Kayla was lying on the couch of her parked bus the next evening in order to finish watching a movie when she heard Brian enter. "Is Kayla in here?" Brian asked someone near the front of the bus.
"I'm back here!" she yelled.
Brian appeared in the doorway. "Hey...I need to talk to you."
"Okay, can it wait five minutes? The movie's almost over."
"Sure. Meet me outside."
"So what do you want to talk to me about?" Kayla asked as she approached Brian. The movie had just ended, and all the dancers who had been watching it with her were trickling back into the hotel.
"Hold on a minute, I know a good place to talk."
Kayla raised her eyebrows and followed him to the back of the bus. She laughed when he started to climb up onto the roof. "Brian, what are you doing?"
"We need somewhere private to talk."
"And...our hotel rooms aren't good enough?"
He grinned as she climbed up too. "Shut up, it's nice outside."
Indeed it was. Their hotel looked out on to the water, and the cool night air smelled salty and refreshing. "Okay, you got me there," she admitted. "Well, what's up?"
"Okay...don't be mad at me, but..." Brian grinned weakly. "I've gotta talk to you about Nick."
Kayla shut her eyes. "Brian..." she groaned.
"I know, I know. But I have to bring it up."
She gave him another look.
"Sweetie, he's my best friend, and...well, so are you. I can't just sit back and watch you do this to each other," Brian said.
"Do what?" Kayla muttered.
"Kayla," Brian said reproachfully.
"Look, I don't wanna talk about it, okay?"
"Kayla, please. It might not be a big deal to you, but every time you blow him off, it hurts him," Brian said.
She sighed. "I don't mean to hurt anyone."
"He doesn't know that. He loves you, and that blinds him so much that all he can see is you pushing him away," Brian said. "He just wants to be with you."
"What if I don't want to be with him?" she replied sharply.
Brian gave her a look. "Kayla—"
"What if I don't, Brian?" she repeated, holding her ground.
He sighed. "Then at least you can stop making him think otherwise," he suggested carefully.
"Okay, fine," Kayla muttered. "Great. No more messing around with him. Is that all?"
Brian shook his head. "I can't believe you're just going to let go of this. You've got someone who's crazy about you, and you're just going to let go of him?"
"Look, it would be different if he were just some random acquaintance or friend of a friend that I barely knew, but he's not. He's one of my best friends. If we did try a relationship, we would have so much to lose."
"Says who you'll lose it?" Brian said softly.
Kayla groped for a reply, found none, and decided to take matters into her own hands. "Listen, if he sent you to talk to me, just tell him I don't want a serious relationship, okay?"
"He didn't send me, and if you want to tell him that, talk to him yourself," Brian told her.
"Fine, I will," Kayla said, rolling her eyes. "Are we done now?"
"No," Brian said. "I have one more thing to ask you."
"What?" She was starting to get just a little impatient.
"Can you honestly look me in the eye and tell me you don't love him?"
Kayla paused. "Brian, that's stupid."
He smirked. "You're stalling."
"No, it's just that I do love Nick, I'm just not—"
"In love with him," Brian finished for her knowingly. "Fine, look me in the eye and tell me that." He raised an eyebrow and looked at her skeptically.
She took a deep breath. "Fine. I'm not..." Her eyes met his, and she trailed off. "I'm not in..." she began again. She shut her eyes. "Damn it."
"Kayla, this is what I don't understand. How can you love him but not want to be with him?"
She looked down at the ground. Her response was a long time in coming. "Because it's safe," she finally told him. Her voice was more timid now.
His brow furrowed. "Safe?" he echoed, not understanding.
Kayla nodded. "Safe." She took a deep breath. "Right now, I know that he loves me, and I love him, and there's nothing that either of us can do to change that. And...that feels so good, Brian. I've never had that before. Knowing that we care for each other like that. Even though we're not together, it still feels so good. Whenever we touch or kiss, it's..." She smiled softly for a moment before regaining control of herself. "That's why I said no when Brad asked me out. I couldn't lose that."
Brian raised his eyebrows. "When did that happen?"
"Last night. Actually, um, we also kissed, but don't tell Nick."
"Don't worry, I have no desire to be the one who brings that news to Nick," Brian replied. Kayla smiled weakly. "So, basically, you're saying that as long as you're not going out, there's no way you can break up?" Brian summarized.
"Something like that."
Brian sighed and nodded. "I understand. You don't want to risk losing what y'all have." When she nodded, he said, "But sweetie, that's what love is all about. Taking that risk. If you don't move forward, you're going to lose it anyway. It may seem like right now, you'll both feel like that forever, but...eventually, if nothing else happens, he will move on. Unless you give him something in return, he's not gonna keep giving anything to you. Kayla, I know it's scary, but if you want him to keep feeling something for you, you've gotta show him that you feel for him too, and if you don't want to do that, you need to end it now. All of this is hurting him too much. It needs to be resolved, for his sake if not for yours."
Kayla was quiet for a moment. "I'm just so scared of getting hurt," she finally admitted.
"Think about it, Kayla," Brian said. "Nick is head over heels in love with you. Do you really think he's gonna hurt you?"
She sighed. "I don't know. But...I'm afraid to open up to him."
"I know. I know it's really hard. But I swear after you do it, you will feel so good," Brian promised. Kayla looked down at the ground and shook her head. She was going to speak again, but Brian stopped her by putting a hand on her shoulder. "Look," he whispered, pointing.
Kayla looked and instantly sucked her breath in sharply. Nick had wandered out of the hotel, his hands in his pockets and his shoulders slightly hunched over. His back was to them, and as they watched, he wandered out onto the small dock and sat down dejectedly.
"Please go talk to him," Brian whispered. "He thinks that you and Brad are..."
Kayla looked up. "Why?"
"He saw you holding hands with him yesterday before the show."
"What? We were just playing around."
"How is he supposed to know that? Please, will you go talk to him?"
Kayla looked thoughtfully at Nick. Then she sighed in a way that told Brian he had won.
"Fine," she finally consented. "I'll go talk to him."