(...And for those who have fallen by the wayside...)

    She’s gone.  I should have seen it coming.  I should have been able to recognize the look in her eyes.  She is not that strong.  The lifestyle I live and the job that I have are just too much for her.  I should have known.  I never should have given my heart so easily.

     I suppose she was tired of the lonely nights.  I know she was tired of the other girls, although she’d never admit it.  I did warn her.  I told her that there’d be lots of screaming jealous females all after me, but I made sure to tell her that my heart was hers.  It took me forever to admit that.  I’ll confess…I like to keep my options open.  I’m not one for commitment and I don’t trust people easily but she…she was different.  And she’s gone.

    I met her about three years ago.  She was trying, as I was, to break into the music industry, but she chose to go about it in a different manner.  She joined the street team for RCA records and spent hours walking up and down the streets of Orlando with a thick stack of flyers.  I’d see her in the hallways every once in awhile and she’d smile shyly, before disappearing down a hallway or ducking into an elevator, always just beyond my reach.

    I’m not one to let something I want slip away.  When I want something, I am one hell of a hard worker and Dinah was no exception.  I must have acted like a fool.  I pulled out all the stops; the soft-spoken smile, the megawatt charmer smile, the morose smile, the “Chasez stunner”—I used them all, but always she would roll her eyes and offer the tiniest of grins before bursting into laughter.  She never was one for keeping her emotions hidden.

    I asked her out three weeks later.  My hands were sweaty and I tried to appear confident, but I was shaking inside.  I never once doubted that she would say yes, but I didn’t want to wait.  I thought she would play hard to get, like all the other girls, for a few weeks before coyly accepting my offer for dinner.  She accepted immediately, to my surprise.  I learned quickly that she wasn’t into games.

    I saw her a lot more in those days.  She’d be in and out of the office at least three times per week, always with a smile and a word of encouragement.  I suppose we all needed it back then.  We were so unpolished; five guys taking a shot in the dark.  Sometimes I catch a rerun of an appearance or two on MTV and I want to die.  It’s embarrassing; the way my hair was cut, the prepackaged sound bytes, the botched dance routines…It’s a wonder we made it where we are now, not that I didn’t let the other guys know about it.  I’d scream and yell and threaten all sorts of hellfire, but none of them would listen.

    Justin especially would get on my nerves.  He would “stylize” every move, and do it so effortlessly.  He’d also get the girls, without even trying.  He’d think nothing of going up to a girl in a club and getting her number, whereas I would stand frozen in the corner, trying to think of something brilliant to say.

    Rehearsals took a toll on all of us.  Lance, God bless him, never had any dance experience and he’d get so frustrated trying to make his body move to the time of the music.  He’d screw up, I’d get pissed, Chris would try to lighten the tension with some stupid joke, pissing everyone off in general…but still we moved forward, chasing the ever-elusive specter of success.

    I’d come home late at night, covered in sweat, steaming from the rehearsal and the balmy Orlando air…to her.  To the airy coolness of her apartment, to the calm way she’d listen to my day, to the effervescence of her laughter…but no longer.

     “Oh…baby…” She whispered, as I dragged myself, defeated, through the doorway.

     “What’s the matter?”  She asked gently.

     I kept my eyes to the ground.  It had been a long day.  My voice wouldn’t move the way it should have, I had been up since five, and our performance had earned us nothing but angry boos and catty remarks from a gym-full of vicious little kids.

     She came up behind me, running her soft fingers through my hair.  I almost collapsed in delight.  She kissed me gently on the back of my neck and I moaned, lost in the tenderness of her touch.

     “Sweetie, what is it?”

     I looked up into her caring brown eyes, and to my complete humiliation, realized I was crying.  Big fat tears were coursing down my cheeks and I could feel the sobs rising from my stomach.  I expected her to yell “SUCK IT UP!  DIG DEEP!” the way Lou did, but she didn’t…she simply pulled me into her arms and slowly sank to the floor.

     I was bawling.  Big, heaving sobs shook my frame as I tried to get even closer to her.  She was my shelter, a quiet haven away from the stress and brutality of the world.  Had I been able to crawl inside her I would have.  I tucked my head under her chin and wrapped my arms tightly around her waist, half in her lap, half holding her in mine.  The way her hands gently tunneled through my hair and circled lazily on my back made me cry harder still.  When I had no reason to expect comfort from her, she gave it willingly.  I felt safe and secure and didn’t feel like less of a man for crouching in her arms and pouring it all out…I felt loved.

    But it’s over now.  She’s gone.  She looked me right in the eye and said she was leaving.  Her fingers seared mine as she gently placed my necklace back into my hand. She lied to me.  She swore she’d never take it off.  I spent hours finding the perfect symbol for her and she threw it back at me like it didn’t matter.

     “What d’ya think, Lance?  Should I go with the emerald?  I mean, it will set off her eyes and it’s a really gorgeous cut…”

     “C…” He interrupted, trying tenuously to regain his patience.  “WHATEVER you give her, she’s going to love it.  You know Dinah’s not into possessions or showing them off…”

     “But that’s just it,” I said excitedly.  “I WANT her to be.  I want her to be proud to wear it, I want her to show it off to her friends.  I want her…”

     “You want her!  I get it!”  Lance cried, finally exploding.  “We’ve been shopping for FIVE HOURS!  Buy her the damn ring!”

     “But she doesn’t like—“

     “I KNOW she doesn’t like rings!  She doesn’t like diamonds!  She doesn’t like onions!  She doesn’t like spiders!  She likes fast cars, Gap clothes and the color PURPLE!  QUIZ ME AGAIN!!!”

     The look on the salesclerk’s face was priceless.

     I finally decided on a simple sapphire necklace.  It wasn’t flashy—Dinah was not a flashy person, but it was classy and beautiful, and most importantly I felt it was made for her.  I knew she would love it.  I took it home to her that night, and acted like a tongue-tied teenager…but it was worth it.  The look of awe and the smile on her face was brighter than any diamond Tiffany’s had to offer.

    “Thank you,” She breathed, brushing her lips against mine.  I felt the heat coursing through my body with the force of a freight train, and I shuddered, craving more. I pressed my hips against hers, drawing her lithe body flush against mine.  Parting her lips with my tongue, I moaned softly as our kiss deepened.  I could feel the intensity rising with alarming speed, and shakily I took a step back.

     “It’s okay,” She whispered.  “You don’t have to stop.”

     I stared at the beautiful creature offering herself to me and cursed my job inwardly.

     “Baby…I…I can’t.  I have rehearsal in four hours and I really should go to sleep…”

     “Sleep can wait,” She replied, pulling gently on my boxers.

     “Dinah…God…” I gasped, forcing myself to take some deep, calming breaths.  “Please baby…later…when I’m not rushed…when I can take all the time in the world…”

     She accepted this reluctantly.  We had argued briefly earlier over the secrecy in our relationship, over the jeopardy my career could face had any of the fans found out.

     “I’m sorry…” she said softly.  “I shouldn’t have pushed you.  I know you’re trying your hardest.  I just need to know that you love me…”

     “I do…” I whispered.  “You know I do.  Just…this…US…it has to be our secret.”

     She nodded, before stepping back into my arms and kissing my lips softly.

     “I love you.  Don’t ever forget that,” I murmured quietly, before getting lost again in her eyes.

    Those eyes had held sadness, I realize now.  I was blinded…by love, by admiration, by a false sense of security…I worshipped her.  But not anymore.

    It’s worthless, really.  The feeling of security that’s tied into love is nothing to count on.  It can be taken away just like anything else.  I wonder if I really felt love, and not just some pathetic crush, like those from the fans that I’ve grown to resent.  Don’t get me wrong, the fans have put us where we are, and the fans can easily take it away, but at times I don’t think the fans realize what they’re destroying.



     “I LOVE YOU, JC!”

     “GO HOME, SLUT!”

     I frantically moved with Dinah through the crowd to the waiting limousine.

     “Don’t let go of my hand, baby,” I tried to reassure her, but the look of terror in her eyes would not go away.

     We reached the inside and the door was slammed behind us, as we slowly pushed through the throng of people.

     “It’s all over,” I whispered soothingly, stroking her hair gently and murmuring into her ear.  “They’re gone.”

     “No, they’re not gone,” She said softly, her voice uncannily calm.

     I could feel the tremors in her hands and her voice wavered slightly as she spoke.

     “They’re always going to be there, JC.  No matter where you go.  They’re always going to hate me.  Why do they hate me?  What did I do?”  The tears came then, though she tried desperately to control them.

     “Honey, it’s not your fault,” I was grasping at straws, unsure of what to say.  “They just need to get used to you.”

     “That’s not it, JC.  I need to get used to THEM, and I’m not sure if I can do that!”

    I should have seen it coming.  There was doubt in her voice then, which I’m sure magnified in the time I was away. She wasn’t strong enough.

    Four months have passed quickly.  Touring has once again taken its toll.  I hear about her every so often.  She’s moving up yet again.  She’s an assistant for some big-name rock act with Interscope.  She’s going places, I’ve heard.  Without me.

    The limo is rocketing toward the Metropolitan Opera House, where we’ll perform at the MTV video music awards.  They make me think of her.  We’d watch the stupid show every year, despite my protests.

    “WHY must we sit through this every year?  It’s just a bunch of commercialism.”

     “YOU, Mr. Chasez, should be the last person on this EARTH to complain about commercialism,” She said, eyes twinkling as she smirked at me.

     I grinned stupidly back at her.  She had me there.

     “Besides, baby, in a year you’ll BE there, so I won’t have to listen to you complain.”

     “Yes, you will,” I replied.  “If I go, you’re going with me.”



    Promises break.  This thought keeps swirling around my head as I walk down the mile of red carpet leading to the venue.  They’re all happy to see me, eager to analyze my outfit, my hair…anything they can get their hands on.  I smile vacantly and offer some pithy statements to the press about how excited I am to be here.

    And then I see her.

    She’s standing twenty feet away from me, clad in a silver Cerutti evening gown.  She’s smiling, laughing it up with Ricky Martin and flirting smoothly like a seasoned player.  Damn her.  Damn her for moving on.

    She chooses that exact moment to look up.  Our eyes lock, like something from a movie.  I stand stock still, trying to regain control of my breathing.  She hasn’t changed.  Her skin is still radiant, her eyes still hold the same sparkle, yet they smack of unquestionable sadness.  Are you hurting, baby?  Does it hurt you to see me, broken, in front of you?  Is that what you wanted?

    I close my eyes for what feels like an instant, but when I open them again she is right in front of me.  I can smell her perfume, intoxicating as it ever was.

    “Hi,” She whispers.

    “Hi,” I mumble, not daring to look up.  I realize then that THIS is what she wanted.  She wants to see me broken, begging for her to come back.  I will not give her that satisfaction.

    “How are you?”  She asks, cautiously trying small talk.

    “I’m fine.  Couldn’t be better.  Our new album is almost ready.  I’ve done some work with Wild Orchid.”

    “So I’ve heard,” She replies.

    “Yeah, Stacey’s really hot.  She’s definitely doable.”  I sling the mud and cannot help myself.  Does that hurt, baby?  Do you LIKE how that feels?

    To her credit, her reaction is neutral.  “I have a feeling they’re going to take off.  They must be excited.”

    “Yeah,” I respond, not knowing what else to say.  Where did it all go wrong?  When did I lose this perfect thing I had?  When did I realize it was perfect?  I need to leave; I can’t take this anymore.  I am not ready to deal with seeing her, when it’s obvious she’s completely at ease with seeing me.

    “I’d better get going.  It was good to see you,” I say, holding my head up high before walking briskly away.  I make it five feet before I feel her tugging gently on my arm.

    “JC,” She says softly, her words a bare whisper on my skin.  “Please don’t think this doesn’t hurt me.  I miss you…so much…I…I…love you.  Still.”

    The look in her eyes is my undoing.  To end this, to cease the hurt, the anger, the endless lonely nights of wondering what the HELL is she doing now, all I have to do is accept her hand.

    But I can’t.

    “COME BACK!”  I want to scream.  “How could you hurt me like this?!  How could you leave me?  How could you make me so weak?!…”


    “Why didn’t you want me anymore?”  My voice sounds pitiful, a hollowed shell of what I once was.  And, to my horror,  “I don’t want you anymore.  I don’t love you anymore.  I don’t need you anymore.  Get away.”

    I am dimly away of the strangled gasp that escapes her throat.  I am dimly aware of the agony in her eyes.  I am dimly aware of the utter sensation of loss coursing through my veins.  But I move forward.  I walk away, not once looking back, though every muscle in my body is screaming for me to stop.

    The show must go on.  I plaster a smile upon my face, and again walk down the red carpet, away from the person I once was.  I feel nothing.  Maybe it’s better this way.

2000 ~A