“It’s gonna be right there in my notebook next to my walkman. I swear.”
“I believe you, I just wanna see it.”
“Okay. You know that you believing me means you shouldn’t have to see it, though, right?” She laughed lightly as she pushed her door open.
“Alright, you don’t always have to be so smart.” He smiled.
Nick followed her into the room, and she went straight to where she knew the pass would be. She plucked the notebook up off the desk, flipped open to the spread the pass was hiding in. She pulled it out and held it up to show him.
“Look. Happy?” She asked.
Well that’s kind of a loaded question. “I am.” He said.
She tossed the pass back down on the desk and proceeded to take her sweater off and throw it on to a nearby chair. She slipped her sandals off and ran her hand through her hair.
“You are welcome to hang out, but I’m putting my pajamas on.” She giggled as she grabbed some articles of clothing up off the dresser and headed to the bathroom.
“You want me to?” He asked, trying to hide his nerves.
She turned back to look at him, she hated him again for standing there, looking gorgeous and like he was very interested in what she wanted. It definitely has to mean something.
She was exhausted, but her interest in spending time with him was able to override it.
The surge of pure delight in the idea of him being there with her was all that mattered. “Of course.” She smiled.
He dropped his duffle bag to the floor, relieved.
As she closed the bathroom door behind her, she tried to shake her emotions off. She talked herself through acting normal, being his friend, keeping things based in reality ... but as she looked at herself in the mirror, she knew she was in too deep. She knew she was stepping further into a murky puddle of complications by letting him be close to her and enjoying it in this way. She also knew deep down, that for as much as on paper, it sounded complicated and messy, the fact she was still interested in being with him meant it must be real. No one voluntarily jumps into something messy like that unless they have to. And she had to ... but not yet. For now, she could just indulge herself and play it cool. But she knew, eventually, she’d have to jump.
“I know that nothing of particular interest is on right now, but in general, I think the TV here is better than it is at home. The character development is better. The comedy is well-timed… different, but good.” She commented as they both watched the screen while Nick flipped through channels randomly. She was propped up on her elbow, leaning into her pillows. He was sitting casually next to her.
“How much TV did you watch?” He asked with a laugh.
“I know, I know, I am terrible… at being young and in Europe.” She yawned.
“Do you want me to go so you can sleep?” He asked.
She looked at him and shook her head. “Just stay.” She said, surprising herself as the words came out.
He tried to stifle the smile that wanted to cross his face, “okay.” He agreed.
She shifted her body to slip further under the covers and reclined back deeper into her pillows, turning toward him more.
He turned the TV and the lights off, the room fell dark and quiet. He nervously slid into a more comfortable position next to her.
Her body relaxed fully, and she wondered how it was possible - to be in bed with someone you’re in love with, without them knowing, and feel relaxed instead of full of butterflies. But it didn’t matter- she was lucky, having him there in her bed again, the exact thing she didn’t know she needed right then, even if he had no idea, even if it was just them laying together, sleeping. It didn’t matter - he was there.
“Goodnight, Snickers.” She said quietly, recalling an old nickname she hadn’t used for him in several years.
A warm euphoria pulsed through his body as he smiled widely and laughed lightly in the dark.
“Goodnight, Coll.” He said as a strong, happy undercurrent flowed beneath his words.
Her heart skipped several beats out of rhythm, and she hid her smile under the covers.
Nick had to be up early for some press events the guys were doing before the show, but he woke up before the alarm. He disabled it so it wouldn’t wake Coll, and slowly he slipped out of her bed.
He stayed as long as he could, lingering in her room, observing her space, enjoying the tranquility of her aura. When it was finally time to leave, he made mention of the fact that he was going, but Coll slept through it entirely. He closed the door behind him as quietly as possible and made his way to the elevator, duffle bag hung over his shoulder, smiling as he walked.
“Dude!” Brian exclaimed as the elevator opened, and he saw Nick standing there, about to get on.
“I was just at your door.”
“Oh,” Nick said, shyly.
“Were you… with someone?” He asked, confused… wouldn’t he still be in his own room?
“Um… yeah.” That was a safer answer than the truth.
“Oh.” Brian nodded, and they stood there quietly together. “Was Coll okay last night?”
“Yeah. She’s good.” Nick nodded with a smile, hanging his head and covering his mouth with a superfluous hand movement, trying to hide it from Brian but failing.
“Billy was pissed.”
Test that again… “But I’m glad Coll’s alright,” Brian stated, using her name again.
Nick smiled again and shifted from one foot to the other, running his hand through his hair, “Me too.”
By the time Coll checked her email the following morning, she had a four-page message from Becka in her inbox. She opened it, scrolled through quickly, picking up a few bits of it.
Cut out?? …in love … happy!…
Nick… Mandy? college….
your career? …. hotel rooms? tour….
happier? ….CALL ME.
She sighed as Angela came up from behind her and sat down at the adjacent computer in the business center. Quickly she closed the email from Becka and turned to face Angela.
“What’s up? We have so much to discuss. Mandy!? Oh my god. Also, I heard about last night.”
Coll’s stomach dropped. “What happened last night?” She asked, unsure what Angela had heard.
“That you fell asleep in the parking lot?” Angela reminded, “Damn, you forgot?”
“Who gives you your info?” Coll narrowed her eyes at her as Angela laughed lightly.
“Again, I would like to hear these things from you! But you disappeared yesterday. Anyway, though, I heard that one from Howie. He also told me about Mandy.” She replied as she began to connect to the internet.
“Okay, first of all, I got locked out of the building without a pass, and THEN I fell asleep while I waited like, an hour or more for someone to come out the door.” She rolled her eyes, remembering the situation.
“Traumatic,” Angela said sarcastically.
“Just want to be clear I didn’t go out to the parking lot for an intentional nap. I went to make a phone call.”
“Understood.” Angela nodded, “And it was A.J. who told me about the virginity thing.”
“Of course it was.” Coll roller her eyes.
“What’s your plan for the day?” Angela asked.
Coll rubbed her forehead, “I don’t have one.”
“Come shopping with me!! We can catch up over shoes.”
“Okay.” Coll smiled, “But honestly, where are you putting shoes? My bag is so full.”
“If I find something that won't fit, I'll ship it home to mom.” Angela laughed.
Coll nodded, “Clever.”
“We only have a few hours, but that’s enough. I assume you are skipping the show tonight?” Angela smiled.
“That part I did plan on, yeah.”
“Alright, let me just check this real quick, then we can pop back to my room for my bag and head out. Do you need to do anything before we go?”
“Nope,” Coll said, patting her bag that was on the chair next to her. “Ready to go.” She had planned on escaping so somewhere for the day, but that was as far as she got. Angela’s offer was good enough.
“You better be ready to talk, too.”
Coll considered what her options were with baring her soul to Angela as she followed Angela back to her room. She could go ahead and tell her and avoid Angela picking up some twisted version of the story from someone else, or she could continue to play it off. Both felt uncomfortable, but the former seemed like a better option. Becka knowing her little secret was one thing, but Angela was here - flesh and blood - and that was a comfort. She was also pretty sure the Angela honestly already knew.
“I know you are already on to me so, here’s the deal….and, wait, you cannot repeat this to anyone.” Coll began, taking a deep breath, as she and Angela left the hotel.
“Oh my god.” Angela squealed. “Okay, I’m so ready.” Already knowing what she was going to say, Angela just couldn’t wait to hear her actually say it.
Coll rolled her eyes, “I had to call Becka last night because I could not sit through the rest of that song, the rest of the show…” She sighed. “It’s pure torture sometimes. It’s crazy, I don’t know what happened.”
“I dooooo!!!!” Angela clapped her hands together. “You have the feelings!!!”
Coll smiled, “It’s terrible and awful, and it feels amazing and confusing and horrible and excellent.”
“Wow, yup, you’ve got ‘em good.” Angela nodded, still smiling widely, patting Coll on the back as they strolled along the sidewalk. “You’re in total love with him, I knew it.”
“I didn’t,” Coll admitted.
“Well, now what??” Angela asked excitedly.
Coll shrugged. “That’s my problem.” She sighed heavily, “He slept in my bed last night.”
“WHAT?” Angela gasped with a laugh.
“Literally just sleeping, don’t get too excited.”
“Damn, girl. Are you moving fast or slow? I can’t tell.”
“Me neither.” Coll said, “All I know is…falling asleep next to him was so wonderful. Like, so relaxing. And waking up without him there was a bummer…. God, I hate him so much.”
“Damn, girl, you are IN IT.” Angela laughed, “You should tell him how you feel!!”
“He doesn’t feel the same way about me, I don’t want to put myself through that.”
“How do you know he doesn’t?”
“Well, I don’t. I thought I did for sure, but now I’m less sure. He was so freaked out last night. Like, why? That has to mean something…? But then, he had his opportunities to do or say something - and he didn’t. He was IN. MY. BED. Angela. We know he knows how to get what he wants when it comes to women, so I’m guessing he just doesn’t want it.”
“You really think he’s gonna do same with you as he does with anyone else?” Angela asked, surprised.
“Why wouldn’t he?”
“Colleen, you are not the usual situation, especially now that he knows - which reminds me… we also need to back up and talk about this whole waiting for marriage thing you’ve got going.”
Coll’s eye got wide, “Okay, seriously, who told you that?” Coll asked, frustrated.
“I told you, A.J.!”
“That’s not what I said. That’s not what’s happening.”
“Okay, see this is why you need to just tell me things yourself.”
“There are no rules. I’m not ‘waiting for marriage’ … I’m waiting for the right situation, with the right person.” Coll explained. “But you’re right… now that he knows that there’s no possible way…” She trailed off.
“No, Coll, that’s not what I mean… also, that is NOT how it works.” Angela stated. “What are you learning at that college??”
For the next two hours, while Angela tried on shoes and sunglasses in various places across the city, Coll lamented and vented her frustrations with herself and the reality of the situation she was now in. Angela offered as much assurance as she could and encouraged Coll to let things unfold naturally. She also expressed concern for Coll as a post-Mandy rebound and dug for more clues.
Angela left Coll at her room before heading to her own room to shower in time to leave for the venue. She gave her a strong hug and assured her again that the secret was safe with her.
“Thanks for tolerating me all day.”
“You’re fine, I love you.”
Coll smiled, “Have fun tonight.”
“I’ll see you at breakfast.”
After a long shower and a nap, Coll returned to the business center to email Becka back.
Hey, Sorry about last night. My phone died. Remind me to tell you more about that someday.
If it had not died, I would have told you that I was positive he did not have any similar feelings for me, but now I’m not sure.
Please don’t worry about me, or about this, I’m so happy in my torment.
I know I sounded like a mess, but, Becka, I swear I’ve never felt bliss like this before. It is messy, and I know that. On paper, it sounds like it would be an even bigger mess, it would be hard and risky to be in a relationship with him, but I still want it. I want him. And if I’m still interested even after recognizing how hard and weird and risky and crazy it would be to get into this, it must be real.
I don’t know what’s happening. He slept in my bed last night. It was pure bliss.
I’m just going to enjoy what it is right now. Please don’t tell mom. She counts as one of the living beings you are not to utter a single word of this about.
I’ll call you when I can.
Let me know if you are for sure coming out!
Coll reviewed her rough draft of the email once, then again, making edits each time. Then a third edit for good measure. It felt too permanent to get into precise details. Her final draft to Becka was much slimmer and didn’t mention the word “relationship” or her sentiments about wanting him. She could delete them from the email, but they were indelible in her being.
She sent it off and hung her head, holding her forehead in her hands.