1440 Minutes -- 8
Sonia rides with us to the red carpet which means that I can't be near Justin let alone speak to him. He's on the far side of the car from me staring out the window and tapping his fingers on the door handle. The radio is turned off and no one is speaking.
On the red carpet I stand away from him with Sonia. She doesn't say a word to me so finally I slip away and find myself a way into the building. I stand just inside the door looking at the crowd that has gathered to celebrate.
"Come with me," he says against my ear with a low and sexy voice.
He nods towards the dance floor and all I can think is that I want to go sit on the side and drink myself into forgetting how incredibly sexy and cute he's being right now. If I had my way I'd be on the dance floor with him. I used to do that when the guys weren't such a big group and people weren't paying so much attention to them. I could go out there and dance my butt off and no one would think twice about it, but now I know I can't dance with him or everyone will know. I'm sure people are already gossiping about me because he's standing this close to me. I know if I start to blush or even smile at him the wrong way people will know that something is up.
Everyone wants to know who he's with. He's been seeing a few people. I knew none of them were very serious. None of those girls got the serious face that he spoke to me with earlier today.
"Hmm?" I answer when I hear his voice and I don't realize what he's even called me until I feel his lips against my temple and I can feel him smiling.
I watch him pull back from me then look over his shoulder. He steps back a llittle then leans towards me so that he can be heard over the music playing. "I'm gonna go get a beer and hang out with some people. Save me a dance," he says.
I nod and point to the corner that I normally hang out in when we go to parties. It's not a particular corner really, more of a population of people that I seem to always meet up with. It's the corner with the girlfriends or family members that are around and tonight I can already see some of the MTV people in the corner so I head over to them.
"Vivian darling," Terrance, the self-proclaimed "incredibly gay" MTV.com fashion corner editor, moves from his seat and lets me sit down before he sits on my knee. It's funny how he drapes an arm around me and hugs me like we're dating, or at least he acts as comfortable as if we were. "How are you honey?"
"Good," I say with a laugh and hug myself to him. "How are you sweetie?" I take a breath. "Calvin Klien tonight. There must be someone yummy here tonight for you."
"Maybe...I'm fabulous," he says and leans towards me, "Now that your little hottie is here."
All the color drains from my face. I don't have to see myself in the mirrored wall behind a few of the girls that Terrance was sitting with to know. "My little hottie?"
"Yes," he said and lifts his glass towards where Justin is now standing with three older men talking with serious faces.
I love the way he chews on his lips when he's thinking. It must be something good because half his bottom lip looks to be pulled into his mouth. He's got a drink in his one hand and is swaying a little to the music, but clearly his mind is on the conversation in front of him. I look around for Tiny since I know that a few fans are here. Tiny is standing a few feet away watching him with a careful eye and watching a group of teenagers across the room who are sitting much like I am and gossiping.
"So what's it like to be that little honey bunch's HANDLER?"
"I'm not his handler," I say. That would be Sonia's title I guess. I'm his assistant or lately people have been calling me his groupie. They think I don't hear it, but when he broke up with Britney every woman near him was considered a groupie.
"You lost your job?" Terrance looks at me. "You aren't having his baby or anything gossipy like that?"
"What?" My stomach turns and I swear I'm going to throw up on him if he keeps this kind of conversation going. I would fall stone cold dead if I was having Justin's baby. I haven't really done more than kiss him and the thought of making love to him seriously makes my mind turn to mush and my stomach tie in knots. I can't start thinking stuff like this. I need to keep my head on what's important and tonight it's not my hormones, but Justin's CD, that needs to get attention.
"Good lord bitch," Terrance jokes, "You'd think that you were having his kid or someone's kid from your reaction. Speaking of that...how's Andrew?"
"Andrew?" I hold my breath.
This is the first time all day I've thought about him. I didn't mean to forget about the on again off again mostly platonic relationship I've been in over the last few months. He's been good to me off and on, but after waking up with Justin this morning and dealing with the boys and then the shock of Justin declaring his intentions to have a relationship with me--I haven't had time to think about the yelling match that I had with Andrew the day before while Justin was on the radio.
"Yes," Terrance slips off my lap and leans over and glares at me in the dim light in the room.
"What?" I say and cower away from his glare on me. "Andrew is back in LA and is fine and I'm here in New York and am fine."
Terrance's eyes go wide immediately. "You've got another man already. Don't you." He accuses.
I gulp back the urge to cry. I wonder if it's that obvious and if I've been walking around like a billboard all day screaming out subliminally that he's my new interest. I tried to keep it on a professional level, but I guess that the way I feel about Justin is showing itself before I want to officially announce to the world that I'm in love with him. He's like one of those detectives on the movies that holds a hot lamp over a suspect until they crack. "I don't have--"
"There is one," he says pointing at me.
I move my head away and look over towards Justin wondering what it would be like to scream to the world that he was mine and I was his...that is if I chose to have it go in that direction.
"He's here too."
Terrance looks around the room silently grading all the men in the room trying to find the one that is on my mind. I know him too well. He turns back to me and I look away from Justin and straight at him. "I see it in that glossy oh so fucking happy "I'm-sleeping-with-a-god" kind of look you have in your eyes."
I start to protest before I can stop myself. "I haven't slept with him--"
All the sound in the room disappears just as the sound of Terrance sucking in a breath of air and screaming fills the air. "What's his name bitch!"
The joking tone in his use of the word is muted with the enthusiasm.
Only a few people around us seem to notice, but I swear it's a high school fight scene ready to happen when I see Justin come flying across the room with Tiny in his wake.
Justin's chest is puffed out and while part of me is swooning at the fact that my non-boyfriend is there to protect me, I know that something like this is going to cause more drama than is needed at the moment. "What the fuck is going on?"
I cover my face for a moment and shake my head as Terrance keeps staring at me. I nod to Terrance and as he's standing back up he says, "O.M.G."
"What's going on Viv-" He looks at Terrance. ""Vivian?"
"Hi Justin," Terrance says with a smile. He stares at him like he's going to cry. He motions between the two of us and dabs at his eyes. It reminds me of those hysterical mothers at a wedding trying to express "that's so beautiful" but are choked with tears. Terrance uses this face not only with sarcasm, but also when he's excited about something using an over dramatic way instead of a serious one. He looks him up and down and then turns towards me. "I knew it. I KNEW IT."
Justin looks at me then at him. "He knew what?"
"Nothing," I say and duck my head.
"Yeah," I say, "Terrance and I were just hanging out like always. Sorry if we were too rowdy."
Justin nods. "Holler at me or Tiny if--"
"I'm fine," I say.
"That's so cute," Terrance says.
"Ignore him," I spat out.
"Bitch," Terrance says.
Justin's step towards Terrance startles the other man and I jump from my seat. I know that this could get out of hand fast than a person could blink. I move in between them and push Justin towards the dance floor then across it and over to the bar.
"What the hell is his problem?"
"What the hell is YOUR problem?"
He waves his hand across the room toward Terrance. "That guy was calling you a bitch."
I shake my head as I see Terrance beating his chest a little as if he's challenging Justin to a duel or something. "No he wasn't."
"Yes he was."
"Justin," I say and look over towards Terrance. "T and I have been friends for years and he wasn't insulting me." Part of me still wants to wrap my arms around him and hug him silly. "As much as you'd love to just swing in like fucking Tarzan or whatever, you can't do that."
His eyes almost cross with confusion. "What?"
"Ugh," I say.
He glares at me closely looking at me as if I've lost my mind.
"You can't be Tarzan," I say and hit his chest with m open hand, half playing with him about this and half not. I really do feel for the guy. He gets over emotional and over protective, two very endearing qualities that I love about him, but decking someone at his album release party really isn't the way that I would want him to be remembered after tonight.
His eyes widened. That comment had gotten right to him if none of the subtle signs I'd given him earlier didn't work. "What?"
"You can't go beating up guys that talk to me. That might work with Britney or Alyssa or whoever else you're hanging out with, but you can't do that. It's not professional for you or for me to be involved in something like that." I fold my arms over my chest and stare at him. "And I'm not just saying that because it's me we're talking about. You can't be caught in a brawl the night your CD comes out. You're being stupid."
"Stupid?" he said.
"Justin you've totally lost sight of what's going on this week--" I take a breath and know that I'm going to cut into him a little here. "And as much as I want you to have a great time and do what you want since this is your first time to have that kind of freedom, you can't forget the big picture."
"Big picture?" he says.
"Yes." I say. "You're here to promote your CD, the one that you've put your blood, sweat and tears into--"
"You know what?" he says.
I can see it coming and I anticipate him moving back by grabbing his jacket.
"You are not walking away from this conversation," I say and pull him closer. I notice a few people looking at him. I'm glad to find that they are more fans and not the Jive Executives that were supposed to be circling the party. "I'm not letting you cop out on me and walk away. I've seen you do that to too many girls and it's never worked for you." I lean towards him. "I know you Justin, better than anyone--"
"No you don't," he says and pulls my hand away. "You're like everyone else. You're just like HER--" He looks away and I know that there are tears in his eyes. He sniffs and looks back at me with disgust in his eyes. "--Just when I think I'm getting somewhere I'm back in the same fucking place I was yesterday."
I'm totally insulted by the comment of him comparing me to Britney. I understand though that it's his only defense. It's the one thing in the world that he could say to me that would fully degrade me and hit me right in the gutt.
"Fine," I say, "If you want to run your career into the fucking ground because you want to beat up on some guy who is my friend and would never DARE insult me like you just have, then you go and fucking do it." I move away from him, across the bar area and up the stairs to where I know the ladies room is tucked into the corner of the VIP section.
"Hey Honey, where you running off to?" I hear behind me, feel an hand on my shoulder and then hear his voice again. "Where's the fire?"
"Nowhere," I say when I find JC behind me trying to catch up to me. I sigh and try to change the subject. I wipe my face a little, straighten my shirt and smile. "I didn't know you were going be here."
"I was in town but wasn't sure I was gonna make it," he explains then looks at me hard. "What the hell was that all about?"
I smile at him. "It's just like you to just be in town Josh. You always are just in town. You need to settle down, buy a house in the suburbs--"
"Don't change the subject," he says, "What was that all about?"
"All what about?"
"That whole Britney hissy fit thing you just threw over there," he says turning away a little to face where I'd just come from.
"You know what?" I say angrily. "You can go take a fucking leap too."
"Hey hey," JC says and pulls me back when I start to leave. "What's wrong Vivian?"
I take a deep breath and feel tears ready to explode from my eyes. My mouth has a hard time forming the words, "What's wrong? What isn't wrong?"
"Hey now," JC pulls me into his arms and I feel for the first time since we've come into the club that I'm not in some Twilight Zone episode. I was starting to think that everyone was being taken over by pod people. "Vivian, what's going on? You know I'm not trying to insult you or whatever. I'm worried about you because you haven't throw a fit like that at Justin in a long time so I know it's gotta be something big."
I press my cheek against his shoulder and look out over the balcony and see Justin standing at the bar. "He's gonna drink himself silly now, puke on some executive and--"
JC clicks his tongue in his mouth and laughs then speaks with an unusually sarcastic tone. "He's gonna be a pissy little bitch like always, feel horrible in about five minutes and come after you. He always does that when he's totally messed up and I can tell that this is probably his fault. He's acting strange tonight anyway."
"Strange?" I move to stand up again.
"Yeah," JC says and looks towards Justin. "He's ususally all over the place and it seems like tonight his mind is on other things."
"Really?" I say and swear under my breath. "I wish he wouldn't do that."
"You finally told him that you like him," JC said, "Didn't you?"
"What?" I say and I know that my face is white again.
"Vivian, I've known you now for almost eight years. I know that you like him. So I take it that he didn't have a good reaction to what you had to say to him."
I motion towards him. "He sat me down and basically outlined the kind of relationship he wants to have with me."
"And that's a bad thing?"
"Yes," I say, "When it comes on the day when his mind should be on his work and not his social life."
"Whoa," JC narrows his eyes then widens them again. "That's totally the opposite of what I'd thought you'd say."
"I don't want him messing up his career for some girl," I say, "I only have his best intentions in mind and I don't want to have ME be the reason that his album flops or something. I know that he blames Britney for a whole shit-load of crap that has happened in the last few months and I don't want to be added to that list."
"You seriously are in love with him," JC says with a shocked tone. "I mean, I knew that you liked him, but for a woman--" His eyes widen. "--Especially a woman with a boyfriend like Justin--to put the career before the relationship seriously shows--"
"It shows that I'm not right for him and that he should be on the dance floor with someone else," I say motioning towards where Justin is now walking across the floor a ways with a girl's hand in his.
JC looks down where I'm looking and stays watching him for a long time. "You need glasses or something," JC says, "That's Heather--my sister Heather--that's with him."
"Jealousy definitely is a sign of love," JC says and leans over the balcony a little. "Timberlake! Get YOUR BUTT up here!"
Justin comes up the stairs to the VIP area with Heather. His eyes stay on JC and the floor and I know what's about to come. He's going to try to ease his way back towards me and apologize when JC and Heather are gone.
"Viv," he says, "Can I talk to you?"
"I think you've done enough talking for one night," I say, "After all I'm like Britney and like the relationship goes, We've basically said all there is to say about this."
"Fine," he says and moves away. "J--" He sighed and cleared his throat. "Heather--thanks for showing up tonight." He glances at me for a moment. "I need to get back to work and talk to some of the guys downstairs. I was RUDELY reminded that tonight is a work night and I should really get back to them."
I watch in shock as he turns away and goes back to the lower floor. Part of me wants to run up and kiss the breath of out him for making the decision to go back to work instead of dealing with me. I should be insulted that he doesn't care enough about me to stay and argue with me, but if it had been a Britney issue he would have stayed to argue it all out, like he had the day before at MTV studios. It's not the way to handle things. Now he seems focused now or at least seems upset enough to leave me alone and distract himself with work for a while.
"Come on and have a drink with me and Heather," JC says putting an arm around me. "You can fill us in on the details."
After explaining the last two days with Justin to Heather and JC and downing more than a few drinks I find myself leaned back in my seat at the table watching Justin talking to some people. Being drunk definitely shouldn't be an excuse, but at the moment I can't help but to remember the way that Justin's hands were on me earlier in the day.
My eyelids slide to half mast and I'm in the half awake-half asleep state that makes me seem fairly stoned to the passer by. I straighten up and look over at Justin who has a beer bottle in his hand and is talking to Mr. Cadler. They look deep in disccusion until they both turn and look at me. Justin smiles and waves and I turn away not sure what they're talking about and knowing that if I did try to wave back that it would be abundantly clear that I was drunk off my ass.
"What?" I look up to see Tiny watching me.
"You ok there girl?"
"I think I might go out and sleep in the car for a little bit."
"We're going to head out here in a minute anyway," Tiny said looking at his watch, "Ronan wanted to leave around midnight."
"Ok." I push myself up, "I'm gonna go out there now."
Tiny nods and disappears and I find my way across the club and over to the door and out to the car. D laughs a little as he helps me into the car and I lean against the door once it's closed and try to nap before the others get to the car.
The next time I open my eyes Justin is sitting across from me in the back seat and the car is moving. I had thought that he'd fallen asleep, but I clearly was mistaken when his eyes pop open. He leans towards the front seat a little then points to the exit that we're nearing. "Pull over."
"We don't have time," I say.
"We're taking a private plane," Justin says with an accusing tone, "They'll wait for me."
"Fine," I sigh, "You're gonna do it anyway so--"
I turn away from him and shiver a little. He turns and pulls his backpack over the seat from where our other luggage has been shoved. He pulls out a sweatshirt. "Put this on," he says.
I shake my head. "I'm fine."
"Put it on," Justin says then flips his head towards the road again. "Pull off on Lincoln and take a right on Yorn," he says.
I pull on the sweatshirt and fold my arms over my chest.
"Right here D," he says, "Put on the blinkers."
"Can you grab me a coffee J?" D asks.
"Sugar and milk?"
"Just milk," D says.
"Sure," Justin says and moves to grab his wallet. He glances at me. "Are you going to pout or do you want to come in too?"
"I'll come in," I say thinking that I might as well get out of the car and walk around a little more before we go and sit on the plane. Maybe getting a hot chocolate or something will help me fall asleep on the flight.
Justin hops out into the traffic side of the car and Tiny steps out onto the curb with me. Running around the car Justin steps up onto the curb and steps with longer strides towards the door, beating Tiny to open it. As I wait for him to go in, he puts a hand on my lower back and nudges me into the fairly empty Starbucks.
"Oh my god," the barista says with a smile. "Ok. That was dumb of me." She straights her hat a little and smiles, "What can I get you?"
"Can I get a black coffee with milk and--" He looks up at the menu behind the girl. "--and a mocha frappachino and--"
"It's freezing outside and you're having iced coffee?"
"Yes," he says then turns to the barista again, "And--"
"Fine," I say and cross my arms over my chest again, "Just don't come crying to me when you get cold, cuz you're not getting this sweatshirt back."
Justin's shoulders curl up into a shrug and he looks me up and down quickly. "Whatever Vivi. It looks better on you anyway." He takes a deep breath and scratches his chin, "Can I finish ordering now?"
"She'll have a caramel apple cider with extra whipped cream," Justin says, "And make sure it's real whipped cream." He looks back at me for a moment, "Vivian here thinks that if you're gonna have cream you might as well have the real thing."
The barista turns her head towards me and makes that awe kind of face with a smile as if him ordering for me is a regular thing. "That's really the only way to have it," she says as she starts to ring up the order. Her hands reach for the cups and she marks our orders on the cups before she moves towards the machines to get the coffee going.
"You didn't have to order for me," I say.
Justin leans his hip against the counter and digs into his wallet for money to pay the bill. "That's what you were going to order anyway, right?"
Before I can answer the barista comes up to the counter and breaks into the conversation probably sensing the clear tension between me and him. "I personally think it's cute when a guy can order for a girl. It shows that he really pays attention to his woman."
Justin glances at the barista's name tag and nods, "My thoughts exactly, Stacey."
The barista moves away for a moment to start my cider and pours D's black coffee. I think I've escaped this conversation, but clearly my luck isn't as good as it needs to be. "So how long have you two been together?"
Justin clears his throat and starts to answer, but I cut him off before he says anything. God only knows what his answer might be and I really don't want to find out what his answer would be. "We're not together."
"Yet," I can hear Justin mumble as the barista puts the black coffee onto the counter.
"You said ok earlier," he explained.
"But at the club--"
"So we had a disagreement. It's not like we haven't had them in the past."
Stacey paused for a moment before cutting in, "The milk's over there with the napkins and sugar."
"Thanks," Justin says and exchanges the money in his hand for the coffee and moves the five or so feet away to put the milk in D's coffee.
I watch him and wonder when this tension is going to lift. Ordering drinks at Starbucks shouldn't cause a war to break out. I know that I can resolve this all with just a few words to him, but I still don't have a clear answer to give Justin about where I want our relationship to go. Trying to hash that out in a public place, with someone who clearly is his fan waiting on us, isn't going to help things.
"You know," the girl says as she puts the whipped cream on my cider, "You don't have to try and hide your relationship in front of me--" She looks around, "I'm not a gossip. I'm not one to care about what celebrities do anyway even if I am a fan."
My first reaction is to nod and forget about her comments, but what she says next catches my ear and I find myself leaning on the counter waiting for Justin's change with a little more interest. "I saw you guys this morning on MTV--on MTV News when they showed the signing at Virgin--I think it's the cutest thing when he puts his hand on your back and holds the door."
My eyes slide from the girl to where Justin is standing with his back to me.
"He doesn't do that for many people." She suddenly sounds as if she has a very old soul and that her observations should be heeded as a warning or a sign.
I once met a woman in New Orleans that was like that. She told me on the street that Andrew and I would have a rocky road and look at how right she'd been about that.
"He did it a long time ago--" The barista eyes Justin with appreciation, "--when he was dating that girl from back home, but he never did that with Britney. He never supported her like that. He always seemed to be pulling her places instead of walking there WITH her."
I shrug and don't know how to react to her words, "I never noticed."
Justin returns. I don't see him, but I feel his hand on my lower back just as the barista said. As corny as it sounds, I feel as if every nerve ending has tuned itself into feeling the touch of his hand against my back. His fingertips press against the sweatshirt and he gives me a little squeeze before he speaks, "You almost ready?"
"Let me get you your frappachino," the barista turns her back to us and starts to blend his drink.
When I turn to tell Justin my answer I can't get the words out fast enough. He rubs my back a little then keeps his hand there as he looks at the girl then back at me. "I'm gonna run this out to D and tell him that we're almost done," he motions with the drink in his other hand, "I'll be right back."
The barista turns back with Justin's coffee then rings up the order and starts to make change. "You know you're really lucky to have a guy like that in your life. I'd love to have a guy look at me the way he looks at you."
"Don't you see it?" she says. "When he came up behind you. He smiles at you when you're not looking. Even though you've just walked in here--take it from someone who sees couples all day long walk in and out--Justin's totally head over heels in love with you."
I start to say something back to her, but trying to deny the way that Justin is with women isn't something that I can do. I've seen him with girlfriends before and everyone knows that he's very attentive when he's in a relationship. I suddenly find myself wanting it all to be true. I want him to dote on me, to smile at me, and to be the adorable guy that I've been in love with for so many years now. Having him love me back is such a scary thing, but the way the barista makes it sound, it's all very simple. I shouldn't try to resist something that is clearly happening already.
"Viv?" Justin pulls the door open and leans in. "We're gonna get a ticket if you don't hurry up."
I nod towards him and fumble with the change a little.
"Thanks," I say to the barista as I shove the money in the front pocket of Justin's sweatshirt. I collect up the cider and the frappachino and move towards the door as Justin slips inside and reaches for his drink. I let him take it from me and am surprised to find him hesitating a step to let me by before he puts his hand on the small of my back again.
"Nice meeting you," the barista calls after us.
Justin and I pause in the doorway. "Nice meeting you too Stacey," Justin says with a wink. He looks down at me. "Ready?"
"Not yet," I say and move to my toes to reach up and kiss him.
His eyes widen. "What was that for?"
"Absolutely nothing," I say.
His eyes cloud over with confusion as I move away from him and crawl back into the car.
I watch him through the tinted window as he rounds the far side of the car. His head is tipped down and his mind is probably running a mile a minute. It's the typical Timberlake reaction when he's not sure how to handle a situation.
When I lean and push the door open for him he looks up at me and half smiles, "Thanks." He climbs in and I reach for his drink so he can buckle up. He nods his thanks again and turns to pull the shoulder strap from the door towards the center of the car. As he turns back towards me I'm already making myself comfortable, choosing to sit in the middle seat next to him instead of sitting in the window seat across the car from him.
His right arm slips around me and he takes my drink then holds his drink in his left hand as I put on my seatbelt and snuggle against him .
"I'm tired." My head rests against his chest as I take my drink back and when his arm is free it cuddles me against him even more. This is the Justin that I love.
He moves only slightly to get comfortable then rubs his freehand up and down my arm to warm me up. "It's the cider--" He sips his drink. Following his action I remember my own drink and take a sip as D heads back towards the freeway. "It always makes you sleepy." His head turns and he kisses my temple.
"I like this better."
His chest rises and falls for a few moments before he kisses my temple again, "Me too."
"You two ok back there?"
"Can you turn up the heat a little?" Justin says, "Vivi's cold."
I try not to snort out a laugh, "D. I'm not the one drinking ICED coffee in the middle of the night."
D turns the heat up and isn't paying attention when Justin says, "You love me though--iced coffee and all."
"Hmm," I close my eyes and rest against him as the car moves towards the airport. "Shhh," I look up and smile at him with my eyes closed, "Don't tell anyone."
I can feel and hear the short intake of breath that comes from Justin's chest and when he leans to kiss my temple yet again, I can feel him smiling against my skin. I know that this isn't the end of our struggles, but we'll have at least six hours to talk things out before we have to face anyone from the outside world that might care about what goes on between us.