A crew seemed to arrive out of nowhere to handle the equipment setup. All Jake and Cait had to do was walk the half-mile or so from Lochaven Cafeteria to Kresge Auditorium. Along the way, they passed the old All-State Boys cabins, which housed kids from Michigan for two weeks at a time. That was where Jake was a counselor forty years earlier. He noted the practice room where he first heard a camper playing Van Halen’s “Eruption.”
There was something about that sound that gave Jake the chutzpah to ask if he could borrow the camper’s guitar and learn how to play. Jake shook his head at the memory. He was such an arrogant little prick at the time. What is it about the young that makes them think there are no obstacles to life?
But it worked. All he had to do was pick up the guitar, and the rest came relatively easy. Not that he didn’t have to practice all the time, but soon, his fingers became an extension of his thoughts. Yet, even with all his practice, he remained only average. Maybe in a few years, he could have become more than passable.
But then he found Cait, and everything changed. It is when he played with her, and only her, that Jake became exceptional. It didn’t matter if Cait played violin, guitar, or just sang with him, she was everything he was not. She supplied the missing pieces he never knew he needed.
With Cait, and through Cait, Jake’s playing and singing transcended the ordinary. Audiences had noticed the difference when they were teenagers back in 1985, and now, even after all these years, it was still there between them—a kind of power and beauty no one else could reach. It made Jake feel alive for the first time in four decades.
And here she was, by his side again. Maybe it was the smell of the pine trees, the lake, and wood chips that sent him back in time, or the fragrance of Cait’s hair, but he became overwhelmed with emotion as if he were a teenager again. Jake grabbed both of Cait’s hands and turned her around to face him.
“Stop walking for a minute, Caity,” he said.
The wind blew her red hair around her face and over her eyes, but she continued to hold his hands. Jake let go for a moment to brush her hair aside and tuck it around her ears, and then he caressed her cheeks. The freckles were still there but blended more into her face, which was darker and tanner than he remembered. Teenage Cait’s skin was white with galaxies of freckles that had driven him to absolute distraction. Middle-aged Cait had a more mature complexion. Except her green eyes were the same—exactly the same—as he remembered them.
At this moment, all Jake wanted to do was hold her as long as possible—and kiss her.
Instead, he said, “Caity, do you think we should have a bigger talk right now before we play some more?”
“Oh, Jacob,” Cait said. “You haven’t changed a bit. You still say the most inappropriate things at the wrong time. If we had ‘the talk’ right now, that would ruin everything.”
“But there’s so much—”
“Just shut up, Jacob,” she interrupted, though smiling. “Do you see all those people? They want us to play music together.”
“Yes,” said Jake. “And no. They’re not just interested in our music. It’s about us, too. They want to see how the story turns out.”
“I’m kind of curious, myself,” said Cait. “Why don’t we stop talking and get on with it?”
With those words, Cait let go of Jake’s hand and ran on ahead. Jake stood still for a few seconds, grinned, and jogged to catch up.
Erin looked at her father and felt a combination of anger and pity. He wasn’t even fighting to save his marriage. Doesn’t he see what’s happening now? All they were doing was following the crowd over to Kresge Auditorium, where even more spectators would witness the end of the little Fitzgerald family.
“Dad, I’ve tried everything I know,” Erin said. “You need to take action now. It’s up to you to stop Mom from making a big mistake.”
“Sweetheart,” Brian said. “Maybe this is the best thing for her. You think everything is black and white. Maybe she’ll just play music with this Jacob fellow and cut records with him. That’s her work. Then, when she’s done, she’ll come back home to me.”
Erin thought it was very cute the way her dad said, “cut records,” like it was still the ’70s.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” said Erin. “I love you, but you’re being naïve. Did you see that woman up there performing? It was Mom, but it wasn’t the person we know. She was different. It’s like she had reverted to an earlier version of herself, one that existed before I was born and before she met you. This isn’t a midlife crisis, or whatever. She won’t come back. If she decides to play with Jake, she’s going to go all the way and be with him. I can tell. You have to trust me on this, Dad. I just know.”
“What would you have me do, Erin?”
“Fight for her,” his daughter said. “I mean, not fight physically.” She put up her fists to illustrate. “But really make Mom feel the horrible position she put you in. Don’t be pathetic and beg, though. Be tough. I know it’s hard for you, Dad, because you’re such a nice guy. But now is not the time to be a nice guy. Really make Mom think about what she’s about to do. Maybe she’ll snap out of it.”
Brian did not answer. He was thinking about his next move. It was possible that his daughter was correct, and he was about to lose Cait forever if he did not rise to the occasion.
Jake glanced at his hands and saw that the skin on several of his fingers was torn, with blood slowly seeping out. He hadn’t picked up his guitar often enough in the past four decades to form the calluses necessary to play as hard as he had the past hour. And he could feel muscle strain (or, God forbid, was it arthritis?) in his hand and wrist. Every movement was met with a sharp, shooting pain. But now was not the time to worry about a little discomfort. He filed it far into the back of his mind—so far, he hoped, that he would not think about it until after this rehearsal or concert or whatever this was turning into. There was no way he was going to disappoint Cait because his hand hurt a little.
What a drag it is getting old, he thought. Mick Jagger got that right. But, then again, Mick fucking Jagger is still performing into his eighties, and Keith Richards is playing guitar. If they can do it, I can do it.
Jake wondered if Cait was feeling the effects of age, too. It couldn’t be very comfortable to play the violin for such a long period of time. But Cait had never put her instrument down in the intervening years, so she probably had the arms, shoulders, and neck of a superhero.
Cait was distracted by many things, not least of which was the screaming pain in her arms, neck, and shoulders. Playing Bach in a church orchestra was one thing, but high-energy rock violin for a sustained amount of time was another. She closed her eyes, thought of nothing but the music that poured from her soul and through Jake, and forgot all about the pain. She’ll pay for it later, but now was not the time to become a doddering old lady. There was too much at stake.
Working with The Occidentals was such a pleasure for Jake and Cait. They almost instinctively knew how to rearrange songs that had originally been written just for two people. At Interlochen and in the streets of New York, Jake had supplied the rhythm himself through strumming and thumping his guitar—sometimes even stomping his feet. It was primitive but worked in small Greenwich Village coffee shops and in parks and subways. Now, he was thankful they had a real drummer working with them for this crowded venue and for the huge arenas they would be playing on their upcoming tour. That is, if they lived through today.
The two young women in the group were versatile, playing guitar, violin, piano, bass—whatever the song seemed to call for. The skill he appreciated most, though, was their ability to get out of their way when Jake and Cait began to do their thing and improvise off one another. Then the rhythm guitar, bass, and drums faded into the background to let the lead guitar and violin soar, and the couple’s vocal harmonies take center stage.
And that was what the crowds had turned out for, to see if they could still perform those perfect harmonies. The voices that sang to them in those viral videos were teenagers from 1985. They had an optimism and innocence about them that proved contagious in the more-cynical days of 2025. They were real. They were not Auto-Tuned, AI-enhanced, or otherwise tampered with.
Yet there still was an otherworldly feel to them, an angelic perfection that sounded complete only when Jake and Cait sang together. Jake was partially correct when he told Cait that people were buying into their story as well as their music. They were one and the same. Their music would not exist without the story that goes along with it. Something about love and music that was so pure and undiluted with cynicism dialed into the mood of the times and through multiple generations, from Boomers to Z’ers.
And the fact that the partnership was doomed to an expiration date of only six months in 1985 only added to the legend and myth. Of course something that pure could not last long. Too much of that syrupy sweetness could lead to high blood sugar. There was a beginning, and middle, and an end. And that was where it probably could have stayed.
But the public demanded more. They wanted the epilogue. They wanted to see what became of their fairy tale. It didn’t end with “happily ever after,” and the world wanted closure. So, they dragged two reluctant middle-aged humans out into the spotlight and told them to perform like angels.
Instead, what they got was an aging man and woman, with more creases on their faces than they were comfortable with. If the crowd squinted a certain way, perhaps they could see those young visages that called across the decades, but it took too much imagination. When the cameras arrived at the rehearsal and beamed Jake and Cait’s images onto two large screens set up on the sides of the stage, there was an audible gasp from the crowd as they looked at what their two angels had become.
But then the music started, and those gasps changed to cheers. Not that they were singing like sweet teenagers or even the spunky street musicians they had been in New York. There was a maturity to this new sound that still came from the love they shared. Everyone felt it, even Cait’s daughter, Erin.
So, as Jake and Cait sang and played their hearts out until their throats were raw and their fingertips bled, the audience urged them onward to new heights. Beamed onto the screens on the sides of the stage were old photographs and film clips of teenage Jake and Cait playing at Interlochen and later in Greenwich Village coffee shops. The middle-aged couple would glance at these images now and then and shake their heads, prompting laughter from the audience. Still, everybody wanted to know how this story would end.
The media arrived and covered the reunion as news. Clips were played on all the major national news outlets, and YouTube began streaming the rehearsal live. A prominent musicologist on CNN declared that Jake was self-taught and had learned to play without following any musical rules, which is how he had discovered his own unique sound. Cait was more traditional, blending classical precision with Gaelic emotion. It was a combination that was the buzz of Greenwich Village in the mid-’80s.
Both Jake and Cait were drained, sore, and working beyond their capacities. But the crowd wanted more. And the couple was eager to show they were not too old and could take the punishment. And they were afraid that ending this show would mean they’d turn into pumpkins and be forced to return to their real lives. And neither one of them was sure what that reality looked like anymore.
Two hours into the rehearsal, the crowd was chanting, “Jake and Cait are Great! and “We love you, JC!” Cait smiled at those initials—more proof, she thought, that she was in the right place, a holy place. Jake grabbed Cait’s hand and whispered that they should take a short break. That was when Erin and Brian saw their chance. Before Jake had a chance to protest, they had grabbed her by the waist and escorted an exhausted Caitlin Doyle Fitzgerald off the stage, whisking her away for a private talk. This time, Brian thought, he’ll make it an ultimatum.