Mixed Feelings

Icon is the biggest boy band in the world. They're even more popular than One Direction at this point. Liza Nelson can't get enough of them, but Erin Frederick absolutely detests the band. What happens after a chance encounter with one of the band members? Erin's life definitely won't ever be the same.

*the guys are based on the boys in One Direction*

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15. ~Erin~

 

After I shower, Liza—who brought her tiny curling iron—goes to work creating little ringlets all over my head.  The overall effect is beautiful.  Then, although I try to protest, my best friend does my make-up, as well.  She uses a gray eye shadow that echoes the color of my suede high heels.  My eyelashes are curled, and I use a light coat of mascara.  All that’s left is a light foundation and my favorite red lip gloss.  I leave the gloss to apply until after I’m dressed.

My dress is one of my favorites.  It has a boat neckline, floaty cap-sleeves, a waistband and bow right above my hips, and a dreamy skirt that ends at my knees.  Sheer stockings, the gray heels, a ring with a faux-rose on it, and dangling faux sapphire-and-diamond earrings complete the ensemble.

Liza gets ready to go.  She’s wearing a purple dress with spaghetti straps, a thin black belt, and a funky panel on the skirt.  She adds her favorite black heeled sandals, a black wrap, and her purple clutch with the turtle-shaped clasp.

I step out of our room.  Noah, Derek, and Jared are lounging on the couches.  They’re dressed pretty nicely in dress shirts—or a black turtleneck in Noah’s case—slacks, and blazers.  Derek sees me first, and he lets out a wolf whistle.  I laugh and continue over to them.  Noah jumps up when he catches sight of me.  Now my cheeks warm, and I become very focused on the floor in front of me.

“Wow, Erin…you look beautiful,” he tells me.

“Thanks,” I murmur.

Jared doesn’t say anything, but he’s too busy admiring Liza.  I don’t care.  Oddly enough, I feel like only Noah’s opinion matters.

One of the other bedroom doors opens, and Lucas emerges.  The look on his face when he sees me is enough to turn my cheeks as red as my dress.  He comes over to me and kisses my cheek.

“You’re stunning,” Lu says.

“Thank you,” I reply.

He stays with his arm encircling my waist while we wait for Joe.  Noah keeps cutting his eyes at Lucas.  It’s like he wants to kill his best friend, and I’d hate to think it was because of me.  From what Liza has told me and from what I’ve read online, Noah and Lucas have an epic bromance.  I’d really hate to be the one to ruin it.

“All right, let’s go, people!” Joe says, bouncing out of his room.  He’s dressed the most casually with a plain white T-shirt under his blazer.

I tuck my arm through Lucas’s so he has no choice but to link arms with me instead of letting his arm encircle       my waist.  Out in front of the hotel, there’s a limo waiting.  There are still fans hanging around, but not as many as there have been on previous days.  Cameras flash, though—there’s definitely paparazzi hanging around.  Probably in just a few hours, the pictures of Lucas and me will have gone viral.  And that thought makes me a bit uncomfortable.

“I can’t believe you guys got a limo,” I say once we’re off to the restaurant.

“Please, we want your birthday to be special,” Joe responds. “So enjoy it!”

He pops the top on a bottle of sparkling apple cider.  The only one of us who can legally drink is Jared, and from what I’ve heard, he doesn’t like to do that much.  Joe passes around glasses, and I sip on the drink a bit.  I’m a bit nervous now, though, because of the paparazzi, so I don’t want the carbonation feeding the anxiety in my stomach.

When we get to the restaurant, the guys hop out first.  Jared helps Liza out, and Noah extends his hand to me.  I take notice of the jealous look Lucas shoots Noah, but it disappears when I take Lu’s hand.  I’ll do anything to try and keep the peace.

Inside, I take in my surroundings.  We’re at the fanciest restaurant in town, and it’s expensive, too.  I try not to let that get to me.  The guys are footing the bill, and this is what they arranged for my birthday.

Dinner is fabulous.  There’s no tension in the air, thank goodness, and we just laugh and talk through the whole meal.  When we’re done and the bill is paid, we head to an under-twenty-one nightclub.  This part is making me a bit nervous.  I don’t normally go to places like this, and I worry what will happen when the guys are spotted.  Hopefully, the patrons will be too caught up in dancing and having a good time to really comprehend that the members of Icon are there, too.

It turns out to be a nice night, though.  I dance with all the guys, even Jared, who manages to pull himself away from Liza for a bit.  For awhile, I sit at a table with Noah.  Since the club is pretty loud, we iMessage back and forth to communicate.  It must look pretty funny, two people sitting there and not holding a conversation aloud.

By ten o’clock, I’m starting to feel tired.  Noah and I confer with the others.  It’s decided Jared, Liza, Noah, and I will head back to the hotel, while Derek, Lucas, and Joe stay out. 

The group of fans outside the hotel has completely left, to my relief.  We walk into the lobby with no problems.

Upstairs, Jared and Liza head into his room but leave the door wide open.  The message is plain—they want to be alone to talk, but they aren’t planning to do anything more than that.  I head to my room to change.  My heels are starting to kill my feet, and sweats and a hoodie will feel really comfortable.  Before I start to undress, though, there’s a knock on the door.

“Come in!” I call, figuring it’s most likely Liza.

Noah comes in and shuts the door behind him.  I cock my head, curious about what he’s doing.  When he’s right in front of me, he holds out a small wrapped package.

“Happy birthday, Erin,” Noah says.

I take it, but I don’t open it yet.  “Thank you, but…I thought Dessa was my present.  And you’ve already done enough—letting Liza and me stay for the weekend, taking me out to dinner and to the club for my birthday.  I don’t really need anything else.”

“This is a gift just from me,” Noah replies. “And I wanted to get you something special, particularly since I leave tomorrow.  Who knows when we’ll see each other again?”

So I pull off the bow and gently tear off the blue plaid wrapping paper.  Inside is a white box, which I open.  I can’t help but gasp.  Noah’s gift is a gold-trimmed white music box with a tiny finger crank.  What looks like a real pearl rests on the top of the box.  I turn the crank, and my eyes fill with tears.  The song…“Once Upon a Dream”…that was my favorite song from my favorite Disney movie when I was little.  I hum along to the last few notes.  Then I fling my arms around Noah’s neck.

“Thank you so much,” I whisper. “This is the best gift I’ve received.  It’s better than Dessa.  I love it, Noah.”

I feel his chest rumble with a gentle laugh.  “You’re welcome, Erin.  I’m glad it made you happy.”

He turns his head, and I feel a light kiss on my cheek.  It warms me to my toes.

“Do you want to watch a movie?” Noah asks when we pull apart, and I turn to carefully put my music box on the dresser.

“Um, I kind of want to read,” I reply. “Is that okay?  I’m just really tired and not exactly up for a movie.”

Noah smiles softly.  “Yeah, it’s definitely fine.  What book are you reading?”

I fetch the novel from the nightstand and hold it up: The Help.

“Ooh, nice.  I’ve heard that’s a good one.  Let me know how it is.  Have you seen the movie?”

I shake my head.  “Not yet.  I wanted to read the book first,” I tell him.

“Maybe next time we can hang out, we should rent the movie,” Noah suggests.

My heart flutters.  He wants to hang out after this weekend?  Even though it’ll be hard to meet up with his tour, I definitely want to see Noah again in the near future.  Maybe then we can properly talk things over about what’s happened between us.

We head out to the living room, and I curl up in the armchair.  Noah disappears into Derek’s room.  I was only partially telling the truth when I told Noah I wanted to read.  I mostly want to wait up alone for Lucas to get back.  He and I need to talk.  Unfortunately, the guys don’t get back until a little after midnight.  My eyelids are definitely drooping by this point, but this is probably the only time I’ll get to talk to Lucas before they leave.

“Lu,” I say.

He turns towards me and breaks into a grin.  “Hey, Erin, what’s up?”

“Can we talk?  Alone?” I reply.

Joe and Derek head off to their individual rooms, and Lucas sinks onto the couch.  He reaches for my hand, and I let him hold it.

“Is something wrong?” Lu asks, his voice filled with concern.

“Actually, there kind of is.  Listen, I’ve had a great weekend.  But I’ve had some time to think, and it’s just…you and I…we moved so fast, and that’s not how I like things to be in a relationship.  I’ve also wondered if I’m just another girl to you, not to mention the whole long distance issue,” I explain. “You’ve been so nice to me, and I really appreciate it.  But I just don’t think we’re meant to be.”

Lucas rises to his feet, and my hand falls back to my side.

“Is there someone else?” he asks.

“Well, kind of,” I admit. “But that’s not why I’m saying we can’t date.  I mean, yeah, I have feelings for him instead of you, but I didn’t really realize I had them until after I noticed all the problems with our budding relationship.  Please, Lu, I want to be friends, but not boyfriend and girlfriend.  And I want you to go back to being friends with Noah.  I’ve noticed how coldly you two have acted with each other since I got here, and from what Liza’s told me, you’re usually as close as brothers.  I never want to ruin a friendship, particularly yours.”

“I understand,” Lucas mutters, and I worry that he has no intentions of making up with Noah. “I wish you’d given me more of a chance, Erin.  We could’ve been great together.”

“Shouldn’t both people in the relationship think so?” I point out. “If we both had a hope that our relationship could’ve been amazing, then it would be one thing.  But I don’t see a future for us.”

I stand up and lightly kiss Lucas’s cheek.  “I love you.  But as a friend.  And I hope this hasn’t ruined that.  You’re a great guy, and I’ve learned any girl would kill to be in my shoes just to date you.  I always thought the girls that go crazy over you and the rest of Icon were, well, crazy.  But not anymore, because I know why they adore the band so much.”

And with that, I make my exit.  Liza is sound asleep, I’m sure, by this point, and I head into the bedroom.  She and I are due to go home around ten tomorrow.  First, though, I want to have breakfast alone with Noah.  Maybe it’s time we talked things over, especially since I feel so emboldened by my discussion with Lucas.

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