24 Hours -- Part One


The thing I hate most about New York City isn't the traffic or the cold weather or even the blunt attitudes of the people that live there.  The worst part of New York City is the fact that my damn fifty dollar travel alarm clock never works within the city limits.  I've been in all the five boroughs and I swear that in the seven years that I've been working, my alarm has gone off maybe once on it's own, and that didn't count because I'd accidentally set it for five pm instead of five am.

It isn't any kind of extra-terrestrial encounter and I'm not crazy thinking that there are fairies that are turning it off in the morning before I do.  It actually has to do with the fact that my assistant thinks that three fifty eight in the morning is actually four in the morning.  I should have learned by now that the sound of her, technically breaking into my room in the morning, happens just before four, but since I've been out of New York for almost six months on vacation, away from her, the scratching noise of the key and the beep of the automatic lock opening startles me out of a deep sleep enough to make me sit up in my bed and stare at the doorway.

Despite my sad attempt to prop myself up enough to defend my domain, it's the light switching on in the hallway near the front door of the suite, the one that is oh so conveniently placed to shine right in my eyes, that defeats me instantly.  Before she even enters the room to wake me up with a shake to my right shoulder--she knows that my left arm is always tucked underneath me--I hear her silkily sweet and overly sarcastic New York accent break the silence in the room, "Morning Mr. Timberlake."

"Fuck off."  My voice betrays the control I normally have on it and I find myself falling to lay on my back and stare at the ceiling as her feet pad across the carpet to the side of the bed.  The sound is muted so I know that she's wearing the white and navy striped Adidas shell toes that she always buys when I hit Footlocker.  I end up clearing the store of every pair of shoes in my size and she continuously buys the same little pair, and only one of them.  I bet they're just as white as they were the day that she bought them.  Sometimes I picture her sitting at home and wiping them down with a diaper to keep them in pristine shape.

If only that could be done for the rest of her personality.

The woman grates on my last nerve.  Just her being in the room sometimes can set me into a tirade, which of course no one wants to see, so she's learned to dodge the bullets that I've thrown her way.  I always make it up to her, I sent her on a vacation to the Bahamas last year, or at least I thought she'd like to be in the Bahamas with me, but I guess even the all expenses paid half business trip wasn't enough to satisfy her.

She scowled the whole time.  It must have been a record, seven days straight without a word to me or any other expression but a frown.  I guess I could fire her, since she seems to be a thorn in my side,  but she's the only person in my life who actually doesn't ask about what's on my mind and doesn't seem to care if I scream at her for being too involved in things and scream at her again when she's not involved enough.

"Hmm," she muses.  I don't have to look at her to know that she's giving me the finger at the moment.  Normally I know her behavior without looking, but this time I can actually see the shadow on the bedspread, the one that she clearly doesn't see, as she asks in a calm tone, "Is that Southern for good morning?"

Why the hell does she have to be so freaking awake in the morning?

Does she do this on purpose to piss me off or does she piss everyone off like this?

"Come on," she finally gets out with a grating tone that only comes when I throw a five year old's fit.  That reminds me.  I should thank Steven for the tips he's given me.  The two of us have worked up quite a routine that seems to work about eighty percent of the time.  "Get up.  You've got too much going on today to start the day off this way."

I don't move.

I can't move.

My whole body protests and the three hour time change chooses that moment to kick in.  I hate mornings.  I hate flying from California to New York.  Mornings never suck this bad when I fly back from New York to Los Angeles.  "I'm awake."

"Sure you are."  Her hands grip the blankets that are still over my legs.  Her fingers brush my leg as she curls her hand into the blanket to pull it away from me.  I can feel the slight jump as her hand touches me and I wonder for a moment if she has a crush on me.  I guess I need to hit Tennessee again.  Mom always says that if I start to get an ego that I need to come home to her and she'll be the ego out of me.  She's only done it once and I still remember the way my ears hurt after she yelled at me.

I sit up straight in bed and it startles her and she moves back a little.  "I'm up."

The tug of war begins.

"Come on Justin.  I don't have time for this shit."

She never swears.  I've heard her say all the variations of swear words into her phone, but she's never vented anything like that at me before.  "Shit?"  I sit up and look at her with wide eyes.  I over exaggerate, the face that everyone always laughs at when I'm on TRL, comes out.  I can see that it doesn't impress her, but I use it anyway.

"Yes."  She pulls off her backpack and drops it onto the floor, kicks out of her shoes and climbs on the bed.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going to jump on this bed--"  She starts hopping up and down, the green turtle neck and jeans separating enough for him to see her stomach.  The last time I saw her stomach was in the Bahamas.  She'd been lying out on the beach and I'd seen her for a few moments before she realized it was me standing there.  I don't know what the deal is with her, but I almost think that she's afraid of me sometimes.  She shies away from me most of the time and would rather punch my shoulder rather than put a flat palm on me.  It's definitely a defense move.  "--I'm going to jump until you get your ass out of bed and get into the shower so that we can get to z100 on time this morning."

The bouncing motion makes my head hurt.  I try to remember if I've eaten lately just to make sure that I don't puke on her or the bed.  I grab for her leg to stop her, but she kicks at my hand and ends up cracking my knuckle with her toes.

"Mother fucker!" I yelp and pull my hand back.  I probably sound like a pussy for screaming like a girl like that, but I really don't care.  She won't call me a name.  She knows better than to try that.  Instead the yelp causes her to stop jumping and I get my way.  It doesn't hurt that bad, but I want to punish her a little with a guilt trip so that she'll leave me alone.  "My fucking hand!"

Instead of doing what everyone else would have done, speed dialed an ambulance, she just sighed and gave me this totally uncalled for look before she reached for my hand to pull it over to her.  "Oh stop you big baby."  When I wouldn't let her get a hold on my hand, she flops down and sat next to me, making herself at home like she owns the place.  "You know you're not hurt.  I've seen you break your thumb twice and you never sounded that weak when you screamed."

"Witch," he said.

"Excuse me?"

"I said WITCH," he said, "Because despite your low ass opinion of me I would never disrespect a lady, or whatever you are--"  I quickly slide out of bed and walk towards the bathroom still holding my hand.  She's right about it not hurting that bad, but I'm never one to admit that I'm wrong so I close the door, shutting out her and the rest of the world for at least twenty minutes of hot water therapy.

How pathetic is it that the only time of the day that I'm alone is when I escape into the bathroom at the hotel?  Sometimes that doesn't even happen.  I would say that I'm alone whenever I take a piss, but it seems like even there people are either waiting on me or freaking standing next to me.  Do you know how uncomfortable it is to have some random guy in the fucking bathroom staring at you?  I mean I'm not one to hide myself, but it sucks to have some old man business suit guy looking at you and asking for an autograph for his daughter and her cousin?  It happens on a daily basis.  I wake up in the morning wondering how many times a day someone can ask me for an autograph in a strange place.  My official record is twenty seven times, thirteen of those came when I was pissing at clubs in Miami on vacation.

^V^V^V^V^

"JUSTIN!"

I turn my head and listen.  The sound of the shower is the sweetest sound of my day.  It's the only sound I can hear for fifteen minutes.  At least on most days, it's the only sound that I hear.  Now I get paranoid.  It sucks to always think that someone is calling your name.  That's another thing that isn't cool about New York.  I can't go anywhere without hearing someone want something from me.

"JUSTIN!"

Finally I turn towards the door and put my hands on my hips before wiping soap out of my eyes before I yell into the empty room.  "WHAT THE HELL!  I'm in the shower!"

Her voice is still on the other side of the door, but his words are completely clear.  "Your brother is on the phone!"

I should instantly worry, but before I do I try to calculate in my head where I am versus where they are and I'm stumped as to why either of them would be calling me this early.  I know they don't head for school until around eight and they have no business being up at  this hour.  I wipe a hand cupped with water over my face and turn off the water.  "Which one?"

"Jonathan," she tells me through the door as the sound of the shower being off is letting her talk in a normal tone.

Before I leave the shower I do what I've done for the last few years.  I shake my head.  Normally this would throw water all over the walls, but since I cut my curls off, all this does is make me dizzy, something that I still can't remember until after I'm leaning against the wall being dizzy every morning.  I push the door of the shower stall open.  It clicks and slams against the wall and for a moment I have visions of Vivian running into the room thinking I'm hurt or something.

When it doesn't happen, I pull the towel from the wall and cover myself and step out of the shower.  I can hear a million people screaming at me from miles away telling me to be careful with bare wet feet on a marble floor--the loudest voices coming from my lawyer and my mother--but I ignore the warnings in my head as I walk across the room towards the door.

I crack it open and stand behind the door.  "What does he want?"  My voice is quiet trying not to let him hear that I'm asking.  I love my brother, but sometimes he calls for the dumbest reasons.

"He wants to talk to you," she explains.

She's nervous.  There are so many ways to tell, I wonder sometimes if she realizes that she gives it away so easily.  I love the way she stares at me without even blinking as if I might think that her eyelids blinking might really her looking at me.  She's done that a few times.  I've always wanted to say something to her about it, but I figure he'd more likely smack me a press sexual harassment charges against me before she'd maybe think that I might be actually just flirting with her and actually enjoy my company.

I take the phone from her hand and smile as she rolls her eyes at me.  I try not to wink.  I would if it wasn't her, but since it is her, I smile and take a breath before putting the phone to my head.  "Hello?" I say into the phone then grab another towel and rub my head off as I wait for my brother to answer.  Praise the Lord for Trace's dumb ass idea to shave my head.  I hated those curls; the buzz cut is definitely better.

My brother's seven year old voice comes through the phone with a hyper nature that even amazes me sometimes.  "Hi."

"Hi Jon," I say trying to hold my temper.  I love the kid, but sometimes he calls at the wrong times.  He knows that I have shit to do at this time of the morning and it seems dumb that he'd call me knowing that I have places to be.  "What's up buddy?"

"Guess what?" he asked.

"What?" I say and look at myself in the mirror.  I vow to pack my electric razor in my backpack and forgo shaving until later on in the day.  Being what mom calls mountain man fits the mood of the day.

"I made the basketball team."  His words pull me back to the present.  His voice raised a little in his excitement.  I think for a moment that Daddy and Lisa probably don't even know that Jonathan is on the phone.  Daddy doesn't get up until at least seven and Lisa wouldn't be up until after that and he knows that he's not allowed to call me unless they know he's doing it.  He tried to call Japan once a few months ago.  I got a message from him then one from Daddy telling me that I needed to tell Jonathan to ask permission before he calls, not that I don't want to talk to him, but that Daddy and Lisa want to know so they can expect the extra charge on the phone bill.

"School?" I ask trying to remember.  I've got so much on my brain lately that it's hard enough to remember what I'm doing and have done in the last few days, let alone keep track of them.  Thank God for Lisa's weekly emails.  She tells me about Nana and Papa and the boys and keeps me up to date with Daddy's projects.

"No," he says with sarcasm.  "I made the church team."

I lean against the counter and it's when I turn around that I see her still standing in the doorway.  I glare at her for a moment and turn away from her.  "Really?"

"Yep."

He sounds so proud and it only made me feel worse about spending my vacation away from Tennessee instead of going home to see Nana and Papa and my parents. "I called to tell you so I didn't call in a meeting."

I sigh remembering the last time he called me during a meeting.  I made the mistake of answering the call thinking it was mom and spent ten minutes trying to calm him down when he broke his remote control car.  It definitely wasn't something that impressed the JIVE executives.

"Well," I turn and look at the shower.  "I'm glad that you made the team buddy.  I hate to run off, but I need to get to work.  I'll call you later on today after school gets out and you can tell me more about your team."

"When are you coming home?" he asks with a slight whine.

"Soon," I say, not sure that I'm going to be home.  I know that it's written down somewhere, but I'm not in the mood to go search it down.  "I'll make sure that I get to come home for at least a night or two and we'll get Daddy to pull out the tent and we'll go camping."

"Can we not have Steven come?" he asks.

"Why don't you want Steven with us?" I ask.

"Because he's a baby," Jonathan says.

I smile at the thought of the two of them in the tent with me.  We never actually go out into the woods.  Usually we go out into the side-yard at Nana and Papa's and sit the tent underneath the light in the yard.  It's great for the two of them, but for me sleeping under a streetlight really isn't the best rest that I've ever gotten.

"I'll talk to you about it later Jon.  I've gotta get a shower and get to the radio station."

"Will you say hi to me?" he asked

"On the radio?" I ask knowing that he's out of state and will never hear it.

"Yeah," he says.

"Sure," I say.  "Sure I'll say hi to you.  I tell everyone to watch out for your basketball team too."

"Ok."  His voice gets soft.  I hate this part of our conversations.  He never likes to say goodbye and I've heard from Daddy and Lisa that even if we have a great conversation and I'm gonna see him soon, he still cries when he hangs up the phone.

"I'll talk to you later on today.  Have fun at school and tell everyone that I love them."

"I love you too," he says.

"I know buddy."  I look towards the door and am glad to see that she's disappeared.  I never know what she does when I'm working.  I go into interviews and she disappears and comes back with a new list of things for me to do.  "I love you too."

"Bye."

"Bye," I say with a heavy heart.  I don't usually like to get depressed about stuff like this, but hearing him so excited about something and me not having time to talk to him really hurts.

When I look up she's standing in the doorway.  "Do you want me to schedule you some time to call him back?" she asks reading my mind.

I look at the shower then back at her.  "Do I have time?"

"I'll make sure that the phone interviews get moved away from dinner."  She's holding her hand out so I put the phone in her hand as she continues.  "I call Lisa and tell her that you'll call the boys and them around four when we're driving to Philly."

My eyebrows raise and my shoulders slump.  "Philly?"

"Yeah," she said, "We're going to be going to Philly for a quick interview."

I turn away from her and walk back towards the shower.  "What the hell?"

She sighed.  "You knew that you'd be in for a good few days of pushing it."  I hate that 'I told you so' attitude she gives me every once in a while.

"I know," I say.  "I'll be ready to hit the road in twenty."

"You've got fifteen Justin," she says.  "That's if I tell the car to wait for you."

"You do that Vivian," I say as I pull the shower door open and step back inside to wash off.


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