Bob and Claire get to know each other better. Christa is concerned about Anna.
She looked over at him, “Oh, well.” She paused.
Bob laughed, “I do know how to drive.” He teased.
Claire hoped she had not hurt his feelings, “I am sure you do. It is just that I am so accustomed to traveling only with Anna and since she does not drive…” Her voice trailed off.
Bob nodded, “Yeah, I get that.”
Claire realized that having him drive might be a good idea. She had a feeling he wanted to ask her questions that would be hard to answer. Perhaps if he had to concentrate more on driving it would distract him. “If you do not mind I would enjoy being the passenger.”
He laughed then quickly opened his door and walked around to the driver’s side. Claire simply slid over to the seat he had vacated. Once he was settled behind the wheel he started the engine and they were off.
So far on the trip they had spoken of common interests. They had talked about books and movies but now Bob wanted to know more. “I grew up in Chicago.” He said trying to break into a more personal conversation. “How about you?”
Claire knew to stay with the story she and Anna had created. Many of the facts were true but not all. “I was born in London.”
Bob was surprised, “Really? You don’t sound British, I mean you don’t have an accent.”
“But I do speak differently.” Claire smiled softly.
“Proper.” Bob nodded, “Just like Anna.”
“Yes.” Claire answered.
“So how long have you known her?” He hoped he didn’t sound nosey but he was so damn curious. She and Anna seemed to have a very strange relationship. It seemed to him that when Claire spoke of Anna it was with deep respect and caring.
“I first met Anna when I was very young.” Claire said honestly. “I am an orphan and she and Jacob offered me home and family.”
“An orphan?” Bob glanced over at her, “What happened to your parents?”
Claire was glad his gaze was on the road so he could not see the shiver that passed through her. “My mother abandoned me when I was a baby. I do not know anything of my father.”
Bob was going over her words in his mind, “Wait. Who’s Jacob?”
She remembered what Anna had told her, “He is Anna’s uncle.”
“What about her parents?”
“They died when she was young. Anna was raised by Jacob.”
“Oh.” Bob didn’t want to pry anymore about Anna but he wanted to know more about Claire. “So you were raised in an orphanage before you met Anna?”
“Yes.” Claire lied and for the first time in her life she hated it. She wanted to tell this man the truth but it was impossible. It hurt that she could not share with him the deep bond that tied her to Anna. It felt so wrong to let him believe Anna was simply a close friend when the truth was she was her savior.
“So when did you move to the US?” Bob asked.
“In 2000” She answered once again feeling regret that the truth must suffer.
Bob chuckled, “Okay I still don’t understand why you don’t have an accent. I would think that since you lived in England all that time you would.”
Claire smiled, “I did not say I lived in England my whole life. Anna and I have traveled extensively.” That at least wasn’t a total lie.
Bob glanced over at her but then quickly turned his attention back to the road.
“What is it?” Claire asked.
He chuckled, “I was just trying to imagine what you looked like as a kid. I bet you were cute.”
“Cute?” Claire was shocked, “Why would you think that?”
“Because you’re so damn cute now.” Bob answered honestly.
“Cute?” Claire’s voice held disbelief.
“Yeah,” Bob said softly. “Damn cute. Your curly red hair, the way your eyes dance now and then.” He tried to stop before he made a fool of himself but he couldn’t. “Like a pixie.”
Claire was flabbergasted. Never before had any man remarked on her looks. In her mind this was because next to Anna’s beauty she looked almost plain.
“I’m sorry.” Bob said believing he’d somehow upset her.
“No, please do not feel sorry.” Claire said, “It is just that on one has ever commented on my looks before. It is Anna who draws all of the attention.”
“Christ” Bob muttered, “You must have been around a bunch of blind guys.”
Claire’s laugh was pure and sweet. “Thank you.” She wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to say but she truly meant it.
Happily Bob realized she was opening up. “So are you and Anna just friends or do you actually work for her?”
“Both.” Claire answered, “But yes, she does employ me. I am her secretary. I handle many things for her so that she can concentrate on her writing,”
“She’s a great author.” Bob nodded.
“Yes.” Claire agreed with pride in her voice, “She is.”
“You said you live in Vermont. Do you have your own place?”
Claire realized he was gently prying again, “No, I live in Anna’s home. It is a large old Colonial that is truly almost too big for just two people but Anna loved the house when we first viewed it.”
“Are you happy working for Anna?” He asked softly.
Again Claire wished with all her heart he could understand. “Very happy. She…” She stopped herself just in time. “She is like a sister to me.”
“But do you ever want to do something else?”
Claire shook her head, “I can not imagine what else I would be happy doing.”
They rode in silence for several minutes. Bob was going over things in his mind that Claire had told him and was trying to figure out why something seemed off to him.
“Do you enjoy what you do?” Claire asked breaking the silence.
Bob smiled, “Hell, yeah. I always wanted to be in a band. I love playing the drums.” He glanced over at her, “Maybe you’d like to come to the next concert?”
Claire remembered what Anna had told her about wanting her to interact more with others. “I would like that.” She answered softly.
“Me too.” Bob smiled.
Anna slipped back into the bunk. In his sleep Gerard muttered something then rolled over and threw his arm around her. A minute later he was awake.
“You okay?” He asked seeing Anna was awake.
“I am fine.” She snuggled down under the blanket.
“You’re so cold.” He took her hand in his and rubbed it trying to warm her skin.
“I went outside briefly for some air. The night is chilly.” She answered.
Gerard yawned, “Wish you’d waken me and I would have gone with you.”
Anna laughed softly, “You were snoring. I did not think I should wake you.”
He yawned again, “Where are we?”
“I really do not know. I should have asked Claire.”
Too late she realized it would have been best not to mention seeing Claire. “Yes, she was stretching her legs and I saw her.”
“Wonder how she and Bob are getting along?”
Anna wished she had been able to ask but the urgency of her situation had prevented that. “She did not say.”
“He hasn’t said anything but I think he really likes her.” Gerard said pulling Anna closer to his body but moving his arm so it did not cover her.
“But they have spoken so briefly before tonight.” Anna said with a frown, “How could he know that?”
Gerard smiled, “Sometimes when you meet someone there is an instant attraction.” He moved his head so he could look her directly in the eyes, “That is a fact I know very well.”
Anna felt warmed by his words, “Is that how you felt when we met?” She whispered.
“Yeah, Sugar.” Gerard said softly, “There is something about you I can’t explain but it’s like I’ve known you a long time.”
Anna wondered how he’d feel if he knew his feelings weren’t really that far off the mark, “I too was attracted to you.” She admitted.
Gerard grinned, “Cause I was an oaf who bumped into you?”
Her thoughts immediately went back to their true first meeting. When she had looked into his eyes she had known in an instant he was her soul mate. She forced herself to answer correctly according to his belief, “You were not an oaf. You were just distracted by your phone.”
“Yeah but I’m glad I was.” He yawned again.
“Please close your eyes and go back to sleep.” Anna said leaning up and gently kissing his cheek, “You need your rest.”
“I’m pretty tired.” He said closing his eyes. Within minutes he was asleep. Anna spent the rest of the night watching over him like she had done for so long.
It was early when the bus rolled into the lot of the venue and most were still asleep. Christa however was not. She had had trouble sleeping the night before and had fitfully dozed on and off. Now as the sun was beginning to rise she was wide awake. She nudged her husband, “Ray” She whispered.
He opened his eyes slowly, ‘What?”
Ray groaned, “Well I am now. Some crazy woman just woke me. What time is it?”
“Early.” Christa answered
He reached up and pushed her light brown hair from her eyes, “Did you have trouble sleeping again?”
She nodded, “Yeah, I don’t know what’s been wrong with me the last couple of nights I just can’t sleep.”
He closed his eyes again.
“Ray” Christa nudged him again. “Last night when we stopped for gas I saw something.”
There was something in the tone of her voice that made him curious. He opened his eyes again, “What?”
Christa made sure to keep her voice soft and low, “Anna got off the bus.”
“And?” He knew there must be more to the story.
“Well I heard her get up so I got up too. I was gonna talk to her since I couldn’t sleep but before I could she left the bus. I watched her from the window. I think something was wrong cause she sorta stumbled and Claire ran out to meet her.”
Ray leaned up on his elbow, “Was she sick or something?”
Christa shrugged, “I don’t know but I saw Claire take her over to the RV but they went around the other side so I couldn’t see what was happening.”
“Did she come back to the bus?”
“Yeah, Claire helped her.”
Ray wondered why she was acting so strange about the incident, “So did you ask her what was wrong?”
She shook her head, “No I kinda had the feeling she didn’t want anyone to know what she was doing and I didn’t want to pry.”
“I don’t think asking her if she was okay would be prying.”
Christa frowned, “I don’t know. I just had that feeling. Anyway when I saw Claire helping her back to the bus I got back in bed and listened. Gerard woke up and I heard him ask her if she was okay and she told him she’d just stepped outside to get some fresh air.”
“So maybe that’s all she was doing.” Ray said “I mean maybe she wasn’t feeling good and just wanted to get some air but she didn’t tell Gee cause she didn’t want him to worry.”
Christa thought a minute, “Yeah, probably you’re right.”
Ray laid back down, “Why don’t you just ask her if she’s okay later on when everyone’s awake?”
Christa sighed, “Maybe. I like Anna but she’s sorta reserved, you know? I don’t want her to think I was spying on her or anything.” She paused then added, “But I am worried about her.”
Ray smiled, “She probably just felt a little sick and didn’t want to worry Gee. Now stop worrying so much.” He leaned up, gave her a quick kiss the laid back down.
Anna sighed having just listened to Ray and Christa’s conversation. Even though they had been whispering she still had heard them. Her feelings were conflicted. On one hand she was upset Christa had seen her in a weakened state but on the other hand she was touched that the woman was worried about her. Having someone other than Claire or Jacob care about her welfare was a new experience. Even though it was early she slipped silently from the bunk but not before pressing a gentle kiss on Gerard’s cheek.
She moved to the front of the bus and took a seat on one of the sofas. It wasn’t long before Christa appeared. “Good morning.” She greeted Anna warmly. “I’m gonna start the coffee.” She explained as she walked over to the counter.
“That sounds wonderful.” Anna answered as she watched her spoon ground coffee into the machine.
When Christa was done she walked over and sat down next to Anna. “So you’re up early.” She was hoping this would lead into a conversation that would allow her to learn what had happened with Anna when she’d left the bus.
“I always rise early.” Anna explained.
“I had a terrible time sleeping last night.” Christa admitted. “I have for the last couple of nights.”
“I too have trouble with sleep.”
Christa realized chances were very good that Anna was not going to mention what had happened. She decided to just come out and ask, “I woke up last night and saw you leave the bus. I was worried you might be sick or something.”
Anna pretended she was surprised that Christa knew. “Yes, I did and yes I was feeling slightly sick. I thought the fresh air might help and it did.”
“I wish I had known you were feeling bad.” Christa said softly, “I would have gotten up and sat with you until you felt better.”
Her words touched Anna deeply. She was surprised that Christa’s concern for her was affecting her so much. “Thank you.” Anna answered simply afraid to say more for fear her response might be an overreaction.
“Oh I think the coffee is ready.” Christa crossed over to the counter and after asking Anna how she took her coffee she returned with two cups.
Both women saw quietly sipping the strong, dark brew for several minutes before Christa spoke again. “Everyone else should be getting up soon. The guys have another busy day.”
“And I should be returning to my RV.” Anna said before taking another sip of coffee.
“Well Bob’s not here yet so there’s no hurry.” She gave a small smile, “I wonder if he and Claire had a nice time.”
Just then the bus door opened. Christa and Anna turned to see Claire and Bob walk into the bus. Bob inhaled deeply the turned to Claire, “See I told you there would be coffee ready.” He moved to the counter and poured two cups. Claire continued to stand by the door unsure what to do. She saw Anna looking at her.
“Bob invited me here for a cup of coffee.” The uncertainty in her voice was not lost on Anna.
“Have a seat Claire.” She nodded to the sofa across from where she and Christa were seated.
Claire slowly walked over and sat down. Bob handed her a cup of coffee. “There ya go.”
“Thank you.” Claire said smiling up at him.
Anna realized she had never seen Claire look so happy as she did smiling up and Bob. She beamed when he seated himself closely beside her.
Bob forced his attention away from Claire feeling Anna’s gaze on them. “Uh, hope it’s okay that I drove the RV some last night.” He wanted to make sure that Claire would not be in trouble over that fact.
“Of course that was fine.” Anna answered. “I am sure Claire enjoyed a break from driving.”
Claire nodded but did not meet Anna’s gaze, “Yes, it was nice.”
“So are you feeling better?” Bob asked still looking at Anna.
Claire’s head shot up, “Bob saw me helping you back to the bus last night.” She quickly explained to a shocked Anna. She wanted her to understand that was all he had seen.
Anna recovered quickly, “Yes thank you I am feeling better. The fresh air helped.” She was becoming annoyed that Claire had looked away again.
“You weren’t feeling well?’ A very sleepy looking Gerard asked as he walked towards them.
“I just needed some fresh air.” Anna said giving him a smile.
He wandered over, grabbed a cup of coffee then sat down between Anna and Christa. “Well how come you didn’t tell me.” He asked with a frown.
Anna smiled, “Because I did not want you to worry. It was nothing.” At that moment Claire looked at her and she could see how much the lie upset her.
“Coffee.” Frank suddenly appeared his arms outstretched as he made his way to the coffee machine in true zombie style. “I needed coffee.”
Everyone laughed at his show. Soon the others all began to slowly file in, most going directly for coffee. As soon as Alicia spotted Claire she greeted her warmly. “Hey, glad you’re here I was thinking Bob wasn’t gonna share you with us.”
Bob spoke softly, “Actually I didn’t want to. It was pretty nice and peaceful in the RV.”
Claire looked over and him and smiled, “Yes, it was.”
Alicia walked over and teasingly glared at Gerard, “Dude you need to go get dressed. You guys got to get going soon.” It was true they had another early radio show to do this morning.
Gerard narrowed his eyes, “You just want my spot.”
Alicia laughed, “Yeah, that’s true.”
Slowly Gerard pushed himself up off the sofa but once on his feet he swayed slightly. “Damn.” He muttered.
“What is it?” Anna’s concern was immediate.
“One hell of a headache.” He answered rubbing his head.
“You okay?” Mikey, who had just walked in, asked.
Gerard nodded slightly, “Yeah, it’s okay now.” The pain had lessened. “Guess I stood up too quickly.
“Well get dressed we gonna get a move on.” Ray said before draining the rest of his coffee from the cup.
“So what are we girls gonna do today?” Alicia asked looking around. “How about doing some shopping?”
Anna saw the look of uncertainly on Claire’s face. “I have some work to catch up on but Claire may enjoy going.”
Claire began to shake her head, “No, I realize you need my help.” She said to Anna.
Bob reached over and took Claire’s hand in his. “Hey, you might have fun.” He wanted Claire to stop hiding on the RV.
“Yes, he is right.” Anna said catching Claire’s eyes, “It would be good for you to get out and enjoy the day.”
Claire tried to listen to Anna’s words but the simple truth was she couldn’t think about anything else but the fact that Bob was holding her hand. It made her feel safe but scared at the same time.
“You sure you can’t come too, Anna?” Alicia asked.
“Yes.” Claire said quickly, “I promise to help you finish the revisions when we return.”
Anna could hear the pleading in Claire’s voice. She was afraid to go with these people without Anna at her side. She also knew it was important for Claire to learn to be comfortable around others but thought that perhaps it would make it easier for her if she eased into it. “I suppose I could.” Anna said slightly nodding to Claire.
Claire smiled at her in relief.
Soon the band members were ready to board the van that was to take them to the radio station. Bob had broken away from them to walk Claire back to the RV where she and Anna were going to change before shopping.
Anna slowly began to follow but Gerard caught up with her.
“Hey sneaking away without saying goodbye?” He teased.
“I could see you were busy” She answered looking into his eyes.
He sighed, “Wish we didn’t have this interview. I’d like to go back to bed and sleep some more.”
Anna spoke softly, “How is your headache?”
“Not bad.” He didn’t want to concern her. “I’m just tired.”
Swiftly Anna reached up and placed her fingers on his temples. Gerard closed his eyes enjoying her touch.
“Open your eyes.” Anna whispered.
He stared into her eyes. A moment later he realized the pain was gone but he felt slightly confused as if his thoughts were cloudy.
“There is no more pain.” Anna whispered.
“No pain.” Gerard repeated.
Suddenly Anna dropped her hands and smiled, “I must change before everyone else is ready and I am not.”
Gerard blinked several times trying to clear his mind. “Yeah, I gotta go too.”
“I will see you later?” Anna asked.
“For sure.” Gerard impulsively pulled her close and dropped a quick kiss on her lips.
“Come on, Gee.” Ray yelled from the van.
Gerard rolled his eyes, “I gotta go.” He turned and started for the van with a smile on his face. He felt great.