I lead Edward down the hall and into my music room; it houses my baby grand and all the awards I've won over the years.
He leans into the bookshelf and peers at some of the dust catchers. "You were a mathlete?"
"It was a small school." I shrug in defense. I take a seat in one of two cushy armchairs and gesture for him to take the other.
"I think I'll stand for whatever is coming next," he says a little more curtly than I think he intended.
"Suit yourself. I need to explain a few things about that article." I push the hair out of my face and sit back. "Anthony and I met when we were both trying to land a record deal. I'd been told several times that there were enough female singer/songwriters out there and I couldn't compete with the likes of Taylor Swift.
Anthony had been told that, without an original song under his belt or the ability to play an instrument, he was basically useless unless he wanted to be a backup singer. I'd already backed on a few tracks for other albums, and artists were asking for me specifically, which was nice, just not what I wanted."
"So how did you two become Chance Music?"
"We were singing backing vocals on a new track, and when I heard his voice, I wanted to pair with him and see if we couldn't get someone to listen to us. At the time, he was charismatic and willing to try anything, willing to learn anything to get where he wanted—where we both wanted. We were always on the same page about everything until one day … we just weren't."
He finally sits in the chair opposite me. "What happened with rehab and why did you two break up?"
I sigh. "A lot of things are going to come your way on tour. Some of them have probably already been offered to you. Drugs, alcohol, women … or men, whatever you like. I've already made it clear to you, I hope, that one slip up and your contract dictates you're out on your ass. The rest of the tour is canceled, peoples' tickets refunded, it's over."
"Bella, I understand. I've never done drugs a day in my life, aside from recreational pot smoking, and I'm not a huge drinker," he explains, and I've heard it from him before, just like I heard it from Anthony.
"But when you're tired and can't sleep or you're hyped from a great show and want to keep that feeling alive, your morals change. I won't judge you if you falter, but the first time you can't make the soundcheck, we'll have a problem.
"Rehab was a nice way of saying that Anthony got arrested on drug charges and it took a week to get some backwoods town to expedite his case. Rehab for 'exhaustion' sounded better than he got arrested."
"I knew it!" Edward exclaims and actually juts one finger into the air in an "a-ha"-like gesture.
"Did you now?"
"There was no way he went to rehab for anything. He's been so strung out on that tour and the next one, too. It was after the next tour that you two broke up the band," Edward points out.
"It was and it was only in small part due to substance abuse problems," I tell him matter of factly.
"Did he do something to you? Did he try to hurt you?"
"Not me, but someone close to all of us."
I'm chugging water from my bottle as Tanya wipes my face with a damp rag. "You're killing it out there tonight."
A crewmember switches out my battery pack and fits me with a headset. "Thanks, James. Where's Anthony? He's supposed to be back on before me?"
"Maybe he ran to take a leak?" Tanya offers me a weak smile.
"Whatever. Find him. I'm heading back out there." One swipe at my face and I run back on stage, smiling and waving.
"San Diego, it's true what they say. You truly are America's Finest City! You've been amazing tonight!" The crowd erupts in thunderous screams and applause and this is what I live for: the fans.
"Most people wait until a little later in their shows to do this, but we like to make sure that you and our phenomenal band know how much we love them! Give it up for the band!" I go around and introduce every bandmember and backup singers and let them have their solo in the spotlight before picking up my own guitar, beginning what should be a duet instead of a solo.
When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we'll see
No, I won't be afraid
Oh, I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
Just before the chorus, I turn and look back to the backup singers and swiftly shake my head and they step back from their mics.
So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me
Stand by me
The song turns into a hauntingly sweet version instead of the original jazzy arrangement I came up with. It's showcasing not only my voice but my talents on the guitar. The crowd is dead silent and eating it up.
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now, stand by me, stand by me
Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me
Oh stand by me, oh won't you stand now, stand
Stand by me …
I'm crying lightly by the end of the song and tell the crowd we'll be back in a few minutes. When I come off stage, I'm looking for Tanya and Anthony when I see a small crowd gathered backstage. I rush over to make sure no one is hurt and find Anthony being pulled off a female member of our crew.
He's drunk and slurring, trying to excuse away what I'm sure was less than stellar behavior when the crew manager splashes him with water from a bucket. I rush over to the girl to check on her.
"Angela, right? What happened?"
"He tried … was trying …" Angela stutters out and she doesn't have to say the words for me to know what happened. I turn on Anthony as he shaking water off of himself and asking for a towel, but I can see that no one is moving to help him.
"Are you insane? Or just drunk?" I ball up my fist and sucker punch him in the nose. It bleeds immediately, and I ask his assistant to get him cleaned up as quickly as possible as I turn back to Angela. "We won't let him get away with this. I promise you."
Tanya steps in for me and takes care of Angela with the rest of the crew while I head back out on stage. "Looks like it's going to be just you and me for a little bit, San Diego! Anthony had sushi for dinner and it's not agreeing with his tummy. So, we'll give him a few moments to get his bearings."
I grab a cordless mic as the band starts up a medley of ours, and I decide to move into the crowd. "Let's see how you sound, America's Finest!"
That night, I was on the phone with my manager, threatening to drop out of the next show if a rep from the label wasn't there in the morning to discuss what had happened. Angela left the tour with the remainder of what she would have made, not a payoff because she didn't want to press charges, but she didn't want to be with us anymore and I couldn't blame her.
We all signed NDAs that state we cannot discuss the matter publicly until Angela does. I flat out refused to talk "shop" with the label until they got rid of Anthony. I could no longer work with him for a plethora of reasons, but attempted rape was the last straw.
"So, because I was diligent about making sure that Anthony paid for what he did, and he really didn't, he blames me for the breakup."
Stand By Me cover by Skylar Grey
Already Gone cover by Sleeping At Last