My Story in Song: Part 8
“Come on, cut it out!”
New Kid, unsurprisingly, completely ignores my request. He just keeps clicking away with that big, bulky camera of his.
We’re walking the streets of downtown Toronto, playing tourist. But New Kid doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the sights he claims to want to see.
Click! Click! Click!
A nervous laugh escapes my lips. I’m embarrassed, unaccustomed to receiving so much attention and thoroughly unnerved by it.
“Why are you taking so many pictures of me?”
I’m nothing if not direct.
But New Kid doesn’t answer, preoccupied now with reviewing the photos he’s just captured.
“That’s a cute one,” he smiles, warmth and affection softening his features as he looks down at my image on the screen.
Nope, it’s definitely not the sights that he’s interested in today.
“Come on,” I gesture with my hand, resuming our walk as if nothing had happened. “There’s more to see this way.”
I’m stalling, avoiding facing this sudden change in New Kid. I don’t want to think too hard about what it – or my reaction to it – might mean.
Yes, he’s always been genuine and sweet – that’s just the kind of man he is – but things have seemed different ever since he’d apologized for his overreaction. Most days, it was subtle. Today, not so much.
Granted, the man had gotten so little sleep last night that he looked about ready to collapse. But despite my suggestion that we postpone our outing, he had insisted on spending the day together.
The only problem was, in his exhausted state, New Kid was letting his guard down, giving me a sneak peek into what was going on behind the scenes.
And what I had glimpsed so far was throwing my world off its axis.
“My mom loves this song.”
I reach for some neutral territory and grab hold of the faint strains of Attention playing overhead. Without missing a beat, New Kid launches into his own version of the tune, changing the lyrics to create an original musical tribute to my mom. Now it’s my turn to grab my camera.
“She’s going to love that,” I smile once he’s finished with his serenade.
Particularly his expression. I sense he was going for soulful, but the look on his face read more like constipation. I stifle a grin. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
“You seem very relaxed today,” I comment.
In stark contrast to myself, I mentally add.
“Oh yeah,” he shrugs, oblivious to my internal turmoil. “You know how it is, the more you spend time with someone, the more comfortable you get.”
“I’m the opposite, actually,” I muse. “I’m great at hi-byes, but I get more reserved one-on-one.”
Particularly when that one keeps looking at me with male admiration.
But I digress.
“Why’s that?” he asks, genuinely confused.
“I don’t know,” I hedge. Then, after a moment, “I guess I just feel like the more time I spend with someone, the more likely it is that they’ll find something in me they don’t like.”
And who wants that?
I narrowly resist the urge to jump, startled by his powerful response.
I shoot a glance over at New Kid and find him focused, as though battling through the mental fog of fatigue to come up with just the right words to say. Finally, he takes a breath, then,
“You… are a wonderful person.”
I try to tell myself he’s just being friendly, but the dip in his voice and the dark glint in his eyes as they meet mine would suggest otherwise. And quite strongly, at that.
Oh, boy, am I ever in trouble…
I respond the only way my instincts of self-preservation will let me – with a polite thank you and a carrying on as though he hadn’t just bored through my soul with that intense smolder.
Darn him for being so unnerving. Darn him for being so maddeningly adorable. Then darn him again for being so blissfully naïve.
There was no doubt in my mind – New Kid was completely unaware of what he was doing.
Or of what it was doing to me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t reciprocate. It wasn’t even that I did reciprocate. It was that I refused to think about it. I had shoved any romantic inclinations I might have had into a mental box labelled, “Do not open” a long time ago.
This friendship was contingent on, well, friendship.
So what if we understood each other in a way that no one else did? So what if New Kid was fast becoming the best part of my day? And so what if his gaze had the power to steal the air from my lungs and the strength from my knees? It didn’t matter. It couldn’t matter. New Kid and I were just friends, and that was all we would ever be. It was as simple as that – case closed.
Now if only I could convince my racing heart...
Listen to Attention here