"Does it make you uncomfortable?" He screamed as he stood in the pouring rain. His long hair was plastered to his long pale face. His thick, black clothes clung to his skeletal frame.

I stood in my doorway, swaying uneasily. His face was contorted in anger. His ghastly stage make-up smeared across his face. He looked dead and perhaps he was on the inside. There was nothing I could say that could fix a damn thing. I had never meant to hurt him but I had. Actions speak louder than words.

"Does it make you fucking uncomfortable?" He screamed again as though demanding to be heard over the voices in his head and the screeching panic in my own. I clutched the doorway for stability. My legs shook rapidly. I watched as he took a furious step forward.

I could see the deep scar on the side of his face where he had ran thick broken glass once while I took gruesome pictures of his wickedly angry stage performance. I could see his face piercings. I could see the anger in his eyes.

"Tell me, Andie!" He demanded as he glared me down. I clutched my sides and tried to pull my jacket tighter.

"Alex," I cried. "get the fuck out of here." I continued to shake like a leaf caught up in a terrible gust of wind. I was being swept away all right. Swept out of my fucking mind. "If he catches you here-"

"Does it make you fucking uncomfortable?" He screamed over me. I could see him shaking too now. "Does it make you uncomfortable the way he looks at other women? Does it make you uncomfortable when he fucking hits you?" I shook my head in denial. "Does it make you uncomfortable that he fucking beat the shit out of me all my life?"

"Alex, please." I cried as he took another step closer. He could see my face as clearly as I could see his. I knew he could register all of the fear and sadness in my eyes. I knew he could see the rigid structure of my collar bone and the fading bruise around my left eye.

For one fleeting moment I saw recognition. I saw the hurt in his eyes. I saw the anger that had defended me for so long. It was gone quick enough. He had always been a virtual hurricane of rage. Now he faced everything on me as if he could see a way out of it for himself. A way to force me out of it myself.

"He's fucking scum, Andie." He said with anger. His proximity sent my body whirling with terror and confusion. My heart thumped rapidly. His voice was at a decibel below his past screams. He was close enough, he knew, to make me feel the real rage in his voice. "And if you stay with him you are too."

I watched with horror as he turned and walked through the rain alone. His car started and his headlights went on. A crack of thunder ruptured the sky as he pulled away. I collapsed to my knees and sobbed as I watched his taillights disappear in the dark world where the sky wasn't falling apart.

---

Once, when we were practically kids, we jumped together. It's probably a bit ridiculous to remember this pointless time when we were still wiping snot on our sleeves in the bitter cold but it's something that linked us together. Forever.

Alex had always been the kid that everyone hated. He was rough and rude and favored his right fist more than his left. A dirty rat kind of boy. He lived a few blocks down from me. For the longest time I hid our friendship. I would walk with him to school until we could see the the brown building on the horizon and then I would say goodbye and slip down the opposite block. I would meet up with him near my locker after everyone else had gone to lunch and give him half of my own, neatly packed meal. I would walk with my friends to the end of the block after school and wait for their parents to drive up and pull them away from me. Then I would saunter down a block or so and he would always be waiting there.

My mom told me that his father had died a long time ago. She told me to be nice to him. To at least try. She probably wasn't counting on how easy it would be for us to be together. Every summer since we would spend every day together. The old playground across the street from his house was our fortress. I chose to let him pick where we would spend out afternoons.

We must have been freshman in high school the summer that everything changed.

Alex found me sprawled out on the side of a hill not far from my house. He fell down next to me without a sound. His dirty black hair swayed lightly against his tattered black shirt and sometimes hit my arm as I leaned up to look at him. He didn't look back. His chipped black nail-polished fingers picked at his fraying shoe laces nervously. I could see the slight glimmer of tears in his angry eyes.

I reached out and grabbed his hand. He whipped his head to glare at me. "Alex, what is it?" I asked as I held his wrist tight. His big brown eyes lost their malice and his gruff frown eased up. I watched his lower lip tremble. "Alex," I said. "you're scaring me."

"I'm shit, Andie." He told me as he shook his head. "I'm sick of being shit, Andie." He told me as he wiped his eyes with his free hand. His eyes were smudged with black liner and a fading bruise on his cheek hit the sunlight as he threw his head back to face the sky.

I didn't understand what he meant and I couldn't comprehend what to do next. Being young and unequipped to handle whatever Alex was going through I sat dumbly.

He stared up at the passing clouds. "You know, I can see why you're ashamed of me." he said.

"I am not!" I lied defensively. He laughed a little and leaned back on the ground, his head resting on the dry grass. I watched him cautiously, nervously.

"I'm not stupid, Andie." He told me as he shook his wrist free from my hand finally. He laced his fingers together across his stomach and stared serenely at the white patches across the never-ending expanse of blue. "You never talk to me in school. You never even look at me anymore. It's always about the popular girls. The popular guys. The ones you want to fuck." He said without emotion.

I forced down the retorts popping into my mind. I didn't want to tell him that it was a miracle someone as poor as me sat with the clique. I didn't want to tell him that I cared what those people thought. I didn't want to confirm a damn thing.

"I understand." He said after a minute. "I'm the kind of dirt your mother doesn't even like." I suppressed a giggle as I remembered the last time he had wandered by our house. My mom had asked me to politely tell him to take a shower. "I'm shit. No one wants to be around shit." He said calmly.

I jumped to my feet and stared down at him. "Alexander Rush," I declared like an angry mother. "you are so stupid." I placed my hands on my maturing hips and glared at him. "Get up." I demanded. He just smiled up at me as innocently as he could.

I reached down and grabbed his hands with my own. Gathering my strength I forced him up. I grinned as I turned and began to pull him down the hill.

"Andie! Wait!" He yelled as I sped up. I could feel him following me despite his protests. As the hill ended a small pond appeared. I held onto his hand as tightly as I could as I raced toward it. Only the sounds of our heavy shoes smacking the ground entered my ears.

I knelt at the base of the pond and breathed in deeply. He stood above me. I looked up only to see a questioning look plastered on his face. I reached down to the pond and scooped up a handful of mud. I held it in my hand and stared at it. I felt his eyes on me. My skin tingled. Goosebumps rose on the patch of my bare back that his eyes rested on.

I took a small breath and smeared the dirt across my face and down my throat. I took another handful and rubbed it into my white tank top and across my breasts. A laugh escaped my mouth as I continued to smear the brown mud across my body, my legs and my arms.

I stood and turned to him. Even at fourteen he towered over me by a good foot and a half. He looked down at me with this look. This look of amusement and happiness. He reached out and grabbed my dirty hand. "What the hell, Andie?" He asked.

"Alex, if you're shit than I want to be shit too. If your dirt I will be too." I declared as I looked up into his eyes. I surprised myself by meaning it. He laughed and brought my hand up to his face. He rubbed my palm against his cheeks.

We stood there laughing.

---

I stood just inside of the bathroom. The mirror facing me showed me a grotesque sight. My swollen eyes shed more tears and my bruised face covered what had once been something worth looking at. I sucked in as much oxygen as my lungs could take and pulled my hair behind my head. I tied it. I stared.

The rain hitting the windows sounded somewhat louder and more violent than it had just an hour ago when the most terrifying thing I heard was Alex's voice ricocheting in my eardrums.

The fluorescent lights in my home flickered every now and then. I shook freely.

I waited.

I knew he wouldn't come back. I knew he wouldn't ever come back. I had finally done it. I had pushed Alex away. Tears built up steadily in my eyes and shook my head fiercely despite the pounding that resonated inside of my skull with each turn. It seemed impossible that so many tears could be cried at once. Yet all I could think of was Alex's pale face twisted in anger. I could only imagine the revolt in his heart as he stared me down, demanding something he had demanded a thousand times before. I could only see the revulsion on his face as I refused.

I wished relentlessly that he would come back. I needed to explain to him. I needed him to see that I couldn't do it on my own. I couldn't escape. There were too many locks and not enough time.

I heard the sound of the front door opening. I heard it slam shut. "Andie." I swallowed and took a deep breath. I wiped my eyes and shuffled my feet slowly toward the voice.

He stood there towering above me with determination and domination. It always seemed he was so much taller than Alex even though he was a good foot shorter. In fact, he was only taller than me by five inches. Five tiny inches. His face glistened with rain and his muscled arms were folded heavily across his chest. He was silent for a moment as I looked at his feet. "Have you been crying?" He asked in what had once been a tender voice. I shook my head. "You have." He said as he moved toward me. "What about?"

I shook my head weakly. It was so hard to figure this one out. He could turn on me so quickly. I fervently wished I had payed attention when my mother had told me not to play with wild animals.

"Did he come over here again?" He asked loudly. He reached out and caught me up in his arms. His hug felt fake and completely without protection. There were no emotions in his heart for my pain. I shook my head into his chest with fear. "He did, didn't he?" He demanded even louder. I had to stop shaking my head for fear of the trembling in my legs.

He held me at arm's length to examine me. "I ought to kill the little bitch." He declared.

"Evan, he didn't. Okay? Okay?" I muttered as I tried to look him in the eye. The strain of the effort was too much and my eyes fell to the floor once more.

"Alright, babe. Okay." he said evenly as he let me go and went toward the kitchen. "Do you want to go out for dinner?" He asked from inside. I stood dumbly. I could hear him rummaging in the fridge. "We'll have to. You didn't go shopping."

"Sorry." I muttered as I stared at the wall blocking him from my view.

"Get dressed." He said as he peered back into the room. I looked down at my clothes. "You aren't wearing that." He said. "Get dressed." I didn't move even though my mind screamed at me to run to the bedroom. He let out a frustrated sigh. "You're not stupid, Andie. You know how to get dressed."

"I am dressed." I said before I could stop myself. He glared at me, his eyes flashing red warning signs. I lowered my gaze quickly.

His feet were moving toward me quickly. He caught my forearm in his big hand. "You can't wear that Andie." He said as he dragged me toward our room. "You look like a slut in that. Do you want everyone to think you're a slut? Do you want them to just help themselves? Because you're asking for it if you wear that." He threw me onto the bed like he would throw a magazine. I felt my body collide with the mattress and I did not move again.

He moved about in the closet. I watched as he pulled out one of his sweatshirts. His dingy brown eyes looked at me. "At least put this on." He said as he threw it at me.

I waited until he had disappeared before I took off the too big jacket I had wrapped around my frame. My arms quivered as I slipped the hoodie over my head. I stood and let it fall down. I shook inside of it.

"Come on, Andie. Let's go." He hollered from near the front door. I swallowed and let my feet bring me to him. There was no point in fighting anymore. All it would bring would go unnoticed. Alex was gone. No one would care what this man did to me now.

---

The rain hit the car windows heavily. I stared straight ahead, watching the car eat road up and spit it out. The district of his favorite haunts were approaching. I knew Evan well enough to know what trouble he planned on starting.

I watched as bars passed. I watched as memories floated by.

The bar where Alex first played. The bar where he first got paid. The bar where he almost got laid. His face and his body and voice filled the entire city. We had memories everywhere. I felt the lurching in my stomach. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach.

I could hear Evan beside me singing along to some song on the radio and I could feel the hate like ice clogging my veins. I had been taken in too easily. I had been used up to quickly. I had agreed to all of Evan's little stories and chosen not to believe a thing Alex whispered to me in between sets as he moved his guitar off stage.

I shivered against the hollowness of the hoodie I sat in.

I couldn't understand why I never believed Alex despite the love we had between us. Alex took care of me and I took care of him. That was how it had been for years and years. Why had I let it change?

The car stopped and Evan's face turned to look at me. "We're here." He said. I turned my gaze to the building beside us.

---

Alex and I sat in a dumpy coffee shop. Our papers cluttered the booth around us. He kept tucking his long black hair behind his ears. I watched as it fell forward each time he leaned over a page. He sighed and stared up at me.

"Andie, I don't think I'll ever get this fucking song right." His tired eyes pleaded with me for some sort of release.

"Alex, I told you I wasn't leaving until we got it finished." I reached for the page before him. The blurry sketch that appeared was one that sent shivers down my spine. I had learned not to question Alex to readily. He wasn't fond of sharing certain parts of himself. Even with me.

I put it down on the table to stop the obvious shaking. My hands delved below the table. Sometimes his world scared me. My eyes studied each line of the drawing. The man bent over a child's bed looked exactly like Alex. His emotionless dead face stared up at me. Behind him, sodomizing him was a bulk of shadows with no face. No physical feature.

"Andie." Alex said evenly as he reached out and grabbed it from me.

I stared up at him. Our eyes linked and we both knew the words lurking in our future. Conversations in the near future that waited for us.

The door to the coffee shop opened and we both turned to look. Alex's older brother, Evan, stood in the doorway. He grinned at us and went toward the barista. I stared after his handsome face as he leaned on the counter and chatted with the blushing woman.

"Fuck." Alex said as he scrambled to gather his papers up.

"What?" I asked as I turned lazily back toward him. He disappeared below the table for a moment. I could hear him uttering fuck under his breath repeatedly. When he emerged his pale face was whiter than possible. He clenched paper in his fists which shook ever so slightly. "Alex, what's wrong?" I asked as I leaned over the table and gathered the remaining papers for him. He shook his head and snatched them from me. I watched as he thrust them in his bag without straightening them.

I leaned over again and grabbed his shaking hands as he reached for his coffee. "Alex, maybe you shouldn't have anymore coffee."

He smiled meekly at me as he laced his fingers through mine. "Alright, fine." he said. We looked at each other. I felt him calming under my gaze. I felt his hands slowly stop trembling.

"Hey, Alex. Andie." Evan said from beside our table. I turned to smile at Alex's brother. Alex's finger gripped mine tighter. I stiffled an angry yell. I looked back at my friend. He shook his head slightly.

"What do you want, Evan?" Alex said with hostility.

"Can't a big brother just stop to say hi?" He responded as he slid into the booth beside me.

"How'd you know I was here?" Alex asked.

"That Sally chick at your place." I felt Alex tense up. I felt myself tense up as well. Sally, Alex's girlfriend. The woman who hated me with a passion. The woman who spat at me when Alex turned his back and who rammed into me while I held a camera at his shows.

"What do you want?" He tried again.

"Mom wants to know when you're going to stop by." He said airily. I stared at Evan. He sipped from a mug and looked back at me. "Tell me, Andie. When are you going to stop by and say hi to mom?"

"What?" I said with a laugh. He grinned.

"She says she misses you." I smiled.

"I don't know."

"Evan." Alex spat. "Don't talk to Sally again." He said.

I yanked my hands from Alex's grasp and turned to face Evan. "He's touchy about Sally." I explained. "Even I'm banned from their house of solitude." Evan grinned again. It seemed that he never stopped.

"Well, I bet she just fucking hates you." Evan said easily as he leaned back. I fluttered my eyelashes in mock confusion. "You're so damn pretty, Andie. And here you are with Alex, all alone, in his coffee house of choice." He turned to look at Alex. "Tell me, Alex, do you ever bring Sally here?" I watched out of the corner of my eye as Alex shook his head ferociously. "See." He told me.

I smiled eagerly.

The sound of Alex slamming his coffee cup down on the table shattered my attention. He stood hastily and grabbed his bag. "Come on, Andie. I'll give you a ride home." My startled eyes looked up at him. I met only a mask of determined rage. I looked to Evan. He shrugged and stood to let me out.

"Thanks." I said as I squeezed past him.

"Not a problem. See you later, Andie." He said as he grinned at me.

I felt butterflies rise in my stomach. Alex walked quickly out of the shop. I had to run to keep up. He didn't speak as he unlocked his car. He didn't speak as he threw his bag in the backseat. He was silent as he sat behind the wheel and I got in.

I was in the process of buckling the ratty old seat belt when Alex slammed his fists on the steering wheel. I jumped and looked up at him. He slammed them down again. His jaw set tightly as if he were holding in a million things he wanted to scream at the top of his lungs.

I remained still, my hand on the buckle. My eyes questioned him. He didn't return to gaze. "Don't ever talk to him again, Andie." He finally said.

"Excuse me." I said as my eyes opened wide with accusation.

As swiftly as he had banged on the car he turned to me. His face lingered close to mine. "Don't ever talk to him again."

"Alex, you can tell me what to do." I declared as I glared at him. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

He let out a breath. "Don't talk to him without me." He rephrased as he looked away. His eyes mingled with the glowing streetlights that lined the road before us.

"Why?" I demanded.

"I don't trust him." He said as he started the car. "I don't fucking trust him and you shouldn't either."

---

The coffee shop felt much less giving with Evan. It felt cold and damp and the dilapidated condition didn't feel the least bit charming. I stood behind him as he leaned in toward the barista as he'd done a year ago. I watched as he grinned at her. She blushed easily and chatted easily about the specials and her favorites. He made sure to flatter. I felt sick to my stomach.

When we finally sat he picked the booth that Alex and I had frequented so often. He told me where to sit and I obliged. We sat in silence. There was nothing worth talking about with Evan. Everything I said was grounds for a fight. As it turned out, despite my education, I was so fucking stupid.

I didn't move. I didn't think. I just sat and stared at the table top.

"Wanna go to Alex's show tomorrow?" He eventually asked casually. My eyes widened.

"What?' I asked quietly.

"Alex's show? Do you want to go?"

"How did you-"

"He left a voicemail for you. I checked them and accidentally erased it." His light-heartedness felt like a million slices through my entire body.

In that moment I hated the man more than I had ever hated anyone in my life. I could picture walking out on him that very moment. I could imagine myself just standing up and walking out the door into the pouring rain. I could walk to Alex's apartment. I could pound on his door and ask for his help.

I hated myself. I knew that I didn't have the courage I used to posses. I would never get up from that table and walk out the door. I would never walk into the rain on my own and find my way to his apartment. I would remain here forever. Trapped in my desire for the past and a future with Alex, with my best friend, while confronted with the present with his brother.

"We don't have to." I said mindlessly.

"You want to though." Evan said for me. I no longer had enough of a voice to say that for myself. "We can. I hear he knocked Sally up." he said in an off-hand voice.

I shut off the valve to any spec of emotion I had within in myself. I did it without thinking. It only occurred to me after we had got back in the car and started toward the shit-hole we called hom that I now understood every single bit of Alex. I had learned to do what he had been doing for years. I had learned to shut off all emotion except for hate.

I missed Alex then more than I ever had before.

---

Alex and I had been sitting close at the bar. I watched carefully as blood trickled down his face. Sally stood across the room eyeing us suspiciously. He knelt down, his head above my lap and let his wet hair cover my legs. I felt droplets of blood land on my flesh.

"Fuck, Andie." He said as his hands grabbed my legs. I watched as leaned further down and rested his head on lap. "Fuck." I let my fingers stroke his hair.

"You were brilliant." I told him soothingly. "You're a fucking genius, you know that." I told him. I had long stopped asking whether he knew it. It didn't matter that he knew it. Only that everyone else did.

"My head is fucking pounding." he said as he breathed on my skin. "Andie, take me home." I let my fingers trace his bloody face.

"You know I can't, Alex. Sally would throw a fit."

"I don't fucking care. I'm sick of that bitch. Andie, take me home." I sighed and leaned over him.

"Okay." I whispered in his ear. "Stay right here. I'll be right back." I breathed in his ear. I kissed his blood smeared face and ran a finger over his ear. I saw him carefully to the table-top and made sure he rested his head on it before I slipped into the dark backstage.

I found myself talking animatedly with his band members as I rummaged through bags for his house keys. "Do you guys wanna pack up for us?" I asked as I stood and slung my camera bag over my shoulder. I watched as the bassist nodded.

As surreal as anything I had yet experienced I revolved on my heel to find Evan before me. He held a finger up to his lips in a devilishly sly manner. He leaned down and captured my mouth with his. For a moment I relented. Only a moment. Clutching the keys in my palm I pushed him back.

"Evan!" I exclaimed as I glared him down. "What did I tell you?"

"Not in front of Alex. I know. We both agreed. But he's not here is he?" He asked as he leaned in to kiss me again. I shook my head and stepped back.

"Don't." I told him. "I have to take him home."

"You have to?" He asked

"Yes. He needs me to."

"Since when do you do have to do anything?" He asked. He stared down at me with his hungry eyes. "He has Sally. Let her take him home."

I felt the lust rising in my body. I felt the heat rising in my face. I palmed the keys tighter until I felt as if they were going to cut through my skin. I shook my head.

"We have rules, Evan." I said looked down at my feet. "We can't do anything when Alex is around."

"That's what makes it fun, Andie." he said as he reached for me. I backed up. "One day." he said with his grin. "One day I'll come before Alex." I didn't wait for him to disappear. I turned on my heel and raced back to Alex. Back to the sanity I was sure I would always know when around him.

---

The thing I love about Alex is that, even when he is at his meanest, he will look at me and I will see a trace of a smile grace his hard face. His entire being will just be calm and I can see in his eyes the moment he remembers it's not just him against the world. We are in it together.

When he finally discovered what Evan and I had been doing behind his back he was furious. The moment emblazoned on my mind is replayed constantly. Especially in the moments that Evan hovers above me with his hungry fists.

It had been a mistake. Evan had demanded we go out to eat and I had relented despite how much I feared out discovery. It so happened to be a small restaurant by Alex's apartment.

I sat as far back as could possibly get from the table. I felt tiny and shameful. Evan leaned toward me and grinned. Something I was learning to hate. "Don't worry." He said.

Yet I worried and before our food had arrived I had spotted Alex sauntering in with his band. They laughed and shoved each other. I desperately wanted to disappear into the floor and end up with them. They were who I belonged with. I was supposed to be at Alex's side, his arm slung around my shoulder. His long dark hair was supposed to be grazing my shoulder and cheek.

He spotted me quickly. I watched with downcast eyes as he started to wave. I felt his surprise and anxiety as he recognized his brother. He walked away from his friends, our friends. They stood behind with inquisitive eyes.

His lanky body was before us. His hands were on the table. His furious eyes were on Evan. His mouth contorted in rage. "Who the fuck do you think you are?" He hissed at his brother. "Who the fuck do you think you are!"

"Alex, I think you should calm down." Evan said with a smile. "I'm just taking my girlfriend out for dinner." His grin was malicious. I suddenly felt stranded in ice. My body was frozen with fear.

"Your what?" He hissed, his face growing more pale with each moment. His arms trembled. He turned his brown eyes on me. "Andie?" He whispered with such force I felt as if he had punched me. He reached down for me. I brought my hand up and felt him grasp me firmly. He pulled me up. Evan started and Alex spun quickly. He face came closer to Evan's than I had ever seen.

Through my entire friendship with him I had seen his animosity toward his brother but it had never been so close. I had never seen such direct anger between the two of them. For a moment I imagined sparks. "You fucking leave her alone." He yelled in his face.

I let Alex drag me away from Evan. He pushed past the doors and outside. He pulled me close to him as we turned around the corner of the building. I felt him pulling me down to the ground. He grasped me tightly and looked deeply in my eyes. "Andie, what the hell?" His voice was filled with restraint.

I shook my head. Sadness was filling my lungs and brain. I was suffocating in it. "Alex, I-"

"Andie, please." He whispered as his face drew near. "Don't tell me it's true." In an instant I saw the quiver of his lip and I was thrown back to that day so long ago when we had taken the jump together.

"I'm sorry, Alex." I said as I squeezed his hands.

He shook his head. "He's shit Andie. Don't let him do this to us." He shook his head again.

"He's not, Alex." I said defensively.

"You don't know him." His voice was intense with certainty. I felt as if I were hitting a brick wall.

"We've been-"

"Andie, he's a fucking tyrant. He fucking beat the shit out of me every day for years." He looked at me with his big eyes and felt my heart break. "Do you remember when you covered yourself in mud? Do you?" I nodded weakly. "Do you remember that bruise on my face? He did that. He did that everyday. He did so many things every day. He fucking-"

"Alex, no!" I yelled as I pulled myself away from him. "I don't know what problem you have with Evan but he would never hurt anyone. Never. He's too sweet for that." I stood and looked down at him. "Maybe the real problem is that you can't fucking take the fact that I'm not yours anymore."

I left him sitting on the side of the building. As I neared the corner I heard him. "Andie, this was his plan. You know that, right? You'll go back in there and sit down and he'll have won."

When I looked back at him he had brought his knees up to his chest and rested his forehead on them. All of my defenses for Evan disappeared with the sight of Alex sitting alone. Yet I walked back into the restaurant and sat back down across from Evan.

I didn't know it then but I had already become Evan's slave and given up everything I loved.

---

I had managed to sneak away from Evan and pulled off the clothes he had made me wear. Underneath I wore the clothing I had been comfortable in so long ago. I felt stark naked in tattered fishnets and the leather vest. I felt ugly with the bruise on my cheek and my swollen eyes. I needed to be myself for one night. At least what I used to be. Even if it meant something awful when I got home.

I slipped out of the bathroom and toward the stage. My legs shook with anticipation and a slight limp. I breathed slowly in an effort to calm myself. I could see Evan by the bar. I could see the anger in his eyes as he realized his property had not obeyed his every command. I shook inside.

The stage was before me and I immersed myself in the people around me. I turned once to spot Sally by Evan. They were talking. I felt nothing. I felt empty.

"You're Alex's friend right?" A girl by me asked. Startled, I found a small girl in black. I nodded shyly. "I was wondering where you've been. He always looks for you. And that song, man, it fucking rocks. He must really love you." I frowned. "Are you alright?" She asked as she looked closely at my face. I nodded and maneuvered my bruise away from her.

"Yeah." I felt nervous energy rising too quickly. "Do I know you?" I asked lamely.

"Oh no." She laughed. "I've been too intimidated by you two to actually introduce myself." She grinned like a school girl. "I always thought you'd punch my lights out if I talked to him."

"What?" I gasped.

"I always thought you two were, you know, together." I felt a small smile break out across my face as naturally as anything I had ever felt. "That Sally bitch should never have been with him. I always thought you two were meant for each other."

I felt it so strange. I had never meant to put myself out there for his fan base. I had never meant to become part of his public life to such a seemed, since I was included in his private life, his fans knew it. I felt strangely relaxed and content with this realization.

Evan could never erase Alex from me and he could never erase me from Alex.

"I've missed him." I said easily. "I've missed him a lot."

"I bet this will be his best show in months." She said as she surveyed me. "He'll be hot for sure."

A thousand thoughts rose in my mind. I forgot Evan in the back of the room. I forgot the domineering man who haunted my every waking moment. I was here. I was ready to be as Alex remembered me. As I remembered me before I had lost everything to a man who took over the shadows.

I was so tired and hurt from struggling. I wanted my life back. I finally wanted it enough to fight for it.

The club grew dark. I saw Alex's shadowy form come on the stage. I felt his presence and I felt relaxed. The lights went up around him and he preened eagerly on the stage. His eyes scanned the crowd. They focused on me.

I watched each song pass with a mesmerized adoration. His words filtered my mind of all the negative thoughts clogging my senses. His music set me free.

His crooning stopped and he bent down. He stared me in the eyes. He reached down for me. I felt his hand pull on mine. I felt him lean further down. His lips brushed mine for a second. His lipstick smeared across my lips. He grinned at me and tried to rub it off.

His band played on. He gave up and released the microphone in his palm. He hoisted me up on the stage.

Together we stood before Evan, before the packed room, before the world. Unsure as I was about my position in his future and as unsure as I was about my own future I knew that here we stood, taking another jump. This time, one we could both fully understand. Next to Alex I felt like me. I felt so fucking free I could have sworn we were flying.