Chapter 7 – On the Rise

What I didn’t realize at the time was that, while AJ was screaming at me about Dani, Brian was pouring his heart out to her. That was definitely something I wouldn’t have been able to predict. I mean, Brian had never had any trouble with girls, and suddenly he’s got this huge thing for Dani and hadn’t been able to tell her about it?

And yet, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Danica was my best friend, so of course Brian wouldn’t want to come between us. He’d also just broken up with his girlfriend, so it made sense that he’d want some time before going after someone else.

And naturally, Dani just had to let me know about this as soon as humanly possible. She didn’t have the chance to talk to me before the concert since I was in Soundcheck and then had radio interviews all afternoon.

Keeping up with our little charade, Dani once again joined me on my bus on the way to the hotel. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, as she seemed to be even more aloof than usual. Don’t get me wrong, she was usually off in space somewhere, but that night was especially bad. She just sat quietly, fiddling with her fingers.

“Dani, you okay?” I asked cautiously, but I really only wanted her to answer with the response that yes, she was fine. I had no idea how to deal with girls when they got all over emotional and shit.

But one look at me and I knew that there was something wrong. Dammit. “No.” She said quietly.

What the hell was I supposed to say? “You want to talk about it?” I asked cautiously. Please God, let her say no.

But she didn’t say no. She just sighed and looked out the window, collecting her thoughts or something. She had been fine that morning, what could have possibly gone wrong between now and then?

“We have a problem.” She said, still looking out the window.

I raised my eyebrow. Of course there was a problem, did she really expect this to go on without some sort of snag? Crap. “Which would be?”

“Brian’s in love with me.” She explained, her voice was so quiet I could hardly even hear her, and I wasn’t even sure if I did correctly.

“What?”

“Brian.” She said again. “Is in love with me.”

It took me a second to process that. Brian was in love with her? How could that be possible, and why was this only just coming out now?

Oh, because he thought she was with me. Right.

“Well, just tell him the truth.” I reasoned.

“I did.” She replied, looking at me and giving a slight nod. “Of course I did!” She went off, here we go. She was going to start flipping out and I was going to have to deal with it. Couldn’t she have waited until she was with Bev? Ugh.

“I had to tell him!” She continued. Oh well, this wasn’t so bad. She just babbled on and I listened to it. “I didn’t want to hurt him… I didn’t want to hurt anyone! Now what are we supposed to do?!” She cried, dramatically throwing her head into her hands.

“Well, this isn’t that big of a problem, Dani.” I said, causing her to glare at me. Well it wasn’t! “Brian knows it was a plan… so no harm done. He’s fine.” I shrugged.

“It isn’t fine! He’s in love with me!”

I thought about that for a second. “Well, the reason you’re pretending to date me is to get rid of AJ, right?”

She nodded her head, as if that were obvious. “And to help you get rid of Kels.”

“Right.” I replied. “But Kels is gone, and she’s probably not coming back. So that worked out.” I explained. “So it doesn’t really matter who you’re dating to get AJ off your back. You could start dating Brian for real, and it would have the same effect.”

She sighed. What? Why wouldn’t that work? “I don’t know…”

“Why not?” I asked a little impatiently. That would work perfectly! Let Brian deal with AJ’s outbursts, I’d be free!

“I don’t like him that way.” She said sadly, looking at her feet.

I was a little shocked by that. She didn’t like him… why the hell not? As far as I knew, they got along just fine. Brian would be a good boyfriend to her, just like he had been to every other girl I’d seen him with. But Dani just sat there, looking confused and worried. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and…

“Dani, you don’t like me for real, do you?” I asked her suddenly. Oh please don’t let that be it.

Thankfully, it wasn’t. Dani gave me a strange look and that time she made definite eye contact. “No, Nick.” She said, rolling her eyes. “God, can you imagine how weird that would be? Fake is awkward enough for me, thanks.”

“Good.” I said, feeling relieved. I don’t know how I would have reacted had that been the case. “Look, I’ll talk to Brian, okay?”

She seemed happy about that, it was the first time I’d seen her smile since we’d gotten on the bus. “Thanks, Nick.”

~~~

I didn’t even know what I was supposed to say to Brian. I sucked at serious conversations. Maybe I should have told Kevin and let him deal with it.

No, that wouldn’t have been a good idea. Kevin would have reamed me out for the whole fake relationship with Dani and causing a bunch of unnecessary stress. Definitely not a good idea. I guess I’d just have to do this without Kevin’s help.

Reluctantly, I knocked on Brian’s hotel room door. He answered right away, and by looking at him you couldn’t tell that anything was wrong. He greeted me with the same warm smile that he always did.

“Hey Nick.” He said, ushering me into his room. “What’s up?”

“Um…” I said, hoping he would start the conversation.

He said down on the bed and gave me a knowing look. Thank God Brian was good in awkward situations like this, because I really sucked. I can’t stress that enough. “You’re here to talk to me about Dani, aren’t you?”

Man, I did not want to be having this conversation. I held up my hands as if to admit defeat. “Dude, you can have her. I swear I was just pretending to go out with her to stop AJ from bugging her.”

Pissing AJ off was one thing, I knew he was going to be mad. But there was no way I wanted to piss Brian off. I guess I respected him more or something. I knew he’d treat Dani well if they got together, but AJ and I had serious relationship issues. Plus I knew AJ would just yell at me and he’d be done. But if I made Brian mad… he’d be hurt for weeks.

So I just continued to ramble. “The entire plan was her idea, I didn’t even want to go along with it in the first place! The only reason I did was because Kels showed up and I didn’t know how else to get rid of her… I mean it worked really well, but still, all her idea.”

But instead of getting upset, he just laughed. What? It wasn’t funny! “Relax, Nick.” He said.

“Really Brian, I don’t want her. She doesn’t want me. Go after her, you guys would be great together. She deserves a good boyfriend like you, she’s really…”

“Sweet and easygoing?” He offered.

I raised an eyebrow. “Not exactly the words I would use, but she’d be a good girlfriend. She’s really thoughtful and cute.” And he’d be able to deal with her being all overdramatic and girly, but there was no way I was going to say that.

Brian nodded. “Yeah, you’re right about that. You’d really be okay if she and I got together?”

“Trust me, Dani needs a good boyfriend.” I assured him, and then I shook my head. “Now, can we cut it out with the girl talk? I’m ready to kick your ass at Mario Kart.”

Brian laughed, and just like that, things were normal between us again. I never did understand how or why girls dragged their drama on and on.

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