I woke up to Ashton staring at me. My instinct was to hide my face, but he eased my hand away and held it in his. I wanted to ask him what he was thinking, but I didn't want to feel any more self-conscious than I already was. So I simply held his gaze. He had the slightest smile, and he whispered, "I love you."
Have you ever had one of those extremely emotional moments when you become so overwhelmed by how happy you are that it literally takes your breath and you can't help but to cry? I've felt that way on three occasions in my life: when I held my children for the first time, and the moment Ashton told me he loved me.
I had no control over the tear that escaped. And when Ashton noticed, he kissed it away. Before he kissed me on the lips, I said, "I love you, too."
He couldn't stop smiling enough to even kiss me properly, and we ended up giggling about it. Remembering that we weren't alone, we looked over at the other bed, and it appeared that Calum and Traci were still asleep.
I'm not sure what happened in those few seconds, but the mood suddenly went from lighthearted to dead serious in an instant. Ashton had an intense look in his eyes just before he kissed me again. The intensity translated into the kiss and I felt like if I didn't have him, I would legit explode. It didn't help at all when he slipped his hand under my shorts. I couldn't help but to let out a tiny moan, and he put his other hand over my mouth to stifle it. For some odd reason I found that to be even more of a turn on.
He whispered into my ear, "Let's go to my room." I nodded, because I sure as hell couldn't speak.
Ashton was still dressed since he'd fallen asleep in his clothes. And I had slept in his shirt and shorts that I had never given back. So all we had to do was throw on some shoes, and we slipped out of the room as quietly as we could.
When it was time to leave, I hated to say goodbye, but there was no other option. It would only be another month and a half until we met again. Though, I knew it would be the longest month and a half of my life.
I actually met Calum in the hallway on my way back to my room, which was a relief. I was afraid that I'd interrupt something when I got back, because, in our haste to get to Ashton's room, I'd forgotten my phone and key. Calum was looking mighty smug, so I knew I was right. As we passed each other, we didn't speak, but he held up his hand, and we gave each other a congratulatory high-five. I laughed about it forever.
Traci bombarded me as soon as I entered the room. "He actually gave me his number this time. And he apologized about that - whatever she was - after the show. I told him it wasn't any of my concern, but he said they didn't do anything, because he wanted to save his energy for me. So, I don't know what to think anymore. He must like being with me, right? Anyway, I'm guessing you had a good morning, too?"
I fell onto the bed and closed my eyes, replaying the events of the morning in my head. "The best. Ashton told me he loves me. Fucking Ashton Irwin loves me, T. I can't figure out what I've done to deserve this. It's insane."
"You haven't done anything but be you. You totally deserve it. I'm so happy for you, I can't even tell you."
We had a nice little sappy chat, then we had to get ready to leave.
After I gathered up the last of my belongings, I sat down on the bed and reflected on yet another unbelievable trip. It was really the best one yet. But I had some feelings of guilt, and told Traci so. "I know we both had a great time, as always, but I kind of feel bad."
Traci questioned, "Why do you feel bad?"
"It's just that the purpose of our trips is to experience great stuff together, not spend a lot of time apart. And these past couple of trips have become something other than bonding trips or whatever you want to call it."
Traci nodded her head in agreement, but then said, "No offense, but given the reason why we're apart at times, I'm not exactly mad about it. But I get what you're saying, because I've thought about that, too."
"I'm sorry. It's mostly my fault."
Traci sat next to me and nudged me with her shoulder. "Girl, there's no blame to place. I've spent as much time with Calum as you've spent with Ashton. It's just the way it's worked out for some reason I'll never be able to comprehend."
"I'll never understand, either. I try to not question it. But I also wonder how much longer it'll last. I mean, I'm giving this thing with Ashton my best shot, and I feel like he is, too. But you never know. We may not even be together next time."
"You know what we need to do? We need to take a non-concert related girl's trip, just the two of us. Hang out on the beach for a couple of days or something."
That sounded like the perfect solution, and we pinky promised to do so.
It was nice to be back home with my little family and get back into my routine, even though I already missed Ashton like crazy and I constantly longed to be with him again. We talked a lot, like an annoying amount of time because he called me constantly, but it just wasn't the same as being able to feel, see, and smell him.
For a while, I swore I missed him so much it made me physically sick. I lost a little weight because I didn't feel like eating, which was very unusual for me. I even had more episodes of nausea like I did that day we arrived in Atlanta, and eventually it progressed to actual vomiting after eating sometimes. Traci was convinced that I was pregnant, but I knew that was next to impossible since I'd had a tubal ligation after Ashton was born. But once I started having right sided abdominal pain along with the vomiting, I knew exactly what the problem was. It was my gallbladder.
The thing about nurses is, we diagnose ourselves, and are extremely reluctant to go to the doctor, until the issue becomes intolerable. And it became intolerable two nights before Traci and I were to fly to Chicago for Jingle Bash. The pain woke me up during the night, and I barely made it to the bathroom before it became so intense, radiating into my chest, I thought for sure I was dying. I legit thought I was having a heart attack while I was hugging the toilet puking my guts up. I could hardly breathe, and couldn't yell loud enough to wake up Molly for assistance. I wasn't even able to walk back to my bedroom to get the phone and call for help. I was doomed. I just knew I was going to die right there on my bathroom floor. After maybe five minutes, the pain eased enough that I could make it to my phone, by crawling. The funny thing is, I didn't call 911 or even my mother. I called Traci.
"What is it?!" she answered, knowing I'd never call her at such an ungodly hour unless it was very important.
I was sobbing, but it wasn't all due to the pain. "I'm not gonna make it to Jingle Bash."
"What? Why? What's wrong?"
"I'm going to have to have my gallbladder removed. I'm literally dying, T. I barely made it from my bathroom to the bedroom to get my phone just now."
"Are you serious right now, Aubree?! What are you doing? Why aren't you going to the hospital?"
Rather than answer her question, I continued crying and said, "Why does this have to happen right now? Why couldn't it wait a few days? I don't know when I'll get to see Ashton again." I was so fucking pathetic, in more ways than one.
"Fuck Ashton right now. Get your ass to the hospital! Do you need me to call 911 for you?"
"No, I'll call my mom. I'm just so sad."
Despite my mental and physical misery, Traci laughed. "I wish I was recording this conversation. Holy shit, Bree. Look, it's not going to be the end of the world if you don't get to see Ashton in a couple of days. I'm sure he'll understand and he'll figure out a way for you to be together soon. Go take care of yourself, and worry about Ashton later."
"But what about you? I'm gonna leave you hanging. What kind of friend does that?"
"Um, the kind that has her gallbladder taken out so she doesn't feel like shit anymore? Mandy will be with me, so it's fine, really."
Mandy was another Blockhead friend who lived in Chicago. She'd gone to Jingle Bash with us the past four years. It had become a tradition for us. We'd have gone no matter what, but it was convenient that 5SOS was performing again that year.
She finally said, "I love you, but I'm hanging up now so you can call your mom. Text me after you do, and keep me updated, okay?"
"Okay, I love you, too. Thanks for being the best friend ever."
I scared my poor mom to death when I called. But she picked up my brother along the way so he could stay with my kids, and I finally made it to the hospital. I wasn't surprised to learn that it was indeed my gallbladder. And the doctor told me there was no way he was going to let me wait for surgery. It had to be done that morning.
Great. So I was getting ready to be taken to the OR and I couldn't stop crying about not being able to see Ashton. Of course, my mom just thought I was upset about the surgery. But I knew it was a fairly simple procedure and recovery wouldn't take long. But that was beside the point.
The surgery was scheduled for 8:00 that morning. It was a little after 5:00 a.m. when I got settled in a room on the nursing unit that I used to work in. My mom went for coffee, and I decided I needed to call Ashton. That probably wasn't the smartest thing I could have done after being doped up on Dilaudid for the pain.
He answered right away. "Aubree?"
"Um, yeah. Hey Ashy. Wassup?" I'm sure I sounded pretty drunk.
"Uhh, I was sleeping. What are you doing?"
"Well... I just took this stuff. I'm feeling so damn good right now." Seriously, I was still in a little pain, but I didn't give a flying fuck about it anymore.
"Aubree. Are you high? What the fuck?!"
I laughed way too loudly. "Yes. Yes, I'm high. High as a fucking kite."
"What's going on? Where are you?"
When I thought about where I was, I nearly started crying again. "Fuck. I'm in the hospital, Ashton. I'm gonna have to have a cholessss - wait - cholecyses - no - fuck. They have to take my fucking gallbladder out, damnit."
"Are you shitting me? You're really in the hospital? And you have to have surgery?"
"Yep. I thought I was dying, Ash. Like, for real. And all I could think about was you. I cried. Shit. I called Traci and cried to her. I won't be able to go to Chicago. Ashtonnn... but I want to see youuu."
Maybe I was just too buzzed to remember details like the tone of his voice, but it almost seemed like he was more mad than concerned when he said, "Well if this isn't just fucking great. How long are you going to be in the hospital?"
"Oh, I'll probably get to go home tomorrow if I don't die or something."
He sighed heavily. And after a few moments of silence, he said, "I'm sorry you have to go through this. I hate that you're sick, babe. But you do what you have to do to get better, okay?"
At that point, I was getting sleepy. "Okay. I think I'm going to go to night night now. Surgery is at 8. I'll let you know when it's over, okie dokie?"
He chuckled at me, finally. "Okie dokie. I love you, Aubree."
"I love you more." I ended the call and laid the phone on the table.
"You love who more?" my mom asked, entering the room as the conversation ended.
"Oh, he woke up? I just talked to Jeff a few minutes ago. He said the kids were still asleep."
Oops. Wrong Ashton. But she didn't have to know about that just yet. I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. But it seemed like they'd just closed when the surgery team came to whisk me away for my cholecystectomy. As they were pushing me out the door via my bed, I gave my mom quick instructions to text Traci and Ashton from my phone when I was out of surgery, because I knew I wouldn't be able to. She asked, "Ashton?"
"Yeah, Ashton. He's, um, well, we're kind of dating. But we'll talk about that later. Bye, I love you, Mom!"