Chapter 2

I could see Evan through the window in the door. He leaned against the frame in a tight white t-shirt with his head resting on his tattoo covered arm. The sweatshirt had hidden them before, but I already knew they were there. It was then I was hit by the fact every woman on the face of the planet knew where his tattoos were, and I had to take a deep breath to forget it. When I opened the door, he looked up at me with that devilish smile and thoughts of anyone else looking at him disappeared.

“Hey,” he greeted, his hands suddenly finding his pockets as if he were nervous; “those high school boys don’t know what’s coming.”

I looked down at my tight black v-neck and skinny jeans. “Thanks, but this is what I normally wear to these things, plus…” I reached over to the coat hook and grabbed my press pass, slipping the lanyard over my neck. “Now they know not to look down my shirt.”

He leaned back on his heels and laughed as I grabbed my camera bag and purse.

“Really? I don’t think a press pass is going to stop that—it might even draw more attention,” he teased.

I took the chance to look him over when he wasn’t paying attention. His stylish tattered jeans, simple t-shirt and Converse shoes said Total-Rock-God-Without-Even-Having-To-Try.

“What about all their girlfriends ogling you?” I ventured.

He rolled his shoulders and held out his hand for mine. “They’ll be staring at you, too.”

“And why is that?” I asked, letting my hand melt into his.

He leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Because I’m with you!”

~~~

He wasn’t wrong. In fact, he was very right—not only was every teenage girl staring, but all of the moms were, too. Most of them knew who I was from my attendance at other games, so it was doubtful they really believed I had Evan Levesque with me—let alone with his arm wrapped around my waist as I snapped pictures for my mediocre job.

“You really like taking pictures, huh?”

“What?” I asked, thrown off by his question.

“You’re not just a writer,” he commented as he pointed to the camera.

I nodded as I adjusted the ISO setting to account for the fluorescent lights. “I really like to do photo shoots of people, but I haven’t done them since high school.”

“I haven’t seen a photographer with your passion in a long time—and you’re taking pictures of something you don’t really have an interest in.”  His voice trailed off and he tapped his foot to an imaginary beat before saying, “I honestly don’t really like people taking pictures of me—probably because I’m so used to having a camera shoved in my face, but I’d really like to see what you can do.”

I felt the soft tingle in my cheeks that said my face was going through varying shades of red as I thought of photographing him.

“I’d love to do that.”

He glanced up at the scoreboard. “Five more minutes and we can find somewhere to take pictures.”

I smirked. “I think we’re already in a good place—a high school.”

He nodded before running his hands through his hair. I snapped a picture and then turned the camera so he could see it.

He shook his head. “That’s pretty crazy….pictures don’t really ever feel like me—but that does.”

I looked at the picture. In the angle I had taken the picture he was above me, and his arm made a perfect triangle that the florescent lights shone through. A slight smile was caught on his face and his eyes showed his happiness. 

“That’s because they’re posed,” I said; “this shot isn’t…this is you.”

He leaned in and kissed my cheek, which caused catcalls all around us so we both pulled away, laughing self-consciously.  The next five minutes seemed like hours as I waited in unease for the buzzer to ring and people to slowly fan out of the gym. While we waited Evan played with my camera, taking pictures of us, and then me, alone, before handing it back when there was no one left in the room. He leaned easily back in the bleachers and grinned up at me as I clicked the camera.

“What’s it like?” I asked as I began down the bleachers and he stood to follow.

“What?”

“Being the guy women can’t resist staring at?”

He shook his head, and wrinkles formed at the corners of his eyes as he squeezed them shut. I snapped the shot and watched his chest rise as if the thought was painful.

“Odd, I mean I never felt that I was that attractive. I wanted to be a singer—a musician, not some sort of sex symbol,” he explained as I picked up a basketball and threw it at him.

He caught it and I snapped another picture, this time his muscles were contracted, stretching the tattoos to the point they looked as though they would jump off his skin. He arched his arm as he shot the ball, and I caught him with a look of concentration and angst on his face.

“So when you were a teenager it wasn’t like that?”

He lowered his arms and his eyes locked on mine. “I’ve been doing this since I was sixteen. I was an awkward teenager then; once I hit about eighteen, the fame had kicked in…so had the facial hair, and I’d already started with the tattoos. Everyone wanted me to be a bad boy, the label wanted it, the publicists wanted it, but I was just trying to be myself.”

“How did you deal with it?” I asked as he leaned up and shot the ball without difficulty into the hoop. I caught him watching the ball go into the net, a look of apprehension on his face.

He reached up and rubbed his neck like the question caused him physical pain. I swallowed at the look in his eyes, snapping the picture without really paying attention to what I was doing. I didn’t care because I was seeing him as a human being. From his body language this wasn’t something he readily admitted to people. I wondered—what was so different about me that he would share?

“I’m not really sure I’ve ever really dealt with it. I just keep telling myself I’m doing what I always wanted—what I love, but in the end I still feel empty… sometimes I don’t feel like I have what I really want.”

I started down the hallway walking backwards and snapping shots of him as he walked, running his hands over the smooth metal of the teal-colored lockers.

“I never really got to do the whole high school thing,” he continued, stopping and leaning up against a locker; his eyes stared up at the ceiling.

“It really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” I replied as I sucked in a breath.

“You look like you’re in pain,” he observed with his head cocked at me.

I closed my eyes as the memories filtered across my lids; I shut them off like I always did.

 “I really didn’t enjoy it all that much…that’s when the shit really hit the fan,” I replied. That was something I hadn’t even told my closest family members, yet here I was telling him.

I could feel he had moved to the front of me, his hand was now on my cheek, with his thumb caressing my bottom lip.

“What happened? What could be that bad?” he asked, and when I looked up at him his eyes were darting across my face in search of the answer.

“Not every love is all it’s cracked up to be,” I whispered, my voice cracking. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…they’ll destroy my soul.”

“You’re so beautiful, how could anyone—”

“Treat something beautiful like it’s their possession?”

I averted my eyes from his and watched as his chest rose in a deep breath. I didn’t want to see the pity I’d seen in the eyes of my peers as they watched me disappear into nothing. I didn’t want his pity, and I hadn’t needed theirs. His thumb caressed my face as he tilted my chin so my eyes met his taking in my face. His expression showed somehow he understood.

“I do get it, you know…in a way.”

It didn’t make sense that he could.

“I’m someone that everyone is always judging— they don’t like my songs, they rip them to pieces…and I don’t have to tell you that not everyone loves my tattoos or my bad boy image—even though I’m not who they think I am…”

“So you’re not the man slut they make you out to be?” I teased, trying to change the subject. It wasn’t something I really wanted to go into.

I pulled away from him and nodded to one of the empty classrooms. He followed me in and grabbed a chair, spinning it around and sitting in it backwards. He was perfectly framed by the dated blackboard behind him as he rested his head on top of his arms before he answered me.

“I’ve loved many women. I’m not going to lie to you, and I don’t want to, but it never works…vanity always gets in the way.”

He sighed. “It always ends the same—someone else in someone else’s arms. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone worth fighting for. It’s just never been worth the effort.”

“Do you think that’s really love, then?” I asked as he stood and made his way to the blackboard.

He picked up the chalk and threw it in the air before catching it and writing across the surface, what is love, exactly?

I continued to snap pictures as he wrote it and even as he turned to look at me.

I put the camera on the desk in front of me. “Lust turned into something more…respect,”

“Trust.”

“Passion.”

“Admiring someone for who they are when the lights go off…”

“Even when it’s not as glamorous as when they are on.”

“Finding perfection in the errors of human nature,” I finished as he pulled me into his arms, a hand pushing an escaped piece of hair away from my face. In that moment, as his soft lips met mine, the dream became real. I let go of all of it; the pain, the anger and then the fear rose up within me. I wanted it to never end, and I knew it would. I’d probably never see him again—I’d never feel the warmth of his hand in mine, the roughness of his guitar-calloused fingers against my skin as they gently cupped my chin, or the taste of him on my lips—worst of all was the emptiness I suddenly felt inside as I thought about never really hearing his laugh and letting everything go. He pulled away and rested his forehead on mine, his eyes closed as he sighed.

“I don’t want to bring you home—I don’t want to go,” he finally said.

“Who knew a basketball game and an impromptu photo shoot could be so intense?”

He laughed and opened those amazing eyes. I tried to memorize that smile; the real one that I’d never seen in a magazine or article on the web.

“Do you have a photo printer at home?” he asked, his hands slipping down my arms and to the small of my back. I tried to remember to breathe as my skin caught on fire from his touch. I nodded in response.  “Good; I need some copies.” His hands left my body and he dug in his pocket for the keys to the rented Audi.

“When do you leave for your next tour stop?” I dared to ask the question that I was dreading; this would be over quicker than it had occurred.

His jaw clenched and his eyes darkened.

“We have to leave in a few hours,” he replied, pulling me into a hug before looping his arm around my waist as I grabbed the camera and we headed to the door.

“You excited for—?”

“Toronto…yeah, it’s always a great crowd there,” his voice sounded distant as he answered. “Not as good as Hartford, though.”

“Tell me something?” I asked as he pulled away from me to hold the door.

“Yes?”

“Do you still love music as much as you did when you were sixteen?”

He didn’t answer as he hit a button on the car remote to disengage the alarm before turning to lean back against the door.

“Yeah…sometimes I just envy playing or singing for the sake of it, though,” he answered, pulling my hips towards his own.

I leaned in and kissed him once.

“I wish I still felt that way about writing,” I said as he opened the door for me and walked around to the driver’s side before we both slipped into the leather seats.

He put the car into gear. “That’s because you aren’t really writing. You’re writing for someone else—you don’t write what you want…you just spew out what they want out of your fingers.”

“You say that like you understand.”

“Sometimes I do play what they want—what they tell me I have to, but I always remember what I really want and make sure I put some of me into it.”

“God, you make it sound so easy, but I just can’t do it anymore…”

“When was the last time you wrote for yourself?”

I looked down at my hands, my jaw clenching as I thought about it.

“A long time ago,” I finally whispered as we drove up to my basement apartment.

He was quiet as he put the car into park, and although I was staring across the lake, I felt his eyes were on me.

“It really wasn’t your choice was it?”

I looked up at him asking, “What do you mean?”

He ran his hand over the stubble of his chin, his teeth grating over his lower lip, and I knew he was deep in thought.

“Just say it,” I ordered.

Evan took a deep breath and shook his head. “It’s not my place.”

“But you still know.”

His brows hovered over his sad eyes before he nodded.

The name echoed in my head, and I cringed at it. The nightmares would come now, just like they always did when I heard his name, or even thought it. I swallowed, shaking my head before getting out of the car without a word. He was right. I knew it, but I hated that he saw it. I fumbled with the keys and opened the door to my apartment before looking over my shoulder at him. He stood outside the car looking at me as if he didn’t know if he should follow.

“You coming in?”

He nodded.

“I’m sorry I upset you—this must all seem so strange to you…some first date,” he finally said once he was inside.

I tossed my keys on the entry table with my press pass and camera before turning to face him.

“It’s the truth. I don’t write anymore…I let him win,” I answered, ignoring the fact this was all quite strange. It felt so right, though, that I wasn’t focusing on questioning it. I’d spent the last five years of my life in the dark and Evan seemed to be the light that had appeared in a moment’s time.

Evan pulled me into his arms, moving my hair away from my neck.

“Don’t let him win…” his voice cracked as his breath rushed over my bare skin, causing goose bumps to crawl up my neck as he kissed it. “Please… he never deserved you.”

In that moment I made the decision without a second thought. If this was all I ever got from him—if this was the only moment I would ever have with him—I would memorize it. His kisses trailed up my neck and to my lips as we moved to the bedroom. There were parts of me that wondered if he did this with girls in every city he was in, but his words echoed in my mind, proving he didn’t. When we reached my platform bed he gently pulled me beneath him, the weight of his body warming my skin as I kissed his neck with my hands running over the muscles of his back. I took a deep breath, and he looked down at me with a smile before rolling to the side of me.

“Do you think I’m a slut?” I asked, suddenly aware of where this could have been going.

He pulled me into his arms so my head was resting on his chest and kissed my hair.

“I don’t think kissing someone is slutty.” He laughed, his fingers running over the bare skin of my arms in a playful movement.

“Good, because that’s all you’re getting,” I replied, looking up at him.

He caressed my cheek before kissing me again. “That’s all I wanted.”

“How much time do we have left?” I asked as I cuddled closer to him.

“About an hour,” he replied, his voice thick with regret.

We remained quiet; both staring out the sliding doors that lined my bedroom wall to the lake beyond my apartment as stars began to dance across the water.  His hands ran through my hair and down to the small of my back as he began to softly sing.  

My phone woke me singing his song, and I was convinced the night had been dream—except the name appearing on the screen said Evan and there was a picture of him kissing me on my forehead as I slept.

“Hello?”

“Hey, I’m sorry—I just couldn’t bear to wake you up.”   Evan’s voice came through the phone and cut into my heart.

“I wish you didn’t have to go…” I whispered and it was painful to admit it.

“I didn’t want to either, but my phone was almost blown up by my band mates wondering where the hell I was. I didn’t want them to call out a search party,” he explained, and the smile in his voice made me sigh.

“Fine, you’re forgiven—but I never made you copies,” I said as I sat up and saw my camera on the desk next to my bed. There were plenty of copies strewn across the area.

“I made some for myself while you slept,” he explained, and I heard someone making kissing noises in the background. “My manager wants permission to use them for our Facebook.”

“What?” I was suddenly fully awake.

“Yeah, it turns out everyone agreed with me that you’re an amazing photographer—”

“Not to mention gorgeous!” someone added in the background.

“Shut up Paul. You want me to kick your ass?” Evan threatened.

“Thanks, Evan,” I said.

“For what?”

“For everything,” I said with a shrug as I stood from the bed and felt the emptiness of the place without him.

“Thank you,” he answered. “I had the most amazing day with you.”

“Of course,”

“Promise me something?”

“Anything,” I replied.

“You’ll start to really write again.”

It felt like goodbye…and I felt the glass of my heart shattering.

“I promise,” I whispered.

“I’ve got to catch the plane, but I promise we’ll talk soon.”

“Okay,” I replied, and wondered if it was a promise he could keep.

“Goodnight, Emma.”

“Goodnight, Evan,” I whispered, and I heard the background noise of the airport as he listened to my breathing, then there was nothing.

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