“I know.” He laughed lightly, “I’m tired too. But I don’t regret staying up all night with you… multiple nights in a row.”
She smiled as his arm slipped around her waist pulling her closer to him.
“Me neither.” She said quietly, a small smile playing on her face, “I’m glad we did.”
He was quiet but his eyes were wide and she could tell he was thinking about something - maybe something that had happened the night before.
“What?” She asked.
“Can I kiss you just a little bit?” He asked as his face closed in on hers, his nose brushing against hers. Her adrenaline began to pump again, and her body fell into a battle of instinct versus desire. She smiled at him as his lips grazed hers, waiting for an answer.
“I would be disappointed if you didn’t.” She said quietly and he kissed her softly, moving his hands around and up her back. Their legs tangled together and her arms wrapped around his.
After several minutes of making out, he asked her if she wanted to be the little spoon, she laughed at him and nodded, reeling in the good feelings kissing him always left her with.
“Too tired to show you proper snuggling tonight.” She said as he clicked the lights off and wrapped his arms around her.
“Something to look forward to.” He said quietly as they settled into their new positions.
“I thought about you a lot today.” He said as he threaded his fingers through hers, she smiled and nodded, “ I thought about you too… but I’m so sleepy.”
“It’s okay. Sleep,” he said quietly as she relaxed into him more.
He pulled her in closer to him and within a few minutes he could tell she was asleep. He stayed awake a while longer, thinking about her, the future… and all the things he had to tell her but still hadn’t.
Coll was sitting in the lounge with her laptop checking her email for the first time in well over a week as the guys prepped for soundcheck the following evening. A long ethernet cable connected her laptop to an available port that Jen had located earlier in the day and tipped Coll off about before she left the hotel. Leighanne and Andrea had gone out shopping for a while but Coll opted to stay back to continue catching up on the sleep she was still lacking. She woke up in time to take the ride to the venue with the guys - computer across her lap, new handbag perched on top, Brian to her left asking questions about her new acquisition.
The emails contained nothing of true importance other than some life updates from Becka and some photos from Melanie who was back home in Colorado. She replied to what she could and was in the middle of composing a response to Becka when a new message came through from John.
She was taken aback, her eyes darted around the room wondering what the chances of him emailing her as she was sitting there checking emails were.
Saw this and thought of you. When will you be home? Did you get my texts?
She opened the attachment, and waited patiently for it to load. Once it began to build up in front of her she was surprised to see a photo of three small dogs sitting on the footbridge in the Boston common. Immediately she remembered a moment they had together on that bridge.
“I love that about the fall though... because it gets dark out earlier and people start to notice nature more. They notice the dark, they notice the sky… it’s crazy how a little change in timing like that can make you see something you’ve known your whole life differently... That slight change in timing changes everything. I love that that’s possible.” She said as they walked across the footbridge. “I think people don’t understand how much impact timing can have.”
“Like what?” He asked.
“Anything.” She shrugged, “Like this. People don’t realize everything is the same - same place, same time of day... but completely and utterly different. They see it different, they act different toward it, they do different things because of it. Everything changes ... just because of timing.”
The memory flooded through her and it felt relevant again. Same, but completely different. She took a deep breath. Timing. She looked up and saw Nick standing with the guys, adjusting their earpieces and about the leave for soundcheck. He smiled at her before they turned to leave and she felt her heart flutter. Her cheeks flushed and she clicked out of the email and sat there quietly for a moment with her forehead in her hand.
”It’s crazy how a little change in timing like that can make you see something you’ve known your whole life differently.”
She had spent that night with him at the Pumpkin Festival, an annual event she enjoyed going to each year. He was happy to be along for the ride with her but didn’t take much interest in it himself. She delighted in the many hot apple cider options while he told her he might try a sip of hers. She wanted to take pictures of the best jack-o-lanterns while he didn’t want to get in anyone’s way doing so, and she wanted him to be her partner at the square dance pavilion but he refused.
“I’m no good at dancing.”
“John, it’s not a recital it’s just for fun, it’s hokey fun. It’s a freaking square dance. I promise no one will be watching you. Come on.” She tugged his arm and stepped in the direction of the dance floor.
“I’d really rather not.” He said. “Let’s walk to the north end instead.” He suggested with a smile. She sighed deeply and relented. He took her hand and they walked across the footbridge and out of the park.
That’s when he made the comment about how it felt like it was the middle of the night because it had been dark for hours already but in fact it was only 9 o’clock and she responded with her thoughts on the matter.
She had tried many times to pull him out of his comfort zone, and to give him a chance, but it was exhausting without reward - a completely different type of exhausting than she was experiencing with Nick.
Shaking her head free of the thoughts, closed out of his message window, she returned her attention to the email she was writing to Becka.
… OMG i just got another email from John. Did i tell you he texted me the other night and Nick got so uncomfortable about it? Sorry, I truly can’t remember if I told you or not. That was after we had a looooong conversation about John and how he was playing it safe and being boring all the time. (I did tell you about that! Right?)
She paused, suddenly fully piecing it together that what she had observed about Nick and explained to Brian was Nick playing it safe too. But he was doing it in a completely different way for a completely different reason. While John played it safe for his own good - afraid to step beyond his comfort zone, afraid to look silly - Nick was playing it safe for her sake. It was exactly what he had said that night in Spain: he didn’t want to do anything he wasn’t sure about … with her. It was why he asked her if she trusted him. It was why he felt more secure with the date night plans and less secure when they changed. It was why he was moving so slowly and hesitating - not for himself but because he cares about her and what was happening between them.
John played it safe because he didn’t want to lose her once he had her, but ultimately that was his downfall. Nick was playing it safe until he knew for sure he could give her what she wanted.
A small smile crept along her mouth as she thought about him, his hands nervously sliding under her tank top to remove it, his face nuzzling her neck in the closet … ”we don’t have to hide this…”, his arms wrapped around her in his bed the night before.
… God, Becka, I cannot wait to see you and discuss all the many, many things.
She finished sending Becka’s email, left John’s unanswered and after a few minutes she closed the laptop and wandered over to a couch across the lounge. She fell into it carelessly and sat there with her feet tucked under her, looking around the lounge as various people went about their business. She fell into a distracted state, thinking about Nick and the future. There were so many abstract fantasies she wanted to live out with him but she also wanted to enjoy what they had now. Eventually she gave in to her body’s yearning and fully laid down across the couch, feeling sleepy still but not sleepy enough to quiet her active mind.
When Nick returned from soundcheck he found Coll laying on the couch in the lounge and looked down at her curiously.
“Hey.” He said with a smile that made her feel unstable again.
“Hey.” She said. “How did it go?” She asked, bringing her hand to her forehead.
“Fine.” he laughed, “You okay?”
“Are you sure?” He asked as she sat up and he took a seat next to her.
She sighed, “Yeah, just… a little annoyed. John emailed me.” She hated that he kept popping into her life. It felt like an interruption - something that was keeping her from focusing on the things she was enjoying.
“John? Again? Why?”
She wasn’t sure what tone he was using but it had hints of frustration in it.
She shrugged, “just sent me a picture of some dogs.”
“The dogs were sitting on this bridge in Boston and he said it reminded him of me.” She ran her hands over her bare legs, realizing they were cold and she should have worn pants instead of shorts.
“Why does he try to talk to you so often?” Nick asked.
She shrugged, “I don’t know. Is it weird? Should I be worried?”
“Did you write back?” He didn’t care if he sounded too interested.
She shook her head, “No. And I didn’t respond to those texts he sent me either. I thought ignoring him would get the point across but apparently that isn’t working.”
“Maybe he thinks he still has a chance.” Nick speculated, hoping she would confirm again that he did not.
“You know he doesn’t.” She said.
He felt relieved.
The same but completely different. She swallowed back some anxiety as he looked at her.
“Maybe you should tell him you’ve moved on.” He suggested, some happy undertones in his voice.
She could feel her pulse quicken. “What would I say?”
“I’m ... seeing someone else.” His eyes met hers and she felt her back go weak.
They stared at each other. “Tell him about me.” He smiled. “Whatever you want.”
She could tell her eyes widened more than she wanted them to, her mind was fuzzy again. “Wh-“
“Nick let’s roll.” Brian yelled to him. “Meet and greet tonight.”
He grinned at her as he got to his feet again, “Whatever you want.”
He hurried off leaving her sitting there wondering what the hell it meant. ”whatever you want.”
She groaned and slid deeper into the couch again as she watched him leave the lounge.
Whatever I want to call it? Or whatever I want it to be? Or just tell him whatever I want?
The room was spinning a bit, she closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. ”Tell Him about me.”