BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 27

January 14th, 2017
Vienna, Austria
You’re going down - Sick Puppies

The three weeks of vacation flew by in the blink of an eye. It seemed like it was yesterday when they were coming back from Japan, but Dark Omen had already played in the Scandinavian countries, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. That night had been their seventh concert in the last nine days.

Saying that life had been hectic and exhausting since they started that tour was an understatement, but instead of going back to the hotel and resting for the road trip they had the next afternoon, they were inside a cab.

Buried Alive was playing in Vienna that same night, and even though Søren knew they wouldn’t make it to the concert as it was already past midnight, he wanted to at least be there when the results were announced.

Leah had acted weird for a few days after their second round in the Battle of the Bands, but she told him she had been a bit busy traveling back home and taking care of her father, who had broken an arm. Soon after that, she went back to her normal self. Nervous and euphoric. Between jokes and whatnot, she had been rambling nonstop about the last phase of the competition for a week—so did the guys, with whom they all had talked with from time to time too.

The German band was genuine, selfless and fun, and that wasn’t common in their world. Of course, they weren’t the only musician colleagues they had outside of their group, but normalcy was rare—calling someone a friend and actually trusting them was like finding a pink unicorn.

Meeting with friends and relaxing with them wasn’t the usual anymore. Their tour dates sometimes overlapped with the others vacations, side jobs, interviews or whatever events they had. Though that happened to everyone. Growing older, having different interests, living in different cities, it was hard to keep in touch. But making time for them, supporting each other in the crucial moments, was what really mattered.

So, there they were, driving to the other side of the city to be with Buried Alive on that important night. Everyone except the bass player.

Alex had been in a cranky mood for weeks, so he went back to the hotel with Astrid, who had accompanied them on the tour as an assistant—though Søren had the feeling it was because Henrik, her asshole of a boyfriend, was on that tour too.

Tired of his self-destructive behavior and shit, the singer decided to enjoy at least one fucking night. No worries. No drama. Just friends and music.

Moving in his seat, trying to get his phone out of the pocket of his jeans, he bucked his hips.

“What are you doing?” Ian chuckled as he averted his eyes from his own device.

“Trying to get my phone?” Søren told him. “What do you think?”

“Don’t know, dude, stretching your one-eyed monster? Getting it ready for a ride?” the Irish laughed at his own stupid joke.

Søren stared at him for a few seconds, and then burst out laughing. He couldn’t deny that with the passing of time his obsession with that woman had grown deep.

The jokes that had started as innocent flirting had recently turned into sexual tension one could cut with a knife, making him replay in his mind that hot, ephemeral moment they shared almost three months before.

It was just a fucking kiss, but it had been a while since he had felt that fire burning from within. Yeah, he had a couple of steamy, smutty nights during the last tour after the hussy, cumlover Chinese woman. He even had sex with one of his old, regular booty calls back in Norway. The chick was fairly bland, but he didn’t care, even after a year without talking she was more than willing to get some dick, which was all he needed at the moment.

However, none of those one-nights made his body react the same way Leah did.

“Is that a yes?”

“No! Dude, we’re just friends...”

“Yeah, right, and Frida and I are brother and sister.” Ian snorted.

“Ew, dude!” Jørn commented from the passenger’s seat, turning to look at his friend with disgust. “Can you be any more explicit and gross?”

“I’m just saying.” The guitar player shrugged.

“Whatever.” Søren chuckled.

When he finally got the fucking device and unlocked it, sliding his thumb over the screen he went to his WhatsApp. But as his eyes landed on the first conversation, the one he had with Astrid during the previous night, the memories of the fatidic Christmas they’d had invaded his mind.

He had just taken his mother back to her residence after having her at home for ten days. He’d promised to visit her on Sunday too since he had been out for a month and he would be leaving soon again, then drove to the bar where the guys were waiting for him. They had closed for Christmas, but it was already the thirtieth. It was a Friday, so it was time to open the club again.

After a couple of hours talking and laughing at some stupid anecdotes in their small, private lounge, Alex had left for the bathroom.

He was gone for more than half an hour when Astrid peeked inside the room. “Søren… Brit is here. With Alex.” Astrid was obviously worried, and he couldn’t blame her, since that redhead was known in the area for her shady dealings.

“What the fuck?” Ian spat.

“I’ll take care of it,” Søren said as he got up, already fuming. “You go back to the bar with Hilde, I’ll kick her out.” He rubbed Astrid’s back as they walked out into the corridor.

“Don’t be too harsh on Alex, okay?”

“I’ll see what I can do.” He huffed, rolling his eyes. He wanted to smack himself for letting him do whatever he wanted, and smash his face for being so stupid. Drinking a beer here and there and smoking weed once in a while during the tour to calm the nerves was bad, but pills and cocaine were fucking apocalypses.

“What the fuck’s wrong with you?” Søren snapped at his friend when he entered the bathroom and saw him taking a small plastic bag with white dust

“What?” Alex shrugged as if it was nothing, continuing with his transaction and giving the chick some folded bills.

“What’s she doing here?” Søren asked. They had banished her from the club when a nineteen-year-old guy that used to hang around there died—in his house—after he injected himself with the heroin she gave him.

“I invited her.”

“Seriously, dude? I thought you were done with that shit, you promised Astrid you’d call her when you felt the urge.” A strange mix of rage and concern swirled inside his chest as he tried to contain the frustration of seeing his friend going back to poisoning himself.

“I think he’s old enough to make his own decisions,” the red-haired countered.

“Shut the fuck up,” Søren growled. “And fucking leave!”

“Whatever,” she scoffed. “See you, Alex. Asshole…” she muttered, glaring at Søren before slamming the door shut behind her.

“Are you going to stay and watch?” the bassist asked, looking at him with that condescending air Søren knew so well.

“What else have you had?” Søren walked towards him, jaw and fists clenched. Veins pulsating hard in his neck. He was shamelessly preparing a damn line in his face.

“It’s not your fucking business,” Alex said before leaning forward.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Søren pushed him, forcing him to look him in the eye. His dilated pupils confirming his suspicions.

“I just needed to relax and have one more trip, okay? I got it under control, stop worrying and controlling me as if you were my fucking father.”

“The fuck you do, you had a fucking overdose five months ago and that almost cost us our participation in the Burn to Rise festival next year. I didn’t want to be a pain in your ass, but—”

“That’s all you care about, huh?” Alex looked at Søren.

“What?” Søren frowned, confused.

He knew what he was doing; he wanted to make him mad. That self-destructive attitude always resurfacing when he was high. But something in his tone of voice bothered him more than it usually did.

“Don’t worry, I can know how to behave, it’s not like I’ll end up punching someone to death.” A wicked smirk spread on his face.

Søren saw red.

There was one time in his entire life when Søren had really lost his shit. He was so high that after a drunkard provoked him; he didn’t think twice and started beating the shit out of him. If it weren’t for his friends who were there to stop him, he would have killed the man.

Engulfed in wrath he launched himself over him and after crashing his almost empty glass of Bourbon on his head, he started pummeling the man’s face as if it was a punching bag, trying to erase the stupid, satisfied grin of the man he hated the most.

When he woke up the day after, handcuffed to a hospital bed with a terrible pain wrapping around his face and back, he didn’t remember anything except his father’s face in the shape of a creepy mask staring and laughing at him.

His mind had played tricks on his eyes because the stranger he had beaten up didn’t look anything like him, something he found out when the police interrogated him and showed him a picture of the man before their fight, telling him he had been admitted to the ICU with several broken bones and a concussion.

It was a day that marked a before and after in his life, one of the biggest regrets.

As much as he wanted to control himself, he couldn’t, his friend using such an awful event against him, knowing how miserable he felt even though the man had recovered months later, twisted his guts.

Next thing he knew, he was punching Alex.

His phone vibrating in his hand as they walked out of the cab snapped Søren back to the real world. Clenching his jaw, he checked the new notification, sour expression immediately changing to a smile when he saw it was Leah.

Leah: How can you get eight holes in one?

Søren: Surprise me

Leah: Getting a flute up your ass

Søren: Wtf, Jäger!?

Leah: HAHAHAHA
OMG! I’m so hyped

Søren: Drunk?

Leah: No! They’re announcing the results in 20min

Søren: Nice

Leah: You already played, right?

Søren: Yup

Leah: Everything okay?

Søren: Yeah, why?

Leah: Your answers seem kinda short

Søren: Nah, just busy

Leah: Hm, okay

Søren: How’s your father doing btw?

Leah: He’s alright. I think. I spent the whole month at home but he told me to come back to Munich. So f stubborn.

Søren: Sounds like someone I know...

Leah: Shut up!

Søren: Where are you?

Leah: Stuck to the bar. Where do you think I’d be with the beer sponges I have for friends?

That was all he needed to know.

They had been there before so he knew the place and, even though it was huge, the bar area wasn’t so big, and the person in charge knew who they were, so he would let them in even without a ticket—no questions asked.

As the three musicians made their way through the crowd, heads turning in their direction when people recognized them, his phone vibrated again.

Leah: What are you up to now, guys?
Some crazy party with chicks? Sleeping?

He didn’t answer because they had already spotted the members of Buried Alive. Leah was sitting on a stool, her back to them, and Erik beside her. She turned her face to him and smiled at something he was telling her. Chris and Marc seemed to be having a very interesting and fun conversation as both of them were gesturing a lot and laughing.

As they got closer, the guitarist saw them coming, but before he could react, Søren approached Leah from behind and leaning forward he whispered in her ear, “what about coming to see you?”

“Oh my God! What are you doing here?” A high-pitched voice he hadn’t heard before left her mouth as she turned to him, shocked.

With a hand on her chest and her lips just a few inches away from his, she beamed. His eyes plunged into hers, electricity sparking his body when that haunted forest of greens and browns trapped him. She didn’t move as she had done in the past when he got too close. Her sweet, peachy scent intoxicating him, making his fucking dick twitch.

“Well, we thought we’d come to support you,” Ian replied, forcing the beast to get back in the cage.

“But shouldn’t you be resting for the next gig or something?” Marc asked them as he shook Jørn’s hand.

“It’s on Monday so we still have time to rest, besides it’s not like we’re the ones driving.” He chuckled.

“Thanks,” Erik shook his hand.

After greeting one another, Dark Omen’s members ordered their drinks, and they all moved to a side of that huge industrial building.

The organizing committee had probably rented that location for the event because it was a huge facility perfectly made for concerts. It had dressing rooms in the back, a good stage prepared with great illumination and acoustically adapted, as well as a bar, bathroom and different lounge areas. Søren loved the forsaken atmosphere, the sound and the people.

“So, are you nervous?” Jørn asked them, sipping from his beer.

“You bet!” Chris anxiously laughed. “To be honest, we didn’t expect to get here.”

“Yeah... And the bands that have played tonight were amazing,” Leah said.

“We’ve watched the videos of the second round and if you’ve done half as good, I bet my arm you’re going to win this one too.” Ian reassured them.

“Dude, I’m glad you believe in us so much but bet something else, don’t wanna lose such a talented musician over that.” Erik chuckled.

“So, how’s the two-day concert been?” Søren asked.

“Brutal.” Marc grinned. “Some bands were top-notch. There’s one from Sweden that’s booming. It’s one of the favorites”

“Well, wonderful countries have good shit coming out of them,” Jørn said with fake arrogance.

“Of course!” Leah laughed..

“I liked the Croatians,” Chris declared.

“Oh, yeah, their drummer was the best I’ve seen in a long time!” Marc agreed.

“Excuse me!” Jørn and Erik exclaimed at the same time.

“Jeez... You’re so testy!” He rolled her eyes.

“Which one you’d say was the best?” Ian asked Leah and Erik.

“I like the girl band from Poland,” Erik noted. “They had this Led Zeppelin mixed with Janis Joplin vibe. It was outstanding.”

“Oh my God, yeah! But I loved the band from the UK. They’re one of the favorites.”

“Some kind of new wave, gothic punk shit, I guess?” Søren quipped.

“You have a problem with that?” Leah narrowed her eyes at him, lips tight in a fake scowl.

“Not at all!” He put his hands up in surrender. He liked almost all kinds of music, but he loved teasing her more.

“Hm... You better!”

“They were pretty decent.” Marc nodded. “And more melodic than one would expect. Their lyrics were dark as fuck and they use this synthesizer in some of their songs that adds a sinister air.”

“And the singer had a very interesting timbre,” Erik commented.

“Yeah, it was touching,” Leah said.

“Ugh! Whatever! I just want the wait to be over, it’s getting on my nerves.” Chris huffed.

“I second that, I’ve been picking my nails since the beginning of the day and at this rate I’m gonna end up having a heart attack,” Leah admitted.

“You just have a few more minutes so the torture will be over soon,” Jørn told them after checking the time on his phone and showing it to them.

00:57 AM

“I’m gonna drink into oblivion so I can stop thinking about this!” Leah announced.

“Cheers to that!” Chris clinked his drink to hers.

“Anyway, where’s your next gig?” Erik asked them, changing the topic.

“Zurich,” Søren replied.

“Nice! It’s a pretty city,” Chris said.

“Yeah.”

“By the way, where’s Alex?” Marc asked out of the blue.

“... He wasn’t feeling very well, some light fever.” Ian explained.

“That sucks, I hope he gets better for your next concert, it sucks to play like that.”

Leah glanced at Søren, looking for confirmation.

He hadn’t told her what had happened exactly, but two days after the fight they had another unpleasant encounter and when she texted him and asked him if he was okay after being utterly cold with her, Søren exploded.

He told her how Alex was acting like a childish brat again, hanging out with some old nasty friends and how he had argued about it because his attitude was affecting the band.

At that moment, he didn’t say anything, just sipped from his non-alcoholic beer, averting his eyes. But that probably confirmed her suspicions.

They continued making some small talk for another five minutes and then the lights on the stage came on. White illumination blinding everyone when they turned to it, only to see two people from the jury walking towards the microphones.

Leah immediately tensed beside Søren, grabbing Chris’s hand and squeezing it as she grinned at him.

“Let’s do this...” her friend muttered in response.

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