War Of The Roses
After sound check, the guys went to chill out in the game room. Anthony was sitting at a small card table wondering how JC could handle Chris and his full contact ping-pong playing. Then his cell rang. He grabbed the phone from his hip and answered, “Anthony Giordano.”
The voice on the other end replied, “Anthony, it’s Johnny. I need you to do a favor for me.”
“What?” Anthony asked while watching Joey steal the basketball from Justin. He was surprised anyone could get the ball away from that boy.
“Well, the guys are going to be getting memos tomorrow about post tour, but there is a very important meeting they have to be back in time for. Tell them to be back from vacations by the 11th because at 10 on May 12th, they have a mandatory meeting here at the compound.”
“Thanks.” Anthony hung up his phone then began to walk over towards the guys.
Chris ran up to Anthony and hugged him around the waist the way a child does its father. “Any news for us Anth?” The other guys laughed at Chris hugging a man like he was never going to let go.
Anthony pried Chris loose then said, “Johnny wants you guys to be back at the compound by the 12th for a meeting.”
Joey whined, “But that only gives us like two weeks off.”
Lance punched Joey in the arm. “It’s not like you were going anywhere anyway.” Joey shrugged then went back to his basketball game with Justin.
Jenna, Lane, Robin, and Melissa sat down at the same table they had sat at for four years to enjoy one of their last meals together. After the girls made their orders, they sat in silence. This was unusual, since these girls normally were non-stop chatter. The silence was finally broken by Melissa softly saying, “Can you believe it’s all over?”
The other three girls let out soft laughs. Then Robin interjected, “It’s nowhere near over yet. You guys are going on to work and I still have like 50 years of grad school.”
Jenna smiled up at her three friends. “No, it’s not over. But this is…school, hanging out like this. I mean, we all thought you getting married last year would affect this, but graduating from college and moving on, that’s going to be a huge change. Yeah, you have grad school and Joel. Mel, you have your job at the hospital. Lane’s going to be the next Barbara Walters of this town. And me…” Jenna trailed off.
Lane put her arm around Jenna. “And you are going to be the personal assistant to the stars. Britney and NSync, could you be more lucky?”
Melissa added, “And could you move a little farther away? Our little PR major is going to be a PA in O-Town.” All the girls laughed.
“Ugh. Britney…No.” Jenna looked across the table at Melissa and Robin trying to fight back tears. “At least the three of you get to stay here and be around each other. Who knows the next time I’ll get to come home. My parents already have plans on turning my room into an office.”
Another silence ensued. Lane looked down at her hands in her lap. “Guys, we graduate in two days. You know when they said May 10th we’d walk across that stage and our undergrad college life would be over, I didn’t believe it would ever come. But now…now…” Lane’s voice cracked. Jenna grabbed and squeezed her friend’s hand.
Melissa looked over at Robin who was spinning her wedding band with her thumb. “Girls,” Robin began, “I have something I want to tell you.” The other three looked at her intently. “Um, well, Joel and I have something more than graduation to celebrate.” Robin giggled as she shifted in her seat.
“What?” Jenna, Lane, and Melissa asked in unison.
Robin took a deep breath, closed her eyes, then blurted out her news. “I’m pregnant!” She opened them to see shocked but happy looks on her friend’s faces.
Melissa, letting the nursing training kick in, began to ask questions. “Are you sure? When was your last period? Have you seen a doctor yet?”
Jenna kicked Melissa under the table. “Robin, that’s so awesome. But I thought you two were going to wait a little while?”
Robin blushed, “Yeah, so did we. But, I’m due in December, so hopefully it will fall during Christmas break and I won’t have to take any time off of school.”
Lane smiled and in her best Barbara Walters' impression said, “This just in. Mr. and Mrs. Joel Fisher are expecting. More at ten.”
Jenna shoved her friend and told her to shut up. All the girls were laughing as their meal was delivered to them. They talked over their dinner and planned the rest of their last girls’ night out before Jenna moved to Florida.
Jenna glanced over at the clock on the hotel nightstand as she packed the last of her things back in her overnight bag. “9:32, that’s plenty of time to get to the compound before my meeting.” Jenna thought to herself. She zipped up her bag, grabbed her purse, car keys, and room key. She scanned the room to see if she left anything. When satisfied that all her belongings were with her she said into the empty room, “Thanks Johnny for the nice place last night, but I’m ready to move everything into my place and sleep in my bed.” She gave a nod of approval then shut the room door behind herself.
Jenna went down to the front desk to check out. She then threw her bag in the trunk of her new green Pontiac Grand Prix, her graduation present from her parents. She got in her car and drove to the compound. Johnny had already given her a gate key, so she wouldn’t have to be buzzed in every time she came to work. Jenna didn’t know if there was any special place she was supposed to park, so she pulled up by what she thought might be Justin Timberlake’s blue Mercedes. Not wanting to lug her purse around, Jenna threw it in the trunk then put her keys in her jeans pocket. She looked down at herself and realized that she didn’t look her best in jeans, sneakers, and her sorority t-shirt with her hair up in a ponytail, but she knew Johnny would understand since he told her that she was only coming in today for the meeting. Afterwards, she was going to go to her new house and unpack all her belongings that the moving truck was going to deliver.
She walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell. Jenna laughed to herself thinking about having to be ‘let in’ to her technical office building. After a few moments, a tall black man opened the door. He extended his hand to her. “Hi Jenna! Come on in.” As he shook her hand, he pulled her inside. “You know, you work here. You don’t have to ring the bell.”
Jenna blushed and put her hands in her pockets. “Yeah, I know. But this is your home too and I didn’t want to just barge in.”
Johnny smiled as he directed Jenna towards his office. “Well, once you have a gate key, you have permission to barge in.” He opened the door to the office and ushered for Jenna to enter. “This is my office.” Jenna looked at the messy piles of papers, the trash can full of fast food drink cups, and a computer that looked outdated. She then saw an empty desk in the corner. All that was on it was a phone. Johnny saw her eyes looking in that direction and said, “That’s your desk. You can do whatever you want to it…pictures and whatever and tomorrow we’ll pick out and order a computer for you. How’s that sound?”
Jenna looked back at Johnny’s old computer then up at him. “Can we get you a new one too? Yours is way too old.” Johnny smiled and nodded. He then ushered Jenna out of the office and towards a living area that they were going to have the meeting at. Jenna, surprised that they were going to need that much room, asked, “Who all is going to be at this meeting?”
Johnny answered, “The guys. Since they all live here in town and you will be working with them so much, I figured they all needed to meet you. You’ll meet Britney some other time. She lives in Louisiana and she and Justin don’t really like to be in the same room right now.”
Jenna surprised replied, “I’m going to meet NSync today? I didn’t think I’d ever see them. Wow!” She sat down on a couch milling the thought of meeting these guys in her head.
Before Jenna could really get a complete thought mapped out, JC and Justin walked in and sat on a couch across from her. Her heart jumped in her chest as her brain registered who had walked in, but her face didn’t let it show. She smiled at the guys, making eye contact with each. “Who are you?” Justin asked bluntly, finally noticing there was someone else in the room.
“Jenna…Who are you?” she asked with a knowing look. Justin smiled back at her then shrugged his shoulders.
Before either could say another word, Chris and Joey walked in the room talking about the ‘finest chick’ in Hollywood at the moment. Joey went to sit on an empty couch as Chris plopped down next to Jenna. He put his arm around Jenna’s shoulders then asked, “Hey cutie! You here with one of those fools?”
Johnny walked up behind Chris and smacked him in the back of the head. “No, she’s here with me.”
Chris rubbed his head as he joined Justin and JC on their couch. “Won’t that piss off your wife?”
Johnny ignored Chris’ question and asked, “Where’s Lance?”
Joey looked at his watch. “He should be here. Give him a sec. He flew in late last night.” As Joey finished his sentence, Lance walked in and gave a quick wave to everyone as he yawned. He sat down on the couch with Joey, head in hands, as Joey patted him on the back. “It’s time to wake up, bro.”
Lance nodded as he rubbed his eyes. When things came back into focus, he saw Jenna smiling at him. He gave a quick smile back to her then asked, “What’s this meeting about?”
Johnny sat down next to Jenna then said, “It’s about this young lady right here. Guys, I’d like you to meet Jenna Sutherland. She is going to be my personal assistant. She’s going to be working a lot with you guys, so I wanted you all to meet her and get to know her. Jenna, this is NSync.” Pointing to each guy, “JC Chasez, Justin Timberlake, Chris Kirkpatrick, Lance Bass, and Joey Fatone.” Each guy either waved or nodded at Jenna. She met each response with a nod and a smile. She looked so calm and comfortable meeting these five stars, but her stomach was doing flip-flops. This was the first time she had ever met a celebrity, more or less five. “Jenna, why don’t you tell everyone about yourself.”
Jenna shifted in her seat. “Okay, well…hum…My name is Jenna Sutherland. I’m 22 and just graduated with a bachelors in Public Relations from Porter State in Plano, Texas. I’m originally from Plano, and…”
Chris interrupted her, “And you were a sorority girl.” He got a devious look in his eye.
Justin punched him in the arm. “Good job, Captain Obvious. Ignore him.”
Jenna laughed then continued. “Yes, I was in a sorority, Tri Pi with my best friends. I really don’t know what all I need to say…um…I’m an only child. My parents are still together. My mom is a social worker and my dad is a lawyer…um, what else do you want to know?”
Chris raised his hand. “Oh, oh…do you have a boyfriend?”
Justin, almost inaudible asked, “Are you a fan?”
Jenna pointed at Chris then Justin. “No, been single for about two years and yes I am a fan. I’ve been listening to you guys since the beginning.” She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. After about 30 minutes of getting to know each other, she looked down at her watch. “Um, Johnny…I’m going to have to go. The movers will be at the house in a few.”
JC stood up. “Well, it was nice to meet you Jenna. I guess we’ll see you around.”
Johnny looked at JC and said, “The meeting’s not over yet.” JC quickly sat back down. “I hope you guys have no plans for today, because you are going over to Jenna’s to help her unpack.”
All the guys grumbled. Jenna turned to Johnny. “Oh, they don’t have to help. This is their break. I can do it myself.”
Johnny shook his head. “Nope, sorry. You guys are helping. End of story.” Everyone continued to grumble as Jenna mouthed “I’m sorry!” to them. They all went out to their cars to drive over to Jenna’s house.
The caravan pulled up to a red brick house just a few blocks away from the compound. Jenna’s eyes scanned the house that she had only seen once before, on the day she had to choose where she wanted to live. Johnny had picked out four houses of different styles and sizes and told Jenna to pick which one she wanted to have as her own. He was going to pay all her moving expenses and bills for the first two months to guarantee that she would move in May and not wait until September like they had first agreed on. Jenna had chosen the coziest of the four. It was a three-bed/two-bath house with a pool and fenced in backyard. The thing that attracted her the most to it was the large kitchen. Jenna loved to cook and was excited to have the room for all her gadgets.
“Welcome to Chez Sutherland!” Jenna said to the guys as she ran her arm, Vanna White style towards her house. She let everyone in and showed them which room was which, apologizing many times that they were stuck wasting their day with her. She then heard a knock at the front door. When she answered it, she saw the truck with all her belongings in it being opened up.
“You Jenna Sutherland?” the husky man in a shirt that said A+ Plus movers on one side and Frank on the other asked.
Jenna nodded. “Yes sir.”
“We got your stuff in the truck. You got help or you doing this yourself?”
Jenna pointed to the group of guys in the living room behind her talking. “I’ve got help.”
Frank shook his head and said, “Well then, have at it little lady.” She signed the receipt on Frank’s clipboard then turned around to tell the guys it was time to start. They moved all the big furniture into its proper spots then put the labeled boxes in their designated rooms. Once everything was out of the truck, the guys sat down in the living room to rest. Jenna went out to her car and got her overnight bag and cooler that she filled up with ice and bottles of water on her way to the compound. She gave each guy a bottle then sat down on the floor stretching her neck.
“You come prepared.” JC joked as he took a long swig of his water.
Jenna popped her back as she replied, “I thought whoever was going to help me deserved something. Although, I thought it was going to be just me and dear old Frank.” Jenna turned the other direction letting a loud crack come from the middle of her spine. All the guys cringed at this sound, but Jenna seemed to have a relaxed look on her face. Jenna then jumped up, clapped her hands twice and said, “Let’s get the rest of this stuff unpacked.”
Lance looked up at her from his comfortable spot on the couch. “Where do you want us?”
Jenna went through a mental checklist then said, “Well clothes and decorations I’ll do later. I need the computer put together and make sure it’s working. And I need the stereo put up in the office.”
Justin spoke up. “I’ll do that.”
“Okay. Then there’s the TV in my bedroom and in here with the DVD player and VCR.”
JC raised his hand. “I’ll take care of that.”
“Then all the movies and CDs need to be put up. Plus the stereo in here.”
Joey patted Chris’ knee who had begun to fall asleep. “We’ll do that.”
Chris opened his eyes and asked, “Do what?”
Joey shook his head. “Put stuff up in here.”
Jenna looked at Lance and said, “Well, it looks like that leaves us to put up all the kitchen stuff.”
Lance smiled at Jenna. “Sounds like a plan.”
Everyone went to their respective rooms and began to work. Jenna and Lance started with the boxes of pots and pans. They then got all her gadgets put in their spots and plugged in. Jenna then climbed up on the cabinet and put plates and cups away as Lance handed them to her. They did most of this in an awkward silence with the few words being spoken consisting of “where” and “over there.” Jenna was the most nervous around Lance. She really didn’t know why but whatever the reason, the image Jenna had conjured up of him in her head hadn’t been shattered since meeting him. As Lance handed her another coffee cup to put away she looked at him and softly said, “I’m sorry about Russia.”
Lance was shaken from his trance of ‘grab and hand’ and asked, “What?”
Jenna let out a sigh, sat Indian style on the counter, eye level with Lance and said, “I’m really sorry that going into space didn’t work out for you. I know it was a dream of yours and…I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
Lance looked down at his shoes and mumbled, “Thanks.” The uncomfortable silence reemerged for a moment then Jenna went back to putting the coffee cup away. “Do you know why they didn’t pick me?” Jenna shook her head. Lance confided, with a bit of anger in his voice, “They didn’t let me go up because of my heart. My heart! Can you believe it? I passed all the tests, but then they worried about my heart getting worse while I was up there. It hasn’t got any worse since I found out about it, like two years ago. Why do they think it would get worse then?” Lance shook his head and grabbed for another cup. Jenna, realizing he had just confided in someone he had only known a few hours, didn’t really know what to say. Before she could even open her mouth, Lance looked up at her and let out a weak smile. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t vent on you like that. I guess I’m still just mad about not getting to go.”
Jenna put a hand on his shoulder and smiled at Lance. “Don’t worry about it. Anytime you need to vent, you just come find me.” Lance returned Jenna’s smile and her heart fluttered.
She then saw Joey run in the kitchen and grab Lance’s arm. “Dude, you have to come see this.” Jenna followed the two boys into the living room already occupied by the rest of the group. “She wasn’t kidding when she said she was a fan. Look! She owns all the CDs, even the imports.”
“And,” Chris added, “look at all these movies. She’s got everything.” Chris looked Jenna right in the eyes. “You’re a freak!” He then gave a cocky smile to her.
Jenna returned the look saying, “Well, you’re a dwarflike old man, but you don’t see me pointing that out to everyone, do you?”
Justin laughed. “Good one!”
Chris couldn’t believe someone who barely knew him would play his games so well. “I’m gonna have to get you for that.” He then charged at Jenna. Within a moment, Chris had Jenna pinned down on the floor. She was laughing. “Who’s the old man now?”
Jenna scrunched up her face then wrapped her legs around Chris’ waist and flipped him over. She pinned down his arms then blew some loose blonde hair out of her face. “I think it’s still you.”
The guys laughed and cheered at this sight. Chris, surprised, asked, “How’d you do that?”
Joey smacked Jenna on the butt with one of her videotapes. “I think it might have something to do with this Buns of Steel tape.”
Jenna got up and extended her hand to Chris. “Would you guys like some lunch?” Everyone said yes. “Well then I’ll order some pizzas. How’s that sound? It’s on me.” Everyone agreed and they made their order. They finished up the last bit of unpacking while they waited on the pizza to get there. Once the food arrived, Jenna got plates for everyone and they all sat down at Jenna’s dinning table.
JC asked, “What’s all left to do?”
“Well,” Jenna looked through the door of the dining room at the boxes left in the living room, “mostly putting up clothes and decorations. But I can do that tonight. I guess after you guys eat, you can leave.”
Lance looked up from his pizza and said, “I’ll stay and help, if you want.”
“You don’t have to. Actually, none of you really had to help today. You could have ignored Johnny. I wouldn’t have said anything. Thanks for helping though.” Jenna smiled at the guy s and took a bite of her pizza.
“You mean,” Chris threw his napkin on the table, “I could have gone home and slept instead of wrestling a chick and gotten away with it?”
Jenna shook her head. “No Chris. I would have told on you.” Chris stuck out his tongue at Jenna while smiling. “Lance, you really don’t have to stay. I’m sure you’re tired.”
“No, I’ve got my second wind. Plus, if I go home then I have to unpack all my stuff and I don’t want to.”
Jenna patted Lance’s hand. “Thank you!” When everyone finished eating, they put their plates in the sink, said goodbye then left. Jenna put all the leftover pizza in one box and stuck it in her empty fridge. “Looks like I need to go grocery shopping.”
Lance laughed. “That’s a tomorrow project.”
Jenna raised an eyebrow. “Is that an offer or a command?”
“An offer, if you’d like to. I need to get some stuff anyway.”
“Well,” Jenna walked over to the sink to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, “let’s see if you still want to hang out with me after we put up the rest of my crap.”
Lance smiled. “You know, just 15 minutes ago every dish in this place was clean and now…”
Jenna put her hands on her hips and tried her hardest to keep a straight face. “I know. You damn boys! Messin’ up my new house. What am I going to do with ya’ll?” They both busted up laughing. “Come on. Let’s get everything put away.”
Lance nodded. “Where do you want to start?”
Jenna thought for a moment then said, “I’d like to get all my clothes put away first. That’s the biggest job.” Lance grabbed Jenna’s hand and started to walk towards her bedroom while Jenna playfully whined about having to do more work. Lance grabbed a box labeled hangers as Jenna unzipped and began to sort through a suitcase full of clothes. “Hey, do you want me to put in some music?”
“Sure.” Lance said as he began to hang a pile of jeans.
“Anything special you want to listen to?” Jenna hollered from the living room.
“Nope.” Lance then remembered the collection of CDs he had seen earlier. “I don’t want to listen to myself.”
Jenna walked back into the room, India.Arie playing in the background. “I wouldn’t do that to you. Well, at least not yet.” She smiled at him then grabbed a hanger to help Lance out.
Jenna pushed the strands of hair that came untucked back behind her ear. She glanced over at Johnny who was on the phone ordering their new computers. She could see the unhappy look on his face as he wrote down what seemed to be a price. Jenna shook her head and went back to filing the papers that were once in unorganized piles on Johnny’s desk. When he hung up the phone, Johnny grumbled, “You better be worth this.”
Jenna put a sweet smile on her face as she blinked innocently at Johnny. “Worth what?”
“Almost $5000…I just spent $5000 on two computers!”
“Plus,” Jenna added, “$200 on the cable modems and networking.” She cringed knowing Johnny would yell at her. “The guy comes to install it tomorrow.”
“Fine, $5200 on computer crap that I didn’t need until you walked in. Why do we need to be networked anyway?”
Jenna rolled her chair towards Johnny’s desk. “We need to be networked so when…just trust me. It’s worth it in the long run.” The phone on Jenna’s desk rang. She rolled back over to her desk and answered it. “Wright Entertainment Group. Jenna Sutherland speaking.”
The voice on the other end was friendly. “Hi Jenna! This is Kelly. I’m Joey’s …girl.”
Questioningly Jenna replied, “Oh, hi.” She had heard Chris and Joey talking about Kelly the day before.
Kelly laughed. “I know you don’t know me, but Joey, Lance and I are going out to lunch in about 30 minutes and we were wondering if you would like to go with us?”
“Well,” Jenna looked over at Johnny who was searching for something on his desk. “I don’t know when I take lunch.”
“Whenever you want.” Johnny said. “Where’s the price list for Britney’s stage?”
“Right here.” Jenna handed one of the newly organizes manila file folders to Johnny. “Well, it looks like I’m free to go with you guys. Where should I meet you?”
“Oh, we’ll pick you up there, okay? See you in a few.” As Kelly hung up, Jenna could hear a baby babbling in the background.
Jenna hung up the phone and went back to filing. “So, who’s the lunch plans with?” Johnny asked.
“Kelly, Joey and Lance. It is okay for me to spend personal time with the guys, right?”
Johnny nodded. “As long as whatever type of relationship you have with any of them doesn’t affect work, I don’t care.”
Jenna smiled at the idea of a ‘relationship’ with the guys. “Who?” she thought. “Joey has Kelly, so no. Justin just broke up with Britney. So that leaves Chris, JC and Lance. I don’t think Chris and I could lower our sarcasm enough to try anything. Plus he reminds me of Melissa’s brother and Lane would kill me. She’s had the hots for him since the I Drive Myself Crazy video. So that leaves JC and Lance.” She let out a soft sigh. “Lance.”
“Hey Jenna! You ready?”
Jenna was awakened from her daydream. “Lance…uh, yeah. Let me just grab my purse. Where’s everyone else?”
“They’re waiting in the car.” Lance escorted Jenna out to Joey’s black SUV then opened her door for her.
A pretty brown haired girl turned around from the passengers seat. “Hi! I’m Kelly and that mess you’re sitting next to is Brianna.”
Jenna looked down at a cute little dark haired girl in the car seat. “Hey there sweetheart.” Jenna ran her finger across Brianna’s cheek and she let out a giggle as she grabbed for the finger.
Joey chuckled. “Looks like she found a new friend. Lance, you better be careful. You might just get replaced.”
Lance put his face down at Brianna’s level. “You would never replace me, would you?” Brianna gurgled then touched Lance’s face. He ruffled her hair then kissed her on the head.
Joey drove up to an open-air café and the group sat down at a corner table. Everyone ordered their food and talked over lunch. As soon as Kelly finished eating, she pulled out a plastic container and fed Brianna. Kelly asked Jenna, “So, how are you liking Orlando so far?”
“Well,” Jenna took a sip of her iced tea, “I’ve pretty much only seen the compound and my house, so…so far so good.”
Kelly laughed. “We’re going to have to show you around then.” Jenna nodded. Kelly then got an excited look on her face. “I want to throw you a house warming party. How does Saturday sound?”
Jenna looked surprised. “What? You don’t have to do that.”
“No, I want to. We’ll keep it small. Just the guys and some of the crew. What do you say?”
“I don’t know.”
“Please!” Kelly batted her eyes. “It’ll give me something to do this week.”
Jenna sighed then looked at Kelly’s excited face. “Well, alright.”
Kelly smiled. “Great. I’ll come over tomorrow to get an idea of what all I need to plan and make.”
Jenna smiled then looked at Kelly. “I don’t mean this to sound bad, but do you not work?”
“No. Joey has made it so I can just be a stay at home mom.” Kelly pinched Joey’s cheek. “He’s such a good hus…guy.”
Jenna looked questioningly at Joey and Kelly. “You know, if you two are married, it’s okay to tell me. I won’t go tell anyone. Well, my friends, but that’s all.” Joey shot a concerned look at Kelly. She just gave a weak smile then nodded. “I thought so. Congrats!” Kelly and Joey smiled back at Jenna.
“So,” Lance drawled out, “We still on for grocery shopping tonight?”
“You still want to go with me?” Jenna was fishing in her purse for a pen to pay for her part of lunch.
Lance grabbed the three tickets then handed the waiter his credit card. “Lunch is on me. Yeah, I said I needed to get some things. Plus shopping alone sucks.”
“Well, sure if you want to. Just tell me what time is good for you.”
The waiter returned with the credit card slip for Lance to sign. “How’s like six sound? We can get a quick bite to eat, then shop.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Jenna said, although she was thinking it sounded more like a date. They all got back in Joey’s SUV and dropped Jenna back off at the compound.
Kelly spent the whole week planning and preparing for Jenna’s house warming party. She sent out invitations to about 30 people, cooked snack foods, and decorated Jenna’s house. As the party was winding down and people began to leave, Kelly looked around at the mess that was going to need to be cleaned and the pile of presents on the dining room table. Jenna was sitting on the couch in between Lance and Justin talking about the last tour with them. Chris bounded in the room with a handful of presents and asked, “When are you going to open these?”
Jenna shrugged her shoulders. “Later.”
“No, now!” Chris put the pile at Jenna’s feet then went to grab the rest. When he returned, he and Joey had the rest of the presents. Kelly walked in, sat next to JC and took Brianna off Jenna’s lap so she could open everything.
“Ya’ll know you didn’t have to get me anything.” The guys all smiled. Jenna opened boxes full of stationary, knick-knacks and cookbooks, purposefully avoiding the presents from the guys.
Kelly handed Jenna another box. “This is from Britney. She was sorry she couldn’t come.”
Jenna looked down at the box surprised. “I didn’t even think she’d try to come. You invited her?”
Justin glared at the box. “Just open it.” He then mumbled, “Let’s see what crap she got Fe to buy for you.”
Jenna ignored Justin’s grumbles and opened the box to see a beautiful silver picture frame. “Wow! This is nice. I’ll have to find something special to put in it.” Jenna put it back in the box and set it with the other opened presents. “Well, it looks like everything’s open. Party’s over guys!”
Chris threw a pillow at Jenna. “Open our stuff! We didn’t even want to see that other stuff anyway.”
Jenna threw the pillow back. “Alright, old man, which one first?” Chris started to open his mouth, but Jenna interrupted him. “Let me guess. Yours?” Chris nodded. She unwrapped the box that was bigger than the others. Jenna reached in and pulled out a plunger with four rolls of toilet paper on the handle. “Thanks…I think.”
Chris crossed his arms over his chest and in a boyish voice said, “I thought you would like something practical.”
Jenna sighed as she shook her head and grabbed for the box that was from Kelly and Joey. She pulled out a beautiful Tiffany lamp. “Wow! This is amazing. Thank you so much!” Jenna hugged them both.
“Joe,” Chris said. “I thought we made a deal?”
Joey pointed over at Kelly. “She wouldn’t let me, man.” Chris let out a sigh but paid attention as Jenna grabbed for the box from Justin and JC.
Inside was an autographed picture of both guys and a package of refrigerator magnets. Jenna laughed. “Now I know what to put in the frame from Britney.”
JC laughed but Justin replied, “That’s alright. You can just put us on the fridge.”
“Thanks guys.” Jenna reached for the last box. “I can’t wait to see what useful thing you got me, Lance.” Jenna smiled as she rolled her eyes. Inside was two items. She first pulled out Lance’s signature present, a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You Will Go. Jenna opened the front cover and read the inscription.
You have come so far, but just think about all the places you will go now and the new friends you get to experience them with. Good luck!
“Thank you! That’s my favorite verse.”
Lance blushed, not knowing that information. “Um, well, there’s more.” He gently pushed the box on her lap. Jenna grabbed for the small black box. When she opened it, she saw a small silver NSync charm in it. She let out a soft laugh. “I saw the charms in your jewelry box when we were unpacking and I thought you might like to wear this one everyone once in a while.”
Jenna smiled and put the charm on the silver chain she was wearing. She had forgotten to put a charm on it that morning. Lance helped her put the necklace back on. Chris cleared his throat. “Well, I saw that you used toilet paper, so I thought you would like that.”
Jenna hugged Lance tightly. “Thank you so much. This is so nice.” She reached for the necklace. “Thank you all. This was such a nice party.”
Kelly grinned at Joey. “We just wanted you to feel welcome here. I know how hard it is to move away from everything to be with these guys. We just wanted you to feel like apart of the family.”
Jenna stood up and hugged Kelly again. “I do. Thank you so much!” Brianna pulled at the two girls pants legs and Jenna reached down to pick her up. “And thank you too sweetie. It’s not a party without the pretty girl to steal the show.” Brianna giggled then grabbed for the charm around Jenna’s neck.
Joey reached around Kelly’s waist and squeezed her, letting her know she’d done a good job. She smiled up at him then said, “Let’s get this place cleaned up for Jenna, guys.” Everyone grumbled. “Now!” Each guy found a room and began to straighten it up.
Jenna and Lance grabbed the presents and took them back to the dinning room where she could decide where to put everything later. When Lance put his armful of presents down, Jenna grabbed his wrist. ”Thank you! This was more than expected.” She was messing with her necklace.
Lance blushed as Jenna gave him a sweet smile. He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. “You’re welcome!” Without meaning to, Jenna breathed in Lance’s scent. He smelled like a mixture of Giorgio Armani Emporium, baby powder from holding Brianna, and man. She had to force her eyes open when the innocent kiss ended. A moment of silence passed as they just stood there, not knowing what to do next. “Um, well, I guess we should get the rest of your gifts in here.”
Jenna nodded. “Yeah.” Lance reciprocated the nod. “Yeah.” He then got a goofy smile on his face, turned Jenna around and began pushing her towards the living room, trying to step on her heels the whole way.
Jenna walked into her house after a long day at work and dinner at Kelly’s with everyone. She went into her bedroom and grabbed her pajamas out of her bottom dresser drawer. After she changed clothes she went into the bathroom and grabbed for her hairbrush so she could pull her hair up. Then Jenna heard her phone ring. She set the hairbrush down and grabbed for the cordless on her nightstand. “Hello?”
Jenna got a huge smile on her face and laid down on her bed. “Hi mom! How are you? How’s Dad?”
“We’re good. He’s on the phone too.”
Jenna giggled at the sound of her parent’s voices. It seemed so long since she had heard them. “Well,” Jenna’s mom asked, “How’s your first month up there been? We get your emails, but haven’t gotten to really talk to you in a while.”
“It’s been good. I think I finally have Johnny all organized. Took long enough. I don’t know how one man in charge of so much important stuff can be so unorganized.”
“Where have you been tonight? We tried to call earlier.” Jenna’s dad asked.
“I just got in from Kelly’s.”
“That’s Joey’s wife, right?”
Jenna nodded, even though her parents couldn’t see her. “Yeah. She’s become like my best friend down here. She’s basically the only girl I know. Her and Johnny’s wife. But I was over there tonight having dinner with them and Lance and the rest of the guys.”
“Lance?” Jenna’s dad raised his eyebrows.
“How are things going with you and Lance?” Jenna’s mom asked.
“Well,” Jenna sighed, “I like him and I think he might like me, but I don’t know. I don’t want to do something and him think I’m an idiot.” Jenna grabbed for the book Lance had given her at her housewarming party that set next to her bed and ran her finger over his signature. “It sucks sometimes, you know.”
“Guys are strange creatures, dear. Sometimes you have to smack some sense into them.”
“I don’t know. I just don’t want to screw things up. He’s a great guy and a good friend. I’ll just let him make the first move.”
“Well, honey, the girls came by yesterday and said they can’t wait to come see you.”
“Mom, I’m so ready to have them here. I’ve got so much to tell them and show them. I don’t know if a week’s going to be long enough to get it all in.”
Jenna’s mom laughed. “Just think, only two more weeks then the four musketeers will be back together.”
Jenna talked to her parents for about another fifteen minutes then let a yawn escape. “Honey, why don’t you get to bed? We’ll talk to you soon, okay. I love you!”
“I love you both. Night.”
“Goodnight sweetheart.” Jenna hung up the phone then finished getting ready for bed.
Jenna looked down at her watch for what seemed like the thousandth time. Johnny had noticed this and it was beginning to irritate him. “How much longer?” he asked, letting out a sigh.
Jenna blushed and glanced at her watch again. “I’m gonna leave in about 20 minutes or so.” She began typing again on the four-line memo she had been working on for an hour.
“You know, there is a clock on the computer. You don’t have to stop working to look at your watch.” Johnny grinned at her, knowing he was embarrassing her.
“I know. I’m sorry.” Jenna clicked her mouse. “See, I’m done now. You have your memo.” She crumpled up then threw away the scratch paper Johnny had written it originally on.
Johnny opened the file that was sent to him and after reading and being satisfied said, “Why don’t you go ahead and go. You can bug the people at the airport with your clock watching.” Jenna jumped out of her seat, grabbed her purse, and thanked Johnny while she hugged him. He knew she needed this time off to be with her friends and didn’t mind letting her leave early. He thought, “This girl had gotten us organized and she is two weeks ahead with work. I don’t mind giving her this week off to enjoy her company.”
Jenna practically ran to her car. Robin, Melissa and Lane would be in Orlando any minute and she couldn’t wait to see her friends. She walked into the airport and saw that the flight was right on time. She sat down in the hard plastic chairs and fidgeted while she waited. Jenna stared at the gate. She didn’t want to miss when her friends walked in. Her intent stare was broken when she heard a familiar voice.
“Jenna? Hey! What are you doing here?”
Jenna looked up to see Kelly walking towards her. “Hi!” The girls hugged each other. “I’m picking up my friends. They are in for the week. What are you doing here?” Jenna picked up Brianna.
“I remember you telling me that. Well, I’m here because my parents are coming in for a few days. They hate missing Brianna grow up, so they decided to visit for a while.” Kelly grabbed for Brianna, “Let’s go get grandma and grandpa. Have fun with your friends Jenna. Let’s have you all over for dinner on Thursday. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds good. I’ll tell the girls.” Jenna kissed Brianna on the forehead then waved as Kelly walked away. When she turned her attention back to the gate, she saw the first people exiting the plane she had been waiting for. Barely a handful of people had exited when she saw her friends. Melissa was the first to see Jenna and ran up to hug her. The other girls were right behind her. After they said their hellos, they went to the luggage carousel to get everyone’s bags then they all piled into Jenna’s car for the ride from the airport to Jenna’s house. When they got there, they got their stuff from the trunk.
“This is a great house, Jenn.” Robin said as she scanned the front yard, looking at the beautiful flowers. “How can you afford this?”
Jenna put her keys in the front door to unlock it. “Johnny pays me really well. But, it’s not that big. It’s about the same size as my parents.”
“Yeah,” Lane said as she walked in the door, ”but your parents make really good money.” Everyone agreed. “Where do we put our stuff?”
Jenna pointed towards the guest bedroom. “Two of you are in there and the other can sleep on the couch or with me. You guys pick.” The three girls discussed their options and after a few rounds of rock/paper/scissors they decided that Lane and Melissa would stay in the guest bedroom and Robin would stay in Jenna’s room, closest to the bathroom since she still had morning sickness and a small bladder. Once everyone got settled, the girls congregated in the living room. “I don’t have any plans for today. I thought we could just catch up. I’ll cook tonight since we are going out tomorrow. How’s that sound?”
“Fine.” Lane answered for everyone. “Jenna, why do you have an autographed picture of JC and Justin in your living room?”
Jenna laughed and reached for the picture. “Well, I had a house warming party my first weekend here and some of the guys got me gag gifts. The frame is from Britney, though.”
Robin took the picture from Jenna to look at it. “Well, you said you see the guys all the time. Tell us about them.”
“What do you want to know?”
Melissa threw a pillow at Jenna. “Everything! We want all the little dirty details.”
“Well,” Jenna began. “Let’s see. Who to start with?”
“Justin!” Melissa said as she looked at the picture.
“Okay, Justin. He’s really nice and tall. He’s still a little bitter about the whole break up with Britney.”
“Who dumped who?” Lane asked.
“He’s never said. I don’t even know if the guys know officially. I assume her since he’s still so unhappy and she never comes around. I kinda feel bad for him. He’s a great guy, though. We work out twice a week together. On Tuesday’s and Friday’s. He’s my weight partner.”
“So are ya’ll getting together tomorrow?” Melissa asked as she kicked her shoes off and pulled her feet up on the couch.
“No, I’m taking this week of. I’m all yours.”
“What about JC?” Robin asked.
“Well, he’s really quiet, but has these moments of pure energy. He’s almost unpredictable. He’s a great songwriter and has the longest fingers you’ll ever see. And, Lane you’ll kill me, but I’ve caught myself calling him Josh.
“Is he as tiny as he seems?” Robin asked as she placed the pillow Melissa threw at Jenna behind her back.
“Well, you guys know I’m not a big girl. I wear like a 6. That boy is smaller than me. It makes me sick. But he eats like a pig though, so I guess it’s all high metabolism.”
“What about Chris?” Lane blushed realizing she was a little too excited to hear the answer.
Jenna let out a sigh. “Christopher. Man that guy is nuts. He is just a bundle of sarcasm. Yet that’s part of his charm. He’s my big brother, I swear and I’ll sell him to you for a quarter.” The girls all laughed. “No, he’s really great. He goes from keeping me constantly laughing to calling almost every night we don’t see each other to ask me how my day went. He’s a great guy.”
“In your emails, you are always talking about Kelly and Joey. What are they like?” Melissa asked.
“Kelly’s my sanity. Without you three, I have no female interaction. Kelly’s my best friend down here. She’ll never replace ya’ll but I’m glad I have her. Ya’ll need to see Brianna. She’s the cutest little girl. Looks just like her daddy. Makes me want to have kids.”
“No time soon, I hope.” Robin looked warningly at Jenna.
Jenna smiled at Robin. “Joey’s really a good guy and a great dad. There are times that I think I’m their charity case, since I’m over there all the time, but I just try not to think about it.”
“And Lance?” Lane smiled at Jenna.
“Lance,” Jenna took a deep breath. “That boy confuses me. We spend a lot of time together and I swear there are times that I think there could be something between us, but he never takes the next step.”
“Well, why don’t you?” Melissa asked.
“Honestly, I don’t want to and then him tell me that I was imagining all this. That it was all just friendly gestures. So I’m just going to let him make the next move. Plus, he’s Lance Bass. I can’t make a move on him.”
“What has he done that makes you think he might be interested?” Lane asked.
“Well, he calls all the time just to talk. He’ll send me emails to just say hi. He’s always holding my hand or kissing my forehead. I haven’t shopped alone since I moved to this town. He picks me up to do stuff. He leaves notes on my car and leaves the cutest messages on my answering machine. What else do you want to know? I’ve got a million more.”
Lane’s jaw hit the floor. “Well, I’d think he liked me too if he did all that for me.”
“Yeah,” Melissa agreed. “I’d say any day now he should be knocking on your door to ask you out.”
“I hope.” Jenna sighed. Just then she heard a knock at the door.
“See,” Robin laughed. “There he is.”
“Shut up!” Jenna scolded her friends as she looked out the peephole. “What that hell?” She mumbled as she opened the front door. “What are ya’ll doing here?”
“Well, it’s nice to see you too.” Justin joked. He looked over Jenna’s shoulder to the living room full of girls. “We thought you might like some company tonight.”
Jenna shook her head. “I already have company.”
“Well then, a few more people shouldn’t be a problem.” Justin leaned in to kiss Jenna’s cheek then walk in her front door.
Jenna stepped aside ushering everyone in. She knew that there was no way the guys were going to leave until they meet her friends. She let out a sigh as she shut the door behind Lance. “Ya’ll couldn’t wait one day?”
Lance smiled then hugged Jenna. “Joey did. Of course he’s with ‘family.’ Plus, two single girls sitting in your house. You know those three want their shot at them as soon as possible.”
Jenna raised her eyebrows. “Don’t you mean three single girls and you four guys?” Lance flashed one of his winning smiles at Jenna then walked her into the living room that was now crawling with people.
Melissa looked up at Jenna as she entered the room followed by Lance. “You didn’t tell us that everyone was coming over tonight.”
Jenna smiled trying to hide her annoyance. “Well, I didn’t know that they were coming. But since everyone is here, I guess I’ll do the introductions. Girls this is Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick, Justin Timberlake, and JC Chasez. Joey’s at home with the in-laws.” Jenna sat back down next to Robin. “Guys this is Robin Fisher, Melissa Owens, and Lane Jackson.”
“Which one’s the reporter?” Chris asked.
Lane smiled and raised her hand. “That would be me.”
“Hey, you should let Jenna see that tape of your big school report.” Robin said, hoping to evoke some embarrassment from Lane.
“Oh, I don’t know…”
“Come on. Jenna doesn’t get to see the Texas news anymore.” Melissa prodded. “Go get the tape.”
“Please!” a chorus of guys begged.
“It looks like the masses have spoken. Go get the tape Lane.” Jenna smiled as she watched her friend get more embarrassed. Reluctantly, Lane went into the guest bedroom and got the much-requested tape. She handed it to Jenna, but her eyes begged that she not put it in the VCR. “This is going to be interesting.”
Lane plopped down on the couch. “Now ya’ll need to realize that this is my first time on air and it’s not a hard hitting story or anything.”
“I’m sure it’s great.” Jenna said as she hit play on the remote and got comfortable next to Lance. The group watched the three-minute report on school attendance during finals week. Lane was dressed in her most professional looking outfit and tried to make the news report as interesting as she could. When it was over, the room was silent. Jenna could tell Lane wasn’t happy with the report and tried her best to make her feel better. “That was really, um, good. I never realized how many of us skipped that last week.” Lane gave Jenna a weak smile. “You did a good job and think, it can only get better from here.”
Lane let out a soft laugh. “It’s so cheesy!” Everyone did their best to disagree.
Chris, wanting to lighten the mood, stood up in the middle of the living room and grabbed one of Jenna’s remotes to use as a microphone. “This is Lane Jackson from KLMNOP, Channel Eleventy Six with breaking news. Students don’t like going to school. More at ten.”
“Chris!” Jenna scolded, although with the laughter in the room including Lane’s she couldn’t contain her own.
“What? I just thought it would be fun to do my best impersonation of Lane ‘No Action’ Jackson over here. It’s not everyday we get to meet a star news reporter.” Chris held his hand up to Lane to get a high five.
“Hey, what can I say? I have the best fans ever.” She high-fived Chris as the group erupted in laughter.
The rest of the night the group got to know each other better and swapped embarrassing Jenna stories. The next day Jenna showed her friend around Orlando. She took them up to the compound to meet Johnny. They had lunch at Jenna’s favorite deli then went back to the house to start getting ready for their night out with the guys.
“What all do you have planned for tonight?” Melissa asked.
“Well, we are going to meet the guys and Kelly at Livingston Street Café. It’s their favorite place to eat here in town. Italian. Then we are going to go to Diamonds. It’s a karaoke bar I found one weekend. I figured since we hadn’t got to do anything like that in a while that Diamonds would be fun.” Jenna answered.
“Do the guys know you’re taking them to a karaoke bar? I didn’t think singers would like something like that.” Robin questioned.
“Well,” Jenna grinned mischievously, “Kelly knows and she’d been helping me convince them it’s just a new club here in town. We think they would love it, but not go willingly.”
“You two are sneaky, you know.” Melissa shook her head at her friend.
Jenna just smiled bigger. “Yeah, I know.” She then looked down at her watch. “Damn, girls we’ve got like twenty minutes before we have to leave.” The girls all scurried to their rooms to finish getting ready.
They were late to the restaurant, but it wasn’t that obvious since JC and Chris hadn’t gotten there yet either. Kelly had gotten her parents to baby-sit Brianna so that she and Joey wouldn’t have to leave early. The crew of ten enjoyed their dinner together. The girls were amazed that no one came up to the guys to ask for autographs or anything. Jenna explained that the only time anyone in Orlando made notice of the guys was when they had been out of town for a while or had a new album coming out. Any other time, they were just normal guys.
The group then drove to Diamonds. The guys still had no clue it was a karaoke bar until they opened the door and heard a drunk guy with a British accent singing Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi.
Justin glared at Jenna. “I know this isn’t…”
“It is dude.” JC said looking nervously around the room. “Are you crazy Jenna?”
Jenna linked arms with Lance and Kelly. “Let’s get a table.” Turning to her friend and ignoring JC’s question, “This is going to be a blast.”
The group found two tables in the corner that had enough seats. Lane grabbed one of the karaoke books and Melissa grabbed a handful of request slips and pencils. The five girls looked through the book and wrote down songs they’d like to do. As Kelly scanned a page to see if there were any songs that interested her, her eyes lit up. She leaned over to whisper something to Jenna then grabbed a request slip. She scribbled down a song, number, and names. She then jumped up and turned in all the slips that had been written on.
After thirty minutes and two songs by Jenna and Lane the guys began to relax and even order some drinks. The MC got up on the stage with a slip of paper in his hands. “Let’s give another round of applause for Mitch. You did a good job man! Up next we have five guys singing Everybody by the Backstreet Boys. Where are Christopher, James, Josh, Joe and Randall?”
Joey grabbed Kelly’s arm. “Shit, that’s not us is it?”
Kelly just smiled. “The crowd is waiting guys.”
“Hell no! We can’t go up there.” Justin looked almost terrified.
Jenna took the drink out of Lance’s hand. “Please guys. It’ll be fun. I promise.”
Jenna then leaned into Lance and whispered something to him. He just let out a sigh then stood up. “Come on guys. Let’s get this over with.” The guys grumbled, but followed Lance’s lead.
Robin looked at Jenna questionably. “What did you say to Lance to get him to go?”
Jenna sat back in her seat, took a sip of Lance’s Jack and Coke then nodded to the guys getting situated with the mics. “Let’s just say I’ve got some dirt on him.”
“You’re bad.” Robin shook her head. Just then the song started and the girls watched the guys sing and dance to a Backstreet song. When the song was over, they sat back down with the girls and were laughing. “We told you that that would be fun.”
“Don’t worry. We’re getting you back.” JC grabbed the karaoke book to find the most embarrassing song he could.
The girls spent the rest of the week enjoying their time together. They had dinner with Kelly, Joey, Brianna, and Kelly’s parents on Thursday as planned. On Saturday, Jenna took her friends to the airport to send them back home. “I’m gonna miss you guys.”
“When do you think you might be home?” Lane asked.
“Not until Thanksgiving. Maybe even as late as Christmas.”
“Keep us posted until then.” Robin said as she hugged Jenna. “About everything. Work. Lance. Everything.”
“I will and you keep me posted on the baby.” Robin nodded as she hugged Jenna again. The girls all said their goodbyes then Lane, Robin, and Melissa got onto their plane to head back to Plano.
Jenna let out a sigh as she played with a sugar packet on the café table. Kelly knew what that sigh meant and realized why she had been invited to lunch. Jenna needed advice. “Are you going to tell me what you’re thinking or are you just going to pick at your lunch in silence?”
Jenna looked at Kelly who was almost finished eating. She had barely touched her salad. “Am I crazy?”
Kelly frowned. “You’re going to have to give me more information than that for a real answer.”
Jenna took a small bite of her salad then let out another sigh. “I’ve only know him for like two months. I shouldn’t expect anything.”
Kelly nodded, her thought being confirmed. “Lance problems, huh?”
“Yeah.” Jenna tried to take another bite, but the mentions of Lance’s name made her lose all her appetite. She put her fork down and pushed the bowl away from herself. “I swear, he gives me signals and acts like he likes me, but…”
“Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” Kelly mumbled.
“What? I’m not sleeping with him!” Jenna loudly said. The people at the tables nearby looked over. “Sorry!”
Kelly laughed. “That’s not what I meant. I just meant why is he going to ask you out if you are already acting like his girlfriend. He’s not a jerk guy like that, but he’s gotten the relationship without the work. He probably hasn’t even realized he’s skipped some steps.”
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“Do you like him?” Kelly asked matter-of-factly.
Jenna let out another sigh. “Yes.” She began to tear up. “But…but, I don’t want to be used. To feel used.”
Jenna finally looked Kelly in the eyes. “How?”
Kelly reached across the table and grabbed Jenna’s hands. “There are a million guys in this town that would love to date you. I’ve seen you turn down many. Maybe you should start dating some of them.”
“How’s that going to help?” Jenna looked truly confused.
“Well, for one it will let you see if you really have a thing for Lance or if it’s just because you are around him too much. Second, if he really does have feelings for you, it will be a wake up call to him. And third, it will let you get out of the house and meet some people other than our little group.” The waiter walked up with the bill and Kelly handed him her credit card before Jenna even noticed anything had happened. “So, what do you think?”
Jenna sat back in her seat and thought about what Kelly had said. The waiter returned with the card then cleared the table. After a minute of silence, Jenna looked at her watch then stood up. “Thanks for having lunch with me. I’ve gotta get back to work.”
Kelly was shocked at Jenna’s bluntness. “What do you think about what I said?” Kelly stood up and walked with Jenna to their cars.
Jenna sighed. “I don’t know. I need time to think about it.”
“Okay. Tell me what you decide.” Kelly hugged Jenna. “And if nothing else, give yourself some space from Lance. Do things without him and tell him no every once in a while.”
Space from Lance seemed easier said then done, especially since she was working daily with the guys getting Challenge for the Children ready. They had three weeks left and a lot of planning and organizing to go. At least in the office with the other guys and Johnny around, Lance acted very professional around Jenna.
One of the many jobs Jenna had was getting food for the hospitality rooms. She was going around to the local grocery stores to get prices on deli and fruit trays. She couldn’t believe she had gone to college to learn how to make her natural PR skills work for her when she thought about how she was going to have to make a presentation that afternoon on bologna and strawberries. She listened to this deli manager tell her the same spill about how they had the best prices in town and the freshest fruits. Jenna wrote down the information, noticing that this store was actually the most expensive and then thanked the lady.
After talking to people all morning about the trays all Jenna was craving was a Granny Smith apple. She found one that was large and unbruised then thought about how the guys would whine if she was eating one and didn’t have any to share so she grabbed four more and two oranges for Johnny and JC who weren’t apple fans. As she was walking to check out, she noticed that the cantaloupes were two for $3. “Not a bad price” she thought to herself, as she went to grab some. She then noticed a tall, well-dressed man looking at a cantaloupe with a confused _expression on his face.
When Jenna reached for a plastic bag, the man looked at her. “Do you know how to tell if one of these is good or not?” Jenna looked up at the man that had to be as tall as Justin. “I can never tell with fruit like this.”
Jenna grabbed a cantaloupe, squeezed it then smelled it. The man followed suit. Jenna started to giggle. “Honestly, no. I have no idea what I’m doing. I was just going to grab two and hope when I cut them they were ripe.”
The man laughed. “So, I smelled a cantaloupe for no reason.” Jenna nodded. “Well, I did it because I saw a beautiful woman do it. Does that count for anything?” Jenna blushed. “Hi! My name is David.” He stuck his hand out for Jenna to shake.
She took it and smiled. “Jenna.”
“Nice to meet you.” David looked at what Jenna was carrying. “Apples, oranges, and cantaloupe. Either you just started shopping or that’s all you came for.”
“Actually, I just came to price some stuff, but these stores are like vacuums.” She let out a little laugh as she shifted her weight from on foot to the other.
“I know the feeling. I hadn’t even planned on coming in. I’m on my way to work. But as I was driving past I thought of a million things I needed so I dropped in.” David looked straight into her eyes and gave Jenna a warm smile.
“Speaking of work, I’ve gotta get back. It was nice to meet you David.” Jenna smiled at him then turned to walk away. She got in one of the express lanes hoping it wouldn’t take as long as those lanes can.
As she fished around in her purse for her wallet, Jenna felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see the same brown eyes that had been looking at her moments ago. “Long time, no see.” David flashed a smile at her. “You walked away before I got a chance to ask you where you work, or if your eyes are always that amazing blue color, or if you were married.”
Jenna was shocked by the last question. “No! No, I’m not married. I’m…I’m not even dating.”
“Dating anyone or dating in general?” David asked as Jenna handed her money to the cashier.
“I date, I guess.” Jenna shoved the change in her purse, not bothering with putting it in her wallet then laughed. “I sound like an idiot. I’m not dating anyone right now. I’m still kinda new in town.”
David handed his money to the cashier then reached in his pocket. He wrote something on a card then handed it to Jenna. “Well, if you ever want someone to show you around, call me. My home number is on the back.”
Jenna glanced down to see the handwritten number then shoved it in her purse. “Thank you!”
“I hope I hear from you.” David flashed another smile at Jenna that made her blush. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Jenna…”
“Jenna Sutherland. Enjoy your fruit.” David shook Jenna’s hand again.
“I will. You too.” Jenna waved over her shoulder as she walked to her car. Her stomach kept doing flip-flops as she thought about the ‘amazing eyes’ comment. Jenna was so caught up in what David has said and what that card might say, that she almost missed her turn to get back to Johnny’s. “What kind of guy has cards?” she thought. “Doctor’s maybe. A lawyer. I had a teacher once that gave us cards, but this guy said he was on his way to work.” Jenna grabbed her grocery sack and purse as she walked into the house, still wondering what the card said. As she walked into the living room, the guys, who saw she had food, attacked her. She took a quick look through the notes she had been taking at the grocery stores all morning and once Johnny walked in, Jenna handed him his orange and told everyone what she found out and who she thought they should go with. They voted and then discussed a few more things before they dismissed for the day.
Jenna walked into the office, sat at her desk, and was searching through her purse for David’s card when Lance walked in. “Hey Jenn! Can we talk for a minute?”
“Sure.” Jenna said as she found the card that had found it’s way to the bottom and slid it under the phone. “What’s up?”
Lance pulled up a chair and put his hand on Jenna’s knee. “Well, I was thinking about renting some movies and ordering a pizza. I was wondering if you wanted to join me?”
Jenna’s heart jumped in her chest. Everything inside her was screaming yes but she kept thinking about what Kelly had said. She put her hand on top of Lance’s on her knee. “Would this be like a date?”
Lance looked at Jenna shocked. “Well, um…no. It would just be like normal.”
Jenna nodded then removed Lance’s hand from her knee and put it on his own. “Then, no.” She turned to her computer and shook the mouse to wake up the screen.
“No? Why not?” Jenna said nothing. She just began to type up the presentation that she had just made. “Are you wanting to date?”
Without stopping what she was doing, Jenna replied, “Are you?”
Lance was surprised by her cold remark. “I don’t know. I thought things were fine the way they were. What’s changed?”
Jenna felt a lump in her throat. “I have and if you’ll excuse me, I have a phone call to make.” Jenna pulled the card David had given her out from under the phone and flipped it over to dial the work number.
A young female voice answered the phone. “Noodles Italian Kitchen. May I help you?”
“Yes. Hi, may I speak to David…” Jenna looked down at the card. “Lacy, please.”
“Sure, just one moment.” The girl put the phone on hold and Jenna heard soft elevator music play.
“Who’s David Lacy?” Lance asked, almost angrily.
Jenna put her hand over the mouthpiece. “A guy I’m thinking about dating. Now, would you mind?” Jenna nodded towards the door then turned her chair back towards her computer. “And shut the door behind you. Thanks!” Lance couldn’t believe he had just been dismissed. He got up and slammed the door behind him just as David picked up the phone.
“Hi! This is David Lacy, the owner. How may I help you?”
Jenna’s empowered feeling of standing up to Lance changed to butterflies in her stomach when she heard David’s voice. “Um…hi. This is Jenna. Sutherland. We met at the grocery store earlier today.”
“Oh hi! I wasn’t expecting you to call so soon. Or actually at all.” David began to mess with his tie, trying to contain his nervousness.
“Well, I hope I’m not bothering you or anything, but I just realized I need a change and was wondering if your offer to show me around was redeemable for tonight. I know it’s short notice, but…”
David interrupted. “No, not at all! What time is good for you?” David and Jenna talked for a few more minutes. While they were talking, Lance stormed around the house. When he was asked by a third person what was wrong, he decided he needed to get out. So, he got in his SUV and tore out of the parking lot, planning on driving until he ran out of gas.
Jenna looked in the mirror for what seemed like the fiftieth time checking her hair, her makeup and her outfit. She hadn’t had a date in a while, so she was extra nervous. She had called and told Kelly what was going on and was relieved to hear that Kelly thought she had made the right move. The doorbell rang and Jenna almost ran to the front door. She stopped just before reaching for the knob, took a deep breath, and smoothed down the front of her sundress.
When she opened the door, she was greeted with David’s smiling face and a bouquet of daisies. “Hi! These are for you.”
“Thank you! You didn’t have to. Let me get them in some water.” Jenna ushered David in and began to look for the vase Anthony had given her as a house-warming present.
“This is a nice place. In a nice neighborhood, too. That job of yours must pay pretty well.” David leaned up against the bar watching Jenna fill the vase with water and quickly arrange the flowers.
“Yeah. I get by.” Jenna smiled then grabbed her purse. “I’m ready if you are.”
David opened the front door for Jenna then, after she locked up, opened the car door for her. “I live just a mile down the road. Off Searcy Blvd.”
Jenna tried to think of all the streets she’s been on since she moved to Orlando. “I think I’ve been down that way.”
“It’s not as nice a place as yours, but it’s big for just one guy.” Jenna nervously smiled. “Well, I thought we could get some dinner, then I’ll drive you around and show you some of the more popular spots in town.”
“Sounds good.” Jenna nodded.
David and Jenna continued small talk until they reached the restaurant David worked at. “Well, here we are. My home away from home.”
David opened Jenna’s car door and helped her out. “I’ve driven past here before and wanted to stop in to eat.”
“Well, it’s good food, I promise.” David joked. “I know the owner.” They were seated and continued talking while they ate. “So, tell me about this job you have that lets you have a nice house and time to fruit shop in the middle of the day.”
“Oh,” Jenna blushed. “It’s just…I’m…well, have you ever heard of NSync or Britney Spears?”
“Of course I have. Who hasn’t?”
“Well,” Jenna nervously tapped her feet on the ground. “Their manager, Johnny Wright. I’m his personal assistant.”
David looked surprised. “Wow, that’s…”
Jenna interrupted. “Yeah I know. It’s just the fancy way to say secretary, but…”
“No, I was going to say that’s awesome. I must be cool to work with someone as big as he is.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Yeah it is. He’s a great guy. And since I’ve been here, I’ve been working with the NSync guys almost everyday.”
“You must have some nice connections.” David joked. “And that kind of explains the necklace.”
Jenna laughed. “No connections, but I have some pretty popular friends now. And no, I’m not a groupie or anything. This was a present from one of the guys.” Jenna touched her necklace. “But what about you? How did you become a restaurant owner in lovely Orlando?”
“Well, when I graduated from college four years ago, I had two options. Either use a degree I got because my parents made me or stay for more school. So I decided to try culinary school. I loved it. I decided to use my culinary training, my degree in business management and my inheritance from my grandfather to open this place up and it’s been going strong for two years now.”
“See, that’s what I think is awesome. I love to cook, but I don’t think I’m good enough to have my own restaurant.”
“Maybe you’ll have to cook for me sometime.” David put one hand on top of Jenna’s causing her to blush again.
Jenna and David finished their dinner and enjoyed the rest of their evening together. When Jenna walked into the bedroom to get ready for bed, she was floating on cloud nine and antsy to tell Kelly all about it at their dinner together the next day.
It was almost impossible for Jenna to not call Kelly and tell her everything that happened that night. But, as Jenna pulled into the Fatone’s driveway, her excited energy changed into nausea. Lance’s SUV was there and she knew that he wouldn’t be as interested in hearing about the date. Jenna just sat in her car for a moment contemplating going back home and telling Kelly she wasn’t feeling well, but before she could get the keys back in the ignition, Joey came out the front door and practically pulled Jenna out of her car and in the house.
The five of them had a nice, quiet dinner. Tension filled the air, but anytime things got too uncomfortable, someone made a comment about Brianna and the four adults would begin talking again.
The guys offered to clean up the kitchen, so Jenna and Kelly took Brianna upstairs to bath her. As Kelly reached for the baby shampoo, she asked, “So, are you going to tell me about last night or not?”
Jenna smiled. “We had a good time.”
“And he was a gentleman.”
“Don’t make me dig. Tell me what he did.”
“He opened doors, paid for the meal, brought me flowers…it was nice.”
Kelly reached for the cup she used to rinse off Brianna’s hair with. “Are you going to see him again?”
Jenna smiled. “Yeah.”
“Did you kiss him?” Kelly rinsed off Brianna again before lifting her out of the tub and wrapping her up in a towel.
“You’re a sad girl. Yes, a small one when we said goodnight.”
“Was it good?”
Jenna laughed as she sat herself on the bathroom cabinet. “Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a real kiss, but yeah, it was good.”
“So, aren’t you glad you called him now?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“When’s your next date?” A sardonic voice asked from the doorway. The girls looked up to see Lance glaring at Jenna as Joey stepped in and reached for his daughter.
Lance crossed his arms. “Two dates in one week. It has been a while for you, hasn’t it?”
Jenna slid off the cabinet and stood facing Lance. For the top of her head to only come up to Lance’s nose, it was obvious she meant business. “Well, at least it’s not an act. He wanted another date and I want to get to know him better. Tomorrow sounded like a good idea. Do you have a problem with that?”
Joey and Kelly exchanged concerned looks as they watched the conversation unfold. Kelly squeezed past Lance and Jenna, eyes locked to gain dominance. “I’m going to put Bri to bed.”
“I’ll help you.” Joey said. As he passed Lance, he grabbed his arm. “Please, no bloodshed in my house.”
Lance shook off Joey. “Is that what you want? Someone to fawn over you?”
“No. I just want someone to treat me the way our title defines. No matter if it’s a friend, a date, or a co-worker.” Jenna, even in her anger, searched Lance’s eyes for understanding. She found nothing.
“Co-worker? Don’t you mean boss?”
Jenna’s heart stopped. She couldn’t believe Lance had just said that. All her composure flew out the window as she raised her voice. “You’re not my boss, asshole. Johnny is.”
“So that technically means your nothing to me then.” Lance cocked his head.
Jenna’s eyes welled up with tears. “Apparently.” She couldn’t let him see her cry, so she pushed Lance out of the way. She stuck her head in Brianna’s room, where Joey and Kelly had been listening to the whole conversation. “Thanks for dinner, guys, but I have to go.” The last word came out of her mouth as more of a sob than a word.
Kelly reached for Jenna, to console her, but she flew down the stairs too quickly and was in her car driving away before she could be stopped. Joey walked over to Lance, who was still in the bathroom. “Good job, stud. That’s the way to make friends.” He sarcastically said.
Lance retorted, with obvious hurt in his voice, “Shut the hell up, Joe. Just shut the hell up.”
“So, what do I do, Lane? I never wanted things to be like this.” Jenna adjusted the phone on her shoulder as she put her earrings in.
“Well, you sound interested in this David guy and I think right now Lance is just having trouble with the idea that you’re not completely focused on him. Keep dating David and see where that goes. Lance will either straighten up or not. You shouldn’t worry about it. Just live your life.”
Jenna thought about what Lane said. Then the doorbell rang. “Shit, he’s here. I’ve gotta go. We are having a picnic today, I think.”
“Have fun and tell me what happens, okay? Don’t let Lance get to you.”
Jenna slid her shoes on as she grabbed for her purse. “I’ll try not to. Thanks for listening, girl. You don’t know how much I miss you.”
“Bye.” As Jenna clicked off the phone, she opened the front door.
“Hi Jenna! You ready to go?” David smiled at her.
“Yeah, I think.” Jenna looked down at her purple plaid Capri’s and white tank. “Am I dressed properly? I’m not really sure what you have planned for today.”
“You look perfect and I like to surprise my dates.” David extended his hand to help usher Jenna out the door. They got in his car and only drove a few blocks away from her house to a nearby park. When they stopped, David opened the trunk and emerged with a picnic basket and a large blanket. Jenna followed David to a shaded spot overlooking the park and helped him spread out the blanket. “So did you have to work today?” David asked as he began to spread out the food he brought.
“No, not really. I don’t really have a set schedule. I normally do the Monday to Friday nine to five, but I can come in any day for any length of time. Just as long as everything gets done, Johnny doesn’t care. What about you? Do you have to work today?” Jenna reached for the thermos of iced tea and the two glasses David packed to make drinks for them both.
“Yeah, actually I’m going in at five tonight. That’s why I was hoping a Saturday lunch date would be alright with you.” David took the glass Jenna handed him and nodded in thanks.
“Anything that gets me out of that house on a beautiful day like this is alright with me.” Jenna took a deep breath of the clean Orlando air then looked at the contents of the container David was opening. “Did you cook for me?”
David let out a soft laugh. “Well, sort of. It’s just a pasta salad, but I made it.” He scooped two spoonfuls onto a plate, put some crackers around it then handed that plate and a fork to Jenna before making his plate. “Now, there’s more if you want some.”
“Thanks.” Jenna took a small bite. “This is good.” She took another bite. “I want to get this recipe from you.”
David laughed and said, “Sure.” They ate a few bites in silence then David spoke up. “So, how was your dinner last night with…with…”
“Joey and Kelly?”
“It was okay. A little tense, though.”
“Why? If you don’t mind me asking.” David took a sip of his tea then nibbled a cracker.
“Well, I don’t really want to get too into it, but Lance was there and he and I aren’t getting along great right now.” Jenna rolled her eyes then took another bite of her salad.
“You mean this wonderful little Texas girl isn’t getting along with one fifth of American’s most loved boy bands.”
“Vocal group.” Jenna laughed.
“Oh sorry!” David patted Jenna’s knee.
“Let’s just say that sometimes it’s easier to idolize those guys than work for them.” David nodded in understanding. Jenna and David finished eating and continued chatting. When they were done, David put the stuff back in his trunk and took Jenna on a walk around the park. Around four o’clock, David said he needed to get home and get ready for work. He said he’d call and set up another date. Jenna was happy about that. She had enjoyed her afternoon and it almost made her forget about the fight she had the night before.
David walked her to her front door. “I had a good time this afternoon. I almost wish I didn’t have to work.”
“Yeah. It was fun.” Jenna smiled as she saw David lean in for a kiss. It was more passionate than the one they had first shared only two days before. He caressed her cheek with his thumb and could feel her smile.
“I’ll talk to you soon, okay?” David ran his hand down Jenna’s arm and grabbed her hand.
“Okay. Have fun at work.” She looked down at her hand in his.
“Bye!” Jenna waved as David got back in his car. He waved back then pulled out of her driveway. Jenna walked in her house and tossed her purse on her kitchen bar. Her head was swimming with thoughts of David’s smile, what almost felt like too much affection too soon from him and Lance calling her nothing. “I need some Advil and a nap.” Jenna thought as she kicked her shoes off.
“Wright Entertainment Group. Jenna Sutherland speaking.” Jenna answered the phone for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning. The closer it got to Challenge for the Children, the more people forgot what they were supposed to do and had to call. “Correct, the guys don’t need the gift bags. Make them up for everyone else and put them with each person’s jersey and shoes…No, no, that’s all right. If you need anything else, just call…You’re welcome. Bye now.” Jenna hung up the phone and mumbled under her breath, “idiot.”
“Jenna?” Johnny said.
“Have I mentioned how glad I am you’re here and that I don’t have to deal with the idiots this year?” Johnny chuckled.
“Shut it, old man, or I’ll go home.” Jenna smiled at Johnny as she threw a paper clip at him.
“Okay, okay. Don’t get violent. Could you hand me the folder of scripts for Lance. He should be here any minute now.”
“Sure.” Jenna searched through the file cabinet until she found the file labeled ‘Scripts-JLB.’ She pulled it out and set it on Johnny’s desk.
“Thanks!” The gate intercom buzzed on Johnny’s desk. “Yes.”
“I have a delivery for Jenna Sutherland.” A young voice responded.
“Come on in.” Johnny buzzed the gate open and told the young man where to come to.
“I’ll go meet him at the front door. I need to stretch my legs anyway.” Jenna clicked save on her computer then minimized the document she was working on. Just as she walked out the office door, she passed Lance. It had been a week and a half since their fight at Joey’s and they hadn’t even said hello since that day.
Surprisingly, Lance acknowledged Jenna. Yet his voice dripped with disdain. “Jenna.”
She nodded. “Lance. Johnny’s ready for you.” Even though she hadn’t talked to Lance in a while, he always seemed to overhear her and Kelly’s conversations about her dates or phone calls with David. Right when Jenna got to the front door, she saw a young man poke his head in with a vase full of roses in his hand. “Hi. I’m Jenna Sutherland. Are those for me?”
The man looked relieved that he didn’t have to trapes all around this house. “Yes. Could you sign this for me please?”
“Sure.” Jenna sighed the clipboard, took the roses, twenty-four all of different colors, tipped the man then read the note.
Was just thinking about you. Hope you like these.
Jenna just shook her head. He was too much. David had been so wonderful to her since they met and all she could think about was how it seemed like he wanted more a lot quicker than she did. But she had to admire his charm. She smiled as she leaned in to smell the flowers then walked back into the office.
“That story line sounds good, but I don’t think I want to act in it. Maybe just produce it.” Lance said as he flipped through a script.
“Whatever you think, but I think that one’s a winner.” Johnny looked up at Jenna as she opened the office door. “Nice flowers. They from David?’
Jenna nodded as she cleared a place on her desk for them. “Yeah.”
“Isn’t it a little quick to be getting roses from this guy?” Lance asked. “Plus that many is a little tacky.”
“Well, I’m sorry you disapprove, Mr. Bass. But I think they’re beautiful and that it’s nice he thought about me like that.”
“What’s the occasion?” Johnny asked as he shot a concerned look between Lance and Jenna.
“You put out last night or something?” Lance glared at Jenna.
“You’re such a dumb bastard. I don’t ‘put out’ for anyone. The card said he was just thinking of me, that’s all.” Jenna sat in her seat and looked Lance straight in the eyes. “It’s a novel concept, to show how you really feel about someone, instead of playing silly games because it’s comfortable.”
“You know the only reason you’re with him is because you couldn’t get one of us to treat you like the queen you think you are.”
Jenna stood up, causing Lance to do the same. “No, the only reason I’m dating him is because he’s one of the only guys in this whole damn town who doesn’t have his head stuck up his ass like you do.”
Before Lance could strike back, Johnny got in between the two. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Lance and Jenna turned their backs to each other like little kids. “Lance? Jenna?” Neither answered. “Fine. You don’t want to say anything, that’s your choice. But whatever is going on between you two stays out of this office. We have to work together for a long time so whatever this is better be resolved soon. Do you understand?” Jenna nodded. “Lance?” He nodded. “Good, now apologize.”
“What!” Lance and Jenna replied in unison.
“You both said shitty things to each other and I will not tolerate that in my office. Apologize.”
Jenna looked up at Lance and for a moment thought she saw true sorrow. But soon realized he was just sorry he was being called down by his boss. They both mumbled sorries to each other then Jenna grabbed her purse. “I’m going home early. I’ll see you tomorrow Johnny.” She grabbed her flowers and left the compound as Lance looked through the scripts for a few more minutes then also left.
Jenna couldn’t believe she could be so stressed out over what was supposed to be a fun filled weekend, but this being her first Challenge for the Children event and with all the little things that had already gone wrong, she was about to lose her mind. It was only an hour until the opening press conference and she was becoming a nervous wreck. “Why will the rest of it stay up, but the front keeps falling?” Chris tried to make the front of his new Mohawk stand up, but whenever he moved his hands, it kept falling flat.
“Well, first stop messing with it and go get one of the hair people to put some goop in it.” JC said as he fiddled with this turquoise necklace.
“Whatever you do, Chris, get it done fast. As soon as the sound people find the microphones, we are going to need to set levels and then press gets to come in here in like forty minutes.” Jenna said as she checked her watch.
The walkie-talkie on her hip buzzed. “Jenna, there’s someone here trying to get in. Says he knows you.”
Jenna grabbed for her walkie-talkie and clicked the red button. “Does he have a pass?”
“Then let him in. That’s what the passes are for.” Jenna shook her head.
“Okay. Where are you so I can send him that way?”
“Press room.” She put the walkie-talkie back on her hip then rubbed her temples. “Do people always lose all common sense when there are events like this?”
The guys just smiled at her. Chris put his arm around her and gave her a half hug. “Now you know what it’s like to be us.”
“Who has his hands on my woman?” A voice from behind the circle asked.
“Your woman?” Lance responded.
Jenna turned around to see who was talking then gave him a hug. “Hey David! I’m glad you’re here.”
“I almost thought they weren’t going to let me in.” David shrugged as he joined the circle.
Jenna let out an annoyed sigh. “Don’t get me started. Let me introduce you to everyone. David this is Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, JC Chasez, you’ve met Joey before, and Chris Kirkpatrick.” Jenna pointed at each guy and they all shook hands. “Guys, this is David Lacy.”
“It’s nice to meet you, David. First time to do something like this?” JC asked cordially. Lance shot him a look.
“Well, I actually come every year for the game, but it’s going to be fun getting to do everything this year.” David grabbed for Jenna’s hand.
“Wow! Didn’t realize you were dating a fan, Jenn.” Chris said as he nudged her.
“Me either.” She looked up at David for more explanation.
“Well, when you first had this, my girlfriend drug me to it. But I really enjoyed the game and the charity is a great cause. So I now come every year. My restaurant even does stuff for the event.”
“Like what?” Lance snottily asked.
“Well, all weekend long, if you come in and show your ticket stub, you get a free desert. And we have an item on our menu that anytime during the year, if someone orders it we give all the profits to you guys. We give like every three months or so.”
“What item is it?” Joey asked, hoping that David didn’t notice Lance staring at him holding Jenna’s hand.
“It’s called Daze ‘n Knights. It’s half a plate of spaghetti and half a plate of fettuccini alfredo. At first we were worried that we wouldn’t sell much of it, but we normally sell five or so plates a night. Mostly to eighty pound fourteen year olds, but I think that’s because we put on the menu that the proceeds go to you guys.” David seemed proud to be telling the guys about his restaurant.
“That’s awesome man. We really appreciate it. Hey, you want to get the grand tour?” Justin asked David.
“I’ll come too!” Joey said as the three walked off.
“I need to go get my hawk fixed. Where are the hair people?” Chris asked as he messed with his hair again.
“I think near the locker room.” Jenna replied. Chris walked in the same direction as Joey, Justin, and David had gone leaving Jenna, JC, and Lance still standing around waiting for the sound people.
“You’ve got yourself a really nice guy there.” JC said nodding towards the locker room.
“Thanks.” Jenna gave a weak smile then looked up at Lance.
“Yeah, he does seem nice.” Lance admitted then dropped his eyes.
Jenna thought she heard sarcasm in Lance’s voice and her already stressed out mind was over analyzing everything. Feeling like that was the last straw, she pointed her finger in Lance’s chest and began to go off on him. “He is a nice guy! Whether you believe it or not. He treats me well. He’s polite and courteous and gentlemanly. He showers me with attention, listens when I talk. I think he loves me.” Jenna stopped a moment to take in what she had said, but continued before Lance could open his mouth. “He treats a girl the way she needs to be treated. The way she wants to be treated. You could take some lessons from him, Mr. Bass.”
Lance grabbed Jenna by her wrist and pulled her into him, all the while JC just stood there and watched it all unfold. “Do you love him?”
“Do you love David?” Lance stared deep into Jenna’s eyes.
She pulled her wrist free and pushed Lance back to give herself some space. “That’s none of your business. Like you even care.”
They just looked at each other until the walkie-talkie broke the silence. “Jenna.”
“What?” She yelled into it.
“Um…well, we have a situation in the locker room. They put Stinky on the back of Justin’s jersey and he’s going a little nuts.”
“Shit!” Jenna closed her eyes. “I’ll be right there. Get the screen printers on the phone and find a blank jersey.” Without saying anything to the boys, Jenna ran towards the locker room.
“What was all that about?” JC broke the silence.
“I don’t want to get into it, Jace. It’s too confusing.” Lance rubbed his temples as two young men walked up to him.
“Um, guys we found the mics and are ready to start setting levels. Where’s Jenna?”
JC laughed. “She’s a little busy. I’ll round everybody up and we’ll do it in like ten minutes, okay?”
“Okay.” The sounds guys looked confused, but began to set up the mics on the table.
“So, what do you think I should do mom?” Jenna asked then switched the phone from one ear to the other.
“I think you need to make that decision for yourself.”
“That’s not what you’re supposed to say.”
“What do you want me to say, honey?” Mrs. Sutherland laughed.
“I don’t know.” Jenna said as she twirled a piece of hair in her free hand. “Your supposed to tell me if calling him is a good idea.”
“Well, I don’t think you should do it over the phone, but if you aren’t happy and you think telling him would help, then you need to tell him. Things won’t change if you don’t talk to him.” Jenna let out a sigh, but knew her mother was right. “And honey, the longer you put it off, the harder it will be.”
“I know. I know.”
“Well, Jenn, I hate to do this, but I need to go. I love you and tell me what you do and how it all goes.”
“I will mom. Thanks. I love you too. Tell dad I said hi.”
“I will honey.”
“Bye!” Jenna clicked the phone off, took a deep breath then dialed the number.
The phone was picked up in two rings and in the background she heard the news. “Hello?”
“Hey! It’s Jenna.” She nervously said.
“Hi! I wasn’t expecting you to call.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m…I need to talk to you. Are you busy right now?”
“Well, this is a face-to-face conversation. Could you meet me at Starbucks on 4th in like fifteen minutes?” Jenna began to twirl her hair again.
“Yeah sure. See you there.” Jenna hung up the phone, grabbed her stuff then gave herself a once over. When she got to Starbucks, she sat down at a corner table and waited for him to show up. She had only been sitting for a few minutes when he walked up and sat across from her.
“Thanks for meeting me on such short notice.” Jenna looked down at her hands on the table, not really wanting to make eye contact.
“No problem. What’s up?”
Jenna let out a soft sigh then took a quick second to think of what she wanted to say. “David,” she said finally making eye contact with him. “You are a wonderful man and these last six weeks have been great, but…”
“But what?” He reached across the table and grabbed Jenna’s hands.
“I don’t think I feel the same way you do about this. About us. And I think we should end it before it gets too far.” Even though Jenna’s voice was shaky, she was sure of what she was saying.
“Are you breaking up with me?” David pulled his hands back and searched Jenna’s eyes for an explanation.
“See, here’s what I’m saying. We are only dating but you think this is breaking up, which is a term I use when I’m someone’s girlfriend. I’m not trying to sound like a bitch, but you just want more that I do from this right now. I’m sorry.”
Sheepishly David replied, “Yeah, me too.”
“I really am sorry! You’re a great guy. I’m…I’m sorry.” Jenna couldn’t look at David, afraid she was going to cry.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you around.” David sighed, stood up and walked out of the coffee shop. Jenna put her head in her hands and began to cry.
Jenna spent the next few days in a funk. She knew she had made the right decision, but that didn’t make her feel any better about having done it. She sat at her desk at the compound typing, not even taking in the words she was putting up on the screen. She stopped typing when she heard Lance’s voice yell her name through the house. Lance pushed open Johnny’s office door and saw Jenna sitting, staring blankly at her computer screen. “There you are. Do you purposefully try to do things to piss me off?” Jenna didn’t answer, just looked up at Lance with a blank look on her face. She had her glasses on, no make-up, and her hair pulled back, looking unbrushed. Lance had never seen her unfixed. He lowered his voice. “You’re, um…you’re parked in my spot.”
Jenna blinked her eyes then opened her top desk drawer to get her car keys out. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. I’ll move my car.” She stood up and walked out of the office.
As she passed JC, he looked up at her. “Where are you going?”
“I’ve got to move my car. I parked in Lance’s spot.”
“We don’t have spots out there.” Jenna just shrugged her shoulders. “Jenna, are you okay?” She nodded. “Um, well, are you still coming over for the barbeque Friday? I’m ready to try out my new grill.”
“Yeah, I’ll be there.” She then started walking towards the front door.
JC yelled at Jenna’s back, “You can bring David if you want.” Jenna sighed then walked to her car.
As she unlocked her car door, Justin hopped out of his. “Where you goin’?”
“Got to move my car. Parked in Lance’s spot”
Justin looked confused. “We don’t have spots.” Jenna shrugged her shoulders then got in her car, cranked it and drove out of the compound.
“Where’d she go?” JC asked Justin.
“I don’t know.” Justin looked at Lance, who was looking over JC’s shoulder, watching Jenna drive away. “Dude, why’d you tell her she parked in you spot?”
“Yeah Lance. What’s up with you two?” JC asked as the three stepped back inside.
“I was just joking with her. I don’t know why she left.” Lance started picking at the hem of his shirt.
“Joking with her my ass.” Justin rolled his eyes. “You two have been having this stupid lover’s spat for too damn long.”
“Lover’s spat? What are you talking about?”
“Lance,” JC said as the boys sat down on the couch. “It’s been so obvious that you two have a thing. Then she started dating David and you guys started fighting. What is it? If you can’t have her, no one can?”
Lance looked from JC to Justin then down to the floor. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Jace.” Lance said almost inaudibly, then stood up and left the room.
“I’ve never seen him be such an ass and be so oblivious about a chick before.” Justin shook his head.
“I just hope they work it out soon before they make us all miserable.”
By the time Friday rolled around, Jenna had begun to perk up and was actually looking forward to JC’s barbeque. She had even decided to skip her traditional desert making duties and decided to make her mom’s famous potato salad. When she got to JC’s, almost everyone was there. She greeted everyone as she walked into the kitchen to put her salad on the bar. Justin, Chris, and Lance were huddled around the chips and salsa, a staple at any NSync party no matter what was for dinner. Justin gave Jenna a hug then asked her to weigh in on the discussion the guys were having. “So, do you thing it’s wrong to double dip?”
“Um…well, with the girls I don’t care, but a party like this with people you don’t know very well, I think it’s gross.” Jenna said as she grabbed for a chip and broke off a corner to eat.
“But,” Chris began, “those same hands are all reaching in the bowl for the chips. Don’t you think whatever germs you’d get from the dip, you’d get in the bowl?”
“Spit’s different than hand germs.” Jenna said as she reached for another chip.
“How so?” Lance asked.
“Well, spit is gross if exchanged over food, and it’s visible. The germs on your hands are unseen so easily ignored.” She then dipped her chip in the salsa and ate it.
“Did you just double dip?” Justin asked jokingly.
“No!” Jenna tried to look appalled, but couldn’t help but smile.
“No, you did!” Lance said as he grabbed her wrist trying not to smile. “We were just talking about how gross that is and you go and do it.”
Jenna shook herself free. “I didn’t. You need to grow up Bass.” Justin laughed. “You too!” Jenna gave Justin a dirty look, punched him in the arm then turned to get a beer from the fridge.
“I was just joking with her.” Lance said to Justin.
He just shrugged his shoulders. “You two are strange.”
The muffled sound of Smooth Criminal started to come from Jenna’s purse on JC’s microwave. “Your phone’s ringing, Jenn.” Chris said as he reached in and looked at the caller ID that displayed the words ‘Lane cell.’ “Oooh, it’s Lane!” He pushed the talk button to answer Jenna’s phone before she could grab it out of his hand. “Hello Lane! How’s my favorite reporter?”
“Give me my phone, Chris!”
“Um, Chris…hi…can I talk to Jenna?”
Chris could here cars in the background and what he thought was a siren. “You don’t want to talk to me?”
“No, no. I do, it’s just…um…I just really need to talk to Jenna. It’s really important.” Lane sniffed and Chris’ face went serious.
“Sure, here you go.” He handed the phone to Jenna.
“It’s about time Chris.” Jenna said as she took her phone from him. “Hey Lane. What’s up?”
“Where are you?” Jenna could also hear sirens in the background.
“At JC’s. Where are you?” Jenna walked into JC’s den, where no one was, to be able to hear Lane better.
“I’m at the hospital.” Lane sniffled again.
“You’re where? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Jenna sat down in a nearby chair to keep from passing out as her head spun.
“I’m fine Jenn, but Robin…and Joel…the baby. There was a car wreck and Jenn…Jenn you need to get down here.” Lane then broke down and all Jenna could hear was her sobbing.
She was silent for a moment, trying to let everything sink in. When she began to speak, Lane calmed down. “Okay. I’ll get a flight out of here as soon as I can. I’ll be there soon, I promise.” Lane nodded even though Jenna couldn’t see her. “I’m gonna go. I’ll call as soon as I can.” Jenna hung up her phone and just looked at it until the tears filled her eyes and everything was blurry. She tried to blink them away, but ended up just breaking down.
Lance walked into JC’s den, after being asked by all the guys to come to a truce with Jenna. When he saw Jenna with her knees pulled up to her chest, shaking he thought about leaving to get Kelly. As he began to back up, Lance bumped into a coffee table, causing Jenna to look up. She mouthed the word ‘shit’ then put her head back on her knees and cried harder. Lance walked over in front of Jenna and as kindly as he could asked, “What’s wrong?” Jenna just shook her head but didn’t look up. “Jenna, what happened? Is everything okay?”
Jenna looked up at Lance with mascara running down her cheeks. “No, everything’s not okay!” She reached for the Kleenex Lance was handing her, but did her best to not make eye contact with him.
Lance kneeled down in front of Jenna, trying to make her look at him. “What happened? That was Lane on the phone, right? Is she okay?” Lance put his hand on Jenna’s leg, trying to reassure her that he cared.
“Don’t touch me!” Jenna pushed his hand off of her. “Lane’s fine. It’s…it’s…” Jenna began to cry. “You don’t care. Why should I tell you?”
Lance put his hand under Jenna’s chin and made her look him in the eyes. “I do care. Jenn, please tell me what’s going on?”
Jenna let out a sigh then reluctantly told Lance what Lane said. “Something happened to Robin and Joel, her husband. They were in a car wreck. Lane said something about the baby and that I needed to get home.” Another tear ran down Jenna’s cheek and Lance wiped it away with his thumb. Jenna then stood up, almost knocking Lance over. “I’ve gotta go. I’ve gotta get home.”
Lance stood up and grabbed Jenna’s arm. “You’re not going alone. Not like this.”
She shook Lance off and started to walk towards the kitchen to get her purse. “Lance, stop it! I need to get home.” Jenna dashed in the kitchen, grabbed her purse then started for the door. Lance followed her to her car and got in the passengers side when she unlocked the door. “What are you doing?”
“I’m not letting you go alone. You’re too upset to make this trip by yourself.” Lance buckled up and waited for Jenna to start her car.
“Lance, I know you think you can save the world, but I don’t need you. I don’t need your help. All I need is to get home and be with my friends.”
Lance pulled out his cell phone and began to dial the airport’s number. “You can’t get a last minute flight that you can afford for today. I can. Now you can take my help and drive to get packed or you can spend every last cent you have and hope you can fly out by tomorrow. You choose.”
Jenna huffed, but cranked her car and began to drive to her house. As she opened her door to her house, Lance was finalizing a flight. Jenna walked into her bedroom to begin to pack. When Lance finished his phone call, he walked into Jenna’s room and started folding clothes she had thrown on the bed. “I don’t need your help.” Jenna said as she ripped a pair of jeans out of his hands.
Lance fought back his urges to gripe at her and calmly said, “The flight leaves in an hour and a half. You should be in Dallas by ten tonight. Do you want me to call David so he can use the other ticket?”
“No! I don’t need you to call anyone. Why did you get two tickets anyway?” Jenna walked into her bathroom to get more things to pack.
Lance rolled his eyes but did the best he could to not fight with Jenna. “I got two tickets because I told you that you shouldn’t go alone. If you don’t want David to go with you, then I’m going to go. You get no say in this Jenna. I’m not letting you go alone so quit fighting it.”
Jenna threw the last few items in her suitcase. “Fine. Come if you want. I don’t care.” Jenna zipped up her bag and began to walk towards her front door.
Lance followed her. “Are you sure you don’t want David to come with you? I’m sure he could get the time off…”
Jenna interrupted, “We broke up, okay! Like a week ago, so no I don’t want to call him. If I have to have someone come with me, then you’re the guy for the job. Can I leave now?”
Lance grabbed Jenna’s keys off her bar. “Yes, but I need to pack a few things and I’m driving.”
“Fine.” Jenna walked out the door and waited for Lance to pop her trunk so she could put her suitcase in it. Jenna was quiet while Lance packed, made hotel reservations and told both Johnny and JC what was going on. She didn’t speak again until she called Lane and her parents with the finalized plans. They were twenty minutes into the flight before Jenna mumbled something to Lance.
“What’d you say?” Lance asked as he turned his attention ways from the window.
“Thank you.” Jenna grudgingly repeated. “Thanks for doing all this for me…you didn’t have to.” Jenna nervously shifted in her seat.
“Your welcome.” Lance couldn’t help but smile at the first real positive moment they shared in months. “Jenna, you know if you want to talk…about this…or anything, you can.” Lance trailed off.
“I know.” Jenna nodded then leaned back in her seat and shut her eyes. The rest of the plane ride was in silence, although every so often someone would walk up to Lance and ask for an autograph.
When they got to the airport, Jenna’s parents were waiting outside the gate to pick them up. They all walked down to the luggage carousel to get their bags then got in Mr. Sutherland’s car to drive to the hotel that Lance had booked for them both.
“I’m sorry now that we went ahead and redid your room, honey. If we had of known…” Jenna’s mom choked back a sob.
“It’s alright, mom. Don’t worry about it. The hotel is closer to the hospital anyway. It’s alright.” Lance and Jenna dropped their stuff off in the room and then got back in the car to go to the hospital.
Jenna’s parents took her straight to ICU and were met outside of Robin’s door by Lane. The girls hugged then Lane looked over at Lance. “What’s he doing here?”
Jenna looked at Lance the back to Lane. “Long story. He’s persistent. What happened?”
“Your parents didn’t tell you?” Jenna shook her head. “I guess ya’ll didn’t know all the details, did you? Well,” Lane took a deep breath. “Robin and Joel were on their way to the grocery store this morning. Apparently some guy didn’t see the light turn red and ran it at like forty-five miles per hour. He hit the driver’s side and…and…” Lane began to get choked up. “He killed Joel. They said on impact.”
“And Robin?” Jenna began to cry again.
“Robin’s okay, but she lost the baby.” Mr. Sutherland said when he realized Lane couldn’t finish the story.
“They’re moving her to a regular room soon.” Lane finally got out.
“Oh my god!” Jenna said almost in a whisper. She then wiped her eyes and did her best to pull herself together. “Does Melissa know?”
“Yeah, she’s in there with her right now.” Lane said wiping her own tears.
“Can I go in?” Jenna cautiously looked at the door.
“Yeah. She wanted to see you as soon as you got here.” Lane opened the door so Jenna could walk in. Jenna lightly knocked on the door and peeked in, seeing Melissa sitting beside Robin’s bed, talking to her.
“Hey Jenn!” Melissa stood up and hugged her friend. “When’d you get here?”
“About twenty minutes ago.” Jenna looked over at Robin, who was smiling, but had cuts on her face. “Hi. How are you feeling?” Jenna walked over and held Robin’s hand.
Robin let out a week laugh but a tear escaped down her cheek. “I’ve been better. I’m glad you’re here.” She closed her eyes to keep from crying again.
Jenna took a breath, suppressing her emotions, and smiled at Robin. “Me too. I got here as soon as I could.”
The girls just stood in silence letting Robin know that they were there for her, until a nurse walked in. “Well, you’ve got a room full now, don’t you? And a cute one standing outside.” Robin looked questioningly at the girls as Jenna mouthed ‘Lance.’ “You ready to move to a regular room?” Robin nodded. “Okay girls, you can follow us up.” The nurse ushered in two orderlies and they rolled Robin’s bed up three floors with her visitors following.
When they got her settled in her room, the nurse said it was time for Robin to get some rest. “Can someone stay here with me?” Robin asked. “I don’t want to be alone tonight.”
“Yeah sweetie. But only one person. Sorry ladies.” The nurse replied. “You all decide and I’ll get a blanket and pillow for whoever the winner is.”
The three girls just looked at each other, not wanting to fight over who got to stay, but all wanting to be there that night. Robin could tell that they weren’t going to say anything, so she spoke up. “I hope ya’ll don’t mind, but I’d like Jenna to stay tonight. Maybe if we spent the night catching up, I won’t have to think about…about…”Robin’s voice caught in her throat.
The girls exchanged looks then Melissa spoke up. “If that’s what you want, Robin, then that’s fine.” Melissa smiled and let then out a little laugh. “But, I get tomorrow night.”
“I get the one after that.” Lane raised her hand to emphasis her statement.
All the girls smiled at each other and exchanged hugs. Everyone said goodnight to Robin and Lance told Jenna he’d come back with some clothes for her to sleep in and change into for the next day. Jenna and Robin talked and caught up for about an hour. When Robin started to yawn, Jenna went to change clothes for bed. The room was silent for a while with the only noise being the girls breathing and the rhythmic beeping of Robin’s heart monitor. Robin looked over towards Jenna’s bed and asked, “Jenna…what do I do now?”
Jenna sat up and leaned on one elbow to face Robin’s voice. “Honestly, I don’t know. You could always move down to Florida and live with me.”
“Jenn, you’re just starting to get settled into that life. You don’t want me there to mess things up.”
“Girl, are you crazy? I would have all three of you down there, if I could. You just say the word and my home will be our home.”
Robin let out a sigh. “Maybe I should stay here for a while, until things aren’t as fresh. Then I’ll think about it, okay?”
Jenna laid back down on her bed. “Whenever you’re ready, you just say the word.” The two girls laid on their beds, listening to the beep until they feel asleep.
The next morning, Jenna got up and got changed before everyone started to come over. Once Lane and Melissa got to the hospital, the three girls spent the day trying to keep Robin’s spirits up. Lance spent a little bit of the day at the hospital, but wanted to let the girls have their time. The doctor came in that evening and said that he was only going to keep Robin for two more days then release her to go home. That brightened the day until the night nurse said it was time for visitors to go. Everyone said their goodbyes and Lance and Jenna went to her parents’ house for an hour to visit. When Lance and Jenna finally got to the hotel, all Jenna wanted to do was take a hot shower and go to bed. When she came out of the bathroom in her pajamas and her wet hair down, she could smell the dinner Lance had ordered up. She saw that on the table was two servings and Lance pulled out a chair. “Ordered us some chicken. Sit down.”
“I’m not hungry.” Jenna said as she rummaged around in her suitcase for her hairdryer.
“Come on. Eat then you can make yourself pretty.” Lance softly grabbed her arm.
“I’m not hungry!” Jenna said stronger. “I just want to dry my hair and go to bed.”
Lance let out a sigh. “Jenna, you need to eat. I haven’t seen you put anything in you other than water since JC’s. That’s too long to not eat. Please sit down with me.” Lance sat down at his plate and looked at Jenna, eyes pleading.
“I can’t Lance. You don’t understand.” Jenna sat down, hairdryer in hand, and began to cry. Lance scooted his chair around the table, took the hairdryer out of her hands, pulled her into his chest and just let her cry until she was ready to talk. After about five minutes, Jenna pulled back and wiped her eyes.
“You wanna talk?” Lance asked.
Jenna shook her head no but began to talk. “Why her? Why did this have to happen to Robin? She has so many things to look forward to. Joel was so great. Treated her good. They were so happy about the baby. Why?” Jenna looked at Lance expecting an answer.
Lance tried to think of something profound to say but couldn’t find the words. “I don’t know why, Jenn. I’m sorry. Things just happen, you know.” They both just sat in silence for a little while then Lance spoke up. “Some people are only meant to be in your life for a short period of time. Maybe, there’s a bigger reason we just don’t see yet.”
Jenna sighed. “I can’t handle this right now. Can we change the topic?”
Lance nodded his head. “Can we talk about us?”
“What about us?” Jenna looked up at Lance and tucked her damp hair behind her ears.
“Why can’t we be civil? We’ve been fighting for months.”
“Well,” Jenna leaned back in her chair and puller her feet up. “It all started when you decided that I couldn’t date.”
“I never said that.” Lance defended himself.
“No, but you made it known that you couldn’t stand that I was with David.”
“You changed when you started dating him. I was just reacting. Plus, he wasn’t good enough for you.” Lance scooted his chair back to give them space.
“I changed! You mean I quit paying attention to you twenty-four/seven.” Jenna rolled her eyes. “And reacting my ass. It seemed like you wanted to be perpetually pissed off at me. And he was to good enough for me. In fact, he was too good.”
“Then why’d you two break up?”
Jenna just looked at Lance, trying to find an answer. “We broke up because…because it just wasn’t working. He wanted more than I wanted to give.”
“That’s bull, Jenn and you know it.” Lance leaned forward. “Why’d you break up?” Jenna kept opening her mouth, but couldn’t seem to get a sentence out. “Why?”
Jenna dropped her eyes from Lance’s gaze. “Because I got into it to get over someone and it ended up making things worse. I was basically using him and I hate myself for it.” Jenna looked back up at Lance. “Are you happy? I now feel worse.” Lance leaned into Jenna, put both hands on her cheeks and kissed her. She pushed him away and drew up in her chair. Softly she spoke, “What do you think you’re doing?”
Lance scooted his chair back in and put his hands on her legs. “I fought with you because I was jealous. You had spent so much time just hanging with me and then one day you just up and start having a life with someone else. I hated it! I didn’t want to share. I guess that’s when I realized I liked you. Like really liked you and that just made me madder. You were so happy living your life without us anymore.” Lance looked down at the floor for a moment then back up at Jenna. “I acted badly. I’m sorry.”
“You weren’t alone in the fights, you know.”
Lance chuckled. “No, you had a few good ones yourself. I’m really sorry Jenna. And…I guess…I was wondering if maybe we could…you know…have a go at it? Well, shit…could we just start over?”
Jenna shook her head. “Start over? No, I can’t start over. But,” she smiled at him. “We can pick up were we left off. Forget all the evil things we said. Be friends again and go from there.”
Lance nodded. “That sounds fair.” He then leaned in to kiss Jenna again, but she pushed him away.
“I can’t do this, Lance. There’s too much going on right now. With Robin and just ending it with David. I need some space. Just give me some time to deal with all this, okay?”
Lance nodded and smiled at Jenna as he grabbed her hands. “Okay Jenn. I understand. But you need to understand that yes, I’ll give you time, but I won’t give you space. I’m not going to let either of us screw this up again.” He then pulled her into a hug. Jenna was tense against him, but soon took a deep breath of that scent she loved from the beginning and relaxed into his embrace.
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