[ Four months later ]
"Gritty," she whined as they walked down the hall from the dressing room to the stage. People were running around in circles, shouting and calling out directions for the crew and in the middle of the chaos Meredith was having a hard time calming down.
Seeing the stress on her face Gritty let go of her hand and slid an arm around her back to pull her into a hug as they walked, "What's wrong sweetie?"
"I can't sing this song," she said looking at him hoping that he'd see how she was panicking.
"Meredith," he said, "Don't do this. It's your big break, the first real tour you're going to be on and I'm sure you're just having those first night jitters."
"No, no," she said and stopped walking, "I'm not doing this."
"What?" Gritty asked.
A few people who were walking with them stopped and stared at the two of them.
"Sweetie there are forty five thousand people waiting out there for you to sing your three songs. You best not be throwing a tantrum right now."
"I'm not," she said, "I can't do this."
Gritty immediately pulled the radio hand set that was attached to his shoulder down to his mouth, "Tiny, get Justin on the horn."
Meredith's eyes shot wide, "Why are you doing that?"
"Because," he said.
"You're gonna tattle on me?" she asked.
"Gritty, waaaazzzzuuuuppp?" Justin's voice came out of the radio and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
"J," Gritty said seriously, "We have a problem."
"A problem?" he asked cautiously as if he was trying to brace himself for some big horrible news.
Gritty took a deep breath, stared at Meredith with a disapproving look then spoke, "Meredith says she doesn't want to go on. Actually that she can't go on."
There was only a short pause before Justin got on the line, "Is she there?"
"Yeah," he said.
"Put her on," Justin requested.
Gritty handed over the microphone end of the walkie-talkie and waited.
"Hi," Meredith said pressing the button then letting it go so she could hear Justin's response.
"Meredith," Justin said, "What's wrong?"
Tears formed in her eyes as she noticed people staring at her. She didn't want to throw a fit about this or have anyone perceive her to be a spoiled brat, but she had issues with all of this and she didn't know if she could work through them and get out on that stage in the next five minutes.
"I can't sing these songs," she said, "It's not fair to me or you to make me do this."
The pause was longer this time.
"Bear," Justin's soft voice said. Being on a walkie-talkie wasn't the romantic way to speak to each other, but since they both were getting ready to perform it wasn't possible for them to be together at the moment, "Bear they're good songs."
"But BeeDee I don't want to sing them," she said watching Gritty staring at her, "I don't feel this way anymore and I don't want the whole world to see me break down on that stage because--"
"Bear, you and I both know that the songs are good and that whatever was going on during the recording is over now."
"I know, I know," she said, "But that doesn't mean I want to stand out there in front of all those people and relive the last year of my life."
"Do you want me to come out there and drag you on stage?" he asked.
"No." She knew too well that him coming out to her was next to impossible. She had already run into a few altercations with management about balancing personal and professional commitments and she didn't want to get into another fight over things.
"Bear," Justin said, "Go and get on stage and sing ok?" he said, "I'm gonna get changed in the Sky-boxes and watch you ok?"
"You don't have to watch me," she said, "Really."
"No Bear," he said, "You're opening for the first time and I don't want to miss it. Ok? I'll call you and leave you a message on your cell phone before I go on, ok?"
Meredith nodded, took a breath, "I love you."
"I love you too, now go sing."
The radio was handed back to Gritty and they kept walking towards the stage. Last minute things were being taken care of, but the only thing on Meredith's mind was the feeling of Gritty's hand guiding her to the stage and the peace of mind knowing that Justin had approved of her singing the songs. It was probably not the best thing to have her sing all these songs considering that they were now a couple again, but as long as he knew that she didn't mean any of it anymore then she felt ok.
Her opening music started and Meredith left Gritty to join her two back up dancers for Playground. It didn't hit her until she looked up after the beginning notes of the song what was going on. It had been a long road and she realized that the road ahead of her was even longer, but this was it. This is what she was meant to do.
Time on stage always seemed to go by too quickly and soon Meredith was introducing her last song. She couldn't even remember what she said to the crowd, but she remembered being up on stage alone with just the microphone by the time she was introducing the song, "...Wasted Love."
How could you do this to me?
How could you do this to me?
I put my trust in you
That's what you're supposed to do
How could you tell all those lies
While you're looking dead straight in my eyes?
You're someone I thought I knew
She must have thought so too
Before I say goodbye
Pushing her hair out of her face she gripped the microphone and let her eyes pass over the windows at the back of the stadium knowing that somewhere back there Justin was watching her and that this was all ok. The words of the song were horribly painful to even say, but she knew he was there somewhere and was hers and that was all that mattered.
Just tell me why did I give a little bit more
And take just a little bit less
And try just a little bit harder
When it's all just wasted love
Why did you kiss me that way?
Why did you stay?
Now it's all just wasted love
When her tears got thicker she pulled the mic from the stand and tried to walk around a little hoping that the movement would keep her from actually crying onstage.
Looking back now it's all makin' sense
When you said she was only a friend
Friends who were making love
Was it worth breaking up?
All the answers I don't want to know
I'll keep asking for after I go
The flowers they came too late
You've turned the love to hate
It's your turn now to cry
That's when she saw him. He was standing back in the shadows of the stage, already dressed to go on, watching her closely.
We can try and lie, but we both know
Too many things have changed
The memory of her in your arms
Is driving me insane
The shattered dream just breaks my heart
I can't go on this way
I will never look at you the same
You wear a different face
His face softened and she watched his hand. It was gripped into a fist and when she saw his face he had tears in his eyes too.
As the music ended and the applause started up Meredith faced the crowd for the last time. "Thank you so much Orlando!"
She took her mic off stage, the far side of the stage where she needed to leave all her equipment, but her eyes never left where Justin was standing. She had people fussing all over her for about five minutes then Gritty appeared before her.
"Honey you have an interview to do over the phone in a few minutes, but I'll stall them," Gritty said.
"Stall them?" she asked giving him a confused look.
"Go kiss your man before he goes on stage honey," Gritty said with a smile and pushed her towards the walkway that would lead her to him.
Meredith made her way over to him slowly and before a word could be exchanged between them Justin pulled her into his arms. "It wasn't," he said.
She held him close then pulled back, "What wasn't?"
"It wasn't wasted love," he said, "I know that's a cheesy thing to say, but I thought you should know that...so you have your question answered before you start singing that song every night."
Meredith smiled and nodded and as she was about to speak Anthony called out, "J we need you down here!"
"I'm almost there!" he called back then leaned and kissed her cheek.
"I love you BeeDee," she said quickly.
"I love you too Bear," he said, "Always." He kissed her lips quickly then ran off in the direction of the stage.
GO TOLOUDER THAN THE RAIN
(c) 2000-2001 Pit Pat Productions