As the band came on the stage, Hazel was starting her second drink and had to put it down in order to avoid dropping it. The name flashing on the stage was “Defined in Haze.” Hazel looked at Elaina and slapped her hand to get her attention. Elaina had a guilty expression on her face and whispered into Hazel’s ear. “You didn’t want to know!”
Hazel shook her head and sat back and drank the rest of her second drink. Another was soon ordered.
Eric spotted her after a few moments and began the set. His music was, as usual, dark and beautiful. Some of the lyrics were more painful than others, as they clearly described wanting someone he shouldn’t. Elaina handed Hazel a tissue and she waved it away. She didn’t care if she looked terrible. She continued drinking and listening until it was time for the encore. Suddenly Eric began a blaring-loud rock song that was a cover of a song Eric used to sing her to sleep with. It was “Fallout” by Marianas Trench. He sang about the consequences of a bad breakup. The visuals the lyrics gave her of their relationship and exactly when the end of it happened played through her mind. She began to feel panicked while listening to the way Eric agonized beautifully through the chorus.
Hazel had enough. She didn’t wait, just finished drinking the beer and stormed out. She brushed through the crowd and ignored Elaina’s voice before walking out the door. She leaned against the building and let the now pouring rain wash away the knot in her gut. She stayed outside for at least twenty minutes, trying to calm her heart and stop the tears that began leaking out of her eyes the minute he’d sung. An arm in a dark suit reached out and grabbed her wrist. “If you’ll come with me, Ma’am.”
Hazel looked up at the man who was tall and had an earpiece in his ear. She shook her head. He frowned. “Ma’am, I’m with your security group, this is not a very safe area to be alone. I’m going to bring you back to your brother.”
Unable to sign to argue with him she followed him dejectedly back toward the building. She stomped back to the back door of the club, which led to the dressing rooms. He knocked on one of the doors, and Anthony swung it open.
“Oh, good, you found her! Hazel, I get you’re mad, but really? We have crazies following us all the time. You need to stick with us or at least tell us where you are going.”
She rolled her eyes and pushed past him into the room and sat in the corner of the room with her head against the wall. Eric and the rest of the band were eating and toweling off while Elaina and now Anthony were sitting on one of the couches. Everyone appeared to be happy and still dealing with the “high” of the performance. She was impressed that no one in the band was intoxicated or using drugs as she’d imagined was the “norm.”
Eric looked over and frowned at her. “You’re soaked. Are you okay?”
Hazel shook her head and rested against the wall. Eric frowned and walked over, taking her hand and tugging her up and walking with her into an adjacent room. She was feeling the buzz from the drinks and just followed without input. Eric turned toward her once the door was closed behind them. “I didn’t know you were coming tonight, so that wasn’t intentional. Those are the songs we do.”
Hazel attempted to wear a blank unaffected expression and signed.
It’s none of my business. I was just unprepared. Old habits die hard.
Eric frowned. “What old habits are you talking about?”
Hazel closed her eyes and leaned against the wall before signing.
Feeling. Shutting it down is not as easy as it used to be.
Eric made a harsh sound like a growl. “Haze…people have tried to hurt you in the past. With the exception of the fire, they were all stopped beforehand. My uncle sent people to watch over you. Accidents have also happened to us, the brakes on the bus, I got jumped, Anthony almost got hit by a car.” He shook his head. “We stayed away in case we were somehow the reason you were targeted. My uncle can’t figure it out. Your brother Jonathon is doing some investigating now too. Those are the reasons we stayed away. I’m no good for you.”
Hazel opened her eyes and blinked away the tears before signing.
I understand being scared or worried. I don’t understand why my choices were taken away in all of this. In the meantime, you’ve been out here…seeing other girls and doing whatever you wanted…I’ve been back home feeling cast-off. Who do you think you are, anyway?
Eric stepped up to Hazel and slid both hands into her hair at either side and held her scalp. He leaned his forehead against hers. She put her hands on top of his and he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before whispering, “I’m the man that tried to give you up to keep you safe. I did stupid things. There is no one now, and there hasn’t been anyone serious. We named the band after you. Most of the music we perform is about you. You’re like a fucking drug and I can’t stop.”
Tears formed in Hazel’s eyes, and pulling one of his hands down, she signed into his palm.
Then don’t! Anthony has taken Elaina back. Why am I so different? Why can’t I be loved and take a risk like everyone else?
Eric groaned and wrapped his arms around her before whispering against her lips. “I can’t stand the thought of you being hurt. I’m sorry I took away your choice. I love you. I didn’t forget you.”