Prologue *Unedited draft. Trigger warnings in comments to prevent spoilers*
I stare at the sodden toilet paper, the scarlet stain bringing bile to my throat as fear constricts my chest. As if on autopilot, I discard the toilet paper and pull more off the roll, closing my eyes and willing a different result with everything I have. Tears sting and a wave of nausea washes over me as an even darker stain mocks me. I don’t know why Simon springs to mind in this moment, but suddenly it is three weeks ago and I’m back at Simon’s apartment heaving into the toilet.
I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and rest my forehead on my arms. This is disgusting, I should move, I know I should, but I just don’t have the energy. At first, I thought I had food poisoning from the snacks backstage and then I thought it might be a bug, but when I mentioned it to Sam, she pointed out that no one else had been experiencing symptoms and then, ever-the-logical one, pointed out that I only had one symptom.
I raise my head and look at the pregnancy test lying next to me on the floor, my relief paramount, and that in itself is telling.
Only one line.
Another wave of nausea washes through me and I vomit spectacularly into the bowl. I don’t hear the footsteps approaching over the sound of my gagging, but I can’t miss the anger in Simon’s tone.
I manage to stop vomiting, inhaling deep breaths through my nose and exhaling out my mouth as I watch Simon swipe the test off the floor. He stares at it, his face blotching an angry red, and then he waves the test at me like a weapon.
“What the fuck is this, Hayley?”
My stomach heaves again and I barely turn my head in time. How much longer is this going to go on? Surely there is nothing left to throw up?
Simon starts ranting like we’re facing each other over the dining-room table. Paying absolutely no attention to the fact that I’m losing all my stomach contents here.
“I fucking told you I don’t want kids. Do you have any idea what a baby would do to my career right now? I’m about to go on tour…”The tirade goes on and on but I can barely hear him over the noise I’m making. My head hurts from being sick and all I want is to lie down on the cold tiles and feel sorry for myself. On and on he goes about his precious career and how I’ve sabotaged him and how he’d better get an answer from me or else. If I wasn’t trying to breathe in between heaves I would actually find this laughable.
Simon is the frontman for Metal Stones, an alternative rock band currently charting at number six. We met at a party a little over a year ago where the air was thick with egos and half the room’s misplaced sense of entitlement. I guess I should have known then what I was getting into, but even rock stars get stupid when star-struck.
I fell for Simon’s bullshit. I fell for everything that came out his mouth. To be fair, he was damn good at hiding who he really was but when you spend enough time around someone, slowly that mask slips until they no longer care if the ugly underneath is showing.
Simon’s ugly today is downright monstrous.
“I said fucking answer me. What does one line mean?” Simon grabs a fistful of the hair I have tied in a bun on top of my head and yanks my head back. Tears prickle my eyes and my hands fly to his, clawing at his hold in the hopes he’ll loosen his grip. “What…does… it… mean?” he spits out.
“Negative,” I wheeze. “It’s negative.”
He releases my hair and shoves my head simultaneously and viciously and I fall to the floor, smacking my head against the tub. I don’t feel any pain, too shocked to feel anything in the moment. Simon flicks the test at me and it hits my chin before falling onto my lap. Anger motivates me and I scramble to my feet; the test falling to the floor sounds like a gunshot and I push past Simon. Grabbing my suitcase from the top of the closet, I start throwing my clothes into it.
Simon follows me out of the bathroom and as soon as he sees what I’m doing all the anger leaves his face and a sickly gray takes its place. He looks worse than me right now and that’s saying something.
“Baby,” he croons. “I’m sorry. You know I am, right? It’s been a hard day and I’ve got all this pressure from the label and Tim’s being a dick.” As I throw my clothes into the bag, I am proud of the fact that I don’t point out that his drummer couldn’t be a bigger dick than he is—not by any stretch of the imagination.
“Baby,” I reply in the same falsely placating tone. “Do me a favour and go fuck yourself with your apology.”
Simon explodes. “You go fuck yourself, you frigid bitch. Do you know how many times I’ve jacked off rather than fuck you? Too many goddamn times. At least that way I know I’m getting something off, ’cause fuck knows it takes you longer than I’ve got the time for.”
I stuff the last sweater in the suitcase—the bag is already bulging at the seams.
“You better take everything with you now because whatever you leave, I’m burning.”
I grab the handle and head towards the door. Pausing, I shoot over my shoulder, “Have at it. In fact, make a party out of it. Bonfires are always a hit.”
The cramping pulls me back to the present and I hurry to dispose of the evidence in a pathetic act of denial that my body refuses to go along with. Another contraction seizes my belly and I have to inhale slowly through my mouth as I hug my waist.
On trembling legs, I stand and grab a wad of toilet paper and jam it into my panties before I let the satin of my turquoise robe fall back into place. I pray I can get to my bag before I bleed all over the plush carpet of the dressing room. The soundproofing keeps the noise of my opening act, Mass Production, who are currently busy with sound check, from permeating the room, but I doubt I could hear them anyway over my pounding heart.
I manage a mere two steps into the room when a pain jabs through my lower back and has me doubled over. A trickle of blood runs down my legs and I retreat into the bathroom as fast as I can, crimson spots dotting the pristine tiles. Grabbing the towel hanging on the hook next to the sink, I start wiping at the dots, but as I bend a rush of wet warmth pools between my legs. Pain rips through me and I can’t tell if it’s coming from my uterus or my heart or both. Staring in horror as I haemorrhage all over the floor, hot tears track down my face and panic seizes me. As I rub frantically at the tiles, the contrast of red and white snaps me from my manic scrubbing.
Yanking open the shower door, I turn on the spray. Water beats against my skin and I stand under the spray until the cramps ensure I can’t any longer and I sink to the floor, bringing my knees to my chest. I don’t need a doctor to tell me there’s nothing that can be done. You don’t lose as much blood as I have and come out unscathed. I know my baby is gone. I know it with the emptiness that seeps into my being and the sorrow I experience as I realise I’ll never get to hold my baby in my arms is crippling. I don’t know how long I stay there but it’s long enough for my toes to go numb as well as my heart. As I watch the red swirl around the drain and slowly turn pink, my sobs become dry heaves until I end up with hiccupping breaths.
“Jesus!” The shower door opens and arms envelop me. I look up and see Sam drenched by the spray as she tries to lift me.
The water is tepid now and I’m starting to shiver. The shock on Sam’s face brings me back to reality. “I’m fine. I’ll stand,” I tell her through chattering teeth.
“It doesn’t look like you’re fine. What the hell happened?” All it takes are for Sam’s eyes to land on my stained robe to know all she needs to know. She pales and her arm reaches out, lending the support I need as she walks me to the toilet where she wraps a large towel around my shoulders. “We have to get you to the hospital.” She reaches inside her bag and produces a maxi pad. I swear she has what it takes to survive an apocalypse in that bag.
Shaking my head, I accept the pad. “No. No hospitals.”
My underwear is soaked through and Sam snatches a pair of panties off the pile of dirty laundry I meant to pick up earlier and hands it to me. “We need to get you checked out.”
Ensuring the pad is secure, I stand and give Sam the towel while I remove the gown, then wash my hands. If at all possible, I pale even more at the sight of myself in the mirror. My skin is a translucent gray accented by dark racoon eyes. Even my lips are devoid of color. Sam hands me back the towel and I hug it to myself, seeking the warmth that bled out of me, and vehemently shake my head. “Please, no hospitals. It will be all over the press in an hour. I can’t take that now.”
“Okay, no hospitals, but let me get a doctor here.”
“No hospitals, no doctors.”
“Sam, please. I just need some Ibuprofen and to lie down for a bit. There’s nothing anyone can do. The baby is gone.” No tears come this time. No moment of panic. Just a weird acceptance that comes with knowing there is nothing I can do as an icy numbness settles over me like a dense fog.
I see Sam warring with herself, struggling with the need to take control of the situation and possibly wondering if she can bully me into changing my mind, but she relents. She knows what I went through when I found out I was pregnant. Having my results splashed all over Twitter within half an hour of leaving the doctor’s rooms had me feeling violated and angry for days. I’d neither denied nor confirmed the rumors, choosing instead to ostrich my way through the situation. It didn’t matter that the doctor phoned me personally to apologize and tell me she’d fired the girl who sent out the tweet. What came of that one tweet had been a shit-storm that resulted in Simon denying the baby was his, a dozen or more guys claiming the baby was theirs, and a few hundred trolls and psychos all weighing in on what a whore I was.
“At least let me call my brother-in-law in the UK. He’s not an OB/GYN but I’m sure he can give us some advice.”
I recognize the look on Sam’s face. It’s the one she gets when I want to give the fans at a meet-and-greet a few more minutes and she isn’t having it. “Fine. Call him, but I’m not going to the hospital. I mean it. I need some time.”
Sam pulls me to her in a crushing hug that borders on painful. “This fucking sucks,” she whispers through tears that shock me dumb. For those who don’t know Sam, they think the softest thing about her is her teeth.
She takes a step back, wiping her tears with the back of her hand as she dials her brother-in-law. The call hardly rings and Sam is talking tersely into the phone. She walks across the room and I tune her out. When I tell her I’m going to perform tonight she is going to go absolutely ape-shit, but I’m not going to let 18,000 people down. My fans are what make me who I am. The stage gives me a safe place, it’s my sanctuary and I know a lot of the fans lining up outside—some since last night already—have travelled from all over to see me tonight. If it kills me, I’m doing this show.
I don’t notice Sam crossing the room again but suddenly she’s in front of me, handing me the phone. “He wants to talk to you.”
“Hello, Hayley. I’m Gregory. I’m sorry we are talking under these circumstances.”
Tears well and I fight the lump in my throat. What is it about kindness that makes this so much worse? “Hey, Gregory, can you not be nice to me right now?” Gregory chuckles and the sound untwists the knot in my belly a little. “I understand, my wife is exactly the same.”
Gregory asks me a barrage of questions that has the pain transferring from my uterus to my heart. My voice cracks and I have to keep clearing my throat to ease the tightness, but Gregory patiently waits on the other end of the line while I answer every question. When we’re done with the Q&A, Gregory sighs.
“My professional advice would be for you to see a doctor. From what it sounds like—and please, I must stress that this is just an opinion, since I haven’t examined you—it sounds like there wouldn’t be much a hospital would be able to do for you at this time, but I will reiterate that for your well-being you should see someone. From what Sam tells me, you are reluctant to do so and I understand that, so all I can advise is that you get as much rest as you can, reconsider seeing a doctor and give your body time to heal. And if you need someone to talk to, I can give you a number for a therapist I know in LA. I recommend talking to someone about this.”
“That won’t be necessary, thank you, Gregory. I appreciate your time.”
“I wish I could say it was a pleasure. I’m sorry for your loss, Hayley.”
I manage to squeeze out a ‘thank you’ and hand the phone back to Sam.
“Can you call Elisha? I need to get ready.”
“Ready for what?”
I walk to the closet and take out my first outfit for the night. Thank God, it has black leather pants.
“You can’t be serious, Hayley. I’m cancelling the show. You can’t go on.”
“I have to go on.” This is taking too much energy. I need to save my energy.
“You have to rest. Hayley, please you can’t be serious—”
I head to the bathroom to change the pad. I guess there are going to be a lot of costume changes. “Prepare the band for longer intros every three songs and tell the guys we’ll need a privacy screen.” In this business you don’t have time for modesty; costume changes take thirty seconds and stage hands are so used to performers changing backstage it’s just another day at the “office” for them. But today is a different situation altogether.
She sighs and roots around in her bag. Bringing out her pack of cigarettes, she takes one out.
“Those things will kill you, y’know.”
“You’re the one who’s gonna kill me.”
Sam leaves the room and I hear her barking for Elisha to come and do my make-up. I take a moment to feel bad for everyone who crosses her path while she’s in her temper and then I slip on my clothes. The costume cloaks me and cocoons me and I feel at peace. I have no doubt things will be different later but for now it’s not about me, it’s about my fans, and that thought offers me more comfort than any hospital or doctor could right now.