St. Petersburg, Russia - 11:22 PM MDT (Moscow Daylight Time, 12:22 PM PST)
16 days later...
I CAN'T WAIT TO GO HOME, DAMN IT! We finished our last show of the European leg about two hours ago and I feel amazing! I am so done with touring right now! In just 20+ hours I will be holding my wife, son, and unborn child in my arms. Kim is ten weeks pregnant, I've missed so much already and I hate it! I cannot wait—
AJ stopped writing as his phone starting ringing and he answered it.
"Hey, beautiful," he said with a big grin.
"Hi, baby," Kim replied weakly.
Kim had been having a rough couple of weeks with morning sickness. "Are you feeling any better?"
"Not really. It comes and goes."
"Jordan's not giving you any trouble, is he?"
"Not today, no. Now yesterday..." she said with a sigh.
"I know, I think he's just excited that 'daddy's coming home.'" AJ said with a laugh.
"I'm excited that 'daddy's coming home,' too. I love you, I can't wait to see you. What time is it there?"
"Same here, babe, same here. Almost 11:30."
"Wow, you're eleven hours ahead. How was the show?" Kim asked.
"It was great. We did "Siberia" off of Never Gone for the encore instead of "Shape Of My Heart," the fans seemed to enjoy it a lot."
"Ooh, I love that one! Sing it for me please, Alex? Please?" She sounded like Jordan when he wanted a new toy or some type of sweet before dinner.
AJ laughed. "Okay. The whole thing or just my part?"
He cleared his throat lightly.
I was drifting in between
Like I was on the outside looking in, yeah
In my dreams you are still here
Like you've always been
My heart did time in Siberia
Was waiting for the lie to come true
'Cause it's all so dark and mysterious
When the one you want doesn't want you, too
"I love it! I love it! God, I love that song. I could listen to you sing forever."
"So you've said on many occasions," he quipped.
"But it's true. I love you."
"And I love you." AJ heard Kim talk to someone in the background.
"Jordan wants to talk to you."
"Put him on."
"Here he is."
"Hey, J! Daddy misses you so much, I can't wait to see you!"
"Me too! When?" he asked.
"Tomorrow. You and Mommy have to come pick me up, remember?"
"Oh, yeah! Here's Mommy again."
"Alex?" Kim was back on the phone.
"Why don't you go to bed? Your flight's at 5:30, right?"
"Yep, got a layover in London and in New York City. Brian's going from there to Atlanta, Howie's going from there to Orlando, and Nick's going from there to Nashville. It's gonna be a long ass day tomorrow..." he said with a heavy sigh.
"Alright, baby. Go get some rest. Love you."
"I love you, too. Goodnight, see you in the morning your time around 9:30 or 10."
AJ hung up, picked up his pen, and continued to write where he left off:
I cannot wait to see my beautiful family. They're all I've ever wanted and more. I am truly blessed. Less than a day to go now...
'A short entry, but a good one.' AJ thought to himself as he put his journal away.
He climbed into bed and fell asleep quickly as he dreamed about tomorrow's journey across the ocean, his final destination until he was to do it all over again.
Friday, May 23, 2008
7:13 AM EST (Eastern Standard Time - US, 4:13 AM PST)
AJ yawned. "I know, I know, baby. I'm sorry. I'll be home before you know it. I'll call you when I have more info, try and go back to sleep. Love you. Bye."
AJ and the rest of their crew were stuck in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Shortly after their layover was finished, it had been announced that all flights were delayed until further notice because of severe weather. AJ was in line trying to find out what he could about the situation.
"Excuse me? Do you have an estimate as to when the delays will be lifted? I really need to get home as soon as possible."
The lady behind the ticket counter sighed. "Tell that to all of these people. I've heard from my supervisor that it could be at least an hour, maybe two before the storm clears up enough. Until then, the planes stay grounded. Is that all you wanted, sir?"
AJ frowned. "Yes. Um, thank you." He walked in the opposite direction back to where he came from and informed everyone of the news he had just acquired.
"It'll be at least an hour or two before the delays are lifted. Sorry, everyone."
A mixture of dissatisfied groans were heard. AJ sat back down and tried to distract himself with a game of Brick on his iPod to try and pass the time. "I just wanna go home, see my wife and kid, maybe pet my dog. I haven't kissed Kim in almost a month. Is that too much to ask, I mean, really?"
"You prayin', AJ?" Nick asked as he sat down next to him.
"Ha, I wish. Damn," he said with a scowl as he had to start over on his game. "God, I suck at this."
Nick leaned closer to AJ. "What're ya playin'?"
"Brick. That I suck at, FYI."
"Well, now is a perfect time to get some practice in," he smirked.
AJ put his iPod down for a moment to text Kim what he just told their touring party.
Hey, I just found out that it's gonna be a couple of hours at least before we can leave. :(
She texted him back a couple of minutes later: Seriously? *pouts* It figures... :( :(
AJ: I know, I miss you. I'll be home as soon as I can. I'll keep you posted. xoxoxo
AJ went back to his game of Brick for fifteen more minutes before taking out his laptop to mess around on it. He opened it up and turned it on, but it would shut off after the HP logo would come up. "Damn it!" He shut it and sighed with frustration. "Battery's dead." he mumbled.
"That sucks. I'm gonna try and sleep I guess," Nick said.
"Yeah, I should too. Don't wanna be tired when I get home..." AJ said as he yawned and stretched his arms above his head. He put his laptop away and settled back and closed his eyes.
"You're goin' home to Nashville, right?" AJ asked, wondering if he was the only one out of the four of them going to Los Angeles.
"Mhm," Nick murmured.
"Brian's going home to Leighanne and Baylee in Atlanta, Howie's going home to Leigh in Orlando. You three only have one-and-a-half, two-hour flights home, my flight's, like, five hours long. Lucky bastards..."
Nick chuckled. "That's what you get for hanging your hat in LA, dawg."
"Haha yeah, I guess..."
AJ drifted off to sleep soon after that and was woken up seemingly minutes later by Jenn. "AJ, get up!"
"Hm...five more minutes."
"Okay, if you wanna miss your flight, that's fine with me."
AJ sat up quickly and forced himself awake. "Shit! What time is it?"
"Almost 9:30. You have five minutes."
AJ made sure he had all of his things and quickly said his goodbyes to everyone before boarding his plane. He was on the last leg of his journey home and back to reality.
11:41 AM PST
AJ's flight to LA went off without a hitch. He texted Kim once he was on the plane and then tried to sleep more to pass the time. He slept for about half of it before waking and staring out the window after that.
AJ heard a soft voice on his right. "Excuse me?" He turned around to see a young woman sitting in the aisle across from him. "Are you AJ McLean?"
"Yes, ma'am. Are you a fan?"
"Uh-huh. Since I was eleven. All of BSB's album are great."
AJ smiled. "Thank you. Do you have a favorite?"
"Millennium. God, that sounds so lame," she said with a laugh and a shake of her head.
"I don't think it is, you like what you like. What's your name, sweetheart?"
"Well, Laura, the Boys and I think that Millennium is our best album to date. I'm glad you like it."
"I don't mean to bother you. I just noticed you and I thought I would take the opportunity to say hi and say thank you for your music. It's helped me through some tough times," she said, a bit shy.
"Oh, you're fine. Well thank you for being a loyal fan and I'm glad that our music has touched your life in a special way. We don't get tired of hearing things like that."
Laura just nodded. "So, I'm sure you're happy to be getting home. I hope the European tour went well."
"I really am. My wife Kim and son Jordan went back home at the end of April, I haven't seen them in almost a month. Europe was great, it always is. I'm just glad to be going back home and relaxing, getting some rest."
She liked that AJ seemed genuinely interested in their conversation, which made her feel more at ease. "Yeah, I read about how you guys had to cancel a few shows because you were sick. I saw your video, too, you looked miserable, if you don't mind my saying so. That must've been really hard not to go back on tour. I hope you're okay now."
AJ laughed. "That really sucked. I felt like crap but wanted to perform anyway, but I can't do that now. I'm too old for that and I have to think of my family first. I'm fine now, the first couple of shows were a bit rough for me, but I bounced back quickly."
"Good. I can't imagine what it must be like doing what you guys do night after night. All the traveling and performing, I imagine it gets to you eventually."
"Yeah, I mean we try to take care of ourselves as best we can with the basics, eating right, getting enough sleep. I try to hit the gym whenever possible. But there's always something going around, somebody getting sick or whatever and eventually, we all get it. Well, except for Brian. The dude has a fortress of immunity, I swear!"
Laura laughed. "That's funny, he's lucky."
"Yeah. Have you ever been to a Backstreet show?"
"Nope, but I want to someday."
I hope you do, we don't disappoint. So, what are your favorite BSB songs?"
She thought for a few moments before answering. "Well, I love "Incomplete" and "Everybody." Um..."The Call," "Drowning," and "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely."
"Those are good picks. A good variety."
"A lot of the unreleased tracks are great too, particularly "Song For The Unloved." It's one of my favorites. Your vocals are incredible on it."
"Oh, thank you. I think I was the only one who wanted it on Never Gone, but it ended up on the CD for a few countries as a bonus track. Do you like the fast or slow version more?"
"There's two versions? I didn't know that. I've only heard the fast one I guess."
AJ felt stupid for asking a question like that. "Oh, my bad. Well, I'm sure it's on YouTube, everything is now."
Laura agreed. "True." She paused. "Well, I'll leave you alone now. Give you some privacy. Now I realize that 'celebrities' are just normal people and that people are right about you."
AJ's curiosity got the better of him. "How so?"
"Backstreet fans and the like who have met you say that you're genuine, really sweet, you look people in the eyes when you talk to them, you talk to fans as if you've known them forever, and that you give really great hugs." She grinned.
He shook his head. "Oh, stop, you wouldn't be saying that if you met me on an 'off' day."
"I guess I'm lucky then."
"Do you want something signed, a picture once we land?"
"Really? That would be great!" She dug through her carry-on bag and pulled out an iPod touch and a black thin-tipped Sharpie permanent marker. "The Sharpie's for drawing, it's one of my passions."
"That's cool." AJ replied. "You want me to sign your iPod?" He laughed. "This is a first but hands down the strangest thing I've ever autographed was a guy's fake leg. He asked us to sign it, took it off, and popped it back on when we finished."
"Yeah, it was crazy."
Laura took the iPod out of its plastic case and handed it to AJ along with the marker. He signed it and gave them back to her. She looked the back of it which read in all caps except for his signature:
THANKS FOR THE CONVO AND THE LAUGHS.
"Thank you so much. I swear, all celebrities write like you with the caps and everything. Or maybe it's just musicians."
He chuckled. "That's funny. It is my pleasure, I am a firm believer in giving back to the fans. You're the ones who got us where we are—hold on, I've got a call."
"Talk to me," AJ said when he put his cell phone to his ear.
"Hello." It was Kim.
He smiled. "Hi, baby, we should be landing in about ten minutes."
"Yay, I can't wait! We'll see you soon."
"Great, love you. Bye."
AJ hung up. "That was my wife."
"That's what I figured," Laura mused.
"Yeah." He relaxed against the back of his seat and sighed.
Just as AJ had predicted, the plane landed around ten minutes later and he got off along with the other passengers.
She turned around, confused.
"Don't you want that picture?" he reminded her with a laugh.
"Oh! Of course!" She dug through her bag, pulled out her digital camera, and walked back toward AJ.
He took it and put it out in front of the two of them. "You ready?" She nodded. "Okay...one, two, three." He handed it back to her. "It was great meeting you."
"You, too." Laura reached to shake his hand.
AJ wasn't having that. "Oh, come on now. Come here." They hugged for a brief moment.
"Thank you so much. I'll never forget this day ever."
"You're very welcome," he replied warmly.
"Take care of yourself. Go to your family, they're waiting for you." She could see them a few hundred feet away.
They walked away from each other but Laura couldn't help but turn around and watch as AJ greeted his wife and son. 'I can only hope that I have what he does someday, what a life it must be...' she thought longingly.
AJ crouched down as Jordan ran into his arms, enveloping him in a hug and planting a few kisses on his cheek. "I missed you! I love you." He picked him up as Kim walked over.
"Mm, hi." She leaned forward and kissed him deeply. "I missed you."
"Met a fan on the plane?"
AJ looked down and noticed that Kim had started to show. "Yep. You look beautiful."
"Eh," was all she said.
"I'm serious. You're gorgeous. Always."
Kim rolled her eyes. "Right."
AJ looked at Jordan and back to her. "Let's go home."
They walked to Baggage Claim and AJ noticed that Laura was there as well. He gave her one last warm smile as he collected his luggage before the three of them walked out of the airport and into the parking lot.
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