BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 25

December 5th, 2016
Hamburg, Germany
Reflections - We are in the crowd

Søren: Would you rather not be able to see any colors or have mild but constant ringing in the ears?

Leah: That’s a hard one!

Søren: I know!

Leah: I think... Not seeing colors.
Couldn’t live without a good hearing.

Søren: Same. Music is life!

Leah: So true!
Okay, hmm...
Would you rather get caught having sex or catch someone else having sex?

Søren: The first one already happened LMAO

Leah: I’m (not) surprised!

Søren: Hahaha, if bandmates like to walk inside of rooms without knocking, they’ll get bare ass fucking, hahaha

Leah: Jesus, haha. Okay, but what would be your answer then?

She thought she was over whatever weird emotions she had for him. She thought it was all platonic, but imagining him having sex with another woman bothered her.

Stupid.

He was a healthy, damn hot, young man, and he had been single since he had broken up with his insanely-long-legs girlfriend a few years before. It was normal that he was sexually active, and Leah was fine with that. She had never cared about his intimate life, but now it stung. She hated that feeling of possession. They were just fucking friends.

You need to get laid. She sighed.

Søren: First one.
You?

Leah: Getting caught

Søren: Kinky!

Leah: Not at all! I already suffered the second with Chris and God knows that scene’s staying with me forever.

Søren: LMAO

Leah: For real, it’s in my top five of nightmares, and anecdotes to tell, hahaha.

Søren: Hahaha, so you better not catch me doing anything inappropriate or you’ll tell everyone while you laugh at me. Noted.

Leah: The more you try to act normal, the more you’ll mess up and the more ammunition you’ll give me. Just saying.

Søren: Lol, okay, okay.

Leah: Fuck! It’s 2am, dude.
I should go to bed, gotta work early tomorrow.

Søren: Of course!
I’m gonna try to sleep again. Love the free days.

Leah: I bet, haha. Sleep tight.

Søren: You too


December 9th, 2016
Hamburg, Germany

The view from the van as they traveled to Hamburg under a starry sky was stunning, but going back to that city put Leah in an alert, tense state of mind. It wasn’t even seven in the afternoon, but winters were always pretty dark—she loved it though.

It was a lovely area. Great universities, lively nightlife, beautiful architecture, history and a river that gave the surroundings a decadent, romantic air. However, she couldn’t help but connect it to her personal hell on earth.

Since Ryker went to prison, she hadn’t set foot that far north, but all those swirling and disturbing memories made her go back in time.

Leah took a deep breath and shook her head. Her past had been very present in her life for some time now and she didn’t know why. Okay, maybe she knew why, and maybe that reason had a shape, a face, and a last name.

As time had passed, they had gotten closer. Or something like that. They didn’t talk every day, but it definitely had turned into a habit. Every day before and after a concert they would share their impressions of it, but they also sent each other random pictures or shit they found online, played stupid question games, or simply made small talk.

“You alright?” Chris asked her in a low voice, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Yeah... This feels weird.” She shrugged, trying to diminish the importance of those emotions.

“You’ll be fine, he can’t hurt you anymore.”

He knew what she was thinking just by the expression on her face—brows furrowed and mouth twisted as she desperately skinned her lips with her teeth.

“I know... I feel kind of nostalgic, to be honest. I always loved this city and everything it offered me.” She gave him a half-smile. “I hate that he made me hate it.”

“I get what you mean... But now you can create new memories.” He smiled at her.

“Yeah.” She grinned. That was easier said than done, but she appreciated it. Besides she knew he was right. Avoiding going there, hiding at home, wouldn’t help her move on.

Chris nodded and after staring deep into her eyes, making sure she was fine, he put his headphones on again and leaned back in his seat. Leah looked at him for a couple of minutes, then at Marc and Erik, who were sitting in the front part of the vehicle. The drummer was driving, tapping the steering wheel with his fingers, following the tempo of the song playing through the speakers. The bassist, as always, was sleeping.

Leah bit the inside of her cheek and smiled.

After a hard week, recording the video for the single of their new album, doing a promotional photoshoot for it, and working their normal jobs, they deserved that. It had been some time since they last went on a trip together and, even though that one was work related, she loved it. The four of them together doing a road journey, there was something magical about it.

Grabbing her pen, she got ready to keep writing the lyrics of a song that had been running around inside her mind for a while but then, the phone vibrated in her bag.

She leaned forward, pressing her chin on the door of the van, opening her bag and searching inside of it for the annoying device. They were carrying so many things they barely had space for themselves. Once she found it, she sat like a normal person again and unlocked the screen, unable to hold the chuckle in when she saw Søren’s name on the notification answering a text she had sent him before they hit the road.

Søren: Hey

Leah: How are you?

Søren: Good

Leah: How was the concert? Yokohama, right?

Søren: Yeah. And it was good.

He typed for a few seconds and then stopped. Nothing coming in. His previous answers being kind of short and evasive told Leah something was wrong.

Leah: What’s wrong?

Søren: It’s just...
I love Japan, and I wanted to spend a few days touring when we were done, but now I wish we could go back already...

Leah: ??

Søren: Frida, Ian’s wife, fell down the stairs yesterday.

Leah: Omg! What?

Søren: She’s alright, but since she’s having twins, she’s considered high risk, so they’re keeping her in the hospital for observation for a few weeks. Then she’ll have to be on bed rest at home until the babies come.
So we’re not in the mood, you know...

Leah: Yeah, I totally get that...
That’s bad enough at any time, but you being away... Is Ian going back?

Søren: Yeah. Mikael is sending him home tomorrow. We just have two concerts left after this one and his guitar tech can play for him in those.
It’ll suck for fans, but you know, this is more important.

Leah: Yeah...

As they kept talking, they changed the topic because Søren didn’t want to keep thinking about it—not that she could blame him. Having part of your family involved in an accident, lots of bleeding and you not being there sucked. If it was her in that position, she would have been a damn mess.

The conversation bounced from his side business to her work and her dad, who was still recovering from his injury. She was glad he felt comfortable enough to talk about those things with her, but she wanted to know more, she wanted to know about those things he dodged like a champion during his interviews.

She was aware of Alex’s harsh childhood since he never avoided the questions when someone asked him about his life before the band. She knew how Jørn and Ian had met when they were very young and had been inseparable since then. She knew the four members of Dark Omen had met after Alex and Søren had put an announcement in a bar asking for a guitar player and a drummer that wanted to join their project for a band. She even knew he had a cat.

However, other than Søren’s parents had divorced when he was little and that he had a brother he hadn’t talked to in years, she didn’t know anything else.

Even though they had been texting each other for some time, he had never talked about his childhood, not even a small detail. The only thing he had ever mentioned about his teenage years was that he had met Alex when he was fourteen and they lived with the same foster family, something she already knew.

But why did he end up in an orphanage if his mother was as loving as he described her? What had happened? What was he hiding? Or was he just being cautious, protecting her from all the public lifestyle? Whatever it was, Leah was truly curious, but she didn’t feel confident enough to ask him about such intimate things. So, instead, and in an attempt to distract him, she started playing their usual questions game.

Leah: I’m sorry... But we’re arriving. Gotta go. Have lots of shit to do.

Søren: Sure

Leah: Try to sleep or you won’t make it to tomorrow

Søren: Ugh... Yeah.

Have fun and let me know about the results of the BOTB

Leah: Sure!

Søren: Night!

Leah: Night

“Dude...” Leah called Chris, softly shaking him as he had fallen asleep, cheek pressed to the window. “Dude, we’re in Hamburg.”

“Huh?” He asked with a groggy voice.

“We’re here.” She motioned with her head.

“Finally,” Chris muttered as he stretched. “Dude,” he called Marc, then kicked the back of his seat.

“Fuck!” the bass player snapped as he opened his eyes. “What?” he asked as he took one of his headphones off.

“We’re here.”

Erik, who had been in his own world the entire trip, chuckled.

“Aah... Yesss,” Marc sighed, still half asleep.

“Ready to see your mom?” Chris asked him in a mocking tone of voice.

“Oh hell, no!” He woke up in a second.

The whole band laughed as the long-haired guy kept whining about how he could barely breathe after she hugged him like a momma bear—though Leah had been told she was more or less her same frame. But it was so obvious he was excited about visiting his mother. The bass player had moved to the south of the country following the girl he was dating when he was eighteen, staying there when they broke up because he had already built himself a life.

He had always been one of those free spirit kinds of people, letting the wind and his dreams carry him anywhere. He could have his own fears and problems, just like everyone else, but the way he faced them, the way he lived his life, so carefree and honest, made Leah envy him a little, secretly wishing she could be like that one day.

“Are you sure it’s okay that we all go there?” the girl asked him.

“Dude, my mom lives for this.” He laughed. “Don’t worry.”

“Okay, okay.” She chuckled.

She was the only one that didn’t know his family yet. Since the guys knew each other for a long time they had traveled north several times together and already knew most of his siblings. Leah had been part of the band for two years and knew them for a few more, but whenever he went to visit his mother, even if Chris and Erik joined them, she stayed at home. However, this time she couldn’t say no, they had work to do and, well, it was about time she started to get out of her comfort zone.

The drive to his old neighborhood, which was pretty colorful and fairytale-like, wasn’t long once they had entered the harbour city, and by the time they were stopping in front of the main door, a woman with grey hair and blue eyes opened it, smiling at them as she waved her hand.

“Welcome to the jungle!” Marc said in a singing tone.

It didn’t take long for Leah to understand what he meant. There wasn’t only his mother there but all of his brothers and sisters. Knowing the second youngest of the Zimmer’s was coming home made the rest want to come to visit and see him too.

Marc was part of a large family—seven siblings total—and since his father had died when he was ten in a work accident, they all had gotten even closer than they already were. The eldest always helping the youngest and their mother so they could have a roof over their heads and food on their plates. It must have been really hard for all of them, but what they never lacked was affection.

The evening was lively and crazy, fifteen adults and five kids running around the house, two dogs included. They talked about everything and anything, focusing on the concert they had the next day.

Some of them teased Marc really bad throughout the night, but the unconditional devotion and pride they felt for him, for each other, was palpable. One could only breathe love inside that house.

Leah had been kind of jittery about everything for the last week. Thinking about a certain Norse man more than she wanted, worried about the concert, and about her father, who never told her when something happened and had finally confessed he had been resting at home for two weeks already after falling down the stairs and breaking an arm.

Life was good and it wasn’t that she ever wanted to be famous, but why would someone participate in a competition and not try to win? The idea was making her anxious but that family, their way of taking things and living life, had a soothing effect on her.

She relaxed and by the time they made it to the hotel she was more than ready to enjoy the weekend, the music, and whatever else came her way.


December 10th, 2016
Hamburg, Germany

The spotlights were blinding and the heat soaring was numbing, but it still felt like heaven. Whistles, cheers, and praise, she felt it all running through her veins as her heart pounded hard in her ribcage.

She was happy for being up there, but also for having been the bravest she had been in a while that morning.

While the guys went touring during the morning, so they had enough time to prepare everything for the evening event, she had taken a bus to her old neighborhood.

She hadn’t been there in almost five years, hadn’t talked to anyone that belonged to that terrifying past, but she wanted to talk to her, to let her know she was okay. To thank her for saving her.

With her stomach twisted in knots and her skin crawling, she knocked on the door, shifting her weight on one foot, then the other, chewing the inside of her cheek as she waited.

Two minutes had passed, and no one opened. Leah rang the bell again.

Maybe she’s at work. Or maybe she’s moved.

She had just turned around, ready to go back to her friends, when a sweet voice called out from behind

“Leah?”

“Hey, Marie...” She gave her a half-smile, unsure of what to do next.

“Oh, my God!” The blond woman launched herself on the singer, hugging her tight, bringing tears of joy to her eyes. “You made it...” Her old neighbor whispered, sobbing.

Marie invited her in, asked her to tell her everything about her life during the last years, grinning from ear to ear the entire time. They had lunch together and coffee afterward.

Watching her light brown eyes shimmering with a painful happiness, soft wrinkles framing them, put Leah at ease. The burden they both were carrying around lightening.

She had to do that not only for herself but for Marie too. She had helped her and it was her chance to return the favor, make her know that her job and her words mattered. That even if she couldn’t help her sister, she had saved her life. Saying she was grateful for her wasn’t even close to the emotions flooding her at that moment.

It wasn’t much, but talking to her, facing part of her past, taking that step forward, freed her in a way. It felt as if she had been climbing a mountain for years; exhausted, heavy, and sore. Finally reaching the top, deeply breathing the clean, cold air of that isolated yet beautiful place. Far away from society, far away from all the earthly pain.

As she came back to the real world, breathing uneven and fast, she opened her arms and threw her head back, right foot still on the box in front of her with the skirt of her knee-length, black matte, faux leather cheongsam* falling between her legs. Chest rising and falling as her lips curled up in a proud smile.

The music wrapped around her, cradling her as they approached the end of their last song.

All the bands that played that day were the winners of the previous phase in their states, meaning that the competition was going to be fiercer, but at that moment Leah didn’t care at all.

She felt alive.

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