“Er…bonjour…um, j'aime…cigarettes?” Jack murmured hopefully. All he received in return was a withering stare, followed by a barrage of incomprehensible french.

“Um…non francais…cigarettes, s'il vous plait?” Jack tried, pointing at the locked case. The shopkeeper rolled his eyes and reached into his pocket for the key. Swinging the case open, he grabbed a box of some brand that Jack had never heard of and plonked them on the counter. Jack thought about arguing, but he didn't have the energy. He just set his chocolate down next to them and held out a twenty euro note. The shopkeeper took it wordlessly, dispensed a tiny amount of change on the counter, and went back to reading the newspaper. Charming.

“Merci beacoup,” Jack muttered, and the little man grunted in return. Jack left the store, taking care to slam the door behind him. Jerk. Would it kill people to be a little friendly?

Jack leaned against the wall of the store, next to a battered old magazine rack, and tore the cellophane from the packet of cigarettes. Jack lit his cigarette and dragged the smoke deep into his lungs. He had given up, almost…but some days, he just really needed a cigarette. For a moment, he felt at peace. Then out of the corner of his eye, a familiar face jumped out at him, and he froze. Jack had become used to seeing his face in print. Compass had done a few magazine covers in their time, and there were always the paparazzi shots. Jack, bleary eyed, stumbling out of a nightclub with his buddies. Chatting to an old friend over coffee, who the tabloids would transform into his 'secret lover.' Making out with a daytime TV star at some award show or other…that was not one of his finest moments. But this picture was different. Jack felt like he'd been slapped in the face. His cigarette had lost all flavour, and he threw it onto the cobbles and ground it out with his foot. Then he snatched every visible copy of the magazine from the rack, marched back up to the counter and slammed down a fifty euro note. The shopkeeper began to say something, but Jack was already storming off down the street.

Sara groaned as the irritating buzzing sound penetrated her consciousness. She had been in the middle of a good dream. She stretched out her hand and fumbled on her bedside table until she felt the familiar shape of her phone. It wasn't her alarm after all; the screen said 'Unknown Number.' Sara contemplated ignoring it and going back to sleep, but she supposed it could have been work calling.

'Hello?' she mumbled.

'Sara?' The voice was familiar, but the line was bad.

'Who is this?'

'It's Jack. Hey.'

Sara's tummy gave a little flip. Suddenly, she felt wide awake.

'Oh, Jack, hi! Did you get my messages?'

Oh great, why did that have to be the first thing out of her mouth? Way to sound needy, Sara.

'I, um, haven't been online for a few days, sorry. It's been kinda hectic out here.' Something in his voice worried Sara. She couldn't put her finger on it, but he sounded a little…off. Had he been drinking, she wondered? She hoped not. Sara liked to think she was more than just a drunk dial.

'No worries. Are you okay?'

There was silence on the other end of the line, until Sara thought they might have lost the connection. Then she heard him let out a long breath.

'No. No, I'm not, not really.' His voice cracked a little, sending a spasm of pain through Sara's heart.

'Oh, Jack, what's the matter?'

'I…Oh man, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called. Just, I've been sat holed up in this stupid hotel room for the last few hours, and I realized the only person I really wanted to see was you. Oh god, that sounds lame.'

Sara felt a little glow of warmth in the pit of her stomach, tempered with concern for Jack

'I'm here, Jack. Just tell me what's going on.'

'Oh Sara, everything's just so fucked up. I don't even know where to start…it'll be in the papers there too I expect. Would you just…ugh, I'm sorry…have you got any plans for the weekend?'

'Um, no, was just going to have a quiet one. Big week at work,' Sara responded, thrown off by his sudden change of subject

'Look, I know it's a lot to ask. But would you consider coming out here for a couple of days? I'll buy you a flight, and I could have you back in time for work on Monday. I know it's a long way and everything, I just…I really need to see you.'

'Where even are you?'

'Paris. France, not Texas.'

'Jack, that's…um, it's a long way…'

'I know, I'm really sorry for asking. I'll understand if you say no. Just…please think about it.'

Sara looked down at her fluffy pj’s and the stack of DVDs that constituted her weekend plans. She considered the pain in Jack's voice, and the longing that tugged at her. And Paris…the city of light…she had always wanted to see it.

'If you need me, I'll come.'

'You will? Oh my god, Sara, that is amazing. You can pick up the tickets at the airport, I'll message you the details. I've got to go but…I can't wait to see you.'

Before she even had a chance to reply, he hung up. Sara stared at the phone in her hand for a moment, wondering if that whole phone call had been part of a crazy dream. Then her email alert went off, and she saw the flight details drop into her in-box. Sara dashed for the shower. She didn't have much time.

The knock on the door made Jack jump. He had been sat, staring out of the window at the rain as it fell over Paris. The morning's brightness had turned to a grey drizzle, as if Paris had picked up on his mood. The knocking grew louder.

“Jack! Open this goddamn door Jack, before I call hotel security. Come on man, we need to talk about this.”

“Go away.” Jack grabbed a bottle of vodka from the minibar and took a long, bitter swig.

“C'mon Jack, just let me in for ten minutes. Then I promise I'll leave you alone.”

Reluctantly, Jack went to the door, and let his manager into the room. They sat awkwardly on the giant bed.

“Jack, this will blow over, it always does. “

“They're saying I sold drugs to kids. It's everywhere, Jared. Not just the rags, the real newspapers, all over the internet…they're talking about a police investigation.”

“That's not going to happen Jack. Not from one stupid little photograph. They're just speculating. Anything to sell another copy, right?”

“Even so. That's it for me. My career. My whole fucking life…who's gonna want to work with me now? Who's going to buy a ticket to see this?”

“Hey, come on buddy, all publicity's good publicity, right? You're a rock star, a little bit of notoriety never hurt.”

“Not like this. As far as they're all concerned, I'm practically a fucking murderer.” There were tears in Jack's eyes, his hands balled into tight fists.

“We'll call a press conference. Call them out on their bullshit. You've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to worry about.”

“Hah! Since when was that any help? They'll rip me to shreds. If I talk, they're going to keep digging, and then they'll find out about Laura…I can't have all that raked up, Jared, I just can't.”

Jared sighed. He cared for Jack like a son, but at the same time, he had the rest of the band to think about. There were schedules, contracts…income that he depended on.

“Jack…you've had a good run, kept certain things from the public for a long time now. But now this has happened, and we can't change that. Wouldn't it be better to just come clean now? Tell the world what happened before some dickhead with a notebook gets hold of it. They'll understand, I promise. Hell, I bet they'll even respect you for it.”

“No. Not gonna happen. Not now, not ever.”Jared reached out and squeezed his shoulder.

“Ok buddy, I get it. So no press conference?”

“No, no fucking press conference.”

“Right, fine. No worries. You just go out on stage tonight with your head held high, and show 'em you're not

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