Honestly For You 17

"So is it hard that you and Meredith aren't in the same town for once?"

"It's not that bad," he said, "I'm sure I'll hear from her soon.  We usually don't go for more than a few hours without talking."

"I'm sure that the press is keeping her busy after her announcement this morning.  Why were you down here and not up there for her announcement."

Justin leaned back in the chair and moved the radio station microphone closer to his face.  "Excuse me?"

"Your girlfriend just announced on TRL today that she was giving up her career.  I figured that this would have been something that you--"

His heart went into his throat and his heart broke into a million pieces.  It wasn't the career or the news that he was mourning.  It was the fact that she hadn't told him her plans for New York.  She'd known that she was going up to see Farzana, had been gone a day already, but there was no talk of TRL so he wasn't sure that the reporter had just gotten something misquoted from some report or what.  "Are you kidding me?"

"No," he said and slid the paper across to him.

"Viacom Studios -- New York.  Singer Meredith Willis announced this morning that with great sadness she would be immediately canceling the second half of her American Tour.  When asked about the reason for the top ten artist retreat from the industry she was quoted:  "At this point in my career I've become overwhelmed with the demands that have been put on me and I'm chosing, for health reasons to step away from it."  Eyebrows are raised with this comment and focus is now put on Lynn and Paul Harless as well as her record label as to the schedule that the artist was adhereing to.  Sources close to the singer also hinted that maybe her fairy tale relationship with NSYNC singer Justin Timberlake is over considering that the couple were slated to release a video for their single I Dreamed You later this month."

Justin's stomach dropped.  His mouth went dry and even though he knew that he was going to have to clean up the mess when this was over, he slid out of the headphones, pushed the microphone away from him and caught Todd's eye outside the studio.  He left the interview.

"Did you know about this?" he asked.

"Hell no," Todd said.

"What about Gritty?" he asked, "Do you think Gritty knew?"

A producer for the radio show came after him.  "Justin you can't just leave like this."

Justin slid his sunglasses on and grabbed out his phone.  He dialed and held the phone to his ear.  "Todd, we're going home now."

Todd nodded.

"You can't leave like this."

Justin wasn't going to sit there and listen to the man.  He didn't have time nor the strength to argue.  "I just did."

When her phone rang and wasn't picked up Justin shoved his phone into his pocket and followed Todd out of the building to the car.  Todd got in the driver's seat and Justin got into the passenger side.  Both men were silent as Todd pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards his apartment.

Justin dialed her number again, but again was met with a dead line.  Finally he dialed his mother.  He knew that she had to have had contact with Meredith about things.

"Justin?"

"Mamma what the hell just happened?"  he asked, "I'm sitting in an interview and they throw this shit at me saying that Meredith just backed out of her tour."

"She did."  His mother sounded tired and on edge.  She probably had just been bombarded with phone calls.  Meredith didn't know what she was getting into by backing out of her tour.  Not only was the tour on the line, but the album as well.  It wasn't just like she wanted to come home from summer camp early.  Business made her simple decision into something that might run all of them into the ground both with their relationships and their pocket books.

His eyes went wide and his chest hurt.  It was true.  It was bad enough that this was going to ruin her career, but what hurt him the most was that she hadn't talked to him about it.  "What?"

"She called me around ten and told me what she was doing."  His mother sighed, "I tried to talk her out of, pleaded with her to at least wait a few days, but she refused to stop things.  I explained to her about the fees and that the record label would sue, but she didn't care.  She burst into tears honey.  I don't know when I've ever heard her that upset before."

"What the hell was she thinking?" he asked.

"She's making this decision with the full knowledge of what was going on.  I didn't know that you didn't know about this until I turned on TRL this afternoon.  I thought that you two had talked, but when she spoke on camera it was clear that you and she hadn't talked about this."

"Fucking hell," Justin sighed out.  "Why did she do this?"

"I don't know it all yet honey, but she'll be home to Orlando tonight--"

"I'm gonna-"

"Justin Randall Timberlake you better hug that girl instead of yell at her.  It took a lot of guts for her to get up there and go through with this."

"She's a coward," he said, "She's running away from things like she always does."

"Honey please don't start the conversation like that or she's going to fall apart.  She's had a rough day already and I'm sure the record label is going to be breathing down her neck.  If you don't think you can sit there and listen to her without a fight breaking out then send her to the house or you come home.  I don't want you both stuck in that apartment screaming at each other all night."

Justin's eyes filled with tears and he turned and stared out the window avoiding Todd's looks at him.  "I just don't understand Mamma.  I don't get why she would feel this horrible."

"Its a long time in coming," Lynn said.

"What?"

"I got a call from Farzana today about something.  I promised that I wouldn't speak to you about this, but Justin, was Meredith really pregnant?"

"What?"  Justin rolled his eyes.

"Farzana said that for a while Meredith thought she was pregnant."

"Yes."  He breathed deeply.  "She thought that for a while, but it was just a miscalculation or something like that."

"A miscalculation?" Lynn repeated.  "Jesus Christ Justin.  No wonder the girl was saying that her health was bothering her.  With a man like that in her life it's no wonder that she didn't have a breakdown earlier than this."

"Breakdown?"

"You know what I mean Justin."

"Thanks for blaming me."  He shut off the phone and shoved it into his pocket again.

"What'd your mom say?"

"Confirmed what about half the country is probably thinking.  That I'm an asshole and that--"  He sighed and banged his head against the window.  "FUCK!  I knew this was coming.  I knew that this was coming.  I should have fucking stopped this before--"

"Calm the hell down Justin," Todd said, "You have to calm down because when that girl comes home you're both going to have to keep your heads and talk this all out."

Justin leaned his head back against the seatback.  "Easier said than done."

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Meredith let herself into the apartment and sighed once the door was closed.  She had been in New York for only twenty four hours, but the press that had been surrounding her on the way there had tripled on her way home.  This was a big announcement.  Not since Mariah Carey's supposed mental breakdown had a singer like herself left a tour like she had.

Silence filled the apartment.  Only the sound of the air conditioning flipping on met her ears.  She'd seen Justin's car and knew he was home, but definitely wasn't looking forward to the conversation that was going to happen.  Lynn had warned her that he had a temper and she knew about it, but she was sure that what she was about to experience had never been seen before.

"Justin!"  She called out and waited.

Silence met her ears again.

"I'm home!" She called out again and waited.

His voice broke the silence.  "I'm out back."

She sighed a sigh of relief and walked around and out to the porch.  She found him sitting at the table with a notebook in front of him and his portable CD player sitting next to him.  Headphones were hanging around his neck, but one speaker was pressed to his ear.  He wore silver and blue Duke University basketball shorts and a large gray t-shirt.  His feet were bare and he looked relaxed expect for the strained expression on his face.

It was bitter sweet now to see him.  She knew that she'd missed him when she'd been in New York, but seeing him now also brought a whole new set of issues into her life.  Making the decision in the first place to quit had been one thing.  Talking to Lynn had been her first hard obstacle.  Talking to the press had almost gone too easily, but talking to Justin was going to be horrible.

"Hi," she said when he didn't look up at her.  She spoke softly not knowing how he was going to receive her back into the apartment.  She felt as if she'd been caught out late and was having to report to her father about it to recieve her punishment.

Having his eyes stay on his paper was a clear sign that he was upset.  She normally would have gotten a mini party from him--hugs and kisses and maybe even dinner out on the town--when she came home.  This was definitely a sign of what was to come.  

"How was your trip?" he asked not looking up.  His voice was just about as emotionless as she'd ever heard it.  His tone was lower and even the short way he spoke turned her off immediately.

"Good," she said.  Silence from him was the worst so she started to ramble a little.  "The flight was good and everything went--".

"Sit down."  It wasn't a request or a suggestion.  It was a command.

Even though she shouldn't have been so meek with him, Meredith pulled the chair across from him out from under the cover of the table's umbrella and sat down.  At first she sat back in it, but when his eyes moved to her face she felt that she needed to sit up a little so she moved to the edge of the table and leaned her elbows against the glass.

Instead of commenting quickly she watched him scribble for a moment before he looked up again.  This back and forth play was definitely punishment for what she'd done.

When he started to speak she stopped him.

She reached towards his hand, but he moved it away as if even touching her was going to disgust him.  "Before you start," she said, "I just want to tell you one thing first."

He pulled the headphones from around his neck and put them on the table between them, as if that little object would keep her from reaching towards him again.  "What?"

"I didn't do this the way I did it to keep things from you.  I knew that I had to do this without you because I knew that you'd try to talk me out of it."

"You make me sound like some asshole Meredith."

She took a shaky breath and leaned back.  Tears filled her eyes and her chest started to hurt.  It had been the same way when she'd been trying to explain things at the press conference.  "I didn't want you to feel that way.  I never meant it that way."

"Don't pull the tears with me Meredith," he said coldly.  He cracked his knuckles and then his toes.  "You know it doesn't work.  You're a grown woman."

"Please don't be mad at me.  It was hard enough to go up there and tell all those people that I wanted to leave.  I just put a hundred and fifty people out of work.  Not to mention the debt that I'm in now.  I'm going to be bankrupt from this.  Johnny and I are going to owe SFX about a six million dollars after the cancellation and the court fees that are going to be adding up here soon.  It's not like this was easy for me."

His hands went to the back of his neck.  "Then why'd you do it?"

"It wasn't working for me."  She wiped her eyes and stared at him.  "I was going out there every night and torturing myself."

"Meredith--"

"No," she said, "Listen to me Justin.  I went out there and sang because I loved to sing.  I love to sing more than life itself, but I can't do that any more."

"Why not?"

"Because it's different."

"We've been doing the same thing for months.  Why are you all of a sudden making announcements without talking to me?"

"Because you weren't listening to me."  Her hand slapped down onto the table.  "I told you over and over again that I wanted to come home and not do the tour anymore."

"I brought you home for your birthday and I thought that was what you wanted."

"It was," she said, "But it was a band-aid over a flesh-wound."

"Don't be so dramatic."

"I thought I was pregnant Justin and you had nothing to say about that."  She rolled her eyes.  A million other things ran through her mind about what she wanted to tell him, but she couldn't bring herself to bring up all the things that they needed to talk about.  "How can I not be dramatic about that?"  She leaned back.  "You didn't even care."

"Meredith.  I cared.  I definitely cared, but what did you want me to do about it.  I didn't even know what you thought about it."  Justin rubbed a hand over his face when she didn't say anything.  "The thought of you having a kid with me wasn't shocking.  I wasn't scared of it or gonna run away.   I'm sorry if it seemed that way.  I didn't have a reaction because I don't think that it would have been that bad of an idea.  I see myself with you in the future and if babies are part of that I don't see what the big problem is."

"The problem wasn't the possibility of a baby."  She took a deep breath.  "I was scared out of my mind and the one thing that you said to me was that you wondered if we'd have to reschedule things for the tour.  That comment was what drove me to go to New York and do what I did.  You weren't asking me how I was or what was going on.  You asked me about work shit."

"I'm sorry," he said, "I didn't mean it like that.  You didn't have to completely quit because of that."

"Yes," she said, "I did."

"I just don't understand why you did all this if you hated it so much."

"Honestly?"

"Of course."

"Honestly?"  She took a deep deep breath.  "--For you," she said, "I did it for you."

"For me?"

"Yes," she said.  "For you.  Every time I'd open my mouth and sing you'd give me this attention that I've never had before.  Its not that I'm saying that I was being ignored before, but the singing sure didn't take your attention away from me.  When I'd sing it was like your eyes, your ears, and your heart was concentrating only on me.  I guess that's selfish to say, but  I loved that feeling."

Justin's expression fell.  "I love you Meredith.  I love you with singing, without singing, contract, no contract.  I loved you when you sang to me in the living room of your parents house and I loved you on stage.  If we made love on the couch for the rest of our lives and never saw New York or Seattle it wouldn't have mattered to me.  I love you and that doesn't ride on the fact that you're singing or not singing."

"Then support me on this."

"I am," he said.

"Well you're not acting like it."

"You know what?" he said with a sigh.  He gathered up his CD player and his notebook.  "I'm gonna go spend the night at my mom's house.  I'm not running away from this, but my mother asked me not to stay here if we're going to be fighting and I think that we both need more sleep before we talk about this more."

"Justin?"

"Meredith.  Steven's birthday party is at ten or so tomorrow morning.  If we want to fight about it at least lets wait until after that.  Steven wants you there and I don't think that if we're going to break--"  He took a deep breath and looked in her eyes.  "If we decide something it should be after his birthday."

Meredith's gaze went to the ground.  "Fine."

"I'll come and get you around nine ok?"

"I can drive myself."

"Bear," he said, his voice softening.  "I'm not running away from this.  I just need to have a level head about this--"

She sighed and looked up at him.  "Just stay here Justin."

"I just don't want to fight with you all tonight."

"You won't have to," she said, "I'm going to call my parents in a minute then go and take a nap.  I'll stay upstairs or whatever."

His shoulders slumped.

"Fine," he said, "I'll stay.  I'm gonna go to the gym in a minute and I've gotta go and talk to Johnny about some stuff and pick up Steven and Jonathan at the airport."

"Tell them I love him."  She said as he started to leave.  "Justin?"

"What?"

"Tell then I love their brothers too."

Justin moved quickly towards her, kissed her forehead and then moved away from her.  She heard him run up to the second floor then come back down a moment later.  "If you need me call my cell."

"Bye."

 


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