"I thought you were practicing with the guys," I said, smiling a bit at my good fortune. It looked like I'd be able to get this load off my chest after all.
Sky stood up and stretched, then grabbed a towel that hung from one of the barstools. "Sometimes I'd rather do this than practice. It gets me loose."
I joined her at the bar. Picking up a bottle of rum, I swished around its contents. "This stuff works better than yoga for that. Care to join me?"
"Sure," she replied, rubbing the towel over her neck. "But make mine a small one. I've hardly eaten all day."
As I mixed fruit juice with the rum in two glasses, I snuck a furtive glance at Sky. Even though we were cordial, we didn't have the kind of friendship that allowed for much talk about Jax's inner life. We didn't talk about Jax at all, usually. But she'd known Jax for forever, and if anyone could make sense of Jax's erratic behavior, it was her.
I handed her the drink. "Here you go," I said, taking a sip of my own while I tried to figure out what to say.
Sky sat down next to me, the towel draped around her shoulders. "I'm glad you came up," she said, taking a sip from her glass. "Actually, I had a question for you." She paused, looking nervous as she waited for a response.
I lifted my eyebrow and smiled, even though her hesitation put me on alert. "Go for it," I said.
She exhaled and shifted on her barstool. "What's going to happen with you and Jax after the end of the tour?"
The irony of it struck me, and I laughed, even though her question wasn't funny. She gave me a confused look and I hurried to explain. "It's funny you should ask. I wanted to talk to you about Jax too," I said. "I didn't know how to bring it up though."
"Me either!" Sky said, a relieved smile appearing on her face.
I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand as I tried to organize my thoughts. I wished I could tell her I knew exactly what would happen with me and Jax, but the truth was, I didn't know. I trusted that he meant what he said about staying together, but who knew what could happen to upset our plans?
"We're going to make it work long distance until he gets back to New York," I said, trying to sound more confident than I felt. "We're committed to making this happen, even though it'll be hard."
Sky's eyes lit up at my words. "That's great, Riley. You've made such a difference in his life." Her face grew serious again. "I mean it. When he's with you . . . I've never seen him happier. Except for lately, but I'm sure that's nothing."
I frowned at the last part. "What do you mean?"
Sky looked embarrassed. "Well, after his collapse, I mean. He gets better, but then he gets worse. For a while I thought nothing could get through to him. But you did it before. I'm sure you'll do it again. It'll just take time."
I gave her a stiff smile. Though her words were meant to be comforting, they struck at the very heart of my worries. What would happen to Jax after I left? Therapy had improved his mood on the surface, but after what I'd seen today, I couldn't take any comfort in it. Something deeper was clearly at work. What if therapy wasn't really helping? And in a few days, if he took a turn for the worse again, he'd be alone.
"So do you think he's getting better?" I asked, trying hard not to show anxiety on my face.
She gave me a curious look. "Don't you?"
"Yes," I said quickly, fighting back the urge to confess all my worries to her. The thought of just unloading it all was tempting, but gnawing insecurities made me stop. The possibility remained that I'd worked myself up over nothing, and spilling my guts would only worry Sky—and make me look like the world's neediest girlfriend. I could ask what I needed to know without telling her all my fears.
"Actually, I had a question for you too," I said, careful to keep my voice casual. "When you told me that story about Jax going subway surfing and doing other risky stuff, it made me wonder. What did he look like after he did something like that?"
Sky paused to think. "Umm . . . high? I think. Like a junkie," she said, laughing. "After a hit."
Even though the sun warmed the roof, I shivered. I didn't know any drug addicts, but I wasn't naive either. What I'd seen in Jax's strangely excited eyes could be described in just that way.
Sky broke into my reverie. "Why, is something wrong?" she asked, concerned.
"Nothing's wrong," I lied, wishing that I could believe my own words. I didn't want to worry her. I didn't even know if Jax would do anything that risky again. I had no real reason to assume he would. "That story just made me curious, that's all. I'm still trying to get a picture of what Jax was like when he was younger."
She sighed in relief. "Ah, okay."
I hesitated, then touched her shoulder. She swiftly brought her head up to look at me. Even if I couldn't tell her everything, I could still use her help, and ask her to do something for me that would make me feel a tiny bit better about leaving.
"I wanted to ask you something else, too." I hesitated, not sure of how to say it.
Sky tilted her head, waiting.
I exhaled. "Could you look after Jax for me while I'm gone? If he starts acting weird again, and I'm not here . . ." I trailed off, not really sure what I wanted Sky to do. If Jax was trying to distance himself from me, who was to say he wouldn't do the same thing to her?
But she nodded, as if she could read the unsaid message behind my words. "Don't worry. I can be there for him. We may not actually have the same parents, but he's my brother, just as much as Chewie."
A wave of relief rushed through me. I could count on her, I knew it. I didn't have a sister, but if I did, I would want her to be like Sky.
"Thank you," I said, the words almost sticking in my throat.
"It won't be the same without you around," she said, sounding sad. "But we'll be back in New York as soon as we're done cutting our new record."
"I'll be waiting," I said, managing a wry smile. "Not very patiently, but I'll be waiting."
Sky laughed. "But before that can happen, we've got to play our last show." She finished the rest of her drink with a gulp. "And that means I should probably do some real practicing."
She stood up and rolled her yoga mat so that it fit snug under her arm. "It was good talking to you, Riley."
I waved to her as she left. Alone, I stared down into my almost empty glass as if it had the answers I was still seeking.
In my heart, I wanted to believe that Jax had found a way to heal. But if he was trying to escape his pain by going back to his old reckless ways, therapy would be nothing but a temporary bandage over a far deeper, older wound.