‹ž ąŃĪ á Ŗ•S1is swim trunks this whole time. He looks good when he is wet). Nick Carter has gotten pretty drunk by now but we haven't really noticed since he is quiet. We finally catch on when he starts laughing so hard he can't stop after Joey tells a really gross joke that wasn't really all that funny. And then he says, "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo is so fucking nasty!" but he is laughing so hard you can barely tell what the hell he is saying. So we all laugh just because it is funny as hell to see someone who is laughing that hard. "I wanna go in the hot tub," JC finally says and it sounds like a good idea to everybody. So you and me go into our house to change and we are totally drunk and laughing up the stairs. And I get my suit on first and I am looking at the guys through my bedroom window and talking to you even though you are in the bathroom. And I am just saying how cute Nick is and you aren't really paying attention. Finally you are ready and you almost fall coming out of the bathroom and we laugh for like a long time. We go start walking downstairs and Joey hears us and says, "Don't come down here unless you want to see me naked!" neither of us stop walking and when we get down he is already in his swim trunks, but he says, "Oh, I see how it is!" Anyway so we all go in the hot tub and I keep trying to make people drink more just because I made way too many drinks but we are all done drinking except for Joey who still has one. The only people not in the hot tub are Nick Carter and Chris--Chris is lying on one of those floating lounge chair things in the pool (and no one is sure if he is asleep or not) and Nick pulled up a chair to the hot tub and is sitting in it and joining in our conversation. Every once in awhile he tries to rest his feet on my head. Justin starts telling one of those long story jokes that goes on forever but we all keep interrupting him and making comments and even though he is laughing he keeps getting kind of mad and saying, "Let me finish!" But now that we got Nick all liquored up he is being funny as hell and none of us can stop laughing at what he is saying. It starts to get late and we all start getting kind of cold. We are totally positive by now that Chris is asleep, there is no way he could be quiet this long otherwise. Everyone kind of makes a collective decision to call it a night and we get out of the hot tub. Joey goes in to put his clothes back on and Nick and JC help us bring all the dishes in while Justin gets in the pool to wake Chris up by splashing him. We decide to leave the dishes for tomorrow since we are feeling pretty tired. Joey hugs us and says bye to everyone and goes home, giving me a big sloppy kiss on the forehead. Justin and Chris are having a war in the pool again but JC keeps on yelling at Chris to get out since he is giving him a ride home. Nick Carter has to go home to his fiancee and I walk him to his car where we stand talking for probably about 20 minutes. I am wishing he wasn't engaged (which he isn't in real life or anything as far as I know, I made it up) and I bet he is wishing he wasn't engaged too. But he is, so nothing happens. JC and Chris walk outside too and so we all say bye and I go back into the yard where I see you and Justin standing a little too close and talking to each other in low voices. I say goodnight and go inside, but instead of heading straight to bed I decide to do some dishes because I know I won't want to do them tomorrow. It doesn't take very long and I head upstairs, catching a glimpse of you and Justin kissing in the light of those damn Chinese lantern lights. You start to walk next door, to Justin's house, as you do many nights of the week. I smile, turn of the lights, put on my pajamas, lie in my warm, comfortable bed and fall asleep. Ch. 2 by Kristin It's your birthday, and Justin is outside of our house in his Benz honking like crazy. We're running late as always because you're trying to beat the video game you got for your birthday, and I can't get the part for my pigtails straight. And I'm cursing Justin for refusing to get his lazy ass in the house, but then I realize that that's what I get for having a torrid affair with an 18 year old. Anyway, we finally stumble out of the house after having to go back in a million times because we forgot stuff. You call shotgun just to piss me off, but I let you take it since it's your birthday. Justin's all irritated with us for being late, but he is always irritated with us for SOMEthing, and he can never stay mad long. We go and pick up Chris, because he is the only member of *N Sync who STILL doesn't have a car and I'm stuck sitting in the backseat with him while he tells me stupid jokes and sticks stuff up his nose. You are begging us to tell you where we're going, but it is big birthday surprise, and we're not talking. You even try to bribe the guys into it by offering to do their laundry or clean their rooms, but they stand their ground. And I am sitting there with this wicked grin on my face, because I have a surprise for you that not even the guys know about. Then Chris gets the bright idea to blindfold you so you can't see where we're going. But you think it's funny and you're a good sport so you go along. When we finally stop, you're all disoriented, and I take pity on you and take the blindfold off. And, when you realize where we are, you can barely contain your excitement. And when you realize who is standing just a few feet away (which just happens to be part of my big surprise), you think this is the best birthday you've ever had... Anyway, so you say, "I've never been to Disney World before! Thanks guys!" And we tell you that the best part is that we rented it out for the whole night just for you. I can honestly say that I've never seen you so excited before. But, we wanted your birthday to be special. However excited you are about Disney World, you are way more excited that I managed to get Nick Carter to come. (Do you see the things that I will go through to make you happy? lol) He comes up to you and says, "Hi Roxanne. Happy Birthday," and gives you a hug. And I'm so pleased with myself, even though Justin is giving me the evil eye, because he doesn't like the spotlight being taken by Nick. I get a cool cardboard crown out of the car that says "Birthday Girl" on it, and as I'm putting it on your head I whisper in your ear that Nick and his fiancee broke up. That's the second part of my surprise. And I think you're going to pass out. Right around this time, JC, Joey and Lance show up, and I'm excited because there is an even number of people so someone always has someone to ride the rides with. We go in, and we decide that Disney World is even better at night. (since I've never actually been to Disney World, I'm going to use DisneyLAND to illustrate this story, okay?) At the first sight of Mickey Mouse, Chris starts humming the Mickey Mouse Club song, and JC and Justin turn to him and say "shut up!" at the exact same time, and we all laugh. And you hear Joey mutter, "Thank God we didn't go to Universal." Our first big dilemma is trying to figure out what rides to go on. Justin and JC want to go on Indiana Jones, but Lance wants to go on Dumbo and Chris wants to go on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Joey wants to eat already, and everyone just ignores his request. Nick wants to go on the teacups, but those are out because they make Chris puke. So we ask you what you want to do, and you say that you want to go on Pirates of the Caribbean. So, we all head over there, stopping along the way for Joey to buy stuff from the food vendors, and to get Chris because he keeps wandering off. Nick is walking next to you, but you're both all quiet because you don't know how to act, but when we get on the ride and we're in the part where it's dark, he grabs your hand. The guys are all being so funny that you and I are practically rolling around on the floor laughing. They are screaming like girls, even though this is the tamest ride in the history of amusement parks (except for Dumbo, but don't tell Lance I said that.) When we get off the ride, we almost forget JC and let him go through again, because he managed to fall asleep on the ride. But Lance, being the nice guy he is, remembers and goes back to get him. Next stop is Indiana Jones, because it's the best and newest ride. It takes about five hours to get through the maze that is normally reserved for people who have to wait in line, and the guys are trying to jump over all the ropes, but that is taking longer because they keep tripping and falling. You and I just keep walking with our arms linked together and whispering comments about how lame the guys are and how hot Justin and Nick are. So, we finally get on the ride, and it is so awesome that we go on 3 more times. But I am starting to feel sick, so we decide to take a little break from the rides. We go get food for Joey and I have a beer, because I need to relax. Then I get generous and order a couple pitchers, and we all start getting drunk. We decide that being drunk at Disney World is the coolest thing ever, and that we need to do it more often. We decide to go on the kiddie rides, and Chris finally gets to go on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I decide that I want to ride with JC and you ride with Joey, and we let the rest of the guys split up. Somehow, Nick and Justin get stuck on the ride together, which you and I think is the coolest thing to ever happen. After that, we go on Peter Pan, It's a Small World, Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland. We are having the time of our lives, but alas it is going to end soon. But, just for Justin, we go on all the scary roller coasters before we leave, and he is a happy bunny. I make him ride with me on Space Mountain because it scares me, and I want to hold on to him. You ride with JC on Big Thunder Mountain so you can watch all of his veins popping out when he gets scared and I ride with Chris on the Matterhorn because he screams through the entire thing. We leave the park all happy and tired and worn out, but I have to drive Justin's Benz because I hold my alcohol better than him, and he is freaking out, saying that it's his baby and I better not do anything to it. We decide to all go back to our house and hang out by the pool, and you make some of your famous blended drinks. But it's getting cold, so we all go inside and watch Ferris Bueller's Day off. You and I laugh so hard during the part where Ferris is talking about sticking coal up Cameron's ass that we can't speak, and none of the guys understand what is going on. Lance gets paged by Topenga about 8,000 times, but we won't let him call her because it's long distance. So, finally to shut him and his damn pager up, Justin hands him his cell phone and he goes in the other room to call. The guys all start talking shit about how much they hate her and how she is such a bitch to Lance. Well, all the guys except Nick, who is feeling way uncomfortable at this point. I'm laughing and loving hearing all this gossip, when I suddenly realize that you and Nick aren't in the room anymore. Me, JC, Joey, Chris and Justin all give each other knowing looks and then smile, because we are all glad you're having such a good birthday. Lance comes back out all upset and stuff and says he has to go. He is giving JC and Chris a ride, so they all hug me and tell me to tell you Happy Birthday and go. Then it's just me Joey and Justin, and when Joey realizes that, he decides to leave, too. So, Justin and I are just sitting there all curled up on the couch, and he says he's going to go home. That is usually my cue to get up and go with him, but I like this just sitting and cuddling on the couch, so I tell him that if he leaves that I won't go with him. He can never resist my charms, so he stays, and we just fall asleep like that. And in the morning, when you and Nick come downstairs, we eat breakfast, and then I get rid of them, so you can tell me EXACTLY what happened the night before! Ch. 3 by Roxanne After Nick leaves the next morning you are standing in the kitchen and looking at me expectantly, hoping to hear some juicy details. I do have a happy smile on my face, but if you didn't hear any passionate noises last night it is because there were none. "NOTHING happened?" you ask me with raised eyebrows, putting a plate of half eaten scrambled eggs in the sink. "No, not really," I answer, sitting down and watching as you do all the dishes. "He asked me if I wanted to go upstairs and of course I did. We went out on the balcony and talked for a really long time. We laid down to look at the stars and I must've fallen asleep because the next thing I remember is waking up in my bed. He must've carried me there [it's amazing his back wasn't broken]." "Where was HE?" you ask, in the hope something remotely interesting happened. "He was there too, in my bed. It was really nice," I say as I peel an orange. "Was he DRESSED?" I laugh, a little embarrassed because my life is so laem. "Yeah, and so was I. But it was still nice." You finally accept this and nod, loading the last of the silverware into the dish washer. "Thank you," I say, getting up and hugging you now that there is no fear I will be stuck doing chores. "For the best birthday I will ever have." Later that day you are the mall picking Justin up some socks since he has been complaining forever that he doesn't have any. You're pretty sure the problem is that he never does any of his laundry--ever. But either way you don't want to be the one to hear about it, and when he borrowed a pair of yours you drew the line. You fully recognize the fact that it is beyond laem that you are buying undergarments for the boyfriend no one knows you have. You don't even know what to call him. Well, besides JuJu. You start to rationalize it like you always do. Since you work as a lawyer for Trans Con Media the two of you probably SHOULDN'T be together. You pick out three pairs of cute GAP socks, grumble about the price under your breath ("They're SOCKS for God's sakes."), and sigh. You don't even like him THAT much, you say to yourself. He's cute and BOY is he nice to have around at night, but other than that he is just a friend. Which is, of course, why neither of you have ever told anyone about your...whatever it is. I know, of course, because it would be hard to think up excuses for where you go at night. Especially since I could easily see you walk right over to Justin's house. But not even any of the other guys know. The two of you don't hide it well enough, but lucky for you the rest of the guys are all clueless idiots. We're just keeping each other company, you conclude as you pay twelve dollars for rags he will wear on his feet. It's just a physical thing. It's just a fling. And as you walk out of the store you start to wonder how long a fling lasts...and whether after four months it still counts as one. After the night of my birthday, Justin must have decided it was all right to sleep at our house whenever he feels like it. I miss the days when you guys would do it at his house just because I live in fear of someday over hearing something I really don't want to. You start to get used to having him around every night, and you don't mind the company in the least. You wake up one Sunday morning, still glowing from the night before. The sun shines through the window and you can tell it's going to be a beautiful day, as usual. It's moments like these that you can't believe you ever lived in northern California, and glad you left before it made you soft. You roll over and watch Justin as he sits with his glasses on, reading the paper in naught but pajama pants (...pajama pants that are actually mine. I have been wondering where they went. I don't want them back NOW! Gah-ross!). "What time is it?" You ask him, stretching and yawning. "Ten thirty," he says, not looking up and holding out half a bagel for you. You sit up and except it, but repeat to him that he's not allowed to eat in your bed and get crumbs everywhere. "It's my bed too!" he argues. "Um, no it's not smart guy," you remind him as you get out of bed. "Oh yeah," he mumbles, already totally re-engrossed in the paper. You put on your robe and slippers and start to head downstairs when Justin calls out to you, "Don't forget today is Lance and Topenga's commitment party!" "Shit," you exclaim and run back upstairs. "I totally forgot!" Justin finally looks up at you and smiles. "Good morning Sunshine," he says and you don't even bother to tell him you've already been talking for a good five to ten minutes. "What the fuck time does it start?" you ask, in a panic. "Two," he says, getting up, kissing you and then sitting down in the chair to continue reading. You glance at the clock and remember it is only ten thirty, which should give you plenty of time to get ready. You stand there for another minute and collect your thoughts, then head back downstairs. You walk into the kitchen where I am sitting on the phone. We smile at each other and you pour yourself a cup of coffee (that I made. Don't say I don't do ANYTHING around the house). I groan into the phone and then hang up. "What was that about?" you ask. "You know what I think is stupid?" I say because I didn't even hear you. "I think COMMITMENT CELEBRATIONS are stupid. I think they are laem! No, I think they are H'LAEM! Who's stupid idea was THAT anyway? Getting married would be bad for business so lets have a COMMITMENT CELEBRATION? Do you realize that it TOTALLY makes them sound like a homosexual couple? COMMITMENT CELEBRATION?! Do you realize that such a thing doesn't EXIST?! They made it up! Topenga is a friggin' genius! She really is!" "Oh-kay," you say slowly, pouring half-and-half into your mug and then putting it back in the fridge. "What's your issue?" "I had a date to this thing you know," I remind you. "Well, you had Chris agree to go with you AS your date," you give me. "Yes, I HAD Chris agree to go with me as my date until SOMEONE met some stupid dumb WHORE he's actually INTERESTED in and asked HER to come. Do you realize that makes me dateless? Do you realize how h'LAEM that makes me?" You laugh because I am being totally stupid. "You don't need a date to go this stupid thing. Neither JC or Joey are bringing dates either." I let out an exasperated guffaw. "They aren't bringing dates because JOEY talked JC into going there to try and PICK UP CHICKS. So now it's this big PLAN of theirs and neither of them are willing to latch on to me." I sit down and narrow my eyes. "Bastards! They are all bastards!" I am now being extra dramatic and loud because it feels kind of fun. "You know I don't have a date either," you tell me, pouring more coffee into my mug without me even asking you to because you just happen to be the sweetheart that you are. "You," I say, giving you a smile as a thank you, "plus Justin plus going to this...this COMMITMENT CELEBRATION equals a date." "Not really," you shrug. "Me plus Justin plus a commitment celebration plus all the people we would rather have not know that we sleep together equals not a date." "Yeah well," I say because I have no other argument. "Yeah well," Justin mimics me in a whiny voice I swear I don't have as he walks into the room. I give him my exaggerated and fake version of the evil eye and he laughs and sticks out his tongue. "Why don't you call up Nick Carter?" Justin suggests, trying to act all innocent. He is scandalous when it comes to me and Nick. Sometimes I think he wants he wants us to get together more than I do. "Justin, " I whine and he gives me a sympathetic smile. "That was really beautiful," Joey says later that day. "Where can I get me a glass of champagne?" We both laugh at him but as we walk into the reception hall no one can deny we are all thinking the same thing. "It was really nice," JC agrees. "Yeah,” says Chris, "but it was just a little long." We all try not to laugh but when the man is right he is right. "If that was the commitment ceremony," Chris continues, "what is the wedding going to be like?" "Oh god," Joey says, his eyes widening. "Come on," JC insists, not willing to dog Lance's big day. "It was really nice." Joey finds the champagne and hands each of us (including Chris's date) a glass. We go and visit Lance and Topenga, who are both being sickeningly cute. It's hard to get on them about it, though, because they seem so happy. They ARE so happy. They are so happy that Topenga is more than civil to both of us. When they look at each other you can see the wetness in their eyes and we both almost die. Its so cute we have to go get more champagne to even handle it. After a little bit of mingling, we find our table. Topenga and Lance both speak a little and Topenga starts to cry and then so do YOU because you so would. Topenga's dad makes a toast and then so does JC. "I know you are all ready to eat and have a good time," he begins with a small smile that shows those that know him well (mainly us) that he is trying not to cry. "But before that I would just like to say a few words." He pauses for a moment and swallows. "I've known Lance for quite some time now. And I've known him well. We've been through a lot for people our age. We've traveled the world together. We've been together through family and personal crises. We've laughed together and cried together. We've lived together in a bus for months at a time smelling each others feet," after this a soft chuckle arises from the crowd. "Lance is like a brother to me," JC continues. "I've seen him both happy and sad. But I've never seen him happier then when he is with Topenga. When I see him look at her and when I see them together, I know. I know that true love does exist. So, Lance and Topenga, "JC's voice cracks and tears fill his eyes. "I'd like to thank you for showing all of us what love means. And I hope you have a happy life together. I love you both and wish you the world." "God must have spent a little more time on you guys!!" Chris yells out and everyone laughs. We both wipe the tears from our eyes and so does Justin. Joey has a huge smile on his face and he gives Lance a thumbs up. JC joins us all at our table and the food is served. Joey makes sure we are all supplied with a steady flow of champagne. We talk and gush. After awhile the band starts up outside and Lance and Topenga walk outside through the huge open french doors onto the brick dance floor that is surrounded by white christmas-esque lights. They dance. Topenga and her father dance. People start to move out onto the floor and we all migrate to one of the outside tables. We all take turns dancing with each other, except for Chris and his date, who won't share. Joey dances with a number of Topenga's friends, and JC with one of them. Cake is served and you let Joey finish yours since you don't really want it. Lance and Topenga leave to go on their pseudo-honey moon, but the party rages on...well, it doesn't exactly rage, but it does continue. Most of us are pretty toasted as the sun starts to go down. "Let's dance," you tell Justin, grabbing his hand and trying to pull him up. He shakes his head no and you roll your eyes. "Come on! Let's dance!" "I'll dance," JC says, standing up and offering you his arm. "Thank you," you say pointedly, aiming your words at Justin. He just shrugs and downs another glass. The band is playing some great Italian music and once you and JC start dancing you never want to stop you are having such a good time. You both have had quite a few drinks and he is being pretty adventurous...well, adventurous for him anyway. Dancing with him is more fun than you've had in a long time and you are both laughing. You are pretty amazed at the chemistry the two of you have together. Justin is sitting at the table, now with his very own bottle of champagne. No one else is there with him because Joey gave up on picking up chicks and decided that dancing with me could be fun. Time passes and the band plays on. Soon it is only you and JC left on the dance floor. The party is waning down. Justin just sits silently at the table watching the two of you dance...no, glide over the floor. His eyes haven't left you for over an hour, and you don't even notice that it has been that long. You're feeling too good to think about time. Joey sits with Justin, staring into his empty glass and mumbling about his head. He notices Justin's empty stare and asks, "Justin...when was the last time you MOVED?" But Justin ignores him and holds his gaze steady. Now, Joey is smarter than we give him credit for. Maybe his specialty happens to be affairs of the heart, but not only is he already completely aware that something is going on between you and Justin, but he notices Justin's actions and places them with emotions. For awhile he too is captivated by you and JC dancing like lovers do, but he snaps himself out of it when he sees Justin again. Joey gets up, which is pretty hard for him to do by now, and walks over to the two of you dancing fools and cuts in. JC has half a mind to refuse, but decides that doesn't make sense and he could use a glass of water anyway. Joey seems like nothing but a clumsy oaf after JC, but you can't get the smile off of your face anyway. "Look at your man over there," Joey says into your ear. "What?" you ask, alarmed and confused. "It's okay," he assures you. "I figured it out a long time ago. But look at him over there." You are surprised, but for some reason not bothered (probably because you are DRUNK) about Joey's actions. You look over and see Justin taking the last drops out of his huge bottle. You can't help but smile when you see him. You can't ever help but smile when you see him. He puts the bottle aside and stares back at you. His gaze is haunting. "Let's see if we can get a reaction out of him," Joey decides, and he moves in closer to you, moving his hands down to your lower back. You laugh and play along a little. "Anything yet?" you ask because your back is to Justin. Joey shakes his head, and all of a sudden you feel his hands on your ass. Once Justin sees this he looses all rational thought. He shoots up like a bullet and heads straight for the two of you, his fist in a tight ball. You turn around to see him just as he swings at Joey. Joey, who knew exactly what was going to happen, ducks expertly, grabs Justin's hand and holds it behind his back. "Time to go home!" he exclaims and lets go of Justin. Justin stumbles backwards but doesn't fall. "You okay?" Joey asks him, making sure he is stable on his feet. "Yeah," Justin mutters quietly. "Time to take your lovely lady home, then," Joey says, walking away. Justin looks at you and you smile. "You wanna go home?" He asks. You nod and go to find one of the limos to take you back. Once inside, you can't help but comment. "You are so drunk," you inform Justin. He sits next to you, silent. "Are you mute, too?" you inquire. He turns to you quickly and says, "I don't want you to dance with JC anymore." except that his words are slurred. You shrug. "Why not?" "Because I don't like to watch it!" he spits out, flinging his head into his hands and leaning forward. You don't know whether to feel sort of sorry for him or just laugh at his drunkenness. "You're just drunk," you tell him. "I'm not just drunk," he says strongly, looking up at you and into your eyes so you can almost feel his words through his gaze. "I don't like to think about you and other guys," he says with his head in his hands again. You nod even though he can't see you. You know that you can see other people, you know that he can see other people even though either of you has. You try for a minute to imagine him with another girl and immediately banish the thought from your mind. The car pulls up to his house, which is, of course, right next door to ours. You thank the driver and go with Justin inside to make sure he makes it to bed all right. Once upstairs, he practically rips off his clothes and gets in his bed. "Well, goodnight," you say to him. "Call me tomorrow." "Will you come to bed with me?" he asks a voice that makes him sound sad and young. "I'm not in the mood," you tell him, and you aren't. You are tired as hell. "I don't mean to have sex. I just want you to sleep next to me." You are taken aback and you look at him and you swear he has never been more sincere in his life. You nod and turn away because tears start to come to your eyes. You take off your dress and go to his closet to get a t-shirt. By the time you lay down in the bed, Justin has passed out completely. You make your head comfortable on the pillow and whisper softly to him, "I love you." "I love you, too" he answers and pulls you in closer to him. Ch.4 by Kristin I wake up in the morning with a massive headache, because champagne always gives me a horrendous hangover, and I am thinking that I might kill Joey for making me drink so much of it. All of a sudden, I look at the angel sleeping next to me, and I go into a severe panic, remembering what we had said to each other the night before. Without even thinking, I follow my instinct to get out of there as fast as I can. I untangle myself from Justin's arms and run home still wearing only his t-shirt. I bust in the house and start screaming your name up and down the halls, desperate to tell you what happened. "Roxanne!" I am yelling. "Where the fuck are you?" I look in your room, but you're not there. I am muttering something about you choosing the one day of the year when you get up before 2 pm to be the day that I need you the most. And, just when I think things can't get any worse, the phone rings. I can't find it anywhere, and when I finally locate it under some pillows on the couch, I think for sure the person must've given up. But they haven't. I answer with a breathless "hello," and the person on the other end says, "Is Roxanne there?" When I realize who it is, I try to gain some composure. "Hi Nick," I say. "No, she's not here. I don't know where she is this early in the morning." "Me either," he says, sounding puzzled. "Well, will you just tell her that I called?" I say that I will and hang up. The first thought that comes into my mind is, "Justin will be happy about that." Just thinking about him sends me into a whole new fit of panic. I sit down on the couch, tapping my foot impatiently waiting for you to get home, going over and over in my head everything that had happened the night before. When you finally come through the door, I practically attack you. "Where the hell have you been?" I whine. "Relax! I just went to get some orange juice. I had a craving," you tell me. "Take some deep breaths and count to ten." I comply, and instantly feel better. "Now, will you tell me what the fuck is wrong with you?" "Oh wait," I say. "Before I forget, Nick Carter called." When a strained sounding "Oh God" escapes from your lips, accompanied by a really strange look on your face, I become even more confused than ever. "I thought you'd be happy that he called." "Well, I am, but..." "But what?" "He's been calling a lot lately, and it is freaking me out. I'm not sure what to do about it." "Two questions," I say. "One, why aren't you peeing your pants with excitement, and two, WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU TELL ME THAT HE'S BEEN CALLING?!" You laugh at me, because you know that I'm not really mad. And I giggle a little too, even though I am a tiny bit hurt that you haven't been confiding in me. "I wanted to wait to see how I feel. I think I like him a little bit too much, and I'm afraid to get hurt." "Well, that's a great idea," I say, sarcastically. "Why don't you just sit on your ass and wait for him to find someone else." I'm a big believer in honesty. "I know," you sigh. "You are right. But still..." "Ooh, I have an idea" I say with a look on my face like a light bulb just went on above my head. "Let's have a dinner party, and invite Nick. That way you can get to know him a little better, but you don't have to be alone...yet." "I don't know..." you say, but I cut you off. "Yes you do! Now, if you don't call him and invite him, I will." Something else is going on in the back of my mind. This dinner party will be a test for Justin. I want to see if he is going to admit to anyone but me how he feels. After you get off the phone with Nick, you come in the living room where I am sitting staring off into space, still wearing only Justin's t-shirt. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" you ask. "What happened last night?" "Oh God," I say putting my head in my hands. "I stayed at Justin’s, but we just slept." You are as amazed at that fact as I am. And you are even more amazed when I tell you that it was his idea. Somehow I can't make the words come out to tell you what we said to each other, but you know. You know me so well that you can tell that something is different just by looking at me. "Kristin," you say seriously. "What is happening with you two?" "Oh God, Roxanne," I start totally bawling at this point, and you rush over and sit next to me to comfort me. When I am finally able to speak again, I say, "I told him I love him." There is complete silence on your end for a good 30 seconds, and when you finally speak, all you can say is "Wow." Then you say, "Did he say it back?" I can't help but smile when I remember that he did. But the smile quickly fades. "He was just drunk. I don't think he meant it." "You were drunk, too," you remind me. "Did you mean it?" "Yeah," I say simply. "I did." "Then what makes you think he didn't mean it?" "I don't know," I say, knowing that the tears are about to start again. But, before that happens, a very familiar voice says, "I meant it." I look behind me to see Justin standing in the door way, and I think I am about to faint. You quickly make your exit, because you are the best friend in the universe, and Justin sits down next to me. I try to speak, but he silences me by putting one finger over my mouth. He takes me in his arms and we just sit like that until I fall asleep... Two days later... I am lighting candles and yelling at you to open a bottle of wine. We are running late, yet again, and I silently thank my lucky stars that there is no way that the guys will ever be on time for this dinner party. "Is it h'laem that I made lasagna?" I ask, feeling like I made a very unsophisticated choice for the party, but I'm not much of a gourmet chef. "Are you kidding?" you laugh. "Do you even know the people that we invited? I just hope you made enough. And, by the way, did you really have to invite Topenga?" "Well, I didn't want to, but it's only fair to Lance. Besides, there are never enough women around in this group." "And your problem with that is...?" you laugh as the doorbell rings. You go to answer it, and immediately stop laughing when you realize that it's Nick. You are totally afraid that you are going to make a big fool of yourself in front of him. Little do you know that he is totally taken with you, and it wouldn't matter what you did. He thinks everything you do is cute. I appear out of nowhere to usher him in, since you have apparently lost all motor and language skills. I take the flowers he brought and hand them to you, saying "put these in some water," even though I'm pretty sure we don't have a vase, since no one EVER brings us flowers. (Brownie points for Nick!) I give Nick a glass of wine and tell him to pick out some music in the living room, and go to finish dinner. You come into the room and sit down on the couch, but you don't say anything. "Hi," he says when he notices you sitting there. "Thanks for inviting me." "No problem," you say. "It was Kristin's idea," and when you see the look on his face, you cringe, realizing that you already screwed up. "The dinner party was her idea, I mean. She loves to entertain." He visibly relaxes. "Yeah, I can tell," he says. You look down self consciously at the dress I made you buy, and you're thinking that it is showing off a little too much skin. He notices you doing this and says, "you look nice." You smile, and say "thank you," and you realize that you feel like you and he are going to Junior Prom by the way you're acting with each other. Luckily, other people have shown up at this point, and they all file into the living room. As predicted, Justin is way excited about Nick being there, and he sits down next you on the couch and winks at you and nudges your side. You roll your eyes and give me a look like, "isn't there something you can do with him?" I just shrug, because we both know there isn't. And I am dying inside, realizing that I am the world's biggest fool for having had this dinner party. Justin still hasn't acted like we're together, much less in love, since he came in the house. For the love of God, JC gave me a kiss when he came in (he still hasn't gotten over our little dancing episode at Lance and Topenga's reception), but Justin just said hi. And I think it was so stupid of me to test him when there are other people around, who really don't want to see me cry. Chris and Justin somehow start wrestling on the floor, but this is nothing new, because they act like 10 year olds everytime they are together. But in my current mood, the fact that they can't even calm down for a simple "adult" dinner party is pissing me off. I stalk off to the kitchen and pretend to cook, even though everything is done. And, wonder of all wonders, Nick has joined in on the fun. You are sitting there wishing that it was you that was wrestling with him, when there is a loud noise of fabric ripping. Everyone becomes totally silent, and then Joey, unable to contain himself, starts to laugh. Nickay has somehow managed to rip his expensive designer pants. He just sits there turning red, until you take control of the situation. You grab his arm and bring him upstairs, and start searching through your closet for your sewing kit. You finally find it, and say, "I guess you're going to have to take your pants off." "It's okay," he says. "It's better than running around in ripped pants." You have to catch your breath when you see him pull off the pants, revealing boxer briefs underneath. You somehow manage to sew them up, even though you are shaking like a leaf. When you are done, you hand them back to him and his hand brushes yours when he takes them. Even you, in your state of severe insecurity, know that there is some incredible chemistry going on between the two of you. You are now standing only inches apart, and he still hasn't put his pants on. The only sound is that of both of you breathing. Unable to take the tension, you turn away, and say, "well, I guess we better go back downstairs." He just nods, disappointed. He puts his pants on and you head back downstairs, where I am announcing that dinner is on the table. I did the seating arrangement for the table, putting you between Joey and Nick, with Topenga, Lance and JC on the other side, and Justin and me on either end. I realize that I put Justin and I like that without even thinking. Everyday, I feel more and more like we're married. First the sock buying, and now this. And we even act like we've been married for 25 years...No romance. But I take comfort in the fact that you are absolutely glowing. I can tell that something is different between you and Nick, and I give myself a pat on the back for making you spend time with him.... (I just realized that I forgot to put Chris at the table in my last story. Oops. Just imagine him sitting on the other side of JC or something.) It's obvious that people have had a little too much wine, because the volume level in the dining room keeps rising. I seem to be the only one not having a good time, including precious JuJu who has no clue that I'm upset. And I'm even more pissed because Joey just spilled lasagna all over the carpet. Nick is being totally hilarious again, and Lance is laughing like a madman, even though he tries to stop everytime Topenga gives him the evil eye (which is pretty often.) You are gazing at Nick as if he's the most perfect man to walk the earth, and he is having trouble taking his eyes off of you, too. Chris is irritated that Nick has taken over his spot as resident joke maker, and he is trying everything possible to try to get us to pay attention to him. I have suddenly realized that I have an excellent buzz going, and I decide to start flirting with Chris like crazy to piss Justin off. I know that it's juvenile, but I don't care anymore. Everyone is finally done eating, even Joey who has had three helpings of everything, and I get the bright idea that we should all dance. Since everyone is drunk anyway, they all think that's a great idea. Chris puts some disco music on the stereo and Justin says, "Are you trying to remember your college years, Chris?" But, Chris just ignores him and starts dancing with me, which he knows will piss Justin off way more than any snappy comeback. Everyone is bouncing around the living room, making the most horrendous ruckus, but everyone is having a great time, even Topenga. The song "I Will Survive" comes on and the three of us girls start singing it and doing the little hand motions that go with it, and I think I must really be drunk to be having this much fun with Topenga! "Go, walk out the door...Just turn around now, cuz you're not welcome anymore. Weren't you the one who tried to hurt with me with your lies? Did you think I'd crumble, did you think I'd lay down and die? Oh no, not I, I will survive. As long as I know how to love, I know I'll be alive. I've got all my life to live and I've got all my love to give...I will survive, I will survive." Everyone stops dancing and starts staring at me when I go up to Justin and start signing the song right in his face, with tears streaming down my face. When I realize what I have just done, I am so embarrassed that I want the floor to open and swallow me up. When that doesn't happen, I run upstairs to my room. Chris mutters, "Well, that will really kill a buzz," and Joey smacks him upside the head and tells him to shut up. Everyone looks at you for an explanation of what they just saw, and you point at Justin and say, "Ask him." But no one has to ask, because they have all just figured it out. Well all besides Nick, who is looking at you like a lost puppy. You can tell he feels uncomfortable, and you don't feel much like being inside anymore, because you are afraid you might kill Justin, so you take his arm and lead him to the pool area. You feel bad leaving me, but you are sure Justin will go after me, and you know that we have a lot to discuss. You and Nick walk around together for a bit not saying anything, but you haven't let go of his arm, and you realize how nice it feels to touch him. He is so warm. Then you sit down on the edge of the pool and put your feet in. "Is Kristin going to be okay?" Nick asks, and you are touched, because you think he really cares. "She is strong, and she will work it out, but I'm still worried about her," you say, quietly. He can tell that you're upset over what you just saw, and he puts his arm around you. You lean into him, and close your eyes, willing the world to go away. "I'm really glad to be here...with you," he whispers in your ear. And you feel a smile creeping over your face despite everything. "Me, too," you say. "And I want you to know," he continues slowly, as if he is carefully choosing his words. "I would never treat you like that." He is referring to Justin and me, and you feel tears stinging the back of your eyes. You never knew that anything could be so romantic. You look up at the stars, and remember the night after Disneyworld when the two of you sat on the balcony and talked, and then he slept in your bed. You realize now that you knew then that he was what you wanted, and you feel stupid for not taking advantage of it sooner. But you are still a tiny bit cautious, because you don't want to be where I am. Back in my room, I am standing staring out the window by myself wondering where the man who supposedly loves me is, when I feel someone come up behind me and put his arms around me. I sigh, and say "Justin?" "Um, no," he says, and I turn around to see that it's JC standing behind me. The look on my face must be pretty scary, because he steps back and says "sorry," in a voice so low that it's almost inaudible. Apparently, he wants to be my knight in shining armor and come to my rescue. I almost ask him to leave, but I remember how I felt when I was dancing with him, and I am almost as drunk now as I was then. I walk over to him, and fall into his arms, aching for any sort of human comfort. He strokes my hair and says "it's okay" over and over, while I cry all over his shirt. I look up at him, thinking that maybe it's not Justin that I want at all, but JC. But when I look at him, all I see is a friend. All I want is Justin. Even though I am more hurt than I ever thought I could be by the fact that he's not with me, I still love him. And if I had gone downstairs at that very moment, I would have realized that he loves me, too. He is down there with Chris, Joey, Lance and Topenga, telling them how in love with me he is. And they all realize that they should have known long ago what was happening. Joey is all proud of himself for figuring it out first. Justin's next stop is my room. I would've thought he'd be furious to see JC there with me, but he's not. JC knows that he's not wanted, so he makes his exit. I turn my back on Justin, not wanting to hear his latest excuse. But all he says is, "I'm sorry." I turn around, and I think that he is never more attractive than when he is being humble. Then he says, "I just told everyone." "Told them what?" I want to know. "That I am in love with you." For a minute, my heart stops and I am not breathing. And then I say, "Oh Justin," and I run to him. "I am sorry that I hurt you," he says. "But I am young, and I don't know how to deal with this. You have to help me, okay?" "And I am sorry for trying to make you jealous," I relent. "But we need to talk about what this all means to our relationship." "Not right now," he says. "Right now I just want to hold you." Downstairs, everyone is looking at their watches, wondering where their hostesses (the world's worst hostesses, apparently) are. After a while, they decide we're not coming back, and they leave. You and Nick come inside and realize that everyone is gone. You are glad, and even though you know there is a stack of dishes in the sink resembling the leaning Tower of Piza, you go upstairs. You go out on the balcony again, but this time you aren't looking at the stars... Ch. 5 by Roxanne Three Days Later "Ask me what I did today," I urge you as I follow you around the house. You just got home from work and don't really give a shit what the hell I did today, but you don't have the heart to say that to me. "What did you do today?" You ask without enthusiasm as you toss your briefcase on the coffee table and flop down in the chair, picking up the mail and looking through it. You open the phone bill and look over it, trying to splice it up in your head. Seattle, Seattle, Seattle, LA, New York, Seattle, France, Seattle, LA...you roughly add up my half. Sonora, Miami, Sonora, New York, Hamburg, Sonora, New York...you roughly add up your half. It comes to something close to seventy dollars and you curse the phone bill gods and wonder if you should mention the call to Hamburg to see if you can get reimbursed for it. You put the phone bill aside and open up the cable bill even though that's mine to pay since I insisted on getting all possible channels. You put it next to the phone bill and open a J. Crew catalog when you notice I have been talking and you haven't caught a word. "...so then I just decided to let it go." You stare at me blankly and know you should ask me to repeat whatever h'laem story I just told you, but you honestly don't feel like hearing it. You smile and hope that is a good reaction. I smile back at you and then pop up excitedly and walk into the kitchen. You shrug me off and hear Justin come in the front door. You heave a sigh of relief at just the thought of him. Right when you are about to call his name to alert him to your whereabouts, you also hear Chris's voice and let your eyes float back into your head. "For the love of god," you mutter quietly, wishing you could have one moments peace without freaks jumping on you. You can hear the three of us talking but you can't really tell what we are saying. You think about getting up and going into the kitchen but instead, Justin walks into the living room. "Well hello there," he says with a smile even though he knew you were home. Hell, the reason he came over was because he saw your car pull into the driveway. You smile at him. "Don't say a word," you tell him and pull him down into the chair with you. It is a tight squeeze but you don't mind feeling his body close to yours. The closer the better. He wraps his arms around you and kisses you on the forehead since his head is slightly higher than yours in the awkward position you are sitting. You sit like that for at least five minutes until you notice you are losing feeling in your leg and push upward slightly. He gets up at your command and sits down on the edge of the couch. You look at him, smile, and then close your eyes. "Hard day at work?" he asks teasingly even though you DID have a hard day at work at it isn't really funny. "You know that all I feel like doing right now is taking a bath and having my loveslave give me a back massage." Justin raises an eyebrow at you seductively and then asks, "Shall I call him then?" You laugh and lean back in the chair. "I don't suppose you know his number, do you?" "Well," Justin says, grabbing one of your hands and dragging you from the chair to join him on the couch. "I hear he is really busy these days. But if you ever get really desperate I sure can tell you that I will be happy to take over his duties at any time." And with that he starts to massage your back, working mainly on your shoulders which are very tense. "Don't let me interrupt anything," Chris says as he plops down on the couch with you guys and turns the TV on to the basketball game. You groan and are momentarily afraid you might actually strangle him. Justin's intentions are good, so he tries to keep massaging you anyway, but his attention has obviously been averted and he can't take his eyes off the TV. When his hands finally stop moving at all, you get up and go into the kitchen without him really noticing. You are pretty surprised to see me cooking when you get in there. "What are you doing?" you ask me, opening the fridge and taking out a Coke. "I'm making dinner," I inform you and so you take a closer look and notice that I seem to be marinating steak. "You're making dinner? For all of us? You? Are cooking?" I nod. "Is that okay with you?" I ask with a smile. "Yes. How very domestic of you. It is more than okay with me." You take a couple of sips off of the Coke and you are weighing which desire is stronger, either to go upstairs and change your clothes or to just sit there by the air conditioner and not move. Since I am making dinner you take it as a sign that we have temporarily traded places and decide to do what I would do--just sit there. You let your gaze drift out the window and you notice that someone is cleaning the pool. "Is that Nick?" you ask, so surprised that you stand up. Sure enough, there he is wearing a white t-shirt and shorts standing over the pool reading the chlorine gauge. "Yeah," I say, handing you a carrot. I lean in with a huge smile and wide eyes. "He's cleaning the POOL." Our pool has needed to be cleaned for at least a month and neither of us know how to do it. Justin has been saying he will do it forever but hasn't gotten around to it. We both know we should hire someone to come regularly but you are always so busy you forget and I am always so lazy I never do it. "Wow," you say, amazed. "He's a keeper." I stand next to you and we both watch him for awhile. He wipes sweat off of his forehead. "Yes," I tell you. "We've got a groovy kind of love." You laugh and fall back down in your chair, taking of your suit jacket and kicking off your shoes. You are so hot you don't care what happens. You start to fantasize about being able to swim in the pool without getting leaves all over your body and close your eyes. You are so exhausted. Nick comes in through the screen door when he is finished and you watch him come over and stand by me and watch while I throw the steaks in the oven. We smile at each other, kiss briefly and then he raises his arm and tells me to smell him. Your eyes grow wide and you cannot believe how weird we are. You must have kind of laughed because that’s when he notices you are there and immediately drops his arm. "Hi Kristin," he says and you can tell he feels like a complete idiot but you laugh again. "Hey Nickay," you tell him. "You win the most awesome guy in the world award for cleaning the pool." "Thanks," he says quietly, a little unsure how he should feel about you calling him Nickay. Justin comes in the room and sits on your lap and smiles at you with a wide cocky Justin smile. It's way too hot to have someone on your lap but Justin has been so amazing the past few days there isn't anything you could do with him that would feel anything less than wonderful. He leans over and kisses you fully. Nick and I are both watching and he cocks his head to the side and looks at me suggestively. Instead of kissing him I laugh and then he laughs and then Chris comes in the room laughing and telling us some seemingly random story about people who pick their nose. Chris's story isn't funny and when he is done no one says anything for a good 30 seconds. Nick finally says, "It's really hot." And he is right. The heat is ridiculous and funnily enough, at that moment when everyone is silent we hear whoops and yells coming from outside as we see Joey run from the back gate and jump in the pool. We all laugh and go outside to greet him. "It's a hundred fucking degrees!" Joey yells at all of us from inside the pool. You wonder if he drove over in nothing but his swim trunks or if he took of an article of clothing or two in the car. I curse myself for not thinking of this unexpected visit before I only bought five steaks. You can't stand it any longer and go upstairs to put on a bathing suit and get in the pool before you collapse. When you come back down Justin is in the kitchen making salad. Seems as if I couldn't actually complete one task without a little help. He smiles, grabs you around the waist, picks you up and sits you on the counter as if you are a little kid. You giggle and he stands in between your legs and kisses you before going back to work on his masterpiece. You lean your head on the cabinets and watch him. "I really like being with you," you tell him and he laughs. "Will you be my girlfriend?" he says in a little kids voice and you kick him. He sticks his tongue out at you. You sigh contentedly and rub your feet against his arms (and those are some nice upper arms!). He turns to you with a more serious look on his face as he runs water over some lettuce. "Do you ever deal with Backstreet things at work?" he asks you. You shrug. "I've helped out with some before. But I don't usually. They have their own lawyers." You lean in for a kiss and he gives it to you but his slightly pained expression doesn't go away. "So you don't really know anything about what they do then?" he asks. "No, not really," you answer, eating a cherry tomato that is so good and ripe and sweet you feel like becoming it. Justin opens his mouth as if he is about to say something more, but right then Chris comes in and takes your towel from you to dry off. "I wish Nick wasn't always around," he tells you guys. For some reason this really shocks both you and Justin and some tomato drips down your chin. "Whah?" you ask, grabbing a paper towel to wipe up your face. "What?" Justin asks, turning around. Chris shrugs. "He's just always around these days." You both stare blankly at him because you've been working on this for so long it seems ridiculous that anyone would be anything but overjoyed. "You don't like Nick?" Justin finally asks. "I don't not like him. I like him okay. He's just always here. Who does he think he is?" Chris says as he opens a bag of chips without asking and gets a beer out of the fridge. You laugh and shake your head, but the irony is lost on him. Justin doesn't know what to say so he just goes back to cutting cucumber. "I mean," Chris continues after a minute of chewing filled silence, " he's a good guy and everything, but it's like..." "It's like....?" You urge him to continue. He shrugs again and puts the chips back. "I don't know," he says as he walks back outside. Chris hardly ever has a problem with anybody so you are relatively concerned that maybe you overlooked the other guys' feelings as well. You turn to Justin with a questioning look on your face when he smiles ruefully and says, "It's like he sleeps with Roxanne." You are still confused but correct Justin anyway. "No he doesn't. Or I mean, no he hasn't. They haven't--well, no." Justin looks surprised. "REALLY?" he asks and then laughs as if we are laem. You nod. "Why would Chris care anyway?" Justin shrugs and puts a handful of cucumber in the salad bowl. "I don't think Chris likes the idea of Roxanne being a girl..." he thinks for a minute but has nothing else to say. "He doesn't like the idea of Roxanne being a GIRL? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?" Justin turns to you and stares into your eyes. "I love you," he says in all seriousness. You smile. "I love YOU," you tell him. Later that night after Joey and Chris had gone home and you and Justin were fast asleep over at his house (which you considered very strategic planning), Nick and I sat in the pool talking in the dark. We were practically whispering even though there was no reason to. We kiss once and then start totally making out and I am SO ready, I am SO ready to just take off all of his clothes and mine and just go for it right there, or in the house, or in the grass. I don't fucking care by then where the hell we end up but I know that I want him and I want him now and I can't think of anything I've ever wanted more than just him by me all of the time. But as things start to heat up a little more, Nick gets kind of weird and pulls away. "Are you okay?" I ask him, catching my breath and wiping my mouth off (gross, I know, but it has to be done sometimes. Saliva is viscous). He nods but looks away a little and I start to feel pretty stupid. I smile at him anyway and he smiles back at me weakly. I am pretty unsure of what the hell I am supposed to do next. He reaches out and grabs a hold of my hand again, tighter than before. He looks at me again and kisses me, but only once. "We can just sit here," I tell him since I have no idea what the hell it is he wants but apparently it isn't exactly what I had in mind. He laughs softly and looks down at our hands. Then he sighs loudly and I can feel the dread creep into my chest. He swallows and doesn't look at me. He lets go of my hand and looks down at where our hands had been. "I think I should go," he says and I feel like smacking him but I don't. I also kind of feel like crying but I refuse. "Okay," I just say and get out of the pool to get away from him. I grab my towel and dry off and he doesn't move. I go into the house and just go upstairs and put my pajamas on and I am ready to just go to bed, alone, as usual. But when I look out the window he is still sitting in the pool where I left him. I go back downstairs and outside and my wet hair is dripping onto my pajama shirt. I sit down in the chair that is closest to where Nick is sitting in the pool. After a few minutes he gets out, dries off and walks over to where I am. I look up at him. He holds out his hand and I take it and he pulls me up so that I am standing too. I hug him because I can't help it and we start kissing again and AGAIN I want him pretty damn badly. He pulls away again after awhile but before I can even be frustrated at him for being weird he clears his throat and says, "I don't think we should see each other anymore." So of course my head explodes and my brains go flying all over the place and I don't even know what to say. I don't want to cry, I SO don't want to cry, especially in front of him, so I say quickly, "You should probably go now." His eyes are closed and he nods and I hate how I feel. I hate wanting him so badly and the fact that he just DUMPED me or WHATEVER the hell you call it when you've only really kind of been together for a few days. "Well, goodnight," I say and I go into the house pretty quickly and run upstairs so I can cry alone. I wish you were home and I have half a mind to call you over at Justin's but I figure that I prefer to just wallow in my self pity alone. I go into your room and look out the window and watch him put on his shirt and his shoes, get his keys and walk out the gate. You spend the next whole day with me, watching really laem movies on Lifetime all day so we have excuses to cry and eat a lot of crap. Chris and Joey call to see if I want to go throw water balloons at people in the park but I say I don't. Britney Spears calls and asks us if we want to go to the mall because she really needs a new pair of shoes but we say no. She comes over for a little bit for the self pity party but can't take it for more than a couple of hours when she has to go hang out with Amanda Latona anyway. I am emotionally exhausted even though I keep reminding you how h'LAEM I am for being so upset about this. But you are sympathetic to h'laem and you know how much I liked him. I fall asleep pretty early and you go over to Justin's, since you banished him from our house for the day. He asks you what the scoop is, since he has no idea why he was forbidden to cross the fence. You tell him but instead of just being crushed like you expected him to, he looks a little disturbed. "What are you not telling me?" you ask him and he just pulls you into his arms and pats your hair. But you are not appeased and you can tell he is kind of tense. "What’s going on?" you inquire and he sighs. "I don't know," he says, "I'm not Nick. I don't know what his issues are." "Then why are you acting so weird about this?" you ask looking up at him and seeing his beautiful face. "I just talked to Lou yesterday and he mentioned something about the Backstreet Boys going to Germany for a few months to promote their new album. I was wondering what was going to happen then if Nick and Roxanne got things rolling between them..." "Oh," you say, sitting down on the bed. Justin shrugs. "I don't know if the two things are related, but I can tell you from experience that going away sucks. Going away sucks a lot." You look up at him and a strange fear seizes you. Why you've never thought about this before you don't know. Justin looks as pained as you feel and you realize something you hadn't thought about for some time. "Your album comes out soon," you tell him, your voice weak. His face crumbles and he nods and tears start to flow down his face. You can't believe you didn't think about this before, and can only imagine how long Justin has been consumed with the very thought. He sits down next to you on the bed and starts to cry like a baby, letting out everything he had been holding tightly inside for so long. You hold him and so many things come together in your mind, like an epiphany. Why he didn't want anyone to know about your relationship...why for so long he kept things between you at arms length...You don't even know what to say as you hold him and he repeats over and over the same phrase. "I don't want to leave you, I don't want to leave you..." Ch. 6 by Kristin You wake up and look at the clock and realize that it's only 6 am, but you can hear noise coming from downstairs (that's what woke you up), so you go to see what it is. When you walk into the living room, you notice two things. The first one is that there are old episodes of MMC playing on the TV, and the second thing is that I am sitting on the couch absolutely silent with tears running down my face. If it was anyone else but you and me you would immediately have me rushed to the psych ward of the hospital. But weirder things have happened in this house before. I don't say hi to you or anything, but I point at Justin on the screen and say, "wasn't he cute?" You sit down next to me and say, "Yes, he was adorable." "I miss him already," I whisper. "Where is he?" you ask. "Oh, he's upstairs asleep," I tell you. "He doesn't know that I'm down here." "Okay," you say. "So why do you miss him?" "Because..." I can't really get the words out because I'm crying so hard. "He's going to have to leave soon. For a long time." "Oh," you say, and kick yourself for never having thought of it before. Suddenly I look up at you like I just remembered something, and it's because I just did. "That's what happened with Nick." At the sound of his name, your head snaps up, and you say, "What?" very quietly. "He has to go away. Lou told Justin that Backstreet is going to Germany. Justin thinks that's why Nick..." I'm searching for a good word to explain what he did, but you finish for me "Dumped me?" "Um, yeah. But you should know that he didn't want to. He was trying to save you both a lot of pain." "God," you say. "That is such a typical male thing to do. What a coward. Why couldn't he tell me, dammit?" "The same reason Justin never told me, I guess." "Have you guys talked about it?" you ask me. "Yeah, just once. And, Roxanne, it was horrible. He was crying so hard. I've never seen someone cry like that. I didn't know what to do. But the last thing I wanted to do was let on how upset I am. That would only make him feel worse. And I guess that's what landed me where I am right now, watching this stupid show and crying." "Well, as long as you don't bust out the episode of Star Search..." you say, and in spite of ourselves, we burst into hysterical laughter. And I give you the biggest hug, because you are the only one who can cheer me up like that. So, you make coffee, and we just sit there like that until the sun comes up, laughing and talking about anything and everything but the fact that our men have to leave us. Around 9am, Justin comes in looking confused. "What are you guys DOING?" He's obviously pissed that he's up this early. "Oh, put a sock in it," I tell him, but I'm smiling at him, and he can't help but smile back. I grab the remote and turn the MMC back on, just to irritate him, and it works. He runs over and tackles me, trying to get the remote away from me, and I am laughing like a hyena. We don't hear you get up and go into your room to go get some sleep, for the love of God! Later on that day, we are all sitting out by the pool, our favorite spot. The doorbell rings and like the stupid fool I am, I go to answer it. There is a pizza delivery guy there with about a dozen pizzas. I can barely see his face because the stack is so high. It's about $100, and of course I have to pay it because no one is around. I carry this monstrosity out to the pool and start yelling obscenities and that the asshole who ordered this better pay me back. Chris decides that this is a good time to splash me, and I think that I am going to kill him. But before I jump into the pool fully clothed and attempt to drown him, Justin grabs my hand and leads me to a chair. He hands me a hundred dollar bill, kisses me on the forehead and jumps in the pool. Britney is there today, since it's no longer a self pity party. She gives me a look like, "I feel your pain." I think that she's cool, but I always feel weird around her because of Justin. But she's got some new boyfriend, so she doesn't really care. Joey, having noticed that the food has arrived has gotten out of the pool and headed straight for the pizza. He is still all dripping wet, and he gets water all over the first pizza. You hand him a towel, and he starts to dry off, but not before we decide that he can have that whole pizza all to himself. I decide that since it's after 12pm, that it's okay for me to have a beer, because I really need one. But when I look in the fridge, I realize that the bastards have drank all of my Coronas. So, I yell at you to come go to the store with me, because I'm sure you probably need something too. Britney can't come with us, because she can't go out in public, but she wants to stay and get a tan anyway(when she says that we look at her like she's crazy), so we just go. We don't even tell the guys that we're leaving, because we know they won't notice. We are at the store nonchalantly roaming around buying a whole bunch of crap that we don't need, and that we know will get eaten by the guys anyway, when we notice that some girls have been following us around. We decide to have some fun with them, so we head straight for the condom/tampon aisle and hang out in it for a while pretending to buy stuff, and talking in these really loud voices. "Ribbed for maximum pleasure," you read off one of the boxes. "Ooh," I say, excitedly. "These ones come in flavors." The girls are pretty embarrassed, but they are bold and they haven't left yet. We don't exactly know what they are doing there, but we have a pretty good idea that it has to do with the guys. We usually keep a low profile, but we've been known to show up backstage at concerts or at other events, and the true stalkers know who we are. Fortunately for me, no one knows about me & Justin yet. Finally, when you are about to go up to them and ask them just what the fuck they are doing, one of them comes up to us. "Hi," she says, but she's not being nice. "Can we help you?" I ask, sarcastically. "We hear you've been hanging out with *N Sync lately. And we want you to tell us how we can meet them." I am about to piss my pants, because if they follow us out of the store and follow my car, we will lead them right to Justin's house, not to mention the fact that the entire band AND Britney Spears are at our house right now. "Join the fan club, and apply for meet 'n greet passes," I say, trying to pretend I'm tough. But they don't think I'm funny. By this point, the teenies are surrounding us, and they're all either as tall or taller than we are, which isn't hard to do. Just in the nick of time, an employee of the store walks by, and the girls back off giving us time to get out of there. We go find the manager and ask to use the phone. I call the house and of course the guys aren't answering the phone, so I start yelling over the answering machine for them to pick it up. The manager is looking at us like we're crazy, but we don't care. Finally, JC answers the phone. "What's wrong?" he asks, but I feel like he already knows. "We're just being bothered by some fans, but we can't let them follow us home." "Okay," he says. "Sit tight, and I'll send a driver to pick you up. And he knows how to avoid being followed." So we sit in the managers office for what seems like hours, and then we have to be escorted out of the store by a security guard. I see the girls waiting outside of the store in a car, and I halfway want to grab the security guard's gun and shoot them all to get this over with. We get into this car that looks like an FBI car with tinted windows and everything. We feel so stupid, because this really isn't that big of a deal. It's not as if international terrorists are after us, though it's possible that those fans are worse. Finally, after driving around forever, we end up at our house. We get out cautiously, but there are no more crazy stalkers after us. I run into the house and run straight for Justin. I throw myself at him, even though he is still all wet from the pool. The guys congregate around you and I because they feel guilty as hell about this. But what can we do? "And I didn't even get my frigging Corona!" I say, and everyone laughs. Joey goes inside and makes some calls, and about an hour later, I have my Corona, and I feel much better. Later on that night, I am in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and Justin is sitting on the edge of the bed still in his swim trunks. "Those aren't wet, are they?" I yell at him. "You better not be getting my comforter wet." When he doesn't answer me, I come out of the bathroom, and notice that he's staring out into space. "Sweetie, what's wrong?" I ask him. "I'm just thinking about today, that's all," he says. "Well, I'm all right, if that's what you're worried about. I have to get used to this if I'm going to be the mistress of an international superstar," I say, giggling. But he doesn't think it's funny. "Doesn't it seem like my job keeps coming between us?" "Um, no," I say, but I am sort of lying. "Well, I think it is," he says. "Well, what are you going to do, quit?" I say, and when I put it like that, he realizes that there is nothing that either of us can do. I sit on his lap, one of my favorite places in the universe, and lay my head on his shoulder. "Why don't we just take advantage of the time we have together now, instead of worrying about what will happen later? Like my mom always says, today is a gift. That's why it's called the present!" He can't help but laugh at that one, and he pulls me down on the bed and tickles me until I am laughing so hard I can barely breathe. And I wonder why I even bothered putting pajamas on in the first place, because there seems to be no need for them now. You are downstairs, asking Joey and Chris if they ever have anything better to do than hang out at our house all the time. JC has left, and Lance never even came over, because he spends every frigging second with Topenga. But apparently they don't, so you pop in a movie, and just sit there watching it. You are so tired after having gotten up so early in the morning that you can feel your eyelids start to droop, and soon you are asleep. Chris and Joey make their exit, and lock the door behind them, because they all have keys to our house. All of a sudden, you are awakened by the shrill ringing of the phone. Lucky for you, you have the cordless on the table right next to you. "Who the fuck can this be?" you mumble. You say, "hello," in a very irritated voice. There is a slight pause on the other line, and a timid voice says, "Roxanne?" You are shocked. It's Nick. "Um, hi," is all you can think to say. "Is everything okay?" he says. You want to scream, NO IT ISN'T! EVERYTHING SUCKS! But you don't. You just say, "Sure, I'm fine." "Would you mind if I came over for a minute?" You really have to think this one through. Of course you want him to come over, but at the same time, you think it will only make it worse when he has to dump you again. You almost start to laugh when you think that you even thought about telling him not to come. You know that you could never do that, even if you wanted to. So, you say "yes" and hang up, wondering if you did the right thing. But when you think about what is probably going on upstairs, you decide that you are glad for the distraction. Ch. 7 by Roxanne After I hang up the phone, I curse myself for doing it, but I go into the bathroom and brush my hair and teeth like the loser that I am. Then I sit down on the couch and wait for Nick to show up. I know I have a good twenty minutes since he doesn't live all that close. I decide to make myself a drink to calm down because I am pretty nervous about whatever is going to happen. I repeat to myself how laem I am, but I'm filled with a weird kind of excitement. I want to know what he's going to say...if anything. I pour some tequila and margarita mix into a glass but don’t add ice or blend since you guys are trying to sleep....or whatever. I turn on the TV and make myself comfortable on the couch. Nothing is on except for some weird shit on Public Access, so I watch that. I must be more tired that I realize because after the drink loosens me up, I fall asleep on the couch. You and Justin are lying in bed, holding each other and being all corny. Well, you are actually being silent but you guys can even be corny when you aren't talking. I am hoping it is a phase and will wear off. Anyway, while you are lying there thinking that you are the happiest woman in the world and staring at him, you hear a knocking at the back door. It freaks you out for a minute, but then you figure it's probably Justin who comes over late at night sometimes. And THEN you remember Justin is with you right now with his strong and sexy arms wrapped around you. The knocking doesn't stop. "Who is that?" you ask, attempting to sit up. Justin, who looks as if he is ready to fall asleep, pulls you back down. "It's probably just Chris or something." "Chris has a key," you remind him, but he doesn't seem to care. The knocking still doesn't stop. It's not very loud and it is starting to worry you. "Justin, what if that’s a killer or something?" He laughs and opens his eyes a little. "It's not a killer," he tells you. You get up anyway and look out your window into the backyard where you see someone looking in all the windows. "Shit, Justin, there's someone out there." "Really? I wonder if that’s who was knocking," he says sarcastically. "Fuck," you mutter and are totally freaked out and SO glad Justin is there. The back porch lights aren't on so you can't really see the person. Justin finally gets up and looks out the window with you. "Who IS that?" he asks after sometime of staring. You shrug and watch as the man starts to fiddle with a window. "Shit," Justin says and having him be alarmed freaks you out even more. "Oh my god," you mutter as you watch Justin start looking around your room. "What are you doing?" you ask him. "Looking for something to use as a weapon," he says and you almost faint. You start to pray in your head even though you don't really believe in God. You reach under your bed and get the baseball bat that's there for this exact reason. You kind of start to cry and Justin comes over and hugs you. "It's okay," he says. He kisses you fully on the mouth and then goes to the door. "Where are you going?" you ask in a panic. "Downstairs," he says, like, duh. You start to follow him but he motions you to stay put. You are both being very quiet and you can here the perpetrator messing with the door. Justin keeps motioning for you to go upstairs, but you follow him closely anyway. You pass through the living room where I am asleep on the couch and you can see Justin tense up. He goes into the kitchen but the man isn't by the backdoor anymore. "I'm going outside," he whispers to you and you shake your head, but he goes anyway. Seeing him hold the baseball bat like he is about to strike makes you want to cry even more. He opens the door and goes out when you hear a male voice--and it's not Justin's! When you see Justin swing the bat you scream and it wakes me up. I run into the kitchen in a panic because I have no fucking idea what’s going on. You are sobbing by now and I can't understand a word you are saying. All I know is that the door is open. When you notice there is no noise coming from outside you shut up. We both sit in silence until we hear Justin say, loudly, "Oh SHIT." I go outside and there he is, standing by Nick Carter who is lying on the ground and clutching his head. "Oh SHIT." Justin says again and hurls the bat into the pool. I go over to Nick, confused as fucking hell, and try to see if he is alright. It's hard to tell since he is clutching his head and I can smell alcohol on his breath. "Are you okay? What's going on?" Nick is moaning and Justin is walking back and forth cursing repeatedly. "My head," Nick finally gets out. "What the fuck HAPPENNED?" I finally say, trying to keep pretty quiet since it is late and we do have a neighbor on the other side of us. Justin turns to me and flings his arms out. "It's just Nick!" he says as if that means anything to me. "Yeah, it's just Nick and apparently you hit him with a BASEBALL BAT." I am confused and you are sitting down at the patio table and trying to recover from the shock and fear. "Thank god it is not a burglar," You say and I put two and two together. Nick finally takes his hand away from his head a little and I can see a big read welt on the side of his head. "Fuck," I mutter, looking at him. "Are you okay? What's your name? Can you say your name?" "Roxanne..." he says and Justin flings his arms around again. "I killed Nick Carter! God, the media is going to LOVE is! I killed Nick Carter," he says to you, nodding his head repeatedly and pointing. "No one is going to believe that the feud doesn't exist NOW." You start to laugh out of relief and you sit back in your chair, letting your head fall back. "I'm okay," Nick is saying to me. "What's your name? Do you know where you are?" "Roxanne..." he says again. "No, I'm Roxanne, what's YOUR name?" I ask him, putting my hand on his head even though I flinch when I do it. He makes a noise that sounds like a laugh. "I know, I know." "What's your name? Do you know where you are?" I ask him again because I am trying to decide whether to take him to the hospital. "My name's Nickolas Gene Carter," he is looking at me now with a smile on his face. "I was born on January 28, 1980 in Jamestown, New York to Jane and Robert Carter...I'm at your house because you said I could come over but instead you had Timberlake attack me." "Okay, okay," I say and laugh. I try to help him up, but he's having a little trouble. "Shit, are you okay?" I ask. He laughs a little and nods. "I don't think that's from the blow," and I notice that he is pretty drunk. He sits down in a chair next to you and rubs his head some more. He seems alright, but the mark is pretty bad. Justin is just standing by the pool with his head faced upwards and his eyes closed. Finally he turns his head in our direction. "Are you okay?" he asks Nick. Nick nods but it looks painful. "I'm sorry I hit you," Justin says frankly. "I thought you were going to hurt them." You look up at Justin when he says this and feel your heart fall into your stomach. For some reason, that's just about the sweetest thing you've ever heard, considering the circumstances and your fragile state of mind. You start to cry again and Justin looks at you and you see tears in his eyes. You get up and go over to him and hug him because you don't know what else to do. "God," he says quietly to you. "I've never been more scared in my life." You giggle a little because it was, of course, just Nick, but Justin stays serious. "God," he says again, tightening his grip around you. "I would die if you got hurt. I would die." And you hold him tighter too and you can feel him lean into you and start crying. You know he is embarrassed because me or Nick could look up at any time, but Nick is still holding his head and I am pretty preoccupied making sure he is okay. "God I love you," he says, even though it is hard to hear since he is crying so hard. You are kind of surprised by this outburst but you love it and you just keep holding him until he catches his breath and wipes his eyes. You look at him and he laughs and you know he feels stupid. But you don't think he is being stupid at all and you kiss him and take his hand. "I love you too, you know," you tell him and he nods and laughs and wipes his eyes again. You pull him by inside and say to Nick and I, "Goodnight." I say goodnight and Nick nods and groans. "Sorry Nick, I'm really sorry," Justin says again. "It's okay," Nick says, not looking up and you guys go upstairs. Probably to get it on again. It's getting a little cold outside so I help Nick inside. I sit him on the couch and get him some ice to put on his head. He looks like shit but he smiles anyway. He flinches when the ice touches his face, but leaves it there. I smile back at him and think that he's never looked cuter than he does right now. "Why didn't you answer the door?" he asks with a laugh that turns painful. He moans and I apologize and explain to him that I fell asleep. "Are you drunk?" I ask him, moving his feet so he can lay down. "Yeah," he says, trying to get comfortable with his big pack of ice. "I took a cab over here." I laugh at him because he looks so ridiculous. "You are probably lucky you are drunk," I tell him. "Otherwise I am sure this would hurt a lot more." I kind of feel like apologizing but then I don't really want to, so I stay quiet. "I can't believe I just got attacked by a member of *N Sync," he says and starts laughing pretty hard, trying not to move. Neither of us say anything for awhile. He is focusing on his wound and I am just sitting there not knowing what to do since I don't even know where we stand right now. "Can you turn off the light?" he asks me. "It's killing my head." "Yeah, of course," I say and get up and turn it off. My eyes aren't used to the dark yet, but I find the couch and sit back down on the floor next to it. "Is that better?" I ask, trying to make out his face. "Yeah," he says and it sounds like a sigh of relief. He puts his hand on my head and I lay my head on his leg. "Remember you said we shouldn't see each other anymore," I say to remind him and myself of his decision. I know we aren't doing anything, but I needed to say it. "Well you know," he says and I can hear his smile. "It's so dark in here right now that I can't see you at all. But it doesn't mean there isn't room on this couch for both of us." I smile into the darkness and then laugh out loud. "There ISN'T room on that couch for both of us," I say. "Well," he says slowly as if giving it some more thought. "I think maybe we should try and work it out anyway. I mean, it may turn out that you are right and it's just impossible to fit two people on here. We'd both walk away with sore legs and cricks in our necks. But it may turn out that there just happens to be the perfect amount of space and it will be the most comfortable place ever." I sigh and he can feel me nod because my head is against his leg. "Want to give it a shot?" he asks and I climb up on the couch with him, laying my head on his chest. "It feels pretty comfortable so far," I tell him, wrapping my arms around his chest because there just isn't another way to lay on someone on a couch. "Well," he whispers in all seriousness. "Are you willing to risk a crick in the neck?" "Yeah," I say quietly, just about ready to fall asleep. "But I have a feeling this is going to turn out as the most comfortable place ever." "Me too," he says and we both fall asleep. Ch. 8 by Kristin I wake up in the morning and watch Justin sleeping for a while, which is one of my favorite activities. But I am starving. Normally, I would just get up and eat breakfast, but I never want to go anywhere without Justin ever again, not even just downstairs in my own house. I shake him a little to wake him up, and he rolls over and smiles at me instead of ignoring me and going back to sleep like he would have done a month ago. He kisses me and says, "good morning, beautiful." "Yes, it is a good morning," I say. I am positively glowing. And I give him a huge hug just to let him know that I love him. "But I am hungry," I tell him. "Well, we can't have that, can we?" he says. He picks me up and carries me downstairs with me giggling the whole way. We are so engrossed in each other that we don't notice you and Nick sleeping peacefully all cuddled up on the couch. Justin sets me down and we both look at you with these "aw, they're so cute" looks on our faces. Then Justin whispers, "I can't believe I almost killed Nick Carter," and it's all I can do not to laugh, which would wake you both up. "I know. That bump looks pretty bad. He's going to have one huge headache." We go into the kitchen to get food, while speculating on what might have happened to make you two end up like that on the couch. We take fruit and coffee out by the pool, and I think that I'm glad that you're still asleep, because we are being so cutesy, feeding each other and stuff, that it's gross. Back inside, you are starting to stir. When you realize that you are sleeping on Nick Carter's chest, the first thing you think (besides, "God, I hope I didn't drool on him") is that you've never felt more comfortable. And when you think back to what happened the night before, you start laughing so hard that you wake Nick up. But instead of greeting you, he clutches his head and yells "ow!" You try to stop laughing and sputter out, "are you okay?" "This isn't funny," he says. "You better be nice to me, woman. I took a bat to the head for you!" But he is smiling. "That's what you get for trying to break into my house!" And you try to be all cool and get up and walk away, but he won't let you up. "So, what are we going to do today?" you ask. "I don't know," he says. "I wasn't exactly planning ahead when I came over here all drunk last night." Your face falls, because you think that what happened between you two was because he was drunk, but he quickly covers. He lifts up your chin so you are looking right into his eyes and says, "But I did plan last night. Roxanne, I want to be with you." You know that you are going to cry, and you hate crying, so you get up, and pretend to start cleaning up the living room. By this point, Justin and I are done eating and we come back inside. I look from you to Nick and back again and say, "Are you cleaning??" "Um, yeah," you mutter. I am so confused, but I figure that you'll explain it to me sooner or later. Then I remember the rather large bump on Nick's head. "How are you feeling?" I ask. "I'm so sorry, man," Justin says for the hundredth time, and I think it's the cutest thing in the world that he's feeling so guilty. "I'm all right," he says. "But I can use some Advil or something." I rush off to get it leaving Justin in a very awkward position. You've finally stopped feeling like you're going to cry, so you follow me to get the Advil, because you have to tell SOMEone about what happened. When you come into the bathroom where I am searching the cupboards, I turn around and look at you expectantly. "Nothing happened," you say. "Except that he stayed here last night!" I exclaim. "Well, okay," you admit. "I guess we're like together or something," you say, and before you know it, I am jumping up and down and yelling "Whoohoo!" You give me the look of death, because you're sure Nick is going to hear me, and I shut up. Then I hug you, because I am so happy for you. "We have to celebrate," I say excitedly, and you roll your eyes at me, because I'm always having some laem plan for everything. "There's this new Salsa club I've been wanting to check out." "Um, not to rain on your parade, but none of us know how to salsa dance," you say, trying to talk me out of it. "Well, duh, silly," I say. "They give lessons." Oh God, you are thinking. How are you ever going to get out of this? You would much rather spend time alone with Nick, and you know that Justin and Nick would rather not spend any more time together than is absolutely necessary, especially after last night. But you don't have the heart to say no, because I'm so excited and I'm the only one who ever works and you want me to have some fun. Besides, I have only the best intentions. You know Justin will feel the same way, but you figure you have your work cut out for you in convincing Nick to go. I am rambling on and on about how we should go out to dinner before hand and what I'm going to wear when you realize that we've been in the bathroom FOREVER and that Justin and Nick have been alone together in the living room the whole time. When we come in, they both look like they have never been so relieved in their lives. But it's apparent that they have talked a little because Justin shoots a wink in your direction. After giving Nick the Advil and a glass of water, I make my big announcement. "Guess what guys? We're going salsa dancing tonight!" Before Justin can say anything, you give him a look that says, "you better go along with this," and you give Nick a look that says, "I'm sorry." But Nick is cool, and it doesn't matter. And you are thinking that you can just spend the whole day with Nick until we leave for dinner. Wanting to get your day started, you go take a shower, since you can't do anything without taking a shower. And you let Nick shower in the guest bathroom. When you come downstairs all ready to start your day with Nick, you realize that you were living in a fairytale thinking that you'd have time alone. JC & Justin are sitting on the couch drinking beer and watching basketball. Chris is on the floor playing with his dog, Busta, who he had the nerve to bring in our house, for the love of God! Lance and Joey are in the pool and even Britney and Topenga are there, sunbathing and gossiping, while I am in the kitchen making enough lemonade for an army. You come in the kitchen, and sigh deeply. "How did they all get in here in the fucking tiny amount of time that I was in the shower?" But I can empathize. "I didn't even get to TAKE a shower." I shove the lemonade at you and say, "but I'm going to now." And I walk away. But before I leave, I say, "Roxanne, I'm really sorry everyone is here." And I hand you my car keys. "To the new Jetta?" you ask surprised. "I trust you," I say. "And if I need to go anywhere, I'll just take the Benz." And we both laugh, because we take Justin's car all the time without him knowing, because we like to cruise in the Benz and see how many people we can get to think we are Justin, and it is our big inside joke. You go find Nick, and tell him that you want to go for a drive. He is game, and he tells you that you guys can drive out to his family's house and hang out at their pond. You look at him questioningly and he says, "they're not there." You are glad, because you definitely weren't ready to meet the fam yet! It takes about a half hour to get to Nick's family's house. You park in front and walk out to the pond, which is beautiful. It is a perfect, cloudless day and everything is lush and green. You put a peach towel down for you to sit on and you open two beers that you brought with you. Nick asks if you want to go swimming, and you decide that even though you're grossed out by the murky water in the pond, it's worth it to hang out with Nick. You both dive in, and then you just sit there treading water and staring at each other. Things have been so back in forth lately that neither of you knows what to say. So, to break the ice, Nick splashes you in the face. You splash him back, ad you do a little wrestling around and giggling like eighth graders and suddenly you are holding onto each other tightly, your faces only millimeters apart. You almost laugh, because you know that the whole reason for you guys to spend time alone together was so you could...well, be alone. Tired of the charade, you give up all pretenses, and kiss him. He is shocked at first, but recovers quickly and starts kissing you back passionately. But this is a little too much too soon and you push him away. He looks hurt, but he's not dumb. He understands. What it comes down to is that you're scared. It's pretty irrational after what Nick had said to you the night before, but who ever said you had to be rational? "I'm sorry," you say quietly. "It's okay," he says. "Why don't we go in the house and get something to eat?" And you think he's even more wonderful for wanting to make you feel better. You go inside and he shows you around and makes you a sandwich. You eat and chat and tell him about me and Justin, because he doesn't really know what's going on. You tell him about how in love Justin and I are and how we pretended that it was just a fling and what an asshole Justin was. You are hoping that Nick doesn't think that you're saying that he's an asshole. But he understands. "It's hard being famous and being with someone." It's almost as if you and he are using me and Justin to talk about yourselves. Suddenly, you realize that it's way late. "Shit! Kristin's going to kill us!" You hop in the car ad head home, dropping Nick off on the way so he can change. You give him a kiss and promise to pick him up later. You rush to our house, stumble in the door and run up the stairs to change. I'm in my room with curlers in my hair and 8,000 outfits laid out on my bed, trying to decide what to wear. "Nice of you to come home," I snap, but you know I'm kidding. I know that you'll be ready on time. We have an 8:00 reservation at the Hard Rock Cafe' in the special room for celebrities (I don't remember what it's called but I read about it in the BSB article in Teen People), and you have plenty of time. At 7:45 we're both ready in our sexy salsa dancing outfits, but there is no Justin in sight. I run over to get him at his house, and when I get to his room, I think I am going to pass out, because he looks so good. He can really work a leather jacket. I can't help but run up to him and start kissing him. I love him the most when he's all clean and good smelling. Meanwhile, you are wondering where we are, so you cross the fence, too to see what we are doing. Unfortunately for you, you walk in on us making out. After you clear your throat 5 times for us to stop, I give you an evil grin and say, "Good thing you came when you did or we never would have gone anywhere tonight." You yell, "GAH-ROSS!" but in the back of your mind you are hoping that you get a little action tonight, too. We go get Nick and make it to dinner only a half hour late, which is pretty good for us. The boys have to sign a few autographs when we go in, but it's Sunday so the place is basically dead. And no one cares that they've shown up with two girls because everyone knows that I work at TransCon, so they just think it's a business meeting. We sit down and eat and have a really good time. You and I keep looking at each other like we can't believe how awesome these guys are for trying to get along with each other for us. Neither of us can stop smiling, because we're so happy. We go to the dance club, which is the coolest place we've ever seen. The guys go get us drinks and we hit the floor for dance lessons. We are trying to learn when we notice that the rest of the guys and Topenga (Damn her! Isn't she supposed to live in L.A.?) have shown up. We're all laughing hysterically because none of us can get the dance down. But slowly but surely we all start to get it. Well, all of us except Nick. He just can't seem to get it. We're all trying to help him, but it's not working. We don't understand it at all. For the love of God, Lance is getting it! Nick's been holding his own having to hang out with *N Sync up until this point, but this is too much for him. He just goes and sits down, and you go with him even though you are having a blast dancing. And to add insult to injury, hot Latin guys keep coming up and asking you to dance. You have absolutely no idea what to do, and Nick keeps drinking, which is worrying you. The worst part is that you are so nervous that you are matching him drink for drink, and not even noticing it. Luckily, it turns out that this club starts playing regular (non-salsa) music after a certain time every night. I run over, pretty drunk myself, and try to get you and Nick to dance. At first he doesn't want to, but then he gives in. We all start dancing in a big group. Joey has found some cute Latino girl with a big ass who he is getting down with and Lance is dancing with Topenga. JC and Chris are partnerless, so you and I take turns dancing with them, even though we can't take our eyes off our men. This time, Justin doesn't mind me dancing with anyone else, because he knows that I really only want to be dancing with him and that I'll come back to him soon. Nick finally looks like he's having fun, and I'm proud of the boys for being so nice to him. I realize that I've never had this much fun with Justin before. We are boogeying down ("Gettin' Jiggy" as he calls it) and people are watching us because we are acting like there's no one else in the club. At last call, you all practically have to drag us out of the club, because we don't want to leave. Somehow they get a limo to take us home, because no one is sober enough to drive. You and I are so drunk that we're standing up in the limo hanging out the sun roof, and Justin and Nick have to pull us down so that the poor driver doesn't get pulled over. We can't stop laughing, and we are spilling alcohol everywhere trying to make drinks in the little limo bar. Everyone is just rolling their eyes at us, but we don't care, because we are having fun. We finally get home, and I barely notice that Nick didn't get dropped off, but is coming in our house instead. I run over to our stereo and turn the radio on and make you dance with me. We do this for a while, until I go in the bathroom and puke. Justin has to carry me upstairs and put me to bed. I can tell that he doesn't want to just go to sleep, and I think I'm game, but when he turns around to get in bed, I have already passed out. He just smiles at me, gets into bed and puts his arms around me. He whispers, "I love you, baby" into my ear, and just watches me until he falls asleep. Downstairs, you are sitting on the couch with Nick, talking in slurred speech to him about how drunk you are and how much fun you had dancing. Then you look at him seductively and invite him upstairs. He willingly follows you, and you can barely keep your hands off each other long enough to get through the door of your bedroom. But suddenly he stops kissing and holds you away from him. "I don't want to take advantage of you," he says. "But..." you pout. "But I would've done this with you even if I wasn't drunk." "Still..." he says, running his fingers through your hair. "I want it to be right." You accept this, even though you don't want to, but what choice do you have? You get undressed and get into bed and he follows. You are asleep before you know it, and you have the best night's sleep you've had in a really long time, just knowing that he's next to you. Ch. 9 by Roxanne You feel sick when you wake up and it feels like the worst feeling in the world. Your mouth is dry. You need some water. You turn over and there is Justin, sitting on the bed, watching you. You open your mouth to speak but he hands you a glass of water. It makes you ill to sit up but you need the water. You feel so sick you wish you could go back to sleep for five days. You don't even notice the oddly sad stare Justin is giving you. You make your way into your bathroom because you know you are about to throw up. Justin follows you wordlessly and gently takes your hair and holds it back for you. You cry because throwing up makes you cry. Justin rubs your back. After you finish he picks you up and carries you back to bed, wordlessly going to get you more water. You drink it and try to stay still to keep your stomach quiet. Justin gets in bed with you and puts his hand on your head. You try to smile at him to let him know that you love him. He looks so sad but it is hard to care about why because you feel so terrible. You put all of your energy into making sure you don't throw up again. "Sing sweet nightingale, sing sweet nightingale...fa la la la LA...." Justin starts singing quietly and you bust out laughing, even though it makes you feel sick because all you can think of when you hear that song is the evil stepsister in the Disney version of Cinderella. Justin sounds beautiful singing it though, of course. You are starting to feel a little better since you did throw up and everything. You open your mouth to say something and then stop and look at him and just take a minute to think about how much things have changed in the past couple of weeks. You don't even know if you can believe it. You feel so strongly for him and he feels exactly the same way back. You are so happy and think about how your life is perfect. "I'm going to New York on Tuesday," he tells you, playing with the sleeve of your shirt. You close your eyes because you remember your life isn't perfect at all. "I'm going to be there for about a week," he continues. "And then we're going to LA for I think another week." You swallow and open your eyes and look at him some more. "And then what?" you ask, scooting in closer to him so he'll hold you. He complies. "Then I'll be home. But then next month we're going to start the tour." You feel his body with your hands because you start to think about it not being next to you every day. You are angry that it took so long to get to this stage of your relationship. The more you think about not having him around, the more you feel like your eyes are going to pop out of your head. "What am I going to DO?" you say, more to yourself than to him. He sighs. "I don't know. Run up big phone bills I guess." "Hate for that!!!" you say loudly and get up. He watches you throw on your robe and put on your slippers. Thinking about him being gone for so long makes you feel sicker than you already are, so you try and push out of your head. "Get up," you tell him. He listens and follows you downstairs looking like he is a ten year old who lost his dog. "Sit down," you tell him when you get into the kitchen and he does, with that same mopey look on his face. You open the fridge and look through it and start taking out what you need to make the most kick ass breakfast ever. Eggs, cheese, bacon that Joey brought over a couple of days ago for god knows what reason. "Pancakes or waffles?" you ask Justin as you dance around the kitchen trying to cheer him up. "Waffles," he says forlornly and you get out the waffle maker I bought on QVC that we've only used twice. You hear the shower turn on upstairs and that’s when you remember Nick was over last night. You turn to Justin, lean in, and kiss him on the cheek. He still refuses to smile. "How much you wanna bet there are two people in that shower right now?" You whisper to him. A small smile begins on his face and you giggle. "Roxanne's finally getting some action," he says, his smile growing. "Roxanne's what?" I ask, walking into the room. Justin's smile fades but you can tell he feels better. He looks at me sternly. "Why aren't you in the shower young lady?" he asks, and I raise my eyebrows at him because I am OLDER than he is. "Nick's in the shower right now," I say, getting a glass of orange juice and looking around at you. "My point EXACTLY," Justin tells me and I laugh and shake my head. "You guys are sick," I say and then realize that you are cooking breakfast. "Oooh! I am so hungry." "I need milk," you realize and Justin runs over to his house to get some while you grill me about last night and I, as usual, don't really have anything juicy to tell you. I help a little since I am extremely gid that the Waffle 2000 is being used. I go look for the cookbook that came with it because I am trying to describe to you all the different things you can do with it, like making waffles with fruit in the hella easy and shit. I can't find it and try to make some strawberry waffles but it turns into a disaster, so we go with regular ones after that. Nick comes downstairs all fresh and showered and I just love to look at him and I give him a big cheezy smile even though he didn't give me any play last night. His hair is all wet and his is wearing shorts without shoes or socks which happens to drive me *N SANE!!! I'd like to kiss him but we're pretty new at being together and you and Justin are the in room (not like you would mind). "Whoa, is that the Waffle 2000?" Nick asks and I know I am in love. He has one so he makes some apple cinnamon waffles and I pay close attention to how it's done, saying that I am going to start cooking them every morning, which happens to be what I said when I ordered the damn thing. Needless to say, it never happened then and you know it won't happen now. You are going to work late but you do have to be there by one so we all eat. JC stops by, looking mighty fine, might I add, in a sleeveless black shirt showing off those yummy arms of his. He just stands in the kitchen eating some fruit while we all sit down and eat our huge meals. We all talk about how much better Nick's head looks than it did yesterday even though it still looks pretty scary and the guys have a good laugh thinking about what Lou is going to say when he not only sees the injury but hears the story. At the mention of Lou, Nick slaps his head (and then groans deeply with regret) and asks to use the phone. When Nick goes into the other room JC sits down in his chair and looks at me a little questioningly. I just shrug at him because I don’t even know what to say or how to describe whatever it is Nick and I are doing together. Nick runs in the room mumbling to me about being really late and looking for his shoes and his sweatshirt. I follow him upstairs and find his shoes under the bed and his sweater on the chair. "Thanks," he says as he sits down next to me on the bed to put his shoes on without socks. We smile at each other. "I totally forgot I was supposed to go meet with Fatima today. AJ's going to pick me up here on his way." "Okay," I say, still smiling. After a minute of silence he kisses me and I feel all gid like I am 11 years old. I start acting all dorky on purpose because that’s how I feel. "You're so dreamy," I tell him in this high voice and he laughs. We just sit there for awhile and it feels really nice to just be alone, holding each others hands and kissing periodically. When the doorbell rings, Justin goes to answer it still wearing only my pajama pants. Assuming it's Chris, who usually shows up at around this time, Justin says in a low voice and Chinese accent, "Can I heeeeeelp you?" "Um, is Nick here?" a familiar raspy voice asks hesitantly. Justin opens the door all the way and notices AJ "OOC" McLean standing there staring at him as if he is totally *N Sane. Justin goes into pimp mode and nods. "Yeah man, come on in." AJ steps into the living room and Justin calls Nick's name up the stairs. "So, how ya doing?" he asks Justin, a little confused. "Good," Justin says, finding it hard to be in pimp mode when he is only wearing plaid girl pajama pants. Desperate to get the attention off of himself, he leads AJ into the kitchen where you and JC still are. "Hey Kristin, what’s up?" AJ asks, giving you a small hug. "Not much, I'm good," you answer, swallowing the waffle bite you had in your mouth. "How are you?" "I'm doing great," he says and is obviously relaxed because he's met you more than a few times. Not only that but by now you are all dressed and ready for work, so you look the way he usually sees you. AJ says hi to JC too and as Nick comes bounding down the stairs you can practically see AJ wondering what the fuck Nick is doing in a house filled with *N Sync. Just at that moment Chris comes running in the backdoor with Busta yelling about dog poop. I, who followed Nick downstairs, am totally embarrassed by this but AJ actually laughs more than any of us do and starts up a conversation with Chris. "Okay, I'm ready. Sorry," Nick says to AJ who nods and heads for the door. But before they walk out, AJ looks as if he remembers something and says, "Hey, you guys, I'm having a big party next weekend. You should all come." We all agree in unison and AJ says to Chris, in the voice of the wicked witch, "And your little dog too!" Everyone laughs and AJ adds, "And Joey and Lance." There’s just a lot of nodding going on and they head out the door, but before I can close it Nick sticks his arm out to hold it open and says, "What are you doing later?" "Nothing," I reply with a smile that indicates I never do anything. "Call. Or come over." "Okay," he says with a smile and starts back outside the door but when I try to close it this time, he sticks his arm out again to stop it. He leans in and gives me a kiss and I can hear AJ, who is halfway to the sidewalk by now, whistle. Nick blushes but shrugs and I laugh. "Bye, I'll call you." "Bye," I say and I am so gid. I'm in such a good mood that day that I get all creative and try to talk Justin and Chris into helping me paint stars on the ceiling of my room. "Come on," I urge them. "It will be fun!" But they stare at me like I am insane for even asking them and go play basketball in Justin's yard. JC stays with me and we sit out by the pool and yell comments at Justin and Chris who we can see playing basketball. JC and I talk for a long time since we haven't and then I try to talk him into painting stars on my ceiling but he just laughs and shakes his head no. I'm starting to get pissed because these guys never do shit for me and I let them eat all of our food--and that's when inspiration strikes and I call Joey. Joey immediately says it sounds like a great idea and heads over with yellow paint he has left from painting his new house. I cut out cardboard stencils of different shaped stars and Joey shows up with all these cool brushes and shit, not to mention a dark blue color to paint the whole ceiling first. JC keeps telling us not to do it and that we will ruin the hardwood floor if the paint drips. He is right, but I don't really care for some reason. Joey makes a sandwich and then we get to work, which is totally insane. Justin and Chris start to think about it and decide it could be fun for a while so they help out. JC is spazzing out and finally starts putting newspaper down all over the floor so we don't ruin it. Joey and me keep pretending to knock paint cans over and stuff just to see JC have a heart attack. When we are waiting for the blue to dry everyone sits on the newspaper covered floor and I get some chips and salsa for us to eat and beers for everyone to drink. Chris is being funny as all hell and puts paint on his face. He starts to do what he calls "the native american chicken breeding ritual" dance and JC laughs so hard he almost knocks a can of paint over himself. Justin laughs until falls of my bed and lands head first on the floor. "Hey what’s that?" he asks, when something on a piece of newspaper catches his eye. He picks it up. "Hey, that’s me," he says as Chris grabs it out of his hands. "Last Sunday night," Chris reads aloud, " Justin Timberlake of *N Sync and Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys held a business dinner at Orlando's Hard Rock Cafe. Accompanied by two woman, one who is a legal consultant for Trans Continental Media which both groups are affiliated with, the dinner was reportedly to discuss the matter of pressing charges in an attack between the two singers. The alleged incident occurred just one night prior, where it is said Timberlake struck Carter with a baseball bat. Neither have commented on the calamity, but Carter was in fact sporting a wound on the side left of his head." No one said a word. "Oh my god," JC groaned finally, breaking the silence. Ch. 10 by Kristin It's around 8pm, and you are all sitting in the living room, wondering where I am when I finally come in the door. I walk in, throw my briefcase on the floor, sit down in the chair and just burst into tears without saying anything to anyone. Apparently, the combination of just having found out Justin is leaving and the article in the paper was too much for me. None of you know what to do, so you just sit there looking at me. Finally, Justin can't take it anymore, and he comes over and kneels in front of me and asks what's wrong. I try to tell him, but he can't understand a word I am saying. He tells me that I should go lie down, but I say, "I don't want to lie down! You are leaving tomorrow, and I just spent our whole last day together at work trying to fix this mess!" You, Joey, JC and Chris all get up and leave, because you figure that this is between me and Justin. "I'm sorry" is all the can think to say. "What happened at work today?" "Oh God," I say. "It was a disaster. Everyone's mad at me for being seen out with you, and they want to know just exactly what all of us were doing. Plus, there's all this legal stuff going on and they want to sue the paper who reported it, so I've been working my ass off all day to try to redeem myself. And all I could think about was how I wanted to be here with you," and with that I just start sobbing again. He has no clue what to do with me, so he just takes my hand and leads me over to the couch to lie down. He brings me a glass of wine, and rubs my feet. I finally start to calm down, but then I think how amazing he's being and how starting tomorrow I have to live without that and I start to cry all over again. Poor Justin is feeling so guilty that he is thinking about hitting HIMSELF with a baseball bat. Finally, I stop crying and he tells me all about you guys painting your room and JC freaking out about the paint, and I start to cheer up. He takes me across the fence to his house and makes me dinner. (Well, it's just eggs and toast, but it was a nice thought.) We go upstairs and I help him pack and then we just lay down on the bed and watch a movie. But I'm not watching the movie. I'm laying there trying to memorize every part of his face and body so I can remember it when he leaves. He finally notices that I'm staring him and says, "what?" I tell him what I'm doing, and he seems embarrassed, even though it's just me. And then I say, "You are one fine specimen of a man," and we both start to laugh. And I can't help wondering how I'm ever going to be this happy without him around. Ch. 11 by Roxanne The alarm goes off at quarter after six and you feel ill because you know what day it is. Justin turns the alarm off and gets up, heading straight for the shower without even saying anything. You are pretty tired so you don't really care but the thought of this being the last morning together for a week is just a tad on the depressing side. When you hear the shower turn on you get out of bed and throw on your robe. You walk out into the hall and everything is dark because the sun is just beginning to come up. The door to my room is open and you look in and see Nick lying on my bed asleep, but I am not there. You hear some talking coming from the kitchen so you head down there, feeling like a glass of juice and a poptart anyway. Joey and I are in the kitchen laughing our asses off at God knows what. "Aren't you here a little early?" you ask Joey bitterly and he smiles and informs you he's been awake all night. You roll your eyes and then look at me and can tell I've been up too. "See," Joey starts explaining to you even though you don't really want to know. "Our flight leaves at 9 and we have to be at the airport by 8. I'm going to have to get up early probably all this week, why not save myself the pain just this one day?" "When did Nick crash?" you ask, putting the pop tart in the toaster and looking outside to the beginnings of what will be, no doubt, a beautiful day. "Like two and a half hours ago. He only fell asleep because he got drunk. Otherwise, he would so be here with us!" I say, taking a couple pop tarts out for myself and eating them cold. Unamused, you head back upstairs where you can hear the shower still on. You sit down on the bed and just get lost in your thoughts. What will it be like to not have Justin in your bed everynight and every morning? What will it be like to not have him around at all? You hear the shower turn off and you start to tear up. No one understands you the way he does, or knows you in the same way. Who will you go to when you need to be understood that way? When you need to be loved the way he loves you? What are you going to do when you need to take refuge with the only one who you know will never hurt you? And as he walks into the room with only a white towel wrapped around his waist, you realize that by leaving, he IS hurting you. You thought he would be there forever, but you weren't thinking. Things don't last forever even if they seem like they will. Justin sits down on the bed next to you, getting it wet. You don't bother to scold him about it. You don't care if he gets water on your bed. "It's early," he says with a yawn and you nod. You both went through the sad crying goodbyes last night and neither of you have the energy to go through it again. But you can't help but shed a few tears when he is putting his shirt on. You get up and go into the bathroom debating on whether it is worth it to shower or not. Do you even have time? You do have time but just as you decide that you might as well, you hear my shower turn on. You know that we can't shower at the same time without losing hot water so you give up and walk back into your bedroom. Justin is lying down on your bed now that he is fully clothed. He's not much of a morning person but you kind of wish he would wake up enough to notice that the moments are few. You half heartedly throw on jeans and a tshirt and lie down in bed next to him. He smiles when he sees you and that just makes you want to cry more. "I'm going to miss you," you say to him. He smiles and takes your hand in his. "I'll be back Saturday afternoon," he tells you. "Then when do you leave again?" you ask. You want to know. He sighs. "Monday morning." You close your eyes because you are almost sick of looking at him it hurts you so much. He'll be back and gone again in less than a week. How can you be expected to live like this? He pulls you in and holds you close and you know that he loves you. But he doesn't feel sorry enough and you can tell. You can hear both Chris and JC downstairs by now and Justin gets up to take his bags down. You help him and can't find the energy to smile at the guys when you are downstairs. None of them can STOP smiling. Chris is hyper as hell, telling me and Joey, who are pretty delirious by now, an animated story about Busta and the old lady who lives down the hall from him. JC even laughs at Chris's story and smiles radiantly at you. "Good morning," he says and offers you a muffin from a box full or breakfast pastries he brought over. You thank him quietly and accept it, but can't get much down. Everyone is mumbling about where Lance is and what's keeping him. Justin and Chris both tell a story about the time Lance was late to a photo shoot in Berlin and dressed in womans pants. You watched Justin laughing so hard he was almost crying and you couldn't take you eyes off of him. Your mouth refused to go up into a smile and it was hard to see him so...so... "And they were all pleated and the crotch was like up in his armpits!" Justin said, leaning over the counter to keep himself up. You watched him and thought about how much you loved him. The doorbell rang but it wasn't Lance, it was the limos that were there to take the guys to the airport. Things went crazy after that. Bags were being loaded up, they guys were yelling back and forth to each other. Finally Joey's cell phone rang and it was Lance saying he would meet the guys there. Watches were checked and JC was yelling at Chris to hurry up. Chris was looking for CDs of his that he claimed were over at our house somewhere. I come outside and say goodbye to everyone, telling them to give Lance a hug for me too. When I hug Chris he starts singing and dancing with me and it takes a good five minutes before I can shake him off. JC tries to talk me into coming to the airport but I have a sleeping man upstairs and when I mention this Justin comes over and starts giving me all sorts of 'fives'. High fives, low fives. I'm tired and I run away from him. He chases me around the yard for awhile and you just stand by the car, watching with a serious expression. Joey hoots and says, "I'm in the white limo because I'm wearing clean underwear!" It's apparently some game of theirs and Chris groans loudly and climbs into the black limo. All the bags get into the trunk and when it's closed Justin plays a short little drum beat on the hood. He walks over to you and puts his arms around your waste, pulling you close and smelling your hair. "I love you woman!!" he says to you and starts to kiss your neck exaggeratedly. You can't laugh at him though and you just sigh and lay your head on his shoulder, trying not to cry more. He notices your seriousness and holds you face as he kisses you deeply. "Come on," he says when you break apart and pulls you into the black limo (Justin claims to be wearing clean underwear but so does JC and everyone knows that Justin's cleanest underwear is no match for JC). So of course you are stuck in the car with Justin and Chris for the love of GOD! Chris sticks his head out the window and starts singing loudly, "Don't cry for me Argentina!!" and Justin is about to die because he thinks it's the funniest thing in the world. Whenever he turns to you and sees you are not laughing his face grows somber and he kisses you or tightens his grip on your hand, but Chris is singing Evita to the world. "I'm going to miss you," you keep saying and Justin keeps saying it to you too and he will, you know he will, but he isn't feeling sad enough. He's more full of life than you've seen him in weeks. Finally the limos reach the airport and you are all escorted to your gate. There are only about five girls who are at the airport and the guys all sign autographs and say hello. Justin and Joey are walking through the airport doing some retarded dance. Chris joins in every once in awhile, but his attention span isn't quite long enough. JC keeps laughing at whatever he is talking about with one of the body guards and throwing his head back. At the gate, Justin comes over and holds you tight in his arms. "You know I love you," he whispers and you just nod because tears are already streaming down your face. "I'll be back on Saturday and we'll spend the whole weekend together. I just want to be with you." "I love you," you say but when you get it out it makes you cry more. He holds you tighter. "It'll be okay," he tells you softly and you just cry more because you know that it won't. "I'll call you everyday and I will be thinking about you every minute." Lance and Topenga come running down the hall, apologizing and things start moving. Body guards start loading the plane and Joey does too. You wipe you eyes and he hugs you and kisses you on the cheek, then flies down the ramp. Chris catches up with him and jumps onto his back. Joey carries Chris piggy back all the way to the plane. Justin doesn't let go of your hand as JC hugs you goodbye too and whispers, "Good luck," into your ear. Lance and Topenga are kissing and whispering to each other. Justin pulls you close again but makes it so he can look into your red and tear filled eyes. "Do you know how much I love you?" he asks and you nod, crying even more. He kisses you and hugs you and you try to stop crying. He looks like he is getting a little teary eyed himself but when Johnny Wright calls, "Come on guys!" his head snaps up and his tears disappear. "I'm going to miss you," he says, kissing you again. Lance comes over and says goodbye to you also. "I love you," you tell Justin one last time. He smiles and walks backwards into the ramp. "I love you too, and I'll call you tonight." He's the happiest boy you've ever seen. You try to smile back but can't quite do it. Before he disappears he blows you a kiss and sticks out his tongue. You start to cry again and wipe you eyes with Kleenex. You notice Topenga is looking at you. Her eyes are red too, but she isn't a mess like you are. She smiles at you. You manage a weak smile back. "He's so happy," you tell her because you are disappointed. "He's excited to be leaving." Topenga looks at you sympathetically. "I know," she says, hugging you. She sighs. "They can't help it. It's who they are." You watch the plane as it slowly taxis to the runway and think about this. "They're performers. They're *N Sync," she continues. "They don't do this because it is there job, they do it because it's what they love." The plane picks up speed and as you watch it take off and fly high you know she is right. "Come on," she says to you, linking arms. "Let's go get some breakfast." Ch. 12 by Kristin I go to the airport restaurant with Topenga to get breakfast, even though I know there is no way I can eat. I appreciate that she is being nice to me and trying to make me feel better, and I figure that I can get some advice from her, since she's been doing this for a while (even though she IS three years younger than me.) But once we sit down, I just sit there and hate her because she reminds me of how sad I am and how much I am hating Justin's job right now. She is part of the whole *N Sync thing to me. I am about to get up and leave, when I realize that all I would have to go home to is you and Nick, so I decide to stay. We have a semi-decent breakfast, mainly because she doesn't expect me to say anything. She knows how I feel, and she's feeling pretty sad herself. "How do you do this?" I ask her. "You get used to it," she says. "And if you love someone, you have to love everything about them." I nod, and she continues. "Besides, I would rather have Lance have a job that makes him happy and happens to take him away from me sometimes than have him be miserable. And, if it wasn't for their job, we wouldn't have met them at all." "I know," I say. "I mean, I know you're right, but I just wanted Justin to be more upset." "He is upset," she reminds me, and I know she's right. We just sit there in silence for a while, and then I start to cry. She gets up and pays the check and escorts me out. I can't believe she's being so nice to me. We hop into a limo, and I attempt to stop crying. She is saying a lot of stuff to me, but it just isn't helping, and I feel sorry for her, because she doesn't know what to do. I can tell she's relieved when I finally get dropped off at home, but she tells me to call her if I need anything. I walk into the house, and I can hear you and Nick laughing about something in the living room. I decide that I can't bear to see you two together, so I go upstairs. I call work, but they tell me not to come in. I really want to, because I think it will take my mind off everything to do some work, but my boss knows that I need some time off after the day before. I sit there on the bed for a while wondering just what the fuck I am going to do, not just without Justin but without four other of my best friends, too. I start to cry again, just thinking how weird it will be to have quiet in our house and have it not filled with people every second. I don't realize that you've been standing in my doorway for about a minute just watching me. It is killing you to see me like this, but you know there's not much you can do. And, in your own way, you are sad, too. You are missing the guys already. They are pretty much family to us. You just come over and hug me and let me cry on your shoulder for a few minutes. "Where's Nick?" I ask, and you tell me that you sent him home. And for the first time all day, I smile, because I know that not too many people would do that for me. "What do you want to do today?" you ask. "I don't know," I say. I really want to just crawl in bed and sleep until Saturday, but I can't not do something with you after you sent Nick home. "Let's call Britney," I say. "She's always good for some shallow fun!" "Okay," you say. You call her to find out what she's doing today. She says that she's going to a spa for a massage, facial and seaweed wrap. I am thinking that that sounds like heaven, and you are looking at me like "how the hell are we going to afford this?" I get out my checkbook and figure out that I can pay for both of us. I mean, it's the least I could do after you sent your man home for me. This of course means that I have to work 80 hours in the next few days, but I decide that it's worth it. So we get in the Benz (I don't care if Justin would kill me, I deserve to use this car) and go pick her up. Britney's apartment is the one provided for her by TransCon for when she's in Orlando, and it's really nice. So we just hang out there for a while and Nikki DeLoach comes over, too. You and I are both feeling weird, because we haven't been this girly in a long time. Most of our time is spent with guys whose idea of fun is a burping contest. These girls couldn't be any more different. But it's fun for us to pretend for a while. A little before we're about to leave, Britney takes me aside. "Justin left today, didn't he?" she asks. "Yeah," I say, but I can't think of anything else to tell her. "Are you all right?" she asks, and I am surprised that she cares until I remember that she's probably been through this before. "I don't know yet," I tell her. "I just want Saturday to get here." She smiles sympathetically and gives me a hug. And I am thinking that maybe it's a good thing that Justin went away because it is making people be so damn nice to me that I can barely stand it. We finally get to this spa, and it's pretty much full of old retired people. I decide to go all out and I even get my nails done and everything. I mean, shit, I don't work my ass off for nothing! We have a lot of fun talking about clothes and stupid stuff like that and gossiping about different people in Orlando. I wish I could tell some of the stuff I knew by working at the legal dept. of TransCon, because you don't know juicy gossip until you know that. But I don't really want to lose my job just to have fun with Brit and Peaches. They are trying to get info out of you about Nick, but you aren't telling them anything, mainly because you don't know yourself what is going on. I suddenly realize that I have gone five minutes without thinking about Justin, and I am really grateful to you guys for that. When we are done, we decide to go to the mall and buy outfits for AJ's party on Saturday. I try to get you to buy this really fun, crazy outfit, but you know you'll never wear it again, and you are right. Britney is the best shopper I have ever seen, and she helps us find cool stuff. Her taste is a little expensive, but at this point I am so far from caring about money that I am about to purchase everything I see and some stuff for you, too. I keep buying stuff for Justin, even though the LAST thing he needs is clothes. You just roll your eyes at me and let me do my thing. But, when I start looking at underwear, that is when you draw the line and drag me away. We go to eat lunch, and you and I are looking at each other like we can't believe how much fun we are having. Even Nikki's fun, even though it's because she's the biggest airhead we've ever met. We are always laughing at her, because we can't help it, but it doesn't matter because she just thinks that she is being really funny. Finally, we have to go home because Nikki has to be somewhere that night. Britney comes over to our house to lay out by the pool for a while, but she doesn't stay long. You and I find ourselves sitting in the living room staring at each other, because we have no idea what to do with ourselves. It's like we are realizing for the first time that our entire universe revolves around *N Sync, and it's a pretty scary thought. We talk about going to a movie, but neither of us really wants to. We just want to wallow in our misery. We watch some TV, and I wait for Justin to call. And I wait and wait some more. It's now about 10pm, and I really have to go to bed, because I have to get up for work at 6am. I go get ready for bed, all the while willing the phone to ring, but it doesn't. I take the phone in my room and get in my bed with it. As if it wasn't going to be bad enough that I would have to sleep by myself for the first time, but Justin hasn't called yet. I just lay there and cry for a while. There is no way that I am going to sleep. You come into check on me, and I ask you why Justin hasn't called. You just shake your head and then get in my bed with me, because you don't know what else to do. I look like a little kid who just lost her favorite teddy bear, and you are afraid to leave me alone. With you there, I am finally able to sleep. When you are sure that I'm not going to wake up again, you go downstairs and call Nick, because you are so upset that you need to talk to someone. He just listens and then tells you that he'll be right over, and you love him even more. When he gets there, you both go upstairs and check on me. You feel like parents, and it's weird because I am always the older one who is taking care of stuff and mothering. It is hard for you to make this change. It makes you feel uncomfortable. Nick takes you in your room and you both lay down on the bed and just look at each other. You can't bear to tell him that you are missing *N Sync like crazy, so you just pretend that you're only upset about me being upset. And you talk about what a prick Justin is for not calling. He just listens and plays with your hair. And pretty soon you are yawning and falling asleep. The last thought that you have before you drift off to sleep is, "I am never going to get to sleep with Nick Carter..." Ch. 13 by Roxanne The phone jolts you awake, ringing while you still hold it in your hand. You spring up, looking at the clock and realize you've been asleep for about a half hour. "Justin?" you call frantically into the receiver. "Um, no," a girl's voice says. "Is Roxanne there?" Your heart drops and you fall back down onto your bed. You glance out into the hall since I left your door open by accident and see that my light is off. "She's asleep. Can I take a message?" you ask even though you don't really feel like taking a message. "Um, yeah actually," she says and you groan inwardly. "This is her friend Mindy (see where this is going? She wants a piece of the action. Albeit a small piece, I did grant her something. It's hard to refuse someone who says that she wants a copy of the story because when she hears it it makes her happy). I know it's late, but I just found that I'm going to be in the area for awhile. Will you just tell her that and that I will call her again tomorrow?" "Sure," you say and hang up the phone. You are hating Justin right now and the disappointment from the call is killing you. You cry until you fall back asleep. The ring of the phone wakes you up again and for a minute this time you are confused and disoriented. You can't figure out where the phone is and it is so dark you can barely see. When your eyes finally adjust to the light and realize what is going on, you pick up the cordless from in-between your sheets and answer it. "Hello?" you ask and your voice is scratchy with that whole you just woke up vibe. You glance at the clock and see that it is a quarter to one. You wonder what time you fell asleep since you can't really remember. "Kristin? Baby is that you?" you can hear Justin calling loudly over a bunch of people. "Yeah, yeah it's me!" you yell back into the phone, instantly waking up. You get out of bed and stand up as if that's something you should do. "Hey, hey! Hi," he says but you can hardly hear him. "Justin? Where are you? Justin?" You are trying to listen extra carefully but all you can hear is what sounds like a party around him. Yeah, I'm--no, no thanks--yeah, I'm here! Are you..." but you can't catch the last of his sentence. "What? What? Justin? Justin you there? Hello?" you are practically yelling into the phone. "Yeah, hold on!" he says and you do. You keep listening and all you here is loud music and people talking. You're dying to talk to him though and you will him to come back. Nick and I hear you yelling in your room and it wakes both of us up. "Is she okay?" Nick asks and I just nod because I'm sleeping for god sakes. Nick is a little worried because he doesn't know what you are doing, so he gets up to check on you. You see him when he pokes his head into your room. "Are you okay?" he asks. "Yeah," you say softly. "I'm on hold." and you motion to the phone. Nick smiles. "Is it Justin?" You nod and when you go to smile you burst out crying because you don't know what to do. Is this what life is like? Are you going to get calls in the middle of the night from him while he is at wild parties? Nick awkwardly takes a step towards you but then you hear Justin's voice again, calling your name. "Yes, I'm here. JuJu? Hello?" and with that you get disconnected. You fall onto your bed and weep, because there is nothing else you can do. "Hey, it's ok," Nick says, obviously uncomfortable. He stands by the bed and tries to think of what one does in a situation like this. "It's not okay," you tell him since no one else is around. "He should be here, with me. But he's not. Instead he's off at some party having fun without me." You sit up but can't stop crying. "Those parties aren't even fun anyway," Nick tells you, handing you the box of Kleenex and sitting down stiffly on the edge of your bed. "You have to know that he'd rather be here with you." You sigh and wipe your eyes and start apologizing to Nick for having your outburst. "It's okay," he says, but his eyes are wide and he looks frightened. "I just," you begin but the pause. You start to cry again. "I just love him, you know? And I want to be with him. But...but I can't. And I know that it's his job but...I didn't think it would be this hard." Nick is silent for awhile. "It really is really hard, isn't it?" You nod and wipe your eyes again. "Just because he leaves doesn't mean he doesn't love you," Nick says looking at you intently. "I know," you say. "But just because he loves me doesn't mean he doesn't leave. Just because he loves me doesn't mean that this doesn't hurt me." Nick sighs and looks like he is about to cry too. "I know." he says. "But which one out weighs the other?" You sit in silence for awhile because right then you really don't know the answer to that question. You don't WANT to feel this bad!!! Sometimes it doesn't seem like anything is worth feeling this bad for. You stare at Nick and he stares at you, waiting for you to answer. "I've never felt this bad," you begin but before you can finish your thought with a but and tell him you wouldn't trade anything for Justin, the phone rings again and you jump on it. "Hello?" you ask quickly. "Hi," Justin's voice says and this time there is no one around him at all and you can't remember how you ever entertained the thought that you could live without him. "I love you." Nick leaves your room and you don't hear or notice that instead of going back to mine he went outside, got in his car, and left. "I love you too," you tell Justin. You hear him sigh and you know that there is nowhere he would rather be than at home with you. He tells you what he did that day and tells you how much he misses you and wishes you were with him and you realize that this isn't any easier on him than it is on you. You talk for about an hour when you notice he is yawning. You are tired too and ask him if he should go get some sleep. "I don't want to get off the phone," he tells you an you can hear him choke up a little. "I don't want to sleep without you." "I know," you say but there is nothing either of you can do about it. You lie down in your bed and put the covers all around. "Will you stay on the phone with me all night?" he asks you in his sad little boy voice. "I love you," you tell him, "but I have to get up at six." "You don't have to talk," he says. "Just leave the phone on and keep it next to you." You almost die because that is the cutest thing anyone has ever said to you in your entire life (which, let me just remind you for no good reason, is 3 years longer than his). "Of course," you say and smile for the first time in awhile. You tell him you love him and say goodnight and rest the phone down by your head. Your eyelids start to droop and you fall asleep as he sings Hush Little Baby into a phone receiver in a hotel room in New York City, crying and feeling very very alone. When I get up the next morning...well, okay, afternoon, I feel as if something is wrong. I sit up alarmed but can't quite put my finger on it. I look around and everything is where it should be. But I know that something is wrong. I lay back down slowly and then it hits me. There is no sleeping hottie in my bed. I laugh at myself because I am such a geek and then feel gid remembering that there really IS a sleeping hottie, Nick Carter no less! that sleeps in my bed sometimes. I hum happily as I put my slippers on and bounce down the stairs calling Nick's name. When he doesn't answer, I check the wipe board on the fridge to see if he has written me a note like he does sometimes. There isn't one there and I am a little confused, but I pour myself a glass of orange juice and assume he must have woken up late for something as usual and rushed out. I realize that I am humming "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" and laugh out loud at myself. I put on some loud music and dance around, enjoying being alone for only a few minutes before I wish Chris would show up or something. I shower and get dressed and decide to spend this time alone to actually work for once. I sit down at my computer and start working on my third novel, Ice Brewed. I get so involved in it that three hours pass without me barely noticing. I remember how good it feels to write and try to tell myself that I really should work a little while everyday. I snap out of my trance when the phone rings and I answer it, expecting it to be Nick calling, but it's my mom. I talk to her for awhile and when we hang up I realize it is four and think why the fuck HASN'T Nick called? I figure he is still doing whatever he was doing but decide to call and leave a message on his machine. I dial his number and am totally surprised when he answers the phone. "Oh hi," I say. "I wasn't expecting you to pick up." "Oh," he says without emotion. "Hi." "What’s up?" I ask, going into the kitchen and looking to see what I can make for myself to eat. Without Joey around I realize we need to do a little shopping for ourselves. You always buy the essentials like milk and eggs and vegetables, but when it comes to something really good like pastrami or some other exciting lunch meat, you just don't cut it. "Nothing. What’s up with you?" I kind of pick up on how weird Nick is acting, but don't let it bother me. "Nothing really. I worked today which is amazing. Now I'm looking for something to eat." "Yeah," he says like he isn't paying attention. I finally start to get a weird feeling in my stomach about this whole thing. "Are you hungry?" I ask, trying to act normal. "Wanna go pick something up and maybe go swimming or something?" "Um..." he says and then is quiet for a long time. When I realize he isn't going to finish his sentence, I ask, "Is this a bad time? I can call you back later." He sighs and I interpret it as if I am being a big drag and I immediately feel extremely stupid. "Can I call you back?" he asks. Of course I say sure and we hang up and I feel kind of insane so I call you up at work and regurgitate the whole conversation for you. "Maybe he was sleeping or something when you called," you tell me because you can't think of any reason why he would be acting weird. "Or maybe he was doing something for the tour. He was probably just pre-occupied." I decide that that makes perfect sense so I let you get back to work. I eat some left over pasta and lounge out by the pool, making sure to bring the phone with me. You come home from work about an hour later and sit outside with me for awhile. We talk about Justin and last night and I tell you how cute it was and you agree but then talk about how expensive it was too. The phone rings we both lunge for it and then back off, realizing how cheezy we are. Finally after letting it ring a few times to ensure that I am the most pathetic woman in the world, I answer. But it's just Mindy talking about how she's going to be in Orlando for a week. I talk to her while you make a big salad for dinner with lots of cheese and raisins and shit in it to make it a complete meal. I'm exciting about her visiting and talk about it during dinner, which we, of course, eat outside. We go inside at 8 and watch Dawson's Creek and when it is over I can't help but point out that Nick hasn't called. You don't know what to say and I know that so I try to act like it isn't bothering me much but it IS. We eat ice cream and flip channels and talk a lot about how nice it is to have quiet but inside we are both wishing that our friends were there. And I think we both realize not only how nice it is to be surrounded by people that love you, but also how lucky we are to have that at all. (note:GMHS just started playing on the radio) The phone rings at ten and we both look at it then back at each other. It's your turn, so you pick it up. "Is Roxanne there?" Nick asks and you smile and stick your tongue out at me. "Okay, Justin," I say to you with a laugh as I take the phone from you. All I say is Hi when Nick breaks in with, "I've been thinking." I know this is not really the best of all signs and I make a face that communicates that to you. My smile is nowhere to be found as I get up and walk into the kitchen to be alone with the phone (which rhymes). "You've been thinking?" I ask. (note: QPG just started on the radio. Of course, right after GMHS. It's a sign, I know it is) "Yeah," he says slowly. I'm pretty bitter because I know that whatever he is going to say is going to suck. "I don't want to stop seeing you," he says which relieves me a little, but I can tell there is more. "I don't want to stop seeing you either," I say and I can feel myself go all soft. I want to say a lot more than that. "But I think maybe we should slow down a little," he says almost like it is a question. I lean my head on the fridge in defeat. "Like how?" I ask. "I mean, we haven't really been doing anything." "No, I know," he assures me and for a minute I feel like I hear a bit of real Nick instead of Nick with his prewritten speech. "I don't really mean like...I just think maybe we should...I don’t know, slow down." "If you don't want to see me anymore you can just say so," I say, feeling the familiar prickle in my eyes. I blink repeatedly. "No," he says quickly. "I do want to keep seeing you, I really do." And I can tell he is telling the truth. "So okay. Then what then? What do you want to do?" "Maybe...Maybe we shouldn't see each other so often. Maybe we shouldn't see each other every day." I sigh and I don't care if he can hear me by now. I'm crying just because I don't understand him. I'm not really crying, but there are tears running down my face...so, well, I guess I am crying. "Well, okay. That works." I say because now I just want to get off the phone. "I just think...maybe we are getting too attached to each other," he tries to explain but I don't even care. "Well, we can't have that, can we?" I ask sarcastically and I can hear his breathing change. "Look, I should go. Why don't you just call me sometime? Sometime when you feel like things have slowed enough for you?" "Why don't you come to AJ's party with me on Saturday? We can talk then." SATURDAY? I want to yell at him because that feels like such a long time. But I just agree quickly and get off the phone and seek comfort from you. The next few days seem to last forever. You talk to Justin everyday for at least a couple of hours. You have lunch with Topenga a couple of times now that you feel like you can talk about how it is to be away from Justin. She understand how you feel more than you ever expected she would. She may be a controlling bitch, but she's still a person and she still loves Lance as much as you love Justin. Justin tries to get you to have phone sex with him but you can't even try it without laughing so it never happens. He keeps telling you that if you can't have phone sex with him he's going to die when they're out on the road. He may be eighteen, but you aren't falling for any of that I could die from blue balls crap. His ego is wounded but you laugh at him. I've been working like mad. It keeps my mind of Nick and I need to be doing it anyway, since most of the time in my life is wasted hanging out with my friends. I get a lot done and start to get a little excited about the way things are coming. Topenga is flying to New York to surprise Lance on Friday, since it is his birthday. That's the same day Mindy is coming to town so we offer Topengers a ride to the airport. She accepts and in the car I am a little jealous that the two of you are so buddy-buddy. We give her our birthday present for Lancey Poo but refuse to tell her what’s in the box since it is a pair of "vivid blue" and a pair of "vivid red" bikini briefs. We know Lance and the other guys will get a great laugh out of it, but who knows if Topenga would understand? We wait with her at the gate and she thanks us and promises to give the guys our love. The two of you hug and while you are doing it I am behind her making faces just to cover up my own insecurities. You try not to laugh but as soon as she is gone you hit me. We eat at the airport restaurant and you talk the whole time about how it reminds you of the day Justin left. It's only been a few days and you are such a wreck that I don't know HOW you are going to survive a tour, but I don't bring it up since I don't want to depress you. We meet Mindy at her gate and laugh at her because she is so fucking white we can't believe it. Since we live in Orlando we totally forgot what it is like to not just be tan constantly. As soon as we get her to the house we all go in the pool which has been neglected since the guys have been gone. We have fun that night. We go out to eat at this extra hip restaurant we don't usually go to because *N Sync would draw attention. Then we go out to a club for a little while. You are actually in a good mood because you know your baby will be home tomorrow. We get home late and there is a message on the machine from Justin that is so cute I make gagging noises throughout it's full ten minutes. Mindy cannot stop telling you how *N Sane it is that you are with Justin and you think about it yourself. It IS *N Sane! You smile as you go to bed. "Happy Cinco De Mayo!" You yell excitedly into my room where Mindy and I are asleep. I glance at the clock and even though it is noon I am pissed at you and your stupid good mood. Mindy gets up and takes a shower and I try to go back to sleep but I CAN'T. I go downstairs to kill you but you are frying bacon so I let it slide just this once. You are so happy and the sun is shining and the birds are chirping and the clouds are all white and puffy. Justin has already called you and you tell me about how in love with him you are and how in love with you he is. Blah blah, I am thinking. In the back of my head all I can think about is Nick Carter and not getting too attached. It's a little late. Mindy comes downstairs and says good morning to both of us and I wish for once her nickname wasn't Sunshine. I think it should be Nightmare and I tell her this. She calls me a whore which actually makes me feel better. I smile and comment on how much I miss Busta Kirkpatrick. Mindy shakes her head in disbelief and you go get the photo albums to show her. Looking at them makes us both kind of sad, even though the guys are coming home today. It's such a nice day and hearing Mindy talk about it reminds us where we came from and how much we take the weather for granted. We all go out into the backyard and lay in the sun on beach towels. We laugh like Nikki and Britney and gossip like them too. It feels good to do every once in awhile. We even talk about what we are going to wear tonight, well, you guys do. I can't really get my brain to work quite like that although I recognize the fact that I don't have a damn thing TO wear that's acceptable now that Nick half-dumped me again. I complain about this and you and Mindy figure that between the two of you you'll come up with someone that will work. We go in the pool but you fall asleep on your towel. The sun feels so good on your back that you think you will just lie in it forever. But before you get a chance to even attempt to, someone lies down on top of you. You know immediately that it is Justin and he wraps his arms around you, kissing you everywhere he can. You are trying to get up so you can at least see him, but he won't let go. He starts to whisper in your ear fervently how much he missed you and how much he loves you. "Oh me too," you tell him excitedly. "Oh, I love you. Oh, baby, I missed you too!" Finally you break free from his grip long enough to get up and turn around, when you immediately throw your arms around him. You can't remember ever in your life loving to touch someone this much. Joey came over with Justin and he is already hitting on Mindy because she's a new female. Justin gets introduced and then he looks at you seductively and asks, "Want to come over to my house and um...help me unpack?" You smile and tell him you feel it is your duty since no one wants him to die of blue balls or anything. He laughs, embarrassed, and looks around but no one is paying any attention to you guys. Joey has gotten in the pool with us already and is attacking me with Chris's stupid huge blow up alligator that’s been sitting in the pool since he left. You kiss him and never want to stop. When you do finally break away you both hurry over to Justin's house to make sweet sweet love without any of us getting in your hair. You don't come back home for three hours and I am assuming that you are having a pretty damn fun time. Mindy keeps on saying, "Damn!" and looking over at Justin's house. When you do come home you have Justin with you so neither Mindy nor I make very many crude comments. Just a few, hehe. You pull Justin upstairs and into your room by the hand so he can help you pick out something to wear. You are both freshly showered since you took care of that over at his house. "You missed both Chris and JC," I say as I walk by your open door where I see you and Justin kissing. "They'll be at the party," Justin tells you with a kiss. He looks into your eyes and smiles. "You know right now I am the happiest man alive." "I love you so much," you tell him, wrapping your arms around his neck. I start gagging loudly so that you two will pay attention to me. You look and I hold up two dresses that are both something I would never wear. Justin laughs but you hit him because you are supportive. "The blue one," you tell me but I look at it and roll me eyes as I leave the room. Nick calls. He asks when I want him to come get me but for some reason I feel like being slightly difficult so I just tell him I'll meet him there. He sounds a little disappointed but those are the breaks. Me and Mindy get ready and so do you and Justin even though it takes you forever because you wont let go of each other. Everyone starts showing up at our house since that’s where we decided the meeting place was. Chris is wearing a huge sombrero that everyone begs him to take off, but he refuses. He says it's his Mexican pride. He's not Mexican. Britney calls on the phone to ask you what you are wearing and by talking to her you can tell that this party is a bigger deal than you assumed it was. You mention this to the thousands of people in your living room and Joey, who’s been to what he calls "An AJ McLean Extravaganza," nods. "Why do you think I made us take limos?" Joey, might I add, looks absolutely delicious in the suit he is wearing. Even you have to catch your breath when you see him. All the guys look awesome, even Lance who has an oddly colored vest on looks good. When the cars come we all go outside and our neighbors from across the street, the Libby's, wave at us. This time both limos are white and Chris sighs loudly again, this time with relief. Joey links arms with Mindy and tells her that they should probably stay together for awhile at this party because people are always more attracted to you when they think you are with someone. "Kristin, you and Justin come with us!" Topenga calls out as she climbs into the car. I am about to mock her when I see Nick running up the street. You squeeze my arm and go with Justin into Lance and Topenga's limo. "What are you doing?" I ask Nick when I see him, immediately feeling self conscious. I don't know how to be myself when I am dressed up like someone else. He needs a minute to catch his breath and he looks around at everyone. "I, uh," he says, still breathing kind of heavy (and this guy dances for a living?), "I thought we should go together. I mean, I know you said you would meet me there" breathe breathe "but I wanted to, um" breathe breathe "I wanted to go with you." "Oh," I say looking down because it's been awhile since I've seen him and I forgot what he did to me. "Well, okay." I smile because I cant help it, the bastard makes me happy. He smiles back and Joe slaps him on the back. "Mr. Carter?" he says, motioning to the car door with a flourish. Nick smiles, takes my hand, and gets in. I think I can sum up everyone’s thoughts when we get there with one simple phrase: Shit in a motherfucking basket. "Alllllll riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight," Chris says pleased, nodding his head as we step out of the car. AJ's house itself is impressive (enclosed is a picture of it and I REALLY hope it works because this house is...it's fucking AWESOME. Tell me if it doesn't work and I can upload it and publish it or something). There are well dressed people and limos everywhere, not to mention other luxury cars parked all up in the yard. "Come on," Nick says to all of us, not letting go of my hand. Mindy winks at me and Joey links arms with her again. We all follow Nick since he is the one who knows what’s up for a change. As soon as we walk into the door people start up conversations with the guys. You know most of the people too, since you work at Trans Con and everyone here is somehow affiliated with the entertainment business. A feel a little weird because Nick is getting a frightening amount of attention. I'm standing next to him and reminding myself that this is the guy who plays video games with me and drinks budweiser. You, too, are pretty amazed at all the attention that is coming Justin's way. Your boyfriend is though, one of the ten most successful people at this party, even if he is only 18. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is the guy who makes you pop pimples on his back. You know how to schmooze these types though, I mean, it is what you do for a living. But you have never felt more like Cinderella in your life. You walk through the house and out to the back where there is a huge guitar shaped pool (and that's a fact!). The party has a Mexican theme since it is in honor of Cinco de Mayo. The decorations are insane. There are little pinatas hanging all over and the yard is lit with white and red lights. Classical Latin guitar is playing and the huge crowds of people are all mingling with each other. You know everyone is watching you and even though you know you should feel nervous, you don't at all. Justin is by your side and that's all that matters. You smile as you say hello to people. Justin rubs your back gently and kisses you, accepting a pina colada for you and a tequila sunrise (love for Cinco de fucking Mayo!) for himself from one of the many waiters walking around, offering refreshments. "This is incredible," you tell him. "You are incredible," he tells you and as you kiss his soft lips you feel absolutely divine. The party is amazing to say the least. Chris gets a lot of attention because of his hat, excuse me, sombrero. He loves it and there are girls waiting for him at his every turn. JC and Nikki find each other and are talking. When I catch this I am dying to find you so we can comment and make rude comments about how much better he can do. But I am on the arm of Nick Carter and I have to smile at all these old people who talk to him and tell stupid jokes. I keep looking around and I keep thinking how I wish I could be by Chris who is running around by AJ who is laughing his ass off. Or how I wish I could be with JC so I could just give him that look whenever he started to head over to Nikki, and remind him what you said about her being his safety net and how he needs to branch out. Or how I wish I could be by Mindy and Joey who are both scaping out the place for their victims. Or how I wish I could be with Britney so she could fill me in on everyone's story. Or how I wish I could be with you and Justin so I could just stand there and make comment after comment about the people I see. Or how I could be with Lance and Topenga so everytime Topenga turned her head I could make a face at Lance and he would laugh and she would get pissed and confused (note: ALAYLM just started on the radio. I'm on such a roll). But after thinking all that I turn my head back and look at Nick who looks down at me and smiles his cute smile and I know that I don't wish I was anywhere but where I am. AJ makes a toast that just basically thanks everyone for coming. Everyone claps when he is finished and you realize how many people are actually here. It's incredible. Joey is having trouble making a decision between 25 or some odd girls and Mindy can't take her eyes off AJ who is schmoozing with the best of them. He looks up and sees her and gives her a half smile. She smiles back and then turns to Joey and pretends to be laughing at something he said. He looks at her with admiration. "You, my dear," he says with a grin, "are talented. But you are nothing compared to the master." And so the flirting war begun. They both went there separate ways, keeping an eye on each other. Every so often they would rendezvous at the ice sculpture and discuss the others performance and then set out again to break some more hearts. Joey was doing a lot of dancing and Mindy was doing a lot of laughing. She loses site of him for awhile and decides to take a little breather and have a margarita. She is ahead by five points anyway. "Enjoying yourself?" a voice asks from Mindy's side. She turns and sees AJ McLean standing there, leaning against a table with a smile on his face. She swallows the sip she has in her mouth and nods. "Yes, very much so," she says in a slightly teasing voice. "Glad to hear it," he says, not taking his hungry AJ eyes off of her. "You're not from around here are you?" He takes her glass and snaps his fingers. A waiter actually comes and he supplies her with another drink. She laughs because he is acting like Joey. He raises his eyebrows questioningly. "No, I'm not from around," she lets him know. He smiles. "That's too bad." "You have a beautiful house," she says and then notices Joey walking towards her. When he sees who she is talking to he abruptly turns around and starts heading the opposite direction. Less than a second later, his attention is averted by a red head in a form fitting silver dress. "Thank you," he says. They just stand there for awhile until AJ asks her if she wants to dance. She accepts the offer and they head out onto the floor. As the night goes on, both you are Justin are feeling pretty good. Enough drinks will do that to you. “I’m so glad to be back with you,” he whispers into your ear. You don’t want to think about Monday at all right now. You kiss him and he holds you close and doesn’t care who sees. It gets late fast and everyone is having so much fun they don't want it to end. Well, everyone except Chris who mysteriously left with a blond and Topenga and Lance who went home earlier. I've been by Nick's side all night and it wasn't much of a romantic evening but I am a little gid because I got to hang out with Brian Littrell. But everyone was talking to Nick all night long. I don't mind at all, or at least I wouldn't have minded if he hadn't just half-dumped me the last time we talked four days ago. By the time it is almost 3am I have had two many drinks and my feet are tired because I'm fucking wearing heels for the love of god. I'm sick of people looking at me with that You're-Not-Good-Enough-For-Him look (which I am so used to getting, btw) and I basically just want to crawl into bed. I enjoyed my night, but I am done. The whole party starts to break up and Britney finds me and tells me that Nikki is a tramp and guess who just went home with? Yup, JC. I am a little depressed because I sure as hell feel like giving her the infamous You're-Not-Good-Enough-For-Him look. Britney has to run because she's going to the beach with some young looking guy. She's totally drunk but I keep thinking that at least she'll get laid. She gives me a supportive hug before she leaves though and I am glad I saw her. I can see you waving to me as Justin is kissing on your neck. You mouth bye and I am dying to catch up with you. I leave Nick who is having a retarded conversation with a guy who has big white teeth about a solo album to get a glass of water from the bar. Joey comes and stands next to me. I give him a huge hug and since he's drunk he hugs me back. "Where's Min?" I ask, suddenly alarmed. Joe, who's very drunk by now, shrugs. "She won," he says. "She won what?" I inquire, slightly concerned. "Roxanne, I'm a loser," Joey starts to tell me and I cant handle any drunk emotion right now. I'm not THAT drunk. "You're not a loser," I tell him quickly. "Where did Min go?" "She left with AJ. They went for a walk." he stirs his drink and I momentarily think about taking it away from him, but decide that would be pointless. I look around and the room has totally thinned out. "She told me to tell you not to wait for her," Joey continues. He leans over and whispers, "She's going to get lucky." He stinks but I kiss him anyway. In town two days and she gets lucky, I think to myself and finish my water. "I'm going to go home," I tell Joey. "You want to share a car?" "What about Prince Charming?" he asks and we both look over to where Nick had been. He's not there anymore. I sigh. "I think Justin went home with his woman," I say, inferring that if anyone around is Prince Charming, it isn't Nick. I look down at the red dress I borrowed from Topenga and the shoes I borrowed from Kristin and I feel like a real loser. "Let's go home," I say to Joey who gets up and follows me. I look around for Nick but right now I am so disappointed I just want to get home so I can cry and then go to bed. Maybe he's right, I think. Maybe I am growing too attached. When Joey and I get outside he finds some girl he was talking to earlier and decides he isn't a loser. I still feel like one, but he's drunk so he leaves me anyway. I almost love the image of myself standing outside AJ McLean's house looking like a fool and desperate for a car. It's pathetically sweet. "Where did you go?" I hear Nick's voice ask frantically. He laughs when I look at him. "I'm just looking for a car," I tell him. He looks at me and his face falls when he understands the implications of what I said. "You were going to leave without me?" he asks, not bothering to hold anything in because he is drunk. I shrug. He comes over to me and kisses me. I am sick of having him kiss me and tell me to fuck off two days later so I pull away. "You don't love me do you?" he asks as if he never questioned it before. "I don't even fucking know you," I say and it's a total lie but it COULD be true I mean come on! "That's bullshit," he says back to me, mad at me now too. I'm kind of drunk, and he's drunk and nothing is right. He just stands there and I just watch him. A limo pulls up and I start to get into it when I remember that his car is at my house. "You want to come with me?" I ask. "So you can get your car." He looks up and he looks so sad but I don't let it phase me. Or at least I don't let him see it has phased me. "Yeah," he says quietly and climbs in. We are quiet for a long time. I stare out the window and he stares at his hands. When we get to our house we both get out and stand on the sidewalk as we watch the limo pulls away. "Yeah well. Thanks for coming," he says to me but he doesn't move away. I don't either. "Yeah, I had a nice time. Thanks for taking me." Pretty stupid conversation considering. Still neither of us move because we're both h'laem. "Sorry I pissed you off or whatever," he mumbles in a tone that lets me know he doesn't really mean that at all. "What do you expect?" I ask him. "I never know what the hell you want from me." "I don't want anything from you," he says, his voice softening. He shrugs. "I just want to spend time together or whatever." "But not too MUCH time. Or else I might be come to attached." I am being sarcastic as hell. "Look," he says and he is trying to explain himself. "You say that like I don't care about you." "Well, do you?" I finally ask and realize that’s the question I've been dealing with for the past however long. "God, of course," he says and some spit flies out of his mouth. "I fucking broke up a marriage engagement for you! What do you think? Shit!" He is acting all exasperated. Of course, I totally had no idea that he broke up with his fiancee for me and I don't even know whether to believe it because it sounds so ridiculous. When I look at him and can tell he is serious I feel kind of faint. "Well then why all these games? Why all this....yo-yo crap?" I ask him because I don't know. I start to cry and just let myself do it. I try to rationalize my drunkenness but I don't really mind if he sees my cry. "God, I have to go soon," he tells me with the most tender look. But I don't understand I think he is telling me he has to go home. "You shouldn't even drive as drunk as you are," I say. "No, no," he says and his cute smile comes back. "I mean I have to go soon. I have to go on tour." "Oh," I say and I nod a bunch of times. "And I don't..." he pauses. "I don't want to end up like them," he says, pointing to our house. I just start to laugh and he looks at me questioningly. "Nicky," I say, grabbing him by the shoulders and looking into his eyes. "They are the happiest people in the world." After you get home that night, you lie in your bed with Justin and close your eyes and think about how badly you want to be here for the rest of your life. You look at Justin's face. You look at his nose and into his eyes. You look at his lips and his cheeks and his teeth. "Quit your job," he says to you matter-of-factly. You choke on your own saliva (or his? hehe). "What?!" He smiles hopefully. "Quit your job." "Why?" you ask, laughing. He remains serious. "So you can be with me," he says. "Every day." You sit up and just stare at him. Ch. 14 by Kristin Sitting there in Justin's arms, looking at his beautiful face, his offer is tempting. But, God, it's my career. I have worked so hard to get where I am, and I just can't leave my job. The implications are insane. Not just my job, but my personal life, too. "Oh Justin," is all I can think to say, because I know how hurt he will be if I tell him all of the things I am thinking. "Will you do it?" he asks, and he looks so hopeful that I think it will break his heart if I turn him down. "Let's talk about this tomorrow," I say. "I'm too tired and buzzed to make a decision this big." "I'm taking that as a no," he says quietly, and turns over so that his back is to me. "I didn't say that," I am trying my hardest to keep my voice down. I so hate his little temper tantrums. "Okay, do you want to talk about this now?" He rolls over and smiles, because he got his way and I just want to smack him. "You know that I never want to leave your side, right?" I ask him. "And I feel the same way," he says. "But I have a career," I tell him. "I can't just walk away. How will I support myself?" "I'll support you," he says like it's no big deal. "I don't want you to support me!" I exclaim. "And what will happen to me if we ever break up? I will have nothing." At the mere mention of us ever breaking up, he becomes completely silent, and he has this weird look on his face that I've never seen before. It is scaring me. A little bit later he says, "Well, I always thought we'd get married." And I am floored. Where did this come from? I would probably marry him tomorrow if he asked, but I am worried about him. "Justin," I say. "You are 18 fucking years old. How do you know that you want to marry me?" "Because I just know," he says. "Oh," is all I can get out. I know him well enough to know that he has been thinking about this for a while. "I love you more than anything," I tell him. "But there are just too many reasons that I can't go with you." "Like what?" he challenges. "What about this house?" "It will be here when you get back." He seems to have an answer for everything. "What about Roxanne? I can't leave her behind!" "She can come with us," he says and he's a little too confident. "What if she doesn't want to? What about Nick?" "She can go on tour with him!" he says like he's a genius for thinking it up. "Nice try," I tell him. "Can't you just try it for a little bit?" The way he is looking at me is making it way too hard for me to turn him down. "Maybe you can keep your job and go with me at the same time. Maybe you can go on 'official TransCon business'" he says. I can't even speak, because I am so in love with him for wanting me to come so bad and so angry at him for expecting me to just leave my whole life behind for him. "Okay," I finally say. "I will talk to Roxanne and I will talk to TransCon, but that is all I can promise you." "I love you," he says and kisses me. "Now," I say. "I am done TALKING! Don't you want to do something else?" But he doesn't have to answer. I can tell by the look in his eyes that he is done talking... Meanwhile, you and Nick are still downstairs. You can tell he's tired and about to pass out, but you don't want to go in your bedroom. That seems to be the land of rejection for you, and you just can't take it anymore, even though he is looking at you that it's not going to be the land of rejection anymore. You keep getting up and doing stuff and asking him if he wants stuff to eat or drink, because you are so nervous that you can't just sit there. You feel like you have made some headway in finding out about his feelings for you, but you don't know what to do now. He just sits there and gives you that adorable half smile (I didn't make that up. I saw it in the video!) that makes your knees so weak that you have to sit down. "Roxanne," he says. "Yes?" you reply. "Relax," he says laughing. "You are too antsy." "Well," you say, still drunk enough to be brutally honest. "What do you want me to do? I still don't know how to act around you. Can you help me out here?" He laughs again. "Don't you know that you can do anything? I don't care. I just want to BE with you." If you start crying again, you are going to kill yourself, and you are thinking that, in that case your life is going to be over soon. Indeed, you have started to cry. You are tired and confused and drained. It's all you can do anymore. Nick just reaches over and wipes the tears out of your eyes. "What is crying anyway?" you ask, rhetorically. "I mean, really. It is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. Salt water comes out of your EYES, for the love of God! Why? It makes no sense," and you just babble on like this for a while. Nick is giving you no help. He just keeps smiling at you and touching your hand and your face. "I am going to bed," you finally say. Those words were chosen very strategically. You said "bed" instead of "sleep" to let him know that you have absolutely no intention of sleeping. He says nothing, but just takes your hand and leads you up the stairs. Somehow you just know that this is the night. And you're not sure how you feel about it. When you get in your room, he wastes no time, and just starts kissing you like you've never been kissed before and trying to take your dress off. "You're not going to dump me AGAIN, are you?" You say, pushing him away slightly. You are really concerned that once you take this step, there will be no going back for you. (As if there was any going back anyway, but this would really fuck things up.) "I'm not," he says. "I promise." And you know that he is telling the truth. The next morning, we run into each other in the hallway, and I can tell by the look on your face what happened. It's all I can do to not start jumping up and down and screaming. Justin comes out and he knows, too. In typical 18 year old fashion, he starts chanting "Roxanne got laid, Roxanne got laid..." You walk over to him and punch him in the stomach. He gives me a hurt look like "are you going to just let her do that to me?" And I say, "You deserved it. Now, go take a shower before I punch you, too!" He pretends to be hurt, but he's smart enough to know that we need some time alone. Even though you just got up to go to the bathroom and all you want to do is get back to Nick, I drag you to the kitchen and start drilling you for details. But you don't feel like talking about it just yet. You want to keep it to yourself for a while, because it was that special. I understand, but I tell you that need to talk to you about something else. Not knowing what to say, I just start right in. "Justin wants me to go on tour with him." You look at me for a minute trying to absorb what I just said and think about everything that goes along with it. "Are you going to go?" you ask. "I don't know," I say. "I mean, when he's gone I can barely function. But I would have to quit my job, and I don't know if I can live without you." Your reaction is the same as Justin's in that you figure you can just come along for the ride. But when you mention that, I point upstairs and you realize what an idiot you were for thinking that you could ever leave. "What are you going to do?" you ask, bewildered. This is scary to both of us. "I'm going to talk to TransCon, and see if there's anyway that I can make this work related." You just look at me and then look out the window. I sigh loudly, because I feel like I'm being torn apart. "Honestly, I don't want to go on tour. All those long bus rides and the not sleeping and the crazy fans..." I trail off when you clear your throat and make a face at me. I turn around and realize that Justin is out of the shower and has joined us. He looks like I just ran over his dog with my car. "So, the truth comes out," he says. "You don't want to go? Then don't. I won't force you," and with that he stalks out of the house towards his own. I am frozen for a minute, not knowing what to do, but I end up going after him, because I know that's what he wants. I am screaming his name, but he just keeps walking. I hate the sight of the back of his head, and I want to cry. And I want to kick myself in the ass for ruining our last day together. I barely make in the door, because he is about to lock me out. He is really pissed. And I am tired of feeling like I am dealing with a child. I grab his arm, and turn him around. "Look at me!" I command, and he does, but I sort of wish he isn't looking at me, because I can see tears welling up in his eyes and it is killing me. "I am sorry," I say. "I don't know what else to say. I am just trying to figure out what to do. I thought it would be easier to let you go without me if I tried to make it sound bad, but it doesn't." "It doesn't?" he asks hopefully. I simply say, "No." And he just hugs me and we stand there together and cry because we just don't know what to do anymore. All we can think about is that if we have to be away for each other anymore, we will die. You watch me go inside Justin's house from the window, and then you slowly walk up the stairs. You open your door quietly so as not to wake Nick, but he senses your presence in the room and wakes up anyway. "Hi Sweetie" he says in a groggy voice. And when he catches the look on your face, he says, "what's wrong?" But you don't want to talk about it. You don't want to worry him or taint your time together. "Let's not talk about it," you say, and he complies. The boy is putty in your hands. He will do anything you say. You climb into bed and lay your head on his chest. You remember the time that you slept on the couch together and how that seems like a million years ago. But you never forgot what it felt like to wake up so close to him, and you never want to forget. Ch. 15 by Roxanne You sit in at the oak dresser-vanity thing in Justin's bedroom and stare in the mirror. He's in his walk-in closet talking to you about Rosie, which he was on last week. You taped it because you were at work and haven't watched it yet and he is telling you what happened. You aren't listening very carefully. Instead you are holding his big gawdy JT whatever the hell necklace in your small hands and dangling it so that the sun shines off of it. It's the ugliest thing you have ever seen but you wouldn't ever tell Justin that because he loves it. I do enough berating about the jewelry issue for the both of us. He has his rings off and they are all also sitting by you. You stare at them and all the diamonds and can't believe this crap belongs to an eighteen year old kid. "Are you wearing earrings right now?" you ask him. He sticks his head out of the closet and smiles, showing you his ears. "My diamonds," he says and then retreats back, continuing his story. You continue to not listen and start noticing for the first time how insane it is that Justin owns his own home. You're three years older than him and even you share your house with someone. You stare at the JT necklace some more because it is so humongus. You feel like going home and having me make you play the "Reality Game" which I do pretty often. You get up and walk to the window where you can see our house. You can see Nick in the backyard chasing me around with something but you can't tell what it is. You shake your head and laugh to yourself and then wonder if maybe I need a dose of the Reality Game myself. You lie down on the bed, still not listening to Justin at all and decide to play the Reality Game in your head without me. You try to do it but it doesn't really work. You go into the closet where Justin is looking at shirts and throwing clothes into a bag. He smiles when you come in and starts to come up to you with that look in his eye. You are tempted, but decide that you want to get something to eat before you make love to him anyway. You kiss him and tell him you are going to go home for a minute. "Okay," he says, rolling his tongue around in his mouth to try and convince you to stay and get naked, but you aren't falling for it. When he realizes you aren't going to give in he just shrugs, laughs his cute laugh, and smiles. "I'll come over after I throw my clothes in the drier." You tell him okay and go downstairs and walk through his yard into ours. You take a minute and look at our house and yard and think about how much you really just like it here. And how many good times we have had. You walk into the house where Nick is sitting at the kitchen table trying to balance apples and oranges on each other and I am hard boiling eggs. "Hello miss," I say to you with the smile I haven't been able to shake all day. "Did you work everything out with your common law husband?" Nick laughs when I say this and comments that if you two were together for seven years you would have started your relationship when Justin was 11 years old. Thinking about this fact, you laugh and it reminds you of something. "Let's play the Reality Game," you tell me. "Whoohoo!" I say clapping my hands. Nick looks bewildered. "You can play too," I tell him and turn off the stove. You lean against the counter and close your eyes. "Okay," I begin, stopping for a minute to think. I look over at Nick who is giving me that loose I-Got-Some-Last-Night smile he's been shooting my direction since he woke up. I start to laugh at how goofy he looks when I focus on the matter at hand. "How do you play?" Nick asks. "You just yell out all the things in your life that are absolutely ridiculous. You know, like what would have been impossible two years ago or, in your case..." I cock my head to the side and try to think. "Um..., well, never. I guess you can just yell out what you think normal people would think was weird." He narrows his eyes at me but after a second that smile comes back. "Okay," he says and I just want to go up to him and give him a big sloppy kiss on his forehead. "I live in Orlando," you begin slowly. "And it's nice here, like, every day." "Yeah," I agree excitedly. "And we live in this awesome house!" Your smile spreads. "Yeah, and I am an entertainment lawyer." I hold my hand up to my ear as if I can't hear you. "What was that?" I ask. You giggle. "I am an entertainment lawyer for TRANS CON MEDIA. And they pay me a ridiculous amount of money." "Yes!" I say, slamming my hand down on the table and knocking over Nick's Tower O' Fruit. He just starts rebuilding, unphased. "People have actually bought my books. No, no, someone actually PUBLISHED my books. And then a handful of people actually bought them on top of that!" I guffaw to express my disbelief. "I've never read them," Nick tells me, taking a bite out of an apple. "We're playing a game here damn it!" I yell at him jokingly. "Okay, okay!" he says, holding up his hands to show he gives up. "It's your turn anyway," I tell him and he sits there for awhile. "Um...I finally moved out of my parent's house." and you and I bust up laughing because I mean, duh. "Okay, okay," you say to draw attention back to you for your turn. "I hang out with *N Sync EVERY DAY." I jump up and down because after awhile we always forget that having these dorky friends is cool. "Me too, me too!" I say. We turn and look at Nick. "Um...I'm a Backstreet Boy," he says without enthusiasm. I shrug. He's lived this life too long to play this game. "I drive an awesome car! And, we have a POOL!!!!" You say laughing and feeling so gid about life. "I have a nice car, and I painted stars on my ceiling just because I felt like it because you know what? I CAN!" Nick thinks for a minute. He's taking too long. "I have a nice car, too." he says finally. "I'm in love with one of the most gorgeous men on the planet," you begin, feeling the game working as you fill with excitement and love. It's kind of our own way of counting our blessings. "And as if that's not enough in itself--he's actually GOOD!" "Look!" I cry out, pointing to Nick. "Look at THAT!" I tell you. "THAT?" he asks, a little disturbed, but when I run over and finally do give him that big sloppy kiss on the forehead he just smiles. It's Nick's turn again. Suddenly he stands up and yells, "I GOT LAID LAST NIGHT!" and when we see how happy he looks we know that the game has finally worked on him, too. Justin walks into the house just at that moment and stares at us like we are all crazy, which we are. When you see him you give him the biggest hug in the world and then kiss him passionately. "Let's go outside," you tell him and drag by the hand out to the pool. You slip off your sandals and sit down with your feet in the water. Justin takes off his sneakers and socks and does the same. "Justin," you tell him, looking up at him slightly because he is taller than you. "I love you more than I've ever loved anyone else. And I want to see if we can try and be together forever because God knows that’s what I feel like doing with the rest of my life. You're the best guy in the world. I love you more everytime I see you. I'd do anything for you." He smiles and opens his mouth to say some corny stuff back but you stop him. "Wait," you say. You take his hand in yours and look out at the pool. "Justin, all that is true, but...but I don't want to quit my job. I like my job. I like my house. I like my life. I like MYSELF." Justin is just staring at you so you continue. " I mean, I like my job more when I can come home to you at night. And I like my house more when you are there. I like my life more because you are in it, but...but I just like myself because I like myself. And I have to be able to like myself whether you are there or not." Justin's face scrunches up like he is going to cry. He closes his eyes and faces upward. He doesn't say anything still, so you go on. "I am in love with you. I can't change that nor would I ever want to. But I don't want to quit my job and go on tour and forget who I am without you." He is looking away from you and crying and you feel so bad and you want to hold him. You kind of climb on his lap and lay your head down on his shoulder. "I don't want to live without you," you tell him. "But I can't quit my job." He puts his arms around you and says, "I know," quietly, sobbing into your hair. His strong arms feel so good around you. After awhile he stops crying and when you least expect it he pushes you into the pool with your clothes on. You scream and when you resurface you see him laughing at you. You are almost mad when you realize how much it doesn’t matter. He gives you a hand to help you climb out but instead of pulling you up he acts as if you pulled him down, even though you didn't, and jumps in with you. You laugh at him and he kisses you gingerly. "I just don't want to lose you," he says, leaning his forehead against yours and looking into your eyes. "I'm not going anywhere," you assure him with a smile. "Usually I am relieved when you two are fully clothed," Joey says walking in the gate with a case of Corona. "But this time I am a little worried." Ch. 16 by Kristin I get out of the pool, and go get a Corona from Joey, but not without commanding him to go inside and get me a lime, because I CANNOT have my Corona without a lime. He does it, because he loves me just like all of the guys do. You and Nick come outside to go swimming, and I can't help but smile as I am walking upstairs to get rid of these wet clothes and put my suit on, because with everyone here having a good time, I feel like things are almost back to normal. On impulse, I call Chris, Lance, JC and even Topenga, Nikki and Brit to come over, because I want to have a pool party. Once I'm in my suit, I look in the full length mirror. I do this a lot, because I am always trying to imagine how on earth I snagged someone like Justin. I would expect him to be with someone more model-like, but I'm glad he isn't. And I smile when I think that it doesn't matter anymore, because he will be with me forever. I notice that my stomach looks kind of big, and I make a mental note to hit the gym and give my abs a workout. I decide that I drink far too much, and it's making me gain weight. Of course, I don't stop drinking my Corona or anything. How often does one of the guys bring me beer? I have to take advantage of it. I hear Justin yelling my name, and I run downstairs because I can't believe that I've been away from him for even 10 minutes. When I look at him, I sigh at his gorgeousness. He is wearing nothing but swim trunks, and I am in love with his new hair color. I still can't believe that this is my boyfriend, for the love of God! This is the man I will probably be spending the rest of my life with. Talk about the reality game! I run up and jump on him, so that he is carrying me like a baby. He kisses me and puts me down. I gaze at him and say, "I think you need to pinch me, because when I think about being with you I think that I must be dreaming." He gets this look on his face, and I know that I shouldn't have said that. He reaches behind me and grabs my ass. "Hey!" I yell. "That's not what I meant!" I go to smack him, but he ducks out of my way. I chase him out to the pool, and notice that everyone has arrived. Chris is in the pool putting water in his mouth and spitting it out at people. Britney is screaming at him to stop, because he's getting her hair wet, but this just makes Chris do it more. You and I look at each other like "she will never learn" and shake our heads. And then we smile when we think about how these guys are so much a part of us that we know them almost better than we know ourselves. Joey comes over to me and tells me how good I look in my bathing suit, because he is trained to do that, and Justin pretends to get mad and says, "Hey, watch it! That's my woman you're hitting on!" "Oh, that's right," Joey says as if he just remembered. "Aren't you guys married or something?" "Well, actually," Justin says looking at me seriously, so I am expecting something big. "I was thinking about marrying the girl at the Kids Choice Awards who had the sign that said, 'Marry Me, Justin." He thinks he is so funny that he busts up laughing at himself, but I just punch him in the arm. "You know, Justin," I tell him. "You really need to stop that fetish you have about 12 year old girls. You're going to get yourself in trouble." "Gah-ross!" you say as you walk by. Justin has to give me this one. He can't think of a witty come back, so he just kisses me. "Actually," he says. "You got that backwards. I like 21 year olds, not 12 year olds!" "Uh oh," I say. "What happens when I turn 22?" "Well, I guess I'll just have to dump you!" "I guess that's when you'll get your chance, Joey," I say and walk away nonchalantly. Joey just laughs while Justin picks me up and throws me in the pool where I land on Chris. And I can't stop smiling at the thought that this is the way it should be. Justin and I enjoying our time together instead of talking about him leaving. You are in the kitchen getting chips and salsa, our favorite snack food. Nick comes in and puts his arms around you from behind. You lean into him, because his bare skin feels so good against yours. You think about how much you love bathing suits just for this reason. "I missed you," he says. "I was gone for 5 minutes," you say giggling. "And I missed you," he repeats. You always make fun of me and Justin for being so corny, but you are now starting to realize why we love being that way so much. Nikki comes walking in, and doesn't even notice that she is interrupting a private moment. You make a mental note to kill me for inviting her over. All she is doing here is trying to get JC to come home with her again, even though he has been swearing up and down all day that doing it the night before was a mistake and he won't do it again. "Hi!" she says and takes a wine cooler out of the fridge without even asking. "Uh, hi," you say. And Nick, wanting to be nice says, "How are you, Nikki?" "Oh, good," she says and then goes back outside. You roll your eyes and Nick giggles. He hates her, too. Now that you are alone, he starts kissing your neck. "Nick," you whine. "I have to bring this stuff outside." "I don't care," he says, and turns you around so he can kiss you. But, once again, you are interrupted, but this time it's just me, so you don't care. I am coming to get another beer. "You are turning into an alcoholic," you tell me. "Oh well," I say. "It's just on the weekends, right?" All three of us walk outside and Nick runs and jumps in the pool with the rest of the guys. They are playing some retarded version of water polo. You and I put our arms around each other and just smile, because we really love our life. Ch. 17 No Regrets You wake up the next morning next to Justin in bed and just smile. The sun is shining through the window and the birds and chirping. It is 8:00am and time to get up so Justin can get to the airport on time. He is sleeping through the alarm which is playing some happy music. He really wore himself out last night and maybe that’s why you have such a good disposition this morning (wink, wink). You almost don't want to wake him, but you know you have to. You kiss the arm he has around you and he stirs. "Hi," he says when he sees you looking up at him. You smile at him and don't ever want to get up. "What time is it?" he asks, slightly concerned. "Eight," you tell him and he relaxes because he still has time. "Kristin," he says looking at you with a his cute smile. "You knock me out." You laugh and spring out of bed. "Do you want breakfast?" you ask him because you feel like doing something really nice for him and yourself. "Yeah, sure," he says, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. You start to dance around the room and he stares at you, but smiles and is obviously enjoying your good mood. "I wish I didn't have to leave," he says and you can see him starting to get a little upset. "Oh, you'll be back," you tell him, grabbing him by the hand and pulling him out of bed. "No one can stay away from me for long." "You got that right," he says, his smile returning, getting up at your request and accompanying you down stairs to the kitchen. When you pass by my door Justin knocks and yells, "Get up you lazy bums!" loud as hell. You both laugh. You start to go wild and make Eggs Benedict since you bought all the stuff for it and don't want it to go bad. You turn on the little radio in the kitchen since you just feel like dancing today. Justin sits down at the kitchen table and watches you, smiling and shaking his head at the same time. I come downstairs and give you both a really mean look and you both just laugh. "Some people sleep in the morning," I say bitterly. "Some people sleep ALL DAY LONG," you say pointedly and I just sigh and plop down on a seat next to Justin. "Where's your lover?" he asks me in a sexy voice just as Nick trots downstairs. "Ah, there he is." Nick looks a little confused and a little tired. "Hi," is all he can say. He yawns. "Eggs Benedict Nickay?" you ask and he just looks at you like he has no idea what you just said. "Nickay," he just repeats sleepily and sits down with Justin and me at the table. You continue to dance while you cook and start telling us all that you are "Kah-risteeen ze dancing kook". Justin is laughing like a madman and I am just shaking my head in disbelief. Nick is trying to get his eyes to adjust to the light. We all eat and Nick and I go back upstairs mostly to leave you two alone. Justin takes you in his arms and kisses you neck as you clean up a little. Chapter 18 I decide that I don't want to go to the airport this time. Justin pouts for a little while when I tell him this, but he doesn't want to ruin my good mood. I'm not really in a good mood. I'm actually dying inside, but I'm trying to fool both of us into believing that I'm happy. And I have something on my mind that no one else knows about, not even Justin. I help Justin finish packing and we spend a little time just sitting together outside by the pool, but before we know it the guys are starting to show up. It's like deja vu, and you and I look at each other like we can't believe that we're going to have to start going through this all the time. You don't even want to start thinking about what's going to happen when Nick has to leave. Joey eats some of my eggs benedict and JC looks at him in disgust, because it's been sitting there all morning. But Joey doesn't care. It's food. Chris shows up with Busta, and I groan and roll my eyes because I know that he's going to ask us to take care of him. We don't have the heart to say no, but I warn him that if Busta pees on the carpet, Chris will be paying to have it cleaned. Lance shows up, and he looks like hell. Topenga had to go to England to tape a Boy Meets World special, and he's been having a really hard time. I go over to him and hug him, because I know how he feels. Oddly enough, I miss Topenga a little myself. When I tell him this, he manages to smile a little. When the limos get there, the normal chaos ensues. JC is yelling at Chris to hurry up, but Chris is trying to give you instructions as to how to take care of Busta. Joey is taking everyone's luggage outside, while Lance just sits in the limo staring out the window. Justin takes me upstairs so we can be alone for a minute. He gives me one of his diamond earrings to wear while he is gone, so that we will each have a part of the pair. I feel tears coming to my eyes, but I am also smiling. I don't think I've ever loved him more than this moment. He hugs me and gives me the most romantic kiss ever and leaves me there to catch my breath. I run across the hall to the guest room, so I can watch the limos leave. I see Chris chasing you around and then I see Joey pick you up and throw you in the limo. But you are having none of it, and you get back out. Nick just looks on like everyone is insane, but even from upstairs I can tell that he is smiling. JC finally manages to round everyone up and get them in the limos, even though he is pissed that he is in the dirty underwear limo, because Justin and Chris snagged the white one. You and Nick wave as they take off, and I go downstairs to meet you as you come inside. "Um, can I talk to you alone?" I ask. Nick says, "I'm gonna go back to sleep anyway" and goes upstairs. You know me well enough to know that something serious is going on. We go and sit in the living room, and I try and think of an easy way to tell you what's been on my mind. But there is no easy way, so I just say it. "I think I'm pregnant." You gasp, because neither of us have ever thought of anything like this before. You know that I'm always extremely careful. "Are you sure?" you ask. "No, I'm not sure," I say. "But my period is really late, and I've been gaining weight." You just keep saying "Oh my God" over and over again. "Does Justin know?" you finally ask. "I haven't told him," I say. "I don't know what his reaction will be." "What are you going to do?" "Well, I need to talk to Justin first. And then I need to find out if I'm really pregnant. I couldn't tell Justin before his trip. I didn't want to make things harder." "You need to tell him," you tell me sternly. "He will be upset if he finds out that you're hiding this from him." I know you're right. You're always right. So, I make a decision to tell him. When Justin calls that night, he is chattering on and on about what he did all day and how much he loves me. Finally, I get up the nerve to tell him my news. "Justin, I have something to tell you." "What baby?" he asks. "I think I might be pregnant." There is total silence for a good five minutes. "How did this happen?" he says, and with that one sentence he has broken my heart. "Well," I tell him in a sarcastic tone, because I don't know how else to react. "Didn't your mama tell you about the birds and bees? Or do we need to go over it again?" "Oh God, Kristin. I'm sorry." "You should be," I tell him, and we are both crying. "Why didn't you tell me before?" he asks, and it is a legitimate question. "I didn't want to ruin your trip," I say simply. "Don't you realize," he says. "That you don't have to protect me? You need to take care of yourself, too." "It's just my nature," I tell him. "I am coming home right now," he says. "Justin! Don't do that," I tell him, feeling guilty. "You aren't going to change my mind," he says. About 12 hours later, I am sitting in the living room when Justin comes in. We don't say anything to each other, but we just hold each other. And I think how this is really going to test our relationship. We sit on the couch, and he holds my hands in his. We both have tears in our eyes, and the amazing thing is that we're not upset about this. We are happy, and we can feel it just from looking at each other. He looks down at my stomach and touches it, and I smile at him. Though life is completely uncertain for both of us, we are happy to be sharing this with each other. We would never want to share it with anyone else. I wake up in the morning and revel in the fact that Justin is next to me, until I remember why he is home. I'm not sure what to think about the whole thing. We know for sure that we are going to keep the baby, and we spent the night before talking about what it would be like to have a baby, and getting excited about it. But, when I think about it outside of that, I can only think of how it's going to change my life. I don't know if I am ready. And Justin is only 18, for the love of God! I feel as if I will only be tying him down. I touch him to let him know that I'm awake, and he rolls over and smiles at me and kisses me on the tip of my nose. But he can see that I am concerned about something. "Are you all right, baby?" he asks. "As long as you're here," I tell him. "Have I told you how much I love you for coming home?" "Only about a million times," he laughs. We get up and go downstairs, but this time we don't wake you and Nick up. These days, Nick lives in our house more than Justin does. I sit at the kitchen table and Justin brings me some orange juice. "I heard you're supposed to drink this if you're pregnant," and I can't help but get up and hug him for being so cute. "You know," I say. "I think I should go on the Internet and tell everyone that I'm pregnant with your baby. That's what all the other girls you get pregnant do, right?" And we are laughing about the whole thing, even though it's not very funny. "When is your Dr.'s appointment?" he asks. "Eleven. Are you going with me?" "Of course," he says. And I am wondering how we're going to raise a child if both of us get fired from our jobs for never going to work. "Justin, are you sure you're okay with this? I mean, you're not just saying that you're excited to make me feel better, are you?" "Kristin, I'm scared. But I am also so happy. I just love you so much, and this only makes me love you more." We talk some more about what it would be like to have a baby, and soon it is time to get ready to go to the doctor. We go and sit in the waiting room and look at the expectant mothers and hold hands. He sits with me through my appointment, and then we go home and wait for the lab to call with the results. You are up by this time, and you don't know what to think. I get the feeling that you have told Nick, because he's acting kind of strange. He won't let me do anything. He just keeps telling me to sit down and to let everyone else take care of stuff. And I just want to laugh, because he's being so cute. You are happy if I'm happy, but you wonder if I've considered how this is going to affect my life. I am so anxious to get the call from the lab that I am going insane, so Justin takes me upstairs to lie down. He rubs my back and sings to me, but I can't sleep. Pretty soon the phone rings. I grab it before anyone else can, but then realize that I don't want it and hand it to Justin. He answers, but they want to talk to me. "We have your results," they tell me. "And?" I say excitedly. "We're sorry," the lady says, even though I don't think she is. "They came back negative." I can barely get off the phone, because I am about to cry. Justin doesn't even have to ask, because he can tell by the look on my face. He just wraps me in his arms and we cry together for what seems like hours. Ch. 19 Nick and I are sitting cross legged in the grass in our backyard. We've been sitting there for awhile, at least a couple of hours. Neither of us have said much. We both know what's going on and what happened with you and Justin and the baby that wasn't ever really there. When you got the phone call and I heard the two of you crying, I went outside and sat down here in this grass. Nick followed, grabbing a couple of bananas and two beers, all of which are long gone by now. It's getting pretty late. It's dark out but the porch light is on and so is the light in the pool. It's also cold but I keep looking back at the house, which is also dark by now, and wondering what is going on inside. It's oddly still and to be honest I'm scared. We are being silent. We talked for awhile when we first came out but when one of your cries could be heard outside we both got quiet and haven't spoken a word since. Now it is almost eleven and I am freezing. There are goose bumps all over me. Nick rubs my legs a little too keep me warm when he sees them. I know I should get up and go inside but I don't want to. For some reason I feel like I can't go inside. Nick leans over and lays his head on my shoulder. "Do you want to come over to my house?" he asks quietly and I nod. I feel like crying all of a sudden now that the silence is broken, but I swallow it even though it makes me throat feel swollen. Nick stands up and takes me by the hand, leading me out to his car. We climb in and before he starts it he stares at me for a minute. I know he is concerned but it is almost ridiculous to be concerned about me. As if reading my thoughts, he looks back at the house for a moment. I look out the window because I don't want to cry. When I glance back at him he is looking at me. He tries out a half smile and turns the key. When we reach his house, I get out of the car and just stand there until he comes around to my side, as if I can't move by myself. He takes my hand again and leads me inside. He takes me to a stool in the kitchen where I sit down and watch as he looks in the fridge. We didn't eat any dinner because we had been outside. He doesn't look very pleased with what he sees, but pulls out mayonnaise, mustard, cheese and cold cuts. I see a loaf of bread on the counter by me and I open it and take out four pieces. We sit on opposite sides of the counter, making our sandwiches. He goes back to the fridge and gets out a half gallon of milk and grabs a couple glasses from the cupboard. I eat my sandwich and look at him while I am doing it, he does the same. I drink my milk and he has two glassfuls. When we are done he comes back around and takes my hand again. I follow him upstairs and into his bedroom. He lets go of my hand and I sit down on the bed. He goes to his closet and gets out a clean pair of boxers and a pajama shirt. He hands them to me and I change fast, even though he isn't looking, but instead undressing himself. He walks back over to me in pajama pants and a wife beater (and bare feet) and takes my hand again. He leads me into the bathroom where he puts toothpaste on his toothbrush and hands it to me. I brush my teeth with it and he just watches me and smiles a weak half smile. When I'm done I rinse out my mouth and hand it back. He puts more toothpaste on it and brushes his own teeth. "I have to pee," he says and I nod and just look the other direction. When I can tell he is done I turn back and he smiles a little. He washes his hands and then takes mine again, and pulls me back into the bedroom. He pulls the covers up and I sit down. He climbs in next to me, pulls me into him and then I cry. You wake up the next morning with a headache that's worse than anything you've ever felt before. Justin isn't there in bed with you and though you can tell this should make you cry, you don't have any tears left. Feeling numb, you get up and out of bed. You glance at the clock and notice that it is almost noon. You know you should be surprised you slept that late, but you can't feel much. You walk downstairs and can hear Justin on the phone in the kitchen. Realizing that this was the only reason you got out of bed, to see where he is, you just sit down on the stairs. You stare off into space and just focus on how worn out you feel. Pieces of Justin's conversation are making it to you. "I know," he is saying. "I didn't know what was going to happen and now I take it back, alright? But I am not coming down there this week. I am staying here." You start to pay a little attention to what he is saying. "You can be as angry as you want, but what can you do? I changed my mind. What are you going to do, say no? Just go ahead and yell all you want and I'll see you next week." You get up and walk into the kitchen, where Justin is standing with his back to you. You admire his hair and his body. He senses you in the room and spins around quickly. He smiles at you and then looks at you carefully as if trying to see inside you and see what you feel. You imagine that he can probably do this by now. Now that he's known you for so long, and been with you through so many emotions. You don't know what he finds, or if he finds what he is looking for at all. But you like to think he does. He hurries to get off the phone and then puts it down on the counter. He walks over to you and hugs you and you hug him back, wanting grapefruit. "Who was that?" you ask and are surprised how weak your voice sounds. It is scratchy and you notice for the first time that your throat hurts slightly. "Johnny," he says softly, into your hair. "What was he saying?" You let go of Justin and look in the fruit basket. There is no grapefruit so you take an orange. "He was just giving me a hard time," Justin answers, sitting down at the table. You join him. "About leaving?" "Kind of." Justin looks at you again and you look back but you don't know what to do with what you see. You are having a hard time loving him right now. "You want to go swimming?" he asks, rubbing your arm affectionately. You shake your head without looking up. "I think I'm going to go into work for awhile," you tell him. "I really have to get some stuff done." He looks outside. "Okay," he says. "Want me to come with?" "No, I'll be okay," you assure him and get up to head to the shower. He blocks you. "Are you okay?" he asks. He leans in and kisses you and it feels so nice that you hate it. "Maybe we could get a bite to eat before you go to work." "I'm okay," is all you say. You go past him up the stairs. When you come home from work that day, I am sitting with Justin in the living room, flipping channels. You put your briefcase down slowly and take your coat off even slower. We both look up at you and smile. "How are you?" I ask and you realize that it's nice to have me there. You smile at me and shrug. "I've been better," you say honestly. "But I'm okay." You sit down on the couch next to Justin and he kisses you softly. You don't know why you feel like you do, but you don't want him to touch you. It's as if his touch is intoxicating or something. As if it promises but doesn't deliver. Justin makes some pasta and the three of us eat. We talk about a bunch of stupid things just to fill the air. You watch Justin eat and think that maybe things would be better if you loved him from afar. If he was still Justin Timberlake of *N Sync and not Justin who makes you pasta and might someday impregnate you. Nick comes over at around a quarter to 9, while you and I are watching Damson’s Creek. Him and Justin are talking quietly in the dining room and I wonder if you think this is odd, but don't bring it up. When Dawson's Creek is over, I talk you into going for a swim. You feel like maybe you could use it. It's dark and we go in the pool. Justin cleans up the dinner dishes and Nick comes outside with us, sticking his legs in the water. I rub his legs a little because I like them. We play a bunch of stupid games like splashing war and tea party at the bottom of the pool. We have races and then do handstands and somersaults in the water. You see Justin watching from inside and you know he can tell you are acting weird. When your eyes meet you know you should nod or smile invitingly but you don't. He retreats back into the living room, out of your site. I get the idea into my head to play water basketball and I say that I know where the hoops are. I am swearing that they are in my bathroom even though you don't think they are. I run into look for them anyway, drying off quickly as well as I can before going inside. You swim around a little and Nick just looks at you. "Did you know he quit?" Nick asks, looking down at his feet. "What?" you say, standing up and paying attention. Nick looks in the house and then back at you nervously. "He quit. When he thought you were pregnant." Nick looks back at the house again as if any minute Justin will come out with a baseball bat. "He quit the band." "What?" you ask, not really believing what you are hearing. "He's back in now and everything," Nick assures you. "But when he thought you were going to have a baby he quit without hesitation. He wasn't going to tell you, but...well, I thought you would like to know." You kind of let your body go limp in the water and you look up at the sky. It is clear and all the stars stare down at you. All the stars. You get up and out of the pool. You dry off and go inside. I come downstairs without the hoops because they weren't in my bathroom and you walk pass me and into your bedroom where Justin is laying on your bed looking sad. You crawl next to him in bed, getting your comforter all wet. You put your arms around and kiss him three times. You're very own star. Ch. 20 You sit at the kitchen table with Justin. You are peeling carrots and he is grating cheese. You make idle chit-chat as you do this together, when Justin drops the bomb. "You want to get a dog?" he asks innocently, glancing up at you momentarily and then refocusing on his cheese. "What?" you ask, taken aback. You pause your peeling. "What did you say?" Justin smiles. "Do you want to get a dog?" You just laugh and shrug it off as a joke, but Justin is persistent. "I'm serious. We could go to the pound and rescue one. Or we could buy one or something." "JuJu," you call him because no one else is around. "We can't have a dog." "Why not?" he asks and you don't have an answer so you just laugh again and shake your head. "Why not?" he asks again. "When we thought you were pregnant we were fine with the idea. What's a dog?" "How would we take care of it? You're gone half the time. Dog's are expensive." You are trying to think of all the reasons why the idea is impossible, because that’s how you feel inside. "It could stay here with you, or come with me. Either way. Dog's aren't THAT expensive. Between the two of us, I'm sure we can manage. Millions of people own dogs. I think a pop star and a successful lawyer could fit it into their budget." He is so serious you have to smile. "You are so crazy," is all you give him. "It could work," he continues. "I have a good three weeks before the tour starts. I've got a lot of work to do, but I'll be here. We can get a dog today, and sign up for dog obedience classes. Get him so trained that by the time I leave either it won't be a problem for you to keep him home or I can even take him." He is still grating cheese, but you have long since put down your carrots and peeler. "How long have you been thinking about this?" you ask and he looks up. He puts down his cheese and leans over to kiss you quickly. "Awhile I guess," he says, and begins grating again. "Well," you say slowly, thinking. "Which house would the dog live in?" Justin sits his cheese back down and looks at you. You smile at him and think about how cute he is. He clears his throat and begins slowly. "Well, I've been thinking about that a lot too." He looks up at you. "I think you should move into my house." You just try to laugh at first but it doesn't come out right because you don't really feel it. You've been thinking about this for awhile too. I am at Nick's house playing video games and waiting for him to get out of the shower. We have a solid date now and it's making us both a little nervous. May 20th. It's my mom's birthday that day and also the day Nick has to leave. He comes downstairs dressed but with his hair all wet. I watch him and he smiles. "It's really hot," he says and I nod. He sits down next to me and puts his arms around me exaggeratedly so I mess Mario up and die. "Thanks a lot," I say, but I'm laughing. He takes the controller out of my hand and throws it passionately across the room before he starts to kiss me. The phone rings and we both groan irritatedly at the same time. He sits up and answers it. "Hello?" he yells into the phone because he is in a crazy ass mood today. I love every second of it. He hands the phone to me and I am confused but take it anyway. It's you. You are asking me if I am coming home tonight because you kind of want to talk. I tell you sure, and since you sound okay I say that I'll probably be there in an hour or so. When I walk into the house I can hear Justin making all sorts of commotion the kitchen, so I follow the noise. When I look in there are the three of you: You, Justin, and a little golden retriever puppy. "Whoa," I say but smile because I love dogs and don't have any around me except for Nick's dogs and Busta, who are all tiny and wrinkly. You are sitting down on the floor with the doggy, who is climbing on you and trying to lick your face. Justin is jumping up and down next to some spread out newspaper. When you see me you both smile and I come into the room and sit down. The puppy comes over to smell me and I pet it. "Who's this?" I ask you and Justin, not looking up. Justin beams. "This is Dr. Pepper." "Dr. Pepper?" I ask questioningly with a laugh. "What kind of a name is that?" "It's HIS name," Justin informs me, slightly hurt. "We named him that because he spilled a super sized cup of it in my car." "This is your dog?" I ask, looking at you two who are gazing at each other like proud parents. "We got him today," you tell me with a smile. "We were going to go to the pound but when we were at the grocery store a little girl asked Justin for his autograph and when he told her that we were looking for a dog, she said that her dog had just had puppies." Justin comes over and kisses you, lowering himself onto the ground next to you. "So we went over to her house, took pictures with her and her family...and we had a dog." When you start talking Dr. Pepper heads back over to you. He is small and precious. He climbs into your lap and lies down, licking your hand affectionately. "Wow," I say. "I can't believe you got a dog." You and Justin give each other a look and I notice it. "What?" I ask, not sure if I want to know. Justin stands up. "I'm going to go home for awhile," he says quickly and leaves. Justin never just "goes home for awhile" so I know you want to talk. I get down on the floor next to you. "What's up?" I ask you, petting Dr. Pepper. You sigh a little and pet the dog, too. "Justin and me have been talking about living together lately." I smile. "You practically already do," I mention with a laugh. "I know," you say and your face turns more serious. "But we've been talking about it seriously." I am quiet because I am thinking about this. "I guess it doesn't make much sense for him to move in here, does it?" I ask, getting a little sad already. "Not really," you admit. I stop petting the dog and recross my legs. You look at me. "So, are you going to move into his house?" I ask, looking back at you. You shrug. "We've been talking about it." When both of us are quiet for a long time you ask me what I think about it. I mull it over for a little bit because I am trying to digest what I figure you have just told me. I remember the way you guys looked with this little puppy. "I think it would be okay," I finally say. You smile and are relieved. You lean over to hug me and the puppy squeals because you disturb him. We both laugh but when that moments over we just sit there again. "You know," you start to say to fill the silence. "Britney has been talking about getting a real place for while she is in Orlando. I'm sure she'd love to move in here." I nod slowly and know that there is no way I would ever live with Britney. Hang out with her sometimes, sure, but I'd rather live with Topenga. "You should call her and ask her about it," you say and I nod just because I know it will make you feel better. I get up and look in the fridge for a beer because I really want one. There aren't any there. "Are you sure this is okay?" you ask, getting up and standing next to me. I hug you and nod because I know that if I say something I will probably cry. It is okay, but I can't help but be a little sad anyway. You hug me back again twice and smile excitedly. I swallow a few times and smile back. "When do you think you are going to do it?" I ask. "Soon," you tell me and hug me again because you are so excited. "We want to get settled before he leaves." "That makes sense," I agree and we both look down at the dog. You sigh contentedly. "You should probably go tell Justin," I tell you. You look up at me and nod. You hug me again and tell me how much you love me. I tell you how much I love you. You take Dr. Pepper and run across the yard. I look around as I walk slowly upstairs. I go into my bedroom and lie on my bed and look at the stars I painted there just a couple of weeks ago. The next morning you wake up with Justin at his house, and you've never been happier. He keeps on reminding you that everything is yours now too. "This is our bed," he told you last night when he laid you down in it. He opens the fridge and says, "This is our fridge." He opens the cupboard and says, "These are our cupboards." You just watch him and admire him with a smile. Dr. Pepper is lying on the ground and Justin almost trips over him. "That's our dog!" he says excitedly. Over at the fridge you smell some sour milk. "This," you say, holding it up and scrunching up your face in disgust. "is NOT our milk. This is YOUR milk." You throw it away and you both laugh. "We can buy our milk today," he says, pulling you into him from your waist and kissing you. Nick comes over the next day and lays down next to me on my bed. I am staring at my stars again. He joins me for awhile. "Did you bring the paper?" I ask. "Yup," he says, holding it up in front of me so I can see. I nod and he lets his arm down. "I brought you some coffee too. And a McMuffin." "You did?" I ask quietly as if it's the cutest thing anyone has ever done. He laughs. "Yes," he says and kisses my arm which is right by his head. "And hashbrowns too." I reach for his hand and he puts it in mine. I've never been happier to feel someone. I'm glad it is him. We stare at the stars for awhile more. After awhile he sits up and opens the paper. He takes a sip of my coffee and hands me the hashbrowns, which I eat still lying down, not taking my eyes off the ceiling. He kisses me once on the forehead and starts reading. "Winter Park. One bedroom, one bath. Fireplace, pool..." Justin's pool is a mess. Its been covered for so long. You want to tell Justin to clean it or get someone to, but he is across the fence, in our pool. You go over there too. The path from our back door to his is littered with your things which we of you have been slowly taking over all day. Justin had declared a break and jumped into the pool. You are supposed be there too but you lost your swim suit in all the confusion. You don't know which house it's at. Joey, JC, and Chris are over helping you move over to Justin's, even though it's not that hard of a job. We are almost done but it's a much needed break. I come outside with your suit which I found in my laundry basket. You cheer and go to put it on. You go in the pool with everyone for awhile and stay in there even after we all get out. After you're done you go to take a shower. You take your time. You look around your empty room and go into your bathroom. You take your last shower in this bathroom. You put your jeans and shirt back on and walk around your room three times. You walk into the hallway. There are no more pictures on the wall. The living room is empty. The dining table is gone. You walk into the kitchen, look out the sliding glass door and smile immediately. I fished the blender out of one of my boxes and am making mixed drinks. Nick is messing with me and trying to take a swig out of the bottle of tequila. You smell food and notice that Joey is barbecuing. Lance is over and is sitting at the patio table with JC eating chips and salsa I grabbed from Justin's house. Chris is in the pool with Justin and they are trying to drown each other. I am cursing at Nick but laughing and smiling. Dr. Pepper is running around the pool watching Justin and barking periodically. Chris started to call him just DP and the nickname has taken root with everyone else too. JC is laughing his ass off watching Joey sing a song he made up about hot dogs. You smile and a few tears come to your eyes. We are all crazy but you love us. Everything is perfect, you think and walk outside. Margaritas, piĖa coladas, strawberry coladas, I offer. You smile and accept one. Lance has an empty glass by him and is laughing so hard his whole face is red. Joey's song about hot dogs is starting to get dirty. Nick sits down with Lance and JC with his beer even though there is both a full margarita and a full piĖa colada next to him, for him, made by yours truly. "Should I make some potato salad or something?" you ask Joey quietly, because you are enjoying the scene and don't want to speak to loudly for fear it will all disappear. "No," Lance says, over hearing. "Topenga made some. And some pasta salad. She wanted to come over," he explains, "but she had to meet with her agent." You smile and tears come to your eyes again. Justin notices you are outside and winks at you from in the pool. Joey starts complaining loudly that there is no cheese for the burgers. I am making him make 200 hamburgers because I don't want to get stuck with all of the meat. Chris keeps running out of the pool, soaking wet, and grabbing a hot dog of the grill. Yelling about how hot it is each time and getting everyone soaked. Justin laughs and so does everyone else but we aren’t quite as entertained. We all eat on paper plates and talk and laugh and have a bunch of drinks. The sun starts to go down and Justin turns on the Chinese lantern lights. When he does this you can't remember who they belong to. You think about who should take them, me or you, and realize that they don't belong anywhere but right here. Everyone is spending a good deal of time laughing. Lance has to go early, as usual. We all say goodbye and he makes some comment about it being his last time in this yard. Everyone gets a little sad but doesn't let it get to them. We all go in the hot tub because we feel like we should, it being our last opportunity and everything. It's not really the same and mostly we all sit in there silent. Justin rubs your back slowly with his thumb. No one really knows what to say. After some time goes by and at least a couple of jokes are told, we all decide to get out and call it a night. There is a lot of more hugging than usual as if we aren't going to see each other as much anymore. This doesn't necessarily have to be true, but I think we all know it is deep down inside anyway. Joey kisses us both and leaves. JC and Chris hug us, both being pretty serious, even Chris. He says something about how he is going to miss hanging out here. I walk with Nick out to his car. We both get in because he has no fiancee. We drive to my new apartment and sleep there that night. You and Justin kiss under the light of the Chinese lanterns before you head over to your new house. The next day you and I stand in our empty house. I am holding my last box and you are just looking around. We look at each other. "Ready?" You ask and I nod even though I am not. We walk outside to the front of the house and look at it. "It's been fun," I say quietly. "Yeah," you agree. "It has." We both have tears in our eyes but try not to let the other see. You lock the door and place the key in the envelope for the landlord. We walk away. "Be careful!" You tell Justin as he parallel parks your Jetta way to quickly and without looking closely. You close your eyes and just know that he is going to hit something. You open them a minute later and he is looking at you with a laugh because, of course, he did a perfect parking job. You stick your tongue out at him and he laughs as he pulls the keys out of the ignition and gets out. You grab the gift from the backseat and get out of the car as well. It's a nice night. The sun is going down and it is relatively cool, which is nice. There is a light breeze and it feels good. It's a nice change from the constant heat. Justin comes around to the sidewalk where you are standing and tries to hold your hand but you are holding the package. He settles for linking arms with you and the two of you walk down the street a bit before you come up to the building. "I think it's on the second floor," you tell him, looking around once inside. It's a charming building and you smile. You walk up the stairs and he follows you but is dragging his feet. He gets real close to you and smells your hair. "Stop it," you say without conviction as you read the numbers on the doors. He kisses you on the neck. "Let's go home," he whispers in your ear. "Let's go back to bed." You giggle a little and try to push him off of you. "We can leave the present at the door and go pick up some Chinese food and just get in bed and eat it there." You reach the door and look at him once before knocking. He is smiling an evil smile at you. You are tempted but just laugh at him. You lean in and kiss him lovingly and then rap your fist on the door. I answer with a smile and usher you guys inside my new apartment. Joey is already over and is with Nick in the kitchen taking beers out of the case and putting them in the fridge. You sit down on the couch from our house and Justin gets you a Corona and a lime. You hand me the present and I thank you and put it by the kitchen table. "What's for dinner?" You ask, sniffing the air. "Salmon," I tell you with a smirk and a nod as I motion to Nick who is messing with pots in the kitchen. You smile. There is another knock at the door and it is Chris and JC who've come baring Tequila. We all hoot and JC holds it above his head like a trophy. "I've finally won the gold!" He says. We all laugh. Lance and Topenga come over and you come along as I give Topenga the grand tour which takes about five minutes tops. She keeps saying, "It's so cute!" over and over again and I try to keep my smile on. Nick starts calling me frantically from the kitchen so I go to save him. Topenga takes this opportunity to nudge you suggestively and ask you how things are with Justin. You smile and tell her they are great. The guys are already drinking up but you don't really feel that like getting drunk so you just kind of sip on your beer for awhile. Everyone is laughing and having a good time and Topenga is actually taking shots. Lance seems pretty impressed, not to mention turned on, watching her lay 'em back. We can tell right away she is an old pro and I start to like her a little more. The phone rings and it's Britney asking me what I'm doing tonight. I've had a few beers and I'm feeling pretty social so I tell we are all here and to come on over. She says she is supposed to hang out with some friends so I tell her that they can come over too. Turns out Nick can actually kind of cook and we all eat. It's fun times with good people. We do a lot of laughing. You sit on Justin's lap and he has his hand on your thigh. The table is basically in the living room since I don't have all that much space and Chris keeps on bouncing over an imaginary line from one side to another saying, "I'm in the dining room! Now I'm in the living room!" over and over. Mindy is back in town and was supposed to come over and I keep complaining that she didn't show up and that I hadn't seen her since she'd been back since she'd spent all her time with AJ McLean. Of course right as I am saying that there is a knock at the door and it is her AND AJ. They come in and I have to give Mindy the grand tour, but this time it is more fun than when I gave Topenga the tour. I'm drunk and Mindy and I have too many inside jokes. AJ comes too and keeps laughing at me. I play around with him a little. You realize you never saw the bedroom so you jump up to join us and walk in. You laugh loudly as soon as you get in there and AJ and Mindy go back into the living room to rejoin the party. "What," you ask, pointing to the life size Storm Trooper in the corner of my bedroom, "is that?!" I laugh a little and plop down on my bed. I am pretty drunk already. "That's my house warming present from Nick." You just laugh at me and walk out of the room shaking your head. I get up and follow you and notice that Britney showed up with Nikki and Amanda Latona and one of the LFO guys. Amanda doesn't have a happy look on her face and you can tell she wants to leave because AJ is over. Chris has had way too much Tequila and has put a pot over his head. He is standing on the kitchen counter and pretending to be Tom Jones. You shake your head in utter disbelief. Topenga and Lance are both drunk, which usually doesn't happen, and she is sitting on his lap on the couch and they are making out. It's pretty disgusting. Britney puts on some music and Joey and Justin move the coffee table so we can dance. Justin pulls you to him and kisses you before he starts dancing with you. You smile at him because he has the cutest look on his face and he is just the cutest guy ever in general. The hours roll by and it gets pretty late. We try for awhile to play a half assed version of Truth or Dare, which lasts about two seconds. Everytime we try to get it in gear and start talking, Topenga turns the music up really loud and yells "DANCE PARTY!" and then laughs for half an hour at how funny it is. Then she'll turn it back down and when we started talking again, there it is. "DANCE PARTY!" It IS pretty funny, or at least I think so. You are rolling your eyes everytime I look at you. You are, of course, the only sober one in a group of thirteen. We all give in to Topenga's dance party. Everyone is dancing and having a good time. Things are getting kind of out of hand and of course, since you are the only semi-sober one around, no one else notices. Or if they do, they don't care. Lance runs into the bathroom to puke and Topenga follows him, laughing and shaking her head. "Wimp," she explains to you as you look on concerned. You need to take a break from dancing with Justin because he is getting carried away. You peel his hands off your ass and go into the kitchen for a glass of water. Nick is sitting on the kitchen counter with his feet resting on a stool, watching everyone dance. "What’s up babe?" you ask him and he looks at you and smiles loosely. "You should go dance." He just shakes his head and smiles and continues watching everyone else. Chris turns up the music. Justin has succeeded in drinking himself into a stupor like so many guys his age like to do. He's sitting on the easy chair, staring off into space with a forty between his legs. You shake you head and pour yourself some juice. I am sitting at the table in a heated game of quarters with AJ McLean, Nikki DeLoach, and the LFO guy. Nikki is all over the LFO guy and not paying enough attention to the game, which infuriates both me and AJ. You sigh and pull Nick off the counter and make him dance with you. He's not that great at dancing without choreographed moves and you keep laughing at him and he gives you this fake evil look. "I can't believe you do this for a living!" You laugh at him. He bears his teeth and says, "I'm not THAT bad!" But he really is and you almost can't deal with it. It's just making you laugh and shudder at the same time. "Don't you ever go out dancing?" You ask him. "Yeah," he says, " but I'm not gonna, like, freak dance with you." He kind of blushes and glances over at Justin who is staring at the wall. Joey hands you a beer as he walks by and you drink some of it. You go to sit down over by Justin and Nick stops you. "Come on! I thought you wanted to dance," he says, doing a nice move you know must be from a BSB song. You step back over with him, but warn him, "This just isn't going to do." So he shrugs and starts being real with you. He's not such a bad dancer when he lets himself stop worrying. In fact he is pretty good and you start "freak dancing" back. It's getting pretty sexy and you are both laughing. "Hey Roxanne!" you call over to me and I look up from my game. "Look what I got!" you tease. Nick and you both play it up when I am watching. I laugh and then motion you two away because I have to concentrate. You wish Justin would get up because even though you like dancing with Nick, well, he's just no Justin. JC is dancing with Amanda and Mindy and comes over to you for a minute and gets real close before going back to "Josh's Girls" as he started calling them, even though neither of them would go out with him if he asked and he knows that. I stop by the two of you on my way to the bathroom and try to dance, but I just can't. I shrug and stumble upon my way. You glance at your watch and make a comment about how we really should quiet down, but you haven't really danced for a long time and you are having fun. But Nick is getting tired, plus he is far drunker than you and you can tell. His freak is a little less freaky. It's loud and he leans over and whispers in your ear, "I need to sit down for awhile." But, before he gets the chance, it seems as if one severely belligerent mother fucker decided to finally get up and sit Nick down himself. Justin, from nowhere, is all of a sudden over by the two of you and pushes Nick down on his ass. Nick looks up totally surprised from his place on the floor and everyone stops and stares. "What the fuck was THAT?" AJ McLean says, getting up from his spot at the table and walking over to Justin. Justin looks over at him and I swear his eyes aren't even open all the way. "Why don't you tell your friend to leave my girlfriend alone?" he asks venomously. "Why don't you keep your impulses in check and keep your hands to yourself little boy?" AJ retorts. Justin is getting real pissed and we can all tell. "Why don't you shut the fuck up?" he asks, getting up in AJ's face. "Why don't you sit your pretty boy ass down and stay the fuck away from my friend?" AJ's eyes are narrowed. Nick gets up from the floor and says, "I'm okay," as if that really makes a difference to either of them. AJ looks over but motions for Nick to wait. "Why don't you tell your friend to suck my dick?" Justin asks, not even looking at Nick, but keeping his eyes on AJ. "Why don't you both grow the fuck UP?" JC yells from the "crowd" but it's too late. AJ's fist is already in the air and he socks Justin. Justin immediately pounces back on AJ and punches him, but before much can happen Joey grabs Justin, who is writhing like crazy and Nick stands in front of AJ and keeps telling him to calm down. "I'm calm," AJ answers but he obviously isn't since Nick has to barricade him. "Someone needs to put that bastard in his place is what needs to happen." And this of course makes Justin even angrier, but Joey has Justin's arms locked through his so Justin just keep trying to push out of the hold. You start standing in front of Justin and telling him he is being an idiot but he just keeps repeating "Kristin, just get out of the way," over and over again so much you know he can't hear a word you are saying. Nick is trying to talk AJ down and I am just standing by JC with my eyes popping out of my head. AJ isn't calmed down at all, but he just stomps over to the door and walks out. Mindy follows him after giving me an apologetic look. Nick looks over at me. "Are you okay?" I ask him and he nods and of course he is totally fine. Joey lets go of Justin who starts shaking himself off. Everyone is still just standing there until Justin goes for the door. We all follow him and he is standing at the top of the stairs watching AJ walk out the building. AJ turns and notices and yells out, "Your mom's a whore Timberlake!" "What? And you pay your mom to suck your dick? Isn't that what you do, fucking bastard." AJ holding the outside door open. "You want to come out here and finish this like a man?" he invites. "Or are you just going to go inside and cry?" And Justin is down the stairs in a flash. I hear Mindy say, "Damn it, AJ." We all follow them outside in front of my building where AJ and Justin are having another stand off. I hear Amanda mumble, "I hate it when he gets like this," and I see you nod in understanding. This time JC just goes for it and steps in the middle and yells at them both to knock this the fuck off. "Stay out of this Chasez," AJ says. But Justin just moves around JC and socks AJ in the stomach. I hear JC say, "Damn it, Justin." And then they are at it. We all look at Joey who just holds his hands up in defeat and starts walking away, shaking his head. Chris is trying to pull Justin off of AJ and Nick steps in the middle again. He is yelling at AJ to knock it off and when he turns to Justin, Justin seems to remember that it was Nick he was mad at in the first place and socks him in the face. "Jesus fucking Christ!" Nick yells as he holds his head in his hand. AJ jumps on Justin and starts beating the crap out of him as best he can, which isn't that great since they are pretty well matched in strength and drunken rage. You are just standing on the sidewalk screaming at Justin. Chris, JC, Lance and the LFO guy are all trying to separate the guys, but everytime they do one of them gets free. Mindy finally manages to grab AJ and drag him off, and he goes with her even though he is yelling obscenities at Justin the entire time. Justin yells them back but I think the reason they stopped was actually because they were too tired and both beaten pretty badly. As soon as AJ is gone, Justin kind of crumples to the ground. Lance and Topenga leave and take Chris with them. Joey is long gone and Britney, Amanda, Nikki, and Brad from LFO say good bye even though you can tell they are all pretty excited about the whole thing. JC is talking to Justin in a low voice and you can tell he's pissed. But Justin isn't paying much attention to JC and is just wiping at the blood on his cut lip. You are crying and I kind of want to go over to you and say something but I don't know what. I am just standing there in utter drunken disbelief. Nick is standing on the street over by you and still holding his head and I kind of want to go over to him and see if he is okay. But I just stand on the sidewalk totally shocked at everything. Justin finally says to JC, "Please shut up," in a rather tender voice, but JC is still angry. He takes a deep breath and walks over to me. "I'm sorry," he says and Justin looks up at him from his spot in the middle of the road. He hugs me and says something about calling me tomorrow and get in his car and leaves. I just still stand there not knowing what the fuck to do or what exactly the fuck just happened. You finally stop crying and start walking over to your car. Justin gets up and follows you, and I notice he is limping a little. Or is that his gangsta walk? You are walking pretty fast and he says, "Baby, wait," and reaches out for you. "Don't you fucking touch me," you say as you get in the car. "What?" Justin asks, honestly surprised. You close your car door and drive off without him. He stares down the street for a good five minutes after you're out of sight. I finally go over to Nick and he seems fine except that I can tell the reason the blow hurt so bad is because his baseball bat wound still hasn't completely healed. We don't say anything to each other but I hug him and he hugs me back so tightly I can tell he wants to cry. Justin starts looking around and looks at us for a minute and tears are streaming down his face. I sigh inwardly. "Come on Justin," I say. He looks at me with tears pouring out of his eyes and the saddest look on his face. I kind of hate him, but I feel pretty sorry for anyone as out of control as he is. I motion for him to go upstairs and he does, barely looking at us again. "What are you doing?" Nick asks me quietly when Justin is gone with the most hurt expression on his face I almost die and run upstairs and kick Justin out. "He doesn't have anywhere to go," I say, trying to hug Nick again. He does a pretty half assed job and turns to me again. "But he just hit me. Twice," Nick says and sounds so young and confused. He looks at me like he is about to cry. I shrug weakly. "What am I going to do? He's my friend." "What am I?" he asks and stares at me. I am trying to think of what to say that gives what he is justice, because he is so important. But saying he is my boyfriend sounds pretty stupid and saying he is the man I love sounds retarded and corny. Before I can get out what I mean, he shakes his head and starts walking away. "Nick, wait!" I call after him but he just shakes his head at me again and gets in his car and drives away. I hate Justin more than I already did, but I go upstairs to make sure he is okay anyway. You go help Justin get cleaned up, and then he just passes out on the couch. You are so mad at him that you can’t believe that you are being this nice to him. You assume that you are just doing it for me or something. You know you won’t be able to sleep, and your buzz has totally been killed, so you just start cleaning up. A little while later, Justin wakes up and asks you to take him home in this little kid voice that he uses. You are happy just to get him the hell out of your apartment, and you feel sober enough to drive so you take him home. When you get to our house, you can see a light on, so you figure that I’m up and you don’t need to walk Justin in. As far as your concerned, you don’t want to see him again for a long time, and I can have him. You drive off in search of Nick, hoping that he will talk to you. When Justin comes in, I am sitting at the computer. I don’t even look up, partly because I’m concentrating on what I’m doing, and partly because I am so mad at him I can’t even look at him. “What are you doing?” he asks. “Oh, killing *N Sync,” I say nonchalantly. “What are you talking about?” he says. “It’s this fun new game on the Internet. I also just beat up the Backstreet Boys, but I’m having the most fun killing you,” I tell him. “Oh, real funny,” he says. “Well,” I say. “It was either that or I kill you for real!” and I get up and walk away. But Justin is smart enough to know that I waited up for him to come home, so I can’t be that mad. He follows me into the bedroom where he finds me sitting on the edge of the bed crying. He starts to say something, but I cut him off. I’m not all that interested in what he has to say at this point. “I am so humiliated,” I tell him. “I can’t deal with people who number one, can’t hold their alcohol, and number two are possessive and feel the need to beat people up over me.” “I’m sorry,” he says, but then continues in total Justin fashion. “But how would you feel if I was dancing that way with Roxanne?” “Honestly,” I tell him, knowing that I’m always going to be the bigger person, and wondering if I can handle it. “I wouldn’t care. I mean it’s Roxanne. That was just Nick. Not some total stranger. Obviously, it didn’t mean anything. I’m sorry if you were too drunk to show me a good time. But I wanted to have fun.” “Oh,” he says. “So this is all my fault.” “Well, yes it is,” I tell him. And I mean it. “I’m starting to wonder if I can handle being with someone as young as you are.” But then I look up at his beat up, but still beautiful face, and I know that I could never not be with him. He looks like he’s about to cry because of what I just said, but he doesn’t say anything. He just goes in the dresser and gets out his favorite Roxanne pj pants and starts to get undressed. I just sit there and watch him. I have no idea what to do, because I never want anything like this to ever happen again. But, at the same time, this man is my life. I live with him, for the love of God! There’s no way that I could let him go. It’s not even an option. “Justin,” I whisper softly. He turns and looks at me with so much hurt in his eyes that it breaks my heart. “What?” he says. I get up and hug him, and say, “It’s going to be okay.” He just starts to cry, and I can tell that he feels really bad and is embarrassed at his own actions. But I’m not letting him off the hook that easily. I wipe a tear off his cheek and say, “You need to do something,” I tell him. “You have to call Nick and apologize.” He looks at me like a second head has just grown out of my neck and then backs away. “No way!” he yells. “That would be so embarrassing. I’ll look like the biggest pussy!” “First of all,” I say. “If you ever use the word “pussy” in my house again, I will kick you out. Second of all, you WILL call Nick, and you will do it right now.” “It’s MY house,” he reminds me, but he is picking up the phone. The odd thing is that he has Nick’s number memorized. After you drop Justin off you go to Nick’s and just sit in the driveway for a really long time. The house looks dark and quiet, and you think he must be asleep. But for some reason, you just can’t make yourself turn the key in the ignition, put the car in gear and leave. Seeing that it’s four in the morning, you halfway wonder if you’re just going to sleep in your car in Nick’s driveway. You are staring off into space when a knock on your window makes you jump so high that you practically hit your head on the ceiling. You are thinking that it’s probably Nick’s neighborhood security thinking you’re a fan stalking him, and you’re afraid to look. But when you finally do look, it’s Nick himself. You roll down the window, and say “hi” like it’s normal for you to be sitting in his driveway this late at night. “What are you doing?” he says, but you can tell he’s trying not to laugh. “Well,” you say. “I don’t know...I wanted to see you, but I thought you were asleep...” You trail off, because you don’t know what you’re doing there at all. “Why don’t you come inside?” he says. You breathe a sigh of relief, and follow him in the house. “How’s your head,” you ask. “It’s okay,” he says, and then you hear him mutter “bastard” under his breath, and you know he’s talking about Justin. You couldn’t agree more. You go get some ice and make him lay down on the couch with it on his head. You almost start to laugh because this reminds you of the baseball bat incident and Justin yelling, “Oh my God, I just killed Nick Carter!” As if on cue, the phone rings. You tell Nick to stay put and you go get it. “Roxanne?” a familiar voice says. “Oh God,” you groan. “What the hell do you want, Justin?” you say, and he is a bit taken aback, because he’s never heard you be this angry at him before. “I need to talk to Nick,” he tells you. “Well,” you are practically yelling at this point. “Unfortunately, he has a HEAD INJURY, inflicted by YOU, so he can’t come to the phone!” You are about to hang up, when you hear my voice. “Pana,” I say. “Why don’t you let him apologize? You know you want him to.” You know I’m at least a little bit right, but you put up one last fight. “Can’t this be done tomorrow?” By this point, Nick is standing next to you, having heard you yelling. He gently takes the phone out of your hand and starts talking to me. He talks to me for a minute, and then there is silence while Justin is taking the phone back. “Hi,” Nick says, and that’s all he says for a long time. And then he says, “Okay. Thanks for calling.” And he hangs up. You are practically dying wondering what Justin said. But Nick doesn’t want to talk about it. He just grabs you and starts hugging you and telling you he’s sorry for walking out. And you just let him... I am watching Justin talking on the phone, and loving him for doing this for me, because I can tell it’s positively killing him to have to grovel to Nick Carter. He’s not really all that coherent, but he’s basically telling Nick that he was wrong and trying to explain how much he loves me and that’s what makes him act that way. And he apologizes profusely, and says stuff about promising not to hit Nick anymore, which I find hilarious, because this is the second time it’s happened. And then he tells Nick that they’re obviously going to have to be around each other in the future, so they should probably be civil to each other for the sake of “the girls.” I think it’s so cute that he calls us that. Even when I want to kill Justin, I think he’s cute. Finally Justin hangs up, and he’s so spent that he just falls back on the bed. I check his cuts and bruises one last time and then pull the covers over him and kiss him. He falls asleep instantly. I feel like his mother, but what can I do? (side note: my brother is upstairs watching tv, and I can hear the theme music from the Young and the Restless. I can’t decide which is worse: my brother watching Y&R or me recognizing the theme music.) I turn off the light, sigh, and lay down and attempt to sleep. The next morning you wake up because you hear Justin in the master bathroom throwing up. You are about to get out of bed and check on him when you decide to just let him live in hangover hell for a while. You figure he deserves it. You feel pretty comfortable in Justin's house by now, but it's still odd. Usually when you wake up you feel like going home to get a change of clothes or something. Then you remember you ARE home and that your clothes are in the closet. You look at the clock and realize it is only eight in the morning. It is absurd for you to be awake because you didn't go to bed until at least four. You try to go back to sleep but Justin's puking noises are keeping you up. You lie in bed for a while and when Justin finally comes out of the bathroom you gasp. He looks absolutely horrendous. The left side of his face has a huge bruise on it and the cut on his lip is uglier than you remember. The fact that he is sick and dirty doesn't help any. He has tears in his eyes from throwing up and he lies back down on the bed. You go to kiss him but he tries to shake his head at you without having to move too much. You would laugh at this if he wasn't so beat up. He has vomit on his shirt and you are totally grossed out. "Are you okay?" you ask, helping him out of his shirt. You throw it on the floor and notice that he is bruised on his chest too. You take in a deep breath and touch the bruises gently. He just lies there and when you think he actually fell asleep you leave him alone and go into the kitchen to get a glass of water. When I first wake up I don't know where I am. But as my vision clears I notice the neon palm tree and I remember. I get up and go downstairs in search of Nick and I find him eating Captain Crunch out of a huge metal bowl and watching cartoons on the little TV in his kitchen. "Hi," he says with his mouth full, not looking up from the TV. "Hi," I say back and open the fridge. There isn't barely anything in there. He looks over at me and I notice he has a nice purple eye. "Shit," I say and go over to him. "Does it hurt?" I ask. "Naw," he says and shakes his head but when I go to touch it he moves away quickly. I just kind of sigh and he offers me some of his cereal. I take a bite but it doesn't taste very good. I feel a little sick from drinking so much last night. "There's Cheerios, too," he says turning back to Rocky and Bullwinkle. I get them out of the pantry and open the cupboard where I realize the reason Nick is eating out of a baking bowl is because there are no clean dishes. I pour some Cheerios and milk into a large mug that has a picture of a horse on it and says Johanson Races. There are no spoons so I get a fork and start collecting the Cheerios on the spears and eating them one by one. I start replaying the whole last night scene while I eat and watch Nick watch TV. I groan out loud thinking of the whole fight. Nick turns to me with a questioning look but I just shrug him off. I am debating whether to take a shower here or go home and do it in my apartment. I finish my cereal and put the mug on the heap already in the sink. I am about to walk away when I think about how if I was like you I would start washing them. So that's what I do, I start washing them. Nick turns around and watches me for a while before he says, "You don't have to do that." I just shrug again and keep washing. It's actually kind of nice to be actually doing something worthwhile, even if it is just washing dishes. He watches me load the dishwasher and then finish the left overs by hand. When I am done I look at him and he hands me his empty big bowl and spoon. I wash it and put it to dry with the others. "I'm going to take a shower," I say, but don't move and just lean against the counter. Nick is still just standing there watching me and I can hear Scooby Doo and Shaggy talking on the TV. "Want some company?" he asks with that look on his face. He reaches his leg out and wipes the bottom of his foot on my leg. I just sigh again. "No," I say. "I think I am going to go back to my apartment and change." "All right," he says looking a little disappointed. It fades quickly when he turns back to his cartoons. I kiss him goodbye and leave. Justin has been lying on the couch all day. He barely talks to you, but it doesn't really bother you. You can tell he feels absolutely humiliated that anything happened yesterday. He seems too embarrassed to even talk with you about it. At first you just let him mope but after a while that look of despair on his face was more than you could handle. You come into the living room and move his legs so you can sit down next to him. He has the remote control in his hand but the TV is off. He is just staring into space. "How're you feeling baby?" You ask him quietly. "Fine," he says without breaking his stare into nothing. You know that he feels dumb more than he feels sick, so you suggest that he call JC. "And say what?" he asks in his same flat voice. "I don't know," you say. "Invite him over so we can oggle at your bruises together." You laugh and get a little smile out of Justin. You reach over and grab the cordless and hand it to him and he hits speed dial 2 to get to JC. "Hey, what’s up?" he says into the phone. "You busy?" The house is so quiet you can hear JC when he says, "No, not really." "You wanna come over or something?" Justin asks and you want to kiss him because he sounds so pathetic. But you sit back. You try to listen for JC's voice some more but that’s the moment DP chooses to come over and jump up on the couch. You pet him a little and he licks your hand and lays his head on your lap. Justin has to sit up to accommodate him. "Okay, well. Give me a call," Justin says before hanging up the phone and laying back on the couch morosely. You look at him and he looks at you. "I think he's mad," Justin says and then turns away and stares at the other wall because he's not sure he can keep from crying. "He'll get over it," you say sympathetically and rub Justin's arm. He just gets up and goes outside and gets in his hammock. You follow him since you know what he wants is to be alone to wallow in self pity and you aren't going to let him. You crawl into the hammock with him and it is a tight squeeze but you don't mind being so close to him. "I'm so stupid," he says in a voice that is so serious you know he totally means it. You kiss his chest softly and put your arms around him. He strokes your hair for awhile before continuing. "It just scares me sometimes to think that maybe someday we won't be together." And it is such a cute and young and sad thing for him to say that you kiss him again, three times, on his chest and hold him tighter. You want to reassure him that you will always be together, but you don't know if that’s true. But you do know that you love him and there is no one else you want to be with now. "I'm never going to drink again," he says and you want to laugh because EVERYONE says that the next day but you decide to just let him believe it for now. "I love you," you tell him. You can tell he is still depressed but he kisses your forehead and says, "I love you." A couple weeks later, I wake up to what I think is Justin kissing me at 6 am. In fact, it’s Dr. Pepper licking my face. I gently pick him up and take him outside to potty, making sure not to wake Justin. He’s got a big day ahead, and I want him to get as much sleep as possible. I stand outside by the pool, and look at our old house. I miss living there. I come home from work half the time expecting you to be there playing Play Station or sitting at your computer working on your book. Instead it’s usually an empty house. As Dr. Pepper plays on the grass, chasing a grasshopper, I thank God that Justin and I decided to get him, otherwise I would be lonely. Justin is so busy these days, and it’s just a matter of time before he’s gone again. Luckily, he’s letting me accompany him today. The guys have an appearance on Rosie, because she’s in Orlando. I’m pissed, because I have to miss it for work, but I’m getting off early to go to the MGM Studios and watch them tape some concert for ABC. I’m picking you up on my way there. You got to go to the Rosie taping, and you tell me all about it while I hate you for getting to meet Rosie O’Donnell. We arrive at the show a little early so we can hang out with the guys and find out where we’re sitting. We get to sit off to the side of the stage, but we’re wondering if we’ll be noticed there. After that whole newspaper article mess, we’re concerned about being seen. But once we get there and see all the screaming teenies, we decide we don’t want any part of that. We can just watch them and make fun of them from the stage. When we get to the trailer that the guys are hanging out in until they go on, there’s a big ruckus. One look at Lance, and we can tell what it is about. He’s sick as a dog. He’s more pale, pasty and albino than normal, and he’s sweating like nothing we’ve ever seen. Everyone’s trying to talk him out of doing the show, but he won’t hear of it. He’s not yelling or anything, but I can tell he just wants everyone to shut up and leave him alone. You and I go over and sit with him, and I tell Justin to take the rest of the guys and get the hell out of there. He’s been on his best behavior since the fight, so he complies. “Thanks,” Lance says. We don’t always feel as close to Lance as the other guys because of the Topenga issue, but we love him anyway, and we’re worried as fuck. “It’s damn hot out there,” you report. “Are you sure you can do this?” “I have to,” he says, with more conviction than we thought Lance had in him. “You don’t,” I tell him. I am about to start making some stuff up about his contract, pretending that I know because I’m this hotshot TransCon lawyer, but I know it won’t change his mind. I just hand him a bottle of water, and you have him put a cold towel on his head. He lays down for a while until it’s time for them to go on. We leave the guys alone so they can do their pre-show ritual and prayer, which we don’t get, but we let them do anyway. On my way out, I give Justin a kiss on the cheek, and I can tell he is so worried about Lance that he wants to cry. (Who knew he was such a crier?) But there’s not much I can do. They always say, “The show must go on.” We are such seasoned pros at this concert thing. We get out our earplugs, find the bodyguard, and sit down, waiting for the guys to come out. We can’t hear a frigging thing, even with the earplugs. It’s not so much the music, but the screaming that is blowing our ear drums out. Thank God it’s outside, which makes the noise dissipate a bit. In the first thirty seconds, we already have about a million and a half things to make fun of the guys about. The main one is the pink shirt girl. This girl apparently thinks she’s Britney, because she’s showing her stomach off. But, even Britney wouldn’t wear something that ugly. It’s all furry and fuzzy. So, that must be Joey’s excuse for going over and singing to her every chance he gets. She’s not even cute or anything. Then JC sings to her, then Justin. We’re about to kill them. Could they be any more obvious? Thank God Lance is too sick to notice, and Chris is all spaced out as usual. There is this sign that says, “Chris, you’re a freak, but we love you anyway.” We both notice it at the same time, and are laughing so hard that we are about to pee our pants. We decide that we need to make a replica of that and hang it on Chris’ front door. JC, though sounding incredible, is looking like the biggest idiot doing all these Howie D-ish hand motions. We decide that next time, we need to bring paper and a pen so we can write down and remember all the crap that we have to tease them about. I decide that Justin is the hottest, sexiest man alive. Especially when he slaps his ass during TUMH. There’s this one part in that song when he says “If you love me girl, let me know,” and at this concert he sort of yells it instead of singing it, to get the crowd to scream. Completely without my permission, a scream escapes from my lips. I look at you, and I want to die of embarrassment. But you are just laughing at me, and I remember that you ARE dating Nick Carter, so you probably get it. And I almost start crying at the end of I Drive Myself Crazy, because when he and JC sing together at the end of that song was my favorite *N Sync thing back in the day when if someone had told me that someday I’d be living with Justin Timberlake, I’d have passed out laughing. Lance, bless his heart, it continuing on like a trooper. I am worried for him, but I can tell Justin is more so. Normally, he looks at me a lot when he knows I’m there, but this time his eyes are on Lance. All the guys are trying to be cheerful and pretend nothing’s wrong, and for the most part there’s no way anyone could tell anyone was sick. Lance goes off stage in between songs to get water and stuff. He smiles at us, but we can tell he just wants to die. The show finally ends, and we leave with confetti all over us. We head back to the trailer. We’re all sitting around drinking coke and stuff, and you and I are going through our list of mean comments to make to them. Lance gets up to go get something, and this is when we realize just how sick he is. He just topples over, and would’ve fallen, except you happened to be there and catch him. You and Joey, trying not to panic, lay him down on the couch. You keep calling his name, at first quietly and then with more urgency. But he’s not responding in any way. He is totally passed out. At first no one does anything, because we’re all in shock. Then, I say, “Call a doctor,” in what I think is a calm voice, but I’m shaking like a leaf, and Justin starts yelling, “Where’s my cell phone?!” He grabs JC by the shirt and yells in his face, “Where the FUCK is my cell phone?!” But Chris is already calling 911. Pretty soon, Lance starts to wake up, and we are all practically down on our knees thanking God. All these people, like management and everything are swarming around trying to make us leave, but none of us are going anywhere. An ambulance comes and has to take him to the hospital. Justin is begging them to let him go with, but, since the guys are home, Lance’s parents are in town, so they go. You, me, Justin and JC get in my car to go to the hospital, and Joey and Chris go with Lance’s sister. I look in my rearview mirror and notice that you and JC are holding hands, and I realize that I don’t think any of us has ever been this scared about anything. When we get there, Lance has already been seen by a doctor, and we find out that he’s going to be fine. He has exhaustion and dehydration, and they’re keeping him overnight. The guys are all blaming themselves, of course. There’s a chorus of “We should’ve canceled” and “We shouldn’t have let him perform.” You and I are doing our best to reassure them, and tell them that Lance is an adult and makes his own decisions. I somehow get nominated to call Topenga in LA and tell her what happened, and I get a whole new round of trying to make someone feel not guilty. She is freaking out that she wasn’t there when it happened. I finally tell her to shut up and get on a plane, because she’s not helping anyone by talking to me on the phone. We go into see Lance, and he looks better, after being given IV fluids and stuff, but he’s beating himself up, because he has to miss their show in Orlando the next night. None of them has ever missed a show, and not only does he have to miss a show, but he has to miss his homecoming show. We leave after a little while, and Justin goes in. Pretty soon, visiting hours are over, and I have to take you all home. I drop you off, and this is one of those times that I really wish that you and I still lived together. You know this, so you tell me to wait. You go inside to get some clothes and a toothbrush and call Nick, and you come back telling me you’re going to stay at our place. JC decides to stay, too. So we all go over there. Justin hasn’t said one word in the last 2 hours and we’re starting to get worried. When we finally get to our house, Justin and I are in our room getting changed, and I am just going off about how I’m going to storm down to TransCon and Wright Stuff Management and beat those bastards up, blah, blah, blah...Justin looks at me, and says, “Will you just shut up?” I’m hurt at first, but I realize that he’s really just scared, and doesn’t know how to deal with it. I just leave him alone and go downstairs to make sure you guys have everything you need. We talk for a long time, and when I go back upstairs Justin is asleep, so I just get in bed and turn off the light. I didn’t realize how exhausted I am, but I fall asleep right when my head hits the pillow. What I didn’t know was that Justin was just faking sleep. He rolls over and looks at me and whispers, “I’m sorry.” He gathers me up in his arms, knowing that I won’t wake up, and cries until he falls asleep. When I wake up, I almost forget what happened the night before, because I’m all cuddled up with Justin and content, with a sleeping ball of fur at our feet. But, it all comes back to me, and I feel nauseous. I shake Justin awake, and we go downstairs where you and JC are already up making coffee. Justin and JC just look at each other like they have no idea how they’re going to get through this day. Justin is just like a little kid. He won’t leave my side. You are teasing him and calling him Kristin’s little lamb, because “Everywhere that Kristin went, her lamb was sure to go.” He doesn’t think it’s very funny. We don’t even bother to shower or anything. We just go straight to the hospital. You call Nick before we leave, and he agrees to meet you there for moral support. After what has happened lately with him and *N Sync, you truly believe that the man should be sainted. Chris and Joey are already there with Lance, and he looks a million times better. He is sitting up and has some color and he is laughing like a hyena at Joey and Chris’ dumb jokes. I breathe a sigh of relief and smile at you, because at least one major disaster is over. But, he is still in the hospital, which is just plain scary. Nick is there when you get there, and he looks at you oddly. You wonder why until you realize that you are once again holding hands with JC. But you disengage yourself from him quickly and throw yourself into Nick’s arms. We all go into Lance’s room, and congregate around the bed to cheer him up. You and I hug him and kiss him on the cheek and gush about how we’re so glad that he’s feeling better. Topenga comes in, and I can tell that she has total control over the situation. She already knows all the hospital staff, and can describe Lance’s condition in all the correct medical terms. We just laugh at her. I can tell that Justin’s feeling better, but he is thinking about the show that night. Poor Nick is just standing back in the corner of the room feeling left out. You want to fix it, but Lance is your priority for the time being. You know that if you were in the hospital he would be there for you. If nothing else, this whole mess is bringing us all a lot closer. But there is one hurdle left to get over. The show... Everyone goes home to shower, and meets at the venue to do a sound check. I have taken the day off work, and I am staying with my lamb. You go get something to eat with Nick, but you show up at the sound check not too long after it starts. We just sit in the chairs in the front row and smile, being the pillars of strength that we are. We’re really wanting to cry just from stress, but we know that we can’t do that. We have to be strong for our boys. We go eat the catered food backstage, and help the guys get their wardrobe for the show ready. The meet and greet has been canceled for obvious reasons. And then everyone just sits around and wishes Lance was there. Finally, show time rolls around, and we take our normal seats in the wings of the stage. The show is the most heart wrenching thing we’ve ever seen. All of Lance’s props are still on the stage...his stool, his mic, everything. And Justin flips Chris during I Want You Back, since Lance isn’t there to do it. The fans are all crying and shocked. But the worst part is when Justin and Chris just start bawling during God Must’ve Spent, which happens to be Lance’s favorite song. It all seems a little bit over dramatic, seeing as Lance is fine and is already at home. But this whole situation has made the guys realize that they’re not as invincible as they once thought they were. Besides, Lance is like family, and it’s the weirdest feeling for them to not have him there. He’s ALWAYS been there. The show is still great, but Lance’s absence leaves a big hole in it. Afterwards, we all hang out for a while, but everyone just wants to go home and sleep. I take Justin home, and fix him some food and watch him play with Dr. Pepper for a while. He looks up, and sees me watching him. “Kristin,” he whispers. “Yeah, baby?” I answer. “Thank you.” “For what?” I ask. “Just for being there...for being Mary to my lamb.” I laugh a little, but it’s not really all that funny. I go over and hug him for what seems like forever. Then we go upstairs and I give Justin a treat for getting through all of this in one piece... An hour after Joey said he'd meet me in five minutes I leave Starbucks. I kind of want to tell the girl who is working there to tell my friend I left, but what can I say? Do you know Joey from *N Sync? When he comes in, which he will eventually, will you tell him I left already? She might call all her friends or something like that. I sit in my car and give him another five minutes before I really pull out of the lot, cursing him and mentally telling myself he better have a good story. As a drive to my apartment, I am saying all sorts of things in my head, like, if he knew he was going to be late, why didn't he at least call the place? He knew I'd be there. And I keep trying to think of all the times he has been late or not shown up at all. I am working up my anger, even though in the long run who gives a fuck if Joey didn't show up? And I know I will get over it as soon as I talk to him next, but my whole day has been like this. I got up early to go meet my publisher for breakfast at eight, but I kept pressing snooze until I didn't have enough time to take a shower, which drives me INSANE. And of course I had to drive all the way to Windmere to go to some stupid restaurant. And then of course it turns out I had gotten the day wrong and it is really TOMORROW I am supposed to meet her. So I decided to just eat alone anyway since I was out there and in the restaurant and everything already. It was a little embarrassing to eat alone, not to mention the fact that I am gross and dirty, but I said to myself, who do I know that would be here and up this early to even see me? So I settled in and of course right when I get my meal Brian Littrell and LeighAnne Wallace walk in. And we said hello and then, since it is obvious I was alone, they were polite and invited me to eat with them. I just wanted to decline since I was all dirty and probably smelled and I barely know them, but I knew that if I did I would have to sit two tables away from them and be afraid they were watching me the whole time. So I had an awkward meal with the two of them, who obviously are having some serious romantic morning unless they are just ALWAYS like that. I spent the whole meal either feeling like I was invading some moment or else being asked all sorts of questions about myself. And then I realized that they were both probably sitting there evaluating me as Nick's new girlfriend and I lost my appetite. But I had to eat and so I kept shoveling in my breakfast which wasn't even very good. And then Leighanne started telling some story and in it is Mandy, not only Nick's old girlfriend but his god damn ex-fiancee. And I realized that of COURSE she and Leighanne are probably best of friends and I must totally be the evil enemy bitch from hell for going out with Nick. And I start picturing the conversation Leighanne and Mandy will have later, because who wouldn’t call her friend and say you'll never guess who I had breakfast with today? And she will have to fill Mandy in on all the details and tell her every little thing I said and tell her that I looked like I never shower and I smelled bad. I realized I had to get out of there right away so I made up some awkward excuse and left and when I got to my car I saw that I had spilled some corned beef hash on my shirt and not even noticed. I was torturing myself so much thinking about all the things I said that Leighanne can tell Mandy and keep imagining her and Brian talking about me after I left saying things like, I just think Nick could do better. I decided I felt bad enough to treat myself to something really nice and drove downtown get this jacket I had been debating on buying for about a month. It is awesome, but two hundred bucks. It wouldn't kill me to spend two hundred bucks on a jacket, but it wouldn't help and I just kind of feel stupid because I know perfectly well that not only can I find a good jacket somewhere for twenty, but I live in Florida for the love of god, and don't need one that badly. But I decided that today was the day and I got myself all excited and said screw Leighanne Wallace, I will be the only person with a furry white jacket with big gold buttons and a furry white hood. I got to the store and announce that I will take it when they tell me sorry, but someone bought it just yesterday. The thing had been sitting in this stupid boutique for at least a month and a half. I just went to this bookstore after that because I couldn't handle anything and decided maybe I just need to buy something good to read. But when I saw my first book, Operating Heavy Machinery, which isn't a handbook but a novel about a Canadian kid who decides he doesn't exist when his picture is missing from his yearbook, on the bargain table I decided I needed a venti butter rum mocha. So I called Joey since he lives nearby, and he said he'd meet me at Starbucks in five minutes...and you know the rest of the story to that. I pull into my parking spot and am ready to go upstairs and lie down in bed and see if anything is on Lifetime or Comedy Central. I really want Nick to be over so I can just lay with him and complain and make him get me a drink or go get some take out. But he isn't there. He's in Europe. I sigh loudly to myself when I think about the next two weeks and how much they are going to suck without him around. I kind of feel like crying but I think about how dumb I would be if I did, so I just lay my head on the steering wheel for awhile and shut my eyes real tight. A couple of tears come to my eyes anyway and I swear under my breath and keep mentally reminding myself that he's going to call later. I walk up my stairs and to my door when I see it. At first I don't know what it is, but I pull the piece of paper from my door and read it. I feel like I should probably be upset, but by this time I just shrug, as if I expected something like this would happen. I am at least not surprised. Justin is lying in his hammock when you get home from work and you call out to him from the screen door. He beckons you to come hither and you just go back in the house to change. DP is jumping all around you while you walk around and you trip over him like a million times. You are irritated and hot and tired, but his enthusiasm and love gets you every time. How could you stay mad at a face like that? You pet him a little and put on some shorts and a tank top and go into the backyard. "Baby, what are you doing, ignoring me like that?" Justin asks when he catches a glimpse of you but his voice is playful. You go closer and stand above him. He tries to pull you into the hammock with him but it's pretty hot and you resist. Instead you take his hat off and put it on your own head. "How do I look?" you ask, modeling it for him even though it is way to big for your head. "You look great," he says cocking an eyebrow and pulls you down to his face by your arm for a kiss that you give him. "Ever done it in a hammock?" he asks with a twinkle in his eye. You laugh at loud but then shrug and say, "Yeah once," even though it isn't true. He sits up straight and looks at you closely to see if you are telling the truth or not. You aren't, but you don't give in yet. You keep from smiling and Justin keeps looking at you until he finally laughs lowly and says, "You liar." You laugh too and climb into the hammock with him. He kisses you but just when he thinks he is about to get lucky the cordless phone rings. You can both hear it but not see it and finally manage to reach it out from under Justin's armpit. "Oh, it's you," Justin groans into the phone and you can hear my voice. DP comes over and lies down by the pool and you realize you feel like going for a swim. Justin is talking to me as if he is interested in whatever I am saying. You get up off him and by instinct his arms try to hold you close, but you manage to get away. It's so hot outside and you are staring at the pool. You go sit by DP and pet him for awhile. You take off your socks and shoes and stick your legs into the water. You try to ask Justin what we are talking about but he keeps hushing you. The water feels so good on your legs. You take a wet hand and put it on Justin's leg and he looks down at you. He gets out of the hammock and sits down by you and DP, absently rubbing your thigh as he talks. You try to grab the phone away from him but it doesn't work. Finally, you can't take it anymore and out of nowhere you just slide, clothes and all, into the cool pool. Justin shakes his head at you and you swim a couple laps until you remember people don't swim in clothes because it sucks. Your jean shorts are heavy and you slide them off and put them on the side of the pool and swim some more laps. Justin sticks his legs in the water. Right as he is getting off of the phone, you take off your shirt and start swimming again. When you come up for air, the phone is on the ground and Justin is just watching you. He takes his shirt off and jumps in the pool, coming over to help you finish undressing. He is so distracted he forgets to tell you I was evicted. You let yourself into mine and Justin’s house, because we left the door unlocked, and Justin had told you to come over when you talked to him on the phone. You yell my name a few times and check all the rooms to find me. You hear some noise outside, so you figure we must be in the pool or something. You come outside, and start to say something, but stop dead in your tracks when you see all of our clothes strewn around and realize that Justin and I are naked. I just stare at you, unsure what to do. With all the sex that goes on in our lives, nothing like this has ever happened before. I silently thank God that you didn’t show up 15 minutes before. At least you were saved the trauma of actually seeing us in action. Justin just starts to laugh. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I realize that this will be funny later, but it’s not right now. You finally regain control of your motor skills and go back inside, where you sit on the couch and watch TV in an effort to forget what you just saw. You are also wondering why I’m frolicking around naked with my boyfriend when you just got kicked out of your apartment. You’d think I’d be more upset, especially since it’s mostly his fault. A couple minutes later, I come inside. “I’m sorry,” I tell you. “I had no idea that you were coming over.” “You didn’t?” You thought you hated Justin before, but now you are seriously entertaining the idea of shooting him. “Justin didn’t tell you?” you ask incredulously. “Tell me what?” I am honestly in the dark. “What were you guys talking about on the phone? He wouldn’t give it to me so I could talk to you.” “Oh my God,” you say. You are pretty pissed. “Your boyfriend is an asshole.” “Hey now,” I say, a little miffed myself. “No need for that. Why don’t you just tell me what Justin forgot to tell me.” I can see him outside and I am shooting him the evil eye. He is really going to get it later. “I’ve been evicted from my apartment” I am totally lost, especially since I know that you always pay your rent on time and everything. But suddenly I realize what happened, and I want to cry. And the thought of killing Justin, and also OOC McLean, goes through my head too. You see these different emotions wash over my face, and you know that I know what happened. “Okay,” I say, trying to stay calm. “So Justin told you to come over here?” “Yeah,” you tell me. Then you just fall over on the couch and sigh. “What am I going to do?” “Well, you’re going to move in here, of course,” I say like it’s the simplest thing in the world. “At least until you find yourself something else or if you want to move in with Nick when he comes back or whatever. Or you can just stay forever. It’s up to you.” You try to smile at me, but you can’t. “I don’t think I’ll be staying here,” you say. “Why?” “Well, after what I just witnessed, I don’t think I would be too comfortable around here. I mean, you guys are used to living just the two of you.” “What are you going to do, find yourself a nice cardboard box?” When put that way, you know that you are going to have to stay with us for at least a little while. You aren’t too fond of the idea, but you will deal. Meanwhile, I am getting all gid, because I am so excited at the thought of having you around again. I run outside to tell Justin that you’re staying. He looks at me like, duh, that’s what I was thinking all along. “It’s a start,” I tell him. “What are you talking about?” he asks. “You are going to have to do a lot more to make this up to her,” I say. “Like what?” he asks me. “You’ll think of something,” I tell him. “Right now, you are sleeping with Dr. Pepper...in the DOG HOUSE. Don’t for one minute think that you’re going to give me that smile and get out of it.” With that, I walk into the house with a bewildered Justin staring after me. I come inside and see you sitting on the couch, staring off into space. I come and sit down next to you and put my arm around you. You lay your head on my shoulder, and we just sit like that for a while. I'm really worried about you. You've been so down since Nick left anyway, and I can't imagine what this final blow has done to you. "So, are you going to start looking for a new place right away or what?" I ask. "I don't want to do anything right now," you say. "Are you okay?" I ask. "No!" you practically yell. "I am so not okay!" I've been waiting for this, and I just let you have your little tirade. You tell me all about Joey not meeting you and having to eat with Brian and Leighann and being unshowered, worrying what they're saying about you and then coming home to find the eviction notice. I want to cry myself, because it just sucks. And I am REALLY wanting to kill Justin now. As if he's reading my mind, he comes sauntering into the house, and says "hi" to you in this really timid little kid voice. Lucky for him, you don't have the energy to beat the shit out of him. You just lay back on the couch and shut your eyes as if to block out the whole day. "Um, I'm going to Chris' place," Justin says. "Good idea," I tell him. "Don't come back for a long time." I see the hurt etched in his features, but I don't feel bad. He needs to suffer for a while. At ten o'clock that same day, you are sitting on the couch watching some TV and considering calling Chris's and telling Justin he can come home now. I left a couple hours ago and you had decided to let Ju come home on his own time, but now to be honest you are a little lonely and want him to be close to you. Just when you pick up the phone though, you here the front door open and know it is Justin. You put the phone down quickly and act as if you are engrossed in the Lifetime Original you are watching. It has Tiffany Amber Theissan in it. Justin smiles and sits down, looking at you a little warily. He leans against you as he sits down on the couch, testing the waters. You kiss him and he relaxes. "Where's Roxanne?" he asks, putting his head in your lap. You play with his hair a little. "She went home," you tell him. "She doesn't have to be out until the end of the week." He's being pretty quiet and you know how bad he feels about the whole fight situation. You don't ride him about it, though, because you know his guilt is better than any punishment you could give him. "She can stay here as long as she needs to," he says, taking the bottom seem of your shorts and playing with it like a nervous habit. "I know she can," you say back with a tiny hint of attitude. You know Justin hears it and kind of sinks lower into the couch. You try to focus on the end of your show, but you keep trying to think of something to say to the head in your lap. You don't want to let him off the hook, but you don't want him to be sad. Finally, Kelly Capowski saves the day and you switch off the TV and say, "Baby I'll always love you no matter what. Everybody messes up. You have to deal with it but it's alright. And I love you always. You always have me." You wait for him to say something back and when he doesn't you look down and realize he is asleep. You can't help but smile at how angelic he looks when he is sleeping. You know you should wake him up and make him go to bed, but instead you just let him lie there for awhile and watch the news. I am walking around my cool apartment, thinking about packing but not actually doing anything of course. I get stressed enough anyway and keep checking the clock and trying to figure out what time it is in Belgium. Finally the phone rings and I answer it quickly. Of course it is Nick and I close my eyes and smile when I hear his voice. Before he can say much I just let it go and tell him everything about my whole day but mainly about being evicted. I finally cry the feeling sorry for myself tears I've been needing to get out. I am really cold and go get a sweater out of the closet even though I know somewhere in the back of my head it is really hot out. I keep whining to him and he keeps asking me questions. When I am done crying and at the part where I apologize for being such a wuss, Nick just sighs loudly and says, "I'm sorry. I know how much you liked it there. I liked it there." And that starts me off whining again and crying a little more. Once I get it out though, I feel a lot better about the whole thing. I am feeling really tired though. I did wake up early that morning but my legs just feel like Jell-O. I tell Nick that and he says, "There's always room for Jell-O." and I wish he was there so badly that I start crying some more and try to act like it's about the apartment and my bad day. He is being kind of quiet about the whole thing and I start wondering if maybe he is really tired also, I mean shit, the boy is touring. I am feeling a little bad that I took all the pity for myself today, but yesterday I let him complain so I let it go. Finally he says, "I'm really sorry that whole fight even happened" and I realize he thinks he is some how responsible. I don't and I tell him that. I don't even really blame Justin or AJ much, but just look at the whole thing as a mess. We argue about it a little bit and I am starting to get irritated because we only get a little bit of phone time a day and I don't want to waste it bickering about AJ McLean. Then Nick tells me to hold on and covers the phone. I can still hear some muffled voices and I just want him to get back on the phone so I can hear his damn voice. I feel really tired and my legs are disconnected from my body and I am irritable and my life sucks and I just want to hear his voice. I take the cordless and go lie down in bed and when Nick comes back on he says AJ would like to speak to me. I say I don't want to talk to AJ, and that makes it sound as if I am angry with him but I'm not. I don't want to talk to AJ because I want to talk to Nick. But I am too out of it by then to even notice how I sound. "You should talk to him, he feels bad about everything," Nick is saying but I can't even hear him. My head hurts and my whole body feels so tired like it wants to sleep for a week. I start to feel pretty weird. "I just want to love you for the rest of my life," I tell Nick and I don't even understand how weird that must sound. "Umm....okay," he says. "Will you talk to AJ? At least listen to what he as to say." I can hear AJ's voice in the background. "I don't want to talk to AJ!" I yell because I am irritable and then burst into tears because I don't feel good. I hear Nick say, not in the phone, "I think she's really pissed" but I am not. I don't give a damn about AJ or anything except for the fact that I am pretty sure I have a fever. Finally I am so sick of trying to understand what is going on over in Belgium and so sick of not being able to just talk to Nick alone for awhile that I hang up the phone without saying goodbye. It rings some more as soon as I hang it up but I am half asleep by then and in my head I think the ringing is the doorbell and that it's okay, Kristin will answer the door. Who could it be at this hour? It's probably Chris. Why isn't Kristin answering the door? She's probably in bed with Justin. I hope he didn't bring Busta over. I call out your name a couple of times and then throw up over the edge of my bed. You always knew that we shared a mind, but you truly believe it when you feel me shaking you awake a few hours later. “I was calling for you...” you mumble. “Where were you?” “At home,” I say confused. “But I’m here now. I was worried about you, so I came over. Are you sick?” You look down at the floor and say, “Apparently so.” “Eew,” I say, turning up my nose at the puke. “We need to get that cleaned up. Why don’t you get in the shower while I take care of this.” You are feeling so crappy that I have to practically carry you to the shower. I get you inside, and look around for some cleaning supplies. When you come out of the shower, I’m in the living room watching TV. “You look much better,” I say. “How do you feel?” “Okay”“What happened?” I ask, because I know that there’s more to it than you just feeling sick. “I don’t want to talk about it,” you tell me. “Nick?” I ask. “Yeah,” you say. “But I don’t want to talk about it.” And I comply. “What do you want to do?” I ask, as if there is anything to do in the middle of the night. “We can go to my house. Justin is asleep. We can watch Lifetime or something.” You don’t really want to go to my house, but you don’t feel like staying in the apartment you are soon to be kicked out of. But before you go, you leave a message on your machine telling whoever calls that you’re at my house. We both know that this message is just for Nick, but we don’t say anything about it. You sleep in the car on the way, and we haven’t been watching TV for more than ten minutes when you are fast asleep on the couch. I cover you up with a blanket and kiss you on the forehead, and take my tired ass off to bed. I wake up to the phone ringing. “Hello?” I answer, groggily, while looking at the clock and noticing that it’s only 8:30 am. It’s JC. He’s always calling this early, no matter how many times we tell him not to. “What do you need?” I ask in a rather irritated voice. But he doesn’t really notice. “Is Justin there?” “He’s asleep.” “Okay,” he says and then pauses. “You don’t want to wake him up, do you?” he asks hopefully. “Nope,” I tell him, glancing at Justin. Justin is the crabbiest person in the morning, and I don’t feel like dealing with it. I’m too damn tired. “Is there a message I can leave for him?” “Well, just tell him to call me,” he says. “Sorry for calling so early.” “It’s okay,” I say, smiling. I can never be mad at him. By this point, I am totally awake, and I feel like talking to JC for a while. Justin is still sleeping like a log, so I get up and go downstairs with the cordless. I am totally amazed at the fact that you are awake, drinking coffee and watching TV. “What the hell’s got you up so early?” I say laughing. You smile at me, and I can tell you are glad that I am up. “The phone woke me up. Who is it?” “JC, the bastard,” I say, into the phone. “Hey!” he says. “I said I was sorry!” And I look at you, noting your disappointment that it’s not Nick on the phone. “I know,” I say. “I’m just kidding.” “Is that Roxanne?” he asks. When I affirm this, he says, “What’s she doing over there?” I tell him the whole story, and I can hear him sucking in his breath. I’m figuring he’s still a little pissed at Justin, but being the nice guy he is, he isn’t going to say anything to me about it. “Let me talk to her,” he says. I hand you the phone and then go in the kitchen to get myself some coffee. The first thing JC says to you is, “Are you okay?” He’s one of your best friends, so you’re honest with him. “Honestly? Not really.” “I’m so sorry,” he says. “You deserve better.” You wish he was there, because you want to give him a big hug for being so nice. He really helped you through the whole Lance thing, and you’ve felt closer to him ever since. “Are you busy right now?” he asks. “Am I ever busy?” you laugh. He chuckles. “Do you want to go get some breakfast or something?” “Sure,” you say. “I have to shower first, though.” By this time, I’ve come back in the room, and I’m impressed with the fact that you’re agreeing to go anywhere this early in the morning. JC says he’ll pick you up in a half hour and gets off the phone. “Where are you going?” I inquire. “To breakfast with JC,” you say. “Oh good,” I say. “I am glad that you’re getting out. And if anyone can cheer you up, it’s JC.” I go upstairs and wake Justin’s grumpy ass up. Surprisingly, he’s relatively nice. I think he’s basically scared of me, and he feels guilty as hell. I am enjoying it a lot. “Hi baby,” he says. “Did the phone just ring?” “Yeah,” I say. “It was JC. He’s taking Roxanne to breakfast.” “What?” he says, and I remember that he doesn’t know that you’re at our house. As if on cue, the shower goes on. I point at it and say, “She stayed here last night. I went and got her. She wasn’t feeling well.” “Is she okay now?” he asks. “Well, not really, but I think she feels better.” “Have I told you that I love you lately?” he asks, kissing me. “Probably,” I say with a smile. “But feel free to say it anytime you want. I love you, too.” We go outside, still in our pj’s (of course, Justin is wearing your pj pants) and get in the hammock, which is our new favorite spot. We bring DP with us, and sitting there in the early morning Orlando sunshine, we fall asleep. JC shows up exactly a half an hour later. You are sitting on the couch, staring into space. When you hear him come into the room, you turn around and smile at the sight of him. It makes you happy to be around someone who doesn’t remind you of all of the shit you’ve been going through. You guys get in his jeep, which you love, and go to an out of the way cafe where no one will know who he is. You talk forever, and you realize that you haven’t been spending enough time with the *N Sync guys lately. You find it ironic that the only one you see regularly is Justin, who you still hate a little bit. Just when you are least expecting it, he pops the question. (No, not THAT question! Hehe.) “You know, Roxanne,” he says. “I have an extra room at my condo.” “And?” you say, because you’ve momentarily forgot that you’ve been evicted. “Well, you could stay with me for a while if you want,” he says. You think about it for a minute, and realize that it’s a great idea. You’ve always wanted to live with a guy, and JC is the easiest person in the world to get along with. And you’d much rather live with him than have to risk another scene like at the swimming pool the day before. But that brings up another thought. “What about...” you don’t want to say it, but you have to. “Nikki?” He guffaws. “You haven’t talked to me much lately, have you?” “What do you mean?”“Nikki and I are no longer.” “Yeah, but that’s what you always say,” you remind him. “For good this time.” You don’t know why, but you believe him. And, for some reason, you don’t even think about how Nick will feel about the whole thing. A couple days later, I get home from work, and the first thing I hear is your voice saying, "Come on Justin, do it! It's so sexy!" And I'm wondering what the hell is going on. I come in the living room where you two are sitting, and you whine to me, "Tell Justin to sing the beginning part of Merry Merry Christmas!" I sigh in relief and tell him, "Just do it, if for no other reason than to shut her the hell up," and I smile at him and kiss him. You flip me off, and then look at Justin expectantly. He knows better than to deny a request from us, so he complies. "Merry Christmas...Happy Holidays." And you are so gid that you jump up and give me a hug. "How was your day?" you ask. "Um, okay," I say. "Actually I got an invite to a function that you might enjoy going to with me." "Hey!" Justin whines. "What about me?" "You, my dear," I tell him. "Will be out of town. Sorry." And he pouts for a minute, until DP decides to wake up from where he's sleeping on the couch and Justin starts playing with him. I swear he likes that dog more than he likes me. "What is it?" you ask. "Don't laugh," I say. "But it's a party for C-Note. Sort of like a debutante ball. All the big wigs are going to be there, and they invited the legal department, too. I thought you'd get a kick out of it." You are laughing so hard that you can barely answer me. But you say, "Oh my God, yes! We have to go!" "Okay," I tell you. "But you have to buy a new dress. It's going to be pretty formal." "Oh well," you say. "It will be worth it. I'll get Britney to take me shopping." When you say that, Justin just gives you a "look." He doesn't get why we're so chummy with her. "What?" you say. "She's the best shopper I know!" You open the garage door, pick up the boxes at your feet and motion for me to follow. I do even though I am groaning about how heavy the boxes are. We stack the last of them up and you stand back and smile, relieved to have gotten the job finished. "You realize our whole friggin' house is now in Justin's garage," I tell you, plopping down on the old couch that sits there and letting DP lick my hand. "Yeah, so?" you ask defensively and I just shrug and decide that whatever issue you are dealing with by keeping all of this crap is something I don't want to get involved in. It's dark and dusty in the garage and kind of a nice break from the heat that's bearing down outside. I am tempted to stay rooted on the old couch all day when I remember that the house is air conditioned and you have some beer in the fridge. I stand up and go over by you and look at everything. "I wonder who is going to move into our house," I think out loud. You sigh and shrug and turn around to head back into the house. I coax DP to follow me and do the same. We sit down at the kitchen table, me with a beer and you with some lemonade. Justin is at rehearsals working like a dog since he missed a few days when he was sick. Everybody knows that he should be taking it easy instead of working extra hard to make the days up, but no one mentions it. It's like the elephant we walk around in the living room. I had, though, thought it would be nice to not have him around for once. Just to kick it with you for awhile, and it is nice, but it is also odd. You seem pretty distracted and I don't really blame you. I know you are worried about Justin for a multitude of reasons and I wish I could offer some sort of advice. "Is Nick coming back?" you ask me. Nick has three days off and has been trying to decide whether to make the trip all the way back or just stick around and see a little of Europe. "I don't know," I answer with a shrug. "He can't decide. I bet you five bucks he ends up staying just because he takes too long to make the decision." You fill up your glass of lemonade and I check my watch because I am suppose to finish moving my things in to JC's. I figure I want to wait and have Joey and JC around to help though, because mostly all that’s left is my bed and some other bigger things. I am looking forward to sleeping over there tonight though and getting all settled in. It drives me crazy not to have a place to really call home and I am relieved I will have one soon. We hear the door open and some voices chattering and in walk Justin and Chris and JC and Joey. *N Sync minus Lance basically. Justin looks pretty tired and I guess that’s why he doesn't go over and start groping you, but instead just sits down. I think about how it is kind of funny being here, over at Justin's house, and how it isn't really the same as everyone hanging out at our old house. No one really knows where to sit and it is kind of awkward. Chris and Joey don't really just go into the fridge like they would have. It's still nice to just be around everyone, but it isn't quite the same. Maybe it will just take time getting used to. JC starts grilling me about what I have and have not taken over to his place and I defend myself by saying you made me come over here. He starts flipping out about how everything needs to get settled so we leave to go take care of it, Joey coming along against his own will because I am dragging him. "JC?" I ask slowly, pushing the front door to the condo open the next day. "In here," a voice calls. I slide my new key out of the door and start walking down the hall. I look around and start to get a little nervous about the whole situation. This is my new home? To me it feels so much like just JC's place and I don't know if I will ever get over thinking like that. Maybe I will just always feel like a permanent guest instead of a roommate and that would suck. All of my shit is in my new room, the GUEST room. I'm having second thoughts but it's a little late now; this morning Joey and I just finished moving the last of my stuff. I'm pretty much lost in my own world of thought when I mosy into the kitchen were JC is slumped over the counter looking rather pitiful. I pour some juice into a cup and pull up a stool next to him before I give him a good look. "Are you okay?" I ask him doubtfully. He looks up and stares me straight in the face. "I'm feeling rather ill," he says before slumping back down. I look at him for a few minutes longer and finish my juice. "Want some Tylenol?" I offer, not waiting for a reply and going to the bathroom to get some. Back in the kitchen I pour him a big glass of water and hand them both to him. I feel his forehead since I know that fever has been going around and it sure feels hot, but it's hot as fuck in general. I keep feeling my forehead and then his forehead and I decide his definitely feels hotter. I walk around talking to myself mainly while JC doesn't move. "Don't you have a thermometer? I guess I don't either. Seems like you would have one. Should I call someone? Maybe you should call your doctor? Eh, you'll probably be better if it's what me and Justin had. Should I call him? Or Kristin? Maybe you should lay down." I am rambling when JC sits back up, alert, and tells me he is glad I moved in so I will be here when he is on tours and things. I nod and it actually makes me feel better about the whole thing. I sit back down on the stool next to him and lay my head down to look into his face. He tries to smile, but it doesn't work out too well. "You should lie down," I tell him again in a softer voice and he nods a little. I get up and help him up a little. I follow him into his bedroom and ask him if he needs anything but he says no. I sit down by him on the bed and he tries to get the covers over him but can't and gives up. I help him a little and look at him some more. I remember the time I got the flu and you were in New York on business and how JC came and stayed over until you got back. We watched Ghostbusters and he made me soup. I start getting a little teary eyed and I know most of it is just because I moved again and when my life changes I go insane. But I'm feeling kind of nostalgic and I feel really happy to be with JC right now while he is sick. Because people like him never get sick. Or when they do, they just work right through it and take care of themselves. I know he has to leave in a couple of days and I start to worry. I lay down next to him and ask him if he wants some soup. He shakes his head and sort of nods off to sleep. You wake up the next morning at seven even though you don't have to go into work until ten. Someone is ringing the doorbell and while both you and Justin obviously ignored it for awhile, the person was persistent. You nudge Justin a little to try and make him get up and answer the door but he just shakes his head and mumbles something inaudible. You roll your eyes at him even though he isn't looking at get up in a kind of huff, throwing on your slippers and robe and padding downstairs. The doorbell keeps ringing while you are on your way to the door and you feel like screaming and gutting whoever it is. You throw the door open and there is Nick, smiling at you. "Did I wake you?" he asks and you almost hit him. You are silent for a minute and finally take a deep breath. "What's up Nick?" you ask, and invite him in. He follows you into the living room and sits down on the leather couch. "Is Roxanne here?" he inquires, looking around. You shake your head and sit down on the couch by him. "She's at JC's. She's all moved in there now." Nick scratched his chin and nods a little. "I don't know where that is," he admits to you with an embarrassed shrug. You are feeling a little less irritated now that you are more awake and you just laugh. "How's the tour going?" "Pretty good," he says, relaxing and stretching out. "I'm tired as hell." He looks pretty tired and so you just give him directions to JC's and he leaves, both of you throwing out all sorts of plans about getting together before he has to go back overseas, which is in a couple of days. You go back upstairs to where Justin is sleeping and climb back in bed. You watch him closely because he is leaving in a few days too. You sigh and cuddle close to him and try to fall back asleep but you can't. So you just lie there next to him and enjoy it while you can. I open the front door at eight o'clock in the morning and there is my boyfriend, with a big smile on his face and two oranges in his hand. "I was just in the neighborhood so I thought I'd drop in," he says, leaning in and kissing me. I am surprised to see him because I haven't heard from him in a couple days. Counting it a little in my head I realize he must've been on a plane most of the time I haven't heard from him and I feel a little guilty that I was worried. I'm glad he is here and I let him hug me. I can't help but smile and feel better about everything. I usher him in and he starts peeling one of the oranges. I give him the quick tour, whispering so we don't wake up JC. We end up in the kitchen where he throws away the peel and starts handing me slices of orange. I'm talking a mile a minute about everything. I have more to say than I thought I did about moving and all that went into it. Most of it isn't very interesting but I can't stop talking. When I'm finally done I hug him and kiss him again. I am feeling a little extra giddy and don't know what to do with it. "Show me your bedroom again," he says with a smile and I start to do it until I realize what he means and I just laugh and feel embarrassed. "JC's sick," I remind him. "And his bedroom is right next to mine." "He's sleeping," Nick says, sitting down on one of the stools and leaning his head on my arm. "No way," I say and am slightly bothered knowing that there is no way I could do it. Nick sighs loudly but is smiling. He kisses me again. "Come over to my house," he says and at first it seems like the perfect solution until it hits me that JC is sick. I open my eyes and curse under my breath. "I can't," I tell Nick. "Why not?" he asks, confused. I don't even know how I am supposed to explain to him about last October when JC watched Ghostbusters with me and let me lay my head on his lap. "JC's sick," is all I say. "So? He'll be okay. Let's go over to my house for a little while and we can come back. We'll bring him some lunch or something." "I can't," I say again with a sigh. Nick, irritated, gets up and says "Okay." He starts walking to the door and I stop him. "You don't have to leave," I tell him, probably more irritated by him being a jerk than he is about not getting any. He turns back around and asks, out of nowhere, "Am I ever going to be able to compare to *N Sync? Ever? Or should I just give up now?" I guffaw at him. "What are you talking about?" I whisper tightly at him, throwing my hands up in the air. Twenty minutes tops he's been back and we're fighting. We never fought before he went away. "Don't ask me what I'm talking about when you'd obviously rather spend time with your *N Sync friends than with me! And I haven't seen you in two weeks! I'm sorry that I'm not Joey or good ole JC. Maybe if I was I'd get to be with you ever." He's just being ridiculous now and I'm half wondering why he is trying to pick a fight with me and half wondering when the last time he slept was. But I can't help but get mad at him. "*N Sync has nothing to do with the fact that we haven't seen each other lately in case you forgot Mr. I'm-In-Europe!" He gets kind of up in my face and asks me, "In case you forgot I flew back here just to see you Miss JC-Is-More-Important-Than-You!" "For the love of God, he's my friend and he is sick! What if Brian Litttrell was sick?" I ask, tearing up because I can't believe how much my life is sucking. "It's not the same," Nick say stubbornly when JC appears from his doorway. "Is there anymore Tylenol?" he asks groggily, leaning on the wall for support. "Yeah, I'll get it. Sorry we woke you up." "It's okay," he says quietly. "I really could just use some more Tylenol." He looks at us for the first time and he looks horrible. "I was just leaving," Nick mutters and walks out the door and I just stand there, my mouth wide open. "What's wrong?" JC asks but I just tell him to go back to bed. I get him some more Tylenol and water and sit by him until he goes back to sleep. I go into the bathroom to take a shower and wait until the water is on before I start to cry. Later that night JC is feeling better and you and Justin stop by to see how he's doing. I take this opportunity to leave. I hop in my car and head over to Nick's without calling. I'm half afraid he's going to turn me away or something. I pull in and get out and he meets me at the door. I had some things planned to say but I just start crying right away and then trying to explain that I am just over-sensitive because I'm stressed about the move and other various excuses. He lets me in and just kind of sits on the couch with me until I stop crying. I feel stupid and tell him I think I might be getting my period which isn't true. He doesn't seem very mad anymore but he hasn't said anything and is sighing a lot. "I don't love *N Sync more than I love you," I finally tell him and he lets out a big sigh. "It's just weird when I'm gone. And then I come back and everything is all turned around and you're living with JC Chasez. I don't know." He looks away when he says all this, but he touches my arm. He doesn't have to tell me how weird it is. "I don't hear from you for a couple of days and I can't help but think about whatever the hell it is you could be doing," I admit. He looks back at me again. "Come with me," he begs. I shake my head immediately. He could have phrased the question differently and it would have worked. Come to Italy for a couple of days would have worked. But Come with me was a lost cause and he knew it. "Why not?" he asks anyway, looking at me like he is about to cry. "Why don't you come with ME?" I ask him and he just leans away from me and shakes his head because I'm being difficult. "It's just not working like this," he says and my body goes cold. For awhile I can't say anything. "What do you want me to do?" When he shrugs I realize he is trying to break up with me and I just get up and walk out to the door and run to my car. I can see Nick in the doorway of his house calling my name but I don't stop. I drive all the way back to my new apartment. You and Justin are gone and JC is watching TV. I just start to cry as soon as I am inside and I flop down next to him on the couch. He just comforts me without asking any questions and I eventually fall asleep. *N Sync is leaving today. They’re going to New York for a week to tape some TV appearances. There was never any question of me going to the airport with Justin. I just can’t deal with it anymore. Instead, I’m going into work. I make him a big breakfast like I always do and help him pack. The limo is coming to pick him up at around 8 am, and I can’t help but feel like something is missing because the other guys decided not to meet up at one house to leave for the airport together. There’s no Joey eating the left overs, Chris throwing you around, JC bitching and moaning at everyone or Lance trying to calm everyone down. But I have to admit that it’s nice to have some private time with Justin so I can cry and not have to worry about who is watching. We sit on the hammock in back while we’re waiting for the limo to come. We don’t say anything, because we have been through this so many times before, there’s not really anything to say. I just lay my head on his chest and try not to cry. I know he’s excited about his trip, and I don’t want to ruin it for him. When the doorbell rings, we take an extra long time getting up. He hugs me and kisses me, and I touch his earring in my left ear, remembering that he’ll always be with me. “Watch me on TV,” he says. “When I touch my earring, that will be my sign to you, okay? I love you, baby.” “I love you, too,” I sigh. Suddenly, I grab his arm and pull him back to me. “Wait! Don’t go. Please,” I have lost all pride, and now I’m begging. “Baby, I have to go,” he says, trying to get free of my surprisingly strong grip. “You never even try to stay,” I pout. “Don’t you want to be with me?” “Kristin,” he says to me like I’m five, which fits since I’m acting like I’m five. “It’s my job. I don’t have a choice. And, I love my job. Even if I could stay, I probably wouldn’t.” My face falls, and I’m crushed. “I don’t know what your problem is,” he says in an irritated voice. “I asked you to tour with me, and you said no. I want to be with you, but I can’t quit my job.” “Neither can I,” I say quietly. And then we just stare at each other, because there’s nothing else to say. He kisses my cheek quickly, and he is gone. “Fuck” I say under my breath. I want to kick myself for leaving things like that. I decide to go over to your and JC’s place before work to whine to you and see how you’re doing. I know you’ll be pissed at me for waking you up, but I don’t care. But you aren’t sleeping anyway. You were up all night stressing about Nick, and then early in the morning trying to get JC out the door. He is still sick as a dog, but he refuses to stay home. All you could do was make sure he had enough Tylenol for an army, and that he ate something before he left. You usher me in and pour me some coffee. “How are you?” I ask. “Hm...let’s see,” you say sarcastically. “I just got evicted from my awesome apartment, the love of my life just dumped me on my ass and is on his way to Europe as we speak, so there is no way that I’m going to be able to fix things between us, and my new roommate and most of my best friends just left for a week. I would say that I’m doing pretty good.” “Well,” I say. “I guess I should be leaving for work now.” I’m feeling all extra sensitive since Justin is gone, and I ruined our last five minutes with a fight. “No, wait,” you say. “I’m sorry. I just feel like shit.” “Yeah, well, so do I,” and I tell you my sob story. “Good going,” you giggle at me. “I know,” I say. “I have no pride. I’m so pathetic.” “Well, neither do I,” you say. “Look on the bright side,” I tell you. “We get to go party with C-Note tonight!” “Oh man,” you say. “I forgot about that. Dammit! I forgot to buy a dress.” “Well,” I tell you. “We can go get one today when I get off work. We can take Brit. She’ll help you find something good.” I can tell that you’re trying to figure a way to get out of it, and there’s no way I’m going to let you. “Oh no you don’t! You are so going with me! You promised.” “Okay,” you say. “But don’t blame me if I’m not any fun!” Later that night... “Roxanne!” I am screaming. “Get your ass down here! We’re going to be so late!” “I’m not coming down,” you declare. “I look h’laem, and it’s all your fault for making me buy this dress. Well, you and Britney.” “Roxanne,” I say. “Take deep breaths. You look beautiful.” “Britney!” I yell. She comes and stands at the bottom of the stairs with me. “What?” “Will you tell Roxanne how good she looks, while I go get her a drink to calm her down?” “Okay,” she laughs. She does what she is told while I go get you a drink. I stop when I see a picture of you, me and *N Sync stuck to the fridge. You are between Joey and JC with Chris making bunny ears behind your head. Lance is looking at you and laughing. Justin and I are off to the side. He is standing behind me with his arms around me, and I am looking up at him adoringly. I stare at that picture for a long time, and don’t notice that I’m crying until Britney comes in the kitchen and asks me what’s wrong. I’m embarrassed as hell. I mean, we’re friends, but not that good of friends. And this is her ex-boyfriend that I’m crying over. “Oh nothing,” I say, quickly wiping my tears away. “I just miss him is all,” even though that is so not all it is. “You know,” she says. “If you ever need to talk, I’m here.” I am so shocked that I am speechless for an entire minute. Then I hug her and start screaming at you again. Normally, you don’t care how you look, but seeing Britney in all her glory is enough to make anyone insecure. I’m halfway wanting to stay home, too. Finally, we round you up and head to the C-Note party, with Britney’s glitter taking up it’s own seat in the car. I swear that she showers in the stuff. We are both sort of irritated that she’s there, because it’s going to be impossible to rip on C-Note if she’s around. But we figure that once she gets there she’ll ditch us to hang out with Innosense or LFO. We are right. The party is being held at this exclusive country club. It’s all decorated and the lights are low. It’s a very romantic setting, and it makes us both think of our respective men. We both wish they were there. And what’s worse is that neither of us know where we stand with them. But we’ve made a pact that we’re not going to let them ruin our night. I grab your hand and squeeze it, and you smile at me. First we eat this gourmet dinner. But we don’t actually eat, because we don’t even know what it is. All the old people are enjoying it. We are watching Lou Pearlman eat, and for someone so rich, the man has no class. But we are still a little in awe of him, because, after all, without him there would be no *N Sync or BSB. After that, a bunch of boring TransCon and record company executives get up and talk about C-Note and how much success they’re going to have, blah, blah. And you and I are just sitting there getting drunk and dissecting Innosense’s skanky outfits. Finally, all that crap is over, and they start setting up for C-Note to perform. They suck, of course, and the fact that they are singing “Wait Till I Get Home” and “Spanish Fly” to all these old people nearly sends us into a fit of hysterical laughter. By this point, we are completely trashed. So, when they set up a dance floor, and all the old farts start to leave, you and I are the first ones out there. We’re not the only ones who are drunk, apparently. People are getting pretty freaky on the dance floor. And you know me. I cannot NOT dance with a guy. I look around and notice that David (aka D-Lo) from C-Note is available, and is also very cute (for a member of C-Note.) You see me go over to him and roll your eyes, because this dancing thing is always what causes problems. You are dancing with Nikki and Britney and Brad from LFO and all these other people, but you can’t have fun because you’re worried about me. Me drunk + me and Justin fighting=nothing but trouble. But then you decide that you are not going to waste your excellent buzz, so you start dancing with Brad. I’m dancing with David and having a blast. He is smelling all good, and there’s something to be said for the comedy factor. I just think that being able to say I got freaky with a member of C-Note would be hilarious. And I’m also doing it to spite Justin. I’m hurt and mad, and I am enjoying the attention from another guy. I’m flirting my ass off...being totally shameless. But, it’s all in fun, I’m thinking. That is until he starts to kiss me. You are getting down with Brad, and he’s trying to get you to come home with him. You haven’t noticed that Nikki and Britney are gone, because Nikki’s mad at Brad for dancing with you. But, you suddenly notice what I am doing, and rush over to grab me. You know that this isn’t good. I get mad and irrational, the way drunk people do, and I won’t go. But, in a sudden moment of clarity, I realize what I have just done, and I freak out. I’m so glad that you are there to keep me from doing something really stupid. We take off, finding a limo to take us home. I just sit in the limo with my head on your shoulder and cry until we get back to my house. You decide you’ll stay the night. You don’t feel like being in JC’s house alone. And you don’t want to check the machine and see that Nick hasn’t called. On my machine, however, is a long and sappy message from Justin apologizing for the fight, telling me how much he loves me, and asking if I watched him on MTV touching his earring for me. And I just burst into hysterical sobs. I can’t take it anymore. I keep saying “I kissed another guy” over and over again. “You know I love Justin, right?” I slur to no one in particular. “He’s going to be so mad.” You somehow calm me down and get me into bed. You make yourself comfy on the couch, and try to sleep. But you keep thinking about Nick and also worrying about me and Justin. The thought of us not being together is sort of bothersome to you. It’s like the only stable thing in your life, and you don’t want it to change. I come downstairs in the morning looking like death warmed over. “How are you?” you ask. “Okay,” I tell you, but you know that’s not true. “I’m sorry about last night. I hope I didn’t ruin your fun.” “It’s okay, really,” you say, handing me a cup of coffee. “I don’t think that going home with Brad would’ve been the smartest thing for me to do anyway.” “What a pair we are,” I laugh, but then I stop. “Oh my God, Roxanne, what did I do? Justin is going to kill me. I feel so bad.” “You were drunk, and you had that fight,” you say. “He’ll understand.” “Lord, I hope so,” I sigh. But Justin has his own problems to deal with. He’s sitting in his dressing room, getting ready for a taping of The View, and is just about to go get some food with the other guys when he hears someone enter the room. When he looks in the mirror, he sees that it’s Topenga. He knows that she and Lance have been having problems lately, so he figures that she’s just there to talk to him about it. “Hi,” he says, getting out of his chair and facing her. “Hi Justin,” she says. She has a weird look on her face that he can’t quite figure out. “Where’s Lance?” he asks her. “I don’t know,” she says. “But it doesn’t matter. I want to talk to you.” “What’s up?” “Well, you know that Lance and I haven’t been getting along so well lately, right?” “Yeah,” Justin says. “Is everything all right?” “Well,” she says, walking closer to him. “I think things could be all right. I’ve been watching you lately, Justin. I think you and I could get along really well.” Alarms are going off in his head, but something is causing him to not move away from her. “What are you talking about? What about Lance?” he asks. “What about him?” she says. By this point they are only a few inches away from each other. She reaches out and puts a hand on his chest. Justin is frozen to his spot. He doesn’t know what to do. And when she starts kissing him, he doesn’t pull away at first. He is still a little angry with me, and it’s making him crazy. But he can’t stop seeing my face, and thinking how hurt I would be if he let this go any further. But just as he is about to pull away, he realizes that it’s too late. Lance has come in the room and seen the whole thing. His face turns white, and he runs out of the room. “Oh my God,” Justin says. “It’s all right,” Topenga says. “No it’s not!” he yells. “Lance is my best friend. What the fuck is wrong with you, woman?” But he doesn’t give her a chance to answer. He is off to find Lance. He catches up with him a few minutes later, but Lance doesn’t want to talk. “How could you do this to me?” And Justin doesn’t have an answer. He just throws his hands in the air, sits down in a chair and puts his head in his hands. That night, the phone rings. I think it’s you, calling to see if I want to hang out. But, it’s Justin. “Hi baby,” I say softly. “Did you see me touch my earring for you today?” “Yeah, I did,” I tell him. It had nearly killed me to see it. “How are you?” he asks. “I’m okay,” I lie. I don’t want to have this conversation with him. But, it turns out that I didn’t need to worry. “I have to talk to you about something,” and I am about to pass out. I am wondering how on earth what happened last night had gotten back to him so quickly. But that’s not what he wants to talk about. “I want to tell you this before anyone else does.” “What?” I ask, confused as hell. Wasn’t that supposed to be my line? “Topenga kissed me,” he says, not beating around the bush at all. “Whoa,” I gasp. “Did you kiss her back?” “Well,” he says, and I already know the answer. “I’m not mad,” I tell him. “I’m confused. But we can talk about that later. I have something to tell you, too.” “You do?” he asks. I can tell he’s worried. And I tell him about David and the party. “Damn it, Kristin!” He says. And I’m about to kill him for being a hypocrite. “You have to be careful. You’re going to get yourself into trouble one of these days.”I almost think it cute for a minute that that is his big concern. But I am secretly kind of upset about the whole Topenga thing. “I can take care of myself, thank you very much,” I tell him. “Look,” he says, angrily. “You are lucky that I’m not madder at you.” “You have no right to be mad,” I tell him. “You did the same thing!” “It was different,” he says. “I didn’t encourage her.” “Yeah, well, it sounds like you didn’t exactly push her away either,” I am fuming now. “And what about Lance? At least David isn’t your best friend.” I can tell I’ve hit a nerve, because Justin is suddenly totally silent. “Justin, does Lance know?” “He saw it,” Justin sighs. “Shit,” I mutter. “No, it’s okay,” Justin says. “Topenga actually did something noble. She went to Lance and told him it was her fault and that I was trying to push her away. I guess Lance thought it had been going on for awhile or something.” “Is he okay?” “He’s not mad at me anymore,” he says. “But his heart is broken.” “I always knew she was a bitch,” I say. “Poor Lance. Give him a hug for me, okay?” “Kristin?” “What babe?” “We’re skipping around the subject,” he says. “We need to talk about the fact that you and I both kissed other people.” “Do we?” I ask. “I mean, I know that I will never do it again. I’ve never felt so bad in my whole life.” “Yeah,” he says. “But I’m so irresistible to women...I have to beat them off with a stick.” “Ha ha,” I pretend to laugh. “You are so fucking cocky. Too bad I think that it’s sexy as hell.” “I love you,” he says all of a sudden.“I love you, too.” I say, wanting to cry because I can’t touch him through the phone. “When are you coming home?” “Soon,” he says. “I promise.” You are sitting on the couch at your apartment, flipping channels and wishing that JC was around. Well, you are actually wishing that Nick was around, but you are trying not to think about him. It makes you feel like he just ripped your heart out of your chest and is holding it in front of your face. You decide that you need to get a cat or something to keep you company, but then you remember what a neat freak your roommate is, and you know he won’t let you have a pet. The phone rings, and you practically pounce on it. It’s JC. “Hi!” he says. “I’m just calling to check on you. How was the party last night?” You love how he remembers things that you are doing. “It was okay,” and you tell him about me kissing D-Lo. “Wow,” he says. “Justin is talking to Kristin right now. I bet she told him,” he says. “How do you know?” you ask. And he tells you the Topenga story.“Fuck,” you say. “That came right out of left field.” “Tell me about it,” JC says. “What a mess. Anyway, have you heard from Nick at all?” “What do you think?” you ask. “He’ll call,” he tells you. “I doubt it,” you say. “I think it’s really over this time.” “Oh Roxanne,” he says. “As long as he’s famous, it’s always going to be like this. Breaking up becomes a routine. But thinks will eventually be all right,” and you know he knows what he’s talking about.“JC, I miss you!” you say. “Yeah, I miss you, too. We all miss you.” “We’ll all have to get together when you get back.” Your call waiting beeps, and you say good bye to him and click over, but it’s just me. I tell you about my conversation with Justin, and you sit there pretending to listen, but not really wanting to. “Are you okay?” I ask. “Yeah,” is all you say. “Still haven’t heard from Nick?” “Nope,” you say. “Well, I’m going to bed,” I say, knowing that you don’t feel like talking about it. You get off the phone, and go to your computer and start working on your book. You keep missing deadlines for your publisher, and you know that you need to get something done. You’re so into what you’re doing that you don’t notice that a few hours has gone by. The phone rings again, and you are so sick of talking on it that you almost don’t get it. It’s Nick. “Um, hi,” you say, not sure what to do. “I can’t really talk long,” he says. “But I wanted to say that I’m sorry.” “Yeah, me too,” you say. “But, what does this mean?” “It means that I haven’t stopped thinking about you since we fought.” “Me either,” you sigh, and wonder why the two of you are so dumb sometimes. And then, just to piss him off you say, “I almost went home with another guy last night.” “But you didn’t?” he asks. “Of course not,” you say. “Don’t you know how much I love you by now?” You are tired of fooling around. “Roxanne,” he says. “I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m basically a big immature dork. So, I screw up a lot. You have to help me.” “I’m not exactly an old pro at this, you know?” you say. “Still,” he says. “I think you’re better at it than me.” “Then you must be really bad,” you laugh. And you suddenly feel a million times better. “I wish you were here,” he says. “Me, too,” you sigh. “Why don’t you come over here for a few days?” Finally, he said the right thing. “I just might,” you tell him. “Where the fuck are you right now, anyway?” “Spain,” he tells you. “It’s beautiful. You’d love it.” “Why don’t I come when JC gets back?” “Why don’t I come when JC gets back?” he repeats in a mocking voice. “Do you ever forget about those guys?” “Nick,” you say sternly. “I don’t want to leave the apartment alone. I could say that I’m coming for a few days, but that I have to be back when JC gets back. Would you like that better?” “No,” he says. “I’m sorry...I guess I’m still a little sensitive.”“Well,” you say. “Get over it. He’s my roommate. *N Sync are my friends. They’re not going away. But I LOVE you. Got it?” “I got it,” and you can tell he’s smiling. “I love you. And I’ll see you soon, okay?” "Where's the rest of the chocolate chips?" I ask you, taking a fingerful of cookie dough out of your bowl and shoving it in my mouth. "Um," you say, "you use the whole bag when you make cookies. Not that we'll end up with more than three if you keep eating it." I shrug and smile, plopping down on a chair at the kitchen table. "Who needs cookies when you can have dough?" You turn around and wave your spoon at me. "Raw eggs, raw eggs, raw eggs," is all you say before turning back around. "A little raw egg never killed anyone," I say, flipping through a J. Crew catalog that was sitting on the table. I think for a moment. "Okay, maybe it killed a few people. But don't you remember when the big thing was drinking a raw egg?" You just shake your head in disbelief and continue mixing the cookie dough. "They used to always say that if you needed to make someone throw up, that you could always make them drink egg whites." You just tune me out as you start placing globs of dough on the cookie sheet. It's 100ľ outside but inside the house it must be something like 55. I'm wearing my sweatshirt and you are comfortable in three quarter length sleeves. We decided to make cookies on a whim, but you're glad we did. You still have a couple movies that you rented but have yet to watch and figure we'll sit around being vegetables. My watch beeps and I toss down the catalog. "Time for TRL," I tell you as if you don't know. You put the cookie sheet in the oven and follow me into the living room. The show is pretty boring and we both complain about everyone on the countdown. I talk shit about Carson and you defend him. Finally, he brings *N Sync out and we both go silent and just watch our friends say some rehearsed lines and stories we've heard a million times. But they are, of course, being adorable as usual and we both feel a little stabbing in our hearts because we miss them. You more so because Justin is you man; you watch him finger his earring and stick his tongue out at the camera with a smile. Some stupid fan asks them if they have girlfriends and no one fesses up to anything. You hear the oven timer go off right as Justin proclaims to the world that he is "single and ready to mingle."All the girls in the audience cheer and giggle. You go in the kitchen to get the cookies out of the oven and I sit on the couch as Chris introduces a Will Smith video. I join you in the kitchen but leave the TV on so we can hear it. I try to take a cookie but they are way too hot and I start cursing and stick my wounded fingers in my mouth. "I bet you're glad Justin comes back tomorrow," I say just to start up some conversation. I see you get that gooey smile on your face as you take the cookies off the sheet and onto a plate. I roll my eyes at nobody and smile. "I've been working like crazy since he's been gone. Before I left work today Geoff made some comment about it. It's kind of irritating, but now that we live together I think they all kind of caught on that Justin wasn't just a buddy of mine." I smile and laugh. "Yeah, I don't think you could really play it off that easily. Oh, we're just friends," I say in an exaggerated tone. "Who is going to buy THAT?" Then I kind of cut myself short and realize that I live with a member or *N Sync and we ARE just friends. I sit thinking about that for a minute. "Yeah," you say with a giggle, not noticing that I sit at the table with a bewildered look on my face. "I don't really mind but I get a lot of shit for it." "You get a lot of shit? In the mail or do they just leave it on your desk? Or do they pelt it across the room and just hope it hits you?" You whack me with your spatula and I act like it hurt a lot more than it actually did. The phone rings and you answer it and I can tell by the look on your face it's Justin. TRL ended ten minutes ago, tops! You guys are unstoppable. I get to where I am in front of you and in your way and stick my finger down my throat and make gagging noises. You push me out of the way. The next day you drive me to the airport to catch my flight to Spain and also meet the guys. I'm all nervous and I don't know why. I've flown a kajibillion times before. "You're probably just excited," you tell me in the car. "Nothing like a romantic rendezvous in a beautiful European country. I'm jealous." Romantic rendezvous sounds pretty nice and I start imagining things like villa's on the countryside and spending days in bed with a lot of wine and cheese and grapes. Then I remember my boyfriend is not only Nick, who would rather eat McDonalds, but also a Backstreet Boy which means I'm probably not going to see much of him at all, and when I do we'll be barricaded in a hotel room. I tell you this. "Well," you say, thinking it over. "Barricaded in a hotel room could be fun." We get to the Orlando International Airport and I debate on whether to go with you to see the guys or just go straight to my gate. I have plenty of time, so going to see the guys wins out. I check in and check my luggage but then head over to their gate with you. I remember I forgot to call my publisher and dash to the payphone to make that call. I tell her I am going to Europe for little bit and she asks me if while I am there I would mind maybe having a book signing. I tell her I wouldn't and promise to call her within a couple of days. The guys show up but there can't be much of a reunion because they are whisked away pretty quickly. You are whisked away with them. I barely get to exchange a few words with JC and get only a handful of hugs from Joey before you are all gone and I am alone in the airport. Being famous is stupid, I decide and head on over to the international gates. That night Justin and you pull into a parking spot outside Joey's new house, but before you get out Justin leans over and kisses you. He reaches out a hand and holds your head at the base of your neck and plays a little with your hair. You smile at him and he smiles back at you. "I love you baby," he says softly, leaning over and kissing you again. "I love you too," you say when the kiss is broken. "I'm so glad you are back." He closes his eyes and leans his head back on the head rest, not taking his hand away from your head. He plays a little with your hair some more leaving his eyes closed. It's a perfect moment, but it doesn't last long enough. Chris knocks at the window and smiles widely. "Come on guys! Lance is using the beer bong!" You laugh a little and Justin's eyes light up. You both get up and go into Joey's house to join the party, arms linked. "How is Lance?" you ask Justin quietly. He shrugs a little and you can see the guilt creeping into his face. "I don't think he's doing to well. But I guess he'll be okay." You glance over at Lance who is sitting there, looking very drunk and being fawned over by some girl. Your heart goes out to him. You know he doesn't usually act like this. You got to spend all day with Justin so it's alright when he goes into the kitchen to talk to some guys he knows. You walk over to Britney, Nikki, and Amanda Latona who are all talking together. They get all excited when they see you. Britney hugs you and you are pretty glad to see her too. She is growing on both of us. Amanda is complaining about how Chris keeps on talking to her and she's afraid he's going to want to go home with her. She swears she doesn't "want to have to go through that again." This gets Nikki talking a little about JC. You smile a little because you kind of realize that some transition has been made. When once you were the guys' friend and somehow separate, you are now one of the girlfriends and fit in the girls circle. Its stupid but it kind of makes you smile. Nikki starts talking about when JC and her had broken up and how she made the mistake of "getting together" with him a bunch of times after that. Britney laughs and says, "Are you trying to say that ever ended?" and you all laugh because all three of you know that it could very well happen that very night. Nikki acts a little irritated at the laughing, but can't help and smile. "Come on!" she begs. Then to change the subject adds, "It's not like I want to get back together with him. There's no way I can go through another tour." At this all the girls groan and you do too just thinking about it. Nikki finishes her drink. "I wouldn't do it again. You never really know what's going on and if I hear anyone ever say 'she didn't mean anything!' again I'll puke." "I know," Amanda agrees. "You've got to be there, around, all the time and if you aren't it's like they can't control themselves!" They all mumble agreeances and nods their heads. You take a big gulp of you drink and look away. "My favorite," Britney begins. "is Justin's theory that blow jobs don't count as cheating because 'we all have needs.' Then he'd turn around and assure me that he'd never sleep with someone else and act like I was crazy ever time I got mad when he got caught with some other girl." They all groan and nod fervently and then laugh but you just choke on your drink. They turn and look at you and Britney looks stricken because she knows she shouldn't have said any of that. "Not that he'd ever do that to you," she says weakly. "I'm going to go get some water," you say still coughing and walk quickly into the kitchen, their wide eyes following you. You get your glass of water and catch a glimpse of your reflection in the window above the sink. You stare at yourself for a good long time, wondering why you ever really assumed things would be different. You look over your shoulder at Justin who is talking to Chris and Brad. A shiver goes through your body and you just feel sick. You wish you could go back to our house and just go up to your room. You stand there and feel like an idiot, thinking about how you moved in with him, committed yourself to him, and now you were just going to have to live the life of....Nikki DeLoach. You feel like you have to get out of there right away but you know you can't leave without Justin and you would really like to avoid him right now. That is impossible though, of course. As soon as he notices you he comes over and takes you into his arms. You lean your head down on his chest and close your eyes, not sure what you are supposed to think. He kisses you on top of your head and whispers, "There's my girl." You pull up a little bit. You look over and see David from C-Note in the other room. He sees you too and waves a little and then looks down, obviously feeling pretty weird about seeing you with Justin. Having him around makes you feel even more uncomfortable. "Ju, can we go home?" you ask. He looks down at you. "We just got here!" he says, but he's smiling. "I know," you say, your voice cracking. You pull away and drink some more water. "But I'd really just like to go home." You expect an argument but Justin just shrugs and says, "Okay. Let me say goodbye." He goes over to Chris and then turns to you and points to Joey in the living room to show you that's where he is going. You nod at him and go into the living room, trying to maneuver close to the door and avoid most everybody. After a minute, Justin comes up to you and takes your hand, leading you out the door. You walk slowly to the car in silence. Justin kisses your hand as you walk. You just start crying because you can't think of anything you can do right now. "What's wrong?" he asks, looking at you confused. "Baby, what's up?" You just kind of shrug and wipe your face. You sit down on the curb and he sits down next to you, grabbing your thigh with his hand and trying to get you to look at him. "What's wrong?" he asks again, kind of letting out a chuckle because he is so confused. "You're going to cheat on me," you say, still crying. You know it was just about the stupidest thing to say but you couldn't think of anything else. He just laughs outright. "You are crazy!" he says, kissing your cheek. You feel a little better already. "You are delusional! Where did any of this come from?!" He takes your hand in his again. You look up at him and almost laugh yourself. It does sound pretty ridiculous now. "I am not going to cheat on you." You let out a deep breath and lean on him. "I will never sleep with another girl," he assures you...just like Britney said he would. Your body goes cold again and all of a sudden Justin turns from Justin into the eighteen year old boy that he is. You stand up and don't know what to say. "Blow jobs count as cheating," you spit out violently. You look at him and he leans his head back and sighs loudly. Tears start coming to your eyes and you fish around in your bag for the keys. You go over to the car and Justin follows you. "You aren't coming with me," you tell him, sliding in the seat and closing the door. You don't unlock the passenger side and turn the car on. Justin goes over to your window. "Kristin, you're being ridiculous! Open the door!" he says and his voice is muffled. Ridiculous? you think to yourself. If you are in love with someone it shouldn't even feel alright to fool around with other people. You pull the car out of it's spot. Justin moves so you don't hit him and you can see him standing in the street in your rear view mirror until you turn the corner. I lie down on the big bed in the hotel room I was just brought to. I know I should be tired, but I'm oddly alert. I was picked up at the airport by an old school looking limousine and taken to this phat ass hotel where I was then ushered into this room quickly. I wonder where Nick is. I turn on the TV and then remember I can't really speak Spanish so I turn it back off. I hear someone unlocking the door and by some sort of weird reflex I decide to hide. I jump in the closet and hide behind the door. "Is Roxanne here yet?" I hear AJ ask. "I guess not," Nick says and when I hear his voice my stomach turns into a cheer leading squad and I get giddy. Then I curse myself for getting giddy because it is stupid. But honestly I'm so glad that I'm here I could almost cry. AJ and Nick talk for a minute at the door and I'm starting to feel relatively stupid hiding behind the closet door. I am thinking about coming out when Nick says goodbye to AJ and shuts the door behind him. He collapses on the bed without noticing me and I take my cue and jump on the bed next to him. He looks over, surprised and then smiles a wide smile. "You bitch!" he exclaims and pushes me a little and I just laugh. We kind of look at each other for a minute, smiling. In a really soft and tender voice he says, "You rock." We kiss. When you come into your house you kind of don't know what to do. You go upstairs and sit on the bed and think for a minute. You figure Justin will probably show up in a few minutes and you don't want to see him. But you can't not let him in, it is HIS house and he didn't actually do anything wrong---yet...and then you wonder if maybe he HAS done something wrong already. But you blame yourself for even getting together with him in the first place. You throw some clothes in a backpack and decide to just leave, at least for awhile. You write a little note to Justin that just says you have to be alone for awhile. You might put where you are going, but you don't even know that. You hop in your car and just take off to be sure you aren't home when Justin comes because you can't face him. The idea of him being with someone else is too much for you to bear. Even when you picture him in your mind your heart feels heavy. How you can love someone so much and be so angry at them at the same time? You just drive around for a long time. You wish I was around and know you could probably go to JC's but going over to another member on *N Sync's house just makes you feel as crappy as picturing Justin's smiling face does. Justin who is wonderful to you, Justin who is adorable. Justin who you were an idiot to let yourself fall in love with. You drive around for a few hours and realize you have no friends unaffiliated with *N Sync. You wish the Backstreet Boys were in town because there is no one you can really think of going to besides Nick Carter right about now. Even though anyone in a band is making you feel ill. You turn down Britney's street and see her car outside. You are surprised that she is home from the party and you wonder if maybe someone else drove her. You park your car anyway and go up and buzz her apartment, just in case. She answers and when you ask if you can come up of course she lets you. You go up to her place and she answers the door with a smile but notices right away something is wrong. Probably because you look like shit. You aren't crying though. You probably would be if you could figure out what to think. Basically the only conclusion you can come to is that the system sucks. "What's up?" she asks you, sitting down across from you on the couch and holding a light pink pillow in her lap. You just sigh and decide you might as well just admit you are a dork instead of trying to save any kind of dignity. You put your head in your hands. "It's just all that stuff you said about Justin earlier tonight. I can't get it out of my head." You do start crying now just because you feel sad and sorry for yourself and everyone and anyone else who has ever been in this situation. Anyone who has ever had to leave the one they love for a long time or wonder what their love was doing. "Oh Kristin," Britney says in a kind of panicky voice as if she has to find a way to plug up your tears but can't think of one. "I should never have said any of that in front of you, I am SO sorry." You just shake your head and dismiss her. "No," you say. "I guess it's something I should think about. I just don't know what to do." "It was such a stupid thing to say, I can't believe I did it. I am so dumb! You shouldn't listen to anything I say." You look up at her. "Well, is it true?" She just sits there for a minute looking at you and doesn't know what to say. "Is it? Did it really happen? Honestly..." "Well...." she says slowly. She kind of looks away and plays with the end of the pillow she is holding. "Yeah." You groan and fall back on the couch. Britney looks at you sympathetically. You start to cry again and wonder what love is. "Jesus fucking Christ," I say to Kevin Richardson as we sit in a limousine that is being pounded on by thousands of girls. "Pretty crazy, huh?" he says to me as a girl jumps on the back of the car and tries to climb on top. A security guy is trying to get her down. "I LOVE YOU NICK!!!" she screams at the top of her lungs while tears run down her face. I glance over at him. He looks up from his Gameboy and shrugs at me. I've been to a bunch of *N Sync concert in the states and a couple of Backstreet ones. It is never like this. These European girls are fucking crazy. I'm too embarrassed to admit it, but I am pretty afraid for my life. If anyone picks up on the fact that I'm with Nick they'd probably kill me if they could. Probably? They would! I just sit down low in my seat and pray we make it into the venue alive. The guys don't seem worried about anything at all and are carrying on some conversation but I can't for the life of me even hear any of them. We finally get out of the crowd and the car pulls up to the building. "Ready to make a run for it?" AJ asks me and I look at him with wide eyes. He laughs and takes my hand. "On a count of three, we run for the door." I just nod, dumbfounded. "One....two....three!" AJ pulls me out of the car and I am instantly lost in a sea of confusion. There is noise at decibels I can't even believe. Finally we all make it into the building and the door closes at it's like normal life resumes. The noise is gone and Nick slides his arm over my shoulder. I look back and stare at the door and feel like I just went through the Phantom Tollbooth. I can't even remember how we got inside. Wasn't there stairs? I can't even remember climbing up the stairs. We are now at Estadi Olimpic de Montjuic in Barcelona where the Boys are playing tonight on a big bill full of a bunch of other bands. Inside is chaotic, but nothing compared to outside. I just follow Nick into a back room where there is food and drinks and people everywhere. He points out some European acts I've never heard of to me and tells me how insanely popular they are over here. The whole thing is pretty unreal. A bunch of people talk to Nick, most of them with pretty thick accents. I notice Geri Halliwell over in a corner talking to a couple of people and start to feel a little better because even though I don't know her or anything, at least she is a familiar face. I relax. Nick goes over to get me a Coke and I start to get a little excited. This is all pretty fucking cool. I keep looking around like I'll find someone who I can share my excitement with. Who ever thought I'd fly to Spain to visit my celebrity boyfriend and brush elbows with the rich and famous? I'm feeling pretty fucking awesome. I notice a few people checking me out and I start feeling a little embarrassed before I let it go and just start feeling pretty fucking cool again. I put on a pretty smile and let them admire Nick Carter's girlfriend. They have no idea what a dork I am. Fuck, they obviously have no idea what a dork HE is if they give a damn. Nick comes back and hands me my Coke but before he can really say anything some guy starts up a conversation with him. I open my soda and take a sip when I notice him. "Fuck," I actually mutter out loud and I kind of turn my head so maybe he won't notice me. "Shit shit shit shit shit," I keep muttering under my breath even though I am almost laughing because it's just kind of funny. "What?" Nick asks, leaning towards me because he thinks I said something to him. "Oh, nothing," I tell him and smile. He smiles back and resumes his conversation. I try to tell myself not to look up but I do it anyway and of course I make eye contact. I am so unskilled at playing it off like I don't notice. Abs Breen from Five waves at me from across the room and I smile and wave back at him. I can handle a wave, I figure and am feeling pretty safe again. I look away and then look back and he's not even there. I tell myself how much I rock. "Well, hello there," a British accented voice says from behind me and I recognize it as Abs' right away. Fuck, I think to myself and decide to never let myself tell myself how much I rock ever again--because I'll just always be wrong. "Hey," I say turning to him with a smile because I obviously can't avoid him now. He's looking pretty fucking cute as always. "It's been awhile," he says kind of quietly. "You look good." "Thanks," I say. "So do you. How long has it been? About a year?" "Not quite I don't think. How have you been?" He leans a little closer and look at me with those eyes he gets and I want to laugh and whisper to him that my boyfriend is standing right behind me. He'd probably just laugh but I can't do that without Nick noticing. I figure I have to somehow get the point across to Abs that I'm here with Nick before he says anything. I really don't feel like explaining the whole situation. I don't have to worry, though, because right then someone calls Abs. He rubs my arm for a second and looks at me regretfully. "I have to go," he says in that accent which is just so fucking cute. "Will you be around later?" I nod and smile and figure I'll just fill him in later, when Nick's not around. He leaves with a small, intimate wave that I kind of hope no one notices. "Was he hitting on you?" Nick asks with a smile, his attention shifting back to me now that his conversation has ended. I laugh. "No, we already know each other," I say and hug Nick just because I feel like it. You are laying on Britney's couch later that night, wishing you could go to sleep and knowing you can't. You can hear Britney in the bathroom brushing her teeth and washing her face and doing whatever other beauty rituals she probably has. You close your eyes tight and try to will yourself to sleep but when you do all you can picture is Justin. You even swear you can hear him calling your name. You sigh and open your eyes and turn over when you swear you can still hear it. You wonder if you are crazy when you hear it again and sit up. "Kristin!" Confused, you look over and see Britney padding into the room in her fuzzy slippers. "Do you hear that?" she asks you and you nod slowly. Then it comes again, "Kristin!" and you both realize it is coming from outside. Britney goes over to the sliding door and opens it, slipping out onto the balcony. You get up and follow her. You step outside and she points down, where Justin is standing on the sidewalk. You lean over and look down without saying anything. "Can I come up?" Justin asks and you just shake your head and glance at Britney. She shrugs as if to say, it's up to you. You look back down and shake your head at him again. "Baby I love you, please come down," he says loud enough for you to hear but not too loud. You are only the second story up. You just shake your head again. You don't even know what to say. "Come home." You look away. "I need you, please come home with me. I love you." You lean your elbows on the rails of the balcony and put your head in your hands. "Please. We can talk. Let's talk about this. Please come be with me. I need you. I miss you." Britney goes back inside and goes into the kitchen. "No," you finally say and it comes out of your mouth quiet and weak. You don't even know if he heard it. You look down at him standing there alone on the sidewalk looking up. "No, Justin. You go on home." He looks away and shakes his head. He turns his head up again. "Let me come up. Let me talk to you. I love you. Please let me see you." His voice is sounding a little less steady. "No baby. Not right now. Go home." "Baby please let me come up," he begs and you can hear the tears coming into his eyes. "I want to be with you. Please." You just shake your head again and can tell from the corner of your eye that Britney is standing inside with a glass of water. "I love you," Justin says desperately. "Go home," you say one more time before turning around and walking back to the sliding door. Britney looks at you expectantly, wanting to hear what happened. You reach for the door when you hear a big clank. You turn around and hear another one. You walk back over to the railing and see Justin hanging from the first floor balcony downstairs and next door. "God Justin, don't," you say with an exasperated sigh. He pulls himself up and stands next to some person's potted plants, looking back up at you with pleading eyes. You sigh again and he grabs a hold of something and pulls himself so that he is standing on the railing of the other balcony. "Jesus Christ Justin, get down," you say seriously. "Come home with me." You sigh again and look up into the sky, shaking your head. You turn to Justin right in time to see him leap from the railing downstairs and grab a hold of the bottom of Britney's. You scream and clasp your hand around your mouth. Tears automatically come to your eyes and you watch his strong arms pull the rest of his body up. You go over to help but before you even get there he is throwing himself over the side. You stare at him, more angry than you've ever been before because you cannot believe he did that. You want to scream at him. He could have fallen! He could have killed himself! He walks over to you and puts his hands on your shoulders and looks you in the eyes. "I love you baby. Please don't do this," he begs. Tears are coming out of your eyes but you aren't sobbing. You remember why you left in the first place. You just shake your head at him a little and close your eyes. He shakes you lightly. "Please! Don't you see how much I love you?!" You swallow. It isn't really that you doubt his love. "I just don't know if I can do it," you admit to him honestly and quietly. You watch his face scrunch up and him open his mouth a few different times before he finally says, "Baby I'm not ever going to be with anyone else." He starts to let the tears run down his red face. His body starts to heave with sobs and his face doesn't unscrunch. "I can't live like that," you try to tell him. "I can't live with you touching another girl or letting someone else touch you. I know the situation, I know that it seems impossible. Maybe it is. Maybe it is just too much to ask. So I won't ask. But baby then I just won't do it." He is still crying, but has calmed down a little bit. "Baby I won't be with anyone else, I promise. I swear to you, please believe me," he pleads. "Blow jobs--" you being but he cuts you off. "Even blow jobs, baby, I know! I mean everything, I mean I won't ever touch anyone. Please don't leave me! I love you!" "But Britney--" you start and he interrupts you again. "I know, I know!" he says. "I know what Britney must have said to you and I'm not going to lie to you, it's all true, but baby please! I promise it will never happen, please trust me. It's just not the same." "If you are in love with someone it shouldn't even feel alright to fool around with other people," you remember thinking and tell him. "If you are in love with someone you shouldn't even want to." Justin nods and takes a deep breath. "I know," he says clearly and calmly. He looks at you. "When you are in love with someone it doesn't feel right to mess around. And I don't want to. I love you" You tear up again and let him take you in his arms. He holds you tight and you hold him tightly back when you open you eyes. They meet with Britney's for a minute. Her eyes are sad and low. She swallows and looks down. Her mouth is in a frown and you think you can see tears on her face as she slips into her bedroom, defeatedly. You sigh quietly and close your eyes. You hug Justin tight once more and then the two of you go inside. You get your bag and leave out the front door this time. You falter for a moment and want to go to Britney but you know there is nothing you can say. You close the door quietly behind you. Nick comes up to me, panting after his set. I smile. He's cute when he is sweaty and out of breath. "Hi," he says, wiping his head off with a towel. "Hey," I say, my smile wide. I lean the top of my head in on his chest. I can feel it rising and falling and even feel his heart beating fast. God I love this man. He takes my hand and sits down on a chair. I sit down in one next to him and watch him pant some more. He notices me staring with my goofy ass smile on my face and blushes a little. "What are you looking at?" he asks, embarrassed. I just shrug and look away for a minute, but my eyes drift back. "You're cute when you're sweaty and out of breath," I tell him and he really blushes. "You're cute when you shut up," he says in a joking tone and takes a big long drink out of his water bottle. People keep walking by and telling him it was an excellent show. He just nods and tries to smile. We're kind of in an awkward hallway area. What sucks about this big festival or whatever is that he doesn't get his own dressing room. He pats me affectionately on the leg and then leans back as far as he can and closes his eyes. "Hey, it's Roxanne!" someone says and I look up. Nick opens his eyes a little just to see who it is and then closes them again, trying to fully catch his breath. Well if it isn't Scott from Five. "Hey guy," I say with a smile. "What's up?" You shrugs and throws his hands in the air. "No'ing reelly, you know." He smiles again. "It so weird to run into you 'ere. I 'aven't seen you in fo-eva! Wha're ya doing 'ere?" I'm about to answer him when he continues with, " So 'ave you seen Abs yet? Or is that why yor 'ere?" "I ran into him earlier," I say meekly glancing at Nick who opens his eyes and looks at the two of us, still breathing heavy. "I bet you did!" he laughs. "Y'ought to come wif us back to de hotel. We're plannin' on 'aving a little kind of par'y, you know. Get a couple a drinks and maybe go out. Or maybe va rest of us can go ou' and you an' Abs can 'ave some time alone." I cringe. Nick sit up quickly in his chair, eyes wide. Scott doesn't notice any of this because he is waving at someone. "I've got to go," he says, motioning down the wide hallway. " 'Opefully I'll see you lata!" I watch him run down the hall only because I'm afraid to look at Nick. Finally I look over at Nick with a looks-like-I've-been-caught kind of smile. I let out a little nervous laugh. He's not smiling. He just gets up and starts walking. I follow him. "Don't get mad about that," I tell him and he kind of shrugs as he is fighting his way past people. I try to get next to him but I am more like walking behind him. Finally he stops and turns to me. "Are you ready to go?" he asks flatly. I sigh and about to start saying something, arguing with someone who isn't even arguing with me really, but before I can he just asks me again. "Are you ready to go?" I sigh again. "Yes," I tell him and he starts walking again. This time I follow him without trying to talk. We get to a door and the man standing by it nods at Nick. Nick nods back. I feel like I remember this as being the door that goes to the common room area so I feel good when Nick takes my hand until the door opens and it actually is the one that leads outside. There are not as many girls out there as there were before, but there is still plenty of them. We rush into the car and the driver starts to drive slowly towards to mob. "Jesus Christ," I say again quietly almost forgetting everything in the madness. It's enough to make you forget your own name. Or at least make you think your name is Brian or Howie or something because enough people are screaming that at you. Nick is just staring out the window while people pound on it. We finally make it out of the crowd and onto the streets. The driver is driving like a maniac but I guess maybe that's good. I turn to Nick. "Are you mad?" I ask him just to get the conversation started. "No," he says not looking up. I groan. "Obviously enough," I tell the my pouting boyfriend, "whatever once was going on between me and Abs Breen is over and has been for a long time." He looks at me finally. "What exactly was that? That was going on between you and Abs Breen?" I sigh. "Nothing," I tell him. "We just kind of dated periodically. You know, if he was in town or in the states somewhere close by. Or when I'd go to England for a week here and there. I spent a little time in London when my first book came out because it was a big hit over here." I just kind of looked down at my hands. Not that I should feel guilty or anything. "You just kind of dated periodically," Nick states in a dead, sarcastic tone. "Um, yeah," I say, deadpan right back. "That's what I said." He rolls his eyes. "I haven't seem him since last October," I add. He turns to me. "So basically you were Abs Breen's bootie call?" he asks sharply. I cough and tears kind of sting my eyes but there is no way I am crying over this. I clear my throat. "No, I was not his bootie call." I say. I meant to say it strongly and angrily but once it came out it kind of lost air like a balloon and my chest caved in on itself. To be honest I kind of was his bootie call, but then he was kind of my bootie call. It had made sense at the time and didn't seem like a bad situation. It hadn't been a bad situation! He sure never made me feel like shit which is something Nick has no problem doing. I know I am about to cry. I feel gross and dirty and cheap and it's all Nick's fault. The car pulls up to the hotel right at the right moment and I run out and into the lobby. "Wait a second," I hear Nick say to me but I don't really wait. I stand by the elevator and beg it silently to hurry up so I don't cry in public. I can see in the reflection of the shiny doors that Nick got caught by some fans and is signing a few autographs. The doors finally open and I hurry in and wait for the door to close before I can't help it any longer and I start crying. I go into the room and sit down and try to stop before Nick gets there. I do a pretty good job even though I know my eyes must be red. I wipe my face a couple more times as I hear him unlock the door and look out the window when he comes in. He sighs and sits down on the bed. "I'm sorry," he says. "Whatever," I just say and shrug. He sighs again. "Really. I'm sorry." This time he sounds pretty sincere. It doesn't really matter. I know he's sorry and I'm not mad really. I just feel pretty crappy. My feelings are just hurt. I nod to try and appease him but don't look at him because I know that if I do I'll probably cry again and I'd really hate that. "I didn't mean it," he says and pokes my side. I smile but I don't really feel it. I know he can tell I am still upset and he just sits there not knowing what to do. Either that or he fell asleep. Finally enough time goes by where I can kind of regain my composure and control of my tear ducts. I turn around and he is looking at me. I lie down next to him. "You okay?" he asks moving his head so it is closer to mine. "Of course," I say and sigh. I stare at the ceiling. "I only asked if you were his bootie call because I know how hard it is to not call your bootie," Nick explains to me like he is serious. I let out a laugh. He smiles and rubs his head against my shoulder. I finally let out a deep breath and kind of climb into his arms and make him hold me. I cry a little more into his chest and I don't think he notices until I hear him say, "I'm sorry. I love you." really quietly. It's pretty nice to hear because we don't say I love you a whole lot. We basically save it for getting off the phone and that sort of formal thing. It's pretty nice and I kiss his arm since it is what is by my mouth. We lie like that for awhile until I can hear his breathing slow. I slip out of his grip and get up. I take off his shoes and put on my pajamas. I turn off the lights and climb back into bed and wish that I can sleep with every night for the rest of my life. By Kristin Justin and I are sitting in the hammock outside of our house. Things are still a little tense, but we are trying to work through it. I just want some normalcy in our life. So, Justin has promised to spend a little time with me everyday before going to work. Right now he is eating Goldfish crackers off a paper plate. I keep telling him that I don’t understand why he has to eat them off a plate instead of out of the box and how they’re going to spill. He just keeps singing his “Eat, Eat, Eat” song to drown out the sound of my voice. Except he’s adding in lines about eating things from a plate and how boxes suck. And I’m laughing so hard that I knock the plate, and they DO spill. This just makes me laugh harder. DP, who is getting kind of big these days, but is still adorable as hell, comes over and starts eating them off the ground. I pick up a big handful and throw them at Justin. In retaliation, he squishes some up and puts them down the back of my TUBE TOP. Just as I’m about to put some down his shorts, the doorbell rings. We look at each other in that “who could that be?” way, and I say I’ll get it. I get home from work, and I notice that Britney’s car is in the driveway. I go inside, and immediately hear her voice yelling. “So, basically, what you said is that I meant nothing to you?” she is saying. I feel bad eavesdropping, but I absolutely can’t help it. Justin almost never talks about his relationship with Britney, so I am dying for information. “No,” he says, his voice also raised a little bit. “You meant a lot to me. You still do.” His voice is so tender. I feel a shiver go up my spine. “So, what was that whole speech you gave Kristin about cheating?” she asks, having calmed down a bit. “Look, Britney,” he says defeatedly. “I don’t know how many times I have to apologize to you about the things that happened in our relationship. I was young. I didn’t know what I was doing.” “Why would you want to be with other girls?” her voice is shaking. I’m shaking a little too, having to think about all of Justin’s sexual conquests. The kid is only 18, for the love of God! “I don’t know,” is all he can say. “Have you cheated on Kristin?” she asks. I am suddenly wishing that I wasn’t listening to this conversation anymore. I don’t want to know what the answer is. “Of course not!” he yells, and I almost fall over in relief. I can tell that he is telling the truth. But I am the only one satisfied with this answer. “Justin,” Britney starts yelling again. “You are so full of shit! You didn’t cheat on me because you were young! You did it because you didn’t care about me!” And with that she totally bursts into tears. I am stunned. Britney has been becoming more and more human to me lately, but I never thought I’d see anything like this. I had never known that her feelings for Justin run this deep. “Oh Brit,” Justin says. I peek around the wall and see him take her in his arms. I hate seeing it, but I know he is doing the right thing. He is mumbling into her hair, and I can barely tell what he is saying. “I did...about... You...most important...in my life.” I am about to lose my lunch. I decide that I am done with this, and run upstairs. The last thing I hear is Justin saying, “What was that noise?” I am sitting on the chair in front of the vanity, still fully dressed in my suit and heels, wondering how the plain girl looking back at me could possibly keep Justin fucking Timberlake happy. I had to know that I was kidding myself thinking that I’d be enough for him. I’m also wondering why Justin hasn’t come up here to talk to me. I can’t get the image of he and Britney in an embrace out of my mind. “Kristin?” it’s Justin, finally. He comes and sits on the edge of the vanity so that he is facing me. “Hi...” I say quietly, looking up at him. “Is Britney still here?”“No,” he says. “She’s gone.”“Is she okay?” I ask. I don’t really care, but I don’t know what else to say.“I don’t want to talk about her,” he says firmly. “Why didn’t you tell me you were home? How much did you hear?”“Enough,” is all I give him. “I doubt it,” he says. I can tell that he is a little angry. “I’m tired of you not trusting me, dammit!” he suddenly yells. I jump a little in my seat. I hadn’t been expecting that little outburst. “Well, what do you want me to do when I come home from a hard days work to find my boyfriend hugging his beautiful and famous ex-girlfriend?” He ignores the “beautiful and famous” part and says, “I expect you to give me a chance to explain.” When he says this I feel pretty stupid. What is it about Justin and my feelings for him that cause me to be so irrational? “Go ahead,” I say. “First of all,” he begins. “I want you to know what was said after you left. I told Britney that while what I had with her was good, it was nothing compared to what I have with you. I told her...” he trails off for a minute to get his emotions under control. I can see the tears swimming in his eyes. “I told her that you and I are soulmates...that we were meant for one another.” “Oh Justin,” I am crying now, too. “Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to say those things to her?” he asks. “But I did it for you. For us.” “Baby,” I say, going to him and taking his face in my hands. “I am so sorry. Don’t you know that I only worry and freak out so much because I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything in my life?” He smiles, as I go on. “I’ve lost a lot of love, and had my heart broken many times. I look at those things as stepping stones that brought me to you. But you are the end of that road for me. If I lost you, I don’t know that I could ever love again.” I don’t know how true this is, but it’s what I’m feeling at this moment. All I ever want to do is be here in this room with him. And, of course, this extremely romantic moment is the one in which DP chooses to come in the room and take a piss on the rug. Justin and I are laughing and crying at the same time. And I am praying that things stay sane for a little while.. By Roxanne "Hey, we’re here," a voice says to me and I open my eyes and sit up quickly. "What?" I ask, alarmed, before I look around and remember where I am. The young girl sitting next to me smiles. "You have to fasten your seatbelt," she says, pointing to the sign that had gone on. "Oh thanks," I mutter, sitting back in my seat and buckling my belt. I smile at her and then look away; I had been avoiding conversation with her since we left Paris. The Teen People in her backpack made me decide it was probably just for the best if I let this one go. I had listened to my Walkman and then slept quite a bit, but these flights are long. We land in New York and I am relieved to get off the plane and walk around a little, even though I am catching a connecting flight to Orlando in about half an hour--which seems like a longer amount of time than it really is when you have to go through customs and things like that. I am just glad to be standing for awhile and once I get to my other flight they are loading already. I climb aboard and sit down with a sigh. I’m in the greatest mood considering I just had to leave not only Europe but my boyfriend as well. I just want to get home, watch some American TV and maybe talk on the phone to a girl or two. "Hey," a voice says to me and I almost laugh. I look up and, sure enough, there is the girl I had sat next to during my last flight. I laugh and smile, just because it always happens that the person you are avoiding is impossible to get away from. I am pretty lonely by this point anyway and decide I could use the conversation, teenybopper or otherwise. "Hey, it’s you," I say with a smile. We make some conversation about how funny it is that we are both on the same flight and when I realize how nice it is to be talking to someone I ask her what she was doing in Paris. She tells me all about how her dad moved there when she was 11 (she looks about sixteen) and how she visits him for awhile ever summer. I like hearing about it since it is a pretty interesting story, her father being a concert violinist and everything. She seems to be as happy to talk as I am to hear someone talk so we make a pretty good pair for quite awhile. She tells me stories and I laugh. After awhile, though, she must have decided she was talking too much and asks me, "What were you doing in Paris?" I’m about to tell her I was visiting my boyfriend when I notice that in the smaller pocket on her backpack a Backstreet CD is sitting with a collection of others. So I say something about how I am a writer and was in Europe promoting my books, which is total BS since I haven’t come out with anything new for a couple of years. I had, though, done two interviews with some foreign magazines and I rationalize that. After a little more chitchat and a few silent pauses where neither of us know what to say, she leans in towards me. "I know who you are," she says quietly, glancing around. I look at her like she is crazy. "Well, yeah, I guess I just told you." "No," she says leaning back a little. "I know whose girlfriend you are." I’m not sure what reaction she expected to get, but I play it pretty cool. I just shrug and kind of look out the window for awhile. I don’t really care if she knows but I don’t really feel like talking to her anymore. I am a little irritated, honestly. Not so much by her confronting me about it, but about the way she said it. She knows whose girlfriend I am? Why not she knows who my boyfriend is? "Hey, I don’t care or anything," she says, noticing how I pulled away. "I just wanted to say that I knew. That, like, everybody knows." I look at her again, ready to roll my eyes at any given minute. I take a sip of the ginger ale the stewardess was nice enough to give me. I must’ve looked pretty skeptical because she decides she has to explain herself. "Everyone sees you at their concerts all the time. There are pictures of you guys on the internet. Some people used to say you were going out with Joey but when you guys moved in together it was pretty obvious." I almost choke on my drink and just stare at her. Then I start laughing because I cannot help it. The girl looks pretty hurt and I feel kind of bad because she is pretty young. "I’m sorry," I tell her, trying not to keep laughing but it’s almost impossible. She keeps looking away with this weird expression, like she can’t decide how to react to my reaction. "Stop laughing," she finally tells me because people have started looking over at us. I do stop and I just chuckle a few more times. "It’s not you," I assure her. "It’s just that JC is NOT my boyfriend!" I laugh a little again, I think because I am relieved. When she was saying that everyone knew who my boyfriend was, it was kind of like someone popped my balloon. Like the lie I thought I was living so cleverly turned out to be obvious. "We’re just friends," I tell her and realize how silly that sounds, even though it is the truth. I am just laughing at how funny it all is in general. She doesn’t believe me and I can tell, so I tell her about how I got evicted from my apartment (leaving out the whole reason why—a fight between AJ McLean and Justin Timberlake might be a little too much good gossip for this girl to handle). By the time we land in Orlando I am thinking she is believing me and I’m feeling pretty proud that I was able to convey the truth without letting too much truth out (ie., you and Justin or the fight or Nick). We say goodbye to each other and get off the plane. I am scanning the crowd for you when I noticed a hatted figure and head over. "Hey you," I say to JC and we hug. That’s when I notice a flash. I look over and the damn girl has taken a picture. I am feeling pretty fucking mad now, because a) it’s none of her business and b) JC and I are SO not together! I want to do SOMETHING but I know there is nothing I can do so I just take a deep breath and drag JC away. Later that day you come over to say hi to me and ask me about my trip and everything and I am sitting at the computer looking up the guys on the internet just to see how much these scandalous people know exactly. You are telling me all about some run-in you had with Britney and how things are weird between the two of you lately and then some story about work or something. I’m listening, but I’m not paying too close attention. I’m finding so many pictures of you on the web that you finally pull up a chair and start looking with me a little. They’ve basically got you pegged, but you and Justin don’t really bother to hide your relationship so we aren’t very surprised. What the girl said about me was pretty true, some sites said that I was going out with Joey or JC and the newer ones had pictures of me and JC coming and going from the condo together. It’s pretty bizarre, the whole thing, but we are laughing. One web site even said that I seem to have some sort of Backstreet connection and guessed that I was with Howie D which made me scream and then collapse in a fit of laughter. One web site talked about Nick being at our old house together, but instead of pairing me up with him they had decided that you and him had gone out during some fictitious break up you and Justin apparently had. I do a good job acting unjealous although I am sitting on the couch while you read this wondering why they assume I would be with Howie D while you got both Nick and Justin. Justin comes over to the condo with Joey and JC wakes up from his nap. We fill them in on what we found out about our lives and all get a pretty good laugh out of it. We make fun of JC because it turns out these girls knew that you and Justin were together before HE or the rest of the guys did. Joey thinks it is hilarious and starts looking at the sites himself. The rest of us decide that we need some food and beer (when do we not?). So you and JC are nominated (to throw any of our watchers into a loop) to go to the store to get some beer and Chinese food that we pre-ordered. When the two of you get back you make JC carry the beer up while you carry the food, thinking you got the good, not heavy, end of the deal. That’s until you realize that some sort of weird sauce leaked onto your shorts. You are pissed and go into the bathroom to try and get it off. You can hear the rest of us talking and laughing in the other room. You aren’t paying to much attention, it’s mostly just Joey talking about how accurate some of these people are, but there is no way for anyone to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t. "They know everything!" You hear Joey exclaim. "They even know about Roxanne and Justin’s steamy weekend in Miami!" You freeze and, thinking you must have heard that wrong, open the door and start walking slowly down the hall. "They do not!" I say. "How would they know that? What does it say?" "Well, it just says that you slept together—"Joey begins. "Which is true!" JC says in a funny tone. You get into the doorway and see him threatening to attack me with some noodles. "Listen to what is says!" Joey insists and then reads from the screen, "They’ve definitely slept together although we don’t know the exact nature of the pairing. It seems to be a fling that didn’t last very long, but there was some definite chemistry." We are all laughing and Joey calls out in a fake girls moan, "Oh Justin!" You just start to cry and at first no one notices and then everyone looks up. Justin gets up and immediately heads to you. "Baby, what’s wrong?" he asks and you cannot BELIEVE he is acting so casual about the whole thing. Even though whatever happened was obviously in the past, you can’t believe you didn’t know about it. And why wouldn’t I have told you if it was something harmless? You are thinking a mile a minute and not even really hearing everyone being concerned and asking you what is wrong. You can see why Justin might have held something like that from you, but me? It hits you that is must have been while the two of you were together, but before anyone knew. There is no other reason why neither of us would have told you by now. You just start crying harder Justin, looking concerned, tries to put his arm around you and you throw it off and yell, "I hate you! How could you do that?!" He looks confused and I come over but before I can say anything you call me a bitch and then run down the hall and out the door. You have no idea what you are supposed to think and are just crying. You get into the car and just drive for awhile. You get to the house and just sit outside in the car for awhile, trying to get any of this to make sense, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t add up and you just feel enraged. You can’t believe that not only are you mad at Justin, but you are even angrier with me! How could I? And why would I? You have no idea what to do, so with lack of a better idea, you go over to Britney’s. She doesn’t seem unhappy to see you and immediately starts talking and apologizing for being so weird lately until she notices you are upset. You tell her the whole story and she is as blown away as you are. She keeps on saying, "ARE YOU SERIOUS?!" and staring with her mouth open. You know she is loving the gossip but you don’t care, you need SOMEONE to talk to. Britney gets all fired up and starts saying things like, "A real friend would NOT do that." She is so into it and you guys just bitch back and forth about it for about an hour when someone buzzes from the call box. She answers it and then looks up at you. "It’s Roxanne," she mouths and looks like she has no idea what to do, even though she did say she took your side in the matter. She hangs up on me and you can tell she feels kind of weird about it since I am supposed to be her friend and everything. There is a knock at the door and it’s me. I seem to have gotten in from one of the other tenants. You don’t really have anything to say to me so you just stare and you don’t find anything funny about the situation, you are torn up about it! So why am I trying not to laugh? You can’t believe you never realized what a bitch I was. "Kristin," I say, "you are such a spaz." "And you’re a bitch!" you yell, enraged. "Come on, let me explain," I start to say, but you interrupt me. "Did you? Did you spend a weekend in Miami with Justin? Did you SLEEP WITH HIM?" You demand. I smile. "Well, yes—" I start but you interrupt me. "WHEN?" you cry. "And why didn’t you ever tell me?" "Well, I guess it was about a year ago and I DID tell you. You were THERE." You stare at me blankly for a minute, so I continue. "Kristin, it wasn’t Justin Timberlake. It was Justin Jeffre [from 98 degrees]." Immediately you realize exactly what weekend I am talking about and feel pretty dumb. In fact, you actually spent that weekend hanging out with Justin Timberlake, even though you guys weren’t together yet. You remember walking on the beach with him and talking about feeling old. Of course you start apologizing but you don’t really need to, because I just think it is hilarious. You run off to apologize to Justin and feel pretty dumb, but he doesn’t care either and just assures you that you’d know if he slept with me or anyone else. That gets the two of you started on a whole conversation about whom exactly he has slept with and same for you. Good luck with that convo, it’s not a fun one to have. By Kristin “How many people have you slept with?” I ask Justin. “How many people have YOU slept with?” he counters. You, Joey and JC look at each other and decide you better leave Justin and I alone on this one, so you go into JC’s room to play Play Station. The funny thing is that, between the three of you, there is all the information that Justin and I are about to divulge. So, you don’t need to hear what we’re saying anyway. I don’t even notice that you guys left, because I’m too busy wondering why Justin and I have never had this conversation before. It’s probably because I’m too scared to find out. But, curiosity has taken over me and I can’t let this go. “I asked you first,” I say in a snotty tone. But just as he is about to tell me, I say, “Wait! I don’t want the number. I’m more interested in who. You can leave out the one night stands with groupies.” He looks hurt but says, “Damn! That’s most of them. How am I going to look like a stud if I have to leave ALL of them out?” I smack him as hard as I can on the arm, but he isn’t fazed. “Just start talking,” I say, knowing that I’m going to wish that I’d never said that. “Well,” he starts right in like he’s proud or something. “You know about Britney, right?” I cringe and then nod. We’ve already been there, and I’m not about to go over it again. “And I’m sure you’ve heard about Veronica Finn.” “Oh my GOD!” I yell. “You actually slept with that creature?! Eew!! She is a total he/she! I thought that was just a rumor.” The thought of it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. “Hey!” he says. “She’s a really sweet girl!” But it’s more in defense of himself than her. “I didn’t know that sleeping your way into a band equals sweet,” I snap. It’s a low blow, but I don’t care. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I can’t stand those Innosense girls. “Are you finished?” Justin asks, which makes me feel like I’m about an inch tall. I resolve to try to stop being petty. After all, I asked for it. “Who else?” I ask, afraid to hear the answer. “There was this girl, Michelle, too,” he says. “Isn’t that the one who ‘broke your heart’? I laugh. I am relieved that I don’t know this one. “I heard all about it on the Internet,” I tell him. “God,” he says. “Is there anything they DON’T know?” “Wait a minute,” I say. “Weren’t you still on MMC when you were dating that Michelle girl?” “Yeah, but we kept dating after the show ended.” “But, still,” I say, my mind working overtime. “You had to be pretty young. How OLD were you when you lost your virginity?” “Thirteen,” he says quietly. “Jesus Fucking Christ, Justin!” I yell. But I think part of me is just embarassed by the fact that it took me SO much longer to take the “Big Step.” “I guess it was one of those ‘child star’ things,” he says, way too calmly. “That kind of stuff went on all the time. You wouldn’t believe the stories I could tell you about MMC. They’d blow your mind.” I’m thinking that I’d like to hear those stories later, but I want to hear what else Justin has to say. “So, wait. Who was your first time with? Michelle?” He’s quiet for a minute, and then says, “No.” “Well, who then?” But when I look at him, I suddenly realize. “Holy shit! You lost your virginity to Britney Breast Augmentation Spears! So, is she better with or without the implants?” I can’t even be mad because it’s so goddammed funny. “Oh, shut up,” he says. But he feel stupid. “This is hilarious!” I sputter out through laughter. “Though I’ll never be able to look at Britney the same way ever again.” I finally regain my composure, and say, “Anything else you’d like to wow me with, oh studly one?” “You know, 90% of the males in the world want to sleep with her. It’s not that bad.” “Oh please,” I say. “You are so full of testosterone.” “Are you complaining?” he says, and rubs up against me. “You are disgusting,” I say backing away, even though I’m laughing. “This conversation is actually turning you on, isn’t it?” “What if it is?” “God, you are pathetic,” I groan. “Are you done?” “With the people you know,” he says. “Give me an estimated number,” I say, though I’m not sure I want to know. “Probably 20 or something,” and I’m shocked, because I was sure it’d be much more than that. “But there won’t be anymore,” he says. I almost start to cry, but the romantic moment is lost when he says,“Okay, you go,” because this whole discussion is exciting him. I’m almost excited myself, but it’s because I can’t wait to get him back. And my history is even better. So much for my resolution to not be petty... “Well, I was a very good girl until I was 21.” He just nods, and I’m glad he doesn’t make me say the “V-Word.” “But I went kind of crazy when I moved here.” “What do you mean?” he asks. “Well, you know,” I say. “I was drinking a lot and I sometimes ended up going home with people.” “Like who?” “There are some people you don’t know. I actually dated one of the BSB’s attorneys,” I chuckle a little thinking about how we had to hide our relationship. “We met at a meeting, and had a little fling for a while. His name was Jeff. And one time I went to this party for the Orlando Magic, and I had some fun, if you know what I mean, with Penny Hardaway.” “Are you serious! Oh my God, he’s like my favorite basketball player ever! I’ve never even met him before!” He is so jealous. It’s hilarious. And I can tell he thinks it’s kind of cool. “Who else?” he says. I can’t exactly figure out what’s going on in his head but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know. I’m a little hesitant to tell him about the next one, but I figure I might as well get everything out in the open. “Let me see...” I am making him suffer a little. “Oh, yes, that one guy. What was his name again?” “Just spit it out, dammit!” Justin is practically yelling at me. “Okay! I slept with AJ McLean!” (you’re shocked, aren’t you?) “AJ fucking McLean?!” Justin roars. I can just imagine what you all are thinking, because I know you can hear him. “What the hell is wrong with you? I hate that guy! He’s a fucking Backstreet Boy!” To Justin, this is the ultimate betrayl. “I don’t know,” I say timidly. “I sort of had this thing for him even before I ever met him.” Then, as an afterthought, I say, “But he’s no Justin Timberlake,” and I am telling the honest to God truth. In more ways than one. AJ was kind of exciting for a while, but he wasn’t very good in bed. “Shit...” is all Justin can say for a while. “How many times did you sleep with him?” “Not that many,” I say, but he can tell I’m not telling the whole truth, because I can’t look at him. “How many?” “More than ten and less than 20?” I offer. “Jesus Christ. You were like actually dating him! How come I didn’t know about this?”“He was just a bootie call,” which is true. “And not even a good one at that.” Justin can’t help but laugh at that. “What else have you got up your sleeve? I don’t think anything could shock me now.” I’m kind of scared to tell him the other thing I have to say. “Um...” I trail off. I’m still debating whether it is even worth saying or not. “Just tell me!” Justin whines. “Okay, okay,” I say. “But when the shit hits the fan, just remember that you asked.” “All right,” he says. “There was this one time that JC and I...” But Justin doesn’t let me finish. “No way!” he yells. ‘There is no way in fucking hell that ever happened. And if it did, you are a whore.” I am used to his outbursts. I barely blink. “Well, if you’d just let me finish...” “I’ve heard enough!” and he goes stalking off towards JC’s room. Fearing for JC’s life, I go after him and grab his arm. “Justin, for the love of God!” But he’s not listening. He goes into JC’s room and grabs JC by the collar and throws him up against the wall. “What the hell are you doing?” JC yells. “Justin, stop!” Joey cries. And you just look at me like the whole world has gone insane. But you aren’t really shocked. You knew that this talk Justin and I were having was only going to cause trouble. “What’s this I hear about you sleeping with my girlfriend?” Justin screams at JC.“What? I never...” JC starts to say, and I’m pretty sure that he’s going to kill me later. “Don’t lie man,” Justin growls. “She just told me.” “Uh, no I didn’t,” I say, and for the first time everyone looks at me. “If a certain jealous ASSHOLE would have let me finish, he would’ve let me explain that JC and I ALMOST slept together, but we didn’t.” You all just continue to stare at me, because that is not a very good explanation. And then you stare at JC, but he just throws his hands in the air like he’s giving up. Justin has finally let go of him, but is bewildered as hell. “When did this happen?” Joey is the first to speak. I look at JC as if to say that I’m done, and it’s his turn. “It was right around when we first started hanging out with the girls. Remember that night we left to go to the store and didn’t come back for a while?” “Yeah,” you say. “And you said it was because you ran out of gas?” “Uh, yeah,” I say. “So, what happened?” Justin asks. “Well,” JC continues. “We came back here and had some wine, and you know how wine is...” He sort of laughs, but his pathetic exuse for a joke doesn’t fly, so he just shuts up. I can’t even look at him, I am so uncomfortable. “Anyway,” I say. “It never happened, because JC still wasn’t over Nikki, and because I couldn’t ignore my feelings for Justin, even though HE was ignoring them.” You are looking at me in awe. You can’t believe I never told you this before. And you are wondering why you never thought of it. It sort of makes sense, in it’s own weird way. You’re even surprised that we didn’t just go all the way. You plan to get more detail on what happened, but out of earshot of Justin. Justin, meanwhile, looks stunned. He’s cooled off measurably, and it’s obvious that he feels stupid for almost killing JC, but he also looks upset. It’s as if he’s imagining me with his best friend or something. But I know what is really bothering him is that I never told him. “I’m sorry I never told you, baby,” I say quietly. “But this is why I didn’t.” And I just walk out of the room, because everyone staring at me is making me so uncomfortable that I can’t stand it. Joey just leaves, because he hates conflict. You follow him out and go to sit with me in the kitchen and leave JC and Justin to talk. “This is freaking bizarre,” you say. We’ve always thought of JC as “that dorky guy.” He’s scrumptious looking enough, but once he opens his mouth, it’s all over. He becomes about as sexually appealing as Lance. Or so you thought. “I know,” I tell you. “But it was another time, and another place.” You nod, but don’t say anything, so I continue. “I mean, here was JC Chasez, the guy I’ve had a crush on since I was 14, asking me to come home with him. What was I going to do? Say no?” We both laugh, thinking about my MMC obsession. “And then there was Justin,” you say, and as you knew would happen, I get the goofy grin on my face. “The stupid little blond kid,” I say, and laugh. “Can you imagine me being 15 and having someone point out this 12 year old kid to me and tell me that I’d be living with him in six years? Shit...” “Life is so crazy,” you say, and as we often end up doing, we are playing the reality game. “Too bad Marc lives in Canada,” I say. “You got stuck with that laem Nick Carter!” And you stick your tongue out at me. Just as you’re about to ask me what happened with JC, he and Justin come out of the room. They are so cute that I just sigh. I can just imagine them having a heart to heart and then doing their little one-armed guy hug. I give JC a puppy dog look and say, “Are you mad at me?” “Well...” he says, but he is smiling. “Nah. We cool,” and he hugs me. I feel so much better. And then I look at Justin, trying to read his expression. I think he’s okay, but I’m not sure. I put out my hand, and he takes it, and then pulls me to him and kisses the tip of my nose. I know that things are going to be a little weird for a while. But, then again, when are they NOT weird? It seems like all we do is fight these days. This is usually a sign to me that things aren’t that good in a relationship. But, when I look at him, I still melt like I did six months ago. Whatever magic we have is still there, and I am just trying to hold on to it. A couple days later, you and I are in my car on the way to the party store to get stuff for Nickay’s welcome home party. We’ve been chit chatting about nothing important, but you are dying to ask me about the whole JC thing. But I know you well, and I spare you the indignity (is that a word? It is...I just spell checked it.) of asking. “So, what do you want to know?” I chuckle. “Huh?” you try to play it off. “What are you talking about?” “Oh, please,” I say. “You’ve been wanting to know about me and JC for days. Just admit it.” “Well,” you pout a little. “Wouldn’t YOU want to know?” “Yeah, probably,” and we smile at each other. It’s sort of weird to think that there’s even ONE thing you don’t know about me. “Okay,” you say. “I want to know what REALLY happened. I mean, you didn’t just stop in the middle and go, ‘I’m not going to do this. I think Justin’s really hot, so I don’t feel right about it.’ I know you too well.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask giving you the evil eye, even though I am smiling. “That I’m some sort of sex maniac?” “If the shoe fits...” you say, trying not to laugh. And I punch you in the arm, and almost go off the road. “It’s okay,” you say, laughing. “I’m a whore too.” “Okay,” I begin, ignoring you. “You have to swear to NEVER say anything about this to anyone, especially JC.” “I swear,” you say solemnly. “You see,” I say. “It really would’ve happened, except for one minor detail. JC had a little trouble...hm...how should I put this?” I pause, and you are almost in my seat you’re leaning in so close to find out what I’m going to say. “He had a little trouble rising to the occasion.” “NO WAY!” You yell, and you start to laugh even harder than you did before. But suddenly, you stop, because you sort of feel bad for him. “How sad. That must have been so incredibly humiliating.” “Yeah, I think it was,” I say. “But, there were extenuating circumstances. I mean, we had been drinking, and what I said about the whole Nikki issue was true. I think he felt guilty. And when we talked about it later, we decided that it was definitely for the best. And I got with Justin not too long after that, so I guess things worked out the way they were supposed to.” “Wow,” you say. “So, how come you never told me?” “JC didn’t want me to say anything,” I say. “But I’m glad things are out in the open now.” “You guys did a pretty good job of hiding it,” after saying that you pause, as if you are thinking. “But, now that I think about it, it explains a few things. There was always a little chemistry between you two.” “We’ll always be close. We’re bonded after going through THAT together!” I laugh. “So, anyway, did you make sure that Nick is going straight to his house after he gets in?” “Yeah,” you say. “I was going to pick him up at the airport, and just drive him there, but after all this internet stuff, we decided that wasn’t such a great idea. So, I just told me to meet me at JC’s. I’ll get him to go to his house after the other guys have gotten a chance to go to there.” “That’s really nice of the other guys to come over right after getting back from Europe,” I say, pulling into a parking place. “It’s sort of a party for them, too,” you remind me. “I even invited the girlfriends.” “I love surprise parties!” I’m starting to get all excited. “I just hope Nick does,” you say. Later that night... “C’mon Justin!” I whine. “You have to go.”“No way,” he tells me. “Not if that AJ McLean bastard is going to be there. I never want to see you two in the same room ever again.” “Jesus Justin,” I sigh. “Get over it. That happened a long time ago.”“Even so, I still hate him,” he reminds me. “Remember my nice black eye?” “Baby,” I say. “Can you try to act like a grown up for one day?” As soon as I say it, I know that I shouldn’t have. He is very sensitive about the age issue. “This is perfect,” he snaps. “You wouldn’t want to ruin your nice Backstreet evening by having a younger guy around anyway, would you? So I don’t even need to go.” “Oh Justin,” I sigh again. “I’m sorry. Just go, please. You don’t want me to be alone with AJ, do you?” I have struck a chord. “No,” he scowls. “I don’t trust that guy as far as I can throw him.”“Which is pretty far,” I giggle. “He’s skinny as hell!” “I thought you liked skinny guys,” he says hiding a smile. “What do you mean?” I say rubbing his very buffed arm. “What about your little ‘thing’ with JC?” he isn’t even trying to hide his smile now. “C’mon!” I say. “He isn’t THAT skinny!” Pretending he is pissed, Justin tackles me and throws me on the couch. “I’ll show you what a real man can do,” he whispers.He’s trying to be sexy, but all I can do is laugh. “Will you get off of me? I have to go get dessed,” I say, even though I have absolutely no intention of going anywhere. “Whatever you want,” he says, even though he knows I’m full of shit. He starts to get up, but I pull him back down. “Where are you going?” I ask seductively. “I need someone to help me get undressed...” You are sitting in your apartment (which you always want to call JC’s apartment, even though he keeps telling you it’s yours, too) waiting for Nick to get in. You spent the whole day cleaning his house, decorating and cooking, and you’re tired as hell. But the anticipation of him coming home has you wired. Unfortunately, Chris is there, and he’s driving you crazy, because he’s eating chips and talking at the same time and he has the TV up as loud as it can go. You’re about ready to tie him up and gag him, just to get him to shut up. But then JC, the sanity in this big mix (haha), comes into the room, dressed for the party and looking dapper as hell, and walks over to you. “We’re going to pick up Lance,” he says stooping to kiss you on the cheek. He smells delicious, and you decide that you need to have a guy roommate forever. I never looked or smelled this good. “We’ll meet you at the party.” “I’ll see you later,” you say, smiling. Chris gets up and runs out the door, almost forgetting to say bye. But then he sticks his head back in the door, and yells “Give Nickay a great big kiss for me!” You laugh and throw a pillow from the couch at him, but he closes the door just in time. You sigh and start cleaning up Chris’ chip mess to give you something to do while waiting for Nick. Finally you hear a car pull up outside and a door slam. A couple minutes later, there’s a knock at the door. You are nervous as hell for some reason, but you get over it as soon as you open the door and see him standing there smiling his little half smile. When you see him, you realize just how much you missed him. “Hi,” he says, and the way he says that one tiny word makes you want to jump him right then and there. But, you have to restrain yourself, because you have a party to go to. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know this, and he starts kissing you before he’s even in the door. “Let’s go to your house,” you say, pulling away, even though you’d rather stay right where you are, thank you very much. “Why?” he whispers. “Is JC here?” “Well, no,” you say, “But...”“Then what’s the problem?” he asks, pouting. “He could come home at any minute,” you say, trying to cover. “Oh, okay,” Nick says, and you silently thank God. “Let’s go,” and he runs out the door. He is so excited, and you feel really bad about this whole party idea, because it’s going to be a long time before he gets some. When you finally arrive at the house, you note that all the cars have been parked somewhere else, and that all the lights are turned off, and you’re glad that everything is going right so far. You barely get Nick in the house because he’s tugging at your clothes and kissing your neck. Somehow you manage to get through the door, but just as you’re about to turn on the light in the foyer, the signal for all of us to jump out from our hiding places and yell surprise, Nick grabs your hand. “Leave the light off, babe,” he says. “Um, why?” you whisper. “Because you know I like it better in the dark.” he says rather loudly, and you think you hear a snicker from somewhere in the living room. “Well, I think we should turn the light on, and you should bring your stuff in first,” you are doing a really bad job of pulling this off. “Roxanne,” he says, again loudly, “I can do that whenever I want. But I haven’t seen you in months and all I want to do is make love to you.” You don’t know what to do, because that’s one of the sweetest things he’s ever said, but at the same time you want to die, because every one of your closest friends and Nick’s little brother, Aaron, are in the living room listening to every word. So, you do the only thing you can. You reach over and turn on the light. But instead of everyone yelling surprise, they all kind of just stand there and look at you. Nick notes the “Welcome home BSB” banner hanging over the fire place and turns to you, makes a funny face, and then starts to laugh his ass off. There is a collective sigh of relief in the living room, as the party guests all start to laugh too. He gives you a huge hug, and says “You did this for me?” “Well, yeah,” you say. “I like to do things for you.”“I love you,” he says, but this time quietly so no one can hear. “I love you, too,” you say, and then you take his arm and pull him into the living room so he can talk to his guests. We spot each other, and I come running over, leaving Justin to talk to Brian Littrell. “Oh my God!” I squeal. “Are you all right?” I am trying so hard not to laugh, but c’mon...it’s funny. “Yeah, I guess,” you sigh. “Everything was going way too well. Something had to happen.” And I just hug you, and we go mingle. The first person we run into is Leighanne. “Oh Roxanne,” she gushes. “What a great party! Thanks for inviting me. I was just telling Nick what a great time I had with you when we had breakfast that one morning.” You suddenly feel way better. It has just dawned on you that a 30 year old woman is not going to be malicious, and you probably had nothing to worry about. “Good,” you say smiling at her. “I hope you have fun tonight! But, don’t feel bad if you want to leave and spend some quality time with your man.” You giggle, and we walk away. We go talk to Britney and Nikki for a while, but you leave us to go find Nick. You don’t want to leave his side for the rest of the night. Just as you get to him, Aaron gets up on the coffee table and starts telling everyone to be quiet. “I want to make a toast to my big brother, Nicky, and to the rest of the Backstreet Boys” he yells, holding up his glass of sparkling cider. “We’re really proud of all of your success, and we’re glad you had fun in Europe. But we’re glad you’re back at home! We missed you!” And you can’t believe how cute he is. Everyone claps and tosses back a glass of champagne. I am looking for Justin, as AJ McLean walks by. “Hey,” he says. “Hi,” I say, but I’m not paying attention. “Have you seen Justin?” “I can’t say that I have,” he says. “He’s probably keeping his distance.” “You’re probably right,” I say, sort of embarassed. “When you find him, tell him that he better hang on to you before someone else takes you away,” he winks and then is gone. I just roll my eyes, knowing that he’s drunk, and he’ll probably use a similar line on half the girls at the party. I’m just glad Justin wasn’t around to hear that. I finally find him at the food table with Chris. Chris is playing with the food, as usual. He’s got carrot sticks and he’s making them dance. Justin is laughing, and saying something about how they dance better than Chris does. I roll my eyes once again. Are there any NORMAL people at this party? I see Kevin Richardson, and go over to congratulate him. He might not be normal, but at least he’s somewhat sane. “I want to congratulate you, too,” he says laughing. “Oh yeah?” he says. “On what?” “Well, I guess it would be you and Roxanne. I want to congratulate you on finding a way to get *N Sync to a Backstreet party. The teenyboppers would never believe this!” “Well, I better take some pictures, so I’ll have proof,” I say laughing, and I go to find a camera. He is right...this is history in the making. By Kristin I go get the camera and start taking pictures, and, of course, everyone gets totally annoyed with me for being in their face. Well, Justin & Chris would be happy if I took an ENTIRE roll of film of them, but who wants pictures of them? Especially since they’re being totally drunk and stupid. It never ceases to amaze me how fast they can get drunk. I run around, taking a picture of you and Nick drinking champagne, of Aaron dancing with Amanda Latona (she’s so good with kids!), of Britney and JC eating cake (she almost kills me), of AJ and Joey talking animatedly about the new receptionist at TransCon with the big boobs (this is when I wish pictures had audio), of Nikki and Leighanne looking so beautiful that I want to barf, of Brian and Nick hugging (aww) and I make JuJu take a picture of me and Lance because I realize that there are no pictures of Lance anywhere and we make a nice couple since we’re both so albino. Then I get this great idea to have Backstreet and *N Sync in a picture together. Everyone looks at me like I’m totally insane. “I promise I won’t let anyone see it,” I say, giving them puppy dog eyes. I know they don’t actually care, but something in their contracts says they have to act like they do. I finally get them all in one spot, but I can’t get them to all look normal. Nick keeps pointing at Justin and making faces and Justin keeps sticking his tongue out. Chris wants to ride on JC’s back, but AJ keeps pushing him so he falls off. Howie’s trying to be good, bless his heart, but he keeps winking and twitching, and Lance looks like he’s about to fall asleep. Joey has some sort of food stuck to his lower lip, and Kevin (who I blame for giving me this idea in the first place) is doing his model pose and looking all serious, like the dork that he is. I’m about to give up when suddenly I notice that they’re all laughing and look as adorable as hell. I snap the picture before the moment is over and give myself the proverbial pat on the back. I decide that I’m going to enlarge it to poster size and hang it in the house--I don’t care what Justin says. I’ve been done taking the picture for a little while, yet they’re all still standing there goofing around like third graders. I clear my throat once, and they don’t even notice. Then I yell, “Guys!” They all look at me like “What?” “I’m done,” I tell them, and they all suddenly try to act all cool and go their separate ways. I catch your eye and we share a smile. It doesn’t get much better than that. The party is starting to wind down, mostly because the BSB are so tired that they’re about to drop. I start cleaning up while you and Nick stand at the door and say good bye to everyone. Sometimes you still need to pinch yourself, because you can’t believe that every member of the Backstreet Boys is hugging you and kissing your cheek. Britney comes by and tells you that she misses you, and that you need to get together, and you feel even more like you’ve completely lost sight of reality. I’m picking up food off the floor when I notice a shoe near my nose. I stand up and am standing face to face with Nikki DeLoach. “Hi Nikki,” I say, pretending to be nice. “Kristin,” she says seriously. “I have a question for you.”“Shoot,” I tell her, while starting to carry food and dishes into the kitchen so she has to keep following me back and forth. “There isn’t anything going on between Roxanne and JC is there?” she asks. “You know, since they’re living together?” I’m so shocked that anyone could be so stupid, I almost drop the bowl of salsa I’m holding. I set it down and turn to look at her. “Nikki, where have you been all evening?” “What do you mean?” “Didn’t you notice that Roxanne just threw a party for her BOYFRIEND and LOVE OF HER LIFE, Nick?” “Well, duh,” she says and looks at me like I’m stupid. A couple thoughts about how I need to get the hell out of the cheating mecca called Orlando go through my head, but I push them away to be dealt with another time. I go back to dealing with Nikki. “She and JC are just friends!” I yell. I think she’s accepted this, so I start to walk away. “What about YOU and JC?” she asks. “Dumbass of the year,” I mutter under my breath. “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response,” I tell her. “But I will tell you one thing. You’re not going home with him tonight.” She looks peeved, and then says “Whatever” like I don’t know what I’m talking about. I just smile and say “He already left.” I hear her stomp off in a huff, and smile to myself. I decide that I’m done cleaning, and go in search of Justin. I find him outside in the back yard, and say “Let’s go home Ju.” “I love you,” he says drunkenly. “I love you, too, baby,” I say with a laugh. And I can’t believe that we’re going to survive a night out, a bottle and a half of champagne and AJ McLean without a fight. Thinking this, I decide we need to get the hell out of there, and go inside to say good night to the hosts. I give Nick a hug and tell him how proud I am of him. Then I turn to you (who has just gotten a sloppy kiss on the forehead from my drunk as hell boyfriend) and give you a huge hug. I can’t help but be happy when you’re this happy. You sigh in relief because Justin and I were the last two guests. Once you have us out the door, you decide to ignore the mess and head straight for the bedroom. You take a minute in the bathroom to get ready, and you come out and crawl into bed with Nick. When he doesn’t turn towards you, you lean over him and look at his face. He is completely asleep. Instead of waking him up, you let it go. And you figure he’ll probably sleep for a few days. You snuggle up next to him and decide that you’ll stay right there with him. That is until the phone rings at 10 am the next morning. Nick, who is dead to the world, doesn’t hear it, so you have to reach over him and you almost fall on him. You finally get it and say “Hello?” “Wake up, sleepyhead!” I sing at the top of my lungs, and you wish you could reach through the phone and strangle me. “What the hell...?” “Now, before you get pissed,” I say. “You know I would never wake you and Mr. ‘I like it better in the dark’ up on today of all days if it wasn’t important.” “What could possibly be that important?” “Well,” I continue. “In the midst of all our welcome home party planning, we forgot that today is JC’s birthday.” You sit straight up and yell “Shit!” “Calm down, Justin and I have it under control. We’re having a party here--nothing big, just a little get together.” “Another party?” you ask. “Didn’t we just have one last night?”“We have to have a lot of parties, since all of our friends are so goddamned famous that they can’t be seen out.” Faced with that you relent. “But it’ll be good. You will never guess who is coming!” “Who?” “Tony Lucca and Keri Russell!” “Really? Cool!” But you’re not as excited as me. You’re too damn tired to be excited. “I think some other MMC alums might be coming, too.” You laugh, imagining how excited I must be, and then you laugh even harder when you hear Justin yell, “Would you keep it down?” “Don’t mind him,” I say in my best “we’re an old married couple” voice. “He’s sleeping...or was. Whatever. Anyway, just be here at five to help me set up okay? And call JC sometime today.”“All right, I can handle that,” you assure me. And just when you think that you’re out of my clutches, I say, “One more thing. Do you think I should invite Nikki?” And I tell you the story from the night before. “Frigging genius,” you say, laughing in disbelief. “Maybe she saw the picture of you guys at the airport,” I giggle. “God,” you groan. “I don’t know. If it was up to me, I’d say no. But you’d better ask JC.” “Okay,” I say. “I’ll call him. Love for you!”“Love for you,” and you collapse back on the bed. Nick still hasn’t moved, and you’re thinking about holding a mirror in front of his mouth to see if he’s still breathing. But, instead, you just fall back asleep. I bounce into the bedroom and start jumping on the bed. I am way too excited to calm down and I want Justin to be awake and excited with me. He grabs my leg and pulls me onto the bed and attacks me while I scream. DP bounds in and jumps on the bed to join the fun. I feel like a commercial for a JC Penney white sale, but it’s still fun. I start singing “Tony and Keri are coming to our party” over and over again until Justin puts a hand over my mouth. “You know the rules,” he says sternly. “You are not allowed to sing.” I laugh and then smack him with a pillow. Suddenly, I am struck with an idea. “Ju, is your mom home?”“Probably. Why?” “I have an idea...you’ll see,” I say. “Now, get up.”He complies, but stops me. “Kristin,” he says. “I just wanted to tell you how happy you make me.” I am stunned, but regain my composure. “Oh, babe,” I gush. “You make me happy, too.”“I love you,” he says.“I love you, too” I say, and then I pants him and run into the bathroom with him stumbling after me and trying to pull his pants up. When you get to our house to set up, you find me in the living room hanging up pictures. You start looking at them and can’t help laughing. They’re really old pictures of JC during MMC and at the beginning of *N Sync. “Where did you GET these?” “Mama Timberlake...or Harless...or whatever the hell her name is,” I tell you. “Where’s Nick?” “Still asleep,” you say, and I nod. I know how they are when they get back from a tour. “Where is everyone?” “Out by the pool,” I tell you. “It’s like some kind of MMC reunion out there. Brit’s here, but she’s sunbathing instead of helping--big surprise. Oh yeah, and Christina Aguilera showed up. That was my big excitement for the day. Tony and Keri will be here later, and I think Dale’s coming, too, or something.”“What about Young Hercules?” you laugh. “Not on the agenda so far,” I tell you, giggling. “What about Nikki?” “JC said to invite her, because he doesn’t want to have to deal with her being pissed at him. But you and I are responsible for making sure he doesn’t go home with her.” We both laugh, knowing that we have no problem with that. “He can just stay here,” I say and go back to my picture hanging. You wander outside so you can meet the Genie in a Bottle. Brit sees you and beckons you over. “Roxanne, this is Christina.”“Hi!” she says, and you can’t believe how tiny she is. Britney looks like a whale next to her. (I don’t know if she’s really that small, but she looks like she is.) “Nice to meet you,” you say, and you can’t believe how good you’re getting at meeting celebrities. It’s like no big deal anymore. “Roxanne!” Chris yells from the pool. “Yes?” “Come swim with us!” Justin says. “Yeah, sure,” you say sarcastically. “I’ll be right back with my suit.” But instead you go sit with Brit and Christina while Chris pretends to cry. The girls laugh, and you start to talk and pretty soon I come out to join you, bringing a six pack of Corona with me. It’s moments like these when you know why I’m your best friend... The phone starts ringing when you are taking JC’s cake out of the oven, but there is no way you can get to it on time. "Can someone get the phone?" you call out, but when you glance out the glass sliding door, you can tell no one heard you. Everyone is being loud and seems to be having a good time. You balance the cake on your knee and reach for the phone, but it’s too late. You groan but then laugh and set the cakes on the stove to cool before heading back into the yard to join the party. "Here, have a drink," a sopping wet Justin says, coming up from behind you and putting a glass up to your lips. You sip out of it, but it is so strong and practically burns your throat. "Ew!" You scream and swat at him but he just puts his arms around you and gives you a big kiss. You kiss him back until you realize that he is getting you wet. You scream again and push him away. He laughs and jumps back into the pool. You look down at your clothes and see how soaked you are. You are irritated but not really mad. You decide to go inside and get changed. You’d put your suit on and get in the pool if you weren’t the hostess. You go upstairs, peeling off your shirt. You go into your bedroom and take your shorts off before you notice JC is sitting on the bed. "Oh god, sorry!" he yells and his hands fly up to cover his eyes. You grab your clothes off the floor and try to cover yourself with them, and then run into the walk in closet and close the door. You throw a summer dress on and step out of the closet. JC is standing there looking pretty stupefied, although if you think about it, it’s not that big of a deal. He’s seen you in bikinis before—how different is underwear? "I’m so sorry," he says again and you can tell he really is. His face is all red. "It’s okay, I shouldn’t have stripped on the stairs!" you laugh and then so does he. You are about to head back downstairs and outside when JC sits back down on the bed. You stop and turn around to look at him. "What are you doing up here?" you ask him. "It’s your birthday! It’s your party!" He smiles but it seems kind of deflated. "Yeah," he says. "And thanks for throwing it for me, really. I’ll be right down." But he doesn’t sound very happy and you don’t believe a word. You walk back over to the bed to sit down next to him and can smell the alcohol on his breath pretty strong. You make a face and he smiles sheepishly. "It’s a birthday thing," he says, trying to play it off. You open your eyes and look at him to let him know he isn’t getting away with anything. He laughs a little and looks away. "Come down and join the party," you tell him, bumping shoulders. "I will," he tells you but you don’t believe him. "What’s wrong?" you ask him and he just kind of looks away. When he finally turns his head back you kind of reel at how drunk he looks. He just shrugs and lies back and you sigh. "Kristin!" you can hear Chris calling you from downstairs. "Kristin, help!" You groan and look back at JC. "You gonna be okay?" you ask. He nods and tries to smile again. "Just a birthday thing," he says. You smile at him one more time before heading down to help Chris in whatever crisis he is having. I am outside sitting with Nikki and Britney and Christina, but I’m spending most of my time just kind of staring off into space. They are all reminiscing about their MMC days and while it was fun to listen to for awhile, it got pretty old. I was fired from drink making because Justin said I made my drinks too weak—which isn’t true! —and Chris decided to show me ‘who’s boss.’ Of course he ended up needing help with the blender but I refused to lend a hand. "Hey, what’s up?" a male voice asks. Nikki, Britney, and Christina all get excited and I turn around to see who it is. My mouth opens and I watch Nikki throw her arms around Marc Worden. I just start laughing and they all look at me but I can’t stop. "Oh-kay," Marc says, bewildered and Britney just shrugs. "You are so weird!" she says to me. And all the girls pull a chair up for Marc and sit him down. I get introduced and make it through without too much laughing. I can tell Marc thinks I am insane and I feel pretty dumb but I can’t help it. They all start talking and basically catching up I guess. I’m getting pretty tired of all this MMC talk, even if I am sitting next to Marc. Actually, sitting next to him is making me feel pretty weird. I finally get up and go inside the kitchen that has turned into a little party of it’s own. Justin and Chris and a blender is kind of a scary mix. Justin, who is already pretty drunk, keeps pouring more alcohol in and Chris is laughing his ass off. I check my watch and see it’s only 6, and wish it were 7 so that Joey and Lance would hurry up and get here. "Where’s JC?" I ask and both Justin and Chris look at each other and then at me. Neither of them say anything so I roll my eyes and ask again, "Where’s JC?" "Well…" Justin starts to say when you walk in the room with Keri Russell and Tony Lucca. There is a lot of hooting and hollering and the girls and Marc come inside and everyone hugs. You are kind of just bouncing around in excitement and I don’t know why I am not more into this. "I can’t believe JC is actually having a PARTY for his birthday!" Keri says to everyone with a loud laugh and they all kind of laugh along with her. "Well, he’s hiding somewhere, " Nikki tells her, "but it got all of us together!" "Where is he?" Tony asks. "Let’s get that birthday boy out here before he analyzes his life to death!" I glance at you and you shrug, seemingly as confused as I am. But before much can happen, Lance and Joey walk in, each with a case of beer. "Where’s the party?" Joey calls out and everyone hoots and I feel like I am in some sort of Emerald Cove alternate universe. I almost want to share that thought with Tony Lucca, who is standing next to me, but then I realize how dumb it will make me sound. I’m feeling pretty low key and when I try to pay attention to anything that’s going on I just keep thinking about how Nick is finally back in town and I’m not even with him. And JC isn’t anywhere to be found, and I don’t know most of these people. I sigh and when no one is looking decide to escape upstairs to give Nick a call. I slip inside Justin and your room and can hear someone singing quietly. I walk over to the other side of the bed and see JC lying on the floor with a bottle of Jim Beam. I just laugh because it is the funniest thing I have ever seen. He looks up, surprised. "What the hell are you doing up here?" I ask him, sitting down next to him. He smiles at me but it seems like he can’t really keep his eyes open. "Did you ever notice," he asks me, "that I can’t hold a relationship?" I just laugh again because he is completely serious. "No," I tell him, "but I sure did notice how drunk you are." He sits up quickly and then has to sort of take a minute to recover from his change of position. "My life," he says in a very slurred tone, waving his bottle at me, "is such a joke." I just sigh because I hate this kind of drunken talk. "Well there is a party going on for you and everyone from your childhood seems to have showed up. You should go down and mingle. Maybe walk a little of that alcohol off." He stares at me for a minute like he didn’t understand what I said and then shakes his head. "They only came because they wanted to see me make a fool of myself." "They did not," I argue with him. "They came because they LOVE you and because they want to SEE you." He doesn’t seem convinced but gets up and leaves the room anyway, stumbling slightly. I notice he has left his bottle of liquor and take a swig off of it I dial Nick’s house but get the machine. I figure he must still be sleeping but I still wish he would have answered the phone. I just kind of wanted to say hi. Downstairs you are in the living room dancing with Dale and watching Justin dance with Christina and getting a little nervous. You trust Justin but he is getting a little risqué. You are trying to act like you are having a good time with Dale, which you are, but you are keeping close tabs on Justin’s hands…making sure they don’t travel too far south on Christina’s body if you know what I mean. Keri Russell cuts in on you and Dale, but instead of dancing with Dale she starts dancing with you and you are totally in heaven. You have a couple drinks in you but not too many to notice how many people have just started to fill up your house. You are having such a good time dancing and laughing with Keri for awhile you don’t pay much attention, but finally you can’t ignore it anymore and break away from Keri and head into the kitchen. The kitchen is totally full and Joey is in there talking to a couple of girls, only one of whom looks kind of familiar. You go over to him and ask, "Who the hell are all these people?" He laughs happily and so does one of the unfamiliar girls. "Are you kidding?" she asks. "Who wouldn’t miss JC’S BIRTHDAY?" You just stare at her for a minute and then walk back into the living room and try to get Justin’s attention. He is still dancing with Christina and you walk over to them. "Baby, can I talk to you for a minute?" you ask him. He looks at you smugly. "We’re just dancing, babe, she-it. I didn’t know you were the jealous type." But too bad you aren’t jealous and are really just trying to talk to him about JC. One look at you and he can tell you don’t give a rats ass who he is dancing with and he feels stupid. He breaks away from Christina, who is immediately swept away by a different guy, and comes over to you. "Baby, where did all these people come from?" you ask. He sighs. "You see, JC doesn’t usually, um…celebrate his birthday, see," he starts trying to explain. "And that started because he kind of has this…um, reputation thing. I mean, he kind of gets in this…um…mood on his birthday." "Oh," you say quietly and wonder why no one has ever mentioned this before. "So…" Justin continues, "when word got around that we were kind of going to have a little get together for him…well, no one wanted to miss this." You look into the mob of people dancing in your living room. You walk away from Justin and head upstairs to find JC and apologize. But he meets you halfway. "Kristin," he says, leaning into you. You smell his alcohol breath again. "JC about this whole birthday thing—" you begin but you don’t finish because he grabs you in a hug. You hug him back but when he lets go he still remains inches from your face. "Kristin, I just wanted to tell you something." He is so serious you are almost afraid. "What?" you ask quietly. He looks at you intently. "I love you," he says. You sigh of relief. "I love you too," you say. "And I’m sorry about this party. I didn’t know—" He interupts you again by shaking his head. "No," he says. "I mean. I’m in love with you." You try to laugh again but it doesn’t really come out the way it is supposed to sound. You just kind of stare at him. "I know that you are with Justin but don’t try and act like we don’t make sense. We make more sense than you and Justin ever did or will! How can we keep on living this way? Why bother? Why deny this? Whatever crazy amazing soul energy crap that is going on between us isn’t something I want to let go of." You stare at him for a minute longer. You look at him and all of a sudden you wonder if he is right. You take in a deep breath and he leans in and kisses you deeply. You push him away but realize that you are doing it as more of a reflex than really a rejection of his kiss. You lean against the wall and just keep staring at him while he looks back at you. But you can hear the noise coming from the downstairs. The music and the people. And then you hear Justin’s voice over all of them yelling, "Ya like that don’tcha?!" You close your eyes and smile and that warm feeling goes over your body. You look back at JC and shake your head. "We make more sense," he says in a desperate and pleading way, knowing that he is losing you. You just shrug and keep smiling, still thinking of Justin. "I don’t think love is supposed to make sense," you tell him and just watch as his face falls. You don’t really want to stick around to see this so you go back down the stairs. You go into the kitchen and kick as many people out as you can so you can frost the cake. You get it done and I come down the stairs and start licking the bowl. "Where were you?" you ask me. "Trying to call Nick," I mumble with frosting in my mouth. You flirt with the idea of telling me about your encounter with JC but decide it can wait until later. You tell me to see if JC is around and then prepare everyone to sing. I go into the living room, where it looks like JC is telling Dru from C-Note the secrets to life. I turn the music off and tell everyone that it’s time for cake. Most of them all crowd into the dining room and I take JC by the arm and kind of drag him along. I figure if he’s not having fun we might as well make him go through the motions. We turn out the lights and you come into the room with the cake and candles, but the candles aren’t lit. Everyone laughs. "Anyone have a light?" I ask. Chris thinks he is the funniest guy in the world when he says, "But you know I like it better in the dark!" I am so embarrassed and a chunk of people laugh. Turns out Rich from LFO has a lighter and we light the candles and start singing. When the song is over everyone claps and hollers and waits for JC to blow out the candles but he doesn’t. He just kind of stand there and everyone is watching him. "Make a wish!" you prod him but he doesn’t move. After standing in silence for a good thirty seconds JC finally throws his hands up in the air. I cringe because I can tell he is about to say something and I was just warned about the Chasez Birthday Curse. I silently pray he won’t do anything to embarrass himself. He looks around the room and then closes his eyes. He stays like that for another good thirty seconds, with all of us standing there, watching. He finally opens them and looks out at all of us. "I wish that all of you find happiness," he says and then leans over and blows all the candles out on his cake. You let out a huge sigh. Not only of relief, but also because that was pretty much the cutest thing you’ve ever heard. You look at JC and smile and he salutes you. You laugh and finally he can’t hold his smile in anymore and laughs with you. The party somehow turned into a slumber party. I wake up at about 7 AM with that dry cottony feeling in my mouth from having too much to drink, and I notice that I am still fully clothed, shoes and all, and I’m laying on the floor next to you and Nick. Apparently he had shown up sometime the night before, but I don’t even remember him coming. There is a shoe practically up my nose, and I look up and realize that JC is laying perpindicular to us, while Justin is on my other side but further down so that his face is right up next to my stomach. I just want to start laughing, because the whole scene is so ridiculous. I’m wondering who the hell else is asleep somewhere in our house. But it is so early that I just fall back asleep. When I wake up the next time, I can tell it’s way later because it’s so light outside. Justin is stirring, and I can feel him scooting up so that he’s closer to my face. He leans into kiss me, but his breath is so nasty that I turn away and say “Ew!” We start laughing, and that’s what wakes everyone else up. Britney is on the couch, while Christina fell asleep in the recliner with Marc. That must’ve been one tight fit. I get up and go to the bathroom, and Joey is asleep in the bathtub and Nikki looks like she was driving the porcelain bus all night, because she’s asleep next to the toilet. I continue my tour to outside, and see that Lance is asleep in the hammock with some GIRL, and I can’t help laughing at that. He sees me, and I give him the thumbs up and go back to my inspection. Chris is sleeping on the lawn, and I just hope that DP’s poop isn’t on him somewhere. Apparently Tony and Keri left at some point the night before, but they could be in the guest room. Who the hell knows? I get Justin up, because I want to make breakfast for everyone. But when we get in the kitchen, it’s so trashed that we can’t even move. There’s a keg on the floor and plastic cups everywhere. There’s stuff all over the counter and dripping down on to the floor from when Justin and Chris were attempting to make drinks. And it looks like someone had a war with the cake, because it’s everywhere, too. The whole scene makes me want to vomit. “Oh man,” I cry. “It’s okay, baby,” Justin says. “We’ll clean it later. I’ll help, I promise.” He steps over all the shit on the floor and gets a box of poptarts out of the cabinet and gives me one. “Here, eat this,” he says. “This will tide you over until I can take you out to breakfast.” “You are amazing,” I tell him. And I mean it. “Why thank you,” he says. “You’re not so bad yourself.” “How did everyone end up staying here?” I ask. “Um, YOU invited them to,” he says giving me a puzzled look. “Don’t you remember?”“Nope,” I say. “Did you slip me a date rape drug again?” “No, LIGHTWEIGHT,” he says laughing. “But I wish I would’ve thought of it. I didn’t get any last night.” “Well,” I say. “We can’t have that. I’ll just have to remedy that later on.” I can tell he’s getting excited. “But not NOW. We have a house full of people.”“Oh yeah,” he says munching on his poptart. “Can I kiss you?”“If you brush those nasty teeth,” I giggle, while he pretends to be hurt. We walk back in the living room, and see that people are starting to get up. But no one’s making an effort to leave. Someone turns on MTV, and the making of Britney’s video is on, so people start watching that. It’s taken you a while to fully wake up and adjust to the situation. You remember me inviting everyone to stay, and the only conclusion you can come to is that you must’ve been too drunk to drive. All you know is that you’re happy that JC didn’t go home with Nikki. In fact, the person he was sleeping closest to happened to be Nick Carter. You doubt that was JC’s birthday wish, but that’s what he got. You see me enter the room, and you watch as JC’s head snaps up and his eyes follow my movements. I notice it too, and it makes me act all awkward. You want to know what the hell is going on, because the tension between the two of us is pretty much thick enough to cut with a knife. Luckily, Justin is so dense that he doesn’t notice. You get up and grab my arm and literally drag me out of the room. You want to know what is going on. I know what you’re thinking, so I obey and follow you into Justin’s and my room. “Why are you and JC being so weird?” “We’re not...” I start to say, but I’m not fooling anyone. “Oh God,” I groan, and just burst into tears. This is so not what you were expecting, and, to tell you the truth, neither was I. “What happened?” you say in a concerned voice. “He...(sniffle) He...(cough) He told me he loves me,” I say in my muffled crying voice. “Uh, okay,” you say. “He tells me he loves me all the time. What’s the point?” “No,” I sputter out. “He said he is IN love with me.” “Oh my God,” you say. “Are you serious?” You are wondering how in the hell I got the two hottest members of *N Sync to fall in love with me, but you decide you’ll wait till later to ask about my secrets on how to get men. “Yeah,” I say. And I tell you the story including him kissing me and talking about our connection and everything. “I don’t know what to do. And I remember sitting there at the party, looking at everyone--Tony and Keri, Chris and Amanda, Justin and Britney, Nikki and JC and every other guy--and realizing that he’s so famous that he can’t get out of his little circle. None of them can. That’s why they were all together. And, do you notice that only Tony and Keri are still together? That’s what happens when you ‘settle’ for whoever works. That’s what JC’s doing. I’m part of his circle--there’s no one else.” “I think you should give yourself a little more credit,” you say, and I smile at you lovingly. “But you might be right.”“So how do I convince JC of that?” I ask, desperate for advice. “And should I tell Justin?”“I wouldn’t because of his temper,” you say. “But it’s better to tell him now than have him find out later from someone else.”“Yeah, you’re right.” I sigh. “This is awful.” “Do you think JC’s right? You know, about you guys and your chemistry?” “That might have been true at one time,” I say. “But Justin...I can’t even put it into words. He and I are connected. He is everything to me. I mean, I love JC, but he will never mean to me what Justin does.” And you say what I am thinking. “But how do you tell someone that?” I wipe my eyes, you hug me and we head downstairs. For some reason, there are still a million people in my living room. I really need to talk to Justin alone, but I don’t see how I’m ever going to be able to do that. I certainly don’t want JC around when Justin freaks out, which I know he will. You also want some time alone with your man, so you start kicking people out. No one wants to leave -- I guess they thought they’d be able to hang out by the pool all day. So we tell them all that they can come back later, knowing that they won’t actually show up. Everyone hugs JC, who looks like death warmed over, and leaves. You and Nick leave and all that’s left is me, JC and Justin. The two guys hug and then JC comes over to me. He hugs me and whispers, “Think about what I said,” and then leaves. I shiver, but not in a good way. “Ju,” I say, turning to Justin. “We need to talk.”“What’s wrong baby?” he looks concerned. “Nothing, really,” I tell him. “I just need to tell you something. Let’s go out in the hammock.” He touches my face, but doesn’t say anything. We go outside and crawl into the hammock. Justin folds me into his arms and I turn so I can face him. “Something happened last night,” I say, and he nods. I decide to just go for it. “JC told me he was in love with me.” I squeeze my eyes shut and wait for the bomb to go off. But nothing happens. Instead, I hear Justin say, “I know” very softly. I open my eyes. “You do?” I ask, confused. “I’ve known for a long time,” he says. “It’s so obvious.” I’m wondering why I never noticed. “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I was afraid,” he says. Suddenly a million things make sense. “That’s why I flipped out when I thought you two had slept together. I don’t want to lose you.” Tears are welling up in his eyes. “Baby, you aren’t going to lose me,” I try to reassure him. “But, what if you were just waiting for him?” He says quietly. “You always talk about what a big crush you had on him, so I didn’t want you to know how he felt in case you wanted to be with him.” The whole thing is so sad that I just want to cry myself. This has obviously been eating away at him for sometime. I mean, for Justin Timberlake to be worried about playing second fiddle to someone else...that’s pretty serious. “I shouldn’t have told that story so many times,” I say. But then I take Justin by the shoulders and say, “But that was my past. YOU are my future. I don’t EVER want to be with anyone else. I love you, Justin. So much. You’re the only mousketeer for me!” He smiles a little through his tears and then hugs me. I pull away a little and say, “There’s one other problem.” “What?” JuJu asks. “What about JC? I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” “You have to tell him,” Justin says. I tell him my theory of why I think JC is feeling this way, but an annotated version. I don’t tell him about relationships not lasting because of people settling for whoever. “I think we just need to find him someone else,” I say, like it’s the easiest solution in the world. “I don’t think it’s that simple,” Justin tells me. “Why would he want someone else?” Even though I don’t agee, I have to smile at him for being so damn cute. And then I say, “That’s right! You’re one lucky bastard for geting me first!” It’s fun to act this cocky. Now I see why Justin does it all the time. But, back to the problem at hand... “What am I supposed to tell JC? “The truth,” Justin says. “He’ll understand.”“I’m starting to feel like an episode of Jerry Springer,” I groan. “Nah,” Justin laughs. “You have too many teeth!” We laugh at this for a while, and then I go to take a shower and get ready to go over to JC’s. You and Nick have a long, leisurely breakfast outside, and he tells you about his trip. You laugh at the antics of the fans. You tell him about the Internet mess (leaving out the part about Justin Jeffre) and Justin’s altercation with JC. Nick just shakes his head. You can see why he doesn’t quite “get” Justin and I, and you’re glad, because it means he won’t go beating anyone up. “By the way,” Nick says. “I ran into Abs Breen again.” “Really?” you say, hoping Abs didn’t do anything stupid. “How come he didn’t know about us?” You can’t tell if he’s mad or just curious. “I don’t know,” you tell him. “What was I supposed to say? ‘Nick is my boyfriend’ or Nick and I are going out’? Shit, that sounds so laem.” “Well, whatever,” he says, getting up and going to put his dishes in the kitchen. You follow him. “Are you mad?” “No,” he says. “I mean, I shouldn’t be, but something about the whole situation bothers me. Like, why are you not telling people about us?”“Well, I wasn’t trying to hide it from Abs or anything, if that’s what you mean,” You are starting to get “bothered” yourself. “Good,” he says. “Wanna play Play Station? Or I can get out my old school Nintendo, and we can play Kid Nicky.”“Okay,” you say. “I guess this conversation is over.” You are being a smart ass, but secretly you are glad. You don’t want to waste precious time fighting. “I don’t have anything else to say about it,” he tells you simply. He gives you a quick kiss and then goes off in search of his Nintendo. You stare after him in bewilderment. He’s such a dumbass. It’s a good thing that you think that’s the best thing about him. You start to think about what I said about famous people and them “settling” for people in their own social circles. You sort of wonder if that’s what Nick is doing with you. Or if that’s what Abs was doing or Justin Jeffre...But you push the thought from your head, especially when it comes to Nick. Why would he care so much about you telling people about your coupledom if he was just biding his time with you? Sometimes you hate me for all the ideas I put in your head. But you can understand why I would think that way. Our lives are almost too good. Every once in a while you have to question it. And when you see Nick run in with his Nintendo, you smile and decide you better live it up while you can. I knock softly on JC’s door. When he answers it and sees that it’s me, his face lights up and he grins. My heart drops into my stomach. I feel so bad for getting his hopes up. “You know, this would be a lot easier if you weren’t such a wonderful person,” I say gently. His face falls, but he stands aside so I can go inside. All I want to do is cry, but I am holding it back through some miracle. I sit down on the sofa nd he faces me in a chair. I’m glad he chose not to sit next to me -- that would’ve made it even harder. “I told justin what you told me,” I say. JC’s body suddenly gets tense. “It’s okay. He already knew...he guessed. He’s not mad or anything.” He visibly relaxes. “I don’t want to cause problems for you,” he says. I smile. “You’re not,” I assure him. “My only problem is that I adore you. I don’t want to hurt you.” “I’ll be okay,” he says. “I’d do anything for you, including letting this go. I just want you to be happy. I love you.” This sends me reeling. Sitting there facing him, listening to him, it’s tough not to doubt my own convictions. He’s so beautiful and sweet and amazing. And there was a time in my life when I would have done just about anything just to be in the same room with him, not to mention have him in LOVE with me, for the love of God. And now here I am, turning him down. It doesn’t seem right. Part of me is afraid to ignore this...I don’t want to regret it later. But, I glance at the wall and a collection of pictures of the guys and my eyes fly directly to Justin in every picture. He is a part of me, and I can’t ignore that either. JC sees me going through this. “I know there is something between us...something good,” he begins. “But I can’t make you love me.” “Maybe Justin and I don’t make sense to anyone else,” I say. “But we make sense to each other. We’re in love, and that’s all that matters. I’m so sorry JC. I wish I didn’t have to do this.” “I know,” he says with tears in his eyes. I get up to go, because I can’t handle it anymore. He stands up and just looks at me. I hug him and give him a small kiss on the lips. And then I walk out the door without turning back. You and me and *N Sync are in your living room watching the Teen Awards. We haven’t been spending enough time with all of us together, so we thought we’d watch this and celebrate their award. I’m not exactly celebrating it, since there is now a surfboard in my living room, but I can’t seem to make Justin put it somewhere else. Joey is in the kitchen popping the cork on a bottle of champagne, and you think it’s weird that we’re drinking champagne to celebrate winning a TEEN award. You mention this, and Justin makes a crack about how Chris is old enough to have his own teenaged child. It’s pretty hilarious, and even Chris has to laugh. If it was anyone else, he would feel ridiculous being in a boy band, but it’s Chris. He loves it. Pretty soon the performance of Music of My Heart comes on. We can tell the guys are really proud of this song, so we make an effort to be really quiet and pay attention to it. “You look really good, baby,” I tell Justin. “Ooh, and you sound even better!” He smiles and kisses me on the cheek, but is pretty engrossed in watching himself on TV. I sigh and wonder why I even try with Justin sometimes. And then JC starts singing. And he’s getting into it, and it’s unbelievably cute and he sounds so amazing. It’s so hard for me sometimes to not imagine what it would be like to be with him. Sitting there with Justin ignoring me, I am torn. I look at JC, and of course he’s looking at me. Our eyes meet, and I look away quickly. I don’t want Justin to notice, though it’s doubtful that he would notice a bomb going off right now. I can’t help looking at JC again, but this time I don’t look away. Our eyes lock, and I sort of forget that anyone else is in the room for a minute. That is until you wave a hand in front of my face and say, “Earth to Kristin...” I jump a little and then turn red. Then I smile gratefully at you to thank you for helping me avoid a potentially dangerous situation. It’s like I can’t even be around JC anymore. It’s too hard. “I have to get some air,” I say to no one in particular, and I run outside. You notice, but you decide to let me be alone. No one can help me now. I sit out by the pool on a lounge chair in the dark, and cry. I hate the stress of the whole situation. It’s killing me. Pretty soon, I hear someone coming towards me. I look up and see Justin silhouetted in the moonlight. “Baby, what’s wrong?” He says, his eyes full of concern. “Oh nothing,” I say, wiping at my eyes. “I’m just tired from work or whatever...”But he knows me too well to believe my lie. “Something has been bothering you a lot lately,” he says. “You’re not yourself. And it’s affecting our relationship. What is it? I want to help you fix it.” “Oh Ju,” is all I can think to say. He is right. But how can our relationship not be affected when I am questioning it all the time? “Is this about JC?” he asks, and I curse how smart he is for an 18 year old. When I don’t say anything, he says, “I thought that was over.” “So did I,” I tell him. “Shit, Kristin,” he says quietly. “What are you saying?” “I’m not saying anything,” I say, and I am telling the truth. “I just need some time to figure it out.”“What?” he says, and I can hear the desperation in his voice. “I’m going to be staying with Britney for awhile,” I tell him. “Why?” he says, and I can hear the tears in his voice. “I don’t want to stay with her,” I say. “But I don’t have anywhere else to go.”“No,” he say. “I mean, why do you have to leave?” He’s not even bothering to hide the fact that he is crying. Tears are pouring down his face. “It’s not fair to you, the way I’ve been acting,” I tell him. “I need to think things through, and see how I can be better to you.” “You’re fine!” he cries. “Please, Kristin, don’t leave me.” It’s so hard for me to not break down. But I have to be firm. “We’ll never have a chance if I don’t do this,” I say. “But, we’ve been through so much,” he says, kneeling down beside me so he can look into my eyes. “Why can’t we get through this?” “We will,” I tell him. “But I don’t trust in us right now. I need to get that back.” “How can you do that if I’m not around?” he asks. I had never thought about it that way, but I manage to stand my ground. “Please, Justin, you have to trust me.” “Don’t go,” he says, burying his face in my shoulder. “I’ll do anything. What do I have to do to get you to stay?” “Baby,” I tell him, stroking his hair and trying to comfort him. “This isn’t for good, okay?” “I’m so scared,” he starts saying over and over. “What if you decide that you don’t want to come back.” And I can tell that he’s thinking about JC. “That won’t happen,” I tell him. “I’ll come back, and things will be even better.” “He’s not better than me,” Justin says looking at me. “I know, baby,” I say, my voice catching. “It’s not about him. It’s just that this whole situation has made me need to deal with some stuff. But I still love you.” “If you love me, then why do you want to be away from me?” he asks. Damn, this kid is good. “We can still see each other,” I say. “I just don’t think we should live in the same house right now.”“But...” he says, but then trails off. It’s apparent that he’s given up. “If that’s what you want.”“Thank you,” I say. I hate to be hurting him, but what can I do? “I’ll wait for you,” he says. That one sentence makes me want to ditch this whole idea. But I have to remind myself that I’m doing this for him, and not just myself. “I’m doing this for us,” I say, unable to keep my tears in check any longer. “I hope it works,” he sighs. He hugs me and then gets up. I almost call out to him, but then I don’t. I hear his car starting, and whisper to myself, “What have I done?” Later that night I am droppping you off at Britney's and I just keep on cursing. Somehow I feel like nothing but the word fuck can describe how amazed I am at the whole situation. Not that I can say I am completely surprised, knowing your attachment to JC. I am just rambling and rambling on and on because even though this is earth shattering news and everything, there is something pretty exciting about it all. You aren't listening to me but you are kind of glad I am bubbling about things in this weird way so you can just stare at the window and not have to talk or anything. You sure don't feel like talking. It just isn't much fun when it's your problem. We get to Britney's apartment and I jump out of the car and buzz her. "Hello?" she asks over the intercom. "Hey, it's Roxanne and Kristin. You HAVE to let us up!" So of course she buzzes us up and I look at you and can tell how crushed you are and I feel so bad I almost die. "You okay?" I ask and give you a hug. It's nice but you really just feel like going to bed right about now. You nod and tell me you are just really tired. I decide to not even go up to Britney's with you but I tell you how much I love you and to call me if you ever need anything. You nod and promise you will but inside you are thinking that there is no way in hell you will because JC might answer the phone. You practically crawl up the stairs, so depressed and exhausted. Britney's waiting at the door and asks you what's up right away. You start crying and tell her the whole story, all about JC and Justin and everything you've been feeling. She is just sitting there and you don't notice but she isn't being very supportive. She is just kind of looking off into space. You cry for awhile longer until you just can't cry anymore and look up at her. She looks at you. "Jesus Kristin," she says quietly and then kind of shakes her head and looks as if she is about to cry herself. You realize that you've never seen Britney cry before. You never really thought about how she might cry either--she just always kind of seemed like some sort of plastic doll. You wipe your eyes and stare at her while her eyes get really wet. "Jeez, Kristin, you know how much I like you and I really like to think that we are good friends. I care about you and I want to be able to comfort you and make you feel better and help you out, I really do," Britney starts crying for real now. "But I just don't think I can. I know that I'm a bitch and that I'm selfish but I just can't deal with it. It seems silly, but as much as I want you to be alright....I just...I just..." she kind of trails off. "I just can't handle it. It's just too weird for me." You stare at her some more and try to understand what she is saying. You kind of get it all of a sudden, that her helping you with your Justin problems is a little too much to bear. "I'm so sorry," you say, feeling like you are about to cry because you know how hurt she is. You stand up and she stands up too. "No, I'm sorry," she says and you can tell she really is. "But I really can't help you. It's just..." she gets quiet. "It's just kind of like rubbing salt in my wounds." You start moving around and grabbing your purse and your jacket and apologizing profusely and telling her how much you understand because you can tell she feels pretty bad. All of a sudden you stop. "I don't have my car," you say and start scanning ideas in your head of who to call. You guess you will call me to pick you up and take you somewhere. "Here," Britney says, handing you the keys to her Beamer. "Take mine. You can just page me tomorrow when you're done with it." You thank her and take them. You normally wouldn't but right now you are so upset and tired you just want to get settled somewhere and go to bed. You hug her and apologize some more and she keeps apologizing back. You go out and get into her car, which is actually pretty messy. It's littered with pop cans and Evian water bottles and sweaters and make up. It smells like strawberries. You start to drive around and don't really have anywhere to go. You wonder if *N Sync is still at my place and look at your clock and figure you probably could head over to Chris's and he would be home. You know you could stay there but the more you think about it, the more you don't want to put him in an even akwarder (not a word) position that Britney was. Justin being his best friend and bandmate. You could go to Joey but the same rules aply and you don't know what to do. You try to think of friend's you have and realize that they are all so closely tied to Justin that it is virtually impossible. You think of Nikki and start to drive over to her place but once you get there you realize that her and JC have even more unclosed issues than Britney and Justin do and you would probably just make her feel weird too. Not only that, but she wouldn't be as nice about it as Britney was. So you turn the car around and pull onto the familiar highway, not yet sure where you will end up. After dropping you off at Britney's I head straight over to Nick's, where I've been spending most of my nights. I can't wait to tell him what is going on between you and Justin. I pull into his driveway and run up to the door, opening it and letting myself in. I walk into the living room and Nick looks up at me from where he is watching TV on the couch. I plop down next to him, kiss him quickly, and start. "You will NEVER guess what happened tonight." He just kind of looks back at the TV and I start in with the whole story, telling him all about JC and how you've always had some sort of weird attachment to him and a bunch of other things. But while I am in the middle of a sentence he turns to me and asks, "Are you ashamed of me?" I just stare at him. What the fuck is he talking about? "Um," I say," did you HEAR anything I just said? She is so staying with Britney for awhile! I mean, who knows what is going to happen!" He just keeps looking at me. Finally he kind of nods to dismiss my story and leans in like he has something important to say. "I embarrass you, don't I?" "What the hell?" I hoot, throwing my head back and laughing at what a spaz he is. "You are so random! Aren't you at all interested in this potential break up?" For some reason this pisses him off and he gets up and goes into the kitchen. I throw my hands in the air and make a face to no one that says, what the hell is with this guy? I get up and follow him into the kitchen, still kind of laughing because he is such a freak. "It's not funny," he says defensively and looks at me and I can tell he is serious so I stop laughing. "Are you serious?" I ask him quietly. "What? Have you been seriously thinking about this?" He gets some ice cream out of the freezer and starts spooning it into a bowl. "Well, yeah." He says. Then he looks up and points his spoon at me. "You don't really mention it to anyone that we're together--" He has more to say but I know what he is talking about so I interupt him. "I hadn't seen Abs for months! What am I going to do? Just call him up out of the blue to inform him that I started dating someone?" "It's not just Abs," he says, practically throwing his ice cream in the bowl. "All those interviews you did in Spain. It's like, oh, poor miss cool book girl, she can't be dating a Backstreet Boy, she's too HIP." I just stare at him and he finally realizes that he has way too much ice cream for one man and shoves the container back into the freezer. He leans on the fridge and looks at me. I just look at him. I can feel all the anger drain out of me and I just start to feel kind of sad. I just keep looking at him and I know that he is kind of right. He's not stupid. Dating a Backstreet Boy isn't exactly the coolest thing one can do, especially when the people who buy her books definetly wouldn't think so. It isn't something I hide from people or anything, but at the same time it isn't something I parade around. This makes me even sadder. "It's just so different," he says, a little more gently. I don't really know what he means. I just start crying, and pretty hard, and I sit down on one of the stools and lean over the counter and put my head down in my arms and just weep. And not because Nick made me angry but more because he is kind of right and I hate myself. I don't cry very often and when I do it isn't in front of people and it isn't really like this. Maybe I am just kind of wound up because of all todays drama and because everything between you and Justin might fall apart. "Hey, it's okay," I hear Nick say softly into my ear and he is right behind me and he puts his arms around me. This kind of makes me feel even more guilty, but after awhile I just don't care and hug him back. "I'm so stupid," I groan when I stop crying. I wipe my eyes a little and he looks at me and laughs. "You know, when you think about it, it's kind of funny. You spend all your time worrying about girls just liking you because of what you do and then, you end up with one who is ashamed of it." I can tell it does bother him though. "I'm not ashamed of you," I tell him, which is true. "I know," he just says unconvincingly and hugs me tight again. "I like you even though you are a Backstreet Boy," I tell him and kiss his neck. He laughs quietly into my ear. "If that's not true love, I don't know what is." You pull into a park that you used to go to a lot when you first moved to Orlando. You get out of the car to stretch your legs and clear your head. You walk around a little and think about Justin and your life and wonder what you are doing. You wonder what you are feeling. Exhausted both emotionally and physically, you sit down on a bench and look out at the trees. "Can't sleep?" A voice asks and you remember all of a sudden who showed you this park in the first place. "Just needed to clear my head," you say weakly and AJ McLean sits down next to you. "What about you?" He shrugs and sighs a little. The two of you sit there for awhile, just enjoying the quiet and the dark. Finally you lean you head on his shoulder. "AJ," you say as you start crying again. "I don't know what's happening to me." He immediately puts his arms around you and rubs your back and tells you it's going to be okay. You lean on his shoulder and cry until you are fast asleep. AJ picks you up and carries you to his car. You are so tired you don't wake up. He takes you home with him, holding your hand while he drives even though you are asleep. You’re at your apartment trying to avoid all of JC’s questions. All he knows is that I came in the night before crying, sans Justin and made you take me somewhere. You don’t want to tell him anything for two reasons. One, you don’t want to get his hopes up, and, two, you don’t want him to feel guilty, which he so would. In the middle of his 20 questions game, the phone rings. JC answers it and then hands you the phone and says, “It’s Britney.”“What’s up?” you greet her. “Have you heard from Kristin?” she asks. “Um, I thought she was with you,” you say, confused. “No,” Britney says. “She left last night. I let her take my car, and she was supposed to page me today so I could get it back.” “I haven’t heard from her,” you are starting to get worried. Where the hell could I be? “She didn’t say where she was going?” “Nope,” Britney tells you. “I just assumed she ws with you. I hope she’s all right.” This is the first time you wished that you didn’t live with JC. You hate it that I felt like I couldn’t come to you. “Well, I’ll have her call you,” you tell Britney. Then you turn to JC. “Kristin’s missing.”He gets a really worried look on his face and says, “Well, let’s find her.”You call Chris, Joey and Lance, but none of them have heard from me. You discuss the possiblity that I might have gone to Justin’s, but you don’t want to call him and worry him. You wrack your brain to figure out where I might have gone, but never could you imagine where I actually DID go. I wake up and look down at the familiar leopard print comforter that I’m under. I can’t believe I stayed at AJ McLean’s house. But at this point I’m so confused and out of it that anything’s possible. I’m not even sure how I got in this bed, but I do remember AJ and the scene at the park. I find my way downstairs and go over to the couch where AJ is sleeping. He wakes up when he feels my eyes on him and says, “Morning, Sunshine” in a voice even more scratchy than normal, since he just woke up. I smile at him and sit down on the edge of the couch. “Thanks for everything,” I say, and I mean it. For some odd reason, there is not another person I’d rather be around right now than AJ McLean. “No problem, Sweetie,” he says. “I was glad to do it.” I get up and drag him to the back yard with me. It’s a beautiful Orlando day, as usual. “I can’t believe your pool is shaped like a guitar,” I laugh. “Hey now,” he says, cocking an eyebrow at me. “We had some good times in that pool.” I don’t want the conversation to go in that direction, so I change the subject. “What are you doing today?” “Whatever you want, baby,” he says, grinning. What I really want is to go see Justin, but I push the thought from my head. “Right now, I need to go take a shower,” I tell him. “Okay,” he smiles. “By MYSELF,” I laugh, and he pretends to pout. When I come back downstairs, AJ is outside smoking. I go out and sit down next to him. He doesn’t say anything, but just reaches over and tucks a stray hair behind my ear. I feel so comfortable with him, mainly because he hasn’t asked me one single question. He has no idea what’s going on, but has somehow sensed what I need. I basically don’t want to talk about it. I realize that I’m going to have to make some sort of decision in the next couple of days. If I stay with AJ too much longer, there will be no Justin to go back to. “I need to call Britney,” I suddenly remember her existence, and pray that nothing happened to the Beamer. “We have to go get her car at the park and drop it off.”“Okay,” he says getting up, and I can’t believe how he will do anything I ask. I am loving it. I page Britney and just leave a message that I am dropping her car off. When we get to her place, AJ waits outside and Brit buzzes me up. “Where have you been?” She asks. “Roxanne and I have been worried.”“I know,” I feel bad for not calling, but I don’t know what to say. “I’ve been with AJ. I ran into him last night and he took me home with him.” She looks at me with wide eyes and her mouth drops open. “No, no, no,” I correct her. “It’s nothing like that. He’s just being my friend.”“Well, okay,” she says. “But you should call your friends. They’re worried.” “Okay,” I say, and I start to leave. “Wait,” Britney says. “I almost didn’t tell you this, but I know I should.”“What?” I ask, puzzled. “Justin called looking for you,” she informs me, and I get completely choked up at the mere mention of his name. “He sounded pretty upset, especially when I told him I didn’t know where you were.” “Shit,” I say, under my breath. I have really screwed myself over. I’m so upset that it doesn’t even occur to me to be mad at Britney for almost not telling me. “I’ll call him. But, Britney, don’t tell him where I am, okay?” “All right,” she tells me, and I leave. And I wonder what she’s thinking at that moment. I climb into AJ’s car and try to keep myself from crying. “Are you okay, babe?” he asks. “Yes,” I tell him. “Let’s just get out of here.” We stop by McDonalds to get some food and then go back to AJ’s. We’re sitting there watching TV when the doorbell rings. And who should it be, but Nick Carter. I hear him come in, and I feel this overwhelming need to run. I don’t know why. Nick won’t have a problem with me being here. I hear his voice talking about some Backstreet-related thing, but he stops mid-sentence when he sees me. “What are you doing here?” he asks. “Hi Nick,” I say laughing. “Wait, didn’t something happen with you and Justin...?” “I don’t want to talk about it,” I snap, as AJ looks on with interest. I don’t know why, but I don’t want AJ to know what’s going on. “All right,” Nick says and goes back to talking to AJ. I decide I want to swim, so I go put some boxers and a t-shirt on, since my bathing suit is still at Justin’s, and I go outside. Floating there in the water, I have a chance to reflect on my life. Maybe Nick is right. What AM I doing at AJ’s? It’s like there’s no me without Justin, though. All my friends are his friends. It’s a pretty sad commentary on my life that I had to go to AJ McLean in my time of need. But I can’t think about it anymore...something inside of me has just shut down. You are sitting in your apartment trying to think of who else to call to look for me when Nick shows up. You hurl yourself into his arms and start babbling about what’s going on. You’re so into it that you don’t notice that he has said, “I know where she is” at least five times. He finally pulls you away from him by your shoulders, looks into your face and yells, “I know where she is!” “Why didn’t you say so then?” you ask. “I did,” he says, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “Where is she??” you cry, wondering why the hell Nick knows. Nick looks around to make sure no one is there who shouldn’t hear this info and says, “She’s at AJ’s.” You stare at him for a minute and then say, “Um, what?” “I don’t know details,” he tells you. “All I know is that I went over to his place and she was there.”“Well, it was nice of her to inform me of her whereabouts,” you scoff. “Don’t take it personally,” he says, hugging you. “She was acting pretty weird.”“Is she okay?” you ask. “AJ will take care of her,” he says. “That’s what I’m worried about,” is all you say. I sit in the kitchen of my apartment with Nick, sitting on the ground and leaning on the fridge whispering about you. I start to feel really weird about the situation because JC is in his bedroom right now sleeping. This whole mess is making me nauseous and I know I'm making Nick feel bad because I am so nauseous. I just keep saying, "There ain't no party like a Backstreet party cause a Backstreet party dont..stop." I sigh because I imagine that you must be feeling ten times worse. My first instinct is to grab Nick and leave town for the weekend or something. But I don't want to do that because I'll feel like I am ditching *N Sync for the Backstreet Boys. "You're overreacting," Nick tells me, reaching around in this weird way to open the fridge and get out a Coke. "So what if I am?" I ask all fake bitchy like. He just smiles. "Ever done it in a kitchen?" he asks and I take a magnet off the fridge to throw at him. "Let's go to AJ's," I say all of a sudden because, DUH, that will make me feel better to see you. He shrugs and acts like he kind of doesn't want to go but I don't care. I grab a sweater on the way out because it looks like it's getting kind of yuck outside. We go out to Nick's car but when we get in I have changed my mind. "Let's go to Justin's," I say. He kind of looks at me like, am I sure? And I nod so he starts up the car and heads out. But when we get to Justin's house I think about him being in there all depressed. And I know he needs company but I don't know if I am the right kind of support for him, me being your best friend and everything. And what would I say if he asked where you were? And I'm not even Justin's friend, I am YOUR friend. As much as I want to go over and see him I just feel weird about it. Like, I shouldn't or something. Like the only reason we are friends is you...even though by now I kind of feel we are friends in our own right. I sigh and tell Nick I've changed my mind--again--and that I want to go to AJ's. He looks at me like I'm crazy but just turns around and starts heading over to AJ's. I've only been over to AJ's once, and that was at his Cinco de Mayo party. But Nick just pulls right up and the place is a lot less threatening without all the decorations and lights and people. It's big but it's just a house. And the cloudy weather makes it look kind of like something out of a horror movie. After Nick stops the engine he looks at me and says, "Now are you sure this is where you want to be? Or should we go drive by Kristin and Justin's again?" He's a brat but all I can think about is how he didn't just call the house Justin's. This whole thing is just pretty sad. I get out of the car without answering my cocky boyfriend. AJ answers the door and smiles but still looks like he wishes we weren't there. "What are you guys doing?" he asks and I smile at him because, hey, he's AJ McLean. "She wanted to see Kristin," Nick says, motioning to me. "Is she still here?" AJ sighs. "Yeah," he says and motions into the other room. I head in there right away without waiting for either AJ or Nick, who have struck up some conversation. "Want a beer or something?" AJ calls after me. I nod and he and Nick go into the kitchen. "Hey," I say when I see you sitting on the couch watching Wayne's World. I want to say that I've been worried about you or ask you if anything has gone on between you and AJ but for some reason now that I am here, I can't. I suddenly feel like it's none of my business. "Hey you," you say with a smile, muting the TV and turning to me. I try to watch you to gauge your reaction. Maybe coming over here was a bad idea. You seem happy enough to see me but I still feel like I interupted something. I just sit down next to you and say nothing. I want to say something about Justin, but I just feel like it's innapropriate so I don't. You turn the volume back on the TV. AJ comes in the room with a beer for me and one for you. Nick is following him and holding a CD in his hand. "Well, we should go," Nick says to me and I stare at him. But I figure he must be right, that we probably should go. I just feel stupid. I wonder why you never called me to tell me where you were. I wonder why I just have this strange feeling there are things you don't want me to know. I get up and look at the beer in my hand that has only, like, two sips out of it. I take a few gulps and set it down. "There's no hurry," AJ says and he seems sincere, but I still feel akward and just want to get the hell out of there. I look at you and you just smile at me. I want to know what you are feeling but I can't tell! Am I too caught up in your life with Justin that you can't talk to me right now? Nick takes my hand and we all say goodbye. Nick and I go back out to the car and just before we get in, lightening strikes. We hurry into our seats and close the doors just in time. The rain starts pouring just as the thunder claps. Nick looks at me. "AJ said she seemed like she needed some time alone. And she probably does. To think and stuff." I nod and just kind of stare out the window. I'm cool. I mean, that makes sense. "Where do you want to go now?" he asks teasingly. "Just home," I say as he is pulling out of the elaborate driveway. "We can go see how Justin is," he offers. "Yeah, so he can ask us where she is and we can say AJ's house and he can freak out and hit you with a baseball bat again or something," I answer and he laughs. "Why don't we go to my house?" he asks which just means he wants to have sex. I shake my head. "I just want to go home and take a nap or something. Hang out with JC a little. I don't know." We get to the apartment and Nick tries to come up with me but I talk him into going home. I tell him I'll come over in a couple hours. I start walking up the stairs in the building but before I get to the door I decide I DO want to go to Justin's. I go downstairs and get in my own car and head over to the house. I park kind of in front of our old house and pretend I am going there. It's raining like crazy though, so once I get out the car I run pretty fast up to Justin's door. I ring the doorbell and knock but no one answers and I figure he must be out. Out doing WHAT? I think to myself. I want to call Joey for some reason. Right before I am about to make a run for it and go to my car, the door opens and a dead looking Justin is standing there. "Oh, hi," he says unenthusiastically and opens the door for me to come in. "Hey you," I say and try to shake some of the water off of me. I follow him into the living room where the TV is on. He is watching Wayne's World, it must be on TV. "You look like you just crawled out of compost or something," I tell him. I sit down on the couch next to him, just like I had done with you not quite an hour earlier. "Yeah, well..." is all the explanation he offers. I sigh and wonder if anyone else has been to see him. He sighs too and it kind of sounds like the last wail of a dead animal. DP comes up to me and licks me hand and then tries to get Justin to pet him. Justin just kind of looks around and then finally leans his head down on my shoulder and lets it all out. The phone is ringing as you call Nick's house later that night, looking for me. "Hello?" he asks. "Hi Nick, it's Kristin...is Roxanne there?" "No, she's NOT," he says like he's all irritated. But then he kind of laughs. "She is supposed to come over though. Want me to...have her call you...or something?" You look over at AJ who is playing pool by himself. You smile at him because he's AJ and you can't do much else. "Well, I guess so, yeah." "Hey Kristin," Nick says. "Yeah?" you ask. "Whats up? I mean, what's going on? Are you going to stay over there for awhile?" You sigh because you don't really know yourself. AJ told you you could stay as long as you wanted but of course he said that. He also said that sex on a pool table is something everyone should experience. "Well, I guess so," you say. And then quieter you admit, "I can't really think of anywhere else to go." "Why don't you want to come over here?" He asks, kind of like he is hurt that you don't. You never really thought about it before. But now that you are thinking about it, it makes sense. I am over there practically all the time and you would like to get a chance to talk to me a little. No one else would care if you were staying at Nick's house, but you know that if it got out that you were at AJ's there would be nothing but gossip about it for days. As great as AJ has been and as nice as it has been to be away for a day or so, it's not really worth it to fuck things up. "I would love to stay with you," you tell Nick. "If that was an offer." "Really?" he asks all excitedly, like he doesn't believe you. "Want me to come pick you up?" You laugh. "Sure," you say. You get off the phone with Nick and go over to AJ at the pool table. "I'm winning," he tells you. As I’m getting in Nick’s car, the thought “Why am I staying with Nick Carter?” crosses my mind, but I decide to just look at as if I’m staying with you. The weird thing about it is how gid Nick is about me staying with him. It’s like he’s a little kid having a friend over for a slumber party. I halfway expect him to stop at Blockbuster on the way home to get movies and popcorn. When we finally get there, I put my stuff away and then Nick and I just stare at each other. We don’t really know what to do without you there. And we have NO idea where you are. Nick calls JC, but he hasn’t heard from you either. I can tell by the look on Nick’s face that JC’s asking where I am. I just shrug my shoulders, and walk over to the window to look out at the rain. I can still hear Nick’s part of the conversation. “She’s over here...Yes, she’s fine...Roxanne doesn’t know she’s here, that’s why...okay, I’ll tell her.” I go sit down on the couch and turn on the TV, because I don’t want to think about anything, least of all JC. Nick comes in and sits next to me. I smile at him gratefully, for being my friend and for not telling me whatever JC told him to tell me. I lean my head on his shoulder, and we watch COPS together, waiting for you to get home. You’ve never seen anything like Justin right now. He has completely lost control. You don’t think he’s slept or showered since I left. But you almost think the way Justin is acting is more normal than how I’m acting. At least you recognize him...me, you’re not so sure. But, in the meantime, you have no idea what to do with him. He’s sort of just intermittently weeping and asking you where I am and why I haven’t called. (Neither of which you want to answer.) He’s acting just like a little kid, and you’re pretty worried about him. It’s only been a couple of days. You just hope, for Justin’s sake, that I get my shit together and figure out what I’m doing. You manage to get Justin to take a shower and then you make him something to eat and put him in bed. You clean up the house (which is a distaster), feed DP and do some laundry. You wonder what is motivating you to do all of this for Justin Timberlake, but you realize that after all of the time you’ve spent with him you’ve grown to really care for him. He’s a good guy, and you hate that he’s so hurt. When you’re done, you realize that you need to leave. You promised Nick you’d come over hours ago, you need to check on JC and you want to make sure AJ’s not molesting me. In short, your head is about to explode. How did you end up with committments to so many people? You don’t really want to leave Justin alone, so you call the only person you can think of who is responsible enough to be put in charge...Lance. Lance, of course, comes right over. When he gets there, you explain the whole situation while he listens attentively. You can tell by the expression on his face that he’s worried. “So, can you stay with him?” you ask. “I’ll be here as long as he needs me,” he says. “Oh, thank you,” you sign in relief and then hug him. You had almost forgotten that Lance has just recently had his heart broken and can completely relate to what Justin is going through. And, remembering Lance’s hospitalization and how freaked out Justin was, you wonder why you never thought about how close the two of them are. You are glad that you called Lance. You leave, feeling a little better for having helped a friend, you head over to Nick’s. When you walk in and see Nick and I watching TV, you wish you had a camera on you. You love that we’re friends. You smile at the fact that we’re both spending time with and getting to know each other’s boyfriends, even if it IS under not so nice circumstances. When Nick finally notices that you’ve come in, he gives you a look. “Where have you been hiding?” Apparently, he’s still in smart ass mode. You don’t want to deal with it, and it makes you remember your whole day, and you lose your good mood. You sort of explode. “I have been with Justin, who is a total mess, thanks to YOU!” you yell, pointing at me. I am totally astounded. You never get mad. Then you sort of just start rambling on and pacing (imagine the scene in Parent Trap when the dad tells Haley Mills that he’s getting married). “You should see the house...it was disgusting! I actually had to clean it. I did laundry, for the love of God!” Nick and I are just staring at you. “That’s right,” you yell. “I had to do YOUR boyfriend’s laundry! He hasn’t slept or showered or eaten or anything! He’s destroyed!” All of a sudden, you see the look on my face and realize what you’ve just said. You didn’t mean to make me feel so guilty, but you just couldn’t handle it anymore. “He’s fine now...he’s with Lance,” you say weakly. Then you just sit down and cry. “I’m sorry,” I tell you. I don’t know what else to say. “No,” you say through your tears. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” Nick goes over to you, and pats your hair. You can tell he’s really not sure what to do. But it doesn’t matter, because right then the phone rings. Nick picks it up. “Hello?...Hello?” He hangs up and says, “No one was there.” This happens a few more times, and finally you pick it up, because you can’t handle it anymore. “Who the hell is this?” you yell into the receiver. “You’re a whore,” a female voice you don’t recognize says. Then the line goes dead. “What the hell?” you say. “You know, who ever that was wanted to talk to me. Because they didn’t say anything to Nick.” “What did they say?” Nick asks. “SHE said ‘you’re a whore’,” you tell him. “Should we call the police or something?” I ask. “Nah,” Nick says. “It’s probably some fan. Nothing to worry about.” And the phone calls are forgotten about. I decide that I’m tired, so I go to bed. You come in to tuck me in and make sure I’m okay. “Are you going to sleep?” you ask. “Probably not,” I smile. “I can’t stop thinking about Justin.”“I’m so sorry,” you say. “It’s okay,” I tell you. “I sort of wanted to know. And I guess it’s good that he misses me so much, right?” We laugh. “Sure,” you tell me. “Good night.” The next morning, you hear the shower at about 6 am. You wonder what the hell I’m doing, but then remember that I have a job that I am probably going to. I get to work, and my secretary tells me, “Lou left a message. He wanted to see you as soon as you got in.” I look at her like she’s crazy. I’ve met the man once. He’s never around. He pretty much just sits around and waits for the money to come in. I walk across the parking lot to the main TransCon building and go inside. I glance at the pictures of *N Sync and wince. When I tell the receptionist that I’m there to see Lou, she ushers me right in. He’s sitting behind his desk, somewhat resembling Jabba the Hut and smiling. “How are you, Kristin?” he asks. And I have to resist the urge to greet him as “The Sixth Backstreet Boy” or “Big Poppa.” “I’m fine. What can I do for you?” I ask. “No, no,” he says, still smiling his creepy smile. “It’s what I’m going to do for you. I’m going to change your duties for a while.”“What do you mean?” I ask. “A little bird told me that you’ve always wanted to get into management,” he tells me. “Is that true?”“Yes, it is.” I say, confused as hell. “Well,” he says. “I want you doing some more hands on stuff for a while. I want to get you more into the music side of things. I’m going to have you start working with the bands.” “Are you sure?” I ask. “I mean, I don’t know much about that. I’m an attorney.”“Yes, I know,” he says. “But I think you have the potential to do well elsewhere, as well.” “Um, okay,” I say. “Thanks?” “Go ahead and take the rest of the day off,” he says. “You’ll start working with *N Sync tomorrow.”“Okay,” I start to say, but trail off. “Did you say *N Sync?” “Yes,” he says. “I want you to start with the seasoned pros, so you can get a feel for what goes on.” “Thank you,” I say, curtly and leave. I decide right then how I’m going to spend my day off. I’m going to spend it tearing Justin’s head off. I head straight for our house, and almost tear the door off it’s hinges. “Justin!” I scream. I go upstairs and throw the bedroom door open. He is in there, just waking up. “What did you do??” I yell. “What are you talking about?” he asks groggily. “I just got done talking to Lou,” I say through my teeth. “Really?” he says, innocently. “Yeah,” I say. “Why are you trying to run my life?”He looks down at his hands and is silent for a minute. “I just thought that if I got him to have you work with us that you would have to spend time with me.” Mad as I am, how can I not think that is cute? I sit down on the bed and sigh, “Oh Justin.” “I’m an attorney,” I say. “That is what I do. I don’t know how to do anything else.” “I know,” he says. “But think of how fun it would be!” “Justin, baby,” I say. “This could ruin my career, you know.” “It won’t!” he cries. “I promise.” “This isn’t helping us,” I tell him. “You need to let me have some space.”“I don’t want space between us,” he tells me. “How is that helping?” “I don’t know,” I say. “I just know that it’s what I need.” “Okay,” he says defeatedly. “I love you,” I tell him, looking into his eyes. I see his eyes tear up, and I hug him. I hate what I’m doing to him. Especially since he can’t seem to understand that it’s the right thing. “I have to go,” I say. “But why don’t we go out to dinner tonight?”“All right,” he says. “Where are you staying? So I can pick you up.”“I’ll be at Nick’s.”“I’ll see you tonight,” he says, laying back down on the bed. “Bye,” I say, blowing him a kiss. When I get back to Nick’s, I am about to start whining about what just happened, when I notice a uniformed police officer standing in the living room with a notebook talking to Nick. I go over to you and whisper, “what’s going on?”“We got some more phone calls,” you say. “They were more threatening. We’re just being extra cautious. You know, because of Nick’s position and everything.” “Are you okay?” I say putting my arm around you. “Yeah,” you say. “Just tired.” “What are they doing to find the person?”“They put a special caller id on the phone,” you say. “It even shows private numbers.” “So, now we just wait, right?” “Yep,” you say, and then look at me like you’re seeing me for the first time. “What are you doing home?”“You don’t want to know,” I tell you. “Why don’t I go make you some waffles?” And we head into the kitchen to get out the Waffle 2000. I walk into the guest room at Nick's house later that day to see what you've been doing the past couple hours. I enter without knocking and you jump about a mile. "Oh, sorry," I tell you but keep walking in anyway. "What are you doing?" I ask when I notice you have poured all the clothes you have over here on the bed. You sigh and sit down. "I don't have anything to wear," you moan and I just kind of stare at you. "I'm going on a date tonight," you tell me and my jaw drops. "With AJ McLean?!" I ask, appalled. I almost drop the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I have in my hand. "No!" you yell at me, laughing but a little bothered that I would even think that. "With Justin..." and you just kind of trail off and start looking off into space. "You're going on a date...with Justin? Timberlake?" I sit down on the chair and eat my sandwich. "You're a freak." You just shrug and start looking through all your clothes again. "I wish I had more stuff over here," you mumble. You are looking at a skirt next to a shirt that I can tell is part of your work clothes. I make a face and you groan. "Are you guys going to get back together?" I ask, licking my fingers. You sigh. "I don't know! Not if I can't find something to wear, that's for sure." You quit messing with your clothes and look at me. "God, I don't know what I'm doing," you admit. I just laugh and shrug, but hearing you say that makes me feel better in some weird way. "Hey, where is everyone?" Nick asks, coming into the room uninvited, with his own sandwich. It's actually his third sandwich. I love him. "I didn't invite you all into my house so you could hide from me," he says. I roll my eyes at him. "Kristin is going on her first date with Justin tonight," I say. You never really thought about it before but it IS your first date with Justin in some twisted universe. You got together in such a backwards way that there was never that first awkward date. Well, this is the time for awkward. You sigh and wonder if this is such a good idea. Maybe you should have waited longer. "First date!" Nick says all excited. "Coo-ool! It's like prom night!" "It is NOT like prom night," you say strongly, but it's too late. We're both excited. "Is he picking you up here?" Nick asks. "I'll get the camera!!" "No, no!" you cry out in protest. We are just going to make this worse. "You can't wear that to prom," Nick says, looking at you in your shorts and a T-shirt. He is so weird. "I don't have anything else to wear!" you cry out, remembering your earlier dilemma. You throw one of your good shirts across the room and bury your face in your hands. "Hey, it's ok," Nick says. "Roxanne will let you borrow something." And he pushes my arm as if to say, help your friend! "Yeah, like some dirty jeans and a sweatshirt?" I say sarcastically more to him that to you. "You have that dress," he says and you look up and I put my hand up to shield my view from him and roll my eyes. "Let her borrow your dress--it's PROM!" I groan like Nick is the most irritating guy in the world. He hates it when I do that. He sighs loudly in protest. "Okay, fine!" I say, throwing my arms up in the air. "Go get it!" "Okay, fine!" he says back. He looks like he is about to stick his tongue out at me, but instead just picks up his shirt a little to lick some concord grape jelly off of it. I smile because he really is the cutest thing in the world. He puts his shirt back down and sticks his tongue out as he walks out the door. I turn to you and roll my eyes for the millionth time as if to say, that guy is such a freak, but I kind of smile. You think I'm the freak. "You really have a dress I can borrow? Is it good?" I groan again to over exaggerate my exasperation. "It's just this thing he bought me in New York that I won't wear outside of the house. It's nice though, I guess. I should GIVE it to you. It's more you than it is me." Nick comes running back into the room with both the camera and the dress. "You're going to take pictures of me changing?" you ask jokingly. "What kind of prom did YOU go to?" "I didn't go to prom," Nick says and starts looking all dejected, so I usher him out of the room to let you have your space to get ready and give him some love. You start to get kind of excited and anxious. The butterflies in your stomach are fluttering like crazy and you really start to feel like this IS prom...or your first date at least. You put the dress on and decide that it will be a good choice, simple and black. You have a pair of black shoes that will go well with it. You do your hair and makeup and find yourself daydreaming about Justin while you are doing it. You giggle to yourself when you notice what you are doing. You glance at the clock and look in the mirror one more time. You walk out and go to the living room where Nick is on the ground and I am straddling him and singing The Perfect Fan really loud, changing some of the words. We both look up when you come into the room and Nick whistles. "You look really good," I tell you and I mean it. Nick pushes me off him and stands up. "It's perfect," he says. "Not too dressy, but not too casual." "Who are you?" I ask while I give him a look. He looks back at me defiantly. "It's perfect," he says and since he is right I let him have this one victory. You smile, glad for the approval but still nervous. Justin will be here soon. Just as you have that thought the doorbell rings. You head to answer it but Nick practically throws you back. "No!" he says. "This is prom. You go upstairs until I call you so you can make a grand entrance." You are about to protest when you decide it would probably be better at this point to just do what he says. You go upstairs and look in the mirror some more. You find it pretty funny that you are worrying about looking good for someone who has seen you throw up and pick your nose and fart and stuff. Nick answers the door with a smile and Justin is standing there in a tux with flowers. "Oh my god!" I squeal but he just kind of smiles nervously at me. "Come on in," Nick says. "She'll be right down." "Okay..."Justin says, looking at Nick a little weird, probably because he is using some weird ass voice! He puts his arm around me and smiles like he is Ward Cleaver. "So," Nick says, ushering Justin to the couch. "What are your plans for the future?" Justin stares at Nick and then looks at me, but I am under Nick's arm and laughing so hard I can't breathe. WTF IS this craziness? My boyfriend is totally insane! "Um, I don't know..." Justin says, totally clueless. "What do you mean?" Nick leaves his big fake smile on his face and waves away the question. "Well," he continues in this really weird spazzy deep voice. "Where are you taking our little Kristin tonight?" I am laughing so hard that I am pounding my leg on the ground, but Nick has a pretty firm grip on my shoulder. He's stronger than you would think. Justin finally catches on to the little game and smiles. "Well, sir," he says. "I was thinking we'd go out to dinner and maybe go for a walk in the park." "Well, that sounds nice," Ward says and then stands up, dragging me with him. I am gasping for air. "Kristin!" he calls up the stairs. "Justin is here to see you." You walk down the stairs and it is a very good eighties movie moment. I stop laughing a little and smile and feel good about the world. Justin looks at you like he's never seen a woman before and smiles. "You look beautiful," he says to you when you reach the end of the stairs. "Thanks," you say. "So do you." And he does. He's all decked out. "These are for you," he says, handing you the flowers. "Oh!" you say with a smile. "They're beautiful!" You take them in your arms but Nick grabs them from you. "Lets have the misses put them in some water for you," he says, handing the bouquet to me. I finally get it that I am the wife and start laughing hard again as I walk into the kitchen to get a vase. When I come back out into the room with the flowers (which really are beautiful), Nick is taking a picture of you two by the mantle. I start laughing again but no one pays too much attention to me. You and Justin are nervous and Nick is schizophrenic. I can't believe you are letting him actually take pictures. He finishes up and you guys head to the door. "Don't stay out too late," Nick says. "I'll have her back by midnight," Justin says with a little smile. I practically throw myself at the door to shut it because, to be honest, nothing is sexier than mental illness. Nick smiles and I smile back and show him what else is known to happen on prom night. You walk out to the car with Justin and he opens your door for you. You kind of laugh and he kind of laughs, but it's cute. "So," he says as he pulls away. "I made some dinner reservations if that sounds good to you." You smile and nod even though he is driving and can't really see you. "That sounds great." You aren't paying too close attention for awhile but then you notice that you are in your neighbor hood and heading home. There aren't any restaurants around here. You decide not to say anything and give him the benefit of the doubt. But closer and closer you get to home until Justin pulls into the driveway. "Justin," you say warningly. "I agreed to go out to eat with you, but I was not kidding when I said--" "What?" he interrupts you innocently. "You've never been to Chez *N Sync?" You stare at him and he gets out of the car and goes around to your side to help you out. You let him, but are getting pretty angry. You aren't moving back home and it was unfair of him to try and get you to. But when you reach the front door he rings the bell. "What--" you being to ask him when the door is opened by Joey, who is all decked out. "What--" you begin again, but Joey interrupts you. "Table for two?" he asks. You stare at him and then stare at Justin, who is smiling at you. "Yes, please," he says quietly. Joey ushers you in and makes you walk through the living room to get outside, where there is a table set by the pool. There are tiki torches lit in the yard and white Christmas lights too. It looks so amazing you can't help but smile and feel warm. It really doesn't feel like your house, even though you've had sex in that pool. You glance out in the yard to see if the hammock is there. It is. You smile. Joey lights some candles that sit on the table and holds your chair out for you. You keep thanking him and he just keeps smiling. He hands you both menus and tells you your server will be out to take your order shortly, and could he start you out with some wine? You nod. You look at Justin and he smiles nervously. He's almost as crazy as my boyfriend. You open your menu and the only thing on there is something called "Pasta ala Kirkpartick". You glance in the window to the kitchen and see Chris in there talking to someone. You smile again, just thinking about what good friends these guys are. "I hear the pasta is really good," Justin says to you with a laugh and you can tell he is wondering if this whole thing was a mistake. "It sounds good," you say and can't help but start laughing. You don't know if you are going to be able to stop until Lance comes outside in a suit with a paper and a pad. "Hello," he says gently. "My name is Lansten and I will be your server tonight. Have you decided yet?" "Yeah, I think we have," Justin says, glancing up at you to make sure, as if there was a decision to make. "I, um..." he says slowly. "I think I'm going to have the pasta." "Excellent choice!" Lance says to him. He turns to you "And you Miss?" You smile at Lance and want to resist getting up, hugging him and telling him how much you love him. Topenga sure missed out. "I'll have the same," is all you say. Lance leaves and you have only a few seconds alone when Joey comes out with the wine. Justin asks you how work has been and you tell him that other than today it's been pretty good. You tell him a little bit about what you've been doing, but it's not to interesting. Lance comes out with salad and fresh ground pepper! You laugh when he offers it but say, "Oh yes please!" You want to know where the hell they got a pepper mill. You think you might remember something about Joey having one. You eat your salad and Justin eats his but talks about some recording he might be doing with a new band his mom is working with. You are pretty interested in this because it's the first he's mentioned it. The dinner comes and you finally really get left alone for awhile. The whole thing is very parent trap, you realize suddenly. You giggle a little. The meal is pretty good and you really have to make a mental note to yourself that Chris can really cook. You have some more light conversation when Justin finally starts looking a little perplexed. "Kristin--" he starts to say, but at that moment DP comes running out of the door, barreling towards you. You get pretty excited to see him and start petting him when Joey runs out and grabs him, apologizing. You finish dinner and then get some mouse. You eat it and wonder if it is really just instant Jell-O pudding. Lance clears the table and you start to wonder, now what? When JC comes through the sliding door. Oh no, you think. He stops and looks at you and he looks pretty nice in his white shirt and black pants. He smiles a little and then goes and sits down at this Casio keyboard you hadn't noticed was there. He starts to play and you look back at Justin. "Want to dance?" he asks and you nod. He takes you by the hand and helps you out of your seat. He takes you in his arms and you dance with him and it feels nice. You sure have to give JC a lot of credit for helping Justin out with this. You let yourself fall into Justin's arms and get comfortable and it's moments like these when you don't question anything. The music stops and you pull away from Justin just enough to kiss him. He kisses you back and smiles. "We should go," he says. "I promised your Dad I'd have you back by midnight." You laugh and kind of hug him. He holds your hand and walks you through the house to the front door. You thank JC and Lance and Joey who are just standing there and Chris sticks his head out of the kitchen and yells, "Aren't you going to pay for your meal?!" Justin just starts walking faster until you are out the door. He helps you into the car. You smile on the way back to Nick's and when you get there you thank Justin. "I had a nice time," you tell him. "So did I," he says, walking you to the door. When you get there neither of you really know what you are supposed to do since you live together and everything. You are tempted to just grab him and tell him you love him and to take you home, but you know that the time isn't right. You just sigh. "Maybe we can go out again sometime," he says. You smile and nod. "Can I kiss you?" he asks nervously. "Well,...okay," you say and he pecks you on the mouth. You smile and almost laugh. "Goodnight," he says and heads back to his car. "Goodnight," you say and go inside the house. It is only midnight but it is dark in the house. "It's five after," a voice says and you jump before you realize it's Nick. "What?" you ask him, alarmed. He laughs. "Sorry, I was just getting some cereal.Roxanne's asleep." You look up and see him looking in from the kitchen. You go to join him. "Did you have a good time?" he asks and you notice he is only in his boxers and a T-shirt. He's cute, but it's lost on you. "Yeah," you say and smile. But you are a little worried about the situation in general. Especially now that you are alone and have time to think about it more. "I really want to spend the rest of my life with him. I just need to figure some things out so I can. But then I worry. What if we don't get back together?" Nick laughs. "You'll get back together!" as if it's the most obvious thing. You shrug. "I don't know..." You say honestly. "You HAVE to get back together," Nick says. He leans in towards you. "Do you realize the last four letters of your names are the same? It's fate. It's like the -stin part is both of you...or something. Without you he's just Ju. And without him you are just Kri. And that's not even a name!" You stare at Nick for awhile and then look away. "I'm going to bed," you say. It's been a long day. I’m sitting at the table eating dinner when Nick comes in the house calling my name excitedly. “What?” I ask in an irritated voice. I’m always grumpy when I get home from work. “I got the pictures back!” “What pictures?” I ask him. “From your PROM DATE!” he tells me. I’m pretty excited to see them, but I don’t want to let on so I just say, “Oh?” “Here,” he says, handing them to me. The first picture is horrible. I was talking so I have some totally weird look on my face, and Justin isn’t even looking at the camera. He’s just kind of zoned out. The next one really does look like we’re going to prom. We both look incredibly nervous and like we just met or something. I assume that there’s only two pictures of Justin and I, because I only remember Nick taking two, but I see that there is one more. In this one, Justin and I are looking at each other, and it almost looks like a painting. Like two lovers staring deep into each other’s eyes. Nick must’ve snapped it when we weren’t looking, and somehow he managed to catch our feelings for each other on film. I look at him, standing in the kitchen eating a pickle and dripping all the juice all over his chin and shirt, and he smiles. I can tell he’s already seen the picture. “You should frame that one,” he tells me. But I can’t talk. The fact that Justin and I are broken up (or whatever) has finally hit me. I just get up and run out the door, almost bumping into you and making you drop the groceries you’re carrying. “Where are you going in such a hurry?” you ask me. “I can’t talk about it,” I mumble, brushing past you. You stare after me in bewilderment until you realize that the stuff in your arms is getting heavy and you’d better go inside. As you set everything down on the counter, you realize how stupid it is that you bought groceries for Nick’s house. You don’t even live there! It seems silly that you haven’t just moved in with him. But he hasn’t asked, and you certainly aren’t going to bring it up. You push the thought from your head, and think about maybe spending some time in your OWN apartment for a change. Nick comes in, and you giggle at the pickle juice all over his shirt. “What’s with Kristin?” you ask him. “I don’t know,” he says. “I showed her these pictures, and she just got up and left.” You take them from him, and stare at the last one for a long time, a little upset yourself. You know it’s not that big of a deal, but you figure that the way I’ve been acting lately is just the calm before the storm (as opposed to Justin’s flash flood.) The dam had to break sometime, and you think it just did. Meanwhile, I am once again in my car looking for somewhere to go. I decide on Britney’s, but I figure that she won’t kick me out this time. When I get there, Amanda Latona is there (it’s like an Innosense drop out party), and I decide that that makes things even better. “What’s up?” Britney asks me, looking worried. “Not much,” I lie. “I was just thinking that we need a girls night out. Like a nice drunken brawl. What do you think?” Britney looks relieved, while Amanda giggles at me. They both agree, of course. We decide to go out club hopping, but we have to get ready first. Britney lets me borrow some of her kick ass cool clothes, since all of my bar wear is still at Justin’s. We do our hair and drench ourselves in glitter while gossiping and laughing. I make them listen to Backstreet Boys just to be funny, and we sing along to the lyrics. Then Britney and I do the dance to Baby One More Time, while Amanda rolls on the floor laughing. Finally, we get ourselves together so we can go, and I think of how cool it is that I forgot about Justin and had fun for awhile. Of course, it’s nothing compared to Ward and June Cleaver sending me off to the prom or eating at Chez *N Sync, but it’ll do. We head out to this exclusive club that I would never get into if I wasn’t with Britney Spears. But, with her, we walk straight to the front of the line. We go in, and the place is amazing. There are three levels, and each plays different music - 80’s, techno and hip hop/Top 40. Of course we go for the hip hop level. I buy a round of Long Islands and dedicate a toast. “Here’s to getting smashed!” We all laugh, knowing that we’ll all be doing that. This is why I love being friends with Britney. Sure, she’s not the most deep and caring person, but she’s an animal! I feel guilty for not bringing you, and decide to call you later. After another round, we hit the dance floor, which is packed. Of course, everyone wants to dance with Britney, but she tells them all she’d rather stay with “her girls.” We sing “Where’s My Girls At?” to each other, and laugh our asses off. Britney is a kick ass dancer, and Amanda’s pretty good, being a cheerleader and all. (haha) She’s fun, too, because she gets down, and doesn’t care who’s watching. We’re on the dance floor for what seems like hours when I notice that Britney had disappeared. I grab Amanda so we can get another drink, and then I excuse myself to go call you. I see Britney at the phone, but she litterally slams it down when she sees me. “Oh, hi,” she says. “What are you doing?”“Calling Roxanne,” I tell her, giving her a look. “Who were you talking to?”“Just this guy,” she says, and then goes back to the bar. I just shrug my shoulders and put my money into the pay phone. I tell you where I am, and you tell me that you don’t really feel like coming out. You can barely hear me, so I just tell you I’ll be home later, and get off. When I go back to where Amanda and Britney are, they stop talking as soon as I get to them. I’m starting to get a little paranoid, but I have such a good buzz going that I don’t pay attention. I just drag them back to the dance floor and get my groove on. That is until I see two dyed blond heads bobbing above the people on the dance floor. At first I just think, “What are the odds that Justin and Lance would be at this club tonight?” And then I look at Brit and Amanda who are avoiding my stare, and realize that the odds are pretty damn good when someone CALLS THEM AND TELLS THEM TO COME!! At first I am so pissed at Britney that I want to hit her, and then I realize what a huge deal it is that she is trying to get Justin and me back together. I smile at her, and look up just in time to see Justin and Lance coming towards me. I almost melt at the sight of Justin. He is wearing the leather jacket that I love, and I’m pretty sure that he wore it just for me. “Hi,” he says shyly. “Hi,” I say back, and then we just stare at each other. When did it become this awkward? “Do you want to dance?” he asks. I try to play it cool, but that lasts for all of a nanosecond. I can’t resist him. I just can’t do it. I turn and walk out to the floor with him following me. At first there’s some laem song on, but then 808 by Blaque comes on, and we start getting down. You know how Justin and I love to dance with each other. Everyone’s watching us because, duh, it’s Justin Timberlake, but we don’t care. We sort of lose track of time, until I decide to look around and see “where’s my girls (and Lance) at?” Of course, they’re gone. That must’ve been part of the plan. I want to get mad, but when Justin starts singing “Lately,” by Tyrese in my ear, I forget about it. I can feel his breath on my ear, and I want to die right there. I’m starting to realize just how much I miss him. This combined with my severe inebriation is a bad combo. So, when he asks me to go home with him, I willingly follow... You and Nick are so bored that you got out the Twister game. When Nick suggested it, you figured that you were going to get some good good lovin’ and a whole lot more, but he literally just wanted to play Twister. It’s not very fun with only two people, and you’re starting to worry about me, since it’s almost 3 am. When the phone rings, you just figure that it’s me and run to pick it up. When you say hello, the person on the other end says, “Bitch” and hangs up. You look at the caller id, but it didn’t pick up the name, and the number is one you don’t recognize. You show it to Nick, who immediately gets quiet. “What?” you almost yell with anxiety. “Who is it?”“Oh man,” Nick groans. “Tell me,” you cry. “It’s Mandy,” he says. And you kind of just stare at each other for a minute. “I take it she didn’t take it very well when you broke off the engagement?”“Not really,” he says. “But I thought she was okay with it. She must’ve just found out that it had something to do with you.” “Shit,” you say. “Is she going to do anything crazy?” “I don’t know,” Nick sighs. “She’s pretty weird.” As you’re sitting there, you notice a car go by, and you think it’s weird that anyone’s driving in this neighborhood this late at night. You try to ignore it and watch TV, but when then it goes by a couple more times, you can’t really ignore it. It’s a car neither of you recognize, but you are pretty sure you know who it is. Nick calls the neighborhood security, but they can’t really do anything. And, pretty soon, the car stops going by. You’re getting a little scared. I mean, she’s like stalking you guys. “She’s not going to come in here and shoot me, is she?” you ask, your voice shaking a little. “I hope not,” he says.“God, Nick,” you say. “You could be a little more supportive.”“Don’t,” he tells you. “Don’t let this affect us. That’s exactly what she wants.”You’re a little surprised at his intuition. “I know this is the corniest thing I’ve ever said,” you tell him. “But can you just hold me?”He smiles a little but then complies. You instantly feel safe, but the thought of Mandy and what she might do stays in the back of your mind. I'm lying in bed with Nick, wishing I was asleep but really just being kind of paranoid about Mandy coming in to attack me or something. She won't do anything, I keep thinking to myself but still can't get to sleep. The whole thing has me kind of wired. I can't sleep! It's four thirty and you are missing and there is some crazy girl circling the house. I think Nick is asleep but then I feel his body tense up. "What was that?" he asks in a scared and alarmed voice. I didn't hear anything. "What?" I ask, getting alarmed. I turn around and look at him. "I didn't hear anything." He just kind of looks at me and shrugs. "It was probably nothing," he says but doesn't relax. I close my eyes and pretend to go back to sleep. I hear a dog bark and just about jump a mile. "What?!" Nick screams at me, because sometimes the scariest thing is seeing someone else get scared and not knowing why. I kind of laugh when I realize it was just a dog. "Sorry," I say, getting pretty far underneath the covers. We both relax and lay back down and get comfortable. I turn away from him again to try and get to sleep. I hear a car go by and I don't move. I can feel him tense up again. I sit up all of a sudden and groan. "You are such a bad boyfriend!" I yell at him. "What?" he asks, instantly hurt. I feel kind of bad, but keep on going. "Aren't you supposed to protect me or something? Make me feel safe?" He just shrugs and kind of looks away. "Wait, shh..." he says, getting distracted, and I don't move but there is no sound. "You're just making me more scared," I say quietly, getting back in bed because I feel safer there. "Well, you're making ME more scared," he says back. We both are quiet for awhile and I am willing myself to just fall asleep damn it! Tomorrow I am going to feel so dumb about this. "Nick," I say. "Yeah," he answers and turns to me and kisses me. I was going to say something kind of mean but after the kiss I can't even think of anything mean to say. "I'm scared," is all I say. He smiles a little and would probably be really entertained if he wasn't such a wuss himself. "Well, we can't have that..." he says and gets out of bed. "Where are you going?" I ask, all of a sudden realizing how much better having him there really does make me feel. "I'll be right back..." he says, a little warily. He just stands there for awhile and then gets back in bed and kisses me again. "If I'm not back in five minutes, call the police...or at least call Kevin or something." I smile at him and promise. He doesn't move for another minute or so. It is really quiet. "It's really dark in here, isn't it?" he asks me, totally serious. "You're scared of the dark," I state because I can't believe it and it is the cutest thing in the world. "No, I'm not," he says all embarrassed. He stands up again and runs over to the wall and turns on the light, which blinds me. He stands in the doorway. "I love you," he says and I laugh because he is completely serious. "Just in case anything happens." He goes padding down the stairs and all of a sudden I am alone and have the thought that Mandy has kidnapped you. And if she kidnapped you she can probably kidnap wimpy ass Nick. I am frozen with fear and swear that five minutes has already gone by, but really it's only been about one. Where is he? What is he doing? I want to go run after him or call his name but I can't move. I hear someone coming up the stairs and I pray that it's him, but visions of Mandy with a butcher knife flash through my head. I hold my breath and there she is! "You shouldn't have taken him from me," she says, waving around a bloody ax. I notice she has something in her other arm...it's Nick's head! I scream. She keeps talking. "And your little friend? I took care of her too! Her and her boyfriend!" She runs to me with the ax and I scream Nick's name as she cuts my head off.... .........just kidding. Nick appears in the doorway and as soon as I recognize him I cheer like I am some weird idiot freak. He smiles and waves, dropping some of what he is holding. And that's when I notice what he is holding!!! About five thousand Beanie Babies! "What are you doing?" I ask, amazed as he jumps back in bed with me. "Just getting a little protection," he says and starts to lay all these stupid little dogs and bears and stuff around us in a circle. "Oh my god," I say in utter disbelief. He is smiling at me goofily. "Here," he says, handing me a purple lump of beans. "You need Princess Bear. She's a princess just like you." I laugh. "No, I think YOU need Princess Bear because she's a Princess just like YOU," I say but really I kind of am starting to think this whole thing is really cute. He finally gets all the animals set up all around us and gets up and turns the light off. He runs back to bed and gets in the circle with me. "Do you feel safer now?" he asks and I SO wish I could say no, but for some weird ass reason I actually do. I kind of hold on to his arm, trying to make sure it isn't too corny of a thing to do. "No," I say quietly but he can tell I am lying. "See?" he says back to me. "I told you they were good for something." I guess this means I'm not supposed to make fun of the Beanie Babies anymore. "Every grown man needs his dolls," I say sarcastically just so I get the last word. There is kind of a loud clank coming from somewhere outside and we both freeze. It's probably nothing, just some random night noise, but we are a little sensitive to noise at the moment. "You're scared of your ex-girlfriend," I say with a little laugh, trying to not get so freaked out about this. It is so dorky when you think about it, but there is something about the middle of the night that makes you lose all sense of reality. "I'm scared of my current girlfriend too," he says and sticks out his tongue. I laugh. We kind of just lie there for awhile and I'm just enjoying the company. "What happened with you guys anyway?" I ask because I want to hear him talk and I realized that I really don't know. I don't know if I ever really wanted to. He shrugs. "I don't know. Things just got kind of weird. We'd argue a lot--" "WE argue a lot," I say quietly. "We don't really argue, we just play around. We really would argue. She wouldn't be happy and then I would do something I didn't want to do to make her happy and then I wouldn't be happy. I mean, it's not really her fault. She'd come on tour but then she wouldn't like being there...so then she'd go home but then she wouldn't be happy because I was on tour." He shrugs. "It's just kind of a bad situation. And then I felt like I had to prove to her that I was faithful or something, so we got engaged. And then, there I was. In a situation I didn't want to be in. I'm not ready to get married at all in general! And we just weren't happy with each other and then on top of that, there were other people I wished I could go out with! It just was stupid. Finally I really had to get out or I was going to end up spending the rest of my life like that." He shrugs again and looks at me. I smile at him. I love him and his stuffed animal brigade. "When we broke up I told her that I wasn't ready and that we just weren't right for each other. But then five days later I was hanging out with you..." he smiles wickedly. I put the Princess Di Bear on his chest. "Goodnight Princess," I say and lay my head down next to it. "'Night," he says back. And I fall asleep. You wake but don't open your eyes. You lean forward and just take in the smell and the feel of the body next to you. You let your eyes open a little and see Justin sleeping next to you. You run your hand over his arm and kind of start crying. If you know you love Justin, then what's wrong? You sit up and look around your bedroom. You glance at the clock and see that it is five thirty in the morning. You feel a familiar pounding in your head and wonder why you got so drunk last night. You wonder why you came home with Justin last night and wonder why going home with Justin isn't what you should be doing. You slip out of bed and put your clothes on from the night before. You watch Justin sleep for awhile and sit back down on the bed to put your shoes on. You start to sneak out when you hear a scratchy voice ask, "Where are you going?" You freeze for a minute but the turn around. There he is, looking at you with his big eyes. You don't even know what to say so you just shrug. You see his chin start to tremble a little. "Whatever," he mumbles and lays back down, turning around so you can't see him. You want to climb back into the bed, YOUR bed, and hold the man you love. But you can't. You run out the door, down the stairs, out the front door and get into your car. "Roxanne, wake up," Nick is hissing at me. I open my eyes as best I can and stare at him. "What?" I asked, irritated. "There's a car stopped outside," he says to me. I sit up, alarmed. The sun is coming up a little but it's still pretty dark. Sure enough, there's a car. We are both silent when we can hear someone at the door. He opens his mouth to say something but I hold up my hand to stop him so he keeps quiet.I hear what I know distinctly to be someone unlocking the door. "She doesn't have a key..." I start to say when Nick throws his arms in the air and mouths FUCK! as someone would scream it. I am so immediately pissed that I smack him upside the head really hard. He grabs his wounded head and falls down onto the bed, writhing excessively in pain. I stand up, ready to defend myself and him because he's incapacitated. "What the hell did you hit me for?!" he yells loudly an honestly angry. I almost hit him again but just shush him instead. He stares at me angrily, but complies. I put my hands in the shape of a gun and throw the bedroom door open. "Freeze bitch!" I call out. "Freeze yourself," I hear you say from all the way downstairs and then slam the guest room door. I let my hands fall into normal hand mode. I turn to Nick. "It was Kristin," I say, coming back inside with a shrug and closing the door. You get in the shower because you have to be at work in an hour. You get dressed, and spend the day at work like a machine, just trying to get things done without thinking to much. When you come home to Nick's you are exhausted, having gotten only a few hours sleep the night before. You don't know what you are doing and you don't really want to think about it right now. You just want to go to bed early. I'm at my apartment and it's just you and Nick at his house. He orders pizza and you eat with him, but he can tell you don't want to talk so he leaves you alone. You try to watch some TV but when you see the *N Sync Herbal Essence commercial you just give up and go to bed early. You awake suddenly in a sweat a few hours later, searching frantically for Justin in your bed. When he isn't there, you throw your shoes on and run outside and get into your car, heading quickly over to the house. He is just sitting on the couch in silence when you walk in. You are so relieved to see him and he so happy to see you. You don't say anything, but run into his arms. The next morning you wake up late. You don't have time to shower or anything. You jump out of bed and throw your clothes on, stumbling to put on a pair of your shoes and praying you still have a brush in your car. You go into the bathroom to pee and see that Justin is awake when you come back into the bedroom. He just looks away from you defeatedly. "I have to go to work," you say, walking quickly to the door. He shrugs and you leave in a hurry. In my car on the way to work, I am listening to Jordan Knight. I live my days with the nights that we spent All the love we shared I put my heart on the side for awhile Knowing you’re not there I tried to carry on, face the fact you’re gone But I need you So I close my eyes And I dream about you I close my eyes I can almost feel you in my arms again Mornings remind me of showers And talks in the soft sunlight Evenings of passion and cries of joy Hold your memory tight You’ve been away so long I sing too many songs about you So I just close my eyes... For some reason, the song just hits me. I don’t want to be away from Justin. I don’t want to have regrets. I don’t even want to miss him like this ever again. When he’s not around, I feel like I’m missing a leg or something. And he wants me! What is that? I mean, I better take advantage of it while I can, because I don’t want him waiting around so long that he finally gives up. As I turn my car around, I pick up the cell phone. “Lou Pearlman please...Hi Lou, it’s Kristin. Yeah, I’m working with *N Sync today. Can you have your secretary call my supervisor and let her know, please?” It’s not exactly a lie, right? And Lou is so stupid, he doesn’t know that *N Sync has the day off. I make a mental note to thank Justin for setting that arrangement up. I poke my head into the bedroom and can see the back of Justin’s head in the bed. I figure that he’s gone back to sleep. I climb into bed with him and put my arms around him. He turns around to face me, almost scaring me to death. But when I see his red rimed eyes, I forget about that. He wasn’t sleeping...he was crying. “How come you came back?” he asks, sounding relieved. “I missed you,” I tell him. “What about work?” “You’re more important,” I tell him. “What about needing space?” I pull him closer to me and say, “This is all the space I need.” He smiles his beautiful smile, and then kisses me. Later on in the day, I’m at the kitchen table writing thank you notes while Justin is out running some mysterious errands he won’t tell me about. First, I write to Britney to thank her for putting up with me and for being more unselfish than I ever thought she could be. Then to JC to thank him for understanding me and to tell him how amazing he is. Then to Nickay for inviting me to stay with him and for taking care of me. And finally to you for just being you. I hear the door slam and Justin comes up behind me. He kisses me on the cheek, and then I turn to face him and he kisses me on the mouth. This is when I notice he is carrying a garment bag. “What’s that?” I inquire. “For you,” he says, unzipping it. Inside is the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen. It’s floor length and made of sparkly baby blue (of course) material (okay, I realize this sounds ugly, but I saw it on GH and it’s not. I swear!) “Baby, it’s gorgeous,” I breathe, wanting to cry. “What’s it for?” “We’re going out,” he explains. “You needed something to wear.” “Chez *N Sync?” I ask. “No,” he laughs. “A real restaurant.” “Yay!” I say. “I have to go shower. Care to join me?” What can I say? We’re making up for lost time. A little while later, Justin comes in the bathroom to tell me to hurry up. I give him a look, because it’s only five. We have hours. “Damn it!” he says under his breath. “What the hell?” I say. “I have to ruin my surprise,” he says. “What surprise?” I ask with interest. “We’re not just going to dinner,” he says. “We’re going to Cocoa Beach. I got us a hotel reservation for the weekend.” (I have NO clue what Cocoa Beach is. All I did was look at a map and find a beach close to Orlando. It’s probably ghetto, but who cares, right? Look at me doing research for the story! I rock! LOL) I start jumping all around and hugging him. “You put this all together today?” I ask. He just smiles. “I love you!” I say. Then we kind of look at each other, because that’s the first time either one of us has said that in a while. “I love you, too,” he says gently, taking me in his arms. “Shit!” I yell all of a sudden. “I have to call Roxanne.” I go find the phone and shoo Justin away so I can have some privacy. I tell you what’s going on and that I’m not going to be around for the weekend. You debate whether to tell me about Mandy, but you decide to save it. You don’t want to ruin my weekend. You tell me to call you as soon as I get back. I start to get off the phone, but you say “Kristin?” “Yeah?”“I’m happy for you.”“I’m happy, too,” I say and you can hear me smiling. “I love you, Pana!” “I love you, too,” and we hang up. “Well,” you say, turning to Nick. “Good news and bad news. Good news is that Kristin and Justin are back together.” “Cool,” Nick says with a big grin. Neither of you liked it much that we weren’t together. “What’s the bad news?”“She’s not staying here anymore,” you tell him, and you are sort of laughing, because it’s not really that bad of news. Or so you thought... Nick kind of looks a little bit disappointed. “Well, that’s good,” he says. “I mean, they should be together.” “You’re going to miss her!” you yell, laughing some more. You think it’s the cutest thing in the world. “Shut up,” he says. “It was kind of nice having a roommate around.” You sort of stop what you’re doing, because you figure that if he’s going to ask you to live with him, it’s going to be now. But all he says is “Oh well,” and goes and sits on the couch and turns on the tv. You want to kick him for getting your hopes up, and then you want to kick yourself for being such a fool. You kind of can’t handle being around him right now, so you tell him you’re going home. He kisses you absently and goes back to the TV. You stare at him for a while, but he doesn’t say anything else, so you just walk out the door... Justin and I drive to the hotel in the Benz. The ocean is beautiful, and the town is pretty deserted, so we don’t have to worry about anyone spotting Justin out and about. We go to dinner in a romantic restaurant overlooking the water. Justin tells me that he’s paying and I can have whatever I want. I am even more in love than ever. We have wine (I get carded and he doesn’t...bastard.) and appetizers and then the main course. We talk like we did when we first got together. I realize that it’s good were apart for awhile. The spark is back. When dessert arrives, Justin tells me to close my eyes and put out my hands. “Ooh! I love surprises,” I tell him. I put my hands out palms up, and he tells me to turn them around. Then I feel him slipping something on the ring finger of my left hand. I open my eyes and gasp. There on my finger is a small but perfect heart shaped diamond in a platinum band. I am totally speechless. “Don’t freak out,” he says smiling. “It’s just a promise ring. Just to remind you of me when we’re not together.”“I love it,” I say, barely able to speak, since I’m about to cry. “It’s beautiful.”“Just like you,” he says and I smile and reach across the table to kiss his cheek. “I’m so sorry if I hurt you, baby,” I tell him. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” he reassures me. “As long as you’re back. I’m not me when you’re not around.” He pays the check, and we go take a walk on the beach. People who pass by smile at us. Everyone loves to see young people in love. I’m blissfully happy, but something is bugging me that I can’t quite figure out. Laying next to Justin that night and watching him sleep while the surf pounds the shore outside, I realize what it is. Some part of me wasn’t freaking out when I saw the ring. There is a tiny part of me that wanted him to be asking me to marry him. It scares me. I am still so young, hardly ready to settle down. But, then again, what if we got married? Our lives wouldn’t be much different. We almost had a baby. We live together. We have a dog. But I decide that Justin is far too young to be thinking about that committment, and I just let it go. I snuggle up in his arms and fall into a peaceful sleep. You and Justin get back from Cocoa Beach (which I think might really be somewhere cool that people go a lot...it sounds familiar) really late Sunday night. You crash immediately and sleep soundly until your alarm goes off at six thirty. You get up, get dressed and go to work, but when you get there you find that there isn't much you have to do that day. You fill out some paperwork and make a few calls and by noon, you are finished. On another day you would probably look into a newer project (there is always SOMETHING to work on), but today you just keep thinking about how Justin is probably still asleep. And the thought of him laying in bed, and then the thought of him walking around sleepily in not very many clothes makes sticking the whole day out unbareable. You head out, stopping to get some really good sub sandwiches, some Chili Cheese Fritos and a couple of YooHoo!s. You walk in the door quietly, pretty into the idea of surprising him. You wonder if he is still asleep, and go into the kitchen to put the food down. You flirt with the idea of bringing him breakfast in bed when you look out the screen door and realize he isn't in bed---he's in the hammock. You smile to yourself, grab the bag and head outside. "Special delivery," you say, standing over him and shielding your eyes from the glare of the sun. He looks up, surprised and smiles. "Boy am I glad you are back," he says. "I was really worried for awhile there." You climb into the hammock with him because he is so irrisistable. You kiss him and the hand him a sandwich and open your own. It is a pretty tight squeeze with the both of you and all this food, but you don't mind. You like to be that close to him. I wake up in my own bed...the same bed I've had from our old house to my cool apartment and now here in the condo with JC. It's a nice bed, and the blankets are nice and have been with me even longer. And it's empty...I mean, I am in it alone. I don't mind this so much. Sometimes it is nice. Sometimes, though, it gets so lonely. I realize what woke me up, the phone is ringing. I lean over and pick up the cordless which I have in my room with me because I was talking on the phone to Nick until I went to bed last night. It's JC on his cell saying he is at the store and can't remember if we had peanut butter or not. I have no idea and he makes me get up and check even though I am groaning the whole time. We don't have peanut butter. I tell him this. He starts to tell me about how he is leaving in a couple of days and this is the first I've heard about it. He just asks like I am crazy and that, duh, everyone knows that they leave on Friday to start the first leg of their US tour. I keep swearing at him in a relatively funny way and he is kind of chuckling. I suddenly have this picture of him in my head, standing with some peanut butter in the grocery store having this conversation with me while thousands of teenage girls just stare at him. I ask him where he is, and turns out he's in the car in the parking lot of the grocery store. Anyway, we get off the phone and it rings a few minutes later. It's Joey, inviting me over to dinner at his place because he is making enchiladas which I love! I gladly accept and realize I haven't hung out with Joey for a million years. I pick up the phone to call Nick but at the last minute decide not to. Instead I hop into the shower. I pull up to our old house about an hour later the same day. I was on my way to Nick's house when I decided I hadn't seen Justin for awhile. I knew you guys were coming back last night and that you'd be at work. I walk around our old house to try and get a glimpse inside. You had said that whoever rented it wasn't there very often, and that it was some bachelor guy. I am kind of irritated because our house should be enjoyed damn it! I decide that the guy is surely at work and slip into the backyard. It's almost creepy being back there because it is pretty much the same, minus all of our crap. I sigh and head through the gate into your backyard as much as I wish I could go into our old house and have it be the same. Who do I see when I walk into your backyard but you, and not Justin. "What the hell are you doing?" I ask. You smile and I go over to where you are in the grass and sit down. "I left work early," you say with a smile. "Where's that weird guy from *N Sync?" I ask, laughing. "He's in the shower," you say, offering me some pastrami sandwich that I accept. "Where did you get this?" I ask, motioning to the sandwich. "It's fucking good." "That new place over by the office," you say and take a sip of your chocolate milk. I am staring at you with my mouth open and food practically falling out. You laugh because I'm a weirdo. But I just keep looking at you like you've grown another head. "What?" you ask. "You know what I'm talking about...you were the one who said that we should go their once because they had that blue ceramic dog outside, remember?" "Oh my god," I say, finally functioning again but still staring at you like you are completely crazy. "I can't believe it." "What?" you ask, bewildered. I point to your hand and you look and see the ring Justin gave you. "Oh yeah," you say with a smile. "You're getting married," I just state. I'm shell shocked. "No!" You say with a giggle. "It's a promise ring." You look at it some more and admire it. "I'm so glad we're back together, I don't know what I would have done." I'm still looking at you warily, like I don't know what to believe. All I know is that you've got what looks like an engagement ring on your finger. "If I gave you a ring..." I say slowly, "would you promise never to fart again?" You laugh and shake your head. I don't know how to react really. I tell you I have to go and head over to Nick's house. When I get there I let myself in and see that he's cleaned up. I'm like, whoohoo! Because it had gotten pretty messy. I walk around the house and find him in the bathroom looking at his face up close in the mirror. "Hey Princess," I say and he jumps a mile. "What are you doing here?" he asks and I just look at him. "I don't know," I finally say. "I just came over." "I'm having some people over," he says and starts acting all nervous. It makes me nervous. "Oh," I just say. He never mentioned it before, like, yesterday. "I thought you had a doctors appointment today," he says, and he's not giving me a hug and he hasn't kissed me at all or anything. "I do," I say. "But it's not until four thirty." Truth was that I was going to try and talk him into going with me on a bunch of errands. "Well," he says and starts looking around relatively frantically. "I'm having people over." "Well okay, I'll just leave," I say and walk out of the room and start heading down the stairs. I have no clue what's gotten into him but I don't really want to have to deal with it. It is making me feel really weird and insecure and I'd rather just not be around him than be around him and have him act like he doesn't know who I am. He is following me, but not protesting me leaving. "How about I call you later tonight and maybe you can come over then," he says like he's being all generous. I turn to him finally, sick of feeling insecure already. "What the hell is with you?" I ask, honestly curious. "Nothing's with me," he says, which only makes things worse. "Okay, neverrmind," I mumble and keep walking. I get to the front door and kind of stand there, expecting him to hug me or something. When he doesn't, I just go out to my car. When you show up at Joey’s, there’s already a bunch of people there, and you’re glad for the distraction. Of course, Joey couldn’t just have a few people over for dinner. It had to be a ragin’ party. The first thing you notice is a huge bucket/tub type thing full of ice and bottles of Corona. You love Joey, dammit! You grab a bottle and go look for people you know. The first person you see is Chris, who yells your mname and runs up and gives you a huge hug. You are totally stunned. “Where have you been lately?” he says. “I’ve missed ya!” You just smile at him. He punches your arm, and goes off in search of entertainment. You sort of shake your head and keep walking. You find Joey who hugs you and kisses you on the forehead as always. “Are Kristin and Justin here?” you ask. “Yeah,” Joey says, lowering his voice. “Have you SEEN that ring? Those two are crazy!” “I know,” you sigh, still a little confused about the whole thing. You wonder if I know about them going on tour. You see us across the room talking and laughing. I am absolutely glowing, so you decide not to bring it up. “Hi,” you say, walking up. “Hey!” I say, hugging you. I immediately notice that something’s not right. “Where’s Nick?” “Who knows?” you say. I excuse myself from Justin and leave him with Chris, and drag you outside. “What happened?” “I don’t even know,” you groan. “I mean he’s being so weird all of a sudden. He’s like, ‘what are you doing here? I’m having people over, and you’re not invited.’ Whatever. He’s a freak.” “I’m sorry, babe,” I try to console you. “There must be more to it. That doesn’t sound like him.” “Well, I don’t care,” you tell me, which is a lie. “I’m going to get drunk and have fun tonight. Where’s Brad?” We both laugh as I escort you back inside while telling you that there must be some law that we can’t both be getting along with our significant others at the same time. You just give me a look, and we decide to go get another beer. On the way there we run into our favorite Innoslut, who immediately notices my ring. “Ooh, is that from Justin?” Nikki asks, grabbing my hand.“Yes,” I say, pulling it away. “Are you ENGAGED?” she asks, her eyes wide as saucers. “No,” I tell her. “It’s just a promise ring.” Just as I am saying that we all notice that Britney has just overheard the conversation and immediately turned and walked away. “Damn,” I mutter and start to go after her, but you stop me and go yourself.“Hey Brit,” you say when you catch up to her, pretending that everything’s normal. “Hi,” she says quietly. “Want a beer?” you ask her. “Yeah, that would be really good,” she tells you, managing a smile. You bring it to her and then ask if she’s all right. “I think so,” she says. “I mean, I should be. It’s not as if I WANT to be with Justin or anything. It’s just that I feel inadequate. I never got a ring. Why is he so much more in love with her than he was with me?” But you don’t have an answer. And you’re not going to tell her she’s wrong. She’ll think you’re just saying it, which you sort of would be. You feel a little caught in the middle, but lucky for you, Joey picks this minute to announce that the enchiladas are ready. You make sure to sit next to Lance, since you’ve realized your love for him. I sit on the other side of him with Justin next to me, of course. We talk and laugh and Chris and Justin make dumb jokes and JC rolls his eyes and Joey eats like a pig and we ALL drink like fish. You almost feel like it’s back to how things were in the good ole days. And you ALMOST lose that nagging feeling you have about Nick. Almost... You catch a cab home, because you’re too drunk to drive. JC decided to stay at Joey’s, with a strict warning from you that you’ll change the locks on the apartment if you find out that he went home with Nikki. When you get there, you are about to go up the stairs to your apartment when you get the distinct feeling that someone is behind you. You’re right. You turn around, and there’s Mandy with two other girls. You decide to ignore them, and turn to go up the stairs anyway, but Mandy jumps in front of you and blocks your way. You are scared shitless. You’ve never fought with anyone in your life. “What do you want?” you ask. “I just want to let you know that you’re not going to keep Nick,” she says in this evil horror movie voice. “He’ll come back to me.” “Okay,” you tell her. “Whatever. Just get the hell away from me.”Then one of her thugs comes up to you and says, “Don’t talk to her like that.” You want to laugh, because the whole scene is so surreal. These people are the biggest idiots you’ve ever seen. “Can I go now?” you act all tough. “This time,” Mandy says. “But watch your back.” You haul ass to your door, and of course the more you hurry to unlock it, the longer it takes. You run around and make sure all the doors and windows are locked, and then you sit on the couch and try to decide what to do. Should you call the police? You don’t want to piss Mandy off anymore. You don’t know what to do. You decide to call Joey’s house and make JC come home before it even occurrs to you to call Nick. You try to call me and Justin, but we have the phone forwarded to voice mail. You almost feel like being pissed that we’re having sex while you’re in crisis, but you’re too scared to be mad. JC finally gets home, and he hugs you while you cry and tell him what happened and how you feel like you can’t even call Nick and you want to just crawl in a hole and die. He just lets you get it all out, and then he tells you you should call Nick. “She might be coming there next.” So you call, but no one answers. You try to tell yourself he’s just out, but thoughts of Mandy holding a bloody axe in one hand and Nick’s head in the other won’t leave your head. You hope he’s all right. JC lets you sleep in his bed with him, because you’re too scared to be by yourself. You hate feeling like a toddler, but you’d rather be embarassed than severely injured or dead. The next day, I am once again summoned to Lou’s office. “I have a new assignment for you,” he says. I immediately tense up. What now? “I want you to go with *N Sync when they go on tour on Friday.” It doesn’t even occur to me to freak out about the fact that he is telling me that I have to go on tour with *N Sync, because I am too busy freaking out about the fact that they are leaving on Friday and NO ONE TOLD ME! “You knew they were leaving, didn’t you?” he asks, noticing that all the color has drained out of my face. “Oh, yeah, of course,” I lie, trying to act all nonchalant. “Can you tell me a little bit more about this assignment?” “You’re going to be in charge of booking and venues and all of that.” “With all due respect Mr. Pearlman,” I begin. “What does that have to do with law?” “Well,” he says. “We’ve been having some trouble with money and other promises that aren’t being kept. We need someone to negotiate.” “But can’t I do that from the office?” I ask, trying to get him to admit that my bastard boyfriend put him up to this. “You want to get into management, don’t you?” he asks, as if I’m being ungrateful. “Yes,” I tell him. “But managing bands and being a tour manager are two very different things. I just want to work up to my potential.” “You will,” he says. “You have to start somewhere. And this is the way to learn.” I decide it’s about time to shut my mouth. After all, Lou is the boss. “You’ve got a meeting with Johnny in an hour. He’ll be discussing your duties with you.” I just get up and leave, totally stunned. I want to kill Justin, but, more than that, I hate the direction my life is going. I don’t even feel like my own person anymore. I’m just part of the *N Sync entourage. I decide that I will go on tour, because I can’t afford not to, financially speaking. But I decide that I have to quit my job at TransCon. I almost start to cry walking back to my office. I remember the day I found out that I got the job. We were living in Seattle just waiting till I got a job in Orlando so we could move. But we’d never dreamed that I’d actually get a job at TransCon. We had broken out a bottle of champagne and danced around our shitty assed apartment. And now I was having to give it up. It was my own fault for getting personally wrapped up in a client. But how was I not going to resent that client now? When I get home, I hear Chris and Justin in the house, and I just lose it. “Chris, you better go home,” I say, coming into the room. He immediately gets up and leaves, not wanting to know what pissed me off. When I hear the door slam behind him, I start tearing into Justin. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Things were going so well! How could you do this?” As I yell, he keeps backing away from me. “What do you mean? What did I do?”“Hm...where do I start?” I say sarcastically. “How about you not telling me that you’re leaving on FRIDAY, for the love of God! Was I just going to wake up and find out that you were gone?” “No,” he says, his voice a little shaky. I’m scaring him. “I just got you back. I didn’t want to think about being away from you again.” “Why would you worry about that?” I ask. “I mean, you seem to have found a way around having to be away from me.” “What are you talking about? I wish I’d found a way,” he says, confused. “But we have to start missing each other all over again.” I stare at him for a long time. It looks like he’s telling the truth. “I’m so confused!” I yell in frustration.“So am I,” Justin says. “What did you mean, ‘I found a way around it’?” “So, wait,” I say, trying to get my bearings. “You didn’t make arrangements with Lou?” “What arrangements?” I look closely at his face again to see if he’s playing with me, but he’s not. “The arrangements for me to go on tour with you guys.”A smile starts creeping over his face. “You’re going with us?” “Unfortunately,” I say snottily. His smile fades. “If it’s that bad, why do you even bother with me?” he is matching my attitude. “Why are you even here?”“Can I explain before you go jumping down my throat?” I ask. “Why? You never let me explain,” he spits out. I suddenly go all soft. “I’m sorry baby...God, I’m such a bitch. I was just upset.”“You’re not a bitch,” he says, losing the attitude. “You should’ve told me you were leaving,” I say, more calm now. “I know,” he sighs. “But I didn’t know how.”“Well,” I say. “It doesn’t matter now. I’m going with you at least for a week trial period to see how it goes.” “Why don’t you want to go?”“Because, Justin,” I let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m losing my identiy. I’m like some h’laem *N Sync groupie following them on tour. This isn’t how I saw my life.”“But I thought you wanted to get into the business,” he says. “You sound just like Lou.” The statement scares me a little. “Working at TransCon as a lawyer was enough of the business. I liked my job, and now it’s being ripped out from under me. And I don’t even know why. If you didn’t ask for this, what’s the point?” “Maybe they really do think you’ll do a good job,” he says, bringing up something I hadn’t thought about. “But I’ll never get credit,” I counter. “Everyone will always believe that I got the job because of my boyfriend.” “So, what are you going to do?” he asks. “I’m going to go,” I tell him. “But then I’m quitting, and finding a job somewhere else.” “Oh Kristin,” he says. “God, I’m so sorry. This is all my fault! I don’t want you to quit.” “I don’t have any other options,” I say. “But don’t feel bad. What’s done is done.” Justin sits down next to me and hugs me. “At least we can be together while I’m on tour. Isn’t that good?” he says looking into my face. Faced with those blue eyes and that amount of cuteness, how can I refuse? “Yeah, it is.” But we are interruped by the phone ringing. It’s you. “You have to come over here,” you tell me desperately. “I need you!” “What happened?” I ask. “Just come over, please,” you say, sounding like you want to cry. I get off the phone and turn to Justin. “I’m sorry, baby. I have to go.” “It’s okay,” he says quietly. “Do you want to come with me?” I ask. “Sure,” he smiles, and I hope you don’t get mad. When we walk in, you and JC are sitting at the kitchen table. You look like you’ve been crying. “Oh my God,” I say, running over to you. “Are you okay?” “I don’t know,” you sigh, and JC tells us the whole story about Mandy. I just keep saying, “God” over and over again. The funny part is that Justin is getting all fired up. He’s like calling her a bitch, and saying stuff like “Yeah, well, let her try that when I’m around. She won’t think she’s so tough!” I love it when he gets all protective. And you can’t help but laugh at him, even though he’s pretty serious. “Did you call the police or anything?” he asks. “No,” you tell him. “I didn’t want to piss her off any more.” “I think you should stay with us,” Justin announces. “Yeah,” I concur. “She doesn’t know where we live.” “But I can’t stay there forever,” you groan. “And I don’t want you guys to be in danger if she goes off the deep end.” “It’s okay,” JC says. “Just give Justin a baseball bat, and he’ll hit her in the head!” We all laugh and Justin says, “It was an accident, I swear!” “Speaking of,” I say. “Where’s Nickay?” “I don’t know,” you say, and I can tell you’re about to start crying again. I realize that his absence is making your more upset than Mandy ever could. “Did you call him?”“I tried once, but no one was home,” you blubber. “But why hasn’t he called ME? I don’t have a clue what’s going on with him.” JC and Justin suddenly decide that they’re going to go get food for everyone. I can tell they’re kind of uncomfortable, and I’m glad to get you alone for a while. “Do you think Mandy’s going to do something violent?” I ask. “Maybe,” you think it over for a minute. “I didn’t think she was serious until last night. But I’m pretty sure she’s just trying to scare me.” “Well,” I say, going into lawyer mode. “You could file a restraining order.”“Isn’t that a little drastic?” you ask. “It can’t hurt,” I answer. And then I change the subject. “I have something to tell you, too. But it’s not as important.” “Go for it,” you smile, glad for the chance to have something else to think about. So I drop the bomb. “I’m going on tour with ‘N Sync when they leave on Friday.”You just kind of stare at me. You know how I feel about doing that, and you don’t understand what changed. But I answer your question before you ask it. “Lou’s making me go for work. And he decided on his own -- Justin didn’t tell him to.”“That’s crazy,” you say, slowly taking it all in. “But I don’t want to leave if you’re having a crisis,” I tell you. “I’ll be fine,” you sigh, even though you don’t really want me to leave. “I know!” I squeal, my face lighting up. “You should go, too!” “I can’t,” you immediately say as a reflex. “Why not?”“Because...” you trail off, throwing your hands in the air. “Nick?” I ask, but it’s more of a statement. “Well,” you say. “What do you expect me to say?” “Can’t you just go for a week?” I whine. “It makes perfect sense. You’ll be away from Mandy, and maybe you and Nick need a little break.” “Being a little bit upset with him doesn’t equal needing a break,” you inform me. “Sorry,” I say, realizing I’ve overstepped my bounds. “But, you should still go. Please!” I have resorted to begging. You kind of want to get up and walk away, because you can’t believe I’m asking you to make this decision NOW. The phone rings and what do you know? It’s Nick. “Thank God,” you say. “I need to talk to you. Where have you been?” “I can’t talk right now,” he says, and you sort of wonder why he called then. But he answers your question. “I was just calling you to tell you that I won’t be around today.”“Okay,” you say. “More ‘people coming over’?” “No,” he says, missing your sarcasm. “I have to go somewhere.” “Where?” you ask. “I can’t talk about it,” he says. “But I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Out of anger and/or irritation, you make a rash decision. “I won’t be here tomorrow.” I stare at you in awe. I never actually thought you’d give in. “Where are you going?” “Kristin and I are going with *N Sync on tour for a week or so,” you inform him while imagining the look of shock on his face. “Really?” is all he gives you. “Yeah.” “I’m going to miss you,” he says, but it’s too late.“Well, I’ll be home soon.” Two can play the cold shoulder game. “Okay,” he says, and you’re pretty sure he’s too confused to know what to do, so he’s just not doing anything. “Okay, bye,” you say. There is silence for a few seconds before Nick says, “I love you” in a soft voice. “I love you, too,” you say, hanging up the phone, and hoping that you haven’t made a huge mistake. “You don’t HAVE to go,” I tell you. “I do NOW,” you sigh. “C’mon,” I say, coming over and putting my arm around you. “It’ll be fun.”“I guess,” you say, as Justin and JC come in the door bearing your favorite sub sandwiches. “I mean, we get to look at those adorable faces ALL DAY LONG!” I say, pointing at them. “Well, in that case,” you try to hide your smile. “Maybe I won’t go.”“You’re going with us?” Justin picks it up quickly. “Yep!” I say, beaming. “Going where?” JC’s not so quick. Oops...I’d forgotten that he didn’t know.“We’re both going with you guys on Friday,” I say avoiding looking either JC or Justin in the eye. There’s an awkward silence while everyone thinks about the reprecussions of us all (especially JC and I) being in such close proximity to each other for so long. Their busses aren’t THAT big. Then Justin busts out with “Lou’s making her go!” like that suddenly makes things better. JC, bless his little heart, says, “We’ll have fun,” and tries to smile. Poor guy...he really is a saint. I'm in the apartment, in my bedroom, packing some things for a week on the road. You and Justin are still over and hanging out with JC in the living room, but I decide to see if I had laundry to do and also to hide in my room a little so just in case I actually do start to cry, which is what I feel like doing, no one would see me. I do have laundry to do, of course, because I am messy and dirty. I shove it all in a basket and just sit down on my bed and stare off into space because I can't really believe what I am doing. I feel bad because here I am, going off with all my friends to do a little traveling and have some fun, and I'm not excited about it at all. In fact, the only reason I am doing it at all is because of Nick. "Roxanne?" someone asks, opening the door without knocking and kind of catching me mid-cry. I jump up and try to act normal. But it's Joey and he notices. "What's up?" he asks, coming in the door and shutting it behind him. "Pretty scared about that crazy bitch, huh?" "Yeah," I say and look away but I'm not that scared. True, she might be able to beat me up but I don't think she is really crazy or anything. No boiled bunnies or anything. I basically just feel like an idiot because Nick is being such a weirdo to me. Joey sits down on my bed and kind of pushes me affectionately. "It's going to be fun to have you around on the road," he says. I nod and smile. "Yeah, it's going to be cool." I mean it for the most part. I've been to *N Sync shows before but never on the road. My week with BSB in Europe was pretty crazy. "You know," I say to Joey,"how at some jobs instead of firing you, they'll just keep slowly cutting back your hours?" He just kind of shrugs. "Okay," he says. I just shrug back because maybe I don't make any sense. There's a knock on the door and it's Justin, who also comes in without waiting for me to answer. He has some beers for Joey and me, though, so I let it go. JC has me up by seven even though the flight doesn't leave until 10. I just roll out of bed and throw my freshly washed yet unfolded clothes into a suitcase and plop down on a stool in the kitchen with some orange juice and a cookie. "Looks nutritious," JC says with a smile during one of his runs through the kitchen. "This glass of orange juice has 130% or my daily allowance of vitamin C," I tell him. practically yelling because he has since left the room. I am holding the phone, dying for a shower but being afraid Nick will try to call me before I leave and I'll miss him. Finally I give in and just shower, because there's no way I can leave the apartment until I do. I leave JC very clear instructions to tell Nick I am showering and will call him right back as soon as I can. But when I get out, he hasn't called and JC is running around getting all his shit together and finally he ushers me out the door in a big hurry because we are all supposed to meet at your house to go to the airport together. I am finally on the other end of this, and I wonder why the hell anyone would get up half hour earlier just to meet up somewhere. I drive my car over with JC in it, because I'm just going to leave it at your house the whole week. I'm thinking maybe that way at least no crazy girls will slash my tires or anything. We get to your house and everyone is there and Joey even brought over a bunch of bagels and cream cheese and lox. I start grubbing down and staring at your phone and fantasizing about how Nick is going to call frantically, searching for me just to hear my voice once more before I go. Or, better yet, maybe he will beg me to stay and plan some romantic getaway, just the two of us. But of course the phone doesn't ring, he doesn't even know I am over here. I call and check JC and my voice mail, but there are no new messages. Everybody is all excited and bouncing around, even you a little bit. I make some comment about it because I want someone down with me, but you talk about how you and Justin just kept talking about you going last night and you are excited in spite of yourself. I smile and act supportive but I'm not. I mean, I am, but you know how it is. The cars come to pick us all up and at that last moment, I weaken and decide I have to call Nick's ass up and wake him to say good-bye. I duck into the kitchen and dial it quick as everyone is taking the luggage outside. "Hello?" a chipper female voice asks. I hang up. ...and I stand there. Then I call back. "Hello?" a chipper yet confused female voice asks. I hang up again. "Roxanne, come on!" Chris is yelling to me from the other room. I kind of walk out in a daze and he is motioning for me to come, and hurry. I just kind of stand in the living room."Come ON!" he says again and comes over and pulls me outside. I guess I get in a limo but I don't really remember. Justin is sleeping on the plane but there is this young girl who keeps peaking into first class to steal looks at him. You think it's cute and wave at her. She looks around like she's been caught, but waves back and then disappears. "Hey baby," you say, shaking Justin lightly. "What..."he kind of mumbles, moving around to get comfortable in his seat without opening his eyes. "You should sign something for this little girl." "Okay, later," he says and falls back asleep. You smile at him. Then you realize why he is so exhausted this morning and you smile a little more, blush, and look around as if anyone could read your naughty thoughts. Joey and Lance are involved in some heated card game and Lance keeps yelling, "Oh!" because you guess he loses. Chris is leaning over from his seat in front of them and watching. JC is asleep (SURPRISE! hehe) and I am sitting next to him, staring out the window. "Hey Ju," you say, wanting to wake him up for a little company. You think about how you miss him when he is sleeping and then think about how God awful and corny a thing that is and banish the cheese from your mind. "Let's join the mile high club." His eyes shoot open and he stares at you. "Okay," he says, completely dumbfounded. You laugh and feel kind of bad because you were SO just kidding. "Yeah right," you say and pat him on the knee. "Aw MAN!" he groans loudly and pushes your hand away from him, pretending to be seriously mad, but probably honestly somewhat disappointed. You turn around and see that I have looked over. You smile and tell me to come sit by you instead of by boring old sleeping JC. Justin kisses the back of your ear and whispers, "Chris is a member of the mile high club." You swing your head back to look at him. "No he is not!" you exclaim. "Yeah, he is, I swear it," Justin is saying when I slide across the aisle and lean over the seat in front of you so I can see your faces. "What do you think caller ID says if you call someone from a plane?" I ask, dead serious. "What?" you ask with a laugh. "It says American Airlines, flight 791 Row 4 Seat D," Justin says sarcastically. "What do you think it says dumbass?" But instead of laughing or saying something back, I just turn around and go back to my seat. Justin just rolls his eyes and you look at him and sigh. He holds your hand and smiles at you. "I can't believe I'm going to give up a job at TransCon for you," you say. "I'm worth it," he says back, leaning in and kissing you. You just smile and lean back in your seat and you start to think about it, and you know, he probably IS worth it. What got you so excited about getting the damn TransCon job in the first place? It sure as hell wasn't the honor of working under Lou. And it's such a respected job, you're sure to get some other good deal. You sit there, holding Justin's hand and thinking about your life and start to get excited about what may lie ahead. You imagine being old and coming home from a long day at work where Justin is waiting with dinner all ready and your kids are playing around with the--- THE DOG!!! "DP!" You call out, almost jumping out of your seat. "Oh shit," Justin says, realizing exactly what you did once you say it out loud. "How could you have forgotten?" you yelll at him. "I don't know!" he says, all frazzled all of a sudden. "I didn't know you were coming until yesterday and I don't know! I didn't think about it!" "Who is going to feed him?" you ask, not expecting an answer. Justin tries to pull the phone out of the seat. "Give me one of your credit cards," he tells you and you give him a look. He rolls his eyes. "Come on! I'll get you back." You reluctantly go into your purse and hand him your one of your cards. He dials a number. "Hi, it's me...yeah, I'm on the plane right now actually...yeah, but guess what? I totally need you to feed Dr. Pepper while I'm gone...no, she's with me. She's going to be with us for about a week...we really need someone to take care of him...Damn!...Okay, thanks anyway....I will....Bye." And he hung the phone. "Who'd you call?" you ask. "Britney," he says, "but she leaves on Monday and she has crazy ass rehearsals all weekend." "Damn," you say and rack your brain for someone else. "Maybe you could call Nikki." Justin shakes his head. "Innosense is opening for Brit..." and he furrows his brow. You try to think of someone to help but keep having thoughts like, I know, call Lance! and then you realize that Lance is right here on this plane with you. Justin snaps his fingers, stands up, and points at me. "I need you to call your boyfriend and ask him to take care of my dog," he says. I just look at him. Then I look away. "No," I say. Justin walks across the aisle (which is wide...we're in first class remember. It's roomy up there. And also it's only us and some other *N Sync employee peeps) and takes me by the hand and pulls me over to where you guys are. "I'll pay for it," he says and hands me the phone. I look at you guys but just dial. At least this way Nick will know I am mad at him. "Hello?" that same damn girl voice answers. I just hang up. There is no way I am having a conversation with Nick's new girlfriend, even if it means your stupid dog dies. Justin looks at me and kind of throws his hands in the air as if to say, Well? What the hell was that? "Did you get the voice mail on the first ring?" he asks. I shake my head. "Someone answered. Call yourself if you want, I don't care about your stupid dog." and I get up and go to the bathroom. You stare after me, puzzled. Justin looks at you for an explanation. You just shrug. "She's been pissed at him lately," you say. Justin groans. "Whats the number?" he asks, irritated. Don't I understand that he needs to get someone to feed his dog? You tell him the number and he dials it. But at the last minute he hands it to you. You roll your eyes at him and stick out your tongue. "Hello?" someone asks. "Hi," you say. "Is Nick home?" "Yeah, just one moment." Justin raises his eyebrows at you so you'll tell him whats going on. "She's getting him," you fill him in. "Who?" Justin asks, confused. "Um," you say and realize you have know idea. "I don't know." "Hello?" Nick asks into the phone. "Hi Nick, it's Kristin. I need to ask you a really big favor." "Where are you?" he asks. He drops his voice. "I've been calling your house." "I'm on the plane right now, on the way to New York with Justin. But you see what happens is that both of weren't planning on me coming until the last minute and we actually forgot---why were you calling our house?" you ask, suddenly hearing what he had say. "No reason," he says and then drops his voice really low. You can barely hear him. "Is Roxanne with you?" he asks. "Yeah, she's here. But actually the reason I called is because we desperately need someone to watch after Pepper while we're gone. I know , we're awful parents, but I was wondering if you could--" "What? Your dog?" "Yeah, no one is there to feed him or anything. It's just awful. Britney has a spare key, but she has to leave town on--" "Yeah, I can watch your dog." he says. "Really?" you ask, flushing with relief. You nod fervently at Justin who smiles and blows the phone a kiss. "God, you don't even know how you just saved my ass. You are a saint, I swear! I should be back next Saturday. There is plenty of food in the pantry. Oh my god, thank you SO much!" "Can I talk to Roxanne?" he whispers. "Well, she's not here right this second. God, you don't know how grateful I am about this, really! I owe you one, big time!" "It's really okay, I don't mind," he says. You can hear someone ask him who he is talking to and then hear him answer, "Just my friend Kristin." "Who is that?" you ask. "It's my mom," he says. "Her and Aaron are visiting for a few days." "Oh," you say. "Well, I love you and I owe you big for this one, Nickay." "It's no problem," he says. "Will you tell Roxanne to call me?" "Sure," you say and hang up the phone. "Thank GOD," Justin says, sighing with relief and leaning back. "We'd be bad parents," you say and the idea is kind of bugging you. "You can't FORGET a kid. We would NOT be bad parents." "They forgot Macauley Caulkin in Home Alone," you note. "That was a movie," Justin is saying, but you continue. "What if we really would be just awful parents? Oh my god. I work all the time, you're out of town all the time. We can't even remember to feed our dog!" "Don't get so worked up about it," Justin says. "It's not like we are planning on having kids right now." You just kind of shut up because he is right and you dont want to admit you've been thinking about that kind of thing. Marriage, kids...sometimes you forget that he is only 18 years old. He can't even rent a car...well, neither can you. But he can't even drink legally! This makes you get the attention of a stewardess and order a drink. I come out of the bathroom and just get back in my seat and stare out the window some more. I was in the bathroom for awhile and Justin makes some comment, pretending to be Jim Carrey in Ace Venture--"Do NOT go in there!" I don't even look at him. I've been crying and I don't want anybody to notice. I kind of want to say something to you or something, but I have nothing to say. I don't know how to say it out loud. "Nick said that you should call him," you tell me. I just nod to let you know I heard you. I can't think of anything to do, so I snuggle up against a sleeping JC. The plane lands in New York and we are wisked away to the hotel. Once we get there, everyone kind of does there own thing because everyone has their own big plans. You and Justin hole yourselves up in the bedroom, Joey goes to visit some relatives, Lance goes to MTV to be a celebrity judge on some new game show. Chris tries to get me to go shopping with him, but ends up calling a friend of his instead. I lock myself in my hotel room with my laptop and finish my book. It’s about 3 am, and I’m sitting in the hotel room doing paper work on my laptop while everyone is at the after party from the show. I hadn’t realized how much work I’d actually have to be doing. I mean, it’s not like I want to be at the pre party, watching Justin pretend that he is “single and ready to mingle” and being afraid of getting beat up by teenyboppers. But, still... It would be nice to be having as much fun as everyone else. There’s a knock on the door, and I look up. “Baby is that you?” I call, hoping to God it’s Justin. “Nope,” you say. “Just Pana.” I get up and let you in. “Hi,” I say. “How was the party?” “I didn’t go,” you tell me. “Where were you?” I ask. “Just walking around,” you say. And it’s then that I know that I shouldn’t have made you come with us. “You were walking around New York City by yourself at night?” I ask. “Uh, yeah,” you say, realizing what a dumb thing that was to do. “Are you okay?” I ask. “Yeah,” you lie. “Are you?” “Sure,” I say, a hint of sarcasm touching my speech. “I’m here, tired as hell, working my ass off at 3 in the morning while my boyfriend dances and drinks with a bunch of really cute girls who would sleep with him at the drop of a hat, and kill me even faster. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?” “I’m sorry babe,” you tell me, but you don’t feel as sorry for me as I want you to. I mean, at least I’m in the same state as my boyfriend. At least my boyfriend doesn’t have another woman on the side. But you can’t blame me for not knowing about that, seeing as you haven’t told me. “You miss Nick, don’t you?” I ask, knowing you too well for you to hide your feelings from me. “Yeah,” you sigh, falling backwards on the bed. “But, I don’t think he misses me.” “Why?” I ask. “Because his mom and brother are there to take care of him?” You immediately sit back up. “Huh?” I don’t notice your shock. Instead I say, “It’s really nice that they’re getting along again.” “His mom and brother are there?” you ask. “Well, yeah,” I say, puzzled. “Didn’t you know that?”All of a sudden you feel like the world’s biggest doofus for jumping to conclusions. “When a woman answered the phone, I just assumed he had another girlfriend!” you blurt out. “I’m such an idiot!” I sort of just laugh at you. “Roxanne,” I say. “You ARE an idiot! Nick never even LOOKS at other girls, much less dates them. Haven’t you noticed the way he looks at you?” You smile dreamily. “Really?” Sometimes you just need an outsider to be objective and tell you how things are. “Really,” I smile. “I should call him,” you say. “What time is it?”“Too late,” I tell you. But then another thought enters your head. “Why didn’t he want me to meet his mom?” “What?” I ask. “I mean, he wouldn’t let me be around when she was there, and he didn’t tell me they were coming or anything. That’s why he was being so mysterious. He’s ashamed of me!” “Oh God,” I groan, wanting to strangle dear Nickay. “Shit,” you say, feeling the familiar lump in your throat. “You know how he is,” I try to compensate. “He doesn’t know how to handle certain situations. And, you know how Jane is. I mean, maybe he was ashamed of HER.” “No, I don’t know how Jane is,” you tell me. “I’ve never met her, remember?” “But seriously,” I tell you. “I bet she’s obnoxious as hell.” “Still...” you trail off, as a drunk Justin comes noisily in the door. “Hey baby,” he slurs, while I push him away. Alcohol breath is not cute. “I’m gonna go,” you say, but I follow you into the hall. “Are you going to be okay?” I ask. “Yeah, I think so.”“At least you know there’s no other girl,” I give you. “You’re right,” you say, trying to smile for my benefit. “I love you,” I tell you, giving you a hug. “I love you, too,” you say, going down the hall to your room. I go back inside and see Justin sitting on the bed watching TV. “How was the party?” I ask. “It sucked, as always,” he tells me. “Because you weren’t there.” “Well, at least you didn’t have me showing you up on the dance floor,” I laugh. “But, seriously,” he says, and I can tell he’s starting to sober up. “You should have come.”“Justin,” I tell him, taking his hand. “You know I can’t. I had work to do. I still HAVE work to do. And we’d have to stay away from each other. I don’t know if that would work.” “I know,” he sighs, leaning in to kiss me. “But I missed you.” “I missed you, too,” I tell him. He starts kissing me, and I know what he wants to do. Much as I hate to do it, I push him away and get up. “I have to finish this paper work baby. Besides, you need to sleep. You have to get up early tomorrow.” And I sigh, thinking about how hard the next week is going to be. “Whatever,” he says, and goes in the bathroom to get ready for bed. He comes back out a few minutes later in just his boxers, and I decide that the paper work can wait... The next morning, we wake up to frantic knocking on the door, and JC yelling, “Get the fuck up! You are so late!” I jump up, and immediately start freaking out. “Oh my God, Justin! It’s 8:30!” “Shit!” he yells, and gets out of bed. We throw clothes on and run into the hall. There’s no time for make up, breakfast, nothing. We have to be at some promotion by 9:00. I know Justin’s going to get yelled at, because he looks like shit. He’s obviously hung over, and he’s got these dark circles under his eyes. What the hell were they thinking sending me on tour with him? We jump in the van with you, Joey and Lance, and you all just give us a “look.” “We just slept in, I swear,” Justin says. When we finally reach this department store, there are masses of teenyboppers who probably got there before Justin got home last night. We go in through some back way, and I just hold on to you for dear life while the bodyguards rush us in. You are used to this whole scene from being on tour with Backstreet, and you’re kind of excited by the whole thing. I, on the other hand, hate it. I would much rather be in my back yard in my hammock with my boyfriend and my dog. There’s kind of this mass hysteria and screaming for a while as the guys take the stage and sing a couple of songs. When they’re done, they sit at a table and sign autographs for hours. And you and I just sit. We do a lot of making fun of the teenies to pass time. And the guys occasionally glance back at us and make faces or blow kisses. We’re totally over the excitement of getting to wear “All Access VIP” passes, and now we’re just bored. “What the hell is wrong with us?” I ask you all of a sudden. “What?” you stare at me. “I mean, look at us,” I say. “We should be having a blast. But we’re bored. It’s like not even fun being friends with famous people anymore.” “I guess you’re right,” you tell me, but you’re a little skeptical. “We need to be enjoying this more,” I tell you. “And how do you propose we do that?” you ask. “I don’t know,” I say. “I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. Besides, I’m not sure that I can have fun and work my ass off at the same time.” “Hm...” you say, pretending to ponder it, but really just turning your attention back to the teenies and their adoring faces. “Hey, did you call Nick ever?” I suddenly ask, knowing that it will get your attention. “Nope,” you say. “I haven’t had time.” “Here,” I hand you Justin’s cell phone. “Go call him now.” You smile at me gratefully and try to find a secure spot where you can be alone. You end up in a custodial closet, but it’ll do. “Hello?” he answers, and you thank God that it’s not a female voice. “Hi,” you say. “Hi!” he says, sounding excited. “Where are you?”“Macy’s,” you tell him. “In a closet.”“What?” he laughs. “Don’t ask,” you tell him. “I miss you,” he says. “Me, too,” you say. “Are you having fun at all?” he asks. “Yeah, it’s really fun,” you tell him, even though you would much rather be in Orlando with him right now. “What are you up to?” “Not much,” he says. “I heard your mom was in town,” you say. You hadn’t wanted to bring it up, but you couldn’t resist. “Uh, yeah,” he says. You wait, but he doesn’t say anything else. “How come you didn’t tell me she was coming?” you ask. “I don’t know,” he answers. “I wasn’t really sure how I stood with her, and I didn’t want to bombard her with a new girlfriend.” “Oh really?” you ask, feeling like shit, even though you honestly do want Nick and his family to be on good terms. “But, Roxanne,” he says, but you don’t let him finish. You’ve had enough for one day. “Look, I gotta go,” you tell him. “I’m on Justin’s cell phone. I’ll call you later or something.” And you hang up before he can tell that you’re crying. You sit down on the floor and look around and wonder what the hell you’re doing. You’re in a closet, for the love of God! You sit in there until you’ve calmed down, wipe your eyes and go back to find me. “Well?” I ask. “Let’s not talk about it,” you say, and I squeeze your hand supportively. Life just sucks sometimes. Justin had told me that we could have lunch together in the hotel room so I go up there and order food from room service and wait. And wait...and wait some more. He’s like an hour late, and I am freaking out worrying about him. Finally, the phone rings. “Hi baby,” an out of breath Justin says. “Where are you?” I ask. “At MTV,” he says, like I’m an idiot for not knowing. “I just wanted to say hi before we go on.”“But what about our lunch?” I pout. “Oh shit,” he says. “I’m so sorry, Kristin. I totally forgot. I’ll make it up to you I swear.” “Sure,” I say. “But I gotta go,” he says. “Here, Johnny wants to talk to you. I love you!” But before I can answer, Johnny’s on the phone, telling me about some meeting I have to be at in 15 minutes, and a bunch of other crap I have to do. When I finally get off the phone, I just sit on the bed and stare off into space, wondering how a relatively intelligent woman such as myself can be so stupid sometimes. But I get my ass up and head to my meeting. Regardless of how crappy I feel, I still have bills to pay. Afterwards, I head over to MTV hoping to catch the guys, but of course I am told they just left. So, I head to the venue for sound check, and finally find someone I know...you. “Hi!” you say. “Where have you been? TRL was so fun!” “Great,” I say. “I’m glad I missed it.” “Oh, sorry,” you say. “Did you have meetings?”“Of course,” I sigh. “This isn’t turning out to be very fun.” You don’t want to make me feel worse, but you’ve had a great day, regardless of the turmoil in your life. You got to meet Carson Daly and tour the MTV studios and the best part is that Jason Lee was a guest on TRL, too, so you got to meet him. You decide to leave that little detail out, but your sensitivity was in vain. Justin runs in and says, “Guess what, baby? I got to meet Jason Lee today!” I just bury my head in my hands and start to cry. “Oh my God,” he says, hugging me, while you, the bodyguards and the rest of *N Sync stare at me like I’m crazy. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing,” I say, trying to gain my composure. And I just walk out of the room. I can’t handle having my most personal life details being played out in front of 20 million people. Justin follows me. “Kristin,” he says, grabbing my arm. “What’s going on?”“Oh, I don’t know,” I say, still crying. “I spent the time I could’ve been meeting my favorite actor waiting for your ass in a hotel room. I’ve been working all day, and I’m tired, and you haven’t even apologized for forgetting about me. I just thought this trip would be more fun.” “I’m sorry,” he says. But I can tell that he doesn’t know what to do. This is his life and his job. He’s being torn between me and them. “I have to work, too.” “I don’t want you to feel bad,” I tell him. “But I can’t be all Miss Mary Sunshine, either.”“I know,” he hugs me. “I wish I could fix it. But I don’t know what to do. Why don’t we go in the dressing room and hang out. You can help me get sign some autograps, okay?” I go with him, grateful that we have some time to ourselves, even if it’s in a dinky dressing room filled with gifts from Justin’s many adoring fans. We sit there and sign posters and cd jackets (I can forge his signature perfectly), and he tells me about Jason Lee while I tell him about my meetings. After the show, we get on the bus immediately to go to the next city. I am glad for the fact that there’s no after party. The guys are still pretty hyped up from the show, so they run around a bunch while we roll our eyes. I decide that I’m pooped, so I hop into a bunk with my sleeping bag and pillow and fall fast asleep. That is until I see some light and feel someone getting in the bunk with me. I’m sure it’s Justin, and I reach for him and kiss him, even though I’m still half asleep. He pushes me away, and says “Uh, Kristin?” My eyes pop open, and suddenly I am wide awake. That voice does not belong to Justin. And, who else should it belong to, but the sleepiest member of *N Sync. “Oh my God, JC,” I say. “I thought you were Justin.” “It’s okay,” he says. “But why are you in my bunk?” “I thought this one was mine,” I say, confused. “Don’t you remember that Justin had us switch bunks, so you would be on the bottom near him?” I have never felt so embarassed in all my life. “I totally forgot! You didn’t think I did this on purpose...?” “Of course not,” he assures me. “I’ll just go sleep in your bunk tonight, okay?” “Okay,” I say, and then fall back on my pillow. Just when I thought this trip couldn’t get any worse... I wake up to screaming and then a bunch of laughing. I stick my head out of the bunk I've been sleeping in and see Justin and JC rolling around on the floor laughing extremely loud. "Will you shut the fuck up?!" Joey yells from his bunk, which is under mine. "I don't care how attractive I am, don't ever call me 'baby' again!" JC yells with a hoot. Justin can't even breathe it looks like. His face is all read. "What the hell are you guys doing?" I ask and my voice is all raspy. I glance at my watch and notice that it is only six o'clock. "Justin is trying to MOLEST me! I feel so VIOLATED!" Justin is just laughing his ass off. "Someone help! Rape! Rape!" You stick your head out of your bunk. "What is going on?" I ask again. Justin finally calls down a little. "I didn't know it was you," he says. "I swear!" But once he looks at JC he busts out laughing again. "Baby, what the fuck are you doing?" you ask sleepily. Justin looks up at you but that just gets him going again. You just groan and disappear. "You touched my ASS!" JC yells. The remaining members of *N Sync immediately stick their heads out of their bunks in interest. "You touched his ass?!" Joey screams. Lance starts laughing hysterically and Chris is making obscene noises. Justin stands up and tries to balance on the moving bus. "He is NOT supposed to be in there!" he states in his own defense, pointing at JC. Still laughing, he flips JC off and climbs into your bunk. "Don't try anything," Lance says, his voice even deeper than usual with sleep, "I'm awake now. I don't want to hear anything…" "Will you all just shut UP?" Chris calls from inside his bunk. "We aren't even going to be anywhere for at least another three hours." Things get quiet again. I lay back down and try to go to sleep. I start to nod off. I really like these bunks. I feel really good and comfortable and secure in them. I fall back asleep but after what seems like fifteen minutes or so, I feel someone climbing into my bunk. It's JC. I smile at him and scoot over a little bit. He lays down next to me and just sits there for awhile. Then he starts to cry. I just kind of hug him and he falls back asleep. "Justin?" you ask, walking back into your hotel room after having to bitch with some radio station about what time the guys can come in later that day. "Hmm...?" he answers, not looking up from the TV screen. You just join him on the bed and hope that your cell phone doesn't ring. This whole trip hasn't exactly been a barrel of fun for you, you've been working your fucking ass off. "Baby, I need some love," you tell him. "I think I need a hug or something." He looks at you and laughs, but hugs you half assed before turning back to the TV and his fried chicken. You know he has a busy day ahead of him (hell, you practically planned it all) and that he just wants to relax. You don't want to bother him by complaining about how much this job SUCKS and how many limbs you would give to be back in Orlando doing your whole law thing. And, of course, it would be an added bonus to be able to complain about him having HIS job and how you wish he could just be back in Orlando doing SOMETHING else, anything else! Fuck, he could be a gas station attendant for all you care. Actually, him being a gas station attendant sounds kind of sexy. He would wear some dirty coveralls and a short sleeved button up shirt with an embroidered patch with his name on it. His clothes would be smeared with oil and there would be some on his face too, for a little added sexiness. Ooh, and on his manly hands. What a man. What a real man he would then be. "Justin," you whisper into his ear. "Would you work at a gas station for me?" He looks at you like you've gone crazy. "Sure, whatever babe." he says, offering you some chicken. You decline since it is only ten in the morning and you really don't feel like eating some greasy ass fried chicken. All you've eaten so far is a donut. "It's so fun having you on the road," he says absently, rubbing your leg. He starts laughing at the comedian on Regis and Kathy Lee. Your cell phone rings and you groan. "It's for you," you say, handing it to him as a joke. He answers it. "Hello?...Where you at?...Okay, I'll meet you down in the lobby in ten minutes." He hangs up the phone, hands it to you and gets up. "Where are you going?" you ask him, irritated that the one time you let him answer the phone it means HE has to leave. "Nowhere," he says, throwing on a sweatshirt. He looks really cute today. He kisses you softly on the cheek. "I'll meet you at the radio station at ten, okay?" "Okay," you say unhappily, but he doesn't really notice. After he leaves you talk a long shower and then relax a little with MTV. What sucks is that you see the IDMC video and have to turn the channel because there's something irritating about watching *N Sync videos. You have a few phone calls to make but decide to let it go for a little while. Sixteen Candles is on some channel (channel 28, but who knows what that means here in Boston), so you get comfortable in bed to watch the rest of it and just leave your life for awhile. You must have fallen asleep because forty five minutes later you wake up to me knocking on the door. You sleepily open it. "Hey you," you say and let me in. "Are you going to the radio station?" I ask, sitting down on your bed and staring at the TV screen. Then I start to cry. "What's wrong?" you ask, alarmed. "This movie is so good," I say, wiping my eyes a little. "And it makes me SO mad when they forget her birthday. It just makes me want to lock myself in a tower and weep forever." You just stare at me for a long time. I start to feel stupid. "Are you going to get your period?" you ask. I just laugh and shake my head and snap out of it a little. "So, are you going? To the radio station?" "Yeah," you say, stretching. "I didn't mean to fall asleep. Are you going? Come on, come with me." You put your shoes on and take me by the hand and we walk around like we're Britney and Christina or something. But it makes me feel better. We run into Lance in the lobby who is getting in a limo to go to the station too. We hitch a ride with him and I kiss him on the cheek. He kind of looks at me like I'm crazy but laughs and I'm glad I did it anyway. You kind of look at me like you think I've gone crazy. There are a hundred girls or more at the radio station and Lance is ushered inside really quickly. "Let's not go in yet," I say, and kind of pull you aside. "I kind of have to," you say, but when you notice I have lit up a cigarette you follow me. "What are you doing?" you ask. "You quit over a year ago!" "I know, I am so bad. I have no willpower." I just say. I can tell you are pretty irritated. "Are you Justin's girlfriend?" someone asks you and you look up and notice that a bunch of people around are staring at you. "I'm *N Sync's temporary assistant road manager, handling mainly--" "Yeah, but are you Justin's girlfriend?" a different girl asks. You just kind of stare at them. "For the love of God, yes, she is! Big deal. He's not that great." I say. You look at me. "Yes he is," you say defensively. I roll my eyes at you but smile. "Aren't you JC's girlfriend? You know you really shouldn't smoke," another girl says. I am in a mood so I just give her a look. Before I can say anything, another girl interrupts. "You are not Justin's girlfriend, Justin is going out with Britney Spears." We both kind of laugh, but just let it go. "Is it true that the Backstreet Boys are going to join *N Sync on stage tonight?" someone asks. You laugh. "Um, no. Where the hell did you get THAT idea?" I put my cigarette out. "Well my friend said she saw Nick Carter and Justin having lunch somewhere. And it says on my ticket 'N Sync and Special Guests.'" "I swear to you, there will be no Backstreet Boys during the show tonight," you promise the girls. You turn to me, standing next to you, ready to light another cigarette. "Don't light that, let's go inside." "There better not be any Backstreet Boys there or I'll kick their ass!" One girl exclaims. You glance at me and I raise my eyebrows. "The Backstreet Boys are SO gay," another girl agrees. You feel like you should stick up for them since I am around but you don't know what to say. Maybe it's best just to stay out of it. You want to go inside so you don't have to talk to these girls anymore, but you know that once you get in there you'll just have to watch Justin talk about his favorite type of girl or something else stupid. "Yeah, especially Nick Carter," an ugly red head says. "Justin would NEVER hang out with him, like, ever!" We look at each other again and this time I smile and look away. "It's not true that Justin hit Nick with a baseball bat, is it?" someone asks you. "Um..." you say and you look at me. But before you have time to answer a relatively cute girl speaks up. "Give me a break," she says. "Just because you don't like the Backstreet Boys doesn't mean they are gay." I'm starting to get tired of all this senseless banter myself, I reach for your arm right when a chunky blond says, "Nick Carter and Brian have girlfriends anyway." "No, Nick Carter broke up with his girlfriend." "No, he has a new one. She is soo ugly!" "Come on, let's go," you say, pulling me as hard as you can inside the building. But I don't really move. I mean, obviously enough whatever this girl saw if anything wasn't me because I'm standing right here and she doesn't recognize me. But I'm still shocked for no reason. It's times like this when you forget that little girls are always calling people ugly when they aren't. You still want to get the hell out of there. "Nick Carter doesn't have a new girlfriend. I know because my cousin lives in Germany and when BSB were there, she had sex with him!" "She did what?" I ask, mostly out of a reflex. "She really did," the girl says to me. "She knows SPECIFIC things about him." "Specific things like what?" I ask, starting to get slightly nervous. You groan and pull on my arm some more. "Specific things like..." the girl starts and then she giggles. "You are so lying," the cute girl says with a roll of her eyes. "Do you know how many people say they've slept with BSB or *N Sync? Probably only, like, three of them are telling the truth." "We're going inside now," you tell me. I start to follow you finally, giving up. "Well, my SISTER slept with Justin when *N Sync was here in May," this Capri-panted blond says. "And SHE isn't lying." You freeze. We automatically switch places; I start trying to get you in the building and you have turned around. "Does SHE have specifics?" Someone asks. I pull you. Most of the girls are staring at this Capri-panted lying whore of a fan, but a few of them, including the smart cute blond that I've really started to like, are staring at you in fear. The difference between these conversations is that no one knows who I am, most of them seem to know you. "Yeah," the girl says. "Like, he's really big." You start to look a little nervous. "And he can last a really long time." You kind of look like you are going to cry. I start to get you moving toward the door (love for being stronger than you!). "Jesus, will you shut up!" Cute smart girl yells at Capri-panted whore. I smile gratefully and manage to get you inside. You just walk ahead of me, pretty quickly. "Don't believe that girl," I say to you. "It's all bullshit and you know it." You just kind of look off into the distance. One of the guys who does something I don't understand is walking by us. He is cute. His name is Todd. He is going to grab a couple girls from outside to go in and meet the guys. I let you go so I can go with Todd and point out cute smarty and her friend. He gets them in and she thanks me a million times and then I thank her. I go with her and her friend and Todd upstairs to where *N Sync are on the radio right now. "Those girls are so dumb," she says to me. "I don't want to hear made up stories about the birth mark on Nick Carter's inner thigh or the dimple on Justin's left butt cheek. It's so petty and ridiculous!" "Yeah," I say in agreeance. I see you standing over by the wall looking sick. I go over and just look at you. "Who WOULDN'T say those things about the guy they liked? Just because they happen to be true doesn't change the fact that it's something someone would say that is completely made up." You nod. "I know," you say. "You're right." You smile but still look a little wary. I know you know that I'm right, but I also know how hard it is to shake the idea. "If someone has a crush on Justin and is going to pretend she had sex with him, why wouldn't she say he is well endowed? It's not like she'd make up some story about how he couldn't get it up or something. That's no fantasy...fantaheseh. I'd like to ask Nickay, what's your wildest fantahseh?" You laugh a little. I can tell you are feeling better. "I shouldn't let any of that talk get to me." "Well, I'll tell you one thing, Nick has no birth mark on his inner thigh for the love of God! That girl can go around telling people that all she wants. And I'm sure you feel the same way about the fictitious dimple in Justin's left butt cheek." "What?" you ask, staring at me. "Apparently the girls got a little more SPECIFIC. Remind me never to talk to fans again." You stare into the booth where Justin and Joey are laughing hysterically. You haven't been listening to what's been said. "He does have a dimple in his left butt cheek," you say quietly to me. I look at you and curse myself for opening my mouth. "A lot of people have dimples on their ass!" But even I glance at Justin again and wonder fleetingly if it was true. I have only been in my room about ten minutes when there is a knock at the door. I open it, and there is JC, trying to smile but failing miserably. "Come on in," I say to him and he does and sits down on my bed. "What's up?" I ask him. But he just shrugs and I kind of get the impression that he's trying to keep control by not talking. I just let him be quiet for a long time and lie down on the bed by where he is sitting. "I just..." he starts slowly about five minutes later. "I was just talking to Justin about all his romantic plans for Kristin and everything and I just kind of wanted to get away for a minute." "Well you've come to the right place!" I say cheerfully, hoping to lift his mood. "Can I offer you something? Bad tasting water out of a shrink-wrapped glass? Half of a flat soda? Peanuts from the mini bar?" He laughs a little. "No thanks," he says and then laughs again, this time at himself I think. He lies down with me and I turn on the TV. The Breakfast Club is on. We watch it for awhile in silence when JC says, "I'm that guy," and points to Anthony Michael Hall. I know he meant to be funny, but I don't really laugh. He doesn't really either. Then he leans toward me and buries his head in my arm and starts to cry. I think I mean to hug him or hold him, but the way we are lying, he ends up holding me instead. I put my arms around him and tell him he is the perfect fan. "Are you coming to the after party tonight?" Justin asks you, cell phone to cell phone. You are sitting the hotel room filling out paper work and making millions of telephone calls. Your pour cheating bastard of a boyfriend misses you. "No," is all you say. You don't even really want to talk to him. You know that you have no real evidence against him and can't accuse him of anything, but right now you can't get the thought out of your head of him with some girl. Some stupid fan! When you were at home, waiting for him and trusting him. "Aw, come on," he says. "It will be fun I promise." "No, I've got too much stuff to do. I'll just see you when you come. back." "Alright," he says with a sad little sigh. "I love you." "I love you," you say back, more like a complaint than anything else. You get on the phone and get back to your work, turning the TV on because it is too quiet in this room all by yourself. This time it isn't Sixteen Candles, but Pretty In Pink. You start crying. JC and I must have fallen asleep. We didn't get enough sleep the night before and hell, it's JC. I wake up because I hear a familiar voice scream, "Oh my God!" I open my eyes and see in front of me Nick, covering his. "I love you," I say, confused from being asleep. This is my first reaction because instead of realizing that I was just caught in bed embracing JC, I just realize that Nick is here, in my hotel room in Boston, MA. He doesn't take his hands off his eyes and he looks like a little kid standing there. JC sits up and rubs his eyes and yawns. Nick finally takes his hands off his eyes a little and looks at me and he looks so hurt it kind of takes me by surprise. I'm not really capable of speaking because the look on his face is haunting. He just turns around and walks out the door, slamming it behind him. "What?" JC asks the room. I look at him. "That was Nick," I say. JC sits there for a minute. Then he looks up. "Where are we?" he asks, confused. Finally I kind of snap into reality and jump up and run into the hallway. I almost trip over Nick's bag, which he left by the door in my room. I can't see him in the hall or anything so I take the elevator down to the lobby. I can't see him there either, but then I see him outside, hopping into a cab. You try to keep working but all through the night you keep thinking about what's going on right now for Justin. Like, right now they are going on stage. Right now they are probably flying. Right now they are probably on their way to the after party. You are sick of Molly Ringwald movies and Channel 28 has been showing them all day. PK and the Kid starts and you shut the TV off. You are glad you stayed home, you got a lot of work done that you needed to do and you're glad to get it out of the way except that now you are alone with your thoughts. You have a feeling I probably didn't go to the after party considering my mood lately. You want to call me and maybe order some room service or something. You feel like some company. But before you get the chance, the bedroom door opens and Justin walks in. "Hi baby," he says with a smile. "Hi," you say back. He needs a shower. "I was just going to call Roxanne." "Mmm, don't," he says, sitting down next to you and unzipping his backpack. He smiles. "Nick was going to surprise her today. I guess they've been kind of weird lately." "Oh," you say and smile. You decide to leave me alone since you figure (wrongly, as it turns out!) that I'm probably enjoying myself. Justin pulls some wine and a couple of glasses out of his backpack. Then he leans in and kisses you. "I love you," he says. You just look at him and feel tortured. "If you ever cheat on me, will you just tell me? Please?" you say, because you have to get it off your chest. He looks at you like you're crazy. "I am never going to cheat on you." "But promise if you do, just tell me." You say and you mean it. "Okay, I promise, but I'm still not going to ever do it." He says. You lean back on the bed. He pours you a glass of wine and one for himself. He leans over you and kisses you. "Do you know why?" he asks with a smile so cute you can't help but practically die on the spot. "Why?" you ask, clinking glasses with him. "Because you are...my fire...the one...desire..." You start laughing and almost spill your wine. He looks you in the eyes. "Believe...when I say....I want it that way." You are still laughing. "If I wanted a Backstreet Boy..." you threaten but never finish your thought because Justin cuts you off with a kiss. I just want to go home. This trip SUCKS. I don't know where Nick is, probably on a plane back to Orlando. The first guy who'll bother doing anything nice for me, much less flying his ass up the coast to see me, and some how it fucks itself up. What the FUCK? I call and leave messages on his voice mail. I don't know if he's checked it or not. I am getting desperate. I start to think that this is probably a sign, or something for the best. He can't handle my *N Sync ties...he doesn't want me to meet his mother...his ex-girlfriend wants to beat me up... But I can't just let it go because I kind of love the stupid bastard. I drink all some of the alcohol that's in the mini bar in my room. After they are all gone, I call Brian Littrell. "Hello?" Leighanne answers. "Hi, it's Roxanne," I say. "Is Brian there?" "Sure," she says, but she sounds pretty bewildered. She puts me on hold for a good ten minutes, or at least it seems that long because I am drunk. "Hello?" Brian's happy voice asks. "Hi Brian, it's Roxanne," I say and immediately realize I should NOT HAVE CALLED. "Hey," he says, amicably enough. "What's up?" "I was just wondering if you had heard from Nick recently," I say lamely. "Um, actually I have." He says and I tense up. I kind of hadn't been expecting him to say that. "You have?" I ask. "Well. I was wondering if you knew of a way I could get a hold of him." "Jeez Roxanne," Brian says with a sigh. "I don't really know if he would want me to tell you where he is exactly. But I do know he's catching a plane home tomorrow morning and he'll be here then." "Oh," I say and start to tear up. I want to say more but I can't talk or I will cry. Even though I am drunk I can tell Brian feels sorry for me. "How about if he calls again I tell him you want to talk to him?" "Okay," I say quietly. "Okay." "Thanks, Brian." I say. "No problem," he says back and I feel really young. You wake Justin up in the morning with a loud laugh. "What?" he asks. But you can't stop laughing. You throw the sheet up in the air and, not one to be modest, he just stairs at you like you've lost it. You laugh again. "It's on the right!" you exclaim. "What?" he asks, confused. "What are you talking about?" "I was wrong! It's not on the left, it's on the right!" He just stairs at you until you calm down a little and kiss him happily. I’m still not in a great mood, but I’m in a BETTER mood since my revelation about Justin’s ass. I bounce into your room to wake you up, yelling “Morning Sunshine!” and you give me the look of death. It suddenly hits me that there’s something not quite right. I glance around the room as if looking for something and ask “Where’s Nickay?” “I don’t know,” you say, instantly bursting into tears. “Whoa,” I say, trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. “What happened?”You somehow manage to tell me the whole story through your tears, but when you finish you notice that I’m staring off into space, no longer paying attention. “Hello?” you say, waving a hand in front of my face. “Oh sorry,” I say, snapping out of it. “What were you saying?”“Nothing important,” you sigh, a little irritated that I’m giving you no sympathy. “What’s wrong?”I’m debating whether or not to tell you what’s on my mind, but I decide to just go with it. “Why was JC so upset?” “Shit,” you mutter, because you’d forgotten that I was the reason for his issues. “So I’m right?” I ask. “It was about me?”“No,” you say. “I mean, he never actually SAID what the problem was. It might not be you.”“Well, I’m not trying to say his whole world revolves around me,” I say, suddenly feeling a little weird for just assuming that it was about me. “But if it is me, I feel like shit.”“Don’t,” you tell me. “You didn’t even want to go on this stupid trip. You had to for work. It’s not your fault.”“Well, it might be my fault that I accidentally kissed him,” I say. “Uh what?” “Remember the whole mess with Justin getting in JC’s bunk?” I ask. “Who could forget?” you roll your eyes. “Well, I accidentally got in JC’s bunk, which is why Justin thought I was where JC was,” I explain, thought it’s starting to get too hard to follow. “So, when JC went to go to sleep, I thought he was Justin, and I kissed him. That can’t have helped, you know?” “Shit, Kristin,” you say. “You’re a frigging genius.” “Ha ha,” I say. “So funny. I’d be rolling around on the ground laughing, but there’s not enough room.” Suddenly, I realize that you’re the one with the real problem here, not me. “So, what are you going to do about Nick?” “What CAN I do if I can’t get ahold of him?” “He doesn’t have anything to worry about, right?” I ask, suddenly curious. I mean, you and JC have been really close on this trip. “Of course not,” you almost want to laugh at the thought. “You know how it is. JC and I are roommates, so we’re comfortable with each other. We don’t think anything of cuddling. Plus, I was trying to comfort him.” (Side note: You got to cuddle with Wipeout! Even if Nickay is mad at you, wasn’t it worth it?) “I guess you’re right,” I say. “The only male roommate I’ve ever had is my boyfriend, so I guess I wouldn’t really know. But I guess it’s no different than you and I running around holding hands.” “But you know how insecure Nick is about *N Sync,” you remind me. “He doesn’t look at it that way.” “I’m really sorry I made you go on this trip,” I say. “Don’t be,” you say. “He needs to learn to deal with me having them as friends. Besides, if HE would ask me to move in with him, I wouldn’t have to live with JC.” “Men are such bastards,” I say. “Yeah,” You sigh. “Oh, by the way,” I say, trying to cheer you up. “I was wrong about the dimple. It’s on the right.” You stare at me for a while, trying to figure out exactly what the fuck I’m talking about. When you finally figure it out, you start to laugh, even though thinking about Justin’s ass is relatively gross. I get up and hug you, and then pull you ut of bed saying “We’ve got work to do.” “What work?” you look at me with a puzzled expression, hoping that I didn’t think you were going to help me with work stuff. “We have a Backstreet Boy to find!” You smile at me gratefully and hop in the shower. When you get out, you notice that I’m on the phone. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise,” I am begging. “No, he won’t ever know where I found out...please...yay! You’re the greatest...Okay, let me write this down...I love you! Thanks!...Yeah, I’ll call you and let you know what happened.” “Who was that?” you ask, having a pretty good idea of who it was. There is only one person you know of who would know who where Nick is and that I have wrapped around my little finger. Once again you make a mental note to find out just how I do it. I mean, you love me and all, but shit! Maybe I have some green goop in my locker... “No one,” I tell you, not wanting you to be an accessory to the crime. “But I have good news. I found your man! But we better haul ass if we’re going to catch him!” You silently thank God for creating AJ McLean, and then smile at me as I grab your hand and drag you out. We run into Justin in the lobby. He is not happy to find out that I’m not going to his photo shoot this morning.“You promised,” he whines. “I know, baby,” I tell him. “But something came up.”“Just go,” you tell me. “I need to talk to Nick alone anyway.” “Are you sure?” I ask. “Yeah,” you try to smile. “Good luck,” I say, hugging you. I turn to Justin as you walk away. “I hope she’s okay.”“Have I told you lately how much I love you?” he asks, and I am stunned at how romantic he’s being. “I love you, too,” I say. He goes to hug me, but I sort of push him back. “Justin, there are people who might be watching,” I warn. “I don’t care,” he says, throwing caution to the wind, while I get the feeling that his attitude might be a big mistake. When we get to the photo shoot, the guys head off to their dressing rooms, and a woman I don’t know comes up to me. “Kristin?” “That’s me,” I say. “Come with me,” she smiles. “We have a surprise for you.” “Okay,” I say, confused as hell. “I’m Katie,” the woman says, leading me into a dressing room. “A little bird told me that you’ve been working really hard. So, we’re going to give you a little pampering.” “Let me guess,” I say, the warm feeling washing over me again. “My boyfriend did this?” “Yep,” she smiles. “I wish MY boyfriend was that nice.” Someone comes in to do my hair and make up, and then I’m taken into another room where a wardrobe person outfits me. “Isn’t she lucky to have such a nice boyfriend?” Katie asks the wardrobe girl. “Yeah,” the girl giggles. “And cute, too!” “I know,” Katie gushes, while I smile proudly. “I love it when guys have blue eyes with dark hair.” My head snaps up. I feel like I’m listening to the Stop Remix of Crazy and Britney just said “Stop!” (I swear that I put that in BEFORE you were singing that to me on the phone...I think we share one brain.) “Justin has blonde hair,” I say. “Justin?” Katie asks. “Isn’t JC your boyfriend?”“Whoa,” understanding has finally found me. “JC set this up??” “Well, yeah,” she says. “I just assumed...”“JC’s not my boyfriend,” I tell her. And then in response to the weird look they’re both giving me, I say, “But we’re really good friends.” Meanwhile, my mind is reeling. On the one hand, it’s cute as hell that he did this for me. On the other hand, he really shouldn’t have. I am overwhelmed with guilt. When I am done, I head into this room where the guys are all sitting and having a break. I feel like a total princess. Joey whistles at me, and they all kind of stare at me like they’ve never seen me before. All I’ve been wearing on this whole trip is warm up pants, t shirts and baseball hats. Lance says, “You look really nice.” in that southern gentlemanly way he has. I blush even though it’s just Lance. I shoot a smile at JC to let him know I know, but he just looks away like he’s embarassed. “You HAVE to go to the after party NOW,” Justin says. “Why?” I ask. “Because you look GOOD!” “Okay,” I laugh. How can I argue with that? Then we all start laughing because we notice that the outfit they dressed me in matches their outfits. The photographer comes in, and tells us all, including me, to come with him. Apparently my surprise isn’t over yet. I get my very own N Sync photo session. I get some cute ones with all the guys, and then they do some of just Justin and I. I feel like one of those dorky couples I knew in high school who got professional pictures taken, but I don’t care. At least I know that we’ll look better than them. We start to wrap it up, but I say, “Wait!” Everyone looks at me like “What?” “I want a picture with JC,” I say. I realize how bizarre that sounds, so I try to fix it. “I mean, I want individual pictures with ALL of you guys.” But it’s kind of too late. They all get it, and JC looks like he’s about to die. “I’ll go first!” Chris chimes in, and I smile at him gratefully. He picks me up and slings me over his shoulder, while I laugh like an animal. Then Lance and Joey each go, and I decide that I really like my job. JC walks up reluctantly, and whispers “I didn’t want you to know that I arranged this.” “It’s okay, sweetie,” I say, using his favorite term of endearment. “I’m glad I know. Thank you.” He just smiles, and the photographer comes and poses us. You are about to rip your hair out, because your cab driver is lost. You know that every second counts, and you don’t want to miss Nick. He finally pulls up to the hotel, and you rush out, almost forgetting to pay him. You hop in the elevator, but when you glance out the doors as they’re shutting, you seen one of Nick’s bodyguards in the lobby. You frantically push the “door open” button, while the other passengers look at you like you’ve lost it, but the door doesn’t open. So, you get out on the first floor and start running down the stairs to the lobby. By the time you get there, you’re totally out of breath. You yell, “Nick!” He turns around, but doesn’t say anything. The bodyguard knows you, but you can tell he’s kind of pissed that you’re causing such a scene. Nick walks over to you. “I don’t want to talk about this right now,” he says through his teeth. “Please,” you say. “You at least need to give me a chance to explain.” He can’t resist you (never could), so he says, “You can ride with me in the limo to the airport, but I doubt it’s going to do any good.” You get in, and at first don’t say anything. That’s mostly because some girls noticed him getting in and are now screaming and chasing the limo. Nick doesn’t seem to notice, but it’s got you pretty distracted. Finally, you turn and look at him. He looks really cute in his dorky way, which makes you want him to forgive you even more. “I’m sorry about yesterday,” you start. “But nothing was going on.” “That’s not what it looked like,” he snaps, and you wonder why he’s so angry. “Well, it wasn’t anything. First of all, JC still has it pretty bad for Kristin. Even if I wanted him (which I don’t), he’s not exactly into me at this point in time. In fact, that’s why he was there. He has been having to spend all this time around her and Justin, and it’s kind of too much for him. He came in there crying, and what was I going to do? Tell him to leave?” “Why not?” Nick says. “Because!” you raise your voice a little in frustration. “He’s my friend!”“Yeah, but you didn’t have to be in such a ‘loving embrace’ with him,” he says. “I realize that that was hard for you to see, and I’m sorry,” you say. “But we’re close because we’re roommates. It wasn’t anything.” “It looked like something to me,” Nick is still not satisfied with your explanation. “It wouldn’t matter what I said, would it?” you state. “You know that there’s nothing going on with JC and me. You just don’t like me being such close friends with them.” “Them” being N Sync.“You didn’t have to go on tour with them,” he whines, and by saying that, admits you’re right. “Two things,” you say, tired of having to justify yourself to him. “First, jealousy isn’t attractive. Secondly, if you’d had the common decency to introduce me to your mother, I wouldn’t have felt so alienated that I had to leave!” “But, Roxanne, you don’t understand how things are with my mom,” he says. The tables have turned. Now he’s on the defensive. You wonder if you learned to play these games from me, because you never did stuff like this before. “I didn’t know how to handle the situation.” “That’s just it,” you tell him. “If you ever TALKED to me about stuff, I would understand. But you don’t even tell me!” He’s quiet for a while. “I’m sorry. It’s just a sensitive subject.” “Well,” you say. “Okay. But if I’m going to be understanding about that, then you need to be understanding about my friends and how much I love them. You don’t get jealous of Kristin, do you?”“No,” he scoffs, almost laughing. “I don’t feel any more attracted to JC than I do to her, okay?” He kind of smiles. “Okay.”“So, can you stay for awhile?” you ask. “I guess,” he says. “As long as you don’t make me go to an N Sync concert.” You both laugh. Later on that night, I’m at the venue frantically looking all over for you. I haven’t heard from you since the morning, and I’m worried as hell. Justin comes over and takes the cell phone out of my hand. “Kristin,” he says calmly. “She’s fine. She probably found Nick, and they probably told the front desk that they don’t want to disturbed.”“Shit Justin,” I say. “Do you ever think about anything besides sex?”“Occasionally,” he laughs. I punch him in the arm, but he just ignores me and goes to get some food. I yell “Eat, eat, eat!” at him to piss him off, because he is embarassed about that whole scene. But it doesn’t faze him. I go in search of Todd, because I need him to run an errand for me, but when I go to where he’s supposed to be, I find JC instead. He’s sitting by himself in this little room and staring off into space. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I say, starting to leave. “No, it’s okay,” he says getting up. “Are you okay?” I ask him. “Sure,” he says, smiling weakly. “Sit down,” I tell him. “I want to talk to you.” He complies and I sit facing him. “I really want to thank you for thinking of me today. I don’t think anyone has noticed how hard I’ve been working, and how much it’s sucked. It meant a lot to me.” “It’s no big deal,” he says. “I like to do things for people.” “JC,” I say, taking his hands in mine. “I don’t want to hurt you. I hope that I’m not.”“No,” he says, honestly. “You’re not doing it. It’s my own fault. I just need to deal better.”“Well, if there’s anything I can do to make things easier...” “You can start by not kissing me anymore,” he says, and we both laugh. “Well, you’re pretty irresistible,” I say. “Even Justin can’t keep his hands off you.” He smiles his beautiful smile at me, and I get up, pulling him with me, and hug him. “You’re great,” I tell him. “You’re okay, I guess,” he says, and we laugh some more. "Well, does this mean I'm not going to see you for a few days?" you ask me as we eat some Crossainwiches at Burger King. I shrug. "I guess so. I mean, I don't know. It's not like we can't talk if we see each other, but, you know..." I am drinking coffee and orange juice and you are having a Coke because you are crazy. It's only ten thirty in the morning and while this doesn't faze you, I'm pretty out of it. "You're such a Backstreet Boy," you say to me and I know you are kidding but I think somewhere you kind of mean it. I just shrug. My head kind of hurts and even though Nick and I are back on good terms and he seems to think everything is fine, I still feel a little unsettled about the whole thing. And of course today is the day I have to fly with him back to New York for the MTV VMAs. All I really want to do is go home and climb into bed and sleep for five days. I miss my room, I miss my bed or Nick's bed. You are flying back to New York in about an hour and have to leave for the airport soon. I got my ass out of bed early to see you before you left but you're being kind of moody. Maybe you are just being moody because I am being moody, I don't know. It's the fucking VMAs and we both get to go, we should be excited! I think part of the problem is that we both get to go--but not really together. We have to be with our respective boyfriends and are respective boyfriends have to be away from each other. I'm having a handful or moral dillemmas about the whole thing. One) I could go to this thing with you and *N Sync. But if I did that, Nick would go insane. No, he would go *N Sane. And I do want to be with him, I just wish we could all be together. Two) This isn't Macy's--you have to have something to wear to an occasion like this. I, of course, have nothing. "Well, do you know where you're going to be staying?" you ask me, interupting my thoughts. "No," I say, feeling pretty greasy and gross from eating that crap. "I should've asked Nick, but I don't even know if he knows." "You should call my cell phone when you get to town. The guys are rehearsing all day and doing some press stuff." You finish your sandwich and look at your watch. "I really have to go though. I love you." You hug me and I promise again to call you when I get there. You leave and I throw away the rest of my food. Later that day you find yourself free in New York city with no obligations except one--to find something amazing to wear to the Video Music Awards. You wish you could bring Britney shopping because you hate to do it alone, but she's busy rehearsing with the guys and besides, apparently she had to do some promotional MTV thing about choosing her outfit. You go all over and try on dress after dress. You find a lot of nice things, but nothing that has screamed out to you, and that's what you are hoping for. You know you have limited time, and it starts to stress you out. Your cell phone rings while you are in Betsey Johnson and you answer it. "I think I'm getting sick," I say to you before hello or anything. "What?" you ask. "You're sick?" "I think I made myself sick. But really Kristin, I feel like I'm going to throw up. I feel like I'm going to die. I just want to go home." "Where are you?" you ask, getting the great thought that I could meet you somewhere and finish shopping with you. Surely I need a dress too, and it will get me psyched and feeling better. "I'm still in Boston. I don't leave until four. Nick has to be there by six to do his rehearsals." I start to get that whining half crying voice I get when I am sick and feel really sorry for myself. You just sigh, and wish that you could strangle whoever invented the VMA’s, and MTV in general. I’m thinking about you while I’m at N Sync’s VMA pre party. They have a suite rented out for it, but it’s not much of a party. Especially since you’re not there. It’s just N Sync, me, their staff and bodyguards and Chris’ large-busted date. And everyone’s pretty quiet. The guys are tired from all day rehearsals, and, more than that, they’re just nervous. Justin is all but ignoring me. The guys are all kind of huddled together. I think it’s pretty adorable, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m bored. I talk to Dani for a while, but I really wish you could be there. This whole BSB/N Sync separation issue is so bizarre. It’s never affected us this much before. And I hate it. It’s making me not want to go. At least I found my outfit finally. It was way expensive, and I had to make Justin shell out some money towards it. But I figure that he’s the reason I’m going, so he has a responsibility to make sure I’m properly outfitted. Besides, he can afford it. It’s a little black leather dress, strapless with a slit up the side. It’s pretty crazy for me, but I wanted to go all out. We have to leave for the show around 6 pm, so we pile into a few limos. Justin holds my hand, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so nervous. But he’s also really excited. I keep trying to get him to tell me about their performance, but he won’t spill it. I think he just basically wants me to shut up. When we finally get there, it is N Sane. The fans are sceaming like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Justin can’t really walk with me, because he has to make an entrance with his boys, so I sort of hang back with Dani, who I’m getting to know pretty well. N Sync gets interviewed by Kurt Loder in the rain while I pray that my hair doesn’t get ruined (one more thing that Justin had to pay for.) It’s freezing, and it seems to take forever to actually get IN the building. I see Britney, but I don’t feel comfortable hugging her cuz she has so much skin hanging out. So I just kiss her on the cheek and wish her good luck. Things are even weird with her, even though she’s performing with N Sync, because she’s up against them for Best Pop Video. I decide that I hate awards shows. But that changes when I get inside. The place is amazingly beautiful, and I’m so star struck. We’re sitting behind TLC, and I can see Will Smith & Jada Pinkett, Tim Robbins & Susan Sarandon, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Limp Bizkit...It’s crazy! I hear screaming and see BSB coming in. N Sync pretends not to notice, but I automatically start looking for you. I see you sit next to Nick, and I halfway think about going over to you, because I think it’s stupid that we can’t sit together. But I decide against it. This is Justin’s night, and I want to be there for him. You are sitting with Nick, also looking for me. You feel sort of weird, because even though Nick is your boyfriend, you don’t hang out with BSB much. And you REALLY don’t hang out with their girlfriends. The whole scene is making you feel pretty weird. You feel bad, too, because you can’t be with your friends on their big night. You are dying to go over to them and hug them all and wish them luck, but you know that wouldn’t really work. You try to catch JC’s eye, but he’s way too focused on the show to notice anything else. You just slump down in your seat and sigh. Like Justin, Nick isn’t exactly himself, and you’re not feeling very loved. It seems like forever before the show starts, and Chris Rock starts the opening monologue. You and I are probably laughing harder than anyone at the jokes he’s telling about the guys. But the problem is that they keep putting the camera on both groups and you and I aren’t too fond of being on national television. Especially if it’s just because we’re someone’s date. We both sort of shrink back, hoping we get caught on film. The show rolls on, and it’s pretty exciting, but nerve wracking as hell. The two groups come up for Best Group Video and both lose. We watch TLC go and get their award, and the guys stand up and clap and pretend to be happy for them. I see Nickay standing up and applauding and I smile. Then I turn and kiss Justin on the cheek. He’s been holding my hand so tightly that I think he’s going to crush it. N Sync pretty much figured they wouldn’t win anything, but it’s not taking the pressure off. Pretty soon, BSB gets up to go backstage. You watch them walk away, and then you sigh again. You had no idea this night would be so stressful. Leighanne smiles at you, but you don’t feel like dealing with her at the moment. You watch the guys perform, and you feel all proud, though you wish they would’ve shared their wardrobe plans with you BEFORE the show, so you could fix it. I look over at you and smile, noticing how intently you’re watching and imagining the thoughts going through your head. I can’t stand it anymore, so I make a decision and pray it’s not the wrong one. I disengage myself from Justin and get up. He gives me a “look” but I ignore it. I somehow manage to get to you, and I tap you on the shoulder. You jump 10 feet in the air in surprise, and then smile your beautiful smile at me. I grab your hand and sit down in Nickay’s seat, and we watch the show. “I love you,” you tell me. “I love you, too.”“I’m sorry this night sucks so much,” you say. “It’s only one night,” I remind you. I run back to my seat, wishing I could take you with me. “I’m sorry, but I wanted to talk to Roxanne,” I say to Justin. “It’s okay, baby,” he says. “Are you all right?” I ask him. “Of course,” he smiles. “This is fun.” But I wonder if he’s trying to convince me or himself. “I’m so proud of you,” I tell him, and I really mean it. “Thanks,” he says, and then kisses me. I grab ahold of his arm and lean my head on his shoulder. I glance over and watch Backstreet get back into their seats. I think about how not too long ago, both groups were hanging out together at Nickay’s party, and now they’re in some sort of h’laem war orchestrated by MTV. I hate those bastards. BSB & N Sync come up for another award...and both lose...again. There’s nothing I can say to Justin, especially since I think that was their last chance. The BSB are a shoe-in for Viewers’ Choice. But before Justin has a chance to get upset, he has to go get ready. I look at my watch and realize that I’m going to be sitting with Dani for a good HOUR before they go on. It sucks. But I just sit and try to enjoy myself. Finally, it’s time for them and Britney to come on. Chris rocks makes some laem jokes about lip synching, and introduces the act. It’s so amazing, and I can’t believe that they put it together in just a couple days. I’m so proud that I want to cry. It’s like watching family up there, I’m so close to these guys. And to make the moment even more perfect, you decide to join me so we can watch our friends together. We pretend to be fans and talk about how cute they all look and make fun of them a little bit. But mostly, we just smile. Even if they don’t win, they’re pretty amazing. You haul back to your seat, because Viewers’ Choice is coming up after the commercial break. N Sync somehow makes it back to their seats all sweaty and tired, but wired and nervous. Once again, Justin grabs my hand and doesn’t let go. When the BSB are announced as winners, I feel like my head is going to explode. I’m happy for them, but I feel so bad for N Sync. I know how hard they work, and I feel like they get no credit. But they are classy winners, and they smile and clap. You are very happy, but not surprised, Nick gives you a huge hug and then you look on happily while they give their speech. You catch a glimpse of N Sync and it ruins your good mood for half a second, but you get over it. You know they’ll have their day in the sun eventually. Finally, the show is over. And now it’s time for the afterparty to start. One thing I can say for N Sync is that no disappointment will keep them from partying like the rockstars that they are. But I’m not really sure how Justin’s going to act. I just hope he doesn’t get drunk and do something stupid. As we wander around backstage waiting for the guys to be interviewed, I spot you and Backstreet. I look at Justin, but he and JC are busy talking to Lenny Kravitz. I run over to the BSB entourage to congratulate them. By this time I have completely given up following the “rules” or whatever the correct protocol is. I hug you and then Nickay. “I’m so proud of you,” I tell him. Then I hug AJ and ask Brian if I can hold the Moonman. It’s pretty heavy. We laugh and make small talk for a while. Then I drag you to go over to watch N Sync get interviewed about how much it sucks to lose to the BSB. I frown and get really quiet. You know I’m upset, but you’re really happy for Nick. You’re so torn. It’s torture. Finally N Sync is ready to leave. They hop down off the stage and hug you and you tell them how much you love them and how much you liked their performance. We can tell some people have noticed you and I going between the two bands and are trying to figure it out. I’m glad. That should really get MTV talking. It takes you a while to find Nick, but when you do, he’s pissed. “Couldn’t you stay away from them for one NIGHT?” he asks. “Um, no,” you tell him like he’s dumb. “They’re my friends. Besides, you wouldn’t want Kristin not talking to you, would you?”“Yeah, but still...” he whines. “You’re such a baby,” you laugh, even though you don’t feel like laughing. You’re irritated with Nick for being mad. Justin wasn’t mad at me. But when you think about it, you realize that Justin probably would’ve been mad if he’d even seen me with Backstreet. But he didn’t. Besides, I’ve got problems of my own. I’m squished in the limo with N Sync. For some reason, there was only one, so we all had to fit. So, I’m uncomfortable as it is, and then they all start in. “Did you see McLean’s shirt?” Justin asks. “What a fag,” Joey comments. “Did he borrow it from Britney?” “What the hell was he thinking...seriously?” JC laughs. “Shut up,” I say, irritated as hell. “I thought you guys were more grown up than that. Maybe I should stop going around telling everyone how classy you are.”“Chill out,” Justin snaps. “Just because you dated him doesn’t mean you have to stick up for him.”“You dated HIM?” Lance asks. “Oh my God,” Chris starts laughing hysterically. “I can’t believe I didn’t know that, though I can see why you’d want to keep it a secret.” “Good job genius,” I tell Justin. Then I turn to the rest of the limo. “I DID NOT date AJ Mc Lean.” “Just slept with him,” Justin snorts. “You are an asshole,” I say, looking out the window so no one can see how embarassed I am. “I’m sorry, baby,” Justin says, but he’s still laughing. And so is everyone else. “I’m glad you all find my sexual history so amusing,” I say. “At least AJ is a gentleman. I’m sure he’s not making fun of you right now. Of course, that’s probably because he WON.” Everyone stops laughing, and I instantly regret saying it. The defeat is still pretty fresh in their midns, and they’re really sensitive. “I’m sorry,” I say lamely. “I didn’t mean that.”“It’s okay,” Lance says, patting my hand, but I can tell they’re sort of pissed. Thank God that by that time we’re at the party, so everyone forgets the scene in the limo. When I walk in, I immediately spot Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre (they really WERE at N Sync’s afterparty!), and I swear I’ve died and gone to heaven. I beg Justin to introduce me, and he does. It’s sort of a weird scene, because I don’t want to stop talking to them. I’d sit there and chat it up with them all night if I could. Especially since N Sync is hosting the party which means that Justin won’t be able to spend much time with me. Joey Mac hands me a glass of champagne, and I dedide that I will be forever in his debt. I’m really going to need a drink if I’m going to losen up enough to hang out with all these famous people. I talk to Joey and Jordan for as long as I can without coming off like a total idiot. Somehow I manage to leave out any NKOTB references. They are like the coolest guys I’ve ever met, so I’m pretty disappointed when we all have to go our separate ways. I follow Justin around and get to meet Left Eye and Janet Jackson, which is pretty cool. Chris Connelly is there interviewing the guys for MTV, too. The whole scene is so unreal. Britney shows up, and I run to her, so relieved to see a familiar face. She’s with a couple of her dancers, who I happen to love, so I hang out with them for a while. But she has to go home early because of her show the next day (again true!), so I’m once again on my own. I look around at all these crazy people having such a kick ass wild time, and I wonder why I’m just not into it. I mean, I should be having the time of my life. But something is missing. Then it just hits me...It’s you! The Backstreet Boys were invited to various after parties, but (surprise, surprise) guess who doesn't want to go to any of them. I try pretty hard to persuade him because I really feel like living it up. I mean, come on, how many chances does a girl like me get to party with Will Smith? Nick keeps saying things like, "I just never feel comfortable at those things. Why don't we order room service and watch a movie?" He is being pretty cute about it. Like, he knows how badly I want to go party with the rich and famous and I know he kind of wants to go just for me, but at the same time he just isn't into a lot of that stuff. I feel kind of bad pestering him about it since it's pretty petty stuff, but I REALLY want to go. We get into a car and I beg him a little one more time. He looks at me and smiles kind of sadly and finally says, "Okay, if you really want to." I cheer and hug him and kiss him and start asking him which one he wants to go to, leaving *N Sync out of the choices. Even though its the one party I wish I could be at the most, it's Nick's night. I'm here with him, for him. He tells me he doesn't care which one and looks so amazingly precious when he says "Whichever one you want to go to" and kisses my arm. I kind of look at him for awhile and think, to hell with it! I tell the driver that we want to go back to the hotel and Nick looks really surprised, but is glad. He starts being really cute after that. He's holding my hand and staring at me all dreamy eyed. I think he is in the afterglow of winning the award. We get to the hotel and go back to his room which is just to die for. It's totally huge and amazing. I start to feel kind of alive because I'm in New York City and I'm wearing a dress and I wonder if it was a mistake to not go out and hobnob with the best of them. But I decide it doesn't matter, and that I'd rather just be with Nick anyway. And really being able to feel that way makes me feel pretty good. I wash my face and Nick orders some food. I get out of my dress (that's not even anything very special, just something I ordered from J.Crew last year and never wore) and put on my pajamas. When I get out of the bathroom, Nick is sitting in front of the TV just in a t-shirt and his boxers (no socks). I join him and he kisses me and tells me that Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure just started. After a few more minutes there is a knock at the door. It's room service. Turns out Nick ordered a bunch of different deserts and some champagne. I pour it into the glasses and toast to the success of the Backstreet Boys. He toasts to how good the cheesecake looks. We share way too much of the food and drink a little too much champagne and laugh our asses off at the movie. We are both feeling very calm and pretty drunk. We are laughing harder than usual. I am practically talking along with the movie. I get kind of tired and lay my head down on his lap. He kind of plays with my hair. It's pretty late when the movie is over, so we turn off the lights and go to bed. We're both very sleepy by this point, so we just lie in bed and cuddle a little and talk quietly until we fall asleep. "Aww MAN!" I yell to you over the phone the next day. "You met Jordan AND Joe?!" You are in your hotel room, getting your shit together and trying to talk on the phone to me at the same time. *N Sync is flying out to LA tonight and you just want to be ready. Justin is watchng TV naked. You tell me about the guys and how much you wish I had been there and I swear like a sailor about how much I wish I had been there too! But I'm just as excited that you got to meet them as I would have been meeting them myself. You tell me how the party was in general and throw some underwear at Justin, who just sits it on his lap, his eyes not leaving the TV screen. You try and talk me into coming out to the west coast with you and the guys, but I tell you it's just about time I got my sorry ass home. I'm sick of being on the road. I tell you that someone needs to rescue DP from the clutches of Nikki DeLoach anyway. Who knows what that girl has done to him by now. Probably has little pink bows in his hair or something. You laugh but to be pretty honest, you feel like going home yourself. You miss your house, your dog, your old job. We get off the phone and you close your suitcase and go sit by Justin. Why is he watching a nature show? You rest your head on his shoulder. "I miss the days when I would come home from work and you would be waiting for me in the hammock," you say softly. "I know you do baby," he says supportively, putting his hand on your thigh but not glancing away from the TV. "Maybe I should go home," you say and you suddenly have his attention. "What?" he asks, taken back, turning to look at you. You just shrug. "I miss being at home." "But I'll miss YOU," he says honestly and without hesitation. It's pretty cute. "I know," you say, slipping your hand into his. "It was just a thought." He sits there and stares off into space. You lay your head back on his shoulder. "Well," he says after awhile. "You could go home if you really wanted to." You sit up. "If you really want me to stay a little longer, it's okay. I don't really mind." He looks at you and you just sit there looking at each other. It's one of those moments when both of you just want to do exactly what you think will make the other one happy--but when two people have that thought, it doesn't really work out too well. "If you really want to go home, I wouldn't mind. I'm only out for another week." You sigh. "No baby," you say. "I just wanna be with you." And you mean it so much at that moment that you get a lump in your throat. Justin smiles warmly because he can tell you are getting kind of emotional. "How 'bout," he says, putting his arms around you, "you come along to Cali. But after LA you go steal away for a couple of days to see your folks." "That's a good idea," you say, surprised you hadn't thought of it first. Justin starts to kiss you while you are lost in thought about how you really need to call your mom. You start to kiss him back until you realize he is naked. It's such a relief to be back in Orlando, even though it's hot and muggy as hell. The first thing we do is jump in the pool with our clothes on like the freaks we are. Then we have sex, take a shower, get dressed and go pick DP up from Nikki's. He doesn't have any pink bows in his hair, thank god! And she is such a sweetie that I almost want to go give her a big wet kiss or something. She says the nicest things about Dr. Pepper and then congratulates Nick on the award in such an honest and sincere way that I'm kind of touched. And she talks with him about the performance and about how good it was and she even said she liked the way they are kind of changing their look or something and he glances at me because I totally talked shit about those outfits. I can be such a bitch! It's a good thing he doesn't notice, or he'd be with someone else and I'd be the saddest girl ever. But I am loving her and I never knew her apartment was SO CUTE! It's like one big Delia's catalog or something. She gives gives us this really good iced tea and also some zuccini bread that she apparently baked herself. I'm so into her I can't believe it. I love her laugh and the way she talks. Finally we leave, with me saying over and over again that we should hang out. She agrees and for a minute I don't know if she's just saying that. Nick and I take DP and go over to JC and my place to get the mail and stuff. We pull into the parking garage and get out, bringing the dog with us. That's when I notice my car. One of my windows is smashed, and someone keyed the side so that it says 'whore!'. I just stare for a good five minutes in silence and then I totally break down and start to cry. "What?" Nick asks, alarmed, before he notices. "Omigod," he breaths and lets me fall into his arms. It is so like me to get so upset over something like this. He kind of picks me up and carries me upstairs, with DP following happily. He puts me on the couch and leaves. I don't know where he went, but he is only gone a few minutes. I calm down a little and look at him. "It looks pretty bad," he says. "That one window's totally gone and there's a crack in the windshield." He throws something on the table. "Whats that?" I ask, wiping my face. "It looks like a voodoo doll or something," he says. "A VOODOO DOLL? What the hell is she DOING?" He looks at me. "You think that was Mandy?" "Um, YEAH!" I say and remember that I didn't tell him about our one little run-in. I fill him in and he just sits down at the table and holds his head. "And now she's trying to act all like she's some SHAMAN or something with a VOODOO DOLL? Where the hell did this girl come from?" He shrugs a little and looks about five years older than he did an hour ago. "She likes stuff like that. She's the one who got me listening to Cradle of Filth and reading Anne Rice books and stuff." I picture my car in my head again and can't help but start crying. Nick takes a deep breath and gets on the phone. "Don't CALL her!" I yell out. "I'm not," he says. "I'm calling the police." I call my mom who is unbelievably excited. But she decides that she wants to come to L.A. to meet up with us. I’m bummed, because I really wanted to be away from the tour for awhile. But I thik that her and my dad just really want to meet Justin. I just hope that they like him. I tell Justin who automatically makes a weird face. He’s never met my parents before. “So,” I say. “Not a good idea?” “It’s fine,” he says, a little too quickly. “I’m just nervous to meet them.”“Well, I’m sure they’re nervous to meet you, too,” I tell him. “But they’re excited too.”“Are they coming to a show?” he asks. “Of course,” I tell him. “Even though my mom’s already been to two of your shows.”“She has?” he asks. “When?”Oops...I always forget that Justin doesn’t know how big of a fan I was in the pre-Orlando days. But there’s no way I’m getting out of it now. “I have a confession to make,” I say. “I went to see you guys in concert 3 times before I met you.”“Really?” Justin says, and I can tell he can’t decide how to react. Then his face suddenly lights up like he decided it was a good thing and he says, “That’s really cool.” Like he’s surprised someone like me would be a fan. “It is?” I ask tentatively. “Well, yeah,” he say. “Why wouldn’t it be?” “I just didn’t want you to think I was a stalker or anything.”“I mean, it’s kind of weird to think about,” he says. “But it’s a little late now. It’s not like it’s going to change things between us.”I just smile radiantly at him. He really is perfect. I call you from the plane to check on DP, but I can tell something is wrong the minute you pick up the phone. “I can’t really talk right now,” you tell me. “Are you okay?” I ask. “Not really,” you say, and then tell me about the damage to your car and the voo doo dolls and stuff. “Oh my God,” I gasp, while Justin, who has been sitting there looking out the window, looks at me with concern on his face. “What are you going to do?” “We’re waiting for the police right now,” you almost start crying just thinking about it. “Do you want me to come home?” I ask, looking at Justin who nods. “No thanks,” you say. “Nick’s here. Are you going to see your parents?” “They’re coming to LA,” I sigh. “Wow,” you say. “They want to meet Justin,” I explain. “Well, I have to go,” you tell me. “The police just got here.” “Okay, babe,” I say. “I’m so sorry. I’ll be home in a week.”“I love you,” you say. “I love you, too.” I sigh and hang up the phone. Then I just start to cry. Justin is completely bewildered, but takes me in his arms and rubs my back. “What’s wrong, baby?” he asks. I tell him about your Mandy issues. “Jesus,” he mutters. “Is Roxanne all right?” “I guess,” I say. “I don’t know. I’m just tired and emotional from being on tour and living on no sleep. And I feel so helpless because I’m so far away from Roxanne.” “I’m sorry,” he says. “I feel responsible for this.” “Why?” I ask, smiling through my tears. “Did you tell Mandy to smash Roxanne’s window?”“Well...” he says, smiling. “But seriously, don’t feel bad,” I assure him. “I mean, think about what a mess I’d be if I was sitting around at home without you.”“I guess you’re right,” he says. “We’re almost there,” I remind him. “Better get your stuff.” We do the obligatory run through the airport while 10 year olds break our ear drums. We jam into the limos and head to the hotel, where I am planning to go straight to sleep. I stop at the front desk to check the guys in and then head upstairs. Justin’s there waiting for me, wearing only a towel, and as always I just can’t resist him. Unfortunately, the phone rings about 10 minutes later. “Don’t answer it,” Justin pants.“I have to,” I groan (okay, that sounded dirty, but it wasn’t supposed to be.) “It might be important.” I pick it up and say “hello?” “Hi!” a cheery voice says to me. “Mom?” “I’m downstairs,” she says like I should’ve been expecting her. “What?” I cry. “What the hell are you doing here? You are three days early!” “That’s a nice greeting,” she pouts. “I decided to come early because I couldn’t wait. Your dad’s meeting up with us this weekend.” “Sorry,” I say, calming down and starting to get dressed. “We’re in room 714. Come on up.” Justin is staring at me. I just shrug my shoulders and tell him to get dressed. I go in the hall and start knocking on doors. I want the rest of the guys to meet my mom, too. But the only one I can find is JC. He obliges me, though, because he’s such a nice guy. (He’s the eighth wonder of the world!) My mom eventually makes it upstairs (my guess is that she had to go to the bathroom on the way, making her take forever), and knocks on the door. I look at Justin, who’s really pale. For someone who’s so famous, it’s pretty funny how intimidated he is by my mother. I open the door and hug her. I want to start crying, because I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed her. “This is Justin,” I say, my voice full of pride. “Nice to meet you,” she says. “You, too,” is all he manages to say. I give him a “look.” I don’t even recognize this person. He’s usually so good at social situations. Hell, he’s good at everything. My mom is kind of nudging me on the shoulder, and I can tell that she wants to meet JC. She’s always had a crush on him. I giggle, and say, “And this is JC.” “Hi!” he says. “It’s so nice to finally meet you. Kristin’s told me so much about you.” I swear to God my mom actually blushes. Who would’ve known that JC is actually the suave one?We decide to go get something to eat in the hotel restaurant. My mom’s eyes are wide as saucers when she sees that we can’t go anywhere without the massive black body guards. We make it there without getting attacked by fans, and sit down. My mom and JC are having a full on conversation. It’s kind of scaring me how well they’re hitting it off. JC is such a geek. And poor Justin is feeling so left out. He’s trying to be cheerful, but I can tell that he’s feeing insecure. I finally tell my mom that we’re exhausted from jet lag, and she goes along with it. Justin and I go back to our room, but I wasn’t lying to my mom. I’m exhausted. We lay down to sleep, but Justin keeps tossing and turning. “What’s the matter, baby?” I ask him. “Your mom hates me,” he says, though I can barely hear him, because he’s talking with his face in his pillow. “She does not!” I say. “She likes JC better,” he whines. “You are such a baby,” I say, kissing the back of his neck. “Once she gets to know you, she’ll love you as much as I do.” “I hope so,” he says, lifting his head up. I just hold him until he falls back asleep. It’s hard not to forget that he’s still just a kid, really. The next morning, I go to have breakfast with my mom. We’re looking at our menus when she suddenly gasps. “Kristin, is that an engagement ring?” She says it so loud that the entire restaurant looks up. “Shh...” I say. “No, it’s a promise ring.”“From whom?” she asks. “From my boyfriend, Justin,” I tell her. “Duh.” “So you two are pretty serious. How come you don’t date JC?” she asks. “He is such a great guy.” “I know he’s great,” I say, starting to get angry. “But he’s not Justin. I love Justin.” “Justin’s nice,” she says, but she’s not trying very hard. “He was nervous to meet you,” I tell her. “He is the most amazing guy ever. I promise that you’ll think that, too when you get to know him.”“I’m sure you’re right,” she says, patting my hand. I halfway think she’s relieved because she wants JC to herself. :) After breakfast, we run into the guys in the lobby. I introduce my mom to the guys, and they all charm her in their own way. I can tell that she’s loving being around them. Justin still isn’t comfortable around her, though. My heart is aching for him, because he’s trying so hard, and I know it’s upsetting him. “Are you going to hang out with us today, baby?” I ask him. “Later probably,” he says. “I’m going to play basketball with Chris right now, though. Let’s meet up in our room this afternoon.” “Okay,” I say, kissing him on the cheek. “Have fun!” They head out, bodyguards in tow. “What are we doing today?” I ask, turning to my mom. “Shopping!” she announces. “Okay,” I laugh at her enthusiasm. “We’ll have to hit rodeo drive. We can take a limo.” I’m starting to get excited at the prospect of causing some trouble with the mom, but then she does something totally unexpected. “Why don’t you come with us JC?” I tense up, hoping he says no. “Sure!” he says, way too excited to be hanging out with me and my mom. I just try to relax, and figure that he can probably get us into some stores we wouldn’t have gotten into by ourselves. We end up having a really good time. JC has excellent taste, and helps me pick out some cute outfits. And he even buys my mom a scarf. I can tell that she is way impressed with him. I wish he wasn’t such parent-loving material. But, then again, I would’ve sworn that Justin would be, but things aren’t turning out the way I planned. When we get back, Justin is waiting for us. I realize how late it is, and instantly feel bad. “Have you been waiting long?” I ask. “Just an hour or so,” he says, trying to be diplomatic. I can tell he’s irritated. “JC went with you?” “Um, yeah,” I say, giving him a look that says I’ll explain when my mom and JC are out of earshot. Justin’s face kind of falls. Just another setback in the war against the mom monster. You are at Nick’s house, anxiously listening to the radio. There’s a hurricane watch out for Florida, and you are scared. Mandy is nothing compared to this. Nick is at the store buying bottled water, batteries, cans of pork and beans and stuff like that, and you just hope he gets back soon. You are really freaking out. It occurs to you that you should have someone check on me & Justin’s house, but you don’t know any of the neighbors anymore, and you refuse to leave the house. Finally, Nick makes it home. You don’t talk much, because you’re too scared to bother with pointless conversation. You decide you better call me and let me know what’s going on. “How are things going?” you ask when you get a hold of me. “Not good,” I sigh. “How bout you?”“I’ve got some not so good news,” you say. “What?” I am instantly frightened. I can tell by your voice that all is not right with the world. “There’s a hurricane that’s supposed to hit here tonight or tomorrow.”“Oh my God,” I cry. “How bad?”“They don’t know,” you say. “But I thought you’d like to know. Do you have a landlord who can take care of the house or anything?”“No,” I say, my voice shaky. “But we’ll have Justin’s step-dad check on it. Are you guys all right?” “We’re fine,” you assure me. “We’ve always got each other.” You are trying to lighten the mood, but it’s a tough job. “Be careful,” I warn. “God...I wish I was there with you.”“No you don’t,” you say honestly. “I kind of wish I’d come to L.A.”“You wouldn’t want to be away from Nick,” I remind you. “Yeah,” you say, looking at him trying to figure out how his kerosene lantern works and smiling. He’s too cute. “Keep me informed, okay?” I say. “I love you.”“I love you, too.” You hang up. Then you run over and hug Nick. You need him to make you feel safe or else you’re just going to lose it. I tell everyone the news, and we all start making arrangements to have our residences checked on. Everyone on tour has a home in Florida, something I never thought about before. People get pretty quiet, and no one goes out and parties like they planned to. N Sync is supposed to be on Leno tonight, so they somberly get ready, even though they don’t much feel up to it. I take my mom out to dinner, but I’m not very good company. “Why don’t you go home?” she asks me. “We can’t,” I say. “We have obligations.”“I’m not talking about a ‘we’ here,” she tells me. “Why can’t YOU go home?” “Because,” I say, talking to her like she’s a little kid. “I don’t want to leave Justin.” “Okay,” she says. I think she’s skeptical about our whole relationship. Like it’s not really that good or something. I’ve had it, so I just get up and walk out, and go back to my hotel room. This is so typical of us. We haven’t seen each other in months, and we’re fighting. But my priorities have changed. They are my job and Justin now. If she can’t see that, too bad. After the weather has calmed down and doesn't pose such a threat, I leave Nick sleeping and decide to go check out your house and the condo, just to make sure everything is as it should be. I first go over to the condo, but as soon as I'm there I just get kind of depressed. All this Mandy crap is so stupid and I don't feel like being the person to deal with it. Of course we couldn't really prove it was her who had messed with my car, and rather than dragging this on and investigating deeper I just decided to let it go. I'd have to think of someway to get her to leave me alone, but the more I thought about it the more angry I became. Nick really ought to be the one to get her to stay away. So I don't have a car anymore and I'm driving Nick's Durango around. I don't mind driving it or anything, I just feel kind of weird without my own car. It makes me feel kind of vulnerable and I really hate the feeling. I go over to your house, and from the looks of everything outside, nothing is amiss. The yard is slightly wind blown but thats about it. I park the car and get out and go into the house. Everything is, of course, fine, but I feel better now that I checked it out for myself. I grab a Coke out of your fridge and head into the backyard. The hammock is in the swimming pool. I kind of laugh, because I know thats where you guys get it on all the time. I think of all these funny things to say like, "Just thinking about getting in that hammock makes me feel wet." I laugh out loud at myself. I try to fish it out a little but then decide, fuck it. I'll just let you guys deal with it. I go over to look into the yard at the old house just to see it. What I don't expect is what I find--a young guy picking up some random foliage. He notices me before I can act like I'm not checking out his yard. "Hi," he says and he smiles wide. His teeth practically sparkle. "Hi," I say back. I motion to the house. "I use to live there," I say to explain myself. "Really?" he asks, coming over closer to where I am. "It's a great house. I've only been living here a few months." I nod and look away because for one) I don't have anything to say and second) there is some weird guy messing with my yard and third) he's a hottie. I just kind of smile and walk back into the depths of your new yard. I look at my watch and decide it's probably best if I head back over to Nick's before he freaks out on me or something. I go back into your house to pick up some extra food for DP, when I hear some suspicious noises. Instantly frightened, I call, "Who's there?" just in case. The sound stops completely and a shiver goes down my spine. I am about to run outside screaming into the arms of the man who lives in my old house when a voice calls out, "Roxanne? Is that you?" I recognize the voice--it's yours. I walk into the living room where you are lying on the couch and Justin is standing, shirtless, glaring at me. "Hi," I say, surprised to see you both. "Hello, goodbye," Justin says, waving his arms at the door. "What the hell are you guys doing home?" I ask, ignoring the obvious fact that I interupt some prospective intimate times. "We came to make sure everything was okay," you say, sitting up. At least you are fully dressed. "Justin has to go back for two more shows, but then he's home for awhile. They're going to do some more recording." "Oh, wow," I say and smile. "Well, I have your dog." Justin pretends to start weeping over in the corner. Poor boy can't seem to get any lovin' without interuptions. We both just ignore him. "How is he?" you ask. "He's good," I answer, sitting down. "I think he got kind of scared but he was alright. He played with the other schnoggins." We chat for a little while longer about nothing. You say how glad you are to be home and I agree. You ask about my car and I fill you in, even though there is no real news. Justin sits down on the chair in the corner and sighs. I take pity on him and get up to leave. "I'll let you guys get back to whatever it is you have planned," I say. "Call me later and I can swing DP by. Or you can come pick him up or something...Is JC home too?" "No, but he said that you should call him." "Alright," I say and go. Later that week you are waiting for Justin to come home from the airport. You even made him some cookies because they gave you a couple days of work and you didn't know what to do with yourself. You hear the front door open and someone yell, "Honey, I'm home!" but it's not Justin, it's Chris. "Honey, I'm in the kitchen," you say and Chris envelopes you in his arms dramatically. Justin comes up behind him, rolling his eyes and laughing at the same time. Justin kisses you and hugs you. "What smells so good?" he murmers softly. "Is someone baking?" A deep male voice asks and Lance walks into the kitchen. You smile. By Kristin I’m sitting at my desk at my new job. I’m filling in for someone on maternity leave at a law clinic for low income families. It doesn’t pay nearly as much as I was making at TransCon, but Justin makes so much money that we don’t know what to do with it all anyway. Besides, I am so tired of that whole music scene. I’d much rather help people with divorces and child custody. As if on cue, the phone rings. “Baby, it’s Justin. Can you get away from work for awhile?” “I guess,” I tell him. “Are you okay?” “Yeah,” he says. “I just need to talk to you.” “I’ll be right home,” I tell him, praying that I don’t get fired, but at the same time not caring. When I get there, you and all of N Sync are in my living room. “What’s going on?” I ask in total confusion. Justin beckons me over to sit by him and says, “We’re leaving TransCon.” It takes me a little while to fully comprehend what he has said, but I finally understand. “Because of the move to Jive?” “Yeah,” Lance sighs. “Besides, we just need to move on.” “Have you told Lou?” I ask. “No,” Justin tells me. “That’s where you come in. We need you to go over the contracts and make sure that we can do this.”“Oh no,” I immediately say. “I’m done with that. You can hire your own lawyer.”“There is no one else,” JC says, and I can tell he’s serious. “We know that you will look out for our best interests.” “And no one knows TransCon and us better than you,” Chris tells me. “We’ll get lawyers to put their names on the papers so no one knows about your part in it. But we need you.” “Please,” Joey whines with puppy dog eyes. “Damn you all,” I say, but they know I’ll do it. I spend every night after work the next week at the county law library poring over their contracts, going through Florida contract law and looking for loopholes. By the night I figure it out, I can barely see from reading that small print, and not even one of Justin’s famous massages is going to get the crick out of my neck. But I have it. I hope I don’t get disbarred for this conflict of interest, but I figure that since I don’t work for TransCon anymore and since no one knows I’m doing it, it’s okay. I page Justin, and he comes to get me. He brings me a large coke and some KFC biscuits. Hell, it’s the least he could do. The guys have promised to pay me for my services, but I know that I won’t be able to accept any of their money. And Justin’s been paying all of the bills since I quit my job, so that’s kind of payment anyway. On the way home, the DJ starts talking about what’s being called “The Battle of the Boybands.” I try to turn it off, but Justin, ever the masochist, wants to hear what he has to say. All it is is the same old bullshit about how BSB is leaving Jive because they hate N Sync so much. When it’s over, I turn the radio off, and look at Justin. But he’s just staring ahead at the road. I can tell that all of this is really bothering the guys. Besides all the upheaval in their lives, they’re feeling like the ugly step child. And not even the fat checks rolling in from Jive can make them feel otherwise. But you’re feeling the heat more than anyone. At this point, Nick will not even go near N Sync, and you can feel his disappointment with you everytime you want to hang out with them. “Don’t you have any other friends?” Nick asks you one day. “Can’t you stay with your record company?” you quip back. Nick is stung, and he lets you know. “How can you take their side?” “I’m not taking sides,” you tell him. “It’s about right and wrong.” “We obviously don’t agree,” he says. “But I’d appreciate some support.”“I can’t support what’s not right,” you tell him. But part of you knows that you really are taking N Sync’s side. You don’t know why, but you feel this need to defend them. “You can’t support what’s not N Sync,” he tells you angrily. “Oh Nick,” you sigh. “I’m sorry that I’m not enough,” he says quietly. You want to tell him that he’s wrong, and that you guys can work it out. But, he’s not wrong. Things just aren’t the same. It started with the whole thing with Mandy, and him not doing anything about it. This new round of feuding between the BSB and N Sync is just icing on the cake. You don’t think that you and Nick are strong enough to handle it. You can’t live with the constant tension. Something has to give. As you sit on your couch crying and watching Felicity one night, JC comes in the door. You try to wipe your eyes and pretend like you weren’t crying, but he knows you well. “This show’s pretty moving isn’t it?” he asks, coming to sit down next to you. “It’s not Felicity,” you tell him, because you HAVE to tell someone. “Nick?” he asks. “Yeah,” you sniff. “I don’t even feel like I know him anymore.” “It will pass,” he tells you. “That’s the problem,” you tell him. “I don’t care if it does. I just don’t think he’s what I want anymore.”“That’s a big decision,” JC says after recovering from his surprise. None of us knew that things were that bad. “Are you sure you’re prepared to make it?”“I don’t know,” you say, putting your face in your hands and beginning to sob. “I don’t know what to do...” “Please don’t cry,” JC begs, rubbing your back. “I hate to see you like this.”“I can’t help it,” you choke out. “I’m so torn.” “If he makes you like this, he’s not good for you,” JC announces boldly. You look up. “Do you think so?” Maybe all along you knew what you wanted, but you needed someone else to tell you it was okay -- to give you strength. “Yeah,” he says. “I do.” When he says this, scenes from all the different phases in your relationship with Nick flash in your mind, sort of like when you die and your life flashes before your eyes. You think about the good times, and there were plenty of them. But, you also think about how many times he hurt you and wasn’t there when you needed him and how there was always some part of your heart that wasn’t in it. Something was always holding you back, something was always telling you that it wouldn’t last. You are grateful for the time you spent with him, but N Sync aren’t the only ones who need to move to a new phase in their lives. You are suddenly revived, having had a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. Of course you’re really sad, but you are glad to have finally made a decision. You know that this is what’s best, even if it might kill you. You decide that you need to tell Nick now, or you’ll never go through with it. And, for some weird reason, you feel this desire to look really good when you do it. It’s some pride thing, but you don’t question it. Instead, you go brush your hair and put on mascara and lip gloss (things I made you buy for all the industry parties we have to go to, but that you would never normally wear) and this really cute shirt that you just got. You consider wearing your “Property of N Sync” t-shirt, but finally decide that that not even Satan would do something that evil. JC is on the phone when you come out of your room but he hangs up right away. “Good luck,” he says, giving you a supportive hug. “Thanks,” you say, smiling, but really wanting to cry. Instead of walking into Nick’s house like you always do, you ring the doorbell. He comes to the door, and you can tell by the look on his face that he knows what’s up. He doesn’t say anything, but stands aside so you can walk inside. You sit on the couch, and he sits on a chair facing you, but looking somewhere else. “I assume that you know why I’m here,” you say. “Yeah,” is all he gives you. The bastard is going to make you do all the work. “This has been coming for a while,” you say quietly. “And I think it’s better if we end it before we end up hating each other.” “Okay,” he says. “But I love you,” you tell him. “And I would do it over again.”“Me, too,” he says, in a more gentle voice than he’s been using. He looks pretty emotional, and you can’t really look at him, so you look at his cabinet of beanie babies and remember the night he put them all around you guys on the bed. You get up and go to sit on his lap. You lay your head on his shoulder, and you both cry for awhile. When you’re pretty sure that he’s lost all feeling in his legs, you kiss him a couple of times and then get up, but he grabs your hand. “I’m sorry, Roxanne,” he says. “So am I,” you tell him. He looks so much like a little kid that lost his mom at K Mart that you just want to die right there on the spot. He stands up and hugs you, and then you guys start kissing, and then you somehow end up having sex. But you figure that it’s okay...spending one last night together because you’ll never be able to do it again. You don’t sleep there, though. You get dressed and get some stuff that you’d left over there, and he walks you to your car. You kiss him on the cheek and drive away, crying the whole way home. By Roxanne I lie in my bed, staring out the window. It is sunny outside, and its days like this I hate Orlando. It doesn't fit my mood at all. I put my head in my hands but I'm all cried out. I just feel relatively empty. But when I think of Nick, I don't feel like I should be with him either. I just feel like I have no idea where I should be. JC knocks on my door and asks me if I'm okay. I just say yeah so he goes away. An hour or so goes by. I listen to a little depressing music. JC knocks on my door again and asks if I want anything to eat or anything. I say no thanks so he goes away. I lie in bed for awhile with my blankets. They are so nice and warm. The air conditioner is on in the apartment. There is another knock on the door and I am about to tell JC I am fine when it cracks slightly and Justin peeks in. "Hey," he says. "How you holdin' up?" "I'm doing fine," I say but I kind of start to cry as soon as I see him. "Aww shit Pana," he says, coming in the room and closing the door behind him. He sits with me on the bed and holds me in his arms while I weep. "It'll be okay," he whispers softly into my hair. I wipe my eyes a little. I look up at Justin who is gazing at me softly. He brushes some hair out of my face and smiles. I lean towards him a little and our lips meet, very gently. I close my eyes and breath in. I stop, knowing that I should stop and doing it. But Justin leans in this time and kisses me, harder than the initial contact. I push him slightly, not breaking the kiss. He follows my lead and lays down on the bed, putting his strong arms around me to pull me down with him. He nibbles a little on my ear as my hands reach down and start unbuttoning his shirt in a hurry. I pull it off and sigh at the site of him. Wife beaters...ain't nothin' wrong with that. He takes my head in his hands again and kisses me hard, his big wet tongue invading my mouth. "Oh Roxanne," he murmurs quietly in a low growl. We kiss again and I manage to get him completely shirtless. "Roxanne..." he says again. "Roxanne." "Roxanne," Justin's voice is saying softly. "Wake up." I open my eyes and see him sitting at the edge of my bed. I practically fly across the room, knocking over a lava lamp. I just stare at him, wide eyed. He's looking at my like I am insane, which I probably am. "I didn't mean to scare you," he says, standing up. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay." I let out a deep breath I hadn't realized I was holding. I stare at him for awhile longer. There aren't even buttons on his shirt. "Hi," I finally manage to say, dumbfounded, slowly slinking back on the bed. He smiles supportively. "You feeling okay?" "Yeah, I'm fine," I kind of mumble, getting under the blankets to shield myself from the power of Justin's body I hadn't realized existed until just now. He sighs heavily and looks at me and for a minute I think he really is going to kiss me. My heart stops beating. My eyes go wide. "Roxanne," he says softly. "I'm really sorry about all this." He kind of looks away. "I wish it didn't have to be this way. Just thinking about how this stupid feud broke you guys up makes me feel sick." "It's okay," I say quietly, not yet fully recovered. I notice I've been sweating. "It's not anybody's fault. It was just a test I guess...and I guess we failed it." Thinking about it a little I try to stay on top of things, but as soon as the words come out of my mouth I can feel my chin quivering. I just picture Nick's face and I can feel hot tears forming in the corner of my eyes. "It just wasn't meant to be." Justin is just watching me and looking at me. I don't think he's ever seen me cry before. I'm trying not to. "It's so stupid," he says. "None of this is more important than you are. If we could work out some other deal, you know we'd try to." My heart kind of falls and crashes into my stomach. I can feel the heat of some tears slide down my cheeks. "Sure, *N Sync thinks none of this is as important as me, but..." I try to keep going but I know if I talk I will lose it and I'm embarrassed. Justin puts his arms around me and scoots so he is sitting next to me. He lays his head on top of mine. "It's okay," he says reassuringly. "You can cry in front of me." So I do. I sob and hiccup. I get his baby blue polo shirt all wet, but he doesn't seem to mind. He just pats my head repeatedly and rocks me back and forth. "He's a Backstreet Boy," I whisper quietly as I fall asleep in Justin's arms. "She's okay," Justin says, answering your look of query as he walks into the kitchen of JC and my apartment. You just arrived a few minutes ago and JC filled you in. Justin sits down next to you on a stool and sighs. You look at him and all he does is lean and kiss you sweetly. JC is standing behind the counter with a water bottle, looking pretty nervous. "Yeah, she'll be okay," you say, leaning on your arms. You are exhausted from work and had found a note from Justin on the table to come straight over here. You were so freaked out that someone was sick or something that you didn't even change clothes. "Should I make her eat or just leave her alone?" JC asks. "I don't know," you say. "I'm going to go talk to her." "No," Justin says, holding out a hand to stop you. "She's asleep. I just think we should leave her alone." You look at him. "Whats the whole story?" you ask. He just shrugs and sighs again, rubbing his eyes a little. "I don't know," he says. He motions to JC. "He knows more than I do." JC just shrugs. "We talked a little before she went over there. She didn't come home until really late and went straight to bed. I asked her what happened but she just said that they broke up and she didn't want to talk about it. And she never really got up today." You look over at my door. "Does this mean they really are over?" "I think so," Justin answers you slowly, playing absently with a salt shaker. JC sighs. "I don't know what I can do." "There's nothing anybody can do," Justin says, standing up. He turns to you and grabs your hand. "Let's go home." You nod and say goobye to JC who walks you to the door. Justin holds your hand tight as you walk down the hallway. "That would never happen to us," he says and you look at him and see how dead serious he is. "I know baby," you tell him. "I know it." He pulls you in and hugs you tighter than ever. "I love you, you know," he says into your ear. "I love you too," you say back, feeling safe in his arms. "I'd never let that happen to us," he says again, not letting go. "I know you wouldn't." You answer. "I love you." "You are more important to me than anything," he says, kissing your forehead. You smile up at him but his eyes are closed. His face is a little red. "Let's go home," you say, kissing him on the lips. He opens his eyes and then wipes the beginings of tears that started to form. "Okay baby," he says, not letting go of your hand. At 2 o'clock in the morning I am awake because I slept almost all day long. I am sitting on my bed with my shoes on and car keys in hand, because twenty minutes ago I had decided to go to Nick's house and beg for him. But that was twenty minutes ago, and this is now. I'm staring out the window, completely lost. I have The Perfect Fan stuck in my head and I can think of nothing but the Backstreet Boys. I curse this break up. I give everything up for *N Sync, and what happens? I am tortured with Brian Littrell's gospel anthem to his mother. I am lonely. I know JC is asleep in the other room but I don't want to wake him up. I don't even really want to talk about Nick. In fact, I really don't want to talk about him at all. I do the math and start making calls to friends in Seattle. I chat with them about dorky stuff, but feel relatively weird as I do. I feel like I am acting like a different person. And I wonder if I really am a different person, or if I just can't be normal right now. I pick the phone up and stare at it, trying to think of someone local to call when it really gets to be too late even for the west coast. I can't think of anybody. I want to call Justin. I almost call Joey, but then don't. I feel like he would be pretty fun to be with and not make me talk about things, but he is probably out or with a girl. I turn off the lights and take off my shoes, climbing back into bed and willing myself to sleep. It doesn't work at all, and in a moment of weakness I get out Millennium and put it on. I tell myself I am only going to listen to The Perfect Fan to get it out of my head, but as soon as the record starts I can't really move. I listen to most of it motionless, breathing slowly like a dead person...except that dead people don't breathe at all so that simile makes absolutely no sense. When Heaven In Your Eyes or whatever the fuck they call it these days comes on, I suck in one long deep breath and decide I am going to hold it until I die or pass out, whichever comes first, both serving the same purpose. But I don't have to do either. I hear my bedroom door open, and watch as a shadow of a body moves through my room, turning off the music. It hovers over me for a moment in the new silence and then comes close, sliding underneath the blankets and next to me in one swift movement. "For someone who sings love songs so well, he sure doesn't get it," I say. I mean it to be sarcastic and relatively entertaining, but it comes out more as a sad realization of the truth. Arms and hands move and hold me close. Just as tightly as I need to be held. I sigh and rest my broken heart as JC quietly hums into my ear. "Come to bed," you say, your voice so hoarse is surprises even you. You had been asleep, but when you woke up and noticed Justin wasn't in bed, you decided to find him. "I'll be there in a minute," he says, waving you away. You stand in the doorway to the study, leaning against the jam. "No baby, come now," you tell him, advancing into the room. He looks at you and smiles a little. You sit down on his lap. He has been staying up pretty late worrying about all this record company stuff a lot lately, and you know he takes part of the blame for the break up between Nick and me. You put one arm around his neck and try to massage it a little. He closes his eyes but doesn't relax. You kiss his cheek. You feel his forehead. "Come back to bed," you tell him again, in a softer voice this time. He moves you so you are in a more comfortable position on his lap and facing the desk. "What's this?" you ask, looking down at what he is working on. "Just something I've been playing with when I can't sleep," he mumbles into your back as he is kissing all over your neck and shoulders. You run your hands over the large posterboard that spans almost the whole desk. Covering it are thousands of pictures: pictures of you, of you and Justin, of you and Justin and me, of you and Justin and me and the rest of *N Sync. A grand collage. Nothing but the top and bottom left hand corners are not completely full. There are pictures scattered all around the rest of the desk and the floor. Three glue sticks and a two pairs of scizzors. "It's amazing," you say, examining it more closely. "It's incredible." Your eyes run slowly over the whole thing, pausing for a moment at the prom picture which lay in the center. "How long have you been working on this?" "Awhile," he says roughly into your ear, kissing your neck again and rubbing his hands over your thighs. "I was making it for you." "Aww," you say and you really mean it. You turn around and kiss him. "I love it." "Kristin," he says, his voice shaking slightly. "Kristin, can I ask you something?" "Sure baby," you say, leaning your head on his chest. "I want you to look at me when I say this," he says to you in a whisper. You sit up a little and look at him. He swallows and looks you in the eye. "Kristin," he says, still whispering. "Will you marry me?" You smile a little. "Sure," you say, not taking him completely serious. You want to marry him someday. "No," he says, sensing your mood and shaking his head. He puts one arm around your waste to hold you to him and leans forward, his other hand resting on the handle to a drawer. He hesitates there for a moment and then retreats. You kind of look at him and wait for him to do something, but he just sits there, staring off into space. "Let's go to bed," you say, getting up and pulling him behind you. He follows willingly, glancing at the unopened drawer a moment before flicking the lights off in the room. By Kristin I made a big mistake agreeing to babysit Justin’s baby brother, Stephen. Being from half of the same gene pool as Justin, he is, of course, the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. He’s only about 14 months old, but he’s walking and even saying a few words. But mostly he’s content to just sit on my lap and play peek-a-boo or have me read to him. The mistake is that being around him is making me want one of my own so bad that I want to cry. And realizing that Justin is young enough to have a one year old brother isn’t helping. I’m kind of irritated with Justin for talking about getting married. I can’t seem to think about much these days besides settling down and having a family, and it’s not fair for Justin to be getting my hopes up. But I can’t believe that he’s serious. He’s just too young to make that kind of committment. I look into Stephen’s precious little face, and actually do start to cry. I hug his little body and hold him close while he giggles. Justin comes in and freaks out when he sees that I’m crying. “Is Stephen all right? Are you all right?” “We’re fine,” I reassure him. “Babies just make me a little emotional.”He smiles at me, and I hand Stephen to him. I want to start crying even more when I see how good Justin is with him. How can I not imagine what it would be like to have one of our own? What would I think if I knew Justin was thinking the same thing? Neither of us wants to bring the idea up, because we think the other one doesn’t want it. It’s silly, but it’s a pride thing. Neither of us wants to go out on that limb just to be dismissed by the one we love. I excuse myself for a minute to go call you. “How are you doing?” I ask. You glance at JC who is in the kitchen making an omlette, and say, “Better. What’s up?”“Not much,” I tell you. “We’re babysitting Justin’s brother.”“The baby?” you squeal. “I bet he’s precious.”“Well, he IS related to Justin,” I laugh. I debate whether or not to tell you about my dilemma, but I decide to save it. You’ve got enough on your mind. “You’re out of bed. That’s a good sign, right?” “I’ll be fine,” you tell me. “But I’m still pretty sad.” “Wanna come over and play with Stephen?” “Maybe later,” you tell me. “I have to shower and stuff first.” You don’t really want to see me. You’ve been feeling pretty weird about me ever since you had that dream about Justin. “Okay,” I say. “Call me later.” I walk back into the living room where Justin is throwing Stephen up in the air and catching him while DP jumps around at his feet. I can’t help but smile - this is what I imagine heaven to be like. “Ju,” I say. “Stephen needs a nap.” I get his bottle out of the fridge and Justin carries him upstairs. We put him in the middle of our bed and lay down on either side of him. Justin sings to him until he falls asleep. I just lay there alternately staring at Justin and Stephen. “You’re really good with him,” Justin tells me. “I adore him,” I gush. We’re both silent for awhile when Justin says. “Do you want one?”“Of course,” I tell him. “When?” he asks. “I don’t know,” I say avoiding his gaze. What am I supposed to do? Say, “Let’s go put Stephen in the other room and make one right now”? “What do YOU want?” I ask Justin. “I just wanna be with you,” he sings while I laugh. “Girl, that’s all I want to do.” “Seriously, though,” I urge. “I want to have kids,” he says. “But my job means I can’t right now. It’s kind of frustrating.” I think about how he quit N Sync when he thought I was pregnant, and smile. But I’m surprised at the fact that he is telling me that he wants kids so soon. “So does that mean you were serious last night when you asked me to marry you?” “Kristin,” he says, looking right into my eyes. “I wouldn’t joke about that.”“We can’t get married,” I tell him. He doesn’t say anything for a minute. Then he says, “Why?” in a weak voice. “You’re a member of N Sync,” I state. “And no matter how much we want it, we have to wait.”“But you want to?” he asks hopefully. “God, Justin,” I say. “It’s all I want.”He smiles and reaches over the sleeping baby to kiss me. “Me, too,” he says. “I mean, we are eventually going to get married, right?” I ask. “I hope so,” he says, touching my cheek.“I love you,” I yawn, and lay back on the bed. “I love you, too,” he whispers, and we fall asleep with Baby Stephen sleeping soundly between us. As you sit at your kitchen table and eat with JC, you smile at him and think about how amazing he is. You wonder why the two of you never got together. But, even now when you think about it, you aren’t really attracted to him in that way. Of course, you just broke up with your boyfriend, so you’re not exactly attracted to anyone right now. (Well, besides Justin, but that’s another story entirely.) But, even so, you like how things are with you and JC. He is the perfect roommate. Hell, your dreams came true because of him, right?Your silent reverie is broken by a phone call. It’s me again. “Wanna go get some coffee?” I ask you. “What about the baby?” you say, trying to avoid me. “Lisa came and picked him up,” I explain. “Oh,” you say, cursing in your head. “Please Pana,” I whine. “I miss you.”“Oh, all right,” you give in. “I love you,” I sing into the phone, but I hang up before you can respond. I come to pick you up in my Jetta, and we hit Starbucks. We chat idly about JC’s cooking and Stephen. I don’t bring up Nick, because I know you don’t want to talk about it. The wounds are still a little too fresh. I’m also not wanting to talk with you about how in love I am with Justin, but I’m glowing and you can see it. “What’s got you in such a good mood?” you ask. “Probably just Ju’s brother or something,” I say, trying to act nonchalant. “C’mon,” you say. “Did you get a job offer or something?” “No,” I tell you. “Honestly, I haven’t even been looking. I’d be happy to stay at home, really.” You just kind of look at me, trying to figure out who exactly you’re talking to. What happened to career-minded, independent Kristin? “Really?” you ask. “Well, I’m not quitting or anything, but we’ll see what happens when Joan comes back from Maternity leave,” I say. “Um, don’t you have to have a job to support yourself?” you ask me like I’ve completely lost my mind (which I have.) “Justin doesn’t mind,” I say, sipping my coffee. “Do you want to go to a movie?” “Justin doesn’t mind,” you repeat. “Are you guys married or something and didn’t tell me?” You’re totally joking, but you see a look cross my face. “What?!” you practically yell. “What aren’t you telling me?” “Nothing,” I say, which is true. I mean, no decisions have been made or anything. “I’ve just been thinking a lot about settling down and that kind of thing.” “Since when?” you ask. You’re surprised at how interested you are in what I’m saying. But it’s a huge change for me. “For awhile,” I say. “I mean, I’m just getting to the “biological clock” age. Besides, it’s hard not to when I wake up with Justin everyday. I want to do it forever.” I catch a glance of the look on your face when I say this, and wish I could take it back. “Oh God, Roxanne. I’m sorry. That was so insensitive.” “No, it’s okay,” you tell me. “I don’t want you to not be able to talk about things with me.” But part of you wishes I hadn’t said it. “I guess we should go,” I say. Once again, I’ve put my foot in my mouth. “I’m really sorry.” “It’s okay, I swear,” you say, and you mean it. It’s just that being around me is hard, because, in a way, you gave Nick up for me, too. You don’t begrudge my relationship with Justin at all. You just don’t want to be reminded of your recent loss. When you’re getting out of my car, I stop you. “Pana,” I say. “Yeah?”“I love you,” I tell you. “You mean the world to me. Please tell me if I can do anything for you, okay?” “I love you, too,” you smile. “And I will.” But right now you just want to crawl in your bed with JC and forget about the rest of the world. By Kristin Being Chris’ birthday and all, we decide to go out clubbing. Everyone meets at my house, because it’s close to downtown, and we have cake and sing and Chris opens presents. The guys all pitched in to get him some new turntables, but you and I don’t exactly have as much money as they do so we got him some vinyl albums to go with the turntables. (Rich and famous people are SO hard to buy for!) The only reason our present is cooler is that the turntables still have to be delivered, but the albums are actually there to be unwrapped. Besides, Chris would love anything we give him. He’s awesome. As soon as the last present is unwrapped, and I’m done picking up all the wrapping paper and ribbons so DP doesn’t get into them, Chris yells “Let’s get drunk!!!” Justin busts out a huge bottle of tequila (you know the kind that’s so big that it needs a handle?), and the guys start doing shots. You and I just roll our eyes at each other, knowing that this is going be one seriously wild night. In truth, you don’t actually want to be there. You feel much more comfortable sitting in your bed moping. Or at least watching TV or playing checkers with JC. Anything besides going out. Britney shows up and starts doing shots, too, so you and I hop in. We figure that we’re stuck with these guys all night, so we might as well make the most of it. Shit, if Lance AND JC are doing shots, we better be doing them too. It’s too momentous of an occasion to miss out on it. You’re kind of impressed with how much Lance is drinking, and he’s looking strangely cute to you until you remember that he probably learned how to drink like that from Topenga, and push the thought out of your mind. Unfortunately, we get a tad bit drunker than we meant to. But, then again, when do we not? Besides, there’s no way we’ll ever get as drunk as Chris and Justin somehow managed to get. A limo shows up to take us all out, and we find a way to get all eight of us inside. Chris keeps asking to sit up front with the driver, but we all ignore him. Having a birthday doesn’t automatically make you less annoying. Being drunk, Justin and I are hanging all over each other, and it’s making you want to puke, especially because of your recent issues with your love life. You keep looking at Britney to get support, but she’s too busy laughing her ass off at Joey to notice you. Your buzz is starting to wear off when you think, “Fuck Nick Carter! I’m going to have fun!” And you start laughing too. We get to the first club, and walk in like we own the place. THIS is why we hang out with famous people. Of course, the first people we run into is Innosense. I give Chris a “look” because I know it was him that invited the sluts. But you are obsessed with Nikki, so you don’t care. I get over it pretty quick, and drag Justin to the dance floor like always. We’re having an awesome time, just dancing our asses off. But all of a sudden I spot something and stop. Magically, my buzz has disappeared. Not only is Nick Carter in the same building as N Sync, but he’s there with a voluptuous blond. I quickly scan the room for you, hoping that you’re not seeing the same thing as I am, but I can’t find you. I go into panic mode, thinking that I have to get you out of there ASAP. Justin is still trying to dance with me, and he’s starting to get mad. “What’s wrong baby?” he says, trying to focus on my face, but being unsuccessful. “Look,” I whisper, pointing to Nick and the mysterious girl. Justin turns around, and says, “Shit. Where’s Roxanne?” in a random moment of clarity. “I don’t know,” I say. I’m pretty sure that I’m about to cry. I am too drunk to decide what to do. Meanwhile, not feeling much like dancing, you’re at the bar with Lance having a drink and watching the festivities. You’re looking for Chris, trying to see if he’s having a fun birthday, but what you see isn’t what you were looking for. I am on my way over to find you, but I’m too late. You’ve seen Nick. At first, you’re sure you’re going to throw up right there on the bar. Of course, as soon as you vow to not let Nick ruin your life, he hits you with something you never expected, and ruins your whole new outlook on the situation. Just as your heart was on the mend, he breaks it again. But then your pride takes over, and you decide that you’re not going to let him get to you. Later on you’ll think back on this realize that you could never have done anything stupider, but at the time it seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. You grab Lance, and pull him out to the dance floor. As if planned by fate, the DJ has taken a break, and is playing a ballad. Lance has no idea what’s going on, and is into the idea of dancing. You hold him as close as possible, and lay your head on his shoulder in a way so that you can keep an eye on what Nick is doing. He isn’t seeing you, but instead is laughing at something his “date” is saying. This makes you want revenge even more. You maneuver you and Lance to within Nick’s range of sight, and Nick finally sees you. He makes a weird face, and before you know what you’re doing, you start kissing Lance. And we’re not talking some little peck, either. You’re going to town. To put it another way, you’ve completely lost your mind. Lance starts to pull away, but something about being drunk and on the dance floor is making a normally ridiculous situation seem perfectly ordinary to him, and he kisses you back. Nick sees this, grabs the girl and walks out of the club. You’ve won this battle, but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to feel any better. Justin and I are standing at the bar, our eyes practically popping out of our heads. I mean, it’s you...and...and...LANCE, for he love of God!! Drunk or not, this is NOT what we expected. I just kind of shake my head, wondering how you’re going to feel in the morning. But, it IS Chris’ birthday, so we decide to stay. We each get another drink, because we NEED it, and go back on the dance floor. When a fast song comes on, you look at Lance and what just happened kind of hits you. “I’m sorry,” you whisper. “It’s okay,” he says, and gives you a funny smile. You feel so bad, because he has no idea what just happened, and you think he thinks it means something. You are so in love with Nick still that there’s just no way. And thinking about what a fool you just made of Lance and yourself makes you want to cry. To avoid awkwardness, you just keep dancing with him. Somehow you get through the whole night, and we go home. You’re a little pissed that you had to stay as long as you did, because Chris ended up going home with some girl, and we didn’t even really need to wait for him. You decide to stay at my and Justin’s house, because JC is going to. The limo drops Lance and Joey off first, and when Lance gets out of the limo, he kisses you on the cheek, and you turn bright red. The rest of us pretend not to notice, but it’s a weird moment. As we’re walking up the walkway to the front door, I hang back with you and say “What the hell was THAT?” “I don’t want to talk about it,” you tell me. “I just want to forget it ever happened.”“Okay,” I say. “But, it’s not going to go away, I can guarantee that.” What can I say? I’m bitchy when I’m drunk. JC on the other hand is a little more concerned. As you make yourselves comfortable on our hide-a-bed, he says, “What happened tonight?” “You saw Nick, right?” you ask. “I’m so sorry, Sweetie,” is all JC says. “I just can’t believe it!” you groan. “How did he already find someone else?” “I don’t know,” JC says. “I’m sure there’s an explanation.” “She was beautiful!” you yell. You’re still a bit tipsy. “I don’t really want to bring this up,” JC begins. “But, what was that with Lance?”“Oh God,” you sigh. “I can’t believe I did that! Poor Lance.”“Did Nick see it?”“Yeah,” you say. You’re a tiny bit satisfied by that fact, but it pales in comparison to how wrong you feel about the whole thing. “Did it work?” JC grins. “I guess,” you say. “I mean, he left as soon as he saw it. But he left with HER. And I still have Lance to deal with.” “It’ll all work out,” JC says with a yawn. “I hope so,” you say, curling up next to him. You suddenly feel extremely tired, and you fall right to sleep. I have to go to work the next day, and halfway through the morning, I get a phone call. “Family Law Clinic,” I answer. “Kristin, this is Nick,” I hear on the other end. I’m struck speechless for a moment, but then I say, “You have a lot of nerve.” “Please, just hear me out,” he says. “Why don’t you get some cajones and call Roxanne yourself,” I snap. “I tried,” he says, and I feel a little dumb. “But she’s not home.” I kick myself, remembering that you’re still asleep on MY couch. “You have one minute,” I say. I’m not feeling nice today. “Can you just tell her that I don’t even know that girl that I was with,” he says. When I don’t respond, he continues. “She’s some model that LeighAnne set me up with to try to get me to stop moping. But I didn’t even like her. I just dropped her off at home. Nothing even happened--”“Enough!” I practically yell. I’ve had it up to here with his rambling. “I will tell Roxanne what you said, but I’m not pleading your case. I don’t necessarily believe what you’re saying, and if you’re lying, I will hunt you down like a dog. Capiche?” “I got it,” Nick says quietly. After I get off the phone, I feel kind of bad. I’m actually pretty sure he IS telling the truth. But I am too busy and my job is too stressful to deal with him and his excuses at ten in the morning. Youknowwhatimsayin’? You wake up around noon to voices in the kitchen. JC and Justin are in there looking hung over as hell, and drinking mass amounts of coffee. JC pours you a cup and you sit down at the table. They are talking, but you’re not listening. You are going over and over in your head what happened last night. You dreamt about Lance all night, which is weird. You even woke up at one point and thought JC was Lance and that you’d gone home with him. While it freaked you out, the thing that really frightened you is that you didn’t really mind the thought. You shake your head as if to try to get the thought to leave your mind, and Justin looks at you like you’re crazy. “Are you okay?” he asks. “Yeah,” you mutter. “JC, can we go home?” I Need Lance, You Need Lance JC and I get home and he starts moaning about his stomach. I feel pretty bad myself. He goes and sits in front of the TV like a vegetable, flipping between Supermarket Sweep and reruns of The Facts Of Life. I decide I can't handle it and take a shower, feeling instantly better after I'm out. I get dressed and go into the kitchen to get some orange juice. JC is still on the couch, watching Rockford Files. I'm hungry, but there is no food in the house. I know I should go to the store but I am way lazier than that. I flop down next to JC and zone out in TV land for awhile. The phone rings and I reach for it but JC grabs it first. "Hello?....Oh hey, what's up?...Nothing, probably just hanging out here all day....yeah, attempting to recover...yeah, she's here too. We're just watching TV...Okay, cool....Okay....See you later....Bye." He hung up the phone and kind of looks at me with a weird smile on his face. "What?" I ask. I'm not really in the mood for sideways glances. "Nothing," he says, starting to flip channels again and avoiding my stare. I just sigh and roll my eyes. "Who was that?" I ask. "Lance," he says. "He's going to stop by." "What?" I ask, suddenly outraged. I sit up straight. JC looks at me and pretends to do sign language. "That was Lance...he is going to stop by." I sit back down on the couch. JC is never very supportive when he is hungover. I have no idea what Lance thinks happened last night but I am more embarrassed than I've ever been and the last thing I want to do is see him. I feel like hiding my head in the sand for at least a week. I made a fool of myself in front of Nick, and practically attacked poor Lance. I groan and burry my head in JC's arm. "Why is he coming over?" I whine. JC just shakes his head and kind of chuckles. "Don't ask me, he's your boyfriend," he mutters and I hit him. I try to focus on David the Gnome for a few minutes when I stand up because a) that show sucks and I've always hated it and b) I'm not going to sit around here so Lance can come over and I can feel humiliated. I get up and put on my shoes. "Where are you going?" JC asks me. "Grocery shopping," I tell him and hop on out. I get in my car and I actually see Lance pulling into our building as I'm turning a corner. I decide what I need is to take an extra long time. So instead of going to store we usually go to, I drive quite aways to a nicer supermarket. I'm pretty fucking hungry so I'm thinking I'll go crazy and buy a bunch of awesome shit. If anything makes me happy, it's buying really good food. I'm buying weird chips, crab cakes, some fancy salsa and the good chips. My mood starts lifting like you wouldn't believe. Who needs Nick Carter, I think to myself, when you have ham baguettes? I know I haven't gotten the check from my publisher yet, but it IS supposedly in the mail. I stock up on Chai tea. I buy some lamb flanks. I am rocking fucking out. I'm feeling better than I've felt since the break up. Once I have this thought I picture Nick in my head and my heart feels a little heavy. I think about him with that girl last night. I can't believe he has someone already. But what did I expect? He's a Backstreet Boy...I sigh and decide I need some Little Debbie snack cakes. I turn the corner on aisle 6 and almost bump right into...Brian fucking Littrell. "Oops!" I say. "Sorry!" "No problem," he says but when he sees it's me he kind of starts looking physically sick. "Hi." "Hey," I say quietly, content to just keep forging ahead and acting as if I don't know him. It's what we both are dying to do, so why don't we just do it for the love of God? I don't want to talk to him anymore than he wants to talk to me. "How are you?" he asks. "Fine," I say, looking away because I can't look him in the eye. "How are you?" What kind of small talk are we having here? Whats the point? How AM I? For the love of God we both know how I am. At least he didn't ask me what was up. "I'm okay," he says. "You know, just hoping things get worked out." I stare at him for a minute, wondering if he is talking about Nick and me until I realize, DUH, he's talking about all this goddamn legal bullshit. I don't want to be having this conversation. Aren't I supposed to be the enemy now? If I have to run into a Backstreet Boy ever again in my life, why the hell can't it be AJ McfuckingLean? At least he would just laugh and slap me on the back and ask me if all was well in *N Sync land. "Yeah, I guess thats all everyone is hoping for," I answer weakly. "So," he says, looking away. "I should probably get going." "Yeah," I answer. I suddenly hate Nick for making me feel so weird all the time. I motion down the aisle. "I've got to finish shopping. Lance is waiting for me." Once it comes out of my mouth I feel incredibly stupid because a) Lance isn't waiting for me and b) why I felt the need to imply to Brian that there was something going on is a mystery. "Okay, well, see you," Brian says with an ever weirder look on his face. "See you," I say back, heading down the aisle at a frightening speed. I stop in front of the vitamins and stare at them for awhile. And then all of a sudden I just feel like dying. I can feel the pressure building up behind my eyes and I know I am going to cry. I try to head towards the check out lines but halfway there I just can't take it another second and I leave my cart in the middle of the aisle and run out the door. I get into my car and lay my head on the steering wheel and sob. I hate Nick. I hate the way I feel. I hate the way I miss him. I hate the way he has to have someone else so soon and make me feel so inadequate I can't even move my legs. After I stop crying I start the car and head home but when I get there I see Lance's car and I start crying again because I feel like the single most retarded human being on the planet. I don't want to see another person as long as I live. I turn around and drive over to your house. "Hey," Justin says with a cocky smile on his face until he notices that I'm upset. "What's wrong?" he asks, ushering me into the house. I try to talk but it's hard to because I'm also trying not to cry. Justin keeps asking me what's wrong until finally I open my mouth to try and say something and all that comes out is some kind of sob noise and I'm crying again. He just puts his arms around me and hugs me and tells me repeatedly that it will be okay. I try to talk some more but all that comes out is "Nick..." It's like all of a sudden I really thought about him and being with some other girl. Its one of those moments when you are so upset it doesn't matter if the world ends because I already feel as bad as bad gets. Dying would be an improvement. The only thing that makes me feel remotely better is being so close to Justin and smelling him. I lean into him and let it all out. He tells me I'm going to be fine and kisses the top of my head. The doorbell rings and he kind of hesitates, as if he is wondering if he should answer it or not. But I pull away and he looks at me and I smile a little because I do feel better. I tell him I'm going to go to the bathroom and he goes to the door. I go into the bathroom and sit on the toilet. I stare at myself in the mirror and fake smile to try and see if I can look normal of my crying is still visible. But after staring at myself for awhile I just get realy depressed and start thinking about how beautiful that girl Nick had was. And how it made so much more sense that a Backstreet Boy would be with someone so attractive. Instead of looking normal I just start crying again. I make sure the door to the bathroom is locked and I go sit in the bathtub and weep. I can hear JC and Lance talking to Justin in the kitchen. I stop crying after awhile but I still don't feel like being around people. I just listen to the conversations and think a little. I hear Chris show up. They talk about basketball and Jennifer Lopez's ass. I hear Joey come over and I hear them go outside. About an hour and a half goes by and I hear you come home. I hear you laughing and Joey laughing and I hear splashing in the pool. I cry a little more, but it's not so bad as it was. There's a little knock on the door and I freeze. I knew someone would have to use the bathroom at some point. I don't move for a minute when I hear Justin's voice say quietly, "It's me. Open the door." I climb out of the tub and unlock the door and he comes in and closes it behind him. "You okay?" he asks, looking at me intently. I nod. "Yeah, I'm okay. " I wipe my face a little. He hugs me. "You want to come outside and see everybody?" he asks, still hugging me. "Yeah, in a minute," I tell him and nod a bunch of times. "Okay," he says. He smiles supportively and wipes some hair out of my face. "You're going to be okay," he tells me. "I know it hurts but you're going to be okay." I nod and then he looks at the door. "I'm going to go. Come outside." "Okay," I say, nodding. He smiles again and leaves. I wash my face and brush my hair and go outside. "Rooooooooxannnne," Joey sings when I come outside and I smile at him. He gives me a big wet kiss on my forehead. "But it's my birthday!" Chris is whining to you. "No way!" you tell him. I wonder what he asked you. You come over to me and hug me. "Hey baby girl," you say. "Whats up?" "Not much," I answer, taking the beer Joey hands me as he walks by. You go into the house to look for something to cook for all of us because we are all hungry. I haven't eaten a single morsel of food all day and I can feel it. My stomach is eating itself. "Hi," Lance says in his deep voice, coming up next to me. "Hey," I say looking at him and smiling. We kind of stand there for awhile. I don't know if he's expecting me to say something or if he just doesn't know what to say. I look out and see JC in the pool and Joey and Justin trying to make a pyramid out of empty beer bottles, of which there are already quite a few. Chris jumps in the pool with an inner tube thing around his waist. "Roxanne," Lance starts and all of a sudden I feel like I'm in the seky talking part in Everything I Own. Ya know baby, my love for you will always stay true...I am waiting for him to continue but he doesn't. I look up at him and he's just smiling. He is pretty cute. I feel SO guilty. I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. "I think I'm going to go help K," I tell him. "Okay," he says. I go into the kitchen where you are looking at some frozen hamburger. You look up and see me standing there. "Hey," you say and take in a deep breath, ready to tell me about your phone call from earlier today. You don't know how to ease into to it, so you guess you might as well just let it out. You kind of square yourself and get ready to say it, but I interupt you. "I've been thinking a lot lately about buying my own house," I tell you, moving up towards the counter. A little taken aback, you say nothing. So I continue. "I don't know if I'll really do it. I mean, I like having someone around. But it's just a thought I had. Like, I'm a grown up now. I don't think I can dodge responsibility any longer." You just kind of look at me and then look away because you don't know what to say. You lost your grip and have to recenter yourself. You take some taco mix out of the cupboard. Following your lead, I go into the fridge and get out some lettuce and tomato. "What do you think?" I ask you. You stare straight ahead for awhile and then look as if you are about to say something long before you actually do. "I don't know," you let out finally. "I don't think you should do anything just because you feel like you should. If you're happy where you are, I don't see any reason not to stay there." I nod and get some cheese out of the fridge. "Yeah, you're right," I mumble, getting the cheese grater and a plate. I stop for a minute and then say, "I'm not really happy where I am, am I?" "Well, I wouldn't really know," you answer stirring the simmering meat. You want to tell me a bunch of things. You want to tell me about how Nick called your office today. But there is something inside you holding you back, making you hesitate. It's not that you don't want me to know exactly...you want me to know what Nick told you, you just don't want me to know that he called. I can tell you are acting weird, but I don't know why and it's making me kind of nervous. It just makes me feel disconnected from you, and that throws me off. I sigh and grate the cheese silently. I suddenly don't want to be here at all. I don't want to be here with you acting weird and making me feel like I'm some sort of alien. I don't want to be around Justin because he makes me think naughty thoughts. I keep having these dreams about him. I grate the whole block of cheese before I snap out of my daydreams. "Here," I say, handing the plate to you. "Thanks," you say quietly. You look at me and wonder what the right thing to do is. All you want is for me to be happy...but does that mean I have to be with Nick or without him? You look back down at the goddamn taco meat Chris begged you to make for him. You decide that whatever is right for me isn't something that is your decision and that I have the right to know what you know. You nod to yourself and look up, ready to tell me about your phone call, wondering what it meant. But I'm not there anymore. I'm outside, talking to JC and Lance at the old table from our house. Justin's poor oak picnic table gets neglected for our nice Target lawn furniture. You see all of your friends (or most of them) in the yard having a nice time and you can't help but smile a little. Justin catches your eye and when you see him you smile a lot. He smiles back and starts walking towards the door. "Hi," he says, kissing your forehead and following you as you retreat back into the kitchen. You stir the meat some more and can feel his prescence hovering over you. You smile to yourself. You sigh loudly and turn to him. "What?" he asks. "I really like you," you tell him with a soft kiss. "Well, thats convenient," he says with a laugh, eating a some of the cheese. "I mean, I love you," you say, running your spatula through the beef slowly. You sigh happily. "But I also really really like you." "Well, I like you too," he admits. "Most of the time." You stick your tongue out at him, even though it's his trademark. "Justin," you say. "Nick called me at work today. He just went on about how that girl he was with was nobody....you know." "Why did he call you?" Justin asks, leaning back against the counter and closing his eyes a little. "He said he tried calling Roxanne but she wasn't home." Justin just nods. "I haven't told her yet. I just don't know how to say it. I just don't know if it's important." He starts chopping lettuce. "I mean, it's important. I just don't want this to last longer than it has to...I don't know." He looks at you and nods. "You should tell her though," he says thoughtfully. You nod back and lean in for a nice kiss. You are so relieved to have Justin with you, around you, on your side. Not just for support, but for company. You take a deep breath of him in and turn off the burner. You go outside. "Where's Roxanne?" you ask Joey, who is sitting in a chair watching Chris and JC in the pool. "Her and Lance left. Said they weren't hungry." "So, where to?" Lance asks, driving aimlessly around town in his 4-Runner while I sit shotgun. "I don't care," I answer truthfully, staring out the window for awhile before going back to pouring through his book of CDs. I steal a glance at Lance and notice he is looking at me and for a minute I feel guilty because I have no idea what Lance's intentions really are. I stare at the window for a minute longer when I decide I don't care. I want to be spending time with him right now and so I will. "When I first moved here it took me forever to figure out the layout of the city," he says thoughtfully as he takes a left turn. "Now it's weird to even think about not knowing it all." "Yeah, I know what you mean," I say back. It's warm, but not too warm--the AC is on. I'm feeling extraordinarily comfortable and loving every minute of it. We just drive around for about an hour, talking about all sorts of random stuff. We drive all the way out to Disney and then head back more towards his neighborhood. I tell him all sorts of weird high school stories. He tells me his. We have no destination, but after awhile he pulls up in front of a Baskin Robbins. "Ice cream," he says with a smile and I laugh. We go in and look over all the flavors carefully under the flourescent lights. He's having some serious decision making issues and I just can't decide if I want to get Peanut Butter and Chocolate like always or try something new. He whines a little to me about his dillemma in a good natured way and I sympathize. "Wait," he says after awhile. I look at him. He smiles. "Why don't you pick out mine and I'll pick out yours?" I laugh but agree. He walks through all the flavors again and then whispers to the old Chinese man working. He stares at Lance like he is crazy and then looks at me like he's pretty sure I'm insane too. I just smile. "What can I get you?" he asks. "Cover your ears," I instruct Lance who does so willingly. I turn to the man. "I'd like a banana split with bubble gum and daquiri ice. Lots of whipped cream and some rainbow sprinkles." "Oh-kay," the man agrees and I signal to Lance that he can put his arms down. When we get our lovely concoctions we both laugh a lot. Mine is like a bunch of raindow sherbet, a brownie and one of those clown cone things. We sit for awhile at the little pink elementary school desk looking booth and Lance makes the clown cone dance around and say things. After awhile I am laughing so hard I can hardly breathe. It's dark out by now, but there is a little park across the street so we take our big dishes and head over there. I keep talking about how much I love the pink spoons and make Lance promise not to throw his away. We swing a little and talk some more until we both realize how sick all the ice cream is making us. They are both very soup like and we abandon them in a garbage can, right after I chase Lance around a little with the clown cone he so affectionately named Sparkplug the Spappy Spown. Needless to say, Sparkplug speaks with a lisp. We get back in the car and I am tired and satisfied. I almost fall asleep in the nice warm car as Lance sings along to the radio in his reassuring voice. I watch all the big houses go by, all lit up. Before I notice whats going on, I do fall asleep. The next thing I know Lance is shaking me gently. "You're home," he says and I open my eyes and see him smiling. I get out of the car and thank him, rubbing my eyes. "Sleep well," he tells me. "And call me tomorrow if you want to." "Okay," I agree and wave as he drives away. I come home from work and flop down on the couch next to Justin who is watching TV. He gives me a kiss and helps me out of my suit jacket. For once, Chris isn’t there, and it’s nice. I love Chris and all, but Justin and I need our quality time. Justin kisses me again and says, “I taped General Hospital for you today.” “You rock!” I say, throwing my arms around his neck and giving him a huge hug. Is he amazing or what? So, we sit thee and watch GH for awhile and make fun of the people and how crazy they are. Sometimes, though, we get quiet thinking about how very like a Soap Opera our lives often are. It’s a scary thought. “Did you ever tell Roxanne about Nick calling you?” Justin suddenly asks. “No,” I frown. “I haven’t talked to her all week. She’s been hanging out with Lance every second.” “I know,” he says. “JC told me. What’s up with that anyway?”“I guess they just need each other right now,” I sigh. I mean, I’m happy that you two are so close, but it makes me sad that I can’t be the friend you need. Needing comfort, I lean into Justin who puts his arms around me immediately. Thinking of how lonely my life would be without him, I realize how lost you must feel. So I smile, thinking of how nice it is to have Lance around. The next day, you pop into our house to see Justin. You are a little concerned about your recent lustful feelings towards him, but something is compelling you to go talk to him. Probably because he’s been so good to you lately. You knock on the door a couple times, but no one answers so you let yourself in. You search all over for Justin, and finally run him down in the study. “Hi,” you say, startling him and causing him to jump a mile in the air. “Hey,” he recovers. You notice that he’s playing with something, but before you can ask what it is, you see his collage which I’ve proudly hung on the wall. “This is so amazing,” you marvel. “I made it for Kristin,” he says. “She is one lucky bitch,” you say, before you can stop yourself. But, it’s too late, and you are so embarassed at your slip that you wish the floor would just swallow you up. You decide that it was a bad idea to try to hang out with Justin. But he is clueless and just laughs. Out of the corner of your eye, you see him open a drawer to put away whatever it is that he was playing with. “Whatcha got there?” you ask. He looks at you as if debating whether or not he can trust you. But he’s going to explode if he doesn’t say something, so he tells you. “It’s an engagement ring. It was my grandmother’s.” “For Kristin?” you ask, swallowing the lump in your throat. It isn’t fun for you to think about other people getting married when you’ve just broken up with the love of your life. “Yeah,” Justin admits. “But I can’t seem to find the right way to give it to her.” “Oh Justin,” you smile in spite of yourself. “It doesn’t matter. No one would be happier to get that proposal.”“Really?” he says, his face brightening. “Really,” you tell him. He sees from the look on your face that you’re feeling a little (or a lot) down, and decides to try to cheer you up. “You know, Nick called Kristin at work.” Your head snaps up. “Why?” “He told her that the girl you saw him with was no one. He’s not dating her or anything.” You sigh in relief, but then think again. “Why did he call Kristin?” “He couldn’t get a hold of you,” he explains. (“Show Me The Meaning” just came on the radio. Is that N Sane or what?) “When?” you sputter out, still trying to get over the shock of this news. “Monday,” Justin says quietly. “It’s Thursday,” you say slowly, working out the math in your head. “I know,” he says, coming over to you. “Are you okay?” “I guess,” you say. “I mean, I should be happy, but I’m not. Why didn’t she TELL me?” “She wanted to,” Justin says. “But you haven’t really been around. You’ve been with Lance so much.” “I know,” you sigh. “He’s just easy to be around. It helps me forget about things.” “I know,” Justin smiles. And you realize that you don’t have to explain anything to him. Lance is his best friend. “What do you think I should do about Nick?” you ask, because you seem to know even less about what to do than you did before, if that’s possible. Justin pauses for a minute, as if deep in thought. “I think it would be okay to call him,” he says. “But I don’t know what else to tell you. I want to say ‘Forget about him,’ because I’m afraid that if you two get back together that I’ll lose you as a friend. But I want you to be happy. So, it’s a tough spot for me to be in. As you listen, you can’t help but smile. He really is precious. “You’re not really helping me,” you laugh. If he thinks he’s in a tough spot, where does he think you are?” “Anyway,” he says. “I think that’s why Kristin didn’t tell you about the phone call sooner.” “Yeah,” you say. “This whole thing has been hard on our friendship.” “It just sucks in general,” Justin says, thinking about record companies and contracts and lawsuits and feuds and not sleeping. And engagement rings. “Are you okay?” you ask him, noticing the weird look that just crossed his face. “Sure,” he says. “Just stressed out, you know. With everything.” He motions to the collage and the ring sitting on the desk. “What are you going to do?” you ask him. “Probably nothing,” he sighs. “We’re not really ready for it, I guess. I just want to be with her forever.” He looks like he’s going to cry, and you freak out. You don’t know if you could handle that. “You don’t have to marry her to keep her around,” you say gently. “Are you sure?” he asks. “She loves you,” you say, thinking how strange it is that Justin can be so insecure. But you remember that he is even younger than you are. It puts things into perspective. You hug him and go to leave. “Don’t you want to wait for Kristin?” he asks. “Sure,” you say. You weren’t planning on it, but you figure now is as good a time as any for us to talk. You and Justin sit outside by the pool for a couple of hours until I get home. “Baby?” I call, walking in the door. “Out here,” Justin yells. I pet DP, put my briefcase dow and come outside. “Hi,” I say, surprised to see you. “How are you?” “Okay,” you say. Justin stands up and announces that he has to feed the dog. “Remember that thing I need you and the guys to do,” I remind him. “I’ll call them,” he says, giving me a quick kiss and winking at you. We’re quiet for a minute after he leaves. All I can think of to say is, “So...” “Justin told me that Nick called you,” you inform me. “Sorry,” I say, but give no explanation. “I guess I get why you couldn’t tell me,” you inform me. “And I’m not mad or anything. I just don’t want this whole thing to make things weird between us.” “Me either,” I sigh. “I just didn’t really know how to handle the situation. But I love you, you know.”“I love you, too,” you smile. We talk for a little while about what you’re going to do about Nick, and pretty soon the house starts filling up with N Sync. We go inside to greet them, and everyone has a beer and hangs out. I check my watch and decide that it’s time. I put the phone on speaker and dial my cousin’s number. After one ring, her breathless voice answers, “Hello?” “Happy Birthday Sweetie,” I tell her. “The guys are here, and they want to talk to you.” “They’re there!” I hear her say, and then I hear a million little girls screaming in the background. “Did you get the package I sent you?” I ask. I made the guys autograph a million pieces of merchandise and sent them to her. “Yes!” she exclaims. “Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” We all laugh, because we’ve never heard anyone so excited. I take the phone off speaker, and one by one the guys each talk to her for a minute. They are so adorable that I want to die. I look at you, and can tell you’re thinking the same thing. I hope that it’s helping you to have faith in the decisions you’ve made. Finally, they’re done, and I put the speaker back on so the guys can sing Happy Birthday to her. We can hear more screaming in the background, but everyone shushes when they start to sing. You gotta love Joey’s voice on leads. “I love you guys so much!” Emma yells, in her little 12 year old way. “We love you, too,” Joey tells her. And then Justin promises her tickets and all access passes next time they’re in town. I only wish I could be there to see the look on her face. “Bye Honey,” I tell her. “You’re the best cousin ever!” she exclaims into the phone, and I hang up. “Thanks guys,” I say, turning to them and smiling. “You’re the best. I owe you.”“Why don’t you start by buying us some beer?” Chris says. We all laugh, and for a minute things return to “normal.” And normal is a nice feeling. Roxanne I dance around the kitchen to the condo singing a little under my breath and waiting for the microwave to beep. This is the first time you've seen me in over a week and you are just staring. JC is talking to you and Justin about some idea he had for a set for their shows. He apparently had some dream about the Greek gods and was inspired. He had called Justin immediately after he woke up and Justin drug, dragged, whatever the right tense is, you over here as well. JC is drawing all over this notepad and showing all this to Justin who just keeps acting clueless. "That's what? Where's the floor? What the hell is that?" JC flips the paper over for him so Justin can look at it from the right angle. "Kristin, you see the effect, don't you?" JC asks and you join me in the kitchen so you don't have to start paying attention. "Hey you," you say and I look up at you right as my popcorn is ready. I take it out of the microwave and offer you some. You take a handful. I eat a few peices and then make a face. "Whats up?" I ask you. "Not a whole lot," you answer and then we both just stare ahead of us for awhile. "What are you going to be for Halloween?" I say, forgetting my disdain for the popcorn and eating some more. You shrug. "I don't know yet," you tell me. "Justin and I have been arguing about it for weeks. What about you?" I smile. "I was going to be Britney, but she totally freaked out when I told her that." "When did you see Britney?" you ask, confused. I shrug. "Me and Lance ran into her a couple days ago." "Oh," you just say. You kind of want to ask me how I'm feeling about the whole break up but decide that if I feel like I am fine, then you're not going to bring it up. I smile at you and you smile back. "I haven't seen you lately," you whine. "I think we need some bonding time." I laugh. "Love for bonding," is all I get a chance to say because Lance walks in the door. He says hi to you and me and hugs us both. "Oh my God Lance, I am so glad you're here," JC says, walking over to where we are with his note pad. "Well I'm glad to be here," Lance answers with a cute smile. JC starts going on about his thing again and I roll my eyes at you. I've heard him tell the whole story and explain it eight million times by now. Lance, though, seems relatively interested and follows JC back to the couch. Justin sees this as a golden opportunity and gets up in a hurry. "Me and K have to get home and..." he falters for a moment and looks at you for an excuse but you just raise an eyebrow in his direction. JC doesn't even notice and says bye quickly, not looking up. Justin leans on the counter so his head is right by mine. I stick my tongue out at him in a playful way. He smiles. "How are you Miss Mary Sunshine?" "I'm fine," I answer, offering him popcorn. He takes a whole bunch and puts it in his mouth, getting his keys out his pants pocket. You feel kind of oddly out of place for a minute because you realize I've been hanging out with Justin more than I've been hanging out with you lately. But Justin leans in and kisses you on the cheek with popcorn still in his mouth and you forget all your woes. "You ready to go baby?" You look at me staring off into space. "Yeah," you say. "Roxanne," you ask. "Wanna come over for awhile? We could make cookies or something." I smile big at you but then sigh. "That sounds so good," I tell you, "but I promised Lance I'd go out to lunch with him. Maybe later or something. Can I call you?" "Of course," you say and hug me before going home with Justin. I lean back in my chair and sigh, full and content. The waitress brings the bill to the table and Lance pays it before I can even sit up. He's always paying for everything. "Next time, I'll get the bill," I tell him but he shakes his head and smiles a cute Lance smile. "No, really," I tell him. "I think I can afford a meal or two." Truth be told I'm actually rolling in the money at the moment. I got a PHAT check last week and there are more coming. Lance knows this. He shrugs and keeps smiling at me. "I don't mind," he says. "Well, I do." I tell him, sipping off my large iced-tea. "So thats enough from the peanut gallery." The waitress comes back and makes him sign the thing and also asks him for his autograph for her daughter. I don't know why, but I kind of think she's lying. She looks pretty young and I have this sinking feeling that the autograph is for her. But this just makes me like her more and think she is adorable. I finish the rest of my drink in a big gulp and we get up and head towards the exit of the restaraunt, linking arms. It's our favorite way to walk around together. "Thanks," I tell him. He smiles and opens the door for me to walk through. "What can I say?" he says. "I'm an old fashioned kind of guy." And we walk out into the sunny day and back to his 4-Runner. He's an old fashioned kind of guy because he pays for lunch? I think to myself. If I had any guts at all I'd ask him if we were dating, but I'm not sure I want to know the answer. But ARE WE? Or are we just hanging out? I get into the car and just watch the houses go buy. I look back at Lance. He really is pretty cute, I tell myself and kind of just blush at the thought. I am not supposed to be thinking this at all. I let my gaze drift back outside and Lance turns on an oldies station. I laugh and he looks at me and at the same time we both make some sort of comment about him being an old fashioned guy. We laugh. I decide I hope that we ARE dating. I don't know the song that's playing but it sounds familiar anyway, like so many oldies do. I just kind of let it wash over me--it's just some random love song. As I listen to it I think of Nick. I picture him in my head and try to banish the thought immediately. But it's a little too late. My stomach has already tied itself in a knot. I just close my eyes and think of the way he smells and the weird smile he gets on his face when he is frustrated. The car pulls up to the building and Lance gets out. I wait a minute to regain my composure and then follow him. He is waiting for me in front of the car with his arm out. I link mine with his and we walk up the stairs. But when we get to the door he doesn't come in. "I have to go home and make some calls," he says. I'm dissapointed, but I don't really mind. "Okay," I tell him and think about how he walked me up to the door. "What are you doing later?" he asks and I smile immediately. "Hanging out with you!" is my answer. He smiles and nods and kind of rubs his hand on my cheek as he walks away. I stand there for a good five minutes. "Are we dating?" I say out loud to myself. Then I nod. I think we're dating, I tell myself. But as soon as the thought enters my mind a wave of doubt floods through me and gives me a chill. I picture Nick in my head again. I sigh and head into the condo. Jessica's plane lands in Orlando in the late morning and she hops in a cab, happy to be there and also excited to surprise me with her prescence. She decided she needed a break from her life and that there was no better vacation spot than good ole Florida. She could even go to DisneyWorld. She was kind of worried about me because of the recent break up I'd suffered and couldn't wait to see me. She'd just lost her job. The company she had been working for had downsized and offered her either a demotion or a job in Alaska, neither of which she wanted. So here she was, with two months severance pay. With a smile at the palm trees, she gave the cab driver the address. "We could be Wendy and Peter Pan!" You tell Justin, looking up from your magazine. He stares at you from the living room floor where he is wrestling with DP. "I am so not wearing tights," he informs you, sitting up. You sigh. He is being so difficult. "You are the one who insists that we have correlating costumes," you remind him. He sits there silent for a minute and then breaks in. "Why can't I just be Hugh Hefner and you can be a playmate?" You throw your magazine at him because he was dead serious. "It's a good idea!" he insists and you get up and tackle him on the floor. DP thinks this is way too fun and starts barking which is so irritating that you stop beating Justin up to calm the dog down. You kiss Justin and lie back on the floor. "What if I was Ron Jeremy and you were Tracy Lords?" he asks, leaning over you and looking at you seductively. You just laugh and start unbuttoning his shirt. He kisses you. The doorbell rings. "Fuck everybody!" Justin yells angrily, standing up in a huff, his shirt unbuttoned, revealing only his chest in only a wife beater. "Answer the door," you tell him, standing up but he just fake weeps a little. You don't feel very sorry for him though--he gets plenty of action. He doesn't move so you pat his pecs affectionately and answer the door yourself. You open it and stare at the girl in front of you for awhile before figuring out who it is. "HI," you say to Jessica. "I'm so glad you're here," she tells you and she looks like she is about to cry or something. "What are YOU doing here?" you ask her, ushering her inside the house. She follows your lead, bringing with her two bags. "I came to surprise Roxanne," she tells you, putting her bags down and her head in her hands a little. "But I didn't remember until the last minute that she doesn't live next door anymore, she lives with JC...and I have no idea where that is!" You just laugh and Justin walks into the room, shirt still unbuttoned. "Hi," Jessica says to him with a small smile. "Hey," he says. "You remember Jessica don't you?" you ask Justin. "From Seattle?" he asks. The he smiles. "Of course. What's up?" No woman is safe around the beauty that is Justin Randall Timberlake. Jessica just kind of smiles and forgets momentarily who she is. JC and I are sitting on the floor in our kitchen, laughing like I haven't laughed in a million years. It feels so good to be with him and laughing. It takes my mind of Nick a little, and at the same time reminds me of him. We are eating spaghetti and drinking coke out of bottles. We are making fun of everyone we know. Why is it that nothing is more fun than making fun of people? I love making JC laugh. There is a ring at the door and I assume it's Lance. For a moment my heart gets a little heavy. I feel the familiar Lance guilt come flooding over me. I love Lance with all my heart, but I just kind of think he likes me a little more than I like him. Fuck Nick Carter! I scream to myself. Forget about him! How can I pass up a chance with the Bass? But no matter how I try to convince myself, there are always thoughts of Nickay floating in my head. I get up and answer the door, fixing my hair with my fingers. Even if I'm not in love with Lance, it sure is the best feeling in the world to be liked. But when I answer it, the first thing I see is Justin's big sexy tongue. "Hi," I say as he walks past me without an invitation inside. I would complain except that the next thing I see is you and Jessica walking down the hallway and laughing. "What the hell are you doing here?" I ask excitedly and you both look up. Jessica and I hug and I keep asking her what the hell she's doing here. She tells the story of getting dropped off at the old house, which doesn't really answer my question. I introduce JC even though she met everyone when she visitted last February. JC even asks her how her cat is. She tells the story of having to put it to sleep which is pretty depressing. I'm just kind of all wired now. I keep hugging you because you are standing next to me. You just tell me I'm insane, and I am, but I really want to make cookies with you all of a sudden. "You know what we need?" Justin asks all of us. "What's that?" JC says, washing the dishes we just ate off of. "A whole lot of beer." We all laugh but he is basically right. JC is somehow nominated to go to the store You take pity on him and tell him you'll go with, which of course means Justin follows. No way he's letting you and JC go to the store alone ever again. Who knows when you might decide to "run out of gas". I'm kind of glad when you all leave because it gives me and Jessica a minute to catch up. I give her a little tour of the apartment and she makes fun of how messy my room is. She feels me in on her job sitch and asks about Nick. I don't have too much to say about it. Theres a knock on the door and I open it and there's Lance. He smiles and starts talking. "Do you remember that movie that I couldn't remember the name of it last week? Well, it was..." he stops talking when he sees Jessica. "Hi." I look over at Jessica too. "Oh, you guys haven't met have you? Lance, this is Jessica, my friend from Seattle...and this is, obviously enough, Lance." "Hi," Jessica says to him and we all just kind of stand there for awhile. I'm waiting for Lance to tell me the name of the goddamn movie. "So?" I prod, ushering him more into the living room area. "What was it called?" He looks up at me and I realize he hadn't been looking at me the whole time. "What?" he asks, distracted. "Um, the movie," I remind him. "Whats the name of it?" "Uh," he says slowly, sitting down on a chair and smiling at Jessica. "I can't remember." I just stand there and am gripped with fear when I realize whats going on. My stomach turns over. They just stand there staring at each other like the idiots that they are. I am suddenly filled with anger. "Well then why the hell did you bring it up if you can remember dumb ass? I thought the whole point was that you DID remember." I go into the adjoining kitchen and look around a little. I realize I am looking for something to slam around. I stop myself. Lance snaps out of his trance for a minute and looks at me. "What?" he asks, still not with me completely. "Yeah, I did remember...what was the name of that movie?" Then he just turns back around to Jessica. She smiles at him. "You were in LA when I was here," she tells him. "That's why we never met." "Oh right," he says gingerly. "I remember hearing about it." "Yeah, you were with Topenga," I say loudly. "Right," he agrees not looking up at me. I just kind of stare at them for awhile, making googly eyes at each other. What the fuck is this crap? Lance keeps looking down at his hands and then back up at Jessica and then down at his hands. I go back into the room and sit down next to Lance. Real close. You, Justin and JC come back with a half rack of beer, being incredibly loud. I, for one, am glad for the distraction. Smeg whore and Smeg shit for brains don't even barely notice. I go to over to you and Justin and hold my hand out for a beer. Justin stands with his arms over the box for a few seconds and then turns to JC and says, "You wanna go swimming?" JC just shrugs. "Sure," he says. "Let's go over to our house," Justin says to you and you nod. "We can do that," you tell him. He looks at me and I roll my eyes. Justin picks the box back up and starts heading for the door. "Party at my house in ten minutes!" he says and we all follow him. There is some bickering about what cars to take and when we decide that me and Lance and Jessica and JC will go in the Jeep, we all head out. I am walking side by side with JC, until I turn around, needing to link arms with Lance. But, instead, he has Jessica's hand in his. I just sigh. Justin wakes you up the next day, shaking you and calling your name. "What?" you ask, irritated, with a hinkling of a hangover from the festivities the night before. "We could be Sonny and Cher," he says to you. "Damn it Justin," you whine to him. You'd like to be able to sleep in on your few days off. "It's a good idea," he says in his own defense. "I am NOT going to be Cher," you tell him strongly, lying back down. "Well, we have to think of SOMETHING," he says. "Danay's party is on Saturday for the love of God." "I don't even like her," you say, rolling over. You know very well that you want to go to this party just because everyone is going to be there. Including all of your friends. "Can we please decide on a costume before it is to late?" he asks irritated. "Okay," you agree, sitting up. DP jumps up on the bed and goes over to cuddle with Justin. "How about..." Justin begins. "How about...Dharma and Greg?" You roll your eyes. "That is the dumbest idea yet." You think for a minute. "What if we went as just a prince and a princess or something?" Justin grunts and lays back down. "That's stupid." "You know what?" you say, angrily. "I'm going to dress up as whatever I want." He just looks at you. "You can go be Sonny Bono and I can be a princess if I want to damn it." Justin just groans. "Fine," he says. "Whatever." And you sit there in silence for a few minutes. "Do you want to--" Justin starts to say but you interupt him. "I am NOT talking about Halloween ANY more!" He grins wickedly at you. "I was going to ask if you wanted to go out to breakfast." You make a noise and roll your eyes but you are smiling. I sit with JC in the kitchen. He is on a stool drawing in his notebook and showing it to me every five seconds. But I love him so I keep looking and giving him constructive criticism. I'm sitting on the counter drinking an iced chai tea latte. Jessica is in the bathroom putting her wig on. It's Halloween Eve. I've been in a relatively bad mood the past week and I feel like a real bitch about it, but I basically can't help it. I've spent every last second with Jessica and Lance who just smile and look lovesick at each other all the time. I feel kind of guilty because I know something would have happened between the two of them if I hadn't made it virtually impossible. "Do you think I'm a bitch?" I ask JC while thinking of the time Lance started to tell me he liked Jessica and I pretended to fall down and get hurt to avoid the subject. JC looks at me clueless for a minute and then smiles a loving JC smile. "No, you're not a bitch," he says and pats my leg before turning back to his notebook. I feel guilty for a few more minutes until I just get mad again. Not only did I so have a chance with Lance until Jessica came along, but I'm also not getting the chance to spend any QT with her. Every morning when I suggest we do something, she always either says we should call Lance or he calls. Or he's already there by the time I wake up. Yesterday he brought over butter tarts in the morning just because they had been talking about that Len song. It sickens me. I finally got to hang out with her alone yesterday, when we went costume shopping, but she talked about Lance almost the whole time. I acted supportive because it is almost too cute for me to deny. But you'd be surprised how heartless I can be. JC checks his watch and closes his notebook. "I better go get ready," he says not really to anyone. He smiles at me. "Aye aye Captain," I say to him as he leaves the room. Jessica comes out of the bathroom and I make her come into my room with me to keep me company while I get ready. You look at your self in the mirror and giggle a little. Then you do a little dance and laugh even more. "I'm the cutest cheerleader in the world," you say to yourself, raising a pom-pom. "Justin is going to love this." You put your hair in pig tails and put on your makeup, extra blush on your cheeks. "Baby!" you yell out the open bathroom door. "Are you ready yet?" "Almost," you here a muffled voice call from downstairs. You come out of the bathroom into the bedroom and do some cheers you remember from the eight grade in the full length mirror, laughing out loud at yourself. But you have to admit you look fucking cute as all hell. "Baby, you have got to see me," you tell him, bounding down the stairs. You just bought the outfit this morning and are so happy with the way it turned out. You were a little skeptical at first. And you hadn't even wanted to dress up! You dance around some more, do some kicks. "Justin, where are you?" you call out. " 'Right here lil lady," a voice says from behind you. You turn around and nearly faint. Your jaw drops to the floor. There, in front of you, is the single most sexy cowboy you have ever seen in your entire life. Standing there with his legs apart and his hands resting on his belt buckle, chewing on a piece of straw that's hanging out of his mouth. Chaps hugging his muscular thighs, beaten leather jacket over a dirty looking wife beater, he cocks his head to the side and smiles menacingly at you. Taking a slow step in your direction he lifts the hat from his head and bows slightly. "Ma'am," is all he says. "Omigod Justin," you breathe and feel your body get warm. He saunters over to you and holds his hands above the gun holsters, ready to draw. You almost lose feeling in your legs. You swallow and open your mouth to say something but nothing comes out. He comes over to you and looks at you, taking in a long deep breath. He circles you. "Yer lookin' mighty perty," he whispers roughly in your ear and you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck raise. "Baby," you murmur quietly and touch his chest. He keeps chewing on his straw and staring at you. His face is dirty, but it's never looked sexier. "What's a lass like you doin' in a place like this?" his southern accent on full blast. You shake one of your pom-pom's a little, still trying to recover from how good he looks. The phone rings and after keeping your gaze for a few seconds, Justin walks into the kitchen. The shape of his perfect ass defined in the tight jeans he has on, you can focus on nothing else. After a minute, you follow him. He's talking on the phone but his gaze his burning a whole through you. You start doing a routine, kicking a lot. Then you start doing the Baby One More Time dance because you can't think of anything else and hell, it could be a cheer leading routine...kind of. He hangs up the phone and comes over to you, enveloping you in his arms. "I wish I'd gone to your school," he says sexily but you laugh. "Not that I wouldn't have already graduated by the time you got there," you remind him and he sticks his tongue out at you. You stand there for a minute just looking at each other before he kisses you passionately. I had seen JC's costume hanging up in his closet a million times but having him in it is a completely different story. I had thought dressing up in some sailor dress whites sounded like a pretty dull idea. As we ride in the Jeep to Danay's, though, I keep stealing glances at him. I think I can honestly say I have never seen a sight more beautiful than this in all my life. I am tempted to tell him that, but I'm not sure if he'll take it the wrong way. I glance back at Jessica who is staring out the window, looking like she has two cinnamon rolls attached to her head. I sigh, knowing in fact that she looked gorgeous dressed up as Princess Leia and wished I had come up with the idea first. I probably wouldn't have looked as good dressed as her anyway, I think. Lance has called the house a couple times but instead of having him come over to go with us, I kept on just saying we'd meet him there. I glanced at my watch. Quarter to nine. "I can't believe I'm going to an O-Town party," Jessica says with a laugh and JC smiles. God he is fucking precious. I'm sorry, but it is just not a coincidence that JC also stands for Jesus Christ. We get to Danay's and have to park half a block away because there are so many cars. We walk slowly, able to hear the sounds of people and music coming from the house Danay shares with Mandy Ashford. "Hey Roxanne!" a voice yells out. We can make some figures out and they come walking up to us. "Hey Richie, what's up?" JC asks as Rich Cronin and Brad from LFO come up to us. "We're the Blues Brothers!" Brad tells me excitedly, stumbling slightly, obviously already incredibly drunk. They do look pretty cute though in their suits. I wonder if it sucks to have to wear sunglasses all night long. "This is my friend Jessica," I tell them and they both smile evilly at her as if she is a potential new victim. We all keep walking and drunken Brad slides his hand around my waste. "I hear you broke up with that boyfriend of yours," he says with a smile. I just look at him for a minute. "Where's Brizz?" I ask. We get to the party where there are people all over the front yard and on the deck. I hear some girl call Brad's name and he is gone in a nanosecond. I just kind of laugh. JC is dragged off immediately when a group of people see him. *N Sync is in way too high demand to expect to be able to see any of them for more than five minutes. "Wow," Jessica says excitedly to me. "Some LFO guy so just hit on me!" I laugh a little and am starting to be in a better mood. I smile at her and decide to let by gones be by gones or WHATEVER. I love her even if she stole the only guy who was interested in me. I hug her just because I need to at that moment. "Let's get a drink!" I say and we fight the crowd to get to the kitchen. The house is packed with people and I feel a big wet kiss on my forehead. I look up and realize I am standing right by Joey. I hug him, because, you know, he's Joey for the love of God, who wouldn't?! He hugs Jessica too and tells her it's good to see her again. He has a shoulder length black wig on and I kind of have to take a few steps back to see the rest of his costume. He's in a school girls uniform. "What the hell are you?" I ask him with a laugh and he kisses my forehead again. "I'm Mary Catherine Gallagher!" he says like it's obvious. It takes me a second and then Jessica and I both bust out laughing. "Who the hell are you?" he asks me and I smile and hold out my basket. "I'm little red riding hood," I tell him. "Hence the red and the riding hood." "Sometimes, when I get nervous, I stick my hands in my armpits and I smell then like this," he says, doing the motions. "You are so cute," I am saying to him, but he is already walking away. I look and Jessica again and we laugh. We make it into the kitchen where Nikki is standing by the fridge. "Hey, what's up?" she asks me. She's a flapper. Anything to wear a short skirt I guess. "We need drinks!" I tell her, motioning to Jessica and myself. She nods and gets some wine coolers and hands them to us. I kind of look at mine. "There's a keg out back," Dru from C-Note aka some sort of bloody mess tells me as he heads toward the fridge. I take Jessica by the hand and drag her outside. There is even more people out there if you can believe it. Love for inbred Orlando. "Is that Lance?" I hear Jessica ask, her voice hopeful. It's pretty fucking cute. Fuck it! I think to myself. I never really liked him that way anyway. I look to see if it was actually him, and sure enough, there is his blond head bobbing around. "We better go get him so you can lure him into your web," I tell her. She hits me. "Hey you," I say to Lance and he turns around, already smiling. Fortunately enough, he is standing right by the kegs. I make some guy with an ax going through his head pump me out a cup. I see that Jessica and Lance are partaking in their favorite activity: staring at each other. Lance kind of looks like his eyes are bugging out of his head and his mouth is open. "What's with you?" I ask him. I take a good look at his costume and can't put my finger on it. "What are you supposed to be?" He looks at me, then at Jessica, then back at me. "I'm..." he starts. He looks back at Jessica. "I'm...I'm Han Solo." "Oh, for the love of fucking SMEG!" I cry out. I down my cup and hand it back to Ax-head for a refill. Like I could stop these two if I tried! They look at each other like sick animals for awhile when Lance leans closer to her. "Leia," he asks her tenderly. "Would you like to go inside and dance with me?" They've totally forgotten about me and she nods and they go inside, neither of them even glancing my way again. "Fine, leave me alone in my time of need!" I call out, but they are out of earshot. "I'll just stay here with the beer and my friend So I Married An Ax Murderer!" But when I turn around there is no one there. I sigh and have a couple more drinks. I figure I'm going to need them. About an hour later, Justin and you climb into the Benz. You look at each other for a minute and Justin grins sheepishly. "We're running a little late," he says with a grin slowly spreading over his face as he turns on the car. You just shake your head and try to look in the rear view mirror. "Is my hair messed up?" you ask him, trying to feel your pig tails to see if they've fallen out. Justin pulls out into the road, driving kind of fast. You sigh and re-adjust your sweater. You find your purse and re-apply your lipstick since it has all come off. You glance at Justin and see some of it on his neck. You giggle a little. Justin takes his hat off so he can see better while he is driving. God he is sexy, you think to yourself. He catches you looking at him and grins cockily. He thinks he's such hot shit just because you had sex with him on the kitchen table. You start singing the Notre Dame fight song because a) it's stuck in your head and b) you're a cheerleader. You know Justin is watching you but you act like you don't notice. You keep singing and swinging your legs a little because you can't really kick in the car. You wave your pom-poms around. Suddenly Justin takes a sharp right turn and you are about to tell him that's not how to get to Danay's when he pulls onto a dark street and turns off the car. You sit there for a minute and he turns to you. "Yeeehaw," he says quietly, cocking an eyebrow and lowering his seat. I am starting to realize I don't really have very many friends. Chris, everyone's favorite cereal killer, ditched me to wrestle some stupid guy in the back yard. Britney, the sexiest nurse I've ever seen, has been latched onto Devin all night long. I'm not sure if something is going on or what. JC and Joey kind of took turns hanging out with me for awhile. I say to someone (I can't remember who). "Where the fuck is Kristin Dianne Timberlake at?" Not realizing my mistake for a good ten minutes and then getting some good laughs out of it. By this point I'm pretty drunk. I talk to D-Lo for awhile but he's dressed as a mime and I don't know if I've ever seen anything gayer. Besides, you know how much he grosses me out. I find my way to a relatively quiet corner and chat it up with some vampire girl for awhile. I don't really have much to say. "Hey little red riding hood," a familiar voice says and I feel a pat on my back. "How you been?" I turn around and there is AJ McLean. I just stare at him for a minute. He's an old school gangster in a striped suit and white hat and complete with a semi-automatic weapon. "Um, okay. How about you?" He smiles at me a little warily. I kind of can't believe he is here. I mean...he's a Backstreet Boy. There is *N Sync all over this mug. "I'm doing good," he says, nodding. I'm drunk and I feel pretty dumb because what are you supposed to say to someone when you both know that you chose their rivals over them?...or whatever. Someone girl comes over and starts gushing over AJ and I figure that's my cue to get the hell out of there. I walk around, searching for JC. I kind of need to hold his hand right now. But he's dancing with some girl and looks to be enjoying himself, so I leave him alone. I start heading outside when I catch a glimpse of Lance and Jessica out there standing really close and talking to each other. I sigh. I have to pee. Upstairs is supposed to be off limits, but I sneak up there anyway. A sense of relief flushes over me as soon as I get away from all the people and noise. I find a bathroom and go pee, but then just sit in there for awhile. I just kind of think for awhile. Me+drunk+thinking=not a good idea. I let out a big sigh when suddenly the bathroom door opens. Good thing I wasn't on the toilet or anything. Someone in a big clunky suit of armor is standing there. "Sorry," I say. "I was just leaving." The person kind of clank clank's his way in and I try to get by him to get out but he closes the door. I freeze and wonder if I am in a horror movie and am about to die. What kind of fucking idiot actually goes to the dark and off limits upstairs bathroom on Halloween?! Of course no one will look for me here until the protagonist is getting chased around the house by the killer and screaming a bunch. I know I need to make a run for the other door, the one that goes into Mandy's bedroom but I can't move for a second. The figure puts his gloved hand on my face. I look at him. "Who are you?" I whisper. "I'm your knight in shining armor," he says. I just stand there for a minute. "....Nick?" I ask, still in a whisper. He takes off his head piece and smiles at me, but he is blushing a lot. I almost choke on my own saliva. I don't know if I can handle this exactly. "Well," I say, trying to recover. "I'll let you do your business." I make a move to walk around him. His face kind of falls but he doesn't stop me. I start to move kind of slowly, but he still doesn't stop me. So finally I turn back around on my own accord. He's just standing there. "What the hell are you doing here?" I ask just for something to say so I don't have to leave him. And I am pretty angry once the words come out of my mouth. I mean, I so obviously would be at this party, not to mention *N Sync. "What? I can't go to my friends party just because you might be there?" He says, but he doesn't really sound that defensive. He puts his head thing on the counter by the sink and messes with his collar. "It's fucking hot in here," he mutters. "Well," I say, trying to act cool. "You're the one that hates *N Sync." "Well," he says back angrily, spitting a little. "You're the one that broke up with me." I just kind of stand there. My heart feels so heavy. He's such an idiot. I like him so much. "Well, it's not like I had much of a choice," I say and I start crying. I'm drunk for the love of God! We've only been broken up for a few weeks. "I wasn't going to give up my life for you. What was I supposed to do?" "You could have tried a little," he says bitterly but I can tell he is softening slightly. I don't think he can handle me crying very easily. "I could have tried? I'm not asking you to marry them for the love of God," them being *N Sync. "But you couldn't even let it go. This whole stupid feud was more important than me. You couldn't even attempt to make a sacrifice for me." Nick tries to look angry but his face scrunches up a little. "You couldn't even attempt to make a sacrifice for ME! This is my job, this is who I am, this is what I do, this is my entire life! You know? And if you don't care, then you don't care, and goodbye. But don't try and turn this all around on me. You didn't even take one minute out to think about how hard this is on my side." I kind of just stand silent for a moment. I really hadn't thought about it too much from his perspective. He was still a jerk about it though. I don't say anything and I can tell he is still thinking and getting kind of fired up. His eyes get wet. "Don't tell me I didn't try," he says looking at me, but he can't handle it and looks away again immediately. "Because I tried for six months or whatever. I took shit from everybody but just let it roll off my back. You don't even know how much shit I took! I made plenty of sacrifices! But I could make sacrifices until the cows come home. The real problem isn't that I didn't try hard enough, it's that it didn't matter how hard I did try, because you just love them more than me." "I don't love anybody more than you," I say weakly. He just kind of stands there for awhile and I can tell he is fighting himself to keep his anger alive. I can see him physically faltering. Then I can see him regain control on the anger. "JC, JC, JC!" he practically yells in my ear. "Brian, Brian, Brian!" I yell back even louder and that throws him off guard. "He's my fucking best friend!" Nick just stands there for a minute. "I never really thought about it like that," he finally says. I just laugh and wipe my face. "I'm sorry," I just say quietly. He swallows. "I'm sorry too," he says and he tries to hug me but he's covered in metal. We both laugh. He closes his eyes and puts his forehead on mine. "Can I be your knight in shining armor?" he asks me. "Sorry," I say. "But that's JC." He just sighs and then laughs a little. "Well then," he asks, standing back up straight. "Can I be your boyfriend?" He gives me a famous Nicky Gene crooked smile. "God yeah," I answer and hug his huge metal body. But after a minute of being close to him I start thinking again. Just about this whole situation and how impossible it is. As much as I wish it were true, I don't know if I can keep both. Even though they would never admit it, I know it makes it easier on the guys for me to not be with Nick. And they are going through so much right now. God, I can't do this, I think. I can't get back together with him now! But he kisses me and I don't think it would be possible for me not to. You and Justin finally pull up to the party, at least two hours after you had planned to be there. Both in pretty good moods, you get some alcohol running through your system. You dance a little but mostly just mingle with everyone. A good hour goes by before you start eyeing Justin's ass again. Goddamn it that's a nice ass. You talk to some more people, mainly Britney who begs you to act like you are involved in an intense conversation with her so Devin Lima will leave her alone. "Maybe he has a fetish for the medical profession," you tease her. She just rolls her eyes and straightens her nurse hat thing. Justin starts pretending to shoot Lance, since Lance has a gun too. Lance pretends to shoot Justin a couple times but he seems pretty involved in his conversation with Jessica. You wonder where I am. You wonder why Lance isn't surgically attached to my hip. You wonder why Justin has that look on his face again. You wonder why he is touching your legs. "Justin," you warn him quietly. "There is no way in hell I am doing it at Danay Ferrer's house." His eyes get wide. "I was just going to suggest we go home," he says. "But that's a much better idea." You roll your eyes at him. He leans against the wall and tips his hat over his head so you can't see his face. He is loving this cowboy thing a little too much. God those pants are tight. Twenty minutes later you and Justin are making out on Mandy Ashford's bed. You're both drunk by now or else you'd probably be at home. Or, hell, at least on some deserted street somewhere. It's dark in the room and Justin accidentally knocks your keg cup off the night stand. "Shit," he says, flipping on the bedside light. "Fuck," you say, looking at the beer all over the carpet. You know you'll get your asses kicked if that stains or something. "Get a towel," you tell Justin, motioning to the bathroom door. He opens it a little and it slams shut. "Hello?" he asks, confused. He opens it again halfway. I'm standing there, holding it from opening any further. "Hi," I say to both of you. "Hey you," you say, propping yourself up on your elbows. "What are you doing up here?" "Nothing," I answer quickly. "Can I have a towel or something?" Justin asks. "I spilled." You laugh and I hand Justin a purple towel. He puts it on the floor and you get up and help him sop it up. "What are you guys doing up here?" I ask. You both look at each other. "Just checking out Mandy's new chair," you say lamely. But I don't seem to notice. "We were just heading back down." "Okay," I say. I watch you take Justin by the hand and pull him out of the room. I close the door and look at Nick who is standing against the wall. "They're gone," I tell him. He nods and takes my hand. "Maybe we shouldn't....maybe we shouldn't tell anybody that we're back together yet," he says. He kisses me. " I just don't know what I would say." I nod. If I think the pressure is bad on my end, I can only imagine what it's like for him. I'm actually relieved he suggested it. "Maybe we could just wait until all this legal stuff gets settled," I say. He nods and we kiss again. Justin sighs when you get out into the hallway but you just start kissing him. Surprised at first, he kisses you back and leads you to Danay's room. "You can never tell anyone about this," you tell him and he just nods quickly. He opens the door and you go in ahead of him. He flips on the light. There in front of you, lying on poor Danay's bed are Nikki and JC. "What the fuck you guys!" JC yells irritated and loudly, probably because he thought he could get away with this without anyone noticing. Thank God they are both clothed. JC's navy thing is unbuttoned, but he has an undershirt on. "Um, can you guys leave?" Nikki asks and you and Justin both just stare for a minute. Then Justin grabs you and pulls you back into the hallway. "I thought he said they were really over," you say to Justin as you follow him down the hall. "Yeah, well. He says a lot of things." You are awakened at 11 AM a few days after Halloween by the phone ringing. “Hello?” you answer groggily. “Hey sleepyhead,” I yell into the phone, a little too cheerfully for this early in the morning. “Hi,” you say. “Wanna go to lunch today?” You don’t really want to, because it means you have to get up right now. But you can’t remember the last time you spent any time with me, so you relent. We make plans and you roll your ass out of bed so you can get in the shower. You get to the restaurant an hour later, and smile when you see me sitting at a table waiting for you. “What’s got you in Miss Mary Sunshine mode today?” I ask you, but you don’t answer. You just keep smiling while you look at your menu. “You didn’t...?” I ask, thinking of the only thing that could get you in this good of a mood. “Didn’t what?” you ask me. “Nevermind,” I tell you. You and Nick getting back together is just a little too far fetched. “So, did Smeg leave?” “Yeah,” you say, and proceed to tell me about the annoying and pathetic, yet sad scene that she and Lance put on at the airport when she left. I am just staring at you like, “What?” I’m feeling all disconnected and out of the loop. There is way too much stuff that is going on that I didn’t know about. “So, Jessica and Lance...?” I am too surprised to even call her Smeg. “Yeah,” you tell me. “It’s actually pretty cute.” “And you’re okay with this?” I ask, thinking once again of Nickay, but pushing the thought from my mind as the waitress comes to take our order. “Yeah, I am,” you say. “Okay,” I say, confused, but deciding to roll with it. “Am I to assume then that what happened with JC and Nikki isn’t news to you either?” Your head snaps up. “What?” Obviously you didn’t know. “Justin and I walked in on them in a compromising position on Danay’s bed at the party,” I whisper. “I’m gonna kick his ass,” you start getting all fired up. But then you stop. “Wait. What were you and Justin doing going in Danay’s room anyway?” “Nothing,” I blush. “Come to think of it,” you remember. “What were you doing spilling beer on Mandy’s floor?” “What were you doing locked in the bathroom?” I counter. “I didn’t feel like being around all those people,” you counter. I’m convinced you’re hiding something from me, but I decide to just let it go. And you decide to let your questions go, because you don’t want to have to admit what YOU were doing. “JC is an idiot,” I say, wanting to dish some more. “He really is,” you agree. “For starters, he could’ve locked the door,” I say, and we laugh. “What exactly did you guys see?” Your curiosity has gotten the better of you. “They were still clothed thank God,” I sigh. “But it still freaked me out in a major way. Justin, too.” “He is retarded,” you say. You know that Nikki isn’t good for him. But more than anything, you just feel sorry for him. “How does such a perfect guy have such rotten luck with women?” As you walk into your apartment, you say (rather loudly) “JC, I can’t believe that you got caught with Nikki DeLoach!” But as you turn the corner to go in the kitchen, there with JC is Nikki herself. At first you think you’re going to pee your pants in embarassment, but when you see the weird looks they’re giving you, you just want to laugh. So, when you say, “I’m sorry,” it doesn’t sound too sincere. They just continue to stare at you like you’ve grown a second head, which makes you laugh even harder. Your first instinct is to run to your room where so you can finish your laughing attack. When you’re done, all you can think to do is call Nick. So you do. You tell him the whole story, and he laughs even harder than you did. What were you thinking breaking up with him? Nikki is hanging around your apartment way too much. Either that or JC is with her somewhere. Normally, you would be irritated as fucking hell. But, you’re sort of glad. It’s giving you ample opportunity to sneak off to Nick’s house. You guys never do anything that exciting. Just play video games, watch TV, eat, that kind of stuff. But you’ve never been happier. All you want to do is stay holed up in Nick’s house for the rest of your life There’s only one problem with your perfect little scene...Me. I’m feeling seriously neglected and left out. First it was Lance, and now it’s some mysterious being that’s sucking all your time away. I mean, I have my cowboy to play with, but I need girlfriends, too. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Britney. We always have fun, plus she lets me borrow all her designer clothes that she gets for free and then usually forgets that I have them. But she’s not you. And I miss you. And, to add to this, Joan is back from maternity leave, so they’ve cut back my hours at work in a big way. I know that I should be looking for another job, but Justin keeps saying that I don’t need to, so I don’t. All that’s left for me to do is get into trouble. I’m partying a lot, and I’ve spent most of my savings. Justin basically pays for everything, and I figure when he gets tired of that, he’ll tell me to get a full time job. But I still feel guilty. And, even though Justin doesn’t care about the money, I can tell he’s irritated with me being around all the time. He and the guys are really busy with recording, and, since I have no friends, all I do is sit around all day, watch GH, shop, bake cookies and play with DP. Sometimes I don’t even get dressed until 5 pm. And something about having all this free time and no set schedule is making me stop doing routine things like cleaning the house. We have all these stupid little arguments about things like feeding the dog and buying groceries. But I kind of just don’t care anymore. One day, after a little spat between me and Justin, I call you because I’m dying to talk to someone. But, of course, JC tells me you’re not there. I debate whether to talk to him about it, but I can hear Nikki giggling in the background, so I don’t. I just sink down on my bed and realize that my whole world is coming apart. You have disappeared, and JC is dating Nikki again! It’s like the freaking Twilight Zone! Tired of having no friends, I resolve to find out where you are and demand that you hang out with me. But first I have to go make up with Justin, so he can help me figure out where you are. I have to promise him that I’ll put my cheerleader outfit on later to get him to talk to me, but it’s worth it. “So, where do you think Roxanne has been lately?” I ask him. “She’s probably with Nick,” he says, like duh, and starts kissing me. “You think?” I ask him. I’m stunned. “Where the hell else would she be?” he asks. Why is he so smart sometimes? It drives me crazy. “Does that bother you?” I ask him. “Of course not,” he says between kisses. “I’m surprised that she managed to stay apart from him this long. She really loves him, you know.” “You are so amazing!” I exclaim. “So are you,” he says, with a smile. “Even if you don’t clean the house or buy groceries. I hit him and say, “I’m going over there.” “Okay,” he says. “Wanna come?” “No,” he says. “They’re obviously trying to hide it, and I’m sure I’m the last person they want to know has found out.” “You won’t say anything to the guys will you?” I ask. “But, baby, we have bets on how soon they’d get back together,” he whines. “And, if we’re right, I won.” “You guys are insane!” I yell, more in love with N Sync than ever. “But don’t tell.” “C’mon,” he continues to whine. I pretend that I’m looking into a crystal ball. “I see no cheerleader costume in your future,” I say in a fortune teller voice. “Okay,” Justin says meekly. He can’t resist the power of the pom poms. I get in my car and drive over to Nick’s. It takes me forever, because I keep turning around to go home, and then turning back around. On the one hand, if you don’t want me to know, it’s none of my business. On the other hand, I already DO know, and I figure I should let you in on my knowledge. It’s only fair. Besides, I’ve decided that you owe me an explanation for all the phone calls you haven’t returned. I pull in the driveway, and, sure enough, there’s your car. You aren’t doing a very good job of hiding your wearabouts. I pull out the key I forgot to give back to Nick from when I stayed at his house and unlock the door. When I walk inside, I hear the TV blaring and lots of laughing. I run up behind you in the living room and yell “AH HA!” as loudly as I can. You both turn around and stare at me. Nick mutes the TV. “What are you doing here?” you ask. “Searching for a missing person. She’s about 5’5”, dark hair and eyes. Sometimes you can find her hanging out with a blond Backstreet Boy. Have you seen her?” I’m laughing, but you can tell my smartass act means that I’m a little hurt and upset. “Sorry I didn’t tell you,” you say. “But you know...” you trail off. “Yeah, I know,” I sigh. “But, you didn’t have to tell me to hang out with me.” It’s so pathetic that you kind of want to cry. Instead you get up and come hug me. At first I don’t respond, but then I do. And then I start crying for real and blubbering about how much my life sucks. You can’t really make it out, but you think you hear something about maternity leave, peaches and a cowboy. You look at Nick for help, but he just shrugs his shoulders. “Do you wanna go get dinner or go to a movie or something?” you ask me when I’ve calmed down a little bit. “You’re just doing that because you feel sorry for me,” I say. You sigh. My pity party is in full effect. Except for the fact that I’m a little bit right. You wouldn’t mind staying at Nick’s, but you feel like you should hang out with me. “That’s not true,” you try to console me. “Whatever,” I say. Unfortunately for you, I’m inconsolable at this point. “Call me when you really want to hang out.” And I walk out of the house. You just throw your hands up in the air. Can your life ever run smoothly without SOMEthing having to fuck it up. You and I sit in your backyard eating ice cream...well, actually it is raspberry sorbet. It's fat free. And it's pretty good. We are being pretty quiet even though every few minutes one of us will start singing "Raspberry Sorbet" to the tune of the Prince song Raspberry Beret (you know, the kind you find in a second hand store). You sigh loudly after awhile and lay down on the grass. It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the sky is such a beautiful baby blue. There are some puffy white clouds scattered throughout it. The oak tree in the yard towers above you protectively. "I don't care if I work another day in my life," you tell me with a satisfied grin on your face. I just smile because I don't really work at all. And if you count writing my work, then I don't mind it one bit. In fact, I got another fat check in the mail not too long ago. Dr. Pepper is napping in the shade, every once in awhile trying to eat some phantom bug. Justin is lying in the hammock, but he's been asleep for a good half hour, except for the times he tells us to shut up and stop singing. I kind of steal glances at him every once in awhile because his upper arm is squished against the side and it makes it look even more amazing. I wonder what it would be like to lick that arm. I kind of try to hide the smile that has grown on my face. As if you could read my mind, this is the moment you choose to say, "How's Nick?" I just turn back to you and stop picturing Justin naked. "He's pretty good," I say. Nick's on tour and as much as I hate to say it, I've never been more relieved. It just makes things easier for everybody, including me. Especially me. He calls me every night and whines miserably, so I feel kind of guilty. But I figure there will be enough times in my life that he'll be gone and I'll be hating it. Might as well live this one up. The screen door opens and we both look over at it, surprised. JC is poking his precious little head out. "So there you guys are!" he says and smiles. "Shh," I tell him and motion to Justin. He laughs his cute JC head throw back laugh. He comes over and sits down next to us. The sun shines in his hair. You know what, it's just really not a coincidence at all. "How are you girls doing?" he asks and he tickles you a little. I wave of jealousy flows over me, but I let it pass. Then I think about how it's Nikki that's got him in a good mood and another wave of jealousy flows over me...I let this one chill. "JC, I want to have your children," I blurt out. It's not even really true, it's Joey's children I want to have. But the desire to stake my claim in JC and make him mine is still incredibly strong. He stares at me like I am completely insane, even more than usual, and laughs in my face. My balloon is popped. He can't even play with the idea? I am feeling pretty worthless and he starts grilling you about your empty days and trying to think up a hobby for you. I go over to the hammock and sit down on Justin. "Get off," he says, not opening his eyes and trying to push me. I don't budge and he just stops struggling and lets me stay. After awhile he yawns and opens his eyes. "Are you deaf or something?" he asks with a smile. "JC doesn't want me to have his children," I tell Justin who rolls his eyes with such enthusiasm his whole head goes in circular motions. I kind of laugh. "I thought you wanted to have Joey's children," he says, sitting up and giving me a little more room. "I do," I say but then kind of look at him. I narrow my eyes. "Did I tell you that?" He smiles an I-Can-Get-Away-With-Anything-I'm-Justin smile. I just let it go. Justin starts talking about DP's ear infection and I zone out and watch you and JC talking in the sun some more. It's a little too picture-esque. "Why does he like her anyway?" I mumble. "She's not that great." "Who? Nikki?" he asks, draping a leg over my lap. "Hmm, yeah," I say, looking up at him. I was actually talking about you. Justin starts chuckling. "What?" I ask him. "You and JC are both going out with people named Nicky." "What about Nikki?" JC asks, coming up to us. "Nikki should die a horrible death," I say right to his face, amazed at my own boldness. My eyes open wide and my mouth drops open. And I love this girl, I swear I do. JC stares at me. "I hope you were talking about Nick Carter," he says and just kind of shrugs and laughs. You come up too and say, "Let's go out to eat you guys. I've got a rumbley in my tumbley. And it has spaghetti written all over it." "Jesus mothahfuckin' Christ," Justin says and stares at you, shaking his head in disbelief. "I could eat you with a spoon," and he reaches out and grabs you and pulls you to him. He doesn't kiss you like you expect him to, he just wraps his huge arms around you and squeezes you like you've never been squeezed before. You just kind of laugh, but enjoy it more than you let on. You squeeze him pretty tightly back. "You know what sounds good to me?" I ask JC, sticking my legs out so my feet touch him. "What's that?" he asks, wiping his nose slightly. "Chicken parmesan." "Mmm," he says and nods in agreement. "I am hungry as all hell. Let's go." So all four of us hop in Justin's Benz. You and Ju in the front and me and JC in the back. I start calling him Josh. He just keeps laughing at me. I watch you and Justin as you bicker a little about where we should go, even though we all agreed on italian food, which is actually pretty cool because italian food is usually the one thing I never feel in the mood for. You guys keep looking at each other and giving each other googly eyes. I watch you mouth 'I love you' to Justin after he gives in and agrees to go to your restaurant pick. He reaches out and pats you on the leg, only looking at the road every five seconds. I start to worry about my safety a little. Watch the road jerk off! I think in my head and giggle to myself as I make sure my seat belt is secure. JC looks at me and smiles, I guess because I giggled. I feel like my whole being is a secret I want to share with him but don't know how. I think about how badly I want to hold his hand. I look at him for a minute and then softly whisper into my lap, "My dreams came true." "What?" he asks me, clueless. "I said we have to tame Ju." He laughs and nods. We park across the street from the restaurant. Inside it is cozy and romantic and I start pretending we are on a double date. Justin kisses you when you lean in to look at what he is pointing at on his menu. I ask Josh if he'll pour me a glass of wine. We don't have any wine. He offers me a sip of his 7-Up instead. I decline. "We can get some wine if you want," he says to me, but I don't really need any. I just wanted to ask him to pour me some. "No, it's okay," he says supportively. "I'll pay for it." I feel kind of dumb because it's not like I'm poor or anything and besides, I know my royalties are going to keep coming and I can't say the same for him. He beckons the waiter over and orders a bottle of wine. I watch him do all this. "My dreams came true," I say again, this time a little louder. "Hmm?" he asks, looking up from his menu. I sit there for a minute while he looks at me, awaiting a response. "I said..." I trail off. "I said you should've gotten a flame tattoo." We have a great meal. You and Justin share with each other and you feed him a couple bites and it's almost too cute for me to handle. We all talk about light things, steering clear of the more serious subjects that always loom above our heads these days. JC talks about his whole weird Olympus set idea stuff and it's more interesting that I remember it being. Justin is in the middle of a sentence when he just stops and leans over and rests his forehead on yours. He smiles and then kisses you. After lunch and a bottle of wine we decide to walk around the neighborhood we are in, since this street itself has a bunch of really cute shops. You and Justin hold hands. JC keeps pointing things out to me and laughing. We go into a record store and Justin buys five CDs that "looked good." We go into a vintage clothes shop just to look. You actually, though, find a pair of jeans that you want to try on. They fit great and you keep saying it's a miracle. JC tries on a couple of shirts. I walk around the store, hoping something will catch my eye. "Are you JC's girlfriend?" a voice asks me and I turn around and see two girls looking at me. They don't look too young...probably 16 or 17. They are smiling and look excited. I bet the last thing they expected to see today, just going shopping after school, was members of *N Sync. I stare at them for awhile. I look around and clear my throat. "Yes." I say. One of them nods and then the other one furrows her brow. Then she laughs. "I thought you were Nick Carter's girlfriend." I kind of freeze, unsure of how to get myself out of this one. "Um....that's my twin sister," I lie and I wonder how obvious it is exactly. I smile at them and quickly make my escape to the back of the store where JC is coming out of a dressing room in an adorable red and blue striped shirt. "I like this one," he tells me and smiles extra wide. "Yeah, me too," I tell him. He just stands there and models it for me for a minute until I can't take it anymore. I go over to him and lay my head on his chest. He laughs and hugs me. I don't move away. "My dreams came true," I tell him. "You've always wanted to own feather boas in an assortment of colors?" he asks, motioning to a display full of them. I laugh but don't move away from his chest. I can't. It's like his heart is a magnet for my head. "My dreams came true because of you," I say with more longing than I think I meant to let out. He just kind of stops for a minute. I don't move. Then he kind of pats my head slowly. I don't want to move. I just want to stay here, with his chest against my face where I can smell his deodorant and feel his breath on the top of my head while he pets me softly. I'm almost afraid to look up at him. His breathing has changed. Gotten deeper. I'm scared. I wonder what I just did. "Hey Roxanne!!" you are calling my name from across the store. I look up and JC's arms drop from around me faster than you can say Punky Power. I look at you. You are waving something red at me. I look back at JC for a second. He looks at me, but then retreats into his dressing room. I go over to you. "Look!" You are so excited. It's a red hat in your hands. "What?" I ask, confused. You look exasperated and wave it in my face some more. "It's a raspberry beret! The kind you find in a second hand store!" I finally get it and can't help but laugh. You are fucking cute. You end up buying those jeans and JC buys two shirts. I buy a bag. I seem to buy a lot of bags. But this one is really cute. We all leave the store and head back to the car, when Justin says he left his wallet and runs back to get it. He comes back a minute later and I pick up that his CD bag is a little bigger and softer than before. You don't seem to notice. There is a distinct raspberry-esque color coming through it's plastic, and Justin shoves the bag under his seat immediately. I sigh. He's just as cute as you are. We get back to your house and JC and I both say goodbye and climb into our cars. He is behind me on the entire ride home. It makes my heart beat fast. When we get back, we go upstairs and then just kind of stand in the kitchen for awhile. I don't really know what to say. I want to say something. We just kind of look at each other for a long time. I almost wish he would just act like everything was normal. But when there is a knock at the door, I sigh. I wanted to see where this staring contest was going. He goes and answers it and I can hear Nikki. She comes into the kitchen and says hi to me and tells me about how she and Britney went and saw Stigmata. I act interested, or try to and then kind of retreat into the living room, which doesn't mean I really went anywhere, but exited the conversation. I turn the TV on and pretend to watch it. But I see JC motion to Nikki to go into his room. I sigh and actually start enjoying watching The Real World when I can kind of hear them arguing. I think they argue a lot. I can't hear what they are saying. I watch my show some more and Nikki gets a little louder. I turn down the volume and strain to hear her actual words. The phone rings and I groan but pick it up. It's Nick. Oh yeah, Nick. I sigh kind of guiltily. He starts talking to me about how him and Brian and some guitar tech played basketball with some big rough guys today and ended up winning because some fans started watching and did everything to distract the other guys. He thinks it's hilarious. He asks about my day and I tell him about kicking it with you and going out to eat. I'm still trying to hear Nikki and JC. Nick asks why I am distracted and I tell him that they are fighting. He starts telling me about some bet AJ made with Dennis from the band about something to do with the dancers. I hear JC's bedroom door open and then the front door open and slam shut. My eyes are wide. JC appears in the doorway. "Hold on," I say absently to Nick, covering the phone with my hand. I stare at JC. He stares at me. That rhymes. We stay like that for awhile and he starts nodding. "We broke up," he tells me. I just stare at him. My brain isn't functioning. I keep opening my mouth to say something, but I don't know what to say. I must look pretty weird. I want to tell him that he looks beautiful. "Who's on the phone?" he asks. I turn and stare down at the phone. "Nick," I say. I look back up at JC who is nodding again. Then he lets out a big sigh. I start opening my mouth to talk again, but still nothing comes out. "JC..." I finally manage to get out, even though my voice is weak. He takes a deep breath and looks away. He closes his eyes. "I don't want to talk about it," he says, looking at me again and going into his room. I just sit there, dumbfounded for a long time. Then I hear Nick calling my name through the phone. "Hi, sorry," I tell him, not recognizing my own voice. "It's okay," he says. "I have to go though." "Okay," I say, returning to the conversation. "I love you and I miss you. I'll call you tomorrow. I love you." "I love you too." I have this whole plan to surprise you and take you out to lunch, but when I get to your place, you aren’t there. JC answers the door. “Hi,” I say, hugging him impulsively. I kind of step back, wondering why I did it. Then I remember...He’s JC. How can you NOT hug him? And I’m glad I did. He doesn’t look too good. “Hi sweetie,” he says with little enthusiasm. “Are you all right?” I ask. “Sure,” his voice breaks, and his eyes flood with tears. I flashback to watching Wipeout cry on Emerald Cove, and how cool I thought it was. I have changed my mind. It’s not cool. It’s heart wrenching. “Did something happen with Nikki?” I ask. There’s no other explanation. He says something in his muffled crying voice, but all I can make out are the words “broke up.” It’s enough. “Oh honey,” I sigh, leading him to the couch so he can sit down. I put my arms around him and let him cry on my shoulder. He doesn’t cry for too long. He looks up at me and says, “This is so embarrassing. I didn’t even mean to say anything.” “It’s okay,” I tell him in a soothing voice. “I’m glad you’re comfortable talking to me about it.” “It’s not even about Nikki,” he says. “I didn’t even really want to be with her.” “Really?” I ask, surprised at first, but then realizing that I’m not really surprised at all. “Yeah,” he says. “I was lonely. Being with her was comfortable.” “What’s got you so upset then?” I ask, confused. “It’s just making me think about my bad relationship luck,” he tells me, tearing up a little again. “Is there something wrong with me?” “No!” I say with so much force that he jumps back a little. “You’re perfect.” “Yeah, right,” he chuckles, shaking his head at me. And I guess it makes sense that he doesn’t believe me. Especially me. I’m the one who chose another guy over him. So I just let it go. “You’ll find someone,” I tell him. “It’s just a matter of time.” “Can’t you just break up with Justin?” he asks with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. I just laugh at him. I know he doesn’t mean it. But what concerns me is the part of me who wishes he did. “Do you ever wonder what things would be like if I had chosen you?” I ask on a whim. I instantly regret it. It’s usually such a taboo subject. But JC doesn’t seem to mind. “Occasionally,” he amits. “Do you?” “Sometimes,” I tell him, smiling. It’s the honest to God truth. “It wasn’t meant to be,” he says. “But it would be nice to have what you and Justin have.” “Maybe that’s why you fell for me,” I ponder. “Because you wanted that.” “Probably,” he grins. “Why ELSE would I like you?” I smack him with a pillow and hug him. This is of course the exact moment you come home. When you see us, you’re pretty sure you’re going to vomit all over the carpet. “What are you doing?” you ask. “Just having a little chat,” I report. “I was actually looking for you, missy.” “Oh?” you say. You really just want me to go home so I can stop stealing all the attractive men on the planet. But when you have this thought, you chide yourself. This has nothing to do with me. You don’t know why you’re feeling so weird about JC. But it doesn’t matter, because he has to leave -- there’s a meeting with the attorneys. “Call me if you need any help understanding the legal stuff,” I tell him. “Thanks for everything,” he says, hugging me for the third time that day. I smile. “Bye Pana,” he says, hugging you, too. You are irritated at the fact that he’s in such a good mood after talking to me. He hasn’t said one word to YOU about Nikki, though you’re sure that’s what we were talking about. But then you remember that it’s probably your fault for your little “my dreams came true...” scene the other day. You also remember JC crawling into your bed in the middle of the night. It’s good to feel needed. The phone rings. “Dammit,” you mutter, looking at the caller id. Even though it says “unavailable,” you’re pretty sure it’s Nick. You think about not answering it, though you’re not exactly sure why you wouldn’t want to answer it. However, I’ve become impatient waiting for you to go through all of these thoughts, so I pick up the phone myself. “Hello? Oh hi Nickay,” I say slowly. I haven’t talked to him since you guys broke up. I just hand the phone to you, feeling awkward. You make a face, but thank God that it was me and not a member of N Sync. Nick would have had a field day with that. “Hi,” you say. “I miss you,” he says right away, and you wonder why something that you would’ve thought was so adorable a month ago is irritating you so much now. “Me, too,” you say. “But I can’t talk right now. I’m really sorry. “Why?” he whines, and you try to block the image of his crestfallen face from your mind. “Kristin and I are...uh...going somewhere...” you trail off. “Where?” he ask and you know he’s trying to imagine what could be more important than him. Usually, nothing is. “Um...Disney World,” you say. You’re really reaching here. “Disney World?” He’s completely bewildered, as am I. I’m just staring at you like you’re crazy. “Yeah,” you say. “We’re babysitting Justin’s little brother, Jonathan. And we’re taking him there. It’s the happiest place on earth, you know.” You make a mental note to learn to lie better, but Nick seems to accept it. (And, hell, it’s better than the “twin sister” story.) “I guess we’ll talk later,” he sighs. “I love you.” “I love you, too,” you say, hanging up. “What in the hell was that?” I practically yell. “I don’t know,” you say quietly, sinking down on to the couch. “You’re a freak,” I say playfully, but you don’t smile. “Do you want to talk about it?” “No,” you say. After witnessing my bonding moment with JC, it would be way too humiliating to tell me how you’re feeling. It doesn’t occur to you that no one could understand better than me what you’re going through -- being torn between JC and the man you love. “I guess I’m going to go then,” I say, feeling a little hurt at being shut out. “Okay,” you say regretfully. You don’t want me to be upset, but you don’t have the strength to fix it right now. “I’ll call you later.” I go home, seeking comfort from Justin, but I realize that he’s not there. He’s with JC and the other guys at the meeting. So I get DP and snuggle up with him on the couch. I fall asleep quickly, only to be awakened by the door opening, and Chris saying, “I vote for *N Suck.” “There’s always *N Stink,” Justin adds. “I was always fond of Four Hotties and a Guy Named Lance,” Joey laughs. “Ha, ha, very funny,” Lance says in that deep sexy voice of his.’ I’m pretty irritated with the fact that my house is filling up with obnoxious men, but I can’t help but smile at their attempts to deal with their recent misfortune. I silently pray that they don’t actually lose their name. It would kill them. “Hi guys,” I say. I’m greeted by a chorus of “what’s up?”, “hey” and “Hi hottie” (the last being from Joey, of course.) Then, I realize that something’s missing. “Where’s JC?” “He went for a drive,” Chris says, his tone of voice clearly mocking. “Oh leave him alone,” I say. “Poor guy.” “How do you know?” Justin wants to know. “I saw him today, and we had a gut spilling session,” I tell him. “Oh,” he says, getting quiet. But I barely notice, because the TV has been turned on, and my six pack of beer is being broken out. The guys aren’t there too long, though, when Justin kicks them out. I can tell he wants to talk. “You okay, baby?” I ask, rubbing his arm. “I guess,” he says. It’s like he’s trying to figure out why he’s upset. “I just want more details about your ‘gut spilling session.’” I roll my eyes, but explain anyway. “I was looking for Roxanne, but she wasn’t there. I asked if he was okay, and he started to cry. I comforted him. That’s all.” “He cried in front of you?” Justin asks incredulously. “So?” I ask. “We’re friends.” “I guess he told you about Nikki?” he asks. “Yeah,” I sigh. “That girl is a...” But I stop myself. It’s not really her fault that she’s an air head. And everyone but me seems to love her. “Did he say anything about Roxanne?” Justin asks. “What about her?” I ask, puzzled. When did you become part of the conversation? “I thought we were talking about Nikki.” “Well, we are,” Justin says. I just stare at him, so he tries to explain. “She said something to JC.” It’s like he’s not sure if he’s supposed to say anything to me if I don’t already know. “About what?” I snap. Him being all secretive is making me want to know even more. “JC’s not really sure, but she said something like ‘my dreams came true because of you,” Justin says, looking baffled. I, of course, know immediately what it means. I slap my forehead and say, “She actually SAID that to him?” “Yeah,” Justin says. “But I thought she was back with Nick. And then JC’s crying in front of you and you’re comforting him. But then he’s telling me that Roxanne saying that is part of the reason he broke up with Nikki...I am so LOST!” “Poor baby,” I say gently, taking him in my arms. “You’re all conf--wait a minute! Did you say that JC said that Roxanne saying that is why he broke up with Nikki?” “Oops,” he says. “Did I say that out loud?” He looks like he’s fearing for his life. And he should. JC’s going to kill him. “Oh my God,” I say, a smile spreading across my face. “That’s what you meant when you said we were still talking about Nikki. This is so great!” You and JC together is the most wonderful thought I could imagine. Hell, MY dreams came true. Breaking into my thoughts, which he can read by this point, Justin says, “Now don’t get ahead of yourself. You know neither of them will do anything about it. Besides, she IS still with Nick.” “Can’t I just fantasize?” I pout. “Depends what you’re fantasizing about,” Justin says in that dirty, sexy voice he uses. I punch him in the arm and say, “Not now, lover boy. I need to think.” “She-it, Kristin,” he whines, all disappointed. And I can’t let him be disappointed, now can I? You are sitting on the couch pretending to watch Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but really staring out the window, when JC comes in, looking haggard. “Hi,” he says quietly, sitting next to you on the couch. “How are you?” you ask, even though you can tell by looking at him. “Okay,” he says, giving smiling a try. Even upset, he still looks good enough to eat. “How was the meeting?” “Oh you know...” he trails off. “It sucked.” “I’m sorry.” You don’t really know what to say. This is the first time you’ve ever felt awkward around JC. Speaking of things sucking... “I’m gonna call Kristin,” he tells you. “Uh, okay,” you say, accidentally tinging your voice with irritation. “I have a legal question,” he explains. “Oh, okay,” you say, feeling dumb. Why the hell were you jealous? He goes off to make his phone call, returning a minute later to tell you he got the voice mail. You toy with the idea of telling him that that usually means me and Justin are having sex, but decide that would get you nowhere. Instead you stare at each other, searching for things to say. Finally, you can’t stand it anymore. “I’m sorry about being such a dork yesterday,” you blurt out. “No, it’s okay,” he says. “I didn’t mind at all.” “I don’t know what got into me,” you say. There’s a bunch of other things you want to say, but you don’t say them. It’s easy to have this fairytale in your head about JC when Nick is thousands of miles away. But what would happen if Nick came back? It’s not worth embarassing yourself with JC. And, on the chance that there was no embarassment, you couldn’t stand to break JC’s heart. It would kill you. “I just don’t want things to be awkward betwen us,” you tell him. “They’re not,” he says, leaning towards you for a hug. You just kind of sink into his arms, allowing yourself to forget about everything for a few seconds. You know your’e only torturing yourself, but you don’t care. Life is too short. Justin is standing next to the bed wearing nothing but my new beret. I’m laughing hysterically at his ability to look homosexual, while he tells me that he has to get dressed to go somewhere. “No!” I whine. “You can’t leave. It’s so boring without you.” “You can find something to do,” he tells me, though staring at his naked body, I can’t think of anything I want to do besides ravish him. “Do you want to get a job?” “I don’t really want to do the law thing right now,” I remark, doing my best to tear my eyes away from his...uh...stunning upper body. “You’ve spoiled me.” “What do you want to do?” he asks. “I can think of a lot of things,” I say, reaching out to touch his chest. “I’m being serious,” he says, and I can tell he is. Usually he’s way into me being like this. And just to show me how serious he’s being he starts getting dressed. “What would you do if you could do anything in the world?” “I’ve always wanted to be a professional dancer,” I joke, but I’m halfway serious. TJ look out! “So do that,” he says, walking into the closet. “Easy for you to say, Most Perfect Man in the World,” I yell after him. “You actually DO get to do whatever you want. I don’t.” “Why not?” he asks, poking his head out of the door. “Are you going to get me the job?” I ask sarcastically. “Because that’s the only way it would happen.” “Why don’t you TEACH dance?” he says suddenly. “Where?” I am really enjoying being difficult. Unfortunately for me, Justin knows how to deal with me. “You could teach little kids,” he says, ignoring me. He’s getting pretty into the idea. “You love kids.” “That’s true,” I tell him. His enthusiasm is infectious. He sits down on the bed and starts rattling off things I need to do. He says that his mom has a rehearsal room at her house that I can us. And he starts talking about building a dance studio in our house and the publicity we’ll have to do. He is so damn adorable that I don’t have the heart to tell him that none of these things will ever happen. And I don’t care that they won’t. A person can’t ask for much more in life than having another person care about them and love them this much. “Justin?” I interrupt him. “Yes darling?” “I love you.” “I love you, too,” he says, and smiles at me in that way that melts my heart. Then he starts taking his clothes back off. I always win... It is three a.m., and you are awakened by the sound of your door opening and closing. Shortly thereafter you feel the covers of your bed lift and a body slide in next to you. This has become a nightly routine, your heartsick roommate is unable to sleep and is looking to you for comfort. Normally, you pretend not to notice when he snuggles up next to you, but you can’t take it anymore. You turn around so you are facing him, noticing his body tensing up. You’ve never acknowleded his presence in your bed before, and he’s not sure what to do. “We need to talk,” you say. You’re whispering, though you don’t know why. Something about it being so dark and quiet. “Okay,” JC replies, his voice sounding nervous and unsure. “First of all,” you begin. “Are you all right?” “Yeah,” he says, but doesn’t give you anything else. You pause. You weren’t really prepared to do this, but something is telling you you can’t put it off any longer. “We’ve always been close,” you tell him finally. “So it’s not necessarily weird that you’re coming to me in your time of need. So why do I feel different about this time.” “It IS different,” he says slowly, as if taking great care not to say the wrong thing. Your heart starts beating so fast that you think it’s going to beat right out of your chest. You imagine that JC can probably feel it. You take a deep breath to quiet your nerves, but all that does is cause you to inhale his manly scent. Needless to say, it doesn’t help. “What does that mean?” you ask weakly. “Well, it’s the same as before, because both times I’m coming to you for comfort,” he explains. “But it’s different, because before I needed comfort because thinking about something I couldn’t have or someone I couldn’t be with made me feel lonely.” “And now?” You are trying to proceed with caution, but your curiosity is getting the best of you. “Now...” he trails off as if trying to think of the right thing to say. “Now, the reason I need comfort is because I can’t have YOU.” Your throat constricts and your heart has now STOPPED beating. You don’t think JC is breathing, so anxiously is he waiting for you to respond. He has really put his heart on the line. And you can’t believe your ears. But instead of saying anything, you scoot closer to him and wrap your arms around him and lay your head on his chest. You feel his rib cage slowly rise and fall under your cheek, and you don’t remember every feeling more content in your life. He kisses the top of you head and slowly rubs your back. You want to kiss him so badly, but you don’t want to ruin the perfectness of the moment. So you just let it go. You start to doze off, figuring that you’ll work out the details later. Right now you just want to cuddle with the real life angel thats sleeping in your bed. I sit on the couch pretending to read but really trying to eavesdrop on Justin’s phone conversation. I can tell he’s planning something big for my birthday, and I’m dying to know what it is. I spend a minute thinking of how weird it is that we weren’t even together on my last birthday. Justin wasn’t even LEGAL on my last birthday. Yet it seems like we’ve never NOT been together. I have no idea what kind of birthday gifts he gives, but I’m sure they’re good. Truthfully, I can only think of one thing I really want...an engagement ring. It doesn’t need to be big or expensive. It could come from a Cracker Jack box for all I care. What I want is the promise that goes along with it. As I watch the back of Justin’s beautiful body while he wanders around the kitchen with the phone, I try to imagine how hard it must be to be him. The kid’s not even 19 for the love of God, yet he has the whole world weighing on his shoulders. His career might already be over. I know that he would never be able to just walk away from the business, but if his band is demolished, things will never be the same again. He knows that, and he thinks about it every single day. He doesn’t discuss it much but every once in a while, I’ll wake up in the wee hours of the morning to a cold, empty spot in our bed. I usually find him downstairs looking at the multitude of platinum albums and awards that decorate our living room with huge, child-like tears rlling down his cheeks. It nearly kills me every time. My actions are always the same when this happens. I take him in my arms and let him cry like a scared little boy. We go back to bed, and I hold him until he falls asleep. Then I lay there, unable to sleep because of the intense feeling of helplessness that has taken me over. I am overwhelmed with the need to fix what’s wrong in his life, while at the same time daunted by my inability to ake even the smallest dent in his problems. My heart lifts a little in the morning when he smiles at me in thanks. I know that he knows he would be worse off without me. But he never mentions his nightly activities. He lets them stay in that other world that is the middle of the night, and pastes on some fake cheerfulness to get him through the day. But knowing what he must be going through every waking moment tears my heart to shreds. The last thing I want to do is add more stress to his life by putting the pressure of marriage on him. So, I keep my feelings tucked away, buried under the facade of a dutiful show business girlfriend. I’m not angry or hurt that Justin hasn’t asked yet...that’s not my problem. I never planned to be married or even engaged by age 22, and I have no estimation of when Justin will be ready. It’s just difficult for me to not be able to tell him how much I love him, and that I would do anything to spend the rest of my life with him. As if reading my thoughts, Justin, who is now off the phone, plops down next to me, kisses me on the cheek and says, “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” His blunt honesty is so touching and sincere that it has left me speechless. He softly wipes away the tears that have begun uncontrollably coursing down my cheeks and whispers, “Don’t cry baby.” “I’m sorry,” I blubber, falling into his strong embrace. “But you move me to tears.” “I’m just telling the truth,” he murmurs in my ear. “I love you so much.” “I love you, too,” I choke, pulling back to look into his beautiful eyes. They always speak so much, and now all I can see in them is love. Losing my grip and momentarily forgetting my resolve to leave the subject of commitment alone, I say, “I just want to be with you forever.” He looks at me tenderly and says, “You will be, I promise.” And that’s all I need to hear. I wake up the next morning and my pajamas are soft on my legs and my blankets are soft around my feet. I pull them tighter. I feel totally at peace and I sigh and start to wake up a little more. And I think immediately of JC. And I then realize he is not in bed. I sit up in alarm and then just start breathing heavy. What the hell is going on....what the hell am I doing g with my life...WHERE THE HELL IS HE?! My heart goes into my throat and I wonder if I am an idiot. If I somehow made a fool of myself last night....but how could that be? I slowly lay back down and kind of look at the place where he was. And then I get even cornier and kind of touch it. Did he change his mind? Did he freak out? Then I remember where he is. "Court!" I yell out loud and slap my forehead. I look at the clock, it's almost one pm. Why the hell didn't he wake me up? I had been planning on going. I go out of my room and call your house but I get no answer. Duh. You and Justin are both in court. I think about how I knew a red headed guy named Court when I went to summer camp in the sixth grade. Amber had misheard and first thought his name was Corpse, so the whole two weeks we had referred to him as "dead body". I wonder if I should get dressed and head down there right now, but I'm thinking it has to be either near over or over, and besides, I would have to shower and it would take me half an hour to get ready and I don't even really know where it is. I think about calling the round of cell phones, but decide that I don't want to disturb anything. So I sit down on the couch and bite the skin on my fingers. And pick at my ears. The phone rings and I jump a mile and then ounce on it, practically screaming "HELLO?!" "I'm glad you're up," a voice says to me. "JC?" I ask, wistfully. "No, it's me. It's Nick." Talk about a BUZZ KILL. "Oh hi," I say and I think I sound like a dying animal. I sure feel like one. "I am so exhausted," he says to me. "I barely got any sleep and I had to do a photo shoot today and I have to catch a flight to LA in a few minutes. I'm at the airport right now." "Hmm..." I say because I'm not even listening. My heart is beating to the rhythm of JC's name...or initials. It's like it's saying, Don't forget JC....tell Nick about JC.... He starts talking about some club he went to yesterday and I zone him out. God I'm a bitch, I think. "Nicky..." I say and my voice cracks a little. "Yeah babe?" I'm silent for a minute. "Hello? Are you still there?" he asks, always in fear that the cell will go out. "Yeah." I kind of look around for moral support. And then my heart pounds in my ears. I kind of realize I am more afraid than I am anything else. "Nicky, we need to talk." I say it because I know it is a warning sign and I almost want him to accuse me of something so I don't have to say it out loud. "Uh oh," he says but he is kind of laughing. "No," I say. "For serious." He gets kind of quiet. "What?" he asks like he doesn't know what he's getting himself into. Then he takes in a deep breath. "Omigod, you're pregnant." he says. I just sigh because that didn't get me out of ANYTHING. I'm not pregnant. But my sigh must have sounded bad to him, because he starts freaking out. "Jesus fucking Christ!" he yells and I am sure people are staring at him if he really is in the airport. "Oh my god. Oh, for the love of god, why does this shit happen to me?" I am shaking my head, but he can't see me obviously. "No, Nicky--" I try to say but he can't hear me. He's is off in his own world now. I actually get the words out, "I am not pregnant," but he doesn't hear me. "What the hell am I going to do?" he is saying more to himself than me. "God damn it, it was that fucking time we argued about who was going to the store and then no one did. Fuck fuck fuck! Jesus fucking Christ. DAMN IT." "Nicky, thats not it," I say but he isn't listening. "No, Nick, No." "Well you have to get an abortion," he whispers tightly. I kind of freeze. "What?" I ask him in a whisper. "You have to get an abortion." I just sit there, dumbfounded. I think I forget for a minute that I'm not pregnant. "Jesus Roxanne." He says. I can't really move. "I'll pay for it but I can't really go WITH you. Fuck. Maybe Kristin will go with you." All of a sudden the blood starts flowing back in my body, like a waterfall. It's rushing in my ears and my face gets hot. "First of all," I hiss violently. "You cannot tell me what I can and can't do with my body. And second of all, you wouldn't even come with me if that was a decision we made?" I am so angry I can barely see because my eyes flooded with tears. "And THIRD OF ALL," I yell, "I'M NOT PREGNANT! I WAS GOING TO BREAK UP WITH YOU!" He lets out a huge deep breath. I wonder for a moment if he is going to cry. "Oh man," he says and I don't say anything. I'm trying to get control of myself. I am so angry. Then I remember I just broke his heart and I do feel kind of bad. "Thank God," he says. What? "God I was so scared," he says, his breathing kind of calming down. He laughs a little. I hang up. I sit there. And then I burst into tears. I cry for awhile...probably a good half hour. And then I just stop because, you know....you can only cry for so long before you stop or fall asleep. I wipe my face and just keep sitting there in pajamas on the couch, staring off into space. I hear the door open and slam shut and then all of a sudden there is a giddy JC mauling me. He is hooting with laughter. "What happened?" I keep ask over and over again while he hoots and shakes me around. He gets off me and starts dancing around and I remember why people say he is on crack. "What happened?" I ask some more. He finally stops and takes a minute to catch his breath. When he finally gets a hold of it he smiles big. "Nothing really," he says and I just guffaw in exasperation at him. Obviously SOMETHING happened. He nods and laughs and tries to catch his breath a little more. He fills me in on the details and then just stops for a moment. He looks away and a look of complete ecstasy fills his face. "It's not really so much what happened," he gushes. "It's just that I think I realized for myself that we are *N Sync and...and nobody can't take that away. Ever." I see his eyes kind of fill up with tears. He turns back to me and smiles. "There's a party in the making at Justin's," he tells me. "I just wanted to come back here and get you." I kind of sigh for a minute because JC is beautiful. And then I start to cry because I love *N Sync so much. "I love *N Sync," I say, wiping my face. He gives me the biggest hug in the world and starts bouncing around again. "Well, what are you waiting for?" he asks. "Get your ass in the shower!" I laugh. "Okay, " I say, heading to the bathroom. "Oh yeah," he says and I turn back around. "We're having dinner over there tomorrow too." You and I have spent the last couple Thanksgivings together, but the guys always go off with their fams. I had kind of assumed you were going to go to Lynn's with JJ this year. I had planned on asking Joey if I could go be a Fatone with him. "We are?" I ask. He nods. "I think we all have a lot to be thankful for...we wanted to spend that day together." I just smile and keep walking, thinking about the five most wonderful men in the whole world. "Chris," you say, falling over slightly and grabbing onto his arm. "I just wanted to tell you that you have a beautiful voice." "You're so drunk!" he exclaims with glee. And you are. In fact, you haven't been this drunk in a good long time. And it feels nice. You feel free. Justin feels free, you know that. Because hope was restored in his life. All of a sudden you need to be with him. You ditch Chris and run over to where Justin is by the pool. He grabs you in his arms. "Hey there beautiful," he says, giving you a pretty hard core kiss for in front of everybody. He's drunk too. In fact, we are all drunk. Insanely drunk. The phone at the condo is ringing and ringing but neither me nor JC is picking up and you are starting to get irritated. You are waiting for the answering machine, but it's not on apparently. Sighing loudly even though there is no one around to hear, you plop back down in a kitchen chair and stare off into space. Not working has it's advantages but it also has it's DISadvantages--mainly, being bored shitless most of the time. You want to call Justin on his cell phone but you don't want to turn into some weird scary girlfriend who sits at home waiting for her man all the time...wait a minute, thats exactly what you're doing. You groan a little in frustration and then get up and put on some shoes and hop in your car, determined to go out somewhere and do something. It IS your birthday tomorrow, you think to yourself. Maybe you'll go buy yourself something nice. So you go the mall which is something you hardly ever do without Britney around. It's kind of fun. You can't remember the last time you went to the mall alone. You try on some clothes but nothing is really good. You don't mind, it just feels good to be out of the house and doing something for yourself. You are walking by the multiplex and trying to decide whether or not you should see a movie. Movies are a good alone activity. Then your cell phone rings. You smile when you see on the caller ID feature thingy that it's Justin's cell. "Hello?" you ask. "This is the police," he says, making his voice go an octave lower than usual. You can hear his smile in his voice. "Where were you the night of January 28, 1999?" "Hmm..." you say coyly. "Washing my hair." "I think you broke the law," he states flatly. You laugh but your face does go red and you kind of take some short breaths. "Keep that to yourself, will ya?" "Could you go to jail for that?" he asks. "Now, I mean?" "Justin, shut up," you say. It's kind of a sensitive subject for you and you don't really want to be talking about it over cell phones. No matter how funny he finds it or your reactions when he brings it up. "I could press charges," he says, pushing it now. "You raped me." He you can hear the playfulness in his voice, but you are angry. "Justin, knock it off or I'll hang up on you." "Okay, okay," he says, giving in. "Don't get so defensive about your criminal past." Your eyes start darting around as if anyone is really paying the slightest bit of attention to you. "Anyway, birthday girl, where the hell are you?" "Mall." is all you say. "Well, get your sorry ass back home and give me the lovin' I need woman." I wake up from a mid day nap and for a minute forget where I am. And then I remember, I'm at Lance's. The TV is still on, but What About Bob, which we had been watching when I fell asleep, is over and it's some weird cartoon. I get up and wander into the kitchen where Lance is on the phone talking a little hush hush. I assume it's because he's trying not to wake me. He sees me come in the room and smiles and says, "She's awake, want to talk to her?" Whoever it is must have said no because Lance says goodbye and hangs up. "Who was that?" I ask, leaning on the counter next to him. "JC," he says, putting the phone back in its thing. My heart flutters just at the sound of his name but I try to act cool. I get a glass of water. "He thinks you're avoiding him." Lance is looking at me and waiting for an answer. I am not avoiding JC, but I am avoiding the condo. I am avoiding my telephone which rings multiple times an hour. I refuse to answer any unknown or out of area calls. I know they are Nick. "I'm not avoiding JC," I say to Lance and I kind of want to start weeping and hugging Lance and telling him how much I love JC. I manage to refrain. I'm not really sure what is going on between us, and I don't know if I am allowed to talk about it. I haven't said a word to anyone, including you and it is eating me up inside. The one person I want to talk to is JC himself, but then I think about Nick and feel guilty and bitchy. "What time are we leaving tomorrow?" I ask to change the subject. "Noon or something," he tells me. He is still staring at me though. He can tell there is something I'm not telling him. "Why does Nick keep calling your house?" he asks, innocently enough. I sigh. Why the hell did I become close with Lance in the first place? "I don't know exactly, something probably about the fact that I broke up with him." Lance's eyes bug out of his head and he stares at me, mouth open. "You did not!" "Yeah, I did," I say breezily, drinking some more water. I haven't told anyone about that yet either. I don't know how to explain it. Lance is staring at me in awe. "I can't believe you really did it." I just shrug, kind of uncomfortable. I am dreading the moment he asks me why. "Wow," is all he says for awhile and he is smiling. After a minute or so of silence he asks, "Because of JC?" I kind of am taken aback. I look up at him. "Um..."I say and I kind of do my retard stuttering-esque thing. "Well um kind of." "Right on," Lance says, his smile growing. He even hugs me. I realize I am pretty retarded for assuming JC hasn't mentioned anything to his friends. All of a sudden I am filled with the desire to know everything Lance knows, in detail. But I just take a deep breath and fight the urge. Grilling Lance is a mistake--what I need to do is talk to JC myself. I drive home with my adrenaline pumping and passionate scenes with JC running through my head. I even take a moment to picture us running open armed towards each other in a field....because, somewhere there's a field and a river and if it's not with him then I don't know where else to look. But before I get home, I take the exit that heads to your house. I decide I want to get this Nick shit squared away before I confess my undying love for Joshua Chasez. Just thinking that thought in my head fills me with excitement. JC! I think to myself. Of all people! I never thought it was possible that my dreams might actually come true! Might actually be a reality. To be loved by JC is like nothing else. I had dreamed all my life of this and never gave it an ounce of belief. I pull over next to the house and take a moment to kind of collect my thoughts before going to the door. I ring the bell but it takes a good ten minutes before Justin appears at the door. "What are you doing here?" he hisses at me. "Can I use your phone?" I ask, ignoring him and pushing past him and in the door. "Roxanne, some people call before they come over," he says with his sad little boy look on his face. You come into the room and smile. "Hey you," you say and you hug me. I'm not sure why, but it's really nice. I hug you back tightly. "Can I use your phone?" "Of course," you say. Sometimes I wonder why I am the only one without a cell phone for the love of god. I am too caught up in my own issues to even notice that you are slightly disheveled and were obviously making out with JJ when I showed up. At least you are such a good friend you answered the door when you peeked out the window and saw it was me. You hand me the cordless and ignore Justin while he keeps manuevering akwardly in his pants to hide his hard on. I sigh a little quiet sigh. "Do you mind if I go in the guest room?" You just stare at me, confused but nod. "Sure babe." You are wondering what is going on but I don't look too upset. You are actually a little upset with me because you've known something weird is going on with me and JC this past week and I haven't mentioned a word of it. You start to wonder if maybe I'm not shutting you out; maybe nothing weird really is going on and JC made it all up in his head. Or Justin exaggerated it when he rehashed the information he was given. I go into the room and shut the door behind me and kind of shrug at Justin as if to say, "I don't know what's going on." But he doesn't care and he is trying to get fresh with you, but the mood is gone and you just go into the kitchen and get a Coke. Justin sighs loudly and starts to look like he might actually cry. Whatevah! He's a little too emotional about his booty. He opens his mouth to say something and you consider sitting in his lap and comforting him a little. But then you hear me kind of yell something from the other room and you both look up. "Who is she talking to?" Justin asks. You shrug, bewildered. "I don't know...who couldn't she call from her own house?" Justin just gets up and goes into the hallway and stands by the door and tries to listen in. "Don't," you whisper warningly. As much as you want to know whats going on, it's not very nice to eavesdrop on my conversation. You pull him away from the door and you both go sit down on the couch and kind of stare at it. "You realize there's only one person she can't call from her own house," he says to you. "JC. Because he's already there." You frown and look at the door some more. My voice is muffled and you can't hear most of what I'm saying. Then I say loudly, "I just can't do it! At least I'm being straight up with you." "Oh no," you say before you can stop yourself and you stand up but don't go anywhere. You've put a little too much hope into this whole me and JC fantasy of yours. You should have known it would never happen. Justin's eyes are wide. He looks kind of excited though. I guess everybody kind of likes gossip. Dr. Pepper (who is pretty fucking big by now, btw) comes over to Justin and tries to play. Justin shoves his hands at him and says, "Shhh! We're trying to listen to something." You swear he really thinks DP understands english. I'm getting loud again. "It doesn't have anything to do with that!.....I know, but....But I....It's just that.....Well, I didn't think....Jesus Christ, will you let me talk?!" Justin comes over and stands by you. Neither of you know what to do with yourselves. You feel like you should do something, but you don't want to interupt me. "Don't....Don't! I don't want you to make promises, that's not what this is about....What?....Don't even go there....What?....Jesus....I just don't want to be with you, what more reason do you need?" "Ouch," Justin says quietly and kind of pulls you to him for a moment. "Poor JC," you murmer into his chest. "I care about you, but this isn't right....That's not what I want...I want something that isn't...." Then I start murmering again and there's no way you can hear me without putting your ear on the door. "Poor JC," you say again, sitting down on the couch. Justin joins you and kisses your neck. "We are so lucky we already found each other," he says thoughtfully. You smile because this guy is a gem. After about ten to fifteen more minutes with a lot of murmering and a lot of Justin staring at you dreamy eyed and you shaking your head in disbelief at your luck, I come out of the door. "Thanks," I kind of say and I hand you the phone. I look like I've been crying a little but I'm smiling a small smile. "No problem," you say and I sit down next to you on the couch and kind of cuddle up against you like DP sometimes does. You pet me supportively. "So I guess you made a decision," Justin says and you can kind of hear in his voice that he thinks it was the wrong one. I sigh. "Yeah." "You could have been a little nicer," he adds. He is a little pissed and you can tell. At first it alarms you but then you realize that it's JC were talking about here, one of his bestest friends ever. If there is something that hurts Justin more than anything else, it's one of the other boys being hurt. He can't help but feel resentment towards me. "I tried to be nice when we talked on Thanksgiving for like three hours," I say, sitting up a little and rubbing my face. "But it didn't get me anywhere and he didn't give up. I finally just had to let it out, you know? I love somebody else more than I love him. And I know I'm a bitch, but I can't help it. And I'm not going to be nice if it means I'm not happy." I'm talking like I'm trying to convince myself and you keep petting me even though I've moved. You can sympathize. "It sounded like a hard conversation." I kind of lay my head down in your lap. You think I might be crying a little. "I had to do it," I say after a minute. "And I'm glad I did." I sit up and I'm smiling. I wipe a couple of tears off my face. "I made the right decision and I can't believe how I feel...I just can't believe it. I almost can't believe how in love I am." I look a little embarrassed and look down at my hands. "Well, what matters is that you were true to your heart and honest to everyone involved," you say, trying to be objective. You know that what you say is the truth, even if you had hoped things had turned out differently. You glance at Justin who just looks angry. You can tell he is trying to keep it in though, and are grateful. "Well, you should probably go now," Justin says curtly. You look at me, a little worried. If I need someplace to stay for a couple days, you want to be able to offer that to me. "Yeah, I should," is all I say, standing up, oblivious to Justin's attitude. "Where are you going to go?" you ask, following me to the door with Justin at your heels. "Home," I say, turning around to face you guys. I take an excited deep breath. "Well, what's going to happen there?" Justin asks flatly. "I don't know," I answer, my voice coming out in excited gid. "Something. I hope." "I think plenty has happened for one day," Justin just says back to me and you are kind of taken aback by the viciousness of his voice. You can't believe I don't seem to notice. You sigh, wondering if this rift is repairable. "Do you think?" I ask, nervous. "What do you think I should do?" Justin rolls his eyes and looks away. You sigh again and look back at me. "Why don't you just wait it out for a couple days? Let things settle." I kind of falter. "I guess thats a good idea." I leave and you give Justin a look. He sighs and hugs you tight. "I'm sorry," he says into your hair and you forgive him. You wake up the next day because you smell food. You yawn and open your eyes and Justin's face is inches away from yours. "Oh my god!" you exclaim in surprise and kind of jump back. "Good morning," he says in a low voice. He leans in and kisses you. "Happy birthday." You smile and shake your head. "Thanks," you say, stretching a little. "What time is it?" "Eight," he answers, sitting back and giving you a little room. He pulls from the bedside table a plate with eggs benedict on it. You laugh. "Hungry?" he asks. You just laugh more and sit up. He puts the plate in your lap and you take a bite. "Mmm," you say, kissing him. "Did you make this?" "Yeah," he says, rubbing your leg a little. "You like?" "Yes," you say and kiss him again. "Happy birthday old lady." "Thanks little boy," you say back. You offer him a bite but he shakes his head. "Why don't you have your own?" He just smiles a little and shrugs. You offer him more bites but he keeps refusing. Having him stare at you while you eat is a little unnerving. You aren't that hungry anyway so you put your meal aside and thank him in a different way. I wake up kind of early the next morning because all I want is to see JC. He hadn't been home yesterday when I showed up and when he finally got there he had said he was tired. I had told him I wasn't avoiding him but before I could get it out of my mouth that I loved him so much I had considered projectile vomitting, he had headed to bed. And what you and Justin had said to me earlier still rang in my head a little. Whats the hurry? But I felt hurried. There was an urgency inside me. So I get out of bed and before I even go pee I gointo the kitchen and he is standing there scrambling eggs. "Hi," I say when I see him because he looks so good. So much like JC, who he is. I just smile. He smiles at me too. "Hi." he says. And then Joey says hi. I turn around and there he is, putting butter on some toast. He offers me some. "No thanks, I need to shower," is all I say. I love Joey as much as the next girl who longs to have his children, but really his timing sucks. "Do you want some eggs?" JC calls after me. I turn around and just look at him for a minute. I can't even handle him. I shake my head slowly. He smiles a little and looks back down at his pan. I hop in the shower. We have to be at the airport soon. I get showered and dressed and packed (because of course I didn't do it last night) and by the time I'm closing my suitcase Joey is calling my name and I have to put my shoes on and JC is saying, "Come on, come on, come on!" He's right outside my door clapping his hands as if thats going to hurry me up or something. "You ready?" he asks. "Joey's already in the cab." "Yeah," I say and he takes my suitcase and we leave the condo and I lock the door. When we get to the airport you and Justin are already there, being sickeningly cute, and I realize that I left your present at the condo. There is no time left to go get it and after I tell you Happy Birthday eight million times I say that this way your birthday will be extended for awhile longer. JC hugs you a bunch and I get a little jealous, but Joey and Lance and Chris are all hugging you a lot too, so I let it go. We board the flight and after Justin gives up trying to coerce you to join the mile high club again, the stewardess gets over the loud speaker and announces it's your birthday. She brings over a jello dessert that doesn't look too appetizing and lets everyone hear while you are serenaded by *N Sync. Everyone claps and then it turns out there is this girl who is turning ten on the plane and she loves *N Sync, so they all go back there and serenade her too, which is the cutest thing ever. They all kind of talk to her for a little while and she looks like she is going to die of happiness. They sign things and Justin kisses her on the cheek. Her mother keeps saying thank you and I hear some old woman say, "They are such nice boys!" Back in first class we all are fighting for your attention until you announce that you want to play the vegetable game. Everyone is a little weary but we do it anyway. It's definetly worth some laughs and we end up playing it until we get to New York. Once we're there it's like a whirlwind. Twenty things happen every half a second, and honestly it's like the next thing I know I'm off with Chris shopping for the twenty minutes he has inbetween commitments. I talk to you on the cell phone for a second, but then the next thing I know there we are, at Rockefeller Center with not a moment to lose. The guys are getting make up or whatever and you and me find a moment to kind of sit off to the side by ourselves. I tell you how much I love you and happy birthday. I hug you a lot. Maybe too much. It's freezing and both you and me are bundled up like you wouldn't believe. Only we don't match like the guys do. You go to be with Justin for a minute before they do their little set, and I find JC and go stand by him. He is smiling and looks really cute and happy. And cold. He keeps jumping around and asking me if I am freezing. I say yes every time. They do their show thing and you and me watch and cheer and cheer and cheer as loud as we can! We giggle a lot too and feel like teenyboppers and fans and I have to admit, it's a feeling I miss sometimes. We are laughing a lot and I wrap my scarf around my head so many times that all you can see is my eyes, which gets you rolling and telling me how weird I am and how I am embarrassing you. When the guys are done Justin steals you again. JC finds me and we start talking about how much more it seems like Christmas here than it ever does in Orlando and trade a few childhood snow stories. His are better than mine. I only have, like, five. He says he is so cold and we kind of hug for body warmth. But once we're in the hug neither of us wants to let go. He is making some JC crack noises in my ear because he really is cold. He's not as bundled up as I am. But I love his JC crack noises. I just hug him tighter when he makes them and he stops spazzing out so much and just kind of hugs me proper. And he is so soft and plush in his big coat. I lay my head down on it and he holds me tight, kind of rubbing my back. "JC, I love you," I tell him. He kind of stops rubbing my back for a minute. It's not like I haven't said that a million times before, but in light of the past week and a half, it holds a slightly different meaning. I can tell he doesn't really know what he's supposed to make of it. I don't care what he makes of it. I love him and I don't want him to ever let go of me in his whole life. "I love you too," is all he says. I kind of start to cry because I just really am so happy. I love JC and I love *N Sync. And I love Christmas. And I feel so warm even though it's cold outside. And I love you and it's your birthday. And I love watching some guy ice skate. And I love New York. So I'm just weeping into JC's puffy jacket because I am just so happy and my life just feels so right. Thank god no one is paying any attention to us. "You okay?" he asks me, slightly concerned. I look up at him and the man is BEAUTIFUL. He's the most beautiful creature I have ever seen in all of my life or could ever hope to. And he smells good too. "God I love you," I just say to him again and this time he gets a little serious look on his face and holds my stare for a long time. Then he just smiles a tiny smile and kisses the top of my head and sighs. But he doesn't let go. Thank God he doesn't let go. "I broke up with my boyfriend," I just kind of throw out there. He lets go when I say that and takes a step back, floored. "What?" he asks. ["YOU'RE MOM DID THAT TO YOU?"] He looks around but no one is looking at us. He looks back at me. "What?" he asks again. I just nod and he looks at me with his eyes bugging out of his head. He does his head throw back laugh. "Why did you do that?" he asks, serious for a minute. I kind of think for a minute because I don't know how to phrase exactly what I feel. Finally I look at him and say, "I would give up anything if you will just kiss me one time." He stares at me. Then he laughs. And then he leans in, and kisses me. When we break apart we stare at each other. Then we laugh. Then some guys pulls him away from me so he can do the ending of the show. I wave because I can't think of anything else to do. You find me and we watch them together. I hug you some more. I don't care if it bugs you. "Happy birthday," I tell you. "You too," you say and we laugh and I think about JC's lips and how they were just on mine. I get giddy and hug you again. "God, look at him," you say with a contented sigh and I guess you are talking about Justin but I look at JC anyway. I turn to you. "We are so dead." "What?" you ask with a laugh. "We are dead. There is no other explanation for this." You smile at me. I hug you again. "Yeah..." you say slowly. "How else would you explain all these angels?" I ask you to hold my hand and you do. We all get in a limo and you are ready to go to the club to party like we'd planned. But the drive seems to be taking a long time. Justin makes you a drink from the minibar thing. "Where the hell is this club?" you ask, finishing your drink and getting handed another by JJ. "Oh, you know how New York is," Joey says lamely. Everyone is sitting there with dumb smiles on their faces and you get a little suspicious. You turn to me. "Whats going on?" you ask. But when I look up I see JC and I just giggle because he has a goofy grin on his face. You turn to Lance. "Is something going on?" "Need another drink?" Justin offers. You look at him. He just smiles his Brady Brunch smile at you. You shake your head and notice we are on the bridge. "Where are we going?" you demand from all of us. "Hey, let's play the vegetable game!" Chris exclaims and we all scramble to agree with glee. "Come on guys, really, where are we going?" you ask. "Hiccuma, hiccuma," I am saying. You turn to Justin. "Baby, this is sweet and everything, but what's going on?" He stares at you. "Hiccuma, hiccuma," he says. "Bockalee, bockalee." Seeing Justin with the vegetable game face is enough to give anyone a heart attack and you just start to laugh. You sigh and pick up the third drink he had made you. You kind of gave up on finding out where we were going, even when we'd been in the car for a good hour. Instead you work on getting everyone drunk, which is easy. You kiss Justin repeatedly as we all sit close to each other in this limosine, nicely buzzed with the heat blaring. We talk and talk and talk. We laugh and laugh and laugh. You are drunk by the time the car finally stops. You wipe off the fogged up window and look out. All you see is snow. But it looks beautiful covering the trees. It's so dark but up ahead you can see a cabin with the glow of Christmas lights coming from the inside. "Where are we?" you ask in a deep breath and me and all the guys just get out of the car. Justin kisses your hand. "Vermont," he says. "Just a little winter wonderland get away." "Ooh," you say with a smile. "Happy birthday," he tells you, finally serious. "Thank you," you tell him. "I love you," he says, still serious. You wrap your arms around his neck. "I love you!" You get out of the car and go to the cabin, where there is a fire going and what smells like food. Justin has your hand in his. Jessica comes flying out of the kitchen and yelling excitedly. Her first stop is Lance, whom she hugs and kisses. Then she comes over to you and hugs you and tells you Happy Birthday. She has the cabin prestocked for our stay. Tons of food and even more alcohol. You try to ask her what the hell she is doing here when her answer is simply, "It's your birthday!" You want to sit around and party with everyone but the way Justin is looking at you like he's choking on love for you, and the way he's holding on to you as if you are one of his kidneys, has melted your heart. You have him show you to the room you guys are staying in, the master bedroom. After you make sweet sweet love you start to fall asleep in his arms. He leans over and kisses the top of your head. The rhythm of his heavy breathing is making you even more tired. He leans over and starts softly singing, "You're my honey bun, sugar plum, pumby-umby-umkin. You're my sweetie pie. You're my cuppy cake gum drop snickem snickem snuer...." you close your eyes. "The apple of my eye." You and JC are having dinner with Justin and me. It’s a nice little double date. When we’re done eating, we decide that we need more alcohol. You youngins can’t buy it so JC and I hop in the Jeep and head to the liquor store. There’s a big tropical storm blowing in. Leaves are scattered everywhere from the strong winds and an occasional bolt of lightning rips through the sky. We get some beer and head home. But when we get there emergency vehicles and the electricity company are parked out front. I stare at JC, wide-eyed looking for an answer, but he just shrugs. We are walking to the house when a fireman stops us. “No one is allowed in the house,” he says sternly. “But it’s MY house,” I tell him, urgency creeping into my voice. “I’m sorry ma’am,” he says. “It’s not safe.” “But what happened?” I whine, feeling a lump of fear form in my throat. “A tree blew over and took a power line with it,” he explains a little too calmly. “The line is now draped over the house.” I look up and see the sparks flying off the roof, while uniformed men try to do something about it. “But...” I stutter. “My boyfriend and my best friend are in there. Are they okay?” I can fee JC’s hand on my back, but it’s not comforting me. Why wasn’t I with Ju when this happened? “Most likely,” the fireman says. “We won’t know until we can go inside.” “Oh my God,” I start crying. JC puts his arm around me and leads me away, saying “Keep us updated” to the fireman over his shoulder. To me he says, “They’ll be fine. I promise.” We go and sit in the car, for lack of somewhere better to go. I lean on JC whose arm is still around me and cry. He tells me that he is saying prayers for you and Justin, and I join in. I’ll do anything to make sure you two are safe. At the same time... You and Justin are watching “Who’s Line...” and basically rolling on the floor from laughing so hard, when you hear a big crash and the power goes out. You’re both quiet for a minute until you whisper, “What happened?” Justin comes and sits next to you and says, “I don’t know.” You can tell he’s scared. Normally you would think it was cute, but right now it’s just making you more scared. You both just kind of sit there for awhile, not moving and barely breathing. If the power had just gone out, it would be no big deal. But it was the huge crash that preceded it that is worrying you. You can hear a crackling sound coming from the ceiling. “Shit,” Justin says. “I bet one of the power lines fell on the roof.” You said it yourself, he’s a genius. “What should we do?” you ask, expecting him to know. “Pray?” he says, his voice cracking a little. You kind of laugh, but it’s just nervousness. “I remember talking about stuff like this in high school science classes,” you start rambling. “I don’t think we’re supposed to move. And we shouldn’t touch anything metal.” “Jesus Christ,” Justin mutters. “I’m scared,” you say, and Justin does the only thing he knows to do. He hugs you. You both just kind fo sit there leaning on each other for awhile. It seems like hours have gone by, but you figure it’s just probably been a few minutes. Finally, you hear sirens outside, and both say “Thank God” at the same time. “Is anyone in there?” a loud male voice yells. “Yes!” Justin practically screams. “Don’t move,” you are told. “We’ll try to take care of this as quickly as possible.” It has begun to rain. JC and I watch helplessly as the workers try to get rid of the power line so they can get you out. Neither of us is saying anything, but he is holding my hand. I’m glad he’s there. I wouldn’t ever be able to handle this alone. “How you holding up?” he asks with a small smile. “Okay, I guess,” I tell him. “I just feel so helpless. What about you?” “I’m fine,” he says, putting on a brave front. But I can tell that he’s shaking. “They’ll be fine, I’m sure,” I try to reassure him, but my voice isn’t very strong. “You know what I was thinking about?” JC asks after a pause. “Huh?” “Remember that time that Justin was hula dancing on the grass in you and Roxanne’s old back yard, and a bee stung him in the foot?” He giggles. “Oh my God,” I start laughing. “The look on his face was priceless. He was such a baby about it! I thought we were going to have to take him to the hospital.” “And the time,” JC is on a roll. “That he and Chris were wrestling by the Tiki torch and Chris’ hair caught on fire? And Justin kept pouring beer over his head to put the fire out. He was actually really scared.” “What about that time that we were in that club, and the waitess spilled a whole tray of drinks down Roxanne’s back?” I hoot. “Talk about looks on people’s faces. I’ve never seen someone so shocked in my entire life!” “I totally forgot about that,” JC laughs. “We had to take her home, and we kept praying we didn’t get pulled over, because all the alcohol on her made the car smell like a damn distillery!” We laugh so hard our stomachs hurt until I say, “We have some good stories.” I sigh and continue. “I remember the first time I really started hanging out with Justin. We were at this party, and I was pretty drunk. I wasl walking away from the keg, and I slipped on some spilled beer, and fell right on my ass. AND I spilled my beer all over me. I thought he was never going to talk to me again!” “That would’ve been dumb of him,” JC says kindly, and I smile gratefully at im for taking my mind of the situation for a few minutes. But I have a feeling that he did it for himself, too.” “Okay, let’s play 20 questions,” Justin says, trying to think of something to do. “It’s dark,” you tell him. “We can’t see anything.” You are afraid to get candles, because that would require moving. “Quit raining on my parade,” he says good-naturedly. “We can sort of see stuff.” “Okay fine,” you say, thinking that anything is better than sitting there waiting to die. You play that for a while until you run out of stuff you can see. (The only things you got to were some fireplace tools, Justin’s necklace [which somehow gives off a light of its own] and the swimming pool.) “I wonder what Kristin and JC are doing,” you comment. Justin looks at you in alarm. “What do you mean?” “Jesus Justin,” you sigh exasperatedly, all the while thinking his jealousy over me is pretty adorable. “They’re probably outside, freaked out as all hell.” “I wish she was here,” he says dejectedly. “But we’ll see them soon.” It’s as if he’s trying to convince himself, rather than you. “They’re probably out there discussing politics or the best way to clean a bathtub,” you say, trying not to think of what it would be like to never see JC again. “Probably,” Justin smiles in spite of his worries. “They’re a lot a like, huh?” “Too much alike,” you say. “Do you think he was really in love with her?” Justin asks suddenly. You didn’t really want the conversation to travel here. But it seems that when people are in a situation like this they always have these major heart-to-heart conversations. “Yeah, I think he was,” you say honestly. “People don’t get that torn up about something that isn’t real. But it wasn’t meant to be.” “As opposed to YOU and JC?” Justin grins. He’s been so much happier since he found out that Nick was the person you didn’t want to be with, not JC. “I hope so,” you sigh wistfully. “I love him a lot. He is so amazing. I really couldn’t have asked for more.” You kind of stop yourself. You didn’t mean to get so emotional and mushy in front of JJ. But he doesn’t seem to notice. “Well, he’s a pretty awesome guy,” he says. “I mean, he would have to be to be friends with ME.” He smiles the Brady Bunch smile, and you punch him. “Well, if I had to get stuck,” you tell him. “I’m glad it was with you.” “We needed to do a little bonding, didn’t we?” he says, God love him. How did we all get so blessed? “Are you and Justin going to get married?” JC asks out of the blue. I look down at my promise ring and say, “Eventually. It’s just sort of a known fact between us that we will. But we’re still pretty young...well, Justin is anyway.” JC laughs and says, “You guys will make it.” “He just has to ASK,” I say, accidentally spilling my guts. “I would say yes in a heartbeat.” “That’s fairly obvious,” JC points out. “Don’t tell him I said that, though, okay?” I request, wishing I could take my words back. “I won’t,” he swears. “But I’m sure he knows it anyway.” “He hasn’t said anything to you about it, has he?” I ask. “Nope,” JC says. “I think he likes to keep your relationship to himself. It makes it more special. But I know him well enough to read his actions. You mean the world to him.” I sigh and smile goofily. “He’s the best. Besides you of course,” I cover. “It’s okay,” JC laughs. “No, I mean really,” I say. “There aren’t very many people I consider good enough for Roxanne, but you’re one of them.” “Well, I’m glad,” he says. “But to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t let you or anyone else stand in the way of my being with her.” “Aww,” I gush. “Nothing could make me happier than seeing you two together.” Then I amend my statement. “Except maybe being able to know if Justin and Roxanne are okay.” As if on cue, one of the firemen taps on the window of the Jeep. “We got it down,” he says. “Thank God,” I yell, getting out of the jeep and throwing my arms around him. He hugs me back, probably used to these kinds of displays of gratitude. JC comes around the car, and I hug him, too. “Thanks for being my friend,” I tell him. “It’s times like these when we realize how much we have to be thankful for.” “It was my pleasure,” he says, smiling. “But I needed you, too. Thanks.” “You’re so welcome.” I look up when I hear someone calling my name. You and Justin are coming out of the house, and he is running towards me. I run up and hug him as tightly as I can for as long as I can. “I was so scared,” I mutter in his ear. “Me, too,” he admits. “I never want to lose you,” I tell him. We’re soaking wet, but we don’t care. “You won’t,” he promises. “Ever.” Meanwhile, you and JC are hugging, too. “Are you all right?” he asks you. “I am now,” you tell him. “You make me feel safe.” “I was really afraid for you,” he tells you. “Well, I’m okay now,” you smile. “I love you,” he says. “I love you, too.” Then I come over and hug you, and tell you how scared I was yadda, yadda, yadda, but we stop talking when we look up and see Ju and JC hugging. And they’re not bothering with a “guy hug.” They’re really hugging. And they’re saying what look to be heartfelt things, though we can’t hear them. We forget sometimes that they’ve known each other way longer than we’ve known them or each other. It is seriously the most precious thing we’ve ever seen, and we have to dab at our eyes a little bit to stop the tears that are forming. We’re interrupted by our favorite fireman who comes over and asks JC and Justin to autograph some stuff for his daughter. “If you give us your address,” Justin tells him, “We’ll send you a bunch more stuff.” We decide to stay at JC and your condo until they can make sure the house is completely safe. When we get there, we shower and dry off, and then we all drop. We’re emotionally and physically exhausted. Justin starts folding out the hide-a-bed and I get blankets. You know that we could probably sleep in JC’s room, but you don’t want to make a big announcement about the fact that you don’t need two beds. So you just let us sleep in the living room. Besides, we’re so worn out that we don’t even notice. We just fall asleep in each other’s arms. You and JC make some hot chocolate, but you’re too tired to finish it. When JC leaves the dirty mugs on the counter, and you can tell he’s tired. You go to your respective rooms, knowing that eventually you’ll end up in the same one. The phone ringing at 8 a.m. wakes me up. I answer it, and an official sounding voice asks for Justin. I hand him the phone, and he takes it, but I’m not sure he even knows what’s going on. You know how he is in the morning. “Okay thanks,” he says. Then he looks a me. “We can go home whenever we want.” Then he falls immediately back to sleep. I’m awake, however. So I go in the kitchen and clean up the mugs from the night before, and make some cereal. But I’m afraid to stay away from Justin too long, so I go and get back in bed. I watch him sleeping for awhile, until one of his eyes pops open. “You know, it’s really hard to sleep when someone is staring at you.” “I can’t help it,” I tell him. “You look like an angel.” “Oy vey,” he says, but I can tell he likes it. “Let’s go home baby,” I say. “Okay,” he says. “Should we wake Roxanne and JC up?” “Nah, let em sleep,” I say. We drive home in the Benz, and Justin holds my hand. Corny as it sonds, thinking about losing someone only makes you love them more. (Even though I never actually thought I would lose Justin...it just made me think.) I think about how maybe it was fate that put all of us in that position, just to make sure we didn’t take the ones we love for granted. You know, nothing is a coincidence. We take showers and go back to sleep for awhile. We lay around in bed all day reading the paper and watching TV. We build a fire in the fireplace. We go grocery shopping and search the Internet for weird *N Sync rumors. It’s so nice to have Justin around. Even though it’s not very exciting, it’s one of the best days of my life. We’re sitting around watching Wheel of Fortune and eating Taco Bell when Justin suddenly gets up and goes upstairs. “Where are you going, baby?” I ask. “I’ll be right back,” he tells me, blowing me a kiss, which causes me to get all giddy. He’s gone for kind of awhile, and when he comes back downstairs, he is holding something behind his back. I try to see what it is, but he keeps turning so I can’t. He comes over and takes the burrito out of my hand and sets it on the table. Then he turns the TV off. Meanwhile I’m thinking, “What the hell is he doing?” He sits down next to me on the couch and takes my hand, while his other hand is still behind his back. “Kristin,” he begins. “I’ve never felt anything as strong as the love I feel for you. And last night made me realize that I want to be with you forever.” At this point, I’m not breathing. Just staring at the beauty that is Justin Timberlake. “I’m almost 19,” he continues. “And I think I’m old enough to make this decision. Besides, I don’t see why I should wait when I know that I’ll never want to be with anyone else.” H kneels on the floor, and for a moment I think that I’m going to pass out. But I hold on to my consciousness, because I don’t want to miss this for anything. From behind his back, he brings out a tiny, gray velvet box. He opens it and says, “Will you marry me?” I don’t say anything for awhile, because I’m trying not to cry. “Oh Justin,” I finally breathe out. “Of course I will!” Scratch what I said about the day not being very exciting. But it IS the best day of my life. Justin takes the promise ring off my left hand and transfers it to my right. And then he slides the beautiful ring he has told me belonged to his Grandmother on my inger. I stare at it for a moment and then I look at him surrounded by the glow of the firelight. He really is an angel. “I love you so much,” I say, hugging him and kissing him while tears of happiness pour, unchecked, down my cheeks. Then I kind of start to giggle, thinking how I would’ve never expected the proposal to come like this. Justin is so extravagant, normally. But here I am in sweats, eating Taco Bell when it happens. I say as much to him, and he says, “I think you look beautiful.” Goddammit, I love this man! Justin picks me up and carries me up the stairs. Our room is lit with a million candles, and I realize that this is what he had been doing when he was gone for so long. He lays me on the bed, and arranges himself next to me. He brushes the hair off my face and kisses my cheek. “I could die right now, and I would feel like I got everything I ever wanted in life,” I tell him. “Don’t die,” he says. “We have our whole lives together.” “That is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever heard,” I say, sighing contentedly. “I love you,” he says. “I love you, too.” Then he starts to sing... When the visions around you Bring tears to your eyes And all that surrounds you Are secets and lies I’ll be your strength I’ll give you hope Keeping your faith when it’s gone The one you should call Standing here all along I will take you in my arms And hold you right where you belong Till the day my life is through This I promise you I’ve loved you forever In lifetimes before And I promise you never Will you hurt anymore I give you my word I give you my heart This is a battle we’ve won And with this vow Forever has now begun Every word I say is true This I promise you... I’m sitting at the kitchen table early the next morning practicing my new signature. Kristin Timberlake, Kristin D. Timberlake, Kristin Dianne Timberlake, Mrs. Kristin Dianne Timberlake, because I’m way too excited to sleep. I’m interrupted by the doorbell, and I take a moment to wonder who the hell is at my house at 8 a.m. I go to answer the door, and standing there is a woman in a suit who looks vaguely familiar. “Is Justin Timberlake home?” she asks, eyeing me curiously. “He’s asleep” I inform her. “Can I help you with something?” “And who might you be?” she inquires. She’s trying to be polite, but I still think it’s a rude question. “His roommate,” I say without hesitation. It’s not a lie. “I’m Leslie Gower,” she tells me. “From Extra.” I tense up a little and wonder if I should try to hide the newest addition to my jewelry collection. I decide against it, figuring it will only draw attention. “What do you need?” I ask curtly. “I just wanted to ask about the night of the storm,” she says. “I heard you had some excitement here.” Just as I’m about to tell her I wouldn’t quite call it excitement, the phone rings. “Excuse me,” I say and she nods. “Hello?” I answer. “May I speak with Mr. Timberlake?” a male voice asks. “He’s asleep,” I reply, starting to sound like a broken record. “Can I take a message?” “This is Jonathan Marshall from the Orlando Herald. I just wanted to ask him a few questions.” “He’s pretty busy,” I say, getting irritated and deciding that whoever let this information leak is going to die. “You’ll need to call his management or the record company for a statement. “But I’d really like to talk to him, just to set some of the rumors straight,” he says like he’s doing Justin a favor. He’s pretty persistant, but I’m more protective. “Sorry,” I say. “I can’t help you.” And I hang up. I go back to the front door, and my eyes nearly pop out of my head when I see that Leslie actually came in my house and her camera man is setting his equipment up in our foyer. “What the hell are you doing?” I hiss. “You better not wake Justin up.” But it’s too late. I hear him padding down the stairs and then saying, “Baby, who’s here?” Leslie’s ears perk up when she hears him calling me “baby” and I figure that she’s picked up on the fact that she’s found an even better story than she thought she had. And as if that’s not bad enough, Justin is wearing nothing but his favorite pj pants. “I”ll take care of it,” I tell him. “Go back to sleep.” He realizes that something’s up by my tone of voice, and retreats back upstairs. “Will you please leave?” I ask. “Just trying to get a story ma’am,” she says. “Can we just ask you a few questions?” “There’s no story,” I tell her. “A power line fell, and it had to be removed before the house was safe. That’s it.” I start ushering her and her crew out the door when she asks the inevitable question. “Are you wearing an engagement ring?” My face turns red with rage at my privacy being invaded like this. “Get out!” I yell. “And don’t come back.” But when I open the door, I see another news van pulling up. I throw my hands up in the air, and I’m about to start crying. Another woman in a suit rushes up and shoves a microphone in my face. “I’m from Hard Copy,” she says. “Can you comment on...” “NO!” I yell. I see her make a weird face, and I turn around. There is Justin, dressed and angry. “I’ll make a statement,” he says. “But when I’m finished you all have to leave.” He says a few carefully chosen words, and gives them the number of his PR person. They seem satisfied with what he’s said, and turn to leave. “It’s better to talk to them,” he tells me after they’ve all gone. “That way they don’t assume that you’re hiding anything.” “I know,” I tell him. “It wasn’t a big deal until she asked about my ring.” “She what?” he says. “Yeah,” I say. “You better call Johnny. We’re going to have to do damage control.” You and JC just got home from going out to dinner with Lance and Jessica, who came back with us from Vermont. She’s not even bothering with the pretense of staying with you and JC. She’s staying with Lance. But you’re fine with it, because you don’t want her interrupting your quality time with JC. JC starts doing laundry, and you flop down on the couch to watch TV. You flip through the channels, and go back when you’re sure you saw me on the screen. You kind of shake your head, because you don’t know how that would’ve happened. But, sure enough, it’s me on Extra. You yell, “JC, come here! Kristin’s on Extra!” He runs in and you turn the TV up. The reporter is saying something about some emergency that threatened mega-pop star Justin Timberlake’s life. You kind of laugh, because they are, as usual, blowing everything out of proportion. You watch Justin giving a statement from our foyer that they carefully cut to make it sound more serious than it was. Then the reporter starts talking again. “But, what Justin didn’t say is the bigger story here. The girl off to the right, a Miss Kristin Lindgren, who was formerly employed as an attorney for TransContinental Media, was the one who answered the door to Justin’s house. On her left finger was spotted what curiously looked to be an engagement ring, though she claimed only to be Justin’s roommate. Bye bye Britney Spears.” You laugh again, thinking how stupid they were for mistaking my promise ring for something else. That is until they show a close up of the ring. “Um, that’s not the same ring she had on two days ago,” you say to JC. “You’re right,” he says. “Oh my God...” “What?” you nearly jump on him, because you know something he doesn’t know. “That was his grandmother’s engagement ring,” he says with awe in his voice. “He was going to give it to Kristin when he...when he...” He can’t even say it. “JC, for the love of God, spit it out!” you yell. “When he PROPOSED to her!” he yells back. Then you both kind of just sit there taking it in. You turn off the TV and say, “When did this happen?” “I don’t know,” he says. “And why hasn’t she told me,” you are a little - or a lot - hurt. “It must have just happened,” he tells you. “Whatevah,” you say, getting up and going into the kitchen for no reason, except that you want to be away from him. His defense of me is pissing you off. You decide to have it out with me so you call. “Thank God!” I yell. “I have so much to tell you!” “I already know,” you say in a chilly voice. “But how...” I trail off. “I saw it on TV,” you say. “Holy Shit,” I say. “Hang on.” You hear me yelling at Justin and telling him, and then him saying a few choice words. “I’m back,” I say breathlessly, getting back on the phone. “Why didn’t you tell me?” You ask. “It just happened last night,” I say. “I tried to call you.” You check the caller id, and see that I had indeed tried to call. You decide that and the voice mail would’ve probably been good things to check out before you got mad. “Oh,” you say. “Well, congratulations.” “I want to tell you all about it,” I say. “But I really have to go. We need to call Johnny and tell him about this.” “Okay,” you say. “I’ll call you as soon as I can,” I tell you. “I love you both,” you tell me. “We love you,” I say. You go back to the living room and tell JC the news. He gets all excited and starts bouncing up and down and hugging you. All of a sudden it hits you what good news it is, and you get all gid yourself. “How romantic,” you sigh. “Did she give you any details?” he asks. “Nope,” you tell him. “They had to call Johnny.” “Oh yeah,” he says, looking pained. This affects him, too. “They’ll figure it out.” “Yeah,” you say. “We should celebrate.” He nods and goes into the kitchen. He comes back with some champagne and some flutes. You finish the bottle, and just sit there with only candles for light and hold hands while you think about what it would be like to find the person you want to be with forever. Justin and you are sitting on the couch and cuddling. Trying to remain optimistic about your love and everything, even though there so far has been nothing but shit given to you. You just want to tell everyone it's none of there business and to fuck off. You kiss Justin and he sighs. You watch for a minute and the pensive look on his face fills you with fear. "Baby," you say, trying to be supportive. "It's okay if you are having second thoughts." But Justin, who's a miracle and a genius, just looks at you like you're crazy. "No way," he says. He kisses you again. Then he looks at you. "You aren't having doubts, are you?" "No," you answer with a smile. "Good," he says. "Because I know what I want and all I want is you..." "We should be celebrating," you say and Justin just looks at the phone. You both know Johnny is going to call back soon--even if he was so angry he hung up on Ju last time. As if on cue, it rings. You both just laugh because there's nothing else you can do. You've made your decision, and you are just going to have to bear through the consequences. Justin answers it, smiles and hands it to you. "It's your mom!" he says and you get excited again. You had left her a message earlier but wanted to tell her yourself. But as soon as you get it out she just gets real quiet. Then she starts saying things like, "Are you sure about this? You're so young. HE'S so young." You assure her that you love each other and that this is the right thing to do and she does end up saying she is happy for you and that she wants the best for you. But she's so wary, too wary. Why can't anyone just be as thrilled as you and Justin are? When you finally get off the phone, you cuddle back up with Justin and realize that as long as you guys are thrilled, nothing else matters. The phone rings again and Justin answers it. This time all you hear is a bunch of excited hooting and screaming. Justin's face turns immediately to a smile. "It's Joey," he mouths to you. You smile. Thank God for him. You wake up when Justin gets up at 8. He has a meeting with Johnny and all the guys. He takes a shower and you put on some clothes. He dances around a little, humming under his breath while he gets dressed and ready. He kisses you periodically. It reassures you that even though this is a big risk for him and today is going to be full of guilt and problems, he isn't fased. You decide to go with him to JC's so you can hang out with me. You guys get in the car and Justin keeps searching radio stations until happy love songs come on. Everytime he finds one he says, "This ones for you babe." Super Freak comes on one station and you laugh and says, "This one's for YOU babe." He kisses you even though it is a danger to your life, him not watching the road and all. JC answers the door looking pretty sleepy, but smiling. Him and Justin kind of stand there for a minute until they just embrace each other. It's like the day of the power line. They hug for a long time, patting each others backs a bunch. They start to kind of pull away and JC says, "Congratulations." You can see tears in his eyes and that is enough to make you almost cry. But before Justin can get all the way out of his grip, he pulls him close again. Deciding they might need a minute alone, you sneak into the kitchen where I am sitting at the counter in my pajamas staring dreamily into my coffee. This ridiculous sight makes you laugh out loud and I look up sheepishly. You come over and hug me and I remember you are going to get MARRIED and I find some energy and get kind of giddy. I hug you a lot and keep saying "I can't believe it Kristin! Your dreams came true!" The guys come into the room and interupt our little giggling fest. Justin's eyes are red and JC is wiping his. You and I both share a look that communicates how magical and wonderful they are and how much the fact that they love each other so much is more precious than precious is allowed to be without a fair amount of projectile vomitting. JC finishes his cereal bowl that was sitting next to me and then rinses it out and puts it in the dishwasher. Then he asks me if I'm done and when I say yes, he rinses mine out and puts it there too. The guys are in kind of a hurry so they rush out the door, but not before JC can give me a kiss on the cheek and you and Justin can smile at each other. "I can't believe you're getting married," I say softly when they leave, just taking a minute to look at you and think about how much I love you. You sigh happily. "I love him." "I know it," I say. "It's amazing." We talk for a long time about things like dates (you don't have one yet) and things like dresses and flowers and other wedding things. It gets you pretty excited. I beg to be a bridesmaid and you assure me I will be. All this wedding talk it pretty exciting. I decide we need to go buy a whole bunch of those bridal magazines and stuff. I start talking about Martha Stewarts wedding book. We sit there for awhile sighing when you look at me and I just say, "JC and I made love last night." It almost sounds like it's coming from someone else's mouth because first of all, I never say "made love" because it sounds so cheezy. You look at me with this big weird grin and a big "AWWW" look on your face and I just lose it. I start weeping and blubbering about how good life is and how good I feel and about how you are getting married and about how you and Justin are so perfect and about how much I love both of you so much I don't know what to do with myself and about how perfect life can be now that I've seen you guys. You hug me and then just start crying too. And we just kind of hug and cry for a long time until we are crying and laughing at the same time and I'm telling you how happy I am for you and you are telling me the same thing. When we finally stop we decide to go shopping. Nothing like shopping. I take a shower and put on some clothes and I feel really clean. We go to the mall but mostly just walk around and talk. About a lot of things, not just the wedding. A lot of random things like clothes and music. It feels so good, just wandering around in the crowd with no purpose. I buy a sweater and a long sleeved shirt. You buy a pink skirt even though I make fun of you the whole time. The mall is decorated all Christmas-y and when we are riding the escalator I feel like we are in a movie. We switch modes and start doing some Christmas shopping. I buy a couple of bridal magazines (they are really expensive) and we settle down in the food court and look at them. You get a Cinnabon thing and I get an egg nog latte. Your cell phone rings and you answer it and it's JJ. You ask him how things went and he says "not so great," but he doesn't sound to down. He even laughs a little and then says, kind of quietly, "The guys are being really great." "Well, they're great guys," you tell him. He sighs happily. "I know it, they really are," and he sounds like he might be tearing up. "I don't know what I'd do without them." "Justin, you are the most wonderful man I've ever known." "The guys want to take me out to celebrate, but if you want me to come home I can. I live for you now, you know." You feel a weird rush when he says that. "I love you, baby. But you can go out with the boys." "I love you," he says. Then you can hear noise in the background and JC is on the phone. "Hey K," he says. "Are you with Roxanne?" "I sure am," you say, glancing up at me. I'm staring off into space with my head cocked to one side. You get my attention and hand me the phone. I'm not saying anything too interesting but the look on my face is pure entertainment. I look kind of like a sick animal. I murmer that I love him into the phone and you just smile. Then the look on my face changes to a more alert one. I say a few more things and try to hang up the phone but can't figure it out and hand it to you. You press end and put it away. "Justin wants us to meet them all for lunch." So we head over to the restaraunt we were instructed to go to and are ushered into a private room where *N Sync is. Justin hugs you immediately. "I though you guys were going to go out," you say. "I just wanted to see you," he says with a wicked smile and you kiss him. "I needed a little dose of you before I have to give in to the male energy." You make some comment about giving into his male energy and you guys don't even notice that we are all watching you. And we all look like sick animals just seeing you guys be so cute. I sit down next to JC, with Jessica on my other side. I hug her but I'm a little more into the hand that is holding mine underneath table. I take some time to just stare at him for awhile. He stares back like it's a staring contest until he loses because he has to lean in and kiss me quickly. I want to scream out because I can't handle it all. [Btw, Can You Feel The Love Tonight? just came on the NetRadio I'm listening to and I think it's a lil too appropriate.] We all sit around the table looking at each other and think about how much I love every single person in this room. Joey keeps saying, "Jeez man, this is so amazing. I can't believe it. I don't think I've ever been this happy, and it's not even me thats getting married" and things to that effect. Chris keeps laughing and talking about how isn't it slightly ironic that Justin is the youngest person in this room and he's the one getting married? [Btw, now it's 98 degrees "I Do"] Then he says he's glad Dani is in LA and can't get any ideas. We all laugh. We all order and talk and laugh like we always do. We eat our meal and enjoy each others company. Joey comes to the realization that he's the only single one there and starts acting like he's all sad, but can't keep from smiling. When the waitress comes to check on us, he tells her his sob story. She laughs and he asks her out. Needless to say, she accepts his offer. He winks at you for some reason. JC orders a bottle of champagne even though we had one last night. Britney bursts into the room and runs straight to you and gives you the biggest Britney hug ever by far. Then she kind of holds your face in her hands and smiles big at you. She just keeps nodding because she obviously can't think of anything to say. Finally she gets out, "I can't believe it." We make room for her at the table in between you and Joey. Joey tells her if she wants a piece of *N Sync, she'll have to have him since he's the only single one left. She hits him and rolls her eyes and laughs and then says, "What about JC?" and everyone kind of looks at us. She just looks innocently at him and he clears his throat and says, "Me and Roxanne are kind of...um...." "Really?" she asks excitedly. She laughs happily. "God I love you guys," she says to all of us, shaking her head in disbelief. The champagne comes and we all get a glass. Chris dings his with his knife even though that is unneccessary really, and stands up. "Speech! Speech!" Lance, Justin and Joey yell out laughing. Chris laughs and then tries to focus. We all get quiet and wait for him. He looks at Justin for a long time. Then he looks down at the ground, and then back at Justin for even longer. He opens his mouth to say something, but kind of falters. His eyes fill with tears. It takes him a second to get a grip on himself and he keeps his eye contact with Justin. Finally he just says, "I'm really proud of you," and chokes up some and sits back down. I glance over at Justin and notice he is tearing up too. I'd probably be crying if I hadn't cried so much earlier. You are dabbing at your eyes some. Lance isn't even trying to hide the tears running down his face. We all kind of laugh at ourselves and Chris then says, "Enough of this! Kristin, you'll have to excuse me and my friends here, but we are stealing that fiancee of yours for the evening." Everyone gets up and it's kind of confusing for a few minutes. All us girls decide to do something too. It's mostly Brit's idea, but Jessica and me are game. You and Justin say your goodbyes and JC holds me a little and whispers that he'll see me later. I don't let him go for a minute but finally I guess I have to and he kisses me and smiles and waves as he walks off with the other guys. When I think how life used to be Always walking in the shadows Then I look at what you’ve given me I feel like dancing on my tip toes I must say every day I wake And realize you’re by my side I know I’m truly blessed For everything you give me Blessed For all the tenderness you show I’ll do my best With every breath that’s in me Blessed To make sure you never go There are times that test your faith Til you think you might surrender And baby I’m, I’m not afraid to say That my hopes were growing slender You walked by in the nick of time Looking like an answered prayer I know I’m truly blessed For everything you give me Blessed for all the tenderness you show I’ll do my best With every breath that’s in me Blessed To make sure you never go I’m blessed with love and understanding Blessed When I hear you call my name I’ll do my best With every breath that’s in me Blessed To make sure you never go I’m blessed with love and understanding Blessed when I hear you call my name I’ll do my best With faith that’s never ending Blessed To make sure you feel the same Deep inside of me You fill me with your gentle touch I know I’m truly blessed for everything you give me Blessed for all the tenderness you show I’ll do my best With every breath that’s in me Blessed To make sure you never go. You, me Jessica and Britney are all sitting around drinking beer and talking about the wedding, even though I keep telling you guys that it won’t happen for another couple of years or so. Justin and I want to be together, but we don’t want to destroy his career in the process. The phone rings. I pick it up and the voice on the other line says, “Hi Peaches.” “Daddy!” I yell, getting all excited. He never calls. I go into the dining room so I can have some privacy. “I just wanted to say Congratulations.” I can tell he’s tearing up a little. “I can’t believe my little girl’s getting married.” “I’ve never been happier in my life,” I tell him. “Good,” he says. “Your mother’s a little worried.” “Yeah, well...” is all I can think to say. The last couple of days have shown me that her worries are somewhat justified. “He’s a big star,” he says, and I decide if he starts lecturing, I’m going to hang up. “Do you think you can handle the baggage that comes with that?” “Yes,” I tell him. “It’ worth it...he’s worth it.” “Okay,” he says, and seems placated. “So, have you set a date?” I fill him in on the details and we talk for a little longer, and then I hang up. You all look at me expectantly when I walk back in the room. “It was my dad,” I explain. “They’ll never stop worrying about me.” “Aren’t they excited?” Britney asks. “Yeah,” I say. “I mean, I think so. They just want me to be happy.” We’re silent for a minute, until Jess asks if we want more beer. When she gets back, Britney starts grilling you about JC. “I feel so in the dark,” she whines. “You need to spend more time with us,” I tell her. “I guess so,” she laughs. “Just so I can keep tabs on your love lives!” “How are things with Lance?” I ask Jessica. “Great,” she says, getting all goofy. “I never want to go home.” You just kind of sit back and think how perfect life is. Sitting here having fun girl talk with your best friends while waiting for the most amazing man on EARTH to come home to YOU! When did this happen? You can’t stop smiling. You glance at me and notice that I’m a victim of perma-smile too. But, shit, you’re not surprised. I’m getting married to fucking Justin Timberlake! We goof around and get drunk for awhile longer until we hear car doors slam and a bunch of loud male voices coming up to the house. The boys bust in, and they are DRUNK. They can barely walk. Thank God for limos and limo drivers. They all just sort of crash on various pieces of furniture. They keep giving each other weird looks and intermittently busting out laughing. We figure that some pretty interesting stuff happened on their night out. I prefer not to know. JC puts on some music and we all sit around gabbing and drinking. It occurs to me to be happy that the news of the engagement hasn’t changed things, except maybe to make us all closer. I look at Justin and think, “That’s my fiancee.” What a weird word. I turn to him and say, “You’re my fiancee.” “I know,” he says with a smile. “And you’re mine.” “Don’t you love the sound of it?” I ask. “Fiancee, fiancee, fiancee.” He just laughs and kisses me. I take that as a yes. I get up and go in the kitchen . I walk by Britney and Joey, and I can hear him saying, “You’re 18 now, you know” as if he’s trying to convince her of something. I look at her, expecting her to look irritated or grossed out, but she doesn’t. She’s smiling. I kind of start to get worried. This could be disastrous. But I’m not going to let anything ruin my good mood. I figure that they’re adults and capable of making their own decisions so I let it go. I seriously doubt anything’s going to happen anyway. All this engagement/marriage/love talk is probably making them feel lonely is all. I get some water and go back to my spot next to Justin. I cuddle up next to him and put my hand on his leg. It’s like no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get close enough to him. “I have a feeling this is going to turn into a slumber party,” I announce. “Because the limo’s gone and not one single person in this house is in any condition to drive.” “I thought you guys would want some alone time, if you know what I mean,” Joey snorts. “Having you here isn’t going to stop us from doing anything,” Justin laughs, Brady Bunch smile in full effect. I get all embarrassed while you all yell out a chorus of “Gross!,” “Eew!” and “Too much information!” But for the most part, everyone is too drunk to care. You really want you and JC to go home, but you won’t be able to do anything if you’re both splattered all over the road. So you plan to take the guest room before anyone else can. You just hope poor Britney doesn’t get stuck alone with Joey and Chris. But when you glance over at her, you realize that she probably wouldn’t mind getting stuck alone with Joey. She’s all but sitting on his lap. You discreetly point this out to JC. He rolls his eyes. “He’s been so excited ever since she turned 18.” “Well, SHE doesn’t look like the one who’s being taken advantage of,” you comment. You decide to nix the guestroom idea. Drunk as you are, you feel the need to keep an eye on those two. That is just a big pile of regrets waiting to happen. You gaze up at JC and scoot closer to him, thinking how nice it is not to have to worry about hooking up with drunk people at parties and other one night standish behavior. Yes, life is good... Justin is giving me that “look” again, so I decide it’s time we made our exit. I wink at him and he starts yawning and saying how tired he is. Everyone groans and Lance says, “You two are like freaking rabbits.” The boy never ceases to amaze me. Everyone laughs, and I walk over to him and say, “Poor baby. They’ve corrupted you. Luckily, Jessica likes her men dirty.” Hell, if I have to be embarrassed, someone else has to, too. She smacks me while I give Lance a big dramatic hug. Justin comes over and picks me up and throws me over his shoulder. “C’mon woman,” he growls in a cave man-esque voice, and carries me upstairs. You all just stare after us in disbelief. “They are so weird,” Chris says, while JC turns up the music to drown out any...uh...noises. But it’s late and people start dropping like flies. Drunk people tend to do that...awake one minute, asleep the next. Soon, you and JC are the only two left awake. He escorts you outside so you can look at the stars. It’s a beautiful night, much warmer than New York, yet you feel the same compulsion to hold on to JC and never let go. So, you sit in the “hammock of love” as you’ve started calling it, and hold on to each other for dear life. You want to ask him about the meeting with Johnny, but figure it will spoil the moment. So, instead, you say, “I love life.” “It’s pretty good, isn’t it?” JC asks, and he kisses you. He points up in the sky and says, “Make a wish on that star.” “I don’t have to,” you say. “All my wishes already came true.” He smiles at you and holds you a little tighter. It starts getting cold, so you head inside. You look around and immediately notice that something’s off. Then it hits you. “Shit,” you yell. “I turn my head for one minute...” JC picks up on what you’re saying. “Joey and Britney are M.I.A.” “Action is right,” you sneer. You don’t know why, buy you’re irritated. “Don’t worry sweetie,” JC says to you. “It’s not your responsibility.” You calm down He always has such a good effect on you. You smile up at him and he smiles back and squeezes your hand, which he is holding. You pull out the hide a bed, careful not to wake Lance, Jessica and Chris who are all passed out on the floor. You lay down and get comfortable within the circle of JC’s arms and fall right to sleep. Justin and I are laying in the after glow, just staring at each other. “I can’t believe how happy I am,” I tell him. “I can’t even express it.” “You were doing a pretty good job expressing it a few minutes ago,” he says. I give him a look and say,” I’m serious baby.” “I am, too,” he tells me with no trace of a smile in his voice. I guess he’s right. Every thing about our lives has become even more magical since he put that ring on my finger. “When are we going to set a date?” I ask cautiously. I’m not sure today is the best day to bring it up. “God, Kristin,” he sighs, but not in a bad way. He’s more wistful. “I’d marry you tomorrow if I could. But it’s going to be awhile.” “I know, hon,” I say in a soothing voice. “I don’t mind. It’ll happen soon enough.” “We can still think about it, though,” he says, getting up. He stumbles a little, still drunk. He takes my checkbook out of my purse and looks at the calendar on it. “2001?” he asks. “Is that soon enough?” I ask. “I don’t know,” he says. “But this calendar only goes up to 2001.” I laugh. “Hm...” I pretend to ponder it like I have a choice. “July?” ”I like that,” he says. “How ‘bout a Saturday?” “Okay,” I say. “July 21st. That’s our date!” I feel a smile spreading across my face. This makes it all seem real. I throw my arms around him and give him a million kisses. “I love you,” he says. “I love YOU!” I yell happily. “I can’t wait to be Mrs. Justin Timberlake.” “You’re going to be my wife,” he says, getting a weird look on his face. “How bizarre.” “I know,” I sigh. “I almost don’t believe it.” “Well, believe it,” he says, touching my face gently. “I’m going to make it happen as soon as I can.” “You’re so wonderful,” I gush, tears filling my eyes. “I just love you a lot, that’s all,” he says, and he’s crying a little, too. “There is way too much crying going on,” I laugh, wiping at my eyes. “Can you imagine what the wedding’s going to be like?” “I can’t wait to find out,” Justin says, smiling a 1000 watt smile at me. I wake up the next morning and my first thought has something to do with how dirty I feel. Crashing in someone's living room when I am completely drunk will do that to me. When I kind of wake up a little more and open my eyes I realize that my arms are around Joey and that I thought he was Nick, even though JC is the person I'm with or whatever. It's just a weird experience. I shake it off and turn around to face JC. He's sleeping, everyone is. I sit up and see Jessica and Lance on the floor, Chris in the comfy chair. Britney is squashed on the other side of Joey. I'm usually the first one up in these kind of situations. I can feel my morning breath and long to live next door so I could run home and brush my teeth and take a long shower and put on some clean clothes. But alas, I do not live there anymore. I slide out from the JC/Joey sandwich I managed to get myself into, stopping for a minute to marvel at that fact in itself and how mind blowing it is. Then I realize that the other person on the bed is Brit-Brit and I lay back down. There is no way I'm getting out of this, no matter how bad my breath smells. I giggle even though everyone is fast asleep. I'm in bed with the hottest people in the world! I am tempted to wake Chris up and make him get in bed too, but he probably wouldn't think it was too funny. Someone is snoring and I laugh heartily when I realize it's Britney. Joey stirs a little and I try to calm down. But I'm pretty giddy. I check my watch. It's only eight! Yuck. I turn back to where JC is and look at him for awhile, until he suddenly opens his eyes all alert. It makes me jump a little. "Hi," he says and his voice is really scratchy and sexy. I just smile my own version of the Brady Bunch smile. He yawns and stretches a little. "You look really good," comes spilling out of my mouth. And I mean it. His stubble is really cute and his hair is all messed up. He laughs a little and says, "Oh thanks," sarcastically, thinking I'm kidding. Joey stirs again and this time stretches a little and ends up putting his arms around me and cuddling up. He is still sleeping and after one look at JC's face I have to shove my head in my pillow so I'm not too loud when I laugh hysterically. Needless to say, the pillow did nothing to calm or quiet me down and Joey wakes up immediately saying, "What? What? What?" which makes me laugh even harder. JC can't help but crack laugh either. Britney tries to turn around and ignore us, mumbling something incoherent. "Shut up," I hear a deep voice call from the ground. I calm down. Joey just sits up and rubs his eyes. Then suddenly JC, in an exaggerated Lance impression, repeats, "Shut up." I explode into a fit of laughter and he is right behind me. He even starts spazzing around. Joey is laughing a little, but it seems like he's more interested in getting his eyes adjusted to the light. JC is still laughing when I stop and then suddenly Jessica pops up to look at us and her hair is everywhere in this huge reddish brown ball around her head. I start laughing again and JC begins flailing his limbs around. "God, JC, you are SO WEIRD," an irritated Britney groans, trying to disappear more into her pillow. Well, I have energy NOW. That's really too bad for everyone else. I need a shower like no one has ever needed one before in all their life, but I get up and go over to the CD player and look around until I find the Partidge Families Greatest Hits (which was mine. How it ended up in your house no one will ever know. I blame JJ). I pop it in and turn it up way too loud. Chris jumps and Lance is groaning or something but I can't hear because the music is so loud. His mouth is moving anyway. I start dancing and then jump on the couch bed and jump up and down. Joey is smiling and singing along and JC is staring at me but laughing. Britney gives me the look of death. Jessica is just a big ball of hair. Finally, at the end of Come On Get Happy which is only, like, thirty seconds long for serious, Chris gets up and turns the music down low. He doesn't look irritated though. He wipes his eyes and asks, "What time is it?" "Um, TOO EARLY," the grog monster known as Britney Spears yells. "Someone is grouchy this morning," Joey says and looks at her. "Yeah well," is all she says. I want to ask them what the hell they think they are doing (if anything) but decide that I've had too many complaints about my lack of social tack in my life. I lie back down and smile exageratedly at JC and then he looks at me and all of a sudden says, "Where the hell did you COME from?" I am a little alarmed, but when I look at him he is smiling happily. So I just smile back and he pulls me closer to him and says a little quieter, "Where have you been hiding? How come I didn't know you were here this whole time?" Before I can start weeping or something, Chris looks at me like he's going to puke and says, "I've had enough of this. I'm hungry. Joey, go make me some breakfast." Joey doesn't even react. But Lance sits up and says, "I'm hungry too." I don't remember who said it, but someone came up with the idea to make breakfast for you and Justin and everyone immediately decided it was the best idea ever. All of a sudden trying to be all quiet and slick we slip into the kitchen as a group (Even grog monster Britney, who has cheered up a little. I think it might have been her idea). I rummage around and hand things to people. There isn't a whole lot of food in the house, but theres enough. We make some eggs and bacon and pancakes. There is only lemonade to drink. Trying to be quiet makes us all desire to be loud and have laughing attacks. And it's always funny to try not to laugh. It makes us laugh harder. At one point Chris started laughing for no apparent reason and then pointed to Jessica and said, "Is your head hiding in there?" And then Joey said she looked like Justin does in the morning and Lance made a face and said, "Thanks for the correlation." When breakfast is ready Joey makes it so it looks all pretty on the plates and goes to hand them to JC, who holds up his arms. "I'm not going up there," he insists. "Why not?" "Um, because they are naked." We all kind of nod, wondering why we didn't think of that. No one really knows what to do. Lance gets nominated to go knock on your door, but before he can Justin comes padding down the stairs in my pajama pants. "Hi guys," he says, obviously confused that we are all standing in the kitchen. "We made you guys breakfast," Britney says and Justin kind of looks at it. "Thanks," he says, a little confused still. We are all standing there looking like idiots. It doesn't seem like such a cute idea anymore. His hair does kind of look like Jessica's. One day you wake up and Justin's not in bed. You get up and walk around the house, expecting him to be either in the study or watching TV. Or eating some cereal. But he's nowhere to be found. You check the hammock to make sure he's not there. Confused, you look in the garage for his car, but it's not there either. Now you're just concerned. Um, where the hell is Justin? You did sleep a little longer than usual, it's 11, but Justin doesn't usually wake up too much before this. You start to get worried. Is something going on? Did something happen and he had to rush out of the house? Did he suddenly freak out about this whole marriage thing and leave town or something? Trying to keep your head clear, you go back upstairs to go pee and take a shower, telling yourself not to freak out yet. As soon as you glance at the mirror you see a piece of paper taped to it. You pull it down and read Justin's nice handwriting telling you that he went to Chris's. With a laugh at yourself you realize that Justin put the note here assuming it would be the first place you went after you woke up. You take a shower and get dressed, taking a minute just to stare at your ring. You smile to yourself. You want to see Justin, but you know that when he's with Chris you can't really count on him coming home any time soon. So you hop in your car and turn the radio up loud and sing along with some TLC song, even though it isn't very good. When you get to my complex, you have an extra spring in your step as you walk. You're in a good mood and it's cute, but it doesn't make you any less of a geek. Hehe. When you knock on the door, JC answers and his face immediately lights up when he sees you. "Hi! Come on in." He moves aside and lets you by. Lance is sitting on a stool at the counter doodling on a piece of paper. "Hey stranger," he says to you even though it doesn't really apply. I mean, he was over at your house a couple days ago for the festivities and came over late last night for an hour or so after he took Jessica to the airport to drop some stuff off for Ju. "Oh Lance," is all you say, pulling up the stool that's next to him. JC comes into the kitchen and starts loading the dishwasher. "What's up?" he asks you, and then has a thought and says, "Do you want a Coke or something?" You shake your head and just watch him load the washer some more. "Is Roxanne here?" "She's still dead," Lance answers, sticking the pen in his mouth to have a free hand to reach over and pick up his can of Coke. "She's dead, huh?" you ask, putting your purse on the ground. "That girl can sleep!" JC says, sounding like Wipeout or something. You just kind of giggle to yourself. "We were going to go to Costco," Lance tells you. "Wanna come?" "Sure," you say. "We decided one of us should wear a hat, and I think it should be Lance. I blend better than he does." "You do not," Lance says, completely positive. "I blend more than anyone else. You should wear the hat. You never wear hats, it will throw anyone off." "I wear hats," is all JC says and his head kind of swings around when he does. "Yeah, berets. I was thinking more along the lines of a baseball cap." "Cap?" you just ask because it seems so ridiculous. Do people say cap? But I guess if he collects antique knives and guns... "So I'm thinking either you wear a baseball cap or I wear that goddamn red beret, which would just draw attention to us anyway because it's so damn ugly." Sometimes, you LOVE LANCE!! You start laughing and JC just kind of puts his head on the counter and heaves his shoulder in some sort of silent spaz moment. Then he gets back up and starts wiping the counter down. You hear a toilet flush and a door open and then I stagger into the room in my pajamas, squinting. "Hi," I just kind of say when I see you guys all sitting there. "Morning Sunshine," you say to me with a smile. "Mmm...mornin'...." I answer, pulling up the last stool and plopping down on the other side of you. I rub my eyes a little. You watch JC get out a glass and pour some orange juice in it and hand it to me. "Thanks," I murmur, taking a sip. JC puts lays his head by where mine is. "Wanna go to Costco?" he asks with a cheesy smile. "I'm supposed to go Christmas shopping with Britney at 4," I just say. "We can be back by then." I lift my head up a little and kind of get my first good look at him of the day. I smile. "Okay," I say, smiling back. "Well, get in the shower now," Lance commands. I turn around to comply when I glance back and say, "Are there any clean towels?" "Yep," JC nods and follows me into his bedroom. You just kind of follow us with your eyes and you notice that he is walking around picking up articles of my clothing that litter his usually tidy bedroom floor. "There's some in the...yeah, there they are," you watch JC say but you can't see me anymore. You can hear a door close, to what you assume is his bathroom and then watch him as he just kind of stands there for a minute. He looks down at the pile of dirty clothes in his hands and just sighs happily. He's a weirdo, but it's cute. He goes into the hall but then you lose sight of him again, and you can hear the washing machine start. "I can't believe they are together," you say turning back to Lance who is looking at the paper. He looks up. "Whatever works," he just says with a smile and a shrug. When I'm done we all load into the Jeep and a baseball capped JC drives us to Costco. On the way, though, Lance's phone rings. It's Justin. He talks to Lance and then he talks to JC and then he wants to talk to you. I make jokes about how he doesn't want to talk to me. I keep doing things like saying really loud, "I don't want to talk to Justin ANYWAY," just so he hears. Lance laughs. So does JC. Eventually you actually hand me the phone. I'm surprised and say into it, "You really want to talk to me?" "Yeah," Justin says. "I wanted to tell you to shut the fuck up." It's funny. Even I laugh. I guess Justin is saying that he is going to meet us at Costco, but this makes JC freak out and he keeps saying, "Naw man, tell him not to!" to you. JC is now thoroughly stressing about three members of *N Sync in public and how easily they will be to recognize. But Justin is persistant and refuses to talk to JC again. JC sighs loudly when Ju hangs up and I can see him worrying about it. "It'll be cool," Lance says, turning to stare at the window. When we get there we get out of the car and are walking to the entrance when we hear a honk and can see the Benz pulling into a parking spot. Joey pops out of the passenger side and JC swears under his breath. Costco is crowded as usual and even I get a little wary about walking around with almost all of *N Sync. "I can't hold your hand," JC explains to me in a pained voice as if I expected him to. I tell him I understand and try not to laugh. I think I might hate Justin, though, when comes over and kisses you before putting his arm around your shoulder and ushering us all in the store. Lance gets a cart and Joey gets a cart and we walk around like some kind of army. No one seems to notice though. Thank God Joey has a hat on too. His hair would be a sure give away. Joey and me oggle at big screen TVs. JC buys socks. You ask Justin if he needs any underwear and the look of fear on his face is classic. "Not here," he whispers and you just roll your eyes. When we get to the food things get a little out of hand for awhile. Joey and Justin keep sneaking weird things into Lance and JC's cart and JC keeps finding them and reacting exactly the way rowdy Joey and Justin want him to. At one point Justin hands JC an economy size box of condoms and says, loudly, "I know you need some of these!" Which gets Joey rolling. JC just kind of looks at them and puts them back on a shelf next to conditioner. "Actually I don't," is all he says and puts some soap in the cart. Justin, shocked, says, "But I know you and Roxanne are doing the nasty." I hate it when he gets in this mood and even though I was walking along leisurely with you and enjoying myself, I am a little perturbed by the direction the conversation between the boys is going. Thank God there is no one around except for an elderly asian man. "Justin, you ARE the nasty," I say and Joey starts laughing even harder. Justin sticks his tongue out at me and JC looks at me like a lost animal. It's lucky we are comfortable enough with each other, but it's still not the funnest topic to discuss in front of people. "You're the one who needs them," Lance says from farther down the aisle. "And for the love of God, use them! I don't need any more of you running around for awhile." And Lance turns the corner so he misses the crushed look on Justin's face, but you and I both catch it. You go stand by him and hold his hand and he kisses your head. But I just get a little worried. That was so not a comment to be bothered by. I don't want to put in my two cents now or anything, but I'm a little worried that this is something you guys have discussed. I manage to sneak the box into JJ and Joey's cart when no one is looking. We split up when we get to the lines. You go with Justin and Joey and I stay with Lance and JC. I keep looking at you and mouthing things like, "I love you!" You do the same and blow kisses my way. Justin is in the middle of telling you about how he knew this wouldn't be a problem and that they wouldn't be recognized when someone comes up and says, "Excuse me, aren't you Justin Timberlake?" He just smiles at this girl who is GORGEOUS, even though she's probably seventeen or something. He tells her that in fact he is and she has him sign her midriff, which she is baring. People start to pay attention and are watching from all over. Joey, seeing the girl, leans over Justin and says, "I'm in *N Sync too." He signs the other side of her midriff. You just stand there, trying to act cool. When she goes away Justin whistles and Joey says, "SHE was HOT." "She was like seventeen," you say, sounding defensive even though you were trying not to be. "She was still hot," Joey says with a smile. "Even if she's jail bait." You roll your eyes. "She's not jail bait for me," Justin says and you just look at him with a death look. "What?" he asks innocently. "I was just saying. You know. There's a 48 month age difference thing....oh, nevermind!" The look of death does not go away. He pulls you close. "But I'm with you and I'm going to marry you for the love of God!" We rendezvous in the parking lot and Justin tries to get you to go with him, but I convince you to go shopping with me and Brit. Justin discovers the box of condoms I put in his cart and brings them over to where Lance and JC are loading up the Jeep. He hands them to JC and says, "Good luck man." This is when JC gets frustrated and says, in his own defense, "We made a CONSCIOUS DECISION to move SLOW, okay?!" and throws the box of condoms into the car. Justin, who is in a really irritating hyper mood starts laughing his ass off. He always gets like this when he spends too much time with Chris. "Hey man," Joey says to JC seriously. "I think it's cool," and he pats him on the back supportively. "Thank you," JC says back. Justin and Joey head back to the Benz after Justin publicly mauls you with his tongue and Joey kisses me sloppy on the forehead. We all hop back in the Jeep and when we're driving by them walking over to their car, Lance rolls down the window and yells, "Oh my God, it's *N Sync!!" and points to Justin and Joey, who look up, surprised. We can hear some screaming girls as we drive away. You and I pull up to the mall and run in to the entrance to Nordstroms where Britney is standing, waiting. We are about fifteen minutes late and start apologizing right away, but she just dismisses it and starts telling us about these shoes she just bought while she was waiting. So the three of us start scouring the mall, which is insanely crowded. We are supposed to be Christmas shopping, but keep finding things for ourselves or each other. Britney is in the best mood I've ever seen her in. I start to wonder if it's because I know she just had a week off or what. She is such a little ray of sunshine I have to fight the urge to hug her compulsively. We complain about how we don't know what to get the guys for Christmas and then we both complain about getting gifts for our families and she says that her family is so easy to shop for. We all find a few small gifts to buy. My problem is I keep running into things and saying, "Oh, Nick would love that." Then I just retreat into myself for a good ten minutes. We leave the mall and go to a couple cool shops that Britney knows about, even though there isn't a whole lot there for our friends, mainly because they are all guys. Britney finds stuff for some of her girlfriends, but I don't really have any good close girlfriends other than you guys. I keep saying stuff about how I should buy each guy a different color skirt. We laugh. After a LOT of shopping and a fair amount of complaining on my part, we go to a little cafe nearby for some food. You are starving because you've barely eaten all day. Britney just looks so cute and excited about life that I watch her for awhile before I finally make a comment about how happy she seems. She blushes when I say it, which surprises me. "What?" you ask, picking up on the fact that she's hiding something. "Nothing," she says avoiding our eyes and picking at her crossaint. I kind of am struck with a thought. "Please tell me this has nothing to do with Joey," I plead. She blushes even more and you and me look at each other with wide eyes and then explode into all sorts of noises. "What's going on between you guys?" you demand. "Nothing," she assures us, looking us both in the eye to show how serious she is. "Nothing has happened or anything. We just have been hanging out." "Wowee!" I say, even though I don't usually say things like wowee. We try to grill her a little more, but she really doesn't have any other interesting facts to offer. I warn her to be careful, he's charming as all fucking hell, and sexy too. "I know," she says. "But I'm not going to do anything stupid. He's my friend." "I don't know," you say slowly. "If you really mean that, be careful not to drink around him." "You guys!" she exclaims, embarrassed. "I'm not that dumb." You and I look at each other and then back at her. "I am personally offended by that comment," I say and she looks at me. "What do you mean?" she asks, knowing exactly what I mean. "All I mean," I tell her. "Is that he's really sexy. And you should make a decision one way or another ahead of time." "You hooked up with Joey?" she asks me in a whisper, leaning in. "I can't believe you! When did this happen?" "Which time?" you ask with a laugh. "I wouldn't talk Miss Smarty Pants," I say to you and you shut up and shrug. Britney nearly gets whiplash when she turns back to you. "No way!" she exclaims loudly. "Well, I didn't sleep with him!" You say, drinking some of your Coke. Britney's mouth is practically on the floor and she takes turns staring at both of us. "She did everything BUT sleep with him," I tell her, about you. "She's very dirty, you know. Don't let her fool you with all that 'phobia' business." "Hey!" you say and smack me, but you laugh. Britney sits back in her chair, amazed. "Wow," is all she says. "Well, she DID sleep with him," you say to her, motioning to me. "A million times." "Not a million times," I say, rolling my eyes at you. "Kristin, I cannot believe you messed around with Joey!" she says and I wonder why it's so shocking. "It was all very pre-Justin," you insist. "It was a LONG time ago. Before I even met the rest of the guys. He was one of the first people I met here. And he's Joey...." Britney just shakes her head in disbelief. "This girl, on the other hand," you continue, pointing at me. "Is really just a dirty whore." I pretend to be pissed, but I am so not. I even laugh. "I'm not a dirty whore, I'm just a regular whore," I correct you. You giggle. "Of course!" "I had decided to never sleep with him again after he slept with Jessica when she was visiting last year," I tell Britney. "But then in April he called up practically in tears because he was trying to do his own taxes. It was April 14th! So I went over there and helped...and you know...." "I forgot about him and Jessica!" you say with a hoot. "I wonder if Lancey poo knows about that one." Taking this all in, Britney's smile had begun to fade. "Well, I didn't realize I guess." she says. "I knew he got around kind of, but I didn't know..." She just sighs and when we see the sad look on her face we both immediately regret saying any of this. We didn't want to discourage her from Joey. I hadn't taken her very seriously, but the crushed look she's wearing now tells me just how wrong I was. You look at me, kind of scared that we just fucked something up. Before we can even say anything, Britney says, "I'm going to go. Thanks guys, for filling me in. I would have made a fool of myself." We just kind of watch her walk away, her balloon of gid deflated. "Good going," I say, kicking you under the table. When I get home from shopping, Justin is sitting on the couch staring at the wall. He's petting DP who is on the couch next to him and he has a sad look on his face. DP's not supposed to be on the white couch, but I decide to let it slide. "Hi baby," I say softly, sitting down next to him. "Hi," he mumbles, trying to smile at me. "You okay?" I ask. "I guess," he sighs. Then all of a sudden he cries, "I'm so sorry!" and buries his head in my shoulder. I pat him on the back, confused as hell. "What for?" "For that comment I made about that girl." I honestly had forgotten about it, but now that I think about it, I realize that it had kind of pissed me off. (It occurs to me to wonder about Justin's weird mood swings, but I decide to worry about that later.) "You just need to learn to keep your thoughts to yourself," I tell him. "As if I'm not insecure enough about the millions of beautiful girls around you anyway." "I know," he mumbles into my shoulder. "I was just a complete prick today in general. But I just want you to know how much I love you, and that I don't ever think about other girls." "Okay, baby," I say. "I believe you." He looks up, his face full of marks from my sweater, and smiles. "Good," he says. "I mean it." Then his face kind of crumbles again. "I should probably apologize to JC, too." "Probably," I tell him. "He was being a little more touchy than usual today, but you should've let it go when you realized that." "I know," Justin pouts a little. "I was just trying to have fun." "Being insensitive isn't fun," I say, getting up on my high horse. But then I get right back down. "Like I should talk, though. If you apologize to JC, I have to apologize to Britney." "What do you mean?" Justin asks. "Well, you know how she and Joey have been hanging out a lot?" I start. "Yeah," he says, smiling a little wicked grin. He's pretty excited about the concept. "I think Roxanne and I ruined it," I sigh. "How?" he asks, his grin fading. "Well, we sort of let our history with Joey slip," I tell him. "And she got all freaked out." "What history?" Justin interrupts me. "Oh you know about that, baby," I remind him. "I told you right off so there wouldn't be any problems." "Oh yeah," Justin says. "I think I just tried to block the thought from my memory." Then he pauses as if he had a thought. "You guys really are whores," he says. I know he's right, and I also know that he doesn't mean it in a derogatory way (it's more like stating fact), but it still really bothers me. I get up and start pacing, yelling about Orlando and not being able to meet anyone outside of our little group and how he's really the only member of NSYNC that I've slept with and I've only slept with one Backstreet Boy and how he should be happy I met Joey, because Joey introduced the two of us and on and on and on. When I finish, I look at Justin who is laughing. "I know all this," he tells me. "All of us guys are complete whores, too. I just never thought about it with you and Roxanne before. And, really, it doesn't matter for us anymore. We're all about monogamy." He says it like it's a cool new trend, and he's doing that grinning, head nodding thing ala Miss Teen USA Pageant. I just laugh and he gets up to call JC. I listen in on his side of the conversation. "Hey man," Justin says. "I just wanted to apologize for being a bastard today. I was trying to have fun, but I should've shut up when I noticed it was bugging you. I know… yeah… okay… thanks for forgiving me. Okay, we'll be over in a while. Late." "What did he say?" I ask. "Just that he doesn't want to fuck things up with Roxanne like his last 100 relationships, and that's why he's so anal." "That makes sense," I nod. "Now what are we gonna do about Brit and Joey?" Justin thinks for a minute, and then says, "Hang on." He picks up the phone and asks whoever answers to invite Joey and Britney. "It's all settled," he says when he puts the phone down. "What is?" I'm so confused. "JC wants us to come over for dinner, so I told him to invite them," he says in his "I'm a genius" voice. "Then what?" I ask. "Well, I haven't gotten that far," he says with a pained expression on his face. But, then he smiles. "We'll worry about that later," he says. "Right now you need to give me some sugar," and he wraps his arms around me and gives me a kiss. "I love it when you talk like a black woman talking to her grandkids," I laugh into his neck. He just laughs back and kisses me some more. "Oh man," you groan as JC puts down the phone. "I don't know if I can face Brit. I really upset her today. That must be why Justin wants them both here." "It'll be okay," JC says. "Joey will charm her." "That's exactly what I DON'T want," you tell him. "Oh," JC says. "Well, maybe he'll surprise us." You let it drop because there's something else you need to discuss. "Did you notice the look on Justin's face when Lance made that comment about not wanting a bunch of little Justin's running around." "Not really," JC admits. "What do you mean?" "He looked like…I don't know…crushed or something," you try to explain. "But the weird thing is that Kristin walked over to him and comforted him. Like she knew something, you know?" "Holy shit," JC starts freaking out right away. "You don't think she's…" he gulps. "Pregnant?" "I don't think so," you say. "I mean, we would know. And she drinks and stuff. I don't think she'd do that if she were pregnant. But what if they are talking about trying?" "She cannot get pregnant!" JC starts spazzing out big time. "Getting married is one thing, but a baby?! It would ruin us! Johnny would kill Justin! And Jive would have a heart attack." He grabs your shoulders. "Roxanne, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!" You resist the urge to laugh, but really, his attack is pretty funny. "I'll talk to Kristin," you tell him. "Don't worry, it's probably nothing." Just for JC's mental health, you wish you wouldn't have mentioned it. You decide to focus on the awkwardness of having both Joey and Britney in your house at the same time, and what a dipshit Justin is for coming up with this "brilliant" idea. Justin and I get there a little while later. You notice that my hair's a little wet, like I just got out of the shower, and you sigh and wish the box of condoms had ended up in our car, not JC's. You decide to take me aside right away and clear all this shit up. You ask me about the whole "little Justins" scene, and I just kind of stare at you. "Of course I'm not trying to get pregnant," I tell you. "We're not stupid." You can sense that I'm irritated. "That's why I wanted to ask you about it right away. I just thought I saw something weird, that's all." "I don't know," I sigh. "He looked upset so I let him know I cared. I do that sometimes. It's not that weird." "But WHY was he upset?" you push. "It probably just hurt his feelings," I throw my hands up in the air to show how exasperated I am at the fact that you won't accept my explanations. "I mean, obviously, we want to have kids SOMEDAY, but not NOW! Justin's only 18. And we're going to wait till we get married…obviously." You feel kind of stupid, and you wonder what it was that got you so worried. And you have to chide yourself when you start having the thought, "Why's she getting so defensive?" You decide there's nothing to worry about, so you drop it. "I don't think it's the best idea to have Britney and Joey here together," you tell me, shifting gears. "I know," I groan. "Justin is so retarded sometimes! But he is so cute. When I got home today, he was all apologetic and precious and…" "Kristin!" you yell, stopping my gushing in its tracks. "Oh, sorry," I say, feeling sheepish. "I get a little carried away sometimes." You can't help but smile. It's damn cute. But back to the task at hand… "Britney's going to freak out when she sees Joey here," you comment. "I know," I agree. "But Joey doesn't know anything's changed." "We really fucked up this time," you say. "I know it," I tell you. "That's why we have to fix it." "There's not really anything we can do, though," you tell me. "We just better hope they like each other enough to get over this," I sigh. The doorbell rings. We both look up as we hear a female voice. We make a beeline for the living room so we can grab Britney and try to do some damage control. She looks like absolute hell, and both of us want to cry for causing it. "Let's talk," I say to her, grabbing her arm and leading her to your bedroom. "About what?" she asks, though we suspect she knows. "I think you took what we said about Joey the wrong way," you start out. "I'm glad you told me," she says. "You saved me." "But Brit," I say. "You don't look like you're glad." "Well, I'm not glad the information exists, but at least I have it," she looks down at her hands. "I should've known it wouldn't work out." You and I share a glance of wonderment. It has become apparent to us that something has been going on between them for longer than we thought. Her turning 18 just brought it to light. "The stuff we told you isn't anything to worry about," I try to convince her. "Yeah," you add. "He didn't play us. There was mutual playing going on." She just looks at us like "huh?" "What we mean is that we didn't think we were getting into a relationship and it turned out he was using us," I explain. "We knew the score." She starts to perk up, so you continue. "If he's led you to believe that he wants some sort of relationship, then he means it. He wouldn't act like that otherwise." "Really?" she asks, breaking into a small smile. But it fades as fast as it came. "But what if I'm just misinterpreting things?" "How bout this?" I say. "We'll watch him around you and tell you how we think he feels." "Yeah," you are into it. "We'll totally be able to tell." "Okay," Britney says, sounding a little unsure. "When?" "Tonight," I say. "He's coming over any minute." "You guys tricked me!" Realization has crept up on her. "It was Justin's idea," you say as a reflex while I give you the evil eye. "It's for your own good," I tell her. "You are giving up too easily." It's pretty obvious that she hadn't meant to fight us too hard. She wants to believe that Joey feels differently about her. As if on cue, we hear the door slam and Joey's boisterous voice. "Here we go," you say. "No pun intended." We laugh. The first thing we notice when we walk into the living room is that Joey's eyes go immediately to Britney and linger there. She blushes, which is just about the cutest thing we've ever seen, but we can tell that at some point they agreed not to make their whatever it is too noticeable or public, so they maintain a safe distance. Trying to preserve some sense of normalcy, you and I start chattering and hugging Joey and getting dinner ready. JC turns on a basketball game (have you noticed that basketball goes on year-round in this story? Just a random comment.) and the boys sit down with beers. We girls go in the kitchen to gossip, though we know that we have to hurry because JC will be popping in soon. He is, of course, way more involved in the meal (who is it that hates that word?) preparation than we are. "No contest, Brit," I tell her. "Joey never looked at either of us like that." "That's for damn sure," you smile. I think we're happier about it than she is. "You guys aren't just saying that out of guilt are you?" she asks, still cautious. "It's not exactly fun to tell someone how much more attractive she is to someone than I am," I smile at her. She smiles back. "I love you guys." "And we love you," you tell her. Then we just stand there. Being mushy with Britney is weird, even for us. Thank God JC chooses this moment to make his appearance. He starts pulling things out of cupboard and the fridge. He hands me lettuce and vegetables, which I take as a hint to make a salad. You get bread, butter and garlic and Britney gets a bag of rice. JC goes outside and starts putting steaks and chicken on the barbecue. You think about how nice it is to have a man as domestic as JC. You start mixing garlic and butter in a bowl while you smile goofily. "Look at you," I laugh. "You're as bad as me." "What?" you demand. "I'm not doing anything." "Sure," I smile. "Besides," you tell me. "I can't be as bad as you. You're getting MARRIED!" "I know," I sigh. "It's pretty crazy," Britney comments, looking up from her rice stirring. "Are you scared at all?" "Sometimes," I tell her. "Those are some serious vows. But, I mean we already live together and share money and all that. Getting married will just make it legal." "Still…" Britney says. "It's a big commitment. You're lucky." "I know," I sigh. "But sometimes I miss the excitement of a new relationship. That getting together phase. That's the best part you know," I wink at her and she blushes again. It's enough to give someone a severe case of the warm fuzzies. As soon as I open my mouth JC flings his arms up to cover his ears and starts singing loudly, "I'm a little teapot short and stout!" I roll my eyes and just give up. "Fine!" I tell him and I try not to smile, but it's impossible. "I won't say anything." He lets his guard down. "You aren't supposed to tell anyone who your secret santa is, and I don't want to know. It could be me!" He is in a really good and hyper mood. I love him when he is like this. "It's not you," I say, flopping down next to him on the couch. He gets this pissed and disappointed look on his face. "Why'd you have to go and tell me that? You aren't allowed to speak for the rest of the day." "The only reason I want to tell you is because I want your help," I say but he starts flailing his arms in front of my face and laughing. I finally give in and keep my mouth shut. If he's going to be this difficult about it, then it's not worth it. He ties his shoes and looks at me. "Should we go get some take out or something?" he asks. I just stare at him for a moment and then try to answer but no sound comes out of my mouth. He did forbid me to speak for the rest of the day. When I do this he explodes into a fit of laughter. It was well worth it. "Let's go shopping," you tell Justin when you walk into the kitchen. He is standing by the counter, quickly shoving a piece of peanut butter toast into his mouth. "Ah cahnd," he says, his mouth full and you just stare at him. "Exsqueese me? Baking powder?" He laughs and this makes it harder for him to swallow his bite. "I can't," he finally says. "I'm supposed to go out with Joe." You sigh and get a glass of water. "Well, ask him what he wants for Christmas." "Yeah right," Justin says, popping another piece of bread in the toaster. "If I do that he'll think Ipicked him." "Whatever," you just say. You pick up the phone and call Britney. You try to get her to go shopping with you but she acts like she's not paying attention and says something like, "Oh I can't, I have to go do this thing." When you hang up the phone you watch Justin singing to himself while he butters his bread. He shimmies his butt a little and you smile. The fact that he does this kind of thing just for his own benefit is too cute. You decide to call me but when you ask JC if I can come to the phone he starts crack laughing and then says, "She can't talk!" and starts cracking up. "I told her not to talk and now she won't!" You guess it's just one of those you-had-to-be-there things so you laugh halfheartedly and say, really though, can you talk to me? "I'm serious!" he says. "She refuses to talk." After awhile of that conversation that gets you know where, Justin gets ready to leave the house so you get off the phone with JC to say goodbye to JJ. "I'll tell you if he says anything," Justin says after he kisses you, referring to Joey. "Thanks baby," you say back. You settle down on the couch and watch an episode of Wings, but your mind starts to wander. You only have a few days before Christmas and not all your shopping is done. You sent out a package to your family yesterday, and that's a relief to have finished, but you still want to get something extra special for Justin and, even though you really aren't supposed to since we decided to do this whole secret santa thing, you kind of want to get something little for me. You hate going to the mall by yourself and when Chris calls you beg him to go shopping with you. He says he is busy as hell with Christmas stuff, but when you can tell he is about to give in and come, you decide to let him off the hook. If he came with, you'd have to tell him you got Joey and that's probably not the greatest idea. Even though you know he could probably help you think of something to get him. The more you think about it, the more you decide that Joey is probably a pretty easy person to shop for. Even though with most of these guys its hard to find things they want that they haven't already bought for themselves, you aren't too worried. There was a $50 price limit put on all gifts, and you get in your Jetta to go to the mall, hoping that you will be able to find something relating to an inside joke or something. About a mile or two away from the house, though, you start to notice that your car is making a weird sound. You decide to ignore it, but it starts to get louder and all of a sudden there is a big THUMP and the car starts to shake violently. Needless to say, you quickly pull over to the side of the road and get out to take a look. Sure enough, just as you imagined, one of your tires is dead flat. "Damn it," you mutter to yourself. You have a spare but you really don't feel like fixing the damn thing yourself. You aren't even really sure you could do it, even though you assume you'd be able to figure it out. You stand there for awhile just staring at it. You want to call Justin and have him come and rescue you, but when you realize you are only about a mile from the house you figure you could always walk back and leave the car here, and make Ju fix it whenever he gets home. You sigh and lean against the car, trying to talk yourself into walking home, even though it's so hot and you really don't feel like it. Fuck it, you think. I'm marrying his ass. What's he for if not to call in situations like this? But before you go back into the car to get your cell, an SUV driving by slows to a stop in front of you. The window rolls down and a familiar face peeks his head out. "Hi there," he says and you realize that he is your new next door neighbor, the guy who lives in our old house. "Hi," you say, trying to remember his name. "Hi Dan." "Dave," he corrects you. "Karen, right?" "Kristin, actually," you say and both of you laugh. He has a nice smile. "I see you had some trouble," he comments, motioning to your tire. "Yeah," you say softly, looking back down at it. Before you can say anything else, though, he parks his car behind yours and gets out. "Let's take a look at this," he says, bending down. He looks up at you after a minute. "Do you have a spare?" he asks. "Yeah," you say and show him where it is. "How about I put this on," he says with his sparkling grin. "And then I follow you to the garage on 16th. I can give you a ride back home after we drop it off." Your face breaks out into a grateful smile. "Thank you," you say, your voice full of gratitude. "That would be the biggest help." "No problem," he says, taking the spare and jack out of your car. "What are neighbors for?" I show up at Lance's later that afternoon for a "casual visit." When he answers the door he smiles. He had called earlier. "I thought you were going to be mute for twenty four hours," he says with a chuckle. He moves over so I can walk past him into the house. "Well it took JC about three hours to figure out that I was really just waiting for Prince Charming to kiss me to break the spell." Lance laughs and gets me a Coke from the fridge before we go sit on the couch. "He's a quick one. How did he finally figure it out?" "I tried to drop subtle clues," I explain. "But that was useless. I had to finally write him a note." We laugh and try to focus on my devious original plan. I bring up Christmas. We talk about it a little. Then, being as slick as I am, I say, "My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas, but I don't even know what to ask for.....what do you want for Christmas?" But he doesn't tell me what I need to know, instead he starts talking about his family and how he doesn't really want anything from them, just their company. Blah blah family, I'm thinking. What the fuck am I going to get him? The little piece of paper with his name that I drew from Chris's hat is burning a hole in my wallet. I try to bring up all sorts of other clever side topics, but he gives me nothing to work with what so ever. "Anything I should hint to Jessica that you might want?" I ask, thinking for sure I've done it now! I'm such a genius. "No, tell her not to get me anything," he says. "Tell her she should call me, and talking to her is present enough." Gag! I think. Stupid little man! Help me out here! He starts to have that weird far away look on his face that he gets when he talks about Jessica. I ask him what the best present he ever got was, but he doesn't even hear me I don't think. He keeps talking about Jessica. I sigh. I am his friend, so I decide to let my cause go and just listen to him like a friend should. He sighs a lot. I hug him. He has to make some FreeLance phone calls, so I leave his house. I drive around for awhile and stop at a strip mall. I'm hoping something will pop out at me. I'm done with all my shopping, even though the urge to by JC more things I see is pretty strong. I go to a bookstore and try to think of a special book Lance might want. I go to a record store, but Lance has every CD he could ever want to listen to, not to mention a couple dozen he wouldn't want to. I walk around a Target aimlessly, with something Lance said echoing in my head over and over. I say it to myself while I look at sweaters, and while I look at toys, when all of a sudden it hits me. I can hear his deep voice saying, "You and JC are really lucky that you live together. You are automatically going to be together for the holidays." My face lights up and put down the Pooh doll I am holding and run outside. I don't even go to my car, I go straight to a pay phone and use my calling card to call Jessica. When she agrees, I run straight over to the little travel agency next to the hobby shop and book her a flight. The words "fifty dollar limit" flash in my head a little as I charge her $250 ticket on my Visa, but I don't let it bother me. You and Dave strike up some easy conversation while you are waiting at the garage. In his car on the way back to the house, you are thinking about what a nice guy he is. Though you aren't sure if it's the greatest idea, when it comes up, you tell him about Justin and your engagement. "Really?" he asks, excitedly. "Congratulations!" He asks how you two met. You smile and tell him a little bit about how you were a lawyer for TransCon, but aren't working right now. "I know how it is," he says. "I'm a pilot. I've been flying for Northwest Airlines for a few years now, but the schedule is crazy and it kind of takes it's toll. Makes it hard to carry on a normal life in one place. I've been thinking about making some career changes myself. A friend of mine who used to fly with me a lot just recently bought his own plane and started giving flying lessons instead." "Really?" you ask, for some reason this peaking your interest. "Flying lessons?" "Yeah, and he loves it. Now he can stay here all year round, and be with his kids all the time, but doesn't have to give up flying. Hopefully someday I'll do something like that. Because I love flying, I could never give it up." When you get to the house you thank him a million times and he says you're welcome and that he was happy to be of help. You walk into your house and he walks into his. You stand just inside your door for a few minutes until you run back over and knock on his door. "Hi," he says, surprised. "Hate to bother you again," you say, "but your friend that gives flying lessons? He gives them here, in Orlando?" "Yeah, at an airfield just outside of town actually..." He smiles when he sees the thoughtful look on your face. "Would you like his number?" "Yes," you say nodding and smiling. "That would be great." You take the number and sit down at your kitchen table for awhile, mulling it over. Finally, you make the call. JC still won't let me tell him who my Secret Santa is, even though I kind of need to, otherwise, where the hell am I going to store Jessica before the party on Christmas Eve? But JC is so cute about wanting to stay innocent about the whole thing, that I just kind of play with him for awhile. He's like my favorite toy. He's like my little catnip mouse that I paw and swat around. God I'm so in love with him my limbs could fall off. So I call you on the 23rd and inform you of my deal and everything. You agree to store her at your house as long as I make sure Lance doesn't come over early or anything. That same night you are sitting with a frustrated Justin, who is sitting in front of an open Yellow Pages, making call after call. "It's one fucking album," he tells you while you blow on your spaghetti. He leaves his next to him, untouched. "You'd think one fucker in this whole damn town would have a copy of it." You just kind of shrug. It's his own fault for waiting so long. That's what he gets for being cocky about knowing exactly what to get JC. You bite your tongue, though, and don't mess with him since he's pretty upset about it. "I mean, I could just get him something else, but I just...." he trails off and looks so sad that it's cute. He sighs and pushes the phone book away, turning focus to his meal. He takes one bite and says, "Ow!" but just eats it anyway. You smile. You forgot to warn him it was really hot. "You could look online," you tell him, taking another bite. He looks up. "That's a good idea," he says, leaving the room. "I didn't mean right now!" you call out, but he is already gone. You just stay there and finish your dinner, looking at the paper a little as you do. You have some salad and a glass of wine. You put some salad on Justin's plate and do the rest of the dishes. You get out ingredients for cookies and start to mix them when you hear Justin breathe "Ooooh!" from the other room. You wipe your hands off and go into the study where he is hunched over the computer. "They have the whole Miles Davis set," he says to you in a breath-y voice and you come over to look. "On Blue Note. The whole set!" "Wow," you say, kissing him on the cheek because you are leaning over right by his face. "But baby it's on eBay. You won't get it in time." "Maybe I could have them Fed-Ex it or something," he is saying, trying to keep his dream alive, when you notice the price and make a noise accordingly. "What?" he asks. "Justin, it's three thousand dollars!" you exclaim. "Yeah, I know," he mutters quietly and you can tell he is willing to pay that much. "Justin!" you just say again. "These presents are supposed to have a fifty dollar limit!" "Oh, and how much did you spend on Joey exactly?" he asks with a smile. You blush but don't let it bother you too much. "Not three thousand dollars!" is all you say. "But baby it's for JC," he says in a voice so tender it almost kills you. "He would die if he had these." You just sigh and pull up a chair. "You are such a good friend," you say, kissing him lightly on the arm. "I wish I could get this guys number or something," is all Justin says as he places his bid, thirty two hundred dollars. You notice that the guys email is an AOL account and suggest he check if he is online. He is. "Kristin, you are the greatest!" You just shake your head a little but smile as you head back into the kitchen. Justin is making all sorts of noises on the computer, you can hear him in the kitchen. Right when you are shoving the cookies in the oven, he comes into the room, a spring in his step. "What?" you ask, trying to hide your smile. "The guy lives in Tampa," Justin tells you excitedly. "I'm going to drive down tomorrow and pick them up." "You're going to what?" you ask, surprised. "Justin! That'll take you five hours to get there and back!" "I know it," he says, eating some dough. "I better leave early." You just shake your head in disbelief, but can't help and feel a little warm and fuzzy inside. "Come on, come on!" I say, ushering Jessica upstairs in your house as soon as I hear car doors closing outside. "How long exactly am I going to have to wait up there?" she asks with a laugh, happy enough to be here. She knows she should be grateful. And she is. I hand her a couple beers and then hurry her some more. Chris comes bounding in, with Joey close behind him. I go into the living room which is all decorated. It looks so nice, so warm. There are candles everywhere and your tree is just to die for, of course, seeing as it was picked out by most of the members of *N Sync. It had taken them two hours and three lots to find the perfect tree. You greet them at the door, and see that Chris has brought Dani along. "I'm sorry to invite myself over," she says to you, blushing a little. You can tell she really means it. "I just didn't want to be away from Chris on Christmas Eve." "Don't be silly!" you say sincerely. "You are ALWAYS welcome over here!" you give her a big hug and she smiles. JC comes in with his big package, and Britney shows up and looks so cute I could eat her. Or at least make out with her for awhile. I say this out loud because it's Christmas and I love everybody so much I can't keep it in. "Roxanne, you are so weird!" she practically screams, with wide eyes, but she is cracking up. JC seriously chokes on his egg nog and his face gets all red and blotchy. I can tell the thought was a little too much excitement for him to handle. Lance comes over and we make him keep saying, "Ho ho ho!" because he has the perfect voice for it. Finally, Justin comes running in the house. "What took you so long?" you ask when he embraces you and he just tries to catch his breath, mumbling an apology. "I'm just glad you made it," you say, kissing him again. Lance puts on the Phil Spector Christmas album and you watch him as he turns around and notices that everyone has coupled out. Well, we haven't really, but we are all sitting by our respective sweeties, including Joey and Britney, who are acting even more lovey than me and JC or Chris and Dani. But still, you can tell by the look on Lance's face that he is a little lonely. "Let's open presents now!" you say. Joey and Chris quickly agree and I say sure, since I want to let Jessica out of the upstairs bathroom or whatever. JC makes a big deal about how we should wait, since he's all about torture. But he's out voted, so first Justin makes a fire and you and Britney make sure everyone has a drink and then we all settle around the tree. "Who's first?" Chris asks, and sticks his hand into the pile, pulling one out at random. It's yours to Joey. He gets all excited and opens the card, reading aloud, "It's a bird, it's a plane..." he opens it and continues, "Okay, it's a plane. Consider yourself Superman. Love, Kristin." He looks at the little certificate you made up on the computer saying he has three flying lessons and squeals like a little girl. He jumps up and comes over, enveloping you in his big strong arms. "Thank you," he says quietly into your hair, squeezing you tightly one more time. "Okay, okay," Chris interrupts. "Where's mine?" So we get back to business and Lance gives Chris an envelope. "An envelope? Gee, thanks Lance," Chris says sarcastically and we all laugh. Chris opens the card and sees his gift--a skybox at a Dolphins game. Chris is at a loss for words, so you know it was a good one. "Feel free to invite any of your friends along," Lance hints. Chris reaches back into the pile and pulls out another envelope. "So far everyone's done a really good job wrapping," Joey jokes. Chris hands it to you and Britney gets all excited. "That's from me!" she says, clapping and setting her glass down to watch. You take a deep excited breath and open it. "No you didn't!" you exclaim. "Girl, you know you love it," she says and she is right. "What? WHAT?" JC asks, veins popping out of his neck. "What is it?!" You just start laughing. "A private dance tutorial with Darren!" "Oh man!" Justin says excitedly, hugging you. "That's so cool!" You get up and give Britney a huge hug and thank her over and over. You can tell she is pleased that she did well and you are glad. "Here," Joey says, handing Justin a box. "Oh no," Justin says, pretending to be worried. "YOU got me?" Joey just smiles wide. "Open it," he says. So Justin does, being really cautious, even though he's Brady Bunching the whole time. When he gets the box open his face transforms into a look of shock. "But these don't come out until March!" Justin exclaims. "I know," Joey says, nodding his head and cheezing, obviously proud of himself. Justin hold up this pair of insanely ornate basketball shoes with someone random name signatured on the side. "Joey, how the hell did you get these?!" he finally asks, his face going into serious perma-smile. "I have my ways," Joey says like he is some sort of mafia guy and Lance pushes him. We all laugh. Justin puts on his shoes and starts jumping around and pretending to shoot a ball. "Why don't you give yours now JJ?" I ask, just so I don't have to watch him anymore. "Okay," he says, immediately stopping and sliding the big box over to JC. "For me?" JC asks, surprised, like he forgot that he was going to get a present. "Yeah," Justin says. "Open it." "Okay," JC says, smiling and tearing at the paper. The look on his face when he gets it open is priceless. "How did you do this?" he asks, amazed, looking up at Justin. Justin smiles. "You like?" "Of course," JC says, breathily, looking through the albums. "I can't believe it." He looks back up at Justin, who smiles. "Thank you," he says and they hug. I love it when they hug. "Here," Chris says, handing me a box. "Ooh!" I say excitedly, happy that Chris got me. I rip the paper off in a frenzy and open the box. "It's the coat!" I yell, pulling it out of the box. "It's the coat!" No one has escaped my sob story of the big white furry jacket with the hood and the big gold buttons. No one, even Chris, apparently. "Thank you so much!" I yell, standing up and putting it on. It's so warm and fuzzy. "Where did you find it?" I ask, blown away. I had been looking. "Actually, it's not really that one," he says. "I couldn't find it, so I had one made. It's pretty much the same, isn't it?" "Yes, it's perfect!" I yell again, mauling him. I hug him a million times and he says, "Yeah, yeah, get off me," but I can tell he's glad I appreciate it so much. "Okay, what about me?" Lance says, but I want him to go last. So I'm grateful when you say, "What about Britney? Is this box for Britney?" "Yeah," JC says, pulling himself away from his box of records for a minute. Justin stops jumping around again to watch. "This is for you, Britney," JC says, handing it to her. "Merry Christmas." "Thank you," Britney says, smiling and taking the box from him. She opens it carefully and we can see the color fade out of her face as she pulls a beautiful pink dress out of the box. She stands up and holds it up to her. She stares at JC. "Do you remember," he asks her, "last year when we were talking about how we should have our own kingdom and how you would be the princess?" "Of course," she says, and I wonder if she is going to cry. "And I would always wear a big puffy pink dress." "Yeah," is all JC says, blushing a little. Britney takes a deep breath and gives JC the biggest, longest hug ever. "Thank you," she says and they hold onto each other for a long time. "Do I get anything?" Lance asks and we all laugh. "You're so needy!" I tell him with a smile and he rolls his eyes at me. Chris hands him the last card and he opens it. "Go upstairs?" he says to me, in the form of a question. I just nod and so Lance gets up and we all follow him into your bedroom, where Jessica is waiting. They embrace each other immediately and we all sneak back downstairs to give them a moment. We keep the drinks coming, and after a few minutes Lance and Jessica come back downstairs. "Thank you," Lance says, hugging me. "Merry Christmas," I say back. Dinner (lasagna) is almost ready, so we all kind of mill around for a few minutes and talk and be merry. We hug each other a lot. You and I talk Britney into putting her dress on (hell, I'm wearing my coat) and she looks so gorgeous in it we almost die. "This was so not under fifty dollars!" she exclaims suddenly, turning to JC. But Joey saves her by commenting, "And I know for a fact that the little Darren Henson rendezvous was quite a bit over that little limit." Justin laughs. "Did ANYONE spend fifty dollars or under?" And when no one says anything, everyone just laughs again. Britney is standing in the doorway and Joey sneaks around so he is standing next to her and shoves some mistletoe into the top of the door jam with scotch tape. "Oops!" he says with a laugh. "Look where you're standing!" And she just gives him a look and leans in and kisses him very sweetly. We all pretend not to watch, but its hard. It's one of the cutest things I've ever seen. Joey doesn't really let go of her after that. You go and get the lasagna and some salad and some more drinks for everyone and put them on the table. On one of your trips to and from the kitchen when you have a glass in your hand, Justin stops you. You are in the fateful doorway. You kiss him on the cheek as a joke, but instead of looking disappointed he just looks outward dreamily and says, "I'm never washing my face again!" you laugh and he hugs you and whispers in your ear, "If you think you are ever getting out of spending every single Christmas with me for the rest of your life, think again. Because you're all I ever wanted. And this year, I got it." We eat and laugh and Dani is very complementary about the meal, which is a nice change for you, since we all take most of the things you do for granted. But we have a great meal and we all laugh a lot and get pretty drunk, which just makes us laugh more. Lance makes a toast "to all the best friends in the world!" We clink glasses and smile at each other. "Merry Christmas!" we all call out. You wake up on Christmas morning to a delicious smell and a half empty bed. You smile a little to yourself and go in the kitchen where JC is standing at the stove. You walk up behind him and say “hi.” He jumps about a milei n the air and spazzes around a little bit. “Jeez Roxanne! You scared the crap out of me.” But he’s smiling. “Sorry,” you giggle. “Watcha makin’?” “Oh, this egg thing my mom always makes,” he tells you. “With sausage, onions, bell peppers and cheese.” “Yummy,” you say. “Can I help with anything?” “You can make some juice,” he points to a can of concentrate on the counter. You mix it up, and then go call your family in Seattle. You talk to your mom for a minute and she thanks you for all the nice gifts you sent and then she puts Nora on the phone, who proceeds to describe, in detail, every gift she received. You get a little sad thinking about how you’re not with them, but c’est la vie. (Some people say I look like me dad. What? Are you serious?) You and JC sit down to eat and you get all goofy and start singing “I Never Knew the Meaning of Christmas” to him. He’s laughing, but you’re pretty serious. You almost start to cry when you get to the “Like an angel shining bright” part. He is so an angel. “You’re the best Christmas present I ever got,” you tell him. You can tell he doesn’t really know what to say, so he just holds your hand across the table. When you’re finished eating, JC says, “Let’s open our stockings!” He’s so excited that you wonder how he was able to wait this long to open presents. You turn your perma-smile his way and he smiles back. He hands you your stocking and grabs his own. But you pretty much forget to open yours because you’re so busy watchng all the expressions that cross JC’s face as he sees what “Santa” (a.k.a. Roxanne) brought him. You realize that you’ve never had to do a stocking for anyone, and it was fun. It’s even more fun seeing how much he likes everything, even silly things like a toothbrush and candy. He’s so precious. You finally get around to looking what’s in your sock, and you find that JC is a good gift giver. There are gift certificates to places like Starbucks and Tower, some Godiva chocolate and one of those mother of pearl bracelets that JC has. Now you two can be twins! Then it’s time to get down to presents. JC is still bouncing around and smiling like a monkey. You decide that having Christmas with him is better than having Christmas with any little kid. He is way into it. You go put some Christmas music on, and sit down in front of the tree. You get a little disappointed when you notice that there’s only one small box for you. You didn’t really expect JC to buy you a ton of stuff, but you feel a little foolish for getting him something so big. You just hope the box has jewelry or plane tickets to the Carribean in it. “Open yours first,” JC says with a giddy little smile on his face. You can tell he’s excited. Inside the box is one of your books. You look at him like he’s crazy, but he’s still smiling away. “Read the inside,” he tells you. You open it, and it says, in his writing, “I liked this book so much that I want to give you motivation to write another one.” Again, you look at him like he’s insane. He grabs your hand and pulls you up. “C’mon,” he says, dragging you to the spare bedroom, which basically acts as a storage room for a bunch of crap. But when you walk inside, it’s all cleaned up. Under the window, there is a brand new computer workstation with a brand new computer, printer, scanner and everything else you can think of. It’s tied with a big red bow. Needless to say, you are speechless. When you finally regain your voice, you say, “This is for me?” in a weak voice. “Yep,” JC says, dragging you over to it. “You always looked so uncomfortable sitting at the kitchen counter with your laptop, so I thought you should have a place to work. It also has all this cool new software for authors like a dictionary and thesaurus and research tools.” “This is way too much,” you tell him, still a little in awe. His face falls a little and he says, “Don’t you like it?” “Of course I do!” you say, hugging him. “I didn’t mean to make you think that. I just don’t know if I deserve it.” “Oh, Roxanne,” he says into your hair. “I wish I could’ve done even more.” You don’t want to cry, which you are starting to do, so you decide to have him open his present to distract you. You hand him the box, which is so large that you almost drop it. “What on earth is this?” he asks with a giggle. “Open it!” you prod. He pulls off the wrapping paper, and when he sees it’s a new keyboard he starts spazzing around a little. “This is amazing!” he yells. “I looked into getting you a piano,” you explain. “But they’re too big and too expensive.” “No, this is better,” he tells you sincerely. “I need the computer on it to write songs.” “Oh good,” you smile. “Thank you so much!” he says, hugging you. “How did you know I needed this?” You shrug. “Music is your life,” you tell him. Then you have a thought. “Isn’t it weird that we both got each other something to do our jobs with?” “We’re in sync!” he says with a head throw back laugh. You laugh pretty hard at that, too. It’s 6 a.m. and I am wide awake. I always do this on Christmas. It’s like I’m still five years old. So I get up and take an antihistamine, which puts me right to sleep. Next thing I know, Justin is jumping on me and yelling, “Wake up! Wake up! It’s Christmas!” Apparently, he suffers from the five year old disease also. “Okay, okay,” I mutter groggily. “I’m getting up.” I glance at the clock and see that it’s 9:00. JJ pulls me out of bed and gives me a big Christmas hug and kiss. We start heading downstairs and I notice that all Justin has on is a pair of boxer briefs. “Justin, you HAVE to put some clothes on,” I say. “Why?” he asks like I’m crazy. “Because...because...It’s Christmas! It’s like a rule or something!” “Okay,” he laughs. “You are so weird.” “I’m weird?” I cry. “I’m not the one trying to wear underwear to Christmas morning!” He puts on some warm up pants and a wife beater and poses like he’s a model. “Do you approve, Chief of Christmas fashion police?” “Oh, shut up,” I slap him playfully. I take his hand and we walk downstairs. I make coffee while Justin eats a giant bowl of Apple Jacks. We’re planning to go out to brunch with his fam, and I scold him for ruining his appetite. But, you know he has to have his cereal in the morning. I grab a garbage bag for the wrapping paper and we head into the living room, with a quick stop at the mistletoe on the way. We open our stockings first, laughing and shaking our heads at each other. Justin’s is filled with cheezy North Carolina merchandise, while mine is full of cheezy 49er merchandise. As I tell him thank you, I wonder if we were always this much alike or if it’s a product of us being together so long. I imagine that this is what it feelslike to be married, and realize that us getting married will do no more than make it legal. For all intents and purposes, we’re already married. It’s an odd thought, but a good one all the same. As Justin reaches under the tree for a gift for each of us, I notice that I’m a little nervous. I sunk most of my savings and a lot of time into his presents, and I hope he likes them. Justin tells me to open mine first. Inside is an outfit from Guess? that consists of black leggings with baby blue stripes down the sides and a matching top (remember that?) and a pair of tennis shoes that look like a pair I’ve seen Britney wear. It’s cute as hell, but I’m not sure what it’s for. When Ju notices the look of wonderment on my face, he explains, “It’s to go with Britney’s gift. You need something you can dance in, right?” “Oh my God,” I exclaim. “You are the cutest thing ever!” “Why thank you,” he says with a Brady Bunch smile. “Now open yours,” I command. “Ooh, it’s heavy,” he comments, shaking it slightly. He tears off the paper and pulls off the top of the box. “Wow,” he breathes, pulling out a calf-length, black leather jacket. I decided that he needed it to wear to award shows and the like, since he absolutely refuses to wear a suit or tux. “Do you like it?” I ask nervously. “It’s perfect,” he says, hugging me. “It’s so me! I love it!” “Try it on,” I tell him, and when he does, I momentarily stop breathing he looks so amazing. “You look good enough to eat,” I tell him, and he grins at me wickedly. “It looks like something’s hanging out of the pocket,” I say, pretending not to know what it is. He looks down quizzically and pulls an envelope out of the pocket. He opens it and his eyes get big as a smile spreads across his face. He turns to me and says, “It’s official. I love you more than life itself.” It’s tickets to see Brian McKnight in Vegas and plane tickets to get down there. I smile happily, glad he likes the gifts so much. “I even checked to make sure you could take time off,” I tell him. “Talking to Johnny was the hardest part of the whole present.” We both laugh as Justin comes over and squeezes me tightly, planting kisses on my neck and across my face. Justin pulls another box from under the tree and hands it to me. It’s small, flat and rectangular. I rip off the paper and immediately know that there’s jewelry inside. I lift the lid and gasp at the necklace inside. It’s this diamond that I have been wanting forever. I always show it to Justin in magaznes, because everyone in Hollywood has them. People like Gwyneth Paltrow. I’ve seen copies of these all over, and I wonder Justin got it from the real store in Beverly Hills or somewhere else. As if reading my thoughts, he says, “It’s the real thing. I picked it up last time I was in L.A.” I can’t believe it. I never thought I would own something like this. “Oh, Justin,” I brathe. “I love it! I can’t think of a better gift.” “Well, wait,” Justin tells me with a smile. “There’s more.” “More?” I ask. He is incredible. “Here,” he says, handing me a box. I open it and within the tissue inside is a brochure from the Four Seasons in Miami Beach. (Does this exist? I don’t know, and I don’t care! LOL!) I look at Justin questioningly, and say, “Does this mean what I think it means?” “Yep,” he nods. “I got reservations to have our reception in the ballroom there, July 21, 2001.” “Oh my God in heaven,” is all I can say. I’m about to faint. I have been talking and talking about how I want the reception to be there, but how it’s way too expensive and there is no way to get reservations even a year and a half in advance. “How did you do this?” I ask, hugging him for all I’m worth and kissing him a hundred times. “I pulled a few strings,” he says laughing at my overwhelming show of affection. “I just want everything to be perfect.” His sincerity is so adorable that I kiss him some more. Then I calm down. “It will be perfect,” I sigh, leaning my head on his chest, my arms still around him.. “It’s going to be the best day of our lives.” “Definitely,” he says, pulling me away from him a little so he can look at me. “I love you, Kristin.” “I love you, too, Justin. Merry Christmas.” “Merry Christmas, baby.” You get in the shower while JC starts cleaning up and getting ready for his parents to come over. You are so happy that you are fairly glowing. But then you start worrying about meeting JC’s family. You spend more time than usual in the shower, thinking you want to be extra clean when you meet them. Frankly, you’re nervous as hell. You get out of the shower, wipe the steam off the mirror and stare at your reflection. You are sure they’r going to hate you and tell JC to stop seeing you. But before you can get too carried away, you hear voices in the house. You momentarily freak out thinking that JC’s family is here early, but you realize that it’s just Justin and me stopping by for a minute. You dress quickly and go out to the living room to see what we’re doing. “Merry Christmas, Pana,” I yell at you, flinging my arms around your neck. You laugh and hug me back. “Here,” I say, handing you a package. “Kristin,” you admonish me. “You weren’t supposed to get me anything.” “Whatever,” I tell you. “You knew I would anyway.” “Well, I’m glad you did,” you laugh, going over to the tree. “’Cause I got you something, too.” I roll my eyes, but smile. The gift from me is a pair of candleholders made of cobalt blue crystal. “Ooh, I love them!” you say. “I decided it was about time you learned how to decorate,” I tell you. “I’m glad you like them.” The gift from you is in one of those gift bags, and it’s rather heavy. I pull out the tissue paper and find a bottle of my favorite champagne and two goregous flutes inside. “Oh my gosh,” I gush. “This is perfect!” “I considered wrapping the economy size condoms for you,” you giggle. “But I thought this was a nicer gift.” “You’re funny,” I say sarcastically, but I’m smiling. “I love you!” “I love you,” you say hugging me. We talk and gush about our wonderful men and their amazing gift-buying abilities until they come in from the kitchen bearing four Kaluha and creams. “Justin!” I say. “It’s eleven o’clock in the morning!” “What’s your point?” he asks me. “I give up,” I sigh, throwing my hands in the air. He just comes over and hands me my drink and kisses me. What can I do but smile and kiss him back? JC hands you yours and we drink a toast to Christmas. But, alas, Justin and I hve to leave if we’re going to meet his family for brunch. We all hug, which takes awhile, and you and JC walk us to the door. You call out “Merry Christmas” as we walk away. Then you smile up at JC and say, “I love Christmas!” “Me too,” he beams at you. “Especially when you’re around.” You give him a big hug for being the sweetest man alive, and then go finish getting ready to meet his fam. It’s not long before the doorbell rings, which runs concurrently with you having the most severe case of butterflies in human history. You wonder if you’re going to projectile vomit all over the Chasezes. You hope not -- that’s not exactly the impression you’re going for. But, you forgot that for JC to be as amazing as he is, his family has to be pretty damn amazing, too. They all welcome you with open arms, smiling and wishing you a merry Christmas. JC looks all proud, but you aren’t sure if he’s proud of them or you or both. He can’t stop smiling for anything, and you don’t mind the nervousness with that you’re dealing with if having his family and you around him makes him so happy. And, boy is he happy. You think he might cry. But you’re not surprised. He NEVER gets to see his family. Pesents are opened and his family even got you one. It makes you so happy that you could burst. It turns out that you get along really well with Heather, because you’re pretty close in age, and Tyler is almost as adorable as JC...almost. You laugh and talk and have egg nog, but the time flies by. They have to leave, and you almost laugh at the sheer amazement of the fact that you wish they could stay longer. They’re on their way to Disney World. They try to convince you and JC to go, but you’ve been thousands of times (hell, he used to WORK there), so you politely decline. They promise to stop by again the next day, and say their good byes. “What a perfect day,” JC says. “I have to agree,” you tell him. “I wish every Christmas could be this nice.” “What do you want to do now?” he asks. You can’t think of anything. You talk about going to the movies or playing with the new computer, but in the end you curl up by the fire and take a nice little nap in each other’s arms. But, before you fall asleep, JC whispers, “I love you.” “I love you,” you say back, and you squeeze him just a little bit tighter. Somehow Lynn managed to find a place for brunch that was full of *N Sync fans. The second we walk in, Justin is completely mobbed. It’s cute, really, all these girls talking about what a great Christmas present it is to get to meet him. Lynn at least had the presence of mind to call a bodyguard, so I leave Justin with him, afraid of alerting the rumor mill. I find Lynn, Paul and Jonathan so I can sit down. I haven’t seen Lynn since Justin and I got engaged, but according to him she was pretty cool about the announcement. And, indeed, she’s fine. She gives me a big hug, and tells me how nice it is that I could spend Christmas with them. I sometimes forget that they’re from Tennessee, and getting married at 20 is a completely normal and acceptable thing to do. Hell, getting married at 16 is normal. Justin finally drags himself away from his adoring masses and sits down. “You okay?” I ask him. “Yeah,” he smiles. “Now.” He hugs his family and tells Jonathan that he has some presents for him if he’s good and sits still and eats his breakfast. It does wonders for the little guy’s behavior. We have a fairly nice breakfast, but after the tenth person comes over to ask Justin for his autograph, we decide that we’d better leave. By this time, the people coming over don’t even know who Justin is. They’re just aware of the fact that he’s famous. I don’t know why we ever try to go out in public. Probably because you’d think that people in Orlando would be used to pop stars hanging around. Apparenlty, they’re not. We go back to the Harless house to open presents. As we’re walkng into the house, I notice that Justin and Lynn are engaged in some sort of argument that they’re not allowing me to be privy to. Instead, I’m in charge of Jonathan, who is half-crazed and foaming at the mouth, waiting to open presents from his brother. We walk inside and I am oohing and ahing at the Christmas decorations when I hear someone say, “Who’s here?” I look up, and who should be standing not 10 feet from me but Huckelberry Finn herself. I just stare at her and Justin gives me an apologetic look. Lynn is a freaking genius. “Hi,” Veronica says quietly. “Hi hon,” Lynn says to her, acting like nothing’s wrong. “Why don’t you come in the living room with us so Jonathan can open presents.” Veronica is smart enough to look slightly uncomfortable with the idea, but not smart enough to leave. “Okay,” she says. “Sounds like fun.” I give Justin a look, but he just shrugs. What can he do? It’s Veronica’s house, too. And, the fact that she’s here and not with her own family and friends on Christmas is pretty damn sad. At least I’m in possession of the knowledge that Justin let his mom know that he wasn’t happy with the situation. And on the upside, being around her gives me an oportunity to marvel at how much alike she and Justin look. It’s pretty creepy if you ask me. When I decide that I’ve stared at her long enough, I turn my attention to Jonathan, my soon to be brother-in-law. Focusing on him isn’t too hard. He’s adorable, especially with the excitement of presents written all over his face. Veronica is basically ignoring Justin and me, which is fine. She eventually gets up and leaves, unble to handle the awkwardness of the situation. I decide to cut her some slack, deciding it’s probably harder for her to be around Justin’s fiancee than it is for me to be around Justin’s ex-girlfriend. Lynn gives me a gift certificate to have a massage and facial, and I decide that it won’t be bad to be a member of this family. If I could just get her to get Innosense out of her house, things would be perfect. After awhile, Justin starts getting antsy like he wants to leave, which is fine with me. I have just one more present for him, and I’m dying to give it to him. We say our good byes and Merry Christmases, and we’re on our way. As the door closes behind us, Justin kisses me and says, “Sorry about that.” “It’s okay,” I tell him. “I honestly don’t care.” “You were a real trooper,” he says. “It was no big deal, really,” I emphasize. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. We get in the Benz and head home. The radio is playing Christmas carols, and Justin ings along to them. When we get to the house, we are greeted by DP who has gotten into the trash and spread wrapping paper everywhere. But we just laugh. We don’t even bother cleaning it up. “Let’s go upstairs,” I tell Justin, which, at four in the afternoon is really code for “Let’s have sex.” He’s, of course, into the idea, so he follows willingly. “Wait here,” I tell him when we get to our room. I go in the bathroom where I put on this gorgeous silk nightgown that I bought for myself ith the rationalization that it was for Justin, too. When I come out of the bathroom, he lets out a low whistle. “Merry Christmas,” I say, turning around for his viewing pleasure. Justin always makes me feel beautiful. He takes me in his arms and says, “We’re going to have a lot more Christmases together, but I’ll never forget this one.” "God, Kristin, hurry UP!" I yell, irritated, walking to the doorway of your hotel suite bathroom. "What the hell takes you so god damn long?" "Um, I have to dry my hair," you say back with just as much attitude. You're a little sick of my attitude problem, which I've had for the last 24 hours. We're in paradise to bring in the new Millennium and you aren't going to let me or anyone else bring you down. You spent all day at the beach with Justin and are now getting ready to go to the *N Sync after party. We skipped the show to do Hawaii in style together and spend a little QT. We had a nice dinner but I have been in a bad mood and you're totally sick of it and ready to get to the party where you can talk to some other people. You get your hair done and get dressed as quickly as you can and we head out to catch a cab to the club. I keep asking you if I look okay and I look fine, how many times do you have to tell me I look fine? We hail a cab and you watch Honolulu roll by a little while, the sheer excitement of being there filling you again. And in a few minutes you'll be with Justin where you can just dance the night away with him. You start talking about how beautiful it is here and how cool Joey was saying this club was and everyone was going to be there and how awesome it was going to be. And how tomorrow, New Years Eve, is going to be even MORE awesome! I kind of nod for awhile and you just keep talking, hoping maybe you can pump me up a little. "Are you sure you want to go to this party?" I ask suddenly, looking down at my ridiculous outfit. "Maybe we could go back to the hotel and get some ice cream and watch some movies or go swimming or something." You just stare at me like I am completely *N Sane! First of all, have I not been listening to you gush about how excited you are?! And second, "God, what the hell is your problem?!" you demand of me. "You have been such a downer all day long!" I just look at you for awhile and then look out the window and don't say anything. You feel kind of bad, but seriously, what's up my ass? We've had the greatest holiday, things are looking good with the whole lawsuit settlement, you're engaged to the greatest man in the WORLD and here we are. You couldn't think of a better way to bring in the year 2000 than with *N Sync and all your other friends in Hawaii! When the car pulls up to the club, you take my hand. "Come on!" you say excitedly, deciding that all I need is to see JC and then I would get some blood flowing in my body. One of the first people we see when we walk in is Britney who puts an arm around each of us. She talks about the show a little and then just tries to dance with both of us. You ask her if she's seen Justin and she says she has but who knows where he is now! She is laughing and looks adorable. Seeing her actually kind of puts me in a little better mood. Britney has that affect on me. I think she's already kind of drunk and I ask her if she is. She says she is but that she's stopping now--she's trying to save all her energy for tomorrow and "the last thing I want to happen is to be hung over for New Years!" Joey comes over and kisses me on the forehead and hugs you and then forgets we exist while he manages to get an arm around Britney. He whispers something into her ear and she laughs and says, "Don't you have some sluts you can go bother or something?" He just kind of gives her a look and then says, "Baby, you're the only slut I'm going to be bothering tonight." "You are such an asshole!" she says, swatting him with her purse and laughing. But she drops the subject because she sees someone. "There's my girls!" she says and you see Mandy Ashford walking up. Her and Brit hug and you say hi and Nikki comes over and you say hi to her too. "Hi Nikki," I say with a pained smile on my face. You watch as Nikki gives me the dirtiest look you have ever seen and turns herself so that I am facing her back. Surprised, your mouth drops, but once you give it a second more thought it is not surprising at all that Nikki would react that way to me. You kind of just laugh because you don't think there is much else you can do, but you can tell by the look on my face that it really bothers me. You watch as I kind of slink away into the crowd. You consider going after me, but all of a sudden there is a drink in front of your face. You accept it and then there are lips on yours and Justin's arms are around you and his breath is hot on your neck. "Hi baby," he says. "Glad you could make it." Chris and Dani come up too and you all kind of talk for awhile. Everyone is in a pretty rowdy mood and you're loving it, because you're feeling pretty high energy yourself. When "Thank God I Found You" with 98D and Mariah comes on, Justin totally drags you on the dance floor and sings it in your ear while you dance closely. JC walks by and smiles but then stops and walks back to where you two are. "Hey, did you come with Roxanne?" he asks and you nod. "Where is she?" "I'm not sure," you say. "Somewhere!" "Somewhere like where?" he asks and you notice that he is SHIT FACED, which kind of surprises you. Justin isn't even drinking tonight, and usually JC is the one who thinks ahead and tries to be prepared. The song ends and Justin unravels his body from around yours. "Dude, you are so drunk," he says to JC with a big laugh. JC laughs too and his eyes are all glazed over. "Dude..." he says. "I am so drunk." Justin shakes his head a little and laughs some more, living his life perma-smile Brady Brunch style. "Well, bring in the millennium with a bang!" "Actually," JC says, almost getting knocked over by a bodyguard who was walking by, "the millennium isn't until 2001, and this is really just the end of the 1900s." Justin just laughs and pushes JC who starts walking in the direction he catches his balance facing. I walked around for awhile looking for JC, wishing that all my stupid ass friends weren't all in one clump with Nikki Deloach. I have a drink and try to make it last a really long time but when it's gone, it's gone and so I start walking around the club again. I actually walk all the way around it four times, trying always to act like I have some sort of destination. So I don't look stupid. I run into Kevin from the band and dance with him for awhile, which is nice. After a couple songs though, I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I don't really have to pee, but I go anyway. There are a handful of girls in the bathroom, and Danay is one of them. "Hi," I say when I walk by her, but she just ignores me. She doesn't look very vicious, but I can see she's being a loyal friend or something. I go into a stall and just stand there. Then I pee. I wait for awhile until I can be sure Danay is gone before I come back out. I wash my hands really slow. Then Dani comes in. "Hi!" she says to me with a big smile and it's the warmest welcome I've received in two days. I almost start to cry, but manage to refrain. "Hi," I say back, so grateful that she walked in when she did. "It is SO hot in here!" She says with a laugh, getting some paper towel damp and then strategically applying it to her face. "I know it," I say mainly just to be agreeable. I look in the mirror and pretend to mess with my hair. She starts re-applying some lipstick when we can hear the DJ start to play Britney's "Crazy." We both look at each other and laugh. "Let's dance!" she says and pulls me out of the bathroom and on to the dance floor. We both start dancing and singing along and laughing and I am wondering how exactly it is that I haven't really become friends with her before. All of a sudden, I am having so much fun! Not everybody hates me! Dani laughs and points. My eyes follow to where she is motioning, where our friends have clustered, and I see Britney shaking her head while Joey tries to get her to dance to her own song. I laugh too until I notice that JC is talking to Nikki. I just start to feel kind of nauseous and really dirty. I just stop dancing because I feel like all the energy has been sucked out of me. Dani is looking at me and wondering why I stopped dancing. "I don't feel so good," I say to her and she immediately pulls me off the dance floor. "Too much to drink?" she is saying to me. "Let's get you some water." I've only had two drinks, but I just follow her. We find a spot at the bar and she gets me a big glass of cold water. I drink it and watch JC as I do. He's still talking to Nikki. It's not that I think there is anything going on between them, I know there isn't and I trust JC with every bone in my body. It's not me worrying so much as it is me just watching them stand next to each other, her showing off her flat stomach in some stylish garb with her hair all done up and body glitter on. Dani is turning out to be a really good person, but the desire to be close to you or Lance right about now is pretty strong. When I see Chris, I tell Dani that I am totally okay and thank her and urge her to go over to him. She hesitates but he sees us and comes over to where we are. He asks me where I've been hiding but just laughs and makes a funny face at me. He talks Dani into going back out onto the dance floor. I start searching the crowd for you (or Lance, whichever comes first) when I notice that Justin is further down the bar shaking his bon-bon and waiting for a drink. I shake my bon-bon quickly over to him. "Where's Kristin?" I ask him immediately. He looks over. "Oh, there you are," he says. "I thought you had been eaten by sharks or something." "Where's Kristin?" I ask again, the desire for a shower growing stronger every time an attractive girl walks by, which is about every second. "JC was looking for you," he says, taking a drink umbrella and putting it in my hair. He smiles. "Dude's FADED." [Just a comment here--listening to my internet radio and I've heard, in this order, song for song, Christina What a Girl Wants, Brit's Crazy, Blink 182 All The Small Things, *N Sync GMHS, Blaque Bring It All To Me (without JC, but still), and now Show Me The Meaning] "So Kristin's where?" I just ask. He laughs and then looks at me for a minute. "What's with you?" he asks. I put my head in my hands a little and close my eyes. "I just want to know where Kristin is." Justin reaches around and puts his arms around me and pulls me out onto the dance floor, where they are playing a slow song. I put my arms around his neck and then just can't take it a moment longer. Safe in Justin's arms I just start to cry into his chest. No one can tell; it just looks like we are dancing close. He holds me tight and just lets me do my thing, which is something I appreciate more than anything. When the song ends, I wrap up my loose feelings and get control back. I actually feel kind of rejuvenated just having gotten it all out. "You okay?" he asks, honestly concerned when I pull away from him. "Yeah," I say, letting a breath out. "Sorry." "It's okay," he says, putting his hand on my back and steering me over to where our friends were. "Thank you," I tell him, meaning it from the bottom of my heart. Then I rub my eyes a little and say, worried, "Do I look okay?" He just smiles. "You look great." "What're you trying to, steal my man?" I hear your voice call out with a hoot and I know immediately that you are drunk. I smile and Justin just goes over to you and makes animal noises and buries his head in your neck. You laugh and I laugh and Britney, who is standing there, laughs. "Where the HELL is LANCE?" I finally say with a laugh and Britney just shrugs. Feeling better, I look out for JC and notice that he is dancing with Jenny Morris. Well, at least it's not Nikki. I see Justin whispering in your ear a little bit and then you walk over to me and say, "Come to the bathroom with me." Britney jumps up and says she is going to come too before she pisses her pants. We all head to the bathroom, you pulling me by the arm. Britney runs in to a stall and you just turn to me. "What's wrong?" you ask. "Nothing," I say. "Really, I'm okay." You just give me a look. "Come on," you insist. I just sigh and Britney comes out of her stall and washes her hands. "Don't let Nikki Cockroach get to you," she says. "She's just bitter." "I know," I say. "It's so dumb, but it just makes me feel weird. I mean, we were kind of friends and now all of a sudden I'm the devil and Danay Ferrer ignores me." "Big loss," you say with a drunken laugh. "Well you did kind of steal her boyfriend," Britney just says, trying to say objective. "She's not going to go and buy you some flowers or anything." "Yeah, I know," I say with a sigh, turning one of the faucets on and off. You go pee and come back out and Britney puts on some more body glitter. "Going out with JC is the single scariest thing I have ever done in my entire life," I comment. Britney starts refreshing her eye shadow. "What do you mean?" she asks. "I don't know," I say, still playing with the faucet. "Like...what if I lost him...you know...like, what if we stopped going out...it's like I crossed some point of no return or something...what if I'm not good enough for him? What if he doesn't like me? I can't go back to the way it was before. And I spend so much time worrying that having him near me is just like some sort of big mistake that was made in heaven or something, and someone else deserves him. I mean, he's an angel! How did I get so lucky? I don't deserve this, it has to be a mistake!" I look up and you guys are just staring at me. "What would happen to me if he realized this? I feel like walking on eggshells or whispering all the time. Anything to make sure that things stay the way they are. It's just so scary." Britney just smiles and looks away. You hug me. "Don't worry about it," you say. Just then JC walks right into the women's bathroom and says, "Where the hell have you been hiding?" The three of us just bust out laughing because what the fuck is drunk JC doing in the girls room? I push him out to avoid any further embarrassment. "You are so insane," I tell him and smell his alcohol breath. "And drunk too!" He smiles and kisses me. "I've been looking for you all night!" "I've been looking for you all my life!" I answer. You and Britney walk by JC and me and you head straight over to Justin and throw your arms around him, stumbling a little in the process. He, sober, catches and kisses you. "I love you baby," you tell him. "And I'm glad you're going to be mine forever!" "It's my pleasure," he tells you with a little smile. You kiss him and then smile. "Mmm," you say. "Let's go back to the hotel." Always up for a little lovin', Justin agrees and hops up excitedly, steering you out the door and into a cab in record time. You make out a little in the cab and then even a little in the elevator on the way to the eleventh floor. He unlocks the suite door and ushers you in. He takes off his shoes and his polo shirt. You are so drunk you just fall down on the bed. He comes over to you in his pants and a wife beater, and you smile wickedly and straddle him--but apparently you moved a little too fast for your drunken state because you just throw up all over his chest. "Oh BABY!" he groans like he can't believe it. You just roll over and moan with nausea. "Oh GOD," Justin says again, jumping up and just staring at your puke all over the front of him. Finally, with a sad sigh he stripped of his clothes and goes into the bathroom to wipe himself up. "Oh no," you moan again, when you feel another wave coming upon you. Justin, hearing you, appears back in the room. "I'm going to throw up." He sighs again and comes to the bed, picking you up off of it and carrying you into the bathroom, where you throw up again into the toilet. He holds your hair back as you puke a couple more times, and when you're finished he strips you of your dirty clothes and carries you back over to the bed. He finishes washing himself off and puts on some pajamas. He manages to get a nightgown on you and then lays down next to you. "Sorry baby," you tell him sadly. He just laughs and shakes his head again in disbelief. "I know you're drunk," he says, looking into your eyes. "But I want you to remember this forever." "Like you'd let me forget," you moan, trying to keep your head still so the room doesn't spin. "If you ever doubt my love for you, or start to think about having a life without me, I want you to remember tonight. I let you puke all over me," he says, trying to keep your attention. "There ain't a love stronger than that." "Oh baby," is all you say before you drift off to sleep. “I’m going to die,” JC is moaning as he rolls over in bed to face you. You get up immediately because HE STINKS! You know that nasty alcohol coming out of every pore in your body smell? “Uh, why don’t you take a shower?” you say to him, trying not to laugh. “I can’t move,” he whines. “Will you get me some water?” He’s so pathetic and adorable that you can’t help but go get it for him. You hand it to him and say, “But, seriously, JC, you have to get up. We’re supposed to meet everyone in an hour to go to the beach.” You actually wouldn’t mind staying in the room with JC all day (as long as he took a SHOWER!) After all your worrying the night before you had ended up having a wonderful time. Alcohol seems to be quite an aphrodesiac for JC. (*wink, wink*) “There’s no way I’ll be able to go anywhere in an hour,” he says weakly. “All right, weenie,” you laugh. “Let me call Ju and Kristin and see if we can go later.” You actually could just walk down the hall since our room is right next to yours, but you are too lazy. After a few rings, I answer with a groggy, “Hello?” “Hi,” you say, surprised I’m still asleep. “Oh hi,” I say. “What’s up?” “Can we go to the beach later?” you ask, laughing. “JC’s a little too hung over to get up.” “Ugh, I know how THAT feels,” I say, rubbing my temples because the throbbing headache has started. “I feel like death warmed over.” “Maybe I should just put JC in there with you and go to the beach with Justin,” you laugh while JC moans pathetically a little more. “Ha ha, very funny,” I bark at you. My voice is really hoarse due to a combination of drinking, yelling and having just woken up. “What happened to you guys last night?” you ask. “Oh God, Roxanne,” I groan, suddenly remembering the events of the previous night. Justin’s in the shower, so I decide that it’s safe to tell you. “I’m going to tell you something, but you have to SWEAR never to tell anyone, okay?” “Sure,” you say. “God, I almost can’t repeat it,” I laugh. “Spit it out!” you command. “It can’t be that bad.” “You’d be surprised,” I mutter. “I puked all over Justin last night.” You laugh for a good, long time while I hold the receiver away from my ear. “Is he pissed?” you finally say. “Not really,” I say. “He just cleaned himself off and put me to bed. It made me feel kind of guilty.” “Yeah, but that’s the kind of man that you’re lucky to be getting married to,” you tell me. “I know,” I sigh. Then you hear me say, “Hi baby.” “Is that JJ?” you ask. “Yeah,” I tell you. “Just call us when JC’s ready to do something. We’ll tell everyone else to go without you guys.” “Okay,” you say, relieved in a way that you don’t have to see Innosense for the time being. “Was that Roxanne?” Justin asks me. “Yeah,” I tell him. “JC’s too hungover to get up.” “I’m not surprised,” Justin smiles at the thought of JC’s drunkness. “He was GONE!” “I know it,” I say. “Ju, I’m really sorry about last night.” “It’s O-KAY,” he says. “It’s no big deal. You’ve seen me puke.” “Not all over the front of me!” I yell, still really embarassed. “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now,” he says with a smile. “Except watch your alcohol intake tonight.” “No problem,” I say. “I’m never drinking again.” “You always say that,” he tells me. “Trust me,” I say getting up to hug him, because I haven’t yet this morning. “I mean it this time.” He just laughs. I feel quite a bit better once we reach the venue for the soundcheck. We’re all just going to stay there until the show. All the guys’ families are there and it’s like a big party. JC is feeling better, too. One of the bodyguards made him some crazy, nasty hangover cure that actually worked. He’s now as hyper as ever, bouncing around and driving us all crazy. Don’t you love him? We all eat a whole bunch and laugh and generally have a great time, until the guys have to go in their dressing room for their hour of quiet time. You and I just sort of sit and veg. It’s been a whirlwind week, hanging out in Hawaii, going to parties, sight seeing and everything else. And, when we think about it, it’s been a whirlwind year. Both of us have been through so much, both good and bad. But, we have a hell of a start to the new year. Both in happy and strong relationships, satisfied career wise (or whatever you call what I do) and loving life. This night and this show are just a culmination of everything good, bringing us together with all of our friends to celebrate a great past year and an even better new year. Before we know it, the show starts. The guys are happy and bubbly, playing off the crazy Hawaiian fans. You love JC even more, watching him exibit the gift of the spazii. Justin occassionally winks and smiles at me, and I just want to gobble him up. We roll on the floor laughing when the families go onstage for For The Girl Who Has Everything, the men all dressed up in grass skirts and coconut bras. The guys hadn’t known about it, and they can barely sing they’re laughing so hard. We wish we could be up there, but know that it’s for the best. The show is over too quickly, and the guys wish their fans a very Happy New Year, thanking them for all their support during 1999, giving them so much success, and that much more to look forward to in the coming year. The do their famous, “We are *NNNN Sync!” and Justin says “We love you!” and they’re off. We’re rushed out to the limos, and we’re joined by sweaty and hyper boys moments later. “Man, I need a shower,” Justin says. “Yes you do,” I heartily agree with him. “But I’m still going to kiss you,” I giggle. “Good,” he says. “That was a great show, guys!” JC practically yells. He’s bouncing around in the seat, and you think he might hit his head on the ceiling. “It went really well,” Chris adds. “Our last show of the millenium,” Lance reflects. “Bizarre.” “Really,” Joey says. “I can hardly believe this year is over. It was amazing.” “We’re really lucky,” Justin says, and you and I share a glance to say how fucking amazing these guys are. We make a quick stop at the hotel to shower and dress and then hit the clubs with only about an hour to spare before the clock strikes 12. As promised, I don’t have much to drink, and neither do you. We spend a little time with Britney, but we mostly stay with our men. They are pretty calm, for it being such a big party night, but I think that in the limo it just sort of hit them how incredible the year was, and they are trying to take in the fact that it’s all over. We dance a little and mingle, and pretty soon it’s time to countdown. “10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!” Justin looks at me for a minute, and then gives me the most breathtaking kiss I’ve ever experienced. “I love you,” he says to me. “I love you, too.” “You know,” he says. “This has been the best year of my life. But not just because of all my success. Because I found you.” “Oh Justin,” I manage to say. “You are the reason that this year meant anything to me at all. I love you so much!” And he kisses me again. You are sharing a tender moment with JC, too. “I’m so glad you’re here with me,” he tells you. “I can’t think of a better way to ring in the new year.” “Next year will be even better,” you tell him, kissing him again. “Only if you stick around,” he tells you, and you just smile and glow. Lance, Joey and Chris and Britney come over and we all hug and kiss (well the guys don’t kiss each other) and hug some more. JC clears his throat, and everyone tries to listen to what he’s going to say through all the noise of the club. “I just wanted to say that I love you all and that you’re the greatest friends that anyone could ever ask for.” Everyone smiles, and you grab my hand and squeeze it. We cry a little and I hug you and tell you that I love you. Then Joey yells, “Group HUG!” and we all tackle each other and laugh and celebrate that we have each other. What a year... “What do you think of this one?” you ask me, holding out a bridal book in front of my face. I turn to you, surprised, and try to stop staring at my surroundings with such obvious curiosity. “Um, that's nice,” I say without really looking. We’re sitting at the Harless house, on a couch in the living room. You’ve been spending a lot of time here talking with Lynn about the wedding and the two of you seem to have become pretty friendly. I am happy for you and everything, but to me she’s still just some sort of weird mythical creature. I want to ask her weird questions like which room was JC’s when he lived here and can I see it? But I’m just trying to act very casual and normal about the whole thing. It’s just Justin’s mom for crying out loud. She comes back in to the room with some iced tea for all of us and starts talking in her southern accent which I find oddly reassuring. It’s kind of like how it is to have Lance around, only even nicer...the more I think about it I decide it has something to do with my grandmother who was from the south and past away when I was eleven. You and Lynn have a pretty nice rapport going by now and I’m impressed. I stay pretty quiet, but I do start to feel more and more comfortable as time goes on. I make myself at home on the couch with a bridal magazine that is the size of War and Peace or something (which I’ve never read, btw). I drink the Harless iced tea and think about how perfect it is. Sweet but not too sweet...with a fruity hint to it, but not too lemony. I sigh. The air is nice and air conditioned. I get kind of bored with my magazine and for awhile listen to you two talk seriously about flowers for awhile. You guys are both pretty precious and beautiful. Talking about these gorgeous gowns and elegant flowers...I wish I could be more like the two of you. I lay my head down and start to day dream about Lynn holding a baby Justin, and even what she was like when she was pregnant with him. I must have dozed off because I am awoken with a start when someone is trying to sit on my head. I jump up and it takes me a minute to assess the situation and realize Justin has come over. I push him aside and he laughs, thinking it was such a funny joke (sitting on my head). I immediately imagine Lynn and I get a chill thinking about how dirty and un-lady like I must seem to her now, now that she knows I am the kind of person people pretend to sit on her head. But neither Lynn nor you are in the room, and I am relieved. “Where’s Kristin?” I ask, getting comfortable on the couch again while Justin sits on my lap just to be irritating. “Outside with Mom,” he says and hearing him refer to her as Mom gives me a chill of excitement too. I’m not sure why really, I guess just because I’ve never heard refer to her so intimately before. “Yeah and I’m so cool I feel asleep and I probably snored and they had to get away from me,” I say with a laugh but I’m kind of seriously concerned. “Probably,” Justin just says, taking some candy out of the candy dish and scooting over off my lap. “You probably farted or something in your sleep and they needed some air.” I just roll my eyes and Justin sticks his feet in my face. I guess to admire his new shoes. “Nice,” I just say with another roll of my eyes when Veronica Finn walks in the room. “Hey behbeh,” Justin says casually to her, popping some more candy into his mouth. “Hi JJ,” she says sitting down on a chair across from us with a cup of tea. “How's the wedding plans going?” “Hell if I know,” he says. “How are the wedding plans going?” he asks me. I just shrug. “I fell asleep.” “They just better not try and pass off some weird shit,” he says with a laugh. “I’m not going to be wearing an orange tux or anything.” “You could wear a baby blue tux,” I say without thinking. I wonder if Veronica thinks I am retarded yet. I look at her to see if she is reacting, but she is just kind of looking at me with an unreadable look on her face. I know Innosense isn’t supposed to talk to me and it makes me feel really confused about where I stand in anyone’s life. What an inbred community. Veronica isn’t allowed to speak to me because I’m dating her band mates ex-boyfriend, but I’m at her house because my best friend is marrying the son of the lady she lives with, who used to go out with Veronica and is in a band with said guy I am dating. Or whatever. (“...and then Stephanie turned into Erika to try and get dates for her and Ellen and then Erika turned into Stephanie...”) "I'm hungry," Justin says, eating more candy. "We should go out to eat...you guys want to go get something to eat?" "Sure," Veronica says distractedly without looking up from the YM she picked up from the side table. I don't say anything because I kind of don't know if Justin included me in the "we". But he did, of course. "What do you feel like eating?" he asks me. I shrug. I wonder what people like little pixie Veronica Finn eat. I picture her sitting in a hollowed out tree with pale green fairy wings, munching on brightly colored berries. This vision is funny to me, but kind of puts me at ease at the same time. "I kind of feel like eating pancakes," Justin says, deep in thought. "Or waffles or something." "You could go to IHOP and get that Fruity Tooty meal or whatever," I say to him with a smile. "Justin IS a fruity tooty meal," Veronica says with a laugh. I laugh too. I can hear a sliding door open and hear you and Lynn come into the house. I hear you say something about how you don't know what kind of dinner is good to serve at a reception. "Baby, you hungry?" Justin calls loudly. You and Lynn appear in the wide arched doorway. "I don't know, I guess I could eat," you say, walking over and leaning down to kiss him on the head. You move Justin's legs and sit down between us. He takes another handful of M&Ms and shoves them in his mouth. "Don't eat all of those!" Lynn scolds. "They're for guests." "I'm a guest," he says, his mouth full. She just shakes her head at him and he smiles. "Hey Mom, you want to take us all out to dinner? Since you're so proud of me and everything?" Lynn laughs. "Who said I was proud of you?" she asks jokingly and he pretends to be hurt. "I would, but Paul and Jonathan and I are going over to the Sardis' for dinner." "I really want some pancakes with butter pecan syrup on them or something," Justin says, turning to you. "Doesn't that sound good?" "No..." you say slowly, deep in thought. "But some french toast does." "Please don't tell me you're really going to end up going to IHOP," Veronica says with a little laugh, but it's a little more awkward sounding than it had been before and I realize just how much she is affected by having you in the room. "Okay, then it's settled," Justin says. "IHOP it is. Veronica, go get your shoes on." I watch as both you and her stiffen. I glance at Justin for a minute, confused. He knows you don't want to hang out with her and he has to know that she doesn't want to have to hang out with me. "No, thanks," Veronica says diplomatically. "You guys go ahead." "No, come on," Justin says, pulling her up to a standing position by her arms. "You said you were hungry. Let's go get some fruity tooty." I glance at you and you just look a little irritated. "Ju, if she doesn't want to come, she doesn't have to," you say, keeping your voice nice. I know that part of the reason you said that was to help out Veronica, but it did end up sounding kind of bitchy. Justin just turns to look at you. I can't see