"So what do we have planned for today?" A.J. asked, sipping at his cup of coffee as he sat down next to Kevin. They were in the break room at the studio, and it was ten in the morning. Too early for A.J.
"We're doing a duet, remember?" Kevin reminded him.
"Oh, right. Who is it with?"
"Some new solo artist who just got signed to Jive."
"Does this new solo artist have a name?"
Kevin looked down at the slip of paper next to him. "Her name's Linsey."
A.J. raised an eyebrow. "You're kidding?"
Kevin shook his head. "No, Linsey Rose."
"Is that a pseudonym?"
"No, but it does sound fake, huh?"
A.J. nodded. "Yeah," he said slowly. What if...no. A.J. pushed that thought away. It could be. Linz was dead. He looked back up to see Kevin studying him closely.
"Linz is gone, J," Kevin told him softly.
"I know," A.J. replied.
Brian stuck his head in the door. "Hey, guys, we have to get to work."
"Yay," A.J. said sarcastically, pouring the contents of his cup down the sink.
He and Kevin followed Brian into the practice room, where Nick and Howie were talking with Max Martin, who had written the song that they would be singing.
"Is Linsey here yet?" A.J. asked Howie.
"No, but she called five minutes ago and said that she'd be here..." Howie checked his watch. "Well, now."
"Hey, A.J.!" Max called to him. "Can you come over here? I need your help on something."
A.J. walked over to Max. "Sure, what's up?"
"Can't decide on a title," Max explained, handing the sheet music to A.J.
A.J. started to flip through the pages, humming parts of the song, just as Linsey walked in. Nick immediately noticed and walked up to her.
"Hi. Are you Miss Rose?" he asked amiably.
"Yes, that's me. And please, call me Linsey," she added.
A.J. froze. That voice. He would have known that voice anywhere!
"I'm Nick," Nick was saying. He was shaking hands with her.
A.J. slowly looked up and gasped. It was her! It was Linz! The hair was much shorter, and the makeup was different, but it was her! "LINZ!" he cried. He ran over to her and enveloped her in a tight hug.
"Linz, I missed you so much!" he murmured.
She pulled out of the hug. "Yes, my name is Linsey, but I'm sorry, I don't know who you are."
A.J. frowned. "What? Linz, what are you talking about? It's me! A.J.! Your best friend!"
Linsey choked back tears. "I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about," she said, turning and starting to run out of the studio.
A.J. felt hot tears burning in his eyes. "Why doesn't she remember?" he whispered to himself.
Kevin stared after Linsey's retreating figure. He took off after her, not wanting to lose the chance of performing with a new artist. A.J. was right, she did look surprisingly like Linz, but...
Kevin reached her and grabbed her arm. "Linsey!"
She turned, and he was surprised to find her eyes wet with tears. "Please let go of me," she said softly.
Kevin did. "I'm sorry that A.J. scared you. He didn't mean to hurt you."
"Yeah," Linsey muttered.
"Look, why don't you come back another day?" Kevin asked with an empathetic smile.
Linsey nodded. "Okay."
"We'll call you. I heard your demo, and I wouldn't want to lose the opportunity to work with you. You have a beautiful voice," he complimented, trying to make her feel better.
"That's all that I have," she whispered to herself.
"Nothing. Thank you for being so understanding."
Kevin smiled compassionately. "Not a problem."
Linsey returned the smile and walked out of the studio, where she immediately collapsed onto a bench. When would she start getting her memory back? The doctor had said that it would take some time, but it had been almost two years! Then again, maybe it would help if I actually knew my real last name, she thought wryly. She sighed and stepped forward to the street to hail a cab.
"A.J., I'm telling you, this isn't healthy! You've got to let go!" Kevin said firmly.
A.J.'s head was buried in his hands. He looked up and glared at Kevin. "Kevin, it was her! Do you think I could forget that voice? Those eyes?"
"Okay, I'll admit, she did look a lot like Linz, but—"
"That's because she is Linz!" A.J. shot back.
"If she's Linz, then why didn't she know who you were?" Kevin asked.
A.J. swallowed hard. "Look, I don't know. Amnesia?"
"Bone, you really scared her. She was crying," Kevin said, a little more softly.
Kevin nodded. "And I was trying to make her feel better, so I told her that she had a beautiful voice. And then she said that's all she had or something like that. It was strange."
A.J. frowned. "I should probably call her up and apologize then. Do you have her phone number?"
"Go ask Max. He's got it."
Linsey put the pen and paper down when she heard the phone ring. Why did someone always have to call just when she was getting ideas for her writing? This had better be good, she thought. "Hello?"
It was a man. His voice sounded kind of familiar. "Yes, who is this?" Linsey asked.
"It's A.J. From the studio today."
"Oh, hi, A.J.," Linsey replied, wondering why he would be calling her.
"I just wanted to apologize for what happened today. I'm sorry if I upset you. You just reminded me of someone," he said.
"That's okay, I guess I kind overreacted," Linsey said. "Who did I remind you of?"
"No one," A.J. said quickly. "No one at all."
"Didn't you say that you were my best friend or something?" Linsey recalled.
A.J. sighed. "Yeah," he answered softly. "Look, I still feel like I owe you something."
Linsey laughed. "A.J, of course you don't—"
"No, I mean it. Why don't...why don't I take you out to dinner or something?" he suggested.
"You don't have to."
"Come on, I want to," A.J. insisted with a laugh. "Please?"
"I guess I have no choice," Linsey agreed.
"How does tonight sound?"
"I'll pick you up at...eight?"
"Sure. See you then."
"So what kind of music do you like?" A.J. asked as the two of them sat down at the table. It wasn't a romantic restaurant or anything—in fact, it was just a Chili's—but there was something in the air that made both of them feel tense.
"Well...you guys for starters," Linsey answered with a laugh. "And...pretty much anything, I guess. But country. I hate country. And yourself?"
"I'm pretty much the same way," A.J. replied. In his head, he was analyzing her every word. Country. Linz hated country, too... "So...I hope that you don't mind me asking you this, but why did what happened today in the studio upset you so much? I would have thought that I would be the one who would be hurt."
Linsey sighed. She had known that he was probably going to ask her this, and she couldn't blame him. "Well...you see, about two years ago, I was involved in a car accident, and I...I lost most of my memory."
A.J.'s eyebrows show up. So I was right. It is amnesia! "Most of your memory?"
"Yes, most of it. I can still remember a few little things—colors, sounds, and sometimes even faces—but I can't make any sense of them," she explained. "The doctors said that I would start to get my memory back over time, but...it hasn't come back. I still can't remember anything. Even my last name!" she exclaimed, holding back tears.
"Wait, I thought your name was Linsey Rose?" A.J. interrupted.
"No, that's just what the doctor at the ER decided to call me, because of the color of my hair," she explained. "I didn't have any identification, and I was in a cab, so no one knew who I was."
"So how did they know what your first name was?" A.J. asked, completely confused.
"I had a letter," she said.
A.J. gulped. If it was really Linz—and by now he was sure that it was—then he knew exactly what letter she was talking about. He remembered the first line: Dear Linsey: I decided to use our real first names for a change, I don't know why... "A letter?"
Linsey nodded and reached into her purse. She pulled out a folded up piece of paper. "A loveletter. From someone named Alexander."
"Can I see it?"
Linsey shrugged and handed it to him. "Sure, why not? I don't even know who Alexander is."
A.J. took a deep breath and opened up the letter. It was in his handwriting. With his signature. He skimmed through it, remembering all the thoughts that had been running through his head when he had written it two years ago. He quickly folded it back up and handed it back. "That's very sweet," he remarked. "Whoever wrote this must have really loved you."
Linsey looked down kind of sadly as she put the letter back into her purse. "I guess we'll never know."
"You know, Linsey, that's strange. Because from the way that you sang on your demo tape, it sounded like you've had years of singing experience," A.J. remarked, changing the subject.
"I know. I'm almost sure that's something left over from my life before the accident," she said, her voice getting a little dreamy. "But in this life, it was actually the Backstreet Boys who inspired me."
"Oh? How's that?" A.J. asked.
Linsey sighed. "Well...it was about a week after I woke up from the coma—I was in a coma for two weeks after the accident. Anyway, I was living in this tiny little apartment, working as a cashier at a supermarket. And one night I was bored so I turned on the radio...and I heard your song, "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely," she explained. "The song truly touched me. The lyrics, the harmonies...the voices singing it...it expressed exactly what I was feeling right at that time. So later, right before I went to bed, I had the tune in my head, and I just started to hum it...and then I started to sing...'Show me the meaning of being lonely...'" she sang softly, bringing a smile to A.J.'s face. "And when I heard myself sing that, I stopped, wondering what the hell had just come out of my mouth. And I started to sing more...and louder..." she said, closing her eyes and smiling at the memory. "It was like I'd found something left over from my life before. I just knew that it was what I was supposed to do, my calling in life. So the very next day, after work, I started trying to get an agent, and...well you know how it ends. I get the opportunity to do a duet with you guys, the people who moved me to sing in the first place," she finished.
"Wow. That's really amazing. I'm so flattered," A.J. said honestly. "Thank you."
"No, thank you for helping me find the one thing that I love, singing. I have no one else...no friends, no family...music is truly my life," she said quietly.
There was a silence at the table. A.J. couldn't believe all of the pain and suffering that his best friend had had to go through. She suddenly seemed so young to have to deal with all of this.
Linsey finally broke the silence. "So what's your story?"
"This Linz person. What's the story behind her?"
A.J. took a deep breath. "Linz Wertham...she was my best friend two years ago," he began. "We had a great friendship, too. We were always together, and when we weren't, we were usually on the phone with each other. I could tell her almost anything."
"Yeah, almost anything. See, I was in love with her, but she didn't know that," he related. "So one evening, she was my date for this awards ceremony, because I had just broken up with my girlfriend, and I had no one to go with. And we went back to my place, and...we basically ended up confessing our feelings for each other." He smiled for a moment, remembering that first kiss. "But the next day, I had to leave for Europe. She went with me to the airport to see me off...and that's the last time I ever saw her. I don't know what happened to her, but...she never showed up at her apartment again, and she never returned my calls, so..." A.J. didn't have to finish the sentence. He looked down at the table.
Linsey touched his arm. "I'm sorry," she said quietly.
"So did you have fun?" A.J. asked Linsey as the two of them got into his car. "Or do you still hate me?"
Linsey laughed. "I don't hate you," she replied. Actually, she thought he was a really sweet, funny, not to mention good-looking guy.
"Where are we going? You said that you were switching hotels, right?"
"Yeah, I'm staying at the American Suite tonight," she replied as A.J. started the car.
"Oh no, please tell me that you're kidding," A.J. said.
"No, I'm not. Why?"
"That place is...well, let's not go there. You can not stay there," he said quickly.
"So...where do I stay then?"
"At my place," A.J. offered. "I have a really comfortable couch."
"All right, if you insist," Linsey agreed. "But all of my stuff is over at the American."
"I'll take you to get it in the morning."
A.J. pulled the car into a parking space in the garage of his apartment building. Linsey started to open the door but A.J. told her to stop and ran around to open it for her. Linsey laughed. He was so cute...
She followed A.J. into the lobby of the apartment complex. Immediately upon entering the front door, something seemed strange to her, and she stopped.
"What's the matter?" A.J. asked, touching her arm.
"I...I don't know," she said with a frown, staring ahead of her. "Something about this place...almost like I've been here before."
Upon hearing this, A.J. had to restrain himself from rushing forward and hugging her out of pure happiness. She was remembering! He instead laughed casually. "What do you mean?"
Linsey shrugged it off. "I don't know. Never mind."
But as soon as they stepped into the elevator, the feeling came back, stronger this time. "I'm almost sure that I've been here before," Linsey murmured, touching the wall softly and memorizing the smooth texture.
A.J. said nothing. He remembered the last time that he and Linz had been in this elevator. They had been talking and joking about something trivial when all of a sudden he was overcome with desire for her, and he pushed her up against the wall, kissing her hungrily.
When they reached the apartment, the feeling was so strong that she knew something was up. "A.J., this room, I know I've seen it before...maybe only in a dream, but...somewhere..." she said vaguely. She walked over to the couch, where A.J. and Linz had made love that day after they had told each other about their feelings. "This couch..." she thought out loud, squinting her eyes hard. She looked to him for help but found his face blank of expression.
He was getting an idea. He didn't know if it would work, but...there was a chance, and he would take any chance at this point. He grinned and playfully grabbed her hand, pulling her towards the back of the apartment. "There's something that I want to show you," he explained as he led her into his room. He stopped and motioned for her to keep going, towards the window. "Look," he said simply.
Linsey gave him a strange look but did as she was told nonetheless. She walked forward to the window, and had her breath taken away when she looked out of it, over the city at night. Those lights, that view...it was all coming back to her now. She looked towards A.J. "A.J., I think I'm starting to remember something," she said, her eyes begging him for help.
"Maybe this will refresh your memory," A.J. said. He walked forward slowly, took her face in his hands, and kissed her passionately.
Linsey was surprised but returned the kiss. At that minute, memories began to surge back to her, and her knees buckled underneath her. She started to fall, but A.J. caught her. Both of their eyes were filled with tears.
"Linz, baby, it's you!" he whispered.
"A.J., I...I mean..." she began, but she was too overcome with emotions to continue.
A.J. pulled her over to the bed. "What? What is it?"
"I remember," she said softly. "I remember you. How we used to be friends...but I loved you."
"And I loved you."
"But I was too scared to tell you because...because..."
"Because you didn't want to ruin the friendship," A.J. finished for her.
"Right!" Linsey said. "And then that one night...we were over here—why were we over here?"
"We had gone to the VMA's together, and I remembered that you had left your CD here, so we came to get it," A.J. murmured, wrapping his arms around her waist and speaking into her neck.
"And I was standing there, where I was standing before, and something happened..."
"I asked you who you liked, and you started to describe me," A.J. reminded her.
"And then we kissed," Linsey remembered. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him again.
"Linz, my baby!" A.J. whispered, hugging her tight.
"And I...stayed over that night, didn't I?" Linsey said. She lay down on her back and pulled A.J. on top of her. He started to kiss her with even more passion and intensity while his tears of happiness streamed down from his face onto hers.
"Linsey, sweetie..." A.J. whispered in between kisses.
"You're the guy who wrote the letter...you're Alexander!" Linz realized.
"Linz, baby, I missed you so much..."
"I love you, A.J."
"I love you too Linz!"