When Jenna opened the front door that muggy October afternoon, she was struck by the sound of screaming. She immediately knew – because in their house it warranted a distinction – it wasn’t the good kind of screaming. Nor was it the first time that week that she’d come home to find her husband hidden away in his studio, screaming in frustration.
With a grimace for the conversation Jenna knew would come when she hunted Tyler down, she set her bags on the floor in the entryway and made her way through the house to the small room where she knew she’d find her husband. The door was open a crack. Jenna couldn’t help but think of the lyrics from one of the songs Ty had written years ago.
When the leader of the bad guys sang
Something soft and soaked in pain
I heard the echo from his secret hideaway
He must've forgot to close his door
As he cranked out those dismal chords
And his four walls declared him insane
The scream ended in a hoarse wail of despair, followed by the crash of something that was probably both vital to the creation of music and expensive. It was a noise that had become familiar enough to Jenna over the past months that she didn’t jump when she heard it, but she did wince. Only a handful of weeks ago, Jenna would have sworn Tyler's demons were gone for good. Now, it seemed they were back with a vengeance.
If anything, Jenna thought Tyler’s suffering was worse than she had ever seen it. He’d been a troubled, frightened boy when they’d first met but this… this was something altogether more terrifying to see.
Some artists, after nearly two years non-stop on the road, might enjoy some time away from music. Not Ty. Ty couldn’t leave it alone. He wasn’t always happy when he was creating or performing music but he sure as hell wasn’t happy if he wasn’t creating or performing music. Unfortunately…
Unfortunately, for the first time in his life, creating music was something Tyler seemed unable to do. Ty’s music was born of desperation, anger, hurt, and fear – things he lost as the band's hard work finally started to pay off. As their talent and charisma ushered them to the top of an industry that had never seen anything like them. As they gathered fans, wealth, and accolades faster than a snowball rolling downhill.
Jenna thought of a photo taken by their friend, Brad, who never travelled anywhere if he didn’t have a camera with him. It was a photo from one of the boys’ hometown shows in June where, on Stage B, they stood together, surrounded by a galaxy of phone lights that burned like stars. She thought of the look on Tyler’s face as he looked around at the thousands of lights lit for him, by him, and the look of absolute awed joy on his face.
She’d only seen that look once before, on the day of their wedding when Tyler watched her glide up the aisle toward him. On the day that photograph was taken, like the day of their wedding, Tyler was obviously completely and utterly content with life. That was when the trouble started.
At first, Tyler tried to convince Jenna that he was enjoying his time away from the band and, at first, she allowed herself to believe him. It didn’t take the truth long to surface.
First, it was a pile of crumpled papers in the trash can covered with half-formed lyrics scratched out, rewritten, and scratched out again. Then, it was the listless, tuneless tinkle of keys on the piano that sat in a place of honor in their living room. Jenna’s worst fears had been confirmed the night she’d walked into Ty’s studio to find him sitting cross-legged on the floor, with a lost expression on his face and the ghost of tears in his eyes.
“I can’t,” Tyler had told her that night, waving an arm to encompass the instruments and sound equipment that surrounded him. “There’s nothing there. It’s…” He dropped his eyes. “Silent.”
Jenna had done what any loving wife would have done at that moment; she gathered him to her in a hug and promised him that everything would be okay, even though the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach called her every kind of liar.
Two weeks later, and here they were again: Tyler screaming out the frustration he couldn’t articulate and Jenna unable to do a damned thing to help.
A buzzing sound drew Jenna’s attention away from the closed studio door. She wandered into the bedroom where she found Ty’s phone on the bedside table. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Jenna picked up the cellphone, then swiped to wake it up. She was greeted by dozens upon dozens of notifications from social media sites. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram – the list went on.
Jenna scrolled through the notifications and was struck, not for the first time, by the sheer number of people, so many of them just kids, who reached out to Ty on a daily basis. Kids begging him for help. Kids thanking him for saving their lives. Everyone felt like they owned a tiny piece of her husband. Jenna knew him well enough to know that it wasn’t far from the truth.
It was impossible to save every kid, everyone knew that, but saving everyone was exactly what Tyler wanted. Worse, he didn’t count the victories, only the losses. Every time news reached him that one of his Clique members had died at their own hands, a part of him died too. He couldn’t leave the social media sites alone, even though his record label warned him to during the hiatus. Tyler spent hours on the internet, under this name or that, trying to help his fans in any way he could. It was never enough.
They screamed for more. They screamed for new music that Tyler just couldn’t create.
In turn, Tyler screamed because he couldn’t give them what they needed.
Damned if Jenna didn’t want to scream too.
Trouble was, Jenna knew exactly what held Tyler back, even if he was unaware of it himself. She knew exactly what he needed to break the block that had built up around him, without his even noticing. She knew, of course, but had held onto the hope that it wouldn’t come to that. Secretly, Jenna had hoped Tyler would have found a way to make music without the pain to drive him. That her love would have been enough. That she wouldn’t have to do exactly what she was about to do.
Closing her eyes on the tears that wanted to fall, Jenna took a deep breath. Her brain frantically scrambled for options but she had known for weeks that there was only one way to break through Tyler’s wall of silence. He needs this, she told herself. They need this, she thought as she opened her eyes and her vision filled with the cries of Ty’s kids. Dismissing the notifications, Jenna sent Josh a text message before switching the phone off.
I need you. Come home.
Then, Jenna went to the closet and pulled out a suitcase. She couldn’t sing, couldn’t play a single instrument, but she could do this, to save Tyler. To save his Clique.
Walking down the hallway, suitcase in hand, Jenna paused outside the studio door. Silence crept out. She imagined Tyler on the floor with his face in his hands, exhausted and empty. Though she longed to go to him, to comfort him, Jenna knew that she’d lose the will to do what needed to be done if she saw his broken face. No. Jenna was strong, but she wasn’t that strong. She turned and walked out of the house.