[That same night]
Her shoulders fell a little more as she stepped from the plane. Her feet had begun to hurt a little while before and as she scuffed her feet against the industrial carpeting in the Atlanta Airport, her heels slipped centimeters out of the flats she was wearing in her mind just adding another physical pain to her already mentally draining day. The thoughts of the passengers and her ex weighed heavily on her mind. She'd thought for most of the last few months that she'd been able to forget HIM with her new good thoughts of Lance, but even Lance couldn't wipe out the hurt that seeing his face brought back to her.
She didn't want to be a cliche. What had happened to them had been a common incident for young lovers to go through, but for her she felt more than the normal hurt by what had happened. For her the most innocent aspects of her personality had been forever changed, forever corrupted by the visions of the fairy tale images she'd thought they'd end up as and the dirty gritty and totally false reality of the situation. She'd taken a chance on him and had ended up completely wronged, and completely alone.
Her eyes scanned the crowd and her hand gripped her rolling bag. She had six hours until she was on a flight to New York for the night and as much as she wanted to just go curl up in a hotel bed for four hours or so, she knew she couldn't. She had an appointment of sorts with him. His face appeared in the crowd and she felt for the first time that day that something was going to go right. He stood there smiling, nervously holding his keys in one hand, pushing back the sleeves of his jean jacket with the other as if he was about to look at his watch.
He must have seen her bad mood with just a glance. He smiled at her from across the crowd then waved her over. His lips turned into a pout when she got closer to him. "Welcome to Atlanta."
She made a whimpering noise.
"Bad day girl?" he asked.
"Kind of," she said and moved towards him. Her arms didn't go around him, but his went around her and he pulled her close and hugged her. His lips pressed a kiss to her ear then his face buried itself against her neck for a moment and he breathed in. Nothing more needed to be said or done. They were there together and she believed that's all that mattered for the moment.
"How about dinner?" he asked.
"I'm not sure if I can handle going out."
"It's all settled," he said, "All you have to do is give me your bag and we'll go eat."
"Really?" she asked with almost a desperate manner.
"Yep," he smiled and leaned to kiss her on the lips quickly. "The VIP suite is all set up until Loni comes to pick me up later."
"Yeah," he said, "I figured after a long flight from LA you'd want to relax."
"I just want to six down for about five hours," she said.
"We can do that," he said, "We can do whatever you want."
"What about you?" she asked, "Don't you have work stuff to do?"
"I'm off until tomorrow morning. My work doesn't start until afternoon. I booked my flight in a night early so we could hang out."
"Isn't that kind of expensive?"
"No," he said. He took her bag from her and put an arm around her as he directed her towards the VIP area. "I told them I needed my rest so they paid for everything instead of me paying for it."
"I love my budget."
She smiled and leaned against him. For a moment she let her mind believe that they were a real couple and that this was a regular thing for them to meet up in an airport and have dinner. "I think after tonight I'm gonna love your budget too, but then again at this point I'd go for a seat at McDonald's."
"This is gonna be much better than that," he said, eyes twinkling at her.
"Better than French toast and orange juice in Los Angeles?" she asked.
He nodded and bit his lip a little. "Much much better."
They walked down the terminal and she looked around. "Where's Loni or--"
"He's off visiting his cousins. He thinks I'm back at the hotel--" He smiled. "I'm gonna get killed when he finds out, but I think it's worth it."
"Are you sure it's ok?" she asked. She wouldn't want anything to happen because she knew that she'd get all the blame for it. She would be deemed the bad influence.
"Yeah," he said, "Let me worry about that. You worry about relaxing for a while ok?
His arm stayed around her until after they'd signed in at the VIP lounge and he'd had to use both hands to work the card key that would let them into the room he'd reserved for them.
"Wow." The almost silent word slipped from her lips as they entered the room. He'd ordered for the twenty by twenty foot lounge be redecorated as a comfortable living room complete with a large overstuffed couch, a TV-VCR combo and a coffee table. If they hadn't been in the airport still he would have figured they were in someone's home.
His head turned to the side and he looked at her, really looked at her. It wasn't the tears in her eyes that scared him and it wasn't the way she clung to him moments later when she slipped her arms around him either. It was the numb glare edged with pain and the way her voice caught in her throat that pulled at his heart. He knew that something was wrong, but he didn't know where the boundary was between them when it came like issues like that. He knew that he should ask her if she was ok, but he wasn't sure if he'd be able to really help her out fixing whatever was wrong.
When he broke away from their hug he made eye contact with her for only a moment. "You ok?" he offered.
She nodded and laughed a nervous laugh. "Yeah."
"Wait here." He moved across the room and found the backpack he'd packed for her. "I brought you something."
"You did?" she said and wiped her face as she slid out of her shoes.
"Yeah." He held the bag out to her and smiled. "It's totally cheesy, but I figured that you'd want this after--well after a long day. It's not quite as good as LA, but it's better than--"
Sliding the zipper open she smiled at the contents of the bag and as she pulled them out she laughed again, this time it was the sound of joy rather than nervousness. "These are soo--"
He cringed at seeing his own face silk-screened onto the sweatshirt and the sweatpants that he'd grabbed for her. "I know. It's totally insane that I have my face on them, but I didn't think that you'd want to wear your uniform."
"No," she said, "This is great." She pulled the thin sweater she was wearing over her head and began to undo the buttons of her white collared shirt. "Seriously. If it were pajamas it would have been too much."
He watched in amazement as she pulled her shirt off leaving her in only a thin white bra while she folded the shirt and put it over the back of a chair before she slid into the large sweatshirt. It was big on her and looked like a dress, but moments later her slacks were removed and folded on the chair and she was sliding into the sweatpants. He watched her hands roll the waist a few times.
"Bet-ter?" he stuttered out.
She nodded and moved to hug him and held him close for a long time. "You need to stop being this good to me."
He wanted to see her face when she said it, but there wasn't a way to see the look in her eyes. She buried her head in his chest and he rubbed her back for a minute before pulling away. "Why's that?"
"I could--Someone could--end up-“
“Spit it out Sugar,” he said with a smile. “I don’t bite-“ His eyes clouded over with a devilish nature. “Unless provoked of course."
“Someone could-“ She paused and looked at the table and smiled. “Someone could end up needing you," she said.
His eyes widened. "And that would be a bad thing?"
"I--I'm not saying that--" She let out a frustrated sigh and leaned to kiss him. "Can we not talk about this right now?" He didn't like that there were tears in her eyes again.
“What’s wrong?” he asked feeling himself like he might cry if she kept up this way. That was the one thing that had always haunted him with fans of his. He was the type of person who usually didn’t cry a lot on his own, but if there was someone around him crying he would join in even if he didn’t have a clue what they were crying about.
Her hands went to cup his face and she breathed in a long breath of air before looking in his eyes. “Nothing,” she said with an intense force to her voice. “Everything horrible that could have happened today, happened, but the minute I walked off the plane and saw you standing there-“ She blinked and laughed nervously. “Let’s just say that seeing a friend right now was what I needed.”
His heart sank as she pulled away from him, not only with her comment, but also with her body. She crossed the room and sank into a seat on the large couch that had been ordered for the room. She reached to grab a few chips out of the bowl on the table then looked over at him as she nibbled. “So what’s the plan Stan?”
“There really isn’t a plan.” He moved across the room and sat down next to her, leaving about a foot of room between them so he didn’t crowd her. He reached for the remote and then leaned back and then remembered the other surprise he had for her, “I just thought we’d eat dinner and watch a movie and let you sit down for a while and me too. I feel like I haven’t been in one place for more than twenty minutes in about two weeks.”
“I feel like I should be pampering you instead of you pampering me.” She smiled at him and reached for another potato chip then looked at the top and bottom of it before she put it into her mouth.
He took off his shoes and stretched his feet out then set them on the ground again. “Are you really hungry or are you just gonna snack?”
“I could go for dinner. What are we having?” she asked.
“I ordered a steak and a chicken pasta plate thing. I didn’t know which you’d want so we can share or whatever.”
“Why are you being so nervous?” she asked.
“I’m not nervous,” he retorted.
“Yes you are,” she said now with sleepy eyes. She moved herself a little in her seat and put a hand out to touch his side. “You’re all jumpy.”
“I’m not,” he repeated. He pointed at her shirt. "My face is staring at me."
She smiled and in an instant the shirt was removed and turned inside out and put back into place. “Come here,” she said.
He moved closer to her and looked at her lips. "What?"
She moved so that she could hug him around his chest, pressed her cheek against his chest and sighed. "I just want to sit here and hug you and not move."
"You sure?" he asked.
She nodded her head. "Yeah."
"Ok." He took a deep breath then said, "Lemme get out of my jacket and we'll stretch out, ok?"
She nodded and moved away from him long enough for him to get out his jacket. He moved the pillows a little then stopped. "I forgot to give you your other present."
"My other one?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said, "Hold on." He leaned down and pulled out a blanket that looked similar to the design of the quilt that she'd had at her apartment in Los Angeles. "Like it?"
She nodded and as he moved to stretch out on the inside edge of the couch coushins and took the blanket from him and spread out over his legs before she slid into the makeshift bed with him. She hugged him around the middle, that couple way of snuggling, a mix of hugs and gropes that left the two lovers with most of the fronts of their bodies pressing together.
"We should do this again."
A few hours later the pushed themselves up off the couch. They'd only moved long enough to eat and put a movie in to watch, then had resumed their position on the couch, cuddling again, both dreading the sound of the alarm that he'd set on his cell phone.
As they exited the room Lance carried the handle bag that contained her sweats and blanket. He didn't know if she was going to keep them or not, but he thought he should bring them with her to the gate just in case.
"I don't want to go." She pouted.
"Come on sugar. You have to. You'll lose your job if you don't show up. Besides. Atlanta is going to be boring." He stopped to look for Loni in the hallway and found him a moment later.
Their feet were sluggish as they exited the VIP lounge to go to her flight. He held onto her hand loosely, thumb rubbing over the back of her hand looking around. "I don't want you to go either." He sighed.
"Let's go to Tahiti," she said with a little bounce to her step. Her eyes were wide for a moment with excitement in her voice. "I could get us a really good deal on a flight."
He stopped and pushed her hair back from her face and smiled at her. "As much as I’d love to see you in a bikini on the beach, I can’t this week. I wish I could."
"You can." She leaned into the hug he offered, curling her arms tighter around him. She stayed there against him for a long time, just holding him. As much as he loved the idea of her needing him that much he did have to admit that the action put a little more pressure on him. He was really going to have watch what he said to her or this was going to go farther, faster than he wanted it to.
"Are you gonna be ok?" he asked.
Lance's cell phone rang and he picked up the line. "You ready?"
"Yeah," he said, "We're down by gate forty-two."
"Ok," Loni said, "I'll be there in about five. I'm down at twenty seven."
"See ya in a few."
"Was that Loni?"
"Yeah," he said, "He's taking me back to the hotel because they found out where I'm staying."
"The fans," he said. He paused. "Are you gonna be ok?"
She nodded with a sad face. "Yeah." She put a hand to her forehead. "I think I'm getting a cold," she sighed. "Just what I need."
"Are you going to be ok to fly?" he asked.
She nodded and pouted. "I'll be fine. I'll get to New York and sleep until I have to fly out in a day or so."
"You're staying in the city for a few nights?"
"Two," she said.
"Where are you staying in the city?"
"The Airport Hilton," she mumbled.
"Well at least it's a nice place."
"I wanna stay at the Ritz with you."
"Or the Omni," he said.
"Awe. Don't do that."
"Just promise me that it won't be so long this time before we see each other."
"It was only about ten days," he said with a smile.
Her eyes shut and she stood there not saying a word for a long time. "I don't want to--I don't want to be clingy and girly--"
"It's ok sugar." He laughed a little. "One of these days I'll be clingy and you'll have to return the favor."
“Sure,” she said, “Whatever.”
“You guys ready?” Loni asked.
“Tell Lance not to go,” Colleen pouted tiredly.
“As much as I would love the boy not to be in Atlanta in the heat of summer, it’s not my choice. I love LA a whole lot more than Georgia, but you can’t have everything you want.”
The sound of her flight being announced came over the loud speaker.
"I should go."
"I'll give you a call tonight, or give me a call."
They hugged again and Loni pulled him away.
"Love you too."
[A few hours later...New York City]
The knock on the door made her head physically ache. "Go Away!"
She'd come into the room and flopped onto the bed after making the connecting flight into the city. She wished that she'd been on a flight back to California so that it would be her bed that she'd found herself half asleep in instead of being in New York in a hotel room feeling like a huricane of germs had just hit her.
"Go away. You've got the wrong room. I'm sick."
"Room service ma'am."
"What?" she asked and pushed herself out of bed. She trudged towards the door. "I didn't order any room service. I've been asleep."
"I have a room-service delivery sent to a Colleen Wonderland from a Mr. Bass."
Her hand went to her head and she looked down at the gift basket the man was holding onto.
"The gentleman said on the phone that you weren't feeling well and said that we should deliver this to you as soon as possible."
She sighed and moved away from the door, trying to get the spinning in her head to stop. She pressed her palm against her eye. "Oh shit."
Seeing that she was swaying he came to her aid, dropping the basket to the floor to help her back inside. "Are you ok?"
Her voice came out as a whine. "I've got the flu." She tried not to gag at the thought of having to explain to the person at the door that she was going to throw up soon. She didn't care that she looked like crap, didn't care that she might be getting him sick just by standing there with him. She felt horrible and wanted to be a baby for a while.
"I'm sorry to hear that,” He gave her a nervous look then went back out to the door and brought the basket back into the room. "Should I put this on the table?"
"Can you put it on the bed?" she asked pulling the covers up over her body. She sighed again.
"There you go," he said setting it on the far side of the bed from her so that she could reach it.
"I don't--” She sucked in a breath of air, "I didn't have time to get to the bank. I don't have tip--"
"It was taken care of." He waved away her movement to get up. "Mr. Bass told me to tell you that there will be chicken soup sent up for dinner this evening around eight, but if that's too early or two late I'll change the order for you."
"No," she said looking at the clock. "Eight is fine."
"I'll leave you alone then," he said, "If you need anything just dial star-eight-nine-four and that will get me downstairs."
"Thanks," she said rubbing her temple. "What's your name?"
"William," she said.
"Thank you William."
He exited the room and she pulled the basket over to where she could lean on her pillows and look through it.
After a moment of pulling it apart she had a package of cold and flu pills, a few oranges, a package of tea, Tylenol with sleep aid in it, crackers and tissues. With one hand she reached for her cell phone and with the other she cuddled the soft stuffed elephant to her chest.
"Hey you," he said with a soft voice, "Are you feeling any better?"
"No," she said, "But I wanted to thank you for the basket."
"Good," he said, "You got it."
"Yeah. All of this stuff is really great except--"
He sounded instantly worried about her, which was exactly what she needed from him at the moment. "Did they forget something?"
"Except the elephant. I don't get it."
He laughed a little. "I'm gonna tell you a huge secret so you better not tell anyone."
"Cross my heart," she said taking a Tylenol out of the package. She popped it into her mouth and took a drink of water that she'd put by the edge of her bed.
His voice was the lowest she'd ever heard it. "I used to sleep with an elephant named Fannie."
"What?" She smiled and laughed a little. "You used to sleep with a stuffed animal?"
"I know. I know. It's not good for my reputation, but my grandmother gave her to my sister when we were little. I had Ted the Tiger and she had Fannie the Elephant and one time when we went on vacation I lost Ted the Tiger so when my sister found out she let me borrow Fannie and well I ended up adopting her."
Her head tipped to the side and she smiled at the thought of him carrying around an elephant when he was younger. "That's so cute."
He cleared his throat, as if he was done being the sensitive person that he'd been in the last few minutes. "You better not tell anyone."
"I won't." Her head spun and she took a deep breath and let it out, closing her eyes for a moment so that she could catch her balance.
"Your elephant doesn't have a name yet though," he said, "I think she's Fannie's niece."
"Really?" she looked at the stuffed animal for a moment. "Then I'll call her Neecee."
"Sounds good to me." There was some noise behind him. "I've got to get back to these auditions, but I'll call you tonight and check up on you."
His voice sounded distant then, as if there was something more of their relationship than just the sexual sides they'd shown to each other. "Feel better sugar."
"I will," she said tiredly. "Take it easy this afternoon and don't let those girls hurt your ears."
"Never." He moved his mouth away from the phone to say something to someone then loved it back to speak to her. "Love ya."
"Love ya too," she said.
"I'll talk to you later."