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11/24/2010 12:10 AM
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lowers his head, wincing as he glances around the bar, its few occupants
looking up in curiosity at his best friend’s exclamation. He looks down into
the open mouth of his beer bottle, rolling it back and forth between his palms,
avoiding Trace’s astonished gaze, his stomach leaden with misery.
had taken him two days to call his best friend, that time spent holed up in a
hotel room, watching a blank television screen and wondering how the hell he’d
managed to fuck up so royally. Mistakes weren’t his forte. He’d made careful
and calculated decisions in his career and his personal life ever since he was
a teenager but laying in the dark on rented sheets taking a long hard look at
the past few weeks, months, years he still couldn’t find where the thread had
begun to unravel. Even with the clarity of hindsight he still wasn’t entirely
sure where he’d gone so completely wrong. He felt lost but now he wasn’t just
trapped in the maze of his doomed relationship; he was set adrift and on his
own. That fact had him almost missing the comfort of his trapped relationship, a
thought that frightened him so much that he pulled Trace off a flight that was
already halfway down the tarmac.
saying that,” Justin says, reaching up to scratch his ear self-consciously,
curling his shoulders in.
really said the thing… about her making you a miserable coward?” Trace asks in
utter disbelief and Justin brings his hands to his face and rubs hard.
he replies lifelessly and Trace’s guffaw of laughter makes Justin wince.
fuckin’ shit,” Trace replies giving an astonished shake of his head as he takes
a sip of his beer and he can’t contain his elation.
stop,” Justin says, a whine lacing his words as he throws a pained glance in
so happy for you man,” Trace says clapping him on the shoulder as he sets his
bottle down on the table. “Drinks for everybody!” he exclaims and Justin rolls
his eyes before shooting his friend a disdainful look.
I’m fine by the way. Thanks for asking,” Justin says the hard edge of sarcasm
in his voice wiping the smile right off of his best friend’s face.
that I’d be jumping for fucking joy?” Justin accuses. “My wife cheated on me
and my marriage is fucking over four days
after it started. Drinks for fucking everybody.”
scowls deeply, snatching his beer bottle and draining it before letting it slam
back down, Trace wincing in response. He watches Justin for a long moment,
taking in the misery drawn so plainly across his best friend’s face and feels
sheepish for being so callous. He nudges his own near empty bottle further up
he says lowly, shifting awkwardly in his chair. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean-”
know I get that you didn’t understand why I even bothered,” Justin says
bitterly. “Nobody fucking did. And maybe that’s where my mistake was. I should
have listened. But goddammit Trace I loved
her.” He closes his eyes, resting his elbows on the table and leaning his
forehead on his clenched fists. “This fucking sucks.”
presses his lips together and lets a hand fall heavily on the roundest part of
Justin’s back, patting him hard. “It’s for the best.”
fucking patronize me asshole,” Justin snarls and Trace’s hand falls away,
flopping back in his chair in frustration.
what do you want me to say Justin?” Trace asks, watching Justin let his breath
out slow as if Trace were testing his patience. “Congratulations on making a
succession of shitty life choices?” Justin glares at him from the corner of his
eye. “You’ve been kind enough to never say that to me so I figured I’d return
Justin replies with sarcasm, his hands falling against the table with a thud.
welcome,” Trace says with mock sincerity and Justin sighs. “So… how’s this
gonna go down?”
sucks in a breath and lets it out slow, his cheeks puffing out as he shakes his
head. “I dunno. She said she’d have her lawyer contact mine.”
fucking saying that.”
said it yourself, man. You loved her.” Trace says and Justin looks at him
perplexed. “Loved. Past tense.”
that’s supposed to make this any fucking easier?” Justin asks angrily and
cringes as the waitress comes by, setting another beer in front of each of them
and quietly taking away their empty bottles.
Trace says quietly as the waitress leaves. “Justin you knew it was over,” he
says soberly and Justin shakes his head, leaning back in his chair, his jaw set
stubbornly. “If it wasn’t there would have been no way you would have given
Charlotte a second look.”
sucks in his breath at the sound of her name, closing his eyes on the vision of
her pleading face, begging him not to go through with the wedding. His chest
feels hot, a deep ache throbbing quick in his sternum before subsiding.
she know?” Trace asks and Justin looks at him for a beat before reaching for
his bottle and giving his head a quick shake before taking a drink. “When are
you going to tell her?” Justin refuses to look at him and Trace scowls. “Look
just because I said I wasn’t gonna hassle you on your recent shitty life
choices doesn’t mean I’m gonna sit by and watch you make more.”
do you want me to do Trace?” Justin exclaims, his eyes holding Trace’s just
long enough for his friend to see the misery there. Justin looks away shaking
his head. “I screwed it up,” he grumbles, bringing his bottle to his lips and
taking a deep drink.
you’re just gonna give up?” Trace asks dubiously. “Let her walk away?”
not giving up,” Justin replies
peevishly, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. “I’m just not… I’m not gonna…
it’s too soon …or too late…fuck I don’t know.”
don’t see why you’re stalling,” Trace pushes and Justin glares at him.
It’s been two days!” Justin exclaims, nervous heat traveling through his limbs
and making his palms clammy.
can’t tell me that after everything you and Charlotte have been through
together she wasn’t the first person on your mind when you left that office two
days ago.” Trace gives him a hard look and Justin rolls his eyes looking away.
“Look, it was obvious to me since the moment I fucking met the girl that she was perfect for you. It was obvious to
everyone. But you. And even after you
were with her you still didn’t see
it. I know you loved her-”
“Of course I love her!” he exclaims, his
chest heaving and he brings a hand to his forehead, his temples throbbing from
the stress. “But I’m not gonna just go running back to her because my marriage
fell apart. She doesn’t deserve that. She doesn’t-”
Trace interrupts and Justin looks up at him quizzically finding his friend
smirking knowingly at him. “Present tense.”
growls, fighting the urge to slam his head down on the table, opting to fold
his arms and rest his forehead on them instead. He feels Trace pat his back
again, his little chuckle making Justin grit his teeth. His eyes close, letting
his memory run, sprinting back through the past several months, past the sex
that made everything complicated to before when she’d just been the girl who
made him laugh. The girl who encouraged him and believed in him, who tried to
make it right when he was doing everything all wrong. He remembers her smile,
that little dimple in her cheek that he’d never gotten the chance to kiss even
though it was something he’d always wanted to do. He remembers the giggle she
would always try to suppress, how it would surface and he would turn to look at her in time to find her hand
coming to cover her mouth and a guilty expression in her eyes. He chuckles to
himself at the memory. God he’d loved her even then.
now she was gone.
know… my granddad asked me one time…” Trace says after a moment and Justin
looks up at him miserably, watching his best friend swallow, his face
contemplative as he eyes the beer bottle in his hand. “He said,” he clears his
throat lowering his voice ‘Trace, you get a girl in trouble?’” A ghost of a
smile passes over his face at the memory, his eyes finally meeting Justin’s. “And
I was like ‘Nah Pops, she’s not pregnant.’” Trace smiles, pushing out a
disbelieving cough of a laugh. “And you know what he said to me J? He said ‘I
ain’t talkin’ ‘bout babies boy. I’m askin’ you if you made her fall in love
with you. A baby she could handle. You breakin her heart when she gave you her
all...’ Trace pauses shaking his head and in that instance Justin sees Ben
Ayala reincarnated in his grandson. “’a girl don’t just come back from that.’”
Trace sets his bottle on the table, leaning closer, his eyes imploring.
“Charlotte’s not just gonna come back from this dude. She’s done crawling back.
It’s your turn to get on your fuckin knees.”
what?” Justin asks, frustrated. “What? She’s gonna fall into my arms and say
she forgives me? Cue the music, ride off into the sunset? This isn’t a fucking
movie Trace. This is my life.”
snorts, “You ask me your life’s been pretty cinematic thus far.”
scowls deeply and Trace laughs before sighing. He looks at his best friend for
a long moment before leaning closer, his tone soft as he begins to speak.
can’t lose her because you’re scared, Justin.”
eyes widen, bristling violently as he tries to scoot away but Trace puts a hand
on his arm. “You’ve been scared for too long. Look at the mess it’s got you
up Trace. You don’t know-”
know Amelia hurt you,” he cuts him off and Justin looks down, gritting his
teeth at the sound of her name. “she had you down for the count for a long time
but it’s time to get up off the mat, J. Charlotte is…” he trails searching for
the words. He shrugs laughing. “She’s your lobster.”
bursts out laughing, a feeling that’s foreign to him but he finds that he’s
energized by it. “Lobster huh?”
nods. “She’s your movie. You can’t let that get away. You just fucking can’t.”
sighs, looking down at the table before cutting his eyes to Trace who is
staring at him steadily, giving him a little nod of encouragement. He looks
down again, biting his lip hard and wondering if his heart can take two
shatterings in one week.
he says and Trace’s face lights up, fist pumping in victory and Justin laughs
despite himself. “What do we do?”
don’t you worry,” Trace says, his smile about to split his face as he fishes
his phone out of his pocket. “I got this.”
apartment has never been cleaner. All of her laundry is done, her clothes
folded and put away and her kitchen is spotless, all dishes washed and in the
cupboard. The kitchen table even looks like it could be eaten on now instead of
being covered in papers and bills. Her homework is finished, she’s showered and
dressed and she’s sitting on her couch, mind frantically searching for
something else to do.
she keeps moving she finds she’s happier. Concentrating on menial tasks keeps
her mind from going back to Amelia’s office to relive her last humiliation or
to the groom’s chambers at St. Thomas… her eyes snap shut, standing abruptly
looking for something to tidy up.
she just keeps moving the hurt isn’t so debilitating. But she wears out
eventually and when she sleeps she dreams. Of cold stone walls and candle
light, Justin in his tuxedo and Amelia floating towards him in a dress shaped
like a bell. The preacher asks if anyone objects and she stands, she opens her
mouth and even though she’s screaming at the top of her lungs no one seems to
hear her. She wakes up in a cold sweat, her heart throbbing against her
ribcage, each beat feeling as if it’s tearing her open from the inside.
hands shuffle over the magazines she’d laid in a fan across her coffee table,
stacking them and then fanning them again, wishing to god she’d had a dog to
walk or even a goldfish to watch swim around it’s bowl. She wishes she had more
clothes to wash or a cake to bake. She wishes that job interview that Fee got
her at some trendy restaurant in Manhattan was today instead of tomorrow. But
she has no pet, no laundry, no cake mix and no job to take her mind off the
fact that she’d managed to lose the man she loved and the job she loathed but
was her life nonetheless all in one week.
should feel free, weightless and unhindered since the two main causes of stress
in her life are now gone but she feels trapped by it instead, haunted by their
loss and the crushing feeling of “what-the-hell-do-I-do-now”?
startled by a knock at the door, her brow furrowing as she stands to answer it.
She blinks slowly, her brain trying to process the redhead beaming at her on
Ginger exclaims, her shoulders bunching up to her ears as if seeing Charlotte
again brings her some kind of overwhelming joy while Charlotte’s stomach curls
in a sickening mix of dread and anticipation.
presence could only mean one thing; that Trace wasn’t far away and where Trace
was Justin was sure to be nearby as well.
sure about this?” Justin asks, one eyebrow raising as he regards his best
friend curiously, his stomach turning over and over itself.
you stop worrying,” Trace sighs, taking a swig from his beer bottle. “Ginger
may be a little slow on the uptake but if there’s one thing she’s good at it’s
groans, letting his head hang back. “I don’t need a Yenta-”
need a fuckin miracle,” Trace deadpans and Justin glares at him but softens
when Trace gives him a winning smile. “What are you gonna say to her when she
shifts. “Well… I guess that… that I’m sorry.”
blinks at him slowly. “You’re sorry… That’s it?”
I don’t fucking know,” Justin growls, crossing his arms over his chest as a hot
flash rolls over him, feeling his cheeks burn. “I am sorry. I’m sorry I put her through that… and that I was an
idiot…and that I don’t wanna be an
looks at him dubiously. “Yeah man I dunno.”
know,” Justin says, dropping his head onto his arms on the table. “I’m gonna
lose her Trace,” he says softly, his voice muffled. “There’s nothing I can say
there is,” Trace cuts him off, his voice firm. “You tell her you fucked up, you
apologize, you tell her you love her.”
not that easy.”
is that easy.”
didn’t see her face,” Justin says finally lifting his head. “You didn’t see her
face when she told me…” his breathing catches as that sharp pain lodges itself
under his ribs and it takes him a minute to find his voice again. “when she
told me she loved me… and I…”
to get married.”
glares. “Yes. Thank you.”
Justin asks with a disbelieving laugh.
wanna practice.” Trace says again, turning more in his chair so that he’s
facing Justin, squaring his shoulders. “you know, pretend I’m her.”
no,” Justin says with a chuckle, turning back to his beer, taking a sip and
shaking his head. “Ginger knows where we are right?”
on dude, quit worrying! You heard what I told her on the phone. ‘Bring
Charlotte to The Corner Bar.’ How hard could that possibly be?”
you’re sure Trace said to come here?” Charlotte asks, slipping onto a tall
stool and resting her hands on the greasy tabletop, looking around
is the bar around the corner isn’t it?” Ginger asks a little testily, pulling
herself up onto her own stool and looking around. “Kind of a shady place huh?”
Well I guess I’ll go get us some drinks while we wait,” Ginger replies
undeterred by Charlotte’s unease, bouncing over to the bar.
glances around the room, doing her best to avoid making eye contact with any of
the clientele. Even though she’d lived in this neighborhood for nearly three
years now she’d never been inside The Show Bar before now, always picking up
her pace when walking past. There were bars on the windows and the smell of
stale beer and cigarette smoke which was detectable from the street is almost
overpowering on the inside. Men in leather jackets with matted hair and
scraggly beards sit at the bar watching the Speed channel or hovering around
the pool tables with cues in hand waiting their turn. Charlotte can’t help but
notice that they are two of the only four women in the room, a fact that she
would find comforting if it wasn’t for their hard, grizzled appearance and
I tried to get us some Cosmos but he
didn’t have any cranberry juice,” Ginger huffs setting two beer mugs the table.
“He said these were good though. Pink Panty somethings.” Ginger shrugs,
wiggling her way onto her barstool and looks around.
“Why are you here Ginger?” Charlotte asks, wincing a little
at her rudeness but wanting to get to the point nonetheless. She figures the
less time she spends here the better.
“Oh I came for the wedding,” Ginger says, smiling as she
takes a sip of her drink, wincing brutally as she sets her mug back down.
Charlotte chuckles darkly. “Yes… I know that. I mean why are
“Same reason you are,” Ginger says blinking and bringing her
mug to her lips again. “Trace is meeting us.”
“Just Trace?” Charlotte asks suspiciously and Ginger nods, her
blue eyes large and innocent but Charlotte isn’t fooled. “I’m leaving.”
She starts to stand but Ginger grabs for her wrist. “Look,
just hear him out okay?”
“Ginger you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about,”
Charlotte snaps and Ginger drops her arm, her face crumpling into a wounded
frown that has Charlotte back peddling. “I’m sorry, this is not your fault. You
just… you don’t know…” she sighs, letting her head hang back. “you don’t know
what he’s put me through ok?”
“Honey I know exactly what
he’s put you through,” Ginger says, looking at her as if she were stupid for
thinking otherwise. “The sneaking around, wanting him to change, wanting him to
just realize,” Ginger
says looking down into her drink and shaking her coppery head sadly. “Been
there. Done that.” They’re silent for a second, Ginger looking sadly into her
drink before she snaps out of it, looking up and asking with only a slight hint
of humor, “So tell me. What hurts more? Thinking you should hate him or knowing
The question causes
Charlotte’s face to burn hot, her brows drawing as she slowly lowers herself
back onto her barstool. “I think the worst part is that I knew this would
happen,” she confesses, looking morosely down at the mug in her hands, closing
her palms around it and feeling it chill her fingers. “I mean how else could it
have turned out?” she questions, scoffing a laugh as she shakes her head. “No I
did this to myself.”
“Doesn’t make it any easier
on you though,” Ginger says sympathetically and Charlotte smiles sadly.
“No…” she chuckles, a
strange sense of relief washing over her. She hadn’t realized how much she’d
been keeping inside these past few months and even before that. She didn’t have
the luxury of discussing her relationship with Justin with much of anyone and Ginger
didn’t seem like the most obvious of choices but it felt good to Charlotte to
finally be able to talk about it.
“You do love him though?”
Ginger questions, her large eyes hopeful and Charlotte cringes, lifting her
glass to her mouth and taking a large gulp.
Her voice is hoarse,
speaking past the fire burning down her throat. “Sometimes. Sometimes he makes
me wanna throw him into oncoming traffic,” she says and Ginger giggles, causing
Charlotte to smile herself but it fades quickly, “but then I realize I’d
probably kill myself trying to save him.” She takes another large swallow.
“I’ve been trying to save him for a long time.”
“And Amelia never figured
it out?” Ginger asks, blinking over at her over the rim of her own mug.
Charlotte laughs. “No… she
never did. I guess she figured he wouldn’t fuck the help,” she replies
bitterly, taking another drink and blinking slowly. “you know this isn’t half
bad once you get past how disgusting it is.”
“She couldn’t tell he was
in love with you?” Ginger presses, her brows drawn in confusion and Charlotte’s
eyes snap to hers. “I mean it’s obvious right? Trace said it was pretty
Charlotte rolls her eyes.
“To everyone but Justin.” She winces at his name, reaching to down
the last of her drink, Ginger watching wearily.
“Sit tight,” she says after
a moment, patting Charlotte’s arm as she takes her mug from her. “They’ll be
here soon and ya’ll can work it out. I’ll get us another drink while we wait.”
“Hey,” Charlotte says,
catching her arm and Ginger turns looking at her quizzically. “You said… you’d
said this had happened to you… been there done that?” Ginger smiles softly,
nodding. “What… what happened?”
She chuckles. “It turned
“Really?” Charlotte asks,
eyeing her questioningly.
“Well you be the judge,”
Ginger says. “How do you think Trace and I are doing?” She winks at Charlotte
before shaking her head. “I’ll go get those drinks.”
“Where are they?” Justin huffs, glancing
down at his watch as he fidgets in his chair.
“They’re on their way,” Trace insists for what feels like
the umpteenth time, glancing at his own watch nervously.
“It’s been an hour,” Justin says, rubbing his hands down his
thighs, trying to make them stop sweating.
“They’ll be here any second.”
“What if she’s not coming?”
It’s the words that Justin had been avoiding asking since
they agreed to send Ginger to get her. He knows that he doesn’t deserve
Charlotte, knows that after everything he’s put her through she has every right
to not show up, to blow him off like he’d always done her. He can barely stand
it but he knows it’s true and if there’s one thing he’s learned from this
entire experience it’s that lying to yourself only makes everything that much
worse. But despite that fact, he really didn’t want to believe it.
“She’s coming. Ginger’s just softening her up a little,”
Trace says and Justin looks over at him horrified. “What! After everything
you’ve done she’s gonna need softening!”
Justin glares at him. “Thanks asshole.”
“I’m just sayin…” he sighs. “Look I’ll call her okay?”
Trace reaches into his pocket, fishing out his phone and
after pressing a few buttons he holds it to his ear, listening to it ring. A
burst of sound on the other line startles him as the other line picks up and Justin
looks on with furrowed brows as Trace squints, bringing his hand up to his
other ear to try and listen.
“Ginger?....Gin…GINGER!” he snaps sharply and Justin’s heart
begins to thump unevenly in his chest. “What are you…Where are you?” he
pauses and Justin listens to the muffled slur of Ginger’s voice inaudible to
him but Trace’s eyebrows raise. “You’re waiting for us? What do you mean you
were supposed to meet us at The Corner Bar an hour ago!”
“Is Charlotte with her?” Justin asks and Trace holds up a
“No… no not the bar around the
corner. The Corner Bar. It’s in Manhattan… Where are you?... Are you fucking
kidding me?” He scoffs pulling the phone away from his mouth to speak to
Justin. “They’re at some dive in the Bronx called The Show Bar.”
“Is Charlotte with her?” Justin asks again in a heated
whisper but Trace glares at him menacingly, holding up his hand again.
“Look I don’t care if you’re pissed at me, although why only
God fucking knows. This isn’t about us. You need to get Charlotte over here…”
Another pause. “Fuck me? What the hell Gin-…” He’s cut off by slew of angry
mumbles that Justin can’t decipher and Trace is looking at him utterly baffled,
shaking his head. “Why are you so pissed?” The angry mumbles increase in volume
and speed, Justin now catching a few choice words that cause his eyebrows to
rise. He hadn’t taken Ginger as the sailor’s mouth type. “Look… look just stay
where you are okay? We’ll come to you…. Yeah well I am gonna bother and maybe
you should lay off whatever the hell you’ve been drinking because-” His words
come to an abrupt halt, pulling the phone away from his ear and looking at it
bewildered. “She hung up on me!”
“What the hell is going on?” Justin asks, his voice raised
and he looks down embarrassed as the people at the tables around them glance
“I have no fucking idea,” Trace says, frustration evident in
his voice as he stands from his chair. “We gotta go get them. Come on.”
“But, this is the sad
part,” Charlotte slurs, blinking blearily at her half empty glass. “We weren't
even together and he
still broke my heart.”
Ginger lifts her head from
her hand, her lips puckering in displeasure, cheeks flushed from the alcohol.
“Guys are jerks.”
Charlotte exclaims her eyes widening as if this were the most enlightening
statement she’d ever heard. “Do you know what he said to me? Do you know…” she
turns on her stool, nearly sliding off the side in an effort to face Ginger who
has sat up straight again, giving Charlotte her utmost attention. “He told me…
actually told me that I never tell him no. And then when I
tell him there are some lines I won’t cross he acts like the idea is foreign to
him! Like… like I’ll just do whatever he says!”
“What a jerk!” Ginger
exclaims and Charlotte nods animatedly.
“And then when I
try to get him to talk to me… to tell me what he’s thinking because… you know…
how the fuck am I supposed to know… he’s all,” she lowers her voice, pulling
her brows in as she imitates him, “‘You wanna talk about feelings now?
That’s not who we are, Charlie.’ Oh I’m sorry,” Charlotte exclaims
her voice rising as she flings a hand out in frustration, nearly knocking over
her glass. “I forgot ‘who we are’ is you fucking me and then leaving.”
Ginger shakes her head
slowly, her vision going wobbly with the movement. “My
momma always told me never make someone your priority when all you are to them
is an option.” She nods authoritatively, draining the last of her mug and
looking around “Where’d the bartender go?”
“That really is all I
was,” Charlotte says, realization blooming plainly across her face as if this
is the first time the thought has occurred to her. She covers her face with her
hands shaking her head. “God I can’t believe I let him do this to me.” She lets
her arms fall back onto the table with a loud thump, looking up at the ceiling.
“I let him call me Charlie. I used to
hate that.” She scowls down at her
hands on the table. “Now I love it.”
“Fuck him,” Ginger
says and Charlotte looks over at her stunned.
“Yeah!” she says,
sitting up straighter in her chair. “Fuck him!” she reaches for her glass,
fingers fumbling to curl around the handle.
“Trace is an asshole
too,” Ginger says her face screwing up in annoyance. “Just expecting me to drop
everything and find you and convince you that his idiot best friend loves you.”
“The only person
Justin loves is himself!” Charlotte snaps, throwing back the last of her glass.
“Where is that bartender?”
“And he doesn’t take
anything I say or do seriously. I’m working really hard to make a good name for
myself. I wanna own my own salon one day! But does he care anything about that?
No, it’s just ‘come to California to this party with me.’ ‘fly to Missouri and
sit in a deer blind with me while I kill Bambi.’ ‘come on baby suck my dick
I’ve had a rough day.’ BUT DOES HE CARE IF I
HAD A ROUGH DAY???”
The patrons around
them turn to look at her but all she does is stare down into her empty mug,
bottom lip trembling and Charlotte pats her shoulder clumsily. “I really love
him,” Ginger sniffles, her face crumpled in sadness. “But I think all I am to
him is some hot bimbo he can bend over.”
“ME TOO!” Charlotte
exclaims and then her brow creases. “Well not the hot bimbo part… but the
bending over part.”
“You know what?”
Ginger asks, wiping at her nose holding her head high. “I’m done. I’m not going
to be anybody’s hot bimbo. I’m gonna be my own
“Good for you!”
Charlotte exclaims her fingers grappling for her glass again. “Lets propose a
toast! Here's a big FUCK YOU to the texts I waited for.”
Ginger reaches for her
own glass, raising it clumsily. “To all the dates I hoped for when he was too
busy doing something else.
“The love I wanted,”
Charlotte adds, her heart burning in her chest.
“and the tears I
cried,” Ginger adds, giving a deep nod.
“and the heart you broke, asshole!” Charlotte finishes,
banging her glass roughly against Gingers, both women going to take a drink but
frowning when they remember their glasses are both empty.
Both girls look up startled,
finding Trace making his way over to them, Justin trailing along behind him.
Charlotte’s eyes meet his, her stomach dropping to her toes and she looks down
angry with herself that even after everything she’s said today he can still
give her butterflies.
“What the hell are you
two doing here?” Trace asks in a
harsh whisper, eyes flicking around apprehensively to the other patrons.
“What do you care?”
Ginger snaps back, shrugging off the hand that he’d wrapped around her bicep as
she slid off her barstool. “Charlotte you want another drink?” She levels her
eyes on Trace, a slow smirk pulling at her lips. “They’re free. Jinx likes me.”
She turns abruptly, her fiery hair slapping Trace in the face and he watches
her swish away, confused and hurt.
“Hey!” he exclaims
when her words sink in, stumbling in his effort to follow her. “Who the hell is
Justin watches the two
of them for a moment before turning back to Charlotte who is doing her best to
keep her eyes on the table in front of her, refusing to look at him. He slides
hesitantly onto the barstool next to her, folding his hands on the table as he
searches for something to say.
“So…” he trails,
flexing and unflexing his fingers. “I guess… I guess you heard about… about
Amelia and me?” Charlotte snorts, rolling her eyes and looking away from him.
“I made a mistake Charlie.”
“You know I really
fucking hate that name,” Charlotte replies, her head whipping to glare at him
and he blinks back at her startled. “Ever since I was little. And then you come
“God what have you
been drinking?” he asks, cutting her off as he pulls the mug from her hand and
sniffing at it, the alcohol burning his nose.
“What the hell do you
care?” Charlotte snarls, snatching the mug back away from him angrily and he
watches her for a beat before sighing.
just…wonderful,” he sighs again, pinching the bridge of his nose before taking
a deep breath and turning more fully towards her. “Look I know you’re kinda not
really in the right mindset right now but I’d like you to listen to me please.”
His blue eyes are
large, his face somber and Charlotte looks up at him blearily, his face
swimming in her vision. He reaches for her hands tentatively, his fingers
wrapping around hers causing her to look down dumbly, electricity sparking
across her skin. She rips her hands back annoyed, trying to spin away from him
but her feet get tangled on the footrest of her barstool.
“Charlotte I’m sorry,”
he says softly, trying to pull his stool closer to hers. “Look at me!” he insists,
frustrated at talking to the back of her head. “Charlotte, please just look at
She grits her teeth at
the pleading in his voice her face turning towards him unwillingly and when she
looks at him he smiles relieved. He reaches for her hands tentatively again,
thumbs smoothing over her knuckles making her heart tremble.
“I don’t want you to
touch me,” she mumbles softly, pulling her hands from his again and he lets her
“Okay, I deserve that,” he says evenly, placing
his hands in his lap. “I know that I don’t deserve you. I know that. If you
would just… give me another chance-”
“Don’t…” she spits, her anger startling him. “You had your
chance. You’ve had plenty of chances.”
“I’m asking for one more,” he says, commanding his voice to
be strong even though his stomach is trembling. “I know that I haven’t done
right by you. But I’m telling you that all of that is over now. I want to put
it behind us. I want us to be together. For real.”
He winces. Maybe he should have taken Trace up on his offer
to practice. Charlotte merely shakes her head, coughing out another
disbelieving laugh looking around the bar and wondering how the hell she got
here. Why had it all come to this? She looks down at the table, her finger
tracing a long gash in the vinyl.
“You know when I first met you I never would have imagined
that I would have such strong feelings for you.” She blinks up at him, her eyes
hazy and she wishes she could focus on him more, take in the devastated look on
his face, the glimmer of hope in his eyes. She licks her lips, making an effort
to speak clear, to not slur because even in her fuzzy, inebriated mind she
knows what she’s saying to him is important. “I never would have thought that I
would get butterflies in my stomach when someone mentions your name. Or that I
would miss you,” her eyes close, squeezing shut as if she were in pain and he
longs to pull her to him, “that I would miss you so much.” She
takes a shaking breath, her head turning from side to side. “When I first met
you I never would have thought that I would love you.”
“I love you too,” he says in a rush, hands reaching for hers,
warmth spreading through him as he finally says words that have been bottled up
inside him for too long but she shrugs him away, anger and outrage blooming in
“And you think that makes everything better?” she asks her
brows raising before shaking her head and looking away again.
“We gotta get outta
Justin grits his teeth
at Trace’s interruption, turning to glare at his best friend over his shoulder.
He finds Trace glaring right back, his arm around Ginger’s waist even though
she’s struggling to free herself.
“I’m in the middle of
“You’re not gonna
convince her you’re not an asshole,” Ginger says, glaring moodily at Justin who
blinks back at her shocked. “You had your chance.”
“Ginger shut up,”
Trace snaps then looking at Charlotte. “Charlie-”
A chorus of “Don’t
call her that” and one “don’t call me that” sounds all at once, Charlotte
looking at Justin bewildered. “She doesn’t like it,” he adds softly, looking
down at his hands and then back at her, his eyes doleful. Charlotte merely
blinks back at him.
“Fine. Charlotte just take the time to hear him
out okay? He loves y-”
“Nothing he can say
matters,” Ginger butts in again and Trace glares at her. “He can’t take back
what he did.”
“He can try and make
up for it,” Trace argues turning fully towards her and Ginger does the same,
their toes nearly touching.
“You can’t make up for
constantly telling her she’s not good enough-”
“I never said that!”
Justin exclaims, his brows drawing as he looks from Ginger to Charlotte.
“That’s not true. I never thought that.”
“You didn’t have to
think it or say it,” Ginger says and Trace brings a hand up trying to cover her
mouth. “Actions speak louder than- Stop trying to cover my mouth Trace!”
They dissolve into
their own argument, their eyes violent, snapping brutally at each other and
Justin watches in silent disbelief.
Charlotte says, drawing his attention back to her, finding her picking at her
fingernails in her lap. “It was never something you said. And maybe you didn’t
think it but somewhere deep down you believed it.”
“How can you say
that?” Justin asks, his chest burning at the accusation.
“I told you I loved
you and you walked away!” Charlotte exclaims, her eyes bright with anger and
unshed tears. “You had every opportunity, Justin! For the longest time you had
a million chances to get out. You had countless people trying to make you see:
Trace, your parents, not to mention me. You didn’t want me Justin. I’m not sure
you really do now.”
“Charlotte why would I be here if I didn’t want
you?” Justin asks exasperated.
“Because Trace pushed you to come,” Charlotte
says soberly, a guess and by the way his mouth snaps shut and he looks away
from her she knows it’s the truth. Her insides burn. “Goodbye Justin.”
She stands from her barstool, wobbling a little on her feet and Trace and
Ginger stop their arguing to watch her step away. She barely gets two feet away
before Justin’s hand clamps around her wrist, sending his barstool tumbling
backwards in his effort to catch her.
“I’m here because I love you,” Justin says both
hands wrapping around her biceps the words tumbling from his lips effortlessly,
a gasp tearing from Charlotte’s throat. He swallows hard, breathing raggedly
for a moment while searching for more, feeling as if he’s dragging the words
from his gut. “You
know how I once told you that not knowing what you want isn’t a bad thing? That
knowing what you don’t want is just as good as knowing what you do? I know that
I don’t want to be without you Charlotte. I don’t know where my life is gonna
go from here and I don’t know what kind of person I’m going to become but I
want you there with me so I can make sure that I’m becoming a person that you
can love. And that can love you back the way you deserve. I’m not perfect. I’m
never gonna be. But I will try my damndest to be perfect for you.”
blinks back at him, her breathing shallow as she looks into his desperate blue
eyes. His fingers are clenching her arms hard enough to bruise, his own chest
rising and falling rapidly and surely she can hear his heart pounding. She
bites her lip, closing her eyes sending wet tracks down her face, Justin
reaching to wipe them away quickly. Her fingers wrap around his wrists, taking
a steadying breath that she lets out through pursed lips.
too late,” she whispers shakily, not opening her eyes but she hears his harsh
exhalation, feels it rush against her face.
stares at her dumbfounded, blood roaring in his ears as he tries to comprehend
her words. He’s too late? Her eyes open slowly, their greenness startling him,
and he lets her pull his hands from her face, letting them fall to his sides
slowly. He wants to scream at her “no!,” he wants to grab her again, shake her
until she listens but he can’t seem to find his voice, his body leaden and all
he can do is stare back at her as the hurt washes completely over him.
sorr-” she starts but presses her lips together to stop the flow of words.
knows how he feels, has seen the look on his face before because it’s the same
one that she's seen in the mirror over the last several months more than she'd
care to admit. She almost reaches for him then, almost touches his face in an
effort to comfort but she stops herself. She grits her teeth. He doesn’t
deserve comfort, least of all from her.
She turns, bumping into one of the tables around them in her
haste to get away, Ginger pulling from Trace to rush after her, trying to call
her back. Justin feels the ground under him heave upwards, Trace’s hand
settling on his shoulder to steady him as he watches Charlotte walk out the
door and, he fears, out of his life for good.
12/29/2010 12:47 AM
12/29/2010 1:07 AM
12/29/2010 5:29 AM
12/29/2010 7:08 AM
12/29/2010 10:06 AM
12/29/2010 12:32 PM
12/29/2010 3:11 PM
12/29/2010 5:23 PM
12/29/2010 6:15 PM
01/01/2011 8:59 PM
01/03/2011 12:18 AM
01/30/2011 2:34 PM
It’s pretty quiet in Southern Hospitality for a Saturday
afternoon. The summer sun spills through the windows, burning the floorboards
and Justin can tell the sidewalks are baking outside. He supposes the majority
of the city is on the coast, catching some relief from the city heat if only
for a weekend and what with no baseball game on today the bar isn’t seeing its
usual game-day clientele. A couple college girls sip martinis at the end of the
bar, paying him no mind, and he wonders briefly if they’d recognized him. He
chuckles darkly, gazing down into his glass, the amber liquid splintered with
ice cubes. He doesn’t recognize himself anymore either.
“Hey could you turn it up?” one of the girls hollers and the
bartender who’d been leaning against the other end of the bar, keeping an eye
on the level of his drink reaches for the remote, upping the volume on the TV
at the other end.
“It seems that New York City’s It Couple has called it
Justin’s head snaps up looking over at the television to
find one of the entertainment news channels’ talking heads yammering on next to
a picture of him and Amelia that has been digitally ripped in two. His teeth
“Only one month after their spectacular ten million dollar
wedding at St. Thomas Cathedral, Justin Timberlake and Amelia Domineck have had
their nuptials annulled. Sources close to the singer-”
“Fuckin’ awesome,” Justin grumbles, bringing a hand up to
shield his eyes, his thumb and middle finger pressing into his temples to try
and alleviate the aching in his head.
“Whoops sorry ladies,” the bartender hollers down the bar as
she flicks the channel over to a bowling match. “Big tournament.”
Justin lowers his hand, flicking his eyes between the TV and
the girl behind the bar before doing a double take. He’d never quite noticed it
before, the resemblance, her long dark hair the same length, the shape of her
face similar, maybe a little thinner. The only difference is her eyes, they’re
brown and not green. His chest constricts then, causing him to gasp for air as
the pain blooms hot, spreading itself through his veins, crawling down his arms
making his fingers grip his glass harder and he throws back the remainder of
his drink to try and put out the flames.
The bartender has another glass waiting for him, setting it
on his napkin and snatching away the empty tumbler as soon as he sets it on the
bar, wiping away the ring it had left with a towel.
make a good drink,” he offers, his voice bordering on timid, as he lifts his
glass, eyeing her over the rim as she drops his other in the sink behind the
She chuckles. “I don’t think how it tastes
is particularly important to you right now,” she quips and he frowns.
“I’m not drunk.”
He hits the K a little too hard, his tongue making a
squelching sound against the roof of his mouth and the bartender gives him a
knowing look that makes his cheeks burn.
say you were,” she says softly, watching him for a moment. “It’s alright I
guess.” She shrugs smiling and he wishes she had a dimple in her cheek. “You’ve
had a rough month.”
laughs mirthlessly, giving a slight shake of his head, taking a deep drink. “No
spending a lot of time here.”
I like your company,” he ventures and she raises an eyebrow completely
about that pretty brunette I used to see you in here with sometimes for lunch?”
she asks and Justin’s eyes snap to hers, feeling as if all the blood has left
his head, leaving him woozy and hot, the pain disorienting.
about her?” he asks, clearing his throat and trying to steady his voice. She
tell me,” she challenges, cocking her hip out to the side and resting her hand
rather not,” he replies tonelessly, preferring not to think about it.
know I’ve been working here for awhile,” she says, “Almost since you opened and
I’ve seen a few of the girls you’ve dated. The actress, a few randoms, and, of
course, the missus,” Justin cringes which she chuckles at, “and none of them
looked at you like that girl did.”
“Yeah well I fucked everything up, okay?” Justin
snaps and the bartender raises her eyebrows at his hostility which wanes
quickly into despair. Justin’s shoulders hunch forward as he runs his hands
over his face.
“How’d you manage that?” she asks softly and Justin
merely blinks up at her.
“Well… I don’t know if you heard but uh…” he says,
his voice hushed as he looks quickly down the bar before flicking his gaze to
the front window conspiratorially before his eyes meet hers again. “I kinda got
She gives him a wry smile at which he shakes his
head, lifting his drink to take a sip, the alcohol burning his tongue. He
nearly chokes on it when she asks, “But that’s over now isn’t it?”
He sets his glass down a little harder than
intended. “You know you sound just like my idiot best friend. Why is everyone
under the impression that my marriage meant nothing to me? That I should be
over the moon because I’m-” he makes aggravated air quotes, “-‘free’, instead
of devastated that my life is in goddamn shambles?”
She regards him for a moment before answering. “I
think…” she says carefully and he’s seen that look a million times before…just
on someone else’s face.
“Come on lemme have it,” he encourages, waving her
in as he brings his glass to his lips again.
She sighs. “I think they feel that way because it
was obvious to everyone, but you, that this was what you wanted all along.”
He chokes, whiskey and soda filling his lungs making
him hack and sputter. She looks at him alarmed, grabbing a clean towel and
offering it to him so he can wipe his mouth and dab abashedly at the few
dribbles on his shirt. “I… what? he
questions, his voice thick, catching in his throat and making him cough again.
“you think I wanted all of this to
“Well maybe not all of this,” she says, gesturing at him and he looks down at his rumpled
clothes, scratching at his scruffy cheek. “But somewhere deep down you wanted
something more than that marriage was going to give you.” She shrugs. “Or you
wouldn’t have been looking elsewhere.”
“Hey, I was not looking
elsewhere,” Justin spits, his eyes flashing angrily at her and she holds
her hands up, palms facing him in concession. He shifts in his chair. “It just
happened, okay. Its not like I planned it. It’s not like I wanted to get involved with her. She just… She knew how demanding
Amelia could be…” he winces at her name, rushing on to get the taste of it out
of his mouth. “She understood me and she was there for me when… other people…
“You were friends.”
“Yes!” Justin exclaims, nodding. “We were very good
“And what did she get out of this friendship…if you
don’t mind me asking?” the bartender ventures and Justin’s eyes snap to hers,
her question shocking him so it takes a moment for the shameful blush to creep
up his neck.
“She… she got… I was there for her too,” he tries
feebly and the lie is bitter on his tongue. “God she was right,” he mutters to
“About what?” the bartender asks, tilting her head
to the side, a smile tugging at her lips as she watches recognition and
understanding light his eyes.
“She said that I didn’t think she was good enough,”
he answers without paying attention, his eyes staring blankly ahead as his mind
runs over the past several months, seeing it with new eyes, becoming more and
more horrified by the second. He shakes his head. “I didn’t think that,” he
clarifies emphatically, his eyes pleading with her to understand. “I don’t think that. But…” he chuckles
darkly. “Actions speak louder than words.”
“And you acted like an idiot.”
Justin gives her a sharp smile. “Thanks.”
“So have you talked to her? Told her how you felt?”
He snorts. “Yeah. It went smashingly. We’re planning
the wedding. You should come.” He leans back crossing his arms over his chest
and she regards him for a moment before quipping.
“You should wait awhile. Let the ink dry on the
Justin glares at her hotly causing her to lift up
her hands again, showing him her palms in apology. He sighs shaking his head.
“No it’s fine. My life’s one big fucked up joke now anyway.”
should talk to her again,” the bartender says matter-of-factly and Justin
blinks at her slowly
don’t know if you noticed by my sarcasm earlier but it didn’t exactly go well
the first time,” Justin says, his spine prickling as he sighs. “You know, maybe
she was right. Maybe I didn’t really want her. Maybe I am just afraid of being
alone.” His jaw tightens, a wave of embarrassment washing over him in a heat
flash when he feels tears pricking at the backs of his eyes.
how bad did it hurt to say that?” she asks and he looks up at her, blinking
back the tears and shaking his head. “It looked like agony.” He’s silent,
looking down into his glass. “You can say it all you want Justin but you’ll
never convince yourself of it.” She pauses before adding softly. “I saw the way
you looked at her too.”
sighs letting his head fall back, running his hands over his hair. “I fucked
up,” he sighs, feeling his chest rip open in a gaping wound like it does every
time he lets himself think about it.
he says wryly, glaring at her momentarily before shaking his head and heaving a
sigh as the despair sets in. “I
just…” he starts but then stops himself, pressing his lips together to block
the words there was no use in saying.
what?” the bartender asks, her dark eyes soft and sympathetic loosening his
just wish I’d been able to tell her that it wasn’t true. That I did…” he
swallows hard. “I did love her. Maybe I didn’t realize it at the time but… you
know… I did.” He shifts in his chair, his mind wandering back, back before all
the drama and bullshit, back to when he and Charlotte were sniping at each
other with jokes about his horrible sense of humor and her resemblance to a
certain TV weatherman. “And I appreciated her, everything she did for me and
even for Amelia.” He flinches again, licking his lips. “She encouraged me,
always supported me. If I had a problem I couldn’t quite figure out…” he smiles
softly, seeing her in his minds eye, green eyes sparkling and that dimple… “she
always had the solution. She always
knew what to do, what to say…” his face darkens as the memory of her smiling
face fades and all he can see is how much he’d hurt her. “I just wish she’d
known that she was good enough for me. I wasn’t good enough for her.”
The bartender smiles sadly, feeling a strong pang of
pity for the broken man sitting in front of her. “You want some advice?”
Justin looks up at her, almost startled as if he’d
forgotten she was even there. He shakes his head giving a sad smile. “Sure.”
gotta find her and tell her the truth. That you’re an idiot-”
“I already did that,” he snaps cutting her off. “I
laid it out and I put my heart on the line and she walked away-”
“Then you do it again,” she says, her voice raising
just slightly, giving him a dose of his own hostility, and chastening him. “How
many times did she put her heart on the line, Justin? And how many times did
you walk away?”
Her words hit him like a punch in the face and he
lets his head fall back from the blow, heaving an aching sigh. “I’m am such a
“See, you’re off to a great start,” she says lightly
and when he brings his head forward he finds her smiling softly at him, humor
in her dark eyes. “You have to go to her. Make her understand that you’ve made
mistakes but you’re not going to make them again,” she advises him slowly. “And don’t bring flowers, don’t
make promises you can’t keep. Show up with nothing but your heart, Justin.” She
smiles at him encouragingly when he looks up at her again, his eyes hesitant. “It’s
the only thing that has any chance of working.”
if it doesn’t?” Justin asks, his stomach trembling with butterflies, barely
believing he’s about to put himself through this again.
hesitates before shrugging and heaving a sigh. “Then the drinks are on me.” She
reaches under the bar then plants a bottle of water in front of him, taking his
glass. “Come on sober up. You got a girl to see.”
strange sense of calm is settled in Justin’s chest as he climbs the six flights
of stairs to Charlotte’s apartment. It had washed over him as soon as he’d
gotten in the cab and told the driver the address and even the grumbling of the
cabbie didn’t set him on edge. It seemed he was immune to ill will, something
inside him buoyed by his mission.
didn’t understand it at first, spent the entire ride racking his brain for the
source, possibly attributing it to fear of having his heart shredded again, or
shock at actually going through with it. He figured it would hit him when he
arrived, the nausea, the sweating, the shaking knees, but even after he’d paid
the driver, tipping him heavily for his trouble and began his ascent to her
sixth floor walkup he never lost his sense of assuredness. When he crests the
top of the stairs and finds apartment 6D staring him straight in the face, he
feels only little butterflies licking at his stomach, heat washing over his
skin in anticipation, the same feeling he used to get right before the lights
came up and the music kicked in.
palms are just slightly damp, his throat a little dry as he steps up to her
door, closing his fist and bringing it up, taking a shaking breath as he let
his knuckles fall against the wood. He waits a beat, hearing his heart thud
steadily in his ears and feels his entire body stiffen as the door swings open.
freshly showered, her long dark hair curling at her shoulders, green eyes wide
in shock. She’s dressed for the office even though it’s Saturday, the soft pink
of her lace trimmed tank top matching the blush across her chest, her Bermuda
shorts blazing white as if they’d never been worn. She looks thinner, her face
less round and even through the concealer he can see the dark circles beneath
her eyes as if she hasn’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in weeks. She is the
most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.
blinks up at him, her stomach dropping down to her toes, her heart setting off
at a gallop, completely thrown off guard by his presence. But he shows no sign
of unease, standing tall before her in a soft grey t-shirt and plaid board
shorts, his sneakers pristine white as always. His hair is just beginning to
curl again, his blue eyes tired but open, a hint of a smile pulling at his
lips. She peeks down each side of the hall, thinking for just a moment that
maybe this is one of those dreams again.
he says softly, his voice a dry rasp and her eyes crash into his, setting the
butterflies loose again.
stands a little straighter at the sound of his voice, the dull ache in her
chest assuring her that this is no dream and she crosses her arms, looking
down. “Hey,” she tells his shoes.
doesn’t respond, just watches her, waiting for the fear to shake him, waiting
for every violent reaction he’s had in the past but nothing comes. He feels
warm and steady and suddenly he understands that this is what it feels like to
be sure, to stand in front of someone and know that they are what you want.
This is what it feels like not to doubt or be afraid. This is what loving
someone is supposed to feel like.
you got annulled,” Charlotte says, doing her best to keep her voice even when
he doesn’t respond, still not looking at him but peeking up at his face to
gauge his reaction.
blushes, a response that strikes her quickly as adorable but she shoves it
down. “Yeah,” he replies awkwardly, shoving his hands in his pockets and
shifting his weight from foot to foot. “Untied the knot.” He pauses for a
moment before taking a deep breath.
both freeze, the voice, distinctly male, wafting from inside the apartment
behind her. Justin’s stomach drops out but he’s unable to stop himself from
peering in the doorway, finding a man emerging shirtless from the hallway which
he assumes leads to her bedroom. His face goes slack, feeling as if something
sharp has lodged itself up under his ribs, his eyes falling on Charlotte but
her head is turned back, looking at the other man as he rounds her couch.
this?” the man asks, his voice deep and Justin chances a look at him, finding
him to be tall and cut, his hair damp as if he just got out of the shower.
just… uh,” Charlotte stutters, looking at the floor because she can feel
Justin’s eyes on her, burning her with questions.
is this him?”
malice in the other man’s voice startles Justin into looking up at him, finding
his face contorted in anger. The man takes quick strides until he’s standing
right behind Charlotte, close enough for Justin to see the hard line of his
jaw, the set of his eyes. His eyes are familiar.
don’t,” Charlotte says, turning towards him slightly, placing a hand on his
chest and applying pressure.
the bastard that hurt my baby sister!” Isaac barks, his green eyes flashing
maliciously and even though the man looks like he wants to kill him, an
overwhelming sense of relief washes over Justin.
Jesus,” Charlotte mutters, rolling her eyes annoyed as she tries to shove her
brother back, her cheeks heating with embarrassment.
lucky I’m not on duty or you’d have a nine millimeter cap in your ass right
now, mother fucker,” Isaac spits, still struggling to get past Charlotte and
Justin takes a small step back, putting his hands up. “You know what you’ve put
her through? Our mother has been scared sick for her for weeks. She finally
sent me up here to check on her-”
Charlotte exclaims mortified, her face flaming red as she finally turns fully
to her brother, giving him a rough shove. “God, go put a fucking shirt on.”
stumbles back, still glaring hotly at Justin whose eyes are cautious, glancing
from sibling to sibling. Charlotte looks from her brother to Justin, her eyes
scanning his face and as much as she wants to slam the door on him she’s
curious as to why he’s here. She thought that after she dismissed him she’d
never see him again. After all, she wasn’t the one Justin usually fought for.
are you doing here?” she asks with a defeated sigh, leaning her weight on the
doorway as if exhausted by the mere thought of going through this entire
Justin says slowly, his eyes moving from Charlotte to Isaac who is still behind
her, standing at full height and just waiting for his sister to give him the
okay to beat Justin into a blood stain on the carpet.
glances back at her brother then rolls her eyes, stepping out into the hall and
grabbing the edge of the door. “Come on.”
pulls the door shut with a snap, ignoring the snort of indignation from Isaac
as she turns back to Justin. Her hand instinctively reaches for his wrist,
moving to pull him towards the stairwell but both stop at the contact, looking
up studying each other’s faces for the other’s reaction. She finds his eyes
hopeful, questioning her heart stuttering and she forces herself to look away. He
reaches to cup her bicep and she drops his hand, taking a step back and looking
at the floor.
sighs softly, moving to the top of the stairs and lowering himself slowly,
looking at her over his shoulder to see if she follows suit. She moves
cautiously around him, sitting next to him but pushing herself as close to the
hallway wall as she can, leaving only the tiniest sliver of space between their
about Isaac,” she mumbles after a long beat of silence, watching her fingers
twist in her lap. “He’s just overprotective.”
fine,” Justin responds, looking down at his own hands, his palms pressed flat
together. “I kinda deserve to have my ass kicked.” An unwilling laugh pulls
from Charlotte’s throat, which he smiles at. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been
in a fight. You got any pointers for me?” he asks, nudging her with his elbow
and she shies away from his touch, sobering him and reminding him that this
isn’t going to be easy.
are you here, Justin?” Charlotte asks softly, not daring to look at him. “I
told you before… you’re too late.” She wraps her arms around her stomach,
holding herself tightly as she looks down the stairs.
I was kind of hoping you were too drunk to remember that,” he says with a soft
hint of humor, rubbing his hands together as he glances over at her, not quite
brave enough to look at her face so his eyes settle on her knees instead. “Talk
to me, Charlotte.”
don’t know what you want me to say, Justin!” she exclaims looking over at him
want you to tell me how you feel,” he replies softly and anger flares in her,
the memory of sitting with him in Amelia’s kitchen during her bridal shower
searing through her brain when she’d voiced that exact request and he’d shot
you wanna talk about feelings now?”
she quotes maliciously. “I thought that wasn’t who we are. I thought we were
just quick fucks in your office and-”
not true,” he says, the vehemence in his voice cutting her off and dulling her
anger but she still refuses to look at him, her mouth set in a grim line. “And
I’m sorry that I made you feel that way. That was never how I felt about us,
Charlotte. Even if you never believe another word I say, please believe that.”
eyelids flutter, a lump forming in her throat at the sincerity in his voice and
it’s too soon for this. She’s not strong enough to tell him no, not without the
liquor in her bloodstream and Ginger to fight for her. She’s spent her whole
life listening to her heart over her head and she guesses she should consider
herself lucky that this is only the first time she’s been burned beyond repair.
That exact thought is what made her vow to listen strictly to her head from now
on but she finds the transition to be rocky. She’s frustrated by her own
stupidity, hating herself for how she still dreams about him, still checks her
phone hoping that maybe he’d texted. She hates how empty her life has been
without him. As angry as she is, she wishes she were angrier; maybe then she’d
be able to hate him for what he did to her. She knows she deserves better but
her heart doesn’t want anything but him.
I understand if you never wanna see me again-”
well that’s not exactly the problem,” Charlotte cuts him off crossly and he
stops, confusion making his mind go blank.
want to see you every day,” Charlotte mutters miserably, picking at her
fingernails brutally and refusing to meet his gaze. “I want to call you and I
want you to tell me about your day and what you had for lunch and all the other
bullshit we used to talk about. I want to not miss you anymore. I hate missing you.”
is shocked, watching her mouth pucker angrily, her jaw tight for a moment
before she sighs, bringing her hands up to rub over her face.
he starts, trying to come up with a response but he hadn’t been prepared for
hate that you screwed up so royally that I’d be a fucking idiot if I took you
sighs. There’s something he can work with. “I know…god I know. You have every
right to just… to end this. But I just… I wanted you to know-”
you’re sorry and you never meant to hurt me, yes I know,” Charlotte says, not
trusting herself to listen to him. “I get it. I heard you.”
I don’t think you did,” Justin replies back sharply pulling her down when she
tries to stand. “I fucked up Charlotte. Beyond any measure that a human being
should be allowed to fuck up. I was so focused on… on making this thing work
with her that I didn’t… I didn’t see
what was right in front of me,” he sighs and Charlotte watches as his face
shifts from frustration to agony, her breath catching in her throat when he
looks at her again. “You have every right to tell me to fuck off. After what I
did to you it’s the smart thing to do.” He reaches over tentatively, holding
her hands in his. “But I wanted you to know that I fell in love with you
because of a million tiny things you never even knew your were doing.” She
sucks in a sharp breath, looking resolutely to the side, her fists balled
inside the cocoon of his hands and he dips his head searching for her eyes
which meet his reluctantly. “And I was scared of that. I was scared of losing
something that was so far gone I couldn’t even see it anymore. So I made a lot
of bad decisions. A lot of decisions that hurt you. And hurt me. I’m sorry for
that. I know it’s not much, and I know it’s too little too late but I’m sorry.
For hurting you, for making wrong decision after wrong decision, and for making
you feel like you didn’t mean anything to me. I am so sorry. And yeah maybe
you’d be a fucking idiot if you took me back but…” he trails, his eyes
searching hers, seeming to reach inside of her and shake the very foundation of
everything she believed to be right. He lets out a shaking breath, his body
turning so that his knees press against hers and his voice is weak as he says,
“You’d be happy, Charlotte. I’d make you happy. I owe you that much.”
looks down at their hands, letting out a slow shaking breath and she wants so
badly to give in, to let him try to make her happy. In fact he’d almost
convinced her. But deep down she knows it’s not right. He’s lived his life for
the past… god knows how long… working to make someone else happy. She reaches
up to touch his face, his eyelids fluttering at the contact and she wonders if
he’s ever going to learn that the only person’s happiness he can control is his
a good guy, Justin,” she says softly, her fingertips tickled by the scruffiness
of his cheek. “You’re clueless but you mean well.” He looks up at her then and
his sheepish grin makes her smile, the sincerity in his eyes tugging at her.
She looks away letting her hand fall. “I know you never meant to hurt me. Deep
down I’ve always known that.” She shakes her head. “This isn’t entirely your
fault. We did this to each other.”
look in her eyes cuts him off and he looks away, feeing as if all the air in
the room has been sucked out through the black hole in his chest. This was
really it. There was no getting her back. He hangs his head, taking a few
steadying breaths and he wonders what he’s supposed to do now. As scared as he
had been deep down he’d expected her to forgive him. He has no plan for this
of all the times that Charlotte had seen Justin beaten, all the occasions where
he’d been berated and run over she doesn’t think she’s ever seen him look this
broken. He’s blanched considerably, his breath dragging raggedly in and out of
his lungs and his eyes are flat and dull. She wishes that she could take it all
back, wants nothing more than to throw her arms around him but she can’t be the
one to solve his problems for him anymore. But despite knowing that, she still
cares for him too much to pretend otherwise.
you okay?” she whispers, her thumb smudging the soft skin of his cheekbone and
he blinks at her as if her words have caught him off guard, his body jerking
away from her. And then as if realizing his emotions are reading plainly across
his face, he attempts to situate his features into a smile but the sadness
doesn’t leave his eyes.
he exclaims his head bobbing with false enthusiasm while giving a dismissive
shrug of his shoulder that causes her hand to fall away. “I… I should go… you
know… before your brother really does decide to kill me.” His lips twitch up into
a weak smile that falls quickly. “Hey, take care of yourself okay?” he adds,
his voice turning thick so he has to clear his throat, his hand rubbing her
bicep quickly before pulling himself to his feet.
legs wobble beneath him just slightly, feeling a little short of breath and he
prays that his composure will last at least until he’s out of the building. He
wipes his sweaty palms on his jeans sucking in a deep breath as he begins his
decent down the stairs, everything inside him screaming not to leave, all the
words he couldn’t find before feeling as if they’re going to cause his head to
Charlotte says, cursing the warble in her voice and she knows she shouldn’t
call him back, that doing so would only make her want to keep him there. Would
keeping him there really be so bad?
stops at the landing, looking back to find her still sitting, her hands twisted
in her lap, her face contorted in sadness and indecision. He sees her clearly,
he thinks for maybe the first time ever and he has to reach for the banister to
steady himself at the realization that this isn’t about having her, or Amelia,
or anyone. It’s about the feeling he gets when he looks at her, the flutter in
his chest when she smiles, and the way he loves her dimple. He laughs then, the
sound causing Charlotte’s face to smooth, only the tiniest line drawn between
her brows, her ‘huh’ expression, which he loves almost as much as the dimple.
ever notice that it’s never something huge that changes everything but it’s the
small stuff?” he asks suddenly, not really looking at her and she can
practically see the wheels turning in his head. “Like you’re just a person who
showed up. You were just another girl working in my fiancé’s office… You…you
were just this girl.” Charlotte’s brow creases further blinking past him, his
words stinging her even if that isn’t his intention “You were just this girl
until you weren’t just ‘this girl’ you were…” he lets his voice trail, his eyes
meeting hers and she feels her stomach drop out, feeling that pull inside her,
the thing that had drawn her to him since the beginning, “you were everything
to me. You kept me sane when Am— she
was doing her best to drive me crazy. Seeing you was the brightest point in my
day and…” he sighs, giving a shrug meant to shuck away all the pretenses before
he says, “and loving you made everything tolerable I just…I never really
cuts himself off, pressing his lips together and she wants him to go on, her
heart hamming wildly in her chest. She can feel that this is one of those
moments; the ones you look back on as having laid out the path one would walk
for some time. She’d felt it a few times before, deciding to move to New York
for school, quitting her job at Gauge-Whitney, and before, as an assistant,
choosing to give Justin’s friendship the benefit of the doubt. It’s the feeling
she gets when the risk seems to outweigh the gain and even though her better
judgment tells her to err on the side of caution her fearless heart pushes her
to take a flying leap into the unknown.
he trails, shaking his head giving her a weak smile that looks more like a
grimace as he moves to take his first step off the landing.
she exclaims, propelling herself off the step and nearly tripping her way down
the stairs. He freezes, looking back at her bewildered, his eyes falling to her
hands as they grip his biceps trying to get him to turn and when he does and
they’re facing each other, nearly the same height from him being one step below
her, neither can speak, hearts hammering, knees shaking, their breath fanning
each other’s faces. “Wait,” she whispers again, her hands fisting in the cotton
of his t-shirt, her nails scraping at the skin of his arms as she rings it
breath leaves him in a rush, hands coming up to cup her face and he tells
himself he shouldn’t hope but when she looks up at him, her green eyes large
but sure he feels it’s impossible not to. His hands smooth over her hair, too
scared to voice it, not believing his heart could take it if she said no but
she just nods, quick short bobs of her head, answering him silently because she
can’t seem to find her voice.
blinks at her, and it takes a moment for him to fully understand, but when
realization dawns on him, his entire body stiffens and he sputters softly. His
own head starts bobbing in an attempt to get her to confirm what he thinks
she’s implying. She lets out a soft whisper of a laugh, continuing to nod along
with him and he breathes out hard, as if he’d been sucker punched. Charlotte
watches as his face contorts from skepticism to disbelief to relief and then to
unbridled joy that dazzles her, his face seeming to split open in a smile as he
scrambles to grab handfuls of her hair, wrapping his fingers all in it until
he’s trapped by it.
he asks, not realizing his face was so close to hers until her bottom lip
brushed his and her eyes close as she laughs silently, nodding still, her face
breaking into the most beautiful smile he’s ever seen, his favorite dimple
showing on her cheek.
laughs loud then, a joyous sound, his lips pressing hard to her cheek, kissing
that dimple and Charlotte freezes at the feel of him against her, his lips on
hers, savoring it as her hands move to his shoulders before giving in and
wrapping her arms fully around him, clutching him to her for dear life.
hisses as he moves to untangle his hands from her hair, pulling her back to cup
her face, fingers stroking her skin as he looks at her fiercely, as if he was trying
to memorize her, as if he were trying to figure out how he got so lucky.
it’s not gonna be easy…” Charlotte finds herself whispering to him and his face
sobers instantly, nodding solemnly as he gives her his utmost attention.
“There’s a lot… a lot we need to discuss…”
know,” he says quickly, nodding at her soberly. “I know.” He holds her so that
her forehead is pressed to his, his eyes staring back into hers, assuredly.
“And we will.” He holds her face tenderly, his blue eyes sincere as he says,
“I’m not gonna fuck it up this time.”
laughs then, finding the juxtaposition of his seriousness and his choice of
words so typically him. He chuckles too, his cheeks pinkening and she can only
smile at him, letting her eyes close as her nose nuzzles against his.
their lips meet it’s as if the world drops out, Charlotte grabbing handfuls of
his t-shirt, his hand cupping the back of her neck gently, cradling her head as
if it were something fragile. It isn’t like their usual lust filled kisses, the
passion still there but simmering low behind the promise that this matters to
both of them, that they will work together and that they won’t let anything get
between them ever again. It’s the first honest kiss they’ve ever shared.
going to work-”
gotta do something! We can’t just stand by and watch them make the worst
decision of their lives!”
and Charlotte’s lips part, their eyes creaking open to regard the other
curiously, each wondering at the familiar voices wafting up the stairwell. They
turn their heads in time to see Trace dragging Ginger to the top of the
staircase below them, both stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of the two
of them standing at the top of the stairs, wrapped in each other’s arms.
smile lights up Ginger’s face as she gives a strangled squeal, tugging on
Trace’s arm adamantly while he can only blink up at the two of them, his brain
processing a little slower than his girlfriend’s. Justin and Charlotte look at
each other again, smiling sheepishly before ducking their heads and Justin is
unable to resist the urge to nuzzle her cheek, his arms wrapping around her
waist as he tugs her close.
action seems to spark Trace’s recognition, a slow grin pulling across his face
as he regards the two of them before he quips. “Well, roll the fuckin’
01/30/2011 2:36 PM
feels like he has butterflies the size of pterodactyls in his stomach as his
fingers fumble with his tie in the mirror. The voices of the other occupants in
the room are a dull hum behind the thundering beat of his heart, excitement
running through his veins like an electrical current. He’s waited for this
night for months, put every ounce of himself into getting here. There were
times when he felt that he wasn’t going to make it, that it would all be for
naught but he’d somehow managed to pull through. Tonight was going to be the
first night of the rest of his life.
“You ready for this dude?” Trace asks
him through the mirror, clapping his shoulder hard and beaming at his best
Justin grins back, blowing out a shaking breath, trying to dispel a little of
the manic energy running through him.
on,” Trace says, giving his shoulder a rough squeeze, “Let’s do this thing
snatches a bottle of Jack Daniels from the table and the others gather round,
taking the shot glasses as quickly as Trace fills them. When Trace finally
hands the last one to Justin before taking one for himself the room is quiet
and Justin can’t seem to stop smiling, looking at those around him and feeling
that this is truly where he’s supposed to be, a feeling he’s gradually getting
new beginnings…” Trace says before grinning slyly and adding, “and finally
getting it right.”
gives a playful roll of his eyes, unable to fight his grin as he throws his
drink back, feeling it burn its way down to his belly, setting the butterflies
the heck is going on in here?”
freezes, raising on his tip toes to see Charlotte standing in the doorway, her
brow furrowed in confusion as she takes in the fullness of the room. She gives
him a questioning look and he responds with a sheepish grin, setting his glass
down as she makes her way towards him.
minutes till show time,” she says, the excitement evident in her voice as she
crosses her arms over her chest, feeling as if she could explode from the
heard the lady!” Trace hollers and the rest of the band looks to him. “Twenty
minutes. Let’s give the vocalist a little privacy.” No one misses the wiggle of
Trace’s eyebrows, making Charlotte blush and duck her head.
Trace,” Justin says dryly, receiving a hard pat on the back as his friend
follows the band out, pulling the door closed behind him.
lets her head fall to the side as she watches Justin’s gaze follow them out,
his eyes dancing happily and she wonders if he realizes he’s grinning like a
fool. She laughs softly to herself, reaching up to touch his face and his eyes
meet hers, his grin seeming to stretch even more, his hand coming up to hold
hers in place as he turns his head to press a kiss to her palm.
crowd out there,” she says softly as his eyes open and he beams at her. “You
he says giving a dismissive wave as he turns from her back to the mirror,
fiddling with his tie. “Oh hey there was something I wanted to ask you…”
Charlotte cuts him off, placing her hands on his biceps and urging him to turn.
only take a sec,” he says tilting his chin up to let her adjust the knot at
this throat, looking down at her from under his lashes.
shakes her head, pressing her lips together as she undoes the knot and starts
anew. She can feel him watching her, the heat of his gaze making her nervous.
He lets his eyes close for a moment, enjoying the brush of her lips against his
throat as she leaves the knot loose for him to adjust himself.
me,” he breathes, not even opening his eyes but grinning at the short gasp she
gives. He wonders after all the times he’s asked her if she’s ever going to
stop being shocked by it.
she whispers back delicately and he peeks at her from under low lids, still
grinning. She narrows her eyes slapping his chest and he laughs, turning back
towards the mirror.
of these days you’re going to say yes,” he says, tightening his tie against his
throat, finally satisfied with it’s appearance.
I guess I’ll have to eventually since you won’t
stop asking,” Charlotte says, jabbing a finger into the middle of his back
playfully and he wiggles away from the assault laughing.
don’t get it. You love me. I love you. The sex is great- ow!” he exclaims as
she smacks him upside the head laughing. “What, it is!”
grins as she rolls her eyes but she finds herself unable to keep from smiling
so she turns from him in an attempt to hide it but to no avail. Justin’s arms
snake around her waist, pulling her back against his front giving her a tight
squeeze as he presses his lips to her ear.
know it is,” he says lowly, making her stomach do a summersault, his lips
kissing along her ear. “We could elope, fly to Tibet and get married by a
snorts, twisting her neck to look at him dubiously. “Tibet?”
I’ve never been there,” Justin says with a shrug and she rolls her eyes. “Plus
it’s the only place I could think of with monks.”
do you want to get married by a monk?” she questions with a laugh and he just
It’d be a cool story,” he grins as she shakes her head at him. “Come on, marry
pulls away from him, turning to look at him through narrowed eyes. “What would
you do if I said yes?”
you away to Vegas before you could change your mind,” he says with a playful
grin but she merely raises an eyebrow at him.
I’m serious. What if I said yes? Right now. What if now was the moment? And
you’re here joking about monks,” she says, crossing her arms over her chest and
his smile fades, his heart feeling as if it just bottomed out.
he asks, pressing a hand to his sternum, his face going completely blank as he
frantically searches for what comes next. He’d asked her a hundred times in the
last few months and after the first few he’d stopped anticipating what would
come after she agreed. He’d had a plan once but it seems that he’s forgotten it
now, leaving it behind along with the ring- “Shit, the ring!”
eyes widen as he frantically searches his pockets, patting at his chest and
fumbling around with his pants. He’s muttering to himself as he walks over to
the couch, pawing through his jacket before scratching his head and looking
around. His face alights in remembrance hurrying back into the bathroom.
what are you doing?” Charlotte asks in slight alarm.
worry I have it here somewhere!” he calls out to her and the sound of rustling
denim accompanies his voice before he growls and returns, looking around
perplexed. “You’d think I wouldn’t misplace something like that but…” his eyes
widen as they fall on his backpack in the corner. “OH!”
you got me a ring?” Charlotte questions, her voice thin as he shuffles over,
checking a few pockets before pulling out a black velvet box.
blinks at her. “Yeah,” he says with a chuckle. “What kind of asshole would I be
if I proposed without a ring?”
she says holding out a hand as he saunters up to her, wiggling the box at her.
wanna see it?” he asks with a grin and she glares at him.
looks at her sympathetically. “Is it because you know you’ll say yes when you
I would not say yes just because of a ring,” Charlotte replies peevishly,
eyeing the box.
sighs. “Too bad,” he says opening the box a crack and peeking inside. “It’s a
have no doubt,” she replies with a sigh as he lets it snap shut again, smiling
as he slips it into his pocket.
of these days you will say yes,” he says softly as he steps up to her, hooking
a finger under her chin so that her eyes meet his and she smiles.
she replies coyly, standing on her tip-toes to press her mouth to his.
hard knock on the door startles them. “Pull up your pants, bro. Time to get to
I swear to god,” Charlotte growls, stomping over to the door and jerking it
open. “Is everything a dick joke with you?”
only Justin’s dick is a joke,” Trace quips, beaming at his best friend who
returns a wry smile, flipping him off. His brows draw as a large bouquet of
flowers nudges it’s way into the room.
delivery!” Ginger exclaims, letting the vase thunk on the table.
frowns at the gardenias overflowing from the crystal flute, each bud blazing
white, the petals open in fragile fans. A simple white card is tucked in the
middle and Justin reaches for it in curiosity.
pretty,” Charlotte says, reaching to touch a delicate petal and Trace snorts.
hates gardenias. They make him-”
lets out a hard sneeze, startling everyone and Ginger’s eyes widen. “Oh my gosh
are you allergic? Oh no, oh no!” she frets her body stuttering trying to move in
every direction at once. Charlotte’s eyebrows raise, looking to Trace in
amusement but he’s merely watching his girlfriend with loving humor. “I’m
sorry,” Ginger says, snatching the vase and turning to run. “I’ll get rid of
laughs to himself watching her scurry out of the room as Charlotte steps up to
Justin, placing a hand on his shoulder.
okay?” she asks and he nods sniffling a little as he opens the card. “Who are
they from?” Justin chuckles shaking his head, flipping the card for her to
read. Her brows furrow. “Wishing you all the success you can achieve…” her
throat closes. “Amelia?”
laughs. “She would…” he says, turning the card over and reading it again
quickly. “All the success I can
achieve. Thanks,” he snorts flicking it into the trashcan.
the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Charlotte asks angrily and Justin is startled by the venom in her voice.
“You’ve sold out a twenty date tour and that’s before you even release your album,” she says and her voice raises,
glaring down in to the trashcan at the card seeming to yell at it as she
continues. “Which is the most anticipated
album – oh I don’t know – ever.”
heaves an annoyed sigh, looking back at Justin and Trace who are watching her
with raised eyebrows. “Well, Charlie… tell us how you really feel,” Trace says
with a chuckle and Justin looks down grinning.
don’t think…” Charlotte asks, letting her voice trail as she looks between the
two of them. “You don’t think she’d… she’d have the balls to show up he-”
she’s cut off by Justin’s laughter and Trace’s scoff of indignation. “Are you
in LA, babe,” Justin says running a hand over her bicep. “The Hudson River’s as
far west as that wicked witch goes.”
bad,” Charlotte mumbles and Justin raises an eyebrow. “Would have been nice to
see the look on her face when you blow the roof off the place.”
laughs, a blush heating his cheeks and she grins, standing on her tip-toes to
press her lips to the corner of his mouth. Trace smiles watching the two of
them for a moment before shaking his head.
to go, dude,” he says stepping out of the dressing room and into the hall.
“Your millions of fans are waiting.”
aren’t a million people out there,” Justin replies as his arms slip around
Charlotte’s waist, hugging her close for a moment.
well a couple thousand of your millions of fans are waiting,” Trace amends. “I
think some of these girls are going to have an aneurism if they don’t hear some
music from you soon.”
coming, I’m coming,” Justin sighs, giving Charlotte one last squeeze before
looking down at her. “Kiss for luck?” He brings a finger up tapping his lips
twice and she smiles at him.
talent and honed skills aren’t enough he wants luck too?” she teases and he
beams at her, letting her kiss the smile off his face.
hand slips around the back of his neck, fingers fisting in his curls as her
tongue swipes his bottom lip, sneaking a quick taste before she pulls away. She
feels his eyes on her as she straightens his tie and adjusts his vest, brushing
off his shoulders. Then letting her hands rest there she looks into his eyes,
stealing his breath.
am so proud of you,” she says, lifting a hand to cup his cheek and he smiles at
her, his heart fluttering around inside his chest, taking her hand and pressing
it there, letting her feel it.
never thought I’d be here again,” he says softly and she smiles at the quick
stuttering of his heart, the only indication of his nerves. His eyes meet hers
and she’s struck breathless as he cups her face. “I couldn’t have done this
without you Charlie.”
always say that,” she says shaking her head. “You didn’t need me. This is who
wouldn’t have found who I am again if it wasn’t for you,” he says sincerely and
she looks down at her hand on his chest. “Thank you, for giving me the chance I
smiles. “Thanks for not making me regret it.” He grins.
love you,” they say in unison then burst into giggles, shaking their heads as
Justin runs his hand over her hair quickly.
love you guys too,” Trace returns and they roll their eyes turning to find
Trace grinning at them from the doorway. “Now, move.”
takes a steadying breath, the butterflies beating in his stomach as he releases
her and moves to leave the room. Her hand catches his, giving it an encouraging
squeeze before releasing him, smiling so that the dimple appears in her cheek
and she beams back at him.
gonna be out there right?” he asks as Trace starts to drag him from the room,
craning his neck in an effort to still see her as he’s pulled out the door.
think I’d miss something like this?” she asks in disbelief, following him but
moving to walk in the opposite direction towards the venue, throwing a grin over
walk to the stage is like an out of body experience, hearing the buzz of
thousands of voices through the walls, the electricity in the air. When the
lights go down the screams of the crowd hit him like a tidal wave, heart
hammering as he navigates the dark stage, finding his mark, gripping the mic
stand in sweaty hands. He starts with an old favorite, the first four chords
raising the volume of the crowd and he feels like the roof may actually blow
off when the lights come up, the crowd nothing but silhouettes and shadows. The
music behind him meets the wall of sound in front of him, engulfing him in a
mixture of scream voices and screaming guitars, stomping feet and thumping
drums. He can’t even hear himself when he says he’s bringing sexy back, the
crowd drowning out even his in-ear monitors and he spends the rest of the song
holding the mic out to the crowd, thankful for their help because with the lump
in his throat he’s not sure he’d be able to sing anyway.
song closes to thunderous applause and Justin just stops, standing in the
middle of the stage, staring out into the lights as he lets the adoration wash
over him. He closes his eyes taking a deep steadying breath as something
settles inside him, something that even Charlotte in all her perfection
couldn’t calm in him. He’s finally home.
everybody doing tonight?” he asks and the wall of sound hits him like a gush of
warm air. He chuckles, nodding his head as he returns the mic to its stand,
fiddling with it until it’s at a height of his liking.
lets his eyes scan the crowd then, searching and he finds her off to the left
behind the railing of VIP, standing next to Trace who looks to be arguing
playfully with Ginger. Charlotte’s eyes on locked on him, her hands clasped to
her chest and he wishes she was up there with him, wishes she could feel the
way this feels because he wouldn’t be standing there without her. He shakes his
head, looking down and saying another silent prayer of thanks for this girl
that he loves so, and for the second chance he’d been given.
wanna thank everybody for coming out tonight,” he says, fingers curling around
the microphone on the stand. “I feel like this record was a long time coming.
You know you get older and you grow up and you change… And sometimes you lose
who you are.”
eyes find Charlotte’s in the shadows and she smiles at him, her eyes sparkling
in the darkness. She gives him a slight nod. You can do it, her eyes say and he presses his lips together
nodding back solemnly.
you lose who you are and finding yourself again is rough… but this is what this
album is. It’s the search, the journey back…” he trails a small smile pulling
at his lips as his eyes fall on Charlotte again, “… or forward as the case may
be.” He reaches into his pocket, fiddling with the velvet box there and sees
Charlotte’s face go slack, her eyes panicking. He laughs at the terrified look
on her face before his hand leaves his pocket, giving her a quick wink before
he returns his gaze to the crowd in front of him, blinking almost as if he’d
forgotten they were there.
then its as if everything comes back, their screams deafening and he’s
overwhelmed by the mass of moving bodies, the thousands of voices melding into
one loud siren’s call. He’s drawn into it and swallowed by it, emotion
tightening his chest. He opens his mouth to speak and the din rises, the sound
pressing against his eardrums threatening to break them and all he can manage
is a bashful laugh, their love and support seeming to swallow him whole. “I
just…” he starts and then stops overcome once again but he manages to rally his
voice. “I just wanna say to each and everyone one of you how much it means to
me that you came out tonight.” He’s forced to pause for the rising tide of screams
that threatens to break over him and he thinks his face may split open from
smiling so hard. “But… I uh… I’m… I’m a little at loss for words.” He shakes
his head, licking his dry lips and once again thanking God for this moment. “I
just want to let you know how grateful I am for those of you that stuck around,
and had faith in me. You are the reason I do what I do. Thank you so, so much.”
He feels his voice crack on the last word ducking his head and letting the
sound wash over him again as he gathers himself, brushing away the nerves and
the pretenses, ready to give himself to the crowd. He lifts his head, rolling
his shoulders back and grinning. “Anyway, this is just a little something I’ve
been working on. I hope you enjoy it.”
01/30/2011 2:41 PM
01/30/2011 5:38 PM
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