part 1

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Being in love is a little bit like wandering the beach late at night. You're standing on the shore listening to the waves, the cool breeze brushing your bare shoulders. You watch the waves and know they could hold innumerable dangers only a hundred feet away from you, but you're not afraid. Nothing can touch you, not with your lover by your side.

At least, that's how I described it on my album. The one that went platinum and spawned a rabid fan club called the Codettes and a line of feminist slogan t-shirts only available at Urban Outfitters. The album that turned me from Cody, the girl who was afraid to get her eyebrows waxed, into Cody Burnett: the brand. That new Cody Burnett shot to stardom faster than any other pop star in the last decade. Cody Burnett is relatable, inspiring, genuine, humble, beautiful, and always has perfect eyebrows. And she's hopelessly in love with her boyfriend, Seth O'Connor, pop star in his own right.

Hopelessly in love, I remind myself as I smile at Jimmy Kimmel and pretend I know what Seth is talking about. He's describing our recent trip to Aruba, I think—or that's where he started a few minutes ago, but I've since lost track of the conversation. Everything's fine. I'm living the biggest lie I've ever told—on late night television, no less. I'm sweating through my underwear, and every song I've tried to write since this whole charade started is a total piece of crap.

My grandmother would be so disappointed in me, but everything's fine.

"And up next we'll be talking to Cody all about her upcoming tour. That and more, after this break." Jimmy smiles at the camera until a voice yells, "Cut!" and then turns to the side as his makeup artist rushes onto the stage with an arsenal of brushes.

Seth glances at the microphone above our heads and lowers his voice. "You okay? You're sweating bullets."

"Shit." I press my palms into the couch. I'm painfully aware of the in-studio audience that fills the risers in front of us. I took pictures with some of them before we started shooting; they're Codettes, my fans, and Seth's fans too. Somewhere along the line, my fans and his became one and the same.

Which is why our inevitable breakup is going to be so much harder.

"It's fine," Seth reassures me, brushing a piece of hair off my face. "We can brush it off as nerves, make a cute joke. They'll be none the wiser."

"Right." I offer Seth a smile, trying not to look too much like I'm being held at gunpoint. "How's this?"

"Totally natural," Seth says, making me laugh, which brings out the actual natural smile. Seth's good like that.

Me, on the other hand—I'm horrible at this. I'm the worst choice ever for a contractual fake relationship, but Seth's agent wasn't thinking about that when he pitched the idea to the label. He was thinking that I was up-and-coming, and Seth was up-and-coming, so we might as well give each other a boost.

And now we've woven a web so tangled not even the Fates could undo its knots.

"And we're back in five, four, three..."

Jimmy's facing us again, smile plastered on, so I force mine into place too. Seth's hand lands on my thigh, trying to calm me.

"Relax," he whispers in my ear just as a green light goes on behind the camera.

We're live again, and I'm tenser than my mother during a root canal.

————

"You were great," Ray assures me twenty minutes later as we're being ushered down an underground hallway towards, hopefully, an exit from this labyrinth. In the year since my album dropped, I've learned that almost every aspect of celebrity is a farce, including television studios. What you see on camera is perfect—beautiful, gleaming, manicured—but behind the scenes, everything's a mess.

the other side of fear // n.h.Where stories live. Discover now