When I return to the main floor of the store I can see that Justin and Tiny have made their way out. Tiny is by the door and waves to me so I make my way across the floor and out the door and head straight to the car. When I get to Justin's side in the car I find him on the phone in the middle of a conversation. I tend to tune out his voice in most cases, a talent learned after hearing a few more conversations between him and Britney than I wanted to hear. I figure it's just Trace on the line with him when he laughs, but then I stop and stare at him angrily when I figure out who he's talking about.
"Jeanne--" I know that this is Jeanne Wolf who has interviewed him a few times for segments for People Magazine. "--I really appreciate this. I hate to postpone this."
"Postpone what?" I ask him. I turn towards D and Tiny in the front seat. "What is he postponing?"
Tiny shrugs and turns to look out into traffic. D humors my interest. "I think it's that Jeanne Wolf lady from People. I don't mean to listen to his conversations, but she was such a nice lady that--"
"Yeah Jeanne," Justin says. "I'll take you to Nobu because I know that you love those Saki shooters--" He laughs. "No. I know that you love flying fish eggs. I was trying not to think about them. I'm on the way to lunch myself here in a minute."
"Lunch?" I scan the schedule in my head. "We're not scheduled for more than a quick lunch today." I'm speaking to an empty car. There might be four of us in there, but I only see that the two of us are present. "What's he postponing?" I cut in.
D looks in the mirror and winces as he speaks. "He's postponing the People interview that was scheduled for this--"
"You can't postpone stuff without--"
Justin clicks off his phone and smiles. "I'm a big boy Viv." He leans a little closer to me. "I like the make up."
My anger stops when his compliment meets my ears. I swallow my anger. "Thanks," I say.
"I just told Jeanne that I need a longer lunch." He slides an arm across the back of the seat we're sharing. "I'm taking her to Nobu and will get major props from her for treating her to lunch so look at it as an upgrade on my interview instead of a notch against it."
"But nothing," Justin says. He leans forward. "Turn up the song D."
He sits back as a Ja Rule and Ashanti song comes on the radio.
"Vivi--" He mocks my attitude towards him.
"You can't just change the schedule like that. You know that."
"I know that I made lunch plans that I need at least a full two hours--"
"Two hours?" I sink back into the seat. "This is career suicide."
"Your album comes out today and you're rescheduling interviews?" I cover my face. "You have a death wish to mess with Sonia's schedule like that. And Johnny and your mother are going to hear about this and--"
"And nothing," Justin says as the car pulls up to the curb of Jive where he'll be giving his interviews today. "I have two hours off this afternoon. Sonia knows about it and told me that if I act normal when I get back from lunch that she won't bug me about the interview that I'm missing right now."
"Two hours for lunch though?"
His hand snakes over and touches my cheek. "Don't worry about it Vivi."
"Don't call me that Justin. It isn't professional."
"Ok," he says formally. He brushes non-existent fuzz off his shoulder and straightens his shirt. "Vivian would you like to get out of the car so we can go inside and have lunch?"
"Ass," I mumble and climb out of the car.
He's laughing as he follows me into the building. "You're stressing like a cat in a room of rocking chairs."
"Oh my god," I say and turn around to look at him as I walk backwards towards the door. "Don't quote your grandmother at me Justin."
"Vivian calm down," he said. "No more coffee for you today."
"This isn't funny," I say as he smiles at me.
"I know," he frowns, "But will you relax?"
"You guys are too much," Tiny says as he holds the door for the two of us to go through.
An intern with bright red-orange hair races up to us. "Mr. Timberlake." She takes quick breaths and the red lessens from her paler Irish skin. "I'm glad I caught you. Your lunch is on its way. I think if you head up it should be there just about the time that you find yourself a seat."
"Thanks Red," he says.
I frown. "Justin that's not her name."
"Sorry," he says and sighs. "Sorry Ginger."
"It's ok," she says then looks at me. "It's ok if he calls me Red. Everyone else around here does."
"I know Ginger," I say, "But--"
"Look," Justin says, "I said I was sorry--" He sighs. "We're going to be late for lunch."
"You have two hours," I say, "What do you care?"
"I don't, but you might."
"Yeah," he says. "Come on."
We enter the elevator and go up to the seventh floor. When we step out onto the floor of conference rooms Justin practically stutter steps down towards the end of the hall. He whistles some tune and bops his head like he's the king of this castle. He may not be the king, but at the moment I guess he could be considered Jive's prince. He's done so much for their company that he's definitely allowed to do whatever he wants while in the offices.
When we get to the door he peaks in then stays in the hallway.
"Aren't you going to go in?"
He leans against the wall. "Not until lunch gets here."
"Ugh," I say. "You're sooo aggrivating!"
"What?" he asks. "I'm just waiting for lunch to get here."
"Fine," I say, "You stay here. I'm going in."
Tiny seems to be in on this little plan. He tries to stop me from going in the room by grabbing my arm to hold me back. "Vivian wait."
I pull the door open and find the conference table covered in a white linen table cloth. Cream colored candles are lit in the middle of the table and two places are set with real plates and knives and forks with champagne flutes near each place setting waiting for someone to sit down.
There's a couch on the far side of the room. While at the moment there are lights set up pointing toward it to use when the interviews start, it looks as if it would be the perfect spot for a couple to curl up on and sit and hug and cuddle for the afternoon.
"I thought I'd take you to lunch," he says sliding up behind me. He puts his arms around me and pulls me back against him holding me close.
I start to open my mouth to protest.
"But nothing," he says before I can say anything. "You and I are having lunch for two hours. Tiny is going to be at the door and no one is going to bother us. We should have finished our conversation from earlier."
I sigh. I hate when he gets like this. It's hard to argue with a man with such a romantic streak in him.
When he turns me in his arms and starts to lean to kiss me I know that I clearly need to put a stop to this right now.
“WAIT,” I say and then realize that my voice sounds a hundred times louder than I wanted it to.
“What?” he asks.
I know I’ll shoot myself later for asking what I’m about to ask, but it has to be asked, “Why do you want to kiss me?"
“Because,” he says as his shoulders curl up into a shrug. His eyebrows draw together and he tries to fight the frown that soon takes over his lips. “I like you.” His hand reaches out and plays with the lock of hair that has fallen out from behind my ear and he caresses my chin and looks at me with a convincingly sincere expression. “You know that.” He leans again to kiss me.
“Justin,” I say cutting him off. I put a hand up and try to push him away a little. I didn’t want it to come to this, but I don’t really have a clear idea of how I got myself in the middle of his life, in places that I don’t belong. “You don’t have to do this.”
“I do,” he says with the stubborn nod of a little boy—innocent eyes looking at me as if I’m crazy for telling him no. “Because if I don’t I’m going to regret it.”
“You’re just missing Britney. You should wait and think about this—“
“No,” he said, “I’m not missing Britney for the pure fact that you’re here with me and you have been and I’ve totally ignored that for a long time.”
“Maybe you’re just wanting—“
“You aren't Britney.” He sighs and takes my hand. His eyes lower and he takes a breath. “It took me forever to see that the type of woman I want in my life isn’t her. I had this idea in the back of my mind that I could turn her into someone I wanted to be with, but I can’t do that.” He looks up at me and I swear there are tears in his eyes, or maybe they’re in mine. Either way what he says next to me makes me glad that I’m sitting down. “You actually care about people and more importantly care about me—and it’s not caring about me because you have to, or at least I hope it isn’t. I would like to think that you care about me because you sincerely feel that way.”
“Vivian, stop it,” he says, “Just let me say this and get it out.”
“I think you’re confused,” I say. While I really am loving the fact that he’s saying all this there is a strong feeling in the back of my mind that thinks that this is a horrible idea and that I need to get out of there and make sure that this doesn’t continue. Working with him from here on out is going to be just too strange.
“For god sakes aside from my Mother, you are probably the one person that cares the most about ME.” He starts to pace. He moves from the door to the window and back again, making me turn to watch him. “Do you know what it’s like for me to go through the day and know that the only people I can count on right now are my mother and you?” He paces.
Being put in a category with his mother is strangely uncomfortable to me. Half of my brain wants to celebrate the fact that he holds me in such high places, but at the same time I’m wondering if he’s seen something in me that I’ve been trying not to show him for years. I fell in love with him a long time ago and now I wonder if my stupid girly behavior has taken its toll on his life.
Britney’s words come to mind for a moment. "See Justin--" Britney's voice is loud enough for Justin to hear, but not loud enough to be heard by anyone else. "This is the reason we broke up." She smirks at me. "She was always there. She was always butting in. She destroyed us."
I look up at Justin and see the anger in his eyes. “I mean the guys care about me and I know Tiny would protect me with his life, but there isn’t a soul out there that can understand what I go through on a day to day basis and understand that I just need someone to be with me. Not the hype that surrounds me just ME. You are there for me all the time... trying to make things easier on me.... taking care of me... and I realized yesterday that I want to do that too... I want to care for you... take care of you because truthfully I haven’t done a good job of it so far.”
His words echo in my ears and I swear I've gone deaf and mute. I think if I didn't need to pump blood through my body that my heart would have literally stopped too. This is what I've been wanting to hear from a man for so long and having it come from him is probably the most shocking thing that I've ever heard.
In not so many words he's told me he cares for me--even maybe loves me--beyond the friendship kind of love that I know is between us.
I've had men profess their love for me in the last few years, but most of them have been when guys are in drunken states. My favorite was the profession of love I got from Joey when they were on tour in Texas. The hotel balcony seemed the perfect place to get a proposal from and when Joey screamed up at me that he wanted to have my babies I had to laugh and be touched that he'd picked me to make a fool of himself for.
But that was for laughs and this clearly isn't the same kind of situation.
Justin's mouth moves more, but all I can think or hear or see or feel is this man in front of me pouring his heart out. I've seen him do this before with his mother and his brothers and even his father has gotten one or two big speeches from him, but this is for me.
"Vivian. I know this is going to change the whole set up we have going on," he speaks carefully and deliberately, "I know that it's going to be an adjustment, but after yesterday and last night--especially last night--I feel like I can't pretend anymore that you and I are employer and employee. Our relationship has gone farther than that for more years that I can count and I'm realizing lately that I need to hold on tight to what is special to me--" He finally stops speaking. "Vivian are you ok?"
"I--" I step back a little and he reaches for me. You know how I totally thought I would black out when he kissed me. Well this is even worse. "I need to sit down."
He leads me to a chair and I sit down and stare at him as if he isn't real.
"Are you ok?" he asks.
"Yeah," I say and look down for a moment. "I think."
He frowns as he couches near the chair putting his hands on my knees to steady himself so he can look up at me instead of standing and looking down at me. "You think?"
"This is--" I swallow a breath wrong and my eyes widen. "This is a lot to take in right now and as much as you're ready to say this to me I'm not sure that I'm ready to hear it."
"Not ready to hear it?"
"I've been pretending for a long time that you and I are just friends and after talking myself out of liking you for so long it's hard to let myself think or feel otherwise." I clear my throat. "I thought that last night was just going to be a slip in judgment on both our parts because Britney showed up and you and I were both upset about things--"
"It wasn't a slip," he says. "Or if it was, it was one that I needed--we needed--to take."
I stare at him for the pure fact that I don't know what to say to someone who validates feelings that I've been trying to explain to myself for years. I wonder for a moment if this is a dream and I'm really sitting here. I've heard of people having moments like this when reality is too good to believe and I've had them considering that my job lets me be in places and in situations that most people wouldn't be in, but when it comes to matters of the heart--how dramatic does that sound--it's never happened to me before.
"Look," he says, "You don't have to say or do anything. I'm not expecting anything back from you. I just want you to know that if you feel like--" He pauses and smiles. "If you feel like making every night like that night instead of having it be the exception to some unspoken rule between us then just--"
"I liked last night," I say, "Or at least I liked waking up this morning with you there."
"I did too," he says slightly shyly. "I just wish that you wouldn't have run away this morning and wish you would have had breakfast with me and the boys."
"I don't want to hone in on your time with your brothers," I say, "That's your time with them."
"See," he said, "THAT is the reason I want to be with you. You already know what's important to me."
I don't know if I can stand to have all his attention directed towards me. I've seen him put himself into his relationships before and it scares me sometimes at just how passionate he is about these things. My rational brain is already thinking about us breaking up and we haven't even started to date yet. It's a sad reminder of how scared I am of him. It sounds insane, but I am scared. I know what he's like when he loves and he does it with his whole being and it's hard for someone like me who has never really loved to be loved or even possibly loved by someone who loves like that.
"I would say that about anyone and their family--"
"I know," he says, "That's the exact reason why I love the fact that you're in my life."
"Justin can you stop for a minute--" I take a breath. "I mean at least let up a little for a minute and let a girl get a breath?"
He backs up from me and moves to sit in a chair that's next to me. "I'm sorry."
I lean back in the chair. "So where does this leave us?" I ask.
"Wherever you want to be," he says. "I don't know if I'm ready to go straight back to the whole living together relationship thing, but I'd like to see where you and I are headed. As slow or fast as you want it to go."
"Justin--" I take a deep breath. "I'm not saying no at all, but I'm not sure how this is going to go."
"Just tell me that I'm not over reacting to the way I feel about you?"
"No," she said, "I'm trying not to overreact because--" I swear tears are in my eyes now.
He moves the chair closer. "Vivi don't cry honey." His hands move over mine. "This isn't something to cry over."
"I'm not upset," I insist, "Just today and your brothers and now you and--" I wipe my cheeks. "I've just gotten a lot of stuff thrown at me today--"
"I know this is something that you're scared about, but I truly feel that deep down that our relationship could only get better from here. It's gonna be different and it probably won't be easy, but I feel like I'd like to take the chance of it blowing up in our faces for just the few moments of what I felt last night and this morning."
I sigh and stare at my hands.
"Look," he pulls my hand over a little. "Why don't we just eat lunch and maybe hang out a little. I know that this has been a long day for you--"
"I'm sorry for making this so dramatic. I know that you don't need this right now."
"What I don't need is to see you upset," he said, "Let's get lunch and we'll relax and you can think about this and I'll stop bugging you about it."
"Ok." I say and we move so that we can eat our lunches.
Justin's ordered us salads and baked chicken and potatoes. When he lifts a bottle to fill the champagne I glare at him. "Sparkling cider," he says with a wink. "I know that you don't want me drinking during interviews." He laughs, "It might be more fun that way though."
"Yeah," I say, "You drinking at night is one thing. I can throw you up in bed--"
He wiggles his eyebrows at me and I feel myself blush.
"If you fall asleep during an interview I think it would be just a little insulting."
"Speaking of that," he says with a yawn, "If I have time I may take a nap."
"If we finish lunch before you have to go I'll make sure that we can--I mean you can sleep for a minute or two."
"You take such good care of me," he says and sets the bottle down.
"Thanks," I say more to the compliment, than the drink.
"We should toast," he says.
"Toast to what?" I ask.
"Us," he says with such confidence that I find myself a little scared of what that might mean. "To whatever we are now and what we'll become in the future."
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Last updated: 07/03/04.