Seattle in mid-March held many gray days so it was no surprise the morning
of her opening concert that rain had begun to fall on the city. Justin
had woken up in his tour bus that morning and after a bowl of cereal he
had crawled back into bed to dial her cell number to wake her up. He
hadn't talked to her in two days and during their last conversation he'd
told her that he'd be in LA working on some new tracks. She had no
idea that his tour bus was parked on the other side of the city.
He'd planned to surprise her that night on stage. For the show a
tape of him had been set up, much like Natalie Cole's version of Unforgettable,
so that she could sing the duet with him. It would have been a good
gag to use in the show, but that set up hadn't seemed enough. Jive
had thought that they should do the song live so they set it up for him to
join the tour for a month or so during his vacation. So that night Justin
would sneak on stage and sit with the band until the duet came on and would
sing the song with her live instead of on a video tape that would have been
He smiled at her sleepy voice and wished that she was in the bed next
to him instead of across town. He rolled over onto his side and looked
at the empty pillow next to him. Normally at this time of year he
would have been home sleeping in his own bed, but with the plans that he
had made instead of moving out of his bus that he took on the road with
NSYNC, he'd moved into another bus that would be his for the next month.
This time instead of sleeping in a bunk and sharing with Chris or
Lance or JC, he'd gotten a bus with a back bedroom and a double bed. It
wasn't only for the comfort, but for the hope that some nights Meredith
would ride with him instead of on her own bus. They'd had that set
up while she was on tour with the group and it seemed to work out ok.
"Hi," her voice got instantly emotional when she heard that it was him
on the line. "Beedee..."
"How are you holding up Bear?" he asked instantly knowing that she was
already in need of some counseling. He wished that he could give
her the physical kind, but that would have to wait until later.
He could hear her walking around. He'd called her cell phone thinking
that either she would already be out and about doing interviews or that
she would be getting ready for the day and would need to walk around some.
"I'm about to go crazy."
"Are you getting ready to go out?" he asked. He knew that she was
an extremely strong woman, but any person in her position would be ready
to fall apart. Tonight she'd be performing to a packed house of over
five thousand. It wasn't the biggest crowd she'd ever performed to since
she'd played coliseums with them on the last tour, but this was the first
time she'd be the headliner.
"Yeah," she said, "I woke up at the crack of dawn and did a phone interview
with The End--thank God they have a sense of humor at five in the morning--then
went and took a shower. Now I'm trying to do my make up so I can go
get breakfast and then go to the gym downstairs with Gritty."
"You're going to the gym this morning?" he asked.
Her voice shook nervously. "Gritty is going to work out and I'm going
go in the spa. I have a massage scheduled for myself while Gritty works
"You sound like you're getting all hyper Bear," he said with a calm voice.
"I can't--" She stuck her toothbrush in her mouth and began to
brush her teeth, "I can't get my heart to stop pounding. I have sound check
at three and I'm already freaking out."
He heard her spit and shuttered then took a deep breath. "Where's
He heard water running then she was searching through something looking
for probably some make up stuff. She sounded like she was half paying
attention to him and half paying attention to other things. "He's going
to meet me in a while to take me to breakfast."
"How's the band doing?" he asked as he ran his hand over his face starting
to wake up.
"They're good," she said, "Dave has been great and Tad is amazing on
Justin smiled. At least that was one thing that he didn't have
to worry about. He'd suggested most of the band to her and she'd had
them try out with some other people before picking the ones he'd suggested.
It had gotten things off to a rocky start with the musicians that
she'd taken on the road with her, but luckily they all understood that she
was new at things and wanted to make sure that she was going to be comfortable.
"I told you that they were good."
"I wish you were here," she said and he heard her start to cry. Her
voice lowered and he could tell that her nose was running. "I wish
you or Lynn or my mom was here."
"Awe girl," he said, "Don't cry. I love you...you're going to
do great. With or without anyone there. My mom wanted to be there,
but my dad got the flu and with your mom having to work and your dad at
that conference it wasn't such a good thing." He tried to sound convincing
knowing that the rest of her family was in fact in other parts of the city
waiting for her to get to rehearsal so they could meet up with her and surprise
her. He knew she didn't like surprises, but it was family and he had
a feeling at that moment that it had been the right decision to plan things
behind her back.
He could hear her sniffing more. "Baby get a tissue, " he prompted.
"I am," she said, "I can't get the damn thing out of the holder...hold
on." He heard her put the phone down and blow her nose. "Thank
God I didn't schedule any interviews this morning." She took a deep
breath. "Can you meet up with me in Portland? Please?"
"I'll try to," he said trying not to jump up and tell his driver to take
him over there right that minute to meet up with her. They were parked
across town and Justin hadn't been out of the bus since he'd met up with
it. Due to the secret that needed to be kept, he'd also stayed away
from his parents, knowing that they would blab about him being there too.
He'd had to be especially careful these days about things. Somehow
fans had a way of finding out where he was and he didn't want anyone to
ruin the surprise.
"Please?" she begged, "I'll pay to fly you here."
"You don't have to do that babe," he said, "If worse comes to worse you'll
see me in a week in LA for sure."
"Promise me that you won't schedule an interview or anything to keep
He didn't like the tone of her voice, as if she was accusing him of purposely
being away from her. Technically this time it was the truth, but
it was for a good cause. It seemed like she was saying that he
would purposely schedule things to stay away from her and that wasn't it
at all. He knew that work was important and when it came to NSYNC,
that always came first, not because he wanted it to, but because it wasn't
just him making decisions. Sometimes you just had to make priorities
and the group was his bread and butter and he wasn't going to do anything
to screw that up. "I have a project to work on and then I'll come and
"How long is your project going to take?" she asked.
"Meredith what's wrong?" He knew if they kept up this way she'd
be depressed that day and would get stage fright that night. It wasn't
at all abnormal for her to be a little afraid to go on and he wasn't at
all upset about having to reassure her about her career, but he knew the
circumstances of that night were going to keep him from being able to be
available for her to talk to him and he didn't want her upset. "You're
in Seattle. You're about to start your tour and you're thinking of
me instead of what you should be thinking about."
"Great Justin." He could hear the tension in her voice and could
almost guess at what was going to happen next. "I'm asking you to
come up here and support me because I'm nervous and you're talking to me
about work? You know what?" She sighed. "Never mind. Do
your little project and call me if you have time to see me."
Before he could stop her she hung up the phone.
"Damn!" He yelled and threw the phone across the tiny room. He
tried not to get over emotional about things these days, but it seemed
as if his relationship was taking him away from real life these days. He
spent more than half his time worrying about her and trying to get a hold
of her then when he did get her on the phone she was upset with him. It
never got out to the public, but Justin was starting to worry about their
relationship. It showed in the way that he threw his phone. It
hit against the bed and a moment later landed on the floor. "Christ!"
"What are you screaming for back here?" Todd asked coming back into the
master bedroom of the bus. He reached and picked up the phone and threw
it onto the bed.
Justin leaned back against the pillows, threw his arms across his chest
to pout as he angrily kicked the sheets off his legs. "What do you
think that I'm screaming about?"
"What's up with your woman this time?" Todd asked.
"She's across town freaking out and I told her that I couldn't be there
before the show and she got pissed at me and hung up."
Todd shook his head. He hadn't been his personal guard for long,
but he had taken a clue from everyone around Justin to be weary of the
drama that came along with him having a girlfriend. Justin knew he
wasn't half as bad as the other guys. He didn't have kids to worry
about or anything like that, but he had a traveling girlfriend and it was
hard to keep track of her. Unlike JC, who's girlfriend Farzana had
started a career, Justin's girlfriend had gone from obscurity to number one
hit in a few weeks and it was starting to hurt their relationship. Last
he'd heard Farzana had dropped the idea of becoming a recording artist herself
and had started working with David Foster and a new group he was developing
in LA. "You and that girl have more drama that I know what to do with."
"We don't have drama," he growled.
Todd rolled his eyes. "Sure."
"Can we go to the hotel so I can take a shower?" Justin asked completely
changing the subject.
"No hotel for you until tomorrow night," Todd said. "Gritty and
I booked you a present."
"The Super Sonics are practicing this morning over at Seattle Pacific
University and we set it up so you can go use the weight room with the
guys this morning then use their locker room to change and stuff before
we go over to the show."
"You did?" he asked.
"Yeah," Todd said, "Practices are closed to the public, so we thought
it would be a safe place for you to go hang out today."
"Can I shoot around or anything?"
"I don't know...I'll call over and see if we can grab a net for you or
"I just want to shoot. I won't even bother them. I need to
practice for my games this summer. The league starts up in about
two months." He'd just signed up for his second season of the NBA
sponsored celebrity league. He was playing with the LA team this
year and was looking forward to getting to play at the staples center with
a really good team. He had always loved basketball, but this was
the closest he'd gotten to play on an organized team in years. The
last time had been the junior high team he'd played with while he was waiting
to get back into singing again after the Mickey Mouse Club went off the
"Don't have an orgasm right there," Todd said with a laugh. He
was already dressed for the day and looked almost annoyed with the fact
that Justin was still in bed. It did seem a little ridiculous that
he was sitting there in bed like a kid demanding to go out and play. "I'll
see what I can do. If not you can definitely use the weight room with
Justin sighed and turned and looked to look out the window. It
was raining out and he had the window shades pulled down, but he could
see through the cracks that other people were outside. It made him
kind of paranoid to know that a whole security team wasn't around. He
knew that Todd and Ronnie the driver wouldn't let anything happen to him,
but he would have felt safer being in a building instead of some random
parking lot. "OK."
"Better?" Todd asked.
Justin licked his lips, leaned forward to stretch a little then nodded.
"Good," he said and pointed to the phone, "Now call your woman back and
tell you that you love her before she freaks out any more."
"Ugh," Justin said knowing that Todd was right about what he should do.
"I swear this time was PMS. I know her pretty well and that was
definitely not your ordinary bitch out."
"We'll have a car here in about an hour or so to take us over there so
wear something with a hood and bring your stuff for the show. The
van will take us to the gym and over to the show so don't forget anything."
"Screw you Timberlake," Todd said.
Justin waved him away and picked up the phone, this time to get someone
to deliver flowers to her before he called her back. She didn't pick
up, but he left her a message saying to call him back and then he pushed
himself out of bed and went to get dressed.
Three hours later when Todd let out a loud whistle Justin turned around
and looked across the gym to find him holding the phone. A basketball
had been in his hands for almost two hours now and not much had taken his
mind away from the game. He had thought about Meredith a little, but
other than that his mind had been clear for the first time in months. All
he had thought about was the ball and the hoop. If he'd known earlier
that he could have been this relaxed playing ball he would have started to
play every day instead of just every once in a while.
"What?" Justin called out and noticed a few players looking his way.
They had welcomed him to practice earlier that morning, but now it
seemed as if he was causing more problems than he should be.
"It's Mere!" Todd called.
Justin threw his ball to the team's ball boy and thanked him before jogging
across the full gym to answer the call. He caught the glances of
a few guys and heard a few joked about him being whipped by his woman, but
Justin didn't argue with him. At around six-two he was one of the smaller
guys in the room and he wasn't about to start a fight with them.
When he got to Todd he grabbed up a towel and ran it over his head a
few times before he put the phone to his ear. "Hello?"
"You're at freaking basketball practice?" she said sounding frantic like
she had earlier in the day.
"I'm at the gym," he said.
"Please tell me that your special project wasn't working out for the
league," she pleaded, "I know that you went nuts when you signed with LA,
but please tell me that's note the reason that you're in LA and I'm up here."
"It wasn't," he said and tried to keep his voice even. He wanted
to yell at her for thinking that, but couldn't bring himself to fight with
her at the moment. it was neither the time nor place to bring up
a subject like that. She had a show to do and he wasn't going to
bother with issues that had nothing to do with what was about to happen
"I called to thank you for the flowers and the card--so thank you," she
said, "But I'll let you get back to your basketball game."
"Mere," he said, "Wait."
"I love you." He moved out into the hallway, away from the sound
of bouncing balls and took a deep breath. "You know that...right?"
"I love you too honey," she said, "I'm sorry. I'm just freaking
out. I tried to call your mom but it says that she's not answering
and I left a message, but she hasn't called me back."
Justin bit his lip and wondered if she was probably on her way to the
coliseum at that moment. He knew that her family was supposed to get
there way before he would show his face. He hoped that they would so
up sooner than later so he didn't have to hear her freak out over the phone.
When there was a noise behind her Meredith told him to hold on and it
seemed moments later that his timing had been right about everyone arriving.
He heard Meredith greeting his mother and then her parents and then
he heard Addy's voice in the background. It was that extra bonus that
he'd thrown in since Meredith hadn't seen her in about three months due to
Addy's school and work schedule.
"BeeDee," she said coming back to the phone, this time he knew she was
crying. "Did you do this?"
"Yeah," he said, "And my mom...we didn't want you to miss anyone while
you were out there."
"I do miss someone," she said, "You."
"Mere...its gonna be ok. Just hug your mom and dad for me and I'll
see you in a while--" His eyes shot open. "I mean soon--I'll
see you soon."
"Hold on," she said, "Your mom wants to say hi."
"Ok." He took a breath. "I love you girl."
"I love you too."
A moment later his mother's voice filled his ears. "Hi baby."
"Hi Momma," he said and found himself becoming a little emotional. She'd
been traveling setting up things for Meredith and he'd been doing his own
business and their paths hadn't crossed in almost a month..
"How are you doing?" she said.
"I'm fine. I'm across town. I'll be out of here in like an
hour and we're gonna hang around a little while she's doing the meet and
greet then by the time she steps on stage I'll be in the dressing room
and by the time--"
"I know it'll work out ok," His mother said.
"Take care of her Mom," he said, "I'll see her in a few hours...just
make sure that she's still holding it together when I get there."
"Honey you don't need your ear muffs," she said, "Tad doesn't have them."
"Do they have my monitor's set for me?" he asked getting the clue that
she was talking about something else. He laughed a little. "You
make a great double-o-seven."
"No honey. I know Tad is from Colorado, but no he doesn't have
"What's Justin talking about?" Meredith asked in the background.
"I gotta go Mom," he said, "I'll get the monitor's from Tad when I come
out on stage. I love you."
"I love you too honey and I'll tell Meredith that you love her."
"Thanks Mom," he said and hung up the phone.
As he walked to the locker room to shower Todd took his phone from him.
"Is everything ok?"
"My mom and her parents just got there so I'm feeling better about things."
He yawned and stretched his arms. "I better only do one song
tonight. Practicing like I did is making me feel like an old man."
Todd just laughed at him as they went to where he'd left his bag and
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