Red Glowing Heart
It was eerily quiet. Almost pindrop silence enveloped the tour bus, a feat which hadn’t been accomplished for as long as I’d been around the band. The boys were all in the back room, doing their best to sing the twins to sleep, and when those doors were closed, it was like there was no one else around.
Or maybe it was the fact that it was nearly midnight. Either way, it was a strange thrill to feel so utterly alone. I spent my days so surrounded by people and children that it was somewhat of a luxury to have time to myself. I sat crosslegged on the couch in the bus’s common area, sketching for the first time in what felt like forever.
Life has been pretty crazy the past couple weeks. Ever since Jaxon kissed me in the back hallway of a stadium, I’ve felt like my world has been on fast forward, in the best way possible. And it’s not even because people know. Amy knows because Jaxon knew better than to keep that kind of secret from her and the boys know because, well, they’re his best friends, but we’ve managed to keep the fact that we’re together a secret from the general public. Not because we’re intentionally hiding it or anything, but because we figured it wasn’t really their business.
To be honest, I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the idea of being in a relationship with Jaxon. It was like I spent so long daydreaming about it that now that it was actually a reality, I had no idea what to with myself.
That being said, our day to day lives hadn’t changed much. I was still the nanny to the twins and the band was still on tour, which meant consistent traveling and not very much down time, but any quiet moments that Jaxon and I got together were incredible.
“I thought I might find you here.”
I looked up from my sketchpad to see Jaxon stepping out of the hallway with the bunks, newly changed out of his stage clothes into navy pajama bottoms and a plain white t-shirt.
“Hey!” I smiled widely, feeling that beautiful fluttering in my stomach that I always felt when he entered a room. “Did they go down okay?”
He nodded, mimicking my sitting position beside me on the couch. “They were a little hyped up from the ice cream, but they’re knocked out now.”
Flashing me a smile, he tilted his head to sneak a peek at my drawing. “Whatcha got there? A house?”
“Yep,” I nodded. I wondered what it meant that I no longer had any reservations about showing Jaxon my art. “Audra told me that when she’s older, she wants to live in a pink stone house with white shutters and a blue front door. So I thought I’d draw it for her.”
She’d given me all the details over the course of the past month or so, but I hadn’t gotten the idea to draw her a picture until last week, when I’d seen her completely mesmerized by the houses in the neighborhood we were driving through on our way to the hotel. I figured if I drew her a picture, she’d have something to keep with her always.
“That’s nice,” he whispered, though the expression on his face contradicted his words, because there was a sadness that darkened his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, my eyes widening in panic as I worried that I’d touched a nerve. As fond as I had become of the twins and as much as they might like me, Jaxon was still their father and still knew better than I did what was best for them. “Should I not be doing that?”
“It’s not that…,” he assured me, shaking his head. “I just didn’t know they craved a home so a much.”
I hadn’t even thought of it that way. I just wanted to do something nice for Audra and I figured she’d think the drawing was pretty. I didn’t mean to make Jaxon feel like shit by implying that there was something missing in her life.
“A house is not a home, Jaxon,” I reminded him, reaching out to grab his hand and squeezing it lightly.
“I know,” he sighed, rubbing his thumb over the top of my hand appreciatively. “But they’ve never really had either.”
That was just ridiculous. “They may not have a house, but you’ve always been their home.”
He glanced up at me briefly, his eyes still filled with sadness and whispered, “I’m not sure that’s true.”
“I am,” I am, I replied firmly, knowing that one of us needed to be the voice of reason here. “You really shouldn’t second guess how great of a job you’re doing with them. They love you completely and unconditionally. And they always will. I promise.”
I knew that was a promise I could keep, because despite being young and despite not being fully prepared to take on fatherhood alone, Jaxon was doing a hell of a job with his kids. They were toddlers, so they had their tantrums, but they were generally happy and healthy and just so full of love and that came from good parenting and being surrounded by such great role models.
He might not have believed me just yet, but the corners of his lips turned upwards into a smile. “Your pep talks just keep getting better.”
“I’m glad,” I let out a sigh of relief that the tension in the room seemed to have dissipated.
He kept my hand in his, lacing our fingers together, but leaned back against the couch, his posture relaxing a bit. “You been talking to your dad?”
“Yeah! He’s doing good,” I replied happily, thinking it had been way too long since I’d felt joy while talking about my father. But ever since I’d visited him in Seattle two weeks ago, we’d been talking nearly every day, even if it was only a two minute conversation. We weren’t perfect, but I felt like we were slowly but surely getting there. “He’s decided that retirement just doesn’t suit him, so he’s been doing contract work.”
“That’s awesome, babe,” he grinned. “Tell him I say hi next time you guys talk.”
I felt myself flush at the term of endearment and found myself grinning like an idiot. “Will do. You know…he asks about you all the time.”
It was kind of ridiculous, actually. It didn’t matter how short our conversation was, my dad somehow always managed to work in a question about Jaxon’s well being. Which was a good thing, I supposed. It would be worse if my father hated the guy I had fallen for.
“Really?” he smiled, lifting his eyebrows in surprise.
“Yeah…,” I replied slowly, not believing that he was unaware that my father adored him, even though they’d only met once. But that might just be because of how much I gush about Jaxon on the phone. I phrased my next statement cautiously, unsure of how he would react. “He wants to know what my boyfriend is up to.”
I wasn’t sure if that’s what he was to me. I mean, he was my boyfriend in my mind, but maybe kissing whenever we had free time didn’t qualify as a relationship. Maybe he thought whatever it is we were doing was completely casual, and me assuming that we were exclusive would cause him to sprint in the other direction.
But he didn’t. The sadness in his eyes had disappeared entirely, and now he was just looking at me as though he was the happiest man in the world and I’d never felt more filled with sunshine in my entire life.
“I like that.”
“You do?” I breathed out, unsure that this moment was real.
“Yeah, I like being called your boyfriend,” he grinned as wide as he could. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot, actually.”
It was my turn to be surprised. Maybe I had to give myself more credit. After all, my feelings clearly weren’t one sided. “You have?”
He nodded, squeezing my hand a little tighter before lifting it to his lips to press a kiss to my knuckles, mumbling against my skin. “Things have been going good between us, don’t you think?”
I wasn’t sure I was breathing, but I did manage to respond. “I do.”
“Well,” he said slowly, lowering our intertwined hands to his lap. “I think that maybe it’s time we told the twins.”
Instantly, any sort of loved up haze surrounding me disappeared. Telling the twins was a big step. Those kids were his world and they meant more to him than anything, and he would never do anything to hurt them. So if he was willing to tell them that we were in a romantic relationship, it meant that he had faith that our relationship would last.
And as pessimistic as I was about life and love and everything that came in between, I did know that this was an important moment. Me dating someone who was willing to tell his children about me meant that I was finally in a mature adult relationship and of course, that scared the shit out of me.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I whispered, “I mean, that’s a pretty big deal.”
“I know,” he replied. “And like I said, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. You’re already such a big part of their lives that I don’t think it’ll be a huge surprise to them.”
I supposed that was true. I already spent every day with them and my relationship with Jaxon in front of them hadn’t really changed, because we were careful not to pack on the PDA. Still, I didn’t want him to think that he had to do this. I was fine with things the way they were.
“Okay,” I nodded. “But only if you’re sure.”
“I’m sure,” he said immediately.
I let out a shaky breath, feeling my muscles relax and smiling softly. “Then so am I.”
He grinned and uncrossed his legs, swinging his feet to the floor and tugging me upwards in an effort to get me to do the same. “Come on, we should get some sleep.”
I allowed him to lead me towards the bunk area and as though he was walking me to my front door, he came to a stop beside my bunk and hesitated.
I wasn’t sure why I felt like this was the end of our first date, especially considering I wasn’t sure we’d ever actually gone on a date, but it felt as though my heart was about to burst from my chest.
“Goodnight,” I whispered into the darkness, memorizing the way his features were lit in the moonlight.
The corners of his lips lifted into a smile and he leaned in, pressing a soft kiss to my mouth and whispering, “Goodnight, baby,” in response.
He dropped my hand and turned towards the back common area to join the twins on the air mattress and I stared after him as he went, thinking that the sound of him calling me baby was my new favorite song.