Their conversations stayed mostly casual and short, to leave as much time for kissing as possible.
After their last show in Barcelona, they boarded Nick’s bus for the trip to Madrid overnight. They had spent so much time on buses in the past week, but their new status, though undefined, made it much more enjoyable.
“What are you going to do after graduation?” Nick asked, looking at Coll who was sitting with her knees pulled into her chest against his headboard. He was laying next to her and reached out for her hand as the bus moved steadily along a long stretch of highway.
“No clue.” She shook her head, as she placed her hand in his, “I don’t know what I want … to do.”
“You want to write.”
“Yeah but for who? About what? From where?”
He smiled, “You’ll figure it out. Or,” he looked at her, “something will come up.”
“Hopefully.” She sighed, “maybe I’ll just start a blog or something. Like a web page? I don’t know. What are you doing next summer?”
“I’m sure whatever it is I’ll have no choice about it.” He began, as he rolled his thumb over her knuckles., “At least you’ll have a choice.”
She nodded, “I guess… you have options in almost every other way though.” As she finished her phone started beeping across the room..
“Is that you?” She asked.
“I think that’s yours.” He smiled and pulled her down to lay next to him, kissing her once she was close enough.
“I don’t know, doesn’t matter.” She waved it off, “Will you have a lot of time off after the tour?” She asked, wrapping her arm around his waist.
“I am not sure.”
“I mean, seriously, they have to let you off for a while, right? Hopefully.”
“Normally I wouldn’t mind either way.”
“Normally?” She asked as the phone beeped again.
“I really think it’s yours.”
“If it is, it’s not important.”
“It’s distracting me from what is though.” He said as his eyes locked on hers as he slid out of the bed and crossed the room to check his own phone. “Not mine.”
“Ugh, check mine then, it’s in that bag right there.”
He watched as she sat up on the edge of his bed and tucked some hair behind her ear.
He reached into her bag and pulled her phone out. A small red light in the corner was flashing.
“It says you have two new texts.” He explained, reading off the front of the screen.
He flipped the phone open for more info. His heart sank.
She rolled her eyes, “What do they say?” It wasn’t worth getting up over.
“You want me to read them?” he asked, looking up at her.
He clicked into the first one and opened it.
- walked by the common 2day - thought abt the pmpkin fest. We had so much fun that nt. I miss snuggling w/ U like that. sorry 2 bother u. I thought U should know.
He felt anxiety stirring up inside as he previewed it.
He clicked into the next one.
- Not sure where ur at w/ it but i’d love 2 see u when u get home 2 boston. can go 2 that thai place u love.
Home to boston. It was a reminder that her life mostly exists without him in it.
“What does it say?” Coll asked.
“It's kind of long.”
She rolled her eyes. “Just read it."
“Umm…” He began, trying to suppress the sinking feeling it all gave him.
Her tangled up in bed with someone else.
The reality that her life was in Boston, away from him.
The fact that John knew what her favorite Thai place was while he had no ocassion to know it....
He knew her past, he knew who she was. But he still had a lot to catch up on about the present, who she is today, who she could be, who she wanted to be. He knew suddenly that if anyone was going to have her future, he wanted it to be him.
“Seriously. Nick. What’s wrong?” She asked nervously as she got up and met him where he was standing, dumbfounded and anxious. “You look like there is a crisis.”
“No. No, nothing…” He said as she took her phone from him and read the messages herself.
“Oh good grief…” She moaned as she clicked through the messages. “Whatever.” She closed the phone and tossed it back into her bag. “Actually, wait.” She took a step closer to the bag and pulled the phone back out again and powered it fully off..
“Maybe you were wrong about him…” Nick said as Coll put the phone back into her bag and began walking to the bed.
“Maybe he is in love with you for real.” He said as he followed her.
“He’s not,” She said plainly. “And it doesn’t matter either way.” She sighed. “He might be- or he might think he is- in unrequited ‘love’ with me … but like I said, that is a hard place to be, I would imagine.” Even though she didn’t have to imagine, she knew it was both good and bad from the past few weeks. Though, she was nearly positive what she was experiencing with Nick now was not unrequited, even if they didn’t define it as love out loud yet. “Maybe it feels okay for a little while - it might even feel good.” She had to admit it did, she knew that much from her own experience, But over time, that will drive you crazy. “So maybe he likes chasing me around or whatever. It doesn’t matter.” She sighed and shook her head clear of the thought. “In any event, it is none of my business. But I must have underestimated the snuggling…” She trailed off with a smile, flirting with him.
“Are you going to call him?” He asked as he sat next to her against the headboard.
She took a deep breath and moved beyond feeling slighted that he did not pick up on her mention of the snuggling. Men… “No, why would I? I told you how I feel about him.” Her eyebrows furrowed together as she looked at him again.
“Well, when you get home… to Boston.”
“No. I’m not going to call him.” She smiled at him, realizing he hated the idea of her having anything to do with John, surprised he felt at all bothered by it. “I don’t wanna talk about it anymore.”
“What do you want to talk about?”
“I don’t want to talk anymore. At all. About anything.” She explained and crept in closer to him.
“Oh.” He smiled as she leaned in, placed her hand on the back of his neck, and kissed him.
Everything about her was surprising him. The fact nearly every day she did something that was more forward than he ever expected she would be, the fact that she hadn’t asked any serious questions about what was going on between them - about what they were doing - the fact she hadn’t called him out on not doing so either yet… and especially the fact that she hadn’t stopped him or put up any resistance at all the previous night when he nervously slid her tank top over her head.
Even though it took every ounce of self-control he had in him to leave it at that, he was nearly positive she would have let him go further. But just in case that wasn’t so, he couldn’t bring himself to risk messing it up and pushing her away. He didn’t understand it. He didn’t understand her. But he loved both.
She easily slid into him when he put his arm around her empty waist and pulled her in closer to him after she had drifted too many inches away. When he kissed her bare shoulder, she smiled at him in a way he was sure no one ever had before. And when he told her she was gorgeous she responded by simply saying thank you. She didn’t ask him to validate something she was insecure about, she didn’t point out something she thought was wrong with her, she didn’t dig for anything. Like what he had said was enough. Like she wanted to cherish it rather than interrupt it.
Before he knew the things he only recently learned, he hadn’t thought much about her personal life. In the abstract sense, he just expected she had experienced certain things. Now that he knew she hadn’t, the picture was blurrier. She seemed comfortable with him and he was beginning to think she might want more. But he still felt intimidated. She had hinted at things she had done with John or others, and she had explicitly stated that she had done nearly everything else …. but by default, he was thinking of her as innocent and pure. She was already completely different from anyone he’d ever been with or imagined being with, and combined with the facts, the surprises and the mysteries he was overwhelmed by her. She fascinated him.
For as much as he was terrified of getting as close to her as he really wanted to for fear of messing it up entirely and pushing her away, she was just as intimidated by the situation. She tried not to let it show. She tried to play it cool. She didn’t want him to feel obligated to her. She didn’t want to put too much pressure on him to do or not do anything. She knew she had already revealed too much and simultaneously, had barely scratched the surface of what she wanted him to know. The dualities were countless.
Every time she felt like she just had to ask for more clarity as if she simply could not go on not telling him she was in love, he did something to make her feel like there was no question he felt the same way, and it tempered her. Reaching out for her hand, smiling at her as he came off stage every night, kissing her collarbone, asking her about her life, sliding his hands under her shirt and up her sides, talking about the future and putting himself in it… it felt real. On the other hand, it felt precarious and she didn’t want to disrupt a good and possibly fragile thing with talking. Real and fragile. Revealed too much but haven’t said enough…
“Do you want to go out tonight? Without Billy?” Nick asked as the two of them shuffled around the back part of the bus getting ready the next morning.
She stopped what she was doing and looked at him curiously, thinking. “No show tonight?” She couldn’t keep track anymore.
He shook his head.
Her eyes narrowed, “Will Jen allow such a thing? Is there enough time to submit my application and obtain the proper permission?” She asked sarcastically.
“I’m serious though.”
“I would love to go out. Without Billy.” She said, “I just don’t want you to get in any trouble. With Jen or otherwise.” she began.
“What’s she going to do to me?” He said, coming to stand in front of her.
Coll shrugged, “I mean, she barely wanted Leighanne to run out for groceries last week. And let's not forget she made little old me the subject of an entire group meeting.”
He laughed lightly remembering how mortified she looked sitting across the table from him that day.
“It was eons ago but I do remember when I first got here you told me it was too much effort to leave the hotel.”
“I mean, yeah, it is sometimes. But, I have a better lay of the land now. And sometimes it’s worth it.” His eyes were glinting at her again.
“So when we went out in London, you-“
“Actually had no idea what I was doing? Correct.”
“And when you suggested going out in Italy-“
“Would have happily taken the risk.”
She smiled, “I see.”
“But we did go out, we just had Billy with us which is like, how it’s supposed to be. So we only broke the rules once.”
“And you want to break them again.” She stated with a smirk.
“Correct.” He said. “For a good cause.”
“Taking you out.”
Her eyes lit up, “I mean, I love that. But is it actually dangerous? For you?”
He shrugged. “I know it IS crazy at times when we go in and out of places, but the chances of someone recognizing me
without knowing I’m going to be there … seem low. Also, don’t you sort of think that bringing a bodyguard around makes it more obvious?”
“I guess I do, yeah.”
“So unless you tell me you’re worried about it, I’m good.”
Even if it would make her the subject of another group meeting, she didn't care. “I’m good.” She smiled.
“Just don’t tell anyone.”
“If i make him think we are just staying in, he won’t bother us.”
“I’m just following your lead.”
He moved in closer, placing his hands on her face. It was absolutely and unconditionally her new favorite thing.
“Just be ready at 8:30.”
She nodded as he leaned in to kiss her.