Can Harper &Garret find a way back to each other or will fame/mental illness destroy them?
A pair of eyes burned a hole in the back of my neck as I leaned against a spare guitar cab. I eyed the timer ticking down the last minute until we had to go back out on set for our second song and looked around the studio, trying to absorb it all before it ended. This was the first time we'd been invited to play a late night show and it could give us the push we needed to make it mainstream, and, you know, make actual money from our art, and we need that. We've plateaued in our current scene, so to say it's a make or break performance is the biggest of understatements.
I still felt the eyes on the back of my neck and my body temperature rose to an uncomfortable level. I don't get nervous all that often and that's the way I wish it'd stay. I tried to bury the urge to turn around and confirm that it was my ex-boyfriend and current band mate, Garret Bruce, doing the staring. Another dead-eyed stare or monosyllabic sentence would break me, especially since our breakup was all his fault in the first place. All his fault that I've been living on our drummer's couch for the last four days instead of with him in our apartment. Then there's an idiotically optimistic part of me that wants to believe any emotion, even hatred or annoyance, would be better than him pretending the last two years didn't happen. It's that part of myself that almost always gets me into trouble.
I looked back at the timer, which now read 30 seconds. Fuck it. I turned and took in Garret's tall, lanky body, messy red hair, nose ring that shone even in the dim light of backstage, tattoo sleeves that were a mixture of joke-y and artistic ones that I remembered the heat of when we'd make out, and, finally, my favorite part of him, his warm hazel eyes.
As our eyes met, my last shred of optimism died. His eyes were cold and angry and I wondered what the hell he could possibly have to be mad about. This was stupid and I'm stupid for thinking anything would have changed so quickly. I rubbed the stubble on my chin and felt my throat tighten. I turned back around and tears welled in my eyes. See? Trouble. I should have just kept focus on that stupid timer. I didn't need this right now. Not if I wanted to be able to do my job and sing things. I just don't know why this fight is the one thing we can't talk out. It was so stupid. The timer buzzed loudly in my ear then and jolted me back to reality.
Maybe the song I wrote yesterday will get him to listen to me. Lake won't like that I'm changing shit at the last minute but he'll have to get over it.
I plastered a smile on my face to get ready to go back out and wondered how long it would last. When I got my cue, I bounded back on stage to be Mr. Lead Singer of Rare Tuna Cheerleaders, smile still intact. I have no idea where I got the energy from. Lake started counting off the second song we'd all agreed on for the broadcast, but I turned and waved my hand for him to stop. He looked confused, but stopped.
"So who wants to hear a new acoustic song?" I asked the small audience in the studio.
The crowd cheered their answer. I enjoyed Garret's confused, slightly scared expression a little too much.
I looked nervously at the huge camera pointing at me, "Before I get into the song, I
have a couple questions for you all. That all right?"
More cheers. I'll never understand why they cheer instead of just saying actual words. I saw Garret retreat to the corner of the soundstage.
"How many of you have had your heart broken before?" I raised my own hand.
Lots of cheers and hands went up. Lake's face asked 'what the hell are you doing?' as he slid out from behind his drum kit and walked by me on his way to join Garret.
I ignored him and continued, "Did it ever end over a dumb fight or something like
Less shouts and raised hands, but still a good number, which soothed my own broken heart a little. I took a deep breath. I'm not usually this public about my life but I just want it to stop hurting so goddamn much and this is the only way I know how to make that happen.
"Well, this song's for you."
I grabbed the mic stand and looked out at the audience, praying I wasn't about to make a colossal fool of myself.
"Silence echoes off white tiles/like a poisonous gas/waiting for us to choke/there's a
million words/ I wish I could say to you/But you'd never hear them/anyway/Silence is
a wall I just can't break through..." I blinked some tears away as I trailed off and
annoyance flooded my body.
Normally I don't care if people see that I'm an emotional person but when it comes to the fans... plus I don't need Garret to see me crying while playing a majorly emo-ass song I've made pretty clear is about him. Deep breaths. I focused on the exit sign in the back of the theater before I started the next line.
"...my heart cracks like..." and my voice actually cracked.
Shit. Hurry, make a joke of it to stall for time. I tried not to look right at the camera as I did so.
"...it's... my voice right now. Oh God, sorry, I just need a second." I continued, laughing a loud, nervous laugh before turning away from the crowd and using my shirt to wipe my face.
I opened my mouth again, hoping my voice would cooperate with me now, "like a
bear/you hunted and slashed/until you dragged your claws over my chest/I bled
out/the day you told me to get out."
My chin quivered as the memory of our fight popped into my head again and there was no way I could hide the tears running down each side of my face now. I'm in serious danger of losing my shit. In front of potentially millions of people, not just the ones in front of me. I can see the headlines now, not to mention the social media commentary. Why did I think this was a good idea again? Cheers cut through the dead silence in the studio and I looked up. Most of the crowd had supportive smiles on their faces and had somehow realized the song wasn't over. That encouragement zapped me back to myself enough to finish the rest of the song.
As soon as the lights dimmed, I ran backstage, my mouth so dry that it felt like I could drink the contents of all five Great Lakes and still be thirsty. A hand grabbed my arm and my muscles tensed as I looked down at the hand. Pale skin told me it was Garret's. I steeled myself to turn and face him.
"What the hell did you think you were doing up there just now?" Garret said, a mixture of fear and anger all over his face.
The first words he's spoken to me in days and they're... those? And what could he possibly be afraid of? It's not like we were a secret. I know hearts don't actually crack down the middle but I would have sworn that wasn't true tonight.
"Nothing, apparently. You're impossible." I said, my gaze falling to the floor.
He didn't say anything as I grabbed my half-empty water bottle and walked toward the leftover water bottle pallet nearby. Despite the fact that I'd been standing still, I was breathing like I'd just run a marathon and couldn't catch my breath again. I hoped the semi-privacy of the pallet would help more in the whole catching my breath thing. My hand tightened around the plastic bottle as the moment replayed in my head and the grating sound of crunching plastic echoed in my ears. I threw the bottle to the ground and leaned back against the pallet, wishing I could be anywhere but here.