To the Paris of our dreams by Tomas Goncalves

Show me how to live.

Show me how to live, I beg you. Nothing of what they told us served us right until today. They give us life and then throw us in the world without being sure of anything.
To the Paris of our dreams
To the Paris of our dreams by Tomas Goncalves
How are we thrown in this world? Naked, in the middle of noise or among love. But always naked, feeling cold, in pain, scared... Sometimes it comes to me, as if I'm awakening, the deep doubt of how I got to where I am. Which decisions I took brought me to that place? Sometimes they are so many that it could be resumed as your destiny. So I guess we're just thrown into a place and we just need to react and accept this condition about life. Each individual’s life can affect any decision and vice-versa, and at the same time, it doesn't seem to affect anything, anymore. Your life seems not to be your own right anymore... Truth is, I fought for a lot of things. I've lost some, I gave up, I made mistakes, I created some good things, and I experienced and witnessed some others. But don't be fooled: this particular story doesn’t start with me. I just want you to remember to look at what we've become, knowing who we were. We fought for dreams, and winning or losing, it doesn’t matter. Hatred corrupted us, as well as fear. Alcohol intoxicated us, but what really matters is that somehow our story will never end or be forgotten, because we became eternal songs, as we fight our way back to life... It's up to each one of us to fight for our own life. To each one to fight for their goals. To not be forgotten. I accomplished so much winning; I learned so much by losing... We wake up without a good notion of what's real, what's possible, predictable and truly beautiful, and I wasn't there from the beginning, but I assure you it was real. It was tragic, painful, hard, lonely and truly beautiful. And we were there. It was real. I was also thrown into this life, and looking back, we can always understand certain things and connections. Some consequences. Dream. Dreams. Paris. You'll also be thrown in the middle of this crazy story and it would be up to you to judge us, understand us, even to accept and forgive us, if necessary. Did we create anything? Were we conscious at the time? I'm not sure. I know we lived, and I know we are more than grateful. We are proud and we'll remember that forever. The important thing is that we were alive. Or maybe not, I can't recall. That's how life goes... To be honest, I believe we were actually getting born. Show us how to live, that's all we ask. We'll follow in the best way we can. “To the Paris of our dreams” It could be said that this party had gotten out of control, but the truth is, for these types of people, it was only getting started. What could have Marie done? Honestly, not much. The number of people had decreased while the consumption of alcohol and drugs increased, and it was still quite early. Sophie was already very drunk and so were several people whom Eric didn't even know. The important thing is that his three bandmates were there, each one naturally with a hot girl. They were drinking, true, but they weren't drunk. They were actually in the sober area of the party that time, which was a miracle. There were several couples making out around the living room and every imaginable place around the house and the gardens. Luckily for them, it was a huge place. There were people everywhere: Some already laying down on the couches, someone having `not a very good time` in one of the bathrooms, some misplaced furniture, empty bottles, broken glasses and people drunkenly dancing with no kind of beauty about it to the incredibly loud music. Eric had learned how to see beauty in that years ago. Marie clearly wasn't enjoying the mess people were making in her aunt's house, but she never seemed uncomfortable or surprised: She knew how it goes. Marie and Eric were trying to go to one of the bedrooms for some more privacy, but the only thing they found was a couple having sex. So they tried another room, but as soon as they started to make out again, they were bothered by knocks at the door and people laughing. People knocked again, and laughed, and screamed obscenities, as if it was the funniest thing in the universe. Eric simply opened the door, stared at them, and the crowd quickly dissipated, afraid of him. As soon as Eric and Marie had taken off their shirts (and God how happy he was when he finally took her shirt off) Fernando appeared, holding Sophie in his arms, completely drunk. He dumped her onto the bed -- the bed where Eric had been imagining all the nice things he'd soon be doing. Sophie was a mess: She was complaining about everything and only stopped to run to the bathroom to puke. Eric tried to keep cool, as he quietly put his shirt back on, trying to maintain his patience with the ridiculous situation he had no idea how he had gotten himself into. Once she got near the bed again, Marie sat beside Sophie, while Eric and Fernando sat against the wall in front of them. Sophie was now drunkenly laughing, go figure. She was saying random, disconnected things, and laughing. They all listened to her garbled words sympathetically - except for Eric. Marie's face even looked like she was in pain with her friend, which was not something Eric would expect – after all, she was just drunk. Maybe she should feel pain for the people who had to be around that pretentious, annoying girl, Eric thought. Eric just wanted to have sex with Marie, by far one of the most gorgeous girls he had ever seen, and walk away. That's why he was still in that room. A few moments later, Sophie started to cry. A lot. Probably for some guy or for low self-esteem. Eric and Fernando looked at each other and took deep breaths, Fernando even rolling his eyes to that story, in a gesture of pure masculine complicity. They actually didn't know each other. Eric didn't even know Fernando's name at that point, because he just didn't care. So yeah, back to Sophie, it was about a guy. She started talking about him while crying at the same time, creating a very pathetic scene, in her garbled words, sobbing like a baby, she said she hadn't forgotten him even though he was a jerk. She still wanted him and didn't care about humiliating herself for him...again. (“Oh, that's promising” Eric thought). Eventually she reached the phase of trying to get her phone and call people (or the guy) but was promptly stopped by Marie, who actually gave her shit about not humiliating herself for him. Surprisingly, Sophie spit very poisonous words at her caring friend even before Marie was done talking: - Yeah right, as you don't feel the same way about Filipe... The atmosphere of the room immediately got very very tense, as if Marie, Fernando and even Sophie had held their breath in the second Sophie said that. Marie quickly left the room, hurt, after swearing to Sophie a couple of times. Fernando stayed in the room, looked at Eric, and tried giving him a brilliant piece of advice: - If I were you, I'd go after Marie, man... Eric once again took a deep breath, trying to stay cool about it. But he was getting really tired of that shit. As he started to walk towards the door, Fernando asked him what he should do about Sophie. - … Give her water, a lot of water, but only when she stops running to the toilet. Then try coffee. If she gets worse, call Marie... Good luck. Fernando agreed with everything. Eric went after Marie and found her on the first floor, drinking by herself in the kitchen. At that moment a guy was walking towards Marie with the cockiest pose possible, to what she just said: - Nah, nah, keep walking – And pointed to the other direction - What? - The guy didn't understand how she was rejecting him like that - You heard her, bro – Eric said, as he not so gently pushed the guy away from the kitchen Marie looked at Eric and just gave him a quick smirk as she kept drinking. - Hey... - Just acknowledging his presence Eric just gave her a quick smile. Marie put her glass down and said: - I'm sorry about all of that. I guess your night hasn't been that fun, Hun? - Oh no...You'd be surprise – Eric smiled, Marie looked at him to see if he was being ironic or not. She eventually smiled too. - Great. I told Tom I'd give you a hand here, and you're the one helping me taking care of my drunk stupid friend... - Oh, Don't worry... I won't tell him – Eric smiled Marie smiled again, and nodded. She was smiling. God, she was gorgeous. She drank some more, and finally asked, frustrated: -You know what time is it? -No idea... Marie smiled - It's midnight, buddy. And she's already passed out drunk upstairs, because of a jerk that doesn't deserve her. And you know the worst part? It's the same shit almost every weekend. Sometimes even during the week, and that's alwaaays fun. Right? - ...You know what? Forget them... – Eric talking about everyone in that party – Get the wine and let's go outside, Hun? She shrugged her shoulders and did what she was told to. They left the kitchen, passed through the living room, where it was packed with people, and they ended up sitting beside the pool, away from the noise and those weird people. They spent some time there, talking about silly things, though in a very sincere and touching way. It's also for this kind of moments that we live. As it started to get cold, Eric grabbed a jacket for Marie. After a while, a guy sat near them, looking at the moon, and smiling with an unmistakable facial expression: He was totally tripping. Never mind, they let him be by himself. They kept looking at the water and its green-ish color, with all the lights reflecting on it, which was creating a very nice atmosphere, with the big yard surrounding them, and the comfortable chairs nearby. It was a really nice house. It was some really nice company. They kept talking for what it seemed to be an eternity, with both laughing at some points, until a miracle happened: Time started. Life started, and Eric took a nice deep breath in a way it has been ages he hadn't done it. He felt alive. Somehow, he felt connected to that girl. After all, he was in Paris once more, and only that already had so many different meanings for him. That girl ended up relaxing her head on Eric's shoulder, and basically laid down on him. Her red hair was incredibly good smelling and Eric really felt good about having that girl on his arms. A girl he barely knew. - Wow, you know you can relax, right? Come on, this chair is all comfy, man– She smiled at him Eric smiled, thought for a while, and finally relaxed his own head on Marie's body and on the (indeed) very comfortable chair. He was not used to that. - Isn't that better? Hun? - She smiled at him He just smiled at her, nodding his head. A few minutes later, they decided to go sit beside the pool again, with their feet in the heated water. - So, how are you enjoying Paris so far? - She asked - Oh, I love it here... - Really? That's great to hear. First time? I guess not, right? - Yeah, not at all... But I always enjoy coming here. - Cool, cool. And where are you from again? - Hmm... Where I live you mean? Technically, San Francisco. - Cool, never been there, but I heard it's nice... - Yeah... - Is that the first time I ask you this? - She smiled - Hmm, where I am from? No, you asked me that like twice before. You always think I'm from Montreal because... - … of Tom, right right. - She smiled - Yeah... and maybe because I might have a slight Quebecois accent when I speak French – He smirked at her - Ha, yeah... maybe. But not actually... So you learnt French in Montreal? - Yeah, but a lot here too actually... I'm used to come to France a lot. - Nice... So I suppose you've met Tom when you were living in Montreal? - Not really, I started to go more often to Montreal because of Tom, and eventually I think I've spent...Hun... I guess it was around three months living there, and I really studied French then. But at that point I already knew Tom... - Ah, ok - What about you? How did you meet him? - Hmm... My older sister is a close friend with Katherine... So one of the last times they were here together, I became really close with Tom. But that was a couple of years ago already. Maybe more. Do you know Katherine, by the way? - Oh yeah... I know her. - Eric smirked - Ha … What was that smirk for? - Oh nothing... Well, I mean, Katherine is something... special, let's face it. - Yeah but... Hey! You never told me how you've met Tom in the first place. Then you can explain to me what you meant about Katherine... - She smiled - Hmm... Well, is a work related thing as you probably already realized, right? He was one of the responsible for my band's debut... Or the main responsible I'd say. I guess I owe him a lot... And he turned out to be a great friend along these last years. - Oh I see … Yeah, he's such a nice guy. - Yeah… So, you were telling me this is your aunt's house? - Yeah... Yeah it is... - That's a friggin nice house... - Yeah, I know... - She smiled in a very gracious way. - … Wow, you really really like your aunt Hun? She smiled at him - Wow... is that obvious Hun? - Yeah... Pretty much. - Yeah.... I guess she's like … my favorite person in the world. There are some people that just stick with you, you know. Help you realize who you are, and support you and... Well, I guess… yeah. I can put this way. And she's so much fun too.... And... Well, fun is something that lacks in my family sometimes, you know? So we have always been really close... - Hmmm … I see - What I mean is... - She smiled - Tom is one of those people, for example. He sees the best on people. And he was like... an angel to me, because I've met him in a very confusing moment in my life, and he helped me to realize a lot... about who I am, and who I want to become. And when I shared all of that with my aunt... I knew she would understand. And she did...And so much changed since then.... - ...You're happier – He was looking at her - Yeah... - She nodded and smiled - But not quite there yet... - Yeah... I guess. Well, as my so-good-drunk-friend probably made you realized, there were some bumps on the road since then. I guess there's still a couple – Then she looked at the house. Eric for the first time that night got certain, because before was only a doubt, that she just wasn't enjoying at all having all those people in her aunt's house. - I see... Well, I wish you luck on that. - “Thanks”- And... Yeah. So – He cleared his throat - When did you start listening to our music? - Hmm... I don't know, all my friends are pretty much your fans. But I can proudly say I listen to you way before them – She laughed, as if it was the coolest joke ever – … Tom always recommended your material to me... Maybe even before that I already knew your band. Yeah, I don't remember quite well. I think I got pretty impressed when Tom told me he knew you... or maybe it was after.... Dude, I'm sorry, I really don't remember – They sort of laughed. - I see... You know, it's like the tenth time I come to Paris after meeting Tom, I wonder why he never introduced us before.... - Hmm.... good question. Well, I guess it must be weird for someone to try and introduce their two best friends, with an ocean between them Hun? And you know how Tom is... And I guess... Maybe he thought we were in two waay different moments in our lives. I know I was... I mean, from everyone else I knew... - Yeah, true that.... So I think I didn't ask you before, how did you like my concert? - Oh, that was amazing. Seriously. You guys really make the crowd go crazy, Hun? He smiled - I guess we try... - Man, that must be so cool. Being on a stage like that.... Travelling around, partying around. - She paused – Then having to take care of the drunk friend of a friend of a friend from across the globe. - She smiled – Best three days in Paris, ever, Hun? - Not bad, not bad …. At least I have a good story to tell. They're important too, you know... - Right... Happy to know – She smirked - What about you? Having fun? - Eric was truly interested in knowing that. - Yeah... - She wasn't convincing - Hmm... Away from … - He meant the noise in the house - Oh... Yeah. It gets a bit overwhelming sometimes... - So... here, right now, at least, a bit of a good time? - He smiled - Yeah - Cool, so my mission here is complete She smiled. He kissed her. They stayed in silence for a moment. - Don't you love these light reflections in the water? - She eventually asked. - Yeah, it creates a really nice atmosphere here. - Yeah … Wow, look at the moon So they started looking at the moon, probably not with that many lights and forms as the guy that was near them before, but they were also smiling in an unmistakable way. They kissed some more for a while, and then the conversation got lighter, helping Marie to forget the mess that was happening inside her aunt's house. Marie ended up showing herself as a very cool and affectionate girl, with a gracious smile, and Eric was having a really good time with her. “Tom's best friend was definitely something special…”- Eric would think later on. Even without realizing it, they were both very much present in that moment, not wishing to be anywhere else in the world. They were finally in a place that was giving them some peace of mind. But only the place. Minutes later, Fernando found them by the side of the pool and sort of killed the magical moment, saying that Sophie hadn't got better, and that she had got out of the room and went back to the party. Eric noticed that even though there were many people that apparently Marie and her friends knew at that party, only the three of them were actually looking after her. To be fair though, at that point in the party no one else was in condition to look after anyone. Why Eric was still there? When they finally found Sophie again, she basically hugged Marie and tried to say a thousand things at once, which didn't make sense at all, but the essence is that she was sorry for what she had said. - Oh Marie...I’m so sorry for what I said before – Yeah, she'd become the depressive drunk. - No problem, Sophie... - You know I love you, right? Fuck, the “I love you- type” of drunk, at least now she was back in the room. - Yeah Sophie, I know... She suddenly got very very sad and looked down to the ground. - You know how it goes... We think its water, and it isn't... - And then she started to laugh - Ah... Shut the fuck up Sophie. - Ah... - I'm serious, shut up. Now you'll try to sleep, all right? -...Ok...It’s just cuz the room is kind if spinning and...And – She never finished the sentence. She ran to the toilet, and I'll leave the sounds up to your imagination. - Did she drink any water? Fernando nodded. - How many times did she puke already? - Like...three, before this one. I don't know how she can still do it... - Ok, just pray that she won't be puking anymore. - I’m gonna go check on her... - Ok. - I’m gonna go grab some more water – Fernando - Ok, try to get a chocolate or something. I think I saw some in the kitchen before. Fernando went to pick those things up and Eric stayed alone in the room listening to Marie and Sophie in the bathroom. - Hey... I saw you guys kissing. - Uaau, really? - Marie was very unimpressed - Isn`t he awesome? Isn`t all of this awesome? My friend making out with a rock star - Yeap, soo awesome indeed – She was being sarcastic, referring to the whole situation of them basically squatting by the toilet with one of them pucking her soul out. - But... What about Filipe, Marie? Marie didn't answer. She would feel hurt every time she heard that name. One time it was her who was crying on Sophie's lap for Filipe, and now she wouldn't let her forget him, when it was the only thing she really wanted to do: forget. The fact that Sophie and Filipe were pretty close probably didn't help the situation. Marie realized Eric was probably able to hear their conversation and so she didn't say anything more revealing or that could possibly push him away. She helped her friend go lay down in bed and as Sophie kept crying, talking and complaining. Eric gently turned off all the excess of lights in the room, and just let one side bed light on. Not that he cared, though. He definitely wasn't doing that for Sophie. - Hey, I'm gonna go talk to my friends downstairs, ok? I'll give you girls some time alone... - Sure, sure... don't worry. He went downstairs, and actually felt annoyed by the packed living room. It was not that late and he knew that that would go on for a good while. His friends, unbelievably, were the best behaved people in that party, in a separated room, near the gardens, playing pool and drinking by themselves with a some hot girls with whom they were 'socializing' with since after the concert. - Eric! You're aliive! How dare you to abandon your stupid friends to the French people? - Mike was smiling, referring to the fact that only Eric knew how to speak French in their group. - Hey... Yeah, sorry. I was kinda busy taking care of a drunkie teenager. - Oh that's sick man, you shouldn't abuse these innocent girls while they're drunk...- Liam being ironic. - Nah, he's still with that redhead, Hun, Eric? - Uau... seriously? - I know right... They laughed and “congratulated” him for the accomplishment. - I told you he would be faster than Mike, Jack. You owe me like two hundred bucks now. Eric smiled - Hey dude, half of it is mine. That was the deal... They laughed. - Nah, you already got that beauty, the money is mine. - ...Ok The group kept talking about Marie and insisting on trying to make Eric feel uncomfortable, and somehow it was pretty funny because all of them were 'socializing' with different girls in that present moment. I guess none of them meant anything and they were all ok with that. They ended up changing subjects several times and talking a lot of bullshit. It's not as if Eric was feeling eager to get back into the bedroom to take care of a drunkie that he actually never liked it in the first place, after all – Even if that would decrease his chances of getting laid that night. Marie eventually joined them there. As she walked into the room, she smiled at everyone and just put her arms around Eric, as she was saying hi to everyone else. She privately said to Eric: - She's out – And smiled at him. Eric nodded and gave her a quick smile. He didn't care. He got a bit happy though, when he realized that now Marie seemed to be having a better time. Eric and Marie got into the pool 'championship' that would take a couple of hours to finish. Someone brought more food and drinks so they didn't have to keep going inside the house, and during the whole night, Mike and Jack won by far. When they finally got fed up with that game, they actually got some instruments they had there and they started to play some music, with the band playing and the girls – and a couple of random guys – watching. After that, people clearly started to get a bit tired: people were starting to leave, the alcohol started to affect even Marie who practically didn't drink anything – But apparently was pretty weak for alcohol, and really cute being tipsy. It was passed three in the morning when the house started to get quiet, because even though it was 'early', they practically kicked everyone out – They had just about enough of these people; Eric had done this for Marie. They all helped to clean the house a bit, which wasn't easy and fast as they thought it would be, because no one was pleased with the idea of doing this at the time of night – It was definitely an exception for Marie, who everyone knew was very close to Tom, and all of Eric's bandmates held Tom in great deed too - When they were finished, the guys from the band just left with some girls to go to the hotel where they were staying and Eric decided he would stay with Marie because...Well, go figure. In any case, he felt like he would have a better time staying with Marie then going back to that hotel room by himself. At five, they were laying down, and Marie went to sleep in Eric's arms. And nothing more happened. Marie was clearly feeling bad in anticipation for her friend's hangover. As he was laying there, Eric had a sudden and pretty clear plan for the next day, and he really thought Marie would enjoy coming along with him: London. It’s funny how sometimes plans are made so suddenly and work out so well. Even though having that whole undeniable attraction to Paris, Eric had a need in his stomach for movement. After all, they've been in Paris for... longer than what they usually stay in a city, anyways. He could've stayed a couple of days more to enjoy Paris with Marie, but the truth is, Lucy, an old friend from London, was insisting for a while now to go meet with her. She had this party planned for her birthday, which apparently was going to be unforgettable. So just like that, changing all his plans, he fell the need to pack and just go to London have some fun, maybe just for the pleasure of being able to do it. At that point though, he actually wanted Marie to go with him, and couldn't understand why. Maybe it was for the sex – which they still hadn't done – maybe because he did like her company and the way she was connected to his life. After all, in today's society, good company is worth their weight in gold. Marie woke up and notice that Eric wasn't beside her anymore, so after brushing her teeth and washing her face, trying to wake up, she went to check on Sophie. She was still completely passed out, with her make up all over the sheets and pillow. Marie went back to the room to see if Eric had come back by any chance, and for a second she thought he had just left. After wandering around the house for a bit, she found him sitting beside the pool, lost in his thoughts, with his feet in the water. - Morning - ...Hey Marie - Did you sleep well? - Not really, you? - Kinda, yeah... Has it been long since you're awake? He shrugged his shoulders and then gave her a quick smile - Hmm. - So... What were you doing? - Marie asked - Hmm... I got hungry, then I checked a couple of things like my e-mail and stuff... then it seemed like a good idea to come and sit by the pool ten minutes ago. - Hmm...Cool. Well, I checked on Sophie again, she's still completely passed out. - Yeah, she'll be very peaceful until she wakes up. Marie smiled and nodded. - Do you want me to make you some breakfast? - Eric asked, and she actually got surprised with the offer, but was able to joke about it. - Full Brunch then? Eric smiled - Sure... Before standing up, Eric splashed Marie with water, and she tried to run away from it. They laughed and then went to the kitchen. Eric then started to prepare a real banquet. If it wasn't for the noise they were creating while having fun or perhaps because of the smell of the delicious food, Fernando and Cécile; friends that had stayed the night, wouldn't have come downstairs. - Morning - Morning... - Uau, that's a lot of food... - Yeaah...and hey, that tastes delicious, thanks Eric – Cecile grabbed a bite of something before it was ready and smiled. - Thanks Cécile During the brunch, they started talking about the party from the night before, with everything that happened between everyone. Eric had no idea who they were talking about. Apparently a lot of drama happened during the party, and Cécile and even Fernando were very excited to share it. Eric did notice however, that Marie was trying to look interested in that conversation. When the conversation got lighter and less about gossip, it actually became quite a funny talk, and everyone was laughing a lot. Eric and Marie were still enjoying the weird intimacy that they had acquired in the last couple of days, and as they were eating some more, talking some more, even washing the dishes and finishing the cleaning of the house, they had a lot a fun together. They ended up going to the side of the pool again because it was a really nice day. Marie lent her laptop to Eric so he could check his stuff online in a proper way. It was all sunny, funny and light until Sophie appeared, mute and completely pale. Probably dizzy, sore and with the sickness and suicidal feeling that the majority of us get pretty used to at some point in life. Nothing very pleasant. To make the situation worse, her hair was a complete mess, she had huge black circles under her eyes and leftover makeup smeared on her face that had survived her tears and night of sleep. She stunk of alcohol, cigarettes, pot and vomit. She slowly sat near them, with her eyes barely opened because of the sun. Silence reigned, with shy awkward looks being exchange between them, because no one wanted to be the first to say a word to her. So they all talked in the same second. - Hey, I'll go grab some sunglasses for you... - And I'll go get some water and aspirin... - Yeah, in a sec... So just like that Eric and Sophie were alone in the same space, and they actually didn't want to look or talk to each other, especially Eric who had no idea what to say, because from personal experience he knew there was nothing worth to hearing in this situation. But hey, she was younger. - You know, you should stay inside the house and try to get some more rest in the shade... Sophie shrugged her shoulders, completely ignoring what Eric had just said. She lighted a cigarette. There you go, Eric had tried some contact and had received the answer he would have given if someone had did the same to him. That was it, he tried to be nice and it didn't work. So he just focused again on the laptop and on what he was doing. He didn't remember Tom saying anything about that piece of human being, anyways. Tom actually had told him to get Marie away from some of her friends. She was probably one of them, Eric thought. She definitely should be one of them. Eric could not imagine Tom liking that girl. One by one, the other three came back with the things they had promised, including a bit of food, and no one was very excited to speak anymore until the hangover herself said: - So... what's up for today? Silence - Hmm...Nothing - Yeah, nothing... - Actually, yeah, I have something to say... - Eric They all looked at Eric, and he just kept staring them back at them for a second. Out of nowhere he realized he barely knew these people. But that's what his life had become. - ? - Hmm...I was just wondering if you guys would like to go to London this weekend. I have a pretty nice party I have to go to that apparently is going to be awesome. They got surprised. - Do what? - Yeah, you know, we could have some fun, go to the movies, shop a little bit, and go to a musical or something like that. I have this friend that is having her birthday party and it'll be big... - Ahnn, I don't think so. My parents would kill me if I ever did something like that... - Oh come on, it's not a big deal at all. How old are you again? - Nineteen... - Well, I'm twenty... - So, what’s the big deal? - Eric said No one answered. They were all very afraid of saying something, but after a second it got obvious they'd like to go. - We can go to London, Piccadilly Circus, walk around, and have some dinner… We have this party, then we go to the hotel and the next day we'll see what we can do. Sunday night you guys will be home... You know how British people like to party... - I have school Monday morning... - So what, it's barely Saturday yet – Eric smiled Marie graciously smiled, as she couldn't quite believe they were doing that. She got really excited about the idea. - Well, you guys can think for a bit, I'll call my friends, and get everything ready to go to London... Jeez, guys, its London, not far at all... - Don't you have any more commitments here? Eric smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Richard, his manager, would be furious, he knew that. But he knew his schedule was pretty chill, because he had specifically said he wanted some time in Paris, months ago. It was the good thing of having that band, they could easily go to London and meet him somewhere else in a couple of days. - No – He finally answered – I need to use your phone though. You guys have like three minutes to decide. Marie showed Eric where the phone was. He then got the small card from his wallet that had the hotel's phone number. - Room 809, please... Ok It rang a couple of times. - Ahn... hello? - Mike? - Eric? - Mike seemed to be dead - Dude, I'll be back at the hotel at midday. Don't be late, grab your stuffs for a couple of days, ok? - Hmm...What? ...wait what? I thought we were staying in Paris until Monday... Where are we going, Eric? - Well, Lucy has been pretty convincing about going to her party, and I figured out we could just go today and have some fun, you know.... Don't you think? - Hmm, sure sure... - He snoozed – Have you talked to Richard already? - Hmm.... You know how it goes. I told him that we might do that last week, but I don't think he's gonna be very happy anyways... They smiled. - Ok, well, can you do me a favor and call Lucy? - Eric - Yeah, yeah, no problem, I'll send her a message... - Mike - Midday, hun? - Alright mom...anything else? - Not actually. You guys have time to have a nice breakfast and call a cab. See if the girls want to come, the four from here are going too. - Hmm, ok ok... Sure. So I guess you liked the girl, Hun? - Yeah...she's nice. Silence - Michael? - What? - You're still not up - ... Ah, sorry mom. Next time call me fifteen minutes before to... Eric hang up on him, and smiled to himself. - Son of a bitch! When he got back to the pool, Marie had a big smile on her face. - All right-y boy, when are we leaving? Eric gave her a big smile. - You have some clothes here, don't you? - Pointing to the house. - Yeah, some... So Eric pushed Marie in the pool and Fernando pushed Cécile. Complicity between guys can be something priceless. They ended up also taking their clothes off and jumping in the pool on their underwear. They would have to dry them after, grab some clothes on Eric's hotel. It didn't matter: They were going to London. After everyone got out of their shower, and finished eating a bit more, Marie's aunt opened the front door and found almost all of them chilling in the living room. They were almost leaving, and she got them in the jump. She was kind of surprised to see people there, but surely happy. She probably thought her house would be clean and empty at that point. She was not older than thirty five years old, dark hair, green eyes, quite tall – Very, very beautiful, with a really nice physical appearance. She was very nice and open, but made everyone stop what they were doing to talk to her, and ask things, especially about the party, what they would be doing that day and so it went on. They tried to change the subject at some point, and she clearly noticed it, but then she recognized Eric and said: - Hey! I went to a concert of yours! Eric smiled. - Really? You liked it? Beatrice - Marie's aunt - smiled very gently - Of course, dear – Then she turned her head to Marie – Where are you guys going? - She asked once again. - London...? - Marie made a very funny face, as if she was a bit worried with her aunt's reaction. Beatrice barely had any reaction, she just kept smiling and said: - Oh cool, you guys have been smoking something - No, not actually... - Ah, ok, so why is it the first time you tell me about it? - Hmm...Because we kind of just decided it? - Seriously? Oh boy, that's spontaneous isn't it? - She had the biggest smile, surely making fun of them. - Yeah...I guess... - And your dad loooves spontaneity, doesn't he, Marie? - Beatrice smiled, but she was clearly being sarcastic. Marie just gave her a quick smile -Yeaaah... I was not planning on telling him that.... - Hmm I see... So you'd tell your dad you're with me...But would just tell me the whole thing when you'd be already in London? That's not very considerate, love – Eric smiled. Beatrice was actually a pretty cool woman - Hmm... Sorry? -...Hmmm.... For some reason they all looked at Eric, and Beatrice was sort of asking an explanation with her eyes Silence - So...? She has a class Monday morning... - Beatrice asked Eric - And I have a concert Tuesday night... In Berlin. - Hun, funny... You should have more things to tell me, Marie, no? - Clearly referring herself to Eric. - Sure, sorry. This is Eric. He's ... a friend. Tom's friend, Bea. She looked from Marie to Eric. - Sure, hey…friend... - With a very malicious smile she shook Eric's hand. The situation didn't look like it was getting better. - Well, everyone to the living room... I need some coffee - But Bea... - Marie, I'm sure that, unless you did smoke something, you indeed didn't and are not planning to tell your dad about London. So for me to be responsible for this, I'd like to first get to know your friend and your plans a bit better, ok? Sounds reasonable? - She smiled - Ok... They all went to the living room, sat down and just started to stare at Beatrice. - … How many people are going? Marie didn't know, so she just looked at Eric - Eleven, maybe twelve. Depends on Sophie disposition to go... - Hmm... People were getting discouraged as Beatrice kept asking why they were going, where they'd be staying and everything else. They didn't know. Eric and Beatrice were looking at each other, analyzing but also communicating to each other through their eyes. In a millisecond, Eric realized she would let them go. - Plane or tgv? – It was clear she was talking directly to Eric. - Yeah, tgv probably. Tomorrow, at ten, I promise they'll be back home. - Ok... Eric couldn't help but notice how similar Beatrice and Marie's eyes were. They all stood up at the same time, excited. - … But I'm going with you guys... They stopped, in shock, and looked at her. - Wait... What?? - I also have friends in London, you know? And it will be more convincing if I go. Your dad won't complain much about it. And I'll be there for you if you ever need me... Marie smiled to her aunt. - Give me an hour ok? Where should I meet you guys? (...) Eric went to his hotel to grab his passport, some clothes and everything else he thought it would be necessary for the weekend. He found his three friends practically ready in Mike's room, where he found out none of the girls would be going with them. They didn't even invite them, because they thought it would have more fun if they just went alone. Someone even said something about being tired of French chicks already. Eric would still have to let Richard know about their plan and then they'd head out to the train station. - So, yeah, we called Lucy, Eric. - Mike was playing some videogame - And? - She will be there once we get to London. At six something. She actually said she'll hang out with us before her party. - And oh yeah, Marie's aunt's is going with us at the train... - Eric had forgot to mention it - Ahn...sure, if you say so... - Mike looked at him for a second before turning his attention back to the videogame - Ok, let’s go then. I still have to talk to Richard - Fuck, he won’t be happy hearing about that. - Well, it's ok. It won't be a problem. - Right... That's what you say every single time - Ok, whatever... I'll meet you guys downstairs. I’m going with Eric to talk to Richard. - Oh... Thanks Mike - Nah, meet us here, I wanna keep playing it - Liam pointed at the TV. - Ok... When they left the room, Mike looked at Eric and asked: - How long? - We have fifteen minutes. So, ten, I guess? - I think we'll get out of there late - Fifty bucks on that? - Sure... They went to Richard's room, knocked at the door, but no answer. They went to the restaurant, but didn't find him. Eventually they asked in the reception if anyone could find him, and in a second they told them he was in an office room in a meeting. They found the room, knocked at the door and just said they needed a couple of minutes to talk. - What? I'm in a meeting – He said, closing the door behind him. - Sure, it won't take long. Remember how I told you about the Lucy situation in London? We decided to go, but don't worry, we'll be back tomorrow night... So basically that was it. He sighed - ... Let's talk. There’s another room here. Richard made them seat and was holding his weight on the table, in front of them. He wasn't even mad. He just took a deep breath and kept looking at them. Eric and Mike couldn't stop looking at the time - Wh...Why are you guys looking at the time? - We have a cab arriving in exactly three minutes. Richard look at one, and then to the other. - You guys are really going, aren’t you? - Yes - Yeap. He took another deep breath. He was not even going to get mad this time. - Look, I understand. You guys don't have to come back, I'll send to your e-mails the information about Berlin, you just have to get there alive on Monday, ok? Can you do for me? I'll give you the address and the time I need you guys there... - Ok. - Sure boss. - Not one minute late, got me? - Sure - Can we? - Yeah, get out of here before I regret letting you guys on your own. By the way, Eric, your parents are trying to get in touch with you... again. - Ah, ok... - And that was all that he said about it. When they left the room, Mike was probably going to say something about Eric's parents, but Eric quickly changed the subject, smiling maliciously and saying: - You owe me fifty bucks, bro. - Ahhh... Son of a bitch! They all met around one at the train station, and they were nine in total: Eric, Liam, Jack, Mike, Cécile, Fernando, Sophie (who was almost normal at this point) Marie and Beatrice. They grabbed a bite at the station while they were waiting for the train. Inside the train, they divided themselves in two tables to play something or just chill together. Poker was the first option because Eric and his band liked poker and gambling so much that they actually had a full and portable game to bring everywhere. Even on a train. Marie and Eric sat side by side and they were talking and joking around a lot, and it was clear that all the guys in the band loved her too. They were even kissing and everything in front of everyone as if they've been together for a long time. When they were talking, it seemed like they were very intimate, and even when it was clear that they barely knew each other, they were dealing with it in the funniest way possible. They were trying, and having a lot of fun together. At some point, almost everyone was playing poker, even Beatrice, who was an incredible and ruthless player. She made the guys back down several times, making them piss their pants. The whole trip just made Eric and Marie realize how much they had in common. In a relationship things like honesty, humor and trust are important, but that undeniable connection, that we don't actually know where it comes from sometimes, but which can change the world is something that always impresses me every time it happens. They were both throwing themselves in an abyss and falling and falling. Still they were there, and they weren't. They were enjoying it and at the same time they were getting terribly afraid. They were just having fun, but completely connected. They were afraid, but being pushed to each other, no doubt about it. They were being hunted by ghosts and they were terrified of the time. Is it sane to let yourself get attached to someone knowing that it will be over, certainly, in a few hours? Or maybe you do? In forty eight hours they were afraid of regretting it if they didn't let themselves enjoy the most of it... and also if they did let themselves do that. By knowing it would soon and certainly be over, knowing that that was out of their hands, it eventually became a relief: Deep down everyone is hunted by the fear and doubt of the end, and in that case, there wasn't much that could be done. London was completely different from Paris to Eric. He didn't have any intimacy with London. He already had visited it more times that he could remember, true, but it was just different. Paris was something that attracted and compelled his soul – Even though loving Paris was a cliché, and Eric hated clichés - London was just different: It was good to him too, way better than most American cities, and he also loved the parties and the people he knew there. But it was nothing compared to Paris, where he basically didn't know anyone, but where he had always felt a bit like … anything that could be called home at that point. As if Paris would always be there for him, somehow. When they arrived, Lucy, George and four other known faces from London were waiting for them at the train station. Lucy, by the way, was an old friend from San Francisco that moved to London, and she was responsible for all the people they knew in that city. Six more people, that'd mean fifteen in total, but Beatrice soon enough took a cab and went to have her own fun time in London, promising to meet them next day at the station. She actually made Marie and the people from Paris buy their train tickets back, as some kind of precaution. They went straight to the Piccadilly Circus, where they just wandered around, checking stores and to try out some clothes and accessories, in huge department stores, listening to music, eating and drinking. In this particular gallery they tried infinite clothes until they got completely fed up. Yellow and purple pants, flashy t-shirts and accessories – the more ridiculous, the better. They even went to this costume place for a while. They wouldn't actually buy anything though, which probably explained why they got eventually kicked out of most of the places they went to. In this small store they had sunglasses or regular glasses of the most diverse: small and round, big and squared, of different colors and shapes. Some of them actually bought some cheap glasses, colorful ones, which kind of became the trademark of that group: colorful, hippie-ish sunglasses. Some of them bought other things like necklaces, rings, piercings, earrings and they even did one awesome but very (very) quick visit to the Madame Tousseau. Eric and Marie actually bought the same ring, even though they had chosen it separately. They couldn't believe when they showed it to each other, laughing and joking around. It was already dark when they decided they had to go eat something again, and soon enough they decided to get in in the first restaurant they saw and ordered several huge pizzas, a lot of soft drinks and some beers. They ended up going to a pub, a very, very, very underground thing, where you're sure you can get some weird decease in the bathroom, and they were the only ones in that pub that weren't completely recognizable as hard time British lads. Didn't matter: That group got really close really quickly, and they were taking a lot of pictures together for future reference. Beatrice called Marie sometimes to check on her and Eric noticed that Marie was truly happy on being there with them, and he felt sincere happiness for that. Finally he was in a good company, he thought. Marie was feeling as if her life was receiving new air, being unpredictable, making her feel awake. She felt alive to be there, feeling that the boredom and pressure that was stuck with her and her friends somewhat have been completely put aside during those moments, and in its place she had jokes, laughter, kisses, good talk, stories and so many other things that are so important in our lives, that we need and miss so much, even though sometimes we don't realize it or take it for granted. As for Marie and Eric, they didn't want to be in any other place in the world rather than there, taking care of each other with some sort of beauty that could easily be mistaken with love. It didn't matter what they were thinking or wanting, but what they were feeling, which against some of people think, it's not at all up to us to decide, even in the most rational situation. It's the kind of feeling that we want so bad, and that we are always so afraid of feeling. Anyways: - Dude, I don't think I ever ate some much. And people say that English food is bad... - Well, let's just say that technically nothing that we ate today was real English food... They kept telling jokes and laughing with the infinity of bullshit that was in the air. - Hey guys, tomorrow I want to have my tourist day and go to the London Eye! Take some parliament pics, you know. Maybe call the Queen? See if she can receive us for a 5 o'clock tea? - Someone said. - Oh, what a cliché dude... Please stop with the Queen references... - What? - The whole Queen thing... I have to hear that every time a friend from out of town comes here. - Or family... - Yeah, even worse... Old uncle jokes... In the middle of all that mess and noise, Marie looked at Eric, both being at the center of the huge table they were at, with Eric's arms around her and she said to him, near his ear, with the biggest honesty in the world: - Thanks for dragging me here. Eric smiled, gave her a quick kiss and said, very discretely too: - You're welcome. Thanks for coming... Seriously. They looked each other in the eyes, then they smiled and kissed, but once again, as soon as they felt that weird bond between them, Marie tried to change the subject, smiling: - Soo, can you believe my aunt actually called me three times already since we got here? And all the texts too... Eric smiled - It's ok. She was awesome for letting you come here like this. And she became my idol when she actually decided to come along. That was so cool of her. Almost anyone...actually she's the first person I know that has that kind of reaction “Oh, you're going to London? Give me five minutes to pack and I'll go with you guys” That was amazing – They laughed - I know right. I absolutely love her. She's the coolest person ever. Completely different from my paren-... - She was cut off by someone yelling at Eric: - Ei! Eric... - Hey man, what's up? - What are we gonna do about the hotel? - I don't know. I think we have enough space to everyone, don't worry. We reserved like four or five huge rooms, if I'm not mistaken... - Sweet...It's just cuz I was thinking, you know.... - He left the rest unsaid, because it was obvious. - That's up to you, man – Liam smiled - Anyways guys, we’ll settle this at the hotel, I'm sure they will have a spare room if anything... - Lucy got into the matter. - Ah, so you guys decided to join us? - Sure, or you really want us to believe that you guys are going to sleep tonight? Eric smiled. Internal joke. If he had any luck, five or six hours of sleep. That was the essence. - Hey mate bring us another round here and then the check please. The waiter nodded and as soon as they drank what they had to drink and paid the bill, they had to call five cabs in a row to go to the hotel. Marie, visibly tired, went to a room with Sophie, Cécile and a girlfriend of Lucy: they would rest for a while. The rest of them were together in another room, and it was obvious that they needed more mattresses. Even more obvious the fact that the staff didn't like to see the mess that was being created and the extra work that they were being requested to do. But after talking to the manager, and after some very generous tips got distributed, they left the room almost happy. They kept drinking, watching TV, smoking shisha, cigarettes, some started to light some joints and... Just being very loud. In the girl’s room, a couple of them ended up taking a nap Eventually they were starting to get ready for the party: some people took showers, others slept for a bit or ate some more. Lucy and some of her friends actually left before everybody else. After all, it was her birthday party that had started a while ago. The rest of them stayed for an extra hour in the hotel and then they soon left to go to the party all at once. The party was at this big club downtown London and they actually had a couple of private tables reserved for Lucy's birthday, with tons of food and more drinks. It was one of those electronic music houses, with blue lights and lasers, and crazy people on acid, cocaine and everything else you can imagine. They were having so much fun at their tables, because in the rest of the club they were having to scream to try to understand each other because of the loud music. After a while chatting, they all just decided to go downstairs to dance among everyone and then the night was divided into moments they were completely lost from each other, so people could go “hunt” some “company” or times that they were again around their friends. Marie and Eric didn't talk much, they just went along with everyone else, dancing (jumping, mostly) and making out. When anyone would get tired of the loud music, they would go back upstairs, to talk to people (and there was a lot of very interesting people there, and a lot of pretentious pricks too) to eat and drink until they would, once again, go back downstairs to dance and jump around. That happened several times during the night. At some point, Lucy went onstage to talk to the DJ (she 'naturally' knew him) and the DJ ended up asking for people to scream loud for the birthday girl, as she chose one song to be put on. It was so much fun. Marie was having so much fun: Not because of the place, or the music, but because of the people. Mostly because of Eric. Sophie was not sharing that excitement though: She was sitting at one of the tables upstairs, barely talking to other people, mostly on her phone. Her bad mood had almost infected Fernando and Cecile, who were having a blast until then, had Eric not pushed Fernando at a girl, who just started kissing him, and so he was in heaven – He had probably never made out with such a hot girl before - and made sure Cecile was having a good time, having shots with her and Marie and anyone they knew who was around them at that time. Eric wanted to make sure Marie had a good time. And she did: dancing, drinking, laughing, moving around, meeting new people, singing. She had a blast. When they left the party, hours and hours later, they could barely speak. Sophie had long gone back to the hotel by herself because she was “tired”. Marie fell asleep on Eric's arms during the cab ride. She practically passed out in the bed once they got back to the room. Surprisingly, Eric felt somewhat happy because of that. Marie woke up the next morning really early and Eric was once again gone from his side of the bed. While she was getting out of bed, the world seemed to be the quietest she had ever seen. She actually tried to fall asleep again, because she was exhausted and she didn't know what to do, but then she realized she was completely awake at that point. She went to check the big room, and there was some people awake, sitting around the table, eating. She said hi to them, but she didn't see Eric there. - I didn't see him, Marie... - Oh, that's ok... - Sit here with us, soon enough he'll come around. Marie sat in the mattress on the floor beside Lucy. They were telling stories about San Francisco, and Eric name was mentioned in a couple of unreal stories. - … But you know what? I think he really likes you. So that's all that matters, right? - Lucy finally said to Marie - Why do you say that? - Well, I've never saw Eric Meirelles take a girl from one city to another. It's actually ironic, symbolic, I'd say. Usually he leaves them behind. Not that he cares, I guess.... Now, Mike is the opposite, he is kind of a super romantic guy, he always try to make it work when he falls in love with someone... which is quite often, and actually never worked out well... But … I don't know. Eric never actually gets together with people, right? - Hmm I see...Well, at least he has you guys. You really seem to care about him. - Of course. He's a good friend, and he has a good heart, even if he doesn't like to show it. And I guess we do owe him a lot... I do at least. Well, but that's not the point – Lucy smiled – Sorry, I'm really tired, my brain is really slow now... But you also seem to like him, am I wrong? Marie honestly didn't know how to answer that. - Yeah, I do. He is an amazing guy and the best company ever. Lucy seemed to analyze Marie for several seconds after she answer that, but she kept her conclusions to herself. Then the talk went to another subject and during ten minutes, Marie actually felt like belonging to that group, even participating in the conversation, especially when they started talking about how they've met each other, how they've met Eric, Tom, Katherine and a couple of other people that apparently they had in common in life At one point, Marie got the sudden feeling that she should go look for Eric. And it came very strong, almost as a mother's intuition. - Where do you think I should look for him? - She asked the group - Who knows...knowing him, he could be anywhere in London at this time. Or probably at the bar, if the hotel has one. - Lucy smiled - Ok, I'll go look around. - Good luck. Hey Marie, if you have the chance, make him sleep, ok? - Lucy Marie just nodded and didn't say a word. She left the room and, surprisingly, soon after she found him in front of the hotel, looking at the street. He was very nostalgic, once again, with a facial expression as he was having a headache. Hanging against the wall, he actually gave her a weak and quick smile when he saw Marie sat by his side. - Hey, couldn't sleep? - He asked - No, I slept for a good while.... You? - ... Not that much - Aren't you tired? He shrugged his shoulders. - I can't sleep - Hmm...How long have you been up here? - Half an hour, I guess They went silent. Marie thought it was really weird the fact that she probably had woken up five minutes after he had left the room. She put her head against his shoulder and that made him do the same to her. After a couple of seconds, he broke the silence. - …. Uau, you smell good - Thank you – She smiled Again, silence. - ...Hey, why are you here? Aren't you tired? - Eric asked - I... I felt like coming to check on you - Hmm....Why? - He felt really childish asking that. But she wasn't acting as they were supposed to, right? Besides, Eric was not used to people genuinely concerned about him. You know, normal human beings. - Just cuz... Eric looked into her eyes, with a disorientated expression and then just looked away. - You're a nice guy, Eric. You shouldn't be afraid of people liking you, you know... He went dead silent for a while, almost as he'd got angry by hearing the word “afraid” or “nice guy”. Probably both. When he finally was able to just ignore the comment, and change subject, they kept talking for more ten minutes. At some point, he again changed the subject very drastically, asking: - … Do you know how many years ago we left the States, without a very long break from this? - ? - Like three years now... Do you know how many years ago I left home? I mean...Brazil? - ? – Marie didn't even know Eric, as Tom, was Brazilian, to start with. - Almost six years ago. I barely remember my sibling's face... They were just kids when I left, and I honestly couldn't stand them...I … I hated them. Silence. She didn't know what to say. - Do you miss home? - I don't know... I never felt home anywhere. I always felt like I was just going by anyways... They didn't say anything for several seconds, maybe a minute or two. He again went silent for several seconds – You know what's worse? She raised her shoulders slowly and shook her head. - How their lives seem to be so fucking perfect today. They are so happy, and together, in a way that...I'll never, ever be part of that... When I lived with them, we were always ignoring each other, or it would be fight after fight. It was fucking unbearable. A fucking nightmare. Marie was caressing his head with her hand, touching his hair. He was not himself. It was probably the lack of sleep. It seemed like he was a bit disoriented. Hallucinating even. - You know what's funny? - Don't make me so many rhetorical questions in the same day – She smiled. - Sorry – He smiled. He looked beyond tired. - Go on... - I never thought about it. And I don't even know why I'm telling you this, because I wasn't even thinking about that before you got here... I guess... I guess I'm really tired, I’m sorry. - It's ok, don't worry about it... What were you thinking about? - … Things... - He suddenly got cold and looked away. After some instants, she made him look at her, and this times their eyes seemed to have spiritually bonded. - Do you wanna go back to bed? You could use some sleep. I can see dark circles under your … your soul. Eric smiled - Uau, I knew French girls were pretty forward and all, but uau... - Ha-ha. Funny...Sure. Let's go... - She was smiling. They hold their hands and went to the room. They took a nice long shower together which made Eric relaxed enough to sleep a couple more hours with her. At some point in the morning, people started to gather at the hotel restaurant to enjoy this huge breakfast they had available. Some of them were looking completely exhausted, with deep dark circles under their eyes, or acting as if their brains were ninety-nine percent slower, while some others were looking good as ever. Eric and Marie, especially, were looking very well. They asked to the receptionist to call and wake up everyone from their group, so at some point everyone gathered at the breakfast table. They were almost twenty five people, because some people had come for the after party and some others were a one night stand for someone from the group. Didn’t matter, they finished the breakfast in a very happy mood, and then some people left and some decided to stay with them for the day. They would visit the London Eye and the parliament, because there were some Lucy's friend who were in London for the very first time. Then they had lunch in a Japanese restaurant and they ate until they could barely walk. After that, Lucy and her friends took them to several very cool stores, where Marie would even buy a colorful piercing to substitute the black one she had. The nice thing too is that one of Lucy's friend had become the official photographer and was taking hundreds of pictures since they've arrived in London. The group was already pretty well connected at this point, everyone basically talking to everyone, with some couples making out from time to time. The conversations were always pretty chill, nothing heavy or too philosophical: most of what they were talking was undeniably bullshit, but hey, they just wanted to have some fun. During the afternoon, they sort of had a picnic under a very big tree in a park, and Eric and Marie went back to have more serious conversations: There he learned about her siblings, a bit about her parents, her aunt, her friends, her dreams, her friendship with Tom, and how herself was a musician – but a classical one, her favorite instrument being the piano, although apparently she did know how to play the guitar too and even sing. Eric was getting more and more surprised with that girl. People were getting quieter, talking more to one or two people at a time, in smaller groups. Eventually some of them started to lay down on the grass, and it wasn't much later that everyone was laying down with their head on someone else. Just like that, they stayed there for a couple of hours, enjoying the nice weather and the sunny day they had been blessed with in London, the land of the rain. And let me tell you: In life sometimes there's some moments that are really enlighten, where there's so much beauty and peace, that unexplainably you know that that moment will last forever. Where everything is being so blessed with light and plenitude that time seems to slow down so you can enjoy it better. Where you don't feel pain anymore, and you know you're in the right place, in the right time, with the right people. Where the past is... not hunting you... They got lazy enjoying the moment, trying to keep that peace in their memories, because even unconsciously everyone wants something to hold on to in the hard times. After all, in a few hours they would be completely separated with half of them heading back to Paris, Berlin, Liverpool, Chicago or wherever each one came from. So they really needed the time to slow down. Lucy, two of her friends and Liam started to smoke right in front of everyone at some point, and the unpleasant smell would have bothered everyone if Mike and Jack didn't have screamed at them so they would go smoke somewhere else. It's probably not very easy to be a smoker sometimes. After that much food and shopping, walking around, talking, and the lack of sleep most of them suffered the night before, that moment (that for most of them became a nap) was more than perfect. Eric was holding Marie, and eventually he looked at Mike, suddenly feeling something very strong for him. A huge gratitude. Happy for having him there. Mike was probably exhausted, as he was napping on Lucy's lap. After one hour and a half in that refuge from the rest of the world, they started to wake up and get bored. Eventually realizing it was time to go to the hotel. They started heading back, very slowly, gathering all their belongings, getting ready to leave. Almost all of them went to the train station together, to take Marie and her friends so they could go back to Paris, and a couple of people who were also taking trains to other places. It was not very fun nor easy. It seemed like it would be impossible to let it end like that once Eric saw Marie play the piano and sing for five minutes at the hotel. He would've never thought she was so talented. He would've never thought she would touch him so deep with her music. What a strong moment it was. At the train station, Fernando was kissing another girl goodbye as if they were long time lovers. They were all saying their goodbyes. Kissing, without any promises. They knew they probably wouldn't see each other in the near future because... well, everyone had their lives, lived in different places, with different responsibilities and routines... and no one actually wanted anything serious. There's some sort of beauty about it, no? Anyways... What do you say at these moments? “Good luck in life”? Go figure... Beatrice arrived a little bit after them and was actually pretty grateful when making her farewell. Said they'd always be welcome at her house and said she would've liked to know the rest of the people who she never had the chance to meet. She repeated the same invitation to Eric in private, but he didn't want to give any kind of hope for anyone. They did exchange numbers at the end though, as Beatrice was really convincing and persistent. After all, he might would be able to go back to Paris in the next months... or years, so why not keep some sort of track, right? Eric and Marie said their goodbyes knowing that they would probably not see each other for a long time. And that was it. He saw her grab her bag and walk away, getting on the train with her aunt and friends. Eric didn't want to be the last one to leave, because he was sure they would wanted to mock Mike on being in love with one of Lucy's friend. So Eric just moved on with his life, put his arms around Mike's neck (as a joke) and grabbed him, pulling him away, giving his buddy a sad smile. Moments later, the train was gone. Almost five hours after saying goodbye to Marie, Eric and his band were heading to Berlin. They were all so tired that most of them just slept in their respective transportations, including Eric and Marie. They had an awesome concert in Berlin. The group from Paris were going back to routine with a nostalgia that could've kill their soul, still digesting everything that had happened in Paris and in London. After the nostalgia, sadness hit in strong. Routine was heavily back. Problems came back. The unbearable and inflexible routine that bring us to our knees, to boredom and disappointment. All of that was back. Marie's perfume impregnated Eric's sweater (one he had lend her, during the time they were together), but when he questioned Mike about it, Mike made a funny face, saying there was no perfume at all, and Eric would never know if he was kidding or not. After Mike said that, Eric had a flashback that hit his head as a hammer, bringing back old memories and pain that made him go silent for the rest of the trip. It had never came back that strong. And it would only get worse. Ten days after the concert in Berlin, Richard announced something that was not very well received: The vacations were postponed, and actually shortened, because they were able to squeeze some more concerts and commitments for the band. They would have almost five months of tour ahead, and Richard himself warned them that it would be tiring. He, the guy who was always trying to enlighten everybody's mood, was seemingly worried about them, but apparently there was nothing he could do. Work was work, and apparently Tom had had a hand on it, helping them to get more money with all of that. Then they would have a quick ten days break, instead of three weeks, and three months after that, they would have three weeks to rest. At that moment, everyone's exhaustion got really visible. People started complaining: they wanted to go home to rest, to truly rest. Eric wanted to take a break, true, but he didn't have a clear notion to where he'd like to go. Back to San Francisco, to his uncle's house? No, he could definitely stay away from that for a while longer. Mike's house? Maybe Tom's place? ... He wasn't sure where he'd feel comfortable. He didn't allow himself to think about Paris. In the end it didn't matter, because they had to keep going. They packed their things again, and they kept going. Planes and hotels. Buses. And so many people, so much noise, but also so much silence and so many awkward looks. So many concerts and an increasing tension above them that you could almost touch it in the air. Even the rest of Eric's bandmates joined him in the silence that he had always put himself into from times to times. It also got worse for Eric. They had to meet musicians, journalists and random people. They partied and drank a lot. They had a lot of nights where they weren't able to sleep properly, which lead them to a new addiction: sleeping pills and energy pills, or energy drinks or anything with caffeine, because it was just impossible to maintain the rhythm they were obligated to. Everyone started to look for ways to feel a little bit better, more relaxed, and less lonely. So much drugs, so much alcohol, so much sex. Time continued to pass, slowly, very slowly. Although not in a pleasant way as it had happened in London, but as if people were waiting for death to come meet them. Finally, it was to those kinds of moments in London or Paris to which they were holding on to, and going back to whenever they could. Falling asleep during their bus rides, flights, or in any kind of break or moment that they had to wait for something became really frequent. They were now always tired from concerts, parties or from sleeping in planes and buses. It also became frequent to have black circles under their eyes. Richard kept telling them about how much money they were making with that new phase. That they would be able to enjoy so much once they got the job done and went home. He just forgot that actually no one cared much about it. They already had shit tons of money... Eric still didn't have a clear notion on where was his home: the only thing that mattered at that moment is that he was not enjoying himself. He even called Tom and asked his friend from where “all of that” had come from, but Tom just told him to “hang on” because he was trying to make as much money as possible for them at that moment, and in the year that was coming. Apparently he had some really big plans for Eric's band for the near future and he needed Eric to go through that. So Eric put the subject aside because his friendship with Tom was beyond question. If Tom had asked him to hang on, that's what they'd do. They were passing by streets. And streets were passing by them. The weather finally started to get enjoyable, and the nights, lighter. But that silence, with looks that could pierce a soul, not pleasant at all, was getting stick to them in their skin. Their lives became that stage. Vibrant, where they could spin away and forget about everything: Mike, about all his half loves along the way, Liam and Jack, knowing that they would probably be happier back home spending money and playing video games, and Eric, with his own ghosts, after lately adding a new one: Paris. That stage definitely wasn't the problem: it was their lives, as the music itself was. It was excruciating though, all the work and discomfort that was put to travel between stages, between their pieces of salvation. Jumping from stage to stage, from city to city. From country to country. Sometimes not even knowing where you are, and having to answer in an interview what you're thinking about the city, or the country you are at the moment... “Yeah, your airport, my hotel room and your concert hall seems nice” Indeterminate spaces, nostalgic and bipolar. Tiring and confusing. Eric, more than anyone else, was holding himself to his memories as hard as he could, because not long ago he found out his life was vanishing in the air: memories were disappearing, only lasting the bad ones. Still that young, he has had three lives and for a long time he had tried to block the memories from the first one. It had always haunted him, but he realized that for some reason it was coming back stronger and stronger. But he had to stop it somehow. After all, you do everything in your power because that sort of show must go on, right? Fragments from Eric Meirelles's journal “Today I've put my jacket on again and I felt that girl's perfume on it. That made me smile in a funny, silly way. For days I've been contemplating the idea of telling her how much I love her, and how much I want her. I thought about thousands and thousands possibilities these days, but every time I think about her, I get this weird sensation in my head and words simply disappear, just staying this unexplainable need to see her. I get paralyzed in this situation, with the feeling of not being able to fight for her. Maybe the way to her heart is just too difficult. What did I accomplish so far? Not one word. Not one nice word. To her, that in a way or another, always made me feel good, even though she's surrounded of so many people, better people than me, who can actually offer her something. People that also want her, and maybe have a way better chance of reaching out to her. Is it possible that I still have, with all my lack of experience (and, ironically, the failures) a romantic dream? Maybe that's what I always wanted, but was just too afraid of admitting it. I mean, isn't it what we all want? A person to love, or to be able to count on at any time? A witness of our lives and of our more truth self? Someone that will make your life seems... better? All I know is that, so far, in the few moments I've spent with her, my life had some sort of purpose. I had some true fun and someone that could understand me, someone who was truly there for me. That's what makes me so certain that I have to fight for her, because it's the only good thing in my life at the moment. Because I just feel good around her, as I never felt before, with anyone. I guess I just want more than what we've been sharing lately. …Yeah, I definitely need to do something about it.' “It definitely wasn't easy, I admit it. To get the balls to tell someone something that is totally not like you. But I did it. I've met her and after the time we spent, I told her what I was feeling. I felt pretty stupid to be honest, naked in all possible ways. I still remember her reaction, her eyes. She took forever to say something, and it was a torture for me. Then she told me that she'd have to think about it. “Think about it”. Fuck. Then I felt even more stupid when I realized how important her ex-boyfriend still was on her life. She probably still loves him, and that hurts really really bad, deep in your stomach. Now here I am, once again alone, in a Friday night, without anything to do, nowhere to go, just waiting for her. I feel like my world is depending on her, as I knew it would from the moment I decided to tell her that. I guess that's the romantic's dream: to offer your life to your loved one in a silver plate. People often relate romantism with beauty and love, but forget it has a pretty dark and deathful side to it too, and you just realize that in moments like this one. Fun times.” “Life seems to be getting better. All because of her, her smiles and her unique way of getting to me. She's funny, she's smart. Life is awesome, actually. I finally got what I wanted, and I feel like I am in an amazing vertigo. Starting to know someone else though, makes us realize that no life is as poetic as it seems, and it can constantly bother us. In any case, I hang out with her basically everyday now, and even though we have our own different obligations, we are in a pretty good place I'd say. What matters is how good I'm feeling with her, and how she understands me. ' “Six months together and I believe we are doing pretty well. Love is the only thing that can fill our emptiness, she said a while ago. To stay here doesn’t seem such a bad idea after all, and besides what a lot of people say, love is not a form of slavery: it’s the only thing that can truly set you free. It's true that is complicated and that we argue sometimes, but I guess we learn how to deal with it.” “It’s been two weeks since we broke up, less than eight months after we started dating. I just don't know what I did wrong, and this point I honestly believe that it just doesn't matter... although I keep losing my sleep over it. It's just up to me to suffer in silence, and pretend everything's ok. I heard once that pride is the only thing that you can hold on to in moments like this, when your honor and heart are in risk, and that's what I have to believe in right now. This city, this country... there's nothing for me here, and anything I have told myself was just a bunch of bullshit. She's back with him. Not a matter of love, a matter of fuck. A matter that she just can't forget him. I feel disgusted on thinking about them both together. Fuck, that's so messed up” “I ask myself to what should we really hang on to in our difficult moments. Friendship is a luxury and religion or any kind of belief or ...even a moral code, certainly can rest a person's heart, but it destroy their minds, destroy themselves. I wonder if religion is not the ultimate way that people too weak to face the reality use, to be able to live their lives and get out of bed every day. People who don't understand everything, and can't accept the fact that they don't know everything. Also of course, the most basic and instinctive human fear: death. My love is dead and my heart seems to be … just an organ, without any kind of romantism anymore. And that seems terrible: the loss of symbolism and romantism can kill a man's soul... But feeling pity for myself won't change anything. Humiliating myself, neither. One of the greatest poets ever said that it doesn't matter in how many pieces your heart has been broken, the world won't stop so you can fix it. Even he recognized it. Love cannot stop your life, broke your heart like that, because if it does, it’s not love, right? Love should move you forward, make you a better person, no? I've become the worse self I've ever seen with all of this, around them, and even in this situation, without anything else, I refuse to let people dictate my life, or even some shit called as fate. I just can't let things be this way forever, and I just can't let people step on me anymore. ` “One last time, I tried to go to my parents, blind by pain and despair. They just told me that it had been some sort of divine intervention to take me away from those losers. That I didn't belong with them, and definitely not with that girl. I went silent. I can't, I just can't deal with this kind of people. I just couldn't believe that that was going to be their reactions about it. A couple of weeks later, in which I didn't exchange a word with my parents, they told me things were getting unbearable. It was clear it was. Maybe I should go live with my uncle in the States for a while, for my own safety. I've never had that opportunity before, and after everything that happened, and everything I told them about how bad I hated living with them, they told me I should go. It's funny, after two years of asking them to go away and get denied, I'm practically thrown away now. Maybe I did want that to happen, and for that I'm never gonna forgive myself. Now I'm getting ready to go live with my uncle and stupid trophy wife, opportunity that I'm not gonna miss. Fuck the world. Just fuck'em all. I need to get out of here, forget all of that, and maybe, just maybe, fate will help me.” “ It's been a year now that I live in San Francisco with my uncle and aunt, and my life in general seems to have got way better. As my uncle and aunt (yeah, she did work) are always working, they just never have that much time to worry about me and I love it. I guess it just feels like home, right?” “Today I felt I finally took control of my life. Now I have my parents sort of working for me, which is kind of ironic. They had to leave Brazil because of all that happened, and they were more than happy to accept my help to stablish their (our, with Tom's help) new company in Toulouse. In any case, it's been more than two years and a half that I left my city, and I probably won't be back that soon. Probably never again, actually. There's nothing there for me. I just can't accept the fact that they are the ones living in France. ' “My life is great. I live as I want, I do what I want when I want and for the first time ever, I'm free to feel good all the time, in the only life that I could possibly live my life with pride. Music revealed to be my great talent. Even that I'm not that talented, but I guess that's where the charm lives. I'll leave to Mike the talent side of it. He has talent enough for the whole band. It just doesn’t matter: I'm surrounded by people that admire me, and shallow girls that just throw themselves at me. That's my life now, and as the guys said, we should enjoy it before our bears grow white. That's what we do.” “I guess I'm depressed, and I have no idea how I got to this point: I have a violent insomnia, I'm always tired, sad, with headaches. I keep having nightmares and seeing all of that back in flashes...what hands...Fuck, it's a mess. I'm surrounded by shallow people that will never understand me. What was once exciting - traveling and meeting new people - is killing me. Truth is, people are basically the same, everywhere: boring, easy to read, stupid, shallow, hypocrites. I feel like... It’s useless to try to talk to anyone: people wouldn't understand, they would judge me, would change the way they treat me, even if trying to help... I guess silence is the best option. I can deal with it... Shit, I still remember the time where I thought love was the answer to everything. But it just had been disappointment after disappointment. Now I'm a douchebag that just doesn't care... I just don't care, and I have no idea where my life is going. Not that it matters much, anyways... I'll leave the problems behind me, and keep going on. Eventually I'll starve my demons to death” Eric never knew exactly why he tried to keep a journal. First of all, because the concept of it's ...stupid, it's like having a blog. Second, because his life didn't allow him to have a very regular control of his days, in the sense of keeping it as a habit. Many of his days seemed just to vanish in the air, and some other just didn't exist in his mind, probably because of the level of intoxication. Others were just weird blurs on his memory. How could a person like Eric maintain some sort of diary? He would never be able to say, but he did, and it was useful sometimes, as some effort to stop his life from vanishing into the non-existing territory. He only regretted he hadn't started it earlier: Most of his life in Florianopolis was just gone in his mind now. He just couldn't remember big junks of his life there. Reading that diary, at that point, just a bit before falling asleep, Eric sadly smiled, realizing from where the Deja-vu had come from about the sweater story. It was ironic, ambiguous and could've been Marie, the girl with the hair on fire. Maybe it was the reason why he was so strongly running away from her. She was a ghost. She represented a ghost: Probably the worst of them, and she was bringing them back, somehow. He was afraid that with her it would be the same thing as it had already happened: It had way more than just one similarity between the two stories. Love ends, that's a fact, and the bigger it is, the worse it is to face it. No, he couldn't let it happen again. Marie was sitting in one of the many balconies to where she had access to in Paris. She was observing the city completely alone and in silence, she was so alone and in such silence, that she was feeling like she was the last person on earth. She was thinking about Eric, almost in a fatherly way. She was remembering a lot of things that he said that were quite good advices to her. She had been thinking about him quite frequently these lasts months: It had been months and months and no sign of him. No kind of news... and she was actually afraid of receiving any. She had no idea how she would react to them. Eric told her it was understandable her position, but that Paris was indeed the city of lights. Of course she had a completely different view: Paris can bring you to your knees and make you hate it, especially when it comes to someone like her, born and raised there, with so many responsibilities and expectations to meet. Paris, too, can make you feel trapped. At some point during those few days they've spent together, Eric had said he was in the same place as her, a few years ago, until he decided to do something about it. He wanted to get rid of everything he hated so bad. It's a first step to this surreal road that is called life: Chase the life you really want to live. Something as fighting for your destiny: Destiny doesn't reveal itself for us until we are ready. And that's entirely up to us. It's like some sort of vain God: we have to show how bad we are fighting to deserve its blessing so after that...just after that, he can think about it. We can pray for better days, a better future, and religion has nothing to do with it. I guess you need to buy a lottery ticket to have a chance to win, right? “Hold on to something, and fight for it. The rest is useless, disposable. Seriously, you'd be surprised on how much bullshit in this life is disposable... and the worst part is is that people keep accepting it in their everyday lives. Let it go, and fight for what you really want.” Marie was going through some really hard times those days, and she would finally start to pray how Eric would do: wishing for better days, because she was getting just too tired of living in fear and agony, feeling like anything she would do wrong could make a fragile house of cards to come down and destroy the world. It really doesn't matter how much you want to rationalize it, that the world doesn't turn around you: it's practically impossible to control that kind of terror inside you. It was funny, maybe even ironic, but Eric, in his own way, inspired faith in people around him in an undeniable and weird way: It was probably the fact that he represented the way of life that every young lad secretly wants to live... Got it? Showing someone that his dream is possible, that there's someone actually living it, can prove that it doesn't matter how weird the dream can be, it's doable. To see someone that made his dreams come true or by making your own dream come true, releases us from fear. That's what Eric represented: he represented the weird punk kid that made it. For good or bad, our whole society is based on this feeling. It's ironic too, the fact that some people – it doesn't matter how hard they try - can’t hide the fact they have a good heart. Eric was one of them. It doesn't matter how hard Eric would try, anyone who would spend more than five minutes talking to him would just know that he had a good heart. Marie's modesty and at the same time pride wouldn't allow her to admit the same. She read somewhere that the ability to love doesn't come from the outside, but from within, from yourself. When you love someone, you're not creating love. You're sharing the love that already exists inside of you, and that ability of loving and opening your heart is what differentiate people. Those were the kind of thoughts she had during that night, being the loneliest person in the world. She was just too tired of being alone. After suffering insomnia for only one night, she couldn't help but feel bad for Eric, who apparently would suffer that quite often. When the day finally broke dawn, she had taken some decisions (after all, her life couldn't just stay the way it was at the moment). Without knowing it, some things were coming to meet her, and they were coming at full speed. Without being sure of anything she had thought during that night, she went back to her life. There's always a certain quietude before a storm. And that quietude was about to be over. As the time went by, Eric started a new phase on his life. His band was gaining more popularity, his label and the company responsible for his tour and image increased even more the interest on his band, what caused the things already explained before. With all the drugs he was taking to sleep, he started to sleep a reasonable amount of hours every night, but ended up with a side effect: he started to have nightmares again. His life apparently got a bit better after the initial adaptation phase. He was enjoying as many girls as possible that appeared on his concerts and in the parties he'd go, but soon enough he started to feel pathetic. He was literally smelling the scent of Marie's perfume every time he was sad or feeling alone, as she was there, by his side. Or just as he would put his sweater on, his favorite: he could swear it still smelled like her even after he had washed it a hundred times. He would see her smile if he was lost too deep in his thoughts, even dreaming about her telling him how much she missed him, and asking her to come meet him. Or she would be asking him to just go and spend some more time by that magical pool, or just sleeping by her side. But no, he couldn't let the same story repeat. He couldn't get that hurt again. But it became an unbearable job: everyday was feeling like a battle he couldn’t win: He couldn't keep denying the fact that she somehow had touched him deeper that what he thought. Than he would like to admit. Maybe it could work, maybe, just maybe... I mean, she's nowhere near like that girl right? His life is nowhere near as it was, and he definitely wasn't the same guy anymore, he thought. He knew how the world worked now. He would knew how to play it safe now: How you should never ever give you heart in a silver plate to someone else. Eric couldn't help it, but several times he caught himself fantasying about the possibility of being in love with her. He'd already done that a couple of times, but that have never meant anything. Why the hell was that so different with that girl? Another month passed, while he kept refusing to give in, until he was forced by his guts to admit that that girl was different and that he should fight for her. He'd done everything he could to stop it. Every single thing. Finally, there was only one thought on the back of his head, one thought that was hunting his days, more than anything else: What if? After all, he didn't want to end his life because of alcohol, or because of all the drugs he was taking, no matter what he thought. And Paris, above all, was definitely a city that he had always loved. Eric, who didn't give a damn about almost anything, liked Paris. Didn't that mean something? Marie wasn't...couldn't be just an ordinary girl to him. The way she smiled, and how she was just funny and romantic, and how they just felt so good around each other. How she just connected with him, and with his friends. How she was so close to Tom, and how all his friends had loved her. All of those things should mean something. Somewhere inside his heart, a hopeful fifteen years old kid smiled and gave him the strength to go fight for someone again. They would have a ten days break soon and he would use it to go to Paris and meet her, almost four months and a half after meeting her. Eric landed on Paris on a Friday, really late at night. He started to wander around Paris, because he wasn't sure at all about what exactly he was doing and how he should do it. In the next day, he went for a walk around the hotel, and ended up scheduling a lunch with Beatrice, the only phone number he had to call from the people he knew in Paris (He didn't feel like involving Tom on that), who got really excited with the idea of seeing him. They met less than one hour later, in a restaurant that she recommended. - Hi! - Heey! How are you? I can't believe you’re in Paris! - I’m good, I'm good. How are you doing? - He smiled - I'm great... Come, sit, sit. - Aaaalright - Good morning sir, would you like to order? - The waitress - Ahn, sure – He looked at Beatrice, she recommended something and he just accepted her suggestion - But hey, tell me, how long have you been in Paris? - I arrived last night... - Oh, how come? Work? - No, just for a break... - Hmm I see... Well, Marie did mention that you like Paris... - Yeah... I decided to come and have some time off. Clear my mind a bit... You know... - Yeah, I do... Beatrice smiled and after a moment of silence, she just continued: - Yeah... But hey, tell me. As I never heard anything from you anymore, what have you been doing? - Hmm... Not much. I've basically been working all this time... It's been a bit overwhelming, to be honest... She smiled - Yeah, your job seems so boring... I so wouldn't like to have your job... Eric smiled -Yeah, I guess a lot of people would... - What about Marie? - Eric finally asked - Well... - A bit of fear appeared in Beatrice's eyes. - She's doing well, Eric. But I'm not sure I should get in the middle of your story that much... Eric didn't need much more than that to understand. Their eyes met. - It's ok. You can tell me... - Her life... Hasn't been easy Eric... She's had problems with her friends, parents... And...She's... dating this guy now again... Eric felt his shoulders getting tired, letting his head down. Those news had hit him harder than he would've imagined. In a millisecond, the reason of his trip was over, and he felt it would be stupid to even see Marie at that point. - Ah really? That Filipe guy? - He tried to be cool about it. Probably didn't work that well. - Yeah. You know, I don't really like him...but what can I say? It's her life. Beatrice might have not notice it, but a little light was shutting down inside Eric's soul. It was just too much what was happening. Too much. He deserved it though, he thought. Lunch went by and soon enough they were finished when she surprised him with an invitation. - But why don't you come with me to our dinner? I bet you would get surprised with the Montini family anyways. I'm sure you'd have some fun and would be good for you and Marie to see each other again. I'm sure she'll like to see you. You know, having you guys in contact again... After thinking for a second: - Sure, why not, right? - Great! It will be tomorrow. Can you meet me at my place around four? - Sure? Should I suit up or anything? - Eric smiled - Hmm... How do you say? - She was having fun looking for the right word – Casual Sport I’d say... But kids will probably be at the pool, so... - Ok – Eric smiled – Prepare yourself to see the most awesome casual sport you've ever seen. - Beatrice smiled - Oookaay.... - After looking at her watch: Shall we? Unfortunately I have a lot of things to do today, darling... The next day, Eric and Beatrice were heading to the Montini residence. She really got surprised with how elegant Eric was, complimenting him a couple of times and obviously joking about it. When they got to the house, Eric got completely astonished by it. It was ridiculous, the house was basically a castle, and the yard was just unbelievably big for a real state in Paris, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Even for Eric was hard to stipulate a price for that house. I say “even for Eric” because he was always the guy that would impress other people with his money and had never, ever been impressed or intimidated by it. Never, until that moment. He tried to play it cool. Eric was getting in the middle of one of the wealthiest families in Europe. Fuck. He searched on his mind for anything that could've hinted it to him before: Well, by her aunt's house, it was pretty clear her family had money. One of Marie's sister was a good friend to Katherine, and Tom apparently knew that family well enough, so yeah... All of that should've meant something, but not that... There was actually an iron gate and bodyguards. It was a really nice day, so the family was going to have dinner in this big table, under this magnificent, huge tree in the yard. Eighteen people were being expected, said Beatrice, and they were: The all-powerful boss Montini and his wife, their five kids, with three of them bringing their dates, a couple of girlfriends of one of Marie's sister, a couple of friends of the big boss Montini that also brought their kids (adults) , Beatrice and Eric. He was taken to the table by Beatrice, where he met Marie's parents and the business partners of their company. He couldn't stop thinking about how much that whole scene was like some Italian mafia movie. He just couldn't believe it. Beatrice had introduced him as her and Marie's friend from out of town, without giving any more details. Either way, Mr. Frederic Montini was looking at him with a malicious smile. It was clear he was suspecting Beatrice and Eric were a couple. And if that would be the case, he would probably be judging them at that very moment. Frederic got then interested about Eric and Marie's friendship. He got even more intrigued by that when Eric didn't give him many details. Luckily, the conversation changed subject soon after and they went back to talking about business. Eric, once again, caught their attention when he started talking about his parents company: He, in a way or another, had gotten used to put a mask on and get along in that kind of conversation, and people at the table started to listen very carefully about the story of that company and how it grew so fast and how much potential it still had, bearing in mind the field of the company and its projects. At some point, Eric mentioned Tom's name and something clicked on Mr. Montini's mind. “Oh, ok....Yeah, I heard about you already” He ended up saying. Eric, in a weird way, liked that kind of situation and he knew it would have been somewhat his life had his life... stayed in its old path. At some point in the conversation, Frederic pointed the direction of the pool to Eric, where all the youngsters would be, and asked Beatrice to take him there, so he could say hi to Marie. It was pretty random, as if he had just approved Eric's presence there. It didn't matter: Eric knew he was playing with fire and that he could lose any kind of chance he had with Marie if that situation, for any reason, did indeed become a disaster. That was everything he was hoping for: Not letting it become a disaster, because for sure he didn't have and couldn't possibly have any control of that situation. With this kind of thoughts in mind he was walking towards the pool, with Beatrice on his side, holding onto his right arm. Time had seemed to slow down and everything got completely quiet. Beatrice was talking to him, and even though he was pretending he was listening, he had no idea what she was saying anymore. The only thing he was hearing was his own heartbeats and his breathing. “What am I doing here again?” Finally, he saw the pool. In slow motion, one by one, everyone noticed their presence. - ....Eric? - Marie couldn't believe it, as she froze for a couple of seconds - Hey, Marie.... surpriiise - Oh my god... - She got off the pool, grabbed a towel and went to talk to him, almost running. Marie was looking Eric's eyes with an unbelievable excitement. - Heey, maaan... W-..Whaat are...H- How are you? - She asked, smiling - I'm great, how have you been doing? - I'm great - Awesome...You're not going to introduce me? - Smiling, he made mention to everyone else. - Ahn... sure, sure... - And one by one, she introduced Eric to her siblings and their dates and/or friends. Eric thought it was weird to know how close Marie's sister was with Katherine. That dinner would probably (very soon) make news around the world. More reasons to not let that become a fiasco. It was when a guy got close to Marie, and both Eric and Marie were kind of waken up by the light moment they've got into. He was absolutely gorgeous, not even Eric could've denied it. - Hey, Eric... This is Filipe, my...boyfriend – She had said that with a hint of concern in her voice. - Hey – Eric smiled at him, being as nice as possible, and right in the next second he completely ignored him, turning his head back to Marie. - So hey, what have you been doing? - Ahn. Nothing much, school, friends, you know how it goes... - Smiled – What about you? What are you doing in Paris, man? - Hmm, I had a quick break... I've met your aunt yesterday and she invited me to come see you. Was that ok? - Yeaah, of course – Marie was now overjoyed, thinking that Eric was ok with the boyfriend situation – I'd hug you, but... Soaking wet – Smiled again - Or maybe you'd throw me at the pool – Eric smiled at her, mentioning the past. - Yeaah... but it wouldn't be “appropriate” … My dad would kill me, you know... - Yeah, and don't forget how classically casual I am today, you wouldn't want to ruin that –They laughed. - I know, very fancy. You might even fool my family - Smiled - Yeah... I was thinking that if you can do it, it can't be that hard, right? - He smiled, showing his tongue, in a very childish expression. - Auch...Fair enough – She laughed Marie was smiling, so was Eric, and even Beatrice. Filipe was still out of the conversation and was clearly not enjoying it. But having him there, or not, it would have been the same. He was completely erased in that universe, and if things stayed that way until the end of the day, it would be a point for Eric, right? In a normal situation, Filipe would have gone talk to someone else while Marie and Eric would catch up. Maybe he would be jealous, but that would've been normal. Eric quickly noticed though, that no one was looking at Filipe with “good eyes” and that everyone was being extremely nice to him. Eric and Beatrice eventually went to the table and got themselves back in the conversation. The people that were at the pool started to dry themselves off and went inside the house to put clothes or to take a shower. A couple of Marie's siblings just dried themselves, then put on a t-shirt and went straight to the table. They were the ones that mostly started to make conversation with Eric. One thing that could not be ignored: Marie's family seemed to have won some sort of genetic lottery: It was unreal. If you'd consider their dates and/or their friends, that place was just a very very weird place because of the level of beauty of most of people there. Marie and Filipe were the only ones that didn't have a very “well behaved beauty” with a couple of piercings, Filipe's huge tattoos and obviously, Marie's red hair. It looked like... not just a mafia reunion, but somewhat a French royalty that survived the guillotine. Even Filipe was so pretty that was just not fair. During the first fifteen minutes they had to be near each other, Eric tried to read Filipe with everything he had on reading people: a bunch of pre-judgments, body language signs and probably a bit of imagination to fill some gaps, which made Eric hate him in a heartbeat, because for sure he was a douchebag who didn't deserve her. Marie's family was just allowing Filipe to be there and even though they were trying to hide that, it became pretty clear to Eric after a while into that dinner. Filipe wasn't able to express himself well enough for those kind of people, verging the pathetic. He wasn't in the conversation and actually tried to call Marie's attention a couple of times to make discrete comments. Even she started to ignore him after a while, so happy for having Eric, Beatrice and her siblings around. It was a bit clear that she didn't quite got along with her parents, but it was just too obvious how much those siblings loved each other, even when they were just provoking themselves non-stop. Filipe just hated that place, while Eric had been surprised by it: He loved that castle (in his mind it had become a castle) and perfect yard in the middle of Paris. Filipe was just too weird and too much of a punk for that family. Eric knew how to hide the fact that he was probably way worse than Filipe. Eric, however, soon remembered Fernando's advice that “that poser had more influence on Marie that I could ever understand”. Maybe it was simpler than what you could imagine. Maybe Eric was right. Using pre-judgments, observations and basic psychology. He has always been very good at reading people, and was never that far from reality. What Eric didn't understand at that moment, it's that he was dealing with that situation in the worse possible way, forgetting that the important person in that dinner was Marie, not Filipe. That he should've been focused and aware on Marie, and not on hating Filipe. That maybe... just maybe, he was being the biggest jerk that day, and that he was only pushing her away. Maybe he shouldn't have got the Montini's family stamp of approval that quickly and easily, making Marie feel bad about herself. Filipe wasn't welcome in that family, and maybe that was the reason why she was so appreciative by the fact Filipe was there with her: She had never felt that in that place, when the guests would leave. That way, there was a weird connection between Marie and Filipe growing stronger, thing that Eric couldn't have noticed from where he was sitting. Marie always hid the fact she was a Montini and Eric was trying to use her family to humiliate Filipe even more. Do you get the problem? But at that point, Marie was still numb by Eric's presence. During dinner, when everyone was already sitting at the table, eating and drinking, Eric realized how long it has been since he had seen a family dinner happening. Ironically, the whole situation reminded him of his own family dinners: Extremely nice, everybody wearing masks, trying to show the perfect family in action. Frederic Montini, the big boss, the godfather, asked several questions to Eric, which verged the uncomfortable a couple of times. Something he didn't like to admit: Marie's dad reminded him of his own father. Frederic Montini, the big boss of the family: Grey hair, looking surprisingly approachable and gentle. Eva Montini, Frederic's wife, a very well-aged woman, blonde, extremely pretty for the age she should already have reached. Jacques, the oldest son, brown hair, dark eyes, looking athletic – looking scarily like his father – Henry, second in line, brown hair, green eyes and also an extremely athletic guy. Eloise Montini, Marie's older sister, brown hair, tall and resembling Beatrice physically. Isabelle, Marie's sister (second in line), blonde hair, green eyes, tall as Eloise, looking a mixed between Marie and Beatrice. Marie was the youngest one, and the smallest one. Her sisters could probably be models and Marie was just smaller, a tiny piece of human compared to them. Eventually the interrogatory got back to Eric. - So, Eric, you're also Marie's friend as I've been told, is that correct? - Yes, sir - When did you guys meet? - It's been...hmm... Four months, more or less, right Marie? - “Yeah” - And If I'm not mistaken, apparently you travel a lot? - Yes - Because of your company or …? - No sir, other reasons... - May I ask which? - Of course sir, I'm a musician. - Ahn, wow ... Interesting. I think I remember Tom mentioning it once, right Marie? - “Yeah, probably, dad” - A group? Orchestra, maybe? - A group Everyone at the table was very interested in the conversation, including Filipe at that point. - Something like... Rock and Roll? Or more like pop music? - Frederic smiled, trying to be cool about it. - Yeah, exactly sir, a rock band – Eric smiled back - Fascinating... and you're making a living out of it? Eric smiled before answering. -Yeah, I am, sir... Beatrice, not for being mean, was laughing inside because of the situation Eric was going through. He probably did not see this one coming, she thought. Eric couldn't help but notice that Frederic's reaction hadn't been different only because of the former conversation, where he learned about Eric's family company and his connection to Tom. He probably thought his band was some sort of hobby, a luxury a spoiled rich kid could afford. Eric got insulted by that, because it was the same fucking line of thought of his father, and that just made his stomach twist. He had a company, he could be a playboy and have a rock band. It was actually the contrary. But the Meirelles's family had already thought him how to get over a meal with cold blood. That wouldn't be different. - But in any case... would you say it's more of a hobby or...? Do you intend to settle down and work in your family company at some point, maybe? Fuck. That was it. Eric stomach was not helping. He had to smile again to be able to keep it cool. “Why Felipe was born again?” - I'm afraid there was some misunderstandings, Mr. Montini. Everyone was completely absorbed in the conversation. - I see.... - He paused – Enlighten me, please... - First of all, sir, my band is not a hobby. It's my profession. I'm not sure until when it will be, but currently it is. I have... the privilege of being able to live from art, sir. Not many people are lucky enough to do so in the way I am, so I must admit I'm really enjoying the idea. Second, my family and I have this company, with one of my closest friends, Tom, which is a way of having more financial stability, true, but that does not mean I'm obliged to take over a job there when I get tired, or bored with music. And in any case, that doesn't mean I'm a reckless young man. - He smiled when he was finished. Everything he said, maybe not the last sentence, was from his heart, spilled out of anger. His feature was impassive though. - ...Very well, I'm sorry for the misunderstanding then – Mr. Montini finally said that, after looking a Eric for a couple of seconds, analyzing him. - I just hope it didn't seem rude, sir - Not at all, Eric... You're over age, work and provide for yourself, right? Live the life you want, without complaining, correct? - Yes, sir - Very well. I admire that. Few people do the same nowadays... The facial expression of almost everyone in the table were paralyzed because of what just happened. Eric had an idea why: He had thrown the truth in the face of someone who probably was used to dig deep for it, due to the fact that almost everyone around him should probably hide the truth out of pure fear. - I admire the fact that you stood for what you think it`s right, Eric. Not hid yourself – He was clearly referring to some people at the table. Some people cleared their throats, and it visibly got pretty uncomfortable for a couple of seconds. - Well, I'm sure it's not only that that makes you admire someone sir... - No... I guess I agree with you. Having a perspective, goals. I admire that. And I'm sorry for putting this way, but stability is something that you sort of … Will always have, right? Unfortunately I take that in consideration when I think about... you – The last word seemed very heavy. Eric just smiled, as to put an end to the subject. The dinner kept going on that path. Mr. Montini made a lot of questions to everyone and Eric noticed how he had the ability of controlling the talk and the evening, even though he didn't talk much. Yes, ironically, he was relatively quiet. Even when the food was over, the talk kept going for a long time. It eventually got dark, but as it was still warm, it was pretty nice to just stay there and try to have a good time talking. Marie and Eric were in a very awkward field: sometimes they would share very sympathetic looks, sometimes very... concerned or uncomfortable. Nobody noticed that, not even Filipe, which surprised Eric, who was sure the guy would've noticed what was going on at that point. He was probably too busy by Marie's side counting the minutes to leave. - Marie, why don't you show Eric our yard? - Mr. Montini with his velvety and authoritarian voice. Eric had just made a compliment about the yard and Mr Montini used it for his own purposes. Eric, Marie, Filipe and Beatrice seemed to have frozen in their seats. Eloise (Katherine’s friend) too. - Alright... - Marie stood up slowly, looking very quickly to Filipe and then going towards Eric. Eric also stood up, and actually looked at Mr. Montini with a confused look, to which he just got a smile, a nod and a complacent look. Mr. Montini was enjoying that. He knew what was going on. So Marie and Eric both started walking. And they kept walking. The silence was still there. For several minutes. Luckily, the garden was immense. - Your dad is... a lovely person – Eric took a shot, trying to be funny, smiling - When he likes someone, yes, he is... – Marie answered, trying to be nice. - Hmm, so you'd say he liked me, Hun? - He smiled again - Yeah, Who'd say that when you throw things at his face, he admires you? But I guess it's easier when you have autonomy to do so. I guess it works... - Hmmm... Marie seemed like she needed to say something: - But I don't have autonomy, neither does anyone in my family - She so needed to say that, that she sounded angrier than she could've expected. So it went silent again. Marie didn't know what to do: Her anger got her by surprise. Eric didn't know where that had come from, but somehow that frustrated him. She took a deep breath - I'm sorry, Eric... Today was supposed to be something special for Filipe... It would've been already very hard without you here. My dad is probably there now, interrogating him. Way worse than what he did to you, trust me. And I had to ask him so many times until I convinced him to come... It's not easy for him to be here, Eric. It's not easy for me to be here.... - … I'm sorry, I didn't want to bother you, Marie – Somewhat, somehow, he started to feel really bad. I mean, he did want to bother. But now, that she was getting hurt in front of him, somehow it was just not that funny anymore. - I knoow dude, I know. But you did. You understand what happened there? My dad probably almost liked you and hated Filipe. He probably hated him even more because you were here.... - She sighed. After a minute, she just asked at once, frustrated - Why Eric? Why did you come back like that? Marie looked in Eric's eyes. After one second, in that uncomfortable situation, Eric felt extremely tired. Exhausted. He realized that one day he would have liked to hold her at that moment, but now it seemed like the last thing in the world he would do. He was just too tired. Feeling so old... and so sad. He knew what had happened, he knew what was about to happen, and he was just too tired for that. Marie didn't want to cry and Eric didn't want her to cry. That awkward silence was getting stuck in their skin, and Eric noticed that once again, there was only one thing left for him to do: to leave. Things would get better if he just left. Marie started talking again. - … I'm sorry. It's not that I'm not happy to see you... But....arr...Don't you agree that coming back is definitely not what we had agreed upon, Eric? - Yeah... I guess. I guess you're right. In the seconds that passed Eric felt anger taking control of him and twisting his stomach again. It was clear: She was confused. She still liked Filipe and even worse, she was fighting against her own feelings towards Eric. There you go. He would never, ever accept to be someone's second choice. Or to be a question on someone's head. Especially when his competitor was that fucking poser. He wouldn't let himself get into that same position again. - Alright... I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening, Marie... I'm really sorry I showed up like this....Hope to see you around. Without giving more explanations, Eric turned his back on Marie, leaving her completely astonished with what had just happened, and making up any kind of stupid excuse when he got back to the table, he left. He didn’t have any intention on looking back, anyways. He didn't have any intention on seeing any of those people again in his life. Next thing he knows, he was at his hotel, looking the city from his window: It's two in the morning and he can't sleep. He didn't know how he got there, and for how long he was there. He didn't want to go anywhere. In a normal situation, he would have left Paris. But to go where? I hope that you never get to a point where you find yourself feeling the way Eric was feeling: Feeling like he had no one to call, no one with who he could talk to, and no one he'd like to see. No one, no one would understand that situation. He wanted to have one person to call. One. Someone who would just listen to what he had to say and who would really understand, someone who wouldn't judge him, how every single normal (and by nature, hypocrite) person would ever, ever do. No one would understand, because no one had always been through anything like that. Call Tom? No fucking way, he had just been a major jerk to one of his best friends. There you go Eric, now even Tom is going to get disappointed with you. He was probably going to have to deal with that later on, anyways. Through that night that he spent by himself (because his insomnia had always been worse when he was alone) many thoughts were haunting him. He decided it wouldn't hurt to wait Marie get in contact with him: It wasn't a matter of pride, but probability. He desperately needed to be with her as they were during that weekend, four months ago. For one of the first times in his life, he felt a sense of...purity, innocence even. How could three days with a person mark you that bad? How come he was making himself stay and wait? At some point, he just decided to get out of the hotel and wander around. He didn't care. Somehow, he was begging Paris to give him an answer. Anything that would make him meet the love of his life around the corner, or maybe he would get into a pub and would make some true friendship with people that would just listen to him, people that he could listen to: the most incredible people in the world. But no. It wouldn't be this way. Love was in the others. Happiness, friendship. There's nothing more depressing than to see happy couples, or friends living their lives together on a beautiful night like that. Having so much fun, being happy, being simple. Their happiness just meant to get a bit tipsy and get lucky enough to bring someone home to fuck that night. Maybe find yourself making love. Or for just having their comfortable houses, not only physically, but also emotionally: The most unattainable, hard feeling to create: The feeling of being home. You know what you do in this situation? You get into a coffee store and look at all the night souls that for some reason are in a coffee place at almost three in the morning in the middle of Paris. You try to listen to some music, but it seems like no music can truly reach you, so they all kind of annoy you. You try to use the internet, but there's no one out there that'd make you company, or news, or videos or nothing that can help you. Eric finally got a cab and went back to the hotel after an eternity in that coffee place. “I can't believe this shit is happening again.” Hell is lonely. Hell kills all our expectations. Hell is silent and still. Eric didn't remember at what time he fell on his bed: He actually was never able to remember how he got there, and he still had to face some time alone, awake in that huge bed, that felt so big and intimidating. “She just doesn't love you, dude. And you're just desperately holding yourself to a seed of a feeling because there's nothing else that you can hold on to at this moment. You don't love her. Just leave this city. You don't need that girl to feel happy: To hell with her and her family. To hell with that fucking poser of her new boyfriend. They're probably breaking up in a month, anyways. You know that” Before finally falling asleep, he felt like everyone he had ever knew was laughing at him. By the next day, he spent a long time on his bed, looking at the ceiling, before getting up. He was trying to remember what would make him leave that room. And his thoughts were interrupted by a phone call: It was Richard, saying his parents called him to send him all the information about the trip to St Jean de Luz, to spend Eric and Isadora's birthday, his younger sister (for a millisecond, Eric had to put a lot of effort to remember his sister's name) . Eric was confused about all of that “What is he talking about?”, when it hit him: He had called Richard a few hours before to tell him he was going to accept his parent’s invitation for a trip together. Then, he had passed out. “Oh, perfect. What the fuck did I just do?” In the days that followed, he tried as hard as possible to entertain himself. He even thought about getting in touch with people he had met in Paris, but he never did it. He just wouldn't have patience for anyone at that moment. Besides, he was not being Eric Meirelles those days and those people would want nothing to do with his real personality. On the third day, he walked by this small coffee/bookstore. He was tired of walking and he could use something to eat, so he decided to follow his instinct: He turned back and went inside the bookstore. There was only one young salesgirl, who gave him the brightest smile when she saw him getting into the store. 'Hey!' and waved at him. Eric did the same back, but probably not as friendly as she. Didn't matter. The bookstore's interior was really nice and cozy. An old-school bookstore, with comfy chairs and couches, nice lights, quiet. A completely different universe apart from Eric's world...or from the streets of Paris at that time, for all that matters. He ended up getting completely oblivious looking at all the books, cds and movies around him. - Hey! Can I help you with something? - The girl just appeared beside Eric - Sorry? - He got completely surprise by her sudden approach - Oh sorry, didn't mean to bother you – She smiled – Are you looking for something in particular? - Hmm, no problem... Not actually. Just looking around. - At that moment, Eric noticed she wasn't French. Something in her accent. - Ok, no problem … Let me know if I can help you... - “What’s with this girl? She doesn't stop smiling” - Ook...Ok She shook his head, as saying “oh ok. I get it. You don't want to be disturbed.” … And then she smiled ...again. Eric kept looking at the books, but he was completely out of it. It has been forever he hadn't got into a bookstore, or talked about books with anyone. He had no idea what he was looking for. Maybe a couple of years since the last book he had truly finished...What was he doing in a bookstore again? He looked at the girl, to call her attention and maybe ask some help, but she was far from him, and distracted doing something behind the counter. He kept looking at her, but kept she turning or looking at other things, and it seemed like she wouldn't look at him again. He definitely didn't want to have to scream, or have to go until her face to call her attention. In this limbo, he actually looked at the girl. Not the salesgirl, but at the girl. She was pretty and had beautiful, strong legs, and even over the jeans, you could notice that. He finally saw what was distracting her: a book. He saw it because he was slowly getting closer. Once again, when he was still looking at her legs, and at the cute way she was moving them while reading, she finally noticed him. Looking at her legs. He moved his eyes away as humanly possible. - Yeaaah? May I help you? - Hmm? Yeah... no, sure. I was...hmm looking at books here... - Hmm ook – She raised her eyebrows, with an ironic smile on her face. “I'm looking at books here? Fuck, that was really good Eric” - No, sorry. - He smiled - I mean... I was looking for books... but I'm kind of lost, so I was wondering if you could help me to find something. She looked at him, and seemed to analyze him for a second. “Fuck, I look like an imbecile” - Sure! - She finally said, very excited, leaving her book behind the counter. She was smiling again. “Wait, What?” - So what do you have in mind? - Hmm, I don't know... I'm looking for some books to pass some time. - Ok … What kind of books do you like? Eric shrugged his shoulders. They turned their heads to the shelves. - Great, so you want a book to read... - She said, with a very serious look in her face “Auch” Eric couldn't help but smirk. -Yeah, that would be the ideal... But you know, I'm all up for books to draw on too... She smiled back - Great, you do indeed look like a drawing books guy... Eric smiled -Yeaah I am... I think regular books are very mean sometimes, big words always scare me... - I know, right? ...Uhum... Let's see then... - She was smiling too. The movement in the store was very small at that point, and there was a small cafeteria inside the bookstore. Eric sat down and was having a tea while they kept talking. Soon enough they realized they were both from the same city – Yes, she was Brazilian – She sat down with him and they started talking intensely – About the books she had recommended him, about their favorites books, movies, about Paris, the French culture, a bit about themselves – Once in a while she'd have to go help a client that would appear, but the friendship between them was instantaneous. She had tried to speak a bit in Portuguese, but Eric, for his own surprise, didn't feel comfortable at all doing it. So they switched back to French. With a difference of three years, they would have been almost neighbors: Eric's parents had a beach house near where she lives with her parents back there. She was twenty one years old, was living in Paris with her aunt (the bookstore owner and a writer) and her uncle, an university professor, who was French. She was being housed by them, and even getting a bit of money working at the bookstore, which was “good because she was trying to save some money to backpack, after the year she was planning to stay in Paris”. She was at university, but didn't get used to it and so she was taking a break (thanks to her aunt mostly, who was helping her). She had had difficulties with French and was having a hard time missing her friends and being near a beach. She was happy, she said: She was working, learning French and reading as much as she could, enjoying it as much as she could, for a bit more than four months now. Eric complimented her on her French, and she clearly got very proud about that. Listening to that nice girl, with her blue eyes, so clear and pure, speaking about life with such passion, was very pleasant to Eric. He didn't speak much about himself, even less about his profession. She just knew he 'was living in the states’, being a musician and that he had family in south France. He was not lying, technically, right? Just like that the evening went by and it was almost time to close the bookstore, so he invited her out for dinner... and she accepted. And... And... And... They had dinner in a tiny restaurant, a la française, with some incredible good food – Eric couldn't remember the last time, before the Montini dinner, where he actually have had a nice meal. After dinner, they started to wander around, getting a beer at some point and then walking all the way to her house. Alice was her name. And her blond hair, nice perfume and pure blue eyes had made Eric remember how much excitement you can take out of a good conversation. He had bought nothing less than four books from her. Excellent salesgirl. - Keep up being a good customer and I'll forgive you for checking me out – She said, jokingly. Eric couldn't help but laugh. Alice was the second person from his hometown that he had ever met in almost six years that he had been an expatriated. His last thought before passing out on his bed was Marie. But he wouldn't remember that the next morning. A whole day passed, and Eric didn't know what to do. Maybe he should've left already. What was he waiting for? To Marie try to reach him? Seriously? That was indeed the plan. So he spent most of his day at the hotel, with ghosts of his past. Something was screaming inside of him to go to the phone, but he didn't know who he should call. Ok, let's correct that, he wouldn't know what to say. Ok, once again, he wouldn't know who to call first and what exactly to say. His life was perfect and the last thing he needed to do was dig into his past looking for fictions problems to solve. No, he definitely didn't need that. His life was perfect and if Marie didn't call him in the next three or four days, he would go back to do what he was good at and he would leave that possibility, that bad call, somewhere to be forgotten in the past. It wasn't hard. They were masters at doing it. Eventually he was able to take a couple of naps, which would have been nice to someone with insomnia, but he was having too many dreams, which was making his brain feel tired. He was not affected by them, though. He was sure of that. When he got fed up of all that cycle, because he was just wasting his time, he took a shower and once again he went to walk around. Consciously or not, he ended up at the one place he thought he shouldn't have gone: That bookstore. - Bonjour, Eric! - Alice opened the biggest smile when he stepped in - Bonjour Alice, ça va? – Eric also couldn't help but opening the biggest smile ever this time. - So once again in our humble bookstore? - Of course, I like it here...Besides, I need help to spend my time - “Way to go, Eric” - Ah, you know what I meant – He smiled at her - Yeah, yeah, don't worry. Thanks, most of the time I'm here by myself anyways... sit, sit. So, yeah...Sometimes I spend like an hour without a single soul to talk to...I always try to use this time to read. - Well, thanks to you, I now have four books to read back in my … room – He almost had said 'hotel' - My job, right? Eric smiled - Hmm I see... - He sat down in front of the cafeteria again - And do you intend to make an art of it? - Absolutely - Nice... - Ahem... Well, I want to be a writer, since I was fourteen I think. And selling books is just something I found myself enjoying to do. So in some way, I turned out to be completely like my aunt... well, when it comes to professional aspirations, at least. - Interesting... Well, I wish you the best of luck with that... - Thanks – She smiled - No problemo … So, hey, would you mind if I spend some more time here today? - Not at all, would you like a tea? Eric smiled again - ...Sure, thank you. - Chamomile again? - Peppermint today, please - Ok … So tell me, we never talked about it yesterday. How long are you here in Paris? - Just a few days... - And what are your plans? - Plans? … I don't know. What about you? -... Hmm, as I told you already, my plans for Paris are pretty straight forward... Learn French, save some money to travel some more, learn a bit of my aunt's profession... that's basically it. Live a bit, you know... - I see... So where did you go visit here in France so far? - A bit... not that much, actually. I travel a bit everywhere around, let's put it that way. - Surprise me - Well, I went to London, Madrid, Lisbon, Toulouse, Lyon, Nice, Rome and Berlin. You know, the essentials. - She smiled – But it's been a couple of weekends that I decided to settle down a bit more here in Paris. So many other places I'd like to visit though... - Cool. Did you enjoy it? - Yeah, a lot actually. - Didn't you just insinuate that the work is a bit boring sometimes? - Hmm... I wouldn't say that. I like it. Besides, my life here is not only work, right? It's pretty nice. - Hmmm Ok. Makes sense... So writer, eh? That sounds tough, no? - ... Yeah... But as I said, I'm also finding out that I like to sell books. It seems a bit simplistic, but I really enjoy it. There's a bit of poetry in that. Sharing and... Helping to spread knowledge and art or something like that. They both smiled - Again, makes sense... - And what about you? Tell me more about you... - Well, I travel a lot. I don't quite have a home, I'd say... And I came to Paris because I had some free time and some things to deal with... and now I'm just spending some more time before getting back to the states. - Hmm what kind of things? - … A girl - ...I see, what happened? - She smiled and made a funny face “Oh, interesting” - She got back to her ex-boyfriend after I left town last time. - Oh.... And you want her back? Didn't you stay in touch? Silence. He didn't know how to answer that. - No we didn't... And I don't know. I just thought... I should give it a shot to something you know. For something I thought I felt. It's been a bit hard to live as I've been living. So, yeah... I gave it a shot and got a punch in the stomach – Eric was spilling things he'd never say, especially to a stranger. But hey, sometimes that's exactly what someone needs: a stranger who listen. - I know it seems stupid that we didn't keep in touch now... But truth is, I didn't want to. I always avoid that. - ...Well, she has the right to stay with him, right? - ...I guess – He wasn't expecting she would throw that at his face – But the guy... - Let me guess, doesn't deserve her? Eric just gave her a weak smile, realizing that he'd sounded a bit stupid. - So, anyways... knowing that, have you consider the possibilities already? - No, not actually - Need help? - Why? Do you wanna help me with this? - It might be interesting, right? Also, it might help you to prepare yourself. They both smiled at each other. - Well, I guess if she wants to get back with you, it wouldn't be possible for her to move around with you, right? I mean States... travelling... right? - No, I don't think so... - Are you willing to just stay in Paris this time? - I....I don't know...m...maybe - Could you stay in Paris? Eric took a deep breath - ...Probably not for too long, nor that frequently. Alice gave a tired smile - Well, you're not making it easier, right? - I know... But I just thought I could come back from time to time, you know. Maybe in some time I could come back here in a more definitive way... I don't know. I was just...yeah... thinking I could make Paris my home... I don't know... ahh, whatever... - ... So why now then? You're basically trying to break them apart. You depend on that to have a chance with her. Wouldn't it be easier to just go away and come back... in a better life context? I mean, do you really think that's the way you want to start a relationship? Breaking a couple apart? He took a second to digest what she had said. - M…Maybe... but what about fighting for her? You know? Shouldn't I fight to take her away from that guy before he hurts her even more? Or something poetic like this... Alice just looked at Eric for a second. - Well, then you're just assuming she's a child that doesn't deserve respect for her own decisions and that can't take care of herself. That the guy is indeed a jerk and that you just would be so much better for her. What if you're wrong? What if she doesn't want you to do so? What if she doesn't need you to do so? Maybe she needs to realize that by herself...Or maybe you can help her realize that, but you shouldn't just force her to stay with you like that... Again, Eric needed a second to digest that punch in his stomach. - … Then I'll just leave if that's the case... - Eric - Just like that? No problem? - Yeaah, I guess. - Wow... sometimes it can be cruel. - Alice - Sometimes it can be indifferent. - Eric shrugged his shoulders and drank a bit more of tea - So maybe it doesn't mean everything you think it does... - … Only if you believe that you need to suffer to truly love someone. I'm completely against this concept.... Love … Love should be easy....or just...easier. Still, I thought I should fight for her... - Yeah... Hmm... I don't know. Maybe. I don't think that that goes against anything I meant to say. I do believe in a lot of things, about life, love and relationships. Many of these actually pushed me away from several people... I don't like suffering any more than you do, but I do believe that sometimes we have to fight for love... But sometimes we think we are fighting for love while we are actually killing it - Alice - Ahem... - Pause - Well, I guess it just proves we bring our wisdom in our flesh and bones. - He was quoting someone. He couldn't remember who. - … Mostly in the scars, yes They went silent Finally Alice smiled again and said: - So, did it help at all? Any plans for the future now that I blew your mind? - Hmm...I don't know... I don't like to think about the future. - Interesting... - Is it? How come? - Well, I guess it can be something really good, in the sense that you're not an anxious person about the future. So in a way, it must be liberating. You know, the whole concept of “The eternity belongs to those who live in the present” - No, but I can definitely understand it - Eric - Yeah, besides, Milan Kundera once said something that I pretty much agree, about how most of the times we are ageless creatures. Which, somehow just came to my mind about this situation, for some reason... -... Hmm... Wow, that’s really interesting. I'd agree on that. - Eric reflected on that for a while – So, are you a Kundera's fan? -Yeah, If I can say that... I just read a couple of books from him. You? - Alice - Yeah, just one... The unbearable lightness of being - No shit, I read that one too - Yeah, I have a friend whose name is Tomas, he's been named after that book. Well, we pretty much call him Tom. - Eric - That's interesting. Just out of curiosity, would you say his personality reflects Tomas’s personality? - Hmm... I guess you should be the one to judge. I couldn't tell just like that. - Hmmm… I see. - Well, but hey, what I wanted to say is that he read more than that from Kundera though. - I see. Well, if my name had come from a specific author, I'd probably have the same instinct, right? -She smiled - Anyways... what was I talking about? - I don't know, about the eternity of living in the presence? – Eric smiled - Oh yeah. No, before that. I was saying that it could be a good thing, but I was just gonna complete that saying that there's also the other side of the coin: It might be something good, but it might be something terrible: Might mean some fear of the future, or maybe too much attachment to the past. In any of those cases, I don't believe in any kind of extremism, anyways. We should think a bit about all of them: past, present and future. I'd say its human nature. So once again, let's try and think about some dreams, Mr. Buddhist. Shall we? … At least to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Eric laughed of the comment - Hmmm. I'm definitely not a Buddhist... Ok, let's see. “Keep touring with the band? Settle somewhere? Where? Go to college? Work with Tom?” Eric really put some effort onto it, and Alice appreciated the time he put on trying to answer her curiosity. - Well, I don't know. I think … just keep doing my work, maybe get better, you know. I...I'm not sure about settling down anywhere in the near future. Maybe I could go to college at some point, I guess... I don't know, it's like anything I think about doing... I'd have to start from zero, you know? I feel like I moved around too much: You get to meet a lot of people, but not actually to know them...Besides, I don't know, is a bit paradoxical, because of what I just said but … meeting so many people, and getting to know them... I sort of lost a bit of faith in people. People are usually so fucking full of shit... I feel like everything I have is my music, my work, and my band partners. - Oh...I see...Well, are they cool at least? - Yeah, they are. I like them, they are not full of shit, and they are very straight forward people. They don't try to be something they are not, they're always making fun of themselves, and they are honest about being almost like sex addicts and booze… enthusiasts. And my friend Mike...He's a very nice guy, you'd understand him better than you'd understand me: He is still always and persistently looking for love. - I see... I love those kind of people...And...Hmm... And did that … bipolarity about life reached them too? Eric gave a small grin. - It's complicated. The whole story is complicated. But no, they are pretty much...doing very well about it at the moment. At least it seems that way, overall. - Well, I have time. Apparently you too... Eric was now smiling: It was easy to talk to her. She smiled back, while raising her eyebrows. - All righty then, but I'm gonna need another tea then, please. - Yesss, sir – She smiled again – Just a minute. When she sat back with his tea, he started to talk. - … So, yeah... I was born in Florianopolis and I lived there until I was eleven. At some point, my family and I moved to Sao Paulo for three years, and when I was almost turning fifteen we went back to Florianopolis. A bit after I turned sixteen I moved to San Francisco, in the States, to finish high school and to go to college, but it turns out two years later I had become a professional musician. - ...Why so many changes? - My dad's work... (Not entirely true) - Hmm I see, so you just decided not to go to college? … How old are you by the way? - Hmm... I never felt like going to college in the states to be honest. Luckily I had an option, right... - Alice nodded – And I'm twenty-two, almost twenty three by the way... - And how old is the girl here from Paris? - Twenty... – For the first time, Eric thought about how much he was hiding about himself, and how much he was hiding about Marie. After all, the Montini name would probably call even Alice's attention. - ... Hmm... - Yeah, so tell me a bit more of yourself... - ... Hmm, I'm a pretty simple girl. I like camping, going to the beach, surfing, and doing yoga. Books, music, going for a hike, watching movies, dancing...Playing guitar around a campfire. I was a girl scout, so...yeah. I lived my whole life in Floripa, though. - Right... And did the scout movement made you like these things or you already liked these things and then joined the movement? - Hard to say. My mom always say I'm a baby from Woodstock anyways, so...Yeah...Probably the latter... Eric smiled. Alice kept talking. - And my parents are like... the chilliest people ever, so I sort of got raised this way – Pointed to herself - I see. Freedom and whatnot? - Sure. But not only that. All the fuss about society and freedom to come and go. And to be. - That`s cool… What about your parents? - Well, my parents are still living there right, in Floripa, really close to your place apparently, with my younger sister. It's a pretty nice place, sooo close to the beach, I love it. I have another aunt that lives in “Lagoa da Conceicao” (She said it with her Portuguese accent)... She has like three kids, and I'd always spend time with them and even sleep over, when I wanted to go to parties or something like that. It's like I have two homes, because I even had a tiny room with my stuff there, which is pretty cool. What else... My aunt here is married, but she doesn't have any kids, so she's always happy when anyone from Floripa comes to visit. - European influence? - Probably, yeah. What about your family? - Well, I have a small family. This uncle and aunt of mine who lives in San Francisco and an aunt that lives in Moscow. She's cool, a Bolshoi ballerina, but I saw her like three times in my entire life. - I see... - My parents are living in Toulouse and I'm probably gonna visit them soon. I have a couple of younger siblings, a sister and a brother. Besides that, my uncle has a son that lives in Canada, and that's all the family I have. - Cool, very international. - Uhum - Well, I speak for myself, but having family abroad sometimes is really a privilege. It opens you a lot of doors, don't you think? - True, for sure... Silence - … Were you able to take a look at any of the books you bought? - Yeah, I couldn't sleep last night so I tried to read a bit. Alice analyzed him for a second before asking. - ... Is it about that call? Is it really affecting you that bad? - Hmm, no... I ...I always had problems sleeping. - Wow... How come? How bad? - Hmm... Sort of bad. There's some nights I can't sleep, almost at all. Several times I'm able to pass out for like five hours, maybe. I take sleeping pills for that though, that helps most of the nights... Also pretty rare, but then sometimes I sleep for like thirteen hours... - Wow that must be fun. Can't a doctor help you? - Well, I went to one already...A couple to be honest. He's the one that gave me the prescription for the sleeping pills, apparently they are like really strong, but he can't do much, he said it's probably related to my routine, nutrition, psychological factors, whatever... too many variables.... I can't treat them all while travelling. But think for the positive side, I get like three or four extra hours when it happens. - Eric tried to smile, but he knew that that wasn't funny. - Uau... I sleep a lot, like an angel. I need at least like nine hours per day, less than that, I can't function properly... - Good for you – He smiled, she then laughed at his facial expression. - I know, right. ‘Good boy, champs' – And gave a thumbs up. -... Just one second... - A customer got into the store - No problem She started talking to the customer, showed him the books he was looking for, told him the price while making a bit more of conversation and he finally bought the book. - Girl, you must have a gift for that. - No way, when I first started, I couldn't sell anything. Can you believe that? Seriously, it was really bad, the bookstore almost closed because of me – They laughed - it's just a matter of adaptation. I guess it can be harder to some people to sell, but other than that, it's not that hard. And for sure you can't force a person to buy something, right? - Yeah I guess... - So, hey, when was the last time you went back to Brazil again? - ... Six years...Almost seven I guess... something like that. I don't even know... - Gosh, don't you miss it? - ...I don't have anything there to miss, I guess... - I mean about the country itself. - Hmm... I don't know. I've never been a beach guy, surfer, camper or whatever – She laughed at his mention – So yeah... I don't think so, no. It's a bit cliché this thing that you have to miss a place, or a country. I miss what I want to miss, and I just don't see any reasons to miss Brazil...Does that make sense to you? - Yeah, I guess that makes sense. - So would you like to have dinner again tonight? - Hmm my aunt is waiting for me, she's making a dinner at her place for a few friends. - Oh, ok – He would have to grab some food and spend the rest of the night alone. But she interrupted his train of thoughts. - Naah, don't worry, I'll call her and tell you I'm bringing you. How does that sound to you? Eric hesitated, he wasn't feeling like talking to anyone else. Besides, he was a bit fed up with family dinners. - Come oon, people are nice, and they'll like you. It'll be fun. - She waited a second, but still no asnwer - …. Come on, she won't call you at this time – She smiled, jokingly – And even if she does, nothing will stop you from talking to her. - It's not that... - So let's go... For me? She made a very sweet and persuasive face. - Ahh... - Eric smiled – Ok... - Awesome. Pretty awesome. She went behind the counter to call her aunt and tell her about Eric. The call didn't last long and her aunt apparently didn't have anything at all against the idea. When she was done on the phone, she told Eric it was almost time to close the bookstore. Half an hour later, they left the store and had to try to grab a taxi, because it was pouring rain. While they were talking, laughing, waiting for a taxi to appear, Alice gently pushed Eric against the bookstore door, and kissed him. It wasn’t a short kiss. And it was good, it was natural. It was intense and breathtaking, while they were slightly getting hit by the rain. They got a cab, and even though they tried their best, they ended up making out in the cab too, with the taxi driver having to clear his throat a couple of times. Alice put her head on Eric's shoulder and he kissed her. They were actually holding hands and there was an aura of heat around them. It was a bit weird that transition. Like a hit in the head. A cute and beautiful hit in the head. - Thank you - And that's all he said about it, smiling, and gently kissing her. - ...You know, I'd really like to throw your phone out of the window right now. But I really want you to work things out with her. - She smiled He kissed her forehead again but didn’t say anything. The driver was still looking, and he clearly raised his eyebrows about the last comment. Alice noticed that so she jokingly said to the driver: - I'm his mistress, sir. He's going through a tough divorce... The driver smiled back. - Oh, poor guy, is she ripping your pants off? Eric smiled, as if he was agreeing. - It's ok… You would be surprised on how many actual mistresses and married people I have to drive around. I should put a camera on my taxi and blackmail people – They all laughed – I would have my own yacht, enjoying my own mistresses at the Caribbean, thanking god for creating the French people. Hun? - They laughed -Yeah, that wouldn't be so bad - Not bad, not bad at all... - Said the driver Eric gave him a very generous tip, to what the driver said, smiling: - Opa! I'll put that aside for my yacht, kind sir! Have a lovely evening! When they got off the cab, they stayed outside Alice's place for a while. They held each other again and Eric was able to smell her perfume. He got stunned by it. He caressed her face and put his hand on her neck, while they continued to kiss each other, talking and laughing. At some point, they went upstairs. There was about fifteen people on Alice's aunt's apartment and they were extremely nice and receptive with Eric. Against everything Eric could've thought, it was a very pleasant dinner, with extremely interesting people: a musician, a retired maestro, two writers, a professor, a doctor, one sculptor and painter, and a therapist. They were talking a lot, and really loud, drinking a lot of wine and eating a lot of the magnificent food that Alice's uncle had prepared. The young nationless musician got everyone's curiosity, many of them essentially curious and extravagant, especially after a bit of wine. No politics or economics, or how youth these days are messed up, or “discretely” sending mean comments to the people on the table. No, the subject there was more mature, and at the same time, lighter. It was easy to talk, and it was also extremely easy just to listen and get completely surprised by the intelligence of them and their incredible stories. Time was going by so fast and it felt that just like that, the night was almost over: people talking in smaller groups of one or two, drinking wine, having dessert or even trying to dance a bit in the middle of the living room. Even Eric and Alice danced a bit, after spending the whole night as a perfect couple. When they noticed, it was almost two in the morning: People were starting to leave. He decided to go back to his hotel at that point. He called a cab and just let himself fell down on his bed once getting there. Eric had rejected three calls from Marie that night, so she just sent him two messages: “Eric, Are you still in Paris? Could you meet me tomorrow?” And the second one, three hours later: “Please, Eric. I really wanna talk to you” Before completely passing out, his last thought was: “Fuck, she called. What the fuck am I gonna do now?” Eric agreed to meet Marie the next day at a coffee place. When he got there, she was already waiting for him, wearing jeans and a black shirt, with a backpack. She seemed to have a bit of dark circles under her eyes, but apart from that, she was gorgeous and trying to be as nice as possible. She was the one who started the conversation. - Hey... - Hi... - How's it going? - I'm great, how are you? - ... I'm ok Silence. Eric cleared his throat and put his hands inside his pockets. - So yeah, here I am, did you say you wanted to talk? - Yeah, sit, please... - Sure, I'm just gonna grab a coffee...You want something? - She didn't Eric grabbed a coffee. Then he went back outside, and sat on the table in front of Marie. - So how's Paris treating you these days? - Marie - Hmm… Pretty well. Weather's nicer, that's for sure. - Good... good. I'm happy to hear that. - She gave him a smile and tried to look into his eyes. - Yeap... - So you said you're taking a break right? - She didn't quite knew how to start that talk - Yeah... - … Cool - Yes, always good... - Still leaving tomorrow? - She asked - No, in a couple of days - Oh yeah? - Uhum... Marie was probably going to ask why. But Eric being short probably got to her faster than she thought it would. - You're not particularly in a good mood today, Hun? - She gave him a sad grim - ... Hangover... - And after a second, he completed - ...Sorry - No, it's not that... - … Please don't talk like you know me – Eric just spat it out, for Marie's surprise. He was annoyed. Marie went silent for a minute, looking down to her hands. She suddenly got sad. She was just sad. - … Please don't treat me like that. Pleaase, not you. - He could swear she was about to start crying Eric tried to keep a straight face. He didn't feel good for what he had just said, or for the way he was making her feel. But he definitely wasn't going to apologize. - Eric, you'll never realize how sorry I am for everything that happened, ok? But come on, seriously? You think I did any of this on purpose? He didn't know what to say. Of course he knew that. - I really really had a hard time trying to forget you. I didn't want to, but I couldn't kept dreaming that eventually you'd come back for me, or that I was gonna go chase you. That was too naive for me to believe. We spent all that time, trying to tell ourselves that it was not a big deal, and that we wouldn't let it become a deal, didn't we? Didn't we try to be all cool and mature about it? What did you want me to do? I didn't even had a phone number to call you... I got to the point that I was about to ask help from my dad or maybe from Tom to get in touch with you.... but I was so sure that I was gonna sound stupid, and that you just didn't want me to do so.... You understand how stupid I was feeling? Eric? No answer from him. - Truth is... I missed you, Eric. A lot... - She stopped for a second - Don't think that I didn't care... But I tried to change with that. After everything we talked, and how you treated me, I told myself I just couldn't let things stay in the way they were. I couldn't keep lying to myself, to my parents, letting everyone around me just treat me like shit and step on my head. Because I deserved more... - And then, as she was just saying it to herself - I deserved someone more like you... She stopped talking for a minute. - I spent more than four months Eric, four months, trying to forget what happened between us, because I was just depressing myself, with no reason to believe I'd ever see you again. You have no idea how hard it was... Feeling alone, but so alone, after you finally meet someone that actually treats you right... - She took a second to breath - After that, I finally started to try to move on with my life, because that's what I thought I should do... That's what I thought you'd have told me to. What Tom would have told me to... So yeah, I decided to give another chance to Filipe, because he was really, really trying. I said it would be different this time, it had to, because I wouldn't allow otherwise... Because, yeah, a part of me still believed that somehow we could work out together - She paused again – I know it sounds stupid, but I just thought you deserved to know that... They got silent for a while. - And you love him... Marie slowly shrugged her shoulders as saying “I don't know” - ... - … I was in love for that guy for a long time Eric. And now it's the first time is actually working out. What do you want me to say? You're leaving again in two days, and letting you go once was already bad enough... I don't wanna go through that all over again... - ... Ok... So why did you call me? - Because I thought you should know all of this. And because I'm still trying to save my relationship from the fiasco of that dinner, and to explain to my family what happened... - … Well, I'm sorry to hear that... Marie nodded. - It's ok... They looked at each other for a bit. It was very awkward. She was lying. She was afraid. She wanted him to fight for her. She wanted to kiss him and be forced to admit how bad she loved him and how bad she wanted him to stay... If he had asked her to fight for him and say that he would fight for her, if he had assured her things could work out... But then there was Alice, and how she had treated him. What was he supposed to do? He wasn't even sure he wanted to try anything anymore with that girl. Or with anyone, for what it matters. - So I guess that's it... – Eric finally said – … I wish the best of luck for you guys... I'm ...I'm actually happy to hear that you're not letting people treat you bad again. You deserve the best, Marie. And now you have my number if you ever need to call me – He gave her a sad smile - I should go... She didn't know what to say. She was so divided, terrified. But Eric couldn't deal with that, so he had to let her go. - Take care of yourself, ok? - Marie had tears in her eyes when she said that. Eric smiled, nodded and left without looking back. - Ah, come on, Eric. I need more than that... - Aaah, come on Alice... It's too much for my pride for one day. She just kept staring at him, so he gave in. - Ahh... ok ok … She said she took a long time trying to forget me and that she is trying to have a good relationship now, and that I'm leaving again aand that she wanted to tell me how hard it was for her... - All right.... but did she say they were arguing? - Well, for what I understood, yes, apparently yes. - Ah, I see... Silence. - So how are you feeling? - Alice asked - ... That I lost my day... - Well, you can always wait, man. In the way your life is accelerated, soon enough she'll call you again. - Hmm... I can't stay that much more in Paris - I see. How many days do you still have again? - Well, the most I could get, insisting a lot, was more three days. - What, did you have to cancel some commitment or anything? - … Sort of, It's just because now I'll have to fly directly to meet them in the day of the concert in some small city that I don't even remember the name, instead of going to this meeting in … I don't remember where... - Where? The concert, I mean... - It's in the States somewhere... - Oh, ok... -Yeah... For the next months I'll basically stay in that side of the Atlantic. At least I'll be able to visit my friend Tom in Montreal. But yeah... - The Kundera guy? - Yeah - Cool, cool. He seems to be a good friend of yours, no? - Yeah he is... But...err... - What? - He's also Marie's friend. Probably best friend I'd say... - Hmm … And you think things might get weird? - Yeah, I guess … I still haven't talk to him about all of that... Following the three unreal days spent with Alice, Eric had a really hard time leaving Paris. Both because of Alice and because of Marie. He never thought he could be so sad. He was not only divided, but broken. At the same time he was devastated from leaving Alice behind. He just wanted to forget Paris, and now he wouldn't be able to. Why did that had to keep happening? He was happy for having met Alice, but now that was leaving him in a very delicate place. After he left Paris, he started to have nightmares, about Marie coming to tell him that she still loved him and wanted to be with him. But then Marie finds out about Alice, or maybe he just gets crushed by the indecision. Or Alice hears Marie talking and she gets her heart crushed because she realizes he still love Marie. Or Eric finds out Alice have gone back to Brazil, and she too, would have get together with her ex (somehow in his nightmares that fear was pretty real). Another option was seeing Marie suffering because of Filipe and because of him. He didn't know how to deal with none of that. It was all too...not at all like him. These nightmares kept happening for weeks. Even though he was happy for finally having someone he could write and call, and feel a bit understood, he also felt like now he had even more things to hide from people. I mean, he was not gonna talk about Alice with Tom, right? He didn't know how to explain it, but he started drinking more, more than usual. Somehow he was a bit happier, and a bit sadder, all at once. Now he could always try to get in contact with Alice, and it was really nice to have her writing him and being able to write her back (both of them got pretty excited about long e-mails where they would discuss life, love and the universe, trying to avoid the subject “I miss you so bad by my side” ) Nightmares, broken pride because of the whole Marie story, missing Alice, the pressure of having to go meet his parents again after years apart, the crazy routine they were now having... All things that ended up releasing on him a self-destructive behavior, again. In the beginning, his bandmates thought he was actually getting a bit better, because he was finally starting to socialize more, after some months where he had been exceptionally quiet. Drinking more, gambling more, smoking more and enjoying everything he could from the life they were having. He was once again the Eric they knew, and that new weird energy finally affected everyone in the band and around them, what eventually got even Richard satisfied. They were finally getting a bit happy again about touring. He started taking sleeping pills as if they were mint, finally sleeping reasonable amounts of time. Taking in consideration the schedule they were having, it felt like a glimpse, or maybe a bad trip, and soon enough his vacations had arrived. He was finally going on vacations, going to see his family, with Mike and Alice, which was completely unreal for him. The fact of “You know, meeting my family again, after such a long time” Seeing Alice again... that would be heaven: She would be able to help him make everything get better again, he was sure of it. If there was one person that could help him survive a couple of weeks with his parents, it would be Alice. When the day arrived, Eric and Mike went to Paris to meet Alice, and the three of them rented a car and went straight south. That road trip would already be insanely fun. St Jean de Luz. It was amazing there, completely packed with tourists from all over Europe. Eric had already been there, almost eight years ago, which seemed to be an eternity for him. Being so young, it was weird for him to think that, but he was feeling like the time... had really passed. He just wanted to leave it all behind and enjoy that moment, with his friends, in that atmosphere, so much lighter than what he was used to. His family had actually rented the same house, a bit outside of St Jean, and with the few information they had about the place, they went looking for it. It was there. The ocean was so blue, the sky was so blue, everything else was so colorful, and the wind was incredibly pleasant. Not long after arriving, they found the house, Eric being able to recognize it from last time he was there. It was a white house, with blue windows, three minutes walking from the beach and ten to fifteen minutes walking from St Jean itself. It really felt like they were going for a treat. As they parked and got off the car, purposely ostensive, they all got amazed by the place, the view, the feeling of being there. It was all really nice. The house had all its windows opened, which meant his mother was probably cleaning the house and airing it to make it impeccably clean. As soon as a girl from inside the house noticed their presence in front of the little porch, four people basically ran outside to meet them. First, girl with brown hair, extremely pretty, with brown eyes and a very friendly and smart face. It was Isadora, Eric's sister. She was wearing some very short jeans, showing off her gorgeous legs, which made Eric hit Mike with his elbow so he'd stop starring. She basically jumped on Eric's neck: that's how excited she was to see her brother. Then there was a younger guy, who should be around fifteen, maybe sixteen, with his long, dark-blond, curly hair, messy as humanly possible. It was his younger brother, Gustavo. Behind them were Eric's parents, with surprised and satisfied facial expressions. They probably weren't sure Eric would actually come. Fair enough, Eric wasn't sure he would be going to come either. Eric himself got surprised. His parents had gotten old. Obviously they would get old too, but they had completely different features from what he was used to. They had kind, happy expressions. Eric asked himself what had happened with the severe and bourgeois features he remembered. For some reason, that got him really confused. It was like they were strangers to him. They were all strangers to him. They hugged each other, kissed each other, and introduced themselves. They analyzed themselves and then got invited in. They got all their baggage and musical instruments: two guitars, harmonicas and an acoustic bass. (If they were going to stay there for two weeks, having their own music was essential.) His mother showed them their rooms, when the obvious happened: she had put Eric and Alice in the same room. Eric discretely looked at Alice and she quietly confirmed that it was ok. She was smiling. Eric actually enjoyed that. During the first couple of hours, they unpacked, with Gustavo and Isadora's help, while they were talking non-stop, trying to catch up with their lives, and it was really weird for Eric to realize he had two younger siblings right there, with him, and that in reality he didn't know much about any of them anymore. Soon after, they all sat down by the table outside and had a bit to eat and drink while they kept talking for almost two hours. Eric couldn't stop asking himself what the hell had happened to his family. The Ocean... It was something so unfamiliar to Eric at that point in his life. Actually it had always been like that. Everything in St Jean seemed to be just too different from his life: open spaces, clean, light atmosphere and with happy, healthy people. He was just so used to pubs, parties, concerts, hangover, headache, fast-food, depressed and/or drunk people that he was taking a while to take all that in. For Mike, it was the same. Alice, in the other hand, was at home. She made Eric go in the ocean the first day they were there. After the first day on the beach, with a really nice lunch on this outside deck their house had, they spent a couple of hours talking until it got dark and they decided to go to bed. The next day, they had a lazy nap after coming back from the beach and having lunch. When they woke up they decided to go walk around St Jean de Luz for a while, stopping at a restaurant eventually to have some dinner, in a place that was surprisingly packed considering the size of that city. After finishing eating, as they were walking some more, they noticed this small music concert inside a church, and being pressure by their parents, they got in to take some pictures. Eric was feeling exhausted. When he laid down on his bed that night, he fell asleep almost instantly, and didn’t even had time to think about having sex with Alice. Nothing else had surprised him more than the fact of having some responsible figure around. Richard was far from being a paternal figure, after all. Next morning, Isadora had to come and wake him up to have breakfast with the whole family. Again, another weird feeling. “Getting waken up to have breakfast?” Brazilian coffee and Milk, scrambled eggs, bacon, croissants, brioches, chocolatines, cereals, fruits, brown toast with quinoa and all those weird grains stuff, pancakes and everything else you could think of. Once he was finished eating, he just relaxed on his chair and felt like smiling for no reason. Actually, he felt happiness irradiating from his stomach. He gently kissed Alice. When he was going to his room to get ready to go to the beach, he noticed the time: it was eight in the morning. He'd slept then, eight straight hours, and had actually woken up a bit after he would usually go to bed. It was definitely weird to realize that. - Hey sweetie, what's up? - Alice noticed he was a bit lost in his thoughts. “Sweetie?” He smiled at her “When did I become sweetie?” And he repeated his thought out loud. - Since the very first day – She smiled – What's wrong? - ... I just realized how early it is. - ... Yeah, I know. But we should wake up early to enjoy the best part of the day on the beach, no? Eric went silent. - ...Eric? - She called his attention again, smiling. - It's just a bit weird, you know. - He wasn't smiling anymore She sat beside him at the bed, and started caressing his hair. She was not openly smiling anymore, but she still had a nice and happy feature. - Which part? - I don't know... Being here, on a beach house, with my family around. Having you, all gorgeous and nice to me, calling me sweetie. She was still caressing his hair, but now she was showing an incomprehensible facial expression. No one said anything for a while. - Thank you – She finally said - For the compliment? You don't ha... - No, no... For everything. For the compliment, and for the invitation to come, and... For everything. She smiled at him and then she kissed him. That so creepily reminded him of what Marie had told him once. - Look, I don't know about… Well, actually I don't know much about you in the first place – She smiled – But we are having a really great time here, aren't we? Maybe you should just try to relax and enjoy it, before you have to go back to the States... In any case, you need to first assimilate the idea of having a family near you again, so then you can do all the rationalization you need. You're not gonna go anywhere if you keep stopping yourself from having fun. Silence - Alice and her words of wisdom... They both smiled - Come on, let’s go to the beach have a nice time, shall we? Eric couldn't understand how, but that quick talk with Alice had taken a lot of weight off his chest. What a weird random talk. A couple of days later, Eric, Alice, Mike and the siblings went to the beach really early again, while his parents would go somewhere near Biarritz, saying they would take a while to get back. Isadora said they were going to visit a friend who lived not far from there. After the whole morning at the beach, they went to have lunch in a restaurant near the sea, this time closer to St Jean. It was a relatively simple place, but it had some really good food. On their way there, they passed in front of a place – for the fifth time, probably – and noticed a plate saying “Henry Matisse lived here” Alice got especially excited about it because she really liked Matisse, so she ended up taking a picture in front of the sign. In the restaurant, midway through the meal, Eric had the weird sensation of being responsible for everyone (he was indeed the oldest one, and it was his family after all that was there) He also noticed something even weirder: It was being very hard to get used again to the idea of having parents around, but it had been completely natural for him to get close with his siblings. They were very smart (obscenely smart, actually) and incredibly fun to have around. Isadora was a shining person, very excited about life, talking and being nice to everyone, like... all the time. Gustavo was a bit quieter, had a very ironic and imaginative mind, crazy in a very peculiar way. He was always touching his own hair, something that Eric recognized about himself, seven years before. Eric got to know that both Gustavo and Isadora were in this very prestigious private school in Toulouse, Isadora with a partial scholarship and Gustavo with a full scholarship. That's right, Gustavo was too smart, and apparently he didn't even had to try while Isadora was the very studious type of girl. It was not only that: Eric and Alice were undeniably a couple now. Surprisingly, Eric was starting to get really open and being very affectionate with her. He was feeling very comfortable around her, and she was also very comfortable around him. Alice was just something unbelievable to Eric: she couldn't exist. She was just too awesome. Mike couldn't help but notice how much Eric was different those days from the Eric he was used to. After five years, he finally met his friend's family, and he was very, very happy to have accepted Eric's invitation. What was also helping them to enjoy their vacations is that Eric and Mike were unreachable. Richard knew when they would go back to the states and that they didn't want to be bothered during those two weeks, and apparently it was working. In the middle of all that, something really disturbed Eric. Something he first noticed, for real, in that restaurant that day, which basically changed the whole trip, and I guess everything that followed: Mike and Isadora. The looks they were giving each other. Eric really didn't know how to feel about it. Three days later, when Eric and Alice were walking around Biarritz – He was completely dazzled about her, because of all the fun they were having - he decided to ask if that was his imagination or if indeed there was something happening between Mike and Isadora. He waited for the right moment to ask: he didn't want to sound stupid about it. At some point, they were in this restaurant with a stunning view of the ocean. - Wow, it’s beautiful here, no? - She smiled at him He just smiled back at her. There was a nice and pleasant silence in the air, and they were holding hands over the table. - A penny for your thoughts, Eric - Hm... I don't know. - He smiled - Are you having a good time? - Yeah yeah, of course... - They smiled at each other. - Good, good... So what has been your favorite part of the trip? Eric smirked at her - Ahn... really? She smiled back - Really really.... - Hmm... I enjoy being here. With you... And I like being...I don't know how to put that... free, I guess? … From my obligations and my routine. I mean, it's really nice here, just relaxing like that... She smiled at him, saying: - Cool... See? It didn't hurt. - She said, and he just smiled back at her – What about your family? - What about them? - Well, you told me it has been years since last time you saw each other, right? - Yeah... - How's that going for you? - Hmm... I'm having fun with Isa and Gustavo, they grew up to be pretty cool actually. - Yeah, I noticed that – She smiled again – ….What about your parents? Eric took a deep breath - Well... its ok I guess. - He said it with difficulty - Just ok? - … Ah, I don't know Alice... It's complicated. - Is it? Is it really? Or are you complicating it yourself? - She jokingly said that Eric eventually smiled back -Yeah... No, trust me. It's complicated.... I'm just still a bit uncomfortable on having them around I guess... - I see... Well, I have time... - I know you do – He gave her a quick smile – But not today... - All right then, champs... You know you can talk to me, right? - Yeah, I do....Thanks - My pleasure They didn't say anything for a while, just looking at each other, at the ocean, then looking around to the other people who were at the restaurant. - So hey...Is it just me, or Mike and Isadora are...? Alice smiled - Eric... Sweetie. We're here for what? A week already. From day one they were already exchanging some malicious looks. Eric smiled, not believing it. - Since the first day? Jez, I'm so gonna kill Mike.... I saw how he looked at her when he first saw her, but come on... - Why did you think they didn't want to come? - Well, I noticed thaat... What about Gustavo? - He's probably looking for some girl. Maybe surfing... Maybe not. They laughed. - Your siblings are fast, man. A woman sat in this tiny ‘stage’ that was basically just a seat and a microphone, and started singing a slow, romantic music that made them just got quiet to fully listen and enjoy it. That lunch would take hours, and it was really pleasant, as some sort of magical moment in their lives, with the ocean beside them. It felt like they spent an eternity there, eating, drinking, talking and laughing. After that, they decided to just drive around and it took them a good couple of hours to get home. On the car, they were talking about authors and literature in general: Hemingway, Kerouac, Tolstoi, Kundera, Saramago, Proust and so many other. Most of the talk was really light, and they had a very interesting talk, with Alice talking non-stop about it. - Wow.... you really know your writers, eh? - Yeah.... Well, I don't know, I find it interesting to learn things about this guy's lives. I find it amazing to think about their work having in mind their... life story. - Yeap, I get that. - You should, you're an artist too. Isn't it clear that your life affects your work? - And vice versa, sure.... But, hmm... I never thought of our music like mine. Mike was the one that always really created the songs. - Hmm. He says basically the same about you... How you always bring the feeling to the music, the body of it, most of the lyrics... No? - Hmm... I don't know. I think that’s Mike only being modest... - Ok... What if that's you being modest too? - I don't know... I never saw myself as a modest guy. Much for the contrary... So I don't know why I'd do that.... - He smiled at her - Okayy.... - She smirked – So, what would you say it’s your contribution for the band? - For the band or for the music? They're very different things.... - He winked at her - Ha... You know what I meant... - Alright... For the band, the looks, obviously, I mean... – He was trying to be funny. Alice laughed and said “Alright, naturally” - For the music.... Hmm... I guess I do have a hand in the creation process. Mike knows all about the music... like, everything that there is to know, seriously. You can ask him about any band, any genre, anything music or … at least rock related... He is an incredible musician, for real. When I met him, I got completely baffled by his skills and his knowledge: that guy would literally spend like five or six hours a day practicing guitar and more a couple of hours studying music and listening music, and all. For real... It doesn't matter how talented I am or anything, Mike was born to do that, and he would have succeed at it without me, I'm sure about it. - But? Where did you came into the picture? - He...was too young, unexperienced, naïve even. He had zero friends, mostly because he was that … devoted to his music at that age. I have never seen such commitment... But he... he wasn't very sure about what he had to say to the world, or how to say it. He was very...hmm... doubtful when it came to writing songs, you know? And I... I had a lot of ...anger … and I knew exactly what we had to say, how to say it, and to where we should head. So in a way, we helped each other to achieve what we wanted. Even though he needed a big push in the beginning... He never thought he was good enough, that he was ready to make music.... I don't know. I helped the guy make friends in San Francisco, took him to some hard core parties – Alice laughed at that point – And I don't know. It may sound a bit cheesy, but since then, he takes care of the music and I take care of the band... - Ok... And Liam and Jack? - Good musicians, very good musicians too actually. They knew each other already, they sort of tried to have a band before meeting us... And yeah, we, me and Mike I mean, we met them through friends. For a while it was very exciting, you know. Friends in Frisco, parties, meeting people, the start of getting famous... Making big money. - Yeah, sounds exciting... - Uhum... But yeah, I still feel like there's somethings I can't talk to him, you know? He's too good of a guy to understand somethings, sometimes... - I see... Well, have you ever gave him a chance? Eric shrugged his shoulders, and looked away. - I don't know... - He sighed - Not really Alice turned her head to the road. She felt like he had just ended the conversation about that topic, just like that. - Okay... Soo are we going back to the beach when we get home? - Yeah, sounds like a plan – He smiled at her - Awesome... Hey, what about that observatory? - Hmm, maybe tomorrow? Tonight I just feel like going to eat somewhere and do nothing... - Alriight, sounds like a plan too... - She smiled at him When they got home, they saw Mike, Isadora and Gustavo and a random girl (With her head on Gustavo's lap) chilling in the living room. They decided to join them and go to the beach, even though they took almost an hour to actually leave the house, everyone being lazy at that point. After they swam for a while, and did all the silly things you can usually do on a beach, Eric and Mike bet who could reach this floating platform, around eighty meter from the sand, where people could go to dive or just to chill in the sun. One...two...three... and water! Cold and almost rigid water. They swam, swam and got there at the same second, for Eric's surprise. They laid down on the platform, with the sun warming their bodies. ' The quietute was really nice, with only the sound of the ocean and the people, far away. - Man... I'm really glad I accepted your invitation to come. - Right?! I told you it would be fun... - Yeah, so nice here, this beach, this weather... - Sure... but of course you aren't that happy just because of the place, eh? Mike slowly looked at Eric, smiling - Ahh, fuck. I knew you'd notice it. - Well, actually... Hmm I could say Alice confirmed it to me - … And that's ok with you? - Why do you think I brought you this far into the ocean? - Eric smiled - To drown me? - Always a possibility dude. Always a possibility. They laughed. - No, wait. I just wanted to tell you nothing much happened, dude. - Oh Alright, save me the details... - Ha, no, seriously, I told know, I kind say I should talk to you about it. Before anything more serious, right. - Hmm. - But I really like her, man... And I really would like to go out with her, for real. I think I'm falling in love with your sister... - He paused for a second, made a funny face and then said - Fuck that sounds weird. - Wow... And you thought you needed my authorization? Mike got embarrassed. - Dude, It's just weird that you're talking about my sister, ok? But it's been like.... maybe four years I didn’t see her, I'm not gonna pretend I'm a protective older brother now, ok? I know you're not a douchebag, I know you wouldn't do it if it didn't mean a lot to you... relax man. Relax and enjoy the few days you're gonna have with her. I just... Well, I'm not gonna say right? What basically happens every time we have to leave...? - Yeah, I know – He gave Eric a sad grim – Thanks anyways man... What about you and Alice? - We're cool. I'm definitely gonna miss her. She's really freaking awesome... - True... but...anyways, what about the redhead? Eric shrugged his shoulders and just said: The redhead was a mistake. - Ok...You don't think about her anymore? - ... - Right... I'm just trying to help... - I know, Mike, I know. And speaking about help, seriously, try not to make my sister a problem. We're gonna leave soon, you know that... They were having an incredible time together: They were all getting along really well and they were all always full of energy to go to the beach, to go to bars, go check some stores, visit around, and eat a lot. Or they would just get extremely lazy around the house or at the beach. Even Eric started to feel full of energy, something that had been a while he didn't know what it meant. He was sleeping quite well, and long enough, in reasonable hours, and getting off the bed didn't seem to be such a torture anymore. Getting a bit of sun everyday actually felt like it was making him some good. Eric and Alice were also having a nice time as a couple, having a lot of fun together or just chilling and talking themselves to sleep or whenever they'd just get the chance to talk a bit. She was a great listener, and would always know how to make Eric open up a bit more. A bit more, every day, A couple of days passed like that, people going to the beach early in the day, getting tanned, finding something to do during the day, going back again to the beach by the end of the day, then having all these amazing food, maybe watching a movie, going to a bar or just walking around St Jean or even going to Biarritz. In both Biarritz and St Jean, Eric and Mike ended up getting stopped by people who'd recognize them, and they would take pictures, or even autographing the t-shirt people were wearing. Once they even paid a round of beers in a bar when a couple of people recognize them, just because. Fun times. And just like that, almost ten days had passed since they arrived at St Jean de Luz. - So, son...Enjoying your vacations, Hun? - His mother. - Yeah...It's been nice. - That's good to hear. It's great to have you around, Eric...We really liked that you brought your friends - Yeah...They're awesome – He smiled at Alice and Mike - What about you guys, what have you guys been doing? - Isadora was asking the parents. - Hmm, the same as you guys: going to the beach, walking around, visiting friends that live nearby... - Oh ok... I'm sure Biarritz is way more glamourous at night than St. Jean, right mom? - Gustavo was mocking her. - Well, they do have some amazing magazines, I have to say that – She smiled at Gustavo – But truth is we just want to give you guys some space. You know how it goes, we get old and get boring with time – She smiled at Alice. - But hey, tonight we have that Basque game to go, it's not far from here, Hun? Everyone's going, right? As to what Gustavo said: - Or maybe you guys are going to bed? – Gustavo smiled, with his hand messing with his hair so it didn't stay in front of his eyes. - I mean, it could go as late as nine o'clock, that's pretty late for you guys, right? - No, no. We're going, don't worry Gustavo... Truth is guys, I just would like to talk to you guys about something. We were just wondering what we are doing on the next few days.... Maybe it would be too much to stay here more than two weeks, no? Eric froze on his seat. His stomach turned: He knew where that was going. In a second, he knew where that was going. He had finally seen his parents. - Oh, come on guys, its great here – Isadora intervened – And I believe they are really enjoying their vacations here, and so are we... - I know, I know. I was just wondering if maybe they wouldn't like to come with us and spend like three or four days at our house... - In Toulouse? - Do we have another one? They smiled - Actually, last time I checked, we still had a house back in Brazil. Did I tell you guys already that Alice lives absurdly close to our house? - No kidding... - Yeah, apparently like ten minutes walking. - Alice smiled at Eric's mother. - Wow, that's what I call a coincidence. So that's what? The second person you meet outside Brazil who's from Floripa? - Yeah, small world... But now Eric's dad once again went back to the subject, with the subtlety of a gun. - But hey, what about the idea of going back to Toulouse? I think it would be nice, guys. Show them your city, your friends. Our new house. We actually have a room for you in our house, Eric, you should check it out. It's pretty nice. - Hmm... I don't know guys. Maybe we should wait a bit more and see what happens, Hun? See what Eric decides - Isadora - Yeah, I'll go with Isa on that - Gustavo Eric didn't say anything. The subject wasn't over. They finished the dinner and went to watch the Basque game. Something had not hit Eric right. Before leaving to the game, Eric went to the kitchen and got himself another beer. They went to watch this Basque pelota game and it wasn`t very huge: It seemed to be just a small reunion between some locals who wanted to play that game. It was basically two teams with two players, each team with a nice uniform (one black, one red) in a field that had a tall wall on one of the ends. It was basically some sort of masochist squash: They would throw a ball at the wall, and the other team had to grab it and throw it back before the ball hit the floor a second time. The only thing is, they would play with their bare hands, and the ball was hard and heavy as if it was made out of wood. There were a bunch of Basques around, screaming in their dialect to the players, and that was actually pretty fun to hear. You could see how the hands of the players would get huge during the game because of those massive hits on that heavy ball. They seemed not to care at all. By the time the game really started, some sixty people were watching. Watching the game, Eric bought a round of beer to everyone (except for Gustavo, who was still underage) and they were having lots and lots of fun. Once it was over, the black team had won for a tiny difference, but apparently it was a pretty fair competition between those teams and it would always be unpredictable to say who would win each week. It was a blast. - Hey, You guys think we could go check out the ball? - Gustavo asked after the game. - Why not...Lets ask They got near the players. - Excuse me - Yes? - We were just curious ito know if we could check out one of the balls you used in the game? - Sure, sure … Where are you guys from? - We are Brazilians. He's American... - Ah, I see... here it is The ball passed through everybody's hands, surprising everyone on how much it weighted. - Does anyone wants to take a shot? - One of the young Basques maliciously asked, and was immediately criticized by his colleagues, but he didn't care. - Yeah, why not, I'll take a shot – Mike, after Isadora translated to him what the Basque had said. - Good luck, Mike - Allright...Against me its ok for you, American? - The Basque asked Mike, and waited for Isadora's translation. - Sure - Mike smiled and nodded The Basque threw the ball once. When Mike caught it the first time, he clearly got surprised with the weight of the ball. The Basque defended and threw it back. Mike was able to defend it too. His opponent hit it back and Mike gave in. It wasn't a complicated game: Imagine it's a tennis ball and try to ignore pain as much as you can...It was exactly a masochist squash. They went back to the side of the field, where everyone was. Mike was clearly surprised on how much that game could hurt. - I'm a musician, man. I can't hurt my hand – He smiled, trying to be nice, and Isadora translated his comment to the Basque. - No problem, no problem... What about you, Brazilian? You want to try? - Sure – Eric. But he wasn't smiling. He drank a bit more of his beer before going to play. The Basque started, gently. Eric hit it back. The Basque defended. Eric threw it back. The Basque. Eric. Basque. Eric. The Basque finally hit his first point. Eric didn't give in and kept going. Basque. Eric. Basque. And finally Eric gave all he had in one hit, almost angry, and was able to make it even. He saw people from his past laughing in the crowd. Samuel, Lucas, Isabella. The young kids he never knew the name, and whose blood got stuck on his hands years ago. They were all there, cheering against him. Laughing, asking him how silly he was for having ever believed his parents could've changed, asking him how Marie was doing, saying obscenities about Marie, about Alice, about Isadora. Spilling poison through their words. Completely hallucination, but they were there, and that's what matters. The Basque and Eric lost their smiles after Eric got a point. They both started to go faster and stronger. The Basque wouldn't allow Eric to win, not in front of everyone. And Eric just didn't care. He had to show them. He stood his ground and kept going, but soon enough he started to get beaten up, in the score and on his hand. Finally, one of the old Basques said the game was over and they just stopped. The Basque had a smirk on his face for crushing Eric, and Eric felt like punching him in the face, right there. They went closer to the crowd, and kept talking. Everyone – including the Basques – was smiling, being super nice to each other, trying to ignore the awkward situation that had just happened. Eric's hand was in his pocket and he wasn't showing anything at all on his feature. On their way home, Alice was preoccupied about Eric's hand and basically ordered him to show it to her. Everyone got shocked when he finally did. His hand was huge, a bit purple and was shaking uncontrollably. He kept drinking/chugging his beer. Eric tried not to get angry at their reactions but he ended up almost screaming “Stop the drama. I said I'm ok” and that clearly shocked everyone. Nobody said a word for the rest of the way back. They got home and everything seemed reasonably fine: They almost right away went to bed. But not Eric. He wouldn't be able to sleep because of what had happened before. Not the game itself, but the anger he felt. The anger he was feeling. Seeing those ghosts in the crowd. Why are they still there? Why? He felt like punching the wall. Why can't they leave him alone? Alice was caressing his hair and trying to talk to him, but she ended up falling asleep, probably tired of the awkward silence of that night. He was actually bothered by her presence. Alice, at that point, already knew their names, but she didn't knew the whole story: Eric was in pain, with so much anger and so much fear and so much pride that he felt he could die. “Maybe she'll understand. Maybe she can help you. Just tell her you need to go for a walk.” But there was other voices and other fears in his head too, that kept torturing him for long minutes. At some point, not long after Alice had fallen sleep, Eric went to the kitchen and grabbed a bucket, filled it with ice and just shoved his hand inside of it, without thinking twice. He felt something cracking inside his brain when he did that. He had to hold the pain without making any noise, but as soon as things seemed to get better, his head started to hurt. A lot. He went to get some alcohol they had in the kitchen and started chugging it to help with the pain “You need help, Eric. Come on, let's go back to the room and tell Alice everything. You don't need alcohol, man”. That was it. He had made his choice. He was on his way to their room, with a headache that felt like it was going to blind him. But it would all be alright. Alice would help him. In that moment his father appeared in the kitchen. They starred at each other for a second. His dad seemed tired, worried and in desperate need of saying something. He just tried to make some conversation. - Hey, son. Let me see it... How bad is it hurting? - Mentioning his hand on the weird bucket filled with ice. - Its great... I'm ok, I'm going to bed... His dad didn't buy it. - Let me see it – He repeated it, and as Eric showed it – Oh son, that's not good.... It will look pretty bad for a while. - It's ok. I don't care... I'm going to bed, dad. I need to go to sleep. - Come on, son. It might interfere with your work... Let me help you... Eric smiled. He was not convinced one bit. - You talk like you care... - Come on, don't be like that... Of course I care. I know how important it is to you... - It isn't in the end, funny, right? - He had a sinister smile on his face - So what's up dad? What do you want to tell me? Eric's father starred at him for a second. - Come on dad... Now it's my turn, hun? I know this face from a long long time, remember? Every time you feel like you have to play your role as a father you put on this face. Not first time... So what’s up? What do you want to tell me this time? Can we keep this short? I really want to go back to my room... His father knew he was about to go into a serious field. He tried to think really cautiously about what he was going to say. - … Hey, you fought for what you wanted. I respect that. And you deserve our respect for how far you went on your own. Congratulations – He tried to smile. Eric laughed, sarcastically. - You respect it? Oh thanks dad.... Because to actually like my music or have a bit of pride about it is definitely out of the question, right? I mean, not good for business Hun? His father was trying to not take those aggressions seriously. - What are you talking about? Of course we are proud of you. Of course, we listened to every single song you ever released. Your siblings adore you. It's just weird to listen to you like that... - Angry? - …Distant. Come on Eric, I'm just trying to make some conversation... Eric looked at his dad for a second, and smiled, sarcastically, shrugging his shoulders. - Come on, son. We have years to catch up. Can't we just try to be a family again? Can't I just be worried about you? Is that a crime? Give me a one minute break, please... After all those years... - And what gives you the right? Hun? - Eric - … Nothing son. I'm not saying I have any right at all. I'm asking you to let us try to be a family again... I know, ok? I know things weren't ideal, and that we... I, I made a lot of mistakes. But that's in the past, Eric. Those things are behind us. A lot of things changed... Things are better now. - That's bullshit. Those things are my past, my present and my future. I'm glad to hear though, that you guys are just so wonderfully over that. I'm glad I was of any use in building the perfect family, and that you're now so worried about us. Good for you, dad. Good for you … – Eric didn't know where any of that had come from, but he just started to spit things against his father - ... Fuck, are you that hypocrite? How can you wake up every morning and get out of bed? What kind of lies did you convince yourself of, Hun? That you changed? Give me a fucking break. I know you. And I know you will never change. The only reason why you can put yourself in this bubble of numbness where you actually think you've changed is because now I am the fucking provider of this family. Life got easier, so you convinced yourself you're a better man now. That's fucking pathetic...Even for you, that's pathetic... They got silent. - I'm sorry son. I really am. But you can't keep doing what you're doing to yourself. Look where your pride is taking you. Today you hurt your hand. And don't tell me that the life you live doesn't hurt you. You know it does. We know it does. We hear about it, we read about it. Even Richard tells us about it. I'm just asking you to let us face these things together, as a family. Pride like that, Anger like that, they won't take you anywhere. You're hurting yourself more than anything. - Oh shut the fuuck uuup – Eric got so mad he ended up throwing the bucket with ice on the wall, making a huge noise – Pride and Anger gave me everything I have. They gave me EVERYTHING I FUCKING AM. It definitely wasn't you and your stupid speeches. - … It also took away everything you lost. It's impossible to live without others people help, son. It would be just so much easier if you could learn how to....ask for help, or at least just let us be around you, without feeling that we are bothering you... Look at me then, son. Look how much I've lost for pride... Just please don't make the same kind of mistakes I did... Eric didn't say anything, so his dad just kept talking. - Maybe that's why things happened in the way they did, I know. Because I was too distant to see how things were falling apart. But then be angry at me, but don't make your siblings and your mom pay for it... And I'm not complaining, maybe it was a good thing in the end, all this changes that happened to us.... But it was me, Eric, not them... - A good thing? A good thing?? Are you fucking serious?? - Eric was definitely screaming now – Just because your lives got better you think that in the end what happened was good? You're fucking unbelievable... I got kicked out of my own city. You lost everything? Fuck, are you really saying that? I gave you back so much more than what you have ever lost. I gave you everything you ever wanted... and everything that I've lost, is gone. Do you understand that? Dead and Gone.... Do you have any idea what did I have to go through? … Let me guess, NO, you don't, because you never even ASKED what really happened. For your it was just a family drama you needed to handle before … well, before it would happen what happened and … and you'd lose everything you and mom ever held so dear... And now what? You're gonna pretend we were once a family? We were five strangers under a roof... “The Meirelles family”, what a fucking joke. Just to try and impress those ignorant and selfish assholes that think they own the world, in that fucking island lost in the sea who, honestly, nobody ever gave a fuck about, let’s face it... And you are no better than any of them... - Eric... no...I didn't... please... - Right. You didn't. You didn't give a shit... Now you shouldn't be surprise when it was the only lesson you ever taught me, dad. Silence again. His dad was just too shocked with all that anger throw at him at once. He needed a second to focus on what was going on. - …Wow, you really kept it inside for a good time, hun? Eric's head was hurting. He was again having flashes of memories and that was just making him feel even angrier. He was venting. His neck was hurting. He was walking around the living room. - Fuck … Kept inside.... You're just pathetic... That's all just too pathetic for me. Just stop trying to be something you're not. You're not a good person, you're not a good father... You're a terrible human being, so you trying to tell me what to do.... it's just too pathetic. - Eric pushed his dad away so he could... just his room and breathe. At this point, Eric somehow had really gotten under his father's skin. - Fine. All right. Truth is you never respected or appreciated anything... You don't even respect me trying to get closer to you, trying to apologize for what I did wrong... I always fought for the best of the best for you guys: I gave my blood for this family and I'm sorry If what I did and what I'm trying to do now is just not enough for you. And if it never was. And yeah, you don't think I regret myself for being the way I was? You're right, I do. But that's why I'm doing everything I can so I can look myself in the mirror. It's not everyone that can live like you, party after party, without any responsibilities or idea of what it means to live in the real world. That's what people do in the real world, we do our best to keep going. We don't run away from our problems for seven years. Eric laughed, almost as he was spitting poison, screaming: - Theeere you go. So honest, so hard working... So ethical! That's more like the guy I remember, hun? Feeling better without the mask, dad? - Oh come on Eric. Your mom and I never forgave ourselves for letting you go... But we thought it would be better, we didn't know we'd have to move too... But now, since we've got here, we have to pretend everything's ok. But it's not, we are trying to fix something. We are trying to have a family again... You can't forgive me? Fine, I can deal with that. But don't do that to yourself and to your siblings... Your anger and hatred against me have hurt them too, you know that. It also messed up their lives. We just wanted you to be a part of your sibling’s lives. We just wanted you to spend some more time in our house with us, god dammit. Eric was smiling, and nodding. - Maybe you're right... Maybe I just can't forgive you. I could try, if I wanted you back in my life... but I don't. I don't... My life is better than ever, and I'm not gonna let you ruin it. - ...Alright Eric... So good luck on this path. Today you hurt your hand, tomorrow you're gonna hurt what? All of this for nothing. For pride. Poisonous pride. For not facing the real problem. - Well, I'm sorry if you can't look at me and just admit you're jealous... Jealous of me, yeah... Because you have nothing more to be proud of. Everything you have now is because of me, and you just can't accept the fact I don't need to ask your permission for anything anymore. His dad laughed. - Yeah, Eric. That must be it. I'm jealous of you...Do you even realize how stupid you sound? - I sound stupid? ...I sound stupid... Yeah - Eric was pacing, mad, breathing heavily – Look who's talking... fuck At this point, almost everyone decided to appear at once, including Mike, who probably didn't understand a word of what was happening (They were arguing in Portuguese at this point) The only one who had not gone there was Alice. When they all came downstairs, was probably the first time Eric realized how loud he and his dad were arguing. - Hey guys, could you guys stop arguing? Please? - Isadora Eric and his dad were breathing deeply. They were both completely, insanely mad. - Apparently not, it's impossible to talk to your brother. Eric just laughed, sarcastically. - Why? Hun? Come on, sister! For the old times sakes! We're just trying to bond here, right dad? His dad didn't say anything. - Eric, don't be like that. You two, I want you guys to stop now – His mother was so nervous she was shaking. So Eric got quiet. Not out of respect, but because he was sure he had already said everything he wanted to. After all, his target was his dad. He was still sure he could go into his room and talk to Alice. Yeah, that's what he should do. Everyone got tired, and his dad apparently gave up on that discussion. He tried to really look for the right words to end that discussion. - Eric, I'm sorry for what happened tonight. I shouldn't have tried to make you come with us to Toulouse. I know that's why you're mad at me. I know, you had told us already you would let us know... I'm just really trying to be a good father. A good human being, as you said. And I deserve all your anger, but not your siblings. They had absolutely nothing to do with what happened that night, Eric. And no matter how bad of a father I was, you can't also keep blaming me for everything that happened. I just tried to help, not in the perfect way, I know, but I tried to help you. I … we were the only ones who were there to help you, remember that? That huge thing fell in our laps and I really tried to help you as much as I could...Maybe even for the wrong reasons at the time, but I did my best. Isadora, Gustavo, his mom: They all seemed to have stop breathing with that comment. Even Mike noticed something really intense had just been touched. - And you know what? It's not like I hadn't tried. I did. For all these years I've been trying to bring you back to us. I tried to build something for you and for our family, for the day you'd give us a chance to start over. It's not like I didn't try, so I'm sorry if I'm hurt by the unfair way you're treating me now. Do whatever you want with your life. You want to be alone? All right. You want to keep torturing yourself? … It's your loss. - He paused for a second - Take your decisions Eric, I'll respect it. Just tell me what you want. I'm sure you're man enough to live with the consequences. Eric was (clearly) mad as his dad had dared to touch that subject in that way, in front of everyone. Eric had his eyes burning in hatred. His dad had a look of disappointment on his face towards Eric. As no one else said anything, Eric finally said: - I don't give you the right to look at me this way... Maybe you should just get the fuck out of my life then and stop pretending like I need you as a father. His dad got clearly sad and disappointed with his son's answer. But he nodded his head, as if he was agreeing with it. Eric was staring at him in complete silence. - … Allright. - His dad looked at his siblings and then at his mom. They were almost hugging each other – You know what, Eric? They are not coming back, son. I'm sorry. We are here, we are here for you, and eventually you will have to face that. “They are not coming back, son...” There were people who were trying to get a hold of him in the darkness. They were drying his tears, cleaning the blood of that mess and they seemed to be singing so that his soul could find some peace. Those people understood him and they accepted him. And in a flash he seemed like he relived all of that again. Eric had never gotten so mad like that. He was so mad he forgot his hand was hurt. He basically jumped towards his father and his hand hit his father's face. Mike jumped and got a hold of him before Eric punched him a second time, which he was about to do. Eric ended up pushing Mike away really roughly too. As they got apart, and they all realized what had just happened, his dad slowly put his hand where he got hit, and just looked at him, in the same disappointed way he was looking at him before. He didn't say a word and went upstairs. Eric was shaking. The rest of them were just too shocked to follow him immediately. Then, they all went at once, with Mike being the last one, who still looked very confused and very bitter. Isadora had teary eyes, and even though she probably wanted to have said something, their mom made her go upstairs. Isadora had lost a fight she had waited almost seven years to have, without having a fair chance to fight. Eric got waken up the next morning by Mike, who quickly got out of the room. Eric had entirely consciousness of what had happened last night. He right away noticed Alice wasn't by his side, and that made him feel a bit concern. In the living room, he saw through the window that everyone had just finished breakfast and was cleaning up the table. But Alice wasn't there either. Nobody said a word, and Isadora's resilient sad look was the only attention Eric got from them. Then, they all went upstairs. The only one staying with him on the kitchen was Mike. - Hey Eric... - He waited for an answer, but he never got one, so he just kept talking – So I know you'd like me to be clear. Your parents decided to go back to Toulouse today, they are probably going to tell you that soon. They invited me to go with them to stay there the rest of our vacation and I decided to accept it. I know you'll hate to know that, but I did. And... I'm not even sure I'm going back on tour to be honest... I called Richard and I told him that. He got incredibly pissed, and told me I have a couple of days to give him a final answer... Eric was looking at the window. Without moving his head, he just said: - … Alright, and that's my problem why exactly? He had probably hurt Mike really bad at that moment, but they never looked at each other. - Ahn... wow... ok. No reason. I just thought you should know... I... I... I'm sorry I'm going with them, but I feel like trying to spend a bit more of time with your sister, and ...well, apparently you want to be left alone...With everything that happened here, and that had been happening in the last couple of years, I'm feeling like maybe I need a break from all that.... A real break. - All right... You'll take the car back to Toulouse, all right? - Where are you going? - ... - Eric? What are you going to do? Eric just shrugged his shoulders. Mike was mad at Eric. Mad, angry, sad, disappointed, but he was still worried about him. - Hey, man... Are you going to be ok? - Mike once again tried to reach Eric. - Do you need to talk? - Ah....Give me a break, Mike... Did you see Alice? - … Alright...Hmm... I think she went for a walk... at the beach... - Ok.... And honestly Mike, congratulations, for all the good decisions you're taking. - Eric started walking away - You're really making a good job this time screwing everything up for a girl. Congratulations man, you really overpassed all my expectations this time... Enjoy while it lasts. He didn't wait for an answer. He just went to look for Alice at the beach. She was indeed there, seating alone, with her hair dancing with the wind. He got close very slowly. He was actually afraid of her reaction. - Hey... - Morning... - So... yeah – He paused – Apparently everyone is leaving soon. - ....Yeah... Yeah, they are... - What about you? She didn't want to answer. She was looking at the sea, but eventually she looked at him, and with her expression, it became pretty clear she was sad for leaving, but there was no other option for her. - Ok... I see... - That had hurt him more than he could've ever expected. She was leaving him. They stayed in silence for a while. - This is it then, hun? - She asked, but he never answered – You know Eric, I really fell for you. And it seems it meant shit for you. None of this did, right? Your family, your friends... nothing. Only your anger. - … Look, I admit things got out of hand last night, ok? But you don't know my pare... - Nothing justifies that, Eric! - She interrupt him – You don't treat people like that. No matter what... The only thing I saw was a family trying to have a good time together. Trying to reconnect. And I just don't understand how... I just don't understand why, you did what you did. You forced things to get bad. You really wanted to destroy the good vacations we were having.... That's too much... That's not for me, Eric. The way you were drinking last night, how all of this got so out of control just because your parents invited you to go to their place... Fuck, man. That's too messed up. - Alice... - But she didn't listen - … I always felt like you didn't want to come here. That you were being somehow dragged, I mean, you felt dragged. That you came here for a fight... And I tried to tell myself differently, I really did... With all the nice moments we were having together, I felt... I thought you were happy – She paused for a second - I'm not of any use for the choices you're making Eric. I mean, look at this place, dude. Look at it. Not even like that, in this awesome place, having fun, you tried to make things better. Eric took a deep breath. - I'm sorry, Eric, but no, I won't stay here with you. Especially because it probably never even crossed your mind to ask me to stay... - She paused, but as she was going to start talking again, it was Eric's turn to interrupt her. - Alright, Alice... Do what you want. But you're wrong, it's not like it never meant anything. It's not true that you didn't mean anything... But it's ok. It's all good. Do what your conscious is telling you to do. She didn't say anything. She only got sadder. - Take care, Alice. And... Yeah, I'm sorry for ruining your vacation. It definitely was not my intention. They looked at each other once again. She wanted to say something more, he didn't know what else to say. He was feeling his gut hurting, so he just turned his back and went walking away from all of that. Again. He left behind his family, one of his few true friends and his beloved Alice. Hours later, when he finally allowed himself to go back to that house – At that point completely empty – Eric just fell down on the bed, exhausted, shallow and drunk. He tossed on the bed and paced around the house, drinking a lot, until he found a note in the middle of one of the books he had bought from Alice: “If Happiness is only real when shared. I'm sharing mine with you... No matter how long this madness lasts” Alice He got in shock. They had watched Into the Wild a couple of days before. He closed his eyes, as his life was depending on that, turned around on his bed again and passed out for fifteen long hours. His birthday and Isadora's would be completely different. When he finally called Richard, his manager got... Pissed. Two weeks of vacations and the band had literally fell apart: Eric would need months without playing guitar because of his hand (which was way worse than anyone could've imaged) for one. Jack and Liam had no idea what was happening and they probably were not very happy to hear, less than a week later, that Mike was leaving the band to … No, not to go back to San Francisco, but to stay a while longer in France. With his new girlfriend... Eric's sister. Everything was just too messed up. By the way things were going, they probably would have quitted the band too if Mike had decided to settle back in San Francisco. But in France? No, they had no reason to be there, and Richard simply convinced them to stay. Eric's label and even Tom, were very unhappy at all with that situation. Probably just because of the self-destructive moment he had put himself into, Eric told Richard he had an idea to fix the problem: He knew Marie was a decent guitar player and he definitely could use her around now that things had gone south with Alice. After days and days of indecision, he also decided to call the person he least wanted to speak to in the world, because he knew he could count on her to be a guitar player too in his band, and because... Somehow, Eric didn't care anymore. Something had switched inside of him and he didn't care on seeing her again. She would be the only one who wouldn't judge him and the only one that could possibly be by his side at that moment, with the anger, pain and frustration he had inside of him. He knew she had been living in Berlin for a while – She had tried to reach him a couple of times over the years – and he just knew she was going to accept the invitation. It was insane, but the two people he wanted most by his side, were probably the ones he should have kept his distance from at that moment. But as I said, he just didn't care anymore. He called both of them and arranged meetings in Paris. He had absolutely nothing to do those days, and was feeling completely mad about being in Paris, because now he didn't want to run into Alice on the street. Pretty small chance, but still. Mike got into a lot of troubles for just quitting the band like that, but Eric just didn't care to help him at all. If he didn't want to be in his band, there was a lot of people who would die for that chance. Let him have fun with that lovely family. He hoped their mask would fall off soon enough, Mike realizing the mistake he had done with his life. When the time came, he went to the bar where they would meet, and Marie appeared not long after, gorgeous as always. Eric noticed though, that something in her eyes had changed. - Hi - Eric - Hey - Sit, please... - Ok. They didn't say a word. - Another beer, please - One for me too, please - Marie They looked at each other. - So... Hi Eric, I'm surprised you called me... So soon, it's been what? Three, four months? - ...How are you, Marie? She seemed not to fully understand the question. - I'm ok... thanks... How are you? - I'm great. She nodded, smiling, trying to make fun of the situation. - Great, great... I'm happy to see you, Eric. - Awesome... - So what's up with you? - Marie tried to smile Eric went silent for a few seconds before saying: - Not much...Here's the thing, I need two guitar players for my band, Marie. For yesterday. I remember that you told me you know how to play the guitar too, so I was wondering if you could be up to the job. Marie got surprised. She was not expecting that at all. She finally sat straight on her chair. - I need to know, Marie. And I need to know it really quickly. If you don't give me a definitive answer until tomorrow, Richard will find someone else... - Wow... Wait, Eric. What happened? What happened to Mike? Are you starting another band? - No, same band. Same songs. I need someone that can play my songs in concerts in less than a week. Could you do that? Marie didn't know what to answer. - I don't know Eric, I guess... But what happened to Mike? “It’s none of your fucking business” - He's not part of the band anymore. That's all you need to know. She slowly nodded. - Ok... what about the second one? - It's to play my part. - Why, what happened? Eric shrugged his shoulders and then lied to her. - I just don't feel like playing anymore... - Hmm...Ok Eric kept drinking his beer and looking at the window. The hand that was hurt was hidden in his pocket. - So what's up with you, Marie? - Hmm, not much. It's been forever since we saw each other, hun? - I guess... - Yeah, like...was it three months? Maybe four? - Yeah, sound about right.... Not that long, really - Uhum... Yeah …. Well actually a lot of things happened since, you know. - Oh yeah? - Yeah... Things got ugly with my parents for a moment there, and even with my friends and everything. Things got pretty hard. But they seem to be getting better, I got a part-time job, and I started taking some classes and making music again... so yeah. - Hmm. I see... - Yeah... - And how's that treating you? - It's been hard... I basically lost everyone around me, you know. Friends... And my family is definitely treating me differently... Eric nodded, slowly. He should ask what happened. She wanted to be asked. But he didn't want to know, he didn't want to care. Not again. - Well, I'm sure you're better off without them. She didn't say anything. - So... do you have any idea for the second guitar player you need? - Yeah - Is it another friend? Where he's from? - It's another girl. I'll meet with her tomorrow. - Oh, she's from Paris too? - No, coming from Berlin, she'll only be here tomorrow. - Hm...German? - No, she's Brazilian... - Hmmm - Yeah... - I'm just trying to make some conversation Eric. Eric, a bit melancholic and tired said: - Yeah, I know... So, hey, how's your boyfriend? Marie didn't react for a second. She seemed to be a bit embarrassed. - Hmm... It didn't work out. It's been a couple of months now... - Hmm don't say... - He had to smile, probably in a very douche-y way She shrugged her shoulders. - What do you want me to say, Eric? That I should've listened to you? Yeah, maybe I did... But I'm glad I tried... I... you know, stepped up. And it didn't work, so I moved on with my life. Like I told everyone I would. - It's ok. I don't want you to tell me anything... Eric turned his head to Marie one more time and just said: - So... do you want to get out of here or what? They spent twenty four hours in Eric's hotel room and it went by pretty fast. They ended up going back to the same pub to eat something and relax for a while. Marie wasn't working that day and because Eric needed to meet up with his old friend. Eric and Marie's relationship had changed a lot and they couldn't say why. In a space of less than twenty four hours, they were definitely not dating... they were just lovers. Eric was not treating Marie that well anymore and was constantly thinking about Alice. Ironic? They ordered some food and some drinks and they had almost finished everything when Eric saw a ghost walking outside, on the street. She found the address and entered the pub. Eric stomach turned inside out. He was not sure at all about what that would mean. - Eric! Now that's been a long time – She said in Portuguese Eric took a deep breath - Hey Bella - How are you? Wow... - She just sat beside Marie - I'm good... - He pointed Marie – This is Marie... - Montini, right? - She spoke in French with Marie now - …. Yeaah... But how...? - I worked for your dad, believe it or not... - Oh... Ok - Yeah, I still work for the company, but in Berlin now - Oh ok, cool... - Yeah, what a tiny world, right? … So tell me Eric, what could possibly have made you call me, darling? - Hmm, it's been a while, right? Can't I just have missed your lovely company? - Ha, of course. I'd like to believe you... - …What have you been doing with your life, Bella? - Not much, not much. - Isabella – Same old story. Old habits never die... - Oh that seems boring... - Yeah, well. When you have an ex-boyfriend that is travelling around the world with a rock band, I guess most things in life would indeed sound boring – Marie didn't know they dated, and Isabella noticed it – Oh, you didn't know that, sweetie? Ops... Yeah, me and Mr. happy face here used to date back in Brazil. - Oh...ok - What about you guys? Are you guys a couple now or anything? - Isabella Marie looked at Eric as he gave Bella a quick, very cynic smile. - Auch, ok, I stepped in another …. Hmm I don't know the French word for that – Isabella smiled and started to talk to Marie - Never mind. Its ok, sweetheart, I get it. It's not like your dad would've approved it right? - Hmm... Actu-... Actually my dad really liked Eric. At first... - Oh, that's something! So you've met Big Boss Montini! Interesting... Well, I guess not everyone knows you like I do, right, Eric? - So, why I called you Isabella... – Eric changed the subject, in a very rude way, as Bella said “oh ok, that's a good answer'” – I'm having openings in my band, that I would like to bring people I know, instead of some creepy old dudes my manager would find. I talked to Marie, and she got very interested in the idea, so I was wondering if you'd like to join in. I remember you used to play guitar well enough... - Wow.... And wait, well enough? Sweetie, I know you want to impress Marie and all, but you should also put in the table who taught you to play guitar in the first place... - Ha, yeah right - No, no I admit, you were already playing a little bit, but I don't think your neighbors were enjoying it until I stepped in the scene, right? - She turned to Marie – I don't think he wants that in his biography, that he learned to play from a girl, you know … Boys, Hun? Eric was looking at her, as if he was asking if she was done with her jokes. - So, ok... Yeah, why not right? It's not like I have my dream job at the moment. What's the schedule we'd have? - We have to leave soon, first concert is by the end of next week if I'm not mistaken. Do you think you can learn all the songs before then? - Most of them, yeah. Just tell me which ones you're playing in the next concerts. - Sure, that can be arranged... - So I'd have to go to Berlin and I'd be back in a couple of days. I need to deal with somethings before we leave. Besides, I need to pack all my gorgeous clothes and buy stuff. I mean, I'm gonna be a rock star, I need better rock star clothes, don't you think, honey? - She asked Marie, who quickly nodded her head, probably because she didn't know what else she could've done. - See, Eric? Even your girlfriend agrees with me. Eric, again, gave her a quick smile, a bit cynical, a bit because he was enjoying it. That's what she did. That's what she would do. He was sure he would get fed up at some point, but god, he missed that. - So... I really need a beer, maybe some shots?! Let's drink to celebrate it guys! Come on man... Christ, that's some good news! They drank, they talked, and they ate. Isabella, as Eric remembered, still had the same basic personality: in moments she would dominate the conversation, talking non-stop, another times she would get very quiet and just analyze other people’s conversations and gestures. She had a very analytical stare sometimes, with her make-up and clothes helping to make this look of a girl that just doesn't give a shit because she's just too smart for you. That she can take everything, and no one, no one could ever intimidate her. That's what you loved about her, and that's what you'd hate about her: Her capacity of eventually getting to you, usually in a cynical, annoying and hurtful way. - So Eric, when did you start fucking the big boss's daughter? - She asked in Portuguese, when Marie went to the washroom. - … We've met through a friend, hmm, a bit more than six months ago...I think something like eight months now, I guess. - I see, well she's hot, dude, I'll give you that... I'd tap that ass if she was on my bed... - Yeah, yeah she is.... - And its cute the way she looks at you – Isabella smirked – She totally has the hots for you... - ... - Auch, just saying…It's cute. So yeah, how are you planning to take the Big Boss Montini's daughter on a tour? You know he's not going to like it, hun? - Well, that's something she'll have to deal with, not me... - “Yeah, right” Bella said – And please, what's this story with big boss Montini? - Hmm.... I don't know... Someone told me that when I started working with them here in Paris. Apparently it's been going on for more than two decades now... Funny thing is, I got to Berlin and the nickname was already there for a long time too... He's … he can be a difficult person sometimes, Eric. Don't think he won't come after you...That guy has money... and I mean, a lot of money. They own half of Europe man... He...He is the type of guy who supports right and left so he can always have his people on power, you know. I'm talking Illuminati shit... Eric smirked to the Illuminati reference joke - Noted... - Hun, she's back... The three of them, with a bit more than just a suitcase each, took a flight to Boston only three days later. Marie and Isabella would have to be tested by Richard, sign up contracts and everything, but as soon as Eric put Tom in the situation to help them, everything got done. The fact that Tom and Marie were super close probably helped too. Eric was sure that Tom would have flipped his shit with that situation, but he never said anything, which made Eric ask himself if he knew what had happened between him and Marie at all. As soon as they landed at the airport, someone was waiting for them with a car. They were taken to a hotel and the two girls passed the next hours talking to Richard and some other people. Soon after they would be joining tours with a “very, very famous band” and that would bring more people to their concerts and would mean more money in their pockets. They had concert in less than a week, and the girls had to learn the songs until there. Obviously, Frederic Montini was completely against it. He kept calling Marie several times a day, he tried to talk to Richard and convince him it was a bad idea, trying to pressure everyone he could. He threatened to put his lawyers in the middle of the story and tried to buy hir daughter back. It was useless. He wasn't able to do anything about it, and Marie was pretty determined to do that. Even though Tom told him that Mr. Montini almost got the `whole thing cancelled`, nothing happened in the end and Eric got even a bit disappointed with all the fuss about his name and his influence. Didn't matter. Weeks went by and Marie and Isabella fitted perfectly into the band. A few days before Eric's band would start his tour with this new band, Mike and Isadora called them. They've been a bit afraid of getting in touch, but it has already been a couple of months. They seemed very happy. They were trying to make some conversation, saying Eric should go check their new place in Paris (Mike and Isadora were somehow moving to live in Paris because of Isadora's university). Eric felt something he had never felt before when, for the first time, he felt bad for lying to get away from a family meeting. Maybe he really couldn't go, but the fact is that he didn't even tried. Maybe he wanted to. Maybe he didn't want to face what he did on their farewell. Their happiness was too cruel for him, and he definitely didn't want to get caught in the middle of all of that, having to deal with embarrassed looks and awkward moments. He knew he would feel miserable. But as in the moment they called, his band was about to leave to go have a nice dinner somewhere, and he had started drinking hours before, he forced himself to forget that call. Days later, they had a special dinner that was a bit weird. That's when the two bands got introduced: The lead singer from the other band was a girl with a very strong personality. Voluptuous hair, dressing herself extremely well, wearing a really nice perfume. Her lips grabbed Eric's attention. Even though she was the only one there who was well dressed, apart from the managers and agents, she never got surprised with Eric's band behavior, probably because her own bandmates were as crazy as them. She also didn't get surprised on how well everyone got along, or with the amount of alcohol they drank, not even the immaturity or the loud conversations. They were actually as hard core as Eric, getting drugs out of their pockets as soon as the managers turned their backs (sometimes not even waiting for that). Eric and Taylor, the lead singer, would spend their first night together after that. That's why you have a band after all. No one was allowed to be hangover the next day, obviously. They had too much work to do, too far to go. Those eleven musicians, seven man and four women, went to the airport where a private plane was waiting for them. They got along so well, that starting that day, in the plane (yes, that band had a really nice private plane) , in the vans, hotels, backstage or any kind of restaurants, parties, parking lots or wherever it was, having them together became a sign of insane parties And drugs. - Come on, guys. It'll be fun... We'll meet a lot of cool people - Yeah, I'm in... - Isabella - Eric? Eric was completely exhausted. He hadn't sleep much in the last days, he was very tired after the show they had just finished a couple of hours before and besides, he hadn't eat much that day. Some chips, maybe like four hours before. But he wouldn't be the one not going. “Yeah, sure” He said. Marie was there, looking around, without knowing what to do or what to answer. She probably didn't want to go. But they went. They went to this party and they met a lot of people. Isabella always drinking, always making Eric drink with her, until they were pretty wasted, with everyone else. That happened a lot. Then Eric would make out, usually with Marie, who would be also a bit happy. Marie was trying really hard to have fun, to make friends, and to be more outgoing. One thing was certain: even though they were not a technically couple, no one, and I mean no one, ever dared to try anything with Marie. Eric didn't care about Isabella, Taylor, the other girl from Taylor's band, or even the girls who would work in their tour or pass by their concerts. Apart from that, it became pretty much a lawless place. They were all having sex with lots and lots of people. Not rare, some of them found themselves in groups having sex. Despite his best efforts, undeniably there was still a connection between Eric and Marie and they would often have genuine good moments together. They would seat and have a beer, or just chill while waiting for a concert, or after a concert, or by just enjoying this strong connection they sometimes had on stage. She was always very happy, very bubbly, trying to make people around her have a good time, always doing the impossible to try to make Eric smile. Sometimes she would reach him, sometimes he was just unreachable. He didn't want to show he cared. He didn't want to give space to Isabella mock him, which was already happening too frequently, about anything. He still wanted to make Marie suffer from being afraid of choosing him. And Marie? ….She seemed to be the only one who was actually there for the music at that point. Some of them truly loved music, and truly loved being on tour. But most of people were just there for the money and the drugs – that way of life, let's say – She was probably the only one who actually didn't enjoy all of that that much – I mean, she really did, in the beginning – Although she was enjoying making a good money on her own, she definitely wasn't there for the money. She was like a sponge, trying to absorb music from everywhere. Always playing, practicing, listening to music, talking about music, being on studio when they had access to one, and through that, she was making friends and gaining admiration. After all, she was a remarkable musician, a true talent, and she was truly passionate about music. During the day, she would always find people to share her passion with. But when it would get dark, it would always be the same: Everyone would put music aside, and would do what they truly loved and wanted to do. She then would have to make a decision, between joining in or be left alone back at the hotel. And in the first days it was easy to follow that group, because she genuinely felt like it. What happened is that Eric wouldn't treat her that well when they were partying: He wasn't there for her. He was there to be Eric Meirelles. To be what everyone was expecting of him – Particularly Isabella and Taylor. But also because the guys from the other band would frequently challenge Eric presence, some alpha-male bullshit kind of thing. She would feel alone, having to see Eric do what he would do, until he was so wasted or fucked up that he would usually come back to her by the end of the night to try and make out with her some more, maybe take her to bed or just be with her so he could sleep a bit, because Marie soon realized that Eric just couldn't sleep by himself. She just didn't know what to do. She would try to make things better, not let herself get into that sad situation, but then Eric would need her, and beg for her getting to the point where he would cry just to have her company, only for the next day he wouldn't remember a thing. Then she would try to talk to him, and he would be nice to her the whole day, talking about music, playing with her, and joking around with her. Until it was night again, and Isabella – Or Taylor, or anyone from the bands - would put their claws on him and once again, they would all get as wasted as possible, because they needed Eric to be Eric Meirelles that night, and even Eric probably needed to be Eric Meirelles too. She just... didn't know what to do, and it was not getting better. Eric was in a very dark place, she needed that job – She enjoyed it too much, and she wanted Eric around - and worse, everybody thought that was normal, that that was just too fun. She tried to be nicer to Eric, but it didn't work. She tried to be distant, but it didn't work either. They had a huge brick wall between them and... She just didn't know what to do. It doesn't matter when it happened, because Eric couldn't remember anyways. After a couple of weeks together, partying basically every day, Eric found himself sniffing cocaine again, a lot of it. He already had tried it before, but he hadn't like it at the time. Now he did, and he wouldn't stop there. He couldn't remember who offered him, but he was so out of his mind drunk that he just used it. It was just so good. There was no goal on doing that, but doing that was numbing the pain of not having any kind of goal. I guess that became the main goal. He wouldn't think about those things anymore, he would have more energy to party, he would feel alive again. Things became unreal, like a blurry in their memories. Eric would notice several times that this thing... this thing he was living, was his life. It was everything he had. When he was not completely ecstasiated, he would have to face that truth. Alcohol, drugs, sex, cigarettes, almost zero sleep, fans who would subject themselves to take their clothes off in their backstage rooms, sometimes making a line of gorgeous girls only to hope to be chosen by one of them to get fucked and then go have some more fun. They would subject themselves to it, and sometimes they would actually act like as if they were the queens of the universe, feeling so special for playing that part. Richard just didn't care anymore: He was barely around now: there was assistants and others managers and people around them all the time. Even bodyguards. Eric and his band never had bodyguards that big before and now those huge guys were following them around, mostly because of Taylor. They were all making so much money, so fast, that there was no reason for Richard to keep complaining to them. A lot of money, a lot of freedom, a lot of parties. A lot of everything. Everything was excessive those days. Their staff was huge, their hotel rooms got insanely big, their parties, their concerts. Lines for autographs and pictures. People paying so much money for a picture or an autograph with them. And Eric was just going insane. Flashes and Flashes. The worst for him were interviews. He was having so much fun, and he was making so much money. He was forcing himself to enjoy that as much as he possibly could. He couldn't stop thinking that that was his life. That was everything he had, everything he was. He had to enjoy it because it would be over soon. Marie was having fun, and deep down Eric was proud for helping her to live her passion. She caught everyone's attention with her voice and her piano – although they didn't have a piano around most of the times – and she would be singing or playing a lot these days. She was very good on creating material, and as soon as their fans got used to her, and they decided to put some of her material online with the band, they went completely crazy over her: They would scream her name when she would get on stage, and she started to have to take a lot of pictures and give a lot of autographs too. They decided to get her a keyboard so she could play some of her own solo material on stage and she got a good raise on her paycheck. That happened in a matter of weeks, it was really scary. Their label though, got too interested on her. They decided to try to take her out of the band, so she could go solo. They apparently even offered her a nice contract and all. But she didn't want to: She was happy on Eric's band, playing their songs, rocking with them, making material with them, and having a bit of space to play her own material on stage would be enough to be heaven for her. Eric and Tom talked for a long time about it. He had seen it as an act of loyalty from her, and he didn't want to admit that that had touched him: acts of loyalty are getting rarer and rarer these days. As a “thank you” they made her officially part of the band, and gave her even more space for her on stage: she would even sing some of Eric's song sometimes, just for the fun of it, and the fans seemed to enjoy to listen to her voice on his place sometimes, or the two of them together. She probably was the answer for the band's problem: Mike was the one who always wrote the songs, and she now was helping them to create more material so they could keep going on. Her popularity made things fell into their right place after the whole fiasco of losing Mike and needing to get two guitar players in a matter of days. Eric couldn't help but realize how much he loved that girl every time she would sing. It would always hit him, leave him off guard, as if it was breaking his chest and getting through what was left of his heart. It was almost magic. That would even bring him sober in a heartbeat whenever he was not lucid. But somehow, he still didn't want to love her. Was it because of what happened in Paris? Was it because of Alice? Was it because he was afraid of getting hurt again or maybe because he was in too much pain to admit he loved someone else other than himself? Because he didn't want to appear weak to everyone around him and to have to renounce everything he had at that moment? He didn't know, and that was driving him insane. What was also torturing him the most was this big act of loyalty from Marie, and the other little, constant ones from her, every day. Why was she doing it? Why was he doing that to her? Why? … So then he would numb himself again to forget all those questions. One night, Eric went to the rooftop of the concert house they had played that night on. This guy soon appeared and Eric knew he was a roadie from their tour, but he couldn`t remember his name. He also knew he was with them for a while, and that he was always talking to everyone... but he really didn't remember his name. At that moment, Eric just wanted to be alone, because he was feeling a bit melancholic and just wanted to get away from everybody, and breathe. A weird feeling for him. This guy apparently had a break for a cigarrete and coincidentally they found the same place to hide. Eventually he started to try to make some conversation with Eric. - So, yeah... Hey man, I never told you this, but I just would like to say I really really like your sound. I was really happy when they put me to work on this tour... Eric nodded his head. - Yeah, it's been a while... I think I liked you guys since your first material back.... what? Four or five years ago? Damn you guys were young... - He smiled – I always liked your vocals man, the lyrics... and Mike's guitar? Genius... I love playing your solos in the guitar man - Thanks...? What’s your name again? - Jan... - You're German right? - Yeah... - Yeah, Yeah, I remember that. So I imagine its written J-A-N, right? Not Y-A-N-N... or I-A-N - Exactly ... But try to explain that at a Starbucks here in the States... Eric couldn't help but smile. - ...So, you play the guitar you said? - Yeah.... - Hmm... Cool. And to think a couple of months ago I was desperate for a couple of guitar players... - Yeah, that was something... I'm really sorry about that, man. You know, the whole Mike's situation. He was a really cool guy... A really nice guy. Actually one of the best I've ever met... - Yeah, he was... Too bad we didn't hear about that when we were looking for replacements... - Yeah, well I was going to talk to Richard if I knew about it. But you found Marie and Isabella too quickly - Jan gave a quick smile - Too bad man, I'm sorry about that... – It's okay, I guess it happens... But hey, they destroy it man, seriously. And everybody loves having two girls there. Especially good-looking as both of them, with all due-respect – He smiled Eric smiled. - Yeah, they do, and it's really good that people liked'em. - Uhum … so yeah, I heard this story that you're from Brazil, man? - Yeah, yes I am. - Cool, that must be so cool... I have a friend that went to Rio to live there for … a year, maybe? And you know, she's travelling around whenever she can. She showed me some pictures from the places she visited... So beautiful. And the women! My god, she made some friends there, and I was begging her to introduce me to them if I ever go there – He laughed, Eric smiled back. - Are you from near Rio, by the way? - Hmm... Not really. I'm south, waay south Brazil. - I see... Is it nice as Rio? Eric smiled - It's better man, way better … - Wow... that must be something. - Yeah, look it up … Florianopolis. - Hmm... Is that Greek or something? - Kind of, yeah. - Why would you have a Greek name for a Brazilian city? Is it a Greek colony or something? Greek enthusiasts’ maybe? - He smiled - Well, it basically means “Floriano's city” right. We had this Floriano guy at some point way back in our history, a dictator. And I don't remember why, but people rose against him, or just some, maybe in my city, maybe not, I really can't remember. So he executed them, and my city, to show “obedience” changed its name to...Floriano's city after that. - Fuck, and why did they keep that name? - Go figure man... Brazil is a weird country. They are used to kiss the hand that beat them and bite the hand that tries to help them... - I see, well it's a bit like that everywhere man… and how often do you go there? - … I don't - At all? - No... It's been... seven years now, I guess - Don't you miss it? - … No. - Uhmm... ok - Hey, I'll talk to you later, Jan. Nice talking to you. - Eric felt an urge to finish that conversation. Why the hell was he talking about his life to a roadie again? - Yeah, yeah. Sure man. Laters. Eric then left and went back downstairs. During those weeks, and months, you get the chance to know hotels, pubs, backstage rooms. You don't actually get to know much about the cities you pass through. Not many responsibilities, or limits: As long you as you're good to perform the concert you have to perform, or talk to whoever loser you have to talk to (reporter or fan) it was all good. Just jumping from airport to airport, going to the hotel, eat a bit /a lot, move around a bit, party a bit, find the concert venue and checking if sound is good, meet a couple of people to hang with you that night, people to have sex with that night, people to serve you, to make sure you're on schedule, to take you back to the airport. Not much more than that. Not pretending they'll miss you, just being jealous of having to stay in the same boring city, with their personal problems and circumstances. Without the certainty of having more money that they could spend in five life times. Without the certainty of having someone to spend the night with or an unlimited open bar and partners to party at any time of the day or night. Be in Tokyo one day, Sidney and Moscow days after. All the same. Drugs and girls. That life that you find in any city in the world in less than fifteen minutes. Trust me on that. With the same kind of girls opening their legs to guys they'll never know, about who they'll never care. So shallow, so useless. So freaking gorgeous though. That's why you want a band for, after all. One day, Tom called Eric far into the night. - Tom? - Hey Eric... - Maan, how are you? - I'm good, I'm good... How are you? - I'm great... - Awesome … Listen dude, I'm just calling to check on you. I felt like I should. - Hmm... Ok, why so? - Why so? A little bird told me I should... - Hmm, Marie? - Come on, Eric... I have like ten people working for us around you... - Ok... got it. - It got to my attention you've been abusing on some things dude again... And you know how I feel about it... Eric got silent - Yeah, I do... - Is it true? - ... Come on, Tom. What do you want me to tell you? Yeah, I've been partying a lot lately... - Well, I've been partying a lot lately and that doesn't mean people are worried about me... - …. - I thought you said you have things under control... - I do... - Alright... So why are you the only one who thinks that? - …. - Eric, listen dude... it's me who's talking ok? I'm your friend. I need you to take care of yourself, also, because I need you to take care of Marie, ok? What's going on man? While I was on tour you were good... Why are you letting it get bad again? - ... - … Eric? …. Alright... Tell me it's ok. That you'll keep an eye on her and that you'll take care of yourself... - … Yeah, I'll keep an eye on her - Promise? - Yeah I do... - Good... What about Isabella? Eric almost laughed - Yeah? What about her? I don't think I need to take ca... - Tom cut him - You know what I mean... - Hmm... Alright - Are you sure you want her around? After everything you told me, you're sure you want her around? - … Yeah, I guess. I need her around, man. - Why, dude? - Because... - “She's the only one who can keep up with me?” Didn't look like a good answer – I do... I need someone who knows who I am, Tom... - Eric... that's not who you are, man - … Maybe it is. Maybe it is all we are ever gonna be man... They stayed in silence for a long time. -Come on man... - Eric didn't say anything, so Tom kept talking - … Take care, ok? Just...just take care. Of yourself and Marie...For me, please... - Alright man... - … And how's Marie these days? - What, your little birds didn't tell you about her? Tom laughed - Well, I'm not asking anyone to stalk you guys... I know she looks good enough. She tells me she's ok. I just... feel like she's not telling me everything this time, like you, for all that matters... - Hmm...Fair enough... she's good, man. I think she is having fun touring and playing, you know... She's a good musician, I think she's happy to be dedicating herself to that... - Yeah, she is... Just try to be nicer to her, hun? I think she really loves you man... Eric felt embarrassed... and very ashamed. - Alright man... Thanks for calling – That's all he was able to say about that - You're welcome.... We'll see each other soon. You'll be in Montreal soon enough. - Yeah, I know! We can party together then. That'll be fun. - Exactly my thoughts... Laters, Eric. Don't make me call you again. - Good night man... Because of that call, Eric really tried to change a bit: change about the drugs, change about how he was treating Marie, and for a while it seemed like things would indeed get better. But months went by. Months were everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives, always smiling, always having fun. Deep down, truth was completely different. Most of Taylor's musicians seemed to be genuinely fine. Jack and Liam were also often having genuine fun, but they started to look a bit like Mike, soon before he ended up quitting the band and went to live in France with Isadora, a bit too... unsatisfied. That was also happening probably because they kept in contact with him: It was probably a torture to know that there's an actual life, a sane life, a life where you could have some happiness, away from all of that. That Mike was genuinely happy with the life he was building. Isabella seemed to have finally found the thing she was born to do. With the same sarcasm and irony all the time, drinking more than what people would believe it was humanly possible, always having someone as company. Happy with the money she was making. Because she wasn't there since the beginning, she would certainly endure as long as she could without complaining. Jan ended up becoming really close to Eric as their talks became more frequent. Jan was actually becoming one of the few people he would have around that was actually making him feel a bit sane. Eric eventually asked Tom to see if he could give Jan a bit of a raise (which was something Eric thought he would never do for anyone, but Tom said he would see what he could do). Eric was now having insomnia again, and it was somehow getting worse. Probably because now he had Isabella near him, and also because of Marie. They were reminders of the past. Reminders of things that could've been and weren't. Eric did try to use less drugs as he had told Tom, but that was not going good either: He would need a lot of sleeping pills and pills against anxiety, and he would constantly smoke pot because that would help him a bit with his insomnia. But Eric was not really a big fan of smoking pot: He found that people would usually get too stupid when they were high. He loved taking pills, all kinds of them, and alcohol. He liked smoking cigarettes, cigars, shisha. He would trip on acid several times too. Mainly he was a big fan of alcohol. Funny thing is, he would use so much difference shit together, because he never liked the effect of any particular one of them alone. How people look stupid when they're too drunk, or too high, or tripping too hard. He would use different stuff that would make him look quite normal, a bit tipsy maybe, when in reality he was fucking out of his mind. He started to get panic attacks when any sort of turbulence would happen when they were flying: He had never feared planes, and now sometimes he would see himself cringing from his insides in pure panic (having to keep a straight face was not helping him at all) A bit paradoxical: He was feeling like he was immortal most of the time, and the rest of the time he started to get scared shitless, afraid of dying, paranoid even. He felt like death was right around the corner. Who was also really collapsing from within was Marie. Very quickly, maybe even hopelessly. She had finally lost her natural healthy skin-color and got this white-pale skin color. She would usually have deep dark circles under her eyes, and would often be alone. It's not like she was best friends with anyone in that band, and it was not like Eric went back to being nice to her as when they first met: he was now treating her better, he was just not making that much effort to keep her close anymore. Everything seemed to be an effort to show her how much he didn't need her around. How she should regret for making him leave once. But she couldn't leave. She had left behind huge, well decorated, splendorous, comfortable places. A bubble, somewhat, to join those cold, dark and small rooms, most of them stinking cigarettes and some much more weird and disgusting things. Decadent places and people who would never be much more than what they were in that beginning of life, where they still had so much life, that they all thought they could waste it like that. People who could only have fun when they were able to forget who they were. Marie would remember her aunt playing the piano, so majestically and would often ask herself now if it was for that that she had spent so many years dedicating herself to music. Were they there for the music too? Was she closer to reach her dreams? Was it time to give up on Eric like it happened with Filipe? She would start to feel cold quite often. Always wearing black, or clothes that would bring up her skin and her hair color. Usually with scarfs. She sometimes would wonder how long she was there with those people: Time there had another feeling. She sometimes would feel like an eternity had passed since she had left Paris (most of the times), and she was feeling like Eric: that all of that was just a mad dream that should be enjoyed. It didn't matter where they were or with whom, thing is, going on those stages, even if it was to play someone else’s music, would make a bit of sense. Things would matter a bit. She would also forget everything. She would forget herself, her family, her pains, her shames, the obsession she once held towards Filipe... and she would forget Eric, even though she would often find herself thinking about how much she just wanted a second chance with him. She wanted to look at Eric, with her shaking knees and beg him that things could go back to what they were. Beg that they could just left all of that behind and go back to Paris, London or until the end of the world to live again the love and kindness they had at the beginning. Now everything was cold, just some quick looks, few words and occasional sex, without much love, that would make her feel like she was dying inside a bit more. She was feeling the pain in Eric's eyes, as she knew no one else was able to. She could feel how bad they needed each other even though he wouldn't admit it to himself. She just wanted to go to him, hold his hand, take him away from all of that, hug him and talk to him until their guts and their hearts would finally be okay. Just tell him that she wanted him by her side. Just tell him that he didn't have to be like that. He could be Eric, just Eric, her Eric once more. She would go and ask herself again why she was still there. For him? Yeah, a big part of her was there for him, but a big part of her was there because she liked it, because she needed it, because she didn't feel like going home. Somehow, she was doing exactly what Eric was so good at doing: dressed up a mask of indifference, ignoring the problems (because they would eventually vanish in some city in the past, with the future looking brighter) she would be a bit bohemian and then she would go, to the next stop, the next show, next trip or next party. After all, there is nothing more... releasing than to get off a stage, completely soaked in your own sweat, with your soul weighting a third of what it was before. Freedom. Recognition. Success. Admiration. Fun. Purpose. Obviously problems always come back stronger every single time they get ignored: they are rarely killed by this approach. One day, she woke up from her lonely and sad dream to realize what was happening around her and ended up knowing that Eric and Isabella had left, with two other people, to hang out like crazy bastards in the city they were ( she had no idea where exactly they were at that moment). She could barely stand the image of them, crazy and lost in that big city. She just wanted him by her side, in bed. But that night, Eric would not be hers. Eric and Isabella (and a couple of other people) would get back to the hotel later on that night. They could barely remember where they had been the hours before. After arriving, they went to try to find people to talk to, so they started to wander around in this separated part of the hotel that had been arranged for them as a “common area”. When they got there, there was a couple of Taylor's musicians and some people with them, but it was basically dead. You could see bottles laying around, most of them empty, some almost full. Glasses and more glasses, some broken pieces on the floor. There was a random girl completely passed out on a couch. It was a freaking mess: Clothes, balloons, condoms, food, and drinks. Everything was just on the floor like that. Glasses, cigarettes, underwear and sweaters. A couple of phones laying around. One table had gotten literally (partially) burned, you could see a shisha destroyed on the floor, and even some cocaine laying on the carpet. The smell of that place was unexplainable. Eric and Isabella tried to talk with the people that were still there, but they were completely out of it. Those drunkies would have to repeat themselves twice the same thing and in the middle of the sentence they would just forget what they were doing. Someone actually puked in front of them, no joking. Eric hated people like that. Not strong enough to hold their own alcohol. He decided to leave and go to bed with a girl that he had apparently brought with him (he was so fucked up that he couldn't be sure about it). As they were going back to the elevator, they passed in front of a huge window from where you could see the whole city. There was a person sitting on the floor, hanging against the window. It was Marie. She didn't have hear shoes on, and she had completely shrunken against the glass. She had her hair really messy, with dark circles under her eyes because of makeup and teary eyes and her whole face was just showing how much she had cried. She had her eyes fixed on the view, but was a bit out of it. Eric couldn't notice much more about her, because he froze when he saw her like that. With the shock, he got completely lucid and awake. Isabella was looking at both of them, waiting for a reaction from Eric, but nothing. Slowly, Isabella sat beside Marie, while Eric was looking at that scene. For the first time in a long time, he felt guilty, tired and stupid. For the first time, he felt like hugging that small, fragile, gorgeous and hurt creature and take away all her pain he knew she was feeling. But he couldn't. For the first time, there was no one else to blame but himself. That was all on him: In the second he put his eyes on her, he knew that that was his fault. He had not taken care of her. He went too far. - Hey, Marie. - Isabella tried to get Marie's attention. Marie slowly turned her head to Isabella. She then saw Eric. - Hi Bella... Hey Eric He sat beside them, but Isabella was still the one who was talking. - How much did you drink, sweetie? She shrugged her shoulders. It didn't matter now, did it? - Do you wanna go to your room? - No. Could you stay here with me for a bit, Eric? Eric nodded, then he looked to Isabella, as she was getting up. They looked at each other and Eric made sure Isabella knew she had to get lost with the people they've brought. Then, Isabella left the room where they were, and Eric could finally feel the silence. After a relatively long time, Marie just asked (without looking away from the view) - Why are we here, Eric? - He didn't answer. She just lowered her voice, as if she was talking to herself: Why am I here? But the silence stayed there, like a brick wall between them. - Why are we here? Why can't we just go back to Paris or to London and … - She didn't have to say it. She couldn't say it, she would cry if she did. - Because... - He took a deep breath – That's in the past, Marie. - And you'll never give us another chance, I suppose... Eric didn't know how to answer that. - Is it because of Isabella? Taylor? … Alice? Please, just tell me... I need to know why Eric... He didn't know what to say. Was it? Was it because of them? How did she knew about Alice again? Eric couldn't remember. - I... I don't know what to do, Eric... I just don't. I don't know why I'm still here – She went quiet for a second - And I know when you're happy, and you are just not happy right now Eric. We're... both, miserable, running away from things. But I just feel that if we could stay together again, everything would be ok, you know... But it wouldn't. He screwed up. -...But it wouldn't, Marie. Not like that. She held Eric's left arm, as if to get some sort of comfort from Eric's body, the same she wasn't getting through his words. But they were two worlds apart now, with two completely different visions of what was happening. They both stayed in silence watching that city for several minutes. Truth is, Eric had no idea where they were either. Marie was looking at him with pain in her eyes, begging him for a bit of comfort, but Eric wasn't able to give her anything. At that moment he was facing his own demons, and the belief that he had screwed up for real that time. It would be better not to keep going on with that. There are people who are not meant for that. Marie wasn't. But instead of thinking of her as weak, or losing respect for her, as his inner voice (or let's say Samuel's or Isabella's voice would've done) he suddenly felt ashamed for not being strong as she was. But now, he had to be minimally strong for her and do the right thing. - I'm sorry Marie. I really am. I screwed up. - Marie was listening now – I don't have anything, nowhere to go back to, and nowhere to go from here. I just have this, this is who I am... everything that's killing you now. That's who I am... But you... - He took a deep breath – You're not like this, Marie. You can leave, you can get away from me, from all of this. Go back to your life, that's so close from being perfect... You're not like me or Isabella, or Taylor... You don't have to do that to yourself. You were happy when I met you... - Marie started to shake her head – Yes you were. You had problems, you were confused, and you needed a bit of help and guidance... You are just young Marie... Just go back home, where you have good people to help you and who will be there for you. In a year you won't remember me and everything will be ok. - No, Eric. No... I don't want to... - I'm sorry Marie... I think it's time for you to go home. - No, please... Stay with me, come with me then, Eric. We just need to get through this together and everything will be ok... I'm sorry I've lost it, please forgive me. It was silly of me to get to this... Please... Eric... Pleease... She started crying again, and Eric didn't understand some of the things she said while she was crying. He didn't understand when that girl had started to love him that bad. - Things will get better for you, Marie. You have a bit of money of your own now, you'll be able to have your own life and that will make things easier between you and your family. You just need to find friends that truly love you... And a guy that deserves you – He stayed in silence for a minute – …. Now we have to go upstairs, Marie. You need to get some sleep. She stood up with a bit of difficulty, and as they did, they were attracted to the view. The city was amazingly beautiful. He finally left her in her room, where she gently fell asleep shortly after. He then went to the terrace. He sat on a couch and he felt like he spent hours there by himself. Every minute that went by just made this inner voice get stronger, not leaving him alone, almost screaming: I need to get out of here. I need to stop this. I need to find a place to go... I need to be alone But he had no idea where. He never had. He never fell so disgusted of himself. Of Samuel, and Isabella and all of his past. He felt disgusted of being so out of his mind that night while Marie had needed him. But that wasn't making him feel any better, the contrary: he felt like he was drowning in anger, and by doing that, Samuel's voice was getting stronger inside of him. “That's who you are, Eric. Not more, not less. Not pretending to be something you're not. No one will ever understand you outside this life. No one ever will, and you will be weak, you'll feel weak and impotent, and you'll be defenseless against your past if you deny who you really are. You’re going to be useless and mediocre like the rest of them” What could he do? He had no one to ask for help. He couldn't humiliate himself to his family, not after what happened...they would bring everything up again, treating him like a sick child, feeling pity for him, trying to control him. Not Alice, and not even Tom, who would think Eric was weak for not having controlled his own vicious, not to mention after everything Eric had done to Marie (which Tom would probably hear about as soon as the day rose ) But then the last person on earth he'd like to talk to appeared by his side. - Hey Eric It was Isabella. - Ahh... - He took a deep breath - What do you want, Isabella? Not the best time right now... She sat on the couch by his side, getting completely (too) comfortable. - So hey, Eric, clarify something for me, will ya? Wasn't you that didn't care about her? Eric turned his head away, ignoring the comment. - Hey... Relax, big boy. - I am totally relaxed... Are you done with your poison or you still have some mean jokes about that? It's not funny what just happened... -Wow... - She stayed in silence for a second – She's gonna be ok, man... -What do you want, Isabella? - I thought you might needed some company Eric gave an evil smile, throwing his head back. -Yeah, right... So that's it? You’re worried about me? She went silent for a moment, while analyzing Eric. -Yeah, I am... I really, really am Eric. Eric started to feel so much anger. She was worried about him. She thought he was weak, that he needed help. But before he could explode with all the hate he had inside of him, she simply started saying, very calmly, against everything he could've expected from her. - Eric... I don't just get it what you're doing. I don't understand... I mean, I do understand what you're doing. I just don't understand how you allowed things to get to this point... Eric looked into her eyes. He got shocked for once again feeling Isabella emotionally present for him. It had been more than seven years the since last time that happened. He was still not used to it. - It's about Samuel, isn't it? Samuel and everyone else … Eric, he's dead. You can't let him still get to you, you don't deserve that. Marie doesn't deserve that... And you're letting that bastard control the life of you two... Why are you here in this fucking cold if not for letting him do that to you? Why are you not with her downstairs...just being with her, trying to make things better? Why don't you just tell her how you feel and what happened? … Just try to make things better by just being there... Just saying what's on your mind. That's who you are, Eric. You're Eric, not Samuel...That's what the guy I fell in love with would do... Eric stayed in silence, thinking about what she had asked him. - Why don't you just go and take care of her? - Because... because... - He didn't want to say it – I don't deserve her... - He felt an inexplicable pain and relief in his chest and his stomach as he said that, almost making him break down in tears - Not anymore. She deserves better. I... I love her too much to want me in her life... I guess that's why I did what I did. Why I fucked up things so bad... I can't allow myself to be happy with her because of that... Because of all of that, because of Alice, because of...this. Trust me, she'll be better off without me. Without all of this. After a moment that she had no reaction at all, Isabella slowly nodded, finally saying: - You know, it's sad how this things happens – She pointed at both of them – Or happened, or's happening. I couldn't stay with you because I thought you'd be better off without me, after I got so hurt by Samuel and... After I hurt you that bad. You're doing the same thing to her... You got hurt by me, hurt her, and now you're both you and her getting hurt because you think that now you don't deserve her anymore... That's sad Eric. The truth is: You deserve something as long as you're willing to fight for it. As long as you're willing to pay the price that needs to be paid. We shouldn't keep hurting ourselves because we think we're not worthy... Nobody's perfect. - … That's the thing, Bella. I can't fight for her... So I know that because of that, I've already lost her... - What a shame then… Don't think it will be easier this way, Eric. It might be better for her to stay away from you, but the contrary is definitely not truth... - She paused – I know that because I had some shitty years after you left. Because of what happened, yes... But also because I knew that, in those moments, I needed you the most, and I didn't have you with me. The worse part was that I knew it was entirely my fault. It's hard for me to admit that Eric. So that's why I can't accept the fact things turned out like this to you. I thought you'd be happier... I thought you'd allow yourself to be happy with her... All the sacrifice I made to stay away from you when I still loved you, was for you to be happy. It hurts me to see you in this position... Isabella slowly looked away. That was all too much, Eric was so terribly sad he was afraid of crying. They stayed in silence for a while. - ...I don't know what to do, Bella. - He said, with teary eyes - … It's ok. I guess most of us don't know, either... - She said, with a sad voice. - We can only do what we can do and hope for better days, right? - She sighed - ... I'm so fucking lost too, bro. It's been a while I lost control of myself... Eric nodded. Suddenly it became pretty clear. - Can you help me, Bella? -With what? -... I need to get away from here She just looked at him for a second. - I need a life, Bella... I don't wanna... die like this. After a while she just said: - What about the band? Aren't you gonna get ripped off your leaver for doing this? -You think I care about money? - Fair enough … But I meant more about the whole responsibility to the band...Never mind. So I guess you'll have to talk to Richard now. We leave as soon as possible. You heard me? As soon as possible. - Ok... ok. I can do that. -.. Eric? ...Are you in control of everything you're taking? I mean...Will you...- She didn't say the word -...? - … Fuck yeah... - All right. So I know exactly where we are going... Withdrawal from drugs is something unexplainably hard, in any kind of occasion or context. It's absurd how we can get to the point of needing something just to be able to face our day... to face our lives. Your skin get tremendously sensitive, and the only thought on the back of your head is how easy it would be to just get rid of the pain...just once more, once more. When they arrived in the house they would stay, Eric was in silent and cold panic. He knew who lived there, because Isabella had warned him. A guy in a wheelchair called Lucas. Probably one of the last people on earth Eric would like to see, because he was a living reminder of what had happened back home. Eric had just turned twenty three and he had no idea how he would face his own demons. He wasn't even sure if he would face withdrawal. He didn't know. But the fact that he was there, that fucking isolated, that cold, with those people, made Eric feel like he was going to die. Eric had abused alcohol, different kinds of drugs, cigarettes, sex, loud music, bad food, terrible routine, and survived the constant lack of sleep. Now he didn't have any of those things to help him get that scream, that anger out of his system. He didn't know how bad that would be. Getting to face the silence. Getting to face yourself in the mirror. Isabella knew she was basically in the same position. They were alone, lost, tormented, and Isabella thought it would be a good idea to ask for help to Lucas, the last person in the world Eric thought would be willing to help them. But as it seemed, he was. Lucas had isolated himself in a small house, near a cold lake, in that lost Nordic view. There he was, fighting his own demons from his past, showing that the addictions of the blood, of character and of life need a daily fight. To give in will always be easier than to fight our battles, that's for sure. Lucas had changed. He seemed well. Strong. He would easily move around with his wheelchair as if it was some sort of toy, always touching its wheels, hitting his finger on it to make different sounds. He seemed happy to help, even though Eric was still feeling very uncomfortable with all of that. He knew at some point there was a conversation they'd have to have. A conversation he had been avoiding for more than six years now. Lucas had put three huge mattresses in the living room, so they could help each other in case of withdrawal, insomnia or – no one wanted to say because it would sound silly – nightmares. Eric asked Isabella's help on a moment of despair because he needed a place to put his thoughts in order. He would ask himself several times if he had done the right thing. He didn't think he had a drug problem, after all since the days that followed his “break” from the tour until finally getting to Lucas's place (something like a period of almost three days) he was ok. But once again, when he saw that house, he fell like the floor was going to swallow him alive. A pain in his head started to blur his thoughts: He wouldn't be able to get anything that would ease his pain in that shithole of a village, where people would probably not want anything to do with two foreigners with features at least unfriendly. Eric actually thought he could walk until the nearest city where they had come from, but it was more than sixty kilometers and the weather would never allow it. Lucas then put his hand on Eric's back “inviting him in”, for sure understanding what he was feeling. - It's ok man. I know... The first couple of nights went by without any problems. But it did seemed like every day was extremely long and time wasn't passing: There was not much to do, and neither one of them was feeling like talking. Even with his sleeping pills, the third night passed by really slowly for Eric. Isabella kept turning and tossing and spent some time awake with Eric, and they tried talking to each other or just thinking about their lives. Silence reigned several times and that was the worst part. They both felt like if they just could fulfill the silence, things would be easier. Silence makes our demons’ voices clearer, stronger. They were both terrified of being alone with their thoughts. Eric had only talked to Richard, making sure Marie had gone home. No one knew where they were, not even Richard. Eric didn't want anyone to see him in that state. Lucas didn't insist on talking to Eric after noticing he didn't want to talk to him that much. The days after seemed to get even longer, somehow. Lucas did try to show them a bit of the village, and told them a bit about his past few years: He had spent two years and something in probation after Eric left Brazil. After that, his parents – And the money Samuel, his brother, somewhat had left behind- helped him to get away from there too. After a year living in the capital of that country, he found that small village where he had found some peace, just trying to live a simple life, for three years. - It was hard for me too, you know. The only difference is that I was alone, right after losing my brother. I wish I could say I found Jesus...but you know how it goes... Eric talked about his past years in less than fifty words and that was it. Lucas got worried about their nutrition and hydration, because they were both starting to get even paler than when they had got there. In the eighth night they spent there, it got worse for Eric, and then two nights later, to Isabella. Pain and chills. Eric and Isabella gave up on sleeping in different beds. They started to sleep holding each other, with their bodies hurting, sometimes shaking. It was really cold outside, and even a bit on the inside sometimes, which was a torture. Eric hadn't been sleeping much, and he was feeling like he was starting to hallucinate. Lucas was there, awake, when Isabella hardly stood up and went to the bathroom to vomit for the first time, out of pure pain and discomfort. It didn't take many days and it was Eric's turn. Then it was a weird sequence of vomiting, trying to sleep, trying to get some fresh air, trying to eat or drink a bit, trying to relax their head, get warm, dealing with their chills... And a lot of water. Eric got to a point where he was sure he was hallucinating, being transported – while wide awake – to moments on his past, only to get abruptly awaken, scared, in pain- to look at Isabella or Lucas near him, to realize that his past had finally grabbed him by his ankle. Eric couldn't understand why Lucas was helping them. Was he feeling good on seeing them in that situation? That would be way closer to the Lucas Eric remembered instead of thinking of him as a good Samaritan, helping two people in pain, just like that, out of the goodness of his heart. But he was there, with his headphones, or reading, trying to help them with water, medicines, cold cloths or warm clothes to help with the discomfort. A little side note, it probably wasn't that smart to try to get rid of addiction like that, without much against the pain, without specialized help... Only the pure and simple pain. But survival would be victory. That would be the only way they would keep their heads high. The days kept passing, but they didn't look like they were getting any better. They were actually feeling it getting worse. Eric's nightmares were getting darker each day and the pain was getting worse...The chills were getting worse. Both of them were feeling weaker. After sixteen days there, things got really bad. How come it was that cold? Fuck that was cold. He could hear his mother, his sister, Alice, Marie, Lucy. All the women in his life. And then the opposite, from his father, his brother, Tom, Mike, Jack and Liam, Richard, Samuel. Even Marie's father. His own voice, screaming, in anger and pain. Noise, noise, so much noise. Sound of cars, planes, people screaming, people fucking, people drinking, people getting slowly destroyed. The noise from New York in the middle of the night. And then the worse of all: That complete silence in that place, in the middle of nowhere, with all those trees around the house. There was a little lake too, and it was somehow only making them even more depressed. Eric was getting overwhelmed by the feeling the silence was bringing. Eric thought that, in that place, he could listen anything from twenty kilometers away. That was killing him. Fuck that place. Fuck that cold, fuck that creepy mist. After nineteen days, Eric woke up. I mean woke up, because he took a while to notice that he had been sleeping. He had just passed out, but apparently he slept for a relatively long time. He thought the pain in his head was going to blind him, but eventually, with all his strength, he was able to stand up on his own, and hugging the covers, he went to the back door, opened it and went near the lake. There, he took several deep breaths, more times than he had patience to count and every time it seemed like his lungs, and his whole body, were going to explode in a mix of pain and relief. He couldn't remember the pain of his first breath, but it was probably something like that. His head finally relaxed a little bit after some minutes. He was trying to control his body that was still shaking, and trying to relax his neck that was hurting like a bitch. Out of that pain and despair and loneliness, he started to cry. And he kept crying for a while, alone, looking at that lake, and the trees around him, and the grey sky. He ended up sitting on his knees and stayed there for a good while until he felt the pain slowly getting away from him. He was completely alone. Lucas was looking him from inside the house, but Eric was there, alone, sitting beside that lake. He sat on a wood bench and he stayed there for almost half an hour, as if the cold was helping him to numb the pain. Eventually the cold got to him and he had to go back inside. He kept thinking what was making him do that. Why did he want to survive that? Things would just get better to everyone if he just seized to exist. He wouldn't have to deal with that pain anymore. Not only that specific pain, but the worse pain of all: having to deal with who you are, when who you are is someone that disgust you and the people around you. When your life is not at all what you wanted it to be. Was he supposed to stay sober for the rest of his life? Fuck, for real? How do people get by like that? Every person should be able to at least understand the reason why their life got that bad. Most of the time though, people don't even get this relief. Pain didn't leave him completely after that, but at least it got better when something hit: Nostalgia. Eric laid down beside Isabella, who was still feeling like shit, and held her. Nobody said a word. They stayed there for a whole night, drowning in memories and in pain. Would something change? Something had to. But I guess we can't really see the line of our life's story while it’s still being written. Eventually, a couple of days after that, Isabella seemed to start getting better, but before that, she had spent almost fifteen hours sleeping and more three hours without saying a word after she got up. Eric and Lucas did get a bit worried about her sleeping that long without moving, completely pale white and cold, so it was a relief when she woke up. They both started to walk around the village, trying to get into a more normal routine. They started to watch movies after three weeks and a half in silence. They started to read, they started to eat a lot again, and they started to make conversation more often. Three weeks and a half have passed since they first got there and they finally were starting to look better. That's when they decided to go to the nearest city to make some shopping. They needed clothes, food, books, movies and games to make their next weeks a bit more enjoyable and there was not many stores in that village. They ate there, bought everything they needed (and a bit more), and they even went to the movies to watch a British movie because only Lucas could understand that Viking language. Once they were done with the movies, they wandered around for a while, and some people actually recognized Eric, and that brought him a bit of happiness. Later on, in a moment where Isabella and Lucas lost Eric in the middle of the public center, he saw something that made his leaver scream and that could suddenly make his life feel better. He regretted so many things, and staying there wouldn't change much. And that need in his system that he knew it wouldn't let him at peace, that wouldn't shut up. Near a store, after Eric crossed the street, he went to the thing he needed the most at that moment: a public payphone. - Hi, Richard? Yeah, it's Eric. Yeees. Yes. I am, I'm good. Yeah, no for real, I'm ok. Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm sorry... I just wanted to let you know I'm ok. I'm still with Isabella, yeah... and another friend, called Lucas. I know I should've, Richard. Yeah. Yeah... All right, don't worry, I'm still alive. So...I need you to keep handling things, ok? And tell my mom what I've told you, the guys, and yeah, if you could let Tom know too … That'd be great. Perfect. All right. What about Liam and Jack? Good, good.... - He paused for a second – And Marie? ...Hmm ok. I see, good good, thanks for that again. Well, take care of them for me for a while, ok? I guess I'll call you back soon ok? … I gotta go Richard. Yeah, Sure. Bye. For a few days everything actually went well. They met a friend of Lucas called Miriam, pretty as an angel. For sure she also had more friends in the village, but she didn't bring any with her. She was willing to help with anything she could and just to be there to chill together, going there almost every day, for a couple of hours or even a bit more. She tried to teach a bit of the language to them, with Lucas, because as always, we can always get some laughs out of it, and they could actually focus on something else, something new and refreshing. Eventually Miriam started to bring some friends over once in a while, and one night she brought them all over for a nice dinner. That night, during a conversation after they had finished the food, the subject suddenly got very heavy due to the mood swifts that sometimes was hitting Eric or Isabella – And they don't even remember who brought it up that day – but after a few seconds where Lucas tried to change the subject in respect of the visitors, it got pretty clear that that was not going to happen. If it was by the tone of the conversation, the awkwardness or by the gesture, Miriam and her friends noticed that they should leave at that point. Lucas, Eric and Bella all excused themselves, but the girls said it was ok. They understood that Eric and Bella were tired, so they just left. - All right, so I guess we are indeed gonna talk about it - Lucas said But almost five minutes passed and nobody said a word. Then Lucas took the initiative, and then they started to re-live the past together. When Mike and Isadora finally decided to start dating for real, her family had just gotten back home after vacations in St Jean de Luz with her older brother, Eric. The result of that trip, which they were hoping that would be getting back in touch with their son, had backfired. When they tried to bring him close to them, they realized there was still too much undealt with. Things from a past they had tried so hard to forget. Bad enough, so that the son once again was gone, lost in his lifestyle, away from them, which led his mother's heart to a constant state of fear and pain. The sadness and disappointment (and disbelief) was clear in their faces on the trip back home. Alice, Eric's girlfriend, got a lift with them until Toulouse and from there, she took a train back to her aunt's home, because she still had commitments in Paris. She thought it was better to get away from Eric. It was just too much for her: she had just seen too much hatred, anger and self-destructive behavior at once. She knew it was going to hurt them both, but she really thought it was the right thing to do at that moment. After all, it had already became clear that their relationship was not going to last forever because, she was sure of it, he still had someone else on his mind. Was she that hurt with him? Maybe... Although, for a long time something inside her kept telling her that she should've stayed. Her feelings were hurt: maybe she had just abandoned him because she was afraid of getting abandoned first. Maybe she just tried to accept the fact that she... she didn't know, she just couldn't read Eric's feelings towards her. Did he love her? No, he was still in love with Marie, right? … Right? …She got so confused and so distressed about it, she decided she had to leave. Isadora was also uncertain about all of that. She had always, always, always admired her brother, even from far away. Even through his music, from pictures, from memories. From pure empathy. Now there was Michael. She just felt like she had gotten two people in her life (whom she was looking for so long, without even realizing it) and it was just too good for a moment in time. Now they were back to that same life. She just didn't know what would happen. Mike said he was probably done, not only because of what had happened that night, but because the whole trip had made him realize how miserable he had been lately. Made him realize how happy he could be away from all of that. Isadora was moving to Paris soon, maybe they could just go there together....Still, Mike wasn't sure of anything, either. Eric's dad was driving the car with his wife by his side, while his kids, Alice and Mike were going back on the other car. They both talked a lot during that trip. He was asking himself (and her) where he had gone so wrong. Why all of that was happening to them. Where he had gone so wrong with Eric. Maybe he already knew. He had thought he could've bring him back. He just waited for so long for his son, so they could talk and forgive and forget, and in a split of a second in time everything slipped through his fingers. Eric's aggression had hit his soul way more than his body, because he felt like his son had waited seven years for that punch, and that had killed him. He didn't know who his son was anymore, maybe he never did. And now he felt like he had lost the chance of showing his son who he was. Who he had become, for them. Did he ask too much? Why did he have to experience all of those terrible moments on his mind, all of once, when he got hit by his own son? Why? Maybe his son was right. Maybe he did blame him. Maybe he still did. Deep down, was he still angry at his son for everything he had lost since that night? Because of his son's... irresponsibility and bad judgement? … Without not even being certain of what had happened? He spent what...? Four or five years trying to change, trying to be a better person, trying to convince himself his life was better and that he...they were happier. Was he? His son seemed to be a good person. Kind of lost, libertine, party animal, way different from what he could've thought his son would've become. But he spent his vacations enjoying his sibling, his friends and everyone around him, and the way they would get along so easily and so quickly should show something. Why was he so proud of Isadora and Gustavo, knowing that they were too, very different from what he would've expected? Was he proud of Eric like that? Was it his fault? They were all so disappointed, they were all so sad with that (lack of?) farewell... All that sadness couldn't have been for someone who hadn't touched us. Had he been the bad guy? … No... He had just tried to make things right. Why didn't it work? ...Why? Eric had just turned sixteen. He didn't have many friends, but he knew a lot of people in that city, even though he had moved back to Florianopolis only like... a year before. There were really few people that he enjoyed to have around... There was Isabella, Lucas, Samuel, Gabriela and Victor. Samuel and Lucas were brothers, and they were the oldest in the group. Gabriela was a bitch who was only there basically to please the guys...or any of the girls around. Eric was by far the youngest. Isabella, a bit older, had already turned eighteen at the time. Samuel was twenty four years old and Lucas was twenty one. Victor was... well, he is not important at all in this story. Eric met all of them through Isabella, and he met Isabella at a party from friends of his friends from his school, having sex with her not long after meeting her that night, completely surprising him. . Eric was from a wealthy family that had one single revenue: His dad, who received an insane amount of money to do what he did best: Manage other rich people's money. His mom was...well, she was a women that would care more for the appearances of things rather than the meaning of life, even though she never really realized it. He wouldn't say she was futile, because she wasn't, but for sure often she would let herself be controlled by prejudice and complacency. She didn't really worked anymore at that point in her life. Eric's parents didn't know his friends for most of the time they lived there. They wouldn't know where his parties where at, and they would not even know for sure when he was home or when he was out, although ironically, when he was home they would try to control his life to the slightest detail. He had two younger siblings, who would fight with each other and complain all the time, calling their parents attention and making it easier for Eric's lies to go unnoticed. The fights would usually become arguments involving the whole family, so Eric would always try to stay as much as he could away from their house, where he had never felt comfortable in the first place. He had those friends, who were the only companion he would have most of the time. Apart from them, he wouldn't truly get along with anyone else. His friend Samuel, was particularly close to him, probably the best fatherly figure he had always had: Always giving him advice, and always trying to make him feel integrated in the group, trying to help him be more outgoing or confident on himself – Or to not let him feel alone and unwanted – And Eric always respected and admired him like he could've never admit it to anyone (and exactly the same happened with the rest of the group towards Samuel). Samuel was a very ironic person, self-dependent, always putting his pride in front of everything: People would love him, but would first be completely terrified by him. And the way he would behave, the way he thought people should and shouldn't behave had a lot of influence in that group, and in their lives, almost as the moral compass they should follow. Even though for a moment in time Eric looked at him like a father, they did had their collisions (pretty bad ones) because they wanted the same girl, Isabella. Somehow, she wanted them both too, which led to a lot of suffering from Eric's part, in the middle of that confusion. Eric suffered a lot: They had broken up several times, and she would quite often go to bed with Samuel after or during their relationship. She tried to get back together with Eric several times. After a while, she just tried to keep having sex with both of them, which was ok with Samuel, but it nearly killed Eric. Eventually, that situation and the way Eric grew to be his own person faster than anyone could've though, made him start to hate Samuel and Isabella, although he couldn't fight the need he had for having them around. After all, they were the only people who ever cared about him. It was a Friday night that would change Eric's life forever. The whole Friday was actually pretty boring. Technically, everything happened in the beginning of Saturday. They went to this really small concert in a very shitty bar, in this very shitty neighbourhood. After the concert they left, the six of them, on Samuel's car, to a party like all of the others: a lot of drinking, a lot of drugs, and a lot of sex. Normal. Samuel was always the guy bringing the heavier drugs and he used to make a lot of money out of it, even thought for most of their friendship, Eric didn’t know that. Most of the time, Eric would hate all of that. Ugly people, stupid people. Fat people, with no ambition in life, who in the end of the day, wouldn't be able to be anywhere else anyways. Fucking losers. That night, there was sex, people pucking a lot, a couple of them even having to go to the hospital... There was also a lot of acid and cocaine going around in that party, for some reason. As mentioned, Samuel was the most fatherly figure Eric had always had, but their relationship those days was really delicate because of Isabella. They even shared her for a while, and Eric thought he would eventually be ok with that. He tried to be ok, but he wasn't. He really loved her. Then she went back to Samuel, then to Eric, and then to him again. Things got so bad between them all in the last few months, that they were just trying to party those days to make sure things were back to normal... Eric wanted to hate Samuel. But Samuel and Isabella... they were everything he had. Their respect, their approval, their company....was everything that mattered to him in the end. So, back to the party... Well, they've spent hours and hours there, until Samuel decided it was time to go around downtown because he had to pick up some “stuff”. Eric was tired, he felt like going home. He had money for a cab, but the guys were really convincing. Eric didn't feel like going home just to toss and turn on his bed, feeling lonely and bored while Isabella would be having the time of her life with Samuel... So Samuel himself convinced him when he said he would let Eric home when all was done. After all, the party wasn't over yet. In their way there (wherever it was), there was this huge tree that was gloomily swinging, grabbing Eric's attention as if it had a spell. He suddenly felt lucid and awake, even though he was completely drunk a couple of minutes ago: He would remember that single moment for several years, trying to remember how things were before that. Begging to go back to that same moment and just grab a cab and go home. Why didn't he just grabbed a cab and went home? They had to pass several desert streets. Sometime later, a few people passed by them. Normal people, afraid of them at that time at night. That fear actually made Eric feel proud: He was one of them. People, weak people, were afraid of them. Even the prostitutes and small time dealers wouldn't mess with them as they were passing, and Eric, so young, thought that that was really cool. They kept walking and Samuel took some more of these medicines he would take to have a “cool buzz”. He was really out-of-his-mind- crazy that night, but he was strong as a bull and he never ever had gotten sick or felt bad in front of Eric or of anyone in that group, so Eric just assumed it wasn't a reason to worry. He was often borderline insane like that anyways. Then, they saw some young kids going in their direction, and Eric immediately noticed they were drug dealers that Samuel knew. They were all black kids and that made Samuel and Lucas angry. They were extremely racists. Eric would never remember what they talked about those few minutes, but it was about drugs. Someone, somewhere, was really really mad at Samuel. And Samuel and Lucas were getting extremely mad of having to get a lecture from those black guys. Eric was trying to understand what was happening (because he was not very awake and lucid anymore, and he was cold) when he looked around, Isabella and Gabriela were gone. Out of nowhere Samuel and Lucas started to fight against those guys (Who had tried to punch them first) and both Samuel and Lucas had brass knuckles on both of their hands. It was three (Samuel, Lucas and Victor) against seven, because Eric was just too drunk to do anything. He stayed away for the first minute trying to understand what was happening. None of the black kids even bothered looking at Eric. Samuel and Lucas were actually beating those guys up (They were both extremely strong), and Victor … was doing a decent job too. But sure enough, Eric saw one of the guys pulling a gun out: He saw it, and he saw the guy going on Samuel direction. Because of that moment, Eric tormented himself for years. He wasn't able to say anything. He was going on Samuel's direction with a gun. Eric always questioned himself if he had gotten happy with that thought. In his memories, was he smiling? Was he excited? Was he somewhat happy that someone was getting rid of Samuel and all that hell they had put him into? He couldn't answer. Maybe he was just too drunk. Maybe he froze. Maybe it took forever for him to realize what was happening and be able to scream to warn them. The fact is that he screamed to Samuel the same time Samuel got shot in the leg. It was too late. Lucas got in shock but quickly got out of it and jumped on the guy that had just shot his brother, but he never got even near him: He got shot twice (one right on his spine, as they would later learn). That was when Eric jumped on the fight. Samuel was able to stand and get the guy that had shot him (basically a kid) and started to beat him up, out of control. Eric and Victor were fighting with the few ones that were still there. Some of them had already ran away. Eric felt pleasure on seeing that kid getting beat up, while Victor was calling for an ambulance for Lucas, who was laying down on the floor, bleeding. They were all crazy mad. … But Samuel didn't stop hitting the guy, he just kept going. Eric just woke up and realized the kid would die if he kept getting beaten up like that...He screamed to Samuel to stop. And again. And again. He had to pull Samuel with all the strength he had. They started to argue about the kid, and Samuel was barely able to talk. He was too messed up because of the drugs, to the point that he was screaming and started to punch Eric. Then it happened. The kid shot Samuel again. And again. And again. Both in the middle of his chest. Eric stood still, completely frozen, while he saw his friend fell, and the kid tell them something, which he would never remember what it was. He took his friend on his arms, and Samuel's blood got all over his clothes, his arms, his hands. He looked at the guy, who had the gun pointing at him, and they just kept looking at each other, Eric in complete shock: He was sure he already was dead. For some reason, the kid never shot him. He left. He left Eric there, with Lucas and Samuel, while Victor had run away because the cops were arriving. Eric and that kid were probably the same age. Thing about that situation is that people never tell you how bad it is to have someone dying in your arms. How warm blood is. How Eric could feel the paddle getting bigger and bigger, on him, and around them. His friend, slowly dying, slowly getting...empty. His heart, beating like crazy. His brain... realizing its dying. Nobody is prepared for that. Eric could see how Samuel got confused, angry, and afraid. How he failed to speak. Holding on to him, trying to understand how his life was ending like that, in the dirt, killed by a black kid he hated in the middle of nowhere. Then he was gone. It took forever for the ambulance to arrive. Eric felt like he was the only person in the world, crying, in panic, almost screaming. No one was there. Samuel died in his arms. Lucas would get stuck on a wheelchair forever. Victor had just left. Life wouldn't be the same again. Eric couldn't get over the image of blood, his blood, the other guy's blood, Samuel and Lucas's blood. He started to have insomnia. With everything that happened, it got worse to know that the kid who killed Samuel, and that had spared him, had been found dead in the woods four days later. A shot in the head. A bit after, Eric started to get threatened: Suspicious behavior from people and cars around him – They decided to put him under the protection of the department of police for a while - But as it got unbearable, his parents decided to send him to live with his uncle in the United States, “for a while”. His father ended up losing his job: People that mattered got to know about the whole situation, and they wouldn't accept the scandal. For six more months they stayed in Florianopolis. They sold their apartment and moved to the beach house, his dad tried to find another job... but it was useless. A month later it had passed one year from the incident (as his dad would refer to) they had to move quickly to France, where Eric's father still had some contacts and some people willing to help them, and Eric decided to finish his high school in San Francisco. Soon after, he was already touring with his band. Eric's parents never really asked him what happened that night. They got him the best lawyer to get Eric clean and in the seven years to come, they probably saw each other five times. Eric now had insomnia, then later developed anxiety and panic attacks. He would never be able to sleep alone in a bed again for a whole night (Even though it had exceptions, or he would pass out in a couch or something like that) The police tried to make everything that was possible to squeeze some information from Eric, to see if he knew anything about the drugs situation. Eric never said a word, for the simple fact that he didn't know anything. For Lucas, it was even worse: stuck in a hospital, alone, paralyzed, protected by police because they were afraid someone would try to kill him because of what he supposedly knew. He also never opened his mouth, for Eric's surprise, but the police just knew he had information based on evidences they found on Samuel's place. All that Eric knew is that, for the amount of effort the police put into it, it was a big thing. Apparently there was some big players in that scheme, which was not a big surprise if you know that island in south Brazil. Nobody ever got arrested though. He knew that there were some powerful people his father knew in the middle of that because Samuel, more than once let it slipped, “All man, you should stay away from that crowd” “ Yeah, sure, because your father`s friends are saint” “They are the worse of us all, man” . And still they had the balls to basically kick Eric's father out of the city. The same people who in the newspapers are always complaining about corruption. Eric knew he had heard the name of a guy that night who – guess what – he came to notice was inside the police force that was investigating those crimes. Not that he needed more reasons to keep his mouth shut, right? He never knew what exactly in that situation spared his life. Maybe a miracle. Maybe just the fact that it got pretty clear he didn't know a thing. He also never put his feet again on that city. Now you know. - So yeah... - Lucas Isabella had tears in her eyes. Eric started speaking. -... I still dream about it. The tree. How I could've just gone home, you know. But then I guess I wouldn't have been there for him.... Jesus, it was so fucking violent and useless.... All that blood... - He looked to his own hands. He wished he could have said something about the visions he occasionally had about his hands, but he didn't – And then things just got ugly with my parents. We never actually talked about it, but they practically kicked me out from home after that. - It was fucked up, that's for sure. But he wouldn't want us to keep stuck on the past like that. - He's dead. We'll never know what the dead want. His whole concept is over. - … I just really don't understand how that happened, you know – Isabella finally said – I mean, there was nothing different going on. It was not the first time we went there for him to pick up things with that guy, or with any of the other ones. It wasn't even the first time they would get into an argument. I ran away when the fight started, and me and Ana got woken up the next morning completely hangover by the police. It just never made sense to me. It never did. - There were too many black people that day. A couple of them who Samuel really didn't like to deal with. He got completely mad, and I backed him up on that. But I don't know why exactly they trapped him like that, he never told me exactly what was going on. I know he was in trouble, he was owing a lot of money to people, he did some shit against the guys in Floripa, I guess he may knew too much, and I think he was selling way more than what he should have, in places he was not supposed to... I don't know... - Lucas stopped - But why? He was not stupid... Did he think he could just get away with it? - I guess he thought so... After I finally had the chance to go home, I ended up finding a shit ton of money hidden. My guess is that he was thinking about just leaving town for good. - Fuck... How much money? - About a hundred thousand... dollars. I have no idea how he got that kind of money. - Shit... What did you do with it? Lucas shrugged his shoulders - I used most of it to come here, and study. But my parents helped me a bit too. Today I would've never taken that money, but those where different times. I was alone, stuck in a wheelchair, with people trying to kill me in Floripa. I just came here. It was a mess not to call any attention with the money, but oh well... It's not like I was going to step again in that city anyways... Silence. - And? - Well, I eventually got in touch with the Federal Police. I told them what happened, just about the money... So we kind of cut a deal and now I'm paying the part of the money I used, and I helped them on getting a couple of small dealers and skinheads I've met back there, but no one from Samuel's part. I'm finish paying them in a couple of years, it's not a big deal. I just felt like I had to... And I actually think it made me good. Samuel left me a good amount of money anyways. I mean, Legal money. - ...Wow... - Yeah... - And what about them? Why they never went after you? - … They did. - And? - And I had to say the same lie a hundred times until they believed it. We didn't know anything, we were just walking around with him after a party. Nobody had ever saw our faces before in any other situation, besides the kid there who got killed. It's ironic, they killed the guy that could've explained them the whole situation. Stupid... Anyways, Samuel was the only one. So yeah, they needed to know if we knew anything. We didn't... They went after me in the hospital. They sent cops to talk to me, can you believe that? …. Anyways... So yeah, after repeating that that many times, and even after getting threaten, they finally believed me... And.... Yeah.... Not like I could do anything even if I wanted to...I guess with you it was the same? - Yeah, the only difference is that I was interrogated in the police station. I recognized a name, I knew he knew Samuel, and that was all. I could never prove anything, anyways... I'm just really frustrated because I knew most of the cops were trying to do their job and going after those pricks, I just wasn't able to help them at all... Pause. - And the black kid that got killed? - What about it? … They just got rid of him. He made a fucking mess, and people in that city hate to have to clean up a mess. He wasn't supposed to kill Samuel I guess... Who knows, he irritated some white people with a lot of money, do you really need another reason for a kid like him to be executed? His life never mattered. We are lucky to have been left alive, that's all. Pause. - I really miss him sometimes – Isabella - Yeah, I know - Me too, I loved that bastard... - Eric paused for a while – And I loved you, Bella. You know that... And you guys had just gotten back together, for god's sake, you had so much ahead of you... And I just wished you were there in that moment, with him. With me... We were just kids... But he knew who we were, didn't he? - Yeah... - She had teary eyes again - I just didn't care about pride at that moment. I just wanted to deserve your friendship, because you guys were there for me. And I failed you. I fucking failed him... - ...No, you didn't Eric. Samuel loved you, and he would've wished you to forget that. It was not your fault... and I'm so sorry I wasn't there. For him, but also for you. I'm so sorry you had to go through that on your own... Compassion wasn't something that you would see in her eyes very frequently. At this moment, Lucas put on a mask of nostalgia and started to talk about his brother. They had so many stories that they had forgotten or that they didn't even know about him. And they all laughed about it really hard. Samuel was, without a doubt, a unique person, and to laugh about him made him seem more human, seem closer to them. But then they ran out of stories and their initial happiness went back to sadness. Eric got an infinite and poisonous sadness hurting his leaver. He felt like it was irradiating through his body. Somewhat, it got unbearable for him. He had to run to the bathroom because his life, his poison started to get out of him through his mouth. When he was finally finished, he was so tired and sad, that he stayed in the ground, crying, in despair, at the bottom of the world. No hopes, no plans, no pride, no respect, no security. Completely naked, on that floor. His throat was hurting, his whole body was feeling the pain of having to deal with that strength so suddenly. His eyes started to hurt. His soul was getting small and he was possessed by memories. Isabella entered the bathroom. She sat beside him, held him and then they stayed like that, until all the suffering in the world had been expelled through their eyes. The past finally had gotten unbearable. Even for them, sons of the lost generation. They were weak, they were dizzy, and they were tired. Surprisingly, two days after that, the past would again have to be dealt with. It knocked at their door, waking all of them up. And how surprised they were to see that it was going by the name of Meirelles, Mike, Montini, Jack and Liam. That's right. They had found them. - Oi...Hi...I'm Eric's mom. - Then she saw Eric on the back, looking at them from the other end of living room. - Hi son! Eric stayed in silence. Richard had told them. Tom had probably helped them to find him. Or Marie. Maybe his credit card? They were all there anyways. Standing in front of his door. His family, his band, Marie. Even Jan was there. - Do you mind if we come inside? - She asked Lucas - Ahn... Not at all... Sorry – He tried to get out of the way so they could enter the house. - No problem. I'm sorry for waking you guys up - It's ok... Isabella got really surprised with the sudden invasion. They were both pretty pale, not presentable at all. She stayed on her mattress. - So... - Hey Eric. We got worried, and we are here now. How are things going? - Isadora, smiling. - We... Everything's ok. - Hmm... Ok. Do you need anything? - No... We’re good... - Don't you need to see a doctor or anything? - No, thanks, Isa... Silence. His mother was analyzing the house and its inhabitants. Eric knew his mom remembered Isabella and that she probably wouldn't like to see her there. But she seemed to not mind her at all. - So Richard told me you were injecting yourself something? - Yeah, some stuff, sometimes... It would help me to sleep. - Hmm... His dad hadn't said a word yet. His mother was looking at them all. - So what do you want me to tell you? - Eric was looking at his mother. - Nothing... Do you have something you wanna say to me? Or maybe do you want me to tell you something? - ...That I'm on fucking rock bottom? - Ah please... - She sounded really British – You're alive, and getting better. It's something. - We missed you Eric. We were all worried to death about you. - Isadora - Hmm, that’s why you guys decided to organize a fucking school trip to come and see me? The part of trying to be alone didn't reach y'all? Feel better now? - Not even Eric understand why he was sounding so angry. - Hmm... Yeah, pretty much. I know how it looks, Eric. But we are not going to apologize for caring about you. We didn't have a piece of information for almost a month, we got worried, we are here to help, but don't worry, we are not going to sleep here with you. Eric coughed again and shrugged his shoulders. - Yeaah, whatever... as you wish. - We are staying in a hotel, around what? Twenty minutes from here? We are all staying here for a few days. We can come and go as you please. If and when you want to see us. We're not gonna force anything on you, son – His dad spoke for the first time – And by the way, Tom send you his best regards. He said he was sorry he couldn't come, but he wishes you the best. He said he's waiting for a visit. - Hmm... Cool. Thanks for the mail. - That was meant as an insult - Are you guys going to...hmmm... do what around here exactly? Visit the place? - Yeah. Something like that. Maybe some hiking, you definitely found a nice place to come – Isadora, always sweet and trying to make things better - Good luck with that - She smiled at Eric's comment, but didn't say anything. Silence. - Alright, well, we'll be on our way then... We just came to check on you and give you the address and our phone number in the hotel – His father gave him a card – Just call us if you want company or if you need anything. Eric didn't answer. - Ah, Eric, I brought my laptop with me. There's a lot of people sending you messages. A couple of friends are pretty worried – 'Alice?? Lucy? ' As Eric didn't say anything else, they just said their goodbyes and slowly left, in two huge cars. The house went once again back to the solitude and silence from before. The inhabitants stayed there, looking at each other, not knowing what to do, or what to take from that. That night, Isabella started to vomit again. She even vomited a bit of blood, but she just refused to go see a doctor and actually screamed with both of them when they insisted. Eric started to have chills again and worse: he was having crazy cramps all over his body again. “It should've stopped by now, no?” Lucas wasn't talking much. When people got there the next morning, they found Eric and Isabella sleeping, with several glasses and dishes around them. Eric woke up and saw Isa there. And then Gustavo. Jack, Liam, Jan and Mike were there too. - Hey buddy... rise and shine - looks like you had a really nice night of sleep Hun? - Gustavo - Hmm... I've had worse... - Eric sat on his mattress, hugging the covers. Isa gave him a bottle of water - …Thanks Jan started to pick up all the glasses and dishes that were around in the living room and took it to the kitchen, and started cleaning the place a bit when Lucas, who now was back on his bedroom, appeared. They introduced themselves and started doing a nice brunch together. They talked a lot, and Isabella soon enough got awaken. She was worse than Eric, but didn't look willing to show it. They talked, and talked, and eventually they started laughing and starting to have a bit of fun. Then they played poker, videogame, and later on, when they were making dinner, Eric was checking his messages on Isa's laptop. He had several messages. Way more than what he could've imagined. A bit before dinner getting ready, he found on his personal e-mail one particular message that caught his attention. “Hey Eric. I miss you. Your siblings told me what happened and I really hope you're doing ok. I wanted you to know that I'm really proud for what you're doing and I wish I could've been there to help you. Actually, I should be there to help you. Since we said our goodbyes, I travelled around France and I did everything I told you I wanted to do, but I still wish we had left each other in a better place. Now I'm back home, in Floripa, trying to work some stuff out. Wish me luck about that, as I'm wishing you all the luck in the world with this moment in your life. … I miss our honest talks and our magical moments. You're a great guy and I wanted you to know that: I don't think I've let you know that enough the last time we saw each other. Get better. I'm sorry for anything and thanks you so much for everything. Good luck. With all my heart, Alice Martins” “Oh my God, Alice!” How bad he had missed her! Her mind, her sweetness, her intelligence and... “Our honest talks and magical moments!”” It had been what? Six months? Even more than that... His mind was flooded with memories of her. 'She's back home, working stuff out' probably trying to write, or in a new job, school. Maybe even with a new boyfriend... He wanted to see her. Talk to her, he wanted to know what was going on with her life. Tell her about his own. She, more than anyone, would listen to his story. - Eric! Dinner is ready! The rest of the day would be pretty chill with all of them there. - Alright. A movie then... They all agreed on watching Into the wild, recommended by Lucas. Eric didn't mentioned anything, but he had already watched it with Alice. Coincidence. Again, it really got to him to watch that movie, in that place and time, with those people. Eric got especially happy about Mike and Isadora. They were still together. Not only that, but they actually had a very intimate, mature and friendly relationship. He actually started to get a bit jealous. But you know, someone in that family should be able to have a healthy relationship. Mike and Isadora were in fact living together in Paris for a while now: After what happened in St Jean, Mike decided to stay in France. He had to go back and forth from San Francisco a couple of times until he was finally ready to move with Isadora to Paris, a bit more than a month later. Isadora was starting a new university program and Mike had just felt compelled to move there with her. Apparently they were having a really nice time: Mike had been studying French and had looked at the possibilities of having his own music school – He ended up investing some money in this tiny music school where he had also started to teach, after his French got to the basic level he needed. They were happy. Back to the present moment, when the movie was over, Eric got very quiet, only observing all those people around him, specially his sister and Mike. In that moment he knew he wanted a relationship like that...again. That day, they went to have some snacks under the trees, and stayed outside sitting on the grass for a while. Nostalgia, sleepiness, possibilities. There, on the grass, he felt a spark of what he had felt in London, a long time ago. There he knew, everything was going to get better somehow. Time passes and even though life is full of possibility and even magic, time has a dark sense of humor. Even a bit cruel. He allows us a lot, but he always comes to charge the price. What have been the last seven or eight years of his life? It was the third day they were all there now. - But it's hard, isn’t it? - Mike - Ah, you know... - Yeah... - Anyways, it’s nice in here, man - True - are you feeling? - I don't know... Things are a bit unclear right now. - I can only imagine that. But at least you're on the right track, man. And you can count on us, you know that, right? - Mike paused – …I knew you wouldn't like to see this invasion here, man. But anyways... Everyone was freaking out about you. They're still a bit worried, you know. - I know. Silence - But I know you. I know you'll know what to do. In a way or another, you always did. “If you say so...” They stopped talking for a while. They were in this long deck on the lake and now they were just watching the view. It was cold. - I like to see you and my sister together, you know - “It's really weird to call her sister” - It makes me believe how... having a good relationship is possible right. That it exists. - Yeah, yeah. I know.... I'm crazy about her, man. - No kidding, you cannot tell that. - Ha, funny. But you know what? It's funny. I saw you and Alice in St Jean. And even with Marie. I guess I started thinking about my life there... And man, I thought your sister was the most amazing human being I've gotten close to in the minute I saw her. I could just feel how awesome she was, it's weird. But you know, I didn't want to get involved again. I didn't want to ruin everything again. Then I saw you guys, and Alice told me about seize the opportunities and fight for them with all you got, and all her philosophy of life. You know... -He paused - It's like I wanna be a better person for your sister... And I never felt like that before, with anyone... And I guess... I guess I wasn't proud anymore of who I was, about what we were doing. You know? Pause. Mike kept going. - I actually never liked this story of having to get better for someone. But then we met and... I guess it's kind of natural that you want to become a better person for that special one. I guess love is indeed altruistic... - Alright... So I guess you'll be the housewife? Mike laughed - Yeah, sure. - Ha, Nah. It's ok. Relax. I get it, man - Eric - It's just cuz... ah never mind. - Mike - Hmm ok...if you say so. - Don't you want to go inside? - Mike eventually asked - No, I need some cold air. - Ok. - What do you think they are doing? - Eric - Cooking, probably. -.Right, or they're cooking, or eating, or washing dishes... Or sleeping after eating... Mike laughed -Yeah, that's a big one - Yeah, my favorite. Man, I feel like we are going to get kicked out of this village. - True... they might kick us out. Silence - Buuut... so Eric. What about the situation you're in now? - Which one exactly? - Eric looked at Mike very quickly - Well... Your family doesn't know about Marie and Marie doesn't know about Alice - Ah... Actually Marie knows about Alice. - Oh...auch ….Well, that sucks. If I was you, I'd try to settle. You're getting old dude. The older the bride, the less it values. They laughed - Like you and my sister? - ? - Yeah buddy. I didn't tell you, but our family is like that. Or do you think we're going to wait until she shows up pregnant? Why do you think my dad is being nice to you? - They laughed. After a while, Eric just brought the subject back – Hmm...I don't know man. I screwed things up...with both of them... I loved them both, and... I was thinking about the other the whole time. I don't know. I don't deserve neither of them, probably. And I don't want to keep hurting anyone. Maybe I should just stay alone for a while... It's just cuz I feel like I can't... They went silent. Mike knew that part of that was coming from an Eric he had never heard before. - And hey... About the last time we saw each other... - Hmm... Nah, it’s all good man... - Yeah, no, no I know... I just wanted to tell you that... hun... - Eric cleared his throat - You know... - Yeah, I know... - I really am... Sorry, I mean - Dinner's ready guys! - Isadora almost screamed from inside of the house. - Jeeesus....I’m telling you man, I hear order after order to go eat these days... They were all there the next day, back to that lawless land that house had become. It was basically the same: They would spend the day watching movies, playing cards, eating, playing video games, chilling in the living room and talking a lot about... stupid things, mostly. Eric and Isabella were actually feeling really well. Isabella, who remembered Eric's siblings from almost seven years before, was impressed with them. They actually got along pretty well. By the end of the afternoon, Marie, Liam and Jack joined them, to help to prepare dinner. Even Anne and her friends appeared for dinner. Marie and Eric were barely talking to each other, and Gustavo tried to get more intimate with one of Anne's friend's younger sister. Two days later, after almost avoiding being too close to each other, Marie went to talk to Eric. He was by himself in the deck by the lake. - Hi - Hey … They stayed in silence for a moment. Eric was not really looking at her. - So, Yeah...I felt we should talk... Eric stayed still for a while, but he finally answered, and threw a little rock on the water: - Yeah, very likely we do... - … It's amazing here - Yeah... Yeah, it is. - … I... I wanted to thank you for sending me home... For caring. It really meant the world to me, what you did... Eric didn't react at all. -... It's ok. Did everything go well back home? - Yeah... I had a talk to my dad... actually the talk of my life I guess. They were obviously pretty supportive about me going back home. - Good...Good... - Yeah… And soon after, Mike and Isadora came to talk to me to know about you. My dad was very vigilant once I got back, but anyways... We stayed in touch. - …Time went by really fast, didn't it? - Eric changed the subject - I mean it's been like... more than a year already since we met. - Yeah... - You know Marie, I really fell for you. For real. I got weak on my knees for you. I'd have never gone back if it wasn't true... - I know Eric... I know – She got surprised with that. - And I really got hurt with all that happened... Because I thought... that you were the girl I could be with. That's why I probably called you closer, I wanted you around.... But I know I wasn't being able to treat you right anymore... I don't know. I called you closer for all the wrong reasons - He stayed in silence for a minute - I just thought eventually we'd just be ok if it was meant to be. But then... I guess somewhere along the way I stopped being a guy who deserved you, who could make you happy. And everything else got really bad around the same time. - He paused again - Anyways... I don't know how to tell you this. I really appreciate that you came here for me. That you're still here. But I see the way you're looking at me, and I just have to tell you that... is not going to happen. We can't be together right now Marie. I just... I just can't... I wouldn't forgive myself if I hurt you like that again. Marie never said anything. She just looked at the lake and felt like she had suddenly got extremely sad and exhausted. - No, no, no dear... Leave it to me. Today, I'm gonna cook for you guys! - Eric's mother had barely gotten there and was already giving orders to the owner of the house. - Eric, we're screwed, mom is going to cook some weird super- healthy stuff – Isadora said, coming from the kitchen. - Ah noo... - Gustavo - Well, you guys can still run away... - Eric smiled. - Yeah.... - We could actually runaway, baby – She looked at Mike, smiling - Mike, wait outside with the car ready- Gustavo - Aiai... - Ahhh... we should get that car. Go do something, go somewhere. I don't know - I don't think it's a good idea... - Alright-y, what about finishing Resident Evil, then? We are almost finishing it, anyways. - Ah no, come on – It didn't work, they went back to resident evil. - Man, your mom is making a weird broccoli lasagna and a weird green juice... Blehhrgh - Oh come on, stop being such a girl - Funny, those things can kill you, man – Gustavo – And don't pretend you don't like her food, Isa... And yeah... Hey, Lucas, could you call those hot friends of yours, again, please? - Yeah, ask them to bring some real food and some drinks....hmm coke! I'm craving some coke... They all looked at Eric, smiling - Ha-ha Ah funny funny, yeah, the drug addict. The soft drink, not co-ca-i-ne – Then he concluded – But seriously, ask them. I could really use some coke – 'Imaginary drums' he smiled Eric's mom heard - Whaaaat? What are you guys talking about cocaiiine? - Coke mom, CO-KE, “Open the happiness”. Brown bleach… The soft drink...? – Gustavo – Relax, woman... They laughed at her reaction and to Gustavo`s answer. - Alright Kiddo, I'll call them... Jesus, was it really that hard to get that girl's phone number? - Oh no, I did try. She didn't know what it was. She told me to contact her trough smoke signs, like indigenous people, you know? Ain't nobody got time for that shit though. So I'll trust your ravens, my good lord... - Gustavo - Are you mocking the place where I live, young man? - Lucas was laughing - Not at all. I do believe people need some isolation and contemplation sometimes you know. But man, If Thoreau had come here, he would be like: Uh uh, no no no no no. I'm not staying in that shit. LOOK, some woods over there, at least there I might ran into some bears or something... They all laughed of Gustavo's impersonation of Thoreau. - ...But guuys, she's going to get sad if no one eats her food... - Isadora - Yeah, but the only people who she actually cares to eat that is Eric and Isabella. I could eat dirt and she wouldn't care. - Eric, we're fucked, they are leaving us behind. - … Alright, I called the girls. The five of them are coming. - Oooopa, I'm getting lucky toodaay... - Dude, there's not enough room, you know that? - Yeah, but there's enough grass in this city... - Sex in public, niiice.... - I-ha-a-a!! - Dude, you suck at playing Resident Evil, you know that? I really hope for you that zombies never come across your way – Gustavo – Look! Ahh....Fuck, are you stupid or what? Go there maaan... - Oh shut up dude... - Ai ai...I'm tired - Seriously? You did absolutely nothing today. - Sleeping takes a lot of energy you know? Especially in this nice country sight atmosphere. - Uhum... And hey, could you please stop treating my friends as if they're all sluts? - Yeah guys, come on. - Gustavo – Only a couple of them are... The girls soon arrived. They were six. - Olá! - Hey! - Hungry? - You better be. We brought a lot of food! - Lunch's ready! - Aah... They settled this huge table outside the house, because the weather was getting warmer. And because no way in hell those seventeen people would've fit inside Lucas's small cabin. - What about dad, mom? - Oh baby, he had to go to San Francisco with Richard, then Montreal, to talk to Tom and then he's going back to Paris. A lot of business to take care these days... - So he's not coming back? - Well, it depends on how long we're staying here. - She smiled at them Everyone started to eat and talk like crazy. It became a zoo. Luckily there was so many people for so few lasagna that they barely had to eat it. Eric and Isabella though, were forced to eat two big pieces each. Yummy. Then they jumped on the rest of the food, mostly brought by Lucas's friends. - What about you Marie? Are you going back to Paris with us? - Yeah. My family is probably counting the days... Things are not pretty clear about what's happening next though. - Oh, what do you mean, dear? - Ah, work-wise. School. Moving. I'm not sure yet. I'm just trying to relax while I'm here I guess... - Yeah, but I still think it's different. - I'm not sure. Richard is very good at what he does. And extremely well paid to help us. Especially in a moment like this. And there's Tom helping us, too, right? - Every great band had its moments, man. Don't worry. We'll get through this... - Well, a lot of them never made it through, if you want to talk about history. And let's face it. We were never a Led Zeppelin-level of a band. People eventually get tired of those shits happening, interfering in the music. - Ah, don't be like that. I believe in our band man. We are on the road for what? Almost five years. We've done what? …. Five hundred concerts, minimum. Maybe way more than that... - Yeah, that seems about right. - An average of what? A couple of thousands? Maybe three thousand people for concert? In average I mean - Yeah, well. Alone, yeah. With Taylor and Chad was like.... I don't know. Three times that. - Do the math, dude. We definitely have our market value. We live off our music, and exclusively of it. And extremely well, let's face it. Only that kills your argument... - Mike, you're living in Paris now. How many times people stopped you in the streets so far? - Several times, actually, man. Stop thinking like that, man... - Ah, fuck it then... - We have desseeeeert! Who wants some coffee? Eric and Marie were in the deck, hugging some covers, because it was a particularly cold day, and they were drinking hot chocolate. His mom eventually appeared. - Dear, would you mind if I talked a bit to my son? - Not at all... Marie then went back inside. Everyone went back inside. - Funny how eeeeverybody wants to talk to me these lasts days... - He smiled – I used to charge for that, you know? She actually laughed and finally asked: - So...How are you feeling? - Not a hundred percent. Almost there though. - That’s good... Good! - Yeyy... - So, tell me... Are you dating this girl now? … Marie? - It's complicated... - I bet it is. Nobody had ever told me about her. I still thought you'd get back with Alice... - Oh, that's because you don't know Marie's parents. You'll love them – He smiled as she looked at him and took a second to notice the joke – ...But you liked her, didn't you? I mean, Alice? - Yeah, I did...She's a bit wild, and hippie, but she … I can feel she has an amazing heart... But I only have good things to say about Marie too... I guess, right? I don't quite know her yet – She ended up smiling - I see... Yeah I agree with you... I like her too. She understood. - Have I ever told you, I have this friend, whose son is like your biggest fan ever? I introduced him to Mike while he was in Toulouse with us... The guys was in heaven. Especially because it was a surprise... I invited these friends and his son over for a dinner, and Mike was there. You should've seen his face... Eric laughed - That was nice of you... They stayed quiet for a while. Eric eventually said: - ...Thanks for coming here... - You're welcome son He took a while to speak again. - ...You know... I'm afraid I'm never going to be able to be anything more than this. Or able to promise you that we can ever go back to be a family again... And I know that that is what you really want... I can't promise you that. I can't promise you anything. Not even that things won't go back to be exactly the same... - I know... But we're not dead, Eric. That's enough reason to keep trying... We're not giving up on you, ok? He went silent for a good while. - I just…I have no idea what I should do, mom. But I know you guys are probably not going to approve it. I need you guys to be aware of that. You shouldn't keep expecting things from me... - Ok... I know son. I just want you to get well, and for you to be happy. Truly happy. Whatever it is... Just, some peace... Eric let his head fell down a bit. It was hurting him: His lungs were once again hurting him. His eyes were hurting. He had teary eyes because of pain and exhaustion. Where all of that had came from? When he spoke again, after what seemed forever, his voice was failing and he was feeling like he was completely drunk. - You guys.... you guys never asked. Not even now, for real, what happened that night. You guys never asked me if I was innocent of what happened... His mom was a bit in shock. - I always saw in your eyes the doubt about that... What are you more afraid of, mom? That I was guilty or... that I'm innocent? - You're my son... I did what I could at that time to protect you. I never cared about the rest, I always loved you and always wanted you around and happy. - So ask me then....Ask me what happened that night. I'll tell you, everything, I can promise you that... She was in silent, cold panic. She was afraid of really knowing what happened that night. Seconds went by, as Eric was re-living moments in his head like flashes and it seemed like they were going to make his head explode. She was breathing very deeply, facing her own demons. When once again, his hands were completely covered in blood, Eric completely lost control, and stood up, with all his strength, letting the covers fall and just screamed, with anger coming out of his eyes. - ASK ME! She stepped back, mute, and ended up screaming back, shaking because of fear: - ...W- What happened that night? With that question echoing in his head, three weeks later he went to live in Paris on Mike's place, with Mike and Isadora, with Gustavo moving from Toulouse to live with them soon after. He was in peace with his mother. PART II “You push away anyone who could possibly care about you.” Isadora, Mike and Eric were seating on a bench near the Notre Dame cathedral, enjoying the sun and watching people come and go, and they've been talking for a while after they've gotten there. It was around midday. Gustavo was supposed to go meet them and he was probably going to skip the rest of his classes so that he could stay with them and enjoy the rest of the day, basically doing what they have been doing until that moment: walking around. They offered to go pick him up at school, but he said “he had to do something” and hid whatever it was with the fakest excuse ever. Knowing him, they just didn't insist about it. It was by the middle of October and Paris was having an exceptionally good weather, so they were trying to be outside, on the sun, as often as possible, making picnics, going to parks, eating outside or chilling on terraces across town. Eric was delighted with the city again, now that he was chilling with his siblings (and Mike), discovering a bit of Paris that he never had the chance to: Even its touristic side. They were in Paris for almost three weeks now. Isabella had chosen not to go to Paris (She felt like staying a bit more with Lucas) and Eric practically hadn't speak to Marie since they were back in town. Gustavo ended up calling a bit later and asked them to go meet him at this particular metro station, which was not that close from where they were. Anyways, they got up and it took about fifteen to twenty minutes walking until they got there. Gustavo was waiting for them near a this big fountain, wearing his jeans that were in really bad condition, his converse in an even worse condition, his old black t-shirt, his weird backpack and with his wild blond hair. - Sorry made you guys come all the way here... - No problem, no one is in a hurry today – Isadora smiled - Well, I wouldn't mind eating now, as I said two seconds ago, I'm getting really hungry... - Sure let's go then... - Where? - What about over there? - Isa pointed to a restaurant near by - Nah... -Well, there's a McDo near here - No freaking way... - Let's go to that bistro Ile Saint Louis then... - We were right beside it, man... - Oh well, stop being lazy... They decided to go there but... it was completely packed, so in the end they had lunch in this Italian restaurant nearby that was almost empty. They left the restaurant two hours later, completely full and in peace, with big smiles on their faces, and started wandering around without any clear destination. Gustavo, Eric had noticed, walked in a really funny way, as like he was the chilliest guy in the world, without one single care in life. Eric couldn't help but quietly laugh about it every single time that that would caught his attention. They walked and walked and walked for almost three hours. They started near the Notre Dame cathedral and walked until the Eiffel tower, which is a fair long walk, with several monuments to see by the way, and several beautiful girls from everywhere around the world walking by them. They walked really slowly, besides the Seine and the sun, and it seemed that they would never reach the tower. Suddenly though, they were beneath her. There, nothing else to do but to enjoy it: walking beneath it until they decided to just sit down on the grass and chill for a while, with the tower right in front of them. Eventually they just laid down, as many people around them, and took this beautiful nap. There are not many greater feelings of happiness than having pure and light moments near something as beautiful as the Eiffel Tower. Almost an hour later, they finally stood up and left, because they all got hungry again – Yes - As they were passing beneath the Tower to go home, they saw this group dancing literally beneath the tower: it was pretty impressive. They gave some tips. After a quick bus ride until the Pont Neuf, they got Mike's car and went back to their place, where they all ate at once, chilled together and just waited the time to pass by. Gustavo sat by the table and studied for less than twenty minutes, did some sort of drafts and that was all. Then he called a girl, got Mike's car and left. He had no license, but no one said anything about it. It wasn't the first time. He came back a while later, completely pissed off, and just threw himself on the couch, then got one of the controllers for the video game and started to humiliate everyone else without saying a word. - … It's his giiirlfriend, she's a coucou – Isadora finally told Eric - Very funny, sista No one knew what to say, to help him nor to make fun of him. His phone kept ringing. -...? What? I'm not gonna answer her – As everyone was staring at him. - Can't you just put it on mute then? - Why? Such a cool song: They see my rollin', they hatin' … - Started to sing it In the sixth time she tried calling, the song suddenly stopped. He never picked it up. He got up and went to take a shower. One after another they would go after him, because they were going out that night. - So tell me Gus, what did you do this time? - Nothing man, I swear... She's actually coucou, but don't tell Isa I told you that… - Gustavo smiled - So why..? - Oh know Barney Stinson? From How I met your mother? - Yeaah... I guess - Remember the Crazy vs Hot ratio? “A girl is allowed to be crazy as long she's equally hot”? Eric laughed - So... is she equally hot? - No man, she actually has some credit to go. She's freakkin hot. That's why I let it slide... They kept laughing for a while - So you get girls based on Barney Stinson's advices? - Mike - Don't look at me with your judgmental eyes, Mike. Just because you are a freakkin virgin doesn't mean other guys don't have the balls to be awesome about girls, you know Eric laughed. - HOOOO - HO … Auch that even hurt me - It should've... cuz you're not that different yourself brother... - Whaaat? - Bro... If it's not based on the fact you’re a sub-celebrity – Mike had already started to laugh at this point – And the girl is not throwing herself at you, you are almost as bad as Mike around a girl. It was Mike's turn to laugh at Eric. Mike nodded. Eric punched Mike's arm for agreeing with his younger brother. When they were almost leaving, the buzzer rang: It was Gustavo's girl that was asking to talk to him. Mike kept looking at Gustavo waiting for a reaction as he was the one talking to the girl. Gustavo got a bit undecided for a second, but ended up going downstairs to talk to her. Half an hour later, they entered to the apartment together. It was kind of an awkward moment, but they seemed to be fairly well. She was freaking hot. They decided to go to a bar with beers from “All around the world” And they tasted several really good beers, several very bad, and several.... weird, to say the minimum. Eric found it a bit hard, but he just drank coke that night. The night finished really late. Eric got the car and then they went to take Gustavo's girlfriend home, and only after that they headed back home. It was Thursday. That Friday, Gustavo wouldn't be able to wake up in time for his classes. Actually he slept until two in the afternoon, and soon after his girlfriend appeared at their place again. No one, Mike as an exception, was doing much those days. Mike decided to eventually take Eric and Isadora to his school one day when he had a more chilled schedule. It was a relatively modest music school: an almost non-existent waiting room, a secretary and at that time they were about four or five music teachers. They went to a small room – Mike's office, with not much rather than only one desk with two chairs. - So tell me Eric, what did you think about my humble school? -'s really... receptive Mike smiled. - Cool... - How long have you had this school exactly? - Hmm... Four months I guess - Cool, not that long ago then - Nops, not at all... Well, we've been in Paris for what? A bit more than five months, right... - Yeah, I know... how exactly did that happened by the way? - Well, we went back to Toulouse after...that vacation – Eric felt uncomfortable for a second, but tried to hide it, as did Mike – but Isa was already coming to Paris, soon after actually. Then... you know, I thought to myself “why the hell not, right?”... I found this school soon after we moved here...And I was still trying to learn French and whatnot... Damn, it's a hard language – Mike smiled– Anyways, it is a small school, and modest, I know. We are only five teachers and at the moment. It's been insane to fit all the students in our schedule, which I guess is good right... - I, man - Yeah, but I have bigger plans. Marie actually, is coming to work with us soon...well as soon as we set some things straight first, we actually don’t have any more space here... It was always a temporary thing here... - Oh really? I did not know that... - Yeah, she is kinda busy at the moment studying music though... - Yeah, she told me that - Cool... anyways, she's coming to help us as soon as we move in to the new school - New school? Mike and Isa smiled to each other. -Yeah-p - …? - I had a lot of money ...stuck, right? There was also some money I had to pay for cancelling my contract … there was a bit of money that took forever to get to me...anyways. So I got to Paris, and I found this school, I bought the apartment and my car. What I mean to say is ...I've spent a lot of money these days, dude. I didn't actually wanted to buy the apartment, I wanted to rent it, but it wasn't possible on this particular case, and it was a very good deal actually, you know, the market is dead, nobody is buying, it was good for me...anyways, truth is it took me a good time to put my finances in order and know exactly...well, how much money I have and how much money I can invest. As I didn't have any experience with being a music school owner, or managing anything to be honest... I decided to start with something small, right... - Right...and now you already have your MBA? Mike smiled - No, but I learned a bit, I got some help and I decided that's something I really want to do... - Alright man... - So, now that everything's getting organized and I actually have bigger ambitions, we are finishing this project for the new school. - … Dad is also giving him a hand, Eric - Isa - Hmmm.... - Yeah, he has been giving me good advices and some help to make this idea come true - Which is...? - Well, a cultural center … It's pretty ambitious actually. We have this Dance School interested in becoming our partner, and we already have some other teachers in mind... We already found companies like... hmm we're gonna have a coffee place, a book store, even a small instrument store and a small movie theater... and a recording studio. - Uau, nice.... Now that's ambitious. - Yeah, right.... It was pretty complicated to shape the idea, it took everything from us for a couple of months, but it's coming to reality now. And thanks to our partners and your dad, it's gonna be financially viable for me... - Cool... Makes sense. What about the studio? Did you talk about it with Tom already? - Yeah, Marie talked to him, he's kinda showing us the path... but having him here with us would be another level of awesomeness, Hun? - Yeah, it would. But you know how it goes with him... - Yeah... - And how is it going so far? - Oh...a nightmare, right. Bureaucracy, competitors, marketing, researching stuff.... Everything seems to be complicate around here. Especially when your French is as bad as mine. - Mike smiled again - Your French is not that's getting better, for sure – Isa gently smiled at him Mike shrugged his shoulders. - It will get better, I promise – He smiled Silence - Man, I’m really happy for you. It seems this project is going to be awesome. - We hope so... I'm putting all I have and what I don't have on it – Mike smiled Eric smirked back. - Well, you have my dad helping you out. Just follow his advices and everything will be fine. Mike agreed with his head. - I'm sorry for killing the bro-bonding here, but Gustavo just sent me a text. He's asking us if we can go pick him up at his girlfriend's place. Next morning, a Saturday, they all woke up pretty late. When Eric woke up and went to the kitchen for a coffee, he found Gustavo's girlfriend only wearing her panties and a batman t-shirt... Gustavo's batman t-shirt. - Ahn...hi - Hey – She smiled, without a hintch of embarrassment, without even stop doing whatever she was making to eat. Eric and her ended up talking a bit during that `breakfast` of theirs: She was a good talk. When everyone was finally awake, they just kept chilling and being lazy around the living room: They had no idea of what to do during that day...again. So they just waited the time to pass without doing anything special until they decided, for some reason, to go to the movies, but as it was a pretty day, with a good weather, they decided to go first for a walk in the Champs Elysses. When they were finally arriving at the movies, walking down the Boulevard, Isa stopped and started to look somewhere across the street. - Hey! Isn't it Marie over there? They quickly tried to find about who she was talking about: Across the street, the most impressive black car in the world was parked in front of a “nice little store” It was indeed Marie. She had by her side this two huge bodyguards, and each of them could have probably beaten up Eric's entire band very easily... She was, as Isa described – extremely well dressed, talking to this young woman, in her late twenties, also extremely beautiful and equally well dressed. They noticed that on the car behind them there was two more bodyguards. - Geez, Eric – Isa - Yeah? - You know who that blond girl is? - Yeah, sure, one of my ex-girlfriends... - Ha, I'm serious. She's a princess, if I'm not mistaken. Cousin of Monaco's heir...I think...maybe...maybe from Denmark? I'm not sure... Some royalty like that... - Incredibly hot, Can you ask Marie to introduce me to her, Eric? - Gustavo Gustavo's girlfriend hit him with her elbow on his ribs, but he just kept smiling with that same ironic and dissimulated face. “So she's definitely in good terms with her family again” Without thinking much, Eric just got his phone and called her. - Hello? - They saw her picking up her phone and stop, moments before getting into the store. By the way she smiled, it was definitely her – Eric? - Hey Marie, how's it going? - I'm great, what about you? - She made a hand sign to the bodyguards wait. - I'm great. You are really beautiful with this dress, you know that? Marie understood in the same nanosecond. She started looking around, smiling. -Thaanks - You're welcome. Isa asked where you bought it Marie smiled. - It was a gift...Don't you guys want to come over here? - And get beaten up by your friends? Marie smirked again. - Sure - Ha, anyways, I just called to annoy you - Haha, never...Eric? - Yeaaah? - You don't actually wanna come here? I really would like to talk to you. - I'd like to but we have to go, we're running late for something - Eric smiled - Oh well then... Marie waved goodbye, still trying to find their group, which ended being a very weird situation for the bodyguards. - You know that was very weird, right – Eric smiled - Ha, I bet it was – She smiled -... So do you wanna have dinner tonight? I think you kind of own me this one... - Sure, where? - He didn't think twice - You tell me, man - What about Montmartre? Somewhere near the Sacre Cœur? I'm kinda trying to discover the city, I wouldn't mind going there...I can pick you up at home. - Eric - That's perfect. Around eight? - Sure - Alright, byee - Byee On a public square with several options for food, near the Sacre Cœur, they quickly decided to go for a restaurant that had a couple of musicians playing (on an old red piano). They tried to sit close to it, by a window. Marie was absolutely gorgeous. They ordered food, ate the first meals, she drank a little bit of red wine and then they started to catch up for real. - So... I can't believe you're in Paris for almost a month and you're just calling me now... - Marie smiled - Well, you didn't call me either! - You said you're going to Toulouse! - I did, I'm already back. I was there only for four days... - Hmmm … I guess I can forgive you, but only because I was super busy...Well, are you enjoying Paris so far? - Yeah, yeah. What about you? - Eric smiled - Hmm, it's been ok - … What about your family? - So... about that – Marie raised her eyebrows and laughed Eric smirked back. - Yeaah, I talked to my dad... I'm about to get on this Mike's school thing for a while, and I've been trying to create some music... I don't think he considers nothing of this very useful, but I guess he accepted it after … some talk. I wanna learn how to be a teacher and a good musician. And I wanna have some time to write music...I'm also taking classes with this really amazing teacher so I can have know, “a path”, or a career, by the eyes of my father and my family name...So yeah, I guess I can deal with that, so he can deal with the fact of having a musician as a daughter....We are actually having a pretty good relationship now, believe it or not... - That's good, isn't it? Marie nodded - I guess.... Anyways, that's just because of what happened in our tour, you know.... I guess he realized a bit of incentive could avoid what happened again in the future. That's how he sees it, I'm sure... And... Yeah, that makes me feel a bit stupid I guess... Anyyyways, what about your family? - Hmm, Gustavo just came to Paris too. So I just imagine my old peeps in that huge house of theirs by themselves... But hey, my siblings are happy here, so I think that's all that matters. - Ha, uhum... They kept eating and drinking and Eric was feeling incredibly mature by being with Marie in that restaurant. Incredible, Hun? -...Oh, what about Mike's project? - Marie asked - What about it? - What do you think about all that? - Pretty cool....I guess – Eric didn't know much what to say - Don't you think it's too risky? - No idea. I don't actually know exactly how it's gonna turn out to. I also don't know how much money Mike has and how much money he is putting into this. Neither how much money he has to burn... - Hmm I see... But why do I feel like you don't feel very confident about it? - Well... - He sighed - Mike is one of the best’s musicians I've ever met... I remember when I met him, he would barely go out of his house, and didn’t party or anything like that. He was this... freak, playing guitar for like twenty hours a day... – Eric smiled – He always dreamed about having a band and touring around the world and whatnot... The son of a bitch has always been a romantic, always dreaming. I don't know, maybe it's a bit of prejudice, but for me, he's place is on a stage, not teaching... - I see... but at least he looks pretty excited about it, Hun? - Yeah … I can't deny that. He has the same energy he had years ago when we first started our music together... But it's been a while he was not happy, for sure... And well, then Isadora came along. I guess I didn’t do the right things to keep him around.... I hope the best for him and for my sister, that’s all. - Good, good. Well, in my opinion, I see he's pretty happy here. And he has the potential to be the best teacher ever if you think about it. - Yeah... I know - I am actually very curious to see what's coming out of this project. Eric smiled and said: - Well, it looks like it will be ready pretty soon, Hun? - Yeah, like a couple of days... - What about all the reforms? - Yeah, that's still happening... - Cool - But now you, tell me about your plans... “Why people always ask that?” - I don’t know... - I do... What about visiting the Louvre tomorrow? - Marie smiled - Are you inviting me out? - Nah, I’m not giving you the option to refuse... - Marie winked at him They laughed. - It's just a bit of curiosity I guess. I mean, it's kinda unreal, isn’t it? This afternoon you were probably spending thousands of euros with a princess. Fuck, a princess. That's like another level, isn't it? And now you are here with me, completely different. - Yeah, I guess... – Marie smiled – But I'm still me, right? Or by any chance did I treat you differently before? - No, you did not... - … It's just about my clothes, Eric. The circumstances I'm facing. I don't do that to hide anymore, both of them are me. I used to hide that side of me, but... It just depends where I want to go, with the clothes I think I'll feel more comfortable with.... And yeah, sometimes it screams “I'm my dad's daughter”....sometimes it doesn't. I guess it took me forever to accept and understand this. - Yeah, I understand... I went through exactly the same you know. I guess a lot of people in the end do exactly the same... But you did take it to another level. - What exactly? - The whole: People can't know where I came from. - Yeah, I guess for a while it was about that, yes. But I don't think is about that anymore... - … Awesome then – Eric smiled – I always love the way you dress yourself by the way. Marie smiled - Thank you - … What about your friends, where are they? - Ugh...That's complicated... Fernando is on an exchange the States, by the way. And Sophie, well.... she became best friends with....Filipe. Probably like a fuck-buddy too, I really don't know what happened to her... Cécile just went along with Sophie, after everything got settled and done. The rest of people I knew just disappeared... - Really? Auch...Then you decided to get closer with the European royalty? - Not actually. I knew her for a long time. She has always been an awesome friend...especially after I stopped talking to Sophie, and after everything that happened in our tour... She's twenty eight years old, is engaged, and everyone is pressuring her to get married... I guess our circumstances have gotten us even closer together these last few months... - Oh it’s like a forced marriage? - Eric smiled - Nah, let's just say that...her fiancée became her parents second son. But now she doesn't know if she still loves him, she's not sure about him and all...It's been harsh on her. But I do believe for a moment in time she was really in love with him... - Hmm... Don't you hate when that happens? - Eric laugh - I knooow right? - Marie smiled, and kept eating. - It's a shame, she's an awesome awesome girl, you’ll like her... but that's the thing, when your family name is more important than your own happiness, shit like that happens... - Yeah, shame... - Eric - … But never mind, what do you still have to visit here in Paris? - Louvre, D´orsay...Not sure actually - There's a Dali's exposition near here. Though I don't know if you like him that much...There's Versailles, Bastille... - Marie was trying to think of some more touristic places he could visit – And maan, there's this sushi place though, completely off-topic I know, but you gotta go there... - Would you like to come with me? - Eric - I might, depends on my schedule actually. But I'd love to... - Awesome... - So Hmmm...How's Jack? -Marie - He's pretty well I think - Eric - Great... What about Liam? - He's ok too. They are back in San Francisco. Don't you ever call them or Facebook them or whatever? - Eric - To be honest, no … - Marie smirked – I'm not that present at all on the social Medias dude. Here's a girl who presently just have her phone number.... - Hmm I see… I talked to them about a week ago I think. It's like we all just went to different places. - Hmm... I heard Isabella's still at Lucas’s place? - Yeah, what about Jan? I heard he was here, but I didn't see him yet – Eric asked - Yeah, he's here. Well, right now he's in Berlin actually, I don't know why or when he's coming back. But I got him a job here in Paris... So for sure I know he's here - Cool, what kind of job? - With concerts actually. Backstage. He's been working like a crazy man. When he's not working, he's training with Mike. It seems he is in a small band, something very small. Said they are more like, bar gigs or something... - Oh ok. Cool. Good for him - Eric paused for a second – What about you? It looks like you have a really full schedule too -Yeaaah, a bit. It's just because I don't want to live with my parents forever, I need to learn how to make a good living, you know. I know it sounds weird, but....yeah, I don't wanna have to depend one hundred percent on my last name for the rest of my life... Trying to follow my aunt's example I guess... - Awesome, so it looks like you're all full of plans... - Yeah, I guess so. I just want to keep working on something of my own, you know... - Yeah, I understand that. But … Yeah, great, you look really happy. I think I never saw you so....happy, you know? I'm really happy for you. - Thank you...I'm actually pretty happy indeed these days Eric smiled. - … In six months you'll get tired of Paris, you know? - Marie said after a while - Bullshit... - He smiled at her - … It loses a bit of its charm. Once you have to deal with traffic on a daily basis, and you know, some Parisians are actually pretty laughable people, so arrogant and rude... I don't know, I guess it’s kinda like New York, there's always a lot of people coming and going....trying to make it in this city, because they are just so attracted by its romanticism, but have no idea how to deal with the dark side of romanticism... - Oh yeah? Which one? -The one that gets you depressed and makes you wanna kill yourself in the most romantic way as possible....Uau, that was a pretty depressing thought – Marie laughed - I'm sorry. Still, I got my point across -Yeah, pretty depressing... - He just laughed back -Well, I just meant that people come to Paris looking for something, whatever it might be. But you know, big cities end up killing dreams of ninety-five percent of the people that arrive....I'm not saying they won't have a nice life here, but they won't live their dreams....anyways...What I just meant is, people don't know how to deal with the ugly side of the cities they dream of, you know? - That's pretty poetic, go on... - I don't go to New York to make money, let's say, or a career, or fame....and then most of those people don't know how to handle their lives when getting stuck on a shitty job, being broke and unknown. Unfortunately they can't take happiness from that most of the, a couple of years later, or ten, it actually doesn't matter...they go back to wherever they came from, just giving up on the bright side of the city, because they can't handle its ugly sad. -Yeah, I guess....Anymore examples? - I don't know... let's see... you can say L.A. To get famous, but it's totally a different kind of fame, right? It’s a Hollywood type of fame... Paris, to get some kind of romance, but not only personal romance, London...I don't know, to have some kind of weird fucked up fun, or meet the queen, go figure – Marie smiled – Above all, people come for the combination of money and the lifestyle that only big cities can offer, and most of them won't get anywhere near what they've dreamt of, because they let cities drown them into oblivion. That's how you give up on a city, because you already gave up on yourself... - Marie - Uau... - Eric didn’t know what to say - I know...I don't know where that came from, sorry – They laughed - Ha, don't worry...but hey, in this scenario, don't you think it ends up to human nature of giving up in the first or second obstacle? It doesn't have much to do with the city they chose.... -Yeah, for sure...But that's the thing, every city has its own way to do it...don't you think? Every big city has its peculiar way of... trying to kill our dreams – She smirked - Hmmm..... Wouldn't you say that that's how we give up on people too? We give up on their bright side because we get fed up with their ugly side... Same concept, isn't it? - Hmmm.... Yeah, I suppose – She paused – Yeah, I know what you mean.... anyways, where was I before all of that? - Ha, you said I was gonna get tired of Paris in six months... - Oh yeah... uau, I don't know how I changed from that to this....I just meant that It must be hard for you to get used to stay this long in a city after being on the road for so long....There's nothing like being like that, on the road, that’s for sure.... I really really enjoyed that kind of thing... Essentially, I mean... not what it eventually meant to me, right? - Hmm...I don't know. I pretty much like it here. Maybe it's because I needed some time away from all that, maybe for my family, maybe for the sense of not belonging anywhere that I started to have...I don't know... - … So you think Paris could be your home? - Maybe, why not? Maybe one day it might... Marie smiled and after a minute, she said: - Well, I guess there are indeed every kind of crazy people in this world Hun, sweetie? - Hun, I guess... - Eric smiled back, she had called him sweetie again – Well, the road also loses its magic eventually, you know? -Yeah, I understand that...But don't you miss that, anyways? - I do... I actually do. But who knows, maybe we'll hit the road again one day...and being in the subject, I sure you'd might miss Paris too … Again. - Well... it looks like we just seem to value things when we start missing them Hun? ….Anyways, that sounded really depressed too. I guess it's the wine that is making me say all of that – Marie laughed – Well it's good to know that. Best of luck. - Thanks There was a Brazilian family sitting right beside Eric and Marie's table, and as soon as Eric realized that, he noticed how distant the fact of being Brazilian was for him. It was true he never felt belonging anywhere, but Brazil, somehow, sounded really really far away...on his past. Like he could barely remember its existence. Alice had tried to speak Portuguese with him a couple of times and he had never encouraged her: He would switch between French and English even with his family – His franglais too, which he'd always use with Tom. Anyways, back to the Brazilian family, Eric couldn't stop looking at them, because somehow it reminded him of his family, many and many years ago, before all the things that had happened to them. Eventually the youngest boy noticed Eric looking at them and he made a random comment about Eric's tattoo, being certain he wouldn't understand. The older brother was provoking his mother by saying he was going to do one tattoo like that one day. His dad made an ironic comment about Eric, and soon enough the woman told her family to stop talking about them. The older brother, as a final act of rebellious language, made a very indecent comment about Marie, and his mother reprehended him for it: She then looked for support from her husband, but the husband ended up agreeing with his son, only changing the word his son had used to a more polite compliment to make the woman admit it was true. Then they stopped talking about it. Eric decided to discretely laugh about the little fight that was installed in that table, and as soon as they noticed it (even though they probably got very shocked about it) they turned their faces almost at the same time to look at Eric and Marie with hilarious faces. - Oh, I'm soorry, guys. It was indiscrete of me.... - Oh, come on Marie, it was funny... - Yeah, ok, ok... It was, but they were so ashamed, I actually felt bad for them... - Well... It's something to learn for next time Marie laughed - They were actually pretty nice know, after all that. - Oh, come on, it was the least they could do...- Eric smiled - Being nice when you have to be nice doesn't prove anything.... They were walking around the Sacre Coeur and the night couldn't have been prettier. Marie eventually held Eric's hand. She gave him the purest smile in the world that made Eric's heart skipped a few beats, in that place, by themselves, completely lost in the Parisian night. It had to be a dream. There were some young guys doing some breakdancing in a stairway and Eric and Marie decided to just stop and watch them for a while, having the Sacre Cœur and the rest of Paris as company and view. Several minutes later, Isadora called Eric, waking them up from their trance, where they could have easily swore that they were the only people in the world. She set up a place to go pick them up and minutes later they were in the car with Isadora and Mike. - Heeey, are you guys tired? - Isadora - Hmm, no, not really. Why? - Marie - There's this small concert tonight, and we agreed to go and meet Jan, he just got back to Paris a couple of hours ago and he wants to hang out... - Oh, nice! - Right? … Well, first we need to go pick Gustavo up at home When they arrived at their place, Gustavo was fast asleep - What time is it? - Hmm, eleven... - Should we let him sleep? - What did he do today to be tired like this? - I'm sure it isn't from school... - Well, I'm gonna take a shower and chill for a while guys, let me know when you guys are good to go... - Mike looked really tired Eric and Marie ended up going to his room. They would eventually get to the bar around one thirty and stay there for a couple of hours. Gustavo had been woken up by the noise and decided to go with them when they eventually left. Jan was there, completely excited, talking to everyone, drinking and flirting with all the girls he would put his eyes on. He ended up sleeping on their couch that night, and Marie also went back to their place. They would all wake up really late the next day. Eric went to the D'Orsay with Marie the next day (they changed plans) and went to the Louvre on Monday, by himself. Mike and Marie seemed to have vanished that week, completely busy and locked in on the music school. They hadn't said anything but it was pretty clear the moving to the new place was happening soon, or at the moment, because they were working insane amounts of time. Eric had lunch with Isadora and Gustavo one day, lunch only with Gustavo the next day. One day he went out with Isadora and some of her friends, most of them girls, and … God he walked around that city. Gustavo had extremely high grades, but he was completely lazy and unwillingly to do stuff he was supposed to in this beginning of semester. He just seemed like he couldn't take one more hour in the fancy school he was attending. And I guess they understood that. That been said, the Louvre is pretty amazing, no doubt about it. But, or you're able to feel that the love of your life exists in a place like the D'orsay Museum, or I guess you'll never feel it. Eric also went to the Salvador Dali exposition in Montmartre and even though he took forever to find the place by himself, he had a lot fun wandering around Montmartre. He went to visit the Bastille, he even went to the movies a couple of times by himself, only trying to find things to do during the hours their place was empty. He was able to keep that spirit until Sunday night, but even then, with company, he started to feel bored. Monday morning he went to Mike's school with Mike and Marie to check out if he could do anything over there. Aside from his last vacation, it has been years that he hadn't woken up that early and it didn't happen easily. That day, he made sure to wake Gustavo up so he could go to his school on time. When the new school got ready, the general feeling was incredible: They had done everything the right way. The schools they'd put together already had a good number of students, they had also made a waiting list for the new culture center, and with the special opening-promotions they had caught another good number of students to join the center. Cultural events, movies sessions, the coffee place...everything was helping to give the impression that they were always full of people, even if they had just a couple of weeks of existence. A couple of weeks after its opening, Mike and Marie agreed to take Eric to the meeting's room when they found an available time to have a quick talk. They talked about how the school was working, the projects, the future possibilities....They wanted to make a concert by the end of the summer so that they could raise some money: they wanted to finish the auditorium, fill the office, and finally start paying everything off to finish the school. It was really strange to watch them talk about business, because they sounded older, more mature. They needed money, a lot of money, so they could finish everything the way they intended to. They needed ideas. They needed to settle some details about the school's schedule and the whole concept of the school. They needed experienced people to help them. They needed a lot of things. Eric was listening, thinking, asking questions: Both Marie and Mike were pretty optimistic, and in the middle of all of that, Marie became the person Mike trusted the most, some kind of director in the center. She was about to turn twenty two years old at that point. Mike had just turned twenty three. Mike even showed Eric some documents and costs predictions they had made, on the projector. Eric listened patiently for more than one hour while they were giving him that overload of information about the center. It was clear they wanted something with him. - And what exactly do you guys want with me? - Eric finally said Silence - Guys, come one, I'm here for more than an hour... - Eric smiled - We need ideas Eric, We need help, yes. It's a newborn school and most of us don't have much experience...well, with anything, actually. We need ideas, and we'd like to know if you can help us with ideas..... - Well, honestly, I think you guys are making an incredible job... - Yeah, but we have some serious decisions to make in the near future. And I personally would like to get rid of a bit of my debts soon.... - Mike smiled Eric thought for a moment. - Well, man I can try to think about something, but you know....I don't work with that. I honestly have no idea how I could possibly help you... But it's a lot of money, man. You know that. You were aware of how much money you were investing and how much money you actually have... - I know... - ….What time is it by the way? - Eleven thirty... They kept talking for more fifteen minutes and finally they all had to do their own thing. Soon enough they would go have some lunch, so they needed to leave everything in order to be able to take a break. - You guys don't teach in the mornings? - Well, not that much....sometimes.... depends on the day, to be honest Eventually they got Mike's car and went to grab Isadora and Gustavo. It was however, a very weird lunch: Gustavo was trying to study a bit, as Mike, Eric and Marie were definitely busy thinking and talking about the school, and Isadora was worried about a friend, but she didn't want to explain why. They had to run back to the school because Mike and Marie had to teach some classes that afternoon. Eric stayed by himself in the meeting's room with all the documents Mike had showed him before, with some questions and ideas that he started to write down on a paper. It took everything from him, because he was feeling no pleasure at all doing that. He had an assistant to help him if he ever needed anything, but she seemed very busy, so he didn't dare to bother her. Eventually he decided to go by himself to buy a coke and something to eat when he felt like it. He got tired and/or distracted several times, so he checked his emails, Facebook, YouTube, news websites....and as he also started to get tired of that, he went back to the documents. It was this vicious circle for several hours, until he got exhausted, with a headache, and decided to call Lucas. With the help of the projector and a good camera, they had this really nice conference. He explained what was happening with the school to Lucas and Isabella (who eventually joined the conversation) and during the conversation he was actually walking around the room, without much notice of it. Isabella and Lucas didn't quite know what to say in the beginning but soon enough they started to brainstorm ideas. Small ones, some that could actually result in something, some other completely crazy or even stupid. He wrote down everything he could. One particular idea, that he already had considered, got the center of the discussion and they discussed it for a long time, but Eric would need to talk to Tom about it. Eventually, he even got fed up with that conversation. They finished the call and he ended up going for a walk, he bought another drink and just waited for some time while Marie e Mike were still busy, Isadora at school, and Gustavo nowhere to be found. There was this small but really nice public square (with nice benches and trees) near the school and he decided to stay there for a while, reading a book. He got back to the school almost an hour later, made a couple of phone calls and at last he started looking at the classes (some of them you could see the classes going on through a glass) and talked to people in the school. Truth is he felt lost just waiting so long for them: Almost six hours and a half after they had their lunch together Marie and Mike were finally done for the day. They got the car and headed home. After a bit (a lot) of traffic, they got there. The dinner happened pretty late that night, and everyone seemed tired. He asked Mike if they could have a meeting soon and they decided to give Eric some time to talk in this meeting that was planned to happen in two days. That way, he would have enough time to talk to Tom before that. “Dear Eric, I'm glad to know you're back in France, getting better and with your family. I'm sure there were some pretty hard times you had to face, and maybe still are, but I'm sure it's normal the lack of prospect you're facing right now. But I wouldn't worry that much: I'm pretty sure you'll know what to do when the right time comes. As for me, as I mentioned before, I'm back to my academic life, finishing my program, working and dancing on a ballroom dance school, as some sort of assistant for the classes (believe it or not). Even though my schedule has been a bit crazy, my life is going pretty well. I do miss France like crazy though and I also miss spending time with you and your family. I imagine we should talk soon - there were too many things we left … unfinished, Hun? About my writing essays, I'm afraid to say nothing so far has shown itself publishable, but for sure I can send you some of them in case you really feel like reading it and helping me with some critics. I really don't know when I'll be able to go back to Paris... I would like to be there with you guys right now, but in any case what I can tell you is that my house will always be here for you. If you really don't know what to do with your time, I would suggest you to take some time off and travel by yourself: that could do you some good, don't you think? I strongly recommend the Giverny Gardens, where Monet used to live and Rocamadour, a pretty cool city, from where I bought you a small pingent, which is probably arriving soon by mail. I think I mentioned both of those places to you already, didn't I? Anyways... I wish you the best. Send my love to your family and everyone around you. Keep your faith in people and in life, man. Wish me luck, I will keep doing the same to you. Kindly, Alice Martins” The pingent arrived two days later and it was some kind of Celtic coin with this Celtic sign that was supposed to be related to Eric's birthday. He didn't find it that compatible with his personality, but he found it quite pretty and started to wear it anyways. It was a really cold Tuesday and Eric couldn't help to think that it was probably starting to get a bit where Alice was. The only thing he could think about in the days that followed was her and the several messages they would exchange. - Hey, is everyone here, Mike? - The meeting started with Eric speaking. Marie was seating by his side with this huge cup of coffee (smoking hot) in front of her. She was visibly tired. They started a video conferences, one with Isabella and Lucas, one with Tom, and the documents, graphics and costs in the other projector, on the other side of the room. - Please, bring us some water and make sure we are not disturbed. They were seven in that room at that point, until Eric's dad and an incredibly attractive young woman got into the room. They quickly said hi to everyone and sat down. - Morning... - So, we are here to talk about some projects... - You wanna start Eric? Eric looked to Marie and then to Isabella. - Well, basically what I'd like to talk about is the idea of organizing not just a concert in the summer for the school, but a whole festival. Cultural Festival... I mean, we are a culture center. Silence in the room - You know, renting a big place, make dance performances one day, competitions in the other...Music performances, competitions, we can call some people to perform know.... The students could help to sell the tickets, for the competitions we can ask for a small fee to select the participants and register them all... you know, I think there are several good details we could use to make this happen.... But it's just a small idea, I'd need to talk to you guys about that for more details, you know. - He spoke really quickly. He felt a bit stupid for saying you know ten times in ten seconds. - … How big are we talking about, Eric? - Like, freakkin big... let's dream about it... - Hmm... - But Eric, I don't think we have a name to do something like this yet. Nor money or people that understand how to do something like that. - I know....But hey, Jan can help, I can help....We can hire people, call for volunteers, friends... - … What about the money? - Well, I guess you have enough money for the beginning of it... - But what then? You know these things usually end up costing more than planned... - - I know but...Mike, We are here. We have three people from the band here. Two in the States that I imagine are not that busy right now... As Mike didn't say anything, Eric kept talking. - Come on man, of course you thought about something like this. We can call students to play with us in some songs, we can make money with the video recordings, pictures, t-shirts, souvenirs, parties, alcohol...- He paused – And hey man, you know Chad and Taylor? Mike got visibly surprised - They agreed to help us out, without getting the official deal. Even with some of the kids if we assure the kids will play it right... I talked to them already, they're cool about it. A different kind of silence reigned in that room. - Eric... - Man, it would be in like...six months, maybe more...After winter, you know? We just have to find good dates for Chad and Taylor... but I’m sure we can figure it out easily. We can announce it will be our, you know...back to road shit. We would have time to write new material until there... And we will have people coming all the way from Portugal to Russia for a cool festival. We sell the tickets in advance, we re-structure the festival as the money gets in.... Alice has contacts with some super cool journalists here, they can help us with spreading the info.... You know, I'm really talking about a cool festival, with several days of performances and things to do around town... It's an amazing opportunity for profit... To do something big. - Yeah, but we're still talking about a huge amount of money, Eric. Something that I don't have. - Well, you alone, but with me … and I dunno, maybe Tom and Marie can get into this as investors with you... We can go after some sponsors... Silence - Come on man, you need the money. The potential profit can help finish this school, or just help it to have a better budget... Marie was looking at Eric's eyes. His father slowly started to smile across the room. Mike stayed in silence for a moment. - Vincent - Yeah... - I want you, Eric and Marie to have a meeting later on and write down all of this in the most detailed way as possible. Research as many details as you can so we can have an idea how much it would cost. - Alright, Mike - Then we'll meet again in, let's say in three or four weeks, and it will be shared with everyone. We'll discuss it, modify it, and so on... Then we'll see from there. Tom? Would you mind giving it a look to guide us a bit? - Of course not, Mike – Tom smiled Eric smiled, confident. His father smiled at him in approval, as Isabella, Lucas and Tom. Marie actually winked at him, proudly smiling. - Ok, let's keep going guys, about the assistants... “Dear Alice, I'm sorry for any mistakes, but it's been a while that I don't write a letter in Portuguese...actually it's been a while I don't write anything at all in Portuguese. On this side of the Atlantic everything is going well, except for the fact that you are not here and we can't have our conversations about love, life and everything else.... Mike's school is doing great, and I feel that he's going to accept my idea about the festival. You should see how cool his school is becoming. Thanks a lot for the advice about travelling and the pingent: I'm probably going to visit those places this weekend. I don't know why, but I really feel that I need to be alone for a while... I'm not sure I can just dive into all of this without being a bit more... prepared. I got really happy to know things are going well for you too. I wish you all the luck in the world with everything. You deserve it. If you care to accept one advice (out of pure experience): Enjoy while you are free. While your creations are yours, and only yours. Enjoy being unknown, the silence, your own perspectives, your peaceful bed, your true feelings and lucid intuitions. Enjoy the possibility of sleeping eight hours at night. One day, maybe only this small detail will be very appealing to you... Living the way I live seems and always seemed very natural to me and even if it wasn't easy to get here, it was indeed pretty fast. So when I see the way you believe in your dreams and how you're fighting for them, I truly believe that you'll find your way to make them happen soon enough. I just wish you'd know that I do miss you a lot, and even after the way we let each other go, I still feel your thoughts around my life. I hope you can forgive me for what happened and realize that you don't have to apologize for anything. I was stupid for letting you go, and I won't make that same mistake again, even if just as friends. I hope you stay well, that you have fun and that you're able to live fully. I wish you the world. See you soon. Eric Meirelles PS: I attached a piece of my writings for you. I hope you like it.” The Monet's residence is a pretty place, a very pretty place. Luckily, on the day Eric visited it, there weren’t that many people crowding it. The amazing thing about that place is that in every flower, every view, every perspective, you could easily visualize it as some painting from the big master. You could probably stay a whole day there taking pictures and it wouldn't be enough. The light there was incredible, and Eric realized how it had been possible for the same little pont to be painted so many different times. It was a really good recommendation from Alice, and even Eric couldn't deny the beauty and purity of that place. He bought a t-shirt from the souvenir store, and a postal card to Alice. When Eric finally left the residence, he was starving. He noticed there was a restaurant and a small coffee place really close by. He decided to just have a sandwich and a couple of fruits. In the small coffee shop, there was only two small tables outside, and being alone in such a tiny place, Eric started to talk with the cashier. She didn’t look older than twenty years old, maybe even seventeen or eighteen and it was the chilliest person in the world: She had amazing blue eyes, a very friendly voice, was a little bit overweight and seemed to be a very smart girl. In that region, where time seemed to have stopped, the girl smoked near Eric, in front of the coffee place, in some sort of break she was giving herself, and every puff of smoke took an eternity. Eric stayed sitting in that tiny table, and while he was eating his apples and enjoying the view, he realized that, for whatever reason, he would remember that moment forever: The girl smoking her cigarette like she didn't have another care in the world, the trees swinging by the gentle wind, the sun shines that were moving accordingly to the crown of the big trees... the natural light, along with the flowers and trees that they had around them, creating an amazing oniric figure. Even the little bee that was flying around Eric's apples while he was still completely absort on his thoughts. He was alone, he was in silence, but everything was ok. Everything would be fine, by one way or another... After that small piece of eternity, he said goodbye to the girl and to the view. He still walked around a little bit, and even went to the cemetery where there were some tourists. He finally went back to his car, sat beside it, near the road, and stayed there for what seemed to be another piece of eternity, completely absort on his thoughts, memories and doubts. “Something has to make some kind of sense in this life” Then, he got the car and went his way to Rocamadour. “Hey baby, I hope you're okay, and enjoying your trip. Just letting you know that everything is almost done now and then we'll need you here again for our meeting. Take care. Marie” Rocamadour is a village ingrained in stone, on the mountains, and probably lived by its tourism. The general feeling there was very different than in Giverny: there was a lot of tourists, in the stores, in the cathedral, in the camping places and on the big stairway they had near the small Centreville. It was also pretty impressive, not gonna lie. Eric slept in a really small hotel, besides the main road, where fifty meters down there was the stores and markets, and just crossing the street, there was this observatory, really high up in the mountains. It seemed to be a really nice village, but he didn't have strength to go out that night: He decided to stay home and read to sleep. He didn't do much other than walk around during the day, eat, read, and sleep. Five days later, he went back to work, after visiting his parents in Toulouse. They would approve the idea for the festival. - It's hard man. It has to work out, I'm afraid I have no credit left after that...everything I have and I could owe will be officially invested... - Mike - And did my dad agree to this? - Eric - Well, he was pretty cautious about the whole thing. He thought it would be better if I invested in other things, mutual funds, bank, stock market and whatnot....and not owe that much money anyways... Wait for the center to settle, you know. But, I'm not sure I'll have all this opportunity forever, right? Having you guys here in Paris to help and whatnot... - Mike - Yeah, I see. Well, it's a shame Tom couldn't get on board with this project, hun? - Yeaah... - … Anyways, what about the meetings today? What are you expecting? - A lot of understanding from the dance school... - You think they'll like the idea of the festival? - Yeah, very likely they will, they would benefit from it too, right? But who knows... We have to see if they would like to share some of the costs too - Oh ok, well, let's pray then... - Yeah – Mike paused for a sec – And... What about Marie hun? - What about her? - How are you guys going? - Ah... She has been working a lot - That’s not what I asked… - I know... - And Alice? - Ah man, it's so complicated... - Ok... well, if you don't wanna talk about it, I understand.... - I do wanna talk about it, but what can I say, really? - Yeah, I understand... But hey, you should think about it... It's been what? A good while that you and Marie know each other. She's still by your side. And it's been like...more than six months you don't see Alice. For what I'm getting, she still has the hots for you – He smiled – Aaanyways. What I mean to say is....fuck man, open your eyes, because they won't be single forever, you know. - I know... - I don’t know if you realize it, but from the moment Marie wakes up, until she goes to bed, there are people trying to get to her. Students, assistants, teachers, random people on the street …. And Alice, man, you don't even know if there she isn't dating anyone right now. -... - Well, I'm sorry, ok? But I guess I needed to tell you this. - Pause – When we were in St Jean, there was this Italian guy, living next to us...a completely douche, always hitting on Isadora. When I saw that, I forced myself to take an attitude.... It helped me to get out of my comfort zone and do something about it. I just hope it helps you too....It's just cuz...I never saw you by yourself like this... I guess I just think it's weird what’s happening between you and Marie right now, always looking to be together, but not really being together, you know? On and off thing... Do you really think that that's what she wants? ... I mean, it’s not like you guys didn’t get along well, right? Eric understood it. - I just think that eventually you'll have to figure out what you want Eric. Do you notice how you and Marie just can't stay apart from each other? Don't let these things pass by, man... - He waited for Eric to say something, but he just nodded – Well, ok... Let's go eat something then because I still have a bunch of classes to teach today.... There was so much to be done: Besides the renovation of the school, now there was this huge project of having a culture festival. There was a lot of money to be gathered and invested, people to be hired, dates to be confirmed, and details to be made aware of. So much work just for the project to get ready. The preparation for the dance school was in its peak, and there was a big part of the music school that was still being built: the auditorium for example that would be essential for the festival. The dance school agreed with the idea, so they would start to make their side of the work when the time would come: they would prepare choreographies, call for the competition on their side, try and get some sponsorship and even help with a couple of people to work on the festival organization. They were taking care of the renovations for their side of the school, and Mike loved it, because then he didn't have to worry about it. Besides the class rooms, there was still the offices, the teachers room, washrooms, parking lot, elevator and everything else. It was becoming a huge place, with three floors. They had separated an open space to exposition, which artists could pay to show off their work – pictures, painting, and sculptures. A nice lounge, rest-y living room, and an exclusive room for dancers. They even had showers there. During all of this, a drama school became interested in joining their center. After some negotiations, where they decided the number of rooms they would have, how much they would pay for it, and as they compromised themselves to pay their share of the renovations, the center grew even bigger. In the middle of these renovations, even though they were trying as hard as possible to not disturb the classes, working mainly in the mornings, it was a real luck the fact that the classes had a good acoustic isolation. Unfortunately, most of the other rooms – The offices, mainly – didn't, so they had to rent a place to work near the school, which was an insane amount of money, and probably a really bad decision, with people constantly having to run between the two places. Eventually they settled everything for the project, specially about the festival, which would have everything mentioned by Eric, but also movies presentations and competitions, plays from the drama school, a short movie competition, and a photography competition. They were approached by two large companies offering massive sponsorships for the project and I'm only mentioning them, not by their name, but by their last name: Meirelles, but mainly, Montini. When Eric, Marie and Mike learnt about that, they just looked at each other and nobody had to say anything: They all understood. It was one of the hardest decisions they made, but in the end they wanted to do that by themselves, or it would never truly be a reason to be proud of. They chose to ignore the easy way in exchange of the...well; you can't actually say it was the right one, could you? In exchange of the independent way. They would fight for other sponsors in the months to come. Eric and Marie had the idea during a random talk of making a workshop specifically about rock music: The history of rock, styles, sub-styles, personalities, trivia, how to criticize it, how to listen to it... Eric ended up being responsible for that and Marie decided to organize one about classical music, thinking that that wouldn't take that much of her time, because at that particular moment her schedule was already completely full. Eric started to literally study everything he could about that subject, day after day. He had also started training with Mike, to get better at playing the guitar (now that his hand was a hundred percent again) and he was even taking singing lessons with this really good and experienced teacher. When the renovations were finally over, Eric started to train with some students ( in the studio or even in the class rooms ) .He was just trying to help as he could (in the office, finishing his workshops and even going after people in Paris that could go and talk during his workshop and spread some wisdom and experience.) With the school finally done, they were able to seat back and watch what it had become. They actually got a bit scared: It got insanely big. It was a weird moment the first time they actually realized the amount of people that was passing by their school, taking classes, chilling, making friends and just having a good time. The marketing for the festival started with by the end of their workshops: It got a bit rushed to do everything they had to do at once, but everything worked out fine. Mike was with an insane schedule between taking care of everything in the cultural center, being the central figure of authority there, teaching classes, training with Jan and Eric, and everything else he had to do. Marie, too. The three of them were exhausted and it was only the beginning: The festival would be six months from that point. When Eric finally gave his workshop, at the newly finished auditorium, Mike and Marie made sure they would be presents every day, at least for a while, to check it out. It was completely full, and they took the opportunity to publicize the festival. It was a completely success. Eric only accepted half of the money the workshop had made and the rest he insisted Mike should have it as “the rent of the auditorium”. Mike eventually accepted that. The day after the workshop was over, Mike, Marie and Eric were signing everything to actually create the company that would organize the festival – with the sponsorships included. Mike wasn't speaking much, but by the size the school ended up having and by the size of the prospects of the festival, it was pretty clear that he would have a huge problem if the festival didn't give him a lot of profit. Besides that, they had to answer several questions about the festival to journalists, photographers and bloggers in the days that followed. A journalist that Alice had as a connection in Paris (a friend of a friend of her uncle) eventually got in contact with them and asked for an exclusive interview with the three of them. And it would be worth it. There was a bit more than five months for the festival and they were sleeping during the last weekend they would be able to afford to take a break before diving into the turbulence that would be those next months. The streets in Paris seemed to be shutting down. The air itself in Paris seemed to be turning off. They eventually had to go back to that insane routine without any doubt as an option. Marie was looking for Eric's hands in the darkness. Marie had always been looking for Eric's hands in the darkness Eric had a really sexual dream one night: He woke up feeling sort of lost and confused, because, for starters, he had the strong intuition he knew that girl from somewhere, and second, feeling bad for having loved Marie, sleeping with her and having woken up after dreaming with another woman. He couldn't get rid of that dream, so he started to try to think about the girl he had dreamt about. Eric had had sex with hundreds of girls since he left Brazil, and it could've easily been an impossible task to remember one specifically... not like that. But a memory, when yours, doesn't matter about whom, turns out to be only yours, having nothing to do with the real person anymore, for good or bad. It was never about the girl, but the dream about her. Intuitively, he was sure that he had never had sex with that girl before: it was desire of the unknown he was feeling. An instinctive desire. Like when he would be on tour, choosing with who he was going to sleep with that night. Coincidently or not, he figured out from where he knew that girl a few hours later: It was his dad's assistant. “Nothing easier” He thought to himself. Then he looked at Marie and felt of disgusted of himself for thinking that, especially when she hugged him minutes later, with the greatest affection in the world. He had to go and take a cold, cold shower. - Ok, ok, Listen up... - They all eventually made a bit of silence during the breakfast – I'm going to go have lunch with him, and then we'll meet you guys here with mom. - Eric - At what time? - She arrives around four, I think, so we won't be coming before that... - Hmm... - Sooo... you guys have enough time to clean the house and make sure you have nice little stories about your routine and about your last few weeks, hun? - Eric - Ok... Sure - … You do realize you're doing the exact opposite of what you should actually do as an older brother, right? - Gustavo being malicious - Yeah... - Eric starred at him – Now eat your food and shut up.... - What time are you meeting dad? - Isadora - At one - Where? - Bistrô Île Saint-Louis - The one that is like...always packed? Why doesn’t he just come here? - Not today.... I think he just needs to do something around his hotel or something like that. I didn't quite get that part. - Did you make a reservation? - Something like that... Mike, can I borrow your car? - Eric - Sure man... - Do you realize you cannot legally drive, right? - Gustavo, smirking at him - Yes I can, I already took care of my situation. You, in the other hand, every time you get on that car....well, I won't even say anything anymore... - Sure...- Gustavo didn't care - Anyways, Eric. There's still three hours before your lunch - Mike - Yeah, I know... - Uau, I told you'd get bored with Paris - Gustavo - Actually I said that – Marie smiled – … We could go visit my aunt, hun? She's back in town after a couple of months... We could probably have lunch with her... - Wouldn't she be sleeping this early? - Mike - My aunt? No way... - But what about here? We do need to clean here... - Ah, while Eric is having lunch with your dad, we can come back and organize a bit. It's not even messy; I don't know what`s the big deal about that... - It's because you still don't know your father-in-law, Mike – Gustavo – Wait until he gives you one of his speeches... - Ha... ok - Good, so are we clear on what to do? Eric had gotten a table outside, the weather being especially nice that day and the view to the Seine was amazing. For some reason, that day there wasn't that many people on the restaurant, and he was the only one who was sitting by himself. He was a little bit restless, moving his fingers like crazy, moving around the salt and peppers, and everything that was on the table: It has been years and years that he didn't have to face his dad by himself. Especially after what happened in St Jean, it didn't look like it was going to be easy... He even got there ten minutes before, knowing how much his dad hated when people would get late. He probably did that unconsciously, because for sure he wasn't trying to please his dad. No, for sure not. Even the waiters started to stare at him at some point: he certainly must have looked a bit nervous. He just ignored: his mouth was begging for a cigarette or a beer. Minutes passed. He just wanted to get it over with. He had the instinct of fighting with his dad, they would both get pissed off and then he would just have to decide what to do with the rest of his day. But he needed that conversation. He needed to get it through for Mike, for Tom, for Marie. For his siblings. The clock seemed to have stopped. No...Wait, yeah, it was good.... He was looking to the Parisians that were in that restaurant or passing by: they are kind of unique. Very fancy clothes, very classy people, with hairs ...not that well behaved, eating very fancy food. Women were smoking visibly more than man. At least that was what he could have concluded from that small sample of society. And yeah, definitely and surprisingly his father was late... Once more, he refused anything from the waiters, this time not being that friendly as in the first couple of times. Drinking water sucks. “Sir, you cannot stay here for that long without consuming anything” (fuck, are you serious? I've been here for less than fifteen minutes) When he was just about to get into an argument with that rude waiter, tell him how he had a reservation, and perhaps throw at him some change just to have the pleasure of not having to deal with his voice anymore, then ask to be served by the hot waitress and give her the biggest tip in the history of mankind (just to make that piece of shit feel bad for the rest of his life)... Just when he was about to do all of that, with his hands starting to shake out of anger, his dad showed up. - Hey son - ...Hi Eric looked once again to the waiter, and the guy just left. - Uau, what was that about? - He was almost kicking me out - Uau...Am I that late? - His dad smiled - Ahn...yeah, actually. And just the fact that you are late already surprised me, weren't you the Mr. I'm-always-on-time? His father smiled in a friendly way. - Ha, I lost track of time in a book store - At this time? - Yeah, there's one near the hotel, so I decided to go and check it out for a while - ...Ahn, ok.Cool. What about mom? - Ow, she's arriving in a later flight – He checked his watch – In like four hours. - Cool - Excuse me sir, would you like to order some drinks? - The waiter - Oh, yeah, yes. A glass of rose wine, from the house, please - For you, sir? - The waiter looked at Eric - I'll stay on the water, thank you... When this glass is finished, you can ask for that girl to come and bring me some Perrier water? After that, just ask her to keep coming back to get our orders... Does that sound reasonable to you, sir? - Eric starred at his waiter. - Ah...hmmm...Cert...Certainly, sir - I appreciate; hopefully this will make up for your inconvenience... The waiter gave him an uncomfortable smile, turned around and after that, he didn't come back. - Uau...ok - His father didn't say anything - What? Are you not gonna say anything about it? - No, I trust you've used your best judgment …. That kind of answer shocked Eric. - Hmm…ok - But hey, tell me, are you enjoying Paris so far? - Yeah, I guess – Eric shrugged his shoulders - What about the projects for the school? - They are moving on, pretty soon we'll have an insane amount of work to do. - So I guess everything's going well so far? - Yeah, in theory everything's perfect... - Great. And how's everyone? - Everyone's great... - Great, I’m happy to hear that... - His dad paused for a second – You know, when I first heard this story of having everyone moving to Paris, I thought it would be complicated; and our house would get too empty... - Yeah, I imagine... Did they use to take a lot of people over too? - Ha, you have no idea. A lot... Especially Gustavo. How's he going by the way? School, girls? - Ahh, you can probably imagine, he's a smart kid. - Yeah, smart...let's just say smart so he doesn't get even more humble about it... - Smiled – Have you ever saw him playing basketball? - Never... - Uau, you should. He always wanted to get a scholarship in the States... We actually used to think it was to try and get ….you know, closer to you. But I guess that's what he likes to do for real... he wants to do a program in... - Physics, I know, to be a rocket scientist or an astronaut – He smiled and paused for a second – Yeah, there's gonna be a game soon anyways....and yeah, I guess when I first heard about this whole scientist thing I thought it wouldn't fit him, but I was proved wrong I guess... - Nah, he definitely has talent for it. The kid probably could be very talented in anything he put his mind into, the only this is that he should learn how to focus more. I guess his future colleagues are gonna find it strange to have a guy as handsome and cool as he is....and you know, that lazy. - Ha, yeah – Eric laughed, his dad laughed too. The hot waitress finally came to get the orders - … But hey, tell me - ... Yeah? - How are the girls? - Isa is doing well, Marie is not so bad either... - Not what I meant... - His dad smiled - Ah, sometimes I go out. But there's Marie.... And I don't know, sometimes I miss Alice... - Eric really didn't know how that'd slipped - Yeah, really... - What? - To complain with so many options must be the worst thing in the world, indeed – His father smiled - Actually it is not like that all... -Hmm, ok.Yeah, I imagine... Hey, I'm only kidding. I don't know Eric, enjoy it. Don't take that too seriously. You're in what's supposed to be the best period of your life; nobody is expecting you to get married soon... - Yeah, I know... it's just because it gets tiring after a while... - What exactly? - I don't know, I guess I just think it would be nice to …You know, finally get something right - Hmm... But why now? Don't you think there are a lot of girls in the world that you could meet still? I mean, I love both Marie and Alice, I just think maybe you're putting too much thought in something unnecessary at this point... And in this moment of your life, maybe you should just have some fun... - Hey pretty face – He had no idea why he had called him that way – I've... met, let's put it like that… at least four hundred girls. Maybe way more... since I left Brazil. His father could not hide his surprise. - You've met ….like …? - He discretely made an obscene gesture and laughed -Yeap Eric agreed with his head. - It’s a nice number....congrats, I guess? - His dad didn't know how to react. - I suppose you took care of know, protection and all? - Yeah, no, I probably have fifty kids out there by now... Of course I used protection dad. Even when I was drunk I'd use it... And It doesn't mean shit, you know – Eric didn't know why he had said that either. It was the truth though. Eric laughed of his dad's reaction, and his dad ended up laughing too. For the next hour, they chatted about futilities, but as they were finishing their coffees and their dessert, his dad eventually brought up the subject to the table, after a moment where they both had gotten silent: -... You know son, I didn't want to bring that up to the table....but... your mom told me that you guys talked... Eric was looking deep into his dad's eyes. - I just wanted to tell you, and I actually was trying it over and over in front of the mirror – he tried to smile, but it was a very shy one – that... I understand how it must've been hard for you, all of that. I mean, I actually have no idea how it must've been hard for you, but I meant to say that I understand that it definitely wasn't easy at all. And yeah, I judged you, son, and...And I’m sorry. I should've been by your side... I did my best to protect you, but I ended up not making a good job on being there for you, you understand? - He paused - We should've talked, seven years ago... And I just wanted to tell you, that you were brave that night. You tried to defend your friends, you tried to do the right thing...And I'm really really sorry that you experienced that kind of thing, specially so early in life. Silence. - ... I'm just really happy that we are having a second chance of being a family again... I'm really thankful to God that you had survived all of this, and for the person you are now... I'm very proud of you, Eric. Eric actually had to look away from his father. – Hmm … Alright Silence. - Hun... So... – He cleared his throat - Is our house still there? In Floripa, I mean... - Eric tried to change the subject - ...Yeah, it is actually. Waiting for my retirement... - Or for my vacations, maybe? - Yeah, for sure. Do you have plans of going soon? - Yeah, after the festival maybe... I mean, I just had this idea a couple of days ago... - Great... Why all of this now, by the way? The festival... - Well...It's something that I can actually do to help Mike. He was always a brother to me, even in the irresponsibility... And I don't know, I guess this whole festival and school thing is the way we are building something in Paris for us, you know. Isadora, Gustavo, me, Marie, Mike...everyone else that we are meeting. It's a big project, not only about the school... I just feel like...if this works, we will always have a small place in Paris to feel … - he really didn’t want to use that word -...home, you know. - So you don't plan to go back...To your band? To go back on tour? - I don't know, we are weighting our options. But my plans so far goes until a month after the festival.... So yeah... And... I really felt like I needed a big break from all of that. I know it was mess you guys had to clean up for me, but... Yeah... - That’s good... You have a good life here, Eric; I don't think you should go back to the one that was so bad for you just like that... Everybody understands you needed this break, son, don't worry about it. - Hmm.... - Eric ignored that comment. If it was what he wanted to do, he would do it. He understood his dad's opinion, he just didn't like the fact that he wanted to tell him what to do, or what not to do. He was going to start to get angry again, he was feeling it. The waitress finally brought the bill and they probably did give her the biggest tip in history. - ... So, let’s see how the apartment is now? - Hmm? - Well, they are probably finishing the cleaning right? Or did you promise them more time? - His dad smirked His son too. And his anger was gone. - Yeah, maybe a bit more... - Aiai... We need to keep them straight, Eric – He laughed – So, what about Tom? - What about him? - News from him? - Ah, he's in Montreal. He's stuck with work and problems... - Eric - Hmm... -Yeah, I told you I'm going to visit him in a couple of days... Why? - Oh really? - Yeah, I don't think he's that great at the moment... - …? - Ah, that's a very long story... Very long story. But why do you ask? -Well, first of all, because having him around would be excellent, with all this festival thing going on, and well....the whole school thing I guess. - Yeaah, I know. I thought this more times I could've count. But I don't think that's a real possibility, that guy is madly in love with Montreal and he has this super long story with Katherine... I think it's like... impossible to have him to come and help us. - Katherine? - Oh yeah, you've never met her, right? - No... I don't think so... - Ahh... Katherine. She is definitely...something – Eric smirked - What do you mean? - She's... Unique dad, that’s all I can say. In every single sense I can think of... - And they are like a couple? - Ha... Spiritually, yes, but it's been forever they are not together anymore. But they work together and whatnot, so I'm pretty sure that there's still something going on there... For sure he didn't forget her... And I know for me that she didn't forget him either... - Hmm... I would never think that of him. I always saw him as a... womanizer you know.... Don Juan or something like that... - Ironically, me too. That's what he sells right? But there...There is a guy that could have any girl in the world, and he just want this particular one, I guess....But I guess it makes sense... Aaand what about the second reason? - Ah yeah, so we are with this huge investment opportunity coming up soon, and it's been a while we are trying to think about a way to close this acquisition... - Buut...? - Well, we don't have all the capital we need, simple as that.... - How come, I just sent you a huge amount of money....? - Not enough. Actually not even close... - Hmm... Uau... Ok... And you thought maybe Tom could be interested? - Yeah, I think that if he gets interested...and depending on the amount of money he could invest on it... Maybe I could get some borrowed money with the bank on our name.... I don't know.... It might work... - Well, I can talk to him about it... - Yeah, you do that; it would be an amazing acquisition for our company... It would take everything we have, but you know... It's a real deal changer, Eric... For the long run, but anyways... I really don't want to let it pass by, and we don't have that much time to try to do that... - I understand... I'll talk to him about it, don't worry.... - … When exactly are you going to Montreal? - In....three days.... Eric was seating in a stairway, having Alice one stair down and Marie, laying down on her stomach, one stair higher than him. Marie had her hands holding her head, with her elbows on the stair, reading a book that, even though it was impeccable, seemed to be quite old. Alice was seating besides Marie's head and Eric was near Marie's leg, gently caressing it. Marie had a childish joy, with her red braided hair , some very old jeans, wearing a black and white striped sweater, and some old converse shoes, with thin white socks appearing, which looked very charming for whatever reason. She was swinging her feet while reading the book and talking to them. Eric, to be honest, had not true conscious of what they were talking about, or even in which language they were communicating. There was this light shadow covering them, as they were in this immense stairway, where hundreds, maybe thousands of people would walk by every day, but which was completely desert at that moment. Without any kind of warning, Marie turned her face to Eric and asked: - It's simple, Eric. Who do you want to fight for, from the bottom of your soul? How is the city where you would live forever? Eric didn't give much attention to that. He sort of laughed. He looked at Alice, as if he was waiting for complicity to laugh of those random questions, but he never received any. Alice was looking at him, lucid, smiling, with a malicious smile and seductive as if she was some sort of female Johnny Depp. He didn't know why he made that comparison, but he really did. He looked at Alice, very intrigued with what was going on. And then he looked back to Marie. - Are you serious? Marie quickly nodded - she was serious- smiling in a very friendly, challenging and ironic way, all at the same time. Eric looked around, thinking about it. Marie went back to her book and Alice was looking at a child at the bottom end of the stairway. Sometimes she would look at Eric, and all of that was too distressful for him. He could feel the weight of that moment on his shoulders. After what seemed to be an hour, where memories had come and gone in his mind without being called for, Eric noticed it was clear. - You, Marie – And he felt a huge relief on his shoulders. - Ah yeah? Why? What about the city? - And she kept doing exactly what she had been doing, almost in a childish way, leaving Eric completely stunned. He had just declared himself to her. Alice went downstairs, to play with the child. Her child, a pretty young girl. And the father, very gentle with both of them. It could've been Eric, he wasn't sure, because they were a bit too far now. He couldn't see straight what was going on there. - Why? … - She repeated out loud, and Eric knew it was probably the most important question of his life. For another moment that felt like an hour, Eric thought about that question. - I would live... - And kept looking around They were now in another level of stairways, under a very gentle sun, looking to where they were a moment ago. Marie was now sitting by his side, with the same clothes, without the book and without the childish manners. She was looking at him and at Alice, also trying to figure out if the child's father could be him. Eric was in complete silence as he meditated about his life. - I would live in a city that had faced a bloody past, to enjoy the days of peace and to understand it, knowing from where its strength comes from... Where history is still present and visible. Where I could feel her soul in its children and its art... Know some people by the name, but not in a boring or completely bucolic way. Where I can feel you, build a life with you... And finally where we could have a home of our own, and for our kids. Where its ideas are fertile and its heart, as a mother, with the guidance of a father... Because... It's like...-He cleared his throat - I know that... Since the first moment, I loved you, and soon after I hated you. I abandoned you. I mistreated you. I hurt you because I wanted to hurt myself. I was a coward, I was stupid. I was weak. And I'm tired of being weak... But I always loved you and I always felt the huge love and infinite affection that you always had towards me. You were always by my side, even if just in my thoughts. And I'll be eternally, madly in love with you and I hope to retribute the love and affection that you always gave me, somehow, one day - He paused - … I want to live in a city that will be honest with us. Where I can redeem myself with you. Where everyone will know, since day one that I am yours, from the tinniest part of me and that I have no reasons to be afraid of telling you this, or anything else, anymore – He paused for a second – … I love you, Marie. It was always you. It was always with you... I always loved you... Words wouldn't come out anymore. His eyes would get too many tears and all of that seemed to be almost choking him. Marie hugged him, almost as if she was holding a child. Tears wouldn't stop falling. There was a lot of people around now, but Eric didn't care. She was holding him with all of her love, once again. Marie kissed his face and said to him, very gently, by his ear: - Thank you, my love... Eric had conscious of only a few seconds. But he wanted to stay there. He really did. He didn't feel that pain there. There he wasn't hurting anyone. He was in peace there. … He woke up on his bed, sweating a lot, with Marie by his side, awake, worried about him. She asked if he was ok but he never said anything back. He just nodded, held her, after a moment of confusion. He held her like he have never held anyone before. He was almost sure he had spoken a bit during his sleep. He was almost sure she had heard and understood him. The next day, everyone had to wake up pretty early because The Meirelles parents had made an invitation to go with them have a nice lunch on a friend's house, near Paris. Marie, by divine inspiration, decided to invite her aunt, and everyone agreed with the idea - specially her aunt. When they arrived at her mansion to go pick her up, Marie's aunt was still in the pool, sun-bathing her gorgeous body. She was completely wet, and just to bother them, she made sure she hugged everyone, smiling. She asked if they wanted to drink or eat anything and they talked for a while around the pool while she was enjoying “her last dip” in the pool. Suddenly, a man appeared from inside the house, going to talk to them, drying his hair with a towel, for embarrassment and awkwardness of everyone: It was a very (very) famous Hollywood actor, and they all knew who he was. Everyone froze, in shock. - Hey, my dears, let me introduce you to....well, I'm pretty sure you all know who he is, Hun? - She smiled - … Baby, these are: Eric, Marie (my niece), Mike, Isadora and Gustavo – Said, indicating each one of them while they were still astonished by the guy's presence. - Hey guys - Don't worry, they all speak English, you won't have to force your French today – She kept smiling and then said in French – His French is horrible, poor guy! - It's not that bad... - He said in French, trying to defend himself, laughing... Yeah, it was a bit bad. And then in English, smiling – I've been trying to learn a bit for a couple of weeks now. - So guys, I need a couple of minutes to get ready, and then we can go... She smiled to everyone, knowing exactly the situation she created. She disappeared inside the house. Once they were all alone, he actually seemed to try and start some conversation, but I guess he never found any ice breaker. - So.... - Isadora tried to help - So... They both smiled at each other. He looked like a really nice guy. - Dude, just tell me one thing When Gustavo started talking like that, they all had a skip in their heart beat. -Yeah... - I know you've already slept with several celebrities, you know – Yeah, sure it did start well – Can you tell me like any of them that... reaallly reaally needed make up? I mean, you woke up next to her in the next morning and ...wowww, right? I mean, just out of curiosity... Gustavo asked that with a genuine curiosity and at the same time being extremely ironic and dissimulated, with a facial expression that only he could do: pretending that he couldn't notice the awkwardness he would create around him. But the said-actor laughed, and when he said something, he discretely answered: - Well, for yes or no, I rather not comment on that - Oh, come on, dude, we are between guys here... - Ahn, Gustavo? Hi? - Isadora called the attention to her and Marie, both smiling. - You don't count as a girl; you’re more of a man than Mike. And Marie...I'd say she's used to that already. Although she's definitely a girl … - He actually winked at Marie, making everyone laugh, except him, that continued with that poker face, as if he didn't understand why that was so funny. - Alright, I'll start a rumor that you're gay, dude He laughed and asked: - What? - Yeah, you're too pretty and too polite to be straight... Relax, there was already some people talking about it. He laughed - Whaaat? They all laughed, including Gustavo. They became pretty much intimate after a bit more than half an hour talking and waiting for Marie's aunt to get ready. - Shall we? - She was once again gorgeous in her simplicity when she finally found them in the living room. - Sure, I'm gonna go get my car - Bea - Yeah, sure - Marie - No, honey, come on. Let me get mine, I do need to get used to it – The said-actor smiled and went to get his car when Bea finally agreed with him. - Ha, what a show off! He gave one last look, smiling, and just kept on his way to go get his car - Ai ai, he wants to show off his new toy. He has it for a couple of days already and he uses any kind of excuse to take it out, even for groceries – She kept smiling – Men and their toys, you know... - Marie and Isa just agreed with their heads. Mike's car was near the front door as this red thunder appeared in the speed of light, stopping millimeters away from his car. It could be said that all of them had almost have a heart attack. It was literally millimeters away from hitting Mike's car. It was, probably, the most awesome Ferrari in the world. Yeah, he was a Ferrari kind of guy, who would've said. Marie's aunt had the presence of spirit to use the camera she had in her hand and was able to take a really good picture of their reaction. - Ops, that was close hun? - He smiled and gave a quick wink - Guuuys, this picture is so going to funny - Maaan, you HAVE to let me drive her! - Gustavo was jumping, screaming, sweating, completely astonished by the car - You drive? ….It's a her now? Hey, how old are you? - Eighteen man... – He jumped to the driver's seat (It was a convertible car) in the second the owner was getting out. Big mistake. They looked at him and then to Marie's aunt. Gustavo was already making sound and dust when they all told Eric to jump in the car: - Go, Eric! - Ah, fuck... - Hey, you know where it is? - Yeah I do! - Hey dude, just out of curiosity, how much did you pay for this car? - Hmm, around one million euros, duude – He smiled Gustavo was left speechless - Don't crash it, ok? I kinda like you; I wouldn't like to have to kill you – He smiled - I just bought it, I'm shipping it to the States in a couple of weeks... - It's ok dude. I love you already... We need to take a picture later on so you can show your friends who you've met in Paris...Me, I mean... They ended up taking one at that moment: the actor, the car, Gustavo and Eric on the passenger seat - Alright Eric, Let me show you how you drive a car like this - Have you ever driven a car like this? - Eric was a bit surprised - Not in completely legal situations... - He smiled and winked - Holy shit...What if the police stop us? - Dude....dude, don't be a pussy. With this car, no one can ever reach us....Have you never seen Fast and Furious? They never got stopped by the cops for license and registration...why? Speed, man....It's all about the speed, man – And then he smiled, the most malicious smile Eric had ever seen on his life - Holy shit.... We are gonna die, fuck... Eric had always been a fast driver. Since he got his license it was like that. But with Gustavo driving, in that car, it was absolutely insane. He passed cars like Eric only saw in actions movies. The hardest curves in the speed of light. He was almost reaching two hundred km/hour and was driving like it was no big deal, saying it was not even close to the limit of that kind of engine. Eric barely said anything, but if there was a moment in his life that he actually thought he was going to die, it was during that ride. He actually asked Gustavo to go slower at some point, but it was useless. He then actually screamed for him to slow down. Not a reaction. “Well, if I'm about to die, I'm not gonna piss my pants because of my little brother” and then he didn't say anything anymore. By the end of the ride however, Eric was able to get the driver seat, because Gustavo actually insisted him to drive a while and “feel that car” Eric finished the ride way (way) slower, and Gustavo just limited himself to laugh at his older brother. The second car with the rest of the people took forever to get there after them. Everyone that was already there got completely astonished when Eric and Gustavo parked that car, in the yard of their parent's friends. Eric hugged Marie, smiling, when she finally got there. They understood everything and they tried their best not to laugh their asses off. Gustavo once again pretended he had no idea what was going on, and even when Isadora starred at him with her stare of death, he completely ignored her. It would be a very peaceful day, an excellent lunch that lasted for hours. They would stay there until six in the afternoon and they were around twenty people in total. Everyone noticed Marie's aunt boyfriend, who also ended up having a great time among all those French people. They certainly had unbelievably good food and the best wine. By the end of the day, the actor was singing out loud holding arms with a couple of those people, a bit tipsy. Lots of them had gotten a bit tipsy. It got pretty hard for Eric to stay drinking water at some points. Eric would grab the car on the way back, with Marie on the passenger seat: Her hair in the wind, her scent, her eyes, her smiles and their talk in that ride back would become inspiration for several amazing dreams, everything followed by some very loud rock music. The dream he had with her kept coming into his mind several times in the weeks that followed. Marie was completely gorgeous and she loved him. The future was brilliant ahead of them. Two days after that lunch, Eric had three reasons to get really happy when he landed in Montreal. First, because he hadn’t had a pleasant flight... nor easy. He was still having problems with flying and even with the minor turbulence they faced, he ended up spending terrible hours in a silent, cold panic. He also wasn't able to sleep for more than five minutes during the whole flight so you can only imagine how happy he was when he got off that plane. Second, because Tom was waiting for him at the airport and he couldn't deny how happy he was to see his old friend after everything that had happened in the last months. And finally, he was in Montreal, in the beginning of spring. And Montreal was, easily, his second favorite city in the world. Those few days were promising big things. - Eeeric! - Duuude, it's good to see you! - Same here, man, same here. How are you? - Ah, man. I'm fucking great, man. - Awesome, good to know, good to know.... They grabbed some food for Eric, who was starving, then they went to pay the parking lot, put his bags in the trunk and finally got in Tom's car. - Dude, I cannot believe you're in Montreal... - Tom - I know, it’s been what? - No idea, maybe eight months? - Maybe more, I don’t know...How are things going around here? - Eric - Ah man, they are great ...well, for one side; right....the other is like the same. You know how it goes... - Tom tried to keep a cool expression about it - Hmmm... Ok ok, not bad - And how are things going with you in Paris? - They are ...pretty great actually – Eric smiled - It must be insane over there, right? … Marie, Mike, Jan, your family... Coolest people I know are finally gathering around one city. Too bad is not in Montreal – He smiled - I Knoow... - Ah man, that's great. I really miss those guys … and that city... -Yeah man, yeah. We have so many things to talk about it.... - Eric -Yees... I know. Don't worry man; we'll do it, for sure. - Tom - Alright, so where to? - Ha... Hey, yeah, I have some people to introduce you to, Eric - Ha, that's unoriginal, hun Tom laughed. - We do our best, right - For sure... But so, tell me, what do we have planned? - Always direct... Right now I'm leaving you at your hotel, so you'll have two or three hours to chillax. Then I'll call you when I'm heading back so we can have something to eat... I'm really sorry, bro, but I really have to go home and chill for some time... and finish a bit of paper work. - No problem at all, man. I do need to rest a bit too; this flight just killed me... And where are we going to eat? - Near your hotel actually. There's this nice restaurant with a nice terrace, I brought you there once already, I'm really not sure... Still, we should enjoy the nice weather you brought. - Ha, sure... Eric got to his room and, as soon as he found himself completely alone and in silence, he felt himself extremely tired. He laid down on the bed to try to rest for a bit and he just looked at the ceiling until... he woke up thirty minutes later! Wow! Eric couldn't believe he actually had taken a nap for half an hour! He stayed in bed trying to sleep again... He even tried to analyze what he did as some kind of magical process: “I was laying like this, then I looked to the ceiling and I was thinking about...shit, what was I thinking about? Something about brunch tomorrow? ...Nah... It was something about that cool strip club here in Montreal...Nah, oh fuck it...” He then decided to go swim a bit at the heated pool, then he stayed in the Jacuzzi for a while, in the sauna, until he finally got so bored of trying to fight his boredom that he went back to his room for a shower. When he was finished, he would still have to wait for Tom for about an hour. He turned the TV on (Something he rarely did at all) and started to skip through channels, stopping for a few moments in a couple of options, but nothing actually grabbed his attention. He ended up watching a random movie that he didn't actually paid that much attention to, an American movie dubbed in French. At some point he grabbed his computer and did the basics: Facebook, YouTube, 9gag, Tumblr, Twitter, news websites... But no one of his interest was available to chat, until he found Isadora online. They talked a bit, but she would have to leave less than 10 minutes after. Aiai.... He spent several years without seeing his sister; he arrived in Montreal, felt a bit bored and a bit lonely for a second and now he would have given the world for her company, whom he had seen less than twenty-four hours before. Still, one of the coolest people he had ever met. That's how life goes sometimes. They finally went to the restaurant Tom had talked about, and it indeed had a nice terrace, with a really nice view of the city. They ate and drank extremely well, talking for more than two hours. Both Eric and Tom would always have amazing stories to tell each other, and that night wouldn't be different. Tom was a “habitué” of that restaurant apparently: He knew everyone there, and during the whole dinner, some women were actually trying to flirt with him from their tables. Although Tom would smile back and seems like he was interested, Eric knew him better than that: It was just him being social, all the time, with everyone. He knew his friend was not interested at all. At certain moment of the night though, the talk got serious... Tom just decided to ask Eric how he was doing: - I'm great man – Said one smiling Eric - Eric... - Tom had stopped laughing – It’s me who's asking, man. Just me. We gotta talk about it, hun? Eric stopped smiling too. He took a while to open his mouth again. - … Ah, man... - He paused for a second – I think I'm alright... Some days are worse than others, you know, but... I don't know... Drugging or drinking were never the biggest problem I guess... It's almost as if... it didn’t matter anymore, y'know? It's... - He paused for another moment – I'm still ...lost, you know what I mean? I'm still not... a good guy, right. Or whatever people are expecting me to be, or what I'm supposed to expect from... myself... I'm just not.... - Hmm... I see... And....Are you being able to sleep better? - It's...Yeah... It's getting better, that’s for sure. - Good. That's good... - But I don't know man... - He paused again, looked around – This abrupt changing in my routine, and in my is just so freaking weird, you know... It's definitely getting to me, I think. It took a while, but... yeah, it's getting to me. Tom kept looking at him with the same questioning expression. Eric cleared his throat and eventually started talking again. - …Ahn, you know... I liked to be who I was, you know. Fucking Eric Meirelles, always... partying, always jumping from town to town, never having to deal with mediocre people's problems.... Having the life... - … That everyone dreams of having – Tom smiled. They both knew exactly what that meant. It was basically the same for Tom. Eric laughed. Eventually he started talking again. - … It's just cuz...I'm not sure yet if I can be just...Eric, you know? Watching everyone else moving on with their lives, having jobs and... Plans and dreams...and.... And the fact that...I don’t know... I like to have them around, but at the same time, everyone seems to treat me like as I'm not capable of taking care of myself anymore. And fuck, I get it. I swear. But so what? I can't even go out by myself to party anymore.... And aahh... I don't know. I'm feeling a bit useless too these days... And...From being Eric useless, in like less than six months... Feels weird... Tom nodded. - I understand it, man... But hey, don't worry; we'll party while you're here. Eric smiled again - I'm counting on that, man Tom smiled, and drank another zip of his beer. - But I don't even have to tell you, right? - And pointed at his beer - Right, sir! - Great... Promise? - Promise They made a toast to it. - How is Marie going? Eric smiled and said: - I guess I could ask you the same, hun? Tom nodded - Fair enough... - And it was his turn to sigh and clear his throat - Don't worry man, everything's fine - Alright... Let's just not get into this, ok? I don't like to be in the middle of couples, and you guys are too important to me... Besides, I’ve already lost too much for people assuming things about my friendship with her. - Hmm.... Ok. How is that going, by the way? Tom raised his eyebrows, in a tired expression. - It's not, I guess... - And … you're ok with that? He shrugged his shoulder - I don't know if there's anything else I could do at this point... - At all? Tom sighed. -... I always thought we were meant to be, you know? Because... There are couples that you just know like: fuck, they are perfect for each other. I thought that was our case, because honestly... I can't imagine myself with anyone other than her, man. For real... - But...? - I thought it was our case, seriously. I really thought it was. But then I realize that that son of a bitch also thinks that and it’s because of that that he's still after her until this day... And you know what? I don't wanna turn into him. I guess I almost did, and it really didn't feel good realizing that. - … But what if you are? I mean, the right guy for her? - Oh's been more than two years now. And nothing. I don't know if...ahh, I don't know. - ? - Maybe we just lost it somewhere along the way... Maybe I don't deserve her anymore. Maybe... I didn't turn out to be the person I thought I would be, you understand? … That's why I understand what you're saying... I also feel like... Life just didn't turned out to be what I planned... I didn't turned out to be who I dreamed of becoming... - Hell, yeah... I know exactly what you mean - And... You and Marie are the last few good friends that I got left... And.... that's so fucking depressing: I know a ridiculous amount of people. It's actually pretty ridiculous, you know that – Eric was nodding - Here, in the States, in Europe, even in Brazil... And even with that, I don't have that many people I could call my true friends... And Katherine? I think she just got away. - Hmmm sorry to hear that man... - … But it's ok...It's all good. - So what are you going to do? - About what exactly? - I don't know, in general. You always knew what to do, man. Tom shrugged his shoulders - I have somethings going on... - For example? - It's complicated to tell, you know, but basically I'm just trying to see if I can create something bigger for myself... Get away from this life too - It wasn't like that that they got irritated with you last time? - Yeah...irritated is a nice word to put it – Tom smiled – But I'm prepared for that this time. I'm thinking about getting away from all of this if nothing comes out of me and Katherine in the next few months... Maybe I just need to change, you know? Go back to Brazil for a while... or just change jobs, I don't … I don't even know... - Hmm... So that's the plan? Stay in Montreal and fight them again? -... What options do I have, Eric? - Uaau, What options don’t you have, Tom? - … - Look Tom, I understand. I swear... - I don't think you fully do, Eric - …? - Eric - Arr....I can't just let them... -... win? Dude, every single minute that you lose in this game is one minute you could be being happy, doing what you really want to do... I know that I don't deal with my problems in the right way most of the time, dude. But sometimes you have to forget everything and just say “what the fuck?” … You want to destroy them, and there you are, still working with them, for them, it doesn’t matter... You are probably one of their greatest allies, do you realized that? You want to fuck with them? Like, really fuck with them? Quit man. Go be happy... Go fight for Katherine, but really fight for her...I don't know... It's been forever, as you just said it... And I know she loves you and that you guys deserve each other... Tom didn't say anything for a while. - I know, Eric...But after everything I did, what I fought... Being like kicked out of Montreal without anything...? You understand it? - Yeah, I do... But please don't put your pride in front of the people you love, and your own happiness... Look at me, Tom. You really think it’s worth it? Look at me, bro... They both stayed quiet for a while. - Look, Tom. You know why I truly am in Montreal. Truth is, for everything I ever needed you, you were there, like a brother. And I know you could be... happier. If it's in Montreal, with or without Katherine, or in Paris with us, it's completely up to you. But...well, now that I put this subject in the table in the worst possible way, let me try and sell you the idea, will ya? … As I told you, my dad wants to know if we have capital for that acquisition. I think the both of us, and if my parents borrow some money in the bank, we'll have it... And we could so use your help in Paris, man... - Eric... - Tom paused for a second – I don't have that kind of money available right now... I just checked it today. Eric stopped for a second too. - ...Well, it doesn't matter, man … We could definitely use your help in an insane way in Paris. You could help us with the festival, in the record studio... even on finding bands and artists for you to represent and work with. An obscene number of them are going to pass through us …And man...there you'll be with your family, man. We'll have each other’s back. Hm? Me, Marie, my siblings, my parents are there often, Mike... Jan, probably Liam and Jack are heading there in a couple of months...Maybe even Isabella... Come on man, you said yourself: All these people in the same city... You don't need them, Tom... Tom kept looking at the view. Then to Eric. Then to the view again... He took a couple of deep breaths and finally said: - I really wish I could go, Eric. I swear... Eric slowly nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders. - ...Me too, man, me too... But hey, if you ever need anything. I mean, ever... - Thanks man. You too... You know that, right? - Of course man. Relax... Tom and Eric partied that night like crazy: First they went to this Tom's friend's house who was having a get-together, with some twenty five people. They stayed there for a good while, talking to people they knew, or just making new friends. Then, they left this guy's house and as they were going to a club, Eric and Tom stopped by a strip club for twenty minutes because they actually wanted to say hi to a couple of strippers they knew to catch up a little bit. After leaving there, they decided to walk until the club which took a good energetic and exciting half an hour walk with them talking out loud, telling stories and jokes around downtown Montreal. As they got to this club, which had a huge line in front of it, Tom and Eric just passed in front of everyone and got in. Inside, Tom talked for a few moments with the staff he knew that were working there, and then they finally went upstairs where the party was really happening. Tom found a table with people he knew in less than two minutes inside that club. They just got some drinks (a juice, again, for Eric) and they went to sit with his so-said-friends. They enjoyed that club: The music, the drinks, and the girls. It was unbelievable the numbers of girls who would come up to talk to them. Tom went to dance for a bit, but Eric noticed he just wasn't in the mood that night: He danced a couple of songs and went back to the table. Eric on the other hand, saw himself making serious effort to not make out with any of the girls who were throwing themselves at him: It just didn't seem right, but damn it was not easy. Tom then went to talk with the DJ at some point, to say hi and (Eric would know after) to ask for a couple of songs, and during several times that night he ran into people he knew. But for once, they both noticed that they got really fed up pretty quickly. They decided to leave quite early, walk all the way back to Eric's hotel (Where Tom's car was parked) and grab a snack from this Chinese restaurant at two thirty in the morning, where they would just talk for a while after the party. Soon after, they would end up the night just like that. By the next day, Tom was incredibly busy during most of his day, so Eric decided to just relax for a while in Montreal. I mean, it is a good city to do so... When Eric called Tom several hours later, his friend said they could meet up in a couple of hours once he was done at the gym. The chillax feeling with which Eric had passed that day ended up getting to Tom, to the point that they spent the rest of the weekend trying to do other things to have fun: they played music, they had brunch with friends, they went to pubs, to a karaoke and in the last night Eric would be there, they made dinner in Tom's place for a bunch of people. That night, after everyone was gone, they went to Tom's terrace, and they kept drinking, eating and talking (mostly bullshit) for more a couple of hours. A couple of times, Katherine's name was mentioned in a pretty melancholic way, and Eric never knew what to do or to say. He never knew how to handle that couple. They didn't have great adventures or big parties this time, but it was very fun nevertheless. It got pretty clear to Eric that Tom wasn't really happy or focused though. And... with that on his mind, but being sure that Tom would find a way – Because Tom had always found a way – Eric got back to Paris after four days spent in Montreal where they had tried to cheer each other's up and catch up on each other's life. It would be ok. If there was one person in the world that knew how to handle himself, it was Tom. With this thought, Eric felt asleep on the plane back to Paris. On Tuesday, by the end of the day, everyone from the school team realized how hard it would be to make that festival happen. Everyone sort of realized at once, after a meeting, and the weight of that was something almost unbearable. Everyone who knew Tom got completely disappointed to learn that there was no chance at all that Tom would come to help them (That was actually probably one of the main reasons why almost everyone got that tense so quickly once Eric was back) They had around five months before the beginning of the festival, but most of the main decisions were being made those days. They emptied a couple of office rooms to make a big “headquarters” for the festival, and when they were not giving classes, having classes, helping on the trainings or answering questions, they were in that room, discussing the festival. As the time went by, dozens and dozens of files with songs started to arrive. There were short movies for the films competition, which were being selected by three couples, all movies critics. The photography competition was also being a problem: The professionals that were selecting were costing some big bucks. By the way, apparently nothing was going to be cheap. Not in Paris. Eric, who was not teaching classes, was spending most of his time in that headquarters or helping with the trainings and in the record studio that they were using, mostly for practices. They were running around looking for professionals to photograph and film the festival, and looking for places to make the t-shirts, cups, guitar picks and all kind of imaginable souvenirs to get sold and help with the revenue. Days were going by and there were several of them that were completely unproductive. Everyone was having headaches because of stress and lack of sleep, and because sometimes is just not that easy to spend day after day after day listening to loud music, especially when it was rock being played in the auditorium for that long. Sometimes they would just have to endure really bad music. They would have to listen to all of that, write their opinions so they could vote, and talk while the next band was getting ready to play. Jan, who was being an angel by working there, brought four friends to help them and they were working as much as they could as assistants, secretaries, salesman, drivers, with customer service, technicians on the stage, carrying things around, recording and taking pictures, moving boxes full of their products, or when they had to help to sell the tickets to the music instruments stores, bookstores, clothes stores, and also to bring back the money and taking the money of those transactions. But no one could ignore the fact that Mike and Marie were working like crazy, because they were doing all of that, and still giving classes, taking decisions, making sure everything was going as planned, and still had the school to administrate, making meetings, talking to students, journalists, parents... They barely had time to eat sometimes. They were getting more and more tired by the day. One day, Eric and Marie were devouring a subway sandwich when one assistant found them and said that there was a problem with something, somewhere. Their stomach just seemed to close and they had to run to see what they could do, without finishing half of their lunch. And that would happen more than just once in the months that followed. They had thirteen weeks now and they were already completely destroyed. Several weeks after coming back from Montreal, when everyone had already forgot the matter (they were so busy that they had just moved on with their plans) Tom reached out to Eric on his phone: - Hey Eric - Tom! How are you? - Eric was furiously writing things on papers and documents he had in front of him. - I'm good, I'm good... Listen, you guys could still use some help over there? Eric smiled, sat back, and almost felt relaxed for a second. - You have no idea, brother. You have no idea... - Great, because I'm arriving in Paris in four days. - Fuck man! Are you serious? - Yeah - Awesome man…. Awesome... I cannot believe it, honestly...How are things over there? - They are ok. Everything's gonna be fine, man. I just need to deal with some unfinished business tomorrow at my work, and then I'm done. - Bonne courage, my friend - Thanks... Hey, tell your dad we need to talk as soon as possible about that investment, ok? Eric smiled - Alright, I will... We'll see each other this weekend then. Just send me your flight information and we’ll go pick you up at the airport. - Sure, Yeah, that'd be cool - Alright, take care, man - Bye “Fuck Yeah. Finally the miracle we needed” - Eric, the people from the drama school gave the idea to make an improvisation competition. Theaters games, right, those kind of things... - What did Mike say about it? - He told me to talk to you, he's too busy - And Marie? - Busy... - Jan? - Also busy - Well, it’s not like I’m chilling around here, you know? - Yeah, I know, man... - Arr... Ok – Eric took a minute to breath and think - Well, we need to know how much that would cost... well, if anything at all right, and if we have time to fit this on the schedule for the auditorium. Then I'll talk to Mike when I see him. - Ok. - God's speed, ok? - Ok, ok... - Hey, Is the studio still full? - Yeah, they are still asking for you there... - Fuck, who's helping there now? - Benoit... I think Jan is coming and going too, and I guess Jules is there, I'm not sure... - K, I need a little more time here and as soon as I’m finished here I'll go check it out - Good - What about the auditorium? - Oh, people are getting into fights trying to use it, dude... - Ah, shit...ok, but who's there now? - Jan and a couple of his friends... But Jan is all over the place, so... I think Marie was there until … like... ten minutes ago... - Hmm, ok - Alright, I have to run - No problem - Good luck man - You too... - Hey man, two large cappuccinos... please - You got it, Eric - Thanks - One second Tic-toc-tic-toc - Voila...Here it goes - Thanks. Put it on my tab, please. - Got it - Latersss Eric eventually found where Marie was giving her class, knocked at the door and as she saw him and the cappuccinos, she gave a really honest and tired smile. She said something very quickly to the student she was teaching to, who just answered something back and then she left the room. - Heey... - She smiled at him and kissed him, outside from the student's view. - Hi, cappuccino? - Yeaah, I'll have it. She took a zip and tried to relax her shoulders: She stretched her neck and fingers. - How's it going in there? - Ah, teaching is the easiest part for me... - ...Hmmm - What about you? Running around a lot? - Nah... Come on. I’m actually hiding here for a while to be honest - Harsh... - What about the girl? - Eric made a head movement to indicate Marie's student - Ah, she's really nice. She gave me five minutes to talk to you... - Cool... Is she going to perform? - She wants to... she has her audition in a couple of days - Well, most of them are going to try anyways, right? - Yeah, for sure. They are all pretty excited... - Yeah, I can see that... Silence. Those cappuccinos seemed to be God's gift to mankind at that moment. - Can you hear that? It seems like we can’t get silence anymore these days. - I knooow....My thoughts seemed like they are being written in tabs now... - I knoow right. Or in excel files... - Eric - I guess we are a little bit short on people, aren’t we? - Well, ten or twelve … or twenty more people to help wouldn't hurt to be honest....I'll have to unload and load a couple of trucks that are arriving soon with more products to sell... But anyways, I guess we just don’t have any more money to spend - ...Yeah, well, at least we had a long night of sleep last night, right? - She smiled, being ironic - Sure, who needs more than five hours of sleep right? - Right... is not like I miss the times I could sleep in or anything like that... - Don’t even tell me. It seems I choose the worst time in history to start sleeping more again.... She smiled, as he asked: - … Hey, do you wanna go out for dinner tonight? - ...Yeah... Sure, that'd be awesome... Of course one assistant finally found them and interrupted the conversation. - Hey guys, sorry to bother....But the truck just got here and they are trying to update something in the financial files, Jean Luc told me he is looking for something for the drama school? - Yeah... - Eric took a deep breath – Ok, call everyone you can for the trucks, we need to finish that as soon as possible, we pay it by the hour... Then I guess we have to find someone to help with the financial files.... - And the studio? - Oh fuck... Never mind... I'll go there later. Tell that to Benoit. - Ok. He disappeared as fast as he had gotten there Eric finished his cup, gave Marie a quick kiss and shrugged his shoulder: - I guess I'll see you later - Ok. As he was walking away, and she was going back to the classroom, Eric turned around and asked: - Oh, yeah... I guess you heard about Tom? - YEAH! I did! Son of a bitch is coming! - She smiled He winked at her, she winked back and waved him goodbye. - Another meeting? Are you serious? - Yeah, I'm very serious, Eric – Mike looked exhausted - I had something planned with Marie... - Yeah, well, she'll have to stay too... And people still could use your help in the studio and in the auditorium...There's still three hours before the meeting, man. “Maaan, it's already seven, we've been here for almost eleven hours arms are destroyed...” But he never said anything. - You can ask Marie for help though. - Ok... Eric went to look for Marie and ended up finding her laying on a couch, in the room that the assistants for the ballroom dance school would use. She was fast asleep, probably hiding there, where they would take longer to find her. He felt the strongest compassion ever and actually felt happy that she was sleeping. He just gave her a kiss on her forehead and left to go to the studio, where he stayed for almost two hours training with some kids. When he was done, it was nine: He was feeling disgusting and starving, so he grabbed something to eat in a restaurant nearby and went for a shower. His whole body was trembling. Eric ended up going to see Marie again. Luckily, she was still sleeping. He laid down beside her and immediately fell asleep, but soon after they got awaken for the meeting. Mike's meeting would last more two hours. When they were finished, they were completely destroyed. Eric and Marie went to pick Tom up at the airport Sunday morning, and they took an empty car, because Tom warned them that he was bringing a lot of baggage. And he definitely wasn't lying. Three huge suitcases, two 'smaller ones’ and a backpack. - Wow, you weren't lying, Hun? - As they would all hug each other, smiling and happy for finally having Tom in Paris. - Ha! I told you, man... - Is that all? - Actually not, I have more three suitcases coming in a couple of days... - Ok, good good... When they were already in the car, heading to the hotel, Marie asked: - …..So Tom, tell us what happened for you to change your mind so quickly? - Hmm... I ended up changing my mind, that's all. Luckily some opportunities came up and this moving got ...easier. - He smiled, making a bit of suspense. - Oh yeah? - Yeah... long story, Marie. Loong story. But I'll tell you all about it at dinner, ok? Too serious for now. - Sure – Marie smiled - The important thing is that you guys know that I came to Paris, and that I'm gonna stay here for a while, I promise. - Greaat… We really missed you, man - Ahh, me too. I can't even believe I'm here with you guys. We're finally together in the same city... That's a bit weird, actually - I know, I thought I would never hang out with you both together – Marie smiled at them They kept making small talk for a good fifteen minutes, but at some point, Marie just had to ask: - And what about Katherine, Tom? - Ohh, the big question, eh? - Tom smiled at her – ...Truth is: I don't know, Marie... - What do you mean? - I don't know I guess. But as I told you, I'll tell you everything at dinner, so just hold your horses a bit, will ya? - Again, Tom smiled to Marie, and she laughed – Can you do that, reddie? - Ha, ok I'll try! - How long have you been waiting to ask me that? Marie just kept the smile on her face and eventually looked outside of the window. - So...Tom, what do you have in mind? I mean, you're not staying long in that hotel, right? - Well, I don't actually have a problem with that. It's a nice hotel, man - Nice? That's an amazing hotel, Ha! - Ha... But, yeah, I get your point though. Truth is I really don't mind. I want to find an awesome place to live here, I don't mind staying in a hotel until then... - Ok, then! - But apparently your place is pretty cool, hun? - It's amazing, and everyone is there, or living around, at least. - Cool - Yeah-p - And the school is nearby too? - By car, yeah. By bus or metro, I think Gustavo told me it takes a little while. - Ok, cool... Uau, I really missed this city... - Tom was looking through the windows, as Paris was passing by him. Eric and Marie wanted to catch up with Tom, especially with all the things he said “he would tell them at dinner”. What happened though is that they wouldn't be the only ones at dinner: Mike ended up going too, to talk about business and whatnot, and naturally Isa ended up going along. Gustavo went attached to his sister, and even Jan went without even being invited - Not that anyone minded their presence at all. Add to that perhaps more five or six of their friends... That's how things were happening in the last months: Where you'd see a small group of them gathering around, all of the others would get around in a flash... So what was supposed to be a simple dinner with three people, turned into a big dinner (almost a problem to fit them all in the restaurant, in the same table) They were all completely euphoric with Tom's arrival. The dinner was great and lasted a really long time: Happy, exciting. The group ended their night in a mansion, where there was this huge party going on, hosted by these friends Isadora and Marie just happened to have in common. Tom naturally met dozens of people that night, and even ran into people he knew. Everyone got impressed with his social skills, dance skills and his presence; the only exception was Eric that already had partied with him dozens of times. The guy even got the control of the music for almost half an hour and the music he decide to put was insane – The party went completely wild. By the end of the night, which was over pretty early because they all had things to do early in the morning on the next day, probably everyone in that party knew who Tom was. On his first Monday in Paris, Tom sat down to talk with Mike, Eric, and Marie about the school and the festival for a couple of hours, first thing in the morning. He had barely arrived and he was already working, helping wherever he could, doing whatever he could. And Tom really knows how to work hard. “Enjoying Paris was going to stay for the future” he said. After only two days, he was already completely immersed and fully aware of everything that was happening: he knew who was who and who was responsible for what, and it was decided that he would focus his time and efforts in the recording studios and helping at the auditorium. Even though his specialty was in the organization of events (he was one of the best of the best in that), everyone agreed that those were the most sensible parts at the moment (they were desperate about it, actually) and that would put Tom close to several bands, artists and students: That way he would also get something for him. Also, he had said he didn't actually want to work in the organization at that moment and Eric just figured he probably really just wanted a break from all of that. In past times, Eric knew Tom would have been the head of the organization, probably even investing his own money on it and making a lot of profit out of it. But those were different times, and Eric hadn't realized that yet. Here's a couple of things that you need to know about Tom: As you already know, Tom and Eric come from way back. It was Tom who really started Eric's career, when no one else was putting that much faith on his band. Tom saw potential, he gave a little guidance and Eric's band soon enough was touring around North America, and then basically around the world. Especially because of that, Eric ended up creating a fierce loyalty to Tom, as it worked on both ways, because having found Eric's band was also one of the “first break-through” of Tom's career. It was thanks to Tom that Eric really became fluent in French, a language that Eric had always enjoyed and loved: Eric eventually spent some time in Montreal with Tom, years and years before, and that was the last thing he needed to get comfortable with his French. Only because of Tom that Eric have met Marie. As if it wasn't enough, it was Tom who made possible the creation of the Company which, he, Eric and Eric's parents owned. Tom also has a very interesting story that certainly deserves to be told more deeply one day, and he also has a very interesting perspective of everything that happened to Eric and all those people. As you know, perspective is a powerful weapon when it comes to telling a story. Since Eric could remember, Tom would inspire an absurd confidence wherever he went, and on top of that he had a really strong personal image that would make people get jealous of: Tom was extremely (insanely) fit. Besides being a workaholic, Tom had been training and working out practically every single day for years: Gym, jogging, parkour, boxing, circus techniques, acrobatics, yoga, self-defense techniques, you name it. He even tried cross fit for a while, but he didn't enjoy getting so bulked up, because he always were a lean-fit kind of guy, and he said that that would interfere with his dancing. Oh, yeah, Tom was also an incredible dancer. So there's that. Successful at his career, charismatic, incredibly smart and knowledgeable, rich by his own merits, having travelled a bunch, multilingual, knowing so many people that it was insane... Even Marie's father had him in great respect. He was one of the best in what he did, which (you may be wondering) was basically everything about the music business, and with all his talent, hard work and contacts, he had made a reputation and a small fortune for himself during the last years. He was a bit older than all of them, being almost twenty-nine years old at that time, and everyone knew that he was the definition of a workaholic. He was just insane. He was one of those people that are just achievers, champions: With so much energy, talent, charm and strength you wouldn't doubt a word he would tell you, and you'd bet he could do anything he would put his mind into. That was him. … Now he was in Paris with them, and that’s what came next: Madness. Tom's presence changed the pace completely. It became insane. No one else could have say things could've gotten more intense, but they did. Especially because now things were finally getting done. He was in direct contact with everyone: a couple of groups have been created among some students for the festival, he was helping with the trainings, both on the auditorium and on the studio, and all students created a huge respect for Tom in a matter of days. He was looking carefully into the selection process: he was even helping some bands that people thought were not good enough: After spending a little bit of time with them in the studio (giving them some tips, advices and actually changing some things a bit when necessary) some bands presented an incredible improvement: They just needed a little bit of training with someone that knew how to get the best out of them. As everyone wanted to be at that festival, the candidates list was getting longer and longer, and because the time they had was pretty much limited, they really had to select who would be able to perform. Not at all an easy task: They started to reduce the time for each band, so more bands could play. All of that so they could include the maximum of bands and artists as possible. But a selection is a selection, and unfortunately eventually they had to start cutting names from the list like crazy. As he was working like that, Tom had several things he had to do, and was trying to fit it all on his routine. One of the things is that he was looking for a place to live, and even with all the details and requirements that he had already given to the people who were looking for places for him, he still had to waste his time by going to visit some places that he would've never accepted: In less than two minutes he was out of several options. He eventually found an old lady that looked extremely professional, discrete and efficient: They talked for a good time, she showed him pictures to have an idea what he was looking for and then she was gone for almost ten days. During all that time, Marie nevertheless became his faithful companion in that task and whenever she could, she would go with him to visit the places. The two of them had always had fun together and they didn’t need much to have several pleasant moments together: It has been, after all, ages that they didn’t see each other, and anything that they were doing those days, like visiting apartments, having a coffee, grabbing a snack together; was easily turned into a small fun moment for them. Tom and Marie, by the way, also knew each other for several years now and they always had a very open and comfortable relationship: no problem in talking, laughing, or just being stupid around each other. They might be the only people in the world with whom they would behave like that: Marie and Eric loved each other very much, but they definitely didn't have this kind of relationship, as either had Tom and Kat-.... well, it has been years already, anyways. After all those wasteful visits, the old lady finally got in contact again and as soon as Marie and Tom had put their feet in that loft and saw the view of the city, they knew it was the perfect loft for Tom: Near the music school, very high ceiling, and the building had everything he could've wished for: gym, swimming pool, sauna, cinema room, a game room, a party room (on a terrace with a living room ,a kitchen and a dining room). The apartment was completely furnished (including a huge tv screen in the living room) which was perfect for him, and with Marie's clear approval he decided to get it right away: he paid all the old lady super expensive fees for her impeccable work (I mean, she got it right in the first visit and Tom had always respected hard work and talent like that), six months of rent in advance, with all the caution fees and the other sort of administrative fees paid for the apartment. Also, as soon as Eric and Tom sat down to discuss business with Eric's father, his assistant and a couple of directors from their company, they decided to make that huge investment that Eric's dad had been putting pressure on them to happen. Eric didn't know how, but apparently Tom had put his hands on all the money they needed since the last time they've talked. Just like that, the deal was done. Yeah, that was Tom. - Hey! Where are you going, Eric? - To have lunch with my brother... - But man.... - I know, I know... sorry! I'll be back soon.... - I’m serious man, the situation there is kind of fucked up right now... - Hmm - I’m not teaching any classes, so I'm like all the time just having to deal with problems and problems, and they look like they are appearing from the ground these days… - Uau... - And yeah, I now that they are pretty tired from teaching classes too. Luckily we have Tom to help now... But anyways, I thought I could skip a couple of hours to come and have some lunch with my bro-zie - Cool... Gustavo was still listening, but it's been a while he was not paying attention anymore. - So, what do you wanna do? - Ahn? I don’t mind... - … Hey, what’s up dude? - Ahn… Not much... Girl problems, school problems... - Hmmm... Shit. They really know how to mess with us, Hun? - Yeah, no shit... But sorry, dude, you were talking about the school. It’s getting too close, is that it? - Yeah... and we could definitely use some more help - Hmm... Why don't you call Jack and Liam, maybe Alice to help? Maybe some of your former roadies... I can only help after school's done. Mike's order... - Yeah, it’s an idea. But we don’t have much money left... - Hmm... Mike is kind screwed right? - Yeah...since the beginning he's trying too hard without much prepare I guess. Dad said that, but I thought he was just being dad, you know.... I guess we're indeed playing with fire. And to think it was my idea... - Yeah, I see.... Well, I’m pretty sure Mike has the heart on it...I guess he's trying to prove a point you know. - Hmm? That he can do it? - Hmmm... that he's something without you, without the band....He's not a guy that need to be on the spot light, but I guess he does wants to prove himself to everyone around him a bit.... - Hmmmm – Eric didn’t say anything, but it made sense to him - ...So, enjoyed your food? - Yeah, yeah... So you want to do something? - Sure, what do you have in mind? - Hmm I guess we could go meet some of my friends - Yeah...sure, for a bit, I have to go back to the school soon. - Hmm working guy, who would've thought hun... - Yeah....I don’t know, I guess it makes me feel badly being here without doing much knowing they are dying over there... - I guess...but they have your number, right? - Yeah, but it’s off. I had to turn it off, it was driving me crazy man. - Hmm I see.... But hey, tell me, you can get me and my girl in the backstage, the VIP rooms, and whatnot, right? Eric laughed - Yeah I can... - Awesome...With the amount of awesome bands you guys got, I’m gonna get infinite points with my girl – Gustavo smiled - Ah, cuz being my brother is not good enough right? - I know right, what a sucker - Me? - Pff, yeah... Fifteen minutes later, Gustavo called someone and set a place to meet his friends. - Shaall we? - Yeap Eric took Gustavo with Mike's car until a place near the quartier Latin. There were four girls and two guys waiting for him. Eric soon noticed that Gustavo was some kind of light in that group: Girls couldn’t stop looking at him and the guys were trying to make conversation with him, as if that would help them to get a bit of the attention he received from the girls. No one even seemed to notice Eric. Eric quickly understood he was completely out of that group and just decided to go back to the school. As soon as he got there, he went to tried to talk to Marie, but she was too busy. That day, they would only be able to talk to each other on the ride home. They invited Tom to have dinner with them and he agreed, but he said he needed a couple of hours to work out before joining them. They all had dinner together pretty late and it was pretty fun and chill, but once again, everyone seemed to be destroyed, Tom as one of the exceptions. Marie was now officially living with them, Jan was also there basically every night on their couch and Eric wouldn’t skip one more minute of work after that. `Hey Eric` `Alice! ` `What's up dude? How you doing??` `Not much, but I’m great, thanks. You? ` `Cool! I’m good! ` `How are things going down there? ` `Everything's great, what about up there? :) ` `Madness :P ` `Ah, great... ` Five minutes without any replies. `You're not gonna accept coming here, for sure? Gustavo just asked me yesterday about you` Ten minutes without any replies. `Ahh, what the hell, right? :) ` Eric felt his stomach turned inside out with a really good feeling. He read her message once again to be sure that that was real. `Right?! … Are you fucking serious? ` `Yeah-p, if you're still willing to help me... ` `Yeey! For sure! When could you be here? ` `Well, maybe in a week... `When could you be here? ` - Eric repeated the question `I just finished my last exam...that's why I'm kinda... you know, soo happy... So, technically, I could be leaving after tomorrow :) `Ok, hold there, I'll send you your flight ticket in a sec :) Just send me your complete info` `Flight ticket? Are you serious? I thought you would send me your personal plane, you know... I expected more from you, dude :P Here you go though (...) ` `AAAdorable. Give me five minutes. ` `First class at least? ` ` …. Aaai ai, still funny ` Ok, ok... I'll take business class` Ten minutes later `Cool, just sent you your confirmation and everything to your e-mail... You're coming with the suitcases... ` ` Ahhh not again :( Its cold down there, Eric.... ` ` Haha :P ` ` :( ` Two minutes later ` TOMORROW? :O WTF ERIC ` ` haha :) Hope you can pack your bags fast enough :P ` ` SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT.... Fuuuck man. My parents are gonna freak out. I'm gonna freak out... I'm freaking out already... ` ` … Have a safe flight Alice ; ) ` ` OMG OMG OMG.... Fuck..... :D see you soon! …. Thanks, for real, Eric! ` You're welcome. Do you want me to pick you up at the airport? ` ` Ah, you're super busy already` ` I don't mind :) ` ` Well, let me talk to my aunt first, she might insist to go pick me up, otherwise I'll let you now in a couple of hours... :) ` `OK! :) ` “Hey man, before we see each other again, let me just say I miss you... like, a lot. I miss our time together, as I already told you, more than once. Honestly, meeting you was one of the coolest things ever in my life... You're a fucking great person and you should know it: You should realize that, and stop being ashamed of having a big heart. The time we spent together was amazing and I do miss it. I miss St Jean de Luz, I miss Biarritz, I miss your family, I miss Mike, I miss Paris, my family there, and I do miss you... Please don't get me wrong: I'm really really happy that you're happy, healthy, sleeping better and able to start and express yourself, like in the letters you're wrote to me these last months. Aand I'm even really happy that you have Marie around again. I really am, for my own surprise. I just wish I could be there. I wish I could be doing something with my life, with you guys, something worth my time. Instead I'm stuck with blank pages everywhere, or incomplete pieces of work that are just not that good: Incomplete stories. Some of them that are about to celebrate their fifth birthday. I just wish I could be as awesome as you guys are. I think that is what was pretty much affecting me. I know I'm pretty young and I know how stupid this will sound, but time is indeed passing. And life doesn't give you anything just because time is passing... Actually, it just takes things away from you. I know It sounds dramatic, but when you're twenty-two and you've known since you're twelve what you wanna do with your life, you can't avoid wondering: `Where is the time going?` and `Am I closer to reach my dreams or what ?` You see what I'm saying? I also know we are always conditioned to blame our parents, our friends, the economy, our teachers, our country... But it comes to a point where you just have to face it: Your dreams aren't reality yet mostly because of you. And that's terrifying, isn't it? ...You told me a couple of times that you pretty much don't have dreams, don't have plans. Is that completely true? Or do you dream about being a magician in Vegas and you think no one would understand? I just would like to know. My dreams seemed to be suffocating me lately... I don't know what to do, man. I've been meditating like a monk and I can't seem to fight my anxiety these days. Can you imagine, me, anxious? Sad, isn't it? I guess I'm sorry about this letter, but it was the only thing I was able to put on a paper in the last two weeks... I swear to god I’m having nightmares about a blank page and a ticking clock by my side. Anyways, keep sending me news; it’s always good to hear from you. Alice Martins” Alice's arrival brought upon everyone almost the same feeling as Tom’s, weeks before – It started a new chapter in Paris for them. Every time someone would get there in the weeks that followed, the feelings would always be the same of receiving reinforcements in the middle of a war: Hope, relief, happiness. She was very happy to go back to Paris and to see Eric and everyone else, her aunt and uncle and their friends. As soon as she got there, she volunteered herself to work on the school with everything she could. She got the plane ticket from Eric, roof and food from her family in Paris, so she didn’t mind at all not getting a penny out of that trip. She was back in Paris, with all those guys and family, speaking French again and that was all that counted for her. Obviously, there was some moments that could have become very awkward with her arrival: The moment that she and Eric saw each other again at the school, and when she finally met Marie, for example. But it took only a couple of days for them to notice that her relationship with Eric had clearly changed with all the letters they had exchanged. So, surprisingly, things went well. Probably also something to do with the fact that Alice had promised herself to never get in the middle of a couple. That's how things were going to be, and in the same way Tom and Marie had their friendship; Alice and Eric also developed something similar: A true friendship. As the weeks went by, everything started to fall into place: Marie and Alice even became good friends (That was incredible weird and hard for Eric to accept at first) and she would even join the dinners at their places a couple of times. Alice soon enough got used to the madness that was going on, including the long days of work, the dinners together, the meetings, the parties ( that were getting rarer as the festival was approaching, but still) and all those people running around, sometimes to the verge of going insane in that school. She was trying to help with everything she could, but eventually she was focusing more with the media situation: Working on the cultural center and festival's websites, taking care of the social media presence, answering e-mails, calling people, trying to divulgate the festival, talking to journalists and so it went. It was undeniably so much fun though, and everyone knew something special was going on in their lives at that point. Time kept passing by and the festival was coming faster and faster in their direction. Less than two weeks after Eric and Gustavo's conversation, Liam and Jack (and two of their friends from San Francisco) were in Paris, helping them. Alice also had a friend from Paris that decided he could help a bit, and even Lucy (from London) said she would be able to give them a hand for a couple of days before the festival, and she would try to find a couple of friends to bring with her too. The friends from San Francisco just asked for food and full access to the festival. The pact with Alice was a bit different: She wanted to write about Eric's life. That would be her payment. It was a proposition from a long time before, which finally became official: He wanted to help her. It would have to be in Brazil, though. Eric had to think about it for a while, but ended up accepting it, knowing that it was probably time to go back there and see how things were. He was feeling that city calling him. The wind had finally started to change. Differently from Tom and Alice, it took some time to put the rest of them updated with everything that was happening, especially because the ones from San Francisco didn't know any French at all. Eventually the work started to get done, but it was just chaotic in the first days. On most of the time, actually. Now there was a lot of people to work, but also a lot of people to complain, talk and give “advices” on how things should be done. Tom knew how to handle his part, but after almost going crazy, (and a couple of other people too) Mike made a meeting where he let some things very, very clear to everyone, and after that, things started to get smoother. The second part of the artists’ selection was almost over, and everything was going fine. For real. Tom was making miracles on that side, and everyone was starting to get excited and even a bit more relaxed. The rest of the organization and the financial department though, was a becoming a complete mess as the pressure was getting stronger. One random day, Eric met this guy, an extremely talented lead singer actually, who was only twenty five years old, and that was auditioning for the festival. The guy had two kids, with two different women, in two different marriages that had failed. He worked like crazy as a therapist, after finally being able to graduate, to try to provide for their family, specially his daughter, who was sick. He said he would have loved to get on the road one day, but now his biggest dream was only to see his daughter grow up, and be able to afford a better treatment for her over the next few years. Eric got extremely shocked: so much talent and so many chains he had gotten for himself. He could have had it all, and now he was embarrassed to say he had never left France before. He was extremely melancholic on his advice: - Hey, just enjoy it for the people that can't... That guy loved his kids. He had drugs problems, problems with the police, with his family, with women… But never with his kids. He was singing for his kids. Twenty five years old. The first kid when he was eighteen and the second when he was twenty two. That was his life. His life. When he left, Eric actually went to talk to Marie about him. His story was echoing on Eric's mind for a long time, which actually left him paralyzed over the whole situation. Apart from that, everything looked fine, with everyone. … Until the day Mike told Tom, Eric and Marie that he had to make another loan to afford to keep paying his share of the festival. “That's it, guys, they told me that's it. I can't get a single more penny. I even owe money to my parents now.” Eric and Marie tried to cheer him up, saying things would work out. Tom didn't say much. . Mike tried to keep it cool for the rest of the day, but as they went home and sat down to have a nice dinner together, even though nobody else knew exactly what was going on, that dinner, with all those people, was dead quiet and heavy. They had a bit less than four weeks now. Isadora held Mike to sleep. Bills, Bills and Bills to pay Trainings, Trainings and Trainings Meetings, physical strength, tiredness, doubts. Classes, students, parents, friends, journalists, payments, snacks, lifts, stage practices and trainings. Phone calls, e-mails, letters, change of plans, unpredictable days, running around, more meetings, arguments, creation, covers, changes, illumination, technical problems, orders, help! Exhaustion, music, effort, ideas, unloading and loading trucks, quick kisses, exhausted looks, very early in the morning, very late at night, jokes, hugs, coffee, coffee... Coffee! Dark circles under their eyes, migraines, vestments, discounts, bruises, anxiousness, pride, cramps, injuries. Sweat. Stress. Stress. Time....Time....Time.... Not many days to come now. The big march of humanity was in course. - So, what I meant is that we are ready, guys. You guys are ready and the festival is ready to start. It's starting the day after tomorrow, and as you know, we won't give any classes tomorrow. Next week, the studio is gonna be close, and only some classes will occur, depending on the teachers. We won't be actually talking to each other that much in the next days and I'd like to wish you all good luck. - Mike finished his little speech and for the first time in months, he closed the school pretty early. Tom, Mike, Isadora, Eric, Marie, Jack, Liam, Gustavo and a couple of his friends, Alice and a couple of her friends, the friends from San Francisco (who were finally trying to speak a bit of French) Jan and his friend - five of them - four teachers and three assistants from the school, Lucy and a couple of her friends from London who were in Paris already, they all went to have dinner together in a quiet restaurant....They had to reserve the whole place for them. It was excellent: They were completely exhausted and starving. They took forever to eat, drink and eventually leave the restaurant almost three and a half hours later. It had been months they didn't have a meal without having to take track of time. Most of them started to wander around together until they reached the Seine, while it was getting dark. Everyone was really optimistic and shining, happy for just being together at that moment, making some history together. At some point Eric took Marie's hand and went with her to a place by the Seine. It was a particularly beautiful night. Eric saw this little boat with only one person, and he took Marie on its direction. They got on on it, sat down on the very pretty and comfortable white little couch and they then enjoyed the night ride on the Seine, with the Eiffel tower completely enlightened as their view. Marie was extremely anxious about the festival – So many things she would like to check, remake, be sure that would work, students she would like to talk to – but Eric just tried to calm her down. They talked for a long time and were almost hugging each other. When they finally got home, hours later, they basically passed out for thirteen hours. That next day would pass by very slowly. - Hi dad... - Hey you, how are you? - Then Mr. Montini acknowledged Eric's presence - Eric... - Sir... Only the three of them would be having dinner that night. - So, how are things going? - They...they are great actually - I can see you are a little bit tired... - Oh yeah, for sure... - Well... I know everything will work out fine - Thanks, dad - You're welcome. I just spoke to your aunt today, Marie. It seems like she has more news from you than the rest of us these days... - Yeah...I guess that can happen sometimes... - She gave him a quick and short smile - News from everyone? - Well... Not much, they seem to be good. I told them about your projects, they seemed pretty excited about it. - Yeaah I know...they showed up at the school one of these days, but I was so busy I barely gave them much attention, unfortunately. We did talk for ...hmm …. Ten minutes I guess... - ... Yeah, they told me that too, don’t worry, they understood... So hmm, I'm definitely going to be there to check all your concerts and presentations. Hope you don’t mind... - Of course, I saw your name as a reservation for one of the private booths... The big one, hun? - She smiled at him - Of course, I don't mind... - Yeah, with Eric's family. Mike's family and everyone else that decided to come – He smiled – It’s gonna be a nice party I guess. - … It seems like it. Even my uncle and my manager are coming from the states. - Eric - Oh nice - Yeah...well, I’m really happy that you're going, dad. - Well, I'm really proud on going Marie smiled to her father, as he asked: - So....all you guys are living together now, hun? - Yeah, yeah - And how's that experience going? - Hmm, most of the time, is pretty good - And you said it was a really nice apartment, right? - Yeah, it is. Very comfortable and… Big, actually. A lot of natural light and whatnot... It's really nice. Really cool view. - I understand you, Marie - Buut? - No ‘but’, I just wanted to say I get it - Hmm....great...? - She wasn't convinced Frederic's phone rang, he answered it with a few words and passed it to Marie - Aham, aham. Now? But I'm... no, I can't go now... - Marie - What's happening? - Frederic - Beatrice wants me to go pick her up at her place so she can join us. Apparently she needs help on what to wear... - Well...go then – Her father - But....what about you guys? - Well, I’m sure Eric can make me company for ten minutes. We're not far from her place. Eric got surprised. Marie, astonished. - Ahn, ok ok...In five minutes I’m there. Alright... See you guys in a minute then - And she left “Awesome I’m alone with him and two of his bodyguards” Absolute silence on the table Eric was uncomfortable, just wishing Marie could come back soon. But her dad looked deep into his eyes and eventually just said: - You know Eric, my daughter changed a lot after she met you. Eric agreed with his head. He had an idea of what was coming next - I can't say I'm proud and that I understand every single decision she took since... - He stayed quiet for a second, took a deep breath and said – And I'm not one hundred percent sure of the path her life's taking... Another moment of silence - … But I am very proud of the person she's become. And I guess if the price for that is that we are not always going to agree with each other... so be it, you understand? Because, after a long time, I can finally see my daughter through her eyes, you understand that? Share her happiness and discover how strong my daughter is... Eric, I was very worried about her, for a long time. But now I'm seeing that she knows how to take care of herself... She's still learning, slowly, but very intensely. ... And I know it’s your fault most of the bad things that happened to her in the last months. I know. But I also know that you care about her... And I really appreciate what you did for her, Eric, making her come home. I never thought I'd be saying this, but I guess time passed, and things are just falling into place. Now I have this daughter that suddenly amazes me with her strength... She's not living in a bubble anymore. - Mr. Montini I appreciate the effort you're doing on telling me this. I really do. But I'd like to say something too, before you can avoid my complete honesty. - Eric had no idea where that was coming from - … Sure - Well...You know that is practically impossible for Marie make as much money as you. We get that. But that's not her dream, sir. It's not mine... You guys want us to manage things that are not ours, so...I don't know, you can die in peace knowing that financially we are always gonna be ok. But that's not all that there is out there, and you know that. This is based solely in fear, wanting to have security at any price, lack of trust on people... Honestly, I never saw your daughter, or any of the people around me, so happy and as strong as in the lasts months, where we were working like crazy, without any certainty if this whole thing is working out or not... But in our way, the way we like to do things. And I get it, our generation sucks big time, trust me, I get that part. But you do need to put a bit more of faith on us sometimes, you know. Marie definitely deserves it, sir. I know you've been trying, I just wanted to tell you what I think about this whole thing... They were in complete silence for a while Marie's father sat back on his chair. Eric was not sure if he was mad or not. - But don't worry, we also have our dreams and ambitious, Mr. Montini, as you had. And I can guarantee you that starve to death is not among them... Actually, I can say that we both enjoy having money...but you know, in our own....terms. Mr. Montini nodded to one of the bodyguards that was on a table nearby, the same gesture that mafia guys usually make in movies when they are about to execute someone. Jez, I swear to you, that Man could've given the perfect Mafia boss in a movie. The bodyguard gave Mr. Montini a small box that was in his pocket. He opened it. It was a knife. - You know what's this? - Hmm... A warning? - Eric smiled, trying to be funny. - ... No – He actually almost laughed - it’s a legitimate Laguiolle. One of the first. Family stuff. Today is probably worth a really good amount of money... Here, Eric... It's a gift. I feel like giving it to you for a while now... If one day we need it, it would be a fair fight, at least – It was his turn to smile now. - Me and you? - Eric smiled - Nooo, no... I meant you and my best friend here … - He looked at the bodyguard by his side, a huge black guy, strong as humanly possible. The bodyguard looked at Eric and smiled in a very cynic way. - Yeah, totally fair I guess - ... It could be worse, my friend.... Anyways, what could have been said about the festival? Hundreds of details, probably. It was another insane moment, tiring, fast...and magical. Some sort of magical moment on their memories. Mike was encouraging the young people while they were waiting to perform, and during the whole festival, there were some amazing songs being played. To watch all of that happening from the back stages or from the private booths, knowing that you helped to organize it, it was simply incredible. Without bigger problems, the festival happened, and they've met dozens and dozens of people. It was actually unexplainable what truly happened during those days. Eric's family, Marie's, Mike's and from everyone from the band, Jan's friends from all over Europe, Alice's family from France... They were all there, watching their work, watching the performances, being witnesses of their story. Vows were made. As were recordings and pictures, Sweat, and anxiousness. Relief. It was a week of growing anxiety because of the last day of the festival, the day with Eric's band and the other main four bands that were going to play. There were musicians that went crazy on stage and some others that were playing as classy as possible: They saw performances for every kind of taste. It was daily on the newspapers as it was happening: T-shirts getting sold, pin-ups and other souvenirs sold, parties and after-parties completely packed. Total success was happening. On the last day, Eric was so full of energy to play that he was the one that went the craziest on stage. He was looking for Mike by his side and was truly happy: after all, it has been more than a year since the last show they had played together and they also knew that that was kind of a farewell that they never had the chance of making. When Marie got on stage, the crowd went crazy screaming her name. It was by far, one of the best concerts Eric's band had ever played. A guy in the crowd who was on top of his friend's shoulders had a Brazilian flag and was swinging it and pointing to Eric, smiling and singing. They knew. They were waiting for him. Even there, Marie smiled at him and he smiled back. By the end, with the most popular songs and with the crowd singing along, almost fifty students went on stage to start singing too, which was completely unexpected. Eric knew that that moment was a unique moment on his life, and what he felt during that time, he probably will never be able to express. He had tears wanting to fall down. There were pictures being shown behind them, the story of the people from the band, very old pictures, very silly pictures, pictures that touched them way more than they could've ever imagined – Isadora’s idea, as they would later find out. When they were finally done, they were completely sweated out, feeling light as feathers. Marie was shining and hugged Eric. Eric hugged Mike, then everyone hugged the three of them, at the same time. Even who were not supposed to be on stage at that point, like Isadora, Gustavo and Alice. Jan and Tom were also there, because they had played a couple of songs with them. They all hugged each other and kissed each other and screamed at each other. The crowd was screaming their names during minutes and even from the backstage, the noise was unbelievable. They even decided to play a bit more out of that. They were laughing, from the bottom of their hearts, in peace. Eric gave the most honest hug on Mike and they called each other by the hardest and silliest swears in the world, laughing. It was almost the end. When they finally left the stage, Taylor's band went to talk to them before their turn to say how good their concert had been. Taylor made a quick comment on the microphone when she finally had a chance, about how they were going to try to keep the level of the festival after that presentation. Everybody felt completely proud of that moment. Taylor's band was also flawless. Every single presentation that night was unbelievably good. But after that night, they all knew that Eric's band would never be the same. They were immortals now. As a journalist would write, in the days that followed: “...After all that, I can only define it as an unforgettable festival, with very talented artists and the presence of celebrities that offered concerts rarely seen. Completely packed, one of the best parts of the evening was the uprisal of the producers's band, Mike O'Connor, Eric Meirelles and Marie Montini, who offered an exceptional concert, showing their pure talent and incredible energy on stage. Other artists were also very good surprises, such as the young... (...)” - Perfect! On the days that followed, the only thing people were doing was sleeping. Mike and Marie had to hire a bit more of help to keep the school going in their absence, and they ordered that all the finances should be processed as soon as possible. Instead of working thirteen hours a day, they were now just giving a bit of support for less than two: after all, there was still a lot to be organized. They had a couple of really big dinners , first with their friend's bands – Taylor's and Chad's-for which they had to once again make a reservation for the whole place, and even like that they still had a bit of problem to fit everyone on the same restaurant. A day later, they had another one, on a bigger place, with their families and friends, and everyone that could've possibly had a reason to be there. It was some good days that followed: To end that phase, they did a party at the school The festival was now over, with mostly excellent critics, and they were trying to rest and be ready to go back to work once that week was over. Tom decided to use that time to travel a bit. In all that momentum and with all that optimism that everyone was feeling, the world seemed perfect: It was just a matter of checking how much money they had made exactly, luckily it would be a small fortune and the world would be theirs. But then they finally found out in a meeting: They felt like the world was going to crash over their heads. - No! No! NO! - That's not possible! - What the fuck? - Mike? - What now Mike? - God... - Fuck... - I can't believe it. No one was understanding exactly what was going on and everyone had started to feel a huge despair on their guts, because whatever it was, it was just too bad to process. Fact is, when they sat down to settle everything on the financial department, the company that helped to process the accountability actually had to send an employee to explain what happened. The profit was basically... not much. Not much at all. They barely had a profit to be honest. Jacques, the “financial director”, had disappeared from the face of the earth with a big amount of their money. They barely had a profit, and they would still have to share it among everyone that invested on it. Mike seemed to be just in shock: He had made an unspeakable debt to make it all happen, and he was depending heavily on this profit to get back on his feet. - We're were stupid, Isabella. - Yeah.... - She agreed, without moving her eyes from the dozens of papers in front of her that she was analyzing. She was now in Paris, and even Lucas went there too. Tom actually decided to come back sooner than he planned to try and give some... support to that entire crowd that was completely lost. In reality, all of that had become a secret of State: No one knew anything. Only the closest people and the highest ranks knew what happened and even less people knew exactly and how big the problem was. - You guys were too naive... Naive and fools...these financial documents are a mess, Eric. Eric kept looking at her. He had no idea what to say. - You guys basically gave almost all the financial responsibilities to one single guy to handle the festival and the school... You guys tried to save money on people and, in this area, that's complicated. I guess it would be a bit hard to see, but it was no master plan either man... It's kind of obvious that it was super overpriced here...and here, you see? These prices are absurd, even in Paris, man. And see how the prices jumped when you guys had to change some plans, like here....and here? It was probably supposed to get a bit cheaper, I mean, the unitary cost and all, probably discount here...and here... And it went extremely high; you guys seriously never questioned this kind of thing? Like, nobody ever looked at these papers before? Fuck … I know you guys put a bunch of volunteers to help, but apparently they had no freaking idea of what was going on.... - A moment later, with a very fatalistic voice she finally said: You guys are not gonna get this money back, forget it. I mean, especially if the guy just ran away from the country like it seems he did... Also, see, here? The bastard put a three hundred dollar dinner on the company's credit card... Here, he bought a watch, man.... Seriously, man... - ...Yeah.... Well, we tried to save some money with personal, and now we lost seventy five percent of our profits. I guess we made mistakes too...but fuck... After all that, to get almost nothing... Mike got fucking drowned in debts to make it happen... Silence. Lucas finally said something: -... You guys trusted him, Eric. You did something awesome...but in a very simple, and unexperienced way, trusting people. It was fantastic. Don't blame yourself if a son of a bitch didn't share your dream – He was visibly tired, trying to smile. - Yeah, but that doesn't change shit... - Of course it does... - ? - You guys didn't lose money, right? Even made a little bit... Get organized, get your head up. Next year you guys will make another one, even bigger, with more experience... I don't know man. Just don't let anyone put your heads down... You'll have to be strong now, that's the only option here. Especially for Mike. He's gonna need you guys now. For real.... -... Fuck man... I’m so tired. Mike is bad, like really really bad. I think he was expecting a lot of money out of it...just look at all the debts he made to make it possible. I honestly think that he got completely screwed.... More than anyone else. I mean, I don't give a shit about not making money out of it... but for him... You know.... Lucas touched his own hair and caressed his wheelchair. He was thinking of something, but then he shook his head and came back to reality. - I don't know what to say man. You guys are gonna have to be really strong to take some difficult decisions on the next days... And Mike will have to check out how much debt he's still going to be left with after getting his part, and what he's gonna do about it... A morbid silence was above their heads. No one knew what to say, so Tom took the initiative: - Alright guys, I know it’s hard, but we need to be objectives if we want to find a solution... Mike took a deep breath a couple of times, and everyone was expecting him to say something. He never did. Tom insisted: - Mike? - ...I don't know what to say, Tom... - Right... Ok, start by telling me what exactly happened. With all the details, please. - The festival barely made us any money. Basically that's it. - Ok... but you didn't lose money right? What about the good prices we were able to negotiate with Taylor's and Chad's bands? - Yeah, anyways.... We paid everything. But with Jacques.... and some of our own mistakes, I’m not gonna lie, the profit didn't show up. Paying Marie and Eric's part, and the Dance Company's part, and cleaning and putting everything back to normal.... it's nothing. Jacques put a bunch of bills to be collected after the show, and he faked some documents, and....Ahh... - Hmm... - So what? - Tom - So what that I’m screwed with all my loans, Tom... all of them that I created in this last create this school, to make this festival as big as it apartment, my car, helping my family in the states... My brother is in the middle of his university... It all added up, you know how interest rates are... - What about the apartment here? - What about it…? - I suppose it's already a collateral right? Do you have a mortgage or something on it? - Yeah, exactly... that's the biggest problem... the only reason that I got enough capital for all of that was putting the apartment as a collateral... - What about your parent’s house? - I’m not gonna sell their house... - No... Can’t they get a mortgage to help, a better loan? - I don't think so... I helped them to buy that house, but they still got a big mortgage to complete the left of it... And man, they're about to retire, they are teachers; my brother is in university... I was supposed to help them now... I even borrowed some money from them already.... just no, ok? Tom went silent - Have you already got to the exact amount you need? Mike said the total amount out loud, and what the minimum he would need for the next 6 months would be. No one, with Tom as an exception, was left unsurprised with it. Tom kept talking: - Alright, Me, Marie, Eric, Liam, Jack, Eric's father, Marie's family, maybe? Who else could help us with this? Silence - Well, dividing it by six or...eight, we can help you with the worse part of it, right? - I don't think Liam and Jack could help me with anything even remotely close to that, Tom. They are not the saving type of people....they have big houses with their families; they are always spending huge amounts of money... I don't think so, man. - I don't have anything, Tom. There's my part from what I put in the festival and in the school, I could lend you that for a couple of months, and a couple of thousands of euros left in my savings account. But nothing remotely close to that. – Marie said – Unless I talk to my father or my aunt, maybe one of my siblings.... Mike shook his head, as saying “No fucking way, you won't do that” - Eric? Silence -... I have no idea to be honest, Tom. But I think that after the investment we did when you arrived in Paris... I have no idea. To be honest I'm still a bit surprised with this amount of money. As Marie said, I could also just lend you my part from the festival... but...yeah Pause. Tom finally spoke again. -...I see. So I'm the only one who has something close to … hmm ...twenty percent of your debt? They all ended up agreeing. Eric was feeling really bad at that moment: He was the one that gave the idea for that festival in the first place. Eric, Jack, Liam, Alice, Gustavo, Isadora, Isabella, Lucas, Jan and Eric's parents were left feeling completely powerless. Tom had a bit of money he could lend Mike for a while, but he wasn't in position to give that kind of money, just like that. In the end, they were left without knowing what to do. Tom, Eric and Eric's parents were extremely rich...on paper, at the moment. But they were with their hands completely tied up in that situation where they needed money so desperately, so quickly. As you can imagine, the days that followed weren't the best. The worse part was that no one else knew what was going on, so everyone had to start pretending everything was okay, and hide how tense and worried they all were. Eric, Mike and Marie kept working in the school every day. Tom, in the other hand, started to drift to some kind of a limbo: Even giving his best, there was no project on his mind that was exciting him that much. After all, he was almost feeling like his role in that situation was finished. But with all his past behind him, he still didn't know what to do with his future. At that moment, he could've invest in the studio and in the contacts he had made during those months. He could've gotten a really high paying job in some prestigious company or even start his own company in Paris and do what he was so good at... He could probably go work with Eric's father on their company. Or even for Marie's father... But... was that what he really wanted to do? What he was feeling like doing those days? He had contradictories thoughts about Montreal: In any case, if he decided to go back, it would never be like it was before. Not with the way he had left things. And finally there was the Katherine factor... Did he still hope that she would call him or just show up in Paris looking for him? Yes... he still had hopes at that point, although he was starting to wonder what was going on with her.... I mean, he thought he had made things right last time they had seen each other Still, that would happen less than two weeks later...Well, kind of... Eric had a meeting with his dad and his dad's sexy assistant, who was more and more involved on his company those days. If Eric could, he would have given all the money Mike needed. It was an insane amount, but he would have given it to him without thinking twice. Did he have that kind of money? On paper, yeah he did, but because of his lasts investments on his company with Tom and his dad, he didn't have that kind of money available, not like that. His dad didn't have that kind of money either. They were getting more and more desperate. What good is money when you can't help your friends when they are in need? Eric always liked money for giving him power, but now, it was just worse to know how much he had and that he couldn't touch it to help Mike, at all. He was feeling stupid and powerless. In the days that followed, Eric spoke to Tom, Marie, Liam, Jack, even Richard. Everyone willing to help, no one with anything near of what Mike needed. It was impossible, not even close, and they would all have gotten stuck in a very bad position too. It was ridiculous. That happened a bit before his dad went back to Toulouse, and the farewell was tense: Everyone was running out of money to try to save Mike's situation and no one had any idea of how to get to the necessary amount: Mike was afraid of losing the apartment, or the school, in the months to come. All of that was hurting Mike's energy and pride in a very aggressive way. That was even reflecting on the dinners at their place that were getting quieter and more awkward each night. In some of them they really tried their best to break the ice and had a bearable dinner, but it was obvious that everyone was worried. Jan was also kind of crashing on their place now, because he was not having a very comfortable situation monetary-ise in Paris: Liam and Jack's friends were long gone. When Alice decided to stay a bit more in Paris, she had to go back to work for her aunt at her library: She now was totally depending on that job to survive there. She even started to question herself if it wasn't her time to go back home, but she ended up staying for gratitude to Eric, Mike and everyone else. She would help anywhere as possible, but there was not much she could do. She didn't have a penny to help. Things were starting to fall apart. Two weeks went by. Nothing. Three weeks since Eric has spoken to his father and nothing new to that situation. The dinners getting quieter, people getting more worried. ... All of that for being naive, for being stupid. For a dream. Marie and Tom met on a public square near Tom's apartment. She said she needed to talk to him, and as she sounded a bit anxious, he assumed that it was something related to Eric, or her family. After all, it wouldn't be the first time. As soon as he saw her face though, he was sure it wasn't. - Hey Marie... - Hi, Tom She was clearly nervous. Somehow, he had an intuition on what that was all about. - Tom, there's something I need to tell you... - Ok... - I'm really sorry, but I don't know how to tell you this so.... I'm sorry if it's not in the best way. - Marie... – Tom smiled - Ok...ok... She paused for a second. -...Katherine was here -What? - He suddenly went in shock - Katherine was here. Not like here, heere...I meant here, Paris. -... When? Is she still here? - I think she spent the last three or four days here. She came to visit my sister and some friends... I just got to know that yesterday afternoon, because she was at my place with my sister, chilling at the pool and I saw her. I saw her, Tom. I talked to her and everything... Tom was in complete silence. He spoke the next four words very slowly, tense: -...Is she still here? -...No - Marie was showing pain in her face when she said that, knowing what that would cause on Tom. Then she quickly started talking again – Apparently she left this morning. I'm only telling you now because I wanted to tell you this personally, and...Well... in know...wanted to see you. Tom was again in complete silence. - I am soo sorry, Tom. I'm so sorry for telling you like this. I don't even know if I should've but I thought you needed to know...I'm really sorry, man. Are you ok? Tom? Talk to me... After several moments, Tom finally said: - … Its ok, Marie – His voice was showing an incredible amount of exhaustion and melancholy - Tom... He went back into his silence. Once again she tried to call him off. - Tom... - It's ok Marie... She came, and spent four days shopping and partying with her friends, enjoying your pool and running around Paris.... It's ok, we all know what she's trying to say with that... Or maybe she just doesn't give a fuck, right? What does it matter now... - Tom... Tom, the strongest man in the world, felt suddenly very tired and weak. He was feeling like his legs weren't able to sustain his weight, so he just sat down at the bench near Marie. Marie had no idea on what to say, she was just looking to her best friend, feeling all his pain with him. She would eventually hug him and soon after she would start quietly crying on his shoulder. What it felt like an hour later, they stood up and walked until Tom's place, without saying a single word. They spent the rest of the day – and night – there. Marie refused to leave her friend alone and Tom knew it was useless to insist. He needed her there. Tom spent hours in that depressed silence, completely distant. Hours and hours later, in the silence of the night, he started to silently cry for several minutes, and Marie felt like dying for not being able to do anything to help him. She just hugged him and let him cry on her shoulders. After he was done, he just said: - I have to get out of here, Marie... - What? … Where? Where do you wanna go? - I don't know, I'm feeling claustrophobic, I need to walk... I just need to get out of here... - Ok, sure, let's go... - She kissed his head and caressed his hair. They walked for hours in the middle of the night, most of the time without saying anything. Then Tom started to talk about his life, about Katherine, about Eric, about his philosophy of life, dreams and everything... he was in pain, he needed to let it all off of his chest. He was finally giving up and it was just too painful. Marie listened, walked with him, and tried to support him. And she would have walked with him to the end of the world. Mike's situation stayed the same for weeks. Mike doing whatever he could to renegotiate his debts and everyone else trying to keep living their lives: Nothing had changed and yet nothing was the same. It seems like they weren't able to have fun anymore. Mike seemed to have gotten years older in the weeks that followed the festival and the bad news, all due to the pressure that he was facing. He wasn't sleeping properly, nor eating properly. He was still working insane hours and was trying to not let anyone see how bad he was truly feeling. He probably had no idea on how he was going to get out of that mess. Tom, on his side of the story, soon started to work out in an insane way, even for him, because it was one of the few things that was making him feel less miserable. No one actually knew exactly what he was doing with his life those days: He would sometimes go to the school to try to help a bit, but as Mike was not being very cooperative and talkative, almost refusing to talk about his debts and his problems, Tom started to get frustrated with all of that. He wouldn't be able to help Mike unless Mike accepted help on dealing with his problem, and it seemed like not only he was refusing to talk about it, but also sort of trying to pretend it didn't exist sometimes. He was working like an insane person in the school as if that would be the solution for his problems, but Tom knew it wouldn't. It was a great start, but alone it wouldn't do much. The only person who apparently was talking to Tom more often was Marie. Truth is, Tom's own presence was vanishing away: Eric was too busy with Mike and with the school to notice what happened to his friend, and because Tom was way better to hide things than Mike. Eric ended up trying to take the responsibility of making a miracle: the miracle of diminishing that pressure from over Mike's shoulders. Things were not even looking good for their band: They weren't in a very comfortable situation with their studio, or the company that took care of their concerts and image, or with Richard, that was always “too busy” now with other projects, even though he genuinely got concern with Mike's situation. If they were able to make a small tour, of five or six months and everyone could donate or borrowed half of their pay to Mike, they would have had a freaking easy time, but now it didn't seemed like an option: Mike didn't want to abandon his school, there was not much interest on getting them back on tour, and it had been forever since they had release new material. Eric had to start to face the fact that maybe his band was also fading away. For good. I mean, Liam and Jack were already back to the States, making gigs with other bands, for weeks and weeks now. There was also the fact that they would never let Isadora and Gustavo alone in Paris like that either. One more month went by and nothing changed. Nothing was getting done. Finding a solution was apparently impossible, and things didn't seemed like they could get much worse at point. It was in this context that one day, a young woman, saying to be a journalist, asked to talk to Eric. He had a bit of free time so he accepted to talk for fifteen minutes. - Do you want a coffee? - Eric - Hmm, I think it would be better if we could speak in private... - Sure, no problem. I think we have a room available. Let me check.... - He came back seconds later – Yeah, we have it for some half an hour or so... - Perfect - Ok, but I do need a coffee before... She seemed to be really young and a bit nervous: Eric assumed that she was a newbie and that she hadn't actually interviewed anyone, or at least not that many people before. He actually tried to be nice to make her feel more comfortable. When they were already seating in the office room, Eric noticed that she had a big yellow envelope in hands: He hadn't noticed since when. - Soo...How can I help you today...? - Eric smiled - Jessica. You can call me Jessica Eric smiled at her - All right, Jessica...You're from the US, aren't you? - Guilty... - From where? - Manhattan - Nice.... a bit far from home, hun? She just smiled in a forced way. - Truth is Eric... May I call you Eric? - Sure... - I need you to see something – She put the envelope closer to Eric - Ahn... Ok Eric slowly opened the envelope and realized that there were dozens and dozens of papers... Documents. He looked at her again, and she just kept smiling at the same way, indicating he should focus on the envelope. That's what Eric started to do, and he could have never imagined what was in there: He opened the first folder, and in less than five seconds he knew he had lost it: his face got pale and terrified, and the more he read and looked through the documents, the more he felt like the world was opening beneath his feet. He felt his heart wanting to explode, and as if time was slowing down. He was feeling hot: He was feeling like dying. It was all there: The police report about that night, the process... Everything. Pictures with a lot of blood. The gun, the wounds, the place, the bodies, the faces, the data from everyone involved, the police officers, the attorneys, and the process. Everything was there. Everything was in Portuguese, and there were copies in English of everything. Eric couldn't believe it. He felt like drowning in the air. He felt that room compressing his whole existence. He knew that at that moment, he wouldn’t be able to stand up even if his life depended on that. He looked at her, but wasn't able to say anything. - ...Eric, you have a really nice story to tell... and thaats why I’m here: so that you can give me your side of the story.... She kept looking at Eric, but when she realized he wouldn't say anything, she kept going: - People are going to freak out about this story... You are finally giving an explanation about all your aggressive behavior... and how you are recovering from your problems...and from this... Isn't that an amazing story? I think so... We, Americans, we loove stories like that, you know that, right? Eric sat back on his chair: he thought he was having difficulty to breath, and like it was a million degrees in that room. He read what looked like a draft for a news article that she was planning to do, and she was being extremely mean and acid: She wanted Eric guilty for all of that. It would definitely sell more. “They were never able to implicate him” “Lack of proofs” “influence of Eric's family” “Brazilian tendency to political and justice corruption” “Spoiled rich kid?” Everything just to say: Eric was a murderer, former drug dealer, and he wasn't in jail for being a minor in Brazil when that happened, and because they never got enough evidence against him. Because that's how things work in that third world country. A shitty article for a gossip magazine. - You don't have anything to declare, Eric? - You... You are distorting what happened to make me look guilty, only to sell more...? - … Part of my job - ...No, No its not... And I don’t think you are after my version. You already have my version on these papers... - That was seven years ago, darling... - … Well, the truth stays the same... I'm not what you're trying to make me look like. - I guess you're right... I have to do my best though, right? Eric for the first time, gave a little cynical smile. - Sure... - So... Nothing to declare? Are you sure? - No, nothing else to declare - Hmm... Ok then. That's a shame. Eric shook his head. It was real, it was not a nightmare. But the girl started talking again: -... Eric, let me put this way: I'm not this kind of journalist. Gossip and whatnot... It won't be any helpful for the career I want to have. I really really hated to dig this kind of dirt about someone... but what can I say, I saw an opportunity and I took it. - … So don't publish it. If you really looked into the story, you know I'm not this guy you're describing. She just smiled - I imagine you're a nice guy and all. I really do... And you also have a lot of money. Aaand you know the good part about having money? You are always going to be the priority when it comes to... Sell a story, for example. I imagine that it is more helpful to you to have this story hidden than for the world to read in some gossip magazine, right? Eric kept looking at her. - Are you blackmailing me? - Technically, no. I'm offering you the opportunity to buy this story from me. If you don't want to, I'll sell it to someone else and it's going to be on his or her conscious if this ever gets published or not. I'm not threatening you with anything. I am giving you an option. A way out. A way you will never have to worry about this coming to public... I'm a freelance journalist, nobody own this story yet - She paused for a second - I made friends that helped me to dig this. They would be pretty pleased in keeping this hidden too, it doesn't matter to them... - Of course you are... Jessica shrugged her shoulders - Anyway, put it the way you want. Eric kept looking at her - … How much? - Well, putting all the costs to go to Brazil, making my good friends and... -... How much? - He interrupted her She wanted a small fortune. - I'm not gonna pay you this kind of money. - Well, think about it. I do know for a fact you and your family have this kind of money and I much rather have this kind of money than publish this story, maybe getting ten percent of what I’m asking you and get the fame of a gossip reporter. You got me? You can contact me by this e-mail – She gave him a business card – I’m staying in Paris for the next three days. Give me your final answer before I head back to the States, will ya? - She paused, they kept looking into each other’s eyes, then she finally smiled, proudly feeling she had won her day, perhaps her year - Don't worry about me, I know my way out... She left the envelope to Eric. Tom was sitting in front of Eric. - Uau, fuck....October hasn't been our month… - Tom said - So what are you going to do? - Tom - I don't think I have many option, right? - I guess not … Fuck man, I can't believe she got this kind of documents...And she even talked about your family influence? What a joke, she probably broke like ten laws to get to the bottom of this story... Eric shrugged his shoulders - Right... Silence. - I don't know what to do, Tom. What a fucking mess. First Mike's problem, now this... - Eric still didn't know about the whole Katherine situation. - You should pay, Eric... - But, Tom... - I know, Eric. I know. But believe me, this kind of thing finishes people careers, man. Depending on the reaction of the public, you'll be done. I saw that happening several times in my career man... They even tried to bring me down once with this kind of shit, remember? - ...But Tom, I'm not what she's accusing me to be, I'm not... Fuuck, I'm not - I know. But you can't prove it, that's the thing. You are just going to stay in this “she said he said” thing. You won't win anything from this, while they'll kept selling this story... Besides, people want to believe in this kind of bullshit... - But why, man? - Because that's how things work, man. That's how society work. Unfortunately this kind of shit sells, because frustrated people with frustrated lives need to read about other people's lives in order to distract themselves from their shitty problems. They go to a pharmacy or a gas station and they see this, and your scandal is going to make someone's Sunday a bit more bearable. That's how it works Eric. A week later they will buy another scandal to read... - ...But... I don't even know if I can pay this kind of money, if I had this kind of money available I would have already helped Mike... - We'll find a way, Eric. Besides, it doesn't seem like Mike is going to accept money from anyone anyways, so we can just focus on your problem for now...As horrible as it sounds, that is the truth, man: You should pay, Eric - … I guess I'm gonna have to talk to my dad... - I guess so... Tom, Eric and Eric's dad settle a teleconference meeting on the conference room for the same day. In a few minutes they gave Eric's dad as many details as possible of what was going on. - So Mike is basically with a debt of the size of his house and you'd have to pay so this story doesn't go public... - Yeah, I guess that sums it up pretty well... -.... Ahn... - ... - Well, as I’m understanding, Mike can always sell his apartment to pay the big junk of his debt... - He doesn't want to sell it, apparently he got a really good price on it and all... and with everyone living there, and all the money we put there to make it our home... - ... Yeah Eric, he doesn't want to do a lot of things: sell the apartment, take rent from you guys, accept money from you guys, go on tour again, find another investor for the center... I told him I could even give him some more money for all the time Gustavo and Isadora lived there with him, and he refused it... - His dad seemed frustrated: He was tired. - And? - I love him, Eric, but he's not being practical, and in a situation like this you don't act with that much idealism, son. You do what you have to do... Tom was discretely nodding in agreement. -...All right, what about the journalist? - Depends on what do you want to do... Do you want to pay her? - I... I don't know... -You should decide it, soon... - Hmmm do I have money for that? - Hmm technically no, but... - He sighed - I think we can...try to get a good loan in your name if we are very lucky...I don't know. I'll have to check. - ...What about Mike? So you just want me to wait until Mike loses his house or his school so he can pay his debts? - Hmm... One way or another they'll have their money back. I warned Mike about the amount of the debt he was getting himself into, he was aware of it. And he actually got more without telling me about it... It's not like the economy is booming and banks are being nice about loans these days...I don't know Eric, now he's just having problems accepting that we are trying to save his school.... -... Shit Silence - So what about the journalist? - I... I don't know So Tom spoke: - You don't have many options, Eric... - What if I sue her for blackmailing me? - Nah...What kind of proofs do you have? Nothing... -... Hmm... Can't I prove the envelope was hers? Fingerprints, I don’t know... Well, I actually touched it too, but anyways she probab-... Tom cut Eric's talking - Envelope? What envelope? … Eric, did she leave all the documents with you? - Yeah, I told you, copies of them, but yeah - NO, you didn't man... Fuck, man. You really have to work in your communication skills... let me see it... - Eric didn't say anything, he just got the envelope and gave it to Tom Tom analyzed it for several minutes, which seemed to be an eternity for Eric and his father. - Ha, fuck … People these days don't even know how to blackmail someone.... - What? What? ...Tom? He just smiled and kept reading the pages - Ai, it's ok Eric, you've been a bit naive, but nothing compares to what this Yankee did... -What? Tom grabbed several papers and put it on top of the table. - She had all this documents, right? She needed to understand all the details, right? She needed to understand all the details of the documents she illegally got, right? -Yeah... - And she doesn't speak any Portuguese, correct? -Yeah, so she translated it, I don't get the big deal... - Eric...She had to translate documents she illegally got. She is forbidden by law to have access to this kind of documents, man... and this translator decided it was a good idea to translate it for her... -Yeah, so? How the hell are we gonna prove this? Tom pointed at something on the papers. - FUCK, Are you serious? Does that mean what I think it means? -Yeah-p... The Yankee is a moron. - What's going on, guys? - Eric's dad asked - … In the end of every translation...official translation, there is the notes from the translator where the translator explains some terms, and puts everything related to their qualification...well, this one left her name on it, qualifications and how to contact her in case of any problems with the translation. It's probably an automatic thing that nobody realized they shouldn't have put on it... It’s not in every single copy though... - Are you serious? - Eric's dad - Yeah... at least they weren't dumb enough to put their stamps and signatures on these papers... But they signed here, and here...and here, see? Not that it matters now anyways... Silence - So now what? - Well, now you have one more option, Eric... Her advantage is...or was... that it was an exclusive story, and that you wouldn't be able to prove you were blackmailed. People would be inclined to believe you hid this story because you were guilty: It's appealing, and it makes sense. … If you go public and release this story before her, with your own words, in the right way and say that... I don't know, we think about it later. But if you say she tried to blackmail you with these illegal documents.... And we are able to prove it was hers... -Yeah...? - We prove she was in Florianopolis, we can prove no one of us were there for a good while... Maybe we cannot prove how exactly she got the documents, but our version will be way stronger than hers. She was in Florianopolis, now she is in Paris. You two have been in the coffee place here, right? If we got a good angle with the camera we have in the lounge, and if by any chance we can see she had this envelope in hands...Maybe she will be able to sell her version of the story to someone, but at this point her credibility will be dead... It's better than nothing, man. If we find the translator and we are able to prove that these documents shouldn't have left the police station in the first place... Eric's dad stared at him - How hard do you think it would be to do all of that? - A bit, but I’ve already dealt with harder things... We should check her social media situation, we can use it as proof she was dare, if anything... Let’s see... - Tom opened everything at once and looked her up. He stalked her like a professional detective in a speed almost humanly impossible. In less than two minutes, they had everything opened up about her on the big screen, across the room from where Eric's dad's was facetiming: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it. They just had to browse her pages for more thirty seconds or so and boom: Florianopolis's beauty had been their best friend: She had shit tons of pictures on Instagram and Facebook on the beaches, near their famous bridge, on the public market. Yeah, the Yankee had definitely enjoyed her vacation. They saved everything they could before she could realize that and take it off the internet. Tom put it all in a couple of different usb keys, and send the pictures to five different emails. Just in case - There you go.... - Tom smiled – We should go check downstairs for the security cameras recordings, if we are lucky enough, we'll find her with this envelope in hands... - Eric...? - Hmm? - What do you think? - Seems...good - You need to be certain of this, Eric - Tom - I know...You know that that implies I’m gonna have to tell this story to the whole world, right? - Eric They all went silent - We know, son. Eric thought for a while - I guess that would've happen one day anyways, right? Nobody said anything for a minute, then Tom said: - Let's do this in the right way, Eric... It will be hard, but when all is said and done, that's gonna be in the past, once and for all... It might even help you to get over it. Eric slowly agreed with his head. -... You are with your family now, Eric. We'll have your back. - Tom smiled at him. Eric smiled. - I know... I'm gonna try to help Mike then. I mean, try to get the loan and all... -You think he is going to accept it? Eric shrugged his shoulders, but then Tom spoke: - I think it’s time for me to talk with Mike... Both Eric and his dad looked at him - Ok... - All right. Eric, are you sure about this? - His father He looked at them both for a second. He ran his eyes through the room, the view, through whatever piece of school they could see from where they were. He needed to do that for so many reasons. -Yeah, I am sure, dad. Tom nodded and finally said with a smile on his face: - Great then...let's go crush that stupid bitch, bro. Eric smiled -Thanks, Tom They wouldn't have much time to do all of that: Tom and Eric would right away start to work on the release of that story. Tom decided to call Alice to help them to write everything they needed: They worked the whole night, and in the next morning they would have hired one of the most respected lawyers on France to represent Eric. After meeting with him, they still needed to make a few preparations: The story would be release in that same day, in a few hours, and Eric was trying with all the strength he had to not think about it. Eric was afraid of the reaction people would have around him: He wouldn't care if half of the world rejected him, but he was deadly afraid to see the reaction of Mike, Liam, Jack, Jan, his siblings, and … Marie, especially Marie’s. From the students, teacher and employees... He was in panic because he couldn't stop thinking about Marie's reaction. Her family would reject him for sure. Marie would get hurt because he had never told her? Would she try and comfort him, saying that she understood him? He couldn't accept any of those reactions and was feeling very uncomfortable with the thought of any of them... Even worse, he had asked for Alice's help in the matter and left Marie completely in the dark. Would she understand why? Would she understand that it had nothing to do with his feelings? Or maybe he was just lying to himself. Maybe he was just scared shitless of Marie's reaction. Minutes before they released the story to a journalist, they had gathered everyone in the office: Marie, Mike, Liam and Jack (through conference), Isa, Gustavo, Jan - who didn't know about the story- And Alice, Tom, Eric and his parents – who flew to Paris to be there- Isabella and Lucas – who already knew - and even Marie's father, because somehow Eric decided he wanted her father to listen to that story from him. Fifteen people, eight of them who had absolutely no idea what was going on. Because Eric said he had something important to tell them, everyone in the room was staring at him, and the whole room was getting incredibly tense. Moments went by and Eric was still looking for guts to tell all of that to them. - Alright then... But he didn't want to open his mouth. He didn't want to say anything. Everything in his body was begging him not to. Tom should speak for him, his father.... Anything but opening up himself like that. He was missing words; he was missing experience on how to say important things in the right way. He was shaking. The time was feeling heavy over his head: an internal pressure for Eric, clouding his vision, making it look like his head was being crushed... Making him feel like he wasn't really there, and at the same time, his whole life had stopped at that moment, at that place... He didn't want to say anything at all...but he had to. He had a knife pressing his neck, and suddenly he felt an infinite anger against everyone who was there: It was their fault. They've finally been able to put him against the wall. All that bullshit about opening up the past, caring about your family and friends had put him in that situation. Caring had put him in that position. … If he was still Eric Meirelles, touring, everything would have been fine: He would have paid the journalist or destroyed her would've been way easier. He wouldn't have to worry about Mike's fucking problems. But no. He was in Paris, without much money, finally feeling stuck in that city, in those streets, in that fucking country and in that fucking room with people looking at him, waiting for some kind of redemption for his life, his mistakes and his addictions. What a fucking joke. His life, so far from what he had imagined for himself ten years ago, that now he just had lost any ability to dream. His life that just didn't look like his. The blood in his hands that would probably never go away. But he was woken up from his anger by a known face on the back of the room: Samuel. He was there, as clear as if he was alive. There was something different about him, though... His face: it was not showing anger, pride, irony or anything like that. He had an expression that Eric had never seen on him: He was truly happy. They looked at each other for an eternity. Samuel looked at everyone on the table, walked a little bit on the room, and finally stopped behind Marie. He put his hands very gently on her shoulders, then on her head, and finally gave her a little kiss on the top of her head. Putting his mouth near Marie's ear, he said: - Please take care of my little brother for me... So he looked at Eric, shook his head, smiling, as he had just remembered a silly joke. That would have made Eric cry right there if he had had the chance. But he didn't. He finally went back to real life and realized all of that had happened in a second. He then looked into Marie's eyes, and just knew everything would be fine. She smiled at him, and that gave him all the courage he needed. - What I'm about to say... it’s not going to be easy for me to say, or easy for you guys to listen to. But I have to... … Yesterday, I've been blackmailed yesterday by a journalist, who found out a story about my past, back in Brazil, from almost seven years ago. So, advised by a lawyer, Tom, and my dad, I decided to release this whole story myself and show I was blackmailed, so people can have a better understanding of my side of the story before things get out of hand. This story is getting released in a couple of minutes, so I wanted to tell you guys first... - He took a deep breath - … I was sixteen when it happened. All my friends were way older than me: Isabella, Lucas, a guy name Samuel, a couple of other guys and one or two other girls... They were not angels, I was not an angel… but they were my friends. Samuel, as I found out later, was a – He cleared his throat – part-time drug dealer, but eventually he got some people really angry at him. One night we met some of these people in the street, in the middle of the night, and they had a pretty hard discussion during a... let's call business meeting. All my friends were all pretty drunk, myself included, I'm not gonna lie... A hard fight started over money and over pride, and... It just got bad, like really bad... I actually think they were already thinking about killing my friend for a while... Anyways... Some of them had guns, people got shot, I got shot too, on the side of my left leg... And... My friend was so drunk that he was basically killing one of theirs guys... beating him up to death... When I tried to stop him, Samuel was so drunk that he started beating me up too... He was that messed up. In the middle of all that, as Samuel was going to start to beat the kid again, he got shot pretty bad... The kid who shot was a teenager, probably not older than me, and he never shot me. I guess he considered it for a second, but he never did. Instead, he ran away, leaving me there with my dying friend and his severely injured brother... - Eric looked at Lucas - My friend ended up dying in my arms minutes later.... And what happened next is that they never found the gun... the guy that didn't shoot me ended up appearing dead three days later... And... Because they were never able to prove much or... actually anything about what happened... that's pretty much what happened. The police never concluded much: lack of proofs, I was a minor... It was something like that...and as I was the only surviving witness of the whole fight and deaths, because the rest of them had long run away... This journalist wants to make people think I killed them or that my parents interfered with the case or ...both, because Samuel's and Lucas family were also pretty wealthy and all. Anyways, you got the idea.... That's pretty much what's been happening... And I don't have much more than my word to prove my point, and she has all these police documents, that she is completely forbidden by law of having, because they're so old, and because involved me, a minor... So yeah... We're going to try to defend my side of the story by coming clean about everything that happened. - Eric took a deep breath. Complete silence in the room. - ... I'm really sorry I never told you guys that before – And somehow, he really meant it The days after that were a mess. To everyone. Obviously, the journalist version ended up being released too, probably just to put more fuel in the whole story. Some magazine took Jessica's side, publishing the story and putting more pressure on the demand for evidence of the blackmail. They would all eventually sue each other for that whole story. She even had her fifteen minutes of fame: She was called to a couple of famous television shows in the States where she said she was “terribly shocked and very disappointed with Eric's accusations without any kind of proof” and that she was only trying to do her job in the most honorable way to bring the truth to the “American people” - Yeah, that was the level of her declarations. She said everything she had access to were the documents she was legally allowed to: public available information from the police and newspapers. She confirmed that she had completely respected the Brazilian system of law and that she had a great respect for that country. She said that she was in Paris to meet Eric to give him a chance to tell his side of the story (because she was indeed a fair person) where he had tried to buy her silence, threaten her and had been extremely rude to her. She personally didn't think Eric was a bad person, just someone with a difficult life, and that she respect him and understand what he was going through, but that he had to clarify certain points of his life to the “society that had received him with arms wide open and that had made him rich and famous” and so that kids (and their parents) in America knew who their idols truly were. She hoped that the situation could one day be resolved in a friendly way and when asked, she made some poor acting, saying that “yes, I would really like to hear an apology from him one day” “Yeah, right” Once the story was out, the situation at the school became... intense. No one knew how to deal with what was going on. Students were staring at Eric, even teachers. Anyone who would recognize him would stare at him. Anyone who didn't quite know him was showing a very clear and almost palpable doubt in their eyes: Was Eric a murderer, trouble maker since he was a kid, a former drug dealer, protected by his powerful parents? Or was he friends with people like that, involved in a fight where two people ended up dead and one stuck in a wheelchair? He were indeed there that night, among all those punks, racist skinheads and drug dealers, right? Not only the accusation or doubts on people's eyes were bothering him: Pity or compassion were killing him. To deal with his friends and family giving those kinds of looks … It was worse than anything he had ever felt, and he was just feeling that he couldn't stay near anyone anymore. Eric didn't know how to deal with any of those things: He didn't know how to be sociable or how to deal with those people. He didn't know how to handle that huge amount of journalists that were after him. He was feeling powerless and he was actually jealous of Tom or even Mike, two people who would have been able to deal with that situation way better than him, and who were actually doing way more for Eric's reputation those days than he could've ever done by himself. Curious people were showing up at the school; journalists, photographers, youngsters. Some students abandoned the school, for not believing Eric's side or just because they couldn't handle being in the middle of that hurricane of people always coming and going, cameras, screams and crowd. Also, not even the closest people to him knew how to handle that situation well, only Tom and Alice, the few people that already knew about that story for a while. They were the only people Eric could barely handle having around at that moment. The situation at the school got to a point where Eric realized that he probably should stay away from there, otherwise he would kill that place, in that moment that Mike needed to, somehow, put it back on its feet again. He just stopped going there, hoping it wouldn't have to be like that forever. Anytime Tom and Alice could they would meet to talk or just to make some company to Eric, or he would spend a good time at the bookstore where Alice worked: days after days passed like that, each one worse than the last one, longer and more realistic, and Eric had the feeling that that whole thing would never go away. He didn't know what to do with himself. He didn't know what to do with everyone trying to comfort him, all of them at the same time. Isa, Mike, Marie, Gustavo, Jan, Liam, Jack. They were all trying too hard, and that was getting to him too. Eric thought he would've been able to handle his relationship with Marie in a better way. Accept her presence, her love, her understanding and her help. But he was feeling so awkward around her. So small, so ashamed, so hurtful. He didn't want to put her through that: She deserved better. And in any case, she was so busy at school during those days that they were barely seeing each other during anyways. She was still living with him, but their communication was just dying (especially because of him) Somewhat of a uncomfortable silence and embarrassment was growing bigger every time they would ended up seeing each other, alone, in the same room, to share the same bed. He tried to be okay with her hugs, with her trying to get closer to him, to let her in, with her trying to talk to him, trying to see how he has, how he was feeling. But he would always make things worse by shutting himself off, looking away, and going away. Eric knew he had to say something... he was just failing beautifully at doing that. As talking to Marie was getting harder and harder each day, he was spending more and more time with Alice and Tom, (but specially with Alice, because Tom was somewhat getting a bit distant) and less and less he could stand to get closer to Mike's school or even their place. He was, once again, floating around Paris, this time because he didn't want to see anyone; he didn't know what to do or who to talk to. He could've run through the streets of Paris and he still wouldn't be able to change the feeling that nothing or no one would be able to make him feel better. Some very very hard and dark days. - ... They just need a bit more of time to process everything that's happening. Everyone believes in you, Eric. - Tom, trying to cheer him up – Besides, soon we'll have everything we need to finally prove she blackmailed you... Just hang on in there. We already leaked her pictures, people are starting to side with you, Eric... ‘Great’ ‘Sure’ 'Whatever' - You know what, Tom? - Yeah...? - Can I come and work out with you? Tom smiled - Ha, sure... Tom, as I already mentioned, was a guy that would work out a lot, for several years, without stop. Eric, although having a good genetic and a reasonably healthy diet, almost never made physic activities: His routine with his band had always taken him to the limit anyways. As well as the routine before the festival. Something inside of him however, made him curious about getting a healthier routine. Maybe, unconsciously he wanted to have the same energy or discipline as Tom. Maybe it was to get away from everything that was happening around him. Maybe it was because he was jealous of how Tom could so easily call attention from every people he had ever met. Or probably because he was bored and didn't know what else to do with his time. For whichever reason, Eric did it. In the weeks and months that passed, he never thought he would hurt so bad and would swear so much for one little decision in his life. In some way, Eric was also doing that as some sort of self-punishment: He wanted to punish himself for everything that was happening around him, because he just wasn't being strong enough. He wasn't being able to do anything to help anyone, not even himself. And you'd never believe how many times Tom made Eric almost literally kiss the floor in the process. In the beginning, he couldn't do twenty push-ups. Maybe three to five pull-ups and was able to run for maybe...maybe fifteen minutes. After the first day, where he was able to work out for a bit more than forty minutes, he thought he wouldn't be able to get out of bed the next day. Everything was hurting, everything seemed to be sore, burning. For a whole day he felt his body judging him for his decision, and for the whole day he wasn't able to do much. He showed up on the next day to work out again, and he had no idea how he had been able to do so. In the first month, it would be three times a week, then it would go up to five. And above all, Tom made Eric promise he would go walking the way between their houses, what meant forty extra minutes of walking every day. Also as already mentioned, Tom was extremely eclectic when it came to working out: He switched between le parkour, yoga, swimming, running, weightlifting and of course, dancing and a circus technics work out. Eric, with the exception of dancing and the circus exercises, was starting the same way and soon he noticed he was going to have to take protein and vitamins because his diet simply wasn't enough. Without being able to do twenty push-ups, Tom was making him do five series of seven in the beginning. It might not seem much, but Eric suffered way more than what he would've liked to admit. His muscles were failing several times, shaking. And then squats, weight lifting, running, obstacle jumping. He was sweating until he was completely wet and in the beginning he was getting trouble even to play guitar because of all of that. “It will get better, just suck it up” He was having to sleep ten hours a night to recover – the only benefit that Eric noticed about working out is that he was actually being able to sleep well again in the middle of that shitty moment. The second month was the hardest, because suddenly Eric started to work out five times a week and because he was feeling stupid for not getting any better at all. - Man, you started six weeks ago. You don't turn into an iron man in a month. You're just being a fool, you'll get better if you keep working out right. That's it. No shortcuts, no secrets. - I know, I just wanted to feel better about it, I don’t know... Shouldn't I be feeling a bit better about it? Tom only smiled, as Eric smiled back. - You promised, Eric. Six months Eric slowly agreed. - Seven more push-ups. Go. Tom would work out three times longer than Eric and ten times more intensively, and Eric just couldn't understand how. - 4... 5... Silence - I'm waiting, Eric... -.......siiiix... Eric was shaking - Oh come on, dude, one more! He slowly and deeply breathed several times, with sweat dropping from his nose, and eyebrows -! Good! Eric fell on the floor, completely exhausted. Less than a minute later, Tom said: - Up, man, Getup - What? - You're not done yet - Holy fuck... And just like that, the third month started and Eric was starting to feel one minimal improvement: He was making five series of eight push-ups now. And the journalists had finally given him a break after two months and something. It had been days he hadn't spoken to anyone else rather than Tom. But his live was still there. There were so many things on the air those days: Things that no one was willing to talk about or even daring to comment about, because it felt like the world could fall apart by only mentioning it. Mike's debt, Eric's whole situation, Tom who was clearly not ok and was not sure of what he was going to do with his life after his last disappointment with Katherine (Although no one, apart from Marie, knew about it), Marie who was each day more and more distant from Eric and everyone else, probably because she was getting hurt with the whole “being avoided” situation... And even Isa and Gustavo seemed to have created this mental distance from everyone and from all of these problems. Eric had also realized that Isa and Mike's relationship was not perfect those days anymore. Jan was now working as a bartender/waiter on a pub in buttfuck nowhere and was almost never seeing them anymore (He was living super far away from them now). Alice had gotten an internship in a cultural magazine – finally her French had allowed her – and was trying to take some side courses around the city. Eric's parents, too busy with their company, hadn't showed up in Paris for more than two months at that point, and when they had last tried, it was an embarrassed silence that reigned over them. Even though everyone was there for everyone, it seemed like it would have been easier to have a dinner with the Queen of England than to get all those people back together again. Let alone to try to have some fun. Isadora had made other friends and every day she seemed to be busy with school or with her other friends. Alice also made new friends, especially after she had started her internship, and was having a hard time trying to balance her time between all her commitments and her new boyfriend, a French guy. Yeah, in the middle of all that, Alice started dating a French guy. Eric was truly happy for his friend's happiness, but he was missing like crazy having all the time in the world to talk to her, and now it seemed like she, too, was just too distant from him. To get even better, it was in the middle of the winter. A hard one for Paris. The economy seemed to still not be going very well, the political situation was delicate. What was happening? Not only their family, but everyone seemed to be afraid of something those days, angry at something those days. The whole city of light thing had disappeared. Eric sometimes caught himself thinking if all of that was his fault. If they were blaming him for things not happening in Paris like they had dreamed. If they were actually avoiding him. If things would just get better if he just disappeared somehow, again. If he just ceased to exist. He lost days with those dark thoughts on the back of his mind, wandering around Paris, trying to avoid being recognized. But no... Life was happening, crashing their mistakes and their flaws against their faces, against the floor. Yeah, life. What a bitch, hun? He wanted to go back in time, before the festival, where the future seemed so bright, so naively glorious and easy. They were there, together. A family. They were truly happy for a second in time, no? They had an amazing home. Now everyone seemed to be avoiding that apartment for their lives. Eric was pretty aware he was one of the worst of them. Yes, they were truly happy for a second in time. Once in his life Eric was truly happy. Now he was scared shitless that maybe that moment was gone forever. That he would have to go back to the darkness and pain he had as life before. He had gotten better because he had felt connected to people. Connected to his family. He had felt like he could be happy, like they were there for him and that he could be there for them. That he was able to be good to Marie, he was able to love her, and that they could have fun. That he could be excited about life again. All of that was fading away. And now his blood had started to hurt again. If no one did anything, they wouldn't make a second festival, and their family would vanish as the time would pass by. Mike would have to deal with those debts for twenty years, and God knows that he didn't deserve it. Their band would stop existing for good. Jan would think no one in Paris cared about him - after all, he had come to Paris to help and have never ever gotten anything out of it, only problems. He would still be in the middle of a mess, even being the amazing guitar player he was – That would be just a waste of pure talent. Isadora and Gustavo would stay in the middle of that storm and would get even more distant from him, until Gustavo would finally move to the States (Probably in less than a year now) Alice, Marie and Tom would become ghosts from his past. His parents would be stuck on their company, without being able to retire for years to come. And Eric...Eric would float, or get completely stuck to the ground, define it as you want. Their Paris would cease to exist. No, whatever it was, Eric had to do something. He just had no idea what. He tried to do the same thing he had tried once, like six years before, when he got his guitar and found his partners, thinking “You start something and the universe helps you.” Once again he got his guitar: not to train, as he was doing in the past months, but to actually create something. Something that could change his life again. Bring them together again. Something that would be able to tell the things to his friends and family that he was not being able to tell by himself. Something that would explain to Marie how much he loved her and how much he was feeling like a failure for not being better to her. Just something. He was just seating in the studio and trying to create something. Every day, because it was all he knew how to do. And God... it sucked. It actually seemed it was getting worse as the weeks passed by. Any of his students would have humiliated him and he felt like shit for that. I mean, he was Eric Meirelles. Fucking Eric Meirelles. But not in that room. At least not alone. If any of the guys from his band would had gotten together with him, they could've made some music together. Alone, he was nothing. He had no talent. He kept thinking about how he didn't deserve being in that band, being considered a musician, touring around the world. He was a failure, it has always been because of Mike, and now, without him, they were done. It was over, he just needed to face it. More weeks went by and nothing looked like it was going to change: Eric had no idea how all of that would influence in his life. But truth to be told, it was the only thing he could've made, because it was indeed the only thing that he knew how to do... So he kept going, with the obsession that somehow, in the right time, all of that would be able to fix things, if he could just keep going... He kept suffering at the gym and in that studio, day after day, even though things were only feeling to get worse. It was not enough, though: Eric finally got tired of being alone and desperate to stop all of them from vanishing from his life. He decided he had to do something: get them all together on good terms, no matter how hard it would be. He would try to go out with everyone... Or whoever he could convince on going out with him, which in most of the cases, it was only Jan, probably out of pity at that point. Everyone else was busy, or tired, working, had better plans. Or would just not answer him. - Hey man, are you okay these days? - Jan - I don't know... Nobody said a word. They had been there for a while and things were not looking that promising. - What about you? - Eric - I'm ok... Silence. Eric finally started talking again: - Hey, I'm sorry dude. I know your life hasn't been great at the moment, and I don't wanna give you more to worry about. I just wanted to talk... - Nah, relax, man - No, I mean it. I've been looking for a better job for you again man. I know it's been harsh... You came here to help, and it seems like no one is helping you ...It's just cuz...I never thought we'd still be here, you know? Jan agreed, but started to smile and said: - Its ok bro...I'm improving my French, I have some nice French girls to keep me warm at night... – Jan smirked – It's ok. I know that... I'm sorry your stay in Paris hasn’t been that nice lately... Besides, I can take care of myself, bro, you don't have to worry about me. It's not your responsibility... - Yeah...No, I know, but I do. I mean, we do... And - He sighed - Oh well, I guess I always knew someday I'd have to deal with all of that... - And how's that going for you? - It sucks really bad.... I still get hate over the internet, some bad looks from time to time. There's always a curious kid asking about it... I hate it. - Not the way you wanted to be famous, Hun? - Not at all. I hate this shit. I don't like being recognized. When we were a band it was so much nicer...and I was never that famous anyways... I liked it better. Way better... Jan agreed with his head and asked: - So what about the band? You think it is over? Eric shrugged his shoulders - Jack and Liam are both making gigs with other bands...separate bands, by the way. completely fucked, right? And... Me... I guess I just can't leave Paris right now. I have nowhere else to go… - Shame... - Yeah... They kept eating - The worst part is that everyone is just growing apart man. Not even six months ago we were inseparable... - Eric - Yeah, this sucky winter is not helping either, Hun - Yeah...but hey, at least is not a Canadian one. – Eric smiled - I know, Tom told me about that once. - I know...I was there once during their winter... - In Montreal, with Tom? -Yeah...Holy shit man, it was like... minus twenty degrees and Tom telling me that sometimes it would get even colder than that... - Fuck, that's just insane... And I'm German, dude. - I knoow... A while after into the conversation, where they were actually starting to have some fun: - Hey man, it's been a while I’m trying to write some new songs. I have some demos that I could definitely use some help with... Do you mind giving me a hand with that one of these days? Jan smiled - That'd be awesome, man...For sure. Only thing is I have to check my work schedule. I’ve been working like fifty or sixty hours a week to be able to save some money... - Wow...Ok, yeah, sure - But cool, man. Nice to know you're playing, and thanks for asking... -Yeah, you're welcome....It's not like I have that much to do these days, you know... Jan nodded - And... How are things going with Marie? - Ahh...I barely see her these days. She ended up moving back to her family's place last week and I felt like shit about it...- He sighed - Buuut the atmosphere in our place hasn't being the best lately...Her family probably didn’t want to see her name involved with mine at the moment...And I totally understand that, actually... …. I don’t know, bro...I'm losing her. And honestly, I don’t know how to stop it... So much shit I should've told her... and every time I try, things seem to get worse. Every time I try to talk, it seems like we get into an argument, or at least mad or hurt at each other... I don’t know, maybe Marie deserves someone better, you know. Someone like Tom, who always says what has to be said. Someone who had never been a jerk to her... - Oh come on, you don't really mean that, Eric He shrugged his shoulders again. - Maybe I do. Maybe they would be happier. I'll never be as good as a friend as Tom is for her. You know that... - He paused - I was never jealous of them both together, it’s not that... I just think...maybe it would be for the best. And I don`t say that in a depressed or jealous way… …. I don't know, maybe its…Also because I’m just not right for someone with a stronger name than mine, with all the pressure she faces because of that. People think is freaking awesome and easy to date someone from a family like that. And in the beginning I actually thought it could be cool. But it's not. It's not at all... And fuck, man...she tried so hard to be by my side, you know. I think I just screwed things up, again... and again, and again.... - So you're just gonna give up on her? - I don't know...what if I should? - Eric realized how similar that talk felt like the one he had in Montreal with Tom, months and months before. - Eriic...I get it, ok? But first of all, you need to know what you wanna do. Do you wanna stay with her or not? If you don't decide, life will happen and leave you behind... Let me tell you something you already know: When you don't fight for the things you want in life, you don't get them. That is for sure. And it doesn't matter how awesome as a couple you guys are, or how everyone around you guys knows that you guys belong together and wish you a happy ending with cute kids... if you guys don't fight for it, nothing else matters dude.... and if you don't start dealing with the things you need to tell people, you are never going to be happy, not with her, not with anyone else, ok? You want someone to share your life, dude. Share your life... Have you ever thought about what it truly means? You can`t do that keeping eighty percent of your shit to yourself...You're being lectured about feelings by a German guy, bro. Think about it....- They both smiled Eric sighed and went silent, so Jan kept going. - I know times have been hard and that people are not handling all of that in the best possible way. I’ve been hanging out with you guys separately for weeks now, just because you guys are feeling completely uncomfortable around each other for x, y, or z reasons... All of them bullshit in my humble opinion as a poor bartender... Silence. - Eric, why are you here with me while you could be with Marie? Or with your siblings? - Because it seems like they don't wanna be around me, or each other for all that matters… But I know...- He sighed – It's a good question, dude – Eric had a very sad grim -... I guess you're right - Let's go, dude. You're gonna call your girlfriend and arrange a dinner tonight...and you will give me a ride home because I am suuch a good friend – Jan smiled Eric laughed back, but it was a nervous laugh. It had been days and days he hadn't even spoke to Marie, he had no idea how that call would be. - Alright...fair enough. - Really? Awesome! So I can call a girl to pass by my place... yeey - Haha... yeah, don’t worry. Let me get this – the check – and call Marie, I'll be back in a second. - I love you man -Yeah, yeah I know you do... He paid the bill and went outside, and in front of that pub, by himself, he grabbed his phone and tried to call Marie. He dialed. It Rang. Rang. Rang. Again... And then he was losing his hope. She didn't pick it up. He took a deep breath, tried to sum all his strength, counted to ten and tried once again. “Maybe she just doesn’t wanna talk to me” - Hey, Eric, what’s up? - Marie - Hey Marie...Ahn, not much... I was just wondering – Paused – You know, maybe you could join me for dinner tonight? - He felt stupid in the second he asked that. Silence - Hmmm...Tonight? - Pause - I don't know Eric... It’s kinda late for me actually. I have to wake up pretty early tomorrow. Besides, I already ate something... - Hun... What about a second dinner? Or maybe just some dessert? - Eric tried to sound excited and funny. - Hmm...I don't know, Eric. Do you mind if we leave it to another night? Silence. He looked around and basically hit his own forehead – He wouldn't be able to do it. - Hmmm...Marie... - he closed his eyes, and kind of spilled the next word, with all the strength he had on him - ...please? I really need to see you. -....Hmm... Can you give me thirty minutes at least? - … Sure – Eric smiled and relaxed a bit – I'll pick you up in, forty five minutes? - … Perfect. See you soon. He took her to a really nice restaurant which had a gorgeous view of Paris. They were able to get a table with an exceptional view of the city, as the restaurant was basically empty at that time. As soon as they sat down, Marie smiled to him and said: - Thank you, that's nice …- She smiled again - So, what made you ask me out to dinner so suddenly? - Hey, I missed you... - Well, here I am, dude – She smiled “Bro, man, dude” it had been forever since “baby, honey, sweetie”. Right? Or was he being paranoid? -...So what's up Eric? - Ahn, you know. I've been pretty busy these days, trying to work out with Tom, practicing guitar, you know... Marie smiled once again. - Cool … aand how's that going? - Well, my body is in pain almost all of the time now and it's been hard to evolve on the guitar. In everything, actually. - I see... - What about you? How are you doing these days? She didn't answer right away. - ...Hmm...Well, besides my work at school, I’ve been practicing a lot by myself, sometimes teaching privately, and... Oh yeah, I started to have some more classes with my teacher... -...Awesome – Eric smiled – I can't imagine how you're finding time to do it all - Hun...Well, I try Silence - And how’s everyone? - I'm not sure about anyone else to be honest... - Hmm How come? - She showed some new weird interested in the subject - I don't know, it has been weird, right? - Hmm... He sighed. He tried to find his words. - ...That's why I wanted to see you. I'm feeling like... we are all kinda drifting apart. And I just can't sit back and not do anything about it anymore... And I know I've been...the worst about it all...but... Yeah. Marie didn’t say anything, but she didn't have a very promising facial expression. - Marie...? - I don’t know what to tell you, Eric... I really don't. They both went silent. Eric was not feeling so hot: Again that night she had sounded a bit rude and short to him, but that sentence in special seemed to have been intentionally rude. - Can... Can you just answer me something? - Hmm? - She was not even looking at him at that point. - Do we still have a chance? Or ...Am I making a fool of myself here? - That didn't sound right. In the second he said it, he knew he also had not sounded the way he intended to. She didn't say anything for a moment. When she opened her mouth, she had a very fatalist and heavy tone. She seemed tired. -...I don't know, Eric. Why don't you tell me? - I guess... I guess it's pretty clear what I think, no? - Eric tried to smile Marie smiled, but this time it was not in a very sympathetic way. She was not even trying anymore. - I don't know Eric. That’s the thing. Why don't you tell me? Eric took a deep breath. -...Marie - Hmm? - What are you doing? - Just tell me, Eric... - I....I want us to be together....? - Really? – She sighed, looking at him with a straight face - Why? - ...Why? - Yeah, Eric, why? - Wow... I don't know, maybe because... maybe because I love you? Like, a fucking lot? - He almost sounded mad. - Wow...- She stayed in silence for a second, as if trying to absorb what she had heard - Uau Eric. Congratulations... Do you know it's like one of the first times like fucking ever you say you love me? And it actually would've been super awesome if you hadn't been a douche about it? Or maybe if we hadn't spent the last ten fucking days without seeing each other? Or even like texting or anything? He took another deep breath. - ...I … I just thought you've been feeling uncomfortable around me, you know. - Oh that's bullshit, Eric, I'm sorry … You've been feeling uncomfortable around me for months now. You know why? Because you never even tried to talk to me. Ever, not even once, about what was really going on with you. And it's like...I get it, of course I do, with everything we've been through... But Eric, you rather go spend time with your ex-girlfriend or cross the fucking town to go see Jan. What about me? What about mee, Eric? Fuck! You're making me sound like a crazy girlfriend, and I hate this shit, but it's been years that we know each other and months and months now that I am by your side...and nothing. Nothing. I always knew you were like that, I always knew I should give you some space. I thought “hey, when he is ready he'll come up to you”. But you never did. You went to Alice, to Jan, to Tom, to think that's fair? Silence. She was right. He knew she was right. - You're right... You're right....I'm sorry, Marie. Fuck, I'm so sorry... I guess that's why I wanted to see you tonight, to talk, ok? I was talking to Jan and he made me realize that, you know, that I should just come and fight for… - And you needed help to realize that? Seriously? - Marie - No, it's not that... I knew I needed to talk to you, I always knew, and I tried... I just... I just didn't know what to do Marie, ok? I told you more than once, I just didn't want to hurt you again... Silence - I-I just thought... that maybe it was being better for you to just stay away from me, you know, with everything that's happening, and for your family... I thought you dad wanted you away from me, to preserve you, and I thought he was righ... - She didn't let him finish it - So you did nothing... You let these months passed by just like that. Without telling me once what was going on. What was happening between the two of us...? Working out and playing guitar was more important... Talking to your ex-girlfriend was more important... Fuck Eric, I'm not even jealous, but you know how disrespectful that feels? ...Never knowing if we're dating or not, if we actually can count on each other or not....It's...Ahh... It's not fair. - What do you think I should've done? - I don’t know, Eric … Maybe what a normal couple would have done... It's like... Mike has a huge debt for which he is not accepting help, Tom is depressed because of Katherine. Depressed, Eric. Our best friend. Tom is a freaking mess, I never saw him like that, and you didn't even notice...And then there's the big fucking problem that you don't let anyone get closer to you. Neither of us... You sometimes talk to one or to another, but you don't really let us get close to you again after this shit happened... Now nobody is comfortable around each other because everyone decided to deal with their problems on their own, without daring even talking about it, for some macho-pride-bullshit... And you, after all of that, just give me some nice words in a nice restaurant when you feel you're about to lose me... Fuck Eric, you're making me say this things, be this person, that I don't wanna be. I'm just so fucking mad, and tired and disappointed... and hurt... Fuck. Silence. Marie's eyes were getting pretty wet and her hands were shaking. When she started to talk again, she was so sad that she sounded distant from reality. - But its's ok actually. Maybe it's a good timing, maybe its fate... My dad suggested me to accept this opportunity I have in the States... And why not hun? Maybe I'm just not that good of a girlfriend to you... If I was your girlfriend, right? At this point I think I'll never know.... Maybe you just need someone better, someone who doesn’t need to ask you these stupid questions, hun? Someone who doesn't fucking care that much... They looked at each other. It wouldn’t be only moving to another country. It would be the end. - … Tell me something, Eric … Anything, baby. Anything that you have to tell me... - Marie, please... - Hmm? - She was about to cry Eric slowly shook his head, as saying “don't go”. He looked at the Eiffel Tower on the distance. His home was getting shattered. - Tell me... Pleasee Eric- She asked again He deeply and painfully took a deep breath. He couldn't say everything he wanted to, for one single reason: She had already made her mind about finishing that dinner, ending it all, and that was killing him. She wanted to leave him. And he couldn't help to think that she should. He would never be better than that, and she (not him) deserved better. He couldn't promised he would be better. He couldn't promise he was not going to hurt her again. He had tried, he had failed. - ...Why don't you just talk to me? She didn't wait much for an answer - Alright...Goodbye, Eric. Marie dried the tears from her face and stood up to leave... - Please... Don't go... J-Just stay…- Said Eric, holding her hand. That just slipped. He just begged against everything he had just rationalize. Against knowing she didn't want to stay anymore. - Fuck Marie, please... I ...I....- He sighed – Just sit down... Marie gave him the saddest smile in the world and said, still drying some tears off her face. - I really, really, reaally loved you, you know? And then she left. This boy was not very different from many other regular boys when he was young, even though somehow he ended up becoming someone pretty unique. This boy was a lonely, quiet boy. As a child, this boy was always watching movies and reading books, and no one would be able to explain why such a tiny creature would devour those books and those movies like that. I guess, if someone had noticed, they would probably be able to come up with some sort of explanation, that’s for sure. This boy learnt to read at a really young age, but for years it seemed like he wouldn't speak as much as normal people do. This boy would love reading books about different worlds, and even though not exclusively, about medieval times, or medieval fiction with knights and princess, kings, princes, swordfights and how people could fall in love only by looking at each other and how, in the end, honor, loyalty, purity and persistence would always win. Always. He would even love reading fantasy fiction books where there would be magic involved. You know the thing about magic worlds? It’s that they usually answer by fair rules and that gods and deities, good kings and heroes would eventually make things right, make things fair. Those books would make you believe. They would always make it worth it for all the bad times you had to face, when you just had to believe things would get better, especially when things didn’t ever look like they could have a happy ending. Heroes would stand up for the weak, and they would be admire and respected, even when people would disagree with them. There was respect and honor involved. Honor only meant to do the right thing, not matter the costs. Nothing else. Eventually, things would get better. Eventually, someone would always come to make it right, making the life of the weak easier, making the liars and corrupts pay for their crimes. We could always just know when we've met that special someone, and how they would just connect, and understand each other, and support each other, and go through everything just to stay together, because they knew it was right. They knew they were meant to be together. Religion would usually make people kind, generous and brave. We would always know the right thing was always to be kind and honorable, even when it wouldn't make sense. Even when it would be dangerous. Especially then. This boy believed that. He believed one day he would have friends that would die for him, and for whom he would gladly give his life for if it ever came to that. With whom he would have amazing adventures. He would be respected and admired for doing the right thing, even when it wouldn't make sense. He believed one day, he would meet someone, and from across a room, their eyes would just connect and they knew that they had found each other. They would do everything they could to stay together, and from that point on it could be them against the world that it wouldn't matter. This boy believed that the right thing to do would always be clear to him. It didn't matter how hard, or how painful. He would always knew what to do. Someday, it would be worth it to have been so honorable, good, and honest. Someday it would make sense why his parents were so mean and so absent so often. Why everyone of his own age were just so fucking stupid and mean to each other. And one day, somehow, he would find his own magic in this world and that that would make his life have some sense. ...But this boy grew up. He had to change schools a couple of times: He had never made any true friends because people would never make an effort to get close to him, and would always make him feel weird when he would be the one trying. Eventually, he did however found himself a couple of acquaintances who would talk to him at school because their parents were friends, and everyone was interested in maintaining the status quo. People that went to school with him started to drink at a really early age: He thought that was stupid. Go read a book, guys, seriously. They started to listen to music. He stayed quiet, while his classmates would brag about music they didn’t know or never telling them how bad their taste in music was. For pure pressure, from his parents, he eventually started to go to some parties with his acquaintances. His parents didn’t want their friends to think his kid was a weirdo. The boy hadn't faded under pressure: it just became pretty clear he would prefer to spend his time anywhere but home. He couldn't stand his parents, and his siblings were slowly, but persistently, becoming as selfish, egocentric and futile as his parents. One day though, he thought it all would change. It had too. Like in the books and movies he had so eagerly devoured, one day he saw this gorgeous girl getting into his life, as she walked in the room where he was. They would instantly look at each other. This boy and this girl soon enough were talking, alone on the rooftop of that party, away from everyone. She was funny, and she was smart. She was...genuine, in a city ( full of fake people. She wouldn't believe most of what she was hearing from that boy - Years later she said she couldn't believe how someone so insanely naive and honest hadn't been ran over by a truck - But something on him had touched her. She could just feel the immense heart that kid had. His dreams started to make her think she could dream, again, too. For a second, she looked to the world with the boy's eyes, and she had felt so much hope for the future. For a moment in time, the boy's dreams started to come true: He made friends, who he thought were the most loyal and honorable people he had ever met, in a twisted way, but still. He had a girlfriend with whom he finally had some true emotional connection, with dreams and magic for his life ahead. For years, he felt like he would never again in his life feel as happy and as hopeful as in those short few months. But it didn't last forever. Not that moment, not anything else. He needed help to understand the world. He needed help to understand how people can be so mean to each other. How religion sometimes creates the most evil of the monsters in our society. How it feels like we have no heroes anymore to look up to, because nobody is truly looking out for the weak. How nowadays, the world is trying to theorize selfishness as a good thing. How can that be possible? How can people say the problems of a country are poor immigrants trying to have a better life? Or how we should just not help the weak, because it would make them lazy? This boy's heroes would have never ever think like. Act like that. How it is just okay to imagine we should think about countries, rather than in the whole world as one. We should feel ashamed of how some countries try to close themselves to the problems of the world, as if they weren’t part of humanity. That's just not right. But as in a good novel, our boy endured. He could change that. With his friends and with his girlfriend, somehow, he felt he could change the world. One day, this boy had an(other) argument with his girlfriend. He wasn't used to that. How it would feel like she would try to make things difficult sometimes. Like she would deliberately try to hurt him other times. That argument felt pretty bad, so he decided to go talk to her a couple of hours later. When she got to her place, he felt like he was gonna die. She was fucking the guy he thought was his best friend. On the couch, in the living room, with the windows open, to everyone to see. They were fucking, they were not making love. They were fucking like animals. The boy froze for what it seemed to be an eternity, and the worst part is that they didn’t even noticed his presence there. They just kept going, moaning, screaming obscenities, hurting each other, because they enjoyed it. Soon after, they changed positions, and the sex was over in the most disgusting way the boy could've ever imagined. Then his friend saw him, and without giving much to it, he had just said “Hey boy” tired and sweating from what he had just done. The boy's girlfriend had barely a reaction. She just said “Holy fuck”, stood up and went to clean herself off, both of them still pretty comfortable on being naked in front of the boy. The boy decided to leave, as fast as he could from there. His friend started laughing, telling him to wait. The boy felt like he wouldn't be able to stand the pain, but he wasn't even able to cry. He just felt like he would never be able to leave his bedroom again. He closed his eyes, and stayed immersed in the infinite. Days later, he had a talk with that girl, and what they had “all decided” was that the girl would fuck any of them, whenever. The boy, as we know, wouldn't have accepted that. But he wasn't the boy anymore. Somehow, something now was making sense, and all the questions he had were buried deep down on his soul. He wouldn't need to worry about them anymore. He had to worry about fucking that girl, to prove her, to everyone else, and to himself how strong he was. How nothing would ever hurt him. How the world is not like the books he had read. How he just needed to get what he wanted in life, because no one else would ever give it to him. The more you have, the more power you have. The more power, well... More options to make your will prevail. He would never be a hero if he just kept being a naive, young kid in that city lost in the world, without nothing to say or nowhere to go. And if people know what you want, you can bet your ass they will do everything they can to take it away from you, laugh at your ambitions and make you believe you are destined to be frustrated, just like them. The secret for success? Never tell anyone your dreams. Just go and do it. You'll show them later. When everything was settle and done, after what happened in his city, he was gone in a heartbeat. Even then, he was sure he didn't care. The boy did accomplish a lot. Believing the worse part of his life was gone, that he was finally in control of his own life, he travelled the world and lived more stories and adventures than any person of his age could ever dream of. Every day he lived after that was a proof of how strong he had become. The boy changed. His mind kept questioning the world, but he had learnt how to shut it off pretty well. How not to care, because nobody can possibly care like that and stay alive in this world. He learned in first hand people are just waiting for you to make one single mistake to step on your head. One day the boy met another girl. That had been years now, only making mistake after mistake, because the boy had forgotten how to be just... the boy he'd always been. Not only this new girl, but several other people got hurt for being around the boy along the way. He just couldn't stand it, being on and off with someone like that. The problem had never being together or not: they seemed to be attracted to each other like magnets. She was passionate about music. About life, about her friends, and about her dreams. She was too much alike the young boy. She had so much love inside of her. He felt like she needed saving. She needed someone to help her accept the love she had inside of her. But soon enough he found out he had screw it up once again. Chance after chance, he had blew it. He hadn`t been able to empathize with her, he hadn`t been able to talk to her, he hadn`t been able to make clear to her how bad he cared about her. He hadn't been able to show her how, yes, he was still the boy she had fell in love with. Now she was saying she didn't want to be around him anymore. Once again, he wasn’t a man. He was a boy. A boy who couldn't understand why we do those things to each other. He was especially confused about how he had been able to do all of that to other people: He never meant to hurt anyone like that, he had just tried to stop getting stepped on his head. He had gotten better because once again in his life he had felt connected to something. Connected to people around him. Connected to that girl. Something had made sense. In a matter of months, that was gone. Now that he had tried to make things right again with that girl, it seemed like he had just messed it up for good. She seemed to have reached her limit. He was tired of thinking. He was tired of not being enough. He was tiring of always having to control himself and he had gotten extremely tired at once about being who he was and how that would never let him have some peace. After watching that girl leave, all these thoughts flooded his mind and his heart with pain and desperation. The boy felt like he couldn't breathe again. He, too, got off the table and left, very slowly. He got on his car and he drove around the city, thinking about his life. Thinking about all their problems. He went to the darkest place in that city that he knew. There were a couple of people there who could sell him exactly what his blood had been longing for weeks. All those question, all that pain, all that emptiness would go away again. He would be able to breathe again. The boy got out of the car and crossed the street. His head was hurting. On the other side of the street he walked for around twenty meters, until someone caught his attention. Hi, my friend. Could you help me with some change, please? - It was a homeless, who was sitting on the ground against a building. The boy had almost stepped on him without realizing it. Excuse me? - He froze for a second I'm hungry, my friend. I'm really hungry… Please... Oh... - He looked at the homeless. He was an old Arab, with a white beard. In that second, the boy felt extremely ashamed about what he was going to do. So he decided he wouldn't. He decided to do the right thing, no matter what. - Sure, my friend … - He got his wallet, and without counting, he gave every single penny he had to that homeless. - … Oh my god... Thank you so much, sir - The homeless guy seemed to be in shock. When he spoke again, he had tears in his eyes – God bless you, sir. God bless you... - You're welcome. Take care, my friend … God bless you – He was not religious, but somehow he felt it was the right thing to say at that moment. When the boy turned around to leave, he still heard the old man saying something to him in Arab, which as far as he could guess/know, meant “God bless” or something pretty similar to that. He turned around, smiled at the old man and then he went home. Days later at the school, when he was already feeling pretty bad for not having any news from that girl, someone told him that the girl was in the auditorium. The auditorium was locked, but there was still one door (for exclusively use of the staff, that almost nobody knew where it was) that was open. He walked in in the auditorium pretty slowly and quietly, but the girl wasn't there. The boy sat, and resented the fact that he was probably late: she was gone already, although there was a lot of notes and a bag near the piano... He sat there and waited for the time to pass. Minutes later, the girl with the hair on fire appeared with a bottle of water on stage. She didn’t notice him, far back in the auditorium, without any light to show his presence. She was practicing the piano. She sat on the tiny bench, read her notes for a couple of minutes, and then she started to play. From the second before she started to play, he knew that that music was going to touch his soul. He just knew it. She started to play, and every single atom of his body got hypnotized by that song: It started slowly, very slowly. But soon it got faster, and you could already feel the intensity of that song. How much loneliness and pain was in that. Then it got a bit hopeful. A tiny bit contempt, almost happy. It soon got lonely again. And confused, slowly, as if she was trying to tell their stories through that song. Her story. All the problems they faced, all the tensions, all the intensity. All the love, and all the hope. All the fear, and all the magic. All the mistakes and all the sadness. When she was done, she took a minute to breathe. It was probably the tenth time she was practicing that song, and now it had been perfect. Flawless. He couldn't leave that chair for minutes. Even after she left, he was still there, drowning on this exhaustion that seemed to be very peaceful. That seemed to be giving him some perspective. He didn't know what to do. The boy didn't know what to do. Eric didn't get any sign of Marie in the two weeks that followed. He was feeling dead inside. He wanted to see her: He wanted to know if she had meant everything she said. He just felt like … hitting the rock bottom. Tell her he would say anything: He just needed her by his side. He needed her. He was sure he could still be that boy he once was. He was sure they could still be happy together. He called her a couple of times, but no answer, and in that situation where they all were, people barely speaking to each other, it seemed like she had evaporated in the air, just like Tom and Alice. People were vanishing in the air those days. He was also barely seeing his brother or even Mike in the apartment, and when they did see each other, everyone was always busy, distracted, quiet, distant, closed or in their phones texting people Eric didn't even know. Nobody seemed to be able to stay away from their phones. They were avoiding each other, and what Eric could have said? He probably was the one that started this whole thing of avoiding people anyways. Mike had definitely learned from him, for starters. Eric kept doing what he had been doing: working out and trying to create some music. Jan was helping him now and besides the hours Eric was training by himself, they were also training for a few hours, several times a week. Eric had one single thought: Music is what would bring them all back together. He was trying to train more than what Tom was ordering, and in the beginning it felt impossible. But then he tried an extra walk, a couple of extra push-ups, swimming a bit more, and things finally were starting to evolve. He was training and he was listening to more music these days that he had probably listened to his whole life. He had also started to read more poetry to try to get some inspiration on how to write his lyrics, in the beginning it also seemed impossible: he didn't understand much, he wouldn't get the point, but as with everything else, he kept going for weeks and eventually it started to get easier. Eric had started to try and talk to everyone around him again, trying to understand what was happening and what he could do to help, even though things in that are seemed to be the hardest to deal with. - What's wrong man? - Jan - ….AAAAh –Eric sighed - This music sucks so bad, man – He was frustrated - ...Nah, relax, man, it's getting there – Jan - … Any ideas? I'm completely stuck. - Hmmm, not sure yet... let's try again He played the music five times faster, trying to change some chords. - No...ahn, noo... maybe....arrg, fuck no... He stopped for a minute. - Maaaaybe... - He played again – No... You know what, play me the song and I'll follow you... - Ok Jan tried some other stuff and tried to improvise a bit over what Eric was playing. - Hmm...Maybe...go back a bit... Eric obeyed. - Hmm...Try this... - Jan – Yeah...No... - What about this? - Eric tried something different - Hmm do it again? - Jan listened closely -That's a bit better, yeah, but then we need to change ...ahn, here, you see? - Hmmm yeah... - Come on, again... - Hey, man – Eric was still reaching for air after finishing his training– I've been meaning to talk to you... - Oh, shout it out, Eric – Tom smiled, but he didn't stop his training - You know you're like a brother to me, right? - Yeah, man. What's up? What's wrong? - … How are you, Tom? For real...- He sighed - No one's here, just you and me, man. – Eric smiled – I need to know... Tom stopped working out for a few seconds, but he soon started it again. - I don't know, Eric... You? -.Oh, me? I’m screwed... Marie doesn't wanna see me anymore, my brother and sister are completely distant from me and Mike is getting insane with his school. He paused for a second. - ...But that doesn't make any less important the fact I have no fucking idea about what’s happening with you. I used to have more news from you when you were still in Montreal, Tom. Tom had definitely stopped working out now. - What's happening, man? - Eric - … I don't know....I'm just not okay in this point of my life. Eric starred at him as he kept talking: - I'm in Paris for what? More than six months now. And I'm not able to do shit with my life. Things were not perfect in Montreal, but I had a life there... I mean, almost ten years of my life....And the worse is... Ah – He shook his head - it doesn't even matter.... Eric took a deep breath. - You're really having problems letting her go, aren't you? - Eric Tom gave him a sad smirk. - ...Yeah... She was always the only one for me, Eric, and I thought that after everything we've been through...we'd find a way to get back together – He paused – But... I guess our moment just passed and... And I just let it pass. It fucking vanished in the air. Silence. Tom finally spoke: - I’m sorry I’ve been distant... I just can't deal with people right now. Besides, once in my life I have absolutely no clue on what I’m gonna do next, you know? ...Should I go after a good job here? Start my own company? Truth is, I don't feel like doing any of those things...except, working out and reading and you know...watching life go by for a while... Eric nodded. - I'm fucking hurt too, you know – Eric paused for a while – I guess I never said that to anyone... “Hurt” Tom eventually nodded back. Eric started talking again. -You're one of the few people, probably, that I would ever put my pride aside for. You deserve the world, brother, because you are the most awesome guy I've ever had the pleasure to meet, and you understand things and you always been loyal to me... But you have to pull yourself together. Not for me, not for Katherine. For you, ok? For the guy you are. - Eric paused - … I don't wanna bother you anymore... I just wanted to tell you I wanna try and fix things. And it's clear as hell we could be helping each other a hell of a lot more than what we've been doing in the past months... I am here for you dude, and I want you to know that... They starred at each other. - I'm all screwed up, but I'm here if you need me... I have no idea what to do either, Tom. But I know for sure I can't just stand and watch anymore while my family is disappearing in the air. Tom never said anything, so Eric just decided to go. - ... I guess I'll see you tomorrow, Tom. - Sure... Hey, good luck with your siblings tonight, hun? Eric smiled and nodded. Jan and Eric spent the whole day training, until probably two hours after exhaustion. At some point Eric was simply forced to finish the training session because he was going to have a dinner with Gustavo and Isadora that night. And so he went: - Hey, Eric - Hey, guys They tried to have a casual talk, eating and drinking a bit, and for a good while everything seemed to be ok. Gustavo kept looking at his phone. After they were done with the food, Eric decided to try and have a conversation about everything that was bothering them, at once. - Hey guys, I called you here tonight because I wanted to talk to you guys... It's been a while that I'm feeling ...that everyone is drifting apart, getting distant from each other. And I honestly have no idea what to do about that... I know most of the fault is probably mine, and I know it's been pretty sucky to you guys too... But still... I miss you guys, and I know my communication skills sometimes know, limited... I just wanted to talk to you both about what’s been happening and...Hmmm... And see what we...what I can do to help with this situation... I just...- He cleared his throat - I really miss having you guys around... Both Isa and Gustavo went silent for a moment. They exchange some looks between them, but it seemed as no one was going to say anything. - I just...I just don't know what we could say, Eric - Isa - Yeah, apart from the fact that your speech sucked... And that it's not like it actually matters much... - Gustavo! - Isadora - What do you mean, Gustavo? … You think I don't care about you guys? - Eric - I didn't mean that... - So what did you mean? - He sighed – Could you please put your phone down for a second? Gustavo put his phone on the table and stopped to think for a second, looking for the right words. - Dude, living in Paris has been cool and all... the festival was a lot of fun... And we know you care, we know you like our company around and all.... - But...? - … We've been in the middle of all these problems....and we just can't help you guys, dude. Especially because you guys just shut us away in a very mean and inconsiderate way. - In which sense? - All of them.... we struggle sometimes to have money to do stuff, you know... We don't need anything, that’s not what I’m saying, I'm not complaining – Gustavo tried to explain himself before Eric could react to what he had said - ... I’m just saying that we are just freaking students...and you guys, have problems that we can't do anything about it, directly. But we could try to help, being here for you guys, to talk and whatnot, and honestly do anything we could do to help if we knew what... But it's like no one wants to talk...or do anything anymore. You guys never even bothered to ask our help, or actually sit down with us and see... what we would be able to do... You, specially. - He sighed - No one wants to ask for company or help or to do anything together anymore, because … you know, it’s been a fucking torture to everyone. And especially in my and Isa's case, you guys treated us like kids these last months... I'm not saying we had the worse from it all, jeez, you know it's not that... But come on, man... … Half of ours friends that were here for the festival already left France, and the few that stayed... I guess didn't think about keeping people close.... And this country, this city… Is pretty messed up around these days if you haven`t notice it… Silence. Gustavo started to talk again. - … In life, we need a lot of effort to keep people close, Eric, especially during crisis as big as the ones we've been facing, bro - Gustavo Silence - Uaau... - Eric – … How old are you again? - He smirked They finally smiled. Isa eventually agreed with her little brother: - … He's kinda right, you know? - Yeah...I know... They started drinking some tea and eating some dessert in silence for a few minutes - Listen, I’m really really sorry, guys... I guess I just wanted you know, not to worry about things...Probably that's what we all tried to do. Mike, not wanting you guys to worry about money, and the school and all. And I... I just wanted... Maybe I wanted to be strong for you guys, so you guys could have kept having fun and enjoying Paris for the rest of us... Gustavo sighed and nodded. - We know, man. It's just cuz... That's not how it works, dude. You actually think we could be that selfish to the point of having a blast while you and Mike were in deep shit? You think these things wouldn't affect us if we didn't deal with them together? You didn't think it would interfere in Mike and Isa's relationship and... With our family? Eric didn't say anything. - Yeah, I know... Truth is: I’m scared, guys. Of course I am. I’m not sure on what to do. But I can't lose you guys... I need... I need your company. Your help. Isa and Gustavo looked at each other, without knowing what to say, and they just stayed in that silence for a while. - … I screwed things up with Marie, again, and even with Mike, you know. - Really? - Isadora - Oh man... not this shit again... - Gustavo “tired of hearing about it” - Gustavo! That's not funny…. what are you gonna do about it? - Isa seemed to be concern for Eric - Well, I wanna fix things up... but I guess I need to make things right with Marie this time... With everyone, I mean. I tried to do the whole dinner thing, it didn't work quite well... - It will. She loves you, you know that. You guys have been so stressed lately. She seemed to be so tired this days, Eric… Maybe you should just try to talk to her again… Eric shrugged his shoulders - Last time we talked, she used the past tense, you know... – He paused – It was just weird, she told me she's considering moving to the States for a while. She was never that... fatalist about us. - Oh no, why does she want to move to the States? – She paused, Eric just shrugged his shoulders - Oh Eric, what are you gonna do? - I don't know...nothing I guess, nothing until I can promise myself things will be different... She deserves better than that. You all do… Isa held Eric's hand - We all do. - … It's ok, lil' sister – He said - Well, I’m pretty sure you'll find a way to go and get her back, hun Tiiiger? You are my brother after all... - Gustavo, making the sound of a tiger quietly growling and making a gesture with his hands, as if he was a tiger scratching something - ...I don't know dude, maybe she was just pms-ing. Did you try sending her chocolates already? Isadora and Eric just ignored the last comment. - Hey, I know what to do – Isa said - How to get his girl back? – Gustavo – Maybe a new girl for him? A stripper?! - Pff, that’s friggin easy...Guys are so lost about it ...all it takes sometimes is an honest talk, a poem, a declaration in front of everyone else...You know, things that make you go totally out of your – Gustavo was mocking his sister talking -...way to show someone you actually care abou-... - that's not funny Gustavo! - What a bunch of clichés, sister! You know why we don't do it? Because it's gay. And also… it`s not because we like to do it or that we don't, but to find a girl that makes these things to be worth doing....that's like the biggest challenge... besides, they never show you in movies or books the million things that could go wrong, if people around you laugh at you after, or something ridiculous like that... And how pathetic you should feel? Nah... I'll pass. - Ah, you can't be serious, Gustavo – Isadora - Ha! I guess you'll never know sista – Gustavo smiling - What a douche.... Anywaays, what I meant before all of his bullcrap, is that we could go home and watch a movie, hun? It’s still early... You know, some family bonding moment, with popcorn and all – Isadora was smiling at them - If there's beer, I'm in... - Gustavo - Yeah yeah. Whatever... - Isadora - Cool with me... Do you have any movie in mind? - Eric - Nops...we could also go to the movies too, it’s up to you guys... - Isa - Nah, I'm super tired, I feel like just laying down on our couch - Eric - Yeaaah... - Ok...pajamas, nice. That totally works for me – Isa smiled - Great... Two days after that dinner, Eric was trying to stay focused on his routine of trying to make music and studying as he had been doing in the last months. After a specially hard and long day, Tom appeared by surprise on the beginning of the night with Gustavo, Isa and Mike on the studio where they were training. - Hey guys, what are you doing here? - Eric smiled when he saw them all arriving at once. - I figured you guys could use some help ...and food, you know – Tom was smiling at him Eric smile opened ear to ear. - For sure, man... - Alrighttt - … Well, let's take a look on what you guys have been doing then... Perhaps we can help a bit- Mike smiled and winked at Eric - Alright bro... They showed them the demos, different possibilities and doubts that they were having for the material they had been creating. Mike and Tom quickly grabbed some instruments and they helped them for almost two hours. Together, in that couple of hours, they felt like they were producing way more than what they could have ever imagined. When it started to get late, Tom said: - Well, I have a place I wanna take you guys tonight - Oh yeah? - A party, Isa recommended the place, actually – Tom looked at Isa, she nodded - I feel we could all use a party, hun? - He smiled - Awesome - Yeaaah... move your ass, let's go... That party was amazing. After months, they finally started to have some fun again – Even Alice and her new boyfriend joined them with a couple of friends at some point in the night. Everybody called a couple of people they knew and soon enough they had some of Jan's friends, some Isa's friends, Gustavo's friends... They all decided to show up that night. The place was so packed that you would dance even if you didn't want to... but they did, and God how bad they did. The music was insane. The crowd was completely insane too. Gustavo and Jan were just grabbed by women who started to kiss them and dance with them and all of them were just getting crazy in that mixture of bodies, sweat and music. Isa and Mike were finally being a couple again, having fun, drinking and dancing together. Eric was having so much fun … even though he really missed Marie at that moment. The person who was truly reborn in that party was Tom: He danced like only he knew how to, for hours, with this gorgeous black girl, who apparently was not a bad dancer herself. At some point in the night, Tom even went to the DJ, talked to him for a few minutes and actually got control of the music for a few minutes, and once again, the party had reached another level of insanity, with some really heavy dubstep. Tom danced the whole night; he brought attention upon them all the whole night. They kept meeting new people the whole night. Eric knew his friend was not one hundred percent and that it would probably take a good time to be so. But dancing was Tom's essence, since Eric had first met him. After that insane party, Eric knew that his old friend was back. With Mike and Tom's help, and also from a guy who was learning drums at their school (who got pretty excited about helping them) they started to be extremely productive. The persistence of spending hours and hours in that studio – Mike was spending as much as he could, even with all his responsibilities – and with the improvement of Eric's techniques, resulted in this creative frenesi – It wasn't easy, it didn't happen as magic, and it wasn't even that fast – But it was happening. Mike, as always, seemed to create music in a few minutes: With that, they would all get into the process of sharpening the music, and finally Tom, specialized in the small details and production of the songs, would finish it. Finally a bit of hope. A bit of hope that only that magic of creation could've brought to their lives, making it seem bearable again. If Eric wasn't feeling in heaven it was for one reason and one reason only: Marie. She hadn't called back, and they hadn't run into each other at the school after that night. No one had had any news from her – Maybe Tom, but Eric didn't want to put him in that position. It had been almost three weeks now. He was with this anxiety over what was going on with her and about what he should do, if he should do anything about it. Every time he would think about it, he would have to use all his strength to stop torturing himself over that. What could he do? And it wasn't even that... It was worse. He was afraid of losing her for good, if she did give him another chance. He was afraid of once more, fighting for the wrong person, for the wrong reasons, and mess it up. One more mistake, and he was afraid of losing her for good. Losing even her existence in his life. Maybe if he didn't try anything anymore, they could eventually still go back to being friends... … He just kept trying to make music. He was trying to put his soul onto it. Music was bringing people back together, so maybe if he kept doing it, it would make things right, once again. Isabella was once again back to Paris for a couple of weeks. On the day she arrived, Eric and her ended up going to have dinner together to talk. Surprisingly, Eric felt like talking to her. Like, really talking. I don`t still quite know what to do, with everything that`s happening, you know … - Eric Hmm… Well, things haven't being great, I know. Yeah, how are you doing by the way? ...I`m ok. I still feel like staying up north a bit more, but sometimes I still get a bit … Lost. That`s why I`m taking baby steps to come back to civilization, I suppose... I don't know, I just … feel like home there, right? It’s not cuz I'm afraid of coming to Paris or whatnot... I just find myself really... - She paused. She didn't know how to put it ...At peace? - Eric smiled. She eventually nodded – Yeah, I see … Well, you do look great. Hun… I`m feeling better, that's what matters I guess. Yeah, of course... - Eric ...How are you handling to stay away from all that? No idea… It`s fucking boring sometimes. A torture most of the times. But you know what they say, one day at a time… Yeah, same here … Fuck man I know…. It's … Well, to be honest, I was completely fine once we got to Paris, can you believe it? For real... And then shit started to happen, and... - He cleared his throat - It got bad, it started to get bad again... They had a bit of a sad grim on both of their faces. ...Hey, would you have ever imagine we would be sitting here, like this, after all those years? - Isabella smiled Not at all… - Eric smiled – … But I`m glad you`re here, Bella Yeah, me too – She smiled They both stayed in silence for a minute, just looking at people around them. So, what do you think I should do about Marie? Isabella smiled. Did I just hear it well? Did Eric Meirelles just ask me for advice about a girl? He laughed. Yeah, go ahead, laugh. Nooo... I think it`s soo sweet – She was making fun of him Yeah, Yeah… Hmm…. That depends Eric... On what? How much do you love that girl? – She was somewhat serious now. …I … - He was a bit embarrassed. He got surprised about the way she asked him that. He needed to pause for a second – A lot actually... Hmm – She slowly nodded then kept looking at him for a second with that “I`m seriously analyzing you right now” face. She didn't say anything so he decided to speak. But... I`m just so tired… of hurting her, actually. Isn`t that stupid? I`ve been trying so hard for the last few months to become a better person, and I still hurt her … like, all the time. Again, and again... Uhum… Well… Well what? I don`t know, Eric. I don`t know how to tell you what you need to hear… … ? She got quiet for what it seemed to be almost a full minute. You want to know the truth, Eric? The actual truth about it? … Yeah You sure? Yeah… - He was getting a bit restless with the way that talk was going … You let yourself become a fucking asshole since we first met, man... I kind of told you that already. He didn`t say anything. Isabella looked away and then looked back at him, staring at him with her big, colorful eyes. Yeah… You should know that by now. You turned into this asshole, I guess because Samuel was the only guy you ever respected... for a long time. You were always such a nice, sweet guy with your books and movies and music when we started dating. And then, we all screw up, me particularly, and I guess you thought that you needed to become Samuel so what I did to you never happened again. Or to prove something to someone... Or... I don't know. Maybe you thought nobody would ever truly love who you were... He just kept looking at her as she kept talking. But, man… That`s not who you are: you`ve been hurting people in the exact same way I`ve hurt you, and Samuel hurt you... Yes, yes you are – Eric had started to shake his head, denying it - And you knoow that… You became a fucking misogynistic asshole with all that macho bullshit that Samuel would always spit around, because you thought I...or everyone else, respected Samuel more than we respected you… - She sighed - You know what is the big problem with you and Marie? You still didn`t forgive her for not waiting for you in Paris like a nun, like a helpless princess from one of your romantic books from the eighteenth century… Oh my god, she fucked another guy. An ex-boyfriend that she probably was still in love with and with who she was trying to work things out. So what? Grow up, man. Women like sex too. A lot actually...– Eric tried to start saying “No, there`s nothing to do wi…” but Isabella cut him off – Yes, of course there is. She fucked another guy. That`s horrible. She broke hmm...She didn't quite fit the image of the perfect girl you had for yourself anymore. You in the other hand, as soon as she did that, started dating Alice, and then started to fuck around like a sex addict during our tour and that was perfectly okay? How do you think she felt? And Really? Just because you`re a guy? Come on, Eric, tell me I`m wrong. I dare you... Tell me that there isn`t a tiny, quiet voice inside of you reminding you that she doesn`t deserve you because she had sex with another guy after you guys met? - She paused – Or even how you never truly respected me for sleeping around during our tour together. You didn't bro... Or how you were so expecting that Marie's life would depend on your decisions and your good will? Come on, man. She has a life, she learned to be fucking strong, yes, man... She has a life of her own now, and that intimidated you, how badass she became... that fast, with everything that happened in her life, how she … You know, manages the center, how she apparently is such a good teacher, and musician, and friend, and ...- Isabella took a pause - How she took control of her life and its making decisions without you and … you know, showing that ,yes bro, she wants you in her life, but if that doesn’t work, she's gonna move on and eventually she's gonna be just fine – She paused again for a long while – Eric... Have you ever tried to put yourself in her shoes? I mean, Imagine if the same thing had happened to you but you were the girl and she was the guy. What would you think about yourself? About this whole relationship? What would you want, and what would you do? Would you have stuck around that long? Eric had no answer for anything Isabella had asked him. He just sat there, looking at her, until he relaxed on his chair, and a part of him just realized that she was probably right, and he knew it. He had probably been lying to himself for a while. After that talk, he spent several days with those thoughts on his mind, as he was walking down the street, or eating or even as he was trying to create music. A couple more nights passed by where he had barely slept, thinking about what his friend had told him: thinking about his life and about his mistakes. Then, fate interfered: He ended up running into Marie during one morning at the school, and Eric had no idea how to react. After a second of awkwardness in the air, they ended up getting closer to each other. They just walked to the benches near the school in silence. - Hey... - … Hey - How are you? - … I'm ok, you? - Yeah, I’ve been better... Silence. - Soo... I’ve heard that you guys are creating some new material... - Marie - Yeaap – As he would slowly nod his head – We're trying... - ...Cool - Yeah... Aand, listen... You're more than welcome to join us if you want … We just didn't insist on that because...You know... - Yeah... Sure. I'll think about it. - Okay... - Eric Silence. He decided to talk about it: - ...Hey, about that night.... - It's ok, Eric....we don't have to talk about that... - No, yeah, I know...I know we don't... but I wanna talk about it, if it’s okay with you... - … Okay -... Look, I know I screwed things up. I'm pretty much aware of that. And I'm sorry for that... I know there's like a hundred thousand things I should've told you. I know that, ok? Trust me, I do... I just … It was never because I didn’t trust you, or because I didn't care about you. I was always... afraid. Yeah, afraid of your reaction, afraid of my reaction... Afraid of disappointing you, of...of losing what we had. - He stopped and tried to see if he could read how she was reacting to that. He really couldn't tell - And I know it's not an excuse, Marie. I just … messed things up so bad, with everyone...So many times in my life. Especially with you, because of the person I got used to be, and for never having experienced what I feel for you without getting completely crushed over about it... You're right about the things you said... - He got quiet again for a minute – I got used not to talk... about important things, because every time I had ever opened my mouth it seems like I had always... created problem. And you don't need to tell me that it doesn't make sense. I know, but I guess that's how I've ever felt. Just trying to avoid problems, so I could... protect what we had. After a short silence, he started speaking again: - I'm really sorry, Marie. God, I really am... I'm sorry for needing so long, and so many people to throw the truth at my face so I can finally admit this things. And I'm sorry for always apologizing these days...- He gave her a quick smirk. She ended up smiling - Yeah, I needed to talk to Jan, to Isabella, to Tom, to my siblings, to my parents, with Alice, to finally understand what was … going on with me. But I knew things were bad, I always knew I should try to be a better guy for you... It's not like I was unaware of that... I was just... fuck, I was just stupid, ok? And I even needed Isabella to point it out how bad of a plain asshole I was being... - He tried to smile again to break the tension – And... I'm just so sad these days for knowing how bad I`ve hurt you, you have no idea... how I just can't take any of that back. All I can do is just tell you all of this, and tell you that I really miss you, and that I really, really love you... - He sighed - Tell you that I really want you with me again, and that I'd do anything, anything to make it work out better, because you deserve better... You deserve the world, Marie. You're by far one of the most awesome people I have ever met, and I really don't wanna miss out on having you in my life... He finished what he had to say, and was imagining he would get a quick reaction out of it. But she was just looking at him, as she was trying to absorb what had just happened. So he just tried to point out what was really making him scared shitless those last few days: -... I'm really trying Marie, but... I can't do anything about it if you go to the States... She looked down, slowly nodding her head. Eric froze “Shit, she's going” -.... Yeah...ok....I know – She looked back at him, nodding, as if she was agreeing with him. - What? - Eric wasn't sure of what she meant after all that. -...Alright, Eric. I understand it - Hm... Ok, so what exactly are you saying? They looked at each other and Marie took another deep breath before talking. Eric was really nervous at that point. He felt like he had never spoke so much in such a short period of time. Probably an accurate feeling. - Look, Eric, I'm sorry about that night... Not for what I said, I guess, but by the way I said it. I understand your side, I really do, but that doesn't change mine. I really feel like you've been... indeed too much of an asshole to me. The way you locked me out, the way you avoided me, the way … yes, the way you didn't trust me, Eric. - Eric opened his mouth but she never gave him the chance to talk - It might seemed like you did, but you didn't, several times you just didn't trust me at all, Eric... I mean, that's not how you treat someone you trust. And I know it was not intentionally, I know you weren't trying to hurt me with that, but... you did...A lot... Yes, you should've noticed it earlier. You should've done something about it earlier....I really tried to be there for you, and help you in every single possible way I could... And.... You know.... I just can't take that anymore... I just wish we could talk more Eric, that's all. Talk, you know... I really wish I could have talked about this Julliard's thing with you, you know...and I just couldn't... I never wanted to throw that at you like that, I know it was harsh from me... I just wanted to know we could have talked about ...stuff. I wouldn't have minded if you have said to me “What? No...Fuck Juilliard...” That would've been something, I would've laughed, I would've loved you....and the fact that I just knew I couldn't talk to you about things like that almost killed me these last weeks...These lasts months. Or, you know, about how we could have tried to help Mike, or Tom, or how I could've been there for you, if we were together, and trusting one another man. I just needed you to tell me what was going on on your mind, what... you needed me to do, how I could've helped you, and tell you how you could've helped me... We could've left Paris and go hid in Greenland for a while, you know – She smiled really quickly - things like that...We could've face all those things as a family, and specially you and me, as a couple. The worse was to keep imagining of all the shit you were not telling me too... It … It was killing me, Eric.... I told you that, like five hundred times, dude... You think I like telling you the same thing over and over again? You don't think I know it's annoying you? But how annoying do you think it was for me, man? -...Yeah, I know....I know, I’m sorry… I'm so sorry.... I just... I don't know. Fuck, I'm really sorry... She looked at him for a moment before speaking again. -...Yeah, I know you are....- She sighed - It’s ok... - No, Marie, it's not... -Yeah, no...You're right, it's not... – For the first time that day, Marie truly smiled at him. Eric gave her a weak smile in return - …. Please don't go? Please? … See? I said it again! – He smiled at her – Besides, If you go, I`ll have to go after you, and I know that that would be too creepy for both of us… Marie smiled again - … Its ok Eric... that bridge is.... well, I guess it won't be for today, at least. Eric's stomach turned upside down as he smiled. - Really? -Yeaaah... Really, really you stupid-head... I don't see myself as a Juilliard girl right now. It was my father idea to leave France for a while; I didn't even like it that much. Not for now, or for the near future, at least – She sighed - I just...I just wished we could've talked about it...Because, you know... It was a big deal for me. Eric nodded with a sad grim. -Yeah, I know, I understand... Silence. He tried to break the tension. - Soooo...“What? Noo...Fuck Juilliard” Marie laughed. - Fuck Juilliard! ...- Some people around them heard the “fucks”– Ops....- Marie laughed – Aiai... Nah, funny thing is I always wondered about this idea. Not specifically Juilliard, but yeah... something like that, or starting to work with classical music. You know? - So why not? For real… - Hmm... Timing doesn't seem right. All my bro's are in deep shit right now apparently. So me and my girls, we are preparing a task force to help with all the shit that wouldn't have happened if you guys had listened to us in the first place... - Oh... Auch. Fair enough – He smirked - Yeah...besides, with you guys needing me to write music and soon go on another tour and make a bunch of money, being a rock star and parties and success again...I don't know, that sounded more appealing to me right now... - She smiled at him Eric smiled - Really? - Yeah-p - Awesome... Silence. The opportunity was in the air. He could've definitely asked her out to do something: Dinner, movies, a concert. But it wasn't the right time. Not yet. And she probably still needed some time, Eric thought. He didn't want to be that pushy: that talk with her had already been the highlight of his week. He was really relieved she was not going to the States by herself. - Hmm... Weeell, I guess I'll see you around then... - Marie finally said. Yeah, she definitely was waiting for some kind of invitation. -Yeahh, hope to see you soon - Alright... Byee - Bye While she was walking away, all he could think was: “Fuck, I love you” - Hey, Eric? - Jan interrupted his train of thoughts, approaching him from the school. - Hmm... Yeah? - We're good to go, dude...Are you coming or do you rather keep drooling over her? - He smirked - Ha, shut up, man. Let's go... A couple of weeks later, once again in Paris, Eric's parents sat down at Mike's place with everyone around them. (Mike, Isadora, Gustavo and Eric) They were all very objectives: They once again spoke about Mike's debt, Eric's costs with the whole journalist situation, and about what they were able to put together, that would be available in the next couple of days for Mike. In the same way, his father was very short when he said: - We just called everyone here, because we made a decision a few weeks ago, and now we finally can let you guys now. We just sold our house in Brazil... They all went dead silent. -... Are you guys kidding me? Mike very quickly shook his head, with a not-so-good facial expression, of guilt and disapproval. - No... - But dad... You guys loved that house... The parents were in complete silence. Before speaking, his dad took a deep breath. - ...Guys, listen. We understand your reactions, we knew it would be like that, but it is done. We thought we should give you guys a hand, help you keep all of what you've built and what's making you guys happy and united here. It's true, we loved that house, we were wishing to retire and move there one day, but as it is now, we had to be objectives. We had to find a way to stay above the water: I'm not going to retire next month, we are not moving back to Brazil next month, but this problems, right here, right now, are threating our family and our friends. We couldn't just stand aside and do nothing... So, I know nobody is gonna be happy with it, but as I said, it is done... And it is not because we don't trust you guys to handle the situation, it's just because we feel... we wanted to help...its ok. Things will get better, your brother won't need to get into more debts either, and we'll put the rest of the money aside, hun? It was being a huge cost to leave it there alone, so that's another reason... We just thought it was the right thing to do. The room went silent for a while until Mike said: - So at least let me make you guys partners in the school, and make a contract, I don't know. I want you guys to know I'll pay you back for whatever you are going to help me with as soon as possible... - As you wish, Mike. But no matter what, we'd be very happy to help. Even if you don't want our help, we wanted to let you guys know that at least now in worst case scenario we are able to help a bit more than what we've been doing... This school, what it represents, is not just about you anymore, Mike. And I say that, because I know you've been trying not to be a burden on everyone's shoulders. You're not.... We're doing that for you, but as I said, we're also doing it for our family and everyone that we've met who loves that school. You shouldn't feel badly about it... Besides, as I said Mike, we also needed the money for Eric, and for the company, for us and etc etc... Even if you don't accept our help, the money will stay available aside to help our finances in the next couple of years. Isadora eventually looked at Mike and smiled at him, but she knew he probably wasn't convinced at all. Mike didn't show up at the studio the day after that talk. They just assumed he was too busy with the school. But one more day passed, and no sign of him. It was a coincidence, but that day Eric had to go to his office to ask him something. His office was empty. He asked around, and apparently he just hadn't show up. Eric called Isadora at some point, because nobody was answering the phone at home and it was going straight to Mike's voicemail when they tried his cell phone. She told him that Mike had gotten really sad with everything that happened and that he hadn't slept well in the past couple of nights. She told Eric to go check on him at home if he could. Eric found him completely isolated in the apartment. As both Isadora and Gustavo were out at school, Mike and Eric were completely alone at the apartment. Mike had his head down, looking completely exhausted, playing some video games in the living room. Eric just sat by his side. A few minutes later, he got a beer in the kitchen for Mike, and a coke for him, and they started drinking almost at the same second. - Hmm... Hey – He said to Eric - ... I know I should be at the school, Eric... - He sighed - I just didn't have the strength to go today... Or yesterday... I just felt like I needed to sleep for a while... And … Be alone for a bit - He said at some point Eric didn't say a word. Mike kept playing video games for more twenty minutes in silence. Once he lost the game he was playing, he just passed the controller to Eric, who played for almost half an hour too before Mike opened his mouth again. - … Fuck man, I still can't believe how screwed I am, how that guy screwed us over and... Arrr... Everything that is happening now... Eric took a deep breath. - … Yeah, I know, Mike...I neither. But you're not screwed dude. I know it sounds hard to believe right now, but everything will be fine... - ... I just can't believe I became such a big fucking problem for you guys... - Shut up. - Eric stopped playing, putting the controller in the table in front of them - You’re not a problem for us... Listen, if people didn't believe in you and in what you created, no one would have tried to help you and would have been here for you as they had. We believe in you, and we believe in your dream, man... - It’s just cuz...arrr... it was so fucking awesome, wasn't it? - He had the festival on his mind, not that long ago, feeling like a century in the past – It seemed like everything was gonna work out, that I had made all the right decisions, you know...and then...- He sighed again – Ah... Eric kept looking at Mike, probably with a straight face, and eventually said: - And then shit happened... Dude, you did the right know it. Mike shrugged his shoulders: He wasn't convinced at all. Eric had to try harder. He had to try harder for his friend, for his brother. - Hey man... I don't think I ever told you this, but... It helped me a lot to have you by my side, all these years. Have your perspective on things and... Your ideals... Before and after the band. You... It's weird to say, but... You left the band at the right time, you took care of your life, and you started to build something for you and... And you let us help you with your dreams. Our band, well... it had been a while we weren't doing that for the right reasons anymore, right? Let's face it.... - Eric paused for a moment - You gave us a place to come, dude. To live, to work, to have fun and make friends. Now, I'm living with my family and that's been awesome...The best thing ever, seriously – He paused for a second - Just look at how many people had their life changed because of your school and your festival. Just take a look at the parties, see how many friendships were made. Here at home, that was always full of people... - Eric paused again - I believed in your dream and I still do... Just let us help you man, like you helped everyone around you. You helped everyone in these last few months without thinking twice, bro... Let me help you now, now that I can, because I really want to... Yeah, maybe you made a couple of mistakes and unfortunately we had this douchebag in our way, but so what? Are you gonna let this destroy everything you built? Seriously? … Because you're afraid of being a burden on me? Don't you know me at all, Mike? Don't you know your family at all? We wanna help you, and we'll do everything as possible, but we got to stick together man... it can't be like this anymore, ok? We can do it if we work together. You know it. Mike was in complete silence, he sort of left his body sank in on the couch. Eric gave him a little punch on his arm. - Dude, we're starting from zero for you if we have to. But we need you... We never did that for money remember? It has to be bigger than that. We make our dreams come true, money is consequence... Remember that? You told me that, when we were starting our band. - … Yeah. I remember that. Things changed since then, no? - He gave a very tired smiled. - Hell yeah... But we can't forget that again. We almost lost our band because we forgot that. And I guess we were so fucking greedy with the festival that we came back to bite us in the ass... Let's not make the same mistake again, please? - But … Ah, fuck man, this is so messed up...Your parents had to sell a house. A fucking house, to be able to help with this whole situation. - … They didn't have to. They wanted to. Maybe you should look at it through the perspective that my parents actually sold a house because they believe in you. Because they believe in us, hun? A fucking house, man. They sold a fucking house to make sure we have a shot on making this dream become reality - Eric smiled – And for all that matters, I would have sold my own house for you, if I had one... - They both smirked -... Listen, you gotta let us help you, Mike. You have me, Tom, Marie, my parents, we are all willing to buy parts of the school to help you raise some capital, man. And borrow you some money for a couple of months... And work at the school for eighty hours a week again if you ask us to. - I know dude, but I really... Ah, I almost feel like you guys are having to... It's like I'm making you guys lose all this money to get me out of this mess I've put myself into. - Mike... - Eric sighed – We are not trying to lose money, we are trying to help you, by borrowing you some money, by investing in something that we all believe in. We all believe in your school, and in the festival and in everything. We're doing that because we are sure its good business, you should feel honored – He smiled at Mike Mike eventually smiled back. - It's just cuz... You don't get it, Eric. Neither one of you really does – Mike sighed – You guys always seems to have had money, just like that. And... I know you don't do that to be mean, or anything, but... I wish I really didn't need your help. It really hurts having to sit through a meeting with people talking about my financial situation and see who can help me financially, after everything we've been through, after all we have worked.... You don't think you really get it. Marie doesn't get it. Tom doesn't get it. Your siblings don't quite get it... My parents were teachers, Eric. You know that. You know we never had money laying around... We always suffered a bit, you remember, no? - Eric said he did – And... Yeah. I'm not saying any of this to offend you, or because I'm jealous. I just need you to understand why I've been trying so hard to deal with that by myself. Why I didn't want you guys on this mess with me... What... What it means to me, you know? - He sighed - It’s just because when you guys talk about money, like it’s no big deal for you to help me with this huge amounts of money... It makes me feel like a piece of shit, honestly. I know Marie's parents could help me with it if she asked them, no biggie. I know your parents could help me if it was a life or death situation. I know that... You understand my point? I'm not sure if I do... - Mike smirked - Hmm... I guess... Yeah, maybe – Eric sighed – But, really... I think we do, bro. And I think you're not getting our side, either. We're not giving up on you, man. Mike took a deep breath. - … I guess... I just wish I hadn't made so many mistakes, that's all... I feel so stupid, bro. Eric almost laughed. - Yeah, you're the one to talk, right? ...I guess it's hard to have a saint like me by your side hun? Mike couldn't help but laugh when Eric punched his shoulder again as a joke. Eric then said, remembering something his mom had told him once: - We're not dead yet. That's enough reason to keep trying, ok? Mike thought for a second and then nodded. - Ok...- He paused – Ok.... Yeah. They still talked for a long time, but just like that, after a long and honest conversation, Eric and Mike held their heads up and went back to the fight that was waiting for them outside that apartment. “- So, I called all of you guys here today to give a little feedback of what happened in the last few months. First of all, let me tell you it’s amazing to be able to look at you guys and know your names and have actually shared such a good moment of my life with you. These last months were incredible, especially for all the passion that I saw in this school and in the festival we were able to make. Teachers, assistants, employees, anyone related to our school or festival...students. Thank you so much for being here today. It's very rewarding to look back and remember all of it: the good moments but also the tiring moments. The stress, the pressure, all the moments that we felt like we were going to punch each other... - Eric smiled, as some of the people laughed - And... Yeah, we did something truly remarkable here. - He looked at Mike, by his side, and then looked back to everyone that was sitting in front of them in the auditorium. He cleared his throat - Truth is, when Mike told me about his plans, I … I actually didn't even have a memorable reaction, I just thought “oh ok” … You know. It didn't move me at all. But then Paris became my home, somehow. And Mike helped us a lot, in all possible ways, as many of you must know. He opened the doors of this school and... Well, from something that at first I didn't put much faith on, it became something interesting, then kind of a hobby, then finally a job that I did with all my heart, as a way of giving a bit back of all the support I received from all of you here in Paris. Today I understand his dream, and I'm truly proud to be able to see in every one of you, in your eyes, the gratitude and love everyone feels for this place and for this group of such awesome people... A place where we can believe in our dreams and just try to make them real, and yes... I know how cliché that sounds... - He smiled - But now I understand what he wanted to create here. … And you know, I've never cared much about any city, maybe just a couple of them, I guess. But Paris has always been a special place for me... I've met Marie here... - He paused for a moment and smiled at her - … and it's ironic that after all that happened, Mike ended up coming here too, as did my siblings. What I'm trying to say is: no city, no place in the world means anything without people. Without dreams, without fun, without memories. Without an actual place you can feel like home. And we built it. We built it... We created this city the way it is to us, fighting for ours projects, our ideals, and for our dreams. A dream that it was initially only Mike's, but now I see it's from all of us. Our Paris. Our home. In this messed up continent, in this messed up country … - He smiled - This school became... so much more than just a music school... It became something that we will always have in our memories and to which we'll always fight for: With all the fear that we've been seeing lately, this place kindly give us hope. … All of that being said, I'd like to thank you all once more, and I also would like to ask a round of applause for all of you guys, especially to Mike and the way he inspired us to build all of this. To the Paris of ours dreams...” Mike and Eric eventually had a meeting with Tom, Marie and Eric's dad and his assistant. His dad's assistant was starting to take care of Eric's personal finances on top of everything else. Eric, who rarely did any kind of financial transactions, felt as rarely before, the power of his own money. Eric lent Mike some money (money he had refused to give the journalist to hide his past from the world) Tom lent him a bit of money, and Eric's parents also lent Mike an amount that could've bought them a fancy new car... Maybe two. Eric and Marie both decided to invest some money they had on the school (Marie had borrowed some money from her parents), becoming minor partners in the cultural center. They all signed contracts and Mike, staying as the main owner and the person in charge of the whole cultural center, had found himself in a way better position where he could start to breathe again... Financial transactions done, signatures and more signatures, contracts and more documents to sign and the school and/or the apartment was basically out of danger. Or, putting in better terms, Mike was out of danger, for a good while. Simple as that. After a couple of meetings, they reached some decisions on several matters: His dad's assistant was going to manage the whole financial part for the school / festival, and would be the second in command in the whole cultural center – so she would have to move to Paris soon – Isabella would start working in the financial department of the school in a couple of months (after spending that much time in the north, and then between cities, she decided it was time to go back to “civilization” for good ) and they even hired a couple of very competent people to work with them. So, finally they would have a financial department as competent and big as needed to deal with the cultural center and the next festival they would try to make. Tom said himself he would probably be on top of the organization for the next festival, so that was some good news. After another meeting with Eric, his own assistant, and their whole family, Eric's father said he was going to try to retire somewhere over the next three years - as soon as his assistant and the other directors were ready to manage their company and the cultural center being back on its feet – And everyone started to get really excited about the future again. With all of that happening, they started to get even more excited with the prospect of another festival because now even Tom was interested in investing his own money on the project. Tom actually took very personally and very seriously the responsibility of making the next festival give as much profit as possible to help Mike, Eric and Marie. Also, because obviously he wanted to start making some money again. Eric's dad went to talk to Eric and made him realize that they had a bit more than a-one-month-window if Eric wanted to go and enjoy his beach house in Brazil one last time before the new people would move in. Eric got really anxious about that possibility, so he decided to go and talk to Marie. She helped him realize it was time: It was time to visit his country again. Time to go and tell his story to Alice. Time to go and face the last of his demons. For a couple of weeks, they kept working incessantly in everything related to the school and also in the new material that they were finally being able to create. They were getting back on track, and that alone would have been worth it all. Tom was giving an insane help with everything, and now that he was finally getting better from his misery, he was helping Eric do the “impossible”: re-assemble his band, friends and his family. They were making so much material with Tom and Mike's help that it was insane: It got to a point that Liam and Jack had to go meet them in Paris to be part of what they were creating. Eric and Tom asked Marie to show them some material she had, and they gave her complete freedom to create new material: That would mean she didn't have to try to create material that would “fit the band's reputation”, and she indeed had some incredible material hidden away. With the “permission from everyone” she put her heart and soul on it to make the best job she could - it was just amazing – After all, Marie was a great songwriter and one of the people who was channeling all that energy and creativity, and they were more than happy to have her back in the studio, working with them. She had definitely reached a new level after so many months of hard work on her music, and everyone couldn't have been more surprised. In fact, everyone was doing an incredible job, and once again it seemed like they were getting back into that madness at school, at home, trying to socialize and making that school to be what it was always meant to be. So Eric finally reached the point where he would have to go to his old beach house with Alice, otherwise the opportunity would be gone, and everyone told him that he should just go: They could handle it for a couple of weeks. They would just keep doing what they were doing and they would get his back while he would do what he had to do. And so he went. Eric felt really weird arriving in Brazil after all those years: He had the bizarre feeling that the country didn't stop in time as he thought it might had happened. How he was afraid that could've happened. Life went on without him around there. There was basically no one that he could visit. He would stay at his place with Alice living at a walking distance, both of them living near the beach. He had really strong feelings in the first days. Everything made him remember of something, bringing back really old memories. Seemed like everything was special, it was strange: To step out of the airport, see his old house, see his old city. Getting used to go to the beach near his house again, to remember his city, and remember his own language. During the first days, he visited everything he could, as a tourist, rediscovering his own city. Alice was with him when he visited his old high school, and every day they had the chance, they went to that beach. Some days were blessed with an incredible weather, some others there was a rain that would last three or four days, leaving them bored and changing the feeling of the trip. But it was ok. That was their city. He met Alice's friends, her parents, her house, her dance company and even her university (where Eric had partied like crazy with Samuel and Isabella several times, but where he had never had the chance to study) It was so weird for him to leave Paris and go back to that city. Everything there was just so beautiful and there have been years that Eric seemed to have forgot it. He had left on him almost exclusively bad memories about that city. … And you wouldn't believe how much they talked those days, while they went to pubs, beaches, movies, parks, and parties... everything they could've done to have fun. When Eric finally went to visit Samuel's grave, and the place where all of that had happened, Alice realized it was time. She grabbed a recorder, her notebook, some paper, pens. She was well prepared. Eric thought he would only tell his story, but he had to face a three-hour day routine with the deepest search of himself that he had ever done. She asked for memories, details, feelings, dreams, thoughts, regrets, prejudices, fears and everything else while she was listening and making questions more and more intimate and intimidating. It was a torture in the beginning, but eventually he realized he was happy about all of that: It was helping him remember and understand his own life better. He would get physically exhausted when he was done, especially on some hard days where they were seating really close to each other and for some reason she would insist to look deep into his eyes while they were talking. Most of the times, after those sessions, they would go to the beach and stay in silence for a long time, recovering from the entire story they had listen and/or shared. They were both pretty grateful for being there, doing what they were doing, and they knew it was an important moment in both of their lives. A turning point. In a weird way, Eric was feeling like he needed a book from her to show his family and his friends who he truly was. To tell them exactly what had happened in his life and who he had become. He needed to start fresh. They had several “sessions” over the days and for a couple of times, when something really hard would come to the surface, he actually had tears wanting to roll over his face. Once again it became pretty clear how well Alice got to know and understand Eric. - I just think it’s funny, because you decided to start to tell me your story when you've met Marie, Eric. Didn't you notice that? - She smiled - You think there's no reason at all for that? I didn't ask you anything like that... Eric didn't say anything for a moment. - I guess we all go back to our beginnings, eventually... He then grabbed a piece of paper where he had written that special dream he had months before and showed her. She read it silently. He started talking: - I guess I was in a weird place before meeting her, for a while actually. Like I was numb from life. I didn't feel like I was truly living, you know? -Yeah, I understand that... - She paused for a second – Hey, can I use this? I really like this dream, it's very poetic - She smiled at him He nodded. - I don't need to tell you how much it meant to me, right? - For sure... - She paused for a moment – Hey, You’re young, Eric. We all are. If you feel so tempted to fight like that for someone right now, maybe it means something. Maybe it is meant to be forever, maybe it's not... But in any case, there's not much story left anyways, and I could definitely use a closure from you, at least so we can have a poetic ending – Alice winked at him and they couldn't help it but to laugh a bit. Almost five weeks later – He ended up staying a bit more than planned, although he had to stay in a hotel for a while - Eric was back to Paris, after making a quick stop in Montreal, healed from many torments. Knowing how his country had moved on without him had actually calmed his spirit in a way he could have not believe it was possible: He realized he had always questioned himself what would happen if he had tried to go back there, and now he knew. The world had not fell on his head. For more than a year at that point, his insomnia was completely in the past after he had finally visited Samuel's grave. Eric had talked to him, forgiving and asking for forgiveness. It was like the last step for some kind of self-forgiveness for all that story: Forgiveness to who he was when he was sixteen, forgiveness for who he had become for a moment in time, to his family, to his music, to himself, Marie and Alice. Forgiveness. Almost a month and a half after he was back in Paris, he sat down with everyone from his band: Mike, Marie, Jack, Liam, Jan, Isabella, Tom and even Richard. A couple of other people were also there during the meeting. Everyone was really excited. They talked for a long time, because there was some serious decisions to be made if they wanted to go back on tour. More people than places, first of all. Dates, details in the contracts to be discussed and so on. Tom and Richard had started negotiating and were working on several dates for a quick tour for the band in Europe and some parts of Asia. They would have almost fifty concerts, staring soon, for a bit more than four months. - So what do you think, guys? How are we going to make this work? Have you talked about this already? - Richard - When we would have to leave Paris exactly? - Jack asked - Only in like eight or nine weeks... We have to release the new material first, see how it goes. It might get easier to close some dates then. A lot of them are not one hundred percent confirmed yet - Richard - But for four months? Hmm... - Well, yeah, a bit more than that, and only if everything works out. But we tried to give you guys a few breaks to come back home a couple of times... - Tom said - Well, I can't guys... Not with the school, and Isa, and Gustavo.... - Mike Eric took a deep breath. Somehow, he still wanted Mike to go with them. - As appealing it may seem... I've already told Eric I just don't think I can. I'm really happy giving you guys a hand with the new material and everything, but I just can't. I rather stay here this time and work at the school... - Isabella – Besides, Jan has been working like crazy with the band, I don't wanna become an obstacle for him to go on tour with you guys... Two of them were out already, and that didn't look like it would be a problem. - So, Jan? - Oh, you know I'm in man if you guys need me... are you kidding? - He smiled - Awesome... - Eric smiled back at him Jack and Liam were definitely in. Marie too – She'd already talked to Mike about it. - I have a couple of things I'd like to ask though – Eric was talking to Tom and Richard – Some requests, let's put it this way... - Hmm... ? - They probably weren't expecting that: Eric had never been a guy to make demands for his tours. - I want to make sure I'll have a better time. Well, everyone... but I mean that I don't want things for me to get … bad... like it did before. So I'd appreciate a lot if you could help me with a couple of things in that sense... - Eric -... Ok, like what for example? - Tom - I need you guys to take some roadies out of the tour. Some staff, even some of the security personnel. I don't know their names, but … some, and I guess Jan could help me with that. I need to take the drug-sneakers-people out of the tour. I want to make sure that this will be a “drug free tour” … Because I don't know how hard it would be for me to have all of that around me again... - He sighed - I'm sorry I have to ask that... - He was also talking to his bandmates - ...Hmm, alright-y - Tom answered - Of course, Eric - Yeah, I think we can make that happen for you, Eric - Richard - Great – Eric could see some discrete smiles across their faces - Second: I need to ensure that I'll have more time to sleep. At least like eight or nine hours a day that I could use to chill in a good place. So, like, no more interviews or autographs sessions super freaking early like we used to do or waking up in the middle of the night to take a bus or a plane like it was before. You know, having to sleep in buses and planes all the time either...When it's really necessary, I really don't mind, but I would really appreciate if it didn't become the rule again... Richard looked at Tom. They ended up nodding. - Yeah, we'll do our best, Eric. - Thanks... Third, I just wanna say... and I'm sorry if I'm sounding so full of myself. I just want to ensure we'll have a better time, you know? Better hotels, maybe, better food, a nice bed, more time to chill and read and visit the cities we're at. More time in studios when we need it to record material... And really... To come back home more often. I know it sounds bad, but... out of personal experience, hun? - Hmm... Alright Eric. We'll do our best ok? We understand what you mean. It's just because we've already settle some things, that we probably won't be able to change just like that and … honestly, we are trying to make some good money, not spend it all in hotels and food, and first class tickets and whatnot, ok? - Richard gave him a quick smile - So trust me, we’ll do our best, but it might not still be perfect for this time because we planned all of this really really quickly... We're doing it as best as we can, as much as we can, so we can raise some money for you guys, and for the band, to maybe record some new music videos soon, and things like that.... You understand, right? - Richard - Sure. It's okay, I trust you guys... I trust your judgment. - You'll be back soon, and then we can plan a kick ass tour for next time, once your new material is out and strong, ok? - Tom - Sounds fair... - Eric smiled – Thanks guys.... They talked a bit about the new material and how it would be released. They needed to discuss participations on the profits so they could close and sign some new contracts. Eric had to insist to Mike get onboard: “You helped us a lot, and hey, help us a bit more in this next couple of weeks, and you'll get a fair share of the money. I'm pretty sure you could use it, hun?” Mike eventually agreed. Once the whole meeting was over, a couple of hours later, Mike was leaving the room but Eric said he needed to talk to him. Apart from Eric, only three other people had stayed in that room. - What's going on, guys? Eric looked at Tom and Richard, as if he was looking for the right way to say it. Indeed he was. - I want you with us on this tour, Mike – Eric said, looking into Mike's eyes - What? ...- He looked at the others - No... I'm sorry, Eric... I told yo-... -Yeah, yeah. I heard it. But I want you to hear me out now, ok? – Eric stopped his friend Mike went silent. He then sat down across the table from Eric. - I know you have this school, and my siblings to take care... Believe me, I know. And it won't be easy for me to leave those pests behind, even for just a couple of months, believe me. But I sort of have to... I know all the reasons you told me, but I also know that deep down you miss it a lot. I know you do. I know touring it's probably not what you want to do forever, and that you love your school and everything, and that's what you want to do now – He paused – Well, sorry. What I'm trying to say is, you should come on board with us this time. You could definitely use the money, we could definitely use you to keep creating more material... - He paused - And hey, you don't have to play in all of those concerts, just some of them. Play in half of them, play in ten of them. But you should come and get some money doing something you love to do. It will be in Europe, we can arrange it so you can be here half of the week, for example, hun? … Let's do it this time Mike, while it is in Europe, and everything's is kinda going ok at the school. Then you come back and start organizing the festival while we keep going for a bit more, and we come back to help you in the last couple of months or weeks before the next festival while these two are arranging our next tour and everything, hun? - Mike didn't saying anything – Dude... come on. We could use your help. I could your help, having you around. You could use the money, you could use the time off...My family will survive for a couple of months of having to stay a couple of days per week alone... You'll be able to pay a good junk of your debts, you'll enjoy they concerts, helping us keep our band alive... My mom can probably come and stay with my siblings for a while...Hun? What do you say? Mike stayed in silence for what it seemed to be five minutes. - What about the school? - Mike finally asked - It's already getting one teacher short without Marie... And you, I mean, you were helping a lot too. - Uhum... Well, I'm sure we can find a teacher to help... And they both here can take a look at it while you're away. My dad's protegee will already be working for us... - He sighed and finally smiled - Come on, it will be fine... - You guys wouldn't mind? - Mike finally asked them - No... Not at all – Then Tom smiled – I wouldn't mind at all. I'll have a good help. - Ah... ok – Mike smiled, then went silent for a bit – I guess I'll have to talk to Isadora to see what she thinks... - Then he smiled. - You guys are a bad, bad influence. Eric smiled - Yeah, we've been told that before, right? - Eric asked Tom - Yeah, unfortunately more than once... - Tom smiled - Hello Eric - Hi, Mr. Montini - Please, Eric, call me Frederic. Frederic showed the chair in front of him for Eric to sit. - Thank you... - So, how are you? - I’m great, sir. Really great, actually. How are you? - I’m great too... Are you hungry? - I am, actually - Perfect... - He called the waiter and advised Eric through the menu. He seemed to be a habitué in that restaurant, probably the fanciest Eric had ever put his feet on. - So... I can't say I wasn't a bit surprised... or afraid of your invitation, sir – Eric smiled Mr. Montini smiled too. - Oh, come on. We're just having lunch... - Well, I didn't bring my knife, hopefully is not today I'll have to fight your friend there – Eric looked at the bodyguard about who they joked the last time they had shared a meal together. The big boss just smiled again. Eric started talking again: - … So, sir, what's exactly the reason for the invitation, if you don't mind me asking? - No I don't mind you asking... I just thought we should have a conversation, Eric. Before Marie and you leave again... Which I suppose will happen soon, Am I correct? - Ok, fair enough... Yes, and I imagine you're not very excited about it? - ...At first, no, to be honest... I got this cold panic that I would have to see my daughter come home in... not her best shape again... - Eric felt very uncomfortable with that comment - But... we talked, and she explained to me why she wants to do it, and how things will be different this time, and I trust her. I trust that she can take care of herself and it might be surprising to you, but I trust you to take care of her... At this moment, I meant to say. - Oh... Ok. That is indeed surprising... - Eric probably raised his eyebrows - … But above all, I trust her. And a couple of years ago, I think that it would have never happen in this extension... - He finished his sentence. - I see... Well, she definitely changed, sir. - She did... She did indeed. - But why are you having lunch with me then and not with her? - Because... I felt like I should talk to you too. - Hmm... Why, sir? - I don't know... Maybe for the same reason you called me to the meeting where you told everyone what had happened to you back in Brazil... - Oh... - That was something, Eric. I... I appreciated that. I got shocked, I must say. But I appreciated that, after all was said and done. - Oh... ok - And the way everything happened for you guys here in Paris... I always kept a close look, if you must know. And the most amazing part, is that most of what I learned came from Marie. My youngest daughter, who would barely speak to me before all of this happened. I was actually always ready to help you guys if you ever needed a hand, or as a last resource. I know you won't believe that, but I was.... Eric got really surprised learning that: He had spent months thinking Marie's father was trying to undermine their relationship, and trying to get Marie away from them all, to try to protect Marie and their family name from all the mess that had happened to Eric. - Oh, thank you...? Mr. Montini smiled - I can honestly say that everything that happened made me change my mind about...several things. About some people too, like you and my daughter, for example. And... - He cleared his throat- So it got me thinking, that maybe if I could give you an advice, Eric. For your future to come...? - Eric nodded, and Marie's father cleared his throat again - I know it might get hard again, but you should always fight to have your family close... - He paused - I have many flaws Eric, and I`m aware of that, but I'm extremely proud of my family and for having them around. I know I owe them everything I have, everything I am. Especially to my wife, who has been with me since we were two kids. She's a hero for sticking with me for that long – He smiled – …And Marie told me everything, about when you guys drifted apart and had problems finding your way back... It's not easy, I know. But you know what? It's so damn worth it, Eric... And I don't want to get in the middle of you guys and your future. I just wanted to advice you about how important in life it is to have your family around you and to fight for them when you need to. And I don't mean only blood family. I mean people who know you, who love you, who respect you, to whom you can trust your life. People that will be there for you when you need them, and people that you'll have the opportunity to help... Everything I've build in my life was because of that, Eric. Keeping people close: family, friends, partners, colleagues... I didn't build everything I have by myself, far from that...- He paused and smiled - It's funny: nowadays you can be an eighteen year old kid and start a company by yourself in your basement and work it out, get billions, but everything I've built was based solely on hard work and having the right people around me, you understand? - Yeah... I know... Trust me, Mr. Montini – Eric just couldn't call him Frederic, just like that - It took me a long time to realize that. But I do now. I really do, sir... - Good... Good. So, from my life experience, that's the best advice I can give you, Eric.... Same advice I gave my daughter quite recently by the way.... - No, it's ok sir. I appreciate your thought... And I just would like to tell you that we'll do the right thing this time. You know, it really won't be like it was before, and I'm really sorry for that by the way. I really am... It still weights on my shoulders everything I've done, especially when it comes to Marie... Mr. Montini looked very deep into Eric's eyes. - ...Alright then, great...So I guess I can only advice you now to leave the past in the past and look to the future, Eric. You deserve it. You all do. Two months later, they were having a party at the school, for getting back on the road and... Just because it felt like they deserved at party at that point. It was the end of an era and the beginning of another: They were happy and at the same time, they were all trying to hide this immense sadness of knowing they would hit the road soon and things would be a bit different after that. They decided to play some of their new songs and everyone seemed to have enjoyed it: It was the peak of Marie and Eric's voices and their creation and Jan and Mike were both destroying in the guitars. Even Tom played a bit. Once again, things seemed to be finally falling into their right place: Everything looked like it was going to be just fine. People were having fun together, talking a lot to each other and making new friends. New friends, old friends, even Lucy and a couple of her friends decided to show up. Tom was finally home, radiant, and they were just trying to enjoy themselves while they would be there, once again, together. At that point, Eric's situation with the journalist was completely in the past. Eric wasn`t even sure how it got handled, but Richard, Tom and his parents eventually made the media back down and Eric`s version of the story was finally proved and accepted, something to do with the translator coming forth to prove Eric's version. I don't know, I'll ask Tom for more details on the matter soon. Jessica`s career as a journalist, even though she kept working as a journalist, was over. Eric never even had to go to court against her. Eric's family, Marie's family (including her lovely aunt and her aunt's boyfriend – yes, they were still together), Alice's aunt and uncle and even Mike's family. They were all there. There was so much (amazing) food and drinks and everybody seemed to be having a great time. A while into that party, Eric grabbed Marie's hand to take her for one last tour in that school. Months before, they had hung several pictures of all of them in the whole place: A huge one with everyone from the school team, everyone all wet out of sweat in the stage after their concert at the festival. Another one, smaller, with Mike, Marie and Eric. Another one with their band. Then with Tom and with them all. With some students and them. With students and Tom. Some pictures of the very beginning. It was really intense to look at their lives sort of hanging on those walls, in that school. In Paris. That time, too, had passed. They both ended up in the studio, by themselves. It was Marie who eventually broke the silence: - We really had happy moments here, didn't we? - Yeah, we did...we definitely did... - Eric smiled at her - Jeez...I'll miss it here... I'll never forget how many times I felt like running away right before the festival... - They ended up laughing, even though she was almost crying. - ...I know. But we'll be back soon... It won't be like before, I promise you... She gave him a quick smile, kissed him and then gave him another kind-of-a-sad-smile, but very honest. She touched his face, looking deep into his eyes, as if their lives were depending on that. Eric felt his stomach turning inside out to be living that moment with that girl. He was just too lucky. He was just too happy: He was feeling exactly how he had felt in that special dream, months before: He wanted to stay in that moment forever. Once I heard that, when you really love someone, that love is not created or appears out of thin air. When you love someone, you share the love you already had inside of you with that person. Maybe it could grow then, but that's just a silly supposition of mine... They started to play the guitar for a while, and kind of tried to improvise some sort of singing. Funny, then sad. Then funny and hopeful. Marie, as a joke, tried to rap and for that they started to laugh, because it had been just too funny. As that moment touched their souls, they knew that that was exactly what they wanted forever: They were absorbed into this magical ecstasy where only the music mattered. Only love mattered. An eternity later, when they had finally stopped playing and were already sitting outside the studio, looking at each other, holding hands and kissing once in a while, they decided to put some music to play in the room. She caressed his hair, and they talked about silly things, trying not to think about what was happening. What that night meant. When Eric finally found the courage to be a bit romantic (and silly) he grabbed an envelope and gave it to her. - Remember these rings we bought in London? - He showed her the ring, still in his finger. - Sure, look mine here … - She had her on a necklace, kept inside her shirt. They smiled at each other. - You know... I think it has always been my feelings for you, Marie. She surely wasn't expecting that. She smiled. - … Yeah, I guess I always thought the same... He smiled while grabbing some things inside the envelope. She pointed at a folded paper he was holding on his hand. - What is this? - It's a dream that I had... that somehow showed me some stuff... about my feelings I guess... It showed me somethings about my life. She grabbed it, but as she was going to start to read it, Eric said: -You can read it later … - He smirked She just nodded and smiled, putting it on her pocket. - I just wanted to talk to you... I know we actually haven't spoken about everything that happened to us. It has been a rough couple of years... but, I'm glad. I mean, for having met you. I'm pretty sure you were one of the best things that ever happened to me, Marie... And I might not be saying all of this in the right way... maybe you're expecting something cuter...- He smiled - But I just wanted to tell you again that I’m sorry that I kept so much... agony inside of me that made me, and you, question my feelings for you, and kept pushing me away, well... from everyone actually. I just wanted to let you know that I'm aware of all of that, that I really appreciate everything you ever did to me, you see? - He was feeling hot, he was a bit embarrassed – I'll try to make this new chapter a better one. Make this tour a better one. And I know I never said that enough, but I just wanted to tell you that I love you, Marie. Very very much. And I don't want to have to hide it anymore. I mean, everybody knows that right? - He smiled, she smiled back – I just want you to know that. I want you to be sure of that... And I kept thinking this for a long time, and questioning myself like, what am I doing wrong? - He smiled again – And I realized that the most important thing is that I want you by my side, and that I should let you know that. Let you know that I care, that you are amazing, that I'm so happy with you... and that I feel so blessed for having you around. For real... I mean it. - Eric exhaled, as saying “alright, I did it!” And smiled at her Marie smiled at him and they just hugged each other in that studio. They kissed, exchange more declarations as they shared some tears and mixed their story. When they finally went back to the party, they were holding hands. In public. Probably for the first time since they've met each other. Obviously all their closest friends noticed, and they all seemed to have gotten really happy for them. Except Gustavo, who was telling them all a story and didn't give it much attention: -So, yeah, anyways guys... - He cleared his throat and made them all keep listening to him – You asked me something, can you please listen, now? Alright... Thanks... As I said, yes, technically I'm single, so please stop with the judgmental eyes, ok? Yes, I still hang out with my ex sometimes, Isa, but we are in way better terms now, ok? - Oh yeah? Please, explain to me how exactly you guys are in better terms, young brother … - Isadora Gustavo cleared his throat. - Well, if you insist, sister... She happened to find out that I didn't quite take the whole fidelity part very seriously... I mean, c'mon, really? I'm not even eighteen, what was she expecting? - Isadora started smirking at that – Yes, very funny, sister - So she just accepts to make out with you sometimes? - Isadora asked - Well, not really. After she learned that, she decided, as a very mature girl she is, to get back at me, right? So, how do I put that...? Hmm… She decided to sleep around, pretty much, and she is now dating our literature teacher... That's so French it's not even funny – Gustavo paused for a second, but Isadora was waiting for more – Alright... And yeah, sometimes we sleep together behind his back, which is not that bad, considering that I and this teacher…Hmm we have already shared maybe like two or three girls this past year... - Ahh, maaan.... - Isadora was not very pleased with that story Some of the others, actually laughed about his story. Don`t laugh guys, it’s not funny … You guys are encouraging this bad behavior … There was still music going on and it would be insane for hours. Eventually Eric went on the mini stage to perform by himself with only his voice and his guitar. He actually dedicated a song to Marie as he said a couple of really romantic words for her in front of everyone. He then proceed to play some songs to his family, for what he lived, for the school and all I can say about the rest of that night is that the music just kept going. At some point at that party, Tom and his partner would even show off a little bit of Argentinian tango to everyone and it was just amazing how incredible it was to watch them dance so beautifully in front of everyone. It was incredible. Some people of the dance school would later on follow the example. They were just so happy. Everyone was just so happy and emotional. Everything was ok, and no matter what happened next, everything would be just fine. Those were some of the days in the Paris of our dreams. “I’d like to add that it has been a while since the last time I saw Eric. But we've been speaking to each other and we are pretty much in touch. We all are. He is doing well. He is happy. He visits his family whenever he can, as this friend who's speaking to you. Sometimes, we try to go and have vacations together, going to very weird destinations, or just getting together in Paris (or wherever they are) and it has always been amazingly fun. For the people interested, all I can say is that so far, Marie and Eric are really happy together, focused in their dreams and in their passions, and they are all just radiant in this new phase of their band and their lives. It very much warms my heart to be able to say that everyone is doing well. At least the ones that I had the pleasure to follow their quest for their dreams. Some other people, I'm afraid I'll have to say I don't have all the details about them to share at this moment. … To be honest, I don't think I'll ever get used to the idea that the majority of people that cross my life's story is going to move on with their lives and I'll have no idea of what will happen to them. I think that for a writer, that is the worst possible curse and at the same, blessing, because from there, there's an infinity of possibilities for this so fragile and subtle life that we live, if we start thinking about it. I also think that from there comes one of the biggest challenges in life: to have around you and fight to keep them around you, the people that really matter. Because time, after all, is your most precious gift and spending it with people that doesn't deserve our attention never made sense to me. It's just wonderful to know that I have so many special people around me, and I'm so proud to consider myself their friends: I actually believe that they are my most precious achievement in this life. Speaking about me, I can also say I'm doing pretty well. Finally living off my dream, feeling better than I could have ever imagined - Still sharing my time between Paris, Florianopolis and sometimes New York now, and it's been great, I'm not gonna lie. Eric, Tom and all of the others were right in a lot of things they told me: It's a very long way, and in the end, is the path that counts. So damn worth it, though... I feel really privileged for having been a witness for such nice moments and incredible stories, and having them sharing it with me is just... Surreal. During one of our many conversations back in Paris (between me, Eric and Tom, when we had to face some dark times) someone said that he would advise everyone to fight for their dreams, because when you know what you truly want, well...Its already half of the way to your happiness and own success, and a big step further away from the abysm that is the mediocrity and self-indulgence in this life. An abysm that our society is always pushing us into. Even in the middle of all of that, we always tried to help each other to remember who we are, and what we stand for. That was unique, and really touching, and eventually made the whole difference. We just can't forget who we are. Dreams save our lives. Love save our lives. Friendship. To fight for all of them, too. “Whoever doesn't fight for the things they want, just can't expect that life will bring them a golden plate with options and opportunities. You lose the right to choose as it goes. That's the essence of the whole thing.” Eric was sort of praying, by the end, a quote from “Into the wild”: “If you want something in life, reach out and grab it”. I guess that was the essence of what we tried to do. What we had to eventually remind ourselves, over and over again: If you want something in life, reach out (as many times as need be) and grab it. To accomplish things in life give us perspective, give us hope, freedom, opportunities, power and joy. It shows to everyone around us the example that they need to fight with their best for their dreams too. And it doesn't really matter who you are, your age, or anything else: you can always fight for an incredibly better life. Maybe it won't happen tomorrow, or next week, or even in the next year. But I assure you that it is worth it. Kiss the floor if you have too: it's worth it. Stop complaining, stop being afraid and for god sakes stop accusing the economy, immigrants, taxes, the government, politicians and/or your parents. Just go for it: Be the best possible version of yourself. By my own experience or by witnessing legends like Marie, Eric, Tom, Mike, Jan and all of the others that fought (and keep fighting) for their dreams: Without backing down, always helping other people to fight for their dreams too as they go. That reminds me how once, a long time ago, when I was going to one of my first parties by myself, my dad made me sit down and told me “Just be careful so your actions today don't compromise the person you want to be in the future” Even though it sounds a bit silly – And at that time I did think it was a bit silly too - I never needed any other advice. The part about the person you want to become took me a while to fully understand, but I guess today I'm on the right track, and I do understand what my dad meant. It's not easy. Truth is, life is just not that easy sometimes. And that hurts so bad to be fully assimilated, I know. But it can be so good if we fight for it. It can be so much more, and that's all I wish you could take out of this story. Because that's what I took from it, and it is also one of the reasons why we decided to share this story with you. It comes down to what you need to start to do today, to be the person you want to be in five years. I assure you: you can reach a fantastic life if you put your heart into it. “Learn from my mistakes: Thanks to my friends and family, I’ve never lost it all, but it was close: I actually almost lost the things that really mattered. I thank whatever god it may be for having survived all what I've survived, and if I could help someone else by sharing my story, that's amazing”- Eric. “We are all masters of our own lives with the right to fight to make it better. We can walk in the direction of the abysm or we can fight to walk in the direction of our dreams: it's only up to the consciousness that we accept to have and the fights that we accept to face. It depends. You can have an easy, very comfortable and accommodated life, or you can, from the bottom of your soul, fight for you and for your dreams. And I think that’s all I still had to say about our story” Everything vanishes over the earth, and what would it be of us if it wasn't the possibility of making the world a better place and enjoy it in the best way we can? … Almost everything vanishes over the earth. I love you all, and I wish you good luck with your aspirations in life. “You need music to change the world. You need music, and you need dance, and you need words and you need dreams. Have faith.” Without anything else to declare, I say my farewell. With all my heart, Alice Martins”. “We will always have Paris...”


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