I slammed the door shut and threw my bag down on the counter, spilling its contents across the bench. Flinging off my shoes, I fell down on my lounge and bit back a sob.
The world’s biggest mystery - Ashton Irwin. I mean, where to begin? There was the way he managed to piss me off since Day 1. There was his stupid stubborn attitude and his flash moods. There was the way he assumed everything and how he came to his own ridiculous conclusions without thinking. But then there was the way he could make me smile in a heartbeat. There was his beautiful smile and his amazing body. There was the care and love he had for his family, and his bandmates. And those eyes - those liquid brown gems that I wished I could just lose myself inside. So did the good things about Ashton Irwin outweigh the bad?
I let a single tear drop down my cheek before swiping it away angrily.
I pulled my sweater further down over my hands and checked my phone. Almost 2 am. Sighing, I silently padded up the last few steps and let myself out onto the dark rooftop. Trying not to trip, I crossed the floor, making my way through the little garden to the bench on the edge of the balcony.
Looking up, I could see thousands of tiny sparkling stars, and the silvery outline of a perfect moon. Below me, 50 stories down, cars were still zipping around, their lights far-off fluorescent blurs on the busy Sydney streets, occasional horns buzzing and the soft screech of tires. I hooked my legs up underneath me and curled up, trying to lose myself in the calm of the night.
Unfortunately it didn’t last very long.
The whispered voice made me flinch, and I turned around quickly, watching the dark shadow of a person make their way towards me across the rooftop. I stood up as they came closer, ready to run away if it was Ashton - he was by far the last person I wanted to see now. As I made to move away, the person held out a hand -
‘Emma? If that is you, don’t go please. It’s just me.’
They stepped out into the light, their face bathed in the glow from the city below and I relaxed, sitting back down. There was no mistaking that crazy blue hair.
‘Hey. Couldn’t sleep either, huh?’
Michael slid down next to me and gave me a little hug as a greeting. I shot him a little smile and sighed.
‘Yeah, something like that.’
He nodded, looking down to his hands. We sat in silence for a while, Michael gazing out at the bright city before us, and me scrutinizing his face carefully. It was late - almost 8 hours after he’d been playing a concert - and I knew Michael had a long day before it too. He definitely looked tired. His hair was kind of laying limp, and his eyes were open, but shadowed with dark circles. I knew from his long silence that I wasn’t the only one with something on my mind tonight. Michael finally broke the silence, turning away from the lights to look at me with tired but smiling eyes.
‘You know, from all the staring you’re doing, I’d think you might’ve guessed something’s up.’
I blushed and avoided his amused gaze.
There was another pause, and Michael sucked in a deep breath.
‘Want to tell me about it?’
He gave me a wan smile.
‘Em, I can read you like a book. I know something’s on your mind.’
Note to self: be less readable. Go for unpredictability. I decided to play it safe.
‘We-ll. Tell me what’s on your mind first? It’ll make me feel better about unloading my problems on you anyway.’
I absentmindedly rubbed my knuckles and felt Michael chuckle beside me.
‘You really want to hear my issues?’ He gave a humorless laugh. ‘They’re pretty boring. And you’ll just think I’m being stupid...’
‘Michael - look at me.’
I cut in over the top of his bitter talking, making sure he was paying attention before I continued.
‘It’s 2 am on a Monday morning. We both should be sleeping downstairs, but we’re here, together, and not once have I asked you why you’re here. But if you want to tell me? I’m all ears, no judging. I mean,’ I leant closer to him, motioning out in front of us, ‘it’s dark, we’re sitting here lacking sleep and I don’t even know if I’m going to remember what you say tonight. Unless it’s important of course,’ I looked sideways at Michael who laughed, looking down at his hands before up again, out at the city. I could see the twinkling lights reflected in his eyes.
‘You promise not to laugh?’
I crossed my heart and held out my little pinky finger.
Ókay. Well,’ Michael took a deep breath, ‘I’m kind of scared.’
I looked at him, surprised. Michael was tough, Michael was brave, Michael could stand up to anyon-
‘I’m scared. Of a girl.’
Oh. Oh. Well, that was unexpected. I snuck a glance at Michael. He wasn’t even looking at me, his gaze once again turned to the lit-up city below us. I shivered a little as a breeze blew across the rooftop, and Michael reached for my hand, warming it between his.
‘Who is she?’ I asked softly.
A smile spread across Michael’s face.
‘You’ve met her before. You know, that one night at the pub?’
Ahhh. I nodded, and Michael sighed.
‘Lynn. I’m scared of Lynn.’
I squeezed his hand. I remembered meeting Michael’s pretty friend that night, and how lovely she was, but the main thing I remembered was how whipped Michael acted around her. Yep, I thought, he’s definitely hooked.
‘What’s so scary about her?’
Michael gave another deep sigh.
‘I don’t know. I think that part’s just me. She’s not literally frightening or anything, and I guess she’s not scary at all, it’s just... what she does to me that’s scary, you know?’
He shook his head in disbelief.
‘It’s like, whenever I think of her, I can’t stop, I can’t concentrate on anything else. Lynn’s the only thing on my mind. And when she texts me, or when her name lights up on my phone when she’s calling, I get this thrill, and feel happy and I start smiling like a fucking idiot.’ He looked at me, almost pleadingly. ‘What scares me the most is... I like her. I like her a whole fucking lot, and that freaks me out.’
I hugged Michael - I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond, but I knew exactly what he meant, so I just hugged him. I think he knew what I was trying to say, because a second later, he wrapped his arms around me too and we sat together like that for a minute before I whispered,
‘You don’t need to be scared.’
Michael leant back.
‘Because I’m sure she likes you back. I saw the way she looked at you, Michael. If that and the fact she’s still calling is anything to go by...’
I shrugged cheekily, and winked at him and he smiled at me.
‘You really think so?’
‘Of course I do!’
He blushed happily.
‘Well good, because I have a date tonight, and you got to help me figure out what to do for it.’
‘Michael! That’s great! It’d be my pleasure.’
I punched him lightly on the arm, and he tried to contain his grin but ended up bashfully beaming at me. I laughed, joining him in his happiness. Michael deserved this - maybe I could rope in the other guys to help. Luke could lend him his datewear, Calum could give him some smooth talking tips and Ashton could - Ashton.
My smile disappeared and everything from yesterday came flooding back into my mind, blocking any happy thoughts to do with Michael out. I must’ve stiffened up because I felt a warm hand on my arm, and Michael was suddenly looking down into my eyes, worried.
‘Em? Are you alright?’
I was about to shake my head when I thought about what I’d told him earlier. He probably wouldn’t even remember this conversation in the morning.
So stupidly, I did the one thing that definitely wouldn’t make him forget our talk.
I burst into tears.
‘Shhhh, Emma, it’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay, I promise.’
As I sat there, drying the last of my tears on Michael’s (now soaked) pajama sweatshirt, I was finding comfort in his little mantra, even though I doubted it. Roles had been completely reversed. Ashton would never want me again - I wasn’t even sure if he had in the first place. My stupid stubbornness to remain at a distance from him, “just friends”, had dug me into a big hole, and even though Michael thought it was gonna be okay, I knew it really wasn’t.
I coughed, and tried not to drip snot onto Michael’s arm.
‘Eurgh, I am so sorry Michael. I didn’t mean to cry all over you -- oh my god, I’m so so sorry!’
I pulled myself out of his arms and stood up, trying to rub away the last of my tears. The realisation that not only did I have a crush on Ashton, but that I’d just used the world-famous Michael Clifford, band member-extraordinaire as a tissue was just settling in, and it didn’t make me feel any better at all.
‘Em,’ Michael laughed and stood up beside me, ‘it’s okay, really. My shirt needed a good wash anyway.’
He caught sight of my face.
I shook my head and he sighed.
‘Sorry. I’m not very good at cheering people up if I don’t know what’s wrong you know...’
Michael wrapped an arm around my shoulder carefully and helped me sit back down.
‘Em, come on. You can tell me, I swear I won’t tell a soul.’
I looked at Michael and he looked plainly back at me. To be honest? I didn’t want to keep the Ashton thing a secret. And I knew Michael wouldn’t laugh at me - so I stuck out my little finger.
With no hesitation, he slipped his pinky around mine for the second time that night.
‘...and that is why I am absolutely, without a doubt, inevitably doomed.’
I finished my explanation with finality, out of breath and a little emotional. For the past 5 minutes, I’d let spill everything on my mind, from the start to the finish. It was up to Michael now - and he was sitting next to me in utter silence. Not a good sign.
Maybe Michael thought I was being a total hypocrite, going back on my own words. Which I totally was, but stil.. Maybe he just agreed I had absolutely zero, zilch, nada chance with Ashton whatsoever. I felt the tears coming back so I stood up and paced to the railing, hiding my face in shadow. He was not going to see my cry for the second time today. A little tear fell down my cheek and I bit on my lip hard. This was such a bad idea. Why couldn’t I have just told him I was sick? Or I was on my period? Or I was lesbian for the manager Olivia? Anything but-
‘You like Ashton...’
I felt two hands turning me around, and Michael looked down at me, excited.
‘Em! You’re not doomed at all!’ He clapped his hands together. ‘Oh, this is perfect!’
He beamed at me.
‘Emma, you’re saying... are you... you mean that you do like Ashton. Right now?’
‘Yeah. I guess I do.’
‘As in, you have feelings for him?’
I was kind of confused now.
Michael leaned closer, right up in my face.
‘You - Emma Davies - confess to liking Ashton Irwin.’
A small smile started to creep across my face.
‘I do! Yes!’
I started laughing out loud, and Michael joined in, swinging me around the balcony. Saying, finally admitting to someone, and to myself, that I liked Ashton, it just sounded so good rolling off my tongue. I was so excited, and Michael was grinning at me, and the city lights were blinking like fireworks...
‘Shout it out then.’
Michael smiled at me, pulling me over to the railing and pointing out across the city. I paused.
‘Shout what out?’
He beamed and squeezed my hand.
‘Tell the world that you like Ashton. Scream it out at the top of your lungs. No one can hear us up here,’ he added, seeing me hesitant expression, ‘come on Em, it’ll feel amazing, trust me on this.’
Okay... I wobbled, leaning over the railing, then looked back at Michael for support. He nodded encouragingly.
I took a deep breath.
‘I like Ashton Irwin.’
‘Man, I sure hope you can do better than that. Louder!’
‘I like Ashton Irwin!’
I leaned over the railing, arms splayed wide.
‘I like Ashton Irwin!’
‘I LIKE ASHTON IRWIN!!!’
‘That’s better!’ Michael yelled and jumped up to stand next to me. We grinned at eachother, unable to keep the smiles off our cheeks.
‘My turn - I LIKE LYNN! AND IT SCARES THE FUCKING SHIT OUT OF ME!’
We both laughed then, kind of hysterically, clinging onto eachother in the dark and feeling free with the craziness of it all.
‘I LIKE ASHTON!’
‘I LIKE LYNN!’
‘I LIKE ASHTON!’
‘I LIKE LYNN! HAHA!’
We collapsed in a fit of laughter on the bench, hands covering our mouths with the daring thrill of it all. I couldn’t remember a time when I’d been happier. And as we sat there together, in the cool 2 am air under a dark sky illuminated by the city that never slept, I decided that maybe, just maybe, Michael was right.
It was going to be okay.