Nikki looked up and almost froze to death. She wanted to kick herself when she realized whom she had bumped into.
"Whoa there!" JC said, grabbing her arms and steadying her. And then he looked down. "Oh…hi, Nikki. I’ve always known you to be a fast walker, but from time to time, you gotta’ look up, too."
She looked up at him, wanting to slap herself. It was bad enough that she had to work everyday in the same building he works in, she had to bump into him too? She tried her best to avoid him but it doesn’t seem to be working.
"Hey, I was kidding. It’s okay," JC said, misreading her thoughts and letting go of her arm.
"Yeah…I’ll see you around, Josh," she said, walking away as fast as she could. She hugged the folders she was holding tighter as she headed for the elevator ahead.
When she stepped in and pushed the 5th floor button, she looked up and rolled her eyes. JC entered the elevator as well, and pushed the 7th floor button.
He looked down at her and smiled, even though she was looking straight ahead.
"It’s been long, huh, Nikki?" he muttered, not taking his eyes off her.
"Yeah, it has been."
"Uhm…what have you been up to?" he asked.
"You mean apart from updating your website and reading up on rumors about you guys? Nothing, really."
"I meant…are you seeing someone?" he answered, a bit uneasy.
"Oh…" she trailed off. She looked up at him and smiled faintly. "No, I’m not. I guess it’s just appropriate to ask you. How’s Jessica?"
"Oh…" it was his turn to trail off. For the first time since they bumped into each other, he took his eyes off of her. "Uhm…she’s okay, I guess."
"Still dancing with you guys, huh?" she said, shrugging her shoulders. "She was always a good dancer…never a thinker, though."
"Listen…can we have lunch or something?" he asked, ignoring the obvious insult directed to his girlfriend. "I mean, we gotta’ talk about things."
"What for? What things? We’ve already talked and we’ve established the things that need to be established. I don’t need to get hurt again."
She didn’t miss the way he cringed and for some reason, she had to smile about that.
"I deserve that. But please, can’t we just have a bite to eat somewhere?" he asked, pushing the idea.
"Fine!" she said, rolling her eyes again. She looked up to glare at him, but at the same time, he looked down to smile at her.
No glare came out of her eyes and no smile was formed by his lips. They looked at each other for an intense minute until the elevator doors opened. She was the first one to break the eye contact as she made a move to step out of the elevator. When she got out, she turned around and JC held the doors.
"Why don’t we meet in the parking lot at 12?" she suggested.
"Sure," JC agreed as he let the doors close. "See you then."
She watched as the doors closed over his handsome face. She stood there, as if the picture of JC was painted on the silver doors. She walked back to her office, clutching her chest.
It had been a while since the last time it hurt and knowing that she would be having lunch with him in 2 hours made her feel worse.
You’d think that after 5 months, she would’ve been able to move on and forget about things. But nothing has changed…she still loves him.
Nikki looked across the table and watched JC eat his sandwich. When he looked up, she looked down and pretended to be examining her salad.
"Is it any good?" JC asked, wanting to start a conversation.
She shrugged and continued examining it. She wasn’t really in the mood to eat. The memories that she had always kept hidden at the back of her head were now resurfacing again.
JC went back to eating his sandwich and Nikki went back to watching him. She couldn’t help but wish things were back to the way they were.
She can’t really deny it…she still believes in their relationship. At night, she still lies awake in bed, dreaming of that day when JC would come running back to her arms.
"I’m sorry about what I did to you, Nikki."
Nikki was still staring at JC when he spoke and she couldn’t help but look away when he looked up at her. It startled her when JC reached for her hand across the table and squeezed it.
"I really am, Niks…forgive me."
"Josh…it’s all in the past. I admit that I still cry whenever I think about it," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "But, we have to move on right? We have to learn to be adults. We have to realize that things like this will happen to people like us…well, people like me, anyway. People told me never to forgive you or even talk to you again."
"Then why are you talking to me? I mean, I would completely understand if you forgot my name already," JC asked, still holding on to her hand.
"Because I’m just not like that. I see you for the person that you are…not the celebrity, Josh. And people are allowed a mistake from time to time. This was your mistake, simple as that. I remember when I first met you and when I was starting to fall in love with you…I kept looking for your flaw…and I couldn’t find one. You were too good to be true, I gotta’ tell you that. But now I see what your flaw is. It’s this."
They were both quiet for a while. Both were looking at JC’s hand clasping Nikki’s. He squeezed it again before letting go.
"And what, exactly, is ‘this’?" JC asked finally.
"Perfect as I thought you were…you were oblivious to the fact that I was a catch," she said, sighing and shrugging her shoulders.
They were quiet again. JC had never thought Nikki was confident enough to say that. He was on the verge of saying something when she cut him off.
"Before you think any less of me…when I said I was a catch…I didn’t mean that I’m this gorgeous person," she said, pausing for a while. She wanted things to sink in. "Jessica would never learn to love you the way I do. No one will ever love you that way, Josh. And that’s why I’m a catch. Simple as that."
JC sat there, contemplating. He realized what she said was true. He realized that Jessica could give him some things that Nikki couldn’t…but Nikki had a lot of things that Jessica doesn’t have. Jessica was a bit too shallow and vain for him, but for some reason, he still loved her. People think that he was holding Jessica by the neck, what with him being the star and all. She was just his back up dancer, after all. But things weren’t like that. He had an invisible collar tied around his neck. Jessica was the dominant one in this relationship and he wondered why.
Because he loved her for all she is, flaws and all.
And then, he realized what Nikki must’ve felt like being with him. She had given him everything…her heart, her emotions, her dreams. And he had just taken them all and crushed them. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her…he did…and maybe there were still bits of his feelings left…but Jessica was a completely different topic. He loves her.
It wasn’t like he wasn’t sorry. He was sorry that he had to hurt Nikki. He was sorry that he had to feel the same way that Nikki felt for him for another person. He was sorry, period.
"You may tire of hearing this, but I will never tire of apologizing to you…because when it’s true, when you really feel something, your mouth doesn’t tire of saying it. So…that being said, I’m really, really, REALLY sorry, Nikki."
"How long did you have to think of that speech?" she said, smirking at him. "Kidding…I’m kidding. It’s cool. Like I’ve said, ancient history."
It wasn’t entirely the truth. Sure, it was ancient history. In the timetable of relationships, five months is ancient history. But it wasn’t cool. It wasn’t cool that she still clings on to their memories…it wasn’t cool that she still cries at night. It wasn’t cool that deep down inside, no matter how much she tries to convince everyone and herself that she’s over him…she still dreams of that day when JC would look at her with those loving eyes again. It wasn’t cool, because those loving eyes are now reserved for Jessica.
"Ms. Peterson, it’s Mr. Johnson in line 1."
Nikki smiled at the intercom before picking the phone up.
"Yes, Nicole. I wish to talk to you about something that I feel needs our utmost attention. It’s about NSYNC and Britney."
"Sure thing," she said, quickly opening a filing cabinet and taking out every folder that had to do with the said artists. She sat apprehensively in front of her desk and opened a random folder. She gets a bit nervous when her boss calls in about something. "What is it that you’re confused about, sir?"
"Well, there’s this article I found about Justin and Britney. It says that they just bought a mansion and that’s not exactly something we can have people knowing about. Their images can’t have that kind of information floating around."
"Yes, sir…I am aware of that," she said as she opened a folder that had the label, ‘Relationships’. She liked to keep her things, as well as her life, organized. "It’s one of the latest things we have to take care of."
"I see…well, Ms. Peterson, what are you planning on doing about this? They’re supposed to be virgins…even though we both know they’re not…that’s what we gave out to people. What have you got for me, then?"
She scanned the page where that article was written and thought long and hard. Finally, she snapped her fingers and slapped her forehead for not thinking of it sooner.
"How about this…we tell them that since Justin and Britney are both extremely busy people, they haven’t even stayed in the house at the same time. Then, we can tell them that if they ever get free time at the same time, they have a different room that each of them can stay at," she said, sitting back in her office chair, turning it around and looking out at the beautiful city below.
The line was quiet for a while as Mr. Johnson thought about what she suggested.
"Well, Nicole…what can I say? I hired you for a reason, and I’m reminded of that every day I’m around you," he said. "I’m glad I came to you instead of just going out there and blabbing about how they didn’t really buy anything. I’ll let you go on with your work, then."
"Thank you, sir."
Nikki placed the phone back on the receiver and took the folders and stuffed them back inside the filing cabinet. She went out of her office, just standing there and looking at everyone running around carrying stuff from place to place. This office had a very busy atmosphere, but it was fun working there.
She walked out in the hallway and closed the door labeled ‘PR’. She walked down the hallway and just as she was about to turn a corner, Justin emerged with a smile on his face.
Nikki looked at him with suspicious eyes but continued walking.
"Hello, Justin…" she said, uneasily. They had been very close until the JC incident happened. Since then, she made it a personal mission to stay away from the guys as long as she could help it. Up until recently, she was able to keep their images squeaky clean without going anywhere near them. "I was just on the phone with Mr. Johnson about that whole mansion thing."
"Really?" he asked, jogging to catch up with her. "And how did that work out?"
"Well, it wasn’t easy…but we decided to simply say that you two are very busy and you haven’t had a chance to stay there together. Plus, we said you have separate rooms."
"Well, Nikki…we both know none of that is true," he said, playfully winking at her.
"Yes," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "I know that. You know? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were out to sabotage me and my work. Are you doing all these to get me to screw up and lose my job?"
It was said in such a very playfully tone that Justin didn’t take offense.
"Oh no, Nikki. I would never do anything to sabotage your work. You know we all love you," he said, putting his arm around her shoulder. "Some of us a little more."
Nikki didn’t miss the seriousness of his voice when he said that last sentence. She knew what he was talking about and she couldn’t help herself.
"Yeah…well, that’s what I thought too."
Justin’s arm slipped off of her shoulders and she felt him sigh next to her.
"You know? I told JC that he was being an ass…I did!" he said, pushing his hands inside his pockets. "He just wouldn’t listen to a young guy like me."
"I know you all told him that…but it’s all in the past, Justin. I’m okay now."
"Really?" he asked, slowly.
"Well, that’s good," he said, running a hand through his bald head. "Listen…I just wanted to tell you that I really miss you already. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you around. We’ve been very busy and so have you…but, yeah! I just wanted to say that. And…I may be JC’s friend…but that doesn’t make me your enemy."
He kissed her on the cheek and she watched him walk off. She saw him enter a room and then, she turned around and headed for the opposite direction. She found herself in the parking lot and got into her car. She drove off without knowing where she was headed for.
She found herself just driving around, music blasting out of her radio. She remembered how JC sat across from her when they had lunch together. How he had grabbed her hand and squeezed it a few times. How he had been silent and how he had looked at her.
What are you thinking? she thought to herself, just as she stopped in front of a park.
"I’m clinging on to every bit of hope I have left," she said, answering her own mind’s question.
She turned off the radio and closed her eyes. She knew that if she kept this up, only one person stands to get hurt…and that’s her. Before she could stop herself, she had her head on the steering wheel and was crying her eyes out. Her body shook as tears spilled down on her hands.
"What is this need I have of him?" she asked no one in particular. She was glad that her windows were tinted and the passersby couldn’t see through them. "Why can’t I just be normal and know that things will never be the same again. Why must I think that he loves me the way I love him? Why do I believe that Jessica will come to pass and he’ll realize that it’s me he still loves?"
Nikki looked back at Justin as if he had just grown a third eye. It had already been a month since her last conversation with him and he had just brought her news. Whether they were good or bad was beyond her at that moment.
"Stop it, Justin. You’re lying," she said, half hoping that he wasn’t. "They can’t be…they just can’t be."
"Well, they are! Jessica thought that it just wasn’t working out…I dunno’ why, though. I mean, JC gave her everything. But yeah…it was like JC didn’t even have a say in it all."
For a month, she had convinced herself that things with JC were over. When he was a hundred miles away from her, it was easy. Of course, inside, she was still in love with him and knew that her feelings would never change. But she somehow managed to convince herself that they’re through. And now, he returns with Justin baring this news.
"He’s in studio 3, if you want to talk to him."
She watched Justin walk out of her office and shook her head. She looked down on the hat that Justin gave her as a ‘I-MISSED-YOU-SO-I-DECIDED-TO-GIVE-YOU-SOMETHING’ gift.
Within a minute, she had already made up her mind.
Within 5, she found herself knocking and entering studio 3. She found him inside, sitting in front of a table and writing, what she guessed, was a song.
"Hi, Josh," she said, slowly walking inside the studio.
He looked up and she was surprised to see that he hadn’t even been crying. He even smiled at her and motioned for her to sit across from him.
"Hi, Nikki," he said before going back to his writing.
"Uhm…Justin had just been to see me…and…well, I don’t know what to say."
"Neither do I, Niks," he said, putting down his pen and looking out in the distance. "Except for, at least I know now how you felt. I knew it had been hard on your part…but you never told me it was torture."
"Yeah…well, it’s something that you have to experience first. So, you’ve been feeling tortured, huh?"
"I was…but now, I don’t know anymore. I’ve realized that she wasn’t what I needed. I needed to be with someone who would love me for me…love me as I loved her. I’m still heartbroken, yes…but I definitely see myself being able to move on."
It wasn’t exactly what Nikki’s heart needed to hear. Because before long, she was smiling as she was watching him write again. Because now, her heart was singing again:
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