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I. Three Years Later

It was just like yesterday when Lucian told me that night that everything would change. But it didn't. It's been three years since I first released my debut album. News outlets were quick to name me as one of the fastest rising stars in Music. Everywhere I went I could see my name on newsstands. "All Hail, Glory," they claimed in bold, red letters. A few clicks here and there then I'd see my name in the fine print. Sometimes a headline, other times just a tiny description or a tag. I was the new obsession for some and it felt right. A few days in and my single was climbing up the charts. It was crazy hearing your song for the first time on the radio. For a moment, I felt like my dream was coming true. What I've always told my mom what I was going to be, it was happening. How I wished I could see all the faces of the people I knew back then who told me I wouldn't make it. The people who doubted me and my dreams. But maybe they were right. You see, the Industry is not as grand as it seems. One minute you're the next big thing and then you wake up the next day, there's a new one they are crowning the same title. It was like consolation prizes for participating.

It was merely a scratch in the Industry. Bigger names were in focus and more established stars took the spot I longed for. Three years of simply being tossed to the side in favor of other personalities, that hogged the limelight. This was not what Lucian promised.

I looked at myself in the mirror. It was dark all around me and my image was the only one I could see. My skin looked better than it used to. It was spotless to the point that I don't even know if it is real. Just as everything else I see in front of me. The clothes. The jewelry. My hair. It was as if I hardly recognize myself from the girl who used to sing at Open Mic Nights. The girl who had to beg for a spot. The girl with little to no connections to people who can give me the spotlight even for just fifteen minutes. I was no longer that girl.

Two hands brushed on my bare shoulders and held them firmly. "Are you ready?" he asked. I could only reach out to his warm hands as I felt his lips to my ear. "Tomorrow's the big day. And everything will be much different."

"You already told me that before."

I didn't know why I said that. It was some burst of emotions. Somehow, it felt great having to release such words in a moment. But the creeping guilt was just as immediate.

"Do you have something in mind, Glory?" His tone was firmer this time. And I lost all the attitude at once. "No," I cowered.

He held my face in his hands and looked me straight in the eyes, "Trust me." And I smiled knowing he's right. Lucian has been doing everything he can to keep me on track to success. He is no ordinary manager. If he was, I would already be on the sidelines and he'd be working with someone prettier and more talented than me. And he's still by my side even if I failed to launch to greater heights. I have to keep reminding myself that. He gave me a chance when no one else would dare listen. For him to be willing to still work with me, he must really believe I can make it. And that's what I should think as well. It's just that I've been waiting for so long.

"Our time will come. You just have to trust me on this." I nodded but tears trickled down my cheeks. He wiped them clean gently.

"Am I not interesting enough?"
"No, no, don't think that way. You are Glory. All honor. All praise. Believe me when I tell you that."
"I just don't know what you see in me. I look in the mirror and I see disappointment and failure."
"That's why you do not look with your own eyes. You have to surrender yourself to me and see the world in my eyes. Just listen to every word I say and follow me. Only me."

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. And I swore I saw his reflection differently. Pitch black. I couldn't move. "Do you understand?" he shook my body and I had no reason to say no. "Good. Now sit tight and let me handle all the work. I'm gonna have to leave you for a moment and make sure everything is in order for the release tomorrow. I want you to stay here and wait for me."

He could be strict and caring in a snap. Each time he does I fall for it and stay in my lane. I don't know why he has that power over me. Fear, admiration or guilt, my mind does not know the difference. Sometimes, I wonder who he really is. I've known him for three years yet I have yet to know what is it like to be Lucian. From what I've seen, people usually end up the same way as I do. Quiet and submissive to his demands. Maybe he was just really one of those people who have that atmosphere of authority. A confidence in his own self that I wish I had. The type of person everyone looks up to and wish they had a tiny fraction of what he possesses. Somehow, I felt like it was not the first time I've had questions about him. It's like I already know the answer but for the life of me, I can't seem to piece it all together. Trying would only hurt my brain like a bolt of electricity. Sharp and piercing through my ears. Just like that reflection I saw in the mirror. It was as if a piece of my memory scrapped like torn pages of a book. Missing pieces were at every corner of my mind. I looked around me to find my eyes adjusting from being away from all the lights. Alone. The room was cold yet the colors was a touch of yellow and red. Behind me was a slightly open door. Blue light seeped through the opening and a faint sound reeled me nearer. He was on the phone.

"What's the problem? A leak? Well shut those sites down immediately! You know what you have to do. What do you mean there's too many? Shut some of them. Redirect the others. Use the malware if you have to. We can't have people getting the album for free and interfering with the numbers. This is supposed to be her big break. Do what you have to. I don't care what. Just finish it. I'm going to be down there in an hour. I expect you to have this fixed by then."

He sounded furious but his body remained so calm and precise. Before he took another call, he glanced back to where I was. I've never been so quick to hide. Another peek and he put his phone to his ear.

"I need people here right now and guard her. Make sure she does not come out until tomorrow. I'm going to be on my way to the Grid." Just as he ended a call, he received another. "Yes, we are pushing through. Yes." His voice grew fainter until it was only a whisper. He's gone.

I've always stayed where he wanted me. Can't remember any significant place I've been in the last three years. It was just the studio. Rehearsals. And some closed door performances. He said it was part of the plan. That he did not want me to be hounded by the media. It kept my image a mystery. I did not speak before and after performances. The only times people heard my voice was when I had to sing. There are only a few videos of my performances online. Pretty sure it was his work as well to have every amateur recording removed. It is beyond me why we have to go this route but I have no choice but to follow. Can't say I do miss connecting with my audience. Speaking to them and telling them it was nice of them to come. And that my career is alive because of them. Hell, I miss being around other people. Feeling the warmth of laughter. Taking the time to breathe. I looked steadily at the dust in the light of the open door. Then, it hit me.

This was my chance.

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