The Branson Bros jammin
Tom gripped the neck of his guitar as he stared at the curtain swaying back and forth as the next act passed though. He looked beside him and saw his younger brother staring straight ahead of him and mindlessly playing riffs on his acoustic guitar and humming an indiscriminate melody, warming up his hands and voice for the few minutes to come. Tom stared down at the curve of his guitar and shook his head.
There were few things in the world that terrified Tom. Two of those things on that list he would be doing tonight: Performing in front of a crowd and being on stage.
Tom was by no means a shy man, but the thought of hundreds of strangers’ eyes staring at him made him uncomfortable. One wrong move and everyone would know that he had made a mistake. His cheeks burned at the thought.
He wasn’t the natural performer in the family. That title belonged to Niall, who regularly sang and played his guitar in front of people. Tom, on the other hand, kept his musical talents hidden away, secretly buying his first guitar at thirteen after saving his Christmas money and allowance. He taught himself every chord he could and tried to play every song that came on the radio. As the years passed, he became more and more proficient, even teaching some local boys and girls how to play as a side job during secondary school. He even taught his brothers and sisters how to play, though Niall was the only one who kept at it.
When Tom left for England, he took his guitar with him. In his small cozy flat in Downton Village, he quietly sang songs to himself and filled the room with music. One day, as Sybil was passing though the village, she heard a lovely song coming from the newly hired chauffeurs flat. When she saw him the next day, during an animated conversation she told him she overheard him playing his guitar and singing and enjoyed it. Tom’s smile fell slightly as his eyes widened, cheeks reddened, and ears burned. He murmured a thank you in return and she never mentioned it again afterwards.
It was only after they were married, that he brought out his guitar in front of her.
“It’s not that I didn’t want you to know,” Tom said with a shrug, “But for me, playing the guitar is very personal and it’s not something I share with many people. Playing music is special to me and I feel you should share music with the ones you love…”
He grinned and pulled out a pick from his pocket.
“…Which is why I’m going to play you a song I wrote for you.”
Sybil blushed and kissed her husband on the lips.
Which was why he couldn’t do this.
He shook his head and felt a light pressure on his shoulder. He turned around and was pulled into one of his wife’s tight embraces. He wrapped his arms around her as best as he could with a guitar between them. He pulled away to quickly talk with her.
“Why did I let Niall and Bill talk me into this?”
Sybil and Sybbie walked to Mrs. Branson’s Dublin home for Sunday dinner to find her husband already in the sitting room with Niall, both playing Hotel California. Their cousin Bill was lounging on the couch opposite, enjoying the music from the Branson brothers.
When they finished, Sybil clapped her hands, altering Tom and his brother of her presence.
“That was lovely,” she commented as she kissed Tom on the crown of his head. Tom set his guitar down and picked up the toddler who was reaching out for him. She settled into his arms as she gripped her Da’s nose.
Niall craned his neck towards his older brother and shot him a look that clearly said “I told you.”
“See Tom? She said it was lovely.”
Tom pursed his lips. And shook his head. He pried Sybbie’s strong fingers off his nose.
“My answer is still no.”
“Live a little Tom,” Bill chimed in.
Tom shot his cousin a look.
“Not you too. I said no. I don’t play my guitar for just anyone.”
“Why? What’s going on?” Sybil asked.
Tom rolled his eyes as Niall turned to his sister-in-law.
“There’s a talent show at my school next month and I wanted to do a duet with Tom since he was the one who taught me how to play in the first place. Please, Tom. I’m your brother!” he pleaded.
“You could be the Queen of England for all I care and I still won’t,” Tom snorted.
“Oh Tom, don’t be like that,” Sybil interjected.
“Yea Da!” Sybbie chimed in.
“Just do it Tom,” said Bill.
“Come on. Just once. I won’t ask for anything else. I promise.”
Niall reached for Sybbie and placed her on his lap, still facing Tom. Sybil took a seat next to him as Bill leaned over. They all pouted their lips, trying to convince him to agree.
Seeing his family looking ridiculous pouting at him, he couldn’t say no.
“Sybbie and I will be in the audience. If you get nervous, pretend that it’s our flat and you’re singing to Sybbie.”
Tom’s heart calmed down and his breathing steadied a little.
“Will you be alright?” She asked.
“I think so.”
She placed a light kiss on his cheek and got ready to leave.
“Good luck love. You too Niall.”
Snapped out of his daze, Niall grinned at Sybil.
“Where’s my kiss?” he said teasingly.
She stuck out her tongue and disappeared around the corner.
The blaring speakers brought their attention back to the task at hand.
"‘And next, we have Niall Branson and his brother Tom performing a duet."
The cheers and claps from the audience were not quieted by the heavy curtain. They stepped up to the “X” on the stage and felt the microphone inches away from his face. A high pitched “Yay Da! Yay Uncle Niall” could be heard though claps.
Tom looked over at his brother who nodded at him.
“Ready Tom?” he asked.
He took a deep breath and nodded.
The curtains opened and light flooded into the darkened space.
Tom reached into his pocket and got out a pick. He ran his hands over the soft varnish of his guitar and strummed.
He looked up and all he could see was him and his brother about to play their guitars for an audience of two.