Chapter 1:

Tap. Tap. Tap.

The blond girl siting next to me shot me an annoyed look and that's when I realized that the tapping noise was coming from the pen in my hand. Somewhere around the time my professor was talking about the discovery of Lucy the Australopithecus afarensis, my mind had wondered away from the Anthropology lecture. Not an uncommon occurrence. I set my pen down to keep myself from unconsciously bothering anyone else. I was completely lost now anyway and wouldn't even know what to take notes on.

It was just another normal day in the normal twentieth year of my normal life. Same routine: wake up, breakfast, school, pool time, dinner, homework, bed. Repeat. If it was actually possible for someone to die of boredom, I would've been gone years ago. But this is the life I've accepted. Nothing special will ever happen to me. If I'm lucky I will meet a nice guy, get married, and have a few babies, but even that isn't looking too promising at this point. Besides, isn't that just as normal as it can get? Normal equals boring.

"Alright, we'll pick this up right here on Monday," Dr. Lawson said catching my attention for the first time in the whole seventy-five minutes I had been sitting there.

A shuffling of book bags and people followed by a slowly rising volume of thankful conversation filled the room. Apparently I wasn't the only bored one.

"Michelle!" I heard a familiar voice call as I stepped out into the courtyard of campus. I turned to see Addie Carlson pushing her small frame through the crowd of people exiting all the surrounding buildings.

Addie and I had known each other since we were 8. Swimming is what brought us together and kept us together even though we were quite the opposites. She was a whole five foot six inches of pure spunk. She was always on the go, could make anyone laugh, and her long blond hair and blue eyes made everyone jealous. She always seemed to be in control and confident. I, on the other hand, was five foot ten inches of normalcy. I was always nice and people liked me, but I was too much in my head. I wasn't as quick-witted as Addie, but possibly more sarcastic. I always thought before I spoke and wasn't as confident as I came off. Then my brownish red hair and brown eyes were nothing to be desired, at least that's what I thought.

"Do you have any plans for tomorrow night?" Addie asked as she fell into step with me and we headed for the parking lot.

"Not that I'm aware of," I said.

"Paul didn't ask you out?" she teased making kissing noises. I let a small smile cross my lips.

"When does Paul not ask me out?" I joked.

Paul Rylie was a mutual friend of ours. He was a great guy, very sweet, but just not my type. I wasn't a blond hair beach body liking kind of girl. The bigger problem with Paul was that he was safe and just made it all too easy. In one glance, I could see my entire life with him and even though it wasn't an unhappy life, it was an unfullfilling life.

Unfortunately, no matter how many times I'd turn him down he would always ask if I wanted to 'hang out' every weekend. Occasionally, I would give in having nothing else to do and go see a movie or something with him making clear we were going just as friends, but I knew he was always holding out hope that I'd come around one day.

"Well if you're not busy with him, I have an extra ticket to the Illusion concert. My cousin was supposed to go with me, but she bailed and I need a date," Addie continued.

"Illusion?" Had I heard of them before?

"Yeah, you know that band from like London or something with that new song 'Only'?"

"Oh yeah...sure I'll come. It beats sitting at home."

"Awesome. We'll talk more about it at practice today. You're going right?"


Addie picked me up for practice that day. We swam together on a masters swim team. Neither of us were competitive enough for college swimming, but didn't want to give the sport up just yet. Masters was the next best thing. We could come and go as we pleased and compete if we wanted to. There was no pressure.

The whole car ride to the pool Addie was raving about how fun the concert was going to be. Apparently this Illusion band was her new favorite band and all the guys in it were gorgeous. I honestly had no clue. She of course wanted to go shopping for the perfect new outfit to wear before we went which meant I had a full day of shopping with her tomorrow.

Sometimes I wondered how Addie and I were capable of functioning as friends. She was such a girly-girl who loved shopping and wearing dresses, skirts, and high heels. I was happy in a pair of jeans, flip flops, and a tank top. Comfortable and simple. It's not that I didn't look good in the skirts and heels, but I guess I just figured that I was tall enough as is and didn't need the heels. I also was just too self conscious in skirts. I was always afraid that I would bend wrong or sit wrong and flash all my business to the whole world. But maybe that's just me being safe again.

Once I was able to jump into the pool my mind relaxed and I tuned everything out. Swimming was my release and so even though Addie was still blabbing in my ear about all the things I didn't care about, I was able to just forget about everything and be one with the water. Nothing is better than the feeling of weightlessness and the tranquil silence that being underwater brings. I loved only being able to hear my own breathing and my own racing pulse as I pushed myself harder. Everything else was forgotten. Swimming was the one time during the day that I didn't worry myself with my utter useless existence.

I know that sounds a bit melodramatic of me to say and if I actually said it out loud I'm sure my mother would start hiding all the sharp objects in the house and order me off to a psychiatrist.

Truly, I don't feel like my life is so pointless that it needs to end, but something probably needs to change before I have a mental breakdown. I need more stimulation than I'm getting, but I'm trapped. Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? I've lead a sheltered life in my normal home, there's no way that I would survive outside of it. It's a definite catch-22 if I've ever seen one.

"You seemed to have a great practice today," Paul, who was waiting outside the locker room for me when practice ended, said. Paul was like Addie and myself, he loved swimming, but wasn't fanatical about it.

"I did. It felt good," I replied trying not to look at the faces that Addie was making from behind his back now.

"Can I give you a lift home? I saw that you came with Addie, but I live closer so..."

"Of course you can!" Addie answered for me and I glared at her when Paul turned to look.

"I guess she's trying to ditch me, so that would be great. Thanks," I said.

"I'll see you tomorrow Chelle!" With that Addie was skipping off to the parking lot leaving me annoyed behind her.

"You guys have big plans for the weekend?" Paul asked taking my bag from me to carry as we started to walk. He was always the perfect gentleman, carrying my stuff, opening doors, the works.

"Not really, I'm just going to a concert with her tomorrow night."

"Sounds like fun."

I sighed. This conversation was already boring and it just started. I was going to have to endure fifteen more minutes of this on the ride home.

True to form, Paul asked if I wanted to hang out sometime that weekend once he dropped me off. Luckily I had the shopping trip and concert to take up Saturday, so I innocently made up and English paper that I had to work on to fill up my Sunday.

"Well maybe next weekend then," he said after I turned him down.

"Absolutely. I'll see you later."

God my life was predictable.

That night after the house was quiet; I climbed out my second story bedroom window and sat on the brown shingled roof just outside. I wasn't one to sneek out to go party, I just liked to watch the sky and think. See...always in my head.

Living in Las Vegas and looking at the night sky doesn't exactly work well together, at least not if you are expecting to see anything. No matter where you lived in the city the bright lights of The Strip muted everything out. Stars were a novelty. You were lucky if you could see more than twenty five of them sparkling in the sky, but I typically wasn't looking for stars. I didn't know what I was looking for.

The air was a cool seventy five degrees that night, typical spring temperature. There was a slight breeze that blew a few stray hairs across my face as I took my favorite spot leaning against the wall just outside my window. I stared up at the infinite black of the sky and wrapped my arms around my legs.

I always felt like the sheer mass of the sky was mocking my tiny existence. Here was this beyond huge world that was mine for the taking, but I had never been off the west coast. It was just taunting me knowing I would never be able to follow it's infinite possibilities. I had never had the opportunity, and I never would because things like that just don't happen to me.


"What do you think about this one?" Addie asked pulling back the dressing room curtain to reveal the ridiculously short black and white dress she had on. I smirked.

"Addie this is a concert, not a strip club," I teased.

"What?" she asked innocently walking over to the full length mirror I was sitting next to, "I want to stand out."

"Oh you'll stand out alright."

"Well what are you wearing Ms. Opinionated?" she challenged.

I shrugged. "Jeans."

"Ugh, be more creative."

"What? It's practical! We're going to be standing there for an hour or two, I should at least be comfortable."

Addie faked a yawn.

"Shut up!" I laughed throwing one of the shirts I was holding at her.

"You should let me dress you," she said turning toward me with excitement in her eyes.

I held up my hands in defense, "Don't even think about it."

"Aww, come on Chelles, please?" she pouted.

I shook my head. "I like my clothes thanks."

Addie ended up choosing a black mini skirt, a shimmery purple one shoulder top, and of course a new pair of black strappy heels. I ended up with nothing, not that I was looking anyway. However I did allow Addie to at least pick the top I was going to wear out of my own closet which gave her enough satisfaction to get her off my back about the jeans and flip-flops that I accompanied it with.

We arrived at the House of Blues about an hour before the doors were supposed to open. Addie claimed that if she wasn't front and center that she wouldn't be able to see due to her short stature. That was a bit of a lie though considering the five inch heels she had on her feet put her eye to eye with me. I think it was just more of her wanting to be noticed than anything. So along with a few other groups of twenty something year old girls, we waited it out.

The House of Blues was by far my favorite concert venue in the city. There was just something about the huge patchwork curtain, the elaborate chandelier, and the wood floors that just gave it a certain cozy feel. It was exciting. The band was always so close which made for a more intimate show. Naturally I wasn't a big arena kind of girl.

We claimed our front and center spot once the doors opened and then prepared ourselves to wait a bit longer. Addie complained about her feet hurting as I stood comfortably watching girls pile into the main floor. Many of them were dressed along the same lines as Addie. I obviously didn't get the slut memo, or rather just chose to ignore it even though Addie had picked out the most revealing top that I owned. The fact that at least half of my body was fully covered with clothing made me feel like a goody-two-shoes in this crowd. Did these girls actually think that the less they wore, the more attention they'd get? Like the guys of the band could even see passed the bright lights in their eyes in the first place. I didn't understand girls. I guess my comment to Addie earlier that day about standing out was false. She was not going to be standing out in this crowd. If anything, I was.

When the lights finally dimmed, the room swelled with an almost intolerable amount of high pitch screams. A single spot light shone on the stage and in its beam sat a stool behind a microphone stand and a guitar. The screaming continued and, as if it was even possible, grew even louder when a dark figure started to cross the stage toward the pool of light.

I felt my breath catch in my throat as I laid eyes on him for the first time.

"Who's that?" I whispered, or rather screamed into Addie's ear.

"James," she yelled back, "The lead singer. Don't you know who they are?"

"I've only heard their music on the radio."

James was my type of guy. He had on a pair of jeans that looked to be nice and worn in with random holes, a black vintage Ramones t-shirt, no shoes, and what I called just-rolled-out-of-bed hair. His face was perfectly chiseled and had just a small amount of scruff. Very manly. He was Sexy wasn't even the right word, what's more than sexy?

He was so unlike the guys I hung out with. Guys like Paul for example were the typical girls' idea of hot. The muscles, the clean cut hair, the all American type of guy and that just wasn't my style. They were too high maintenance for me. Guys like James however seemed laid back and natural, which matched better with my life, but of course no guys liked that existed in my world.

His eyes crinkled on the sides when he smiled out into the audience and took a seat on the stool picking up his guitar. Without saying anything he started to play.

Then he opened his mouth.

I knew he was a good singer from the radio, but he was one of the rare breeds of singers who actually sounded better in person than through speakers. Typically it worked the other way around, but his recorded voice was no comparison to his live voice. His voice was raw and powerful...real. Intoxicating.

I was completely engulfed with the song. I had such tunnel vision I probably couldn't even tell you what day it was let alone my name. I was sucked in and wasn't finding my way back any time soon. I devoured everything I could in, the way the light reflected off his hair, the way his fingers danced around on his guitar, and the way his lips moved with every word he sang. I barely even heard the deafening screams as his last note filled the room and the song came to an end.

"Thank you," he said in his all too adorable English accent.

The lights on the stage lit up as the other members of the band made their way to their respective instruments. I barely even noticed.

This sense of haziness didn't wear off as the show continued. I couldn't peel my eyes off of James for the life of me. I had never had that kind of reaction towards a guy and it was honestly a bit unnerving. One look and I became the village idiot.

What made it all worse was that due to our front and center spot it always seemed like he was looking down right at me. I'm sure all the girls in the room probably felt the same way about themselves, but it really did seem like his eyes were focusing down on me...or maybe Addie. Wishful thinking of course. That was this man's job, making girls swoon so they would buy his music and he had it down to an art.

Before I knew it, it was all coming to a close. I had no idea how long we had been there for or how many songs they had played. All I knew was that I wasn't done soaking in the experience. I didn't want to leave. I would never be that close to someone that perfect ever again.

"That was amazing!" Addie gushed as the curtain closed and the house lights came back on, "Wasn't that amazing?!"

I was afraid my voice might fail me and so I just nodded and smiled, the image of James still imprinted in my mind.

We had to wait for a few minutes, while the crowd that was behind us filed out of the room and up the stairs to the exit. We were about to start heading out when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I spun around to see a large security guard standing behind me. Had I done something wrong?

"I was asked to come find you," he said in a deep voice, "Come with me."

"Where? Why?" I stuttered.

"Backstage." The look of utter confusion crossed my face and so he continued, "One of the guys wants to meet you."

"Can she come?" I asked grabbing on to Addie's arm not wanting to be separated from the only sense of normalcy I had at that point in time.

The big guy looked at her and then finally said, "Sure."

"Are you sure you have the right person?" I dared to venture as we followed the guy to the corner of the room where a closed door that said 'Employees Only' stood closed.

"I'm pretty sure. I was told tall, dark hair, jeans, and a white top standing in the front row next to the girl with the purple top. You seem to fit that description pretty well." I actually fit that description perfectly. What the hell was going on?

The security guard unlocked the 'Employees Only' door and held it open for Addie and me to enter. He grabbed two backstage passes off of a large black box as we started to walk through a dark hallway and handed them to us.

"Where are we going?" Addie asked. Up until then I figured she had gone into shock and wasn't able to speak. I thought she would've been jumping up and down when she first heard the word backstage.

"To the dressing room," the guard said.

Addie and I tightly held on to each others hands as we followed quietly. How was this happening to me? Nothing like this happens to me.

The guard knocked on the dressing room door and a 'come in' was called from the other side. He opened the door for us and we walked in.

There sitting on large black leather couches was James and the rest of the band. I thought I was going to faint.