To my boys, Ran, Jake and Linc.
And for those brave enough to take on a fight that so many can’t win.
“When you meet the one who changes the way your heart beats,
dance with them to that rhythm for as long as the song lasts.”
HEAD SWIMMING, HANDS CLAMMY, AND with cold sweat trickling down my spine, I stand on the stage with the lights beaming down on me, hotter than the fucking sun. With the music humming through my body, I let the deafening roar of the crowd wash over me like a balm to my toxic soul. I would kill for a fucking line of blow right now.
This should be more important than any high. Then again, so should she. I shake my head to rid myself of that shit and the world of hurt that goes along with it. There’s no time to waste on things I can’t change, not on this stage anyway.
I smile at them, raise my arms, and motion with my hands for them to give me more, and they do. I feed off their energy; the stadium is alive with it and I need it to breathe life back into me. Not that I fucking deserve it.
Reaching for my mic stand, I bring it to my mouth and give them my “rock star” smirk. The one that says I’m the guy your mama warned you about and the one that your daddy has dreaded since the day you were born.
“Hello New York!” I yell into the mic, making them go even crazier. “Are you guys ready to rock?” Behind the drums, I give Lawson the cue to start the countdown and the show begins despite the fact that my heart isn’t really in it tonight. She isn’t waiting in the wings for me.
Two hours later we head off stage toward the dressing rooms and the after parties that I love a little too much. Wiping the sweat from my face, I almost miss her standing there with her back against the wall, that sad damn look on her face that I put there. Willow was here. I was crazy to think she wouldn’t be. With new- found confidence I watch as she gives the guys a wave as they greet her. Knowing that something isn’t right with us, the boys are smart enough not to linger.
“Willow.” Her name leaves my mouth on a strained breath. I was sure that I would have to hunt her down and beg for forgiveness after the shit I said to her. The accusations I hurled all while tears streamed down her face. Shit I can barely remember because I was so fucking high. Words that I thought I’d said in a dream, only when I woke up to find her gone, I knew it wasn’t a dream. More like a goddamn nightmare, and I was living it.
“I need to get my things out of the hotel room, and I don’t have my key. My name isn’t on the reservation so they won’t give me one at the front desk. I wasn’t sure if you were planning to leave right after the show or not, so . . .” She trails off. “I won’t take long, and I’ll leave it at the front desk for you, for when you get back.”
All of this is said in a cold, detached ramble that I’m not used to hearing from my Wills. Her face looks drawn, her eyes red-rimmed. I broke her and that kills me. We’ve been together for years, and in one night, I threw it all away. And for what? I can’t even remember right now. No, that’s not true. It wasn’t just one night. I’ve been throwing her away every damn night for months. Chasing that high, letting the paranoia seep in where it didn’t belong.
“I just need to grab my stuff and then I have a flight to catch.” She’s so . . . empty. Void and despondent. It stabs at my insides. Bile churning with the knowledge that I snuffed out her light.
“You—you’re leaving Wills?” The pain I feel at that rocks me.
Shaking her head at me, I see the tears glistening in her hollowed out eyes.
“Don’t. Don’t call me that! The only reason that I’m even still here is because my purse is in the room with my phone and ID in it. Otherwise, I would be home by now.” There’s an underlying thread of hysteria and damning heard in her words.
It hits me then just how big of a bastard I really am. I hurt her, forced her to walk out on me last night, all because of my insecurities, my need to occupy that place of numbness, my heaven and her hell. And now she tells me that she had no phone, no money, no clothes. Nothing.
“Where did you stay last night, Wills? Where did you go without your purse?”
She flinches mildly and then shuts down again. “Don’t worry about it, Stone. I’m not your concern anymore. You don’t have to take care of my ‘needy ass.’ I can take care of myself.”
I can see the anger flaring, red creeping across her beautiful face, but I can also see her lip quivering as she recounts the hurtful things I said to her last night. Words meant to hurt but that were in no way true. I was a dick, I screwed up, and I know in my heart she won’t give me a chance to make it right. I pushed her too far for too long, and now she’s done.
“Willow, I didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean any of it. I was drunk and stupid. Please, baby, let’s talk about it. As soon as the tour is over we can go away just you and me.” There’s desperation in my voice, fear lacing my words. I can’t lose her. I’m not me without her.
“I’m finished talking. I am sick of being accused of things I would never do. I am over walking on eggshells with you, afraid to upset you. Worrying that I’ll end up alone in our room again, in another strange city that I followed you to, wondering where you are and who you’re with and what you’re doing. Hoping this high won’t be the one that you take too far. I’m done with all of it. I love you and I have stood by you, putting up with all of it because I wanted to support you. To be there for you because I know that you are under a lot of pressure, but now I’m done. I’m going home. I see now that I never should have left.”
This is all said with such finality that I feel panic bubbling up inside me. I open my mouth to beg her to stay and talk when a trashy-looking blonde walks up and slides her hand up my arm.
“Stone, I thought you were going to call me,” she whines as she strokes her fingers back and forth over the tattoo on my arm, the willow tree that I got as a surprise for my girl long ago. I snatch my arm away from the blonde and look up at Wills, my eyes wild.
“Baby, it’s not what you think. I swear to you, Wills, it isn’t.” I have no clue if that’s the truth.
“Save it, Stone. I heard you loud and clear last night. You’re not made for one woman. I was stupid to think that you were. Can you please just give me the key so I don’t miss my flight?” Her voice is laced with the anger and pain that she’s feeling, that we’re both feeling.