Here's the first chapter of the first book of my new sweet romantic comedy series!
Don't Tell Me You Love Me
Everyone who reads Little Women knows Beth is going to die. It’s the worst-kept secret in literature. The fact that I’m going to die isn’t as well known.
Lightning flashes in the sky above Patong Bay as though the weather is part of the light show and the audience goes wild. A teenage girl beside me screams shrilly, clutching her friends. As Denzel Duke—he of the dark curls and soulful voice, not to mention abs to die for, as seen in the latest Calvin Klein ad—starts in the chorus of My Day, I open Instagram and start to record, trying to keep my arm steady as I focus the camera my face.
“It’s the last night of Denzel Duke’s tour,” I say, not having to fake my excitement. “And it’s a little wild here!”
Hearts and smiley emojis flutter up the screen, along with comments:
“Love him! Love that song!”
“Love you Shae!”
I like a few of the comments before flipping the camera to pan the crowd.
I zoom in on a girl by the stage as she bursts into a flood of tears when Denzel smiles at her.
They love him. Part Shawn Mendes, part Justin Bieber. I give Denzel six months before he’s in the fight for pop god supremacy.
Lovin’ you will never be the same
Lovin’ you will always make my day
The audience sways to the music, like waves lapping at the shore. The stage is set up at the edge of one of the smaller beaches in Patong, right where the white sand meets the scraggly grass, long trampled by a thousand pairs of flip-flops.
Beside me, Natasha is wrapped around Dawson, her curvy figure poured into black shorts swaying to the music. I don’t have to look to tell Neely is scowling at the sight of them.
Onstage, Denzel sings with a lovesick expression on his sweet face that has every female, and possibly quite a few of the men, convinced he’s singing just to them.
I flip the camera to myself again. “Almost time for my song, so I’m going to pass you over to Dawson now,” I say, shoving a hunk of pink hair behind my ears with a big grin. Neely might like the love songs best, but I’ll take a stadium-shaking anthem-like Daredevil any day.
My followers love Dawson. They love Neely too, but he gets the most comments, maybe because he’s the only guy.
I pass the phone to Dawson, who tries to detangle himself from Natasha. We’re streaming a good part of the concert because it’s the last night of the tour, taking turns with the phone.
Freed of the phone, I shake out my arms, readying myself for the opening chords of my favourite song. Instead, Denzel reaches for his guitar.
“Ah’d like to share a little diddy I’ve been workin’ on while I’ve been over here in your neck of the woods,” he says, the Alabama accent kissing his words. The crowd roars and Denzel smiles bashfully as he drops his head.
A bolt of excitement races through me at the same time as another flash lights up the sky. I check on Dawson to make sure he’s recording because this is going to go viral and we’re going to be the ones who post it.
A sudden guitar riff from one of the roadies has the crowd rushing to the stage, almost knocking me off my feet. When I look up, Dawson is gone. I jump up and down as Denzel strums a few chords, trying to see over the heads of the group of girls that have moved in front of me. We can’t lose this footage.
A hand on my shoulder stops me. It’s one of the roadies we’ve gotten friendly with, the one I nicknamed The Rock.
“Need a hand?” He towers over me like some tree hidden in an old-time forest. My face must show my confusion because he touches his shoulder. “C’mon, get up here so you can see.”
He kneels and I clamour onto his linebacker shoulders, which gives me an excellent view of the stage. This is more like it because I can see Dawson right up at the front.
“You okay up there, Shae?” Neely calls up to me with a concerned smile.
I grin widely in response. “Perfect.” Then I turn my attention to Denzel, who starts to sing.
Pink hair, dark eyes
I watch you watching me
Big smile, wide eyes
I love you loving me
Is he…? Is this…? My jaw drops as excitement turns into a tingling feeling of wonderment.
Pink hair, dark eyes
I like you following me
Big smile, wide eyes
I want you in my life
Neely turns with an expression of disbelief. “Is this song about you?” she shouts over the noise.
Denzel Duke wrote a song about me? About me?
“He wrote a song about you!” Neely cries, for once excitement breaking past her usual cool composure. A few feet away, Dawson comes to the same conclusion and turns the phone to me sitting on the guy’s shoulders and being serenaded by one of pop music’s fastest rising stars.
If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind who Denzel is singing to, the fact that he catches my eyes with a big smile, and actually stops playing to hold out his hand confirms it.
“Oh my God!” Neely is now jumping up and down.
Still with me perched on his shoulders, the security guard pushes his way through the crowd to the edge of the stage. The crowd parts with a collective mutinous expression when the females realize I am Pink Hair of the song. I can’t stop my grin even if I wanted to, my heart bouncing faster than the music.
Denzel Duke puts down his guitar as I awkwardly transfer from shoulders to stage.
I’m onstage with Denzel Duke!
He meets me in the middle of the stage and takes my hand, giving me a twirl before leading me into a slow dance in front of a thousand screaming fans, all singing to me.
Sometimes I really love my life.
And then it’s all over.
One minute, the four of us arrived in Singapore, racing through the Crazy Rich Asians tour, filming the markets, the beaches and the culture of Malaysia and Indonesia. And then it was on to Denzel’s tour in Thailand and now I’m being handed onto the stage and dancing with Denzel himself and my head is spinning at the awesomeness of my life.
I was fourteen when the doctors diagnosed me with a bunch of big words that basically mean my life has an expiry date. It wasn’t too long after that, that Dawson, Neely and I started a bucket list. And then we grew up and that bucket list morphed into a travel vlog, which grew into a social media sensation.
Most people don’t get the check off their bucket lists, but I’ve got a job that pays me to do it all. And better yet, it lets me bring as many people along for the ride as care to follow me. Somewhere out there, among all those likes and heart emojis, there’s a girl just like me. Someone who’s been told she only has a few years to live and is desperate to cram as much into the life she’s got left as she can.
I’m doing it for her.
I’m doing it for me.