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By:A. Zavarelli

A. Zavarelli

       Once upon a time, I believed in fairytales.

But then he took me.

And he taught me that life isn't a fairytale.

He is scarred. Broken.

A dark and wild thing.

His beauty is violent, and his words are cruel.

His heart is a shadowed landscape where nothing can grow.

He tells me he could never care for me, and he proves it every day.

He's destroyed my life.

Tortured me.

And worse …

He's trained me to beg for his affection.

This prison is a place where sunlight doesn't reach.

He taught me that hate is born in darkness.

And then he taught me that sometimes love is too.

For a rose can wither in darkness, but burn in the light.



The car door opens, and a wall of paparazzi close in on us, fighting for  a prime spot as they shove and shout out their questions.

The noise is jarring. The flashbulbs, even more so.

It never gets any easier.

I push my oversized sunglasses up the bridge of my nose, obscuring my  eyes from the vultures. Luke takes my arm, dragging me through the crowd  before I can mentally prepare myself.

We're fenced by security. There's nowhere to turn.

Everything is too loud and too fast, and I'm not certain when this  became my life. It feels like it isn't even my life. It feels like I'm  trapped in a dream, watching from afar as I go through the motions.

Luke pauses when we reach the stairs of the hotel.

He always does this. He likes to feel important. Standing high above  everyone else when he looks down on them and answers their questions.

His left hand is still wrapped around my arm, his fingers digging into the pale flesh.

He holds up his other palm to the crowd, silencing them. I glare at him  through the dark screen of my sunglasses. My cheeks are hot, and my  hands are locked into fists.

I specifically told him no questions. Not today.

Not ever.

I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to be here with their eyes on me. Cold, calculating. Tearing me apart.

Exhaustion settles into my bones, and any fight I may have had drowned  under the weight of my heavy eyelids. I can't remember the last time I  had a full night's sleep. I don't even know what city we're in right  now.

They blur together.

I'm running on caffeine and avoidance. But I know it's short lived. The  press isn't here for the tour. They won't be asking about the show or my  upcoming albums.

The masses are hungry for answers. And I'm the injured fish in the middle of a shark tank.

"We'll take a few brief questions," Luke announces.

His face is smug and proud in a way only he can pull off. He's charming  as ever, even while he capitalizes on my tragedy to squeeze out every  last ounce of media attention he can garner from it.

Later tonight, when I bring it up again, he'll try to tell me this is  what's best. That the media cares about me. That we're bringing  attention to my father's case, which is the most important thing we can  do.

He's always been good at spinning things in his favor. The absolute best.

Any PR is good PR, he says. And for the last six months, my name has  been splashed across national headlines more times than I can count.

American Star singer Isabella Rossi set for upcoming world tour. The question remains... beauty or talent?

I've read them all.

The articles proclaiming that I won the show based on my looks alone.  The outraged fan interviews and rumors that I slept with one of the  judges. Pregnancy claims and unflattering photos printed in ink for all  the world to see. But now they have something else to lynch me with.

Something I can't stomach.

Luke picks out a reporter from the crowd, and she speaks into her microphone.

"Is it true that you are canceling your world tour in light of the tragic events with your father, Isabella?"

I don't have to answer because Luke speaks for me.


"That is completely false. The show will go on."

The show does go on when he wraps an arm around me in a display of support for the cameras.

"Isabella believes her father would want her to continue her life as  normally as possible while the authorities handle the investigation."

Lies. Lies. Lies.

It's all that ever drips out of his mouth. He doesn't know what my father would want.

He couldn't possibly since I don't even know myself.

"Isabella!" a man in the back of the crowd yells. "Is it true that you were sent a video of your father's execution?"

My hands tremble, and my eyes seek out an exit. A gap in the crowd. A dark hole. Anything to get away.

Luke gestures for security to remove the man.

"Those rumors are completely false and unsubstantiated," he announces.

"I'm done," I tell him. "Stop this now."                       


His hand tightens around my arm in warning, locking me in place so that I don't make a scene.

"Just look at the cameras, baby," he whispers. "Show them how sad you are."

I stare at him, and I am empty.

I don't know how my life came to this. How any of this happened. It feels like a blur of events I can no longer recall.

All I ever wanted to do was sing. I wanted to create something. I wanted  to be an artist. But somewhere along the way, art turned into  marketing, and marketing turned into a puppet show with Luke controlling  the strings.

That flame inside of me has burnt out.

And the truth is, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to light it again.


"OMIGOD, OMIGOD, OMIGOD," Megan squeals.

I rub my temples and wonder if I play dead if she'll leave me alone.  I've been trapped in this hotel suite with her for three days.

She pinches my arm, and I hiss.

"Omigod," she says again. "Do you even realize who that is?"

She makes a wild gesture across the room, to the guy that Luke is  currently schmoozing. It's another big shot producer I have no interest  in meeting.

Megan fluffs her hair and glosses her lips beside me.

"How do I look?"

Truthfully, she looks worse than me.

She's lost a lot of weight since we left the show. Weight that she  didn't really need to lose in the first place. And the way she's  constantly sniffling and never eats tells me she's been doing a lot more  than drinking every night at the parties.

While Luke has me on a low carb diet, Megan apparently is on an all coke diet.

"You look …  great."

Another lie.

They come easily to me now too.

I just want to be alone.

Megan is over the top about literally everything. She's the Regina  George to my Wednesday Addams. After the show, Luke snagged us both for  his label. It seemed like the right choice at the time, but I quickly  realized not everything that glitters is gold.

Megan trots off, and Luke flares his nostrils when she approaches.

She'll get a mouthful about it later, but right now I'm too tired to  care. The conversation lasts for all of five minutes before Luke moves  it to a more private setting and Megan returns to the sofa where I'm  currently parked.

She plops down beside me with a dreamy expression on her face. She wants me to ask, but I don't.

"You can't say a word if I tell you," she says.

Her excitement is one hundred percent false. This is the same girl who  used to ridicule me backstage for the way I dressed. The girl who  referred to me as Goth Girl and spread a rumor about me practicing the  occult. I'm also pretty sure she was the one behind some of the online  terror campaigns during the show, but I don't have proof of that.

I trust Megan about as much as I'd trust a chunk of cheese in a mouse trap.

Pretending is exhausting. But I learned a long time ago to go along with it. In this business, it's better the enemy you know.

"Wouldn't dream of it," I assure her.

She peeks over her shoulder to see if we have an audience- probably wishing we did- and then leans in to whisper in my ear.

"Luke thinks he can get me in on a collab with Lana Cruz."

Even if I did believe it, I couldn't find the energy to care right now.

A smirk twists at Megan's lips, and she thinks I'm feeling jilted.

She doesn't know I don't feel anything at all anymore. My life is a  series of robotic events. Travel, sleep, write, sing. Rinse and repeat.

"We have to go shopping," she insists.

I blink at her.

And the level of her ignorance- her coldness- shouldn't come as a shock to me anymore. But it really does.

My father is missing. Possibly dead. I haven't eaten a full meal in two  months. I can barely manage to get out of bed or wash my hair.

And she wants me to go fucking shopping with her.

"Hey, Megan?"

"Yeah?" she perks up.

"Tell Luke I went to bed."

I HIDE in my room for the rest of the night and search google for any piece of news I can find.

There's nothing new. Nothing but speculation. Speculation I can't stomach to read.

So I call Art.

Art works for the same sector of the government that my father does.

What they actually do, I'll probably never know. As for their actual job  titles, they are both contractors. Contractors who have worked with the  CIA and NSA. But the rest, they don't disclose. Over the years, my  father always told me it was better I didn't know.