Julie recovers, the tour continues, and Michelle runs into her ex.
“Thanks guys.” Kevin set her on the bed and shooed everyone out of the room. Only Michelle stayed, since it was her room too.
“How are you feeling?” Michelle asked.
“Okay, but tired. The doctors said I’ll be tired a lot for the next week.”
The rest of the week passed quickly for everyone. The group usually went out together to visit someplace Julie wanted to see, but then Kevin and Julie would leave just before lunch time so Julie could rest back at the hotel. The first day that happened, the remaining five realized they all had to fit into one car. Brian just smiled and said Michelle could sit on his lap. It soon became a routine, one that was missed as the first concert came around.
Julie still worked as Michelle’s assistant, though some things cause her difficulty with the cast on her right arm. Kevin also glued himself to her side whenever he wasn’t performing. He got things for her she couldn’t reach and made sure she didn’t overexert herself. After a week of this, she finally expressed herself to Michelle.
“He won’t leave me alone, unless he’s performing, or I’m in the bathroom. That’s it. Every other minute he’s asking me if I need to rest, if he needs to get me anything, etc. It’s too much!”
“Have you told him that yet?”
“No, I wanted to get it out now, so I didn’t yell at him. I knew you wouldn’t mind if I just ranted for a few minutes. That’s where I’m going now, actually, is to talk to him about giving me some space.”
“Good luck.” Michelle watched her friend leave and hoped Kevin took the news well.
“Kevin, I want to talk to you about something,” Julie said as she entered his room.
“What about? Do you need something?”
“No, but that’s what it’s about. You’re always with me, and asking me questions, making sure I’m okay. You don’t need to worry about me so much. If I do need something you’ll be the first to know, but for now can you give me a little space?”
“I just want to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.”
“I know that, and I appreciate it, but it’s too much. With you hovering over me, I can’t do anything myself anymore.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be such a nuisance. I just want to take care of you, but if you want some space, then I can understand that.” Julie gave him a big hug and thanked him.
“I knew you’d understand.” Kevin smiled and hugged her back.
Another two weeks passed, bringing the group to Paris. With two days there, the concert was the first night and a photo shoot was scheduled the second day. The group got up early, wanting to get in a good breakfast before actually going to the shoot.
Michelle walked into the room, surveying the photo equipment, making sure they had the clothes she’d specified, and other details. She scanned the room for the photographer, wanting to speak with him and make sure she knew what he wanted and vice versa. When she spotted him, her breath caught in her throat. She immediately turned around, and faced Julie.
“Julie, please tell me that’s not Craig,” she begged. Julie leaned to the side, looking over Michelle’s shoulder.
“It’s him.” Michelle took a deep breath and put on her professional face before turning around. She’d have to keep her emotions under tight control until the end of the shoot, or she knew they’d overwhelm her.
She walked over to Craig, who looked surprised to see her. She ignored the question in his eyes and went straight to business. She showed him what articles of clothing she had and he told her his vision for the shoot. She immediately began telling Julie which specific outfits the Boys needed to put on first and Craig started telling his crew where to angle the cameras and to change the lighting. The pair worked together efficiently, each instinctively knowing what the other was doing and adjusting their part to match. They moved together like a dance, each anticipating the next step and turning or moving in the right direction. Only Julie and Brian could tell how tense Michelle was. Due to the level of cooperation between the photographer and fashion designer, the shoot ended sooner than expected. Michelle looked over the negatives with Craig, agreeing with him on which ones looked best. Once that was settled, she joined the rest of the group in the cars waiting to take them back to the buses for the overnight drive to Spain, their next concert location. Michelle went straight onto the bus without saying a word, still busy sifting through the swirling thoughts and emotions in her head. Brian managed to convince the others to all ride in the second bus to give him some privacy with his girlfriend.
“Michelle, are you okay?” She nodded absently, sitting on the couch and staring at nothing in particular. “Michelle, look at me.” He sat down next to her and took her hands in his, causing her to finally look up at him. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s more than nothing. All throughout the photo shoot you were tense, and looked like you wanted to run out of the room.” He paused, waiting for her to respond. When she didn’t he tried another approach. “It looked like you knew the photographer. Who is he?” Michelle sighed.
“He’s my ex-boyfriend.” Brian rubbed her hands, encouraging her to continue. “We met at a photo shoot. We worked together so well, just like today, so naturally we went out for coffee afterwards to talk, and that led to a deeper relationship. After several months of getting to know each other, he took me to a restaurant and dumped me. He told me he was moving to Paris to give me space, but I found out it was really because he was living with a French model from one of his photo shoots.”
“So he dumped you for this French model?” Michelle shook her head.
“No; he dumped me because he only dated me to sleep with me, but had realized I wouldn’t do that.”
“Oh baby, I’m so sorry.” Brian wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. He could feel her shaking in silent sobs, though no tears ran down her cheeks. “How long ago did you date him?”
“It was about two years ago. He was the one who made me decide never to date anyone who wasn’t a Christian.”
“Did you date much after him?”
“Besides you, he’s the only other person I’ve ever dated.” Brian waited a little bit before asking the next question on his mind.
“How long did it take you to get over him?”
“Almost a year,” Michelle said quietly after a minute. “When he brought me to the restaurant that last night, I thought he was going to propose.” Michelle tried to give a small laugh, but instead it came out sounding like a strangled sob. She buried her head in his chest and started crying, tears that had never been acknowledged now streaming down her face. Brian wrapped his arms around her tighter and continued to hold her and let her cry.
When the group reached their destination, Julie sought out Michelle and gave her a long overdue hug. She then went on to tell Michelle all the crazy stories she’d heard, and experienced, on the bus ride, giving Michelle the chance she needed to laugh.
“Hey guys, I was just doing some calculating in my head, and we only have six more concerts before we go home!” Nick shouted from the bus doorway.
As sad as the thought was of leaving Europe, especially not having had enough time to visit everything there was to see, the prospect of going home soon outweighed the sadness. The next six concerts exhibited more energy from the Boys due to their new excitement. Every note rang true, and every choreographed step landed perfectly in place, in time with every other move.
The return flights, eight hours to Philadelphia and three hours to Orlando, seemed shorter than it did coming over. The entire group slept this time, even the women, knowing they would arrive in the morning.
Everyone expressed joy at being home again. They spent the day going over their Europe tour, seeing how well they did, looking at articles about them, etc. The tedious work needed doing, but no one enjoyed it much. At lunch, the manager agreed to give them the rest of the day off. The group spent the remaining hours of daylight playing in the icy water of the Atlantic Ocean.
That weekend, Kevin surprised Michelle with a phone call, asking her to meet him for lunch. Curious, she did as he asked and kept their meeting a secret from Julie.
“What’s going on Kevin? Why do you need to talk to me, and why can’t Julie know?”
“I’m going to ask Julie to marry me, but I need your help. I need you to get me one of her rings so I can get the right size engagement ring. Plus, I need your help picking out an engagement ring. I want to surprise her, so I can’t ask for her opinion, so I was hoping you’d help me by telling me what she likes.” Kevin looked so lost Michelle wanted to laugh, but she held it in.
“I know I can get you one of Julie’s rings easily enough. As for what kind of ring she’d like, it’d be easier for me to show you rather than try to describe it.”
They planned a time to meet again and look at rings the next day. Michelle promised to bring along one of Julie’s rings to get the size. When Michelle returned home, Julie wanted to know if she had plans for lunch the next day. Michelle thought quickly, telling Julie she’d already made plans with Brian. When she had a free moment, she called Brian to let him know what was going on in case Julie called him, learning Brian knew about Kevin’s plan to propose.
That night, Michelle went to bed like normal but got up an hour early. While Julie slept, she snuck into Julie’s jewelry box and took Julie’s second favorite ring, knowing she’d notice if her favorite went missing. When lunch time rolled around, she met Kevin again at a restaurant near a jewelry store. They ate quickly, Kevin too excited to care about eating, Michelle only trying to keep up.
“Did you bring the ring?” he asked when they finished. She nodded and pulled it out of her purse.
“Are you ready to start looking?” she asked. He nodded, paid the bill, and they walked into the jewelry store.
“Hello, what can I help you with today?” The sales rep walked over to them, immediately sizing them up to see how much money he could squeeze out of their wallets.
“I want to look at engagement rings,” Kevin answered.
“Oh, are you two planning on getting married?” the man asked while taking them to the engagement section.
“We’re not a couple,” Michelle said, saving Kevin who looked too embarrassed to speak.
“My mistake. Here are the rings. Are you looking for anything in particular?”
While Kevin asked the man to size Julie’s ring, Michelle began perusing the ring selection, picking out the ones she thought Julie might like. When Kevin came back without the man, who had been distracted by a new customer after Kevin’s dismissal, she told him her thoughts. They spent another half hour going through rings, discussing possibilities and diamond cuts, before Kevin made a decision. He planned to shop around for the best price, while keeping the quality of the ring in mind, but now knew what to look for. He thanked Michelle, gave her back Julie’s ring, and the two separated.