2021

© 2000, Julie Orlando

 

“Mom!!”

 

Lori looked up from the computer screen at the sound of her daughter calling her – hollering at her, really – from the other end of the house. Her school only had a half-day this Friday, so she was home early.

 

“Up here, Kimmy!” she hollered back.

 

Kim appeared at the doorway to the study, rolling her eyes. “Mom, please! I’m 14 now.”

 

“Sorry… Kim,” she amended with a light smile. “But you’ll always be my Kimmy.”

 

“I know.” She sounded resigned, but Lori knew she was only playing.

 

“So what’s up?”

 

“We’re doing a project in Family Life class, and I need some old pictures for the presentation.”

 

“Pictures of….???”

 

Kim moved farther into the room and plunked herself down on the leather sofa that lined one wall. “We’re on the ‘children’ unit, so we’re supposed to look at how the addition of a child can change a family. First children, second or third siblings, whatever. But since I’m an only child, that narrows down that one for me.”

 

“Sure,” Lori said, saving her work on the computer and shutting the screen down. “Do you want just pictures, or other props too?”

 

The young brunette brightened. “Other props would be cool! What’ve you got?”

 

“Why don’t we take a look?” They got up, and Lori led the way down to the storage room in the basement.

 

While they walked, Kim kept speaking. “I’d also like to talk to you and Dad. Y’know, get some ideas of what life was like pre-Kim, as horrible as that sounds.” Lori shot her daughter a wry look, and was rewarded with a playful elbow to the arm. “What *did* you and Dad do before I came along?”

 

The 40-something woman sighed melodramatically. “Oh, we sat listlessly, day in, day out, staring at the walls. *Pining* for the day when you might grace our lives….”

 

“Ha, ha, Mom.”

 

Lori laughed, a light, delicate sound. “We found plenty enough to keep us busy. What with all your dad’s touring, plus his production and clothing company, he could hardly turn around without penciling it into the schedule first. I was still doing the freelance writing thing at that point, so I toured with him a lot of the time. And when the group wasn’t on the road, we just tried to live as normal a life as possible.”

 

Kim didn’t have the chance to comment on that, as they’d arrived at their destination. “Here we go, your doorway to yesteryear.”

 

The room they were in was lined with shelves, all bursting with photo albums, video tapes, and various pieces of memorabilia and nostalgia from Lori and Chris’ past. The centre of the room was littered with labelled boxes and a few loose items.

 

Kim just stood in the doorway and looked around the small room for a moment. “Wow,” she finally said. “I don’t think I’ve ever really looked around in here.”

 

The short-ish blonde woman shrugged. “You’ve never had a reason to.” She paused, then: “Well, you were born in oh-seven, so why don’t we start with oh-five? I’ll take an album, you can start on one of the boxes.”

 

The two found clear spots on the floor to park themselves and dug in. Kim opened the lid of the first box that she’d found labelled ‘2005’. She pulled out a scrapbook from the top of the pile inside. It had “*NSYNC” written neatly on the front in large letters. “This is the name of that group that Dad was in, isn’t it?”

 

Lori smiled fondly at the memories that name brought up. “That’s right,” she said.

 

Kim giggled. “I know he manages musicians now, but the thought of him up on stage, singing… That’s just weird.”

 

“Singing *and* dancing,” Lori corrected her daughter. “And they were good, too!” Kim looked like she didn’t believe her mother. “They were!” she insisted. “I loved them, I had all their CDs. That’s how I met your father, you know. At one of their concerts.”

 

“Oh Mom!! You were a groupie?!?” She sounded horrified at the thought.

 

“No, no!” she managed to get out through her laughter, and then she shuddered. “Ew, God no. My friend and I had won tickets and backstage passes to their concert from a radio station. While backstage, we ran into a couple of the guys and had the chance to talk with them for a few minutes. Oh, who…” she thought for a moment. Her face lit up as the memory came back to her. “JC! That was it! It was JC and your dad. And I guess Dad and I just clicked. I met up with him after the concert and we stayed up almost all night talking. After that….” she shrugged. “We kept in touch, then I moved to Orlando, and I guess the rest is history.” Kim was looking at her mother strangely. “What?”

 

She shook her head. “My mother, going backstage at a rock concert… I guess I never thought you had it in you.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure I’ve got quite a few tricks up my sleeve,” the older woman said slyly. Her eyes lit up as an idea struck her. “Oh! I know! I’ve got tons of old videos from all the times they were on TV. You could show a few minutes as part of your presentation!”

 

“Ugh, how embarrassing!”

 

“What, your friends wouldn’t think it’s cool that your dad used to be a big rock star?”

 

“If they were so big, why have I hardly heard of them?”

 

Lori shrugged. “That’s just the way the business works, I guess. It’s like your dad used to say – You can be a nobody one day, a somebody the next, and a nobody the day after that.”

 

“Hm.” Kim mulled that over for a second. “Were they really that big?”

 

“Oh, huge! They would sell out two- and three-month tours of arenas and stadiums in under an hour. Millions of girls had pictures of them all over their walls. And you should have heard the screaming at any of their appearances.” Kim still looked skeptical, but Lori could see she was coming around. “Just look in there at some of the articles I clipped.” She gestured to the scrapbook sitting in her daughter’s hands, still closed.

 

They flipped through the book together, Kim pausing to read some of the articles, Lori pausing to explain some of the pictures. Kim stopped and looked closely at one pinup. “Wait a second…” she muttered “…that’s Justin Timberlake, isn’t it?” She looked up from the book, an excited grin on her face.

 

“Yeah.” Lori frowned. “I thought you knew he used to sing with *NSYNC. I’m sure we’ve talked about him before. In fact, you’ve met him a couple times, I’m sure of it.”

 

“Have I really? I guess I was too young to realize who I was meeting, or who you were talking about.” She thought for a second. “Now that you mention it, I think I did read about that in a magazine somewhere. I guess I never made the connection.” She shook her head. “How could I have not made that connection???”

 

“Most girls don’t think to try to connect their dads to famous singers.” Of all five of the guys, Justin had been the only one to forge a successful solo career for himself. JC had tried, but he found himself drawn more to the writing and producing end of the business. Joey had made a modest name in the movie industry, and Lance and Chris had both kept on with their growing managerial companies.

 

“Yeah, but still… considering his job, you’d think I would’ve…” Kim replied absently while still flipping through the scrapbook. “Hey,” she said, then she trailed off.

 

“What?”

 

She spoke slowly, as if reluctant to ask her question. “D’you think I could maybe watch one of those video tapes you talked about?”

 

Lori smiled. “I thought you’d never ask.” She rose from the floor and went to the shelf of tapes, pulling one down after a moment of thought. “This one’s from a few years before Dad and I actually met. I was still just a fan, taping what I could off the TV, at this point.”

 

They made their way up to the living room and popped the tape in the VCR. They watched through most of the tape, Lori skipping around to the appearances she considered to have the best ‘Chris moments’. After a couple of hours, they had reached the end. While the tape rewound, Lori looked over at Kim.

 

“Well?” she asked expectantly.

 

Kim paused for a moment, a bemused smile on her face. “They looked so *young*!” she finally said, which made Lori laugh. Kim went on. “I never thought it was possible, but Dad was even crazier than he is now. And what was he thinking with those braids?!?” Lori laughed even harder at that.

 

“I know. Apparently none of them really knew what he was thinking with that one.”

 

Once their laughter had subsided, Kim asked a question. “Mom, why didn’t Dad keep in touch with any of them?”

 

Lori thought for a bit before answering. “He does, a bit. They all did, at first. But I guess that’s just life. People drift apart, as much as they might insist they won’t. They actually talked about doing a reunion at one point, but it didn’t pan out. Just as well, I guess. Those types of things can be pretty bad sometimes.” She chuckled a bit.

 

Kim spoke again, softly. “Why *did* they break up? I mean, I know you say it’s the way the biz works sometimes, but… was there another reason, or was that it?”

 

“That was partly it.” Lori nodded slowly. “The industry’s tastes were changing. All the guys’ priorities were changing, too. It was just time to move on.”

 

That was the truth, although obviously a glossed-over version of it. Lori remembered that time clearly. It had been 15 years since Chris had founded the group, 12 since they had ‘made it big’. Their star was still shining brightly, though not quite as brightly as a few years prior. Justin and JC were venturing out on more and more solo projects, when they could find the time; Joey was having to turn down more acting opportunities due to a simple lack of time; and Chris’ and Lance’s managerial/production companies were growing yearly, thus demanding more of their time. In addition, Lance, Chris, and Joey were all married and were either starting families or planning to soon. As the one who had started the group in the first place, Chris had been the one to finally voice what they were all thinking – it was time to consider going their separate ways. After considering it, they decided on it. And it had been a unanimous decision, though by no means an easy one, or a painless one either.

 

Lori shook herself back to the present, realizing Kim had been talking to her. “Hmm? Sorry, honey, what were you saying?”

 

“I asked if you thought Dad wished he were still performing.”

 

“I don’t know,” she answered honestly after a moment. “I don’t think he misses the dancing, but performing in general… I don’t know,” she said again.

 

“Well,” Kim hit ‘eject’ on the remote control and rose from the couch. “I’d better get back on track if I want to have this assignment done by Monday. Especially since I’m spending the night at Sheri’s tonight.”

 

“Oh you are, are you?”

 

“Oh. Um, did I forget to ask that?”

 

“Yes, you did.” Kim often forgot to ask on such occasions, mostly because the occasions were nearly weekly, and they knew Sheri and her parents well so they never said “no” when she did ask.

 

“Can I, then?” She smiled the sweetest smile she could muster.

 

“Yeah, yeah. Just make sure all your homework’s done first.”

 

“Thanks, Mom.” She bent to the couch and kissed her mom on the cheek. “Can I take some pictures and things out of the store room for my project?”

 

“Sure, just make sure you’re careful with them and you put them all back where they came from when you’re done.”

 

Kim rolled her eyes. “Of course, Mom.” She paused and smiled. “And thanks for showing me this stuff today. I guess it is pretty cool.”

 

‘High praise from a 14-year-old,’ Lori thought, then she said “Any time, honey.”

 

A few hours later, Lori was in the kitchen preparing a late dinner while Kim was in her room. The front door opened and a voice called out “Hellllooo?!”

 

“Hi, Love!” Lori called back from the kitchen.

 

Kim came bounding down the stairs, her overnight bag slung over one shoulder. “Hi, Dad.” She kissed him on the cheek, then quickly slipped her shoes on and grabbed her coat from the hall closet. “Bye, Dad.”

 

“Spending the night at Sheri’s again?”

 

“Yup.”

 

“Have a good night. And you behave for the Johnsons.” He waggled a finger at his daughter, who rolled her eyes.

 

“I will.” She raised her voice to carry through the house. “Bye, Mom!” She opened the door and looked back at her dad, a gleam in her eye. “Bye, bye, bye…” she sang just before shutting the door behind her, her giggles floating back through it.

 

Chris stopped, mid-stream of taking off his coat, and stared after her for a second. Then he whirled around and looked up the stairs, where he saw his wife standing and looking down at him with clear amusement on her face. “You didn’t…” Her amusement turned to outright laughter as she walked down the stairs to meet him. “What did you two do today?”

 

She wrapped her arms around the back of his neck while he wrapped his around her slim waist. “Ohhhh, we looked through some old pictures, watched some old videos…. Don’t worry, she asked to see all of it. I didn’t drag her into it.”

 

“And what did she think of it all?”

 

“To quote her, she said it was pretty cool.”

 

“Pretty cool, huh? Well, if I remember, you used to think it was pretty cool, too.” He started to sway her back and forth, slow dancing to whatever music was in his head.

 

“Mmmm…. I’d say I still do.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Oh yeah…”

 

He kissed her while they still swayed to the imaginary music. After a few moments, she stopped moving and looked him in the eyes, turning serious.

 

“Do you miss it?”

 

“What?” He wasn’t expecting the question and wasn’t sure exactly what she was referring to.

 

“Do you miss it? The dancing, the performing, the fans….”

 

He picked up the thread. “…the touring, living out of a suitcase, never seeing my family…”

 

“Oh, I know you loved the touring part of it.”

 

He smiled nostalgically. “Yeah, some of it I did. And I do miss it sometimes. Fame can be a pretty good drug.” He kissed her again, lightly this time. “But I wouldn’t trade what I have now to get it all back again.”

 

“No?”

 

“God, no! Besides…” He turned her around, slung an arm around her shoulders like a buddy, and started walking her up the stairs. “…look at me now. I’ve got a wife *and* daughter who both think I’m pretty cool. I’d be crazy to give that up!”

 

Her laughter joined his as they continued on up the stairs into the kitchen where dinner waited.

 

The End

 

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