Magenta Running Shoes
I couldn’t feel my legs. But it was entirely my fault, so I couldn’t really complain. After being on tour with the band for a couple months and realizing that I’d exercised a total of zero times, I decided it was time I got in the habit of being healthy because spending my days running after a pair of three year olds really wasn’t a good enough excuse to spend shitloads of money on fast food.
So I’d gotten up at six this morning and gone to the hotel’s fitness center to use the treadmill. It all seemed fine while I was there, but as soon as I left it was like a switch flipped and my body betrayed me and now I was sitting on the floor of the hotel hallway just a few doors down from my room, staring longingly at the golden numbers on the wall and wishing my mind and body would just cooperate.
“Divya…,” I heard a familiar voice saying my name and looked up to see Trey approaching from the elevator bay, dressed in athletic shorts and one of those tanks where the armholes were much larger than necessary; his usual running attire. All the band members had a strict training regimen while on tour to ensure their energy was at a peak level for the two hours they were on stage. Trey’s consisted of daily morning jogs, which he always took outdoors, no matter the weather, because apparently he enjoyed being followed by gaggles of people with cameras. His eyebrows pulled downwards into a furrow as he came to a stop beside me. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m all good,” I assured him, trying to look as casual as I could while slumped against the wall. “I’m just resting.”
Of course he didn’t buy that at all, crossing his arms over his chest and looking very skeptical. “In the middle of the hallway?”
I considered coming up with another farfetched excuse before deciding that honesty was probably my best option, no matter how embarrassing the truth may be. “I don’t think my legs function. I just worked out for the first time in…well, awhile.”
To his credit, he didn’t laugh, simply shrugging before saying, “fair enough,” and crossing his feet over each other, dropping down to sit cross legged on the floor across from me.
I appreciated that he was so quick to accept that answer and realized that I had kinda missed hanging out with Trey. We hadn’t spent much time together since the night he leaned in and I leaned away and I guess I understood why he needed space, but I hoped that we could go back to being friends, at least.
“Are we okay?” I asked, wanting to make sure, because if I didn’t know any better I’d think he’d been avoiding me.
He quirked one eyebrow upwards. “You and me?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, “I just feel like things have been weird between us ever since…”
“Ever since I tried to kiss you and you rejected me?”
I didn’t expect him to state it that bluntly, so I blinked in surprise before responding. “Yeah. That. Look, don’t take it personally, apparently it’s just a thing I do.”
“What does that mean?” He looked understandably confused, leaning a bit closer as though thinking he may have heard me wrong.
And to be honest, I kind of instantly regretted saying anything at all. But now that it was out there, I had no choice but to explain, wincing as I did. “I did the same thing to Jaxon.”
“Jaxon,” Trey repeated, as though the name was completely foreign to him, “As in Jaxon my best friend, the bassist Jaxon? He tried to kiss you?”
Maybe my attempt to settle everything with Trey was going horribly wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time I massively misjudged a situation. “Yeah, but it freaked me out, so I ran away.”
“Wow.” I couldn’t tell what he was thinking because his face was expressionless but I could guess that it wasn’t anything that got me back into his good graces. Despite the fact that it was Jaxon who actually made the move, I was willing to bet that almost kissing a pair of best friends wasn’t going to put me into a positive light with either of them.
“He didn’t tell you?”
Trey shook his head. “Nope.”
That was actually kind of strange. The band members told each other everything, even if it was something they thought one of their friends might not want to hear. They had strict rules about keeping things honest between the four of them, figuring that they were in a business where it was so often difficult to tell who was sincere that the last thing any of them wanted was to feel as though they couldn’t trust the other members of their own band. If they didn’t have each other’s backs, who would?
So Jaxon not mentioning the incident to his friends meant one of two things: either the thought it was completely inconsequential to the point that it wasn’t worth mentioning or it was such a great offense that he was waiting for the right time to say something. Neither scenario did much for my pride, but I assumed the former was more likely. “I guess because he figures it’s all water under the bridge. When we talked about it the next day he made it pretty clear that he was glad things didn’t go further because he didn’t want anything nonprofessional to happen between us.”
Trey nodded his acceptance of that explanation, fixing me with a hard stare. “But you do?”
“What? No,” I sputtered out, immediately going to denial. “I didn’t say that.”
His gaze narrowed, not believing me because he was a completely perceptive person. “I can see it in your eyes.”
“If that were true,” I shot back, scrambling for an appropriate response, “then why would I have encouraged him to go out with Natalia Borgens?”
“Oh, yeah, I heard about that,” he laughed and I wondered if we’d officially changed subjects.
I let out a small sigh of relief. “I think it’ll be good for him to get back into the dating game.”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged, wrapping and unwrapping the cord of his headphones around one finger, “I feel like setting him up with a supermodel is kinda like throwing him in the deep end.”
“Shit. You’re right.” I hadn’t thought about that at all. I had been so eager to prove that I’d moved on that I just agreed with Amy’s pleading to convince Jaxon to go, never mind any considerations for whether or not it was actually a good idea.
“Jaxon’s a big boy. I’m sure he’ll be fine,” he assured me, probably noting the tension in my shoulders, “And to answer your first question, yes, we’re all good.” I liked that it was that simple and I felt a sense of peace wash over me as he flashed me a smile and glanced at my noodle like legs. “Do you need some help getting back to your room?”
“If you can just pull me up, I think I can make it the rest of the way.” I had regained only some of the feeling, but it was enough that I could walk back to my room and collapse on my bed until it was absolutely necessary for me to get up again.
Nodding, he hopped up to his feet and held out both hands to help me up, pulling upright with absolutely no effort before turning to head towards his own hotel room. “Alright. I’ll see you later.”
“Hey, Trey?” I called after him, waiting for him to turn and face me before continuing. “I’m glad we’re all good.”
The corners of his lips lifted into a small smile and he quietly said, “me too,” before pulling his room key from the pocket of his shorts and disappearing from the hallway.
Thinking that this had to turned into quite a productive morning after all, I hummed to myself as I slowly but surely made my way down the rest of the hallway and dug my room key from its safekeeping spot on the inside of my sports bra, only to freeze when I pushed the door open and heard soft noises coming from within.
I wasn’t sure who in their right mind would try to rob a nanny because it wasn’t as though I had anything of value in my room, but I grabbed the nearest object that I could possibly use as a weapon – a lamp from the hallway table – and crept around the corner to the main room, letting out a gasp of relief at the revelation that the intruder was just the band’s personal assistant, opening and shutting my dresser drawers.
“Amy?” I said, a little out of breath and feeling a bit foolish as I set down the lamp on the closest table and tried to figure out why she was in my room. It wasn’t as though we had daily morning meetings. Amy was much too busy to hear my daily status updates. “What’s going on?”
“I’m helping you pack,” she replied, pulling a stack of sweaters from the top drawer and dumping them into the open suitcase on the bed.
“Pack?” I stepped forward to tuck the sweaters in more tidily, “What for?”
“You’re going to New York with Jaxon.”
That honestly sounded like a dream come true, so there had to be a catch. There weren’t many things in my life that worked out just as I imagined. “What’s in New York?”
“Natalia Borgens. Jaxon agreed to go out with her,” Amy explained, handing me a stack of jeans and skirts, “Thanks, by the way. I assume that was your doing.”
I blinked in confusion as I stuffed the articles of clothing into the now half full suitcase. Of course it was too good to be true. “Glad I could help.”
“Yeah, well, now that he’s in, we have kind of a time crunch,” Amy replied briskly, moving to bathroom to collect my toiletries and speaking to me over her shoulder. “Natalia is walking in multiple shows during fashion week, so since the boys don’t have another show until next week, Jaxon volunteered to fly out there and see her.”
“How generous of him,” I muttered with only a hint of bitterness in my tone, which I realized I had no entitlement to feel. After all, as Amy said, I was the one who told him to go on the date. So of course he would be the sweetest guy ever and go out of his way to accommodate Natalia. But I didn’t see why I was involved. “What does this have to do with me?”
She returned from the bathroom with make overstuffed makeup bag and dumped it on top of the jeans. “He doesn’t want to leave the kids behind, which means you guys have to tag along.”
Oh how quickly a daydream turned what sounded like the most miserable situation ever. “Really? Jaxon’s gonna bring his kids on a date?”
“I don’t think they’ll be there for the actual date,” she shot me a glare. “It’s a moral support thing.”
“Gotcha.” I guess that sort of made sense. This date was a big deal for him, so having his kids nearby would keep his nerves down. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t extremely awkward.
“You seem upset,” Amy noted, reaching down to grab a couple pairs of shoes from where they were lined up against the wall and tossing them on top of the pile of clothes.
She was a perceptive one. “Well…”
“I didn’t say that as an invitation for you to tell me what’s wrong,” she cut me off before I could continue. “If you have a problem, take it up with Jaxon.”
“I thought you were my boss,” I pointed out, remembering what she’d told me when I was having a breakdown over the idea of losing my job.
She nodded, scanning the room to see if she’d missed anything. “I control whether or not you get fired, but your job is to go where the twins go. And the twins go wherever Jaxon wants them to go.”
“Fine,” I huffed, turning back towards the door. “I will go talk to him.”
Completely forgetting about my current state of sweatiness, I marched out of the room and down the hall to Jaxon’s suite, doing my best not to look too elated when he pulled open the door and greeted me with a smile. “Hey! You all packed up?”
“Amy’s working on it,” I replied, following him into the room, closing the door, and waving at Finn and Audra, who were busy with their pre-breakfast coloring session. “But I actually wanted to talk to you about that, though.”
“Oh, yeah?” he called over his shoulder, returning to the kitchenette where he was chopping the green tops off of strawberries. “What’s up?”
I wasn’t sure this was a conversation we should be having in front of the twins, but I also didn’t want to alarm them, so I made my way to Jaxon’s side in the kitchen, crossed my arms over my chest, and spoke softly, despite the sternness in my gaze. “Why are you making me go?”
He didn’t have to ask what I was referring to. “Because I’d rather not leave my kids on the other end of the country just so that I can go on a date with a supermodel…”
“Right,” I nodded. I probably needed elaborate because, of course, I knew Jaxon was just trying to be a good father. He hated being away from the twins because he didn’t want them to think that he wouldn’t come back; the way their mother didn’t come back. “No, I get that, but is that really it? There’s no other reason?”
Both his eyebrows jumped upwards in surprise. “What other reason would there be?”
He couldn’t really be that oblivious could he? Or maybe I was the oblivious one. Maybe the signs that he had no romantic interest in me whatsoever had been there all along and I was just ignoring them because I didn’t want my heart to break. “I don’t know, I mean, you almost kissed me, and now it feels like you’re trying to force me to watch you date someone that you know I could never compare to.”
“Oh,” he blinked, putting down the knife he’d been using and turning to face me. “That didn’t even cross my mind. Do you really think I’m that horrible?”
“No!” I replied immediately, wanting him to know that I didn’t think he was horrible at anything. “I mean, I don’t know. It just seems weird that you want me there.”
Sighing, he leaned back against the counter. “Can I be completely honest?”
“Sure,” I whispered, my heart rate spiking. This was an important moment. I could feel it.
“It’s true that I don’t wanna leave the twins,” he began slowly, keeping his startlingly direct gaze on me, “but the real reason I told Amy I want them to come is because I knew that meant that you’d have to come to, and I could use the moral support.”
“Oh. Why not ask one of your band mates?” I only said that because I was genuinely curious and also didn’t want him to know that I was internally jumping for joy. It was thrilling to be someone’s first choice.
He shrugged. “They wouldn’t get it. I love them to death, but they’ll pretty much tell me to do whatever I want to do, but you,” he paused and I wondered if this was going to be one of those conversations that I remembered for the rest of my life, “well, you give it to me straight, you don’t just tell me what you think I want to hear. And I appreciate that.”
It wasn’t exactly a romantic declaration, but it was nice to know that Jaxon valued my opinion. And with everything that had happened between us so far, I was glad that he still treated me like I mattered to him. “Is that really what you want for your first date in years, though?” As soon as I said it, I realized how amazingly strange that sounded and immediately backtracked. “Sorry, that’s not what I meant.”
“No, you’re right,” he laughed, reaching out to squeeze my shoulder comfortingly and causing me to stop breathing altogether. “This will be my first date in years and it would be great to have someone to talk to about it afterwards, you know? Someone who has an outside perspective and won’t just tell me everything’s great because they think dating a supermodel is some sort of status symbol.”
So I was gonna be like his best girlfriend who he debriefed to after the date with the girl he’d been pining over for years. I wondered how I’d gone from potential love interest to best friend harboring unrequited feelings in such a short amount of time. But I supposed there were worse things to be.
“Isn’t it kind of a status symbol, though?” I fixed him with a knowing look. Surely dating a super model was a fantasy of his at some point. Hell, it was a fantasy of mine.
Laughing, he nodded, turning back towards the strawberries on the counter. “Fifteen year old me would definitely be wondering why the hell I even had to think about it in the first place.”
“Alright, I’ll come,” I said, as though I hadn’t already made up my mind the moment he opened the door and smiled at me like I was the sun after weeks of rain.
“Good,” he nodded, picking up the knife and beginning to chop again. “Cause you didn’t really have a choice.”
Right. This was my job. Flashing him a smile, I turned to leave. “Let me go finish packing.”
On my way out, I ruffled Finn’s hair and kissed Audra’s cheek and found myself humming as I skipped back down the hallway to my room. Any pain I’d previously felt had mysteriously disappeared.