I often write about people, places, and things close to my heart. It's a wonderful feeling to reach the end of a created story and smile.
Telling a Secret
Harriet Riley stepped from behind the curtains to a roar of cheers from the applauding crowd. The band began to play the intro to her #1 hit song, "Under My Heart." Backstage, her producer/boyfriend Weston Bradder was standing by the lighting engineer. He said, "Wow, I've never heard a crowd this loud in the Hope Art Arena before. The engineer agreed as she guided the spotlight to Harriet's movement to the stage's center.
As Harriet pulled the microphone from the stand, she started to sing the lyrics, "Did a cloud bring love here. When did it begin to rain? You can stand and smile again. Smile again, under my heart." The next lines of the song didn't or couldn't come from Harriet's mouth. She stood and stared up at the colored lights as she put her left hand back to quiet the band. She looked to her right where Weston was holding his hands up behind the side curtains as if to ask her what was wrong? Harriet turned to the band and asked them to give her a few minutes. As she turned back to face the audience, she saw Weston with his hands on his forehead.
She spoke to the people."Do you all mind if I tell you a secret?" The crowd looked confused and some mumbled. She asked again, "Please, can I tell you a secret?" A few people began to complain until an older gray-haired man stood up and shouted, "Shut up and let her speak. I want to hear what she has to say!" There was a little applause and then silence.
Harriet raised the microphone and said, "When I was a little girl, living in Flagstaff Arizona, my momma died giving birth to my little brother, Arlan. Daddy got a job that his old High School friend told him about in Clearfield County Pennsylvania. He moved us east. I was seven years old taking care of Baby Arlan while daddy worked in the coal mines in the summers. During school times, Arlan had a babysitter. Arlan died when he was three years old. The doctor said his heart was weak and not growing right."
The Music Waits
Except for a few coughs and mumbles, the audience was quiet. Harriet looked over at Weston who had an angry look on his face and his arms were crossed. She looked back to the people and continued, "Daddy started drinking heavily after that day. I stayed in a tiny bedroom of a little shack of a house he rented. I got ready for school one spring morning and was about to walk out the door. Daddy stepped quickly around me, got down on one knee, and said these words to me, "You cain't ride with me anymore Harriet. Life is full of too much hurt. I'm always gettin' on the wrong road or hoppin' off the right train."
Harriet wiped a tear away and said with pain in her voice, "I never saw him again. I was only ten years old. I didn't understand that he was telling me he was leaving me. I still remember the whiskey on his breath and he always kissed my hair when leaving or coming home but he didn't that time. I came home from school and made gravy to pour over slices of white bread. I set a plate for him. He never came home.
I woke up the next morning on an old brown chair a neighbor had given us. Daddy had often passed out in that chair many times. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and I cried. I went to the neighbor for help and I wound up in foster care for the next five years. A few families were civil to me but some were abusive. I ran away when I was 16 years old and survived by serving tables, delivering newspapers, and singing on sidewalks." The room seemed even quieter as Harriet gave them a little smile and said, "You are the only souls other than my closest loved friends who have ever heard this story.
My record company and even my sweet devoted boyfriend want to change my name to, "Roxie Riley." This fancy evening gown is the kind of thing they dress me in." She stood on one foot, bent her left knee, pulled off her black stiletto high heel, and dropped it. She did the same with her right foot as she said, "They actually pay me money so they can say Harriet Riley wears their shoes. I hate high heels!" She reached up inside her dress, unbuckled her garters, and pulled off her stockings.
Left Behind on the Stage
Harriet wiggled her toes and sighed, "That's better." The crowd laughed. She unpinned the back of her beautiful black hair, shook it down, and let it fall on her shoulders. Harriet smiled and said, "I think I'm ready to sing but first I need to tell you why I will not change my name...even for fame and fortune. I'm still that ten-year-old girl named Harriet in my heart. I'm still waiting for my daddy to come home and kiss my hair. I made up my mind to sing until he does."
Harriet turned and waved for the band to restart the song. The audience began standing and applauding.
Harriet sang: Did a cloud bring love here? When did it bring the rain?
You can stand and smile again. Smile again, under my heart."
Did a storm make love go? Why does the wind blow cold?
You can still be so warm you know, under my heart Under My Heart
I'll hold you like a baby in my arms, I'll gently cradle love Under My Heart
Did a tear make you cry? Is good, good til goodbye? You can find the grace to try...try...try under my heart.
Did my hope take you there? Did my care kiss your hair? You can find it all somewhere under my heart.
People were cheering, some weeping, all clapping, whistling and Weston was excitingly telling the lighting engineer, "I've never heard her sing like that! Wow!" The lead guitar player stepped up beside her smiled and said, "I'd rather hear Harriet than Roxie anytime." For the next hour and a half, Harriet had the world in her hands. The musicians were as excited about playing as the audience was listening. At the end of the show, she exited the stage into the open arms of Weston.
He hugged her tight and said, "That was wonderful baby but why did you tell them all those things? Why did you tell them about your momma, daddy, and your brother? Those are some really personal things baby. Harriet gently pushed his arms down, backed up, looked in his eyes, and said, "I love people who come to hear me sing. I wanted to bring them all under my heart."
Under Harriet's Heart
© 2022 Tom Cornett