"No, no, I don't like that line." Scarlett briskly rubs the words away with an eraser. There are smeared letters on top of other smeared letters and still more beneath that like the ancient ruins of a great empire. "This is all silly."
"No, it's not," Gunnar replies with the softness of a blanket just out of the wash. The kind that you snatch out of the dryer and wrap around your shoulders, feeling safe and warm in its clean linen embrace. "It's brilliant. You're brilliant."
The kind of blanket that Scarlett had when she was a child. She doesn't know what happened to it – she's been meaning to ask her mom to knit a new one. She fears it won't be the same. Sometimes a material object doesn't work as well as something human and real.
She looks up at Gunnar. He's like the sun; a guy who radiates warmth and kindness, with his own coy yet charming gravitational pull.
"You're jus' sayin' that, Gunnar," she says, switching her eyes the color of the Bluebird sign above them to the pencil twiddling between fingers. Usually she uses it to jot down orders. Tonight it has a higher purpose.
"Now, why would I ever lie to you? Who could ever lie to a girl like you?"
"What do you mean, 'like me?'"
"I mean… gosh, I don't know. I mean someone who is…" He plays a crisp A, and finds the answer nestled between the strings. "Somebody genuine. You don't put on a show, y'know? I don't have to wonder if you're really somebody other than who you say you are, or who I see weavin' around people and tables most every night."
His lips pucker. He's trying not to smile. She wishes he wouldn't think so highly of her, but she'd be lying if she said that it isn't nice to hear his praise. Avery normally only talks about his records and his band. That's okay, though. She likes listening to him talk about it and going to his shows. He's talented, and she wants to support him as much as she can. But this offer is too good to pass up, even if she doesn't see what's so spectacular about her writing. They're not songs until Gunnar lays down the perfect melody to her words.
That's when they really come to life, she thinks. When Gunnar strums the note just right, her measly words rise from the page and twirl around the room like a couple sways across the dance floor when their song comes on.
"Don't you need to go rehearse with your real band?" she asks, snapping out her admiring gaze.
"I'm already here, aren't I? It's me and you. We're a band. I told you, there is no us without you. Without you, I'm just a guy with a guitar."
"You're more than just a guy with a guitar. You actually know what you're doin'. Me... I jus' write because it feels good to get the words out. I'm not a professional."
"And you think I am?!" He rocks back in the creaky chair. "Did you see my hat? I looked like a goof on that stage."
"I liked your hat. I thought you wore it well."
"Ah, you wore it better. If you like it so much, you can wear it. Maybe it'll be a part of your stage costume."
"Maybe it will."
"I hope it does. One of us has to look good up here."
Her cheeks are getting warm and rosy red against her fair skin. Last time they did that was when she first met Avery.
"Oh, hush, you. Play the melody again."
"Yes, ma'am. Ready?"
"Ready when you are."
"Now, folks," he addresses their invisible crowd; empty tables with chairs racked on top of them. "If you fall asleep durin' this song, we won't feel bad. We just hope it's the song that caused it and not the whisky."
He's never this outgoing around other people. He's so funny and sweet, and she feels lucky to have made it into his safe zone. Perhaps this project will be good for him, too.
"Ha," she exhales.
Gunnar plays a harmonic tone that rings throughout the small cafe, then launches into a subtle fingerpicked tune. Scarlett sings lead.
"Lay your head on the pillow, come on, let's settle this fight.
Close your eyes, go to sleep, wrap your body in the sheets with me.
The answer you are looking for, may you find it in your dreams.
The place you want to go, with or without me.
I won't drift away, I swore that I would stay by you.
My prayers have come true, my heart belongs to you, my love.
And though you may go to chase your dream alone,
I will be here, waiting for you to come home."
Gunnar play a simple plucked solo, never straying from the melody, but not adhering to the laws of music notation, either. He plays up the neck when you'd think it'd go down and holds a vibrato when he feels like it. Scarlett watches him in quiet awe and looses herself in the notes.
"Scarlett would sing... but she's staring at nothing... lalala..." Gunnar hums after he's played through the verse twice, waiting for her to join in for the ending. She comes to and meets him at the bridge.
"Ohh, but if you awake, and I'm the one who's gone
I hope the promise goes both ways,
When I return, will I find you here?
Or will I be all alone?
Will you be here when I come home?
Will you be here when I come home?"
"You changed the ending," he says, his voice light with surprise.
"It... fit there. I think. Should I change it back?"
"No, I like it. I think that'll work."