ONCE IN A LIFETIME 1
Her body ached; really ached. She felt sore from the hair on the top of her head to her toenails. It was as if she'd been run over by a truck, and for the short moment before she opened her eyes she wondered if she was dead. She couldn't remember really why she felt so tired. Her muscles hurt and she felt groggy as if she'd been drugged, that tired sort of haze that is so hard to wake up from. She didn't know why she felt like that, only that she knew that she wanted to stay asleep. Her stomach hurt and her head seemed to be glued to the pillow.
Vaguely she remembered a dream. She'd been on a business trip and she'd met someone with amazing blue eyes...
"Opps," she said as she sat down, flopping her purse into her lap. She accidentally hit into the man next to her when she put her hand down to lower herself into the seat. He had an expression that was a cross between shock and anger, but when he noticed her condition his expression softened and he gave her a little smile.
Lots of teeth and sparkling blue eyes. They were the kind of blue that takes your breath away.
He looked a little familiar but she couldn't quite place his face. "I'm still not used to this," she said patting her very pregnant stomach.
"Are you ok?" he asked with a kind voice. She wondered if everyone was overly friendly to pregnant women or if it was just her. She hated the fact that everyone seemed to want to touch her stomach or talk to the baby as if she wasn't standing there watching them make fools of themselves by patting her like a dog.
"Um," she settled herself into the seat and fastened her seatbelt. "I think I should be ok. Thank God that I could afford a first class seat. I don't think I could get into a coach seat."
He smiled, let out a bit of a laugh, and reached a hand out to her. "Lance Bass."
She stared at him for a moment. "Oh my god," she said startled with the realization that she did know who he was. "You're in that, that boyband."
He frowned as if she'd offended him. She didn't know what else to call the group. Everyone knew those types of bands as "boybands".
He coughed a bit and gave her a half smile. "Yeah, I'm in NSYNC."
"Yeah, that's it," she said. She shook his hand, holding it delicately remembering how her friends always said she had a fairly manly handshake if she didn't think about it. "I'm Anastasia Harrison. You can call me Ana."
"Nice to meet you." He spoke softly. He leaned over and she noticed the two huge guys across the isle to their right look over as if he was going to talk to them. She wondered if she was in the middle of something since he was by the window and she'd taken up the empty isle seat. "I guess we're going to be stuck together tonight so I should warn you about my bodyguards. The big one is Lonnie and the...well the other big one is Mike."
The two men waved happily at her flashing smiles then went back to their own hushed conversation.
"Aren't there more of you?" she asked looking around a little. In her condition turning around only meant using her head. She'd been pregnant for a long time, but she still wasn't used to being so immobile. "Aren't there like four or five of you?"
"They're already in Hawaii," he explained, "I'm headed there after the stop over in Los Angeles."
"Going on Vacation?" she asked in a very proper tone of voice, "Or business?"
"A little of both," he said, "We're playing in a celebrity golf tournament after we have the week off."
"Sounds fun," she commented.
He nodded no and ran his hands through the bleached spikes of his hair with a sigh. "I stink at golf."
"Oh." She laughed holding her stomach.
The blue uniformed flight attendant appeared and began her whole safety speech. Ana and Lance watched along with the other passengers although she couldn't help but to glance at him every so often while the woman was speaking. He definitely was much more interesting than the speech that she'd heard over and over again during her years of traveling.
Lance didn't look at all like he was heading somewhere tropical. It was late in the year and she expected a few heavy overcoats coming from the east coast going west, but he really looking like he was going to Seattle or someplace like that, not Hawaii. She'd expected a suit and tie or some crazy designer outfit. Instead Lance, or whoever had picked out his outfit that morning, had chosen the exact opposite of dressy. He wore a pair of blue and white VANS brand sneakers, no name sort of slightly baggy blue jeans and strangely enough he wore a gray sweatshirt with a black TIMBERLAND logo on his chest. He smelled trendy though. A mix of musky cologne and soap made a statement without being over powering.
She, by comparison, had dressed in business attire, what of it that still fit her, since she was technically on a business trip, but she'd expected him to be dressed differently. Most days she worked from home wearing the sweatpants that seemed to be her uniform since she'd found out about her pregnancy. She'd slowly added to her wardrobe, but the sweatpants were the only things that had fit from the first day to the present.
When the speech was over the flight attendant offered drinks. Ana ordered a ginger ale and asked for crackers. After Lance declined anything to drink she turned to him and said, "You'd think that with a stomach like this I'd be starving all the time, but it seems like all I can eat is crackers." She didn't know why she was telling him that, but she felt comfortable with him. It was something in his smile.
He smiled until she sat forward a bit and rubbed her lower back. It had been hurting on and off all day.
"You ok?" he asked sitting up in his seat. He looked tired, but also a little nervous.
"Don't worry about me. I'm not due for another two weeks. I just look like I'm going to pop." She rubbed her back. "It's horrible carrying around a basketball sized stomach everywhere."
"So where's the proud papa?" Lance asked.
With that statement, the last year of her life flashed before her eyes. She'd been in the perfect relationship and had expected to get married but when she'd gotten pregnant she'd been left alone to deal with it herself. "He ran off a while ago," she said dabbing at the tears that had suddenly formed in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," he said sitting up. He started looking around as if looking for a napkin or something to offer her but there wasn't one.
She wiped her face. "Its ok. I'm just really over emotional you know? You never think that all those rumors about pregnant women being all hormonal and stuff are true, but believe me they are." She smiled and reached for a tissue in her purse. "Even those stupid television commercials get to me."
He nodded as if he could understand her dilemma.
"I've all but given up on listening to music too, especially slow songs."
"Well I guess I won't break out into song then," he said with a smile.
"You'll have no requests from me, although I'm sure that you're a great singer."
"I hold my own," he said shyly.
She laughed and leaned towards him, placing a hand on his forearm that was laying on the armrest between them.
"So why are you headed to Los Angeles?" he asked.
"I'm a freelance writer. I got a job with Disney working on a new version of The Parent Trap and I have to meet with the producer and director this week." She pulled her hair out of the ponytail she had it in and brushed her fingers through it massaging her scalp a little with her fingers hoping that she might relax a little.
"I'm surprised that they had you fly out with you being--"
"I know...but I checked with my doctor about it and he said that it would be ok so I made the flight."
He nodded. "Wait, how old are you? If you don't mind me asking."
"Twenty three," she said jumping a little as the baby kicked.
"What?" he asked.
"Nothing." She smiled and patted his arm. "The baby just kicked. Really I'm ok."
"I'm sorry for being so hyperactive about you. I've never had to deal with a pregnant woman before--" He stopped and stared at her when a frown formed over her face. "I didn't mean it like that--"
"I know I'm a handful." She laughed. "Or maybe two."
There was a silence that settled between them which lasted until after the flight attendant had delivered her drink and crackers.
"So how long have you been writing?" he asked.
"Since I was in junior high. I was always writing notes in class when I should have been paying attention, but that actually helped me in college. I graduated two years ago with a BA in English from Columbia University in New York and have been working freelance for some newspapers for the last few years."
"You should meet JC. He's the writer in the family. I'm sure you guys would get along great."
"Is he your brother?" she asked opening her crackers. She offered Lance one, but he refused.
"He's one of my bandmates, but we sort of consider each other brothers."
She smiled, "I have an older brother myself. So do you have any real siblings?"
"Yep," he dug out his wallet from his back pocket and flipped it open. He pointed to a picture of a blond woman, a brown haired man. "This is my sister Stacey, her husband Ford." He stared at the picture a long time as if admiring the couple in the picture.
"It sounds like you miss them," she said.
"I haven't seen them since last Christmas."
"Wow," Ana said.
"Yeah," he sighed. "I've been on the road and working with my management company this past year and haven't had time enough to get home."
"Mississippi." He looked at her. "What about you?"
"Well there was Fort Knox, then two places in Germany, then Michigan, then New York, then California, then Orlando and I think sometime in there I was in Virginia for a while, but I can't remember."
"Wow, the world traveler."
"My father was in the military so I moved all over the place. Right now though home is in Lakeland."
"Sounds like fun."
"I've been all over the place, but really I just like being at home...where ever that may be at the time."
"I haven't lived at home for more than three months at a time in the last six years," he explained. "I just bought a house though and I'm hoping to be able to stay there for a while when our tour is over."
The flight attendant again disturbed their cozy conversation offering headphones. When Lance refused them Ana also refused.
"You don't make much of a fuss for being a celebrity."
"Yeah well, if you had someone waiting on you all the time you'd get tired of it too," he said. He suddenly looked tired. She hadn't noticed before, but there looked to be dark circles under his eyes. She wondered if he'd been trying to sleep when she'd sat down since it was a red-eye flight. "I actually haven't been grocery shopping for myself in years and when I do go out in public I take one of the bodyguards with me. I know I shouldn't complain because there are a lot of perks to the job, but really can you imagine not being able to even go through the drive thru at McDonald's without getting screamed at?"
"I guess you're staying thin these days since you've go out fast food." She reached and patted his arm.
"Yeah well its that and the fact that I don't sit down for more than a few hours at a time unless I'm on a flight somewhere or we're in the tour bus."
She smiled, "I bet road trips are fun."
"Yeah well, they usually are," he said, "Five guys between twenty and thirty stuck together in a bus...it's not the best situation in the world, but most of the guys are pretty comical so we get through it fairly easily. It's hard though to hang out with people who aren't in our group of friends because our lives go from one inside joke to another and no one outsider seems to like the constant whispering or laughing."
"I know what that's like. I moved so many times that half the time I had to wonder if I wasn't speaking English any more since no one I knew had gone through the same things as me."
Lance yawned at that moment, reaching to cover his mouth as his head tipped back a little with the yawn. "I'm sorry. It's been a long day."
"I really shouldn't be talking your ear off. You look like you could use some rest."
"No, no," he smiled, "This is the first real conversation I've had with someone other than my friends in a month or so."
"I talk to fourteen and fifteen year olds all day long, it's nice to have someone my age to talk to who is normal."
"You know what I mean, like I said, everyone I talk to is either a complete stranger or I've known them for a million years. It's nice to be able to just sit down and get to know someone a little better."
"Well thanks for the compliment. I didn't know that I was that interesting."
"You'd be surprised."
The baby kicked again but this time Ana only let her eyes widen and tried not to touch her stomach. She felt as if he might get upset again if she told him it was the baby again.
"Kicking again?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said with a laugh. "I swear I shouldn't have played soccer in high school. I think this baby is starting early."
He smiled then gave her a concerned look. "Shouldn't you be resting or something?"
"I should, but like you said, I'm having a good time talking to you," she said.
"Hey Lance," a deep voice from next to them said.
Ana turned and saw that the Lonnie guy was looking at them. He now had a laptop open in his lap and was scrolling down the page on the Internet.
"What's up L?"
"Justin says to stop flirting with her and get online. The guys want to talk to you about the vacation plans."
Lance looked at Lonnie with a hard look.
"They wanted to know why you weren't on so I told them you were chatting with someone."
Lance leaned over and pulled out a laptop computer and a moment later, after plugging into the Internet connection line had opened into Netscape Navigator and had logged on to an Internet site where he clicked into a chat room.
"I haven't seen these guys in two days. You'd think they'd be able to wait a few more hours to see what was going on in my life."
She watched over his shoulder as he conversed with his friends. They all were very animated on the computer screen.
JJBOUNCE: Hey PooFoo! What's her name?
Superman23: Yeah, is she cute? Does she have a sister for me?
CurlyQ13181: BIG PIMPIN'!
JLB79: Shut up guys and say hello to Ana...she's looking over my shoulder.
JJBOUNCE: Oh crap. Hey Ana! J
Superman23: So does she have a sister?
"Tell them I say hello," Ana said with a laugh.
"Ok," he said and began to type.
JLB79: Ana says hello back guys and no Joe she doesn't have a sister for you.
"JJ is JC, Superman is Joey and Curly is Justin," Lance explained as he continued conversing with the guys over the Internet connection.
"I take it that Joey is the flirt?" she asked remembering something she'd heard about his reputation.
"Yeah. JC is the brain, Joey is the flirt, and Justin is the younger brother sort of guy."
"That's neat." She yawned. "I guess I'll let you talk to them for a while."
"Feel free to look over my shoulder. I'm sure the guys are going to be in good moods tonight since they're not working tomorrow."
She smiled at him. "Ok."
The three of them talked back at Lance and they all seemed to type something at once making it hard for her to follow the conversation. She'd been on the Internet a million times, but never had chatted with anyone. She loved email though and hoped that maybe she could get Lance's email address before they parted ways. She had a feeling that they could get to be really good pen pals.
Slowly as his conversation rolled on the screen between laughs and smiles from Lance she leaned and found herself falling asleep on his shoulder.
Her eyes flew open and her hand flew to her stomach. It hadn't been a dream. She'd really had her baby. Her babies.
Tears sprung to her eyes as looked around the empty hotel room. She didn't remember how she'd gotten to this strange looking room, but when she heard a baby cry in the next room she shot out of bed.
Her fatigue hit her instantly and she had to grab onto the bedside for a moment while her head spun. Eyes directed towards the floor, she watched her legs go in and out of focus for a moment as the room spun in circles, before suddenly realizing that she was wearing strange clothes. She had on big flannel pajama bottoms and found herself in a T-shirt that she didn't remember owning.
The baby's cry echoed from the other room and she held her breath for a moment and walked towards the closed door on the far side of the bed hoping that it led to the other room and not some closet.
She flung open the door and found herself in a brightly-lit living room. There was a couch, two chairs and a coffee table and it almost looked like someone's home, but it didn't looked lived in. That clue made her remember more about where she was. She looked back into the darkened room that she'd come through and remembered vaguely that she'd been led to the hotel suite the day before or maybe it had been a few hours before. Either way it had been after she'd had her twins.
Her heart skipped a beat as she searched for the sound of the crying again. Something pulled her towards the sound as if she had no control over the cry's power. Her heart rate beat a little faster and she almost felt nauseous knowing that she couldn't stop the crying at that very moment.
"Hey there Ana," a soothing voice said. "You feeling any better?"
She found a huge black man sitting on a couch in the living room setting with a baby cradled in his arms. He was bouncing the child slightly trying to quiet it. The man looked familiar and she remembered his name.
"Lonnie," she said with a sigh as the rest of her eventful weekend played out behind her eyes.
She'd gotten off the plane and had exchanged numbers with Lance hoping to keep in touch with him while trying to apologize for sleeping on him. Her stomach had begun to hurt and she'd gone into labor just as he'd been walking away from her.
Some how, in a rush of paramedics and crying, she'd ended up at the hospital and she'd found Lance's comforting hand to hold as she'd gone through labor and the twins had been born.
"You think you can get Jacob to stop crying?" Lonnie asked with a soft tone of voice. His words were monotone as if he thought that any slight change in pitch would worsen the youngster's cries.
She stood frozen for a moment. She was a mom. Not only once, but twice over. She remembered being scared and crying at the hospital saying that she wasn't ready for motherhood and that she needed more time, but Lance had been there to console her, even when the doctors had wanted him to leave.
"Where's Olivia?" she asked walking over to where Lonnie sat. She remembered the man as being friendly and helpful when they'd arrived at the hotel suite that Lance had reserved.
"With Lance." He pointed to the dark balcony out a sliding glass door and she could see Lance cuddling Olivia to him while he walked in circles. "They went for a walk a minute ago when she wouldn't go back to sleep."
She remembered more. She'd been checked out of the hospital as soon as she'd recovered for a few hours and Lance had insisted that she stay with him overnight until she got herself settled. She'd refused a million times, but with her fatigue and the drama that had taken up most of her day she found herself persuaded by the concerned look in his eyes and the promises of support for her while she recovered more.
Ana's hands itched to hold Jacob. He'd been her surprise baby. She'd only thought she'd be having Olivia, but when the doctor had announced that there was another she'd been overjoyed and yet scared at the same time, but Lance had only cooed at the baby and held him up for her to see.
It had all been a great fantasy. She remembered thinking that she'd be set for life if he were the real father and not a random guy she'd just met.
Lonnie handed the baby over to her and held out a blanket for her. Feeling Jacob turn to suckle against her T-shirt she looked at the baby with a smile. The tuft of dark hair stuck out and she smoothed it back with a light touch before readjusting the baby in her arms.
Lonnie smiled. "I think he's hungry."
She noticed the jumper that Jacob had on and looked at Lonnie. "Where did he get this?"
"Lance had someone at the hotel go shopping. There are enough clothes to keep the two of them dressed for a few days and Lance had two car seats delivered as well as every other thing under the sun that has to do with babies."
"Really?" She looked over at the balcony again and saw Lance with his eyes closed still rocking Olivia. He held her close against him and rocked her softly as if they were slow dancing.
"He even sent Mike out to get some baby Tylenol. I think you should feed Jacob," Lonnie insisted again. He gave her a smile. "My sister has five kids...trust me on this one."
Ana sighed and looked at him. "Like I have a clue what I'm doing."
"I've seen my sister with her kids a million times. Just lift up your shirt and get him close enough to..." Lonnie's voice faded out. "I won't look...just trust me on this one. Jacob already knows what to do, if you let him close enough to you."
Lonnie turned his head and held the blanket over her side while she moved her shirt out of the way so that the baby could suckle. He placed the blanket on her after she'd gotten settled and said, "He'll also tell you when he's done."
Ana sighed and tried to get used to the sensation of her baby in her arms. "Have you guys been taking care of them this whole time?"
"Yeah," Lonnie said, "Mike and I both have tons of nieces and nephews and Lance has been helping out a little. I've never been so glad to have that guy sing before."
"I feel awful about leaving them with you."
"You've only been asleep for a few hours Ana," Lonnie said, "Besides...those two are no trouble. They're some of the cutest kids I've seen."
The sliding glass door slid open and Lance returned. He shushed them before they spoke to him and walked over and placed the infant into its car seat/carrier thingy before he waved hello. "Hi Ana," he said in a whisper. "You feeling better?"
Readjusting the blanket over her shoulder she held Jacob and tried not to make eye contact with Lance. She felt exposed sitting between the two men with herself half-naked under her blanket. "I'm a lot better." At that moment she remembered Lance's vacation plans. "Oh my god..." she whispered giving him a sympathetic sigh. "Your vacation..."
"Don't worry about it," he said leaning back into the chair that he'd picked to sit in. He closed his eyes and kept a smile on his face. "I have plenty of time to be on vacation. Why don't you get Jacob settled and we'll chat a little?"
She nodded and let herself relax a little.
"I'm gonna put on some music," Lonnie said getting up.
He turned on a CD player and she heard soft piano music come out of the speakers on the sides of the cabinet that held the television.
Ana watched Lonnie disappear through a swinging door then heard sounds that made her think that he'd gone into some sort of kitchen.
"Are you hungry?" Lance asked.
"I think there is left over pizza," he said, "We ordered while you were asleep...want a piece?"
"Sure," she said. "Do you have any Advil or anything?"
"I think so," he said, "You still sore?"
She wondered what he was talking about and blushed remembering that he'd been there through it all. He'd seen everything. He'd seen her. He hadn't cut the umbilical cords, but he'd experienced the twins' births as if they'd been his own children.
"I'll get you the pain medicine that the doctor sent home with you." He walked across the room and into the kitchen leaving her alone in the room.
Home. The word made her eyes tear up and she wanted to call her mom. She'd expected to have her mother and father and brother there with her through the labor and the aftermath. Being without them really scared her. She didn't know if she could do it all alone.
You aren't alone, she remembered Lance saying to her over and over again throughout her labor when she'd cried out for her mother and cursed Richard for running away. She grabbed the edge of the blanket and wiped her eyes as the full weight of her situation came to rest on her shoulders.
She was unwed, with two kids, and a not so steady job and at the moment she was a million miles away from her family.
"Oh don't cry again," Lance said suddenly in front of her. He set down a plate with a piece of pizza on it and handed her two pills and a waited while she popped them into her mouth before handing her a glass of water. He settled himself on the coffee table in front of her and took the edge of the blanket and wiped away her tears. "You're ok."
"No I'm not," she said sadly gulping down the water. "My life has just been turned upside down and it seems like now your life is being ruined because of me."
He took the glass from her and held onto her free hand with his. "Ana, I volunteered to help you and stay with you. If I really wanted to have left you alone, I would have."
She cried more at hearing that. "Do you think I could use the phone?"
"Sure," he said. He got up and got a portable phone and handed it to her.
"Is it ok if I call back east?"
"Of course," he said.
A few moments later, when her mother answered Ana broke into hysterics, waking Jacob. Lance reached and took Jacob from her and while Ana knew that she should refuse and try to pull him back to her she let him go and hugged the phone to her ear. Emotion shook her as she revealed to her mother that she was now a mother herself and that Jacob James Harrison and Olivia Rose Harrison were now part of the family.
Lance held Jacob close to him and burped the baby the way he'd seen Lonnie do earlier in the day while keeping an eye on Ana as she spoke to her mother on the phone. She had her eyes closed and looked like she was in pain with tears streaming down her face. She'd been over emotional since he'd met her, which normally turned him off since screaming and crying wasn't exactly a comforting response to have being thrown at your presence, but with her it was different.
He felt as if he owed her something. The guys had called him nuts when he told them that he was going to spend his vacation in Los Angeles with her, but he hadn't thought about leaving once. He had a bond with her now, something that he knew no one would ever understand. The birth of the twins had been the most amazing thing he'd ever experienced and when Ana had told the nurses the babies names, Jacob James, who's middle name came from Lance's first name, he'd been hooked. She, and Jacob and Olivia belonged to him now according to an old saying that he didn't quite remember. It had something to do with the fact that once someone saves another person in such a manner that the hero is now and forever responsible for the person's life.
"What'd ya think JJ?" he asked the baby as he swayed the kid with him. He'd found that the babies both liked to be sung the tune Sailing, or at least that had been what had put Olivia to sleep so he was hoping that it would work for Jacob too.
He'd always been friends with the little kids at church and babysitting in junior high had been fun, but it was nothing like this. He felt like a daddy now, even if the little family wasn't really his. "You think I can be a part of your life? I think I've already charmed your sister into it, but then again I can never tell with her. All the girls seem to cry at me these days."
Lance heard his cell phone ringing and immediately Olivia seemed to wake up and Jacob started to cry. He wanted to cry himself, but instead he reached for the phone that was hooked on his belt and put it to his ear. "This better be good."
"Honey, that's not a good way to answer the phone."
"Mom!" he said shocked to hear her voice. He'd been leaving her messages all day and hadn't been able to get a hold of her until now.
Lonnie returned to the living room and comforted Olivia by rubbing her tummy. He looked over at Lance and gave him a wave then took Jacob from him.
"Honey, what is all that noise?" his mother asked.
"I've got a long story to tell you mom," Lance said and gave one last look over at Ana before leaving to go out to the balcony again.
"Honey, where are you?"
"In Los Angeles." He took a seat in a chair and put his feet up on the balcony's railing.
"I thought you would have been in Hawaii by now. What happened? Did something go wrong with the plane?"
"Mom. I'm fine. The plane was fine. I've just taken a detour on my vacation plans."
He launched into the story of how he and Ana had met and how they'd been together the last forty-eight or so hours. He cried a little remembering how amazed he was with being honored with Jacob having his name and even told his mother at one point that he thought he might be in love.
"Lance honey you need to calm down about this," she said in a calm voice when he'd finished explaining the situation. "I'm glad that you didn't leave Ana alone with those children, but have you talked to Johnny about this?"
"I told the guys and they said they were going to talk to him." Lance stood up and paced the balcony looking back in at Ana who was still on the phone with her family.
"I love that you feel like you need to help this girl out Lance, but I really think you need to step back a minute and make sure that you want to be involved in their lives. It's a big responsibility to take on something like that."
"I'm not going to marry her or anything right now, but I feel like I want to be there with them, you know, how can I just walk away from them after all that's happened."
"You've got Lonnie and Mike there with you right?" she asked.
"Yes mom," he said.
"Are you guys ok?"
"Yeah, Mike and Lonnie know more about kids than anyone. They both have too many nieces and nephews if you ask me."
Lance saw Ana getting off the phone and paused the conversation with his mother. "I should go, I need to talk to Ana."
"Honey keep in touch with me ok. If you need anything or if something happens with those children you call me right away."
"Lance I love you," she said.
"I love you too," he said then clicked off the phone and pulled oven the sliding glass door that lead back to the hotel suite.
Lance returned to the living room to find Ana wiping her face. She stopped, ran her hands through her hair and looked at Lance with a disparate look on her face. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I talked to my mother. She's going to fly out tomorrow and come and get me," she said softly. "I should be out of your hair by five o'clock.
Hearing her words Lance wanted to cry. He hadn't expected for her to be leaving that soon. He'd planned to at least to spend the rest of his vacation with her and the twins. "You're not in my hair," he said, "Really."
"I've been nothing but trouble and I'm sorry for that." She looked around the room. "I'll make sure to pay you back for all that you've done for me...the room, the baby stuff."
"It's not that big of a deal," Lance said hoping that she would believe that. She had no reason to trust him or to be connected to him. He realized that after a moment. They were just two strangers dropped into a situation together and now, or at least the next day; it would be time to return to their real lives.
"Yes it is," she said again wiping at her tears. "I know that you've gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me out and I'll never forget that, but really I think I've overstayed my welcome."
Lance sat down on the couch and looked over at Lonnie who took a clue from his look and picked up the baby carrier and took the children into the other room.
"Ana, you really need to just relax," he said, "I'm glad to have been able to help you out and don't worry about the hotel room and baby stuff."
The outside hotel room door opened and Mike returned. He gave them both a smile, holding up a bag that looked like it was from a grocery store. "Are they in the bedroom?"
Lance gave him a nod and Mike disappeared.
When he turned back to Ana she'd curled her legs up in front of her and was hugging her knees to her chest. He put a hand on her arm and she looked over at him. Her eyes were red and puffy and she still looked a little sickly, but she smiled. "I have the whole week off and it's not like I really needed to be in Hawaii so don't worry about--" Lance rubbed her back when she frowned. "I've been to Hawaii before...it's really not that great."
"Still," she said, "I feel bad for ruining your vacation."
Lance suddenly remembered her meeting. "What about your business stuff?"
"I guess I'll have to call and cancel the meeting. It wasn't until tomorrow anyway."
"You could have them come over here," he said, "Mike, Lonnie and I can baby-sit while you guys meet."
"No, really, you've done enough. My mother is going to be here around eleven and take me home with her."
Lance watched her get up off the couch. She picked up the plate of pizza, took a piece off and chew it before she sat down in the recliner across from the couch.
"Ana..." he started. She looked up from her plate at him. "I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted to know if we could keep in touch...I wanted to check up on the twins every so often, you know."
"Of course," she said, "I also will need to have your address and stuff so I can pay you back for all the baby stuff." She put the barely eaten piece of pizza down and curled back up in the chair rubbing her stomach a little.
"You don't have to pay me back."
"Well I want to," she said.
"You really don't have to."
"Yes. I do."
Feeling a little frustrated and finding the whole weekend's events catching up with him, Lance reached for the remote control and said, "Want to watch a movie instead of arguing?"
"Are Lonnie and Mike going to be ok in there with them?" she asked.
"Maybe I should go take a shower or something." She tugged at the T-shirt. "Are my clothes here?"
Lance flipped off the television and pushed himself off the couch. "They're in the other room. I'll get Lonnie and Mike out of there and you can take a shower or whatever. I think I'm going to take one myself in the other bathroom and get some sleep."
"I'm sorry for keeping you up," she said.
"It's no trouble Ana, I wish you'd believe that."
She followed him into the other room, finding Mike and Lonnie both with babies in their arms watching television.
"Come on guys, Ana's gonna get a shower. You can watch out there."
The two men got up slowly and carried the twins away while Lance pointed out her suitcases to her. "I hope those were the only ones you had. I had the airline send them over."
She made a mental check of the three bags and said, "Those are them."
"Well I guess I'll see you in the morning," he said. "After your shower just holler at Lonnie and Mike and they'll leave JJ and Olivia in here with you."
"Thank you Lance," she said. As he passed her to leave the room again she reached out and hugged him.
He held her tight for a moment and kissed her cheek. "Have good sleeps."
"I will," she said.
"If you need anything I'll be over in the other room and the guys are going to be camping out in the living room."
"I think I should have everything."
"Goodnight then," he said looking at her for a moment longer than he should have. He wanted to stay with her. He'd watched her go through every emotion in the book and felt that at the moment she needed to be cuddled, not left alone, but she seemed to have already made up her mind about him and he figured that their relationship wasn't going to be a close one. Their weekend together had been life altering, but it hadn't really brought them together like he thought it would have.
He'd spent his time with the twins talking it out with them and the three of them had decided that they should stay in touch. They had bonded and thought that Ana should join their little trio.
"Izzi! No!" Ana groaned as she opened the condo door and saw her friend carrying two overstuffed Toys 'R Us bags.
The five-year-old twins who followed her into the house were both dressed in different clothes than they had been wearing when the trio had gone out shopping that morning. Ana had sent her son out in jeans and a white T-shirt, but found him wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt like she'd seen the guys in the group wearing along with some running pants and a new pair of sneakers. Her daughter had left the house in a dress and was now wearing a new pair of jean shorts and a fur jacket that made her look like a big ball of pink cotton candy.
"What? They look cute. Besides, Joey gave me the use of his credit card. He says that his niece and nephew should have more toys and that they needed to start dressing like it's two thousand. You were dressing them like the seventies."
The twenty one year old fireball known as Isabelle Mancini had been friends with Ana for almost four years now, since Izzi had started to date Joey, one of Lance's band mates. They both lived in Lakeland and the two women had become like sisters despite their age difference and personality difference while the boys were out on the road. Ana didn't know what she would have done without Izzi, but there were times where their personalities seemed to clash, like that afternoon when Izzi's shopping trip had turned into a make over.
"I can't believe Joey is spoiling them like that. He knows better." Ana sighed and closed the door behind everyone then followed them back into the kitchen. "It's bad enough when Lance takes them out when he's in town. Now I have to deal with the rest of the group too."
Olivia came over and presented her mother with her ragged pink baby blanket to hold and Ana saw that the child had chocolate all over her hands and had gotten it all over her blanket. "What did you feed them?" she asked. Olivia just smiled at her and laughed. The twins' faces looked clean enough, but somehow there was chocolate all over Olivia. She reached for a washcloth, wet it and quickly wiped the girls' hands off before telling both the kids that they could go watch Sesame Street on television.
As JJ left to go watch TV she caught his arm and stared at a big brown colored heart that looked like it had been tattooed on his arm. "What is this?" she asked looking over at Isabelle again.
"It's just hemp. It'll totally wash off in about a month," Isabelle said. She held up the car keys that she'd borrowed from Ana then set them on the counter. Isabelle always took Ana's car when they went out with the kids. They found by experience that it was just easier not to change out the car seats. Trading cars left Ana with Isabelle's Explorer while Isabelle took off in the Honda Accord to do errands with the kids.
"A month?!? JJ and Olivia both start kindergarten in two weeks!" Ana said, "I can't send him to school with a tattoo!"
"It'll fade out in about two weeks," Isabelle said with a laugh. "Jeez...Lance was right about you...you really do need to..." Her voice faded out as the little girl and boy ran out of the room.
"Need to do what?" she asked.
"Need to get laid," Isabelle said with a casual tone as she unloaded the bags onto the kitchen counter. The stash included two Barbie dolls, a model space ship, and the children's clothes that she'd sent them out in that morning along with a whole bunch of new board games and puzzles.
"When did Lance say that?" Ana asked as she looked at the boxes and refolded the clothes.
"A while ago," she said, "I'm surprised he hasn't made a move on you yet."
"We're just friends Izzi." She gave her friend the look she'd been giving her for four years.
Every time Isabelle came over she seemed to always try to encourage Ana to date Lance. It had become a running joke in the group of friends that they shared. Isabelle was the matchmaker and Ana was the only one to set up so they battled each other over the logistics of the situation. It seemed like the perfect plan. She always told Ana that, but in reality it wasn't. She'd rather the twins have no father at all than one that would never be home long enough to really be a father. "Besides, he's dating someone."
"No he's no-ot!" she said in a sing-songy voice. Making herself at home Isabelle went into the refrigerator and pulled out a container that usually had iced tea or juice in it. "They broke up a while ago."
"Really?" She didn't want to sound too interested in Lance's personal life. She'd told herself long ago not to get involved with him. She liked him a lot, but knew that their situation was impossible and with him being so much younger than her, she didn't want to burden him with two children no matter how mature he seemed to be.
"He didn't tell you?" Isabelle poured herself some juice into a glass she'd grabbed out of the cabinet and smiled, "Maybe he has been as busy as Joey said he's been."
"He and I haven't talked much since they started the tour. We had dinner before he left and I've talked to him for about an hour or so since then." She frowned, "He's been busy this year with FreeLance and all."
"It's been almost three months!" Isabelle said, "You guys have never been this sketchy about staying in touch."
"It goes in waves. This time has been the longest since we've really talked, but I know to expect that so it doesn't worry me that much. I just hope that the kids can see him this time while he's home." She looked at Isabelle and tried not to get emotional. "They miss him a lot while he's gone." She piled up the clothes and lifted them off the counter placing them with the hamper full of clothes that she'd washed while the twins had been on their outing.
"And you don't?" Isabelle asked.
"Of course I miss him, but what can I do?"
"They're flying in tomorrow morning you know." Isabelle began opening the cupboards and looking through them. "You should call him tomorrow," she said when she'd found a box of the fish shaped cheese crackers that the kids liked.
Isabelle and Ana ran into the living room expecting to find one of the twins hurt. Instead they found them staring at the television jumping up and down. "It's Unca Lance, and Unca Joey and Unca Justin, and Unca Josh and Unca Fris!" The twins bounced around in the space in front of the television for a moment then Olivia went and crawled up on a chair to watch while JJ stared at the television way too close than he should have.
Ana let herself relax and slid into a seat on the couch and watched the live telecast of the Donnie and Marie show coming to them from Los Angeles. "God they look tired," she sighed noticing how ragged they all looked. They had been on tour for almost three months now. It had been a fifty-city tour that had taken them all the way across the country and back without more than a weekend off the whole three months.
"Joey died his hair back to brown!" Isabelle said with shock.
"For me being the clueless one of the group you sure are clueless today," Ana said remembering the joke about how she had always thought that Lance's eyes were blue and not green. She'd always blamed that fact on the situation that she'd been in when they met.
It was dark and I was going through labor. There were a lot more important things to think about back then!
A joke of some kind was made on the show and Joey broke into laughter causing the twins to go into hysterics. They had always had a strange fascination with all the guys. It worried her sometimes that her children had too big of a connection to their honorary Uncles. They'd become very close to all of them even with their strange schedule and randomness. While most children their age were listening to Barney on tape, the twins had begged to listen to the guys albums especially the Christmas CD where they could hear Lance's deep voice sing a line or two of one of the songs.
Joey was their jungle gym letting them climb all over him when he came over. They watched WWF and wrestled around on the floor together stopping only when someone would hit the ten-count to declare a winner. Chris was the one who always made them try new things, most of which ended up being too dangerous to really be appropriate for a toddler to do, but the adventurous spirit wasn't lost on them. JC taught them music. JJ could play a mean set of pots and pans and he'd taught Olivia to sit in his lap and play three blind mice, with help of course. Justin introduced them to sports, leaving basketball for the big kids and concentrating on soccer since JJ and Olivia both seemed to have a God given talent to kick things.
As for Lance, he was the worst of them all. He spoiled them with everything their little hearts could desire and had trained them so well to go to sleep by him singing to them that it was now a nightly ritual to put in the group's CD to put them to sleep. He'd even made them a tape while on the road so that they could watch and listen to the group singing to them while they took their afternoon naps.
When the guys got up and began to sing Bye Bye Bye the twins jumped up and down pretending to dance along with the song and sing with them. The only line they really knew was the phrase Bye Bye Bye and they practically screamed it when the song came to that part.
"You two have been hanging out with Uncle Josh too much," Isabelle said.
"What did you feed them for lunch?" Ana asked.
"Just McDonalds cheese burgers and a little coke."
"Izzi! You know they can't handle caffeine."
"Well it's insane to eat cheese burgers and milk so I had to get it for them."
"You're too much of a softy."
Almost home. Almost home. Almost home.
Lance smiled and leaned against the window letting the sun warm his cheek through the tinted glass of the van. He'd been in the air conditioning too long that day and found himself with a bit of a chill which made him think that he might be getting sick. He usually did get at least a cold or something when his body finally realized that he had time off. It was if he saved up his sick days for his vacation, which usually sucked because he didn't ever really have that many days off, but it was better than being on the road and having the flu or something.
Lance turned a little only to find Mike in the seat next to him staring at him with a concerned look. To calm his nervous look, Lance smiled sleepily, pulled up the hood on his sweatshirt, and said, "Yeah, just really tired. It's been a long three months."
"I know what you mean. It's good to be home again." Mike smiled and looked out the window as they passed the sign that announced Lance's housing area. "Have you told anyone you're going to be home today?"
"My parents and Stacey." Lance felt groggy from the time change and the lack of sleep. He kept his eyes on the sites outside of the van tracking their progress across town and finding himself being more and more excited by seeing the familiar gas stations and shops that were just outside his neighborhood.
"You didn't call Ana?"
"She wouldn't want to see me," he said remembering the last time they'd seen each other. He'd taken her out to dinner and it had been clearly spelled out to him that she didn't like him other than in a friendly sort of way...
Lance opened the car door and held out a hand to her as his mother had always told him to do. He normally only made the gesture to her when he was being funny with her since they had long passed the point of being overly polite to each other.
Instead of taking his hand she jumped down out of the front passenger seat of his Toyota 4Runner on her own and smiled at him. Lance shoved his hand into his jacket pocket and watched her move out of the way of the door before he slammed the door shut and followed her to the house.
They'd dressed up that night for their last dinner before the tour. He'd taken her out to a nice little out of the way place and for the first time in months they'd had a peaceful dinner together. His schedule had gotten more and more hectic over the years and he missed being able to spend time with her.
"So three months this time?" she asked when they'd made it to the door.
"Yep," he said with a sigh. He brushed his hand through his hair to keep himself from staring too much at her. She'd been looking at him with these big sad eyes all night and for a moment he thought that there might be a chance for them to be together, but deep down he knew that there wasn't one. He'd tried before, but always had the idea in the back of his head that she and the twins would be worse off with him than without him.
Feeling tired and frustrated with the events of the week, first packing and now saying good-bye, Lance pulled his hands from his pockets and leaned towards her. He thought he'd try one last time to see if things could work out with them. He figured if he messed it up at least he'd be gone for three months giving them time to heal from whatever disaster he might cause.
"Lance don't." She turned her head away from his kiss and turned towards the door.
Lance took a deep breath and dug his hands into his pockets again. It hadn't been what she'd said to him. It hadn't been the way she'd said it. It had been the hurt in her eyes that ripped through him. Richard had put that hurt there years ago and no matter what he did he couldn't get that look out of her eyes.
Their attraction to each other had never been a secret. They flirted with the best of them, but they'd never crossed over that line that turned friendship into relationship. Not once. Not even on those drunk New Year's Eves when they found each other to kiss at midnight.
"Lance are you ok?"
An icy cold expression came over his face and he nodded not trusting his voice right away. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"
"It's late and we're both tired. It's not really that impossible for us to slip up a little." She turned and kissed his cheek then took a breath before asking, "Want to say good-bye to the kids?"
He watched her eyes carefully wondering what she was thinking. "Nah," he sighed. "They're probably asleep. I shouldn't bother them."
"Please?" she pleaded. She took hold of his arm and opened the door pulling him into the house. He watched as she paid the teenage babysitter, shooed her out of the house then pulled him up to the twins' bedroom so that he could say goodnight.
Olivia and JJ were asleep as he'd predicted but he went into the room anyway trying to be as quiet as possible. He had enough experience dealing with JC and Justin's strange sleeping habits to be quiet, but it was times like this that it came in really handy. The twins were old enough now to have big kid beds. When they'd made the switch out of the cribs that they'd been in he'd volunteered to give Ana the old set of beds that his mother had used for Stacey and him. They now were set up like bookends in the small room that the twins shared next to their mother's room. One bed had a blue race car themed bedspread and the other had a pink and white Barbie bedspread.
He took a seat next to Olivia first. His "Little Bit" must have had a rough day. She lay, face pressed against the pillow, with her dark hair spread out over the pillow around her almost as if she'd fallen into bed and gone straight to sleep. He pushed her comforter up around her and gave her a smile. Her tiny little hands were curled into fists and one was up near her mouth. He watched her sucking on her thumb and wondered when she was going to stop that. He'd always thought she should have stopped that long ago, but Ana said that the pediatrician said she'd grow out of it sooner or later. The pink ragged blanket that she called "banky" was on the floor so he reached down and retrieved it for her, placing it near her head on the pillow so that she would find it in the morning when she woke up. Instead he found her reaching out in her sleep to grab it up, as if she knew it was there.
Not wanting to wake her he moved over and sat next to JJ on his tiny bed watching the boy silently. He'd grown up a lot in the last few months. The last time he'd seen the kid he'd been learning his ABC's and had already learned the letters of his name, although he liked to pick the "J" and "J" out of the magnetic refrigerator letters rather than spell out "Jacob". Lance had immediately said that he was going to be a writer like his mother but figured that he'd write the sports page or something since he liked to abbreviate so much. He leaned down and kissed JR's cheek before smoothing back the kid's hair and leaving him to sleep. "You be a good boy," he mumbled as he left his side.
He could have stayed all night with them, but he knew he should leave since they had a three am call to head out to Mississippi in the morning. He wished that they didn't have to leave town, but he knew it couldn't be helped. They were doing too well in the business now to even think of messing that up.
When he returned to the hallway he found that Ana had already changed into her pajamas. She was wiping her eyes and for a moment he wondered why, but realizing that she was always over emotional about him leaving he pulled her into a hug and held her close for a moment.
After a quick good-bye and another hug at the door he said he'd keep in touch with her and left her alone. He'd gone home that night and had spent the four hours between his homecoming and departure in the morning sitting up in bed staring at the photo album that Ana had made him the last time he'd gone on tour. She'd been at a picnic with the whole group of families and had put together enough pictures keep him company on the road without making him homesick.
Homesickness was a relative thing. He'd been traveling on the road since way before NSYNC and was used to being away from home, but since the group had gotten bigger he'd been away more and more. Normally it didn't bother him that much, but with the twins being a part of his life, the limited part that they shared with him, he worried that he was growing apart from them.
When they'd first been born he'd been able to be with them more than he had been in the last two years. Back then the group had only been big in Europe so when he came home from being on tour he could spend all his free time with them. Now that the new album had been released and the press had become like magnets to their every move he'd been limited in the contact he'd had with them. He still went to visit them and tried to stay in touch, but it was getting harder and harder to be there with them and keep them separate from his job. He knew Ana's feelings about the press and also realized that having them being exposed to his strange lifestyle wasn't good for them at all.
"Hey L, we're here," Mike said as they pulled up to the gated house. Lance let out a sigh and reached over for his backpack. He wanted out. He'd been the last one to be dropped off since his house was the farthest from the airport and he felt a little bad about the idea that another few minutes of his short vacation were being taken up by sitting in the car.
When the doors opened and the heat of Orlando rushed at him he smiled and stretched a little. He dug into his pocket and grabbed out his keys then made his way around to the back of the van to grab out his two suitcases.
He brought the bags up to the front door and unlocked the door and threw it open before going back to say good-bye to Mike. They hugged and said their usually good-byes. "Page me if you go out anywhere," he said.
"I'm not planning on going anywhere for a few days," He pulled off his sweatshirt now that he was out in the sun. "I think maybe a midnight run to get food is in order, but other than that I'm going to be asleep."
"Take care of yourself man," Mike said. He pulled on the collar of his black shirt and looked around for a moment as if he was wondering where all the heat was coming from. "Remember to call your mom again, or I'm sure I'm going to hear about it."
"I will," Lance said and with a wave to the rest of the security team in the van he turned back and walked towards the house, only to stop on the front porch to watch the van pull out of his driveway and disappear down the street.
Once in the house Lance thought that he would have been able to relax again, but being alone, truly alone wasn't something that he wanted to experience just yet. He knew that JC and Justin and the others were probably already asleep or in Joey's case in the middle of a family reunion, but Lance didn't expect his parents until the next day knowing how they liked him better after a good twenty four hours worth of sleep.
Moving into the house he left his bags by the door and decided to see if he had any food left in the house. He knew that his mother had come down to Orlando a few times over the summer and had stayed in the house, but he didn't think she'd stocked the fridge for him while he was gone.
Passing the phone on the counter he forgot about the food and stared at the phone for a moment and just as he was about it pick it up to dial up Ana the phone rang.
"Hello?" He figured that he'd know the person who was on the line since only a few people had the actual land-line number. His mother had told him to get caller id, but he didn't think he wanted to pay that much for a service he was only going to need for a few weeks a year. About ninety percent of his calls were made from his cell phone.
He suddenly remembered that he should plug the cell phone in. He patted himself down trying to remember which pocket he'd stashed it in that morning while he took the cordless phone back towards where his bags were so he could find the charger cord for it.
"Did I wake you up?" the female voice asked.
"No," he said, "I just got home."
"Do you know who this is?"
"Yes Ana," he sighed. "I still don't understand why you think I can't recognize your voice."
Her voice had never sounded so good to hear. It had been too long since he'd talked to her. He'd meant to call her more often, but between the album promotions, the tour, FreeLance meetings, and looking over movie scripts with the group as well as going to the Grammy's and the MTV Movie Awards there just hadn't been time. He'd barely had enough time to have a good night out on his birthday.
"I take it that you haven't taken a nap yet." Her fiesty voice put him in his place with a scolding. "You sound as bad as JJ when he needs one."
"Sorry about that." He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. He took deep breaths and tried to sound a little less on edge. Not only for her benefit, but for his own. He needed to remember that he was on vacation now and should start acting like it. "Speaking of my boy--how is JJ? And Olivia?"
She hesistated for a moment longer than he thought she should have.
"Did something happen?" he asked. He knew that he had sounded like his mother just then, but he'd never heard her hesistate for so long about answering his question about the kids.
"No, of course not," she said, "I just wanted to know if you were going to see them this trip."
"Of course I will," he said. He looked at the clock. It was just about eleven in the morning. "What are you doing right now?"
"I was going to take them to the park. I didn't mean that you had to come over now...I just wanted--" She sounded nervous and he wanted to know why. She hadn't sounded that nervous around him in years.
Back when they'd first met Ana had always been a little on edge with him. She was over protective of the twins and almost didn't let him see them again.
"You...Ana what's wrong?"
"Nothing," she said. "Why?"
He rubbed his forehead and tried to figure out why she sounded so strange. "You sound different."
"I think you need to get some sleep Lance. You're hearing things."
Lance tried to push that out of his mind and changed the subject. "When are you going to put the kids down for their nap?"
"How about I come over around noon and eat lunch with you guys then I'll take a nap with them?" He'd been over a few times before and had taken a naps with them. Ana usually was the one who insisted he sleep instead of hanging out with her and he was greatful for that mothering.
"Sounds good," she said, "Just be ready to sing them to sleep because they don't go anymore without hearing you first."
Lance laughed. "Ok. Just promise me you won't cry and I'll sing."
His comment made her laugh which brightened his entire day. "Well let me go grab a shower and clean up a little and I'll drive over."
"We'll be at the park down the street if you come over and we aren't home yet."
"Ok," Lance said, "I'll be over in about an hour."
"See ya then."
Ana had set out a large blanket on the grass and was proof reading her latest script on the laptop while the twins played in the sandbox nearby when she saw the 4Runner park on the street a few yards away from them. She immediately recognized it as Lance's and found her mood brightening at the thought of seeing him again, although the happiness was mixed with nervous anticipation because she hadn't seen him since he'd left for the summer.
She glanced up and checked on the kids then glanced over to see Lance stepping out of the truck. He looked relaxed in a dark green T-shirt, jeans, sneakers, a baseball hat and sunglasses, but when he stepped away from the truck he looked around for a moment, probably checking to see who was around. He would have looked paranoid if he had been a normal person, but Ana knew it was his lifestyle that made him so aware of his surroundings.
"Unca Lance!" JJ yelled and got up from where he'd been sitting in the sand filling up a bucket and ran across the grass over to Lance.
"JJ!" Lance called back to the boy in an excited voice as they approached each other.
Ana watched in awe as Lance scooped JJ up into a hug. She was still amazed every time she saw the two of them together. Lance treated JJ like a son, which was hard for Ana to handle. On the one hand she wished that Lance was his father, but on the other hand she almost wished he wouldn't be that great to the kids. It would be a lot easier to handle if he wasn't close to them because it hurt her sometimes to see the look in JJ's eyes and how much he needed a father figure.
Olivia followed her brother across the grass and before long Lance had both of them perched in his arms holding them close.
"What have you two been up to this morning?" he asked them with a smile on his face as he walked them over to where Ana was sitting.
"We were making a sand castle. Wanna help?" JJ said.
"Of course I'll help, but I should say hi to your mom first." He looked over and smiled at Ana. She turned her eyes away hoping that he wouldn't think that she was staring at him, although in reality she had been.
He looked thin and didn't look as if he'd gotten out in the sun at all over the summer. His eyes were deeply sunken and if she didn't know him better she might have thought he was coming down with the flu.
JJ wiggled to get down and once back on the ground the twins ran over and began to dig into the sand again.
Lance plopped down on the blanket next to Ana, stretching out his legs along side where she was sitting Indian style. He flipped his hat off and in one quick motion turned it backwards and leaned and kissed Ana's cheek as if they spent every day of their lives lying around on a blanket together in the park. "What'cha working on?" He peeked over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow.
Ana closed the laptop. "Work. I'm proofing a new script."
"Don't let me stop you from working," he said, "I won't read over your shoulder."
"It's ok," she said, "I'll finish it up while you guys take your nap."
Lance slid the surfer style sunglasses down on the bridge of his nose and looked at her for a moment. "So what do you want to have for lunch?"
"I was going to make Macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, but--" Most times when Lance would spend time with them she didn't treat him any differently than anyone else, but now, with their strange last meeting and so much time passing between them she expected that there would be something strange going on between them. She wasn't sure if he was going to be the same person that he'd been a few months before.
"That sounds perfect," he said.
He leaned back on an elbow and watched the kids for a moment. "God they're getting big."
"They start kindergarten in a few weeks."
"Wow." He looked a little shocked by the news.
"Who would have thought I'd have made it this far. Kindergarten seemed years away just a few months ago and now it's a few weeks away," she said, "It must be crazy for you to see them so far apart. They amaze me on a day to day basis about how much they've grown."
Lance took his hat off and ran his hands through his hair then shoved the hat back on and took off the sunglasses before speaking. "I was going to talk to you about that."
"Unca Lance will you help me?" Olivia called over to him.
Lance looked at Ana for a moment.
"Go on and help them," she said, "We can talk later."
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