“I don’t think you’re a big baby.” I squeeze his hand for reassurance.
He gives me a soft smile. “Well, you haven’t known me very long.”
“Well, you may be rigid, but I suppose I am, as well. I’m sorry I got so mad at you for outing my drumming to my mom. I’m a grown-ass woman. I should have handled that better.”
“We are who we are,” Cal says. “Emily is who she is. But I think she and I were never really a good match. We just liked the comfort of being in the relationship. It offered a different kind of stability for each of us, but our goals didn’t match and now…well, it’s easy to see how flawed it was.”
I suck up my fear and ask, “Why now? Because of the distance?”
“No, Billie.” He shakes his head and pegs me with those blue, blue eyes of his. “It’s because we both care for other people.”
Billie hasn’t shoved my hand away, so I assume she’s not totally put off by what I’m saying.
“There’s something I really like about being around you,” I say, swallowing back the strange nervousness I’m feeling. “I’ve never cared that much about what people think of me. I know it sounds cocky or whatever, but self-doubt isn’t a thing I deal with all that often. I know I piss people off and say the wrong things a lot of the time, or offend people without realizing it, whatever…but I’m just not wired to care about it all that much, for better or worse.”
Billie lets out a strange sound, a kind of a laugh, I guess. I peer at her, wishing for the first time that I was better at reading people’s emotions.
“It’s not that I don’t care about others,” I say quickly, “I just—”
She puts up her free hand. “Don’t blow a gasket, Cal. I’m not here to judge you. You said it, we are who we are, and we all have our quirks. I just wish I could have fifty percent of your lack of self-doubt.”
“Most people just think I’m an asshole.”
“Sometimes you can be. But I know there is a good heart under all that awkward.”
“How do I know, you mean?” Her eyes are so pretty, the way she’s looking at me right now.
I nod once.
“Well, because I’ve seen you with those kids, for one. You are good with them. You care about them, and you’re patient with them.”
“But I really messed things up with your mother.”
“It’s fine,” she says with another squeeze of my hand. “You didn’t know. And honestly, it’s turning out to be a good thing, maybe. My brother offered the band an opportunity to do some work on the soundtrack for his new movie.”
“Yup.” She flattens her lips into a line, and I can’t read what it means. Is she happy about it?
“You’re not happy about it?”
Billie lifts a shoulder. “I don’t know. I like my job, you know? I like playing in the band around here. It’s a good life, a life I chose, you know? I left LA for a reason.”
“I think I understand that better than most,” I say with a squeeze of her hand this time.
There’s something about Billie that I can’t describe. Something that draws me to her. I want to kiss her right now, but she seems so far away. She looks at me now like she’s not sure what to say.
I let go of her hand and stand up, feeling awkward. “I guess I should head home.”
She stands up, the blanket falling to the floor as she reaches out, grabbing my hand again. “Why do you feel like you need to leave?”