86,400 Seconds - 4


She’s still staring at me.  Open wide staring eyes, the kind of eyes that she hates to be on her, but doesn't seem to have trouble using on another person.  She doesn't even blink.  It's almost as if I'm staring at a photograph of her.  She doesn't move, doesn't speak and I swear doesn't take a breath for the longest time.

I hate when she does that.  I know she’s concerned and I probably gave her the impression that she needed to be concerned, but really I just want her to go back to paying attention to Justin and leave me alone.  I’m ten years older than her—at least—and I don’t need a mother figure.  Yeah it’s nice to know that someone cares, but right now she’s staring me down like there is this huge secret that I’m keeping from her.  What the hell is wrong with people these days?  Can I not have a bad morning and do it in peace?  Justin throws a fucking fit and people work around him and when I have a little edge to my voice people look at me like I need counseling or something.  Fuck this.  I went through this enough with Beverly and I don’t need Vivian doing the same hovering act that I’ve already dealt with for a lot of my life.

Finally I can’t stand her silence any more and I’m forced to say something to her, if nothing else just to have her blink or look away or something.  “What?”

“Nothing,” she says softly.  “I think we’re all ready to go if you are ready to hit traffic.”

I’ve hurt her feelings.  She’s got that typical womanly pout going on.  The one that eventually makes you pity them.  On anyone else I probably would just laugh at them, but with Vivian I want to apologize because now I feel like an ass for acting that way, but she doesn’t let me.

Her hands move over her shirt to straighten it then moves to her hair to do the same before she smiles.  “I think Jayden is going to sit in the back with Justin so I’ll sit up front with you.”

“Ok.”

We stand there for a second more before she finally turns and heads towards the house. 

Back and forth.  Back and forth.  I swear to God above that my life is all about back and forth.  Yesterday it was back and forth to the car, the week before it was back and forth from the West Coast to the East Coast.  This morning it's back and forth to the kitchen.

When I return Jayden is standing and Vivian is helping her tie her shoes.  She knows better than to be asking someone to tie her shoes.  She's known how to do it for years now.  With my attitude this morning it takes a lot of work for me to not snap at her.  Instead I groan out my words, "Pumpkin, you know how to tie your shoes."

I know full well that if Beverly were here I'd get a beating for letting her be helped this way.  Beverly believes in independence.  She and I have always believed that Jayden would be able to do most things on her own and having her shoes tied is seriously more than a few steps back from where the both of us have thought she should be.

"It's ok," Vivian says looking up at me from her crouched position in front of Jayden's feet.  "I replaced them a cool way, so I told her I'd tie them up for her."

"Cool way?"

"Like Justin," Jayden beams and points her toe.  All the laces are in parallel lines across the top of her foot instead of zig zagging like normal.

"That is cool," I say feeling for the second time today like I'm going to say and do the wrong things all day long.  I move to the counter and go through the two backpacks that are sitting there.  I make sure that everything is in my backpack.  I don't carry much with me, a phone, a schedule, a pack of gum, my wallet and an extra cell phone.  I check to make sure that Jayden has everything she'll need.  Today it's a book, coloring book and crayons and her game boy.  I add extra bottled waters and a small plastic container of wheat thins just to make sure that there will be something around in case she gets hungry.

"Daddy?"

I look down at her and see that she's smiling up at me.  "What pumpkin?"

She takes a deep breath then looks at Vivian before she looks at me.  I don't know if she's shy to talk to me or if she just needed to make sure that she wasn't interrupting, but somehow she seemed to need Vivian's encouragement to speak to me.  It's not something I like and I find myself frowning about it.  I don't even feel the sides of my mouth pulling down, but when I see Jayden frowning I know my expression has changed.

I smile.

Jayden smiles back.  "Can I sit in the front seat?"

It doesn't really matter where she sits.  We're going to be parking in the studio lot so I don't have to worry about everyone on the street getting to her.  I can have her get a window seat or sit in the way back.  Anything other than the driver's seat is up for grabs.

"You don't want to sit in the back with me?" Justin comes into the kitchen, cocky look on his face.  He's got a bag over his shoulder and a smile on his face and doesn't seem to be at all upset about me being loud earlier.

Jayden's crush is coming out.  At her age I don't know really if it's a traditional crush, but I know that she loves to spend time with Justin and he seems to love to hang out with her.  "I can sit with you?"

"Sure," he says then looks at me.  It's definitely an after thought, but I appreciate that he thinks of me when he speaks to her.  "If it's ok with your dad."

"I don't get to sit in the back?" Vivian asks with a faint frown.

Justin shuffles his way across the room, half dancing his way to her and puckers his lips and kisses her.  Vivian doesn't seem to be too excited about it, but kisses him anyway.  "You can sit with me later Viv."

"Thanks," she says and moves a finger across her lips then moves and wipes his lips too.

I try to ignore the banter between Vivian and Justin.  He's leaned near her ear and is talking to her, sweet things that a man says to a woman when they're in love.

"I'm sorry we had to wake up early this morning," he says.

"It's ok," she says back.

"One of these days we'll sleep in and--"

"Justin," she cuts him off.  "We can talk about this later."

He leans and kisses her again then looks over at me with this smile on his face that throws me for a loop.  He's definitely in love with her.  I can tell by the tone in his voice that there are other things he'd like to say to her that he might say in front of me, but won't say in front of Jayden.

"I'm not done with you yet," he says to Vivian.

"Is that a threat or a promise?" she says breaking character for a moment.

I try to turn my attention elsewhere, but it's not hard not to notice the way she blushes immediately after saying that.  I never like to eavesdrop, but it's hard not to in the kitchen where there really isn't anything to distract myself with.  In the car I could tune them out and listen to the radio and watch the traffic.  In the plane I had my walkman and a book, but in the kitchen it's just me and them and Jayden.

Normally I don't think I'd be that hyperactive about it, but this is the first time in a while that Justin has been with someone that didn't have their own security.  When Rob was around Britney the two of us would break out a deck of cards and play a few hands, but now it's just me myself and I and for the most part I feel like I'm taking care of the two of them instead of just him.  It's not a burden, just more to watch out for, more to be on my toes about.

"Can we go?" Jayden whines and goes and pulls on Justin's bag.

"Yes," Justin says with a slightly mocking tone, "We can go."

On the way to the car Jayden holds onto Justin's hand.  I remember forever ago when she'd do that to me.  My hands are huge, big chubby fingers and a palm that is clearly too big for a child to hold onto.  Beverly used to hold onto my little finger and Jayden had taken up the habit.  I hate to say that I'm seriously jealous that she's doing that now with Justin.

I turn my eyes to the keys then close the door to the house.  I notice the car is now inside the garage and I wonder if Paul or Lynn has gone out to get gas in the car.  They're usually good about that.  Making gas stops in the middle of a busy day is a pain in the ass.

I hit the garage door opener and then click the car alarm so that everyone can get in without setting off the alarm.

"You got your door Vivian?" I ask as she moves around the car.  I say it partly to dig into Justin that he probably should have opened her door for her and making sure that she knows I would have opened it for her if she wanted me to.

"I got it," she says with a laughing smile.  I like this new more relaxed Vivian.  For the last few months she’s been in this kind of funk.  I think it was partially because Justin was stuck out in Virginia Beach with me for a few months and not talking to her.  When he and Britney parted ways the boy was devastated.  He’d get pissy at me for just sitting in the same room with him and when we’d go out he’d start acting like a two year old trying to ditch me like he used to when NSYNC first started.  Finally we had basically a knock down drag-out fight and he settled down, but he’s only really felt like the same old Justin in the last few days since the promotions started and he and Vivian started to hang out more.

When Justin opens the back door for himself he steps back and lifts Jayden into the car.  He’s careful with her, cupping her under her arms and lifting her carefully so that he doesn’t drop her.  She’s only about two feet off the ground when he lifts her, but I can tell that he’s being careful.  With his brothers he would have just thrown them into the car, but with her, he sets her carefully inside as if she’s made of glass.  "God you're getting big girl.  What's in that backpack of yours?"

"Toys and food," she says.  She turns around to face him and smiles.  "Backpack."

He slings off his bag and kind of throws it at her.  It knocks her a little bit, but she soon is pulling it into the car and pushing it into the middle seat before she crawls across into the far seat.

I sigh and crawl into the front and find Vivian pushing her backpack into the back seat as I'm starting the car up.  She takes mine from me and pushes it into the back also.  "Make sure her seatbelt is on," Vivian warns and turns back around towards me.  "You know where we're going right?"

"Yes Viv," I say and I hear Jayden in the back seat laughing.  "What's up pumpkin?" I ask turning around to maneuver the car out into the driveway so we can make our way down the hills into town.

“Daddy always knows where he’s going,” Jayden says in a sing songy voice.  “Mommy said that he’s the only man in the world that asks directions.”

Justin and Vivian and I all laugh at her antics.  I thought she’d be a little shy today, but it seems as if her sleep and the coco puffs that Justin gave her are working their magic on her.

The city streets around Justin’s house are fairly quiet at this time of morning.  We’ve missed the commuters for the most part—the Buffy’s and Biff’s that drive the twenty five or so miles out of the hills every morning in their little Volvo’s and BMW’s.  I know that sounds shitty to make fun of their cars like that since I’m normally in expensive cars that you could use the car payment to make house payments with, but I just can’t imagine some happy little homemaker couple trying to shove 2.5 kids into the back seat instead of doing like Justin does and shoving speakers into the back end.

I sigh when I see the traffic on the bigger streets.  We’ll probably get stuck in a bit of it once we hit the freeway.  Los Angeles is famous for that.  Just when you think you’re going to have a nice day and not a lot of people between where you are now and where you want to be…BAM, some dumb ass driver jackknife’s a big rig and you’re stuck in the parking lot that people in southern California refer to as Highway 101 or the 405—fuck it.  It doesn’t matter which one it is, they’re all the same during commute traffic.

No one in the car seems to care though and normally I wouldn’t if I wasn’t driving.  Los Angeles sucks like that. Unless we’re going to some fast ass party, I’m always the one that is stuck driving since I grew up around here.

We pull onto the freeway and Vivian starts up the air conditioning and turns on the radio.  We listen for a short while before we hear Justin's song.

"That's you on the radio!" Jayden says loudly from the back seat and starts to sing.

I kinda noticed something went right
In your colorful face
It's kind of weird to me
Since you're so fine
If it's up to me your face'll change

If you smile then that should set the tone
Just be limber!
And if you let go, the music should move your bones
Just remember!
Sing this song with me!

I look in the rear view mirror and can see Justin’s eyes are lit up and watching Jayden.  I know that he’s excited about this album, loves singing the songs and all, but I think really his biggest joy right now is looking out in a crowd and seeing his fans singing the songs back to him.  Jayden singing to him is better than a shot of espresso in the morning.

The high of the moment almost gets me caught up into their little world in the back seat, that is until I hit traffic on 101.  “Hell,” I sigh and reach to pull my backpack out so I can get my phone.

“I got it,” Vivian says and pulls the backpack up into her lap.  She digs for a minute then holds up two phones.  “Which phone?”

“Either one,” I say knowing that CS’s number is going to be in either phone.  I need to call him to tell him that we’re going to be a bit later than I’d thought.  I know also that Vivian will take this clue and call the studio and Barry to tell them that we’re in traffic.

I dial CS’s number and Vivian turns down the music.

Jayden starts to protest, but I hear Justin distracting her.  “Do you know how to play war?” he asks.

She tells him that she does and they get out the cards and all I hear from them is shuffling cards.

“CS,” he says into the phone as a car slides in front of us.  I really want to open the window and let some air in--and let some frustration out.  It would make me feel more like I’m in Los Angeles, but with security concerns, opening the windows is probably the last thing I want to do.  Who knows who might just jump out of their car and approach Justin’s window to get an autograph if they see it’s him.

“Hey man,"  I watch traffic and catch some of the conversation going on in the car, little bits and pieces of Vivian turning around to see what Jayden and Justin are playing.  It almost seems like the perfect little family.  Vivian and I as the parents with Justin and Jayden, the kids, in the backseat.  "We’re on our way, but I figure we’ll be about a half hour later than we thought we were going to be.”

“Traffic?"

"It's Los Angeles," I say with a laugh."

"New York and Virginia have spoiled you,” he says then I hear him flipping papers around on his desk.

New York and Virginia especially have spoiled me.  Virginia Beach has like zero traffic compared to Los Angeles or New York and the whole lifestyle is different.  Yeah it's got it's hotspots and when Justin went out at night we'd find our share of problems, but for the most part I just hung out in the studio room and read or went and worked out for a little bit while Justin was recording.  It was relaxed, almost what I imagine retirement will be like for me.  I've been thinking about that more and more lately, but I'm not sure that I can give it all up soon.  Maybe I'll just settle in LA and work with CS or something.  I know I can get a permanent local job if I want, but I'm not sure that I want that yet.  There are a lot of advantages to being on the road even though I'm away from Jayden so much.

  He's silent for a moment before continuing the conversation.  "As far as I know the taping of this mornings show ran a little late so I don’t think it’ll be an issue.  Barry showed up and the band and dancers are having a little breakfast so all we’re waiting for is the head honcho to show up.”

I laugh.  Head honcho.  Well of course he's the head honcho, but to me he's still the snot nosed little mousekateer who thought that staying in the Holiday Inn when we went to New York during NSYNC's recording sessions was something special.  “We’ll be there soon enough.  I’m sure Viv is calling up Barry and the others right now.”  I turn to see her talking on the phone.  “How’s the crowd looking?”

“Pretty much the same.”  He drinks his coffee and I hear him swallow.  “There are two extra guards on the gate to make sure that you can get the car through, but inside it’s pretty calm.  Lots of extra kids around this place today, but other than that it’s a regular work day here.”

“Typical,” I say jealous of the word typical.

Nothing really is typical in my life.  Not really anyway.  I can say that it's typical behavior that happens around me, but my definition of typical isn't what most people would consider typical.  Seeing naked breasts during a concert, underwear on stage and having people hide inside Justin's hotel room is typical around me, but I'm sure the average person would consider that atypical. 

I glance around to make sure that I’m in the right lane if I do decide to get off and take a side street.  It’ll take me just as long to get there, but at least we’ll be moving. “I’m gonna click off and see if I can’t sneak my way through traffic.  I’ll give you a call in a half hour if we’re still stuck.”

When I hang up the phone I hear a snicker in the back of me and then I hear Jayden's voice.  "Are we there yet?"  She bursts into laughter and I laugh along with her.  Today is going to be a long day, but with her around I have a feeling that it's going to be a little more interesting than normal.

"Don't encourage her," I say to Justin who immediately knows it's him I'm talking to.

"That was all her," he says.

"SURE it was," I say with a laugh.

"Daddy?"

"What pumpkin?"

I glance in the back seat and see her with her coloring book across her lap now and markers in her hands.  "Can I sing with the band today?"

"You have to ask Justin that," I say, "It's his band."

"If you want you can come to sound check with me," he says, "I think Kevin will let you sing for a minute or two...maybe even Terry will let you play the drums a little if you're nice to him."

"If I make them pictures will they let me?"

"Maybe."  Justin says.  "It never hurts."

What hurts right now is that I'm busy today and that I won't be able to spend that much time with her.  During the press junket I'll get to sit down for a bit, but for the most part I'll be on my toes covering everything and everyone in the place.


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