I heard the opening beat of “Holy Ground,” and took off my black bowler hat, handing it to a girl in the front row wearing the squirrel pajamas from the “Never Ever” video. Now she had the perfect outfit. I started tapping my foot and sang, “I was reminiscing just the other day…” I loved following up “State of Grace” with this song — it took the energy in the stadium to the next level every time. And after singing other songs about this relationship that were sad, or angry, or sad and angry, singing a happy song about it just made me feel … free.

I hoped that Joe would come out to the Red Tour, so I could sing him the song he’d inspired one tour ago. Because “sometimes I wonder how you think about it now. And I see your face in every crowd …”

***

“It’s a love story, baby just say yes,” I sang as I descended on the flying balcony, looking through the falling confetti out at all the San Diego fans screaming and singing along for this last song in the encore. “Oh, oh, oh, oh.” The balcony touched down just as I sang the final line of the Speak Now show: “We were both young when I first saw you.”  

My dancers unhooked me from the balcony, and as I turned for the staircase where I’d take my bow, I caught a glimpse of someone familiar watching from the wings: even with his hair close-cropped at the sides and some day-old scruff along his jaw, those warm brown eyes gazing out from beneath heavy brows could belong to no one else. Joe.

 I was so busy staring at this sudden apparition that I tripped on my ballgown and almost took a dive across the stage. That jolted me out of my momentary daze, and I gathered up my dress and trotted up the stairs, watching my dancers and the band take their bows on the stage below. He’s here again? I thought. L.A., San Jose, and now San Diego? Why is Joe Jonas haunting me?

I ran down and waved my final goodbyes to the audience. When the red curtain closed, I headed for the left wing, not even knowing what I would say when I got there. But he was gone. Or maybe he had never been there? Taylor, you really need to stop staying up so late texting with Selena. You’re losing it.

I headed past clothing racks and chatting dancers, weaving my way to my dressing room, needing a moment to get my head on straight. I had been thinking about Joe more often lately, especially after he’d shown up unexpectedly at those other shows. In fact just the other morning I’d been drinking a coffee at a cute parkside café, and I saw a couple using one of those giant bubble makers. They were struggling, the soap breaking before it became a bubble, but they were laughing, smearing sticky hands on each other. Watching them, it came back in a rush, that perfect day with Joe in New York City: chasing a little girl’s bubbles in Central Park, dancing to a street musician playing an accordion, watching the first streaks of dawn from his friend’s rooftop, as I leaned back against his chest and he held me and told me how much he needed me. The city felt like it was ours; he felt like he was mine.

I opened the door to my dressing room and flopped on the couch, my dress fanning out around me. Somehow between twenty-seven-second break-up calls and Camilla and ever-so-clever lyrical battles, I’d forgotten that most of my time with him was good. Sure, we didn’t end up happily-ever-after, but maybe it was time to appreciate that relationship for its good parts, to focus on that soaring, never-look-down love, rather than the final crash and burn.

I stood up and headed over to my vanity to tie back my show-sweaty curls before the tour family hit the In-N-Out drive thru, and I saw something there that didn’t belong: a bottle of bubbles. I smiled and picked them up, looking for a note, but there wasn’t one. But it was message enough. He had been here, and he remembered some of the good things too. Now to send him some kind of secret message back . . .

I was pretty sure there’d be a song. Something that could be a conclusion after “Forever & Always” and “Last Kiss,” a song not about anger or sorrow, but something that you could dance to. And though I hadn’t written a word of the song, I got out my notebook and scribbled an idea for the song’s secret message: When you came to the show in S.D.

Dropping my pencil, I picked up the bubbles, unscrewing the lid and poking my fingernail through the foil seal, then dipping the wand and blowing gently. I did that a few more times until bubbles, each swirled with a rainbow of color, filled the room. I couldn’t resist … I started spinning like a girl in brand new dress, my princess gown twirling around me. The bubbles wouldn’t last, but for now, they were beautiful.

***

“But I don’t want to dance, if I’m not dancing with you,” I sang, pointing out into the crowd, who screamed and cheered. And before I started into my welcome speech, I glanced at the wings of the stage, just in case.  

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