His hands are shaking and his eyes are closed and he's hoping
that she picks up the phone. Hoping, because the message on his voicemail was less than reassuring. Hoping, because he knows
he screwed up and now he's got to fix it. Fix it before the relationship falls apart. Before she falls apart.
before he falls apart, too.
Apprehension turns to anger, and he shoves a desperate fist into
a pillow. "Dammit, Sam, pick up the phone!"
He's poised to let out a string of words worthy of
a sailor's crimson blush when her voice reaches his ears.
The fist falls on the bedspread, anger forgotten
in the elation that comes with hearing her voice again. "Sam! Baby, I'm so glad you picked up...I got your message."
She flinches at the thought of the message. The message was left in the wake of a blow to her ego and a wound in her side.
The message was that weak, whiny girlfriend that she'd sworn she wouldn't become. The message was...the message was fear.
Her fear, and she hates that he's gotten to see it so plainly. "Yeah, that. I'm sorry about that."
He frowns. "Why
are you sorry?" He has a speech. He's ready to clear his name, to wipe the tiny bit of dirt off their slate and remind her
how clean it used to be. "You shouldn't be sorry."
"Of course I should! I promised that I'd trust you. I know the tabloids
as well as you do...I should know by now that they're nothing but rags. I shouldn't let things like that get to me."
frozen. He should've asked his manager to find the tabloid with his picture on it. Here he is, ready to play the rescuer,
but he has no idea what she's seen. He only knows what she could've seen.
With that thought, his fist finds its way
back to the pillow. Shit.
"Things like what, babe?"
A deep breath. "Things like your arm around another
girl. Things like you kissing girls on the cheek. Things like you holding their hands...I don't know. All of that touchy-feely
bullshit that your fans crave."
A sigh of relief permeates the frown, because he knows that she could've seen worse.
"Baby...I'm sorry. They shouldn't be putting pictures of that on the front page."
"I know. And I know it doesn't mean
anything, but...it hurts." A pause, and then. "It doesn't mean anything, right? Nick? Tell me that those girls are just fans."
anger in her voice is enough to make him flinch, enough to give birth to a tiny seed of guilt in the pit of his stomach. "Of
course, Sam. You know they're just fans. I love you, baby. Besides, brunettes are better than blondes, remember?"
sighs. "It's a lot harder to believe that from a distance, Nick."
"I know." And he sighs with her. "I know, babe, and
I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. It's just...they're fans. I have to keep them happy. I owe them a lot for what they've
given me, and sometimes that means that I have to sacrifice a bit of personal space every now and then."
frowns. "Baby? Sam? You're not mad, are you?"
"No, not...not really. I'm sorry to be a pain about this. It's just..."
You're not being a pain. Really, you're not. I mean, I'd be ten times worse if I saw you like that with another guy."
can't keep the sarcasm from her tone as she responds. "Guess you're lucky that I'm not in your line of work, then."
"You've just..." He trails off, trying to choose the right words to fill the holes in her
heart. "You've just got to learn to ignore that shit. The press will do what the press will do. There's no way to stop them...believe
me, I've tried. They're trying to paint me a certain way so they can sell their stuff. You've just got to keep from buying
it, that's all. Sam, you know me. You know I wouldn't do that to you."
"I know." She thinks she does. Or she did. She's
not so sure anymore. Every time he calls, she feels as though she's conversing with a stranger, and the contours of his face
that she once knew so well bend and blur in her mind's eye.
"I love you, okay? I know I haven't called as much as I
said I would, but the fact that I'm busy doesn't change the way I feel about you, okay?"
"Okay." Reserved and regressing,
"Listen, the next time you're worried about something like this, don't hesitate to give me a call, okay?
We've got seven more months...we just need to learn to be honest with each other."
For once, her confidence soars.
"No, you are. You did the right thing by calling me this afternoon. Chewing on that picture alone all
day must've sucked."
"It did, but talking to you helps."
He smiles, knowing that the slate is cleared for now.
"Glad to be of service. You know I'd do anything to ease your fears."
She rolls her eyes. "Baby?"
think you've been singing too many love songs."
"They're all for you, Sam. All for you."