Kevin and Julie go out on their first date.
“How long have you known?” Brian asked her suddenly. She realized he meant Kevin and Julie.
“Since New Years’.” She enjoyed knowing she’d known about the couple first, and before Brian who still didn’t know despite being cousins with Kevin. “Granted, they haven’t done much since then, until now.”
“What happened at New Years’?” Michelle explained what Julie had told her about the kiss. “Since then, we’ve been busy every day. I know she’s wanted to spend more time with Kevin in the next week so they can get to know each other better.”
“And you’re okay with this?”
“Yes. Besides, do you really think I could stop her? And even if I could, why would I want to stop her from doing what makes her happy. Kevin was the one who made the first move anyway.” Brian’s jaw dropped at that.
“Kevin’s so shy around women; I thought he’d never make a move on anyone.”
“Have you ever been on a date?” Michelle asked. She had wondered before if Brian ever dated while on tour, and this seemed as good a time as any to ask.
“I’ve only asked one girl out on tour. It’s difficult to have a love life when we’re never in one place for more than a few days, a week at most.”
“It was a few years ago. She had a backstage pass and was there with her younger sister. She seemed nice, and wasn’t a screaming fan like her sister. I asked her if she wanted to get some coffee, and she said yes. We talked, and we both had fun. But I found out she wasn’t a Christian, which was something I need in my future wife. I also found out she would have wanted me to give up being a Backstreet Boy to be with her. That was another thing I couldn’t do. So I said good-bye and that was the end.”
After that Michelle concentrated on her food, which had just arrived. She needn’t have worried, though, because most of the conversations stopped at the table while everyone ate. Kevin and Julie continued whispering to each other throughout the meal. Michelle enjoyed watching Brian, who seemed entirely focused on the newly discovered couple, unaware of how ridiculous he looked. Thankfully neither Julie nor Kevin noticed.
“How’s your ankle doing Michelle?” Howie asked from across the table once he’d finished his meal.
“It’s okay. It’s starting to throb a little, probably since the numbness from the ice is wearing off. You looked pretty good in the basketball game, but I thought you didn’t play?” Howie answered her question and they got into a conversation about different sports.
Eventually everyone decided to head back to the hotel. Once they’d all had time to take showers and freshen up, Kevin and Julie took one of the two cars and headed off to spend some time together alone. AJ, Nick, and Howie decided they wanted to go shopping, so they left Brian and Michelle at the hotel.
Kevin ended up as the driver, since Julie said she didn’t feel comfortable driving in a strange city she wasn’t used to. They parked the car next to a park and went out to explore the city on foot. First they went to some unique clothing stores. Julie tried on fun outfits, and finally convinced Kevin to join her. She made him try on shiny black pants, and a pink shirt with sequins. They both laughed when he came out looking absolutely ridiculous. She tried on a neon green skirt with a black lacy top, complete with frilly sleeves. More laughter ensued. After trying on a few more outfits, they left that store and repeated the process in a few more stores. By the time they had their fill of trying on funny outfits it was time for lunch. They stopped at a Panda Express where Kevin pulled out Julie’s chair for her.
“Always the gentleman,” Julie told him. He smiled and sat down across from her.
Julie got a veggie spring roll and chow mien while Kevin got fried rice and mandarin chicken. As they ate their food, they continued their previous conversation.
“Do you like this city, Julie?” asked Kevin, casting about for an icebreaker. This was their first date, and, although he was very attracted to Julie, he didn’t really know what to talk about.
“You know, I do,” she replied. “It reminds me of where I grew up.”
“Oh? And where was that?”
“I grew up in a suburb just outside of Boston called Somerville.”
“Boston? So you’re not originally from Florida?”
“Oh, I was actually born in Florida, but my parents died when I was really small and my closest living relatives were in Boston, and after they died I went to live with them.”
Kevin’s mouth dropped open, partly out of surprise over their deaths and over Julie’s ability to talk about it so calmly.
“What happened?” was all he managed.
“They were out New Year’s Eve at a small party one of their friends was throwing, and they decided to drive home that night, around one in the morning. A group of drunk drivers hit them head-on, and they were both dead within minutes. I was at a sitter’s.”
“I’m amazed you can talk about it so composedly. I lost my father a few years ago and I still miss him every single day.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your father. Yes, I do miss them every day, and so, so much at times like graduation and family reunions. But they died when I was very young; I was barely two. My aunt and uncle basically adopted me and have taken care of me since I was little. And I’ve had my share of moments struggling with it. I struggled a lot when I decided to go to school in Florida. I had vague but positive memories of Florida itself, but when I came down, I realized I had plenty of unresolved feelings about my parent’s death. I actually saw a therapist for a while, but since then I’ve worked through most of my emotions. I still miss them and love them, but I know they would have wanted me to continue living my life. I also had wonderful, wonderful surrogates. I doubt I’d be the person I am today without them.”
“I’m glad you’ve come to a good place for you,” Kevin smiled. Julie smiled back.
“If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to your father?” she asked, bending serious eyes on him.
“We found out too late that he had advanced colon cancer. He died in ’91. It was awful.” Kevin grimaced, remembering the smells of the hospital and the crushing grief which weighed down his heart for what felt like centuries afterwards.
“I’m so sorry,” Julie murmured.
“It’s okay. I wasn’t exactly two, but it has been a couple of years. I, too, have reached a good place, I think. I still miss him, but I want to do something positive, you know? I was thinking about starting an awareness program. But what matters most to me right at this moment, is you and getting to know you better.”
Julie laughed quietly. There was something so nice about Kevin. She’d heard it said that nice was an awful word, but that was how she felt. Everything about him made her feel comfortable and safe. His gentlemanly sensibilities allowed her to open up a gentler, freer side of herself. Over the years, her “loveable bluster,” as some of her friends put it, although others were less kind, became a cover for a timid, desperate to please girl leftover from a childhood long gone, now. Her parent’s death had more of an adverse affect on her, in that way, than she ever cared to express. Her aunt and uncle used to worry about her when she was a preschooler. She was always so quiet and timorous. As the years passed, Julie became more boisterous and gregarious, partly because she was finally starting to heal and partly because that meek little girl still lingered somewhere under the surface. Suddenly returning from her shadowy world of the past, Julie grinned up at Kevin.
“Then get to know me you shall.”
Once they’d finished lunch, they decided to keep exploring the town, talking up a storm about anything and everything from goat cheese to Broadway. They ended up back at the park they’d started at. Julie asked Kevin if he wanted to frolic in the grass, to which he told her no. She begged him, and he finally gave in. She pulled him through the park, running, skipping, and jumping around like a complete fool. Kevin started jumping around too. When they ran up a hill, they stopped to catch their breath. On the other side of the hill a creek ran through the park. Approximately every half mile a wooden bridge arched over the creek. Julie immediately kicked off her shoes and waded into the water. Kevin was right behind her.
“Are you always so much fun?” Kevin asked playfully.
“I’ll take that as a compliment; and yes, I am. You can ask Michelle. I’m always doing crazy stunts and activities, usually pulling her or someone else along with me. Don’t you ever do fun stuff like this?” Kevin shook his head.
“Not really. I don’t have lots of free time, being on tour pretty much the entire year. Breaks like this are a real treat.”
“Hmm, then we should make the most of it.” Julie reached down and splashed Kevin in the face with cold creek water.
Kevin retaliated, and a water fight followed for the next half hour. By the time both had used up all their energy, they were soaked from head to toe. They slowly walked back to the car and returned to the hotel. When they reached their floor, Kevin gave her a hug and another quick, innocent kiss before headed off to his room to change into dry clothes. Julie smiled and entered her own room. She assumed she’d find Michelle inside, but instead was met with an empty room. After changing, she went in search of her missing friend and found her in Brian’s room.
Michelle sat on the couch, with her sprained ankle in Brian’s lap while he held ice on it. They were watching some movie Julie didn’t recognize. Julie knocked on the door, which was wide open, to announce her presence. Michelle turned her head and smiled.
“Hey, you’re back. Did you have fun?”
“Yep. We tried on crazy clothes, ate lunch at Panda Express, and then played in the creek in this park, getting soaked. What’ve you done today?”
“Well AJ, Howie, and Nick wanted to explore the town too, so they abandoned Brian and me here at the hotel, and since I can’t exactly get around by myself anymore, I’ve been in here watching movies with Brian. He insisted, actually, and he’s been keeping the ice on my ankle. Right now we’re watching Thelma and Louise.”
“Neither of us likes it very much though,” Brian added.
“Sounds like fun. Why was the door open?”
“Oh, that’s so Nick can get in because he left his key card here,” Brian told her. “You know he’s always forgetting things, and this way he doesn’t even have to use any energy by knocking on the door to remind us of his forgetfulness.” Julie laughed, knowing how often Nick lost small, but usually important, items. Kevin walked in while she was still laughing.
“What’s so funny?” he asked. Julie told him and he joined her in laughter. When their laughter finally subsided, they sat on the other couch and joined Brian and Michelle in poking fun at the movie. When it finished an hour later, the other three guys had returned and joined the group in Brian’s room.
“So what did you guys do in the city?” Brian asked them, turning off the TV.
AJ described their trip. They started with window shopping, Howie trying to keep AJ from spending money, though he still ended up buying a new pair of sunglasses. Next they ate lunch at McDonalds, and then headed back to the hotel, but it took them twice as long because they got lost.
“Why didn’t you ask for directions?” Michelle asked. AJ just shrugged his shoulders. “Men,” she said under her breath. Julie smiled, sharing the sentiment.
“So what should we do now?” Nick asked. Being the youngest, he still had plenty of energy to burn off.
AJ suggested swimming, and the two of them headed out to the pool. Once they left, the remaining five discussed what to do for AJ’s birthday the next day. After an hour of coming up with ideas, they finally decided on a plan.
Later that day, Michelle and Julie went into town to search for presents for AJ. Michelle used her crutches to get around, determined not to rely on Brian any longer than necessary. After searching through several stores, Julie found her present: a black beanie, with a quote from Shakespeare embroidered around the bottom edge. She knew how much he enjoyed writing poetry, and thought it would be an appropriate gift. It took a few more stores before Michelle found her gift, a black leather notebook, with a black leather strip to keep it closed. She had his name embossed on the cover. With their shopping finished, they returned to the hotel and went to bed.