Parking the car I almost hit the wall in the parking garage.  It's just another thing that has gone wrong with my day and it doesn't seem to be the last thing.  When I step out I step into a puddle and my sock gets wet.  God knows who has been cleaning in here since it clearly hasn't rained in days.

When I get to the door I can't find my keys for a moment and fear for a moment that I've dropped them on the way up the stairs to the door.

Finally I get inside.

“MY DAY HAS BEEN HELL!”  I yell the words into the empty room once the front door is slammed shut and sigh when the tension finally starts to ease from my neck and shoulders.

The sound of a cough fills the room then I hear him speak in a slow southern way which totally clues me into the fact that he’s been on the phone with someone at home.  It gets thicker when he’s been talking to someone with the southern accent that he’s famous for.  “That good?”

I flip around and find Lance standing near the door to the bedroom with a soda in his hand.  “Jesus you scared me?”

“And like you didn’t scare me coming into the house yelling like that?”  He moved his hand away from where it was in front of his shirt, showing off where soda was now splashed onto his shirt.

I throw my purse onto the counter and find a towel.  Yet another thing that has gotten ruined near me today.  It’s only a white t-shirt that he’s wearing, but I figure I should help try to clean up the mess I indirectly caused.  I've been cleaning up messes all day.  “Sorry about that—throw me your shirt and I’ll put it into the wash.”

“It’s ok.”  He comes into the kitchen, puts down the can of soda and slips out of his shirt.  He moves towards me and leans to kiss me then smiles in a sympathetic way.  “Long day honey?”  He moves to put his shirt on the counter in a pile.

I shake my head side to side trying to remember why I’m in the business.  After days like today I truly think that it’s the wrong profession for me.  “You wouldn’t believe it.”

“Try me.”  He shrugs and leans against the counter moving so that only one foot is flat on the ground.  The other leg is slightly bent and he’s resting his foot on his toes.

Something is going on with him.  He seems too relaxed and since I don’t smell any alcohol on him and didn’t taste any when he kissed me, I know something is going on.  He doesn’t look stressed; actually he looks for from it which makes me wonder what’s going on.  “My details on the Olsen Twins keep losing them.”  My eyes never leave his face.  He’s almost smiling at me.  I don’t like it.  It’s not a smile that I want to see.  He knows something, some secret and he’s not telling me what’s going on.  “The girls got their driver’s licenses three weeks ago and seem to think that it’s funny to sneak away from the guards.”

“And?”  The tone of his voice comes out easy.  He doesn’t seem worried at all by what I’ve just told him and almost seems to imply with his attitude that I’m overreacting.

“One of them got in a slight accident today.”  I see his eyes widen and know he’s about to want to consol me.  “Nothing major, but because she was on her own she was taken to the garage along with her car, without someone with her and when we did find out where the dumbass that was assigned to her ended up to be, he had no clue what was going on.”  My neck starts to hurt again and I move a hand up to massage it.  “I should just fire his ass right now.”

“Fire him,” Lance nods hard then moves me to stand away from him so that he can massage my neck.  “Right now.”

I twist around and look at him.  “What’s going on?”

His eyes dance a little and he looks like he's trying to push back a smile.  “You were telling me about—“

“No.”  I hate that he thinks he can play games around this.  One thing that has been pummeled into my brain is that my life is that my job is completely serious and that I shouldn't ever take my eye off it or something really horrible could happen.  “I mean with your attitude.  You’re—“  I stop for a moment.  "Have you been drinking?"

"Cola."  His mouth lifts into a smile.

“Delaney didn’t say anything to you did she?”

"She used words."

"You're such a smartass."  I glare at him.  "What did she say to you?"

"Nothing."  He keeps smiling.

Hands go to my hips and I stare at him.  Something is wrong.  Something is really wrong.  I can tell.  No one is this happy.  I don't care who you're talking about.  Even cheerleaders aren't this happy.  “Then why are you being ultra sweet with me right now?”

“Because I’m going to ask you something in a bit after you vent to me--"  He smiles.  "It's ok that you're venting.  That's what I'm here for."

"Why are you smiling then?"

"I just think that with a horrible day like today you might actually agree that my idea is good.”

“What idea?”

Hesitation scared her.  I don't like it at work, hated it in personal life situations and literally think that I am going to strangle him before he finally opened his mouth.  “Come home with me to Mississippi for a few days.”  I don’t know how long he’s been thinking about this, but a moment later I figure out that he’s been thinking about it for a while.  Maybe it was from the other night when he was on the phone with everyone from home and compounded with the fact that no one could get away to come to the show that messed him up even more.  “I need a break from LA and you sound like after today you probably need one too.”

I don’t want my face to pinch up in agony over what he’s asked me, but right this minute I can’t see myself in Jackson, Mississippi hanging out in Lance’s home town.  I don’t belong there and the torture of being there and seeing everyone that he knows and not being able to be open about my relationship with him is going to kill him.  “I don’t know.”

“Tammy,” his voice turns into a pleading tone.  He doesn’t use my nickname though.  Something that I truly thought I wouldn’t have noticed, but I do.  “It’s gonna be maybe four days.  I need to see my parents and Easter is coming up and my sister and brother in law are going to be in town and my cousins haven’t seen me in—“

My attention cuts off mid-sentence when I think about all the family members that he really wants me to meet.  I've heard about them and have seen enough pictures of them in the last few months to show me that meeting them isn't going to be a simple thing.  I’ve met a few of his friends, but his parents—his real family haven’t been out to LA since before we started dating and I have to admit I haven’t been one to search them out to meet them.  If I was going to meeting them I wished that it would be on my turf, not that LA was exactly home, but being in Lance’s home town took away all the advantages I might have of making it through the meeting without dying.

When he stopped talking about his family, I try to concentrate again.  Why is it so hard for me to stay tuned to something that is clearly so important?  I want to be there with him in this space and be connected to him, but instead my mind goes off to the worries of my day, my life, my relationship.  “Four days?”  I catch a little bit of what he’s said.

“Easter weekend.  Maybe five.”  He grabs down a paper towel and wipes up some of the soda off the side of the can.  “Leave on Thursday night and come back Monday night.”  He smiles widely.

I don’t realize what’s going on until my eyes are glued onto his chest.  I don’t know what it is about a man in jeans and no shirt and socks that can distract me to no end.  “What all is going on that weekend?”  I force my mind back into the conversation.

“Easter egg hunt at church, church services and then another two or three days of spending time at the house and with my parents and family.  I know it’s a lot to ask, but I haven’t been home since Christmas and I wanted to sleep in my own bed for once.”

"You have your own bed,” I say coldly.

“You know what I mean Seven.”  OH so NOW he pulls out the nickname.  “If you had the chance to go back up to New York, out to Long Island and sleep in your own bed at home you’d want to go too.”

“My parents got rid of my old bed years ago.”

“Please don’t be difficult about this.  Either say yes or no, but don’t play games about it.”

“Are we going to stay with them?” I ask.

“No,” he said, “Next door.  At my house.  I told you that I owned the two houses in Jackson didn’t I?”

“I thought you meant that you owned the one that your parents lived in and I assumed that the other one was the one that Stacey and Ford lived in.”

“Nope,” he said, “I co-signed on the loan for that one, but really it’s theirs.”

“Oh.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

His nervousness is getting to him.  I can see him almost itching with it.  I don’t mean to keep him waiting.  I don’t want this to be torture for either of us.

He looks me in the eye.  “So?”

She sighed.  I don't want to do this now.  I needed a rest.  I've been dealing with a PR nightmare all day and before that I was dealing with the thoughts of how Delaney would react to having Lance drop off Tad, truthfully all I want is a shower and a good night’s sleep.  “Can I get some sleep before I make up my mind about it?”

“Sure.”  His hand reaches for his shirt and he starts to move out of the kitchen as if he’s been smacked or something.

“Lance?”

“What?” He looks up and his disappointment is clear.  I don’t know if he was expecting me to jump into his arms and bounce up and down about the trip home, but I can tell that he didn’t expect me to not answer him right away.

“I was hoping that tonight could be spent not worrying about things between us.  It’s been a while since we’ve curled up and watched a movie and not discussed anything more important than what movie we’re watching.”

He shrugs.  “I need to make some calls first.”

I want to scream at him for acting this way, but instead of spending my time making things even tenser I nod.  “I’m going to get in the shower then.”

*****

When I get out of the shower Lance is sitting in bed clicking his cell phone into the charger next to the bed.  "Better?"

I take a deep breath and move across the room dressed in only a towel and find clothes to wear to bed.  I pick something not so formal and a few moments later answer.  "Yes."

"I'm glad you feel better."

"No."

"No you don't feel better?"

"No--Yes."  I put a hand to my head and push my hair out of my face.  "I meant Yes that I feel better, but also Yes I'll go to Mississippi.  I have some things to clear up with the Olsen twins so maybe we can leave Friday instead of Thursday and come back Tuesday or something like that."

"Really?"

"Yes."

He moves so that he's laying back against the pillows.  "I really thought you were going to say no."

"I wasn't sure about this, but I've subjected you to Timothy and Delaney enough to know that I should take some of that family love from your family."

"Good."  He still looks a bit worried.  "They won't attack you or anything though.  It's not like that in Mississippi.  We're all way too laid back to be that way."

"I just want to spend more time with you and I know that you want to go home to celebrate with your family so I guess I can sneak out there too."

He takes a deep breath then puts his arm out so that I can snuggle up against him.  "It's not going to be sneaking around."

"What?"

"In Mississippi I act normal.  I don't hide things and no one cares who I'm dating.  So if we go down there I want it to be comfortable for the both of us.  No ignoring each other in public, no sneaking between rooms or anything likt that.  I want you there as my girlfriend.  I think we really need this.  SOme time to actually be a couple instead of this LA bullshit routine that we've gotten ourselves into."

"Bullshit routine?"

"You know what I mean--"  His blood is rushing through his veins.  I can feel it in his wrist as I put my hand into his.  "--I want to be able to hold your hand in public, hug you in public and even kiss you in public and I'm not going to be having you look over your shoulder every time I come near you down there."

"Oh."

"Not Oh," he says, "You relax while we're down there or you stay here in Los Angeles."

He'd never been this so cut and dry, but now that he's put it out on the line and I see the seriousness in his eyes I know that I'm going to have to struggle through the four days in Misssissippi.  I know that I could stay home, but if I do, I fear that it would be the end of us.

"Ok."  I nod.  "Normal.  I can do normal."

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