Hey guys! Thanks again to anyone who has reviewed!

Also, I want to remind everyone that this story is rated M so there will be mature and possibly dark content. I'm not sure what the audience age is, but I wanted to reiterate that things are going to get a bit heavy as the story progresses.

The song in this chapter is "Funny," by Tori Kelly. I recommend playing it before you read, or as you read along with the lyrics. It really helps you tune into how Karma is feeling.

Happy reading!


CHAPTER EIGHT

"The Heart Has Its Reasons That Reason Does Not Know" -B. Pascal

The days blended in as they seemed to pass by in slow motion. Karma spent the rest of the week cooped up in the music room putting lead to paper and purging her soul. What had seemed like a promising day of heart-to-hearts, and sweet Liam kisses had quickly turned to shit, leaving her in a state of distraught. One thing she was thankful for was being in rehab, otherwise she would've abused that powdery substance until she forgot who she was. Until she felt nothing. Thankful for rehab? Well that's certainly progress.

She hadn't seen Amy. Not even in the hallway, or their usual spot in the garden. Not that she wanted to anyway. The blonde was purposely avoiding her, and right now Karma was grateful for the evasion.

Weak. That word that shook her to the core still rattled in her head. Especially coming from her. The one person who had kept her afloat this past month had just plunged her into the abyss headfirst.

Karma tuned her guitar, and found a comfortable position where her cast didn't interrupt her strumming. The strings felt amazing beneath her fingers.

Closing her eyes she took in a deep breath. Ready to let out all of the pain.

It's so easy to lose all the meaning of who you are
What is your definition of a true superstar?
Is it beauty? Is it money? Is it power? Is it fame?
Are you in it for the glory? What's the purpose? What's the game?
Everything you ever wanted got you tied up in chains
Be careful how you play the game

'Cause the same things that chose you are the same things that own you
The same thing that built you is the same thing that kills you
The same ones that praise you are the same ones that hate you
Funny how it all goes around

If you lose your soul, you lose it all
If you're at the top, then brace for the fall
Surrounded by faces, but no one to call
Funny how it all goes around

If you lose your soul, you lose it all
If you're at the top, then brace for the fall
Surrounded by faces, but no one to call
Funny how it all goes around

If you look through a microscope at this messed up world
You would see every scratch, every flaw, every ounce of dirt
Your so-called friends you're leaning on, but all they do is take
You say it's fine, but deep inside you wish you could escape
Everything you ever wanted got you tied up in chains
Be careful how you play the game

'Cause the same ones that shun you are the same ones that love you
The same words that break you are the same words that shape you
The same rules that blind you are the same rules that guide you
Funny how it all goes around

If you lose your soul, you lose it all
If you're at the top, then brace for the fall
Surrounded by faces, but no one to call
Funny how it all goes around

If you lose your soul, you lose it all
If you're at the top, then brace for the fall
Surrounded by faces, but no one to call
Funny how it all goes around

You keep on crying out
Don't let me hit the ground
Your soul is crying out
Don't let me hit the ground
You keep crying out, Lord
Don't let me hit the ground
Your soul is crying out

Don't let me hit the ground

If you lose your soul, then you lose it all
If you're at the top, then brace for the fall
Surrounded by faces, no one to call
Funny how it all goes around

If you lose your soul, then you lose it all
Surrounded by faces, but no one to call
If you're at the top, brace for the fall
Funny how, funny how it all goes around, yeah

Oooh, yeah
Don't let me hit the ground
You keep on crying out
Don't let me hit the ground
Funny how it all goes around

Karma closed her eyes tight, holding back the tears threatening to fall. Before rehab she was always surrounded by people—whether it was friends, family, staff or her adoring fans. Now, after a month clean, Karma had never felt more alone. If this is what it meant to be sober, she wasn't sure she wanted it anymore.

It was almost time for dinner and Karma wanted to be there as soon as they served. The sooner she ate, the sooner she could get back to music.

The singer placed the guitar back on its stand and wrapped her music sheets in a rubberband, planning to add these to the box full she already had under her bed. Ever since she started writing again the songs were just flowing through her almost effortlessly. It's like the drugs were keeping her creativity locked up and now the vault was wide open. She got excited at the thought of late nights in the studio recording and mixing with her team.

Just as Karma was almost done packing up, a body appeared at the door. The redhead froze instantly.

Amy stood there, body slumped against the doorframe. Her oversized sweatshirt was hanging of her shoulder, exposing her soft skin. Her hair was in a messy ponytail, and Karma almost reached out to tuck in the strands like she usually does. Almost.

"Hey." The blonde said softly.

The singer went back to gathering her things without acknowledging the blonde, willing herself not to lash out.

"I knew I'd find you here," Amy continued, walking into the room.

"What do you want?" Karma asked, coldly, her back to the blonde.

"I was…I wanted…" Amy played with her fingers, not knowing what to say, where to start. She took a step closer and mindlessly hit a few keys on the piano.

"They're giving my favorite movie in the rec room tonight. Thought maybe you'd want to watch it with me? And no, it's not a documentary on Krispy Kreme. That's my second favorite."

Karma could hear the blonde's low chuckle. She wanted nothing more than to cuddle up on a couch with some popcorn and her best friend, but she didn't want to give in so easily. She didn't want to be…weak.

The blonde shook her head in defeat when Karma didn't say anything.

"Nevermind." She turned to leave.

"Yea, great, walk away again. And, please, don't pretend like you care."

"That's not true, and you know it."

That made Karma turn around. "Isn't it? It's been four days."

"I was giving you space."

"What I needed was an apology…and an explanation. You said some really fucked up things, and then you just…left! What gives you the right?"

Amy let out a sigh. "Why can't you see that you're being too easy on him?" she asked, forgetting she was there to fix the situation and not rehash it.

"Why can't you see that it's none of your business?"

"It's not like I'm telling you to leave him. Far be it for me to tell anyone when to give up on anything. Lord knows that's never worked. All I'm saying is to demand some damn respect."

"Okay, fine!" Karma yelled, walking up to Amy. "How about you show me some respect. You want me to stand up for myself? You got it! You've known me for a month, a month, and have no right to judge me. You have no idea what Liam and I have gone through, so maybe you should chill out because your 'advice' is starting to sound more like demands."

"Chill, Ashcroft. I'm just saying."

Karma could feel herself getting worked up. Everything that she'd been feeling since that night—loneliness, confusion, and resentment—was just swirling inside her, fueling her anger. "I know what you're saying, and you need to understand that rehab has been an adjustment for all of us, so it's not fair for you to think he's just some self-centered asshole! Just because you have daddy issues doesn't mean all men are fuck-ups."

Karma could see the shock on Amy's face. Fuck.

The redhead reached out in reflex. "Shit. Amy—"

"Don't." Amy held out her hand.

"Amy, I'm sorry." She grabbed the blonde by the sleeve, keeping her in place.

The hurt in her eyes tore through Karma. The blonde had finally trusted her, let her in, only to have it thrown back in her face. Fuck.

"Forget it, Karma." The blonde broke loose from her grip and left the music room.

The singer let out a sigh, running her fingers through her hair. "Fuck."

"Karma! So glad you could make it." Vincent made his way to meet her as the singer walked into group therapy. Karma had been spiraling into her thoughts after Amy walked out. The rollercoaster of emotions she was experiencing was reminding her of the old Karma—the user; the druggie. She needed to break out of that or she was going to regress, and there was no way she was going to land herself more time in this place.

"Where's Amy?" he asked.

"Just me today," she replied, hugging her arms to her body. Just hearing the blonde's name made her ache.

"Come," he said motioning towards the front of the room, "you can sit by me."

"Actually, is it okay if I just sat at the back today? I'm not feeling well and don't want to disturb anyone incase I need to slip out."

"Is everything okay?" Vincent asked, concerned. "Maybe you can talk about it today. We can help."

"No, that's okay. I really just want to hang back."

"Alright. Well if you change your mind, just raise your hand." He placed a hand on her shoulder and gave her a supportive smile.

Karma made her way to the last row and sat at the chair closest to the door. The lights at the back had burned out, so it gave the room a nice dimmed atmosphere. She could see the back of everyone's head as they engaged in conversation. She thought about joining them, and maybe getting to know them better considering she might've just lost the only friend she had in this place.

Vincent made his way to the front the room to start the session. "Thank you everyone for coming tonight. I see some new faces here. How about you stand up at your seat and introduce yourselves to the group?"

Fifteen minutes had passed and all Karma could think about was Liam and Amy. Clearly her plan to distract herself wasn't working. Not only had Amy not spoken to her in four days, but she hadn't heard from Liam either. Karma didn't want to be the one to call him. Not this time. He promised things would be different. This isn't different.

The redhead started to lose her nerve at the thought that Amy could be right. Maybe she should've been more vocal and stood her ground. Maybe he'd be more on top of reaching out to her. Shit, he should've been planning his next visit already!

Karma rubbed her temples and tried to focus her attention back to the group. Everyone started clapping as a man made his way back to his seat.

"Who else would like to share?" Vincent asked.

There was silence for a few seconds, and a woman slowly raised her hand. Vincent waved her up. She steadily made her way to the mic as she wrung her fingers together. Her face was red, and her eyes were puffy. You could tell she had been crying for hours.

"Hi. My name is Sally. I, um, I got some bad news today." She held back a cry, covering her mouth with her sleeve.

"Our house was broken into last night, and they, um…my husband…he's in a coma. I don't know what to do with myself. I want to be by his side, but I know that if I left right now, feeling like this, I would go straight to my dealer and score some meth. And that would be betraying him completely. Betraying his hope that I could get better. But the thought of not being by his side kills me. God, I don't know!"

Vincent walked up to her and held a supportive hand to her shoulder.

"I miss him so much. I was so excited to be back home with him in a month. I was looking forward to our new adventures. He had so many things planned for us—dates, vacations. Everyday was going to be special." Sally let herself go, letting out a loud cry. One of the residents in the first row got up and hugged her.

Karma bit her lip as she thought back to early last week. Amy asked Estelle to hide a dozen cupcakes around the building so she and Karma could have a scavenger hunt. Amy seemed to know this place like the back of her hand, so they were done within fifteen minutes. The best part was eating them under the moonlight as they shared a joke before each cupcake they ate. Apparently Amy was the queen of perverted one-liners. Karma had never laughed so hard. The blonde knew how to make each day feel like an adventure.

The singer could feel herself smiling at the memory, wondering what Amy might be doing right now. Was she playing video games with Snickers Mike? Convincing Estelle to bake a 10-tier cake? Or rambling to Samuel about how Who Let the Dogs Out? was actually a song about animal oppression? Karma laughed at the thought.

Why do I miss her so much? Amy had quickly become one of the most important people in Karma's life. Maybe it was because she was all she had in this place. No matter the reason, the blonde had definitely made an impression.

Everyone in the room got up to leave, startling Karma. Vincent walked by her as he finished talking to another resident.

"Hey Karma, where ya headed?"

"Back to the music room," she said motioning towards the door with her thumb.

"I'd love to hear what you've been working on some time."

Karma gave him a polite smile. "I don't think you'd be into it."

"Oh, come on, I think you're crazy talented."
"Oh really? I thought your brother was my biggest fan," she said, teasing.

Vincent laughed and wiped his brow, embarrassed. "Yea well, I might've asked him to share some of your tunes. You're quite the entertainer."

"I try, I try," the singer joked as she patted herself on the back.

"Your voice is great live. I saw some video clips of your concert in London. That crowd was hanging on your every word. You looked fantastic in that outfit, by the way."

Karma laughed. "Yea, Shane was on a leather binge throughout that whole tour. Slipping into those leather tights was all the workout I needed."

"Well, thank you Shane!" Vincent winked.

Wait. Is he hitting on me?

"Thanks for letting me hang back," Karma said, changing the subject.

"No problem. You know you're always welcome."

"I'll catch you later, Vince." Karma buried her hands in her pockets as she exited the room.

"Can't wait!" He called out to her retreating form.
That's what you get for flirting with him for your own gain! Karma thought back to the reaction Amy had when she opened her box of gourmet sweets. Okay, totally worth it.

Karma was on a roll after getting back to the music room. She honestly didn't know what was fueling the inspiration, but tonight she could feel the muse back in the room.

The singer began to strike the piano keys as she hummed the melody of the lyrics. Her fingers danced across them like an old lover.

"That's beautiful," someone said behind her, startling the redhead.

Karma turned around to see Penelope standing a few feet behind her. She didn't even hear the door open.

"I love the way it builds. Makes you feel like you're free falling. Amy was right, you're incredibly talented."
Karma blushed at the sincerity in her compliment. "Thank you. It's actually not even close to finished, but I think I have the notes for the chorus down."

"Well, I can tell it's going to be magical." The woman winked at her.

Karma and Penelope had never spoken before. They've exchanged smiles and hellos whenever they passed in the halls, but that's as far as their interactions have gone. The singer could already tell why Amy loved being around the woman. She exuded such warmth, and her raspy voice was melodic.

"My son used to play Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca for me all the time. He was remarkable on the piano. Played it like it was part of him—an extra limb. So much promise…" she trailed off.

"Does he not play anymore?"

"No. He passed away three years ago."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"So am I. He would've liked you. Your face, when you play, reminded me of him. He used to get this wrinkle above his brown whenever he was 'in the zone,' as he would say." She laughed. "He would play for hours."

Karma smiled at the woman. Penelope folded her hands on her lap trying to steady them.

"Are you okay?"

"Oh, yes, darlin'. Just a bit nervous. I leave tomorrow morning."
"Oh right, that's great!"

"Yea, I'd think so too if I wasn't so terrified." She sighed and sat down in the chair next to Karma's. "I just don't want to let my family down again. To let my husband down again. Amy thinks I'm ready, and I think she may be right. She's been slipping very elaborate, and beautifully drawn messages under my door all week. I can only imagine she's consuming twice the amount of sweets to keep herself fueled," the woman chuckled.

"I wouldn't know," Karma replied, looking down at the keys. "She's been avoiding me for days. And then today she finally came by and I said…I said something stupid. Something I wish, with all my heart, that I can take back."

"I knew something was up with you two. The last time I saw Amy mope around this much was after they cancelled Parks and Recreation. When I didn't see you at movie night tonight, I figured I was right. There's no way Amy wouldn't have dragged you to see Gia.

"She probably hates me."

"That girl could never hate you."

Karma looked up at Penelope with curious eyes. What does she mean?

"Amy is a wonderful soul," the woman continued. "She's a tough girl, through and through, but once you get inside her heart, there's no warmer place to be. She's the most loyal and supportive person you'll ever meet."

"Yea, you guys seem very close. Like old friends."

The chocolate skin woman smiled into the distance. "I remember the first time I saw her at Soleil. It was the first round of rehab for both of us."

First round?

"She was unreadable. Always kept to herself, and mostly just watched TV in the recreation room. One night I was in the garden, crying for what felt like hours. It was the three-month anniversary of my son's death, and I just couldn't handle it. It was only my first week at Soleil, so my body was still going through its detox. I was physically and emotionally ill, and I was falling apart."

Karma knew exactly what she meant. Her first two weeks of withdrawals were pure hell. It was the hardest moment of her life.

"I think it was about two in the morning when I felt someone sit next to me. They didn't say anything. Just sat there, keeping me company. We must've been there for about an hour. When I got up to leave, they got up as well. That's when I noticed it was Amy. Still, we didn't say a word. Just looked at each other, smiled, and parted ways. The next morning I knocked on the door to her room and invited her to sit on that bench with me for some snacks. And she did." Penelope shook her head in amusement. She had this look on her face that Karma can only imagine is the look she also wears when she thinks about Amy. "Sometimes I'm not sure if it was the company or snacks that made her humor me, but I was grateful nonetheless." Penelope let out a heartwarming laugh that brought a big smile to Karma's face.

"I told her all about my son. How handsome, talented and respectful he was. How I had recently lost him to a car accident. How I couldn't handle it and would drink myself into oblivion by 8 a.m. I was even drunk at his funeral—something that took me a long time to forgive myself for. Amy listened to my troubles. There was never any judgment, just compassion. It wasn't until she finally started opening up to me that I realized it was also empathy. We had both lost someone in our lives that we loved immensely."
Karma immediately thought about Amy's father. How she loved him so much that she would paint for him just to feel connected. And Karma then threw that in her face out of anger. God, I'm such an asshole.

"We were both filling those voids with things that were slowly killing us. On that day we promised to be each other's rock. Whenever we would get out of the program, we would call each other once a week, or whenever we felt like we were loosing our grip. Sure, we had our own sponsors, but we were connected at heart. But sometimes I think that maybe that's why we both have ended up here two more times, because we know each other's pain too well, and we knew we'd forgive each other every time we slipped."

Penelope turned her body towards the singer and wrapped her hands around the redhead's.

"I want to ask something of you, Karma."

The redhead sat up straight, listening intently.

"I need you to take care of Amy for me. She's on a good path right now, and I think that has a lot to do with your friendship." Penelope gave the singer a warm smile. "I feel good about my chances this time, but I don't want to deter her from her progress by calling her with my issues. She needs someone who doesn't suffer her same pain and can help her think objectively. Promise me you'll do that."

"I promise." Karma stated with conviction. She didn't know if Amy would ever even speak to her again, but she was going to make sure the blonde knew she'd be around if she ever needed her.

"Thank you, child," she said softly stroking Karma's cheek with the back of her hand. The woman smoothed out her skirt and straightened her back. She looked out into the distance and held her chin high. "Tomorrow is a new day. I will be a great wife, and will nurse my husband back to good health. I will be an active member of my community, and of my church. I denounce my dependency of alcohol. Each day of life is to be treasured. Each person is to be appreciated. I will overcome."

Karma watched in awe as Penelope made her declarations. They were powerful, and they were hers. And no one and nothing was going to make her stray.

The singer smiled at the woman, extremely grateful for this encounter. She felt hopeful again. As if Penelope had just restored all that was drained from her. She knew what her next move had to be. She was going to apologize to Amy. She was going to make this right.

Karma turned back to the piano and winked at Penelope. Her fingers danced on the keys as she started playing Rondo Alla Turca. Penelope let out a joyous laugh that made Karma's heart swell.

Tomorrow is a new day. I will overcome.