Love's Harmony Ch. 04bysimply_cyn©
The next afternoon, when they stopped for a break in traveling, Jennifer stepped out of the bus to stretch her legs. Being cooped up in that bus for those long hours were starting to make her back and legs ache. She had to get out and get some kind of exercise. There was a nice breeze and she was glad she was dressed comfortably. She had on blue jean, hip-hugger shorts that dropped just enough to show her belly button and a tank top that was cut short. She was wearing slip-on sandals so a jog was out of the question. Besides, when she jogged, she usually had her hair up in a ponytail and today it hung loosely down her back. The breeze would come and lift it gently off her neck and she closed her eyes, inhaling the fresh scent of the scenery around her. They were in Michigan somewhere and it was a gorgeous afternoon.
“Hey!” Jennifer turned, surprised to see Kevin standing beside her. His hands were shoved down in his blue jean pockets and he wore a grin on his face, something she rarely saw on him. He was usually the most serious of the group.
“Kevin,” she said, turning and bestowing a smile on him. “Hi! What are you doing out here?”
“Probably the same thing you are,” he said, looking around at the scenery. “I had to get out of that bus for a while. It’s driving me crazy to be cooped up in that thing.”
“Well, I was about to go for a walk. Care to join me?” she offered.
“I’d love to,” he said, falling in step beside her as they started off down the road. The buses had turned off the main highway and were stopped on the access road. A smaller, less traveled toad turned off the road close to where the buses stood and Kevin and Jennifer chose that road for their walk. It was an older country road, lined with huge trees that shaded the road they were walking down. The breeze brought all kinds of smells and the birds were singing. “It’s a gorgeous day,” Kevin commented, looking up into the trees. “It’s a shame we have to spend a day like this on the bus.”
“I know,” she commented, watching the trees as they walked.
“I heard about your story this morning,” he said, his green eyes sparkling at her.
“My story?” she repeated, looking over at him as well. She shoved her hands into her pockets as they strolled along the road. “What story?”
“About your wedding,” he said, watching her.
“Oh . . . that,” she said, looking back at the road in front of her.
“I’m sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up,” he commented, reaching out to touch her arm.
“No, its okay,” she said, squeezing his arm in return. “I’m just surprised that you heard about it.”
“It’s not like the guys are running around talking about it,” he assured her. “I happened to be talking to Howie and it just came up. I was the one who pressed the issue.”
“It’s okay. I don’t care if y’all know,” she replied, smiling up at him. He was a good head taller than her and she really had to look up at him. “I told them last night because they asked. I don’t want to hide anything from you guys.”
“I wouldn’t say you were hiding anything,” he commented. “When something painful like that happens, not many people want to go around talking about it.”
She shrugged her shoulders, replying, “They wanted to know and I needed to talk about it. Of course, I didn’t realize that I needed to talk about it until they asked.” She looked over at him and then said, “I guess that sounds kinda silly.”
“No,” he replied, smiling down at her. “It makes a lot of sense. I had to do that too.”
“What do you mean?” she questioned, her eyebrows rising at that statement.
Kevin looked back at the trees, strolling alongside Jennifer a moment before he answered her. “You and I have a lot more in common than you know.” When Jennifer just listened, watching him, he continued. “I was engaged to be married about seven years ago.” He looked over at her when she stopped walking, her curious eyes watching him. He stopped walking as well and turned to face her. “To my high school sweetheart,” he said. He smiled at her and then said, “I was nineteen at the time and thought I was truly, madly, deeply in love with her and she thought the same thing about me.”
“What happened?” Jennifer asked, surprised at Kevin’s openness.
He shrugged his broad shoulders, caught up in the memory of that time in his life and started walking again, this time back towards the area where the buses were. They had been gone for a while now and the buses would be ready to leave in a few moments. He was sure they were looking for them by now. “We fought a lot,” he answered. “You know . . . over silly stuff, but the closer we got to the wedding, the worse the fights got.” She nodded her head. She had been there! “So we both decided we weren’t ready to get married . . . at least not yet.”
“So, are y’all still together?” she asked.
“No. It ended all together when the band started.” He looked up, doing the math in his head quickly and then looked back down at her. “I guess that would’ve been about five years ago.”
“That’s awful,” Jennifer said, shaking her head.
“That’s nothing compared to what you went through to hear Howie tell it,” he said.
“Well,” she began, smiling over at him. “I wouldn’t have chosen for it to happen that way, that’s for sure!”
“So, you haven’t heard from him since then?” he asked.
“No, not a word. Not that I want to hear from him, you know what I mean?” Kevin laughed at that as they reached the bus once more.
“Where have you guys been?” Kevin and Jennifer looked up to see Brian standing in front of them. He quickly took Jennifer by the hand and led her back to the bus. “We’re ready to leave and I told them we couldn’t leave without you.”
“What about me?” Kevin said, following them back into the bus.
Brian looked over his shoulder and then smiled at his cousin. “Yeah, I guess you too!”
Jennifer loved the job, but the hours on the bus between scheduled appearances and concerts were long and weary. They were currently hitting seven cities in twelve days. Some were just concerts; others were appearances and/or performances at state fairs. In Minneapolis, they were scheduled to headline at an End-of-Summer-Bash for a radio station. She spent a lot of time on the camper that she and Fatima shared, working on her laptop, making sure all the schedules were in order or she was on the phone with their destinations, confirming appointments and reservations. Fatima Robinson was the band’s choreographer and had been with them since they had first started. She was a tall, exotic looking woman from South Africa. Her long hair hung in tiny braids down the middle of her back. She had dyed the front section of her hair blonde and it looked really good on her. Jennifer and Fatima had instantly formed a friendship and she was glad to have some female company on their long journey. When Jennifer was working, Fatima was usually doing the same and it was nice for both of them. When Fatima needed to listen to the music, Jennifer enjoyed it as well when she was on the laptop. But when she was on the phone, Fatima obliged and used the headphones.
When she wasn’t busy working, she and Brian had plenty of opportunities to get to know each other, becoming closer as the days rolled past. He would sit with her and they would talk for hours about themselves, finding they had a lot in common: religion, goals in life, family. Inside, Jennifer was thrilled at their blossoming friendship but knew, for the sake of the band, it could never turn into anything else.
Unknown to her, Brian was attracted to her as well, but was uncomfortable about showing it because of her job and the fact that she was traveling with them. He felt it would be unfair to the other guys, and he wasn’t sure about her feelings towards him. At times, he thought she felt the same and then there were other times where he was sure she was just doing her job. She was the first girl he had met that had treated him normally and not as a star of a popular band. It was obvious that she wasn’t going to live her life around anyone: she had a job to do and she did it well. But she had everything he had ever wanted in a girl: gorgeous eyes, nice legs and a personality that shone. What’s more, she had the morals that matched his and had the same religious beliefs as he did. He struggled with the fact that she was basically untouchable while they were on the road. Above everything, he was a professional and it was obvious she was too.
One day, after a technical rehearsal in Allentown, the guys were starving and wanted to go to McDonald’s, A.J.’s favorite place to eat. Jennifer absolutely hated McDonald’s!! “You’re not serious!” she said, as Joe turned the van towards the golden arches they could see in the distance. “That place is pure grease!”
A.J. looked over at her, pulling his sunglasses down his nose. “Are you dissing Mickey D’s?” he said, staring at her in disbelief.
“That is the worst hamburger joint ever,” she said, staring back at him. “My dog could cook better hamburgers than that.”
“No one,” he said adamantly. “No one can beat their hamburgers!”
“Really?” she asked, a plan suddenly forming in her mind. Here was another opportunity to win A.J. over. She turned to Joe. “Joe, skip McDonald’s and head towards the nearest grocery store.”
“No way,” A.J. argued, leaning over the front seat. “You just keep going to the destination in front of us,” he said, nodding towards the approaching restaurant.
Jennifer turned around to face him. “A.J., if you don’t absolutely love the hamburgers I make, I’ll go right out and buy you something from McDonald’s. Deal?”
He looked at her again and then at the McDonald’s as they approached it. “Well?” Joe asked, slowing the van as if to turn. “Let’s have it.”
“Okay,” A.J. said, looking at Jennifer once more. “You better be right.” As Joe continued driving, Jennifer turned around, a smug look of satisfaction on her face.
Once inside of the store, she moved quickly from one place to the other, picking up the items she needed to make A.J. the best hamburger he had ever had. Brian, Nick and Howie followed close behind her. Nick was pushing the cart and Brian kept jumping onto the front. She watched them, laughing with Howie at their antics. You would think they never got out!!
When they got back to the bus, A.J. sat at the table, refusing to help but watching them closely. Jennifer put the rest of the guys to work. She had Kevin scrubbing potatoes in the sink, Howie slicing onions and tomatoes, Brian mixing the hamburger meat and Nick plugging in the appliances.
“What do you want me to use to peel these things?” Kevin said.
“Leave the skins on,” she said, looking up from her work.
“Leave them on?’ he asked again, looking over at her.
“Yeah,” she repeated. “The best part is in the skin. It makes the fries taste that much better.”
“McDonald’s doesn’t do it that way,” she heard A.J. mutter from his seat. She just smiled and continued her work.
“Okay,” Howie said, turning around, tears in his eyes. “The onions are ready.”
She looked over at him and smiled. “Did you slice the tomatoes too?”
“Yeah,” he said, reaching up to wipe his eyes. “What do you want me to do with them?”
“Cover them with the saran wrap that’s sitting over there on the counter,” she said, pointing towards the red oblong box sitting next to where he was working. “And then put them in the refrigerator so they’ll stay chilled.” He did as she told him and then she added, “Would you get the lettuce out of there and wash it?”
“Sure,” he said, reaching back into the fridge.
“What do you want me to put into this meat?” Brian asked, looking over at her.
She crossed the distance between them and said, “Here’s a package of soup mix. Open it and pour it into the meat.”
“Soup mix?” he questioned her, his eyebrows rising.
“Yeah,” she said, smiling at him. “That’s the secret recipe. But don’t tell A.J.” He smiled at her.
“You’re real sweet to do this. You know, now that we know you can cook, there will be no end to the requests.”
“That’s okay,” she said, looking over at him. “I like to cook. Now, pour half a cup of water into the meat and pour some Worcestershire sauce over the top.”
“How much?” he asked, doing as she asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging her slim shoulders. “Just until it starts to soak into the meat and it turns a darker color.” She watched him for a moment and then, “That’s enough. See how it looks?” He nodded as she reached for the salt and pepper. “Now let’s put a little of this in and you can mix it up.”
“Where’s a spoon?”
“No,” she said, laughing. “Use your hands. Just make sure you’ve washed them first.”
“My hands?” he repeated, a look of disgust coming over his face.
“Oh Brian,” she said, laughing at him. “It won’t hurt you. Go on . . .” she prompted him.
“Jen, what do I need to put into these?” She crossed over to where Nick stood beside the fry daddy and electric skillet he had plugged in.
“Don’t put anything into the skillet,” she said crossing over to where he stood. “But you need to put some grease into the fry daddy, right up to this line inside. See it?” she asked, pointing inside.
“Yeah,” he said, taking the grease as she passed it to him.
“Did you turn the oven on?” she asked, opening the door. The heat that hit her in the face answered her question for her.
“Now what?’ she heard Kevin ask.
She turned around, saying, “Okay, I’ll do the rest. Thanks.” She crossed over to where he stood. “Would you get me a bowl?” He did as she asked as she began cutting the potatoes into wedges.
A.J. watched her work and it suddenly dawned on him that she was busting her ass just for him. He got up from where he sat and crossed over to where she stood, now putting the potatoes into the fry daddy as Brian placed the hamburger patties into the skillet beside her. Her eyes suddenly met his in surprise as he stood over her. “Well, it smells good at least,” he offered and she smiled.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said and he smiled at her. Brian looked over at the exchange between the two of them and smiled. It amazed him to no end what she would do to win all of them over, especially A.J. It was clear that she wanted to make him at ease and Brian could see that it was actually working, slowly but surely. It was clear that she would do anything for any of them.
A few days later, that realization hit him again as Nick fell sick and wouldn’t have been able to perform if it hadn’t been for her. It was late at night as they traveled on the bus in order to arrive at their next destination on time for the concert that following night. Jennifer and Fatima had crashed on the tour bus with the guys and she was asleep in one of the bunk beds when Howie awakened her.
“Jen. Jennifer,” he whispered, pulling back the curtain that allowed for some privacy. Brian was sleeping underneath her bunk and could hear them above him. “Jen, wake up.”
She opened her eyes, squinting in the dark. “Wh-what . . .? Howie? What time is it?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m sorry, but it’s Nick. He’s real sick.”
“Where is he?” she said, instantly awake and swinging out of bed. Brian stuck his head out just in time to see her shapely legs dangle in front of him and then drop silently to the floor.
“He’s in the bathroom,” he said, leading her down the hall. Brian swung out of bed, still in his pajama bottoms and followed them down the hall. “He’s been hugging the toilet for the last hour and a half,” he explained. “He can’t stop throwing up.”
“Has he drunk anything?” she asked, worry lines appearing on her forehead.
“No, I don’t think so," Howie replied. “He can’t stop throwing up long enough to do anything. And he’s sweating like he’s in a sauna.”
“That bathroom is like a sauna,” she said, pushing Howie out of the way as she entered the bathroom. Nick was on the floor, his face ashen and sweat pouring out of him. She frowned and was instantly behind him, her hand on his back. His shirt was soaking wet. “Nick?”
He looked up, his eyes glassed over and she knew instantly he had a raging fever. She put her hand to his forehead and then turned to Howie. “Get me that oscillating fan that is in the back room and some ice water.” As Howie disappeared around the corner, she saw Brian and said, “He has a high fever. What did y’all eat tonight?”
“Pizza,” he said. “Why? You think its food poisoning?”
“Probably not with pizza,” she said, wetting a washcloth as Nick retched again into the toilet. “He probably has the flu. Nick?” she said, squatting down on the floor beside him and placing the wet washcloth over the back of his neck. “Nick? Are you okay?”
He looked up at her, exhaustion etched deeply into his youthful face. “Jen?”
“Yeah sweetie, it’s me. Have you drunk anything lately?”
“No,” he said, breathing hard. “I haven’t been away from this toilet in a while.”
She frowned and then turned to Brian. “Go get me a glass of ice water,” she said and then added, “In the side door of the refrigerator is a medicine container. Would you get it for me?” He nodded and then disappeared.
She turned back to Nick. “We have to get this T-shirt off you,” she said, pulling him back towards her. He lifted his arms and she slipped it over his head. His skin was cold and clammy and she wiped it with the damp cloth that had been on the back of his neck. When Howie reappeared, she had him plug in the fan and turn it into the bathroom. The cool air hit them and it felt better automatically. She took the ice water and soaked the washcloth in it. “Howie,” she said, never looking up from Nick. “Go find a clean T-shirt for Nick.” He disappeared again as Brian came back.
“Here,” he said, handing her the glass of water and the medicine bottle.
She took it and said, “Can you give us a little privacy?” she asked. Howie was there and she took the T-shirt, asking him to close the door. Turning to Nick, she said, “Here, let’s get this on you.” He leaned against her as she helped him put on the clean T-shirt and he stayed in her arms as she wiped his brow with the wet cloth and smoothed his hair back from his eyes. “Nick,” she began. “You’re going to have to take some medicine to make you stop throwing up.”
“Okay,” he whispered, his eyes fixed on her. She felt so sorry for him, lying helpless in her arms. He looked like a little lost puppy.
She took the water and said, “Here, drink some of this.”
“Don’t I need to drink it with the medicine?” he asked, taking the glass from her.
“It’s not that kind of medicine,” she replied, unwrapping a suppository from its foil package.
“What kind of medicine is it?” he asked, his eyes clouding over with confusion.
“Well, it’s a suppository. You have to put it . . . well, you know . . .” she said, handing it to him.
“You mean . . .?” He suddenly realized what she was talking about and it made him sick to think of it. “I can’t do that.”
“You have to,” she said. “It’s the best thing to stop the vomiting.” He stared at her for a moment and then nodded. “I’ll give you a moment,” she said, getting up from where she sat beside him on the floor. “Let me know when you’re done,” and she left the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
Brian and Howie were still standing outside of the bathroom as she came out. “How is he?” Howie asked.
“Well, I think he’ll be okay once he takes some medicine and drinks some liquids. We have to make sure he doesn’t dehydrate.” She looked over at both of their concerned faces and said, “He’ll be fine. Why don’t you two go back to bed? We have a busy day tomorrow.”
“What about you?” Brian asked concern for her marked clearly in his eyes.
“I’m okay,” she said, turning to look back at the bathroom. “I want to make sure he drinks something and stops throwing up. Once he’s back in bed, I’ll turn in.”