“Because I’m not gonna stand there and watch the two of you tear each other apart over some girl.”
“She’s not just some girl!”
“Yeah, I heard you inside.” Howie responded as he sank down into the other chair. “She’s probably an ax murderer or some informant to the cops, maybe even the FBI.”
“Don’t make fun of me!”
“I’m not, that’s exactly what you sounded like.” Howie sighed. “I can absolutely see your point about…”
Nick leapt out of his chair. “Thank you!”
“But I can also see J’s.”
He plopped back down and started to pout.
“I’m sorry Nicky but every time AJ goes on dates, we always assume there’s something wrong with her.”
“Yes we do. Either she wants money or fame or she’s some psycho stalker who found a way in.”
“Most of them are.” Nick pointed out.
“I know but we need to stop doing it. Each girl we go after and criticize pushes J away a little more every time. We don’t have to trust…”
“Her,” Howie continued, “or even like her but we do have to suck it up and meet this one.”
“Why? Why can’t he just listen to us and not get involved with her.”
“Because he’s an adult and doesn’t have too.”
“But he’s making a humongous mistake.”
“Then it’s his mistake to make. We’ll be here as his brothers and help him clean up the mess after he makes it.”
“He fucking pisses me off!” AJ shouted and lit a cigarette as he started to pace.
“I thought you were quitting.” Brian asked quietly.
“I was!” AJ snapped.
Even though he had just started it, he threw the butt down and stomped on it with his shoe. Brian waited for him to calm down a little and then suggested they have this conversation in his truck. AJ reluctantly agreed and they sat there quietly until Brian figured out what to start with.
“So, who’s this girl?”
“Why do you care? It’s obvious you all think I’m screwing up again.”
“No, Nick is being obvious. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.”
“Because you’re an adult, we’re all adults, and really need to start acting like it. We can’t keep telling each other what to do; not being there for each other has caused enough damage already.” Brian explained. “I also know how you feel.”
“How the hell do you know how I feel?”
“Because you all gave me the same lecture when I met Leighanne. Well minus the ax murderer part.”
AJ chuckled in spite of the situation and had to admit to himself that they really had gone to town on Brian about it.
“But I did it anyway and I couldn’t be happier. I love her and Baylee with all my heart and I wouldn’t have either one if I listened to you guys back then. I’m not saying that you two are gonna get married but getting to know someone shouldn’t cause all this fuss.”
AJ let that sink in for a minute. “Can I tell you something without you repeating it to the other guys?”
“Absolutely.” Brian reassured him. “Whatever you want.”
“I’ve had a tough time getting to know her and I understand that what everyone else knows doesn’t look very good for her.”
“Let me guess, could it be the homeless and only working for tips parts?”
AJ nodded solemnly. “I know how it sounds but I don’t think she’s doing it for the reasons Nick thinks.”
“Then why do you think she’s doing it?”
“She’s hurting and running away from the pain.”
“She showed me her locket the other day and it had pictures of her parents and her younger brother in it. The way she talked about them makes me think that they died somehow.”
Brian was quiet for a few seconds. “I can see why she’d run from that. The pain must be incredible.”
“It has to be and I think that Nick is completely off base with his ideas. I plan on getting to know her better, with or without your support, and being able to shove the truth in Nick’s face!”
“How about letting us meet her?” Brian asked choosing to ignore his brother’s angry comment.
“I don’t think I can do that.”
“Why? Are you that afraid we won’t be receptive?”
“That and she doesn’t know about you guys.”
“She doesn’t know the whole truth.” AJ quietly confessed. “She has no idea that I’m one of the Backstreet Boys; I’m not even sure she knows who we are.”
“When were you planning to spring that surprise on her?”
AJ shrugged his shoulders and Brian let out a whistle.
“Can I give you some brotherly advice?”
“Tell her before it goes too much further. The longer you wait, the more trust she’ll lose in you and you may get to the point where you’re not be able to get it back.”