24 Hours -- Part Two

“Trace called.”

I tuck my towel around my waist when I hear her voice. I look over to where Vivian is sitting next to the window. I would have expected to be alone long enough to get dressed, but it seems as if she’s taken up residency in my room for the time being. She’s put her shoes back on now. Her foot is resting on the ledge of the window and she’s balancing a phone in one hand, a palm pilot in the other, while reading off of a big yellow legal pad that is resting against her thigh. I always love how she moves the furniture around as if she owns the place. When we’re on tour she does that with the stuff in the green room and it pisses everyone off.

“What’d the fucker want?” I ask gruffly trying to make sure I stay decent as I walk across to my suitcase near the closet to find something to wear for the day. I don’t mean to be so rough when I talk about Trace, but this early in the morning I almost expect him to be asking me for bail money.

He’s not a lackey or a leach despite what most people think about him. And he’s not my evil twin. He’s my best friend in the world and has gone to hell and back with me. At first we couldn’t afford to have him along on the road with me, that position was saved for Mom, but now that she’s into managing other groups and working on my solo career from home, she doesn’t like for me to be on the road on my own.

Trace usually is my traveling buddy, taking in all the sights and sounds of every city I’m in, and recording most of it on video, like Joey’s brother Steve usually does when we’re with the group. It’s actually strange, now that I think about it, to be in New York without him, but this week he’s gone to Spokane visiting his grandmother for her sixtieth birthday.

I know that I’d be the first to fly out to see Nana for her birthday, so I can’t really fault him for going to see her, but it seems like she picked the worst week to be born and the worst week for Trace to feel a sudden family connection and a need to actually be with all of them. He knows that this is the first week I’m doing promos on my own and knows that I need someone here with me, but he’s left anyway.

I pray that everyone doesn’t feed on me like piranhas. I know there are A LOT of rumors circling around about me. Who I’ve been seen in public with lately seems to be a hot topic. I’m already not looking forward to the interviews and going to them alone isn’t going to help the situation.

“The FUCKER-” She looks up at me from where she’s sitting to emphasize that she’s not impressed with my vocabulary. Her eyes leave mine as she goes back to work. “Or as the rest of the world know him as Trace-wanted to know if you had his car keys. He seems to think that you borrowed his car the other night and didn’t return it.”

“Thank you Miss Manners.” My eyes stay on my area of the room as I reach for a pair of jeans and a gray long sleeved shirt. A bright green Tillman Boarding School t-shirt comes out also. I throw them onto the bed behind me and then grab out a pair of boxers and some socks before I pull out my black and white PONY City Wings, leaving the other three pairs of running shoes and skate shoes in my suitcase.

I can already hear everyone telling me that I look like a bum, but really I don’t care. I can see from the window in the bedroom that it looks gray outside and I know I’ll freeze my ass off if I don’t put on at least two shirts and a sweatshirt and a jacket. I’ll be on the radio I’m sure this morning with a stop by MTV for three interviews and a spot on TRL so the theme of the day is comfort and not style. If it were a business day I’d dress up. The executives at JIVE may have a low opinion of how I dress when I face the rest of the world, but if I can throw on khakis and a button down shirt for meetings with them they never can get a complaint out to me.

As I pull on my boxers and my shirts I walk across the room and stand next to there Vivian is sitting and find myself shivering from just looking at the weather out there. Being in Los Angeles has turned me soft. I used to be able to walk around in the snow in Tennessee all day long, but now the wind hits me in New York or Chicago and I’m done for the day.

“Dumb ass must be drunk,” I say looking at the clock and seeing that it’s just after one in the morning on the West Coast. I know that his cousins are in town so he’s probably gone out and gotten drunk off his ass again.

“Huh?” she asks.

“He must be drunk,” I say and then realize I don’t have my watch on. “It’s probably what--one thirty there?”  I pick up the watch I got for my last birthday, the one with the diamonds around the fact of the watch and secure it in place.

Her arm turns and she looks at a very small Swatch brand watch. It’s one of those jelly looking style-the ones that JC now seems to wear and everyone thinks is cool again. Why do I instantly feel the need to buy her a watch that reflects her paycheck? I know I may be an ass with my money and the budge, but I figure that her salary is enough for her to pay her expenses and actually have some kind of style.

She looks at her watch and a low voice comes out from where her hair has fallen in her face. “About that.”

“Is that really your watch?” I ask not being able to help my curiosity.

“Yes.” Attitude covers her voice and she glares up at me. “Unlike you I don’t like to wear rent money on my wrist.”

“Hmm,” I say, making sure to use extreme amounts of sarcasm, “From the looks of that thing you must live in a mansion.”

“That’s it!” She pushes her phone, pad of paper, and palm pilot to the floor and stands up. “You know what Timberlake. If you and I are going to continue working like this then you need to understand something. I’m here to be your assistant, not your whipping boy and certainly not the person that you get to bully around during the day-“

I love it. Despite her really telling me that I’m an asshole, she’s finally cracked, something that I bet Trace would have happened years ago.

She points her finger at me, pressing it into my chest. “Don’t fucking smirk at me either Justin. I’m not in the mood to deal with your bullshit right now.”

Now I’m taken aback. It’s one thing to make a point with a comment, but it’s now turned into an insult.

“I should just walk out the door and never come back and leave YOU to deal with your schedule-” Suddenly it seems as if she realizes what she’s doing and she backs away from me. She practically snorts with her anger. “I’m going to get coffee. You’d better be ready to walk out that door when I get back or I swear to God I’m going to tell Carson every thing he’s ever wanted to know about you and let you deal with the consequences.”

“Fine. Fine.” I hold up my hands to surrender and watch her stomp out the door. “Bring me back a latte!” I yell after her and smile when I hear her groan in the hallway.

Laughter soon fills the room.

Enter Tiny.

“What was that all about?”

Although his nickname denotes a tiny person, there is NOTHING at all tiny about my bodyguard Horace Theodore Ashford.

I’m a good, but skinny, six foot two inches tall and this guy makes me look like a kid. He’s probably just less than six feet six inches tall and weighs a good buck and change more than me. Someone might think that at three hundred twenty pounds, he’d be a fatty, but really he’s all muscle. Mom thinks that he should be called Brick instead of Tiny, but the name never took. At thirty-six, he’s an ex-USC linebacker who played in the NFL for a half season before he messed up his back too bad to play again professionally. I’ve never seen footage of the man play, but I can imagine that he’d demolish anything in his path.

I head back for my bed to get my jeans on knowing that I can push around Vivian a little, but Tiny has never taken any of my shit. “What up T?”

He watches me with a smirk on his face knowing that I’ve already gotten myself into trouble this morning. “Are you torturing Viv already this morning?”

I shrug my shoulders and try not to bring too much attention to myself as I pull my fly together and zip my pants. Tiny is one of the only people that will actually tell me that I’m an asshole and actually mean it so I have to be careful not to piss him off too much. “A little.”

He chuckles in only the way that a three hundred-pounder can chuckle, that deep-deep laughing noise that sounds evil even if he doesn’t want it to. “You know one of these days one of these girls is gonna kick you in the balls.”

“That’s what you’re around for,” I say trying not to sound too snotty about it. “Viv will never do anything to me because she knows you’ll kick her ass.” My butt hits the bed and I pull a shoe over.

People always are amazed at how OCD I am. I’m obsessive when it comes to my shoes and my clothes and actually I probably would be the one to wipe my shoes off before Vivian ever would wipe hers.

Tiny leans against the doorway messing around with his cell phone. Sometimes I wonder if he even knows that his phone is for calling people. He’s got one that is more high tech than mine and last I heard was trying to get copies of Playstation games to upload on it so he could play anywhere.

“Having fun this morning?” I ask him as I move my things around. I take my right foot, brush off the bottom of my foot then shove my foot into my sock before I put on my right shoe. With my PONY’s I leave the shoelaces undone and tuck them under the tongue of the shoe, wearing them the way that Run DMC used to wear shell toes. They turn into slippers really, but real men don’t wear slippers so I have my PONY’s.

Next comes the left foot.

The processes are repeated before I stand up and punch my toes into the front of my shoes to make room for my heels.

I have an ET looking toe on my right foot that probably is longer than the length of Steven’s whole hand. It’s kind of sick. I hate my feet. It’s not something that guys usually think about, but really they’re not something that I would consider sexy about me or at least attractive. I’ve read enough magazine article to know that it’s my lips, my hands and my dance moves that get the ladies going, and maybe a fourth would be my eyes. Thank God for blue ones.

“Just hanging out. The fans were pretty tame last night. From what I hear from hotel security they cleared out just after midnight and were back this morning after they’d all eaten breakfast at Krispy Kreme,” Tiny says. His voice goes higher. “They thought you might be at KK so they headed over there.” He smirked. “Like they think you snuck out the back door to get doughnuts in the middle of the night or something and they missed you.”

“Fuck off,” I say knowing that Tiny won’t shut up about this for the rest of the day if I don’t.

“You ready yet Timberlake?” Vivian says coming back into the room with two cups of coffee in her hands. The white cups bear the ever-so present Starbucks seal. I swear Starbucks should be considered part of my house. I spend more time there than in my own kitchen. I mean how long does it take to get milk and cereal out of the fridge. I guess that’s a wrong thing to say. When I’m in Florida I tend to be in the kitchen more, but only because Dad likes to barbeque a lot and I tend to be picky about the way my stuff is cooked.

“I’m almost there,” I say as I pushing my shoelace into the bottom of my shoe. “I just need to pack up my bag.”

My backpack basically is my life at this point. If I want anything it goes in the bag and gets dragged around on my back all day until I need it. It’s strange to see what crap people take with them during the day. I think Joey and Chris top the charts for strange things that they bring along with them on the road. I’m a little more normal, slightly towards the girly side sometimes.

Today I have an extra baseball hat-this replaced what used to be a bandanna for when my hair was longer--my wallet, my phone, two-way pager, a spiral notebook with three pens and two pencils, a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, a container of Altoids, chap stick, my walkman with a book of one hundred random CDs, and a novel called “Going Low: How to Break Your Individual Golf Scoring Barrier by Thinking Like a Pro” -this probably won’t get read, but in case there is a lag at least I have something to look at.

“We’ve got a long day ahead of us,” she says setting down the cups of coffee on the dresser near me then disappears for a moment coming back with her pad of paper, her phone and palm pilot which she then slips into her backpack that had been left near the front door. “You’ve got interviews with KISS 98.7, Z100, Hot 97, Power 105.1.” She paused to take a breath. “--A quick photo session with some J-14 contest winners, a signing at Virgin Mega store, three interviews with people at M-TV then a TRL appearance before you get lunch. After that there will be the trip to Philly-“

“Whoa there turbo,” I say to her as I throw my bag over my shoulder. I look around to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything before I go in search of my room key. “I know it’s the first day back and all and I’m ready for it, but throw them at me one at a time, ok?”

She nods, strangely calm considering her earlier blowup. “Get your coffee,” she says nodding to the cup that now is sitting alone on the dresser. The other one is in her hand, being lifted to her mouth as I slide across the room to retrieve my cup.

“Thanks,” I mumble to her feeling the slight guilt of being upset with her before and her response being one of kindness.

“You ready?” Tiny asks finally look at the both of us.

“I’m ready if he’s ready,” Vivian says.

“I’m set,” I say kicking my toe into my shoe again as I grab my hoody on the way out the door knowing it might rain that afternoon.

Tiny leads our small precession down the hallway to the elevator.  I pull on my black skull cap as we walk, using my whole hand to move it around as I balance my coffee in my free hand.  As routine dictates, Tiny dials the driver to pull the car around to the front door then calls hotel security to tell them that we’re on the way down.