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Author's Chapter Notes:
Izzy and Alyssa meet for lunch downtown, where they get caught back up with each other.

Chapter 4


Take a minute girl come sit down and tell us what's been happening... -Girl, Destiny's Child

   Alyssa's heart pounded in her chest as she nervously rounded the corner of the restaurant where she had agreed to meet Izzy. It was just about two weeks later, and Izzy had called her the night before to arrange for the two of them to have lunch together.

     I don't know why I'm nervous, she chastised herself. It's just Izzy. But it had been three years and a lot could happen in that amount of time. People could totally change.  She wondered if Izzy had changed at all, or if Alyssa herself had changed so dramatically that it would be impossible to resurrect their friendship.

     She scanned the crowd of diners who had chosen to take advantage of the nice weather and eat their meal outside on the sidewalk, before going inside to meet Izzy. There she is. Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes settled upon Izzy herself, who must have decided to get a table while she waited. Her reddish hair flowed freely down her back and even though her face was hidden by a pair of very large designer sunglasses, Alyssa could still recognize her friend. As far as looks went, Izzy was still very much the same.

     Izzy must have caught sight of Alyssa at the same time, because she waved in her direction with a familiar grin on her face. Alyssa returned the smile and made her way over to the table.

     "You look amazing," Izzy told her as she stood up hug her.

     "You haven't changed, but it's a good thing," Alyssa reassured her in return as she took a seat. "So, how are things going here in New York so far?"

     "Good! I love our apartment. You'll have to stop by and see it later." The waiter approached them just then, interrupting their conversation. "Here, I'll let you order and then we can start catching up," she offered.

     They both ordered their meals and as soon as the waiter disappeared, Izzy began to question her. "So, you're graduated from college now?"

     "Yea, I graduated in May with my teaching degree. I still have to go for my Masters though," Alyssa answered.

     "Nice. Where do you think you'll want to go for that?"

     "I don't know yet. I'd love to go to NYU, but its so freaking expensive. I still have to look into it, but right now I want to take a year or so off and get settled here."

     "And are you working now?"

     Alyssa shook her head. "Not right now. I have some money saved to get me through the summer and after that I'm going to try to do some substitute teaching to get my foot in the door. How about you? Have you finished school?"

     "Yes. I finished last year. I've been working at a PR firm in LA doing all the grunt entry level work for experience, but I really want to start up my own firm eventually. Tristan has already agreed to be my first client," she explained with a smile.

     "How are things with him?" Alyssa asked.

     Izzy had met Tristan, a struggling musician not too long after she had introduced Alyssa to Nick. He had been trying to drop off a copy of his demo tape at Jive Records, just as Izzy had arrived to meet up with Kevin after a meeting the guys had just had with their record company. She'd overheard Tristan pleading with the receptionist behind the front desk to give him a chance as she tried to explain to him that they did not just accept random demos from just anyone who walked through the door. Something about the passion in his voice, struck a chord with Izzy and she instantly felt sympathetic towards him. Just as he began to walk away dejectedly, Izzy stopped him. After only a few short minutes, she left with a copy of his demo and his number.

     After listening to his demo, Izzy fell in love with his voice and immediately called him up, intrigued to get to know the man who could write such beautiful music. It wasn't long before they began dating and ultimately fell in love. Even though Izzy had offered to use her cousin's influence to try to get Tristan's music  out there, he refused, deciding that he wanted to land a record deal by himself. It had taken five years, but finally it was happening without Izzy's help.

     "We're great! Better than ever. He's so excited about the record deal. I mean for so many years I've supported him and now he can't wait to pay me back," Izzy explained with a huge grin.

     "That's great. I can't believe that you two have made it so far," Alyssa sincerely commented.

     "Yea, me too." Izzy paused a moment before tentatively speaking up. "Are you seeing anyone?"

     Of all the questions that can be asked she had to ask that one? Alyssa wondered to herself. Talk about getting right at the heart of a sensitive issue. The question had caught her off guard even though she probably should have expected it to be asked sooner or later. What do I say? No, I haven't really dated anyone since Nick because no one can compare to him? Realizing that she had to say something she took a deep breath. "No," she quickly answered. "I'm just so busy getting settled here I haven't had time to meet anyone." It wasn't exactly a complete lie.

     "What a shame. Those guys don't know what they are missing," Izzy replied. "So, when did Meg get married?"

     Alyssa sighed in relief, realizing that she had managed to get past the first awkward moment that had been bound to come up between the two of them. She was thankful that Izzy had switched the conversation over to Meg and taken the focus off of herself. "Back in May, Like around Memorial Day weekend."

     "Who's the lucky guy?"

     "His name is Scott. He's a high school health teacher. They actually met through this program Meg got involved with for the cancer society where she travels to different schools and shares her story with the students. Meg went to speak to his health class and apparently he was so struck by her story that he felt the need to get to know her better," she explained. "The rest is history."

     "Aww that's so sweet! So is the cancer gone?" Izzy asked in a concerned voice.

     "She's in remission now. It could come back at any time, but with each year that passes the chance gets less and less likely. So far she's healthy, so we're just trying to think positively."

     "I'm sure she'll be fine. She's quite a fighter. How about Steph? You mentioned that she was going to NYU. What is she majoring in?"

     Alyssa started to relax. It was such a relief to talk about her sisters instead of herself. Their lives had been much more interesting and productive than hers had been lately. "For now? I think psychology. She changes it every other week though. Other than that she's doing great. I'm really proud of how she's turned her life around. Outside of the occasional few drinks and the fact that she smokes, she's completely clean now."

     "That's totally awesome. I remember how much hell she put you through," Izzy reminisced.

     "Yeah, she almost gave me a few gray hairs in my 20's," she agreed with a laugh. Again, Alyssa could sense an awkward moment building up. They had already been through her whole family now, so the next logical and polite step would be to inquire about Izzy's family, which meant asking about Kevin, which would lead to updates on all of the guys in general, which would ultimately lead to Nick. You've often wondered what he's been up to, she reminded herself. The question was could she handle the truth?

     Taking a deep breath she decided to forge ahead knowing that the conversation would be a difficult one. She started by asking the inevitable question. " So, how is your cousin doing?"

     "Kevin? He's doing quite well for himself. Him and Melanie are great. Everyone keeps bothering them about when they're going to start popping out some kids," Izzy answered with a laugh. "Not long after you left Florida, the guys pretty much decided to take some time to themselves and kind of did their thing away from the spotlight. Kevin actually did some work here in New York on Broadway. He was in Chicago and he was pretty amazing."

     "Wow," was all Alyssa could say. She kind of felt a little hurt that Kevin had appeared in a Broadway play that would've been relatively accessible to her and Izzy hadn't told her. Furthermore, Kevin and Melanie had been living in New York City and Melanie hadn't even tried to contact her? She would've loved to see Kevin perform.

     Her facial expression must have given her emotions away because Izzy's face immediately softened. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it. At the time I wasn't sure if you wanted anything to do with any of us and I figured that it was best for you to do your own thing. I thought that it would be too painful for you to attend," she explained.

     Too painful? Why would it have been painful? It wasn't like it would've been like watching Nick up there, she angrily thought to herself. She could see where Izzy was coming from, but she just wished that everyone would've just treated her normally. She knew that Izzy was just skirting around the real issue, the fact that they didn't invite her because they felt that it would be too awkward because of the way things ended with Nick. If they wanted me to do my own thing, then why did Izzy want to contact me now? she wondered.

     "I still would've liked to have seen him perform," she answered honestly. "Just because things didn't work out for me and Nick, doesn't mean that I can't still uphold friendships with the other guys."

     Izzy looked uncomfortable at the mention of Nick's name. "You're right. I should've invited you and I'm sorry about that, but why drudge up the past, right? Did you know that Brian and Leighanne had a baby?" she asked, expertly changing the subject.

     "No!" Again Alyssa felt slightly hurt, but then again why would anyone have told her. She was no longer in their circle.

     "Yea. They had a boy named Baylee. Hold on, I think I have a picture on me." She rummaged through her bag for her wallet. "Here you go," she said as she took out the picture and slid it across the table to Alyssa.

     "Aww, he's so precious! How old is he?" she asked as she examined the picture.

     "Two and a half. He'll be three in November. He's so adorable and Brian is such an awesome father. You should see them together," Izzy answered.

     "Well, I guess parenthood has been keeping Brian and Leighanne on their toes," Alyssa said wistfully.

     "Oh yea it has been. Hmm... Let's see. Howie hasn't changed much at all. He's still exactly the same," she continued.

     "Good old Sweet D," Alyssa mused with a smile. "My dancing partner."

     "Oh yea. I'd forgotten that you danced with him on tour," Izzy remembered. "Are you still dancing by the way?"

     Alyssa laughed. Her? Still dance? At 25 she was considered over the hill in the dance world. No way could she move quite the same way she could back when she was 21. The last time she had danced professionally was with the guys on their Black and Blue tour. Nick had insisted that she audition to be one of their backup dancers even though Alyssa had felt pretty funny about it. She wasn't sure if she was really good enough to audition. A lot of the other girls certainly had much more impressive credentials than her, and she didn't want to only be selected because of who she happened to dating. In the end, Alyssa had been one of the six selected female back up dancers, (one for each of the guys and an alternate in case somebody got sick or was unable to perform) supposedly based on the fact that she had a strong ballet background which many of the other girls didn't have. Still, there had been mutterings about how "unfair" the audition went and how the audition should've been based on "talent" and not on "who you happened to be sleeping with."

     The whole experience dancing on tour with the guys had been bittersweet for Alyssa. It had been one of the most amazing experiences of her life, yet she felt as if she constantly had to prove herself to everyone else to show that she DID have talent and she wasn't just picked because she was dating Nick. That was one of the reasons she insisted so much on NOT being Nick's dancer on the tour. Well that and the fact that she was much shorter than him and it would've looked pretty silly from the audiences perspective. Being the shortest of the dancers, that was how she wound up being Howie's partner.

     "No I haven't really danced since the tour," she answered. "I'm too old and out of shape and who has the time? I mean I've taken a few classes for college credit, but nothing serious. I think my dancing days are over."

     "But you can teach can't you?" Izzy asked.

     "Teach dance? In New York City?" Alyssa laughed again. "You have to be someone huge to teach dance here. Who is going to want to take lessons from me when they can learn from an ex prima ballerina from the New York City Ballet?"

     "I guess you're right," Izzy agreed.

     Alyssa thought carefully before continuing the conversation. She had the perfect opportunity to change the subject, but now she felt as if she HAD to continue it even though it was edging towards dangerous territory. "So what's my friend AJ been up to?"

     "AJ? Well, he's been sober for almost three years now. That's the most important thing," Izzy told her.

     Alyssa instantly felt relieved hearing that. She often worried about him and wondered if he was going to be able to keep up his sobriety. "That's amazing. I am so proud of him. If I could see him right now I'd give him a huge hug. He truly is an inspiration."

     "Yea he is," her friend agreed. "He's really become a much more awesome person and he has the most deep conversations with people. He's almost philosophical if you can believe it."

     "I don't know if I could picture it. I might have to see it to believe it."

     Izzy paused for a moment appearing deep in thought. "He's asked about you and Meg a few times. I'm sure he'd want to see you again too. Look, I feel really horrible about not inviting you to see Kevin on Broadway and I want to try it make it up to you. I don't know if you'd want to, or if you'd even be comfortable with this, but..."

     "Just spit it out Iz," Alyssa interrupted.

     "Well, I'm sure you've heard that the guys just released another album last month, right?" she continued.

     "Yea, I've heard that, but I've kind of avoided all the details."

     "Well, the guys are going to be kicking off their next tour starting next week and they're going to be coming to New York City on the 27th at Radio City. Tristan and I were going to go to surprise Kevin. If you want I can pull some strings and get you a ticket too, but ONLY if you're comfortable. It's okay for you to say no."

     Whoa, Alyssa thought. I know I mentioned seeing AJ again, but I wasn't completely serious. It would be great seeing all the guys again, but what about Nick? It was quite convenient the way they had skirted around him the whole conversation and barely even mentioned his name. Accepting Izzy's invitation would mean seeing Nick and was Alyssa really ready for that?

     " I don't know Iz... There's a lot to consider. Are you sure everyone is going to appreciate me being there?"

     "The rest of the guys have no problem with you Alyssa, and you know it. Nick... Well, he's just going to have to be a mature adult about it," Izzy decided.

     "Ha! Nick a mature adult?" Alyssa scoffed. "That's funny!"

     "Look, I know the two of you really ended up badly, but it has been three years. By now the two of you should at least be able to civil to one another. You might not even bump into each other, you know. I mean it's totally up to you, but I don't think you should let the anger you have against him interfere with your friendships with the rest of the guys,' she reasoned.

     Alyssa considered Izzy's advice for a moment. She was right. It could be possible for her and Nick to miss each other. Hell, he may intentionally avoid her. And if they did see each other would it be such a bad thing? Nick wasn't the type to hold grudges and if anything Alyssa was the one who should be mad at him. He shouldn't have anything against her.

     "I guess you're beginning to wonder why I contacted you and was so insistent on us getting together," Izzy continued as if to answer the question that had been lingering in the back of Alyssa's mind. "Yes, I wanted to see you and hang out with you, but I had other selfish reasons too."

     Alyssa gave her a strange look, but nodded her head as if to urge her to go on.

     "Since you and Nick have broken up, he just hasn't been the same. In fact, he's changed... A lot. Both for the good and bad. He's not a very happy person, Alyssa. He hides it so well, but I've known him so long that I can read him like a book. I've never cared for any of the girls he's ever dated with the exception of you, and no, it's not just because you were my best friend and I practically hand selected you for Nick. You made him happy. You treated him good and you didn't put up with his shit that a lot of girls would've."

     "What are you trying to say?" Alyssa interrupted. "That you want me to get back together with Nick?"

     "No, not exactly. I just think that it might be good for you two to see each other now. It's been long enough where I think that you should be over the anger and can maybe just be civilized. He could really use a friend now."

     "Is he depressed that things never worked out with Paris "I'll give you an STD from just looking at me" Hilton?" she asked bitchily. "Because I did hear about that little romance. Of course how could I not when everywhere you turned there was a picture of them playing tonsil hockey?"

     "You're jealous!" Izzy said with a smirk. "You still care about him."

     "I do not," Alyssa tried to argue. "Whoever he decides to shack up with from now on is none of my business!"

     "You're not completely over him Alyssa. You can't lie to me. I can tell just by the look on your face," she accused.

     Alyssa sighed admitting defeat. "Okay, so maybe a tiny part of me has been thinking about him a lot lately and what might have been. I guess a part of me still does care about him and always will. He was my first love. Of course I'm going to get possessive and jealous."

     Izzy squeezed her hand from across the table reassuringly. "Then come to the concert with me ok? Just see what happens. If you see him and you guys get to talk that's great and if not then well, maybe it wasn't meant to be after all."

     "I guess I could use that bit of closure even if it is three years too late," she agreed. "All right. I'll go."

     "You will? I'm so happy! It's going to be awesome and all the guys are going to be so excited to see you again!" Izzy exclaimed happily as she sprung up from her chair to embrace her friend.

     Will they ALL be happy to see me? Alyssa wondered as Izzy hugged her. And am I sure that I can do this? What did I agree to get myself into?