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Chapter 53

April 11th, 2017
Oslo, Norway
Consternation - Katatonia

“Søren… You need to calm down,” Leah said, her voice strained.

“How do you expect me to calm down? Fuck!” He hit the steering wheel, heat reaching his head, making it feel ready to explode. Anxiety and guilt creeping in his mind, taking over.

Why the fuck did he ignore Astrid’s calls? She had been very persistent for a good reason—a bloody fucking reason. Yet he had neglected his friends because he was pretty adamant about talking to her while Leah was around. Why the fuck was he so stubborn? He should have picked up the damn phone the first time.

“I know how you must be feeling—”

“Leah, please,” the metalhead warned through gritted teeth, jaw tense and eyes fixed on the path ahead of them. He wasn’t in the right mindset to listen to anyone telling him how they understood him. He wasn’t up for that kind of bullshit.

“If you keep driving like this, we’ll have an accident. And that will do no one a favor.”

She was right. The speedometer needle going above 110km/h when he wasn’t supposed to overpass 80 in that section of the highway. But Søren was having a hard time relaxing. His heart was violently hammering in his chest, blood boiling in his veins, sickness and rage growing deeper every minute. It had been a long time since he felt so desperate and furious.

“I’m gonna fucking murder him,” he muttered.

“Søren, please…” Leah pleaded, touching his forearm.

As he glanced in her direction, her brows creased together with concern, eyes shimmering with emotions he hadn’t seen before.

“What?” He sounded harsher than he intended.

“I know you’re angry, but going after him is going to solve nothing.” Her fingers tightened on his arm as they went around a curve.

“What the fuck do you know?”

He knew she was just trying to help, but he couldn’t focus on anything other than the heavy burden weighing on his chest. The thought of his friends being injured drove him crazy.


“Jørn told you the police got that bastard, let them handle it. The only thing you can do now is wait...” Her voice quivered at the end. She was probably worried too. Worried about him because he had never shown that side of him in front of her, worried about the others because the outcome of that fight was still unknown.

“He’s going to be out in two fucking days, Leah.”

“I doubt it. He’ll probably face charges of aggravated assault and first-degree stupidity. Coming into your club and attacking the three people working there? He’s so dumb stupid and is not gonna get away with it.”

“Still, he won’t get a big punishment since no one died. This is Norway, our jail penalties are pretty lame in these cases... And yet you expect me to cross my arms and wait?”

“Yes! You can’t let your emotions control you like this.”

“But—Fuck!” He hit the steering wheel again.

“All you can do is go there to be with your friends and support them. Wait with them ’til the doctors say something about Alex’s condition. But you have to cool down. Do you have any idea how Jørn must be feeling now? He can act all cold and collected, but his girlfriend has also been involved in that shit.”

“I… Fuck!”

Hilde had been collateral damage of Astrid’s toxic relationship with Henrik too. How the hell did that happen? And why did Henrik get so violent all of a sudden? The asshole had never cared about Astrid to that extent. Ugh! There were so many questions swirling in his mind, but only a specific one had been bothering him since the moment he hung up the phone.

“Alex is in surgery... What if he doesn’t make it?” Søren clenched his jaw, a sharp pang hitting his heart as he voiced that out.

“You can’t think like that…” Leah whispered, turning to him, placing both hands on his thigh, trembling. “He’s going to make it, okay? He has to.”

“I should have been there…”

“Søren, listen to me. It’s not your fault. Even if you had been there, you couldn’t have stopped Henrik.”

“But I might have been able to help! Fuck!” He was so mad at himself.

“You couldn’t have known this would happen... You can’t blame yourself.”

With a hand gripping the steering wheel, he moved the other to hers, giving it a light squeeze when she intertwined her fingers with his. No matter how stubborn or annoying he could get, she always found the words to put him at ease. “Thanks.”

“No need.”

“I know... But still... Thank you for always being here.”

“Of course.” He could feel the sweetness of her stare grazing him. It was like balm. “He’ll be okay…” she repeated like a mantra.

I hope you’re right.

Tall trees passed by fast, creating a dreary atmosphere as the lampposts illuminated them in the dead of night, increasing the unpleasant feeling invading his entire being.

After a silent fifteen-minute ride, with the music filling the space inside the car, they finally made it to the hospital. As soon as they got out, they ran towards the building, his heart rate accelerating with every step as he didn’t know what to expect.

Talking to the receptionist and walking down the white corridor that led to the waiting room felt like a movie, images moving in front of his eyes as if he was an outsider in that scene. The disinfectant smell invading his nostrils and his heavy breathing rumbling in his ears, making him feel in a daze.

The last time he had been that anxious was when Alex passed out during their concert in LA the previous summer. And before that... That one time he came from school and found his mother lying on the floor, convulsing.

Shaking his head to get rid of those looming images, he approached his bandmates. They were sitting in those plastic row chairs in a corner of the room. Søren let out a short sigh when he saw Hilde already with them. She was leaning on her boyfriend’s shoulder as he embraced her with one arm.

“You made it,” Ian said as he saw them, getting up from his seat and walking towards them.

“How are they doing?” Søren asked him, feeling the lump in his throat growing again.

“We don’t know about Alex, he’s still in surgery… Astrid is getting some stitches, but she’s good.”

“Stitches?” His eyes opened wide. “I thought the only one needing assistance was Alex.”

“It’s not much,” Jørn said, walking towards them, “she got an open wound on her cheek, but she’s alright.” He hugged him and then Leah. “How are you?” he asked, changing to English as he looked at her. Fuck, he was so nervous he hadn’t realized he was talking in his mother tongue.

“Worried,” Leah mumbled. Her face was extremely pale, twisted in a scowl.

No, wait, it was more like a painful expression, as if she was feeling sick. Maybe the fast road trip had made her dizzy?

“It’ll be alright, girl.” Ian put an arm around her shoulder. “That kid’s made from different stuff.”


He was about to ask if she was okay, but when he saw the red-head, his heart sunk in his chest. She was fine, but her bottom lip was slightly swollen and had a small cut in it.

“Shit, Hilde…” Søren frowned, hugging her. “You okay?”

“Yeah…” She hugged him back, tight, her body still shaking a little. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything to help.”

“You did what you had to do.” He tried to calm her down, rubbing her back.

“Henrik was so drunk and high…” she explained, pulling away. “He came into the bar, roaring, looking for Astrid. I tried to deceive him, telling him she wasn’t there, but he didn’t listen and went straight to the office.” She sniffled.

“It’s alright, Babe,” Jørn told her, grabbing her hand and kissing her knuckles. “You couldn’t have done anything.”

“He was so mad…” she mumbled, looking at the drummer.

“Yeah, apparently being rejected didn’t suit him well,” Ian scoffed. “The fucker…”

“He was pissed because she had been ignoring his calls over the last few weeks. He even accused her of cheating on him with Alex,” Hilde continued in Norwegian, her nervous state impeding her to utter something coherent in English. “She snapped at him, telling him to fuck off and to leave because they weren’t together anymore, that she had made that pretty clear when she broke up with him a month ago, that she was tired of his bullshit, that she had found someone who truly loved her for who she is... you know how she speaks without thinking when she’s angry...” She paused for a second. “But this time he didn’t back away with some of his shitty remarks. He... He launched himself over her. I thought he was gonna kill her—I jumped on him but he threw me off pretty easily... I was so useless.” Hilde sobbed.

“But you called the police, which is what you had to do. You couldn’t have handled him alone,” Jørn reminded her. “Henrik’s like a rabid bear, it could have been even worse for you if you tried to fight him.”

The Swedish was something else, always keeping his head cool, even in the worst scenarios. If it was Leah in that situation, Søren probably would lose it. He could be cold and keep a stern expression most of the time, but having the people he loved in danger triggered some survival, fucking nuts caveman shit in his head.

“Yeah… I know, but still…” Hilde wiped her cheek. “When Alex came in, he got Henrik off Astrid and put him against the wall with his forearm pressing into his throat. I had never seen him so mad… and then they got into a fight, hurting Astrid when she tried to help Alex. I think Henrik elbowed her in the face when he tried to get rid of her? I’m not even sure, it all happened so fast...”

“It’s alright...” Jørn hugged her.

“I’m sorry.” She sobbed.

“Don’t be,” Søren told her, touching her back. “You couldn’t have done more, and they’re both okay thanks to you.” He smiled at her. “What I still don’t get is why Alex is in surgery?” he said in a questioning tone as he turned to Ian.

The guitarist ran a hand through his hair, huffing, avoiding eye contact with him. “Henrik had a knife...”


“But I’m more worried about the concussion they said he has... Astrid said he was unconscious by the time the paramedics got to the club.” The guitarist gritted his teeth.

“Fucking shit.”

“What’s going on, Søren?” Leah asked, touching his arm.

Søren rubbed a hand over his face, letting out a sigh as he sat on the plastic chair, motioning her to sit with him.

Her face changed from a concerned expression to anger and grief as he told her what he had just learned. When Jørn called him, he didn’t get into much detail, just told him they were at the hospital because Henrik had stormed inside their club and attacked Astrid, sending Alex straight to surgery when he tried to defend her.

As he finished explaining to her what they had been talking about, including a few things about Astrid’s relationship with Henrik so she could understand, she looked at their joined hands. Hers felt icy and slightly sweaty.

Søren looked at her, brows furrowed. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Because you look like a zombie and your hands are frozen.”

“Oh, wow! Thank you!” She softly chuckled, sadness thick in her voice.

“I didn’t mean it like that.” He shook his head. “Maybe you have a fever or something?” He searched her eyes.

“Nah, it’s just…”

“Hm?” He brushed a lock of hair away from her face.

“... I hate hospitals. Make me feel sick.”

The few seconds she took to respond made him suspicious, but he didn’t give it much importance, his mind too cloudy with scary memories to think about anything else. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” She gave him a light smile. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“You being here is more than enough,” he whispered before kissing her temple.

She nodded. “Okay… I’m gonna get some coffee,” she announced as she got up. “Do you want anything, guys?”

“A black one for me,” Søren said.


“If you could get me the same, it’d be great,” Jørn commented at her as he kept caressing Hilde’s arm. “Thanks.”

“I don’t want anything, thank you.” The red-head added.


“I’m coming with you,” Ian declared.

As they walked away, Søren reclined in his seat, heaving a sigh. He was exhausted and stressed. He didn’t care about the club, the insurance, and all the paperwork they would have to do during the next few days, not even about the following tour dates or the press if they found out. Fuck that and the record label. He just needed to know how Astrid and Alex were.

“She’s great,” Hilde commented in a low voice.

Søren slightly smiled. She really was. Even though he had acted like an ass while they were in the car, she had ignored it all, only focusing on him, supporting him, understanding him.

As he was about to answer her, he saw Astrid walking their way. Her face looked terrible with the left cheek swollen, a dark purplish color reaching her eye.

He got up and approached her.

“Søren...” Her voice immediately broke, tears running down her face as she stood there, unsure of what to do.

“Fuck, Astrid...” He didn’t doubt and pulled her against him, hugging her tight. All his anger and frustration flying out the window when her arms circled his waist and she started sobbing.

“I—I’m so sorry...” she stammered over her words. “You were right about him and... and... now Alex... this is all my fault.”

“Listen, As, this is not your fault,” he said, moving away and cupping her face with both hands. She was having a hard time keeping her left eye open. The stitches on her cheek looked painful. “You just broke up with him, and that doesn’t give him the right to go all berserk on you, you hear me?” Her beautiful, light green eyes watered again.

“But Alex—”

“That you two are together doesn’t make you guilty either. That fucktard lost it and attacked you. This is all on him, okay?”

She sniffled with a small smile, nodding. “I—I’m glad you’re here.”

“Of course, not letting you go through this alone.” He kissed her forehead.

“Thanks...” She lowered her gaze. “I didn’t want to bother you, I knew you were with her...” She bit her bottom lip. “But I didn’t know who else to call...”

“As, you did the right thing.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I told you, you don’t need to—”

“About everything.” She stared at him with apologetic eyes. “I was so miserable and felt so lonely... Henrik was with me, but it was as if he wasn’t—and you were always so busy with the band and all the things that were going on with the label... I didn’t have anyone to talk to... And I didn’t want to burden Hilde with my shit....” she blabbered. “I really felt you two were leaving me behind... And instead of talking to you, I screwed it all up because I couldn’t stand the way you looked at her—I felt so out of your lives... Like you didn’t need me anymore.”

“We’ll talk about this another time, okay?” he told her in a low voice, flinching when he saw the bruises around her neck. Perfectly defined finger marks wrapping around it. Fucking bastard. “But just so you know, we’ll always need you.”

“Thank you, S.” She hugged him again. “I’ve missed you.”

“Me too,” he whispered, rubbing her back, comforting her. He knew that being there was the right thing to do, that as much as he wanted to rip Henrik’s head off, doing a Varg Vikernes and killing a fellow musician, would take him nowhere.

“Astrid, girl!” Ian’s voice reverberated in the space. Thank God it was a private waiting room and no one else was there.

“Hey, Faulkner...”

The guitar player gave Jørn his coffee and then hugged Astrid carefully so he wouldn’t hurt her or pour his coffee over her, grinning like a kid when he swept her off her feet, making her giggle.

“How is she doing?” Leah asked Søren as she handed him his paper cup, the bitter smell immediately warming him.

“She’s worried about Alex and a bit jittery after what happened, but she’ll get over it.”

“Glad to hear that.”

“How are you feeling?”

Leah shrugged, eyes fixed on the dark brown liquid of her cup. “I’ll be okay.”

“I can take you home.” He caressed her jawline.

Her eyes darted up to him. “No, I want to be here with you.”

“Okay, okay...” He smiled at her.

After talking with Ian and the couple, Astrid finally turned to them. As she approached them, Søren felt Leah tensing beside him. He couldn’t blame her since their last encounter hadn’t been exactly friendly.

“Hey...” Astrid said, looking at the German, her voice coming out raspy and low. “Thank you for accompanying him.” She sweetly smiled. “He probably would have lost his shit if you weren’t here.” She was really trying to make up for being a jerk the last time they saw each other.

“S—Sure,” Leah stuttered, covering her mouth with a hand. Then she swallowed hard, body slightly bending forward as she gave him her coffee. “Excuse me.” She put her other hand over her stomach and ran away.

“What’s wrong with her?” Astrid asked, worried.

“I have no idea...” Søren mumbled, looking in the direction she had left. “She’s been feeling a bit sick since we got here. She said hospitals make her sick... Gonna go check on her.” He gave Astrid an apologetic look.

He threw the paper cups in the trash can, and with his heart in his throat he went after Leah, following the bathroom’s signs.

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