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Six Months Ago

I came from a family built of extroverts. Me? Not so much. It didn’t bother me any. I was one of those lucky bastards who knew who he was at a very young age, and my family loved me for exactly who I’d always been. I thrived in my introverted ways. If I had a book, a jam-packed playlist, and a dog companion, I was a happy guy.

My brother, Alex, was the complete opposite of me—more like my parents. He flourished at social gatherings. If there was a party, Alex was there on center stage. When it came to having a twin, self-discovery almost seemed impossible because everyone compared you with your literal other half. Yet I never really struggled with that when Alex was involved. Even though we were best friends, we were extremely different in a million ways. While he was the extrovert at gatherings, I was the observer.

Alex preferred to engage in groups, while I loved to study them from afar. I knew I was a people person, but I worked best with them on a one-to-one basis. Crowds overwhelmed me, because the energy of the space always felt chaotic. Even though my brother and I never fell victim to thinking we were less than one another, the world had its own opinions of us both.

Alex and I were a musician duo, Alex & Oliver, who’d found more success than we probably deserved. With every pair of siblings in the spotlight, there was one who people preferred over the other. It was even worse with twins. People loved to compare us all the time in the media. From our looks and our personalities, to the way we dressed and handled interviews. Alex was extremely charismatic through and through. He could meet a stranger in the subway station, and after five minutes, they were seemingly the best of friends.

Me, on the other hand? I took my time getting to know a person. I didn’t open up right away, which sometimes made me appear cold. It was truly the opposite, though. I wanted to know what made a person tick. I wanted to not only see them in the sunlight, but I wanted to see their rain clouds too.

I didn’t care who their favorite football team was or how they celebrated New Year’s Eve with friends. Who were they on their worst days? How did they treat animals when no one was looking? When they were dealing with depression, how dark were their overcast skies? Unfortunately, we lived in a world where going deep wasn’t very common anymore. People lived on the surface level, showcasing the happy highlights of themselves. It sometimes took years to discover someone’s shadows, and most people didn’t stick around me long enough to go that deep.

Therefore, even in the duo, Alex and I had different fanbases. The Alexholics were the life of the party. They were the ones in our crowds who brought the energetic energy that my brother had. The Olives—their fan-name choice, not mine—were much more subdued. They were the ones who wrote handwritten letters and sent me long messages on social media, describing to me how our songs affected them.

Both the Alexholics and Olives were the best. Without equal parts of each, Alex & Oliver wouldn’t have been celebrating our third album release with our record label.

That evening, the nightclub was packed with the music industry’s finest to celebrate the release of our new album, Heart Cracks. The room was crawling with talent, egos, and implausible wealth. Everyone who was anyone was there—at least that was what was being alleged across the internet.

All I wanted to do was go home. Don’t get me wrong: I was thankful for everything that had come my way. I had more than enough gratitude for my record label and my team, but after a few hours of me being “on,” my energy craved solitude. I wasn’t very much into parties of any sort. I was much more interested in going home, putting on sweats, and binge-watching documentaries on Netflix. I had an odd obsession with documentaries. Did I ever plan to be a minimalist? No. Would I watch a documentary on it? Hell fucking yes.

There were so many people at the party that night. So many people who smiled in my face but probably didn’t truly know me. People who laughed and made plans to meet up again, even though they were certain they never would commit to those future plans. People who were shoulder to shoulder in conversation, chitchatting about drama within the industry.

Alex was to my left, socializing like no other. He was being the Prince Charming he’d always been, and there I was, grazing the table filled with food, stuffing my face with too many crab bites.

The only things Alex and I had in common were our taste in music and our looks. From our curly, dark-brown hair to our caramel eyes, which we didn’t get from our parents. Dad often joked that Mom must’ve run off during their relationship. For the most part, though, we looked identical to our father, a well-built Black man with welcoming eyes, a rounded nose, and a wide, impressive smile. If our parents weren’t smiling, they were laughing; if they weren’t laughing, they were dancing. Most of the time, they did all three actions at the same time. We were raised by two of the happiest, most supportive people in the world.

While I cruised the appetizers table, I tensed up when I felt someone place their hand on my shoulder and thought I had to put my socializing cap back on. Turning around quickly, I breathed out a sigh of relief as I saw Alex standing behind me. He was wearing all black, with a Hermès gold buckled belt, which I was almost certain he took from my closet. His shirt collar was pressed and smooth, and the sleeves of his button-down shirt were rolled up to his elbows.

“You need to slow down on your socializing, brother. People are afraid you’re going to hop on a table and start dancing,” Alex joked, grabbing my fiftieth crab bite from my hand and popping it into his mouth.

“I said hi to Tyler,” I offered.

“Saying hi to your manager isn’t really being social.” He glanced around the space and rubbed his hand against the back of his neck as his necklace swayed back and forth from him hitting the chain. It was half of a heart necklace—I had the other half. Mom gave it to us years ago, when we went on our first tour. She said she was leaving her heartbeats with us.

Corny as hell, but then again, that was our mother, corny as hell. Sweetest woman you’d ever meet, and a big crybaby. The woman still couldn’t watch Bambi without tears flooding her eyes.

There wasn’t a day when we took off those necklaces. I was thankful for the reminder of home.

“I’ll go talk to Cam. How’s that?” I offered up. Alex tried his best to hide his grimace, but he suffered from a lack of poker face. “You can’t hold a grudge against her forever.”

“I know. I just don’t appreciate how she did that interview and threw you under the bus in an attempt to get exposure. That’s not how your girl should be acting.”

When my brother and I formed our duo, we performed in a lot of small venues. It was then that we crossed paths with small-town Georgia peach Cam—the up-and-coming country star.

Even though we were both different kinds of performers—I was the soul/R&B musician and she the country singer—we found common ground. It wasn’t every day you came across two Black people who found success in an industry where we were the minority.

Even though we were both successful, Cam’s rise to fame had happened within the past year. She was finally getting the credit she deserved for her talents, and I loved to see it. The only problem was, with success came ego. She glowed in the spotlight, but the same glow seemed to become addictive to her. Over time, it was clear we were growing in different directions, which I knew for a fact when we went out for lunch one afternoon and she reached out to the paparazzi to have us photographed together.