p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"It was Grammy nominations day, and I was avoiding my laptop, tv, and phone like the plague. I didn't want to know if I had been nominated or not, or if the boys' band, If Roses Rain, had been nominated./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"A knock came on my bedroom door. "Lauren Smith!" Cullen yelled. "You've been barricaded in there for three hours, stop this madness!"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I groaned. "No! I don't want to know who was nominated for the Grammys!"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I could just tell you, then you would have to listen."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""You wouldn't."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""But I would."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""All I care about is that I'm performing MercĂ­, then we're performing our duet, which we have yet to name."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""So you're just gonna go into the Grammys blind about who's nominated," he said in disbelief, and I could see him shaking his head even though the door was closed./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Sounds about right," I confirmed. "What are we naming our duet?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Uhhhh...hadn't thought that far."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Me either."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""How about I Know What You Hide?" he proposed. "Long, I know, but it's the best title I can think of for it."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I smiled, thinking about the song and the name as a pair. "It's perfect."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Then there's the title. Can I come in now?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I groaned again, getting up from my bed and unlocking the door for him. "Yes."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"He stepped into my room and then came and sat on my legs. /p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Was that necessary?" I questioned, glaring up at him./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""No," he smarted back./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I rolled my eyes, and he sighed./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Why are you really holed up in here?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I curled into my pillow more, smelling my own tears that had soaked the pillowcase the previous night. "I'm just kind of out of it."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"Cullen stretched out next to me, taking my hand in his. "Is this about yesterday? Our conversation about Asher?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"We had talked yesterday when we got home about what I was going to do about Asher. I was scared out of my mind to face him, but I thought about him, loved him, missed him every day. Cullen suggested talking to him, but I vetoed that. I suggested hiding under a rock, but then he vetoed that./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I nodded slowly, and he sighed loudly, kissing my forehead. "It's gonna be okay, I promise. You two are gonna work everything out."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""But what if we can't? What if we never fix things?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"My friend groaned and grabbed my phone from my nightstand and opened it. "I'm tired of hearing you go on and on about this, and I'm tired of him being mopey. Either you talk to him or I make you."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Right now?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Yes," he answered, giving me a hard stare./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""You're gonna have to make me, then," I told him, burying myself deeper into my pillows and blankets./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"He shrugged. "Fine by me." /p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"Within seconds, he had my phone ringing, and the stress of having to face Asher again had me about to have a panic attack. Sensing this, Cullen took my hand once again, squeezing it. "It's gonna be okay."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I nodded as Asher's voice came through the speaker. "Asher Axton."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I looked at Cullen and mouthed "I feel sick."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"He squeezed my hand again before returning to the phone. "Hey Ash."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Cullen, buddy, how are you? It's been a while since you left." I could hear his smile through the phone./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I'm great, Norway's awesome," Cullen answered, smiling./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""That's awesome. Have you checked the Grammy Nominations?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Nope. Nobody in this house has seen them."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""You're not alone?" Asher seemed genuinely confused at this./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Nope."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Who's with you?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""The artist I'm recording with and her housemate."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Ohhhh, makes sense." I saw his brow unfurrow, the wrinkles in his forehead smooth. I saw his back relax, his posture slump slightly as the tension left it. I saw everything he was doing right now, remembered from a secret past I now missed so dearly./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Yep."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""So who are you recording with?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""That's actually why I called. She has something to talk to you about."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Oh cool. Let me talk to her."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I shook my head furiously, covering myself completely in blankets and curling into the fetal position./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""She's hiding. A bit skittish sometimes."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Oh."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"Cullen pulled the blankets off of me, then placed the phone next to me. "Talk," he ordered./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""No," came my muffled response. "I'm just casually not an existing being at the moment."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Who is that?" Asher asked, his tone implying that he had heard a ghost./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Someone who needs talk to you," Cullen replied in a pointed tone that seemed to shove me towards my phone./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Cullen?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Yes?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Who are you recording with?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Me," I whispered softly, uncurling and taking my phone from where it sat next to me on my bed. "Hello Asher."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Ash?" I whispered, suddenly even more uncertain about this than I had been. I shifted nervously in my mound of blankets as Cullen slipped out of the room./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I'm here." His voice was thick and raspy, filled with emotion. "I'm right here."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"That was all it took for me to break down. I missed him so much - I had since I left - and for the first time I allowed myself to truly emfeel/em that. The tears that fell were thick and fast, and through the phone I heard his tears too./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"We cried together, separated by an infinity of distance but joined as if we were in each other's arms. I wished I could reach out and touch him, wipe his tears, feel his embrace. I needed it./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Where are you?" he managed to rasp through his tears./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Norway," I sobbed./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I'm coming. On the next flight."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"That only made me cry harder. "I miss you."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I miss you too."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I'm sorry."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Why did you leave?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I took a shaky breath. "I needed time, and nobody wanted to give me that. They just wanted music, album after album, song after song. I was a pawn to them, an avenue to more money."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"He sighed, and I saw him run his left hand through his hair, his thumb grazing over his hair instead of tangling in it. I saw every slight flex and relaxation of his muscles, the rise and fall of his chest. "Oslo airport?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I shook my head, then remembered he couldn't see me. "I'll send my jet."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""You have a jet?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Yes."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Since when?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Since I needed a way to travel undetected," I sighed, wiping my tear-stained cheeks./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""How soon?" he asked, the desperation in his voice matching the desperation I felt./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I pulled up my texts and texted the pilot to prepare for a flight to Oslo, and then texted Asher the address. "Right now?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Really?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""The pilot needs an hour to prepare for the flight, but yes."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I need to see you again."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I need to see you too," I whispered, burying my face in a pillow./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""I'm gonna go pack up. I'll see you soon?" He asked, as if he needed reassurance that this was real./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Eleven hours. I'm counting the minutes," I whispered back./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Me too." He hung up the phone, and I continued to lay on my bed, savoring the moments I had spent with him./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"Cullen reentered my room a few moments later to find me smiling and staring at my phone./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Did you two talk?" he spoke gently, coming to sit next to me./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I nodded. "He's on his way."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Seriously?" Surprise dripped from his voice and covered my room./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""We need each other." I checked my phone. "He'll be here in ten hours and fifty-seven minutes."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"My friend rolled his eyes. "You two," he sighed, "I never understood how you worked, but you did."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I laughed softly. "That's all we had to do."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"He smiled. "I'm glad you two are fixing things."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Me too."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Can we check the Grammy Nominations now?" he asked, his voice slightly pleading and his eyes like a young puppy./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""No."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""Pleeeeeeeease?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;""No."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"He sighed. "Want to rehearse?"/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I shook my head. "I'm gonna go find Ana. We haven't had girl time in a while."/p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"He nodded and the two of us got up, going our separate ways once we reached the door of my room. Where I headed downstairs to find my friend, he headed up to the gym to do whatever he did in a gym. I had never been under the impression that he worked out, but things had, apparently, changed since I had been gone./p
p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt;"I found Ana, and before long we were heading out on one of the hiking trails on my large plot of land, enjoying nature and smiling and laughing as if there was nothing that could ever dampen our spirits./p