Trouble Rising(7)

By: Emme Rollins

“I have to.”

“You don’t have to,” Rob protested. “If you’re overworked, we can cut back. We can… do something… but you can’t just quit. You can’t—”

“I have to.” Tyler closed his eyes for a moment, with a little shake of his head, and I knew then, he was going to tell them. I edged closer, still holding Lucy between us.

“You don’t—” Rob tried to make the same protest again, but Tyler stopped him with just two words.

“I’m sick.”

The silence was like the weight of the world. It stretched forever, until Lucy squealed and put her arms around Tyler’s neck to give him another kiss. He accepted it, and her, holding her in his lap. Sabrina’s eyes were filling with tears.

“Sick?” Rob could barely get the word out. There was a horror in his eyes I remembered experiencing the first time Tyler told me, too. “Sick how?”

“I’m not dying or anything.” Tyler was quick to dispel that, seeing how Sabrina was welling up. “But I’ve got… I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The pain in my hands… I… I can’t play anymore. Not like I used to.”

“That’s why you had the studio musicians in on the album.” The realization crossed Rob’s face as he sat back, looking even more stunned now than he had when he first walked in. “It wasn’t because you were busy with the series. It was because…”

Rob’s voice trailed off, like he couldn’t even say the words. As if saying the words might make it true. He looked like he wanted to wake up from a living nightmare. I knew that feeling.

“Yeah,” Tyler agreed with a grimace. “I’m sorry. I should have told you. I just… I wanted to go as long as I could.”

“Tyler, I’m so sorry.” Sabrina’s tears were falling now, and just looking at her made me want to cry. “Is it… I mean, are you sure? You got a second opinion?”

“A second opinion,” Rob repeated, hope flitting across his face. “Good idea. Look, bruh, we can afford the best treatments, the finest doctors. We can—”

“Been there, done that, got the t-shirt,” Tyler told them with a sad little smile. “They’ve got me on the best meds. And changing my diet has helped.”

“That’s why you stopped the junk food!” Sabrina exclaimed, looking over at me. I just nodded.

“But there’s no cure,” Tyler said, looking across the table at his brother. “You can’t fix this, bruh.”

“Fuck.” Rob put his head in his hands, elbows on the table.

“Yeah,” Tyler agreed.

What more was there to say?

Rob warned Tyler that Arnie wasn’t going to take it well—and neither was the label. Or the rest of the band. But there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. Tyler simply couldn’t physically do it much longer, and his argument—that he didn’t want to let everyone down mid-album or mid-tour—was a sound one. Quitting now would give Trouble time to regroup and decide what direction they wanted to go.

“Call me,” Sabrina whispered into my ear when she hugged me goodbye.

I nodded my agreement, handing Lucy over before they went out the door. I’d given Lucy part of a banana to gnaw on, and I had half of it in my hair. She seemed fascinated with the way the light caught in the blonde strands and couldn’t keep her sticky hands off it.

“I need a shower,” I announced when Tyler closed the front door.

“I need a vacation.” He turned and took me in his arms, laughing when I showed him the clumps of banana in my hair.

“That was really brave,” I told him, kissing the side of his neck. “I’m so sorry, baby. I know you didn’t want to have to do that.”

“Let’s get the hell out of here.” He pulled back to look at me, half-smiling.

“Where to?” I smiled back. It was relief, having the truth out in the open, the last vestige of his secret told.

“Away.” His hands moved down to cup my ass. I squealed when he gave it a good squeeze. “Far, far away. Somewhere no one can find us.”

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