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Author's Chapter Notes:


ColleenPea (will i ever tire of calling you that?!),

Missing you like crazy! Miss our pizza dates and late night chats.

Just wanted to tell you I’m heading back to Boston a little earlier than originally planned. Mark found me a gig at that cute club in Cambridge - but they want me to come in for training earlier so I can be up to speed for when the college kid invasion happens. Makes sense… plus it’s way too hot here in the CO! When will you be back? PUHLEASE send me pictures!! PLEASE.

Also not sure if you care or whatever the status is but I heard from John today. Thought it was about league but it turned out to actually be about you… he asked me if I had spoken to you and when you’d be back. I said I had spoken to you a couple times but wasn’t sure of your plans. He said he never hears back from you…so i guess he has tried a few times?? I refrained from telling him to leave you alone but, just say the word and I’m on it.

Anyway, that’s the story from over here. Cannot wait to see you again real soon. Senior year!!!?



P.S. your away message still says you are studying for finals haha.


“You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.” Andrea mentioned casually from across the table as she chomped into a baby carrot while watching Coll click through her emails.

“Huh?” Coll said snapping back to attention, licking her lips. “What’s up?”

“Nothing. What’s up with you?”

“No, nothing.” She said quickly as she navigated to her away message to change it. She stared at the text for a moment.

ColleenPea is away: “studying for finals like you probably should be, too.”

It was a relic from a past life. It felt so far in the past.

She dragged the cursor across the text and deleted it.

The text marker blinked back at her again, she wasn’t sure what to write. It had been forever since she composed even a single meaningful sentence.

“Ohh updating your away message finally…” Becka commented as she returned to the table with a cup of coffee, catching a glimpse of Coll’s screen in the process.

“Why didn’t you tell me it still said something about finals?”

“Honestly thought you knew.”

“I really didn’t. Whatever. I’m never on anyway so… ”

“What are you changing it to?” Angela asked from her place beside Andrea. “I know it’s like… a big deal. Agonized over mine before coming out here.”


“I’m a little over the top but you love me.” Angela grinned, making Andrea giggle.

Coll shook her head with a smile, “True enough. I was thinking just to leave it blank.”

“You can’t do that!”


“People will think you’re dead!” Becka exclaimed.

“Why are you so dramatic?”

“I mean… I was kidding.”

“How about the classic standby… song lyrics.” Angela giggled. “BSB song lyrics!”

“Oh, good idea.” Becka agreed.

“What? No. I’m not seventeen… or thirteen.”

“I vote for BSB lyrics.” Andrea giggled, raising her hand.

“Please tell me that’s not what you did.” Coll cringed.

“Open up your heart to me, And say what is on your mind’ … “ Angela sang with faux emotion. “That’s a good one.”

“What song is that from?” Coll asked, “Also, again, no. I’m not doing that. That sounds like an invitation to talk to me not an away message.”

ColleenPea is away:

| going somewhere | unknown destinations | infinite possibilities |

Feeling satisfied, she logged off and shut the computer down before standing up and leaving the lounge quickly without saying a word.

Andrea, Becka and Angela watched her go and shrugged at each other as she left.

“She’s in this so deep.” Becka said.

“Yup.” Andrea smiled.

Angela nodded aggressively.

Coll made her way to hair and makeup where she was surprised to see Nick getting his hair trimmed.

They smiled at each other as she appeared in front of him, gently placing her hand on his knee.

“Hey, what’s up?”He asked happily.

“I just wanted to see you.” She said sweetly as she leaned back against the vanity in front of him.

He looked at her and reached out for her hand and used his thumb and forefinger to twist her silver ring around her finger. It made her spine tingle.

“I need to borrow someone’s digital camera so I can send a photo to Melanie.”


“She’s been asking all summer.”

“I have my camera.” Tami interjected motioning to her bag mid snip. “I’m almost done here, feel free!”

“Oh, thank you!” Coll smiled and took Tami up on her offer, reaching into her open tote bag and grabbing the camera. “Mind if I take a few practice shots so I’ll be ready when you’re done with him?”

“Go for it. The beauty of digital.”

“Might have to have you take one of us, Tami.” Coll said as she messed with some of the settings and took a few practice snaps.

She moved to bend down next to Nick and held the camera out in front of her. “Smile, Carter.” She said with a laugh as she leaned in closer to him.

They both smiled and she snapped the photo quickly.

“What are the chances that turns out?” He laughed.

“Pretty terrible.” She giggled as she flipped the camera around to check. Their tiny faces appeared on the screen and she realized that was the first photo she’d ever seen of them the way they were now. His face was bright and playful and she looked happy and relaxed. “This is actually cute.” She said quietly as she stood back up. “Will still have you take one, too, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course not.”

“What’s up with Melanie?” Nick asked.

“Not much. Just enjoying the last bit of summer I guess. She said she’s going back to Boston a little earlier than she originally planned.”

Boston. It was a concept he hated to think about. Her in Boston. Her life in Boston. Her life away from him.

“What’s so great about Boston anyway?” He asked randomly.

She narrowed her eyes at him and laughed, “What?”

“I mean, like,” He didn’t know what he meant, he was just annoyed. “Why is she going back sooner than she originally planned?”

It was a weird enough thing for him to ask that she realized suddenly that his question wasn’t really about Boston, or Melanie’s plans, and it wasn’t really a question at all. “We have a major airport, you know.” She looked at him knowingly and he felt his stomach in his throat. She grinned at him and returned her attention to the camera.

Tami ran her hands through his hair and smiled at him in the mirror.

“All done, want me to dry it?”

“Nah, it’s good.”

“Coll?” She asked, “For your photo?”

Coll stood up a bit straighter, amused that Tami asked her. “The damp look works for me.”

“Really can’t go wrong with this one. He’s beautiful either way.” Tami added with a grin as she unsnapped the cape from around Nick’s neck.

Coll giggled and nodded in agreement. “That’s true.”

He raised an eyebrow at her and she felt her heart rate increase.

“Let’s get that photo.” Tami exclaimed, smiling at the two of them.

After Tami took their photo, they snuck away to a storage closet off the corridor to make out for several available minutes.

His hands moved with more confidence, his energy felt a bit more passionate and she was as deep as ever in her feelings for him. She could tell something had shifted after last night and while she had considered everything Becka told her, she was feeling confident that she was in fact building up his comfort and assuring him he belonged in the future.

“I gotta go.” He said quietly.

She nodded, “I know.”

He kissed her again.

“What are we doing tonight?” He asked.

She smiled, “well, there’s a hot tub at the-“

“That sounds perfect.” He cut her off with another kiss.

She giggled and gently pushed him away from her, “you have to go. I don’t want Jen getting mad at me.”

“I’ll see you after.”

“Good luck.”


Four hours later, Coll returned to the lounge with Tami’s camera during the encore. Tami had encouraged her to hold on to the camera for the night and take as many photos for Melanie as she wanted.

She sat with her laptop at the table closest to the Ethernet hook up and started the computer up again.

Leighanne went to sit on the couch while Becka grabbed a water bottle from the fridge and joined Coll at the table, resting her head on her arms. She watched as Coll connected Tami’s camera to the laptop and navigated through various folders to bring up the photo files.

She opened the images and scrolled through them back to the first one she took.

In her less staged, slightly crooked, mid-haircut photo, she could see clearly how happy she looked. With his face so close to hers, his blue eyes came across almost as pretty as they were in real life, they looked comfortable and content and she felt some butterflies in her stomach. Tami’s photo was less candid - Nick was standing behind her with his arms wrapped around her giving her a kiss on the cheek. She was smiling widely and he was giving the camera a side eye. She saved them both.

“That is so cute.” Becka said.

She set the photos she wanted to save to transfer to the computer and looked at Becka, “I’m going to the bathroom while this works.”

“Okay I’ll be here.” She said, sitting upright again to take a long sip of her water.

As she was returning to the lounge, Coll heard Nick call her name from down the corridor.

She turned to see him coming and smiled as he ran ahead of Kevinto catch up with her.

“Hey!” She said as he swung his arm around her shoulders.

“How was your night?”

“It was fun. Show was great.”

“Thanks, babe.” He said casually as Brian ran up beside them.

“Hey, did you get your pictures?” He asked, pushing a towel over his head.

“I have them transferring to the computer now.” She explained, still distracted by the fact Nick had called her babe.

“You’re obviously sending the one you took of us to Melanie, right?” He asked.

“Of course, Brian.” Coll assured him.

Everyone returned to the lounge and Coll checked on the file transfer as Nick stuck beside her and Howie came over to see Becka.

“I’ve never been this tired in my entire life.” Becka moaned as Howie pet her head and laughed as Nick took the seat beside her.

“Alright, I think these are done moving over.” Coll said as she leaned across Nick to reach the computer, angling it in her direction. He pulled her into his lap.

She turned to him and he smiled at her, still sweaty and gorgeous from the show, she knew she blushed but she didn’t care. She turned back to the screen as Nick’s arm snaked around her waist, pulling her into him more.

He watched as she clicked around some on the screen, “You’re sending them to Melanie?”

“Is that okay?”


“I’ll tell her not to sell them to any tabloids.”

“Very funny.”

“Do you want to approve them?”

“No, it’s fine.” He laughed lightly.

“I promise we can trust her.” She looked back at him and smiled, “Go get your stuff and I’ll be done with this by the time you are back.”

He agreed and she stood up so he could go, Howie followed behind him and Becka looked to Coll. “Have you told Mel any of what’s gone on? With Nick?”

Coll shook her head, “I wanted to tell her in person… she will get the hint from the photos but, i’ll save the rest til I see her.”

Becka nodded and watched as Coll finished her email back to Melanie.



I miss you too! I’m happy for you about the job!

John has texted me and emailed me a few times … i’ve ignored them all except his first one, i just told him I was in europe with a friend. Since then he’s just been asking when i’ll be home and telling me he wants to hang out when I’m back to Boston.

You wanted to see pics of my magical summer in Europe… so here you go. So much to tell you…

So so much.

Miss you a ton. I’ll call you as soon as I’m back in the USA.

(If you could just be really careful with the photos…) Love you

P.S. I have a new nickname you might like just as much as ColleenPea…

CollyPop. It’s obnoxious but, it came from Brian, so it’s sort of adorable.