On the way out of the airport I stop quickly to grab a bottle of water and a newspaper. I have to catch a cab back to Times Square and I know it's going to take a while so I figure I might as well have some kind of entertainment on the way. I know that I should buy and actual book to read since most of the newspaper contains things that I clearly have no use for, but for some reason I think that a newspaper is going to be more easily picked up and put down today due to recent events. My ability to concentrate is going to be hindered today thinking about last night and the way Justin is now acting towards me.
The cooler air outside makes me shiver and I think of Justin again. I want to kick myself for being this girly right now. At the same time I like the idea of something to look forward to. Or rather that the someone that I'm thinking about might be actually thinking about me for once and not just because he trying to find out where the schedule is taking us next.
I raise my hand and stand on my tiptoes to see across the back of a Volvo station wagon trying to hail a cab. The first three that I see have people in them. It's amazing how many types of people you can see in one city and I'm staring at a woman with purple hair and a huge lip piercing when a cab makes a mercy stop. He's got his off duty sign on, but rolls up and leans towards the window.
"Where to?" he asks. His eyes crinkle into a smile and I know this isn't the typical driver, not that ANY taxi driver in the tri-state area could be considered normal.
I look at the off duty sign and get nervous. I've heard terrible stories about cab drivers when they've got their off-duty signs on. I had heard about a woman who almost got raped by one. I should have taken Tiny with me instead of having him go with Justin. Justin can at least kick the fans asses if he gets into trouble. "Times Square."
"Hop in," he says in such a cliche that I have to laugh.
I hesitate for a moment, still unsure about this. "You sure?"
"Look Lady," he says in that ever-present New York accent. "Either get in the freaking car or don't, but I got shit to do today and you aren't helpin' any."
"Which way?" he asks.
"Triborough Bridge," I pile into the back, moving my backpack to sit on the seat next to me. "Thanks."
I try to ignore the faint smell of sweat coming off of the taxi driver's shoulders. I should have had the car take me back to town, but at the same time I love the adventure of taking a New York City Taxicab. In no other city can you be shoved into a sardine sized seat with no seatbelt and have a man drive fifty miles an hour over the speed limit on purpose.
The paper gets opened and spread out onto my lap. I flip it a few times then fold it in half and start off by reading my horoscope. I'm usually not too into them, but for fun they really start off my morning well.
The celestial atmosphere encourages you, as far as love and romance are concerned, to actively pursue someone altogether eligible. This isn't your normal style, as you are usually far too proud to make it known that you have feelings. But something in the air is encouraging you to give a nod and a wink instead of a cold stare. Go on -- make someone's day. -- astrology.yahoo.com
"Oh god," I sigh.
"What?" The driver slips onto the parkway that will get us back in the heart of the city.
I look out the window then flip the page over to look at the other listings. "Nothing."
My eyes scan the page until I find my sign again and read on. I hold my breath.
The Dragon's secret crush is a secret no more, and now a partnership of some sorts is either possible with some discretion or impossible because too many people already know. -- astrology.msn.com
Again I have a reaction to the article in front of me. "Jesus. Why can't they leave me alone?"
"Leave who alone lady?"
"Look," he said, "I ain't gonna tell you nothing that you don't already know, but it's freaking rude to have a conversation with someone, but not say anything."
"I didn't know this was a conversation."
"It seems to me that if you're making noise back there that you want to or need to talk to someone because most people sit back and relax if they don't."
How anyone can relax flying 90 miles an hour down the freeway is beyond me.
I've heard stories about the misconceptions passengers have about their taxi drivers, but I'm not sure that this driver is the one I want to be getting counseling from about my relationship with Justin. I take a breath when I see that his eyes are no longer on the road, but are focused on me in his rear view mirror. "Can you turn up the heater a little?"
"Sure," he says reaching for the button.
"I was reading my horoscopes--" I look at the page and wonder why everything in front of me seems to be driving me towards Justin. I mean literally the cab is taking me there, but at the moment the paper in front of me is trying to get me there faster than the car will take us. "--And it's saying a lot of things about this guy in my life, or at least I take them as being directed at the guy in my life."
"So read it," the driver says as he cuts over two lanes to get where he needs to be.
"The Dragon's secret crush is a secret no more, and now a partnership of some sorts is either possible with some discretion or impossible because too many people already know." I smile. "The dragon is him, I think or maybe it's me, but either way discretion is the key to our relationship. I definitely don't think that many people know about what's going on between us."
"Not an affair," I say. "He's not dating someone else, but his career is really important to him and since we work together it's hard to have both and not let one ruin the other."
"Oh," the guy says.
"I seriously think I'm going to be single forever." I sigh and move the papers around knowing that Justin is the only man in the running and being with him is probably next to impossible so I shouldn't get my hopes up. "No guy really seems with the effort."
"That's the whole thing though," The driver smiled. "When you meet the right guy: IT'S EFFORTLESS. You need to relax, settle into your new life and go with the flow. He's out there."
"If you say so," I say sounding more depressed than I have in a while. "I attract the same type of guy every time. It's definitely a proven pattern with me. I have the guy that wants to sleep with me, but doesn't want to be seen with me in public, or I date the guy that ends up becoming my brother or something."
"So don't put up with it...and DON'T SLEEP WITH THEM." He laughs. "What about this new guy? I mean you have to break the pattern on your own, if a guy shows up on your door step drunk, or just looking for the booty call. BOUNCE HIS ASS." He took a deep breath. "I don't know you that well but any woman DESERVES the whole deal: Day dates. Night dates. No EXPECTED sex."
"Yeah well tell that to the guys around me."
"Well what about this new guy?"
"This new guy and I aren't really relationship material I don't think. Not that we don't get along, because we do, but our careers are really going--" I thought for a moment. I couldn't use that as excuse. We were both going in the same direction. "It's just that he and I are--"
"You shouldn't try to think up excuses not to be with someone."
"How come you're so smart?"
"I've been married three times," he said, "The first two ended in disaster and I thought the third would too, but my wife is amazing. She knows that I love driving my cab and wouldn't take that away from me so she's dealt with the idea that she's the breadwinner of the family. My schedule is the more flexible one and I get to spend time with our kid and the family and her more than I would if I'd kept my banking job downtown."
"You were a banker?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said, "Nothing is ever really as it seems."
"You just sound--"
"Yeah well we can all become something or someone else if we want to--" He changed his voice to a British accent. "I can be civilized enough to meet the queen--" He changed his voice to a thick Brooklyn accent. "That mess don't go well with the locals."
I'm not at all scared of crowds, but when I see Justin standing there in front of fifty or so reporters and photographers with their flashes going off a mile a minute, I wonder why Tiny isn't rushing him inside. My eyes find Sonia in the crowd and I narrow them. This is all her fault. Sonia is great at her job, but sometimes she doesn't notice the little things that should be noticed by a record label representative. She hasn't got a clue that he probably feels like a caged animal right now with everyone putting so much attention at him. It is a shocker for some people to find out just how shy Justin is on his own. On stage it's one thing, to have the spotlight on him and being with the group has helped him be more comfortable, but having him stand there on his own with them so close like that is going to make him freak out in a few minutes if I don't do something. I can see the signs of stress on his face even if no one else can.
Thank God for cell phones. I swear I die when I see the phone bills every month, but for moments like this my cell phone comes in way too handy to be complaining about paying for the service. Pulling my phone from my pocket I dial his number and send him a text message: "Smile. It makes people wonder what you're thinking." It seems like a stupid quote to send to him, but I know he'll get it and relax. He's got his phone set to a special vibrate feature just for text messages from me for this exact reason. He's got other ways of telling if his calls are from his family, the guys and other various people, but I know that if his pocket vibrates he'll always pick up the phone. Even when he was upset over Britney and closed himself off to everyone for a few days he'd pick up the phone to talk to me even if it was to tell me that he didn't want to talk.
I can see the surprise on his face when his phone moves in his pocket. His eyes widen and he hides the reaction well, but curiosity soon gets to him. His hand snakes into his jacket pocket and he pulls out the phone. Holding it low and towards his hip he glances up at the photographers then down at his phone trying to make it seem not such a big deal about getting a phone message while he's out in public. His eyes even search for Sonia who we both know has a fit anytime he's not paying attention to what he's doing. He hits a few buttons on the phone then smiles and looks up towards the crowd.
Without drawing attention to myself I move a little so that he can see me. We make eye contact briefly and he puts his phone back in his pocket with only a nod to me to say that he's gotten the message.
"Are you guys ready to let me go in now?" he asks with a laugh and I can see the forced smile he's giving all of them. "I don't know about you, but it's a little cold out here." He puts his arms around himself and hugs himself then looks towards Tiny to get him inside.
As they are walking towards the front door I move behind the reporters and make it to the door just in time to walk in with them.
"Hey," Justin says as he holds the door. His hand touches my back a little as we walk towards the far end of the store to where he's going to be signing things. Considering how much money stores make when stars come to do in store signings, they sure skimp on the tables, chairs and stuff. Folding tables and chairs with banners are so elegant.
"Hi," I answer him nervously and look at Tiny as Sonia leads him to his seat.
"Morning Vivian," Sonia says when we get to the table. She's using that oh so cold business voice that I always hate. "How are you?"
"Good," I say and try to bite back the comments that I want to yell at her.
"You ok?" Justin asks.
"Yeah," I say, "I'm gonna go to the basement and grab a cup of coffee or something real quick. Does anyone want anything?"
"Can you get me a water or something?" Tiny asks.
"They have water up here for you," Sonia says.
"Ok," Tiny shrugs.
"I'll be back in a few minutes," I say.
"Hmm?" I turn and look at Justin.
"Are you sure you're ok?"
"Just tired," I say and look at Sonia who is staring at us both strangely.
When I turn to leave I hear Sonia behind me. "What's wrong with her? And more importantly why are you both being so strange today?"
"No reason," Justin says, "It's nothing."
I'm not running away from them, but to the naked eye it probably seems like that considering that it takes me only a few seconds to descend the stairs. I walk to the coffee bar and wait a moment for the barista to turn around to take my order.
"Do you have apple cider?" I ask.
"Sure," he says.
"I don't want to bother you too much, but could you throw some whipped cream and caramel into it for me?"
"Like the thing at Starbucks?" he asks. He laughs a little, "I'm sure I can throw it together for you."
"You're with the whole Timberlake thing aren't you?"
"Yeah," I say.
"That seems like a cool job," he says, "I get to be around when everyone is here, but I don't usually get upstairs to see anyone good."
"Do you want me to get you an autograph?" I ask, "I could ask Justin for you--"
"No," His hands move quickly to heat the cider and a few moments later he's pouring it into a cup and covering it with whipped cream. "That's ok. My little sister likes him, but I'm not really into hip-hop or whatever it is that they're calling Justin's music these days."
"Really," I say and look up towards where Justin is standing with Sonia talking. "I could ask him for one for your sister."
"I don't want to impose," he says.
"Well," I lean over the counter a little, "You made me a Starbucks drink so I feel like I need to pay you back for it."
My drink is handed to me and he tells me how much it is. "If you think of it," he says, "but if you forget, it's ok."
"I'll go see if I can get one right now," I smile.
I go back up the stairs and when I get there Justin, Sonia and the store manager have disappeared. I look around and see the fans being let in so I turn towards where I remember the manager's office being and soon find Tiny standing outside the door with a frown on his face.
I smile at him on my way in. "Don't scare the teenies."
"I won't," he says with a quick smile then goes serious again.
Justin is sitting behind the manager's desk with Sonia on the corner of it when I come into the room. I lift my drink to my lips and Justin smiles at me. "Good stuff?"
"Yeah," I say, "Do you think you can do me a favor later?"
"I'll leave you two alone and go talk to Dave," Sonia says exiting the room quickly.
"What's up with her?" I ask.
Justin shrugs. "She's nervous because we're gonna be filming part of this for that special thing."
"Come here and sit down," Justin says patting his knee.
Instead of sitting on his lap I take the edge of the desk where Sonia was a moment before. "What's up?"
"Nothing." His shoulder's shrug and he pulls his chair closer to my legs. "I was going talk to you about last night."
"What about last night?" Nerves turn my stomach and I grip my cup harder.
"Viv, don't you realize that we're changing--"
"I didn't mean to run away this morning. I just--"
"That's not really what I was talking about. I understand that the schedule today was making you nervous and having the boys wasn't the time or the place to talk about our relationship."
I sip my drink and almost burn my tongue when he finishes the sentence. "Our relationship?"
"Stop avoiding the subject," Justin says with slight anger in his voice. "You know what I'm talking about." He rubs a hand over his face and takes a deep cleansing breath before leaning back. His feet pull him towards the desk and he's now close enough to put a hand on my knee.
I stare at his fingers. "Oh you mean all of us falling asleep together--" I turn away from him for a moment and look at the door expecting someone to come busting into the room. This really isn't the place or time to discuss this either, but the determined look in Justin's eyes shows me that I need to say something about it or he'll bug me until I cave. "It was really great that you're that close to Steven after all this time. I know he loves that you can take the time to make sure that he's ok."
"Yeah," he says slowly, "It's great that Steven still will let me do all that stuff. That wasn't what I was talking about though."
"Well what are you talking about?" I ask bluntly.
"You and me Vivian." I can hear his heel bouncing against the chair and I watch his knee go up and down. "That part--" He leans towards me, his frustration showing, "That god damned part where I woke up with you in my arms and you--"
The door flies open and I jerk my leg away from his hand.
A camera crew comes into the room and I slip away from him so that I'm not in the shot. I hate camera crews. Even if I didn't like Justin the way that I do, I'd still hate them. They get into places that they shouldn't be and just seem to cause more drama for an already dramatic life.
"Sorry about that Justin," Dave says.
"Yeah," the camera guy says, "Didn't mean to interrupt." He turns the camera towards me.
"The light." I put my hand up praying that I can get away with the excuse that I hate the light and not the camera, to keep it off me.
"Sorry," he says.
Sonia crosses her arms across her chest, "You two ok?"
"Yeah," Justin says, "We were just talking about--"
I slip out of the room and stand next to Tiny to wait for him. I hate that Sonia does that. She should know enough to knock on the door before coming into the room, but she never does. When Justin was on the phone with his mother talking about his grandmother being in the hospital after she fell and hurt her knee Sonia barged in and told him that he needed to get to MTV studios for an interview. If I hadn't been on my way back from getting him something to eat for lunch, I wouldn't have found him in tears, screaming at her to get out.
She still hasn't apologized for that one, a fact that I haven't let slip from my mind.
"Can I have five more minutes?" Justin asks.
I glance into the slightly open door and see Sonia looking at her watch. "We really need to get this going," Sonia says.
I sigh and know that this is going to cause a scene. Sonia doesn't understand about saying no to people and is always promising things on Justin's behalf before consulting him. I guess I've done that this morning too, with the autograph, but it's not that often that I'd be asking for things like that so I don't think that Justin minds when it's something so small.
"I just want to finish my drink." I turn and see him holding up my cup that I've left on the desk.
"You didn't have a drink--"
"Vivian gave me hers," he says, "My throat was feeling scratchy and I don't want to get sick."
"Vivian?" Justin says loudly.
"Yeah?" I say and lean in the door.
"Can I talk to you for a few minutes?"
"I don't know what you two are up to--"
"I just want to know how my brother's are doing. Steven freaked out on me this morning and we had a hell of a time getting him to the airport to go home."
"Fine," she sighs.
I can hear the frustration from before in his voice. "Can I do it without the crew in here?"
The MTV producers slip out, granting Justin's request. He gives me a soft smile as if he understands that he doesn't need to be part of the drama that has just filled the small room. When his eyes roll I try to stifle my laugh. I can tell with that look that he knows that Sonia is a drama queen. I know he'll get fired for that look so I turn towards Tiny as he gives Justin and I each a look of warning. Making enemies with Sonia is something that is already done, but fighting with her today isn't going to help things.
"There's something going on between the two of you and I can't figure out what it is." She glares at me as she leaves. "Just know that whatever game you two are playing isn't going unnoticed."
Justin starts to get angry. "Just know that we--" His eyes slide over to me and back again. "I need more time to talk to Vivian about my brother who was screaming at me this morning because he thinks that I'm abandoning him. If THAT is going to cause me to be late to listening to a bunch of screaming girls for four hours then I'M FUCKING SORRY--"
"Justin--" I turn from glaring at Justin and move between him and Sonia clearly seeing that his level of tolerance for Sonia is getting low. "Sonia, give us--" I pick up her arm and look at her watch. "Ten minutes at the most. I'll have him out there by the time the manager ends his introduction for Justin." I pause. "I promise."
"Fine," Sonia says, "Whatever."
"Thanks," Justin says as she closes us into the room.
"Justin," I say, "I know that you want to talk, but now isn't the time and if Sonia freaks out and goes to the label with a complaint about me--"
"She's not going to complain," Justin moves from the desk to stand in front of me. "She's done it in the past and I totally tell them that I'll freak out if you're not traveling with me so don't worry about it."
"I don't know if I want to be in the middle of this."
"Don't worry about it," he says and leans and kisses me quickly. "I need to go, but this isn't over."
He swings the door open before I can protest and I soon find myself surrounded by screaming girls trying to make sure that Justin has everything he needs while he signs autographs.
Today they've let the girls have cameras so I stand on the far side of the table from him just in case they need people to help take pictures. Sometimes it's better to be on the far side of the table from him, but today isn't one of those days.
His eyes plead with me as he signs autographs.
He's upset. No actually he's in a funk now.
The distance between upset and a funk isn't that far. Some people would consider him a moody star or even the male version of a diva at times. For Justin, it's just simply that he cares too much about all the things in his life and has a hard time turning off his slightly obsessive thoughts about one part of it when the rest of it needs his attention.
I can see the color fading from his eyes and I know that this isn't the time to lose the sparkle in them that fans drive hundreds of miles to see. The trick now, on my end, is to figure out first what is wrong and second to fix it. Sometimes it's a five-minute break that will give him time to take a deep breath and sometimes it's a drink. The best cure I've found lately is to get him out to play basketball. I once read in a psychological digest, or something like that, about the benefits of physical activity when dealing with depression.
Depression being connected to Justin would never cross my lips in mixed company, but everyone around him knows that since he and Britney broke up that there is something different about him and that it could be considered some kind of depression. He sighs more and closes his eyes more. Closing his eyes doesn't seem that out of the ordinary, but napping in the afternoons isn't something that would be considered normal for ANY twenty-one year old and its even more out of the ordinary for him to be doing.
His eyes move to me and he's already started that pout that I hate so much. It's the one that Steven used on me this morning, making him look even more pathetic than he really probably feels at the moment.
"Don't start this," I mouth to him with a shake of my head. I know that he doesn't want to be here and I wouldn't wish this on him either, but he's got work to do before our next break for the day.
He gives me an innocent look and mouths, "What?"
"You know what," I mouth at him. "You're working right now and need to pay attention."
A girl moves in between him and I and he leans a little. The girl turns towards me and I move to sip my coffee so that she won't know what's going on.
"Pay attention," I say when he catches my eye again. I hate when he does this. I wish he would just get through work and not bring all the stuff between him and I into the open like this. Even when it was just jokes between us, it's still not professional to be having a conversation, or rather mouthing a conversation, with me when fans are around, unless it's an emergency.
"Fine," he mouths back. He frowns and the girl in front of him asks what's wrong.
"Nothing's wrong," he says loud enough for me to hear. I can see his chest puff out a little as he pulls in a deep breath of air. His lips lift into a smile and he poses with a wink for the girl taking his picture.
I slide over to Tiny and pat him on the shoulder. He turns his head slightly to me keeping his eyes on Justin the whole time. "What's up?"
"I'm gonna head downstairs and see if I can get myself a book to read for later. I'll be right back."
Tiny looks at me closely for a moment.
"I'm fine," I say, "I've been running around in circles for a little while this morning and the teenies are getting to me."
I move across to the back of the table and slide another bottled water next to Justin's barely touched one. With a hand on his shoulder I lean a little. "I'll be back. Here's the water you wanted."
"Thanks." I can tell that it's startled him to see me so close, since I tend to stay out of the limelight.
I disappear upstairs instead of downstairs to get a book. I want to keep an eye on him, but I don't want him to see me. It's better if I stay in the background instead of by his side.
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Last updated: 07/03/04.