"Lauren, honey, breathe," my best friend Milana laughed as I paused mid-rant. "You realize that it's one note out of hundreds? Just change it."
I smiled, taking another bite of my dinner as my housemate flipped her hair, knowing she was right. "I'm amazing, just admit it."
"You are. No competition. I'm just stressed because I haven't released anything since I vanished, and it's so different from what anyone's ever heard from me," I sighed, resting my fork against my bowl.
"You're a different person. You've taken a year and a half to yourself, you've traveled the world, you've grown up. If you were still producing the same music, I'd be worried."
I nodded and stood, taking my bowl over to the sink. "I'm gonna go on up to the music room and see if I can't get this note progression fixed. I'll see you tonight for Got Talent. Maybe," jogging up to the room filled with a multitude of instruments and sitting down at my piano.
Every note, every progression, every breath, every everything had to be perfect. Completely, totally perfect. If not, I stood to lose everything.
It had been two years since anyone had seen or heard from me, well, at least from my the girl they thought they was me. I had disappeared in the middle of the night without a trace, leaving all of my possessions behind except for a few clothes.
A year and a half later, and at nineteen and a half years old, I had finally moved into a house that I had built in the gorgeous location of the Norwegian mountains. My music room had floor to ceiling windows facing the forest that surrounded my house, and it was several miles off of any paved road. Ana and I were completely secluded from people and surrounded by nature, and both of us loved it.
Pulling on the natural vibes that surrounded me, I had begun to craft the tracks to my album, which was influenced by all the people that I had met and all the cultures I had experienced during my year of traveling before settling here six months ago.
The track that I currently found myself occupied with was one of my ballads, Mercí. It was the most personal song on the album by far, and it was a celebration of the people all around the world that had helped me to grow. Switching between several languages, it was a true thank you.
I was having trouble with the note progression in between the Brazilian Portuguese verse and the Italian chorus, and so I quickly started playing around with notes on my piano. I had hundreds of progressions that I had tried, and I was about to just scrap the transition altogether. However, I was not built to give up, and so night after night I persevered in trying to find the magic notes.
An hour and a half later, I was confident in one progression and I was working it into the track. Just then, my phone rang, and I picked it up without looking at the caller.
"Is this Lauren Smith?" a male voice asked, and I smiled.
"It's me, how can I help you?"
"It's John. You know, your manager?"
I laughed softly. "I know. I'm glad you got my email with my new number, I was worried it went to your junk folder."
"You disappeared! For over a year! You didn't even leave Asher anything! And now you say you have a new album put together. Excuse me for being shocked and needing a day or two before you called."
"You're okay. And I do have a new album, I've just finished the last track I was working on. Maybe we can get it released before Grammy nominations."
The man laughed, deep from his gut. "I see you're still the same girl I knew, no matter what happened over the last year or so. Still hungry for that glory."
I smiled as I shook my head. "On the contrary, this isn't glory for myself. It's for all the people that have helped me to grow so much in these past months. Also, I wanted to talk to you about something."
"If you say so, kiddo. I'm listening."
"I want to record a duet single. Release it after the album, make it a big statement that I'd do a standalone so soon after an album with no plans to release a second album in succession. Show people that I've changed and that I play by my own rules now," I said, laying out over the floor and looking up at the ceiling that held hangings for so many sound tiles.
His smirk was practically audible over the phone. "That sounds great to me. Which artists were you thinking of featuring?"
I bit my lip. "Cullen."
"As in…?" his voice trailed off, leaving his surprise ringing in the air.
"The one and only," I replied, slight waves still shaking my voice.
"Send me the music and I'll get it to him, along with a couple others with similar voices, and we'll have demos for you in the next week or two."
"I wrote the song for his voice specifically. I don't need demos, I need him."
"You're sure he's right for it?"
"What am I supposed to tell him?"
"A European artist wants to feature him on a track, he'll be paid handsomely, and that all living necessities will be taken care of, plus the track is likely to be a chart-topper and will possibly go platinum or higher."
"Any conditions?" my manager asked, knowing that there had to be some sort of catch. There always was with me.
"I need him in the next week, and he has to leave his phone behind," I replied, sitting up and shaking out my golden blonde mane, still recovering from the two years of constantly being dyed dark brown.
My manager's lip bite was, this time, audible as he hesitated. "He won't want to leave his phone behind."
"He doesn't have a choice. A platinum track, all expenses paid living for the next month or so, handsome pay, and the secret promise of an old friend in exchange for no phone for a while? He'd be an idiot not to take that deal," I replied, sitting my phone on the floor and beginning to braid my hair.
"I'll see what I can do, but I make no promises."
I smiled, standing and beginning to make my way to the stairs. "Work your magic, old friend," I stated trustingly and slightly comfortingly.
"You know I'll do my best," was his response.
"You always do," I assured him, before pressing the end call button and joining my best friend on the couch to watch the show that had become our favorite in this country where both of us were aliens.