Dear Hunter: From, The Girl Backstage
I’m in the midst of my hundredth sit up when I feel pressure on the tips of my toes and hear Ian’s voice ring out. “So, I hear your girlfriend is coming to the show tonight.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” I reply automatically, grunting as I come to a stop and rest my elbows on top of my bent knees and look up at him.
We’re doing a show tonight, a kick off to our tour before we officially leave to start the tour tomorrow, and I got Mia a backstage pass. I’m not sure if that makes her my girlfriend or not, though the tabloids sure think we’re getting serious, judging by all the headlines with the words ‘couple alert’. I guess the fact that I haven’t been photographed with anyone else since Mia and I met is huge news. I’m a little surprised myself, to be honest. It’s not that I get bored easily or anything, but being monogamous and exclusive hasn’t been as difficult as I would have thought it would be about two months ago. Still, the term ‘girlfriend’ brings all kinds of fluttering to the put of my stomach and I don’t know what that means.
“She kinda is, though, seeing as you aren’t sleeping with anyone else.” Ian holds out a hand to offer to pull me to my feet and when I shake my head, he joins me on the floor, crossing his legs beneath him.
I wonder if I should be concerned that he’s so actively invested in my sex life. “I’m not sleeping with her either.”
His eyebrows lift in surprise and this time I actually am offended at the implication. “Wow, you really like her, huh?”
“What are you talking about?” I scoff, though I feel my heart rate spike, despite the fact that I’m no longer exercising. I do like her, but the fact that Ian sees my feelings for her as unusual scares me a little bit.
“I mean, usually by now, you’ve sealed the deal and they’re out the door,” he explains, and I suppose I can’t argue, because he’s kind of right, “but you’re talking your time with this girl.”
“Yeah, well, that’s kind of the point,” I say with a shrug, “to prove that I can maintain a relationship.”
He fixes me with a pointed stare. “Right. So there’s no real feelings there.”
“Of course there are,” I reply defensively. “I’m not a good enough actor to completely fake it.”
“Okay,” he nods. “Well, be careful.”
“With what?” I asked, intrigued by the mysteriousness of that statement. Ian has never been the kind of person who refrains from saying exactly what’s on his mind.
“With how it plays out,” he explains with a shrug, keeping his gaze direct. “I know all of this is part of some elaborate plan Bennett cooked up to save your image, but your image isn’t more important than your heart. Protect your heart. Even if it means pissing off the entire world.”
“That was strangely deep,” I blink, impressed with the profoundness of his rant. We don’t usually have emotional heart to hearts. Or we haven’t recently, anyway. Maybe because I haven’t really had too many emotions to talk about in the first place.
He smiles widely, uncrossing his legs and pushing himself to his feet. “I have my moments.”
“Thanks, Ian,” I smile up at him, this time accepting the hand he extends to help me up and deciding that maybe it’s time I actually start to pay attention to my emotional health.
So I spend time with my friends and get my energy up before the show and three hours later, as I walk off stage to see Mia standing there beaming as though watching me perform was the proudest moment of her life, I know it’s not the adrenaline pumping through my veins that has me feeling like I can do anything.
“Hey!” I grin as I walk towards her.
“Hey, that was amazing,” she gushes, stepping forward to meet me halfway.
“Thanks,” I smile back. I love how seeing her always brightens my day and I realize I’ve missed her up until now because I hadn’t seen her before we went on stage. She came straight from work, so she’s still in her pencil skirt and blouse and cardigan and her hair’s a bit mussed, as though she’s been running her hands through it all day, and she looks absolutely breathtaking. It was such a thrill to look into the wings during the opening and see her dancing and singing along to our songs. I remember she told me she was a fan and I’m glad, because I meant what I said about not being able to date someone who doesn’t like my music. “I would kiss you, but I’m kinda sweaty.”
It’s not an urge that I have to fight for long, because she surprises me by flattening her palms against the front of my sweat dampened t-shirt and kissing me soundly on the lips. It’s short and sweet, but when she pulls away, I somehow feel even more energized than before. “You were incredible. So what do you guys usually do now?”
“Sleep,” I reply, grabbing her hand and intertwining our fingers as I tug her towards the dressing room. Considering I’m drenched in sweat, I figure this is the least gross way for me to maintain physical contact. “Usually we have another show the next day or we have to hit the road, so there’s not much time for celebration.”
“But you don’t have those restrictions tonight,” she points out.
She’s right, of course. Because our next show isn’t for three days. I grin widely at the thought of all the possibilities. “I guess we don’t.”
So we enjoy ourselves. The boys and I take Mia to our favorite bar in the middle of the city and we squeeze ourselves into our usual booth near the back. A lot of times, we’ll go to clubs to celebrate big performances, but I get the feeling Mia would be a bit uncomfortable in that setting and I just want her to have a good time, so I’m glad the boys are okay with just chilling at a bar.
We order drinks and sit and talk and laugh and tell Mia about our greatest on stage failures. I enjoy the perpetual rosiness of her cheeks and the fact that she’s so completely enthralled by every conversation she has. She seems to fit in with my friends seamlessly, despite not actually saying much. But the boys have never had a problem carrying a conversation and they seem to appreciate her responses at the appropriate times.
We’ve just finished our third round of drinks when I notice that Mia seems exhausted, so I lean in and whisper in her ear. “Do you wanna get out of here? I’m kind of wiped.”
“Sure,” she replies quickly, smiling gratefully at me before we turn to say our goodbyes and scoot out of the booth.
Now that I’ve changed into a clean outfit, I don’t hesitate to swing an arm around her shoulders when we step outside to find a taxi, wondering if it’s the alcohol or her presence that has me feeling buzzed. She leans into me, her arms wrapping around my middle as she rests her head against my shoulder and sighs softly and I can’t help but think that I could definitely get used to this.
Her apartment is on the other side of town and since it’s already past midnight and our hotel is close by, I ask her if she wants to stay over and although she turns bright red, she nods in agreement.
We arrive at the hotel around two in the morning and her eyes are wide with wonder as I push open the door to my suite and she steps inside, whispering, “So…this is how rockstars live, huh?”
“Only for like, two months out of the year,” I laugh quietly, tossing my card key on the table by the door so I’ll know where it is tomorrow. “The rest of the time we’re on buses. And when we’re not touring, we live at home. With our parents. Glamorous, huh?”
“Sounds kinda nice, actually,” she shrugs, stepping towards the window to take in the view. “I mean, you’re away from home for so long that it makes sense that you’d want to spend as much time with your family as you can when you have the chance.”
She doesn’t look at me while she’s speaking, instead staring out the window at what she can see of the skyline and I’m having trouble tearing my eyes away from her awestruck expression and the reflection of the city lights in her eyes. Turning her head to finally meet my gaze, she catches me staring and her eyes become wide.
“Are you alright?” I ask, reaching out to grab her hand and wondering why it seems like she’s no longer breathing.
“Yeah, it’s just the way you’re looking at me…,” she hesitates and her cheeks tint even darker. “It’s like you want to…,” she pauses again, though this time I have a feeling I know how her sentence is going to end, “take me to bed.”
Yep. She’s right, of course. That is what I want. I just thought I was doing a better job of hiding it. I guess subtlety’s never really been my strong suit. I wince apologetically. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she assures me.
For a moment, I wonder if I should just let it go. Despite the fact that she’s in my hotel room, I don’t really care if anything physical happens between us; I’m just not ready to say goodbye to her just yet. And that scares me. Because as much as I resent the implication that I’m some sort of manwhore, I’ve never really cared much about emotional connection. It’s more of the companionship that I’m after. But with Mia…I’m relaxed and free and I’ve honestly never felt more like myself.
And I know we still have some work to do. She mentioned the last time we saw each other that she doesn’t think I open up and enough, and she’s right. Because I do have trust issues. And I don’t want to get too close to people that might end up leaving. But if anyone is worth coming out of my shell for, it’s Mia.
“I mean, that’s true, I do want to…,” I admit. I’m trying to be more honest and this seems like a good place to start. “But I’m not expecting anything.”
I hear her breathing hitch and for a moment I wonder if I’ve made a huge mistake and my openness is now going to send her running for the door. And she does look frightened, and her voice is a little shaky, but her gaze is steady as she replies, so softly that I almost don’t hear her. “What if I am?”
It takes me a moment to process her words and now I can feel my heart rate spiking. “Really?”
“Yeah,” she gulps, taking a step towards me so that we’re toe to toe. She takes a deep breath in and says, “I’m going to kiss you now.”
My lips widen into a smile. “Go for it.”