Todd noticed Rae was distracted during the whole dance. He was beginning to wonder if they should've announced their engagement.
"Rae, what's wrong?" he asked when the song was over.
"I'm worried about Nick," she answered. "He was acting like he was happy for us, but his eyes said something else."
"Why don't you go talk to him and see what's up," Todd suggested. Rae was hoping he would.
"Okay. I'll be back in a little while," Rae said. She gave Todd a kiss on the cheek.
"I love you," Todd said. He needed to hear her say it before she talked to her best friend, who was also his biggest threat, unintentional as it may be.
Rae smiled. "I love you, too."
Rae walked over to where the Boys were sitting. They didn't notice she was coming. Each of them seemed to be in their own world.
"Nick, can I talk to you?" Rae asked when she reached them.
"Sure. Let's go outside and walk," Nick said. He took her hand and led her outside.
"So, what did you want to talk about?" Nick asked.
"Is there somthing bothering you?" Rae asked, getting straight to the point. "I mean, you seem like you're happy for me and Todd, but I get this feeling that it's not true."
"I don't know, Rae," Nick said. "I feel like you just shattered my heart into a million pieces and I don't know why."
"What about Bryn? You two are okay, aren't you?"
"Yeah, perfect. But I think she's tired of being by herself in Florida."
"When are you going back to Florida?"
"Middle of September, I think. I don't know how long we have off."
"Why didn't you ask her to go on tour with you guys? AJ has Marisa on tour with him."
"That's different. Donna didn't want Marisa at home alone. But Donna said that would not afford to be distracted by girls." They were both silent for a moment.
"I feel like I'm losing you." Nick said it so softly, Rae didn't know if she'd heard right.
"You're not losing me, Nick," Rae said. "You'll never lose me. You are one of the most important people in my life. You and the other guys. But you're the one who keeps me grounded and thinking. Your friendship is.... is...."
"Like something you have to have," Nick finished for her. "I feel the same way."
They sat there in silence, both thinking about what they could do to make this go away. Nick looked at Rae and watched her twirl her engagment ring around her finger. Then he started laughing.
"What?" Rae asked.
"I was just thinking, that is one huge diamomd," Nick said.
Rae laughed. "Yeah, it is. I didn't think he'd give me one this big. I'm surprised my finger hasn't broken yet." They both laughed.
Nick took her hand in his, noticing once again how perfectly they seemed to fit. "You know what?" he said.
"I was just noticing how perfectly our hands fit together."
Rae looked down at their hands. "I know. I noticed that the last time you were in Barstow."
"So did I. Do you think it means something?"
"Yeah, probably. Everlasting friendship, maybe?"
"Maybe. I hope so."
"There you guys are," said Julia. Her and Chris were walking towards them. "We've been looking for you two."
Julia and Chris had been at the graduation and the party, but hadn't gotten the chance to talk to Rae yet. "Damn, Rae, I can't believe it," Chris said. "Everyone's prediction came true. Congratulations." He gave Rae a hug.
"Thanks, Chris," she said. "I'm assuming you came to meet Nick."
"Chris, this is my best friend, Nick Carter." Rae let got of Nick's hand so he could shake Chris's hand. "Nick, this is Julia's boyfriend, Chris Hamiliton."
"Nice to meet you," Nick said.
"Nice to meet you, too," said Chris.
"How long have you and Julia been together?" Nick asked, looking at them.
"A little over three months," Chris answered.
"Does AJ know?"
"Yeah, AJ knows," Julia said. "Well, he does now, anyway. I don't see why it should matter to him. He has Marisa."
"We should go back inside," Rae said. "People will start to wonder what happened to us."
Nick put his arm around Rae's shoulders and Rae put her arm around Nick's waist. Chris gave them a weird look, but they didn't notice 'cause they were already walking towards the entrance.
"Do they always walk together like that?" Chris asked Julia.
"Yeah," she answered. "Chris, they're just friends. Nick has a girlfriend back home. And Rae's engaged to Todd now. Besides, they haven't seen each other in a month. They have a right to be affectionate."
"Okay, okay." Chris held up his hands as if to fend off her words. "I get you point."
"Good. Now let's go inside." The couple walked towards the entrance.
Since the Boys had the next few days off, they stayed at Rae's house. Nick, Kevin, AJ, Howie, and Brian took Rae to Universal Studios as a sort of engagement present. When Marisa found out about Rae and Todd being engaged, she was shocked at first, but then AJ had to tell her that he and Rae had never gotten together and were just faking it so AJ could make her jealous. After she was told, a very happy, and flattered, Marisa congratulated Rae.
Nick and Rae spent so much time together. They hung out the whole time he was there. They went out to eat, shopping, to the movies, to the park, swimming. They did everything together. Nick once again shared a room with Rae, where they stayed up half the night talking. It seemed to make their friendship grow stronger.
Kevin also spent a lot of time with Rae, mostly in the evening. Then during one of their "friendly outings", Kevin decided to have a talk wit Rae about marrying Todd.
"Rae?" he said.
"Yeah?" she answered.
"Can I ask you question?"
"You just did." Rae laughed.
"Come on, be serious."
"Sorry, Kev. What's up?" she asked, looking at Kevins serious face.
"Are you sure you're ready for marriage?"
"That's a stupid question. I wouldn't have said yes to Todd if I wasn't."
"Do you have any idea what kind of commitment you're about to make?"
"I don't think you do. You're young, Rae. You should experience life first, see the world, all that other stuff, before you get married." Kevin reached over and took Rae's hand in his. "Trust me. I know what I'm talking about."
"Why? Because you're older? That doesn't make you an expert at this sort of thing." Rae took her hand away from Kevin angrily.
"I never said I was an expert," Kevin said, getting angry himself. "It's just that I've been there before."
Rae looked at Kevin with her eyes full of surprise. "When?"
"When I was nineteen," Kevin said softly.
"Who was she?" Rae wanted to know more about the girl who had captured Kevin's heart.
"Her name was Beth. She was my girlfriend all through high school. Beth was everything I'd ever wanted." Kevin had a dreamy look on his face as he recalled his high school sweetheart. "She was beautiful, but what made me love her so much was that she was very kind, big-hearted, always thought of others first."
"What happned? How come you two never got married?"
"I moved to Florida a few months after we graduated. I had already asked her to marry me and she said yes. I was so happy. I thought nothing could go wrong. It was kind of a surprise to her that I moved to Florida, but she let me go. Beth was a very understanding person and she knew how important it was to take this chance to start my music career. The long-distance relationship was hard on both of us, but we dealt with it. About a year after I moved, my whole family came to visit me." Kevin stopped for a few minutes, then continued.
"That was the last time my family would be together like that, having a family vacation. After my father got back to Kentucky, he was diagnosed with cancer. A few months after that, in August, he died. Not long after that, I talked to Beth, with the intention of breaking off the engagement. Apparently, she'd been thinking the same thing. That life is short, we were too young, we needed to experience life, all those reasons and more. We kept in contact for a while, but eventually we lost touch."
"Wow. That's so sad. Don't you ever wonder what's going on with her? Or what might have been?"
"Last I heard, she was going to marry some hotshot lawyer, but that was a while back. I never really thought about her. Until I saw you and Nick staring at each other at Disney World almost a year ago."
"I didn't know anyone else had noticed. But why would I remind you of Beth?" Rae asked.
"You look a lot like her," Kevin smiled. He ran his fingertips down the side of Rae's cheek. She blushed a little. "I looked at an old picture of us together and saw a lot of similarities. You act a lot like her, too. When I first saw you, I thought you were her. Then I realized you a little too short and a little young, though I was thinking fifteen or sixteen and not eleven."
"I noticed you looking at me like you recognized me," Rae said. "I started wondering if I'd seen you somewhere, but I couldn't remember ever seeing you before. I was sure I'd remember someone with beautiful green eyes." Kevin laughed. "Kevy-Kev, have I ever told you how gorgeous you are?"
"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?" Kevin looked Rae straight in the eyes. She blushed again.
"I appreciate you talking to me," Rae said when she found her voice. "It means a lot to me, knowing you care about me and want what's best for me. And I assure you, Todd is what's best for me. I love him with all my heart. We belong together."
"It may have sounded like I was trying to talk you out of this, but I really wasn't," Kevin said. "My whole intention was to let you know I'll always be there for you, no matter what."
Rae leaned over and hugged Kevin. She gave him a little kiss on the lips and got this tingling sensation. Kevin felt it, too, but chose not to bring it up. He just held Rae in his arms, as close to his body as he could. In turn, Rae got as close to him as she could, too. When they pulled away, they looked at each other and smiled, then walked back to Rae's house.