Dear J, I’ve read my mom’s diary in its entirety and have come to the realization that there is a lot I never knew about her. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that when she was my age, she had the tendency to run away when things got tough. Aunt Keniesha really helped her change all that.
I guess I have my aunt to credit for a lot of things. First, she is the reason Mom started chronicling her everyday life. So, in a way, she is also the reason I write now. You see, Mom took Keniesha’s original concept a little further because she has this idea that family customs are important. Subsequently, I am currently in possession of my mother’s account of her own life. I’m to carry on with it by chronicling mine, then pass it to my heir. Her notion is that each generation should have one person who does this. Until the end of time, I guess.
Way back when mom started her diary, she didn’t think she really had anything to write about. She learned differently, of course. But this isn’t the case with me. I know I have things to put in my journal. In fact, sometimes I have so many thoughts spinning around in my head, I think writing them all down is what keeps me sane. I’m not sure how important anyone else will find this stuff, but it’s going in here anyway.
The second thing I have to acknowledge Aunt Keniesha for, is the time she turned my life around. I was quickly sinking just as surely as if I’d been standing in quick sand with no way out. But she didn’t tolerate my behavior. She didn’t feel sorry for me or coddle me along. I love Mom and Dad immensely. They have given me so much. But it was my aunt who knew what I needed the most during that time. My parents were hurting so badly themselves after what happened with Jillybean, it’s really no wonder they couldn’t help me even though they tried.
Ah. Jillybean. It’s still really painful to think of my twin sister and what happened to her. I still can’t bring myself to drive a car and I even feel a little panicky when I’m just a passenger. Which is not cool since I travel a lot.
And so here is my first admission… to the casual reader, “Dear J” may look like I’m writing to “Dear Journal,” but really, I’m talking to you, Jillybean. I miss you so much it makes my chest hurt… I like to think that maybe you’re here with me and can read this. Days and months pass by, seasons change, but I can still hear your voice teasing me about collecting action figures and wanting to be a rock star.
When thoughts of her surface, I try to push them down to get that awful throbbing out of my chest and to keep my eyes from burning with unshed tears. When I lie down at night and close my eyes, it’s her dark hair and light eyes I see staring back at me. I dream of her often. You know, the kind of dreams where you shake yourself awake, and at first you’re not certain whether what you dreamed was real or not.
There’s someone else in my life now that helps me cope with the pain of losing my sister. Someday, I’ll pass this journal along to my little girl Blue. Even though she’s not physically here with me now, everything I’m doing is so I can provide comfortably for her and have her with me. Closing my eyes, I can feel her little arms wrapping tightly around my neck and I can even smell her baby shampoo if I concentrate. She has pretty green eyes and her hair is dark like Jillybean’s was. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for that little girl. For the first time in my life, I have met the person who means the most to me in the world. I have met a person I would die to protect without thinking twice. Missing her makes my chest hurt, too, but in a different way as I have the knowledge that eventually, she’ll be in my arms again. I really long for that day.
I hate getting so emotional. Let’s get this back on track. I suppose I’ll fill you in on what’s been happening since I left Storybrook and my life there with my parents and younger sisters.
Let me introduce you to the band. Two of the guys (the two on the left) are brothers named Carl and Curtis Kelly. Carl plays guitar and keyboards and he is the older of the brothers. While Curtis can also play keyboards, he primarily serves as our drummer. On the right is Josh Drummond. He is the bassist. Mostly, though, I think he likes to party.
After some deliberation and mild arguing, we decided to call ourselves Accidental Therapy. Although the guys don’t really know all of my personal story, the name seemed an obvious choice given what I’ve been through and what music means to me. The guys agreed that the name meant something to each of them, too, so there you have it.
Our record company, Sound Pollution Records, moved us all to Bridgeport and set us up in a pretty nice house. There’s even a recording studio in the basement. They’ve done so much for us, it really drives home the fact that we’d better not let them down.
It’s kind of crazy because there are always tons of people coming and going. I’ve had to get used to waking up and not always recognizing the faces around me.
There are a few people that I know much better than others because they’re here everyday and work closely with the band.
On the far left is our manager, Reggie Merritt. He he travels with us and negotiates a lot of details we don’t have time for. He’s a personal friend of Desmond Smiley who gave me this big break, but since Desmond is employed by the record company, I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that they’re friends. I’m hoping I get smarter as I get more accustomed to my new life.
We have road managers, production managers and all kinds of people, but Reggie is the guy I go to with problems or concerns.
Next to him is Cranky Sy. His last name is Vangard, but we just call him Cranky Sy. He serves as the senior engineer when we record. And yeah… he’s pretty much grumpy all the time. Heaven only knows why but he doesn’t seem to mind the nickname.
Are you keeping all of these people straight, J? Yeah, me neither.
The next photo is of Cricket Blackwood. She’s our stylist which basically means someone at the top thinks we don’t have the ability to dress all that well on our own. She tells us what to wear on stage and to events and she keeps the pink in my hair going strong. (She wants me to try other colors, too, so if you see something crazy in the future, you’ve been forewarned.)
Last but definitely not least is Bexley Albright. She is my right hand. I’m not sure what she does, because she does so much. Some people might call her a personal assistant but I’ve heard other people in our circle call her the “Handler” or the “Talent Handler.” It’s a job I wouldn’t want so I try to be as low maintenance as I can.
Bex is responsible for a plethora of things. I’ve seen her screen calls, plan parties, get us from point “A” to “B,” all the while making sure we had what we needed when we were out. She even handles the crowds. Much to her credit, she gets us where we’re going on time. (At least, we haven’t missed a plane yet.) I’m sure she does even more than this, that’s how good she is. Once, I asked if there would be anything to eat where I was going and she said not to worry, she would take care of everything while I was in her “custody.”
It’s a very strange world I live in now. Wait until you see the rest.
Here we are in the studio working on our first album in the basement studio. I really like our sound.
There are times we just jam together, banging out tunes, so we’re getting a lot better at learning each others’ styles. Once in a while, we hit on something really good during this informal kind of jamming and we’re able to develop a new song that way. I enjoy these sessions the most because I feel it’s during these times we are the most creative.
We also record each song individually with Cranky Sy and his engineering staff in control, laying down each track at a time. So, when I record my guitar part, the keyboards may not be there yet or sometimes, another instrument. By the time I lay down the vocal tracks, all the instruments are there and it finally sounds like it’s coming together. It’s an interesting but tedious process.
We spent several months pulling this album together. Cranky Sy is good enough to realize when something isn’t coming along and he usually has good suggestions. At first, I couldn’t really tell if he was being sarcastic or helpful. After hearing our songs being played back, though, I decided he’s being helpful.
Curtis made it clear right away that he doesn’t sing and after I heard him while he was in the shower once, I think that was a really good call. Josh doesn’t sing either, but Carl is pretty good, so he does backup vocals.
Most of the time during recording, I just sing my own backups. It’s kind of weird hearing me sing with myself.
Photo shoots are necessary but also kind of a drag. Cricket is always there adjusting our clothing while other people who I usually don’t even recognize scrutinize every pose, every glance or smile. I’m not comfortable with all the lights and effects they use, but I’ve been told to get over it.
One single after the other was released prior to the official album release. To my shock, DJ’s really seemed to dig our sound and the songs hit the top ten. While none of the songs ever made it to the number one position on the charts, Reggie said not to worry about it. He said this was a huge accomplishment for a debut album and that he expected the next album would do even better.
My head was swimming and I felt absolutely giddy when I saw our self-titled album for the first time. This little package I now held in my hands was the culmination of all my hard work and of all I’d tried to accomplish for Blue. The lyrics were my heart and soul being poured out of me. The grief, loneliness, heartache, feelings of abandonment, these things were all in my lyrics and in the melodies. This packaged disc was me.
I turned it over and over again in my shaking hands. There was a bright red sticker on the shrink wrap with white letters that read:
Featuring the hit songs “Dreaded Bender,” “Charred Morality,” “Downhill Scheme,” and “Disfigured!”
I carefully peeled off the plastic film and ran my fingers over the smooth surface of the CD. The liner notes inside the little booklet read:
Leo Capra – vocals, lead guitar
Carl Kelly – rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Curtis Kelly – drums, keyboards
Josh Drummond – guitar, bass
Management: Reggie Merritt
All titles written by Leo Capra and published by Jacket & Dust Publishing, a division of Sound Pollution Records.
Senior Engineer: Sy Vangard
Special Thanks to Blue, Memphis, Liev, Daylynn and Rachel Capra, Bexley Albright, Cricket Blackwood, Desmond Smiley and the team at Sound Pollution Records, Mastication Catering, Veil Guide Security…
Curtis and Carl thanked the Kelly family and Josh thanked the Drummonds’. Also listed were the names of the front cover photographer, production manager, packaging designers, accountants, attorneys, sound engineers, mixers, guitar technicians and a wide variety of other people.
At the very end of it all were the words:
To Jillybean, with love.
During every interview, I was asked who she was but I always found ways not to answer the question. I was aware of the fact they would all know eventually because her existence was no secret. For now, though, it was my knowledge alone to hang on to and cherish. My new friends knew the scar on my cheek was from a car accident, however, I hadn’t told any of them about Jillybean either. I just couldn’t form the words, I couldn’t talk around the huge, burning lump in my throat. Maybe they would find out when the press discovered it or maybe someday, I would tell them on my own.
After the album hit the stores, no time was wasted getting us on the road. We rehearsed every day until I didn’t think I could sing or play another note. Then right before each show, there was a final sound check.
Playing on stage to thousands of cheering, screaming people was something else!
No longer was I able to just let go and lose myself in the song. In fact, if it weren’t for the monitors, I wouldn’t even hear our music because of the noise the audience consistently made.
I began to get very comfortable being on stage. It seemed like no matter what I played or sang, the crowds went crazy.
Of course, I had to ham it up when I could. The more unrestrained I acted, the more they reacted with chanting and screaming. This all encouraged me to do things I normally wouldn’t have. Like climbing up the scaffolding which housed the big spotlights to wave at the back rows. Or wildly gyrating across the stage with my trusty Gibson Flying V guitar in tow. I figured if this was what the audience wanted, they would get it because they’d probably buy more tickets to more shows and then I could finally have Blue with me where she belonged.
Some of our songs were quieter. During those ballads, I held my guitar and sang while the band played. In the corner of my eye, I could see the crew and staff milling around backstage but I tried to ignore them when these more serious moments arose.
Sometimes, I would stand back and let the audience completely take the song over. It’s really exhilarating and wonderful to hear that many people singing the lyrics you wrote.
There was something about being on stage, performing, that made me feel free and alive. You might say that I have a deep need to have my ego stroked. But you wouldn’t be completely right. Here’s admission number two: I feel that way because I’m insecure. And there it is in black and white. Most of the time, I have felt like I needed our fans to chant my name and yell that they love me. I’m not stupid, I know they don’t really love me. They love who they think I am; the idea of me. Just the same, I need it desperately from them because they can’t hurt me.
After the last song in the set, I made a practice of calling out to them, “Thank you! Goodnight!”
To thunderous applause and chanting, after the last encore, we always took the same bow, arm in arm like the close friends we were becoming.
If I closed my eyes, I could feel the staging actually vibrating from all of the noise and screams, begging us for another encore.
Looking from the outside in, I bet it looked like I had everything. But someone was definitely missing. And I couldn’t ever get her out of my head. My little Blue. During the tour, I was able to get away a few times and see her because we were close enough to Storybrook. I would hold her close to me and kiss the top of her head, reassuring her that we’d be together soon.
Mom and Dad were taking such good care of her, of course. She looked great and was making strides in learning to walk and getting potty trained. Her speech was still a little behind but Mom assures me that any day she’ll start talking up a storm.
After our last show of the tour which was in Bridgeport, I was thinking about Blue, as usual. When our last encore had ended, I walked into the wings where Reggie and Bexley were chatting. I decided that now was the time and I needed an ally.
“The show was terrific!” Bex enthused. “You were great!”
“Thanks, Bex.” Out of all the people I worked with, she was the most reliable, the one I felt most comfortable with. If I could get her on my side regarding this, things would be a lot easier. I just wasn’t sure how to bring it up. “I don’t see my guitar tech anywhere. Can you make a note that the string action on my Gibson needs to be adjusted?”
“Don’t worry about a thing,” she said. “Hey, there’s a party at The Tunnel. It’s a hot club on 68th Street. The paparazzi has heard you and the guys might be there so I’ll have the limo take you around back -”
Tired of parties where everyone stared at me as if they expected me to spontaneously combust or something, I was way ahead of her, already shaking my head. “- Nah, I’m going home tonight.”
Her eyes narrowed as she regarded me with concern. “What’s wrong? Are you feeling all right?”
Seeing my chance, I pounced on it. “It’s Blue. I don’t want to continue with any of this if she can’t be here with me.”
“Awwww, Leo,” she said, her expression softening. She touched my arm and squeezed it a little. “I can understand that. Are you going to talk to Reggie about it?”
I nodded. “As soon as I can. But I need you to back me on this.”
“Oh you bet I will. I mean he’s already known you would bring her here eventually,” she said, flashing a conspiratorial smile. “Do you expect him to balk at this?”
Shrugging, I said, “I don’t know what to expect. I think he’s going to feel that a kid doesn’t belong here.”
“Well, stand your ground and don’t ask him, tell him. He works for you, not the other way around.” As I was considering this, she added, “And I’ve always got your back.”
I couldn’t help but smile at her sincerity. “Thanks, Bex.”
Later, when we finally got back to the house, I eased my aching body into the hot tub. It wasn’t unusual after a show to feel as if I’d been hit by a truck or two. Apparently, I’m not the only one that needed it. Cricket and Carl joined me before too long.
Cricket and I leaned back while Carl told some story about a girl he’d seen in the audience tonight. But I was only half listening because Cricket’s foot rubbed against mine in the water. Stealing a glance at her, I realized it wasn’t done accidentally. When our eyes met, she winked at me.
Stupidly, I looked away as quickly as I could. Maybe that wasn’t a wink at all and she had just gotten some water in her eye or something. In my peripheral vision, I could see a strange, coquettish grin on her face.
Carl was obliviously rambling on about the woman he’d seen.
As morning began to make an appearance, I stood staring at the Bridgeport skyline. Did the sky look the same in Storybrook? Was Blue up yet? I touched the steamy window with my finger, tracing a line of water droplets across the glass as I absently stared.
Inside I felt so conflicted. I was achieving all I’d ever wanted and dreamed of. Music was my life. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a hollow place inside my heart that only Blue could fill. I didn’t just want her with me, I needed her to be with me. Her birthday would be here really soon and what exactly had I done with her worth commenting on besides a visit here and there?
I watched as the rising sun turned the sky a yellowish-pink hue. It was clear to me that now that the tour was over, there would be a brief rest before we hit the studio again to create the next album. Any talk show appearances would be filmed in Bridgeport. This meant that now was the time to bring my daughter here. I would not live without her for another moment if I could help it.
I was too jittery for sleep, so I showered, dressed and sat at the piano to try to figure out a tune I had in my head. Josh was the first one up and he went straight to the bar instead of downstairs to breakfast. He was becoming quite the mixologist.
I had almost worked the main melody of the song out when the rest of the gang made their appearances.
Reggie strode straight over to me with a huge grin and tossed a copy of Stadium magazine down in front of me.
There I was, bigger than life on the cover with that huge scar glaring at me like a bad dream. I pushed it away and got up from the piano bench.
“Hey, the article turned out great,” Reggie said, not seeming to notice the repulsion I felt at seeing the disfigurement on my face; the mark that reminded me that I’d lost the other half of myself.
“Oh, let’s see,” Josh enthused, putting his drink down only for a moment to look at the glossy page. “Cool.”
“You need some more coaching about what you should and shouldn’t say, but overall, I think it turned out rather well,” Reggie said.
Ignoring the promise I’d made to myself that I would never touch the juice again, I picked up one of the drinks Josh had made and took a few sips. It burned my throat and warmed my stomach in a pleasant way. Pushing guilty thoughts back about breaking promises, I took another drink.
While we chatted at the bar about the article, Curtis (Mr. TV Junkie) had immediately gotten absorbed in a soap opera called Helpless Days as soon as he’d sat down. This was typical, but Carl could never understand his brother’s fascination with those programs.
It seemed like the perfect chance to talk to Reggie so I pulled him aside.
“What’s going on, kid?” Reggie asked. I didn’t like that he called me by the same pet name my dad also used, but no matter how many times I had corrected him, he just kept doing it anyway.
“Before I signed my contract, we talked about having my daughter join me when the time was right. And I think that time is now.”
He seemed kind of surprised even though all I ever talked about was Blue. “Are you sure, though? When we were in Storybrook and you saw her, you said she was doing really well. Maybe you shouldn’t uproot her.”
I could feel my pulse quickening and the fire hitting my cheeks. “I’m her father and I’m the only one who can make that determination.”
He sighed. “Relax, kid. Bexley caught me early this morning and talked to me. If you’re worried about what Sound Pollution will think, I’d say don’t give it another thought as they agreed to it a long time ago. I just need you to be sure. You have a lot of work ahead of you and a kid could get in the way.”
“Get in the way?” It was all I could do to keep my cool. My free hand worked into a fist at my side and I could feel the heat in my cheeks getting even hotter. My dad had always told me to count to ten. Right now, I had to count a lot higher than that! The thing is, I knew why he was saying this to me. If something distracted me, my career would be over. If my career ended, so would the band’s. If there was no band, there was no need for a manager. Finally, I said, “I have it all worked out. She won’t be in the way.”
But I didn’t have it worked out at all. Who would watch her while I was writing songs and recording? Eventually, there would be another tour. What would I do then? This could get really tricky.
Despite the doubts that were beginning to crowd my mind, I called my mom and told her my plans.