"I miss you too and of course I watch every game of them here," I said and laughed.
I've been talking with my grandfather for the last two hours and we slowly came to an end. We had talked about my new album and the new plans, but also about what was going on in Stratford. My grandmother was ill, but she was already back on the road to recovery. Anyway, she didn't want to sit idle in bed and limped through the house... those were the words of my grandfather.
"Wait, wait, before we hang up..." I began, biting my lip.
I knew exactly what I wanted to say and ask, but it seemed like my tongue was made out of lead and my teeth stuck together. My throat was dry and I had to clear it.
"Gramps, you know a family Connor?"
"Oh, Justin, I didn't think you would remember them" he said, laughing. I frowned, but said nothing; he would continue to talk.
"Of course I know the Connor's. A charming family, even if Christopher hasn't made it home..."
He sighed and I had to swallow. Grace had lost her father?
"Yeah, okay, so my question is, uh... What happened to their kids?" I asked, clearing my throat again. Fucking lump in my throat.
"Uh, no, no. Christopher and James had no children... but James has recently-,"
"Wasn't there another family? Perhaps a family with a daughter and a younger son?" I interrupted him.
"Give me the boy!," my grandma called and I heard the phone was passed. "Justin, why do you inquire after James and Christopher?"
I sighed and closed my eyes. This turned out to be harder than I thought. Connor wasn't exactly an unpopular name...
"I don't inquire about these Connors, Gran. I- I... okay, listen" I sighed again. "Have you any idea if I have ever done a project with a Grace Connor at school? Brown hair, blue eyes like the sea and a big smile?" A big smile that I unfortunately could only see in our first few days...
"Oh," she said now. I opened my eyes again.
"Yeah?" I asked and heard creaking floorboards.
She probably just walked through the house, but why did she decide to get up at once? Had grandfather called her? She unlocked something and sighed.
"Grandma?" I asked again, worried and consuming for an answer.
"Justin, I-," she began, but a sneeze interrupted her.
"God bless you," I wished, biting my lip again.
"Thank you. So, I have some old photo albums and videos here from your school days. I'll send them tomorrow morning in the mail to you, okay?"
"Okay, thanks," I said, and that calmed me.
In a few days I would have clarity and until then... until then it was the best to be out of Grace way, right? Was this the correct behavior?
No, I should apologize and try to get back closer to her until I could be sure what the problem was between us.
A short time later we hung up and I sat down at my laptop. I typed "Grace+Connor+Stratford" and found bakeries, libraries and a genealogy of a family Connor, to Grace, however, didn't count.
I sighed and went on facebook, as sought by her, but even there I found nothing. I scrolled through my friend request and found Sasha and Maya.
"Sasha Pierce and Maya Hastings and 18,935,642 more want to be friends with you," I read and accepted Sasha, Maya and the rest of the dancers.
I went to Sasha's side and found pictures of her and Grace and Starstrukk. They also had a couple of videos posted, but not published that they would show up in my new video. I watched a few videos and again Grace got my full attention.
As the leader she stood in the middle of her crew and set the tone for the dances. In other videos she was part of the one who laughed the most and loudest. When had I heard her laugh for the last time? It seemed a lifetime ago. Why had she become such a large and important topic for me? I just hoped the packet from my grandma would give me some answers... That was my only chance. I doubted that Jeremy or Grace would tell me about them.
With a sigh I just wanted to close my laptop when I got a chat message.
Maya Hastings says: hey, Justin, are you there?
With a quick movement, I licked with my tongue over my lips and wondered if I should respond or not. On her profile picture she smiled slightly; she looked challenging in the camera, as if she would ask me why I wasn't responding.
Maya Hastings says: I can see that you are still online. come on, answer me
I sighed. She was stubborn.
Justin Bieber says: hey Maya sorry, was just busy
Maya Hastings says: as long as you're here now... ;)
We wrote for a while and she flirted with me on the most obvious way that could only exist. And I thought that guys were bad...
Maya Hastings says: So, you + I dinner tomorrow? ;)
Above all, she didn't stop sending me those damn winking emoticons. I sighed.
Sure I felt flattered by her behavior and her interest, but I just wasn't in the mood. The break up of Selena and me was still less than two weeks ago and I was constantly under pressure from Scooter and my fans and Grace was still missing in this specification.
Justin Bieber says: firstly the crews have to learn the final part of the choreographic and the video has to be recorded. Then I'll start making plans again
Without another word, I closed my laptop and exhaled. Hopefully she was not offended or anything, but I could really can't afford a date now. The press was still after me, because of the breaku up and I didn't want Grace to have an even worse impression of me. Grace. Again and again, Grace.
I groaned and stood up. I grabbed comfortable pants and went to the bathroom. I turned on the hot water of the shower and undressed me slowly, before I placed myself under the beam.
I imagined my thoughts and worries and all problems would be flushed with water and soap and everything would be resolved. All the doubts and disputes dripped from my finger- and hair tips and gathered at the pool before they disappeared into the spout. No problems, no hassle, peace.
But it wasn't that easy. I tried to get rid of my thoughts, but they always came back.
I turned off the shower, got out of it and dried off. After I had got into the comfy pants, I went straight to my bed and closed my eyes. Again the girl appeared to me. It was not the first time that I couldn't fall asleep without having thought of her.
Again, it was only the short cut as she laughed and stroked her hair out of her face. But this time she gave me a short, quick glance before looking to the ground.
Her eyes were deep blue, as blue as the sea...
"Beep, beep, beep," my alarm bawled and I hit it long until it fell from my bedside table and landed on the floor.
I kept my eyes closed, yawned and stretched my arms and legs. I didn't want to get up. I didn't want to re-enter all the stress on my shoulders. I just wanted to lie in my warm bed and forget. Forget and sleep and hide... But then my phone started ringing.
"Hello?," I asked sleepily, after I had discovered it somewhere under my blanket.
"Good morning, Justin! How are you?," Scooter asked, way too cheerful. How I hated morning persons.
"Tired," I answered, and his loud laugh rang through my speakers. I groaned and held off the phone from me, before he could say anything more.
"We have a little problem, Jus" he said, and I blinked.
"How little is it?" I persisted and he cleared his throat.
"One of the assistants has told the press an incorrect date and now everyone assumes that the video will be published in four days."
"This is a joke."
"I'm sorry, but... we have to publish the video at this day. I've already told Nicki; you only need to show her where she has to stand and perform..."
"I already hate this day," I announced and he laughed, before a sigh followed.
"I'm sorry, but you can do it. I trust in your professionalism and that you'll make the best out of Starstrukk."
Welcome back all the stress.
"All right," I yawned and sat up slowly. "I can do this. The video will be released on the fourth day."
"At least you are dependable, Justin. See you in three days!," he said and hung up.
After a quick morning shower, I went to the huge hall and my mind raced ahead of me. Were we able to create everything in three days? Three measly days? The time was too short, even though we had already started yesterday. I had a really bad feeling.
No one was enthusiastic about the bad news, all complained that we would never make it and I had to be the one who was encouraging. Although Starstrukk was still loaded with excitement and energy, it was not easy to work on the steps with them again. Grace wasn't there.
"She's sick, I'm sorry, Justin," Sasha had said and squeezed my shoulder.
How should I do it without her? Why couldn't I rely on someone? She couldn't afford to be sick now. None of us could. But even the least Grace, finally, she was one of the choreographers and was next to me the only one who could dance the final.
"Five, six, seven, eight!," I exclaimed, staring at my reflection when we moved.
I was sweating and out of breath, but we had to prove strength now. So I gritted my teeth and tried to smile nonetheless. My reflection showed me a face, an ugly, not seriously meant grin and I let go of my attempt. Otherwise I would frighten someone... except myself.
"Break!," I called after two more tries and grabbed another bottle of water. I picked up the collar of my T-shirt and wiped my face. I was totally exhausted and barely able to keep my eyes open, but the stress, the pressure didn't disappear just like that.
"Nice view," someone said suddenly and I let go of my shirt.
I looked up and faced Maya. Who would've expected it?
I didn't have enough desire to speak, so I just nodded with a small smile on my lips and undid the clasp of the water bottle.
Maya came closer; sweat glistened on her forehead and her cheeks, but her voice was so quiet, as if she hadn't just taken part in the intensive training.
Before she could say anything, I asked "Do you have any idea what's wrong with Grace?"
She gritted her teeth; obviously she didn't like it when it wasn't about her or if the person she's talking to wasn't thinking about her and her body.
"She has a cold. Or stomach problems. Something in this direction," she said, shrugging her shoulders.
I rocked back and forth so that my muscles wouldn't get cold.
"Maybe it's burn out... But no idea," she added, and my eyes shot up to her.
"What? Has she- is she struggling with it?" I asked and she shrugged her shoulders again. I swear one day I'm going to-
"Sometimes I have the feeling that she can't handle stress... Well, at least not as good as other people." Her voice became a whisper at the end and I realized that she only wanted to pull back the attention to herself.
She stretched her cross and thus her whole body came closer to me again. I nodded and drank water before I closed the bottle again and slightly stretched my back.
Maya seemed surprised that I didn't talk to her, because she just stared at me before she came even closer.
"I've been thinking that maybe we should go rather drink something than eat," she said and I sighed.
"Maya, honestly, I-," I began, but there was already a finger on my lips.
"Come on, Justin. A drink won't be that bad. And then you're rid of me too, if you really want that," she said and smiled at me. For God's sake, she was damn stubborn.
"Fine," I agreed, as she took her hands off me, and she clapped her hands.
"Great! I'm looking forward to it. So, we'll do it tonight or tomorrow?" she asked, and the ambiguity of her words was unmistakable.
"How about if we do it after the video shoot? As an ending of our work?" I asked and her eyes lit up.
"Good idea," she said, smiling widely at me. I tried to smile back and when she walked away this time, I didn't look after her.
When I finally got home, every muscle ached. Every damn muscle. My body was screaming for a break, but I allowed myself no. I had to get rid of my thoughts, no matter what.
So I unloaded my stuff and then just left the house as fast as I could. I jogged and ran and ran until I almost wasn't able to tell if I was still in Atlanta or already outside. Eventually I stopped, stretched myself and realized that if I would stay standing, I would definitely fall on my face. My legs were as soft as pudding.
Step by step, I walked back to civilization, in the direction of my house. I passed playgrounds, sports fields, skateboard ramps and would like to stop every time, but I knew I wouldn't make it home if I would give in.
"Jeremy! Here!," someone called and I looked up.
I recognized him right back. Jeremy Connor, Grace's brother, ran across the square, kept bouncing the basketball and didn't let himself be distracted by his rivals. He had pulled his eyebrows together in concentration and evaded his rivals with supple movements. It almost looked like he was dancing over the place so easily his feet touched the ground. He feigned a movement, sat back and jumped. Jeremy dunked the ball and his crew and a few girls cried enthusiastically. He let go of the basket and laughed out loud when he gave someone a high five.
I had passed the place, but their voices accompanied me for a long time.
These tactics and style of play and this way how he was hovering over the ground... I frowned. I knew it, everything was familiar about it. But why?
Grace. Of Course. It was the first time I saw her dance live with her crew in the hall, right? She looked just as focused and light like Jeremy a few minutes ago. Both had the same triumphant smile on their lips and knew what they were doing. They relied solely on their skills, because they knew exactly how good they were in it and what they would achieve.
Raindrops landed on me, but I couldn't walk faster. My muscles were shaking from overexertion and I let my arms circling, so I wouldn't get a sore muscles.
After what felt like hours, I finally arrived home, just at the time when I almost couldn't recognize a hand in front of my face. The night had attacked me abruptly and fast and all I wanted was to take a shower and go to sleep afterwards.
I walked into our house and heard my mother rattle with crockery in the kitchen.
"Justin, is it you?" she asked and I wanted answers, but my mouth wouldn't open.
"Hm," I muttered and she came stepped into the hallway.
"I thought you weren't coming home today," she said, smiling warmly at me.
I took off my shoes and shrugged my shoulders. I felt empty and exhausted and I hoped fervently that she understood me. I dragged the stairs to my room up and she wished me a good night.
In the shower I had to keep reminding myself not to fall asleep, but the water was warm and welcoming and I already considered to spend the night in the bathtub, but then decided against it.
When I crawled into my bed my eyes closed so fast that that I had almost no time to think about the girl from my memory. But only almost.