Although I wasn’t feeling very social, I said, “Okay.”
Justin brought me inside the bus. A bunch of guys were sitting around eating pieces of a gigantic apple pie that looked like it was from Costco. It smelled like a mixture of coffee and beer. Justin went down the line, introducing me to each crew member. They were all super nice and down to earth. I didn’t have a chance to meet Calvin Sprockett, since he was on the other bus.
A few minutes later, the one person I’d dreaded meeting the most finally made her appearance.
“Is everyone accounted for?” Olivia asked, holding a walkie talkie.
Justin looked at me and whispered, “That’s Olivia.”
He didn’t realize I’d already known what she looked like from my stalking. I was starting to feel nauseous, and it only got worse with each step she took toward us. With luxurious dark hair and a megawatt smile, she was even prettier than her pictures.
I fucking hated her.
“I see we have an extra passenger?” Olivia said.
Seeming to lose my ability to speak, I smiled like a fool without saying anything.
“Olivia, this is my girlfriend, Amelia,” Justin said.
The fear inside of me began to slowly evaporate. He hadn’t said the “L” word, but he’d finally given me the validation that I so desperately needed, especially now with him leaving again.
Olivia hadn’t seemed too surprised. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Amelia.”
“Likewise.” I smiled.
“Are you coming with us to Philly?” she asked.
“No. I have a baby girl at home, so I’m not able to travel.”
“That’s right. Justin showed me her picture.”
It further calmed me to know that he’d also spoken to her about Bea.
“Well, it was nice meeting you,” Olivia said before giving Justin a slight look of warning. “Buses are leaving in five.”
Waiting for her to get out of earshot, I said, “So, that’s Olivia…”
“She sleeps on the other bus?”
“Yeah. The tour manager goes on the main bus.” He smiled, examining my expression and seeming amused at my transparent relief.
He nudged at my dress, and my nipples immediately perked up. “Let’s get you a jacket,” Justin said. “Then I’m gonna tell the driver to hold up while I accompany you to the car. I don’t want you walking alone.”
Justin retrieved one of his black hoodies and held it open for me. I zipped it up, loving the smell of his cologne that saturated it. He led me by the hand across the VIP lot to the regular parking area.
Justin gazed into my eyes as we stopped in front of my car. He held me tightly as he buried his nose in my hair. “You’re lucky we don’t have any more time. I’d take you right against this car.”
“I’d let you.”
“Thank you for tonight, Amelia. You were amazing. I’m gonna fucking miss you so much.”
I spoke against his chest. “Can I ask you something?”
“When did you decide I was your girlfriend?”
He looked up at the sky and hesitated as if he had to really ponder it. His answer wasn’t what I was expecting. “The matinee show of El Amor Duele at the little red theater circa 2005. I wasn’t even paying attention to the movie. You were really into it. I was really into you. You didn’t realize I was staring at you the whole time. You were so enthralled with the movie that you didn’t even notice that you’d finished your popcorn. You kept shoveling it into your mouth. Without your knowing, I replaced your empty bucket with my full one. You just kept eating. I decided at that moment that whether you knew it or not, you were my girlfriend. I kept telling myself…that after the show, I was finally gonna make you aware of that fact, too.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I chickened out.” We both laughed and could see our breaths colliding in the cold air. Justin looked down at his phone. “Shit. They’re texting me to hurry up. I have to go.”
He pulled me into him as tightly as he could and planted one final kiss on my lips. “I’m gonna miss you so much. Thank you again for coming.” He wriggled his brows. “And for coming again. And for letting me come.” As I giggled against his lips, he said, “You were so amazing.”
“Call me tomorrow.”
“Be careful driving home.”
He lingered then said, “It’s never been that way for me, never felt that way with anyone else.”
I loved hearing that.
Our hands stayed intertwined until the pull of his walking away naturally ripped our fingers apart. Justin ran across the lot.
I got into my car and turned on the heat. I stayed idling until the two buses pulled out and disappeared from sight.
Later that night, I’d just arrived back at the beach house when my phone chimed with a text from Justin.
All that time I spent mad at you…I could have been fucking you. What a dumbass.
The hardest days with Justin gone were those leading up to the holidays. This was going to be Bea’s first Christmas, and we’d be spending it without him.
Justin’s tour had made its way out West. He would be performing two shows in Los Angeles, one on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas Day, so there was no way that he could sneak any time away to come home. After those gigs, the band would only remain in the US for another week before flying to Europe where the tour would continue until they returned to America in the spring. It made me tired just thinking about all of the travelling he was doing.
I had to give Justin credit, though. He’d stuck to his word about Skyping every other day with us. As much as I looked forward to those chats, it was getting harder and harder to be away from him. As the days went on, so had the fresh memory of our time together in Massachusetts. The reassurance that night had given me was slowly being replaced by fear and insecurity again with each day that passed. While I trusted him more after we’d made love, he still hadn’t told me he loved me. In my mind, that meant that nothing was set in stone. Couple that with the fact that he would be away for over a dozen more weeks, and that made for one paranoid girlfriend.
It was two days before Christmas. Bea and I were invited to an ugly sweater party over at Roger and Susan’s house. Justin had called earlier to say they’d just arrived in California. I was grateful for the distraction that the party would bring. At least for a couple of hours, it would prevent me from sulking in front of the Christmas tree at the beach house.
I’d gone to a local thrift store and bought a hideous red sweater with little Christmas bulbs sewn onto the front. I’d even managed to find an ugly Christmas sweater onesie online for Bea. So, we were all ready for the festivities.
The temperature was frigid as I bundled Bea up and ran across to the neighbors’ house which was lit up in multi-colored lights. An inflatable snowman blew in the wind out front. Living near the water in the middle of winter was less than ideal.
Carrying some freshly-baked sugar cookies, I knocked on their door with my foot, since I had no extra hands.
Roger opened the door. “Amelia, you made it! Susan wasn’t sure if you were coming.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” I said, handing him the plate of cookies. “Is Susan in the kitchen?”