She isn’t at the motel. They’d shared a ride to the concert but Alex thinks she must have ducked out early with most of the crowd. He’s taken to wearing sunglasses on stage and getting the lighting crew to flood him with spotlights to obscure the rows of empty seats from his view. She calls it blinding himself to his failures.
He remembers when she used to watch from just behind the curtain. She could dance like nobody else he’d ever seen, and watching her had charged his blood with adrenaline that kicked his performance into a different realm. The crowd had fed on it, thrown it back at him, had him damn near drunk with the thrill.
Back at the hotel they’d celebrate his success with sips of champagne between bouts of laughter and her low voice husking his own songs into his ear.
I could give up my life if you told me to…
The bitter strains of prophecy.
They fight, constantly. Alex brainstorms how to improve the show and she scoffs and snarls and smirks, her eyes twin black bruises, because why does he even bother? Alex’s hands wind to fists he has to clamp between his knees. She only ever laughs at him, the dissonance of it worse than the most cutting of words, and Alex doesn’t understand why she doesn’t just
He tells her every day, his glare a challenge she never dares to meet. It’s a far cry from the three words he used to tell her, once upon a time.
Alex’s next concert isn’t for three days—his manager had cancelled all but the first show in each city when the ticket sales had stalled in the dozens—and he finds himself bent over his guitar, playing what used to be crowd favourites. He plucks harshly at the strings, sneers the words through gritted teeth.
Her grating laughter interrupts him. She leans into the doorframe, her grin an open wound. Her skirt skims the backs of her thighs. They boast fingerprint bruises that don’t fit Alex’s hands.
“Nostalgia doesn’t suit you,” she says, and disappears into the bathroom. Alex hears the hiss of the shower. The steam carries the smell of her to him through the door she didn’t bother to close: sweetheart cherries dipped in unfamiliar cologne.
He spends the rest of his days off watching his old concerts back to back. He barely recognises the little kid with the wicked voice and electric smile that stares back at him. Eventually he stops being able to find her in the crowds. He wonders if he even noticed her absence.
These days, he is painfully aware of the empty side of the bed.
Backstage, after the penultimate show of the tour, he finds her pressed into the wall by one of the stagehands; her head thrown back, mouth stretched wide.
Red as ever, it knows the taste of his blood.
Alex finds himself on the roof of the arena, legs dangling over the ledge, teasing the tarmac a hundred feet below. The heavy metal door clangs open and shut behind him. Then her footsteps. Quiet. Hesitant.
She folds herself over the ledge. He can feel the heat of the blood streaked across her cheek, the corresponding bite of it at his split knuckles.
“You should leave me,” he says, and means it, viscerally.
“Yes,” she sighs. “I should.”
They stay until morning, their wounds clotting under the red light of dawn lacerating the sky.
AP Story: Get Lost
Written by Shannon Eden