Kids? Jill thought. Please. All the people there for the Healthy Heart Club meeting that day were between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, except for one four year old girl. Jill herself was seventeen.
The little girl was in there because she was going to have a heart transplant any time. There was another little girl up in ICU that had been hit by a car and wasn't expected to live. The little girl was put in here for moral support and some free babysitting.
Jill had already had her heart transport and was recovered physically just fine, but they wanted her here to keep her physical health up and for some emotional support. Jill thought she was just fine.
"Today our founder, Brian Littrell, will be visiting!" Ilene bellowed in a peppy voice.
"Does he want a cookie?" Jill muttered to herself, causing a few angered glances to be shot her way. She didn't get why everyone was so protective of this guy. They'd only met him once. She herself had never met him, only seen him with his music group, the Backstreet Boys, once on MTV, in a creepy music video where they were dressed up like freakin' robots and one of them cackled like a maniac.
"He'll be taking pictures, signing autographs, and answering any questions you might have," Ilene went on. "He should be here any minute."
Just then a young man of about twenty-five entered the room, a wifebeater covering his torso and a pair of black tear-away wind pants gracing his strong legs, the bottom button unbuttoned over a pair of new running shoes.
The room burst into cheers and applause. Jill just glanced at him while his face reddened and then she stared at the ground.
"Ok, ok, calm down guys!" The man said, laughing. Jill caught faint traces of a Southern accent in his voice. "Let's get started, all right? We'll have all week together, too, so call me Brian."
"Let's take the pictures outside on the steps, it's so pretty there!" Ilene suggested.
"Good idea," Brian said. "What's your name?" Brian asked, squatting in front of the scared little girl.
"Amandah," The little girl whispered.
"Are you scared, Amandah?" Brian asked.
"Yes," Amanda nodded so hard Jill was sure her head would fly off her shoulders any minute.
"Well, me, too," Brian said. "So will you give me a hug so I feel better?"
Amandah nodded and threw her arms around Brian's neck, bursting into tears. Brian scooped the girl up in his arms, ushered the other girls out the door, and was about to go himself when he noticed Jill sitting there, staring out the window.
"What's your name?" He asked.
"Jill," She murmured.
"Jill..." Brian said thoughtfully. "Pretty name. I like it."
Jill simply stared at him, chewing on her lip. A lock of her hair, which was light brown with dozens of natural white-blonde streaks throughout it, fell into her eyes as Brian approached her. He pushed her hair back behind her ear and said, "They're waiting."
"Go ahead," Jill's voice barely more than a whisper. "You don't have to wait for me."
"Come on, Sad Eyes, I'm not leaving without you," Brian said. "Amandah, you won't leave without Jill either, will you?"
Amandah shook her tiny blonde head solemnly, the tears finally dry, Brian's comforting hand rubbing her back had stopped them up. "No. She'll get lonely. Lonely's no fun," Amandah said, holding her hand out to Jill. "I get lonely every night up in my room!"
Jill grabbed Amandah's hand and gave it a squeeze, then stood. Brian put his free arm, the one that wasn't supporting Amandah's weight, around Jill and together they walked outside.
Once outside, Brian set Amandah down and playfully said, "Go swing, Squirt." He turned to Jill and grinned. "You, too, Sad Eyes."
"Swing with me, Jill, so you aren't lonely," Amandah grabbed onto Jill's hand and Jill numbly nodded.
A few of the snobbier, eighteen year old girls approached Jill as she pushed Amandah on a swing and Brian talked to Ilene.
"Jill, everyone knows Brian is interested in her," One of the girls said, pointing at the leader of the pack. "So stay away from him."
"Yeah, Jill, I really don't know what you're trying to pull," The leader said snottily.
"She's pushing," Amandah piped up, not understanding. "Me."
"Shut up, you moron," The girl, Charity, snapped. "You're so stupid. Why are they giving a perfectly good heart to you? You'll just waste it."
Amandah burst into tears and Jill stopped the swing just as Brian strode over and lifted Amandah into his arms.
"Leah, Jessica, please get your things. You're leaving," Brian said briskly, rocking the small, frail girl in his arms and rubbing her back. "You will not be returning, I will have your names taken off the list and I will be certain they do not reappear."
Their jaws fell open.
"You know the rules, now please leave," Brian said firmly.
"Why, Brian, I'm so glad you stood up to those two," Charity said in a simpering voice, placing a hand on Brian's forearm and making a tsking noise.
"Charity?" Brian said.
Charity smiled up into his face.
"Save it for someone who wants a mean, cold-hearted snake their own age for a girlfriend," Brian snapped. "I want you to go to Ilene and you're going to tell her that you will not be returning, because I said so, and you're going to explain exactly why."
"Bu...But..." Charity stammered.
"Go, please, before I lose my temper," Brian said stiffly.
"Brian, please..." Charity continued.
"GO!" Brian thundered.
Amandah's eyes widened and she stiffened visibly. Brian wrapped both arms around her and sat down on the swing. "It's ok, baby," He murmured, rocking her gently as she continued to cry.
"Are they wasting the heart?" Amandah asked.
"No," Brian said firmly. "Doctors are smart, aren't they?"
"Yeah," Amandah said.
"Well, Baby, if dozens of doctors think that you're the perfect girl for this transplant, then you're getting it, little woman," Brian said to the little girl firmly.
"But what if I reject it?" Amandah asked, cuddling against Brian.
"You'll make it through with flying colors, baby," Brian said. He lifted the little girls hands and showed her the blue nail beds. "See that? You wanna know what those little girl nails are going to look like after the transplant?"
Amandah nodded and Brian grabbed one of Jill's hands and held it out, along with one of his own, to show the small child. "They're gonna look like this."
Amandah gasped delightedly at the healthy, pink nail beds extended in front of her and grabbed one of their hands in each of her own, inspecting first Jill's, then Brian's. She looked solemnly at Brian, wiggled her finger at him sternly, and said, "You need to clean and file your nails, Brian."
He burst into laughter, wrapped his arms around Amandah, stood, and whirled them both about. When he sat back down, he said, "That's because I was helping my momma plant a garden up in Kentucky, then I got on an airplane and flew straight here!"
"Well, are you comin' back tomorrow?" Amandah asked.
"Yes, ma'am, I am," Brian nodded.
Amandah took his face in her little hands and solemnly said, "Promise me you'll clean your fingernails so they're pretty?"
"I promise," Brian said seriously. "I'll make my wife do it for me, ok?"
"You're married?" The words tumbled out of Jill's mouth before she could stop them.
Brian looked up. "Uh-huh, her name's Leigh Anne."
Jill looked at where Charity was stalking to a cherry red convertible and then back down at Brian.
"Some don't accept it," Brian said with a shrug.
"I think she's lucky," Amandah said, snuggling down against him. "You're nice."
"Why, thank you," Brian said. "You're nice, too. Now let's go get our pictures taken, Squirt."