Snap Shots Series: In Focus

ONE


[[New York City, New York]]

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Somehow the sound made it through Willa's sleeping coma. After first trying to block the noise out with a pillow she finally pushed herself out of bed. She shivered at the cool air in the room and looked around for a moment as she cursed herself for falling asleep in the robe she'd changed into the night before after her shower. She'd been so tired that she hadn't put on her pajamas and now was half icicle for it.

"Good morning New York," she grumbled as the snow fell then reached a shaky arm out to turn off the noise coming from her night stand. She stared blankly at the red 10:00 that was glowing happily at her and for a moment tried to remind herself that she really did need to get up and get herself back on east coast time. She'd been in three different time zones in the last three weeks and needed to get back on some kind of schedule. Today was going to be hell to get through, but hopefully the next day would be better as she got reacquainted with being home and being in this time zone.

As she went to go start a pot of coffee she checked her messages, since she hadn't done it the night before. She'd turned off the ringer when she'd gotten home in hopes that no one would disturb her while she tried to catch up on her sleep.

The message machine light was blinking and the tiny digital number read out that she had ten messages. She groaned at the thought of checking them. Some how she knew that they were from reporters wanting to talk to her.

While she'd been away the papers had gone crazy with the rumors about her and Lance. He'd warned her and tried to prepare her for her homecoming, but even he couldn't have warned her about the reporters that took her picture the night before at the airport or the ones who had found themselves a nice little seat across the street from her apartment. Hoping to keep herself from worrying about the reporters she decided not to listen to them until she was more awake. She flipped back on the ringer and headed for the bathroom.

"Beautiful Willa," she said as she caught her reflection in the mirror. She definitely wasn't looking like a model now.

She leaned over and pulled at her face a little. She didn't have any make up on and she wondered for a moment if Lance would really want to stay with her if he knew she woke up looking like that in the mornings. Her eyes carried bags under them and although she had gotten a bit of a tan while she'd been shooting in Australia, she still looked a little sickly.

Hopefully a good shower and the wonders of some make up would at least help her look less like a zombie, even if she still might feel like one.

*****

An hour and a half later, feeling a lot more human than when she'd woken up, Willa took a deep breath and walked through the door to the agency's office, smiling at her escort for a quick moment as she passed him holding the door open for her. She shivered and pulled her jacket around her more. It was almost January and it was snowing out, but they had the air conditioning on in the building. Trust them to do something idiotic like that. With all these little skinny girls running around, Willa would have thought that they would have put on the heater.

"You ok?" Spanky asked from next to her. He was pealing off his scarf and letting it hang around his neck, holding onto the ends to occupy his hands.

She nodded and looked around for a moment. She needed a plan, but she couldn't think of one right away. She knew that she needed to find Elena and to get her pay checks and her schedule, but her mind was so clouded from her sleep deprivation that she didn't think she even remembered the way to Elena's desk at the moment.

She hadn't been in there in almost a month and a half and was almost scared to find out what awaited her now that she had returned to New York. She'd been in touch with Elena by phone, but it wasn't the same thing as actually being close to home, not that it had been her choice to leave in the first place.

Only a small portion of the three weeks away had been her choosing. After her short weekend-like stay with Lance in San Diego, she'd started what would turn out to be the other eighty or so percent of her month outside of the New York City Limits. Her time was spent in four different countries doing God knows how many shows and shoots. It had all been one big blur that had ended the night before when her flight Sydney, Australia had touched down at the JFK airport. She'd never known that she loved the city so much until she stepped off the plane and found herself enjoying the crowds and pushing and pulling of the crowds.

"Does your man get dressed in the dark?" Elena asked, "I think someone attacked him with a BeDazzler!"

"What?" Willa asked and looked up to see Elena watching her as she made her way to the receptionist's desk. Her feet sped up as she moved towards her friend who was dressed in a business casual outfit of a huge sweater and slacks that looked to be designer.

Elena held up a magazine that was folded to an inside page and said, "People magazine has this picture of him in this…God…how do I say this nicely…well in this outfit that well…that isn't at all flattering. He looks like a big sparkling Christmas tree ornament!"

Willa grabbed up the picture and stared at it. Lance had told her about the party he'd gone to in Orlando for one of Justin's parents' groups they were managing. He'd gone alone that night, but had been caught in the photo by the fashion police. He really didn't look that bad in the jeans and jacket that he was wearing in the picture, but the studs on the seams of the clothes did look a little out of place for him. She'd only seen him in very tailored sort of slacks or regular jeans. This was a little more Hollywood glam than she was used to seeing him in if he was off the stage. "I leave the guy alone for three weeks and he goes to pieces…and they say that women shouldn't dress their men."

"It's good to see you!" Elena finally pulled her into a hug and held her close for a moment. It was the only real welcome home she'd had other than the quick hug Spanky had given her at the airport.

Despite much protest on her part, Lance had insisted that when Willa go out and about in the city that she contact Spanky. It wouldn't have normally been something that she would have agreed to, but after a few close calls with some not so friendly fans in San Diego, having Spanky around gave them both some sense of peace.

"It's good to be back." Willa leaned into the hug. She hadn't realized it, but it had been weeks since anyone had really been touchy-feely with her.

While she was on the road she was alone and the only time anyone came within touching distance of her was when they were pinning some outfit, or doing her hair, or putting on her make up. It had been a long month and she was glad to have the contact again with the real world.

"Where are you headed?"

"Back to the desk of doom." Elena made a face. "I really need to take a vacation."

"Traveling isn't really that great," Willa said and let out a yawn, "But then again you should know that."

"Ah…the good old days," Elena said with a sigh. She laughed at her dramatics. "How's Lance?"

"He's fine." Willa found herself smiling when she thought of him. "I talked to him yesterday. They're all down in Florida right now spending a lovely winter in the tropics. He keeps teasing me about the snow up here. I think he just wants me to come and visit, but of course he and I never can make things easy on each other. We always have to do things the hard way. So of course he hasn't asked and I haven't offered."

"Still holding up the front." Elena smiled. "As much as I hate to say this, because of how the jerk screwed with you like that, I'm glad that you two are happy."

Willa ran her hands through her hair and looked over at Spanky. It still made her uncomfortable for him to be watching her. She didn't like the knowledge of anyone looking at her, even though she'd been in a million magazine pictures.

He'd taken a seat in the lobby and had picked up a magazine, but wasn't reading it. He was scanning the lobby as if he expected someone to jump out and grab her or something.

"Well I haven't seen him in three weeks, but I guess that's to be expected. I came over to get a copy of my schedule so I can try to plan something with him. You think you can print me up a copy?" Willa rocked back and forth on her feet and smiled brightly hoping that it wouldn't be an inconvenience.

"For Christmas?"

"Aren't we the little tabloid reporter?" Willa commented swatting at her arm playfully.

Willa scrunched up her toes in her shoes nervously. She hated answering questions about her and Lance. The few weeks out of the country had been nice. She hadn't had to face any of that kind of stuff since she'd left San Diego. She'd been so nervous about answering people in San Diego that most of the staff that worked with Lance thought she was deaf or something because in the forty-eight hours she was in San Diego she only spoke to him and the other guys.

"Come along my dear." Elena's voice was filled with sarcasm. "I just wanted to know where you're going to be so I can forward you all your checks. You missed a payday girl." Elena hooked her arm through Willa's and pulled her along through the maze of cubicles until they were at Elena's desk.

"Well I'm sure my bank will thank you," Willa said.

"So who's the thug with you?" Elena asked in a hushed tone as she pulled out a stash of cookies then turned to her computer screen.

"That's Spanky…well, William. He's my bodyguard."

"Bodyguard?" Elena asked, "Aren't we getting all high and mighty?"

"Lance thinks that I need some babysitting."

"How sweet." Elena rolled her eyes then offered her a cookie.

Willa refused the offer. It was too early in the morning for cookies and after three weeks of having people critique her body, the thought of eating cookies wasn't making her feel quite as cheery as it usually would have.

"You aren't eating these…are you getting picky now? Can't eat any other cookies but your own?"

Willa looked at the cookies then looked away. "It's too early for them."

"You sure?" Elena asked.

"Yes, I've already had my morning coffee and I'm not going to get all crazy hyper on sugar like that," Willa snapped.

"Whoa there turbo," Elena said, "What was that?"

Willa covered her face with her hands for a moment then tried to rub away some of her tiredness. "Sorry, I'm working on like no sleep and I don't know what time it is and right now all I can think of is just going home and going to sleep, but I know I have things to do…it's making me all bitchy."

"Don't worry about it honey," Elena said with a smile. She turned and clicked a few things on her computer then a moment later the printer started up. "I'll get you your schedule and your checks then you should go home and rest. You have the week off so enjoy it because the whole New Years thing is going to be a killer."

"Great," Willa said with a groan.

Elena leaned back in her chair for a moment and looked at her message board. "Oh yeah. We…well you…got a call from WEG. They want you to be in another video," Elena said with a smile.

"Book it," Willa said without any hesitation.

Elena burst out laughing at Willa's reaction to the news of the new video. "You aren't going to pull a Jessica Simpson on me are you?"

"What?" Willa glanced at the cookies again and her stomach rumbled.

"You know, that whole 98 Degrees-Jessica Simpson thing that's going on just because Jessica is dating Nick?"

"You're really scaring me," Willa stared at her for a moment with wide eyes. "You should really try to get a part time gig with the Enquirer."

"I have to pay attention to stuff like that now. I want to make sure that this Lance character keeps his career going for a while longer. I don't want him to mooch off of you."

"Like that will be happening anytime soon." Willa laughed. "He's the one in the family with the money."

"Family?"

A blush covered her face. "I'm not saying anything," Willa said.

"You didn't…" Elena paused and made a face. "You didn't corrupt the guy did you?"

"Corrupt?" she asked.

"You know," Elena made another face, this time wiggling her eyebrows at her. "You are the older woman in the relationship."

"No." Willa blushed for a moment. "I got to San Diego and this whole crazy scene happened in the hallway of the hotel and then he had to work so we didn't see each other until he got back from the concert and by that time everyone was tired and he'd been fighting off a cold." Willa paused and looked across the room to see outside that it had started to snow again. "Did you know that he spent most of the night in Central Park after he came up to tell me about Tracy's death? The guy is nuts if you ask me."

"You're just bubbling," Elena said and reached for her schedule. "We'll have to sit and catch up sometime, but at the moment I have to get back to work and you need to get some sleep girl. You look really tired."

"I am," she yawned suddenly then looked at the schedule as she stepped away from Elena's desk. It seemed that her movement was the cue for people to call again.

The phone rang and Elena reached to pick it up. "Keep in touch you."

"I will," Willa said and wove her way back to the front of the office.

Spanky greeted her with a smile. "It's snowing again."

"I saw," she said and folded the paper in half then shoved it in her pocket. "I think I'm going to just go home from here."

"Sounds good to me," Spanky said, "I'll ride along with you then leave you alone."

Willa frowned and buttoned all the buttons on her long coat. "I don't mean to seem--"

"Look, it's ok. No one really wants to be your age and be baby-sat, but the guy is paying me and I feel like I can't just steal his money."

"I'm sure that he'll appreciate that," Willa said with a smile.

*****

As Willa entered the studio apartment twenty minutes after leaving Elena's desk she heard a noise in the apartment. For a moment she wanted to run down and get Spanky to save her, but then she listened and she realized it was her answering machine and it was just Lance leaving her a message.

"I'm home!" she called out into the apartment and ran for the phone. She grabbed it up just before he was going to hang up.

"I'm here. I'm here."

"Well hello there Miss Marviani," he said with a laugh.

"Sorry about that," she said, "I just got home."

"I thought your flight got in last night," he said.

"It did, I had to go to the agency this morning."

"Troubles?" She loved the way his voice sounded so concerned. It was nice to know that he cared, or at least that he'd thought to ask if she was ok.

"No," she said and took the portable phone towards the front door so that she could lock herself in. "I just had to get my pay checks and I had to get my schedule for the next few weeks."

"That's good." She could hear noises in the background and she tried to picture him sitting somewhere doing whatever it was he was doing.

"So what are you up to?" she asked. His voice sounded a little hoarse and she wondered if he was still working.

He coughed. "Sorry about that…I'm taking a break," he said.

"Are you getting sick?" she asked as she closed herself in and locked the door.

"No," he said. "I just went and got lunch and was trying to do two things at once. I guess that will teach me. I shouldn't try to eat and talk."

"I didn't know you were that talented," she teased.

"Ha, ha, funny one Willa," he said.

"So you guys are still in the studio?"

"Yep, we've gotten a lot done, but with everyone trying to take vacation time and working on other stuff it's not going as fast as we thought it would."

"Do you guys get in trouble for stuff like that?" She made her way over to the couch, slipped out of her jacket and flopped down so that she could sit and talk.

"No, not really. It just costs money to be in the studio and to record so it's a pain in the wallet."

"Are you going to be able to get away for Christmas like you wanted?" They'd talked about their Christmas plans in one of her calls to him. He'd told her he was big on being with his family and had hoped that his studio work would be well into it so that he could take the whole week off to go and visit his hometown in Mississippi.

"I got my ticket this morning." His voice bubbled with excitement at the sound of him going home. "I fly out two days before Christmas and fly back to Orlando for New Years," he said, "What about you? What's your schedule like?"

"I have the whole week off remember," she said. Before, when Lance hadn't known his schedule she'd rubbed that fact in a little. That's when he'd mentioned to her about being in Orlando for the vacation and how it wasn't snowing there. "I thought I'd fly up to Seattle for a day or two, but I'm not sure after my trip that I want to travel again, at least not that far."

"So how far is far?" he asked. She heard noises again that sounded like he was trying to eat again.

"I was thinking of staying on the East Coast, or at least staying on this side of the Mississippi," she said with a laugh. She stopped and finally said, "Lance why are we doing this?"

"Doing what?"

"Just ask me to visit you in Orlando and I'll be on the first flight I can get down there."

"No," he said.

"No?"

"No, I mean yeah I want to see you, but you flew out to Orlando to see me already. I hate to put you out like that."

"Lance, really it's ok."

There was a long pause. "Well I was thinking of going home for that time, but what about New Years. We can spend New Years down here."

"You don't want to do New Years in New York?" she asked with a laugh.

"If I headed anywhere near that city they'd have me on MTV in a minute. I love Carson, but if that guy knew I was in the city limits I'd already be booked to be on some show. I think if I stay down here I at least could relax my way into the New Year."

"Oh," she said.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"It's just that it's only the twentieth and I won’t get to see you for another week." She took a deep breath and let it out. "God that sounded so girly."

"It actually sounded nice," he said. "I like hearing that you miss me."

"Don't get a big ego," she said.

"AH, there's my girl…couldn't be too nice for too long."

"So do you miss me?" she asked.

"Nope." He sounded completely serious then laughed. "You must not have gotten any of my messages I left."

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"I called you about five times last night and tried to get a hold of you, but your machine kept coming on."

Willa held the phone to her ear and leaned back into her seat. It was comforting to know that her messages weren't all from strangers. She hadn't checked them yet, hoping to get herself into a good mood before she bombarded herself with the outside world.

"I turned the ringer off when I got home and didn't check the machine before I left to go to the agency."

"You did go with Spanky didn't you?" he asked.

"Of course," she said, "He took me over to the agency then brought me home again safe and sound." She thought of telling him about the reporters at the airport or the ones outside, but decided that he'd probably double the security force if he did know about them.

"Good," he said.

"You know that I hate having him around," she said.

"He's not mean or anything is he?" lance asked.

"No, Spanky is fine. Actually he's really nice. I just don't like to be babysat."

"Yeah well it lets me sleep at night to know that he's there with you. I know you didn't have to deal with him while you were out of the country, but the tabloids and stuff have been going crazy and I don't want anyone to harass you."

"No one is harassing me," she said trying to hope that her lie would work on him.

"Well see then, it's working."

"Whatever."

"Anyway," he said, "I've got to get my lunch down and get back into the studio."

"Ok," she said.

"How about I call you when I get home tonight?" he said.

"Ok," she said, "But if you get the machine it means I'm asleep."

"Turn off the ringer if you go to bed. I don't want to wake you up."

"Don't worry. I will," she said.

"I'll see you in a few days."

"What day are you flying back to Orlando?"

"The thirtieth," he said.

"I'll get a flight down for that day then," she said.

"I'll get you the ticket," he said, "My Christmas present to you."

She thought for a moment about protesting, but she didn't want to fight. "Get it from JFK down there then," she said.

"You aren't going to Seattle?"

"Yeah, but you don't--" She reached for her schedule.

"Just tell me when you want to fly to Seattle and I'll get you all the tickets you need."

She hesitated as she looked over the schedule. "How about fly out the twenty-third to Seattle then back to Orlando on the thirtieth then I'll head back up to New York on the second."

"How about you fly back up to New York on the fifth? They guys and I are going to be going up there then to do a TRL taping."

"You want me down there with you for that long?"

"If your schedule can let you," he said.

"Let me see," she said.

Her eyes flew over the schedule. She had a shoot on the third with a photographer in the city. "I can't stay that long. I have a shoot on the third, but maybe I could take the last plane out that I possibly could on the second."

"Sounds good to me," he said.

"I'll have the tickets waiting for you at the Ritz," he said.

"At the Ritz?" she asked.

"I've got a friend who'll pick the tickets up for me and take them there. You can have Spanky pick them up for you."

"Ok," she said.

"So I'll see you in ten days?"

"With bells on," she said.

Lance laughed. "I hope you'll have more than that on," he said, "It's warm down here in Orlando, but not that warm."

"Whatever Lance," she said with a laugh. "I'll see you then."

"Bye Sweetie," he said.

"Bye," she said and hung up the phone.

Adrenaline filled her veins at the thought of seeing him again. Ten days and she'd be back with him. Part of her was excited and part of her was nervous as hell. The last time they'd been together in Orlando they'd had a great time and she hoped that it would be that way this time.


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