Unseen Messages


PAGE 1



Prologue


...............................................


E S T E L L E


......


I'm a song wrapped in paper; a sonnet scribbled by a singer.


Every composition takes a part of me until I'm nothing more than crotchets and quavers. My story began on paper on sheet music. A fresh page of bars and ledgers, governed by a sturdy treble clef. But my life ended changed. And the things of importance faded from superfluous to survival.


I'm a writer. I'm a singer.


Not anymore, I'm a survivor.


Taken from the notepad of E.E.


...


LIFE OFFERS EVERYONE messages.


Either unnoticeable or obvious, it's up to us to pay attention.


I didn't pay attention.


Instinct tried to take notice; the world tried to prevent my downfall.


I didn't listen.


I'll forever wonder what would've happened if I had paid attention to those messages. Would I have survived? Would I have fallen in love? Would I have been happy?


Then again, perhaps just as the messages exist, fate exists, too.


And no matter what life path we choose, fate always has the final say.


I didn't listen, but it doesn't mean I didn't live.


I lived and breathed and cried and laughed and existed in a totally different tale than the one I'd envisioned.


Away from my home.


Away from my family.


Away from everything comfortable and familiar.


But I wasn't alone...


I was with him.


A stranger turned lover. An enemy turned friend.


I was with him.


And he became my entire universe.


Chapter One


...............................................


E S T E L L E


......


No one can truly soothe your fears, your tears, your Rolodex of emotions. No one can truly make it right, fix the wrong, or make your dreams come true. Only you.


Only you, only you, only you.


You're the anchor in rough seas, the roof in churning storms. You're the survivor in adversity.


You are trust. You are home.


Only you, only you, only you.


Lyrics: 'Only You' Taken from the notepad of E.E.


...


THE FIRST MESSAGE warning my life would end came ten minutes after the taxi dropped me off at the airport.


I didn't know it would be my last car ride. My last grumble over a fare. My last foray on a road, in a city, in a society surrounded by people and chaos and noise.


My last taste of normalcy.


Not that my life had been normal the past two years.


Ever since my 'supposedly' best friend secretly uploaded an original song of mine, I'd gone from a simple retail assistant to an internet sensation.


The whirlwind career change was both a good and bad thing.


Good because I could now afford the things I'd never dared dream of, brought security to my family (not that I had a family anymore), and formed a nest egg for retirement. And bad because such wonder came at great cost and I feared I didn't have enough in which to pay it.


After two months on the road-on a self-funded and mostly organised by 'supposedly best friend' singing tour, I was a masticated piece of chewing gum with no flavour left to give.


Not that I wasn't grateful. I was. So, so, so grateful. Meeting fans, singing until my throat bled, signing postcards and hastily printed posters-it had been surreal.


I couldn't get my head around how quickly my world switched from helping rich housewives spend their husband's money on unneeded fashion to blinking in spotlights and performing secrets (pieces of my heart and soul bound in lyrics) that people seemed to connect to. They connected enough to want me to sing for them. Me. An utter nobody suddenly traded the safety of non-recognition for high-risk fame.


I could handle sharing myself and my songs. I could handle chipping away at my secrets and giving them to others to glue their patch-worked souls. What I couldn't handle were the endless airports and suitcases. The constant noise and chatter and calamity of living on tour.


I never wanted to stay in another hotel again. I craved space and silence with the passion of a million wishes.


Madeline didn't understand how hard being in the limelight was for me. Even working in retail (while I decided what to do with my life now I was alone) had been a struggle: the constant dealing with people, the endless questions, the draining nature of mingling. Add loud music, screaming fans, and countless demands for social events, encores, and media obligations, I was wrung dry. I was worse than chewing gum. I was the grime left over from a well-trodden shoe.


I'm shoeless.
I placed my weighty suitcase-full of gifts from aspiring songwriters and appreciative listeners-onto the scales. At the same time, I subtly shoved my carry-on behind the counter where he wouldn't see. Most of the heavier stuff was in there.


Glancing at the scales, his eyes crinkled. "Glad to see you're under the maximum weight."


"Me too." I laughed softly.


That had been another argument with Madi. She couldn't understand why, after the success of the tour, I hadn't upgraded my economy class ticket for business. She'd shaken her head as if I were a freak for not spending my new wealth. But I couldn't. It didn't seem real. If I was honest, it didn't feel like I'd earned it.


I'd made it doing something I loved. Weren't you supposed to scrimp and slave in a job you hated to save up as much as I'd made in the past year?


Either way, I wouldn't waste a penny. Economy class was good enough for me-just like it had been for the past twenty-five years of my life.


Tapping on his keyboard, Mark, according to his nametag, said, "Your bag will go all the way through to Sydney, so you don't have to worry about it in Fiji."


"Great. That's good to know."


He focused on his computer screen. His smile slowly morphed into confusion. "Eh, are you sure you have the right day?"


"Yes." Nerves quivered in my belly. "I'm one of those people who has to check a bazillion times. I even woke up three times last night to make sure I read the time as a.m. and not p.m. I'm very sure."


He looked up. "You don't have a reservation, I'm afraid."


"What?"


He pointed at the screen I couldn't see. "It says here your ticket was cancelled."


"No." I squashed down the panic. So close. I'm so close to home. This couldn't happen. I wouldn't let it happen. "That can't be true." Fossicking in my handbag for my cell-phone, I trembled as I tried to find the email of my itinerary. "I have proof. I'll find what my travel agent sent through."


Damn Madeline. If she'd somehow done this, she was in huge trouble.


I was idiotic to blame a friend I would never see again.


I should've listened.


This was the first message.


Mark returned to checking the screen while I scrolled through my emails. Stupid Gmail had archived the file and I couldn't find it.


"Did you have a delay coming here? Did you miss your flight?"


"Ah, yes!" Relief flooded. "My connecting flight was late. I missed the leg to New York and had to wait twenty-four hours before the next service." I moved closer to the desk, trying to refrain from seeming desperate. "But that was the airline's fault, not mine. They assured me the rest of my ticket was unaffected."


"That's fine." Mark pursed his lips. "And that's true, normally. I just can't find a ticket number." Chewing the inside of his cheek, he mumbled, "Don't worry. Give me five minutes and I'll build you a new booking then reissue your ticket."


I sighed, wanting to puddle to the floor and magically teleport myself home. I didn't have the strength to go through the highs and lows of travel. I was done. Empty.


My shoulders rolled. "Okay."


There was nothing I could do.


I stood there and waited as Mark fixed Message Number One.


I should've paid attention.


I should've walked right out the doors and hailed the nearest cab back to downtown Hollywood.


But I didn't.


.............................


"I'm sorry, ma'am."


A male's hand shot out, preventing me from moving forward.


I blanched, slamming to a halt. "Excuse me?"


Now, what have I done?


His eyes narrowed in reproof. "The body scanner picked up metal objects on your person. You'll be required to undergo a pat-down in a private room with a female officer. Do you consent?"


All around me, other passengers shoved and bumped, grabbing items from the X-ray belt and rushing to their chosen destinations.


I envied them.


"But...I don't have anything to declare."


The dark-haired officer cocked his head at the screen showing a few large splodges on a stick figure that I assumed was me. "The scanner has highlighted a few areas of concern."


A furl of unease nudged its way into being.


First, the missing booking and now, security.