Something Like Chapter 14:
I woke up with the sun beating in through the window directly onto my face, making me feel feverish and sweaty under the down comforter Hayden had lent me for the couch.
I was a bit disgruntled at this, but decided that more sleep was needed more than getting up to pull the curtain, and rolled the hot blanket over my head with a groan. I heard Hayden's door open. I hated the fact that he was obviously a morning person. I hated it even more when he used the coffee grinder to make his daily brew, which felt like the spine-tingling equivalent to nails on a chalkboard.
I groaned angrily and flipped the blanket back down to my hips in frustration, giving him a glare while he happily scooped the freshly-ground grains into a French press.
"I understand I am a guest in your house, but if you ever use that God-forsaken contraption this early in the morning again, I promise you, I will throw it out the nearest window." I was genuinely surprised at my own level of hatred for him and his coffee grinder.
"Good morning to you too, Sunshine!" Hayden laughed, shaking his head.
I tried to will my blood to get back under boiling temperature.
"I'm not joking," I huffed, sitting up.
"Irrelevant," he countered. "Hayden likes his java fresh."
"Ugh, and don't refer to yourself in the third person, it's just a new level of douchey."
"Any other demands today, your highness?"
I took a deep breath of air, and let it out slowly. I realized very quickly I was being the jerk, not him and his obnoxious noise-making machine from hell. I imagined what kind of noise would come from it if shot repeatedly with a gun.
"Sorry," I said quickly, rubbing in-between my eyes. "I'm not much of an early riser."
I realized then that the full effect of Hayden's mystique was slowly disappearing, and we were entering a realm where we were becoming an authentic, real-life couple. The honeymoon phase was beginning its process of slipping away before my very eyes. The ugly truths of both of our lives were out, and all we had to do was adjust to these stripped down versions of ourselves.
"What's on your mind?" he asked curiously, taking a sip from his mug that read: 'World's Okayest Brother' on the front.
I smiled to myself. It was nice, getting the bad with the good. Nice, because I still loved him the same for it. Even if I couldn't say that out loud to him quite yet.
"Nothing," I muttered. "Just, I guess we're like in a 'real' relationship or something now, huh?"
"Something like that…" he agreed absently, pouring some powder into his coffee that I guessed was some sort of supplement. My anxious mind wondered if there was some double-meaning to those words, if it was some allusion to disappointment that I had slept on the couch last night instead of with him.
As his back was turned, I took a little too long gazing at his backside, clothed in those grey sagging, hole-ridden pants that were obviously worn for comfort, saved only on his days off work. I wondered what his fashionista bosses would think of his shapeless cotton Abercrombie sweats hanging off his perfect rear end. It struck me odd that he wasn't in his boxers like usual. I found myself missing the tight boxer briefs, not these unfair monstrosities that covered him up in places I didn't want covered. I suddenly wanted to sue Abercrombie. He leaned down suddenly to catch my gaze.
"Hi," he smiled at me knowingly, and I tried to act casual. "Eyes are up here, sweetheart."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." My face furrowed in embarrassment, a bit put off that he had called me out.
"Hey," he threw out. "Speaking of the greatest time of your life-"
"Was that what we were talking about?"
"Oh, you have no idea… But we should talk about Paris."
I bit my lip and hesitated for an awkward pause. Hayden took another sip of his coffee, waiting patiently.
"You want to know if I still want to go." Not a question.
Hayden raised his eyebrows to confirm this.
"I assume we are staying in the same room?"
He shrugged innocently.
Hayden looked away now, though I could tell he was fighting a grin.
"Doesn't have to be," he conceded.
"You really think I would pass up a free European vacation away from my abusive stepfather?"
"Let's not forget the super hot, super generous man who is nice enough to let you stow away on his business trip…"
I finally got up from the couch and blanket abyss, and went to the kitchen with him. I reached for his face, and he welcomed the touch.
"Do you really want to go with me? The grouchy, non-morning person with deep-rooted intimacy issues?"
His eyes were humble, genuine, and he spoke in a voice barely above a whisper.
I slowly pulled his face towards me, lifting myself a bit on my toes to reach his lips. Those, heavenly, plush lips.
"I'm going to take that as a 'yes'. Which, admittedly, I wasn't expecting you to cave quite so soon, so I came prepared to sweeten the deal."
"How could this deal possibly get any sweeter?"
Hayden headed over to his front door, and whipped it wide open. A woman immediately started yelling with her hands thrown up, and it took me a second to realize that it was Sabrina.
"SURPRISE!" she screamed, and I screamed with her. Hayden mimicked our screams out of moral support.
"I figured what better way to find comfort than vacationing with your bestie," Hayden said loudly over us squealing and hugging. I grabbed at Hayden and embraced him tightly in gratitude.
"I was wondering why you wore pants this morning!" I hit his arm playfully, and he shrugged back.
"The clues, they were right in front of you…"
"Oh, don't change your routine on my account," Sabrina held Hayden's shoulder, a gesture that didn't go over my head unnoticed. A strange, unfamiliar lump appeared in my throat.
Sabrina hadn't been here two minutes and she was already being her flirty self. I shook my head and tried not to be sensitive. Something about anyone looking at Hayden, even my best friend, was beyond my ability to be chill about. I refused to be so typical and let a boy come between my friend and I.
When Hayden left to finish packing, Sabrina went into a fit.
"You completely didn't let on how much of a real dreamboat he actually was!" She cooed, fanning herself. "Oh my God, those lips!"
"I feel like I did, though," I countered, my voice lowering in case Hayden could still hear us.
Suddenly, the dynamic felt a bit off-kilter. Like my old life with Sabrina intersecting with the new that wasn't meshing right in my chest. Something was giving me a strange feeling, when she dominated the conversation with him, asking him every question imaginable. The feeling kept twirling around in my gut as Hayden politely helped Sabrina get her suitcase in the trunk, and she gushed about his strength. I kept quiet, telling myself I was being selfish. Hayden was as handsome as any celebrity, and surely the most perfect thing either of us had any privilege to interact with before. Was is self-centered to think Sabrina might bear a little concern for her friend's dire stepfather situation, rather than be all about Hayden and everything shiny about him? Was it selfish of me to want to use my best friend for emotional support right now, rather than watch her gush over the man she just met? And was it unfair that I wanted Hayden to at least give me a little attention, rather than just keep agreeable conversation with Sabrina with a wink at me every half hour or so?
I told myself that it would wear off once we reached France, but it didn't. Sabrina talked through, security, through walk on the tarmac, and through the entire flight, all eight hours of it, when all I wanted to do was sleep through all of it and get there faster.
When we got to the hotel, my thoughts immediately fell curious to what Hayden had arranged for our sleeping arrangements. Would I be alone with Hayden? Would I be alone with Sabrina? Or worse yet… a room with two beds for all of us?
I managed to keep silent and wait patiently as Hayden tipped the bellboy to take our bags away. Sabrina finally hung back, helping herself to the table of foyer refreshments, and I whispered in Hayden's ear.
"Hayden, what are the sleeping arrangements?"
"What do you mean?" Hayden asked in bewilderment.
"Where is Sabrina staying?"
"Oh, I figured you'd want a room with her, so I got us a suite with adjoining rooms." Suddenly, Hayden brightened. "Why- did you want to stay with me?!"
"I, uh…" I felt panic rushing into me as I saw Sabrina start to make her way back over to us with a clear cup full of strawberry-cucumber water. Why panic? This was my best friend. With me, on my trip of a lifetime. Why wasn't I enjoying her company, like I always did? What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I enjoy the scenery, the beautiful city around me, but instead was so focused on this non-existent crisis?
I suddenly realized that perhaps, just perhaps… I actually did want to stay in the room with Hayden, but not if Sabrina was in the next room over. I began to dawn upon the fact that I maybe was hoping for something to come of this trip, of some sort of French magic to happen and make way for the moment that I would finally get to be intimate with Hayden. All of that was not possible with my best friend around as third wheel. She was supposed to be here to make me feel more comfortable, but instead could only pay attention to my significant other. Would I be a bad friend for making her sleep in a room alone?
"Don't worry, hon," Hayden held me closer to whisper into my ear before Sabrina joined back with us. "We'll find our moment."
Damn him, for reading my mind.
As we settled in to our rooms, I sat on the edge of the bed closest to the window, staring out at our phenomenal view and tried to relax, reminding myself of how lucky we were to be here. Sabrina headed for the shower, barely speaking to me. I listened to the sound of the falling water through the thin door, and did my best to collect myself, to get myself out of my head.
I got up and opened the door to the adjoining room. I saw Hayden's head peek out from the bathroom, his toothbrush in his mouth and shirt unbuttoned.
"Hey!" he called out happily. "Couldn't stay away, huh?"
I simply walked over and hugged him, arms around his ribs and my eyes closed. He seemed confused, patting my back encouragingly.
"You okay?" he asked through his mouth full of fluoride. When I didn't answer, he patted me faster to make me let go of him. I backed away and he spat out his toothpaste in the sink. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," I lied. "I just needed a hug."
"Well, I got plenty of those," Hayden pulled me close again, and I took a deep sigh of his scent. His skin was warm and inviting, and his chest felt soft on my cheeks. "You don't seem okay. Can you tell me?"
"I think I'm just still rattled about everything," I admitted, inwardly hoping that was all there was to my feeling of unrest. I opened my eyes, glancing around the room. They fell on the jacuzzi tub. Hayden noticed me eyeing it, and waited patiently for me to speak, not being able to help the smile creeping onto his face.
"Don't even think about it," I commanded, only half-jokingly.
He shrugged and tickled my ribcage playfully.
"Oh, too late."