I chuckled because those girls had no clue that we'd been with Ashton and Calum for the past nearly two hours. To them, we just looked like two fans anxious to meet the guys. Two older fans, but fans nonetheless.
I whispered to Traci, "This doesn't make us look too desperate, does it? We told him earlier we didn't want a picture."
She whispered back, "Not at all. We're blending in. And I didn't get the chance to tell him goodbye." Fair enough.
I was in front of Traci, and when Ashton saw me, I noticed the look of recognition. He paused for a second and that gorgeous dimply grin spread across his face. "Hey, you," he said quietly.
I could tell he was trying to be discreet. So I played along. "Hey, Ashton. How are you?"
"Fucking wasted and trying to not act like it," he muttered near my ear and giggled before he turned around to take a selfie with me, as he had with everyone else. He put his arm around my waist and gave it a squeeze while I took the picture.
"Thank you," I told him.
"My pleasure," he replied with a wink, and moved on to Traci. He was also talking quietly with her, so I didn't hear what was said.
Since we were the last ones in line, Ashton then waved to the group and said goodbye before getting on the bus.
The other girls kept standing there, so we did, too, though I wasn't really sure why. Dave was leisurely walking up and down the sidewalk. He told us, "Remain lined up and calm like you are, and he may stop."
I wasn't sure which "he" Dave was referring to, but I turned to Traci and asked her if we were staying. She said, "Yeah, it has to be either Michael or Luke coming out, because Ashton said Calum was already on the bus." So that's what they were talking about.
The thought of being face to face with Michael again made me nervous. But I really wanted to meet Luke. Yes, I was being greedy. I'd spent time with Calum and Ashton, got drunk with them, and even saw a naked Michael Clifford. But if there was an opportunity to meet Luke, I wasn't going to pass it up.
We waited patiently for about 15 or 20 minutes. Traci and I were afraid to talk about our evening out loud, so we kept texting details of our time spent with Ashton and Calum to each other. We were laughing like crazy, causing a few of the girls near us to give us some looks, but it didn't phase us.
Finally, we heard girls squeal in delight and looked over to see that Michael had walked outside, carrying a large bag over his shoulder. Fuck my life, I thought. He handed the bag to Dave and walked to the front of the line of fans. They did remain calm, which was impressive. I remember thinking if that was the case all the time, so many more fans would get to meet the guys. But you almost always have those few who ruin it for everyone else.
I got so anxious that I started shaking. I thought about stepping away from the line, but that would make me stand out, and I didn't want that. I glanced over at Traci, and mouthed, "I'm so nervous." She understood, and gave me a look that said "sorry," but then she giggled. I gave her a lopsided fake smile and took a deep breath to calm myself.
Michael spotted me while he was hugging the girl in front of me. He was hugging each person, taking a selfie, and talking to them for a few seconds. And I was next. I could tell he recognized me when his eyes got big and he froze for a second. But then he continued on normally.
When he got to me, he cleared his throat and said exactly what he said to everyone else as he approached them. "Hello. How are you?"
Just like with Ashton, I played along. "I'm great. How are you?" I asked, trying to give him a genuine smile.
He let out a short laugh and answered, "I'm good, thank you." Then he went for the hug. It was a lame side hug, but he leaned down and said, "Sorry." And I'll just be honest and admit that I was so whipped that his apology made everything right, whether or not it was sincere.
When he stood up straight again I simply nodded my acceptance and held up my phone for our selfie. It was a terrible picture, but I didn't dare ask for another. Then he turned to Traci without any further inference of what had happened just a little while earlier.
Nothing much happened after that, other than we waited for Luke and he didn't even stop when he exited the hotel a few minutes later. To be fair, he looked like he wanted to. He hesitated and turned to the group of waiting fans, but then waved and got on the bus. I guess he wasn't sure if security would allow him to come to us or not.
As soon as he got on the bus, I got us an Uber right away, and we were on our way back to our original hotel. The only words that were spoken between us that entire long ass ride were when we got buckled up and Traci said, "Damn, what a night."
I replied, "I told you everything happens for a reason." And I never believed those words more than I did in that moment.