Harry was slumped on the sofa in his dressing room. Even over the thumping base of his three girl guitar warm-up act, he could hear heated whispering outside the locked door. He turned his head towards the monitor showing the crowd already sweating and waving their hands wildly in the air. He was due on stage in fifteen minutes but he wasn’t sure he could pretend tonight. As the lock started to rattle against the doorframe, Harry knew it’d only be a matter of minutes before security would get in. He tried to prop himself up against the sofa arm a little higher and smile. He was fine. He was just a little tired. He just needed a moment to himself. His manager, Jeff, was the first to enter the room, almost falling through the door. Jeff knew Harry had been off for the past few days, at first unable to shake a cold and then seemingly unable to shake a certain sadness around him but he wasn’t scared. Harry worked harder than anybody else he knew in the music business, he didn’t make impulsive decisions and had a supportive and entirely normal family.
Seeing that Harry was in no immediate danger, Jeff closed the door on security and gave a quick nod to Harry’s Tour Manager who had been bustling up and down the corridor with a colour coded clipboard and a stopwatch. The venue, The Forum, were tight on timings. If they played late, they’d be fined and with the exception of a missing truck stuck at the Canadian border, the tour had run to time across the continent. Tonight, the final night of the North American tour before a two-month hiatus preparing to tour Europe, was the first time the Tour Manager was genuinely stressed that Harry would make it out on time. He’d get out there eventually he knew, but it’d be pressed.
Harry met Jeff’s eyes. “Sorry J.” His voice made it clear he wasn’t just apologising about the locked door, and the near security meltdown.
“What’s going on buddy?” Jeff crouched down, and reached out to feel Harry’s forehead, “Are you still feeling sick?” Harry pulled his head away and ran his fingers through his roughly curled hair. He reached out for a bottle of water on the table in front of him. Harry didn’t feel sick necessarily but he really wasn’t feeling well. His shirt was clinging to him, already sweaty. His heart was pounding, and as he wrapped his fingers around the water bottle felt pins and needles spread throughout his fingers.
Harry cleared his throat, panic edging into his voice “I can’t do it.” Jeff was shocked, genuinely, he’d never seen Harry this way only a couple of minutes out from being on stage. He steadied the water bottle in Harry’s hand and took a seat on the sofa next to him.
“Just take a minute Haz. Has something happened?” Harry shook his head, swigged the water and took a couple of deep breaths. Nothing awful had happened but his stomach felt tight in knots. He knew if he stepped out on stage this way everybody would know something was wrong with him. His crowd noticed every detail. If he laughed a different way, there’d be hundreds of videos up online the next day and he’d be under more pressure. Jeff watched him and tried to work out if Harry would make it out on stage. Harry had never cancelled a show before. He’d been out on stage until his voice cracked and he couldn’t sing any longer but danced along with the crowd instead. He’d been hungover and sick and heartbroken but he’d never cancelled a show. Jeff glanced at his watch quickly. He had to decide pretty soon. The venue was at capacity, the after-party was planned, and some of the most important music journalists were enjoying their own box at the back of the arena. Jeff knew none of that mattered really, Harry was the most important factor in all of this and he reached out to rub his back. Jeff also knew that Harry would struggle to forgive himself if the show was cancelled so Jeff lied to Harry. “Let me know what you need me to do, we’ve got some time.”
Harry was tearful and had been since he’d locked his door and ignored the incessant knocking on it. He was used to being emotional at the end of a tour stretch but this was different. Harry really felt fragile. “I’m good. We can go.” Harry ran his hands through his hair again and fiddled with his rings. He stood, walked towards the mirror and grinned brightly rubbing his eyes to ease the redness. Jeff followed him and watched as Harry built the wall back up around him. “I mean it Harry, whatever you need. Tomorrow, we’ll fix it.” Harry nodded and adjusted his tie. “Try to enjoy tonight. It’s your final show for a while, then you’re on a break. We’ll fix it.”
Harry took one last look in the mirror before pulling Jeff into a hug believing him. “Yeah, am I late? Let’s go.” Harry walked to the door and apologised to the band crowded around the stage door further along the corridor, who brushed off his apologies. Harry high-fived every one of them on the way to the stage and only Jeff noticed how his smile hadn’t quite reached his eyes yet. As the crowd began screaming his name, Harry knew he could get on stage for one more night, so that’s what Harry did. He danced and joked and sang. Adrenaline filled his bloodstream. The crowd loved him. It was only when Harry left the stage and was pulled into a group hug by his band, that he felt his shoulders slump and he couldn’t stop the tears from reappearing.