As she was mindlessly pulling a brush from Becka’s bag through her hair, the door the the bathroom swung further open and Becka walked in drowsily, startling Coll out of her reverie.
“You scared me.” Coll spat out. Suddenly realizing maybe that was a poor choice of words based on Becka’s admission from that morning.
“Sorry,” Becka winced, “I need coffee and Advil and I need it ASAP.”
“I’ll be ready when you are. I think we should explore the city a bit today. So that when you get home you have a couple stories you can actually tell.”
“Oh sweet innocent Colleen… I’ve always got a story to tell.”
Coll rolled her eyes and left Becka alone.
Becka downed three Advil with a small glass of water and started in on a cup of coffee as Coll browsed the menu of a small cafe near the hotel.
“I love Europe but they need mugs. Big mugs. And ice. Iced coffee… it’s not that far fetched is it?”
“The results should be the same in the end.”
“Is there anything else you can tell me about last night?”
“I told you just about everything.”
“Everything? No. You didn’t. I don’t even know where this happened. What were you wearing? What happened after?”
“I was wearing my bathing suit. The only article of clothing I came here with that I still retain ownership of. It happened in his hotel room.”
Becka eyed her sister from across the small table. “Ok. My mistake I thought you’d feel a little more emotional about it than a hypothesis in a game of Clue.”
Coll tilted her head, “Honestly. Haven’t had a lot of time to think about it.”
“What can I say really? None of the other details even matter.” She smiled.
“I’m just looking for a distraction.”
Coll’s gaze settled on Becka’s. “You know that’s not the answer.”
“Not sure I’m ready for an answer right now.” Becka sighed as she turned her attention to the menu and Coll watched for a long second before deciding to let it go.
They hadn’t even gotten to the check portion of their meal when Coll’s phone was beeping with messages from Billy.
_ send me your location
_ Jen’s orders
Coll rolled her eyes and dialed Billy’s number.
“Is this your life now?” Becka asked.
Coll stared at her. “No.” She said before Billy picked up.
After a fun day of casually exploring the city, Coll and Becka arrived at the venue about half an hour before the guys would be suiting up for their skateboard flight across the arena. They were wrapping up an on-site radio interview in the lounge when Jen approached the girls in the corridor.
Coll sighed and smiled at her softly, holding the wide brimmed hat she had worn all day up like evidence in trial as Jen neared. “Was this the absolute best you could do?”
“Short of sending Billy along for girls day out, yes.” She explained with an air of happiness in her voice, though she retained her authoritative tone. “I’ll take it now unless you want to keep it.”
“I appreciate you cooperating.”
Coll rolled her eyes.
Billy informed her on the phone that morning that Jen was not comfortable with Coll out in the city all day unaccompanied and undisguised. To her it made no sense. Whatever blurry and dark image there was of Nick and her in Spain could not possible implicate her in a life of having to hide, or the probability of being recognized in a sea of people. And while Billy sympathized with her, he also asked for her location so he could bring her the hat Jen wanted her to wear - her idea of a compromise. Knowing she was too honest to not wear it, Jen felt okay enough with that for now.
“Is there really nothing else I should know?” Coll asked
Jen looked at her kindly, “Not a single thing.” She said quickly before retreating down the hall with the hat squished between her ever present clipboard and her chest.
“I don’t believe you!” Coll boldly called out after her but she didn’t turn around.
“You should have kept the hat.” Becka scoffed as Coll ran her hands through her hair.
“I’m going to find Tami.” Coll said blankly and walked off in the opposite direction Jen had, leaving Becka standing there nodding, accepting the abandonment.
From her standing position in the front row that night, swaying along to the music next to Becka, she watched Nick move around the stage. She hadn’t seen him since that morning, when he rolled over and kissed her and said good morning in a raspy voice before trailing kisses down her neck. They enjoyed those quiet, kissable moments for a few minutes before getting up and ready and parting ways in the elevator.
“See you later.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
The memory made her heart swell.
She watched him a bit closer than normal. She had fallen into a state of ease after the malaise she felt earlier in the summer, those nights she tracked him around the stage incessantly. Once things had started happening between them, she began to relax and enjoy the show in its entirety more. Once she had the promise of being with him later in the night, there was no rush to consume everything during this hour and a half. She had gotten to see him do things and know parts of him no one else got to, the things he did on stage were still impressive and tantalizing but she had something better so she watched the whole show. But tonight she was watching him again. And tonight is was not as her friend, not as someone she was trying to hide an attraction to, and not even as someone she was involved with. She was looking at him and watching him knowing it was something else, but she didn’t know what to call it. Did it matter?
“Your husband is really into it tonight.” Becka shouted.
That’s not it.“You have to stop calling him that.”
“Oh please. I did it twice.”
Coll shook her head.
What should I call him?”
Her cheeks flushed red and her legs felt weak for a moment.
Coll looked at her as Leighanne placed her hand on her forearm. “You’re so pretty.” She crooned wistfully. Coll rolled her eyes with a smile knowing Leighanne was on her fourth glass of champagne.
“Listen.” She said returning her attention to Becka, “You don’t hear me calling Howie all sorts of far fetched things.”
Becka’s affect changed, her stomach twisted. “Because it’s not plausible.”
Nick being my husband is plausible? Coll took a long sip of her beer and turned back to the stage. She could have swore her eye caught Nick’s and he smiled at her. As he did, two girls behind her started screeching even louder than they had been and she felt a smile spread across her face.
She was standing there looking at him when all of the things rushed through her at once. She had told him, finally, that she was in love with him. But she knew there was more. She knew she had to tell him about the depths of it, the fountain, the feeling, the vision. She thought of Becka I would want someone to tell her she’s it. She’s the one they’ve waited for, I’d want her to know.
For at least another minute, the girls behind her assured themselves and each other that Nick had in fact noticed them and smiled. All the while, Coll stood, entranced in the moment, reeling in the good feelings the anticipation of the night ahead left her with and realizing she was the absolute happiest she had ever been. Unmistakable. Meant to be. Can’t screw it up.