1. Chapter 1 by Kyrie
2. Chapter 2 by Kyrie
3. Chapter 3 by Kyrie
4. Chapter 4 by Kyrie
5. Chapter 5 by Kyrie
6. Chapter 6 by Kyrie
7. Chapter 7 by Kyrie
8. Chapter 8 by Kyrie
9. Chapter 9 by Kyrie
10. Chapter 10 by Kyrie
11. Chapter 11 by Kyrie
12. Chapter 12 by Kyrie
13. Chapter 13 by Kyrie
14. Chapter 14 by Kyrie
15. Chapter 15 by Kyrie
16. Chapter 16 by Kyrie
17. Chapter 17 by Kyrie
18. Chapter 18 by Kyrie
19. Chapter 19 by Kyrie
20. Chapter 20 by Kyrie
21. Chapter 21 by Kyrie
22. Chapter 22 by Kyrie
23. Chapter 23 by Kyrie
24. Chapter 24 by Kyrie
25. Chapter 25 by Kyrie
26. Chapter 26 by Kyrie
27. Chapter 27 by Kyrie
28. Chapter 28 by Kyrie
29. Chapter 29 by Kyrie
30. Chapter 30 by Kyrie
31. Chapter 31 by Kyrie
32. Chapter 32 by Kyrie
33. Chapter 33 by Kyrie
34. Chapter 34 by Kyrie
35. Chapter 35 by Kyrie
36. Chapter 36 by Kyrie
37. Chapter 37 by Kyrie
38. Chapter 38 by Kyrie
39. Chapter 39 by Kyrie
40. Chapter 40 by Kyrie
41. Chapter 41 by Kyrie
42. Chapter 42 by Kyrie
43. Chapter 43 by Kyrie
44. Chapter 44 by Kyrie
45. Chapter 45 by Kyrie
46. Chapter 46 by Kyrie
47. Chapter 47 by Kyrie
48. Chapter 48 by Kyrie
49. Chapter 49 by Kyrie
50. Chapter 50 by Kyrie
51. Chapter 51 by Kyrie
52. Chapter 52 by Kyrie
53. Chapter 53 by Kyrie
54. Chapter 54 by Kyrie
55. Chapter 55 by Kyrie
56. Chapter 56 by Kyrie
57. Chapter 57 by Kyrie
58. Chapter 58 by Kyrie
59. Chapter 59 by Kyrie
60. Chapter 60 by Kyrie
61. Chapter 61 by Kyrie
62. Chapter 62 by Kyrie
63. Chapter 63 by Kyrie
64. Chapter 64 by Kyrie
65. Chapter 65 by Kyrie
66. Chapter 66 by Kyrie
67. Chapter 67 by Kyrie
68. Chapter 68 by Kyrie
The card lay in front of him, bent and faded from the constant viewing over the past 10 years. He had no idea why it got under his skin so much especially since it came from a woman he had never even met.
AJ was finally home after the 60 days in rehab and he was nervous since this was his second time at trying to get this right. He walked into his house and was relieved to see his mother sitting on the couch going through some mail.
“Mom! I’m so glad to see a familiar face!”
“I’ve missed you and I wanted to be the first person you’d see when you got back”, Denise said as she enveloped her son into a huge hug. "I’m so glad that you’re back. Can I get you anything?”
“No Mom but thank you. I just want to shower and relax for a while.”
“Ok, go relax. I’m just going to finish going through this mail and then I’ll make us something for dinner. I love you Alex.”
“Love you too Ma.” AJ kissed his mom on the cheek and went upstairs to shower and lay down for a few hours.
About 2 hours later, AJ awoke to the sounds of his bandmates, no, his brothers’s, voices coming up from downstairs. He smiled, got dressed and headed downstairs.
“Bone, you’re back!” yelled Nick as he charged at AJ and put him into a headlock.
“Hey J!” “So glad you’re back.” “Missed you man!” said Brian, Howie and Kevin, all at the same time.
Denise smiled and told the boys to sit down and have some dinner. She had made enough food for an army and was so glad that all the boys were around and could come welcome AJ home. This is just what he needed, she thought.
“I hope somebody’s been keeping you guys out of trouble since I haven’t been around to keep you in line!” said AJ with a gleam in his eye that everyone was happy to see again. “Hey, Mom, how’d all that mail sorting go?”
“Tons of get well cards and well wishes from your fans. There were a few marriage proposals in there too!” Denise laughed.
“Great, now I’ll have to turn those down, although….” AJ laughed with a sly smile.
“Eat your dinner before you decide to marry 5 of them!” Nick laughed.
As dinner was ending, AJ noticed that his mom had gotten quiet and looked as though she was considering telling him something and wasn’t sure if it was the right time.
“Hey Mom, what’s wrong? What’s bugging you?”
Denise sighed and asked the boys to come with her. She sat down on the couch and handed her son a card that had come from someone in Boston. “I debated giving this letter to you because it was very serious but I think it might actually help since it has more depth than “I love you!” and “Get well soon.”
AJ took the card and thought about how long the letter was that came in it. The letter expressed concern and care over what he had been going through and it seemed that this woman knew the inner struggles he was constantly fighting. As he set the card down on the table, Nick yelled out, “Hey I recognize that handwriting!”
“Me too!” said Howie.
“Same here!” said Brian and Kevin in unison.
“You all got the same card from the same woman?” AJ asked.
“No not the same card,” Nick replied, “But the same woman must have sent them because I remember the handwriting and the long note she put inside. It basically said that she understood how much I wanted to help you and how much I cared about you and just that we should stand behind and help you any way we could.”
“That was similar to the message in my card.” replied Brian.
“Was it the same as the one to each of one?” AJ asked Kevin and Howie who both nodded yes.
“Why did she send one to all of us?” Kevin asked.
Denise finally spoke up. “I think she’s been in the same situation or at least that’s what I got when I read it. She wanted AJ to know he wasn’t alone but she also wanted to say something to each of you that maybe someone never said to her. It was the sweetest card I’ve ever read even though it was one of the most serious.”
“Do I reply to it?, AJ asked as he turned the card over again and started reading the note inside again. “I don’t think I am ready to deal with anything serious right now.”
Denise replied “You do whatever makes you comfortable. You don’t have to answer it now or ever. AJ, you don’t know this woman and you don’t owe her anything. I think she just wanted to express concern for you and she probably understands that you have tons of fans that mail you letters and cards every day. It was a very sweet gesture but I don’t think she expects anything in return.”
Good, AJ thought, because I am definitely not in the mood to deal with this and the card suddenly made him angry. He was annoyed at the thought that this woman had assumed she knew anything about what he was dealing with.
“Hey J, are you ready? We need to be onstage in about 30 seconds! Let’s go!” yelled Nick, breaking AJ out of his fog. He quickly folded the card and letter and put them back into his jacket pocket.
“I’m ready. Let’s do this!”
About 2 hours later, the boys went back to their dressing rooms and found the girls waiting for them. Leigh, Leighanne and Kristen were excited to see their husbands finally after a 3 month tour.
“I missed you!” Leigh said and kissed Howie drawing him in.
“Bay is waiting to see his daddy and so am I!” laughed Leighanne. “Can we go home now?”
“Guys, mind if we cut out?” Kevin asked slipping his arm around Kristen’s waist.
“I think everyone should head home. It’s been a long 3 months and we all need a rest.” Brian said.
“J and I are gonna hang out for a little bit but you guys go home before these ladies decide to divorce you!” laughed Nick as Kevin gave him a swift kick in the ass.
As the others headed out, Nick asked AJ to hang out and talk.
“Hey man, I have to ask you something. I saw the card out on the table before we went onstage tonight. I’m surprised that thing hasn’t fallen apart considering how many times you stare at it. Are you ever gonna do something about it or are you gonna let it eat at you for another 10 years?” Nick asked quietly.
“What do you mean eat at me? That stupid card doesn’t mean anything to me!” AJ yelled and his anger starting to spill over. “That woman had no business pretending to know how I feel!”
“Ok, ok. So if it’s nothing then why are so upset about it? Why don’t you just throw it out and not worry about it. It’s not like you know the woman.”
AJ thought about it for a minute and realized that Nick was right, He didn’t know anything about this woman other than her name and he had no idea why he was getting defensive and agitated about a stupid card.
“You’re right Nick. I’m gonna throw it out and not worry about it anymore.”
AJ threw the card in the trash and said “Let’s get out of here.”
As AJ and Nick were leaving, Marcus, one of the J’s bodyguards, noticed AJ throwing something in the trash. He walked over and fished out the card. As he turned it over, he realized that it was the card AJ carried with him everywhere. He’s gonna miss this tomorrow, thought Marcus, even though he won’t admit it. The bodyguard slipped the card into his bag and decided to hang onto it just in case AJ changed his mind.
Alissa Emerson thought that she would go deaf from the screams of all the women at the BSB concert that night. She looked over at her cousin and realized she was thinking the same thing and both women laughed.
“I don’t know why I am always surprised to hear all these women screaming for them after all these year.” Alissa laughed.
Brooke stared at her and asked, “Seriously sweetheart? Do you hear yourself right now? You were screaming just as loud, if not louder, than any woman in there. I keep saying I am bringing ear plugs the next time I see them with you and somehow I keep forgeting.” teased her cousin.
“Come on, I’m not that bad. I mean I’m not like a teenager or anything!”
Brooke laughed and said “Most of the time you act like a 34 year old but as soon as you see these guys, you fall into being a star struck teenager! Don’t even try to deny it!”
Alissa started to blush which was always cute on her.
“I’d better call Adam and let him know that we’re out so he won’t worry.”
Brooke eyes darkened and she started to get red in the face. “Worry, worry! He’s doesn’t worry, he just likes to know where you are every moment of the day. I hate him, and don’t bother asking me to be nice about him. He’s so mean to you and I have no idea why you put up with it! You could do so much better. You’re a strong woman and you need to break up with his ass!”
Alissa started to argue with her cousin and then thought better of it. Brooke had always hated him and she could understand why. Adam was a pretty awful boyfriend but after all the broken relationships she had, he was the one who stuck around. It’s not like she was beautiful or something. She was cute but not someone anyone would think was special. She had shoulder length brown hair, big blue eyes and a great smile. She was definitely not skinny and had grown up listening to others making fun of her.
Brooke broke her concentration. “Hey Earth to Alissa! We should get going before they lock our car in the parking garage!”
As they were driving home, Brooke admitted that she was harsh on her cousin.
“I know I was hard on you but I think you need to start looking out for yourself instead of everyone else. I know it was hard growing up with two alcoholic parents but you need to understand you did the best you could do it that situation. You’ve spent your entire life looking out for everyone else and you need to start looking at how you can make yourself happy. Please promise me you’ll try?” Brooke pleaded with her cousin.
“I will, I promise. I love you and I know you only want what’s best for me.” Alissa smiled at her cousin and was so glad that she had a best friend that was family and that she could depend on for whatever.
“Good! It’s gonna be a long ride home so let’s get the music turned up!” Brooke laughed. She hit the play button and “I Want It That Way” blasted through the speakers.
AJ spent the night tossing and turning and finally woke up around dawn with a pain in his back and a crick in his neck. He was pissed he couldn’t get more sleep and he had a nagging feeling that he was in for a rough day. He showered, changed his clothes and put on his sweatshirt so that he could head out for a run. Runs always cleared his head and he was pretty sure he needed that right now.
He was about to leave but turned around and went back up to his closet. I should take the card out of the jacket and put it back in the box in my office he thought. AJ reached into the pocket and it was empty. He tried the other pocket and nothing.
He was starting to panic because he couldn’t find it. Where the hell did I put it! He tore apart his closet and as he was sitting there, exhausted, last night came flooding back to him. Shit! He threw the card out last night. What the hell was he thinking!
AJ called Marcus in a panic. “I need to get back into the theater right now! Can you take me there now?”
“Why do you need to get in there so badly? You took everything that you needed with you last night right?” Marcus asked.
“I forgot something very important and I need to get back in there before something happens to it. I need to go right now Marcus!” AJ yelled into the phone.
“Calm down man! What are you missing? It wouldn’t be that card would it?” Marcus knew he struck a nerve with that question.
“What do you know about the card?” AJ roared at Marcus.
“Relax J! I saw you throw it out last night and I knew you’d regret it, so I picked it up for you. I’ll drop it by your house in about 20 minutes.” Marcus hung up and AJ stared down at the phone.
Marcus showed up about 20 minutes later and brought the card in. “AJ, when are you going to do something about this? You stare at this card at least 5 times a day like it’s going to suddenly come to life in front of you. Why don’t you try to find her?”
Angler clouded over AJ’s eyes and he shouted at Marcus. “What do you know about it? I don’t need to know who this woman is! It’s not a big deal!”
“Dude, listen to yourself. You need to do something. This card is eating at you. Even if you want to scream and yell at this woman or just tell her off, you need to do something and just get over this. No one wants to admit it to you but they worry about you.”
“Everyone sees it?” AJ slumped down into the chair and admitted that he had to do something.
“How do I find her?” AJ said quietly and waited for Marcus to respond.
Alissa waited at the restaurant where her cousin suggested they have lunch. She knew her cousin was going to be furious. Alissa had tried all morning trying to hide her black eye under concealer and a pair of sunglasses but she knew she couldn’t hide it from Brooke who saw everything.
“Hi sweetheart!” Brooke said leaning over to kiss her cousin on the cheek. As she was pulling back, she shrieked. “What happened to your eye? Forget it, I already know what happened! I’m gonna kill him!”
“No, no don’t do this now!” Alissa said quietly as her eyes filled with tears.
“What happened honey?” Brooke said softly, her heart breaking for her cousin.
“I broke it off with him and he went into a rage. He started screaming at me that I would never survive without him and that no one would ever love me the way he did.”
Brooke waited a minute and then smiled at her cousin. “I know it sucks right now but you are going to be so much better off without him, you know that, right?”
“I do. I’m happy that I did it. It just feels like I won’t find anyone again and that frustrates me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Alissa sighed and her eyes filled up with tears.
Brooke went over and gave her a huge hug. “You’re going to find someone that loves you just for you and will be so good to you. I know it!”
“AJ, it’s Marcus. You are never going to believe this!”
“What do you mean? She’s lives out here!” AJ yelled.
“Yeah. Apparently, when I went to that friend of mine and asked about the best way to go about finding this woman, he mentioned that he had heard her name before. I guess one of the guys that worked in his building is dating this woman named Brooke. It seems like this woman is her cousin!” Marcus blurted out.
“What do you know about her?” AJ demanded, pounding on the table.
“She’s a teacher who used to live out near Boston, MA. She ended a relationship about 5 years ago and she moved out to Cali for a new start. Her cousin lives about 45 minutes from here and she lives in the condo next door.”
AJ started to get madder. I can’t believe that woman is even closer now he thought to himself.
“I have to meet her and end this. She has no business being invested in me and I want her out of my head!” AJ roared. “Make up some reason to meet her and let me know when and where!” AJ stormed out of the house and sped off in his car.
Alissa waited for her cousin and Lucas, her new boyfriend, at Martelli’s just like her cousin has asked. She was nervous and was hoping that they weren’t planning on setting her up on some blind date. She wasn’t ready, or in the mood, for dealing with that tonight. It had been a long day and she was already questioning staying out in Cali. Alissa was considering going back to Boston and was thinking about telling her cousin tonight.
“Hey there sweetie” Brooke leaned in and gave her cousin a kiss on the cheek. “This is Lucas.”
“Nice to meet you Alissa. Thanks for meeting us here.” Lucas smiled and sat down.
“No problem. There is actually something I wanted to talk to my cousin about anyway. If you don’t mind me asking, why did we have to get a private table in the back?”
“My friend, Tony, asked if we would mind if he joined us and said he was bringing someone with him that probably wouldn’t like the attention of the main restaurant.”
Alissa paused for a minute and said, “You guys aren’t setting me up on some blind date right?’
Brooke laughed. “Absolutely not! I know how much you have been through and I would never do that to you.”
“Hey Tony!” Lucas called out. “Here he is.”
As Tony introduced himself to everyone, Alissa noticed that there was a man standing behind Tony that didn’t look too happy about being there. All of a sudden, Tony moved to sit down and she was staring into AJ McLean’s eyes and he did not look like he wanted to say hello!
AJ stared at the woman in front of him. He was shocked to finally come face to face with the woman that had been eating at him for 10 years. She was not what he expected at all.
“You’re Alissa!” AJ blurted out before he could stop himself.
Brooke sensed the tension although she had no clue where it was coming from. “I’m guessing you’re AJ McLean unless you have a twin. If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly are you’re doing here and why you look like you want to kill someone?”
“Her! I’m here because of her!” AJ shouted pointing at Alissa who looked shocked and close to tears.
“What do you want with my cousin?” Brooke yelled back, defensively.
Ignoring Brooke’s question, AJ turned to Alissa and started to unload all of the feelings that had built up in him over the last 10 years.
“I can’t believe you lady! You sent me this ridiculous card 10 years ago and you’ve been taking up space in my head for that long. How dare you even assume to know what I went through. You don’t even know me. You’re probably some stupid groupie that just wanted her chance at 5 minutes of fame by claiming you had this close relationship to me! Maybe you thought I’d get all weepy from the card and want to meet you. Well, I’m here to tell you I don’t. You’re not my type! In fact, I don’t think you’re any guy’s type. You’re just some stupid woman that no one will ever care about!”
Brooke suddenly leapt out of her seat and was in AJ’s face in 30 seconds. She started yelling at him and bitching him out for what he said to her cousin. Finally she told AJ exactly where he could go and how could he get there. AJ turned on his heel and stomped out of the restaurant.
When she turned around to see if her cousin was ok, she realized that Alissa was gone. Brooke started to panic and turned to Lucas.
“Where did she go? Where did Alissa go?”
By the time Brooke noticed her cousin was missing, Alissa was half way down the street heading towards the freeway. She had to get out of that restaurant and away from HIM. She was going home to pack and head out on the next flight.
Alissa was so lost in thought that she almost missed her exit and made it just in time. She thought back to the card she had sent and, in this moment, absolutely regretted sending in. She wasn’t trying to upset any of them. She didn’t mean anything by it and wasn’t thinking that any of them would want to say anything to her. Alissa just knew how it felt to be struggling with those demons and just wanted to send a card and some support.
She started crying and was so lost in her tears that she didn’t see the person who was running the red light on her right side. Before she could swerve, the person slammed into her passenger side and pushed her car into the tree across the intersection. She felt the impact and lost consciousness a few seconds later.
Brooke had been calling Alissa’s cell phone over and over again and wasn’t getting an answer. In fact, it just went straight to voicemail without even ringing.
“Lucas, take me home! I need to see if Alissa went home or to my house. We need to find her!”
Before Brooke or Lucas could move, Brooke’s cell phone started to ring.
“Alissa, Alissa! Is that you? Are you ok?” Brooke cried into the phone.
“Is this Ms. Emerson? Ms. Brooke Emerson?” the voice asked on the other end of the phone.
“Yes this is her. Who is this?” Brooke demanded.
“This is Officer Burgos. Unfortunately, I have some bad news about your cousin. Can you meet us at California General?”
AJ burst through the door of his house, slamming the door into the wall and throwing his phone across the room. He was beyond mad and he didn’t even notice the person waiting for him in the living room.
“Mom! What are you doing here!” AJ yelled.
“Marcus called me and said that you might do something stupid tonight and by the look on your face, I’d say you already did it. Want to tell me what happened?” Denise asked calmly.
“No, I don’t want to talk it!”
Denise sat there for a minute and then asked “Is it that woman?” She asked but she already knew the answer. There was only one person who could make her son that angry.
“Yeah it’s her.” AJ sighed.
“What happened sweetheart?” Denise asked again.
“I found her. Well, Marcus found her. We set up a dinner so I could talk to her and get some things off my chest. Only no one told her I was coming and as soon as I saw her, I went off like a caged animal. I think I said some awful things and, after her cousin told me off, I just left.”
“That’s not like you AJ. I’m surprised” said his mom.
AJ hung his head. As much as his mother was surprised, he was more so. He had never gone off on someone he had never even met. Sure, he’d had his fair share of fights but at least he knew those people first!
“Maybe you should apologize to her and clear the air a little after you’ve cooled off some. It’ll give you both some time to think and for you to figure out some things.”
“What do I need to figure out Ma? There is nothing left for me to figure out.” AJ collapsed onto the sofa next to his mother.
“It seems to me that you have a lot to figure out AJ. You’ve said to all of us that the card is no big deal and this woman means absolutely nothing to you. If that’s the case, why are you acting like this? I’ve seen you date women and break up with them and none of them had made you this crazy. There must be something about this woman.” said Denise.
AJ thought about what his mother had said and decided that he was completely wrong about what he had done. This woman was only trying to be supportive and she had done nothing to him. But he was still driving himself crazy trying to figure out why she got under his skin.
AJ started to speak but was cut off by pounding on his front door. It sounded like someone was trying to break down the door.
“J, it’s me Marcus! You have to let me in right now!”
AJ ran to the door and it flew open with Marcus just charging right in.
“What is wrong with you man? You look like you just saw a ghost!” AJ said trying to calm the big man down.
“Have you seen the news tonight? Have you watched it yet? Did you see what happened?” yelled Marcus.
“No, I just got home. What’s the matter? What happened? Was it one of the guys?” AJ asked frantically.
“No, no, turn on the news.” Marcus said trying to catch his breath.
“Mom, turn on the news will you?” AJ asked him mom and finally got Marcus to sit down.
As AJ sat on the sofa by his mother, the news reporter came on and was standing next to the scene of a car accident. The car had been mangled and was completely totaled.
Denise whimpered and said “On my god! Who was in that car? Are they ok? Was it someone we know?”
All of a sudden, the news brought up the license of the person who was in the car. It was Alissa Emerson!
Brooke and Lucas raced to the hospital to be with Alissa when she woke up. They rode up to the 4th floor where the officer said he would meet them and answer their questions. As they ran down the hallway to the waiting room, a doctor was leaving.
“Officer Burgos! What happened? Where is my cousin?” Brooke said frantically.
“Alissa was in a very serious car accident. She is coming out of surgery now. The doctor just left. She’s a lucky girl to be alive. Where was she coming from when the accident occurred?” the officer asked gently.
“She was at Martelli’s with us for dinner and there was a fight and Alissa ran off before any of us could stop her!” Brooke cried out and burst into tears. “It’s all his fault! He started yelling at her and insulting her and she just couldn’t take it. It’s all HIS fault!”
“Who started a fight? Was this at dinner?” Officer Burgos asked.
“AJ McLean! He started a fight with my cousin and she was so upset when she left. It’s my fault too. We kept arguing and none of us noticed her leave! What did we do?” Brooke was hysterically crying at this point. Lucas sat her down and was trying to calm her down when the doctor came back in.
“Is Alissa ok? Is she alright?” Brooke yelled.
“Alissa is a lucky girl. It was a good thing that she had been wearing her seatbelt or she may not survived the crash. She just came out of surgery. She has a broken arm, fractured ribs, a concussion, and some facial abrasions. We were most concerned about the gash in her leg. We got the bleeding under control and thankfully, it didn’t damage any arteries. She’s going to be fine but it’s going to take a while to heal.” the doctor said.
“We’re going to keep her here for a few days to make sure that everything is healing well and when we send her home, she is going to need someone to watch over her. Does she live with you or on her own?”
Brooke, finally breathing again, said “She lives next to us but she can stay with me at my house. We’ll keep an eye on her and make sure that she is doing whatever she needs to do to heal. Can I see her?”
“I would give her a few minutes to get settled into a room and then you’re more than welcome to come down. You won’t be able to stay very long though.”
“That’s fine. I just need to make sure that she’s ok for tonight and to tell her I love her!” Brooke started to cry again.
AJ couldn’t believe his eyes. Just a few hours ago, he was yelling at this woman, heaving insult after insult and now she almost died. He couldn’t believe this was happening. He groaned and rolled over on his side on his bed. What was he thinking? Did this woman really deserve to be treated like that?
“Hey J, can I come in?” Howie asked from the doorway.
“What do you want?”
Howie shrugged his shoulders and sat down on the edge of AJ’s bed. “I just wanted to make sure you were ok. Your mom called us and she’s really worried. What happened tonight?”
AJ sighed. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well that’s not gonna cut it man. You need to talk to us, all of us. We’re giving you 10 minutes to come downstairs or we’re all going to come up here. Got it?” Howie got up and walked out, closing the door softly.
AJ pulled himself up from the bed and dragged himself downstairs. He had no idea what to say to anyone and apparently, his mother had called everyone, the boys and their wives.
Leigh stood up and pulled AJ into a hug. “How are you? What happened?”
“We’d all like to know J.” said Brian quietly.
AJ slumped down into a chair and shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know what happened. It was all that stupid card!”
“J, if the card was so stupid, why’d you hold onto it for 10 years!” Nick said, a little louder than he meant too.
“I don’t know!” yelled AJ. Then quietly he said, “I found her.”
“You found her?” everyone yelled, except Denise.
“Yeah, Marcus helped me. She was having dinner at some restaurant with her cousin so I showed up to end this craziness and I just freaked out on her. She was sitting there in tears, then her cousin started yelling at me and I turned and left.”
“Ok, so you had a fight with some woman you don’t know and now you’re this depressed? I don’t get it man.” Nick said and shook his head.
“That’s not the worst part.” AJ whispered.
“What could be worse?” asked Leighanne.
“You know that big car accident that happened. That was her. Apparently after she left, she started driving home and was hit by someone running a red light.” AJ started to tear up.
They all stared at AJ. No one knew what to say. After a few minutes of silence, Leigh said “AJ, hon, this wasn’t your fault. You got into an argument and someone got hurt. You didn’t do that to her. You weren’t driving that car.”
“No, I wasn’t!” yelled AJ. “But it might as well have been me! I yelled at her, insulted her and practically ran her out of there. If I hadn’t been there tonight, this would not have happened!”
AJ couldn’t contain the tears anymore and his body was wracked by sobs. Denise went over to hug her son and asked everyone to leave the room.
“I think you need to start being honest with me, with yourself. What about this woman has gotten you wound up like this? I promise to listen no matter how long it takes.” whispered his mom. She grabbed a box of tissues and settled in for what would be a long night.
“No, no, no!!” screamed Alissa as she jerked awake after the 3rd nightmare in an hour. She looked around the room and realized that she was still in her hospital room. It had been two days and she just wanted to go home, home to Boston, home to her life before the last 5 years.
As she was calming down, Brooke came in from the hallway with a bunch of flowers. Seeing the look on her cousin’s face, she panicked, dropped the vase and ran over to her side.
“What happened? Are you ok? What’s the matter?”
“I had another nightmare. I really want to go home now!” Alissa cried.
“The doctor said you can go home later today as long as all the x-rays and tests came back fine. Has he been in yet?
“No, not yet. And Brooke, I don’t mean my home or your home. I mean home in Boston. I want to leave as soon as I can.”
Brooke sighed. “We’ve already been through this hon. You cannot go anywhere by yourself and you certainly can’t stay by yourself. Doctor’s orders, nothing I can do. You’re going to come and stay with me for a little while.”
“No, I want to go home. I can fend just find for myself and I DO NOT want to stay here! After everything that’s happened, I just want a break. I want to go someplace that feels safe.” Alissa started to tear up again.
“My house is safe and you don’t need a new start. Remember, that’s what you came out here for in the first place!”
Alissa smiled and said “And look how well that turned out!” Both girls started to laugh as the doctor walked in smiling.
“Well it looks like you’re in better spirits. I might be able to help by saying you are free to go home as soon as we fill out the paperwork. Everything came back fine and you are starting to heal up nicely. Good news?” said the doctor.
“Yes!” cried Brooke and Alissa in unison.
The doctor smiled. “Let’s get the paperwork started and get you on your way. Just to make sure. You are staying at your cousin’s house right? We can’t release you unless you have somewhere to go.”
Alissa sighed. “Apparently I don’t have a choice in the matter so I guess the answer is yes.”
“Great, we’ll get things rolling and have you out of here in an hour.”
AJ awoke with a start and realized he had been asleep for almost 12 hours. What the hell happened? As he started to clear through the fog, he realized he had spent the last 2 days hidden in his house trying to avoid anyone and everyone. Based on the smell wafting up from the kitchen, someone else didn’t get the hint.
“Hi sweetheart. I made you breakfast.” Denise smiled at her son, grateful that he had decided to get out of bed after 2 days. “I’m glad you returned to join the land of the living again.”
“Not that I had much of a choice.” grumbled AJ. “You weren’t going to leave until I came down, were you?
“Not a chance!”
“Look Mom, I know you didn’t come over here to make me breakfast. What do you want? I love seeing you but I need some space right now and I really don’t want to talk to anyone. Not even you.”
“Well, unfortunately for you then, I am done taking that as an excuse. You need to pull yourself up and decide how you are going to handle things. You can’t crawl under blankets and hide. You also can’t drink this problem away. I found the bottle in the trash.”
AJ turned away from his mother and said, “I thought about it but all I did was pour it down the drain and throw the bottle out.” He turned back around. “I promise ok.”
“Alright, I believe you, but you can’t keep doing this to yourself. You have to find a way to deal with this.”
AJ sighed and sat down. “Any suggestions? I’m open.”
Denise sat down next to her son and thought for a minute. “What if you tried to talk to her again? What if you tried to explain to her how you feel? Here’s a crazy thought: How about you introduce yourself to her properly and ask her to ignore the fact that you went off on her like a nut.”
AJ laughed out loud and Denise was so happy to see a smile back on her son’s face.
“I think you should try to talk to her and see how she responds. At least it will help you that you made some attempt at fixing this.”
“I hate to say this but you may be right. I’ll call the hospital and see if she’s still there.”
Brooke and Alissa had been home from the hospital for a few hours and they had finally settled Alissa into her new room.
“Was Lucas able to bring over my stuff from the condo?” Alissa asked as she was putting things away in the bathroom’s closet.
“We got everything on the list and don’t worry, I picked out the clothes!” Brooke laughed and continued to put things away in the closet.
“Oh good, at least I’ll match. Well maybe!”
Alissa ducked behind the door as the sneaker came flying through the doorway.
“Kidding, just kidding!”
Brooke snorted. “You really think you’re a comedian, don’t you.”
‘”Maybe that concussion gave me a better sense of humor!”
Brooke laughed and said, “Hey, I got a bunch of movies on DVD that I figured we could watch them until Lucas comes home and we can get dinner. Pop some popcorn and hunker down for some girl time.”
“They had better be action, horror or comedy. I don’t want to watch any of those romance movies you like. Those happy endings don’t happen in real life and I am in no mood to pretend like they do!”
Brooke turned around and stared at her cousin. “Well, hello Ms. Moody! You were in a fine mood a moment ago and now you’re ready to take off my head!”
Alissa came over and gave her cousin a huge hug.
“I’m sorry Brookie, just having a rough time adjusting to being in someone else’s place. Forget what I said. We can watch whatever you want.” Alissa smiled and went back to putting things away.
A few hours later, the girls heard the door open and Lucas come in.
“Hey, sweetheart.” Lucas said leaning in to kiss Brooke on the cheek. “Hi Alissa. Get everything settled in? How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling better but I do need to go get some aspirin for my head. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
After Alissa left the room, Lucas sat down next to Brooke with a serious look on his face.
“What’s the matter Lucas?”
“I’m glad Alissa left and gave us a few minutes alone. I know you’re not going to like this but I brought someone home with me. He’s outside.”
“Who is, never mind! It had better not be him, that dumbass! He’s not welcome here!”
“Ah, exactly which dumbass are you referring to?”
Lucas shook his head no and hung his head down.
“Who then? Oh no! You’ve got to be kidding me! He didn’t do enough damage the other day? He caused Alissa’s accident! You brought him here!” Brooke yelled at her boyfriend. “You’re a dumbass too! Where is he?” Brooke jumped up from the couch and took off down the hallway.
Alissa, completely unaware of what was happening, came down the stairs and was almost knocked to the ground by her cousin who was charging to the front door in a fit of anger, Lucas running to catch up with her. Alissa was walking to the door when she heard her cousin screaming at someone although she couldn’t tell who it was. She just hoped it wasn’t Adam.
“What are you doing here? You’re an idiot! You have no right to be here and you are absolutely not going to see my cousin!” Brooke screamed at the guy who was trying to step out of his car.
“Brooke, calm down honey!” Lucas pleaded with his girlfriend.
“Please let me explain….” AJ ducked as Brooke threw a punch, narrowly missing him.
“Brooke, stop!” Alissa yelled at her cousin. “Stop right now!”
All 3 people in the driveway turned around to look at Alissa who was fuming.
“Go back in the house Alissa! This jerk was just leaving!” Brooke yelled at her cousin and turned around again to shove AJ back into his car.
“Wait! I just want to say something to your cousin.” AJ turned to face Alissa and asked quietly, “Give me five minutes and then I’ll leave, I promise.”
“Five minutes.” said Alissa, “And then you’re out! Brooke, can you and Lucas go back into the house please?”
“I’m not going back in that house!” Brooke’s voice faded as Lucas turned her around and forced her back into the house.
“Thank you for…” AJ was cut off by the look on Alissa’s face.
“I don’t know why you came here. You said everything you needed to say the other day. Considering the way that turned out, it’s probably not a good idea for you and I to have any more conversations. What do you think?” Alissa turned on her heel and starting walking up the driveway.
“Wait! You said you’d give me five minutes!” AJ shouted.
“Yeah, well I changed my mind. Get your four minutes some other time!” Alissa yelled, stepping through the doorway. She slammed the door so hard the glass almost shattered.
Well, that went well, AJ thought, as he got back in his car and sped out of the driveway.
Alissa slept like crap that night. She had spent hours tossing and turning until the sun started to poke through her window. Great, she thought, just what I needed, another lousy night’s sleep.
She got up, showered and changed and decided that maybe going for a walk down to the beach would help. She crept down the stairs so as not to wake her cousin and Lucas. She put on her sneakers, tied them and turned to go out the door. Before she even closed the door, she heard someone quietly say hello. She whipped around and could not believe what she was seeing.
“Seriously! What are you doing here?” Alissa said quietly.
“You told me to get my four minutes some other time and I was coming to see if I could get them today.” AJ said. “I was going to ring the doorbell but then you came out. You probably saved me from your cousin!”
“I can always go back in and get her!”
“No, no. Just give me the four minutes I lost yesterday ok?”
“Fine. I’m going down to the beach. If you want to talk to me, you can tag along for a few minutes.”
“Ok.” AJ jogged over to her and they began the walk down the dunes to the walkway for the beach.
For the few minutes, no one said a word. Neither one of them really knew what to say anyway. It’s not like they had the best conversation skills with each other considering all they’ve ever done was yell at each other.
Finally, AJ looked over and said, “I’m sorry for the other night. You and your card got under my skin and I lashed out at you when I saw you. I had no business saying those things today, but you have driven me nuts with that stupid card and you assuming you knew or know what I’ve been through.”
“This is your idea of an apology? Really? Well then, I’m sorry I sent the stupid card and I’ll make sure I keep my assumptions and thoughts to myself from now on. You can leave now!” Alissa turned around and walked back to the house leaving AJ standing there in the middle of the walkway trying to figure out what just happened.
AJ called his mother on his ride home and she met him at his front door just as he pulled in.
“What happened? You sounded so frustrated on the phone.” Denise asked heading into the house behind her son.
“Her! She’s what happened! I went by her house yesterday to apologize to her and her cousin almost killed me! Then she said she’d give me five minutes and after thirty seconds, she started yelling at me and walked away telling me I could get my four minutes some other time!”
“Ok. I get what happened yesterday but seeing you all wound up like this, I assume something happened this morning.”
“Something did!” roared AJ. “I went back to her house and I surprised her when she came out. I asked her for the four goddamn minutes she said I could have another time and she agreed. I explained why I came over and she started yelling at me again! What’s with her? I was trying to apologize!”
Denise smiled silently and realized that her son probably tried to apologize like he always did.
“Did you apologize or did you apologize and make it her fault?” Knowing her son like she did, she already knew the answer to that question.
“Are you taking her side? You don’t even know her! I’m your son! You’re supposed to be on my side!” AJ yelled.
Denise sighed and sat down at the counter in the kitchen. “I am on your side sweetheart, but I know you. You are so stubborn and even when you try apologizing, you can’t get it out without blaming the other person. Sometimes, you just need to say you’re sorry and leave it at that.”
“I tried to but..” AJ started to say.
“No buts. You need to go back over there and just get it out. You need to explain how you feel without making her feel like she committed this awful crime by sending you a card. You wouldn’t tell me the other night why you were so invested in this card. Will you tell me now?”
“Fine! Her card bothered me because it felt like she was in my head reading every thought that I’d had and everything I never said. It’s like she invaded that space that was mine and no one else’s! Things she said were things that I wasn’t planning on sharing with anyone and somehow she knew what they were!”
AJ collapsed onto the other stool and put his head down on the counter.
“I don’t think that’s the only reason that you’re so mad about this.” Denise said.
AJ looked at his mother and realized he needed to put all the cards on the table and just be done with this.
“You’re right, it’s not. Here is this woman I don’t even know telling me that it would be ok and I would get through this. Do you realize what it’s like to hear that and have no idea who’s talking to you? There was some woman saying what I wanted and needed to hear and I didn’t even know who she was. Alissa was just a name on a card.”
Denise looked at her son and felt her heart break a little. “That’s not all of it, is it?
“No, it’s not but I’m done talking right now.” AJ got up, jogged up the stairs and slammed his bedroom door.
“He’s an idiot! I told you he was an idiot! Why didn’t you wake me up? What possessed you to even talk to him again?” demanded Brooke over lunch.
“I don’t know ok! I went out thinking a walk would clear my head and I turn around and he’s there. Like he appeared out of thin air! I didn’t even know what to say!” Alissa yelled back. “What should I have done?”
“You should have gone back in the house and slammed the door in his face!”
Alissa just shook her head. There was no use talking to Brooke when she was acting like this. She didn’t like the situation any more than her cousin did but she had no idea what to do about it.
After Brooke calmed down, Alissa said “I don’t think I am going to have to worry about any more conversations. He was being a jerk and I was really in no mood to listen to what he had to say. It’s probably just as well. He said what he needed to say and it’s done.”
“I hope so!”
Alissa stood up and thanked her cousin for lunch. She was going to take a walk downtown to get some fresh air and said she would be back to the house for dinner.
AJ decided to take a drive downtown and see if he could get some writing done at the studio. He couldn’t stand being in his house and alone with his thoughts any more. He had just parked his truck and he thought he heard a voice he recognized. He rounded the corner out of the parking garage and noticed a man and a woman arguing. The woman looked familiar to him but he couldn’t figure out why. All of a sudden, her name rang out and he knew exactly who she was.
“You’re a stupid bitch Alissa! Look at you and that ridiculous broken arm! You probably did it yourself to get some attention from some new guy! You found someone new, didn’t you!” Adam yelled in Alissa’s face.
“Get away from me Adam! I don’t have anything to say to you and I want to leave!” Alissa backed up and tried to walk around him.
Adam moved and blocked her path again. “You’re not leaving! I’m not done with you!” Adam grabbed Alissa’s broken arm and yanked as hard as he could. He enjoyed seeing the pain on her face and pulled again just because he could.
Alissa screamed out in pain while tears flooded her eyes. All of a sudden, she felt Adam release her arm and yelp in pain. Once she could see through her tears, she found Adam face down on the sidewalk and heard someone yelling.
“Pick on someone your own size asshole!” AJ yelled standing over Adam with his fist clenched, ready to hit him if he went after her again.
Adam stood up and spat on the ground in front of Alissa. “Naw, I’m done with her. For now.” Adam walked away with this crazy grin on his face. Turning around one more time, he yelled “Have fun with her. She’s a real prize!”
AJ turned to face Alissa and instantly felt sorry for everything he‘d said to her. She stood there wiping tears off her face and looking like she just wanted to disappear.
“You ok?” AJ asked quietly moving closer to Alissa.
“I’m fine. Thank you for stopping him.”
“I’d say anytime, but I’m hoping this is the only time.” AJ said seeing a small smile cross her face. “You know, I don’t think the whole tears thing works for you. You’re much prettier when you smile.”
Alissa laughed and said, “I’ll remember that next time some lunatic grabs my arm and starts yelling in my face.”
AJ laughed. “Do you need a ride or something?”
“No, thank you, my car’s in the parking garage around the corner.”
“At least let me walk you over there.” AJ said.
They walked up to the third level and Alissa pointed out her car. “That’s me over there. I should be fine. I don’t want to keep you since I’m pretty sure you have better things to do beside babysit me.”
AJ started to say something, but Alissa cut him off. “I really appreciate what you did for me and I’m sorry I gave you a hard time yesterday. I guess my cousin’s right and I can be a little moody. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”
“No, it was my fault. I’ve never been good at apologizing and I should know by now that the less I say the better!” AJ laughed. “Don’t worry about what I need to do. Let me just walk you over and make sure you get in safely.”
Alissa opened the door, slid into the driver’s seat and started to close the door. AJ rapped on the window and held up his index finger. Alissa rolled down the window.
“Do you have your phone with you?” AJ asked.
“Yeah, it’s in my purse.” Alissa dug around in her bag and pulled out her cell phone.
“Can I see it for a minute?” AJ said and when she handed it over, he programmed his number into her list of contacts. “Would you mind calling me when you get home, just so I know you made it home safely?"
“You don’t need to do that. I’ll be fine and I don’t want to disturb you.”
AJ smiled. “You’re not going to disturb me. I know I don’t have to, but I’d like to. You can even just text me. Just let me know you got back without any problems.”
“Ok.” Alissa said. She backed out of the parking spot and waved goodbye to AJ as she headed toward home.
AJ just smiled and went back to his truck. Maybe he didn’t need some studio time today.
Alissa pulled into the driveway and found that her cousin had already beaten her home.
“Brooke, where are you?” she called heading into the kitchen.
“I’m here.” Brooke said standing by the stove stirring something that smelled great. “Lucas is working late tonight so it’s just you and I for dinner. How’d the rest of your afternoon go?”
“It was fine. Nothing big, just a walk.” Alissa sat down and winced as her arm hit the counter.
“If it was fine, what’s wrong with your arm?” Brooke said getting agitated.
“Nothing, it’s just bothering me today.” Alissa said, pulling her arm away from her cousin.
“Yeah right! Nothing my ass! What happened? And tell me the truth this time!” demanded Brooke.
Knowing that there was no way her cousin would let this go, Alissa told her what had happened that afternoon.
Brooke sat back in the chair, thought for a few minutes and then sighed. “Wow! I wanna kill Adam but I think I may have some respect for AJ now.”
Alissa nodded. “I was lucky that he was there.” After pausing for a minute, she continued. “You know, I don’t really want to talk about it anymore. Can we just eat dinner and watch a movie?”
A few hours later, Alissa was getting ready for bed and she heard Brooke’s land line start ringing. She heard her cousin pick up and figured it was just Lucas. As she started to crawl under the covers, her cousin knocked on her door and popped her head in holding the phone.
“Hey, it’s for you. I think it’s Prince Charming!” Brooke laughed and winked at her cousin.
Alissa grabbed the phone from her cousin trying to figure out who she was talking about. It suddenly dawned on her that she had never called AJ to let him know that she had made it home. Shit!
There was laughter on the other side and all he said was “Prince Charming huh? That’s something I’ve never been called before!”
Alissa was mortified that AJ had heard what her cousin said. “I, um, she, I, she didn’t…” and then AJ just heard silence as Alissa sat there completely tongue tied.
“Alissa, you there? I was just kidding. It’s no big deal. Are you still there?” AJ asked into the phone.
After a few more seconds of silence, Alissa sighed and said “I’m here unfortunately. Just contemplating the different ways I can kill my cousin.”
AJ laughed into the phone. “It’s nothing. She was just playing around. She could probably call me worse.”
Alissa quickly replied. “No she’s really grateful that you were there today.” Hoping to get off the subject of her cousin, she said “I’m sorry that I didn’t call or text you when I got home. My head was just spinning and I completely forgot.”
“No problem. I hope your cousin doesn’t mind me looking up her number. I realized when I got home that I didn’t get yours when I gave you mine. I just needed to make sure that you got home safe.”
“I did. Thank you again for today AJ. It was something that had nothing to do with you and I’m sorry you had to get involved.”
“No big deal. I’m Prince Charming remember?” AJ laughed and Alissa wanted to crawl under the bed and hide. She was glad they weren’t on video phone!
“Hey Alissa, it’s late and I’ll let you get some sleep. Just wanted to check on you and make sure you got home safely.” Then he paused. “Maybe you and I could grab some coffee or try that walk again?” he asked quickly before he chickened out.
Alissa smiled. “Definitely! The least I can do is buy you a coffee.” Alissa gave AJ her cell phone number.
“Great. I’ll call you tomorrow. Goodnight Alissa” AJ whispered into the phone and hung up. He lay back on his bed with a smile.
Goodnight to you too AJ thought Alissa. She lay back down and crawled under the covers thinking that she would probably be able to sleep like a baby tonight.
AJ was sitting in his kitchen thinking about his conversation with Alissa the night before when his mother stopped over to check on him.
“AJ? Where are you?” Denise called.
“I’m in the kitchen Ma!”
“Hi sweetheart.” Denise said as she leaned over to give her son a kiss on the cheek. When Denise pulled back, she noticed a sharp change in AJ. He had been so moody the last few days and all of a sudden, there was a light in his eyes that his mother hadn’t seen in weeks.
“So……anything you want to tell me?” Denise winked at her son and sat down across the table from him.
AJ smiled. “Had a good day yesterday. Well, maybe not a great start but a really good end.” He proceeded to tell his mother everything that happened the day before.
“Oh my god AJ! Is she ok?” Denise worried.
“She’s fine Ma. I talked to her last night and she sounded fine.”
Denise nodded. “I’m glad you were there. She must have been so scared.”
“She was but I made sure she got back to her car and home safely. I was going to call her again in a little while. She agreed to get coffee and maybe take a walk.” AJ grinned.
“See! What did I tell you! Maybe the circumstances weren’t the best but I told you that if you could get her to talk to you, you might be able to resolve this. You can finally get her out of your head and relax.”
AJ paused for a minute. “What if I changed my mind? What if I don’t want to get her out of my head?” he said quietly.
Denise looked at her son and noticed another change. “What didn’t you tell me the other day when we talked?”
AJ looked down at his hands for a few minutes and then looked right into his mother’s eyes.
“The biggest part of what got under my skin so much about that card wasn’t what it said but the way it made me feel. I hadn’t felt close to anyone in such a long time and rehab was miserable. All I wanted was that connection to someone. Reading that card when I got home was the connection I needed. The problem was, there was no one to connect to, just a card.”
“Oh AJ. Why didn’t you tell me how you felt?” Denise said.
AJ shrugged. “What was I supposed to say Mom? I couldn’t really say “Hey this is the connection I’ve been wanting! Maybe this is the person who can finally make me feel like me.” He paused and then continued. “I wanted to know the person on the other side of that card and I wanted her to be in my life. That sounds ridiculous but it was something I thought about a lot.”
“Why didn’t you try to do something about it?”
AJ laughed. “What was I gonna do? Call around to find some random woman and tell her how I felt. For all I knew she could have been 80 and married with 10 kids! I figured it would better to just ignore it and the way it made me feel. The only problem with that was that it ate at me every day.”
Denise sat back and stared at her son. “Is that why you went off on her that night?”
AJ nodded. “Yeah, that was part of it. I saw her sitting across the table from me all of sudden and she was my age and so pretty. I was so angry that she made me feel this way about her and I was mad at myself that I waited ten years to do something about it. Something inside of me exploded and I lost my temper.”
Denise didn’t even know what to say. Hearing her son admit to all of this was something she never expected. She didn’t really understand how her son was feeling but her heart was breaking for him.
“Well, I guess the question now is, what are you going to do about it?”
Alissa was relaxing on the couch reading a book when her cell phone began to vibrate. Picking it up, she noticed AJ’s number come up on the screen.
“Hi AJ!” Alissa said enthusiastically and reminded herself to tone the excitement down a little. “What’s up?”
“Hey, I thought that maybe I could swing by this afternoon and finish that walk with you. Are you up for some company?”
“Sure, just let me know when you get here.”
“K. I’ll see you in a little while.”
AJ decided to stop by the studio and see what Nick was working on before he started over to Alissa’s.
“Hey Nicky!” AJ yelled walking through the studio into the back room.
“Hey J! Surprised to see you here!” Nick said.
“Yeah, I wasn’t planning on stopping by but I had a conversation with my mom this morning and it’s been bugging me since she left.”
“Do I want to know what the conversation was or not?” Nick asked concerned when he saw the look on AJ’s face.
“We were talking about the woman from the other night. Alissa?”
“Oh yeah, her. Did you ever find out how she was doing after the accident?”
“I did, finally.”
“What do you mean finally?”
AJ sighed. “Well the first time I went to talk to her, I was an ass and instead of apologizing, I actually blamed her for making me mad. Pretty much went downhill after that.”
“You’re kidding me right? You went to apologize and acted like an ass? Shocker!” Nick said swatting AJ in the head.
“Cut it out little boy!” AJ laughed as he threw a pillow at Nick’s face. “Seriously though. I decided I was going to try to apologize again after my mother pointed out that I acted as usual for me. Before I got the chance to talk to her again, I ran into her and an ex arguing on the other side of the parking garage.”
AJ started to get angry remembering the way Adam yanked on Alissa’s arm and caused her so much pain. “He was a complete asshole, yelling in her face and wrenching her broken arm twice. I grabbed him and threw him to the ground. I wanted to beat the shit out of him but I managed to control myself.”
“That sucks! What’d she say to you after?”
“She was crying and thanked me for helping her out. I felt like an even bigger asshole because I had just yelled in her face like that a few days ago.” AJ said quietly.
“Hey man, she was getting to you and you lost your temper. It’s not like you hit her or something.”
“I know but I still acted like a jerk. Then, my mother stopped by this morning and when I told her what happened, she said she was glad I finally apologized and now I could forget about it and move on.”
“Sounds like a plan to me but by the look on your face, you’re not thinking the same way.”
AJ sighed. “I thought I would just be done. I called her last night to make sure she got home safely and ended up asking her to get coffee.”
“J, why do you do this to yourself? Just be done with it and move on. You hardly know this woman and it’s not like you want it to turn into something.”
Nick was shocked when AJ didn’t say anything. “You don’t want this to turn into something do you?”
AJ sighed again and waited a minute before answering. “Not at first. I just wanted to take care of this and move on. But then, I saw her in the street, crying, hurt and I just didn’t know what to think. Then I thought about it all night. I finally realized why her card had been bothering me so much.”
“Why is it bothering you so much?”
“When I got that card 10 years ago, I was shocked by what it said. I had been waiting for someone to say those words to me and there it was, written down right in front of me. After reading it over and over again, all I wanted was to have that woman in front of me. I didn’t know whether I wanted to yell at her, hug her or propose!” AJ said cracking a smile.
Nick looked stunned. “I hope you’re not thinking about proposing!”
AJ laughed again. “Absolutely not! I’m not sure what I want. I thought I’d help her out and then move on. Then I wound up asking her out last night!”
“Man, you asked her to coffee not a date right?”
“Not sure what I asked her to do. All I know is that I want to see her again.” AJ said quietly.
Nick waited for a few minutes before he said anything else. “I don’t know whether to be happy for you or not. I don’t want you to get invested in some woman you don’t even know.”
“How am I supposed to get to know her and figure out what I want if I don’t get a little invested?”
“AJ, I get it. How does she feel though?”
AJ hung his head. “I don’t know. She agreed to meet and take a walk with me later on today.”
“AJ, as your friend and brother, I need to say this to you. Have you stopped to think about what would happen if you got all invested and it turns out that she doesn’t feel the same way? I mean maybe her card sounded like that to you, but man, that was 10 years ago. A lot can change in 10 years.”
AJ thought about it for a minute. That idea never occurred to him. Was Nick right? Did he really want to get invested in this whole thing and get disappointed in the end?
AJ shook his head, jumped up and walked out of the studio without saying anything to Nick. When he got outside, he dialed Alissa’s number and waited for it to ring. He might as well just get this over with.
After the third ring, he heard Alissa pick up. Before she could say anything, he said “Hey, I’m not going to be able to come by today. I’ll try to call you in a few days.”
Without waiting for a reply, AJ hung up the phone, climbed into his truck and sped off.
Alissa hung up the phone completely stunned. What just happened?
Alissa waited almost a week for AJ to call. She even tried his cell phone a few times the day before but it went straight to voicemail. She just couldn’t figure out what happened and was sitting in the backyard when her cousin burst through the back door.
“That’s it! I can’t take it anymore!” Brooke stormed over and grabbed Alissa’s phone.
“Hey give it back!”
“No! I’m tired of sitting here watching you wait for some guy you barely know to call you back. You need to get out of this house and do something and I am not taking no for an answer!”
Alissa got quiet and curled up into the chair she was sitting in.
Brooke sighed and sat on the chair across from her cousin. “What is going on with you?”
Alissa started to tear up. “I don’t know. I started off thinking what a jerk AJ was and then that thing with Adam happened and I got to see a whole new side of him. He called to check on me that night and it was so sweet. I thought everything was going great when he called to ask me out for a walk. Then all of a sudden, he calls me back a few hours later, tells me he’s not coming and doesn’t even wait for me to answer before hanging up. What did I do?”
Alissa started to cry and Brooke reached over to give her a hug.
“You didn’t do anything. He’s a guy! This, by the way, automatically makes him an idiot!”
Alissa smiled faintly.
Brooke, happy to see something other than hurt cross her cousin’s face, said “Honestly, why are you so upset?”
Alissa wiped her tears and replied “I was looking forward to seeing him again and I thought he felt the same way since he was the one who called me for the walk. Then he calls up and blows me off out of nowhere. He never called me back and won’t take my calls. I’m starting to feel like I’m this needy, pathetic girl who chasing this guy she barely knows and who has apparently changed his mind about getting to know her! I don’t like feeling this way and I don’t know what to do.”
Brooke waited a few seconds and then told her cousin exactly what she thought she should do.
The boys were in the middle of recording a verse for the new song they had written when AJ slammed his headphones down on the stand and yelled.
“Why can’t we get this right? Why the hell is the big fucking problem?”
Howie tore of his headphones and said “That’s it!” and stormed out of the booth into the room next door.
AJ chased him through the door with the other three boys right behind him.
AJ grabbed Howie by the arm and yelled in his face. “What’s your problem?”
Howie shoved him off and yelled back “You! You’re my problem! You’ve been acting like a jackass for the last fucking week and none of us can even talk to you without you biting off our heads. I can’t stand being around you anymore!” Howie left the room, slamming the door behind him.
AJ turned around to face the other guys and snarled “Is that a fact? I’m everybody’s problem?”
“Yes, you’re the problem J.” said Brian quietly and fell into a chair by the soundboard.
Nick shook his head and said “Sorry man, but we all feel the same way. You’re miserable and you’re making being around you painful. What’s going on with you?”
Without answering Nick’s question, AJ turned around, ripped open the door Howie had just closed and jogged up the stairs, slamming the outside door.
Kevin sighed and collapsed onto the couch. “What is with him? He hasn’t acted like this in forever.”
Brian replied “I don’t know but we’re never going to get this album done if we can’t work together for an hour without losing it.”
All three men sat in silence for a few minutes until they heard knocking come from the other side of the closed door.
Nick walked over and threw open the door. “If that’s you J, you had better be back to...” and cut himself off when he realized that it wasn’t J, but a woman about their age standing there.
“Who are you?” Nick demanded.
The woman looked completely stunned and stammered “I’m Alissa. I was hoping that AJ was here. I just needed to talk to him for a minute.”
AJ couldn’t believe what the boys had said. He was a problem? That’s ridiculous! He finally stopped pacing and sat on the bench down the block from the studio thinking it was time for a cigarette.
After a few minutes, he felt himself start to calm down. He slouched down on the bench and decided the guys were right. He was being a jackass and refused to deal with anything. He’d been letting this thing with Alissa run his life and he hated himself for it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t figure out what he needed to do.
AJ thought back to last week when he helped Alissa with her ex and the feelings that were stirring up in him. He’d had a great conversation with her that night and was really looking forward to seeing her after he stopped at the studio. He sighed and asked himself why he had that stupid conversation with Nick. Everything was going fine up until then!
Twenty minutes later, AJ stood up and started walking back to the studio to apologize to the guys. His personal life may be out of control, but that was no reason to take it out on them. He was going to come clean and explain everything to them hoping that might make it right.
He had just opened the door to the studio when a woman came flying up the stairs in tears and took off down the block. He barely had time to move out of her way and was wondering what the hell had happened downstairs.
“Hey guys!” yelled AJ as he came pounding down the stairs. “Who was that woman? She damn near plowed me over running out of here!”
Nick was pacing like a madman while Brian and Kevin were just sitting with their mouths hanging open.
“Hey, are you guys going to tell me who that was?” AJ demanded.
Nick was furious and turned around to face AJ. “Now I know why you’ve been acting like an asshole lately! It was that stupid woman! What’s her face? The one I told you was going to hurt you!” Nick yelled. “But you never listen do you! I told you not to get invested in her, that she wasn’t going to feel the same way!”
“What are you talking about?” AJ yelled grabbing Nick by the shoulders and forcing him to look him in the eye.
Nick took a deep breath and started talking again. “It was that woman Alissa. She came here thinking that we were going to let her in after everything she did to you! Is she crazy? Did she really think that we were going to let her anywhere near you after what she’d done?”
“Are you fucking crazy?” AJ screamed and all three men stared at him. “What she did to me? She didn’t do anything to me!”
Nick look stunned by AJ’s outburst. “Of course she did! That’s why you’ve been a jackass all week. She probably told you that she wanted to be friends or some stupid bullshit like that! I told her she could go to hell and not to come back here again!”
AJ let go of Nick and sank into the sofa with his head in his hands. What had he done?
Nobody knew exactly how long it was until Brian finally broke the silence.
“AJ, man, I think you need to tell us exactly what’s been going on!”
Brooke was sitting in the kitchen looking at the newspaper when she heard her cousin come barreling through the door. As she turned around, she caught her cousin running up the stairs and then heard her bedroom door slam.
What the hell is going on here she thought as she ran up the stairs. She charged right into Alissa’s room without knocking and was floored by the scene in front of her. Alissa was in tears and on the floor trying to drag a suitcase out from under the bed with her one good arm.
“What are you doing?” yelled Brooke.
“I’m leaving!” Alissa said through her tears and proceeded to pull clothes out of the closet and throw them into the open suitcase on the floor. “I have to leave now!”
“Where are you going to go? What happened?” Brooke grabbed her cousin by the shoulders and forced her to sit on the bed. Sitting next to her, she pulled her cousin into a hug and heard her cousin’s tears turn into sobs.
“Shhhh. Please tell me what happened, why you’re so upset.” Brooke pleaded with her cousin. “I want to help you but I can’t do that until you tell me what’s wrong.”
“I’m leaving. I can’t stay here anymore.” Alissa cried.
“Can you at least tell me where you came from?”
Alissa was crying so hard she was gulping for air. “I came from AJ’s studio. I took your advice and went over there to see if he would talk to me.” Alissa started crying again.
“What did he say to you? I’ll go over and kick his ass!” Brooke yelled.
“It wasn’t him. He wasn’t even there. Nick was the one who yelled at me. He was saying what an awful person I was and how I was hurting AJ and I didn’t even care. He said that I was taking advantage of AJ’s feelings and he wasn’t going to allow me to do that anymore.” Alissa wailed and jumped up from the bed. She pulled open drawers and started throwing clothes in the suitcase again.
“What an asshole! You didn’t even do anything to that jerk. Did you tell him that?”
“I tried to but he wouldn’t listen. He told me I could go to hell and that I should go back to where I came from!”
Brooke just sat on the bed stunned. “Where are you going to go?” she said quietly.
“I’m going back to Boston. I made a reservation for the last flight leaving tonight. Can you please leave me alone so I can pack?” Alissa whispered quietly and went into the bathroom slamming the door behind her. Brooke knew that this was not the time to argue with her. She left her cousin in the middle of the mess and went downstairs knowing that there was no way to help her.
Nick was stunned. “You mean she didn’t do anything to you?”
AJ shook his head. “No, after I had that conversation with you, I called her and told her I wasn’t coming over. I hung up on her before she could respond.”
“Why did you do that? You just said that you wanted to see her again.” Kevin asked confused.
“I did want to see her again! But after I talked to Nick, I was afraid that I was going to get hurt. That I would feel something for her that she wouldn’t feel for me. I couldn’t stand the thought of that so I just cut her off. She tried calling me a few times and I let it go to voicemail.” AJ said choking up.
Brian got up, walked over to Nick and smacked him hard in the back of the head. “You’re the dumbass! How could you say that to him? Do you even think before you speak?” Brian said pissed that Nick had gotten too involved.
“I didn’t mean anything by it. I just didn’t want to see J get hurt with all he’s been through. I thought I was helping.” Nick started to tear up. “I’m so sorry J. I was just trying to help.”
“Well you didn’t!” AJ yelled. He shook his head and then turned quiet. “I shouldn’t have listened to you.”
Everyone sat there quietly, not knowing what to say.
AJ finally looked at Nick and felt bad for his friend. He knew he was looking out for him but he was still angry.
“I’m still pissed at you but I did this.” AJ said to Nick. “I knew better and I ignored how I felt. I’m as much of a dumbass as you are. This is my fault too.”
Everyone agreed with him but didn’t say anything knowing it wouldn’t be any use.
Suddenly AJ jumped up and started towards the door. “I have to go talk to her. I have to fix this before it gets any worse.” He ran up the stairs and down the block to get his truck.
AJ flew into Alissa’s driveway, slamming his brakes and jerking the truck to a stop. He ran up the steps and started pounding on the door.
“Alissa! Alissa! Open the door please!” AJ kept hammering on the door.
The door flew open but instead of finding Alissa, AJ found her cousin Brooke. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying.
AJ pushed past her and started calling Alissa’s name again.
Brooke grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. “She isn’t here,” Brooke said quietly. “She left for the airport this afternoon.” Brooke released his arm and walked into the living room.
“Airport? Why did she go to the airport?” AJ yelled chasing after Brooke.
Brooke slumped down onto the couch and looked at AJ with tired eyes. “She left. She’s going back to Boston. Tonight. Her plane leaves at 7:20.” Brooke looked down and didn’t say anything else.
AJ stood there stunned. He wanted to say something but he had no idea what. Finally, after a few minutes, he turned to Brooke and asked her quietly which airline she was leaving from.
“She’s leaving on United, Flight #345, Gate 7.”
AJ thanked her, went to leave and then turned around. “I’m sorry for this. It’s my fault.” AJ said and then walked out of the house closing the door behind him. He got into his truck and just sat there for a few moments before he noticed the time on his dashboard. 6:30. Alissa’s plane was taking off in less than an hour. He started the truck, threw it into reverse and peeled out of the driveway.
“What if I don’t make it in time?” was all he could think of.
AJ was stuck in the exit lane for the airport, cursing everyone in front of him. After 10 minutes, he finally pulled into the departure section. 7:10! He jumped out of the truck not even closing the door while security yelled at him to stop. He flew through the airport pushing people out of the way to get to the gate.
Shit, where are all these people coming from he thought as he got stuck behind some tour group taking pictures around the airport fountain. He shoved through them sprinting the last 500 feet to the terminal.
“Wait, wait!” he yelled at the airline attendant who was standing at the counter. Startled, the attendant looked up to see this man charging at her.
“I need to get on that plane!” AJ screamed causing everyone in the area to turn around and look at him. “I need to get someone off that plane!”
“I’m sorry sir, but the plane already took off.” the agent said apologetically and turned to point to the board.
AJ looked up. 7:23! He missed the plane by three fucking minutes! He stared at the board for a minute and then dropped down to the floor on his knees. I missed it! I missed her! Those were the only thoughts going through his head.
AJ barely made it home in one piece. He was replaying the last hour over and over in his head. He couldn’t believe that he missed her plane by 3 goddamn minutes! He pounded on his steering wheel as he flew into his driveway. He skidded to a stop almost plowing into the car in front of him. Who the hell is here now?
AJ stormed up to his door and flung it open, almost taking it off its hinges. He went charging into the living room and was shocked to see all four guys sitting there.
“The guys came by tonight and filled me in. Sorry for going off on you like that J but…..” Howie was silenced by AJ roaring at all of them.
“It doesn’t matter! It’s doesn’t fucking matter now! She left! She’s on some goddamn plane back to Boston!” AJ was yelling so loudly that his voice was starting to crack.
No one said anything. AJ stood there fuming and finally yelled “Get out! Everyone out now! Get out!”
He slammed his fist on the counter and shoved Nick towards the door. “Leave right now!” he said pulling open the door and literally throwing Nick out. The other 3 guys followed right behind him.
“I have nothing to say! Get out and don’t come back here!” AJ screamed and slammed the door shut.
Denise showed up at her son’s house about an hour after Kevin’s phone call about AJ and the situation that unfolded. She walked up the driveway and went to knock on the door but she noticed it was unlocked and partially open, so she let herself inside.
Denise gasped and her hand flew to her mouth after she looked at the first floor. The furniture had been knocked over, a lamp was broken and there were at least five broken picture frames. It looked like a tornado had blown through the house and she frantically raced up the stairs to AJ’s room. When she opened the door, all she saw was her son in a ball on top of his bed, shaking.
Denise rushed over and sat down on the bed next to him. “What happened AJ?”
AJ turned very still and told his mother to leave.
Denise decided to be more forceful with her son. “I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere until you talk to me. I’ll stay here all night if I have to but I am not going to leave until you talk to me.”
“I don’t want to talk.” AJ croaked.
“Well that’s too bad because I am not leaving until you decide to!”
AJ sat straight up and glared at his mother. “I DON’T WANT TO TALK! CAN’T ANY OF YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?”
Denise shook her head. “I do understand that but I am not leaving this house until we talk. I’ll wait downstairs until you’re ready to pull yourself together.”
His mother got up, left the room closing the door softly. She walked downstairs and tried to think of a way to help her son.
It was about 6am when AJ woke up, stiff from being curled up on the bed. Shit he thought. He started to wonder what was going on when all the memories of last night came flooding back to him. He grabbed the glass on his nightstand and threw it across the room where it smashed into the wall and shattered into pieces.
He got up off the bed, stumbled to the door, flung it open and crawled downstairs. He was entering the kitchen when someone touched his arm causing him to jump and spin around almost knocking both of them to the ground.
“Mom! What the hell are you doing here?”
Denise just stared at her son. He looked like a completely different man from the last time she saw him. His eyes were dark with anger and the expression on his face broke her heart.
“I came over last night after your fight with the guys.” She pulled him into the living room and he couldn’t believe his eyes. He had done so much damage to the room last night and didn’t even remember doing any of it.
“Seen enough yet?” Denise turned AJ around and pushed him back into the kitchen. “Sit down.” she said pointing to one of the chairs.
AJ slumped down and put his head down on the table covering it with his arms.
“AJ look at me.” his mother asked quietly.
AJ picked up one of his arms and looked at his mother through one eye.
“I think it’s about damn time to tell me what happened, don’t you?” Denise demanded and AJ started to tear up again.
“Start at the beginning……”
Brooke woke up sore after a long night of crying. Lucas lay sound asleep next to her and she got out of bed slowly as to not to wake him. She left her room and turned to close the door when she noticed that the door to Alissa’s room was open and the bed was still made. All of a sudden she remembered that her cousin wasn’t there anymore and she started to tear up again.
Brooke continued downstairs to make some coffee and decided to go sit in the backyard while it brewed. She opened the slider door and screamed when she found someone sleeping on the lounger by the pool.
AJ lay down on the couch, finally alone. His mother had listened to what happened and then helped him clean up the mess that was his living room. She told him she would be back in a few hours with lunch and suggested that he try to get some more rest. Yeah, he thought, like that’s going to happen!
“Oh my god! Where did you come from?” Brooke screeched, running over to her cousin who was just waking up. “I thought you left last night!”
Alissa, still groggy, tried to explain what happened to her cousin.
“I did leave and go to the airport. As I was checking in, I realized that I had forgotten my license in the cab and I needed it to get through security. I ran back to the cab stand but he had already left. The porter called him back and we spend 25 minutes digging through his backseat before I found my license. By the time I got through security and down to the gate, I realized it was 8 and I missed my plane.” Alissa took a deep breath and then chuckled. “I guess my luggage got to Boston without me!”
Brooke laughed out loud and grabbed her cousin pulling her onto her feet. She started to drag her into the kitchen then stopped halfway and turned to face her cousin.
It just dawned on Brooke. “Why in the hell did you sleep out here last night?”
Alissa smiled and said, “I guess your key got to Boston without me too!”
Denise returned a few hours later and found her son sitting in the backyard with his head in his hands.
“AJ, I’m back. Do you want to come in and eat something?” Denise yelled through the back door.
“No” AJ yelled back. “I just want to sit out here for a while.”
Denise walked outside and took a seat next to her son. “You know you have to eat something right?”
“I’m not interested in doing anything!” AJ snapped. “What I really want to do is crawl back into bed and stay there!”
Denise just shook her head. Her son was too stubborn for his own good, but she had learned which battles she could pick with him over the years. This was not one of them.
“So what are you going to do now?” Brooke asked her cousin as they sat in the kitchen drinking coffee.
Alissa shrugged. “I don’t know. I think it would be best if I did what I was going to do and go back to Boston. “
“No you can’t go back!” Brooke yelled. “I spent all last night crying because you left and then I wake up to find you sleeping in my backyard! You can’t leave again. I’m going to miss you too much.” Brooke whispered. “I’ll help you through anything; do anything for you, if you just agree to stay.”
“You’re the only one who wants me to stay.” Alissa said sadly.
Brooke thought about what happened the night before when AJ came to the house looking for her cousin. Do I tell her or not? Brooke thought.
Alissa glanced over at her cousin and noticed that Brooke looked like she was having an argument in her head. “Hey, are you ok? What’s bugging you?”
Brooke shook her head. “No, I’m fine. Just thinking of how I can convince you to stay.”
In that moment, Brooke decided not to tell Alissa what had happened. She didn’t want to risk her cousin getting hurt again and she was sure that it would definitely happen if Alissa got any more invested in AJ. I mean, really, he was a member of the most popular boy band! He would probably stick around for a little while and then just leave if he thought he found the next best thing. No, I’m not going to say anything!
Brooke looked over at her cousin and asked her what she’d like to do for the day.
AJ paced around his house for the next few days in complete shutdown mode. He finally decided that it would just be best for everyone if he left town for a while to clear his head. He called his mother to let her know, got into his truck and left, not exactly sure where he was going or when he would be coming back.
A few weeks later, Brooke and Alissa went to see the doctor about her arm.
“Your x-rays look great so we’ll remove the cast today and you won’t have to come back for any more visits.” Dr. Edwards said. “Happy to hear that?”
Alissa nodded. She was excited to finally get rid of the cast, but she still wasn’t feeling like herself.
“Ok, come down to the exam room and we’ll get rid of that cast.”
Twenty minutes later, Alissa and Brooke left the office and decided to get lunch before heading back to Brooke’s house.
“Any place you want to go in particular?” Brooke asked her cousin.
Alissa shrugged her shoulders. “Not really. Whatever you want is fine.”
Brooke felt so bad for her cousin. She was struggling to deal with this whole AJ thing and Brooke just wanted her to feel better.
“How about the café over on Riverside St.? You liked that one right?” Brooke asked. “Maybe we can get some shopping in afterwards?”
“Yeah, that’s fine.” Alissa said and followed her cousin back to the car.
The guys had been trying for over a week to reach AJ.
“I get that J needs space and all but we have to finish this album. Management has been all over us and we can’t get it down without him!” Brian said frustrated.
“I’ll call him again, but I don’t think he’ll pick up. He hasn’t for my last dozen calls.” Nick said
Dialing AJ’s number, Nick waited for the voicemail to pick up again. He was shocked when AJ answered.
“J!” Nick yelled into the phone and all the guys stared at him, surprised that AJ had answered any of them.
“Hey man, don’t scream in my ear.” AJ snapped. “What do you want?”
Nick started to get angry that he was copping such an attitude after what AJ had done to them when he bailed. He started to speak when Kevin grabbed the phone afraid that Nick would push AJ away even further.
“J, it’s me Kevin. We’re concerned about you and we haven’t heard from or seen you for the last few weeks. Where are you?”
“Nowhere.” AJ said. “I know you didn’t just call to check on me.” he said with an attitude. “Management’s probably been breathing down your necks since we were supposed to finish the album last week.”
“Yeah they have but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about how you’re feeling. You’re like a brother to me J and I love you. We all want what’s best for you so we’ve tried to give you space. We’d still give you space but, you’re right; we need to finish the album. Any chance you’re coming back anytime soon?”
“I’ll be back in a few days.” AJ said and pressed end call on his phone.
The cousins were just finishing up their lunch and Brooke asked Alissa if she still wanted to go shopping.
“You know what? I’m not really in the mood to go shopping right now. I’m tired.” Alissa said.
“Alright, we can just head back home. Let’s go get the car.” Brooke replied.
“Actually,” Alissa said, “I was thinking about taking a walk down by the beach. I can take a cab home when I’m done.”
Brooke paused. “Are you sure you want to be by yourself?”
“I’m sure.” Alissa said and hugged her cousin. “I’ll be home soon ok.”
“Ok.” Brooke said and watched her cousin walk off.
He had been following the girls since they left the doctor’s office and was just waiting for the perfect opportunity. He watched as Alissa left and started down the street towards the beach. He knew that she would have to cut down one of the side streets to get to the water and he decided to meet her on the other side. He quickened his pace to make sure he got there before she did.
Alissa cut down the side street she knew would lead her to the water. Just as she was stepping onto the main street, she felt this hand grab her arm, pulling her back onto the side street. Then, all she felt was excruciating pain that erupted on the side of her face before she lost consciousness.
Adam dragged Alissa up the alley after knocking her out and put her into the backseat of his car. He started the engine, threw the car into drive and peeled off down the street.
AJ hung up with Kevin and started to pack his things. He might as well head back home. What was a few more days going to matter? It wasn’t going to change how he felt. He knew he at least owed it to the guys to finish the album. After that, he could go away for a while without feeling like he was letting anyone down. He closed his hotel room door, checked out at the main desk and headed back home. He called Kevin on the way back to tell him that he would meet the guys at the studio at 6:30. Just let me get through this he thought.
It was 7pm and Brooke was starting to worry. She left her cousin around 3 and hadn’t heard from her since. She knew that her cousin wanted to be by herself for a while but 4 hours! Something just didn’t feel right. She called her cousin’s cell phone again and it went straight to voicemail. She was digging through her bag for her car keys when she heard someone come in. She raced into the hallway and found Lucas coming home from work.
“Lucas!” Brooke yelled at her boyfriend causing him to look at her. She looked panicked and he went over to find out what was wrong.
“I left Alissa by herself at the beach around 3 and she promised to only stay for a little while and then take a cab back but she still isn’t home!” Brooke started to cry.
Lucas pulled her close and said. “It’s ok, she probably just needed some space.”
“She doesn’t need this much space!” Brooke yelled. “You need to take me to the beach so that we can find her and bring her back here!”
Lucas followed Brooke out to the car, backed out of the driveway and headed down to the water. He looked over at his girlfriend who was starting to cry and prayed that Brooke was just overreacting and they would find Alissa soon.
Alissa woke up with a throbbing pain in her head. She was having trouble focusing and she was confused as to where she was. Her sight started to come back into focus a little and she realized she was on the floor of some motel room that she didn’t recognize.
“Aw, look at that! Sleeping Beauty finally wakes up!” Adam said standing over her with a malicious grin on his face. “How’s your head feeling?” he laughed.
Alissa tried to sit up, but she just fell back down from the pain. “What do you want with me?” she croaked becoming terrified. She didn’t know what time it was and she had no idea where she was.
“I just want to talk. I didn’t get the chance the last time we met. I was following you after your appointment today and noticed that your boyfriend of the week wasn’t with you. What’d he get tired of listening to all your whining? I bet he probably found someone a lot better than you, which frankly, wouldn’t be so hard to do!” Adam yelled. “It was the perfect opportunity really, no one around to bother us. You made it so easy by leaving without your cousin.”
Alissa started to panic. Was Brooke even looking for her? She told her cousin she needed space but was starting to pray that she wouldn’t let it go too long without going to look for her.
“No one’s coming for you. Nobody cares if you go missing. It’s not like you’re important to anyone.” Adam laughed.
Alissa started to cry and thought that maybe Adam was right. The thought that nobody would even look for her scared her to death and she started crying even more.
“Oh shut up! I don’t know what you’re crying for!” Adam kneeled down and screamed in her face. When Alissa didn’t stop he hit her hard with the back of his hand. Then, he kept hitting her.
Alissa tried to scream but nothing came out. After what seemed like forever, she passed out again from all the pain.
AJ met the guys at the studio just like he promised and they decided to work all through the evening to try and get the album done. It had already been a few hours and everyone was getting tired.
“Why don’t we take a break for a minute and get something to eat?” Kevin asked through the headphones. Brian, Howie, Nick and AJ agreed and they decided to wait in the more comfortable part of the studio for their food to show up.
Before they could even sit, they heard banging on the door outside. “There’s no way our food got here this fast.” Kevin said as he walked over to the door.
Before he could even grab the handle, some woman came charging in followed by some man no one knew.
“You!” Brooke said, charging at AJ and shoving him into the wall. “Where is my cousin?” she demanded angrily.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” AJ screamed. “What are talking about? She’s in Boston!”
Lucas pulled Brooke away and she collapsed onto the sofa behind him. She had her head in her hands and started shaking and sobbing.
Lucas turned to AJ and the other guys. “No she’s not. She never made it to Boston. She missed her flight and decided to stay.”
AJ looked absolutely stunned. She was here? He started to ask Brooke where she was when Lucas cut him off.
“She’s missing. Brooke had lunch with her and then left her at the beach around 3. Alissa wanted to some space but promised to be back before it got too late. We drove to the beach but she wasn’t there. We’ve been driving around for hours looking for her. Brooke thought that maybe she wanted to clear the air with you and headed over here.”
AJ didn’t know what to say. He was half listening while Lucas continued to talk to the other guys. They were all trying to figure out what they could do to help.
Brooke finally looked up from her hands and stared at AJ. “You really don’t know where she is, do you?” she asked him quietly.
AJ turned to look at her and saw the terrified look on her face. He started to tear up and said, “No, I don’t but we’re going to find her!”
Denise drove straight to the studio after AJ’s panicked call. She told them that she would drive Brooke home and check to see if Alissa had come back. If not, she promised that she would stay there with Brooke while Lucas and the guys checked the hospitals and police station. She told AJ that she would call him as soon as she knew anything and made him promise to do the same.
They got back to the house and it was clear that Alissa had not made it home yet. Denise settled Brooke into the couch in the living room and decided to make them coffee. She was in the kitchen boiling water when she heard a banging on the door. She checked on Brooke and found her sleeping and went to the door to see who it was.
At first, she didn’t see anything except for a car that was flying out of the driveway. She turned to go back inside when she looked down and was horrified at what she saw. Alissa’s body was in a heap on the walkway leading up to the house. She ran down and checked her pulse. She was grateful when she found one but knew it wasn’t a strong one. She ran inside to get her phone and wake up Brooke. Both women raced outside to stay with Alissa. Brooke called 911 while pleading with her cousin to wake up.
Denise called AJ and told her son that he had to meet them at the hospital as soon as he could get there. She just hoped that it wouldn’t be too late.
AJ sped to the hospital so fast that he left Nick hanging on for dear life in the passenger side.
“Slow down J! We need to get there in one piece! It’s not going to do anyone any good if we get into an accident on the way there!” Nick pleaded with AJ.
AJ ignored him and hit the gas even harder sending his truck flying onto the highway.
Brooke and Denise sat in the emergency room lobby waiting for the doctor to come out and get them. Alissa had been rushed into the ER once the ambulance arrived and no one had told them anything.
“What if she doesn’t make it?” Brooke cried and Denise put her arm around her, not knowing what to say to ease her pain. They sat there for a few more minutes, when the door to the emergency room opened and both women jumped to their feet.
“Is she ok? What happened? What’s wrong with her? Is she going to be ok?” Brooke cried without giving the doctor a chance to explain.
“Please sit down ladies.” He pointed to the chairs they had just vacated. When both women were seated, he said “Your cousin is an extremely lucky woman. It’s a miracle that she’s alive. She was severely beaten and has numerous injuries, some of which are life threatening. She’s stabilized for right now but she hasn’t regained consciousness. We’re going to be sending her up to ICU and she’ll remain there until she wakes up and we can figure out the true extent of the damage.” Brooke started to sob again.
They sat there in silence for a moment and tried to absorb the news. They were so preoccupied that neither woman noticed AJ and Nick come flying through the door.
The doctor stood up, put his hand on Brooke’s shoulder and said “I’m sorry”. He walked back into the emergency room. Brooke started hysterically crying again and Denise folded her into a hug.
AJ stopped in his tracks just feet away from his mother and Brooke. The doctor was sorry? What was he sorry for? AJ looked at the women and saw the looks on both their faces. He didn’t make it in time!
“AJ! Where are you going?” Nick yelled chasing after AJ.
AJ had already made it to his truck and into the driver’s seat by the time Nick managed to catch up to him.
“I’m leaving! I can’t do this! You just heard the doctor tell them that he was sorry. What would he be sorry for? She didn’t make it! I didn’t get here in time!” AJ screamed punching his dashboard.
The other guys pulled into the lot and saw Nick dragging AJ out of his truck.
“What’s going on?” yelled Howie.
“She died! She didn’t make it! The doctor just told my mother and her cousin that he was sorry and walked away! He didn’t even stay out there to see if they were ok!” AJ screamed, sinking to the ground with his head in his hands. He was crying so hard that he couldn’t stop shaking.
Lucas turned around and ran into the emergency room. Howie pulled Nick aside to talk to him while Kevin and Brian tried to help AJ. The three of them didn’t understand what was going on and neither AJ nor Nick was speaking coherently.
All of a sudden, Lucas came charging towards them waving his arms. “She didn’t die! She’s in the ICU! They’re trying to figure out how much damage has been done!”
AJ looked up and his heart stopped. She’s alive?
Denise and Brooke were still waiting in the waiting room when AJ came rushing back into the ER followed by the other five men.
AJ dropped into the chair next to his mother asking a barrage of questions.
“She’s ok? What happened? Who did this? Did they find them? Where did they find her?” he asked frantically.
“AJ, honey, slow down. I can’t answer everything at once!” Denise tried to calm her son down so she could explain. She asked the others to sit so that they could all talk.
“They’re not sure what happened. I took Brooke home to see if Alissa was there…”
“Was she?” AJ cut his mother off.
“No, she wasn’t. I got Brooke settled and I heard pounding on the door. I ran to open it and I saw a car peeling out of the driveway. When I turned to go in..” Denise choked up, “I saw Alissa lying in the driveway. I ran over to check her pulse and she was alive but barely.” Denise finally got it out and started to cry.
All eight of them sat there saying nothing. No one knew what to say.
Up in the ICU, Alissa lay in the bed hooked up to all these machines. She looked so small and fragile in the bed and the nurse teared up just looking at her. The nurse was still in there when the doctor came in to check on his patient.
“Nurse, can I see you for a second?” he asked and pulled her out into the hallway. “She has family down in the ER waiting room but I don’t want anyone in here disturbing her. Please let them know that they can come back tomorrow morning and see her.”
Brooke came back down from the ICU crying.
AJ jumped up. “What’s the matter? What happened?”
Brooke sat down next to Denise again and told them what she had found out. “She’s lying up there strapped to so many machines. She looks like a broken doll just lying there.” Brooke started crying again.
“Can we see her?” Lucas asked.
“No. I spoke to the nurse who told me that the doctor said no one could see her until the morning. She told me to go home and get some sleep because there was nothing else we could do for now.”
Brooke slumped into the chair, paused for a minute and then starting speaking again. “I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to leave her here all by herself. What is she wakes up and no one’s here?” Brooke broke down sobbing again and Lucas went to sit with her.
Denise spoke up and suggested that everyone go home. “The doctor said he doesn’t think she’s going to wake up right away. We should go home and get some sleep so we can be back here early in case she does.”
Everyone but Brooke and AJ agreed. Neither one of them wanted to leave her and nothing anyone had to say was going to change their minds.
AJ looked at his mother, thanked her and told her and the guys to go home. Denise asked him again to go home and he said, “No, I don’t care if I have to sleep in my truck, I’m not leaving her here by herself.”
Denise and Lucas gave in knowing there was nothing else they could do and asked Brooke or AJ to call them if there was any change in her condition. After they left, Brooke and AJ settled into what would surely be a long night.
Alissa couldn’t move or open her eyes. She wanted to scream out for someone to help but couldn’t get her voice to work. The nurse in the room with her saw the machines start to beep and her body start to contort and called the doctor in. He gave her something to calm her and her body reacted to the medication by becoming still again. All Alissa could think of as she faded back away was that she hoped she was somewhere safe.
Brooke sat by Alissa’s bed three days later praying that her cousin would wake up. She tried talking to her, pleading with her, praying to God and anyone else who could help her cousin. She was so tired and afraid that her cousin would never wake up.
AJ came into the room with two cups of coffee and asked if there was any change in her condition. Brooke shook her head no and her eyes filled with tears.
AJ sighed. “Why don’t you go home and get some sleep? I’ll stay and I promise not to leave her for a second.”
“No.” Brooke said weakly. “She needs to see someone when she wakes up. She needs someone here who cares about her.”
AJ was stunned. He stood there, furious that he was going to have this argument with Brooke again. “You don’t think I care about her?” he said angrily.
Brooke didn’t want to fight with AJ anymore. “Look, I appreciate the fact that you sit here every day with me but you don’t have to sit here because you feel bad for her or for me. “
AJ just glared at her.
“I don’t feel bad for her and I definitely don’t feel bad for you! You barely know me. How can you sit there and tell me that I don’t care about her?”
“How can you sit here and tell me you do care about her? You’ve known her for what, like 3 months? How much time have you actually spent together during that time? A day, an afternoon? You have no right saying you care about her when you barely know her!” Brooke’s voice started to rise and the nurse came in to see what was going on.
“Please don’t fight in here around her. We don’t know if she can hear you or not, but if she can, she doesn’t need to be listening to you argue. If you two cannot get along, one of you will have to leave. Do you both understand me?” the nurse said sternly, looking from Brooke to AJ back again.
As the nurse left, Brooke turned to AJ. “Please do me a favor and leave. Go home and really think about how you feel. Give it a day and then if you still feel like you care about her, then you can come back and maybe I’ll believe you.” she said quietly and then turned back around.
Seething, AJ walked over to Brooke and started to say something and then decided not to. He thought about what the nurse had said and he didn’t want his argument with her cousin to hurt Alissa in any way. He picked up his jacket, turned, walked out of the room and out of the hospital.
Lucas came by about an hour later and asked Brooke where AJ went. He was curious because AJ had barely left Alissa’s room for a minute over the course of the last 3 days.
“I sent him home.” Brooke said quietly.
“You did what?” Lucas said.
“He was fighting with me again and the nurse came in and yelled at us. He tried to tell me that he cares about my cousin. Can you believe that?” Brooke said getting agitated again.
Lucas thought carefully before he opened his mouth to speak again. “Believe him? Honestly Brooke, I can’t believe you.”
Brooke turned around and glared at him. “Excuse me?”
“Look, I love you but I have to be honest with you. You’ve been a witch to him and I can’t believe the way you’re acting.”
“What? You’re on his side?”
“No Brooke, I’m on your side.” Lucas sighed. “The problem is that the only side we should be on is Alissa’s. She needs everyone who cares about her around her. Whether you believe him or not, AJ seems to really care about your cousin. He was devastated when she left and I swear I saw his heart break when he thought that she didn’t make it the other night. I think you need to start thinking about what’s best for your cousin and not what’s right for you.” Lucas kissed her on the cheek. “Think about it for a little while.” And then he left.
Brooke was floored. Lucas had never spoken to her like that before. She was about to call him back and give her a piece of her mind when she noticed her cousin’s eyes start to flutter open.
“Nurse!” Brooke yelled!
AJ stormed into his mother’s house.
“She’s a bitch!” AJ yelled.
“AJ, watch your language!” Denise sighed “Let me guess. You two had another argument at the hospital.”
“She started with me! She said that I couldn’t possibly care about her cousin. How does she know that? She doesn’t even fucking know me!”
Denise waited for a minute to let AJ calm down. “Sit down AJ. I have something to say to you.” Denise pointed at the chair across the table.
“What you do you need to say?”
“I think you’re wrong about this.”
“What!” AJ jumped up and knocked over the chair. “Me? I’m wrong? You’re my mother; you’re supposed to be on my side!”
“Sit down!” his mother yelled.
AJ, shocked to hear his mother raise her voice like that, sat down and waited for her to say something.
“You’re my son and I am always on your side. But right now, this isn’t about sides. It’s about a girl that’s lying in a hospital bed because someone hurt her badly. I know you care about her and I’d be willing to bet that you care more about her than you’d like to admit.” She paused for a minute. “But you have to realize that this isn’t about you or Brooke or a stupid argument that you two insist on continuing. This is about Alissa. You both need to be there for her. She’s going to wake up and get through this, but she’s going to need everyone’s help. You two need to grow up, put aside your differences and be there for Alissa.”
AJ sat there for a moment and was about to complain about Brooke again when his phone rang. He picked it up and before he could say hello, he heard Brooke say that he needed to get back to the hospital. Alissa had woken up.
AJ raced up to the third floor and came flying around the corner, almost knocking Brooke over.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Her eyes started to flutter open about an hour after you left and then she opened them completely. I yelled for the doctor and he’s in there now. We can’t go back in until they’re done examining her.”
AJ’s heart beat faster. “Did she say anything?”
“No, they are removing the tube from her throat and the doctor said it may take an hour or two before she can talk.”
AJ was about to say something else, but was cut off by the doctor who was coming out of Alissa’s room. Brooke and AJ raced over to him and asked if she was ok.
“She’s fine, well as fine as she can be. Her throat is going to bother her for a while and she seems very skittish. I talked to the nurse and she said that you both have been arguing in your cousin’s room every day. I will permit you to see her if you can both behave and be cordial to one another. Can you do that?”
Brooke and AJ looked at each other and silently agreed to stay civil. They both nodded at the doctor.
“Fine, then you can go in but you can’t stay very long. I want her to get some rest.”
Brooke and AJ ran over to Alissa’s room and Brooke beat him in. They were startled by what they saw in front of them.
Alissa was sitting there looking at the bruises all over her body with a terrified look on her face. She was crying when she looked up and saw both of them standing there. She tried to talk but she only managed to squeak out one word. “Adam.”
AJ raced out of the hospital and called Marcus to tell him to meet him as his house. He got there in twenty minutes and Marcus was already waiting for him.
“J, what’s wrong man?” Marcus said, grabbing him by the shoulders.
“I want you to find someone for me!” AJ demanded.
“J, I did that once before and look how that turned out.” Marcus shook his head. “Why do we have to find someone else?”
AJ explained the whole situation to Marcus and after he finished, Marcus picked up the phone and called a friend. Ten minutes later, they had what they needed and were on their way.
Brooke turned to watch AJ dash off and she knew she was right. He didn’t care about her cousin. He took one look at her broken, bruised body and took off. Damn him!
AJ and Marcus pulled up to the motel room and knocked on the door of Room 112. When the door opened, AJ charged in grabbing Adam by the throat and throwing him against the wall.
“I’m going to kill you!” he screamed at Adam as Marcus shut the door.
Brooke did the best she could do to calm her cousin down and explain what happened. Alissa continued to cry and just kept looking at all her bruises. She started to remember exactly what happened.
“I have to talk to the police.” Alissa whispered to her cousin.
“Are you sure you’re up for that right now? You’ve been unconscious for three days and you just woke up a few hours ago.”
“I need to do it now.” Alissa said. Brooke called the officer on duty and they said that they would send someone over to the hospital to get her statement.
“J, you’ve got to stop! Now! You’re going to kill him!” Marcus grabbed AJ by the waist and spun him around so he was no longer in from of Adam who is in a ball on the floor.
“I know! That’s the point of this!” AJ screamed.
“No! You did want you came here to do and now we need to leave.” Marcus said firmly. He then turned to Adam and made it clear that if he reported any of this to the police, someone would be coming back to finish the job.
Marcus dragged AJ out of the room, threw him into the passenger side of the truck and took off.
“Where are you going Marcus? The hospital is the other way!”
Marcus shook his head. “You need to go home and clean up before you go see that girl again. You’re a mess and you can’t afford to scare her any more than she already is!”
The police finished taking Alissa’s statement and informed her that they were heading to check all the area motels to see if they could find Adam.
Alissa cried for a while after they left and all Brooke could do was hold her hand and try to reassure her that she would be fine.
“Please don’t leave me here alone. Promise me you’ll stay here.” Alissa pleaded with her cousin.
“Of course I’ll stay with you!” Brooke said. “I’m not going to leave you here by yourself.
After a few minutes, Alissa stopped crying and it seemed as though she had fallen asleep. Brooke leaned her head back in the chair and thought about dozing off for a little bit when she heard her cousin ask her one other thing.
“I saw AJ behind you and I saw him leave. He’s not coming back is he?” Alissa said and turned over on her side without waiting for Brooke’s response. She didn’t really need one, she already knew from the look on his face that she was right.
Marcus dropped AJ off at the hospital after he had showered and changed his clothes.
“Do you want me to come in with you?” Marcus asked.
“No,” AJ said. “I’ll be fine. I just want to see her.”
“Alright. Call me as soon as you know anything ok?”
“I will. And thanks Marcus. I would have killed him if it weren’t for you.”
Marcus smiled. “That’s what I’m here for. Get up stairs and hug that girl!”
When AJ got to Alissa’s room, he noticed that the lights were off and Brooke was sound asleep in the chair. AJ assumed that Alissa was asleep too but he crept in anyway. He decided to take a seat on the other side of the bed and just wait for her to wake up.
He had been there for an hour and had just started to doze off when Brooke woke up and jumped because she hadn’t heard him come in.
“What are you doing here?” Brooke hissed quietly. “You left, remember. You took one look at my cousin and bolted for the nearest exit. I told you that you didn’t care about her like you thought you did. I think you should just leave and don’t bother my cousin again!”
AJ had had enough of all the arguments and fighting. He asked Brooke to come into the hallway with him and she reluctantly agreed.
AJ looked her straight in the eye. “Why don’t you stop judging me! Do you want to know why I left, where I went? I went to find that fucking asshole that did this to her!”
Brooke was shocked and could barely look at him.
“I found him and almost killed him. Marcus needed to pull me away. I can tell you for a fact that he won’t be coming back for Alissa. He knows what will happen if he does.”
AJ started to tell Brooke again how much he cared for Alissa when they heard a scream coming from her room. Both of them bolted in and found Alissa sitting up in bed, sobbing.
Brooke climbed onto the bed to hug her cousin. “Shhhh…..It’ll be ok. You’re fine, you’re with us and we’re not going to let anything happen to you.”
Alissa looked up at her cousin. “Us?” she asked.
“Yup.” Brooke pointed at AJ.
Alissa looked over and AJ was standing in the doorway.
“You came back.”
AJ walked over the bed and sat down in the chair. “Of course I did. I wanted to see you, to make sure you were ok.” AJ said and reached out for her hand.
Alissa slipped her hand into his and started to tear up.
AJ looked at her and he hurt for her. It broke his heart to see her so upset and scared.
“I’m not going anywhere. I promise. I will be here until you leave and I won’t let you be by yourself.” He whispered. “Try to lay back and get some rest. I promise to stay.”
Alissa smiled faintly. “I know you have better things to do than stick around the hospital for me. Are you sure you can stay?”
AJ smiled back. “There is nowhere else I want to be.”
A few days later, Alissa was discharged from the hospital. Brooke and AJ had both come by to get her.
Alissa looked over at them and smiled. “You two are finally getting along.”
Brooke looked over at AJ and winked. “I guess I can put up with him for a while.”
AJ smiled. “Thanks Brooke. You and I can hug later.” AJ rolled his eyes. “But all I want to do right now is get your cousin home.”
AJ went over and helped Alissa off the bed and made her get into the wheelchair so he could bring her out to the truck.
“I can walk by myself you know.”
“I know you can but its hospital rules. Sit back and enjoy the ride.” AJ winked at her and brought her downstairs.
While AJ was getting Alissa settled into the truck, Brooke called Lucas to let him know that they were leaving to go home.
“Is everything ready?”
Alissa walked into Brooke’s house and right into the arms of Denise. Kevin, Kristen, Howie, Leigh, Brian, Leighanne and Nick all rushed over to say hello and tell her how glad they were that she had made it through ok.
Everyone stayed for a little while, eating, laughing and getting to know Alissa and her family. Everybody liked her and she thought that everyone in AJ’s life was really sweet and welcoming. She was finally able to relax a little bit when Nick asked if he could talk to her outside.
Once they got settled on the loungers, Nick apologized.
“I’m so sorry about the misunderstanding and attacking you like that. I was a complete asshole and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to talk to me again. I just had to apologize and make sure that you understand that J had nothing to do with this.”
“Thank you Nick and I do get it. I don’t appreciate the way you treated me but I understand why you acted that way. I just wish we had met on better terms.” She stuck her hand out. “Let’s try this again. Nice to meet you.”
Nick smiled and shook her hand and then gave her a hug. She seemed like a genuine person and he felt like such a dumbass for behaving the way he did.
AJ smiled as he watched Nick and Alissa talk out on the patio. He was glad that everyone could get along for her sake. The fighting and arguing would have to stop. She needed all of them and AJ would do anything he could for her. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t hear his mother come up behind him.
“Hi sweetheart. How are you?” Denise asked as she followed his gaze and saw Nick and Alissa talking. “I know Nick wanted to apologize but don’t you think you should get out there before he starts hitting on her.” she said laughing.
AJ turned towards her with a smile on his face that she hadn’t seen in months. In fact, she hadn’t seen it since the day AJ had met up with Alissa on the street.
“You’re right. I should probably go out before she starts thinking he’s a better catch.” he teased his mother and let himself out the slider door.
“Hey Nicky, stop keeping Alissa all to yourself! The rest of us would like to see her too!” AJ yelled.
“No way! I’m the only important one around here! Who do you think you are?” Nick yelled back.
AJ jumped over one of the chairs putting Nick in a headlock. “Oh yeah, you’re really important.” AJ rolled his eyes. “Get back in the house!”
Nick wrangled himself out of the headlock and turned to Alissa. “You sure you want me to leave you here with him. He doesn’t behave real well!”
Alissa laughed. “Thanks Nick, but I think I’ll be fine.” She looked into the house and saw everyone starting to leave. “You’d better get in there before Brian leaves without you!”
Nick took off yelling “Wait for me!” into the house.
Both AJ and Alissa laughed watching him sprint into the house. Alissa leaned back onto the lounger and closed her eyes.
“Hey Alissa, you ok?”
“I’m fine, just tired.” she replied.
“Why don’t you go inside and go up to bed?” AJ asked.
“I will in a little while but I just want to sit out here for a bit. I’ve been cooped up in the hospital for way too long and I’m enjoying the fresh air. You can go back inside. I’m sure your mom is ready to head out.”
AJ thought for a second and then told Alissa he’d be back in a minute.
She had just started to doze off when she heard AJ come back outside.
“I thought you left.” Alissa said.
“What? There’s no way I’m leaving! I just told my mother goodbye and asked her to call me when she got home. You look like you’re about to fall asleep. Are you sure you don’t want to go back in?”
“No, I really just want to stay out here for a bit.”
“Ok, have it your way. But crawl over on that lounger. I’m not about to fall asleep in another chair!”
Alissa smiled and moved over to give AJ enough room to lay down. She started to shiver.
“Hey, come closer.” AJ said. “I won’t bite.” he teased her.
Alissa curled up closer to him burying her head into his shoulder. AJ wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the head. “Try and get some sleep Liss.” he whispered and both of them were asleep in a few minutes.
Brooke woke up and went down to the kitchen to make some breakfast. She laughed out loud when she saw the AJ and Alissa had fallen asleep in the lounger out by the pool. She had to admit that AJ had been great with her cousin the last few days, and even if she wouldn’t say it to him, she realized that he truly did care about Alissa.
Brooke finished brewing the coffee and took two mugs out to the lovebirds.
“Hey lazybones!” Brooke said kicking AJ’s shoe with her foot. “Time to get up!”
AJ and Alissa woke up with such a start that they bumped heads.
“Ow!” Alissa yelped.
“Damn girl, your head’s hard!” AJ yelled.
Alissa started laughing and AJ thought it was the best sound he’d ever heard. He smiled at Alissa and leaned down so they were forehead to forehead.
“I think your cousin would like us to vacate her lounger now.” AJ teased.
“What time is it?” Alissa asked Brooke.
“7! Why did you wake us up?” Alissa yelled crawling back into the lounger.
“Uh-uh.” Brooke said. “If you want to get some more sleep, get your butt up and go sleep in your own bed. Some of us want to sit out here and enjoy the day.”
“Fine, fine.” Alissa grouched. She got up, stretched and decided she would go back to bed and see if she could get a few more hours of sleep. She turned to AJ and smiled.
“You should probably go home and change. Aren’t you supposed to meet the guys for a meeting with your label?”
“Shit!” AJ jumped up. “I have to be there in a half an hour.” He ran up to Alissa, kissed her on the cheek, told her that he would be back in a few hours and ran around to the driveway. A few moments later, she heard his truck start and leave.
“Sooooooo…….” Brooke winked at her cousin. “Is someone getting a little interested?”
Alissa threw a pillow at her. “I don’t know.” She laughed. “We’ve only spent a few days together.”
Brooke laughed. “Well, you already slept together!” Brooke yelled and ran into the house as another pillow passed by her head.
Alissa just shook her head and started back to her room. She crawled into bed without changing and laid her head down on the pillow. Her last thought before she drifted back to sleep was that she missed AJ being there.
The guys met with management and the album would be ready in a few days. Everyone was excited to get a little down time before they had to start talking about the tour. Brian pulled AJ aside as everybody was leaving and asked him how Alissa was doing.
“She seemed ok when I left his morning, just a little tired.” AJ said.
“This morning huh?” Brian raised his eyebrow and laughed loudly causing the other three guys to turn around.
“Did I just hear you say this morning J?” Howie teased him.
“Damn J, you didn’t waste any time did you?” Nick said punching him in the shoulder.
“Would you morons get your minds out of the gutter? We slept in the lounger together, that was it!”
Kevin laughed. “Sorry J, but when it comes to you, that’s the first place our minds go!”
“Screw you!” AJ laughed. “Seriously guys, I need to leave. I promised Alissa I would back in a few hours and I need to keep that promise.”
“Alright, since it’s for Alissa. We’ll let it slide this time.” Brian said. “Tell her we all said hi.”
“Thanks guys.” AJ left to pick up his truck and head back to Alissa’s.
Brooke opened the door for AJ when he returned and told him that Alissa was still sleeping. She asked him if he would mind staying with her for a couple hours while she and Lucas ran some errands.
“Of course I will. Mind if I go upstairs?”
Brooke smiled. “No. She’d probably rather wake up to your face than mine!” she said and she and Lucas left.
AJ went up the stairs and knocked on the door of the guest room. Nobody answered so he went inside and found Alissa still sleeping. He crawled onto the bed next to her and whispered in her ear “Wake up Sleeping Beauty.”
Alissa screamed and smacked AJ in the head with her arm. She jumped out of bed, turned to face him, and narrowed her eyes at him. “Don’t ever do that again!”
AJ just sat there shocked. He had no idea what he did wrong and the last thing he wanted to do was scare her. He got up and came around to the other side of the bed where she was standing and put his arms around her.
“I’m so sorry Liss. I honestly didn’t mean to scare you. I was just hoping to get your attention.” he whispered. He could feel her still shaking and sat her back on the bed.
Alissa started to tear up.
“Liss, please tell me what I did wrong so I don’t do it again.” AJ said quietly sitting next to her.
Alissa started crying. “He called me Sleeping Beauty. He called me that right before he started hitting me again. Please don’t ever call me that again!” Her voice started to rise and she started shaking again.
AJ pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her tighter. “I promise NEVER to call you that again. I’m so sorry.” he whispered. He wished more than anything that he could take those last few minutes back. “I don’t want you to ever feel scared around me. I never want to do that to you.” He kissed her on the head.
Alissa started to calm down. “I’m sorry I hit you. I just heard those words and reacted.” she said and turned her head to look at AJ. “I know you didn’t know and that you didn’t do it on purpose.”
“It’s not your fault.” AJ said.
“I know but it’s not your fault either. You didn’t do that to me.” Alissa lay back down on the bed.
AJ crawled around to the other side and lay down. “Do you want to stay here or go out and do something?”
“I want to sleep for a little longer. Will you stay here with me?” She looked up at him with frightened eyes.
“Of course I will Liss.” AJ pulled her towards him and wrapped her up in his arms. “Try and go back to sleep. I’m not going anywhere.”
Alissa woke up an hour later and was startled when she felt someone’s arms around her. Then she realized that it was only AJ. She heard him snoring and moved his arm slightly so she could slip out without waking him.
As she got up, she turned to look at him. He looked so peaceful and she had to smile. She crept out of the room and downstairs. She made herself some coffee and went outside to sit on the lounger. She thought about earlier this morning when she had hit AJ. Alissa felt awful because she never told him what had happened and now she had taken it out on him.
She was so lost in thought that she didn’t hear Brooke come out until she tapped her on the shoulder.
Alissa jumped and screamed. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack? Why didn’t you say something?”
Brooke just stared at her cousin. “What is the matter with you?”
Alissa took a deep breath and teared up. “I’m sorry that I yelled at you. I did the same thing to AJ went he came upstairs this morning.”
“What happened upstairs?” Brooke asked quietly.
“I was sleeping and I didn’t hear him come in. He must have crawled into bed with me because all of a sudden, I heard him say “Wake up Sleeping Beauty” and I freaked out. I started yelling at him and I actually smacked him. I felt so bad when I saw the look on his face. He looked at me like he didn’t know who I was at all.”
Brooke looked confused. “What’s the problem with calling you Sleeping Beauty? It’s just a Disney character.”
“Adam called me that right before he beat me. When AJ called me that, all I heard was Adam’s voice in my head and it scared me to death. I thought he came back.” Alissa started to cry.
Brooke went over and sat by her cousin. “Did you tell AJ why you freaked out?”
Alissa nodded. “I did. He was so apologetic and it made me feel worse. I don’t want him to be walking around on eggshells around me and I don’t want him to feel like I’ll bite his head off every time I think of that night.”
“He’s not going to feel that way. Just explain things to him and get everything out on the table so there are no surprises next time. And I mean everything including how mean Adam was before AJ met you.”
Alissa thought about it for a minute. “What if AJ decides that he can’t deal with it. Or maybe he won’t want to deal with it. What if he thinks I’m a weak person and I deserved……..”
“Are you crazy?” Brooke yelled causing Alissa to jump. “Think you deserved it? Why on Earth would you even think that?”
“Adam said I deserved it, that I wasn’t worth it. Adam said he just kept me around until he found something better. What if AJ feels the same way?”
“Adam’s a fucking asshole and if AJ feels the same way, then he’s a fucking asshole too!”
AJ had woken up and went looking for Alissa. When he went down to the kitchen, he saw Alissa and Brooke talking outside and went to open the slider. He stopped the minute he heard what they were talking about. He listened while Alissa told Brooke what Adam had said to her. I should have killed him, he said to himself. He was going to head out to the girls when Alissa asked Brooke what would happen if he felt the same way. He closed the door and decided to wait up in Alissa’s room for her to come back.
Alissa went back up to her room a few minutes later and found AJ lying on the bed.
“Hey, sorry I left. I just couldn’t sleep.” she said lying down next to him.
“That’s alright. My snoring was probably driving you nuts.” AJ said with a smile. “I was thinking that we still haven’t been able to finish that walk and I hoping that maybe we could do that today. Are you up for it?”
“I would love to.” Alissa said. “Let me just shower and change and I’ll meet you downstairs ok.”
“Sure. Don’t take too long.” AJ said and kissed her on her forehead.
AJ found Brooke sitting in the kitchen when he went downstairs and he decided to talk to her without Alissa being there.
“Hey, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I heard what you and Alissa were talking about this morning. What’s going on?” AJ asked.
Brooke sighed and decided that she would tell AJ everything. It’s wasn’t her business but she was afraid that Alissa might chicken out of telling AJ the truth and it would just make things worse.
“Adam was the biggest scumbag ever. He made my cousin feel like she wasn’t worth anything and he always told her that she was never going to be with anyone that wouldn’t want to use her for a punching bag. He hit her a lot but tried to do it where the bruises would stay hidden. Alissa wouldn’t even go clothes shopping with me because she was ashamed about it.”
AJ started to seethe. “I knew I should have killed him!”
“No, you shouldn’t have. What would happen if you wound up in jail? Did you ever think about that? About how it would affect Alissa? I know you want to protect her but I think you can do a better job protecting her out here instead of from a jail cell.” Brooke said.
AJ nodded. “I also heard her tell you that she was afraid that I would feel the same way.”
Brooke looked AJ right in the eye. “Yes, she did but I don’t believe that you will and I hope I’m not wrong about that.”
“I would never lay a hand on your cousin ever! I care about her and I just want to take care of her and protect her.” AJ said. Then he whispered, “I love her.”
Brooke smiled. “How come it took you so long to admit it?”
AJ smiled back. “I don’t know. I should have done it a long time ago. I loved her before I even met her. I loved her because of that stupid card.”
Brooke looked confused. “What card?”
AJ was surprised she didn’t know. He explained everything that happened and how he wound up hunting Alissa down that night at the restaurant.
“Wow. I didn’t know anything about that card. She never mentioned it. Alissa has always been private about that kind of stuff. If she sent you guys those cards, than she meant everything she said. She doesn’t take that stuff lightly.”
“I figured she didn’t.” AJ said. “I should have told her that I loved her a long time ago. I’ve wasted way too much time.”
Brooke smiled. “How about we set up something for tonight so you don’t waste any more time?”
Brooke and Lucas started getting things together as soon as AJ and her cousin left.
“I want this night to be perfect for them.” Brooke said arranging the furniture in the living room. She pushed the chairs out of the way and set up a little table with the flowers and candles AJ had sent over.
“Are you going to light those now?” Lucas asked nervously.
“No you idiot.” Brooke laughed. “AJ can do that when he brings Alissa home. Let me just set up the food and then we can go. Do you mind staying at the hotel tonight? I want them to have some time to themselves.”
Lucas pulled Brooke into a hug. “Not at all. It’ll be nice for us to have some time to ourselves too.” He smiled and kissed her.
Alissa and AJ headed down to the beach and spent a few hours just walking and talking. They had stopped to take off their shoes and roll their pants up so they could get a little closer to the water.
“It’s so beautiful out here today. The weather is perfect and I get to spend some time with you.” Alissa said as she reached for AJ’s hand.
AJ took her hand, pulled her close and wrapped his arm around her waist. “We finally get to do something just the two of us.” He kissed her on the top of her head. “Feel like having dinner with me tonight?”
“Hmmmm.” Alissa thought out loud. “I might be able to squeeze you into my busy schedule.” She laughed, pulling out of AJ’s embrace and took off running down the beach.
“Get back here!” AJ laughed and took off after her. He caught up to her and swooped her up in his arms. He brought her to the water’s edge and waded in a few steps. “I hope you plan on saying yes because otherwise, I’m going to drop you right here.” He lowered her a little so she could feel the spray of the water.
Alissa started to laugh and wiggle out of his arms. When he tightened his hold, she giggled and told him that she would accept the dinner invitation.
“Good.” AJ said and put her down. He backed up a little and bent down to grab some water to splash on her but Alissa was too fast for him. She caught him off guard and pushed him so that he fell into the water.
AJ just stared at her as she laughed and ran back to the water’s edge. She was so beautiful! If getting himself soaked brought that much happiness out of her, he would gladly sit there all day. He loved seeing her happy.
Alissa watched him sitting there on his ass, dripping water from head to toe.
“That’s a nice look on you Mr. McLean! Maybe you should try it more often.”
She started to laugh again but suddenly noticed that AJ looked like he was in pain. She ran over to him and started to apologize for pushing him down. All of a sudden, he jumped up knocking her into the water and then fell in next to her.
“I hate you!” she screeched. “That’s so not fair. I thought that I hurt you!”
AJ was laughing too hard to talk.
“You’re a jerk! Maybe I won’t have dinner with you!” Alissa yelled with a smile on her face.
AJ got his laughing under control and turned to face her. “Can’t back out now!” he said standing up and reaching out a hand to help her get up. “Let’s go slow poke.”
Alissa reached out for his hand and he helped pull her out of the water. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he told her that they were going to have to go by his place before dinner so he could change.
About an hour later, they pulled up to Brooke’s house. Alissa noticed that the house looked dark and her cousin’s car wasn’t there.
“Wonder where they went?” Alissa asked, heading into the foyer. “Why don’t you go sit while I run up and change? Then we can head out.” She pushed him into the kitchen and ran upstairs to change.
AJ went to check out the living room. Brooke and Lucas had done an awesome job, everything was perfect. He lit the candles, checked on the food and turn on the music.
“Are you ready to……” Alissa stopped suddenly went she entered the living room. “What’s going on?” she said quietly.
“I want us to have a special night together. We haven’t had any time to ourselves, except for our walk today.” He waited as she looked around. “Do you like it?”
Alissa smiled and reached out for AJ. “I love it! Thank you for doing this for me.”
“I did it for us.” AJ said. “Can I have this dance?”
Without waiting for an answer, AJ pulled Alissa into him and wrapped his arms around her tightly. He started singing softly into her ear.
Alissa suddenly recognized the song. “How did you know what my favorite song was?”
“Your cousin.” He whispered and continued singing “More Than That” to Alissa.
Alissa smiled and nuzzled her head into AJ’s shoulder.
When the song finally ended, AJ pulled Alissa over to the couch and sat her down.
“I played that song for two reasons. The first is that I know it’s your favorite. But the second is much more important. I overhead your conversation with Brooke this morning.”
Alissa started to interrupt.
“Wait, please, let me finish talking. I know you’re afraid that I’ll do what Adam did or feel the way he felt, but you never have to be afraid of that. I’m never going to feel like that. I’m not going to say anything to you and take it back. Ever. All I’m ever going to want to do is take care of you and protect you.” AJ paused. “You need to know something else. I love you.”
Alissa just sat there not knowing what to say. No one had ever said anything like that to her.
“I love you Alissa and I can’t imagine loving anyone else as much as you.” AJ said and waited.
Alissa just looked at him.
AJ started to worry that maybe he said too much and was scaring her when she put her hand on his face and whispered “I love you too. I’ve loved you since the day you stood up for me and I saw the person that I always thought you’d be like.”
She leaned forward and kissed him gently. When she pulled back, she saw that he looked surprised. She waited for a minute and when he still didn’t say anything, she smiled and said “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you speechless.”
She was about to say something else when he reached over, put his hand on the back of her head and pulled her close. He kissed her gently and when she didn’t push back, he kissed her harder and whispered “Why don’t we just skip dinner?”
Alissa awoke the next morning to find AJ in bed next to her with his arm wrapped around her waist. She replayed the night before over and over again in her head. She couldn’t remember a time when she’d been this happy. She curled into AJ and felt him reach over and run his hand over her face.
“I love you Liss.” he said and kissed her. “I hope you’re not going to get tired of me saying because I have a lot of time to make up for.”
She kissed him back. “Never.” she smiled. “I love you too AJ.”
She felt him pull her closer, bury his head in her hair and they both fell back asleep.
Brooke and Lucas pulled in a little while later and found the two of them out back sitting near the pool.
“Hey guys! How was last night?” Brooke said stepping out to the lawn. “You didn’t destroy too much furniture did you?”
“Very funny!” Alissa yelled and punched her cousin in the shoulder.
“Ow! You must be feeling better if you can hit that hard.” Brooke laughed. “What are you up to today?”
“Actually,” AJ said, “I was thinking that we could head over to Brian’s house. He and Leighanne are having a barbecue and they invited all of you.”
Alissa looked over at him. “How come you didn’t mention that last night?”
“I had to make sure you didn’t throw me out after what I said. It would a shitty party if I brought a girl who told me to take a hike and stepped all over my heart!” AJ laughed. “Hey, watch it!” he said, ducking to avoid the pillow that Alissa swung at him.
Brooke smiled when she saw the two of them together. They looked so happy and she was glad that Alissa had finally found a guy that would be good to her. “What time do we have to be there?”
“In about an hour.”
Alissa jumped up, knocking AJ onto the ground. “Seriously? Thanks for the heads up.” She turned and ran into the house so she could change.
Fifteen minutes later, everyone piled into AJ’s truck and headed over to Brian’s.
Everyone was there by the time the group arrived. Leighanne called them over and told AJ and Lucas that the rest of the guys were downstairs playing video games. AJ kissed Alissa and the guys bolted towards the basement. Leighanne laughed and invited Alissa and Brooke to join the girls around the pool.
“It’s nice to see you guys again.” Leigh said, standing up to give the two women a hug. Kristen nodded in agreement.
“Thank you for having us. Are you sure it’s not too much trouble?” Alissa asked.
“Not at all. We’re thrilled to have you guys over and get to know you a little better. I just hope you don’t mind a bunch of little kids. Baylee has friends over and they love jumping around in the pool. This, by the way, means someone is getting soaked. We’re hoping it’s one of the boys this time!”
Alissa laughed. “I love kids. I used to teach back in Boston.”
“Why don’t you go back into it?” Leighanne asked.
“Actually, I interviewed at a daycare center the other day. I’m hoping that I get it because it would be great to be around kids again. It’s actually the only thing I miss about my old life.”
“I hope you get it then.” Kristen said and smiled as one of the kids ran up to the women and asked which one of them was coming in the pool.
“My mom said that I’m not allowed to go in the pool without an adult.” the little boy said.
“We’ll be right here Chris.” Leighanne replied.
Chris looked sternly at them and replied, “My mom says that the adult has to be IN the pool with us.”
The women laughed and were about to see who would draw the short straw when Alissa volunteered.
“If I’m going to get back into teacher mode, I suppose this would be the perfect time.” she laughed and went to change.
The women chatted until Alissa came back.
“Wish me luck.” she said looking over at the kids. “I think I’m going to need it.”
She was right. She had just dove into the pool when the kids surrounded her and started splashing her and asking for piggyback rides around the shallow end.
Brooke laughed. “I guess it didn’t take her long.”
Leighanne agreed. “Let’s see how long she can take it for!”
A few hours later the guys came out to join the girls and get dinner started. AJ looked around the group and noticed that Alissa was missing.
“Where’s Alissa?” AJ asked getting nervous.
The women burst into laughter and pointed over at the pool. Everyone looked over to see what was going on.
Alissa was in the pool surrounded by five little kids who were doing everything in their power to make sure she was as wet as possible. She was giggling and swam around to avoid the splashes.
AJ started to chuckle as he watched his girlfriend playing around with the kids and smiled at how happy and at ease she seemed. He called out to her and told her that they were going to have dinner in a few minutes.
Alissa grinned and nodded.
By the time dinner was served, she had herded all the kids out of the pool, made sure they all had towels and lead them back to the patio. She collapsed into a chair, exhausted but happy.
“Did you enjoy yourself? Think you’ll come back again?” Kevin laughed.
“I think so, but they gave me a run for my money out there!” Alissa said.
The group ate dinner and then Leighanne brought the kids inside to set them up with a video. She was back out fifteen minutes and walked over to Alissa and gave her a hug.
Alissa was surprised and asked Leighanne what is was for.
“I put the blankets out for the kids to watch the movie on, set it up and by the time I turned around, all five of them were sound asleep. I have never been able to get them to sleep before two videos have been watched. You must have the magic touch!”
AJ reached for Alissa’s hand and whispered “I agree” into her ear and kissed her.
“Will you two please get a room?” Nick yelled.
“Actually,” AJ laughed, “we’re heading out of here to do that right now!”
Alissa went inside to change while AJ, Brooke and Lucas said their goodbyes. When she came back outside, she thanked Brian and Leighanne for inviting them and gave everyone a hug. The group left and headed back to Brooke’s house.
Everyone was exhausted by the time they reached the house. Brooke and Lucas headed right up to bed and left AJ and Alissa in the living room.
“You probably have to head back to your house huh?” Alissa asked.
“Actually, I do.” AJ replied.
Alissa looked down knowing she would miss AJ being around tonight.
AJ noticed the look on her face. He walked over, put his finger under her chin and raised her face up so that he could look her in the eye.
“You know, you really need to wait for me to finish. I do have to head back but only because I want to be alone with you. I was hoping that you could grab some stuff and come with me.”
Alissa smiled and kissed him. “Give me five minutes.” and she raced up the stairs.
Alissa realized as they pulled in that she had never been to AJ’s home. She got a little nervous not knowing how it would feel being in some place that was strange to her.
AJ came around to open her door and carried her bag into the house. He dropped it in the hallway and gave Alissa a quick tour.
“Like it?” he asked heading back into the hallway to get her bag.
“It’s terrific. I love the pool in the back. I’ve always wanted one.”
AJ grinned. “Let me take you upstairs and finish the tour.”
He led her upstairs and showed her the office, the guest room and then his room.
She was surprised by his room. She wasn’t exactly sure what she expected but this wasn’t it. It was done in all blue and white with a slider that led out onto a balcony looking over the backyard and down to the ocean that seemed like it was only a few feet from his house.
She walked over, opened the door and stepped out onto the balcony. AJ followed, standing behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist. He leaned in, kissed her neck and asked if she like the view.
“It’s beautiful! I don’t know how anyone couldn’t like it.”
“I don’t usually give it much thought, but I definitely like the view tonight!”
Alissa elbowed him in the stomach.
“Hey! I’m just saying that this view is perfect.”
She turned around, kissed him and walked back into the room.
All AJ could think of as he followed her in was that the view was about to get much better.
The next couple of months were terrific for Alissa and AJ. She got to know his family and friends much better and became more comfortable around them. She had gotten the job at the daycare and worked Monday through Thursday. That left the nights and weekends free and they enjoyed the time together.
Alissa came home one afternoon and Brooke handed her a note.
“It’s from AJ. He wants you to pack some clothes and stuff. He has a surprise for you and he’ll be back in about an hour.”
Alissa slapped her cousin in the shoulder. “Thanks for minding my business for me! I have to go up, change and pack.” She started for the stairs when her cousin said she had packed for her already.
“You trying to get rid of me?”
Brooke laughed. “No, but I know how long it takes you to pack.”
“Ha, ha, you’re such a comedian.” Alissa said with a smile and went to change.
AJ showed up as Alissa was finishing up. He kissed her and asked if she was ready to go.
“I am but where are we going?” she asked.
“It’s a surprise.” AJ winked and took her bag out to the car.
Alissa said goodbye to her cousin and met AJ by the truck. He opened the door for her, helped her in and then climbed into the driver’s seat. They started out and eventually, got onto the highway and heading up the coast.
“You’re still not going to tell me, are you?”
AJ laughed. “Absolutely not.” He reached for her hand and didn’t let go until they got to the cabin.
“Where are we? Are you planning to tell me since we’re already here?” Alissa laughed.
“We’re in Pacific Grove. I thought it was time to get away from everything and everyone for a while. Happy with the idea?”
“It’s perfect.” Alissa said. “But, from the look on your face though, I’m guessing we’re not going to do anything outside of these walls, are we?”
“Not a chance!” AJ said sweeping her off her feet and into the cabin.
A few hours later, they were lying on the floor in front of the fire place when AJ reached his hand under the couch and pulled out two boxes.
“What are these for?” Alissa asked.
“You.” he smiled. “Open this one first.” he said handing her the larger of the two.
She opened it up to find a key with a blue ribbon in it.
“It’s the key to my house. We spend all our time together and I thought we should make it official and move in together. What do you say?”
Alissa stared at it for a moment and smiled. “Can I move in when we get back?”
“Wow, you don’t waste any time.” he said running his hand through her hair. “Absolutely, as soon as we get back. I’ll call Brooke and ask her to get some boxes.”
He handed her the second box which was a little smaller.
AJ smiled and watched Alissa open the gift. Inside the box lay a gold necklace. It was two overlapping hearts connected by a diamond band. It had both their birthstones in it, aquamarine for her and garnet for him.
“Oh my god AJ! It’s beautiful!” Alissa cried.
“Not as beautiful as you Liss.” AJ whispered.” I know we’re going on tour soon but I wanted you to have something that represented us. We’re always going to be together even when we’re not in the same physical space. I want you to see this every day and know I’m with you.” He leaned in and kissed her.
Alissa kissed him back, pushing him back onto the floor. The conversation was over for the rest of the night.
A couple of days later, AJ and Alissa headed back to get her stuff from Brooke’s house. It took them a few hours to get everything loaded into the cars and moved into AJ’s. A few minutes later, Denise showed up with food for everyone.
“Hi Denise!” Alissa said and ran over to help AJ’s mom with the take out.
“How are you sweetheart?” Denise asked and hugged her.
“I’m good. Happy to be here.”
“Well, AJ’s ecstatic to have you here. He was afraid that you might say no.”
“Why would he be nervous about that? He makes me so happy. Why wouldn’t I want to be around that all day?”
“Hey, hey, no gossiping around here.” AJ said hugging his mother and wrapping his arm around Alissa’s waist. “What’d you bring for dinner?”
“Chinese. Hope you guys are hungry.”
Everyone dug in and spent the next couple of hours telling stories and making jokes. Brooke and Lucas finally excused themselves and headed home. AJ offered to do the dishes, so Alissa and Denise decided to go out to the backyard and talk.
“I’m glad that we have a moment to ourselves. There’s something I’ve wanted to say to you for a while.” Denise said as both women got comfortable on the gliders.
Alissa looked like she was about to say something when Denise smiled and reached over for her hand.
Alissa was shocked. “Thank you for what? I haven’t done anything.”
“Yes you have honey. You’ve made my son incredibly happy. He’s got a joy about him that I have never seen. He found you and it’s made him feel comfortable in his own skin.”
Alissa started to cry. Denise leaned over and gave her a hug.
“I don’t mean to upset you. I just want you to know that as a mother, all I want for my son to be is happy. And he is. With you.” Denise smiled. “I also want to tell you that I hope you are happy with him. I know my son will do whatever it takes to keep a smile on your face and he loves you more than he’ll ever admit. You are his heart.”
Alissa hugged Denise. “Thank you. I promise to always take care of him, love him and keep his heart safe.”
“I know you will.”
AJ finished the dishes and looked out the window. He noticed that Alissa looked like she had been crying and he started to head outside.
“Hey, what’s going on over here?” he asked sitting next to Alissa. “You look upset.”
“It’s nothing. Your mom and I were just talking.” Alissa saw AJ look over to his mother. “It’s fine, nothing bad. It was a good talk, good tears.”
“I don’t like to see any tears. I want us to be happy here.” AJ replied.
“We are. I promise.” Alissa said and leaned over to kiss him.
Denise smiled and stood up. “I’m going to head out and give you two lovebirds some time together.” She turned to Alissa. “I know the boys leave for the tour next week and I think we should plan some girl time so that you don’t go insane without this one being around” she said and leaned down to kiss AJ on the head.
“Be careful going home Ma.”
“I will. Have fun tonight!’
Denise left and AJ and Alissa curled up together in the glider.
“Are you sure you’re ok Liss? It looked like a serious conversation.”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.” Alissa paused. “I want you to know something.”
AJ looked concerned. “What?”
“I love you. More than anything. You’ve made me the happiest woman on the planet and I just want you to know that I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you happy. I will always be here for you and I promise to love you forever.”
AJ didn’t know what to say. He leaned over and kissed her. “Let’s go back in.” He helped Alissa up and took her by the hand leading her into the house.
They spent the next few days with each other knowing that AJ would be leaving soon to go on tour with the boys. The night before they left, AJ planned a romantic evening for Alissa. He picked her up at work and drove her to the beach where they took their first walk.
“I remember the first day we spent together. I was so glad that we finally had all this crap behind us and we could just be ourselves and enjoy it.” AJ said taking Alissa’s hand.
They walked for a while without saying anything. Finally, AJ stopped her and pulled her into his arms.
“I love you.” he said leaning in to kiss her.
Alissa smiled. “I love you too AJ. I’m going to miss you more than you know when you leave. I wish you didn’t have to go.”
AJ looked sad. “Me too. But its three months and then I’ll be home after that. You know you can join me whenever you want, right?”
“I do. I just don’t want you to be working and for me to be a distraction.”
“You’d be the best kind of distraction. One I would welcome anytime.” he said, grinning at her.
“I promise to join you at least once a month. We’ll text and talk every day. Just think of what it will be like when you get home. You think we’re bad now!” Alissa said laughing.
“I can’t wait that long.” AJ said dragging her by the hand back to the car. “Let’s go home now!”
The next day, the guys headed to the airport with Alissa and their wives. Everyone was hugging each other and they finally announced the boarding of their flight.
AJ pulled Alissa tight and she started to tear up.
“Don’t cry Liss. I promise to call you as soon as we get there and every day while we’re gone. You already have your flight to join us in a couple of weeks, right?”
Alissa nodded and a tear slipped down her cheek.
“Come here.” AJ sat and hugged her tightly. “I love you so much and I can’t wait to see you in a couple of weeks.” he whispered into her hair. “I meant what I said. I want you to look at that necklace and remember that I am with you no matter where I go.”
They made the last boarding call for the plane and AJ kissed Alissa and told her that he loved her again.
“I love you too AJ!” Alissa pulled him in and kissed him fiercely. “I’ll see you soon!”
The guys were walking onto the plane when Brian pulled him aside.
“I knew this would be hard on you so I asked Leighanne to watch out for Alissa. She’ll make sure she’s ok especially today. The girls were planning on going back to the house to relax and I know that she’ll insist on Alissa being there.”
“No problem.” Brian said and the guys boarded the plane.
Leighanne asked Alissa to come back to the house and Alissa accepted, mostly because she didn’t want to be by herself.
A few weeks later, Alissa and Leighanne joined the guys on tour. Leigh and Kristen were going to come out the next week.
The ladies were driven from the airport by a car service that dropped them off at the hotel. Leighanne checked them in at the front desk and got their room cards.
“Let’s get upstairs before the boys get back. They should be getting out of sound check in a few minutes!”
Leighanne was right. Alissa had barely gotten into the room before she heard the guys in the hallway.
“What time does the plane land?” Nick asked.
“7. Alissa said she’d call after they got their bags and we can head over and pick them up. I’m glad that we don’t have a show until tomorrow night.” AJ said turning to open his room door.
“Me too!” said Nick. “I don’t think we’ll be able to pry you off her until tomorrow anyway!”
AJ threw his water bottle at Nick and laughed.
Alissa heard the door unlock and hid behind the bathroom door. She was glad that she had told AJ that they were coming in on a later flight. This way it would be a surprise for him. She waited for him to get settled and then came out.
“Boo!” she said laughing.
“What the fuck?” AJ yelled spinning around. He was so shocked to see Alissa there that he didn’t know what to say.
“That’s all I get? No hug, no….” Alissa was cut off when AJ kissed her and pulled her into an embrace so tightly that she thought she’d suffocate.
He kissed her for what seemed like an hour before he relaxed his grip. “How’d you get here?’
“A car service. We took an earlier fly to surprise you and Brian. I think it worked!” Alissa laughed.
AJ just watched her. He had missed that smile so much over the last few weeks. He’d seen it on their video chats but nothing was better than seeing it in person.
“Definitely! I was planning a romantic evening but I don’t have anything planned for the afternoon. You should have told me Liss!”
“We’re pretty creative. I think we can find something to do.” Alissa said. “Why don’t you go take a shower and I’ll wait for you out here.”
AJ pulled her tighter. “Uh-huh. I’m not spending one more minute by myself. You can join me!” he said picking her up and carrying her to the bathroom.
They spent the night holed up in the hotel room watching TV and talking. They had decided not to go to the restaurant and just order room service instead.
“I know that it’s not the most romantic thing, but I really just want to spend time with you by ourselves.” AJ said playing with Alissa’s hair as she curled up next to him.
“Not at all. I don’t care what we do as long as we’re together.” She smiled and kissed him.
“I still can’t believe you’re here. I’ve been waiting two weeks for this!”
Alissa laughed. “You’ve only been gone for two weeks!”
“I’m excited to see your show tomorrow night.”
“Well, you have great seats, stage right. I want you as close to me as possible.” AJ said.
“Just where I like to be. We should probably get to sleep. You have a long day tomorrow.”
AJ smiled, pulled her close and started to kiss her. She laughed and wiggled out of his grasp.
“I said sleep Mr. McLean!”
AJ looked at her with his puppy dog eyes.
“Nope, not going to work this time buddy!” Alissa said and turned around so that AJ was curled up behind her.
“Alright.” AJ grumbled into her neck. He pulled her close and wrapped her in his arms. He waited for a few minutes and then asked if she was asleep.
“Not yet.” she said half awake. “Why?”
“I just wanted to tell you I love you.” He paused for a second. “I’m so happy you’re here Liss. I missed you. All I’ve wanted in the last few weeks is to be able to sleep in the same bed with you and know that you’ll be here in the morning.” He pulled her a little tighter. “Sorry, if I hold you too close but I’m going to enjoy this as much as I can. Sweet dreams Liss. I love you.” AJ kissed her on her neck and buried his head into her neck.
“I love you too AJ.”
They both faded off to sleep a few minutes later.
Leighanne and Alissa decided to go shopping while the guys finished their sound checks. They stopped by a few clothing stores and then at a jewelry store.
“I’d really like to get AJ something that he can keep with him on tour. He’s always thoughtful and buying me gifts but I’ve never really given him anything.” Alissa said to Leighanne.
“You’ve already given him a present. You’ve given him his life back. I’ve never met a girl before that could keep up with AJ, much less keep him as happy as he’s been the last few months.”
“I appreciate that Leighanne. I know I’m not the type AJ usually goes for and I hope he won’t regret it.”
“He absolutely won’t. Like I said, I’ve never seen him be this happy.”
Alissa went over to one of the counters and noticed one particular necklace. It was one of the skull necklaces that AJ loved but it was in white gold and had a heart engraved onto the side of it. She called Leighanne over to ask her opinion.
“I think that would be great. Are you going to get it engraved?”
“I think so. I want to put “More Than That” on the back. Is it possible to do that?” Alissa asked the clerk.
“Absolutely. If you can come back in an hour, I can have that done for you.”
Alissa paid for the necklace and said she would be back in an hour.
The guys were getting ready to go onstage when Leighanne and Alissa showed up at the stadium.
“I thought you guys got lost or something.” AJ said pulling Alissa into a hug. He kissed her and brought her over to the seats she and Leighanne would have for the show. “I put you where I can keep an eye on you. I don’t want you running off with some other famous guy.” AJ winked, told her he loved her and kissed her again before they got into position for the show.
Alissa and Leighanne yelled for the guys as loudly as any of the other women in the stadium. Alissa remembered the concert that she and Brooke had attended back in California before the whole thing happened with Adam and the card. She was so much happier this time and she got to watch the man she loved do what he loved.
AJ and the guys were coming to the end of the show and before they did the next few songs, they agreed to let AJ speak.
“Hey everyone!” AJ yelled drowned out by all the screams. “I want to dedicate this song to someone special. I know it’s her favorite and every line is true. Here’s to you” and he pointed to Alissa on the side of the stage.
As the strains of “More Than That” started, Alissa sang along with the words knowing that AJ meant every single one of them.
After the show, AJ and Alissa declined the invitation to go out with the group. They decided to head back to the hotel and relax since Alissa’s flight would be leaving in the morning. They showered, changed and climbed into bed.
Alissa had her head on AJ’s chest and was running her hand up and down his side when she reached over him to get something out from underneath his pillow.
“Hey, watch it you! Are you trying to get things going? All you had to do was say so.” AJ said and started kissing her neck.
“AJ wait!” she giggled. “I want to give you something!”
“You don’t have to give me anything. You’re the best present I could ever get!” AJ smiled down at her. “You’re all I want.”
Alissa smiled. “That’s good to know. I still wanted to get you something though. I hope you like it.”
She handed the box to AJ opened it to find the necklace she’d picked out for him. He turned it over in his hands and read the inscription. He just stared at it.
“Do you not like it?” Alissa asked. Maybe she shouldn’t have gotten it.
AJ looked at Alissa and pulled her to him. “I absolutely love it!” He kissed her and tightened his embrace around her. “I love you Liss.” he whispered. “I love you and that’s never going to change.”
He kissed her again and they decided to make the most of the few hours they had left.
AJ took Alissa to the airport in the morning and they were both disappointed that she couldn’t stay longer.
“Are you sure you have to head back so soon?” AJ asked with a frown.
“Unfortunately, I do. I have to get back to work and I need to let you do the same thing. We barely left the hotel room since I got here. I think it would be awfully hard to do a concert from your hotel room!” Alissa laughed. “Although, I’m sure most of your fans wouldn’t mind it at all.”
He grinned. “You’re probably right. That’s an interesting idea. Maybe we could talk to management about it for the next tour…..”
“Wise ass!” Alissa said and elbowed him the stomach.
AJ laughed. “I’m just kidding. The only woman I want in my hotel room is you.”
He wrapped his arm around her waist and kissed her. The agent at the counter called Alissa’s row.
“That’s me. I have to get going.” she said with a tear running down her face. “I’ll see you again soon, ok?
“You will. I love you Liss and I’m always with you. Call me when you get home so I know that you’re safe ok?”
“I will. I love you!”
Alissa kissed AJ again and boarded the plane.
Alissa met AJ on tour again about a month later. They had the same kind of reunion as before and it was even more painful for her to leave this time. She tried to keep busy at work and they texted and video chatted as often as they could.
A few weeks later, AJ called on a Monday to tell her the tour was coming to a close. He would be back in a couple of days and would be flying in from Florida.
“Are you going to be waiting for me?” he asked with a smile.
“Only if I’m not having my nails or something done!” she replied with a grin.
“Wow, you really know how to hurt a guy don’t you!”
“Well that’s a stupid question. Where else would I be? My face is going to be the first thing you see when you step off that plane. You’ll be lucky if I don’t jump you right then and there!” she giggled.
“Now that could be interesting!”
“Don’t get all excited. I know how to behave in public. However, there are no guarantees when we get home!”
AJ laughed. “Alright, alright. My plane lands at 3:30pm on Wednesday. I’ll call you tomorrow night to make sure ok?”
‘You had better!”
“I will, I will.” he said. “I have to get going. We have a few more interviews to do before we’re done for the day.”
“Ok. I can’t wait to see AJ! I love you and miss you so much.”
“I love you and miss you too Liss. Just remember, once I’m back, I’m back for the long haul. You’d better make sure you like seeing this face all the time.”
“I promise to love to waking up to your face every morning and looking at it every night when I fall asleep. Have fun with the interviews and I love you AJ!”
“Love you too Liss!”
Denise came over that night for dinner.
“Hey sweetheart.” she said coming down the hall to the kitchen. “Can I help you with anything?”
Alissa hugged AJ’s mom and told her all she had to do was finish the salad.
“You can have a seat and keep me company.” Alissa said with a grin.
Denise smiled. Over the last few months, she had gotten to know Alissa quite well and had grown to love her. She was a wonderful woman who had a heart of gold and truly loved her son. There was nothing more that Denise could have wanted for AJ.
“I heard that the boys will be home soon.”
“Two days!” Alissa yelled. “Sorry, I’m just so excited to see AJ. I miss him being here and seeing him all the time. I’m looking forward to the break they’ll be getting.”
Denise laughed. “I can tell you’re excited. I have to tell you that someone else is just as excited. He called me today to let me know and you could literally hear that he was smiling from ear to ear.”
“Good!” Alissa said and announced that dinner was ready.
A few hours later, Denise left and Alissa was cleaning up the kitchen. She was about to head upstairs when she heard the doorbell ring.
“HI Denise……….” Alissa stopped midsentence. The person on the other side of the door was definitely not Denise.
The woman standing in front of her was about 25, tall and from the looks of it, about 6 months pregnant. There was something about her that looked familiar but Alissa couldn’t place it.
“Can I help you?” Alissa asked.
“I’m looking for AJ. Is he here?”
“Um, no, he’s not here right now. Is there something I can do for you?” Alissa waited for the woman to respond.
The woman pointed at Alissa’s necklace. “Nice necklace. AJ give it to you? He gave me this one.” and pointed to her chest.
Suddenly, it felt like the breath had been sucked out of Alissa’s body. That’s what was familiar. The woman had the same necklace with AJ’s birthstone and what Alissa assumed was the woman’s.
Alissa just stood there for what seemed like an eternity not knowing what to say.
The woman finally broke the silence by thrusting a paper into Alissa’s hands. “Here, give this to AJ. Tell him that it’s the answer to his question.” She turned and got into her car. She put it in reverse and sped out.
Alissa, still shaken, looked down at the paper in her hands. She opened it and all she saw before she started sobbing was the name of a DNA testing laboratory and the results that AJ was the father of this woman’s child.
The woman left Alissa standing there in the driveway and drove around the corner to meet the man who paid her to go over there.
“Hey, I did what you asked.” she said getting out of the car and pulling the fake bump out from underneath her shirt. “ You owe me $100.”
Adam smiled. “How’d she take it?”
The woman shrugged. “I saw her start crying as I left. I have to say, the necklace was a nice touch. She looked like she wanted to die when I pointed out that we had the same one.”
Adam paid the woman and smiled. He was remembering the day he saw AJ coming out of the jewelry store. He watched him leave and then went in and asked the clerk what he had been in to buy. The clerk wasn’t going to tell him but he said that he recognized AJ and figured whatever he bought would be something that his girlfriend would like. The woman explained it to him and he asked her if she could make another one.
“This girl must have really messed with your head. Is that all you need? I wanna head out if you don’t need anything else.”
“I’m all set. You just made my night.” Adam grinned to himself. AJ and that stupid bodyguard told him not to touch her again. Hey, I did what they asked he laughed.
AJ tried calling Alissa on Tuesday night but couldn’t get ahold of her. He called his mother and asked if she had talked to Alissa.
“Not today sweetheart. I had dinner with her last night. I know she had a busy day today, a few meetings and some last minute errands she wanted to get done. She probably fell asleep early. Do you want me to call her?”
“No, Ma. It’s alright. I just wanted to make sure she was picking me up tomorrow.”
“You know she will. She was doing a happy dance yesterday when I was over. She’s so excited that you’re coming home. She’s not going to miss a chance to greet you personally!”
AJ laughed. “You’re right. She’s probably asleep. I’m going to keep her up nights once I get home so I’ll let it slide tonight.”
“AJ!” his mother scolded.
“Just kidding! Try and get some sleep too Ma and I’ll call you tomorrow.
“Ok sweetheart. Love you.”
“Love you too Ma.”
This is the last chapter. Starting the sequel soon!
AJ and the guys arrived at the airport and there was still no sign of Alissa. Everyone was shocked that she wasn’t the first person to greet them.
AJ called Denise again. “Hey Ma, it’s me. I’m at the airport and Alissa’s not here. Is she with you?”
Denise started getting concerned. “No, she’s not with me. This isn’t like her, she wouldn’t leave you there.” She thought for a minute. “I’ll call Brooke and Lucas to see if she’s with them. Can you have one of the guys give you a ride back.”
Nick overhead the conversation and immediately volunteered to drive him. On the way back to AJ’s house, Brooke called AJ to tell him that she hadn’t talked to Alissa for two days. She and Lucas said they were going to meet AJ at his house.
Brooke, Lucas and Denise were waiting for AJ when he pulled into the driveway. They raced into the house calling Alissa’s name and getting no response. AJ and Lucas ran upstairs to check the bedroom while the others looked around downstairs.
He pulled open the door to their bedroom and noticed that the bed was made and didn’t look like it had been slept in at all. He went further into the room and noticed that the closet was open. All of Alissa’s stuff was gone!
AJ’s mind started reeling and he was looking for any clues when he heard Brooke scream his name from downstairs. Taking the steps two at a time, he flew around the corner and found Nick, Brooke and his mother standing there. His mother and Brooke were crying and Nick was shaking his head. AJ walked over to the island and was horrified at what he saw. There, laying on the counter, was his key, Alissa’s necklace and the letter that the mystery woman had brought over. AJ read it over and couldn’t believe what was happening. He heard someone in the room screaming Alissa’s name and he finally realized it was him.