Chapter 18

“It’s just those rainy days

Spend a lifetime trying to wash them away.”

                             -“Rainy Dayz,” Mary J. Blige ft. Ja Rule


                The elevator doors slid shut, and silence surrounded the two inside. JC stepped away from Bobbie, who was staring at him nervously. He regarded her quietly as she attempted to explain Hannah’s words.

            “Jace, I know you’re wondering what she meant by that…”

            “Yeah, you’re damn right I’m wondering. Hannah wanted her notebook of poetry back. Tell me the truth, Bobbie, is her notebook the same notebook you showed me at Raphael’s?” As his eyes narrowed questioningly at her, he hoped that she would say no; that Hannah had been talking about a completely different notebook.

            Bobbie didn’t answer him immediately, and he felt his pulse quicken. He pushed the emergency stop button, halting the movement of the elevator.

            “The truth. Now,” JC demanded.

            “Well, honey, don’t get mad or anythi-”

            “I’m already mad! Tell me the truth. Did you lie to me?” He wasn’t an idiot. Her reaction and stalling already incriminated her. God, this is the person I’m supposed to be in love with?

            She reached out to grasp his hand but he shook her grip off.

            “All those poems were Hannah’s, weren’t they? You took them and passed them off as your own so I wouldn’t break up with you!” He gave a harsh laugh. “And I’m such a gullible idiot that I fell for it!”

            “Jace, sweetie, even though I didn’t write them doesn’t mean I don’t love you!” Bobbie entreated. “I was just so worried that you didn’t love me anymore, and I wanted to be with you so bad. I didn’t want to lie, but I had to. The poems made you so happy. What’s wrong with that? I made you happy.”

            He stared at her, disgusted. “What kind of a defense is that? Your lies made me happy, so you kept lying? That’s not love, Bobbie. That’s deceit. It’s a game, not love.”

            She kept trying to convince him of her love, but he ignored her specious reasoning. He had trapped himself in their relationship for painful, deluded weeks, all because of those heartfelt poems. He had been completely ready to break everything off, and he had been happy, too. Worse, he was so ready to believe that she was actually capable of being sincere and deep. She had probably been laughing at him the entire time.

            “Stop talking,” he interrupted her. “Just shut up for once in your life.”

            Bobbie stopped out of shock. “Jace, I can’t believe you’re being so mean to me.”

            “Well, I can’t believe you lied to me, the person you’re supposed to be in love with. And you also lied to Hannah, who’s supposed to be your friend.”

            “I do love you! And she is my friend. She didn’t know about anything, JC.”

            “No, at least she’s honest when she takes me for a fool. I can’t say the same for you, though.”

            “Stop insulting me,” she ordered. “You’re being a real jerk.”

            “Oh, I am? Then let me be an asshole, because you’re obviously not getting the point,” he said sardonically. “This relationship is over. You’re not coming to the Grammy’s. In fact, we’re not going to see each other ever again, because if we do, I don’t think I’ll be able to control myself.”

            He shoved the emergency button again, and the elevator groaned into motion. They arrived at his floor, and she followed him, pleading tearfully, as he stalked to his room.

            Unlocking the door, he swung it open and motioned her inside. “Get your stuff and leave.”

            Perhaps she finally realized that he was mad beyond reason, because she complied without arguing. He watched dispassionately as she packed her clothes and retrieved her toiletries. Then she dug into her purse and found the notebook that had caused all this trouble in the first place.

            “Here,” she snapped, almost throwing the notebook at him. “Take the damn thing if you like it so much.”

            He caught it easily and remained silent as she moved past him angrily.

            “And by the way, I only told you what you were so willing to believe,” she said, determined to get the last word in.

            He slammed the door shut behind her. Then he kicked it for good measure.

            Bobbie had been right in some respects. He had been only too eager to think someone had written those poems for him. He had been too willing to be deceived. Looking back now, her lies had been obvious. She had stuttered and looked uncomfortable during dinner, and whenever he had mentioned the notebook. The clues were right in front of him, and he had blinded himself.

            He sat down on the foot of the bed, staring at the simple notebook that had brought so much strife. Maybe I was too stupid to think that I actually deserve another person’s love. I wanted it, so I convinced myself that it was right. I brought this on myself.


*                      *                      *


            Hannah was sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor of her hotel room, diligently rubbing the resin off the cello bow and strings. The television was on in the background, but she paid no attention to the talk show.

            A quick knock fell on her door, and she laid the cello back in its case. It was probably Bobbie coming to return the notebook.

            A tall, bulky figure immediately filled her field of vision as she opened the door.

            “Dre! What are you doing here?” she asked, surprised at seeing Josh’s bodyguard standing in front of her. “I didn’t lose my cello this time, I’m sure of that.”

            He smiled and held out her notebook. “Jace said this was yours.”

            “Oh. Thank you.” She hadn’t known that Bobbie had showed Josh her notebook. She didn’t know whether to feel self-conscious because he had seen her thoughts or pleased because Bobbie had wanted to share them.

            “I thought Bobbie was going to give it back to me,” she said to Dre, explaining her initial puzzlement at seeing him.

            He frowned suddenly. “Bobbie left. She went to the airport a half hour ago.”

            “Why’d she leave so suddenly?”

            “There was a lover’s spat. But I think this is the last one.”


            “I have to head back up now,” he said, beginning to walk away. “Remember, rehearsal at six.”

            “I won’t forget. Thanks again,” she called after him before shutting the door.

            She wondered what happened between Josh and Bobbie to send her flying back to California.  And more importantly, why didn’t Josh give the notebook back himself?


*                      *                      *


            Everyone was subdued that night at rehearsals. The orchestra was tired because of all the extra practices lately, due to the approaching night of the Grammy’s. Sondheim was getting easily annoyed at nervous mistakes the musicians or the singers made. The guys in the band were respectful of their friend’s emotions and had taken his anger to be their own.

            As Sondheim called a much needed fifteen-minute break, everyone but JC gathered together.

            “Man, someone needs to crack a joke because I’m getting more and more depressed,” Chris whined, waving at the entire room of blank and tired faces.

            “Just go take your Prozac, old-timer, and you’ll feel better,” Justin suggested. He chuckled half-heartedly at his own joke, but he knew it was a forced one.

            “I can’t believe Bobbie did that,” Lance said, voicing everyone’s opinion. “Poor Jace.”

            “I don’t see why he’s still so upset about it,” Joey commented. “If Bobbie’s such a bitch, then he shouldn’t let her bother him.”

            His honesty was refreshing, but everyone knew it wasn’t as simple as that.

            “Where did he go, anyway?” Justin asked, looking around and seeing that his friend had disappeared.

            “Maybe to get some air. Who knows? He probably wants to be alone right now,” Lance said sensibly.

            “I need to get out of here!” Chris burst out. “This room is strangling me.”

            “I’m with you, man,” Joey agreed. Lance nodded too, and the three of them left to stretch their legs and get a drink.

            Justin made his way down through the chairs in the relatively empty audience and sat next to Lillian, who was taking a nap in her seat.

            He smiled softly, remembering how he’d kept her up all night on the phone. No more TV Land for her. He slid an arm around her and pulled her closer to him, letting her rest on his shoulder.


*                      *                      *


            Hannah walked silently through the small hallway, wondering how often Josh escaped to the dark music room. This time though, she wasn’t going to simply listen passively and hope he would feel better. She was going to break their agreement and help him somehow.

            She stopped outside of the room and cracked the old door open. Just like last time it was completely dark inside, and just like last time Josh was playing a sad, mournful song on the piano.

            She took a calming breath and then crept into the room. He didn’t see her because his eyes were closed and his head was bent down attentively near the keyboard.

            Hannah made her way over beside the piano bench he was sitting on and stood quietly as he played on, unaware of someone else in the room less than two feet away from him.

            JC played the closing notes of the song gracefully, and they echoed softly before fading away.

            “What song is that?” a voice said from beside him.

            He spun around, startled. When had someone come in? How did they know I was here? His eyes focused on the other person and through the dark he could see it was Hannah.

            “What are you doing here?” he asked, yanking the cover over the keyboard and feeling exposed.

            “I could ask the same of you,” she answered softly.

            “I’m just letting off some steam.”

            He stood up and strode over to the door. Hannah tensed, scared that he would open it and demand that she leave him alone. But all he did was turn the lights on. She blinked at the sudden brightness.

            “That was a nice song. What is it called?” she asked again.

            “I wrote it. It doesn’t have a name yet.”

            “I like it,” she commented, smiling at him as he sat back down on the bench. She sat down beside him, but didn’t venture too close.

            “Thanks,” he replied, feeling pleased even though he didn’t want to. He tried to summon up some anger at her intrusion, but the effort was weak. As much as he wanted to deny it, he needed companionship and she was the only one who had approached him.

            “Does it have lyrics?”

            “No, I didn’t write any yet.” He regarded her face closely, and under his gaze she colored and looked down at her lap.

            “So I guess we’re allowed to speak to each other now.”

            She met his eyes uncomfortably. “Yeah, I suppose so.” Being assertive wasn’t as simple as she thought it would be. It was easier to just argue with him.

            “What happened with Bobbie?” she asked, hoping he wouldn’t become removed at the question.

            He shook his head. “She wasn’t the person I thought she was.”

            “Oh. Are you…okay…now?”

            “Yeah. I feel a lot better.”

            “That’s good,” she said brightly.

            JC stole another glance at her as she went back to staring at her lap, obviously searching for something to say. If the circumstances weren’t so depressing, he would have laughed at the two of them. Is being civil really so hard for us?

            He didn’t realize that she was simply intimidated by him.

            “We’re acting like twelve-year-olds,” he finally remarked after she didn’t say anything for a while.

            She laughed softly. “Yeah, we are. But then again, I don’t think you ever grew out of that stage in the first place.”

            “Oh, ha-ha. Like you’re the most mature person here.”

            “Probably,” she deadpanned with a shrug.

            He couldn’t help but smile. “So are you excited about the Grammy performance?”

            “I don’t know. I guess I am,” she said thoughtfully. “But what I feel doesn’t matter. I won’t be singing that night. How are you guys holding up?”

            “Surprisingly well. I just want to show everyone that we’re good enough, you know? It’s like a vendetta of mine, to prove to all those critics that we actually have talent. And I want people to know that NSYNC isn’t just Justin with four backup singers.”

            She nodded. “Then show them. Work hard at it, and they’ll see.”

            “Working hard isn’t always enough, Brat.”

            Hannah ignored the nickname. “Well, sometimes it can make a difference. When I started the cello, I had no natural talent whatsoever. And I still don’t. I got this far through determination.”

            “And stubbornness,” JC added. He knew just how stubborn she could be.

            “And stubbornness,” she admitted wryly.

            He glanced at his watch. “We should go back now. The break’s almost over.”

            “Okay. But Josh-”

            He paused, already at the door.

            “Just remember that I’m here, okay?”

            His blue eyes regarded her seriously for a moment before he nodded. “I never forget that you’re here.”

            She smiled, ridiculously happy at his words, and stood to follow him back to the auditorium.

            The amazing thing for JC was that he found himself smiling like a fool back at her. Maybe we do have a chance, after all.


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