2019, Chapter One: ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers (nr. 160)

A man is sitting in a  hotel bar, drinking by himself. A woman walks in with her friends. He recognises her. She left him four years ago. Four years, in which they haven’t even called each other.

She sees him too. They feel drawn to each other and can’t stop themselves. They leave together and go to her too expensive Rover with the mattress, that she stole from her roommate back in Boulder.

He tells her that he’s doing fine. He drinks too much and that’s an issue, but he’s okay. He tells her to tell her friends that it was nice to meet them, but he hopes he never sees them again. He tells her that she looks pretty.

She tells him, that he looks as good as the day she met him. She forgets just why she left him. She was insane. She asks him to stay and play that Blink 182-song that they beat to death in Tucson.

They recall together how they met. Two kids with broke-down cars. They pull each other closer. He bites the tattoo on her shoulder and together they move the sheets right of the corner of the mattress. They’ve got nothing to lose. After all, they ain’t never getting older.

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2018, chapter 45: ‘Before He Cheats’ by Carrie Underwood (nr. 157)

Carrie has lost her husband. He was the one to leave her, but it was not a surprise to her. She knew he was cheating on her.

It had led her to stand outside a bar he had gone into.

She thought about how he was probably slow dancing with a bleached-blond tramp, and she was probably getting frisky. He was probably buying her some fruity little drink ’cause she couldn’t shoot whiskey. Then he was probably up behind her with a pool stick, showing her how to shoot a combo. She was probably up singing some white-trash version of Shania karaoke. She was probably saying “I’m drunk”, making him think, he was gonna get lucky. So he was probably dabbing on 3 dollars worth of that bathroom Polo right now…

She was furious and looking for revenge. So she dug her keys into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive and carved her name into his leather seats. She took a Louisville slugger to both headlights and slashed a hole in all four tires.

She smiled to herself. Maybe next time he’d think before he cheated. She might have saved the next girl a little trouble from him. At the very least, he wouldn’t cheat on her again.

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2018, chapter 32: ‘America’s Sweetheart’ by Elle King (nr. 144)

Bruno is a Heathen. He bonds with his recruiter. Her hometown said she was too loud and she’d never be the poster type. But she wasn’t going to change for anyone. So she lit a match and burned it down.

She’s coarse and likes it. She drinks too much and wears old boots. She’s got bad tattoos and a chip in her front teeth. She is cold-hearted and breaks the hearts of every man she’s been with (causing them to say that she has no soul).

She’s still loud. She still likes blowing things up and getting her hands dirty – and now she can do it for a cause.

Bruno comments on her behaviour after he has won her respect.

She replies cheerily: “what do you want from me? I’m not America’s sweetheart. You love me anyway.”

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2018, chapter 12: ‘Honest’ by The Chainsmokers (nr. 124)

A young girl is driving down the road at 5am. She goes by the name ‘Chainsmoker’. She’s supposed to call her parents, but she doesn’t know to say. She’s not over the fact that they thought that she should have thought of them instead of herself. Instead, she’s listening to the radio in order to distract herself from the thought of it. As long as she is sober, this works.

She has offered another girl a lift home. This girl is a stranger. Because of that, she doesn’t love Chainsmoker. Not like her parents do. And even if the girl wanted to get to know Chainsmoker, it wouldn’t be possible. She keeps a detached air about her and her feelings to herself. She doesn’t need nobody else. So she listens to the radio to discourage talking.

6am, she’s still on the road. She left her parents at least three weeks ago and is by now far away from them. They had a disagreement and they had told her to be honest. She was, and it apparently didn’t sit well with them. So now she’s on the road, despite the fact that she doesn’t really like the road. At least she has the radio.

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111: ‘Only Prettier’ by Miranda Lambert

Last time Sara met her siblings went less than well.

That is a long time ago now. And one late night, she sees them out with their friends. Sara is sitting and talking with King. They notice her and push away their high life friends, so they don’t see her, before walking up to her.

Sara has missed them and has softened significantly since last time. Still, she can’t herself from mocking them by thanking for saving her from talking to their friends with their southern charm. She comments on how they are still so well-behaved, just like their parents wanted.

She, however, offers up a handshake and a truce. She doesn’t want a fight. They can just agree to disagree and make amends, even though they don’t like each other. They’re after all not that different – Sara is just prettier (same can be said for her friends compared to theirs).

She offers them a drink, but they say no because they’re trying to lose weight. And true, they both weigh 100 pounds and stand 5 foot 3.

So she just says “bless your heart” and buys another drink for herself.

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109: ‘Good To Be A Man’ by Elle King

Sara doesn’t just dance. She also gets a good talk.

Sara does not have the best opinion of men. And King, the guy she is talking to, does nothing to help that opinion. In his defence, he owns up to it. He admits to not having a conscience and not feeling bad for the awful things he says.

This makes him a perfect target for Sara’s venting: About men drinking until they get mean, chewing tobacco, always having to be right, cheating and just doing dumb things because they should. She tells a story about a guy she knew, who got stuck in a ditch, which she knew, he would.

They agree that being a man is damn good these days.

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106: ‘Not Afraid’ by Eminem

This is a flashback from when Slim, the rapper who was an inspiration to Sara, still had daughters to raise.

Slim was a rapper then too. He had a friend and a faith.

Then he went to a bad place; he started drinking.

Now he was out of it and he wanted to lead his fans who were also in a bad place out with him. Nothing would stop him from doing this.

He had not been popular while he was drinking. He had made some bad albums (named Infinite and Relapse) but kept making music. He was married to the game, and couldn’t stop. This made people doubt his talent and look down on him.

Dre, his friend had been particularly critical, not even recognising his work as rap. He had even insulted him publicly while calling himself king. Thus Slim had lost all respect for his former mentor and cut contact with him.

He promised his fans he would never let them down again. He even admitted that the Relapse album wasn’t very good. Maybe he ran the accents into the ground. He won’t go back to that again.

He was not just leading the fans out a dark place. He was saving himself from the dark cloud still following him around. He would face his own demons as well.

He wanted them to walk this road together, hand in hand, through the storm, cold and warm weather. The important thing was making clear that they were not alone.

This was also his way of paying back the fans for seeing him through his drinking.

Now he would not concern himself with haters and former friends. He would focus on his responsibilities as a father. He was strong enough to resist drinking and be an inspiration to his fans.

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