Sequel: Black and White
Status: complete;;


chapter twelve;;

I poured another cup of coffee ー the third since I’d woken up an hour and a half ago. My mother had sent a text on her way out the door when she went to work telling me to make sure I took ibuprofen; I didn’t bother responding, though I did swallow down the medicine that Liam had left on my nightstand and drank half of the glass of water before my stomach revolted. Then I’d spent fifteen minutes in the bathroom, regretting my decision to go to Garrett’s party. I’d managed to settle my stomach enough to take another couple of ibuprofen and parked myself on the sofa in the living room with a mug of coffee; though it was cold by now, it was still good enough to drink in hopes of getting rid of the pounding headache I had.

I scrubbed a hand over my face, groaning when flashes of the night before encroached. I had made such a fool of myself. There was absolutely no way Liam left not hating me for my actions. And to be honest, I couldn’t blame him ー I was an utter embarrassment, and I wouldn’t want to continue being friends with someone if they’d done what I had. I stared at my phone blankly, the dark screen mocking me for yet another friendship ruined. I squeaked in surprise when it beeped and vibrated on the table.

From: Bear Hey, love. How are you feeling today?

To: Bear Ughhhh. I am so so so so sorry about last night. I don’t remember much but what I do remember is just ugh.
To: Bear I need to stay away from alcohol :(

From: Bear Let’s just pretend that mishap never happened ;)

To: Bear I can gladly do that. Now to answer your question. I feel like shittttt. My head feels like it’s splitting in half and I spent far too long this morning throwing up

From: Bear That tends to happen when you’re hungover. See why I don’t drink :P

To: Bear I’m done drinking. For the rest of my life. lol

From: Bear Good luck with that.

My heart settled in my chest at the text conversation. Liam didn’t hate me, so I could breathe easier now. I just had to make sure I never put him in that kind of position again. I couldn’t ask him to forgive and forget another incident like that again. I curled up on the couch cushion, tugged the throw blanket further over me, and fell asleep once more.


Goosebumps raced up my flesh as I stepped out of the shower, and I quickly wrapped a towel around my body. The air in the bathroom was humid; I grabbed my makeup bag and hairbrush, made sure the taps were completely closed to the tub, and made my way to my bedroom. Shivering, I scrubbed my body dry and quickly dressed in a pair of stretchy purple yoga pants, a sleeveless white T-shirt, and my Vans. The brush bristles caught roughly in the tangles in my hair. I winced and tugged harder. After a moment, the brush went through smoothly, and I braided my hair as swiftly as possible.

I gave up trying to do my eyeliner when the right eyelid had a thicker line than the left. I ran a makeup-remover wipe over the mess and just swiped on some mascara instead. My mom was in the living room reading essays when I headed downstairs. She glanced up at me from over her reading glasses then turned her attention back to the papers.

“Gonna head to Jem’s. He was supposed to talk to the studio yesterday, so…”

“Okay, honey. Drive safe.”

“Of course. Love you, Mom.”

“Love you, too, baby.”

The ride to Jem’s was quiet, uneventful. I kept thinking about the party, everything that had happened after, and wondering whether Liam had told anyone else what I’d done. I could only hope he hadn’t; I didn’t necessarily want the awkwardness that would come with the truth being out, but I would deserve it if he had. I found a space across the parking lot and pulled in. Jem’s neighbour was out on her balcony, and she waved a gnarled hand. I wasn’t surprised to see her customary cigarette between her fingers. I waved back then headed inside the building.

The living room was empty when I walked into my best friend’s apartment, so I kicked off my shoes and picked my way around the notebooks, papers, and boxes of equipment scattered on the floor. The rest of the band ー and Amber ー were in the spare room that our vocalist had soundproofed and converted to a practice/writing room. I slapped Alan’s hand in a high-five on my way past him to plop down on the enormous bean-bag chair beside Amber. She scooted closer until our hips pressed together. I reached across her for the old First Act I’d learned to play on and lazily strummed a few chords. Jem bounced on the balls of his feet, clapping his hands once to get our attention.

“Okay, so. The studio finally got back to me. We’re scheduled to go in starting tomorrow morning. So be up and ready by nine, you two,” he ordered, shooting a look at Amber and me. “I’ll be around to pick you up at quarter after.”

Amber cocked her head. “You mean I get to be there, too?”

“Don’t ask such stupid questions,” Brett sighed, and I turned my head to look at him; he avoided my gaze and focused on tuning his bass.

“Oh, fuck off.”

“Both of you, knock it off. This shit is getting ridiculous. All you two ever do is ignore each other or snap at each other, and we are all sick of it. So stop the crap, or I’ll lock you two in a room and see who kills who faster.”

Amber stared dumbfounded at Jem before nodding slowly. Brett looked unaffected, but we all knew he would take our singer’s words to heart. Jem didn’t often lose his temper ー he was too relaxed for that, almost a pushover ー so when he finally snapped, it was a damn good idea to listen to him. After his outburst, things settled, and we got down to business. We had written seven songs for the new album in the last two weeks while waiting for the studio to get us in, but it took more than a handful of tracks to make a record.

By the time we ended the session, the sun had set hours ago, and my phone said it was almost eleven at night. I kissed Alan’s cheek, ruffled Jem’s hair, and flicked Brett in the forehead as I led Amber out the door and to my truck. She was half-asleep when I pulled up outside of her house; I shook her shoulder gently until her eyes opened again. I watched as she stumbled up the sidewalk and waited until she’d gone inside before driving off.

My mother glanced up quickly when I walked into the house. I heard the unmistakable sound of a button on our house phone being pressed behind her back. I raised an eyebrow at the uncomfortable smile she was giving me.

“Dinner’s in the oven for you. I didn’t know when you’d be home, so…”

“Thanks, Mom. You, you all right?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” she laughed nervously, her hand coming up to twist at a lock of hair.

“You’re being weird.”

“Oh, hush. Go eat, then get to bed. You know Jem won’t be happy if you sleep in tomorrow.”

I hesitated then shrugged. If she wanted me to know what was up, she would tell me. I trusted her enough about that.


“Oh, come on, Alan! It’s not that hard to hit a few drums properly!”

I groaned and covered my face with my hands. It had been a long week and a half; Jem had become increasingly unhappy with our efforts and performance while recording. Because he continued to interrupt us every time he found a flaw with something we’d done, no matter how minor, we only had one track laid down. Even the producer was just as annoyed as we were.
Alan threw his drumsticks at his twin. “Then you fucking do it, if you think it’s so easy!”

“Or how about you do your job the right way!”

Jem stomped out of the recording booth, and I ducked my head as he passed. I was not going to be his next target. Not again. He’s already complained seventeen times about a chord I played being “off” without any sort of solution in mind. Amber had stopped video-taping us the second day when Jem’s attitude started to sour. She confided in me that she didn’t want the fans to ever see that side of Jem, not like we’d ever seen it before. Jem was a perfectionist, we all knew that, but he had never spent so much time and energy to correct us during the process. He would point out something that didn’t sound right but would always have a suggestion on his tongue. I was honestly shocked Brett hadn’t attempted to strangle our singer yet. The bassist now seemed to be in a perpetual foul mood, constantly glowering at everyone, and if looks could kill, we all would have been six feet underground midway through the week.

It was aggravating, really, having to deal with Jem and his finicky attitude for the first time. Recording our first album had been awkward because we had known next to nothing about what we were doing, but it was still fun. Our second album was a breeze. His behaviour now was new, unwarranted, and unneeded. I almost said something to everyone multiple times about pulling the plug on recording until he became himself again; I’d composed and deleted messages dozens of times to Garrett about getting Jem some pot to calm the hell down.

Tempers finally exploded as we were on our third song. We had been in the studio for over two weeks, and Jem was still nitpicking every little thing. Alan, apparently, had enough when his brother barged into the booth for the sixth time in an hour, yelling about how a trained monkey could play better. Amber and I were already on our feet, ready to intervene, but Alan moved faster, shoving his brother out of the way. Jem stumbled but corrected quickly, raised a fist and swung. Brett and I gave each other a shocked look but then ran in to put an end to the fight. I yanked Jem back while Brett held onto Alan.

“Stop it! Both of you!” I pushed harder against Jem’s chest when he tried getting to his brother again. “Jeremy Brent! What the fuck is your problem?”

“He started it,” muttered Alan, wiping blood from his split lip.

“I don’t give a damn. What the Hell is going on with you two?”

Jem jerked his arms from my grip. “Don’t worry about it.”

Brett grunted when Alan’s elbow caught him in the gut. “Knock it off. C’mon, man. Jem… you’ve been nagging at us since we first got here.”

“You think I’m nagging just because I want us to release a good album?”

“We make better albums when we’re having fun, not when we’re being micromanaged,” I said softly, and Jem turned betrayed eyes on me.

“Fine. Do what you want. I’m out.”

“Wh-What do you mean? Like, a break?”

“No. I’m out. Quitting. Peace.”

I was stuck, frozen to the spot, only able to exchange bewildered looks with the others as Jem stormed out. Finally, my brain and feet connected, and I chased after him. He was halfway into his car by the time I reached the front door. I shouted his name, hurried to his window.

“Jem, please don’t do this. Don’t… don’t leave the band. We need you. Please.”

“Obviously not, if all I’m doing is nagging you all.”

“He didn’t mean it like that, you know he didn’t. He just meant that we all need to relax, chill, have fun instead of making it perfect.”

"Nice try, Erin. I’m not coming back.” He sighed heavily, rubbing at his brow with his fingers. “And it’s not even just what happened today. It’s, it’s just not fun any more. The only fun part about the band now is being able to see the world. I don’t even like our music now, which is fucking sad if you think about it considering I helped write the damn stuff. You can keep the lyrics. Use ‘em or don’t, I don’t care. I’m out.”


He reversed out of the parking space quickly, and I jumped back to avoid getting my toes run over. I tried running after him, tried to keep up with him, still yelling his name. He made no acknowledgement that he heard me before peeling out of the lot. I let myself crumple onto the sidewalk and stared blankly at where his car had disappeared. My hands were shaking as I pulled out my “emergency” pack of cigarettes. If the stress of today (and the last couple of weeks) didn’t constitute as an emergency, I honestly couldn’t think of what did. I’d gotten halfway through smoking when a loud screaming noise echoed through the silence. My heart thudded painfully in my chest, and my blood ran cold.