Unraveling YouJessica Sorensen
As she catches it, her face drains of color. “Um, I’m not going to sing for you.” She chucks the microphone at him. Instead of catching it, Sage skitters out of the way and it ends up crashing against the symbols.
All three of us stare at it as it threatens to topple over.
He rips his focus off the vibrating metal. “Why not?”
Lyric glances at me for help, but I have no idea what to say to her. I’ve never heard her sing. Hell, she barely lets me hear her play the guitar and she rocks at that. But I know she does it all, sings, plays, writes lyrics.
“I’d really like to hear the answer myself,” I tell her, shifting the guitar off my lap. “Because I’ve been really curious for a while.”
She glares at me, and I shrink back. “I already told you I have stage fright.”
Right. She has told me that. Maybe I’m higher than I thought.
Sage flicks his hand at her, waving her off. “That is totally curable.”
Lyric crosses her legs, and her gaze glides across Sage’s facial piercings. “And what’s your cure? Should I dye my hair and pierce my skin to make me believe I’m a true rock star?”
Sage points at his chest. “I’m not a rock star. I can’t sing at all, but I can play the drums like a badass.”
Lyric folds her arms across her chest with a sway of attitude in her body. “So can I.”
I catch Sage peeking at her cleavage popping out of her shirt. That’s when I realize the S word he was about to drop when Lyric walked in was probably sexy. It pisses me off, and my reaction is surprising as shit.
But Lyric isn’t sexy. She’s fun, ridiculously happy, effortlessly beautiful, life-saving, and mind-blowingly amazing. Sexy doesn’t even begin to sum her up.
“Yeah, but our band doesn’t need a drummer.” He scoops up the microphone from the floor and presents it to her like it’s a bouquet. “We need a singer.”
Lyric folds her fingers around the mic as she takes it from him. “I can’t. I’ll seriously throw up if I even try.”
He holds up a finger as a slow grin curves at his lips. “I have an idea for that.”
When he disappears through a door at the back of the room, I say to Lyric, “You don’t have to do it. Sage just gets crazy about this stuff. He lives and breathes music and thinks everyone should do the same.”
“I live and breathe music, too,” Lyric reminds me, anxiously chewing on her bottom lip. “I just can’t do it in public... You really think he’s got some magical cure for stage fright?”
I line my fingers against the guitar strings and strum a chord. “Probably not. But if he does come out with a brownie, please don’t eat it.”
“I won’t, but I think I might be a little bit high already.”
“Yeah, me, too.”
A nervous giggle escapes her lips then she relaxes back on the sofa and kicks up her feet on the stool. “So, can I ask you something?”
My fingers tense and I miss the next chord. “I guess so.”
“It’s about the other night … about the … kiss.” She pauses, and an enormous lump wedges in my throat. “I think it might be the weed talking, because I promised myself I wasn’t going to bring it up, but now I suddenly feel like I need to.”
I squeeze my eyes shut. I still have my head down so she can’t see my face. Thank God, or otherwise, who the hell knows what she would see.
“I just wanted to make you feel better about that asshole stealing your first kiss,” I say, messing around with the knob on the bottom of the guitar. “It was the only thing I could think of to do.”
In the darkness.
Liar I’ve ever seen.
Pretend it doesn’t exist.
Like everything else inside you.
She cracks her knuckles. “So it was just a friend kiss, then? Because Maggie has a theory that our friendship might have blossomed into love.” She laughs like she thinks the idea is funny.
Me, I find it terrifying.
The word souls burn for.
People die for.
But for me, it’s simply poetry, lyrics, an emotion I’ll never understand.
I swallow hard and force my voice to be equally as light. “Yeah, of course. And I really think you should stop listening to Maggie. It’s what started the whole thing with William to begin with.”
“Hey.” She cups my chin and forces me to look up at her. “I’m totally cool with you kissing me to cheer me up, just as long as we stay friends. I never want anything to get weird between us.”
“Of course.” I bob my head up and down. “I want the same thing.”
“Good.” She smiles as she reclines back in the seat.
The scatteredness in my head begins to clear. This was my problem—it had to be. I was so worried I’d lose her as a friend that it fucked with my head. Thank God, I’m cured.
“You and I”—she points back and forth between us—“we’re going to be one of those people who are still friends when we’re super old, like our parents.” A laugh bubbles from my lips and her smile expands. “You know, I always feel so special whenever I get you to smile. Like I discovered some sort of rare gem.”
I want to kiss her right there, eternally seal my lips to hers.
Okay, maybe I’m not cured.
Maybe I can’t be cured.
“You’re special, Lyric. You should know that by now.”
“So are you.” She pats my leg then rises to her feet when Sage strolls back into the room.
“So, what’s your huge plan to cure me?” she asks him.
He holds up a brownie in his hand. “This will cure all your stage fright.” He draws and X over his heart and winks at her. “I promise.”
Shaking my head, I set my guitar down and rise to my feet. “No way.” I push Sage’s hand back. “How about I blow off practice and we do something fun,” I suggest to Lyric. “Nolan isn’t even here anyway.”
“He’s always late,” Sage intervenes, munching on the brownie. “He’ll show up in like ten minutes or so.”
“I was kind of hoping coming here would cure me of my stage fright.” Lyric stares at me with hope in her eyes. “I don’t know why, but I thought it would help somehow, like maybe being around you and seeing how much fun you guys have when you play would force me to conquer my fear.”
I rub my jawline, trying to conjure up an idea. I remember when I was afraid of the dark, how I used to cover my ears and shut my eyes to block out my surroundings. It didn’t cure me, but it got me through the night. Now I use music and that silly nightlight Lyric gave me forever ago.
“I have an idea,” I say, my voice unsteady from a memory long forgotten of me as a small boy begging to be let free. “But it might be a little weird.”
She smiles excitedly. “Lay it on me. Whatever it is, I trust you, Ayden.”
Her words crash into my heart, more than in a just-friends way. I wonder just how much of a lie I told her when I said that it was just a friend kiss. It doesn’t matter, though. Lyric is the sunshine in my world. She keeps me going when things get really dark. I’m not even ready for a relationship. I can barely handle myself right now, even something as simple as kissing her sent me into panic attack after panic attack.
I suddenly realize something makes my scars throb, that I’m not ready to handle the emotions clipping their way to the surface. That even though I have a new life, the cuffs and chains are still there, trying to pull me down into the darkness of memories, begging to haunt me. Of myself. My brother. My sister.
What was done to me? Stuff I can’t even remember, but can somehow still feel the fear connected to the experiences.
And I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully be able to escape them.
In the silence
of my soul, there is a breathless ache
desperately seeking air.
Like I’m dead, yet alive.
Breathing yet suffocating.
Then I felt your lips.
The softest touch
kissed my mouth,
and my soul sang to life.
For the very first time
you showed me a taste of life.
That’s what I wrote after Ayden kissed me. That’s what constantly floods my thoughts day and night, over and over again. I want another taste of it—of what his kiss brought me. But he’s been acting so strange since it happened. Twitchy. Smiling less. And I have no idea how to act around him other than be super happy twenty-four seven, even after what I discovered about him tonight while searching around on the internet—an article about his past.
“Are you sure about this?” I ask Ayden as I stand in the middle of the room with my eyes closed. I have earplugs in my ears, a microphone in my hand, and my heart’s thudding like a jackhammer.
“Not really!” he shouts out. “But it doesn’t hurt to try it out!”
“True.” I dither, trying to decide if I want to do this.
Suddenly his fingers circle my wrists, and I feel his face dip toward my ear. “Relax. It’s just me and Sage in the room. Two people. That’s all.” His breath is hot on my cheek, making the air sweltering.
I nod as my fingers grasp the microphone. “Okay.”
“Okay, you’re ready to do this?”
I nod then fist bump the air. I hear him chuckle, but the sound gets lost as he moves away from me.
A heartbeat or two later, the music is cranked up. Lyrics by Flyleaf surround me and it’s perfect. I know for a fact that Ayden picked out this song, because he knows how much I love the band. The thought relaxes me for about two seconds until it’s time for me to sing then my voice locks up in my throat.
Shit. I’m so going to throw up.
My eyelids start to lift up as panic sets in, but warm fingers touch my wrists again.
“Relax!” Ayden shouts over the music. “I’ve got your back, dude.”
I snort a laugh then relax.
Calm. That’s all I feel.
I don’t know why, but I open my eyes.
My gaze meets Ayden’s grey eyes.
I think about the lyrics I wrote the other day.
The stuff I dreamed about for years.
Friends or not, I’m using our kiss to my benefit.
I put the microphone up to my mouth.
Then I start to sing.
I sing like my life depends on it. Sing like I’ve always dreamed of doing. Sing as though my heart is going to burst if I don’t scream out every emotion through the lyrics.
I’ll admit, for the first thirty seconds or so, my voice is wobbly and off pitch. I start to grow concerned that maybe my life dream of singing is going to be a behind-closed-doors sort of thing. I pop the earplugs out, so I can hear myself. It helps. My voice gains stability. I unstiffen. Loosen up.
I begin dancing around the room, and Ayden laughs at me, his smile so bright his eyes crinkle around the corners. There’s something in his expression, something I’ve never seen before, and it causes the room to spin. So I spin with it, jumping up and down, belting out the lyrics until I finally let go and get really crazy.
I shove Ayden back on the sofa and straddle his lap, singing and putting on a show for him. His eyes widen at my overly friendly touch, and his arms tense out to the side. I’m excited, rubbing my hands up and down his chest, thinking about that kiss, how amazing it was, how it exceeded the bar I set and then some. If only I could have him, but after what I found out ... I’m not sure I ever can.
I know I’m pushing him right now, and usually I’d stop, but I can’t stop. I love this moment. Touching him. Singing. Being in the moment. So I keep going, shoving aside any self-protest until the song ends.
And the moment ends.
And I feel so sad for him again.
I’m sweating, exhausted, and fucking content as I climb off Ayden’s lap.
“So, how’d I do?” I pant, moving the microphone away from my mouth.
Sage is staring at me with his arms crossed over his chest. I don’t know him well enough to read him, but if I had to guess, he kind of looks impressed.
Sage trades a questioning look with Ayden. “You think we could rock the girl singer image?”
I sternly point at Sage. “Don’t insult my girliness. I rocked the crap out of that song.”
He fiddles with one of his eyebrow rings. “That you did.” His eyes scroll over me then he sticks out his hand. “What do you say, Lyric? You want to be the singer of Hearts and Scars.”
I’m starting to reach out to take his hand, but withdraw. “I will, but on one condition.”
His expression twists with confusion. “And what’s that?”
“We totally change the name to something way less cliché.”
“Change the name? Are you kidding me? We spent two months coming up with that name.”
“And it sucks balls, so maybe you should let me come up with one. I can even ask my dad for input,” I add enticingly.
His eyes light up as he considers my offer. “All right, you have a deal, Lyric.”
We shake on it, and he holds onto my hand way longer than necessary. Who knows why, nor do I care.
I turn to Ayden, grinning like an idiot. He doesn’t seem as happy about the agreement as I am, though.
“What’s wrong, shy boy?” I wipe the sweat from my brow.
He collects his guitar from the couch. “Nothing.”
My hand falls to my side. “I totally should have asked you if you were okay with this, right?”
“Why wouldn’t I be okay with this?” He slides the guitar strap over his head with his head down, his black hair shielding his eyes from my view.
“Because this is your guy thing.” I gesture around the garage. “And I just crashed it with my girliness.” Or is it about my inappropriate touching?
He shakes his head. “I can assure you that’s the last thing I was thinking. I love your girliness.”
“Then what are you thinking?” I smooth my thumb between his brows, trying to erase his worry.
His fingers strangle the guitar. “Lyric, I think we should—”
Sage clears his throat from behind us. “Nolan just pulled up.” He points over his shoulder, appearing uncomfortable as fuck, like he just caught Ayden and I having sex. “You two better be ready to play.”
“Okay.” I direct my attention back to Ayden. “What were you going to say?”
“Nothing.” Ayden strains a smile. “I’m fine. I promise. Now quit worrying and go rock your ass off.” He plugs the cord into the amp and focuses on tuning his guitar.
I hate this. This last week has sucked big time, and now he suddenly seems even quieter. I want my Ayden back.
“Are you sure you’re sure?”
All he does is nod.
It hurts that he might be upset with me. Makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.
But Nolan strolls in before I can utter a word.
“Who’s fucking ready to get this…?” He trails off mid-sentence as he kicks the door shut. “Why are you here?”
From what I understand, Nolan rocks the bass. He looks more like a lead singer in a boy band than anything. Spikey blond hair, blue eyes, these crazy full lips that don’t seem like they should belong to a guy, yet they do. He wears a lot of skinny jeans, too, and fitted shirts, more hipster than rock star.
“Wow, hello to you, too,” I joke as I rotate the volume knob on the amp.
He rolls his eyes as he shucks off his jacket then drapes it on a hook near the door. “As much as I adore you, Lyric, I don’t find your sarcasm funny.”
I pull a face. I’ve known Nolan since ninth grade, and while we’re not technically friends, I know him well enough that I can mess around with him. “Yes, you do. Don’t lie.”<
He snorts a laugh as he weaves around the sofa to collect his guitar from the corner of the room. “Fine, you’re amusing.” He picks up the guitar and slides the handle over his head. “But seriously, why are you here?”