He woke slowly. Hovering in that gray area between sleep and wake, his mind taking on several quick trips of fancy before bringing him back to reality. He stretched first, long arms pulling against the air, his neck twisting, straightening, and his legs kicking at the covers. Finally he let his eyelids slide open to reveal his milk chocolate dark eyes.
The sun streamed in, slightly diffused by the off-white sheer curtains that were flowing in the subtle breeze from coming in from the open windows. He could hear the call of the seagulls, and the answering crash of waves.
“Well. Look what day it is. Again.”
He lay back in the bed, hands clasped behind his head, reviewing the last few “days” in his head. It defied logic, but he had never been so sure of anything in his life. He’d been through it three times now, and it looked like today was the fourth.
He probably should be really fazed by this. But strangely he wasn’t. Not this time at least. “Look at it this way, Howie. More birthday presents.” He chuckled at the thought.
As “enjoyable” as all this was, he had to find a way out of it. No one else seemed to have noticed it, but it was starting to get annoying. He’d always been a bit of a follower; letting the others take center. He’d preferred to be the peacemaker, the voice of reason. But he was really starting to chomp at the bit. He wanted to move things forward! Get out of this loop he seemed to be in. It was nice that he wasn’t getting any older, but this constant repetition was starting to age him.
The phone rang and he picked it up, snuggling deeper into the pillows as AJ’s, or should he say Johnny No-Name’s, version of the birthday song echoed through the phone lines.
“And good morning to you too, Bone.”
“Someone is awfully calm today. What happened to ‘omigod it’s that hellish day again Howie?’ I figured you’d be deep in despair by this time.”
“Its just a birthday. Things could be worse.”
“Yeah, you could be Nick.”
Howie laughed. “How did I know that comparison was coming? Nope, I think being you would be worse than being Nick.”
“What!? It’s cool to be me!”
“Let’s see: scrawny ass, receding hairline, wacky hair – and you can’t tell me that all that hair dye isn’t seeping into your brain, weird beard that needs mascara to make it look good, strange tattoos that are gonna look really strange when you’re 50 and fat…”
“What is this? Make fun of AJ day? Damn, man, I called to make YOU feel bad, not the other way around. And I am never gonna be fat. And never 50 either.”
“How you going to avoid it?”
“Creative date keeping,” AJ replied with a smug chuckle. “Sort of like my finances…”
“Funny guy. You still owe me money from the other night.”
“See? Creative book keeping. It’s what keeps me in hats.”
Howie laughed again. It was good to laugh; made him forget about all the things that had been getting him down. All the things that had been making his birthdays feel like some sort of burden.
“I can’t believe this. You are actually being relaxed about this. Usually you are so uptight about your birthday. What gives?”
Howie shrugged, then realized AJ couldn’t see that. “I just came to the conclusion that today was just another day. Good things will happen. Bad things will happen. Same as any other day. It’s no big conspiracy on the part of God to make me miserable. Just life. So why sweat it?”
“Maybe because you are so OLD,” AJ tried again to get a rise out of his friend.
“At least I’m not losing my hair.”
“Who can tell? You keep it tied up all the time,” AJ shot back. “I’ve had enough of you. I can’t get you to even flinch. To hell with this. I’ll see you tonight?”
“Yep. Oh, and AJ? Make sure that the strippers are women, okay?”
He could hear AJ gulp through the phone line. Then replied just a little too innocently, “strippers? Would I do that to you? I don’t know where you would get such an idea.”
Brian called and he chatted amiably with him. He was still in Georgia getting ready for the wedding. And the jitters were starting to show. Howie had to laugh. The man had been performing all over the world for years, and he was getting really nervous about just standing in front of a bunch of friends and family, and saying a few words. Pledging himself to the woman he loved for the rest of his life. Then again… if you put it that way, he wasn’t surprised that Brian was edgy.
It was funny: he was older than Brian (even more so in the past few days), but he wasn’t ready for the kind of commitment that his friend was making. It wasn’t just that he hadn’t met anyone he wanted to marry: he wasn’t prepared to get married. He’d thought about it a little when Kevin got married, but now it really seemed to be on his mind. “Birthday stuff, probably,” he thought. So he wasn’t in a hurry to get married. He could live with that. One more pressure off his mind.
He reached over and picked up the phone, calling the gym. “Hi, it’s Howie Dorough. Yeah, thanks. Look, I am not going to come in today after all. Yeah, just going to take it easy. Okay, great. Thanks. I’ll see you then.”
There. He’d taken charge. No stop at the gym. If that was the thing that was constantly setting the repetitions off then he’d managed to sidestep it. Of course that left him with a huge space in his day, but that could be fun. When was the last time he’d done completely nothing? Just lolled in bed until he felt like getting up? Took it easy for no other reason than that he could?
“The first day of the rest of your life, Howie. That’s what a birthday is after all. A day for your friends and family to let you know they care. No ulterior motives. Just saying, hey, we’re glad you’re around. Save the jaded and bitter feelings for another day. Just enjoy this one,” he thought as he slid out of bed.
He gazed out the window at the beach below him. It was lightly populated, despite the beautiful weather. Of course it being a Tuesday meant that it was usually this empty. So he didn’t have a bodyguard around. Big deal. It had been a while since he went for a walk along the beach and he was going to do it. Heck, it had been a while since he’d looked his life as anything other than a celebrity treadmill. He wasn’t all that; time to get over himself.
He hopped in the shower, just to get the sleep out of his eyes. Okay, so he also did a quick inventory to see that nothing had changed over night. Nope, no ear hair. And the few wrinkles he could find were more laugh lines than anything. Yes, there were a few frown furrows on his forehead. He’d have to be a little careful about those, but they were nothing he couldn’t handle.
And no, he hadn’t shrunk where it counts.
He chortled at himself for checking that. What is it with guys and their penises?
He rinsed the shampoo out of his hair and started to spread lather over his torso. He scrubbed his underarms, and moved down his chest, enjoying the feel of the soap against his body. He took special care around his groin. Not bigger, not smaller, but at least it’d be clean.
He was just finishing up when the soap slipped from his hand and plunked on the floor of the tub.
He was sure that they could hear his laughter even as far as the gym.
The beach had been great. Sure, he’d been recognized a few times, but it had been pleasant, and not at all overwhelming. The fans he’d met had been genuinely happy to see him, and to offer birthday greetings. He’d even exchanged phone numbers with one elderly couple who were big fans. He was certain that his parents and they would really hit it off. Ever since their move from the ancestral Dorough home they had found it a little hard to start new friendships. He’d see what he could do to help out.
It actually felt like a huge weight had been taken off his shoulders. A weight that he hadn’t even noticed was there, he thought as he walked into the local Starbucks. He ordered a grande tea, and waited, lost in his own thoughts. Maybe that had been his problem. He EXPECTED his birthday to be this huge deal. Sort of like it had been when he was a child. And now that he was older it was a bit of a disappointment. It lacked that surprise and fervor it had had back then. It never measured up. So he’d started looking for the bad things, not seeing the good. Maybe if he…
He turned quickly, and bumped into the person standing behind him, splashing hot water all over them. The woman gave a short scream then jumped back, trying to hold her now hot and soaked clothes away from her skin.
“Omigod, I am so sorry. I wasn’t watching. I… Don’t I know you?”
She stopped shaking her shirt, and swearing quietly under her breath, and looked at him. A smile came over her face. “Yeah. You do, but I am surprised you remember. Hi, Howie.”
How could he not recollect her face? He’s seen it over and over again on each of his ‘birthdays.’ Same dark brown eyes, wide smile and long dark auburn hair. “Detroit, right? We met after the concert there?”
“Yeah,” she nodded, eyes betraying her surprise that he remembered. “I didn’t expect to bump into you down here. Though it is your home state and all.”
He grinned. “Actually I think it was me bumping into you, not the other way around.”
She grimaced, looking down at her white t-shirt. It now had a brown stripe down the front from where the tea had stained it. “Damn, I just bought this too,” she muttered. Then shrugged. “Oh well, white attracts dirt.”
“Or tea. I am really sorry I soaked you,” he said politely, though he had to admit he wasn’t minding the way the shirt now hugged her breasts. Or the slight reaction she was showing as the hot water was rapidly turning chill. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“I was actually about to order a tea. Though I think I just got one,” she replied wryly. He laughed, then order a tea for her, and some more water for his. He handed her the cup, carefully, and steered her to a table outside in the sun.
“So if you are from Detroit what are you doing here?”
“Getting splashed by Backstreet Boys. Kidding, though not really. Actually I am on a week’s vacation. It has been a crappy summer up north. Not bad, just inconsistent. And I wanted sun! Even if I had to go far afield to get it. Besides, the beaches here are real beaches. Not lake ones.”
He turned his head, soaking up more of the sun. “I know what you mean. It’s been a pretty good summer here. Busy, but great.”
“So can I descend into the realm of rabid fan for a moment and ask: when IS the new album coming out?”
He laughed. “Soon. Very soon.”
“Right. Like that helps. I want DATES, Howie,” she said mock-sternly. “Hey, talking about dates… Isn’t it your birthday?”
That made him chuckle. “Yeah. My birthday. Again.”
She frowned at his tone of voice. “Well, happy birthday. And if it helps you don’t look older.”
“Thanks. This is one of the few that actually doesn’t make me feel older too.”
She sighed. “I know what you mean. I hate my birthday.”
“Really? I thought I was the only one.” He paused. “Sorry, what is your name again?”
“Helen.” She held out her hand. “Pleased to meet you not-so-old Birthday boy.” He smiled and shook her hand. “No, I can’t stand my birthday. Something always goes wrong. And my mother calls me every year to tell me how long and arduous labour with me was. I swear, according to her it took longer and longer each year.”
“I know what you mean about things going wrong. At least my Mama doesn’t do that.”
“It’s been worse ever since I passed her date. You know, the age she was when she had me? I think its her oh-so-subtle way of telling me she wants grandkids. Though how I am supposed to get that from ‘oh the pain, the pain,’ I don’t know.”
That really did make him laugh. They had been chatting affably for a while when the alarm on Howie’s watch chimed.
“Damn. I better go. I’m going to be late for the party.” He looked over at Helen. “You wouldn’t be interested in coming to a birthday party with me, would you? As my guest?”
Helen blushed. “Umm. I’d love to. But…” she gestured at her stained shirt.
“You look fine. Okay, the shirt isn’t so great, but I am sure I have a white one that you can borrow. I live just over there. Please? Say you’ll come with me?”
“It’d take a stronger woman than me to say no to her favourite Backstreet Boy,” Helen smiled, and this time it was Howie who blushed.
Helen's jaw dropped as he walked into Howie’s condo. “This place is incredible!”
“It did turn out pretty good, didn’t it?” he replied with some pride. He gave her a quick tour, ending with this huge walk-in closet where they found a top that worked with the skirt that Helen was wearing. He changed quickly too, and a short while later they were pulling up in front of the restaurant in Howie’s purple Corvette.
Not that he’d been worried, but Helen seemed to settle in with the people at the party quite quickly. She discussed recipes with his mother, and even managed to get his father to tell some of his old police stories. She’d to put AJ in his place when he pulled out his flirtatious side. Heck, she’d even managed to make “Johnny” blush with some comment, that Howie really wished he’d been close enough to hear. He needed all the material he could get; when Johnny came out to play he usually seemed to make the most fun of Howie.
She was still discussing the relative merits of the Backstreet Project with Nick when his parents left. And AJ’s not-so-unexpected surprise appeared. And so did Nick’s. Those two really did need to talk to each other more: what the hell was he supposed to do with two strippers?
He was trying to figure that out, as both performed their show in front of him, each trying to outdo each other with their shakes and shimmies. The thoughtful expression must have shown on his face, because Helen tapped him on the shoulder and offered him another Corona with a grin on her face.
Then leaned close to his face, glanced at the two women (thankful they were women), then back at him and said quietly, but confidently, “I can do much better than that.”
His mouth went dry at the thought.
And she did too. Once they returned to his condo, barely able to keep their hands off each other, she gave him his birthday present. The only one she had time to prepare, she said with a mischievous grin. When she finally came into his arms his body was shaking so hard with anticipation he was afraid it was going to be over as soon as it started.
If he thought her striptease was seductive, Helen treated him to a slow tease that really had his head reeling. Slowly, delicately, she covered his body with light kisses and a few nibbles. Her hands, and then her mouth, pinched and caressed his nipples, then moved down his chest to his taut stomach. Then lower.
He thought he was never going to catch his breath again. But with lightning speed, he twisted her over onto her back and returned the favour. Soon they were both in that same deliriously agitated state, and when he finally slid into her both of them cried out their pleasure at the sensation.
It was late, or rather very early when they both finally slid into sleep.
And when he woke the next day, it was to the knowledge that, finally, his birthday was over. Past. Done. Yesterday.
He sighed happily as he burrowed under the covers, pulling Helen’s warm body next to his. She murmured drowsily, then snuggled close to him, her hands slowly wandering across his body. They found his hard, long shaft and started to stroke it to greater attention. His hands moved over her, cupping her firm breasts, then rubbing her back. He started to nibble on her neck, quickly moving to that spot he’d discovered the night before. The spot that made her whole body moan.
A long while later Helen stretched languorously and murmured “good morning.”
“Very good so far,” he replied huskily as his hand continued to stroke her stomach.
“Too true,” she smiled, her hand doing a similar movement. Then she sat up and looked at him as her hand moved down his body. “Howie?”
“Okay, weird question, but… Why do you drive that souped-up muscle car? I mean it is not as if you have to compensate for anything.”
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