Mrs. Jonas flew with me back to LA a few days before my cousin’s wedding. Nick said he’d be here the day of and fly back with me after the wedding.
“I hope you had fun touring with us?”
I smiled at her, “yeah, it was so amazing and not at all what I had envisioned.”
“I know it can get a little hectic and exhausting but we really love having you on tour with us.”
I definitely learned a lot about touring these last two weeks. For example, a summer tour does not imply that I won’t get cold. Additionally, sleeping in hotels is kind of difficult, it wakes me up every time I hear someone in the hallway. Also, the Jonas Brothers have some big issues that they need to resolve as a band.
Mrs. Jonas walked me all the way up to the front door of my mother’s villa suite to deliver me to my mom. She’s taking this whole guardianship thing very seriously. “Thank you, for everything, Mrs. Jonas.”
She smiled at me, “Vanessa, we talked about this, call me Denise.”
I bit the inside of my cheek still feeling nervous around most of Nick’s family. The only person I’d grown closer to in the last week was Joe. He made fun of me less, so that was nice. But the rest of Nick’s relatives still put me on edge.
“Right, sorry,” I knocked on my mother's door and waited semi-impatiently for her to answer.
She opened the door with a look of surprise on her face, “you’re early, I didn’t think you’d be here so soon.”
Mrs. Jonas smiled beside me, “we agreed to have her back in time for the wedding so here she is all on one piece.”
My mother laughed lightly, “come in, you two must be exhausted.”
We made our way into my mom’s air conditioned suite while my mom got us some ice waters from the mini-fridge.
“How was the flight? I hope the drive wasn’t too bad, it’s just there aren’t too many public airports near here.”
“Oh it wasn’t too bad, we had to stop in Panama for a bit but otherwise it was great. It’s so beautiful out here. Like a city in the jungle.”
“Yes, we had been planning a vacation out here for some time so it’s kind of great that the wedding just perfectly coincided with that.”
“I mean we knew Colombia was a beautiful country but we’d never really made it past the city so this is all new,” Mrs. Jonas motioned to her surroundings.
My mom nodded in agreement, “well this is actually my ex husband's grandfather’s ranch. He built this entire villa himself so it meant a lot to the bride and our family to have the wedding here.”
Mrs. Jonas' mouth dropped in shock, “this is your family’s land? Wow, this place is utterly beautiful. Like a beautiful vacation destination.”
“Would you care to stay a while? We have a lot of empty rooms since most relatives won't be in until the end of the week for the wedding.”
Mrs. Jonas shook her head, “oh, that is very kind, but no thank you, I wouldn’t want to intrude.”
“Are you sure? It’s no problem at all.”
“No, really I have to be heading back to my family in the morning, besides my son will be by to pick Vanessa up again at the end of the week.”
“Well, we will just add him to the guest list,” my mom noted.
My mom and Mrs. Jonas chatted for a while longer before Mrs. Jonas excused herself to head back to her hotel.
“You need to get ready,” my mom directed me. “The girls are going out for the bachelorette party in an hour.”
“All my clothes are dirty, though.”
“I packed some stuff for you, it’s in your room.”
“Down the hall to the left, room nineteen.”
I took my luggage and rolled it out of her room toward mine. I walked along the courtyard, careful to stay under the canopy as I circled the central garden and fountain.
I walked into my room to find it was similar to my mother’s. On the left was a large bathroom with a shower and vanity. On the right was the rest of the bedroom with a king size bed, two accent chairs, and a mini fridge. I definitely don’t remember any of this from the last time around. Then again, I was two.
I saw a third suitcase waiting for me in the foyer and I wondered what my mom had packed for me. First things first, I need a shower. I showered, blow dried and styled my hair before finally venturing into the mystery case.
It was filled with tons of casual clothes and nothing to really dress up with. I decided on a pair of shorts and a loose-fitting white v-neck shirt. I paired it with a pair of white chuck taylors and decided it would have to suffice.
As soon as I finished, there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find Jennifer, Berry and Viviana standing there with big smiles and bigger bottles.
“Ella como sabia que se tenía que vestir casual (how did she know to dress casually)?” Berry whined in her plum-colored minidress.
Viviana chuckled, “porque las Colombianas no se visten para los hombres que no les interesa (because Colombian women don’t dress for men they have no interest in)!”
“Pero como sabe si no le van ha interesar si no los ha visto (but how does she know she won’t be interested if she hasn’t seen them?)”
Viviana and Jennifer were dressed in strappy sandals and loose fitting dresses and I was thankful that the dress code was so lax.
I shrugged at Berry, “esto es lo único que encontré en mi maleta (this is all I could find in my luggage).”
Berry rolled her eyes before pushing past me to enter my room. We all pregamed in my room before my uncle came to pick us up twenty minutes later.
He drove us into town and dropped us off at the nearest bar with a promise to pick us up at 3. While drinking around Joe and Nick was easy and fun, drinking with family was a whole other ball game. They kept watching me every time I took a shot of aguardiente with menacing smiles like they were finally corrupting me. I felt like I couldn’t really let loose around them so I settled for being the designated babysitter and making sure no girl was left behind.
I didn’t realize it would be so difficult. Berry and I had never drank aguardiente and it showed. Around 1:30 I was babysitting a crying Berry because she had lost one of her heels and she couldn’t find it. At the same time Viviana was buying drinks for other girls and our group had grown from 4 to around 8.
At some point, a few guys tried to join our group but Jennifer and Berry quickly shooed them away. Jennifer was clearly not interested, given she’d be married by the end of the week and Berry spouted something along the lines of ‘if you don’t have my shoe, don’t talk to me.’
Eventually we all made it home unscathed… aside from Berry’s missing shoe that is. I know it’s not my bachelorette party or my call to make, but personally… I did not have fun. Suddenly I felt like I could have more fun with Nick than with Berry. Even Joe was more fun than her, which is surprising given that we only started getting along two weeks ago and Berry had been like my big sister my whole life. I tried not to dwell on the thought as it was still rather perplexing to me.
I spent the rest of the week with my cousins prepping, gossiping and dodging questions about my new ‘friend’ as they liked to refer to him. Hair appointments, manicures, pedicures, facials, laser hair removal from head to toe. We spent a good amount of time tanning to try and undo or reduce any tan lines that might look ugly with the bridesmaid dresses. I felt pampered and also slightly over-produced… is that a thing?
It felt as though I had started to slip out of my human form and into a mannequin. My skin was perfectly smooth and hairless from the eyebrows down. I’d never been in a stage of all fresh everything before. It was kind of exhilarating. I felt powerful and exposed at the same time… also like I could make squeaking sounds with my skin if I tried hard enough. Looking at my skin when I got out of the water kind of made me think of a dolphin or a seal even though I’d never seen either one of those up close.
I walked up the aisle with my cousin by my side in the red maxi dress that Jennifer had picked out for us. I kept my eyes on the carpet that had been rolled out until my cousin reminded me to look up for the photographer. I looked up in time for him to snap a picture before making my way to the bride’s side of the aisle. I looked out at the small gathering of people and found that no one was even looking at me… thank god. I tried to limit my fidgeting throughout the ceremony and hoped no one could see how uncomfortable I was in this dress. This bright red dress that begged for attention and then put everything on display with a plunging neckline, a plunging back and a high leg slit. How could this dress have so much fabric and still cover so little?
As we walked back down the aisle at the end of the ceremony, I caught sight of Nick in the back row. He flashed me a bright smile that made my whole body overheat. Why is it so easy for him to do that to me?
The bridesmaids and groomsmen stood beside the carriage as the husband and wife were loading into it and the rest of the crowd began to exit the small dock seating area. I watched as they struggled to squeeze in the entirety of Jennifer’s wedding dress still wondering how she ended up with such a large dress. For her quinceanera she wore high tops and a black dress for crying out loud.
“Where are they headed?” Nick’s voice was a low whisper in my ear.
I jumped up, slightly startled, before turning around to face him and see him standing fairly close. “There’s a park nearby, named after my great grandpa with a mural of him so they’re going to take pictures there before we all take a few pictures here.”
Nick nodded with a small smile, “you look stunning.”
My face likely matched the color of my hair at this point, a deep red, “I- thank you… it took a lot of work.”
He chuckled lightly, “I doubt it.”
My stomach felt like it wasn’t even part of my body. For a minute I wondered if it had disappeared completely. All of my insides were casually floating around, none were in their designated areas. Don’t screw up this time, compliment him!
“You look- woah… I mean-”
Nick let out a clear laugh and I averted my gaze to the bouquet in my hand, “that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
I looked up quickly hoping he might try to kiss me again. Maybe again? I think that’s what he was doing last time. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
He held my eye with a small teasing smile before he spoke up, “how about we grab a drink before the bride and groom come back?”
That’s not really what I was hoping for, but also, maybe once I’ve had a few drinks I can be a little more courageous?
I bit my lip to try and hide any looks of displeasure before nodding and leading the way to the reception hall.
Nick ordered a diet coke and I felt strange about being the only person drinking so early on so I settled on water.
“So how has your week away been treating you?”
I thought about it for a moment, “warmer… kind of like a heated barbie doll slash pin cushion?”
Nick’s lips turned up slightly as he watched me, “a lot of people have been missing you on tour.”
I rolled my eyes knowing that a lot of people meant Rochelle, “she’s probably just sick of you acting like you own the field all the time.”
“First of all, it’s not just Rochelle who misses you, and second of all, I do own the field.”
I bobbed up and down in my seat to tease his little victory dance, “oh, look at me. I’m Nick Jonas. I’m only good at sports when Vanessa isn’t looking.”
His eyes widened in surprise, “excuse me, I’m good at sports, always!”
I giggled, “if you say so.”
He squinted his eyes at me playfully, “It’s on, partner!”
I blushed for reasons I didn’t fully comprehend. Am I imagining things, is this flirting?
Nick smirked at me, “so…”
“So…” My nose scrunched up as I tried to hide my growing smile.
He leaned forward toward me, “so, how do you feel?”
He bit his lip as his eyes flashed down to my one exposed leg, “you’re very tan.”
I crossed my leg over the other and brought my fists up to my face to try and hide from him.
His eyes scanned their way up to meet my eyes before I averted my gaze and started fidgeting with my hands. “Nervous?”
I turned back toward him and nodded. Why am I suddenly feeling so… wiggly? Everything in my body feels tense and I feel like my whole body just wants to wiggle every last nerve out of my body.
“Is it because of me?”
I bit my lip and shrugged not really wanting to admit that he was the sole cause for how I was currently feeling.
“Ask me something, that usually gets your mind off of things.”
I looked up to meet his eye and he leaned back again with a gentle, inviting smile.
I took a deep breath and exhaled quickly, “uh, how do you like Colombia?”
“It’s absolutely beautiful. Everything about it. The jungles, the architecture, everything.”
My brows raised, “wait until you see the people. Man, oh, man! Did you know that Colombia is the country with the second highest rate of cosmetic surgeries… ahead of the US! And these women… absolutely beautiful,” I promised him.
His smile spread, “it’s really cool that you know that, you’re just kind of filled with fun facts aren’t you?”
I shook my head, “no, Nick, once you see these women, you’ll understand. All of them are drop dead gorgeous!”
His eyes seemed overjoyed, “I believe you.”
I shrugged, “who knows, you might meet your ‘regular’ girl here. Then it’ll be perfect because she’ll still look jaw-droppingly, awe-inspiringly, amazing, like everyone else in hollywood… except with a more normal life.”
He let out a quick laugh, “that’s quite a proposition, but I actually already had my eye on someone.”
I looked around the room trying to figure out who could have caught his attention to see my cousin Val entering the hall.
Nick shook his head, “you’d never guess.”
I thought about it for the moment, “is it the same girl from a few months ago?”
He smirked, “it might be.”
Would it be ridiculous of me to imagine that I was the girl? I shook the thought immediately. You can’t think like that about your friend!
“So why not just ask her out already?”
He cocked an eyebrow at me, “I was thinking I might have to do that soon.”
We’ve been friends for about 4 months now, I think I’m allowed to ask now, right? “So who is this girl?”
He stared at me for a moment and I wondered if I had crossed a boundary. “I mean… if that’s okay… or can I ask… nevermind.”
He shook his head, “you can absolutely ask, I just don’t know if I should tell you.”
Why not? My brows pressed together in confusion.
“See you kind of know this girl and I’m worried you might spill the secret.”
Could it be Jazmine? Maybe one of the girls from the band? One of the girls from the track team? From Gradnite?
I shook my head, “I won’t tell her.”
Nick chuckled softly and shook his head. Am I missing something?
“You are something special.”
I don’t know what that means, or even why he would say that. What am I missing?
He laughed at my inability to piece together who he was crushing on before I was called away for pictures.
We came back and shared a table with some of my other relatives. My younger cousin Val beamed at Nick with the brightest smile I’d ever seen on her face.
“You’re Vanessa’s new friend?”
Nick offered her a half smile and a nod.
She threw her head back slightly in surprise, “My cousin knows Nick Jonas? Why aren’t you two dating!”
“Val, stop!” I begged her.
“Vans, I’m just asking a question,” she retorted.
“Well, I would but she’s not particularly interested,” Nick shrugged.
Wait, what? I looked over at him shocked while Val giggled. Is he being serious? It’s got to be a joke right?
Val leaned in immediately, “so you were friendzoned? I wouldn’t put you in the friendzone!”
Nick offered her a bright smile that seemed excessively rehearsed, “that’s very kind of you.”
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
Nick shook his head with what appeared to be feigned disappointment, “I’m flying back to the states to get back to the tour tomorrow.”
Am I reading this right? Am I reading Nick? The feel of this conversation reminds me of the speech that he gave about his fans the first day I met him. It’s contrived and rehearsed. Am I reading him like he reads me? Is he only pretending with Val or was he also kidding when he said he would date someone like me?
“Darn!” She snapped her fingers. “Well when are you coming back around?”
I resorted to downing the last of my champagne as I watched Val flirt with my friend.
“Uh, I’m not sure actually, I’d have to check the schedule to see when I’m free, when Vanessa has her next family event, all of that.”
“Well, why don’t you give me your number now and I’ll text you for the next one?” Val reached into her purse in search of her cell phone as Nick rubbed the back of his neck.
“Yeah, let me- I’ll just-”
“Nick, can you give me a hand, actually? Jennifer asked me to give her a hand with the mementos.”
Nick jumped out of his seat instantly, “yeah, sure!”
I rose to my feet as Nick quickly placed a hand on my back. HIs hand rested lower than the usual mid-back grip and dipped down toward the small of my back where the fabric began on my open-back dress. “Sorry, Val, I’ll be right back.”
Nick and I made our way out of the reception hall and grabbed two champagne glasses on the way out toward the rooms again before he spoke up, “what are we getting again?”
“Nothing, just seemed like you needed an out.”
Nick chuckled, “that obvious, huh? What about you, I saw you taking down that champagne like it was water. I take it Val isn’t your favorite relative?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know, I feel like our grandmother has put us in constant competition. It doesn’t help that we’re just months apart and we have similar names. ‘Vale,’ ‘Vane’ it’s like we were designed to be in constant combat.”
He nodded beside me, “care to vent?”
“She’s not a bad person, she’s just still playing the chess game that my grandma set up for us.”
He smiled at me, “I find it really endearing that you refuse to speak poorly of people. Charles, Jacob, Val… it’s not a common trait to have.”
I felt his thumb slip up slightly and graze the bare skin on my back as I wobbled across the cobblestone path in my heels and I broke out in chills. Suddenly I remembered that he didn’t normally touch me like this. No one did. I bit my lip as my entire insides squeezed together before ricocheting around my body. Why does he have this effect on me? Should I pull away? I almost want to be closer, except for the part where I’m scared.
I continued to walk beside him, past the rooms, out the courtyard toward the pond. Be cool, pretend you don’t even notice, pretend it's not a big deal. As we walked out of the courtyard I felt his thumb begin to stroke my skin in a steady up and down motion and my entire body froze as my face turned bright red.
Nick noticed me stop and quickly turned toward me. “You okay?”
What I wanted to do was jump into his arms and kiss him and tell him to keep touching my back. Still, the fear of jumping into this new territory with him, with anyone, was terrifying. Before I could think it through his hand fell away from my waist and the opportunity had vanished. I can’t decide if this is good or bad.
“I’m, yeah, sorry,” I mumbled out as I turned my attention back toward the parked carriage. I saw my dad emerge from behind the carriage with a beer in hand.
He smiled at me and spread his arms out to hug me. I don’t want to do this. “Ay, mi princesa!”
I begrudgingly held my breath as I braced for impact. He wrapped his arms around me while his dirty hand cupped my face and ran through my hair harshly causing me to spill some of my drink. I hated that he was like this when he was drunk. Pulling away wasn’t an option.
He spent an unnecessary amount of time explaining to Nick, in Spanish, how I was the greatest treasure of his life. Lie. How he’d give his life for me. Lie. How if it weren’t for my mother getting set in her ways, we’d be a happy family. Lie. How he’d done everything for her and she paid him back by turning her back on him and becoming a lesbian. Lie.
Nick stood beside us silently watching me while I did everything in my power to avoid eye contact until the moment it ended and he made his way back to the party.
I stood there feeling completely disheveled and humiliated in front of Nick with no idea how to explain any of what just happened.
I turned on my heel trying to escape the conversation only to lose my balance on a loose cobblestone and feel my ankle collapse beneath me. Nick quickly reached out to steady me. I closed my eyes as I began to sweat with nervousness. This isn’t something I want to discuss right now. I tried to keep walking only to be met with a sharp pain radiating from my ankle.
“Let me give you a hand,” Nick swooped an arm around my waist and helped me to the seats still sitting on the dock of the pond.
I sat down and stretched my ankle in the dark space while Nick sat quietly beside me. The music from the party was clearly present in the open space and masked the silence between Nick and I while a thousand stars lit up the sky above us.
“Is it bad?”
I shook my head, “It’s not that bad. Just needed a minute to recoup.”
“It seems like these floors aren’t made for those shoes,” he nodded toward my high heels.
“Maybe, but also it could just be me.”
Nick nodded with a smile, “I had also considered that, yes.”
We fell back into silence and I felt the need to finally explain everything. “My dad, he’s… I just-”
“Don’t do that,” he stopped me.
I looked up at him surprised by his response.
“You’ll tell me about it when you’re ready… you don’t need to do something just because you think it’s what I’d expect from you.”
The relief that came over me was instantaneous. Yes, he had lectured me on learning to do what I want in the past, but allowing that to apply even to him… it’s astounding. I fought back the overwhelming urge to cry with relief and just set my eyes on the pond.
I wanted to express how emotional it made me that he was allowing me to take my time with this. I wanted to tell him that no one had ever expressly given me permission to move at my own pace. I wanted him to know how much this one act of kindness meant to me. Still all I could expressly say was: “thank you.”
He nodded silently and sat beside me sipping on his drink as we looked out at the pond. In this quiet moment all I wanted to do was talk to him. About anything and everything and I couldn’t stop running through a slew of questions in my head. Maybe this is the time to ask him if he did mean me? I mean, I’m halfway inebriated and this is likely as courageous as I get. I gulped what was left of my champagne before finally trying to get the words out.
“So,” he turned to face me.
“So, how do you feel?”
He smiled, “about what?”
I shrugged, “I had the exact same question, actually.”
He raised his eyebrows as his smile grew wider, “I somehow get the feeling you know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Why is he doing this? Does he want me to say it first? What if I’m wrong? Shut up! Just do it!
“Do you-” I stopped when I realized that I was virtually shouting my question at him.
Nick gave me that amused smile again and for a second I wondered if this was part of some elaborate plan to humiliate me. Stop! Just do it!
“Nick, do you…” Does he what? How do I say this? “... think I’m pretty?”
He made direct eye contact and spoke with absolute certainty and sincerity, “I think you’re beautiful.”
His words caught me off guard and I lost my breath. At this moment I want nothing more than to kiss him. I longed to know what it would feel like to feel his soft lips on mine. My eyes drifted to his lips while my brain processed how I could proceed from where we were to where I wanted to be. I bit my lip nervously still lost in another universe of planning and scheming when Nick cleared his throat.
I saw Nick smirk and I blushed, was he reading my mind again? Does he know everything that is just going on in here? Is that even possible? Despite all these doubts creeping in, the alcohol kept them away long enough for my primary instinct to press forward. But only for so long, I could feel them encroaching and I knew I had to act fast.
“I- can I-” I blushed at the thought of where I was headed with my question and diverted on another path. “Um…”
Nick nodded for me to proceed, reminding me that I had his attention.
“Remember you said that you wanted to date someone plain?”
He chuckled, “I definitely didn’t say plain.”
I shook my head brushing away the correction, “um, well what if I was plain- or I am- I just- I meant- am I- uh…”
My face felt hot like I was running a fever, It was quite possible that I was about to start sweating.
“You’re definitely not plain,” Nick spoke up.
Do I not qualify? Am I stupid to think that I could? Did I just ruin a friendship?
“I’m sorry, it’s just earlier you told Val that- I mean…” Frustrations began to build and before I knew it, I’d forgotten how to breathe again. My heart started racing and my breath quickened. Tears started to grow knowing that a panic attack was imminent.
Nick caught my attention as he slid my hair behind my ear and brushed his thumb against my cheek, “you’re spectacular.”
Before I could process what was going on, his lips were converging with mine. It was gentle and amazing and the complete opposite of everything going on inside my brain. My entire body exploded internally, I could feel goosebumps sweep across my skin like a wave rolls onto the shore and dresses the sand, quickly and wholly. Within moments all internal battles had seized leaving no trace of panic or fear or frustration. My body vanished as I became a floating cloud of nothingness.
The kiss lasted only moments before I felt him detach from me. I opened my eyes to see him watching me with caution.
“Is that what you were getting at?”
I blushed as I tried to hide the smile that was completely engulfing my face. I bit my lip hoping I wouldn’t have to ask him to do it again.
He smirked, “what do you need, Nessa?”
I was too embarrassed to get the words out so I resorted to wrapping my fingers around his tie and pulling him in again. He let out a breathy laugh before his lips met mine again.
My hands roamed from his tie up to his collar as I pulled him in closer. His other hand wrapped around my back as he did the same. His whole hand on my bare skin set off an exothermic reaction inside of me that shut off my brain. Suddenly, I was craving his hands on every inch of my skin. My entire body trembled with excitement before my brain kicked in again and fear was back in control of my actions. I pulled away from him instantly.
He looked at me with confusion, “did I do something wrong?”
I shook my head, “no, I just… it’s just me, I panicked.”
Nick offered me a sympathetic smile, “did you want to take a minute or-”
The thought of being alone with Nick suddenly was more terrifying than it was appealing, “we can just go back.”
He nodded as he rose to his feet and extended his hand out to me. “Let’s get back in there, partner.”