Dear JC, Wed. 1:04pm

Well you already know this, I mean, YOU do… the real you… not you Mr. JC book man thing. I’m home! Well, I’m out of Wycroft anyways, even though I wouldn’t call this rotting place home. It’s where I live anyways. For now. My room is still the same as when I left it, but they had the decency to clean the carpet though, so I wouldn’t have to stare at my barf stain all day.

You know what? I hate this room. It’s way too girly for me, all pink and purple and yellow. Shit, it makes me cringe. I’m leaving here as soon as I can though. I’m gonna need a job.

I’m not totally free though because I still have to go see Dr. Grayson twice a week, which isn’t bad, because I can give Wycroft the finger as I leave every time. Hahahah, man I’m cracking myself up today.

I just hope that I’m okay at home, you know? It’s almost like that hellhole was my safety net. I was okay when I was there because there were a dozen other people there that were 10 times more whacked than me… but around here, I’m it. I’m the wacko. I’m like the least sane person around here, compared to everyone else. Of course in my little "wacko" head, I’m thinking that I’m normal. And everyone else is just weird. I’m not making any sense now.

8:30pm

So I’ve been home for 7 hours and 25 minutes and my mother has already yelled at me for leaving my towel on the floor in the bathroom. In MY bathroom. In the bathroom that only I use. She said, and I quote "You know, if Wycroft hasn’t taught you the common sense it takes to hang up a towel when you’re done, maybe you need to go back." HELLO!?! I’ve been home half a day and she’s already threatening to send me back. Lovely. And besides, who the hell said Wycroft was teaching me common sense?! It was supposed to teach me not to guzzle handfuls of pills and booze, not how to pick up towels and kiss ass dammit. Get me the hell outta here. JC COME AND TAKE ME WITH YOU!! Hahah I’m kidding. I’ve heard your daily schedule. I don’t want any part of that. But seriously. I was normal when you were around. As normal as this wacko CAN be I guess. - Sara

 

JC smiled at the irony, just a few months ago she was begging to go with him, and now that he offered, she wouldn’t come. It had been almost a week since JC had his little breakdown with Sara, and he’d called her at least once a day since then. He didn’t always need her help but just the sound of her voice reassured him, and it always made him smile when he talked to her.

Things were going much better than JC could have hoped, almost too good. The other guys slipped back into the "normal" day to day routine, breakfast together making fun of those still half asleep, wardrobe, photo shoots, Chris goofing around and getting them yelled at, Justin taking the heat for half of his antics, sound check, "misplaced" mics found in Joey's wardrobe kit, hours of dancing, sweating and laughing then falling onto the bus or plane for their next destination with a round of "good night John Boy’s", then off to sleep. Never once mentioning JC or his problem.

Everyone was getting comfortable again, everyone except JC. He knew from Sara that talking about what happened and what was bugging him was part of the healing process. But the only person who talked to him about it, was Sara.

JC had made a point of wearing short sleeves, or pushing up his sleeves when they were on the bus alone, but the others wouldn’t even look at his arms. They made obvious eye contact, or just didn’t look his way at all. Their reactions were to be expected, but JC didn’t know how to initiate the attention.

After several days of getting back to normal, JC decided to pull at least one of them aside to talk about it privately. He watched the guys through the day to see who would be his first "victim". JC decided that of all of them, Lance would be the easiest to talk to, and probably the most understanding and receptive. If he could get Lance talking about it, maybe that would help the others come around. Talking to Sara everyday helped, but he needed the guys support as well.

JC’s mind wandered for the rest of the day, coming up with just the right words to say to Lance, and just the right way to phrase his feelings. Of course, he didn’t know how he felt himself… so he had that on his mind too.

At the rehearsals that night, JC was not on the ball. He was missing steps he’d been hitting for months, his timing was a beat off and his equilibrium was somewhere near his knees. After the fourth time running through "Space Cowboy" JC stepped sideways instead of forward and ran right into Joey for the third time. The other guys were getting annoyed with JC, that much was obvious. Each time he messed up, that tacked another 4 minutes onto their rehearsal time, and they were already 40 minutes over schedule. The show was the next night and if JC kept on messing up, they’d be in rehearsals until then.

"Okay kids – screw your heads on straight. Let’s do it again, from the lead in. Let’s go." Their choreographer shouted from the floor as the music started again.

Without thinking Joey scowled at JC, "You think you can get it right this time? Come on Mr. Perfecto."

JC blushed quickly and averted his eyes, the scolding did nothing to improve his performance, and it was more than an hour later when they finally wrapped up and headed back to the hotel.

JC sat alone in his room and brooded over the rehearsals.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sara’s phone rang in her purse as she walked into the theater with Cassandra, "Oh man… let me just grab this real quick." Sara sighed and stepped aside as the crowd moved on.

Cassandra had grown used to Sara being on her cel phone more often than not the last week or so, and she knew Sara was getting annoyed. "I’ll go get us seats, make it quick."

"I will." Sara smiled and clicked the ‘talk’ button, "Hi JC…"

"Sara I’m sorry." JC said softly.

"It’s okay." She said, her usual response. She pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes as she leaned against the carpeted wall of the theater. "What’s up?

"I’m sorry."

"It’s okay, JC what’s wrong?"

"I’m sorry." He whispered again, sinking to the floor in his hotel room.

Sara’s heart skipped a beat, "JC what’s wrong? What happened?" She opened her eyes quickly and stood away from the wall. JC didn’t say a word but she could hear him breathing deeply on the other end of the line, "God JC, what? Did you hurt yourself?" She asked as she began to feel the panic she’d dreaded. "Answer me JC." She held the phone tightly as she walked back out to the bright lobby. "Where are you?" She asked quickly. He mumbled something into the phone that she couldn’t understand, "Where are you?" She asked again.

"My room." He said softly as he sniffed softly.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes." JC said through tears. "No."

"Okay, what happened?"

"I’m sorry Sara."

"It’s okay… it’s okay…" She said, more to calm herself than anything. She stepped outside and around the corner of the building where there was less of a crowd. "Are you bleeding?"

"No." He shook his head and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes as the phone cradled itself between his shoulder and his ear.

"Did you cut yourself?" She asked softly. He didn’t respond with anything more than a muffled sob. "It’s okay JC. You’re going to be okay." She could feel his panic through the phone line. "What happened?"

"Nothing."

"Not good enough… tell me what happened." Sara insisted, sounding million times stronger than she felt.

"I don’t know." JC shook his head and squeezed his knees to his chest. "I don’t know."

"Did you cut yourself?"

"No. Not all the way."

"But you started to?"

"I was close, Sara."

"Were you trying to cut yourself… or kill yourself?" She asked after a few silent moments.

"Cut."

"Where did you cut?" She asked quickly.

"My leg."

"Where?"

"By my foot." He whispered.

"You’re going to be okay." She repeated, as though the more she said it, the more he’d be okay. "Where are you?"

"In my room." He said again.

"No… where? What city?" She mentally went over her checking account balance and cringed.

"Phoenix."

"Phoenix Arizona?" Sara creased her forehead thoughtfully and glanced at her watch, it was only a little after eight.

"Yeah." JC said softly.

"I can be there in a couple hours, are you going to be okay?"

"Yeah." He whispered with a sigh of relief.

"What hotel are you in?"

"The Hilton Rising." JC let out a shaky breath and tried to calm his nerves, Sara was on her way.

"I’ll call you when I’m on my way."

"Thank you."

"You’re welcome." Sara said softly. "Bye."

"Bye." JC hung up his phone as the tears he’d been trying to hold back fell down his cheeks.

Sara sighed and dropped the phone back in her purse as she went back into the theater to find Cassandra. "Hey, I’ve gotta go."

"Is it the guy?"

"He’s got himself in a bit of trouble. I’ll be out of town for a couple days, so uh… I’ll call you though."

"You’re seriously leaving town right now?" Cassandra asked as the lights went off in the theater to start the movie.

"I have to." Sara whispered. "I’ll call you when I get there." Sara waved as she ducked out of the crowded theater and went to find her car. She swung by her parents house only long enough to grab a small bag of clean clothes and a diet coke before she headed out to Phoenix.

Three hours later Sara was driving down the 10 freeway with her windows down and her radio blaring, trying to keep herself awake. It was only shortly after eleven, but being in the car always made her tired. She reached over and turned her radio down, then picked up the cel phone on the seat next to her. She dialed information in Phoenix and got the number for JC’s hotel, then called up to his room.

"Hello?" He answered softly.

"It’s me. I’m on my way, but it’ll be another about… two hours or so. Are you doing okay?"

"Yeah." JC nodded and took a deep breath.

"You are?"

"Yeah."

"Okay." Sara concentrated on the straight stretch of dark highway in front of her. "I uh… how am I going to get into the hotel?"

"I already called the front desk, they know you’re coming." JC said with a shaky sigh.

"Okay." She nodded and rolled her window up half way, "What does your day look like tomorrow?"

"Full." He ran his fingers through his hair.

"Can you get out of any of it?"

"Yeah, the morning stuff I think I can. But everything else… I can’t. We have a show and stuff."

"Okay, that’s fine."

"You’re driving?" JC asked a minute later.

"Yeah." Sara said, "Eighty miles an hour down the ten freeway."

"Drive careful." He said softly.

"I am."

"I’ll let you go so you can concentrate."

"Okay." She nodded.

"Thanks… uh, thank you."

"No problem. Just make sure I don’t get arrested when I show up and try to get on your floor."

"You won’t." He smiled as tears rose in his eyes again. "I’ll see ya."

"Two more hours… hang in there." She said reassuringly as she hung up the phone and went back to focusing on the road ahead of her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sara yawned and knocked tentatively on JC’s door as she looked nervously up and down the dark hallway. She heard him shuffling toward the door and messing with the lock. When he pulled the door open she had to stop herself from cringing, he looked horrible.

"Hey…" She said softly as he held the door open. She took two steps in and shut the door behind her before he reached out and pulled her in for a much needed hug.

"Sara, I’m sorry." He said as his tears started fresh.

"It’s okay JC, it’s okay." The words fell from her lips easily, she’d been saying them all night. Sara tried to relax into his hug because she could tell it was what he needed, but that still came hard for her. She hesitantly placed her arms around his waist and patted his back lightly, "You doing okay now?"

"Yeah… I think so." JC whispered and stepped away. His eyes were red and puffy and his hair was a mess. He reached up tentatively and smoothed his hair down as he took a deep breath, "I’m a wreck."

"You look fine." Sara smiled at his vanity, but averted her eyes. She watched as his hand began to shake and his breathing became irregular.

"Shit Sara… what happened?" He whispered hoarsely.

"You slipped." Sara said softly. "It happens."

"Not to me." JC said with little force.

"Yes, to you." Sara looked him in the eye and held his gaze, "You’re not indestructible, JC."

"I’m not this weak."

"JC…" She said sadly, "This doesn’t mean you’re weak." She took his hand and pulled him to the couch where she sat in the corner. "You’re human… when are you going to realize that?"

"I know I’m human." JC fell into the opposite corner of the couch and pulled his feet up beside him.

"No you don’t. You think you’re a superhuman. Humans fail all the time… but that’s hard for you."

"Sara, when I fail, I fail Chris and Justin and Joey and – and Lance."

"No you don’t JC. You think you do, but you don’t. They don’t see it that way, you’re just too hard on yourself."

"I can’t change that."

"Yeah you can." She whispered and smiled at him in the dim light. "So, what happened tonight?"

"I started to cut my leg." He said softly.

"Why?"

"I don’t know."

"Yes you do."

"Sara… I don’t know." He shook his head.

"What were you doing this afternoon?"

"Rehearsals."

"Dance rehearsals?"

"Yeah." JC nodded.

"Did something happen there?" She asked.

JC bent his head and sighed, "I wasn’t getting it right."

"Let me see."

"Sara…" JC looked down at his bare feet on the couch beside him.

"Come on." She reached over and gently touched the top of his foot. Sara wrapped her fingers around his ankle and pulled it towards her and into her lap as she pushed the cuff of his worn sweat pants up.

Just above his ankle, where the skin was soft and white, there was a small slit. No deeper than a bad paper cut and about 2 inches long. There was a tiny line of blood on the edges but it had since dried and began to flake off.

"Sara, it’s just…"

"No… it’s not ‘just’ anything." She shook her head and ran her finger over his cut. "This was more than that. You were trying to get rid of your pain JC."

"I don’t have pain." He said softly.

"Yes you do." Sara said. "I feel like a hypocrite sitting here telling you what you feel, but JC, that’s what this is about. That’s what people who do this are doing."

"People who slice themselves?"

"People who hurt themselves. Whether it’s cutting, or burning, or starving, or… or taking pills. They’re trying to get rid of the pain."

"What about you?"

"Me too." Sara whispered and looked up to meet his eyes. The room was warm around her and she couldn’t tell where her fingertips stopped and his foot began.

"Really?" He asked softly a few minutes later.

She nodded slowly and lay her hand on his shin, "Yep."

"Cool." JC whispered, covering his mouth as he yawned.

"Cool?" Sara laughed lightly.

"You know what I meant." JC sunk deeper into the couch and rested his head on the arm. "Thank you for coming out here Sara… really."

"You’re welcome, really." Sara smiled back at him as he closed his eyes and fell asleep, comforted by the weight of her hand on his leg.

Sara sat in the half darkness and watched as JC’s breathing slowed down and his hands relaxed from the clenched fists they were in. She was exhausted from the car ride, but she couldn’t make herself fall to sleep. Finding no point in wasting energy, Sara removed JC’s foot and stood up to switch the light by the bed off, then waited for a minute as her eyes adjusted.

The dark green blanket on the bed was bunched up on one end so Sara picked it up and carried it to the couch. She sat back in her little corner and pulled her knees to her chest as she draped the blanket over herself and JC.

JC lay on his back with his bare feet barely touching Sara’s thigh. She pulled them onto her lap and lay her hand flat on his ankle, then just stared at him while he slept. His lips moved in slow silent words as his forehead creased for the slightest of seconds. Sara smiled, wondering what he was dreaming about, then without warning, tears rose in her eyes and spilled over onto her cheeks. "JC please don’t do this…" She whispered as her bottom lip trembled. "Please please don’t do this again. I can’t do this JC." She cried softly and let all of the emotions of the night envelope her. Her tears trailed down to the tip of her nose before they fell onto the thin blanket. "You scared the shit out of me tonight, and I can’t handle that. I can’t handle caring so much about someone, about you, if you keep doing this. You of all people JC… you know that other people are low on my priority list… but somehow you’ve crawled to the top of mine. Please, please JC, don’t do this again." Her voice was barely a whisper as she sniffed softly and wiped her eyes on her sleeve, glad to have finally said something to JC, even though he was asleep… and never heard a word.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"JC!" Joey shouted through the door as he tapped incessantly the next morning, "Rise and shine sweet cheeks!"

JC sat up quickly, throwing his feet to the floor before his head cleared and he understood what Joey was shouting. He stood up and used the back of the couch for balance as he hobbled across the room to the door. Sleeping on the couch had left him with the worst leg cramps imaginable. "Yeah?" He croaked as he opened the door, faced with a washed and perky Joey.

"You look like something the cat dragged in." Joey laughed and pushed the door open. He stopped three feet into the room when he saw the honey colored hair over the arm of the couch, "Ahhh you dog!" He whispered loudly as he slapped JC on the back.

"I’m calling out this morning, I feel like shit." JC said softly as he tried to guide Joey back to the door.

"Yeah I’ll bet." Joey rolled his eyes. "So seriously, kiss her goodbye and let's go. Johnny will have a fit if you’re not downstairs and in the ride in 30 minutes."

"I’m serious Joey, I’m not going this morning. I feel worse than I look and I didn’t get any sleep at all last night."

"Well yeah but boning down is never a good excuse, not for Johnny." Joey laughed and grabbed the little bag of cookies left on the little kitchen counter.

"That’s Sara." JC said softly as he took Joeys elbow and led him back to the door. "Tell Johnny that I’ll talk to him later, and I’ll meet you guys at the venue at two."

"That’s…?"

"Yeah." JC nodded as Joey reluctantly stepped into the hall.

"When the hell did she get here?" Joey demanded.

"Last night." JC cast his eyes downward and studied the blue and gold design in the carpet.

"I’m telling you JC, she’s fucking you up. I mean look at you. She shows up and 8 hours later you’re calling out for our appearances and you look like a train wreck."

"She only got here four hours ago, and she’s not the reason I look like this." JC said, trying to control the hint of anger that flared up.

"She’s nothing but trouble, Jace."

"I cut myself last night." JC said shortly. He looked up and met Joeys shocked eyes. "That’s why she’s here." Joey stared at JC as his heart skipped a beat and he blinked. "So tell Johnny I’ll talk to him later, and get your head out of your ass." JC said slowly. He didn’t wait for a response before he shut the door in Joey’s face.

JC turned around and looked his small hotel room over. He was awake now, there was no going back to sleep. He limped over to his backpack beside the bed and pulled Sara's journal out, yet another thing that comforted him when he was down. He pulled the curtains back just a fraction to let in some light, then sat at the head of the empty bed and opened the notebook to the last marked page.

The pages made wing like sounds as he turned them over the next hour. JC found himself absorbed in Sara's daily "normal" life. No cameras, no security, no schedules, no screaming girls, no annoying friends, no sitting on a bus for 12 hours at a time. He wanted Sara's life, more now than ever. She had managed to pull through this whole ordeal and return to a somewhat normal life, meanwhile JC was slipping back to cutting himself and having nervous breakdowns.

He rubbed his eyes after a few pages, then continued…

 

Dear JC, Saturday 11:45am

We just had an earthquake. Like, 2 seconds after I hung up the phone with you. I guess that was my reminder… I forgot to tell you something. Dammit.

3:50pm

Well you called again today (really, you don’t have to call just to tell me you made it to Miami okay. I trust you when you say you’re a good driver) I forgot to tell you again. I keep saying I forgot but I didn’t really. I thought about it the whole time you were talking, but how can I just bust in with, "Yeah that’s cool, Florida sounds nice. By the way. I took a handful of Prozac last night and had to get my stomach pumped"? I’ve gotta tell you. I don’t recommend that. They had to shove a tube up my nose, and we’re not talking about like this tiny nose sized tube either. We’re talking the industrial sized roto rooter type tube. It wasn’t as fun as last time, maybe because I was actually conscious this time.

As I was barfing my guts out Dr. Grayson walked in, and let me tell you, that’s a completely surreal feeling to be watching your insides exit through your mouth while thinking ‘Jesus Christ, if Dr. Grayson could see me now she’d shit’ then looking up to see her standing there. She wasn’t shitting though, but I guess that’s good. She’s not making me go back to Wycroft either, but I DO have to go back to the three times a week counseling. I told her I was writing in the damn book and she said she didn’t care. I could either go see her three times a week, and stay out… or I could go back to Wycroft, and still see her three times a week. Naturally I opted to stay the HELL out of Wycroft.

Besides. How much would that suck? For me to tell you I mean. I mean, there you are, over in Florida, getting your life back on track, making all these big plans, thrilled as daisies that I've got my shit together, and I go do something like that? You don’t need to hear that now. I’m not gonna do it again, so really, what’s the point in having you lose what little faith you have in me. Like they say – what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.

4:35pm

I hope that’s true, because I don’t want to hurt you. I’m gonna have to tell you I guess… maybe next time you call. If I forget to tell you next time, remind me. Ha ha. I made a joke. – Sara

 

JC looked over at Sara, asleep on the couch with her knees curled up to her chin and the thin green hotel blanket resting over her shoulders. She didn’t look at all comfortable, but she hadn’t stirred at all since JC woke up. "So… you slipped too." JC whispered from across the room as he smiled slowly and shook his head. "You’re human too." He sighed and turned the page, more anxious than ever to read what she’d written to him in her journal.

 

On to part 5… 

 

 

Copyright � 2001 Amy Lynn