Eight years later
“Thank you, Paris; you’ve been amazing. We love you all and have a glorious night!” Emma announced loudly down her mic as the sound of the final chord rang through the auditorium. The vast crowd below us, cheering and screaming, banners were waving in the air and cameras flashed.
Stacey drummed out an epic four-bar drum solo, smashing and crashing every drum at her kit in a perfect build-up before chucking her sticks into the crowd. Lydia and I gathered our picks as the drums rolled, throwing them out too. Emma tossed out a couple of her bass pick, and we left the stage, waving to our fans as we stepped off.
Guilty Crown had made it big, and we were currently on our first major headlining tour since we got signed nearly five years ago. Shortly after adding Lydia, who Emma had met at university, to the band. She was the same age as us and our rhythm guitarist.
Lydia was only a couple inches taller than me, with curves in all the right places. Her dyed blue hair styled in a pixie cut that shaped her face perfectly, bringing out her gray eyes, high cheekbones and thin pink lips perfectly. You could tell why Emma took to her; they were similar in so many ways.
Stacey and Emma had gone to university in the end but stayed in Newquay. I’d decided against going to university and took up Shane’s offer of a full-time job after Rosie announced her leaving after falling pregnant. During that time, I focused on my art, even selling a few pieces, and getting small commission gigs for book illustrations and cover designs.
When I wasn’t working or drawing, the girl’s and I worked hard on the band. We kept it chill at first, while they were going through university. We only took small local shows here and there until their courses were over. It was during a small local festival we’d been offered to play on Newquay beach as a supporting act; our label found us.
Our first contract was small, three singles and one album, one short, ten date tour as a support act. After that, we went from strength to strength. It wasn’t easy; I had to give up my job in the store, but now we were on our first major headlining tour. Day four of I couldn’t even count how many, but it lasted two months, starting at the beginning of April, our last date in the first week of June.
We started in London, yesterday Berlin, today Paris, tomorrow Toulouse, then onto a couple of dates in Spain and Italy. After that, we were hitting America for a month before ending back in England that would keep us busy for the final three weeks.
“That was amazing girls!” John, our manager, sounded happy. He was beaming with pride the way a father would look at his children when they brought home an achievement, “You smashed it! Now, get yourself sorted. We got to hit the road as soon as possible.”
John was an older man, nearing his fifties. His chestnut brown hair was graying around the edges, smile lines forming around his dark blue eyes. But despite his ageing look, he had the soul of a younger man. He was always smiling, laughing and joking around.
“Thanks, John.” I smiled, “I’m going to ring my Nana. I’ll be back in a moment.”
“Hurry back!” Emma called as I ran off, finding my phone in the small backstage room and dialing my Nana’s number.
My Nana’s voice sounded through the speaker like music to my ears, “hey sweetheart, how did it go?”
“Amazing!” I beamed, relaxing as I took a seat on the black couch in the dressing room.
It was all I dreamed of and more. Touring, seeing the world, playing, singing, meeting fans, it was the best feeling in the world. Only there was only one thing missing. “How are you doing Nana?”
“Oh me? I’m fine, dear, your grandpa and I are chugging along as always. How are you doing?”
“Same old, I’m good Nana.” Although, I knew it was a lie. I should be good. I had my dream, everything I wanted and more, but yet, there was a hole in my heart, two actually. Gaps that could never be filled, no matter how I tried.
“I’m glad to hear it. We can’t wait till you get back home though, we miss you.”
“I miss you too, Nana. I’ll be back home before you know it.”
“Yeah, for a couple of weeks before you go jetting off again. We’re so proud of you, sweetheart.”
She was right. After the tour was over, we had two weeks off, but then we were heading over to London to write and record our next album. We’d be in London for at least two months. The album had to be ready to drop, October 16th, which meant we had about twelve weeks to do it all in, so there was enough time for mixing, editing, promoting and everything before the drop date.
“Thanks, Nana, can I talk to grandpa?”
“Of course.” Nana’s voice became a little more quiet as she called for my grandpa, “Peter dear, your granddaughter wants to say hello...here he is, sweetheart.”
A few seconds later, that familiar voice came and a bittersweet smile to cross my lips for a fleeting second, “Hey, kiddo.”
“Hey grandpa, how you feeling?”
“Well, besides the ol’ ticker, I’m just dandy.”
Shortly before we left for the tour, my grandpa had a heart attack. It was his second one in the past two years which resulting in them having to fit a pacemaker. I felt so guilty for leaving just two days after his operation, but he assured me he would be okay.
I wanted to stay, but my manager said there was no way around it. We sold out the first four days, and it was a major headliner. I had to go, or quit, which left some pretty lousy repercussion’s while we were under contract. “I got the all clear from the doctors today.”
“That’s good.” I smiled a small smile. It was a smile that was a mix of sadness that I couldn’t be there for my grandpa, but happiness to hear that the doctors said he’d be okay. Just as I was about to speak, a knock came on the door before it opened.
“Pay,” Luke, one of our roadies poked his head it, giving me an apologetic smile, “they need you out there. The new guy is...well, new. He could do with a hand unless you want your guitars all messed up and out of order.”
“Go on, go be a rock star kiddo. We love you.”
“I love you both too. I’ll see you soon.”
“You better. See you kid.” And with that, I hung up and went to help the new guitar tech with my guitars. I had five different ones on tour with us, but that guitar they had given me that Christmas, the Les Paul, all those years ago, it was still my main guitar. I held it dear to me, especially now.
“You did amazing baby, rocking it as always.” A deep male voice spoke from behind me as I laid the Les Paul carefully in its case.
I turned and smiled, looking at the tall, muscled man, tattoo sleeves down both arms showing through his tight, black tee shirt. “Thank you, honey.”
I closed the gap and pressed my lips to his softly. Just as it always did, my heart hurt as our lips touched. As great as he was, as loving as he was, beyond accepting of the things I’d been through, and adoring, he wasn’t him. I loved him, but he wasn’t the man I had been in love with for so long.
“Ready for the next one?” He smiled sweetly, with his typical boy-next-door type of smile after I pulled away.
“Always.” I nodded.
“Mark, stop macking on your woman and do some work.” Our band manager called.
Mark was the frontman of our main support and my boyfriend of six months. He was a good-looking guy, tall, muscles, tattoo’s, a healthy beard that wasn’t too long, but not too short. His dark blue eyes complimented his short dirty blond hair. Chiseled features, the kind of man every woman down there would’ve swooned over, and they did. He was always receiving all sort of marriage proposals, fangirl screams, requests for numbers and dates.
“Alright, I’ll see you on the bus, yeah? Or you riding with the girls tonight?” He looked at me with a hopeful look in his blue eyes.
“Uh,” I looked around nervously before looking back to him, “I think I’m going to stay with the girls tonight if that’s okay, but tomorrow?”
“Sure.” He smiled his perfect white teeth smile, kissing me before he went back to helping his bandmates out.
I stared out the window of the small tour bus, watching the houses illuminated by streetlights. Shops that had closed for the day and various tree’s slowly swaying in the breeze as I sat at the small table, my netbook open on a word document.
I was supposed to be doing some work, but something distracted me. Today we pulled out a song we rarely played, a song I’d written for him. We opted to take it out of heavy rotation, but it was a fan favorite, so our manager insisted we played it every few shows while on tour and it brought everything to the surface.
“I can’t do this anymore, Payton! It’s too fucking hard.” Reid yelled, his voice cracking as his eyes brimmed with tears. The middle of just the next argument. I’d lost count of how many arguments we had. It’s all we’d done the past few months.
“What do you want me to do, Reid? I can’t just quit! I can’t just give it all up. You know full well this is what I always wanted. You’re the one who stayed. You’re the one who told me we could do this and make this work. Now what? You’ve changed your mind?” I sounded, my tone bitter like a sour lemon.
Everything had been great at first. They had offered Reid a tremendous job in a studio over in St. Ives, shortly after we’d gotten our big contact. We’d talked it over for days, before agreeing we were strong enough to handle the distance and clashing schedules. After all, we’d been through more than most other couples and came out fighting.
“I’m not asking you to quit. I just can’t do this anymore. I’m sick of going to bed alone, and I’m sick of waking up alone. I’m sick of eating meals for one, and I’m tired of sitting in this house, alone, coming home...alone. I just, I can’t do it.”
“Then what do you want, Reid? You always go on like this, say you can’t do it, but you won’t ask me to quit? You never tell me what the fuck you want anymore.” I was so tired of it, tired of the fighting and Reid never telling me what he wanted. It seemed as if we’d forgotten how to communicate.
“I want our son back!” He growled. His words sliced me right through the core and shattered my heart as time became suspended in space.
“I...” Tears welled in my own eyes at the thought of the boy we lost when I was just twenty-one weeks. The pain in my chest making it feel as if I had an elephant standing on it.
“We had a plan, Payton! You were going to finish this stretch of the contact, finishing a mere month before your due date. You were going to step away, come home, and we were going to be a fucking family! But then we lost him. We lost our fucking boy and you just...you just carried on. You renewed that fucking contract and went about like it didn’t happen.”
“Is that really how you see it? I carried on like it was nothing?! Because that is NOT true, how DARE you?!” I screamed, enraged that could he accuse me of something so horrible.
“We never fucking talk any more, so how am I supposed to know? You shut me out, and you walk out the door to go on tour. You act like we’re okay, but we haven’t been okay in a long time Payton. All we fucking do is fight. I-I can’t do this.”
Rage filled me, my mind clouded, and all reason left, “Fine, you know what, you don’t have too. I’m done.”
I stormed out, standing at the end of the path of our small two-bedroom house just outside Newquay. I was waiting for him to follow like he always did. For us to kiss, hug and say sorry like we always did.
I waited for so long, standing there as the rain began falling on that Mid March evening. But he never followed, so I left, and never looked back.
That day he didn’t follow me, my heart shattered into a million pieces. I’d recovered some, I guess, but some parts were gone forever. Two holes in my heart would always remain, nothing in this world could fill them.
I still loved him, though, as much as I tried, I couldn’t deny that. I still wore the dolphin necklace and the ring, but I knew it was over. Last Scott heard he’d met someone else, someone through the studio he ran.
I tried so many times to pick up the phone to call him. I wanted to make it right and say we could go to therapy together. We could try to work it out, but each time I remembered how he didn’t follow. How he blamed me, the fights, the resentment. It was over, and there was nothing left to save. Our luck had run out at last.
“Hey, pretty lady.” Lydia smiled her wide smile, taking a seat on the other side of the table, “Can’t sleep?”
“No.” My voice was bland, void of tone or emotion. I didn’t turn to look at her; my eyes still fixed on the scenery flying past as.
“Oh girl, you’re not thinking about Reid again, are you?” She sighed, her voice softening.
“Bullshit, I know you well enough. You got to move on, pretty lady.”
“I’m trying, Lydia, I’m trying so hard.”
“Payton, so long as you hold on to that ring and necklace, you’re never going to move on. I get it, I do, but it’s been a year. You’ve been with Mark for almost six months, and he’s a great guy who dotes on you like a mother fucking queen. Every day women throw themselves at him, but his eyes never leave you. He loves you, and I think, if you can’t love him back, you need to let him go.”
“I do love him.” It wasn’t a lie. I loved him, and he was a great guy, he just wasn’t Reid. Reid had been my one, and I could never love someone like that again. I knew that, but it didn’t mean I didn’t love Mark.
“I believe that, but you’re not in love with him, not the way he is you. You either need to find a way to let go of Reid, or you need to talk to Mark. Let him find someone who can return his love the way he deserves.”
“We’re on a three-month tour with him and his band. You know what it was like when Emma broke up with Joel last tour. I don’t fancy that again. The awkwardness, the stares, the arguing. I want to get through this tour without any extra stress.”
Lydia paused for a moment, “Look, while we’re on this tour with them, focus on the tour, focus on spending time with Mark. Get to know him the way you did Reid. And focus on letting go of the past. If by the end of the tour you can’t, then you need to let Mark go. You’ve been through so much and all you’ve done is throw yourself into the band. We love you for that, but you’ve taken no time for yourself. You need too, or you’re never going to be happy.”
I nodded slowly and finally turned to face her; I knew she was right. That wasn’t all that had happened either. Six months before the split, we lost Laura.
Her lupus took over three years after her transplant, but she couldn’t go through it all again. She did what she could to keep herself around for a while, but once Laura got too sick to the point of needing a kidney transplant, she let it end there.
It was there that it all went wrong. Every call ended in an argument. Every time I came home, the first day would be blissful, happy, not being able to get enough of each other, but then full-on fights a day or two before I had to go back. Things had got better about three months later, we’d got ourselves back on track, then I fell pregnant.
We were both so happy, and we’d always wanted children. We were so lost in the happiness, making plans, searching baby catalogues, bickering whether to make the baby’s room Iron Man themed, or Spiderman.
And then, after one night when I woke up in searing pain, bleeding, we lost the baby, and that was it. We couldn’t find a way back to each other from that.
I thought the grief of losing my parents and Laura had been the worst grief I could ever feel. But, hearing the doctors tell me that my baby had no heartbeat, nothing could top that. I couldn’t even put it into words. There was a word for a child who lost their parents. However, there was no word for a parent who lost their child; nothing could come close to the pain.
It was something no one should ever have to suffer. That’s what broke us. We stopped fighting for each other and started fighting against each other. Resentment building on both sides, until that day, where it all ended.
“I guess we used up all our luck back then.” I thought of all the times we’d had lucky escapes through our past, maybe we’d had too many and used it all up too soon.
“I think you make your own luck; you just have to fight. I think you and Reid went through so much, you both got so lost in your hurt, grief, you let your luck run out. But he’s moved on, and you need to do the same, poppet. I love you, but my job is to be honest, time to pull up the big girl panties, pretty lady.”
“I know.” I sighed sadly.
I loved that she was honest, even if it hurt, I appreciated it. Stacey was the one to go too if I just wanted the comfort, someone to let me cry, hug me and tell me it will be okay. Emma the one if I wanted to bitch and rant, trash talk while chowing down on ice cream. Lydia was there if I needed to hear the truth.
“Come on. We need sleep, wanna hop in my bunk, cuddle up and watch some stupid TV show?”
“Yeah.” I nodded, standing up and closing my laptop. Stuffing it in the black case, I kept it in before putting it up in the cabinet above the table and following Lydia to the sleeping area.