Chapter 17 — Holiday Changes
July 4, 2004 – Jacksonville, FL (Baymeadows Suburb) – The Home of JT Poole – The Backyard
“Hey girl, I’m glad you could make it,” JT said as he and Nikki embraced as she passed a covered dish to Justin. “Where’s the little lady and Josh?”
“He’s getting her out of the jeep,” Nikki replied with a smile as she pulled back. “Where’s your little one?”
“He’s around here somewhere, running around with Lance’s niece and Joey’s nephew,” JT stated as he looked around. “Drinks are in the fridge, steaks, dogs and burgers are on the grill. Do you need something right now?”
“I know where to find it handsome, if I do,” Nikki stated as she smiled and then turned around as Josh Charles walked up with his and Nikki’s daughter in his arms.
“Hello Summer,” JT spoke as he waved at the little girl. “Hello Josh.”
“Hi,” the little girl spoke, giggling excitedly as JT tickled her belly.
“Hi JT,” Josh spoke with a plain look on his face.
“Justin’s out there with the kids somewhere,” JT stated as he pointed towards the far end of the backyard. “If he’s not back there, then he’s in the game room.”
“Okay JT,” Josh spoke as he handed the little girl off to Nikki and then walked away.
“What’s his problem?” JT asked as he motioned with his head at Josh.
“JT, don’t start nothing,” Nikki said as she raised an eye at him. “It took a whole lot of convincing on my part that you wouldn’t bring up the past and…”
“Well, being that you brought it up,” JT said as Nikki glared at him. “Fine, he gets a free pass for the day. I’m not going to bother him.”
“Good,” Nikki replied as she leaned in and kissed JT on the cheek. “We’re trying to heal our broken little family, not cause any problems.”
“Well I hope you save that speech for Glitter’s skanky ass,” JT stated as he shook his head.
“Is she here?” Nikki asked as she looked around quickly.
“Not yet, but I have a feeling she’ll pop up real soon,” JT stated as Mo’ette walked over and hugged him. “Hey girl, how you doing?”
“I’m here, aren’t I?” She asked with a sad look on her face.
“Yeah, but I don’t see…” JT spoke as Mo’ette interrupted him.
“Let’s not even talk about David,” Mo’ette stated as she shook her head.
“My lips are sealed on that subject then,” JT stated as a few ladies walked over to him. “Hello Syndi and you brought little Starletta along with you. Are Dana and Lisa here?”
“Dana and Lisa are spending time with their families today,” Syndi Perry-Lambert spoke with a frown at JT’s reference to Starletta.
“Hello JT,” Starletta spoke as she rolled her eyes and then walked passed him, heading further into the yard.
“Girl, you better keep Ms. Fancy Pants on a tight leash around here. I won’t bat an eye to kick her ass up out of here,” JT stated as he pointed his finger in Starletta’s direction.
“Don’t worry about her, you need to be worrying about her,” Syndi stated as she motioned with her head as JT turned to see Glitter walking towards them. “Have fun with the girl that’s losing herself.”
“Oh ha ha ha, real funny girl,” JT said, giggling as Syndi walked off as Glitter walked up. “Hello Glitter.”
“Hello JT,” Glitter spoke with a strange smirk on her face.
“Girl, don’t you start any trouble here today,” JT stated. “I’m trying to be nice, but if I have to, I’ll kick your ass up out of here, faster than a baby daddy going to jail for non-payment of back child support he didn’t owe.”
“Whatever, I’m just here for the food,” Glitter spoke as JT shook his head and then walked off.
An Hour Later
We’ve been here for a few hours now and just being around the married couple, I feel like things between me and Joey are going downhill. Why did we decide to come here in the first place? I know what Joey is seeing is upsetting him on some level. Just him seeing Justin interacting with JT has caused a reaction with him. I’ve seen the way he’s been looking at Justin and JT and I know those reactions. He’s angry, but why? Is he upset about what he once had with Justin or is there something else?
Since we’ve been together, I sometimes wonder did I make a big mistake, hooking up with him, after Justin broke his heart. Maybe I should’ve given him some more time to get over things. At the time, I thought that if he had something else to focus on, he would be alright, but now, is he alright or what?
“Lance, are you okay?” I heard Justin ask as I turned around to see him standing there with a cup in his hand, holding it out to me.
“I’m fine Justin,” I answered as he sighed and then looked down. “Really, I’m fine Justin.”
“If you’re fine, why is Joey out there, playing around with the kids, while you’re over here, looking like someone shot your dog?” He asked.
“Why do you even care Justin?” I asked.
“I care because you’re my friend,” he replied as he attempted to touch me as I moved back. “Sorry, I—I think I’ll go back over there.”
“Justin wait,” I said as he stopped walking and then turned around.
“Yes Lance,” he said with a hopeful look on his face.
“Why didn’t you marry Joey?” I asked as he looked at me strangely.
“What?” He said as I sighed.
“Why didn’t you marry Joey?” I asked again as he shook his head.
“I didn’t marry him because he didn’t want to marry me,” he replied as I looked at him, wondering why he had just lied to me.
“What do you mean he didn’t want to marry you?” I asked, grabbing his shoulder. “He told me plenty of times that he was hurt because you refused to marry him.”
“I never refused to marry him,” he replied as he shook his head. “He asked me to marry him, I said ‘yes’, but when it was time for us to get married, he changed his mind.”
“He changed his mind?” I asked, wondering what he was talking about.
“Yeah, he changed his mind,” he replied as he shook his head. “He said he wasn’t going to marry a man like me… a man he felt that was hung up on someone else. He said I only agreed to marry him because I was trying to forget about JT and that I wasn’t serious about him.”
“Were you trying to forget about JT?” I asked.
“No, I honestly had feelings for him, but he didn’t believe me,” he said as I shook my head, wondering about all the other things that Joey had said in regard to the relationship he and Justin had. “So, we broke up a few months later and that was basically it. What is this about Lance?”
“It’s about him,” I said, pointing at Joey. “Since we’ve been here, he’s been acting strange.”
“Well maybe you should go talk with him and find out what’s going on buddy,” he said as he patted me on the back and then walked off.
Another Part of the Backyard
Josh Raymond’s POV
I feel so out of place and strange, being here with my brother and surrounded by all of these famous people. I had no idea that my brother knew so many famous people. When I found out that he was a star, I guess I underestimated how much of a star he was—is. I just got here and I’ve already met tons of people that I never thought I would ever meet in a million years. I guess being in my brother’s life, I’m going to have to get used to rubbing elbows with celebrities. Then again, who’s to say that I’ll be around these people on a regular basis to…
“Josh, are you okay?” I heard, snapping out of my thoughts to see Justin, my brother’s husband, standing in front of me with a cup in hand. “You look sorta lost. Is everything okay, do you need anything?”
“I’m alright Justin, just my mind is a bit blown. I—I didn’t know… I didn’t think there would be so many people here,” I said as he smiled.
“Well Josh, that’s something you’re going to have to get used to buddy,” he said as he looked around. “Whenever there’s something that needs to be celebrated, JT goes all out it seems.”
“Yeah, I guess he does,” I said, spotting Keliah, a female singer I’ve always admired for her love songs and some guys from the group Informers, walking around with drinks in hand. “This is a whole lot to take in.”
“I’m sure you’ll get used to it,” he said as Caleb, my nephew and some of the other kids around, ran passed me, playing with water guns. “It looks like he’s having a great time. You want to come?”
“I don’t th… Sure, I’ll go,” I said as he motioned with his head as I followed behind him, passing a few more celebrities that I’ve always wanted to see as I stopped in my tracks when I saw Gladys Knotts.
“Josh, is there something wrong?” Justin asked as I just stood there, watching the woman that sang some of the songs that keep me holding on when I thought I was going to lose hope.
“I’m okay Justin,” I replied as he looked at my face and then looked around, spotting who I was looking at.
“Do you want to meet the Empress of Soul?” Justin asked as I tried to speak, but no words came out of my mouth as all I could do was nod my head as he smiled and then giggled. “Come on.”
“Well hello Mr. Poole,” Gladys Knotts spoke as I looked at her strangely as she patted Justin on the shoulder. I guess she’s calling him that and not me.
“Hi,” Justin replied as all I could do was stare.
“And you’re JT’s brother, correct?” She asked as Justin stepped to the side as I smiled wide, but my mouth still wasn’t working.
“This is my brother-in-law, Joshua Raymond and he’s so happy to meet you,” Justin spoke as Gladys Knotts stepped closer to me and then pulled me into a hug.
Oh God, Gladys Knotts is hugging me! Oh God, this is a dream come true! Wait, am I dreaming? Am I still at home? Please God, please let this be real. Please don’t let this be one of those dreams that I have when I’m trying to get away from…
“Josh, Josh, are you okay buddy?” I heard Justin’s voice as he patted me on the shoulder as I came back to reality.
“Huh… Oh yeah, I—I’m okay,” I replied as Gladys Knotts looked at me with some concern. “I’m okay, just happy to be here, to meet one of my idols. I’m in the presence of Mrs. Gladys Knotts.”
“Oh my, I’m someone’s idol,” Gladys Knotts said with a smile as she leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “It’s always good to be an idol, but I enjoy being a normal person like everyone else. You can call me Gladys.”
“O—okay Gladys,” I said as she smiled and then waved as she patted Justin on the shoulder and then walked off. “Oh my God, that was a dream come true.”
“Around here, I’m sure a lot of dreams come true,” Justin said as Caleb ran passed us again as I got splattered with water.
“Hey, I’m going to get all three of you!” Justin yelled as he grabbed a water gun, handed it to me and then grabbed another as he took off running behind the kids. “Come on Josh.”
“You can’t get me Uncle Josh!” Caleb squealed as he shot me with some water as he ran off with the other kids again as Justin chased after him.
“Can I join in?” I heard Dad’s voice as I turned around to see him standing there. “Hi son.”
“Hi,” I replied as he leaned in and gave me a hug.
“Looks like everyone is having a good time around here,” he said as he waved his hand as the young man that works for him walked over.
“Yes sir,” the young boy said as Dad looked at him and then motioned at the table where the drinks were. “Yes sir, right away sir.”
“Dad, who is that guy?” I asked.
“That’s my personal aide,” Dad replied as I looked at him closely.
“Dad, is he your boyfriend?” I asked as his facial expression changed. “Well, I’m only asking Dad. If he’s your boyfriend, it won’t offend me or anything.”
“He’s not my boyfriend, he’s just my servant,” Dad said as the young man returned and handed him a cup.
“Will there be anything else you’ll need sir?” The young man asked as Dad shook his head as the young man bowed his head and then walked over to a chair out in the yard and then sat down.
“See son, he’s just a servant,” Dad said as I shrugged my shoulders and then walked towards the area where the kids were playing as Dad followed behind.
“Daddy, are we going to see the fireworks?” Caleb asked as he climbed into JT’s lap.
“We’re going to watch them out here,” JT replied as he took a sip of his drink.
“We can see them from here Daddy?” Caleb asked as JT nodded his head. “Can Grandpa watch too?”
“Yes, I’m sure he can,” JT responded as he looked up to see an unwanted guest. “Caleb, I need you to sit right here, I’ll be right back.”
“Okay Daddy,” Caleb replied as JT walked towards the unwanted guest as Justin and Joshua Charles noticed also.
“Baby, let me handle this,” Justin stated as JT shook his head.
“Nope, you can’t handle this one like I can,” JT stated as he got to Chris Keller and then grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, jacking him up off of his feet. “What in the hell are you doing here man?”
“Get your hands off of me!” Chris yelled as he struggled to get out of JT’s grasp.
“No, what in the hell is your scrawny, no-good, stupid, racist ass doing here on my property?” JT asked.
“I wasn’t here bothering you,” Chris stated as he slid out of his shirt, getting away from JT’s grasp as JT threw the shirt down on the ground.
“You being here on my property is bothering me,” JT stated as he made a move to grab Chris again as Justin stepped in front of him, blocking him from getting to Chris again.
“Baby, stop this,” Justin said as Chris glared at him. “There’s no point of you getting into trouble today, over this piece of crap.”
“Excuse me!” Chris snapped as JT looked at him, ready to grab him again as Joshua moved around Justin and then grabbed Chris around the neck, getting him into a headlock. “Let me fucking go!”
“Why did you come here Chris? We don’t need you causing any of your kind of trouble,” Joshua stated as he held Chris tightly as the man struggled to get free as JT and Justin snickered.
“I always knew he was good for something else, besides telling other people who I’m sleeping around with,” JT stated as Joshua glared at him.
“Baby, don’t start,” Justin said as he turned his attention back to Joshua and Chris. “As for you Chris, you’re not welcomed here or anywhere around us. After all the stupid and racial things you’ve done to us, do you really think any of us would want you around? Come on, really man? You need to leave and if you don’t want to leave of your own free will, I don’t’ mind calling the police to have you taken away.”
“You would actually have the police take me away, wouldn’t you, you fucking race traitor,” Chris stated as he pushed Joshua away from him. “I don’t know what happened to you two. It was always you two that turned your backs on your own race. You two always chose the niggers over your own kind. Do you really think you’ll have a good life with those fucking porch monkeys?”
“This muthafucka just cruising for a damn ass whooping,” JT said as he shook his head. “He actually on my damn property, talking this shit, like he got it like that. Aw hell naw playa, you ain’t got it like that!”
“Baby please,” Justin said as JT shook his head.
“You two are so damn weak. You married one and you actually bred with them, having a damn zebra in the process!” Chris snapped as he pointed his finger at Joshua. “You two are so disgusting.”
“No, you’re the disgusting one here,” Justin stated as he shook his head. “I can’t believe we were actually ever friends with you.”
“No, I can’t believe I was ever friends with the likes of you two race traitors,” Chris stated as he pointed his finger in Justin’s face. “You could’ve done so much better than this nigger here.”
“Somebody better get him before I get up in that ass!” JT snapped as Joey and Lance walked over to see what was going on.
“Good Lord, what in the world is going on here?” Joey asked.
“If he’s here, it can’t be good,” Lance said as he shook his head and then sighed.
“And here we have the so-called nigger loving committee,” Chris said as Lance rolled his eyes.
“He’s still on that kick I see,” Lance said as he waved his hand and then turned around. “I’m not getting in the middle of this mess. Someone needs to call the police and have his ass arrested. That would save a whole lot of time and trouble.”
“No, I’m going to kick his ass and then the police can arrest him,” JT said as he moved around Justin as he grabbed Chris again as James, Wes and Todd rushed over and grabbed him, holding him back.
“Son, what’s going on here?” James asked, looking at JT and then at Justin. “Justin?”
“This is Chris, Chris here has a problem with black people,” Justin replied as he shook his head. “You know what, I’m done with this madness.”
“Too bad, the police are here,” Nikki spoke as she walked up behind JT and Justin. “When I saw you guys over here, I went ahead and called the police. I knew something had to be going on.”
“Just more drama the media is going to twist and turn against us,” JT stated as he shook his head. “Since the police are here, they can get this trash out of here and we can get back to the party.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that,” Justin said as he pulled JT close and then kissed his mouth as Chris’ eyes widened as he looked down. “Come on baby, let’s get back to our little boy.”
“Sounds like the perfect idea,” JT stated as he popped Chris in the back of his head and then walked off.
“You fucking…” Chris said as Joshua punched him in the face, knocking him down to the ground.
“Josh,” Nikki said as she shook her head. “Let the police handle that fool.”
“Fine, come on babe,” Joshua said as he took Nikki’s hand as the two of them walked away.
“You’re a very lucky young man,” James stated as he smiled weakly and then walked off as a police officer walked over to Chris and started reading him his rights as another officer walked over and handcuffed him.
A Few Minutes Previously – The Parking Area
“Hi Howard, are you alright?” Wes asked as he walked over to where Howard sat in his car, tears streaming down his face.
“Yeah—yes, I’m okay,” Howard replied as he sniffled and then wiped at his eyes.
“If you’re alright, why are you sitting in your car, crying man?” Wes asked.
“Is—is Chad here?” Howard asked as Wes shrugged his shoulders. “Wasn’t he supposed to be here tonight?”
“I haven’t heard from Chad since the last time he was here,” Wes stated with a frown. “If you want to find out some information about Chad, you’ll have to ask JT.”
“I—I don’t want to ask JT, I don’t want him to think…” Howard trailed off as Wes smiled.
“That you’re in love with Chad,” Wes stated as he lifted Howard’s chin, so he could see his face. “Why are you out here crying man?”
“I—I haven’t heard from Chad in a few days,” Howard replied with a frown on his face. “The last time I spoke with him, he said he would be on location for one of the shows he was working on, but he would try to make it out here for the holiday and the party. I was so hoping to see him.”
“As I said, you would have to ask JT if you want to know something about Chad,” Wes stated as Howard sniffled again and then got out of the car, closed the door and then pressed a button to lock the doors and arm the alarm. “Besides, there’s a party going on around the house, you should be having a good time, not sitting out here, worrying about a man.”
“I guess you’re right,” Howard stated as he wiped at his eyes again and then smiled as he and Wes walked around the house, heading to the backyard. “No point in being upset about him not being able to be here if he had to work. I can’t expect him to pick me over his career.”
“Don’t talk like that man,” Wes stated as he and Howard walked over to a table and got something to drink.
“Well I don’t know what I was thinking, we just started dating and…” Howard stated as Wes held up a hand, stopping him from talking more.
“Man, chill with that and have a good time,” Wes stated as some fireworks lit up the night sky as he took a sip of his drink. “You are here with friends, have a good time…”
“Well I’m sure he’ll have a better time with his boyfriend,” Chad’s voice was heard as he stepped up behind the two men, scaring Howard a bit as he turned around quickly as Chad slid his arms around his waist, pulling him close and hugging him as Wes stepped back and watched as the two men kissed.
“Well look at that,” Wes said as he smiled and then shook his head. “You two have a good time. I’m going to find my own man.”
“Hey handsome,” Chad said as he and Howard kissed again. “Did you miss me?”
“Yes, I missed you very much,” Howard answered as the two of them kissed again.
“I think I missed you more than you missed me,” Chad stated as he kissed Howard’s lips quickly as he dropped down to one knee. “I think I need to rectify that problem of us missing each other.”
“Oh my God Chad, what are you doing?” Howard asked as a few people had gathered around them.
“Babe, I know we haven’t been dating long, but I think we both feel the same way about things,” Chad stated with a smile as he looked up at Howard as he pulled a small velvet box from his pocket and then held it up to Howard. “Howard, would you do me the greatest honor and become my husband?”
“I… Yes Chad, yes I’ll marry you!” Howard squealed as Chad hopped up and then pulled Howard into a hug as the two of them kissed as the people around clapped.
“Congratulations you two,” JT spoke as he and Justin walked over to where Chad and Howard were. “Thanks a lot for changing my Fourth of July party into a marriage proposal man.”
“You’re welcome,” Chad replied as he and JT hugged. “I’m so happy right now.”
“I’m happy for you,” JT stated, kissing Chad’s cheek as Todd frowned and then walked away as Wes looked at him strangely and then shrugged his shoulders.
A Little Later – The Entertainment Room
“What’s on your mind baby?” Justin asked as he walked into the room to see JT, sitting by himself. “Is there something wrong?”
“Yes and no,” JT replied as he looked up at Justin and then sighed.
“Want to talk about it?” Justin asked, walking over and sitting next to JT as he took his hand.
“Today was a good day, well until your friend came and crashed the party,” JT stated as he shook his head. “I’ve had enough of people crashing parties around here.”
“Baby, I’m sorry for Chris and…” Justin said as JT shook his head.
“It wasn’t just Chris,” JT stated as he sighed again. “Glitter, Starletta and that fool Darren.”
“I don’t remember seeing him here,” Justin said as JT shook his head.
“I redirected him back to his car, before he could stay long enough to cause any problems,” JT stated with a frown as he shook his head. “He actually started talking shit in the parking area.”
“About what baby?” Justin asked, looking JT in the face.
“He wasn’t happy about what I had done,” JT said as he stood up. “He didn’t like that I released my singles without the company’s say-so.”
“What else did he say?” Justin asked as JT walked over to the sound system in the room, pressing a button as some music started.
“He said that if I did something else without the record company’s approval, I would be gone,” JT said as he turned around with a smile on his face.
“And, what did you do?” Justin asked.
“I directed him off of my property nicely and I returned to the party,” JT stated as he turned back around. “Dad overheard the conversation and asked me did I need any help.”
“And,” Justin said.
“Pretty soon, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about the record company anymore,” JT stated as he leaned against the wall as Justin got up and walked over to him.
“Meaning what baby?” Justin asked.
“Let’s just say, before the end of this week, I’ll own the record company,” JT stated as he leaned in and kissed Justin’s mouth. “With that said, I feel like celebrating. Let’s go to bed baby.”
“That’s totally fine with me,” Justin said as he and JT kissed again and then left the room.
To Be Continued…