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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11. >Noah<

 

When I get back, the door to my bedroom is still closed, and Joe and Lucas are hanging out and playing a video game.

“Where are the others?” I ask.

“Erin is helping Liza get ready.  Jared’s in his room getting ready.  Derek’s doing who-knows-what,” Joe tells me without taking his eyes off the TV.

“Great, thanks.”

I slide over to Derek’s room and knock on the door.  He responds, saying I can come in.  When I do, I close the door behind me.

“Hey, mate, can I keep this in here until tomorrow?” I say, holding up the bag. “I don’t want anyone else finding it.”

Derek grins.  “Yeah, sure.  Is it something for Erin?”

I nod.  “Yeah, I felt like getting her something a little extra.”  Try one hundred dollars extra.

“Cool, I’ll bet she’ll like it, whatever it is,” he replies.

I stash the bag with some of my things that I brought from my room.  It hits me that we’re leaving Tuesday afternoon, and the girls are going home on Tuesday morning.  Who knows if I’ll ever see Erin again?  Well, I might if she becomes Lucas’s girlfriend.  He’ll probably fly her out to visit a few times during the tour.

I head back out to the living room area, Derek on my heels.  We grab controllers and join Luke and Joe.  We battle it out in some race car game for quite some time until Erin emerges from my bedroom.  She’s grinning.

“Is Jared ready?” she asks us.

“Nope,” Lucas replies.  He doesn’t even stop the game to talk to Erin, which actually kind of surprises me.

Erin crosses the suite and knocks on Jared’s door.  He must say she can come in because she disappears into his room.  Soon, the door opens again.  Erin’s pulling Jared by his arm.  She leaves him standing by one of the couches.  He’s wearing a black turtleneck, a gray suit jacket, black slacks, and his favorite high-tops.  He looks great, and I’m sure Liza is going to go crazy.  Or at least blush, knowing her.

Then Erin hurries back to the room where she and Liza are staying.  Shortly, she emerges behind Liza, who looks, well, downright amazing.  Her curly blonde hair is piled on her head in sort of a bun, and she’s dressed in a hip-hugging red dress with opaque stockings and black heels.  I can practically see Jared’s eyes pop out of his head.

Liza does blush just as I predicted, and she giggles when Jared twirls her around in a circle.  As they start to leave, the rest of us proceed to shout advice at them.

“Don’t stay out late!”  That’s Erin.

“Have fun!” I say.

“Call us if you need an excuse to sneak out of the date, Liza!” Gotta love Derek.

“Use protection!”  That’s the ever awkward and slightly inappropriate Lucas.

“Don’t make out in front of any kids!” Joe ends our trail of advice.

I hear Jared and Liza laughing as they head down the hall.  Erin plops down on the couch beside Lucas with a happy sigh.

“I think they’re going to have a great night,” she says. “Jared is a great guy for Liza.”  Then she goes on to mock-sniffle. “I can’t believe my little baby is growing up, and on a date with Jared Silver from Icon!”

Joe fakes blowing his nose and pats Erin on her back.  “And our little Jared’s all grown up, too!”

Then we all crack up.  This is how I wanted things to be with Erin on Friday night.  I wanted us to all be friends and have silly memories like this and not care about if she’s dating me, or Joe, or Lucas.

“Room service?” Erin asks hopefully. “I’m starving after getting Liza all ready for her big date.”

Lucas says, “I’m game.”

Joe, Derek, and I nod, so Luke pulls out the menu and scoots the suite phone over by him.

“What does everyone want?” he asks.

We all bombard him with our orders until, laughingly, Lucas has to write them down.  Then he calls in our order.  While we wait for the food to get here, we pick out a movie from the endless stash we bring on the road with us.  Lucas keeps pushing for Titanic, Erin’s game for anything but a horror flick, Derek has picked out one of the Star Wars films, and Joe wants some Pixar movie he hasn’t seen in awhile.

“You choose, Nose,” Joe finally says with a sigh, shoving the movie bin over to me.

“Oh, joy,” I say to their amusement. “I guarantee there will be someone unhappy with what I go with.”

I rummage through all of the DVDs.  Finally, my fingers land on Brave.  I hold it aloft.  Erin’s eyes light up.  Lucas is watching her reaction, and he smiles.  He obviously will go with whatever makes her happy.  I don’t blame him, since I’d do the same.

“Are we all agreed on this one?” I question.

“Yeah, go ahead and pop it in, Noah,” Derek says.

After I turn on the movie, I stretch out on the smaller couch.  Derek lounges in the armchair.  Lucas, Joe, and Erin sit on the bigger sofa.  To my surprise, Erin leans her head on Joe’s shoulder.  His arm slides around her, but I notice they’re not exactly cuddling.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say Erin told him she just wanted to be friends.  But if she had, she would’ve told Luke that, and he wouldn’t be giving Joe the Look right now.

We’re half an hour into the movie when our food arrives.  Derek jumps up to let the waiter in and pay the bill.  Joe started to get up, but Lucas and Erin pulled him back down.  They know as well as I do that he’d probably jump face first into the food without giving the rest of us a second thought.

Erin got macaroni and cheese, and she’s practically inhaling the bowl.  I can tell it’s one of her favorite foods.  I ordered fettuccine Alfredo.  It’s pretty good, although I’ve had better at my favorite Italian restaurant in New York.

My eyes stray from the TV screen for a moment, and I wish I hadn’t looked over.  Erin was feeding Lucas a bite of her dinner.  Then he plucks up a piece of steak, and she eats it off his fork without hesitation.  Either I was wrong and Erin and Joe are just friends, or Erin’s basically flirting with Lucas, Joe, and me.  That girl isn’t as innocent as she looks.

My mood changes when I catch a glimpse of Joe diving into his burger and fries.  That kid loves to eat, and it’s pretty funny to watch.

Our night passes quickly, to my disappointment.  We’re having a lot of fun, so I guess that’s why.  After Brave, we watch National Treasure.  Erin starts to fall asleep on Lucas’s shoulder towards the end, which is a testament to how tired she is since National Treasure is pretty action-packed.

Luke tenderly puts an arm around his girl.  Oddly enough, I don’t feel jealous.  Maybe it’s because the moment is so gentle and so unlike Luke’s usual womanizing ways.  But when the movie ends, Lucas lightly shakes Erin awake.  She stretches and yawns before telling us good night and heading off to her room.

We guys stay up and chat for awhile longer.  Finally, we head off to get ready for bed.  Tomorrow, we’re going to have a late night.  It’s definitely time to go to sleep.

Derek’s room is next to the girls’, so I’m headed there after taking my turn in the bathroom connecting Jared’s and Lucas’s rooms.  I pause with my hand on the doorknob when I hear soft sobs.  Where are they coming from?  I move closer to what was my room and listen harder.  Yup, it’s definitely Erin crying.

I knock on the door and enter before she can give me permission.  I have to hope she’s fully clothed.

Erin is seated on the bed.  She looks up at me, her cheeks tear-stained.  She’s wearing sweatpants, a tank top, and a sweater.  Her gorgeous hair is braided and brushing one shoulder.  I take her hand and sit next to her.

“Erin, what’s wrong?” I ask, concerned.  I gently rub her back.

“It’s just…tomorrow will be the first birthday I haven’t spent with my family.  And it’s not because I’ll be with you guys.  My parents haven’t reached out to me in weeks.  I feel like they’ve completely forgotten that I’m turning nineteen tomorrow,” she explains through the tears. “Not to mention all the junk I piled on you yesterday about my brother.  It’s just all building up, and…and…and you and your band-mates are just so nice!”

Her words bring on a fresh onslaught of tears.  I wrap her in a hug.

“Hey, hey,” I soothe. “It’s all right.  You deserve nice people in your life.  And we’re only treating you like the special girl you are.  And as for your parents?  They’re jerks if they don’t bother to care about your birthday.  You get to hang out with me, and Lucas, Joe, Derek, Jared, and Liza tomorrow.  We’ll make your day special.”

Erin sniffles.  She doesn’t respond, so I just let her cry on my shoulder.  I feel her warm tears soaking through my shirt, but I don’t care.  Even if she’s with Lucas, I want to be that friend who can make everything better for her.  She’s that special to me already.

She pulls away after a bit and grabs a tissue to wipe her cheeks and nose with.

“Thanks,” she whispers. “I’m sorry I keep unloading all the crud in my life on you.”

“Erin,” I say gently, “I don’t mind.”

She bites her lip uncertainly.  I slowly lean in, my eyes on Erin’s equally blue stare.  Her rosy red lips tremble, but she starts to lean in, too.  Suddenly, the door creaks open, and we jolt away from each other.

Liza stands there.  Her eyes are wide with surprise.  She holds up her hands and starts to back away.

“Whoa.  Um, I’ll just grab my PJs and be leaving… I can sleep on the couch tonight,” she says.

I jump up and try to explain what was really going on, but Liza grabs what she needs and hurries out of the room.  She closes the door firmly behind her.

“Well that was…awkward,” I comment. 

Erin giggles.  I’m relieved to hear her laugh.  I turn to look at her, and she’s smiling although her eyes still look a bit damp.

“Hey, um, if you don’t mind…I’ll stay in here with you,” I tell her, rubbing the back of my neck.

Her gaze turns serious.  After a minute, she replies, “Okay.”

“Just in case you have a nightmare or start to feel upset again,” I hastily add. “I want to be here for you.”

Erin doesn’t comment on Liza seeing us almost kiss, although I’m sure it has to be on her mind.  What if Liza tells Lucas about what happened?  More importantly, what if he finds out I stayed with her?  There’s a good possibility he’ll tear me to shreds.  We may be best friends, but this is his girlfriend we’re talking about.  I brush off the worry, though.  Erin needs me, and that’s that.

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