I got out of the cab and instinctively almost jumped right back in. This was going to be hard. I was going to have to come to terms emotionally, not only with myself but with him.
How could I even say his name? It either came out as a reproachful growl or a longing sigh. Should I address him as Mr. Hall? Who was a kidding? If he were in my place he would never be so affected. I needed to breathe. To be cool. Calm. Collected. Like him.
I glanced at the marquee. He's playing here tonight. Huge letters, what started as dreams he had made reality. I was proud in a bad way; it stung. It was easy to remember when we used to dream together of everything he had achieved now.
I took a deep breath and opened to doors. There was no going back. I ducked into the place- the dark lobby was unlit and empty. I took a few cautious steps toward the doors that lead to the stage. A woman rushed to my side.
"Ah, yes, Ms. Emmitt. The guys should be ready. Just finishing up the photo shoot. They're on the stage, right through-" I cut off the woman waiting in the lobby. She had a cell attached to her ear and by the looks of it, way too much going on at once.
"Thanks, I know where the stage is." I walked through the next set of doors and took a deep breath. This should only take an hour. In and out and on with my life– and they with theirs. I looked at my reflection once before heading in.
I wished I had cut my hair the day before like I had planned. I felt like my long blonde hair made me look like a little girl. I looked exactly as I had years ago, like I hadn't changed. But I had, I reminded myself. Everything had changed. I flattened my hair it one last time and walked through the doors.
Someone was idly keeping a beat on the drums. Max. I walked through the aisles of seats and my heart was matching the beat of the drums.
Faster and faster.
I noticed a photographer narrowing in on Max. Pictures that would accompany my article.
The flashing didn't seem to faze him. Then one of the guitars started up. Very melodically. It wasn't one of their songs. I could tell instantly. They had been a cover band in the beginning; anything from The Beatles, Creedence, CSNY. The classics, really. And they were, or are, amazing. I took a seat in the back of the auditorium, hoping I could just listen to them for a while. Then the bass, and inevitably, the vocals joined in.
His voice gave me shivers when I first heard it when I was 18 years-old. Now, at 26 years-old, I was feeling like a giddy high schooler all over again. It made me want to scream out to him 'Do you still think of me when you sing our old songs?'. Then I felt like I should laugh out loud and wonder if his heart breaks or if he chokes when he sings his song about… me. Was it so easy to get through the song when he sings out my name? I pushed it aside. I wasn't going to be bitter.
I immediately knew what they were playing as soon as the guitar started on.
I used to joke this was the story of his life.
And maybe mine too.
Help, I need somebody,
Help, Not just anybody,
Help, You know I need someone,
It was about six years earlier and one of the first times he had come to my apartment completely wasted. Nearly 2:00 am and I had early classes the next day.
He didn't even bother to knock on the door. No, that wasn't Gavin's style. Three loud bangs. My roommate was too much of a heavy sleeper to wake. I opened the door to see him. My mind spun. I thought he was in St. Louis.
"Gavin, what are you doing here?" I whispered harshly. I really didn't take well to drunk guys stumbling into my apartment. Even if I had a soft spot for this one.
"God, I'm glad you're here Hal. We were playing tonight and I realized something." He smelled of cigarettes and beer. His brown hair was a mess and I had such an urge to push it out of his eyes. But I didn't.
Because I just didn't do that kind of thing. Not to him.
"What is it?" I was tired. He slid in past me, into the living room/dining room/kitchen/TV room in my tiny apartment. I shut the door quietly. I held my hand onto the door knob for a moment longer. Why was I letting him in? But then, how could I shut him out? I was still slightly in awe, Gavin was kind of a loose cannon, but this was different. He was different.
Something was going on.
He paced around the room quickly like he was trying to form his ideas into coherent words. He stuffed his hands into his jeans. The jeans that he wore were tight enough to show his skinny legs. Sometimes, I wanted to take him seriously, but he came so close to becoming a terrible caricature of himself. He looked the part, had the bad habits to back it up- but also the talent. I wanted the latter to win out but of all the guys in the band, worried Gavin's bad habits would halt them. I realized he had his little black blazer and thought how cold he must be; it was January in Chicago.
"Gavin, are you okay?" I wished he could just make it easy and say he was fine—all he needed was a place to stay for the night. No, he wanted to talk. And I would listen because I was his friend. After all the trouble we'd managed to become friends. But I'd listen because I cared more for him than I'd ever be able to admit to myself.
"No, actually, I'm not." He sat on the coffee table and held his head in his hand. "Wait, yes, I am! I'm great. I'm fantastic!" He stood up, his voice rising with every word. He ran his hand through his hair. He could barely stand but he took a few steps closer to me.
"I'm glad you have this new lease on life and all, but could you please be quiet? I have a sleeping roommate that will-"
"Halley, I have something to tell you." He put his hands on my shoulders. I looked at him straight in the eye. He was a good head taller than me, I had to look up to meet his dark eyes. But before I noticed that, I felt the raw chemistry between us. The tension was palpable. There had only been on time that we were ever this close. I nearly choked on the memory.
We usually had an understanding; a mutual semi-tolerance for each other. But lately, we'd started talking and getting on pretty well. Mostly from the encouragement of his brother.
"Yes?" I dearly hoped it wasn't some huge revelation of how to get signed to a huge label, or how he wrote an amazing song. But no.
"I think I love you, Hal." He said almost lackadaisically.
I pushed his hands off my shoulders. I couldn't listen to his nonsense and it didn't help that I let him act this way.
"You need help Gavin. Plus, you're drunk." I put my hand over my eyes. This was too much for a girl to handle so late at night. "I don't know about you, but I have class tomorrow morning so I am going to bed." I turned away from him and walked toward my room. Each step I took felt like I was betraying him, and me. Was I hurting him? Was I getting some kind of sick satisfaction that I could very well be the only girl that ever turned him down?
But my thoughts turned. What the hell did he expect me to do, fall to my knees and thank him? To me, it could only be one extreme to another. I could either walk away or confess my profound love for him. And I wasn't sure I had that deep profound love for Gavin.
"That's all you have to say?" He sounded hurt. I had hoped the alcohol could curb that hurt for a while.
"Please, don't, Gavin. Just don't."
"Hal." I turned to look at him again. It almost hurt.
"You can sleep on the couch if you need to."
There he was, in my apartment, standing there in all of his threshold-of-rock-stardom glory, and all I could do was walk away.
When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody's help in any way,
But now these days are gone and I'm not so self assured,
Now I find I've changed my mind I've opened up the doors.
Maybe I was so unaffected by him because he had so many revelations in a drunken state. He'd call up my roommate after a show and tell her she was beautiful and that he missed her. This was completely out of character for him because he would never say that to her were he sober.
And I would always get angry when he did that to her because she was so in love with him. She would get her hopes up only to be crushed when they came back to Boston. He never called her beautiful and he probably didn't miss her like she imagined.
So I had good reason to be unfeeling to his words.
But that was the last time for a while that he ever told me he loved me.
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down,
And I do appreciate you being around,
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won't you please please help me?
When he was sober we didn't along too well either.
I went to their band practices whenever I had the chance because that meant I could see Garrett. Gavin was a pretty heavy smoker, and so were the rest of guys, even my Garrett, but Gavin was the worst of them all. It was constant, and it drove me insane.
My first mistake was showing my disgust. It didn't take long for him to use it as a means of incessant torture. All too often he would snarl something at me if I so much as rolled my eyes or worse, make a point of being a real jerk about it.
He would light up and saunter over to where I was sitting and lean over. He'd look me right in the eye and take a long puff. Lower his cigarette, tap the ashes right close enough for me to jump away, then blow the smoke into my face.
It was stupid things like smoking in the beginning.
But we got to each other in the worst way. And once you fall in love with someone, it only gets worse.
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways,
My independence seems to vanish in the haze,
But every now and then I feel so insecure,
I know that I just need you like I've never done before.
But then, there was something else too.
He had this passion. It really came out when he was playing or singing or writing. It was so powerful. I was enthralled when I saw him playing. For everything bad I had to say about him, his music was his redeeming quality. It seemed to fuel him, and it was just such a mystery for me. I could understand music, yes, but just how someone could be absolutely into it, how he came alive fully when he was onstage, it amazed me.
And I couldn't help ask, was that passionate about everything? He definitely was when it came to women. He always had his arm around a different girl. The guys used to joke, "New city, new girl." But he was so hot and cold—he was confusing. Yet, when it was just him and me, he was the most lucid person I knew. And he broke more hearts than I could fathom.
Sometimes though, I wondered if, maybe, all those girls broke his heart because they could never be all he wanted. But how could they?
Gavin wanted more than they could ever give him. More than I could, certainly.
Help me. Help me.
I was a realist, and from what I could see right now, this wasn't right. I didn't want to be here to interview them. Screw my editor—if there was one thing I wanted to have it was pride, and how could I still have any dignity going back? It was just an innocent interview, yes, and I had no say in the assignment, again yes, but he didn't know that.
I slowly got up, hoping to creep away. Turning so my back was to the stage, I prayed no one would notice the runaway blonde at the back of the theater.
"Halley?" It was just two syllables, that was all it took to silence everyone on stage, and off for that matter. I couldn't decide whether to just keep walking away or to turn around.
So I just stood there, feeling foolish.
I knew Gavin was there, I could just feel him. I wonder if he felt me?
"Halley?" It was Garrett, I'd always know his voice. I turned around, holding my notebook against my chest. He was making his way to me, between the aisles. I hadn't really prepared to talk to Garrett. I had broken his heart too, hadn't I? He was too good of a person to hold that against me.
"It's a surprise to see you here." He said. I took him in, he looked nearly the same, but now wore a scruffy beard. I was about to say, "I'm sorry it was a mistake, I'll leave." But I noticed someone walking off stage. He was walking off stage.
I wasn't going to run from him. Not again.
"Yeah, well I'm working for Time now so I'm here for the interview." I was calm.
He looked surprised. "Wow, congrats, Hal. So are you in Chicago for good now?"
"Same with us, that is, until we're back on tour. What a coincidence, right?"
I nodded again.
"Come on up, we're just about done with the photo shoot, just fooling around with some old songs." I followed him toward the stage hoping to God I looked okay. Perfect time for vanity. I walked up the steps to the stage. Max jumped up from his drums and enveloped me into a huge hug.
"Hey Max." I managed. "It's good to see you too!" I tried to say at he held me. He finally let go and took a step back and looked at me. He hadn't changed at all; he was like a big brother.
"You've grown up." He said as we broke away.
"It happens, I guess."
"Hey, it's not a bad thing, trust me." Will piped in. I walked right up to him and gave him a hug. I knew it wasn't going to be awkward around these guys, they were forgiving.
"Halley's here to interview us. You could probably write it yourself couldn't you, you know more about us than most people." Garrett said.
I shrugged. "Maybe, but I haven't talked to you guys in a while, I mean it's been what-"
"Four years, about." Garrett said. I knew it had been four years, I just didn't want to seem like I was hanging on to that.
"We can get started whenever you're ready. Unless, um," I signaled to the bass that was lacking the player. The unfinished sentence hung between all of us. This was going to be awkward; him and me. The unspoken truth, he left as soon as he heard his brother call my name. He was the scared one. He was running. Good.
"Gav went to have a smoke." Will offered.
"Let's just get started anyway. So–" Garrett was cut off by Gavin's reappearance. He walked right back to his bass, unfazed. He wore his usual dark sunglasses. I wished he would take them off, I wanted to look into his eyes, to see if he felt like I did, if it was hard for him too.
"Hi." I muttered quietly.
"Hey." He sounded hoarse. And diffident.
"Halley's here to interview us for Time." Max explained, acting as the go between.
"Cool." He muttered.
Cool? That's all he could say? I was going to be calm, I wasn't going to lunge at him because of his lack of emotion when I walked back into his life. He just started absently strumming the bass. Without a care in the world. "Let's get started then."
"Wait, is our little Halley engaged?" Will called out.
I felt heat rush to my face. I wished this day had never come.
I let out a hallow laugh. "Oh, yes, I am." I swallowed hard, feeling self-conscious.
Three of the guys were grinning and passing around their congratulations. I stole a quick glance at Gavin, he had stop playing and his gaze was intent on my face. I couldn't tell what lay beneath the sunglasses, but maybe I was wrong.
Maybe he still cared.
A/N: Please bear with me as I attempt to fix this story that is really riddled with typos and all sorts of lousy grammar. Hopefully I'll get through these eight chapters quickly and get the new one out soon :) And (obviously) the song used in this chapter is by The Beatles.