Sequel: Right Here
Status: active;;

Tomorrow

chapter twenty-two;;

Drifting to consciousness the next morning was a peaceful thing; when I opened my eyes finally, the sun was shining brightly through my window, and I was surrounded by a deep blissful feeling. My first solo show had been a success, and I shared it with those closest to me. I had spent hours after the show talking to everyone who’d shown up, who was willing to support me in this endeavour, and I’d gone to bed feeling lighter, freer, than I could remember ever feeling. Even when Complete Irrationality was touring as a band, it had felt rushed, like we were bouncing from one place to another without the ability to breathe. I had avoided social media after the show. Being able to hear from the people directly was more than enough for me.

I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and decided I’d do just that now. I couldn’t stop the smile as I scrolled through the tweets, even the ones timestamped from during my set. More mentions rolled in as I retweeting my favourites ones:

SO AMAZING! Best night of my life all thx to @erroroperatorr

Definitely diff than @CIOfficialx but @erroroperatorr is amazing on her own too!

@erroroperatorr ‘s new songs are perf

Only problem with the set last night is it was too short. @erroroperatorr I NEED MORE

Home was a tearjerker! Surprised @erroroperatorr could get thru such a beautiful song w/out breaking down. I know I cried a LOT im still crying

LOVE LOVE LOVE @erroroperatorr SOLO CAREER! AMAZING IN CI AMAZING SOLO ALWAYS PERFECCTTTTT


There were only a handful of negative tweets from fans who were still unhappy with the band’s breakup, but those were easily drowned out by the positive ones. Even people who hadn’t been able to show up were Tweeting about how happy they were with my set, thanks to the myriad of show-goers who had uploaded videos of my show to YouTube. I smiled and posted a quick message to my Twitter, thanking those who had shown up and those who were willing to support me as I continued my career in music.

I set my phone down, rolled on to my back, stretching out my legs and arms. Someone laughed at the odd noises that came from the back of my throat and sounded a lot like a dying whale had taken up residence in my bedroom. My head snapped to the side, and I raised an eyebrow at Louis. He gave me a sleepy grin, rubbing his eyes.

“No, no, please continue. That was insanely adorable.”

“Shut up, Tommo. Why are you still here?”

“Don’t wanna see my face?”

“Oh, you know that’s not what I meant. I’m not complaining, but you were supposed to go home last night.”

“Our flight got cancelled last minute, so your mum let us stay here.”

“Ah. Well, sorry you had to sleep on the floor.” I paused, looking around the room. “Wait, where’s Liam?”

“Probably downstairs eating breakfast. It’s almost ten-thirty, after all.”

I rolled my eyes at the way he scrunched up his face, pushing back my comforter and standing up. I slapped at his hand when he pinched at my side as I stretched. He walked by my side down to the kitchen. Liam was sat at the table and Patrick leaned against the counter, all three of them talking to each other. They stopped speaking and turned to face me when I entered the room.

“Morning, pumpkin.”

“Morning. Where’s the food?”

My mother laughed, swatting at me with a dishtowel. “Toaster Strudels are in the freezer.”

.:.:.:.:.:.


“I still can’t believe you ate the entire box,” Louis commented as I drove them to the airport.

We hadn’t been able to spend as much time together as I would have liked, since their flight was scheduled to leave at three, but it was still so wonderful to be able to see them in person again. We’d all three piled into the hammock in the backyard, chatting in the cool breeze. I listened intently to my friends going on and on about recording, laughed with Louis as Liam recounted the disastrous date he’d attempted to set up with Stefanie that had been interrupted by paparazzi, and let myself be snuggled on both sides while the hammock rocked gently under and around us. It had been a fantastic morning. I knew I would cherish the hours I got.

“Hey, I was hungry!”

“Apparently.”

I flashed a quick, half-hearted glare in Liam’s direction. “Look, jerkass, have you ever tried resisting strawberry and cream cheese Toaster Strudels? No? Then shut your cute British mouth.”

“My mouth is cute?”

“Oh, my Gods, I’m going to beat the Hell out of you, shut up,” I whined, laughing when Liam pressed his fingers to his lips with an exaggerated smile on his face.

Thankfully, Louis changed the subject to what we were going to do whenever we got the chance to hang out again. I pulled into the parking spot fifteen minutes later, turned off the engine, and grabbed my phone from out of the cupholder. They stayed close to my side on our trek to the terminal gate; the flight being announced echoed over the swell of voices, and I turned to Louis first. He spun me around, but it lacked its usual energy. Liam held me extra-tight ー most likely so I couldn’t punch him after he spoke.

“So… my mouth’s cute?”

I pulled away laughing, ignored the tears in my eyes as I swatted at his arm. I stayed long enough to watch them get through security; once they disappeared from view, I slipped on my sunglasses and made my way back through the airport. I’d just reached the food court when my phone vibrated in my pocket. I moved off to the side and unlocked my phone to read the text.

From: Bear Don’t worry, your mouth is kinda cute, too :P Sorry. I had to. Be safe, love you. x

To: Bear You are SO lucky you’re one of my best friends, or I’d beat your ass, Liam James Payne! You be safe, too. Let me know when you land, okay? Love you.

I grinned and reread his message. My mind went back to the first time he’d said that he loved me. It had been an awful day ー nothing seemed to have been going right, and I’d spent most of the afternoon alternating between anger and crying. I had sent him a text asking him if he was busy, and he’d immediately started a Skype video call. It had been four days after they left, and the media was still circulating articles about what Niall had done; according to the piece, the girl had tweeted “steamy details” of the time she got to enjoy in Niall’s arms. It had torn me apart to read what was said, but I couldn’t stop. There was some masochistic part of me that needed to know, and Liam seemed to know exactly what had set me off on the spiral. He’d listened as I cried for nearly forty-five minutes without interruption then launched into a speech.

“Listen up, Erin, because I’m only going to say this once. Okay, maybe not really,” he said with a smile at my disbelieving expression, “but still… Don’t listen to anybody else about what may or may not have happened between Niall and that girl. Only he can tell you the truth. But, to me… it seems like you need to take a break from anything to do with him. Don’t Google him, don’t check his Twitter. If you see pictures of him, walk away. If there’s an interview or a video of him on the telly, look away. Turn it off. I don’t give a damn if it means you don’t listen to our music, so don’t think that I’ll be upset if you don’t. It’s not a big deal to me. I know you’re a fan. But more importantly? You’re a friend. Love, you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and I would rather be down one person hearing us than to know it’s breaking your heart to do so. You are far too dear and important for me to be selfish like that. I love you, Erin, so much. But please, stop crying over Niall. He isn’t worth it. Please.”

His words had startled me into silence. One of Niall’s closest friends was telling me to basically forget about him? I’d nodded and promised to try ー that was all I could say. I tried to keep the message in mind whenever I felt low, whenever I hurt because of Niall, and so far, it seemed to work. It certainly helped me to move past the pain he’d caused.

By the time I made it back home, I’d listened to Silent Playground’s entire debut album and half of Fall Out Boy’s Greatest Hits. My mom’s car was gone from the driveway, and I knew she’d most likely gone grocery shopping or for a jog at the park. I slowly unlocked the front door and headed through the empty house to back patio. I kicked off my flip-flops, climbed up into the hammock. Eyes closed to the warm sunshine, I relaxed into the netting, letting the calls of birds and the cool edge to the air lull me into peacefulness.

I’d only been lying under the trees for twenty minutes when I heard the gate lock rattle. I turned my head to see Jamie standing on the other side. She smiled widely, waved, and unlocked the gate, stepping into the backyard. The heels of her shoes sunk a little into the dampened earth, but she seemed to ignore it as she made her way to me.

“Hey, what the heck, girl. Why have a phone if you’re not going to answer it?”

I shrugged, pulling my phone from my pocket; there were three missed calls from the management company’s number. “Sorry. I put it on silent so I could relax. What’s up?”

“Well, as you can see, I tried calling, but you didn’t answer. I was on my way home from a meeting and decided I’d stop by to deliver the news in person. Grace Morrison will be by Monday morning for an interview. The last one before you embark on your first tour to promote the EP.”

“A… a full tour for five songs?”

“Sort of. It’ll only be a month long, twenty-two cities. But there’s going to be video and radio interviews, photoshoots, that kind of stuff. So it’ll be a lot like your tour for the first album.” She paused and poked my forehead with a long fingernail. “And luckily for you, the shoot you did while touring with One Direction made sure that photographer will never be allowed to work with you again.”

“Good. Fuckin’ sleazeball.”

“Exactly. But we found a great replacement.”

“Who?”

Her answering smile was mysterious and did nothing to reassure me. “You’ll see. Now, I gotta go. Devin wants to go on a hot date tonight. Don’t forget about Monday!” she called over her shoulder as she headed to her SUV.

I let my head drop back against the hammock, squealing excitedly. Grace Morrison was one of the top music journalists ー armed with professionalism, fluid words, and the most intriguing and probing questions, she was the cream of the crop, the best of the best. Even if you somehow managed to snub her (which I couldn’t imagine anyone having done; she was just too personable without being overly friendly), she never wrote negative things about your music if you had the talent. Having an interview with Grace Morrison was the perfect way to get your name out there. She was pretty much the final word in the music word: Her reviews were golden.

The Phoenix Reborn
by Grace Morrison

Erin McCarty, 18-going-on-19, is sprawled out on the living room floor of her parents’ beautiful two-storey home, skin flushed from a vigorous workout session. Her results flash on the screen, but we both ignore the Wii U game system: she, too intent on catching her breath; me, too focused on the attractive, guitar-playing, newly-solo singer. Her black hair is pulled into a short ponytail at the top of her skull, and her blue eyes are hidden behind unpainted lids. There is no denying her raw beauty. And there is also no room for contest when it comes to her talent. Complete Irrationality was signed when Erin was barely sixteen, and now, almost five years later, she’s released her own EP. She asks if I want anything to drink; when I decline, she walks through the hall to the kitchen, returning with a protein shake.

I feel slightly overdressed as she sits on the couch, curling her bare feet beneath her. She’s wearing stretchy exercise shorts and a plain white sports bra. She gives me a small smile. Rumours of her shy personality have been confirmed.

GM: So. You were part of a band that made international headlines, landing spots on tours with some of the biggest names in today’s industry. How did it feel to realise you’d made it so far in so little time? That you were famous worldwide?
EM:
(laughs) Oh, it was absolutely amazing! It still is. Some of my best memories ー and friends ー were made when Complete Irrationality was touring.

GM: Speaking of people you met while on tour, was there every anything between you and Garrett Daniels (of Silent Playground)?
EM:
No. Good gods, no. Gee’s just… an amazing friend. Always has been, always will be. Nothing more, nothing less.

GM: And One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson?
EM:
Nope. And I know, I know, you’re gonna mention the making out thing, right? (I nod.) Figured you would. It seems to still be big news when it comes to me. But nah. As any of my friends know, I get, well, super-lovey, I guess is the way to put it, when I’ve had too much to drink ー which was the case that night. Louis is super awesome, but totally not mine.

GM: Well, that’s two rumours cleared up! Now, on this new EP, you’ve got a song that you wrote for Jem, “Home”. Is that what helped you moved past his death?
EM:
(silence, then a shaky breath) Yeah. It hurt like Hell, but I think if I hadn’t written it, I wouldn’t be nearly as composed as I am now. I’d probably still be locked away in my room, keeping everyone away. It was therapeutic. It definitely helped.

GM: That’s good. But, and forgive me for this, but there are a couple songs that seem to clash with each other: “Lost” and “Remember Me”. Especially the line “Remember me as you’re alone. This prison you’ve made is now your home. Remember me as I live my life. As I walk away from all your lies.” in comparison to the lyrics of “Lost”. Then you have a cover of the iconic “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, originally done by Olivia Newton-John. Care to explain?
EM:
Of course. Well, to be honest, “Hopelessly Devoted” is absolutely iconic and beautiful. It’s one of my most favourite songs ever. So when I got permission to record a cover of it, I definitely jumped on it just to say that I did it. But lately, it’s began to hold a really deep meaning for me. There’s just… You know how it feels to know, deep inside with everything in you, that it’s a bad idea to love that one person but you just can’t stop yourself? Yeah, that’s what I was going through for a while. Still am, truthfully.

GM: But the other two?
EM:
Okay. So both “Remember Me” and “Lost” are my way of saying “F**k you” to the feelings and the person who caused them. But, if you listen to the words of “Lost”, it’s… it’s almost hopeful, there in the end. It’s kinda saying that even through the pain and tears and everything I’ve gone through, I… I would do it again, I would keep trying everything I can to continue the relationship. So it’s kinda a hopeful song, as well.

GM: And “Right Here” has an anti-suicide kind of theme to it.
EM:
Sort of. I mean, I guess, if you want to call it that, then sure. I can see why. I got the inspiration from a fan who [private messaged] me on Twitter who said she was going through a really, really rough time, and she was just so close to giving up. She said she wanted to message me to tell me how CI saved her life before, and we were her heroes, but she was starting to slip again. Her message made me cry, and the next thing I knew, “Right Here” was written.

GM: And is that fan okay now?
EM:
Yeah! She made sure to message me again once the EP was released to tell me that the song was her favourite and she listened to it any time she felt like giving up.

GM: I bet that makes you feel wonderful, to know that you’ve saved someone’s life like that.
EM:
Oh, absolutely! But honestly, it also terrifies the Hell out of me. It’s petrifying to think of how much influence that I, as a singular person, can have over anybody else.

We end the interview shortly thereafter, and as I walk out the door, she resumes her exercises, and I think about our conversation. You may wonder why I didn’t ask the question to which you’re all dying to know the answer (I know this because of all the letters and emails I received after announcing that Erin was the subject of this interview): What exactly happened between Erin and Niall? And why have they not interacted at all since the weeks after Jem Rhodes’s death? But if you’d seen the expression on her face when discussing the inspiration behind “Lost”, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, and “Right Here”... If you’d witnessed the absolute heartbreak in her voice and the pain in her eyes, you’d understand. There are some things that should just remain private, no matter how public the person. And Erin McCarty is nothing less than in the public’s eye ー and she’s very well-deserving of the attention, but she also deserves the right to privacy.

You can catch her on a 22-stop tour starting this Wednesday, 15 October, as she promotes “Who Am I?”