Standard Lines
Chapter Two
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve

January 24, 2008


Sweetie, long does not even come close to describing the time that has passed since I last spoke to you. If anyone needs to make a courtesy call, it's me. I'm terribly sorry that so many years have gone by without any contact, but I can't tell you how thrilled I was to receive your letter. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of you. I've always been a bit of a sap that way, I suppose, but I think I'm entitled. After all, eight of my best friends disappeared without a trace on the same afternoon.

Insert a sigh here for me, would you? I'd appreciate it. ;-)

Suffice it to say that I'm thrilled that you ran into my mother-in-law. She's quite the dear, isn't she? She tried to live next door to us for a bit, but I finally convinced Howie to kick her out when she started watering MY flowers along with her own. I do draw a line when it comes to caring for my flora, and I wasn't about to let the poor woman do my yard work. *winks* You know how possessive I can be of my opportunities for manual labor. I think we all managed to part on amicable terms, though. She still arrives promptly every Thanksgiving, and I haven't ever heard her complain about my cooking.

Anyway. I'm off track again.

I'm really, really sorry to hear that marriage with Nick isn't exactly the teenybopper's dream anymore. Believe me, if the boy were in reach, I'd be glad to smack him around for you. I may be short, but there's not a chance in hell that the boy could do damage to me when I'm angry, and hearing that he's been mistreating you does wonders with setting off my temper. I've wondered for years what goes on in that blonde head of his.

I'm still wondering. It sounds like you are as well, though.

I'm especially sorry to hear about the wedding night. Leave it to Carter to get all pissed with nowhere to unload on the one night that he needed to chill out. I'm shaking my head at him. Luckily, Howie was more depressed than he was angry, and we spent much of that same evening in each other's arms, wondering what in the hell went wrong but too tired to discuss it. For the longest time, Howie had tricked himself into thinking that the five of them would reconcile like they're famous for doing. As the years went by, though, he finally accepted the fact that things ended that afternoon. He came home from work at the studio one day, dropped to the floor in the kitchen, and just started sobbing.

Needless to say, the dog and I made him an extra special dinner that night.

There are still the days where he stares out the window in the morning, sipping his coffee, and I know that he's thinking about the way things used to be. On those mornings, I have to say his name a few times before he'll finally turn around to look at me, and when he does, there are always tears in his big, brown eyes. Howie loves so deeply and so hard that it hurts to see the effects sometimes. Don't tell, but he still keeps a picture of the group on our dresser, and he still keeps that scrapbook of all of the articles on them under the bed in a plastic container. He's not holding out hope anymore, though.

I don't think any of us are.

But enough of the melancholy bullshit. I did hear about Nick's album, and I'm sorry to hear that he's taking so much time to make a second one. You might not want to tell him that Howie has the first. He plays it every now and then, but the dog isn't so fond of it. I think he's afraid that all of Nick's whining will drown him out when he gets hungry again. ;-)

That was mean. Pretend I didn't say that, all right? As you can see, hon, some things never change. I'm still not very good about holding my tongue. New Year's Eve does sound like it was romantic, though, so maybe I should cut Mr. Carter a little bit of a break. But just a bit of one. We're talking, like, the very edge of a Kit-Kat bar. He doesn't deserve any more than that, from the sound of it.

And now you're pregnant.

Oh, Jules, I wish I could be there with you to pick out cute, obnoxious baby clothes and rattles and cribs and wallpaper and picture albums and every other ridiculous maternity product. I wish I could've seen the look on your face when you found out. I wish I could've been there to take you out to lunch afterwards so we could giggle about how great it is to finally be old enough to build a family. I also wish I could be there to give you the biggest hug known to man, because I could kick Nick's ass from Max Martin's office to your doorstep about now.

Sweetie, I want you to quit biting your nails and pay attention to what I'm going to say next, okay? Everything is going to be fine. YOU'RE going to be fine. Your baby is going to be fine. Better than fine, even. It's going to be beautiful, because it's already got the best mother anyone could ever have. Remember that. I can understand exactly why you're scared right now, hon, and I don't blame you at all, but I also don't think you have a reason to be scared. You've got yourself and your strength, and you've always got me. And (I can't believe I'm about to say this. Take notes.) Nick loves you. A lot. He may be a prick every now and again, but he loves you, and I don't ever want to think that he'd let you raise this child alone.

Unless you want him to. Jules, you sound more hesitant than I've ever known you to sound about Nick. Even when you didn't know if you wanted to marry him or not, you sounded more confident than this. What has he done to you? What has he NOT done to you? I get the feeling that there's more to this story than you're telling me, hon. Remember to whom you're talking. I think I could've single-handedly put Miss Cleo out of business had that retard not sued her for fraud first.

Well, either myself or Howie. He's pretty good about things like this. You should see him now, Jules. He's exactly the same as he was, only about five years older, and five years sweeter. The years have been kind to him. Much kinder to him than they have been to me, at least. I seem to be sprouting hips again. Is this possible? Moreover, how did this happen? Howie tells me I'm crazy, but he's sweet like that. I know that you'd tell me the truth. I miss you, Jules. So much.

There are so many days that I wonder what you'd think about this lovely little nest Howie and I have built. I knew when I married him that he'd be the world's best family man, but he's been so much more wonderful than I ever expected. Even as I'm writing to you now, there's a fire in the hearth that he built this morning and a smile on his face while he builds a snowman with the dog and the kids.

The kids. Shit, Jules, I've got children. Can you believe it? I'm a mother. I actually got pregnant as a result of that terrible, terrible evening that followed your wedding. They're the one happy memory I have to associate with that day. Yes, they. I've got twins. Only Howie and I would manage to make love to the point that we get two children at once, right? Carrying them was quite an experience, let me tell you. Actually, on second thought, let Howie tell you. He's the one that had to deal with a rather irritable me for nine months. He was wonderful, though, and I didn't curse him once during the delivery. Aren't you proud? I did curse the Backstreet Boys, though. I don't think Howie heard me.

Oh, well. It wouldn't have been the first time I cursed those blasted Backstreet Boys.

I sent you an announcement when the twins were born, so I guess I'm going to have to kick Nick's ass as a result of you not getting it. They're so beautiful, Jules. You should see them. Layne Elizabeth and David Christopher, both with big, brown eyes like their father and fair skin like their mother, and then the dark hair that they got from both. We call them Laynie and Little D. Howie is so good with them. He's beyond good with them. He was meant to be a father, Jules. Something in him just bloomed when our two children came into the world. I'm so proud of him.

Before we had the children, though, we had Howie's brown lab. We got it shortly after your wedding. Howie found the poor thing while jogging in the park one day, and he didn't have any kind of identification with him. We posted signs, knocked on doors, everything to see where he was from, but we didn't get any answers until we brought him to the local SPCA. Turns out that the pup actually escaped from the shelter. Of course, Howie insisted that we keep him, and I didn't have the heart to disagree. The whole first week we had him, he would howl when the sun came up, so we named him Rooster. He's six years old now, but he's still got the mentality of a puppy, and he loves the kids. He's as good with them as Howie is. Even now, he's chasing them around the yard, kicking up snow.

Craziness, right? Who would've dreamed that I'd ever have a stable family? You'll get there someday too, Jules. You're too good not to get it. Somewhere, deep down, I'm sure that Nick knows what he has in you. He has to.

However, if you ever need anything, or you ever need to get away or hear a familiar voice, you know where to find me. I haven't been around to say it lately, but I've been there in spirit, and I'm still here if you need me.

Don't be a stranger anymore. I'll keep writing if you will, and I'm glad to know that I won't have to worry about Nick destroying our letters. I've enclosed a post office box number with mine that you can send to until I can figure out whether or not Howie can handle this. You know how he is. He just cares too much sometimes. I do love him, though.

I love you too, chick. Don't forget that. We've seen each other through a lot.

I'll look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, take care of yourself and the baby. You're in my heart and in my prayers, hon.

All my love,