Tyler finally confronts Samson, which leads to an unexpected opportunity.
Samson never shied away from conflict. He had no problem putting people in their place and telling them what he really meant about them, but he was in no mood to argue with Tyler. It wasn’t because he was intimidated by him, but simply because he couldn’t stand to even look at him.
The British singer represented something Samson disliked more than anything - someone who came onto the scene and became a giant success seemingly overnight. Was it by sheer luck or through some connections? Was it because Tyler was a straight boy who ticked all the boxes of what a male singer should look and act like according to society? Samson couldn’t be sure. But what he did know was that he had worked hard for his place in the music industry for years and still hadn’t managed to reach those heights.
As he looked at the other singer standing at the door and glaring at him, he realized the guy would not back down until they talked. Oh well, maybe it was time he finally spoke his mind.
“Anna, could you leave us alone? Tell Hank I’ll be out soon,” Samson asked his friend. The girl simply nodded and quickly left, leaving the two singers alone. “Ok, I’m listening,” he shrugged, looking at Tyler with disinterest.
The Brit gulped before taking a few steps further into the room, settling down in an armchair across from where Samson was sitting.
“I just want to know why you’re acting this way toward me. What did I ever do to you?”
“Acting what way?” Samson played innocent. “What did you think, that just because we’re both singers, we’ll be best friends? We’re strangers who happened to have chosen the same career - nothing more, nothing less. It’s one of the lessons you have to learn in showbiz - not everyone is going to like you. In fact, a lot of people won’t. You just have to deal with it.”
“Come on, don’t be a smart-arse. You know what I’m talking about. It’s not that you don’t want to be my friend. You seem to actively dislike me. You have it out for me but I’ve never done anything to you. You know, you’ve always been one of my favorite singers. I watched all of your performances and admired you. Whenever I’d see you on stage, putting on a show, dancing, I would think - man, this guy is brilliant. He’s a proper superstar! He can dance, he can sing, and he’s so confident in whatever he does. I could never be like him. Guess what I didn’t realize was that the guy I admired was also stuck up and rude, and not worth my time.”
“You don’t know the first thing about me, honey,” Samson was quick to correct him.
“I know this much from the way you’ve been acting around me. All the papers write about how Kelly Marvel is a big diva, but she’s got nothing on you.”
“Fine, wanna know why I don’t like you? Because you’re fake,” the older singer said, much to Tyler’s surprise. “That’s right, don’t play naive with me. You have this image of a sweet, young boy next door, the British sweetheart, but you’re using every dirty trick in the book to get ahead. Do you know how much I’ve been struggling to succeed in this industry? How harder everything was for me because I’m gay? And then when I finally get my time to shine, guess who decides to drop his album on the same day as me? And don’t tell me it was a coincidence, because my release date was known months in advance.”
“That wasn’t even…”
“Then, Stardust Awards. I get the prime slot for my performance, but then a week before the show, they tell me I’ve been bumped to the end of the show. Again, all because of the new superstar. You’re an industry plant if I ever saw one. Damn, your label must’ve spent millions to promote you. I hope it was worth it.”
“Samson, none of that was my doing!” Tyler finally erupted, unable to stay silent any longer. “I never wanted any of that, and I didn’t even get a say in it. Do you think I demanded to take your place at the award show? My label, my manager, they were the ones who arranged all of it. I just went along because I had no choice. I’m like a baby learning to walk here. I have no idea what I’m doing half the time. Up until recently, I had a manager who controlled every aspect of my life. When she told me I had to do an interview, or perform at some place, I would do it because I didn’t think I could say no. She made my girlfriend break up with me! At the Stardust Awards, I almost ran away because my anxiety was so bad, but I ended up having to perform. So if you think I had some evil master plan to... ruin your career or whatever, you’re wrong,” words poured out of his mouth as he shared his struggles. Samson only stared silently and listened, wondering if he had horribly misjudged the other guy. “And I never even thought that I was somehow, I dunno, stealing your thunder. I never saw it that way. I mean, you’re a superstar, how could I even compete with you?”
There was a knock on the door.
“Samson, you here?” Hank’s voice came from the other side.
“Yeah,” the singer replied. A moment later, the door opened.
“Hey, we gotta go,” the manager said, his eyes freezing on Tyler.
“Uh, yeah, right. Let’s go,” Samson replied, sounding a little lost. He was still trying to process Tyler’s words, having no idea what to say to him. It was all too much. He grabbed his phone and looked around the room to see if there was anything else of his he forgot to take. Finally, he turned to Tyler, at a loss for words. “I, uh… I’ll see ya.”
With that, Samson turned around and left the dressing room, rushing after his manager. His concert was tomorrow night, so he had the whole next day to do some last minute rehearsals. Today, he just needed to be alone and think.
“So, how did it go?” Anna asked once Samson and Hank joined her in the limo that was waiting for them.
“It was… I don’t know,” the singer said, looking blankly ahead.
“Don’t tell me you got amnesia now. I want to hear all the details!”
“Ugh, where do I even begin...”
“How about from the moment I left the room?”
“Ok, but no judging,” Samson said, knowing very well Anna and Hank would have a few choice words for the way he’d been behaving.
And like that, he recounted his conversation with Tyler, feeling like trash for the way he had been treating him. He couldn’t help but recognize a bit of himself in the British boy from when he started his own career over two years ago. He had also been young and inexperienced, feeling as though he couldn’t say no to anything.
Samson was a big believer in karma, and now, he believed he was getting his just desserts. Everything he was going through with Melanie Roy was punishment for the way he treated Tyler.
By the time he finished his story, he didn’t need his manager or his best friend to tell him what he should do next. He had no idea where Tyler lived, so he did the next best thing - opened his Twitter and sent the other singer a private message, asking him to come to his concert tomorrow night and to stay after the show for a talk.
To his surprise, Tyler soon responded affirmatively.
The London crowd was as wild and amazing as Samson remembered it from his previous concert there, a little over a year ago. This time, though, there were even more people and they seemed to know all the words to his songs, even the new ones. Riding high on adrenaline and euphoria, Samson worked his way through the show like the pro that he was - singing, dancing and strutting around the stage, with the occasional quick trip backstage to change his outfit. Before he knew it, the concert had come to an end, and after the encore, he said goodbye to the crowd and went backstage.
It was just a few minutes later that one of the security guards came up to him, letting him know that he had a visitor. Once again, Tyler Edwards was entering his dressing room, but this time, both guys were in a much different mood than the first time. Tyler - curious but cautiously optimistic, and Samson - ashamed and tired.
“Hey, thanks for agreeing to come.”
“Yeah, no problem,” the Brit nodded, sounding reserved and cold.
“Come in, sit. Can I get you anything to drink?”
“Thanks, I’m good,” Tyler replied as he sat on a comfy orange sofa, looking around nervously. “Wow, that was one hell of a show you put on there.” The small smile on his face showed that he actually enjoyed himself at the concert even though right now he was at the edge of his seat, wondering why Samson had invited him.
“Thanks, I’m glad you had fun,” the older singer replied in a sweet, humble tone. Tyler immediately noticed the stark difference to their previous conversation. “Before I begin, if you say anything about this to anyone, I will snatch your wig and bury it at the bottom of the English Channel, ok?”
Tyler laughed, nodding. “Ok, understood.”
“Good,” Samson gave him a silly smirk. “Look, I want to apologize for the way I acted. It was really crappy of me and I’m sorry. I know I can be bitchy, but in a good way. This was… just really awful of me and I’m sorry. The truth is, I was jealous because I thought you were stealing my moment. You know, I’ve been working so hard for years and to have someone new come and surpass me just like that… it made me angry. But I never stopped to think that maybe you worked just as hard as I did. From where I stood, you seemed to have it all so easy and that’s what really bugged me. So, yeah, I’m really sorry.”
“Thank you,” Tyler replied, his tense shoulders finally relaxing. “This means a lot to me, you know? When I said I admired you and that I was a fan, those weren’t just empty words. I really meant it. I always admired your confidence, charisma, how you work the stage like you were born there. And yeah, I admit, maybe I did have it easy. I got the contract and everything pretty quickly, but it wasn’t all a walk in the park, you know. At the Stardust Awards…”
“Oh, right,” Samson interrupted him, biting his lip nervously. He just realized he had another confession to make, one that could very well ruin his previous sincere apology.
“Well, I need to tell you something else. At the awards, I overheard your manager saying how she couldn’t find you anywhere. So, I went to look and I ended up finding you out on the fire escape. I shut the bathroom window so you couldn’t climb back inside, and then I went over to the producers to see if they’d let me perform instead. That was really dirty of me and again, I’m really sorry. Gosh, I keep saying that, but I do mean it. I hope you can forgive me.”
“I can’t believe you would do that,” Tyler looked at Samson with indignation. “What the fuck, man…”
“I know, I acted like a complete asshole and I feel terrible.”
“Yeah? Well you should. I was out there… You know what, it doesn’t even matter. I’m going,” the Brit said as he got up and headed for the door.
“Tyler, wait,” Samson jumped, reaching out for him. “Look, everything I told you tonight is one hundred percent true. I promise. Can we just talk and put this stupid fight behind us?”
The younger guy looked him over suspiciously, still torn between wanting to leave and wanting to stay. On one hand, he was really tired of people betraying him, but on the other, he had no friends in show business. He was still new and everything and everyone still seemed intimidating. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to try and patch things up with Samson.
“No more sabotage attempts?”
“No, I swear. I’m all done with confessions for today.”
“Ok then,” Tyler replied. As he sat back down on the sofa, finally accepting a beer from Samson, he explained to him all about his stage fright and how he escaped through the window that night because he was too anxious to perform. Samson never interrupted him, waiting for Tyler to finish his story.
“Oh, honey, I had no idea. And here I thought my night was bad, but yours was terrible,” Samson said, empathising with him.
“Yeah… It ended up alright, but I was so close to just ditching the whole thing,” Tyler admitted. “I guess what you did didn’t matter because I came back anyway. Florence was going to be pissed either way, so…”
“Hey, I have an idea,” Samson suddenly perked up, a mischievous look in his eyes. “Have you ever performed in this arena?”
“The O2? Hell no. Maybe if I had ten of these beers beforehand…”
“Well, you know I’m doing another concert here tomorrow? How about you join me onstage for a song or two, you know, like a surprise guest?”
“No, no way...” Tyler shook his head, imagining the huge crowd that he was a part of tonight. The arena could hold up to 20,000 people. “It’s probably going to be full, right?”
“Bitch, you better believe it’s sold out!” Samson replied in mock offense before bursting into chuckles. “But seriously, though, that’s the whole point. It’ll be like a practice run, so you can see what it’s like to perform for so many people. And besides, I’ll be there on the stage with you, so you won’t be alone. It’ll be fun! You can even choose the song. Think of it as my way of making it up to you.”
The Brit mulled it over, realizing what a once in a lifetime opportunity this would be. He would be performing with one of his idols. He was terrified, but Samson was right, it would be much easier with someone to share the stage with.
“Hm, I don’t know about this… I’m gonna have to think about it, ok?” he finally replied, fidgeting with his fingers. “But if I do decide to come, could I get four extra tickets for my family?”
The cramped Edwards family apartment was a hive of activity as the household members were trying to get ready in time for Tyler’s big performance that night. While Marissa was putting the finishing touches on her daughter’s hair in the bathroom, Eric was helping six-year-old Kit put on his little tie to go along with the suit Tyler bought him just for the occasion.
“Wow, look at you! You’re a proper little gentleman now,” Mr Edwards admired his younger son, all dressed up. Kit blushed, but couldn’t hide his grin. Thankfully, he was saved by Tyler shouting from the living room, demanding attention.
“Come on, how are you guys not ready yet?!”
Unlike the rest of his family, Tyler had gotten ready half an hour ago and had been pacing through the apartment, nervous about his upcoming performance. Going up on the grand O2 stage and joining Samson, even if just for a few minutes, sounded incredibly nerve-racking. They were going to perform a medley of Samson’s The Perfect Place and Tyler’s own hit, Distance. But what if he forgets his words? What if this is all a trick and Samson decides to pants him in the middle of the stage? No, he wouldn’t do that. Oh God, what if Samson’s fans hate him and start booing him? He was just about to grab his phone and call the other singer to tell him he was cancelling, when his father and little brother entered the room.
“Hey!” The singer grinned upon seeing Kit in his powder blue suit, white shirt and black tie. “Well, don’t you look handsome!”
“I’m ready to go! Lucy and mom are still not ready,” the boy exclaimed, proud of being the first to get dressed, but his ears were burning red from all the looks he was getting.
“Isn’t the show in four hours? We still have time,” Marissa could be heard shouting from the bathroom.
“Yes, but I want to get there early,” Tyler explained, fidgeting with his phone.
“Are you nervous?” his father asked, leading him to the couch and motioning for him to sit. “Don’t be, you’re going to do great.”
“You don’t know that. This is different… I’m basically crashing someone else’s concert.”
“It’s not crashing if you’re invited.”
“Ugh, you know what I mean. None of those people came to see me. They came to see Samson.”
“So what, you think they’re going to leave when you show up?”
Tyler’s eyes suddenly went wide as if he realized another thing that could go horribly wrong.
“For God’s sake, Tyler, I was joking. They’re not going to leave! It’s not like they only listen to one singer and no one else.”
“Your dad’s right,” Marissa said, finally appearing in the doorway, Lucy in tow. Tyler stood up, going over to his baby sister and crouching so that they were eye to eye.
“Hey, princess,” he beamed, observing Lucy in her pink dress. “You’re going to be the prettiest girl at the show, you know?” The girl smiled as Tyler squeezed her tiny hands.
“Let’s just hope she stays awake. The four of us are probably going to have to go back after your song, ok?” Marissa explained, taking Tyler’s hand as he stood up and nodded. “I can’t wait to see my boy up there.”
“I can’t believe I’m actually doing this,” the singer shook his head. “I don’t even know why I said yes. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“It’s a great idea! Who better to teach you how to deal with stage fright than someone who’s such a good performer?”
“Sure, but what are they going to do when the crowd leaves when they see Tyler?” Eric teased.
Rolling his eyes, Tyler turned to his siblings. “Come on, let’s go. These two are not invited anymore.”
“As if you can handle them the whole evening! Good luck with that,” Mrs Edwards let out a hearty chuckle. “Maybe you can bring them on stage with you.”
“No way!” Kit shook his head vigorously, even more scared than his big brother.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be with us in the VIP zone,” Eric calmed him down.
Even with heavy traffic, the Edwards family managed to reach the O2 Arena with plenty of time to spare. Samson was already backstage, with Anna hovering over him, getting him ready for the show. Tyler’s appearance caused the atmosphere to get even more hectic, as some crew members got starstruck, wanting to get close and talk to him.
Samson was delighted to meet the Brit’s family, especially Kit, who reminded him so much of his nephew Jake. Having been on a world tour for months, the singer missed his family badly, even his parents. Maybe when he returns to America he’ll give them a call and see how they’re doing. He will probably have to suffer through a barrage of thinly-veiled insults and jabs at his ‘fake’ job, but it doesn’t matter. He’ll survive.
As the showtime approached, Samson could see Tyler getting increasingly more nervous even though he did his best to hide it. Once the Brit’s family left to take their places in the VIP zone, Samson came over and sat next to him.
“You ok, honey? Do I need to get you a paper bag? A bucket for vomiting?”
“I’ll live… I think,” Tyler let out a soft chuckle, realizing Samson was only teasing rather than being malicious.
“Good, because I have to go out there in a few minutes. If you need anything, just ask Anna or anyone else from the crew. Someone will come and get you when it’s your time to come out, ok?”
“Ok,” Tyler nodded, still sounding insecure. “I promise not to escape through the window this time.”
“You better not!” Samson laughed. “Or else I’m going to look like a fool when I announce you and you don’t show up.”
When Anna poked her head through the door to check on him, Samson knew it was time for him to take the stage.
“Good luck,” Tyler wished him before he headed out.
“Thanks. See ya there in a bit,” the other guy sent an encouraging smile and left, ready to begin his second London show.
The concert opened with a long instrumental intro that consisted of several of Samson’s hits, accompanied by a video he recorded especially for the tour, showing him dancing and modeling various outfits. The crowd was already hyped up, but when the intro suddenly ended and nearly all the lights went out, they all went quiet, knowing the show was about to start.
Moments later, the music to Samson’s hit Clouds began playing as a giant foam and plastic cloud started descending on the stage, Samson lying on top of it.
“London, how are you feeling?!” the singer shouted into his mic, making the audience scream. Adrenaline rushed through him, as always when he was performing. There was no better feeling in the world. He launched into song as the cloud finally came down and his dancers appeared all around it, while the audience sang every word with him. It was simply magical, bringing a smile to his face and making his heart full of joy.
One by one, songs came and went, and it wasn’t long before it was time for the medley - a surprise for the entire audience.
“Are you guys having fun?!” the singer asked, met by instant cheers from the crowd. He grinned like a kid on Christmas Eve, eager to make the big reveal. “Now, we’re gonna switch it up a bit, ok? For the next song, I’m gonna need some help, so I’ve brought a special guest tonight.”
A few loud shouts and cheers came from the audience. Even though they had no idea who it could be, they were clearly excited.
“You all know him very well. Please welcome the amazingly talented and sweet - Tyler Edwards!”
Samson turned toward the stage and extended his hand as he saw the British singer appear, a big grin on his face. As soon as they spotted him, the audience erupted into cheers and applause, only settling down after the music had started playing again, the opening chords of The Perfect Place filling the arena.
With slow, careful steps, Tyler walked over to the center of the stage where Samson was waiting for him, keeping eye contact the entire time. Samson realized the Brit was probably too nervous to look at the audience in front of them, but that was something that couldn’t be avoided. He approached him and, moving the mic away from his mouth, mouthed to Tyler: “You can do it.”
Together, the two guys started singing, easily finding their groove. The crowd sang along, a sea of smartphones floating above their heads, recording every moment. Once the second chorus was over, the music changed - it was time for Tyler’s hit song, Distance. Samson let the British guy take the lead this time, watching him as he effortlessly belted out the verse. There was no doubt the guy was born to sing. It was as if all the worry and anxiety in him melted away as soon as he started singing - at least that’s what it looked like to Samson.
When the chorus hit, the two singers started singing together, hitting their harmonies just as they had practiced backstage. Before they knew it, the song was over and they were bowing to the audience, their ears hurting from the applause.
“Thank you, London! You’ve been wonderful!” Tyler shouted out his quick goodbye and hugged Samson, thanking him for the invitation. With cheers from the audience, he left the stage.
Some forty minutes later, when the show was finally over, an exhausted but exhilarated Samson made his way backstage, returning to his dressing room. Even before entering it, he could hear excited voices of Anna and Tyler coming from the inside.
“Oh my gosh, really? How did I not see any pictures of that?”
“Because he wore hats whenever he went out during those few weeks.”
The pair laughed even as Samson entered the room, pursing his lips at his best friend.
“What are you guys talking about?”
“I’m telling him about the time you tried dying your own hair,” Anna giggled.
“Do you really not have any pics of it?” Tyler asked, clearly in a much better mood than before the performance.
“Most definitely not! I looked like I spilled a bowl of mustard on my head.”
“It’s true,” Anna nodded. “He even searched my phone to make sure I didn’t have any photos saved.”
“You can never be too sure,” the singer said as he plopped down onto the couch, gulping water from a bottle. He was parched after 90 minutes of intense choreography, singing and costume changes. “So, how are you feeling? Any regrets?” he asked Tyler, a tired smile on his face.
“Are you joking with me? Definitely not,” the blond guy replied, shaking his head as he grinned. “It felt amazing! Can’t believe we managed to pull it off with so little practice. So… thanks for inviting me, it was such a great experience.”
“I’m glad,” Samson nodded. “I think you really nailed it. And it looked like you were having a lot of fun up there.”
“Yeah, I did. I had the time of my life!”
Tyler was all smiles for the rest of the night, thanking Samson several times for convincing him to perform. It was a night he would always remember, and not just for sharing the stage with one of his idols, but also for facing his fear. There was no doubt in Tyler that his stage fright was still there, but tonight, he had taken the first step towards conquering it.
Thank you for sticking with me all the way! We have one chapter to go!