“What do you mean?”
James grimaced and patted my shoulder. “Ian, Rosie is only four months old, and Hazel is just now getting a grip on some kind of normalcy. Do you really think it would be wise to bring a kid as young as Rosie on the road? What kind of life would that be for her? For Hazel? You’re asking them to uproot their world to come into yours, and that’s not fair.”
I hated that he was right, and I hated that I was being so selfish, but I didn’t care. I wanted them there, with me, so Hazel and I could try to see whatever it was we could’ve become. It was stupid; I knew that. I could hardly imagine me being on the road for months, traveling city to city, hotel to hotel, with no sense of normalcy. It was messed up for me to even offer up such an idea to Hazel. But still . . . I’d tried.
“Shit,” I murmured, rubbing my hands against my face.
“I know it sucks, man, and I know you really care about her, the same way she cares about you, but the best thing you could do for yourself is handle these next few weeks and remember why we started this all. It’s all about the music. It’s always been about the music.”
Yes, that was true. It had been all about the music before I’d known that there was more to the world.
I gave him a half grin. “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me. Just got to get through the first few weeks of this change, and I’ll be back to my normal self again.”
Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
He gave me another pat on the back before heading off to talk to the other guys. Probably to inform them that I wasn’t going completely off my rocker and I’d be able to be committed to the next few months of our lives. I would be committed too. Until forever still rang true when it came to my bandmates, even though I’d been slipping a little as of late.
They were busting their asses day in and day out, and what had I done? Given them reasons to doubt our shot at fame because my heart ached for something that wasn’t mine to have anymore?
The walls I’d been working so hard to knock down over the past months were beginning to build again as reality set in—I’d never fucking known who Hazel Stone really was.
I had to shut it off. Shut off my feelings, shut off my heart, shut off my emotions.
I unfollowed her on social media. I deleted all of our previous text messages. I let her go as much as I could, and then I boarded the plane and found the whiskey.
I prided myself on being able to be fully invested in our performances no matter how heavy my heart felt. It became easier when we were standing under those bright lights and a sold-out crowd was singing our lyrics back to us.
Every single day, I thanked God for our fans and for having the ability to meet them. To perform for them. There were so many hard parts of the job, so many things I hated and wished I didn’t have to partake in. Having meet and greets with the fans wasn’t one of those things. If anything, it was the highlight of my career. It was because of those people that I was able to live the life I lived. It was due to their undying love and support that I was allowed to do what I loved doing: create music.
The lines grew more and more each show, which felt surreal to me. Everything was happening in superspeed. I wondered if this was what boy bands felt like. One day, they were performing at high schools, and the next, boom. Millions of fans.
The fans came in droves, hundreds of people spending way too much money to meet me and my gang for the amount of time it took me to scribble my name and snap a photograph. There wasn’t much time for conversation, but there were tears.
The fact that people cried over me and my bandmates baffled me.
It all felt like a dream. Days blended into nights, and weeks transformed into months.
And still, every now and again, Hazel Stone would cross my mind. I tried to brush her away from my thoughts, but it was almost impossible to do so. When I called home to chat with Grams and Big Paw, it took everything for me to not ask how Hazel was doing. Sometimes I’d hear Rosie crying in the background, and I’d want to rush home to hold her.
So stupid, I thought to myself. It’s not even your kid, and you miss her.
Whenever Hazel would cross my mind, I’d let her linger there for a while before moving on and focusing back on the music. Max Fucking Rider told me I just had to find a hot model to bang to get Hazel out of my head, but that was the last thing I wanted. Luckily, Marcus was more than willing to take the models off my hands.
I hadn’t come on that tour for sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I’d come for only one reason: to share my music with the masses, and that was exactly what we were doing.
Still, oddly enough, even though I was surrounded by thousands of fans chanting my name, never in my life had I ever felt so alone.
If you’d asked me years ago if I would miss Eres, I would’ve laughed in your face. Still, there were days I would’ve rather been in the pigpen, hauling hay and staring at Hazel Stone as she told me her confessions.
No matter how much I’d tried to shut off my heart, I couldn’t. It was as if after Hazel had awakened it, I couldn’t turn it back off. And it hurt. It hurt so fucking bad some days all I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep.
Since I couldn’t do that, I used whiskey to cope.
I drank more than I should’ve every day to keep my heart from shattering. The guys mentioned it every so often when I’d show up with sunglasses on to the meet and greets, but I didn’t have the energy to explain myself to them. I was fucked up and needed the whiskey to keep me going.