Green Coffee Cup
Seeing as I hadn’t actually slept, I was ready for work way earlier than necessary. In all fairness, after Amy left my room, I’d attempted to drift off to dreamland. I’d changed and brushed my teeth and moisturized my arms and legs and then crawled beneath the covers, only to end up staring at the ceiling.
It took about an hour of making shapes out of the many stains overhead for me to realize I wasn’t going to fall asleep on my own, so I sat up and settled back against my pillows and switched on the television, resigning myself to hours of infomercials that would hopefully induce some sort of sleeplike state.
It worked. Sort of.
I ended up in what seemed like a dream, where I could kind of comprehend my surroundings, but I also felt as though I was asleep, until the sun began to peek in through the window I’d forgotten to pull the curtains over and I decided I might as well start getting ready for the day.
It wasn’t as though I was in any hurry to get to work. If anything, I was anxious as hell that Jaxon was going to give me the cold shoulder and therefore reverse the weeks of progress we’d made since I’d started being the nanny for the twins. After all, avoidance was a pretty understandable response to what had happened.
I’d bruised his ego. Anyone would be a bit bitter after that kind of rejection.
Unless, of course, he didn’t see it as a rejection at all. Because it was entirely possible that I’d misinterpreted the situation. That I’d allowed my personal feelings for Jaxon to rewrite what actually happened into what I wanted to happen.
Maybe he was just caught up in the moment and leaned in out of natural habit and now, looking back, he was more than a little relieved that I’d stopped any lip touching from occurring.
The truth was, I didn’t know what was worse; the idea of Jaxon thinking that I didn’t want him or the idea of Jaxon not wanting me.
But I knew there was only so long that I could put off the inevitable confrontation, so I began to get ready around five in the morning, taking a much needed hot bath and spending longer than necessary on my hair and makeup before mustering up the courage to march down the hall to Jaxon’s room.
Today was a traveling day, which meant complete chaos. Now that the award show had ended, it was time to restart the tour, so we were flying to San Francisco to begin the west coast portion, which would extend as far north as Seattle and as far east as Las Vegas, only to end right where we started, here in Los Angeles.
The morning would consist of triple checking every hotel room to make sure nothing was left behind before herding the band like cattle towards the large blacked out SUVs that would take them to the airport, where we would then do a lot of standing in lines to get checked in and through security.
The band traveled so much that by now, I’d assumed they’d be experts at it, but invariably, something always went wrong. Whether it was a lost passport or a left behind stuffed animal or a traffic jam that almost made us miss a flight, the one thing that I could always count on was that traveling days would never go smoothly.
As I knocked on Jaxon’s door and waited for him to respond, I wondered if today’s disaster would come as a result of the awkward tension between us.
The door didn’t swing open like I expected it to, but was pulled open just slightly before Jaxon’s voice rang out from within, yelling for me to enter. I did as instructed, dropping my duffel bag on the ground by the door as I stepped into the room to see Jaxon looking very overwhelmed as he sat at the kitchen table, attempting to feed both twins at the same time.
“Morning!” he briefly glanced in my direction, only to acknowledge my presence with a nod and a flash of a smile before returning his attention to his kids.
“Hey…” I looked around at the still mess of a common area, noting that it looked like he hadn’t even started packing. Now probably wasn’t the best time to have whatever conversation we needed to have.
Not needing instruction on what to do next, I began to pick up the various stuffed animals and articles of clothing and children’s toys that were scattered about, piling them up in my arms and dumping them on top of the couch to begin the sorting process before the packing could be done. It was a good distraction, creating piles and stuffing said piles into their designated bags as Jaxon finished giving the twins their breakfast, and it saved me from mentally planning out every way in which the day could turn out to be a complete and utter catastrophe.
“You’re a life saver.”
I looked up as I was stuffing the last of Finn’s teddy bears into the duffel bag which held all of the toys to see Jaxon staring at me fondly from the other side of the couch. “Uh, yeah, well, it’s my job.”
That response probably sounded a bit rude, seeing as I was at a loss trying to figure out how to act around him, which was probably why he seemed almost embarrassed as he shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and smiled sheepishly. “I know that.”
My lips parted to apologize, but before I could get a word out, he tilted his head to the side and furrowed his brow in concern, pursing his lips as he spoke. “You feeling alright? You look exhausted.”
He said that as though he’d had the world’s best sleep last night. Which, if he did, raised a lot of questions about whether I was analyzing our almost kiss a little too deeply.
“I didn’t sleep well,” I replied, keeping my gaze focused on his expression in order to catch any hints of discomfort.
To his credit, his face did soften as he murmured, “Hopefully tonight is better.”
I didn’t know what that meant or if there even was any sort of implication behind his words, but I knew that there was a more appropriate time to delve into it at some point in the future, so I lifted the corners of my lips into a small smile. “Thanks.”
Nodding, he glanced back towards where Finn and Audra were engrossed in completing their latest sticker books before stretching his lips into a wide grin when he returned his attention to me. “Well, we should probably get going. I think Amy already started the checkout process, which means any minute, I’m gonna get a text telling me we need to get our butts downstairs.”
Sure enough, just as I’d gotten Audra into her shoes a few minutes later, Jaxon’s phone rang and he assured Amy that she would be seeing us shortly.
The start of what would undoubtedly feel like an incredibly long journey meant more welcome distractions, and I gladly ushered the twins out the door, thinking that maybe avoidance wasn’t such a bad thing after all, and if Jaxon wanted to pretend that everything was exactly how it had always been, then I could play along.
I’d learned that actually getting out of the hotel wasn’t the hard part when it came to traveling with famous people. Hotels had back exits where large SUVs could pull into alleys and load all the band members and their equipment. It was airports that were tricky. Because it was a short flight, we weren’t taking a private jet, which meant dealing with check in counters and security and worst of all, paparazzi.
It was like they had been emailed the band’s flight schedule ahead of time, because they were waiting when the cars pulled up outside the departures area, snapping away before the doors even opened. Add to that the crowd of fans who had been seemingly given the same information and it was like standing outside a Walmart on Black Friday.
Fortunately, the band and their security team were pros at handling these situations. The first step was for the security guards – all of whom were large men with shaven heads, because apparently that was a job requirement – to clear a path from the car to the sliding airport doors. Once that was done, they escorted the twins through the crowd as quickly as possible, leaving the three year olds in my care on the inside as the band took a few quick pictures with the fans waiting outside.
But it wasn’t like the photography stopped once everyone was safely inside. It was actually pretty constant. People either asked for pictures or took them from afar when we were standing in line to check in and when we were standing in line for security and even when we were seated at the gate, and I wondered if it was possible that anyone could ever get used to always having someone watching.
All I knew was that I could definitely use a little break now that things were calmer, so when Peter suggested a coffee run, I volunteered to fetch the drinks, ensuring that Finn and Audra were completely engrossed in whatever game they were playing on their father’s iPad before typing everyone’s orders into my phone and wandering away to find the nearest Starbucks.
I inhaled and exhaled deeply as I wandered past the airport shops and restaurants, thinking that so far, today hadn’t been too stressful, considering the calamity that could have occurred. Jaxon had chosen the whole pretending it didn’t happen route in response to what happened last night and I had to admit that I was glad. Because bringing it up would have just made things awkward and if he just wanted our relationship to go back to the way it was, then I could live with his decision to avoid the topic of the almost kiss altogether.
A soft voice rang out from behind me and I turned my head and lifted my eyebrows in surprise at the sight of Jaxon catching up to me, shoving his fingers into the front pockets of his jeans and rocking forward in his boots once we were both stopped. “Hey, did you think of something else you wanted to order?”
“No, I just wanted to be alone with you,” he shook his head, the words causing my heart rate to spike, “I think we need to talk about last night.”
“Oh.” Shit. Just when I thought I was in the clear.
“I didn’t want things to be tense in front of Finn and Audra, so I didn’t bring it up earlier,” he explained, “but I feel like we should discuss it…you know, just so everything’s out in the open and things don’t get awkward later.”
I wasn’t sure how talking about it would make things less uncomfortable, but I figured he was making an effort to keep our relationship from becoming tense again and that was a good sign. “Um, yeah, that’s a good idea.”
He flashed me a quick smile. “I guess I should start by saying that I’m sorry.”
“For what?” I blinked. An apology of any sort was exactly the last thing I expected, given the circumstances.
“I know I’ve been kind of all over the place with you,” he crinkled his nose the way I used to do when I had to admit to my sister that she was right about something, “I’ll admit I wasn’t really happy that Amy hired you in the first place, but the kids love you and I guess there are some times when I could use an extra set of hands.”
I wasn’t sure that was true, because he was somewhat of a superdad, and although my entire purpose when I first took this job was to prove to him that he needed me, I was starting to think I was going to fail. But I knew how to take a compliment. “Well, your kids are amazing, so hanging out with them isn’t exactly a chore.”
“I know,” he smiled widely, like he always did when his kids were mentioned, “And you’re great with them and they trust you, which is why I want to talk about what happened last night. I don’t wanna lose you, for their sake.”
“Why would you lose me?” I asked, genuinely confused, because he said those words as though I had just given him my two weeks’ notice.
His lips parted and then pressed together and then parted again before he spoke, bewilderment flooding his expression, because apparently it was supposed to be completely obvious why I would possibly be upset. “You ran away when I tried to kiss you, so I just assumed…”
Honestly, I hadn’t expected him to straight up bring up the kiss. I figured we’d be talking around the subject, like mature adults. Caught off guard by the directness of his statement, I stumbled over my next words. “That I find you repulsive?”
“Something like that.”
“That’s actually not it at all, I was just surprised,” I assured him, not wanting him to think that I didn’t want to be in his presence, “So you were going to kiss me.”
The confirmation that it hadn’t all been in my head made me feel as though I’d stood up a bit too quickly.
“Well,…yeah,” he replied easily, not seeming at all as disconcerted as I felt, “Isn’t that why you bolted?”
“No, it was a strange situation,” I shrugged, hoping I sounded at least somewhat nonchalant.
“I know, I’m sorry,” he sighed, “Honestly, I shouldn’t have let my emotions get the better of me. I think I felt vulnerable because I hadn’t talked about Lauren in ages and you were being so supportive and I got caught up in the moment.”
So even though he confirmed that he was leaning in for a kiss, it wasn’t for the reasons I’d originally thought. Though I guess I didn’t know what I originally thought. Only what I hoped, which was that maybe he had some sort of feelings for me as well. But apparently the near touching of our lips had more to do with the shakiness of his emotional state and less to do with me.
I tried not to sound too disappointed. After all, I needed to keep some of my dignity. “Oh.”
“Not that I wouldn’t have wanted to kiss you anyway,” he backtracked, “I mean, you’re beautiful and amazing.”
Well, that was a twist. I understood him wanting to make sure I wasn’t offended, but I didn’t expect that kind of praise. Still, I swore my heart skipped a beat and I had a difficult time hiding the smile stretching my lips as I responded. “Oh.”
“That just sounded creepy,” he furrowed his brow apologetically, removing a hand from his pocket to scratch the back of his head, feeling the buzz of the hair which had been recently shaved off and looking like a child who had been caught in a lie. “I feel like I’m digging myself into a hole.”
I thought about telling him that everything he was saying was exactly what I wanted to hear, seeing as I definitely had more than platonic feelings for him, but decided that there was no need to make the situation any more complex. The entire point of him starting this conversation was to set thing between us back on the right path and there was no need for me to derail his efforts. “I think you’re doing fine.”
“The bottom line,” he started over, exhaling deeply and shoving his free hand back into his pocket, “is that you’re becoming a part of this family and we want you around for as long as you’ll have us.”
“Well, I’m honored,” I grinned, thinking it was amazing that I could feel like I was part of a family that I’d known for such a short amount of time, “It won’t be weird, though? Because of the whole almost kiss thing?”
Since he brought it up first, I figured the topic wasn’t off limits and let out a soft sigh of relief when he didn’t seem at all bothered at my mention of it. “Maybe for a day or two. But honestly, I’m glad you walked away.”
“You are?” Despite understanding why it was better if we didn’t go down this road, I felt a pang of sadness knowing that he was relieved nothing more had happened between us.
“Yeah, because I think it’s better if we keep things professional, you know?” he nodded, an easy smile still stretching his lips, though there was a swirling of emotions I couldn’t quite place in his eyes, “I don’t want things to get confusing for the twins.”
“That makes sense.” It was better this way. At least, that’s what I had to keep telling myself in order to stay sane.
“So do you forgive me?” he leaned forward slightly, which did nothing to ease my heart palpitations, “Are we cool?”
He still seemed concerned that I was upset, and although this wasn’t exactly my dream imagining of this scenario, it was the most realistic result. Shaking my head, I laughed quietly and smiled with as much conviction as I could muster. “There’s nothing to forgive. We’re fine.”
“Okay, good,” he laughed, the tension in his shoulders releasing as he took a step backwards, “I’ll see you back at the gate.”
“Yeah, I’ll be there in a sec.” I watched as he turned and walked away, letting out a shaky breath as I continued on my mission for caffeine, glad that Jaxon and I were still on good terms, but wondering why it felt as though my heart was aching.