“Can you see a parking spot anywhere?” Erica said, peering into the gloom outside the car window.

Sara squinted, searching for a space between the rows and rows of vehicles. Just then, a black SUV reversed out of a spot a couple of rows down, and Erica raced towards it before it got stolen. The girls jumped out of the car, jackets held over their heads to protect their hair from the drizzle, and ran towards the stadium entrance. As they rounded the corner, Sara caught her breath. The line up at the door was enormous, a great crowd of people snaking round the block. Gaggles of teenage girls in band t-shirts batted their eyelashes at older guys with tattoos and piercings. There were a few middle aged couples, too, looking a tiny bit nervous amongst the rabble; Compass attracted a diverse fan base with their entrancing sound. Sara had even caught her Mum singing along when she played them in the car.

“Oh look, that's where we need to be,” Erica shouted over the din, pointing up to a sign that read 'VIP Entrance. The much smaller door had no line-up, but was guarded by three burly doormen in black suits. They looked sternly at the girls as they hurried towards them.

“Line starts over their ladies,” one of them said gruffly. Erica rummaged in her bag for their passes, and held them out. The head bouncer shone his torch on them, checking the fine print; did people actually try to fake these things, Sara wondered?

“Lucky prize winners, ey?” The bouncer said, finally cracking a smile, “I guess you'd better come on through. The bar's open at the side of the stage, or you can go hang out in the lounge until the music starts.”

“Thanks so much,” Erica gushed, and the doorman chuckled. “Just you have fun tonight ladies.”

Sara grabbed Erica's hand and gave it an excited squeeze as they passed through the corridor, and into the brave new world of the VIP section.

Beers in hand, the girls wound their way through the crowds of people until they were right at the side of the stage. Sara took another sip of her drink. Between the lights and the mass of writhing bodies, it was hot as hell. The warm up act had been better than Sara was expecting; she might even look up their latest album. But now it was time for the main event. Sara felt another little shiver of excitement in the pit of her stomach. Not only was she about to see Compass live, but she would be only inches from Jack Carter the entire time. Suddenly the lights dimmed. Erica reached over and squeezed her arm, and they grinned at each other.

“And now, ladies and gentleman, the moment you have all been waiting for. Please give a very warm welcome to COMPASS!” The end of the announcement was drowned out as a scream went up from the audience. Jack felt his stomach lurch. Frozen at the side of the stage, he could picture the crowd, their expectant faces…don't think about it, he told himself. Donny, the drummer, punched him gently on the shoulder.

“Time to go, Jacky boy. Let's do this.”

Taking a deep breath, Jack steeled himself, and stepped onto the stage. Somewhere beyond the smoke and the lights, the crowd roared. Michael was at his microphone already, of course, turning on the charm as he bantered with the crowd. Jack swallowed hard as he gripped his guitar, willing his throat not to close up. Then Donny dropped the beat, and Michael let rip with the opening chords. Jack's fingers seemed to move by themselves, caressing the strings of his guitar, coaxing out the beginning of 'Hard Times.” He let the music carry him, lift him up, make his heart sing and his head clear. And as he leaned in to the microphone, and another great shout came from the crowd, he was no longer a nervous wreck, no longer his heartbroken, angry, vulnerable self. He was Jack Carter, the man who had sold a ten million albums, the man every woman wanted to be with, the face on the cover of every magazine. He was a star.

Compass were on fire. They stormed their way through the set, new material and old favourites winning the same ecstatic reaction from the crowd. Jack was flying high, putting his heart and soul into every last note. As he approached the edge of the stage to brush the hands of his delirious fans, one face in particular caught his eye. She was stood at the side of the stage, in the VIP area. There was something about the light in her dark brown eyes that caught his attention. Jack couldn't tear his eyes away from her perfect heart-shaped face, framed by heavy bangs that only emphasised her delicate beauty. As the last bars of the song faded away, Jack realised he was still staring at her, and that Michael was scowling at him. He quickly returned to his position, throwing a glance at the set list, although he already knew what was coming up next. Just the thought of it made his heart sink. But Michael wouldn't give him a chance to weasel out of it. He was already nodding to Donny, already launching into the opening notes. The very sound turned a knife in Jack's gut. But the fans were going crazy, the sound of girls screaming almost drowning out the music.

“Oh my God, Sara, they're going to play 'Back Track'!” Erica yelled into her friend's ear. Neither of them could quite believe it; while it remained one of their most popular hits, the band had refused to play the song live for the last three years. There were rumours that Jack Carter hated the song, although nobody had any sensible theories as to why. Sara could feel every beat of her heart as the music washed over her. This would always be her favourite song. She watched Jack's face as he leaned in to his microphone, singing the first few lines softly, almost reluctantly. He could put so much feeling into just a few words. His eyes were cast down to the floor, as if avoiding the audience, until suddenly he looked up. His eyes locked into Sara's. And he sang the chorus as if singing just to her.

Sara felt as if she was staring right into his soul. The intensity of his gaze moved something within her, and she had a sudden urge to leap up on the stage and throw her arms around him.

“And if I could retrace my steps/What wouldn't I say?” Jack belted out the line, his voice full of raw emotion, and Sara could have sworn she saw tears in his eyes. There were certainly tears in hers. It was as if Jack Carter had distilled all the pain, the anguish of lost love into a single song. It resonated with anyone who had ever felt love and loss; Sara's were not the only tears in the audience. As the final notes died away, Jack finally broke their connection, lowering his gaze back to his guitar. His head drooped, as if he had put all of his energy into the performance and was now drained. For a moment, there was total silence, the crowd still processing what they had just witnessed. A performance of such intensity, such depth, that they were unlikely to witness ever again. Then the cheering began, the hollering and screaming and applause louder than the arena had ever seen before. Jack Carter put down his guitar, and gave a sweeping bow. Then he straightened up and walked off the stage.

“Sara, that was so incredible! He was looking right at you the whole time!” Erica shouted at her friend, pulling her into a tight hug. Sara smiled back at her friend, sharing her excitement, but at the same time feeling a nagging anxiety in her chest. She couldn't pin down the reason, but something in Jack Carter's look had shaken her. The crowd were chanting now, demanding an encore. Five minutes passed. Then ten. The crowd grew ever more restless, hollering at the stage, waiting for their idols to return. Fifteen minutes. And then the lights came up.

“Why aren't they coming back on?” Erica wondered aloud.

“No idea,” Sara muttered, but her sense of foreboding was growing. Compass always played an encore; they were famous for going out with a bang. What was going on?

There were groans from the crows, and even a few boos. Someone started up the chanting again; “We want Compass!”

“Show's over ladies and gentleman. The bar will remain open for another fifteen minutes. We hope you enjoyed your night.” The loud speaker announcement sealed it; Compass were done.

“At least we might get to see them backstage, “ Erica squealed, propelling her best friend towards the rear doors. Sara only nodded. She was still thinking about Jack Carter.

Jack kept walking. Through the wings, past his dressing room, through the stage door before anyone could stop him. Down the dingy alley at the back of the arena, and onto the streets. Letting his long fringe fall over his eyes, Jack stepped through the puddles of rain water, not caring. Fuck the rain. Fuck Michael, fuck that song, fuck all of them. They all expected him to smile for the crowd and act like nothing ever happened. At the end of the day, nobody cared how he felt about anything. A hot salty tear escaped and dripped down his face. Jack brushed it away with the cuff of his shirt.

It was late, and as he moved away from the busy centre, the streets grew quiet. Everyone was hurrying home to escape the weather. Finally, he reached the bridge. Gazing over the guard rail, Jack watched the dark river rush beneath him, cold and uncaring. He had never felt so lost. The tour was a success, sure, the atmosphere at every gig electric. But afterwards, when he left the stage and sloped back to his dressing room…that's when the thoughts came creeping back. The memories. The guilt. Drinking could only numb him so much. There were girls

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