Love's Harmony Ch. 03bysimply_cyn©
Once on the road and as the days passed quickly, Jennifer felt more like a member of the group instead of an outsider. Nick did his best to include her in whatever they did; whether it was playing Nintendo on their bus television, or catching a quick game of basketball when they stopped. Howie D. was a total flirt and Kevin tried adopting her just like the rest of the guys. He was constantly making sure that none of them wanted for anything. And Brian turned out to be just an old-fashioned guy. There were many times on the bus that she caught him singing to himself or reading his bible. Growing up in the church herself, Jennifer was impressed that over everything, Brian stuck to his values and beliefs.
It was A.J. who was still hard to win over. He seemed almost angry and Jennifer did her best to draw him out of it. At first, it was difficult because she felt like A.J. didn't want her there, but the other guys insisted he was just that way.
"Hi," Jennifer said, as she walked into the back of the bus, finding A.J., Howie and Brian. Howie returned her greeting and Brian automatically smiled as she entered the room. A.J. just stared at her as he put his sunglasses back on. It wasn't often she saw him without them. It was if he was trying to hide behind them. "What are you guys doing?"
"Just listening to some c.d.'s and telling old stories," Brian said, twirling the basketball he had in his hand. He had this great passion for basketball and was seldom without it. He tossed it up in the air and caught it again a few times. "Why don't you come join us?' he offered, patting the seat between him and A.J.
"Well, if you're sure you don't mind," she answered, eyeing A.J. When he didn't say yea or nay, she crossed over and took a seat. "So," she began, looking over towards Brian and Howie, "What kind of stories were you telling?"
"Oh just dumb stuff from our tours over in Europe."
"Like what?" she asked.
"Well, like the one time Nick knocked A.J. off the stage," Howie answered, starting to laugh all over again. Brian grinned and made a face. "It was so hilarious."
"What happened?' she said, grinning back at them both.
"Tell her, A.J," Brian said, trying to draw A.J. into the conversation. He knew how uncomfortable Jennifer was when A.J. ignored her like he usually did. When A.J. just looked back at him, his eyebrows rose, Brian told the story instead. "Well, we were over in Europe somewhere and Nick and A.J. were on the catwalk. Nick really got into the performance . . ."
Howie jumped in, between his giggles. "And he threw his arms out not realizing A.J. was right there beside him." He had to stop talking as he rolled over forwards, grasping his sides as he shook with laughter. Jennifer noticed that A.J. smiled and shook his head at his friend's antics. She smiled and then turned to Brian.
"So . . ."
"So, when he threw out his arms," he continued for Howie, laughing at the memory, "He caught A.J. off balance and over he went . . . right off the catwalk and into the audience." All three guys were laughing now and Jennifer couldn't help but notice how beautiful of a smile A.J. had.
She turned to him and said quietly, "You know, that's the first time I've seen you smile since I've met you. It's nice . . . you should do it more often." He slowly stopped laughing and looked at her. He wasn't sure what to say. She had caught him off guard.
Brian interjected, "That's his way of saying thanks." He tossed the basketball high into the air, this time missing it as it hit the floor and rolled into the hallway. "So, tell us a little about yourself," he said, turning to face Jennifer, his arm resting on the back of the bench seat they were sitting on.
She watched A.J. for a moment and then turned back towards Brian. "There isn't much to tell," she confessed.
"Oh, come on," Howie pleaded. "Rumor has it you arrived in Orlando jobless and homeless. What's up with that?"
"There's a rumor going around about that?" she asked, shocked. "Where? At the office?" She couldn't believe that had gotten out.
"Don't be so surprised," Brian said, grinning over at her. "The office is like a small town . . . everyone knows everyone's business." Jennifer shook her head, wondering exactly what they had heard. "So . . ." he continued, "Is it true?"
She looked at them a moment, wondering if she should trust them with all of her deep, dark secrets. She trusted Brian naturally and Howie wasn't a problem, but she couldn't help but wonder if A.J. wanted to hear her talk anymore than she did already.
That's when he finally spoke up. "If you want us to trust you, you have to trust us." Jennifer looked over at him, surprised he was contributing anything to this conversation. He watched her for a moment and then added, "We'd really like to know your story."
"Okay," she answered after a long moment, wanting to win A.J. over. If it took telling her sad story to do it, it would be worth it. "It's true," she said, looking at S.J. "I came to Florida on the spur of the moment. I guess you could say . . . I was running away."
"From what?" Howie asked, leaning forward so he could see her better.
She took a deep breath, unsure if she could tell the whole story without getting emotional. She shrugged her small shoulders, twisted the engagement ring that was still on her finger, and then said, "From a broken heart."
She stopped for a moment and then looked at Brian. "Three months ago I was planning the wedding of my dreams and then three weeks later, as I was about to walk down the aisle, my father had to inform me that my fiancée didn't bother to show up for the ceremony." Brian's face registered shock as Howie's registered pity. She could tell they were sorry they had asked.
"That's fucked up," A.J. said, taking off his sunglasses and turning towards her more. "What a jerk!" She smiled at him, surprised to find that she felt the same way.
"Yeah, I know," she said, laughing bitterly.
"What happened?" Brian wanted to know, his hand coming over to cover hers. She looked down, surprised at the surge of giddiness that flew into her stomach at his simple touch. She looked up at his face.
"I'm not quite sure, to tell the truth," she said. After a moment of thinking that one over, she continued, "I guess he decided that I wasn't the one for him. I don't know." She reached up to rub her forehead, her eyes closing at the finality of it all. It was if telling it out loud was closing the last chapter of her life with Ty. She opened her eyes to look at them again, but this time it wasn't so bad. "So, I packed my bags, picked a place and . . . here I am."
The guys just sat for a moment, watching her. "So, are you okay about it now?" Brian asked, his hand still covering hers. He squeezed lightly for a moment as she smiled at him.
"Yeah, I think so," she answered, as honestly as she could. "It still hurts to think about being dumped at the altar, but you know . . . I guess it happens." And then suddenly, she smiled at them. "So anyway, that's my story. At least one of them."
"And the ring?" A.J. pressed. "Why are you still wearing it?
She looked down at it, starting to wonder that herself. "You know," she began. "I think part of me didn't want to accept that it was over. I mean, we were together for almost two years."
She stopped again, looking over at A.J. "But now, I think it's finally okay. So . . ." She pulled the ring off, looking at it one last time and then placed it in her pocket. "I guess it's time to get rid of it. But . . ." looking around at the bus, "I'm not exactly in the right place to do it."
"You could throw it out the window," Howie suggested as Brian gave him a look.
"Hell no!" A.J. said. "Sell it!" She laughed at his words, glad he had finally spoken up. It made her feel a lot better.
Later when she was alone with Brian, she finally got him to tell her a little about himself. "Well, I was born and raised in Tennessee. I have an older brother, Harold, who's three years older than me. We grew up in a fairly middle class family."
"What do you mean middle class? What's your definition of that?' she asked.
"Well," He thought about it for a moment and then said, "My dad worked at a computer company, which was later bought out by a company over in Europe. They work on typewriter ribbons, computer ribbons . . . stuff like that. And my mom worked at a church, where I grew up actually."
"Really?" she asked, laughing. "Me too!"
"No!?" he said. "Really? Were you there all the time?"
"Yeah," she said, laughing at the memory of it. "It seems like every time the doors were open, we were there."
He laughed with her. "Me too. As a young boy, I ate, drank and slept church . . . whether I liked it or not. I mean, I would've rather been playing on Sundays . . . but it eventually grew on me and I think it has a lot to do with the way I live my life now."
"I can tell," she said.
He smiled at her and then said, "But I was also always running around, singing and being a comedian, making everybody laugh."
"You still do," she offered. He laughed and then sat back against the seat, folding his arms across his chest. She sat back as well.
"Ever since I could remember, I was always involved in the children's choir at church, and I was always singing up on stage. I was like, six or seven years old when I did my first solo in front of a congregation at the church." He stopped and then added, "This was a church that has like 3,000 members. But, you know; only about half would be at the services on Sunday morning."
She nodded as he continued. "But I guess that was a pretty big feat for a six or seven year old! I'm usually real shy around people that I don't know, but once I get to know a person, I can relax and then turn into a real ham."
"Really?" she teased. "I hadn't noticed that about you."
"Just stick around," he teased back. "You'll notice it soon enough." They laughed for a moment.
"You mentioned you had an older brother . . . what was his name?"
"Harold," he answered. "We're three years apart but we always got along. When we would have family get togethers, Kevin would always go hang out with my brother."
"That's right!" she said. "I keep forgetting that you and Kevin are cousins."
"It was like my brother and he were real tight, because they were the same age. I was the baby of the family."
"Oh, poor baby," she teased, reaching out to stroke his cheek. He laughed, playfully pushing her back. "So, does your brother sing?" she asked, wanting him to continue with his story.
"Yeah, but he doesn't really sing the pop, R&B style we have. He likes country music." He cleared his throat and then said, "He and Kevin would always get together and sing and pretend they were music stars. But, he never took it seriously . . . but then, neither did I until I was just thrown into it. In elementary school and middle school the girls were like, 'Oh you sing? Big deal', but in church it was, 'Man, you're good, you have a really nice voice', and that was pretty much it. I would get compliments like that, but nothing really big."
"What happened to change it all?" she asked, smiling at him.
"Well, my school had a talent show when I was in junior high . . . this girl and I got up there and sang a christian song in front of the school. I mean, the whole school was there! It was a song called, 'Another Time, Another Place.'"
"I love that song," Jennifer said. "I sang that song once at my church with a guy in my youth group. It's a great song."
He smiled at her. They had so much in common. "Well, she comes on and sings her first line and then I come into the song, you know. I get like two or three words out of my mouth and right then is when all the girls in the audience started to scream!"
He laughed at the memory. "I mean, I was all decked out in a suit and tie, and there were spotlights, so I couldn't even see the audience because the lights were so bright. I heard the first three words I sang and then I couldn't even hear myself. It just blew me away! What's weird is, I had just gotten out of choir earlier in the day and I was a nobody, you know? But yet, when I stepped up on-stage and got behind those lights, it was totally different. It was like I was an instant star! I think that was the point in my life when I knew that if I could pull something off like that with my peers, then there definitely had to be people out in the world that would like it as well. And from then on, it was such a rush!!"
"That's an amazing story, Brian. It had to be overwhelming for you."
"It was, you know, at first. I mean, I was just thrown into it."
"What do you mean, thrown into it?" she asked.
"I figured you knew about the day Kevin called me from Orlando for BSB?" When she just shook her head no, he looked surprised. "Well, I was sitting in my U.S. History class. It was like the last class of the day . . ."
He stopped a moment, lost in the memory of that moment. Smiling at her, he continued, "So I get home and right when I walk in the door, I'm like 'Mom, I gotta tell ya what happened!' and she already knew. Kevin had already called both my parents, given them the low down and I was the last one to hear about it. I couldn't believe it was actually happening!'"
He stopped for a moment, stretching his legs out in front of him.
"What did your parents think about all of this?"
"Well, my mom's main concern was my education. So, she got on the phone and talked to Denise, A.J.'s mom and she told her about the tutor, home schooling, how they go about their days getting their studies done. If everything worked out, then I would just fall right in with A.J. and Nick and be tutored together with them. That was her main concern, and it all worked out."
He stopped, drawing in a long breath. "Are you sure you want to hear all this?" He looked over at her. She was still staring at him, her eyes full of wonder at all he was saying.
"Yes," she said, resting her head on the back of the seat as she continued to watch him. "It's fascinating!"
He laughed before he went on. "Well, to make a long story short, we talked to management that night and they said, 'You gotta get down here and audition. We've heard a lot of great things about you and you gotta give it a shot!' I was on a plane at six a.m. the very next day by myself. Kevin and a limo were there to pick me up at the airport. My jaw was hitting the floor! I was scared half to death. I mean, here I was in Orlando, and hours before . . . I was just talking to him on the phone! Now, I'm down here, in a limo . . . I was like, 'Whoaaa, what have I gotten myself into?' It was like, POW! overnight my life was changed! But the minute I met management I was like, 'This is for me. I can fit into this. I love this.' It was nothing like I had expected. I expected it to be all formal, 'cause I had never auditioned for anything."
"Never?!" she questioned.
"No!" he admitted. "I didn't know what it was going to be like."
"That's quite a story," she said, leaning forward to rub her legs. It was a little chilly in the back of the bus, and she could feel goose bumps forming on her legs.
"You cold?" he asked, sitting forward.
"Oh, it's a little cool. The air conditioning definitely works on this bus," she laughed. He smiled at her as he got up and reached into an overhead cabinet, pulling out a throw blanket.
"Here," he said, spreading it out over her legs. "Better?"
"Much," she smiled at him. "I appreciate it." Sitting here with him was doing more than putting goose bumps on her legs . . . and to tell the truth, it wasn't from the air conditioning!