© Kat Morgan 1999/2000
In Name only
Chapter 5: Transmission ended?
She was never going to hear from him again. She realized that now. It had been almost a month. He was never there at any of their chat dates, and she hadnít seen him online either. She had so hopedÖ
It was all that damn Kevinís fault. He hadnít taken her picture shredding action well, and had stormed out of the apartment, pulling Howie along, swearing at her. Howie had tried to smile at her one last time before Kevin shoved him in the car, then it had sped off.
She had spent the next few days expecting to have some lawyer show up, with papers forcing her to keep quiet, but none ever came. She was sure she had Howie to thank for that, and had taken it for a good sign. But he still wasnít there.
She gave up. She had to. The waiting around was killing her. Her head had been pounding for weeks, what with all the times she had cried herself to sleep. She couldnít remember ever feeling like this before. Guys had come and gone in her life, some staying longer than others. But it had been a faceless man, then not-so-faceless, who had captured her heart. It was funny; even now, she didnít want to touch him or have sex with him or anything. It was his mind that had made her love him and that was what she missed.
She threw herself into her work. She had to or go crazy. The articles she wrote were dry and boring, no not her writing, but the subject matter. She buried herself in them, not even working on her own novels. Howie had been such a big help with those; she couldnít look at one without thinking of him.
It was one month, to the day, when the message flashed across her screen.
TheDster: Royal York Hotel. Room 680. Tomorrow. 8 p.m.
She was stunned. She tried to answer but he had all ready logged off. Dear gods! Now what? Was this the meeting with a lawyer that she had dreaded? The final nail in the coffin?
She arrived early, and tried to fortify herself with a drink at the downstairs bar. Her hands were trembling and she clasped them together, trying hard to calm her nerves. She checked herself in the mirror one more time before taking the elevator to the sixth floor and then knocked on the door.
Howie opened it. He smiled broadly on seeing her there. He could light up a room with that smile, and Kat felt her heart flutter.
"Hi," he said as he drew her into the room and shut the door. "Thank you for coming."
"Anything for you, Howie," she said as she peered around the room.
He chuckled. "If you are looking for, what did you call him? Petulant Boy? Heís not here."
He shrugged. "I didnít tell him I was coming. Heís at home in Kentucky for a few days and he still thinks I am in Orlando."
"Then why are you here?"
"To talk to you." He drew her over to the bed and sat down. "The last time, first time, we met didnít go too well."
"Thatís an understatement," she said wryly, and he laughed.
"You always put me at ease, Kat."
"Even over this?"
His face fell. "You know the reason we came was because of Kevin."
"Gee, tell me another one," she replied sarcastically. Then seeing the look on his face, "sorry, Howie."
"Itís okay. Heís still pretty angry at me. See, Kevin isnít gay."
"I know. Yes, we have been having an affair, but he isnít really gay. Just experimenting."
"Shouldnít you have checked me for wires or a tape recorder before you said that?"
He laughed. "See? You are doing it again; making me feel okay. I said I trusted you and I do."
"Then why didnít you answer me? Why did you leaving me hanging online?" her frustration over the past few weeks came spilling through. She knew that tears were slowly running down her face and didnít care.
"Hey," he said as he gathered her in his arms. "I was there. I was watching you. It was hurting me not to answer but I didnít know what to say."
"You could have just said hi. Let me know you were there," she sobbed into his chest.
"Iím here now," he said as he raised her head, brushing her hair back, kissing her forehead. "Iím right here."
He had kissed her. A flash of warmth went through her body. He had the softest lips. She thought for a moment, analysing the feel, then realized that no matter what, no matter the differences in their sexual preferences, this was a man she cared about, she loved.
"It hurt a lot Howie," she admitted, needing to say something.
"Iím sorry. Its just there are two different Howieís. The one who talks to you and the one on MTV, or MuchMusic," he amended quickly.
"And never the twain shall meet?"
He smiled ruefully. "It is hard to get the two together. One is an international celebrity, a sex symbol," he preened a second and she giggled. "The other just a guy looking for someone to share his interests. And you do."
"Not all of them," she said cheekily, and he laughed.
"What youíre not into boys?"
"No.. I mean, yes. I meanÖ Oh dammit, D, you know what I mean."
"I know." He looked at her. "I love the sound of your voice. Thatís one thing you miss online."
"Get to hear your voice all the time," she grinned mischievously.
"So tell me Howie, do you really want a wife whoíll make you breakfast and lunch and dinner? ĎBacon and eggs, pancakes, orange juice, mashed potatoes, turkeyÖí"
He cracked up. "Damn conversation album! I lost the bet and had to do the damn "crappy guy" speech. Do you have any ideas how many takes that took? Its so embarrassing."
"It is very funny," she agreed, chuckling.
"How do you do that? Make me laugh even at a difficult time?" He shook his head. "You are so good for me, Kat."
"That is kind of why I am here."
"Kevin and I arenít doing too well."
Kat tried hard to hide her reflex grimace at the sound of Kevinís name.
"I know. You donít like him." He shrugged, "he hasnít given you any reason to. But I love him. I know it wonít last forever, but I need him."
"Fine. If you want me to apologize to him or something I will."
"Thatís not it." He got up of the bed and paced the room. "I think you have a pretty good idea of how hectic my life is. Always on the road. No time for yourself. We, the guys and I, are constantly being thrown together for hours on end. And then it starts."
"What?" Kat leaned forward, worried.
"The rumours. Are they breaking up? Who are they dating? Where are their girlfriends? That one is the kicker. They always want to know why we donít have girls hanging off us all the time. Itís okay for Brian and AJ. They have regular girlfriends who join the tour from time to time. Nick just points to his Nintendo or flirts with someone. Kevin is still so angry right now he wonít even do that. And I, well, I tried, but I canít do it anymore."
"Come out? No. It could kill the group. I know it shouldnít, but fans can be fickle. And the guys deserve better. They have protected me for years. They think Iím bisexual, and the few times that I slip up and end up in bed with a man that it is just an accident. They cover for me, and life goes on."
"And this affair with Kevin? Do they know?"
"God, NO! It would kill him if they found out. We have been very discreet. You are the only oneÖ."
"I promised I wouldnít tell, Howie. I still wonít," she said holding his hand, trying to give him strength.
"Kat? A while back you said something about giving up on love. Did you mean it?"
The sudden change in the direction of the conversation startled her. "Sort of. I mean, look at me. Iím in my 30ís. I canít seem to attract men."
"Thanks, Howie. But seriously. I just donít think its going to happen for me. I donít mind really. I just want to be free to live my life." She smiled, "and my damn mother to get off my back."
He laughed. ĎSo what do you want to do with your life, then?"
"Write!" She answered immediately. "Just to be free to write. I may not be able to write the worldís greatest piece of fiction. Iím no Shakespeare. But I do want to be able to get all my thoughts, ideas out. And not just books. Those screenplays I told you about. Gods to be able to get one madeÖ maybe even directÖ" Her face shone at the prospect.
"What would you do to be able to do that?" he asked quietly.
She looked at him curiously. "What are you trying to say, D?"
"I have a proposition for you."
"I am not sure I like the sounds of this," she said warily.
He sat down on the bed, opposite her, and took her hands in his. "Kat, we both have things we want and canít have."
"I think I have a solution."
"When we met. I donít know. Something about what you were saying caught my eye."
She flushed, remembering what she and Mad had been saying. "Not that," he chuckled, reading her mind. "I donít know, just something about your words."
He brushed a stray strand of hair off her face. "I canít remember ever having a better time with someone. I always found time in my schedule to make sure I made our Ďdates.í I wouldnít break one if I didnít have a good reason."
"Like those awards showsÖ" she said, recalling the few times he had had to cancel.
"Yeah. Look the point isÖ I think I love you as much as I can love any woman."
The statement left her reeling. She released her hands and got up. She looked out the window, seeing the city skyline. "That is a pretty major announcement."
"Have I upset you? Iím sorry."
"Howie. How do you think I feel about you?"
He answered honestly. "I thought that maybe you loved me, too."
"Donít you think it is cruel to lead me on like that when you are gay?"
"I wasnít trying to lead you on, Kat. Honestly. I just didnít want to lose you. I thought I could tell you in time. Not have you find out the way you did."
"And you think you are in love with me?"
"Yes. As much as I can be. I meanÖ I love you. You spark my imagination, make me feel safe. I just canít share that one thing with you."
"You said you were bisexual."
"No, I said the guys thought I was. I havenít slept with a woman for almost five years now."
She was silent. Then, finally, "why are you telling me this?"
"Because I want you to come to Orlando with me. Live with me. Marry me."