ONE OF THE BOYS
So over the summer something changed, I started reading “Seventeen” and shaving my legs…And I studied “Lolita” religiously, and I walked right into school and caught you staring at me. ‘Cause I know what you know, but now you’re gonna have to take a number, it’s okay, maybe one day, but not until you give me that diamond ring…
“You drive a pretty car…you know how fine you are…and nobody needs to say it…I love the clothes you wear, they compliment you and…I just love the way you play it…”
“No.” Chris stopped walking down the hall and rubbed his eyes. “No. No NSYNC this early. No NSYNC before coffee.” He groaned and lightly banged his head against the wall.
“For the girl who has everything, I bring you love…” JC’s voice echoed through Chris’ kitchen.
Chris peaked around the corner and saw Lara scrubbing the counter by the sink singing along with the iPod she had docked and playing through a tiny speaker system. “Why do you run and hide, say what you feel inside and why must you always fake it…oh yeah…girl you need to understand, your heart’s safe within my hands, I promise I’ll never break it…” Lara shimmied a bit in time with the beat as she leaned across the counter.
“You know, I should kick you out for this,” Chris said. Lara screamed and threw the sponge in the air. He walked over and paused the music. “First of all, it’s eight-thirty in the morning. WHY are you cleaning? Secondly…really? Us? REALLY?”
“You were supposed to be sleeping,” she said defensively. “Plus, it’s a free country. I can listen to whatever I want.”
“You just wanted to listen to JC singing love songs to you,” Chris teased as he went to the coffeepot.
“Did not,” Lara muttered, though she HAD scrolled through her playlist until she found an NSYNC love song.
“About the cleaning?”
“What can I say? I’m a morning person,” she shrugged.
“I have a cleaning lady.” Chris sat at the table and flipped through the newspaper.
“I know.” Lara refilled her own mug and sat down with him. They had a comfortable morning routine set up, where she read the paper before he got up, did the crossword puzzle, and got everything all organized before he hit the kitchen. Chris was anal about his newspaper, to her surprise. Everything had to be lined up and folded neatly before he’d even look at it.
She smiled at him. She’d been at his house for over a week, and it was like they’d never spent years apart. She had gone to a few more interviews, and things seemed promising. Chris was already making some calls to real estate agent friends he knew, trying to find her a decent apartment in a safe section of town. She told him not to rush things, but she was hopeful.
Lara dropped her chin in her hand and studied her friend. He had bedhead, and his pajamas were wrinkled, but he was adorable. Her eyes widened at the thought. Adorable? She sighed softly. Chris put up a good front, but he seemed so lost sometimes. She knew he enjoyed having there, but she wondered if some of it wasn’t to break the monotony of his life. He was so talented in so many ways, and she wished he could find a creative outlet.
Chris looked up, feeling her eyes on him. “What?”
“Nothing.” She smiled sweetly at him. “Can’t I look at you?”
“No.” Chris smiled to show he was teasing. “Why WERE you cleaning?”
“Writer’s block,” she said. “I need to finish that thing for JC.”
“You don’t have to.”
“He DARED me,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “I have to.”
“Okay.” Chris shrugged. “Anything you wanna do today?”
“Nah. Write. Swim. No need to entertain me.” She picked up her mug. “How about you?”
“Nothing planned.” Chris yawned and stretched.
“Chris, you should find something…you’re so talented.” Lara put her hand on his shoulder.
Chris’ eyes widened. “Where did this come from?”
“You seem…lost,” she said bravely. “I hadn’t wanted to say anything right away.”
“I’ve done stuff,” he almost snapped. “Guess you didn’t see me on that reality show that I couldn’t even WIN.”
“You were awesome on that. Even the judges thought so,” Lara said, ignoring the bite of his words. “You could do…God…stand up comedy or something. You’re hysterical. And so witty. Have YOU ever thought of writing?”
“Not interested. I’m not good at that stuff.” Chris looked down at his newspaper. “Thanks for your concern, but I’m fine.”
“Okay.” Lara bit her bottom lip but said nothing more. “I just…care, Chris. I want you to be the best you can be.”
“Right now I’m the best lazy bum,” Chris said. He took her hand from his shoulder and kissed it. “I’m fine with who I am, okay?”
“Okay.” Lara sighed. “I’m gonna shower, and maybe write a little.”
“Uh-huh,” Chris said, going back to his newspaper.
As she left the room, however, the words swam in front of his eyes. He hadn’t realized he was so transparent. Leave it to the person who used to know him best to figure it out. Everyone else seemed to be going and going, accomplishing things, while he lagged behind, feeling old and fat and useless. Lance had like five or six things going on behind the scenes at all times, JC was producing and writing, Joey was all over TV…and he didn’t even want to THINK about Justin.
“Fuck it,” he mumbled, sliding the newspaper across the table. He finished his coffee and got up. Maybe some laps would help.
“Hey,” Chris poked his head into Lara’s bedroom and grinned. She was on the bed, typing away on her laptop. She wore a ratty old tank top and cut-off denim shorts, and her long hair was in pigtails. “Lance called.”
“Really?” She self-consciously reached up to her pigtails.
“He’s not on the phone NOW, moron, and he couldn’t see you anyway.” Chris rolled his eyes. “He invited us over so you could see his house, how he’s setting up the party, and wants us to stay for dinner.”
“Cool,” Lara stood and stretched, her shoulder and neck cracking. “I’m almost done with this.” She looked at Chris. “I’m sorry if I made you mad with what I said earlier.”
“Of course you didn’t.” Chris shook his head. “I didn’t mean to get all defensive. I know you just care.”
“I do care.” Their eyes met and she blushed. “Um, hey, before I change, can I call Lance?” She smiled. “Teehee, I can call Lance. Like call him.”
“You’re just doing that to tick me off,” Chris grumbled, and she laughed. “Yeah, sure, of course.” He handed her his cell. “Why are you gonna change? You look fine.”
“Fuck you.” Lara grabbed the phone. Chris laughed as he left the room.
“Wow. I thought JC’s place was nice.” Lara stared at the huge house. “He…wow.”
“He’s into houses. Got them all over the place,” Chris said with a shrug.
“Does he have someone?” Lara asked. “I just realized I never asked.”
“Not right now. Not like a SERIOUS someone.” Chris got out of the car. “He has a few people he goes out with now and then. No one living here or anything.”
“So I have a chance?” Lara teased.
“If you have a chance, if you GET a chance, I will try out for America’s Next Top Model,” Chris promised. Lara cracked up.
“Hey, guys,” Lance called from the door. “Glad you could make it.”
“Hey, Lance, this place is gorgeous,” Lara said.
“And this is just the front porch,” Lance said with a smile. “I got everything you asked for, I think. If I didn’t, we’ll have it delivered.”
“Great!” Lara said. “But show me around first, then I’ll get to it.”
“Get to what?” Chris was confused.
“Lara’s cooking dinner for us tonight,” Lance said. “She offered.”
Chris burst out laughing. “Am I on Candid Camera? You’re gonna cook.”
“Shut up.” Lara shoved past him. “Start the tour, Lance.”
Lance led them through the tastefully decorated home. It was beautiful, but obviously lived in. “And in here is the theater…” Lance opened the door. “We’ll keep the movie running in here.”
“Cool.” Lara poked her head in.
“This will take the place of the dance studio, kinda…” Lance opened another door to a large room with a hardwood floor. “We’ll have the DJ set up in the corner, and I have a system that will pipe the music through the house, out into the yard…”
“Fantastic!” Lara said. Lance led them out into the yard and pointed out a few things. “This is gonna be one helluva party, Lance.”
“Thanks to your good idea,” he said, lightly squeezing her arm.
“Hello, I thought of the idea to HAVE a party,” Chris pointed out.
“Yeah, thanks, Chris,” Lance said over his shoulder as he led them back in the house. Chris growled at his back. “So, here’s the kitchen and everything.” Lance pointed to bags of groceries on the counter.
“Okay, let me look at all this…” Lara started unpacking.
“Pots and pans over your head and in that cabinet…pantry behind you…”
“I’ll be fine. You two get out of my hair for a bit.” She waved her hands.
“God, some things really do never change,” Chris grumbled. “Bossy bitch.”
“Kirkpatrick, keep it up and you’ll get crackers for dinner,” Lara snapped. She opened the fridge and rummaged around a bit. “Um, Lance?”She called after they left the room. “I need more eggs than what you have.”
“Okay, I’ll call.” Lance pulled out his phone. “Why don’t you go down to the game room, Chris? We’ll shoot pool after I call.”
“Sure.” Chris moseyed down to the basement.
“There’s a place downtown where the freaks all come around, it’s a hole in the wall, it’s a dirty free for all…” Lara sang along softly with the radio that hung under the cabinets. She had a pot bubbling on the stove, and bowls of various sizes on the counter. She was carefully cutting celery into small pieces.
“Your eggs, m’lady,” a voice said, sliding them onto the counter. She whirled around.
“JC! Hey!” Lara exclaimed, a smile on her face. “Wow, if I knew grocery stores had delivery guys like this, I’d have ordered more.”
He laughed. “Lance invited me…I don’t mind. He knew I’d be on my way and asked me to pick these up.”
“Of course I don’t mind. Chris might, though.” She frowned and JC looked at her oddly. “I mentioned us coming here Saturday as a date, and he kinda wigged out.”
“Because I’m apparently still fifteen and need him to act like my big brother.” She rolled her eyes. “Seems to think you’re gonna break my heart or seduce me or get me pregnant or SOMETHING. I told him that it’s just a date, that we’re not getting married or anything.”
“Exactly.” He smiled down at her, and Lara suddenly realized she was pressed between JC and the counter. Not a bad place to be. “I promise to not break your heart. I promise not to get you pregnant. The seducing…well…we’ll see.”
“Maybe I’ll seduce you first.” She poked him in the chest. “I got skills.”
“I bet.” JC giggled and looked down at her. “You have flour on your nose.”
“What?” Lara scrubbed at her face.
“Serious seduction skills.” JC reached over and quickly ran some water over his fingers, then gently wiped at her nose. She gulped and looked up at him. “I don’t know how I’ll keep from giving in.”
“Hey, something smells good in here. Is it ready yet?” Chris skidded to a stop as he stared at them. JC stepped back, and Lara whirled back around to face the counter.
“Not even close, Chris. Quit asking.”
“Hey, Chris,” JC said. “Lance invited me for dinner.”
“I see that.” Chris jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “We’re shooting pool. Join us?”
“Sure.” JC looked at Lara. “You need any help?”
“There’s that gentleman again,” Lara said, smiling over her shoulder. “Nah, I’m fine. I’ll call you guys when things are closer to being ready.”
JC and Chris left the room, and Lara leaned against the counter. She KNEW JC was about to kiss her. JC Chasez. Kissing her. While she had flour on her nose. She groaned and turned back to the stove.
“So. A date.” Chris broke the pool balls with a snap of his elbow. “You and Lara.”
“That a problem?” JC leaned against the wall by the pool table. Lance raised his eyebrows.
“That’s what I said,” Chris said. He chalked the stick and moved into position. “Why?”
“Because she’s nice, she’s cute, she doesn’t take anyone’s crap. She’s smart, she’s normal, she looks like she’d be a good time.” JC shrugged. “I didn’t know I had to clear my dates through the two of you.”
“I don’t give a fuck who you date as long as it’s not me, Jayce,” Lance said.
“Lara would LOVE that,” Chris muttered under his breath. “You don’t have to clear anything through me, JC. Just don’t fuck around with her, okay?”
“She’s a grown woman, Chris,” JC said, amused. “ I don’t think you need to be her bodyguard.”
“I’m not. I’m her friend.” Chris stood up from the table and calmly looked at JC. “I’ve seen how you ‘date’, when you just sweet talk a girl to get her into bed.”
“What I do in bed is none of your business.” JC walked over to Chris. “We are both consenting adults, and what happens, happens. I realize, though, where you’re coming from. I’m not out to break your friend’s heart, Chris. We’re gonna have a good time together. End of story.”
“Fine. Because if you do break her heart, I will break your scrawny spine in two.” Chris sent two balls into the pockets with a snap.
“Almost ready!” Lara called down the stairs.
“Be right up!” Lance called back.
When the men arrived in the kitchen, Lara was stacking dishes on the counter. “Put this out?” Lara handed a stack of bowls to Chris.
“What’re we having?”
“Soup,” she said simply, and Chris stopped in his tracks, sniffing.
“You did not.”
“I did.” Lara smiled at him.
Chris whooped and started plunking down bowls. “I cannot believe it. I haven’t had this in years. I so love you.”
Lara blushed and looked at Lance. “I didn’t know what you all wanted to drink, figured you could get it on your own.”
“What are we having?” Lance asked as he got beers from the fridge for himself, JC and Chris. He held one out to Lara and she shook her head.
“I’m not a big drinker, and I definitely don’t like beer.” She poured herself a glass of milk. “Chicken corn soup.”
“Her mom’s recipe, and it’s awesome, and I love you,” Chris said blissfully.
Lara brought crackers and cheese to the table, and ladled out soup for everyone. “It’s not…you know, fancy, or anything…just…you know, food.” Lara sat down and stared at her lap. She didn’t know WHAT she had been thinking, serving freaking celebrities soup.
“Lara, I couldn’t tell you the last time someone cooked for me except my mom,” Lance said. “I appreciate it. Thank you.”
“Definitely,” JC said. “I eat out of boxes and cans way too much.”
“Plus this shit’s freaking AWESOME!” Chris crowed. Lara giggled and blushed again.
A few hours later, Lara and Chris got ready to leave. “So…should I pick you up?” JC asked. “On Saturday.”
“Um…sure,” Lara said, blushing a bit. “It’s been so long since I’ve been on a date I don’t know if I know how to behave.”
“Just be an easy slut and we’ll get along fine,” JC teased. Lara gasped, then laughed.
“I expect you to be that asshole you keep talking about, so it’s all good.” She poked him in the stomach. “Oh, and your screenplay? Almost done.”
“You really did it?”
“Of course. You dared me.” She brushed past him. “Lance, thanks for letting us invade your home.”
“Thanks for dinner. It was incredible. Any time you want to come over and cook for me, you can,” he told her. He hugged her and kissed her cheek. “Good night.”