She didn’t care that she was lost, she didn’t care about how she’d find everyone later on. The only thing on her mind at that moment was to get far, far away from the chaos in the dressing room, and fast. She somehow managed to find the darkest, coldest, most secluded area in the stadium. Reaching the farthest corner, she sank down to the floor, bringing her knees up to her chin.
That had to be the single most terrifying experience she had had in her life. Granted, she’d had guy problems before, but they all seemed to have gotten the message the first time she warned them, and there weren’t many guys that bothered her, anyway.
“You don’t know what he’s like. This business can make people do some crazy stuff.” Tommy’s words echoed in her mind, sending a shiver down her spine. He’d been right. She didn’t know what he was like, yet she thought she could reason with him as if she’d known him for years. Cursing herself, she buried her face in her arms and sobbed.
She heard a door swing open and things falling to the floor after long minutes of complete silence, followed by the sound of her name.
“Andy? Andy, where are you?” It was Tommy.
“Andy, if you’re in here, please say something,” Nick’s plea rang out in the darkness.
Sniffling, she responded. “I...over here.”
Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and she was able to watch their figures cross the area cautiously. They stopped a couple of yards away from her.
“Andy?” Nick called out again.
“Down here,” she replied. She didn’t bother getting up; she couldn’t.
“Andy, thank goodness,” Tommy exclaimed, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her as close as he could to him. “Are you all right?”
“Andy, I’m so sorry,” Nick began. “I should have paid more attention. I should have realized he was going to do something like that.
“It’s OK Nick,” Andy reassured her friend. “I - I guess it was rather overwhelming. His advances, I mean. But he can’t really be like that, can he? All the time, anyway. He probably didn’t mean it. It’s all right, really.”
She’d thought long and hard about what she would say to Nick, and her plan was going great. She knew that she didn’t want to have anything to do with AJ for the rest of her life, but if she wanted to stay in Nick’s life, she’d have to make some sacrifices. Nick was too important to her to just run away from the first thing that she didn’t like.
She knew Nick had been appeased, and she was feeling better herself. He didn’t need this on his shoulders. It was clearly an issue she’d have to take up with AJ, and no one else.
Tommy, on the other hand, wasn’t about to let things slide so easily. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Andy was not being honest. He knew she’d be the happiest person alive if she never saw that jerk again. He’d be pretty damn happy, too.
“That’s what she wants you to think,” Tommy spoke up. “Have you forgotten how her mind works, Nick? She’s pulling the wool over your eyes.”
“Tommy, please,” Andy pleaded. “Let’s leave things the way they are. I don’t want any trouble.”
“I’m sorry Andy, but this time I won’t give in,” turning back to Nick, he continued. “You’ve forgotten the way she thinks. How she wants everyone to be happy, even if it means sacrificing herself in one way or another. You don’t remember the fact that she’s never happy if a loved one isn’t. Think about it, Nick. She despises that idiot and you know it.”
“Andy, is this true?”
She looked into the blue eyes she had missed dearly for so long and nodded. “But I’m willing to fix things. I told you I can talk to him, he’ll understand. I know he will.”
“I’m never going to stop apologizing for this,” Nick began. “AJ doesn’t think before he acts a lot of the time, but you guys need to understand that it’s in his nature to act that way. It’s what makes AJ who he is.”
Andy nodded, understanding what Nick had said. Everyone had their special quirks that made them unique, and if AJ so happened to be a woman chasing smooth talker, then there was nothing she could do about it but watch herself around him.
“The only thing I understand,” Tommy was saying. “Is that you’re defending the culprit.”
“I’m not defending him.”
“You’re justifying his actions, Nick!” Tommy continued, his voice rising to a pitch Andy recognized immediately. He was angry.
“How am I doing that?” Nick shot back, his voice raising too. Andy was motionless. Their tempers were colliding, and she couldn’t do a thing about it.
“You’re explaining to us that he does that because it’s in his nature! I don’t know how he was raised, but I know you wouldn’t treat anyone like he treated Andy, and that should have been enough for you to put a stop to it! She’s your friend, Nick, practically your SISTER! Don’t you understand that? Are we that much out of the picture?”
“You were never out of the picture!” Nick shouted. “Why do you think they all know so much about you? I told them everything I knew about you two, and how special you both are to me. If AJ did something bad, it’s his own fault, yet here I am apologizing. Why? Because I care about Andy! But I can’t go and turn on him for this slip up. He’s practically my brother, too! When will YOU understand that, T?!”
“Oh, I understand, all right,” Tommy spat, helping Andy to her feet. “I understand that you’re defending him. Not because he’s your ‘brother’ as you say. ‘Convenience’ is writtten all over this situation. I understand perfectly now, Nick!”
Nick watched, nearly speechless, as Tommy led Andy away from him. She was crying, he could see her body shaking with the force of her sobs, and Tommy was doing his best to comfort her.
“Where are you going?” Nick finally managed.
“Anywhere but backstage,” Tommy replied. “In fact, I think we’ll head home. Our home. Heaven forbid we should be responsible for breaking up the well-oiled money making machine you five have turned into.”
They disappeared behind the door that led to the outside of the arena. Once he was alone, Nick cursed loudly, running his hands frustratingly through his hair. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It just wasn’t. Both of his families had collided, and there was nothing he could do to change things. When did everything start going downhill?
[chapter list | chapter nine]