An overwhelming list of the things she had said to him the night before - and in the past month - had been running through his head in an endless loop since he woke up forty minutes ago.
“I want to be with you too.”
“The more I want the most.”
“I’m not rushing you.”
“You can be so much more than that. If you want to be.”
“What do you want?”
“There’s not a single thing about you that isn’t.”
“I don’t want to go back.”
“I know you and that’s exactly why I trust you.”
“You can see it when someone is their best - if you care about them.”
“I saw something.”
“I’m just following your lead.”
“With me you really don’t have to be perfect. I can handle it.”
“Look at me.”
“Is there anything else i should know?”
“Can I stay with you tonight?”
“I’m not going to break. I’m not that fragile.”
“I see how committed you can be to something.”
“I know you.”
“You would be fun in Boston.”
“I’m just looking … deeper.”
“You’ve already done amazing things… more than you probably even realize.”
“I’m trusting that you’ll know it when you have something that is real… and that you’ll try to treat it like it is.”
“I’m an open book, what do you want to know?”
“I want to have things that are perfect for me… which has nothing to do with being perfect at all.”
“It’s okay if you’re a little jealous.”
“I just want to find someone who can bring out the best version of me and vice versa.”
She was messing with her hair now, pulling it up, checking both sides, letting it back down… unsure what she wanted. She ran her hands through it and then gathered it all to one side in front of her shoulder.
As he watched her move through the most mundane parts of the day and he felt
the weight of a million realizations hit him at once.
They wanted the same things.
She felt safe with him.
She didn’t expect anything from him.
She had faith in him.
She accepted him the way he was.
She didn’t push him.
She cared about what he wanted and she wanted him to have it.
She felt comfortable with him.
She was optimistic about him.
She wasn’t giving up or running away.
She was patient.
She was genuine. She relaxed him. And all of it came naturally to her.
She really did trust him.
“You won’t believe it until you feel it.”
His head was spinning thinking of everything. The things she had said and done, the fact that she so willingly let him say and do what he wanted… the way she swung her knee away from his body. The way she kissed him on the cheek at the club. The night she showed up at his room, the tears he knew he saw in her eyes, the way she looked at him at the fountain.
She’s in love with me. It finally sank in. It finally made sense. How long has she been trying to tell me and why hasn’t she?
“Wait.” Her voice interrupted his reverie, jolting him back to attention, “Can you see through this shirt?” she asked casually turning to face him. “I still think this shirt is so silly, by the way. But I know it makes you happy. Hopefully not because you can sort of see through it.” She giggled.
He had his elbows on his knees, sitting on the edge of the bed looking at her and he saw it again - the possibility of life with her. But this time it was bolstered by the confidence that she wanted the exact same things.
But why hasn’t she told me? Is she afraid of something, too?
She noticed his eyes seemed extra intense and they looked at each other for a moment. She could tell there was something going on inside of him but she had resolved to let him come to her and that’s what she was sticking with.
“I trust that you will tell them to me when you’re ready… and that none of them would change how I feel.”
“Well,” She took a deep breath, navigating out of the silence. “It’s the only shirt i have down here so, whatever.” She turned back to look in the mirror and messed with her hair for another second while watching him through the glass. “We should go now, I have to grab my bag from the other room.”
“I’m not rushing you.”
After hours of avoiding or simply not being able to have any discussion about the events of the previous night, Coll and Becka finally got around to broaching the subject.
They had traveled by plane that morning to get to Germany. The guys rushed off to do a few radio interviews before the show and Coll and Becka decided to spend some time at the pool before heading to the venue later. Coll kept insisting they could skip the show if Becka wanted to maximize her time in Europe but she refused.
“Does Nick ever sing to you?”
“Sing to me?”
“Yeah, like … when you’re alone?”
Coll grinned and shook her head, “no actually.”
“Oh.” Becka’s mind was reeling. “Not even that one song?”
Coll shook her head. “He hasn’t. Maybe, someday. What song?”
Becka snapped her head back in Coll’s direction, What?
“That would probably sufficiently push me over the edge honestly.” She giggled. “Like, I’d instantly turn into one of the fan girls.”
Becka laughed, “You aren’t peppy enough for that.”
“Okay.” Coll sighed as she reclined further into her lounge chair. “I’ve waited long enough. Spill it.”
“Nuh uh… you spill it first.” Becka smirked as she put her sunglasses on.
“Beckaaaa.” Coll groaned. “Come on.”
“Mine’s not that exciting. Just tell me…”
“Fine.” Coll relented easily knowing she would probably end up losing anyway. “Okay just let me spew random thoughts.” Coll said anxiously. Becka adjusted into a more comfortable position on her chair and gave Coll a thumbs up.
“I’ve told him that I trust him, and I want to hear things he wants to say even if they are messy, I have told him he can be imperfect. I told him I’m capable of loving things that are imperfect. I also told him that I can tell him I trust him a million times but he won’t believe it until he feels it. I told him I saw the best of him- and that he brings out the best in me, that when I’m with him I’m the best version of myself and that I’m relaxed and happy. I told him I want to be with him, and I’ve told him that sometimes you have to do things with people first to know and sometimes you don’t and that I only want to go all in with someone I really want to go all in with.” She was rambling and Becka was trying to keep up, having heard some of this before but not all of it. “I told him that he is amazing and incredible and -“ she closed her eyes briefly thinking back to all the places he had touched her the night before. “I told him he could be so much more than just someone who knows my favorite things and send me pictures of dogs. And I bas-”
“Those are all pretty powerful things.”
“But you said them and he’s still there.”
“What?” Coll asked, turning to look at Becka.
“All of these things are just as powerful as you telling him you love him. But you’re afraid to tell him you love him because you don’t want to pressure him. Does he appear to feel obligated to you right now?”
“So why do you think he will feel obligated to you if you tell him you love him.”
“I’m not sure anymore.” She said as she hung her head.
“Maybe that means something.” Becka said quietly.
“I still feel like he should make that move first.” Coll said, “I feel like i’ve made it pretty obvious how I feel without saying it explicitly.”
“Couldn’t we say the same for him?”
“I know what you want and I understand why. I know you think that you telling him how you feel will make him feel obligated or something but I also know that you have recognized that is a projection.” Becka smiled as she sat on her hands, “but if we consider your corridor of life thing, Nick is facing doors too. What kind of door is he at?”
Coll looked at her blankly. “Oh, come on.”
“How come it’s cute when Brian proverbs on you but not when I do it?”
Coll rolled her eyes, “I am pretty sure my door is wide open.”
Becka considered that for a moment, “No matter how wide open a door - your door - might be, if a person - or, Nick- is afraid to walk through it, it won’t matter…” Becka said as felt her body tense up. “Your door is wide open but it has all sorts of things about it he has never walked through. So it’s open but it’s scary. Make it less scary. Maybe he needs to feel less like he’s trying to get something or do something and more like he belongs there - like this is something that belongs to him. Like he deserves it. Tell him, show him he belongs there, that he deserves to have it.” Becka looked back at Coll to check her response, she was sitting there in attentive silence. She had felt and seen enough in the past twenty four hours that she set aside her decision to stay out of it for the greater good. “I think he needs to know someone is willing to risk it for him.”
“The vision you had for how life would be.” “No one will ever love me the way Nick loves my sister.
“Like you didn’t expect this. He has all this baggage right? He’s got weird family stuff, he’s got this inane life, he’s got crazy responsibilities... It’s okay. He has done things that maybe you’d prefer he hadn’t ... It’s okay. You’d have to tolerate a lot of bullshit… but it’s okay. You’re risking your ideal for him... the life you can have with him. Some new ideal.” Becka explained, “Show him - or tell him - that it’s okay. Let him know, somehow, that you are willing to take the risk with him… the door is open, but he needs to feel good about walking through it. He doesn’t want to let you down.”
Coll looked at her carefully examining her body language. “Are you completely positive we are still talking about Nick?”
Becka nodded. “But I get it.”
“I understand what you’re saying. I really do. But I want him to know just as much as I don’t want him to feel pressured. I understand that people need to take their time. I understand waiting until you’re ready and I know it sucks to be pressured to do something you aren’t ready to do.”
“My point is he might be ready, he’s just terrified. You keep making it sound like it’s something negative… flip the script: you’re finding ways to help him feel comfortable doing something he wants to do.”
“Okay.” Coll said as she began to piece it together, “what would a person want? In order to feel safe going into something new like that? How do I prove i’m willing to risk it?”
Becka shrugged. “Same as you wanted from him… An invitation? An assurance? It’s not different it’s just that you might be the more able party.”
Coll bit her nail nervously. She knew what she felt last night, the way he was acting … like he was getting closer to where she wanted to meet him. But now she was thinking not only about Nick but also Becka and ultimately Howie, and she wanted more information. No possible way that suddenly became a thing.
“I know that is scary too.” Becka said, “but look, if it comes down to it… I have faith in you that with thirty seconds or less of insane courage, you can end this torment.”
Coll looked at her curiously, “Insane courage?”
Becka smiled, “If you’re leaving here and he hasn’t said it yet - you have to do it. That’s where Angela is spot on - it’s for yourself. And I think all you’d need is thirty seconds or less of insane courage. Tell him how you feel. You know he’s going to say it back… and deep down you know it’s because he means it, not because he feels like he has to say it.” She looked across the pool for a moment, “It’s so obvious, Colleen. He’s totally into you.”
Her insides were jumbled up again, thinking about him being in her life in the way she wanted him to be. “I know he’s a bozo, but… not about you. Not about the life that has you in it.”
“I mean, what’s scarier? You’ll either fuck it up trying or fuck it up staying quiet.” She felt like she was talking more to herself than anyone else. Shit.
“Okay. Yeah, I mean…” Coll sighed, “Yeah. You’re right.”
“Look, I am so beyond happy for you. I wouldn’t encourage you to do something I didn’t know for sure you wanted to accomplish. In any case, Sometimes it’s not the pushing that’s bad, it’s the timing. It is just about finding the right time to push.”
“Alright so what happened last night? Anything you want to tell me?”
Becka sighed heavily. “Well.”
“There was kissing. But that was it.”
Becka nodded, thinking back to what had happened the night before.
They had made their way through undressing each other nearly entirely when Becka shifted away from him abruptly, placing her hand on his bare chest.
“I don’t think I can do this … all of this … with you right now.”
“Okay.” He said, scanning her face trying to get a sense of what had changed.
“It feels too soon.” At that moment she didn’t know why. It all felt unfamiliar. “I’ve done that a lot. I don’t want to do that with you.” Her voice was quiet but she felt relief throughout her body as she said it. It felt like the right thing to do.
“I swear it is actually a compliment.”
“I understand.” He said and slid a few inches away from her.
She smirked at him, “I didn’t say stop everything.”
“You slept with him didn’t you?”
“Well, yes literally I slept with him, I fell asleep, he fell asleep, we were together and sleeping.”
“You swear you didn’t have sex with him?”
“I swear.” She replied, “But i really don’t know why.” Lies. I know exactly why. She could feel Coll looking at her knowingly and casually covered her face with her hand.
“You know how Nick feels…” Coll stated her discovery.
Becka smiled. “Maybe.”
“I get it, Colleen. I need to know someone is willing to risk it for me, too. To risk getting into my mess, to risk being overwhelmed for a while, to risk sticking it out for me. I am a risk. I’m not a sure thing.”
“Someday you will be a sure thing to someone the same way Nick is to me.”
Becka’s mouth twisted into a sad smile, “My point is, Nick doesn't know he's a sure thing to you yet because he feels like he totally isn't, he feels like a risk. He feels like isn't capable. He wants to be a sure thing. He wants to know he can be. No matter how deeply you know it ... he has to feel comfortable enough to walk through your very open door.”