“Hey,” Coll said casually. “Sorry, didn’t bring my key with me when I left.”
“Heyyy!” Becka smirked, still very sleepy looking but very interested. “Did you take anything when you left?” She asked, looking at Coll’s bare feet.
“No. I was in a rush.” Coll mumbled as she moved into the suite and quickly made her way to the bed.
“Oh. So… where’d ya go?” Becka asked as she closed the door.
“Take a wild guess.” Coll said as she got into bed and pulled the covers up to her chin.
“Now I need to sleep for real. If you want to go out we can I just need a couple hours. It’s still early anyway.” She explained as she glanced at the clock: 06:07.
Becka laughed lightly, “I am fine. But really what happened?”
Coll shook her head and covered her face with her hands. “I couldn’t sleep. Of course I couldn’t sleep. I went to Nick’s room to tell him everything. To tell him I’m in love with him and ... everything.”
Becka’s eye got wide. “Oh my god. What did he say?”
“No, I mean... that’s what I went there for. That’s not what happened.”
“You didn’t tell him?”
She shook her head.
“What?? Why not?”
“I got … distracted.”
“Becka, I am so, so deep in this. But he has no idea.”
“I’m sure he has some idea...”
“Maybe a little after last night.”
“Okay so what happened?” She asked as she sat on the edge of the bed.
“It involved very little clothing.” Coll said matter of factly.
“I’m listening.” She sat up a little straighter.
“I told him I wanted more and that I didn’t want to go back and that he’s amazing and…” She paused, thinking back to his mouth all over her skin. She swallowed hard, “God, it was so good.” She said, remembering everything she felt the night before.
Becka looked at her with a soft smile and her eyebrows raised.
“What?” Coll asked.
“No, nothing. Go on.”
“It’s okay, you can say whatever you want.” Coll said as she adjusted the pillow under her head.
Becka sighed, “What changed your mind about wanting to tell him?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I was laying here, wide awake because I took that four hour nap… and I just felt like I had to tell him something real, my whole thing about him feeling obligated and responsible is me projecting that onto him. I just wanted to say something real.” She explained, “And I just kept thinking about everything… everything that’s happened, everything that everyone has said…”
Becka nodded, thinking it over briefly, “Well, you didn’t tell him you’re in love with him but it sounds like you actually did tell him some real things… which is what you wanted.”
“What do you mean?
“You told him you wanted more…”
Coll nodded, “I really do feel like this is all mutual, I just really, really want to know for sure where he stands.”
“Of course.” Becka said quietly, tracing a shape on the comforter with her finger, trying her very best to listen and not give advice.
“We are both beating around the bush.” Coll sighed, “I started to say it… but what I ended up with was ‘i love kissing you’ - which is also real but, epically lame to say.”
Becka giggled, “I think that’s endearing.”
Coll pressed her hand into her forehead, “He said some things, too.”
“He said he wanted to be someone and that he wanted me to have perfect things. And I understood that … what that really means.”
Becka smiled, “He wants to be perfect because that’s what you deserve and he doesn’t think he is.”
“Right. He is playing it safe until he’s sure he can give me what he knows I want. I’m positive that is what’s happening. He told me in Spain … he doesn’t want to do anything he isn’t sure about.”
“No, I get it. I get why he is doing that.”
“So now you’re back to waiting, too.”
“I trust him. I trust that he is going to tell me what he wants me to know when he is ready for me to know it.” She resolved, “that’s what I’m sticking with.”
Becka was quiet for a moment, “Okay, then we are trusting him.” She nodded.
“Also, I told him that ‘perfect for me’ has nothing to do with being perfect at all. Should I have elaborated?”
“By telling him he’s perfect for me!” She stated, frustration in her voice.
“Well, I think the implication was there, Coll.” She giggled.
“I know, I know.” She closed her eyes briefly, “I have to just… stick with that. I’m sticking with that.”
“I just get confused or, like, I don’t know… when I think about it too much or think about what everyone has told me about it.”
“Honestly, you probably need to stop talking about it so much with everyone else, it IS confusing you. Too much input. But just so I understand… I know what I’ve said, I know what Brian has said… and Angela. Who else is giving you advice?”
“Brian has actually never given me advice. He’s given me ... proverbs.” She laughed. “That long corridor of life thing was ... really unexpectedly deep.”
“I know, I know, but who else?”
“What did A.J. say?”
“He said I have nothing to be afraid of.”
Becka narrowed her eyes. “With Nick?
Coll nodded. “With telling him. Specifically with telling him that I’m in love with him. But, maybe … all of it. I don’t know. I think he was frustrated.”
Beck sighed heavily as she stood up and rounded the corner of the bed before getting back into it. She reminded herself that the best thing she could do for Coll was support her - not try to guide her to any other decisions, just support the ones she already made. But she still has options.
“Well, you can always change your mind. There’s always time.”
Becka looked at her curiously.
“After you leave, I have eight days til my flight back to Boston.”
After three live TV interviews during which Nick participated at the absolute bare minimum, Jen decided it was time to find out why.
Before she could get to the dressing room, the guys were already taking care of it for her.
The four of them were speaking around him as he sat with his head in his hand.
“I don’t care that you’re quite, honestly. I get it - there’s a lot going on.” Howie stated.
“I don’t care either I just want to know what’s up.”
“Are you planning on telling her how you feel any time soon, or…?” A.J. asked.
“Oh, this is a Coll thing?”
“You haven’t told her?”
Brian went into defense mode. “Guys, come on…”
“Nick- dude, this is crazy. The two of you are dense!” A.J. exclaimed, “You can’t drag this on with her.”
“Guys don’t bug him.” Brian pleaded.
“I’m just trying to find out what’s going on.” Kevin said cooly.
“He’s in love with her but he won’t tell her.” A.J. explained.
“Dude!” Nick exclaimed.
“Why don’t you want to tell her?” Kevin asked.
Nick sat there quietly, bent over his knees, squeezing the bridge of his nose.
“She’s a virgin.”
“That’s really kind of personal, I-” Brian tried to speak but was overrun.
“She told us.” Howie defended.
“She was really open about it, actually.” A.J. added. “Nick, dude how long has it been…?”
“Guys!” Brian yelled, “Don’t be disrespectful.”
“Rok, chill. She totally did not hide it at all, she spoke about it for a while with me.” A.J. explained.
“She did?” Kevin asked.
“Yeah, she was really chill about it. She wasn’t shy at all.”
“I like her, she’s good for you.” Howie nodded in Nick’s direction as Nick lifted his gaze to look at them.
“Yeah, if you screw this up we are getting rid of you and keeping her.” Kevin laughed.
“Ideally, we can keep both.” Brian mentioned.
A.J. adjusted his sunglasses, “She’s super hot, dude.”
“Guys.” Brian sighed, “Come on, she’s-”
“Maybe he just needs a little encouragement.” Kevin said, interrupting Brian again.
Brian sighed heavily and looked at Nick who just shook his head.
Kevin looked between Nick and Brian for a minute before continuing, “Are you sleeping with her?” Kevin asked quietly.
“No, but he wants to be.” A.J. interjected.
“J…” Nick lamented.
“I don’t blame you or anything.” A.J. shrugged, “She’s gorgeous. A little mysterious though...”
“Dude.” Brian glared at him.
“When are you going to talk about the fact that she’s leaving? You’re not seriously going to pull your same usual shit with her, are you?”
“What day is she leaving?”
“Yeah, how much time do you have?”
“I don’t want to say anything until I’m sure.” Nick finally said. Brian perked up a bit having heard it.
“Sure about what?” Howie asked.
“Oh you’re sure...”
“I mean - sure I can do it.” He said sadly.
“Do what?” Brian asked, anxious to know more.
“Do everything the right way. Give her what she wants, the way she wants it.”
She was right.
Brian sat there thinking back to what Coll said that night after Leighanne’s birthday. The fact that Coll understood Nick before he did and that she was exactly right about it surprised him enough that he was silent in his contemplation.
“And I don’t know what I would even say at this point or when.. or how…”
“I do!” Howie raised his hand. “How about… Colleen, I’m in love with you…?”
“Or a more casual, ‘Collypop, I’m in love with you’ whatever...” Brian said happily, unable to stay out of it, excited by the very real prospect of this working out for the two of them.
“I don’t want to say anything unless I know for sure I can follow through.” Nick explained, quickly realizing he had already said things to her that he had no fear of following through on. “This doesn’t have to be a secret.”
“Why couldn’t you?”
“That’s an excuse and you know it. That’s logistics.” Kevin began.
“First of all, if that was true, why are you in the predicament you’re in with Kristen? And also… cover what?”
“Hey don’t bring Kristen into this! You’re scared because you don’t want to mess it up.”
“Is that so horrible?”
“What would mess it up is you not telling her and pulling your same usual shit. And-“ A.J. began but was interrupted.
“Nick,” Brian Stood up from the chair he was sitting in, before Nick could respond, “You love her. We all know that. You’ve never had that before - it’s pretty obvious this is something different. You can’t compare it- don’t use the other experiences to compare it - it’s totally different. You’ve already done everything different with her and she-”
“Nick!” Jen’s voice came across the room and everyone got quiet and looked at her, having not noticed her standing there for the past several minutes. “A minute please?”
The four of them stood quietly as Nick got to his feet and followed her to the hall.
“Details.” She said as she leaned against a wall, clutching a padfolio to her chest.
Jen smiled, “Coll is wonderful. I actually really like her. I don’t share ethernet information with just anyone... I’m happy for you.”
“But, I need you to be on when you’re on. I know, you’re tired and busy, and in puppy love which is super cute and all of that… but, that’s what I need.”
“I know.” He nodded.
“Don’t make me pull out the big guns…” She looked at him with her eyes wide. He shook his head with a small smiled. “So what are we going to do?” She asked.
She watched as he fidgeted, running his hand through his hair.
“Why is everyone involved in this?” He asked even though he already knew that everyone was always involved in everything.
“Aside from the fact that we are all living on top of each other and it’s unavoidable, I’m pretty sure it’s because of what everyone said in there… she’s good for you and because everyone can see the impact.” She smiled as she backed away from him. “You don’t have anything to be afraid of.” She turned and continued walking, leaving him there alone as people went about their business around him.