The Truth and Other Lies

Technically, Mia never lied to Calum. Maybe she didn't tell him the entire truth, but she never lied. And now she's conflicted because if she wants that promotion, she can't confess, but she also doesn't want to keep secrets from the man who's slowly but surely stealing her heart. But she shouldn't feel bad. Really. Because Calum hasn't been telling her the whole truth either.

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5. Dear Mia, From: A Surprise Visitor

It’s actually not the buzzing of my phone that wakes me up, but the feeling of warm wetness on my cheek. It’s kind of nice, which is why I let out a contented sigh before I realize that the warm wetness is a result of my dog licking my face and that my phone is still buzzing. Reaching to the side, I feel blindly for my phone, not bothering to check the caller ID, because there’s only one person who ever actually calls me.

“Hello?” I grumble, shifting to sit up and lean back against the wall, pulling my black French bulldog, Nugget, into my lap.

“Amelia, darling!” my mother’s voice rings out over the phone, sounding much too cheery for eleven-thirty in the morning. “Happy New Year!”

“Morning, Mama,” I greet her back once I’ve cleared my throat, scratching Nugget behind her ears out of habit. “Happy New Year.”

Her motherly instincts kick in almost immediately and I can practically hear her cringing apologetically against the phone. “Sorry, sweetie, did I wake you up?”

“Yeah, but it’s okay, I should probably be getting up anyway,” I reply, yawning as I stretch my arms above my head to loosen the tension in my back and feeling much perkier once it’s done. I don’t normally sleep in this late, even on weekends, but considering I’d gotten home at six this morning, I figure I deserved the rest. After the company party, Casey had wanted to go barhopping, and I’d obliged, mostly because I had no other plans. “Did you and Dad have fun at your party last night?”

My parents have a yearly ritual for every major holiday where all of the neighbors take turns hosting a party, that way everyone’s included and has somewhere to go. I used to love the parties as a child and the fact that I never felt alone because there was always someone to hang out with, but as I got older, the children my age stopped coming, having already made plans with other friends, and although I never minded hanging out with adults, I felt like I needed to pretend that I had an active social life, so I’d always tell my parents I had other things to do when they invited me along. Looking back, though, I feel like I missed out on a lot of good times.

“Oh, it was marvelous, as usual,” my mother replies breezily, launching into a story about the rabbits terrorizing Mr. Dennigan’s flower garden. I rest my head against the wall and absentmindedly scratch Nugget’s ears as I listen to her tales of the neighbor’s latest antics, humming every now and then to assure her I’m still listening. Once she settles into a groove of storytelling, she doesn’t need much encouragement, so I decide to multitask when I realize the stories won’t be ending any time soon and lower Nugget to the floor before pushing back the covers and swinging my feet to the ground. I manage to brush my teeth and wash my face with my phone on speaker mode before I have to fully tune back in because she asks me a question. “How about you? How was that office party you went to?”

I knew she was going to ask me that eventually, so I really should have prepared an answer earlier. I’m not so great at thinking on the fly, though, so I come up with, “Um, interesting.”

I love my mother to pieces, but I’m not sure telling her the details of what happened last night is a good idea. We’d never had the kind of relationship where I felt comfortable being extremely specific about the events occurring in my love life. I told her the important things and I hadn’t yet decided if last night was important.

In the grand scheme of my life, I’m sure it will be. Because it’s not as though I’m ever going to kiss a rockstar at midnight on New Year’s Eve again. But the fact that it was such a once in a lifetime situation is exactly the reason I’m hesitant to tell my mother. If she finds out about Calum, she’ll expect there to be some sort of follow up, and that’s most likely never going to happen.

Besides, I haven’t even had time to process it all. I’d been in a haze for every hour I was awake after midnight, thinking that everything that happened was part of some magnificent dream. And now that I’ve slept and my brain has had time to realize that it actually was all real, I’m not sure how to feel. It’s hard to accept that I may never experience such a magical night again.

“What does that mean?” my mother asks, right on cue.

I don’t know how to explain it without provoking more questions, so I keep my response vague. “I had a good time.”

“I’m glad,” she sighs contently. “You don’t have enough fun.”

I’m offended, though she may have a point. “I have plenty of fun.”

“Playing your violin alone does not count as having fun,” she replies automatically.

“I beg to differ,” I say, drying my face with a hand towel and pausing when I hear buzzing to indicate someone’s trying to be let in to the building. “Hey, Mama, can you hold on a second? Someone’s trying to buzz up.” I shuffle towards the intercom by the front door, pressing the button and speaking softly, my eyebrows furrowed in confusion, because as far as I know, I hadn’t made any plans this afternoon. “Who is it?”

The voice on the other side is scratchy and uncertain. “Um, Calum. Calum Hood.”

It takes me about thirty seconds to realize that my ears aren’t playing tricks on me. Heart pounding, I remember that I’m still on the phone and say, “Uh, give me a second. Mama, I’m gonna have to call you back later, okay? Love you,” as quickly as possible.

“Love you, too, dear,” she replies, thankfully not noticing that I’m trying to end the conversation.

I hold my breath as I press the button which unlocks the door, only to realize that I’m still in my night clothes. Tossing my phone on the nearest table top, I sprint to the bedroom to grab a nearby sweatshirt, pulling it over my head and pausing in front of my full length mirror to hurriedly comb my fingers through my hair just as he knocks on the door.

Inhaling and exhaling deeply a few times to calm my nerves, I shake out my limbs as I walk to answer the knocking, pulling open the door with a cautious smile on my lips. “Hi?”

“Hi,” he says, his eyebrows lifting in surprise, as though he didn’t expect me to answer, despite the fact that I was the one who answered the intercom in the first place.

Unlike me, he looks like he’s showered, since his hair is fluffy and extra curly and despite the fact that he’s standing a couple feet away from me, I can tell he smells like a rose garden after a rainstorm. His hands are shoved into the front pocket of his jeans, but his thumbs are sticking out enough for me to observe that his nails are painted black and look much better than any paint job I’ve given myself. I didn’t notice last night or I would have asked for the name of his manicurist. But then again, I didn’t notice much of anything besides the universes swirling in his eyes last night.

He hasn’t explained why he’s here, but I feel awkward just letting him stand in the hallway, so I nod inwards. “Um, do you wanna come in?”

“Sure, thanks,” he replies, walking past me when I step to the side to grant him entrance. I feel a bit nervous as I watch him slowly survey the inside of my apartment. “Nice place.”

“Not as nice as yours, I’m sure,” I reply. He is a rockstar after all. Surely he has a gigantic mansion somewhere. But apparently I’m wrong.

“I don’t really have a place,” he shakes his head, sounding a bit sad. “We travel so much that it doesn’t make sense for me to buy a house I’m hardly ever going to sleep in. Mostly we stay in hotels. But we’re living in a house right now, though I guess technically it’s more of a penthouse suite,” he pauses in the midst of his explanation when he notices Nugget curled up on the large pillow she uses as a bed when she’s not sleeping with me. His eyes light with so much adoration that I find myself hoping someone someday looks at me with that much love. Lips stretching into a slow smile, he turns to face me. “You have a dog!”

“Yeah,” I smile fondly at the little bean of a puppy. She’s a year old now and if she’s the only child I ever have, I’ll be perfectly content. “Her name’s Nugget.”

Squatting down in front of the pillow, Calum holds out his arms to ask Nugget’s permission to hold her and Nugget, who loves all forms of affection and attention happily agrees, standing up and stepping into Calum’s embrace.

“Hiya, Nugget,” he coos, holding her close to his chest and leaning down to kiss the top of her head. “It’s nice to meet you.” It’s a bit surreal to watch him cuddle my puppy, not because that’s not everyone’s first instinct when they see her, but because it’s such a normal thing to do. I guess it’s silly of me to think that just because Calum’s famous, he can’t be normal too.

He falls back onto his butt so that he can continue nuzzling his cheek against the top of Nugget’s head while he sits cross legged on the floor, looking up at me in between kisses. “You’re probably wondering why I’m here.”

“A little, yeah,” I say, thinking he can stay as long as he likes.

“The truth…,” he pauses, trying to think of a good explanation and eventually ending up sighing, “the truth is that I have no idea.”

Well. That clarifies absolutely nothing. I cross my arms over my chest and lift one eyebrow upwards. “Okay? How do you know where I live?”

“My publicist,” he replies simply, pursing out his lips to receive kisses from Nugget, “he found your name on the guest list and then looked you up in your magazine’s files.”

That’s not stalkerish at all. I part my lips to respond, but he’s already continuing in his explanation.

“I realize how incredibly creepy that sounds,” he admits, scrunching up his nose apologetically, “I just…I had a really good time with you last night and I wanted to see you again and I was wondering if maybe you wanted to get some pancakes.”

“Pancakes?” I blink in response, unsure that this is actually happening. Because situations like this don’t happen to real people in real life. It happened in the dream I’d had last night, because I did want to see him again, too, but it couldn’t be happening in real time. Because that would just be ridiculous.

“Yeah, I haven’t eaten today and I’m starving,” he shrugs, rocking Nugget in his arms like she’s a newborn baby.

“It’s lunchtime,” I point out, wondering why the hell I’m even having to think about this.

He shakes his head in mock shame, the corners of his lips lifting into a smile. “You can have breakfast any time of the day. You in?”

“Sure,” I nod, though I’d already decided I was going when he first mentioned pancakes. “Give me like half an hour to shower and change.”

“Oh, yeah,” he startles a bit, as though he hadn’t even noticed I’m still wearing pajamas, “of course.”

“Make yourself at home,” I laugh, though I guess that doesn’t need to be said, because he’s already done just that, “I’ll be right back.”

I turn towards the bedroom, unable to hold back a smile as I close the door and head for the closet to pick out my clothes. As promised, twenty-four minutes later, I emerge from the bedroom, freshly showered and changed, to find Calum lying on his back on the floor, lifting Nugget into the air like she’s Simba in The Lion King. I wonder if I should find it odd that the sight doesn’t even faze me.

“Alright, ready?” I ask, closing my bedroom door behind me and hiking up the strap of my purse on my shoulder. He pulls Nugget into his chest so that he can sit up straight, releasing her to the floor once he’s cross legged again. But he pauses when his gaze flicks upwards to meet mine, his smile growing slowly, which leaves me feeling very self-conscious. “What?”

Shaking his head, he shrugs as he pushes himself to his feet. “You’re really pretty.”

He says it so casually. Like it’s a fact. Like he’s telling me that it’s raining outside, so I should grab an umbrella. For what I’m sure won’t be the last time today, I find myself blushing as I whisper, “Thank you.”

“Alright, let’s go,” he grins, nodding towards the door.

I bend over to scratch Nugget behind the ears for good luck before I head for the door. I’m definitely going to need it. 

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