"You want to--?" I question her as the smell of coconut suntan lotion fills my nostrils.  I take a drink of my beer and set it down on the towel when I see that my hands are shaking.  It tastes funny now anyway.

If I hadn't shocked myself by asking her to marry me--her little request really has thrown me for a curve.  This wasn't anything at all what I was expecting to be talking to her about on this trip home.  Yeah I wanted her to see what we were like when we weren't out in Los Angeles, but bringing that back to Los Angeles and it definitely is something completely different.

Her hand reaches over and touches my knee and she gives it a squeeze then leans against my shoulder.  "If you're bold enough to ask me to marry you because you don't want to lose me then I think I need to step out in front of the cameras for a change and show you back that I want to be with you--"  She pauses.  "But it can't be like it was today.  None of this trophy girlfriend crap.  I think if we're going to start being seen together that you and I should go to some parties in Los Angeles--nothing too big to start off with, but being seen in the same place at the same time would ease people into the idea of us.  And IF I end up doing red carpet with you at something I'll stand with you, but I'm not cool with all this possessive shit.  I can't handle that kind of drama."

I nod and try to process what this means.  This isn't a rash decision she's made and I have a feeling that the events of the last few weeks have pushed her to this.  Secretly I wanted that--but now that it's here I'm not sure that I like the way that things have turned out.  No regrets, I repeat to myself.  I don't want either of to sacrifice too much for each other and for her this is the ultimate sacrifice.

"That's what I want."

I sigh.  I know it's immense decision on her part and I don't take it lightly that she's changed her mind.  "Are you sure?"

"One of us is going to have to change and since you really can't become not famous anymore in a moment's notice--"  I hate that she says it that way, as if my life is a step above hers.  Yes, it's easier for her to change, but I don't want her to think that I believe that.  "I think I can handle dealing with--I mean I know I can handle sharing the spotlight with you--if that's what we need to do to stay together."

"What about your family?" I ask.  I know her brother is gonna kill me when he hears about this.  He might have been able to stand me and the way my career has effected her, but this is going to throw him over the edge.  "I mean I know your brother isn't thrilled about all of this in the first place and coming out into the open with me isn't going to really settle his nerves."

"I'll deal with him."  She says giving me a brave expression.  She knows what she's going to have to go through.  She's seen it first hand, well second hand considering that she wasn't the one that the focus was on, but standing next to someone in the middle of things is just about as close as you can get to actually being there. "So we'll treat the rest of this weekend as a dress rehearsal for Los Angeles--if that's ok with you."

"Dress Rehearsal?" I ask and nod that I don't like that idea.  Dress rehearsal?  What's that supposed to mean?  We're already a couple.  We can't go back to pretending that we're together.  We are together.  We've been together, maybe not in the traditional sense of the word, but she makes it sound like we're going to have to start over so that we can get on with our future.

Panic washes over her face.  "So you don't want to--"

"Oh T, Seven, baby don't--don't get that idea," I say and turn and cup her face in my hands and make her look at me.  "I'm not saying that at all--I'm completely speechless because I've wanted to ask you to change the rules of our relationship for a long time, but I wanted things to be right for us and I knew that--know that your career is important enough for me to go along with what's right for you."  I sigh.  "But I don't know if dress rehearsal should be the way we should describe this.  It makes it seem like we're pushing things together that don't go together naturally.  We're a couple.  We've been a couple for a few months now.  We need to just to be normal."

"Normal?" she says, "Is there such a thing for us?"

"Yes," I say, "I want Sunday mornings--remember the second weekend that I moved in with you when we were all done unpacking and we were lying together in bed in the morning eating crescent rolls and drinking coffee from the coffee shop.  You were freaking out because you had to plan the project for the movie premiere for Universal and I took your folder away and we lay in bed until noon watching television.  I want to be normal with you.  No looking over our shoulders, none of that.  Just you and me on a Sunday morning in bed with crescent rolls.  That's why I brought you down here anyway.  I know that people won't freak out if they see us together and I don't want you to be paranoid either."

Tears have filled her eyes and she's shaking.

"Tammy don't shake or cry," I say, "It's gonna be ok."

"I think that's the most profound thing anyone has ever said to me."  She still is shaking, but is now looking me in the eyes.  "I didn't think you'd remember that morning--It's the morning--the morning that I really knew that I was in love with you."

I'd felt something that day, felt goose bumps a few times when our eyes had met, but I'd brushed it off as being all a part of my first few days in the new place.  "Really?"

"Yeah," she said, "I've been trying my hardest not to think about that day because I know what we have to live like to make our lives bearable."

"Bearable?"  I ask.  I know what she's talking about, but the look on her face makes me think that there is something specific that her mind is stuck on.  I'm thinking that there are unresolved issues because of the awards ceremony.  I shouldn't have kissed Jasmine, but I had to.  People were staring and it definitely got our names in the papers.  I know that I should have been a little less greedy about the press that I'm doing lately, but it was the perfect chance to put something more in the papers about the movie.  "You're still upset about me taking Jasmine to the awards."

"Yeah," she says with a smile, "I swear to God that the whole night was all about you and her...or at least Wire Image thought so.  I feel like I missed out on so much of the night.  I mean you won and I couldn't even celebrate with you."

"Seven," I sigh, "I've told you not to look at that site and that's what we're doing here.  They take pictures of me with everyone and slap them up there.  You need to just chill out about it."

"I know," she says, "But I want to be the one in those pictures--and not just be half a face or an arm or something like that."

"Sweetie," I smile at her, "We'll have some pictures taken or something...if that's what you want.  I know a few photographers--"

She shrugged.  "Maybe for Christmas or something we could do Christmas cards with a cool picture of us on it."

I nod and pray that this conversation is over.  It's not that I don't want to talk about this, but my friends are running around and I have a feeling that soon they'll be wondering what we're talking about and this really isn't something I want to talk to them about.  "That sounds perfect."

I lean and kiss her cheek and she smiles at me.  "I'm gonna go wash my face and put on some more sun tan lotion."  She presses a finger to my shoulder.  "You better put on a shirt in a while."

I nod to her and lean in for another kiss.  "We'll figure out the rest of this later.  Ok?"


By the time I push everyone out the door and out of the yard that night she's looking beaten up a little.  Her skin is red from the sun and she's changed into jeans and a long sleeved shirt, smelling of aloe and coconut lotion.  Her head is pressed to her cell phone and I know instantly that there is trouble brewing.

"I called you to tell you as a courtesy, not because I felt I needed to report into you."  Her eyes stay on the ground as she paces from the steps that lead upstairs into the kitchen.  "That's not fair."

Steering clear of the phone call I run upstairs to jump in the shower so that I can change and be half presentable while we hang out tonight.  I know that she's going to be extra tired from the sun and the excitement of the day so I've planned to spend the next few hours on the couch in front of a movie, hopefully getting to put aside the rest of the world for a while and just retreat into us for a while.

"No," she says appearing in the doorway.  I was just about to strip down, but seeing her makes me pause a moment.

Her expression is grim.  She looks stressed and immediately holds her hand out to me when I start to slip into the bathroom.  She shakes her head and reaches out to me again so I move across the room and reach and hold her hand.  She's shaking.  I don't know why I didn't see it before, but she's seriously upset about the phone call.  I know it's her family on the other end and I know it's probably Timothy giving her the worst time about it.  "I'll call you back."  She sighs and listens.  "I'll call you back.  I need to talk to Lance about plans for the morning."  She nodded.  "Uh huh."  Her eyes meet mine for a moment.  "I know you do.  I love you too Timothy."

"What?" I say as soon as she hangs up.

"He's pissed off at me."  She breaks down into tears and half falls into me.

"Seven."  I sigh and hold her up a bit.  "Tell me what's going on?" I say calmly and move towards the bed so that we can sit down.

"Timothy is throwing his fucking weight around and saying that he's gonna be pissed at me if I go public with you."  She wipes her eyes quickly.  "He said that if I go public that I won't be able to see Tad anymore.  He doesn't want me to be seen with Tad and Cassie on the street and have us both end up in some tabloid."

"That's fucking blackmail," I hear myself say.  It clearly is just Timothy trying to prove his power over his sister.  "Seven you can't listen to him.  I'm sure your sister in law isn't going to let that happen."

She nodded that I was wrong.  "She's the one that suggested it."

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