Jamie could recall the first moment he knew he was famous like it was tattooed on the back of his hand.
A paid photographer had broken into his home and taken a picture of him on his balcony.
The evidence was scattered in fragments across the internet. It was bound for him to find it, to have it stapled on the front of his mind, but he hadn’t been ready for it. At the age of 21, he wasn’t ready for anything much less the scrutiny of millions of people. The panic attacks didn’t come until years later when he was numb to the stalkers who followed him down public streets, across countries and never stopped until they got what they wanted.
Now, it seemed like a huge joke. The world had pulled one over him, turned himself out to see what he was made of, and when they got bored, they dumped him on the side of the road.
It was only a matter of time. He’d been staring at the clock since he first signed his soul away.
He rolled over and yanked his jeans off the floor. A pack of Lucky Strikes fell onto his naked chest. The sweet smell called addiction hit his nose before he opened the package. With a beat in daily habit, he flipped the lid up and shimmied a stick out. The one-handed trick had amused him the first couple times. That was before the band split and his life went down the drain.
After three years of touring and being confined to a small tour bus, the two years of house arrest felt like he was being granted the entire world. They gave him a slap on the wrist. For taking someone’s life, it was a good deal if he ever saw one.
He lit up and took a long drag. As the smoke filled up his lungs, probably putting another hole in his lung, he pulled his left leg towards him. The strap around his ankle chaffed his tan skin until he was left with a bright red rash. It would have blended in with the rest of him if he hadn’t opted to stay locked in his three-story mansion.
Two years had gone by like two months. Though he could barely recall what the world looked like, he had a suspicion it was still shitty and rodent-infested as it was when he left it.
His phone buzzed on the stained white nightstand pushed against his bed. It died a minute later.
Only a few had his number and all of them could rot in hell before he answered.
He stood up, stretched his arms over his head, and stumbled his way into the bathroom. Waiting for him on the edge of the sink was a bottle of brandy with just a shot left in it. A grin broke over his face.
It was tilted to one side. In the mirror, he met his own eyes and wondered for a brief second what it would feel like if he gouged them out with his bare fingers.
He downed the shot and slammed the bottle down on the toilet lid. The glass shattered around his bare feet. A few shards cut him across the shins, but the pain was a dull ache compared to the cancer growing inside of his brain.
He walked around the pile of broken glass. His toes just barely brushed over the shards. The large bathroom felt smaller than before, but he chalked it up to still being high out of his mind. They could lock him away in this horrid house all they wanted. It didn't mean he wasn't going to get his slice of heaven when he wanted it.
With the wave of his hand over the black tile under the showerhead, the shower turned on. It was a crisp 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Enough to turn his skin red, but not too hot that it would scold him. He'd tried to turn it up higher one time when he was on the edge of pushing himself into suicide territory. There had been an array of choices at his disposal. So many of them that he couldn't completely remember them all right now.
The only thing stopping him from trying to boil himself alive was the lock Marshall had installed when he gave the house to Jamie. Everything in this god damn house had been modified to keep Jamie from killing himself. Like a fucking toddler, Marshall had made sure he could keep one of his bandmates from dying.
Jamie laughed as he stripped from his clothes.
The joke wasn't funny nor did it warrant any kind of laughter in the sense that it was horrid. Ironic maybe. But it was still shit none-the-less.
That was three years ago. The last time he'd seen Marshall was before the trial, inside a cold and semi-private hospital. Management had cut him off from his bank account and because he didn't have money to pay his health insurance, Marshall had been handed a fat bill with his name on it.
That memory was burned into his head.
The beeping woke him from the repeating nightmare of the windshield shattering in his face. The sound of impact and the seconds before, when the wheels were turning so fast that they began to burn rubber, were all he could hear. The room opened. Darkness was broken as the light from the hall spilled into the room.
"Jamie?" Marshall whispered into the dark.
"You can fucking see me, can't you?" Jamie moaned as a ripple of pain ran up his arm.
He tried to look down but the cast around his neck forced him to keep his head straight. If the bed wasn't faced towards the door he wouldn't have been able to see Marshall.
The look on his face said too much. It shot a bullet through Jamie's heart. The pain lasted for a split second. He faked a harsh look only because he knew it would be expected of him. Somehow, he already knew what this meant. Heath would have been the first one to see if he was okay.
It meant Heath was hurt.
Marshall's eyes shown he hadn't slept for days. The dark bags under his eyes were larger than normal. Sleeping on a bus and performing night after night meant they didn't have a concrete schedule. Nothing was guaranteed when you were the biggest boy band in the country.
"You look like absolute shit," Jamie muttered. His sore lips were cracked. He almost asked for some chapstick. The words caught in his throat and he swallowed down everything he wanted to blurt out.
Heath kept coming to mind. He would have to be a fucking idiot to not think about his best friend. The only person that was still in his life might be hurt somewhere in this horrid place. They all knew Heath had a phobia of sorts when it came to these types of places. As he would say, they were homes for death and bad luck.
Marshall pulled the chair from the corner towards the head of the bed. The wires poking out of Jamie's arms were a bit of a nuisance to get around, but he made it without dislodging all of them. In the back of Jamie's mind, he thought it would be fitting for him to not die in a high speeding car, but instead in a hospital where his bandmate accidentally tripped over his hospital wires.
Ironic or just plain sad, he wasn't quite sure which one it was.
Marshal ran a hand through his short brown hair. The curls were turning flat. He must have had an interview. Only their stylist Tiffany touched his hair. If it were any other day, he would have worn it in a frizz.
Jamie laughed against his better judgment. Who was he kidding anyway? He never had a voice telling him right from wrong or good from bad. It was all a blur to him when he was sober and it was even worse when he was high.
Morphine. He might have to ask if he can get a bag to go.
"They have you on clean-up duty, don't they?" The end turned into his accent. They tried to beat it out of him when they'd first formed as a band. A whole week of speak training and it was still there. Southern boy wasn't exactly sellable at the moment.
Marshal didn't move a muscle. Not even a twitch of his lips. A frown would have been expected, but this was unlike him.
Jamie furrowed his brows. "Too far?"
Marshal let out a sigh. He leaned forward until his elbows rested on his knees. His folded hands pressed into his tight-lipped mouth. His eyes glistened.
Tears ran down his face.
"It's bad, Jamie," he said. His voice was a harsh croak like his throat had been rubbed raw with sandpaper. "It's really bad."
Jamie could only stare as the serious one of their small group sobbed until his eyes were red-rimmed and he couldn't speak. The silent hospital room and hall echoed with the haunted sounds.
It was then that Jamie knew he'd made a mistake. A huge one he wouldn't be able to fix.
Jamie stepped out of the shower, slamming the door shut behind him. The glass quivered under the force. He stood in front of the large mirror above the two sinks. The water dripped from his tan skin, forming a puddle beneath him. The water rippled as a droplet splashed the surface. He took a shallow breath. When he let it out, he’d come back to reality only slightly. A part of him was still there, trapped in the never ending-nightmares that were his memories.
He wrapped a towel around his waist and padded out to the bedroom.
His old friend was on his nightstand. The packet of cigarettes were more a part of him than his parents were.
He rolled his eyes at himself as he pulled a cigarette out and lit it with his free hand. The first drag hit his lungs like a cold drink on a hot summers day. It was always summer in LA, but in Oklahoma, there were instances of cold. Those were when he could pretend he wasn’t a part of the system. He never wanted to not exist except when summer was around. It made him feel like he was back at the beginning. Trapped in an endless cycle of terror, fame, and money.
The phone rang again. He didn’t look at it, didn’t even think about it as he crossed the room to the patio. Out there, in the city of Tulsa, the people didn’t even know he existed. Some might have heard about him in the media, about the old him that had been too focused on getting high and getting money that he hadn’t noticed how the world was waiting for his downfall. Of course, he hadn’t changed much since then. He’d been hung out to dry. Everyone in the biz had cut him off once they found out they couldn’t ring out another dollar.
Truth to be told, he had it coming. There was no one famous enough to outrun the guns pointed at them by the people out there. Fans were only fans until they realized they couldn’t get what they wanted from you.
He slid the door open. A hot wave of air fanned over his face. The sun burned into his face, blinding him for a second. He squinted to try to see out in the distance. The hills cut off most of the ugly tall buildings. The fast-food restaurants, the middle-class houses, and the barely standing homes leased out to the poor, it all looked like a stir pot of shit.
He would have wrinkled his nose in disgust if he could conjure the feeling. Something pinched at his nerves, pulling him down towards the ground. He only just made it to the chair on the patio when he legs gave out.
The next drag settled the nerves. He grasped onto the feeling for as long as he could. It was only when it began to slip from his fingers did the shadow behind the sliding door move.
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