"Rings"

(sequel to "Patchwork Chris" )

by: AmyK

 

I sighed and nervously handed the usher my front row ticket. He held it under his flashlight and nodded as I walked past him down the aisle to my seat. The opening act had already begun, but I wasn’t there to see her. I scooted in front of a couple girls and sat in my seat, feeling my pocket to make sure my laminated badge was still there.

I felt sick to my stomach as I tapped my feet and ran over my monologue in my head. I had planned out all the different scenarios in my mind, all of the different things he could say. Basically it came down to two options, either he went for it, or he didn’t. Either way I was sure I could handle it. I think. I hope.

The show was outstanding, the energy these guys had was unbelievable. Of course I knew a lot of the work that went into the tour and stage show, and I knew that after the show they’d be hyped for a while before they crashed like rocks.

I let the crowd thin out after the show before I walked over to the security guard standing beside the stage; I flashed him my badge as I put it around my neck and ducked under the barrier. "How’s it going?" He asked.

"Good, hey I’m looking for Chris, you know where he is?" I asked as I stuck my hands in my pockets.

"Yeah they’re all back there." He nodded over his shoulder.

"Thanks." I said softly as I brushed past him towards the backstage area. I wandered around for a couple minutes before I ran into, literally, Lance. I practically body slammed him as he came out of the food room with a bottle of water and an apple. "Whoa! Hey hi!" I stepped back as he picked up the dropped bottle.

"Hey Gracie!" He tucked the bottle under his arm and hugged me with the other. "How are ya?"

"I’m good, you?"

"Hanging in there." He smiled. "How’d you like the show?"

"It was insane! You guys never cease to amaze me." I smiled. It’d been a long time since I’d seen him, but he hadn’t changed at all.

"Cool, I’m glad you liked it." He grinned and said, "But hey, I’ve gotta catch Emily before she takes off."

"Emily?"

"Our opener. She’s one of my projects." He laughed.

"Man, I’m out of the loop, you have projects?"

"FreeLance is my baby, I find new talent." He ran his hand through his sweaty hair.

"Wow, congrats." I smiled and nervously looked around, "Well hey, she sounded great."

"Thanks, she’s got it I think."

"Yeah." I nodded. "Do you know where I might find Chris?"

"You might find him in there." He pointed to the door he had just come out of. "Then again, he might have gone out to the bus already. Was he expecting you?"

"Yeah, he knew I was coming." I nodded and looked around.

"Ahh, then he’ll probably be in there." He nodded to the door.

"Great, thanks a lot Lance."

"Anytime, it’s good to see you again." He waved over his shoulder and took a bite of his apple before he walked down the hall.

I stood outside the door for a full minute before taking a deep breath and pushing it open. I stepped inside and looked around at all of the unfamiliar faces. I leaned against the wall to kind of get a feel for the room, and to see if I could locate Chris, or anyone else for that matter.

"Hey baby, you come here often?" Joey asked as he leaned on the wall beside me. "Joey!" I laughed and threw my arms around him. "Wow, how are you?"

"I’m fantabulous. How’re you?"

"I’m good. I’m glad you found me." I laughed and stepped back.

"Yeah? Me too." He smiled. "You looking for Chris?"

"Kinda, yeah." I nodded as a blush creeped up in my cheeks.

"Well last I saw he was over there with Alexa." He pointed toward the crowded food table.

"Alex?" I asked. "You mean the security guy?"

"No, Alexa is this girl he’s kind of been seeing, she’s been with us for a week and is getting on my nerves. Which you know is hard to do."

My heart sunk to my knees as I tried to maintain my smile, "Oh… I – yeah I know that’s hard to um, to annoy you." I laughed nervously.

"So come on, let’s go find them." He smiled and draped his arm over my shoulders.

"Wait!" I held my footing as Joey started to walk towards the table.

"What?" He asked, looking at me weird.

"Um, why don’t I go say hi to the other guys first?" I asked.

"Cuz Lance just left, JC is out on the bus cuz he’s still kinda sick and Justin is… well… entertaining the meet and greet girls in the green room." Joey laughed.

"Well maybe I should just wait till tomorrow, when he’s less busy." I started to head for the door, trying to keep myself from running.

"Oh come on, you’re one of his best friends, you’re like one of us." Joey laughed and pulled my hand towards the table. I reluctantly followed, my mind racing. This was not one of the possibilities I had counted on. My whole monologue just went into the toilet and I had no idea what I would say once I was face to face with him. "Chris! Hey Chris look who made it!" Joey shouted across the room. Chris smiled and removed his arm from around the waist of a tall blonde. She looked annoyed at the loss of attention as Chris ran his fingers through his hair and started over towards us. I noticed that his hair was a little longer, and he’d shaved most of his goatee off, he looked real good.

I ducked my bright pink blushing face behind Joey and tried to pry my hand loose from his, hoping I would still be able to run once I was freed. "Gracie! Hey! Right on, I thought I saw you out there tonight." Chris’s face lit up with a smile as he walked over and pulled me in for a tight hug. I changed my mind and squeezed Joey’s hand tight as he tried to step back. I needed something to grab onto so that I wouldn’t smack Chris upside the head. As irrational as that sounds, that’s what I wanted to do. Slap him and scream "What is this about?!!?!?"

"Hi, long time no see huh?" I asked with a big fake smile. Joey stood beside me looking down at our hands. My fingers were turning white I was squeezing his so tight. "I’ll be right back though, I need to talk to Joe for a second." I doubt my lips moved as I spoke. I pulled Joey across the room and turned to look at him. "Joey!"

"What? Hey ouch, let go." He said as he yanked his hand free. He shook the blood back into his fingers and looked at me like I was nuts. "What the hell?"

"That’s… that’s the FOX sports girl!" I said through gritted teeth.

"That’s Alexa, yeah." Joey nodded. "What?"

"Joey!" I sighed and leaned back against the wall, thankful it was there to support me. "Shit…" I said under my breath as tears sprang up in my eyes. "Shit Joey…"

"What? What did I do?"

"Nothing." I shook my head. "Nothing."

"Then why’d you almost break my hand? Sheesh." He shook his hand out again and looked at me, noticing the tears. "Hey… Grace, what’s – Ohhh…" He recognized the look. "Ooh man, you still have a thing for him don’t you?"

"Joey…" I sighed and picked at my fingers.

"You do don’t you?" He laughed.

"Come on, it’s not funny." I looked up at him and quickly wiped my eyes.

"No, I know it’s not funny." He said, though he continued to smile.

"Stop it." I practically whined. I don’t know when I turned into a 13 year old, but I was beginning to want to slap myself.

"I know, I’m sorry." He laughed and gave me a big hug. "Come on, we’ll go over and I’ll distract Alexa so you can talk to Chris."

"No, Joey I just want to go home. I’m going to see you guys tomorrow anyways."

"At our beach shoot?" Joey asked, not letting me go.

"Yeah. It’s right up the street from my new apartment." I said into his chest. "Dangit Joey this sucks." I sighed and stood up straight. "I had everything planned."

"Well then don’t waste it, come on."

"Joey no." I shook my head.

"What’s going on?" Chris asked as he walked up behind Joey, alone.

"Nothing." I said quickly.

"Grace needs to talk to you." Joey said at the same time.

"Which is it?" Chris smiled and hitched up his baggy camo pants.

I glared at Joey as he said, "Mine." And walked away.

"You okay?" He asked as he reached out to touch my shoulder. I sniffed and nodded. "Well come on, I haven’t seen you in like a year."

"I know." I said softly.

"I want you to come meet Alexa."

"Actually, I’m not feeling too good. How about we do that tomorrow?"

"She won’t be there tomorrow, she’s going back to New York first thing in the morning." He explained. "Come on, real quick, then we can go sit down and you can tell me what you need."

"Chris…" I whined, but followed him nonetheless.

"Hey Alexa, this is one of my best friends ever, Gracie."

"Hi." She smiled, showing teeth so white they almost blinded me.

"Hi." I said after a moment’s pause. "It’s um, nice to meet you." I shook her hand and looked at Chris.

"You too, I’ve heard so much about you." Alexa smiled and cuddled close to Chris.

Blood rushed to Graces face, and Chris mistook it for a blush, "Nothing bad, don’t worry." He smiled.

"Well I haven’t heard anything about you." I said, quickly looking from Alexa to Chris.

"Sure, I told you about Alexa, she works for FOX." Chris explained.

"No, I’m sure I’d remember that." I held my fake smiled and took a couple deep breaths. My female territorial instinct was rearing its ugly head. I was here first.

"Oh well." Chris continued to smile, oblivious.

"It was nice to meet you, but I’ve got to go." I reached into my pocket for my keys, "I’ll um, see you tomorrow right?" I asked Chris.

"You’re really going to leave?" Chris asked.

"Yeah, like I said I’m not feeling too hot."

"Well then let me walk you out at least." He said as he released Alexa's arm and headed toward the door with me.

"I’m parked out in the lot." I said as we entered the long hallway.

"Then I’ll walk you to the door." He smiled. "So how have you been? I haven’t even talked to you in like 3 weeks."

"I’m… I’m doing okay." I nodded.

"What did you need to talk to me about?" He asked.

"Ahh, nothing much." I shrugged as my stomach did flip flops. "We can um, talk tomorrow." I said, trying to make something up that I could ‘need to talk to him’ about.

"You sure?"

"Yeah." I nodded as we approached the door leading outside. "It was good to see you again."

"You too, Gracie." He hugged me tightly and kissed my cheek. "I’ve missed you."

"I’ve missed you too." I whispered as I tried not to cry.

He rubbed my back slowly and touched my hair, "Your hair’s getting long." He laughed quietly.

"Yeah." I nodded and self-consciously tossed my hair over my shoulder. "I’ll see you tomorrow."

"Okay. Well, we’re back at the Beverly Hilton if you wanna get drinks tomorrow, since it’s Friday." He smiled.

"Yeah, we’ll have to see about that." I forced another smile and waved as I opened the door and stepped out into the cold dampness of the November weather.

I walked to my car as quickly as I could, dodging the diehard fans that were just now leaving the arena. I unlocked my car door after two attempts and sat in the driver’s seat.

You ever have one of those days where you plan everything perfectly, you take everything into consideration, you decide what you’re going to do in each situation, you practice what you’re going to say over and over again, and then before you can even begin to launch into your planned speech… all of the rules change? That was what I was feeling like. Like I was walking along minding my own business, planning my future based on what I thought would happen, then out of no where I fall into a hole like Alice in Wonderland, and everything’s upside down.

I sat there for a long time, when I left there were only a handful of cars left in the paring lot behind me. I drove across town to my apartment and let myself in. I turned on the light and tossed my keys on the little table by the door. Out of habit I went to my answering machine and hit play, "You have no new messages," the recorded voice said.

I peeled off my clothes on the way to the bathroom and hopped in the shower. I stood there till the water ran cold, then I dressed in my flannel pajamas and crawled under the covers. I shut off the light and stared at my ceiling until I fell asleep more than an hour later. This sucked.

"Hey hey Joey!" Chris shouted as he hopped on the bus heading back to the hotel. It was close to one in the morning, and they were starting to wind down.

"Hey Chris." Joey said from his position on the couch. He was in the middle of a heated video game with Justin.

"Do you know what was wrong with Grace tonight?" Chris asked as Alexa squeezed by and headed for the bunks.

"Faith was here?" Justin asked, looking up from the game.

"Grace. Don’t call her that." Chris said with a frown.

"Whatever." Justin laughed and turned back to the game.

"Nothing was wrong with her." Joey said, watching Alexa shut the curtain on Chris’s bunk. She had a nice ass…

"Well she was all cranky like I pissed her off or something." Chris sighed and sat beside Joey on the couch.

"I don’t know." Joey said distractedly. "So I take it she didn’t talk to you."

"No, why? What does she want to talk about?"

"Nothing." Joey said after he killed Justin’s player on the TV screen. He stood up and stretched. "I knew she’d chicken out."

"Wait, what do you mean? She talked to you?"

"Not really. Kinda." Joey shrugged and headed for his bunk for the 40 minutes ride back to the hotel.

"Well what is it about?" Chris asked, following him.

"Chris?" Alexa called from behind the curtain.

"Just a second." Chris said, still following Joey to the back of the bus. "Chicken out of what?"

"Chris… man, she’s still got a thing for you." Joey said softly as he pulled the drape closed behind them.

"No she doesn’t." Chris laughed and rolled his eyes. Joey didn’t move or change expressions. "No way." Chris shook his head. "Are you sure?"

"Yep." Joey nodded.

"I swear Joey, if you’re goofing off, this isn’t funny." Chris whispered.

"I’m not." Joey said seriously, a rarity for Joey.

"Whoa…" Chris lowered his eyes to his shoes. "So that’s what she was going to talk to me about?"

"Yeah." Joey nodded.

"So what am I supposed to do?" Chris whispered.

"Beats me." Joey shrugged and grabbed his sweatshirt, the reason he went back there.

"Wait Joe." Chris whispered loudly. "What… what am I supposed to do?"

"I don’t know. This isn’t my area of expertise, you know that. I’d say see ya’s to Alexa and go for Grace. But that’s me. And Alexa bugs." Joey pulled his sweatshirt on over his wifebeater and headed back towards the front of the bus.

"Joey wait." Chris followed him.

"Chris, come on." Alexa said from the bunk at his shoulder.

"Joey… I don’t know if I want to do that though." Chris said.

"Then don’t." Joey said as he sat back on the couch. "But you asked."

"Shit." Chris said under his breath as he hoisted himself up onto the bunk and lay beside his girlfriend.

The next morning I woke up to my phone ringing beside my bed. I wasn’t used to my new house yet, and the phone was on the wrong side. When I finally grabbed the phone my answering machine was halfway through the message, "Wait, hold on I’m here." I said as the machine shut off. "Hello?"

"Hey." Chris said softly.

"Hey, hi." I sat up in bed and smiled, I always loved hearing his voice. I turned to check the clock and was surprised to see that it was just after 5 in the morning. "What’s wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing."

"It’s five in the morning." I said, "Are you sure?"

"Are you sure?"

"What do you mean?"

"Joey um, he kinda said that you said something, and I’ve been thinking about it."

"What? What did Joey say?" My heart began to race.

"That you still have… feelings for me."

"Chris… I-" I stopped myself midsentence. It was now or never, do it now before I woke up all the way and could stop myself. "Yeah, I do. I went to the show last night to talk to you and see if we could give it another try, now that we kind of know what to expect. I mean, we’ve gotten so close over the last year and this just seemed like the next natural step. I mean, kind of backwards because… well you know, been there done that." I took a deep breath expecting him to say something, hoping that he wouldn’t. He didn’t, so I continued, "I had this whole thing planned you know, what I was going to say and everything and I thought if you said yes, then right on, and if you said no then we could still be friends. But then when Joey said you had a girlfriend and I saw her last night, I just… I don’t know. It all went out the window. About it being okay and we could be friends." I sighed. "I just… wow, I don’t know."

"Grace…"

"Yeah?"

He was silent for a minute, and I thought maybe we’d been disconnected, then he spoke, "Can we get… can you come over?"

"Wha- now?" I threw my feet over the side of the bed.

"Can you?"

"Um… Chris I don’t think I should." I said softly.

"Alexa isn’t here."

I sighed and closed my eyes, "That’s not it."

"What is it then?" He asked.

"I don’t know. I just feel like everything’s not how it’s supposed to be."

"Well come over. We can get breakfast and talk. I think we need to."

All I could think was that he wanted to tell me in person that it wasn’t gonna happen, and I knew that it’d be better if I didn’t have to hear it. "Can’t we talk here?"

"At your place?"

"On the phone."

"I’d like to see you Gracie." He said a he tried not to yawn. "You wanted to talk… let’s talk."

"Chris…" I sighed.

"Grace…" He mimicked me. "Please? You can’t just lay that on me and not let me say my piece."

"So say it." I rested my chin in my hand and waited.

"Come on Gracie, please come over."

"Jeez, don’t beg you sound like a child." I cracked a smile, but I still felt nervous.

"So you’ll come?"

"Yeah, I’ll be there in an hour." I yawned. "But because you got me up at this ungodly hour, you’re buying."

"Okay. See you in an hour." He smiled and we hung up. Shit. Now I was going to have to face him.

I lay in bed for another 15 minutes trying to think of any excuse for not showing up, but nothing came to mind, and I was pretty curious as to what he would say. I mentally prepared myself for the worst as I showered, but then I remembered I had already tried that whole "mentally prepare" thing and look what happened. He came straight out of left field with Alexa.

When I got off the elevator on their floor, I was met by the security guard, "Hey." I smiled and pulled the badge from my pocket. I walked quietly down the hall to the last door on the right, and knocked softly. "Just a sec." Chris said from inside. I waited patiently until he opened the door. He was wearing a pair of wrinkled black jeans and a white Nike T-shirt, his hair was a mess, but I’d never seen him look better.

"Hi." He said softly as he held the door open for me.

"Hi." I averted my eyes as I walked past him into the room. He shut the door and sighed as he pulled me close for a hug.

"Thanks for coming over." He said into my hair.

"Sure." I nodded, and sat in one of the recliner chairs by the foot of the bed. I looked around the room and winced. There was a pink baby doll shirt folded over the arm of the other chair, and a scrunchie curled up on the nightstand. Chick stuff. My heart pounded in my ears and I knew what he was going to say.

"Gracie…" He sat in the chair opposite me and removed the pink baby doll shirt. He tossed it in the general direction of the closet and sighed, "I… wow, I never expected this."

"I know." I nodded. "Neither did I."

"I’ve been… okay for like the last year I’ve been thinking about you and everything. I didn’t want to break up, you know that. But it was for the best and everything, because it just wasn’t going to work. I know that, you know that. But I didn’t want to. I never did. I thought it’d be easier for you." My heart stopped beating, what was he saying?? "I’ve been dying, waiting for you to say you wanted to try again, for a long time now. Now that we were ready and everything you said this morning."

"Chris…" I was practically speechless. If I thought Alexa came from out of left field, this came from out of the ballpark.

"But…" Dammit, there’s always a but. "But I’m seeing Alexa right now."

"Why didn’t you say something earlier?" I asked, once I decided I could intelligently form a sentence.

"About Alexa?" He asked.

"About… about all of it?"

"Gracie, you said that it was too hard trying to date me, and that we’d be better off as friends. I didn’t want to pressure you into anything, I figured if you changed your mind you’d let me know. As for Alexa, that’s still pretty new, and I wanted you to meet her."

"Have… did… are…" Forget about sentences. I sighed, "Have your feelings for me changed though?"

"No." He shook his head. "I mean you’re still my closest female friend. And I love you a whole bunch. But it’s different now. I wanted you back for so long, and now I’m finally over that, and you come to me with this. I don’t know Gracie… that’s just a lot."

"But if we both want to try this again, if we’ve both thought about it, then why not give it a shot?"

"Because I kinda want to see where this will go with Alexa, she’s really great." He said slowly.

"You kinda want to see where it will go?"

"I do want to see where it will go. But who knows, I mean, it might not work out at all." He shrugged. "We’ll be on tour for another couple months, that’s a hard place to start, you know that."

"Yeah, I do know that."

"So…" He shrugged again, "I don’t know where this will end up. I’d like it to work, but if it doesn’t…"

"If it doesn’t then we can get back together?" I raised my eyebrows in disbelief. "I can be your consolation prize?" I stopped myself from laughing.

"No, you wouldn’t be a consolation prize. Gracie come on, you know I didn’t mean it that way."

"If things don’t work out with Alexa then we can go out. But if they do, well then sorry Grace, you’re shit outta luck?" I laughed out loud at that.

"No, that’s not what I meant."

"What did you mean then?"

"I just meant that, I don’t know Grace, this is shitty timing."

"You know what? Forget it. Forget I said anything. We can be friends, that’s cool." I stood up quickly.

"Grace don’t be upset." He stood to follow me to the door.

"I’m not." I lied as he turned me around by my shoulder.

"Grace… come on."

"I’m not." I shook my head as tears welled up in my eyes. "I’m not upset." Maybe if I kept saying it, it’d be true.

"Yes you are." Chris said as he tilted my chin up so our eyes met. "I know you better than you think." He smiled.

"Dammit Chris." I frowned and looked down at my shoes as a tear rolled down my cheek. "So I’m what? 3 weeks late?"

"Something like that."

"So you have 3 week invested in her, and more than a year with me."

"Grace, this isn’t a race."

"Sure it is. And I was here first." I smiled, trying to make a joke, but meaning every word I said.

"You were here first." He nodded with a smile, "And you’ll always come first. Friends always come first."

"Then chose me." I cocked my head to the side and smiled, as two more tears escaped. I hastily brushed them away and looked to Chris for an answer.

"You’re making this harder than it needs to be." Chris said a minute later.

"I’m fighting for what I want. Isn’t that what you’ve always admired about me?"

"Yes, but…"

"But not when you’re involved huh?"

"Grace…"

"No… it’s okay." I shook my head and reached for the door again. "It’s okay Chris. You know where I stand on this, and if you change your mind, you’ll know where to find me."

"Don’t go." He practically pleaded as he held his hand against the door.

"Please Chris, just let me go." I wiped my eyes again and sniffed.

"Wait." I could see the turmoil in his eyes. I could tell he didn’t want me to leave the room, because he thought for sure I’d be leaving his life as well. He wanted me to wait there for him. Until he was done with Alexa. That wasn’t going to happen.

"I’ll see you this afternoon." I said as I pulled the door open and stepped around him into the hallway. I didn’t even glance over my shoulder as I walked towards the elevator. I waited what seemed like an eternity for the elevator doors to open, and when they finally did, Joey stepped on the car beside me.

"Leaving so soon?" He asked as he leaned against the wall as the doors shut.

"Why did you tell him?" I asked, not taking my eyes off the numbers.

"Because you didn’t."

"That was my choice."

"You only made that choice because of Alexa."

"That’s a good enough reason don’t you think?"

"Yeah, it would be. Only he’s still all coo coo for you."

"He’s not."

"He is to." Joey said, annoyed. "He’s just being an ass."

"No Joe, he’s not." I turned to look at him. I did a double take, he was dressed normal. He had on regular blue jeans and a BUM Equipment sweatshirt. "Where’s your elmo shirt?"

"Packed up." He said quickly. "And yes he is. He just got tired of waiting for you to come around so he picked up the first girl who showed interest."

"Dammit Joey! If you knew he was interested why didn’t you tell me? Shit…" I shook my head as we stepped off the elevator into the lobby.

"How did I know you didn’t know!" He held out his hands. "Come on, I’m starved, let’s get breakfast." He steered me towards the little café in the hotel. I reluctantly followed him in and sat across from him in a booth.

"So what do I do now?" I asked, after I’d filled him in on the little discussion I had with Chris.

"Get Alexa out of the picture."

"Yeah Joey." I said sarcastically. "And how do I do that?"

"Well, she’s in New York, right?"

"I don’t know." I pouted at my bagel.

"She is." He nodded and took a sip of his juice. "So make him forget about her."

"Joey…" I sighed. "I’ve never been good at games like that."

"Well." He shrugged, "You asked. That’s my vote."

"Great. So I’m screwed?"

"Well you could always go for the jealous thing."

"He knows I’m jealous. Trust me." I rolled my eyes.

"No, make him jealous."

"How?"

"Flirt with someone while he’s watching."

"Yeah… I can see it now ‘hey Chris, why don’t you come to the beach with me so I can hit on other guys and make you jealous.’ Joey, that won’t work."

"You’re going to the beach today right? To watch our shoot?"

"Yeah." I sighed. "I guess."

"So there you go."

"One hour of me flirting with someone won’t change his mind. Besides, you guys will be doing your shoot, not paying attention to me."

"It’s not how much time you spend flirting."

"What is it then?" I asked, he’d captured my interest now.

"It’s who."

"Okay, who?"

"One of us." He smiled over his toast and took another sip of his juice.

"Hit on one of you?" I almost laughed.

"As if that’d be terrible." Joey rolled his eyes and laughed.

"He’d never buy it." I shook my head and took another bite of my bagel. "That’s okay. I’ll figure something out."

"I hope so, cuz I like you a lot better than Alexa." Joey sighed and ate the last bite of his toast. "And that’s my opinion." He wiped his mouth and smiled.

"Thanks." I folded my napkin and placed it on my plate as I stood up. "You rule Joey." I gave him a quick hug and promised to see him that afternoon before I headed out

 

I showered and cleaned myself up a bit before heading out to the beach to meet them for their shoot. It was November in LA, which meant steel grey skies and big waves crashing on the shore, the perfect time for a photo shoot. I bundled up in a big soft sweatshirt and walked the three blocks to the beach.

I couldn’t miss the shoot; there were lights and canopies set up all over the beach, as well as a small caravan of motor homes parked on the street. I got to the sand and walked down to where the canopies were set up.

"Good, you’re here. JC needs his hair done." A guy said in my general direction as I walked up. He continued to monkey with the camera in his hands as I stood there. "Did you hear me?" He looked up, annoyed.

"I heard you, but I think you have the wrong person." I said with my hands on my hips. "I’m not the hair girl."

"Can you run gel through his hair?" He asked.

"What?"

"Can you brush his hair and run gel through it? That’s all I wanna know." He sighed.

"Yeah." I said slowly.

"Great. You’re the hair girl now. He’s the second RV on the right. Got get ‘em." He turned his attention back to the camera and I was dismissed.

Rather than argue, I sighed and headed for JC’s RV. I knocked lightly and waited for a response before I pushed the door open and stepped up, "Hi."

"Hey you." He smiled and set his gameboy down. "What are you doing here?" He asked as he gave me a quick hug.

"I’m the new hair girl apparently." I laughed.

"Oh man, she never showed up." JC laughed and sat on the little couch thing. "Don’t sweat it, I can do it. Rob just likes to have cows about everything."

"Okay." I said as I headed for the door.

"That doesn’t mean you have to leave." JC smiled and nodded at the little chair across from him, "Keep me company while I do my hair." He laughed and headed for the bathroom area. He came back out with a comb and a tube of gel. "See? I can do it myself." He ran the comb through his hair and gooped up his hands. He made his hair kind of spikey with the help of the mirror, then smiled at me.

"Gorgeous." I smiled.

"Thank you." He smiled and put the stuff back in the bathroom. "And we’ve still got 10 minutes to spare." He opened the door of the RV and stepped down. I followed him out the door and put my hands in my pockets.

"Where are the other guys?" I asked as I looked around the shoot area.

"Um, I don’t know. I’m guessing Joey is over there by the crowd." He pointed towards the parking lot. "And Justin is probably still getting his mop worked on." He laughed and shrugged again, "As for the others, who knows?"

"Cool, what is this a shoot for?"

"Um… I’m pretty sure it’s for YM."

"Cool."

"Yeah." He nodded and squinted in the sliver of sunlight that peeked through the clouds. "So, do you still work at the hospital?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah." I nodded as we started down the beach towards the canopies. "Still in emergency medicine also, though I’ve been threatening to leave for months now." I smiled.

"Where would you like to work?"

"I don’t know. Maybe pediatrics." I shrugged. "Just about anywhere else."

"I know the feeling." He smiled and stared at me for a second, "You look different than I remember."

"How?" I laughed.

"I don’t know." He continued to stare for a second. "Your hair is different or something." I reached up and tucked my dark brown hair behind my ear.

"It’s a little longer, but I haven’t changed it."

"Hmm, maybe that’s it." He smiled and we continued walking slowly. "So are you going to be here all day?"

"I don’t know." I said, looking up the beach. I spotted Chris standing alone by the drink table, opening up a bottle of Pepsi.

JC followed my gaze and sighed, "Don’t let Chris ruin your day here. If you stay maybe we can… all go out afterwards." JC said slowly.

"He’s not going to ruin my day." I said, still watching him. "It’s just confusing."

"Well if you need any help, let me know." JC reached out and placed his arm on my shoulder, as Chris looked over.

"Thanks." I smiled up at JC. He pulled me in for a big hug and then it dawned on me, "JC?"

"Yeah?" He asked, not letting go.

"Are you hitting on me?" I giggled into his chest.

"Uh huh. Is it working?" He asked quietly.

"You know what?" I asked into his chest.

"Hmm?"

"You’re nuts. You and Joey both." I laughed and took a step back.

"Yeah, but if it works." He smiled and reached up to move a lock of hair off my forehead.

"I don’t need any help, thanks." I smiled and shook my head.

"It can’t hurt." JC called after me as I turned and walked over to where Chris was standing. I took a deep breath and counted to ten. I could be civil. I could go get a drink and not make a scene.

I smiled and reached for a diet coke as Chris said, "I’m glad you came."

"Thanks, me too." I glanced over my shoulder to where JC was standing, Lance was walking up to him from the other direction, so he wasn’t looking at me.

"You uh, you were hanging out with JC?" He asked, looking past me to JC.

Holy shit. He was jealous. This would work. I smiled and nodded as I opend my soda. Let the games begin!

 

 

I smiled at Chris and decided that Joey might be right. Maybe jealousy could work for me. I glanced over my shoulder at JC again and smiled, "Yeah, a little. We met up in the elevator this morning, so we all had breakfast together."

"You all?" Chris asked, still looking towards JC.

"Me and JC and Joey." I smiled at Chris, who finally looked at me.

"Really?"

"Well yeah. I was upset when I left, and they offered to let me vent a little."

"You could have vented to me." He said.

I laughed softly and said, "Not when you’re the one I’m venting about."

"Grace… I don’t think anything was settled this morning."

"I think it was." I nodded. "The choice is up to you."

"But Gracie…"

"Yes?" I asked as I played with the cap on my drink.

"Nah, nothing." He shook his head and took a drink. "Are you staying all day?"

"I don’t know." I shrugged. "Depends."

"On…?"

"On how cold it gets out here." I set my drink down and put my hands in the single front pocket of my sweatshirt. The cool breeze picked up again and blew my hair into my eyes. Without thinking, Chris reached up and brushed it away.

As soon as his fingertips touched my forehead, I saw a flicker of something in Chris’s eyes. Jealousy for sure, but then something else, as if he was surprised. "Well um, if it gets too cold you can always hang out in my trailer."

"Yeah, that’s what JC said." I smiled at the shocked expression on his face.

"Yeah… well, cool." He nodded and fidgeted with the cuffs on his jacket.

"I’m um, going to go say hi to the others. I’ll see you later, when the shoot gets started."

"Okay." He nodded as I headed over to where JC and Lance were standing, I saw Joey walking in our direction also.

"You guys are mean." Lance laughed as I walked up.

"What?"

"Hitting on JC to make Chris jealous. That’s cold." He continued to smile.

"Hey, whatever works." JC shrugged. "Besides, if they’re going to be ‘just friends’, then Grace is up for grabs."

"Up for grabs?" Lance laughed. "That’s real nice."

"Hey JC, if anyone asks, you had breakfast with me and Joey this morning."

"Okay." He nodded.

"And for the record, there will be no grabbing of Gracie today." I laughed and shook my finger at the two boys.

"I can grab you." Joey laughed as he walked up, grabbed me and tossed me over his shoulder.

"Aahhhhh! Joey put me down!" I laughed as he carried me over to where the lights were set up. Lance and JC followed close behind while Chris watched from his position at the drink table.

"Say the magic word." Joey laughed.

"Now dammit!" I laughed as the blood rushed to my face, which was dangerously close to Joey’s toosh. "Or I’ll bite you on the butt."

"Oooh! Sounds kinky." Joey laughed, and made no move to put me down.

"Come on Joey, before I barf."

"Okay, that’s the magic word." He placed me upright on the sand as the blood distributed itself throughout my body.

"You guys done fooling around?" The photographer asked.

"For now." Lance smiled and sat on one of the beach towels on the sand.

"One, two, three. Where are the others?" The photographer asked.

"Chris is over there." JC said pointing to the food table. "Chris!" He shouted and waved Chris over.

"Four."

"Justin, we’re missing Justin, has anyone seen Justin?" Joey asked looking around the beach.

"Nope." We shook our heads.

"I’ll go see if I can track him down." I said as I took off for the trailers.

Chris passed me on his way to the others and asked, "Where are you going?"

"To find Justin." I said, as I continued walking.

I knocked on the first two trailer doors, but no one answered, on the third one Justin opened the door, "Hey cool, I didn’t know you were coming." He said as he held the door open.

"They’re waiting on you." I smiled.

"Oh man!" Justin glanced at his watch as he jumped down the little steps and slammed the door shut, "Thanks!" He shouted over his shoulder as he trotted down the sand to the others. I followed slowly behind them and made it to them as the photographer began lining them up for group shots.

I stood off to the side and watched as they posed for pictures sitting in the sand, standing by the waters edge, and then with the cliffs as a back drop. These were going to turn out beautifully. I watched all of them during the shot, but as always my eyes kept drifting back to Chris.

How did I ever do it? Break up with him I mean. Was I nuts? Sure it was harder than I expected, and I never got to see him and everything like that, but wow… when we were actually together it was like nothing could go wrong. I just got scared, with him being out on the road all the time. It wasn’t usual, and it wasn’t comfortable for me. But I’d take that uncomfortableness (is that a word?) if it meant I’d be able to cuddle up with Chris in the end.

"You know, if you keep staring at him you’re going to blow our cover." JC said softly as he draped his arm over my shoulder.

"What?" I asked, snapping back to reality. "Oh god, was I staring?"

"A little." He laughed.

"I can’t help it." I said sadly, but with a small smile. I brushed my hair off my cheek and sighed.

"That’s okay, he’s spent hours staring at you too." JC smiled.

"When?" I laughed, I was sure I’d have remembered that.

"While we were on the road." JC shrugged. "He had a little picture of you in his wallet."

"He did?" I asked, mildly shocked. "Seriously?"

"Yep." JC nodded.

"See? I don’t get that. If he was like that even after we broke up, then why… why is he being like this now?"

"Dignity." JC shrugged.

"What’s so dignified about saying no to what you want?" I asked.

"Gracie, you broke up with him because of something he couldn’t change. His fe-"

"Us breaking up was a mutual decision." I interrupted.

JC just looked at me, "What was he going to say? No?"

"But-"

"Check this out. You guys broke up, for whatever reason, but his feelings didn’t change. He pined after you for months after that, but he couldn’t let you know because you’d already said that wasn’t what you wanted." He explained. "So now when he’s finally made up his mind to move on, you show up saying ‘hey guess what? Let’s do this again’? He’s thinking, ‘yeah right, I waited for months for you to say that, it’s your turn to wait’." He crinkled his forehead and looked at me, his blue eyes only a few inches from mine. "You see where he’s coming from?"

"I guess." I shrugged and looked away uneasily. "Can’t I just apologize?" I asked. "For not coming to my senses sooner?"

"You haven’t already?" He asked.

"No… I didn’t know I needed to."

"You could try that." JC shrugged.

"But do you think that would work?" I asked.

"It’s worth a shot."

"Argh… JC, do you think it would work?"

He shrugged, "I don’t know."

"What do you think of Alexa?" I asked a minute later. His arm was still hanging casually across my shoulders, keeping me warm.

"I think Alexa is very nice, very outgoing, and drop dead gorgeous." JC said. I stiffened under his arm and he laughed as he squeezed my shoulder, "But she’s not Chris’s type."

"So Chris’s type is rude, introverted and ugly?" I smiled.

"You bet." JC laughed. "So you’re perfect for him." He smiled and sighed softly. "She’s just too much for Chris. She’s not at all like you, and not in the ways you think."

"Why can’t he see that then?" I asked sadly.

"He does." JC nodded and looked over at Chris sitting on the blanket beside Justin, making seal sounds at each other. He laughed and said, "He sees it Grace, he just doesn’t want to admit it yet."

"You’re the best JC." I stopped walking and bounced up to kiss him quickly. "You rock." I smiled and walked backwards for a couple steps.

"Yeah, I know." JC shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets as I turned around and walked over to Chris.

When I got closer to the blanket Justin and Chris stopped making animal noises at each other, and Chris leaned back on his arms. He looked up at me expectantly, while Justin just looked uncomfortable.

"So you’re off the hook." Chris said softly.

"What?" I asked.

"The shoot, it’s been called off because of the weather." Chris said, looking at the sky. The rain clouds were getting closer to where we were and you could already smell the rain. "So you’re off the hook. You don’t have to hang around here all day."

"I don’t mind." I shook my head. "I haven’t see you guys in like a year, this is fun for me."

"I’ll bet." Chris looked over my shoulder at JC.

"So hey Grace." Justin said quickly as he stood up. "What are you doing tonight? You wanna come out with us? We’re going clubbin."

"No thanks. I think I’m just going to stay in tonight. I don’t get many nights off so I’d like to get to bed early." I smiled and said, "But thanks."

"Anytime." Justin smiled and ran his hands over his head. "I’m uh, gonna head in." He said to Chris as he started walking towards the trailer.

"Has the shoot been rescheduled?" I asked as I tucked my hands into the pocket on my sweatshirt.

"Yeah. Tomorrow. Same time. Same place." He said as he stood up and brushed the sand off his butt. "You gonna be here?"

I nodded, "Probably."

"Okay." He nodded quickly and then he too headed for the trailers. I stood alone by the towel for a minute wondering if this whole jealousy thing was the right thing to do. I sighed and walked up the beach to Joey’s trailer. I pounded on the door before I pushed it open and stepped up into the little room.

"Hey! Joey!" I said loudly, looking around.

"Yeah?" He came out of the little bathroom with a toothbrush in his mouth. "Hey Grace, what’s up?"

"I don’t think the jealousy thing is working. He just seems mad." I frowned and sat at the table.

"Mad looks the same as jealousy."

"No it doesn’t." I shook my hand and rested my chin in my hands. "Joey, right now I’m about ready to swallow my pride and beg."

"Don’t do that." Joey laughed and sat across from me.

"But Joey…" I whined.

"But what? This is working. He’s jealous. He’s jealous because someone else is making a move on the girl he wants."

"Yeah but he’s acting like ‘fine then take her’ not ‘hands off I want her’." I sighed.

"Good impression." Joey smiled. "If JC tried to really make a move on you, Chris would be all up in JC’s face."

"But then if Chris thinks JC is really flirting with me, why hasn’t he said anything? See? I don’t get it. Men are so confusing."

"You’re the one playing mind games."

"Because you told me to!" I argued.

"I’m just saying…"

"Joey, you’re no help." I shook my head and smiled.

"It’s working. Trust me. I’ll bet you a dollar that Chris says something to JC tonight."

"Joey…"

"Gracie…" He mocked me. "Trust me here."

"Why does that sound like a dangerous proposition?"

Joey just laughed and scratched his sideburn; "I know them better than you think."

I sighed and said, "I know."

 

I was going to have to give Joey fifty cents, he was half right. Before they headed out for the night, Chris went down to Lance’s room and knocked on the door. He shifted from foot to foot as he waited for Lance to answer. "Just a sec." Lance called from inside. He pulled the door open, wearing only a dark green hotel towel. He looked surprised to see Chris standing there, but held the door open for him anyways. "What’s up?"

"Not much. You?" Chris asked as he stood just inside the door.

"Just getting dressed." Lance laughed, looking down at the towel. "Gimme a second." He grabbed a pile of clean clothes off of the bed and retreated to the bathroom. He came out a minute later wearing unbuttoned jeans and carrying his long sleeved t-shirt in his hands. He sat on the bed and pulled the shirt over his head. "So whatcha need?"

"I’m just confused about what’s going on with Gracie." Chris said, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets. He hadn’t moved from his spot just inside the door.

"About what?"

"Well her and JC just looked all chummy and kissy today." Chris said, with an obvious edge to his voice.

"Yeah." Lance nodded. "Is that a problem? I mean, I know you guys haven’t been together in like a year or something."

"Yeah it’s a problem." Chris sighed and looked the blonde in the eyes. "She came to me this morning talking about how she wants to get back together."

"Well that’s cool. What’s the problem?"

"I haven’t made a decision about that yet." Chris said.

"About Grace?" Lance’s eyebrows shot up as he reached for his clean socks.

"Yeah."

"Well shit or get off the pot pal." Lance shook his head and looked at Chris still standing by the door.

"It’s not that easy."

"If it’s a toss up between Alexa and Grace, then..."

"It’s not."

"It’s not?" Lance asked, surprised.

"Alexa left this morning."

"I know."

"No man, she left." Chris said.

"Really?" Chris continued to shock Lance.

"Yeah." Chris nodded.

"Then what’s the hold up?"

"I don’t know." Chris shrugged. "But I can’t compete with JC."

"It’s not a competition." Lance shook his head.

"It is. When he starts hitting on her and making her laugh, yeah it is."

"Well Chris, what do you suggest I do?"

"Talk to JC, make him wait till I make up my mind."

"That’s not how it works." Lance tied his shoes and stood up. "I’m not a messenger. You’ve got a problem with JC, talk to him about it."

"I don’t have a problem with JC."

"Well you’ve got a problem with one of them, and it doesn’t look like you’ve talked to either of them."

"Whatever." Chris sighed and reached for the door.

"Are you still coming out with us?" Lance asked as Chris stepped into the hall.

"Yeah." Chris nodded and shut the door, but he didn’t look too happy about it.

 

That night Lance pulled JC aside and kind of gave him the run down of what Chris said. Lance knew that JC was only hitting on Grace as part of Joey’s master plan, but if Chris was getting upset with JC, then that was crossing a line. When Lance told JC what Chris said, he just kind of laughed and said, "This is crazy."

"It’s messed up is what it is." Lance shook his head.

"No check this out." JC pulled up a hard wooden chair beside Lance. "Chris talked to Justin tonight, or well, I guess Justin went up to Chris to find out why all the hostility this afternoon. Anyways, Chris tells Justin that he’s holding out for a week, to make Gracie wait."

"What? That’s stupid, what’s he doing that for?"

"I don’t know." JC laughed. "Maybe he figures she deserves it, for waiting this long to say something."

"Yeah but you’d think he’d be thrilled." Lance shook his head again.

"Who knows. I think he’s just messed up in the head."

"I think they both are." Lance laughed and took a drink of his soda.

"Maybe Chris is still confused over the whole Alexa thing." JC suggested.

"Nope, she left."

"Yeah for New York."

"Apparently for good." Lance smiled.

"Shut up!" JC laughed out loud again. "Sheesh, those two…" he shook his head and walked out to the dance floor. He’d let us duke it out tomorrow.

 

"If you haven’t made up your mind about me yet, then what do you care what I do?" I asked as Chris walked up to the photo shoot area the next day. It was obvious that someone had talked to me already that morning.

"Good morning to you too." Chris said, looking from me to Lance.

"Good morning, do you know how long it’s going to take for you to make up your mind? Because if I’m just wasting my time here, I’d like to move on." I smiled sweetly.

"If you want me to make up my mind right now, I will. But you won’t like the answer." He said evenly.

"Oh really?" I asked with a raised eyebrow, challenging him.

"Grace." Lance said with a warning tone. "Listen guys, games over. We’re tired of this." He looked over his shoulder at Joey and watched as Justin and JC walked up also. "Chris, we talked last night and it’s obvious you’ve still got it for Grace. And you sent Alexa home for good, that’s gotta say something."

"Lance-" Chris started quickly.

"Nope, let me finish." Lance interrupted him. "You’re making her wait for your answer for whatever reason and that’s bogus. She’s not gonna wait man. And Grace…"

"What?" I asked, though I knew what he was going to say.

I cringed inwardly as Lance continued, "You’re hitting on JC and stuff to make Chris jealous because you think that’ll make him come to a decision faster. He’s not playing that game Grace. You guys are trying to do exactly the same thing, but you’re both going about it all wrong." Lance sighed and looked to Joey for back up.

"You guys need to go to a trailer and duke it out." Joey said.

"Talk it out." JC added, casting Joey a look. At this point, duking it out actually looked like a possibility.

Chris and I stood there, stunned into silence. Neither one of us moved… or looked at each other. "Fine." Lance held up his hands. "We’ll leave." Lance headed for his trailer, and the others followed, leaving Chris and I alone on the windy beach.

I stood there with my arms folded over my chest and finally looked up at Chris. We stared at each other for a couple minutes without saying a word. The corner of Chris’s mouth twitched slightly, then his eyes narrowed a little and his lips curled into a small smile.

"You were flirting with JC to make me jealous?" He asked with a short laugh.

"You sent Alexa home?" I asked right back.

"I asked you first."

"Yes." I answered his question and looked him in the eye. "You?"

"Yes." He answered mine. "Are we through with the mind games now?"

"I don’t know. Are we?" I asked, staring at the seaweed by our feet.

"I… I am." He nodded and pushed his hands deep into his pockets.

"Me too." I said softly, "So what happens now?"

"I don’t know." He shook his head and looked at his shoes.

"Do we just pick up where we left off?"

He laughed quietly and asked, "Where’s that? A year ago? When we broke up?" He shook his head. "We can’t start back there, we’ve changed a lot since then."

"Yeah." I nodded. "How about a month ago?"

"A month ago, let’s see. We were just starting the tour, I was still head over heels for you, but thinking that if you didn’t come around soon I was going to move on… yeah, that might work. You?"

"A month ago I was thinking that it was already like we were dating and you were on tour, and I was thinking about how I was going to approach this. Should I ask you over the phone or wait till we saw each other in LA? And I was hoping you felt the same." I sighed.

"So see? If a month ago you’d said something, we’d be happy."

"So let’s start over then." I nodded and smiled up at him.

He held his hand up to his ear, like he was holding a phone, "So Gracie, you wanted to talk?"

I laughed and held my hand to my ear, "Yeah Chris, I was wondering if you’d like to give us another try. Now that we know what to expect from the tour, and now that we’ve grown so close just as friends. My feelings for you have never changed, I just didn’t know what to do with them. And I didn’t want to set myself up for hurt when you couldn’t be around. But I’ve realized that you don’t have to be here 24 hours a day 7 days a week to be the perfect boyfriend. You’re there when I need you and that’s the important part. You listen to me, and support me in ways I never thought you could. I know that if I ever needed you, for any reason, that you would do all you could to be here. So Chris, please think about giving our relationship another shot." I paused and took a deep breath. "Well, that was my monologue you would have heard the other night if… she hadn’t been there." I smiled through the tears in my eyes and said "Chris, I’m sorry I didn’t say something sooner."

"Me too." He said as he pulled me in for a tight hug. I wrapped my arms around him under his jacket and sighed in the warmth. "And that was a really good monologue." He laughed quietly into my hair. "Wow does it feel good to hold you again." He closed his eyes and rubbed my back slowly.

"Are you sure this is okay?" I asked, unable to let him go.

"I’m sure Grace. Are you?"

"Yeah." A tear fell from my cheek onto his shoulder and I sniffed quietly.

"I’m sorry I was being a jerk." Chris said as he took a half of a step back. "Aw come on, don’t cry." He laughed nervously as he reached up and wiped a stray tear away with his thumb.

"I know, I’m just being a big baby."

"Is it safe to come out now?" Joey shouted from the general area of the trailers.

"No." Chris shouted back.

"Well hurry it up!" Joey shouted back as the others laughed.

"We do have to hurry up." Chris ran his fingers through his hair, messing up the hair stylist’s work. "I’ve got work to do you know."

"I know." I nodded.

"Are you going to be here all day?"

"Yeah." I smiled.

"Can… I mean, are you free tonight?"

"No." I frowned and shook my head. "I have dinner plans with Dave and Melanie. We’re going to talk over some of their wedding details, they’re getting married in 5 weeks."

"Oh."

"But hey, do you want to come?"

"Oh no, that’s okay." He shook his head.

"You’ll have to meet Dave sooner or later." I smiled at his uneasiness.

"I’ll take later then."

"Great. I’ll pick you up at the hotel at 6." I smiled.

"Hey."

"It’s later." I laughed.

"Chris!" Justin shouted.

"What? For crying out loud what?" He shouted back.

"We’ve got to get to work, come on!" Justin shouted back as he peeked his head around the trailer.

Chris laughed and shook his head as he pulled me close by the pockets of my jeans. He kissed my lips softly and ran his finger down my cheek. I reached up and played with the soft hair at the nape of his neck and kept the other hand under his jacket and pressed against his back.

"Did you guys duke it out?" Joey asked loudly as the others walked up as a group.

"Yes." I smiled and turned around to face them.

"Who won?" JC asked.

"I did." Chris and I said in unison.

"Okay that’s just too adorable, I think I may barf." Lance laughed and covered his eyes.

We started walking towards where the lights and photographer were set up. Joey leaned over and asked softly, "So… how’d it go?"

"Fine."

"Did the jealousy thing work?" He asked with a smile.

"Not exactly." I laughed. "But thanks for the help."

"It’s cool now?"

"Yeah." I nodded. "It’s cool."

"Good." Joey draped his arm over my shoulders as the photographer began shouting orders. Joey rolled his eyes and headed over with the rest.

"Hey, after dinner tonight, can you come back to my place?" I asked.

"Sure." Chris smiled. "I haven’t seen your new house, I can’t wait."

"Cool." I kissed him quickly then sat on the ice chest to watch the rest of the days shoot.

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

"There are so many to chose from!" Melanie laughed as we flipped through the racks of wedding dresses. We were in our fifth wedding boutique of the day and my feet were beginning to hurt.

"I know." I mindlessly held up a soft cream colored dress. "What do you think?"

"Cream? No way." She wrinkled her nose and looked away. "How about this?" She held another dress up.

"Ugh." I laughed. "Can you say little bo peep?"

"Oh come on, it’s not that bad." She laughed as she hung it back on the rack.

"Yes it is." I dug around for another couple of minutes before coming across a truly hideous froofie taffeta and lace gown. "Oh Melly Mel, I think we have a winner." I held the pale pink dress up for her to see.

"Oh I would just die." She laughed. "Come on Gracie, be serious."

"Okay okay." I sighed and walked over to another rack of dresses and began to slowly flip through them.

We suggested a couple different dresses, and chose a couple that were possibilities, then headed for the headpieces, which was going to be the hard part.

"So are you going to wear your hair up or down?"

"I haven’t decided."

"Well if I had a say, I’d say up."

"You think?"

"Yeah."

"Hmm. You know… I still can’t believe it’s me, I get to walk down that aisle and promise to love someone for the rest of my life. I mean, I never thought I was the marrying kind."

"Nah, I knew you were, you just had to find your Prince Charming."

"I don’t know if I’d call him a prince, or charming for that matter." We laughed and flipped through the pages of a wedding magazine to check out hairstyles.

"He’s pretty charming."

"Yeah right. Until he burps in bed or tracks water all over the bathroom after a shower. That’s real charming."

"Yeah well, I wouldn’t know about that." We rolled our eyes at each other and laughed.

"That’s right, you have a real prince."

I held up a simple off white headband with tiny pearls sewn across the top, "You're going to make a beautiful bride Gracie." Mel smiled at me with tears in her eyes.

"Thank you." I said softly, as I looked down at my left hand and smiled at the antique eternity band Chris had proposed with last Christmas. He really was my Prince Charming.

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

"I’ve never been more nervous in my entire life." Chris said with a shaky voice as he stood at the front of the church. His stomach, though empty, was doing cartwheels.

"Not even when we were suspended over the audience?" JC asked quietly with a smile.

"Dude, not even when you guys made me go up to the top of the Stratosphere in Vegas." Chris didn’t even crack a smile, and the others could see the flash of fear in his eyes.

"Don’t sweat it man, this’ll all be over soon." Justin patted his friend on the shoulder.

"Not soon enough." Chris said under his breath.

"It’s too late to back out now." Joey joked.

"I don’t want to back out." Chris snapped at him. "I just… I only want this to be over. I swear I’m gonna throw up."

‘Well then it’s a good thing you haven’t eaten anything today." Lance chimed in.

"For reals guys, shut up." Chris scratched behind his ear for the fiftieth time that morning, then nervously glanced toward the back of the church.

"Relax Chris." JC placed his hands on Chris’s shoulder and massaged them quickly, as if Chris was a prizefighter.

"You doing okay?" Mel asked as she leaned forward in the pew.

"Huh? Yeah." Chris nodded and licked his lips.

"She’ll be here in just a couple minutes." Melanie gave Chris a reassuring smile.

"How… how is she?" Chris whispered.

"If it’s possible, she’s even more nervous than you are." Mel smiled.

"Impossible." Chris shook his head and allowed a small smile to creep onto his lips. The smile faded quickly as his heart leapt into his throat. The music had started.

"I do (instrumental)" by 98 Degrees played softly in the back ground as the doors at the end of the church opened and I stepped into the doorway. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as I took that first step, the hardest step. It took all of my self-control to not run to the front of the church, shout "I DO", grab Chris and run back out. I did not want to stand in front of everybody. And I do mean everybody. All of my friends from LA had flown out to Orlando for the wedding, along with my family, Chris’s family, all of the guys with their families. A handful of celebrity friends, producers, bodyguards and managers filled in the spaces between families.

It blew my mind to look into the audience and see my mother standing at the front of the church, only four rows in front of Britney Spears and her latest beau, Nick Carter. A Backstreet Boy was actually there. There was just something so wrong with that whole picture.

I held my bouquet of miniature roses with shaking hands as I reached up and tucked a stray hair behind my ear. Mel had won, I was wearing my hair up. I quickly ran my hand down the embroidered front of my dress, making sure everything was in place and as it should be. Dave stood by my side with his fingertips resting on my elbow, just to let me know he was there. I smiled at him quickly as we slowly walked towards the front of the church. I tried not to look at Chris, which was hard, but I knew that once I looked at him I’d lose what little composure I had. I smiled at Joey and JC, the only two looking in my direction. Justin and Lance were otherwise occupied. Justin was feeling his pocket (for the ring no doubt) and Lance was running his fingers through his hair.

Melanie gave me a quick thumbs up which amazingly set my nerves at ease. I took another deep breath as we neared Chris, I was going to have to look now. I watched my step as Dave and I walked up the aisle, then looked up directly into Chris’s eyes. He looked as nervous as I felt. Dave handed me off to Chris and as soon as his hand clasped mine, I knew it would all be over soon. Chris caught my eye and laughed nervously. He gave my hand a squeeze as we walked the remaining 5 feet to where the pastor stood.

I took a deep breath and let it out shakily with a wobbly smile. Come on Gracie, hold it together for just another 20 minutes. That’s all, 20 minutes.

"You okay?" Chris whispered.

I nodded quickly and heard myself say, "Don’t make me cry you’ll ruin my make up."

"Sorry." He whispered again as he laughed quietly, squeezing my hand for the second time. "I’ll shut up now."

"Thank you." I laughed softly and met his eye. "I love you." I mouthed.

"I love you too." He mouthed back.

 

The ceremony passed like an off white blur before my eyes, and before I knew it Chris was sliding the ring on my finger, promising to love, cherish and honor me for all the days of his life. I made him the same promise and placed the ring on his finger. It was hard to believe that was all we had to do to be bound together for the rest of our lives. The rest of our lives… wow… can you imagine that?? I can…

 

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