The women get to know AJ, Howie, and Nick better, but tragedy stikes the tour.
“No, I told you Howie, bright colors aren’t your best look,” Michelle said during a session with the group, discussing possible outfits for future events. “Try duller colors, but not pastels. They tend to wash out your face too much.”
“Take that off AJ, it’s Nick’s shirt. I don’t care how much you like it, you can’t have it,” Julie said from a different corner of the room.
“Brian, don’t even think about putting those pants on,” Michelle suddenly yelled across the room. Brian had pulled a pair of red leather pants off a rack labeled ‘Unknown’. He tried them on when Michelle wasn’t looking. “Nick, have you ever thought about wearing smaller clothes? Perhaps sizes that aren’t ten times to large?”
“Kevin, I know you want everyone to notice your six-pack, but please, put on a shirt!” Julie yelled, laughing when Kevin appeared in only a pair of ripped up jeans. “Put on this dress shirt and see how it looks. You might actually pull it off with those jeans.”
“AJ, vests are made for wearing over shirts,” Michelle calmly stated when AJ appeared in dress pants and a black vest with silver designs embroidered on the front and back. As AJ started to argue, Brian appeared in the leather pants. Julie immediately cracked up, causing Michelle to look over for the cause of the outburst. “Brian! I thought I told you not to try those on.” She struggled to keep a straight face. “Now, take them off and try on that pair of sweat pants instead.”
Once Brian disappeared again into the changing room, Michelle started laughing; soon everyone joined her. By the time control was reestablished, the session was over and the Boys got ready to go home. AJ took the longest getting dressed, trying hard not to appear suspicious. When only the women were left with him, he walked up to them with his request.
“I was wondering if you two would consider coming to dinner with me. I’ve been wanting to talk to the guys, but strangely, I feel more comfortable talking about this with you.”
“What do you want to talk about?” Julie asked.
“It’s about women.” Michelle and Julie shared a quick look. They immediately agreed to talk with him over dinner.
“So what specifically about women do you want to talk about?” Michelle asked once they were seated at the restaurant.
“And why come to us?” Julie questioned. “Why don’t you want to talk with the other guys?”
“I’m having problems with women, and I’d rather hear your opinion, since you’re women, rather that just get laughed at by the guys. I know they mean well, and aren’t trying to make fun of me, it’s just how we do things. We try to keep the mood light.”
“I can understand that,” Julie commented. “So what kinds of problems are you having?”
“I’ve tried dating a few girls in the past couple years, but the relationship never works out. And usually the girls blame me, saying it’s my fault. The last one told me I wasn’t sensitive enough to her needs.”
“Did she give you any reasons?”
“She said I never focused on her, or asked her about her life. She said I only ever talked about my life as a Backstreet Boy, and expected her to just be quiet and sympathetic towards me. That’s not true though. I made a point of asking her every time we were together how her day was. I wanted to know what her life was like, who she did and didn’t like at work, that sort of thing. I really did care, but somehow that didn’t come across.”
“Did she give any specific examples?”
“Yeah, she told me that the last time we were together, before the break up, all I’d talked about was myself. She said when I asked about her day, I started writing in my notebook and ignored her the rest of the time she was talking.”
“Is that true?”
“No, well, yes. I did start writing in my notebook, but that’s because I was writing out what she said, making it a poem. I like writing poetry based on her life, because she always had such great rhythm in her speech. It was poetry without being poetry, you know?”
“Did you tell her that?” Michelle asked.
“I tried to, but she wouldn’t hear me out. She said I was just good at making up excuses. So what can I do?”
“First, I would tell you that next time you should try to avoid writing poetry every time she talks. I would think you were ignoring me too. Secondly, if you choose to do that, make sure you tell her what you’re doing, but do it right then, not later. That way she’s more likely to believe you.”
“When did you guys break up?” Julie asked. “I mean, is there a chance you could talk to her about this?” AJ shook his head.
“No, we broke up a few months ago, and she never answers my calls. She’s completely pushed me out of her life. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened, though the others ended for different reasons.”
AJ went on to talk about his past relationships and how each ended. He explained what he could, and let Michelle and Julie guess at the woman’s perspective. He questioned them about how he could better explain himself, without offending the woman. Julie tried role playing with him, giving him practice for the next time he talked to a girlfriend. The conversation lasted well past the end of dinner. For more privacy, they left the restaurant and instead went to a park and walked for another hour, coaching AJ and letting him get things off his chest. By the end, he was noticeably happier, acting like the AJ they both had grown to know and appreciate.
“Thanks so much for talking with me,” he told them before they separated for the night. “It really means a lot.”
“No problem,” Michelle said.
“Yeah, don’t feel bad about coming to us for anything.” AJ surprised them by giving each of them a hug before heading back to his apartment.
“That was interesting,” Michelle commented as they got ready for bed that night. “I never thought AJ would be that open with us, especially about something so personal.”
“I know what you mean. I think we’ve gotten past the tough exterior to the sensitive individual he keeps inside, hidden from most people. I’m glad he came to us. I feel privileged, like he let us see a side to him no one else gets to see, maybe not even the other guys in the group.”
“Yes. Let’s hope his next relationship works out; he deserves it. Whoever he ends up with will be a lucky girl.” Julie nodded, and the two went to sleep.
Work continued for everyone in much the same fashion: dress rehearsals for various interviews, guest appearances, or music videos, and group dinners several nights a week. On the weekends, Michelle went to church with Brian and Julie spent the day with Kevin. The women also set aside specific days to spend without their significant others, telling the guys they wanted to make sure they spent some time apart and remembered how to lead separate lives. When time came to start preparing for the Europe stint of the tour, both men and women frantically tried to make sure everything that needed to made it into suitcases and that nothing important was left to the last minute.
On the morning of their departure, set early in the morning to ensure a morning arrival in Ireland due to the time difference, both couples received tickets next to each other, while the remaining three guys were split between two rows, leaving AJ with a seat to himself. After boarding the plane and settling their luggage overhead, AJ promptly stretched himself across both seats in his row and fell asleep. Only Michelle, Julie, and Howie remained awake, naturally leading the three into a conversation.
“Are you two excited to go to Europe?” he asked.
“Yes,” they said simultaneously.
“Have you been to Europe before?” Julie asked.
“Yes, but mainly Germany. We didn’t tour much last time. I just hope we get to sight see this time. Last time we were only there a few days at a time, so we never did anything besides rehearse and perform.”
“Is there anything in particular you want to see?” Michelle asked. Howie thought for a minute.
“I want to see the big tourist attractions, like the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. I’m really excited though to visit Ireland, since my dad’s Irish.”
“I didn’t know that,” Julie commented. “What about your mother?”
“She’s Puerto Rican.”
“Wow, that’s really cool.” Howie just smiled.
“Do you speak another language then?”
“Sí, hablo español con fluidez, aunque no me lo utilizan a menudo. That means: ‘Yes, I speak Spanish fluently, though I don’t get to use it often.’”
“That sounds so much better when you say it than my friend who took Spanish in high school,” Michelle commented. “She couldn’t roll her ‘r’s.”
“If you don’t grow up speaking Spanish or a similar language, it’s hard to pick up small things like that.”
“So besides speaking Spanish, what else makes you unique?”
“I’m very indecisive.”
“But you said that so decisively!” Julie said with a laugh.
“Yes, but it’s true. I have such a hard time making decisions, but when I ask for help, I get too many opinions which only makes the decision harder.”
“But why do you have a hard time making decisions?”
“I think it’s because I’m insecure.” His voice dropped a notch, causing Julie and Michelle to lean in a little more. “Sometimes I worry too much about what others think of me, and often I wonder how my voice sounds in the group, like whether or not I’m hitting the right notes.”
“You have a wonderful voice Howie,” Michelle told him. “You can hit notes I didn’t know even existed.” Howie smiled at the compliment.
“Thanks. Still though, I constantly worry about things like that. I worry about making a mistake during a concert, though thankfully I’ve never made a big enough one for anyone outside of the group to notice. The guys sometimes give me a hard time about women, too, because I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve been on a few dates, but nothing ever happened. Nick’s still too young to understand why this bothers me, but the other guys can’t do much for me, except set me up on blind dates.”
“I’m sure when the time is right you’ll meet the perfect girl and sweep her off her feet,” Julie said, hoping to encourage him.
“You’re probably right, but waiting is always the hardest part.”
“Well, while you’re waiting, how about we get your mind off of it and play a game.” Julie proceeded to engage Howie and Michelle in a cut-throat game of ‘I Spy’. After several rounds, the trio tired of the game and broke apart for separate activities. Michelle and Julie worked in their sketch books while Howie fell asleep like the rest of the group.
When they reached the Dublin airport, the Boys appeared fresh and ready to start the day, having slept the entire flight. Michelle and Julie, on the other hand, started feeling the effects of jet lag, and immediately bought the largest coffees they could find. They took taxis from the airport to the hotel, so they could change into fresh clothes. The women took the short break to try to catch a few minutes sleep. Unfortunately, the door didn’t latch when they closed it, so Nick, who was passing by, peeked inside to see if they were ready to go. Instead, he found both women sprawled across one bed, fast asleep. He tip toed into the room and jumped across the entire bed.
“Ugh,” Michelle mumbled into the bed sheets.
“Go away,” Julie told him.
“You have to get up. We’re leaving in five minutes to go sight seeing!” Nick bounced on the bed, full of energy only a teenager could still possess. Julie punched him lightly in the stomach.
“Leave us alone.” She turned her head away from Nick’s face, which was inches from her own, and tried to go back to sleep.
“Did we miss the party invitation?” Brian’s voice floated into the room from where he stood by the doorway. Michelle saw him and groaned, knowing what was coming. The other guys stood next to Brian, and all four ran and jumped on the bed on top of Nick and the women. But that wasn’t the end of the women’s torment. Brian and Kevin took the liberty of tickling their girlfriends, causing the other guys to join in.
“I told you to sleep on the plane,” Brian told Michelle, “otherwise you’d be too tired to have any fun today.” Michelle couldn’t respond, what with five full grown men on top of her and three of them tickling her at the same time.
“Get . . . off,” she finally managed to wheeze out.
Slowly, the Boys untangled themselves and got off the bed. Once all five were off, the women were unceremoniously pulled into sitting positions, causing their heads to swim from the sudden oxygen and vertigo.
“Are you ready to go sight seeing?” Nick asked, unable to focus on more than the possibility of exploring a foreign country. Julie merely sent him a glare.
“Why don’t you three head downstairs and we’ll meet you outside in a few minutes?” Kevin suggested, hoping to clear out Howie, AJ, and Nick. They nodded and exited the room.
“I thought caffeine was supposed to keep you awake,” Brian teased Michelle.
“And I thought you cared about me,” she snapped back.
“Come on, we’re in Ireland for a week, to have fun and enjoy ourselves before we start doing concerts again.”
“I’m not going to be much fun unless I get sleep.”
“If you sleep now you’ll be jet lagged for the first week.” Brian quit arguing and picked Michelle up. “You’re coming whether you want to or not.”
Kevin pulled Julie along after the other couple and joined the rest of the group downstairs. They’d had their manager rent them two cars with drivers for the week, not comfortable with the thought of driving on the opposite side of the road just yet. They spent the day visiting popular tourist sights and historical locations. The drivers also served as tour guides, explaining why certain buildings were important to the Irish people. Howie particularly enjoyed listening because of his Irish heritage. The day ended and everyone headed upstairs to get some sleep.
“Hey, anyone want to go with me to get snacks?” Nick asked while everyone still stood in the hallway in front of their hotel rooms.
“Nick, get some snacks tomorrow when the drivers will be here,” Kevin told the young man. “None of us feel up to driving anywhere.”
“Please?” He looked pleadingly at each person.
“I’ll drive you,” Julie said, giving in. She saw Kevin give her a look.
“The grocery store isn’t that far away, and I’m awake enough to drive. Don’t worry Kevin, we’ll be back before you know it.”
“Thanks Julie!” Nick told her. He gave her a big hug. Everyone watched as the pair headed downstairs. The drivers left the cars with the group overnight, in case they needed to go anywhere.
“So what snacks are you going to get?”
“I’m not sure. I always get the munchies at night, so I like having a variety to choose from. And I don’t even know what things I’ll find over here. I forgot to pack my own snacks before we left home, so I get to experiment. What are you favorite snacks?”
“Hmm, I enjoy ice cream sandwiches a lot. They’re especially good in the summer time, because as they start to melt I lick all the sides so nothing drips onto myself or the floor and goes to waste. Of course, most kinds of chocolate are good all year round. What are you favorites?”
Nick began rattling off a list of all the snacks he enjoyed, ranging from potato chips to cookies to candy bars and more. Julie was so intent on listening to him she didn’t notice the headlights in front of her.
“Look out!” Nick shouted suddenly. A car was heading straight towards them, swerving widely, indicating the driver’s inebriated state.
Julie quickly steered the car off the road, figuring it to be safer than trying to avoid the car on the street when she couldn’t predict where it would move next. As the car passed them, Julie tried to get their car back on the road, but the tires were stuck in a groove. She spun the steering wheel more than necessary, and the tires broke free of the groove, but still didn’t make it onto the road. Instead, the car headed away from the road onto the bumpy field next to it. Julie looked ahead of her, away from the road, and slammed on the brakes, but it was too late. The car hit a tree and wrapped around, the driver’s side next to the tree. Nick’s head hit the head rest of his seat, while Julie’s head hit the steering wheel. The car didn’t have airbags.