The last night of any tour is the most important one to any artist. The feeling of such sweet taste of glory embracing one's soul is something magical, and definitely trade-less. As usual, the members of Wall of Confessions would go spend it getting as wasted and high as they could, taking a couple of chicks to their rooms, and feeling the serene euphoria consuming their whole being.
This was not the case of Zephan Hayden in this occasion.
Lately he had been acting...weird. It was making the members of the band worry. These were the signs of a close end to the band. He, being the front-man and leader of the band, was an essential member; and having him in such miserable condition, was frustrating to each one of the members. They could find another front-man, but being Rock Legends each one of them together made it hard. They had seen this before. It never became the same after a member of a memorable band leaves it.
''We don't know if this is one of our last tours, or even worse, our last. So let's enjoy the night as much as we can'' proposed James Stwart, the lead guitar in Wall of Confessions, with a bittersweet tone that attempted unsuccessfully to sound hopeful and willing. An attempt of a sincere-sounding 'Yeah' was forced by the rest of the members. They couldn't fool anyone. They couldn't fool themselves. The taboo among them was obvious enough for even having the need to be spoken. They were real worried. Hell they were. Even if that could be discarded from their minds, they knew a celebration is not a celebration without Zephan. Definitely not. He could always find the way to make merry the saddest of the situations. It was this spirit of his, this energy he had, this humble, caring heart of his that made him loved not only by the members, but also by the world. This charm, this unique sense of humor... As stated...he COULD. Now all these characteristics had faded away in such dramatic and unexpected way that it seemed like they had never existed on him. It was like comparing two different people. The last thing he said before leaving his mates and walking towards his hotel room was ''Have fun'', but in was clearly seen in all their faces, even in his, that this was nowhere to be close to possible. He knew they had started to notice this sudden, abrupt change he had made in his personality. He breathed at the advantage of their errant conclusion that he just was having those moments where the rockstars needed time alone to think, but this was just in the beginning. Now it he couldn't rely on their ignorance anymore. They finally ended up finding out he was dying. He wasn't physically dying. He was dying as a person, and he knew it. They all knew it. Such fact was so horrifying and shocking that none of the members, not even he himself, dared to speak a word about it. They probably thought it was destiny, in the end. It seemed like everyday, a piece of him would fade away, making him each time more and more oblivious to that guy they knew 22 years ago.
''Zephan...Zephan!'' A sweet voice called upon his name. A soft, barely audible laugh came out of the softest lips. ''I think you have forgotten what day is today'' a young lady said as she sat at the edge of his bed and caressed his messy black hair. ''Uh...Wednesday?'' he said vaguely, ''good morning, beauty'' he slowly shook his head from side to side trying to make his sleepy head wake up, eventually. His eyes failed at opening themselves, he tried it again, just to find the blurry shape of a familiar silhouette. ''Such a beautiful lady hiding in the shadows of this dark room... turn on the light, honey'' he said with a slight smirk on his lips. She stretched her left arm to reach the switch and turned on the light, putting it dim, so that it wouldn't hurt his just-woke-up eyes. There it was again. There it had always been, throughout the years. In the good ones, in the bad ones, and in the real screwed up ones. The figure of some sort of Ancient Greece mythological goddess. Her shinning black, wavy hair didn't suffer discoloration whatsoever as time advanced. In ther face the only feature resembling all the accumulated years was that mature look on her eyes. She had the eyes of an elder. Those powerful, see-through eyes that seemed to hide the answer to everything behind them. Eyes that even seemed to see through his best, strategic prepared lies. It made a balance with the glowing, youthful-energy that was painted into these honey-colored eyes. In fact, they resembled much of her personality. She was always eager, adventurous, energetic, mature, daydreamer, probably slightly twisted, and definitely... beautiful. Her skin was not too pale, it didn't reach tan either. She had this beautiful sun-kissed skin tone decorated with some rebel freckles above her cheeks. Her body, oh her body. It had the delicacy meant to exist in every lady. This characteristic, right after her eyes, was something that made Zephan's knees go weak. She looked so fragile, so vulnerable, so holy that he sometimes doubted touching her in bed; until she became aware and ran her hands down her abdomen and traced with her fingertips his strong man-hips, getting the situation somewhat daring, without making it dirty. It definitely turned him on, with class.
He stared at her for some seconds, doing what he did every day: carefully contemplated her uncommon beauty. It always left him breathless, even when he saw this girl everyday.
''So what day is today?'' he finally asked.
''Zephan...'' she said in disbelief. ''This can't be happening to you every year!'' she said trying to look upset. Zephan looked rather puzzled. ''What?''' he sat on his bed and tilted his head.
''You birthday, silly!''
His birthday. The one day in the whole year, that he hated the most, even more than the Gay Rights day. His heart missed a beat, his hands started shaking, suddenly his breathing was cut.
''AAAAGH!'' he woke up, panting. He sat on his bed, taking his hand to his chest, and tried catching his breath again. These days weren't good. Definitely not. He stared at the digital table clock: 4:25 AM. What a hell. He turned on the light, which hurt his eyes, so he turned them off again and relied on his touch sense to find the lighter and the last Marlboro he had on the night table...hopefully just the last one located ON the table. He spent about 15 minutes that way, staring at nothing but darkness, and smoking his cigarette. After so many years, he still had the same nightmare, just in different ways. He sighed and closed his eyes, trying to connect his soul with his inner peace. Peace that, he definitely didn't find. It was about time to wake up anyways. He stood up, turned on the light which hurt his eyes again, threw his cigarette and headed to the bathroom.
Again he found that ugly man he hated the most. God, how he hated him. His image terrified him, and the worst was, that the mirror declared it as Zephan Hayden, 46 years old. He denied to believe it. He did. He didn't want to accept such fact; it was hurtful. He sighed and checked his eyes, which were reddish, not to his surprise though. His middle-long black hair had lost the glow and strength that made the heads turn back in his youth. That is, if he ever even had one. What was supposed to be his youth was drowned in the lies of alcohol and drugs. His once bright white teeth were now as yellowish and twisted as they could ever be. He had even lost some mollars. His bright iced blue eyes didn't have the same intense brightness anymore. It had started to fade. His face wasn't exactly wrinkled, but it didn't look attractive. The insomnia caused by the past, the scars of this heart, and the total indifference that he had reaped towards life, the lost innocence he wanted to regain... all these elements were reflected on his face and he knew it. How he hated it. He ran his hand down his neck and figured he needed to shave. He naked himself, and stared at the ridiculous image the mirror reflected. He had dried like an old, abandoned vineyard. He couldn't cry. Not only it was an act not typical of a rockstar, but also there was the issue that his tears wouldn't fall off anyways. For some reason, his feelings were tied up. His heart cried, instead. Not because of something so trivial though, although beauty is important. It was more because he knew what he had become, what's more, he wasn't in the disposition of changing. He had grown tired of it. He learned the hard way that some things are better left unexplored, unknown. Yet he couldn't turn back time now, and he was not yesterday's energetic brat anymore.
Giving end for now to all the drama, he entered the shower and closed his eyes. He concentrated on just feeling the cold, refreshing water wetting his whole body. It felt good. He enjoyed it. It was probably going to be the only nice part of his whole new day.
He came out of the shower, dried himself, and went to take out some clothes from the drawer.
He looked at the clothes he'd usually wear. Just when he was about to take out a pair of leather pants, his hand went back at him. Was it even worth it to dress like this now? His career had become such curse in the past years that even dressing as a rockstar became repulsive to him. He took out some regular acid washed jeans, a white t-shirt, and a pair of sneakers. Dressed already, he took his fedora hat, looked for the half empty box of Marlboro saved on one of the pockets of his jeans, and lighted it. At least, the hat was one physical element on his style that he had not lost yet.
Just when he was about to give one step outside his room, he closed the door and let himself fall on the floor sit, resting his back on the door. He sighed and played with his fingers. He couldn't face his bandmates, they were probably going to ask him about his mood, which would probably get him angry, leading him to probably answering in a bitter way, which would probably break the taboo he wanted to leave as such, which...ugh, it was too much of a confusing case for figuring out at 5 AM anyways. Suddenly he remembered he had forgotten to shave, it didn't matter anyways. He thought about giving some use to the good greens he had saved somewhere, to free his mind a bit, something told him not to do it. He considered again, finally deciding to do it. Sh*t, he was still conscious, and getting some more would be a big problem. He felt tempted, but he turned around, and left the room.
Although he felt careless, he knew the consequences were going to be the same. He never learned, after 22 years he still didn't learn. Not that he cared either, not anymore.
''Morning'' a voice hiding behind a big newspaper greeted him as he walked down the lobby.
''Morning'' he said flatly, and sat next to the voice.
''You woke up early'' observed Johny, the band's manager. ''The rest are still sleeping, got any plans? I mean, its 5:15 AM'' he pointed out looking at his watch.
''Yeah, I guess insomnia is a faithful companion...'' he said vaguely, turning his head and straying his sight. The manager knew he wanted to speak no more. After some minutes of complete silence, Zephan stood up. ''I'll be back'' he said, sharing an expression that said a bit more than that.
''When?'' Johny suspected something.
''...Who knows'' he smiled. And, what a smile. It seemed like the loniest, saddest, abandoned smile a person could ever give to someone, provoking Johny a feeling pretty close to vertigo.
With this said, he left the hotel.
The town looked as lonely and hostile as it could be, not that he could expect more anyways, he was in Aemongrad. No rockstar would ever choose to go rock out a State like this one. Too lonely and country side wasn't the prettiest anyway. Now this is where Zephan's strategy takes place: it was exactly in that State where he'd reunite with a fragment of the past. This part of his life that was now thrown in the chest of memories. Probably, the best memory. Probably, the worst. Or maybe a combination of both, depends from what point of view he saw it at the moment.
As expected, of course, his bandmates wondered why going to Aemongrad. His answer? ''Why not?'', apparently convincing enough to each one of them.
In addition to the mood, the weather was terrible. A slight blizzard made the place look somewhat translucent, and the wind blew coldly. He sighed and cursed as a small cloud of vapor escaped from his mouth. He was cold. It didn't matter. He kept on walking, as pieces of that fragment of his past constantly hit his head over and over in a non-chronological order.
A desperate door-knocking. The news. The evidence.
He stopped as he tried recovering his serene expression, altered by his eyes going wide. He panted.
He kept on walking.
A gasp. The sad eyes staring a the floor. A corpse.
His body froze completely. His face had a silent scream written on it. Everything made complete sense. The place, the temperature... hell, even the month seemed to match with the demons troubling his mind. Or maybe it was the drugs. Whatever it was, the bridge between reality and hallucination was ten times the scariest thing he had ever experienced in his whole life. He had done it before, and he knew being close to death was nothing compared to that sick feeling of vertigo, shiver, and chocking, all at once.
His body collapsed on the floor. ''Come on, Zephan, come on... You need to do it. God, for once have some guts and be a fucking real man! Why you always need to be a coward?! Why can't you for once stop hiding under the whole rock star shield and grow some guts DAMMIT!'' he screamed to himself, just to find tears running down his face. He cried in silence. For once in so many years, he cried. For once in so many years, he didn't care about crying. For once in so many years...slowly started connecting to life, even if it was through sorrowful feeling. The chain around his heart forbidding him from taking it all out even when he wanted, seemed to have unleashed. Now he got it, the cheaps supposed to make him feel alive worked on him no more. In fact, they had only ruined his life. Now he understood why he had to do this. The scariest experience of his life was the one that was actually going to set him free from that chained state of mind. He had grown tired of life, and as a consequence, he had grown tired of this as well.
He suddenly felt like the weight of a piano had fallen on his back, making it hard for him to stand up. But he was for once in his whole life, determined to face this fear of him that made of his nights the loniest time of his day.
Helping himself by grabbing a brick that was sticking out of the wall, he stood up with great difficulty and looked to the front. Among the blizzard and dust, he could slightly see his destination. He was getting close.
His mind screamed to turn around and go back to the hotel. His eyes fought against him to avoid looking up front. His lungs grabbed less oxygen each time he inhaled. Yet he wasn't going to let all this take him down. Not this time. He had had enough of being a sissy. Panting and fighting against the blizzard to see, he finally made it.
He stood there, right in front of the place. It felt distant. It felt close. It felt familiar, yet it felt oblivious. Although it still conserved some of the characteristics it had originally, most of them had faded away. Not that he was surprised, though. It had been a long time since the last time he stared at this old house. Fear and confidence invaded his heart, making him confused. For a second, he highly considered running away. He slapped himself, ''don't be a sissy'', he whispered speaking to his own.
With shaking hands, he stuck his necklace out of his shirt by which an old key hung.
A tear, a sigh, the creaking sound of an old door being opened.
He was in.
He should have felt fear. He should have bothered to stay staring at every detail of the living room. He should have stared at the rest of his house. Instead, he ran upstairs to his old room.
Every step up he gave brought him a different memory. The sweet laugh. The soft touch. The daring eyes. The hurt forgiving heart. The aroma.
''Heather...'' his eyes closed at he softly pronounced her name. He kept on flying up the stairs with his eyes closed without even tumbling a little. He had lived there nearly all his life anyways, he knew the house.
''Heather...'' he opened the door which such strength that it nearly broke. He opened his eyes just to find it. There it was. There it had always being. In the good ones, and in the bad ones. Hell, even in the damn screwed up ones.
''Heather...'' Zephan felt on his knees and cried like an abandoned kid. 'Heather', a name that had become such a big taboo to his bandmates, to fans, to himself...he had finally pronounced it after so many years after that date. Yes, that certain date he hated: his birthday. It was in his 32nd birthday when the soul of her sweetheart was taken, caused by a heart-attack. How he hated listening to 'happy' birthday. It had changed his life completely. How could he even have a 'happy' birthday if all the memories it brought him was the fading away from the only thing he truly cared about in his whole life? He remained there, on his knees, staring at the painting of her made by an old friend of his. It resembled each detail she used to have. Her penetrating look, with the brightness possessed by those energetic eyes, a beautiful sun-kissed skin tone, decorated with those rebel freckles, and her sweet, kind smile.
''Heather...'' he started, ''darling, why did you have to leave me so early? Oh why, if you were such an angel among us, the corrupted fallen ones from this world...Why was your soul taken at such early age? Although... I never believed in such thing as Heaven, I can swear you're there. Its impossible to believe your existence is gone forever. I know you're there, I know you're listening to me. How was I even worthy of your love and care when you knew when I was lying just by looking me in the eyes?! Why---''
''Darling...'' A voice from behind said softly.
His eyes went wide as he felt a familiar aroma embraced him as two delicate arms slowly ran their hands around his body.
''Why do we always have to, by some way, end up talking about this, honey?'' A soft laugh escaped from the lips of the person behind him.
It took him several minutes to react. Almost voiceless, he managed to pronounce it one more time
''Now, now, stop being so hard on yourself! I keep on loving you because I know you. I know the deepest secrets you hide, that part of you that you love to avoid taking out. I know your flaws, I know your virtues, I know the real you behind the whole rockstar idea. That's the Zephan I love, and if you can't understand it... well too bad'' her voice sounded as eager and playful as it always did.
''You deserve something better...''
''Yes, I deserve the happy, funny Zephan you always are'' She pressed her lips on his neck and placed her hands around it. ''So stop being so down now'' she whispered to his ear.
''W-well...In...that case'' Zephan slowly stood up and turned around, just to find what was nonetheless the result of the mix between his imagination, the demons of his mind, and of course, the drug abuse. He was hallucinating her. The angelical figure, there it was again. There it had always been, throughout what he could remember of his lifetime. ''In that case'' he rose his eyes to look straight to hers, ''how would you like to meet my 'Yesterday's Child'?''. It had being more than a decade since the last time his face tried to figure a sincere smile from the bottom of his soul. He gave her a smirk that wided her eyes as well as her smile. Then, calming down, she softly said ''Please, it'll be an honor''.
The day had become stormy. A storm had started to take place outside as he had being literally talking to himself without even being aware. He held her hand and widely smiled, ''Like the old times?'' his eyes were shinning as the adrenaline started to take over him. His eyes seemed to have regained the deep glow they had on his deep blue colored eyes.
''Like the old times!'' she replied eagerly.
Funny as it is, it never crossed his head asking her about her death. Maybe because the feeling of being taken out of such state of mind had completely blocked his common sense, or maybe because he was possessed, or maybe...it doesn't matter anyways. He didn't think about it.
The pain he usually felt on his knee during stormy days thanks to falling off stage while dancing wasn't even felt, and if it was, it couldn't stop him from doing what he was doing next either way...
As he felt how his whole body grew as energetic as it used to be 26 years back, he enthusiastically held her hand and took her to the house's roof carrying an acoustic guitar under his arm.
As he sat down and supported his guitar on his lap, he started playing an old melody. His eyes softly started closing as his heart started to remember the moment he created that song. It was Yesterday's Child: a song written by Heather describing each one of her characteristics, both external and internal. This song held a deep meaning to him, more than the rest. He had not being able to play it since she died, it broke him down completely. Now he started noticing again each drop of love he had placed on each string's sound, each intonation, each word... As the euphoria started embracing him, the storm started growing heavier as well.
It was during the bridge where it said ''And as your wings protected me from the thunder, love[...]''
where Zephan's soul was taken by getting hit by a thunderbolt.