Chapter 4: The Confrontation
After Kevin saw her safely to her room, leaving after giving her a quick peck on the cheek, Kat spent a restless night. She had turned him down. What was she thinking?!
She packed her bags and headed back to Orlando, where she spent the day wandering around. She even visited Backstreet market, from which the Boys had gotten their name. "I wonder if anyone here knows I am going out with one tonight," she thought as she ambled through the market.
The afternoon wore on, and she returned to her room and got ready for her evening out. Most of this consisted of standing in front of the mirror, poking her stomach and feeling miserable. The memory of Kevin asking her out for a date almost made her feel like what she looked like didn’t matter. Almost.
"Oh well," she mused. "It is not going to disappear in the next five minutes."
She pulled on her purple sundress. Her deep tan worked well with the dress and she looked very presentable (though not unlike a grape, she thought dismally). She grabbed her lilac short-sleeved sweater and headed out before she talked herself out of going.
She entered the restaurant fifteen minutes late to see Kevin standing by the phone at the front.
"I thought you weren’t coming," he said kissing her cheek.
"I got lost," Kat lied. She had checked the route two times that day, but wasn’t about to admit that the reason she was late was because she had sat in the restaurant’s parking lot psyching herself up.
Kevin sensed something. "You okay?"
"Look I am not a beauty queen or anything and the idea of being seen in public with me might be embarrassing for you," she admitted.
"Never, " he said giving her a reassuring hug. "You look beautiful, and as for others, forget them." He squeezed her hand as she smiled tremulously. "Don’t give up on me now, Kat. What others think hasn’t bothered you so far, why should it now?" she said as he lead her into the dining room.
"Because there are more people around now," she muttered under her breath.
He led her to a corner table, where a handsome man with dark, loose curly hair sat. Kat’s heart did a huge flip as he stood at their approach. He was a little shorter than her, an inch or so, but with the most incredible deep brown eyes, and a smile that lit up the room.
"Hi, you must be Kat," he said in a soft vibrant voice. "I’m Howie D." She smiled and shook his hand. "So you are the mighty dog rescuer, huh?"
"That’s me. I think I am going to have to rescind every bad thing I ever said about dogs. Finding Tyke seems to have brought me a lot of luck."
Howie laughed and Kevin grinned. "Tyke’s nice and all, but he’s no wolfhound," he said conspiratorially. Howie got the impression that this was a private joke between Kevin and Kat, and was surprised by the surge of jealousy he felt.
"He’s no horse either," Kat returned.
Howie saw his chance and jumped in, "Another horse person? I would have thought you’d like felines not equines."
"Stop showing off, Howie," Kevin chided. "Howie’s been watching way to much Learning Channel recently."
"It never hurts to expand your mind," Kat said, turning to Howie. "Equines are fine, but they are hell on a litter box. I have a cat at home, who I miss like crazy, but she is old and not enamoured of airplanes."
"You should come over to my house. I have a beautiful cat. Her name is Missy, and she is the cutest cat in the world. Barring you, of course."
Kevin suddenly felt a little left out, "hey, I have a cat too. Quincy's my buddy."
"So why do you prefer to go by Kat rather than Katherine? I am assuming that is your full name?" Kat nodded at Howie’s question.
"Why do you prefer Howie to Howard?" she returned.
"Its more ‘fun.’ Its more me."
"Well, I like being called Kat because it is more me. I am mysterious, independent, like to lay in the sun, and," she turned to Kevin and winked provocatively, ‘purr when petted."
Kevin choked on the water he had been sipping and started to laugh, as did Howie. "I told you she was great," Kevin said, and Kat blushed.
"Yeah, but you also said she liked the ocean," teased Howie. "I don’t know about your cat, but mine hates water."
"That is part of my being "mysterious" bit," Kat chuckled.
The three spent a leisurely dinner talking about everything from food to politics to movies. They discovered that they had similar tastes in movies, though Kat knew more about international films than Howie or Kevin, which they put down to endless touring and not enough time in theatres. They were almost finished dessert when a young voice asked, "Excuse me. Aren’t you Kevin and Howie from the Backstreet Boys?"
A pair of young girls stood shyly by the table holding paper and pen. Howie smiled, "yes we are. Would you like autographs?" The two girls nodded, awe-struck, as he and Kevin asked their names and signed their names. One of the girls glanced suspiciously at Kat, which Kevin noticed. He turned to Kat and said, "I am surprised no one has recognized you yet."
"Dahling," Kat drawled haughtily. "We are in Orlando. Of course you would be noticed first." She tried hard not to laugh as the girls quickly thrust their pens at her, clearly having no idea who she was, but afraid to risk missing someone famous. Kat scrawled something illegible on their pages, and kicked Kevin under the table.
After the girls had left, Howie started laughing so hard that Kevin had to thump him on the back to help him catch his breath. "God is going to get you for that one Kev," he gasped.
"Not if I get him first," Kat threatened, shaking her fist at him.
"Yikes, I better get out of here," Kevin said as he rose from his chair. "I’ll be right back. I'll call AJ while I’m up and tell him to meet us at the club."
Howie nodded and then asked Kat a series of questions about the screenplays that she had admitted to working on. After eliciting a solemn promise from him that he wouldn’t tell anyone, she gave him an overview and the two talked deeply about various scenes and dialogue.
As he watched them from where he was phoning Kevin felt sad that he had appeared to have lost his chance with Kat. Whether the two realized it or not they were both smitten with each other. He hadn’t seen Howie so animated in a long time, and Kat positively glowed when she looked at Howie. Trying hard not to feel like a third wheel he returned to the table.
"He’s not there and Lisa’s not answering. Maybe they are all ready at the club," he said. "We came together in my car, but you’ve got your car, Kat. Do you want to leave it here?"
Before Kat could answer Howie piped in with, "I’ll ride over with Kat so she doesn’t get lost again."
Once they arrived at the club, Kat found Kevin waiting at a table at the back. "Waiting long?" Kat asked.
"No, just got here a sec ago. Parking is terrible this time of night. Where's Howie?"
"He saw about a hundred people he knew and went to talk to them," said Kat.
Kevin laughed, "that's Howie. Everyone wants a little Sweet D." He glanced at her, "Even you."
Kat blushed, "he's a great guy. No you, of course. But he suffers from the same disease you have."
"Disease?" Kevin was confused.
"Backstreet Boyitis," Kat grinned.
"Yeah," Kevin sighed. "There isn't a cure for that yet."
"Kevin, come on. I was joking," Kat placed her hand on his and gave it a squeeze. "Look, life is lonely. It is hard; it has its trials whether you are famous or not. Everyone spends their time wondering 'why is she or he interested in me?' or "what are they after?' You just have it a little stronger right now because you thought you had someone who liked you for you and they didn't."
"You like me for me."
"More than you know. That's why I won't commit to anything I think may end up hurting you."
"So if Howie…"
"If Howie what?" he said as he approached the table.
The last thing that Kat wanted to get into was an open discussion about what she and Kevin had been talking about. "If Howie isn't going to buy the first round of drinks, do I have to?" she covered smoothly. Kevin smiled his thanks. He may have told Howie that things were over between him and Kelly, but he didn't want to advertise the reasons. He knew Howie had been through similar things, and had been hurt by it too, but it was still raw.
"No way. Howie IS going to get the drinks," he said as he motioned the waitress over. The three ordered and continued the talk they had been having at the restaurant. Someone grabbed Howie and pulled him up on the dance floor, and Kevin and Kat soon followed. The DJ was playing a Latin mix, and Kevin showed her the steps to the merengue, which she mastered far quicker than she had expected to. Howie asked if he could cut in and, to her amusement, swept Kevin off in a quick circle, before returning and taking her hand. They returned to the table to find Kevin had ordered another round. Howie congratulated her on her dance finesse.
"I had a really good teacher," Kat smiled at Kevin.
"Come on, you've done that before, surely?" Kevin asked.
"Yes, but somehow it seemed harder when I was learning it in my high school gym class." She wiggled her eyebrow suggestively at him, "maybe if the teacher then had been you and not a huge, hairy woman who looked like she belonged on the East German shot-put team."
They talked more, occasionally being interrupted when Kevin or Howie was dragged on the floor by acquaintances. Howie had been gone for some time when Kevin turned to Kat and asked, "Do you think you could overcome your fear of Backstreet Boyitis?"
"Kevin, we went through all of this…"
"No, I mean for Howie. He really likes you."
Kat blushed a deep red. "I like him too. But I don't think I should. I mean, it still worries me. And it wouldn't be fair to you - saying no to you and then yes to him. No, I know you SAY you wouldn't mind, but you would. Be honest." Kevin looked a little sheepish. "Still," she continued teasingly, "he is not a popular a pin-up as you are. He doesn't have those eyebrows…."
"Okay," Kevin laughed in defeat. "Let's stop worrying about who should be dating who and have fun!" he said as he swung her out on the dance floor.
After a few songs Kat excused herself and went to the washroom. As she re-entered the room she had a feeling that someone was watching her and glanced around the room only to lock eyes with a very irate Kelly. She was glaring at Kat, and Kevin, from a far corner of the room, and turned and walked away once she saw that Kat had spotted her. Kat hurried back to the table.
"Kevin. I wanted to warn you. Kelly is here."
"Where?" asked Howie as Kevin scowled.
Kat looked around, finally locating her as she was talking animatedly with someone at the bar. "Over there, talking to that guy."
"That's no guy that's AJ," said Kevin. "I was wondering when he was going to show up."
"Well, he's coming over," remarked Kat.
As he approached Kat recognized him from the videos and posters of the Boys that she had seen. Hi was very distinctive with his tattoos and orange dyed hair. The slight wobble in his step was not something she recognized.
Clearly neither did the other two either, as Howie frowned in concern. "AJ! Bro! What's up?"
AJ sat down at the table and sighed. "Marcy kicked me out."
"Sorry, bro," said Kevin. "It's going around."
"Yeah, Kelly just told me you let her go. Why Kev? She was HOT!" said AJ.
"Sure, but not for me," said Kevin. "Why did Marcy dump you?"
"She said I was only interested in her for sex," AJ complained.
"Well," said Howie, "she isn't wrong there."
"She didn't have to say it though," muttered AJ before turning his attention to Kat. "So who are you?"
Kat smiled and offered him her hand," Kat. I just met Kevin the other day and Howie tonight. Pleased to meet you." He shook her hand loosely.
"Kat rescued Tyke," said Howie proudly.
"My big claim to fame," Kat laughed ruefully.
"Really? The way I hear it your claim to fame is busting up Kevin and Kelly," sniggered AJ.
Kat was unsurprised by the sudden attack; he had been talking to Kelly after all.
"That had nothing to do with Kat," said Kevin firmly, and Howie nodded. He could see why Kevin would prefer Kat to Kelly, but they were clearly friends and nothing more.
"Hey, don't mind me," AJ said defensively. "I've been 'celebrating' my new liberty. Which reminds me. I could use another drink." He waved the waitress over.
"I better go and talk to Kelly before she spreads more rumours," Kevin said. "You'll be okay?" he asked Kat. She nodded and he moved through the crowd. Howie, AJ and her talked for a few minutes before Howie was once again pulled up onto the dance floor. The waitress brought the drinks, and AJ immediately order a second one for himself. He sat there quietly for a moment before turning to Kat.
"So, which one are you banging?" he sneered.
"Excuse me?" Kat replied startled.
"Look, a fat chick like you can't be good for much, so you must be sleeping with one of them. Kevin? Howie? Both?"
"Neither," Kat replied shortly. AJ was Kevin and Howie's friend and he was obviously lashing out against the world right now. She wasn't going to make it worse by starting a fight.
"Oh, not yet?" He slurred as he gulped down more of his drink. "But you want to sleep with one of them, right?"
"Yes. I would. Kevin is a great guy and Howie is really sweet. That doesn't mean it is going to happen, though."
"Yeah, I don't think they want to fuck a grape," he giggled drunkenly. Kat was shocked that he had said something so close to what she had been thinking earlier in the evening.
"I really don't want to have this conversation, AJ."
"So you just going to fantasize about them" AJ persisted.
"No," she said firmly.
"No? You want to have sex with them but you don't masturbate while thinking about them? You're lying," AJ accused.
Kat had reached her breaking point. AJ had hit every one of her "pain" buttons and was coming back for more.
"No," she replied, going on the offensive. "I want to have sleep with…" she couldn't say it out loud; didn't want to admit it to herself, "but I wouldn't fantasize about him. I have this little rule… when you really like, respect and desire someone you don't use them as a masturbation tool. It belittles them, cheapens them, and I would never want to cheapen either Howie or Kevin that way."
"Yeah right," AJ sneered.
"You on the other hand," she said cruelly, mocking his tone of voice, "I could care less about you. Oh, and by the way, let me just say…even in my fantasies, you are a really lousy lay." She then got up and walked away.
"Bitch," AJ muttered angrily.
"No, she's not," a voice said. AJ looked up at the waitress who was standing beside the table. "You are a real SOB, you know. A drunk one, too. She and her friends were having a really good time before you came along."
"You don't know what…" AJ sputtered.
"You are right. I don't know. But I have been serving this table all night and they have been great - inviting me to join in the conversation whenever I had something to say, and generally having a great time. Then you come along with your 'I'm so hot' attitude and bust it up," she said, putting his drink down on the table.
"Listen..." he looked at her nametag, "Kimberley, do you know who I am?"
"A lousy drunk, and a crappy tipper," she said as she walked away.
AJ stared after her. "Yeah, I am," he thought. Kat and the guys had been really nice to him and he had been really rude, just because he was angry at Marcy and due to what Kelly had said. While he did think Kelly was hot-looking, he had realized that she was a bitch long before Kevin did. And Howie really liked Kat. Over the many years that AJ had known him, Howie had rarely been wrong about people. He was about to get up and look for Kat when Kevin returned.
"Where is eveyone?"
"They left. Look, Kevin, I said some mean things to Kat. I…" AJ broke off as Kat re-emerged from the crowd. She ignored AJ and turned directly to Kevin.
"Kevin, I am going to leave now. I am being accused of trying to catch that 'disease' we were talking about earlier, and now I definitely don't want it," she said stonily. She turned to AJ. "You said some things and I lashed out. I would apologize but I wouldn't mean it." Turning back to Kevin, who was standing there dumbfounded, "Please say goodbye to Howie. It was nice meeting him." Then she turned and walked briskly out of the club.
"Jesus! What did you say to her?" Kevin whirled angrily on AJ as Howie ambled up.
"Ask your buddy," Kevin snarled, before turning and going after Kat.
"AJ! Not again! What did you say this time?" Howie shook his head in frustration. AJ was never at his best after breaking up with one of his girlfriends.
"I know. I am an idiot. I was really nasty and I shouldn't have been. Even the waitress balled me out." AJ lamented.
Kevin came back, looking annoyed. "Where did you park, Howie? I can't find her."
"Just around the corner. Maybe she went back to her hotel?"
"That would help if I knew where she was staying," Kevin responded sarcastically, looking angrily at a shamefaced AJ.
"Kevin, chill. She told us at dinner, remember. She's at the LaQuinta Inn off International Drive. If you hurry you might catch her. I'll take care of this idiot," Howie smiled, always the peacemaker.
Kevin hurried off as Howie cleared the tab. AJ went to the waitress, Kimberley, and apologized to her, before letting Howie drive him home.