SIX:

 

[ two days later... ]

"DiDi!" Brianna's high-pitched scream came from the other room. They had been watching television when Kelly went to go make lunch and for a moment she thought that something horrible had happened to her considering the pitch of the scream. Kelly dropped the knife in her hand and left the apple on the kitchen counter and went around to find Brianna pressed to the television screen, her hand following Joey around the screen as NSYNC did their appearance on Regis and Kelly. She sighed a sigh of relief and reminded herself to explain to Brianna later about screaming like that.

As her hand flew over the dust that was on the screen came off, making Brianna sneeze. Kelly laughed at the scene a little. Her daughter had understood the idea early that her father would be on television, but still hadn't truly gotten the idea through her head that he couldn't hear her when he was on television. She could hear from across the room talking to her father as if he was going to hear her.

Kelly moved around and took a seat. "Jelly bean take your hands off the screen and we'll sit and watch, ok?"

"Is a Didi!" Brianna said then ran full speed and threw herself into Kelly's arms. She seemed to understand that she shouldn't yell by the face Kelly made so she repeated her previous discovery with a lower volume screech and pointed at the screen. "Is a Didi. Hi Didi!"

"I know baby," she said with a sigh.

*****

"Are you going to say goodbye?"

Kelly jumped at the sound of his voice. He'd been sitting in the living room playing with Brianna when she'd started dinner. She hadn't heard Mike come in or the fact that Brianna was now crying in the bodyguard's arms as he explained to her that her father would be back soon.

"Goodbye," Kelly said and poured the pasta into the water.

"So that's it?" he asked.

"What do you want?" she asked, "I'm trying to make dinner for our daughter while you go fly off to who knows where."

"Kelly don't punish me like this," he said, "I thought you understood--"

"WHAT--" Her voice softened when she started to yell at him. Mike was in the other room, only ten feet away and had looked over when her voice had raised. "What I understand Joe is that you cheated on me, had a child, and are bringing that child home to OUR house in a few days. What I understand is that you lied to me and lied to your daughter...hell...lied to yourself about how perfect you are. What I understand is that my whole--" Tears caught in her throat and she stopped for a moment to take a breath. "--my whole world has just fallen apart and what I DON'T understand is that you expect me to be completely normal with this."

"What do you want from me?" Joey asked. "You want sorry...fine I'll say sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Hell I am pretty sorry for doing what I did, but Kelly...I love you...I told you I loved you and that isn't changing."

"It has changed," Kelly said. She stared him down for a minute. "Go kiss your daughter, tell her that you love her, and go catch your flight."

Joey moved towards her to try to hug her and she moved away only putting a hand to his chest to keep him away, while her other hand wiped eyes. "Go and hug her Joey. I have pasta to finish."

She'd turned and stood facing out the window into the backyard next to the sink while she listened to Joey leave. A part of her heart had told her to run after him and hug him goodbye, but the broken part of her heart made her feet stay still and let the tears flow.

*****

Keeping her eyes on the screen Kelly tried to distract herself from thoughts of him. She pulled Brianna into her lap and sat her so that she was facing the screen. "There is Uncle Chris, and Uncle Justin, and Uncle Lance--"

"Laanse is sieey."

"Uncle Lance is silly?" she asked.

Brianna nodded and pat her head with her hand. "Laanse a cow hat."

Kelly looked away from the screen as their performance ended and looked at her daughter. "Lance has a cow hat?"

"Laanse a cow."

"Lance is a cow?" she asked then thought for a moment. Most things she could understand, but Joey was better at interpreting her tiny vocabulary. "OH...you mean Lance is a cowboy?"

Brianna nodded and took a deep breath as if to tell her that Kelly was stupid for not understanding the first time. "Laanse. A. Cow."

While her ears picked up the sounds from the television, Kelly started to undo Brianna's pigtails and ran her hands through her hair.

"So there Joey," Regis was saying, "I should say Daddy."

Joey's laugh filled the room. "Well yeah."

"So how old is your daughter now?" Joey asked.

"B--My baby jelly bean is two and a half," he said.

"Please tell me that isn't her name," Regis said, "I know some celebrities that pick the strangest names in the world for their kids."

"No," he said, "That's my nickname for her."

"Cuz she's so sweet," Justin piped in.

Regis laughed a little. "I bet it's a nice little family."

Joey began to move his weight from one foot to the other. "Just the four of us."

"Joey failed math in school," Justin joked moving into the camera shot so that the attention would be taken away from Joey. She didn't know if it was planned or not, but it did the trick for a little bit. "Two plus one equals three Joey."

Joey pushed him a little in a playful manner then laughed, "I know what two plus one is." He looked straight in the camera when he spoke next. "Four," Joey said, "I have a son who is about four and a half now."

Kelly's eyes flew to the screen and she gulped back a scream. She couldn't believe that he'd mentioned Colton on television.

"A son?" Regis said.

"Yeah," Chris said, "He just adopted me."

Soon they cut to commercial and the phone rang. She set Brianna down. "Stay here jelly bean and see if Daddy comes back on. I'm gonna get the phone."

Brianna laughed. "Papa Joe ona phone?"

"I don't know baby," she said, "If it is him I'll let you talk."

The ringing of the phone filled the air again and she went and grabbed it up. "Hello?"

"Kelly. Oh my god," the female voice said, "I just watched Regis."

"Oh yeah," he said with a sigh.

"Justin should have told me about this. I didn't know that Joey had a son."

"Meredith," Kelly said, "It's not something that we were--" Kelly's eyes filled with tears, "Joey didn't tell me that he was going to tell everyone. He found out a few days ago."

"Girl are you ok?" Meredith asked, "I know how it is to deal a guy cheating--"

"Yeah well Justin didn't really cheat on you!" Kelly snapped at that comment. "You at least got to find out that it wasn't true. What do I get out of it? Another kid to take care of." She couldn't help but to want to scream at her for saying it. None of the other girlfriends knew about real cheating. The other guys had never made it a habit of cheating and she didn't think that she could even approach the topic with them. She'd always felt alone as she dealt with dating Joey, but this was just another reason why she wasn't like them and why she knew that this was going to be the hardest thing she was ever going to go through. She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry Mere," she sighed, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap. I'm just really--" She wiped her face, "Listen. I gotta go. I'll talk to you later."

"Wait Kelly." Meredith's voice sounded extremely concerned. "Are you ok? Do you want me to come over?"

It was embarrassing to think about Meredith coming over to sit in their living room and discuss her boyfriend's infidelities. It wasn't something she wanted to think about let alone talk about. "No," Kelly said with a sigh knowing that she had things to do before Joey came home again. "I'll be fine. I need to get Brianna some breakfast. I'll talk to you later."

"Kelly," Meredith's voice was serious, "If you need anything just give me a call."

"Thanks," Kelly said, "If I need anything then I'll give you a call."

He needed a beer, plain and simple.

Joey flopped down onto the couch and thought for a moment about his mother's request that he not do that. She'd always told him and Steve that they'd break the couch if they did that. With a smile he wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. He had been pacing, but finally figured that if he paced he thought he might scare his son, so he took a seat on the couch in the corner of the room and tried to sit still. "I'm turning into fucking Chris," he mumbled as his foot tapped a pattern on the floor nervously. He pressed his hand down on his leg to make it stop, but it wouldn't so he gave up and tried to breathe deeply.

There were so many things wrong with having Colt meet up with them on the road, but he couldn't get any more days off due to the schedule. Steve had flown to Los Angeles to edit some footage for their upcoming home video. When Johnny offered to have his daughter Laura pick Colton up and bring him to the show he had agreed knowing full well that he would meet him after Laura took him to the show. It wasn't ideal to have them meet in such a rush before they sped away to the hotel, but it was the only time that Joey could fit it into his day. He'd had interviews all morning and had done a show that night.

"Joey?" Laura said walking into the room, "I have a visitor for you." She was on the far side of the couch and for a moment he thought that she'd forgotten to bring Colton in. He was about to yell at her for pulling this tension out, but soon he saw that she was holding the small hand of a little boy in hers. As they came around the corner of the couch he laid eyes on his son for the first time.

The three-foot tall boy was lanky, unlike his own frame, but his dark hair and eyes and tiny mouth were his, no one could deny him of that. That night he wore a huge NSYNC T-shirt that almost reached the floor and held a teddy bear in his hand, dragging it by the arm along the floor as they came closer.

"Colton, this is your daddy," Laura said looking down at him.

Colton didn't move, but a worried expression crossed his face. "My daddy has red hair." He looked over at Joey then back at Laura with a confused look. "Mommy said he has red hair."

"Red hair?" Joey said panicking instantly wondering if Yvonne had lied on the boy's birth certificate. If his father was a red head then all of this stress was for nothing.

"Remember I told you--" Laura crouched down and came to his eye level. "Remember when I said that they put color in your daddy's hair to make it red like superman's cape? Well he decided that he didn't want red hair again so he cut the red parts off."

"Oh."

Joey leaned back in his seat and watched the boy for a moment. His expression relaxed as Laura continued to guide their conversations. "Why don't you show your daddy Paddington Bear and tell him the story about his hat like you told me?" she suggested.

"OK." He let go of her hand and walked over to Joey, moving so that he could climb up on Joey's knee. Joey let him climb and put an arm around him when he plopped himself down after a moment then held up Paddington.

"You ok there buddy?" Joey asked.

Colton nodded. "This is Paddington. He is from..." He looked over to Laura and stuck his finger in his mouth and looked at her, "I forgot."

"Paddington is from England," Laura supplied.

Joey waited for the rest of the story trying not to stare at him to hard for fear that he might scare him.

"Yeah," he said, "Paddington is from Engand."

Laura moved her hand from her mouth to her side, "Colton take your hand out your mouth or Joey won't hear the story."

He removed his hand and grabbed up Paddington's other hand and said, "Mommy said that it rains in England so Paddinton has to wear a hat. He had a jacket, but I losted it at Jack's house when we moveded."

"Jack's house?" Joey asked.

"He's not my daddy," Colton said. His expression became serious as he started to explain things to Joey. "Mommy said that my daddy was better than him." He stared at him for a moment. "When can I see my mommy?"

Joey's breath caught in his throat. He looked at Laura and pleaded with her with his eyes wanting help to explain about Yvonne. He'd dealt with death before, and barely understood it himself. There was no way he was going to even try to explain to his son where his mother was. Johnny had informed him that there had been a car accident and his mother had been driving, but there wasn't much else that Joey could say to him to help him understand.

"Colton, you're gonna stay with your daddy now. Remember? Miss Julie told you the story when I came to pick you up."

He nodded, but Joey could tell that he wasn't really confident about the whole idea.

Joey was glad when his phone rang moments later.

"Hello?" he said holding onto Colton while he balanced his phone on his ear.

"Joey?"

He expected it to be Kelly but it turned out to be someone else. "Meredith? Mere have you been drinking again? This isn't Justin's phone."

"No," she said, "I'm calling for you."

"Ok," he said, "What can I do for you?"

"You need to call Kelly."

"What's wrong with Kelly?" he asked instantly looking over at Laura who was reaching for Colton to take him away from Joey.

"I called her today after the Regis thing and she was really upset. She snapped at me and she never usually does that."

"She snapped at you?" He took a deep breath and watched Colton.

"She sounded bad Joey," she said, "She didn't know that you were going to announce about your son on television today and I think it messed her up."

Joey sighed. "I'll give her a call tonight."

"Good luck with that," Meredith said, "And tell Justin to make sure that he brings all his clothes down here so we can wash them all this time."

"Yes ma'am."

Joey hung up the phone and looked at his son. He knew he was going to have to call Kelly and talk to her before he got on the plane the next morning. He could have flown out that night, but he had decided to take the morning flight knowing that he wanted Colton to see Orlando in the light and know where he was when he went to sleep that night.

 

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