Chapter 29: In The Darkness

‘No, what?’ I type back.

But I can’t wait for Amber to reply. The tone of her message means I already know this is something huge. I’m about to scan my social media feeds when another message comes through, this time from Lia.

‘Are you okay?’ it asks.

Almost simultaneously, Chloe gets in touch.

‘Babes, anything I can do.’

What is going on? I can feel panic rising from the pit of my stomach. Something bad has happened. Then I see it.

‘Ben Chester, frontman of rock band Faint December, has died aged 34.’

My heart actually skips a beat. I feel my whole body – my whole life – judder. I can’t tear my eyes away from the screen. Other messages are coming through, but I ignore them as I read on.

‘His death is being investigated as a possible suicide.’

How is this possible? I look around me like there might be someone waiting to tell me this is a joke. Of course, no one’s there. I’m all alone.

Those last three words echo through my brain.

I’m all alone.

No Ben Chester. No one out there who feels exactly like I do, no one to tell me about the things that are already happening to me, to make me feel like I’m not the only one going through the things I’m going through. The report on his death isn’t long and I stare at the screen long enough for it to filter through my eyes and into my consciousness.

‘Police at the scene have confirmed that the singer died at The Soho Hotel in London. Jamie Holt, Faint December’s guitarist and co-songwriter, discovered the singer’s body.’

I feel dazed. The world has fallen off its axis. My phone rings.

“OhmyGodohmyGod,” Amber starts.

I try to reply but I can’t find my voice.

“Dais, are you there?”

I can tell Amber is as worried about me as she is upset by the news of Ben’s death. I force myself to speak.

“Yeah, I’m here,” I manage.

“OhmyGod,” Amber says again before falling into silence.

I understand her quiet. She wants to say something other than ‘ohmyGod’ but she can’t think of what else might cover it. We sit there like that, listening to each other breathe and soaking in this new reality for two or three minutes. Then Mum comes in.

“Come on, slowcoach,” she starts and she’s about to say something else but then she sees my face.

“I’ll see you on the bus,” I tell Amber.

“Love you,” she says.

“Love you,” I tell her back.

“What’s going on?” Mum wants to know.

She’s seriously alarmed.

“Ben Chester is dead,” I say and though the words are coming out of my mouth, I can hardly believe them.

“What do you mean?” Mum says as if I haven’t said anything that could possibly make sense.

I don’t need to answer her, I just need to give her time to let the news sink in. I glance at my phone: more messages from Lia (‘I’ve got big hug ready 4 u, luv u’) and Chloe (Babes, babes, babes, here for u always, you’re my babe). The love I have for my friends threatens to max my emotions out; it feels as if my feelings are ready to burst through my chest. Mum comes towards me and puts her arms around me. She doesn’t say anything. She just holds me and I hold her back. Dad is in this moment too. Ben Chester has children. Exactly like Dad had children.

After I don’t know how long, Mum pulls away from me a little. She places her hands on either side of my face.

“You’re going to be alright,” she says and I can see her fighting back tears. “I’m going to make sure of it.”

I nod. It’s a tiny movement but in the darkness of this moment it’s all I’ve got.

Go back to chapter 1 of Faint December.

Chapter image by Liz Cahillane.