17. Owner of a Lonely Heart

We were done with airplanes now and traveled to New York in an honest-to-god tour bus, with a giant mural of some tropical island painted on its side. Inside were bizarre little berths adorned with stickers warning “Do Not Sleep With Head Toward Front of Bus.” I was sure Carynne could tell me all the rock stars who’d ever died from broken necks and concussions when their bus slammed on the brakes or into something else. We weren’t sleeping in this bus, though. It was taking us through the last leg of the trip, New York, New Haven, and Boston, but we would be sleeping in hotels. Remo convened a meeting in the hotel suite as soon as we arrived in the city.

“We’re going to be in New York three days, hit New Haven on Wednesday night and go straight to Boston from there, where we’ll be for another two days before the last show.” He looked into a notebook on the table in front of him. “I’m meeting with some East coast record reps and doing a lot of publicity interviews. There’ll be press in Boston, too.”

Martin laughed. “Think we’ll get the cover of MUSICIAN this time?”

Remo smirked. “Maybe. Sting doesn’t have a new album coming out so maybe we have a shot. Martin, I think you ought to come along on that one.” He looked around for any more comments, then went on. “If anyone else wants to tag along with me to these things, feel free. I’ve got the full schedule right here, and the promo people may be setting up even more. Other than that, you’re all on your own until soundcheck, four o’clock on Tuesday. Matthew, you staying with us?”

Matthew shook his head. “No, I’m going to stay with family.”

I blinked and forced myself not to look at him over the tops of the sunglasses. I’d heard the microsecond of hesitation before the word “family.” Or I’d imagined it. It didn’t matter. I knew it wasn’t blood relatives he was going to stay with. I felt myself sinking into the chair, absorbing without listening what else was being said.

A few others also had people to visit. It wasn’t so many years ago that most of us lived in the same little town about an hour’s drive south. Remo passed out room keys. With all the absentees it worked out that I was alone. Matthew left right after the meeting without looking at me or speaking to me, still true to his word. No one would ever detect what passed between us. I didn’t want to think about why he hadn’t told me about this when he had the chance. So I didn’t.

I went to my room, threw off the sunglasses and got in bed for a nap. When I got bored of tossing and turning I went down to the lobby and loitered. I watched dark-suited security men watch me without looking at me. I went back upstairs. I picked up the phone and dialed my old phone number. A recording told me it was disconnected. I dialed up New Jersey directory assistance. A woman told me that there was no Claire Marks listed in my hometown. I racked my brains for her maiden name. No, there was no Claire Underwood, either. “Well, good for you, Mom.”

“Excuse me, sir?” the operator buzzed.

“Nothing. Thanks.” I hung up the phone. There wasn’t anything I wanted to say to my mother, anyway. Even if I had gotten the number, I doubted I would have called it. I lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling, not feeling anything, thinking anything.

Someone knocked at the door. I opened it without looking through the peep hole.

It was Carynne.

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