After another night of James sleeping over, Friday rolled around all too quickly. I managed to pull myself away from him for a few hours to go shopping with Addie in the early afternoon. It wasn't that I wanted to spend time away from him, but after hearing where we were going to dinner that night, a new dress was absolutely necessary and there was nobody better to find one with than Addie. Not to mention, I had all but alienated my best friend over the last few days which was of course the ultimate girl sin.
"Well, well, well if it isn't the rock star's girlfriend," Addie teased as I walked up to wear she was waiting for me outside the mall.
I rolled my eyes behind my dark sunglasses. "Thanks for coming," I said giving her a hug.
"There's no way in hell I would miss the opportunity to hear all about your new glamorous life, even if you have abandoned me for a guy," Addie said pointing a finger at me accusingly.
"I know, I'm sorry, but honestly my life is not glamorous."
Addie wanted to know every little detail of my life from the past few days, not allowing me to leave out a single conversation, action, or look in the recounting of my life with James. I also allowed her to do something she always wanted, dress me up. She was in heaven and green with envy all at the same time.
I realized that even talking about the whole James situation was weird for me. It was like even though he wasn't standing there next to me, his presence was still all encompassing, casting the same attention on me that I didn't like. Even though I was just talking to Addie, I felt like everyone around us was secretly listening in trying to get the dirt as well. Apparently being with James was making me paranoid and delusional.
"Oh my God Chelle, that dress is absolutely perfect," Addie gushed as I stepped out of the dressing room in a black, short, open back, Dolce and Gabbana cocktail dress. It was the very first time I had ever tried on such a huge name brand article of clothing.
"This dress is also eight hundred dollars," I noted as I checked myself out in the full length mirrors.
"On sale! It's normally eleven hundred. That's such a deal. You have to get it," Addie said looking at the tag.
I couldn't even believe that I was considering buying such an expensive dress. I felt such pressure to fit in with James's friends though, and the restaurant we were going to practically demanded such clothing. There was no way I was going to be able to afford this lifestyle.
I studied myself in the mirror. The dress was everything I needed, but something was off. I didn't fit in it. It was my size and it hugged every curve perfectly, but ordinary and boring me didn't match with the fancy designer dress.
"I hate this..." I said more to myself than anything.
"Hate what? The dress?" Addie asked.
I sighed, "No, I hate the fact that I'm pretending like this all works for me. I don't belong in clothes like this, and I don't belong with guys like James. Who am I kidding?"
"What are you talking about? You totally belong with James," Addie said from my side, looking at me through the mirror. "I have known you for our whole lives Chelles, and never have I seen you so...alive. I know you feel uncomfortable with the whole celebrity thing, but seriously, you don't even know how much you've changed in the last few days. Just the way you walk and talk, you're so much more confident. This is who you really are."
I smiled weakly. One good thing about Addie was that she was always brutally honest, so I knew that she truly meant what she was saying. While I was still battling my old self with my new self deep inside, apparently just the fact that the new self had come out at all had changed me in the eyes of others. I hadn't been aware that such a change had happened.
I charged the dress to my credit card that my parents helped pay for, knowing perfectly well that I would get a long lecture about it from my dad once the bill came. The credit card was supposed to be for emergencies only, but I pretended to convince myself that the dress was an emergency purchase. I wouldn't be able to go out to dinner without it.
"You know Paul is completely heartbroken right?" Addie said as we slowly strolled around the mall catching up and eating ice cream.
I smiled at the ridiculousness of it. "There's no reason for him to be heartbroken. We were never together."
"Nonetheless, he still mopes around, half asses his way through practice, and asks about you everyday. Obviously I haven't had much information to tell him considering I haven't even been talking to you lately either," she said bitterly, but only joking.
"I know, I know, I'm an awful friend. I'm sorry. I'll never do it again," I said holding my hands up, surrendering.
"If it was any other guy, I would never forgive you, but since it's James Ashburn I'll give you a second chance. After all, you may be my ticket to some red carpet events in the future. I can't give up on the friendship yet," Addie kidded.
"What makes you think this is going to last beyond this week?" I asked with a laugh.
"Umm, hello! He wants you to go with him on the road, obviously he wants it to last beyond this week and I know you do too." She was right. I did.
I recruited Jessica to help me get ready once I got home. Even though she had tried to seduce the guy I was seeing, she was still good at doing hair, so I overlooked her seducing attempts. My hair styling skills ranged from straightening it, to pulling it back in a ponytail. I wasn't exactly capable of making myself presentable for a fancy restaurant, but she was.
It took me way too long to get ready. James arrived to pick me up ten minutes late and I had just barely finished my makeup and slipped on my dress.
"Come in," I called to the knocking on my door. I was standing in front of my full length closet mirrors adjusting the dress, making sure everything was where it needed to be.
"Wow," I heard James say. I turned to look at him standing in the doorway. He had replaced his typical jeans with black slacks, his t-shirts for a crisp white button down shirt with a thin black tie, his Converse shoes for black, leather dress shoes, and his messy hair for...less messy hair. He looked good. Really good.
James walked over to me with a smile on his face.
"You look absolutely beautiful," James said standing behind me in front of the mirror placing a kiss on my exposed neck. The tingles spread down my body and I secretly thanked Jessica for doing my hair up in a loose bun. Without that, James wouldn't have kissed my neck and I wouldn't have gotten those tingles I love so much.
"Thanks," I smiled, turning to walk over to my bed where my shoes were waiting for me.
"Hold on," James grabbed me, "I'm not done looking at you."
I blushed, "We're going to be late."
"Who cares? I'm not so sure I want to share you tonight, not looking like that. I might want to keep you to myself."
James pulled me in close, wrapping his arms around me. I couldn't help but smile. He gently placed his lips against mine. To be honest, I wouldn't have minded staying in with him, it would definitely be less stressful. However, I didn't pay hundreds of dollars for a dress that I would only wear once, to wear only at home. I was going out; I didn't care how nervous I was.
"This was your idea, we are going," I said pulling away from James's kisses. I headed over to my bed to put on strappy black stilettos, shoes I had borrowed from Jessica.
After standing back up, I realized that the shoes made me just slightly taller than James, something I would normally be self-conscious about. But for some reason the combination of my dress, my shoes, my hair, my makeup, my date, made me feel sexy and confident. I didn't care if I was taller or not, and it didn't seem to bother him either. In fact he said he kind of liked it.
My new found sexiness took over for a moment as I walked back over to where he was standing. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed myself tightly against him. Then I mustered up the hottest kiss I could possibly manage.
"Alright, time to go," I said with a sly smile pulling away from his eager reciprocation. James looked blown away by my sudden confidence.
"Not after that it's not," he said trying to pull me back to him.
"The sooner we go, the sooner we can come back and that is nothing compared to what will happen then," I said quietly my lips inches from his. I couldn't help but blush slightly at the words as they came out of my mouth. This was all the 'new' Michelle talking. It felt kind off odd, yet liberating at the same time.
James groaned, "You are so mean. Now that's all I will be able to think about all night."
I smiled, "Good."
I turned to head out the door, James following behind like a little puppy dog. Being in control was kind of fun. Why hadn't I ever played that role before?
The black executive car was waiting out front for us. James opened the door for me and I slid in trying to be as graceful as possible. Heels and dresses just weren't my thing.
The driver took us to the Wynn hotel which housed Alex, a five star French cuisine restaurant. It was one of those restaurants that had giant crystal chandeliers, white linen table cloths, elegant tapestries covering the walls, and waiters that walked around with those white cloth napkins on their arms. It was the type of restaurant that I would never go to on my own, the kind that I only thought existed in movies.
James's band mates were already seated at a large table in a private nook in the back of the restaurant. James and I walked in and all eyes fell on me, making me instantly feel that urge to run and hide. All that confidence I had at my house quickly disappeared in one quick glance around the room. James, who was getting annoyingly good at sensing my moods, held on to my hand tighter in a reassuring way. I was back to the old Michelle
"Well well, look who's here. Is it really J, or a figment of our imagination?" one of the guys teased.
James laughed, "Guys this is Michelle."
"The wifey," another guy said with a smile.
"Chelle that's Dax, our drummer, Aaden, our bassist, Cole, our other guitarist, and Christopher, our manager," James introduced working his way clockwise around the table.
"It's nice to meet you all," I smiled shyly.
I didn't fit in...just like I had expected. The guys all knew each other so well, had all their inside jokes, and had a ton in common. They laughed and joked their way through dinner and I sat playing with my food more than eating it. The attention was often on me as questions were fired off in my direction. I tried to answer everything in a way to keep the conversation going, but wasn't being successful. I cursed my shyness and prayed for the conversation to shift away from me.
The only reassurance that I had was when James would every so often place his hand on my leg under the table or lean over and whisper something in my ear. Something along the lines of 'just relax', 'you're okay', or an unexpected 'you look beautiful'.
It was hard for me to sit through the entire five course meal without making an excuse to leave. After they all realized that I wasn't much of a conversationalist, the attention finally left me and they talked amongst themselves. I tried to follow along with the conversations, but it almost seemed like their English accents got thicker and more incoherent the longer they talked to each other leaving me out of the loop and barely able to understand a word that was said.
I was more than thankful when the bill was paid and everyone was standing up to leave. I had survived and that's all that mattered. I didn't have a panic attack, I didn't run away scared, I didn't even have to excuse myself to the bathroom to take a breather. I at least tried, and that was the best I could do.
James and I took a walk outside once we said goodbye to his friends. The front of the hotel had beautiful flowers, trees, small bridges, and waterfalls, creating a rather romantic atmosphere.
"So," James said as we strolled across a bridge in front of a large waterfall, "Have you given any more thought to visiting me over spring break?"
I laughed, "Not really."
"What are you waiting for? The end of the week? That's tomorrow you know. I don't think much is going to change in the next twenty four hours other than me liking you more."
I smiled, "You are too much James. I don't even know what to say after you say stuff like that. It's not very fair."
"You can say that you will come visit me, because you think I'm smokin' hot," he said with a smile, saying the last part with his best American accent.
"We'll see," I laughed.
"Oh come on, don't make me beg," he said stopping our walking and turning me to face him, taking both my hands in his.
I looked at him. He was beautiful. His eyes bore into mine in they way they always did making it impossible for me to say no. I wasn't exactly sure if I would be able to go, so I forced myself not to say yes right then even though that's exactly what I wanted.
Instead, I grabbed a hold of his tie and pulled him closer to me. He smiled placing his forehead against mine, wrapping his arms around my waist.
"You are so bad for me Chelle...you're turning me into one of those guys," James said with a sly smile, his face inches from mine.
"What guys?" I asked.
"The guys that are hopelessly and blindly...in love."
I didn't want the night to end. If the night ended then that would mean that Saturday would come. I wanted time to freeze completely so that James would stay right there in Vegas with me.
The week had turned out to be so much more than I could ever dream. I had gone to the concert last Saturday not really even knowing who James Ashburn was, only to have my life turned upside down. I was different around him, in a good way. James pushed my limits, he challenged me, he didn't let me get away with my nonsense insecurities, not to mention he was absolutely gorgeous.
I might be falling in love with him.
We were back at my house, up in my room. I had been unwinding from the fancy evening, ditching the heels, pulling my hair out of the up-do Jessica had pinned it in. I was standing in front of my closet doors brushing out my hair and noticed James looking my direction through the mirrors.
"What are you looking at?" I asked.
"What do you think?" he laughed, "I need to soak up as much of you as I possibly can. I'm leaving tomorrow, remember?"
I groaned, "Don't remind me." I set my brush down and climbed up on my bed next to him. "You know this is not very fair."
"I completely agree," he said pulling me over to him.
"How is this going to work?" I asked after a long pause.
"So I'm assuming you want this to work?" he asked with a smile. James was obviously pleased with my implication.
"Only if you want it to," I said.
James laughed, "Why can't you just say 'yes'?" I had never openly admitted that I really wanted this to turn into something to anyone yet, I had barely admitted it to myself. I had been sticking with my safe noncommittal 'we'll see' or 'maybe' since the idea of us turning into something came about.
"Because...'yes' is dangerous," I said.
"Oh come on, do you still think I'm not serious? I thought that I said I was falling in love with you, did you miss that?"
"No I caught it," I said. It was hard not to smile.
"That doesn't mean anything to you?" he asked his eyes searching mine.
"It means a lot."
"Okay then. Just admit it. Just for me. I won't tell anyone. Admit it so I don't feel like a fool and I know that you want it as much as I do," he said with a sly smile. He knew how I felt. He didn't need me to admit it. He was just trying to make me admit it for no other reason than because he could.
"Promise me you aren't going to screw me over," I said looking at him directly in the eyes, "I'm not stupid and I realize that while you're here with me you feel strongly about all this, but I also know that once people are separated things change. Promise me that if things change you'll tell me right away. I don't want to be dragged along and I don't want to be cheated on. Just tell me up front, and I promise I won't get mad."
James leaned down and brushed his lips against mine, then rested his forehead against my forehead, "I promise I won't screw you over as long as you promise the same."
My confidence was back. Out of all the girls in the world James was choosing me. He loved me. He wanted me. How could I not be confident in myself? It was an incredible feeling, something I had never felt before. For the first time in my entire life I was at the top. I was number one.
I straddled James's legs and pressed my lips passionately against his. I felt him smile against my kisses. His hands ran up and down my exposed back before gently pulling the straps of my dress off my shoulders.
It was the perfect way to spend our last night together.