Justin flopped down into Meredith's bed, kicked off his shoes and
moved so that his head was on the pillow. His arm flung over the
side of the bed and dropped his bag onto the floor. The sheets smelled
of the vanilla lotion she'd gotten from a fan a few days before and he inhaled
a few times before he slid out of his sweater and threw it towards the door.
He knew he'd get in trouble for being sloppy in her room, but he felt
exhausted after his performance that night and didn't want to move to pick
His eyes drifted shut and he concentrated on his breathing. He'd
spent most of his day doing interviews over the phone, had worked on
his songs a little more, and had a three hour conversation with JC after
she'd gotten upset with him. The only thing that had worried him
the whole day was the call that he'd gotten from Paul right before he'd
gone into the coliseum from the bus. His step father sounded extremely
worried about Meredith. He hadn't heard him sound that worried about
someone in a long while, not since the first time they'd broken up and
had been worried about them being in the same room.
"What am I gonna do?" he asked into the silence of the room. He
pushed himself up and slid out his jeans and pulled out a pair of basketball
shorts. He slid into them, tied the waist up and flopped back into
bed. He pulled the covers down and found the remote, flipped off
the light near the bed and flipped on the television. The door was
partially open and he could see Todd in the front of the bus on the phone,
but for the moment he was in his own little world to watch television.
Justin flipped onto ESPN then saw what the date was when they were
showing the commercials for a Pistons game that would happen later that
week. He leaned over and grabbed up his backpack and began to dial
the phone even before it was flipped all the way open.
The phone rang twice before a woman's voice answered. "Hello
"Farzana?" he said hoping that he hadn't dialed the wrong phone number.
"Yes," she said, "I better be the only girl answering this phone."
Justin shut his eyes and threw his backpack on the floor. "Sorry.
I thought I dialed JC's phone."
"It is his phone, but I'm being his answering service at the moment
because he fell asleep in front of the television." She sighed. "What
an exciting life we lead. Who would believe that this guy was asleep
at this time of night?" She laughed. "I figured that it must
be important if you're calling so I didn't want you to leave a message."
Justin stretched his legs. "I was just going to ask C something,
"Is it boy stuff or girl stuff?"
"Both actually," he said, "I was gonna ask him what he did for your
last birthday and see if I could get an idea of what to do for Meredith's
"Easy," Farzana said almost too quickly.
"Really?" His thoughts began to run with her answer. He
wondered if Meredith had talked to Farzana about things between them. He
knew that when they were in LA those two days off that she'd talked to
her, but he wondered if she'd called back to LA since they'd been there.
He would have thought that she'd talk to Addy, but Farzana and Meredith
weren't best friends or anything. Things must have been really bad
if they'd talked to each other. "You've talked to her?"
"Not since LA," she said, "It's obvious what she wants."
Justin scratched his head like he'd seen cartoons did. He knew
that he was out of it when he came to dealing with Meredith, but he didn't
know that it was completely obvious what she'd want. "It is?"
"Take her home Justin," Farzana spoke softly, "You can buy the girl
anything in the world, but what she needs is you and her at the house in
Orlando for two days or something. No phones, no work, no nothing.
Have your mom or someone deliver food to put in the fridge and just
lock yourselves in--"
Justin sat up. The idea of him being alone with her stuck in
Orlando for two days seemed more like a punishment than a present. "Clearly
you haven't talked to her lately. She'd rather beat me up right now
then spend two days with me."
"Well I have a feeling that if you end up taking her home that she'll
thank you instead of kill you. Trust me on this."
He heard something in the front of the bus but knew it wasn't Meredith
just yet. It was too early for her to be done. "Are you sure?"
"Get her a million roses, a bubble bath and you're set to go." Her
voice got all excited as if she was going to be receiving the star treatment.
"Just remember though...no calls, no work...just you guys."
"Are you sure?"
She started to sound irritated. "Yes now stop asking me."
"Ok ok," he said.
"Was there anything else?"
"I was going to ask JC something else."
"Well talk to me about it," she said, "I am a pretty smart girl when it
Justin sighed and stared out the window. "Have you and JC ever gotten
to the point of hating that you're together?" His words were short
and deliberate and he forced them out knowing that he truly didn't want to
say them aloud.
"Being on tour together is grating at your nerves?" she asked.
"It's not that," he said, "I think we're just at this point where we don't
know where we're headed."
"Hmmm," Farzana said, "Well where do you want it to go? I mean if
you could be completely in control of the next few months or years where
would you see you guys heading?"
"Where do all relationships end up heading?" he sighed.
"Not all of them end up going to--"
"I'm in love with her. I want her in my life."
"Can you be more specific?" Farzana prompted. "Do you want
to be married with kids or do you still want to be dating?"
Justin rubbed his hand over his face and thought about it for a minute.
He could picture himself with her, but wasn't sure that kids and a
wife were where they were heading. It wasn't that he didn't want her
to be with him. At this point in his life he felt like he was too young
to be having kids. He was twenty one and barely was around them. He
saw his brothers from time to time and loved that. He also loved the
fact that he could take them back to his parents whenever he wanted was a
"You sound like you're doing some deep thinking over there."
"I am," he sighed. "At this point I don't know if I want marriage
and kids. I mean I know I will eventually, but I also feel right now
that I'm really young and that if I had to be married and have kids tomorrow
I'd freak out, but that in a year or two I think I'd like the idea."
"You're unsettled," Farzana said.
He frowned. "You make that sound like a bad thing."
"It's definitely not a bad thing. Josh and I are like that at the
moment. We're both working on careers and being together in our spare
time. We both know that for the moment that our interest in music
is running things. I think you're the same way. You and Mere
are both big artists and I think that you're thinking that your career is
running your life for the moment."
He stretched his legs and took a deep breath. "Do you think that Meredith
is thinking that way?"
Farzana sounded a little annoyed with him. "That's something you should
"I know. I just want to know your opinion of it. Do you think
that she's happy?"
"Well what do you think?"
Justin didn't want to admit it. He knew that things weren't great,
but he didn't know how extreme her feelings were on the subject. Hopefully
that night he'd be able to find out. "I think that she's not having
fun or maybe its just the schedule and it's too much for her. She toured
before, but this time doesn't seem as fun as the last time."
"You should ask her about it Justin."
"Is that what JC did to you?"
"No," she said, "He didn't ask me about why I was upset. I came
to him and told him what I thought. He knew that things for me on
the road weren't great when Patty left and went back to Europe. My
album was doing well that we worked on, but it wasn't really a touring kind
of album and when I got nominated for my writing abilities it was clear that
I should write and not sing." She sighed. "I'm not Meredith though.
She's in love with you Justin. The music is secondary. She'd
sing until she was blue in the face if you asked her to, but--"
"You make it sound like she's a puppy dog or something following me around."
"I'm not saying that at all Justin," she said with a firm voice. "I'm
just saying that you need to look at why you guys are together and--"
"I'm with her because I love her." He was offended that she would
think anything else.
"Does she know that?" Farzana asked. "Lately all you guys do is
work. I know she's been successful, but I think she'd give it up in
a second if she could do it without making you upset."
"You make me sound like Pearlman. Like I'm forcing her to do all
this. I'm not like him. I'm not like any manager. I love
Meredith. I love her and would do anything for her. I set up
everything for her because I knew--"
"Justin listen to yourself. You set it up. You made it all
happen for her, but do you even know if that's what she wanted?"
Justin was getting upset with the words that were coming across the line.
Farzana was making it sound like he forced Meredith into the studio.
He had encouraged her at first, but he knew that she wouldn't have
gone along with all of this if she hadn't liked that she was doing. "I've
gotta go--Tell C I'll send him the MP3 of the new song and see how he likes
"Will do," she said, "I don't mean to get in a fight over this with
you Justin. I didn't mean to upset--"
"Never mind. I'm just in a bad mood right now. I don't
mean to be rude about all this, but I think I need a nap or something before
I start discussing this with anyone."
"If you need to talk or whatever I'm sure Josh or I will be around."
"Thanks Farzana. I'll call you in a few days and tell you how things
go. I'm going to talk to her tonight about it."
"Good luck. I'll tell JC to call you tomorrow."
"Thanks." He hung up the phone praying that she wasn't right about
Meredith being not as excited about her career as she seemed to be showing
Meredith smiled when she opened the door to her bedroom and found him
lying in his slacks and wife beater with his face turned towards the television.
He looked exhausted, like he'd fallen into bed and hadn't moved since.
"Hi Bear," he said with a soft scratchy voice.
"Hi BeeDee," she replied.
"How was the end of the show?" he asked still not moving from where he
"Good," she said, "The crowd really likes our song and after that it
seems like everyone is pumped up for the rest of them. Dave went crazy
tonight. We're working on new versions of some of the songs that are
gonna be a little more free flowing." She watched him and could see
that he wasn't taking most of this information in. He looked half
asleep. "Beedee hop out of your slacks and hang them up and I'll tell
Gritty that we're ready to go."
He nodded and she waited a minute while he stood up and slid out of his
slacks. While he did that she opened up her tiny closet and handed
him a hanger and he hung the hanger on the back of the door.
He seemed half asleep as he shuffled his feet towards her wrapping his
arms around her and hugged her. He let out a big breath, a sigh of
sorts as if he was comforted by having her in his arms. She turned
from where she was facing the other way and hugged him then felt his forehead.
"Baby do you not feel good?"
He shook his head and looked like he was pouting. He used a whiny
voice when he spoke next. "I've got a headache."
She kissed his warm cheek and held him close for a minute. "Go
crawl in bed, I'll get you some Tylenol then we'll go to sleep. I
know we were supposed to talk tonight, but you don't look like you're up
"Ok," he said and sounded very grumpy. "I'm sorry about fighting
with you. I didn't mean to make you mad."
"BeeDee we'll talk about it in a minute. Go get in bed ok?"
He nodded and pulled himself away from her. He shuffled his feet
over to the side of the bed, pulled back the covers, pulled off his socks
and threw them into the corner before settling himself under the covers.
He picked up the remote and flipped channels a little then put the
remote down and sighed.
She shivered when the warmth from him disappeared and she slowly slid
out of her clothes and into her pajamas and shut Justin in the back room.
"Are you going to bed?" Gritty asked as she came back out.
"Yeah," she said, "Justin's not feeling good. I think he's getting
a cold or something. Do we have Tylenol?"
"There should be some up in that cabinet," her driver said from his seat
as he started up the engine.
Meredith found the Tylenol and took some for Justin then popped two herself
before she got him some water and went back to go to bed. "Wake me
up when we get there."
"Ok sweetie. We'll keep the TV low out here."
"Don't worry about it. I have a feeling that Justin is probably
already asleep." She sighed. She had wanted to talk to him that
night. She needed to talk to him that night, but if he was sick or
tired there was no point in trying to force the issues on him. They
both needed to be in a good mood if they were going to do anything good.
"Hopefully I won't get what he has...whatever it is."
"Get some rest. I think you both need a vacation."
"Maybe for my birthday." She sighed, "Please tell me he hasn't
planned anything for my birthday. I just want to go sleep for two
Gritty laughed. "Sounds good to me."
"I'm sorry." She went over to Gritty and hugged him. "I always
forget that you work harder than me on this stuff."
"It's ok sweetie," he said, "Go get some rest and we'll figure out your
She nodded and went back into the back bedroom.
With only the light of the television to guide her she moved around to
the side of the bed that wasn't being taken up by Justin's sleepy body.
She sat down and tapped him on the arm and he opened his eyes.
"Take some Tylenol baby," she said and handed him the pills then the
"Thank you," he said.
"Are you ok?" she asked.
"I feel like I got hit with a mack truck," Justin said taking his pills
then a drink before putting the water in a spot on the tiny counter so that
it wouldn't fall over.
"Are you achy?" she asked.
"A little," he said.
"BeeDee take off your wife beater and I'll give you a backrub."
"You don't need to do that Bear," he said.
"I don't mind baby," she said, "You seem like you need it."
"I just don't want you to give me pity over this."
"BeeDee," she said, "As much as I know that you're going to love this,
I'm not at all opposed to putting my hands all over your half naked body."
"Oh really?" he said with a smile and stripped out of his shirt. He
threw it on the floor and moved so that he was lying on his stomach.
Meredith moved and straddled his hips and moved her hands over his lower
back first them moved up his spine towards his neck and shoulders. "How's
your album doing?" she asked.
"Do we have to talk about work?" he asked.
"I was asking about your recording." She almost wasn't sure how
to talk to him. He normally went crazy when she asked about work. Maybe
he was sicker than he seemed, if work wasn't a topic he could talk about.
"I didn't mean the business end."
"I'm sorry." His voice was grumpy and she could even tell from
his breathing that he was tired. "Let's talk about something good.
What do you want to do for your birthday?"
A span of time passed before she spoke again. She was all for not
talking about work, but that wasn't normal for Justin so she was a little
worried that something had happened to him that she didn't know about. "I
don't know," she said, "I hadn't thought about it."
He sighed and pulled at the covers and motioned her to get underneath
them with him. "How about we go home for a few days?"
Her heart soared at this thought. He all of a sudden seemed to
understand that she needed a break. She was sure that she was going
to have to spend the next few months in misery, but he was making it known
that maybe she was going to have at least some kind of sympathy.
"Are you serious?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said, "I was planning to call tomorrow and make flight plans.
We could fly out after your last concert on Friday and not come back
until Monday night. it's not enough hours to make a real vacation
from it, but that would give us three nights to sleep in our own bed back
"Really?" she said and found tears coming to her eyes.
"Yeah," he said.
"You aren't planning some big party are you?" she asked.
"I was going to see if the guys wanted to fire up the barbeque at Johnny's
maybe one night, but with everyone being in and out of town it may just
be me and you for a few days. That is, if you want it to be that way."
"Yes," she said. She made him roll over onto his back and she leaned
and kissed him. "That would be the perfect present."
"Well don't thank me for it. I talked to Farzana tonight and she
said that you'd probably want to go home."
"You did?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said, "I didn't know what I wanted to do for you this year
and she said I should do nothing and just take you home. We can go
see everyone in Memphis or see your parents, but after this schedule I figured
you'd just want to go somewhere quiet."
"Home sounds great," she said and moved to cuddle up next to him.
"Well having you to myself for the weekend sounds better."
"Hmmm," she said and moved to kiss him, not caring that he might be sick.
She needed that reinforcement, that reminder that she loved him and
that he loved her.
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