2518 words (10 minute read)

Chapter 2: Homeward Bound

Chapter 2: Homeward Bound

Lauren Stone owned a big-ass, beachfront Spanish Colonial Revival in Santa Monica, California. With six bedrooms, five baths, and a pool that overlooked the sand, it was for too big for her. When she bought it, some people had clucked at her excess. Lauren knew the old adage was true, money couldn’t buy happiness—but it could buy some really awesome toys. She’d promised herself years ago that if she and her band, The Kingmakers, ever made it big, she was buying herself a big house with a view of the ocean. 

And Lauren Stone kept her promises.

She was sitting in the spacious, airy sunroom where an overstuffed sofa and several chairs formed a rough semi-circle around a long coffee table and faced the bank of windows—and the arched glass doors—that led out to the back yard and the pool. The glass had a coating that reduced the sun’s glare without ruining the view. Exposed beams ran the length of the stucco ceiling, contrasting with the white walls. Two ceiling fans provided a soothing breeze. This room was one of the things that had sold her on this house.

She got out of the plush chair and leaned in the arched doorway that opened to her patio, Lauren swallowed some beer and contemplated the expanse of sand stretching from the edge of her back yard to the cerulean of the ocean. She liked how the color of the water changed depending on the day and the weather. At the sound of footsteps, she looked back into the room.

 “Hey, Augie!”

“Hey,” her cousin replied, his dimples deepening when he smiled. Lauren grew up with three sisters and Augustus “Augie” Stone was the brother she never had. A year younger than her, he was The Kingmaker’s drummer. 

“Connie let you in?” Lauren asked. She’d let her housekeeper know she was expecting company. 

“Yeah. Said you’d be out here.” Augie leaned his athletic, six-foot frame on the arched doorway. 

Putting her beer bottle down, Lauren pulled her hair back and tugged the scrunchie off her wrist to capture it all in a messy ponytail. It would have been the same dark brown as Augie’s if she didn’t get it highlighted regularly, but they both shared a soft natural wave that ran in the Stone family. For Lauren that meant minimal time trying to curl it—for Augie it just meant some unruly cowlicks.

“C’mon.” She grabbed the beer and gestured at Augie. “Too nice to be inside. Let’s sit by the pool. Beer’s in the cooler.”

“I do not miss winters back home,” Augie said as they strolled out. “Weather here in LA’s much more my speed.”

At the far end of the pool there was a table with an umbrella in the middle of a teak patio table. Four chairs surrounded the table and a few feet away, two padded lounge chairs waited. Lauren flopped down in one, Augie in the other. Lauren’s phone buzzed. She glanced and started to laugh.

“Gonna share?” Augie asked.

“Just DJ being DJ,” she said, laughing again. 

“What was it, fifty-two poop emojies in a row?”

“Close,” Lauren said. “He threw a few eggplants in.” She tucked the phone into a shady spot. They fell into an amiable silence. Lauren took a deep breath and let it out slowly. 

“He’s worried about you.”

“I know. But I’ve been through breakups before.” Lauren forced her voice to be light. She had been through break ups over the years, more than she cared to admit. At least this time, she was the one who did the dumping. Rob had been a lot of fun, but the charm hadn’t lasted.

“Well, if you want to—“

“—Talk? I don’t.” She took another drink of beer.

“Fair enough.”

“He would have been a pain in the ass when we were recording,” she said.

“I thought you didn’t want to talk about it.”

“I don’t want to talk about him, I want to talk about the new album,” she said.


“This one needs to be a home run.” Worry painted her voice and she hated how it sounded. 

“Don’t overthink it, Lauren.”

She drummed her fingers on the armrest. “The last album was good, not great. This one needs to be great. I’m not ready to fade into the sunset.” 

“You need to stop listening to the critics’ podcasts. We just need to get back into the studio—back in the saddle.”

Lauren chewed her lip. Augie wasn’t entirely wrong. She was looking forward to having the band back together. They’d taken a well-earned break after the last tour, but it was time to get back to work. Restless, she got up and walked to the fence that surrounded the pool. Leaning on it she stared out toward the Pacific. Wispy clouds streaked the sky, slashes of rose and gold in the setting sun.

A squeak told her that Augie had gotten out of his chair. He leaned on the rail next to her and gave her a gentle hip bump.

“What’s up?”

“Nothing,” she said, shrugging.

“Bullshit.” He flashed her a grin, dimples appearing in his cheeks again. “C’mon. You’ve got that pensive look.” 

“Usual brooding creative-type personality issues.” 

Her cousin made a noise that told her he didn’t completely believe her, but he didn’t ask any more questions. They stood in silence watching the sun drop lower. 

Lauren finally relented and said, “I haven’t gotten as much writing done as I wanted.” She hoped that would satisfy Augie and he wouldn’t press more—truth be told, she was really struggling with her songwriting, and the last thing she wanted to do was ‘fess up to that.

Augie shrugged. “So? You’ll hit stride. Don’t get hung up on it.”

“You’re probably right.”

“I’m definitely right. And getting the chance to work with Fitz is going to be epic,” Augie said.

“I know, right? I’ve wanted him to produce one of our albums for a long time.” 

Fitz McCallum was one of the most sought-after producers working in the industry, and when the chance had come up to work with him, the band jumped at it.

“I’m glad we’re going to New York for this,” Augie said. “It will do all of us some good to get out of Cali for a little while. Haven’t seen the seasons change in a long time.”

Lauren turned her head and cocked an eyebrow. “The seasons? Weren’t you saying that you liked winter here much better?”

“Eh. I’m fickle.” Augie started to laugh. Lauren joined him, but the laugh faded to a sigh.

“You sure that’s all that’s bugging you?” Augie asked.

Lauren shifted her weight away as if that would let her avoid the question. “Nothing’s bugging me.” She put her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun—and so she didn’t have to make eye contact with Augie. What if I’ve got no songs? she thought.What if the trades are right? What if I’ve lost my mojo?The thought made her chest constrict. The last thing she wanted to do with keep talking about her writing so she changed the subject.

“I’m not telling my Mom I’m coming back to New York until I’m getting on the plane.”

Augie turned to face her, a sly smile on his face. “And you want me to not call my Mom.”

“Your mom will call my mom and all hell will break loose if she hears through the grapevine.”

Augie grinned. “What’s in it for me?”

“I’ll owe you—big time. I love my family, but I’m thirty-six years old and my mother still wants me to stay in my old room every time I come home.”

“What, don’t want to bond with Jackie?”

Lauren gave Augie a look. Jackie was her older sister and she and Lauren were about as different as two siblings could be—more fire and gasoline than oil and water. It never took long for them to get on each other’s nerves. “She’s my sister. I love Jackie, but she makes me mental,” Lauren sighed.

Her younger sisters, Carolyn and Stephanie, were a different story. They adored Lauren and Lauren adored them back, but truth be told, Carolyn was her favorite. “I’ll probably call when we’re getting on the plane. I want our plans set, and I want to have a place to stay before they know I’m coming.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll call my family the same time,” Augie told her. “You know, once we’re back, I might see if I can catch up with a few people from the neighborhood. Some good, old-fashioned reminiscing about our misspent youth.”

“You’re still living your misspent youth. Couple years it’s going to be your misspent middle ages. You’ve already got a Ferrari, what are you going to do for your mid-life crisis?” Lauren couldn’t resist goading him a little.

“I’ll come up with something, something big.” He rubbed his hands together, a parody of a mad scientist.

They were silent again for a long moment, both lost in thought. On the beach people were wrapping up for the day, a stream of humanity leaving the sand for the asphalt and concrete of LA. A young man, maybe twenty years old, walked toward the parking lot giving his girlfriend a piggyback ride. The wistful longing that bubbled up in Lauren’s heart caught her off-guard for a moment. 


Danny was her ex-boyfriend. She’d struggled with their breakup for years as she tried every conceivable trick to forget him, including a cocaine addiction that landed her in rehab. Nothing worked and finally Lauren had just buried her broken heart so deep, it was easy for her to pretend those feelings didn’t exist. She’d had plenty of other lovers over the years but none of them had ever made her forget Danny: he was the one person who loved her for who she really was.

Unlike Rob and all the other exes in her past.

She could feel Augie staring at her.

“Maybe I’ll even look Danny up while we’re home.”

 “Pandora’s Box,” he warned.

“It would be fine.” Lauren set her jaw, but refused to meet his eyes. She didn’t want to start an argument.

“If you say so.” Augie’s voice was soft. 

When Lauren didn’t respond and the silence stretched, Augie glanced at his watch. “I have to bolt. You’ll take care of calling Fitz to confirm details?”

“I will. Catch you later.” 

After he left, Lauren went back to watching the final moments of the sun’s descent until it vanished, leaving the sky a purple-blue. Her thoughts strayed to her writing difficulties and then to what Augie had said about looking up some old friends. He’d stayed in touch with some people over the years, but she hadn’t. Not really. She’d had some friends but none of them shared her passion for music—her obsession as they called it. Danny was really the only person she was interested in seeing.


Their break up had devastated her. And although it had been years since she’d seen him, she thought of him often. More often than she probably should. Her sisters occasionally shared news about what he was up to. When Carolyn had told her Danny had gotten married, Lauren had pretended it didn’t bother her.

But it did.

She chewed her bottom lip and wondered if going to New York might be a mistake.


A week later, travel bag over one shoulder, Lauren walked toward the private jet scheduled to whisk her and the rest of the band to New York. She tried to keep her laughter to a minimum as she listened to her sister on the other end of her cell phone. Up ahead, she saw Augie at the stairs to the plane. She waved, got his attention, and pointed at her phone. He gave her the thumbs up, understanding her unspoken message. 

“Yes, Carolyn. Mom knows I’m coming. Or she will when she checks her messages. I called her right before you.”

“I’m so happy you’ll be back home!” Carolyn’s voice was gleeful.

“I’m going to be working—”

“—But you’ll be in the same state! We haven’t been in the same state for ages! We have to go out when you get here.”

When she was younger, Carolyn enjoyed the club scene, but now that she was a little older and had a family, her clubbing days were a thing of the past—except when Lauren was in town. Then the two sisters always went out for one bang-up night out.

“Can you get us into Blue Ruby, the new club in Manhattan?” Carolyn asked.  “I’ve seen pictures. It looks amazing!”

“I’m not trotting around town like some show pony, Carolyn. I’m coming back to record an album, I’m not on vacation. This is a working trip.”

“Lauren…” Carolyn pleaded.

“You sound like you’re twelve.”

“Is it working?”

Lauren couldn’t hold in the laughter any longer. “Yes, I give up. It’s working. I’ll get us into Blue Ruby.” 

Carolyn’s excited cheer was so loud Lauren pulled the phone away from her ear. She rolled her eyes—she’d gotten the whole clubs-until-four-in-the-morning thing out of her system years ago, but she just couldn’t say no to Carolyn.

“Promise?” her sister said.



“Oh, for God’s sake, Carolyn… I’m hanging up now.” Lauren wasn’t sure if her sister could hear her over her own laughter. 

“But we just got on the phone.”

“Well, I just got in the cabin and the plane can’t take off if I’m on my phone.” Lauren pushed her sunglasses up on her head. “And the longer the plane’s on the ground, the longer it takes to get home.”

“Fine…” Carolyn huffed, but Lauren could hear the exaggerated humor in her sister’s voice.

“Can’t wait to see you! I love you,” Carolyn told her.

“Love you, too.” Lauren hit the red end-call button on her phone and flopped down in a seat across from Augie. They fist-bumped over the small table between them. 

“Carolyn excited?”

“Understatement of the century.”

Augie pulled out a set of noise-cancelling headphones and was asleep by the time the jet reached cruising altitude. Lauren pulled out a journal and started to write. After an hour, she had several pages full of drivel. She rolled her shoulders and neck before she turned the page and started doodling. It wasn’t long before the page was covered with geometric shapes, flowers, cartoon birds and myriad other little sketches.

But no lyrics worth a damn.