Josh's POV (WIMTBB Ch. 3)



 (Chapter 3)



Not for the first time, I took a moment to appreciate how awesome my life was. Standing just backstage while waiting to step out into the spotlight with my boys, I closed my eyes and took a moment to appreciate the turn my life had taken the last few years. How confident I was in myself and my choices. How every day I woke up with excitement and energy for what was ahead of me.

I was pretty confident I was peaking.

Not a bad time to do so for a twenty-eight-year-old man.

I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising to hear, considering I was the lead singer for a rock band that was quickly becoming number one on the charts worldwide.

“One minute to showtime,” Kate called out, her bright red hair catching the corner of my eye as she spoke into her headset. Her voice filled the earpieces that all of my bandmates and I wore.

Garrett’s partially shaved head immediately flicked in her direction, a promising smile curving his lips as he slowly looked her up and down. She pretended not to notice his attention, but even I could see how her cheeks darkened in the shadows and dim lights backstage. Why she was so hesitant to accept that they were finally a thing (and that no one else cared about the professional ethics of it all) was beyond me.

“I’m betting Joshy will mess up the lyrics twice tonight,” Kyle piped up, spinning his drumsticks in his hand, and accidentally smacking himself upside the head. He quickly grunted and fixed his bright purple hair the drumstick brushed out of place.

“Nah, look at him,” Tom, our bassist, shook his head at his new boyfriend before jutting his chin out in my direction, "It’s a smaller venue, he’s calmed and collected. He won’t mess up a single word.”

I smirked at them, fighting the urge to bite into my lip ring under their scrutiny by adjusting the strap that hung my guitar from my body, “I bet Kyle will get us all off-beat at least once.”

“Well, fuck you too, I guess,” Kyle playfully narrowed his eyes at me before brushing his fingers with Tom’s hand once, then quickly pulling his hand away. I was happy for my bandmates. It took a lot of courage (and a lot of fucking will they, won’t they) for them to finally be honest with one another about their feelings. I only felt the smallest bit of loneliness and adamantly pretended not to notice when Garrett sauntered right past Kate on his way out on stage, grabbing a handful off her ass that she pretended to be annoyed about as she shoved his hand away, murmuring other directions into her headset to stage staff.

I fought the urge to squint against the bright stage lights as we finally walked out, once again grateful that I was near-sighted. It helped the nerves of performing in front of thousands of people when I couldn’t see thousands of people in front of us on stage. After a short distance, everyone was a just blur.

The blaring sound of cheers and whistles and screams whirled around us as we all took our places on stage, and I took a moment to adjust my earpiece so I could focus more on how I sounded and less on how loud some of the screams in this smaller space were.

“Real quick,” Kate’s voice sounded in my earpiece right as I adjusted it, taking a moment for our fans to finish their loud greeting as I listened to our band manager, “Looks like we couldn’t find anyone to cover for the interpreter tonight,” I smiled at some of the people front and center, earning us some flailing hands and happy squeals as Kate continued, “Some people in the audience were expecting an interpreter, so I think you should acknowledge our fuck-up and let them know right away there won’t be one tonight.”

I glanced around, wondering where the ADA section was. Usually, it was off to the side, protected from the rest of the standing room. Kate must have been watching us from backstage because as soon as my head swung left towards where I thought I could see wheelchairs, her voice chirped in my ear again just as the cheers of fans started to die down, “Wrong group, for some reason the venue put those with hearing loss up front to the other far side of the stage.” I quickly turned my head to glance in the direction she explained, and I saw another much smaller section of the audience roped off. It wasn’t nearly as packed in that section, probably only a few dozen bodies or so, “There ya go.” I could hear Kate’s smile in her voice as I subtly nodded my head once, letting her know I heard her.

The hearing loss section was weird. While a security guard was standing in between my band and the audience, in a small walkway created with barricades that held the audience in place, the hearing loss section wasn’t separated from the stage more than a couple of inches. Anyone could easily hop up and charge at us. I noted the security guard off stage, supposedly assigned to watch that part of the audience, but the way he thumbed away on his cell phone didn’t make me feel incredibly confident in him.

“I love the energy tonight!” I finally spoke into the microphone right when there was a break in the cheering, “Before we get started, I need to apologize,” I turned towards the hearing loss section of the audience Kate pointed out to me, “The ASL interpreter we had lined up is suddenly sick, and though our team has been working frantically to try to rectify the situation, we haven’t been able to find anyone else to fill in so last minute. We know this will impact your experience with us tonight.” Though the earpieces we wore canceled out a lot of the noise the audience made, I still managed to hear someone loudly boo at us immediately after my announcement. Just as quickly as I heard it, the sound got cut off.

Damn, tough crowd.

I fought the urge to squint to see who the boo-er in the small section was, but tried to nod in acceptance, “I know, we will have to do better in the future.” I tried to give the audience a look of apology, before taking another cue from our manager and strumming my guitar once, finally getting the show started.

Cheers erupted again, and I felt like I was in my element.

Everything was muscle memory at this point, which was insane to think about. I had been doing this for years now, and though half the songs on the setlist were from our newest album, I had already sung and played them enough times that I didn’t have to think about it too much. Thank fucking god for the vocal coaches our record label hired for me. I had a good enough voice, but playing concerts and other live gigs regularly really opened my eyes to the physical training needed to keep up as a musician.

Thankfully, due to a couple of years of regular vocal coaching as well as becoming more and more familiar with being on stage, Tom was right. I wasn’t even close to nervous tonight. Sure, my adrenaline was pumping in my veins. How could it not? The nerdy teenager with few friends who still lived deep down inside me beamed every time the crowd screamed my name. Every time the sounds of women squealing in delight when I hit high notes or even screamed a few lines, really gassed me up.

I wasn’t always this confident, which was humbling to remember as I continued on this journey with my band.

The setlist ran smoothly, and Kyle managed to keep on beat the entire time (much to my chagrin). I just knew that guy was sending smug looks to my back each time we finished a song without either one of us messing up.

“I think you guys are going to like this next song we have lined up…” I spoke low into the microphone, announcing the title of this next track. I couldn’t stop the grin on my face when squeals and cheers started up again after the first few taps of Kyle’s sticks before hitting the drums.

I started singing the lyrics, the song being more vocal-focused for me. I piped in with my own guitar riff every now and then, but Garrett was the star of the show where most of the guitar play was concerned.

A flash of movement from the hearing loss section caught the corner of my eye and as I glanced to the side, my heart jumped up into my throat for a moment at the sight of a woman pulling herself up onto the stage.

I fucking knew it, I thought to myself.

Then, as quickly as she slapped her palms on the stage, she twisted her body so that she was simply seated on the very edge as her hands started to rapidly move.

I was singing the lyrics to the song mindlessly at this point, intrigued as to what she was doing. She lifted her hands and started moving them rapidly, her friends in front of her wide-eyed with shock as they kept glancing between her and me.

Oh…she was interpreting for them.

Because there wasn’t one for them.

I felt a little bit like an asshole at that moment, right as the security guard assigned to their section quickly pocketed his phone and shot a panicked, wide-eyed look at the back of the woman who was signing for the crowd while sitting on stage.

He took maybe one or two steps in her direction before I moved to walk toward her as well, quickly shaking my head and the security, and waving him off with my hand. I removed the microphone from the stand, taking it with me as I started to approach the interpreter myself.

He gave me a questioning look, clearly torn between proving that he can do his job or letting his fuck up go. I shook my head at him again and continued my approach.

A smaller brunette woman standing in front of the interpreter covered her mouth and loudly squealed at my presence, her eyes big with shock and awe. I gave her a quick grin before stopping right behind the interpreter’s shoulder.

The interpreter was blonde, and when she noticed her friend’s reaction, she quickly glanced over her shoulder and gasped, before palming her hands to her cheeks with clear embarrassment.

The woman was…beautiful. There were no other words for it.

She took my breath away, with her big brown eyes, honey-blonde hair, and clear embarrassment under my attention.

I continued to sing the verse into the microphone and nodded my head at her, hopefully encouraging her to continue to do what she was doing and not gawk at me. Part of me wondered if she would take my nearness as an invite to rush me on stage now, and I knew that the security guard would undoubtedly step in then.

The blonde woman blushed, or she was feeling the heat from the stage lights, I couldn’t quite tell. She signed something quick to me and faced forward again to continue interpreting the lyrics I was singing.

Well, damn. Maybe I wasn’t as cool and famous as I thought I was.

I walked back to center stage where the mic stand was, feeling a new kind of excitement in my chest as I kept glancing over to the blonde woman signing for the crowd. I even went as far as to change a lyric here and there, curious to see if she would fumble or give an obvious reaction to the change.

She stiffened for a second or two as she signed what I assumed was the correct lyric for the song instead, but never broke composure. She took her task seriously, and once again, I kind of felt like an asshole changing the lyrics for no other reason than to see if I could mess her up.

I gave a wink over my shoulder at Kyle, hopefully letting him know that my lyric change was intentional and not an accident before I grabbed the mic stand and sauntered back over to the interpreter.

I ignored the excited screaming that came from her friends in front of us and decided to take a risk by adjusting the microphone standing down as far as it could go and taking a seat right next to the interpreter on stage. Even though my legs were there, easily within reach of the fans, no one reached out to touch me. The same couldn’t be said for the audience members separated from the hearing loss section, though, and many of them were reaching their arms out as far as they could go without crossing the boundary set in place by the dividers.

Thankfully, I sat just out of reach, and the fans directly in front of us didn’t feel the need to grope my legs as I performed for them.

I turned and winked at the interpreter, who had her hands on her face again. She was flustered with my presence, and the prideful asshole inside me relished in the fact that she finally gave an obvious indication that she was excited by my presence.

As the interpreter continued to sign while I continued to perform, I struggled with just how fucking good this woman sitting next to me smelled. The venue itself didn’t exactly smell good. Thousands of bodies, a good amount of spilled alcohol, and a subtle stench of marijuana in the air usually weren’t pleasant, but whatever fruity perfume or shampoo she used was strong enough to waft over to me, and my body had a clear visceral reaction to it.

To be fair, it had been a while since I got laid.

It also wasn’t the first time I needed to continue to be professional and perform while trying to stifle an inappropriately timed erection, though it was slightly more difficult to do with a beautiful woman sitting inches away from me.

The song ended, and the crowd cheered. The interpreter’s friends were squealing and jumping with excitement, and part of me realized that this was the most amount of time I had spent near this section of the stage. I felt a little guilty about it. I usually tried to give attention to everyone in the front, but I had been neglecting this section until now.

For purely selfish reasons that had everything to do with the stiffness in my pants and nothing to do with politeness, I set my guitar to the side to get ready to stand up again, before leaning in close to the interpreter to indulge myself with one last sniff as I spoke in her ear, “Thank you for filling in.”

I saw her cheeks darken some more before she met my eyes and replied, “Thanks for not kicking me out.” It took everything in me not to let my gaze drop to her mouth as she spoke, but the more I made eye contact with her the more familiar this woman seemed to me.

An unsettling familiar bit of anxiety settled in my chest, and for a moment I wondered if this woman was one of our stalkers that security made us memorize the faces of.

“She’s…!” the brunette woman standing in the crowd shouted, making me turn my attention toward her. Her hands were cupped around her mouth, and she repeated herself so I could hear over the earpieces I wore, “She’s Courtney Henderson!”

My eyebrows raised, the name ringing a bell before suddenly slamming home in my head.

That was a name I hadn’t heard in a while.

I widened my eyes a little bit, choosing to ignore why the brunette was shouting the interpreter’s name at me and taking a better look at the beautiful woman sitting next to me.

Holy fucking shit.

It was Courtney Henderson.

From high school.

The girl who befriended me and made me feel like I fit in.

The girl who dragged me to parties our senior year.

The only girl I kissed in high school, after months of pining for her like the emo teenager I was.

The girl I had completely cut off after graduating high school for no other than because I was a huge dumbass.

Without thinking, momentarily forgetting that I was at my concert and not in private with this woman, I reached forward and snatched her right hand in my grip. She quickly tugged against me, but I tightened my grip on her wrist as I twisted her hand so that I could see her semi-colon-shaped birthmark, just as I remembered it.

My heart pounded in my chest.

Court was here, at my concert, sitting on my stage, and interpreting my lyrics into American Sign Language for the audience.

Because of fucking course she was.

I locked my eyes with hers, a beautiful shade of brown that I fell in love with the first time she spoke to me in our environmental science class senior year. I was stunned, my mind reeling with this revelation. Why was she here? Did she want me to see her? Was she so desperate to be recognized in the crowd that she sat on our stage to get my attention? Did she want my attention?

“Court?” I asked, my voice low and suddenly dry. The shy, nerdy teenager in me was slowly starting to show himself the more I stared at this gorgeous, fully-grown woman. She tugged on her wrist again, and I had forgotten I was even still holding it before I released my grip. She snatched her wrist close to her chest, as if fearful that I would grab it again, before giving me a nervous look with the smallest pinch between her eyebrows.

“Yes?” She asked, blinking at me.

“Aye!” Kyle called into his microphone, “Stop flirting with the fans, we’re on a tight schedule here!” I would remember his words later tonight when he and Tom would undoubtedly want alone time. I was already plotting how I would get my petty revenge in the back of my mind when I leaned into the microphone and spoke back to him, “I’m catching up with an old friend!”

Courtney’s blonde brows scrunched even further, her pink lips turning down the slightest bit as confusion took over her features. Her dark eyes danced from where Kyle sat at his drum set, then back at me. Her lips even parted a little bit before she closed them again and stared me down.

Holy fuck…she had no idea who I was.

To be fair, I didn’t look like her best friend from high school. I had filled out a bit, covered almost every inch of my body from the neck down in tattoos, had recently bleached my hair, and even had a few facial piercings (along with other piercings in places my clothing hid).

The only accessory I wore back in high school was my glasses.

It still didn’t make sense, though, because she was at my concert and interpreting my songs like a real fan would, but based on her expression I could tell for a fucking fact that Courtney didn’t recognize me at all. Not from high school at least.

How many Josh Madey’s did Courtney know?

I glanced up towards the ceiling, a shocked laugh escaping my lips at the turn this night took for me before I gently clasped her hand in mine and squeezed it three times. This was a move she would do for me often in high school. I wasn’t friendly or outgoing back then, and I wasn’t familiar with a lot of social events, so whenever she’d drag me to a party and see that I was starting to get overwhelmed, she would walk up beside me and squeeze my hand three times. Her presence grounded me, and she never abandoned me to my own devices.

She was always there for me.

Courtney’s confusion stayed on her expression, but her brows did loosen the slightest bit before she squeezed my hand back three times.

Her eyes started scanning the entirety of my face, clearly trying to piece it all together.

I let myself get one final uninterrupted glance at her symmetrical face before I gave her a grin that usually made fans get flustered, and stood up. I grabbed the mic stand and guitar without looking back, loving the new burst of adrenaline in my veins.

Courtney was here, she was fucking here.

And…I was still confident she hadn’t figured out who I was.

I started to adjust the mic stand, Garrett mumbling something to the audience in his microphone as the band and I took a few moments to prepare ourselves for the next song before I paused and took a couple of steps toward backstage. I pulled one ear plug out to address Kate, who had watched the whole interaction I just had with Courtney.

“Give the interpreter and her friends backstage passes for after the show,” I raised my eyebrows after my request to ensure she heard me fine. I wasn’t shouting super loud, not even my bandmates or nearby security would be able to hear our conversation because of the noise of the concert.

Kate gave me an incredulous look with a raised eyebrow before asking, “Are you trying to get laid tonight, Josh?”

I wiggled my eyebrows at her in jest, before shaking my head once and saying, “To apologize for our fuck-up. She should be enjoying the show, but she’s making sure others are first because we couldn’t.”

Kate nodded her head once before walking away and tapping on her iPad that always seemed to be in her hands. I exhaled a breath of relief that I would see Courtney again after this. I knew I couldn’t wander back over to her throughout the rest of the night, because I needed to take time to focus on my performance now. I needed to stay professional, even though inside I was completely rattled.

I’d seen many beautiful women in my lifetime. I had experienced being with beautiful men and women intimately throughout my career as a musician, and yet, no one had ever shaken me as much as Courtney had just now. Even though it had been almost a decade since high school, one look at her made me weak in my knees—and I had already been sitting down on stage.

I wanted to see her again. I wanted her to recognize me, I wanted to talk to her without thousands of fans shouting at us in the audience. I wanted to know what she had been up to all these years, and how she had managed to come to one of my concerts and know all the lyrics to my songs, all without putting together that she and I used to be best friends in high school.

Even though I always wanted more.

Hell, if the stiffness I had to discreetly adjust on my walk back to center stage meant anything, I probably wanted more with her now. After being in her presence for all of three minutes.

That is, if she was willing and available.

I took a moment to feel a bit of dread in between the verses of the next song we played, internally panicking before I made myself glance over at Courtney interpreting our songs.

Her hands were moving quickly, but there was no ring of any kind on her left hand.

That didn’t necessarily mean she was single, but I still felt a little flush of relief at the sight. A lot could happen in a decade. I knew of a few classmates of ours who were already married with children, and it wouldn’t have surprised me in the slightest to see that someone had locked Courtney down as soon as they possibly could.

Hopefully, the sight of her bare left hand meant nobody had yet.

I wasn’t willing to let myself think too hard about why the relief I felt was there. It wasn’t like I was looking to get married or settle down any time soon. My career as a rock star was just starting to become insanely demanding of my time, after all.

But this was Courtney Henderson.

The girl of my dreams in high school, who turned into the type of fully grown woman who could make my mouth go dry.

Even though I was the one to stop responding to her messages after we both went our different ways after college, I realized something almost immediately after she squeezed my hand a few minutes ago.

I didn’t want to fuck this up again.



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are products of the authors imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2024 by Andrea Andersen
All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.