BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 56

April 26th, 2017
Oslo, Norway
Tonight’s the night I die - Palaye Royal

“Hey, gorgeous!” Frida beamed as she opened the door with one of the babies in her arms, her blue eyes and silky blond hair shining under the sun. “Come on in.”

“Thanks. Søren’s getting something from the car.”

“What did he buy this time?” Frida shook her head. “He’s spoiling these little guys so much.” She chuckled, tickling the boy’s belly.

“Hey!” Hilde peeked from inside with the other baby in her arms.

“Hi!”

Leah was taking her boots off in the foyer when a sharp thud resonated in the house, making Frida huff and roll her eyes.

“Here, take him.” She handed Leah the tiny human. “These men... What are you doing in my kitchen?” she asked as she walked away.

“Okay… And I’m holding…” Leah looked at the boy in her arms. They were really cute with those chubby cheeks, but she was awful at telling them apart.

“That’s Bjorn,” Hilde said.

“Hi, Bjorn…” Leah whispered, looking into his enormous blue eyes as he smiled, making those adorable cooing sounds. Something inside of her twisted with that mix of pain and guilty relief she hadn’t felt in years. “You’re so adorable, you know?”

“Maybe we should take them and run away with them, what do you think?” Hilde quipped as they walked inside.

“I’m in!”

“Ian!” Frida exclaimed. “This is a mess. Jesus! Go away, I’ll do it. This is the last time I’m letting you handle dinner—Don’t you dare to laugh, Jørn!” A slapping sound followed. They weren’t watching the scene.

“Seems like your mommy has a temper...” Leah told Bjorn in a cutesy tone. “But I can’t blame her since your daddy is so silly.” The baby laughed, making Leah’s heart flutter.

Fuck music, that was the best sound in the whole world.

“Should I be jealous?” Søren asked as he walked behind her holding a huge rottweiler stuffed animal with a red bandana collar and a rock mobile for the babies his mother had made—yes, it had felt guitars, amps, and picks instead of animals.

“Maybe. He’s the cutest boy I’ve ever met.”

“Bjorn, you better play nice.” The baby made more cooing sounds, bringing his little fist to his mouth. “That’s not fair, dude.” Søren laughed.

“Hey, guys!” Jørn greeted as he walked out, shaking his head, chuckling—most likely at the banter going on in the kitchen.

“Hey.” Leah smiled at him.

“Where are Alex and Astrid? I thought they were coming with you.”

Søren groaned.

“Okay, I guess I have my answer.”

“Yeah, he’s been kinda grumpy.” Leah teased.

“Eh! I’m not grumpy! Those two are just disgusting. They come to my house, supposedly to hang out, and they don’t take their hands off each other. It’s like they’re teenagers again, and I had enough of that phase.”

“Oops! I think someone needs a diaper change, right Aiden?” The baby in Hilde’s arms giggled.

“They’re such happy boys…” Leah chuckled.

“They are!” Hilde nuzzled her nose with his. “Okay, gonna go change him. Be right back!”

“I’m coming with you.” Jørn followed her.

“Oh my God! These are so cute!” Frida gushed as she approached them. “Can I keep the doggo?”

“You gonna steal the toys from your kids?” Søren asked, crooking an eyebrow.

“Eh! My house, my babies, my rules.”

“You’re gonna be the mom of the year.”

“Shut up, Wolff!” Frida chortled. “Give me those, I’ll take them to their room. Dinner’s almost ready, so you better wash your hands guys...”

“Sup, Fornicator?” Ian gave him a side hug when he walked out of the kitchen with a dishcloth in his hands. “How’s it going?”

“Good.” Søren grinned. “Could you check the demo I sent you?”

“Yeah, I actually built something around it.”

The last few days had been calm and fun. Leah and Søren had gone on a short trip in his camper to enjoy some time alone surrounded by the vast and stunning nature of one of Søren’s favorite places. They had hiked, played music, and stayed up until the sunrise talking. Sex had been kind of wild and uninhibited—in a very primitive way—but Leah was glad they had gone back to civilization. If they stayed there a few more days she wouldn’t be able to walk for a week.

The doorbell ringing interrupted their conversation, bringing Leah back to the real world too.

“I’m gonna get that,” Ian said as he walked away. “You can go upstairs and let Frida put Bjorn to sleep, that’s probably the bonehead and Astrid, so we’ll be having dinner soon.”

“Sure.” She smiled.


“I’m eager for the summer to come,” Leah confessed as she scrolled down through previous year’s Burn to Rise festival pictures.

“You really don’t want to rush it, trust me,” Astrid said, swirling the drink inside her glass as she moved her hand in circles.

“How so?”

“It’s tiring… Don’t get me wrong, traveling is nice but after a couple of weeks of barely sleeping you’ll start wishing you were back at home, stuck inside a comfy, warm bed alone.”

“You go with them every year?”

“Not every year, but yeah, I usually go and help with the merch and all that shit.”

“It must be quite an experience.”

“It is but people are drunk all the time, they’re noisy and annoying, and you end up missing the silence.”

“You have no right to speak about that,” Alex said when he came back from smoking, Søren following close behind. “You were so wasted the second day last year, you fell asleep on a fucking chair and didn’t wake up ’til the next evening. You didn’t even know where you were.”

“That was your fault.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. If you hadn’t bought me that amazing gin, I wouldn’t have drunk so much.”

“You could have saved some for the next few days.”

“Yeah, right.” She snorted. “It was too good and you’d have drunk the rest.”

They had just finished eating the amazing dinner Frida and Ian had prepared for the whole gang, and there they were, having some adult time—kind of—and talking about the upcoming big event for all of them.

Astrid and Hilde had taken the night off, leaving the next in line in charge of the club as Wednesday weren’t such busy days. After all the drama and stress from the last few weeks, they all needed to take a deep breath. Watching them all so relaxed after seeing their faces twisting with pain felt good.

Leah smiled. To think that seven months before she was kissing Søren for the first time… She would have never thought her life would take such a turn, sitting at the same table with the musicians from one of her favorite bands of all times and, not only sleeping with that walking fantasy but actually having a relationship with him. She still felt like floating inside a dream sometimes.

“So, you haven’t been to the States before?” Frida asked.

“Nope.”

“You’ll love it,” Jørn stated.

“I bet. I’ve never been so far away from home. It must be so different…”

“It is.” Søren agreed. “Biggest difference you’ll see is the size and distance between cities. And the roads are amazing. I love driving there and going places.”

“You’ve been there on vacation too?”

“Yeah. A couple of times.”

“And you go places?” Leah arched an eyebrow. “Like striptease places?”

“What the hell? No!”

“What? Why? It’s fun, it’s sexy, and I’ve heard they have some amazing clubs there.”

“First, if I wanted to see naked women dancing, Amsterdam’s red district is closer, and second, shut up!” He shook his head, laughing.

“What else?” Leah leaned her chin on her palm, excited as the child in her resurfaced imagining of how it would be to participate in such a big festival.

“Coffee. I couldn’t make it without it, and there, if you sit down at a restaurant, you pay for coffee one time and it’s unlimited refills.”

“That’s important.” Leah chuckled.

“It’s so needed while touring. And oh, alcohol isn’t so ass-expensive as it is in Norway, for example. You can get double the amount for the same price.”

“Which State do you like to play in the most?” She asked.

“That’s impossible to answer. Our American fans are amazing. They literally go batshit crazy,” Jørn said. “I guess since we don’t play over there as often as we play in other places they’re eager.”

Leah sighed. “I can’t wait.”

“Well, we should get going.” Jørn tapped the table and straightened his back.

“So soon?” Alex grumbled.

“Soon? Dude, it’s past two in the morning and we have lunch with her sister tomorrow.”

“Oh, yeah! I had forgotten.” Hilde yawned. “Jesus… I’m usually awake ’til six and look at me… I’m getting old.”

“We’re gonna go too,” Søren said as he got up, giving Leah a knowing look.

“Guess we’re closing for the day, then,” Alex noted.

“See you on Sunday?” Ian asked, shaking his hand.

“Yeah.”

“Be careful on the way back,” Frida said as they accompanied them to the door.

“Yes, mom!” Astrid quipped.

“Good night, guys.” Jørn waved his hand as he walked towards his car, an arm around Hilde’s shoulders.

“Night!” Ian and Frida said in unison.

“Ah…” Søren let out a loud sigh. “It’s been nice… I missed this.”

“Yeah… And Alex seems to be doing great.”

“True.” He lazily smiled, leaning his head on the back of his seat, looking at her, eyes shimmering with bliss. “Let’s go home…”


April 27th, 2017
Oslo, Norway

With a hand squeezing one of her breasts and the other between her legs, he relentlessly thrust into her from behind. Sharp bursts of breath coming out of his nose, caressing her nape as they drove towards the edge.

“You’re so fucking tight,” Søren groaned before sinking his teeth on her neck.

“Oh, God!” Leah moaned, arching her back, pushing her ass harder against him.

What had started like a sweet cuddling moment as he spooned her, had ended with both of them banging like monkeys in heat.

She was supposed to have gone back home the previous day, but after everything that had happened, Søren had insisted she reschedule her flight and stay another week with him. And he could be very persistent…

“Fuck!” Søren grunted as the palpitations of her inner walls became stronger.

“I’m gonna—Aah!” Her brain synapses collapsed and her fingers dug into the flesh of his ass when a shiver broke through her, striking down her spine and spreading through her entire body.

Søren hummed, his sexy smirk flooding her mind, making her skin tingle as his hips kept hitting the back of hers until, with one more firm and solid stroke, his muscles tensed and he moaned, grasping his own release.

Panting, he pulled out of her and rolled on the bed, staring at the ceiling for a few seconds before he got up.

“That was quite a nap,” Leah humorously said, watching him walk to the bathroom.

“The best I’ve had in a while.”

Leah shook her head, chuckling. She had really gone to bed with the intention of sleeping a little. The nervous state those days always put her in had her exhausted, but when his hands started taunting her and his husky, deep voice touched her skin, drowning the worries in her head, she couldn’t resist.

“Are you gonna keep working this afternoon?” she asked as she stepped inside the shower with him.

“Hm… I need to wrap the lyrics, just missing a few things though, and I’m yours the rest of the day.” He handed her the soap.

“Okay.” She smiled at him. “I may steal another book from you.”

“Sure.” He gave her a quick nod, returning her smile as he walked out of the shower, letting his hair down and drying his skin with a towel, the muscles of his back flexing as he moved, making the wolf tattooed come to life. And that ass…

Sweet Mary, mother of fuck! This man is gonna be the end of me.

As they made their way down, Søren went to the kitchen to refill his bottle of water as Leah’s eyes roamed through the immense collections of books on his shelf. He had almost all genres one could need. He was especially passionate about horror and fiction—the Lovecraft mixed with Poe on his left thigh would give anyone a hint—but he had sci-fi too, history, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, even political and philosophical shit Leah didn’t know how he could read—if he had any romance books it would have been great to tease him about.

Twisting her mouth as she bit on the inside of her cheek, pensive, her eyes found a very worn out English version of a book she had read a few times in German.

“Oh my God! I haven’t read this one in ages… I loved it,” she said as she picked it up.

“Which one?” Søren asked as he approached her.

“The Illustrated Man.”

He chuckled. “Hadn’t read that one in ages either…” A nostalgic glow shone in his beautiful eyes. “My mom gave it to me together with my first guitar when I turned twelve.” He smiled.

“She gave you this book in English when you were twelve?” Leah asked, turning the pages.

“Eh, she made me read Shakespeare when I was ten. That woman’s the sweetest but she’s been like a sergeant with education since I was a baby.”

“She sounds like a good mom…”

“She is.” He pressed her body against his, rubbing her arm.

“What—” The blood in her veins froze and her heart stopped when she saw a picture in between the pages of the book. There was a younger Søren in it, smiling from ear to ear, accompanied by a ghost of her past. That blond long hair, those piercing blue eyes, and that wicked grin… She had seen all that during the last five years in her worst nightmares.

Søren laughed. “Man… See? This should tell you how many years It’s been since I’ve read this book,” he said, flipping the photograph. “Søren and Ryker, last day of school, nineteen ninety-nine.”

No, no, no, no! She mentally screamed.

“W—Who…” She stuttered, an earthquake already crushing her insides.

“This is my brother.” He shook his head, a bitter chuckle leaving his mouth. “I guess my mom put this in the book to help me keep the faith that he’d come back at some point... I didn’t even remember I still had this…”

His voice became muffled by the inner turmoil exploding inside of her. She was panicking, on the verge of having a heart attack. Her hands had turned icy and the loud buzzing in her ears was bone-chilling, but she was paralyzed.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah… It’s just… T—This must be hard for you,” she stuttered.

Søren shrugged. “I’m not happy to see his fucking face knowing he left a few months after this, but it’s alright.” He crumpled the paper in his hand and threw it in the trash can he had inside the music room. “Anyway, gonna get to work. If you need anything, let me know, but for fuck’s sake, don’t scare the shit out of me like you always do.”

She used to creep from behind him when he was working with the headphones on, making him jump on the chair every time.

“But it’s fun,” she said, putting on the fakest smile of her life, feeling like a robot controlled by an outsider as her brain was still trying to process the information.

“Yeah, right.” He kissed her, groping her ass. “Okay, go away, I need to focus and you’re distracting.”

“Fine...” Her throat was felt too dry to even talk.

“I promise”—he looked at her, a questioning eyebrow slightly raising—“I’ll be yours the rest of the day.” He pecked her lips, caressing her jawline with his thumb before locking himself in the studio.

Leah stood there, blankly staring at the door that had just closed in front of her, lost in the void, feeling like crying, aware she wouldn’t be able to swim in the ocean of his eyes much longer.

Suddenly, a switch flicked inside her head, a distant voice screaming at her to run away, forcing her breath to come out sharp and ragged as she stumbled on her way up. She must have done something terrible in some other life to deserve that.

After struggling to get out of her hell on earth, she had finally found peace. It was boring and uneventful, but it was calm and silent, a place where she felt safe. That was why when Søren appeared in her life she pushed him away, he was like a force of nature, the premonition of a beautiful disaster she wasn’t ready to face.

And while she had loved that chaos, while she loved him, what had been a wonderful trip to paradise had just become a walk through the valley of shadows. She had crashed against the ground, breaking every single one of her bones, slowly dying as she bled out.

Puking her guts out with her head ducked inside the toilet as the tears burned her eyes, she felt her whole body shaking, tearing, ripping a painful wailing from her chest. None of her old scars hurt as much as that revelation.

Terrifying silhouettes drowned her in dark memories as the sirens sang a melody of death. She was a prisoner, caged between her heart and brain, fractured, trapped in a scary present she didn’t want to live in anymore.


April 29th, 2017

Oslo, Norway

Taking a deep breath, feeling the warmth of the sun showering him, Søren stretched in bed, rolling to the right… His eyes threw open. Not only was Leah not by his side, but her part of the mattress was cold.

Shit.

He got up and, running a hand through his hair, and walked down the stairs. Heavy and loud beats thundered in his ears as his heart was trying to fight the cold creeping into it.

He hadn’t said anything because he wanted to give her time and space, overwhelming Leah would only make her shut down even more. But after dinner on Thursday, she had been acting weird and he was worried, she even got out of bed in the middle of the night and slept on the couch.

She had told him that something must have upset her stomach, that she didn’t want to bother him, and he bought it at the beginning since she spent Friday sitting by the toilet. But April was a distressing month for her, and she had been way too silent and absent-minded, tensing and flinching when he touched her unexpectedly, sadness obvious in her weak smiles the whole day. He knew there was something else running in circles inside her head.

“Hey…”

As soon as she saw him, Leah got up from the couch and rubbed her face, wiping the tears soaking her cheeks.

“What’s wrong, Babe?” He approached her, feeling the lump in his throat growing, making it almost impossible for him to utter the words. The distance she had been putting between them for the last two days was driving him insane, and it wasn’t the physical one that scared him, but the emotional barrier she was rebuilding around her.

“I have to go back home,” she muttered without looking at him, frantically scratching the back of one of her hands.

“Something’s happened?”

He reached out to touch her, to make her stop hurting herself as the skin of her hand had turned an intense shade of red, but she moved away. It felt like a punch in the throat. He tried to shrug it off as she was clearly anxious, but the feeling of an imminent pain looming over them had set all the alarms inside his head.

“Just need to go back.”

“Leah, please… Talk to me.”

“I have a cab waiting outside.”

“What? Are you gonna leave like this?”

Confusion and agony melted with a hint of annoyance inside him, threatening to rip his ribcage as the ball grew when she didn’t answer. She would always speak her mind out or tell him to fuck off, but she had never been that evasive. “What’s going on?” He swallowed, hard. “Maybe I—”

“Søren, please…” She shook her head. “Don’t make it harder than it already is.” Her voice broke, tearing something inside of him with it. No matter from where you looked at it that was no good. The famous words we need to talk felt weak compared to that. Had he done something wrong?

“I didn’t want to bug you, but I know something’s been bothering you for a couple of days… Tell me, maybe I can help?”

...

“I—I can’t do this.” She sobbed, rubbing her palms over her cheeks again.

His brows creased with concern. “What do you mean?” His heart was starting to do all kinds of crazy shit, flipping, stopping, twisting, squirming, jumping, then stopping again. It was almost impossible to breathe. What was she talking about? This? He didn’t understand.

“I can’t…” Still avoiding eye contact, she flicked a finger between them. “This.” She squeezed her eyes shut, forcing her tears out as she shook her head.

He froze, insides writhing as the waves came crashing down. She was breaking up with him.

“W—What? Why?” He hadn’t felt as real, as alive in a very long time. She didn’t mind if he was fucked up, making him feel he was much more than he ever thought. She had given him hope, and those smiles...The way she looked at him, she felt the same. What happened? “If it’s the distance…” His ears buzzing deafened him and he couldn’t think straight. “Whatever it is I’m sure we can work it out together.”

He tried to touch her again, almost feeling as if he was dreaming, that couldn’t be real, but she stepped back. His chest felt tight, blazing, as if someone was squeezing every bit of remaining oxygen from his lungs. It was like watching a handful of ashes slipping through your fingers as the wind blew them away.

“... It’s”—a quivering breath left her lips—“my ex.”

“What?” He frowned, feeling the heat building in his stomach reach his head, tearing him wide open as he stopped breathing. “Y—You’re going back to that piece of shit after everything he put you through?” He didn’t know if he was more scared or angry. She was leaving him? She was leaving him for an abusive bastard? Had she lost her mind? Did she really love him that much to risk her life again? Was she really choosing him over what they had? What about the trust, the love, the deep connection, everything they had built together that kept their demons away? None of that mattered anymore?

“It’s not that...” Her voice was barely audible.

“Then talk to me, Leah.” Despair was eating him alive.

“... I just can’t.” She cried as she strode towards the entrance.

He couldn’t lose her, there must be something he could do. “Leah, please, wait.” He grabbed her wrist, regretting it immediately when she turned around.

“Don’t touch me!” She howled, her entire body trembling as her eyes filled with emotions he had never seen. His heart grew numb as the tide rolled, bruising it, shattering it in a million pieces when he got a glimpse of the panic hidden behind her tears.

She was terrified…

Of him?

“I can’t do this…” She cried between sobs as she leaned forward.

With his hands thrown up in surrender, Søren stepped back, guts twisting in pain. Watching her crumbling in front of him and not being able to embrace her was making all the events with Alex two weeks before, his bitterness towards his father or his brother, and even his awful childhood look insignificant. Feeling he was the one causing that torment was torture.

He had no idea what had changed or what he had done, but seeing that harrowing fear in her beautiful hazel eyes when she looked at him had killed him, sending him straight to an eternal limbo where the past, present, or future didn’t exist.

Paralyzed, with a bleeding heart struggling to keep palpitating as every fiber in his body was mutilated, he felt the world around him falling apart.

“S—Sorry.” Leah choked between breathless sobs as she grabbed all her stuff and ran away, leaving him behind.

And in the same way she had pumped the life back into him, she had taken it away, devastating everything in the most agonizing and beautiful way possible, making him finally understand why storms were named after people.

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