BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 50

March 11th, 2017
Friedrichshafen, Germany
Hear me now - Bad wolves ft. DIAMANTE

The constant rattling of the train that made her fall asleep also woke her up. It was as if her brain had some kind of warning device. Whenever she closed her eyes on public transport, she would open them again when she was close to her destination.

“I thought you were dead,” Chris quipped, “we had barely started moving, and you were already sleeping.”

“I’m so tired... Slept like shit last night.”

“Nervous for the trip?”

“Yeah,” she lied. After a week of sleeping in the comfort of Søren’s arms, her bed felt empty. Cuddling until falling asleep with his body radiating warmth like a heater had become her shrine.

Thinking he was probably still sleeping since it was three or four in the morning in Mexico, her mind drifted off again, snapping back to reality when the robotic voice announced they were getting closer to Friedrichshafen. Her home.

As they hopped down from the train, Leah closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. All the memories of that place causing a shiver to run down her spine, giving her goosebumps.

It had been a bit over a month since they had been there, and the humidity in the air produced by the lake Constance always made her feel giddy.

“Marie has been bugging me for us to go shopping with her today,” Chris commented as they made their way towards the exit.

“Oh, yeah, she told me about it.”

“Why would she want me to go with you? I’m a guy and I know shit about that stuff,” Chris grumbled. “Besides, I hate shopping.”

“It’s for her anniversary date with her boyfriend, she might want a male opinion? I don’t know.”

“Ugh!”

“I might help her pick something short and tight.”

“The hell you will! She should wear a nun’s robe or something like that. Boys her age are horny assholes.”

“Not like they change much with time...” Leah rolled her eyes.

“Eh! I’m not anything like that.”

“Yeah, yeah... But you know, I think it’s cute that they’re so into each other. He’s actually quite nice from what she’s told me. Takes her out on romantic dates, bought her a pretty necklace for St. Valentine’s—”

“Shut up! I know what comes after and I don’t wanna hear it.” He stuck his fingers in his ears. Leah laughed.

As they kept talking, making plans for the week they would spend there, they stepped out of the building. When Leah saw her father, her grin grew even bigger.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hi!” He smiled back as he hugged her. “Chris.” He shook his hand, patting his shoulder. “How was the trip, guys?”

“Good,” Leah said as they walked towards the car.

“No shit, you’ve been sleeping all the time,” her friend joked.

“Nothing new there.” He chuckled. “She’s been like that since I can remember. A herd of elephants could pass in front of her and she wouldn’t even notice. It’s like your neck breaks and you’re off. I don’t know what the transports do to you, but you’ve always slept better there than in a bed.”

“Not lately...” Chris muttered, earning a glare and a slap from Leah.

“You’re so fucking annoying, dude.”

“Eeh! That mouth!” her father warned.

“Sorry, Dad!” She grinned. That man hated cursing but had a daughter that was close to having Tourette’s syndrome, not being able to control her offensive mouth. “How’s the arm doing?” she asked to steer the conversation.

“I’m going back to patrol this week,” he announced. “The post-op and rehabilitation have been a pain, but I’m ready to go back to my real job. I hate sitting behind a desk.”

“But I bet having grandma over almost every day to cook for you has been great.”

“That’s the only good thing about all this.” He laughed, getting their backpacks in the car’s trunk. “Though I’m a few kilos heavier now,” he said as he opened the driver’s door.

“I didn’t want to say anything but...” Leah smirked when her father looked at her with a fake scowl.

The trip back home as her father and Chris kept talking about God knew what felt good. She had been there a thousand times, but at that time of the year, it always felt gloomier. The mix of the cloudy skies, the soft light of the sun, and the absence of her mother creating a turmoil of memories.

It is said that time heals everything, and after a while, life goes back to be the same, but Leah disagreed.

Traumas transformed you into a different person, and time only helped you to accept your past and move forward despite the pain. But grief, guilt, happiness, and the heart-warming experiences would always stay with you, somewhere in between your heart and your stomach, in the shape of a crystal ball. Sometimes lighter, sometimes heavier, but it was something that would forever accompany you.

As the car stopped in front of her house, bringing Leah back to the real world, Camille and Marie were already waiting for them.

“Oh my God! Look how stunning you are!” Chris’s mother gushed as she hugged her tight. “How is it possible that you’re more beautiful every time I see you?” She beamed, her blue eyes shimmering with bliss. “So happy to have you here again. I hope this boy here has behaved.”

“Mom!” The guitarist rolled his eyes.

“I know you’re an idiot and I need to make sure my girl is okay,” Camille retorted.

“I’m supposed to be your son, you know?” He hugged her and kissed her cheek.

“But the girls have to stick together,” his sister said.

“I’m not the enemy!”

“I beg to differ!” Marie exclaimed.

“Okay, guys, let’s get inside!” Camille rubbed her arms. “Lunch is ready, so why don’t we all come into the house and you tell us everything about this amazing achievement with your band?”

“Yes, please! I’m starving!” Leah declared.

“I’m gonna bring your backpack inside and will be there in a minute,” her father said.

“No way, Finn! Come on, nothing will happen if the clothes are in the car a bit more, and the food’s gonna get cold.”

“Fine, fine.” he tittered, shaking his head. “What did I do to have such bossy women around all my life?” he commented in a low voice, making Leah giggle.


With their bellies full and the plates empty, they were chit-chatting while waiting for the coffee to be made.

“How old is your friend, again? Twenty?” Chris teased his sister.

“Oh my God! No way! Don’t even think about it!” she countered, scrunching her nose. “You’re an old fart, don’t even try it!”

“First, I’m not that old, still twenty-six, and second, you said she likes me and wants an autograph.” He wiggled his brows.

“Ew!” Marie groaned.

“Chris, stop annoying your sister,” his mother scolded him. “You’re supposed to be a grown-up.”

“Physically...” Leah mumbled.

“Anyway, you’ve become a big thing,” Camille continued, “everyone at work wants an autograph or something. I’ve felt overwhelmed these past few weeks, and most don’t even listen to the kind of music you do, but you know, this is a small place...” She giggled, tucking a lock of her light brown hair behind her ear, her smile illuminating the room as her eyes narrowed in the same way Chris’s did.

He really was the male version of that woman. Both her kids were. Leah had seen a picture of her parents and Chris’s when they were in college—their mothers had been friends since high school—and the young girl was the perfect image of Camille at that age.

“Yeah, it’s been the same at the station,” Leah’s father added. “Some colleagues have even texted me to tell me they didn’t know you were so talented and so pretty. One even tried to get me to make you meet his son.” Faint wrinkles framed his brown eyes as he laughed. “As if I’d hand my daughter like that to a man...”

“She’s taken anyway,” Chris blurted with a shrug as he stuffed his mouth with cheesecake.

“What?” Her father seemed confused.

“Chris!” Leah protested.

“What? You’re dating someone?” Marie asked, excited, her straight dyed black hair floating as she turned to her. “Why haven’t you told me anything?”

“It’s just...” Leah wanted to hide under the table as all the eyes fell on her. “We’re just getting to know each other... And he’s kinda famous, so we were keeping it private?”

“Oh my God! Who is he?”

“Søren,” Chris told her.

Marie’s eyes opened wide, mouth hanging low. “You’re kidding!”

“Who is he?” Camille asked, curious, her lips curling up in a mischievous smile.

“The singer of one of the best metal bands of the moment,” Marie gushed. “He’s so good and so hot! Wait, I’m going to get a magazine,” the girl squealed as she ran upstairs.

“I think the coffee is ready.” Leah got up and rushed out of the dining room.

She wasn’t ashamed of her relationship with the metalhead, but talking about how hot he was in front of her father was fucking awkward. The one person she used to talk about boys in her house was her mother. It wasn’t as if she hid it from her father—he was always aware when she had been dating someone—but for sure she didn’t share with him information about the male attributes her partners had. Besides, was it even that serious to tell her family?

“Is he a good guy?” Finn asked from the kitchen door, startling Leah.

“What?” She looked at him.

“This guy you’re... getting to know.”

“Yeah... He is.” She turned back again to keep filling the mugs with coffee, biting on her bottom lip to hold the grin.

“Why didn’t you tell me anything? I mean, I know you have your own life and you don’t have to share every little detail with me, but you know...”

“He’s a musician, Dad.”

“So?” Her father approached her and stopped beside her. She glanced at him, grey hairs on his short beard matching the one on the sides of his head, making him look older than he was. Life had been really hard on him during the last decade. “You know that we’re all different. Him being a musician doesn’t automatically turn him into someone bad. Besides, you’re old and wise enough to choose what you think it’s best for you.”

“Yeah... Like when I met that other jerk,” she snorted.

“It’s not the same. You were young and you were still mourning your mother... You weren’t in your best moment, and he used that against you.”

“Yeah...”

“So?” He gave her a knowing look.

“I...” She chuckled. “I wasn’t sure at the beginning... I was scared after, you know... He reminded me of him too much, and I didn’t want to think about that again. Besides, he’s famous and I didn’t want people accusing me of getting close to him out of interest...” She trailed off, placing the coffee pot on the counter and putting all the mugs on a tray. “But I don’t know... We exchanged numbers and talked a lot while he was away on a tour, and when we met again—”

“Okay”—Finn tittered—“enough information.”

“Dad!” She laughed, slapping his arm. As if she would share those details with him. She’d rather be dead. “I think you’d like him. He’s really caring.” Leah smiled. “He doesn’t look at me like a weirdo when I blabber like an idiot about music, or anything else. In fact, he matches my craziness.”

“That’s good to hear... And it’s also great to see that kind of smile on your face again.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve always been a dreamer, and since your mother died, part of your light faded away with her...” He paused. Even though he had gotten up and moved forward, losing his wife still weighed heavy on his heart. “But now, look at you... You’re working hard on your own business, doing great with your music, and also took a huge step in your recovery by opening up to someone new.” He stared at her, letting out a soft sigh as if he had been holding his breath for years, making her heart squeeze in her chest.

During the family sessions with her psychologist years before, he had confessed feeling guilty for what had happened to her. He said that if he had been more persistent, or that if he had talked more with her about relationships, or if he had forced her to come back home when she started acting weird, none of that would have happened.

It broke her knowing that.

“I’m really proud of the woman you’ve become.” His warm eyes glowed with true fondness.

“Thank you, Dad.” She gave him a side hug.


March 11th, 2017
Mexico City, Mexico

It was still very early when Søren woke up feeling all giddy because of the jetlag. After an intense meeting on Thursday afternoon, he had to finish packing his trunk with all the stuff he would need for the tour-though he had been smart enough and had left most of it prepared before going to Germany. Then, flew on Friday to Mexico so they could play on Saturday night. He hadn’t even talked to Leah, only sent her a text when they reached the destination airport.

Traveling was the thing he loved the most about his job, but he sure hated that hangover state without even drinking alcohol.

Groaning, he turned around, squinting, only to face a smiley Alex laying on his bed with the phone in his hands.

“What are you so happy about?”

“Huh?” The bassist didn’t even look at him as he kept typing.

“Your face is so fucking creepy,” Søren rubbed his eyes, yawning.

“I’m talking with Astrid.”

“How’s she doing?”

They had spent some time together during the last weeks, but they had barely talked about something non-business or Alex related. She had always been there for him, and he didn’t want her out of his life, but he needed her to realize she had to change.

“You should ask her yourself.” Alex gave him a knowing look.

“Ugh, too early for this conversation.”

“She’s going through a hard time right now, dude... She thinks you hate her and feels so sorry about everything that happened with Leah.”

“I don’t hate her,” Søren sighed, frustrated. “And if she’s so sorry, she should come talk to me instead of you. She knows I’m here whenever.”

“She said she’ll try to do it after the tour. She didn’t want to disturb you knowing how stressed you were with the meeting and all that...”

“I appreciate that she’s always that thoughtful, but I’m serious, I can’t deal with any more shit at the moment.” He hadn’t told anyone yet, but right after the meeting with their discography, he had received a call from the hospital. His father had been admitted there again in a terrible state, and he would be there for a while because he needed a liver transplant or he wouldn’t make it.

Søren knew he should feel a slight pang of pain or guilt, something stinging his heart, anything. But he didn’t. Indifference, and maybe anger, were the only things biting the back of his skull.

“You know... She’s broken up with Henrik too and he’s annoying the shit out of her, acting like a brat... She could use some support, she’s not bad, but she’s lost as fuck.”

“For the billionth time. She’ll get over it, forgive him, and go back to him.”

“Nah... It’s different this time.”

Søren looked at his friend raising a brow. “What happened this week?”

“Hm?”

“Don’t hm me, what’s going on? You’ve never snooped in anyone else’s business, not even ours.”

“She came home the other day, and we talked about all this. She was devastated, and more because of you than because of that asshole.” Alex shrugged.

“And of course you comforted her.” Søren lifted a brow.

“You could say so.” The bassist grinned.

Søren rolled his eyes. “Now I get why you’ve had that stupid expression on your face all the time.” He chuckled. “Is it serious?”

“You know what I’m about, dude...” Alex said as he got up.

“Yeah, but I also know you’ve been hung up on her for years.”

“Whatever!” The bassist closed the door of the bathroom.

Shaking his head, Søren grabbed his phone from the night table. He was happy for them, but it felt weird. The three of them had been together for almost fifteen years, acting like brothers and sister, supporting each other, fighting, and then making up. It was like family members hooking up.

As he internally laughed at the cringy, happy news, he opened the conversation with Leah and smiled. How could that woman be so sexy and so silly at the same time? She had texted him two hours before with a dirty joke, but she was online again.

Leah: Glad to hear ur still alive. (00:31)
What’s the difference between hungry and horny? (8:13)

Søren: Surprise me.

Leah: Where you stick the cucumber.

Søren: LOL
You sure are dirty

Leah: As if that bothered you

Søren: Not at all
In fact
I’m glad you like my cucumber everywhere

Leah: LMAO
How are you?

Søren: I’m good. Just woke up.

Leah: Cucumber in a tent!

Søren: Yeah, and nowhere to stick it in

Leah: HAHAHAHAHA

Søren: How are you?

Leah: I’m shopping with Chris’s sister

Søren: Having fun then

Leah: Yeah, we’re annoying the shit out of him

Søren: Poor guy

Leah: He deserves it

Søren: How so?

Leah: He told everyone about us

Søren: Everyone?

Leah: Yeah... His mom and sister and my father

Søren: Hahahaha
You didn’t want them to know?

Leah: I don’t really mind... I just didn’t want to say anything yet.
I wanted to keep it for myself a bit more. Is that weird?

Søren: No. I get it

He really did. Of course, their bandmates and his close ones knew, hiding it from them would have been harder than seeing pigs fly, but once you spoke things out, everything became real. It wouldn’t be something indescribable between the two of them anymore, an open secret where they could get lost and forget about the rest of the world. People would start putting labels on what they had, and he hated that.

Leah: So, what are your plans for today?

Søren: We have a free day until we start with the soundcheck and all that.

Leah: Are you nervous?

Søren: More like eager.
I hate it when we’re out for so long, but I miss stepping on the stage

Leah: Yeah, I know what you mean.

Søren: When’s your next?

Leah: Let me check.
Next weekend in Warsaw.
Then Milan, Paris, and Amsterdam

Søren: You’re gonna be quite busy this month. Nice.

Leah: Yeah. Can’t wait.
Oh, btw, how was the meeting the other day?

Søren: Wait, gonna voice it.

He pressed the mic button of the conversation and began to speak, “you remember I told you they owed us money, right? Well, for the last few weeks our lawyers had been arguing at length over the terms and conditions of a new contract. They own the masters of the recordings and also the rights for our music, but since they’ve been stealing and don’t want to face a trial where they’d end up losing more, they had to negotiate.” He felt the need to snort. “Mikael said that their lawyers were harsh, but they still managed to get a good deal. So, we’ve signed with them for another album, but this time royalties are gonna be higher, the copyright of the songs will belong to the band, and the master’s rights will return to us three years after the end of the contract... Together with the rest of our material.”

As he finished recording the message, he pressed the send button, the line on the bubble immediately turning blue.

Leah: Yeah... Those fucking micropenis bastards
Well, that’s good, and if it benefits you...
OMG! That’s awesome! Congrats!

Søren: Thanks!
We’re thrilled honestly. It’s been so long, it looked like that hell would never end...

Leah: I bet! But you persevered and succeeded!

Søren: I guess... Haha
What are you doing later?

Leah: Not sure, probs just lay on bed and watch a movie. Why?

Søren: Maybe we could make a videocall... 😏

Leah: Tell me you’re not asking me what I think you’re asking me

Søren: Sex?

Leah: Yeah

Søren: That’s exactly what I’m asking

Leah: Omg! No way I’m masturbating in front of you

Søren: Come on! Hahaha
Why not? It’s not like I haven’t seen, licked, or eaten everything already

Leah: HAHAHAHA
True
We’ll see...
Gotta leave you now, Marie’s trying on some dresses and she’s calling me

Søren: Sure, haha. Have fun

Leah: Ttyl

Søren: Have a good day

Leah: You too 😊

With a smile painted on his face, Søren locked the phone again and dropped it on the mattress beside him. It seemed like they were on a roll.

Alex was getting better and he was dating Astrid—hopefully, that relationship could help them both to stop being so self-destructive. His mother was stable, Ian’s babies were the joy of the group, Jørn and Hilde had moved in together, the band had been working on new material for a few weeks and things with Leah couldn’t be better.

Life was good.


March 17th, 2017
Friedrichshafen, Germany

It was a cold day, but the sun shining bright in the sky gave the atmosphere a blissful air. As they walked down the gravel path, the grass looking greener, Leah took a deep breath in. The icy breeze with a hint of pine tree and lavender punctured her lungs like thousands of needles. It was a stinging sensation, but she had learned to cherish it.

“Feels like we haven’t been here in forever,” Chris muttered as they stopped in front of her mother’s grave.

“Yeah...” Leah agreed, crouching to get the dead flowers from the ceramic vase and place the new ones she had fetched that morning. It was a white lilies, purple lisianthus, and purple iris bouquet she had ordered before traveling south.

“Those are beautiful,” Camille commented.

“I know.” Leah smiled. She usually got a dozen of white roses, or a bouquet of daisies and these tiny white flowers called baby’s breath, but this time she had let Søren choose for her, and she was surprised. The mix of colors was stunning, beautiful, and full of life. Like she used to be.

As she got up again, Leah circled her arm around Chris’s waist, who gave her a side hug. The five of them stood there for a few minutes, in silence, lost in their own thoughts.

Leah always used those brief moments to mentally thank her mother for teaching her to sing, for showing her what true strength was, for always encouraging her to dream big. She also apologized for that dark period in her life when the only escape she could find to her pain was joining her in death. But this time, she had something new to tell her about.

Music wasn’t only her saving grace and her shelter, but it had also helped her to open up to the world again. Music had connected her to Søren through invisible strings that made them vibrate in a way not many people understood. It fed them, it touched them, it made them feel alive.


It was past ten in the evening. They had spent the morning out, walking around the city and having lunch together. The weather wasn’t as extreme as it was during January or February, but it wasn’t exactly gentle either, and with the days still being quite short and cold, none of them wanted to be out in the afternoon so they went back home.

After having dinner with her father and Chris, and getting her ass kicked at Mortal Kombat—the fucking twat, always cornering her and using those damn Fatalities—they had gone up to her old bedroom. And there he was now, acting all innocent, lying on her bed with his feet up against the wall while he toyed around her acoustic guitar, fingerpicking.

As if she was in a trance, Leah closed her eyes, skin covering in goosebumps as a beautiful guitar riff rippled in the air.

“Oh my God, Chris! That’s good,” she exclaimed.

“Luca taught me that one when we were in high school.” He laughed, face turning a soft shade of red as he looked at her upside down.

“Oh, yeah, I remember that day, you were so frustrated.” She sank in her fuzzy bean bag chair. “It’s a shame that he can’t come with us to the US,” she said, feeling a bit blue.

Luca had been the bass player in the first band when they were in high school. They had been away for a few years when he moved to another city, but when Chris was already playing with Buried Alive, they met again, and he joined their crew as a guitar tech while he finished his sound engineer career. And Leah wanted him there with them, but after getting married to his college girlfriend, life was about to change for him.

“Well, that’s what he gets for sticking it in without protection.” Chris grinned, running a hand through his hair, slicking it back as he sat.

“Seriously, you outdo yourself every day, always ruining the moment.”

Laughing, he got up and winked at her. “But you still love me.”

“Where are you going now?”

“To pee.”

“Ugh, okay.” She scrunched her nose.

As her friend left the room, she grabbed her phone and smiled at the last text Søren had sent her. It was a picture of all of them, pulling funny faces together with two fans. They were in Bogota, in the middle of a flea market, the men holding one of their vinyls signed by all of them.

Leah chuckled. She had seen the photo when she got up, reacting to it with an emoji, but Søren hadn’t answered anything yet. It didn’t bother her though; they had a tight agenda that day and she didn’t expect to talk to him until the next day.

“What are you smiling at?”

“Nothing.” She locked the phone. “Anyway, what was that you were playing before?”

“I don’t know.” He chuckled, letting himself fall on the bed again.

“Sounded good.”

“You think?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s too lullaby-like for the band, but I liked how it sounded in my head so I wanted to see if it made my ears tingle the same way.”

“Even if we don’t use it, I’d like to write some lyrics for it. If you want me to, of course.”

“Do it. You know I’m happy just playing my guitar with you singing along...”

“Play it.” Leah smiled.

It was like in the old times, when they laid down in Luca’s backyard with the crepitation of the cicadas joining them as they played until their fingers hurt, watching the stars for so long that it felt as if they could reach them, getting this feeling like all their dreams could come true.

As Chris played the chords again, Leah started uttering a few words here and there, humming a melody, letting the waves of that balmy tune and nostalgia guide her.

“Dying sun... Crashing into shapes... Bring me along with you to the darkness...”

Those moments when she could go back in time with a sense of security, leaving all her fears behind, were healing. Life could keep knocking her down over and over, but as long as she got up every time, she would win.

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