Through All the Dust
Chapter Twenty-One: No Comment
It was a jam-packed day in the Blair camp. My aunt had flown out the night before and I had to make the long journey back to LAX early in the morning to drop Marge off in time to catch her flight home. She was rueful to be saying goodbye so soon but our lives had to go on. I almost wished she would just make the move to California—which she assured me would never happen.
“Heat stroke year round?” she’d quipped. “No thank you.”
I’d dragged Lauren with me to save time later—and to keep me company on the journey. After the airport, we headed straight downtown for a media interview. We were set to be back in Huntington for Lauren’s doctor’s appointment by no later than two. Gabe had been setting up interviews left, right, and center following the announcement of my Grammy nominations. While I was happy to oblige the media, I’d found a common theme in their questioning: it was all about The Rev. I’d neglected to comment on every single question about him.
Something about the mere mention of his name through strangers’ teeth upset me. I hoped that he wouldn’t come up today.
“You can come in with me,” I told Lauren as we lingered in the lobby. “They won’t ask you questions or anything.”
She laughed, “I hope not! I don’t know how you do it; I’d throw up all over the place if some journalist started asking me about my life.”
I smirked, “I guess the students in your class don’t pry into your social life, huh?”
“Not so much,” she smiled.
“Blair?” a tiny woman called, holding a clip board to her chest. “We’re ready for you.”
I nudged Lauren’s arm with my elbow, “Come on.”
She followed behind me reluctantly, admiring the endless hallway and all of the portraits of famous people hung neatly on their walls. There was even a picture of me displayed for the world to see from the last time I’d come around for an interview. I couldn’t say for sure, but I was pretty positive that it was right after Tyler had died. Most of that period of my life had been blocked out—thanks, brain.
The tiny woman led us into a room with a sofa, where we were instructed to sit. Apparently I’d be talking to Robert O’Cannon. The name meant nothing to me.
Lauren and I sat quietly, waiting. She was tapping at her knees with her thumbs, which was a little reminiscent of Jimmy for me. Any time we went anywhere, if there was a wait, you’d best believe he was fidgeting like crazy. The man hated to be bored.
“Blair!” a mammoth man smiled at me as he breezed in through the door. “It’s been a while!”
I pretended like I remembered him at all, standing to greet him, “How are you?”
He shook my hand firmly, gesturing for me to sit back down, “Oh, fine, fine. My wife just had twins…so that’s been loud.”
“I bet,” I laughed nervously. “Congratulations on your noise.”
“Thanks,” he chuckled, plopping himself down into a big leather chair across from Lauren and I. “Who’s your friend?”
“Lauren,” she smiled weakly, turning to me to whisper, “You said there’d be no questions.”
“You look familiar,” he said to her, narrowing his eyes a little. “Have we met?”
“Nope,” she said firmly, folding her arms across her chest.
He seemed to be considering her face for a few more seconds before finally deciding he couldn’t place her. It was obvious to me that he recognized her from the few pictures of her and Jimmy that had leaked out into the world. Any true Rev fan would have recognized her right away.
“Well it’s nice to meet you,” he said politely before turning his attention back to me. “Let’s get down to it, shall we?”
“So, it’s been an exciting year for the Blair Peterson camp,” he stated.
I nodded again.
“Let’s start with the obvious; congratulations on your three Grammy nominations.”
“Thanks,” I smiled.
He jotted something down into a notepad, “Walk me through what it was like to get that call.”
I’d recited this a hundred times in the last few weeks. It was the only question that reporters seemed to ask about the nominations. What was it like. I gave him a vague explanation of the day, leaving out the bit where my celebration had turned into a nasty fight with my significant other.
“The nomination is certainly justified,” he told me seriously. “Your album was great.”
“Thanks,” I said again.
“Is it true you’re working on a second album?” he asked me curiously. “That’s the word on the street.”
I shuffled in my seat, “Yeah, that’s true. We’re still working out song ideas and trying to organize the sound, but we’re set to start recording in a couple of months.”
“When you say ‘we’, you mean—”
“My team,” I answered quickly. “While I do write most of my songs independently, I do collaborate quite extensively with my backing band.”
“Does that still include Justin DeBoer?” he asked me without looking up, endlessly jotting notes down.
I nodded, “It does, yes.”
“On your first album, you listed Justin as a co-writer on a couple of songs,” he told me like I didn’t know. “Do you anticipate crediting him similarly on your next album?”
“For sure,” I replied slowly. “Justin and I are very much a team; he’s really just been a gift to my music and to my career. He’ll tell you that I was his golden ticket but I really think it was the other way around. I couldn’t have asked for a better guy to bring on this journey.”
“The two of you were bandmates before your venture into a solo career, correct?”
I just nodded.
“I know you’re probably sick of this question,” he smirked, glancing up at me quickly. “But what was the transition like? Going from metal to pop?”
“First of all,” I laughed, “I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily pop. I try my best not to get lumped into any one particular genre. That said, it was a huge change going from screeching guitar solos to melodic ballads…but it’s been great. I’ve never been more satisfied musically.”
“Do you find that you have more artistic freedom as a solo artist compared to part of a group?”
I hesitated, “I mean…When I was signing and writing for Haven, I wouldn’t say that I didn’t have artistic freedom…But…you know, people grow…people change…and their interests and thought processes adapt along with that, which will obviously change the dynamic of your song writing and the material you want to talk about—I’ve found that working solo has definitely made it easier to change and grow, musically and as an individual…without feeling constraints from other people who aren’t…necessarily changing… in the same ways.”
He looked at me strangely before continuing on.
“What a polite way of saying yes,” he joked.
Lauren laughed under her breath.
“Your first album was a journey through the grief of losing your friend,” he said matter-of-factly.
“It was a beautiful testament to the love you had for this person,” he continued, looking up at me sympathetically. “Was it difficult to write and record songs that are obviously very personal?”
I shifted again uncomfortably, “Um…no…”
“Care to elaborate?” he smirked.
Lauren was looking at me curiously. I buried my eyes into my fingers as I shuffled my thumbs around.
“I…Someone once said to me that we, as musicians, need to be saying something…You know? We need to be talking about something,” I explained slowly. “And they’d brought up how, you know, as a whole, we were mourning the loss of this wonderful soul….but we really weren’t saying anything about it.”
He nodded along as I spoke.
“An opportunity presented itself,” I continued. “Where I could reach people who were, maybe, going through the same thing…Maybe they’d lost someone they’d loved, or maybe they were the person in Tyler’s shoes…I wanted to make an album that went through the motions of that confusion…that darkness…and ultimately how we got through it. How I got through it…So, in that way, it was actually easier because it was so personal…It was the first album I’d ever made that actually meant anything to me.”
“I think that you really did Tyler justice,” he told me sweetly, giving me an understanding smile. “Do you have plans to include songs about the most recent loss in your life?”
My ears started to ring.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said flatly.
“It was only a few months ago that you lost a major player in your life,” he told me so nonchalantly that it made me nauseous. “In your fiancée’s life, as well. Will that loss be reflected in your next album?”
I furrowed my brows, shaking my head a little absently, “I don’t know.”
“Because the album isn’t finished?” he asked softly.
“Because I can’t think of a more polite way to dismiss that question,” I said smugly.
Lauren sighed beside me. My eyes found her and my hand reached itself out to take hers. I gave her hand two squeezes; she smiled at me.
“Can I ask—”
“Off the record,” I interrupted. “I will tell you that if any of your next questions are about The Rev, I’ll save you the trouble: no comment.”
He faltered, “Um…”
“Anything else?” I asked, trying to sound more polite than I’d just been.
He composed himself quickly, skimming through his notes, “Your wedding is approaching.”
“How’s the wedding planning coming along?” he asked like he cared.
“It’s fine,” I shrugged. “We’ll be married in the summer and will be taking an extended honeymoon away from California.”
“Well that sounds nice,” he smiled. “Does that mean we can’t look forward to Blair Peterson on tour any time soon?”
I smirked, “I guess you’ll have to stay tuned.”
“Oh, come on,” he laughed. “You can’t give me anything?”
“I have some things in the works,” I said vaguely. “Nothing confirmed.”
He sifted through the pages in his notebook and then looked back up at me, “I think that’s about all I’ve got for you.”
“Great,” I heaved, climbing to my feet immediately.
“Thanks for coming in,” he said, shaking my hand once more. “I apologize if I’d stepped over the line—”
“It’s fine,” I hurried. “Thanks for having me.”
He looked at Lauren, still trying to place her—but couldn’t. I gently ushered her out of the room and we walked together out the way we’d come in, silent all the while.
Once we were finally in the safety of my car and hurdling back toward Huntington, she finally spoke to me.
“Why don’t you like to talk about him?” she asked me point blank.
I looked at her like I didn’t know what she meant.
She smirked, “Don’t play dumb with me. You know who I’m talking about. Was it just because I was there?”
“No,” I said simply.
“Do people ask you about him a lot?” she asked curiously, a tinge of sadness in her voice.
“Blair,” she groaned playfully. “I’m not going to fall apart at the mention of the world being curious about his death.”
I glanced at her, “Every reporter asks. Every single one.”
She sighed, “I guess Bri probably gets it worse, huh?”
I nodded, “He’s been avoiding the press like a pro.”
The mention of Jimmy was still hit and miss with Brian’s reactions. Sometimes he was fine, sometimes he was not. There was no telling which Brian would respond to you—so, it was safer that the whole thing be avoided.
I hoped he could avoid it forever; Brian could get nasty when he really wanted to be. I wanted to avoid replaying grieving Brian for as long as I could.
“You’re fucking cursed,” he’d said to me, his words slurring together as he struggled to stand upright.
I’d quipped, “And you’re drunk”
“He’s fucking dead because of you,” he’d hissed at me, the empty bottle in his hand bouncing along as he tried to walk. “You’re fucking cursed.”
I’d tried to ignore him.
“Everything you fucking touch dies,” he’d continued, slipping off his feet and onto the floor. “I wish I’d never fucking met you. I’d still have my best friend if you’d never fucking come around.”
I’d left him on the floor in his drunken and angry stupor. When I brought it up to him in the morning, he was horrified and in a permanent state of disbelief. He was certain that he couldn’t have possibly said something like that to me. But he had. And I’d spent the night in the bathroom, door locked, sobbing until I was physically sick. And even then…
Lauren’s voice pulled me back to reality, “You can talk about him, you know.”
“What?” I muttered, blinking back tears.
“Jimmy,” she mused. “You wouldn’t have had a problem talking about him before he died.”
“It’s different now,” I shrugged.
“But you talked about Tyler,” she noted confusedly.
I took a deep breath, exhaling loudly—I wished so badly I could have a cigarette.
“It’s just…different,” I finally sighed. “Can we please drop it? I really don’t want to talk about this.”
“It’s okay to be sad—”
“Lauren,” I snapped. “Jesus Christ, stop.”
She pursed her lips tight, her eyes wide. She just nodded at me. Lauren wasn’t much for confrontation—and she hated to hurt people’s feelings, intentionally or otherwise.
“I’m sorry,” I told her immediately. “I just…I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay,” she rushed.
It was awkward for the rest of the drive to her appointment. She barely looked at me as we parked and climbed out of the car. She walked ahead of me and read a magazine as we waited instead of talking to me.
When they called her name, she stood, looking at me expectantly.
“You still want me to come in?” I asked dumbly.
She scoffed, “Don’t be silly.”
I smiled a little and followed her down the hall and into a dark room where a woman sat at a machine and told Lauren to climb onto the bed. I sat myself in the chair next to her, taking her hand as she reached out for me.
They talked about her last visit and the woman pushed an instrument around Lauren’s growing belly. Lauren shivered from the cold. After a few minutes, the lady disappeared and promised she’d send the doctor in.
“What’s it like?” I asked my friend. “You know, to be pregnant.”
“It’s weird,” she laughed. “But it’s…I can’t describe it. It’s wonderfully weird.”
I smirked a little. She narrowed her eyes at me suspiciously.
“Why? You want one?”
I shrugged, “Maybe.”
“What?” she gasped, sitting up onto her elbows. “Seriously?”
“Settle down,” I laughed, pushing her onto her back. “I don’t want one now. But…maybe one day.”
“Oh my god,” she gushed, holding her hands by her lips. “You’d make the best mom…Bri would be such a good dad. You have to have a million babies.”
“I don’t know about that,” I croaked. “A million…yeah, right.”
“At least four then,” she grinned.
“Four?” I chuckled. “Why four?”
“So then they can get together with this one,” she told me, rubbing at her stomach. “And they can start Avenged Sevenfold 2.0!”
I blinked at her.
“No?” she laughed. “Killjoy.”
The doctor came in and, thankfully, put an end to our weird conversation. It was no wonder Jimmy and Lauren had gotten along so well—she was just as fucking cracked as he was. She was just better at hiding it.
The doctor moved the instrument around Lauren’s belly, watching the screen intently.
“Would you like to know the sex?” she asked Lauren without looking.
Lauren looked at me excitedly and then back to the screen, “Yes.”
The doctor nodded, moving her hand again, “Looks like you’re having a—”
Heh heh heh.