Chapter 26

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      I was pacing around in the practice room of Vandos. My heart was pounding against my chest and I was sweating, and my mind was racing with thoughts. I couldn't believe I signed up to sing at the Vandos event. Never in a million years did I think I would let the world hear my voice.

       A part of me wanted to bail. My heart so badly wanted me to make a run for it and never look back, but my mind kept replaying what Carson and Liam had told me. I deserved to be heard. I deserved what I wanted. All I had to do was let everyone know the truth first.

      "Nivenah," Carson said, causing me to jump.

       I whirled around with my eyes wide as Carson popped into the room. His eyes expressed a mix of emotions and I stared at him, remembering how we hadn't talked since I stormed off. I had been too scared to talk to Carson, but I was relieved to see him standing before me now.

      "Hi," I whispered.

      Carson walked towards me and he threw his arms around me, pulling me into a tight hug. I relaxed against him and closed my eyes momentarily, feeling a bit more calm. In Carson's arms, I felt more confident.

      "I'm sorry I tried pressuring you into telling your secret. I shouldn't have done that," Carson said, pulling away from me. "I can't believe you're about to tell everyone the truth. You should have told me earlier."

      "I'm sorry."

     Carson gave me a small smile as he brushed back the strands of hair that were plastered on my forehead. I had been sweating so much that beads of sweat were running down my face.

      "Everything is going to be okay," Carson said. "I know you're terrified and I don't blame you for being so scared, but trust me, everything is going to be okay. I will never let anything happen to you."

       "I never thought I would be telling hundreds of people that I sing," I said. "It's just... only a year ago I swore to myself that my secret would remain a secret forever and now I'm about to sing in front of so much people. I'm terrified."

       Carson stroked my hair and I smiled shyly. I was so thankful I met him, I realized. It was thanks to him that I had gotten so far.

       "That's the beautiful thing about life," Carson said. "You never know what will happen, but I know this was meant to be. Your voice is one of the best voices I have ever heard. You deserve to be heard, Nivenah. Sing loud and proud, okay?"

       "Okay," I said, pulling Carson in for another hug. "Thank you. You're the best."

       Carson hugged me tightly and I took a deep breath in. I was still terrified, but with Carson at my side I tired to remain confident that everything would be okay. 

       Once Carson pulled away, he took my hand and led me out of the room and upstairs. It was almost time for me to sing and suddenly, my heart was pounding. It was becoming hard to breathe and I squeezed Carson's hand tightly, hoping to calm down as I realized just how packed the restaurant was. Hundreds of people filled the tables and a few people were even standing in front of the stage.

      "Imagine we're at the karaoke bar again," Carson said, leading me to the stage. "You were amazing then. Everyone loved you and everyone will love you now."

       "But what if they hate me because I lied to them?" I whispered. "Carson, what if I get booed on stage and no one wants to hear my voice."

      "I can't promise you anything, but you have to take the risk. But remember, people are lot more forgiving than we think they are."

      I nodded, even though I wasn't sure if he was right. We soon reached the side of the stage and we waited for the last singer to finish her song and I took a moment to scan the crowd in front of the stage. They were all staring at the singer, their eyes full of joy and I wondered if when I told the truth, everyone's eyes would be filled with hatred. I wondered if I was about to ruin my life.

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