Status: Completed

Chasing the Missing Paths

The First Encounter

The first encounter occurred in 2011. Emma’s friends had dragged her along to a bar on a Friday night, hoping to celebrate the weekend. She was twenty-one at that time and so legally allowed to drink. However, she wasn’t like her friends (or any other twenty-one year old for that matter), as in she didn’t drink until she was drunk. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy having the occasional drink in the company of other people, she just knew that it didn’t do her any good. That wasn’t to say she believed people were stupid for drinking, it wasn’t that at all. It was just a personal choice.

This specific night, her friends had managed to get her to come along to a karaoke bar. It was often full of drunk people who believed they were the next Beyoncé. They’d belt their hearts out, often way more flat than not. There were the few diamonds in the rough, but they were quite rare to come across, but then again it was also rare to have multiple chance encounters with one person.

That brings us to Emma’s co-star in this retelling of events: Alex Gaskarth. He happened to be at that same karaoke bar, occupying a table with many of his friends. With how much they were drinking and how far away they were sitting, he would have never noticed Emma. To him, she was just another piece of the larger crowd at the bar.

Now, being the lead singer of a band, Alex didn’t mind getting up on that stage to sing no matter how drunk he was. He actually believed the drunker the better. It was all just good fun. He’d go up there solo, with friends who couldn’t sing if their lives depended on it, or with friends who were equally as talented. His favorites included the Backstreet Boys and any other cheesy songs he could get his hands on. The funnier the better. He quite loved the attention.

Emma, on the other hand, was left by her friends. Or, well, she didn’t really mind. They all wanted to go clubbing, only coming to the karaoke bar to pregame. While Emma was happy to come with them to the bar, she drew the line at going to a club. She couldn’t stand having to scream over the loud music everybody either shuffled or jumped to. Although alone, she much preferred the atmosphere of a karaoke bar. Plus, she had signed herself up for a song and her friends wanted to leave before she got to go, so she wanted to wait until that.

So, how did these individuals with vastly different lifestyles cross paths? It was all due to one song: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Everybody knows the song and from how cheesy it is, it is more than easy to guess Alex was the one who had chosen it.

His name was called out and he got up on stage. There was just one thing missing. The song was obviously a duet, that’s why most people chose it, yet Alex was all by himself. Nobody really thought much about it, including Emma who wasn’t paying all too much attention. Let’s be honest, most people didn’t even know which song was being sung until a well-known chorus came along.

“Oh, come on, babe,” Alex said through the microphone, holding out a hand to gesture for his girlfriend to come up on stage with him, “it will be fun!”

It wasn’t what he said that caught Emma’s attention, it was what happened right after. Alex’s girlfriend got up and picked up her bag. But she didn’t go up on stage with him. Oh, no, the opposite happened. She stormed out of the bar, not looking back. It was quite the scene. Some people voiced their sympathy, but nobody knew why she ran out in the first place. Maybe they had gotten into an argument before and this was just the cherry on top, or maybe she was embarrassed. Either way, it looked painful.

Yet Alex just shrugged. “Guess I’ll be singing this duet alone then.”

The backing track started playing and Emma couldn’t ignore the second-hand embarrassment. She stood up from her own chair and rushed to the stage as the stranger started singing.

“Listen, baby
Ain't no mountain high
Ain't no valley low
Ain't no river wide enough, baby”

She made it just in time for the female part, missing out the first two words, catching the guy off guard at first. But he started smiling as she progressed through the verse.

“If you need me, call me
No matter where you are
No matter how far (don't worry, baby)
Just call my name
I'll be there in a hurry
You don't have to worry
Cause baby there ”

Alex completely disregarded that they were strangers and that she would have personal boundaries, and put an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. Maybe it was because he was drunk, or maybe it was because he was happy there was somebody helping him out. Either way, he was having fun like he wanted.

“Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you, babe”

To make it even cheesier, Alex let go of the girl and acted like he was dramatically serenading her for the male part’s verse, causing his entire table of friends to whoop and holler in amusement.

“Remember the day
I set you free
I told you you could always count on me, darling
From that day on, I made a vow
I'll be there when you want me
Some way, some how
Cause baby there
Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you, babe
Oh no, darling”

Even Emma seemed to be having fun. While her clothes suggested a quiet shy conservative blonde girl, she was singing to her heart’s desire, and all without much effort. She had quite the stage presence herself. Alex felt quite lucky that this stranger decided to randomly join him.

“No wind, no rain
Nor winter storm
Can't stop me baby

No no baby

Cause you are my goal

If you're ever in trouble
I'll be there on the double
Just send for me

Oh baby!

My love is alive
Way down in my heart
Although we are miles apart

If you ever need a helping hand
I'll be there on the double
Just as fast as I can

Don't you know that there...

Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you
Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough.”

The song came to an end and so did their encounter. After thanking the audience that mainly wasn’t paying attention, Alex’s microphone went back onto the stand, while Emma’s went back to the DJ. They got off the stage to give the next performer the space to get up after the name was announced.

“I’m Alex,” he introduced as they were at the bottom of the three steps and held out his hand.

“I’m--” Emma went to shake his hand, but she was interrupted by the DJ calling out her name to be the next performer. “Oh, shit, that’s me.”

She scrambled back up on stage and stood in front of the microphone Alex had used just before. While she stood up there waiting for her song to start, she giggled and took hold of her skirt like she was about to curtsey only to drop the fabric again. She seemed so bubbly, forming a smile on Alex’s face as he walked back to his table without getting a formal introduction.

“Dude, that girl’s hot.” Alex’s friend, Jack, slapped him on the chest in an attention-wanting manner.

“Yeah, but I have a girlfriend,” Alex contradicted and leaned back in his chair, looking up at the stage and actually wanting to watch the entire performance for the first time that night.

“A girlfriend who just walked out and embarrassed you in front of an entire bar,” Jack snorted, and also looked at the stage, but only because he was figuring out a game plan.

“But still a girlfriend.”

“Then I call dibs.”

Emma’s song started, a simple piano playing in the background, telling Alex this song wasn’t as happy as the one they had done together. It went against the bubbly personality he got a brief glimpse of. Her arms were hanging down, her hand in front of her. She looked down at them shyly as the first verse started. Her voice sounded fairly quiet and shy, yet good nonetheless.

“It's not simple to say
Most days I don't recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and its patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It's not easy to know
I'm not anything like I used to be
Although it's true
I was never attention's sweet center
I still remember that girl”

It confused Alex that the girl who went up to help a stranger and sang a song with him now seemed so timid. She started playing with the fabric of her skirt again, but not in the same perky way as before.

“She's imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won't ask for help
She is messy but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine”

But then the other instruments started kicking in and she got a little more confident. Her hands were no longer by her side, she started making gestures and her voice became more powerful.

“It's not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it's all true
And now I've got you
And you're not what I asked for”

In the middle of the verse, the power started coming out more, yet she still stood behind the mic-stand as if for protection. It wasn’t what Alex had seen before.

“If I'm honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew

Who'll be reckless just enough
Who'll get hurt
But who learns how to toughen up when she's bruised
And gets used by a man who can't love
And then she'll get stuck”

Her voice was now even better than Alex had heard during their duet. This song was obviously vocally a lot more challenging than the one they had done, yet she was doing it flawlessly. Her hands traveled to the microphone, and at the perfect moment, she took it off the stand like she had practiced it before and sounded the strongest she had that entire night.

“And be scared of the life that's inside her
Growing stronger each day
'Til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes
That's been gone but used to be mine

Used to be mine”
Although still holding the microphone, she resumed her initial self-conscious position and her voice became quiet again.

“She is messy but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine”

And just like that, the song had ended. Alex had watched and observed the entire thing and didn’t want it to end just yet. He was completely mesmerized by the girl. Yet he knew he had a girlfriend. He was just amazed by the performance.

She got back off stage, once again most of the audience not noticing what magnificence had happened right in front of them. Alex’s eyes followed her as she went back to her empty table and got her belongings. As she left the bar, she happened to walk fairly close to his table. He felt like he needed to say something, but he didn’t know what. So, he just let her walk away.

Jack, however, had ‘called dibs’ and wasn’t going to let her go that easily.

“Hey!” he yelled out, getting her attention and he beckoned her over. She walked the short distance and waited for him to say what he wanted. Jack cut to the chase and asked, “can I get your number?”

“Umm…” Emma’s eyebrows furrowed and she licked her lips in thought. “I don’t know you?”

“You know him.” Jack jerked a thumb in Alex’s direction.

“I don’t know him.” She shook her head.

“But isn’t that the whole point of giving your number. So you can get to know each other?”

“I’m sorry, but not right now,” she excused before leaving.

“Damn,” Jack muttered, grabbing his beer and taking a large gulp, “her loss.”
♠ ♠ ♠
So, these chapters are going to be quite short (for my doing) since they are just encounters. This one just happens to be an okay length (word count wise) due to the two whole songs in it. Without, it would be way shorter.

Also, I totally know the song Emma sings from Waitress (or any song from that musical) didn't exist back in 2011, but it was the only one I could imagine her singing. I'm just praying there aren't too many people who will know all about this and will call me out xD. Btw, I imagine her voice more like Jessie Mueller's and her body posture like Jeremy Jordan's.

I'm also not sure how often this will be updated. I've started too many stories, but I wanted something I could write shorter chapters for. There are literally only nine parts or so in this story, but it also depends on if I get any more ideas.