‹ Prequel: Even Lovers Drown
Status: Paused for now

Happily Ever After

Chapter 14

Childish nervousness radiated from Sage’s posture. She slouched, attempting to crawl into herself, her plump, bottom lip caught between her teeth. Her gaze hopped around the room, only settling on Cadeau’s eyes for a moment. She pushed the food on her plate around and fidgeted in her seat. Nervous. Afraid, even, of Cadeau’s reaction to being filed under the bitchy cheerleader stereotype. As if Cadeau would lash out, verbally, physically. A natural, maybe even logical, reaction for Sage, Cadeau assumed. After facing abuse as a child and who-knew-what in school, she expected some form of anger from a woman who was the representation of a high school’s self-entitled bully.

Must have been part of the reason Sage didn’t like her when they met.

“So you’re giving me a makeover?” Cadeau asked, trying to sound jovial enough to ease Sage’s apparent nerves. “Let me guess, you pulled the short stick. Or was it rock, paper, scissors?”

The question of her appearance wasn’t offensive to Cadeau, not really. Fans were important, both for the economic interest of the band and the personal interest. They did what they did for people, for their fans. For enjoyment, to help, to exist as background noise during homework and standing in crowded subways. Their music was meant for their fans, and that caused their fans to grow attached to the band. So they had to look inviting, like people their fans wanted to admire or respect, like people who they wanted to talk to.

And Cadeau, by default, would come off as the bully. Such was the problem of being who she was in a music genre meant for the alternative types. She’d come to accept it. The way she dressed, the clubs she joined, the grades she made, the things she used to do in her spare time, everything had been reason enough for people to judge her the same way.

“No, that’s not—” Sage’s eyes drifted over Cadeau’s shoulder and her sentence came to an abrupt halt. “What are you doing here?”

Cadeau twisted in her seat, wondering who dared interrupt their conversation before Sage got the chance to explain the solution to the only problem that could threaten how she was incorporated in the band. Blake strolled into the dining room, hands in her pockets, lazy grin on her face. Saylor followed close behind, her pleasant demeanor strategic preparation to console someone. Cadeau assumed she was ready to console her, as if what Sage was about to suggest was so devastating, she needed soothing.

What exactly was Sage going to say?

“Just making sure you don’t kill her,” Blake said, taking the seat next to Sage. “Or ravage her. We’re not really sure where you are at this point.”

Sage’s eyes tightened in a glare, which Blake ignored, happily munching on one of the many triangle sandwiches laid out on the table. Cadeau would have taken more interest in the comment, would have tried to interpret Sage’s reaction, would have taken the time to bask in the sheer possibility that Sage Monroe maybe, possibly, wanted to ravage her, just a little bit, but she had more important things on her mind.

Saylor’s voice jolted her from mentally willing the conversation back to the apparent solution to all her problems. “Do you want to take some home?”

She jumped, glanced at her plate, then up at Saylor. A set of Tupperware containers already lined the free space on the counter, prepared to be filled with food for Jolie. So much food and her daughter would inhale it in a number of seconds.

“There’s more than enough,” Saylor added.

Enough to keep Jolie occupied for a whole minute, maybe more, and keep her full.

Cadeau smiled, sweet and polite, something she was sure she picked up from her daughter. “Yes, please. That would be lovely.”

Saylor nodded, smiling brightly, presumably at the prospect of finding a way to contribute to care of Jolie or perhaps at her ability to show through a small example—big, really, if Cadeau was honest—that she, and the rest of the band by association, would be willing to help her with her daughter, should she need it. Offering to send multitudes of food home, offering to take care of Jolie during practice, offering to just be there in the event of emergency, those were the reactions Cadeau would prefer, and be grateful for, from the band. Because it was nice to imagine being part of such a close extended family.

“I don’t need your help,” Sage snapped.

More like Blake threw off Sage’s plans for the conversation. She’d probably already memorized exactly what she was going to say, since this did seem pretty important. Whatever “this” was.

“You sure? Because it doesn’t look like you’ve gotten very far.” Blake shrugged. “Or maybe I’m wrong and she’s taking this very well.”

“What exactly am I taking well?” Cadeau asked.

Blake gave Sage a look, and Sage returned it, as if they were communicating through a series of blinks, tight lips, and subtle eyebrow raises. The silence stretched, Cadeau looking between the two of them in attempt to gauge what to expect. Finally, Sage sighed and looked at Cadeau.

“We’re not giving you a makeover,” she said.

“I’d gathered,” Cadeau responded.

She figured that out. But she had little to no idea how they would fix this. The way she dressed now, she wouldn’t be able to appear in interviews or appearances that didn’t involve hiding behind a drum set. Which would work for a little while, until tabloids started searching for story fodder. By then, though, they’d have a better plan or the fans wouldn’t care. If that or the makeover weren’t their plan, then Cadeau had no idea what was.

“What we need to do is make you approachable for the fans,” Sage said, “We thought you could do a YouTube video for our channel. You know, like an introduction.”

Cadeau waited for the rest, the punch that was sure to upset her. But nothing.

“That’s it?” she asked.

A YouTube video certainly wasn’t enough to get upset about. In fact, there was nothing to get upset about. She could talk on camera, address fans, be personable. Did they think she couldn’t handle something as simple as introducing herself?

“Well, they need to understand you’re just like them, or that you were when you were their age. You have to avoid coming off as a pretty, brain-dead, Barbie doll for a sorority girl.”

“I like Barbie.”

She did. And Jolie did, too. Attempting to use a plastic doll’s name to insult her was getting a little old, not mention ineffective.

Sage hesitated, thrown off by Cadeau’s declaration. “Right… Anyway, what we would really like for you to talk about, and you don’t have to but we think it work best for all intents and purposes, is… uh…” Her rushed sentence trailed off, the memorized, practiced words forgotten somewhere in her head. She lost her steam, unable to blurt the last, most important bit of her sentence, which apparently, she thought she could do. “Your, uh, your suicide attempt.”

And Cadeau’s mind blanked, aside from the two words bouncing about her mind. Suicide. Attempt. The emotional wounds that drove her to her breaking point were no longer fresh but the memory always would be vibrant. The intense bought of depression, the inability to look at her newborn daughter, and a belief playing on repeat: people would happier if she was dead, everyone had abandoned her anyway. The decision had been made spur of the moment. She just did it, took the pills without thinking, took the pills while her daughter was in the next room crying. And she woke to the blinding white of a hospital. So stupid. So irresponsible. But she had been so desperate to get away.

“I know it sounds hard,” Blake’s voice drew her from the depressing memory. “But confiding in the fans really does help. They connect with you, and you can act as a beacon of hope for them.”

“Talking about it can help you, too,” Saylor said, sitting next to Cadeau and placing a hand on her wrist. “Being able to confront any issues you might have with a great support system can do wonders. On top of having your family and friends and us there for you, of course.”

Them. They were there for her. Completely separated from the “friends” category because, Cadeau could admit, they were merely acquaintances. What she knew about them was from tabloids and the internet. And what they knew about her was very little. She hadn’t told them much of anything.


“Who told you?” Cadeau asked.

“Reese told Andy, and Andy told us,” Blake said.

Damn him. Reese knew this was meant to be kept a secret and he told Say Goodbye’s manager. And, of course, Andy told the band, whether he had done so intentionally or let it slip in the midst of a meeting. The point was the band knew now. They’d ask the obvious question: Why?

Cadeau wasn’t ready to answer that. If Reese hadn’t opened his mouth, she wouldn’t have to frantically come up with fake explanations. She wouldn’t ever have to talk about it.

“Don’t be mad at him,” Sage blurted.

Her eyes darted to Sage’s. Worry shone in the hazel depths, etched itself in her features. That couldn’t be right. Sage, worried? She couldn’t have gone from hating Cadeau to being concerned for her—or, rather, her relationship with Reese—in a week. The change was too intense, too quick, for someone like Sage.

But she was the type to harbor concern for people who struggled, assuming her interactions with her fans were any indication. Cadeau’s attempt at suicide was the push Sage needed to stop being a jerk.


“I don’t think Reese meant to tell anyone,” Sage continued. “But he did, and, I mean, you don’t have to talk about it if you don't want to.” Her lips twitched upward in awkward smile. “Eventually, though, we’d like for you to be able to confide in us.”

Right. Because that was what friends did. They talked to each other. And she was meant to become close to the band. Eventually. Even Sage, evidently. Cadeau had been looking forward to working towards that relationship.

But she wasn’t ready to talk about this.

“I… have to go,” Cadeau said.

And think.
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Dakota Ray