The two of them were going their their pictures on their mobile phones when Valerie saw one that she never expected. Joel had never seen it before but it seemed that Valerie had a history with it.
She stared at it for a few seconds and then painfully looked away. It was clear that the picture had stirred intense emotion deep within her. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she took comfort in Joel’s arms, why did the photo have such an effect on her?
A Trip To The Big Apple
Joel and Valerie had been seeing one another for two years before they decided to travel to New York together. Both of them had grown up in Minnesota, and they were excited to leave their small hometown and experience the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.
The couple had a blast on their trip. They visited the Statue of Liberty, spent a day in Central Park, and went shopping in Times Square. But the part Valerie loved the most was looking for treasure in the old record stores.
After one long day of sightseeing and shopping, the pair were heading back to their hotel when Valerie decided to make a confession. Feeling a sad stab of nostalgia, she opened up to Joel about her love for old record stores.
As they walked, Valerie told him that she had always adored music stores because they reminded her of when she was a little girl. But she didn’t tell him why.
As Valerie spoke, Joel couldn’t help but notice she had a sad look on her face. Her brows were furrowed, her voice grew shaky, and it looked like she was even fighting back tears.
Joel knew Valerie well enough that he decided not to press her about it. But it wouldn’t be long until he discovered the reason for Valerie’s tears.
Going Through The Photos
Back in their hotel room, the couple decided to look at all the stunning pictures they had taken that day. Valerie had a great eye and a natural knack for finding the most beautiful angles of buildings and landmarks – which meant they had dozens of Instagram-worthy pictures.
As she scrolled through, one photo caught her eye. But when she zoomed in to take a closer look, her face became stricken.
It Made Her Cry
Joel had no idea why Valerie suddenly had tears rolling down her face. He couldn’t fathom why a simple picture he’d taken of her posing in a record store had elicited such a strong reaction.
Bewildered, he tried to comfort her. He gently asked her what the matter was, but Valerie couldn’t even speak.
In The Background
Once Valerie had pulled herself together, she tried to make her boyfriend understand why the photo had such an impact on her. Every time she tried, though, she could only stammer through tears.
She pointed at the background, at the record that was behind her in the photo. But Joel just wasn’t getting it.
In the photo he’d taken just a few hours earlier, Valerie was posing inside the record store. Behind her was a black-and-white album cover, but it didn’t mean much to Joel.
Why had this album – Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ – gotten such a surprising response from Valerie? When Joel eventually managed to calm her down, he finally got the answer.
Valerie explained that the album reminded her of a period in her life where her father was still in the picture.
When she was 10 years old, her dad would take her to record stores all the time. His favorite album was Nirvana’s ‘Bleach.’ But there was a lot more to the story than that.
Time She’d Never Get Back
Valerie never spoke about her dad to Joel, but now she was pouring her heart out. She told him that she hadn’t seen or spoken to her dad for years.
They had a terrible fight and she had cut off all contact with him. But now, she was upset that he wasn’t in her life. Joel saw just how upset the situation was making her, so he decided to come up with a plan.
Joel asked Valerie if she wanted to go out onto the streets of New York once more to take her mind off things, but she didn’t want to leave the hotel.
Joel assured her that what he wanted to do wouldn’t take long and she relented. When she saw that they were walking back to the record store, she grew suspicious.
Now She Was Confused
Now it was Valerie’s turn to feel confused. Why had Joel brought her back to the record store when seeing that album cover had upset her so much in the first place?
Joel told her to just trust him, and she did. But what did he have in mind to make her feel better?
Looking For The Record
Joel began to look for the record that he’d accidentally captured in the photo of Valerie. He found the exact place where it had been, but then his heart sank.
It wasn’t there anymore – it must have been sold. But the record had been such a huge part of his plan. What was he going to do now?
Joel approached the man behind the counter and asked about the record. According to the record store employee, he was out of luck… a man had just bought it!
He told Joel that, if he was quick, he might be able to catch him. Joel and Valerie raced out of the record store and onto the bust streets of New York.
Just up ahead, Joel spotted a man with a big bag that looked like it might be from the record store.
Joel caught up to him and tapped him on the shoulder, but he was the wrong man. Devastated, Joel sat down, thinking of where to turn next. But just then, something caught his eye.
Joel noticed the bright yellow logo of the record company bobbing between some people walking ahead. He nudged Valerie, and she saw it too. He quickly ran toward the bag to find its owner.
Joel touched the arm that the bag was attached to. He got a fright when he saw who it belonged to.
The man was startled that someone had touched his arm in the middle of the street and quickly turned around. Joel was even more taken aback at the man’s aggressive response.
The man had long hair. It was dry and greying, and you could see he didn’t take much care of his appearance. He wore a rugged leather jacket that complimented his bushy eyebrows and mustache. He almost looked like a biker, but he wasn’t wearing any colors.
Stranger On The Street
“Hey!” he said and yanked his arm away from Joel. “Who are you?” “Excuse me,” said Joel, “I don’t mean to bother you, but were you just inside that record store?” “What’s it to ya?” the man chuckled and raised his bushy eyebrows.
Valerie walked closer. “Excuse me; we were just in there now, you see,” she said.
A Stranger Heeds
The man turned to look at the other voice addressing him, and his face softened. “Uhm, yes, actually I was,” he said and walked over to the side of the pavement.
Joel held out his hand, “My name is Joel, my friend, and I just wanted to know if you bought a certain record from the store?”
A Stranger Conversation
“The old record store up on the main road,” the man said, pointing his bushy eyebrows toward the direction the couple had just come from.” Yeah, Yeah,” Valerie said, eagerly nodding her head. The man looked Joel up and down, “I was there; what’s it to ya?” he questioned.
A disgruntled mother gave us an annoyed stare because we were standing in the middle of the pavement. “Let’s talk aside,” Joel said with a smile.
An Unexpected Stop
They walked over to a nearby bench, and Joel ushered him to sit down. “Well? He asked again, “What do you want from me?”
Joel and Valerie looked anxiously at each other. The timid girl cleared her throat, “I was just wondering if you perhaps, by any chance, bought a record; it’s an old classic, the band is Nirvana, and the album is called “Bleach”? The man opened his eyes in surprise
A Surprising Find
“Well, what do you know, that is precisely the record I bought today,” the old man said. Valerie and Joel smiled at each other. Valerie asked if she could please see the record just to make sure.
“Why?” asked the man looking confused, “are you really that big of a fan?” He slowly pulled the spotless record from the bag.
It was a real work of art. “That’s the one,” said Joel. “Yeah, a real classic beauty,” the admiring man responded. Joel said, “my fiance and I are big fans, and we were just in the store, waiting to purchase that same record.”
Valerie interrupted, “I’m a childhood fan, and the band reminds me of my father.”
A Touching Story
The man squinted his eyes, “Well, I’m sorry you missed it, but I have also been a fan, and I have been looking for a copy of this record for a while now.” Joel was not about to give up. “We will, of course, pay you for it,” he said.
The man said, “look, I’m sure you’re a good kid, but it’s not for sale.
“Sorry, maybe we ‘got off on the wrong foot, “Joel,” he extended his hand. The man looked and sighed and extended his hand towards Joel,” Bill,” he said. They shook hands and made direct eye contact.
Valerie interrupted, “we will pay you double for it,” she said desperately. “Look, young lady; Bill said,” it’s a rare piece; I’m sure you know that.” “Fine! Triple!” she said
“It’s not about the money; I actually bought it as a gift for a friend,” Bill said, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s his birthday coming up, and he’s my oldest friend, so, you know, sorry, kid,” he gave the couple a bleak look and got up to walk away.
Valerie and Joel were not about to be defeated. It was a sign that she was meant to have this record.
A Strong Sign
Maybe this strange man bill had something to do with it too. She wasn’t sure, but she was going to give up now. “Mr. Bill,” Valerie shouted after him, “please hear me out,” Bill stopped, exasperated.
This girl wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Miss, I said no already,” she interrupted again.
A Sad Story
“Please, Mr. Bill, you don’t know how much this would mean to me that you could do this. My father and I used to listen to this band at the time when I was a child, and it brings me such good memories. Please, I took it as a good sign that I found the record today. Can you understand that?” she pleaded.
“Well, why don’t you get your dad to buy you the record album, sweety,” he said and shrugged his shoulders again, “I can guarantee you that my buddy is a bigger fan than yours.” “Because I haven’t seen my father in over 15 years she cried.”
An Old Memory
The older man froze. He turned to face Valerie. “I sorry to hear that, dear girl; what happened to him, if you don’t mind me asking?” Joel came and put his arms around his girlfriend; he spoke for her, “He left a long time ago. Nobody knows what happened to him. Old Bill listened intently.
Valerie continued; he used to play guitar for a local band. Some say he left the country; others say he joined another band, but I’ve never heard from him since.
Bill looked like he was on to something. “This may sound strange, but what was your father’s name” “His name was Robbie,” Valerie said. Bill looked as though he had seen a ghost. “Well, whaddya know,” he said; my buddy’s name is Rob, and he’s the greatest rockstar around these parts, do you think?” Valerie thought she had misheard.
Did this strange man know who her father was? “He’s been injured, so he’s been keeping a low profile; come to think of it, he did mention once that he had a little girl… I wonder, he trailed off as he stared at Valerie.” You’ve got his eyes,” he said. Joel squeezed Valerie’s hand as she started tearing up. Valerie knew this was the actual sign she had been looking for all along.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.