Sequel: Black and White
Status: complete;;


chapter nineteen;;

The note quivered in the air, and I grimaced before picking at the keys again, this time hitting the one above my first choice. The transition between notes felt more right, so I marked it down my notebook, turning my head just enough to take a bite of the snack wrap that Amber held to my mouth. I chewed thoughtfully as I reached for my guitar to play the same bar with strings. It sounded better than I anticipated, and I grinned widely. 

It had been nearly a week since the One Direction boys had left the States. I spent a portion of that time turning the empty guest room into a room for writing music, but almost all of my time was dedicated to the actual writing process. Though I knew the band was never going to play music together again, I couldn’t stop myself from getting all of the ideas out of my head. These songs, however, were just for me. I didn’t need them to be recorded with my friends; just the act of writing, of picking out the sounds I wanted to the words I needed to say… it was enough. Amber had come over bearing McDonald’s, knowing that I was well-known for skipping meals when I got into these writing swings. Finally, I finished, set my guitar aside, and turned to face her.

“Can I hear the whole thing?”

“When it’s done.” I laughed at her pout. “C’mon, Lambchop, be patient.”

“Have you talked to Alan yet?”

I reached over and swiped a couple of her french fries. “He should be here any minute. I’m really fuckin’ nervous.”

My best friend rolled her eyes and bit off a large chunk of her double-cheeseburger. My fingers pressed lightly on the piano keys, the wavering notes light and airy in the silence. I’d sent Louis a picture of the hardbound notebook I’d designated for writing lyrics, and his response was a massive amount of heart-eye emojis and a thumbs-up. So I felt like I was doing the right thing. But Alan would be the deciding factor.

“Don’t be so nervous,” Amber ordered. “He isn’t going to kill you on the spot for asking, y’know.”

“I know, I know. But they’re just as important to him as they are to me, though. If not even more.”

“What is?”

I swivelled on my chair to see Alan leaning against the doorframe, his hands deep in the pockets of his dark jeans. He grinned before entering the room, kissing my temple on his way to the futon pressed against the wall across from me. I waited until he was settled in then cleared my throat, inhaling shakily.

“Well, I know that, um… Jem said we could, uh, have the lyrics we all worked on, even the ones that he brought to the table. But, well, I don’t want to just, you know, basically steal them from you, so, um…”

“Do you want to use them?”

“Well, yeah, if you’re okay with that?”

“You’re an idiot,” he said with a laugh, and I stuck my tongue out at him. “Of course I’m all right with it. Take ‘em. They’ll just rot away if you don’t. I’m not getting back into music, and I think Brett is as close to the music world as he’s gonna get again. So go ahead. They’re yours.”

I hardly dared to breathe as I stared at him hopefully. “Are… are you sure?”

“Hundred percent. I’ll go through everything and bring ‘em by tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Lenny, I really appreciate it.”

“Just do me a favour? Make Jem proud.”

“I’ll do my damnedest,” I promised, making an x over my heart.

He smiled and picked up the ukulele I’d bought from a thrift store when I was seventeen. Our conversation shifted to our lives and how they’d changed in the past couple of weeks. Brett had gotten a job as a deejay on a local radio station; it suited him well for the most part, especially since the guy he worked with had been a relatively close friend back in high school. Alan was taking a break from everything ー just letting life go at its own pace and enjoying the ride, he said. The guy deserved it, too. I was proud of him for doing what made him happy. 

Alan and Amber left when my mother announced dinner was ready. Though she invited them to stay, Amber said her parents were upset that she hadn’t been home too often lately, and Alan said he needed to get back to his own mother. I locked my notebooks in the safe and followed the smell of ranch-crusted chicken down the stairs and into the kitchen. Patrick was, once again, sitting at the table as if he belonged there. As if he’d never left fourteen years ago. This didn’t hurt or bother me nearly as much as it had the night after I’d run away to my hideout in the woods. There was still over a decade worth of pain and anger that I had to sort through, but I was somewhat okay with his presence now. After how readily he agreed to keeping Niall away before 1D had returned to the UK and how willing he was to give me all the time and space I needed to be okay with his reappearance in my life, I figured the least I could is try to not shut him out completely.

I sat to his right, and he caught my eye, smiling slightly at me. To his and my surprise, my lips quirked up at the corners in response. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Dinner was a fairly quiet event; my mother told us about her day and all the shenanigans her students in summer school got up to, and then we all fell silent. The only noise to be heard was silverware against the plates. Once I swallowed my last bite, I set my fork down and wiped my clammy hands on my napkin.

“Alan’s giving me, uh, Jem’s last lyrics.”

“Why’s that?” my mom asked, and I bit my lip. This was it . 

“Because I’m going to use them.”

“You’re still going to make music?”

I nodded at Patrick’s question. “Yeah. I… I tried, but I can’t just quit. Besides, Jem wouldn’t have wanted me to give up on my dream.”

“Well, your mother and I are behind you.”

I cleared away the dirty dishes before he could see the tears in my eyes. When everything had been put in the dishwasher and the machine started, I joined them in the living room. The Netflix logo appeared on the screen as I curled up next to my mother on the sofa. Patrick scrolled through the home screen in search of a movie for us to watch before settling on Taxi . The opening credits played, but I ignored them in favour of staring at the two people who’d come together in love to create me; I saw so much of their traits in myself, both physically and behaviour-wise. Though we most likely would never be a whole family again, I was grateful for their once-upon-a-time.

Jamie Longston stared at me incredulously from across the large oak desk. The clock on the wall ticked away the seconds, and my knee bounced up and down as I waited for some sort of reaction besides her expression saying I’d grown five extra heads in the last two minutes. Eventually, she cleared her throat, tapped her pen against the desk-top.

“Is this for real?”


“And you’re certain about this?”

“A million percent. I’ve thought really long and hard about this, Jamie, honestly. We all know Jem would haunt my ass if I didn’t keep doing what I love.”

“That’s… actually incredibly true,” she laughed, dropping her pen and leaning back in her seat. “Okay, hun, I’ll give you a call when the gang get in, so we can all sit down together and hash everything out.”

I nodded, surprised at the outcome of the impromptu meeting. I hadn’t expected more than Jamie immediately rejected the proposal. They had reacted terribly to CI’s breakup, but I still didn’t want to work with any other management company than them. They didn’t meddle or interfere with our music-related decisions, only gave suggestions based off of what fans were saying on social media. The four had even taken the whole “scandal” with Louis in stride ー damage control was done in the form of a statement that Lesly wrote (and the way she managed to copy my exact ways of phrasing and punctuation was amazing) and posted for me, and they’d even laughed at how I couldn’t handle my alcohol, even though they made me promise not to get that drunk in the public eye again. They gave us loads more freedom than a lot of musicians’ management did, especially since we were younger. I’d never once felt that Martin, Lesly, Pete, or Jamie had tried taking advantage of our newness and unfamiliarity with the entire scene.

I left the office building in significantly higher spirits than I had been when I’d initially shown up. Alan had brought Jem’s music notebooks over the day before, and reading the words that Jem had written while in various moods had prompted me to take action to secure the chance to continue with music; it had also torn open the aching wound in my heart that hadn’t quite healed fully. There amongst the scribbled words was a small note, just seven letters: For Erin. I’d been shocked to see that he’d written a song for me, but then, once I read the lyrics, I realised it wasn’t about me, per se, but it was perfect for the things that I’d gone through.

I drove my truck through the entrance and up the long lane, slowing to a stop when I got where I knew I needed to be. I sat in the seat and stared out at the expanse of brilliant green and flowers; sighing, I unbuckled my belt, cut the engine, and shoved my door open. My feet found their way to the plot of land that held my best friend. His headstone had finally arrived. I sat beside the marker and ran my fingers over the polished letters.

Jeremy “Jem” Brent Rhodes
9 May, 1993 ー 7 July, 2012
May Angels Lead You In

“Hey, Jem. Can’t believe it’s been a month.” I let out a watery laugh, running my hands over the grass I was sitting on. “Alan gave me your lyrics. I’m gonna try to make you proud. And… Gods, Jem, I’m so fucking sorry for the last time we talked. None of us was very considerate of each other, and now you’re… here. You’re here, and we’re alone. I’m alone. Why couldn’t you have just stopped and listened to me? It isn’t fair!”

Birds squawked in the trees as my voice echoed over the grounds. I clambered to my feet and started pacing, wiped at my eyes with the hem of my T-shirt. My voice was caught in my throat, I couldn’t speak past the thick lump, and I hated that I couldn’t even talk to a damn headstone without falling apart. My heart pounded rapidly in my chest, and I stopped walking, stared down at the line of music notes along the top of the marble marker.

“You should be alive,” I whispered in a tremulous voice. “You should still be rockin’ out, like we’ve been dreaming about for five years. It wasn’t long enough. We should’ve had the rest of our lives with you. Why you? It makes no sense…”

I collapsed back into the grass and buried my face in my hands. A sob tore itself from my throat, and I didn’t even try to stem the flood of tears. The wind picked up, sending a cool breeze through the cemetery; my hair whipped around my head. Eventually, I was left hiccupping, and I wiped my cheeks dry. I still ached so damn much, I would always be broken from this, but there was a strange sense of peace in my heart. I rose to my feet, brushing my jeans clear of dirt, and lightly touched the top of the headstone.

“I love you, Jem.”