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The next two weeks flew by with incredible speed. The girls and I didn’t even have a chance to think. Before we knew it, it was the Sunday night before we started our tour.
"I cannot believe it’s finally the night before we start to tour. This whole thing feels like such a dream." I said to Ames while the four of us were sitting at the tale eating dinner.

"I remember getting that phone call in Spain. We thought being in Spain was amazing. Then we heard about the tour and all the money. Oh my gosh – I had forgotten all about money. 13 million dollars." She said in amazement. All of us sat at the table and looked at the food in front of us.

"What are we gonna do with all that money?" Bianca asked. She sounded awed by the amount. I think that this was the first time that the actual amount really hit each of us.
"I have no idea. We should go out tonight though to celebrate our last night of not working." I said and the girls agreed. "Besides, it’s the guy’s last night here in town, so we’re gonna have to take them out anyways."

I called up to Nick’s room and told him to tell the guys to be ready to go dancing in about an hour and a half. Each of us went to our rooms and changed into club clothes and did our hair and make up. I wore a green glittery halter-top and a white asymmetrical skirt that showed off my stomach and the butterfly tattoo with green heels and silver earrings and silver bangle bracelets.

Bianca was wearing a brown strapless dress and white heels and her hair was twisted back out of her face. Savannah was in a teal halter-top and ripped jean capris with blue wedge Keds Sneakers. Amethyst was wearing a pair of red and white striped goucho pants and a white tank top and red heels.
We rode the elevator upstairs and got the guys from their apartment and saw that they were each dressed in jeans and slogan t-shirts. Nick walked over and put his arm around me and kissed my forehead.

"Hey babe. You look amazing tonight." He said and smiled.

"Thanks, you look great too. Ready to go?" I asked. We left the apartment and went downstairs to find that Frank was already waiting for us at the curb. We spent the next few hours at a local club and partied the night away. By the time we arrived back at the penthouse, it was almost 2:30 in the morning.

I looked at the clock and said, "Girls, we have to be ready to leave by 7:30 in the morning. Nick, good night, I will call you on the bus sometime tomorrow, I’m not sure when, but I will." I kissed him good night and ushered him out the door.

Our alarms rang at 4:45 the next morning. The four of us walked into the living room and began to scream. "It’s finally here! We start the tour today! I can’t believe it!" Bianca exclaimed, the most awake we had ever seen her.

"Did anyone get any sleep last night?" Savannah asked us all.

"No!" We all said together and began to laugh.

"Girls, girls. Could you quiet it down please? There are other people in this building you know?" Kirsten said as she walked into the room from the kitchen. Along side her was a man with bleach-blonde hair, tight leather pants, and a pink and white striped polo shirt. "Jade, Savannah, Amethyst, and Bianca, I would like to introduce you to your tour stylist Pierre Wagner. Pierre, these are the girls who make up "The Esteem Team"."

"It’s so nice to meet each of you. I have been told that you each have a signature color. Is that for photo-shoots only or for the tour as well? Because finding those colors for each of you EVERY day is going to be a little hard." Pierre said, using his hands to talk. "I do have to say though, your skin complexions and hair color are absolutely fabulous. I wish I was your hair stylist too!"

The four of us laughed and Amethyst said, "We have a hair-stylist too?"

"Dear, you have a hairstylist and a make-up artist that is going to be traveling with you everywhere. Amanda Honeycutt is your make-up artist. She is relatively new to the business, but she is very high in-demand, just like you girls. Your hair-stylist is Henry Young. He has worked with Tyra Banks since she started her career many years ago. You’re in the best hands of the Fashion Industry." Kirsten filled us in.

Ames, Bianca, Savannah and I stood in front of these two people completely awed and amazed. "Well, girls, let’s get started on your clothes. Henry and Amanda will be here shortly, so let’s have a look at the clothes that have been sent to us for you."

It seemed as if out of nowhere, Kirsten pulled four racks of clothing, one for each of us. Pierre started flipping through the clothes and started making comments. We laughed as he said, "Oh, this SO not a Monday outfit" or "I cannot believe we have to wait until Friday to see this on you."

"Oh, you think I’m kidding ladies? There are certain kinds of clothes that are worn on certain days, well, maybe not specifically, but at least when they speak to me." He said dramatically and whipped his hand to the top of his head and let out a loud and exaggerated sigh.

By the time Pierre finally picked out the four "Monday"s, Amanda and Henry had arrived and began to style our hair and do our make-up. Pierre decided that we should stay in our signature color for the first day of the tour, so I was wearing a mint –green halter top with a faded-tiered denim skirt, a brown and green belt and a pair of green mesh slides. I was wearing a leather tie anklet and a wide-strapped leather watch and jade dangling earrings. Amanda did my eyes in a dark green to match my earrings and belt with a light pink lip, and Henry had my hair down and pin-straight.

Bianca was dressed in a deep red tube top with a white peasant skirt that stopped just above her knees. She had on pearl earrings, a large pearl necklace and a small pearl ring on her right hand. She was wearing high white pumps. Amanda did her make-up in a smoky-eye with lots of white eyeliner and a bright red lip. Henry pulled Bianca’s hair out of her face in little twists so that you could see her make-up.

Amethyst was wearing a dark blue, sparkly tank top that bunched at her chest a little to make her cleavage look a little bigger and dark blue bermuda shorts with a silver belt and silver lace-up flats. She was wearing silver bangle bracelets and a long silver chain that fell in between her chest, leaving much to the wandering eye. Her eyes were done in a sparkly blue to highlight the honey tones and her hair was pulled into a low ponytail with lots of waves.

Savannah was wearing a yellow polo that was outlined in a light orange and she had on a pair of short "destroyed" jean shorts. She was wearing a pair of understated yellow diamond earrings and a thin diamond necklace and matching bracelet. She had on yellow and orange plaid wedge sandals. Her eyes were in a gold shimmery color that really highlighted her hair and the color of her outfit and her hair was pulled half-up and half –down. She looked the most amazing of all of us, even though her outfit was the least flashy.

The girls and I were completely done getting ready by 7:45 and Kirsten was already loading everything onto the buses. There were two HUGE apartment-sized buses waiting for us at the curb. Our names were on the buses that we would be riding in: Ames and me on one and Bianca and Savannah on the other. "The Esteem Team" was plastered on the sides as well. The girls and I were so giddy from the sights that we stood on the curbs and began to scream and jump up and down.

"I swear to God if you girls mess up your outfits, I will personally kill you." We heard Pierre say from behind us.
"Ditto goes for your hair and make-up." Henry said. The four of us laughed and began to compose ourselves. We met outside of the buses and Kirsten handed us our leather binders that contained our schedules. We looked at them and saw that our first stop of the day was the Fashion Industries High School in downtown New York. It was the perfect place to kick off the tour.

"Girls, I also wanted to inform you that you are being sponsored by hotel chain, Starwood Inc, which is the owner of all Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, Ws and St. Regis Hotels. They are going to put you up every night in a gorgeous four star hotel. So, tonight, you’ll be at the Sheraton Long Island Hotel. Remember, this week you’ll be traveling all of New York State and Pennsylvania, averaging two schools a day. You’ll see the time markers for each of the events and I need you to know that being on time is very important for this tour. Well, good luck and we’ll see you in the next half-hour at your first school." Kirsten said and each of us got on our own bus.

"Ohmigod!" I heard Amethyst squeal as she stepped on the bus ahead of me.


Nick’s POV

The alarm clock woke me up at 6:30. I groaned as I rolled over to turn it off and remembered that today Jade was leaving to begin her tour. Luckily, she was going to be in the city for tonight. I was already planning on surprising her with myself and maybe a rose or two. Well, maybe I should leave her alone for a few days so that she could get used to being on tour.

"Yeah right Nick." I said to myself and rolled out of bed. I went to the bathroom and quickly threw on some clothes. I found the note I had written to Jade the night before and I took one of the pink roses from the dozen I had purchased earlier and walked downstairs. I saw Howie leaving the bus that Jade and Amethyst were on, and I slapped him a good-morning high-five.

Once I got on the bus, I took in the vastness of it. A sense of pride for Jade overcame me and I had to grab onto the railing to stand straight. I looked around and saw a large sitting/living area with a huge ceiling to floor bookcase. I continued along on the bus and saw a mini-kitchen that I wondered if Jade was ever going to use. Then, there were two good-sized bathrooms and two rooms in the back. I saw the one that was decorated for Jade and walked over to the bed and put the rose and the note on one of her pillows.

The bus was decorated perfectly for the two girls who would be sharing it and I couldn’t help but wonder how much time I would be spending on it. Hopefully there would be many days, and possible nights, that Jade and I would get to be together on this bus. I looked at the clock on Jade’s bedside table and saw that it was approaching 7:30 so the girls would probably be arriving shortly and I didn’t want Jade to see me.

I quickly went back upstairs and went to the living room window, which looked out directly onto the street. I remembered the first time I was ever on a Backstreet bus and watched as Jade, Amethyst, Bianca, and Savannah all saw the buses and the expressions on their faces were priceless. I watched as they all jumped up and down and hugged each other. I saw Kirsten walk out of the building followed by two men and another woman. I wondered who they were and thought about talking to Jade. I couldn’t wait to talk to her after her first full day.


Jade’s POV

"Ohmigod. I cannot believe how pimped out this bus is." Amethyst said as we both climbed the stairs to the bus. We saw a huge sitting area with a bookcase, a little kitchen and as we traveled deeper into the bus we saw our rooms. They were decorated almost the same as the ones back in the penthouse.

I walked over to my bed and saw a pink rose and a note attached to it.

"Oh Nick, this is beautiful." I said aloud to no one in particular. I hugged the piece of paper close to me and thought about how much I missed him already. We didn’t even get to say good-bye this morning. I kinda hoped that he would have been there to see me off, but maybe I got my hopes up. Whatever, at least I know he’s thinking about me.

"Jade! I got a note and a flower from Howie! It’s so cute." Ames said as she came bounding into my room. "Oh, you got one from Nick too. They are too cute."

"Yeah, they are. I’m so excited though. I can’t even think about boys right now. What kinds of questions do you think the kids are going to ask us?" I asked Ames.

"Well, you know they’re gonna want to know about dating and clothes and stuff. Whatever they ask, we just have to answer. Oh my god, we’re here already. Are you ready?" Ames said as the bus pulled up to the front of the school. We got off and saw Savannah and Bianca.

"Ready ladies?" I asked them as Kirsten led us into the school.

"As ready as we’ll ever be. AJ gave me a note and James gave Savannah one. We’re so loved." Bianca said and laughed. "I assume Nick and Howie left something for you two?"

Amethyst and I nodded and walked into the Principal’s office of the Fashion Industries High School of New York. She took us on a quick tour of the school and we stopped when we were walking down the hallway and saw a huge cardboard cut-out of the four of us from the promo shoot we had just done two weeks ago. "Oh my GOD! It’s us!!" Savannah exclaimed and ran over to the picture.

We all scrambled over and looked at it. "Damn, we look hot!" Bianca said and we each hugged again.

"Alright ladies, are you ready for your first meet-and-greet session of this tour?" Kirsten asked and led us into a large classroom with about 100 kids standing along the wall. They each held a picture in their hands and we were led to a table that was covered by a blue table cloth, there were Sharpie Markers for the each of us to use and we sat in front of a backdrop that read "The Esteem Team: Just Like You".

The first person walked up to us and held out her picture. Her name was Jennifer Kerry. I will remember that girl for the rest of my life since she was the very first person who ever got to meet us as the Esteem Team. We went through the 100 in a fairly good amount of time, we were still on schedule.

As we walked out of the classroom, Savannah took a hold of my arm and said, "Jade, I am so nervous. I am shaking so bad. What if I throw-up on stage or something? Oh my gosh, I am so scared of this."

"Don’t worry sweetie, we’re not singing or anything. We’re talking about what we know best. How to be ourselves. They’ll probably ask general questions and maybe some specific questions, but every one of us is going to be nervous the first time." I said and hugged her.

"Thanks for the encouragement. I needed that." She said and the four of us got into a line while the principal of the school introduced us.

As soon as she said our names, we walked into a screaming auditorium. The feeling of accomplishment that overcame me was amazing. I have never felt so important in my entire life. Here I was, in this high school auditorium with the entire school wanting to talk to me and my best friends about the awesomely cool lives we are having the opportunity to live.

We each took our places behind our name cards and smiled into the audience. The principal introduced us each individually and asked us to talk about ourselves, our mission for the Esteem Team and a little bit about the tour. Then came the questions.

Our first question came from a girl in the audience who looked like she belonged in the fashion industry. "Ok, well, your motto is ‘Just Like You’, but you all look like the perfect model. What makes you just like us?"

"That’s a great question. Actually, we’ll each tell you. Mine is the size of my feet. I have a size 11 foot and there are not many shoe designers who make shoes that size. And when I go to do runway shows, I have to fit myself into a size 9 and walk comfortably. It’s not as easy as it seems. Ames?"

"Well, I actually don’t have a problem with runway, but it’s more my photographs. I have really bad freckles on my back. Every time I take pictures in an open back shirt, the production company has to spend lots of money trying to retouch my photos and make my skin look clear. Maybe after all of this is over that won’t have to happen anymore." She said gracefully. "And you Ms. Bianca?"

"Well, I don’t know if you saw when I walked in, I was wearing the tallest pair of heels. I’m only 5’2" and that is really short on modeling standards. I have to wear 4 to 5 inch heels just to look like I’m as tall as the other girls when they don’t have shoes on." The audience laughed at Bianca’s speech and she turned to Savannah. "And you Savannah Jessamyn Malone, how are you just like everyone else?"

Savannah blushed and then looked out at the audience. "Well, I am blind as a bat. Actually, I have to wear contacts to see more than 6 feet in front of my face. I used to wear glasses all the time for my go-sees and when I was in Paris, I had one guy who shall remain nameless say to me, "Who do you zink you are? You cannot wear zee glasses in my fashion show?" She said in her best French accent. The audience laughed again and after that everyone was completely at rest.

We talked with the students for another half an hour when one of the guys stood up and asked us if we had boyfriends.

"Well, actually, yes, some of us do."

"Who? I hope at least one of you is single because I am too and I want to show you a good time." There were lots of catcalls and whistles and the whole auditorium began to laugh. One of the faculty members walked over to him and scolded him, but we continued to answer the question.

"Actually, I am spoken for, it’s kind of a new relationship so I don’t want to talk about it too much, but yeah, I’m taken." I said and looked to Ames to answer next.

"I am free and single. Hanging out with some friends, but I am completely unattached." She said and winked at the kid.
"I am also in a new relationship with an amazing guy. I’m sure you’ll all find out sooner than later who I’m dating, but anyways, for now I’d like to keep it low-key." Bianca said and turned it over to Savannah.

"I’m seeing someone right now, but we are not officially dating. Actually guys, it’s time for us to wrap this up and head over to lunch. This was awesome and don’t forget to pick up our Cosmos when they come out next month!" She said and we walked off the stage.

After lunch was over, we got back on the bus and traveled over to Adlai Stevenson High School in the Bronx and repeated the process. They asked the same questions and had the same interests. The whole tour was off to an amazing start.

I finally got the chance to call Nick on our way to the hotel.


Nick’s POV

"Hey Nick! I’m so excited!" Jade said when I answered the phone that night. "Thank you so much for the rose and the note, they kept me going through the busy day I had today. You have no idea how much talking so much in one day will kill your voice. Oh geez, what am I saying? Of course you do, you’re a singer for crying out loud. I keep forgetting that." She sounded so cute on the phone.

"I miss you babe. I’m so glad your day was good. Why kinds of questions did they ask you?" I asked.

"Aww, Nick. I missed you too, but don’t start that or I’ll cry. And I have way too much make-up on right now to start crying. They asked the same questions over and over. Oh my gosh. I know that everyday of this tour I am going to answer how I am just like them and if I’m dating anyone. I swear, I love this job and I love the kids, but maybe we should all makes signs that pre-answer the questions. Hey, and then we can market them." She said sounding excited.
"Now now, sweetie. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. You’ll drive yourself and everyone else crazy. So what are you doing tonight to celebrate?" I asked her.

"Well, I’m planning on just staying in tonight and getting lots of sleep since I didn’t get ANY last night at all." She said as she walked into the lobby. I had her in my view and I got up off the couch. I walked over to the elevator where she was walking to and I stood in front of her and said, "Wrong. You’re going out with me tonight."