I never missed a show.
That should’ve been all they were concerned about—I always showed up.
Three months had passed since Hazel and I had ended the relationship. The band and I were officially heading back to Los Angeles to finish the tracks on our first album. After the album launched, I knew our lives were only going to grow busier.
One night after our last meet and greet before heading back to LA, James pulled me to the side. He must’ve smelled the whiskey on my breath, the same way he had all the nights before.
He lowered his brows. “Be honest, Ian. Are you happy?”
I snickered. “What does happiness have to do with anything? We’re getting famous,” I sarcastically remarked. He went to argue with my words, but I stopped him. After all, the show must go on.
It amazed me how it could seem that all your dreams had come true, yet still, it wasn’t what you’d thought it would be like.
I’d been having nightmares. Some involving my parents, others involving Hazel. I didn’t remember all of the pieces of them, but at the end of each dream, I’d be falling down what felt like an endless black hole. I’d scream out for help, and everyone would stand around me on the outskirts, watching me spiral, watching me fall, and yet no one would reach out to me to give me their hand to hold. Instead, I’d keep free-falling with no hope of finding my way back to solid ground.
When I’d awake, I’d sit up in the darkness of my room and then fall back to sleep, hoping the dreams wouldn’t come back.
“James said Ian has been miserable,” Leah mentioned during our girls’ night, which was now a weekly event. We’d been bingeing Netflix, doing face masks, and eating crappy food as Rosie rolled around in her playpen. Leah had become a best friend to me, and I couldn’t have thanked her enough for stepping in to help care for Rosie when I had online exams to complete.
My chest tightened as I sat on the sofa, eating popcorn. The last thing I wanted to hear was that Ian was struggling with our split. I’d had a strange hope that he’d be able to move on from thinking about me due to his career taking off.
“I wish you would’ve brought me a better update,” I muttered. Guilt had been eating me alive lately, along with loneliness. I missed Ian more than words could ever express. My sleep had been affected by everything that had happened over the past few weeks too. My nightmares had come back, only this time they were dreams about Charlie harming Rosie—my worst fear in the world.
The hardest part about the nightmares? When I’d awaken, I couldn’t roll over and have Ian hold me. I couldn’t pick up my phone and find calmness with his voice. I couldn’t go to him for comfort.
Leah frowned at me as her clay mask began to harden. “I wish I had a better update, too, but truthfully, James is pretty worried. He said Ian has been drinking a lot more too. The guys thought the music and concerts would’ve helped Ian, but his heart just isn’t in it at all anymore. You know why I think that is?”
She reached across and placed her hands against mine. “Because you are his muse, and he doesn’t have that anymore. He misses you, Hazel.”
I lowered my head as tears filled my eyes. “I know.”
“And you miss him. I can tell. You haven’t been yourself, either, and if I’m honest, I just don’t understand why you broke things off with him. You two were as perfect as Big Paw and Holly—meant to be together. I wish I had what you and Ian had. Is it because of the distance? Or, like, those women hanging around the band? Because they are just in it for clout.”
“I don’t know what clout is,” I commented.
She laughed. “Of course you don’t, my sweet, sweet Hazel. All I’m saying is Ian would never betray you by hooking up with another woman, if those are your fears.”
“I wish that was it, but it’s so much more complicated than that, Leah. There’s just so much more at risk with me being with Ian that I’m not willing to put up with.”
Her eyes narrowed, and a baffled look landed on her face. “That sounds really telenovela of you,” she nervously joked. “What in the world could be at risk with you and Ian being a couple?”
I swallowed hard and shook my head as tears filled my eyes. Just thinking about Charlie’s threats made me emotional. The way he’d talked about causing issues to the ranch and, worse, to Rosie terrified me.
“Hazel,” Leah sighed, her eyes watering just from seeing me grow emotional. “What is it?”
“I . . . I shouldn’t tell anyone. The more people who know, the bigger risk there is for trouble.”
“You have my word that I won’t tell a soul, I promise. Besides, whatever is eating you up shouldn’t be solely on your shoulders. Hazel, you’ve done so much to help others. You’re literally nineteen years old and raising your newborn sister. You deserve help. Let me help you. Let me take some weight off your shoulders.”
I took a deep inhalation as tears began rolling down my cheeks. “It’s Charlie. He’s back in town.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Charlie? Who’s Charlie?”
That unleashed a sea of information to catch Leah up on the wildness that was my life. The more details I gave her, the lower her jaw dropped in horror and complete shock. When I finished, she plopped back against the sofa in disbelief.