Chapter 2: Christy

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The first thing Alex does is buy a gun. The paparazzi swarm him in flashing droves during daylight hours and so he waits until after dark, sneaks out of his gated community unnoticed and catches the clerk just as he’s about to close.

“This one’s a favourite with young men like yourself,” he says in a bored voice, one eye on the clock above the door. “Comes with one round of ammunition, no extra cost.”

It’s black, and heavy, and Alex’s index finger curls around the trigger as easily as he once bent to the will of a girl now gone, his money and pride in tow.

Alex cocks the weapon and pulls the trigger. The gun clicks; the chamber empty. For now.

“I’ll take it,” he says, smiling.

(“I want you to have everything,” he says, headphones half-off. He gestures to the recording equipment he is bent over like an ampersand. “All of this is for you.”

“You think this is what I want?” she asks, incredulous.

“Fine.” He reaches for his wallet and starts to count out ten large bills. “Take this and go to one of those ridiculous parties you love so much—”

The door slamming cuts him off, leaves him alone with the price of the life he built just for her.)

Finding her proves more difficult. Alex calls all the local high-end hotels and gives them her name but is met only with apologies—they can’t divulge that information. He is sure she must be staying at one of them. He doubts that she would have left town just yet; the decadent lifestyle of the city is too alluring for her to abandon.

In lieu of a better plan, Alex heads to her favourite club. He bypasses the queue with a nod to the bouncer and the excited catcalls of waiting patrons chasing after him. The VIP lounge is crowded; the girls wear black dresses and diamonds, the men tailored three-piece suits. No one is without a champagne flute. It had never been Alex’s scene, but she had slipped into this world seamlessly, and without him.

Alex doesn’t bother with pleasantries. He slams the first man he reaches against the nearest velvet-upholstered wall and presses his forearm into his throat.

“Where is she?” he growls.

“I don’t know,” the man chokes out, struggling in Alex’s hold. The rest of the party watch on, uneasy, but too unwilling to risk their own skin to intervene.

“Bullshit. I know you were fucking her.” He doesn’t. “I know she told you where she went.” Another lie. All Alex knows is that she didn’t tell

him, and it fuels him into reaching into his waistband for his gun. He presses the barrel into the man’s ribs and watches his eyes bulge.

“Where is she?” he repeats, and knows he won’t have to do so again.

Ten seconds later Alex leaves with an address.

(“Let’s go out,” she says, running her hands over his shoulders. He can barely hear her over the bass of the track he is desperate to drop by the end of the week.

“I have to finish this.”

“So finish it tomorrow.”

He doesn’t answer. Her words do not register over the mantra that has been beating against the inside of his skull since he was signed six months ago.

We need this. Do not fuck this up. She needs this from you.

He doesn’t notice she’s gone until the residual warmth of her touch seeps from his shoulders and leaves him cold.)

He gambles on her being in the penthouse suite and takes the elevator straight to the top floor. There is, of course, just the one door, and he knocks once, sharply. The cool metal of the gun against his hip makes him shiver.

He hears footsteps, and then the door is opening, and she’s in front of him in nothing but a white silk robe.

“Hello, darling,” Alex says, and forces his way inside.

(The third day she doesn’t come home, he notices. He searches all thirty-six rooms, even the pool house, twice. It is only on a whim that he throws open her wardrobe doors and finds them empty.

The safe, when he checks, is in the same condition.

His hands tighten to fists. He picks up one of the perfumes on her dresser and hurls it against the far wall.

He spares not a single thought for his music.)

She raises one eyebrow, but otherwise the gun gets no reaction. Alex feels ridiculous pointing it at her, but the burn of indignant rage creeping up his spine and over his collar helps steady his hands some. His index finger tickles the trigger.

“You’re going to kill me?”

“You robbed me.”

“Still.” She cocks her hip to the side, rests one hand against it. “That’s a little extreme, don’t you think?”

He does, but she doesn’t need to know that. “I gave you everything.”

“Everything I never wanted.”

“We dreamed of this. For years.”

“We dreamed of having this together.”

“And we do!”

“No,” she spits, “you have it. And I have the company of strangers.”

Alex takes her in: the hard, scarlet line of her mouth; the wet black of her eyes. He thinks of long nights locked in the studio or trapped in board rooms debating sales tactics with his manager. He tries to remember the last time he saw her smile and comes up empty.

The gun drops to his side.

(“I’ll make us dinner,” he says, pressing a cautious kiss to her cheek. “Go get settled.” She finds it on the night stand, under the corkboard of polaroid pictures he made for her six Christmases ago; a single round of ammunition, the box still sealed.)

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Written by Shannon Eden