February 20, 1998
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
It’s deja vu. He’s wearing basketball shorts, a white tank top and his giant gold cross. His shoes are Nike.
He’s still waiting for my answer.
I glance around, looking for Nick. I have no clue what to do without him. Do I go down the same path as before? Is that the safest thing to do?
“Are you waiting on someone?”
Crap. I turn back to Brian. He’s smiling at me, his cheeks dipping in with irresistible dimples.
"No," I lie.
"Would you like that drink?"
“I’d love one,” I say, my voice shaking.
Here we go.
He offers his arm and I take it. “I’m Brian Littrell, by the way,” he says.
His eyes crinkled. “Thank you Courtney Standiford for agreeing to share a birthday drink with me.”
I remember offering to buy him a drink the first time, but I’m keenly aware that I don’t have even a penny to my name. “I’m honored,” I smile. “Happy Birthday.”
As he leads me towards the bar, I glance one more time behind me. It has been a lot longer than fifteen minutes. Did he change his mind? Am I on my own? I’m still smiling, but I am nervous.
“Do you like tea?”
“I love tea,” I say. My stomach flips. I know the request that comes next. I also know that besides having no money, I have no ID.
“Two long islands,” Brian says.
My heart plummets. He fishes his wallet out of the basketball shorts. I cling to his arm. Brian smiles at me. I feel tears well in my eyes.
The bartender looks at me.
He squints again.
“How old are you?” he asks.
Brian is staring at me. I feel my face grow warm. The tear is going to let loose. I’m hormonal. I’ve been through a traumatic experience. I think. I don’t really know. Double crap.
“Okay, she’s not twenty-one,” Brian says, holding up his hands. He leans towards the guy. “We’re doing the show here tomorrow. Can’t you hook my girlfriend up? I’ll make it worth your while.”
Brian slips him what looks like a $100 bill. The bartender smiles at me and bottles start pouring. “No problem, man.”
Two tall long island iced teas are slid our way. Brian takes them both, leading me to a small booth that’s tucked away from the rest of the bar area. I remember this booth. His shoulder soon touches mine. His lips are close to my ear.
“Tell me you’re at least eighteen or else I’m going to burn in hell.”
I laugh. I sniffle.
“I’m eighteen, I promise,” I assure him.
He lifts his glass. “A toast?”
I’ve got the answer to this one. “A birthday toast?”
His eyes crinkle. “I was thinking more along the lines of ‘here’s to a cool drink and a hot lady,’ but a birthday toast works.”
I lift my glass and our glasses touch. I take the first sip. I can’t get drunk. Not this time. If Nick does come, I need to be sober...
“Are you from around here?”
“California,” I say.
“Really?” he sounds surprised.
“Sacramento.” I figure the same little white lie I gave last time worked this time around.
I can hardly wait
For another taste of honey
Honey I can't describe
How good it feels inside
Honey I can't describe
How good it feels inside
“I love this song,” he says.
It doesn’t take me even a moment this time. I know immediately who the artist is.
“Mariah Carey,” I nod. “She’s good, but not as good as you.”
His arm brushes against mine.
“So you know my secret? It’s not as good as Bruce Wayne’s secret mind ya. Are you a fan?”
I nod. “Totally.”
“Who’s your favorite? Nick?”
Every fiber of my being wants to say yes. I feel like my brain is walking this long path and keeps getting stopped at random forks in the road. I have to decide which direction to head.
“Why do you say Nick?” I smile.
“It happens almost every place we go. Every girl loves Nick.”
I remember what I said the first time. Do I say it now? I can’t see the doorway. What if he’s waiting?
There’s a lot of pressure on my next few words. I can see the night going to same way as it did the first time. Do I want that?
I see Ben’s face.
He deserves to be alive.
But what if I sleep with Nick? Will the Ben of my thoughts instead look like him?
Or will I get pregnant at all?
I take another sip of my tea. Guilt rests heavy in my chest as I make my choice.
“Not me. He’s not my favorite.”
“But you have a favorite?”
I don’t answer. Do I have time to backtrack?
“Who’s your favorite? Kevin? It’s the eyebrows, right?”
I laugh. In any world at any time that will always be funny. I take another sip of tea and shake my head.
“Howie? It’s the wink, right?”
He takes a sip of his tea and leans in closer. I shake my head.
“AJ? It’s the sunglasses by day, sunglasses by night effect, right?”
I laugh louder. I shake my head. There’s only one choice left and he knows it.
We both sip our drinks silently. He meets my eyes. I don’t look away.
“I like where this conversation is headed,” he says softly.
I stare down at the table. I send a silent apology to Nick. He deserves better. So much better.
But I’ll do it for Ben.
“Me too,” I reply.
Ninety minutes later, I am a little light headed, but I am not drunk. Yet, even sober, I suck at dancing. But, I have no choice. Again, I am dancing with Brian to The Train and people are applauding. I’m sure they must be as drunk as he is. He is not only riding the train, he is practically riding me right there in the middle of a thick crowd of people.
I’m a complete mess of sweat again. Brian’s hand slides across my stomach, lifting my tank top slightly. “This is the best birthday ever!” Brian shouts in my ear, his arms around me, his pelvis grinding into me. I turn around, wrapping my arms around his sweaty neck. I look up into his eyes and laugh. I’m surprised he’s still standing.
The laughter dies as his lips crush into me. I can taste every single drink he’s pounded down tonight. My fingers brush the curly sweaty tendrils at the back of his neck. I can’t pull away now. I’ve gone too far.
People start to catcall. He only pulls away when the oxygen becomes dangerously depleted. He pulls me closer. He is hard against my leg. His fingers brush the hair that’s clinging to my neck. His lips are on my ear.
“Come with me,” he whispers.
It’s show time.
We exit out of a side entrance into a deserted area. It’s stupid, but I still look for Nick. I’m still looking for him, as Brian presses me back into the exterior of the building and kisses me hungrily. His hands are on my ass and our bodies grind against each other. My body reacts even as my mind still plays a giant tug-o-war.
Finally, the kisses slow and he holds me close to him. I practically keep him upright as we stagger along. The hotel is right by HOB and the guy at the desk doesn’t even look up when we walk in the employee entrance. Just like before, I hear the crowd of girls outside hoping for a chance to spot one of the boys.
Brian’s hand brushes against my breast as we head to the elevator. We enter the metal box and he squints at the numbers. I’m not sure that he remembers what floor he is on, but eventually he presses a number and we ascend up, up, up.
It is a short ride but long enough for our lips to meet again. His hand slides up my tank top and I shiver as his thumb finds my nipple, strumming across it like a guitar. We are still in this compromising position when the doors open. The rush of cooler air seems to register in Brian’s brain and he pulls me out of the elevator. It is a process to withdraw his room key and several failed attempts follow. It’s here that I meet my next fork.
I still have time to back out. I could do the right thing as a sober woman and just make sure he gets to bed to sleep it off. Then, I could go find Nick. At least then I could get an explanation of why he never came back.
The door finally opens and Brian stumbles inside. He turns and smiles at me.
I close my eyes. I make my choice and rush blindly in. I grab Brian’s shirt and yank it over his head. My palms slide over his skin and his chest. I press my lips against his shoulder and start down. I let my body take over completely.
His fingers slid through my hair and a moan escapes his lips as I kiss him through his basketball shorts. His length is impressive. I realize that this time I remember more about our sloppy drunk sex.
“If I don’t get you to bed I’m going to die,” he declares as my tongue runs the length of him. He grabs my hands and drags me a foot before picking me up. My back sinks into the comforter and my front is warmed by his body sliding along me. His lips are on my neck, my breasts, my thighs and I close my eyes, arching up in need against him. Even through my guilt, I have never felt the need for sex so badly in my entire life. Is this the Brian factor that makes me a slut? Because I vaguely have a feeling that I play both of the blonde Backstreet Boys well into the future. I know I’m determined to change that. This is a one shot. I’m sober. I just need to get my fill now.
His lips are back to my neck and my hands are in his, placed firmly above my head. My legs are wrapped around him and we are kissing madly again, our tongues touching and then darting away in a game of cat and mouse. The game is only paused for a second as he enters me. The sound that rises from my throat is still unlike anything I’ve ever heard. His eyes close and he breathes into the crook of my shoulder.
The sex is better than I remember the first time, even if it is still too fast for my liking. The sound of his breathing fills my ears. His heart is racing so hard that for one second I am terrified that he is going to die. I have never heard a heart sound like rushing water before.
This time, I climax right before he does. He pulls me into another never-ending dizzying kiss, pulling at me and keeping me close.
“Thank you for saving my birthday,” he whispers, his eyes fluttering closed.
It’s the last thing he says.
My thighs are still tingling as I lay there besides him. I wonder if he will think that I saved his birthday if history does repeat itself. Will he curse this birthday forever?
I stay with him for another half hour. Before I slide away from him, I kiss his lips. It will be the last time. I will never kiss him naked again. He smiles in his sleepy stupor.
I crawl off the bed. It takes me a few minutes to find my clothes. I feel rumpled and exhausted.
I also don’t know what to do. I have no money, no other clothes, no place to sleep…
The tears come back with a vengeance. I tiptoe through the room and yank open his hotel room door. Maybe the guy in the lobby would let me call my mom. She’s the last one I want to ask for a favor, but she’s also the only one that I know could.
I almost scream at the sound of my name. I glance to my right.
Nick looks up from his seat on the ground. He’s positioned right outside Brian’s door, a pair of baggy pajama pants and a correctly sized tank top on. He takes a deep breath.
I nod. A tear drips down my cheek.