Your chest tightens the moment you walk through the door. There are two women in the wardrobe room: the younger one you’re assuming is Nina, and a twenty-something, steaming the sweater Alec wore in Paris the night he broke down onstage.
“Is that…?” Your best friend frowns at you. Of course she recognizes the sweater too—you’ve both seen those videos a hundred times. You’d even feared Alec would cancel the rest of the tour back then! That’s how depressed and hopeless he looked.
“Hi! I’m Nina.” She closes the door after AJ and Matt walk in. “And this is Vicky—we work for Alec’s stylist.”
“Nice to meet you,” your friend says. And you smile politely, but still can’t take your eyes off the striped sweater.
He looks happier after the show in New York! You remember the last tour videos you’ve watched. Whatever was bumming him out seems to be under control now.
“Beautiful piece, right?” Nina says with a grin.
“Y-yeah.” You refocus on the present. “I remember him wearing it on stage.”
“Oh wow. You must really be a big fan.” She chuckles, exchanging a glance with AJ and Matt.
“Told ya,” Matt replies.
“You probably need no commentary, then.” She holds out one arm. “Go ahead. Have fun checking them all out!”
I blink at her twice. Are you serious?
Your best friend, on the other hand, doesn’t hesitate. She’s already in the back of the room, digging through Alec’s t-shirts.
Oh my gosh, his The Hope shirt! You rush toward her and hold the soft fabric in your hands. You’ve seen so many pictures of Alec wearing this. It must be one of his favorites!
“He has a dozen pairs of those,” Nina adds. “Here, let me show you.”
Well, that explains things. You half-smile as she opens the drawer of his wardrobe case.
“This smells so good!” Your friend closes her eyes, enjoying the fresh scent of recently laundered clothes.
“Look!” Your friend points at a pair of pants.
His black ripped jeans! You beam as you reach for them.
You’re actually surprised to see how many other pairs of pants Alec owns because he’s always in black jeans.
And a question pops into your mind. “How do you guys do laundry on the road?”
Nina glances at Vicky. “Should I let you explain?”
Vicky puts the steamer down. “It’s different in every city. We use laundry rooms, local shops, dry cleaners… My job is to find the most viable option in the morning and get everybody’s laundry done before showtime.”
“You mean, not just Alec’s?” You widen your eyes at her. Alec is touring with like, a hundred people! Does she do the laundry for all of them?
“Yep—everybody needs clean clothes!” Vicky laughs. “I’m not alone on the team, though. And we did have some extra help today…” She looks at Nina, who smiles back at her.
“Well, thank you for all your hard work,” you say to both of them. It’s ridiculous how many details about touring you’ve never considered until now. How many touring jobs you didn’t even know existed until today.
“So this means James’s clothes are in here too?” your friend squeals.
And you notice a shift in Nina’s mood. Is she…jealous?
“That case over there is his.” Vicky points and your friend doesn’t waste any time, dashing to see James’s shirts up close.
You stay put, observing Nina’s reaction. You have no idea if they’re together or not, but she clearly wants them to be. She wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable when your friend was touching Alec’s clothes.
“Here, you gotta see this!” You call your friend’s attention to Alec’s checkered shirts before Nina kicks you both out of the room.
“Aww, his hoodies are here too!” She swoons. “And his button-downs, look!”
You hold back a smile, glad she took the bait.
“And you don’t wanna miss his accessories!” Nina encourages her—a little too strongly, maybe—to open the wardrobe case drawer.
You can’t help but gasp. His rings. His necklaces. Watches. Bracelets.
Your friend stares at you. A pleading, naughty look on her face.
Don’t even think about it! You warn her with your eyes. You heard stories of fans who’ve asked Alec for one of his bracelets and he gladly gave it to them. But there’s a big difference between asking and stealing!
“Have you girls seen everything you wanted to see?” Matt says. “I just got a message here…” He drops his eyes, reading the incoming text.
“Where are his shoes?” your friend blurts. “We haven’t seen his shoes!”
“Here.” Nina guides you to the connected room.
You immediately recognize his boots. He loves to wear them onstage. But the sneakers all seem new to you—apart from this black and white pair that Alec wore in the documentary about the writing of his second album.
“You told me you’d wait in the green room!” You hear Matt’s voice.
“No, I told you I was in the green room! Not that I would…”
A jolt of adrenaline shots through your body. That’s Ben! That’s him and Matt—fighting.
“Where the heck are they anyway?” Ben shouts, his tone urgent.
You walk back to the first room, guilt eating you up inside. “I’m so sorry.” You force yourself to meet his gaze. “It’s all our fault—we should have stayed with James and waited for you on stage! I’m really, really sorry.”
“Oh.” He knits his brows together. “No, don’t be sorry. I’m not mad at you! It’s just that… My plan was to introduce you to Alec during his break, but now he’s already left for soundcheck!”
“Really?” You smile in relief; secretly even more regretful you didn’t follow Ben’s plan.
“Hurry up!” he calls, already out the door. “We might still have a chance to catch him before—”
The sharp twang of an electric guitar fills the room.
You don’t need a second note to know it’s the into of “All My Love.”
Alec is on stage right now, playing “All My Love!”
“Let’s go!” Ben raises his voice. “I take it you wanna watch, right?”
Can we? You stare at him in shock, your heart racing out of control.