Will woke up from his alcohol-induced daze a year or so later. He was still an emotional wreck. Sober, though, he could make much better use of his music as an outlet. Psychotherapy released a greatest hits compilation, allowing them to make the jump from one-hit wonder to nostalgia act - but to keep the crowds' attention, the band had to play "Carla." Will toyed around with alternate lyrics, but nothing other than the original wording had that catchy ring to it. So he satisfied himself by lengthening his guitar solos in the song, pouring his frustration and bitterness into each dissonant note. Eventually, Psychotherapy's newer, darker albums attracted a core group of fans, but whenever they played to a large crowd like this one, their wider audience always screamed for "Carla."
He put the guitar down. There was no putting it off now. For Will, part of being a musician had always been giving the crowd what they wanted.
Scuffing his worn sneakers as he shuffled his feet, Will inhaled deeply and opened the door. Seeing him emerge, the rest of Psychotherapy made their way back out onto the stage. The ensuing roar was deafening; the crowd knew what was coming next. A lanky sound tech handed Will a silvery Strat as he approached the stage from the side. Phil, Psychotherapy's drummer, started a cymbal roll to cue the band for Will's entrance.
"Carla! Carla! Carla!"
Will nodded at Johnny, the balding bassist, from just offstage. As Will walked out, Johnny struck a sustained low E that shook the rafters. Will stopped near his microphone, facing away from the crowd before giving the Strat's volume knob a quick spin. His pick hovered over the B string for a breath, then he launched into the blues-rock riff that made Psychotherapy famous. He was about to turn and face the audience when he saw her.
Somehow, he managed to keep playing.
The band kicked in below his lead. The fullness of the sound made Will's whole body vibrate, but his feet didn't move. She looked at him, smiled and nodded, then motioned at him to turn around. Realizing that he'd miss the first verse if he didn't get to his mic, he spun quickly and moved to the front of the stage.
Will started to sing. The song went on, but he wasn't focused on it anymore. His thoughts were spinning so fast that he played the album version - no long, dissonant guitar solos, just straight-up blues rock. Psychotherapy were tight enough to follow his lead without missing a beat, and Will didn't notice his bandmates' perplexed looks.
The love song that made Psychotherapy famous was more than enough to pacify the audience; some of them were already leaving by the time Phil brought "Carla" to a crashing close. Will didn't waste time; as soon as the rhythm section took over the song's coda, he leaned his guitar against a stack of amps and darted off the stage in a sea of feedback. She was waiting for him, wearing a backstage pass, her hair as red as he remembered it. It was much too loud for them to hear one another, so she took his arm loosely and they went back to his dressing room. He shut the door and then leaned against it; she stood just in front of the couch.