‹ Prequel: Black and White

To the End

thirty-five

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Post-album promotion kicks into high swing. Every morning, Niall and Declan kiss me goodbye in the morning before Amber drags me out of the house. Bryan drives us all over LA for local interviews and photoshoots. Some journalists even work with my ‘no travelling’ rule and fly in from around the country.

“Okay, so we have an interview with a radio station then a lunch with someone from US Weekly. Oh, and Kerrang! has a photoshoot set up. They were nice enough to send Alexis and Phoebe.”

I sigh and rest my head against the window. I was awake until almost three this morning. It wasn’t until I let Declan sleep in the bed between us that I got any sleep at all. I never thought I’d be one of those co-sleeping mothers, but here I am. Weirdly enough, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ll do it every night if it means the baby doesn’t keep me awake for hours.

Amber pokes my cheek. “You in there?”

“Yeah, just tired. Dec doesn’t like me sleeping.” Blowing out a breath, I look at my best friend. Her brow raises, scarlet curls surrounding her thin face. “Have I thanked you yet for becoming my PA?”

“Dude, I get to travel around the world with my should-be sister and get paid for it? I’m only pissed you never asked before.”

“I didn’t want you to feel like I was taking advantage of our friendship.”

“If I didn’t feel that way in high school with all the promo I did for Complete Irrationality, I don’t think I’d feel it now. Especially not since I have less promoting to do. I guess your marriage to Niall works in your favour.”

“I’m not—”

“Sorry, bad joke. I know you’re not using him to further your career.” She glances down at the itinerary then scowls at the traffic through the windscreen. “People need to drive faster.”

“It’s LA,” Bryan snorts from behind the steering wheel.

“Well, LA sucks. Why can’t you and Niall move back to San Clemente?”

“Because we want to make you miserable.”

“Mission fucking accomplished.”

Thankfully, I don’t have to listen to her griping for much longer. Bryan pulls into the back lot of the radio station, and Amber slides out of the car first. Her mouth goes a mile a minute as she leads me inside, promising she’s sent ahead a list of questions that are absolutely unacceptable - ones that will make me walk out immediately if asked. She also tells me she requested seventeen bags of chocolates just to see if they’d oblige. The station guaranteed one.

The deejay beams from behind the microphone, though his listeners can’t see it, and greets me warmly as I take a seat. His blond hair is tied back with a cloud-printed scrunchie, and I barely manage to stifle my giggle. Rolling his eyes, he explains he woke up late this morning and had to borrow his wife’s hair-tie.

Roy stays firmly out of the realm of ‘walk-away’ questions, only asking after my album and plans for touring. It’s easy to joke with him, pretend this is all I am - a musician promoting her new album. No husband, no kid, just my guitar and me. He does ask, however, if the pregnancy and birth of my child influenced my music at all.

“Of course it did. I mean, I was hella emotional all the freaking time, so I kinda had to learn how I was feeling at any given moment and why.” I shrug and adjust the headphones. Amber gives me two thumbs up from the corner. “It helped me to better recognise and put into words what I felt.”

“And being a mother?”

“It... Do you have kids?”

He shakes his head with a smile. “Nah, the wife and I decided it wasn’t for us.”

“That’s awesome! If it works for you, it works. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Sighing, I chew on my lower lip for a moment. “Being a mother has been fantastic and stressful. I’m always worried I’ll screw the kid up, y’know? But then I look at my child’s beautiful face and realise I’d give my life for this little one. And it inspires me to keep going and keep doing things that would make them proud to say ‘That’s my ma!’”

“I have to admit something,” Roy announces, glancing at me with wide brown eyes before continuing, “I think it’s fantastic that you’re keeping your kid out of the light. Like, I know so many people have scoured Google for details - yes, I’m talking to a fraction of you, listeners - but there are none! And that’s not very common in LA.”

“It’s not, which is exactly why Niall and I have decided to do it. That, and our child didn’t ask for this life. We’ll make it as easy as possible on them and give them a chance at a half-normal life if we can.”

He grins and moves to the next segment. It goes quickly. All I have to do is play a quick round of ‘bed, marry, kill’ with the options of Louis, John Stamos, and Danny Devito. It takes me a full minute to make up my mind: Bed Danny Devito, kill John Stamos, and marry Louis - simply because he’s one of my best friends and I know him so well. Even I’m surprised by my response. Never before have I ever thought of my Moo that way, so it’s shocking that I’d think of that potential now.

_______________

Ready, Set, Go: The Life of a Rockstar Mother
by Jasper Morton


At twenty-three, Erin McCarty has been married for a year and a mother for nearly as long. One can't help but wonder if the marriage is because of the pregnancy. She looks much more put together than I expected of a woman with a baby at home. She looks exhausted, that much I expected. Her blonde hair is pulled back in what I assume is the ponytail stereotypical of a mother, and no makeup covers her face. The black T-shirt she wears has a stain on the shoulder—I don’t think it’s wrong to conclude it came from her baby. Despite the obvious softness to her belly and chin that wasn’t there only last year, she is still attractive.

Both Erin and her husband have kept details about their child completely private. Beyond the initial photo of Niall Horan, 23, holding their newborn, in which the baby’s face is suspiciously left out of the picture, their social medias are devoid of any names, birth dates, or even whether it’s a son or daughter. The web-o-sphere has asked—demanded—information, but Horan and McCarty have steadfastly refused. She isn’t any more forthcoming with me when I ask.

She takes a seat at the table across from me, her best friend/personal assistant at her side. Pleasantries are exchanged, but I get the feeling Erin would rather be anywhere but here. Honestly, I start to wonder if this will be her last interview—and album.

Let’s dive right in, shall we? Your latest album dropped a week ago, but you haven’t announced a tour. What’s the reason for that?
I honestly didn’t want to do a tour if I couldn’t focus solely on it. Right now, my main concern is caring for and bonding with my child, and making sure my marriage is the best it can be.

Speaking of your marriage, your album has a cover of ‘Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough’ by Patty Smyth and Don Henley. What made you put this song on there?
Definitely not having marital issues, if that’s what you’re implying. Everything is perfect, but it still takes effort to make something as enormous as marriage. Why should we not actually work to keep it going? (Her friend whispers in her ear, but Erin frowns and shakes her head.) Anyway, I added the song because it’s important to me. My father left when I was a child despite my mother and I loving him deeply. Jem is still dead even though I love him. And let’s be honest. Patty and Don are an amazing combo, vocally.

I’m sorry you got the impression I was insinuating your marriage was strained. You have another cover on the album—’Will You Still Love Me?’ by Chicago. Why?
(She smiles, a secret kind of thing that says she’s either lying or keeping something private.) It means the world to me. Why wouldn’t I add it?

Don’t you think your fans deserve an album full of original songs, instead of 11 originals and 2 covers?
If they have a problem with it, they’ve not said anything to me. I made a record I’m proud of. I think that shows in the songs I chose to put on the album.

You have a child and a husband now. How do you juggle your responsibilities to your family and to your fans?
Let me ask you a question, Jasper. Is that okay?

Sure.
Have you asked that question of literally any father who’s in the spotlight? Any man who has a child and a partner and a job that requires them to be away from home for extended periods of times? I know you’ve interviewed John Krasinski. Did you ask him that question, too? Or is it just the women? Because unless you ask every famous person who has children, you should definitely take that question out of rotation.

I’m sorry if you feel I’m holding double standards.
It isn’t a ‘feeling’ I have, and it isn’t even just you. It’s every reporter out there, women included. What’s that phrase? The misogyny is coming from inside the house? Inside and out. It’s a ridiculous question, and I don’t ever want to hear it again.

I’ll do my best. This is something I ask any parent I interview, I promise. How are you enjoying parenthood?
It’s been a major change, but it’s great. My child is beautiful and healthy, and I’ve enjoyed being able to bond with them like I have.

Does Niall help with the baby?
Duh. He’s an amazing father and very involved. He doesn’t subscribe to that whole philosophy where fathers ‘babysit’ their children. (She rolls her eyes, exchanging a Look with her friend.) He’s incredibly hands-on, and our baby is lucky to have Niall as a dad.

When do you think you’ll tour again?
Whenever I feel like it’s a good time. Without being able to see the future, I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Erin doesn’t even say goodbye before she and her friend are gone. The lack of substantial answers about her baby are bound to dredge up more questions, but she hardly seemed bothered by the prospect. It isn’t until the bell over the door rings that I realise she hadn’t touched the meal she ordered. The still-full plate makes me wonder if she was focused on the interview or if she makes it a habit of not eating.

Erin McCarty’s album, The Road So Far, has received accolades from multiple outlets and can be found anywhere CDs are sold.
_______________


As soon as I’m back in the car, Jasper left at the table and my blood boiling, I yank Amber’s phone from her hands. She doesn’t speak when I open the Twitter app and compose a new Tweet. We both know it will likely bite me in the ass, but I don’t care. I’m tired of hiding my thoughts and emotions, and Jasper deserves to know exactly what I think of his horrible interviewing skills.

erroroperatorr: Well, if you lot need any toilet paper, that interview is just barely good enough in a pinch.
erroroperatorr: Otherwise, find a cactus or something. It’ll be hella better than that condescending drivel.