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The Idea of You: south america

Friday morning, on my way to Marchand Raphel, Hayes called from Colombia.

“It’s crazy here, Sol. Our security is at a level I’ve never seen. There are about two hundred of them, and they’re armed. Like military specialists. They follow us everywhere.”

“What are they protecting you from? Fourteen-year-old girls trying to kiss you?”

“Yes,” he laughed. “Exactly.”


“Kidnappers. Apparently that’s a problem.”

“Be safe, okay.”

You be safe. I have armed guards following me to the loo. I think I’m good.”

The phone signaled then. The gallery. I told Hayes I would call him back, and switched over to a frazzled-sounding Lulit. “Are you on your way in?”

“Yes, we’ve got Cecilia Chen at ten.”

Cecilia was an established photographer and director of art films. Caribbean born, New York bred, she’d spent the last twenty years in Paris building up a portfolio of exceptional work and was now looking to relocate to Los Angeles. She’d come recommended by one of our current artists, Pilar Anchorena. Cecilia also happened to be black, Asian, and female, the holy triumvirate of Marchand Raphel. Lulit and I were looking forward to meeting with her.

“It’s been canceled,” Lulit said then, “but just … hurry.”

“What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

“Everything’s okay. Just waiting for you.”

But she had not been truthful. There were two police cruisers in front of the gallery when I approached, and immediately the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Three officers had congregated in front of our building, talking, milling, one writing in a notepad, a fourth seated in one of the cars. Things were not okay.

I parked in my spot behind the gallery and entered through the back door.

Lulit, Matt, and Josephine were all standing in the kitchen, their faces solemn.

“What happened? Was there a burglary?”

They looked at me. Funny. But not talking. Matt sipped from his espresso.

What happened?

“We had an incident,” Josephine said. “It’s not a big deal. It’s just graffiti.”

“Then why are the police here?”

Lulit took a moment to respond. “They’re taking it pretty seriously.”

“They’re taking what pretty seriously?”

Without speaking she grabbed my hand and walked me through the gallery, to the front entrance and out the door. There, on the lower part of the white brick wall that had been blocked from my view by the police cars, spray-painted in large black letters, were the words DIE WHORE.

“Oh my God. OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod. Is this for me? Is this about me? Is this because of me?” My head was spinning and I could not feel my legs. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Let’s go inside,” Lulit said, taking me by the arm.

“I’m going to be sick.”

“You’re not going to be sick. You’re going to be fine.”

I’d begun to shake. “Those fucking fans. Those fucking crazy fans.”

“All right … Let’s get you a glass of water. Jo, can you get her some water? They’re going to want to ask you some questions, but it’s okay.”

“It’s not okay.”

“It’s going to be okay. They’ve photographed it. They’ve dusted for prints. They’re going to check the camera footage. It’s probably just a couple of teenage girls. It’s going to be okay.”

“It’s not okay, Lulit.”

“Look at me. Look at me. It’s going to be okay.

She led me back into our office and sat me down, and I could not keep my water from sloshing out of the glass, I was shaking so.

“Who called the police?”

“Josephine did. She told them what was going on, the phone calls, the threats. They came immediately.”

Josephine was flustered. “I know you said to use discretion, I know you said ‘No comment,’ but I thought this was a pretty big deal. I’m sorry.”

“No. You did the right thing.” My mind was racing. “Are they going to paint it? Can we paint it? Can we get rid of it before the press gets ahold of it? Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m even saying this.

“Those fucking … bitches,” I said. And then I started to laugh. We all did. “It’s not funny. I feel like I’m in high school. Except I never even got to date the cute guy in high school. Can’t I just enjoy this? It’s not fair.”

“I say we find those bitches,” Matt said, “and then we beat their asses. Who’s down? We’ve got box cutters in the back.”

*   *   *

If ever I had doubted my team, I appreciated them anew that morning. The way they rallied for me. They were so calm and collected, and they went about the rest of the day as if I had not potentially put us all in danger.

“Thank you,” I said to Lulit, later that afternoon, in the office.

“For what?”

“For not saying ‘I told you so.’”

She laughed at that. “Hey, even I could not have dreamt up this. I just told you to use a condom.”

“Hmm.” I smiled. “You did.”

Lulit peered into my eyes for a minute and then frowned, shaking her head. “Whatever. It’s your vagina.”

*   *   *

Isabelle had a sleepover at Rose’s. The girls’ friendship had been strained since November, and I knew it had everything to do with my romance with Hayes. The idea that my daughter’s relationships were unraveling because I had found love seemed like a cruel and poorly timed joke. And yet another reminder that it wasn’t “Just us. Fuck everything else.” Rose had invited both her and Georgia that night to watch Friday the 13th, and Isabelle was thrilled to be back in her good graces. I dropped her off in Westwood and returned to the house alone, still a little on edge from that morning’s incident.

I’d only just stepped in and was sorting through the mail when I came across the package: a large padded manila envelope, with no return address, postmarked from Texas. I did not, to the best of my knowledge, know anyone in Texas. But that did not stop me from ripping it open and reaching inside. The second I touched it, I recoiled, horrified. I knew, without looking, precisely what it was. And for the second time that day I was shaking and sweating and feeling physically ill. Because there in the package was an enormous dildo. There was a note accompanying it. “Go fuck yourself,” it said, “and leave our boy alone.”

They’d found me. Somehow. They’d tracked me down and discovered where I lived and violated me in such a way that it felt as if they were in my house. I could hear panting as I rushed to put on the alarm and every light, and it took me a moment to realize the panting was mine. All the glass doors facing our cherished view were black and foreboding, and even when I turned on the patio lights I could not be certain someone was not there lurking. And it felt foolish to be so unnerved by what I was certain were teenage girls, but I could not rationalize it away. The fear.

I tried calling him. Over and over. But of course he did not answer. He was onstage in Colombia, drowned by the screams of thirty-five thousand girls. How could I expect him to pick up his phone?

I had the inclination to call Daniel, but then remembered he was against this all along. And the idea that he would leave his twenty-seven-weeks-pregnant wife on a Friday evening to come and check on me, when Isabelle was not even here, was absurd.

And it hit me then, how alone I was.

I called my mom and cried. And she listened to me blubber about being scared and torn, at the same time elated that I’d found someone who had taken the time to know me, and all the little things that made me so very happy. And how I did not want to let him go. And for the first time in as long as I could remember, it seemed to me she did not judge.

C’est ça, l’amour, Solène. Ce n’est pas toujours parfait. Ni jamais exactement comme tu le souhaites. Mais, quand ça te tombe dessus, ça ne se contrôle pas.

Love, she said, was not always perfect, and not exactly how you expected it to be. But when it descended upon you, there was no controlling it.

*   *   *

Hayes called in the middle of the night. The show had gone well, he said, but he was alarmed by my numerous messages.

“What happened?” His voice was hoarse, froggy. It was almost two their time. In the morning they were flying to Peru.

I told him everything.

“Oh, Sol,” he said when I was done relaying the extent of the day’s lunacy. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s harassment, Hayes. I’m being sexually harassed … And I know it’s probably harmless young girls, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels threatening. It feels real.”

He was quiet for a moment, and then: “What kind of security do you have there? At home?”

“I have an alarm system.”

“Do you have cameras?”

That seemed extreme. “No.”

“You need cameras.”

“Hayes, this is crazy. They’re girls. I don’t need cameras.”

“You need cameras. I’ll pay for them. I’ll have Rana ring you in the morning and she’ll get it all sorted.”


“You should have cameras, Solène. Why didn’t your ex-husband put in cameras? You’re a beautiful woman and a thirteen-year-old girl living alone in the hills. You should have cameras.”

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you, too. Get some sleep. I’ll call you when we get to Lima.”

*   *   *

In the morning, when I picked up Isabelle from Rose’s, she was not her usual chipper self. I expected tales of horror movies and late-night girl talk, but on the car ride home, she was solemn. It was becoming more and more customary.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. We were winding west on Sunset, approaching the 405. Isabelle was gazing out the passenger window, her face blank.

For a while she did not speak, and then, without diverting her attention, she said, “I don’t like people talking about you.”

“Are people talking about me?”

She nodded, quiet.

“Are your friends talking about me?”

She didn’t answer.

“I’m okay with people talking about me, Izz. People talk. That’s what they do. And we live in a world, a city, obsessed with celebrity … and people talk. And much of what they say is not true. So we just ignore it, okay? I don’t care what they say, because I know who I am. You know who I am. And we don’t let them define who we are for us.”

I caught her out of the side of my eye, wiping a tear that had fallen on her cheek, her gaze still fixed out the window.

“Hey.” I reached for her, our fingers interlocking. “I’m okay. We’re okay. We’re going to be okay.”

If I said it enough, perhaps I would actually believe it.

*   *   *

She spent the afternoon in her bedroom reading. And the few times I checked on her she seemed so melancholy it hurt my heart. But I did not press her, because talking about it seemed only to upset her more. So I left her alone.

And then I went against Hayes’s advice and all the rules I’d laid down for my daughter and myself and I got online and searched my own name. Because I wanted to know. What I was up against, what they were saying, what others were consuming without my knowledge. I wanted to know the worst of it.

There was much to behold. Tabloid gossip and myriad blog posts and speculation. How we had gotten together, how long it had been going on, how serious it was, how many years there were between us. Daily Mail and Perez Hilton and TMZ. Fake Twitter and Instagram accounts with variations of my name spewing lies and filth. Fan-run websites and Tumblr pages with cruel memes. The one that would stay with me longest was “Solène Marchand: Mother, Fucker.” And photos. Far beyond the boat excursion in Anguilla and shots of us leaving the Edison Ballroom, we’d been caught a dozen-odd times. Outside of the Ace Hotel, the SLS, LAX, Bestia, Whole Foods, Nobu—places I did not even recall seeing photographers. And it had been going on for months. There I was: boarding the boat in Saint-Tropez, exiting the Chateau Marmont with him in my car, leaving the London, standing in the taxi line outside of the Grand Palais, waiting by the valet in Miami, returning from my run in Central Park. All those moments when I assumed I was still anonymous, invisible—captured.

And suffice it to say, the things they said—the fans especially—were not kind. Biting, caustic, insulting, offensive. Sexist, ageist, awful. I had to wonder which of these things Isabelle’s friends were repeating to her. And how long she could attempt to ignore it. Because, I gathered, she could only internalize it for so long before it destroyed her.

And I realized then that part of the problem with Hayes’s “no comments on his personal life” policy was that he would not defend my virtue. He had the luxury of living in his cocoon because the fandom would always protect him. They worshipped him. They adored him. There is no telling what they would do for him. And in the most extreme cases, I feared what that meant for me, and my family.

*   *   *

I flew down to Buenos Aires the following Sunday to meet up with the band. In my absence, they’d performed in Peru, Chile, and Paraguay, with sightseeing detours to Machu Picchu and Chile’s Lake District. Hayes had been enthusiastic at the beginning, but his excitement had started to wane.

“It’s a little stifling here,” he’d said via phone, late Saturday night from Paraguay. “It’s been nearly impossible for us to get out because the crowds have been so deep. We go straight from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the venue and then back, and all the things that I’d hoped to see I’m not seeing. In Santiago, there were about seven hundred fans outside of the hotel and they refused to disperse. The other night they sang through all three of our albums, beginning to end. With Chilean accents. It was quite charming. But loud. And I got no sleep.”

Métroboulotdodo,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a French saying. You get up, you go to work, you go home, you go to sleep. It’s kind of what the rest of the world does. Not what you signed up for, huh?”

He laughed at that. “I guess not, no.”

*   *   *

By the time I reached the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires, it was almost eleven-thirty on Monday morning and the guys had already departed for their sound check. It was just as well, because I relished the opportunity to take a much-needed shower and crawl into our bed and sleep.

I awoke some hours later to Hayes’s body sliding up against mine, his arm wrapping around my waist, drawing me into his warmth. Like being in a womb. His breath soft at the back of my neck.

“You came back to me,” his lips buzzed my ear.

“Of course I did. Liam.”

He laughed.

“Wait. Whose room is this?”

“Mr. Marchand’s.”

“Crap. I might be in the wrong room.”

He smiled, rolling me over to face him. “Hiiii.”


“You want to come with me to an August Moon concert tonight?”

“It depends…” I said.

“It depends?”

“Do I have good seats?”

His finger was tracing my cheekbone. “You can sit on my face.”

“Okay. In that case I’ll come.”

*   *   *

The Estadio José Amalfitani was a massive stadium in the Liniers neighborhood of Buenos Aires that held just shy of fifty thousand people. August Moon had managed to sell it out two nights in a row. We arrived a few hours before showtime and already thousands of girls had lined up in the large thoroughfare leading to the structure. More fans than I had ever seen congregated in one place. The band and their entourage traveled by caravan: nine vans interspersed with motorcycle police. The cavalcade winding its way through throngs of screaming girls. Barriers holding back crowds near the hotel and the stadium. This was what Desmond had been referring to when he talked about Peru being crazy. This unimaginable level of idolatry and pandemonium. It was hard to wrap one’s mind around. I sat there in the van, holding Hayes’s hand and watching the madness unfold on either side of us, wondering what was going through his head. How did one even begin to process something like this? How?

He leaned into me then, sensing my anxiety. “You’ll get used to it, Sol.”

He said it so reassuringly, but I knew—I could never get used to this.

*   *   *

Inside, beneath the stadium, was a maze of winding tunnels. Utilitarian rooms and dank corridors that went on and on. The guys were set up in a series of large dressing rooms: wardrobe, hair and makeup, catering, a space for their band. I watched them prep and dress and psych one another up and carouse with their stylists and their handlers, and they struck me as young again, frenzied, like high school boys before a big game.

In the final minutes before they went on, when the guys were lining up and the crowd was so loud the ceiling seemed to be shaking, Hayes took me aside and handed me a box.

“Open this,” he said, “before we go onstage.” He was fiddling with the power pack at the back of his jeans and its accompanying belt.

“You bought me a gift?”

“Just something I promised I would get you … a very long time ago.” He leaned in and kissed me then, before backing up down the long corridor, security detail flanking his sides. “I love you. Enjoy the show.”

I watched him follow his bandmates around the bend until I could not see him anymore and he was sucked into the reverberating walls and the chants of fifty thousand girls. And only then did I open the box. Inside was a pair of noise-reducing headphones and a note:

I told you there’d be a next time.

And so it was that I was just one of the many females in Buenos Aires that night crying over Hayes Campbell.

*   *   *

I fought my jet lag to make it to the hotel gym the next morning, and on the way back up to the room, I found myself alone in an elevator with Oliver. Even before the doors closed, I could feel the tension.

“How was your workout?” he asked. Like Hayes, his voice was gruff after a show.

“Fine, thank you.”

“Good.” He stood directly across from me on the opposite side of the lift. Long arms folded across his chest, eyes piercing. “You look good.”

“Really?” I laughed. “All wet and sweaty?”

“All wet and sweaty.” He smiled. “Is that how he likes you?”

I stiffened. And then I remembered we were in an elevator and there were cameras and he would not touch me. Here.

“I thought you weren’t supposed to be talking to me,” I said.

“I think the ban was lifted.”

“Did you lift it yourself?”

He shrugged.

“Why do you insist on fucking with me, Oliver?”

“Because I can.” He smiled, sly. “Because you let me. Guys will try to get away with as much as they think they can get away with. Even if it means screwing their friends. Ask your boyfriend. He wrote the book.”

And in that moment I knew. He knew about Hayes and Penelope. He was just biding his time.

The doors were opening on the seventh floor. One of the band’s security was standing watch. Omnipresent.

“I do find it sweet that you’re rather loyal. You get points for that,” Oliver said, stepping out. And then, just before the doors closed, he turned back to me. “Because most of the others … weren’t.”

*   *   *

I did not bring it up with Hayes immediately. Partly because I was being selfish and I wanted us to enjoy each other’s company without anything dark or subversive hanging over us. And partly because I did not want him to hurt. They were living in such close quarters, performing together every night. The very nature of their success made it imperative that they get along. But at the same time, I did not want Hayes to be blindsided. And I remembered what he’d said in Anguilla. That, given the chance, he thought Oliver would hurt him. And knowing that, I could not put it off for long.

*   *   *

On Wednesday, we flew private to Uruguay. Hayes and I sat toward the back of the jet, along with Simon and Liam, and when he excused himself to go to the loo, I took the opportunity to scold them.

“Are we in trouble?” Simon smirked when I said I wanted to bring up something serious.

“You could be.” I lowered my voice, leaning forward over the table. “Remember the girl at the SLS Hotel the night of the Grammys? The one you left out in the hallway? I don’t know what happened. I don’t know that I want to know what happened. I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m just telling you that she was sixteen years old and in California that’s illegal and you need to be aware of that.”

Simon sobered. “She was eighteen. She said she was eighteen.”

“She lied.”

“Which girl?” Liam looked confused.

“The girl in the red dress,” Simon said.

“The UCLA girl?”

“She said she went to UCLA.”

“She lied,” I repeated.

“She had that UCLA thing. Like a school ID…”

“And a key chain,” Liam added.

I stared at them both. “She. Lied.”

“Fuck.” Simon’s hands were pulling at his hair.

For a long time I didn’t say anything, watching the two of them squirm.

Eventually Simon spoke: “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like a disappointed mum.”

“Because I am a disappointed mum. I trusted you with my daughter—”

“I didn’t touch your daughter—”

“I know you didn’t. But you need to be more careful. You realize if her parents find out or she tells the wrong person, it’s over, right? This, all of this, will be over and you’ll end up in jail. You realize that?”

Simon nodded, glum. Liam did not respond. He sat there, chewing on his plump lips, nervously twisting his hair. He looked to me like a little boy. And yet …

“Liam? Do you understand what I’m saying?”


“Don’t let it happen again.”

*   *   *

“I need to tell you something. And it’s going to upset you a bit, but I think you need to hear it.”

It was late afternoon and the band had returned to our hotel in Montevideo after having taped a talk show in town. The fans outside were so loud, I could hear them singing from our suite on the fourth floor. “Undressed,” from the Petty Desires album. The lyrics twisted, titillating.

“Are you ending it?” Hayes asked. He was lying on the bed, resting. His head was throbbing, he’d said.

They were at that point nine dates into the tour. There were sixty-six remaining.

“If I were, do you think I would start it that way?”

He smiled faintly, his hand reaching for mine. “I’m not sure. Sometimes I can’t read you. What is it?” he asked. “What is it you want to say?”


“Fucking Oliver … What did he do now?”

“He’s fucking with me, Hayes. He’s fucking with you, for a reason. I think he knows.”

“He knows what?”

“I think he knows about you and his sister.”

He propped himself up on his elbows then, his eyes searching mine. “Did you bloody say something?”


“Did you say something, Solène?”

“No. I would never do that to you. But something is up with him and I’m not going to be his pawn, Hayes. I’m not going to let him play me against you. That’s your issue.”


“I’m sorry. I just thought you should know.”

*   *   *

Friday evening found us in Brazil. Hayes and I were in our suite at the Hotel Fasano in São Paulo, getting ready for dinner, when Isabelle FaceTimed me.

“Are you having so much fun? Is it amazing?”

“It’s a little crazy,” I said. “There are fans everywhere. They really, really, really love them here.”

“More than they love them in the States?”

“I don’t know. I have nothing to compare it to. Hayes,” I called to him in the bathroom, “do they love you here more than they do in America?”

“Maybe,” he called. “I think they’re more enthusiastic here. But then again I can’t really understand what they’re saying. Who are you talking to?”


“Hiiii, Isabelle.” He stepped out of the bathroom in black Calvin boxer briefs. And nothing else.

I shook my head, shooing him back inside. “FaceTime,” I mouthed.

“Byyyye, Isabelle.”

“I miss you, peanut. I miss you a ton.”

“I miss you, too,” she said.

“How’s Daddy?”

“He’s good. He’s here. Do you want to talk to him?”

“No. Does he want to talk to me?”

“Probably not.”

“Okay,” I laughed. “I love you. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay.”

“Love you, too. I hope you’re having fun. Bisous.

It was the way she said it. I could not help but feel guilty. “Bisous.

I returned to the bathroom to watch Hayes dry his hair and brush his teeth and do all the little Hayes things that I’d come to know so well.

“What?” he asked after several moments had passed. “Why do you look like that?”

“What am I doing here?”

He wiped his face and placed his towel on the edge of the sink before turning toward me. “You’re keeping me company. Come here.”

I made my way into his arms.

“You’re missing your daughter?”

“I’m missing my life.”

He didn’t say anything then. He buried his face in the top of my head and kissed me. But he didn’t say anything.

*   *   *

That night, we had a late dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants, along with Rory, Simon, Raj, and Andrew, the group’s new tour manager, a tall, striking thirty-something Brit with smooth, dark skin and piercing cheekbones.

“God, where do you find these people?” I’d said to Hayes upon first meeting him.

Hayes had laughed. “Beverly, our wardrobe person, calls him Idris.”

“To his face?”

“No, not to his face. But it’s caught on, and now all the women on tour refer to him as Idris.”

Afterwards, when we were all at minimum two caipirinhas in, the guys decided they wanted to check out a club in the Itaim Bibi neighborhood. With a population of eleven million, São Paulo was massive and the only city I could recall visiting where the skyline seemed to stretch the entire length of the horizon. I did not pretend to know where we were or where we were going. I resisted at first, because I took it to be a fishing expedition for Rory and Simon, who’d been talking about Brazilian models for at least two countries now. But when Petra, the group’s hair and makeup artist, arranged to come with us, I acquiesced.

And once again it was the coordinating of security and scheduling of a caravan and I suddenly understood what it must be like every time Obama decided to go for a burger.

*   *   *

Fuchsia lights, house music, and beautiful wealthy people reigned at the club Provocateur, where the crowd parted like the Red Sea and they escorted us to a sectioned-off area and the alcohol flowed like water. Raj immediately ordered three bottles of Cristal, and the servers delivered them with sparklers, as if we needed more attention. It took no time for a bevy of pretty young things to flock to our area and Rory and Simon were in their element and I was old and someone’s mother and six thousand miles from home.

“What are you thinking?” Hayes said. We were seated in our booth, his hand between my knees.


“You’re lying to me. I know you far too well. Let’s dance for a bit, and then, if you want, we can go.”

“We just got here.”

“I want you to be happy,” he said.

“I am.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

And so we danced. And we drank. And we did not leave until close to three. Rory and Simon with two girls apiece. And I was not sure if they were wing women or what, but they certainly seemed committed. There were some high-level machinations as we slipped out through the back entrance to pile into our ride, and the girls left separately and took a cab to the hotel, where Trevor met them in the lobby, and it all felt so sordid and rehearsed, I wondered who they thought they were fooling.

*   *   *

“I’m sorry I’m keeping you from having two girls tonight.”

Hayes laughed. “Is that what you’re doing?”

We were back in our suite, on the sixteenth floor. Hayes was seated on the Knoll-style leather sofa, and I was standing above him, my hands on either side of his shoulders, my knee between his legs.

“You should be out there having fun.”

“Do you think I’m not having fun?”

“You’re twenty-one.”

“I know how old I am.” His hands were moving over the skirt of my dress, slipping beneath the hem, traveling up the backs of my thighs. He was drunk. We both were.

I kissed him. He tasted of rum and lime and sugar and happiness. And I wanted to lock it away and remember it forever.

His hands moved to my shoulders, and with little effort he peeled off my spaghetti straps and unhooked the back of my dress, freeing my breasts.

“What would I do with four boobs anyway if I only have one mouth?”

I laughed. His tongue was already at my nipple. “I think you’d figure something out.”

“Probably. But it wouldn’t be as fun without you.”

I was quiet then, listening to my own breath, smelling his hair. He had one hand on my breast and the other had returned to beneath my skirt, ascending, expertly tugging off my thong.

His eyes met mine. “See, right now I would just be learning their names and trying to keep them straight. I already know your name. We can skip all the formalities.”

I smiled, untangling myself from him, kneeling down and undoing his belt. He watched me, his eyes glazed, a half smile playing over his lips. I unfastened his pants and undid the zipper, and his penis was so unfathomably hard it seemed to me even larger than it was when we’d had sex earlier. And it was large then. There was something so appealing about the head cresting out of his underwear. Like a gift.

“Fuck, I love you,” I said, reaching into his pants.

“And see, that would be weird coming from the two girls I did not know,” he snickered.

“I love this dick.”

“I know you do.”

“I’m going to miss this dick.”

“It’s not going anywhere.”

“It’s going to Australia when I go to New York.”

“But then we’ll wait for you in Japan. I promise. Are you crying? Fuck, don’t cry.”

“I’m not crying,” I said. But I was.

“You’re not allowed to cry with my dick in your mouth … Solène.” His hand was in my hair. “That’s not cool. That’s really going to kill it for me.”

I laughed, wiping my eyes. “I’m sorry. Okay. Let’s do this.”

*   *   *

He came quickly. And I found myself appreciating the pineapple-and-mint juice he’d had at lunch.

“I fucking love you,” he said, after. His hands at the sides of my face, his mouth on mine. “You’re going to come to Japan, right? You promise?”

“I promise.”

“You’re not going to change your mind.”

“I’m not going to change my mind. I promise.”

Hayes wrestled out of his pants and hiked up my skirt, pulling me onto his lap. His thickness sliding into me. No recovery time necessary. And as inebriated as I was, I was glad I had the wherewithal to retain all that happened that night. Because I knew, in my heart, that we would not last. And because every moment of it was extraordinary.

*   *   *

I did not hear how the fight started.

Sunday evening, we were backstage at the Estádio do Morumbi, a stadium that held no fewer than sixty-five thousand attendees. It was the guys’ second night playing to a sold-out crowd in São Paulo. They’d already been through hair and makeup, and a meet-and-greet. Following their vocal warm-up, they were hanging in one of the dressing rooms, waiting to go on. Liam was doing push-ups, and Rory was strumming his guitar and sucking on a lollipop, and Simon and Hayes were chatting about something or another, their voices alternating between low whispers and loud guffaws. Oliver was standing not far from them. He’d been reading up until that point and had just put down his book. How he went from zero to sixty with fifteen minutes to showtime was beyond me. And as always there was the hum: the stomping and shrieking of the fans, the bass of the opening local band, the vibrations in the walls.

I had managed to tune it all out while composing work emails from my spot in the corner. It had come to be my ritual: attempting to run a business from backstage. And then I heard it, the shift in tone.

“Yes, Hayes is very good at keeping secrets. Aren’t you, Hayes?” Oliver had said.

“What does that mean?”

“I think you know what it means.”

“Do you have something you want to say to me? Then say it,” Hayes spat.

There was a measured pause, and then: “I knew, you bastard. I knew.”

My hairs bristled. They were doing this. Now.

“It was a long fucking time ago.”

“That’s not what I heard,” Oliver said. “I heard it was as recently as last year…”

The room fell quiet. Rory stopped strumming; Liam ceased to move. And I realized two things: none of the others knew what was going on, and I knew less than I thought I did.

“Who told you that?” Hayes said, slow, sharp.

“Don’t worry about it, mate. Just know that I know.”

“Who fucking told you that?”

Oliver turned to face him then, direct. “She did.”

“No, she didn’t.”

“She did. She said, and I quote, ‘Yeah, I shagged him, it was no big deal.’”

There was a second where I saw my boyfriend flinch. The slightest twinge in the corner of his left eye. I couldn’t be certain as to whether the others saw it, but to me, it said everything.

“She didn’t say that.”

“Really? You want to ring her? Ask?”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck me? You sleep with my sister and you have the nerve to say fuck me? Fuck you, Hayes. Fuck you and your always getting your fucking way.”

“All right, enough.” Simon stood, wedging himself between them. Arms outstretched, making the most of his rower wingspan. “We’re onstage in fifteen minutes. Everyone just fucking calm down.”

But I could see Hayes still smarting, and I knew that was not going to happen.

“Really?” he said, taunting. “Was it me getting my way? Or your sister getting hers?”

Oliver’s eyes narrowed. And then, unexpectedly, he began to laugh. “Hayes Campbell. Doesn’t play well with others.”

He was turning away, a smug smile on his aristocratic face, when Hayes spoke. His voice low, but clear enough for us all to hear:

“At least not in the way you’d like me to.”

There was a moment of quiet while we were all registering what Hayes had said, and then it happened in a flash. And I think none of us was more surprised than Oliver, the elegant. He spun around, his arm whipping back and then flying over Simon’s shoulder, catching Hayes in the center of his perfect face. It wasn’t skilled or pretty, but it had the desired effect. There was a popping sound and then blood … everywhere.


“Holy shit!!!” Rory jumped on the other side of the room.

“Fuck! Fuck!! Fuck!!!”

“Raj!!!!!!” Liam yelled. A bit like a girl, I thought.

“Holy shit!”

“What the fuck?” Simon pushed Oliver in the chest, and he stumbled back onto the floor. “What the fuck are you doing?”

And Hayes, in the middle of it all, both hands to his nose, eyes wide and unbelieving, and the blood dripping down his forearms and his chin, onto his Saint Laurent shirt. And his boots, his favorite boots.

“You fucking hit me? You little bitch.”

I jumped up and grabbed a towel from the stack over by Petra’s table and went to him. “Tip your head back.”

“This fucking hurts.”

“I know, honey. I’m sorry. Come, sit. Liam, go find Raj or Andrew and tell them we need a medic. Rory, get us some ice. Now!”

Simon helped us over to the couch along the near wall, rolling a towel to support Hayes’s head. When he was done, he stepped back, watching me, a wry smile on his chiseled face.


“You’re like the hot mum I never had.”

“Really? Not the ‘disappointed mum’?”

“Campbell.” He leaned over Hayes and gave him two thumbs up. “It’s like the MILF fantasy and the nurse fantasy rolled into one.”


“Also, high-five on Penelope.”

“Simon, go away. And change your shirt. There’s blood on your shirt.”

“Change it for what? It’s not like we can go on without him.” He spun around to nail Oliver on the other side of the room. “You are in so much fucking trouble, HK.”

Andrew appeared then at the door with Liam and three security detail. “What the bloody hell happened?”

For a second no one spoke. Oliver stood with his arms crossed looking contrite. Simon shook his head. Hayes’s eyes were closed.

“Apparently, Hayes shagged his sister,” Liam said. And that was all he said.

Andrew’s look was incredulous. “Today?”

“Fuck,” Hayes said.

“I think a long time ago,” Simon volunteered.

“And they chose to fight over it today? There are sixty-five thousand girls out there who have paid good money and are screaming your names and waiting for you to go on in fifteen minutes, and this happens now? Are you mad?”

“No,” Hayes said, his voice muffled by the towel. “No more so than usual.”

*   *   *

August Moon went on without Hayes. Oliver had managed to fracture a bone in his nose, which swelled quickly, efficiently rendering Hayes’s voice useless for the next several hours. The show started almost forty minutes late, the guys scrambling with their vocal coach to see who would take which solos and which, if any, harmonies could possibly be rearranged in such little time. They pulled it off. Between the fans singing along loudly to everything, and screaming in the moments when they weren’t singing, Hayes’s absence was not a total deal breaker.

“Maybe we’re just better as four,” he said.

“Don’t be silly. They need you. They’re not the same without you. This is your brainchild, remember?”

It was later that evening and we were back at the hotel, rehashing the night’s events: the hours in the hospital, the agreed-upon story that he’d tripped and fallen during a rehearsal, the decision to hold off on realigning anything until he saw a specialist back in the States.

“Isn’t that a little excessive?” I’d asked him in the examining room, when we had a moment to ourselves, Raj stepping out for yet another call, Desmond and two other security guards directly outside the door.

“They’re taking it very seriously,” he’d said.

“Who? Management?”

“Management and…” He’d paused for a second. “Lloyd’s of London. It’s insured, my face.”

I could not help but laugh. “Of course it is, Hayes Campbell. Of course.”

*   *   *

But back in the hotel with his face swollen and changing colors, he’d become melancholy.

“Fucking Oliver…” he muttered for the thousandth time.

“You did sleep with his sister, Hayes. What did you expect was going to happen?”

He grunted in response. We were lying in bed, his head propped on a pile of pillows, a latex glove filled with ice straddling the bridge of his nose. He looked ridiculous and yet still darling to me.

“Why would she tell him?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “Maybe she thought it had been so long that he wouldn’t care. Or maybe she was mad at me and it was her way of getting back … I don’t know.”

“I’m sorry.”

He squeezed my hand.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was still going on?”

“It’s not still going on.”

“You slept with her last year.”

“It was before you. Does it matter?”

“You’d made it sound like it hadn’t happened in years…”

He sighed, deep. “It was once last year, Solène. Once. Over the Christmas holiday. It was before I even met you. And evidently, ‘it was no big deal.’ I don’t hold anything you did before me against you, do I? All the dicks you sucked in the nineties…”

“There weren’t many dicks…”

“Whatever. It was before me. I don’t care. Likewise, you shouldn’t care about Penelope.” He shut his eyes then, and for a moment neither of us spoke.

I lay there listening to the whir of the air conditioner. A siren rang in the distance, the pitch unfamiliar—a reminder that I was in a foreign city, far from home.

“What happened with you two, Hayes?”

“You know everything, Solène. There’s nothing more to tell.”

“Not Penelope. Oliver.”

His eyes opened and strained to look at me. “Nothing.”

“I’m not going to judge.”

He was quiet for a long time and then he repeated it. “Nothing.”

I wished I could have believed him. “Okay.” I nodded. “Okay.”

“You once asked me about my biggest secret,” he said, soft. “I told you what it was. Any others … are not mine to tell.”

*   *   *

In the morning, we flew to Rio. Hayes’s face an inspiring palette of purple and blue. And while the rest of the guys snuck out to see a couple of the sights, we stayed behind at the hotel, icing.

On Tuesday, the band played to a crowd of forty thousand at the Parque dos Atletas. Petra was able to cover the green under Hayes’s eyes, and the show went off without a hitch. His fans and his bandmates—Oliver included—were happy to have him back. In that last beat before heading toward the stage, they did their customary huddle, and I witnessed Oliver pat his back and whisper something into his ear. Hayes smiled and squeezed Ol’s shoulder, and to the outside world they seemed okay. And for now, maybe that was enough. This facade. And maybe I would never know what happened. Maybe part of me didn’t want to.

On Wednesday, I flew to New York, and the guys scattered to the corners of the globe. They had five whole days to themselves before reporting to Australia for the next leg of the tour.


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