It's an instant thing.  I opened the door and there it is not even taking the class to sneak into the house.  It's instantly there, like the heat and humidity outside.  Well hello tension.  I try not to laugh thinking about how I need to wave at the tension as if it's another person in the room.  It feels like it.  Someone once said something about tension being like an invisible elephant in the corner of the room or something like that and I've never understood that comment until today.

My head whips around when I hear my name being called, "Tammy."

His voice is urgent enough to let me know that he's not playing around, but the whole idea that he would motion to me as if I was some pet of his really gets on my nerves.  I try to ignore that and concentrate more on the scared look on his face.  I don't like that look so I appease him by doing what he's asking.  He's nervous and tense and he pulls me close and holds me against his side, very possessively.

"Hello Lance," the girl says with a strained smile.  She's pretty.  A shorter blond girl that clearly is trying too hard.  She's got too much make up and while her clothes are something you'd see someone wear in Los Angeles, there is something "little town" about her.  I guess I could say the same thing about Lance.  Every once in a while he'll end up in cowboy boots and a crazy shirt that I'd thought I'd thrown away, but at least he has people around him that help him get rid of the rough edges.  Hers are sticking out all over.  She looks at me then at him and puts a hand up to push her hair behind her ear.  At least he and I aren't the only ones that are nervous.

"Carrah," he nods.  His voice is shaky and low.  His free hand shoves into his pocket nervously and his eyes are darting around.  The only time I've ever seen him like this is when he's about to do press for a new project.  He's seriously looking like he's about to face the firing squad.

"Bass, what are you and your woman up to?" Horner yells coming in the hallway, "You're not getting dirty on the--"  He stops when he sees the three of us standing here.  His face pales and he instantly looks as if he is going to throw up.  "Oh--"  He takes a deep breath.  "Shit."

I clearly haven't got a clue what's going on.  I mean I can figure out that Carrah is someone from Lance's past.  She's someone that he doesn't want to see right now.  It's Horner's reaction that throws me for a loop though.  If his friends are just as shocked to see her standing there then I'm sure it goes way beyond the normal kind of tension that people might have if they just had a small fight.

Lance's eyes bulge a bit as he stares at Horner.  The look screams for his friend to be quiet before his eyes turn to me.  His kiss is soft on my cheek along with his voice in my ear.  "Why don't you go up and get on your swim suit and I'll come up and change?  We'll hop in the pool for a bit."

I look at her and then at him and step back.  His action is quick, but he makes a point of pulling me back to him so that he can kiss me before he allows me to go up the stairs.  This is all for show.  I expect it from most men, but Lance has never treated me like this trophy girl.  Maybe this is what Jasmine feels like when they're out in front of a crowd together.  I don't know how she can stand it.  I guess ratings for the film and the box office pull are such a high that stars need that they'll do just about anything to get it.

This is not for me.  I'm not about to explain that though to Lance in front of this Carrah girl.  I take my leave of the situation and start up the stairs slowly, half listening to what's going on below.

"What are you doing here?" Lance is asking her with an angry tone.

"I wanted to see--you," she speaks slowly as I turn the corner into the bedroom.

While I want to go back down and pull Lance away from the conversation I'm not about to embarrass myself.  I find my suit and change into it then stand in front of the mirror to pull my hair up out of the way before I wash my face.  I apply sun block to my cheeks and nose and chin and just as I'm starting to put some on my shoulders and arms Lance comes into the bathroom.

"Sorry about that," he says and moves out of the bathroom to get his swim suit.

"Who was that?" I ask following him, sun block still in my hand.

"Carrah," he says with a sigh, "My ex-girlfriend."

I hear the fatigue in his voice and clamp my mouth closed.  I know I should say something more.  I want to say something more, but instead of confronting him with other people in the house I continue what I'm doing until I see him appear in the doorway.  His arms are folded across his chest and he doesn't look to be in a good mood--a strong contrast to how he was acting earlier.

"I'm sorry about that--"  He sighs again.  "I wanted her to leave and having you there was just going to make everyone uncomfortable so I thought I'd spare you--"

"Me making people uncomfortable? Spare me?" I say quickly snapping at him.  "Thanks.  I really am sorry for making everyone uncomfortable."

"Calm down," he says in an even tone then holds out his hand.  "Let me get your back while I explain."

I hand him the sun block, make eye contact with him for a moment so he can see the anger in my eyes then let my shoulders drop as I turn around.  The snapping noise of the bottle opening makes me jump and I look back at him as he pours some into his hand.  "This stuff smells good."

I sigh. "Yeah."

Tentatively he moves his palms over my shoulders, spreading the lotion onto my skin before he puts both hands on my left shoulder rubbing in the lotion and at the same time giving me a small massage.  "Carrah and I were lovers for a few years."

Well wasn't that blunt.  I know that I'm not the only lover he's ever had, but actually hearing him talk about one of his old lovers isn't really going to make me feel better about anything.

"She was in college--"  His hands move to the other shoulder.  "She was here and I was in Orlando and it just became a big drama."  His fingers slide up on my collar bone and to the back of my neck.

I wonder for a moment if he's giving me this mini massage so that I don't pay attention to the information he's giving me.  I should be enjoying this a lot more than I am.  His hands normally are something I crave.  Its the one thing that I miss when we're out in public.  He doesn't hold my hand, doesn't touch me the way that a man in a normal relationship would touch his woman.  I try to keep my focus on the conversation that we're having.  "Drama?"

"She and I both had things we wanted to do in life--" He explained.  "Neither of our career goals were very forgiving so it got to the point where we couldn't stand to be around each other because whenever we were together we were already thinking about when we'd be apart."

"Understandable," I say, "But why all the tension?"

"Carrah ended up cheating on me," he says with a sigh.  "She slept with some guy from school, got pregnant and when I thought it was mine she didn't tell me right away that it wasn't."

His hands move to the middle of my back and his fingers massage the muscles on each side of my spine, working down from the top, stopping only when he reaches the back of my bikini top.

"She's got a kid?"

"No," he speaks slowly now and I feel him moving towards me.  "She got in a boating accident about a month after she got pregnant and lost the baby."

I scoot away from him.  I don't know if he's trying to seduce me now or what, but I'm not going to let it happen until the rest of the story gets out.  "Oh."

"Yeah," he said, "She and I had gotten into a fight and she went off for the weekend with some friends to recover from our fight and lost the baby.  It wasn't until after she lost the baby that she told me it wasn't mine and it was just--just one of those things that couldn't ever be fixed between us.  I got angry, she got angry and the two of us stopped speaking."

"When was that?"

He shrugged.  "A few months ago."

"So that's why you were so eager to move to Los Angeles and get out of here and the music business."

"I moved to Los Angeles."  He turned me around.  "To be with you."

I look down between us and he pushes my chin up to look at him.  "To be with you--"  He repeats.  "I've changed my career to keep me in Los Angeles so that I can be with you.  I want to be with you."

"Are you sure?" I ask.  "I mean are you really sure?"

"Yes," he answers.  "I don't know how it's going to work out, but I want to be in Los Angeles and I need to be with you."

"Is she still here?" I ask.

He shakes his head.  "I sent her home--She won't come back."

I watch him move away then.  He grabs his swimsuit and moves into the bathroom to change.  I know that he needs a moment to collect his thoughts so I call out to him that I'll be down by the pool and I go back down to be with his guests.

*****

When I return to the kitchen Horner seems to be waiting for me.  It's cooler in here and while I thought everyone would still be hanging around getting drinks and food, everyone has moved outside.  His eyes are on me as soon as I come through the doorway and when I move to walk past him I try to ignore his stare on me.  It's impossible though--to ignore him and to get by him.  There is going to be some sort of a confrontation.

"Hey."  His voice seems loud in the quiet rooms of the house.  Everyone else is outside and already in the pool or lying out.  "You guys ok?"

I nod and instantly want to put my hands in my pockets.  Instead I wrap my arms around my middle and move to lean on the counter.  "Why wouldn't we be?"

"Because of Carrah--"  He takes a drink of his beer.  I hate how people do that.  They drink when they should be talking.  I know it lets them think, but damn, why draw out a conversation like this.  "I know she's not exactly who you needed to see--"

"How do you know what we need?" I say instantly getting more and more angry at the fact that somehow information about Lance and his past relationship seems to be common knowledge to everyone else around here except me.  "What I need?"

"I don't know what you need for the most part, but no one needs an ex-girlfriend coming to a party that she wasn't invited to--"  Horner says with a sigh.  "She knew not to come here, but there was that pull--that need to see him--that made her come here and made her end up looking like a fool."

"You know what Horner?" I say softly, "I know that I don't know her, but I also just found out that I don't know Lance either--so if you'll excuse me and let me digest that information I'd really think it would make my day a lot brighter."

"Just don't hold it against him," Horner says, "I know deep down that Lance didn't want you to get mixed up in.  She's his past and from what I can tell--you're his future."

My heart sinks.  I know that I want to believe that, but all of a sudden I'm feeling very claustrophobic about all of this.  I thought I knew where I stood in my relationship with Lance, but now I'm not sure if I haven't looked at this situation closely enough.  Everyone speaks to me as if I'm the one and while I want to believe that somewhere down the line that I will be the one--my life in Los Angeles doesn't show that at all and my experiences here show the exact opposite of that.  I don't know what I am.  Am I the dirty little secret that people can't know about? Or am I the trophy girlfriend that seems to be at Lance's side here in Mississippi.

I sigh.  "I'm sorry Horner.  I don't mean to be rude, but my life just keeps getting more and more complicated and it's making me short tempered.  I don't mean to be rude."

"I know how it goes.  Being his friend is a complication sometimes," Horner says.  "I don't know how anyone can have a relationship with him."

"It's really not that bad," I say, "But for the moment I just want to lay out in the sun and relax."

Horner nods.  "Have a good one then."

*****

"Tammy?"

I roll over from where I'm lying on my stomach and see Lance standing above me with two beers in his hands.  He's been in the yard for almost an hour now, but has left me alone.  I don't know if Horner said anything to him or if he just knew to give me some quiet time, but he's left me alone.  I smile at him when I see the worried look in his eyes.  I know that things aren't great and I haven't resolved a lot of things about him and me, but for the moment I'll play nice with him.  "Hey."

He holds a beer out to me.  "Want one?"

I nod and move to sit up.  He stays standing until I pat the towel next to me.  He hesitates, but then sits down.  Everyone around the pool seems to be entertaining themselves for the moment so we have a moment to ourselves.

"I'm sorry about before," he says, "I should have told you about the drama with Carrah."

"I'm not upset about that part of it Lance," I say because truly that's not what's on my mind.

"What then?" he asks.

"I'm not sure where I stand with you."  I sigh.  "In LA I'm totally not in the picture--"

"Because of your job."

"Yes," I say with nod, "Because of my job, but then here I'm the complete opposite.  You pulled me over to you like some trophy girlfriend or something and it's just--just confusing.  I don't know where I fit in."

"You fit in here with me," he says.

"I don't know," I say softly and put my hand to my forehead, "It's just all mixed up in my head."  I take a deep breath.  "I want to not be so bipolar about this."

"Bipolar?"

"Either I'm completely out of your life or I'm some fucking piece of bling bling you're dangling in front of people."

He started to laugh.  "Bling bling?"

"You know what I mean," I say, "I just think we need to figure out a better system or something."

"A better system?" he asks.

"Yeah."  I nod.  "We need to redo something about what's going on between us or I think we're gonna lose it all."

"Do you want to get this all mapped out or just--"

It was definitely wasn't what he would be expecting to come from me, but there are only so many things I can take and it's time for change.  "I want to go back to LA on your arm and not have to hide anymore."

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