Seattle in mid-March held many gray days so it was no surprise the morning
of her opening concert that rain had begun to fall on the city. Justin
had woken up in his tour bus that morning and after a bowl of cereal he
had crawled back into bed to dial her cell number to wake her up. He
hadn't talked to her in two days and during their last conversation he'd
told her that he'd be in LA working on some new tracks. She had no
idea that his tour bus was parked on the other side of the city.
He'd planned to surprise her that night on stage. For the show a tape of him had been set up, much like Natalie Cole's version of Unforgettable, so that she could sing the duet with him. It would have been a good gag to use in the show, but that set up hadn't seemed enough. Jive had thought that they should do the song live so they set it up for him to join the tour for a month or so during his vacation. So that night Justin would sneak on stage and sit with the band until the duet came on and would sing the song with her live instead of on a video tape that would have been played instead.
He smiled at her sleepy voice and wished that she was in the bed next to him instead of across town. He rolled over onto his side and looked at the empty pillow next to him. Normally at this time of year he would have been home sleeping in his own bed, but with the plans that he had made instead of moving out of his bus that he took on the road with NSYNC, he'd moved into another bus that would be his for the next month. This time instead of sleeping in a bunk and sharing with Chris or Lance or JC, he'd gotten a bus with a back bedroom and a double bed. It wasn't only for the comfort, but for the hope that some nights Meredith would ride with him instead of on her own bus. They'd had that set up while she was on tour with the group and it seemed to work out ok.
"Hi," her voice got instantly emotional when she heard that it was him on the line. "Beedee..."
"How are you holding up Bear?" he asked instantly knowing that she was already in need of some counseling. He wished that he could give her the physical kind, but that would have to wait until later.
He could hear her walking around. He'd called her cell phone thinking that either she would already be out and about doing interviews or that she would be getting ready for the day and would need to walk around some. "I'm about to go crazy."
"Are you getting ready to go out?" he asked. He knew that she was an extremely strong woman, but any person in her position would be ready to fall apart. Tonight she'd be performing to a packed house of over five thousand. It wasn't the biggest crowd she'd ever performed to since she'd played coliseums with them on the last tour, but this was the first time she'd be the headliner.
"Yeah," she said, "I woke up at the crack of dawn and did a phone interview with The End--thank God they have a sense of humor at five in the morning--then went and took a shower. Now I'm trying to do my make up so I can go get breakfast and then go to the gym downstairs with Gritty."
"You're going to the gym this morning?" he asked.
Her voice shook nervously. "Gritty is going to work out and I'm going to go in the spa. I have a massage scheduled for myself while Gritty works out."
"You sound like you're getting all hyper Bear," he said with a calm voice.
"I can't--" She stuck her toothbrush in her mouth and began to brush her teeth, "I can't get my heart to stop pounding. I have sound check at three and I'm already freaking out."
He heard her spit and shuttered then took a deep breath. "Where's Gritty baby?"
He heard water running then she was searching through something looking for probably some make up stuff. She sounded like she was half paying attention to him and half paying attention to other things. "He's going to meet me in a while to take me to breakfast."
"How's the band doing?" he asked as he ran his hand over his face starting to wake up.
"They're good," she said, "Dave has been great and Tad is amazing on those drums."
Justin smiled. At least that was one thing that he didn't have to worry about. He'd suggested most of the band to her and she'd had them try out with some other people before picking the ones he'd suggested. It had gotten things off to a rocky start with the musicians that she'd taken on the road with her, but luckily they all understood that she was new at things and wanted to make sure that she was going to be comfortable. "I told you that they were good."
"I wish you were here," she said and he heard her start to cry. Her voice lowered and he could tell that her nose was running. "I wish you or Lynn or my mom was here."
"Awe girl," he said, "Don't cry. I love you...you're going to do great. With or without anyone there. My mom wanted to be there, but my dad got the flu and with your mom having to work and your dad at that conference it wasn't such a good thing." He tried to sound convincing knowing that the rest of her family was in fact in other parts of the city waiting for her to get to rehearsal so they could meet up with her and surprise her. He knew she didn't like surprises, but it was family and he had a feeling at that moment that it had been the right decision to plan things behind her back.
He could hear her sniffing more. "Baby get a tissue, " he prompted.
"I am," she said, "I can't get the damn thing out of the holder...hold on." He heard her put the phone down and blow her nose. "Thank God I didn't schedule any interviews this morning." She took a deep breath. "Can you meet up with me in Portland? Please?"
"I'll try to," he said trying not to jump up and tell his driver to take him over there right that minute to meet up with her. They were parked across town and Justin hadn't been out of the bus since he'd met up with it. Due to the secret that needed to be kept, he'd also stayed away from his parents, knowing that they would blab about him being there too. He'd had to be especially careful these days about things. Somehow fans had a way of finding out where he was and he didn't want anyone to ruin the surprise.
"Please?" she begged, "I'll pay to fly you here."
"You don't have to do that babe," he said, "If worse comes to worse you'll see me in a week in LA for sure."
"Promise me that you won't schedule an interview or anything to keep you away--"
He didn't like the tone of her voice, as if she was accusing him of purposely being away from her. Technically this time it was the truth, but it was for a good cause. It seemed like she was saying that he would purposely schedule things to stay away from her and that wasn't it at all. He knew that work was important and when it came to NSYNC, that always came first, not because he wanted it to, but because it wasn't just him making decisions. Sometimes you just had to make priorities and the group was his bread and butter and he wasn't going to do anything to screw that up. "I have a project to work on and then I'll come and see you."
"How long is your project going to take?" she asked.
"Meredith what's wrong?" He knew if they kept up this way she'd be depressed that day and would get stage fright that night. It wasn't at all abnormal for her to be a little afraid to go on and he wasn't at all upset about having to reassure her about her career, but he knew the circumstances of that night were going to keep him from being able to be available for her to talk to him and he didn't want her upset. "You're in Seattle. You're about to start your tour and you're thinking of me instead of what you should be thinking about."
"Great Justin." He could hear the tension in her voice and could almost guess at what was going to happen next. "I'm asking you to come up here and support me because I'm nervous and you're talking to me about work? You know what?" She sighed. "Never mind. Do your little project and call me if you have time to see me."
Before he could stop her she hung up the phone.
"Damn!" He yelled and threw the phone across the tiny room. He tried not to get over emotional about things these days, but it seemed as if his relationship was taking him away from real life these days. He spent more than half his time worrying about her and trying to get a hold of her then when he did get her on the phone she was upset with him. It never got out to the public, but Justin was starting to worry about their relationship. It showed in the way that he threw his phone. It hit against the bed and a moment later landed on the floor. "Christ!"
"What are you screaming for back here?" Todd asked coming back into the master bedroom of the bus. He reached and picked up the phone and threw it onto the bed.
Justin leaned back against the pillows, threw his arms across his chest to pout as he angrily kicked the sheets off his legs. "What do you think that I'm screaming about?"
"What's up with your woman this time?" Todd asked.
"She's across town freaking out and I told her that I couldn't be there before the show and she got pissed at me and hung up."
Todd shook his head. He hadn't been his personal guard for long, but he had taken a clue from everyone around Justin to be weary of the drama that came along with him having a girlfriend. Justin knew he wasn't half as bad as the other guys. He didn't have kids to worry about or anything like that, but he had a traveling girlfriend and it was hard to keep track of her. Unlike JC, who's girlfriend Farzana had started a career, Justin's girlfriend had gone from obscurity to number one hit in a few weeks and it was starting to hurt their relationship. Last he'd heard Farzana had dropped the idea of becoming a recording artist herself and had started working with David Foster and a new group he was developing in LA. "You and that girl have more drama that I know what to do with."
"We don't have drama," he growled.
Todd rolled his eyes. "Sure."
"Can we go to the hotel so I can take a shower?" Justin asked completely changing the subject.
"No hotel for you until tomorrow night," Todd said. "Gritty and I booked you a present."
"The Super Sonics are practicing this morning over at Seattle Pacific University and we set it up so you can go use the weight room with the guys this morning then use their locker room to change and stuff before we go over to the show."
"You did?" he asked.
"Yeah," Todd said, "Practices are closed to the public, so we thought it would be a safe place for you to go hang out today."
"Can I shoot around or anything?"
"I don't know...I'll call over and see if we can grab a net for you or whatever."
"I just want to shoot. I won't even bother them. I need to practice for my games this summer. The league starts up in about two months." He'd just signed up for his second season of the NBA sponsored celebrity league. He was playing with the LA team this year and was looking forward to getting to play at the staples center with a really good team. He had always loved basketball, but this was the closest he'd gotten to play on an organized team in years. The last time had been the junior high team he'd played with while he was waiting to get back into singing again after the Mickey Mouse Club went off the air.
"Don't have an orgasm right there," Todd said with a laugh. He was already dressed for the day and looked almost annoyed with the fact that Justin was still in bed. It did seem a little ridiculous that he was sitting there in bed like a kid demanding to go out and play. "I'll see what I can do. If not you can definitely use the weight room with them."
Justin sighed and turned and looked to look out the window. It was raining out and he had the window shades pulled down, but he could see through the cracks that other people were outside. It made him kind of paranoid to know that a whole security team wasn't around. He knew that Todd and Ronnie the driver wouldn't let anything happen to him, but he would have felt safer being in a building instead of some random parking lot. "OK."
"Better?" Todd asked.
Justin licked his lips, leaned forward to stretch a little then nodded.
"Good," he said and pointed to the phone, "Now call your woman back and tell you that you love her before she freaks out any more."
"Ugh," Justin said knowing that Todd was right about what he should do. "I swear this time was PMS. I know her pretty well and that was definitely not your ordinary bitch out."
"We'll have a car here in about an hour or so to take us over there so wear something with a hood and bring your stuff for the show. The van will take us to the gym and over to the show so don't forget anything."
"Screw you Timberlake," Todd said.
Justin waved him away and picked up the phone, this time to get someone to deliver flowers to her before he called her back. She didn't pick up, but he left her a message saying to call him back and then he pushed himself out of bed and went to get dressed.
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