The world stood still
I couldnít move, and all I could feel
Was this aching in my heart
Saying that I loved himÖstill."
-Reba McEntire, "And Still"
"Please fasten your seat belts. The plane will be landing in Orlando, Florida in a few minutes," the flight attendant called over the loud speaker.
I fastened my seat belt and leaned back into the seat. Orlando, Florida. I hadnít been back here in five years. God only knew what possessed me to come back now. Then I smiled. I knew exactly why I had come back. My best friend Jessica was getting married to a professor at Florida State, and I had promised her Iíd be her maid of honor. She knew all of the memories I had tied up in this place, but I couldnít let her down.
The plane landed, and I unhooked my seat belt. I grabbed my carry-on bag and moved with the flow of the other passengers.
I smoothed down my long, dark hair as I walked through the terminal. I was nervous. So much had happened in that one city.
I stepped out into the airport and headed for the baggage claim. I found the one for my plane and saw my bags. As I reached for them, another hand grabbed the dark brown one next to mine. The person the hand belonged to almost knocked me over trying to get to it.
"Excuse me," I said with a little more force than I had meant to.
"Iím sorry. I honestly didnít see you there," a deep voice apologized. I stopped. I knew that voice from anywhere. I looked up into a pair of very familiar green eyes. Every feeling I had ever had tied to this man came flooding back to me.
"Kevin?" I breathed.
"Christianna?" he asked, and a smile broke across his face. He set his bags down and pulled me into a hug. I breathed in his scent, and after five years, this man could still make me go weak in the knees.
"Alright, thatíll be two Mickey burgers, two Donald cheeseburgers, four fries, and four drinks coming up," I grinned at the customers. I placed my order pad in my pocket and roller-skated towards the cook to put in the orders.
It was only my second week at this Disney World cafť, but I getting the job down pretty well. After my dad had had his stroke and his paychecks were cut back, I had to find a job to pay for the rest of my college education. It was just by luck that it wound up at Disney World.
Mel rang the bell and one of my orders was up. I grabbed the tray and prepared to make my way towards the table. As I turned around, a guy stood up and bumped into the tray. Soda and milkshakes spilled everywhere.
"Ah, man, Iím so sorry. Sometimes I donít even watch where Iím going," the guy apologized. His voice was deep with a thick Southern accent. He bent down to help me clean, and I looked into the most unbelievable pair of green eyes I had ever seen.
"No, itís okayÖI probably wasnít paying attention," I smiled.
In the midst of cleaning, he stuck out his hand. "Kevin Richardson."
"Christianna Martin." I shook his outstretched hand.
"Hey, Waitress! Weíd like to be served today!" a customer yelled. So much for the happiest place on Earth.
As soon as we finished cleaning, we stood up and headed back to the cook. Kevin personified the phrase "tall, dark, and handsome." He was very tall, probably 6í1", with long jet black hair that almost covered his piercing green eyes. He was wearing a white T-shirt and jeans.
I set the tray down and turned to him-my own hazel eyes fixed on his amazing green ones. "Thank you for helping me clean. You didnít have to do that."
He shrugged. "It was no trouble." He then checked his watch. "Oops! I gotta go, or Iíll be late. What time do you get off work? Iíll buy you dinner."
I smiled. It had been too long since I had had a date. "I get off at eight. Will you be free then?"
"I think I should. I have to ride in the Electrical Parade, but then I should be free."
"Waitress!" another customer screeched.
I ignored them. "You work here?" I asked, indicating the park.
Kevin sheepishly nodded. He looked down, then looked up at me through the curtain of his long hair. "Yeah, youíre looking at Aladdin."
I couldnít help but laugh. "What a coincidence! Aladdin is my favorite Disney character."
He then broke into a smile, showing two very adorable, almost-out-of-place dimples. "Really? Then I guess Iíll meet you here tonight?"
"Sure. After the Electrical Parade."
"Okay. See you then." With that, Kevin waved and left the restaurant. I turned back to my orders with a spring in my step. After being in college for two years, I finally had a date. I knew my roommate Jessica would be so proud.
We pulled away from the hug, barely aware that people were jostling us back and forth. Kevin grabbed his bag and grinned. "I guess weíd better move."
I grabbed my bag and followed him out to where there were a bunch of seats. I looked for Jessica, but I didnít see her anywhere. We sat down. Apparently, he couldnít find his party either. He started the conversation.
"So, how long has it been? Five years? You havenít changed a bit," he said. The voice was still deep, but only a hint of the Southern accent remained. "Neither have you. Well, you cut your hair," I commented.
Kevin smiled. "Yeah, it was starting to drive me crazy. Plus, BrianÖyou remember Brian, donít you?Öhe was starting to call me Shaggy."
"Oh, yeah," I giggled. "I remember the Thanksgiving I met him and your family."
Kentucky was colder than I thought it would be. Definitely colder than my home state of North Carolina, and certainly colder than Florida. I stared out the window at the white house that loomed ahead of us and tried desperately to calm my nerves. Kevin somehow sensed my nervousness and took my hand in his. "Youíll be fine," he smiled.
Kevin and I had been dating for seven months, and this was the first time I would be meeting his family. Of course, he had promised to meet mine the following weekend.
"We have a whole big family get-together at my Uncle Harold and Aunt Jackieís house every Thanksgiving. Itís been comforting since my dad died," Kevin said as he pulled up the long drive towards the house. "Of course, itís still a lot of fun because my cousin Harold, all my brothers, and I still love to see how much trouble we can get Haroldís younger brother Brian into.
"Letís see, how old is he this year?" Kevin stopped talking and tried to count the years up in his head. "Wow! Brianís a senior in high school this year. I must be getting old."
His ramblings calmed me a little as we parked in the driveway. We got out of the car and walked up to the door. Kevin opened it, and we were greeted by a woman with a bright smile on her face.
"Kevin! I was beginning to wonder if you were going to show!" she smiled as she enveloped him in a hug.
"Aunt Jackie, hey!" he said. They broke the embrace, and Kevin turned to me. "Aunt Jackie, this is my girlfriend Christianna Martin. Chris, this is Jackie Littrell."
I held out my hand in order to shake hers, but she pulled me into a hug. When she let me go, she led us into the kitchen so I could meet the rest of Kevinís family. I met his Uncle Harold, his cousin Harold, his brothers, his mother Ann, and the other members of the family. The only one missing apparently was Brian. "So, whereís Brian?" Kevin asked after he finished introducing everyone.
"Right here!" a male voice behind me answered. "So the Prodigal Son returns!" I turned around to see a handsome guy who looked about seventeen with short, spiky, blondish-brown hair and playful blue eyes. He sauntered over to us and pulled Kevin into a hug. When they pulled away from each other, Brian turned to me. "So, did you find this cute little thing in Florida?" he asked, grinning.
I blushed as Kevin punched him in the arm. "Mind your manners, man. Youíre in the presence of a lady. This is Christianna Martin. Chris, my annoying younger cousin Brian."
Brian stuck out his hand, and I shook it. "Do they have anymore like you down there?" he asked mischievously. Once again, I blushed, and Kevin punched him. Brian rubbed his arm and turned his attention back to his cousin. "You ready to eat?" "Yeah. Point me towards the food."
We walked into the dining room and sat down in the two chairs that were designated for us. We bowed our heads, and Mrs. Littrell said grace. Then, everyone moved for the food. Brian was the first one to the macaroni and cheese while Kevin attacked the turkey. When everyone had their plates full, Ann turned to Kevin and me. "You two have been together for seven months now, right? You know, I think I hear wedding bells."
"Mom," Kevin groaned as he blushed.
"Well, Kev, I would like to get married someday. Just not right now," I smiled.
Kevin smiled back. "I donít know. Maybe itíll be sooner. I love you."
"I love you, too." Then we kissed right in front of his family with Brian making kissy noises in the background.
"Chris, did you hear me?" Kevinís deep voice pulled me back to the present. I was no longer in the Littrellís house, but back in the Orlando airport.
I smiled. "Iím sorry; I was daydreaming."
Kevin laughed. "You always did that as I remember. I asked you what youíve been up to the last five years."
"Oh, well, Iím a writer for People Magazine."
He wrinkled his brow. "You are? How come we never crossed paths before?"
"Because I usually donít get the stories dealing with you. I did help pick you for sexiest pop star, but I was on vacation when they did your photo shoot."
He blushed. "Oh, you did, huh?"
"Yeah. Itís a nice picture," I continued. "You know, Iím glad youíve made it this far. Iíve even heard the new CD. ĎBack to Your Heartí is one of my favorites." I suppose a selfish part of me thought that that song was about me, and I was hoping he would confirm it.
He just grinned his dimpled grin. "Well, thank you. Iím rather proud of that song."
"You know, I still remember when you got the call to be a Backstreet Boy."
"Oh, you do, huh?"
I pushed the key into the door, turned it, and swung the door open. I stumbled into my apartment and closed the door behind me. It had been a long day at school, and I was ready for a nice hot bath.
"Chris? Is that you?" Kevin called from the living room.
"Kevin? What are you doing here?" I followed his voice into the living room to find him sitting on my couch. His face was beaming. He jumped up when I walked in, took me into his arms, and lifted me off the ground.
"I used the key you gave me. I couldnít wait to tell you my wonderful news," he said.
"Kevin, what happened?"
He set me down on the floor and looked me dead in the eyes. "I made it! Do you remember that vocal harmony group I was going to try out for?" I nodded. "Well, Iím in. We start rehearsals tomorrow." I had never heard Kevin talk so fast in my entire life. I didnít think he was capable of it.
"Wait a minute. What? Is this like a real, live group?"
He nodded vigorously, his shaggy black hair falling in his face. "Uh huh. Weíre gonna make demos, then find a record company, and everything. Iím finally in show business!"
I hugged him, my excitement for him overwhelming. "Kevin, this is wonderful! We have to go celebrate," I said.
"I know. Iíll go home and change, and you get dressed up, too. Iím taking you to one of the fanciest restaurants in Orlando."
"Okay." I was laughing by then. I was so happy. Before he left, Kevin picked me up again. Only this time, he spun me around. Nothing was going to bring him down from his cloud.
"You know, I got dizzy from that day," I laughed.
"Sorry about that," Kevin apologized. He stretched out in his chair and looked at his watch. He then looked back at the crowd. "I wonder where they are?" he mumbled.
"Who? The people who are suppose to pick you up?" I checked my own watch. "Itís 2:15. Jessica was supposed to have been here fifteen minutes ago."
"I know. My party isnít here yet either." Kevin turned his attention back to me. "You know, we have had some great times together."
"Yeah. It was fun while it lasted, wasnít it?" I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. I was just hoping that he wouldnít bring up subject I was dreading.
"Christianna?" I looked up to meet his green eyes. His look was serious. "Why didnít we stay together?"
I knew that he was going to ask that question. I had never given him a straight answer. I still didnít know why it had ended myself.
"I canít do this anymore, Kevin!" I screamed as I stormed into his dressing room. Kevin ran in after me and closed the door behind him.
"Do what? I donít understand what youíre saying, Chris," he said as he walked around to face me.
"This!" I answered, throwing my hands into the air. "Youíre always gone, youíre famous in Europe beyond imagination, and no one is allowed to know about me! Iím always a friend or a cousin or someone else that Iím not!"
"Iím sure we can work this out," Kevin began.
I sighed and calmed down a little. I couldnít take all of this frustration out on him. It wasnít his faultÖnot directly. I looked down and collected my thoughts. How do you do this? How do you tell someone whom youíre deeply in love with that you canít see them anymore? I didnít want to do it. I didnít want to give Kevin up, but I just couldnít take the fame that came with him. And I wasnít about to ask him to abandon his dream.
I looked up and met his eyes. "I think itís time for one of us to say goodbye." Well, that was abrupt, wasnít it?
The hurt showed in his green eyes. "What? No. Iíll talk to Lou. Iíll leave the group."
"No! You canít do that. If you do, then youíll end up resenting your decision and me for the rest of your life. Kevin, you need someone who is strong enough to handle this. Someone who can accept it."
I walked over to the sofa and grabbed my pocketbook. I then turned to look at him. "Iíll take a cab back to the hotel and get my stuff. Iíll probably be gone when you get back."
I was trying my hardest to fight back tears. If I didnít leave then, I wasnít sure if I would have the strength to do it later. I walked to the door.
"Was it something I said? Something I did?"
I stared at the door. "No, Kevin. Youíve been the most wonderful man to me. I just think that I have to let you go. Itís not fair to have you tied to me."
"Iím sorry, Kevin." Tears were streaming down my face at that point, and I couldnít look back at him. I opened the door and walked out, never looking back once.
I now sat staring into those same eyes I had not seen in five years. I sighed. "Kevin, I told you why I left."
"All you ever told me was you couldnít handle the fame."
I placed my hand on his. "It was the fame; it was never you."
Kevin looked up at me and smiled. "Well, thereís no use dwelling on the past, is there?" he asked.
I shook my head. "No, but we still have the present." I wasnít sure what I had meant by that, but I had said it anyway. Kevin continued to smile, but he didnít answer.
"Kevin!" a female voice called from behind us. We turned around to see a short woman with long, dark, curly hair and brown eyes walking towards us. A big smile was spread across her beautiful face.
"Michelle!" Kevin answered. I looked at him and saw his face light up like a Christmas tree. He obviously knew this woman.
When Michelle reached us, Kevin stood up. He pulled her into a hug and gave her a passionate kiss. I looked down at the ground, embarrassed to be watching the scene.
Finally, the couple broke from their embrace, and Kevin looked down at me. "Where are my manners? Michelle, this is Christianna Martin. Chris, this is Michelle Richardson, my wife."
My stomach sank to the floor. Wife? He was married? I quickly glanced at his left hand, and, sure enough, there sat the gold band glittering on his third finger. I regained my composure, looked up, and smiled.
"Itís nice to meet you," I said as I offered my hand.
Michelle cautiously took it as she returned my smile. "Itís nice to meet you, too." She moved a little closer to Kevin. "If you donít mind my asking, how do you know Kevin?"
He started to answer, but I cut him off. "Iím an old friend from the Disney World days. Kevin here bumped into my tray."
Michelle relaxed a little and laughed. "Oh, what character were you?"
"Oh, I wasnít a character. I was a waitress."
Michelle nodded. "Oh."
Kevin put his arm around her shoulders. "Well, honey, I think weíd better go. Itís been three months since Iíve been home." I stood up, and Kevin faced me. "It was nice seeing you again."
"Yeah, it was really nice seeing you."
"Maybe weíll run into each other again."
Kevin gave me a small wave, then the couple turned and walked away. Just then, someone called my name. I turned around to see Jessica coming towards me.
"Chris, you made it! How was your flight?" she asked.
"It was good," I answered. I absentmindedly watched Kevin and Michelle.
Jessica followed my gaze. "Who was that?"
I smiled. "An old friend."
"Oh." Jessica picked up one of my bags and started talking a mile a minute about her fiancť and the wedding. I only halfway listened. My eyes and my heart were still focused on Kevin. I still loved him, but I was glad that he had found someone who could handle his fame. I was happy for him. I sighed as I watched Michelle and him disappear into the crowd.