A/N: I don't own any part of the Twilight universe but you guys already knew that.
I'm back!! And thrilled that you guys are back for more EverClear. I am doing a couple of very long one-shots that chronicle parts of the back-story for EverClear. As of now, there are 3 planned. Why? Very simple. I want to let all you guys know about a wonderful program coming up in June.
The Fandom Gives Back, Eclipse Edition will kick off on the end of June and run for a week. The dates will coincide with the release of Eclipse. For those of you that don't know what FGB is, just go to thefandomgivesback(dot)com. Last year, the auction rose over $80k for Alex's Lemonade Stand. I will be a part of this year's auction. I am offering up 3 one-shots of the purchaser's choice. Anything you wanted from EverClear or EverClear Revamped….this will be your chance to read it.
With each one-shot, I will give you guys more information about this incredible cause and how you can show your support.
See you guys at the bottom!
The March Toward Atlanta
Prequel to EverClear
Chapter 1- My Immortal
"Can you remember the last time he fed?"
"I'm not sure but I think it was the trip to Canada with the boys three months ago."
"Carlisle! We have to do something. He can't go on like this indefinitely."
"Dear, I would go upstairs and forcibly remove him from that closet myself if I thought it would do any good. But Jasper told me they hunted for him and he still wouldn't feed. I don't know what we can do except be patient and ready when he's ready."
"What do you mean 'hunted for him'?"
I cringed at the memory of the incident that Carlisle was explaining to my mother. Just three weeks ago, I thought…time had ceased to mean much; Jasper had knocked on my balcony door at two in the morning with a freshly caught elk in his arms. He had pled with me to at least feed, even if I didn't want to leave the house to hunt. I could hear the guilt and sorrow in his thoughts and hated that I was unable to offer him any sort of comfort. But I simply couldn't. I couldn't muster any emotion except agony and he'd had enough of that from me in the last three years to last ten lifetimes. I'd meant it when I told him I appreciated his gesture and was sorry for the trouble he'd gone to.
But I'd closed the door on my brother and his offering and gone back to my solitary confinement.
"Carlisle? What if we…"
My body tensed with the pain in my mother's voice. And terror at what her next words would be. She was becoming desperate in her concern for me. And desperate people sometimes did desperate things. With all the strength I could muster, I stood up from my position on the floor of the completely dark closet that I had lived in for the last however many weeks. It was the longest I had gone without an attack and I accredited the reprieve to the total silence and darkness of the room. My eyes shut of their own accord as the first rays of light hit them and my feet felt heavy as I made my way out of the den I'd made for myself and across the bedroom. I noticed that the conversation one floor below me ceased as my footsteps echoed through the house.
My poor mother's thought flew in a dozen different directions as I trudged down the flight of steps. But mercifully, none of them were in the same direction that she'd been on the edge of thinking just seconds ago. The ringing echo of each step sounded strange to my ears, so used to the silence I had submerged myself in. As I neared the polished oak door that would bring me face to face with my family, I took two completely unnecessary breaths and allowed the scents to fill my head. Familiar and comforting, the unique smell of the two people that had cared for me for nearly a century eased the tension in my back slightly. The cold metal of the brass handle slid easily in my hand and I opened the door to the study and to the worried faces that had both turned to look in my direction.
The shocked expressions on Carlisle and Esme's faces would have been comical if they hadn't also been so sad. Both stood from their chairs and made to cross the room, my father looking concerned and my mother smiling from ear to ear. It had been the same every time I'd given in to their concern over the last couple of years. I would hide away until my mother worried to the point of panicking and then I would emerge for a day or two, have an attack and then retreat again.
"I…I was," my voice cracked as I spoke for the first time in nearly a month. I cleared my throat and tried again. "I was wondering if you would…hunt…"
"Of course, dear," Esme squealed as she wrapped her arms around me. I stood stiffly for a moment, the contact with another person feeling foreign, before I returned her hug. "Thank you, my sweet boy. Thank you."
She linked her arm through mine and I caught a fleeting thought that she was holding on to me to make sure that I didn't change my mind. The three of us descended the stairs slowly, barely at a human pace. As we passed a large mirror near the landing, I caught a brief glimpse of my reflection. My eyes were black as onyx. The circles beneath them were a deep purple and my skin looked almost waxy. Even for a vampire, I looked like death.
Waiting for us at the bottom of the staircase was Alice, a small smile on her lips. Of course, she'd seen my actions and supportive as always, waited to join our impromptu hunting party. She stepped forward, kissed my cheek lightly and then took my free hand in hers. Carlisle wrenched the door open to reveal an extremely overcast sky that threatened snow at any minute. The shock of cold air surprised me as it washed over my skin.
"What is the date?" I turned my head toward Alice when my question was met with silence from all three of my companions. My sister stopped in her tracks and turned to face me, her eyes wide and somewhat fearful.
"You guys go ahead," she said to Carlisle and Esme without breaking eye contact with me. From the corner of my eye, I saw them both nod. With a small squeeze of encouragement, my mother took off toward the dark green forest that surrounded our property, my father on her heels.
"It's mid September, Edward."
"Alice, what is the date?" I asked as I felt my hands begin to shake.
The breath left my chest in a rush as my body crumbled to the ground. I curled my fingers around the nearly frozen grass beneath me and lowered my head until my forehead touched the icy earth. I could not steady my breathing, nor could I move from my fetal position.
"Edward, breathe," Alice said as soothingly as possible as she rubbed my back in small circles. Over and over, she said the same words of comfort, her hand never ceasing its movements. After an immeasurable amount of time passed, she whispered "it's almost over" directly in my ear.
"Alice, I'm sorry," I said with a shaky voice when I finally sat up. I crossed my arms over my chest tightly as I stared into the now dark forest.
"Its fine, Edward. I just wish I could have stopped it. But there was no way around it."
"She's twenty-one today."
"No, honey, I haven't seen her," she said as she stood and extended her hand to me. "Please," she said at my hesitation.
Uneasily, I took her hand and let her pull me to my feet. We walked toward the forest with our fingers twined around each other, the lingering specter keeping pace with us.
"I wonder what she's doing," I said as much to the night air as to my sister beside me.
"Probably the very last thing that either of us would expect."
Her accurate answer made me smile just a little. She wouldn't be partaking of the customary twenty-first birthday celebrations that most of her peers would. At least I hoped not.
"Maybe its time to call Jay Jenks again."
"That might be a good idea. Let me know if you decide to do it and I'll keep an eye out."
As we entered the comfort of the blackened forest, my sister released my hand. At the loss of contact, I stood still and simply let the ebony clouds consume me. I felt my hands begin to shake again as I recalled a night exactly three years ago…
"There's something I want us to do once you've fed. But you have to feed, Edward," Alice said softly, interrupting the growing panic in my chest.
"What are we going to do? I'm not really up for much," I asked as I brushed the debris off my pants where it had collected earlier.
"Well," she said in a light tone of voice. "I'm not really sure. Here, look."
She opened her mind to me as we began to move deeper into the tree line. The image was relatively simple. The two of us were sitting at the desk in the corner of my room staring at the small laptop computer on its top. But startling, we were both smiling.
"See? Whatever it is, it's enough to make you smile, at least a little."
I simply nodded to her as the faint trail of something distinctly feline caught my attention. Without a word, the two of us sprinted out into the vastness ahead of us. It was the first time I could remember in a very long time feeling anything but pain. That was still the overwhelming emotion but something akin to curiosity was laced with it as my legs stretched and carried me toward the scent.
Several hours later, the four of us returned to the house. The sun was just beginning to rise above the mountain, beckoning a new day. Reluctant though I was to admit it, I did feel physically better since our hunt. The gnawing ache that had settled into my back and hips was completely absent and the movement of my limbs seemed somehow unencumbered.
As we entered the house, I noticed that Jasper's scent was present, something that had been missing when we'd left earlier. I turned to Alice, ready to excuse myself so as not to keep her from her husband but was interrupted.
"Don't even say it," she said teasingly. "I have you out of hibernation for the first time in God only knows how long and I intend on making the best of it. Now go upstairs and change your clothes. I love you but you kind of stink," she finished with a beautiful smile.
"I don't stink," I said flatly even though I had been trying to return her humor.
"Well, that's true. But you are wrinkled and that's almost as bad."
"Oh Alice," Esme chuckled as she took in my appearance. "Only you, my precious pixie, would equate a wrinkled shirt with smelling bad. Honey," she said turning fully to face me, "I am so proud of you. I know this was hard, especially…" she trailed off as she took in my apparently terrified expression. "Anyway, thank you and I love you."
"I love you too, Mom," I said as I stepped forward to embrace her. She returned the hug fiercely and only let me go when Carlisle cleared his throat.
"Come on, Edward, up you go. We have something to do."
Like a child, I followed her directions without question. I was a shadow of myself. I knew, logically, that I was still the same. But I had neither the will nor the desire to be myself. The man I had been had predicated the shell I was now and I deserved it for all that I'd inflicted. And I had no intention of trying, ever again, to impose myself on anyone.
Alice walked into my room just as I pulled a fresh shirt over my chest. Smiling at me reassuringly, she pulled a chair from across the room so that it sat next to the desk chair that had never been used. Since our move, I'd not touched a single thing in my room outside of the couch. Not the televisions, not the desk, not even the stereo.
Every piece of furniture I'd owned had to be replaced once we'd settled in Oregon. In a fit I had no memory of; I'd destroyed virtually everything in my room in Forks. Save for a small portion of my music collection, that still resided in the crates my family had packed them in three years ago, not a single piece had survived. The long black leather couch that I'd spent….
"Edward, honey, come here," my sister said before my mind could conjure the images that I both longed for and feared.
I took my place next to her as she opened the top of the laptop computer she'd given me shortly after we'd moved. I had never even turned the power on, so I was surprised when the small device immediately sprang to life already set up for use. At the rear edge of the computer was a clear box that held an Ipod, also never even turned on.
"Is that set up as well," I asked as I nodded my head toward the small black device.
"Of course," she answered as she moved the cursor to an icon on the screen that said "Itunes". "Have you ever used one?"
"No but I understand the concept," I said more bitingly than I'd meant.
"There's no need to get snippy," she said and I immediately felt bad. She was simply trying to distract me, not make me uncomfortable. "I just asked because it can be a little odd to get used to finding what you're looking for and getting it loaded."
"I know. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be an ass."
"I know you didn't, Edward," she responded with a gently squeeze to my hand. As the home screen filled the small computer screen, she began explaining to me the ins and outs of the site, how to create playlists and how to search out different composers. In truth, I already had the information that she was explaining to me, even if I'd never used it. But her thoughts were happy and excited to have me interacting with her on any level, so I let her explain the entire process without interruption. At least one of us could feel joy and after everything I'd put her, and my family, through, I could at least give her this.
"So who do you want to look up first?"
"Debussy," I answered automatically. With a few keystrokes, the screen filled with a listing of nearly one hundred different versions of the composer's compositions, each one by a different orchestra.
"Which song?" she asked even as she moved the cursor toward the first song on the list.
"Arabesque I," I replied, shocking her briefly. She moved down the list slowly, looking for the piece that I'd requested. Once the download had begun, she swiftly moved back up the list and clicked the song she had originally guessed I would request.
"Edward, there are so many more good memories. And music is attached to most of them. Please, just try for me. If it doesn't work, I will erase them all myself."
I looked into the deep amber eyes of my sister. She had stood beside me for so long, had protected me from the concern of my family even when doing so caused her grief and had loved me even though I didn't deserve it. Her eyes plead with me as I warred with myself over the swirling emotions and memories in my mind. With a sigh, I gave in to her request. Her smile was blinding as she hugged me, nearly pulling me out of the chair I sat in.
"Who next?" she asked more enthusiastically.
And so the pattern began. For the next several hours, I rattled off an artist or composer and her fingers flew until she located them for me. Only a few of my request posed some difficulty for her and her triumphant smile when she finally found them was enough to make the corners of my mouth turn up as well. The memories that were associated with a large portion of the selections seemed less painful to remember as I watched the list grow longer and longer. As the songs played through the speakers, the images flashed through my mind as if I were watching a movie. I still felt the emotions intensely as I listened but the music provided a buffer against the searing pain that had accompanied me every second of the last three years. It was more like a slow constant burning pain rather than the all consuming agony I'd become accustomed to.
"Guys?" Jasper's voice called through the door as he knocked his knuckles against the wood. Without waiting for an answer, he turned the knob and opened the door. "Can I interrupt for a moment?"
"Sure thing, Cowboy," Alice sung as she danced her way across the room to her husband.
Jasper's first thought was to wrap his arms around her. I hung my head at the realization that he would not act upon that impulse because of me. My entire family had been extraordinarily careful about showing affection for their mates when I was present. As much as I hated myself for my inability to handle such loving displays, I greatly appreciated their restraint. Even the most innocent of touches between any of the three couples in our household was enough to send me into an attack but none were more potent than Alice and Jasper. The intensity of their connection rivaled…
"Ed, man, chill," my brother said in a voice that sounded as if it were under water. "Its fine, bro, just breathe."
I shoved my hands into my hair roughly and pulled as hard as I could. The pain of my action was enough to control the bubbling inferno that had sprung in my chest. I took a couple of quick breaths as I regained my composure and turned to look at the two of them standing in the center of the room. I hoped that Jasper could feel my remorse at not being able to control the reaction and would convey my sorrow to Alice later.
"Esme is going to Portland and wanted to know if you wanted to come with her," he continued while still eyeing me. "The trip has been planned for a couple of weeks now but I think she kind of counted on you going with her."
Alice hesitated for a moment. Her thoughts went wild with the idea of shopping in the city that was so far removed from our retreat at the edge of the mountain but then halted as she looked at me.
"Alice, go. I'm alright, I promise. It will be good for you," I said with what I hoped was a smile. "Jaz, you should go also, I'm sure you could do with getting away from me for a while."
"Are you sure? I don't mind staying," my sister asked while trying to conceal the excitement in her voice and thoughts.
"Positive. Go and enjoy yourselves."
"If you need us…"
"I'll call you if I need you. It's just for the night, sis. Really, go and have fun."
With a grin, she crossed the room back to me and hugged me ferociously. As she released me, she eyed the screen on the laptop.
"One more thing, Edward. If you type in a word in the search line, it will pull up all the songs that have that subject in common. When I get back tomorrow, I want to see the playlists that you've come up with. Alright?"
"Whatever you say. Now go or Esme will leave without you guys."
I sat perfectly still in my chair and listened to the flurry of activity on the two floors below me as my family prepared to leave. It was nearly comical to hear the suitcases yanked out of closets and the rattle of hangers as my mother and sister pulled item after item and threw them into the open cases. For twenty minutes, it was madness below me and then just as quickly as the noise had begun, silence fell over the house.
I stared at the computer screen in front of me as the Mercedes engine faded away. In the couple of hours that we'd been searching, I'd amassed more than two hundred songs. As I looked at them, there was no rhyme or reason to how they were listed other than the order in which Alice had been able to find them. Hesitantly, I reached for the mouse and placed the cursor into the "Search" box. A thousand different phrases flew through my mind as I thought of subjects to search. I closed my eyes and rested my fingers on the keyboard. The texture of the keys felt odd after having gone so long without touching a computer. Smooth and rippled at the same time. I took a deep breath and let my fingers move without thinking of the keys they were hitting. As I exhaled, I opened my eyes to search out the words I had typed.
My fingers began to shake slightly as the words pulled forth the image of the only eyes that would ever matter in my world. Piercing and knowing, full of compassion and understanding. The tightening in my chest grew uncomfortable as I shifted in the wooden back chair and tried to calm myself. I gave a cursory glance at the list of songs that had appeared at my command. The action did nothing to help the increasing rigor mortis that was trying to overtake me.
There were songs titled "Brown Eyes" by artist that ranged from Fleetwood Mac to Destiny's Child to someone named Lady Gaga. I could feel my chest tighten as "Brown Eyed Girl" by VanMorrison pulled up on the list. I'd always appreciated but never fully understood his music until that fateful day in January so long ago. My muscles loosed infinitesimally at the sight of "Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue" by Crystal Gale as I recalled a serenade of the hideous song that Jasper had sang for Alice in the late seventies. Feeling somewhat better at the choices Itunes came up with for my phrase, I clicked the bar again and typed another phrase.
The corresponding list was much longer for this word group. The first selection on the list was a compilation titled "Love Songs of the 90's". No, definitely not. I scanned further down, seeing titles by Adele, the J. Giles Band and a band named Pantera that sounded disturbing when I clicked on the preview. I closed the screen down when Tim McGraw began to sing "Its Your Love", brining a new round of shivers and muscle spasms. The next word I typed was still very much a part of my memories but there was very little in terms of "good" that I could think of associated with it.
The listings that came up with that word were a bit scary. Most of the bands were classified as either alternative or metal and all had names that ranged from the amusing to the down right bizarre. Papa Roach and Band of Skulls stood out as the most original of the bunch. There was a song by Pearl Jam that I vaguely remembered hearing once or twice. There was even a song by Coldplay that pulled up under this particular category. Feeling more amused than I had since I'd begun my search for subjects rather than specific songs, I typed in the most obvious word. What I had no way of knowing was that the simple word and mundane action would irrevocably change everything for me.
The word, innocuous and loaded simultaneously, called forth the longest list yet. I scrolled down past artists with names like Antsy Pants and the rebellious Sinead O'Connor and onto the more interesting bands. A group names Vampire Weekend had several tracks that were slightly interesting and there was a hysterical song titled "Rockabilly Vampire" by Ralph Rebel that made me chuckle for the first time in longer than I could remember. But the further down the list I got, the stranger the items became. "If I Was Your Vampire" by Marilyn Manson and "Dragula" by Rob Zombie topped the list of loud aggressive songs that pulled up. Songs by Arcade Fire and Atreyu also made the list, as their subject matter was clearly sanguinary beings. I was nearly ready to click out of this search when a song three quarters of the way down caught my eye.
"My Immortal" by EverClear.
The band was completely unfamiliar to me. They were classified as metal/alternative but something about the title made me click on the preview. What poured from the speakers of the computer left me nearly incoherent? Instead of the loud thrashing cacophony of the majority of the bands on this particular search, I was met with a breath-taking piano piece. The melody was simple but powerful. There was a very genuine feel to the opening bars and when the twenty second preview finished, I immediately hit the "purchase" button. As soon as the download was complete, I turned the volume up to high and hit the play option.
Thirty seconds into the song, my world shifted on its axis. Not only was the intro beautiful but it gave way to a much more dynamic arrangement. I found my fingers twitching against the cool wood of the desk top, almost as if I were playing with the song. But I was wholly unprepared for my reaction when the vocals began.
I'm so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
Your presence still lingers here
And it won't leave me alone
These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
And there's just too much
That time will not erase
I couldn't think or breathe or blink. The powerful raw words were sharp as knives as they drove into my chest, each one bringing a new pain with it. It was the most poetic expression of the constant excruciating agony that I'd lived with for three years that I could possibly imagine. Every word seemed to cut to the bone. But there was so much more to what I felt as I listened than just the words themselves. The tenor of the female singer's voice seemed to nearly shake with the emotions she felt as she sang. The clear strong soprano voice rang through the room demanding my utter attention and contrition.
Music had always been more than a casual acquaintance of mine. Music had always been an emotional connection of one type or the other. Debussy had offered me refuge from the life that I struggled with for decades before it had taken on the shape of my beloved. Bach and Beethoven and Mozart had long been my salve for most pains, both human and immortal. In over a hundred years, I'd never listened to "Moonlight Sonata" without becoming instantly calmer. And while more modern music did not hold the same emotional refuge for me that classical did, it did offer a soundtrack of sorts to my life with my family.
But this was something entirely different. This was like a battering ram made up of notes and chords and that haunting voice. The name ran through my head with every word that the singer uttered. The tone and tenor sounded like Bella. The whisper of uncertainty in the voice as I listened could have just as easily belonged to my love as to the singer in this band. Everything from the enunciation of the words to the cadence of the song reminded me of my angel. I refused to move so much as an inch as I listened to the words of the chorus in that voice that both haunted me and surrounded me like her loving embrace.
When you cried
I wiped away all of your tears
When you screamed
I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand
Through all of these years
But you still had
All of me
Every word spoke to me as if it were a direct message. The sophisticated piano accompaniment was sheer perfection to the powerful lyrics. I was nearly swaying in my seat as the raw force of the perfect words washed over me. Verse after verse pushed my very real sense of impossibility higher and closer to the point of incomprehensible realism. I thought I'd heard nothing more perfect to describe what the last three years had felt like, that nothing could be any closer to the exact words to describe my time away from her.
I was wrong.
As I listened to the bridge of the song, I actually fell out of my chair and into the depths of a full blown panic attack.
I tried so hard
To tell myself
That you're gone
But though you're still with me
I've been alone all along
I didn't hear the remainder of the song that first time. Instead, I fought with every ounce of strength I possessed to regain my composure. My breathing, by my nature an unnecessary act, was so rapid and shallow that had I still been human, I would have no doubt lost consciousness. Every single muscle in my body shook with enough force to rattle my teeth. My jaw was clenched so tightly as the words rushed over my skin that I bit through my tongue, releasing a trickle of venom that flowed over my lip and pooled on the carpet beneath me. The pain that should have accompanied the act was absent in the wake of the flood of emotions and memories that washed over me in a rapid cycle. A soft smile of wariness, a flutter of long chestnut hair against the current of a fan, the vibrant colors of a meadow long ago, the surreal feel of a kiss in the afternoon light, her miniscule weight in my lap as I rocked in her antique chair that was nestled in the corner of her room, her flowing hair sprawled against the wood floor of a ballet studio, a finger with three drops of blood on its tip, a walking cast next to a thin ankle encased in the ribbons of a stiletto heel, a small bed covered in a purple comforter, a van out of control, a small waist beneath my hand, a full bottom lip in its exquisite softness against my mouth. But most prominent…a pair of brown eyes. The infinitely deep pools of warmth and friendship, hesitation and anger, curiosity and understanding, compassion and forgiveness. But the eyes that haunted me the most were the ones filled with pain and love in equal measure the last time I'd looked into them.
Hours or seconds could have passed as I lay prone on the floor, trying desperately to control my own body. When the shivering and rushed breaths finally ceased, I gingerly pushed myself to my knees on the floor. It was unnerving how unsteady I felt as I sat there staring at the innocuous computer as it lay silently on the desktop. It was nothing short of a miracle that I didn't pull the hair in my scalp out given the number of times that I pushed my hands through it as I slowly regained my sensibility. It was a foreign sensation as my muscles ached with the slow burn of release. I felt like a newborn infant as I tentatively stretched my fingers and then my arms, followed by my legs. The first few seconds after I stood, I felt like a colt trying to find its balance.
Finally feeling like I had a modicum of control, I sat back down into the wooden desk chair. Before my rational mind could process the action, I had reached out and clicked on the name of the band. After mere seconds, a new window opened up and even though I didn't yet realize how profoundly the act would change me, I stared at the slight listing of fifteen songs.
EverClear had only one album available for download. The titles of the songs were harmless enough to not recall the stirring of emotions that the first song had. "Whisper" and "Imaginary" did not set my body alight like the words "My Immortal" had. I clicked the button and immediately downloaded the entire album but was not brave enough to listen to it as the download completed. After struggling momentarily to figure out how to transfer the entire collection of songs that I'd purchased during the course of the afternoon, I connected the small white wire into the black device that I knew would be my constant companion. Twenty minutes later, the synchronization completed, I retreated back to the nest I'd made in my closet. I made no attempt to turn on the lights or reposition myself more comfortably. I simply sank into the mass of blankets, pushed the small earphones into my ears and spun the wheel of the MP3 player until I found the word "EverClear".
I did not realize that so much time had passed as I sat in my haven and listened to the songs for the first time. I was mesmerized by them, almost as much as I had been by the woman that I was forcibly reminded of with each note. Over and over I listened and took in the phenomenal imagery that the singer created. I was so immersed in the music that I missed the approaching footsteps as they entered my room.
"Edward? Edward, where are you?"
"In here, Alice. Where else would I be?"
The door opened and the small room was flooded with sunlight. My sister stood in the doorway; her arm loaded down with a stack of magazines and smiled at me wider than I could remember in a very long time.
"What are you doing?" she asked as she folded herself onto the floor so close to me that our knees bumped. "You look so different."
A part of me wanted to tell her every single thought that had run through my head since she had left with Esme. But a part of me wanted to keep this to myself, at least for a while. I wasn't sure I could really explain how deeply the music I'd found had affected me without sounding like a melodramatic idiot. And I was still completely dumbfounded with how perfect each song was. I wasn't sure I could even find the words. So I decided to just give her the barest information. "I found a new band that I really like."
Her answering smile told me she knew it was much more than just a new band that I liked but that she also wasn't going to push for more information. She reached out and gently took my hand between both of hers.
"I'm glad, Edward. You look more like yourself that I have seen you in so long. It's nice to see signs of my brother. Can I ask you the name of the band?"
"Wait, why does that sound so familiar?" She looked down at the stack of magazines beside her. After thumbing through the pile briefly, she pulled a copy of "Rolling Stone" from the middle of the pile and passed it to me. "I knew I'd just read that somewhere. That's Jaz's but I'm sure he wouldn't mind you reading through it."
I looked down at the glossy cover and into the airbrushed face of the newest pop sensation. I pulled my eyebrows together for a split second before I caught sight of the bottom right corner. In small stark white block print was the story lead-in:
Seattle's Newest Reluctant Rock Stars
I tried very hard to hide the excitement that flowed through me at the article. It was so strange to feel that particular emotion. It had been so long since I'd felt anything other than pain and longing. The last twenty-four hours had seen a virtual invasion of emotions but it was oddly comforting. I looked into the bright gold eyes of my sister, a coy smirk on her face.
"I'll leave you to it then. Keep the magazine. And I'm glad that your mouth isn't still hurting," she said as she rose and turned without another word.
"Thank you. I know I've been a terrible…"
"Edward, you're welcome. And think nothing of it. I love you."
"I love you too, Alice."
The door had not even shut fully before I was thumbing my way through the magazine in search of the article. Three quarters of the way into it, I found what I was looking for. The first page was a black and white photograph of five people standing with their backs toward the camera. Two women stood in between three men that were each well over six feet tall. All of the musicians had their heads craned upwards and were staring at an old fashioned marquis sign with the band's name in large letters. The caption at the bottom of the picture said that it had been shot on location in Seattle outside an abandoned theater. I stared hard at the backs of the two females, trying to decide which one possessed the voice that had shaken me to my core just hours ago.
One of the women had shoulder length hair and an arm full of tattoos. The other one…well, I immediately decided that she had to be the lead singer. Dark brown hair hung in waves almost to her waist. Both women looked tiny standing beside the long haired leather-clad men but there was something delicate about the one with the longer hair. Something poetic. Something that seemed to radiate the pain of the lyrics that ran through ever song on the album. Without another second of hesitation, I tuned my attention to the article on the next page and began to voraciously read.
On the Road to Greatness
By Taylor Emerson
Let me say one thing right off the bat. I fucked up. I did not do my homework for my assignment with EverClear. Instead, I spent the evening drinking with buddies and trying desperately to impress a pretty little blonde. The only prep work that I did prior to actually meeting this enigmatic collection of musicians was a cursory read through the lyrics of the songs on their first album Fallen, released two weeks ago on Epic Records. And I did that in the cab on the way to meet them. I didn't listen to the songs or even read over the band's bio. So I was completely unprepared when I walked into the diner four blocks from Epic's Seattle office for my breakfast meeting, wearing a wrinkled shirt and nursing a Tequila headache.
And let me confess right now. I realize, now, that it was possibly the biggest fuck up of my professional career. Because the band I met might well be the next Rolling Stones.
Let me try to explain.
The smell of eggs frying and grease engulfed me as I walked into the restaurant on a typically overcast Seattle day. Aside from a lone patron sitting at the counter, the greasy spoon was completely deserted except for the large round booth at the back of the room. The overlapping conversations and raucous laughter that met me sounded like any group of twenty-something friends having breakfast after a night of partying. But as soon as I rounded the corner and the twenty-somethings came into view, it was clear this was not a generic cast of "Reality Bites" waiting for me. Seven people were crammed into the booth like sardines. But when they saw me, I was grabbed by the wrist and pulled into a section of the seating that had been non-existent just seconds before. As menus were passed around and orders were debated, I got my first good look at EverClear.
Three giant hulking men filled the bulk of the booth, each sporting very long hair and sleeves of tattoos. The co-founder of EverClear and the band's bassist carried off elbow length dreadlocks as easily as most people wear tee shirts. The frighteningly large drummer and the lanky lead guitarist would be every bit as comfortable at a Hell's Angel's rally as sitting in this diner but are both exceptionally jovial and talkative people. Another man, slightly older and heavier than the three musicians continuously pushed at the black framed glasses that slipped down the bridge of his nose as he listened to the chatter around the circle. This is the soundman and production coordinator for the band. I learned during the course of the three hours I spent in their company that he has been with the band since their second show and is as much a part of the EverClear dynamic as anyone.
Now, notice, oh faithful readers, that I have yet to use the first name of a single person in the band. That is not an oversight or the result of a particularly bad hangover on my part. By design, the band, while very friendly and open, does not allow their names to be published in any interview. The official word on this it that EverClear is a single unit and not centered on any one member. And while the cohesiveness and closeness of this band is astounding and highly unique in an industry filled with egos the size of arenas, an hour into the interview, I realize that was not the only reason for the lack of names. But I'll get to that in a minute.
So back to first impressions. Aside from the four men with all the hair and piercings, there was a fifth man at the table with us. Significantly older than anyone else, I was introduced to the band's stylist. Graying hair cut into a severe military flattop and dressed like Versace on acid, after five minutes of conversation you get the distinct impression that in addition to dressing the band, he also acts as warden, priest, conspirator and mother hen as well. Every question I had regarding scheduling or personal habits of the band (you know…who drinks, who smokes, whose in a relationship), this was the man with the answers. Or lack of answers as far as the relationship question went.
Seated between myself and the stylist was a tiny little woman with jet black hair tipped at the ends with blood red. The band's keyboardist and backing vocalist might be five feet tall and one hundred pounds soaking wet. But make no mistake; this is not a woman with whom to tangle. A confidence that rivals her male band mates radiates off the small figure in waves. She is every bit as tough as the guys…right down to the arm full of tattoos. And the deep voice that is so out of place with her diminutive frame hints at a powerful vocal range.
This brings me to the last person seated in the round leather booth. I'd nearly missed her when I sat down. Nestled between the band's guitarist and bassist was the lead singer. Startlingly beautiful, the ghost-like figure watched everything going on around her with acuity but never joined in the boisterous conversations. The longer I looked at her, the more phantomish she seemed. A curtain of deep brown hair hangs almost to her waist and is frequently used as a shield against the outside world. There is a concerning quality to the paleness of her skin and the deep rings beneath eyes that seem much older than her almost twenty-one years. These are eyes that have not known a peaceful night sleep in years. These are eyes that seem wise and naive at the same time. But above all, these are eyes that know pain at its deepest, most raw level.
She's dressed in a thread-bare brown sweater that looks as if it's swallowing her whole. I'm told that she's several inches taller than the other woman at our table but she seems much smaller and frailer. The band treats her very differently as well. There is a very real sense of protectiveness that radiates from them, as if any of the six people seated with her would rip your throat out if you so much as raised your voice to her. It's rather strange to find that after half an hour with her, I find myself feeling the same way about the woman whose voice is so soft when she speaks that I have to strain to hear her. I've never known myself t react to a woman so instantly and I get the feeling that this "sheltering" is a very large part of the dynamic that makes this band so unique. I also realized as I got to know them all, that the anonymity the band insists on was in part due to this gorgeous little thing with the somber expression. Whatever horrendous things lie in her past, her music is how she copes with and hides from them. The ambiguity of her identity is how she has lost herself from whatever, or more probable given the lyrics of her songs, whoever, it is that wounded her enough to write such tragically beautiful lyrics.
But I will admit readers, that as much as I liked this band, I could not picture them as a heavy metal act. Particularly given the lead singer's painfully shy personality. I learn over breakfast that the girl with the doe eyes is also the band's piano player. She and the bassist wrote the entire album together using nothing more than a dilapidated upright piano and an acoustic guitar. This news is even more amazing when I learned of the background of these two very different but equally passionate composers.
The bass player is a classically trained guitarist that has been playing in one form or another since he was in grade school and walked away from a place at Julliard in order to pursue his passion. But he readily admits that writing is a struggle for him. Now check this out…our fair maiden is the exact opposite. She has only been playing the piano for about three years and had never sung a note until just under two years ago. She essentially taught herself how to play and plays solely by ear. She is a musical infant. Yet she "hears" each song and according to her band mates, simply lets them flow out of her. The combination of and cooperation between theses two is, by all accounts, magical.
But as I've told you, I had no idea what the music actually sounded like. I was much more curious as to their sound after the time I'd spent with them but even as I drove home. I resisted the urge to listen to the CD that I'd been provided by my editor. I decided to instead let myself fully experience EverClear in their self proclaimed "home" onstage. So I spent the afternoon readying myself for a first date with the blonde from the evening before and writing out the details from my interview notes.
The club was packed when we arrived and picked up my press credentials. A very quiet man lead my date and I to a corded off section for the show. As we walked up the stairs, the young man told us he hoped we didn't mind but we would be sitting with James and Lars, who had already arrived. They were apparently there to watch the show as an audition of sorts. Shrugging and not really understanding, I opened the door and guided my date into the private box on the right side of the stage.
I knew I had made a grave mistake in my underestimation of EverClear when I came face to face with none other than James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Yes, Metallica's very own were the special guests of the evening that my date and I would share the booth with and the "audition" was for the opening act spot on the West coast leg of their upcoming tour.
Before I could do much more than retrieve my jaw from the ground and introduce myself and my date, the lights went out and show began.
What I heard and saw was single handedly the most amazing performance I have seen in my entire career as a journalist in the music industry. The shockingly poignant lyrics I'd read earlier in the day came to life in the hands of the band. The fire that each one played with was nothing short of combustible. The sound is heavy and break-necked paced but fits the mood of each song to perfection.
It's almost as if EverClear has a split personality. The fun and jovial people I had met in that diner were replaced with hard core, head banging thrashers. And the shy quiet girl from this morning? All but gone. In her place is a siren whose voice has more power and raw emotion than any female currently in the music business. She absolutely dominates the room with her every word and every toss of that mane of hair. From the first notes that rang through the darkened room to the last wail as the show closed an hour and a half later, I was completely enraptured with this band and their music.
Songs like "Whisper" and "Imaginary" paint vivid pictures of a place that is known only to the musicians, while "Going Under" and "Haunted" are thunderous driving homages to some unknown person. There are duets between the two founding members of the band that defy anything else in the music industry. The gravely deep voice of the bass player and the soaring lilt of the tiny girl blend into a powerfully moving tone that begs to be sung along with. It is only a matter of time before their shared voices are heard from coast to coast on every radio station in the country. Mark my words, readers, "Bring Me to Life" or "Broken" will be at the very top of the charts soon. But as quickly as they can bring an audience to their feet and make them willingly give themselves whiplash, they can just as quickly make that same audience want to hang their heads or late-night dial their exes. "Hello" is a somber depressing song that will stay with a listener long after the show is over. But the band's masterpiece and the center of the show is without a doubt a song called "My Immortal".
If you've ever been in love or ever had your heart broken, this song will bring tears to your eyes. A single spotlight shines down on the jet black piano for the majority of the song, highlighting the incredible beauty of the singer as the song is performed. You don't have to be on the front row to know that she cries throughout the song. It's evident in her voice as she rises to a climax that not only makes you wish you'd been a better boyfriend or girlfriend but also brings the rest of the band in for the closing. The effect is phenomenal.
By the time the band left the stage and the lights in the club came up, three things had happened. I'd lost out on any chance I had at a second date with my blonde because I'd virtually ignored her the entirety of the show, EverClear had landed the spot on Metallica's tour and I had become an EverClear groupie. These are the kinds of musicians that change the face of music. And one day, a very long time from now, I have no doubt I will watch as they are inducted into the Music Hall of Fame and tell my grandkids that I got to see them when they were just a struggling act. Yes, they are that good. Yes, the album is that good. And no, they still won't let me publish their names, even after I've blathered all over myself about them.
Watch the charts, dear readers. Seattle's newest reluctant rock stars are going to be on the rise very soon.
With a smile, I closed the pages of the magazine and tucked it away, beneath the blankets that surrounded me. If the reporter's words were any indication, I was not the only one that was blown away with this band. I spun the wheel of the Ipod and set the device to repeat the album. I shoved the small speakers back into my ears and closed my eyes as I leaned my head back against the wall. When the first notes blared into my ears, I smiled. More widely and more genuinely than I had in three years. The comfort I felt at the memories that demanded entry into my consciousness as I listened to the songs was both welcome and strange. But as the notes poured out and that amazing voice filled my thoughts, I realized that I'd found a way to enable my memories to surround me without turning me into stone.
I was, now and forever, EverClear's number one groupie.
Chapter Notes: You guys know what makes me purr. Let me hear what you all think about the return of everyone's favorite band and any suggestions you have for the next 2 one-shots.
Love you guys,