It was a Thursday morning, but Nick had given me the day off. I don't think he had anything planned anyway. He had finally finished up recording the last bits of his new album, and I think this day off was because he felt pity for me. Soon enough I was going to be the one who was scheduling all of the press conferences, photo shoots, television interviews, magazine interviews, and live chats. And that was all before the tour started.
I had to meet with his manager, the label, and his back band members to schedule that as well. Sometimes I want to kick my past self in the ass for ever agreeing to this sort of job.
I sipped slowly on the chocolate milk I had poured for myself. I never usually kept it in my flat, but today was special. I didn't have any work, my parents and Lucas were visiting, Merisa was finally arriving back in Los Angeles, they were all coming over for dinner...oh. And it was my 27th birthday.
I sighed running my fingers through my hair. I needed to clean the flat, take a shower, find out what to make my guests for dinner, go grocery shopping... there was just so much to do in such little time. At least Nick had given me the day off, that kind of helped. Kind of.
I set the empty glass down into the sink, blowing out a sigh that I aimed upwards blowing my side swept bangs out of my face. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to get all of it done by around 7 o'clock tonight (ha 7 o'clock...who saw it coming?), but I knew that my internal clock had probably helped me out a little bit. I had woken up at 7 this morning, tried to fall back asleep only to groan and get up from my bed 7 minutes later. 7 hours of sleep must have been enough.
At least I tried, right?
It was now nearing 8 in the morning, and I knew that the phone call would be coming shortly. He never missed it. He always wanted to the first one to wish me a happy birthday, so I sighed and sat down at my counter with both my cell phone and the landline phone in front of me on the counter's surface.
I jumped with a gasp when both of the phones started ringing, even though I had been expecting the noise, just not from both phones. I held each of them in my hands and looked between them. I saw his name on the caller ID on my cell phone and nearly accepted the call before I stopped myself. Maybe this would help? I was still trying to distance myself from him, and I was holding onto whatever I could at this point to try and get away from Joe.
So I answered my landline phone, pressing ‘ignore' on my cell phone. "Hello?"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY! IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY AND I LOVE YOU, AND YOU LOVE ME!!! IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY, PACEY!!!"
I groaned. I should have expected this.
"Thank you." I mumbled into the phone, rubbing my free hand over my left eye getting the gunk out of it. "Wait...how did you...?" I furrowed my eyebrows not comprehending how he could have done what he had managed.
"Aha!" he proclaimed quickly, "I knew you ignored my call to your cell phone!" He chuckled at this, but quieted down not long after to explain, "I half figured you'd be trying to avoid my calls soon enough, so I thought I'd better have a backup plan, and it worked!"
I rolled my eyes, but couldn't keep the beaming smile off of my face. Sometimes his persistence really amazed me (and flattered me to no end). "Thumper." I stated, as if to reassure myself.
I bit my lip, leaning further against my counter mostly because his husky voice this early in the morning made the butterflies swarm in my stomach, and my knees to go weak. I could feel the blush already heating up my face, and I covered my face with my hand as if I was embarrassed by it even if no one was around to see it.
"I'm so old." I whined slightly.
He chuckled. "If you're old then so am I."
"Nuh uh!" I argued. "You're not 27 yet. I'm already 27! God, when did this happen? Oh my God! We're so close to 30!"
He laughed loudly at my proclamation then quieted down considerably. "Wouldn't have it any other way, Pacey."
I sighed at his words, already calming from my small outburst. I was still young, but I was jealous of some of my friends who were already married with kids. I'd always hoped for that, but the years had kind of flown by with Joe. We had both been around 23 when we met. When I got involved with him I knew that the whole long-term serious relationship thing would be a little far-fetched. I wasn't ready, and I hadn't thought he would be for a while either.
"I love you." I whispered. I hadn't even planned on saying that, but it slipped out. I widened my eyes for a second, but sighed, relaxing once again. It wasn't a big deal. He knew I still loved him.
"I know." He said, his voice cracking slightly. Whether it was from simply talking after he had probably just woken up, or the statement I had just uttered, I wasn't too positive.
I knew I was hoping it was the former of the two, but feeling the emotion get to me as a lone tear trailed down my face, I knew better. He was in practically the same position I was. We both wanted to be together, there was just something holding us back. For him it was me, and for myself it was that stupid number 7.
I swallowed my hiccup and gripped the phone tighter in my hand, turning my knuckles white. "I'm sorry." I whispered hoarsely.
"Pacey," he whimpered, "come back to me, please! It hurts too much."
I bit my lip, and blinked my eyes to clear them as the water began to build up. "What hurts, Joe?"
"Everything." He breathed. "I ache because I can't hold you at night. My eyes hurt from all the breakdowns I've had because I have moments where I start to think that you don't love me. My head is throbbing from it all - especially because I keep tugging on my hair in frustration - and the stupid aspirin doesn't work at all. My legs hurt from pacing around my room so much trying to figure out what happened. But none of that matters." He coughed through his low sobs, as I whimpered through mine. "I don't feel any of it because I've become so numb to it all. I can't feel anything except how much my heart hurts, not only for me, but for you."
"Joe..." I cried softly.
"I know it hurts you too, babe. I can see it." He hiccupped. "And don't try to lie to me, Pacen."
"I'm not!" I said quickly, making sure to get my point across between my tears. "I've never lied to you, Joe. I feel everything you feel, and I don't know what to do. I just - I can't do it, Thumper."
He sighed heavily. "Can't do what, Pacey? I don't understand any of this! You're making things so difficult!" His anger was starting to show, and it only made my tears fall faster. This was what I wanted, right? I needed to distance myself from him, and what better way than to make him furious with me. He wouldn't want to love me if he was furious with me, right?
"I can't do this." I whispered, mostly talking to myself. I couldn't hurt him because hurting him, hurt me twice as badly. "It's all my fault, Joe!" I bawled. "Why do you have to love me? Wouldn't it be easier if you didn't?"
"Pacey," he said in a softer tone, "I've loved you for far too long to ever let you go. I gave you everything I had. It's all yours."
"I know." I whispered. "But I can't."
"Don't say that." He pleaded.
I was overly surprised with his words. He had been the strong one in the relationship, but hearing the words he was saying and knowing how much he had been hiding his hurt from me hit me hard. How had he done it? I remember breaking down in front of him the first week we had broken up, but he had stayed strong for this long. Why now? Why today?
The seventh day of the seventh month. That's why.
"I have to go." I said, wiping the remaining tears from my eyes, and standing back up from my position on the cold floor.
"Stop running from me." His voice was even weaker than it had been a few moments ago, and it hurt me that much more.
"I don't want to, Joe, but sometimes fate keeps you from what you really want." I hummed a sigh. "I hate that I'm giving up on fighting it, I just don't know what else to do."
"Pacey, you know I'm no good with riddles..."
I giggled quietly despite the topic of our discussion. "I'll see you tonight."
"What?" he said with slight panic, "How did you know that I was going to see you tonight?"
I furrowed my eyebrows at the hint of alarm in his voice. "You've been constantly reminding me that you aren't giving up on us, Joseph. Obviously you'll come visit me on my birthday."
"Oh." He said while letting out a long breath. "Right. I'll see you tonight. I love you, Pace."
I blushed at his words. "I love you, Joe." I mumbled under my breath, knowing he could still hear it, and then pressed ‘end' on the phone, ending the call.
"Mom!" I whined as soon as I opened the door and noticed what she was holding. "What's with all the food? I told you I'd cook dinner!"
I stood back letting my parents and little brother Lucas inside. I quickly kissed each of them on their cheeks as they passed me, headed towards my kitchen. I stood, still holding onto the doorframe, watching in shock. Was buying all those ingredients to make lasagna for them a total waste then?
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I felt two skinny arms wrap around my middle from behind and squeeze me tightly.
"Don't." I wheezed, trying to regain my breath. "I have to pee."
My eyes widened in delight as I heard her voice, and I quickly turned around to wrap my own arms around her in a giant hug. "Merisa!" I squealed, hugging her tightly to me. "Yay!"
She giggled, but hugged me back twice as hard. "Back in LA baby!" she exclaimed as she pulled back. "Whoo! Whoo!" She showed her excitement by adding in a couple fist pumps as well.
I grabbed her hand and quickly ushered her towards the kitchen where my parents and Lucas were trying to set up for dinner.
"What in the world is all of this food for?" I asked, making my way into the kitchen and sitting on top of the counter near the fridge, where my mum was currently pulling out a bottle of red wine. I don't remember buying that...
She just smiled and winked at me. I furrowed my eyebrows at her, and she laughed at my reaction, letting her auburn hair bounce as she shook her head at me. "You're having more company tonight. It's not just us, Pacen."
I raised my eyebrows in interest. "It's not?"
"Of course not, babe!" Came a loud voice back at the doorway to my flat that I swore I had locked only moments before. I rolled my eyes, but turned my head to face the door, grinning when I saw an additional seven people entering my flat for our little dinner party.
I didn't even know my flat could hold this many people.
"Aww Joe!" I whined, hopping down off of the counter. "You've got to stop picking that lock!"
The other guests behind him chuckled at our small banter, but he just bit his lip and watched me move closer to him. The gleam in his eyes was bright, and they immediately drew me in, showing off a lighter caramel colour buried deep in his eyes. He was happy, I could tell, but about what? I wasn't quite sure.
Joe and I never really were ones for public displays of affection in front of our parents or his brothers, but apparently he had changed his mind, as he took the four giant steps quickly towards me, closing the space between us, and lifting me into his arms. I burrowed my face into his neck, smelling the husky scent of his cologne mixed with the amazing smell of his soap. His hair was a mess on top of his head - just the way he liked it styled - sticking out in different directions, while he had left his five o'clock shadow.
I ran my fingers lightly over his jaw as I pulled away, my eyes gravitating towards his almost automatically. He grinned down at me with his crooked smile, and hugged me tighter to him once again to sneak in a small kiss.
"Happy birthday, Pace."
I blushed crimson, and placed my hands flat on his chest ready to push him away. What did it matter? It was my birthday, and I wanted this present more than anything.
I pulled away slowly, trying to hide my brightened cheeks underneath my hair that hung in front of my face, but it was a failed attempt as I heard our moms, Merisa and Danielle ‘aww' from either side of the room. Everyone's eyes were on us now, and I turned away from Joe quickly, going over to greet the rest of them.
His mom, dad and Nick all gave me bear hugs of their own, while I hugged Kevin and Danielle tightly, showing them that I was happy they had come.
Dani hobbled over to the kitchen holding her stomach. She was quickly cruising to her due date as she was six months pregnant with her second child. Kevin and Danielle were one of the sweetest couples I knew, and I was so excited for the two of them, and Alena. I couldn't believe we were already getting so close to the big day. Had it really already been six months since I had taken a holiday with the tour crew and the boys to the Bahamas, and Joe and I had had a hard time sleeping because of the ‘strange' noises coming from Kevin and Dani's room beside ours?
I gasped, looking down towards the child that hid sneakily behind her mother's legs. I winked up at Dani who watched in amusement as the child held on tightly to her legs, keeping her from moving and giving away her secret hiding spot.
"Who called my name?" I asked, feigning confusion, but unable to keep the smile off of my face. "I thought I heard my favourite little girl's voice, but I don't see her anywhere!"
Suddenly, she poked her little head out between Dani's legs, and frowned. "I not little! I a big sister soon! Just wait!"
I giggled, but knelt down to her level, and opened up my arms towards her, watching her frown disappear and the cute, childish smile break out on to her face, as she pushed through her mother's legs and ran towards me. I enveloped her in my arms, and picked her up.
"Alena! You've grown so much!" I said, while I spun her around twice, beaming at the small squeals of delight she was making.
"I growed?" she asked while trying to catch her breath as I set her back down on the floor. She held out her hand for me to take, and I gladly accepted, pulling her along with me, following everyone else into my living room.
Nick had already turned on a baseball game, situating himself on the couch to watch, while Kevin and Dani sat down together next to Nick on the big couch. Joe's parents had ventured into the kitchen where my parents were, and Lucas, and Merisa sat down on the floor in front of the couch Nick, Kevin and Dani were seated on.
"Yes! You're getting to be such a big girl!" I said cheerily, letting her drag me further into the room. "And so strong too!"
Dani watched us with a small smile etched onto her face from the kitchen. I was sure that she liked having me to take Alena off of her hands for a little, but I knew she was already envious as she watched her drag me around and act like her cute little self.
Looking around the room in front of me I frowned, not knowing where the one unaccounted person was. I straightened my back, and sucked in a sharp breath feeling Joe's hand placed gently on the small of my back, but relaxed almost immediately.
"Oh look! They left the loveseat just for us." He whispered lowly into my ear, as his body came flush up against the back of mine, but slightly moved me forward in the direction of the smaller couch.
As I sat down on the couch, Joe plopped down next to me, letting his arm fall across the top of the couch behind my head, I watched everyone else's eyes in the living room move swiftly away from mine, letting me know that they had planned that move.
Alena tried climbing up onto my lap, and I reached around her middle, pulling her up with her back facing me onto my lap. I smiled and kissed the top of her head full of curly brown hair, as she situated herself on my lap leaning her back against me, and turning her attention to the baseball game on the television just like her dad and uncles, as well as my brother.
"I hope you don't mind being squished." Dani commented as she watched her daughter sit comfortably against me.
I grinned, leaving my eyes on the adorable little girl. "Not at all."
I hadn't been watching the game for more than 5 seconds before Joe leaned over resting his chin on my shoulder closest to him.
"You're so good with her. Always were." He whispered, his breath barely reaching my ear. I looked back down to Alena, as she pretended to concentrate on the match on the TV. I nodded in response, letting out another small smile. "You want one of your own." He stated confidently. I sighed, but leant my head to rest on his that was still settled on my shoulder. I nodded again, knowing he already knew everything about me.
His head moved underneath mine, as he brushed his lips against my bare shoulder. I chanced a glance around the room to see if anyone was watching us, and sighed in relief when I noticed that no one was watching the private moment.
"You aren't even trying today." He mumbled into my skin, simply leaving his face there against my shoulder.
I picked my head up off of his, and turned my head slightly to look at him. "What do you mean?"
He picked his own head up, and shot a quick glance over into the kitchen before returning his gaze on me. "Can we talk?"
A breath hitched in my throat at his words, knowing that this was now or never. Whatever he wanted to talk about would make us or break us (not that I hadn't already done the ‘breaking' part). Maybe he had finally given up. Maybe my stubbornness had gotten through, and he was giving up, just like I had when I broke up with him. I had given up because I didn't want to crash and burn. He was giving up because he didn't want to hurt anymore.
"Yeah." I whispered back, squeezing Alena slightly before standing and handing her over to Kevin who took her readily.
Choosing to go out onto the balcony that is off of my living room so that our conversation remained private, I grabbed Joe's hand bravely, ignoring his bright smile at the action, and pulled him along behind me.
He closed the sliding door behind us while I turned out towards the edge of the balcony and leaned against the railing. I didn't even flinch when I felt him come up to stand closely behind me, trailing his fingers down my arms and letting them rest on the railing on either side of me. His breath was coming out unevenly beside by my left ear, and I tilted my head back to lay it on his shoulder.
"What's wrong?" I asked, referring to his unsteady breathing. "You're breathing weird...like you're nervous."
He chuckled, but nodded against my head with his temple touching mine. "I am kind of nervous."
"Why? Joe, you know you can talk to me about anything." I reassured, pressing my fingers onto the back of his hand that sat next to mine on the railing.
"Exactly. I can talk to you about absolutely anything...and I want to." He stated confidently, then let out a small sigh lacing his fingers in between my own, both of us staring down at our hands watching our fingers moving slowly together as if caressing each other. "You're not even trying today." He repeated his statement from earlier. "I like it."
"What do you mean?"
He nudged his nose against the side of my cheek, placing a chaste kiss there. "You're not even trying to push me away today, Pace."
I stiffened for a moment, but let the smile and blush rise onto my face and relaxed against him again. "I know."
He snaked his free arm around my middle pulling me flush up against him. "So what does that mean exactly, Pacey? I don't like to be played, but I know it won't matter because I'll just keep coming back. I promised you that a long time ago."
I relished in the feeling of his arm wrapped securely around me, closing my eyes for a few moments before answering him truthfully. "I don't know. Nothing is certain in my life. The only thing I can count on is - "
"The number 7?" he answered for me.
I nodded. "Precisely."
There were a few long moments of silence that passed between the two of us, and I knew he was just waiting for the right time to ask his questions. His arm tightened around my middle before it loosened, and he turned my body around to face him. He didn't pull back much, leaving our faces fairly close together as he looked down at me. His brows were furrowed as he tried to figure out everything that had been going through my mind for the duration of time that we had been broken up. I knew he had the facts all there, he just couldn't connect the dots.
"Why?" he whispered. When I didn't answer his question - mostly because I wasn't exactly sure what he was asking - he pursed his lips. "Why did you really break up with me, Pacey?"
Out of nervousness, my eyes darted to his chest rather than staying focused on his eyes. "Because I had to." I murmured, bringing one hand up to lightly trace a lazy pattern on his chest.
He scoffed, and I stilled my movements. He cupped my cheeks in both of his hands forcing me to look up at him in the eyes. I placed both of my hands flat against his chest, even though I wasn't even considering the idea of pushing him away at the moment.
"I need a better answer than that, Pacey." He spoke softly. No one was out here with us, the sliding door was shut, and the blinds were pulled down, yet we still kept our voices low.
I bit my lip, sucking it into my mouth out of habit feeling the familiar burning behind my eyes. When the first tear fell, I didn't even bother to try to wipe it away, but smiled through my tears when Joe used his thumb to lightly brush it away.
"It's the stupid number, Joe." I said, letting him know through my voice that I was frustrated with it. "It doesn't matter what I do or don't do, my life will always revolve around the number 7 no matter how hard I try." I clarified, clutching at the thin fabric of his t-shirt on his chest. "So, when I finally realized that my life actually wasn't following the number 7, I - I had to stop it before it changed itself to follow the number, and, in turn, prevent things from ending badly."
I trained my eyes to his nose, not wanting to look into his eyes because I was ashamed. He bent down a bit so that he was looking in my eyes, but I quickly diverted them away from his gaze. "Hey, come on, Pacey." He hummed, brushing a strand of hair from my face gently, "What do you mean ‘ending badly'?"
I sighed, moving my eyes reluctantly back to his. "I have a theory, Joe."
"Your life is full of those." He smiled, myself mirroring him automatically.
"I have a theory that I'll end up with my 7th boyfriend." I cringed at the mention of the stupid theory that had been plaguing my mind for a while now. "You're - um - you're not my 7th boyfriend, Joe. You were...you were number 6."
He stared at me with a blank expression for what seemed like hours. It pained me to watch him cringe. "Number 6? That's what this is all about?"
I shrugged, still ashamed of the seemingly stupid excuse. "Joe, I didn't even think about it until earlier this year, and I was scared. All of my other relationships blew up because of it, and I wanted to try to do it civilly because I can't even think of life without you in it." His eyes moved to stare down at my necklace, one that he had given me for my birthday the previous year. He reached up his fingers to lightly trace it. "I can tell you one thing, though." I whispered, bringing my own hand up to tilt his chin forcing him to look at me again. "You're the first boyfriend that I actually fell in love with."
When he didn't say anything, I began panicking. I knew I had messed everything up, but I thought we could work through it and still be friends. He was easily my closest friend, someone I could tell absolutely anything - even if he sometimes didn't want to hear it. I sucked in a few slow breaths trying to prevent the panic attack that I could feel bubbling deep down in the pit of my stomach.
I bit my lip hard, cinching my eyes shut to prevent the tears. I started backing away from him, not able to be that close to him and keep in my emotions at the same time. I let out the large breath in a rush when I felt his hand clutch at the bottom of my shirt, not allowing me to back away any further.
I glanced up to his face, furrowing my eyebrows when I saw the small smile playing at his lips. I didn't understand how this could be humourous at all, but I obliged, stepping closer, without having to be told twice.
Once back in front of him, our faces again only a few inches apart, I was unable to keep from smiling up at him. He made the panic attack diminish easily. Leaning down towards my face, he pressed his lips against mine as if reassuring me. I tilted my head and stood up on my toes, wanting more pressure and to be as close to him as possible.
The kiss was sweet, and it meant everything to me.
"Be my girlfriend." Joe demanded. His lips swiped lightly across my lips once before pressing against them again. "Pacey, please."
"Joe..." I trailed off.
"No, you don't understand." He said, pulling back only slightly. "Pacey, just. Say. Yes."
I sighed. This wasn't going to end well, but thinking over the past weeks, I immediately nodded. I didn't want anymore of this. I missed him. "Yes."
He grinned. "Well look at that, Pacey." I tilted my head in confusion, not sure what he was going on about. "I'm now your 7th boyfriend."
I kept my head tilted, not sure what he was saying, but then it hit me. "You're...you're number 7!"
He nodded eagerly. "We broke up, right?" I nodded, understanding his logic. "I was number 6, but I'd be damned if I let anyone else be your number 7."
My arms reached up almost on their own accord, gripping his hair at the base of his neck, pulling his head back down to kiss him. He pulled away too soon, though.
"What?" I asked frustrated that he had pulled away.
He laughed, taking my hands off of him. "I have one more question to ask you." I smiled, and nodded for him to continue. Then Joe did something that both excited and confused me. My face went white, when I saw him kneel down in front of me. "I've kind of been planning this for the past year..."
"Joe..." I said hoarsely, hardly comprehending what he was doing.
"Pacey, I love you. I think I've proven to you that I will never give up on us." He said softly looking up at my shocked face. Weren't we just broken up? How could this be happening right now? "I want to be the one that is there to give you everything you ever want and need in your life. I want - "
"Thumper, wait. Slow down. You haven't thought about this..." I interrupted, trying to be logical, hoping he wasn't trying anything that he didn't really want.
"No, Pacey, listen. Don't try to convince me to not do this. My mind is set. It's been set since I bought this a year ago," he said, his voice growing more stern, but the grin never falling as he pulled out a small jeweler's box from his coat pocket, "since I met you 4 years ago, Pace. You're my pacemaker. You're what makes my heart go ‘thump'."
He slowly opened the box for me to see, but I didn't tear my eyes off of his face. Shit, he was good at making me do what he wanted.
"Pacen Jordan Coulter, you're my life, and you'd be crazy to think you're not. I wouldn't be asking you this if I wasn't almost absolutely positive on the answer." He sighed, and I gasped watching the stray tear fall slowly from his left eye. "Please, Pacey. Please say you'll marry me."
I giggled, not knowing what else to do. He beamed back up at me.
"Just say it, love. I want to give you everything, including those kids you want someday."
"Yes." I breathed, kneeling down in front of him, instantly connecting our lips.
"Wait, wait!" he laughed, pushing me back to pull my hand up to him. "I have to put it on you."
He lifted my hand gently, and I smirked watching him in amusement. He slipped the ring onto my finger, then looked back up to me with his eyes wide with bliss. I shook my head laughing, and he puckered his lips at me ready to continue the mini celebration.
"Wait." I said, still giggling, bringing my index finger up to place against his lips. "Joe..."
"What?" he whined.
I pursed my lips in amusement. "It belongs on my left hand, genius."
"Shit." He groaned, as we both stood. "I totally ruined this."
I laughed, quickly moving the ring off of my right hand and onto its rightful spot on my left ring finger. "No, you just made it memorable, Thumper."
His eyes sparkled, as the close-lipped smile grew on his face. "You're fucking beautiful and I love you." I blushed at his words, knowing that warm feeling in my stomach would never go away with him in my life despite his vulgar language that I'd gotten used to years before. "So, you want to make those beautiful babies now or later?"
I smacked his chest lightly, then grabbed onto the material pulling him into me swiftly placing my lips over his. He responded immediately, molding our mouths together, each portraying what we were feeling through the kiss.
I pulled back just a bit, brushing a few pecks across his lips. "You know," I mumbled against his lips, as he continued to try to keep the kiss going, "we're probably going to end up with 7 kids," he smiled against me, "and it'll probably take 7 tries for each." I giggled, squeezing his middle slightly.
"Looking forward to it, Pace." He said, pulling my body so that it was molded against his. "I had to endure 7 long weeks without you, why don't we catch up now?"
I rolled my eyes, then started doing the mental math in my head.
We had been broken up for exactly 7 weeks. I should have seen that one coming.