Burning, aching pain radiates through my feet. I shift my weight from one leg to the other in a futile attempt at relief. I’ve been favoring form over function ever since moving to California, and the boots currently torturing my feet are a prime example. But there’s no room for negativity tonight. Oliver Rose and The Thorns are mere minutes from taking the stage, and nothing else matters.
The air is heavy with anticipation from thousands of restless fans. It’s equal parts exhilarating and nauseating.
I turn to see how Ellie’s holding up. She gazes up at the stage with wide blue eyes. It’s the frightened-but-fascinated face she used to pull during our secret late nights watching horror movies as kids.
“You look so—” I begin teasingly, but the lights dim, and the house music fades to silence. This is it! My adrenaline spikes, and my head whips up to face the stage.
A single spotlight clicks on, illuminating a microphone. The crowd surges forward. It compresses the little breathing room I have left, but none of that matters now. I feel no pain, no weakness. I don’t even notice my feet anymore.
A silhouette moves in the shadows, and suddenly there he is, front and center: Oliver Rose! The crowd erupts, but the resounding music that bursts from the darkened stage quickly drowns our noise.
He’s only feet away! Can this be real? If he reaches into the crowd, I might be able to touch him. My eyes threaten to fill with tears, and I fight them with all the strength I can spare.
Oliver Rose stands as still as a statue, his face down-turned throughout the driving intro of the opening song. He’s an otherworldly creature, so lithe and pale and cast in dramatic shadow. It makes the cheeks of his long, angular face appear hollow. His lips are a shiny silver, which matches the silver stripes painted up each arm and all the way to his neck. His hair is dark and wild and wavy and masks his eyes. He’s even more beautiful in person, and I hadn’t imagined it possible.
He breaks his frozen pose in a sudden dance. His movements are sharp but with an unexpected gracefulness. He’s somewhere inside his head: a man possessed by his music. It’s raw and overwhelming.
I’m filled with sudden regret, and try as I might to push it away, a pit lingers in my stomach as I imagine what it would be like front and center, directly in front of Oliver Rose. I need as little as possible between me and him—fewer obstructions, fewer distractions. Anything farther than the barricade is too far away. Hell, even the barricade is too far from him! We knew we were pushing our luck and taking too long to get ready. If we’d left earlier, perhaps we’d be at the very front instead of our hard-won spot three bodies deep...
Oliver Rose begins to sing. The haunting sound of his sonorous baritone fills every nook of the venue and reverberates in my chest. It gives his voice a depth that doesn’t come across in recordings, even live ones, and I can’t believe I haven’t experienced it until now.
I reach over to grab Ellie’s hand. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather share this moment with. We’ve been through everything together, from our first dance recitals to going to college together to our recent move. She’s the sister I never had, with the same insane love for Oliver Rose and The Thorns as me. Her large, rough hand interlocks its long fingers with mine and gives them a squeeze.
My stomach flips and my cheeks blaze. I jerk my hand away and whip around to search behind me. A tall man with a chiseled, square jaw smirks at me with curved lips, and my stomach flips again. He’s the type of guy I have trouble looking at without blushing because he’s so damn handsome, and here I’ve gone and grabbed his hand!
I clasp my hands together so that they can’t do any more damage.
“Sorry!” I shout with an awkward smile before I throw my attention back to the stage. Oliver will help me forget all about this! He draws me back into his world, back into his music, and everything else fades away.
Three more spotlights click on, finally bringing the band out of their mysterious shadow. Johnny Robinson is directly in front of us, vamping on his custom shiny silver Telecaster. It bounces the swirling, flashing lights into the crowd as he frenetically struts across the stage. His hair is a platinum blond so pale it’s practically translucent, and it’s fluffed up in a soft faux hawk. He has on a long, baggy tank top with a silver sash tied around the middle and those infamously tight black jeans. If he knew how many blog posts were devoted to his bulge...
I see Mickie Barry on the far side of the stage through a cloud of arms, his Union Jack hanging from his bass amp. Even from over here, he looks broad and muscular compared to the others. His hands are so big that they remind me of bear paws, and they easily wrap around his five-string bass. His hair is in yellow-blonde twists, giving his ebony skin a halo.
I can barely see Kevin Lawrence behind his drum kit. Even though he’s so baby-faced he could pass as a teenager, he’s already poured over 20 years into his instrument. His rhythm is steady and tribal, providing the heartbeat for The Thorns’ melancholic songs.
“Thank you, and hello!” Oliver Rose says as the first song ends and rolls into the next.
Hello indeed! I never want a goodbye! Their music was the only thing to take away the numbness I experienced during high school—to help me feel happy, sad, and everything in between again—and finally getting to see them live after all this time means everything to me.
An arm snakes around mine, and my stomach blazes with another icy-hot shot of adrenaline. When I turn to find its source, I see Ellie grinning at me with bright eyes.
Impulsively, I steal a glance at the man behind me, and he catches me with a smirk.
I snap my head back just as Oliver glides toward the edge of the stage right in front of us. We’re close enough that I can hear his actual voice projecting as he belts a note. He sweeps the crowd with his gaze, and I swear he smiles when he looks in our direction. Every time he looks over, it’s like he’s singing directly into my soul. My heart is fizzy, nearly ready to burst. What I wouldn’t give to be in a room alone with that man…
I fall under his spell, and everything other than the band and their music ceases to exist.