At Baylee’s request, Emily was the one who put him to bed that night.
“Emily, why don’t you join us on the back patio?” Leighanne asked.
“Alright. It is a gorgeous night, isn’t it?”
“It’s great! Would you like some wine?”
“How much do you have?” Emily joked.
“Oh, only about 9 bottles. Will that do?” Leighanne winked at Emily.
“I think that’s a start.”
They joined Brian on the deck and Emily relaxed on one of the lounge chairs.
“Emily, I’ve been thinking and I want you to stay here for awhile.”
“Brian, that’s really not necessary.” She said.
“No, I think it might be. Look, there’s a good chance that White is having you followed, and there’s a good chance that you’re still being followed. No one can follow you into this neighborhood, I checked with the gate guard and he said no one came in right after you, and no one unidentified tried to get in today. They’re aware of the situation. But they would have complete access to you if you’re at your apartment.”
Emily thought for a minute. “You really think they’d still be following me?”
“I couldn’t say for sure, but it’s likely he isn’t finished with you yet.”
Emily nodded. “Ok. I’ll just need to go home and get some clothes and things.”
“Good. I’ll take you myself. I don’t want you going alone, especially at night.”
“I agree.” Leighanne said.
Emily was quiet as she sipped her wine. She was listening to Brian and Leighanne telling stories about their adventures in the tabloids while trying to think of a way to get back at White besides castration.
“Well, I think we should probably get going to pick up your stuff.” Brian said, standing up.
“I’m going to go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning, Emily.”
“Goodnight, Leighanne, and thanks for everything.”
Brian kissed his wife goodnight and walked Emily to his car. He noticed her eying it very closely.
“You want to drive, don’t you?” he asked.
“Well, it’s just that I’ve never driven a car this nice before!” she admitted.
Brian tossed the keys at her. “Have a go!” he said, hoping in the passenger seat.
“Really?” she looked at the keys in her hand.
“Sure. I called the insurance agent this afternoon.”
“Awesome, thanks!” Emily got into the driver’s seat, adjusting the mirrors and scooting forward. She was pretty nervous to be driving such an expensive car, especially with Brian sitting right next to her but by the time she was on the highway she was much more relaxed.
“Emily, you might want to slow down.” Brian warned.
She looked at the speedometer and realized that she was going almost 95. “Shit! Sorry, it rides so nice I didn’t even realize I was going so fast.”
“How do you think I keep getting all those speeding tickets?” he laughed.
“Outrunning crazy fans on wheels?”
“That’s what I tell my wife.”
“And she believes that?”
“Hell no, she’s seen me drive before, she knows better!” They laughed as Emily pulled into the parking lot.
“Do you think anyone followed us?” she asked, looking around.
“No, I’ve been watching pretty carefully. We’ll be extra careful on the way home in case they’re watching your apartment.”
Brian waited for Emily in the living room while she packed her suitcase. She’d been traveling so much lately that she had gotten pretty good at speed packing and was ready to go in ten minutes.
“Got everything?” he asked.
“Yup, let’s skedaddle.”
“You want to drive again?” he asked, taking her bag for her.
“No, I’ll let you drive home just in case there’s trouble.”
“What, you’re not a stunt driver?” he teased.
“Not like you, speed racer.”
They took a few round-about ways getting home and it didn’t look like anyone had followed them. Brian took Emily’s bag up to her room.
“I don’t really feel much like sleeping, care to join me on the deck again?” he asked.
“That sounds great. To be honest, I’ve slept so much the last few days I don’t think I’ll need to sleep for another week!”
Emily reclaimed her spot on the lounge chair and Brian sat in the one next to her.
“What a day, eh?” he said.
“No kidding. And to think, this is normal to you.”
“It’s funny, I’ve been putting up with this stuff for over ten years and it still doesn’t seem normal. I’m used to it, but it’s not normal.”
“Do you ever regret becoming so popular?” she asked.
“I don’t know if I’d say I’ve regretted it. I mean, look at all the things I have because of it. I would never have met Leighanne and never would have had Baylee. I wouldn’t have known the guys and I never would have toured the world. So whenever I start to get agitated with the downsides of it, I just remind myself of what it’s gotten me.”
“That’s a good way of looking at things.”
“How about you, do you regret working for us?” He smiled at her.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes, especially after today, but it’s like you said. There are a lot of upsides to things. There’s the obvious money, there’s Baylee, and there’s the traveling.”
“And AJ.” He was determined to get information out of her.
“That’s true; you really could go through life without meeting someone like AJ. He is truly unique.”
Brian laughed. “That he is.”
They were quiet for a minute before he said, “He likes you, you know.”
Emily answered quietly, “I know.”
“Well?” he pried.
“I don’t get any more details?”
“Well what do you want to know?” she asked, feeling very uncomfortable talking to him about it.
“Do you like him too?”
Emily thought for a moment. “It’s complicated.”
“Well, I am drawn to him. He’s…well, he’s very attractive. But, every time I think about it, I see too many red flags in the way.” She finally admitted.
“What kind of red flags?”
“Well, for starters, his lifestyle. It seems like it would be very hard to maintain a relationship with someone who lives in another city and is constantly busy traveling and recording. And then there’s the fact that I’m very busy with Baylee and it’s not like I’d have the time to spend with him.”
“What else?” Brian was feeling nosy. He was determined to get the whole story out of her.
“Well, as much as I don’t want to admit this to you, I would be concerned about his drinking and drug problem. That’s an awful lot of baggage to deal with in a normal relationship, let alone a complicated one.”
“That’s very true. We all worry about him handling his problems, but so far, he hasn’t let us down. But it’s always something we’ll worry about.”
“Is that all, then?” he asked.
“No, there is one other thing.”
“What is it?”
“Brian, what’s with all the questions?”
“Well, AJ likes you a lot. I haven’t seen him like someone this way in awhile. And I can tell that you like him too, so I’m just trying to play match maker and see what’s going on.”
“Ah, so you’re like his spy, right? Feeling me out, seeing how I feel so that he doesn’t get hurt?”
“Yeah, I guess sort of like that. Only he didn’t ask me to do that. He’ll probably smack me upside the head when he finds out I talked to you.”
“Why did you tell him I told you not to date him?”
Busted. Emily’s face grew hot as she admitted, “Well, because I felt uncomfortable dating such a close friend of yours. I mean, you’re my boss and that could be an awkward position to be in. I mean, what would have happened if AJ and I were dating when you fired me? He would have hated you for it.”
“He hated me for it anyway. You know, he tried to punch me for telling you not to date him. Always was a hot head.”
“He did? Oh God, I’m sorry! I didn’t actually expect him to tell you, it was kind of an impulse excuse. I just needed to tell him something.”
“Don’t feel bad. But next time, use Leighanne as your excuse. Everyone loves her.”
“So you wouldn’t mind if I dated him?”
Brian sighed. “I might have a month ago. But I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
“How does he look at me?” Curiosity won over on this one.
“Almost like he’s terrified to have you and terrified to lose you. He looks at you like you’re this beautiful mystery he’s trying to figure out. He doesn’t look at you like you’re some hot chick he’s got his eye on. It’s something more.”
Emily was surprised. “Wow. That’s a lot to lay on a girl.”
Brian laughed. “I’m so glad I’m married, I don’t have to deal with this stuff anymore!”
“Oh don’t act like you’ve got it all figured out, I’ve seen those baffled looks you give your wife when she’s mad at you over something.” Emily laughed.
Brian looked sheepish. “You’re absolutely right. I love her to death but I still don’t have a clue when it comes to her most of the time. And I probably never will.”
“Not likely, unfortunately!”
“So, now is that all of your concerns about AJ?”
“No. When it comes down to it, the rest of them are just excuses. The truth is, I’m just not sure if I’m really ready to be in a relationship.”
“Bad ending to the last one?”
“I wish it were that simple. A lot of things happened in my life very quickly and I’m just not sure that I’m emotionally strong enough to handle the ups and downs of another relationship.”
“What happened?” he asked.
Emily sighed. “That is a conversation for another night.”
Brian sensed he wasn’t going to get any more information out of her and turned the conversation to Baylee’s piano lessons.
Emily and Brian stayed out on the deck for hours. Most of the time they talked. Sometimes, the conversation lagged and they would just sit there, lost in their own thoughts. Emily looked over and realized that the sun was coming up.
“You’d better go to bed!” she said. “It’s almost daylight!”
“Nah, I’m not tired really. Besides, this is the best part of the day.”
“I bet Leighanne’s wondering where you are.”
“She’s used to it. Every once in awhile I stay up. I hardly ever get any quiet time to myself so it’s a nice change of pace for me. Sometimes it’s more relaxing than a good night’s sleep. It just gives me time to go over my thoughts.”
“Yeah, there’s something about parenthood that takes away your inability to think, what with being surrounded by diapers and screaming all day long.”
“What about you, are you going to bed?” he asked.
“I don’t think so. I might just go put on a pot of coffee and watch the sun come up.”
Emily had gone to take a shower and Brian was still out on the deck drinking coffee when Leighanne got up.
“Good morning honey!” Brian greeted her, kissing her cheek.
“Morning. Did I miss anything while I was sleeping?”
“Actually, I got some details out of Emily about AJ.” Brian was very proud of himself.
“Let me guess….she kind of likes him but is worried about him being gone all the time, worried about his substance abuse, worried about you, and not quite sure she wants to be in a relationship?”
Brian was shocked. “How did you know all that? What are you like, psychic now?”
Leighanne laughed. “Our window was open last night and I heard you guys talking.”
“I’m sorry, did we keep you up?”
“No, I was just relaxing a bit before I fell asleep. It’s a good thing you weren’t saying mean things about me!” she smiled.
“Baby, I’d never say mean things about you, you know that!” he kissed her.
Emily was actually feeling very refreshed for a person who stayed up all night. She and Brian had really connected during their talks. She was starting to feel more like his friend than his employee. It was nice to know he was on her side with the tabloid shit, and that he seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say and overly interested in her and AJ.
AJ. So he liked her a lot. “He’ll get over me, right? Do I really want him to?” Emily sighed, trying to remember the last time she even had sex as she remembered AJ dancing on stage. She decided to put him out of her mind for the day and have some fun with Baylee.
The next few days passed in a blur. Emily didn’t sleep much anymore and took to spending a lot of time in her favorite deck chair. With Brian and Leighanne home she didn’t have to watch Baylee quite as often but she still worked with him every few days for his piano lesson and went for the occasional swim in the pool with him.
“Brian, is Emily ok?” Leighanne asked one morning as she looked out at Emily sitting on the deck.
“I think she’s still freaked out about this tabloid article and Kent White. She told me the other night that she takes such pride in her work, I think the thought of her reputation being ruined all over the country is a huge blow.”
“Are you sure that’s all? Has she talked to AJ this week?” Leighanne wasn’t convinced it was just the tabloid getting to her.
“I don’t know. Not that I know of.”
“Brian I’m a little worried about her. She hasn’t slept since she got here. Maybe you should talk to her.” Leighanne encouraged.
“Why don’t you talk to her? You’re a woman, you’d relate better than I can.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Brian. You’re sensitive. Admit it and move on with your manly life. Besides, you’ve gotten the opportunity to spend more time with her. You’ve already gotten her to open up. She obviously trusts you.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather do it?” Brian pleaded.
“I’m taking Baylee to my mom’s house for the day, remember?”
“I remember. I’ll talk to her right now. Have fun at your mom’s and give her a kiss for me!”
“I will. I’ll call you when we’re on our way home.”
When Leighanne and Baylee had left, Brian went outside to talk to Emily.
“Hey Em. How’s it going?”
Emily squinted up at him through the sun. “Oh, hi Brian! I’m ok. Just hanging out. It’s really great out here.”
“It is, isn’t it? It reminds me of Kentucky with all the trees.” He was quiet for a minute. “Emily, is everything ok?”
“You haven’t slept since you came to stay here, and you just seem a bit…off.”
“No you’re not! I’m your boss, I order you to tell me what’s wrong. Is it AJ?”
Emily sighed. “It’s AJ, it’s Kent, it’s the article, it’s my life.”
“What can I do to help?” Brian asked, his voice filled with genuine concern.
“Do you have any cookies in the kitchen?” She asked.
It wasn’t quite the help he had expected to give and he had to laugh. “Emily the thing about my kitchen is that it seems to have an endless supply of cookies. What kind were you looking for?”
Brian went into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a package of chocolate chip cookies and two big glasses of milk.
Emily ate a cookie and then decided she was ready to talk.
“Did you ever have one of those mornings where you wake up and you don’t even recognize yourself anymore?” she asked.
Brian thought for a minute before answering, “I think the worst one was right after my surgery. I woke up and realized that there were all these things about my life that I hated, but there were also all these things for which I had never been grateful for and suddenly, I was incredibly grateful for all of them.”
“I don’t want you to think that I’m miserable working for you. I really love being around Baylee and you and Leighanne. Kent would have found a way to destroy me no matter what I was doing. I just woke up the other day and realized that I’m lonely. I’ve lost everything. One day I had everything. I really thought I did, you know? Then BAM. Nothing. I spend my life supporting other people’s families instead of my own. Some crazy guy down in Orlando has a crush on me and I won’t even answer his phone calls because I’m too afraid to feel like I have everything again and wind up with nothing.”
Brian watched her face while she talked. He could tell that there were some serious demons she’d been trying to avoid, and now they were catching up to her. She seemed so fragile and alone.
“You know, Emily, I don’t know if you’re religious or not, but I have always found peace in God. Whenever I feel off track, I pray really hard and I always try to remind myself of the big picture. This day, this month, this year, it’s only a very small part of what is meant to be your life. But you can’t deny this small part because of what happened in the other parts. You have to trust that it all works together somehow. We don’t know how, we may never know. We just have to trust that it does.”
“Well, hypothetically, you’re saying that I should just give AJ a chance, right? Well what if it’s actually the plan for me to pass up that opportunity? How do you know?”
“You just know. If you’re open to help, you’ll see the signs pointing you in the right direction.”
“How about you? Have you ever gotten signs?”
“I’ve had a few good ones. Leighanne and I really struggled with wanting to start a family. We both wanted to, but we were worried it wasn’t right. Eventually, I was led to Baylee and I couldn’t be happier about that.”
“So, I should really just wait and see what happens?”
“Well, that’s my advice anyway. Doesn’t mean its right for you though. You have to follow your own heart.”
“Tomorrow’s Friday.” She said, dreading the release of the tabloid.
“I know.” He replied.
“Is there a plan?” she asked.
“The lawyers are working on it as we speak.”
“It’s slander. The papers can’t print a story that isn’t true. Of course, they do it all the time and they just get a fine and a slap on the wrist but we have to make our point anyway. The press releases are all set to go first thing in the morning, along with a release of the hospital records.”
“It won’t be easy.” He added. “We’re in for a hell of a battle, but I’m up for it if you are.”
“I think so. Besides, it’s not like I have a choice.”
Friday morning arrived before she knew it. Emily was feeling incredibly jumpy. Every time the phone rang or Baylee dropped a toy, she would shoot three feet into the air.
Finally, Brian had to tell her to relax. “Emily, calm down!”
“I’m sorry, the normalcy of the whole day is creeping me out. I kept expecting some kind of crazy thing to happen when the article came out. Nothing happening is freaking me out.”
Just then, the doorbell rang sending Emily jumping again.
“I’ll get it.” Brian said. He checked through the peep hole before answering. Emily heard a brief mumbled conversation and then Brian shut the door.
“Well, it seems you got your something out of the ordinary.” He said, coming back into the kitchen.
Emily looked up and saw him carrying a large vase with not one, not two, but three dozen, long stem red roses.
“Those are for me?” she asked, astonished.
“That’s what the card says.” He said, setting them down on the table.
“They’re beautiful!” Leighanne said. “Who are they from?”
“I don’t know.” Emily had no idea who’d send her such beautiful flowers. “Unless they’re from one of my newest fans.”
“Oh, just open the card already.” Brain said.
Emily did just that. With shaking hands, she pulled the card out of the envelope and read it.
I just thought you might need a little
cheering up today. I wanted to send you
something as beautiful as you are, hope
these come close. I miss you.
“Well, who are they from?” Leighanne asked.
Emily looked up, smiling. “They’re from AJ.”
“Wow!” Leighanne exclaimed.
“I told him he was going to make me look bad for not sending Leigh any flowers lately.” Brian muttered.
“You knew?” Emily and Leighanne asked at the same time.
“He wanted me to know they were coming to make sure I’d answer the door.”
“I’m going to go call him and thank him.” Emily said, going upstairs to her room.
She sat down in her window seat and dialed AJ’s number.
“So that’s what it takes to get you to call me!” he greeted.
Emily laughed. “I’m sorry I haven’t called you back.”
“So do you like them?” he asked, softly.
“I love them, they’re gorgeous. Thank you.”
“I just wanted to do something to make today better for you. Brian said you’ve been jumping out of your skin all morning.”
Emily laughed. “I have. I just keep waiting for something bad to happen.”
“Well, then I’m glad that I could add something happy to your day.”
“Thank you, I’ve never even had so many beautiful flowers before!”
“You mean no man has ever sent you roses before?”
“Oh, well, I think the most I’ve ever gotten was 6.”
“Cheap skates! You deserve the whole rose farm!”
“Thanks, I think.” Emily laughed.
They talked for another half hour, catching up in each others’ lives before he had to go. Something about his dogs, she couldn’t really tell. She heard a crash coming from his house and dogs barking. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound pretty. She was feeling more relaxed than she had all week after talking to him, and decided to take a nap. Brian came up a few hours later to check on her but when he saw that she was finally sleeping; he slowly shut her bedroom door and told Baylee to go play downstairs so he didn’t disturb her.
The characters and events portrayed are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.
~BEST VIEWED ON 800 X 600 SCREEN RESOLUTION~