Kathryn Anne Carter sat wearily in her English class, counting down the minutes until the bell rang. Usually she loved English, but today it couldn't pass by fast enough. It was seventh period of her last day of high school before graduation. Katie, as she was always called, was so excited. Both sets of grandparents, as well as most of her aunts and uncles, were flying or driving in to see her graduate with honors, not to mention her two brothers, Aaron and Nick. Aaron, who was eight years younger than she, was out in L.A. trying to get a record deal. His coming home was normal though; he was only ten and returned home often. She was much more excited about her twin brother Nick. Nick was in a huge pop group called the Backstreet Boys, and he was currently touring Europe with the other guys in the group: A.J. McLean, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough, and Katie's longtime crush, Kevin Richardson. Nick hardly ever returned home at all now because of Backstreet's success. Katie hadn't seen him in three months, and his calls home were becoming more and more scarce, so she couldn't wait to talk to him again.
The bell finally rang, and Katie let out a whoop along with the other kids as she gathered her stuff and headed out the door. She groaned as she saw Linsey McPhearson and Sara LaMont heading towards her, but she didn't let it get to her. Nick would be there when she got home, so what did she care?
Linz and Sara, along with pretty much the rest of the female population of Katie's high school, were constantly asking Katie questions about Nick, and it was really starting to get annoying. At least now she wouldn't have to deal with them every single day any more.
"Hey, Katie!" Sara said, waving eagerly.
"Hey," she returned with a nod.
"Mind if we walk to your locker with you?"
"Not at all," Katie lied. If she had a different personality, she might have blown them off, but Katie was one of those people who couldn't stand hurting anyone else unless the circumstances were very drastic.
"So Nick's flying in for graduation, right?" Linz asked excitedly.
"Yeah," Katie answered, unable to keep the smile from spreading across her lips.
"Is he bringing any of the other Boys?" Sara wondered, secretly hoping to meet Brian.
"No, just him and his bodyguard," Katie said, taking out the plastic shelf in her now empty locker and shoving it into her backpack.
"How long is he staying?"
"Two days." Katie frowned. Nick had wanted to stay longer, but he had a video shoot and had to be in L.A. Oh well, that was life when you were a world-famous pop star.
"Are you excited?"
She nodded and put the last of the junk in her locker into her backpack. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to be getting home."
"Is Nick there already?"
Katie shrugged. "See y'all tomorrow."
"All right. Bye, Katie," Sara said.
"Bye, Katie," Linz echoed.
"Bye," Katie said, waving cheerfully as she walked away down the hall. "Bitches," she muttered under her breath. She had this strange feeling that they would never be associated with her at all if it weren't for Nick's success. G-d, she hated that feeling.
As Katie walked down the crowded hall, people moved aside so that she could pass, whispering things to each other and exchanging glances. Katie swallowed hard. People had treated her like that ever since Nick first got big, when the popular girls tried to make friends with her and she refused. I hate high school, I hate school... she thought silently. At least it was all over now.
Katie sighed as she walked out the front door of the school for the last time and looked thoughtfully at the building as she walked away from it. Another chapter in her life finished...and it feels so good, she thought with a sly smile. She turned away and started to walk down the larger street that led to her street. She was only a few blocks away, so she walked home from school every day, and today was no exception. She liked having a little time by herself to think about things before she got to her busy house, with three other kids running around. That would be Leslie, who was twelve, Angel, Aaron's twin, and B.J., who was fifteen. Katie and Nick were the oldest; well, technically, he was the oldest because he was five minutes older than she. And today, two brothers, four grandparents, two aunts, and three uncles would be added to that usual chaos. Katie smiled. Kaos... That was Nick's nickname, because he was clumsy and spilled things often. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed Nick until now.
Katie took a deep breath as she opened the front door and walked into the house, throwing her backpack in the corner.
"Katie!" Debra, one of her aunts, exclaimed, coming over to give her a hug.
"Hey, Aunt Debra!" she replied. She quickly said hello to all of her aunts and uncles, as well as her grandparents and her parents.
"Aaron!" she called out.
He ran over and hugged her. "Hi, Katie!"
She tousled his hair affectionately and stood up. "Where's Nick?" she asked eagerly.
Bob and Jane, Katie's parents, exchanged a nervous glance. "Um...sweetie..."
"Nick couldn't make it," a low voice said from the doorway.
Katie looked up, and her heart seemed to skip a beat and drop to the floor at the same time as she saw Kevin standing there. "What do you mean?" she asked softly.
Kevin sighed and walked over to her. "Nick had to do a promotional thing tonight, so he couldn't make it. I'm so sorry, sweetie," he sympathized, hugging her.
"But...you managed to come," Katie reminded him, pulling away.
"Yeah, it was this contest for the fans, and the winner got to go on a date with one of us, and she picked him. They weren't counting on her picking him, because she said at first that she wanted me, but she changed her mind, and Nick had to go," Kevin explained quickly.
"Oh..." Katie said softly. "Would you excuse me?" she asked, rushing out of the room before she could get a response. Everyone could hear her hurry up to her room and slam the door.
"Someone should go up there after her," Aaron pointed out after a short silence.
"I'll go," Jane Carter volunteered.
"No, let me go," B.J. argued.
"I wanna go," Angel cut in.
Kevin held up his hand to stop the noise. "I'll go. I've done this before," he pointed out. Everyone nodded their consent, and he smiled weakly before starting towards the stairs. Damn Nick for hurting her, he thought angrily as he climbed up the stairs and walked up to her room. He knocked on the door. "Katie? It's Kevin, can I come in?" he called out.
Katie looked up and checked herself in a mirror. "Yeah, I guess," she agreed dully.
He opened the door and sighed. She was sitting and looking out the window, trying not to cry. He shut the door behind him and walked over to her. "Sweetie, Nick really wanted to come," Kevin reminded her.
"I'm sure he did," Katie agreed bitterly.
"No, I mean it," Kevin insisted, starting to rub her back. "He was really upset when he found out that he couldn't make it. He knows how much this means to you, and he's going to call you as soon as he can."
She nodded and ran a hand through her brown hair that had matched Nick's perfectly...before he had dyed it. "I know, it's just...he's my twin brother, Kev. Isn't he supposed to be like my other half or some shit like that? Aren't I supposed to be his best friend?"
"You are his best friend," Kevin assured her.
"Bull, Brian is," Katie said.
"But that's different. You have friends like that from school, don't you?"
Katie sighed. "No. Everyone hates me at school, remember? Because I blew off the so- called popular clique?"
"Oh, yeah. Well, hey, at least you don't have to go back there any more," Kevin pointed out, still rubbing her back.
"Thank G-d," Katie added. "I hated high school. But...you obviously couldn't say the same," she said, remembering how popular he had been in high school.
"I don't know. I have mixed feelings," he admitted.
Katie nodded. "I guess I do too. I liked my teachers and the school part...just not the kids and the social part."
"Wow, I am completely the opposite," Kevin said with a laugh.
Katie shrugged. "So...did Nick ask you to come?" she asked, turning to look into his eyes. He had the most beautiful green eyes that she had ever seen.
Kevin shook his head slowly. "I volunteered."
"'Cause you're one of my close friends, and I thought that if he couldn't be there, then someone should."
"Oh." That was sweet, but it wasn't quite the response that Katie had hoped for. She thought of the response that she had hoped for and groaned inwardly. G-d, I'm pathetic. Like he would ever want me. He's eight years older than I am, for heaven's sake, she thought.
"So are you all right then? Everyone downstairs is worried about you," Kevin informed her with a smile.
"I guess, I just...miss him," Katie whispered.
Kevin stopped rubbing her back to wrap both of his arms around her tightly. "I know you do, sweetie," he murmured, kissing the top of her head.
Katie sighed, glad to feel his arms around her in that moment. She breathed in deeply, smelling his sweet scent, and smiled.
"Are you gonna be okay?" Kevin asked when they pulled away, looking carefully into her blue eyes that were exactly the same color as Nick's were.
Katie nodded slowly. She wanted to kiss him so bad. He was right there, just waiting... She restrained herself. No, I can't kiss him. What about Nick? Nick would freak out...and besides, Kevin has a girlfriend. Elizabeth. "So how is Liz?" she asked, finally breaking the tense silence.
Kevin frowned. "Liz?"
Kevin raised his eyebrows. "We broke up, like...three months ago. Wow, has it been that long since we've talked?"
"No, we just never talked about her," Katie replied.
Kevin smiled. "Well, yeah...she fell in love with some other guy and broke up with me."
"Aw, I'm sorry."
"That's okay. The chemistry wasn't really there anyway," Kevin confessed. "How about you? Do you have a boyfriend?"
Katie shook her head. "All the guys at my school think I'm a snobby bitch."
"What? They couldn't be further from the truth," Kevin told her with a crooked smile. She smiled back.
"Thanks," she whispered.
Kevin's eyes locked with hers, and her smile faded as the two of them searched each other silently. Katie watched in a daze as Kevin slowly moved his hand up from her back to her face, stroking her cheek softly. She closed her eyes as he leaned forward and brushed his lips up against hers. There was a moment of confused silence before either of them spoke again.
"What was that?" Katie whispered. His hand was still on her cheek.
Kevin shrugged. "I don't know...it just felt like the right thing to do," he replied in a low voice.
The right thing to do? Katie sighed and looked at the ground. "Oh."
"No, I didn't mean it that way," Kevin said, making her look back up at him. "I mean...um, how do I say this?" He frowned and bit his lip.
"Just say it, Kevin," Katie encouraged, smiling.
"I've been in love with you for about a year and a half now," he said softly.
Katie swallowed hard, trying to fight the growing lump in her throat. "I've been in love with you for about three years now," she admitted.
He smiled. "Really?"
She nodded. "Really. But I didn't think that you felt the same way becauseó"
"I'm eight years older than you," he finished.
"I know that, and I don't care. We're both adults," he pointed out. Katie wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close to her for another kiss, and another, and another... She felt Kevin start to pull at her shirt and broke away.
"Kevvy, everyone's waiting downstairs," she said breathlessly.
He frowned. "Oh, yeah..." He looked nervously to her. "I don't think we should tell anyone about this, Katie. It would be too risky, what with Nick and my career..."
"You're right. That's fine," Katie agreed, kissing his lips lightly.
"Oh G-d, I really don't want to leave," Kevin complained, kissing her again.
"Mm...me neither, but we have to," she told him.
"Can I have you later, maybe? After dinner?" Kevin asked hopefully, looking at her with desire in his eyes.
Katie smiled seductively and nodded, making Kevin smile too. He kissed her one more time before he stood up and pulled her to her feet. "After you," he said coyly, opening the door and stepping aside so that she could step out.
Downstairs, everyone was thrilled to see Katie's total change in mood; instead of being sad and depressed, she was now happy and upbeat.
Her mother smiled and looked to her father. "That Kevin is a miracle worker," she