BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 39

February 5th, 2017
Copenhagen, Denmark
Hollow - Pantera

As Søren hung up, he stared at the screen of his phone for a few seconds with a stupid grin plastered on his face. Exhaling the last cloud of smoke, he stamped the stub out on his boot and threw it in the trash can beside the door inside the hotel.

The honesty in Leah’s words still tingling his ears. He knew she meant everything she said; she was too blunt and kind, there was no way she could lie. And a part of him was dying to tell her everything about him. But he couldn’t open that door again.

Afraid that if he spoke about all that again, it might come back in a repeating cycle of pain and agony, he’d rather lock everything inside and throw the key into the ocean. The past was in the past. Breaking the seal that kept the ghosts inside would only bring misery.

He wasn’t running away; he was aware of what he had on his plate, had already faced and accepted most of those sinister entities. But reality hurt, and the less he talked about it, the more it all seemed like a distant memory.

Besides, where would he start?

As the doors of the elevator opened, Søren stopped the nonsense swirling inside his mind and walked towards the room the four musicians were sharing—Copenhagen was a fucking expensive city, and after Ian went back to Norway for a couple of days, their budget was cut.

“Yeah, okay... Sure... We’ll be there first thing in the morning on Tuesday,” Mikael said before hanging up his phone.

“What was that about?” the singer asked as he approached him.

“The lawyers. They say it’s urgent we meet with them. They seem to have found something accounting related?”

Søren frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“I have no clue. I mean, it’s gotta be important to be calling on a fucking Saturday, but they’re even more paranoid than you, said they’ll let us know more once we’re there.”

“What the fuck?” Søren chuckled. “I’m not paranoid about shit,” he retorted as he opened the door of the bedroom.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Anyway, we’re meeting with the whole crew downstairs to have breakfast. Wake up your roommates, and pack everything before coming, don’t wanna fucking rush later.” The manager laughed.

“Aye, aye...” Søren replied. As he walked in the room, shaking his head because Mikael kept treating them as if they were kids, he found himself facing the guitarist’s reproductive tool. “Well, hello!” he said in a playful tone.

“Like what you see?” the bearded, grown-up idiot quipped as he turned around and shook his ass.

“You know I do,” Søren wiggled his eyebrows and smirked when Ian looked at him over his shoulder.

“Okay, enough!” he tittered, pulling his boxers up. “It’s too early for this shit.”

“You’ve started it.” Søren chuckled, getting his wallet and phone out of his jeans.

“Was Mikael outside with you?” Ian asked.

“Yeah, found him talking on the phone in the hallway,” the singer confirmed as he plopped on his bed, “he was talking to our lawyers. They say they’ve found something shady in our accounts?” he told him, gaze lost on a small crack on the ceiling.

“What do you mean?” The guitar player slightly frowned.

“They didn’t explain, just said that, but they want to meet us on Tuesday.” He shrugged. “I don’t want to get my hopes too high, but if it’s true, whatever it is, could give us enough ammunition to negotiate.”

“It’d be awesome if we actually caught them doing something shitty,” the Irish agreed as he finished getting dressed.

“Yeah...” Søren sighed. “By the way, where are Jørn and Alex?”

“I think the blonde went downstairs to talk with Hilde about something related to the bar, and Alex went to speak with Astrid? The fuck, I don’t know.”

“And you’re about to be a father...” The singer laughed.

“Shut up!” Ian showed him the middle finger and stepped inside his boots. “When are you going to fix your shit with the shaved-headed?” Ian questioned out of the blue, walking towards him and sitting on the bed to tie the laces of his boots.

“What?” the metalhead reclined on his elbows.

“You heard me,” he simply said, looking him in the eye. “You gotta fix that... ”

“I don’t care about the shit he said anymore, honestly. I’m not even mad at him.” Søren rubbed a hand over his face as he sat up. “He was angry for whatever reason and high as fuck, and I know he’s been kind of anxious since his mother called, but I’m tired of having to follow him everywhere because he can’t control himself... Anyway, is this the year of abandoner parents coming back or what?” He scoffed, thinking about how his father tried to contact him four months before.

“I get you but... you know how these things are.” Ian lifted an eyebrow, giving him a knowing look. He was being polite, but Søren knew he was talking about that time when he was a pain in the ass too.

“I know, I know.” He rolled his eyes, huffing. “I’ll see when we get back... But I have other priorities right now.” Søren sighed.

“Yeah, I know... How’s your mother doing?” he asked, concern glowing in his eyes.

“She’s alright... or so they told me yesterday. She’s back in the residence.”

“That’s good then, means she’s stable,” Ian reassured him.

“I guess so.” Søren nodded.

After talking to her two weeks before—when they were in Berlin—her attitude slowly changed. She didn’t talk as much, and she seemed off each time he called. Those were signals of her going down the spiral of despair. But she was supposed to be monitored?

He tried to contact the residence the morning after their concert in Cologne, but she wouldn’t talk to him, claiming that he didn’t love her, that he had abandoned her because she was a burden—that’s what he heard on the phone while the orderlies and nurses tried to calm her down.

The doctor told him they had reduced the dose of her meds and her body was taking a while to readjust, but with some rest, she would come around again.

Years before, those kinds of accusations would have broken him, but not anymore. He had learned to deal with all that, knowing it wasn’t a personal attack against him, but the intense feelings of pain and emptiness taking over her. Hopeless, angry, and depressed. Whenever she rock bottomed, all she wanted was to disappear from the world.

And so, a few days later, she tried to kill herself. Again.

“Anyway, is your stuff packed? Mikael wanted to meet everyone in the restaurant for breakfast.”

“Yup, got all my shit in my trunk. And they left theirs besides the door already.”

“Good.”

A full buffet was prepared for them in a private area of the hotel’s restaurant. Coffee, orange and pineapple juice, fruit, cereal, ham, cheese, different types of breads. Anything you wanted.

The whole crew sat around the three long tables covered with a dark blue tablecloth, cheerfully talking while they ate the amazing breakfast. The advance guys, the sound engineers, the sound and lighting techs, the backline people, the drivers, the two other bands. Everyone was there.

After years in the industry, those people had become like an extension of their small family. Always traveling and living together for weeks whenever they had a tour in Europe, some even joined them when they went abroad. As eager as they all were to go back home, farewell always felt somewhat bittersweet.

Looking at them, joking, laughing and enjoying those simple moments, Søren felt like the burden he was carrying lightened a little. Everything around him could be crumbling down, but as long as he had that, as long as he had music, he would have enough strength to keep moving forward.


February 6th, 2017
Oslo, Norway

As soon as the clock ticked nine in the morning, one of the nurses in the reception let Søren in. It was a pretty sunny day for February. He loved the warmth of the sun in the middle of the winter. Maybe that kind of weather would put his mother in a good mood.

“We gave her some sedatives last night, so it might be a while until she wakes up. Do you want a coffee or anything?”

“That’d be nice, yeah, thank you.” Søren nodded.

“Let me get one of the girls to bring it to you, Mr. Wolff.”

Leaving his bomber jacket and scarf on the back of the chair, he looked around the room. It was big, with a pair of armchairs facing the shelves full of books, a dark wooden closet, a desk with lots of pencils and papers scattered over it, a double bed beside the window, and a four-piece ensuite bathroom. Landscape paintings hanging on the white walls, warm-colored curtains, and carpet.

The soft light of the morning was slipping through the panoramic windows with views of the garden, washing everything, making the room cozier than it already was.

She had been living in that residence for years. As soon as they got paid when they signed the contract that tied them to the devil, he got her out of the State mental health institution and brought her there. It was one of the best in the country, every patient had personalized attention, and they offered a lot of different activities for them to enjoy their time there—doctors and nurses taking care of her around the clock.

A knock on the door distracted him from his thoughts.

“Good morning,” one of the receptionists greeted him. “Here you have your coffee. Is there anything else I can do for you?” she sweetly asked.

“No, thank you.” He gave her a small smile.

As the girl left, he placed the mug on the night table beside the bed and turned one of the armchairs so he was facing his mother, dragging it so he could sit beside her.

Gently, he grabbed her hand, running his thumb over its back. The bandage covering her wrist made Søren’s heart sink in his chest as the painful memories rushed to his mind.

It all happened when he was fourteen years old.

They had been living with his grandmother for three years.

The beginning was hard. Until she got the restraining order and the divorce, she spent most of the days worried and scared, always looking over her shoulder, but after a year everything changed. They didn’t have much, but they were happy.

New house, new neighborhood, new city, new life.

Søren had changed schools and after Ellen, his mother, gave him a guitar for his twelfth birthday he began to practice, being able to play some of his favorite rock songs, beginning to end, a few months later.

Fridays and Saturdays Søren would hang out with friends, watch movies, play video games, go to their favorite music shop; in short, live a normal teenage life. On Sundays he would stay at home and sit together with his family in the living room, each one engrossed in their own book—he protested most of the time but always ended up accepting his fate as the son of such a brilliant woman.

Life was good.

Until his grandmother started having serious health issues and one salary wasn’t enough to pay the bills.

Besides working at the local university as a history professor, she also worked in a bookstore during the afternoons and weekends. Søren offered to help, find himself a part-time job, but his mother told him he was too young for that, that it was a parent’s job to take care of their children, not the other way around.

As time went on, the excess of work and lack of sleep affected her. It started with small things, like leaving the keys inside the fridge, and ended up with her forgetting to take her medications—a mix of antipsychotics, anxiolytics, and antidepressants, a fucking bomb.

Ellen had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder—a severe case with psychotic symptoms that made her hear things sometimes—when she was a teenager, and the only time she stopped taking the med was when she got pregnant with him.

Anxiety led to dissociative thinking and paranoia most of the time. She would say or do things she didn’t remember afterwards, as if she wasn’t inside her head during that time—and she probably wasn’t because even her gaze changed to an empty, cold look that Søren didn’t recognize.

He didn’t understand shit about her condition. Why would she yell at him out of the blue, scold him for the smallest things, and even slap him? It had only happened once, but it was enough to scare him.

However, the worst came a few months later. When her mother died. She lost her jobs, depression grew deeper and she would spend her days crying or angry, lost in her private, dark lagoon of delusional thoughts, feeling useless, not even taking care of herself anymore.

He tried to help the best he could, looking up information on the internet about her illness to avoid the triggers, learning to read the signals. He tried to behave better than ever and started neglecting his friends, who soon turned their backs to him. He even skipped class sometimes to take care of her.

Until she decided to end it all.

“What are you doing here so early?” her raspy voice snapped him to the present.

“Hey...” he smiled sweetly at her.

“Weren’t you on tour?” she asked as she sat up.

“Came back yesterday.”

“How was it?”

“Good, good. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine, just a bit tired, these pills they’re giving me knock me out, even when I’m awake I’m only half awake, you know?” she tittered, but the smile didn’t reach what used to be a pair of beautiful, bright honeyed eyes. “They’ve also been a pain in my ass lately, but don’t tell them, don’t want them to start spitting in my food.”

“Your secrets are safe with me.” Søren softly laughed, eyes dropping to the bandage covering her wound again.

He wanted to ask her about it, wanted to know why she had tried to kill herself again. She was supposed to be doing better. But he knew she would avoid the topic. She always did, trying to protect him, she said.

“You’re not going to drink your coffee?” she asked. “’Cause I could use some.”

“Don’t think that’s a good idea, Mom. Let me get one of the nurses so they can bring you your breakfast.”

“You’re a party pooper, you know?” She faked a pout, crossing her arms.

As bad as she had been, and as sad as she still was, she had always been amazing at hiding her true emotions—probably something he had inherited from her—but he knew that those disturbing thoughts were still bugging her from a distance, like a dream. He knew her well enough; he had seen it before.

“Sorry, but not gonna buy that look.” He went along with her joke, but there was no way he was going to let her drink caffeine. The doctor said it was better to avoid those kinds of stimulants.

After having breakfast, listening to her talking about how she was teaching some of the patients—and even some of the nurses—gardening and how she would read for them in the afternoons, she agreed to go for a walk with him.

It was a bright day, but it was very cold, so she changed her pajamas for a pair of jeans, a knit beige sweater, and some chocolate brown comfy boots. Once she had put on her puffy coat and red scarf, hooking her arm on Søren’s they went out.

“So how was the tour, Darling?” Ellen asked, silver, blond hair shining under the sun.

“It was okay.” Søren shrugged.

Ellen slapped his arm. “That’s all you’re going to tell your mother after a month without seeing her?”

The musician chuckled. “I don’t know what you want me to tell you, we’ve talked almost everyday, and nothing out of the ordinary happened.”

“You’re no fun. I didn’t think I had raised such a boring man.”

“Yeah, yeah...” Søren rolled his eyes.

“Tell me something then! How did you feel up there?”

Søren looked ahead of him for a few seconds, smiling to himself. “It was great... Being up there with the guys always makes me feel powerful, like there’s nothing I can’t accomplish, you know? It’s like I’m really free.” She just nodded, smiling from ear to ear. “Even when we’re apart, playing together makes things better... it’s like we become one.”

“That’s beautiful, son...”

“In one of the concerts Ian got a huge Teddy bear thrown to him,” Søren smiled, “it had a note attached, telling him it was for the new family he was about to have. The idiot cried.” He laughed.

“Don’t laugh at your friends.” Ellen slapped his arm again.

Søren chuckled, feeling his chest tighten. He wished things could always be that way, easy and peaceful.

“Are you still angry with Alex?” His mother’s question snapped him to the real world.

“No. We’re still kinda weird, but it’s fine,” he lied. She didn’t need to worry about anything but herself.

“And what about Frida?”

“She’s doing great.” He hadn’t told her about her accident. “She’s on bed rest now, but it’s not like she could move a lot carrying two babies,” he tittered.

“I can’t wait to see those cute little faces.”

“Me neither.” He smiled, looking at his feet as they walked along the gritty path. The grass and plants on the sides were kind of frosty since it was still early and the night had been fucking cold.

“Any girls?”

“What?” Søren’s eyes darted to his mother, who was looking at him with a smug smile on her face.

“Don’t get me wrong. I liked Nadia but it’s been double the time it should be for you to find someone new.”

“What the hell?”

“Yeah, if your relationship lasts two years, for example, you should be over it a year later. Start over, have a new girlfriend, you know? And for you it’s been, what? Two and a half years, almost three?”

“Oh, but I’ve met a few women since then,” he quipped, smirking.

She slapped his arm once again. “I didn’t raise you to be a manwhore!” She pointed a finger to his face, brows slightly creased together in a fake scowl.

“Mom! What kind of talk is that?” Søren laughed, avoiding the topic that he had actually met someone he liked.

Suddenly, an image of Leah cracking up in bed, wearing one of his Iron Maiden old t-shirts, hair spread across the mattress, flooded his mind. She was so fucking beautiful it hurt. And in those moments, when they were just themselves, it felt as if nothing could go wrong.

“I’m the older one here, so you do what I say.”

“Fine, fine...”

They kept talking about everything and anything. Joking and laughing. She had a few moments where she would stare into nothingness with an empty look, sadness flooding her eyes. Søren never knew what was on her mind, but it probably was some old memory or some of those incomprehensible emotions she could have any day just because. But at least, even though it had barely been ten days since her breakdown, she looked much better than he thought she would have.

As the evening came, with the clock ticking eight, it was time for him to go back. The next day he had a meeting first thing in the morning with the suppliers for their club and he wanted to go to bed early, rest a little after the tour and all the stress building inside him over the previous week.

“I’m gonna get going, Mom.”

“Sure.” She nodded, leaving her book on the coffee table.

He gave her a soft smile. “Sleep tight, okay?” he said before kissing the top of her head.

“Yeah, yeah... Don’t worry so much about me. I’ll be fine.”

“See you soon, alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, just go!” Ellen laughed.

“Bye.”

Søren stepped out of her bedroom and, nodding his head at the staff he passed by in the corridors, he made his way out of the residence.

As he walked towards his car, he got his phone out of his pocket, only to see a bunch of notifications from his social media accounts and a text from Leah that immediately made him smile. It had been a few months but they still kept texting each other with silly, dirty jokes. It had become a habit.

Leah: What’s worse than waking up at a party and finding a penis drawn on your face?

Søren: I really don’t know if I want to know

She didn’t answer right away, which was normal. She had probably forgotten about her phone since she had texted him two hours before.

He turned on the engine and finally drove back home.


It wasn’t even ten when his eyes started to feel heavy, but his phone vibrating on the night table startled him. Rubbing a hand over his face, he rolled on the bed to grab the annoying device, smiling when he saw Leah’s name on the notification.

Leah: Finding out it was traced.

Søren: Jesus, that’s it, I’m blocking you. You’re sick. LMAO

Leah: Excuse you? Calling me sick instead of twisted makes it sound as if it has a cure

Søren: HAHAHA you’re so dumb

Leah: So funny that you’re the one telling me that

Søren: Fair enough. How r u?

Leah: Fine, I just took the longest bath ever.

My fingertips look like I’m eighty years old, haha

Søren: Had some fun by yourself?

Leah: Maybe...👀

Søren: Wish I could have helped with that, haha

Leah: Me too but oh, well!
Next weekend if you behave

Søren: Like you’ll resist my charm, yeah

Leah: So full of yourself

Søren: You know I’m right

Leah: True

Søren: LMAO

Leah: Anyway, how r u?

Søren: I’m tired af, just got home a couple of hours ago.

Leah: Busy day?

Søren: Went to visit my mom

Leah: How’s she doing?

Søren: Good. She was cheerful and annoying, scolding me for everything and so on

Leah: Hahahaha.
Glad to hear that

Søren: Ugh! I don’t want it to be Monday

Leah: Such a cry baby

Søren: I have a meeting with our suppliers for the bar tomorrow and with our lawyers the next day. And an interview one of those days, I can’t even remember. Ugh!!

Leah: What for?
The meeting with the lawyers.

Søren: Dfk. Will find out when we get there, they’ve been really secretive and weird

Leah: Well, that sounds promising. I hope they can get you out of the mud.

Søren: Me too. Wbu?

Leah: I just worked today, and we have a meeting with Angela and Markus on Wed.
They’re gonna cut our heads, I tell you

Søren: You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.

Leah: Hope you’re right. I already have a father and an Erik that give me condescending looks while shaking their heads when I do stupid shit. Don’t need them to do that too

Søren: Someone has to control you! Hahaha
So... Still naked?

Leah: Why?

Søren: What do you think?

Leah: Kinky bastard

Søren: Says Virgin Mary

Leah: Shut up!

Before he could reply, she was video calling him. With a chuckle, he slid his thumb over the button to answer it, only to find that fucking muse facing him, no make-up, wet hair swept to one side, cascading down her body, wearing nothing but a towel.

Fuck.

“Hey.” He grinned.

“Sup, douche lord?”

“What the fuck?” Søren laughed.

She shrugged, proud of her silliness. He needed that.

“So, this is what you were wondering?” Leah asked, smirking, as she moved her hand away, focusing the camera from her chin down.

She was sitting on a stool, the towel was short and he could perfectly see the skull on her thigh, that beautiful, realistic tattoo that reached right under her left hip. Breasts squeezed inside the purple fabric covering her.

“Too much clothing.”

“What I said, a kinky bastard,” she stated, laughing, as the camera returned to her face.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen you in two weeks, and I’m not touching you again until the weekend. What did you expect?” He shrugged, bending an arm and putting it under his head.

“Oh my God! You’re so needy!” Leah laughed.

“You’ve been touching yourself just a while ago, and I bet you were thinking about me, so talk about needy.” He smirked.

“Touché.”

“So... You gonna let me see or what?” He quirked an eyebrow, a smug smile on his face.

Leah bit her bottom lip and then grinned, getting up to place the phone on a steady surface. “What would I get in return for this?” she asked in a raspy voice as her hands moved to the top of the towel, fingers slowly unwrapping it.

“What do you want?”

“I don’t know...” She looked up to the ceiling, biting the inside of her cheek. “What about you let me ride your face next time?”

“Deal, I’ll be your fucking throne, whatever you want. Now, get naked.”

With a giggle, Leah let the towel fall to the floor, revealing her amazing body as she ran her hands through her hair in a suggestive gesture. Søren stared in awe, almost drooling like a dog, cock immediately reacting.

She wasn’t the luscious, exuberant, endless legs kind of woman because she was barely 5′5 and had a more athletic body type, but her curves were beautiful, like those on a guitar, soft and sinuous. He loved the way her hips and small waist felt under his palms. And those breasts... Fuck! She should be illegal.

She shook her head. “Enough?” she asked, trying to hide her embarrassment.

As blunt and open-minded as she was, he had realized that, whenever he stared at her like that, she felt uneasy, as if he was judging her or something. It was weird because she was obviously comfortable with anything related to sex, and fuck, she had nothing, literally nothing, to feel ashamed of. She was perfect.

“No, turn around... Let me see your ass,” he commanded.

“So bossy...” she mumbled, doing exactly what he said.

As his eyes traveled down the lines of the ink on her back, feasting on the dermal piercings on the lowest part, he finally reached her ass.

Hard as a fucking steel bar, he bit his bottom lip, hand moving to reposition his crotch. He had seen more asses than he could count along the years, but none had caught his attention like hers. Greek statues would be ashamed. Round, perky, hard, and squishy at the same time. There were no words to describe the beauty of that sight. He was obsessed.

“Are you already touching yourself?” she asked out of the blue, softly laughing.

“What if I am?” he rasped, thinking about doing it.

“Just making sure,” she slightly turned to look at the camera.

“I wish you were here. Your pussy feels way better than a fucking hand.”

Leah shyly smiled, but then her brows pulled together in a slight frown as she turned her face to the side. “Chris’s back. I thought he was gonna stay out the whole night...” she sighed.

Søren laughed, her frustration reaching him. “Okay, put the towel or whatever on. Both my heads are about to explode. Talk to you tomorrow?”

“Sure.” She nodded. “Night, Søren.”

“Night, Leah.”

As he hung up, he let the phone fall beside him on the bed, letting out a long sigh. He was exhausted, had barely slept eight hours between the last two days, but a part of him was wide awake now and he might as well listen to his needs.

He really wasn’t a fan of the five knuckle shuffle, but fuck, he needed to release all that tension. Since Leah left he hadn’t touched a woman, and his fucking balls felt heavy.

He had barely slipped a hand under his sweatpants when his phone began to vibrate beside him. Groaning when he saw Ian’s name on the screen, he picked it up. “What?”

“THE BABIES ARE ON THEIR WAY!” the guitarist screamed.

“Are you serious?” Søren sat up in bed.

“YES! Fuck, fuck! I’m not ready for this!”

“Jesus, dude! Relax. You’re gonna have a heart attack,” Jørn exclaimed.

“Did you call Alex?”

“He’s not picking up,” Jørn commented.

“I’ll go get him,” Søren declared, jumping out of the bed and pulling the pair of jeans he had left on the bench under the window. “I’m on my way!”

As he dressed, he rushed down the stairs, grabbing his keys and wallet. He put on his coat and ran out of the house, grinning like a kid.

After all the years of touring and playing together, after all the laughs, the hard and sad moments, the fights, disagreements, and achievements, their friendship was stronger than ever, a deep bond tying them, turning them into a family—a family that was about to grow.

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