Authors: Pamela Warren
The Sweetest Gift
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living
or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover photo provided by Weber Fine Acoustic Instruments.
For Kris and
and all the
musicians who inspired me
The alarm clock blared harshly, jarring Maggie
from a deep sleep. Tucker reached across her and hit the off button.
“Go back to sleep, darlin’. I’ll finish packing and wake
you in time for breakfast.”
Maggie rolled over and closed her eyes and tried to
recall her dream. She had been playing in a club with her ex-husband Zak’s
band, the Bayou Blasters. She and Zak were singing “Me and Bobby McGee”
together. She looked over at him and felt the love well up inside of her. Then
she looked at Justin the bass player and gave him a smile. She leaned over and
whispered in his ear, “Justin, I love you.”
“Maggie, wake up, you need to pack too. We have to leave
for the airport in half an hour.”
Maggie opened her blue eyes and looked at Tucker. In
spite of her blurry vision, she thought that he looked unusually tired.
“Are you o.k. my love?” she asked.
“I had some trouble getting to sleep last night, I’ll be
fine though. I’m looking forward to seeing the kids.”
“Me, too.” Maggie smiled happily. “I’ve missed them so
much while we’ve been on tour. I’m glad they’ve been able to spend some time
with Zak though.”
Tucker pulled Maggie’s suitcase out of the closet and
helped her find the clothes that she was looking for in her bureau. She went
into the bathroom and gathered up some toiletries and then added them to the
“O.k. done,” she said and Tucker closed the suitcase
with a snap.
He carried the bag downstairs and took it out to the
Cadillac in the driveway while Maggie dressed hurriedly in a gray pant suit and
a red and white striped blouse. She fished out a pair of black pumps from under
the bed and carefully walked down the stairs to the kitchen. Tucker was just
finishing making the coffee. He kissed her on the cheek as he handed her a mug.
“I hate to rush you Maggie, but we probably need to get
Maggie took a couple quick swallows of her coffee and
put the mug in the sink. She slid into her shoes while Tucker checked the
inside pocket of his blazer for the airplane tickets.
“O.k., I’m ready,” she said.
Tucker set the house alarm and they walked out the back
door to the car. Tucker opened the car door for her and then got in the
driver’s seat. He patted her hand and said, “It won’t be long now, Maggie.” He
turned the radio on as they drove out the driveway. The DJ announced, “And now
for the number one hit by Maggie Mae Williams and Tucker Travis, leading the
charts for the last sixteen weeks.”
“Oh Tucker, turn that off. I don’t need to hear that
Tucker turned the radio off and laughed.
“Yeah, we’ve only played that a few million times over
the last three months. I’m happy the tour is over.”
They drove the rest of the way to the airport in
silence. Maggie had a lot on her mind. She was nervous about seeing her
ex-husband again, especially since he had a new girlfriend. She was anxious to
see her three children, Gabriel, Isabel and Jake. She wondered how they were
taking the news of her engagement to Tucker. She knew that they were fond of
him, but because of his age, they had always regarded him as a surrogate
grandfather. She wondered if they were shocked that they were planning on
getting married in spite of the almost twenty-five year difference in their
After half an hour’s drive, they reached the airport.
Tucker dropped Maggie off at their terminal and then parked the car. As they
walked through the airport to their gate, they passed a newsstand. Tucker saw
the latest issue of
magazine with their photo on the cover.
“Hold on darlin’, let me get a copy for the kids.”
He paid for the magazine and handed it to Maggie. She
held it up close to her face so she could read the headline, “The King and
Queen of Country Music.”
“It’s good to be King,” Tucker laughed. “And you make a
beautiful Queen, Maggie.”
Maggie grimaced a little and said, “Well, that and a
dollar will get you a cup of coffee.”
Tucker escorted Maggie to the terminal gate where the
passengers had already started to board for their flight. The stewardess took
their tickets and smiled widely at them.
“You’re in the third row, first class, Mr. Travis and
Miss Williams. We hope you have a great flight.”
Tucker took Maggie by the arm and helped her down the
aisle to their seats. As he passed by the stewardess, he whispered in her ear.
“Miss Williams is vision impaired. I just thought you
should know in case of an emergency.”
“Thanks for letting us know, Mr. Travis. Don’t worry,
we’ll take good care of you.”
The stewardess beamed at them, knowing that meeting
Maggie Mae Williams and Tucker Travis would make a good story that she could
tell her friends.
Two hours later,
Maggie and Tucker landed at the airport in New Orleans. They rented a Lincoln Town car and then began the familiar trip up the I-10 to Maggie and Zak’s house.
Maggie was feeling increasingly nervous the closer she got to her home. Tucker
reached over and took her hand and squeezed it.
“Relax, Maggie. Everything will be o.k.”
“I don’t know why I’m so nervous. Zak and I get along
perfectly fine now that the divorce has been finalized. It just feels sort of
strange now that we’re engaged and he has a girlfriend.”
“Everyone is moving on with their lives. You’ll get used
to it though. Is Justin back from California?”
“I’m not sure. Zak didn’t say too much about him. I know
he’s been playing with a band in San Francisco and he’s been considering moving
“Well, maybe it’s a good thing for him to get out from
under Zak’s shadow.”
“I don’t think he’s ever been in Zak’s shadow. He’s done
very well for himself over the last few years touring in Europe and recording
in San Francisco and Los Angeles.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen him for three years since he
came to visit me in Nashville,” Tucker said.
“Well, as you know, I haven’t seen him since before Jake
was born. It’s been a long time. I’ve missed him.”
“I know, Maggie.”
Tucker reached over and took her hand. Maggie looked
away from him out the car window so that he wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.
She was still hurt that Justin had never come back to Louisiana to be with her
when Jake was born. He had been on tour with a country band in Europe and afterwards decided to fulfill his dream of traveling extensively throughout the
continent. While he was in France, he had gotten a call from a famous rock band
that was based in California. They needed to replace their bass player who was
severely ill with hepatitis C. Justin had played bass on two albums that had been
nominated for Grammy awards, so they immediately thought of him. Justin had
always wanted to live in California, so he happily accepted their offer. He
took the first available flight from Paris to San Francisco and never looked
Maggie and Tucker finally pulled into the long gravel
driveway and parked the Lincoln in front of her house. They walked up to the
front door and knocked, but there was no response.
“They must be around somewhere because Zak’s van and
Porsche are in the driveway,” Maggie said. “Let’s walk down to the studio,
maybe they’re in there.”
Tucker took Maggie’s arm and they walked down to the end
of the driveway where there were two other buildings. They could hear some
music coming out of the smaller building, so they opened the door and looked
inside. Maggie’s ex-husband Zak was playing electric guitar with their three
children. Their ten year old son Gabriel was playing electric guitar along with
his father, eight year old Isabel was playing electric violin and five year old
Jake was strumming along on an old Harmony mandolin. The children’s faces lit
up as they saw their mother and Tucker.
“Mom, come hear us play,” Gabriel said.
Isabel and Jake put down their instruments and ran over
to Maggie and threw their arms around her.
“Mama, we’ve missed you so much,” Belle said, her voice
muffled as she hugged Maggie tightly.
“I’ve missed all of you too,” said Maggie trying to hold
back her tears.
Tucker walked over to Zak and shook his hand.
“Hey buddy, thanks for taking care of the kids while we
were on tour.”
“Sure Tucker, it was great spending time with them
again. Congratulations to you and Maggie by the way. When are you planning on
“Well, we’re working that out. I’m lobbying for a huge
wedding at my place in Nashville, but Maggie would like to go on a short
vacation maybe in Bermuda and get married there, just the two of us.”
“Well, good luck with that Tucker. I’m guessing that
Maggie will end up getting her way,” Zak said and laughed.
Tucker winked at Zak and said “You’re probably right, my
Gabriel walked up and extended his hand to shake
“Good to see you, sir,” he said.
“You don’t have to be so formal, Gabe,” Tucker
“I’m not sure what to call you now,” Gabe said and
“How about Tucker? I think that’s perfectly
Maggie laughed and said “Well, I guess they can’t call
you Grampa anymore.”
Tucker and Zak laughed too.
“I guess not, that would be a little strange. I guess
it’s going to take a little getting used to,” Tucker said.
“How about if I help you with your luggage? Justin left
the key to his house, so I thought I would put the two of you in there,” Zak
They all walked out to the car and Zak helped to get the
two suitcases out of the trunk. Then they walked over to the second building
which was Justin’s house. The house had been closed up for a while, but Zak had
gone over earlier and opened some windows and put fresh linens on the bed.
Maggie and Tucker were planning on spending a couple of days in Louisiana before they flew back to Nashville with Maggie’s children. They thought it would
help the children with the transition to moving back to Tucker’s place in Nashville if everyone stayed together for a few days.
After putting the suitcases in Justin’s bedroom, Zak
invited everyone over to his house for drinks on the porch and an early dinner.
“That sounds great, Zak. Give us a couple minutes to get
cleaned up and change and we’ll meet you over there,” Maggie said.
Maggie took a quick shower and changed into a t-shirt
and jeans. Tucker had already changed into chinos and a sports shirt. It was
getting humid and the sky was overcast. Maggie guessed they would see some rain
before too long. Maggie opened the bureau drawer hoping to unpack her suitcase,
but it was full of Justin’s clothes. Maggie touched one of his t-shirts for a
minute and then closed the drawer. She shut her suitcase and slid it over
towards the wall so it wouldn’t be in the way. She joined Tucker who was
waiting in the living room and then they walked over to Zak and Maggie’s house.
They walked up the stairs to the porch and Zak opened the door to let them in.
They sat down on the white wicker furniture and Zak offered to get them
something to drink.
“Would you like some lemonade?”
“That would be great Zak,” Tucker said. “What about you,
She assented and Zak went into the kitchen and returned
with three glasses of lemonade. Maggie was happy to see that Zak was still
being good about staying away from alcohol. The last time in rehab seemed to
have resulted in a permanent change in his behavior.