24 Hours -- Fourteen

When we leave the building, Jonathan skips ahead a little.  I would normally have been worried about him, but when he catches up to Mike who is about to open the door across from D, I calm down. Steven, on the other hand,  insists that he hold onto my hand.  He's wearing a backpack that's probably big enough to pack himself into.  It's one of the ones that Nike sent me last Christmas time and since I had one like it for Jonathan for a present, he got the other one.  He only uses it when he comes to visit me, which comes in handy for more than a few reasons.  One, we always know what bags to look for when we've checked his baggage, but also it's handy for the little handle strap on the top of the back of it.  Strap the little guy into the bag and it's like a little leash for him.

We're going to have to pile in the car on the way back to New York.  I don't realize this until I start counting seats and counting people.  Mike is joining us which is cool because I love the dude like I brother, but it means that we're crammed into the car.

Jonathan crawls in the car first after D unlocks the door.  D has known my brothers forever too and jokes with Jonathan about him getting taller too quickly as he climbs in.

"Do you want me to sit in the back with them?" Vivian asks as I'm picking Steven up to put him into the car.  "There isn't much room back there."

"Naw," I say, "I'll sit with them."  I hold my hand against Steven's back as he climbs around the seat to get into the very back.  I know his balance is pretty good, but I don't want him to fall backwards and get hurt, partly because I don't WANT to have to take him to the hospital, but also because my schedule WON'T let me take him.  "Knowing Steven and Jonathan, they'll be asleep after five minutes anyway."

"Will not," Steven says from where he's already putting on his seatbelt.  He's slipped out of the backpack and I can see Jonathan poking at it to keep it off his side of the seat.  I know I'm gonna have to sit between them.

"Will too," Jonathan says.

"Hey!" I protest and lean my head into the car.  "You guys need to quit it.  I don't even want you to start this whining thing right now."

Vivian laughs a little from behind me.

"What?" I ask pulling myself from the car again.

Still trying to keep a smile from her lips, she motions towards the back seat.  "They sound like you."

"Come on guys," Mike says, "We need to get back to the city."

I throw my bag over the back towards Steven and he catches it.  It hits him in the face a little, but he ignores it when I don't say anything to him about it before asking, "Can I have some gum?"

"How do you know I have gum?" I ask.

"You always have gum."  God he's getting smart.  I'm going to have to watch him a little better these days.  He's getting to be too much for me.  He finds it in the pocket of the backpack and pulls one out and starts to chew.  It still amazes me that he's this little person.  I guess I'm used to Jonathan being little and growing up, but with Steven I can't help but to stare at him and be proud of him for even the simple thing of breathing.  He's become more independent in the last few months it just blows me away.

"Are you allowed to have gum?" I ask knowing that sometimes Lisa would take that privilege away if he wasn't being good.

He nods heavily, over exaggerating the movement of his head as his teeth bit down on the gum in his mouth.  "Momma says that the dentist bought his house cuz you chew so much gum."

I laugh at that as I slide into the back section of the car.  It's going to be a snug fit, but I wouldn't wish the boys on anyone else, knowing that in about five minutes they are going to be getting antsy.

Vivian crawls in the car and turns around after securing her seatbelt.  "Buckle up boys," she says.

"Ok Vivian," the three of us in the back say.

Mike and Tiny get in, D gets into the driver's seat and we head out of Philadelphia towards New York.

"Can we play cards?" Steven asks.

Why do I panic when he asks me stuff?  I've had the boys with me on the road before, but somehow right now I'm all over the place when it comes to dealing with them.  "I don't have any," I say.

"I do," Jonathan reaches into his bag and pulls out a deck of cards that have Harry Potter on the back picture sides of them.

"Harry Potter cards?" I ask leaning over to look at them.

He pushes me away.  "Yeah," he said, "I got them this summer when the movie came out.  They were in that basket you got from the movie people."

"I did?"  I hand them back to him.  It sucks that I get so many things in the mail that I don't do anything with.  The Harry Potter thing I remember getting, but I sent it to the boys after finding out that it was mostly kids stuff.  Other baskets have been given to charity or passed around the group until most of it's gone before the crew kids or production kids get their hands on it.  "I knew I should have kept that basket."

"Do you want to play Vivian?" Steven asks still chewing his gum noisily seeming to have become Jonathan's partner in crime for the moment.

"Sure," she says and turns around in her seat for a while.  "What game are we playing?"

"Go Fish," I say knowing that its the only game Steven can play that involves so many other players.  There are some other kid's games that he's good at, like Memory and Sheutes and Ladders, but for playing cards he's a simple guy.

"Ohhh," Vivian says with a dramatic frown, "I don't remember how to play that one."

"It's easy," Steven says.  He gets that cockily little look on his face that screams of my influence on him.  I can hear Lisa in the back of my head telling me that I need to discourage him from that, but for the moment he's having too much fun with it, "You get five cards and you get to ask us if we have a match to your card in our hands and if we do, you get it and if you don't we get to yell GO FISH!"

"Hey," I say as Jonathan moves his backpack out of the way, moves Stevens' backpack out of the way, then shuffles the deck on his lap.  "Why don't we just SAY go fish, because D is driving and we don't want to startle him?"

"We always yell it in the bus," Steven says.

"The bus is bigger," I explain.  "We need to keep it down."

"Awe," he says.

"We'll play again tonight and be able to yell it," Vivian says.

It kills me to have Vivian being so nice to me.  I'm not sure if it's for the sake of my brothers or if I've been out of it for the last few months, but she must have gotten laid or something because she's never been this mellow before.  "We will?" I ask.

Vivian cocks her head to the smile and looks to me like she's flirting when she pushes her hair over her shoulder and directs her smile at Steven.  "One game before they go to sleep is ok."

"When did Mom say that you had to go to bed?" I ask my brothers knowing that they will give me two different times and then Mike will probably give me the real time that Lisa told him no doubtedily a million times before they left Tennessee.

"Ten," Jonathan says.

"Nine-thirty," Steven says only over estimating the time by about a half hour since that seems to be a long time in his life, especially when talking about staying up late.  the only nights he gets to stay up that I know of is if there is an awards show on so he and Jonathan can see me on television.

"Nine," Mike says.

"But--" Steven immediately says.

"Your Mamma told me nine o'clock and if you stay up late I get in trouble and I'm sorry for being selfish, but I'm not getting grounded because you stayed up late," Mike rumbled out.

"Mom can't ground you!" Steven says, "You aren't her kid."

"Well I know that the next time I see her she'll get mad at me."

"Like when you put Daddy's hammer in the pool," Jonathan said.

"Ok. ok," Steven says.

"Wait," I say.  "You put Daddy's hammer in the pool?"

"I didn't do it on purpose," Steven said.

"Well make sure you're in your jammies by nine and then we'll turn on a movie because I know by that time you'll be tired," Vivian says with a soft voice, "You guys have to go to school day after tomorrow and I know you need your sleep."

"Can we pick the movie?" Jonathan asks.

"Yeah," she said, "I think I can get you copies of whatever you want."

Steven flips his hands up into the air and yells, "YAY!"

Jonathan's cards, my cards and the cards that Jonathan was trying to hold out to Vivian go everywhere.

"Steven.  You big stupid!" Jonathan yells.

"Hey now," Vivian says before I can.  "Don't say that.  It's just cards.  We can pick them up and play again."

"Yeah," I say reinforcing the idea that I don't like my brothers fighting and calling each other names.

"He always does this though," Jonathan says.

"It doesn't matter," I say feeling myself becoming more and more short tempered as the seconds tick by.  I love the two of them, but right now I've not gotten enough sleep to deal with them.  "Be nice to him.  He's smaller than you."

"So."

I look at Vivian and for an instant see pride in her eyes.  I'm not sure why there is pride there, but it's there.  "So would you like it if I called you a big stupid?"

"No," he says.

"Well then don't call Steven that either."

"Why don't I put on the game," D says from the front seat.

"Yeah," Vivian says.

^V^V^V^V^V^V^

I must have fallen asleep because I feel myself wake up with a start.  My whole body twitches and I let out a sharp breath into the car that makes Vivian turn around so by the time my eyes open she’s staring at me with a concerned look on her face. 

“You ok?” she whispers to me leaning a little over the back of the seat. 

My mouth is pastey, like that hung over cotton mouth.  I must have been sleeping too hard or something. 

I start to move and Vivian puts a hand out.  “Becareful or Jon and Stevie will fall over.” 

I turn and look at them then reach and rub my eyes.  Sitting in the middle of the car leaves me not being able to see much of the outside.  I can see that it’s starting to get dark.  I didn’t realize that it was going to get dark this soon.  It feels like midnight, but I can see from the clock up towards the front of the car that it’s only around five o’clock.  “Where are we?” 

“We should be back to the hotel in a little bit.  We got stuck in traffic from an accident just outside of Philly for about an hour.  I was surprised that you didn’t wake up.”

“I needed the sleep,” I say.  “Have they been out for a long time too?”

Vivian nods.

“Thanks for helping out with them today—“  I hear the start of a song playing up front and frown.

I believe we all have one true love
Somewhere in this world, I do
When it seemed all my dreams were falling through
Thats when I found you

I believe for every heart that whispers in the dark
Theres a ray of light somewhere shining through
It was sink or swim when the tide came in
I found myself

When I found you
I found the closest thing to heaven
Thats in you
I found the deepest love I knew
Oooo oh, I believe, yes its true
I found myself when I found you, Ooh yeah

Vivian turns around and whispers something to D and he flips the channel.

“Thanks,” I say.

“No problem,” she says and lowers her eyes to look at the back of the seat she’s sitting in.  “I’m sorry about this morning.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry that she showed up and—“

“I should be the one apologizing to you.  Britney had no right to say what she said about you.  She’s looking for some excuse to bring this fight back into the ring, but I’m done with it.”  I sigh and lean my head back and stare at the roof of the car.  “I’m probably done with most girls for a while.”

“What about Alyssa?” Vivian asks.

I don’t know why it’s important to Vivian to know about all this.

I move Steven from where he’s lying on my shoulder and put him so his head is on my thigh so he can sleep better and so I can stretch my arm.  I reach and cover my face.  “You’re lucky that you’re single Vivian,” I say, “You don’t have to deal with this shit all the time.”

“Sure,” she says with a soft voice, “Lucky.”

“It’s better than having three girls upset at you.”

“Three?”

“Britney is pissed because she got caught cheating, Jenna is pissed because I started to hang out with Alyssa and then Alyssa is pissed because I’m hanging out with Jenna.  No matter what I do I always seem to have women upset with me.”

“I’m not upset with you,” Vivian says.

“You don’t count though,” I say quickly and try to ignore the hurt look that washes over her face.  “I mean you should be pissed off at me.  I’m nothing but trouble.”

“You aren’t that bad,” she says.

“I wish I could date someone like you,” I say not realizing probably the magnitude of the statement I’ve just made.  “It’s nice to have a girl around that doesn’t complicate my life.”

“There’s always your mother,” Vivian says.

“Yeah,” I lean and make sure that Jonathan isn’t going to fall out of his seat.  “Momma and I have this strange relationship going on right now.  It’s nice, but at the same time sometimes I wish that I could find a version of her personality that is my age to hang out with.  She’s been my best friend forever and I think the only reason why is that she accepts me despite whatever bull that I bring at her.”  I sigh.  “Britney did that for a while and I think that’s why I was in love with her, but now—“  I can feel this gloomy mood come over me and I know this can’t be a good thing.

“Right after we broke things off I spent about a week in my hotel room in Los Angeles.”  I laugh a little as my nerves get to me.  “It’s funny sometimes when I think about that week and how crazy I must have been.”  I sigh and look out the window.  “The sale of the new house was going through and I didn’t want to stay with JC or Chris so I booked myself into a hotel room and never left it.  It must have looked strange for me to be there, but at that point I didn’t care.  I couldn’t go home and see Momma because she’d baby me too much and I couldn’t go see Daddy because Jon and Steven would have never left me alone, so I stayed in Los Angeles in the dark and basically cried my eyes out the whole time.  At one point I swear I was sick as a dog, just puking up every thing I ate and I don’t know if it really was the flu or if it was just be feeling shitty, but I was seriously in hell.”

“You should have called me,” Vivian said, “I think the worst thing that a person can do when they are depressed is be alone.  Even if you’re with someone else and still crying your eyes out, at least there is someone there to help out.”

“You wouldn’t have wanted to see me,” I say.  “I was a bastard that week.”

“I would have—“  Vivian stops speaking and turns back around in her seat.

“You would have done what Vivian?”

She folds her arms across her chest and is looks down so I can’t see her face.  I wish that my brothers weren’t sitting next to me or I would have crawled over the back of the seat to talk to her.  “What Vivian?”

She shrugs at me.  “Nothing.”

“Come on, tell me,” I say.

She flips back around after a moment and looks me straight in the eyes.  “I wouldn’t have done something like that to you.  I can’t believe that she’s made you like this.”

“Like what?” I ask in a harsh whisper wondering what she could possibly be thinking about me at this point.

“Like this,” she motions with her hand.  “You’re the most romantic man I’ve ever met in my entire life and the fact right now that you’re saying that I’m lucky to be single and that it’s over for you and women is heartbreaking.”

“What?” I ask.

“Justin.  It’s men like you that give girls like me the hope that there is still a prince charming out there somewhere waiting to come and rescue us.”

I sit back and take a breath.  That’s a big set of shoes to fill.  Basically being called Prince Charming could give a person a complex.

“You know what?” I say angrily.  “I don’t get you Vivian.”

“Don’t get me?”

“Why the hell are you such a bitch to me most days?”

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

“I want to know why you seem to see me as this Prince Charming kind of personality, but you treat me—“

“I’m jealous Justin,” she says.  “I spent my entire life taking care of everything for you and I don’t get the perks that come along with that.”

“Perks?” I ask.

“Think about it Justin.”  She pauses, “Who buys your Christmas presents for you? Who makes sure that you always have clean clothes?  Who brings you breakfast in the morning and makes sure that you have coffee and makes sure that you’re not late to things?”

“That’s your job!” I argue.

“Yeah well maybe I don’t want to do that job anymore.”

“Fine then.” I definitely do not understand how we got from talking about Britney to talking about her wanting to quit working for me.  “If you want to quit then I guess I can’t keep you here.  Since I’m such a PAIN to work for.”

“Justin that’s not what I was trying to say.”

“I don’t want to hear it Vivian,” I say, “If you were thinking this all along you should have said something sooner instead of waiting, what…five or so YEARS to bring this up.”

“Justin—“

“We’re here,” D announces as the car pulls up to the curb.

“Hey Mike,” I say leaning forward.  “Can you help me get the boys upstairs?”

“I’ll carry Steven.”

“It’s ok,” I say, “I wouldn’t want to BURDEN you with any work.”


The song on the radio is When I Found You Lyrics can be found :  http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/SongUnid/03A09540664E7AE648256B9D001275E7


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