With Hope awake, they had something to take the attention away from the tension in the room.  Lance spent the whole afternoon with Hope crawling up his legs and trying to climb onto his lap.  Paige watched with a smile as the two of them played on the floor by the couch,  "You don't have to entertain her you know."  She said after watching Lance stack the brightly colored blocks for the hundredth time.

            "Oh." Lance sat up and put the top block back down.

            "I mean, don't feel like you have to.  You can if you want but… well she entertains herself pretty well."  Paige blushed.

            "I don't mind."  Lance smiled up at her and began to stack the blocks again.  "So… what do you guys do for fun around here?"

            "Fun?  What's that?"  Paige tried to laugh casually, but Lance could tell she meant it.

            "Aww come on, you guys can't just sit around here all day."

            "We go to the park sometimes… when the weather is warmer.  Then there's this playgroup at the Y that we go to.  This year I want to get her into one of those mommy & me class things, but it's hard since I have to work all the time."

            "Yeah, I bet."

            "Oh, but you know one thing that we like to do?"  Paige smiled and slid onto the floor beside Hope.  "This little girl loves to dance, so sometimes I'll put on some oldies and dance all around the house."

            "Really?"  Lance laughed as he mentally pictured them dancing.

            "Seriously.  It's in her soul or something.  When I was pregnant I became addicted to the oldies station and every time I'd turn it on she would rock out.  It was weird.  I didn't even like oldies until I was pregnant."

            "That's definitely weird."

            "You should see her."  Paige's eyes sparkled as she talked about Hope.  "Hang on, let me see if she'll do it."  She jumped up and went to the little radio in the corner of the room beside the TV.  When she turned it on the music blasted from the speakers and startled Hope.  Paige took a few seconds and found the oldies station.

            "Love, love me do… you know I love you… I'll always be true… so pleeeeeaaaase… love me do…"  The Beatles sang from decades before.

            Hope immediately looked up at Lance and gave him a huge smile to show off the few teeth she had.  She rocked back and forth on her bottom and held her arms up for someone to pick her up.  Paige leaned down to pick her up then began to sway back and forth to the beat while holding onto Hope's hand.

            "Wow, look at her."  Lance laughed as Hope threw her head back and giggled like a maniac.  She wiggled her toosh so that Paige would spin and dance around the room to the music.

            "It makes me look like a dork, but she likes it."  Paige laughed and stopped spinning.  "Baby laughs are contagious, so sometimes you know… you just need that."

            "Yeah, I know what you mean."  Lance stood up and patted Hope's back.  "I mean…"  He cleared his throat.  "I haven't been around a lot of kids, but Joey has this site on his computer and when you go to it, its just this little kid laughing and… and well that just always makes us laugh.  Even if you've had a shitty day or whatever."

            "There's a website with a kid laughing on it?"  Paige smiled with a raised eyebrow.  "They really do have everything on the net." 

            "You're not hooked up?"

            "No, I'm living in the stone age.  I don't even have a computer."

            "Are you serious?"  Lance looked at her over Hope's head as the baby bounced up and down trying to dance on her own.

            "Yeah, I'm serious.  It just seems like a waste since whatever I get will be out of date in a month, and I'd rather not drop $1,200 on something that will be worthless in a year."

            "Well yeah but if you get what you need now, then you'll be able to use it for years even if it's not top of the line.  I mean, the computer I have at home is four years old and I couldn't give it away, but it runs the things I need it to so that's all I need."  Lance sighed.  "I may be a computer nerd, but you really should get one, you'd have a blast on it."

            "Well, until they become free I don't see that happening."  Paige smiled.  "Besides, I've never had one and I've got along fine."

            "Yeah but…"

            "Yeah but, yeah but…"  Paige laughed and spun away from him as the song finished on the radio.  "Yeah but don't worry about it."  She smiled and dipped Hope upside down making her giggle insanely.  "Are you hungry?"


            "Well it's supper time."  She smiled.

            "Oh…"  Lance thought for a minute.  "I'm not really that hungry, but I could eat."  He checked his watch; he'd have to take his medication in an hour.  "Did you… do you want me to go?"

            "No, no not at all.  I was going to make something real quick so if you'd like to stay and eat you're welcome to."

            "You don't have to make anything, we can order in or something."

            "I don't mind."

            "Well don't go through any trouble."

            "I'd have to make it anyway."  She laughed.  "Honestly, I was going to make me something anyway and if you'd like to stick around that'd be fine."

            Lance thought for a minute then smiled,  "I'd love to."

            "Great."  She smiled back then headed over to the little dining room and kitchen area.  She strapped Hope into her high chair then opened the fridge to get out a little single serving of left over pasta and heated it for Hope.  When the microwave beeped Paige stirred the macaroni and tested it on her lips before setting it in front of Hope.  "Would you mind feeding her while I cook?"

            "I… sure."  Lance pulled a chair up and took the miniature fork from her.

            "Thank you."

            "Sure."  Lance said softly.  He didn't think it was possible to be intimidated by a little container of macaroni and cheese, a nine-month-old and a fork, but there he was feeling more nervous than ever.  "I'm gonna make a mess."  He said cautiously.

            "That's okay."  Paige laughed as she got things out of the cupboards.  "I'm not exactly a chef, how does soup and sandwiches sound?"

            "Sounds good to me."  Lance mumbled as he concentrated on the baby in front of him.  Hope grew increasingly impatient as she stared at her dinner sitting there in the container with Lance not making a move for it.  "All righty, here goes."  He scooped a tiny bite onto the fork and held it out for Hope.

            Sensing an amateur, Hope opened her mouth widely and waited as Lance placed the food on her tongue.  She played along, opening her mouth on cue until all of the food was gone.  When she was done she and Lance had managed to keep most of the food in her mouth or in the bowl with only a little smear of orange on the front of her shirt.

            "How on earth did you do that?"  Paige asked as she set a stack of grilled cheese sandwiches on the table in front of Lance.

            "Hmm?  What?"

            "She's… well she's practically clean."

            "I have good aim?"  Lance shrugged.  "I don't know, I just fed her and she ate."

            "That's crazy."  Paige shook her head.  "You've really got a knack for kids."  She turned to go back into the kitchen then returned with two steaming bowls of soup.  "I hope you like chicken noodle.  I would have asked before I made it, but the only other can I had was chicken noodle also."

            "That's fine."  Lance smiled.

            "Do you want crackers or anything?"

            "No, I'm fine."  He shook his head.


            "No thank you."

            "Hope has this thing for melons."  Paige shrugged.  "I don't know where she picked it up, but she loves the stuff."  She slid a few slices onto Hope's tray to keep her entertained while they ate.

            As they began to eat, Paige asked him how he liked life on the road.  That got Lance started and before he knew it he was in the middle of a dozen stories.  Once he got started she kept asking him questions about what it was like to be famous and things like that.  She explained that she never really thought of him as a celebrity since she honestly had no idea who he was at first, but she admitted to having bought one of their CD's a few weeks earlier.

            "Oh yeah?"  Lance blushed and reached for the popcorn she had made for a snack.  "Which one?"

            Paige licked the salt from her fingers and laughed softly,  "Honestly?"  She glanced up at him to see him nod.  "Well when I went to the store they only had your newest one I guess, so I bought that one and took it to work with me and one of the ladies there heard it and she brought in the other two and gave them to me so I have all of them."

            "Ah, but do you have the Christmas CD?"

            "You have a Christmas CD?"  Paige laughed again.

            "Yep.  I'll bring one out next time I see you."

            "Oh you don't have a stack of them in your bag there?"

            "No, I don't keep those handy.  They're collectibles you know."

            "Are they?"

            "No."  Lance shook his head.  "I don't know, I doubt it."  Paige handed Hope another cheeto and watched carefully as she chewed it up.  "Does Hope like it?"  Lance asked as he looked over to where she sat.  She was quietly entertaining herself with a spoon and a few Cheerios left over from breakfast.

            "Of course."  Paige nodded.  "As soon as I told her it was you, there was no holding her back. I'll have to make her an official member of your fan club and everything."

            "She'll be the youngest member, I'm sure."  Lance laughed as he tried to casually check his watch.

            "It's getting late."  She said, noticing the glance.

            "I just… I have to find my way back to the hotel and I'm terrible with directions."  Lance stood up and reached for her bowl.

            "I'll get it."  She shook her head.

            "I've got it."  Lance smiled and carried the dishes to the sink where he rinsed them out.  "You made it, the least I can do it wash them for you."

            "I have a dishwasher."

            "Then the least I can do is rinse them."  Lance laughed.  "Thank you very much for dinner, it was great."

            "Anytime."  Paige laughed.  Canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches were great?  He couldn't possibly be that easy to please.

            "I uh, I don't have any plans for tomorrow."  Lance said shyly.  "Did you, would you like to get together and do something?"

            Paige thought for a minute.  She wasn't too big on the idea of going out somewhere with him because of the whole security thing, but another day cooped up inside didn't sound that great either.  She could just say no and have the day free with Hope, but that would be rude and she wanted to see him again anyway.  "Sure."  She said suddenly.  "Yeah, in fact I'll call Jim tonight to see if he can watch Hope so we can just hang out."

            "That sounds good."  Lance nodded and wiped his hands on the little towel hanging from the fridge handle.  Hope began to fuss in her seat as Lance tucked his hands in his pockets.  "I should get going though.  I'm sure you guys have a night time routine or something and I'm just completely messing that up."

            "Yeah she needs a bath."  Paige nodded.

            "Okay, well then I'll give you a call in the morning and we can do something."

            "Okay."  Paige lifted Hope from the high chair and set her on her hip then walked toward the door.  "I'll see you tomorrow."

            "See ya."  Lance nodded and gave a little wave as he opened the door and headed for his car.  She waited until he had the car started before she shut the door and went into the bathroom to start Hope's bath.




            The next morning Paige arranged for Jim to watch Hope for a few hours so that she and Lance could go out to get a late breakfast.  He picked her up shortly after nine and they drove to a nearby restaurant to have breakfast.  Lonnie was a little concerned about having Lance go out unattended, but Lance assured him that he'd be fine and if he ran into and trouble he'd call.

            Paige noticed the lack of security and asked him about it.  "Nah, it's not that bad around here.  I mean, it's not like we'll be cruising a mall or something.  We can sit in a corner at the restaurant and we'll be fine."  He smiled as they walked into the diner.

            "Are you sure?  Because we don't have to stay here."

            "I'm sure."  He smiled and ran his hand through his hair causing it to stand on end.

            "Okay."  Paige slid passed him and went to the counter to give her name.  They were seated almost immediately without even a passing glance from the hostess who sat them.  "Jim has to be at work by one today, so I'm going to have to pick her up before that."

            "Oh, okay."  Lance nodded.  "That'll actually work out good, I need to head home today so I'm on the 3:15pm flight."

            "Won't that be getting you in late?"

            "Yeah, I land in Orlando around midnight."  He sighed.  "But my mom called last night and said she and my dad would be out tomorrow morning to see me before we start this leg of the tour."

            "Ahh, okay."  Paige nodded.  "So once that gets started you won't see them again?"

            "Probably not.  We're only out there for I think, seven weeks this run.  So they might come out and see a show or two, but…"  He shrugged.  "They might not."

            "I can't imagine how that would be to live like that."  Paige smiled and shook her head.  "I mean, I heard you talking about it yesterday and everything, but I just can't believe people live like that."

            "It's not as bad as it sounds."  He said, as his usual answer to comments like that.  They sat at their table and visited while they ate their breakfast, but it ended too soon. 

            Paige casually leaned over to look at Lance's watch;  "We should get going."

            "Oh, that's right, you have to get Hope."

            "Yeah.  I'll need you to take me home first so I can get my car and everything."

            "Okay."  Lance nodded and signaled for the check.  He paid it without allowing her to argue, then they made their way out to his car.  She directed him back to her house and he parked in the driveway.  "Here, let me walk you up."

            "It's okay."  Paige shook her head.

            "I know it is."  Lance laughed and stepped out of the car at the same time she did.  He followed her to the front door and waited as she unlocked it. 

            As they stood on the landing Lance shuffled his feet and looked back at the rental car in the driveway.  He didn't want to just leave with nothing and a handshake seemed too formal, they were friends.  But he didn't want to make her uncomfortable by hugging her and a kiss was out of the question, no matter how platonic.

            "Thanks uh… thanks for coming by.  It was really good to see you again."  Paige smiled and leaned against the door as she held it open.

            "Yeah, I'm glad I came out."  Lance nodded and bit his lip quickly.  "I'll talk to you later then I guess."

            "Yeah, call me later or whatever, so I know you made it wherever you're going."  Paige nodded gently.

            "I will."  He laughed nervously then took a step toward her.  His arm went around her waist and pulled her close for just a brief second, then released her as he took a step back.  "I'll see you later."  Lance smiled as he walked quickly down to his car.

            Lance waved goodbye as he pulled away from the curb, and watched her in his rear view mirror until he turned the corner.  He drove back to the hotel without even the radio to keep him company while he tried to get his mind focused on work.  On Monday he would be back in Johnny's office at his lakefront home with the other guys, and they were all expected to have their head in the game… not in Arizona.




            "So what'd you do this weekend?"  Chris asked as he dropped himself onto the couch in Johnny's office.  Lance was the first one there so he'd taken the big comfortable chair.  They'd be there for a while and he'd wanted the prime seat.


            "Nothing?  Bullshit man, I called you like three times."  Chris shook his head and swung his feet around to lounge on the couch before anyone else got there.

            "Well I went to Arizona."

            "Yeah?"  Chris raised his eyebrow to prod for more information.  "Just because?"

            Lance raised one shoulder and focused on the carpet.  He wasn't sure if he was ready to tell the other guys about Paige yet, but then he knew that they'd eventually find out and honesty was his best bet.  "When I was there last year for that conference thing I met a girl named Paige."

            "Sweet!  What'd she get?"  Crassness was one of Chris' character flaws.

            "No she uh, she didn't get anything."  Lance shook his head.  "She - her husband was in an accident so she's the family of a donor."

            "For real?"  Chris looked worried for a second.  "Does she know you are a recipient?"

            "Yeah, we met there at the conference so she heard me speak and everything.  Anyway she was having a hard time so we went to get coffee after and we got to talking and everything."

            "Did you score?"

            "Chris."  Lance gave him a disturbed look.

            "I'm kidding."

            "We just talked and stuff.  She's had a hard time getting over her husband… I mean, of course.  But she's so young and I think… well I think she just needs a friend or something."

            "Or something?"

            "She's really great Chris."

            "Well how old is this girl?"

            "Twenty four I think.  I'm pretty sure that's what she said.  She's young though, like my age or so.  She actually looks younger, but… you know."

            "She's over 18?"


            "You're sure?"

            "Chris, we're just friends.  But yeah I'm sure."  Lance sighed and looked out the window and watched Justin climb out of his car, shouting something to JC who was walking across the paved driveway.  "Anyway, I went to see her this weekend.  I met her daughter and everything, it was nice."

            "Well that's cool."  Chris nodded.  "Look at you smilin' like the Cheshire Cat.  It looks like it was more than 'nice'."

            "Nah, it was just nice.  She's still got issues; I've still got issues.  But we're friends, and that's cool.  I need that."

            "You've got friends."

            "Yeah… but she really gets where I'm coming from about all of this."

            "We understand."  Chris said as he removed is feet from the couch.

            Without disagreeing with him, Lance just shrugged and gave Chris a half smile.  "You guys are great friends too."  He nodded as JC and Justin rushed into the room in the middle of a conversation of their own.

            "Bet me."  Justin shook his head and fell onto the couch where Chris had his feet.  "Hey."  He nodded a greeting to Lance and Chris.

            "I'm not gonna bet you, I just… I'm right.  There's no point arguing."  JC reached behind the door and pulled another chair into the little half circle.

            "How can Beautiful Mind win?  Have you even seen The Lord of the Rings?"  Justin ran his hand over his freshly shaved head.

            "I've seen it."  JC nodded.

            "A little short there Just."  Chris commented.

            "I know, damn Kev doesn't know how to use those guard things so now I'm bald.  I got a big bald head."  Justin laughed as he continued to rub it.  "Where's Joe?"

            "Late."  Lance shrugged.

            "Typical."  Justin rolled his eyes and kicked at JC's knee.  "Beautiful Mind won't win, and I'll bet you on it."

            "I'm not betting."  JC shook his head and leaned his chair back on two legs.  "Did everyone have a good 'last supper'?"  He asked as he closed his eyes.

            "Last supper?"

            "In case you didn't get the memo we're kicking off on Friday.  How many free weekends do you think we're gonna get while we're out?"

            "Shit."  Chris sighed.  "He's right."  He looked over at Justin and shook his head.

            "What'd I miss?"  Joey asked as he bounded into the room and dropped his backpack by the door.  "Where's Johnny?"

            "Nothing and not here yet."  Justin said with a grin.

            "What'd you do to your head?"  Joey asked as he unzipped his bag and took out a bottle of water.  "Lose a bet with Jace?"

            "He won't bet me."  Justin crossed his arms over his chest.

            "Why not?"  Joey turned to JC.

            "It's a dumb bet."  JC shrugged.  "And I don't like taking his money, he's young… he needs to invest."

            "Invest this."  Justin made a crude gesture just as Johnny walked in with his day timer held open in front of him.

            "That's nice Just, you should put that in the choreography."  Johnny smiled as he sat at his desk.

            "Its already there."  Chris and Lance said at the same time.

            Johnny ignored their childlike giggling and got down to business,  "How were your weekends?"  He crossed his hands on the desk in front of him.



            "Not long enough."

            "Muy bien."


            "Cold?  Why'd you go somewhere cold?"  Justin craned his neck to look at Lance.  "Are you nuts?"

            "I didn't know it was going to be cold."  Lance shrugged and turned his attention to Johnny.  "So this week we're just running the choreography?"

            "Wait, where'd you go that it was cold?"  JC asked.

            "What's with the third degree?"

            "Uh oh, he's getting defensive.  You know what that means."  Joey laughed.  "Little boy Lance got a little action I think."

            "Johnny… can you help me out here?"  Lance asked their manager, as if he could help.

            "Hey, that ain't my business."  Johnny held his hands up as he realized that this groups 'getting down to business' was done when they were ready to, and not a second before.

            "He didn't get any action."  Chris shook his head.

            "Wait, how come you know?"  Justin scooted away from Chris.

            "We talked about it before you got here."  Chris explained.

            "You guys… come on."  Lance leaned forward and rested his head in his hands.  "I didn't get any 'action' this weekend, I just went to visit a friend."  He looked up with just his eyes and sighed,  “Can we get to work now?”

            “Now wait hold on.”  JC smiled.  “Who’s this friend?”

            “She’s a girl I met at the conference I went to in November.  Her husband was an organ donor so we’ve been talking every now and then.  It’s nothing big, she’s just a friend.”  Lance explained.

            “You flew out to see her where it was cold, and she’s just a friend?”  JC raised an eyebrow but continued to smile.  It’d been a while since he was able to give Lance a hard time about his female friends and it felt good.

            “Yeah.”  Lance smiled back.  “Now can we get to work?  We don’t have all day you know.”

            JC shrugged and sat back in his chair,  “That’s fine with me.  So when do we get to meet this young lady?”

            “Never.”  Lance mumbled then sighed,  “I don’t know.  Maybe next time we’re in Phoenix or something.”

            “I’m gonna hold you to that.  We don’t want just any girl out there corrupting our little Lance.”  Joey smirked.  “Right Johnny?”

            “Are we gonna start discussing corruption Joe?  Because if so I’ve got some things to say to you.”  Johnny laughed.

            “Nah, it’s cool.”  Joey shook his head.  “Let's get to work.”

            “That’s what I thought.”  Johnny smiled and reached for the papers on his desk.  Now that he had their full attention he was able to get down to business.  He went over their current schedule and made a few tiny changes here and there to give the guys more time in the studio.  They only had another seven weeks of the tour left, and they'd be busy almost non-stop until the end of March.


            When they left more than three hours later, they were mentally exhausted and ready to head over to the studio to run through the choreography of the show, so when they got home they'd be completely spent.  They spent a few more days at the compound working out and getting back into the groove of being on the road, then left bright and early on Thursday morning for the first city of the second leg of the tour.

            For more than a week they drove from city to city and performed on autopilot for the huge crowds.  Lance received a few voice mail messages from Paige, and had left her messages as well, but they never managed to get each other live. During the second week Lance had to fly home for another doctor's appointment, so when he returned to Atlanta he had nothing on his schedule until the next morning.  It was after ten when he got to the hotel and he hadn't eaten dinner yet.  The other guys were out on the town or on other commitments so Lance ordered up a plate of garlic chicken and rice and ate at the little table in the corner.

            He flipped through the binder propped against the wall to see what other services the hotel offered that he wouldn't be able to use.  Massages, tailoring, full gym, sauna, city tours… he read the details of all of them, daydreaming about actually having the time to do them all.  When he got to the back of the little folder there was a set of hotel stationery and the customary ballpoint pen tucked into the side.

            "Hrmm."  He pursed his lips and pulled a piece of the paper out.  He hadn't written a letter to someone he knew in years.  Not since they started touring and he would send letters home from Europe because the calls were too expensive.  He'd sent letters to fans and corporations since then, but never a personal letter.  The closest he'd come was the anonymous letter to the Donor Foundation for the family of his heart donor.  Lance held the pen in his hand and tapped the cap against his teeth before he began to write.


Paige -

Hey, how's it going?  I'm just sitting here in some hotel in Atlanta and I found this hotel stationery and I thought I'd drop you a line to say hi.  Everyone else is out so I'm just hanging out reading the thing they have here with all the hotel stuff in it.  Man, I want to go get me one of those hour long massages then sit in the sauna for a day or two.  Doesn’t that sound nice?  If only I had time.  The only reason I have time to even sit down and read about those things is because I had my doctor's appointment this morning and I didn't get back here until late.

I could just call you I suppose, but we've been playing phone-tag almost all week… and I haven't written a real letter in years.  So lucky you, you get one!  Ha ha ha ha!  Actually, I will probably call you tomorrow during the day, we have some drive time so I should be able to get to my phone.

I had a really good time when I was out, it was great to see you again.  Hope is adorable too, she's one of the coolest kids I've met.  Not that I've met a lot of kids, as you can probably tell hahaha.  But anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for letting me come over and I hope we can do it again sometime.  Have a good week and say hi to Hope for me.  Talk to you later -



            He read the letter over again and shook his head.   "I might as well whip out my crayons and have her check the box if she wants to have lunch with me."  Lance mumbled to himself.  "Dork."  He folded the sheet of paper into uneven thirds, then slid it into the matching envelope.  The directions to her house were still in his bag, so he retrieved them and scribbled the address across the front, then stuck two twenty cent postcard stamps on it.  He tossed the letter on his bed alongside his cell phone and backpack.

            Lance yawned and checked his watch.  It was close to eleven o'clock and he had a call at seven the next morning.  He wheeled the cart out to the hall, then came back inside and stripped down to his boxer briefs before falling onto the bed and reaching for the light.  In the darkness Lance felt blindly for his walkman, then slid the earpieces over his ears and sighed. B.B. King played softly in his ears as he closed his eyes and pulled the blankets up to his shoulder, the letter tucked safely under his pillow.


            The next morning wake up calls roused the boys just after five in the morning, and they all met in the lobby at six.  The buses were leaving at six thirty and not a second later so the lobby was buzzing with activity.  Lance separated himself from the group and ran to the little brass mailbox that hung on the far wall by a gift shop.  The Hilton emblem shined as he lifted the small door and slid his letter in.

            "There's no time to shop Bass, let's go."  Joey hoisted his bag over his shoulder and nodded for the exit.

            "Let's go… let's boogaloo 'till we puke."  Chris growled as he dragged his bag behind him.  "Can't we just stay here and do another show here?  I don't wanna drive."  He whined and pouted like a toddler.  "Loooooooonie can I just stay here?"

            "Knock it off kid, let's go."

            "Kid?  I'm older than you."  Chris stopped whining.

            "Not by much."  Lonnie smiled and lifted Chris' bag to set it on the shorter mans shoulder.

            "Wait, I'm not really older than you, am I?"

            "I dunno, how old are you?"

            "How old are you?"  Chris challenged.

            "21."  Lonnie grinned and waited for Chris' response.

            "Yeah, and I'm 13."  Chris rolled his eyes and followed Joey out into the cold morning air.

            "You comin' Lance?"  Lonnie asked from the door.

            "Yeah."  Lance returned to where his bag was, then lifted it and followed the caravan out to the buses.  They had a long ride ahead of them and all he wanted to do was get on the bus, take his meds and relax with the guys.




            "Georgia?  Who do I know in Georgia?"  Paige turned the letter over in her hand as she juggled her stack of junk mail and Hope.  "Hilton Suites?"  She grew more confused as she walked back into the house and set Hope down.

            "Babababa eeeeeeeeeeee!"  Hope exclaimed as she took off in a fast crawl towards her toys that were scattered across the carpet.

            "Okay…"  Paige tore the envelope open and removed the single piece of paper.  As soon as she saw the signature on the bottom she smiled and sat on the couch to keep an eye on Hope.  She read the short note over and over again, then refolded it and stuck it back in the envelope.  "Did you see that Hope?  I got a letter from Lance."  She waved the envelope for Hope to see, then she sat indian style on the floor beside her.  "Lance is cool, you like Lance don't you?  I do too."  Paige sighed softly as Hope lifted each colored block out of the box and set it by her mother's knee.  "Too bad I turn into an idiot around him, huh?  Because I do that, and I don't know why."  Paige smiled and continued to address the baby by her side.  "Actually… you know what?  I do know why.  I turn into an idiot because…"  She paused for the dramatic effect that she knew Hope couldn't truly appreciate.  "Because I am an idiot!"  Paige laughed as Hope made a face, then grinned back at her.

            "Mamama ba."  Hope babbled as she held a block out to Paige.

            "Thank you."  Paige said as she took the block and tapped it on her knee.  "But you know… it's not really my fault.  I mean… I've never really been friends with a guy as a single person.  Not since high school anyway, and that was years and years ago."  She sighed and ran her finger over the side of the block as Hope lost interest in what her mother was saying.  "But then that's not even it really.  I like him, I like Lance a lot and I don't know how to do that because every time I start to think about how great he is, and how much fun he is to talk to and everything, I feel like I'm cheating on…"  She looked down at Hope, remembering that she was talking to her.  "On your daddy.  Even though I know I'm not because he's been gone for a while now.  A long while.  I should be over it.  I mean, I should be able to move on or whatever."  Paige sighed and squeezed the rubber block to make it squeak.  "Poor Lance, he doesn't know what kind of a nutcase he's gotten himself involved with."

            "Buh ba ba."  Hope giggled.

            "Of course not sweetie you're not a nutcase.  You're not the one talking to an infant about how nutty you are.  I swear, I think I need to go back to my shrink.  Pretty soon I'll be talking to the blocks."  Paige laughed at herself and looked at the block.  "Hello blue block, how are you?"

            Hope pulled herself up on the coffee table and scooted over to the edge of the couch and babytalked to the cushions.  "I'm going nuts, I'm sorry sweetie."  Paige stood up and picked Hop up to give her a hug.  "I'm sorry angel, you don't need me to lose my mind just yet, do you?  We've got to plan for your birthday, you've got a birthday coming up and we get to have a party."  She smiled down at her daughter and wished for a grown up to talk to.

            Her eyes skipped over the envelope and in an act of confidence she picked up the phone and dialed Lance's cell phone number from memory.  It rang as she bounced Hope on her hip and walked down the hall to Hope's room.  She needed a diaper change and it was much easier to use her crib than the floor.

            "Hello?"  Lance answered the phone quickly and sounding rushed.

            "H-hi, this is Paige."  She always felt nervous calling him since she knew he was so busy all the time.  She was sure one time she'd catch him in the middle of something important, then she'd be mortified.

            "Paige!  Hi."  Lance smiled and walked over to a quiet corner.  He was in the green room waiting to step onto the stage of "The View" to do their interview.  "What's up?"

            "Not much, are you busy?"

            Lance checked his watch;  "I've got about three minutes."

            "Oh, okay.  Well I know you're really busy and everything, but I uh… well I was wondering if you'd be able to come out to uh, here."  Paige said quickly.

            "When?"  Lance closed his eyes and mentally pictured his horrendous calendar.

            "April 7th, it’s a Sunday."

            "Yeah, sure I can probably make that.  I was thinking you meant like this weekend, in which case I can't.  But our tour ends in another ten days, so that'll work out good."  He fumbled around in his backpack for his palm pilot, then opened it and turned it on.

            "Your tour ends?"

            "Don't sound so shocked."  Lance laughed,  "We don't tour all the time."

            "Well I know, but when you had that break a couple weeks ago it wasn't really a break since all you did was work.  Are you going to really be off, or just not touring?"

            "Um, I'm not too sure.  I know that we'll have things to do, we can't avoid that.  But my schedule is a lot more flexible when we're not on the road."  He explained.  "So what's going on?  What's April 7th?"

            "Hope's birthday party."

            "Oh!"  Lance perked up immediately.  "That's her birthday?  How cool, I didn't know that.  I'll definitely be there.  Of course I will."  He tapped around on his palm pilot and found the right date, then added the note.

            "It's nothing fancy, I'm just having dinner and cake over here.  Jim will be here and a couple of my friends from work."

            "Okay."  Lance nodded, already mentally shopping for a birthday gift.

            "If you can't make it or whatever, that's okay."

            "I'll be there, don’t worry."  Lance smiled.  "I wouldn't miss this for anything."

            "It's not exactly the Oscars, you know…"

            "That's okay, the Oscar's aren't that great anyway."  He laughed softly.  "This will be fun, I'm sure by then I'll be ready for a day or two off."

            "Well if you're too tired that week or if you just want to - "

            "Paige?"  He interrupted her.


            "I'll be there, don't worry."  He smiled.  "We won't be that busy, I can definitely swing by for her party.  It's already on my calendar, consider it done."

            "Okay."  Paige smiled nervously.  "Thanks."

            "Thank you for inviting me.  I haven't been to too many first birthdays."

            "Ahh, then we'll have to make it extra special for you."  She laughed and wrapped the phone cord around her finger.

            "Awesome, I can't wait."  Lance laughed,  "I've gotta go though.  I'll talk to you later."

            "Okay.  Oh!  Thank you for the letter."

            Lance blushed, but smiled even broader,  "You're welcome."  He said quickly before he turned his phone off and dropped it in his bag just as the others stepped out the door.




            The tour wrapped up in New York and the guys spent an extra three days there doing some MTV spots as well as some other promotional work in the city.  By the time they actually made it back to Florida they were in dire need of a vacation, which they were promptly given.  Four days to relax before they had a series of phone interviews to do with radio stations in Europe, Australia and Japan to help get the word out about their upcoming album that they would begin working on the next week.  They had already dedicated hours to writing and meetings, but they would actually be in the recording studio later that month to really get the ball rolling.

            When Lance got home he called his doctor to let her know that he could be reached at home for the next couple weeks and set up another checkup for April.  He spent two of his four days off sleeping or relaxing by his pool, but by the third day he was itching to get out and just be normal with some friends for a little while.

            Lance hit a popular beach with some friends and played on their jet skis for most of the afternoon.  His hair was crunchy and his skin was dry from the sun and salt water as he drove home, not caring that his car seats were getting wet and sandy from his day at the beach.  When he pulled his front door open his phone was ringing in the kitchen.  He ran down the hall, kicking his sandals off as he went, then dove for the phone,  "Hello?"

            "Hey kid."  Johnny said with his usual happy voice.

            "Uh oh, this can't be good."  Lance laughed.  "You never call me at home unless you're gonna totally hose my schedule."

            "Nah, I'm not going to completely hose it, just tweak it a little."  Johnny laughed.  "But I think you'll like it.  You've been requested to be a presenter at the Country Music Awards again.  I've tentatively said you'd do it, but I'm waiting for your confirmation."

            "Sure thing, when is it?"  He brushed dried sand from his shoulder and licked his salty lips.

            "It's on the 7th, so you'll be flying in on the 6th to do rehearsals and set up and all that good stuff.  It'll be in LA so that'll work out good because we're all meeting up on the 9th at the Homegrown Studios in Malibu so you can just stay there."

            "Right on, is it on my calendar?"  Lance asked as he tried to remember why that date sounded familiar.

            "As soon as you say yes."  Johnny nodded.

            "Oh."  Lance stopped and bit his lip.  "Wait, April 7th?"


            "I can't do it."  He shook his head.

            "What do you mean you can't?"  Johnny laughed.

            "I mean I can't.  I have a birthday party to go to."  Lance sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.  "I'm sorry man, can you still call and cancel?"

            "Yeah, I can.  But this is for the Country Music Awards.  Any chance you can reschedule your party for Saturday or something?"

            "It's not my party to reschedule."  Lance shook his head.  "It's for a friend and I really can't miss it."

            Johnny was silent for a second, then sighed.  "Okay, I'll give them a call first thing tomorrow to let them know you won't be there."


            "You'll be in LA on the 9th though, right?"

            "Yeah, yeah this is just the one day I've planned something for myself, and I can't change it."  Lance shook his head, never even thinking about backing out of Hope's party.

            "It's a birthday party?"

            "Yeah, it's a first birthday party."  Lance smiled.  "It's kinda important."

            "Ahh, I see."  Johnny smiled.  "Anyone I know?"

            "Nope."  Lance shook his head.  "I'll be in LA on Tuesday though.  The Beverly Hilton, right?"  He checked his book to be sure he had the hotel right.

            "You got it."  Johnny nodded.  "Are you having a good vacation?"

            "If you call working six days a week a vacation, yeah."  Lance laughed.  "Freelance has got me working double-time it feels like, then I've got all the meetings for the CD layout.  I swear, can't we just say 'this is how we want it, make it so'?  It should be that easy."

            "Hey you were the ones who wanted all the input.  If you want to have a say you've gotta show up for the meetings."  Johnny laughed lightly.  "Oh!  I do have some good news for you."


            "Yeah, well maybe.  I don't know if I told you or not yet."


            "I've got you guys booked as celebrity hosts for the Summer Vacation TRL special thing MTV is doing this summer."

            "Johnny…"  Lance whined.  Guest hosting was his least favorite thing to do; he and cameras never did well together in his mind.

            "But check this out.  Their 'secret and undisclosed' location they've been promoting for the last month and a half is Kauai."

            "Hawaii?"  Lance's eyebrows shot up in surprise and he smiled broadly.  "Serious?"


            "Man, we haven't been to Hawaii in… forever."  He laughed.

            "Yep, I know.  That's why you guys will be there for two whole weeks."

            "How much of that time is work related?"

            "Five hours a day."  Johnny said as Lance sighed, that would be almost their whole day.  "For the second week.  The first week there is all yours."

            "All ours?!"  Lance was shocked.  A whole week of uninterrupted vacation, in Hawaii no less, was unheard of.

            "Well, pretty much.  You've got three photo shoots spread out over the week, but they're short runs.  Two hours max."

            "When… when is this?"

            "The middle two weeks of June."

            "Awesome."  Lance couldn't stop smiling.  "Johnny, you rule man.  Have I told you how much I love you?"  Lance laughed.

            "No problem, you guys deserve it.  Now have fun at your little birthday party thing, I'll see you on the 9th."  Johnny said goodbye then they hung up. 

            Lance hung up his phone as well, then went upstairs to take a shower to get the sand and salt water off his body.  While he was getting undressed he thought about what he would get Hope for her birthday, and what it would be like to see Paige again.

            "Maybe this time I won't make such a fool of myself."  He mumbled softly before he pulled the shower curtain closed and stepped under the water.







Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn