Release Date: July 13, 2015
Publisher: Brain Mill Press
Series: The Burnside Series; A Lakefield Novella
Length: 105 pp.
ISBN: epub 978-1-942083-02-3; mobi 978-1-942083-07-8
My Only Sunshine
A heart-rending and satisfying romantic novella featuring a musician who appeared as a minor character in Laugh.
John Lake owes his label an album—and has for months. Alone in his farmhouse studio outside of Lakefield, Ohio, he hears the music, but he won’t write it down. All the songs remind him of her.
Fifteen years ago, Mallory Evans was a fairy-haired warrior-poet. John couldn’t figure out why no one in high school noticed. He noticed, and he came to her window every evening before darkness came and the private violence of her home life threatened. Then, inevitably, one terrifying night broke the sweet spell between them.
John hasn’t seen Mallory since, but he’s looked for her—in his audiences, in his dreams. Now he decides that if he can’t find the inspiration to finish an album, he can at least find Mallory and finish what has always been between them.
Such a reunion story could have felt schmaltzy, or unconvincing, in the hands of a less talented writer. But Rivers . . . has the writing chops to make a more-than-persuasive case for the power of adolescent love, and its potential to last far into adulthood.
–Romance Novels for Feminists
“Wow. You really are in trouble, huh?”
We’re sitting on the floor in the living room of the farmhouse, our backs against the sofa, making paper airplanes out of staff paper. We have a lazy competition going on to see who can land one into the giant claw-foot tub that sits in the middle of the kitchen.
“Yep. That album was due, oh—” I look down at my bare wrist where I would’ve worn a watch. “—fifteen months ago, give or take.”
“And you don’t have a single song written?” Mallory is sitting cross-legged beside me, studiously using the edge of the coffee table to make the creases in her airplane sharp. One long hank of her hair has snaked into her cleavage, and mentally following that lucky spiral of hair has been the reason every single one of my airplanes has sucked.
“I have lots of music written.” I launch another engineering embarrassment to the floor. “Just no songs.”
Mallory stops folding and turns toward me, leaning against the sofa in such a way that she’s all warm eyes and shiny hair and pink skin. I reach over and grab my violin sitting in its case on the coffee table, just so that my hands have something to distract them. “Explain the difference to me again. Is it just a lyric thing?”
I start softly plucking out the melody line of some music that has been bothering me for months.
“If it were just a lyric thing, then working with a good lyricist would help. There’s one in my old band. She plays rhythm strings and is a singer-songwriter in her own right, and her stuff is wonderful. We’d sit for hours and try to put together a song, and it helped some. That’s basically how Before My Ghosts Change Me got written. But it was painful, and it wasn’t her fault. I learned a lot from working through that process with her, actually. I learned enough to know that I’m a suck songwriter.”
She still looks baffled. “So . . . can’t you just write the music part? Isn’t that what a lot of people do? Separate the obstacles?”
I breathe out, still working over the melody, holding my violin like a uke. “Yeah. It’s what my label wants me to do. And I have a couple of songs like that, where I just wrote the music and there was a lyricist. But honestly? They kind of don’t work. At least, I don’t really feel like they work, for me, and every time I’ve played them live I end up improvising around those songs so much they don’t really sound like themselves.”
“Like you’re still trying to write music to make sense of lyrics that don’t belong to you—aren’t in you.” She says this more to herself, her gaze in the middle distance. My fingers work over the fingerboard.
“Yeah.” I sigh. “That’s it exactly, and announces a bigger problem.” I strum out a gloomy chord.
Her gaze comes back to mine. “What’s that?”
“I won’t sing the songs that are actually in me.”
She grins, and reaches up and ruffles my hair like I’m a boy, though the sudden proximity of her neck and arm and front parts do not make me feel like a boy, even a little bit. “There’s the John I know.”