1 : Long-Distance "Friends"

A new record, a flourishing music career, new tours, bigger paychecks, enough savings for rent, a new car, and maybe a new house...

Basically the things she looked forward to when she signed with the band under a bigger label. Not depression. Or a mental breakdown.

Oh, right. A rather outdated term. "Now we generally call it a major depressive episode," was what her mom said the other night. Apparently it was the more clinically accurate term describing her condition. Good thing no one else knew about it. Yet.

"Not atypical for a 25-year-old after a traumatic breakup, hon. Stop being so hard on yourself," her mom had reminded. Dr. Michel even encouraged her to see a shrink last week.

Yikes. Talking to a complete stranger who knew jackshit about her and her problems for an hour straight?

Must be the most awkward thing ever. Veronica scowled and stepped out of the shower. Only the third time she bothered to bathe this week, but who cares...

Lately she loved being alone and holing up in her humble abode. Night life and going out with her bandmates for drinks? "Sorry. Just not feeling well," was her shitty and banal excuse. Her usually sociable self just didn't see the point anymore.

On the flip side, thoughts of self-harm didn't linger. It was the anxiety, irritability, appetite issues and useless guilt feelings keeping her up late at night.

She managed to write eight new songs, though — it was the only thing reminding her that she's still alive and quite a productive member of society, and the only thing that didn't make her feel worthless and hopelessly empty.

She just wasn't used to being this depressed. Mainly due to delayed post-breakup depression. Ugh.

"Always a first time for everything," her dad used to say.

"Enough. Get it together, drama queen," Veronica scolded herself while putting on an old shirt dress that covered her arms and thighs. Just a quick run to the grocery store and she'd be back home enjoying her total privacy again. Shouldn't take an hour. Most importantly, it shouldn't require much energy for unwanted social interaction.

Without bothering to put on makeup, she combed her damp hair and put on some lotion. The cold weather was to blame, same with her mood all week.

Then her doorbell rang. The strident noise echoed through her small apartment. She winced. Her ears just felt oversensitive lately. "Tsk." Veronica put down the comb, making a face at the door.

Was it the landlord again? Or fan mail? She never posted her address online. The band wasn't exactly internationally famous. Not yet, anyway.

"Ms. Veronica Solène Michel?" A male voice. Deep. Familiar. A hint of an accent. Some guy was outside her front door.

But who? She wasn't expecting guests today. Or any packages. Veronica backed away from the mirror, her white socks muffling her footsteps as she headed towards the locked front door. "Yeah?"

"Open up."

Open up? She clasped the cold doorknob and pulled a face. Her curiosity urged her to use the peephole.

Crap! It was Supermodel. Right on her doormat. In the flesh.

Ugh! Why?

Well, "Supermodel" wasn't something he preferred to be called and he wasn't really household name-famous yet. But her nickname for him just stuck after Jamie formally introduced Théo to her.

The heck was he doing here? How did he even know her exact home address? Her heartbeat sped up as Veronica stood behind the front door, legs almost numb, with her forehead pressed onto the smooth wooden surface.

Why did he... Did someone die? Did she owe him some cash or something?

"Via?" The guy sounded impatient now, his voice low. "It's Théo. Reynaud."

Did he really have to say his last name? As if she would ever forget. Shucks. Deathly pale. Eye bags. Damp hair. She didn't even bother to slap on some foundation or use cologne. Jeez. Whatever! No time for that.

Supermodel stared right at her when she opened the door. Théo carried a small box. His right hand touched the doorjamb, his frown emphasizing his attractive blue eyes and pouting lips. "Happy birthday."

"Huh?" She squinted at him.

"In advance."


Was he trying to be funny? Or he just felt like buying her an early gift. Why pay her a surprise visit? His hoodie partly covered the top of his plain jeans that looked as black as his sneakers. He wore a backpack, too.

Still hiding half of herself behind the door, Veronica held her breath, unsure what was in the box he brought. A red ribbon sat on top of it.

"Bad time?" Théo muttered, his attentive glances darting past her. "You with someone?"


"Ah." A quick half-grin replaced his frown when he straightened up.

Did he just arrive here? From New York? Straight from Paris?

"Wait. How'd you know where I..."

"Jamie. Who else..." Théo sighed and stepped forward before she could even welcome him in.

She backed away. "Oh." She pulled the door wide open for him, her thoughts barely past the shock. "But, how'd you... You drove here from New York?"

"Yeah. Three hours," he murmured.

In this weather? Seriously? Was he that bored?

"Tried to call, but..." Théo took off his shoes beside the door. He smelled of cigarettes and men's perfume. With a tight smile, he leaned forward to kiss her cheeks.

The gesture caught her off-guard. Then again he was a full-blooded French. It shouldn't surprise her one bit. She put on a friendly smile for him to hide the awkwardness making her chest tight.

"You look nice." Théo placed the box with the ribbon right on her coffee table, his movements rushed and almost impatient. He took off his hoodie to put it in his bag while she just stared at him.

The sight of him ready to chill in her small, dark living room did nothing to ease her spinning thoughts. "You, um... D'you need anything?"


"A drink or..." Veronica forced her shoeless feet to move towards him despite the loud and almost painful thumps in her chest.

He was just the last person she expected to see today. He didn't even text her that he was back in America, or that he was on his way here to see her. "Just water. Please."




"But, really now, why are you here? I don't recall inviting you over," was what her common sense actually wanted her to say.

Did he want to keep her waiting for a proper explanation? "Hope you don't mind. I'm just exhausted," Théo mumbled, sitting back in her old couch. His dark blond hair didn't look styled at all — wavier than she remembered and quite disheveled, but still short.

"It's fine," she lied, forcing a pleasant tone, the other side of her brain still busy coming up with possible reasons for him showing up here unannounced. Veronica put on a smile as he stared blankly at her TV.

Maybe one of their common friends got in serious trouble? Or, it could be him who...

Well, the last time she hung out with him was months ago. Overseas. They didn't really keep in touch. Actually, Théo tried, but then the breakup happened and made her utterly allergic to people.

"Anything else?"

"Huh?" Théo turned to look at her.

"Um... You need anything else?" She opened the fridge to get him a glass of cold water, also to hide her deathly pale face from his attentive eyes. "I was, uh, on my way to the store." Darn. Her makeup kit was in her pouch in the bedroom.

To her relief, though, her guest hadn't dropped any comments regarding her appearance. Or the guy just didn't care that she didn't bother to look presentable today.

"You're leaving now?" Théo got up from the couch to walk towards her. Their fingers touched when she handed him the glass of water.

She backed away. Some part of her neck itched when she caught him staring. They stood in front of her fridge now, shoeless and eye-to-eye.

How did he get this close to her that fast? But maybe it was just her nervousness, coupled with anxiety and the shock of seeing him again this soon.

"Yeah. I, um... You could just wait here till I get back."

His brows creased. They looked darker and thicker now that he stood against the windows and with the kitchen lights turned off. "You gotta go now?"

"Yeah." Veronica dropped her gaze and grabbed a rag, then pretended to be busy wiping the kitchen counter even though her kitchen was mostly clean. She hadn't cooked anything in days.

"I'll drive you there."

"No. I'm fine. I won't be long."

"Ah." He inhaled a sharp breath, then let out a sigh. "Meeting someone there?" Théo asked with a slight frown.


Did he think she was going on a date? "I'll drive. Not an issue."

"No. You really don't have to."

"But I want to." Théo squinted at her.

A somewhat tense silence made her breathing hitch. "Just stay here," she muttered after glancing away.

"I was trying to call you. All week," he said in a muted voice, his tone riddled with displeasure. "You blocked my number?"

"Um..." Oh heck. She did. She forgot to unblock him, too.

Well, it was his fault! He'd been calling her a lot the past few months. Her busy studio schedule and commitments with her bandmates, plus her rather introverted routine lately... It convinced her that she needed absolutely no distractions until the release of the band's newest record.



Théo crossed his arms below his chest. His tight blue shirt clung to his muscular physique, showing off his gym bod. He wasn't bulging muscles all over, though, which she preferred.

She cleared her throat. It felt dry and itchy now for some reason. "Sorry. What?"

"We got a problem I don't know about?"

Problem? She frowned and took a step backward, unsure of what to say, totally unprepared for an up-close conversation, and very much alone with him in her quiet apartment.

Shucks. Time to tell him the truth? What if she admitted to avoiding him because of last time? That long and memorable, non-friendly kiss he gave her before she had to be back here.

Granted, they were both a bit soused that night. But then she was sure he was nothing but a common friend. That he didn't see her as someone he wanted to date. She got drunk with him and their Parisian friends at a bar only because she found out Blake cheated on her with a bleach blonde beauty queen. Then, before calling it a night, Théo kissed her goodbye on the lips. For the first time.

Since then, she'd been doubting their "just friends" status and mulling over his eagerness to get to know her better. She didn't want to date anyone new — much less get into a new relationship. It was mostly why she'd been avoiding him.

Théo was a bit of a ladies' man as well, according to Jamie at least. "Via." He scowled at her now, his brows still furrowed.

"Why're you here again?"

He stared at her again, jaw clenching. "Just wanted to check up on you."


The guy shrugged.

Was her question confusing? Or it didn't sound serious enough?

Théo smirked. Then, without any warning, he leaned closer to touch her cheek. His hand felt warm and smelled of cigarette smoke. "You wouldn't take my calls."

"For a good reason," she wanted to retort.

"Didn't even reply to my texts. And chats."

"Sorry. I-I've just been so busy," she murmured, avoiding his gaze again. To be fair, she replied to his texts once or twice last month, if memory served her well. "But I'm fine. You didn't have to actually..."

He raised a brow.

"Work's just been crazy, and... Sorry if that, um, worried you."

"You think?" He stopped touching her face and heaved a sigh. Théo leaned against the fridge as she tried not to scowl at his sarcasm. "You really doin' okay?" he muttered after the awkward silence.


"We good?"


"I'll leave if you want." This time, he looked visibly annoyed. "Want me to go?"


"Then why're you being weird?"

What did he mean? Veronica looked away and sighed, her head starting to ache at how he kept pressing her to open up. "I dunno. I-I just didn't expect you would... I didn't even know you're back here."

"Fashion Week."

"Oh." Right.

So he'd be busy with New York Fashion Week again. Of course he was back here in the States for work. No other reason. He sounded genuinely concerned about her, though. "Did I do something to upset you or..."

"No!" She faked another smile. "You... No. It's not like that."

"So why block my number?" Théo stepped closer to her, his attention centered on her face again.

Her breath stopped midway in her throat. Her brain tried hard to come up with a decent, sensible reply — something less telltale of depression and her not so casual feelings about their ongoing friendship. But what did he really want to hear?

It would sound laughable to him if she admitted she's still having a hard time moving on from her duplicitous ex. As if the breakup didn't happen months ago. More importantly, she'd rather sleep all day than talk about that lying cheater.

"I'm myself lately." Veronica walked away from him to get some air and space. Also, she had to put on some makeup, like, yesterday.

"I know." Théo scoffed. "I'm asking why you didn't wanna talk to me." He followed her to her bedroom, his footsteps almost as rushed as hers.

Holding back a surly reply, she grabbed her makeup pouch and put on some foundation. Mostly to hide the eye bags and freckles, but also to distract herself from his familiar scent. Then some mascara, and a coat of nude pink lipstick to make herself look less like a walking corpse. Before she could step out of the room, he blocked the doorway.

The guy wouldn't budge even after she made a face at his attempt to stop her from walking away.

"What now?"

"I'll drive you to the store."

"T, you really don't have to. But thanks." She pulled back when he took a step closer. "Just wait here. Order food, or, take a nap. You're tired." She glanced at her empty bed. "Use the bed if you want."

"You serious?"

"Do I look like I'm joking?"

"Wait. I can stay the night?" Théo squinted at her, mumbling his words.

"Sure." Veronica stifled the urge to roll her eyes. "Get some rest." She walked out of the bedroom when he finally stopped blocking her way. "What d'you want?"

Théo faintly shook his head.

"Fine. Just call or text me if you need anything."

"Don't need anything," he murmured before hugging her from behind. "Just be here." His arms tightened above her chest, his cheek warming up her nape. "And stop being weird."

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