Imperfect Harmony by Lola West

1

Sarah

“This is enormous,” I said to myself, peering out from the wings of the stage at Madison Square Garden. I’d snuck backstage to take a peek, and the security guy who worked the door mentioned that they had just “erected the truss, so I’d better watch out.” I nodded with understanding, not wanting to look like this was my first rodeo.

Truth was, I was way out of my league. After co-writing a single for her most recent album, Kat Bennett—my brother Bill’s girlfriend, and my lifelong friend and mentor—invited me to open for the US leg of her tour. I’d never performed at a venue this large or prestigious. Before this, I was a bush league performer at best. But I’m not one to let inexperience keep me from jumping in with both feet. Where I was from, you put up or shut up. My older brothers, Bill, Luke, Wyatt, and my twin, Cody, were always waiting for any opportunity to prank me, so I had to step up even when I was outmatched. My family owned a ranch and we worked the land. We lived and breathed it. Until a week ago, most of my days were spent riding the fences with a rifle slung over my shoulder—in case of coyotes—or neck-deep in mud with a shovel in my hands. Since my mama died, my brothers were my world, so I had to learn to play, howl, and growl if I was going to run with the pack.

Not surprisingly, I was a tomboy, and I never regretted a moment of it… until I hit puberty. The other girls my age weren’t tough enough to squat in the woods, and it was like they spoke a different language. Over the years, I liked a couple of boys in my town, but if they showed me the slightest bit of interest, they quickly got scared off by one, if not all of my brothers. One time, Wyatt saw Ryan Bernard holding my hand in school and my brothers managed to sneak into Ryan’s gym locker and put some Ty-D-Bol in his shampoo. The poor kid had bright-blue hair for a month and everyone called him Cyan Ryan.

In our small town of Conway, Montana, no one ever saw me as just Sarah. I was the Morgan boys’ kid sister. I was Cody’s twin. I was that poor girl whose mom died when she was eight. If I tried to do something fun or risqué, you could bet your bottom dollar that it got back to my family and I was in trouble. Heck, I’d barely been kissed. My brothers were constantly clipping my wings, so this tour wasn’t just a professional boon for me. It was also my chance to be my own person. It was my jailbreak and my trial by fire all rolled into one.

For the first time in my life, I was going to be me, not the girl with the dead mom, not the girl with a gaggle of brothers or a twin, not a fledgling still trying to find her footing. For the next few months, I was Sarah Morgan, a twenty-two-year-old grown adult and talented singer-songwriter. I wasn’t going to let anyone undermine my newfound freedom. I was gonna own this giant audience at Madison Square Garden or die trying.

I quietly stepped onto the stage, scanning the vast endlessness of The Garden, and my eyes went wide with awe. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, so without thinking twice, I beelined straight for the center stage, wanting a better idea of what it would feel like to stand there in front of thousands of screaming fans. I pictured the image of throngs of faces looking back at me, swaying along to the songs I’d written. It felt phenomenal.

“Um… girly,” boomed a man’s voice from the sound booth. “Get off my stage!” I looked around, then glared toward the voice with confusion because I wasn’t doing anything bad. After a second, the positioning of the lighting changed, and I spotted a brute of a man in low-slung jeans and a black t-shirt. In a rock and roll way, he looked tough with tattoos all up his arms and a piercing in his ear. He had a tidy dark beard and black hair that was closely shaved. I’d have bet he shaved it himself. Until this moment, my definition of masculinity wore a cowboy hat, but you could go ahead and consider that redefined. I lost myself for a moment as I watched his robust masculine form come straight for me. From the clipboard in his hand and the pencil behind his ear, I assumed his job was something official. The sound echoed through the arena as his black steel-toed lace-up leather boots pounded on the floor.

“What in the actual fuck are you still doing up there, princess?” he barked, his green eyes lit up with intensity. I felt it in my belly, the deep darkness and power in his tone. His blazing fury unsettled me, so I backed away from him. I thought that if I moved enough, he would lay off.

“Yo! Fangirl! Get the hell off my stage before your skull gets bashed in. Last warning,” he said as he moved toward me, again.

Frustrated by his tone and trying on my newfound independence, I spat, “Listen, dipstick, I’m not just some girl or kid or whatever. Don’t you dare threaten me. I belong up here.”

He shook his head. “Look up. Do you see those huge pieces of metal held up by my crew and some rope? Those are unsecured beams.” He said this like I was stupid. “If you want to make it to an age where you can drink legally, I strongly suggest you get the fuck out from under those.”

Well, shoot. I didn’t have to look up long to feel like an idiot and a total fish out of water. I headed straight toward the wing to get away from the red-hot rude dude. He must have moved like the wind because he was about to block my way out. Up close, once we were on equal footing, he got twice as tall. He looked like a living Roman statue with his chest puffed out and his nostrils flared. He had almost closed the distance between us and prevented me from exiting.

“Listen buddy, I’m sorry,” I said with my hands held up.

“I get it,” he said condescendingly. “A pretty thing like you. You’re used to being wherever you want with no questions asked.”

I blushed like a schoolgirl and that upset me. “Can you just let me leave?” I whined, hoping I didn’t look like I was going to cry. He stepped aside so I could pass him and head off the stage. Somehow, I started this experience not that far off from how people saw me in Conway after all.