Then I thought about Alex. That shit only made me sadder.
When it was almost time to perform last night, I told Tyler I was going to run outside for a quick breath of air. Once I started running, I just kept going. Which brought me exactly to my current situation.
I sat in the bathroom of a stranger that morning, completely ashamed of who I’d become. The worst part of it all was I made the mistake of looking up into the mirror. I saw how faded my existence had become, I saw how troubled my life had been, and worst of all? I saw my brother.
Five Years Ago
“Our first sold-out show! This is fucking amazing,” Alex exclaimed as he marched back and forth in our dressing room. It was a tiny venue with the smallest dressing room that we had to share, but we didn’t care. This was the first show we’d ever had where tickets sold out—all three hundred. Which was a huge deal to us. The venue was all standing space, and I could hear the crowd from the dressing room.
My nerves were shot.
“And did you see this?” Alex said, excited as ever as he held a paper in front of me. “‘Alex & Oliver are the Black Sam Smiths of this day and age,’” he said, reading the quote. “I mean, sure, that’s a bit racist bringing our skin color into the situation, and sure, it’s annoying to be compared to another artist, but shit! I love Sam Smith. If there’s not a somewhat decent compliment in that sentence, then I don’t know what’s good,” he joked.
Our race and sound always seemed to be a big topic in the tabloids. We were always being compared to other artists, and it was both annoying and flattering, all at the same time. The oddest comparison we’d received was when they said we were like Dan + Shay—which made no sense. We didn’t sing a lick of country, and the only thing we had in common were our names being in our duo titles.
“It’s like a backhanded compliment,” I agreed, fidgeting with my hands.
Alex looked my way and snickered. “You’re doing that thing again.”
“Overthinking. Listen, you’re talented as fuck, Oliver, and those people came tonight to see that talent. We got this. You got this. This is about to be the best show we’ve ever done. Now come here.” He held his arms out wide as he looked my way, nodding.
I cocked an eyebrow. “What are you doing?”
“I’m giving you my bear hug of comfort. Now come on, little brother. Come hug me.”
“You can’t call me ‘little brother.’ I was born three minutes after you.”
“Which, in fact, makes you my little brother. Now come on. Bear hug.”
I rolled my eyes. “Shut up, Alex.”
“Fine. If you want to act all tough like you don’t want a hug, then fine.” He shrugged, giving up on the idea. I was thankful for that.
I stood up and moved to the full-length mirror, and as I began to smooth out my outfit, Alex rushed up behind me and pulled me into the tightest bear hug known to humankind.
I couldn’t help but laugh at my idiotic brother, who was swinging back and forth with me tied in his grip.
“Boys!” Tyler came bursting into the dressing room and cocked an eyebrow in our direction. He didn’t for a moment seem freaked out by our brotherly embrace, because he knew we were weird assholes. “Hate to break up the warm embrace, but you got a meet and greet to handle before the concert.”
Alex and I looked toward one another, and then at Tyler, before we silently agreed, bum-rushed him, and pulled him into a tight hug too.
“For the love of all good things, let me go, you little emotional shits,” Tyler groaned.
“Did you hear that we’re the Black Sam Smiths?” I joked.
“Yes, I heard, and I called the paper for the insult. Now, pull yourselves together. You got a big night ahead of you. Tonight might be the night you play for the right person and we get the chance of a lifetime.”
Good ol’ Tyler had been saying that for the past ten years. It hadn’t happened yet, but I wasn’t giving up hope.
We headed to the front of the venue, where all those for the meet and greet were waiting in a line. There were about forty or fifty people. That was insane. For the longest time, our biggest fans were our parents. Mom and Dad were still our biggest fans, but now there were at least forty-some people who felt the need to wait in line simply to meet us.
We met with the fans and autographed whatever they brought our way—including a few tits—and it was a fantastic time. When two women walked up to us, I realized how dedicated our fans were, because one of them looked at least fifteen months pregnant. That baby was going to fall out of her sooner rather than later. The other woman, her sister maybe, based on how much they looked alike, was grinning.
The pregnant woman rested her jittery hands on her stomach. Even though she shook, I couldn’t get over the fact that there was a small smile on her face, which to me felt like the biggest victory in the world. Seeing people excited to meet us made me feel beyond blessed.
The two women took a step forward, and I noticed that their legs began to tremble as they linked arms and came closer.
“Hi there, I’m—” I started, but the squeaky-clean voice of the nonpregnant one cut me off.
“Oliver Smith, yes, we know, hi. How are you? And you’re Alex Smith. Oh my gosh. You’re amazing. You both are. You’re everything good and inspirational and meaningful in the music industry. People don’t create music like you do. I think you’re both the best. And amazing. And amazingly the best and and and—” And she was full-blown fangirling. I never in my life thought Alex and I would have fangirls.
Hell, we were lucky.
The other woman reached forward and pinched the chatty one’s elbow, making her halt her words.
“Sorry,” she muttered, turning slightly red. “I’m just—we’re—excited to meet you both,” she said, gesturing toward herself and the other woman, who hadn’t spoken a word at all. She held out two concert tickets for Alex and me to sign. “Sorry, I wish we had something better for your autograph, but money is tight, so these are our souvenirs.”
“That is beyond good enough for us,” Alex said. “It means the world to us that you even came out.” He turned to the pregnant woman and shared his smile her way, which made her cheeks blush over. “It’s nice to meet you both. How far along are you?” Alex asked.
She parted her lips, and as she was about to speak, I watched her nerves overtake her. No words left her mouth.
The other woman placed her hand on the other one’s forearm. “She’s due next week.”
My eyes widened. “Really? And you’re here at an Alex & Oliver concert? That’s dedication.”
“Like I said, we’re your biggest fans,” she joked.
I smirked. “Well, if it’s a boy, Oliver is a great name.”
Alex added, “I hear the name Alex is better. Alexander works too. Plus, if it’s a girl, Reese is a good choice, too, which is my—”
“Middle name,” the women said in unison with him.
He laughed. “You are our biggest fans.” He winked their way, and I was almost certain the women were going to explode into a million pieces of joy from their giddiness. “Are you two sisters? You look like twins.”
“We are sisters, not twins. You two look like twins too. I mean, obviously,” the nonpregnant sister said bashfully. She was so beautiful, in her shyness.
“Would you guys like a photograph?” I asked.
“Oh yes, please,” she replied, pulling out her cell phone and handing it to Tyler, who was in charge of snapping the photographs.
She jumped to the left side of me, and the other placed herself right in between my brother and me. I went to place my arms around her shoulder, and without hesitation the other sister snapped. “Wait, no, my sister doesn’t like to be tou—”
“It’s okay,” the pregnant sister said, shaking her head. She smiled wide and nodded toward Alex and me, giving us permission. Right as my arm landed against her shoulder blade, everything was flipped upside down.
“Oh my gosh!” she gasped. Seconds later a splash of water hit my shoe. I was so completely thrown off by hearing the sound of her voice that I almost missed what had happened to pull the sound out of her. Her water had broken, leaving all four of us with pale expressions.
“Oh my gosh,” she kept repeating, holding her hands against her stomach as she looked back and forth between my eyes and his shoes. “I’m so, so sorry,” she muttered, humiliated by what had taken place. She kept clearing her throat repeatedly as her voice shook with nerves.
“Oh my gosh, don’t worry about it. Are you okay?”
Before she could answer, her sister went into panic mode and rushed to her side. “We have to get you to the hospital. I’m sorry, but we have to go. I’m sorry about your shoes.”
I smirked. “As long as you keep considering using my name for the child, we’ll call it even. I wish you the best of luck, and congratulations.”