Backstage at the
Teen People afterparty is the first time they see each other in person. They
meet each other's eyes over across the room and turn to their respective
siblings at almost the same moment, whispering, "I'm going to the bathroom" in
two different sets of ears.
In five minutes, they meet at the exit and he grabs her by the hand, leading her outside to rest against a dull cement wall, the cool night air and the scent of trash not so very different from the inside of the party. Aaron offers her a cigarette and Jamie Lynn blushes. "No, thank you."
He lights one for himself, and she notices that his fingers don't quite know how to hold it yet, that he's holding in a cough when he lights it. When he breathes in, he barely mouthes the smoke, and Jamie Lynn has a sudden memory of Britney last night on the balcony, dark-eyed, sucking smoke deep into her lungs, like she wanted to breathe it. "How old are you, anyway?"
"Twelve." Her exposed belly suddenly feels cold, and she crosses her arms over it.
Aaron laughs, pretending not to choke on smoke. She pats him on the back anyway. "And they're already whoring you out?"
She looks down, away from his smirk and the halo of grey smoke around his head. "I want to be a performer." Her voice sounds small, plantive, even to herself.
"Sure," he says. He looks exactly like the picture of Nick on the cover of her Backstreet Boys album, and she realizes with a pang that, despite the fact that she is still four years too young, she looks just like the cover of Britney's first album.
She uses the back of her hand to wipe off her cherry-flavored lipgloss.
"Look," Aaron says. He throws his cigarette, still only halfway to the filter, onto the ground and stamps it out. "I'm sorry I made you come out here. I thought you'd get it."
"What its like to be a fucking doppleganger," he spits out. "Why the hell do you think anybody will take you? Twelve isn't old enough to be any sort of performer. You're famous because of your name and her face."
It burns. She knew this, all of it, despite everybody's reassurance that her own talent was enough to override her sister's shadow, but it still burns. "And what about you?" she says. "Do you think you have a record contract for any reason, except that you're a Carter?" She knows that she's being a brat, a baby, but still. It feels good to throw it back in his face, to finally not have to be nice, like Britney is always nice.
It feels good to finally not have to be like Britney.
Aaron seems unfazed by her sudden outburst. "No shit, Jamie," he says, and smiles at her. The same way Justin used to smile at Britney before he leaned in to kiss her, but just a little bit meaner.
"Jamie Lynn," she says. Her mama's name, and her daddy's name, and Britney's face. Nothing is really her own. "Doesn't it bother you?"
He shakes his head, and his eyes look far away. "No. Not really. I'm like Nick when he was younger and not as fat and easier to control, and thats why I'm where I am. And since I don't want to be where I am, it doesn't really bother me."
She feels suddenly so jealous of him. He has a record contract, has made his own name for himself, even if it has 'Carter' attached to it, and he doesn't even want it. "How can someone not want to perform?" she says to herself, out loud.
"Because its not me," he says, "its Nick. And despite appearances to the contrary, I'm not fucking Nick."
"Well, I'm not Britney," she says bravely, pushing a strand of bleached blonde hair out of her face. "So, if you don't want to do this, why do you do it?"
He looks at her with a small smile on his face, and he suddenly looks nothing like Nick, older than Nick. "Because I'm a Carter, and this is what we fucking do."
If her mama heard her swearing like that, Jamie Lynn'd be over her knee in a second. "I'm a Spears," she says, raising her chin, "and this is what we fucking do. Because we want to." Because despite everything, she does actually want to, even after hearing all of Britney's horror stories and seeing how tired it all makes her. Jamie Lynn likes singing and dancing and acting and being written up in newspapers as 'Jamie Lynn Spears', not just 'Britney's little sister'. She likes everything about it, or she wouldn't be doing it.
"Good for you," Aaron says, and Jamie Lynn suddenly realizes that, just like she's jealous of him, he's jealous of her. She wants to give him a big hug, let him know that being a doppleganger isn't that bad.
It takes her a second to work up the courage, but when she finally hugs him, she's not the one reassuring him. "Look, it'll be okay. You're Jamie Lynn. Don't let them turn you into Britney."
"I love Britney," she says quietly, into his shoulder. He smells like cigarettes and cologne, older than he should smell.
"But do you want to be her?"
For a long moment she's silent. And then she whispers, "No," very quietly into her own hair, biting her lip.
"Its okay," Aaron says, pulling away from her. His eyes are brown and they twinkle when he smiles, not the calm grey of Nick's eyes at all. "I love Nick, but I don't want to be him, either."
When they go back inside, he holds her hand and leads her through the crowd of industry people, mostly drunk by now, and desposits her at Britney's side. When Britney's eyes widen at the sight of him, he grins and leans over to kiss Jamie Lynn on the cheek, lingering to whisper in her ear, "And the clones return to their source material," before walking cockily off in Nick's direction.
Jamie Lynn laughs, and Britney looks at her worriedly. "Don't get involved with show business boys, Jamie Lynn," she says. She already sounds kind of tipsy, and tired, and sad. "Especially at your age. Just look what happened to me and Justin."
But Aaron's not Justin, Jamie Lynn thinks, and I am definately not you. Instead she says, "He was just giving me some career advice."
Britney nods at that, apparently satisfied, and starts talking to Rob again. Jamie Lynn leans against a wall and considers dying her hair a deep, mahogany brown, as un-blonde as it can possibly get.