Love's Harmony Ch. 06bysimply_cyn©
The next couple of weeks were different and Jennifer blamed the shoot. A.J. had loosened up some and teased her unmercifully about it. Howie asked when she was going to star in a video with him and Brian didn’t say anything. She wanted to ask him about it but then decided against it. Why would he care? Things were definitely changed between her and Nick. He was with her every time they got an extra minute. She hoped it wasn’t as serious as it seemed, but was afraid it was. They had been close before and she wanted that friendship to continue. Even though something had happened, she didn’t want it to go any further than that set. She still had feelings for Brian . . . not Nick. But the way that Brian ignored her and never did anything to show that he was interested in her the way she was in him, pushed her closer and closer to Nick.
It had been almost six months since her break-up with Ty and she was missing what a relationship gave her. She wanted that with Brian, but it seemed that it was Nick who wanted to give that back. She was still concerned about the band and now she had the age difference to contend with. But if things didn’t change soon, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to hold Nick back, or herself. He was charming, sweet, sensitive, and . . . well, a wonderful kisser. He seemed determined to pursue her even if she didn’t want it. At least, she didn’t think she wanted it. The whole thing was so confusing and she blamed herself.
Jennifer walked out of the bus, determined to get a little fresh air before she went to bed. It was a gorgeous night . . . the crickets were singing, the moon was full, a light breeze was blowing. When she stepped off the bus and into the night air, soft guitar music met her ears. She looked over to the right to find Howie sitting on a lawn chair, strumming on his guitar. He was softly singing along with his playing and Jennifer recognized the tune. It was “I’ll Never Let You Go”, the song from the video they had just shot on video a week ago. As she walked over to him, she quickly realized he was singing it in Spanish.
“Nunca lastimaria tu corazon, Nunca te hare llorar. Prefiero morir que vivir sin ti.” Howie looked up to see Jennifer standing over him, a smile on her face. He stopped playing and smiled up at her. “Hi. I didn’t know I had an audience.”
“That was beautiful,” she said quietly, touched at his beautiful voice, even though she didn’t understand what he was saying. “Was that ‘I’ll Never Let You Go’?”
“Yeah,” he said, setting his guitar on the ground beside him. “We’re thinking about releasing a Spanish version of it.”
“I think you should. It’s beautiful.”
He waved her over to the empty lawn chair sitting beside him. “Here, have a seat,” he said, patting the empty chair. She walked around him and sat down, smiling over at him.
“You’re multi-talented,” she observed, looking up into the night sky. It seemed as if there were a million stars, all twinkling down on them this beautiful night.
“Well, I try to be,” he said, laughing. “You never know when this ride is going to be over,” he observed, knowing full well that even though the BSB were popular today, they might not be tomorrow.
“You guys still have a long time before this ride ends,” she said, looking over at him.
“Thanks,” he said, nodding his head at her. They both sat for a moment, neither saying anything as they took in the still night. Then looking over at her, he suddenly said, “Those hamburgers you cooked last week were great!”
She looked over at him, surprised at his comment. “Thanks!” she said laughing. “What brought that up?”
“I was thinking that I should cook for you some time.”
“You cook?” she asked, incredulous.
“Yeah,” he replied, looking back into the night. “I cooked a lot before you came along.”
“Why did you stop?” she asked.
“It’s nice to have someone else do it for a change.” He looked over at her and smiled, “I think they were getting sick of the same ole’ thing.”
“That’s an easy rut to get into.”
“I don’t do hamburgers,” he said laughing. “And A.J. loves his burgers!”
“So what kind of stuff do you cook?” she said, leaning her head back against the back of the chair as she watched him.
“Oh, you know . . . Chinese, oriental type foods.”
“Wow!” she exclaimed, raising her head to peer at him once more. “I’m impressed.”
“The guys were too, at first,” he said. “But then they got sick of it. They wanted some good old-fashioned American food.”
“You mean hamburgers, meat loaf, potatoes . . .”
“Yeah,” he replied, laughing with her. “They’re kind of the meat and potatoes type guys.”
She smiled over at Howie. “But not you?”
“Oh, I like that kind of stuff,” he said, sitting forward and grasping a tall blade of grass that grew underneath his chair. He stripped it and then placed the end in his mouth, chewing thoughtfully on the end. “It’s just not my favorite.”
“So . . . I know what you like to eat,” she said, leaning her head back once more, closing her eyes as she listened to the crickets chirping their summer songs. “What else do you like? I figured out the guitar playing.” She smiled then, her white even teeth shining in the dimming light.
He looked over at her, noticing just how beautiful she really was. “Well, I like to water ski, swim and sing of course.” He stopped long enough to let his gaze travel from her face, slowly moving down her slim figure to her shapely legs that swung gracefully underneath her chair and then back up again to find her eyes on him. “Eres bella,” he said softly.
She tilted her head to one side as her eyebrows furrowed together at his words. “What?”
He laughed softly and then said, “I said ‘Eres bella’. It means you’re beautiful.”
She blushed, her gaze falling to the ground. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s said to me in a long time.”
“Yeah, I bet,” he said sarcastically, laughing as he turned his gaze back out into the night. “I’m sure you get compliments like that all the time.”
“Why would you say that?” she replied, looking back at him.
He took the long blade of grass out of his mouth, throwing it to the ground. “Because you are,” he repeated, leaning forward in his chair. “You’re a beautiful woman and I’m not the only one who thinks that. I mean, look at Nick.”
She raised her eyebrows, turning her head to look back out into the night. “Yeah, I’ve noticed.”
“You don’t sound too thrilled at it,” he observed, watching her closely.
“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “It’s just that . . . well, you know . . .”
“You just ended a serious relationship and it’s too early to get involved with anyone right now,” he answered for her.
She looked over at him, watching him for a moment and then said, “Well, that too. But I was thinking more of his age. There’s four years difference between us.”
Howie shrugged his shoulders, reaching down to pick up his guitar once more. “No te preocupes.” Then looking over at her, he repeated, “I wouldn’t worry about it. If things are meant to work out between you two, they will.” She smiled at the simple wisdom he shared with her, and she wanted to tell him that it wasn’t Nick she was interested in . . . but Brian. But she didn’t. “And then there’s A.J. . . .” he added quietly.
Jennifer turned to watch him in amazement. “What did you say?”
He looked back over at her as he started to strum on his guitar once again. “I haven’t ever seen A.J. warm up so quickly to anyone the way he has with you,” he said. “There may be something going on there as well.”
She looked at him, her gaze leveling off as he smiled at her. “I think you’re imagining things,” she said.
“Maybe,” he hinted. “Maybe not.” As Howie began singing softly in Spanish once again, she just sat back and enjoyed the quiet moment, her thoughts turning to the problem ahead of her once more, of Brian and Nick and even wondering a little about A.J. as well.
Later that night, after they had checked into a hotel, Jennifer was about to take a hot bubble bath in one of the bathrooms of the three-bedroom suite. It wasn’t often when they stayed in a nice hotel, but when they did . . . they did it right. She was suddenly interrupted. “Jennifer!” came the call from the other side of the closed door. She quickly glanced behind her, grimacing at yet another interruption.
“What?!” she asked, dropping the towel and stepped into the steaming tub.
“Can I come in? I need to talk to you.” It was Nick. Jennifer sank into the tub, the bubbles coming up to her chin. “Please? . . .” he begged. She smiled at Nick’s pleading, leaning back.
She thought about it for a moment. It had been a couple of weeks since the video shoot and nothing had happened between them since. She didn’t want to encourage him but at the same time, she wanted to keep their close friendship. It had been a while since he had really sat down and talked to her, and she missed it. “Okay,” she finally relented; making sure her tired body was concealed by the bubbles. When the door opened, he peeked around before coming all the way in.
“You decent?” he asked, grinning at her.
“As decent as I’m going to get,” she said, laughing. She sank deeper into the water as he walked in. “What’s going on?”
Nick crossed over to the tub, perching on top of the cabinet top. “I’m sorry to bother you,” he said, sheepishly. “I just need to talk.”
“What’s up?” she repeated, closing her eyes as she relaxed. They had had a long day on the bus and she needed a break before the concert tonight.
“Well, I was wondering if you’d do me a favor,” he said, staring over at her. She had piled her long hair on top of her head and a few tendrils had come loose and fallen to gently frame her face. Her long eyelashes rested gently on her skin, her cheeks glowed from the hot bath, and her lower lip stuck out just enough to suggest a pout. He was struck silent by her beauty and the tantalizing thought of what lay beneath the bubbles. He quickly ran his hand back over his long hair, his tongue wetting his now dry lips. As he continued to watch her, her eyes fluttered open to catch his gaze on her.
“Nick . . .?” she prompted, looking up at him.
He smiled, suddenly coming out of his stupor. “I’m sorry,” he replied. “It’s just . . . well, it’s hard to concentrate with you there . . . like that.”
She laughed at him then, grabbing the wet body sponge. “Then, leave,” she said, hurling the dripping sponge at him, wetting his shirt on impact. He looked down in surprise, the wet sponge sitting in his hands. He looked up at her, a wide grin crossing his face.
“I ought to drag you out of there,” he teased, throwing the sponge back into the tub with a splash.
“Please . . . do it,” came another voice from the other side of the open bathroom door. Jennifer and Nick’s gaze turned simultaneously to the doorway as A.J.’s frame suddenly filled it. “I’ll help, if you like,” he added, a gleam in his eye.
Nick laughed as Jennifer said, “You guys . . . that’s enough. Get out . . .”
A.J. smiled at her as he turned to Nick. “Kevin’s waiting for you. Brian and Howie are already downstairs.”
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“We’re going to go through a technical rehearsal one last time,” Nick explained, turning to watch her again.
“I thought you needed to talk,” she reminded him.
“He didn’t need to talk,” A.J. offered. “He just wanted an excuse to come in here and gawk at you. And as long as we’re at it, I think I’ll take a gander myself.” As he started to walk over to the tub, Nick quickly came off the countertop, tackling him on the door. As they scuffled, Jennifer laughed.
“You guys, take it outside,” she shouted at them. A.J. smiled at her as he dragged Nick out of the bathroom, shutting the door behind them. Jennifer laughed at them, as she continued her bath, now in peace. But even when they were gone, she let her mind linger on the problem that was still at hand. A.J.’s comment, even though said in a joking matter, concerned her. She had to be very careful when it came to Nick. He was at a vulnerable age and she was in a vulnerable state. She wanted the attention Nick seemed so willing to give, but it was coming from the wrong band member. Ever since the video shoot, Brian had practically ignored her and she suddenly wondered if it had bothered him. She smiled at that thought because if it had, then it meant that he cared. And she wanted that more than anything. She closed her eyes again, this time hopeful that things might be better than she had thought.
One night after their concert in Michigan, she and Brian got so wrapped up in talking that they wound up watching a sunrise together. They were sitting outside the bus on a grassy knoll that overlooked the city of Allegan.
“Tell me about your childhood,” she said, her arms encircling her legs. Brian looked over at her to find her eyes on him. He shrugged and then looked out towards the horizon.
“What do you want to know?” he asked. Jennifer continued to look at him, amazed at the feelings that she suddenly felt surge through her for him. She knew at that moment, that she was in love with him. How was she going to keep her hands off him for the rest of the tour?
“I don’t know,” she said, resting her head on the top of her knees as she continued to watch him. “I heard that you almost died when you were younger or something. Tell me about that.”
He turned to watch her for a moment. As he searched her eyes, he realized just how beautiful she really was. The night breeze came towards them in spurts and caught her loose hair, blowing it just enough to frame her face with long strands . . . strands he wanted to reach out and brush away but dared not to. He smiled at her then. “Well, when I was four years old, I had this accident . . . you know, nothing serious. I skinned my knee and thought it was no big problem. My mom fixed it with a kiss. No one knew it at the time, but I wound up getting an infection from that.” He stopped for a moment, like he was remembering the past. Jennifer let her eyes travel from his face down to his midnight blue T-shirt, down the muscled arms that rested on his knee to the blue jeans that clung to his legs. As they traveled back up, she took in his deep tan, his strong chin, the dimples that showed only when he was truly laughing, his prominent cheekbones and then the blue eyes that sparkled at her. She smiled at him and he felt himself reacting to her presence. He turned back to the horizon, intent on keeping their relationship platonic. It was apparent to him that that was how she wanted it. God knows, he wanted her.
Running his hand across his short hair, he added, “Then about two weeks later I had another accident over at my grandfather’s house. I slipped and fell on the concrete and kind of knocked my head really well, so my mom was worried about me having a concussion or something. That’s when they took me to the hospital. During those two weeks, a staph infection had set in.”
“It’s a miracle that you had a second accident,” she said. “If you hadn’t gone to the hospital, they might not have discovered your infection.”
“Exactly,” he said, shaking his head. “Other than that, I was a healthy four year old by appearance. I never had any disabilities. I was always able to run with the other kids. But that’s when they hospitalized me for two months.” He stopped and looked over at her. She watched him with interest, concern shining in her eyes.
“It’s amazing how well you recall all of that,” she said.
“I’ll never forget it. I used to dream about it. I was real weak and pale for a long time. You know, I couldn’t do anything.”
“That’s amazing,” she said, shaking her head. “I look at you now and can’t imagine it. You run all over the place, play basketball. It’s just amazing.”
“The doctors told my mom and dad to go ahead and make funeral arrangements because they didn’t think I was going to make it.” He stopped for a moment, his mind wandering back over the past. “And my mom . . . like I said before, I’m the baby of the family and it was real hard for her to deal with.”
“I can imagine,” Jennifer said, unable to comprehend what his mother must have gone through. “Thank God y’all had the church.”
“It was a miracle, pure and simple,” he said, watching her.
“So, you have a lot to sing about,” she said, smiling at him.
“You know it,” he said. “Having that experience made me have a closer relationship with my family, with my brother, with my church, and God. Growing up with that always in my mind, I stuck to my guns when peer pressure came around. I’m not saying that I was the best kid in the world, because everybody has flaws. But it just made me a better person. I was more proud of what I was doing.” She reached over and took his hand in hers. He was too perfect . . . too nice. She couldn’t help but be drawn to him. It was if he was her soul mate and she already recognized it. He squeezed her hand, lacing his fingers through hers and then looked into her eyes.
“You know,” she began, looking down at their hands and then back up at him. “I truly believe that God has a purpose for each one of us, and yours . . . yours is to use the gift he gave you. You are good at it, Brian. And what’s even better, you appreciate it.”“I look back on the experiences and I’ve learned from the past and I’ve put it into everyday life. It’s just an experience that you can’t get rid of . . . that you have to turn around and use to your benefit.”
Jennifer absorbed all he said for a moment and then, “Who do you think most influenced your singing?” she asked. He looked over at her, surprised at her continued interest in his music.
“I don’t know. I guess it was other bands like us . . . Boyz II Men, Colour Me Badd.”
“What about your family?” she asked, raising her head to look at him. She reached up to sweep her hair back again as the wind picked up. “I guess they were real supportive or they wouldn’t have let you go off to Orlando to join the band.”
“Yeah,” he answered, a grin crossing his face. “They were always supportive of me. My parents were probably the most influential people in my life, but it was my big brother, Harold, that kept me going.”
“What do you mean?” she prompted.
“Well,” he said, laughing at the memory. “Being a big brother, he kicked my tail all the time, but then, he always picked me up and pushed me to succeed in whatever I was doing.”
“That’s great,” she said, turning to stare at the horizon. It was a beautiful night and one she was glad to be sharing with Brian. As the breeze picked up, she let go of her hand, shivering. Brian looked over and caught her hugging her legs close to her.
“Cold?” he asked, taking off his wind jacket and wrapping it around her shoulders.
“Thanks,” she whispered, her eyes locking with his. For a few minutes, they sat this way and Jennifer fought the urge to lean into him. She was here to do a job, and she was certain that to Brian, they were just friends. Brian, too, fought the urge to take her into his arms. They had been on the bus for only five weeks, but he felt like he had known her for a lifetime. He loved her smile, her beautiful huge blue eyes, and her good heart. As he watched her, he felt overwhelmed by her beauty and her spirit. He reached back over for her hand, taking it once more in his. She didn’t say anything. She just smiled.
They sat together for a long time, just talking. They talked a great deal about their childhoods and how they had been raised similarly: practically raised in a Baptist church, singing, and encircled in a loving family. The more they got to know each other, the more Jennifer was convinced that this was the guy for her. When the sun peeked over the horizon, they were both surprised at how quickly the time had flown, their hands still clasped together.