Five years ago
I stood before the members of my band, The Seven Deadly Sins. I had started it, nursed it from infancy, and now I was leaving, at what I knew was probably the peak of our success. After all, we had just made national TV. None of us was older than fourteen. The six boys wordlessly watched me. They knew what was coming. I held out my hands to them and said simply, "It's time."
One by one, my boys approached and wrapped their arms around me. I hugged them tightly and then backed away. "Your new singer, he comes tonight."
Brice, my drummer, nodded. "We'll miss you."
"Me too," I said, before fleeing.
I planted one fist on my hip and said to my best friend and the other half of my duet, Poison, "Give me my Sins CD."
Jace smirked and said, "Jazzy, I have a surprise for you!"
"What?" I asked, ruffling his black hair. We looked like twins, Jace and I, but we weren't actually related.
"The Seven Deadly Sins want to play with us in our concert tonight!"
My jaw dropped. "No way."
"Yes, way," he said, dancing around me. He was only about two inches taller than me, but I wasn't exactly short myself. We both neared the six foot mark.
"That's not what I meant," I said flatly. "I refuse to play with The Sins."
Jace sighed and relented. "All right. I'll cancel."
"Jason Leonard, I'm going to kill you," I said calmly to Jace as he parked my pretty little neon orange car on the curb.
"That's okay," he said gaily. "The Sins are going to love you! Your voice carries the whole choir."
Okay, let's back up a bit. I left The Sins, and I immediately persuaded my parents to let me change my name. Just my last name. I am now Jasmine Elizabeth Royce. I had been Jasmine Elizabeth Turner. I had left my boys because they were too famous, but also because I had fallen hard for one of our twin pianists, Ivan. I had no intention of being exposed almost half a decade later. And now, because of my suicidal best friend, I was being returned to The Sins and to Ivan. I had never even told Jace about my connection to the band.
"It does not," I spat. "You're biased."
"Actually," he began. I slapped him. Hard. He stopped, looking hurt. "What's with you, Jazz?"
I sighed and reached out to hug him. "Sorry," I mumbled against his chest. "I just do not want to be doing this."
"I noticed," he said. "Anyway, we're on in five minutes."
I stepped onto the dead silent stage and hoped that the Sins wouldn't recognize me. The crowd was silent as they watched Jace play the opening notes on his piano. I started to sing. I shut my eyes and kept going. I didn't have to pay attention to a song that I wrote. Believe me, writing and singing rock music for the piano is hard. Writing and singing decent rock music for the piano is harder. Suddenly, a chorus of deep voices joined mine. I spun in surprise and realized that my boys were singing. Not one of them looked exactly happy to see me.
I flipped the hood of my cape up and strolled backstage during intercession. Jace reached for me, babbling excitedly about nothing. Nobody paid any attention. Everyone was watching me. At last, Ivan stepped forward.
This was right, I knew. He was the one most hurt by my leaving. Jace stopped talking and asked uncertainly, "Is something wrong?"
Ivan ignored him and stepped forward to slip my hood down. His hands lingered on my face. "Jasmine," he breathed. I hadn't allowed anyone to call me by my full name since I had run from him. It felt good to hear it, especially coming from his lips.
"Yes, Ivan. I'm Jasmine." I jerked away, acutely aware of the fact that his long, lean body was pressed to mine. The boy was almost a foot taller than I was, and a year older for sure.
I reached for Jace's hand and said with a sigh, "Jace, my friend, I guess I have to tell you about myself now. You see, I started The Seven Deadly Sins. I was that girl who sang with them for their first year. I hid after that. It's remarkable how easy it is to hide your identity."
Brice said curtly, "Do you realize how difficult you made our lives? We've spent the last five years afraid you were dead, and searching most of that time. Ivan, well, Ivan..." he trailed off helplessly, before finishing with, "He panicked."
Ivan was still holding one arm around my waist. I leaned my head into his chest and moaned, "I am bad at hiding."
He seemed a bit dazed, but he agreed, "Awful."
I did a quick head count. There were eight of us. "Six Sins?" I queried.
Brice's face was pale with fury. "You left us hanging, Jazz. We shot to the top on the momentum of your singing. We did audition the singers you wanted, but none of them were right."
I dropped my head and mumbled, "Sorry."
"You better be," he snapped, hustling us all out onto the stage. What are we singing?"
"'Thanks The Memories,' by Fall Out Boy," Jace blurted. I reached out to wrap my free arm around his waist comfortingly.
I hugged both Jace and Ivan briefly and then let go. I straightened my signature black cape, rimmed with a poisonous green, and started out onto the stage. "I'm singing duet with somebody," I stated.
"Ivan," Brice directed. Jace quickly draped his own poison green cape, edged in black across Ivan's shoulder's and went for Ivan's usual spot on the keyboard.
The music started and I started to sing.
"I'm going to make it bend and break." The backup singers started up behind me.
Ivan looked at me steadily. I looked back. I almost missed my cue, but I did sing. Yes. Oh, yes, I sang last night.
I stood on my doorstep and watched the Sins and Jace hurry down the steps, leaving me alone with Ivan. He looked at me and said softly, "You left."
"I had to," I said brokenly. "I can't--"
I was silenced by his lips crashing down on mine. After a few minutes, he lifted his head and traced my cheekbone with his thumb. "I love you," he said bluntly. "If I had it my way, you would be mine. Forever. I'd propose right now if I had spoken to your father. I bought the ring years ago." He hesitated. "I want to stay with you, but I can't, and I can't bring you with me unless you want to. Come see me in the morning," he requested.
He released me. I lifted my hand in a dazed salute as he glanced over his shoulder and walked away.
This morning, I tapped on the door of his trailer. Ivan opened the door and his eyes lit up. "Jasmine!"
"Ivan," I returned softly.
He pulled me into his little living room and said meaningfully, "I spoke to your father earlier. He was not against the ideas I set before him. I've kept contact with him, but he never did tell me your new name."
I knew my eyes were wide. "Ivan, darling," I said quickly. "I..."
He dropped to one knee and said, "Jasmine Elizabeth, I love you. Will you marry me?"
I knelt and put my arms around his neck. I rested my head against his chest. I could hear his heart pounding. "Why me, Ivan?" I sighed.
He began to rub my back and said reflectively, "I don't know. You're beautiful, but that didn't draw me until later. I guess because you're spirited, but sometimes, you're so unbearably fragile, that my impulse is to protect you."
"I am not fragile," I protested.
He kissed my hand and said affectionately, "Yes, you are."
I hit him. Then I kissed him.