Chapter 10: Trouble in Paradise

"You canít not come to the concert!" Alexis protested.

"Why not?" Kat replied belligerently.

"They expect you to be there. HOWIE wants you to be there."

"HOWIE," Kat retorted, mocking her tone, "doesnít know what he wants and I have had enough of it. Screw the concert and screw him. I am not going."

Alexis looked frantically at Faith who shrugged her shoulders. She wasnít sure what was going on. When Howie and Brian had returned to the hotel, Kat was still in talking to Nick. She could tell Kat was getting somewhere because of the lack of sound from the game controller, but she didnít stick around to find out the outcomeÖshe had some time to snuggle with Brian and she was going to take it. All she knew is that before he and Howie had left for the venue, Howie was frantic and distracted, and Kat had locked herself in the bathroom, refusing to come out until they left.

Once she was assured by Faith, and Alexis, who had arrived at the suite so that the three women could go together, that Howie was not there, Kat had emerged, face tearstained, and started throwing her clothes and other personal things in her bag. Then made her announcement about that evening.

"Where are you going to go?" Alexis asked.

"Home. I want to sleep in my own bed, eat my own food, and snuggle with my own cat. I want out of this plastic, bogus place and away from that self-centred prick."

"You canítÖ" Faith tried again.

"Oh yeah? Watch me." Kat said as she stormed out of the suite.

It only took the taxi a few minutes to get across town to her apartment. It smelled a little musty after a few days away, and her cat informed her noiselessly of its displeasure about being left alone for a few days. "Oh stop complaining. I checked on you yesterday and you were fine then," Kat said irritably as she refilled the food and water bowls.

She threw her bag on the bed and walked back in the kitchen where she grabbed rubber gloves, some cleaner and sponges and proceeded to scrub the room, and the bathroom, until it sparkled. She vacuumed the living room and bedroom, even remade the bed Ė Howie had been over a few days ago, and she was NOT going to sleep on sheets that might smell of him. She even changed the litterbox (the least popular job a cat owner has to deal with). The place finally looked clean, shiny, and more importantly, smelled of bleach and detergent, not a certain Backstreet Boy.

She ate a bowl of cerealÖas much as she wanted to eat her own food she didnít have any groceries in the house. Besides, she needed the sugar fix, the comfort food. Now if only she had some ice cream, or chocolate, maybe some cookie dough. She scribbled a quick grocery list, then read it over again and threw it away. Nobody was worth that much fat and sugar.

She stank of anger, frustration and cleaning solution and decided to take a shower. That was her downfall. The beating pulse of the water reminded her of him and she slid down to the floor of the bathtub sobbing uncontrollably. Why was he doing this? If he didnít want her why didnít he just say so? Let her get on with her life? Why continue to tease her? Why make her want him so much it hurt?

She had been crying for so long, the water started to turn cold as her hot water tank became depleted. She didnít mind. The cold water helped wake her up. She finished her washing quickly and went to the bedroom. The cat was waiting on her bed, hoping for a chance for some cuddles, which Kat was happy to do. She turned on the television; MuchMusic was announcing that the Awards event was about to start and that all performers were backstage getting ready to "come to you live." She clicked the converter and stared at the blank screen, absently rubbing the catís stomach.

Nick was bouncing around the dressing room, getting under foot and driving everyone crazy.

"Frack! I am glad you are happy. Now shut up and sit still," Kevin said.

"No way, Train. I get to see my Jordan in a few days, and she is waiting for me."

AJ threw a dirty sock at Nick, which he ducked. Unfortunately, it hit Howie who was brooding in the corner. "Will you two children please shut up or get the hell of here," he yelled, stunning the others with his fury.

"AhhÖD? You okay?" AJ asked carefully.

"Oh yeah, just peachy," Howie snapped.

The dressing room door opened and Faith and Alexis walked in. Howie looked behind them hopefully, but his face fell when they let the door swing shut.

"Hey, you two," Brian smiled, glad of the distraction. "Whereís Kat?"

Faith shook her head, and looked at Alexis awkwardly. "Sheís not coming."

"Not at all?" Howie asked plaintively.

"She, ah, said she wasnít feeling well, and went home," Alexis finished weakly.

Howie stared at his feet for a long moment. "Iím going to get a drink. Iíll see you before we go on," he said as he slipped quickly from the room. He could hear the questions flying through the shut door, and moved away as hastily as he could. There had to be a phone here somewhere. He finally found one on the next floor down and called Katís number. And stood there listening to the ringing over and over again.

Kat just ignored the phone. She knew it was Howie, or maybe even Kevin, no, definitely Howie. And she wasnít going to talk to him. She pulled a pillow over her ears when the jangling of the chime got on her nerves, but studiously avoided even looking at the phone. Finally the ringing stopped and she jumped up, turned the ringer off, turned her answering machine on, and turned the volume down low.

Turning the television on again, the voice of the VJ came through loudlyÖ "And now we are going to check on some of our other performers here tonight, here are the Backstreet Boys, live here at Much." The camera peeked in the dressing room and AJ waved as the others smiled in greeting. They were all wearing white suits, similar to those on the cover of the Millennium album. Alexis was sitting on Kevinís lap, his arm around her loosely. Faith was talking to Nick who laughed.

"Weíre here with AJ Mclean. So AJ, were you guys ready for the show tonight?"

"Yeah, we are just really missing one member of our gang."

The VJ glanced quickly around the room, "Howie Dís not here yet?"

AJ looked directly into the camera, "no, heís here somewhere. I was talking about someone else."

"Really subtle, Bone," Kat muttered.

The VJ looked confused, but recovered quickly, "so do you have anything to say to all your fans out there?"

"Yeah, we love you guys! You are all Larger than Life."

The VJ took over again; "well that was AJ from the Backstreet Boys. Now over to..."

Kat flicked the set off again. She looked for the cat, but it had deserted her for the damp towel she had used after her shower.

"Et tu, felix?" she said as she rose and went to the closet. She was not doing this for Howie. She wasnít sure whom she was doing it for, but it was positively not for him. She pulled on a pair of black jeans and a black shirt with purple Celtic symbols on the sleeves. She rustled through her bag, looking for her ticket and backstage pass, which she slid into a tiny purse along with some lips and cash. She applied her makeup quickly. She rarely wore more than lipstick and mascara, but tonight she felt like she needed to put a "face" on. It wouldnít be her face, and wouldnít fool anyone who knew her, but it would look like a "happy" Backstreet girlfriend looking her best for her man. Yeah, right.

Queen Street West, in front of the MuchMusic building was packed, and Kat jumped out of her cab a couple of blocks early and walked the rest of the way. She flashed her backstage pass, but instead of going to the dressing room, she short-circuited through the building in order to get to her seat.

She had only been there for a few minutes before the lights dimmed and the show began. It was rather fun, being front and centre for an awards show, even more enjoyable when Faith and Alexis joined her.

"You came! I am so glad," Alexis said as she hugged her. "Why didnít you come backstage?" then "Oww!" as Faith kicked her.

Faith ignored her. "You feeling better?"

"A bit," Kat replied tightly. "Look, can we just forget about. Letís just have fun."

"Excuse me," Alexis said, pretending to hail a waiter. "Table for three screaming music fans. In front, please."

Faith fluttered her eyelashes and said "Omigod! Like, I hear there are going to be, like, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Thatís so totally awesome."

Kat laughed, "you two are nuts."

The enjoyed the show, booing when they didnít like an award nominee, and cheering for their favorites. Whenever the Boys name was mentioned Kat was quiet, but that didnít really matter; she wouldnít have been heard above the cheering of the crowd anyway.

"And the award for best video goes toÖ" the presenter ripped the envelope open. "Backstreet Boys!"

The guys entered from offstage. Kevin striding forward purposefully, AJ jumping around like some sort of sexual Eveready bunny, Nick with a smile that lit up the room, and Brian with his patent elven grin. Howie pulled up the rear with a smile pasted on his face, waving to the fans. He didnít see her sitting there, until Brian elbowed him as they were giving their thank you speech. He smiled apprehensively at her, but she was still hurt, and looked away. His addition to the speech was a quick, "thank you all," then they exited stage left.

"You arenít going to forgive him are you?" Alexis asked softly. "What happened?"

"I donít want to talk about it."

"It must have been something. Iíve known you for almost a year now and I have never seen you this angry."

"Drop it, Alexis. Please. I just want to get through this evening, pretending to be the dutiful, attentive Backstreet girlfriend. It is hard enough without talking about it right now."

"íKay. Just remember I am here if you want to talk," she said. "Or I can send Kevin over. I have connections, you know," she finished with a grin.

"Omigod," Kat smiled, using the same tone Faith had used earlier, "you, like, know Kevin Richardson? He is such a major hottie."

"Tell me about it!"

"Hey," Faith interrupted, "will you two stop chattering about Kevin. Brian is the true leader of the group. Heís the cutest, and the dearest, and theÖ."

"Boo! No way!" Alexis shouted, and Kat laughed. "I detect a hint of bias, donít you?"

"Yeah, well shut up, because my baby is about to sing," Faith replied, pointing to the stage.

The shriek level in the room hit about 2000 decibels as Brian stepped up to the mike. She knew they were singing, but for the life of her Kat couldnít hear a thing. She couldnít take her eyes off Howie. And he seemed to be suffering from the same problem. He never stopped watching her, even through the complicated dance steps. She didnít know what to think. Why had he pushed her away? Was it because he didnít care for her? Then what had he been doing with her for all these months? Is it because he didnít find her attractive? Possible, but he was always telling her how beautiful he thought she was. She supposed it could all have been an act, but surely no one can keep pretending like that for so long? Maybe he wanted out, and didnít know how to do it because she was so friendly with the other guys. Maybe this was his way trying to get her to dump him.

They were almost at the end of their performance, and out of nowhere each Boy was holding a rose. They finished and threw the flower into the crowd. Howie took special care, even coming to the edge of the stage, to make sure that his landed in her lap. She blinked back tears and turned away so she wouldnít have to see him walk off the stage. It took her a moment to compose herself, hiding her face behind Alexisís shoulder, struggling hard not to cry.

"I think heís trying to say sorry," Faith said sympathetically.

"I know. He just hurt me a lot. I donít know if I can forgive him yet."

"Maybe you should take a leaf from Kimís page."

Kat looked her quizzically.

"Remember how she used to keep AJ off balance? Treat Howie to a little of that."

"Who is Kim, and why do I like her all ready?" Alexis inquired.

Kat and Faith filled her in Kim and AJís relationship, particularly at the beginning when Kimberley keep him off centre. Alexis was laughing hysterically at her antics. "She sounds just like AJ only with breasts."

The event ended, and Faith and Alexis convinced her to come backstage if only to talk to Howie. She agreed reluctantly and stood. Alexis started chuckling.

"What?"

"You are well on your way to Kimberley behaviour."

"What are you talking about?"

She pointed at Katís shoes. "You are wearing heels. You never wear heels around Howie. Heís shorter than you."

Faith grinned, "Oh good, Kat. Make him pay."

Kat rolled her eyes, but had to agree that she felt better about having the "upper hand."

"Not upper handÖthe height advantage," Faith corrected.

"No, now you can look down on him," Alexis chimed in.

"No tall tales for Howie," "Kat can look down from a lofty perch." "No, how about an elevated position?" "She can be superior." The two were off, punning away, and Kat just smiled, trying to stifle her anxiety.

Kevin walked up and hugged her, then pointed her in the direction of their dressing room. "Heís in there, and alone."

She looked around. The others were getting drinks or something to eat, and pretending, unsuccessfully, not to see her approach the door. She knocked.

"I said I didnít want anything, AJ," Howie yelled.

"Iím not AJ and donít yell at me. Iíve had enough of it for one day."

"I thought Iíd lost you," he said, a tear trickling down his face. "When you turned away when I gave you the roseÖ"

"You gave me a rose when you first arrived. You actually stopped and got me a rose. I thought that meant something, Howie. Now, I donít know what to think," she said honestly.

"I wasnít trying to push you away."

"Sure felt like it."

"I donít mean like that. Weíve been together for a while, and it has always been special. I want the first time we make love to be special. Not just some quickie before I go on stage. Canít you understand that?"

"Howie, any time with you would be special. I could care less about you hopping on stage. Iím not a groupie. Stop treating me like one."

"I didnít think I was."

"Then why are you only here when itís a Backstreet thing? How come I never get to spend anytime with just Howie? I talk to you on the phone or online for hours, but get you in the same room and all we ever do is make out. Then once it gets serious you push me away. Figure it out, Howie. If you just want someone to talk to, fine, say so. If you just want someone to go down on you from time to time, leave me alone," she said turning away.

"That is not what I want. I want you. I want just Kat and just Howie."

"Then act like it, Howie, because if you hurt me like that again, itíll be just Howie."

Chapter 11