“There will be food. Most importantly.” Nick mused as they rode the elevator down four floors. He kept his hands in his pockets; she twirled a chunk of her hair around her finger, Billy stood attentively behind them, watching.
“You’ll be friends by the end of next week,” Nick stated randomly. Unsure who he was speaking to or which subjects were to be friends, she kept quiet.
She heard a small laugh coming from behind her and glanced over to see Billy shrug slightly. It was between them.
“I’m hoping so,” Billy said.
Coll had met all the guys at one point or another, though it had been years since she saw any of them. The reintroductions were warm and friendly. There was a palpable buzz of anticipation and excitement amongst the entire group - managers, bodyguards, dancers, producers - everyone, it seemed, understood this was something bigger than they were accustomed to. In a group this large, of this kind, seeking out the bigger, more money-making ventures was a high like no other. The curiosities scrambled around in Coll’s head; her imagination was running wild. For as fast as her imagination was moving, she still wondered if it could keep up with the impending reality of all that was to come. As she sat into an oversized swivel chair at the large conference table, her eyes scanned the room, her level of preparedness for this was, she discovered, incredibly lacking.
“Alright people, listen up, first show is tomorrow…” Jen began as the room erupted into a chorus of claps and hollers.
Jen was a woman of about 5 feet four inches in heels. Her tiny frame was no indication of her huge presence. When she spoke, they all listened. She spoke to the group for a few rambling minutes then handed it over. “Paul is going to take it from here. Tim, you can run the backup.” Referencing the tour manager and his assistant, Jen stepped aside.
There was a lot of after-meeting musing about; Coll sheepishly stuck by Nick although a bit in the background, unsure how to enter into this situation any more than she already had.
“You must be Colleen!” A young woman with long tight curls place her hand on Coll’s back as she approached Coll from behind to introduce herself.
“Hi, yes.” Coll gave her a friendly smile in return.
“Angela, great to meet you!” Angela wrapped her arms around her in a big hug.
“Oh.” Coll embraced the woman as well and tried to act natural.
“I’ve heard so much about you! Apparently, we are going to get along just fine! I can’t wait to get the inside scoop on Carter. Like, for real, we are all counting on you.” Her face was so symmetrical, her long dark hair styled just right, and her smile was dazzling.
“Oh, well, I-“
“Oh god, look at me, girl, I’m such a mess. Can’t even get my head straight. Damn, I’m one of the dancers. Figured Nick had given you a roster or something, with all these people.” She laughed, “Can’t imagine coming into this without knowing anyone. Or, just one person! But anyway, really glad to meet you. I gotta run, I’ll see you on the bus, babe!”
Coll didn’t get a chance to inquire about that before Angela was gone from sight in a flash. Fast talker, mental note taken.
As Coll turned back to find Nick, she came face to face with a different member of the entourage: A.J.
“Coll!” He gleamed. “Really, honestly glad you’re here.” He reiterated what he said earlier.
“I’m so glad to be here.”
“Let us know if you need anything.”
“Will do.” She nodded as A.J. back away from her with a small wave.
Coll watched as Nick interacted with several people who she hadn’t met yet. He seemed relaxed, confident, excited. And she felt proud of him for it. When she had seen him last year, the guys were still recording Millennium, morale was good, but no one knew what to expect. Fans were anxious. Now that the results were in, everyone seemed a bit more settled. People were feeling a bit more secure. The space they were in now was also terrifying in some ways they hadn’t even come to consider yet.
Nick finished up what he was talking about, introduced Coll to the small group, and then excused them from the conversation. He made eye contact with Billy and hung his arm around Coll’s shoulder, leading her out of the room. Billy followed behind.
“Wait, so, I met Angela,” Coll began with a small giggle, “she said something about seeing me on the bus.”
“Oh yeah, Angela. She’s cool. Thought you two would get along. Set it up so you can share a bus with her and one of our other dancers. Of course, you can crash with me any time, too, but figured you’d be more comfortable with the girls.”
“I’m up for whatever.” She smiled.
Nick laughed and assured her that was the best attitude she could have.
In the interest of self-preservation and preparedness, Coll spent the next several hours in her hotel room relaxing and continuing to get acquainted with the music Nick had preloaded on her laptop. The guys had a bunch of interviews to do during the day before rehearsal, and based on the morning meeting; she felt she better use the downtime while it was available. She wanted to be a bit more primed for rehearsal, which she agreed to attend. Nick had tried to convince her to get out and see the city, but she insisted she wanted to see the rehearsal and could venture out the next day before the show. She was also anxious to meet Brian’s fiancé Leighanne, who would be there as well.
Leighanne and Coll hit it off immediately. Brian had warned Coll playfully that one of Leighanne’s lifelong dreams was to have another ‘normal’ female on tour with them.
Even with Brian’s warning, and also withstanding the fact that Leighanne was a southern belle, Coll could not have expected Leighanne to warm to her as quickly as she did. Leighanne offered long hugs instead of handshakes, complimented Coll on even her most basic wardrobe staples, and asked questions with genuine interest. Leighanne was kind and calm and selfishly in need of a friend. They spent an hour before the show hanging around backstage, eating, drinking, and just having fun together before going out to some seats in the stadium to watch the rehearsal.
“You must be pretty used to all of this by now?” Coll asked, gesturing widely.
Leighanne shrugged, “I mean, I don’t know if you ever really get used to this.”
“How old did you say you are?”
Coll shrugged. “22. Though only as of about 50 days ago.”
Leighanne laughed, “You’re pretty put together for a 22-year-old. Maybe you’ll rub off on Carter a little.”
Coll laughed. “Let’s not set any expectations.”
Leighanne held up her cocktail to cheers Coll, “to infinite possibilities.”
Coll looked at her with a broad smile, “To infinite possibilities!” She agreed as she clicked her glass against Leighanne’s, and they both took long sips as the lights dimmed around them.