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Drama Thriller Suspense

This story contains sensitive content

This story contains depictions of violence, self-harm, suicide, and psychosis.



Verity Castillo was hers. 

She knew where he worked—Westlake Recording Studios in LA, or at one of his home studios in Manhattan or The Hamptons. 

She knew what he smelled like—Gucci’s The Alchemist’s Garden, cinnamon and Patchouli oil with rustic accents. 

She knew his favorite color—mauve—and his blood type—O-negative, the same as hers (what intimacy!)—and his date of birth down to the second—September 21st, 1998, at 8:13 PM London time. 

She was familiar with every facet of Verity’s being, understood him intricately, as a neurosurgeon does the human brain. She had a tattoo of his name below her breast and the outline of Verity’s birthmark—a spotty, amorphous thing—on her heart. They were more than acquaintances, she and Verity. Certainly, she was more than a fan. 

God, “fan.” Just the mention of such an inconclusive and understated label chilled her to the bone. It stripped her of her efforts, robbed her of the countless hours she’d spent slaving over Verity’s discography, his interviews, his social media, unreleased songs and leaked photos. To call her a “fan” was laughable. It was infantilizing. Verity was her entire reason for being, her heart and soul, the ache in her stomach and the bounce in her step. During his now-infamous drug scandal and subsequent decline from the spotlight, she’d gone mad with want. Verity’s absence in her life had been an addict’s withdrawal, caused her to spasm and scream, sob until her throat ached with the same agony her wrists did, tortured her in a hellish inferno she thought only death could remedy. 

I’m bleeding for you, she remembered thinking one gruesome night, gripping the blade that had pierced too deeply. This is all for you, my love. 

But Verity returned, so she decided to live. 

Since “Heroin-Gate,” as Verity’s fans often called it, he’d skyrocketed to A-lister status. She didn’t know how to feel about that. On one hand, a larger fanbase meant more screaming teenagers to appease with music, but on the other, the thought that more people so much less devoted to Verity—fans without true comprehension of his personhood, his depth—believed themselves to be on her level made her sick. Only she knew what it felt like to be saved, like an atheist converted, by Verity’s music. His eponymous debut album had dragged her out of hell, and his second and third records had kept her there. 

Friends had come and gone, and there was Verity. Years had passed, and there was Verity. She greeted the sun, and there was Verity, a constant, always.

Verity deserved his success; she knew that. She should be thrilled for him. She shouldn’t care about his other devotees, and right there in line, shivering from an early-night chill, she decided she didn’t. These fans could have their delusions. She knew what was real: she and Verity. They were subliminally entwined, stepped to the same romantic rhythm, saw the world the same way.

Verity was hers. Who cared about everyone else?

She’d been in line since 8 AM yesterday, the second to arrive (though she’d bribed the girl in front of her to switch with $100 and her portable charger). And now, it was finally happening. She was entering the arena. Where Verity was. 

The idea that she and Verity were in such close proximity to one another sent a euphoric tremor down her spine, one only the frigid metal barricade could subdue. She curled her fingers around the barrier and wept. Soon, this fence would be the sole separation between them. 

United at last, she thought, and dried her damp cheeks with her palm. 

She wondered what Verity would wear tonight. Usually, he donned black skinny jeans and one of his various oversized t-shirts, but on rare occasions—in his favorite cities, she thought—Verity draped a white button-down around his broad, muscular shoulders and unbuttoned it throughout the evening, revealing the slick skin above his happy trail, the V of his hipbones…

If I see his abs up close, I’m going to combust. 

She squeezed the barricade tighter, if possible, and prayed for time to speed up and then slow down, stop, at just the right moment.

“I love your shirt! Where did you get it?”

A girl with short blonde hair and craterous dimples beamed at her, pointing to the colorful needlepoint blouse hanging loosely from her torso. 

“I made it. It’s supposed to look like Verity’s mesh vest from the ‘If I Love You Now’ music video, but I messed up the sleeves a bit.”

“No, it looks good! And I should know.” The blonde placed her hand over her heart and giggled. “I’m probably half the views on that video.”

Suddenly, uncontrollably, she felt a rush of white-hot anger bubble through her stomach and up her throat, heating her skin in its ascent. The fury climaxed at her lips and poured out, a biting arctic chill and an eruption of crisping magma all at once. 

“Fine, then. What’s the drummer’s name? In the video.” She prodded the blonde’s chest with her pointer finger. “Verity hired him as a replacement for Florian since he was out sick with pneumonia. What’s his name?”

The blonde’s lips curled downward as her eyes narrowed. “What?”

“Gregory. The drummer’s name is Gregory.” She was shouting now. She knew she had an audience, but what did it matter? This was important. Who cared if people knew how loyal she was to her Paramore? In fact, the idea of new eyes aroused her. She felt her confidence grow as each phantom gaze kissed her flesh. “If you really were half the views on ‘If I Love You Now,’ you’d fucking know that.”

The blonde made a curt noise at the back of her throat. 

“Jesus. I was just making conversation.” And then, under her breath, “Freak.”

No, not a freak. Devoted. Enamored. Love, his love. 

She contemplated continuing their argument, but it was useless. She’d never be able to convince this girl that she wasn’t a freak but the love of Verity’s glorious life. “All those girls he’s dated, the tall models with big lips—they’re not his. Verity’s supposed to be a serial dater, but he’s not. It’s fake! It’s all for show. He’s waiting for me.” She’d only laugh louder, glare with more intensity, and who needed that? No, it was alright. This blonde could think whatever she wanted; Verity knew what was real. 

The opening act was alright. She felt nothing toward them, no excitement, no longing or lust. She’d return home that night and remember nothing, not their songs or how they looked or which gaunt and ghostly boy played bass. They were only there to introduce Verity, to sing flat notes every so often and dance awkwardly around their mics so that when he did mount the stage, Verity was even better than she’d remembered. 

She cheered when they finished, not because she’d enjoyed their performance, but because it was over. 

On the other side of the stage’s curtain stood Verity, and soon, she’d see him up close. His high cheekbones, his tanned skin, those ebony lashes and pink, pink lips. Lips she wanted to kiss the life out of. Lips she would soon touch. 

It wasn’t a matter of if but when. 

Minutes ticked by, and she felt the air around her become molasses. Waiting was a slow, painful death. She felt nausea pool in her stomach and prayed the floor wouldn’t crumble before Verity appeared. She’d be alright with death, would welcome it, even, if only she got to see him in the flesh, golden in the light of the arena. 

The lights dimmed, shone purple and blue; she held her breath until her face matched and released ice and magma from the confines of her throat, a shrill squeal, an anticipatory battle cry. 

A single spotlight showered Verity’s microphone stand in glitter and fire. 

And then, as if an apparition, an angel, a god, there he was, just for her, only for her.

Verity. 

Tears streaked down her face. The first few chords of “Tonight, Baby” rang out like a church hymn, and she placed both hands on her chest, wheezing as if her heart was failing, and maybe it was. In this moment, she did feel like she was passing on, floating above the crowd to the heavens, sprouting wings as she rose. Every inch of her skin tingled, every hair on her body shot up straight, and as Verity sang his first lyric, she knew her life was complete. 

“We’re here. All of us. The chosen ones, the few.” 

But it was just her. The arena was empty, and they were alone, she and Verity.

He’s looking right at me, she thought, and a wave of bliss washed over her. He’s singing to me. Right to me, to me, to me, to me…

Her vision blurred, and she gave in to fate.

She woke, disappointed. She felt light and dizzy in a way only a living person could, and that meant she’d see a sunrise without Verity’s piercing eyes staring down at her, without hearing his silky voice croon the words to her gospel.

Wait. Verity’s piercing eyes staring down at her…

The last things she remembered were those eyes, those gemstones glistening in gold glitter, and now she was here, she was… 

She sat up. Canary yellow walls imprisoned her in a barren and unfamiliar space. There was a brown leather couch, headache-inducing LEDs overhead, and no sign of Verity’s gemstone eyes. 

To her right, a manual clock read “10:10.” 

Two hours after the concert started.

She’d missed it. It was over. 

Death would have been far too kind now, she thought. Put me out of my misery, she thought. Life is pointless now, she thought. I’ve been looking forward to this my entire life, and now it’s over; I may never see my love again. I should die, I should die, I should die…

Across the room from the cot where she lay sat a foldable table with an array of food for crewmembers. There were cups of fruit, pretzels, and chocolate chip muffins, but she only cared about the vanilla cake at the end.

And the knife beside it. 

She stood, entranced by the metal blade, and walked toward it, her sneakers dragging on the coarse carpet. She’d bought these shoes for the show, the perfect combination of stylish and comfortable—great for waiting in the queue—but now they meant nothing. What use did they have, what purpose, other than slowing her down? 

She removed the shoes. She kept walking. 

Her fingers curled around the base of the knife, as it had all those months ago, and she stared at the warped reflection of her mouth in stainless steel. That mouth, what use did it have now? She’d missed her chance to sing along with Verity, to intertwine their voices until they were one. Maybe she’d start with her mouth and kill the rest of herself afterward. Her mouth, and then her eyes, and then, and then, and then.

The fire in her body had dulled. Hot embers remained, glowing in her fingertips, seducing her. Fade, fade, just like the fire. Let it all go away. 

The door creaked open just as she brought the tip of the blade to her face.

“Hey, hon. We’re sorry you missed the concert. There’s someone here to see you—”

The door slammed. She dropped her arm—and the knife—to her side and saw a graying woman with a lanyard draped around her neck. And beside her, him. 

Verity. He had come to see her. He had come to be with her. 

“It’s you,” she said, and stepped closer, one, two, three times. His eyes were even more beautiful in person. “I knew you’d come for me.”

“Honey, put that knife down,” said the graying woman, but the words met her ears hollowly, as if they hadn’t truly been spoken. A wisp, a memory of speech. “Please, just…”

He’s shorter in person. He wanted to meet me halfway. Four, five, six. When our lips meet, I won’t have to stand on tiptoe. 

He spoke. 

“I… hi. I was just— I saw you faint. I wanted to make sure you were alright.”

He’s stuttering, he’s frozen. Nervous to meet me. Nervous to meet the love of his life. 

Seven, eight, nine.

“Finally,” she said. Her voice was not her own, not anymore. Soon, Verity would suck it out of her body and make it his. “We meet.”

I worship you.

“Please,” Verity croaked. He wants you. He wants you. He wants you. “Please.”

“Say my name,” she uttered. “I want to hear you say my name.”

He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t speaking. Why was he standing like that, with his hands out in front of him like a shield, with his eyes wide and unblinking, with his lips taut, with his shoulders shaking? Why weren’t they one yet? Why could she still tell where her body ended and his began? 

Why wouldn’t he say her name?

“Say it!” She screamed. She was something inhumane, but he could fix her. He could make her human again, bring her back down to earth. All he had to do was say…

“I don’t know it!” He cried. He was trembling, all of him, and she realized with a sudden, horrible clarity that it wasn’t in awe. “I don’t know you. I don’t know your name.”

“Yes, you do,” she groaned, and she felt her eyes bursting from their sockets, her limbs crumbling, falling away from her. She felt the ceiling come crashing down, and her knife burning in her grip. “You do, Verity. See? I know your name. Verity. Verity Castillo. You love me. I love you. Say my name.” 

The graying woman had gone. Where? No matter. They should be alone for this. 

“I don’t know it,” he repeated, tears streaking his cheeks, staining them red. “Just tell me your name, and I’ll say it, I’ll say it. Put the knife down, please. Don’t hurt me.” 

Liar. Liar, liar, you’re lying, why are you being like this, Verity? 

Stop being like this, Verity. I love you; you love me. Say my name. You know my name. 

You know me. Every song you write, every lyric you pen is for me. 

You’ve described me in every way. I have brown hair, blonde hair, blue eyes, green eyes, a black dress, a white ballgown, a band tee, skinny jeans— say my name. 

You know me. You created me. You are my creator, my god. 

I’ll be blonde for you. I’ll be European. I am your songs. 

I know where you work. I know how you take your coffee. I know who styles your hair and what it smells like. Your birthmark is on my heart and your name is on my chest. I know you. 

Attention, that’s love. I pay attention. I love you. Say my name. Say it. Say it. Say it. 

Ten. 

The knife crunches on impact. She’d never heard the sound of piercing bones and muscle. It was melodic, almost. Like the haunting last notes of a ballad. Like a song, a song, a song.

Verity’s mouth fell open, and she watched his eyes dim. What color were they again? Gray, the color of corpses, maybe. They hadn’t been gray before. They were now. Gray. Ten. Ten steps, ten, ten, ten. Say my name. 

“Please,” Verity breathed, gasping around the knife. She drew in his words, took his voice. It was hers now. 

“I would never hurt you,” she labored, maybe a bit belatedly. “Never. I’m the love of your life, Verity. We own each other.”

His blood was slick on her hands. She touched two fingers to his chest wound and smeared it onto her cheeks. Metallic and red. That was Verity. They were one. 

Where did his body end? Where did hers begin? This was euphoria. This was heaven. 

“I would never hurt you.” 

The knife left his body in a sickly suction, and she admired her work. Hot, alive, metallic, and red. That was Verity. Verity was on her dagger, on her skin. This was her dream. 

She could die happy. 

And she would. 

“I love you. I would never hurt you, my Verity.”

And as the door flung open, she plunged the knife into her heart, relishing that same crunch of muscle and bone—music. They had made music together, in their final breaths. She smelled like him, like Patchouli oil and cinnamon and O-negative. What a way to go. What a way to exist, to be remembered, to be loved. 

Where did her blood end? Where did his begin? 

Her eyes shut. She imagined skating in their pools of O-negative. The same. They were the same, she and Verity. It would have been perfect.

If only he had known her name.

May 22, 2023 03:03

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7 comments

Chris Miller
22:45 May 31, 2023

Hi Charlotte, Your story was flagged up to me by the Critique Circle Email. I'm glad it was, I enjoyed it. It has a great sense of building tension/mania and some lovely turns of phrase. "... skating in their pools of O-negative." is very evocative. Thanks for sharing. Chris

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Ace Baker
21:21 May 28, 2023

When I read the warning, and saw all of the emotion the story contained, I expected solid, detailed imagery; I wasn't disappointed. You take time to craft the details that put readers in the moment. I LOVE how your ending circles back to the details you started with: Patchouli oil, and cinnamon, and O-negative. I'm a fan of circle technique--it gives such a FINISH to a story well told!

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Zack Powell
17:38 May 28, 2023

Phenomenal writing here, Charlotte. I was cringing and wincing the whole time. This character is so well-realized, so hellbent, so obsessive, and you rendered her amazingly. Love that we, like Verity, never even learn her name, and yet we know so much about her as a person. So many good callbacks in here too - the suicidal tendencies and the knife, the O-negative blood, the Patchouli and cinnamon scents. It's a very tightly-written story, one that keeps track of all its minute details. I like that a lot. This is a fantastic story, truly. I ...

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Charlotte Kelley
19:48 May 28, 2023

Zack, thank you so, so much! I'm a bit shocked by your praise. I think of "She and Verity" as one of my weaker stories. Your feedback is wonderful to hear! I'm glad you noticed so many little details. If you were cringing and wincing, then I have done my job.

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S N
17:37 May 27, 2023

I am so impressed by this! First, this woman is intense. I feel terrible for the artist, this poor guy. It is such a fun piece to read, but what a horror to contemplate in life. That there are people out there that need help, that could hurt themselves and others with desires so strong that they are blind to the severity of their actions, the terror of their beliefs . . . Wicked good.

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Charlotte Kelley
19:08 May 27, 2023

Thanks, Sasha! I'm always fascinated by parasocial relationships (especially when they go too far). This was one of my first times writing something "intense," so I'm grateful for the kind words!!

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Mary Bendickson
05:34 May 22, 2023

Obsession. Fatal attraction. Very intense.

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