"That's Nick," Rae said, grabbing the phone. "Alright. Tell me what happened."
"How'd you know it was me?" Nick asked.
"I just did, now tell me what happened."
"Okay. Since me and AJ are still under age, we had to bring a parent with us. First things first, I'm going to have to get a tutor to travel with me while we're on the road, starting next month. AJ has to get a tutor, too. So I get to finish 8th grade with no 8th grade Grad Night. Well, in a way I will, but we'll be performing and that's not exactly the same. Then we discussed getting more exposure, so the Wrights are setting up a summer tour of performing at middle schools across the country. I made sure to mention Kennedy as a preference, so I can see you for a couple days. Since my mom and AJ's mom were me and AJ's current managers, they had to sign some papers for something, I don't know. We played them 'Tell Me That I'm Dreamin' and they liked it, so they're going to have us record a couple more songs, then send it out to different record companies...."
"See, I told you it was a good choice. And who do you have to thank for that?"
"Thank you, Rae, Rose, and Julia. Anyway, now we sit back and wait for something to happen. Man, I feel like I'm dreaming, Rae. It hasn't hit me yet."
"I am so proud of you, Brian, Kevin, AJ, and Howie. My mom says she wishes you much success. I swear, the way she looked, you'd have thought it was her own sons."
Nick laughed. "Tell your mom thanks for her support, too."
"I will. And Todd. He's behind you all 100%."
"Cool. I'll tell the other guys we won him over."
"So, when do you start touring?"
"Beginning of May. Like the 5th or something."
"Wow. This is so cool. I can't wait to see you."
"You'll probably see me end of July, beginning of August."
"Uh oh. Have you been talking to AJ?" Nick sounded suspicious.
"No. But you better go. It's almost 11:00pm out there."
"Yeah. I still have school tomorrow. Only two more weeks in a regular school. I have to make them good. I'll talk to you later. Goodnight, Rae."
"Goodnight, Nick. I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Tell the fellas I said hi."
"Will do. I miss you."
"I miss you, too. Bye."
Rae hung up. Todd had been listening to her side of the conversation. He looked at her curiously.
"So, what happened?"
"The Boys met with the Wrights and said that they're going to tour the country and visit the middle schools. They're going to record a couple more songs, send it out to different record companies, and cross their fingers. They start touring in May, so Nick and AJ have to get tutors. But their coming to Kennedy, so we get to see them for a couple days."
"That's great. I can't wait to see them. Do you think they'll be able to come to my graduation?"
"I don't know. I hope so. I'll tell Nick to send me a copy of their schedule."
"Alright. Cool. I better go so you can finish your homework. She you in the morning." Todd kissed Rae goodbye.
After Todd left, Rae lay on her bed, thinking about what happened, what was going to happen, what could happen. That night, Rae went to sleep with a smile on her face.
The next couple of weeks was really hectic for the Boys. Nick and AJ had to find their tutors, they were saying goodbye to all their friends and going to all the "going-away" parties being thrown for them. They all had to rehearse day and night, getting their songs in perfect harmony and their dance routines down, in two weeks. Their vocal coach worked them hard, their choreographer had them rehearsing their routines until they were like clockwork.
The last three days, the Boys went their separate ways to spend time with their families, then the day before the tour started, everyone was invited to a "kick-off" party given by the Wrights. Of course, everyone went.
AJ and Howie were standing outside by the lounge chairs talking when AJ saw a young girl walk by. He followed her with his eyes. She's beautiful, he thought to himself. Howie noticed AJ wasn't paying attention to him and turned to see what AJ was staring at. Howie saw the girl and thought, Uh oh. He's fallen hard. Howie knew it would be useless to talk to him now.
"Go talk to her," Howie said.
"What? Go talk to who?" AJ said, breaking out of his reverie.
"You know who I'm talking about. That girl you were only staring at for five minutes now."
"No way. She's too young for me."
"That's just an excuse and you know it. She looks like she's the same age as Rae and you liked her. Don't deny that either 'cause you it's true." Howie gave AJ a knowing look.
"Alright. I like Rae a little. But that's over now."
"So go talk to the other girl."
"I can't. What if she doesn't like me?"
"AJ, you've never been afraid to talk to a girl. What's up?"
"I don't know, D," AJ said. "There's something different about her."
AJ and Howie were so busy discussing the girl, they didn't even notice she had walked up to them.
"Excuse me," she said. Howie and AJ looked at her in surprise. "Mom said I should go around and introduce myself," she continued. 'So, hi, I'm Marisa Jackson Wright." She held out her hand.
AJ stood there, frozen. It was Howie who spoke up first. "Hi, I'm Howard Dorough, but the fellas call me 'Howie D' or 'D'." He shook Marisa's hand, then turned to AJ. "And this speechless fellow is AJ McLean."
When AJ still didn't move, Howie elbowed him in the ribs. "Oh, hi, I'm AJ."
Marisa laughed. "So I've heard."
" 'Marisa Jackson Wright'?" Howie said. "You're related to Donna and Johnny?"
"Donna's my mom and Johnny's my stepdad."
"So, you're the girl in all those pictures around the house? Not to mention the pictures in Donna's office," AJ commented.
"Yeah, that's me," Marisa confirmed.
"How old are you, Marisa?" AJ asked, getting his confident-self back.
"I turn thirteen in June," she replied in a flirtatious voice. "What about you, AJ?"
"I'm sixteen." He smiled. She smiled back.
"Oh, an older guy. I like older guys." AJ could tell she was hinting at something.
"I'm sure you do," AJ said. "But do your parents mind."
"They don't seem to." Marisa turned to Howie. "How old are you, Howie?"
"I'm twenty," he answered. Howie looked up and saw Nick hugging Rae and Brian hugging Rose. "Hey, AJ. Did you know Rae and Rose were coming out?"
"'Cause they're over there."
AJ turned around and saw them. "Alright! Well, Marisa, it was nice meeting you, but I gotta go see my girl."
AJ left her standing there with Howie, feeling somewhat surprised. They stood there and watch AJ grab Rae and hug her. Then, much to their surprise, especially Howie, they kissed. Marisa turned back to Howie.
"Is that his girlfriend?" she asked.
"Yeah, sort of. Actually, that's Raelene Lopez. AJ sort of likes her. Nick likes her, too, but he says only as a friend 'cause he's got a girlfriend, but she couldn't make it tonight. Wow, this is the first time I've seen those two kiss." Howie looked at Marisa and saw her watching AJ and Rae. AJ had his arms around her waist.
"What about the girl with Brian Littrell," she said, changing the subject. She didn't want to hear about AJ and Rae anymore.
"That's Roseanna Waconda, Rae's cousin. Rose and Brian met when we all went to California last year for Raelene's birthday. They've been together for almost seven months," Howie explained. "Come on, I'll introduce you."
"Okay," Marisa agreed.
They headed to the crowd together.