Gritty took her jacket from her then reached out towards her again, this time in the direction of what was in her hands. "You're going to break a nail if you keep that up."
"Not this conversation again," she groaned remembering so many conversations that they had that started with her tapping her fingers on something and him complaining.
Gritty rolled his eyes and made a silly face at her. He laughed when she gave him a serious look back. "You know how I hate to hear her complaining about doing your nails all the time."
The long hallway was in no way silent, but he had heard her nervous tap even over everyone busily hurrying through getting her ready for the interview that was about to happen. It was TRL and she was going to be talking to Carson for almost twenty minutes of air time. She was standing there with an intern holding a plastic clipboard with the schedule on it. The bubbly college girl also held the microphone that Meredith would be using in a few moments. Carson was on the air at the moment and they could hear him talking, but couldn't see what was going on in the studio down the hall. She still had a few minutes until she'd be announced to the crowd.
With a sigh Meredith looked down at her hand then released the plastic bottled water handing it to him to hold. She'd had it with her for most of the morning, but hadn't had time to drink much of it. It was just after twelve noon and she already had done a radio interview with Z100 for the morning commute show before she'd stopped by Rosie to do the opening to her show then had been whisked over to MTV for the TRL taping.
"Deja vu Gritty?" she asked with a sly grin on her face. She didn't want him to think she was stressed or he'd call Justin and tattle on her. He would only be trying to help, but having Justin calling her and wondering what was going on in New York wasn't something she wanted to deal with. He'd been overprotective with her in the last few months and she was starting to hate it. She loved that he loved her, but this was usually more about the work than the feelings she was having about work.
"What are you nervous about babe?" he asked with a grin. He looked tired, but was in work mode glancing around them nervously as they stood in the hallway. She knew that he'd rather have her in some green room or something, but she was about to go on and needed to wait in the hall. Nothing had ever had happened to her, but he still acted like she'd been attacked before.
"Oh lets see," she said counting on her fingers. "National television."
The intern looked at her with a surprised look as if she was worried that Meredith was going to throw a Britney Spears sized fit in the hallway because she was about to go on television.
She smiled at the intern. "Interview about a new song that no one has heard."
Gritty groaned and started to talk, but she cut him off. This time she looked at Gritty trying to get sympathy from him. "My boyfriend is in London or Switzerland."
"Sweden." Gritty said.
The intern did a little awe sound next to her and Meredith rolled her eyes. Everyone was mentioning their relationship lately and she didn't want to talk about it. Lately she didn't want to talk about anything. She needed a break and she knew she wasn't going to get one until after her first tour, which would end in almost three months. It was three months too long without a break. If Meredith would have had her hands on the schedule, things would have been different, but because her agent and manager and everyone else had been involved, vacations only came once in a blue moon lately.
"Are you getting stage fright?" Gritty joked.
She picked at the red and silver streaked tank top she'd chosen to wear then zipped up the black and silver Abercrombie sweatshirt that Justin had insisted she take with her on her promo trip to New York. He'd told her that if he couldn't be there that at least his arms would be around her the whole time. It was extremely corny and stupid of him to say, but at the moment with her nervousness she didn't care, she would have taken any corny words from him at a time like that. She wished that he could have been there with her, but he'd had to make a trip out to LA for a meeting.
"It's not stage fright." She stuck her hands in the pockets of her jeans then pulled them out when she found that the pockets of the hip huggers barely fit her fingers inside. She tried to sound convincing as she moved her arms to cross over her chest. "It's just that this is a duet." She sighed a heavy sigh. "Justin and I did this song TOGETHER and I just think he should be here to help promote it. He's better at this stuff than I am."
When Gritty's eyes widen for a moment as he looked over her shoulder she turned her head to see what he was looking at. She was becoming paranoid a little about his reactions to things. He was around her the most of anyone she knew and she tried to gauge things that happened around her by his reaction to them. He'd been known to make faces when people spotted her or they were heading into a crowd and him looking over her shoulder like that made her think that someone was about to attack her from behind.
Trying to keep the mood of the day light she laughed a little and tried to calm her own nerves by trying to make a joke with him. If he laughed things would be ok, but if he was nervous it meant that things were probably not good. "Did you see Rodney Jerkins again?"
"Yeah," Gritty said nervously. He squinted his eyes and leaned a little towards her then leaned back. Maybe it was him. I don't know...all those guys are starting to look alike these days. I think I'm going nuts or something."
"You're just silly," she said then looked at the intern next to her. "How much time do we have until I go on?"
"A few minutes," the intern said looking at her clipboard. "They should be off to commercial in a minute then will be back after like two minutes. Why?"
Meredith ducked her head and knew that she was blushing as she spoke. "I need to use the restroom."
The intern straightened up. "Can it wait?"
Meredith wanted to strangle the girl for even thinking that something like that was something she could reschedule. She knew that things were on a tight schedule, but that was seriously wrong to try to control her bowel movements because of some television schedule. She glared at Gritty angrily, "I can't even pee when I need to on these trips. It's getting ridiculous."
"Calm down girl."
The intern rolled her eyes and spoke into the headset. "Miss Willis needs Carson to stall a little." She paused for a moment. "She needs to use the restroom."
Meredith threw up her hands in surrender. "Did you need to announce it to the whole world?"
The girl looked a bit upset about being in trouble with Meredith. "I only said it to the producer."
"And I bet the producer is going to tell Carson and he'll make a joke about it on the air and the whole freaking world is going to know that I'm peeing right now."
"Excuse her," Gritty said pulling her to face him. He looked her in the eyes. "Don't turn into a diva now girl. Just go with the flow. You know the rules on these trips...nothing is normal for promo trips."
The intern tapped her on the shoulder. "I'm sorry that what I did might have embarrassed you, but if you really have to go then go now."
"Thanks," Gritty said for her as if he could see that Meredith would scream at the girl if she opened her mouth. He looked around, "Where?"
"Three doors down," the girl said pointing.
"We'll be right back." Gritty put an arm around her and walked her down the hall. "Don't freak out right now ok girl? You pee and then get your head on straight before you go on camera or--"
"Or what?" she asked, "This is ridiculous. I want to go home."
"Calm down," he said, "Just take some deep breaths and chill out. This will be over soon then you'll have a few hours before we have to go over to Planet Hollywood for that dinner. We'll call Justin when we get out of here...you can have your phone sex or whatever it is that you kids do then we'll be ok."
"I don't have phone sex with him." She sighed as he pushed the door open for her. "Ok?"
"Whatever you say," Gritty said, "I'll get you out of here soon, ok?"
In the restroom Meredith found that the one stall was occupied so she went into the handicapped one and used the toilet. When she was finished she heard the other person in the tiny room washing her hands she exited and went to the sink next to her careful not to scare the other person.
It wasn't a moment later that the other person was scaring her.
"Oh my god. You're Meredith!" the girl screamed at her.
"Shhh," Meredith said and started to wash her hands.
The girl suddenly had a camera and started to snap a picture.
She wanted to put her hand up but it was wet and didn't want to get water on herself, knowing it would show up on camera if it was on her shirt. "Please don't do that."
The girl began to jump around and her face turned completely pink. "But it's you...oh my God. Oh my lord. I can't believe this...no one is going to believe me."
"Look. I'm sure this is great and all, but it's the bathroom," Meredith said, "Everyone in the world uses them."
The girl snapped another picture and Meredith did what she thought she'd never do. "Gritty!" Meredith finally screamed.
Gritty came busting into the room like some action hero. He only had to point to the door before the startled girl removed herself from the room. Gritty closed the door, shutting them in the small room. "Are you ok? Did she hurt you?"
"No," she said, "It wasn't about that." She waved his hands away and moved to the counter to wash her hands then dried them and looked at him. "I hate this Gritty. I just pitched a fit because a fan wanted to say hello. I told you that I'd never do that, but--but I can't--I CANNOT be having people attack me in the rest room!"
"I'm sorry girl. I was dumb for not checking."
Meredith began to laugh, "Can you believe this? We're talking about me getting attacked in the bathroom."
"At least you can laugh about it," Gritty said.
"Shit--" Meredith leaned against the wall. "I just wish this was over."
"Only a few more hours of work then you can relax for a day before rehearsals start."
"Great." Meredith sighed, "Please make it painless."
There was a knock at the door and the intern called to them that it was time. They straightened themselves, put on serious faces and walked out into the hallway and down to the studio as Carson was making the announcement for her.
"Hey guys...Welcome back to TRL...as promised we have Meredith Willis here for you. She's never been on the show before so everyone give her a big big welcome...Meredith Willis!"
Smoke started to flow out of a machine next to her and she was given her microphone and the intern pointed the way. Meredith left Gritty behind and walked into the crowd of people waiting for her. She made eye contact with Carson for a brief moment and he smiled at her as everything else in the room was drowned out by the screams from the thirty or so fans in the room.
"Come on over to the window girl," Carson said and Meredith waved down at the people on the street for a moment before joining him in front of the cameras.
The crowd started to calm down and Carson began his little talk. "Welcome Meredith...Miss Willis I should say..."
"Thank you," she said ducking her head a little in acknowledgement of the crowd. "It's good to finally be here. I know my video has been lurking around here, but I never could get up here from the street."
"Awe," Carson said, "We didn't mean to keep you outside...but anyway you're here, hopefully for the first of many return visits."
"Of course," she said.
"Ok...now the reason why you're here today is because you and Justin Timberlake--" Screams filled the air and Meredith tried not to make a face. She hated when they did that. "--just finished recording a song together and you're about to start a tour."
"Yeah," she said, "Justin and I were in Orlando and got a great duet from Tony Lucca to sing and we recorded it and it comes out the day my tour starts--on March fourteenth."
"Tony Lucca," Carson said with a laugh, "The Mickey Mouse club keeps giving out talent. First it was Justin and JC--" Screams filled the air. "Then Britney--" Screams rose up again. "And Christina--" More screams. By the time he was done announcing that one sentence Meredith's ears hurt. She wanted to put her hands over her ears, but knew that she couldn't. It would look bad not only for her, but for all the other artists that had just been named to have her react that way. "--and now Tony."
"And where is your tour starting?"
Meredith caught his voice and realized he was talking to her. She remembered to smile. "We start out in Seattle with a new artist from Arista, Wendell Richards for my opening act and we'll end up in Orlando in May."
"Wow," Carson said.
A director or producer made a motion to him and soon they were cutting to commercial.
"We've got a surprise for you," Carson said.
"What?" Meredith asked as the fans in the room chatted loudly as the sound from the video that was playing over the airwaves was piped into the room.
"We've got a surprise for you," Carson said, "In the next section. I just don't want you to freak out or anything."
"I won't," Meredith said and tugged on the sleeve of her sweatshirt.
When the producer signaled to Carson he straightened and said, "That was Farzana Jabbar with Never Enough." He turned to her and smiled. "You have the pleasure of knowing Farzana don't you?"
"Yeah," Meredith said, "She and JC have been dating for a few months now and I've seen her in Orlando when I've been down there or we'll see each other in LA if we're doing something out there. She's really a cool girl to hang out with."
"Speaking of dating," Carson said, "The reason for you being in Orlando, or at least one reason is because of your boyfriend isn't it?"
Meredith hated talking about this. She found Gritty standing in the back of the room and took a deep breath to clear her head before she spoke again. "Yes. That's one of the reasons I love Orlando."
"Well we knew that you and your boyfriend--"
Someone screamed Justin's name and Meredith knew she'd started to blush.
"Yes...her boyfriend Justin couldn't be here today," he said. The crowd awed a collective sympathetic awe for her. "But, we got him on the phone for you."
"Yeah." Carson smiled at her.
"I couldn't get him earlier...the powers of MTV."
"Yeah," Carson said with a laugh then looked up at the ceiling a little. "Hello?" He paused, "Justin are you there?"
Screams filled the air, but Meredith couldn't hear them this time. All she heard was Justin's voice as he started to speak. "Hey Carson. Hey Mere."
Her eyes filled with tears. "Hi B--boyfriend," she croaked out into her microphone, using that instead of the nickname she had almost used for him.
"Awe--" Carson laughed a little. "Justin your girlfriend is crying."
"Don't cry Meredith," Justin said.
Carson laughed a little and hugged her. "It's ok girl. What if we'd flown him in? You would have probably fainted."
"No," Meredith said and carefully wiped her eyes. She turned her head away from the camera, but only found the fans behind her watching her. It was embarrassing to be in that position. Someone from the production crew shoved a tissue in her hand and Carson tried to joke some more.
Soon Meredith heard Carson talking to her. "Do you think you'd faint if he was here?"
"I don't know," she said.
"Well hold onto me then because he's here."
Meredith's eyes searched the crowd and soon he appeared and joined them near the cameras. Screams filled the room and she felt as if she was in some dream world. She'd seen them do this to other artists before and she'd always laughed at the people for getting so emotional about things, but with him being in Europe for the last few weeks recording with Brian McKnight and some other producers for his solo album she'd barely talked to him for more than five minutes in the last three days.
Her eyes teared up as he slid his arms around her to hug her. "What are you doing here?" she asked without the microphone.
He pressed a kiss to her cheek. The warmth coming from in took her away from the people around him and the stress of that morning and the rest of that day. "Surprise."
"So does this mean that you're going to come up to TRL more often?" Carson said.
She tried not to cry as Justin rubbed her back and talked to her in her ear. "I flew in this morning. We got done earlier."
"Ok guys," Carson said, "I guess I'll give you the honors of announcing the next video on the countdown and we'll come back in a minute."
Meredith hugged onto Justin and he took the microphone he had and announced the next song. "This is my man Nelly with the St. Lunatics at number three with Louie Style."
The fans screamed more and Meredith hugged Justin. He moved and put his mouth near her ear. "Are you ok Bear?"
"Yeah," she said with a nod and stepped back and wiped her face. "I just didn't expect to see you for a few days. I'm not sure--"
"I've got another surprise for you, but I'll wait until later to tell you about it."
She nodded and finally looked around. A few fans behind her started to call her name and Justin's name so they went over and shook some hands, her still wiping her face.
When the video was done they came back and Carson started more interviewing.
"So what's it like to work with your boyfriend?" Carson asked.
Meredith leaned against Justin's arm as he held onto her hand out of the camera shot. "It's been great. I never--"
"This duet is going to be the bomb," Justin said getting a little more street than usual as he spoke. She knew that he always got this way in front of the camera, but she had a feeling he'd been this way for the last two weeks after being in Sweden with the guys recording.
It was clear though to her that Justin was avoiding the topic at hand. When Carson started to ask more about their relationship Justin cut him off. "You guys don't want to hear about us. We're like an old married couple."
Girls in the crowd protested his comparison. "I didn't say we were married. I don't want all ya'll out there to get on the internet and throw rumors around. We are just normal people and we're kind of boring."
Meredith held her breath and let Justin rescue the interview. On the one hand she was there to take over, but she was upset with most of what came out of his mouth. Every time she started to say something he'd cut her off. and when Carson tried to ask her one last question about her favorite date with Justin her boyfriend pulled her close. "Are you trying to steal my woman?"
Carson laughed it off, but she saw it in his face that even he realized the way that Justin had taken over the conversation.
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