When we arrived at the hotel, Julia helped me out of the cab. I know she meant well, but it got on my nerves. I wasn't completely helpless; my shoulder didn't really hurt that much and the painkillers took care of my headache. I felt relatively normal, if you didn't count the butterflies in my stomach because I was about to see the Starkids again.
I tried to adjust the sling and since I had to move my right arm a bit, a pang of pain made me slightly whimper. Okay fine, maybe I do needed some help with that. I looked at Julia and gave her an apologetic smile.
Julia laughed at me, adjusted the sling so it was comfortable and gestured to follow her inside.
"They're still busy with the interview, so let's not disturb them for now," she checked her watch. "We probably still have half an hour or so, do you want to go and have a drink?"
I nodded. We took a seat in the bar of the hotel, which was completely empty – not surprising since it was still morning – and ordered a glass of water. My stomach was too upset for anything else. When the waiter came back with our drinks, I took a small sip from my glass and started to look around. It felt weird, sitting here with Julia. This time yesterday, I was still on my way to the convention. A lot has happened the last 24 hours.
"Everything okay? You've been awfully quiet since we left the hospital," she asked me.
I shrugged my shoulders out of habit, immediately regretting it when the pain came back. Julia raised her arms to help me, but couldn't do much.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," I quickly reassured her, trying to catch my breath. "I need to remember not doing that and I keep forgetting it. I'm sorry if I didn't say much, I'm just… thinking I guess." I took another sip from my glass of water.
"Have you figured out what to do yet?"
I shook my head. "Not entirely. I made up my mind about Thomas, though. Thomas and I are done. I don't want to go home, but I have to. I got to get my stuff out of there, not that that's going to be easy," I said pointing at my arm. "And then there's the problem of me having no place to go to afterwards…"
Julia clapped her hands. "Well, problems are there to be solved. I got a call this morning which actually ruined my day but as it turns out, it's rather convenient for you. So I maybe have a solution to one part of your problem…"
"Why are you doing this?" I asked her before I could help it. I didn't understand why she tried to help me. But before she answered, she jumped up and told me to drink my water.
"I just saw a photographer passing by, so I guess they're practically finished by now. We should go," she urged before she guided me towards a double door on the main floor.
"This probably sounds weird, but could you wait here for a second? I want it to be a surprise," she asked me. I nodded, though I couldn't understand why I would be considered a surprise.
"Just wait for someone to come and get you," and she disappeared into the room.
I went to sit in one of the sofas in the hallway and tried to calm myself. I saw all of them just yesterday, so why was I so nervous? Because of what happened… I thought. What would they think of me? Yesterday I was just a fan, but what was I today? A fan with issues? A burden, probably. Julia helped me, but out of pity or guilt no doubt. She probably felt like she had to help me because it happened during their concert. No, I said reprimanding myself. No, she wants to help you. And who are you to stop her? It's not the end of the world to accept some help.
I heard some commotion inside the room and a couple of minutes after that, the door opened and Meredith and Lauren came out.
"Hey, Anna!" Meredith exclaimed happily but her smile faltered a bit when she noticed the sling. "Oh my god, are you alright?"
I blushed. I couldn't help it, but I got completely flustered. "Oh, it's nothing. Really, it's only a precaution. I can't move my shoulder too much, so…"
"Don't wave it away like it's nothing, Anna," Lauren spoke. "He shouldn't have hurt you. Are you ready to go inside?"
"No," I said, but she opened the doors anyway. Meredith placed her hand on my back and gently pushed me forward.
"Don't be afraid, they're all really curious how you've been. They're going to be really happy to see you, you'll see," she whispered as we entered the conference room.
I heard someone gasp and looked towards the source of the sound. It was Joey.
"Anna!" he exclaimed happily, coming towards us.
"See?" Meredith smiled and she let go of my back. Joey was with me in a couple of seconds and the others quickly followed.
He awkwardly raised his arms to give me a hug, but thought better of it because he dropped them almost immediately.
"I was going to hug you again," he laughed. "But I'm afraid I'll hurt you." His face softened when he looked at my shoulder.
"Not to mention what happened because of his last hug," Joe commented. Lauren elbowed him in the side.
"No, it's fine," I practically whispered. I hated being the center of attention. Julia sensed it.
"Guys, give her some room, alright. She's been through a lot the last couple of hours."
We walked back towards the sofas in the room and took a seat. I sat in the largest one with Julia besides me.
"So… how did you got here?" Dylan asked me.
"I euh… Julia picked me up at the hospital," I answered. Their heads all turned towards Julia.
"I was actually only planning on giving her a visit. To see how she was, so I could tell you guys afterwards. To ease your minds a bit," she explained, looking at Joey. He smiled gratefully.
"But then it turned out she needed a ride and I offered her one. On the way back I texted Lauren and Meredith to let them know."
"So you're all clear, everything's alright?" Joey asked me. The poor guy still felt guilty.
I nodded. "Yeah, I have a mild concussion but that's no big deal. I have to take it easy the next couple of days. And my shoulder was dislocated, but they put it back in. The muscles are still sore, so that's why I need to wear this thing."
"I am so sorry," he said softly.
"Don't be, please. You couldn't have prevented this. It's not your fault! This side of him was going to surface sooner or later," I quickly reassured him. Lauren and Jaime, who were sitting on either side of him, gave him a comforting rub on the back. "In fact, I'm the one that needs to apologize. For ruining your evening. And I need to thank you. All of you. If you guys weren't there…" I couldn't finish the sentence because of the lump in my throat. I didn't know what could've happened; Thomas could have left me there or maybe worse. I'll never know.
"What are you going to do now?" Clark asked.
I almost shrugged my shoulders again. Stupid habit of mine, I really got to pay attention to that.
"Thomas and I are through, there's no question about that. I can't believe I tried to defend him at first. But my eyes are opened now. So I have to go home and pick up my stuff because the house is his. I don't know how I'm going to do that or where I'm going to live. Heck, I don't even know what I'm going to do today, to be honest," I explained.
Julia patted my knee. "That's where we come in," she smiled. I saw the others shooting questioning looks towards one another. This was new to them as well.
My eyes widened. "Oh no," I said quickly. "No, I can't ask you that. You've already done more than enough. Really, I will think of something."
"Anna, it's not that big of a deal. Most of us are leaving tonight, but Joe, Joey and myself are staying. We'll go with you tomorrow and help you move out. You can stay here in the hotel and share my room. Now, if you can excuse me, I have a phone call to make." She said and walked out of the room.
This was really overwhelming. The Starkids all looked at me, waiting for me to say something.
"I uhm… I could try and get back in contact with my family. See if I can go back home. I lost contact with them because of Thomas. Gosh… come to think of it, I lost a lot of things because of him…"
"Why don't you try and call them right after lunch?" Meredith suggested.
"Yes, let's go get lunch! I'm starving," Lauren sighed.
"Lauren, you're always starving," Brian commented.
"True!" she laughed.
Julia came back in the room, and we told her we're going to get lunch.
Julia came back and we all decided to get outside and grab some lunch.
But I wanted to ask her something first. So I pulled her arm and asked if I could talk to her for a moment. The others and Anna went ahead, she had regained some color in her face. I was glad she was getting more comfortable around us.
"Hey Jules, can I ask you something?" I asked Julia. She nodded.
"Sure, what's up?"
"The travel agency didn't call this morning, did they?"
Julia sighed, checked if the others couldn't hear us and gave me a small smile. I knew it!
"No… I just called them actually, to rebook the tickets to the next flight. It was a risk, but they could do it. We need to help her, Mere."
"Not that I don't want to help, but why is this so important?"
"I have a friend who had to go through the exact same thing. We didn't know, she could hide it extremely well. Then one day he had lost it just like Thomas had, but it was much worse than what happened to Anna. I've never forgiven myself that I didn't notice. So this time, I want to make a difference…"
I gave her a hug. "I'm so sorry Julia. I'm sure Joe and Joey will help as much as they can."
"Just don't tell anyone okay?"
"Don't worry, I won't," I promised.