Silver Peanut Packets
I didn’t relax until about an hour into the flight. In general, I don’t like flying. I can appreciate the convenience, and the whole idea of plummeting to my death doesn’t bother me so much as the fact that it’s just never really comfortable. The seats always feel hard after about twenty minutes and you have to remain constantly aware of yourself as to not fall asleep on top of the person sitting beside you.
And right now, that task was requiring extra focus because I was sitting next to Jaxon. The twins were just on the other side of the aisle, buffered in the middle and window seats by Benji, who was keeping them entertained by reading them stories in the most dramatic way possible.
If this flight had happened a week ago, I probably would have relished in the opportunity to spend some quality time with Jaxon, but seeing as we had yet to have The Talk, I currently felt as though my stomach was doing somersaults.
But we couldn’t spend the next few hours sitting in the awkward silence we’d been enduring since the plane took off. One of us had to speak first, so I figured it might as well be me. “So…successful weekend?”
If he thought my attempt at conversation was lame, he didn’t show it, shrugging casually. “It was interesting, to say the least.”
“So what’s the final verdict on Natalia?” I asked, instantly regretting that decision. I didn’t actually want to know anything about his second date. Which was petty and immature of me, I knew, but considering the bomb he’d dropped on me, I thought it was fair.
I wasn’t expecting his answer, though. “I told her that I think we’re probably better off as friends.”
“Oh?” I squeaked out, suddenly feeling as though all of the oxygen had been sucked from the room. “And what did she say?”
By some miracle, I managed to maintain eye contact, holding my breath as the faintest smile kinked his lips and he replied, “That she agrees.”
“I’m sorry.” I blurted out, despite the fact that I was internally jumping joy.
His eyebrows lifted upwards, his smiling widening. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted, thinking that if my heart beat any faster, it might just explode, “it just seemed like the right thing to say.”
That was only partially true. Because in reality, I was terrified of what would happen next, or all the possibilities for what could happen next. For the first time since our first meeting, it seemed like Jaxon I might possibly be on the same page. Now all that was left was for me to tell him that I completely reciprocated everything he’d told me last night. If only my brain was actually connected to my mouth.
“Everything alright?” he asked quietly, noticing my struggle to find words. “You seem a little distant.”
This was my moment; my chance to divulge all of the secrets of my heart. All I had to do was open my mouth and tell Jaxon exactly how I felt. But I couldn’t. I chickened out, and instead said, “Uh, yeah, I was just wondering…do you think it would be okay…if when we get to Seattle…I took a day off?”
It was a diversion, for sure, but at least it was something I’d been meaning to ask him anyway.
“Of course!” he replied, clearing his throat in surprise because he apparently wasn’t expecting that response either. “Places to go and people to see?”
“Something like that,” I murmured, not sure now was the time to go in depth into my family history.
When I didn’t expand on that cryptic statement after a few moments, he nudged his shoulder softly against mine. “Seriously, Divya, what’s with the gloom and doom?”
“I’m originally from Seattle,” I explained, trying to figure out how to tell the rest of the story. For some reason, this had been so much easier when I didn’t know him as well. That night on the tour bus, when I’d stood in the moonlight with my sketchpad clutched to my chest and told him all about my mom, the words had just seemed to flow. And it meant so much to me that it was easy, because I felt like we were taking a real step forward in our relationship. We had that chance again now, to redefine who we were as a pair, and I was struggling.
I felt horrible about it too. Because Jaxon had been nothing but completely open and honest with me regarding his past. He’d shared the private details of how his relationship with Lauren came to an end and his insecurities regarding being a single father. He’d held nothing back, even when it came down to revealing his true feelings for me, and yet I still couldn’t seem to say what I really wanted to say.
He smiled sympathetically, apparently not put off by my vagueness. “And it’s not gonna be a warm homecoming?”
It had less to do with warmth and more to do with awkwardness. “I haven’t seen my dad in a few years,” I admitted.
“Oh,” he nodded, shooting me a reassuring smile. “Well, it’s good that you’re going now.”
“We’ll see,” I shrugged, a mix between surprised and slightly relieved that he didn’t ask for the intimate details of why I hadn’t gone home in so long. But what he did ask still set me on edge.
“Do you want some company?”
I blinked slowly, sure I’d misheard him, because what rational person would offer that kind of support. “What?”
“If you want,” he said, shifting nervously in his seat, as though it was just dawning on him that what he’d offered was pretty huge. “I can come with you to see your dad.”
“You don’t have to do that,” I replied automatically, partly because I figured he was just being polite and partly because I wasn’t sure I wanted him to come anyway. We still had yet to openly talk about our relationship, so surely we weren’t at the point where he should be meeting my father. Especially considering that my father and I weren’t currently on the best of terms. It would be almost unfair to bring Jaxon into that mess.
But he was persistent. Leaning towards me, he brushed the side of his hand against mine on the armrest.
“I know,” he said softly, gaining more confidence with each word he spoke, “I just thought you might like someone to be there with you. For moral support, I mean. Like you did with me when I was meeting Natalia.”
I appreciated the thought, and as much as it might be nice to have someone there to hold my hand, I didn’t want to him to commit to something he might not actually be able to do. “That’s not exactly the same thing. Besides, do you even have the time?”
We were getting to Seattle a day early, so that the band could settle in before the show tomorrow night, but I’d been on the road with them long enough to know that having free time didn’t always mean they actually had free time. Usually it meant extra interviews or quick backstage photoshoots or fan events.
Still, Jaxon seemed unperturbed by his ever chaotic schedule.
“I can make the time,” he assured me. “We don’t have anything going on the morning and afternoon of the show, so as long as I’m back by soundcheck, we’re all good.” He paused, leaning in a little closer, as though he wanted to tell me a secret. I held my breath. “Since I’ve known you, you’ve been there for me quite a few times and I figure I should probably return the favor.”
He was being sweet, but I felt my heart drop into my stomach. “So it would just be a favor for favor thing?”
“If that’s how you wanna look at it,” he shrugged. “Or it could be a friend supporting a friend thing.”
That was even worse. He was backtracking. Just last night he’d told me he felt something for me, something that was most certainly not platonic and now he was saying we were just friends. Though maybe that was because I had yet to tell him otherwise.
“Is that what we are?” I asked quietly. “Friends?”
I couldn’t tell what he was thinking, but he didn’t say what I was hoping he’d say. “If that’s alright with you.”
The words came out before I even realized I was saying them and I prayed that he wouldn’t hear them before realizing that was a stupid wish, seeing as he was the only person listening.
“It’s not?” he lifted his eyebrow sin surprise.
I thought about brushing it off; making up an excuse as to why I had said that and then decided to make the most of my lack of brain to mouth filter. I’d been wanting to have this talk, waiting for the perfect moment to bring up last night’s revelation, and here it was, staring me in the face. So I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and continued. “Are we gonna talk about it? What you said to me last night, I mean.”
If was freaking out at all he gave absolutely no indication. “Yeah. I mean, I guess I should have known I couldn’t just say that and then walk away.”
At least he acknowledged the craziness of the situation. “It wasn’t fair to me.”
“I know,” he winced apologetically, “And I’m sorry. I’ve never been good at saying how I feel, but with you, it’s just so easy.”
I melted. It wasn’t as though I had planned on making him feel guilty, seeing as it was just as much my fault that this wasn’t resolved sooner, but he’d said those words so breezily and with so much conviction that I immediately forgot that I was on edge at all, instead feeling suddenly lighthearted. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” the corners of his lips lifted into a small smile and he leaned towards me. “Look, I didn’t say what I said because I expected you to feel the same way. I just needed to say it.”
“So you don’t want to know how I feel?” I asked, knowing that if I didn’t say it soon, this moment would be lost forever.
“Of course I do,” he nodded, sitting up a little straighter, his jaw tensing as though he was preparing himself for the worst, “How do you feel?”
A slow smile stretched my lips. “The same way.”
It felt so good to say it out loud, even it wasn’t the most eloquently phrased sentence I’d ever spoken.
His eyes went wide and his face remained completely expressionless. “Really?”
“Yeah. I feel it too,” I replied, my smile widening. I moved my hand on the armrest so that I could hook my pinky with his. “I just…I guess I thought it was better not to say anything.”
“How come?” he furrowed his brow in concern, though his posture relaxed a little bit and his pinky tightened against mine.
“Because you’re my boss. And it would just make things complicated.”
He blinked slowly, as though he hadn’t even considered the fact that us having any sort of romantic relationship would make our working relationship messy. “Right.”
“So what now?”
He shook his head slowly, using his free hand to trace a finger gently down the back of my hand. I shivered happily. “I don’t know. I didn’t really think this far ahead.”
That was strange, because in the time that I’d known Jaxon, I’d come to realize that he made very few moves without thinking through every possible angle first. But I also understood why he wouldn’t have wanted to think past the initial admission of feelings. Because as difficult as it had been for us to get to this point, what came next was actually the hard part. Where did we go from here? Did we start dating? And if we did, what would that mean for the twins? Was Jaxon ready to introduce me to them in an entirely new capacity?
“Maybe I should quit,” I suggested, seeing it as the only option.
“What?” his eyes widened in alarm. “Why?”
“It’ll just be weird, don’t you think?” I said, “With both of us having said what we’ve said, but not having acted on it. There’s gonna be so much tension.”
And seeing that kind of tension would definitely be confusing for Finn and Audra. Plus, if we did date, I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of being romantically involved with my boss.
Letting go of my finger, Jaxon collapsed back into his seat, letting out a soft sigh and tangling his fingers in his hair. “Shit. I really messed everything up, didn’t I?”
“I’m glad you said it,” I reassured him, not wanting him to regret telling me the truth. He had been much braver than me. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
“Me neither,” he admitted, keeping his gaze direct. “I do know I don’t want you to quit. Our lives are better when you’re around.”
I felt my entire body warm and I smiled slowly, allowing myself to finally relax. “Good to know.”
He leaned towards me over the arm rest and I mimicked his movement, my gaze dropping to his lips. My heart beat faster with each slow passing second as we moved towards each other, both of us patiently waiting for the other to be the one to make the final move.
Ultimately, it was Jaxon who changed the situation, pulling away before our lips could touch and leaving me just a tad disappointed. I did understand, though. Because as much as I’d dreamed about what it would be like to finally kiss him, I knew that now, with his children just a few feet away, wasn’t the right moment.
There would be another time and I could wait eagerly for that day.
“So…,” he said, settling back into his seat and taking me hand, lacing our fingers together, “tell me about your dad.”
The movement was so casual and the way our hands fit together felt so natural that I found myself letting my guard down about a topic I wouldn’t normally discuss so easily. “What do you want to know?”
“You guys aren’t close?” he tilted his head to the side, his thumb gently stroking the side of my wrist.
“We were when I was little,” I admitted, thinking the times when I was my daddy’s little girl seemed like a lifetime ago, “but he took my mom’s death pretty hard. He hasn’t been the same since.”
“They were really in love.”
It was a statement, not a question, and I found myself smiling as I responded. “Yeah. My mom once described her relationship with my dad as the perfect mixture of chocolate and peanut butter. Two people who are fantastic on their own, but them together, and they make a combination you didn’t expect to be so amazing.”
“Is that what you want?” Jaxon asked, his grin growing and his fingers squeezing mine reassuringly. “Someday?”
“I don’t know,” I said, because to be completely honest, I’d never thought about a romantic relationship as being long term. “I think I’m too much of a pessimist to be a romantic.”
I wondered if that revelation would turn him off, if it would make him wonder if any of this was worth it. Because Jaxon had his kids to think about, so he might not be willing to start something with someone who was so uncertain about the future. But to my surprise, he smiled softly, his eyes twinkling with a hint of humor. “And I’m too much of an optimist to be realistic, so maybe we’re perfect for each other.”
Once again, I found myself dazzled by his nonchalance and the ease with which he seemed to be accepting all the possibilities of our future together. Deciding that it was about time that I took more risks in my life, I matched his smile and squeezed his hand tight and allowed myself to relax as well. “Maybe.”