I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose. “Yes, Reese?”
“Do you think Mr. Mith is hot?”
My eyes bugged out of my face. “What?”
“Kelly asked me to ask you if you thought that, and she said that if you turned red and made a big reaction, that meant yes. So, I guess it’s a yes.”
There was no question in my mind that I was going to kill Kelly the next time I saw her.
“Good night, Reese Marie.”
“Night, Mama.” I took a few steps before I heard, “Hey, Mama?”
A happy sigh this time released from me. “Love you too.”
Emery and I began sending each other two songs each day. Songs to show how we were feeling early in the morning. Songs that summed up how we felt when nightfall came. I listened to every single one she sent, because it made me feel close to her even when she was far away.
The more songs we played, the stronger our connection grew.
Emery: I had to cuss out the camp instructors for allowing some kids to bully Reese today. Song of the day: Last Resort Oliver: Is Reese okay?
Emery: She’s fine. I don’t think she even knows that they are bullying her. I just so happened to walk up when the kids were picking on her for her hair. I told the parents . . . they said it was kids being kids.
Oliver: Kids learning from their shit parents.
Emery: Facts. What’s your song of the night?
Oliver: This City, Sam Fischer. Read some bad comments on the internet. Got to me a little.
Emery: Stay. Off. The. Internet. Or at least only read the good things.
I know, I know.
Oliver: Kelly keeps asking me to ask you a question, but I haven’t talked myself into doing it yet.
Emery: What’s the question?
I started typing, then deleted, then typed, and deleted.
Emery: Don’t do that. Don’t leave me on a cliffhanger. Tell me.
Oliver: Do you think about me the way I think about you?
A few seconds passed before she started typing again.
Emery: Depends. How do you think about me?
Oliver: Like you’re every single good thing in the world wrapped in one person.
She started typing, then stopped, then started and stopped.
Those ellipses were going to be the end of me.
Emery: I think of you how you think of me.
The biggest sigh of relief fell from the depths of my spirit.
Emery: You know what’s weird?
Oliver: What’s that?
Emery: I think I start missing you each day before I even leave your side.
While Emery and I were slowly falling into one another, my breakup with Cam was getting messier and messier due solely to her and her dramatics. It turned out that breaking up with one’s crazy, narcissistic ex-girlfriend wasn’t good enough when she was a celebrity and had the ability to trash your name in the tabloids. I figured Cam would grow tired of the interviews, but they seemed to be getting her the exposure she so desperately craved.
Her favorite new pastime was bashing my image to highlight hers. The rumor mills were getting so out of control that even my team was getting slammed with hate mail, claiming I was an asshole for hurting America’s sweetheart and that they should be ashamed that they worked for me.
It was at that point when I decided I needed to do something about it. I needed to do an interview. And fuck me, I didn’t want to do an interview.
“Are you sure this is the only way?” I asked Tyler as I sat in the dressing room of one of the biggest local entertainment channels.
“The only way, man. I know how hard these are for you, but I want you to know that we’re all in your corner. Okay?” He turned to the clothing designer who’d dressed me that morning. “Also, can we get him out of the dark-gray top? Put him in light blue. It’s more welcoming.” Tyler turned back to me and patted me on the back. “Remember, Oliver. You just gotta tell the truth, all right? Cam and her bullshit lies have nothing on the truth. I’ll be out there cheering you on with Kelly and Emery.”
“Emery?” I said, surprised. “She’s here?”
“Said she wouldn’t miss it.” He glanced at his watch. “Switch shirts, and I’ll see you out there in five minutes.”
He hurried out of the room, and once I was given the shirt to switch into, I was left alone in the room. Me, myself, and my overactive brain. After a quick change, I sat in front of the mirror and looked at myself. Something I was just recently getting used to again, thanks to Emery. Some days it brought me pain; other days there was comfort.
Abigail had been teaching me that all people had days like that. Days that were up, and days that were down. It was all just part of the human experience.
I reached into my pocket for my wallet, opened it, and pulled out the other half of the necklace that was paired to mine. Alex’s heartbeats. I’d been carrying them around with me for the past seven months, holding them close to me, wishing that the necklace was still sitting around his neck. Wishing that he was there to do the interview with me.
“Stay close, brother,” I whispered, closing my eyes and holding the piece of jewelry next to my half.
“Oliver?” a voice said, with a knock on the door.
I went over and opened it to find an intern of some sort standing there with a smile on her face and a gleam in her eyes. “They are ready for you.”
“Of course, and can I just say, I’m a huge fan. I know some people are saying some shitty things about you, but I don’t believe it at all. Your music saved me and helped me through my depression. I just—it’s an honor to meet you,” she said, stars in her eyes and shakiness in her hands.
I gave her a small grin. “You have no clue how much that means to me.”
Funny how when you took your depression and created art, it could help someone else who was struggling with their own demons.
We walked to the set, and the closer I got, the more nerves began to grow in the pit of my stomach. The interviewer, Brad Willows, introduced me and welcomed me to the stage. I took my seat in the oversize cushioned red chair and felt as if the lights were going to blind me.
I don’t want to be here.
It happened pretty quickly. The shaky hands, the sweaty palms, the words getting tangled up in my mind. This was all before Brad had even asked me a question, other than how I was doing.
I felt stiff when I answered. “I’m fine,” I choked out. I blinked a few times, feeling as if the word had come out too aggressive, too cold, too much like myself and not enough like Alex. What would Alex do? He would’ve been personable. He would’ve greeted the audience as well when he walked onto the stage, waving toward everyone. Asking how they’d all been.
I didn’t do that.
I didn’t greet the audience.
Fucking idiot! You should’ve greeted the audience. Now they are all thinking that you’re an asshole and you don’t know how to properly engage, which makes what Cam said seem more true, and now you’re sweating under the stage lights like an idiot and oh shit— Brad was staring at me. As if he was waiting for a reply.
Did he ask me something?
He must’ve asked me something.
What did he ask me?
I blinked a few times and shifted in my chair. “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”
“I said I’m sorry for your loss. It must’ve been a hard one for you to handle.”
Brad wasn’t a big asshole. That was exactly why Tyler set it up for me to go on his late-night show, which was filmed during the daytime. The sun was still out, the birds were still chirping, and fuck. Reply, idiot!
I cleared my throat. “It hasn’t been the easiest year.”
“Understandable. But, I’ve been informed that you’ve been in the studio. Maybe working on some solo pieces?”
“Yes. Slowly but surely it’s coming together.”
“Is it hard creating music without your brother?”
Is it hard creating music without the one person who talked me into doing music in the first place? Is it hard learning how to be a solo artist when you’ve always been part of a duo? Is it hard not hearing Alex’s vocals and guitar on the songs when they come to a finish?
No, Brad. It’s insanely easy.
Don’t say that, Oliver. You’ll sound like a dick.
Damn, it was hot in here. Was there no air-conditioning? I bet Tyler was sweating buckets in the audience. Cursing under his breath about how I was bombing the interview.
“Uh, yeah. It’s difficult.”
“It’s probably even tougher with the allegations that have come out about you and your relationship with Cam.”
Brad seemed so calm as he spoke. Almost as if he wasn’t speaking about how some lunatic was out to ruin my life after my life had already been extremely damaged from losing Alex.
I don’t want to be here.
I shifted in my chair. I felt everyone staring at me, but I couldn’t figure out what to say. I didn’t know how to speak up for myself. I didn’t know how to sit there and tell my truth to combat Cam’s lies.