24 Hours

Struggling through the lobby with two half asleep kids really is a pain in the ass.  It makes me glad for all those times I've used a condom in the last few months and for that one time when God didn't make it so Britney was pregnant.  I'm not ready to be a daddy just yet and I know it within five minutes of dealing with Steven and Jonathan.

In the elevator I ignore Vivian.  She's watching me with her eyes, but keeping her head turned away.  I wish that things weren't this stressed, but I can't help it.  She's just basically told me that she hates her job duties and essentially hates me.  I wish things were different, but it looks like its gonna be another one of those days.  The people in my life that should be loving me are either upset with me or are cranky.

Mike laughs a little as Steven starts to snore in my arms.  "I bet you ten bucks that when these boys get in their room they'll be wide awake."

"Put them in my room," I say.  "I don't want them to wake up and be by themselves."  I yawn.  "Do I have anything more to do tonight or am I free?"

"No," Vivian says with anger in her voice, "I canceled all the stuff tonight so that you could spend time with your brothers, but we have an extra long day tomorrow morning because I rescheduled stuff."

"Fine," I say, "I'll be up most of tonight anyway."

"I know," she says in a soft voice.

Vivian stays quiet the rest of the way to our floor.  When we pass by her door she pauses for a moment.  "Do you want my help with the boys?" she asks.

"No."

She doesn't argue with me.  Her shoulders sag a little and she turns towards the door.  "Night Justin.  If you go out give me a call and I'll baby-sit for you."

I'm still angry about her comment before.  "I'll get Mike if I need a babysitter."

"Fine," she says and turns into the door that I know is hers.  "I'll get you in the morning when we need to leave for the first interview."

I hate this.  I've just probably messed up yet another thing in my life.  It's just my luck that now that I'm on my own and doing well in my career that the other parts of my life are going to hell.  I've been trying my hardest to stop destroying the things around me, but tonight it's a losing battle.  "I'll be awake, but come and get me."

My feet are slow as I walk down the hallway and follow the guys into my room.  I throw my backpack down onto the chair and pull out my phone to plug it in then kick out of my shoes, take off my jacket and look for the remote.

When I find both my brothers staring at me from the couch I try not to snap at them for staring.  "You ok guys?"

"Can we get dinner?" Jonathan asks with a yawn.  He takes a seat on the far end of the couch from Steven and sighs like his life is stressful or something.  Being that young is a blessing that I'm not sure he'll ever understand.

"Yeah."

My phone rings and I pick it up without looking.  "Go get the menu out of the desk drawer," I say.

"Hi baby."

"Momma," I say with a smile.  Earlier it had depressed me to think about not being around her, but now that I'm done for the day I can relax and enjoy the sound of her soothing voice.  "What's up?"

"How are your brother's?" she asks.

"Good," I say and sigh.  I move across the room and help Steven get the drawer open.  "We're going to order dinner soon."

She sighs,  "That's good.  How's Vivian?"

I give the boys the menu and the remote and tell them that I'm going into the bedroom.

"What's wrong honey?"

I sit down on the bed and close my eyes.  "I think Vivian quit today."

"You think?"

"Well we were talking about some stuff today and all of a sudden she's saying that she has to do all these things for me and doesn't like it so I think she's gonna leave."

"Honey," she says, "I doubt that Vivian would just leave like that.  She likes her job.  I know that she does."

All of a sudden the stress of the day reaches me.  I move into the bathroom and close the door.  I sit on the floor with my back against the wall and let the sobs that I've been saving up from this afternoon finally flow.  I don't even know if Momma can understand me when I talk, but I start to explain what's on my mind.  "Britney was in the city today and I ended up seeing her on the street, then she showed up at MTV today and I'm standing on stage during TRL singing Cry Me A River and--"  I sob out a huge breath.  "I can't handle this Momma.  It kills me to see her and to sing that song and there isn't a soul in the world that understands."

"What about Vivian?" I hear mom say.

I sit up a little.  "What about Vivian?"

"She was there with you, right?"

"Yeah," I say, "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Vivian worries about you honey," Momma says.  "She called me a little while ago and we talked a little.  She's worried about you.  She says you need to sleep more and that--"

"What the hell is she tattling on me for?"

I hear Momma click her tongue against her teeth.  "Honey, please don't make--"

"Don't what Momma?"  I say feeling more anger.  "Everything I touch turns to shit."  I start to cry and I know it's gonna worry Jonathan and Steven if I'm crying like this.  Part of the reason I stayed away from Memphis was because they didn't need to see me like this.  I was really messed up over the summer and it definitely wasn't the mood I needed to be in when they were around.

"Honey where are you?"

"In the bathroom with the door shut.  The boys are watching tv and trying to figure out what to eat."

"You need to calm down sweetie or you're going to scare them."

My lungs ache and my eyes hurt and I'm thrown back to a few months ago when I'd spend a week or so feeling this crappy.  "I can't help it."

"What happened this afternoon?" she asked.

"I was in the lobby of MTV and Britney accused me of fucking Vivian and that's why I wasn't with her anymore," I say.  "I snapped and kind of yelled at her."

"JUSTIN."

"It wasn't like a scene or anything," I say, "I just told her what was on my mind and why she and I weren't together anymore."

"You did?"

My hand traces the lines on the space where my hand has fallen.  "I told her that I knew that she messed around with Wade and that's why we are like we are."

"Then what'd you do?"

I find myself shrugging even though she isn't here to see me do it.  "I said sorry to Vivian for what Britney said to her."

"Is that why Vivian is quitting?"

"I haven't got a clue as to why she's going to leave."  I sigh.  "I can't have her leave Momma.  I don't know what to do without her.  She's the only other woman besides you and Britney that really even half know me."

"Then apologize, give her a raise and then apologize again."

My head spins as I try to think of something to say.  I can't decide if I should be upset with Momma for trying to give me such a simple answer to a complicated matter.  I should be patient and listen to her.  I should listen to her.  She's got more experience at this than I do.  "I don't know what to apologize for."

"She's probably just tired.  I'm sure things will be fine in the morning."  She sighs.  "I'm gonna let you get back to your brothers.  Keep your chin up baby.  I think you're just tired and I think Vivian is just stressed out.  You'll be ok and I'm sure she won't leave."

I wipe my face on my arm and sniff back what I'm sure is a noseful of snot.  "I love you Momma."

"I love you too honey.  I think you just need some sleep and you'll be better.  I'm gonna call you tomorrow afternoon when the numbers are out for your album, ok?"

I sniff again and wipe my nose again.  "I almost totally forgot about that."

"Are you nervous?" Momma asks.

"I don't know what I am," I say.  I take a deep breath.  "I better go check on the boys and get them dinner and into bed or Lisa and Daddy will kill me."

"Tell the boys that I love them and tell your Daddy I say hello."

"Ok."  I hang up the phone then wipe my face and pull myself together a little.  Pushing myself up I go across to the sink and wash my face.

"Can I get chicken nuggets?" Steven asks as soon as I'm out into the room again.

"Sure," I say as I sneak over to the counter and grab some tissues and blow my nose.

"Can I get a cheese burger?" Jonathan asks.

"Sure," I say.

I  move across to the phone and dial room service.  A younger woman answers the phone, "Yes Mr. Timberlake?"

"Can I get an order of chicken nuggets, a cheese burger, a bacon cheese burger, fries with all of those and three cokes?"

"Right away," the woman said, "Is that all?"

"Yep," I say, "I think."

"Just call if you need anything else," the woman said.

"Thanks."

I put down the phone and look at the television.  "What are you guys watching?"

"Hockey," Jonathan says.  "Dallas is playing Toronto."

"Really?" I ask and move across the room to sit down between the boys.

At the first commercial break a few moments later I turn to Jonathan.  "Did you finish your homework?"

"Yeah," he says.

"Are you sure?"

"I had math problems to do and my English homework was to read so I read a book at the library."

"What'd you read?"

"Why are you crying?" Steven asks.

"Because girls are stupid," Jonathan answers for me.

"Did Britney make you cry again?" Steven asks.  "You should tell her mommy she does that."

I bite my lip to keep from crying.  "What do you know about Britney making me cry?"

"Momma said that you didn't come to Jonathan's soccer game cuz Britney made you cry and you were too sad to come to visit."

When did my brothers start watching Dr. Phil?  I don't understand how they know about this.  I mean I guess it's niave to think that they haven't seen the press that has come up about my relationship with Britney and the break up and all that, but to sit here and hear them talk about it startles me.

I pull Steven over into my lap and hug him.  "Remember when I told you that Britney and I were going to be friends, but not hang out as much anymore?" I ask.

"Yeah."

"Well that makes me sad."

"Then don't do it," he says.  "Hang out with her again."

"I don't want to," I say trying to leave the harshness out of my voice.  "She and I got into an argument and right now we don't get along."

He looked at me sideways.  "But you're still her friend?"

"Steven you're too little," Jonathan says, "Justin and Britney broke up because she went out on a date with another boy and didn't tell Justin.  Momma told you why they don't hang out together, but she also told you that Justin and Britney are going to be friends again someday and that Britney isn't mad at us or Momma or Daddy or Momma Lyn or Daddy Paul."

"I remember."  He nods.

I sit back thinking that it's all settled, but it seems like tonight isn't my lucky night.

"So why were you crying?" Steven asks.

I shrug and try not to tell him the whole reason.  It's too complicated for him to understand that my assistant I think just confessed her love for me and I've pushed her away and pissed her off and now she might be quitting and that my career my go down the toilet because I'm so pissy these days and that basically my life is shit.

"My Momma called and I got homesick cuz I missed her."

"I miss my Momma,"  Steven frowns, "but I don't cry."

"That's good," I say.

We watch the game for a bit.  I figure that they're into the game, but I know that it'll be easier to get them to bed now if they get into their pajamas before they get cranky.  "How about you boys get into your pajamas?" I suggest.  "We'll eat dinner and we'll finish watching the game then get to sleep."

"Can we play go fish?" Steven asks as they both go to their backpacks and pull out sweatpants.

"Sure," I say.

"Good," Steven says, "I'll get Vivian."  He runs for the door and is out in the hallway before I can stop him.  By the time I jump up from the couch and get into the hallway he's already knocking on the door to her room.

"Vivian!"  Steven says, "Come over and play Go Fish."


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