Thankfully, Ashton seemed to get over the whole birthday incident quickly. And though I didn't think he was listening to a word I said, his calls during the night actually ceased, for the most part. He still sent texts, but I could handle that. However, he took to tweeting cryptic statements that fans mistook as song lyrics. They usually had something to do with things we'd done or talked about. For example, "I want to relive that day when we drew portraits on the place mats," and "You've given me things I never knew I wanted." Who knew, maybe he'd turn them into lyrics one day.
So it felt like we were back on path. There hadn't been anymore crazy "you don't love me as much as I love you" talk, or anything like that. It was just us laughing and loving, which was the best thing in the world. But then Birmingham happened.
It was the start to Traci's and my first Sounds Live Feels Live road trip. We arrived a day early, and so did the band, since they had a day off. Traci was apprehensive because she hadn't spoken to Calum since December. I told her that I was sure they'd pick up right where they'd left off, but she wasn't so sure. Either way, I wasn't going to let her spend the trip alone. If she wasn't going to be otherwise occupied with Calum, Ashton would have to deal with me not being with him every free minute.
When I told her this, she gave me her typical response, "No, dude. You and Ash are a real couple. Y'all spend as much time as you want together." I kind of just let it drop. I hadn't told Traci any of the bad parts of my relationship, so as far as she knew, it was perfect. But soon enough, she found out otherwise.
Ashton came to my room as soon as he got to the hotel. I didn't think he'd ever let go of me. Not that I was complaining. But I didn't want to spend another vacation trapped in a hotel room. So I suggested that we find something to do as a group, and not just sit around in a hotel.
"I didn't come here to sit around. I can do that at home. I want to get out and have fun, but I know our options are limited with fans out roaming the city. But I did a little research, and I think we'd have so much fun doing one of those escape room games. Surely if we call ahead of time, they'll give you a little VIP treatment and let us wait in private."
Ashton pointed out, "You know, it would be a lot easier if you weren't ashamed to be seen with me." Traci cocked her head, clearly confused. I lowered my head, trying really hard to keep my mouth shut. I so did not want to start out our trip with yet another discussion revolving around Ashton's delusions.
Traci asked, "Wut?"
Ashton hugged me and said, "I'm kidding, babe. It's not that serious. I know you're not ashamed of me. But I really do wish you'd let me show you off."
Well, that was a relief. But I ignored his words and asked, "So do you think that's something the others would like to do?"
Ashton agreed it would be fun, and thought everyone else would think so, too. It was actually something they'd talked about doing before. I was pleasantly surprised when everyone wanted to do it. Zoe made the arrangements for us, and security tagged along, too, just in case. I think they really wanted to participate more so than stand guard over the boys. But that was cool. The more the merrier.
It worked out perfectly. They let us have the last slot of the night, and allowed the guys to enter through the back entrance. Traci and I drove separately and entered through the normal entrance, but there was a note on the reservation alerting the clerk that we were to join the others. So they took us back to wait with the guys.
Traci had been unusually quiet. I couldn't blame her, not knowing how Caum was going to react. But all the worrying was for nothing. As soon as she entered the room, Calum flashed that cute smile of his and stood to offer her his seat, but not before hugging her. Even after she sat, he stood behind her and rubbed her shoulders while we all engaged in conversation.
Ashton had pulled me down to sit on his lap, since there were no free chairs. One of the security guys offered his, but Ashton held me tight. While we waited, I took a selfie with Ashton on my phone. I only had a few pictures of us together. Probably because we were always so distracted doing other things.
After I took the photo, Ashton asked to see it, and he took the phone from me for a good look. He smiled at it, and then he started scrolling through my other pictures. I hate it when people do that. But it was Ashton, so I let him. I had nothing to hide from him, but it still made me uneasy, as it would with anyone going through my stuff.
He kept scrolling, not making any comments, and I tried to not pay any attention. Lord knows if I acted nervous, he would have accused me of being afraid he'd find something.
Traci was playing around on Snapchat, using the face swap filter with everyone, though saving the pictures rather than posting them. She called me over to take one with her. I had a good laugh looking at the ones she'd taken with Calum, Michael, and Luke. She even got all three security dudes in on it.
After we took a couple hilarious shots, Traci said, "Okay, Ashton. Your turn."
"I'll pass, thanks," he replied, with a stone cold face.
I heard Traci quietly say, "Okay then, mister grumpy pants."
Obviously, I knew something was wrong, so I went back to him.
Ashton held up my phone, showing me the screen, and said, "Explain this please."
It felt like my heart stopped when I saw what he wanted me to explain. Everyone in the room heard him, because it was a tiny room. I noticed each one of them looking at me as my eyes darted around, finally landing on Michael. But then they took it upon themselves not to meddle, and acted like they weren't paying attention by continuing to laugh about their pictures. Except Michael. I think he figured out what Ashton had found, because he kept glancing at us.
I knew I was in deep shit, and I had no idea how to dig my way out of it. I talked as quietly and casually as I could. "What's to explain? It's Michael's number in my contacts."
"You've been talking to Michael behind my back? For how long? This whole time? Is that why you don't want me to call you so much, so you'll have time to talk with him?" He got louder with each question, and didn't even give me a chance to answer any of them.
At this point, the others couldn't even pretend to ignore what was going on. Michael stood and walked toward us, trying to defend me. "Dude, calm down. Nothing's going on."
Ashton stood as well, which spurred Michael on. He said, "Get over your jealousy, Ashton. If I wanted Bree, I could have had her a long time ago."
Ashton closed the distance between them, and I knew the outcome wasn't going to be good. I was behind Ashton and touched his arm and said his name in a vain attempt to get him to calm down. It all happened in a flash. Ashton swung his arm back, inadvertently hitting me on the mouth with his elbow as he prepared to swing at Michael. Michael didn't have time to respond because he was looking at me, a horrified look on his face because I'd been hit. So when Ashton's fist made contact with Michael's face, Michael went down.
I'll give him props, though. Michael scrambled to his feet and lunged for Ashton. But all three guards had taken action. Dave was restraining Ashton from behind, so he wasn't going anywhere, though he struggled to get loose. Joe was holding onto Michael. And Corey was standing between the two, pushing them away from each other.
I was in shock. I couldn't believe the sight before my eyes. Two of my favorite people in the world were physically fighting over absolutely nothing.
Once Joe got Michael to sit down, Traci and I went into nurse mode, checking him out. I didn't pay a bit of attention to Ashton. I couldn't stand the thought of looking into his eyes right then. I did, however, hear Dave telling him to calm the fuck down, and when he wouldn't, Dave and Joe dragged him out of the room.
Michael insisted he was okay, but there was already one hell of a bruise forming on his cheek. I said that I was going to see if I could find some ice, and he said, "Make sure you get some for yourself, too."
In the craziness if it all, and because of the adrenaline, I'd already forgotten that I'd even been hit. But with the reminder, I suddenly felt the throbbing in my lower lip and tasted the distinct metallic taste of blood.
"Oh, fuck," Luke said, when he got a good look at my already fat lip.
Calum covered his mouth and said, "Damn."
I had no idea how it looked, but judging by their reactions, it must have not been good.
Traci stood up and got a paper towel from a dispenser hanging on the wall and handed it to me. "You might want this."
I held the paper towel to my lip. Standing there looking at everyone staring at me, the reality of the situation hit me. I started crying like an idiot. Traci put her arms around me and Michael hugged us both.
He offered, "Let's just go back to the hotel, Bree. We can all hang out there. Except Ashton. He's not invited to our party."
We all laughed, which felt good. Well, except it didn't feel good to my lip.
Ashton was in their car, with Dave and Joe. I didn't bother going to talk to him before I got into our car and Traci drove us back to the hotel. It was the quietest ride ever. I appreciated the silence, though, because I had a lot to think about; things that I had to figure out before confronting Ashton.