“What’s a waste of time? And have you ever heard of Odour Eaters?” Kat replied, wrinkling her nose.
Nick threw a dirty sock at her and she gave a little shriek. Using her pencil she removed the offending article and was about to make a comment when the other sock hit her in the face.
“You little bugger! Jesus, Nick. That’s worse than a toxic waste dump. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Sheesh, bite my head off why don’t you? What’s your problem?”
“Nothing,” she mumbled angrily.
“Is too. What is it? Come on, you can tell me,” he wheedled. “Don’t tell me you’re pissed ‘cos I did what you told me to do when I went away.”
Angry cos you got down and nasty with a bunch of strippers? Get real! I’m not angry – I just think you need to get fumigated, Kat retorted silently. “No. I just don’t like your smelly shit thrown at me. I have to put up with it enough as it is.”
“It’s gotta be more than that. Man, you’ve been grumpy as all hell for the last few days.” He pulled himself up off the couch and lay down on the bed, gazing up at her. “Please…” he begged. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Just tired, I guess,” she shrugged.
“Kat Morgan, if you don’t tell me what’s wrong I am going to stick my feet in your face,” he warned with a malicious grin.
“Oh for crying out loud… THAT’s what’s wrong,” she retorted. “I’m not her. I’m Jeanne. Always Jeanne. And for a few days I got to be myself again and I liked it. I miss me. And it’s harder to shake that off this time.”
Nick was taken aback by her frustrated tone. It made sense. He’d gone off and let off some tension, but he just had to come back and it was fine. She got to be free for a few days (and if she had relieved her tension that way he had she wasn’t saying – which frustrated him more), but still had to pull on the Jeanne persona again.
He moved up the bed so that he was next to her and pulled her into his arms. She protested a little then settled down.
“So, tell me about Kat, then. Tell me what you miss and we’ll see how we can make it Jeanne,” Nick said.
Kat sighed. “Well, first of all she doesn’t have to go around pretending to be someone she’s not.”
“Lucky girl. Wish I could do that,” Nick replied.
She couldn’t help but smile. “Hey, dorkus. This is about me, not you.”
Nick chuckled. “Sorry. Adopting ‘listener mode’ now.”
“About time,” She cuddled up closer to him. “Kat does pretend sometimes.” She has way more to hide then you could even fathom, she thought. So much pain, so much deceit. If you really knew who am I you wouldn’t be here with me. You wouldn’t want to be. Anything Howie’s done is nothing compared to what I am. She shook off those thoughts quickly, realizing that she’d been quiet for too long. “But pretending to be someone else entirely is a whole other thing.”
Nick had continued to hold her as she’d blanked out for a minute, and he wondered what she’d been thinking. He would ask, but the way her body had tensed up then told him it wasn’t something she’d answer easily. “I pretend to be someone else all the time. Nick Carter, Backstreet Boy. He’s not me. And yet he is.”
“And maybe Jeanne is me too, but I can’t let her be too much like me. I do that and they’ll clue in. So I can’t do a lot of reading. That’s too Kat. And I definitely can’t write. And I miss that. God, I spent almost all my time sitting at home typing away on my computer. Writing anything that came into my head, just so I could write.”
She sighed. “I dunno. Anything. Grocery lists. Conversations we’d had. My thoughts on movies I’d seen. What I thought the folks I could see outside my window were thinking. It’s silly really, but I just finally, after almost four weeks, gave my hands permission to write and they wouldn’t stop.”
“So, Jeanne can take up writing.”
“She can’t, Nick. Think about it: they see me as Jeanne, but everyone once in a while one of them will come out with a ‘you know you remind me of someone I just can’t remember who’ statement.” She sighed again. “Any little thing could set them onto to the path to figuring out who I am. We can at least make sure the more dominant things aren’t there.”
“You’re right. Hey, maybe you can write in here. You know, get a laptop or something and write whatever whenever we’re alone.”
She thought about it and then shook her head. “Better to just not have the temptation around. I might start slacking off on working out or something and that will cause then to notice stuff. Let’s face it; we both thought this would be over by now, so we never really thought about hiding things for so long.”
Nick gave her a little hug. “I guess we should have realized that, hunh? I mean, all the other girls had been around for a while before he did anything. We should have realized he wasn’t going to jump on you right away.”
“Oh God,” she groaned. “What if he doesn’t do anything at all this tour? We could be stuck like this forever.”
Nick gave her a kiss on her temple, taking a surreptitious sniff of her hair as he did. Whatever it was, it smelled good. “He’ll do something. Is it just me or does he get weirder when Miriam is around?”
“It’s just you. No. I’m kidding. She’s strange: none of us like her.”
“’None of us’? Someone is taking this Backstreet girlfriend thing a little seriously, isn’t she?” Nick joked.
“Well, I’m NOT your girlfriend, so I think you should move your hands away from where they are trying to go before I punch you one.”
Nick quickly moved his hands back from their casual trek towards her breasts, and gave a muffled apology. What the hell was he thinking? Maybe he should have spent one more night with Candy and Melba after all…
Kat chose to ignore his behaviour. “Miriam is so strange. She goes on about how she has her own life and job and so on and then flaunts any gift Howie gives her. And she always looks at him weird. Like she adores him and hates him at the same time.”
“Yeah well, I know how that is. That’s the thing about this that is driving me nuts, you know? I mean he’s this guy who I don’t even recognize he’s so mean. The kind of guy who I can really see doing the shit he’s done. And then suddenly he’s…”
“Same old Howie again. The guy you like and think you can trust,” Kat finished.
“I know. That was part of what was upsetting me before. I just… it was like I wanted to confide in him again. He was the same guy who was so damn great to me at the beginning. And I had to remind myself that he isn’t always that way.”
“Don’t worry. Jeanne doesn’t confide in anyone except Leighanne. And her boyfriend. The butthead who cheated on her the first chance he got,” she teased, tickling his ribs.
Nick twisted, giggling, before finally capturing her fingers. Absently he gave them a quick kiss before releasing them. “Hey, he had permission! You told him to do it.”
“Jeanne would never do that.”
“No, she wouldn’t. Not someone she was dating. Kat isn’t like that.”
“Oh yeah? So why did she…”
“She wasn’t telling him to do it. She was telling Jeanne’s boyfriend to do it. Something Jeanne would never say and also something Kat would never say to anyone who was seeing her.”
“I’m confused,” Nick groaned.
“Yeah, and you are also a slut monkey who digs strippers,” she laughed. “Don’t worry, Nick. You’ll figure it out. Eventually.”
Nick snorted. “You love trying to twist me in circles, don’t you? Sheesh, I may as well BE dating you. That is such a girl thing to do.” He flashed her a grin, knowing she’d get annoyed at his comment.
And predictably she did. “You little twit. You never had it as good as me! I’m not after your fame or your money. I put up with your lame jokes, and your even lamer friends. And I have developed enough immunity to your smelly socks that I can handle spending hours in the same room or on the same bus as you.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “You are going to spend years, years I tell you, trying to find someone as wonderful as me once this is over.” “I suppose so,” Nick sighed dramatically. “But you have to admit: you aren’t perfect. After all, you ARE just using me to get to one of my friends. If you can get by his weird girlfriend that is.”
Kat pulled his dirty sock from beside the bed and whacked him with it. “Take that. That is my rebuttal.”
“Don’t look at me: they’re your socks.”
“If I had a girlfriend who loved me she’d wash them for me.”
“If you had a girlfriend who loved you she’d burn them and buy you new ones.”
“Cool. I need new ones.”
Kat laughed. “You moron.”
“Ditto,” Nick replied as he threw the sock aside and pulled her back into his arms as they stretched out on the bed.
“So tell me more about Kat.”
She frowned. “What do you want to know?”
“I dunno. You said you wanted to be her again. And that you need to write, but can’t for obvious reasons. So tell me more about her and we can figure out how to work it.”
“I can’t really think of what else to tell you. I just want to be able to relax and be myself. Maybe I am not sure who that it, but I’d like to find out and it’s not something I can do here.”
“It’s hard to be yourself here in the Backstreet fishbowl,” he agreed. They were silent for a moment. “You can still tell me all about Kat though.”
“I don’t really know you, you know. I mean all I know about you is from before and now. You never talk about your past or your home. I don’t even know where that is. Tell me about you,” he said, yawning as he sank further into the pillows. “I mean, it doesn’t seem like Howie’s gonna do anything soon. At least not until weirdo hag is gone, so I might as well find out more about Kat, right?”
Kat swallowed hesitantly. This was not something she wanted to talk about. Her past was… she just couldn’t tell him. He’d hate her. He’s look at her with loathing in his eyes and she couldn’t take that. A very sanitized version maybe…
“Well, I am an only child.”
“Must have been lonely,” he mumbled.
“No, it was good. There were always so many people around I never got lonely. Never really noticed it.”
“Hmmm. Lucky.” He snuggled closer. “What did your parents do?”
She swallowed a shudder. “Dad owned the local newspaper and was on City Council. Mother didn’t work, really. She did charity things: Committees and the like. Quite the team: he ran the district on the business side and she ran it on the volunteer side.”
“Nice. Do you see them often?”
Kat closed her eyes, trying to blank out the pain and the fear. “No. They are dead.”
Not the answer she’d expected and she turned quickly to look at him. She was met by a snore. She was stunned for a moment then gave a soft chuckle.
“Talk about saved by the, umm… exhaustion.” She took a deep cleaning breath. “Hallelujah. There is a God. And She likes me.”
(c) Kat Morgan