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“That’s awful,” the interviewer said, reaching out and placing a hand of comfort on her knee.

“Yes, it’s . . .” Cam paused her words and turned to look away, seemingly emotional. “I’m sorry, it’s just so hard to talk about. I did everything I could for him. We were all mourning the loss of Alex. I wished I had someone to lean on during all of this, but Oliver was so cruel.”

“Did he ever hit you?”

“What kind of fucked-up question is that?” Tyler shouted, gesturing out of frustration at the television.

Cam looked up from her tissue, and the pained expression in her eyes signaled exactly what she wanted it to be seen as—as if I were abusive. As if I were a reclusive monster who’d made her life a living hell.

She didn’t answer the question with her words, but oddly enough, her silence gave all the viewers exactly what she wanted them to receive. They’d think I was a monster. An abusive one at that.

Tyler shut off the television and kept cussing beneath his breath. “Shit, shit, shit, shit,” he muttered, marching back and forth. “This is complete bullshit.”

I didn’t say a word, because what exactly could be said? My mind was spinning fast, coming up with all of the opinions that were being formed about me. I felt the heaviness of it all. I felt the disgust of others thinking that anything that Cam said held an ounce of truth. They thought I was abusive. They thought I was cruel. They thought I was the monster, when truthfully, I had just rid myself of the beast.

I don’t want to be here.

“She’s the fucking devil!” Tyler hissed. “How could she say any of that? I’m gonna get on the phone with PR and see how we spin this bullshit. Dammit. It’s going to go viral. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I gotta get to work. You good, Oliver?”


But of course, I lied. “I’m fine.”

“Okay. I’m going to head off and do damage control. Keep your phone close and stay off-line, okay? Don’t read any of that shit.”

After Tyler left, I tried to turn to music to quiet my thoughts, but it didn’t work. I was spiraling deep into my mind, so I turned to my next fix: alcohol. At that time in my life, I was trying to drink away reality for a short period of time. I’d started drinking by myself to find a numbness, because my thoughts were growing wild. But instead of being a smart drunk, I was an idiot.

I went online and googled articles about Alex & Oliver. I read people’s comments on Cam’s interviews. I looked up old YouTube videos of our concerts. I watched Alex do some of the best guitar solos in the history of forever, and I fucking hurt.

The alcohol that night didn’t bury my emotions; it released them like a river of sorrow. I felt the pain of Alex’s loss tenfold, and then I found comments on Twitter blaming me for his death. Blaming me for being an abusive asshole. Blaming me for being me.

It was bullshit. They didn’t know me. How dare they throw their judgments from behind their keyboards as if they were saints. How dare they diminish the most important relationship in my life down to rumors and lies. How dare they hurt me without having a damn clue about how damaging words could be.

If humans knew how damaging words could be to someone’s mental health and stability, then maybe they would’ve chosen them differently.

Then again, maybe they liked the outcome. Maybe some sick fucks enjoyed hurting others in a way to make themselves feel better about their own shitty lives.

Emery tried to call me a few times, but I didn’t answer. I wasn’t in the right mindset to talk to her. She would’ve given me comfort, and I didn’t think that was something I deserved that evening. It wasn’t until around ten that night that my doorbell rang. I stumbled to answer it, and when I peeked out to see who it was, I was surprised to see Emery standing there.


What was she doing here?

She couldn’t see me like that. I was drunk and in no state of mind to be dealing with her. She didn’t deserve my heavy mind that night.

“Oliver? I hear you moving around. Can you open up, please?” she asked.

I sighed as I took a step away from the door. I brushed my hands over my black T-shirt and raked my hand over my face, as if that was going to make me appear less intoxicated.

I opened the door, and there she was. Little Miss Sunshine, holding a bottle of wine. The moment she saw me, her smile turned upside down.

“Hi,” she breathed out.

“What are you doing here?”

“When you didn’t answer my calls, I wanted to check in on you. I’ve seen the news about . . .”

Her words wandered off, but I knew what she was talking about. By this time, the whole world knew what she was talking about.

“I thought I’d bring wine, but it seems that you already found something to take the edge off.”

I wasn’t proud of it. The last time I’d had a drink was when I woke up in a Disney princess bed. Luckily I wasn’t that far gone yet. If Emery hadn’t come over when she had, there was a chance I would’ve ended up at that same level of drunkenness.

“Can I come in?” she asked.

I grimaced. “I’m not the best company right now.”

“It’s okay. We don’t even have to talk, not really. I just want you to not be alone tonight.”

“What about Reese?”

“My neighbor is watching her for the night. So . . . can I?” she asked again. I stepped to the side of the door, and she walked in. “Maybe instead of wine, we should shoot for water, eh?”

“I’m not really feeling up for water,” I said, wanting whiskey.

“Well, we can do sparkling water and make it fancy. Did you know that if you add MiO to sparkling water it tastes just like Diet Dr Pepper? Random hack of the day,” she said, as if everything was normal. As if Cam hadn’t made some outrageous claims against me all over the internet and television today.

My throat felt tight as she wandered to the kitchen and came back out with two bottles of sparkling water. What did she think of me? What did she think of the rumors?



“I . . .” I looked down at my hands and rubbed them together. “I never hit Cam. I would never do that. I would never lay my hands on a woman.” The words burned as they fell from my mouth. I couldn’t think of a worse rumor to be spread around about me. The thought that people were thinking such things, tweeting those kinds of comments, made me sick to my stomach.

“I know,” she said, nodding, as if she didn’t even need me to confess that truth.

“I feel like I need to make it clear that everything she said was—”

“A lie.” Emery rested her free hand on my forearm and shook her head. “Oliver. I know. She lied about everything. I watched her lie straight to you when she spilled that drink on me. I watched her cruelness for days on end. I know what kind of person she is. You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I know your heart. At least I’m slowly beginning to learn it, from what you’re showing me.”

“That’s not how people see me online. They are saying the complete opposite of that, judging every part of me. They even brought up the idea that it was my fault that my brother died again.”

“Which is all lies. You know that, right?”

I didn’t reply, because my brain seemed to love to jumble up my thoughts, making it hard to know what I believed anymore.

Emery set the bottles of water on the coffee table and walked back over to me. She put her hands into mine and squeezed. “Oliver, those people who judge you the most are the ones who have never been close enough to you to hear your heartbeats. Their opinions don’t matter at all. They don’t get to define who you are with their lies. And every time you feel as if they are getting to you, I’m going to remind you of the truth.”

“That’s not in your job description.”

“You’re right, it’s not. It’s in my human description. That’s what humans are supposed to do. We’re supposed to look out for one another.”

I wondered if she knew she was too good for the world we lived in. Not many people like Emery Taylor existed. Especially in my world. The entertainment business was built around the concept of people looking out for themselves.

“You don’t really think that Alex’s death was your fault, do you?” she asked me.

I tilted my head to lock eyes with hers, and I knew she saw it, because she slightly gasped. She saw my hurts, my demons that were sitting at the forefront of my eyes. She then turned to face me fully, crossed her legs, and squeezed my hands again. She linked our fingers together, and her warmth melted the frozen pieces of me.

“Oliver, it wasn’t your fault,” she whispered. As if she’d known the story I’d been telling myself for over seven months now. As if she saw my guilt-ridden soul and knew the words I needed to hear.