“Nicky.” She said happily as she looked at him over her shoulder. “Need my key.”
“Oh.” He shuffled through the things he was carrying to hand it to her. Her fingertips grazed his palm as she took it from him and couldn’t breathe for a minute.
She opened the door to her room and they walked in. She removed the towel and tossed it across the bed before heading to the closet. He took the opportunity to look at her entirely again. “I want to take a quick shower,”
Something about the way she was moving was making him nervous, “Okay.”
“I can meet you upstairs if you want.”
“I can wait.” barely. He said as he watched her moving, gathering things in her arms.
“Okay.” She smiled as she retreated into the bathroom.
He stood there looking blankly at the closed door for several minutes, his mind turning over a hundred thoughts.
She had made the first move, asking if she could stay with him that night. Why? What does it mean? And he knew he had looked at her in a much too telling way several times in the past few hours.
“Do you want to go swimming with me?” She had asked, approaching him in the dressing room after the show. Her voice was sweet and sincere like she actually wanted him to go with her. She hadn’t asked anyone else. She wanted to be with him and he could tell. The idea of going out had been floating around since after soundcheck, and everyone was excited about that plan it seemed except for her. She would have gone, she would have had fun but it wasn’t what she wanted tonight. During the show, Coll had worked up the words to ask him for what she wanted. “I know everyone is going out… but I was hoping you’d stay back with me. I don’t exactly have anything to wear for that type of thing either currently.”And when she asked him, he could tell it had been on her mind and he wanted to find out why.
Everything she had said to him in the past twenty-four hours left him reeling.
“The best version of you.” It had undone something inside of him, and it made him feel a happiness he wasn’t familiar with.
“it’s even more important to be with someone who can make it a little more exciting..” He wanted to do that.
”Sometimes you have to do some stuff to figure it out … sometimes you don’t..” He felt the weight of everything … everything she said, everything she referenced, and especially everything she had implied. It was a scramble but he wanted to untangle it more than he ever wanted anything in recent memory.
As she peeled the damp suit off her body she thought about how crazy she felt, she had asked him if she could spend the night and that felt like a massively bold move, but to sleep alone tonight would feel all wrong. For every single thing that felt so incredibly right, there was something nagging - something that felt opposed. It doesn’t matter, it’s okay if it’s a little crazy. I did something brave, and I knocked and now I will wait patiently… that’s the middle ground. But that internal timer kept running down and even if she truly wanted to wait patiently, her instincts might get the better of her.
She showered as quickly as possible, slipped into her pajamas and towel dried her hair before returning to where she had left Nick. He was looking out the window of her room when she re-entered.
“I’m all set.” She said as she ran her hands through her hair.
He turned back to her and smiled, “I have something for you upstairs, I should have mentioned it earlier, but I forgot.”
“What is it?” She asked, her stomach flipped over inside and she felt a surge of excitement.
His body felt weak. “You’ll see.” He said, his eyes glinting a brilliant shade of blue at her.
Quickly, she shoved a few things into her tote bag and they left her room to make their way to his.
He opened the door to his suite and she entered behind him. He tossed his stuff onto the table near the door and quickly went to his closet before returning with a small shopping bag. Coll recognized it from the night they went shopping. It was the extra bag he handed her when she met back up with him and Billy after telling them she was not, under any circumstances, shopping for underwear with either of them.
“These never made their way to your suitcase when we moved your stuff over.” He smiled as he handed the bag to her.
She looked at him curiously as she took the bag from him and peeked inside. “Oh my god.” She gasped, “Where did you find these?” She dropped everything else she was holding on the desktop behind her and lifted an ultra-soft set of rubber ducky pajamas out of the bag.
“They were in some other area of the store, I don’t know why.” He explained as he indulged himself in the smile on her face.
She stood there, holding the pajamas, running her hand over the soft fabric and thinking about how sweet it was that he found these and bought them for her. You have to tell him.
“Nick, Thank you.” She said simply, looking between him and the pajamas in her hands, thinking about everything he was and everything he could be. Everything. He could be everything.
“You’re welcome.” He said.
Her stamina for not doing or saying something to him about her feelings was dwindling. The longer she put it off the messier it would get. The risk of screwing up their friendship was still something she felt deeply, but ever since that night at the fountain, the risk of screwing up her chance with him in a bigger sense loomed much larger.
She inhaled deeply, trying to settle herself. “I… I love them.” She pushed some hair behind her ear and placed the pajamas back in the bag. “That was really sweet of you.” Her voice was quiet and her words sent a wave of that unidentifiable happy feeling through his body. it’s happy but it’s different…
He rubbed the back of his neck casually and told her to make herself comfortable. “I’m gonna hop in the shower.”
She nodded and he backed out of the living space slowly - enjoying the reality of looking at her right then and wanting to get back to her as soon as possible.
Once he was fully out of view she covered her face with both her hands, thinking of what to do next.
She was thrown again. Not even half an hour ago she had resolved to wait patiently, but now that felt even harder to do. How can I be patient when he is constantly doing things that stoked the fire?
She realized suddenly that if she moved quickly, she could get Becka on the phone for a brief moment of support. Quick calculations told her it was only seven o’clock in Connecticut, perfect timing for reaching her.
She walked quickly into the bedroom area of his suite where she picked up the phone on the nightstand and went through the process of dialing out internationally. She kept her eyes on the bathroom door as the phone rang, on high alert for when his shower would end and she’d have to get off the phone. She knew she didn’t have a lot of time but she hoped Becka would be able to work quickly.
“Beck, it’s me.”
“Oh my god, I’ve been emailing you for days!! Ugh it’s bad enough you left me here alone the least-”
“I am so sorry.” Coll began, cutting Becka off and wrapping the cord of the phone mindlessly around her fingers, eyes still on the bathroom door. “And I know I’m being so selfish right now calling like this and not asking how you are or anything but I need you to overlook it because I have literally maybe five minutes to talk and I need you.”
Becka smiled to herself and walked with the cordless phone to another room, “I’ll let it pass this time. What’s up? Are you okay?”
“Something is happening with Nick and I need you to please tell me what to do.”
“What’s happening? Last I spoke to you, you were happy being miserable.”
“That’s still true but I might want to move out of the miserable because I’m not doing anything with him phase and into the miserable because of other reasons phase. We have slept in the same bed like, five nights in a row. He bought me half a wardrobe. He held my hand three times and, I know... it sounds pathetic I have an exact number, he kissed me on the cheek, dove pretty deep into a discussion about me and John and I think he’s the one because I saw him at the fountain and he was perfect and I’m so confused and so sure at the same time.”
“Hmmmm,” Becka hummed, “do I have time to ask for details on any of that?”
“Is cheek kissing the extent of the physical aspect?”
“Yes, but there is ... tension.”
“Okay, so you guys are like ... what? Friends with really, super innocent benefits?”
“I guess so. I don’t know, I want more, I don’t know how much longer I can suppress myself. Tell me what to do.” She said quickly.
“Colleen, as much as I would love to tell you what to do, that’s not how it works. Which you know because I did sort of tell you what to do the other night but I’m assuming you didn’t do that...” Becka smiled to herself, “I can’t really tell you what to do especially not about this. I can only live vicariously thr-.”
“Okay, maybe you need more info. I am so sure he’s the one Becka, literally the same way that I am so sure you were always meant to be my sister. I feel so sure about what I saw and how I feel.” Coll explained, her voice strained with stressed.
“Colleen, get a grip. It’s okay. You’re in love with him.”
“Right. But I’m not sure what to do next. What do I do about being in love with him?”
“Listen, I don’t know as much as I’d like to before making any suggestions but I do know that you don’t have to be sure about every single thing right now. And, there’s no one right answer. Just go with what you feel short term.”
“I feel… crazy. I want… him. I want him, Becka. But, it’s not a short-term want. Am I supposed to tell him that?” Coll asked nervously.
“Coll, you aren’t ‘supposed to’ do anything. You’re in love with him, and that’s really exciting. But that doesn’t mean you are required to divulge everything immediately if you’re not comfortable doing that.”
“But I need to say something because I’m going to explode. You told me I should tell him but I’m not sure. Not sure how to do that or-”
“I know I told you that you should tell him, and you totally could.” Becka sighed, “But there are plenty of ways you can move forward - so you don’t have to keep yourself all tied in a knot - without dumping everything out verbally. Honestly, I’m just relieved to know you’re considering it- the night we got disconnected you sounded like you were convinced that going on forever in secret love with him would be best… which, it’s not. To leave this unsaid for now, is okay. To leave this unsaid forever… not as much.”
“Yeah, I was considering that, but that was before I knew for sure about him. That was before the fountain. That was child’s play practically compared to what I feel now.”
Becka was quiet in wide-eyed contemplation for a moment. “What about a fountain? I’m a little confused. Are you sure you only have a few minutes?”
“Yes.” Coll said, tuning back into the sound of the shower running. “I was afraid of messing up our friendship. Now I’m afraid of messing up a significant portion of my life.” “If it’s meant to be you can’t screw it up.”
“Alright, well … I get it that you’re feeling really … sure … about him. Maybe you’re unsure about how he feels about you?”
“Yes. I think I know, but yes, unsure.”
“My best advice is to focus on what you want short term, be present. If you want to spend the next five hours looking at him, do that. If you want to kiss him, kiss him. If you want to sleep in his bed, sleep in his bed. It’ll all come together. If the words aren’t there yet, it’s okay. If the situation doesn’t feel right for saying something yet, that’s okay. You have time. You can say a lot without speaking a single word.”
Coll sighed, “In that case, I’ve already said a lot.”
“You know what else?” Becka began, nearly bypassing what Coll had just said, “The relationship part of a relationship - that part where you don’t have a choice but to say things because someone is depending on you and where you have to do things because that’s the right thing and where there is a lot less of the playful stuff that gives you butterflies…. a lot less mystery... that part lasts so long. It lasts as long as your relationship. Just enjoy this stuff, Coll. Seriously it’s all good. You’ll get to the truly difficult parts, you’ll get to the part where saying what you feel directly will be the only option, but for now, you can just enjoy what it is if you want. This is butterfly time, just indulge in it. Why put all this pressure on it right now? I mean, I don’t think you’d be wrong at all to tell him, ‘Nick, I'm in love with you’ … not at all. You’d be fine to do that. And if that’s what you decide you want to do when you get off the phone with me, great! But it’s not your only option.”
Coll took a deep breath and pressed her fingertips into her forehead. “Alright. That seems fair.”
“At some point, yes, you’ll have to tell him, it doesn’t have to be now. You’re asking me what you should do and that’s what I think you should do: follow your feelings, enjoy it and don’t think everything needs to be decided today. It’ll all come out when it’s supposed to.”
“That makes sense.”
“You know I think he should know. And I think you deserve to experience telling someone you’re in love with them … on your own terms. No one else’s excitement about the prospect of your relationship with him should influence you - not even mine,” She laughed lightly. “and no one’s negative reaction to it should either. What’s important is that you feel good about it, him and what you do or say and when.”
“Which is why you have to stop asking everyone else what to do.” Becka grinned, knowing she was certainly not the only person Coll has asked.
Coll shook her head with a small smile, her eyes still locked on the bathroom door.
“Do you trust him?” Becka asked.
“Then stop overthinking and fall into it.”
“You are in love with him... you have to fall. But you’re overthinking it and you aren’t trusting yourself, so until then trust him.”
Coll smirked to herself, “Alright, I hear you.”
“This lightning-fast therapy is not really my preference. I know you better than anyone so it’s feasible in a pickle but can you call me tomorrow please?”
“I will try.”
“And check your email before you call if you can so you can compose some answers to my MANY questions which I’ll be drafting as soon as we hang up. Starting with the fountain thing and something about a wardrobe?”
“Love you too.”
Coll hung the phone up and stood there quietly, biting her nail. The shower was still running. She moved back into the living area of Nick’s suite thinking about what Becka had said as she took a seat on the couch