The image of the man’s bleeding body on her parents’ kitchen floor clogged her mind. She shuddered. The murder had always clung to her like a bad scent she couldn’t wash away. She knew no one else could smell it, but it always felt acutely evident. Some days it faded. She’d spend a few weeks without stress, and life would plod forward. She got up, she went to work, she came home.
My eyes shot open as surprise flooded my body. No fucking way! Liam and I were going to the finale? I’d hoped that would happen, but there were times when my doubt had been so strong that hope had seemed a million miles away.For the final voting show, we got to play with the D-Bags. Liam went first, while I watched from backstage. The first thing that struck me while I watched him was how natural Liam looked up there with the guys. Matt and Liam joked around while they got ready, Evan gave him a friendly pat on the back, and Kellan helped him breathe. They all looked like they’d been performing together for years. And then, when the camera turned on and they started playing, the sound struck me. They were good together. Seamless. Flawless. The song they’d chosen had a pretty complicated bass line, but Liam was killing it. He sang all his backup vocals on time, and from what I could hear, on pitch. It was a little painful to see how perfectly somebody else could fit in with the D-Bags, and it reminded me of something I should have remembered when I’d ditched them—I needed them more than they needed me. I’d been given a gift when I’d been invited along, and I hadn’t appreciated it. I did now.
After Liam’s turn, it was mine. I bumped fists with him when he exited the stage, then I gave him a hug and told him what a great job he’d done. He was damn near glowing from his performance high.Kellan was the first one who approached me when I climbed onstage. He gave me a hug, then said in my ear, Ready to kill it? I nodded and he smacked my shoulder. Just like old times, huh?I shook my head. No, this will be better than the old times.
Kellan scrutinized me for a moment, then nodded. As I strapped on my guitar, Evan held his hand out. Good luck, man. Grinning, I shook his hand and thanked him.When he stepped away, Matt approached me. He didn’t say anything at first, just looked at me. I started to apologize, since I thought maybe he was still mad, but he held his hand up to stop me. We’re not allowed to vote, but if I could…I’d vote for you. You’ve been doing amazing, man.
That moved me more than anything I’d heard from anyone else. I had to swallow the lump in my throat before I could speak. Thank you…cuz.
Matt smiled, then smacked me on the back so hard my skin tingled through my shirt. Now don’t fuck up on camera. You need all the votes you can get. I flipped him off and he started laughing. The familiar ribbing made me feel better than I had in ages. I finally felt like I belonged here again.Seeing my expression, Anna let go of the doorframe and stepped into the room. What’s going on? Did you hear something about the show? When’s it airing? I think it’s so weird that they won’t tell you. And it’s not on the schedule yet…it’s only a few weeks away?
Ice-cold fear froze my limbs, while acid-like doubt gnawed holes in my stomach. How do I tell her what a fuckup I am? That I’d given up my plush high-paying job, ripped her from her home, her family, and her friends, lied to her, broken her trust…for nothing. She hadn’t wanted to come here, she hadn’t wanted me to do this, but she’d gone along with it because we were a team and she believed in me. And I’d just lost the only hope I’d had to prove to her that I could be a star without the guys. If I told her the show was cancelled, she’d freak out. She’d be furious about everything I’d thrown away to do this. No, she’d be more than furious, she’d leave…she’d go back to Seattle and leave me here to rot. Or she’d ask me to come with her, but I couldn’t go back there. I just couldn’t. Not as a failure with my tail between my legs.It made me feel any even sicker, but I couldn’t tell her the truth. Not completely. Not yet. I needed to ease her into the truth, give it to her gradually, in pieces, so she didn’t panic, so I had time to think of a backup plan. With that in mind, I decided to tell her something I should have told her a while ago. She’d be upset, but not nearly as upset as she should be. Uh…Harold called…I sort of have bad news. I had to swallow the sudden lump in my throat. Fuck. I’d been so close to having everything I’d ever wanted.
Anna’s face fell, and she placed her fingers over her chest, like her heart was pounding and she was trying to calm the organ down. What? Is there a problem with the show?Forcing a smile to my face that I hoped looked realistic, I shook my head. No, no…it just got pushed back. They’re going to use it as a midseason replacement. You know, when one of the other shows fail. Harold said not to worry, that tons of successful shows get their start that way. It doesn’t mean anything. But the show being cancelled does. Fuck.