24 Hours -- 10


"What does Dave want to see me about anyway?" I ask as we load into the elevator.  I take my hat off and rub my hand over my head and close my eyes for a moment before I reach into my bag and pull out a piece of Juicy Fruit and pass one to Tiny then offer the pack to Vivian.

She nods her head that she doesn't want a piece then gives me an evil look.

"I'll spit it out when I get upstairs," I say immediately knowing how many times I've gotten in trouble with PR about chewing gum during interviews.  "So what's--" I chew for a moment as I throw the pack back into my bag and shove the gum wrapper in my jeans pocket.  "--what's with this meeting with Dave?  I didn't get into trouble did I?"

Vivian nodded no to my guess.  "He didn't say, but I have a feeling that he's gonna throw another interview at you.  There is time, but it's up to you to add to the schedule for the day."

"Yeah," I say, "Sure, tell them no and have hell come down on me from Sonia."  I know that if Jive heard that I passed up an interview I'd get completely knocked for it later.  Basically I have a choice in the matter, but it's more to say yes with a smile instead of protest.  Either way it's gonna get done.  I know it and they know it and it just makes life miserable.  I think that's why so many people hate the industry.  You don't live your life.  You live a schedule and there isn't much room for change when so many people are depending on exposing an artist the right way.

"Justin don't make a scene," she says, "He's the one that got you the stage time outside and was pushing for the launch footage to be on."

"I know how to behave," I snap at her.  I hate when people assume that I need to be told how to act.  I've been doing this for almost ten years now and people assume that I'm going to mess things up for myself.  Considering what I've done with the group and what I've started to do already on my own, it really pisses me off that people think I can't handle myself.

Tiny gives me a grunt that tells me to shut up so I don't say another word.

Suddenly the elevator decides to get us to our floor sooner than I expect.  I swear the elevator stands still when I need to get someplace and when I don't need to get somewhere it gets me there too quickly.

Dave Surilick or however you freaking say it or spell it or spit it as the case may be, stays on one of the upper floors.  I've been to his office only one other time when we first brought my new album to the station.  We've been on every other floor, but the Executive Floor is one that is kind of off-limits to artists unless you're invited.  Everywhere else in the building is basically a free-for-all.

"Justin."  Dave is standing near the reception desk of the floor with a folder in his hand.  He normally wears collared shirts and slacks, but today he's got a tie on too which screams out to me that I'm in trouble.

I swallow my gum instantly and take a deep breath.  "Hello Mr.--"

"Dave, Justin."  He smiles at me and calms my nerves a bit, but he doesn't reach to take off his tie so I keep my formal attitude with him.  "Just call me Dave."

Moments later I feel arms come around me from behind and I hear a squeal.  I pray that it's not me that screamed out.  I don't usually have people grab at me like that thanks to security, but when they do it scares the crap out of me and seriously I think one day I'll have a heart attack if someone really grabs onto me.  When I was in San Diego last year with the group and that girl got on the catwalk I nearly peed my pants because I was so scared.  She wasn't the issue, it was what reaction I thought Tiny and the guys would have to her and I thought I might get knocked into the crowd when they got up there.  I flip around and about to push the person on me when I realize who it is.  "Jamie Lynn?"

"Justin," she says.

I lean and pick her up.  She's what, twelve or eleven now, but still weighs like two pounds as I hug her.  "What are you doing here?"

"Mamma and Sissy wanted to go shopping--"  She speaks with a thick southern accent that soothes me but at the same time sets me on edge because I know what other voice is to follow hers.  As much as I wanted to speak to HER earlier, now I don't want to see her.  I especially don't want to see her now.  "--so we stopped by to say hi to some people."

"I'm glad I got to see you."  I turn and look at Dave.  "This is Britney's little sister Jamie Lynn."

"Nice to meet you," Dave says and looks over my shoulder.  Somehow he gives a nod as if to warn me that Britney is right there behind me.  I close my eyes and know as soon as I open them I'll see her face.  I've had dreams like that, but this time the image of her in front of me isn't a dream.  It's probably the worst nightmare I could stand to see at the moment.

To my surprise I see Vivian's face when I open my eyes.  "Hi Jamie Lynn," her voice is sugary sweet and defensive.

"Hi Vivian," she says and hugs onto my neck.

Vivian smiles at me.  "How are you?"

"Good," Jamie Lynn answers.

"Jamie Lynn."  The voice from behinds me sets me on edge and I slowly turn around and find Britney, Fi, and Britney's mother standing near the elevator behind me.  They must have come down another hall to get behind me and me not see them.

"Hello Justin," Lynne says.  She has sunglasses perched on her nose and I can see some annimosity in her eyes.  Britney must have lied about the true reasons for us breaking up.  I know Lynne will take her side, but she isn't about to cause a scene in the middle of MTV for the world to see.  She at least has a little bit of class when it comes to handling things like this.

"Hi Mrs. Spears," I say and keep my eyes off Britney as we stand there in the hallway.

"Justin," Vivian says with a warning tone.  "Dave is waiting and we really do need to meet with him for a minute."

"Take your time," Dave says and walks towards his office, "You know where it is, don't you?"

"Yes," Vivian says to him.  "We'll be down there in a minute."

I set Jamie Lynn on her feet again, but she holds onto my hand for a moment and looks up at me with this bright bright smile as if she knows that the tension in the hallway is thick and she wants to make up for it.

"You can let her go now Justin," Britney says with a cool tone.

I finally look at her and my heart stops.  Not because it's been a few weeks since I've physically seen her and I'm still in love, but I've come to the conclusion that even if she said she was sorry and she begged for forgiveness I don't think that I could love her the way I did and that breaks my heart.  I thought that we'd be together for a long time, maybe not forever, but I always thought she'd be in my life and now she can't be.

"You already broke one of our hearts, you don't need to mash the other one's," Britney says.

"Britney Spears!" Her mother is shocked by her words, even though she knows what kind of pain we're both in.

"Well Britney who's heart are you really worried about Jamie's or your own"

"Vivian, stop."  I say and give her the eye.  "It's ok Mrs. Spears," I say.  "It's the reaction I expected from her."  I crouch down next to Jamie Lynn and look her in the eyes.  "You better go Squirt.  I don't want you to get in trouble."

Jamie Lynn hugs me and then turns back to her sister and walks the short distance between the two sides.

"Come on Justin we gotta go," Vivan says putting a hand on my arm.

"See Justin--"  Britney's voice is loud enough for me to hear, but not loud enough to be heard by anyone else.  "This is the reason we broke up."  She smirks at me.  "She was always there. She was always butting in. She destroyed us."

I turn and look at Vivian's face.  She turns away and starts to walk down the hall even if I know that she's really wanting to slap Britney.  She's never been a fan of her and at the moment I'm realizing some of the reasons why.

"No Britney."  I walk over to her then realize that Rob is there.  He steps between me and her and everyone looks tense.  "Vivan didn't cause us to break up. You caused us to break up when you decided to fuck Wade."  I keep my eyes on her and ignore the fact that her mother and her sister are standing there.  "You destroyed us all on your own Britney. Don't try to blame me or Vivian, or Wade, or fame or anything else on this."  I point at her.  "You made the decision to cheat on me. You are to blame."  I look her up and down.  "At least take some responsibility for something in your life.  There wasn't bad weather, there wasn't water on stage and you didn't have a cold that day."

I turn and leave her standing there knowing that this isn't the last I'll hear about it.  I've just brought up most of the lies she's told the general public in the last year.  If I don't get a lecture from Britney's mother later I'm sure I'll hear about it from Vivian and I'll probably get a screaming voicemail later from Britney herself coming up with a great comeback that she couldn't think of when I was standing there.

When I get to Dave’s office I find myself ignoring him.  I should be paying attention to how nice it is and speak to him when I come inside, but I don’t.  I’ve got other things on my brain and for once it’s not Britney that’s blocking out the rest of the world, but Vivian who has me worried.  I know that Britney is a bitch and I can handle her, but Vivian’s job doesn’t entail dealing with my ex-girlfriends on that kind of level.  I only catch a glimpse of him sitting at his desk looking over paperwork as I move across the office to where Vivian is sitting near the window and touch her shoulder since she’s looking at her palm pilot again.  “You ok?”

“Justin.”  The way she says my name is confusing.  At the beginning of the word she sounds like she’s about to fall into me for comfort, but at the end of the word she turns it into a groan as if I’m bothering her asking her how she is.  I don’t get her reaction to me most days, but today seems to be even worse.  Today everything she does is confusing.  Like in the car, her grabbing onto me as if I was gonna bolt from the car?  Was that because she didn’t want to deal with a fight or was there something else there.  I’m getting paranoid about the fact that she might like me.  I’m not sure if it would be a good thing or a bad thing.  I want to be with someone, but Vivian really shouldn’t be my choice woman.  She’s got too much going on right now handling my career and schedule to be putting a relationship in the mix.

I look her in the eyes.  I make sure to make eye contact with her because a few moments ago I thought she’d never look me in the eyes again.  What the hell happened to being mature?  I guess Britney hasn’t learned that life lesson yet.  I’m sure she’ll write a book on it when she figures it out.

“Are you ok?”

She nods in quick motions and keeps her eyes on me for only a second.  “Yes.”

I nod to her and turn towards Dave.  “Sorry about the delay.”  I take off my hat and run my hand over my hair.  “What was it that you wanted to talk to me about?”

“It wasn’t anything extreme,” he said, “I just wanted to offer you a spot on Making The Video for your next single.  I know that we’ve put you on the channel a lot lately, but I think that people really want to see you do the videos.”

“That’s it?”

“Justin!”  Vivian scolds me with her motherly voice when I don’t sound excited about the offer.

Dave laughs a little.

“I didn’t mean to sound disinterested,” I say.  I put my hat back on.  “I just thought I was in trouble or something.”  I try to show him that I’m really not a spoiled brat and that the idea of being on MTV again isn’t something that has become trivial to me.  “No offense, but coming up to this floor in my world is like going to the principal’s office.”

Dave laughs some more.  “Its the tie isn't it?"  He looks down.  "Sorry about that.  I had a meeting with the legal department earlier."  He smiles.  "I can imagine what it's like.  We’re kind of intimidating up here.”

“Well thanks,” I said, ‘I mean to whoever made the decision.”

“No trouble,” Dave said.

Vivian gets up from where she’s sitting and pulls my bag onto her shoulder.  I step the few feet between us and take the bag from her.  She looks me straight in the eyes for a moment.  “You ready to head down to tape the TRL stuff?”

I nod and pull my phone out as we start for the door.  Remembering that I should go and say good bye to Dave I walk to his desk where he’s reading over what looks to be like a contract.  I clear my throat and extend my hand.  “Thanks for the good news.”

“You’re welcome,” he says standing only long enough to shake my hand.  “Have fun downstairs.”

I nod.  “Always.”

When we get into the hallway Tiny falls in line with us as we wait for the elevator again.  I stand there watching Vivian try to avoid me.  She pulls out her phone and gets into a conversation so I pull out mine and check my messages.

When the metallic voice squeaks in my ear I hold the phone away for a moment then put it back to my ear.

“Hey JT!  It’s Paul.  Look.  I don’t know if you can make it because of the promotion crap, but Wendy just got a job with the Millington School District and we’re going to celebrate this weekend if you’re around.  Nothing big, just some dinner and dancing at Vick’s downtown if you’re going to be in town.”

“Shit,” I sigh when I hear the message.  Paul and Wendy have been my friends since grade school.  They along with Trace and a few others stayed friends with me when I moved to Orlando and while I’d like to be as involved in their lives as they seem to be in mine, I know that times like these are things that I’m destined to miss out on.  I have commitments all weekend long in LA for the record and I know that I can’t make it.

“What’s wrong?” Vivian asks touching my arm.

“Nothing,” I say, “Just remind me to call Paul and tell him that I can’t make it this weekend and remind me to send something to Wendy.  She got that teaching job she wanted in Millington.”

Vivian nods and pulls out her palm pilot.  “Do you want me to send something or do you want to pick it out?”

“I’ll find something later…I have to think of something.  Maybe I should get her a gift certificate to some teaching store.  What’s that one called?  The Red Apple Learning Center or something?  I remember my brother wanting to go there because they have good stickers or something.”

"I’ll check around and ask your mom—I mean Lisa--about it and see if she can think of something.”

"Thanks Vivian,” I say trying to be sweet.

"You’re welcome,” she says and cracks a smile as we get into the elevator.

The ride is quick this time and when we get back to the studio level floors Carson meets up with me again.  “You ready yet?”

“How much time do I have?”

Carson has changed shirts now and is pulling on a Pony brand jacket as he looks at his phone to find the time.  “I have a production meeting for 20 minutes if you want to hang out in the green room.”

“Green room,” Vivian says.  “Just in case production needs to find you and I’m sure Angel is going to come searching for you in a while to put some make up on you.”

“Green room it is,” I say.

Carson makes a motion as if to say that I’m whipped.  I push him into the wall and follow Vivian down the hall, turning back to my phone for a minute to check the rest of my messages.

“Hey you.  It’s me.  I was just gonna call and tell you that Los Angeles is lonely without you.  I can’t wait to get you back in town.  I miss you—“  I cut off the message and click to the next one.

“Alyssa?” Vivian asks as we move into the green room.  The green room in most places is usually a really small room.  MTV has a little bit of a bigger one that looks more like my mother’s living room then a waiting room.  It’s good deep brown leather couches and a coffee table and a tv that is playing the station as well as a table full of food in the corner.  Vivian grabs a water from the table then sits down on the couch.

I throw my backpack down onto the middle of the couch and sit down on the other side of it.  “Yeah,” I say, “How’d—“

She looks down at her little palm pilot again and I think she starts to play a game since she doesn’t normally hold it that way.  Her hair falls in her face and she pushes it out of the way glancing only for a moment at me.  Her expression is simple.  I mean there isn’t another way to describe it.  She looks like an innocent little kid just telling me the truth instead of trying to complicate things.  It’s a new look for her.  One she’s been giving me most of the day—One that I can’t figure out the reason for all of a sudden.  “You get a stressed look on your face when you get calls from her.”

I lean my head back against the couch and turn my head towards her a little.  It gives me a headache to look at her like this, out of the side of my eyes, but I don’t want to sit and face her and talk about this.  It would be too much like a counseling session…not that I know much about those, but it would seem like a formal conversation if I did that.  “I do?”

“It’s just my opinion,” she says, “I think you get stressed around her.”

I lean back and start to put my foot up.  Out of the corner of my eye Vivian freezes and stares at my foot.  “I do?”

“Yeah,” she says and shrugs.

“Justin.  It’s Momma,” she says, “I just want to call and tell you that I’m proud of you for dealing with those DJs the way you did this morning.  I listened to the broadcasts online with Paul.”

I sigh.

“Momma?” Vivian asks.

I nod and close my eyes for a minute.  I hate hearing from her during the day.  I know it's corny and all, but I don't need the distraction of her and home to be with me during the day.


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