Page 45 of RoomHate

“Really. Wow…and he chose you.”

He smiled hesitantly. “Yeah.”

“Your style totally jives with his, too.”

“I know. It’s a good fit.”

Panic aside, my heart also filled with pride. I reached up to hug him. “Holy crap. I’m so proud of you,” I said, despite the fact that it felt like my world was falling apart.

“I haven’t accepted it yet, Amelia.”

I pulled back suddenly to look him in the eyes. “You’re going to, right?”

He frowned. “I don’t know.”

“You can’t turn it down.”

“I wanted to discuss it with you first.”

“What is there to discuss?”

“I’d be leaving you and Bea for five fucking months.”

“You never exactly said your stay here was permanent in the first place. Technically, you’ve been on borrowed time. You realize that, don’t you?”

He didn’t address my question when he said, “This would be different than my simply being in New York. I wouldn’t be able to just come to the island whenever I want or when you need something. The tour is continuous. They stick to a tight schedule. He likes to do two or three shows in each city.”

“You don’t have to worry about me.” As much as I didn’t want him to leave, there was no way I was going to let him give up an opportunity like this out of guilt. He would come to resent Bea and me. That was the last thing I wanted.

“I don’t have to worry about you? Do you remember the state I found you in?”

“A lot has changed since then. Bea has grown a lot. She’s less dependent on me and sleeping better. Don’t use me as an excuse not to take this opportunity. Five months will fly by.”

In truth, it seemed like an eternity. So much could happen in five months. In fact, so much had happened between us in that same amount of time. We’d grown into our own unique version of a family in that equivalent duration.

“You say it will fly by now, but when you have no one around to relieve you when you want to leave the house or go grocery shopping, you’ll feel it. When you get lonely at night, you’ll feel it…unless you call the asshat next door. I’m sure Roger will take full advantage of my being gone.”

It seemed like he was trying to make up any excuse in the world as to why going was a bad idea.

“I don’t want you to leave, Justin. It scares the hell out of me, but I just know you’ll regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t. There isn’t even a decision to make with an offer like this.”

He looked down at his shoes and stared at the floor for the longest time before he conceded, “You’re right. I’ll always wonder what could have been if I don’t do it. And I don’t think I’ll get another opportunity like it in my lifetime.”

My throat felt like sandpaper when I swallowed. “Well, then you have your answer.”

Justin stared into space and said, “Shit. This is really happening.” He then turned to me with a nervous expression as if he wanted me to make one last attempt to talk him out of it.

“Bea and I will still be here.”

“I’d be coming back about a month after her first birthday.” He looked over at where Bea was playing. “I’ll miss it.”

Trying to remain calm, I asked, “When do you need to let Olivia know by?”

“No later than the next couple of days.”

I hesitated before asking, “Are you sure Jade wasn’t right about her?”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s she’s trying to get back together with you? It seems like a very big gesture on her part, to work to get you on this tour.”

“She’s always been a big supporter of my music. There’s nothing else going on there, Amelia.”

“Is she actually going to be on the tour the whole time?”

“Yes. She manages it.”

“Is she still dating someone?”

He answered reluctantly, “I don’t think so.”

Adrenaline pumped through me as jealousy took hold. My cheeks felt hot. “I see.”

“I told you the story about my breakup with Olivia. She wasn’t the one for me. It’s over. It doesn’t matter that she’s on the tour. Please don’t focus on that. It’s a waste of energy.”

“Okay. I’ll try, but just imagine how you would feel if I were going on a bus tour with an ex for five months. You can’t even deal with Roger next door. You lived with her for two years. You can surely see why it makes me uncomfortable.”

“Of course, I get it, but I can’t stress enough that Olivia and I are over. Yes, she happens to be going on this tour, but please don’t worry about that.”

“Alright. I’ll try.”

My heart felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. I couldn’t let him see that I was devastated by his impending departure. I suddenly said, “Hey, is it okay if I take a quick jog on the beach? Will you keep an eye on Bea?”

“Since when do you run?”

“I’d like to start.”

He stared at me suspiciously. “Yeah. Of course I’ll watch her.”

Without delay, I ran upstairs and changed into my exercise clothes as fast as I could.

Once outside, my legs were taking off faster than my heart could sustain. I couldn’t keep up with my own will to run away from the heartbreak of knowing he was really going away. It wasn’t his leaving that was devastating but rather the fear that he wouldn’t want to come back to this mundane life on the island. He would be experiencing something completely new. A music tour would be chock full of excitement—temptation. No limitations.

I couldn’t let him see how terrified I was; the only thing worse than his leaving would be if he decided not to go because of my insecurities. While I couldn’t stop him from leaving, the one thing I could do was attempt to protect myself in the only way I knew how. For the remainder of his time on the island, I couldn’t allow myself to get any closer to him physically or emotionally. If we could survive his going away, then I would know that he was serious about us. Until then, it was necessary to live my life under the assumption that he may not be coming back. This tour would be the ultimate test.

The beach air filled my throat as I ran. It was so windy that sand was flying into my eyes and mouth as I dodged seagulls.

Finally arriving back at the house, I stopped just inside the door before entering. Justin had the radio on and was dancing around the kitchen with Bea. She would laugh every time he spun her around real fast. The music faded into the background, taking a backseat to the loud noise of the anxious thoughts passing through my mind. It hit me that I wasn’t going to be the only one devastated by his leaving. Bea had no clue he would be gone in a matter of days. She wouldn’t even be able to understand why he left. My heart hurt for her, and he wasn’t even gone yet.

***

It’s always when you want time to stand still that it flies the fastest.

After Justin accepted the tour gig, he found out he only had a week and a half before he had to report to Minneapolis. He was going to drive the Range Rover back to New York then catch a flight to meet Calvin and the rest of the crew in Minnesota where they would kick off the tour.

Because the other musician had dropped out so suddenly, there wasn’t a lot of time to prepare. Justin got lucky because when he explained the situation to the managers at his day job, they agreed to grant him an unpaid leave of absence. The president of the software company that Justin worked for was a huge Calvin Sprockett fan, so that helped.

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