My eyes fluttered open, and Josh’s face was right next to mine. Panic settled in for half a second, and then I remembered I didn't sleep in my own bunk. I looked around for a minute and gathered it was still night time, so I settled myself back down to go back to sleep. The bus was moving, and it supplied a little hum to let myself get lost in. I looked at Josh while my eyes fluttered back to being closed.
His face had a little smile on it. I laughed at his face, and sighed. He looked so happy when he was asleep. I could only think that it was rare to see a smile that genuine on his face when he was awake. I finally drifted back to sleep, the negative thought running through my mind that I was the reason Josh never smiled anymore.
I was awoken by Josh stirring, and I had to let a little yawn escape and let my eyes adjust to the sunlight now filtering through.
"Hayley." Josh said, and I finally shook the last of the sleep from my brain to look at him.
"Morning fucknugget” I smiled, dropping his gaze to stretch my body out under the quilt. The outside air was chilly on my face, but the rest of my body was warm next to Josh’s
"How'd you sleep?" he asked, and I re-met his gaze.
That feeling. I guess sleeping hadn’t affected my thoughts I had last night.
"Yeah ok, I guess. Sleeping in jeans isn't exactly my favourite thing to do though." I grimaced.
"Why were you in your jeans?" he laughed, and I giggled.
"I've been in them for 5 days now, I have next to no clothes, remember?" I pointed out. His eyes widened.
"Oh crap! We should have stopped somewhere to get you some. Worst hosts ever.” He groaned.
"I have plenty of money, I'll just get some new stuff to last me the tour, then we'll head back to Tennessee and I'll get all my stuff from Chad's house. Don’t know where I’ll go after that, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.”
"Taylor or Jeremy would be bound to take you in for a bit, right?” he asked, his voice seeming to lose its usual charm.
"Yeah, I guess. What's up with you?" I asked. The happy look from his sleep had faded. I could see pure hurt and anguish in his eyes, and I was determined to find out what was wrong.
"I had a nightmare last night. I woke up at about 2 in the morning, crying." he said
"What about?" I asked, grabbing his hand. That niggling feeling returned, and I tried my hardest to shut it out.
"Well, when you were on the street, I imagined we didn't get there before Chad came looking for you. Basically, he killed you. When we got there, we found you on the ground, the last of your life bleeding from you. I held you one last time, cried over you, and then you were gone. Next thing I know, I'm staring at my bunk roof with tears in my eyes. I had to check you were still alive, and you were. I decided I would just lay here a while and think of positive things. Yknow, PMA."
"Positive mental attitude? You guys still do that?" I smiled
"Yeah. But anyway, I began to think of that time we played Hide and Seek around Sydney, and you all thought you lost me."
“Oh yeah.” I mumbled, chuckling at the memory. I felt the bus slow and eventually stop. All the others began to emerge from their bunks, groggily wandering around the bus to fully wake up.
“SOUNDCHECK IN 20, BOYS, WAKE JOSH UP NOW WOULD YOU?” their manager yelled from the front of the bus, and I heard Max grumble a response and Chris yell something about having a shower and how the manager should wake him up himself, the prick. I chuckled.
“You better get up, Josh.” I laughed, and he finally took his arm off from around me and climbed over me to get out of the bunk.
“Well, while we’re soundchecking and such, how about you go shopping and catch up with us after the show or something?” he suggested.
“Sounds like a plan, my man.” I smiled, climbing out of the bunk as well, wishing good morning to everyone as I walked towards my suitcase to find something that didn’t smell like days old sweat to wear into town. My knee still burnt, but I could handle it for a little while. The boys all clambered off the bus as I finally chose something. I got changed, brushed my hair and pulled it up into a pony, making a mental note to grab some hair dye. I grabbed my wallet out of my suitcase, put on my shoes and headed off into town, grimacing at every second step I took.
“Knee brace, Hayley. Knee brace.” I mumbled to myself, adding to my list of things to get. I went into about 5 different shops, getting various items of clothing and underwear, before I wandered into a supermarket to grab shampoo and shower gel and the like. All the ones in my suitcase were running extremely low after being used all tour. I grabbed some food too, remembering the pitiful state of the guys fridge. I’m sure the boys would love this more than having me around. I finally finished up, and wandered off to get some lunch, running into some fans.
“HAYLEY, HAYLEY!” I heard a bunch cry out from behind a shop counter.
“Well I guess I’m eating here then! How are you all?” I asked, smiling at the excitement in their eyes as they all mumbled along the lines of good. A few went off to make me some food, assuring me they knew what I liked, while a purple haired girl came out from behind the coffee machine, wiping tears out of her eyes, a huge smile on her face.
“Holy shit this is the best day of my life!” she cried out, her body basically lifting off the floor in excitement.
“What’s your name?” I asked her
“Clarissa.” She said, trying to stop more tears coming out of her eyes.
“Do you like You Me At Six, Clarissa?” I asked her, and finally more tears came streaming down her face, as her smile dropped.
“Yeah. I was supposed to go but I couldn’t get the day off work.” She sighed. “My boss rostered me on even though I took the night off and no-one could replace me.”
“So you’re stuck here all night?” I asked, an idea bubbling to mind. She might not miss this gig after all.
“Until 10, yeah.”
“Would your boss mind if I worked for you? I don’t have anything to do until the boys finish.” I smiled, watching her eyes light up.
“I mean probably not, but thank you for offering! That’s insane!” she squeaked.
“Wait, I know what we can do, as long as none of your other workmates dob us in. Quick, I’m your mum. Go get your boss. You’re coming to the gig. Or, rather, a family emergency.” I laughed, as all her workmates agreed to not dob us in while they passed me my lunch.
“Hayley, no way!” she cried, walking away from the counter to get her boss. I quickly scarfed down my lunch, and eventually Clarissa jumped out from behind the counter, her bag in hand.
“He just let me go! He said he knew it was his mistake I was rostered today and if I was willing to fake emergencies to go to this gig then he couldn’t keep me here!”
“Good work! Come on, lets go drop this stuff off at the bus and then go see the boys.” I smiled, and we walked back to the van, talking back and forth about Clarissa’s life in New York and what touring life was like.
“Hayley, I’ve been meaning to ask, I saw this picture of Josh carrying you the other day online. People think you’re cheating on Chad with him. That’s not true is it?” she asked, and my blood ran cold.
“Where did you see that?” I asked, staring straight ahead.
“Well Chad retweeted the picture with the caption ‘true love will carry you no matter how wrong it is’ and people all just guessed that’s what it meant.” she babbled, and I felt my hands curl up into a fist.
“That rotten bastard. Trust me on this, Clarissa, he is not who he says he is.” I sighed, and told her the whole story leading up to this point. By the time I had finished, we were back at the bus, and Josh was wandering out to head to the show. I introduced him to Clarissa and left them to talk while I unloaded the food and chucked my clothes in my suitcase. I wandered back out, and lead Clarissa to the side stage. She gripped onto my arm the whole set, tears basically streaming down her face. Finally, I took a photo of her and the band, and Josh took a photo of me and her. She bubbled off home after hugging us all and thanking me for being the ‘best mother ever’.
“What was that about?” Dan asked as she bounced out the venue doors.
“Well, I kinda pretended to be her mum to get her out of a shift so she could come tonight. Her boss rostered her on.”
“Hayley, that is so fucking cool of you.” Josh smiled, “and now, we drink.” He laughed, and we wandered back to the bus so everyone could get changed.
I grabbed a shirt and jeans out of my suitcase and quickly waltzed into the bathroom, knowing the boys had no trouble in getting changed in front of each other. Halfway through pulling on my jeans, I heard the door open. I threw my arms around my chest, even though I still had a bra on.
"What are you doing, dude? I'm getting changed!" I exclaimed, looking over to see Josh at the door. He walked up to me, grabbed me by the arms, pulled me up to him, and kissed me. Right then and there I knew.
He smiled, letting his eyes close again. My mind raced as I thought about how long I had known Josh, and how everything around him had felt.
A sudden realization came to me as sleep threatened to overtake again.
There is every possibility that the person Josh Franceschi had been in love with was me.
Oh my god. I pushed back against him, looking into his eyes and seeing that I was right.
"Hailes, I can't hold this back anymore. I’ve tried so hard to wait a little longer but I just can’t.” he said, as if he was pleading with me.
"What the fuck, Josh! My fiancé cheated on me, less than 5 days ago, and you're already trying to jump in?” I yelled, throwing my shirt on over my head so I could storm out past him. He stuck out his arm to stop me going any further.
“Hayley, just hear me out. I’m not already trying… I’ve been waiting 4 years for the chance and now that I have one, I guess all sense of time has left me.”
“What…? 4 years? That means…”
"Yeah, 4 years, Hayley. 4 years I sat there and waited for you to wise up and leave him! You didn't believe anyone, not even me, and you ended up getting your heart ripped to pieces! I hate seeing you like this, I want the Hayley that had always been my best friend back. The happy Hayley I fell in love with." He grizzled, mostly through clenched teeth. My fists clenched again, thinking back to what Clarissa said today, the whole situation, and how this would not be a good idea.
"Josh, this just isn’t a good idea right now. Just… give it a few months and we’ll talk about this again, yeah?" I asked him, and watched his face crumple in defeat and anger.
"Oh fuck this.” he mumbled, turning to walk out of the room. I realized how upset he would be that I just rejected him after all this time, and that it’s not like I haven’t recently been having this niggling feeling in the back of my mind I felt the same way. I walked out, finding him just about to step off the bus. I grabbed his arm and pulled him back on. I saw tears running down the side of his cheeks, and felt a pang in my stomach.
"What?! What do you want, Hayley?!" he yelled through the tears. I reached up to hug him properly
"I want you to be happy. It’s all so soon, and I think you know that deep down. I’m not saying no, I’m just saying not right now.” I mumbled into his ear. I kissed him on the cheek, and took a few steps back.
We stood in the middle of the bus for a while, just looking at each other, waiting for someone to say something. The tension was so high, it pushed down on me like a deadweight. He walked the few steps forward, as if to grab me, and then walked straight past me to get off the bus.
“Not right now… Alright, Hayley. I guess I’ll hold you to that. Now, let’s go get drunk.” He said as he walked out the bus door. I turned around, following him, hoping he really understood what I had meant. We walked for a bit, until we saw a figure sitting on the side of the road, his head in his hands. It was Max.