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Author's Chapter Notes:

Coll took a deep breath, trying to calm the storm in her head as she stepped out of the bathroom and back into the suite. She watched as Nick began to ready himself and she followed suit.

As he was dressing, Nick sputtered off a list of grievances and talked through a bunch of random thoughts on why Jane might actually have come to Europe, convinced that her intentions were not so pure. Coll tried to keep track of them as she got dressed, but he was moving through them fast.

stole money…

lied about money…

forged a signature…

hadn’t seen her for months...

drinking a pint of vodka before noon…

arguing with him before he left for the tour…

There were several questions she wanted to ask but let him continue.

Once dressed, he began thinking out loud through a scene where they could arrive downstairs separately and he could take her bag with him to further support the story that she had left the bag in his room.

She refrained from articulating the fact that no woman leaves her handbag behind and just agreed to go along with it, hoping maybe Jane wouldn’t catch on. I can play dumb if I have to.

“I’m following your lead.” She said carefully as she spun her silver ring around her finger nervously. “It’s whatever you want.”

“This messes up my day off…” He said sadly.

Coll pouted. “I know.” She could feel her headache intensifying by the second.

He walked up to her and cupped her face in his hands. “At least you’re here.”

She nodded, “It’ll be okay.”

In the elevator he kissed her deeply, making her feel weak all over as they passed the fourth floor. “I’ll see you down there.” He said quietly as the doors to the third floor opened. Slowly, she stepped away from him and onto the landing, before turning to look at him once more.

He smiled sadly at her as the doors closed again. She couldn’t help but laugh a bit at the vision of him holding her handbag as the doors closed between them.

She walked across the hall to the other set of elevators. Their plan was for her to wait several minutes there before calling another elevator, spacing out their arrivals. Her mind wandered as the elevators rode by in each direction without stopping for her or anyone else.

Thinking about Jane knowing what was going on with them made her anxious and she didn’t know why. She knew she wanted to be the one to tell her parents and the idea that Jane might get to them before she did was part of it. But why did she feel that unsettling terror when she first heard Jane was at the door? Why had so much apparently transpired between Jane and Nick that Nick never mentioned?

Does mom know they have these issues? How often do they speak these days? When was the last time they spoke? She knew the two of them had drifted but she was sure there must be the occasional casual email… Right? When you’ve been friends that long…? Unless maybe she knows something I don’t that added more space between them… Maybe Becka knows… she’s around more, she would know... Her eyes scanned the space around her and landed on a large bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase on a table near the elevators. She felt slightly dizzy on her feet for a moment. Mom and dad love Nick. If they did find out, it would be fine, even though they should find out from me. But they don’t… wouldn’t have a problem with it… right? No, of course not. Except for the celebrity thing, everything is normal. But maybe they’d be concerned about the friendship bit… or the celebrity bit. They would probably worry about Nick’s… lifestyle… being gone so often… and school. I guess that’s fair. I don’t actually know how that will work out either… so it might be a challenge to get them on board. But they’ll see it… they’ll know it’s real… right?

After another minute of tormented thinking, she called the elevator to her and boarded it quickly once it arrived, eager to get back in Nick’s aura.

She was empty handed as she exited the elevator. She took careful, slow steps across the lobby to the hotel restaurant and spotted Jane and Nick already sitting at a small table in the middle. No sign of Billy though.

Coll made her way to them and gently said hello with as much sweetness in her voice as she could muster.

“Hi Jane.” she said with a smile, placing her hand on the back of Jane’s chair.

“Oh, Colleen…” Jane got to her feet as Nick looked on suspiciously, “So wonderful to see you.” she said as she wrapped her arms around Coll. “Nick told me he stopped at your room on the way down and you weren’t sure if you’d be able to join us.”

“Oh...” Coll shrugged, “No of course, I wanted to see you.”
As they parted, and Coll took the third seat at the table, Nick started in on his story.

“Hey, here’s your bag, you left it in my room last night…” He said as he picked it up and handed it to her. “after you left.” He added as his eyes met hers.

“Oh.” She said, “Thanks. Yeah…” She realized this story made no sense but went with it. Wouldn’t he have just given me the bag when he ‘stopped by’ my room’? She hoped Jane wouldn’t think it through that critically.

She took her bag from him and placed it near her foot as she settled in.

“I’m so glad to see you, Colleen. You look great.” Jane said.

“Thank you so much.”

“Things are good?” Jane asked happily, sitting up straighter and turning her body in Coll’s direction.

Nick shifted in his seat nervously.

Coll nodded, “They are, yeah! Really good.”

“Enjoying your big summer adventure? Spoke to your mom last month... she said you were excited to do some writing.”

Last month… okay… Coll glanced at Nick, “I’ve loved being here, yeah. It’s all so exciting. I honestly haven’t done much writing but… it’s been very inspiring.”

“That’s wonderful, sweetie.”

Coll nodded politely and reached for her water glass.

“How are things otherwise? School? Are you seeing anyone?”

She was startled by it but resisted the impulse to look at Nick. “Well, i’ll be starting senior year in September and that’s exciting. It’s a little intimidating… life beyond college, but we’ll figure it out - I’ll figure it out.” She smiled, considering if she wanted to go on but waited.

“I’m sure you will. So there is no one special in your life? A gorgeous girl like you - I would be shocked if you didn’t have a boyfriend.”

“Oh, umm…” She paused, briefly terrified knowing she was an absolutely awful liar. just tell the truth. “No, actually... there is… someone. It’s sort of new - but, yeah,” She smiled.

Nick’s heart rate was increasing and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat again.

“I’m so happy for you. You must miss him, being out here. Especially if it’s newer.”

“Oh,” Shit. “Yeah, of course.” She agreed randomly, looking back to Nick who looked terrified. She knew her reasons for it, but found herself wondering why he might want to keep their relationship from her.

“You’ll have to tell me more later.” Jane smiled as she reached out to touch Coll’s arm.

Relieved there was an opportunity to put this discussion off, she took a deep breath and tried to relax.

“So,” Coll began again, nervously trying to redirect the conversation. “How was your trip?”

“Oh it was fine. I was in New York with Aaron and decided to come out from there so it was a little easier.”

“Oh, sure. Makes sense. How is Aaron?”

“A handful.” She laughed.

After about an hour of sitting with Jane and Nick, listening to Jane question just about every factoid about the tour so far and the tour coming up that Nick mentioned, and peppering him with other inquiries, Coll excused herself from the table. Nick eyed her as she did so and she tried to ignore him but it was hard. She made her way back through the lobby. She approached the front desk and asked for a phone to make a call with.

The connection was made, the phone rang several times, the shrill made her head hurt. Finally, Becka’s voicemail picked up.

“Becka, it’s me. Call me on my phone or Nick’s when you get a chance, please? I have to ask you something… Jane showed up. Nick’s pissed. I just need to talk to you.”

She hung the phone up and pushed it gently back in the direction of the receptionist, smiling weakly in appreciation before walking away again.

Jane monopolized most of Nick’s day while Coll stayed at the hotel trying to keep herself entertained or distracted. She waited on Becka’s call, she checked her emails, she remembered that she never dealt with John and didn’t know how to… all the while sipping on water, trying to keep her headache from getting worse and failing.

She was about to attempt a nap when Howie knocked on her door, asked if she was up for some coffee and behind him, a room service attendant with a coffee cart waited patiently for an answer.

“Why do I feel like there’s more to it than just coffee?” She asked with a laugh.

“Come on, I need you.”

“It’s fine, i figured you’d come around eventually.” She laughed as she held the door open for them.

“Where’s Nick?” Howie asked as the waiter pushed she cart into coll’s room.

“Oh… Jane showed up this morning.”

“His mother?”

“Some other Jane in Nick’s life I should know about?” She asked.

“Weird.” Howie stated simply as the two of them watched the attendant finish setting up their coffee cart before excusing himself and leaving them to it.

“So.” Coll smiled as she took a seat in the edge of her bed. “What’s up?”

“Becka.” He sighed. “She’s… in connecticut.”

Coll laughed, “You’re not the only one who misses her.”

Coll slid back along the bed to sit against the headboard, pulled her knees up into her body and watched as Howie poured two cups of coffee.

“Oh, actually, i should probably pass on the coffee…”


“I’ve had a raging headache all morning.”

“Oh, alright.”

“I appreciate the service though.” She smiled, “Alright, so, sit and spill…” Coll laughed as she motioned to the space in front of her and Howie sat down with his mug.

He was quiet for several seconds, she watched him thinking.

“She told me there was something… like a secret. But she didn’t tell me what.”

Coll nodded. “I know.”

“I don’t want to ask her anything that might be too personal or triggering. She said she gets triggered.”

Coll didn’t budge, trying to remain neutral, unsure what he knew and what he didn’t.

“But I also don’t want to just jump to conclusions or create some story…”

“Then don’t.” She said, “just trust that she will tell you when she’s ready.”

Howie looked at her thoughtfully.

“I don’t know what you know, and I don’t want to be the one to tell you something that should come from her. But, I will say, her biggest hurdle is trusting people. She needs to feel safe enough.”

“What can I do?”

Coll moved her finger tip over the seam of her jeans. She thought about what Becka told her Nick might need and knew it was partly Becka speaking her own needs. “Safe enough to walk through.”


Coll smiled. “Okay so, a few weeks ago Brian told me about the corridor of life.”

“The what?”

“... the corridor or life.”

“Never heard of it.”

She had honestly figured it was Brian lore, that everyone had heard it already. “Really?”

“Yeah what’s that?”

“Some doors will be open, some doors you have to kick down and some you have to knock and wait patiently.”

Howie thought it over, “that’s deep.”

“I know, right?”

“So what does that have to do with Becka?”

“Your door might be open but she still has to feel safe enough to walk through it. But… she must trust you a little bit at least…”

“I guess.”

“She is difficult but… I promise she’s worth it.”

“I wish there was more I could do from here.”

“Maybe there is.”

Howie looked at her curiously.


“I think… she’s…” His eyes met hers and she was waiting anxiously to hear more. “Incredible.”

“She’s the best. I’m not saying that because she’s my sister.”

“I know.” He nodded, sliding his hand around his mug, “you wouldn’t.”

“Well, I might.” She shrugged with a smile and he laughed. “But Howie,”


“There is so much greatness inside of her that none of us know yet.”

“What do you mean?”

She sighed and thought about Nick and the fountain and how this was true for him and for herself.

“There’s the Becka that’s thrown caution out the window and didn’t care … and she was a wonderful person, too, just… reckless and confused. But there’s a Becka that’s absolutely terrified because she found something that matters… and I don’t know that Becka so well yet. But I want to know her just as much as you do.”

Howie’s shoulders relaxed and he smiled widely.

“Tell me more … about how you’re feeling.”

“Are you okay?” Howie asked as Coll stretched her legs out in front of her and reclined deeper into the pillows on the bed.

“I’m okay, just my head is killing me. Keep talking though, I swear I’m fine. And I need to know everything.” She giggled and briefly closed her eyes before looking back at him.

“Alright, alright, but i’m calling room service for Tylenol and a giant bottle of water for you.”

She rolled her eyes. Everyone’s little sister… “I’ll be sure to mention to Becka that you took very good care of me and my headache.”