I definitely had a little more pep in my step in the following days, even when we had to get up at the ass crack of dawn to head back out on the road. The guys gave me shit about it, but in a loving way.
Calum threatened to kick my ass if I screwed it up again. I told him there was nothing to screw up, yet, but he just gave me one of his knowing looks and shook his head.
He'd been picking on me relentlessly. I had to return the favor now and then. "At least Aubree knows that I love her. Does Traci even know that you're into her for more than an easy hook up?"
He looked away and muttered, "Fuck off. I'll tell her soon enough."
I hadn't talked to Aubree much, because I didn't want her to feel like I was breathing down her neck like before. But from what I'd gathered, she and Traci were having a tough time being able to arrange their schedules so that they could go to a show together. It looked like it would be the end of the US tour before they'd be able to meet up, which was still several weeks away. But we were arriving in Birmingham, Alabama, and Calum was going to see Traci.
I was excited for him, and jealous, too. I still had 12 days before I'd get to see Aubree. Not that I was counting. Every time I'd think about it, I'd get super anxious. We hadn't planned anything other than her hanging out with us before the show, because we were driving to Indianapolis that night. I'd asked her to go to that show as well. But she said that she had some catching up to do with her work and didn't think she could swing it. I'm sure she had plenty of work to do, but I had a feeling that she was just playing it safe by not committing to more than a few hours.
At first, Aubree wasn't even sure about staying for the show, unless she remained backstage, because she didn't want people to see that she was there. I told her that was completely up to her, and I'd go along with whatever she decided.
But then she said, "You know what, fuck it. Fuck it all. People can think what they want if they see me. There's nothing wrong with me watching my friends perform. If someone has an issue with it, it's their problem. I don't care anymore. I'm not letting anyone else's opinions dictate my life."
I told her, "That's my girl." I was proud of her new "I don't give a shit" attitude. She'd been so concerned about other people's opinions before. I knew she couldn't help it, because I used to be the same way. It's an insecurity thing. But there was no reason for her to be insecure about anything. She was so amazing, and I wished she could see herself the way that I did.
But back to Calum and Traci. I witnessed their reunion and I couldn't stop smiling. Gone was Cal's arrogance. And Traci was... sweet? I mean, don't get me wrong, she was always sweet, but I felt like she tried to be tougher than she really was when it came to Calum. Kind of like she'd built a wall so he couldn't get through to her heart. But the wall was gone, and I instantly knew just by watching those two interact that they had something special. It was very familiar to me, and I hoped that they didn't take it for granted like I had.
I couldn't help myself; I had to call Aubree and tell her about it.
"Aww. That makes my heart happy. Traci hasn't said a lot about him to me. But I think that's because she's afraid to get her hopes up. She's just being careful because she cares about him so much. Keep me updated on the situation. I hope it works out. I've always loved them together. I think they have great chemistry."
I almost said, "We have great chemistry, too," but didn't. It was weird because, though we'd only spoken a few times, we completely avoided talking about our feelings for each other since that first conversation. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. But we were getting along so well. It was as though no time had passed. We'd laugh about the most random things and inside jokes, and rant about crap that irritated us, and even had a deep conversation about the state of the world. We were definitely back to being the best of friends. But I was beginning to wonder if that was all she wanted. I didn't want to be the first to say anything about it. But maybe she was waiting for me to do just that. Whatever the case, I thought it would be best to wait until we were together. I wanted to see her face when we discussed it. Her beautiful, sweet face. God, I couldn't wait.
Calum was luckier than me. He got to spend the whole night and most of the next day with Traci. Before we left, Traci pulled me aside.
"So, here's the deal. I know it probably seems like there's some bad juju that just won't allow you and Bree to be happy together. But dude, I've never seen two people who've been through what you have and still love each other like you do. You have to get it right this time. I've given her the same speech, so don't feel like I'm picking on you."
It was nice knowing Traci was rooting for us. "Look, I have zero intentions of letting her get away this time. But I don't even know if that's what she wants."
Traci gave me an incredulous look and exclaimed, "What the fuck you mean you don't know if that's what she wants? Of course it is."
"I mean we haven't talked about it."
"Well, we have, and I'm telling you, she wants it. All. Of. It. Mmk?"
She caught me off guard with that revelation. I swallowed, trying to push the images in my head away and get my voice to work. "Oh. Okay. But..."
"But what? Don't tell me you have doubts. Because if any two people are meant to be together, it's you. Even a blind man could see that."
I chuckled to myself because that made me think of watching her and Calum together.
"What's so damn funny, Irwin?"
I shook my head at her and admitted, "I could say the same about you and Calum. What's the deal with that, anyway? I've gotten his side, but tell me yours."
I'll be damned if she didn't blush. It was adorable. "We'll see."
"Wait. We'll see? That's it?"
She shrugged nonchalantly. "Yeah, well see." Then she walked away.
For once, Calum wouldn't kiss and tell. That's when I knew for sure that he was whipped. I was so happy for him that I couldn't even tease him about it anymore. There was already a new sense of contentment about him, which I hoped to experience myself soon.
I thought the next few weeks would drag by because of my anticipation. But time actually seemed to pass much quicker than expected. Though, I was a little weary that something bad was going to happen before Aubree and I met again, because everything was going in my favor for once. And when the day finally arrived and I got that phone call, I knew it had been too good to be true.
We'd just gotten to the venue, and I expected Aubree to be there at any given moment. Though, I was still waiting on her to let me know that she was on her way. I answered the phone, sounding way more excited than I should have been, I'm sure. But I quickly lost the smile plastered on my face when her first words were, "Ashton. I hate to do this to you. But I have a little change of plans."
I covered the phone and stomped around like an angry bratty kid and spewed about 20 expletives while Cal, Mike, and Luke looked at me as though I'd lost my mind. Well, I kind of had. Then I took a deep breath and replied, "What do you mean?" Fuck, I hated my life. Why couldn't anything work out for us?
"Well, I had so much work to catch up on, that I was up most of the night doing it. And then I couldn't sleep because I was too excited. So I worked a few more hours. And, well, since I'm technically a little ahead of schedule now, I'm actually free to go to Indy tomorrow, too, if that's still okay with you."
Again, I held the phone so Aubree couldn't hear and cursed multiple times, but this time I was jumping around like I'd just made the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. The guys were laughing their asses off, not understanding what in the world was going on.
Then I said, as casually as I could muster, "Um, yeah. That's cool. You had me worried that you weren't going to make it." My fucking heart was racing.
"Oh my gosh! I guess it did kind of sound that way. I just hate to invite myself like that after I already turned you down. It's kind of presumptuous. But anyway, I'm almost there. So I'll see you in about 10 minutes, okay?"
Ten minutes! Holy shit. I'm not ready. Oh fuck. "Okay. I'll see you in about 10 minutes."
That was the longest 10 minutes of my life. I sent Dave to meet her at the designated entrance. And in the meantime, I freaked the fuck out. I think in that moment I realized what it was like for some of our fans when they got to meet us. I was basically fangirling.
"You're wearing a hole in the floor," Calum finally commented on my pacing.
I ignored him and asked for the umpteenth time, "Do I look okay?" I held out my arms, modeling my red shirt. Aubree always said red was my color.
Michael removed his eyes from the video game that he was playing long enough to take a quick look. "Yeah, man. You look like you always do."
"Chill," Luke ordered. "I'm pretty sure you don't have to worry about impressing her."
"It's been so long. What if she's not attracted to me anymore? Maybe that's why she hasn't said anything about us getting back together. Fuck. That's probably it."
Calum rolled his eyes. "Seriously, you need to stop worrying. It's going to be fine."
"Yeah, easy for you to say, Mr. I'm Finally With The Woman Of My Dreams. Fuck man, why does everything come so easy for you? Like, seriously? What's your secret? Teach me your ways." I was kind of joking, and kind of not joking.
"Well..." he began with a chuckle, and even Michael put down the controller to listen. "First of all, you have to be blunt about your feelings. Straight up tell her that you still love her and can't stand the thought of not being with her another minute."
Well, damn. I didn't expect him to actually answer. And certainly not with an answer like that.
Luke chimed in. "Yeah, man. Don't waste anymore time. You've lost enough time already. Go on and tell her. Now."
"And what if she doesn't feel that way about me now?"
Michael stood up and walked toward me. "Dude, you already know she does."
"Well, yeah, supposedly. But why hasn't she said so herself?"
Michael asked, "Why haven't you told her? Same difference. Be a man and just do it."
It suddenly got really awkward with everyone staring at me with amused looks on their faces.
"What? What's going on? You're obviously up to something."
Michael put his hands on my shoulders and said, "We have company." Then he turned me around and I was merely inches from the most beautiful face I'd ever seen.
"Aubree. Oh my god. How long have you been standing there?" I kind of wanted to crawl into a hole. But then again, I was far too excited to care about how embarrassed I was.
She smiled mischievously and shrugged. "Long enough."
What went down next happened so quickly, I could hardly think to react at first. Aubree reached up and put her arms around my neck and pulled me down for a totally unexpected kiss. God, it was perfection. And I won't even lie and say that we didn't get a little carried away, right there in front of everyone. And I couldn't have cared less. I had Aubree in my arms and I was complete.