I pretend I'm glad you went away
These four walls closing more everyday
And I'm dying inside
And nobody knows it but me

Justin answered the interviewers question numbly, and tried not to think of Isabelle.  "No, I uh… I'm not seeing anyone."  He said softly.

            "He was… but not anymore."  JC laughed from behind him.  Justin cringed inwardly and prayed for a commercial break.

            "Awww, a recent break up?"  The interviewer asked, having no idea just how much this was killing him.  Justin kept quiet and concentrated on Joey's red shoelaces.

            "Yeah, he's been cranky for about a week, we think she dumped him."  Lance added from Justins left.

            "Wouldn't blame her, he snores ya know."  Chris whispered loudly as the others laughed.  Justin plastered a fake smile on his lips and looked desperately for a bathroom.  He was feeling claustrophobic standing this close to his friends.  His friends who had no idea.

            "I'll be right back."  Justin said quickly as he ducked between Joey and Lance.  He crossed the courtyard full of other interviewers and film crews and pulled open the front door of the Shrine Auditorium.  "Where's the bathroom?"  He asked quickly, not trusting his voice completely.

            "Um, there behind you, but the auditorium isn't open for another hour."  The kid in the tux said nervously.

            "It's okay."  Justin's bottom lip quivered as he pulled the door to the mens room open and stepped in.  He glanced around quickly and saw no one.  "Shit shit shit."  He whispered as the tears he'd been holding back all morning overflowed.  "Shit!"  He slid down the wall and sat with his knees pressed against his chest and cried quietly in the corner.  "Get your shit together J, you've gotta perform in an hour.  One hour.  Come on."  Justin talked to himself as his shoulders shook.

            But how was he supposed to perform?  To sing from his heart when his heart was dead.  How could he stand up there and sing about making promises and being everything in the world, when he could never really say the words?  He had felt it.  But nobody knew it but him.



Like a clown, I put on a show
The pain is real even if nobody knows
And I'm crying inside
And nobody knows it but me



"She was my once in a lifetime…"  Justin sang softly as he leaned against the barstool set at center stage.  "Happy ending come true…"  Come on Justin hold it together… you're almost done… 

            He sang the lyrics without hearing them and tried to hide the true emotions he was feeling, knowing that the critics would say he seemed particularly in love with the song that night, that the feelings had shown through.

            They couldn't possibly know how he was barely keeping it together.  It had been a week.  One week.  Seven days.  One hundred and sixty-eight hours.  Ten thousand and eighty minutes.  One week that felt like a lifetime.

            One week ago that afternoon, Isabelle left him.  The same Isabelle that had tried out for their first tour as a dancer and was laughed off the stage when she auditioned to "Control" by Janet Jackson.  The same Isabelle that would never make it as a professional dancer because she lacked the skill, though certainly not the desire.  The same Isabelle that had immediately captured Justins heart at the audition, and then robbed him of it two years later when they met up again at a dance studio where she was the receptionist.

            The same Isabelle that the guys knew nothing about.  Justins secret romance, secret girlfriend, secret love… the one that no one could know about.  It wasn't against the rules per se, but it was greatly frowned upon on Justin's end.  He found it easier to just keep it quiet, and deny a relationship.  He'd never kept anything from his "brothers", until Isabelle.


            "Oooooooh I thought… that… she… knew…"  Justin crooned the final note softly as his hand began to shake.  Just get me off the stage; get me out of here.  He held his tears in so long he felt he would drown for sure.  And nobody knew it but him.


Why didn't I say
The things I needed to say
How could I let my angel get away
Now my world is tumbling down
I can say it so clearly
But you're nowhere around



            "Justin, are you alright?"  JC asked as they piled into the van that night.

            "I'm fine."  Justin smiled brightly showing all of his front teeth.  The façade was getting easier and easier for him.

            "You sure?"

            "Yeah, I'm sure."  Justin said as he shoved Chris out of the way,  "I'd be better though if this smelly old geezer would move his filthy feet off my seat."  Justin laughed, but to him it sounded hollow. 

            "You'd tell us if something was wrong, wouldn't you?"  JC asked, not letting it drop.

"Yeah I'd tell you, jeez JC, nothing's wrong."  Justin rolled his eyes and elicited a tight smile before wadding up his jacket and shoving it between the window and his head,  "What time is it?"

            "It's only like… ten."  Lance said from the back seat.

            "Man… I'm beat."  Justin faked an exaggerated yawn and closed his eyes.  If they thought he was asleep, maybe they'd leave him alone.


            Justin dozed off and dreamt the same dream he'd had for the past six nights.  It didn't matter if he slept for 6 hours or six minutes; the same dream crept into his mind.  In it he sat Isabelle down… he told her everything his heart had been screaming for him to say with his words.  He'd could sing her the songs, write her the sonnets, materialize his feelings in pencil, but never… never in the words she needed to hear.

            Each time the dream ended the same way, Justin would open his mouth to shout from the hilltops, to proclaim his love for Isabelle, and then he would fall.  He would tumble down the dirt and brush covered hillside, hoping he would never stop.


            Justin jerked awake with a startled gasp and scared Lance out of his glazed over trans.  "What?  What?  Are you okay?"  Lance asked quickly.

            "Justin what is it?"  JC asked.  The van stopped in front of their hotel, only yards from masses of screaming fans waiting to see his smile.

            "N-nothing."  Justin stuttered as his throat tightened.  A part of him wanted to lock everyone in the van with him, to tell them all about Isabelle.  How they met, who she was, how he loved her, and how she left him.  But he couldn't… he couldn't do that to himself.



I carry a smile when I'm broken in two
And I'm nobody without someone like you
I'm trembling at night and
Nobody knows it but me


            Justin pulled himself to his room after spending a half hour posing for photos with his adoring fans.  Smiling and laughing, letting everyone believe he was okay.  He had to keep them believing that, because if they could glimpse the pain he felt inside, the fear of falling, the emptiness… they would never see him the same again.  And that couldn't happen.  Not to him.  Not to Justin Timberlake.

            Justin stood in his room alone staring at the king sized bed tucked neatly against the far wall, facing the giant glass door that lead to the private balcony.  He bent to untie his shoes through tear fogged eyes, then curled up on the bed and held the pillow to his chest. 

            Nighttime was when he missed her the most, not because they spent so many nights together, but because of the countless midnight hours they'd spend on the phone.  His world was too hectic, too unpredictable to be able to see her as often as he would have liked.  The phone held them together.


He stared at the phone on the nightstand beside his bed.  Every hotel had the same phones, the same bed spreads, the same everything.  One week ago he had held the hotel phone so tight it broke in his hand.  It would have hurt if he could have felt any pain, but at that moment he felt nothing.


            His Isabelle was dead.  And nobody knew it but him.



I lie awake it's a quarter past three
I'm screaming at night as if
I thought you'd hear me
Yeah my heart is calling you
And nobody knows it but me



            Justin lay awake staring at the phone, willing it to ring.  Praying Isabelles sister would call again, to tell him it was all a mistake, that there had been no accident, no icy road, no oncoming traffic.  But the phone remained silent as the minutes slipped away into the morning.

            In his mind he rehearsed every word he would say if he could have the chance again.  He would tell her, in the softest sweetest voice that he loved her.  He would tell her that no matter what he would always be right there by her side.  He would stroke her hair as she laughed at him and told him to stop being such a softy, he would insist that she listen as he told her again and again that he loved her.

            "Listen to me Belle, listen.  You can hear me, I know you can.  You have to.  You have to hear me Isabelle.  I love you."  Justin paused as his shoulders began to shake softly against the headboard,  "I love you, I love you, I love-"  He stopped as sobs shook his body.

            In his mind he screamed the words at the top of his voice.  They echoed in his hears and trembled in his heart.  And nobody knew it but him.



How blue can you get?
You could ask my heart
But like a jigsaw puzzle
It's been torn all apart
A million words couldn't say
Just how I feel
A million years from now you know
I'll be loving you still


            "Justin?  Do you think you could get a little more depressed?  You're bringing the perpetually peppy Chris down."  JC smiled and draped his arm over Justins shoulders.  "You okay?"

            "Yeah."  Justin pulled his smile from its hiding place and plastered it across his face.  "No JC, the one person who I loved with all of my little selfish and stupid heart died last week and I'm not okay with that."  Justin wanted to say.

            "Because you seem a little down.  A lot down, actually."  JC frowned.

            "Nah, I'm cool.  Just tired you know?"  Justin said through his clenched teeth.  He shoved his hands in his pockets and bumped shoulder with JC.  "So uh, we're going to the game tonight, right?  Lakers take on the Clippers?"  Justin tried to perk up, and hoped he'd be okay for just the few hours he'd be out tonight.

            "Um, yeah.  Yeah, we're on."  JC nodded and patted Justins back.  "Let me know if you need anything."

            "It's good."  Justin nodded and headed over to where they were setting up tables for the buffet in the ballroom of the hotel.  "Hey, need some help?"  Justin offered, keeping busy kept his mind from wandering too far from his body.

            "Oh!"  The girl looked up quickly and blushed,  "No uh, no… you don't have to help set up, this is just…"  She waved her arm at the tables,  "You know…"

            "I don't mind."  Justin said quickly as he reached for one of the many tablecloths stacked up on one of the chairs.  He nodded at the tables,  "They just go on there?"

            "Um, yeah, but really… you don't ha-"  The girl started.

            "I want to."  Justin unfolded the tablecloth and draped it over the first table.  He focused intently on his task, but soon realized that without someone talking to him… his mind wandered anyway.


            He caught himself thinking about Isabelle again, and how he should just tell the guys what was going on.  They would understand why he was not himself, he knew they would.  That wasn't the point.  The point was that they wouldn't understand why he hadn't said anything for the last 14 months about having a girlfriend.  More than a girlfriend, having found the one… the mythical "one" that everyone is searching for.  They should have been the first to know, but rather than put himself in the spotlight and expose Isabelle to the rumors and media slaps that were sure to come, he kept it quiet. 

            He was startled back to reality as a glass shattered at his feet.  He jumped back and reached to steady himself with the table.  The young lady apologized profusely and turned a deep crimson red as she stooped to pick up the big pieces.  Justin watched with interest as she collected the grabable pieces of glass, and left the smaller pieces on the floor. 

            Justin related to the glass, in an odd and twisted way.  He was like the tiny shards of glass left behind, while the bigger pieces were carted away.  And no matter what happened, the glass, like Justin, would never be put back the same.

            And now he mourned by himself.  Because nobody knew it but him.



Tomorrow morning I'm hitting
The dusty road
Gonna find you wherever
Ever you might go
I'm gonna unload my heart and hope
You come back to me


            Justin made it through the day and the game that night without mishap, though he wasn't really there.  The others said nothing as Justin walked quickly into the hotel and took an elevator alone, to the eighteenth floor.

            He shut the door tightly behind him and leaned against the door,  "I need to stop this.  I need to stop acting like this."  He said to himself through gritted teeth.  But it wouldn't stop.  Not until he found a way to let Isabelle know how he felt.  Not until the others knew just what was going on with him.


            He crossed the room quickly and snatched up the hotel stationery and pen, and sat at the table.  He began the letters many times each until he was satisfied with what was said.

Justin wrote all the words he couldn't say down in a letter to Isabelle.  He knew she would never read them, but he hoped somehow she would know that they were there, and that he meant every last one of them.  His tears stained the pale yellow paper as he spent one more night alone and curled up with a pillow… all the while, staring at the phone.


            As the sun rose over Los Angeles, Justin crawled out of bed and pulled his shoes on over his bare feet.  He couldn't go on missing her like this.

            Justin took the crinkled letter out from under the pillow and tucked it in his back pocket, then snuck out of his hotel room and down the hall to the stairs.  He took them two at a time to the ground floor, then ducked out of the hotel and onto the street. 

            He walked aimlessly for a while as the sky turned pink, not too sure where he needed to go.  Justin began up the windy hill into the residential area and didn't stop until he came to an old look out above Hollywood.  He stood at the top of the stairs and squinted into the sun as the wind picked up around him, tossing his hair into his eyes.

            Justin climbed onto the thick stone railing and took the letter from his back pocket.  He silently read the words over to himself and began to cry.  She would be able to hear them from up here, wouldn't she?  He took a deep breath and shouted the words from his podium hundreds of feet above the city.

            When he was through, he tore the letter in half and sent the pages off with the wind and stopped missing her.  He had stopped his pain.  And nobody knew it but him.



Copyright © 2001, Sparkling Green

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