I greeted Germany the next morning by immediately getting sick. I was so frustrated that I started crying. I had gone to bed early, hadn’t had a drop of alcohol, what gives? In a state of distress I made my way back to bed but couldn’t fall asleep again. Angrily I threw on some clothes with the idea of walking around Bamberg to start the long process of holiday shopping. I got out the door and halfway across the lot when a thought hit me like a truck. Every time I had been sick it had been in the morning. Like a morning sickness. I froze in mid-step and starting doing calculations in my head. We started the tour at the beginning of the month so that would have been my week three. So I was late. I was three freaking weeks late. But that sort of thing happens all the time. We've been traveling, a change of diet and exercise level, and I’ve definitely been under a lot of stress... all of those things could lead to being late. I started running to the end of the lot to the first person I saw. It was Q, one of the boys’ security guards
"Hey, do you know if there are any drugstores around?" I asked him quickly throwing on a smile to hide my panic. It must not have been too convincing because he gave me a funny look but nodded all the same
"Right around the corner. I just got these awesome German candies... ok bye!" Q yelled as I started sprinting. I skidded to the left when I crossed the street next to the lot and didn't see anything besides restaurants and bars. I had a minor panic attack before realizing Q had been pointing to the right. I raced across the lot to the right and saw a drug store. I ran in and got a look from the lady at the register but I didn't care. I hurried to the back of the store hoping it was laid out similarly to American drug stores. It was a frantic ten minutes of searching but I finally found what I was looking for. The directions were in German but the signs on the stick were easy to read - a plus or a minus. I could handle that. I grabbed the entire display's worth and threw them at the register. I didn't know what I had in the way of Euros but I grabbed the highest bill I could find and thrust it at the woman before running out with my bag of contraband. I ran into my bus and thanked God that everyone seemed to be out enjoying the day off in Germany before locking myself in the bathroom with my bag. I took a cup from next to the sink and began downing water as fast as I could. One, two, three cups and I sat on the closed toilet lid and waited for it to reach my bladder. Thoughts raced through my mind alternating from 'this can't be happening' to 'of course this is happening' and lastly 'I'm such an idiot' and finally my bladder indicated it was ready to test my fate. I ripped open all of the boxes and flung them around the room. I had ten in all. One by one I set them on the lip of the sink and waited. After ten minutes the first sign appeared.
"Shit" Was all I could manage as I watched the plus appear from the white window. I capped that test and then waited for the next.
"Holy crap" I capped it and waited another three minutes
"Mother fucker" For the third and forth. In near hysterics I capped the rest as they one by one joined the march of positive signs. I'd never be able to do addition calmly after this. I stuffed all the boxes in the trash, tied the bag and threw all the tests in my purse. I ran the bag out to the dumpster and made sure it was good and buried. Then I unearthed my phone from those obnoxiously cheerful little pink plus signs and pressed my speed dial number seven
"Hey bitch" Camie's voice drifted to me and for a minute I couldn't breathe let alone speak "Kat?"
"I need to get out of here. I need to do something stupid" I said and I heard Camie laugh a little
"You called the right girl" She said happily
Aj groaned and rolled over as his phone lit up and vibrated. Even after a full day off he was exhausted. It must have been the thousands of stores Missy dragged him to all day when all he had wanted to do was lay in bed and sulk.
"Going to pick that up?" Missy asked from her spot next to him
"Nope" He said and rolled back on his side. It vibrated again.
"Please?" Missy whined
"It's late it's not important" Aj yawned cursing whoever was disturbing a night where he could sleep in. Silence and then more vibrations
"Fine, I got it, what?" Aj asked grumpily picking up the phone without checking the ID
"I hate calling you right now but Nick thought you could help us" Mollee's voice drifted over the line and Aj groaned
"Do you know what time it is? I know I'm the scum of the Earth and everything but don't I deserve some rest?" He said sharply
"Damn it Aj I'm not happy about this but I need you to help me with Kat" Mollee said and Aj woke up a little more
"I thought she made it clear that she doesn't need anything from me anymore and you said something similar if I recall. What was it? That you were going to take care of things and I was no longer needed? You could handle it? Call her boyfriend" Aj spat
"SHUT UP" Mollee yelled and Aj could hear the distress in her voice "I haven't heard from her since rehearsal yesterday, she's not in her bed, all I know is she and Camie went out to this place and Nick won't let me go get her because he says it's not a good side of town for a young American girl at night but she's a young American girl and she's there so please just say you'll help? Nick thinks you might know this place or I wouldn't ask. You know I wouldn't ask unless you were my last hope"
"Where is she?" Aj asked seriously as he stood up and began to get dressed
"I can't even say this word I don't know German-" Mollee worried and Aj interrupted her
"Spell it" He said and as she got through the first few letters Aj's heart sank "It's ok I know where it is. I can't pretend that I'm happy at the idea of her being out there but I'll bring her home"
"Aj please. She's my sister you have to make sure she's safe. The last thing we did was fight. What if I never see her again and she thinks I hate her?" Mollee said and then broke down
"I'm going now. I'll call you when I have her" Aj said as he made his way out the door
"Where are you going?" Missy asked following him to the door of his bus
"Kat's in trouble and I have to go get her" Aj said without turning
"Why do you always go running to that bitch-" Missy started and Aj, more than a little worried, snapped
"Watch your fucking mouth" He growled as Missy took a step back and watched him race out to his rented SUV. Aj berated himself on the drive for remembering the exact location of the building that a little over a year ago had been his haunt if he wanted to score something in Germany. Guilt was an easier feeling to handle than the fear of what Kat and Camie could get themselves into with that crowd. Camie might know what she was doing, Aj had a feeling that she might have a problem with drugs as well as alcohol when he had that encounter with her back in Florida, but Kat for all her bluster about being brave and strong was still so naive. And if she was in trouble she probably wouldn't even fight back. She'd probably have a panic attack. What a guy could do to her in that state... Aj pressed down harder on the gas pedal.
"Kat look at that guy he's gorgeous" Camie whispered in my ear. I followed her gaze to another group of Americans, easily distinguishable by their English conversation, to a dark haired guy with a lip ring
"You know me. I love the bad boys" I giggled. I don't know what I'd been drinking but I felt like I was floating above the world. Everything blurred as I tried to focus on the guy in question and then I got distracted by the light reflecting off his piercing. It was blinding and white hot.
"Hey" He said inches from my face. Had I moved or had he? Camie was nowhere to be found. I wish time would stop moving like an accordion
"Hey" I slurred "You're pretty"
"Not as pretty as you" He said. The next moment I was grinding hard into him on the floor and he was kissing my neck which was the weirdest sensation. It was like I could feel every ball of saliva on his lips as my pores opened up to accept them. I could see my neurons flashing and glinting as they sent the message to my brain to feel good. Wait. How was I watching my neurons?
"What are you doing with my boyfriend, slut?" I heard from far away and then felt a red hot sensation on my cheek before hearing the sound of the slap. Finally my eyes caught up as I watched some chick pull back her hand
"Liz chill out" The guy said slowly and I smiled at him. Next thing I knew my hair was being pulled and I was on the floor. This sensation I didn't like. The room was all backwards from my spot on the floor and it lurched at odd angles
"Camie?" I called out but had some trouble as I tasted blood in my mouth and became fascinated by that instead. It tasted heavy. How did it taste heavy? I glanced up and time rearranged itself in time to see a stiletto collide with my side. I curled up only vaguely aware of the pain as I registered this horrible screaming. I wanted to tell whoever it was to shut up because my head was throbbing but when I pushed the message from my brain to my mouth to speak I found it was already occupied because the scream was coming from me
"KAT?" I heard from far away. I tried to crawl to the voice but it seemed to be coming from all directions as the room taunted me. I found myself in front of a bar stool and used it to stand slowly. When I turned I saw a bottle flying towards me and I closed my eyes, prepared for pain, but it never came. Instead I was looking into shiny black leather and I reached out in awe to touch it gently. The fabric slipped under me and suddenly I was moving without moving. Then I was sitting but still moving. Lights were rushing at my face and past my head and I reached out to touch them but I couldn't move fast enough
"Wait... slow down" I told the lights. If I can reach them then I can feel warm...
"No. We need to get the hell out of here. What were you thinking? What the HELL were you thinking?" Aj said much too quickly for me to sort through it all at once. After a few minutes I heard it all and then registered his presence. When did he get here?
"Aj?" I asked more confused than ever. Another light flew over my head and I missed it. Damn it "Can you help me get the light?"
"What? What light?" Aj asked as I tried and failed to catch other one. Aj turned on the light in the car but it made all the good lights go away and my eyes began to sting
"No no stop make that stop, STOP" I yelled and then the evil light vanished and everything was dull. I caught Aj's eyes in the reflection of the glass and then followed them to their counterparts "You have like six eyes and they are all the most beautiful brown"
"What the hell are you on?" Aj asked more to himself than to me
"The world. It's turning. I'm on it. I'm over it. I AM it" I said happily. But then the world stopped and I jerked forward. I looked around, confused again, and felt the world moving in a new rhythm. Up and down. Up and down. "You did it! You made the world go again"
"Get out of here" I heard above me and was shocked to find that Aj had grown at least six feet. His head was right above mine and we were on his bus
"Is that who I think it is? What the hell are you thinking bringing her here? No, take her to her bus and let’s go back to sleep" Missy whined and I remembered how very much I disliked her voice
"Your voice is like... mosquitoes and mushrooms" I said confidently. There. That'd show her.
"Hush Kat" Aj whispered to me and my eyes widened as his voice absorbed into every part of my being. Cool.
"Do you hear me? Get her out of here!" Missy yelled
"Missy she needs a place to stay with someone who knows how to deal with her. You can sleep in a hotel. I'll pay for it. Take my card" Aj said rummaging through his wallet and throwing a credit card at her. How was he holding me and doing that? He must have like sixteen hands. I tried to envision that and giggled
"If you think for a second that I'm going to leave you with your ex-" Missy started but Aj stopped her with his voice
"You have five seconds to get out before I throw you out" He growled. Missy looked like he had slapped her and she stormed off with his credit card. Suddenly I was on the carpet feeling all one million fibers holding me up
"This carpet is like… strong" I mused as Aj paced in front of me
"I can't believe she just left you in a foreign country and high for the first time. I'm going to murder that bitch. The next time I see her I'm going to fucking kill her" Aj ranted and I watched the trail his body left as he moved around the space and tried to trace it with my finger. Suddenly he was at my side "Kat I need you to focus for a second ok? Just focus on my eyes"
"Beautiful" I whispered as I zeroed in on all the different shades of brown and yellow flecks
"Do you remember what Camie gave you? Did you smoke something? Was it a pill?" Aj asked slowly and I followed the words as they floated up from his mouth
"I had a drink, just one. I'm like you now I don't drink. Well, just one" I reasoned and Aj shook his head
"Could have been anything. That's a fucking felony. I’ll kill her" Aj mumbled as he pressed his hand to my face "Come on let's get you to bed"
"Clouds!" I exclaimed sinking into soft white cotton candy as Aj pulled off my jacket and shoes. I tried to roll over but was lost in these clouds and suddenly they turned black and the world around me shifted "Wait I need to get out! I can't get out!"
"Get out of what?" Aj asked from next to me but he was drifting away because these clouds were a trick! It was quick sand and I was sinking
"Aj! Get me out!" I yelled but then I wasn't sure I had yelled "Did that just happen? Aj! Did that just happen?"
"Honey, take a deep breath" Aj cooed in my ear and I was in his arms and not sinking. Reality was mixing in my head and I didn't feel like me. I couldn't grasp what was actually happening
"Aj make it stop. It's enough. When will it be over?" I asked searching his eyes
"I don't know precious just breathe ok? You'll be fine. Whatever you took is probably messing with your anxiety but just keep breathing. You're not alone" Aj said quietly pushing a cold washcloth on my head. I felt a cool breeze rush over my body and shivered but I was so hot
"You're inside me" I whispered suddenly unsure of the power of my own voice
"You want me inside you?" Aj asked incredulously as I shook my head. This was important. I had to make time behave because this was important
"I don't know if I want it. But it's you. And it's me. Inside" I said seriously
"In your heart?" Aj asked tenderly but I shook my head
"My tummy" I giggled despite myself and rested my hand on my stomach
"You and I are in your tummy?" Aj asked and a small smile crept on his face "Can I hear us? Are we talking?"
"Not yet but soon" I said as Aj giggled at me
"You are crazy" He said "But it's better than you freaking out"
"I was freaking out. It's scary. We're young and not ready" I said and Aj looked puzzled again
"Young for what?" He asked and I tried my hardest to find the words to make him understand but the words kept running out from under me and I couldn't grab hold of them
"My purse!" I said quickly "The plus signs! I need them!"
"I grabbed your purse" Aj said still completely lost
"I need it! I need the plus signs! They’re for you!" I said quickly starting to panic again. If he didn't see that it was real he'd never understand!
"Ok calm down. It’s right here. What do you need?" Aj asked quietly as I took a deep breath and poured out the contents of the purse on the bed. The pregnancy tests, plus signs blinking like they were made from beams of the sun, stared up at the two of us and I heard Aj gasp
"See? It’s you and me!" I said happy that he finally understood. I took his hand and closed my eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
When I woke up again I was feeling really sick. I couldn’t tell if it was from the pregnancy or the drink or the drugs but I felt like death. I opened my eyes and saw Aj’s face. I registered vaguely that my head was resting in his lap and I was curled up in his comforter as I closed my eyes again
“You ok?” Aj asked quietly and I shook my head slowly
“I feel like crap” I mumbled leaning back into Aj’s waiting arms
“Are you with me for real this time?” He asked searching my eyes and I looked up at him in confusion
“What? I’m here with you” I tried to reason and Aj shook his head
“You’ve been kind of in and out for the past few hours sweetie. Sometimes you panic, sometimes you scream, sometimes you say really sweet things. You gave me this last time you woke up” He said showing me a scratch on his cheek
“Oh no, I don’t remember that, what happened?” I asked quietly
“It was my fault. You were flailing and I grabbed you the wrong way and I think you thought I was…him” Aj said and I nodded in understanding
“Well I think I’m awake now and I think I need to vomit” I said quietly and without a word Aj picked me up and brought me to the bathroom. He brushed my hair from my face, moved the comforter to a safer place closer to the door and lightly rubbed my back as my stomach emptied until my whole body was shaking
“I wish I had an idea of what you took so I could be of more help” Aj said as he re-wrapped me in the blanket
“I think this might be caused by the… well… you know” I said shyly. It was so impossible to say out loud. I was pregnant. I was having a baby
“I see. It’s normal to be sick like that?” Aj asked with concern and my heart warmed
“I think so, you know, morning sickness. Though I guess it’s not quite morning yet. For some people it lasts all day. So far I just throw up once or twice when I wake up and then I’m done” I explained as Aj nodded
“Do you think you’re done now?” Aj asked and I nodded so he picked me up carefully and brought me back to the bed. I snuggled into his chest and he took a deep breath
“So that all really happened, huh?” I asked to break the silence. I noticed the contents of my purse were still strewn about and I absently picked up a positive test that was lying close to my foot. I looked at that innocent little plus sign and my heart began to beat faster
“Yup” He answered while giving me a squeeze “I thought I was going to lose you there. Do you remember what happened?”
“All I remember is getting to the club with Camie, her handing me a drink assuring me that it would make me feel better and then you were there” I explained
“Well when I got there you were in the middle of a huge brawl. Apparently you hit on some big wig and his girl was not happy with you. Do you realize that bar is known for the reputations of its patrons? Drug dealers and criminals are about all they serve” Aj said as my stomach dropped
“I had no idea. I just needed to get out. All those tests came back positive and I freaked out and Camie had been talking about a club so I just let her take me there. I’m such an idiot” I said burying my head in my hands. I felt Aj’s fingers carefully pry them from my face before he tenderly kissed my palm
“Don’t beat yourself up about it. You didn’t know and you were scared” Aj said sweetly and a tear rolled down my cheek
“But what was I thinking going out to a place I’d never been in a country I’ve never been in and trusting that girl who is so out of control herself?” I started but Aj tried to stop me
“Stop Kat it’s not worth-”
“No. It was so dumb. I don’t have just me to think about anymore. I can’t run around like a little girl. I’m responsible for another life” I stopped short and those last words echoed in the room. Aj grabbed a tissue and attempted to wipe the tears from my eyes as they poured down my cheeks “Aj what are we going to do?”
“I don’t know precious but what I do know is you are not alone in this. I’m here for you and we will go over every option until we find what is best for us. I’m here Kat. You’re not alone” He said taking my chin in his hands so our eyes met
“You promise? You’ll help?” I asked weakly
“I promise” He said seriously and I took a deep breath
“Thank you” I whispered and rested my head on his chest again “I really don’t feel well”
“Do you need the bathroom?” Aj asked as he attempted to move me
“No. It’s nothing like that. Will you just… will you hold me for a little while?” I asked quietly as Aj gave me a sad smile
“You say the word Kat and I’ll never let you go” And he wrapped me up in a mess of blankets and arms and love and I fell asleep to the rhythm of his heart. When I woke up again it was to Aj’s ringtone. He picked it up quickly to silence it but the damage was already done.
“Who was it?” I asked groggily shifting my position in his arms
“Your sister, she’s been calling non-stop” Aj said before attempting to drop the phone on the floor
“She’s probably worried sick. Have you talked to her since you got me?” I asked
“Back when you fell asleep for the first time I told her you were fine but pretty messed up on something and that you were going to sleep it off here. That didn’t make her too happy”
“I can imagine. So you didn’t tell her about…” I trailed off still unable to come to terms with the words
“Do I look like I have a death wish? No I figure that conversation can happen between you and her when I’m at a safe distance. Like a few million miles away. I hear Jupiter is nice this time of year” He said with a smirk and I gave him a small laugh
“You sure you don’t want to let me hide behind you when I tell her?” I asked
“I’ll pass” He said as his phone began vibrating from the floor “Sorry I thought I shut it off”
“Let me see it” I said as a look of horror came over his face “I’m not going to tell her that but I should let her know that I’m ok”
“Are you up for that? I’m sure she hasn’t slept and it’s still really late and she was pretty worried and angry before…” Aj trailed off as I gulped
“I should do it. We share a few genes maybe that will keep her from ripping my head off?”
“That’s very wishful thinking. Alright it’s your decision. I’ll be right here if you need me” Aj said handing me the phone before wrapping me in his arms and pressing me protectively to his chest
“Hey” I said quietly and closed my eyes to brace myself for the impact
“What the hell is wrong with you?!” Mollee screamed and I held the phone away from my ear a little “Do you know how worried I was? What were you thinking going out with that bitch?! And not telling anyone where you were going? Well? What do you have to say for yourself?!”
“I’m waiting for you to give me a chance to speak” I said calmly and I could hear her fume
“Oh I’ll give you a chance to speak. I’m coming to get you right now” She started but I stopped her
“Mollee I’m staying here. Aj knows how to make me feel better and it’s the safest place for me. I know how you feel about him but you have to admit that it’s the healthiest choice if I’m going to be in working condition for the show” I explained slowly and Aj planted a soft kiss on my head for encouragement. There was a tense silence over the phone and then Mollee sighed
“You have to take better care of yourself” She started
“I know Molls”
“You cannot leave me here alone” She continued
“Molls, I know”
“You’re all I have left” She said quietly and I heard her sniff in an attempt to hold back tears. My heart dropped to the vicinity of my toes and a new wave of guilt washed over me
“I’m sorry Mollee. I really am. It was stupid and I wasn’t thinking. I’ll never do anything like this again. Are you alone?” I asked as Aj wiped a tear that had fallen for my sister’s pain off of my cheek
“No Nick and Josh are both here” She said and my heart throbbed painfully. Somehow in all the commotion I’d forgotten about Josh
“Ok. Good. When I come over to the bus to get my stuff for the show I’ll give you a big hug and you can punch me in the face if it’ll make you feel better” I offered and I heard her let out a small laugh
“Do you promise?” She joked quietly
“As long as we call some paramedics ahead of time” I joked back “So can I talk to Josh?”
“Sure” She said “Kat you know I love you, right?”
“I’m your only sister so you have to love me” I said with a grin
“But more than that. What happened at the club the other night” She started but I stopped her
“I was completely out of line. I should never have treated you like that. You annoy me sometimes but it’s only because you care and I had no right to act like I did. Please forgive me?”
“I forgive you Booger. I love you to the moon and back. I was so scared we’d never find you and the last thing you’d remember was me ignoring you but no matter what you do just know that I love you. Know that ok? No matter what” She said quietly
“Molls, there is nothing in the world that I am more sure of. And I love you just a little bit more because I have to win. Always” I joked
“Ok you jerk. Here’s Josh” She said and I was relieved to hear she seemed a little less tortured
“Kat” Josh said with a heavy sigh and more guilt coursed through my veins
“Josh. I am so sorry” I started
“You scared us” He said quietly clearly a little shy in the presence of Nick and Mollee
“I know babe and I’ll make it up to you I promise” I said
“You can do that by coming home to me. I can take care of you. I mean I don’t have experience with hard drugs or anything but I love you and I can take care of you” He pleaded
“Josh I wish I could, really I do, but I think the best thing is to stay here. Aj’s taking good care of me for you I promise” I said hoping he would drop it
“Who’d have thought that having been a drug addict would make you more attractive to a girl” Josh mumbled in an uncharacteristic show of jealousy
“Josh” I warned as I felt Aj tense under me. I wasn’t on speaker phone but it was quiet in the bus and Aj could clearly hear every word of the conversation
“Whatever. Choose him. I’m just getting a little tired of playing second fiddle to a guy who put you through hell” He said and I was shocked into a moment of silence before I could compose myself enough to figure out what to say
“Josh you’re my boyfriend. I’ve chosen you. You know that Aj means a lot to me and-” I started but Josh interrupted me again
“Yeah I know how much he means to you. I just don’t know how much I mean to you. I’m glad you’re feeling better Kat and I’m not going to put more on you right now than you’re already dealing with but we need to talk about all of this. Soon” He said and I swallowed hard
“Ok. We’ll talk after the show. I’ll come to your hotel room” I said quietly
“Thank you” He said sullenly and we sat in silence for a bit before Mollee picked up the phone
“Kat you need to do something about that. He’s been a wreck” Mollee said and I heard the door to the bus slam in the background
“I will Molls don’t worry. I’ll fix this. I’ll fix all of this” I said and moved my hand subconsciously to my stomach. Aj noticed and placed his hand over mine
“Ok. Love you Booger. Get some rest” She said
“Love you. I’ll see you soon” I said and tossed the phone across the room before burying myself in Aj’s chest again. I breathed in his scent and allowed it to wash my body free of worry
“I’m here for you” He whispered as he rested his chin on the top of my head “Forever and always” And with those words joining the words from the phone conversations I fell asleep again. The next time I woke up the sun was starting to rise. I still felt awful and Aj was in the same position he had been in when I fell asleep staring at the wall
“Hey” I said to alert him to my consciousness. A small jolt went through his body like I had startled him but he smiled when he looked at me
“How are you doing?” He asked through a yawn
“I still don’t feel so hot” I said as Aj frowned
“I don’t want to overload you and I want you to take all the time you need to feel better but there are some things we really need to talk about. We’ve got a lot to figure out” He said and I nodded
“I understand. Let’s just take it one thing at a time. What’s on your mind?” I asked turning slowly so I was facing him but still sitting between his outstretched legs
“First, and I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but are you sure it’s mine?” Aj asked and looked like he was fortifying himself for a blow. I just sighed
“That’s ok. That’s a perfectly acceptable thing to ask. Josh and I had sex for the first time a few days ago. The timing works out to that night around Halloween and I know we didn’t use protection” I said and Aj nodded
“God that sucks to hear you’ve been with another guy” He said quietly and I took his hand
“I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t need to. Plus you and Missy…” I trailed off and shared in his pain at the thought of the person you love being intimate with someone else
“Yeah I know. It’s fine. I’m just so raw and tired that I have no inner monologue” He apologized
“Well it’s about time we started being honest with each other I guess” I said with a shrug as I slowly met his eyes “So it’s my turn to say something”
“I’m sorry I’ve been… well… the way I’ve been. I’m just so bad at dealing with things and I made some terrible decisions. At first I tried to spare your feelings but lately I’ve been purposely doing the opposite” I said shaking my head as ran through all of the awful things I had done in the past few weeks “I’m really not sure why I’ve been doing that. It seemed like such a good idea at the time”
“It’s ok. I mean it’s not ok but I understand. It wasn’t so long ago that I was going through some stuff and taking it out on the people closest to me” Aj said meeting my eyes. The unspoken words began flying between us but neither of us were brave enough to voice them. In that silence so filled with noise I focused in on his eyes, those constant lights that always grounded me. There I saw beauty, truth and love. My heart reacted quickly as I took in the fact that Aj and I were alone together and on level ground. We had both done horrible things, mostly to each other, and yet here we were, tied together as always, like opposites forces that couldn’t help but attract. Aj took a deep breath and took both my hands. “I forgive you Kat. For everything”
“Hey Aj” I said cautiously hoping that the next thing I had to say would be the first step in fixing all the problems I’d caused “I forgive you too. I forgive you for everything. What you did with Camie, the things you might have said, any lies you might have told. I forgive you”
We looked at each other in silence for a moment both having been absolved of all our sins and then Aj took a deep breath and burst into tears. My emotions reacted swiftly and soon I was crying too. He put his head in my lap and I wrapped my arms around him and rubbed his back as we cried together. It was the most I’d ever seen him open up and it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders. He took my face in his hands and we wiped away each other’s tears until no more could fall
We sat there for a minute just basking in a fresh start and a new beginning when we heard the door open to the bus and a pair of high heeled shoes clicking down the hall. I tried to make myself move or hide or do something but Aj held me fast so that when Missy stood in the doorway she found me and Aj holding each other in bed.
“Figures” She said crossing her arms “Well isn’t anyone going to try and deny this?”
“Nothing happened-” I started but Aj cut me off
“We don’t owe you anything. I know you’ve been stealing money from me” Aj said and I looked at him completely shocked
“I don’t know what you’re talking about” Missy said but even I could read her panic
“Just get out. We’re done. You were a good lay but a lousy person and I can’t have you taking up my time anymore” Aj said. A small wave of pain hit me at one part of that declaration but I kept myself together
“Oh please like I was the only one who was bad? You used me to try and get over her so it was only fair that I get something out of it” Missy spat. I just sat completely unable to do anything but watch the drama unfold in front of me
“I tried to give you everything but you were never in it for more than money. You got some money now get out” Aj said and Missy just smiled
“Whatever. You can have him honey he’s all yours” Missy said before grabbing a bag of her stuff and storming out. There was relative silence until finally my brain started working again
“Aj that wasn’t for me, was it?” I asked and Aj laughed a little
“No it needed to be done a while ago and you just gave me the strength. I know you have feelings for Josh and I don’t expect that to change just because we have…well…this” Aj said placing his hand on my stomach. I took a deep breath and registered my exhaustion
“I need to sleep some more” I said quietly. Aj fluffed the blankets and I attempted to curl up away from him so he could move if he needed to but he just smiled and pulled me into his arms and I let him. It was more comfortable there anyway. When I woke up again it was to an amazing smell. I couldn’t quite identify it but when I opened my eyes there were plates of food and take out boxes everywhere
“You’re up!” Aj said coming into the room “I thought you might be hungry but I didn’t know what for so I kind of got everything”
“You really didn’t have to do this” I said and then saw Aj giving his full attention to pouring soup from a plastic container into a bowl and I had to laugh “I mean thank you. I am a little hungry. What’s good?”
“Well I know you love pineapple fried rice so there’s that. Also every vegetarian entrée I could order with my limited knowledge of German” He said anxiously. He was trying so hard to be helpful it was making my heart swell
“The pineapple fried rice sounds amazing. Thank you” I said and was presented with the largest portion imaginable. As soon as I took a bite I realized how hungry I was and began to down it. Aj laughed a little and then tore into his General Tao’s chicken. We had fun eating through the various containers and I almost forgot why we were here playing house in Aj’s bus without the world to bring us down. As we finished up silence settled in around us and Aj put his hand on mine to get my attention
“So what’s the plan?” Aj asked as I twirled a piece of lo mien on my fork
“Well…” I trailed off. I knew what I wanted but I was afraid to hurt Aj’s feelings especially with them as fragile as they were right now
“It’s ok just tell me what you want and then I’ll tell you what I’ve been thinking and we’ll go from there” Aj said and I sighed
“Aj I’m a dancer. When you have a baby your career is basically over. It takes a toll on your muscles, you have to take a lot of time off and then you have a kid. It would be impossible to tour or fulfill my dreams of dancing with a company. I’m also so young and so are you. I don’t have the money or the maturity to be the mom a kid needs. It has nothing to do with you” I said taking in the look on his face “This baby could be Josh’s or Rich’s or the guy around the corner and I’d feel the same way. Ok it’s your turn”
“Ok” He said with a look of concentration “Well I’m a singer and two other members of my band have kids on tour. I’ve seen it done. I’ve seen them fulfill their dreams with kids in tow. We’re young but I have the money. I have the stability. The two of us could do this”
“Aj we have a hard time getting along for more than a few days at a time” I said
“Now, sure, but we could work on it”
“What about Josh?” I asked
“He could help! He’s a good guy I’m sure he would be there for us”
“Aj” I stopped him and he met my eyes “Having this baby will not fix us. If there is one thing I learned from my parents it was that being a mom or dad is a full time job and not a solution to a problem. I have one full time job already that I love. I want a baby, maybe even someday with you, but this is not the time. I can’t do it”
“Ok” He said after some tense minutes “I support whatever decision you make. I just wanted you to hear me out”
“I did. I hear you” I said squeezing his hand as he pulled me into a hug
“So I assume you don’t want to go through the pregnancy at all. I mean you don’t want to gain the weight and have to take the time off. So you’re talking about abortion” Aj said with his arms around me
“Yeah I think so” I said quietly and Aj sighed
“Ok. I’ll do the leg work and find us a place for as soon as possible. You seem tired again” He said
“Go to sleep. I’ll be right here with my laptop doing research” A million emotions ran through my body. Relief at having made a decision, gratitude for the man sitting here supporting me, anxiety for the upcoming operation and regret for the baby I wouldn’t have. Aj looked into my eyes and kissed my forehead “We’ll be ok. We’ll get through this”
“Thank you” I said and I fell into a fitful sleep. When I woke up again it was to Aj shaking me.
“Hey precious you need to get up” Aj said softly as I opened my eyes. The light outside was still dim but this time it seemed to be closer to twilight than dawn and I groaned
“Is it really time to go?” I asked groggily as Aj smiled at me
“I got you up a little early so we could talk over some of the information I found. Are you up for that?” Aj asked with concern filled eyes. I nodded and he pulled me into his lap and then put the computer in front of us
“So unfortunately we’re too far along for a non-surgical abortion. That would mean just taking a pill instead of having to go to a clinic and have a procedure. But we are right in the normal timeframe for a safe surgical abortion. The day after tomorrow we have off and if you want we can fly to the US together to a clinic in LA. It’ll be a little crazy trying to get back in time and who knows how you’ll be feeling but I figured you’d want to be where everyone spoke English” Aj said pointing out information on the website in front of me
“Yeah I’d be a wreck if we had to do it in the Czech Republic or something” I said and Aj squeezed me in a hug for support
“So I used a connection to get us into a clinic in LA on short notice. They insist on a counseling session before the procedure but I’m assured that we can expect to be there for no more than three hours. They have to go in and do some STD tests, blood work, and an ultrasound for pregnancy confirmation as well as the counseling before the operation and then you’ll be prepped and the procedure is about 10 minutes long. After that you stay in recovery for about a half an hour maybe longer if you decide you want to be knocked out for the whole thing. I was able to talk them out of the follow up appointment but you have to promise that if anything doesn’t feel right that you will tell me so we can get you to a doctor and make sure there are no complications” Aj said clearly having done his homework. I was so lucky to have him I could never have rationalized all of this on such short notice
“Of course I will. Thank you so much Aj that sounds good” I said letting a little more of my stress melt off of me
“The flight is about 12 hours. We’d have to leave right after the show tomorrow night to catch a 10 o’clock plane to get to LA by 10 am. The return flight is about 11 hours so we’d have to leave pretty soon after the procedure to be back with some recovery time before the show in Finland. It’s a lot to ask of you on the day you have a major procedure done but it was the only way I could figure to get us in the US and not have it be a late term abortion where you’d have to spend more time sick and stressed” Aj worried and I turned in his lap to face him
“You are amazing. It’ll be a rough few days but with you by my side I’ll make it through” I said looking him right in the eyes. He smiled a little and pulled me into a big hug. We stayed like that as neither of us was willing to break this moment where we stood on mutual ground. It was like finally crossing the finish line of a marathon. With the hard work behind you it doesn’t seem that bad and in front of you are only happy faces and endorphins.
“You should go” Aj said after about five minutes of enjoying each other
“I feel like once I step out that door the world is going to be waiting to beat me into a bloody pulp for all the problems I’ve caused” I said still resting my head on Aj’s shoulder
“The world is no match for us. You’ve got some hard conversations to have but I’ll be waiting for you at the end. We’ll get through this. Together” Aj said and I nodded reluctantly. I got up off of the bed and fixed my hair and makeup a bit before putting my jacket and shoes back on. Aj walked me to the door of the bus and I looked at the door handle like it was going to attack me
“This has been the worst and best day of my life. Thank you for everything. I will never be able to express how much all you’ve done means to me especially after all I did-” I started but Aj stopped me by pulling me into another hug
“All is forgiven, remember? Don’t dwell on that. And if you don’t leave soon I’m going to make you stay and your boyfriend will be very upset” Aj said with an attempt at hiding his emotion
“I’m sorry about Missy” I said
“Stop it that wasn’t you. I told you, you gave me the courage to stand up to her. You reminded me that I deserve more than that”
“You won’t say the words then take them back?” I quoted to him and he laughed a bit
“Ok if you’re going to quote lyrics at me then you must get off my bus” Aj joked nudging me towards the door. Every fiber of my being wanted to stay and it was like moving my hand through molasses to get to the door handle. Of course Aj noticed “You are going to be fine. I’ll see you in two hours”
“Two hours” I repeated and then registered the hurt at the memory of when we’d just met and used to measure time by the hours we’d have to spend apart. I used the pain as a motivator and opened the door and stepped out into the cold November air. I made my way to the dancer’s bus and barely reached the door when it was whipped open and Mollee flung herself on me. I immediately starting crying and repeating how sorry I was which got her going and the two of us sat on the stairs sobbing in each other’s arms for quite some time. Aj watched until he felt a hand on his shoulder
“Want some help cleaning up?” Nick asked
“I think I can do it” Aj said automatically, clearly not willing to look away from the scene
“What I mean is do you want some company until you can see her again? Today must have been hard” Nick said finally tearing Aj’s attention from the sisterly love
“Thanks man. Actually it was really easy” Aj said with a note of longing
“She’s still someone else’s” Nick reminded Aj who shook his head
“She was never anyone’s but mine. I just lost her for a bit but I’ll get her back” Aj said with a sad smile as Nick led him into his bus and closed the door. Mollee and I were complete messes for the two hours leading up to the show. We hugged and cried and yelled at each other and told each other how much we loved one another. We made our way to the arena to stretch together and I saw that Aj was there waiting for me. I smiled big and gave him a big hug
“I missed you” I said and Aj’s smile grew
“You’re not the only one” He said before sitting down with me and Mollee to stretch. The difference between stretching today and stretching on our rehearsal day would have been quite comical to anyone who had witnessed both from the outside. Everyone, sensing that some peace had been made, stretched in a big clump in the middle of the floor with the exception of Camie who was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t worried. I had nothing to say to her and if I went the rest of my life without seeing her again it wouldn’t kill me.
Aj and I walked hand in hand to make up and wardrobe and were pretty glued to each other through the prayer too. Any time he had to let go of me for a second my whole world seemed to slant and the vertigo I felt was completely irrational but it stayed as long as he was away. Ultimately his hand would find mine again and everything would right itself. I nearly had a heart attack when he stepped through the curtain for his entrance and left me backstage and alone for the first time since everything had gone down but I kept his face in my mind and made it through.
The show itself was cathartic. I remembered how much I loved to dance and it eased my mind about the decision we had made. But because I was enjoying it the show went too quickly and soon I was confronted with the reality of the conversation Josh and I would have to have. Aj stayed with me backstage until the last possible moment.
“You’ll be ok. And I’ll be waiting for all the gory details when you’re done. I’m a mere text away” Aj said with a reassuring smile. He squeezed my hand and then I took a deep breath and walked out the backstage door where Josh was waiting
“Hey” I said nervously
“Hey” He answered in kind. He took my hand and led me to his hotel room and I let myself acknowledge that his touch did nothing for me in comparison to Aj’s. He sat on the bed and I pulled up a chair so I was facing him and we stared at each other in silence
“Have at it” I said after a few minutes of excruciating quiet
“I don’t know where to begin” He said with a sigh “I’m really happy you’re ok”
“Thanks. I’m sorry for worrying everyone. I made a dumb decision. I got some overwhelming news and I just wanted to do something stupid. Good thing Camie specializes in stupid” I said bitterly
“Do I get to know what happened?” Josh asked a little coldly
“Well I went to a club with Camie and she spiked my drink with an unknown drug. Time went a little haywire after that but I’m told I was in the middle of a big brawl in a dangerous club when Aj found me” I said and saw Josh clench his fist
“I don’t know why your sister thought he was the best person to call” He said with more than trace amounts of anger in his tone
“He knew the club from the days when he was sick. He can handle himself in those crowds” I said trying to keep the admiration out of my voice especially with Josh so on edge
“And no one thought I might be able to handle myself? I’ve never done hard drugs but I run with tough crowds” He said and I had to use every bit of my power to hide my laugh. For all Josh’s bluster you could tell with one look that he was a kind soul. He would have been eaten alive in there
“I don’t know babe I wasn’t there for that” I said and he shook his head
“No but you were there insisting that only Aj could take care of you when I called” He said harshly
“He has experience with those types of drugs” I said angrily and not at all in the mood to have to spend the whole night defending a guy who had just done more for me than anyone else in my life
“But I have experience with making you feel better. Why am I never good enough for you Kat? Why do you constantly choose him over me?” Josh asked with clear frustration
“I don’t know how else to tell you what you already have heard. I choose you. I’m with you right now” I said though my heart told me that the sentiment wasn’t exactly honest
“Only because I demanded you see me. It’s like he gets to do whatever he wants to you and you give him everything and I do nothing but respect and love you and I only get bits and pieces. How is that fair?” He asked getting angrier by the syllable. By the end of the sentence he was standing up and I was becoming more and more nervous
“I don’t know Josh. I feel like I’m giving you all that I can give. I’m sorry if that’s not enough for you” I said calmly trying not to provoke further reaction
“Don’t turn this around on me! Do you want to give me something that really means something? Don’t see him anymore. Show me that I’m your choice and quit spending your time with him” Josh said. My mind reeled and my temper boiled. What was going on?
“You want me to stop seeing one of my best friends because you are insecure about us?” I asked incredulously while rising out of my seat so he couldn’t literally talk down to me anymore
“I may be insecure Kat but you’re being unfair. Why is that such an awful request? Why can’t you just leave him alone? I love you with all my heart. Isn’t that enough?” Josh said breaking down a little. My mind seethed but my heart throbbed. I could almost see red burning at the corners of my vision because I was so angry but a piece of me understood why he was so upset. A piece of me knew his concern was a valid one. Suddenly I was done.
“I’m leaving” I said standing up and grabbing my jacket and bag
“Where are you going?” Josh asked with panic clear on his face
“I don’t know. Anywhere but here” I said trying to make for the door but Josh grabbed my shoulder “You really want to let go of me”
“Are you going to do this for me? I know a part of you understands what this is about. Are you going to stop seeing him so we can fix us?” Josh pleaded but let go of my shoulder all the same. I turned to him
“You know what? Ok. I’ll take your little test. But I think you should know that the last guy that tried to push me away from my friends ended up being a complete monster and I vowed that I would never let anyone control me like that again. This will only push me farther away from you.” I said harshly
“As long as that doesn’t push you closer to him then I’ll take it” Josh said confidently. I gave him a searching look but he just stared back at me with confidence like he had just won a fight. I wanted to smack him. Instead I turned on my heel and slammed the door. I got down to the lobby and out the front doors when I realized that I was in no mood to see my sister or anyone else for that matter. So I did the one thing I knew would make me feel better. I took out my phone and sent a text.
“Ugh” I texted as I paced in front of the hotel
“It went that well, huh?” Aj texted back and I could already feel warmth creeping into my angry heart
“I’ve been forbidden to see you” I texted before deciding that I needed to take a lap around the lot to cool off.
“WHAT?” Came the text back and then one immediately following it “What are you going to do?”
“Do I seem like the kind of person who reacts positively to that kind of demand?” I typed. When I pressed send I looked up and laughed out loud. My feet had subconsciously taken me to the door of Aj’s bus. I knocked
“Well I guess I have my answer” He said with a small smile “Come inside before someone sees you and decides to start world war three”
“It was like something had taken over his body. He was completely out of control! He went on and on about how I had chosen you over and over and how he loved me so much. This past week I’ve done nothing but fight with you. How that could be interpreted as choosing you I’ll never know. I just wish I knew where this was all coming from! It’s so far out of left field” I fumed as I pushed past Aj so I could pace in front of his couch. He shut the door and sat calmly in front of me.
“I might have some insight into that” Aj ventured and I stopped dead in my tracks
“What do you mean?” I asked with blood still boiling
“Well do you remember dancing a few days ago to a song that may have implied that you still needed and missed me?” Aj asked as the color drained from my face
“How did you know about that?” I asked
“I caught the show and so did Josh. You should know by now that you can never get any privacy on tour” Aj said as I sank slowly onto the couch next to him
“Oh shit” I said as Aj wrapped his arm around my shoulder
“It was a phenomenal dance if it makes you feel any better” He said with a laugh
“How can you be so smug?” I asked as a small smile escaped my lips
“Because you’re here with me even though it’s forbidden. We’re finally not fighting anymore” Aj started and I cut him off
“You’re single and I’m fighting with my boyfriend” I said with a nudge
“Hey I didn’t say it” He said and I watched his smirk turn into an adorable smile
“You are trouble mister” I said with a laugh
“I’m not the one breaking the rules right now” He said smugly
“Ugh I should go. I don’t want to fight anymore tonight and with my luck Josh will be standing outside the window having heard everything” I said standing up and stretching
“With how angry you were when you got here I’d be surprised if he had the courage to follow you to the elevator let alone out of the hotel and across the lot. You’re terrifying when you want to be” Aj said getting up too
“That’s me. Terrifying” I said giving him a hug “Thanks”
“Thanks for what?”
“Thanks for being my calm in the storm. You’re pretty extraordinary you know that?” I asked and I could feel him grin from within our embrace
“I’ve always known that. You’re the one who seems to keep forgetting” He joked and I laughed “So what’s the plan for tomorrow with you forbidden to see me and all?”
“I’ll round robin it with him and Mollee” I said simply
“You’ll what?” He asked
“I’ll pull a round robin? What, did you never have any fun in school?” I asked and he shrugged “A round robin is when you call your parents and tell them you’ll be at a friend’s and then they call their parents and tell them they’ll be staying over at your house. This leaves you both free for the night to cause trouble” I said and Aj laughed
“So you’ll tell Mollee you’re with Josh and Josh that you’re with Mollee?” Aj asked
“You have no sense for nuance. I’ll tell Mollee all about the terrible fight Josh and I had and how much I need to spend some time with him without any interruption to fix our relationship. Then I’ll tell Josh how upset Mollee still is at the idea of almost losing her last living relative and how, though I know we need to work on us, I feel that I have a responsibility to my family” I said earnestly for a rehearsal. Aj just blinked at me
“Well I certainly believe it. Damn girl how many lies have you spun that now you’re so good at it?” Aj asked with a laugh
“No lies with you. Not anymore at least. And you should come up with an alibi too” I said seriously
“Why? No one has forbid me to see any of my friends” He said with a smirk
“Because it’ll get very suspicious very quickly if both of us are MIA for our day off” I said pointedly as he sighed
“Ok I’ll spread the word that I’m getting Christmas shopping done or something” He said as I wrinkled my nose “What?”
“You’re going Christmas shopping? How lame is that? You should say that Missy and you broke up so you’re meeting up with a girl you know in Prague” I said as Aj laughed
“Does that really sound more like me?” He asked
“Do you really want me to answer that?” I shot back and we both laughed “Ok I really have to go. I have to make Mollee believe I’m terribly upset”
“Have fun. Text me if you need me, rebel” He said and with a final squeeze I hopped out the door and hard as I tried I couldn’t keep myself from checking around every corner to see if Josh was spying on me. If there’s one thing Josh hadn’t thought through in this whole thing it was the age old knowledge that by making something forbidden you automatically make it more attractive. I stopped for a second to enjoy the image of Aj in his wife beater and shorts and then got to work making myself convincingly angry for the benefit of Mollee and the round robin.