16- P is for Pain

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If love is as easy as ABC, then the alphabet is goddamn difficult.

The paparazzi is figuring things out. It's all running head-on at me, crashing into us too soon. I can't even write anything any more; when I pick up that guitar, I can't even hear myself playing. The notes are all dead and the chords have gone mute. Cameras flash all the time. People know. 

I sigh heavily, bracing myself for the difficult questions that are about to be asked. The security guards beside me thank my taxi driver, because I've forgotten to myself, and that scares me for one splitting moment before I try pulling myself back together. The strings inside me are frayed, but I can tie knots with the little I have left. 

The guards guide me into the venue through a back door that seems invisible until they open it. Inside, the air is cold and bitter. I tug my sleeves down around my wrists and try to stop my teeth from chattering.

"Miss Taylor, your dressing room is down this way," one guard announces. He leads me down another cold corridor. I stare at my shoes and follow behind him until he sends me off into my dressing room, my first outfit lying on a chair beside a tiny heater pumping its heart out into the room. Shivering, I thank the man and close the door for just one moment. I am here. Tonight I am playing again.

I sit by the heater and close my eyes. It hurts less that way.

When I open them again, the light is harsh and I'm squinting to see at all. My vision is blurred. When I look up to the light bulb glaring down at me, it forms stars and waves and shapes that change every time I change the angle. My tears make patterns on the ceiling with the light. For you who can't see that beauty, it's hard to describe, but my sorrow creates magic in that lonely little room. Silhouettes and stars on the ceiling for a man that's no longer mine.

At some point, I manage to get up off the floor and dry my eyes. My make-up is all smudged. I dig around in my purse until I find a few wipes, and get the muck off my face. It never works to let anybody else see. After all, thousands more people are going to be waiting here for me tonight.

The show must go on.

*

"The nominees!" Mom shakes me awake from an uncreated space between consciousness and unconsciousness. I yawn and heave myself up off the couch as the tour bus rumbles underneath me, raising my eyebrows at her.

"What nominees?" I mutter groggily, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. Mum laughs lightly and helps me to stand up properly as she shows me her iPad, the brand-new America's Star Music Awards website splattered across the screen. The awards are on the twentieth of September, three months away, but I suppose they need a long time for the fans to vote.

"Oh. Those nominees. So?"

"Look at the nominees for Best Duet!" squeals Mum, and I raise my eyebrows in confusion as I scan the names.

"P!NK and Nate Ruess- Just Give Me A Reason," I read out. "Emelí Sandè and Labrinth- Beneath You're Beautiful. Rihanna and Mikky Ekko- Stay. Kimbra and Gotye- Somebody I Used To Know, and Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran... Everything Has... Everything Has Changed..." I gawp in shock, absolutely bewildered to discover I'm up for Best Duet with Ed.

"Holy crap!" I scream, and Mum laughs cheerfully as we spring up and down with excitement. I already have plenty of awards, but I've never been nominated for Best Duet. This is absolutely incredible.

"This is fantastic!" I shout, leaping around in overwhelming happiness. "Ed will be so excited!"

And then I realize. My arms fall limply to my sides, and I feel my huge smile droop into a miserably sad face. Mum freezes too, and then she wraps her arms around me, her lips pressed into my hair. I shake with tears as everything seems to crumble around me, and she simply stays there rocking me side to side, knowing this is a mother's job.