“This is the first time I’ve left the hotel except for the rehearsal!”
“I don’t blame you though, I try to get as much suite time in as possible.” Leighanne agreed as she adjusted her sunglasses on her face. “Plus, this humidity is rough.”
Leighanne had a relaxed spirit and was easy to talk to. Coll felt a kinship with her and was excited to have her around.
“Humid? For a Georgia girl like you?” Coll asked with a smile as they stepped off the sidewalk and onto their day.
The buzz backstage that night was palpable. The energy level was high, people were practically vibrating with excitement.
It was a big night for obvious reasons, but also it was a night that would influence the trajectory of so many things for years to come. They hadn’t just hit a milestone, they were right in the midst of it.
In the stadium that night, swaying and dancing to the music alongside Leighanne, Coll indulged in every second of watching her friend do what he had dreamed of doing for so long- on this scale, with this massive, enthusiastic audience. She watched Nick closely all night, she couldn’t help it. She felt proud and excited - that much she knew - but there was something else that was less familiar - like she had just discovered something wonderful.
During the instrumental interlude, Leighanne turned to Coll and smiled widely “This is how I fell so hard for Brian.” She began, pressing her hand into her chest. “There’s something amazingly sexy watching someone you like, do something they love.”
Coll opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t. Leighanne had put words together that were better than anything she might come up with, and they all felt true and unfamiliar at the same time. She didn’t know what to do with it but, a shiver ran up her spine suddenly.
The energy persisted for hours after the show ended. Backstage, everyone was teeming with adrenaline, there was champagne, there was hugging, there was yelling. Coll’s head spun, and her stomach was full of butterflies. Upon returning to the hotel, she fell into a restless sleep.
After leaving Ghent, the group spent a few days on the buses - traveling overnight three times. Coll fell in comfortably with Angela and Andrea on their bus, and the three of them navigated the nuances of bus living together. Andrea had toured before and provided some insights for a more enjoyable experience on the bus. Angela disregarded almost all of Andrea’s tips until little by little, the benefits of obeying her rules became apparent. Everything was moving so fast - the learning, the adjusting, and the pace of the actual movement around Europe.
They had two hotel nights and two shows in Birmingham. The first show was great - and special in its own way, but the shows that followed that opening night kept topping each other as everyone got more comfortable and more amped up.
Watching from the audience always had Coll feeling a bit of a jumble. She couldn’t quite identify what the feeling she kept experiencing during shows was. It was unsettling; it kept her attention, it was like a craving for more of something. It was warm and also distant at the same time. Like she could just barely grasp it. All she knew was she had never felt anything like it before, it wasn’t entirely bad, but it was wildly unfamiliar. Leighanne would continually comment on her own experience, but Coll couldn’t take ownership of any of those for herself as Leighanne’s connection was obviously different. There was no way Coll would be feeling the same way watching these epic performances as Leighanne was. For Leighanne, it was watching her future husband live out his dream. Coll had no idea what it was for her, but she told herself it was just the newness of everything, the allure of lights and stage. But it still kept her awake at night.
Beck, this is going to be quick because I have to get back on the bus soon and just happen to have an ethernet here. Anyway, can you please send updates on the apartment search?? Dying to know when you’ll finally leave the nest. *crying face* JK. See if you can come out between July 11 and 18 - we will be in Spain then! I know you’re dying to meet a Spanish hottie *wink wink* let me know. Oh, and how are mom and dad?
Coll waited for confirmation that the email sent before disconnecting and folding her laptop away and shoving it into her bag. She grabbed her water bottle off the desk and checked the room over once more. She took her suitcase and trolleyed out of the room, leaving another suite behind.
As she arrived in the lobby, she spotted Brian first.
“Hey, sunshine.” He said as Coll approached.
“Hey! Am I late?” She looked at her watch.
“No, you and I are the only ones on time.” he smiled. “Well, Leighanne, too, she just went to check something.”
“Ahh, I see.”
“Howie and Kevin are consistently five to seven minutes late for everything. I know Nick and A.J. both wandered off last night with some girls … we’ll probably see them last.” Brian took a quick headcount on where everyone might be and when they might show up. As he spoke, a ball of anxiety crept into Coll’s throat. “Did you sleep, alright?” Brian asked. Coll’s gaze was set on the front desk of the hotel, her mind running circles around itself. She didn’t hear Brian’s question the first time.
“Hmm?” She snapped her attention back to him.
“Did you sleep, alright?”
“I did.” She lied, “Gotta love those hotel beds.” She has slept poorly, restless, and her head stuffed with things to think about after last night’s show.
“YES, YOU DO.” A.J. suddenly commented as he approached them from behind. “It was a great night, thank you for asking.” He grinned and adjusted his sunglasses on his face after dropping a small duffle bag to the floor.
“We don’t need the details,” Brian replied.
“I wasn’t going to provide them,” A.J. smirked. “Though I’ll hope we get some from Nicky because I-“ As he began, Coll felt a wave of sunken misery in her stomach, she dreaded what he was going to say, and she caught herself in a conflict. Was she just uncomfortable talking about her best friend’s sex life? Was it because she was nearly positive Nick was still with Mandy…
Weren’t they ... dating? Or, coupled up? Was it over? Was he cheating?
Any of those possibilities could have caused a slight off-putting feeling. Or was there a different reason for the murky, unidentifiable malaise?
“I’m here, let’s roll!” Jen yelled to them as she exited the elevator, raised her hand in the air with a snap, and continued walking. Brian laughed and ran over to her. Coll exhaled deeply, relieved the conversation was interrupted. She stood quietly until further orders were given. When Nick did finally join the group that morning, she avoided him, unsure how to reconcile the things she knew for sure about him sleeping with someone last night and the things that were still unknown to her about her feelings about him and whatever he had done.
They were entering into the third week of the tour when Coll woke up around 5 am in her room in London. They had arrived two days ago after a week on and off the buses, it was a relief to be staying in one spot for a few days, but the sleep did not reflect that. It was a rainy, muggy morning, and condensation was accumulating on the window. She got dressed and decided to make her way to the hotel lobby, where she knew she could get some coffee.
It was a surprise to see Nick when she arrived at the coffee bar. She smiled to herself, and her pulse quickened as she snuck up behind him.