He’d decided to begin to make up for his big mouth that day, so he showed her around town. As it turned out, in the three months she’d been there, she’d had no time to see the sights. Always working, extra shifts as well, and an occasional visit to the gym to relieve stress, as she’d put it. Other than that, she was at home sleeping. Not really a good way to get to know the city inside and out.

He knew he’d bitten off more than he could chew the moment they pulled out of the diner’s parking lot. Right away, she scowled at his taste in music.

“You like that pop junk?” she’d asked.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing...” she trailed off. “If you’ve just had a lobotomy..”

“Well, then consider me lobotomized. It’s my life’s work.”

“Come again?” she asked, eyeing him a bit more carefully.

“Ever hear of the Backstreet Boys?”

Her eyes narrowed a bit, studying him for mere seconds before letting out a loud groan. “Oh, no... you’re one of them, aren’t you?”

“In the flesh,” he grinned. “AJ McLean, at your service.”

“Great, just great,” she slumped back in the seat. “If we get mauled ‘cause of you today...”

“No one’s gonna ‘maul’ us,” he assured her.

“You better pray they don’t,” she told him, “I’ll hurt you myself if that happens.”

The afternoon had gone pretty well, by AJ’s standards. They’d had a long, interesting walk, talking about whatever came to mind. It was then he learned there was much more to this feisty ex-waitress than he’d previously thought.

“So you used that as an excuse to leave home?”

“Yeah. I didn’t think I’d get accepted, but between the time I’d applied and the time I’d gotten the acceptance letter, some things happened that made me realize I couldn’t stay there anymore. So I left with the excuse of going to school down here, but not with the intention to.”

“Why didn’t you intend to?”

“Money issues you wouldn’t know about,” she sighed, her brown eyes clouding over in disappointment. Once she saw the saddened look in AJ’s eyes however, she grinned teasingly. “And now with my waitressing career coming to an abrupt end...”

“I swear, woman, you’re gonna be the death of me!” AJ exclaimed, throwing his hands dramatically in the air as she burst into a fit of laughter.

“Hey, if anything, this is your fault.”

“MY fault?!”

“You were the persistent one, not me. I was content to walk home, but NO, big bad pop star over here had to throw a damn fit to get his way...”

“Geez, Sandra,” AJ groaned. “You haven’t shut up about that all night..”

“You know you like it,” she smiled mischeviously at him.

AJ wasn’t gonna lie, despite the scowl he shot her way. She was like a breath of fresh air. In a group of people who kissed his ass constantly, with the exception of those who really knew him, he was glad to have a new face around that was nothing but herself in front of him, despite knowing who he was.

After having dinner (his treat), they continued their trek throughout the city. She turned out to be a big fan of walking, so he usually ended up ditching his car somewhere and walking with her. While they walked, he was surprised at how very few people actually went up to them once he was recognized. One thing about the fans that he loved was their respect for his privacy; it was one of those very rare cases that he adored.

He was also surprised at how well his new friend handled the instances. She’d smile and casually step aside, letting the fans have all the room they wanted around him while she waited leaning up against a wall or sitting at an empty bench nearby, or more often than not involving herself in their conversations.

“Are you his girlfriend?” one young girl had asked her.

Sandra’s eyes had grown wide for a moment, but she laughed it off. “Hardly. I’d say he can’t stand me.”

The girl looked back at AJ, who then replied. “We have a love/hate relationship, Sweetie.”

“Uh huh,” Sandra replied, not wanting to be outdone by AJ. “Love to hate eachother.”

The two laughed after the young girl and her friends had parted ways with them. “You’re awful,” AJ told her as they resumed their walk.

“Like you’re any sort of saint,” she pointed out.

“I am, actually,” he laughed, but stopped short when he saw the uncomfortable expression on her face as she stared out ahead of them.

“San?” he asked, following her gaze, yet seeing nothing out of the ordinary. The sun was nearly set, and he thought for a moment maybe she was seeing something far into the darkness he couldn’t make out.

“Look at that,” she sighed, signaling a couple walking hand in hand ahead of them.

“I’d say they look cute,” he said softly. “Why do you look so disturbed by that?”

“Not ‘them,’” she sighed. “Him. I can’t stand that type...”

“Type?” AJ asked, confused.

“Blond, blue eyes. That ‘I think I’m gorgeous’ smirk. Classic All-American boy,” she groaned. “I really, REALLY can’t stand that.”

“Is that so?” AJ asked, hiding a grin.

She nodded, and the idea all but hit him in the face.

‘This is gonna be great,’ he thought as they resumed their walk. ‘So freaking priceless!’

- - - - - - -

“You surprised me.”


“I really had a great time.”

“C’mon, San,” AJ grinned. “I’m not all that bad.”

They were at Sandra’s doorstep, a little after midnight. Both were extremely exhausted after their long day together, yet content with the friendship that had all but snuck up on them. Before they knew it, they were carrying on like lifelong friends. The feeling was one neither of them could admit to feeling all the time.

“Well,” Sandra said then. “I guess this is goodnight. Thanks again, man. You really got my mind off of things.”

“Ah, shit,” AJ cursed. “I almost forgot.”

“Forgot what?” Sandra asked, watching him as he dug in his back pocket and produced a card.

“Your new job,” he announced as he handed her the card. “Monday at nine. I’ll meet you there.”

“My new... AJ, what is this?”

He ignored her stammered questions and pulled her into a hug. “You’re a great person, San,” he whispered. “Thanks for today. I’ll call you tomorrow, all right?”

He pulled away and she nodded, dumbfounded. “Yeah... sure. Tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, kid,” he grinned.

“’Night, AJ,” she smiled back. Inside her apartment, she leaned against the door and sighed heavily.

“Well, I’ll be damned...” she trailed off as she studied the card he’d given her. “KBNHA... wonder what this is?”

Exhaustion overtook her and ordered her to the nearest bed before she could ponder about the card, KBNHA, or anything else that night.

[chapter list | chapter four]