BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 12

October 23rd, 2016
Munich, Germany
Bury me alive - We are the fallen

After teasing her about Søren for some time and scolding her when they found out about her punching James when they saw her reddened, swollen hand, the three members of Buried Alive went back home. It was late, and the main reason for them to be there that night and not their usual bar had already flown too.

They called a cab and, once they had dropped Marc in front of his apartment, Leah and Chris continued their ride back home.

Lost in thought, Leah tranced. She still couldn’t believe she had been so close to Søren, much less that she had snapped at him the way she did… She was so angry at James and so nervous, she couldn’t control her mouth. Why was she like that?

As if someone had pressed the fast forward button, images of the whole night replayed in her mind, slowing down at that moment where their eyes met through the flashing illumination and violent notes flying in the air. She was so dazed by his light she couldn’t see anything else, but when they were together, alone in that bathroom, she had to remind herself to breathe. The moment he touched her, an electric shock went straight to her heart, as if she had been defibrillated. How could a single person cause such uproar inside of her?

“Dude, where in Fucktopia are you?”

“Huh?”

“Nothing,” Chris said, shaking his head and laughing.

“I was just saying that Erik and Julia had left soon…” He wiggled his eyebrows.

“What?” Leah turned her head toward him.

They had all been together during the first couple of hours of the night, Julia included. Later, she had to go to talk with some big ass businessman and Erik went to talk with the members of a band he used to listen to a lot when he was younger. Then, she went to the bathroom and lost the rest of the movie.

The guitarist laughed. “When he came back from talking with Blue Heart’s members, I saw him talking to her in a very lovey-dovey way. She didn’t reject him and I never saw either of them after that.”

“He finally had the balls to try?” Leah chuckled.

“Seems like it.”

“It was about time…” Leah breathed out as she turned her head towards the window again. Erik wasn’t the kind of guy who enjoyed having fuckbuddies. He did for a while after his awful breakup but not anymore. He was sweet, gentle, and the kind of person one could blindly trust. A prince in shining armor with surfer shoulder-length, blond hair, and tattoos. “I don’t get how he can be friends with you, he’s so different!” Leah said out of the blue.

“He shouldn’t be friends with you either then,” Chris retorted, pinching her side, a smug smile painted on his face.

“I don’t have a different person in my bed every damn week and, for sure, I’m not a skirt-chaser.”

“Me neither, they come to me,” he said, a cocky expression covering his face.

Their weak, uncontrollable laughter filled the car for several minutes. They were so tired they ended up crying and snorting at the stupidest things.

As time passed alcohol worked its way deep into her blood. The ride wasn’t long, but Leah’s eyelids were heavy and the glass of the car window felt somehow comfy. Too many emotions for one night.

“Hey, Leah. We’re home,” Chris said in that sweet tone of voice he always used to wake her up—he knew better than to mess with her when she was sleeping.

“Hmm…” She tried to speak, but she couldn’t put two and two together at that moment.

Chris handed the driver money and helped her out. With a blurry sight, she followed him. When they got inside their building, she sighed, grateful for the warmth wrapping around her as the door closed behind them. It wasn’t the coldest night but being so close to November sure made the weather cooler.

“You have any plans for tomorrow?” Chris asked as they stepped into the elevator.

“To die?” She yawned.

“Jesus! You’re twenty-six, but you already behave like an old lady.”

“Leave me alone! You know I’m horrible with handling my alcohol.”

“Yeah…” He chuckled as he opened the door to their apartment. “Anyway, wanna have one last drink now?”

“Are you serious? You want me to end up with alcohol poisoning?”

He took out his phone from his jeans pocket, looked at the screen, and then put it in front of her face. “It’s not even four AM. You barely had three drinks all night, and two of them were fucking beers!” Chris laughed.

“Are you counting the ones at the concert? ’Cause I remember I had like two of those massive cups and that’s like an extra liter to add to the mix.”

“We’ve been drinking since six, it doesn’t count!”

“It does!”

“You’re not even slurring!”

“You know what? I’m not in the mood to deal with two Chris’!” Leah waved her hand as she went to her room, grinning. She wasn’t seeing double, but her eyes were having a really hard time focusing on anything. She couldn’t even read the numbers on Chris’s phone before and her brain was slower than a sloth.

Shaking her head, and still smiling at their silly conversations, Leah unzipped her boots and kicked them off. Her t-shirt followed them to the floor. She then walked into her bathroom and unbuttoned her jeans, throwing them in the laundry bag.

When she turned around, ready to clean her face from all the makeup she wasn’t used to wearing, she froze. Jaw clenched. Eyebrows creased together. She raised her right hand, fingers brushing over her left arm. It wasn’t striking, but the mark from his grip was there, reminding her of the nasty discussion she had two hours before.

James had traveled to Munich to take pictures of the concerts in the two-day festival. Being part of the press allowed him to go to the after-party as well. He had been watching her there for some time before he approached her. She had seen him. His eyes nailed to the back of her head was very disturbing.

Chris and Marc tensed the moment he got closer, but she didn’t want them to get into a fight, not there with so many people around. So, she asked him to go somewhere more private for them to talk.

He started smoothly, telling her he wanted her, that he was willing to leave his wife. Even if he was telling the truth there was no way she would accept. He was a lying prick and she didn’t want anything to do with him—the sex wasn’t even that good.

When she didn’t give in and told him to fuck off, he turned rough. His tone of voice became aggressive and he grabbed her by the arm, pinning her to the wall with a strength she didn’t know he had.

The last time adrenaline had run through her veins like it did that night she promised herself she wouldn’t be a victim again. That was when she punched him. Her father had taught her some self-defense after what happened to her so she would feel safer to go out alone.

She looked at herself in the mirror. Biting on her bottom lip to try to stop the tears and the intrusive thoughts already creeping up, waving at her from the dark. That greenish mark would go away in a couple of days, but it still made her feel dirty.

Why do I always end up in these kinds of situations? Is this some sick prank? A game that fate is playing?— Maybe it’s just some congenital stupidity that is pushing you to be like this. There’s a reason why you don’t trust many people yet you talked to him alone. You had sworn over your dead body something like this would never happen again. But here we are.

Flashes from the past flooded her mind. A horror movie burned in her retinas.

As the spiraling tide made its way down her throat and into her lungs, panic took over her brain. Leah crouched down, her hands gripping to the edge of the sink as if it were a lifesaver. Head ducked between her arms.

She tried to calm down, deeply inhaling, and exhaling a few times. Then, she started counting by sevens backward from one thousand.

It wasn’t working.

How could something so stupid affect her like that?

The lack of air began to feel like a ton of cement pressing on her chest. It was so painful, dizzying. Her muscles seized up.

“Are you deaf or—” Chris’s voice barely audible as her heart pounded hard in her ears. “Leah! Shit!” He ran to her. “I’m gonna grab you to help you lay down, okay?”

She nodded. Eyes squeezed shut.

It had been a long time since something like that happened, but it wasn’t the first time so he knew how to handle her. Time had taught him not to try to understand what was going on and simply act.

Chris wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her towards his body, slowly laying her on the floor. Then, he sat close to her head, leaving her enough space to go back to a stable state of mind.

“I know you’re already trying, but you have to slow your breathing or you’ll pass out,” he said as he touched her hair. “You’re stronger than this, Baby girl.”

She didn’t know what she had done to deserve such a good friend. He had always been there when she needed him the most, but she hadn’t been there when he had needed her.

When his parents got divorced after his father had left his mother for a younger woman, Camille—his mother—lost herself into the dark void of depression, leaving Chris and Marie to their fate for some time. They were like a family for her and she hadn’t been there to support them when they needed her the most.

“Leah, please… Focus on my voice.”

“I’m so sorry…” she sobbed, the pressure in her chest unbearable.

“What? Why?”

“You’re always helping me, but I wasn’t there for you when—”

“Stop it. We’ve already had this conversation. Leah, you were fighting your own war at that moment… You had to save yourself.”

“Still…” She sniffled.

“You have to let go, there’s nothing to forgive. We’re all happy you came back…”

Focusing on his voice and how good the massage he was giving to her head felt was helping. Her heart was still palpitating fast and she still felt feeble but didn’t feel that suffocating sensation anymore.

“Thanks…” she said with a strangled voice.

“No need. We have each other’s backs, right?” His head hovered over hers as he smiled at her, blue eyes shimmering with affection.

“Yeah…” She returned the smile.

What would I do without you?


Her phone chiming woke her up. Leah didn’t know what time it was, but she felt like crap. Straightening her arm, she tapped on the night table looking for her device. She rubbed her eyes and yawned, turning to see Chris lying beside her, his back towards her. He was still wearing his clothes from the night before, which made her feel bad.

Once she had calmed down, he left her alone so she could take a shower and put on her pajamas while he made some hot chocolate for both of them. Then, he jumped in bed with her, making some small talk until she gave in and fell asleep.

She was better now than she was years before but, with the intrusive thoughts still haunting her from time to time, making her feel as if she wasn’t worth enough, Leah knew she still had a long way to go.

I’m gonna need to call the doctor. She sighed.

She hadn’t had a panic attack for months until her psychologist told her therapy was close to being finished. She felt she couldn’t do it by herself, but Dr. Schneider proved her wrong by making appointments just once a month for some time before it was finally over.

That had happened a year and four months before. Leah only went to see her now every four months for checkups, and to get the prescriptions from the psychiatrist at the clinic for tranquilizers if she needed them.

Shaking all that from her mind because there was no use to it until she talked to her doctor, she focused on her phone. Who was texting her so early in the morning?

11:33 A.M.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that early.

When she unlocked the screen, she had to look at it twice. Her breath caught in her throat as her brain was trying to process the information before her eyes.

Søren: Morning.
How’s ur hand doing?

Not sure about what she was doing because it felt as if she was still in a dream, she bit her bottom lip to hold the stupid grin that was threatening to spread across her face as she texted him back, his answer coming in quick after that.

Leah: It’s good, thanks for asking.
I hope Alex is better too.

Søren: Yeah. Thanks.
Have any plans today?

Leah: Not really

Søren: Meet me for lunch?

Leah: Aren’t you leaving for Norway?

Søren: Tonight

“What’s up?” Chris’s sleepy voice startled her.

“Huh?”

“Your face’s creepy.”

“I... Søren... he wants to meet me for lunch.”

“You said yes, right?” He arched an eyebrow, his hair a complete mess as he rubbed a hand over his face.

“Haven’t answered yet... Should I accept his invitation?” Her eyes moved between the device in her hand and her friend’s face.

“Okay, let me break this for you.” Chris sat up in bed. “For whatever reason he’s interested in you. He gave you that VIP ticket and—”

“He told me it was in exchange for the guitar because he felt he hadn’t paid enough.”

Chris stared at her for a few seconds without saying anything, brows furrowed and mouth twisted as he chewed the inside of his cheek—something he did a lot when he was thinking. “Whatever. He helped you last night and is asking you out now. He clearly wants to see you again. His intentions? I don’t know, but you won’t find out unless you go have lunch with him.”

“Yeah... but didn’t you want to spend the day watching movies and invite the guys over so we could interrogate Erik?”

She needed an excuse to say no. Not being able to control the reactions her body had to him made her feel anxious—and overexcited.

“Yes, but we can do that tonight, or any other day. This only happens once in life, maybe twice. Whatever. Just fucking tell him yes!” He pushed her out of bed.

“Okay, okay...” Leah chuckled.

As annoying as he could be with his sarcastic attitude, he was interesting—for Christ’s sake! He was one of her favorite musicians in the whole fucking world and he was too hot for his own good. She was nervous about meeting that imposing human being, but the truth was she was dying to see him again.

Leah: Okay. Where?

Søren: What do you want to eat?

Leah: I’m up for anything.

Søren: Pizza?

Leah: Sounds good to me.

Søren: La Calabrisella at 1?

Leah: Perfect

Søren: See you later

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