When my mind felt emptied, I called Tyler over to come listen to a few of the tracks I’d created that week. I wasn’t even sure if they were any good, but I wanted him to hear them, because it felt like the first time in ages I’d been able to truly tap deeply into my emotions. I was learning to use my pain to create beauty.
I didn’t only write about Emery and Reese. I wrote about my brother. I wrote about the pain and sorrow that flooded through me. I wrote about hurts and happiness. I worked through every single emotion that hit me because I was no longer pushing everything down within me. I felt it all and didn’t criticize myself for the need to feel. When anger built up in my system, I wrote it down. When love was heavily in my heart, I created from that place of being.
I created a mixtape and set it in front of my friend to hear.
Tyler’s jaw sat on the floor after I played the tracks for him. He raced his hand over his head. “Holy shit,” he muttered. “You did all of this over the past two weeks?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Holy shit,” he repeated, running his hand over his mouth. “Oliver, this is the best music you’ve ever created. It’s raw and real, and holy shit,” he huffed, shaking his head in disbelief as he pushed the palms of his hands against his eyes.
“Don’t tell me you’re crying,” I joked.
“Fuck off, will you? There’s nothing wrong about a grown man expressing his emotions.”
“So, that means you like it?” I asked.
“That means I think you’ve created your comeback album.”
“I don’t really care if the world hates it,” I started to argue, but he cut me off.
“Nobody’s thinking about the world right now, Oliver. I’m talking about your world. This is the comeback album for you and your soul.” He clapped his hands together. “So what about Emery? Did you figure out how you’re getting her back?”
I grimaced, because I wished it was that easy. I wished I could just play her a few songs, and everything would fall back into place. But I knew better than to give myself that false hope. Emery had too much to lose in order to keep me. I wouldn’t get in her way.
“I can’t have her back, Tyler. She can’t be in my life.”
“Wrong.” He clasped his hands behind his head and gave me a smirk as if he knew something that I didn’t. “I saw you with her, Oliver. I saw how she was with you. It’s not that she made you better . . . you made her better too. You’re stronger when you both are together. So, now’s not the time to respect her wishes, because these aren’t her true wishes. Now’s the time to fight for her. To fight for each other. We only get this one shot at life. Please don’t stop fighting for Emery’s love.”
“What do I do?”
“Don’t play dumb, Oliver. I think you already know, and you’re just too much of a little bitch to do it. So go ahead. Just do what you think needs to be done.”
I hated him, because he was right. I knew what I had to do, but I also knew I would be crossing some lines.
But for Emery and Reese?
I’d cross every border, if it meant I could keep them in my life.
“Yup. Always here,” he said, repeating the words my parents often said to me. “Alex would love this, you know,” he said, waving toward the soundboard at the tracks I’d played for him. “This is what he wanted from you all along. To go back to the basics. Now, figure out a way to let those two girls hear this too. Don’t let your music die in the studio.”
After speaking to Tyler, I knew I had to do something for Emery, even from a distance. So I went to the last person I wanted to see in order to try to protect Emery from losing Reese.
“I’m surprised you called,” Cam stated as we sat down at a table outside a restaurant. I wanted to meet in private, but of course, Cam wanted to go somewhere public. Probably for the opportunity of the paparazzi to get their photographs of us together. “Now, what do you want, Oliver?”
“We need to talk.”
“Oh, now you want to talk? You sure didn’t when you broke up with me for your bullshit reasons.”
“They weren’t bullshit, Cam. We both knew that we weren’t compatible.”
“Yeah, but I was sticking it out because I saw the opportunities that could’ve come from being with you. You could’ve really helped my career.”
“Don’t you see why that’s a shitty reason to stay in a relationship?”
She rolled her eyes. “What exactly do you want, Oliver? If you’re here to just waste my time, congratulations. I’m already bored.”
I clasped my hands together and placed them on the table. “I need you to tell the truth to the news outlets about our relationship. I need you to tell them that I wasn’t the monster you made me out to be.”
She huffed. “Yeah fucking right. You think I’m an idiot? That would make me look insane in the public eye.”
“Don’t you care about how you made me look?”
She laughed. No shit, she actually laughed. I couldn’t for the life of me believe that I’d been so low in my past that I’d settled for someone as cruel as her.
“I couldn’t care less about how it makes you look. Haven’t you seen? Ever since those interviews, my career has taken off. I’ve had the number one single for the past three weeks. Not to mention, I’ve been on almost every magazine cover.”
“You’ve also ruined my life.”
She smirked and shrugged. “That’s show business, baby. We’re in the entertainment industry, Oliver. This is what we do. We tell the world a story. The story I’m telling is that I’m the country sweetheart, and you’re the dark, damaged musician who lost his way.”
“You don’t feel remorse for doing that to me?”
“Not a lick. The truth is, the only reason I stuck around with you was because of the payoff I was supposed to get. The fame and celebrity-couple status.”
And there it was.
Cam’s true colors.
“What you’ve done is affecting other people’s lives, though, Cam. In a very serious way. I don’t care about me anymore. You’re hurting people that I love.”
“Like who? It’s not like you have anyone in your life that actually cares for you, except for your pathetic parents. Is it Tyler? Kelly? Whose life?”
“It’s not them.”
She cocked an eyebrow. “Then who?” Her lips pursed together as she released a low whistle. “Don’t tell me it’s that chef?”
“It doesn’t matter who it is.”
“But it does,” she disagreed. “Oh my God, of course it’s her. Were you fucking her when we were together?”
“No. The only one who was ever unfaithful in our relationship was you.”
She snickered. “Can you blame me? Why would anyone want to love someone as damaged as you?”
I didn’t have anything else to say to her. Honestly, I’d heard everything that I needed to hear. She wasn’t going to go back on what she’d said to the press; therefore I had no reason to stay around Cam for a second longer. Her and her toxic ways weren’t a lifestyle I lived in anymore. I’d worked too hard on my healing to crumble at her feet.
Each passing day, in the morning I received a text message from Oliver. They were simple messages with songs attached to them. Simple messages that got me through the hardest moments in my life.
Oliver: For when you need to laugh—Fuck You, by CeeLo Green
Oliver: For when you need to cry—Trying My Best, Anson Seabra
Oliver: For when you need to remember your strength—Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys
Oliver: For when you need any emotional girl power time—Any Lizzo or Taylor Swift song
Oliver: For when you need to remember my love—You Are the Reason, Calum Scott
The last song made me cry, but it wasn’t sad tears. It was tears of love. So, even though I knew I couldn’t be with Oliver now as I worked through my issues, I sent him a song as a reminder of my love for him.
Emery: For when you need to remember my love—Heart Stamps, Alex & Oliver
Each day the songs kept coming my way, and I played every one on repeat. Even though for now Oliver and I had to keep our distance, I swore I could feel his love as the lyrics of the songs danced within my soul.
I didn’t know if what I was doing made any sense, but in my gut, I knew I had to try my best. As I pulled into Randall, Oregon, I was determined to track Emery’s sister down. It didn’t take long for me to find out where Emery’s parents lived, and once I’d learned that, I was able to find Sammie.
It was midday when I pulled up to their house, and I was thankful when I knocked that Sammie answered the door instead of Emery’s parents. Don’t get me wrong: I would’ve stood up to their father again, but he wasn’t my target for the day—Sammie was.
“Oliver Smith,” she muttered, looking stunned as she stood in front of me. “What . . . I . . .”
“You’re Sammie?” I asked, holding my hand out for her to shake. She took it, and shook, allowing me to feel the trembles in her grip. “It’s nice to meet you.”
She stared blankly, shocked, as if I were a ghost or something.
Her fingernails scratched at her forearms for a bit. “What are you doing here?”
“I think you know why I’m here. I came to talk to you.”
“To me? Why would you do that? I’m nobody.”