I hit call end and walked out of the room. As Scarlett had anticipated, Arabelle was still sitting in my hotel room lounge on the sofa.
“Oh Vax… I’m so sorry. I thought it might be DJ…”
I shrugged. If she hadn’t answered my phone I probably would have missed Scarlett completely. My heart warmed as I closed my eyes and remembered her face.
“It’s fine. I was happy to talk to her. It’s hard you know. Being so far apart.”
“Yeah. I’d imagine.” She said flippantly, it was obvious she didn’t want to talk about Scarlett. “So anyway. I thought we could practice the duet.”
“So you said.”
I frowned, I hated that DJ had suggested I do a duet with Arabelle. The media already thought there was something going on that wasn’t. I knew, truth or not, that it was hard for Scarlett to take. False truths and a never ending shit storm of media lies had been the thing frightening her from the spotlight for so long, besides Not Alone was Scarlett’s song. It was true that most of my songs were hers, but this one was my confession to her. I had written it long before she ever knew how in love with her I was. Singing it with Arabelle, or anyone else was wrong.
Arabelle started singing it without giving me the opportunity to say anything further, the words escaped her lips and it felt like she was stealing them from their rightful owner. I wanted to tell her to stop.
But instead I closed my eyes and like the professional I was I harmonized with her. Our voices sounded good together, great even… but it was nothing compared to Scarlett and I. Nothing could ever touch us. When we finished I looked at Arabelle and shrugged.
“That was pretty good. I think we’ll be fine.” Fine, DJ wouldn’t like fine. He’d want electric. “I’m pretty tired to be honest.” I shoved my hands in my pockets and yawned. Short of manhandling her out the door this was the most subtle way of getting her to leave.
Arabelle looked at her phone and shrugged. “Oh wow, it’s late. I’ll let you get to bed.” She stood up from the couch and stretched. “You know my ex-boyfriend and I tried long distance. We were so in love, but in the end it was just too much.”
“You’ve done long distance?”
“Sure. My ex is the lead singer from Voodoo pins.” She smiled, her eyes lit up as she spoke about it. “They went on tour a year ago and well, and you know how guys are… They can’t keep it in their pants for five minutes.” She sighed then picked up her small bag. “Anyway it was for the better. I don’t think rock stars like us were made for monogamy.”
I frowned, a year ago I probably would have agreed, a year ago, a girl like Arabelle would have easily become another notch in my bedpost. Because for some reason I told myself that Scarlett could never love me the way I loved her. Meaningless sex was it for me.
I smiled and shook my head. Arabelle was right in a way, I wasn’t made for monogamy… I was made for Scarlett.
“You just haven’t found the right guy yet.” I murmured. “He’s out there.”
Arabelle nodded then walked toward the door. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe he’s closer than I think.” She placed her hand on the door handle and then looked back at me.
“See you tomorrow Arabelle.” I replied.
She began to close the door before poking her head back in.
“You know, if you’re ever feeling lonely at all. I’ve got a good set of ears and sturdy shoulders.” She grinned, and pointed to her shoulders.
I nodded and watched as the door finally clicked shut.
Once Arabelle was gone I flopped down on the futon in the lounge of the hotel room. I hadn’t been able to sleep in a bed since Scarlett had left. Every time I turned over and she wasn’t there was like another stab in my heart.
My mind went into overdrive every time I had a spare minute to just think. I hated that I was so jealous of this tour manager guy. After everything I’d said when she’d been with that moron Noah. The claims I’d made. I trusted her I knew she wouldn’t do anything bad, hurting people wasn’t something Scarlett did well. But the truth was, the idea of her spending all of her down time with another man killed me. I wanted it to be me with her.
But I wasn’t. I was here, and she was there. I closed my eyes and all I could see was her. Sleep wasn’t going to come easy tonight.
I stood up and walked the table where my laptop was sitting. I opened it and booted up my browser.
As if my cruel fate, the headline on my homepage was about Scarlett. She’d been ambushed at the airport. My stomach lurched. No wonder she had needed to relax. The story was some bullshit about us separating and moving on with other people. I bit my lip to stop the surge of anger roll through me, but it did nothing. It didn’t matter if we went on the tonight show together and announced our engagement, they’d never leave Me, Her… Us alone.
I’d always known her fame would surpass Going Nowhere. She was the prodigy of Sarah and Nick after all. It was etched in her DNA.
But I had managed to hide so much of this paparazzi bullshit from her, because I knew it was what she wanted. It was half the reason the house in New Zealand had seemed so ideal. They had a different level of media there. Paparazzi almost didn’t exist. I couldn’t hide them from her with so much distance between us. It was impossible.
Feeling even more depressed I closed the laptop lid and lay back down on the futon. Tomorrow was another day, another day closer to seeing her.
It seemed to take forever to fall asleep. Every time I drifted off I saw Scarlett, she seemed almost real. But when I would try to touch her, I’d wake myself up. Eventually exhaustion took over, and my body lulled itself into a deep sleep.
When I woke the next morning I could hear pounding on my hotel room door. I flew out of bed, and over to the door. It was early, and sure we’d be leaving for the airport soon, but I wasn’t late… yet.
“Xav, it's Jay and Isla…let us in!” Isla called out.
I unlocked the door and watched my best friend and Scarlett’s best friend walk into the room. Their panic-stricken faces did nothing for my heart. Scarlett.
“The tabloids. They got the sex tape.” Isla sounded distraught. “I knew I should have gone over with her, at least for a while.”
“Huh?” my mind was reeling. The sex tape?
“Someone leaked Scarlett’s last name and then the sex tape was found.”
“The one that isn’t even her?” I groaned.
“Yes. That one. Oh god.” Isla crumpled onto the futon. “Scarlett must be beside herself!”
I gazed at the time. It was mid afternoon there. Shit.
I called DJ and before I even managed to ask he said “Roxstar on demand. Watch it then call her.”
I opened my laptop and then the Roxstar web page.
Scarlett’s interview was right in front of my face. I clicked play.
“You’re making quite the splash.” The host exclaimed. “Rumor has it that you’re actually the daughter of Singing superstar Sarah Roxy.”
I watched the blood drain from Scarlett’s face. We’d managed to keep her family on the down low. Mostly because she hadn’t released anything, and her popularity had been gained solely from concerts and recordings of concerts online. She looked enough like Sarah, and even Toni, that eventually someone would have worked it out.
“That’s true. Sarah is my Mom. I grew up not wanting to be a singer because of what I watched her go through, and well to be honest. Nothing’s changed. The paparazzi are just as bad, if not worse, now.”
The host’s eyebrows lifted, and her smile gleaned. Someone had tipped her off. She shuffled some papers, trying to make herself look like a professional rather than the D rate gossiper she clearly was.
“When you were 18 you made some poor choices. Do you regret making those now you’re a role model to girls around the world?” She said finally.
Scarlett frowned and tilted her head. “Excuse me?”
“The sex tape?” The host questioned, pointing to a screen grab of Ryan and Scarlett kissing. My fingers curled into a ball, I could feel my knuckles tighten.
Scarlett shook her head, and she stood up to leave. Surprisingly though she sat down again then pointed at the screen. “The girl kissing that boy is me yes. Everything else is someone else.”
She stared coldly at the host, her infectious smile gone. “Everyone wanted their 15 minutes of fame, and they used me to get it. I don’t expect you or anyone else to believe me though, because by breaking this story it’s exactly what you are doing. However, if I was the girl, in the video having sex on camera, I’d admit it.”
She shook her head again and looked down. “The first and only person I have been with is my fiancé… Xavier.” She stood up again, and I watched her smile return. “Don’t expect another interview from me, or any of the Going Nowhere boys ever. You’re just as bad as the blood sucking, flesh eating crud monster paparazzi waiting to maul me the minute I leave.”
Then she smiled and looked directly down at the camera. “Don’t put up with being treated like shit. Ever.”
Then the video ended. The whole interview was less than 10 minutes. I looked at Isla and Jay and I was unsure whether to laugh, cry, or feel something in between.
“That was my Scarlett right.” I mumbled. “The one who never says anything to anyone?”
Isla laughed. “You’ve been missing it haven’t you?”
What had I been missing?
“She’s been gaining confidence for months. The tour has changed her… You’ve changed her. She has an inner strength that she didn’t know was there.” Isla sighed. “I thought this might take her back a few steps, But clearly I underestimated her.”
I hadn’t missed it. She’d handled so much on her own, through her magical words. I guess I’d just never seen it in action.
I picked up my phone and called Scarlett. It only rang once before she answered.
“Did you see it?” She exclaimed, sounding far less sure of herself than the girl in the video.
“I saw it. You were amazing babe!” I exclaimed.
She sighed, she sounded relieved. “Only I kind of blurted out we’re engaged, and I didn’t clear that with you first.”
I smiled and hung my head. She wasn’t upset that she’d put the rude host in her place, just worried that I might be upset she mentioned our impending nuptials.
“Babe. I’ve wanted to scream it out since you said yes.”
“Of course really.” I laughed.
“We’ve got one more TV sport before we head back to the hotel. It’s on a more well-known channel, although DJ gave me the option to pull out.”
“I’m proud of you.”
“I miss you.” She whispered. “So much.”
“I miss you too.”
I walked away from Isla and Jay. I could feel my eyes misting up, and the last thing I wanted was for them to see me cry. I wasn’t ashamed of crying, but the special treatment they’d give me if I was so obvious about it would probably kill me more than the reason I was crying in the first place. I walked down the hall and sat down on the bed. A small chuckle escaped my lips. The only time I’d sat on the master room bed was when we were talking.
“Xavier… I know it doesn’t matter, and I know that you said you were okay with the whole Ben thing… I just wanted to be upfront, and he said it was okay to tell you.”
The hair raised on my arms. Ben.
“Sure... what.” I managed to say without sounding to frustrated.
Relief ran through my veins, even if I wouldn’t admit it to Scarlett. I’d told her I was okay with it all, which had been an overstatement. The thought of her hanging out with him made me very jealous, and it wasn’t something I could just switch off.
But my girl, as beautiful as she is, isn’t a guy. The jealousy evaporated.
“Oh okay, cool.” I replied in my coolest calmest voice even though on the inside fist pumping the air.
“You can be relieved. I know I would be.” She replied knowingly
“I only have eyes for you Scarlett.”
“Ben’s calling for me. The interview is starting. You should put it on, they’re live streaming it.”
“Sure, which website.”
“I love you Baby”
“I love you too Xav.”
I hung up and ran back out to the laptop and searched for the Entertainment Live website. It was loading as the interview started. Jay and Isla gathered around me.
“You’ve had a big day haven’t you Scarlett.” The host exclaimed, an empathetic smile cross her face.
“You could say that.” She smiled, and shrugged. God she was beautiful. Seeing her on a screen wasn’t the same as having her beside me, but I was willing to take what I could get.
“May I say you’ve handled it all very well? Not many would react so calmly in such adverse conditions.”
“My mother and father taught me well.” Scarlett replied.
“That they did. Now, if you don’t mind. You’ve mentioned that you’re engaged. Is that true?”
Scarlett held out her left hand and let the host look at the ring I had placed on her finger a few weeks ago. The host took her hand and then turned to the camera. “Doesn’t this go to show people, that you just cannot trust the paparazzi all the time?” The host placed her hand over Scarlett’s.
“It’s funny you should say that. I wrote a song dedicated to them.” Scarlett mused, she flicked her eyes up toward the camera.
“Yes. Now I know what you’re thinking ‘silly Scarlett, dedicating a song to paparazzi?’ Well let me put your mind at ease. It isn’t a nice song.”
The host sat back in her red armchair, clearly amused by Scarlett’s admission. She turned her head in Scarlett’s direction and grinned “Well would you play it for us?”
Scarlett looked to the side. Then looked back at the host. “Sure.”
A stage hand delivered my black guitar to Scarlett and I let out a small sigh. I wasn’t with her, but as long as it was... Then she had a part of me.
“When I wrote this I was really annoyed with the falsities, and the ‘welcome’ I received after flying in. So Pap’s around the world, this is dedicated to you… and I mean every word.”
She began strumming the song. It was harder than her usual stuff, and darker. When she started singing I felt her pain. It was so raw, and real. It didn’t matter that tomorrow it would be the same story, the same fight for privacy that was never going to come, because right now she could tell them exactly what she thought.
I heard Isla sniff from behind me. “I can’t wait till we fly over in a couple of weeks.” She mumbled. “You and me both.” I replied. Isla placed her hand on my shoulder.
“We have a flight to catch in three hours. We’d probably all do well to pack and get ready to go. Xav. Scar looks like she’s got it covered.” Jay exclaimed with a smile. “Looks like crisis averted.”
Jay and Isla left, and I watched the rest of the interview. After it finished I packed and then left the room. I met the others down in the lobby at 7am. Arabelle darted over to me.
“I heard the news about the tape. Poor Scarlett must be mortified.” She placed her hand on my shoulder, like Isla had done, but it wasn’t in genuine support. I could sense the manipulation behind it. I shrugged it off and turned to face her. “No, she isn’t actually. It’s not her for one, and two, It’ll take far more than bringing up the past to bring her down.”
Arabelle’s face hardened. She muttered something then walked away.
I closed my eyes and thought of Scarlett. The girl I loved, and would always love. It wasn’t as good as having her beside me, but it worked enough to ease the pain.