This was definitely a difficult chapter to revise because it was so randomly written in the original version. As I've grown older, I've come to the decision that writing sexually graphic material was not only uncomfortable but it's unnecessary in a story like this. I also realized that there was extremely choppy character development in the original version so I've completely rewritten this chapter to create a smoother transition and introduce Nikki in a more realistic way. As I finished the first half of the chapter, I decided that this was a perfect way to bring an introduction into the story behind AJ and Amanda's relationship and where it currently stands. So this particular chapter is written in two different perspectives by conducting a chapter break to separate the two scenes. I truly hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
“Oh, you son of a bitch,” Rachel muttered as she witnessed the driver of a gray Ford sedan steal her parking spot on the street. Letting out a huff of frustration, she twisted her lips and took her foot off the brake and gazed up the road for another place to park.
The windshield wipers quietly squeaked as she drove a half block and found another empty parking spot. She scowled as she carefully pulled into the parking space, grateful that there wasn’t another car parked so she didn’t have to attempt parallel parking in the rain. Rachel put the car in park and turned off the ignition, grabbing her light blue hoodie from the passenger seat to put it on. After she slipped her right arm into the hoodie, she grabbed her backpack from the passenger floorboard and pulled it closer to her as she slipped her left arm into the hoodie. She loosely draped the hood over her head and quickly got out of the car, bowing her head in attempt to avoid getting soaked. Rachel swung her backpack over her shoulder and began jogging towards the building beside her car, sighing of relief as she got under the awning and was able to walk at a normal pace. Inhaling the sweet scent of fresh rain on hot asphalt, Rachel found herself smiling a little. Rain on a hot day was one of her favorite smells and it was her favorite kind of weather.
Thunder roared loudly in the distance as she picked up the pace a little, gripping the strap of her backpack as she hopped over a puddle before opening the door of the coffee shop that she’d discovered a few days before. It was a small shop and she found it to be the perfect spot to sit and write for a little while, especially early in the morning.
Even though it was Saturday, Rachel found herself unable to sleep in past her usual alarm clock time. Of course, the inability to sleep wasn’t anything new for her. This had been going on for months and there didn’t seem to be any sign of that changing any time soon. Rather than staying at home, taking the risk of waking Kristin, she decided to take a trip to the coffee shop instead.
Rachel slid the hood of her hoodie off her head and looked around for a moment. The coffee shop was empty with the exception of two employees behind the counter. The soft clanking of dishes and the two employees chatting were the only sounds that could be heard as Rachel casually stepped up to the counter. The scent of fresh coffee wafted beneath her nose as she observed the menu, feeling her stomach growl from hunger. Rachel looked over at the display of breakfast pastries, examining each one before deciding upon a cheese danish. She set her backpack on the counter, pulling out her wallet as a young brunette girl with the nametag, “Nikki” came to the register.
“Good morning,” the Nikki said sweetly.
“Morning,” Rachel replied.
“What can I get for you today?”
“Can I please get an endless mug and a cheese danish?” Rachel stated as she pulled a twenty dollar bill out of her wallet.
“Sure thing,” Nikki stated as she punched buttons on the register and smiled as she placed a mug on the counter. “That’s gonna be $6.43.”
Rachel handed her the twenty dollar bill and grabbed the handle of the mug, waiting patiently for her change, glancing over her shoulder as another crack of thunder was heard from outside.
“Would you like that danish warmed up?” Nikki asked as she handed Rachel her change.
“That would be great,” Rachel replied with a smile.
“Alright, I’ll bring it out to you as soon as it’s ready,” Nikki replied as she took a danish out of the pastry case.
“Thank you,” Rachel said as she zipped her backpack and carried it with her to a nearby table with a couple couches.
She set the backpack down on one of the couches and stepped over to the canisters of coffee to prepare her first cup. Carefully pouring the creamer into the mug, Rachel read the labels on all the canisters and decided on the Columbian dark blend. Strong and bold is the kind of coffee she needed that morning. Anything to give her an extra dose of pep while she wrote in her notebook for a while. As she pushed the level of the canister, the sound of Nikki placing the danish on the table where she left her bag.
“There you go, Hon,” Nikki said sweetly. “Let me know if you need anything else.”
“Thank you,” Rachel said with a smile, stirring sugar into her coffee. “I should be all set,” she added.
“My pleasure,” Nikki said with a nod and made her way over to another table that needed cleaning.
Rachel took a sip of her coffee and sighed with contentment as she made her way back to the couch and set her mug on the table, scooting the danish closer to her. She reached into her bag and pulled out her Backstreet Boys notebook and folder; setting them on the table as she dug deeper into her bag for a pen. Muttering softly to herself, as she began to feel frustrated over her own disorganization. Her fingers grazed the bottom of the backpack and she felt the familiar smooth, round texture of her Backstreet Boys pen. Wrapping her fingers around the pen, she pulled it out and took another sip of her coffee before taking the lid off the pen and placing it on the opposite end. Propping her feet up on the couch, she settled into the cushions and carefully opened her notebook and began jotting down a few random thoughts going through her head, brainstorming on ideas for the next chapter of her story. Creative writing was one of her favorite pastimes. She never considered herself to be a very good writer, but she enjoyed writing stories for own pleasure and keeping them private. Often times, she wrote stories based on her real life and giving them a creative twist. It was her way of escaping the world around her. It helped soften the pain of reality when it got too intense.
As she sipped her coffee, she continued to write with a steady flow, feeling pleased at the direction the story was going. After writing a few more paragraphs, Rachel sat up straight and placed the notebook on the table, resting the pen on the open page. She grabbed her danish and took a bite, smiling to herself at how good the creamy pastry tasted. It was baked to the perfect consistency of lightly crispy and moist at the same time. As she chewed her bite, she looked out the nearby window and observed the slow moving traffic of the downtown area traveled through the pouring rain. Thunder rumbled loudly as a flash of lighting suddenly lit up the sky and disappeared into the dark mass of clouds. As the rain tapped against the window, Rachel quietly watched the scenery, sipping her coffee casually and enjoying the peacefulness of the coffee shop. She couldn’t think of a better way to spend her Saturday morning. She felt a sense of relief to have found something to cherish in her new place of residency. It gave her hope that more good things would come her way.
The quietness of the coffee shop was starting to fade as more customers started filtering through the door, most of them taking their order to go and going about their day. A few stayed and sat at the tables; enjoying their coffee with a book or a working on a stack of homework. Light chatter of the employees conversing with customers echoed against the walls as Rachel stood up to get a refill on her coffee. As she stirred in her usual mixture of cream and sugar, she heard the sound of the door opening and the squeak of wet shoes moving across the hardwood floor. Throwing away her stir stick, she turned around and took a sip of her drink as her eyes focused on Amanda walking towards the counter, running her fingers through her rain drenched hair. She tapped the counter and waved at Nikki who was pouring coffee into a mug. Rachel went back to her seat but couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between the two girls.
“Hey! Alex just called looking for you,” Nikki stated as she put the whipped cream on top of the beverage.
Amanda rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I figured it wouldn’t take him long to do that,” she muttered as she shook off her jacket. “Can I get a mocha?”
“Sure,” Nikki said as she rang it up in the register and took Amanda’s cash. “You staying or going?” she asked casually.
“I’ll stay here a bit,” Amanda stated as she looked around. “I’m up at ass crack of dawn on a Saturday so I might as well enjoy myself.”
Nikki chuckled and handed Amanda her change. “Well, take a seat and I’ll bring it out to you.”
“Thanks, Doll,” Amanda said with a smile and turned around, stuffing her change back into her pocket. Her eyes immediately connected with Rachel’s as she approached the table. “So, we meet again,” she said casually.
“We do,” Rachel stated as she put down her mug.
“Mind if I sit down?” Amanda asked while tucking her hair behind her ear. “Unless you’d rather be alone.”
Rachel shook her head and gestured her hand at the lounge chair beside the couch. “No, go ahead. Have a seat,” she stated as she sat up straight, gathering her things from the table and accidentally dropping her notebook on the floor; it landed with the cover facing up.
Amanda bent down to pick up the notebook and smiled as she handed it to Rachel. “Backstreet Boys, huh? I wouldn’t have pegged you for a boy band fanatic.”
Rachel laughed quietly as she graciously took the notebook from her and placed it back into her backpack. “Yeah...I think they’re pretty great,” she admitted with a smile. “I’ve been a big fan for a while now.”
“That’s cool,” Amanda admitted as she draped her jacket over the arm of the chair.
“Are you a fan?” Rachel asked curiously.
Amanda paused for a moment and chuckled to herself, nodding slowly. “You could say that.”
“What does that mean?” Rachel asked with an awkward giggle.
Amanda grinned with a shrug. “Well, they’re music is good and they’re good looking. I wouldn’t call myself a fanatic who hangs pictures on her wall, you know?”
“Yeah, I get it,” Rachel nodded as she took another sip of her coffee, feeling more awkward knowing that her own bedroom fit the exact description Amanda just painted for her.
Amanda tilted her head, observing Rachel for a moment. “I hope I didn’t offend you by saying that.”
“No, you’re fine,” Rachel replied as set her mug down.
“You sure? Because you look like a puppy who got caught with his nose in flower bed.”
Rachel laughed as she looked up at the ceiling, feeling sheepish for being so transparent. “I’m not offended, really,” she said as she drew her focus back on Amanda.
“But…,” Amanda pried curiously, grinning as she crossed her legs.
“But...I’m one of those fans who hangs pictures on her wall…,” she admitted with her cheeks burning.
Amanda’s grin grew wider as she nodded to herself. “Let me guess….Nick fan?”
Rachel laughed and shook her head. “No...I mean, he’s cute and all, but I prefer Brian.”
“Interesting,” Amanda said with a smile as Nikki came by the table with her mocha. “Nikki, this is Rachel. I met her between classes the other day.”
“That’s awesome,” Nikki said as she wiped her hands on her apron. “So you attend UCF as well?”
“Yeah, this is my first semester. I just moved here from Missouri.”
“You’re gonna love it there. It’s a good school,” Nikki stated with a nod.
“Do you attend there as well?” Rachel asked curiously, feeling grateful for the new social interaction.
“No, not currently,” Nikki admitted. “I decided to take a year off.”
“Yeah, she kinda sucks like that,” Amanda teased.
“Shut up,” Nikki said with a laugh. “I’ll probably come back next fall. I wanted to take some time off to figure out what I want to do.”
“Until then, she’s pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming the most famous barista in the world,” Amanda said with a chuckle.
“You’re such a bitch,” Nikki said as she laughed again. “Okay, I have to get back to work but it was really nice meeting you, Rachel. I’m sure we’ll see each other again sometime.”
“For sure. Nice meeting you as well,” Rachel said as she watched Nikki walk away and return to the cash register as a new customer came into the building. “You guys seem like good friends,” she commented as she looked back over at Amanda.
“We’re practically sisters,” Amanda admitted. “I’ve known her my whole life. We share an apartment not far from here. She’s the only person in my life that will call me out on my shit,” she said with a smirk. “With the exception of my boyfriend,” she added.
“Oh, yeah. The last time I saw you, you didn’t seem to be getting along too well,” Rachel said as she took another bite of her danish.
“Yeah...but we’ll get through it. We always do.”
“How long have you been with him?”
“Almost four years now.”
“Oh, wow...high school sweethearts?”
“Pretty much,” Amanda said as she drank her mocha. “We didn’t attend the same school but we dated in high school. He’s a pain in the ass but he’s my pain in the ass,” she joked.
“I think it’s sweet. You’re lucky to have that. I don’t know anyone here except my best friend.”
“You’ll find someone,” Amanda said confidently. “You seem sweet. You’ll snag a nice guy, I’m sure.”
“Thanks,” Rachel said softly. “I haven’t dated anyone since my sophomore year of high school.”
“That’s okay. The right guy will come along,” she stated as she reached into her purse and pulled out her phone that had started ringing. “I’m sure that’s Alex,” she said as she rolled her eyes and opened the phone, bringing it to her ear. “Hello?”
Rachel polished the last of her danish and looked at her watch, sighing as she realized that she’d soon have to leave to go home and prepare for her first day at work. As Amanda continued her conversation on the phone, Rachel gathered the rest of her things and shoved them into her backpack.
“I’ll be home in a little bit, Babe. I stopped by the coffee shop to say hi to Nikki,” Amanda said into the phone, mouthing “I’m sorry,” to Rachel as she drew her focus back to the phone, shifting her position in the chair. “It’s fine. You should get some sleep before you go back to work later,” she continued as she studied her nails, frowning as she grazed her thumb over her middle fingernail. “Yes, I’ll be home soon. Just get some sleep. I love you,” she said then hung up the phone. “Sorry about that. He can be needy sometimes,” she said with a chuckle, shoving the phone back into her purse. “I should probably head back as soon as I finish this coffee.”
“Yeah, I need to head out too,” Rachel said as she zipped her backpack. “I need to get changed for work.”
“You got the job!” Amanda said enthusiastically. “I’m glad to hear that. You’ll love working there.”
“You sure you’re not lying about that? I mean you did just quit,” Rachel stated matter of factly.
Amanda nodded with a laugh. “Yes, but not for bad reasons. Alex encouraged me to quit so I could focus on college. It’s a fun place to work, I swear. Great boss, great customers, free food, and great staff. Be sure to make friends with Sarah. You’ll love her.”
“Awesome,” Rachel said as she stood up and flung her backpack over her shoulder. “Well, I’ll see you around, I’m sure.”
“Of course,” Amanda said as she dug into her purse and pulled out a pen, scribbling it onto a receipt she found. “Here’s my number. Call me sometime and we’ll hang out.”
“Really?” Rachel said in surprise as she took the receipt from her.
“Yeah, why not? You’re cool and you look like you could use a friend or two.”
“Awesome, I’ll definitely call you soon,” Rachel said as she put the receipt in her pocket. “Catch you later, Amanda.”
“Have a great day,” Amanda said with a smile, waving at her as she stood up and walked over to the counter to chat with Nikki.
The apartment was quiet when Amanda returned from the coffee shop and she assumed that AJ was still asleep. She removed her flip flops at the door and set her purse down on the table beside the door. Sighing to herself, she wandered down the hallway to the bedroom. Carefully, she twisted the doorknob and slowly opened the door, peeking her head before entering the room. The blackout curtains were drawn, leaving the room completely dark. She kept the door open a crack and turned on the hallway light to give her some vision through the room without disturbing him. Amanda fully entered the room and quietly crept onto the bed where AJ lay fast asleep on his stomach. She smiled to herself as she gently placed her hand on his back and slowly leaned down, pressing her lips on his shoulder. AJ stirred slightly, turning his head to the other side and burying his head deeper into his pillow. Amanda chuckled to herself as she glanced at the clock, knowing that the alarm would likely go off at any time. Lying on her side, she propped herself up on her elbow, resting her hand on the side of her head as she watched him sleep for a few minutes. Admiring the definition in his arm, she rested her other hand on his bicep and scooted closer to him, laying her head beside his. She pressed her forehead and against his and exhaled with contentment as she laid in the dark room beside him. A twinge of sadness crept into the pit of her stomach as she thought about his upcoming work schedule with a world tour, studio time, press interviews, and TV appearances. Their relationship was becoming complicated and she didn’t like it. Amanda was proud of AJ and his success but she hated sharing him with the public. Staying in Orlando without him around was going to be harder than it had been in the past. This time, the world tour was much longer and his free time would become almost nonexistent. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for that kind of change.
She sighed to herself as she closed her eyes, taking in the faint scent of his cologne as tears threatened to spill down her cheeks. The past month had been full of meaningless arguments, which Amanda could admit was mostly her fault. She knew she had a tendency to be overdramatic and often times her insecurities would get in the way of being the compassionate and supportive girlfriend she knew how to be. She reached up and wiped away the tears that formed against her lashes and clenched her jaw as she thought about their most recent fight over a last minute change in his schedule. They had plans to travel to Miami for the weekend, but his management team needed him in the studio instead. It always seemed unfair and she took it far more personal than she should. Each time they would fight, she would feel worse about herself, questioning if she even deserved to be with AJ. He had been good to her, never asking for anything in return except for her love. What more could she possibly want? She let out a soft sniffle and hiccupped as the tears continued to fall down her cheeks. She felt tired. She didn’t have the energy to fight anymore. She wanted the madness to end. All of it needed to stop before she lost her mind.
Amanda laid still in the quiet room, listening to his steady breathing and cuddled closer, watching the alarm clock tick through the minutes. AJ lightly snored beside her and she couldn’t help but chuckle lightly to herself. She loved his snoring. It wasn’t loud of obnoxious. It was a soft snore that barely rattled through his slightly parted lips. She smiled as she kissed his forehead and ran her fingers through his freshly dyed hair. A few weeks ago he had dyed it bright red and now it was back to his usual jet black color, which is the color she preferred on him. Twirling her fingers through his short locks of hair, AJ stirred and wrapped his arms tightly around her. Amanda smiled to herself and sank into his embrace.
“You never let me sleep,” he muttered with his eyes still closed; kissing her cheek.
“I was gone for two hours. I think you slept plenty,” she replied with a smirk.
“Not when I’m trying to make up three days’ worth,” he said with a yawn and rolled over, to click the alarm off before it went off. Stretching his muscles, he sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I gotta shower,” he mumbled, draping his arm over his eyes.
“That can wait. You technically still have a couple hours before you have to leave,” Amanda said coyly, tracing her fingertips over his bare chest.
AJ lifted his arm and peeked over at her and smirked. “Didn’t you get enough of me last night?”
“I can never get enough of you,” Amanda admitted as she slid her hand further down his torso, resting it on his pelvis as she trailed kisses up his chest.
A barely audible groan escaped from AJ’s lips as he removed his arm from his eyes and rolled onto his side, pressing his lips against hers. Amanda smiled against his lips as she wrapped her arms around him, raking her nails up his back. AJ held her tight and kissed her passionately for a few minutes before pulling back and looking at her. He cupped his hand on her cheek and smiled fondly.
“We can’t do this tonight,” he said softly, caressing her cheek.
“Why not?” she asked softly, observing the intensity in his eyes.
“Out of condoms,” he said casually as he rolled over on his back and sat up, running a hand over his tired face.
“So? That didn’t stop us last night,” Amanda said with a giggle.
AJ chuckled and shook his head. “We were both drunk and stupid last night,” he admitted. “That wasn’t our smartest decision.”
“True,” Amanda agreed as she sat up and planted kisses on his shoulder, linking both arms around his arm and resting her head against it.
AJ kissed the top of her head and worked the kinks out of his neck by gently turning his head from side to side. The sound of his cell phone ringing was heard from its position on the nightstand beside Amanda. She let go of his arm and frowned as she picked up and looked at the caller ID.
“It’s Kevin,” she stated flatly, handing him the phone and plopping onto her side.
“Great,” AJ replied with a sigh, still working out the kink in his neck as he opened the phone and put it to his ear. “Hey, Kev, what’s up?”
Amanda turned her back to AJ as she pulled her knees up towards her torso, frowning as she listened to AJ’s one sided conversation. She heard the word “rehearsal” and clenched her jaw as she grabbed the blanket and pulled it over her head, not wanting to hear him explain what was happening.
“Alright, give me like 30 minutes and I’ll be there,” he told Kevin. “Later, dude,” he said and closed the phone with a sigh and looked at Amanda under the lump under the blankets.
“I already know what you’re going to say. You have to go,” Amanda said flatly, not emerging from the blankets.
“They need us in rehearsal to go over some new choreography,” he stated as he laid his hand on her side.
“Whatever, do what you have to do,” Amanda said as she felt her throat grow tight as she held back her tears.
AJ sighed softly and gently grabbed the edge of the blanket so remove them from her head. “Babe, talk to me,” he said gently as he leaned down and kissed her cheek.
Amanda’s chin trembled as she buried her head into the pillow and quietly sobbed. “Just go,” she whimpered as she gripped the pillow.
“Babe, I’m sorry,” he said as he ran his hand down her arm. “You know I have to do this. We’ll spend the weekend together. I have nothing scheduled.”
Amanda sniffled as she rolled over to look up at him. “That’s what you said last weekend and you got called into the studio at the last minute.”
“Babe, you know I can’t help it. These things happen. That’s the business,” AJ replied with a sigh.
Amanda groaned in frustration and sat up. “Alex, this is stupid. You haven’t even gone on tour for this album yet and you’re already recording for the next one?! What the fuck is JIVE’s problem anyway? Fucking greedy assholes,” she stated with a low growl in her voice.
“Hey, don’t go there. I wouldn’t have my career if it weren’t for them.”
“They work you guys to the bone. It’s not fair.”
“Not fair to you or to me?” he questioned with a smirk.
“Shut up,” she muttered as she smacked him lightly on the arm and wiped the tears off her face.
AJ smiled and cupped her chin with his hand, kissing her tenderly on the lips. “I love you, babe,” he said straight faced, looking her in the eyes. “You know that, right?”
“Yes,” Amanda said as she blinked and fresh tears hit her cheeks.
“Hey,” AJ whispered as he caught a tear before it rolled down her cheek. “Why is this bothering you so much?”
“I don’t know,” Amanda shrugged, completely unsure of her emotions.
“This weekend, you and me, I promise,” he said then kissed her. “I gotta go before I’m late.”
“Okay,” she mumbled as she watched him slide off the bed and get dressed. “Are you coming back over tonight?”
“Depends on how tired I am,” he said as he put on his jeans and sighed as he picked up the shirt he wore the night before. “Fuck, I forgot an extra shirt.”
“There’s one in my dresser that you left behind last week,” Amanda said as she stood up and walked over to the dresser and handed him a blue T-Shirt from the top drawer.
“Thanks, Baby,” he said as he kissed her cheek before slipping the shirt over his head.
“So you think you might be too tired to come by tonight?” she asked timidly, looking at him with pleading eyes.
AJ look at her lovingly and smoothed out her hair. “I’ll come by tonight anyway.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive...but I won’t lie, I’ll be pretty tired tonight,” he said, linking his fingers with hers.
Amanda squeezed his hand and brought it to her lips, kissing it sweetly. “That’s okay. Just call me and let me know what time.”
“Will do,” he said then kissed her. “See you tonight. I love you.”
“Love you too,” Amanda replied as she watched him leave the room.
As she heard AJ walk out the front door, Amanda sank back down on the bed and ran her fingers through her hair, feeling both ashamed and frustrated with her own emotions. She knew AJ loved her. This was never a question. All she wanted was time alone with him before he left for the tour and she wasn’t getting any time at all. Everything was changing too fast and she didn’t like it. She was losing confidence that she could handle the pressure of his career. Their relationship had lost all elements of simplicity and it was emotionally draining.
Amanda laid back down on her pillow and stared at the wall. Her eyes felt heavy from the tension headache that formed after she’d started crying. She had no energy to think about it anymore and decided that sleeping the rest of the day would be the best solution. As she pulled the blankets over her body, she grabbed AJ’s pillow and inhaled the scent he’d left behind. Tears spilled down her cheeks again as she gripped the pillow in her arms and buried her face into it. She cried until she couldn’t cry anymore and eventually drifted off with her cheek resting against the tear stained pillowcase.