Back to Before


Chapter One


The sound of the waves crashing around our feet was music to my ears. I looked over at the sun setting on the ocean horizon and my breath was taken away. I was watching the sunset on the beautiful Honolulu beaches with the man I loved. Joey Fatone wrapped his arms around me in the dimming light.

“I love you. I don’t know how I’ve lived so long without you. You’re everything to me and I wouldn’t give you up for anything. Kayleigh Schlotter, Will you marry me?”

I turned around with a gasp and stared into the deep brown eyes that gazed through me, to my soul. I smiled and began to speak but my words were cut off. The look on Joey’s face suddenly turned from a loving expression to one filled with hate. The beach sand turned to cold, wet concrete. The beautiful surroundings turned to that of a dirty alley. I looked back up at Joey and he was no longer there. In his place was a fuzzy haze that started to disappear.

“NO!” I screamed as I reached my hand out toward the rapidly disappearing mist. “Joey, no, please don’t leave me! I love you, please!” I cry out as the last shreds of the mist are gone. I fall to my knees and start to sob. I couldn’t believe what just happened. I had just lost the love of my life. He was the whole reason that I was living, and he just disappeared.

Suddenly my surroundings started to change again. I was in a glass box in a big room. A fairly pretty woman walked in and sat down in a big chair. She didn’t seem to realize I was there. She was young, blonde, maybe in her early twenties. She impatiently checked her watch and sighed. Then, Joey walked in.

“Hey baby, I’ve been waiting for you.” She greeted with a big smile showing two neat rows of perfect teeth. “How was sound-check?”

“It was fine.” He smiled back showing the smile that I had fallen for years ago. “Sorry to have kept you waiting, are you ready to go?”

“Yep, lets go.”

“Joey, no!” I yelled. He didn’t seem to hear me. God no, Joe, I’m not going to lose you again, I thought to myself. I yelled louder and pounded on the glass with all my strength.

“JOEY!” I woke up in a cold sweat and looked wildly around my surroundings. I was in Joey’s and my old bed, in the room we used to share. I glanced at the clock. Damnit. 4:30 in the freaking morning. I heard a song softly playing on the radio.

“Do I ever cross your mind, anytime? Do you ever wake up reaching out for me? Do I ever cross you mind, anytime? I miss you . . .”

I stared at the radio like it had mortally offended me. I knew I wasn’t going to get back to sleep that night so I lay back and let my mind wander back to the day when Joey left me.


            “So I creep yeah, Just keep it on the down low. Said no one else supposed to know. So I creep yeah, 'Cause he doesn't know what I do and no attention goes to show. Oh so I creep.” I sang along with the radio. I loved this song; it always made me want to dance. I had a great day at school and it was a beautiful day. I was in my freshman year of college in Tampa, Florida. I couldn’t wait to get home. Joey had been in Orlando the past week working on all the arrangements of a band he was in, *NSYNC. They were planning on getting a manager and becoming the closest modern thing to the Beatles. I had to say, I’ve heard them sing and they were actually really good. I had only previously met JC and Chris. Chris was a riot. JC was kind of serious but he was still a really nice guy. But anyway, Joe would be home today and we were going to go out to dinner. I pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex.

Joey and I grew up in New York City together. We started dating when I was 16 and he was 17. When he was 18 we decided to move to Florida together. I was a really reserved person. Although Joey and I had been together for two years I had only just had sex with him a few months ago. It was a big step for me and I’m glad he understood so well.

            I’ve noticed in the last month, he was acting a bit different. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I knew it was something. He seemed a bit more reserved around me, losing some of the outgoing funny guy who always had a smile on his face. It was almost as if he was sad about something, but he wasn’t telling me about it. Oh, well, I wouldn’t dwell on it too long.

            I unlocked to door and walked in, setting my keys and books down on the end table near the door. I noticed Joe’s keys weren’t there and thought that maybe he was out with some friends. I walked into the kitchen and noticed a white rose on top of a folded piece of paper. I smiled, figuring that it was a little present type thing. I opened the letter and started to read.




       This past month, I’ve been feeling trapped. I think you’ve noticed. I really don’t think that a serious relationship is what I need at this point in my life. If you really want to know the absolute truth, I’m scared. I’ve never been in a relationship this serious before. I don’t know where you want to go with this, but I do know that we’re too young to settle into anything permanent. With you going to college and me working with the band, I think we’d drift apart. Please don’t think that these past two years didn’t mean anything to me, they did, and I really do love you with all my heart. But I don’t think that I can deal with this right now. It’s overwhelming. So, therefor, I’m leaving. *NSYNC got a manager and we’re leaving for Germany in two days. Please don’t try to come after me, I’m not coming back. I’m sorry, and I love you.




I read the letter over and over trying to process what I was reading. Somehow it just didn’t seem right. Why would Joey leave me without even saying goodbye? I leaned against the counter and slid to a sitting position. The rose fell from my hand as a tear dripped down my cheek.


As I was laying thinking, a song penetrated through my thoughts.

“I think I did it again. I made you believe we’re more than just friends. Oh baby, it might seem like a crush, but it doesn’t mean that I’m serious.”

Oh my FUCKING God, I hate this song. Just the fact the Joey is friends with this skank makes my skin crawl. So I did the only thing a sensible person would do. I groped around the side of the bed and found my sneaker. I picked one up and threw it at the radio just because I didn’t have the energy to get up and turn it off myself. My shoe hit the target and the radio switched off. I sighed and looked at the clock again. 5:30. I had classes today, but I really didn’t feel like going. I turned back over and closed my eyes. I lied there for what felt like hours and just thought about what my life would be like if Joe had never left. We might have been married by now. Just the thought of that made my heart ache. The fact that it’s been three years since Joey left, and I was still hopelessly in love with him, made me feel like a complete fool. I kept trying to move past it and start dating again but I just couldn’t. Somewhere in my heart I knew we were meant to be and I wasn’t giving up on that. What made it most unbearable was that no matter what I did, turn on the TV, read a magazine, whatever, I always saw his smiling face. I knew the smiles I saw were fake. I had the memory of his real smile engraved in my brain.

Now that *NSYNC had just released their second album, shattering all previous musical records, they were everywhere. It made me so proud of Joey for accomplishing his dream, but it also hurt to think about, to know I had once dated a member of the biggest pop band in America.

As I continued to think, I slowly drifted into a dreamless sleep.



Chapter Two


I woke up later around 11:00. I took a shower and got dressed and went into the living room. I flipped on the News and walked into the kitchen area to where I could still hear the TV. I had a bowl of cereal and decided I wasn’t going to waste my time at home all day. I was gonna head over to Orlando to do some shopping. I had a few hundred bucks to blow and decided to get a couple new outfits. I grabbed my purse and headed out the door. It was about an hour drive from Tampa to Orlando and I was in the mood for some good music. I turned on the radio as I pulled out of the parking lot and the first song that came to my ears was viciously sad:

            “You would still have my heart until the end of time. You’re all I need, my love, my Valentine.”

            I flipped around the stations some more and didn’t find any good songs so I decided to put on a CD of my own.

            “I’m doing this tonight, you’re probably gonna start a fight. I know this can’t be right, hey baby, come on.”

            I couldn’t help it. It’s not that Joey was in the band, I just really liked their music. I skipped around the CD for a bit playing the most up-tempo songs and when that was done I was almost there. I decided to just listen to the radio the rest of the way. Some fairly good songs were on and I made it there within the next 20 minutes. First I stopped at a bank to withdraw some money then I headed over to my favorite store, the Banana Republic. I bought 2 new pairs of shorts and a new shirt. I was kind of hungry so I stopped at a little outside diner type thing. I was looking in my purse as I walked and I accidentally bumped into someone and a few things fell out.

            “Oh, I’m sorry here let me help.” A masculine voice said as I crouched down to grab the fallen items.

            “Hey, thanks, I’m--”

            “Kayleigh!? Is that you?”

            I looked up and gasped. I had been waiting for this day for three years and it finally happened. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

            “Oh my god, Joey, what are you doing here?”

            “Well I could be asking you the same thing.” He smiled at me and I couldn’t help it, I smiled back. “The band is back in Orlando for a week and I decided to walk around and do some shopping. And why are you here?”

            “Well I had nothing better to do today since I didn’t feel like going to my classes, so I decided to come here and do some shopping too.”

            “Hey, you’re still doing the college thing! You always wanted to finish that, so I’m not surprised. Hey, I was just gonna grab some lunch, wanna join me and talk about ‘old times’?”

            “Sure, sounds good.”

            So we made with the small talk for awhile before we really got to talking again. I still couldn’t believe it was happening. He was still the same old Joey he was when I knew him. I really didn’t do much talking, he did. It’s not that he has a big mouth, it was just that I knew all the right questions to ask. I really didn’t want the conversation to turn to me; I didn’t know what to say.

            “So then we met Britney and…”


            “What you don’t like Britney?” He asked with a chuckle.

            “I could really do without her. I mean no offence, but she should dress less like a stripper and get some more singing talent.”

            “Oh, don’t worry about offending me, personally, I feel the same way.” He laughed. He had this look in his eye that I couldn’t quite decipher. I had never seen that look before. I looked down at my watch.

            “Oh, shit, Joe I’m really sorry, I really have to get on the road.” We had started talking around 2:00 and it was now 4:00.

            “Hey, where are you living now, I was thinking maybe I could stop by sometime. It was really great seeing you again, and I want to talk some more.” He flashed that heart-melting smile of his. How could I refuse?

            “Oh, I still got the same place. You remember where it is?”

            “Yeah I do, when’s a good time for you? I have stuff to do tomorrow but Thursday I’m free.”

            “Um, Thursday is good for me. I have classes in the morning but I’ll be home from 1:00 and on.”

            “Okay, great, I’ll drop by about…2:30. See you then!”

“Okay.” I smiled and watched him walk away. Oh. My. God. What is he gonna think about the place when he comes back? I hardly changed a thing! Oh well, I wouldn’t dwell, I had to mentally prepare myself for Thursday!

          I turned and slowly began to walk back to my car thinking in amazement about what just happened. Joey and I seemed so casual together, like we just saw each other last month. No one would have ever guessed the hard separation three years ago. I always thought that when I saw him again I would be bitter. I mean, for a while after he left, I was in denial. I tried to convince myself that I hated him. I succeeded for awhile, but I realized I couldn’t lie to myself, I knew I loved him. Before I knew it, I was back home. It was 5:30, so I made myself a small dinner and called my mom.

            My mom still lived in New York City. I went up there a few times a summer and we went to Yankee games together. I also went up there for major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving.  In return she stayed down here for about 2 weeks each summer. I played with the thought of telling her what happened today, but decided against it.  She never liked how I had taken Joey’s leaving. Come to think of it, she never really liked Joey and it tore her apart when I moved down here with him. My mom and his mom were always mutual friends but that didn’t stop my mom from disliking Joey.

            The phone only rang 2 times before my younger brother answered the phone. He was 16 now.


            Ugh, I hated the way he talked. Just because he lived in the city didn’t mean he had to sound like he did. I had to admit though, I still sort of had my accent. “Hey, Jim is mom around?”

            “No, sorry, she went to the store. Probably getting me a birthday present. Heh.”

            Oh, crap. I forgot his birthday was in a week. I would have to buy him something and send it soon before it was too late. “Okay, well tell her I called. Have her call me back sometime tomorrow, K?”

            “No prob. So, how’s it been going? Oh yeah, I was wondering if I could go down and spend my winter vacation hanging out there. Mom said I had to talk to you about it.”

            “Uhhh, sure I don’t have a problem with that, I need the company anyway. When’s the vacation start?”

            “In a week, so I’d be down there on my birthday. Hey, thanks, I’ll tell mom you said yeah and you guys can work out the final plans tomorrow.”

            “Alright, talk to you later kid, bye.”

            “See ya.”

            I hung up the phone. I was actually kind of glad that Jim was coming down, he was a good kid. We always had fun together. Maybe we could drive to Disney World one day. That would be fun. I loved torturing him with roller coasters. It was funny because I’d never heard of a 16-year-old male being afraid of roller coasters. I switched on the TV and decided to order a movie then go to bed. I was kind of tired.

            I decided on ordering Erin Brockovitch. I thought Julia Roberts was awesome, and Amy also said it was pretty good.


            It turned out it was a good movie. It was hysterical. I stretched and turned off the TV. I stood up and walked slowly to my room running over in my mind all the things I had to do tomorrow. After classes I had to go grocery shopping, go to the bank and deposit my check. I had a week off from work since there were a lot of maintenance problems, so that was relieving. I decided to sleep with my radio off tonight and see how that would affect my dreams. Sometimes it helped. But on the other hand, sometimes it made it worse. I figured I’d take my chances.


            I woke up with a wicked headache and a really bad stomachache. Shit. Oh well, I missed classes yesterday so I definitely had to go today.  I took a shower and got dressed and headed out to my classes.

            By the time my classes were over it was 1:00, so I wanted to hurry with my errands and get home and get some rest before I got any worse. I took some Advil, but they just weren’t helping. I got through all my errands successfully and got home around 4:30. I made myself something to eat, and sat down to watch the news. I took my temperature and it was 101 degrees. Just great. I have to feel better by tomorrow. After all I’ve been through I was finally gonna see Joey again and I couldn’t miss that opportunity.

            By the time I went to bed I was a basket case. I really wanted to see Joey again but it seems like we hit it off again too quickly. What did that mean? Did that mean he wanted to see me again too? Did it mean that he still loved me? No. Of course he didn’t still love me. If he still loved me he would have tried to contact me before now. Or, he would have never left in the first place. Oh, god, I hope I didn’t screw anything up or say anything stupid tomorrow. God, why couldn’t he have asked to meet somewhere instead of him coming here? Even I thought it was pathetic to still be living here. And, he won’t even know I have a roommate since she was in New York. Unless the topic turned to her, anyway. Oh yeah, I have to take down at least SOME of the pictures of him tomorrow.

            After awhile I drifted into an uneasy sleep filled with dreams of all of *NSYNC coming to kill me. Very weird.


            I woke up when my alarm went off at 7:00. I felt even more horrible than yesterday. I couldn’t go to classes feeling like this. I decided to call one of my friends and ash her if she could pick up the notes and assignments that I’d be missing.


            “Hey, Ally, its Kayleigh, did I wake you up?”

            “Nah, I’ve been awake for half hour now. What’s up?”

            “Well I feel like shit today so I was wondering if you could get my notes and assignments for today?”

            “Sure, I’ll drop them by your apartment later today, around four, okay?”

            “Okay, thank you so much, bye.”

            “See you later.”

            I hung up and turned over and went back to sleep.

            I woke up again around noon. I took my temperature and it was up to 102.6 degrees. Just great, I’d have to send Joey home as soon as he got here. I still couldn’t believe this was happening. Why did Joey seem so eager to talk to me? It just didn’t make sense. You’d think he never wanted to talk to me again, since he left like that. It would also seem that it would be a lot more awkward than what it was. I mean, we were able to talk like we just saw each other yesterday. Was that a good thing? Did that mean there was a chance that we would be able to become friends again? Oh my god, I was getting my hopes up again. I really had to stop doing that.

            I took a shower and watched TV until 2:30 rolled around. I was watching the Yankee game when there was a knock on the door. Oh God. Be calm, you worked out what you were gonna say earlier.

            I walked over and opened the door. Suddenly, I was shockingly aware of my appearance: baggy flannel pajama bottoms and a big tee shirt. Ugh, and there he was looking stunning in just a pair of jeans and a baggy tee shirt.

            “Hey, what’s wrong?” He asked in what looked to be actual concern. Oh, god this was gonna be harder than I thought.

            “Hey, Joe, um I’m really sick and I’m sorry, but I know you probably wanna go so you-”

            “Actually I was just dropped off by my driver since my car is with my mom, and anyway, I wanna stay. I can’t catch it if that’s what your worried about I just got over what looks to be the same thing last week.” He smiled and my heart melted.

            “Okay, well in that case come on in.” I said returning the smile.



Chapter Three


God she was beautiful. She wasn’t even looking her best and she was gorgeous. It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since I last saw her. I can honestly admit that not a day went by when I haven’t thought about her. Of course I couldn’t tell any of the guys this. They wouldn’t understand. There were so many times when I almost picked up the phone and called her. But, naturally, I knew I couldn’t. It just wouldn’t seem right. Then a couple days ago, luck was on my side. I always believed I was right in leaving. For awhile though, I has seriously doubted myself. But then I thought about what I might be getting into and I knew I was right.

            She opened the door and stood inside waiting for me to come in. I stepped inside and immediately wondered if she lived with someone. Specifically a guy someone. I looked around and thought better of it. There wasn’t that much new stuff. And it didn’t look like a guy lived here anyway.

            “Hey who’s winning?” I asked as I glanced at the TV.

            “We are.” She replied closing the door. We were both Yankee fans. God I remembered every little detail about her. I remembered that her favorite color was blue. I remembered that she liked her bagels with cream cheese, but not toasted. God I was a pathetic man. I had been in a few relationships since I left but none of the girls I dated even compared to her. Naturally I couldn’t tell her this. I’m surprised she was being so nice. I figured she would have hated me. “So, wanna finish watching the game, there’s only a few more innings.” She asked.

            “Sure.” I replied as we both sat on the couch. I looked beside me and there was a picture of her and a redheaded girl pointing at each other and smiling. “Hey who’s that?” I asked pointing.

            “Oh, that’s Amy. She’s my roommate. She’s up in New York visiting her boyfriend.”

            “That’s cool.”


            Her eyes were glued to the TV. God, she was like a guy when it came to baseball. Couldn’t communicate intelligently until the commercials came on. It was actually kind of funny.  Periodically she would make a frustrated noise and she’d glare at the TV.  It was an improvement. She used to yell. That was funny too.


            As we were watching the game, I got the urge to yell. The umpire fucking sucked. But, Joey was sitting there and I was a little nervous about what I did.

            But I couldn’t contain myself, I cracked.

            “What the hell was that!? It was in the dirt!” Whoops.

            I looked sheepishly over at Joey. To my surprise, he had a big smile on his face. I gave him a questioning look.

            “I was expecting you to do that.” He said.

            “Why?” I asked still confused.

            “Well, you can’t deny the inevitable.” He said in a mockingly mysterious voice. “Actually,” he said in his normal voice, “ I remember a certain someone getting a little loud and violent whenever the Yankees played, and I wasn’t expecting that to change.”

            Oh. He remembered that little detail. Damn. Bad thing to remember Joe. Why couldn’t you remember how hopelessly in love I was with you? Why couldn’t you remember how in love you were with me? Well, I thought you were with me.

            “Oh.” I said with a small smile.

            We watched the rest of the game, and I had little outbursts once in a while, but the conversation was at a minimal. Until about a half-hour later.


“Oh God, I feel horrible.” She said. “Ugh, I’ll be right back I’m going to get some Tylenol.”

            “Okay.” I replied watching her get up. She walked about halfway across the room and suddenly stopped. Then just collapsed.

            “Oh my god, Kayleigh!” I gasped. I ran over to her side and looked at her. She had a glossed over look in her eyes and she didn’t seem to see anything.


            It was cold.

            I could feel the wind tugging at my hair, hear it whining around the eaves and rattling what sounded like a loose piece of tin somewhere. The cold, damp air left my skin clammy and chilled me all the way to my bones.

            I supposed I was in shock. It was an odd sensation, shock. A curious sort of limbo where nothing disturbed me very much.

            So it must have been instinct rather than concern that prompted me to move, to pull myself forward despite the pain. The unevenness of the floor was both a help and a torture, providing fingerholds even as it painfully scraped my skin and gouged my body.

            I felt one of my fingernails tear painfully and was conscience of dirt and crusted blood underneath the few that were left undamaged. I’m probably corrupting evidence or something. Probably really screwing things up.

But that didn’t seem important either. I focused on what was important. Just keep reaching out, one hand at a time. Hold on to something, no matter how much it hurts. Pull yourself forward, no matter how much it hurts.

It became automatic, mechanical. Reach. Grab. Pull. Reach. Grab. Pull. There went another fingernail. Damn. Reach. Grab. Pull.

When my reaching fingers suddenly found thin air, it took me several minutes of fumbling around in the darkness to realize I was at the top of the stairs.


Just the thought of my aching body bumping down hard stairs made me shudder, and I heard a thin sound of dread hardly louder than whimper escape my swollen lips.

It was going to hurt like hell.

It did.

Somewhere near the bottom, my strength gave out, and I slid over the last few steps in an agonizing rush that left me sprawled on the floor, limp and crying quietly, on the ancient tile floor that smelled of dirt and burnt cabbage. I vaguely wondered why I couldn’t see anything.

I might have slept for awhile, or maybe just lay unconscious, because my body just refused to go on. But eventually the same instinct that had gotten me this far insisted that I begin moving again.

I have to. I have to.

Yes, you have to.

That was weird, that other, alien voice in my head. I thought about it for a while, curling into a ball on my side even though that position was more painful. It was getting harder and harder to breath. Broken rib probably.

Three broken ribs. And a punctured lung. Listen to me, Kayleigh. You have to keep moving. Someone will be passing by in just a few minutes. If you aren’t outside by then, you won’t be found until tomorrow.

How strange. That voice knew my name.

Tomorrow will be too late, Kayleigh.

Yeah, I thought. It probably would be too late.

Do you want to live?

Did I? I thought I did. Not that it’d be the life I had before. In fact, it might not be much of a life at all. But . . .  Dammit . . . I wanted it. If only to live long enough for . .             Vengeance?


I turned painfully back onto my stomach and began the methodical effort of inching forward once again. I thought I was making progress, at least until I came across a wall.


As I listened, I thought I could hear faint traffic sounds; that was my only clue where a door was to allow me to escape the building. I began to feel my way along the wall toward the sounds.

It was getting colder. The wind that had whistled through the building during my agonizing journey downstairs was blowing in my face now. I guessed that the building had long ago lost most of it’s windows and doors, so the wind found an easy passage, stirring the dust and mold of many long years of neglect even as it cut into my shivering body. 

Just a little farther now, Kayleigh.

I wondered why the voice didn’t just call 911 but thought that was probably too much to ask of a figment of my imagination.

There’s the doorway. Feel it?

I felt the threshold under my sore fingers. It felt like ancient weather stripping or something that was mostly rust. Beyond it was the broken concrete of a stoop or walkway.  I prayed there weren’t anymore steps. Grimly, I pulled myself across the threshold and out of the building, shivering as the full force of the wind cut into me. There was one painful step down, then a walkway that seemed to be more rocks and gravel that concrete. It hurt like hell to pull myself across that jagged surface; the only good thing was that it continued to guide me toward the street.

I hoped.

                Not long now, Kayleigh. You’re almost there.

            Almost where? I wondered. Out in the street so a car could hit me?

            He’s near; He’ll see you any minute now.

            Before I could even wonder who was supposed to se me, I heard a male voice utter a shocked exclamation, then fast footsteps coming toward me.

            “Please,” I heard myself say in an unfamiliar, thickened voice. “Please help . . .”

            “It’s all right.” The man’s voice, close now, sounded nearly as thick as mine. And shocked and horrified and compassionate. He touched my shoulder gently with a warm hand, the said, “I don’t want to move you until EMS gets here, but I’m going to cover you with my coat, okay?”

            I felt the wonderful warmth and murmured a thanks, allowing my head to fall so that it rested on my forearm. I was very tired. Very tired.

             Sleep now, Kayleigh.

            I thought that was a good idea. Before I fell asleep I heard the man do several things.

            He took my pulse then took a couple steps away and spoke urgently into what I figured to be a cell phone. Wait a minute. If he could see then why couldn’t I?

            “For God’s sake hurry! She’s- She’s in bad shape. She’s lost a lot of blood.”

            I could suddenly see out side of my body. Like I was watching a movie.

            His gaze followed the startlingly bright smeared trail of blood that marked my progress across broken concrete all the way back to the gaping doorway of the long abandoned old house.

            He tried to listen to the professionally detached voice in his ear but suddenly cut off the 911 operator’s voice.

            Suddenly I was back in my own body again, and I couldn’t see anything.

            “I don’t know what happened to her,” He said sharply. “But she bruised and cut up and bleeding - and naked. Maybe she was raped, I don’t know, but- but something else happened to her. She’s . . . Her eyes are gone. No, dammit, not injured. Gone. Somebody’s cut her eyes out.”

            I woke up with a gasp, to see Joey over me looking extremely worried.

            I shook my head. “What happened?” I asked, my voice a little groggy and shaky.

            “I don’t know you fainted or something. Are you okay? Should I call the doctor?” He asked his voice rushed and with a slight edge to it.

            Despite my weakness I smiled and laughed a little. “Yes, I think I’m okay, no, don’t call the doctor. Just help me over to the couch.” I replied. He hooked one arm around my waist and grabbed one of my hands with his and lifted me to my feet. Wow, if I hadn’t fainted, I wouldn’t be in his arms right now. He set me down and took a seat right next to me.

            “Are you sure you’re all right? You scared me to death.”

            “Yeah, I’m fine. How long was I out?”

            “Maybe about a minute, why?”

            “Oh, I had a really weird . . . dream, I guess you could call it, and it seemed to last forever.” He gave me a questioning look and I answered his unasked question, “No, the dream wasn’t important, I don’t even really remember too much about it.”

            “Hey, I have the perfect cure for you. I am going to make you my famous chicken noodle soup. I always make it for the guys when their sick, and they love it.”

            “Okay.” I said with a smile.

           Wow. Somehow, this felt like three years ago. Joey used to like to try out his cooking skills like his dad and he would try out his contraptions on me. They were actually pretty good. God, what I wouldn’t give to go back in time knowing what I know now. Maybe I could have stopped him. But then again, maybe I couldn’t. Leaving was his decision and the way he put it, there wasn’t anything I could have done to stop him. God, I longed to ask what the whole reason for his leaving was. Of course I couldn’t. Not now anyway. Maybe if we kept progressing then I could. But now it would be way too awkward. And it would seem really pathetic letting my feelings out, not knowing how he felt about the whole situation.  I wish I could read minds. Or even better . . . no, I couldn’t do that. Or could I? Would Chris or JC still remember me? No, probably not. I don’t think I could get a chance to ask them anyway. Stupid thought.

           Joe got up and walked into the kitchen area. It was funny to watch. Well, funny in the curious way anyway. I don’t think he noticed, but he knew where everything was. His back was to me at the moment so he didn’t know I was looking at him.  Why did I still love him so much after so long? After what he put me through? As, I was watching him I started to remember some things. I remembered the way he woke me up in the mornings. Running his fingers through my hair. I remembered the way he kissed. I remember the specific cologne he used to smell so good. I didn’t realize that tears were running down my face. My eyes had fixed on an inane object and I couldn’t tear them away.

           “Hey, what’s wrong?” He asked from the kitchen.

           “What? Oh, um, nothing, just thinking of something. Don’t worry, it’s not important.” I replied wiping my eyes.

           “Oh okay, I’m almost done. Be ready for the best cooking you ever tasted.”

           I laughed a little. He was so cute sometimes. I suddenly had the urge to tell my mom everything. I don’t think I will though. She doesn’t need to know just yet. Hell, she didn’t even know I still knew Joey even existed. I didn’t talk with her much about this. The only person that really knew was Amy. And of course, Amy had never met him and branded him a major dick. But, hey that’s her perogative.

           I started to flip through channels trying to clear my mind of the past. What’s done is done and there’s nothing I can do about it. I found a cartoon and just started watching. It was SpongeBob Squarepants.

            “Hey, this show is awesome.” Joey said as he looked through the open space. “Okay I’m done here, do you want me to bring this out to you or you wanna eat out here?”

            “I’ll go out there, hold on.” I got up carefully and walked into the kitchen and sat at the table. The rest of the night passed pretty quickly. We talked about a lot of stuff. But I noticed we both carefully avoided bringing up past events. It was 8:00 when he left.

            “Okay, I’m heading back on the road tomorrow but the band will be back in Orlando in like three weeks, do you wanna go out with me and the guys then?” He asked.

            “Um, yeah that sounds like fun. Here’s my number, call me when you get back in town.” I said as I scrawled my number on a piece of paper.

            “Okay, I’ll see you then, hope you feel better.”

            “Thanks, I will.” I said as I watched him walk toward the parking lot.


            Ugh, the phone was ringing. Did I really want to make the effort to get it? Suuuuuure, why not. I was drifting off on the couch. It was about 10:00. I reached over and grabbed the cordless.

            “Hello?” I said a little more groggily than I had intended.

            “Hey, got time?” Amy asked from the other end of the phone. Oh my god, I had SOOOOOO much to tell her. She would probably be sort of exasperated at my school girl excited routine but, too bad for her.

            “Oh. My. God. Amy, you will never believe who has left not 2 hours ago. Oh wait before I get started, how’s Zack?” I said first excitedly then calm. Zack was her boyfriend whom she was visiting in New York.

            “Um, I’m pretty sure I got what you were saying. Zack’s great, oh he says Hi.” I heard a muffled voice in the background. “I have been having a lot of fun up here, I never knew there was so much you could do in the city.” I had to laugh. Although I am a New York Native, this is the first time Amy has ever been there. Zack just moved up about a month ago for school.

            “Yeah, there’s certainly plenty to do. My favorite feature was always Yankee Stadium. But, hey, that’s me.”

            “Yeah, I kinda figured. So what did you want to tell me? Something about an Oh my god, you’ll never guess, and two hours ago?” She asked laughing slightly.

            “Well, Joey was just here. We ran into each other a couple days ago, and we’ve been catching up. Oh my god, I never in a million years thought I would be so lucky.” I said excitedly. Suddenly I grew depressed again. “He’s still the same guy I used to know.” I said more quietly.

            “Oh you mean he’s still an ass hole?” She questioned sarcastically “Look Kayleigh, the guy left you without a good reason and without saying goodbye. I know you think he was a marvelous guy and I admit he probably was. But you have to look at the other side; he couldn’t have hurt you more. No way in hell. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever heard a man do. What did you really want in him anyway?”

            “I needed him.” I said quietly. “If for nothing else, just to hold on to.” I was crying now. “Or just say, ‘Hey baby, how was your day?’ That’s all I wanted at the end of my day. Or even said nothing. I would have settled for a look. Just a look. And one day he left. And he took half of me with him. And I still don’t know how to function without the other half. Amy, I’m so lost without him.” I said with a sob.

            “God, Kayleigh I know how you feel. I’ve been through a breakup too. But you have to get over him. You relationship three years later is not going to progress to anything beyond friendship. I’m sorry to sound like such a bitch, but that’s the truth.” She said sympathetically. “Look, hon, I gotta go, but I’ll be home in two days. Promise you’ll cheer up by then?” She questioned.

            “Yeah,” I said laughing a little now. “I’ll be fine. I'll see you in a couple days. Bye.”

            “See ya.”

            I hung up the phone and turned off the TV. I’ve had enough tonight. I wanted to sleep. I realized my mom didn’t call like she was supposed to. Oh well, I’d call her tomorrow. We wouldn’t be having classes for a couple weeks because of our break, so I could prepare for Jim’s arrival next week. I crawled into bed, flipped on the radio and drifted into a deep sleep.



Chapter Four


The next week seemed to fly by. In no time at all Jim was here and we were doing this and that, shopping and movies and things like that. We reserved one day for us to go to Disney. That was fun. It was actually kind of funny, I saw a couple people I knew and they asked if Jim was my new boyfriend. I explained that, although Jim looked kind of old for his age, he was my little brother. I could see their mistake though; he was about four inches taller than me and looks a lot older than me too.

            Joey called me yesterday and said they would be back in Orlando in one week. So they would be here two days before Jim left for New York. Amy was back. She was a tid bit sad because she wouldn’t see Zack again until he came to visit in a couple months.

            The day Joe got back they had a concert. The guys were going out to a club afterward and invited me to come along. Amy was going out with a few friends tonight too so Jim was going to be alone. I wasn’t worried about him. He was big boy, he could take care of himself. Anyway, all he would do is order a couple movies and fall asleep on the couch, just like he did when he was home.


            Jim was my fashion coordinator for the night. I kept changing and asking “Does this look okay?” and the cool thing was when you had a little brother, he was honest. Of course, he still had the mind of a sixteen-year-old so my “little” outfits impressed him more. I came out wearing a tight pair of faded jeans with silver sparkles and a red tank top that was “well-fitted” meaning not tight, but showed off my figure. Also it was a tid bit above my pants line revealing a little of my tummy.

            “I don’t know about this but-”

            “No, that’s fine. Wow, you can tell you have boobs. Nice work sis. Any guy that sees you like that would think you’re a total babe.”

            “Well, um I think that’s a compliment so I guess, thanks. Okay, it’ll be this one.”

            “So, exactly when are you leaving? It’s 10:00.”

            “Oh, a friend is gonna pick me up.” I replied. Joey wasn’t exactly specific on which guy would pick me up but, oh well. I walked into the bathroom and threw on a little bit of makeup. I heard a knock on the door. I walked back out and opened the door.

            “Wow. Er . . . I mean, hi.”

            I smiled, “Hi, Justin, I’m Kayleigh, so I guess you’re my chauffeur for the night?”

            “Yeah and how did you know I’m Justin?”

            I raised my eyebrows.

            “Oh, yeah, stupid question. Sorry.” He said with a smile. “So, ready to go?”

            “Yeah. Jim I don’t know when I’ll be back but try not to destroy the place while I’m gone!” I called back into the apartment as I shut the door. As Justin led the way to his car, my mouth dropped. It was a gorgeous Mercedes Benz. Silver, my favorite. And best feature of all, convertible.

            “Hey do you mind if I leave the top down? Or will that mess up your perfect hair?” He playfully asked as he tugged on a strand.

            “Well, if you plan on being mobbed by screaming young girls at a red light, then by all means, do.”

            “Oh, you’ve got a point. By the way,” He looked at me with a mischievous look on his face, “Joey told me to be nice to you, and if I start to flirt, that’s just being nice, okay?” He asked. Aww, he was a cutie.

            “Sure.” I said sarcastically, laughing a little.

            As we got in the car, he asked almost timidly, “You and Joey used to date didn’t you? I mean, I’m pretty sure you did and it ended someway. I’m just asking because well, Chris and JC know all about it since they know you, but Lance and I don’t really know what happened. You don’t have to tell me I’m just wondering if you were the same Kayleigh. Wow, I’m rambling aren’t I?”  

            “Only a little,” I said laughing. “But yeah, Joey and I did used to date.”

            The rest of the ride was fairly quiet. The radio was loud and Justin sang along. He sounded even better in person.

            When we got to the club, we quickly spotted the guys as they had selected a table fairly close to the front. Joey stood up as we approached.

            “Wow. I mean, we’re gonna move to the back, we don’t wanna be too up front. We wanna try and blend a little. Kayleigh you already know JC and Chris, and now Justin, but here’s Lance.” He said

            “Hi.” I smiled.

            “Hey.” He replied casually.

            “I’m sorry Joe, I couldn’t overlook you saying wow. That’s funny because that’s exactly what Justin said. Am I really that good looking or are all you guys easily impressed?” I said as we walked toward the back.

            “No, you’re really that good looking.” He turned a smiled at me. “Want a drink?” He asked as I sat down.

            “Sure. Margarita, no salt.” I said.

            He came back a few minutes later with our drinks. “Let’s take a walk.” He said over the music. We walked into the back room of the club where it was less noisy, and I saw Amy.

            She walked up to us gave Joey a questioning look and said, “Hey aren’t you that guy from . . .  ohhhhhhhhh . . . Joey . . . er, sorry, Hi, I’m Amy.”

            Wow she was just a tid bit drunk. “Hey Amy, what are you doing here? I thought you were going to Flash.”

            “Well we did but then we decided to come here but now I think we’re gonna go back because no one good is here.” Her speech was slurred “Excuse me Kay, there is a wonderful guy expecting me at the bar.”

            “Oh yeah?” I asked skeptically. “What’s his name?”

            “Jack Daniel’s of course!” She said as she walked out of the room.

            “Wow, so that was Amy your roommate?” Joe asked.

            “Yep, that’s her alright. Mind you, she not always drunk. As a matter of fact, she hardly ever gets drunk. Hmm. Interesting.” I replied.


            I had to admit it. Kayleigh was drunk. She had four Margaritas and two straight shots of Tequila. I shuddered just to think of how that felt. Ouch.

            “Okay, Kayleigh I think you’ve had enough to drink for tonight.” I said as I slowly pulled a beer away from her mouth.

            “Hey Joey?”

            “Yeah?” I asked looking at her.

            “You know, you’re really cute. Do you have a girlfriend?”

            “Um no I don’t have a girlfriend, why?”

            “Well because she’d probably get mad when I do what I’m about to do.” She replied. And before I knew what was happening, she kissed me. Oh god. I pushed her gently away and said, “Okay, you need to get home, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

            “Joe, can we stay for a few more minutes, there’s something I need to tell you.”

            “Sure, what is it hon?”

            “Well first I have to ask you if you’ve had any girlfriends since we broke up?”

            Well. That certainly wasn’t what I had expected. I guess I’ll answer truthfully to see where she was going with this. I now noticed that when she was drunk she had a really thick accent. You would easily be able to tell she was from New York.  “Well, yeah, Kayleigh, haven’t you had any boyfriends?” I asked slowly.

            “No I haven’t, and that’s what I wanna talk about.”

            Okay, why does she wanna talk to me about this? Oh, well I’ll just go along with it so she doesn’t get pissy.

            “Well you see, I’ve been a total mess ever since you left. I can’t stop thinking about you. And, I know it’s been three years, but you still mean the world to me. My life has been total hell. There hasn’t been a day gone by when I haven’t thought about you. How do you think it feels to see the man you loved with all your heart, and who also happened to break it by leaving because he was a coward and couldn’t commit to anything, every single day? And oh, no, not in person, no no no. I have to see your adorable face on TV, in the malls, in all the magazines I read. And I can’t help but pay attention because even after all this time I still love you. Funny, huh? Okay, I think we can go now.”  She stood up and headed for the door. “Oh yeah, Is Justin driving me back home?” she asked.

            Oh my god. I really hope that was the Tequila talking and not her. Wow. I was so shocked I just sat there and stared. Finally I regained my vocal abilities after she looked at me for about 30 seconds. “Um, no I’m gonna take you home, come on we can go.” I said as I stood.


            I got her back to her place around 3:00. Her bother looked like a zombie in front of the TV when I walked her into the living room. He turned his head toward us and a flash of recognition passed over his face. “Hey aren’t you that dude from that band? Um the Backstreet Boys or something?”

            Normally that would have offended me but in the current situation . . . “Actually, I’m in *NSYNC.”

            “Oh, yeah sorry. Hey how does my sister know you? You’re famous and well she’s . . . not.”

            “You don’t remember me do you?” I asked.

            “Um, I knew you?”

            “Yeah, I’m Joey. I’m the guy who Kayleigh moved down here with a few years ago.” I said as I guided her toward her room.

            “Wow! My sister dated a guy from *NSYNC. Wow, my friends would think that’s so awesome.”

            “Um, sorry Jim, I don’t think your friends would believe you.” I said laughing slightly.

            “Yeah your right. Hey is she drunk or something?” He called from the living room.

            “Just a little.” I called back. “Okay, lets get you ready for bed.” I sat her down on the bed and started to take off her shoes. As soon as they were off she crawled under the covers.

            She looked up at me with bleary eyes. “Come sleep with me Joe.” She said her voice hardly legible.

            “Hm. You don’t wanna sleep with me hon. I’m not a very good guy to wanna be with. Goodnight sweetheart, I gotta go.” I said. I leaned down and kissed her forehead.

            “Mmmm.” She sighed as she rolled over.


            As I was driving back to my house, I thought about everything she said. I wasn’t ruling out the fact that she only said that because she was drunk, but it had been my experience that if she were drunk enough, she’d tell you every aspect of her life. A large part of me wanted it to be true, because if truth be told, I felt basically the same way. It was only occasionally that I thought about her though. I mean, I did have other girlfriends but none of them compared to what I had with her and I think that’s one reason why those relationships didn’t go very well. But then there was that other 1/3 of me that was terrified. The part that was still afraid of commitment. Also, the part that made me leave her in the first place. To distract myself, I flipped on the radio.

            “You got it, you got it bad, when you’re on the phone, hang up and you call right back. You got it, you got it bad, if you miss a day without your friend, your whole life’s off track. Know you got it bad when you’re stuck in the house, you don’t wanna have fun, it’s all you think about. You got it bad when you’re out with someone but you keep on thinking ‘bout somebody else.”

            Oh yeah, that song really got my mind off the topic. Oh well, I guess there was no way to avoid it. Unless a better song came on the radio anyway. I tuned out Usher’s song until a new one came on the radio.

            “I'm doin' this tonight. You're prob'ly gonna start a fight. I know this can't be right, hey baby come on."

            Oh, just what I wanted to hear. Justin’s voice. I only hear the kid every day. Oh well, what can you do? I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car. I wandered through the house taking off items of clothing as I made my way to the bedroom. As I reached my bedroom I was in my boxers and I figured I could sleep in that. I got into bed a drifted off fairly quickly, with no dreams, thank the lord.


            Oh my god. I woke up with and ax buried between my eyes. No, it hurt so bad it felt like someone stabbed my head continually with a blunt plastic picnic fork. God, what the hell did I do last night anyway? Oh shit. Oh god oh god oh god. It hit me. I went to a club with the guys and I spilled my heart out to Joey. Fuck. Fuck! What the hell did I do that for? Well, maybe if you didn’t drink yourself into a haze, moron. As I was relaying the night in my head, a thought hit me and I let out a moan. I had asked him to sleep with me. Great. Wonder what this was gonna do for communications. I got out of bed slowly and walked to the adjoining bathroom. I took about 4 Tylenol and made my way out into the kitchen. I looked blearily at the figure sitting at the table and my heart stopped beating. Joey.

            He looked up and smiled, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. “You look . . . dead. Coffee?” He asked.

            “Mmmm . . . sure.” I said sitting down. Wow, my vocal abilities impressed me. “Where’s Jim?”

            “Watching TV. You slept a long time. It’s noon.”

            “Oh, crap, I have to go to class.” I said starting to stand up. “Ugh, no I don’t” I corrected as I stood up and felt the plastic fork go deeper.

            Joe turned around from the counter with a cup of coffee in hand and said, “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Um, not to get you to think about the unpleasantness of last night, but, you said some, uh, interesting things last night.”

            “Oh yeah. That. Look, I don’t know half of what I said but I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean it. I tend to say some weird crap when I’m drunk.”

            “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” He said chuckling, “But I was just checking.”

            There was a look in his eyes that I couldn’t quite figure out. I faintly wondered what time he’d gotten here this morning. Oh well.    

            “Hey listen,” he said breaking the silence, “The guys and I are out of here in about 3 days and this is our month where we get to bring people on tour. So, I was wondering if you’d like to see what tour life is like.”

            Wow. That came from nowhere. But I put on a smile regardless and replied, “Yeah, that sounds great.”

            His entire face lit up with a smile. “Great, I’ll give you all the information later when your mind is functioning better. By the way, great hair.” I instinctively reached up to my hair where I felt it messed up and going every which way.

            “Gee, thanks.” I said laughing a little.

            We finished our coffee in silence. But not a bad silence, a comfortable silence. After he was done he looked at his watch and said, “Hey listen, I have to go to a photo shoot, but I’ll call you later with all the information for the tour. I gotta get some stuff straightened out with our manager like hotels and stuff but it should all be worked out by tonight.”

            “Alright.” I said standing up. I walked him out to the door. When I opened it sun came flooding to my eyes. “Ouch.”  I said backing up so he could get out the door.

            “Hey, you might wanna keep the shades drawn for today. Just a little tip from someone who’s experienced with that kind of thing.” He said laughing. 

            “Hey, thanks.” I said laughing too.

            “Bye” he turned and called as he opened his car door. I smiled and shut the door. I wonder what this little invitation meant. Hmmm.



Chapter Five


            Jim was gone. He left yesterday. I was wringing my hands nervously. Joey was gonna be here in about half an hour, well all of them were actually, and I was nervous as hell. Why in god’s name did I agree to do this? Gee, maybe because you’re head over heels in love with the guy who just happened to invite you on the road for two months, I thought to myself sarcastically. I was really bored and needed something to distract myself, so I turned on the TV. I flipped through a bunch of channels and settled on MTV.

            “*NSYNC’s new single off of their red hot album, “No Strings Attached”, is said to be “It’s Gonna Be Me.” I heard John Norris say. Oh an *NSYNC special, ah what the hell. I decided to watch it. No, I wasn’t going to watch it; I clicked off the TV as JC was about to say something. Music. I was gonna put on some music. I flipped on my stereo.

            “Can we go back to the days our love was strong? Can you tell me how a perfect love goes wrong? Can somebody tell me how to get things back the way they used to be? Oh God give me a reason, I’m down on bended knee.”

            Oh my god I haven’t heard this song in so long. I loved this song so much. I sang along to the music. I was just standing in the middle of the room belting it out, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I whipped around with a loud gasp.

            “You know, Lance would probably sign you in his firm, you’ve got a great voice.” Joe said.

            “Oh my god,” I let out a big sigh with my hand over my heart. “Don’t ever do that to me again, you scared me to death! Hey, really?” I added as an afterthought.

            He just laughed and said, “Come on the guys are waiting in the bus. I’ll grab your stuff.”

            “Um, you might want me to take one, they’re really heavy and there are two of them.”

            He picked them up effortlessly. Well. “Oh, believe me this is nothing compared to me and the guys.” He said heading for the door.

            “Oh, um, I see.” I said as I shut the door behind me. “God.” I said catching sight of the tour bus. It was huge. We walked over and Joey managed to open the door for me through all the luggage. Well, I’d have to give him props later.

            “Hey Kayleigh. Welcome to our humble abode.” Justin said from his position on the couch. “Aw come on Jayce what the hell was that you could have ran Chris of the road but you dodged him and crashed yourself? Great playing skills.” I glanced at the TV where JC and Chris were playing some sort of racing game. Lance was in a little booth playing with his laptop. He looked up briefly.

            “Hey.” He said then went back to tapping on the keyboard.


            “Come on I’ll show you where you get to sleep while we’re on the bus.” Joey said motioning for me to follow him to the back of the bus. We entered a narrow hallway type thing with three bunks on top of each other on either side. “It’s a good thing we have six bunks otherwise you’d be on the couch. This is your bunk.” He said pointing to the middle bunk on the right side. “You get to sleep under Chris and above Justin.”

            “Wow, I get to live with five males for two months. What an experience this is gonna be. Hey, you never know, maybe some of my feminine habits will rub off on you guys and you won’t live like savages anymore.” I said glancing at all the discarded clothes and other various objects thrown everywhere.

            “Hey . . . that wasn’t very nice, but, erm, I think you’re right.” He said glancing around and laughing. We walked back into the “living room” and sat on the couch next to Justin.

            “Hey Kayleigh . . .” Chris said slowly from the floor where he was watching JC struggle with one of the boards.

            “Hey Chris . . .” I said slowly back.

            “Are you any good at Nintendo games? Justin always beats me and I always beat Joey, Lance, and JC so I’m looking for someone where I can have some sort of equality.”

            “I’m sorry Chris but if I went against you in a Nintendo game I would kick your ass.” I said in a superior voice.

            “Oh yeah?” He said slyly turning toward me. “Wanna prove it?”

            I laughed. “If you’re man enough for it.”

            “Alright! Here give me that before you hurt yourself.” He said pulling the controller out of JC’s hand. 

            “Hey, you just made me lose!” JC said turning toward Chris.

            “Oh no I didn’t you were losing before I interfered.” He said laughing.

            JC ran a hand thorough his hair. “Yeah I guess you’re right, I do suck.” He laughed too.

            “So How you doing? I haven’t seen you in god knows how long and I didn’t really get to see you at the club the other night.” JC asked as he turned on the floor to face me.

            “I’ve been doing pretty good actually.” I said smiling at his polite gesture.

            “Well that’s good. How old are you now anyway?”


            He nodded and glanced at Justin who looked like he was having a conversation with himself. He was silently moving his mouth and staring at the wall.

            “What the hell are you doing?” Chris asked. Guess he noticed too.

            “Huh?” Justin asked as he tore his eyes away from the wall to look at Chris.

            “I asked what you were doing. It looked like you were trying to talk to the wall.”

            “Oh, I was practicing my speech.”

            “What speech?” Joey asked.

            “Duh, I have to do that thing for . . . Disney . . . Nickelodeon . . . ABC Family . . . um, one of those.” He said.

            “Oh right.”

            “Hey Kayleigh, how would you like to be my “special friend” on a special I’m doing with MTV in a few weeks?” Justin turned toward me.

            “Um . . . I . . . uh . . .”

            “What she’s trying to say is that she’s extremely camera shy.” Joey spoke up. Damn him. I could have handled that situation.

            “Well then we’re just going to have to cure that wont we? I already told them you were coming.” Justin said.

            “Are you sure Justin? One time Kayleigh was asked to say something for the news and she almost passed out.” Joe said laughing. Just to spite him I spoke up.

            “Well, I’m willing to give it another try Justin.” Damnit. This is all Joey’s fault.

            “Cool.” He smiled.


            Two hours later we got to the first hotel. We each only had to bring enough stuff to last us a few days. We weren’t going to be there for long. It amazed me how many girls swore at me when I got off the bus with the guys. It amazed me just how many girls knew they were staying there. I think I got called a skanky bitch 5 times from the parking lot to the main door.

            “Hey, uh sorry about that.” Lance laughed as we headed in the door. “These girls think that any female other than them that hangs out with us should be shot.” He laughed again.

            “Well I better get used to it.” I laughed as well. We stopped in a corner of the lobby and Lance began explaining something.

            “Okay guys, we could only get three hotel rooms here so were gonna have to double up. But don’t worry,” he said glancing at me. “The rooms have two bedrooms each. Okay guys who has the paper?” To me he added, “We write numbers on a piece of paper and whoever had matching numbers stays together for every hotel where we have to share. It evens out now because we have six instead of five.” Five minutes later the rooms were as follows: Lance and Chris, Joey and JC, and me and Justin. Well, for two months I got to basically live with Justin. Joy of joys. He wasn’t a bad kid and I probably would have felt the same way about any one of them but it was probably just the fact that he was younger than I was that threw me off a little. Well, at least we didn’t have to sleep in the same room. That would have just been weird.

            We walked over toward the elevators and pressed the ‘up’ button.

            “Hey, which floor are we on?” I asked curiously.

            “34th. Out of 35.” JC said flashing a grin at me. It’s great hangin’ out with “celebrities”, huh?”

            “It is pretty sweet.” I said smiling as well.

            Lance handed each of us a key when we got on the elevator. Justin and I had room 348. When we got up to the floor, I immediately found our door and walked in. It was gorgeous. The carpets were deep green and the walls were and off-white color. To the left in the main room was a wraparound leather couch, in front of which was a glass coffee table. In front of those, was a HUGE TV. And also a great view of the city. To the left, was a bar. Not a mini-bar, but an actual bar. There was also a bookcase in the corner and a desk to the right. Also to the right were two open doors, one the bathroom with it’s own Jacuzzi.   The other door was the kitchen. And directly in front of us were two more doors, which were the bedrooms. I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I walked over the left door in front of us and called, “This room is mine.”

          I walked into the room and started slowly taking things out of my suitcase and wondering what the next two months would bring. Dear God help me.


Chapter Six


                I heard a soft knock on the door and turned around and saw Justin leaning on the doorframe.

            “Can I come in?” he asked. He had this really intense look on his face.

            “Sure.” I replied shrugging my shoulders.

            He sat down in a chair across from the bed and leaned forward slightly and said, “I need to ask you a serious question.”

            “Okay.” I said slowly.

            “Okay,” he took a breath. “Well, what bra size do you wear?”

            I tuned quickly round and stared at him. Then he burst out laughing. “I’m just kidding!” He said holding up his hands.

            “Ugh,” I said and picked up the nearest thing and flung it at him, which I realized too late that it was a bra. Crap.

            “Hey thanks!” He said catching it and darting out the door.

            “Justin get back here!” I said running after him. I spent 10 minutes chasing him around the kitchen and living room before I tackled him onto the couch and started wrestling to get the bra out of his hand.

            “Um, guys, what the hell are you doing? Justin why are you holding a bra?”

            We both looked up quickly and saw Chris standing in the doorway.

            I grabbed the bra out of his hand and ran back into my room to put it away.  I came back out and Justin was stammering at Chris who had this lopsided grin on his face.

            “Well, you see, we, uh . . .”

            “Alright I won’t ask. We’re gonna be living in about 10 minutes, so meet us down in the parking lot.” He said and then left still grinning.

            “You know, I never did get to look at the size.” Justin said looking at me.

            I gave him the look of death then hit him with the couch pillow.

            “Hey, that’s not nice.”

            “You’re point being?” I asked smiling sweetly. I stood up and walked back into my room preparing to get changed. Except a little problem arose when I walked in. “Geez, you’re like a lost puppy dog. I have to get changed.” I said looking back at Justin as he followed me into the room.

            “I’m not leaving until you answer my previous question.” He said crossing his arms and trying not to smile.

            “Justin dear, you really don’t expect me to tell you my bra size do you?”

            “Well . . . no. But if I guess it will you tell me? And I’ll only give myself 3 tries!”

            “Ugh, if I play your little game will you leave so I can get changed?”

            “Oh what you have a problem changing in front of guys?” I raised my eyebrow at him and he said “Alright fine I’ll leave. Okay . . . 34B?”




            Okay . . . 32C?”

            “Good job, now leave.” 

            “I got it right? Seriously?” He asked as his face lit up into a smile.

            “Yeah, want a prize? Now get out.” I said laughing pointing toward the door.



            3 hours later Justin and I were sitting back in out hotel room watching TV. We’d just gotten back from lunch with the rest of the guys and they didn’t have anything to do the rest of that day because it was what they referred to a “travel day.”

            “Kayleigh, can I ask you something?”

            “It’s not gonna be like the bra size incident is it?” I asked skeptically.

            “No, nothing like that, it’s kinda personal and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, I was just curious.” He replied.

            “Well then, shoot.”

            “Well, why did you and Joey break up? I mean I think he told JC and Chris because they knew you or whatever but Lance and I had no idea why. And we were wondering who he broke up with and why because he didn’t seem to get over it for about a year so we just assumed that she did something to him. I mean, I don’t know if you’re the same girl but it seems likely to me.” He said slowly eyes never leaving the TV screen.

            I hesitated before answering. “Well, he spent a weekend in Orlando doing stuff with you guys and he was due to be home. So I was driving back from my classes figuring I’d be seeing him in, whatever 20 minutes. When I got to the apartment his car wasn’t there and I figured he wasn’t back yet or went out to get something. When I walked in I found a rose in the kitchen with a note with it. I figured it was gonna be a little surprise from him. Well, it was a big surprise. It was a note saying that you guys had found a manager and he was leaving for Europe. He told me not to come after him because he wasn’t coming back. He also said he didn’t know where I wanted to take the relationship but wherever it was, he wasn’t ready.” I took a deep breath a looked at Justin who had his mouth open.

            “He just took off without giving a good reason or saying goodbye?” He asked sounding slightly mad. I nodded. “Well. That was certainly not what I expected.”

            “Yeah me neither.” I replied sarcastically. I couldn’t believe I had just revealed the entire story to Justin when I hadn’t even told my own mother the whole story. Justin just seemed like the kind of person that you could talk to and he’d really listen to what you had to say. I hoped Justin and I could become good friends. He was a good person. After a few minutes Chris came over with the Nintendo demanding that we play a game now to see who was, as he put it, “superior in the art of gaming.”

            He won 5 games. I won 7. Haha on him.

            “I demand a rematch!” Chris exclaimed.

            “Oh my god, she beat you fair and square Chris, give it up.” Justin said laughing. I couldn’t help but smiling. Having a 16-year-old brother really did come in handy.

            “I am going to win one of these tournaments when we’re on the road, I won’t sleep until I do.” Chris said in exaggerated frustration. “Well I’m going shopping in a few minutes, either of you wanna come?”

            “Nah,” I replied, “I’m too tired.”

            “Me neither Chris, I think I’m gonna go to bed early tonight.” Justin added.

            Chris shrugged and said, “Alright, you don’t know what you’re missing.” And packed up his stuff and left. 

            Justin and I just watched movies till about 10 and then we went to bed. As I was about to fall asleep a single thought crossed my mind: What an interesting time I’m gonna have with these guys.


 Chapter Seven


            Justin woke me up the next morning at 6:00 by running in and continuously jumping on the end of my bed. I strongly believed I was going to kill this kid before the two months was up.

                 “Justin, it’s six in the morning what the hell do you want?” I said groggily as he got off the bed.

            “We have a photo shoot at seven and I know how long girls take to get ready. And you better get used to waking up this early; this is about the normal time we have to wake up every day. You’d be surprised how many separate interviews and photo shoots we have to go to every day.”

            “Great.” I murmured as I pulled myself out of bed.

            “I’ll let you have the shower first as long as you don’t use all the hot water.”

            “Thanks.” I said yawning and groping in my bags for all my bathroom necessities. I took a quick shower and brushed my teeth and went back in my room to get ready. As I was walking back to my room Justin called, “Hey pick out something hot to wear, we want to start a rumor that I have a girlfriend so everyone will get off my back about the whole Britney thing. So I figure if I show up and talk to you a lot it’ll be mentioned and everyone will stop asking me about Britney.”

            “Alright whatever.” I called back as I walked into my room. I picked out a pair of tight jeans and a tank top to wear; it was going to be mildly warm that day. About a half-hour later we were all in a big limo on our way to some magazine headquarters for a photo shoot and interview. My tour life with *NSYNC had officially started. Joy of Joys.


            About four weeks had passed since I first went on the road with the guys. I was in constant contact with Amy and my mom. Justin and I had also become great friends. Usually when there was nothing to do at night when their schedule was fairly empty, we stayed up for hours just talking. We spent the most time together because we usually had to share a room. There was about three weeks left in my little excursion with the band.

            They had a concert in an hour and after that we were all going out to a nearby club.  This was a usual event. About once a week we all went out to a club, it was dark and no one could really see them well so we didn’t have many problems.

            I was sitting backstage watching with amusement as Chris was chasing Justin around trying to get him to give back the shoes he stole from him. It was actually pretty funny.

            An hour later they were onstage and I was sitting in one of their dressing rooms reading. I was reading “The Shining” by Stephen King and it was freaking me out so I put it down and just let my mind wander. Last week was my MTV appearance with Justin. I thought I was going to die until I realized I would only have to be on TV for a total of 20 minutes. It went smoothly and without much stage fright on my part. Being next to Justin who was so calm and relaxed made it a little easier.

            Before I knew it the concert was over and we were in the car on our way to the club. I wasn’t sure of the name of the club, but it didn’t really matter to me. All I wanted to do tonight was have fun, and maybe get a little drunk.


            What I thought was going to be a “little drunk” turned out to be a lot drunk. Justin and I were both plastered by 12:30.

            “Hey why don’t you guys call for a taxi and go back to the hotel, you both look like you could use a shower and some sleep.” JC said over the music.

            “Now why would we wanna do a thing like that Jayce?” Justin replied trying unsuccessfully to focus on JC.  “We’re having so much fun.” He speech was extremely slurred.

            “Justin, please, just go back to the hotel. For me?” JC asked again.

            “We will JC,” I said, “Come on Justin let’s go.” Wow, my speech was also extremely slurred.

            I grabbed Justin’s arm and we worked our way out toward the doors to go hail a taxi. I was trying to remember how many drinks I had, but it was impossible. I doubted I would even remember tonight when I woke up in the morning.


            When I woke up I felt strong arms wrapped around me. I smiled to myself, I was right. I didn’t remember last night at all. I had no idea who had their arms wrapped around me, and I didn’t want to open my eyes to see. I wanted to savor every moment of this. This was the first time in three years I was with a guy other than Joey. I felt so good.

            I felt whoever was next to me had boxers on, but unlike him, I wasn’t wearing anything at all. I gave a content sigh and felt my mystery man stir a little.

            “What the . . .?” I heard a familiar voice say. Oh my god, is that voice who I though it was?

            I opened my eyes and saw someone looking at me and waited for my eyes to focus. When they did my stomach lurched.


            No. Oh go no. Our eyes widened simultaneously and we leapt out of the bed, on opposite sides. I dragged the sheets I was under with me so I could cover up since I had no idea where my clothes were.

            “We didn’t . . . I mean . . . we couldn’t have . . .” Justin stammered looking at me.

            I looked at the night table next to the bed. “Justin . . . we did.” I said picking up a condom wrapper.

            “Well . . . at least we were safe about it . . ., ” he said giving a choked laugh.

            “Um, I’m gonna go get changed . . .” I said picking up my bag, still holding the sheet around me.  

            “Yeah, okay. Um, I gotta make some coffee, my head kills. Want any?”

            “Yeah.” I said walking toward the bathroom.

            After I got changed and brushed my teeth and ala that, I went into the main room. Justin was sitting at the kitchen table twirling a spoon in his coffee. He looked up as I entered the room. “I poured you a cup.” He said pointing at the seat across from him.

            “Thanks.” I said sitting down. We spent a few moments in awkward silence until I finally cracked. “It’s too quiet.” I said looking around. There was a small radio sitting on the counter near me so I reached over and switched it on.

            “Let’s talk about sex baby, let’s talk about you and me-”

            “Alright, that enough of that station. “ I said tuning it to a different station.

            “Doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well.”

            I angrily switched the station to a different one.

            “Saw me bangin’ on the sofa. Wasn’t me.”

            I turned the radio off quickly and exclaimed, “Oh my god, does everything have to be about sex now!?”

            “I really think we need to talk about this before we get around the guys.” Justin said softly. “I don’t wanna be, like, awkward around them or anything.”

            “Alright, I will wipe this from my memory if you will. There’s no need to dwell on it, we don’t remember it and we used protection. So there’s no worries there.”

            “Alright, I’ll forget about it. And we can not tell the guys.” He said looking up at me.

            “Oh, no, of course not.” I replied quickly. “This is strictly between you and me.”