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In Our Heads

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THREE  

“Damn, these kids are good,” I said in amazement. Lujanne smiled and said, 

“Yeah, I thought you’d think so.” 

“So are we going to sign them?” 

“It’s hard to tell so far, but I think they have a gift, something real to offer.” Lujanne ejected the disk from my laptop. She carefully placed the disk back in its sleeve before sliding it back on the desk. “What did they call themselves again?” 

Ursa Major,” I replied, popping in my earbuds and pulling my laptop onto my knees. I had copied the file on to the drive so I could listen to the demo again. 

“Rayla,” Lujanne warned, “No headphones in the studio without a singer in the booth.” 

“Right,” I replied, pulling the jack. The minor progression filled the room, giving me chills as the sound vibrations flew around me. I couldn’t help but think how genius the kid who wrote this instrumental was. I remember watching him right on the other side of the glass, tapping away at an iPad to get the backbeat started, before picking up a guitar. He was skilled, no doubt. And this girl – oh, she had to have perfect pitch or something crazy, she nailed that minor seventh every time we asked her to run it. I couldn’t help but feel in my gut that we absolutely had to sign them. 

“Are you even listening to me?” I heard Lujanne say. My head snapped up. I had forgotten that we were still in conversation. 

“No,” I admitted. Lujanne sighed. 

“If we’re going to get anywhere as a recognizable label, you’re going to have to start paying attention.” I nodded. “As I was saying, signing these two would be good for us as well as them. However-” 

“’Do we have the funds’, I know. But really Lujanne, if we don’t take a risk at some point, we’ll never get off the ground.” I closed my laptop and slipped it into my bag on the ground. “If I'm going to take over the studio one day, you’ve gotta trust me on this. Let's sign them, I'll help pay for their housing as promised, and we can help get them off the ground, and help us get off the ground too.” I stood and slung my bag over my shoulder, walking out. I was almost to the door when- 

“You’re right, Rayla.” I spun around, almost amazed. “I do trust you,” Lujanne said, “And I agree. Give them a call." I beamed and rushed to the door and bolted into my car. When the car started, the Bluetooth on my phone automatically playing the demo from Ursa Major. I remembered back to when I asked how they chose their name. 

Well, he’s Soren, which kind of sounds like solar. And I call him sor-bear.” Claudia had said. 

Yeah, and bears have claws, right? Like ‘claw-dia?’ And so we thought naming us after the constellation was a good middle ground, and not too obvious.” Soren said. They were good kids, and I couldn’t wait to see how far they got. 

As I pulled out of the parking lot, the demo coursed through the speakers like water through floodgates. The bass shook the vehicle, the treble gave me chills. Their first song was amazing – simple progression, mostly minor, with one major chord that threw the chorus for a whirlwind. It was amazing, Soren was a musical genius. 

It’s a good thing he’s the musician and I write lyrics,” Claudia had told me. “ His poetry is terrible.”  

As the first song ended, I just couldn’t wait anymore. At a stoplight, I hit pause and called Soren. 

“What’s up...?” Soren said, apprehensively. I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. 

“Tell Claudia that I’m in - we both are.” 

“Really!? Oh my gosh, Rayla, thank you! Thank you so much! Claudia’s not going to believe this!” He was so happy; it made my heart glow. 

“Is that the producer?” I heard someone say over the phone. My blood stopped cold. I could hear my heart pounding in my head. I gripped the steering wheel so tight that my knuckles turned white. Their voice sounded so familiar, yet I had never heard them before in my life. The light turned green, and I hit the gas.  

“It is, Callum! We’re signed!” Soren said. I blinked, tears stinging my eyelids. Callum. His name was Callum

“Yeah,” I managed, “You are. Get your asses to L.A. as soon as possible, I’ve got apartments for You and Claudia to look at. My promise still stands.” 

“Thanks, Rayla, thank you!” With that, I heard the dial tone. Oh. My. God. My soulmate was right there. Right. There. His name was Callum and he was so close! 

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I came into my apartment and fell into my desk chair, putting my satchel on the desk. Soren was playing a song again that sounded strangely familiar, but I tried to shrug it off. I opened my laptop and began to draft an email explaining why classes were cancelled tomorrow, when I felt like I was hearing double. The progression started again, but in my head. I froze, and it hit me. My soulmate was listening to Soren’s song, which meant... 

 I couldn’t react, how was I supposed to!? I had already accepted the NYHTS mission, and Corvus said I couldn’t pursue my soulmate, but holy shit! 

When Soren stopped playing, a second later, the Trace stopped coming through. I couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was suffocating. After a second, Soren’s phone rang. I turned and saw him, apprehensive. When he put the phone to his ear, he said, 

“Whats up...?” I could hear the shake in his voice. There was some distorted speaker on the other side of the phone, a voice that gave me chills. A moment passed before Soren broke out in surprise. 

“Really!? Oh my gosh, Rayla, thank you! Thank you so much! Claudia’s not going to believe this!” Soren jumped up, and I felt my heart stop beating. Rayla. Her name was Rayla.  

Is that the producer?” I heard myself say.  

“It is, Callum! We’re signed!” Soren laughed and ran his hands through his hair, meanwhile I felt my heart stop beating. My soulmate was Soren's producer. She was right there, and I had no means of getting to her. 

“Thanks, Rayla, thank you!” Soren hung up the phone, jaw dropped. 

“You good...?” I asked. I certainly wasn’t. He jumped up and danced to victory. 

“Yes, yes, this is amazing!” Soren grabbed my shoulders, beaming into my face.  

“You gotta call Claudia,” I mentioned, a fake smile plastered across my face. Soren’s face dropped, before lighting back up again.  

“I gotta call Claudia!” he yelled, before bolting out the door. “I’m driving to Buffalo!” The door slammed shut, and I heard him yelling in the hall with glee. At least one of us was happy. 

My head dropped into my hands, I felt my throat closing up, sense was leaking from my brain until it burst, the butterflies in my stomach must have migrated or something because all I felt was guilt. My soulmate was right there. Right there. Her name was Rayla. She was a producer in L.A., and she had just signed two of my best friends. I could have followed Soren and Claudia to L.A., I could have met her

in two days if I wanted. If I could. If I hadn't joined NYHTS. She was so close, Rayla was so close and all I wanted was to reach out and take her by the hand and pull her into this wonderful mission with me. A musician and a scientist, together, embarking on a journey for the betterment of Head Tracing science. It would have been so perfect. 

I sat up; face wet from tears I didn’t even know had been falling. I made a commitment. Research and missions for the betterment of Head Tracing research. One sacrifice for lifetimes of discoveries. I sniffed, surprised that I got so worked up over this. I knew the stakes, and I knew the consequences. 

One song wouldn’t hurt, right? A goodbye? 

Once my earbuds were in, I hit play on the song that might change everything, or nothing at all. 

 

Hello, hello.  

I’m not where I'm supposed to be.  

I hope that your missing me,  

Because it makes me feel young.  

 I hummed the lines and took a breath as the others passed. I was sending a message to my soulmate, sending a message to Rayla. Everything in me hoped she might somehow understand. 

 

Won’t you help me sober up?  

Growing up, it made me numb  

And I want to feel something again.  

I couldn’t feel anything right then, my senses left me, and I was breaking. I didn’t want to let it get to me, but it was. Maybe this song was a mistake... 

Goodbye, goodbye,  

I said to my bestest buds.  

We said that we’d keep in touch.  

And we did our best.  

This lyric made me feel so empty. I had barely breathed the words before I felt choked up. What a terrible person I must be, how selfish of me? An alarm set off in my brain: no, this isn't selfish, this is something I'm sacrificing for the betterment of science and research. This is okay, I told myself, everything will be okay. 

The song continued, but I didn’t sing to the rest of it. Rayla was good at music, she would get it. She would understand that yes, this was goodbye for now. 

 

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Hello, hello.  

I’m not where I'm supposed to be.  

I hope that your missing me,  

Because it makes me feel young.  

I couldn’t help but smile as I heard the opening to this song. I rolled the windows down and let the Trace pass through like wind, relishing in every note. I loved the cello opening, and I found the rhythm musically spectacular. But when the verse came in, my face fell. It was Callum, singing along. But he wasn’t happy or joyful, no hint of a smile in his voice whatsoever. His voice was weak. In the background. And it was sad. Lonely. Distraught, angry, lost.  

Won’t you help me sober up?  

Growing up, it made me numb  

And I want to feel something again.  

I had to help him somehow, he was begging for help, I could hear it in the song, in the lyrics, in him. Callum was lost, he needed someone. Someone like me. 

Goodbye, goodbye,  

I said to my bestest buds.  

We said that we’d keep in touch.  

And we did our best.  

Callum didn’t sing for the rest of the song, and it faded away into nothingness. My brain stopped working; my body shivered in a cold sweat. I knew the lyrics had deeper connotations, but this? I knew I had to book a ticket to New York, I needed to find him. It felt like the first real calling I had in years.  

I pulled into my driveway – well, our driveway. I still lived with my dads. Runaan was always busy with work, so most days I got home before him. I wasn’t exactly sure what line of work he was in because every time I asked, he just said “It’s scientific” or “It’s classified.” Tinker, however, was a jeweler. He worked in the mall downtown and ran an Etsy shop from our basement. I liked living with my dads, even if they weren’t home that often. 

I practically flew out of my car and into my room, already pulling a dusty suitcase from my closet. The sun was setting, making it hard to see what I was even packing. Halfway through folding a shirt, I pulled out my phone and dialed the number to LAX. I tucked my phone in between my shoulder and my ear and continued folding. Everything went by in such a blur, I barely remember asking when their next available flight was to New York. Within the hour I was almost done packing. My flight would leave at 5 a.m., and I lived about an hour away. It was around 8 p.m., and I had a long night ahead of me. I continued packing shirts and shoes and mounds of socks, frivolously deciding how I was going to spend the rest of my night. I would finish packing soon, then head back to the studio to get some last-minute editing done before I had to leave for my flight. As I was going through my checklist of the evening, my light flicked on. I hadn’t realized how dark it had gotten. 

“What’s going on here?” asked Tinker. I stood and whipped around, facing him. “You’re crying-” 

“No, I’m not,” I protested, wiping my face. In truth, I hadn’t realized the tears were falling. To be fair, a lot was happening. I knew who my soulmate was, which was good, but he was sad, which was not good, but I was going to see him, which was good, and – well, you get the picture. Tinker stepped forward and pulled me into a hug.  

“Where you headed?” he asked. He voice was so kind; I couldn’t help but answer. 

“New York,” I breathed. “He needs me.” 

“You found him?” 

“Yeah, I -” Tinker cut me off and held my shoulders.  

“Then go. I’ll deal with your father.” I didn’t waste another second. I grabbed my suitcase and zipped it up before bolting out the door back to my car. 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I called as I ran down the hall. I tossed my suitcase in the trunk and started the car. I couldn’t believe I was almost on my way. Just a few more hours, and I'd be hand in hand with Callum, my happily ever after. I couldn’t wait to meet my soulmate.