.”
Joanna nodded. She was quiet for a moment, then stood up. She put her hands on Maeve’s shoulders. “Thank you for telling me all this,” she said. “I won’t say anything to him about you, I promise.”
She pulled her into a brief, warm hug. “Let’s go find the boys before they try to kill each other again,” she said as they separated. “Almost all of the instruments are set up. We need to do a sound check before the doors open.”
They walked back inside. Everything seemed to have calmed down after the almost-brawl, and everyone and everything was ready on the small stage, with Cooper bass slinging his bass over his shoulders, and Sextus speaking to one of the employees from behind his keyboard.
Everyone except Duke, however. Maeve looked around. There was no sign of him anywhere. She saw the bouncer and approached him. “Have you seen–?”
“Dressing room,” he said. “Everyone came out except him. It’s straight ahead on the left, just after the ‘Employees Only’ sign.”
She followed the directions and pushed the door open. It was sparsely decorated, with a small sofa and a counter area with a mirror. Duke was too busy staring at his reflection to notice her when she entered. She could tell that it wasn’t out of vanity. His brow was furrowed and he was gripping the counter so hard, his knuckles were turning white.
What does Maeve do?
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