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"Betting on the Boy Next Door" Bonus Content.

Four Years in the Future

Josh

The stage is ready. It’s an acoustic setup. Sami plays guitar for me all the time at home, but I haven’t seen her do a

public acoustic performance . . . ever. I feel like I’m getting a sneak peek into College Sami, when she used to do open mic nights at the small bars and cafes near the college.

It’s fun, a side of my wife I haven’t seen before. Then again, after three years of marriage, you think I’d know every

side of Sami, but no. She’s constantly pushing, changing, growing. It’s more like she develops new sides all the time, and I get to learn about them with her. 

In some ways, she’s as steady as the Texas hill country. She’s got the same core-deep loyalty for me that she

shows to her best friends and family. But in other ways, she’s full of surprises. She’ll tackle some new interest or skill until she’s satisfied with her competence in it or understanding of it. She absorbs it into her personality, then she’s on to the next thing. 

Since we’ve been married, she’s gotten into learning the fiddle—which she practices during her long hours on the

road between tour stops, and mixology—specifically, nonalcoholic cocktails because Wingnut is two years into his sobriety, and she’s always trying to make him a new and interesting mocktail so he misses the alcohol less. 

Tonight, Pixie Luna is doing a private acoustic show with music from their next album, which hasn’t been released yet. Only friends and family are invited to this performance in this intimate club setting, every table on the small floor filled with familiar faces. 

Gramps and Grandma Letty are sitting with Gina at a small table, and I’m sitting with my parents. We watch as they

chatter with each other, something that happens any time all of us get together. 

“Do you think Gramps will put a ring on it?” I ask my dad. 

He snorts. “He’d have done it two years ago, but Letty isn’t having it. Says they’re fine just as they are, and she’s

not interested in sharing a house with a man ever again.”

My mom smiles. “They’re an odd couple but they make it work.”

That’s undeniable. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any two people make each other laugh as much—or argue more.

I’m pretty sure Gramps secretly loves that it’s rare for him to win an argument with his much younger, newly septuagenarian girlfriend. 

The lights dim, and the buzz of conversation rises as everyone gets ready for

the show to start.

“What do you think, son?” my dad asks. “More Grammys in their future?”

“Who cares about that?” my mom says before I can answer. “Are we going to

love it?”

“Yes and yes,” I say. “This is definitely their best album yet.” It’s a less angry

album, although there’s still plenty of attitude. But several of the songs are more reflective. I loved the old stuff, but it’s been a gift to watch how Sami’s lyrics have deepened over time. If their second album was enough to win them three Grammys, this one is going to exceed that. Maybe even double it. 

The backstage door opens, and the applause starts as Sami walks out,

followed by the rest of the band. They grin and wave as they walk to their instruments. Sami settles onto the stool at the front of the small stage and loops her guitar strap over her shoulder. She strums as the rest of the band tunes, nodding at them when everyone’s got it. 

She smiles out at the audience. “How are y’all doing tonight, beloveds?”

The crowd of about fifty claps and cheers. 

“Good. We’re glad to hear it.” She strums a couple more notes. “We’ve never

done a live acoustic set. We’re excited to introduce you to our new material tonight. But first, we’re going to start with something you won’t hear on the album. We’ll call it a Pixie Luna live acoustic special. A medley we’ve put together.”

With a nod over her shoulder to the band, they begin to play, Rodney soft on

his conga. It’s a gentle, folky sound I’ve never heard them use. Within a bar or two, before Sami even begins to sing, the vibe in the room changes. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like the level of anticipation has risen even higher, it’s rising by the note, and . . . why do I feel so many eyes on me?

I glance around, and it’s not my imagination. My mom turns toward me, her

eyes widening, a smile trembling at the corners of her mouth before she lifts her hand to cover it. 

“This one’s for you, Josh,” Sami says, and right as she sings the first words, it

hits me that I know this melody. I know why everyone is looking at me. “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Daddy’s going to buy you a mockingbird. If that mockingbird don’t sing, Daddy’s going to buy you a diamond ring. I’m sure that diamond ring will shine, because he got me one; just look at mine.”

Then, as if to make absolutely sure I understand what’s going on, she flashes

her wedding ring at the crowd, the single solitaire diamond in the antique white gold setting my grandmother wore her entire married life.

The melody changes, and she begins the next song. “Rockabye, baby, in the

treetop, when the wind blows—”

But I’m already up and out of my seat, crossing the short distance to the low

stage in three long steps and hauling her into a hug as the audience hoots and hollers. 

“Are you pregnant?” I ask near her ear so she can hear me over the cheers. 

She pulls back and nods at me, then, smiling she leans toward the mic while

keeping her eyes on me and confirms, “We’re having a baby.”

The crowd gets even louder, and the two generations of the Browers and

Websters who came before us are on their feet in a standing ovation. Well, not my mom and Gina. They’re too busy hugging each other and almost jumping. 

The band finally lets the music die down, and I keep Sami in another hug for

several seconds as we listen to the cheers and congratulations. Finally, she draws away again but slips her hand into mine as she turns and waves at the audience, waiting for them to settle down. 

When the noise subsides enough for her to be heard, she grins and says, “You

heard it here first: new album coming next week, and a new pixie coming about seven months after that. And only the first part better make it to your social media!”

More cheers and applause as she turns back to me and slides her arms

around my waist. “I love you forever, Josh.”

“I love you for always, Sami.”

As I kiss her to prove it, the band begins to boo. 

“I could go the rest of my life without having to watch you two kiss again,”

Rodney grumbles. “If I quit this band, that’s why.”

It’s the longest sentence I’ve ever heard from him, and it’s noteworthy enough

that Sami and I stop what we’re doing to look at him. He scowls at us, but I see a smile twitching, trying to take over his lips. 

“How can we make it up to you?” I ask. 

He furrows his forehead like he’s thinking, then nods and points at Sami’s

belly. “Dibs on babysitting Baby Rodney.”

Wingnut immediately protests. “You mean Baby Wingnut.”

“No, you wingnut,” Luther says. “They mean Little Lutherette.”

And that is how their first ever acoustic show gets derailed by a five-minute

fight over creative differences. 

“You know,” Sami whispers, “the name Lyndon could go either way.”

I smile out at the audience while the band bickers, and I hope Baby Lyndon

can already hear all the love. 

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