My eyes darted over the words. It’s possible this is forever ours. It’s possible we’ll reach the stars. We’ll fight for this; we’ll make it real. Is it possible, possible, to show you how I feel?

“Shit.” I blew out a breath of air. “Hazel . . . that’s . . . fuck. It’s like you crawled into my head and read the thoughts I couldn’t decipher. That’s the chorus. That’s it.”

“You really like it?”

“It’s kind of perfect. Help me with the next verse? ‘Too late to go, too early to stay, just want to find out what brings a smile to your face. Is this fake, or is it real? The beating of my heart . . .’” I paused. “The beating of my heart . . .”

“‘The beating of my heart and the shivers down my spine. Just let me know if you’ll be mine,’” she tossed out, as if it came easy as ever to her. She did it over and over again with my other lyrics too. Adding the missing pieces that I’d been in search of for years.

What in the goddamn hell was happening? How had Hazel managed to tap into a source I hadn’t ever been able to find?

“How do you do that?” I asked. “How do you just . . . get it?”

“Easy.” She shrugged. “I’m not a brick wall like you.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means exactly that. You’re a brick wall. You don’t get in touch with your emotions, which means your lyrics come out bland and unauthentic. There’s no heart in them, because you don’t have any heart to give.”

Those words felt like a personal attack.

I tensed up. “Bullshit. I feel things.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Stop talking like you know me.”

“I’m not talking like I know you, because I’m pretty sure I don’t know you. I doubt many people know you at all, because, again, you’re a brick wall. You don’t let people in, because you’re too afraid.”

I couldn’t believe this girl. She was going on and on about how I was cold and closed off, but she didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. And to think I’d given her my black shoes! My chest tightened, and I pushed myself up from the rocking chair as I snatched the notebook from her grip. “I don’t need you telling me who I am or what I’m afraid of,” I snapped, feeling a bit unsettled at how she seemed to see me in a way no one else had.

“You can be pissy about it, but I know you are just because I’m right.”

“You’re not.”

“Am too.”

“I don’t even know why I’m wasting my breath with you,” I grumbled and released a weighted sigh. “I got better things to do.”

“Like write worse lyrics?”

“What the hell is your problem?” I asked, feeling a fire burning in my chest. It had been a long time since anyone had managed to get under my skin, yet there Hazel was, clawing her way into my irritations.

“My problem is that you are talented enough to get out of this town but you’re too stubborn to reach deeper. I would kill to have the gift of music that you do. Your vocals are amazing, and you’re seconds away from your breakthrough, but you’re too afraid to push for it.”

I didn’t want to listen to her anymore, because she was annoying and judgmental and fucking right.

I turned on the soles of my shoes and headed toward the front door. As I opened the screen, Hazel called after me. I didn’t turn to face her, but I did pause for her words.

“You can’t write the truth if you’re lying to yourself.”

She was right, and I knew it, but I’d been lying to myself for a majority of my life. Over time the lies almost seemed real.



Ian and I’d gone a few days staying out of one another’s way. Ever since I’d told him about his lyrics, he’d been doing his best to avoid me like the plague. I couldn’t blame him—I hadn’t been the nicest about it. But I’d listened to enough people blowing smoke up Ian’s butt after his performance that I’d figured he could use some tough love. It had been clear he wasn’t feeling fully confident about his performance, either, based on his pacing.

On Tuesday evening, he came to my room, cranky as ever, and stood in my doorway. “So you’re telling me you’re able to write lyrics like that because you’re in touch with your damn feelings?”

I nodded. “Yes, exactly.”

“And you think I can’t because I’m closed off?”

“Yes, exactly.”

His eyes were narrowed, and a crease ran across his nose as he stood there in deep thought. He scratched the back of his neck and murmured something under his breath before looking at me once more. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Yes, well, it’s also true.”

He didn’t like that reply, so he continued to ignore me.

It wasn’t until late the following Friday that Ian peeked into my bedroom. “Hey, are you awake?”

He seemed much calmer than before. His eyes not as harsh and distant.

“Oh yes, Ian. I am such a loser that I would go to bed at nine on a Friday night,” I responded sarcastically. Even though I was definitely about to go to bed at nine at night.