The Trouble With Love Is
by Jill B. Wilde

It's raining in Mexico and she feels so angry that she's about to cry.

One rumbling collective hiss begins to rise from the waiting mass of bodies like a slow boil bubbling faster. The ugly sound settles with a hint of dread she can't shrug off, into the pit of her stomach, as the wind prickles goosebumps on her arms.

"I'm sorry," she says again.

Walking off the stage, she hugs herself.


The house is bold and beautiful and big and bare and now so empty, it hurts.

They entertained together in this house, on a hill, next to Hollywood, with a view.

It's one of the reasons JC purchased one so close by, because Britney and Justin both insisted it would be fun to be so close by so they could chill and kick it whenever all their busy schedules would allow.

Justin had his own set of keys to her house because in a way, the most obvious one, it was theirs.

They hung out here with Freddy and Carlos and Trace and Chastain and Lance and JC and sometimes Chris or Joey, and sometimes Pharrell, though rarely Chad, with Britney's girl dancers as her friendly buds, and they sometimes got drunk and sometimes they didn't, and sometimes they got high, but most times they didn't, but they hung around and watched movies and played pool and then she and Justin would collapse on their bed, and they were together. That's what it meant.

They lived together.

After, she didn't see JC or Lance or Chris anymore. It just wouldn't be casual. She accidentally met Pharrell at a studio- he was leaving, she'd just gotten there- and she smiled to greet him warmly but after "Hey, Pharrell" left her mouth he sort of just winked at her and said nothing. His mouth was pursed while hers were open- glub, glub: like a fish- and when he smiled it reached his eyes funny because they sparkled like diamonds, cold and hard.

When his appraisal was through, he tipped his head and left the building. She shivered, and thought of the phrase 'which side of whose camp are you on?' and knew the difference between 'business' and 'friends.'


It is time to leave California for a while. That rain check on 'a much-needed vacation?' It's here.

She takes a break from all the bullshit in her life.


Manhattan is- swanky.

It's brassy, like her. She loves all the floors of her penthouse suites. They give her all the space she needs to enjoy the company of friends she's known longest, can deal with being cosseted like Bryan -who lives so close to her- while getting used to the way he tries to treat her as an equal adult, invites Jamie Lynn for week-long sleep-overs, and her mom loves it here on visits to check up on how hiatus life is treating her, says "you look happy, baby," and it's true.

It's springtime, and she know's she's going to start recording soon, because there's an itch under her skin telling her she's almost ready.


Miami is- hot. "Welcome to Miami. Bienvenidos a Miami."

She arrives at Crobar and gets a confirm that J's no longer in the building. She didn't really purposely do it this way. She didn't wait until many, many hours after the best time suggested by whomever told her people they'd love her to come just so she could avoid them because Cameron is a sweet, beautiful, popular actress and just because they haven't yet stumbled on each other's presence doesn't mean- anything. It doesn't mean anything.

He doesn't mean everything. Anymore.

Joey calls her name out of an open window of a black SUV across the street. She yells back, "Hey, dude-" but she can't understand what he's shouting back at her and after a few minutes she thinks she hears him yell "oh fuck it, never mind-" and motions goodbye with a grin. She waves him away, and thinks of the last Challenge she'd attended, with full participation, and she knows her jersey's still hidden in a box somewhere in Louisiana and that she will never look for it.


It's time to start the machine rolling again. She's seen shopping all over the Big Apple while recording, and deals are being made like the campaign to promote Britney as the NFL girly mascot of sexy muscle power. On a magazine interview, she mentions how long it's been since she's kissed a guy. And everything else, besides. Oh, god, was that Colin? The last time? And so high-profile, too, because of those damn close-up photo lenses and who was the fucker who speculated on the porn?

Because there were no witnesses besides Colin, herself, the hotel bedroom and Jenna on the television.

And even if it was one fucker of a hangover the next day, she knew it was the best way to go and get laid: with someone as pretty, as rich, as popular as her. Like the song goes, no fucking strings attached. The best way to have great, meaningless sex.

Who cares about the dumb jokes? She heard the one about her and Colin having the prettiest babies as dumb as rocks, and she laughed, because it would probably be true if they did, though it sure as hell ain't gonna happen.

Then she thinks about Justin, and about how fucking smart he is, and then she thinks that Cameron must be a whole lot smarter than her. She's seen "Being John Malkovic." She knows it's true.

The way Britney sees it, if she really were forced to compare and contrast filling Cameron's shoes then if there were an online quiz saying "Which Cameron Diaz Movie Are You?" she would end up being the Charlie's Angels.

But see, the thing is that she knows this, too, and that, for sure, must count for something. To her, it counts a lot.


Miami, again. Everywhere, really. Anywhere she felt like. But clubbing here is fun, and the party's in full swing. She catches a flash of a girl body dancing and puts her drink down. Makes her way to the dance floor to find-


X smiles and dances over. Britney joins Chrissy on dancing to the frenzied rhythm. They can't talk, it's too loud, which suits them both fine.


Christina stretches out her arms and yawns. Britney nuzzles her stomach and hugs a bit tighter, with a yawn of her own.

"So you haven't been driving stick for a while, huh? Where'd you get the experience?"

Britney looks up, blushes. "My dancers," she says cautiously.

Christina laughs, adds "Everybody fucks their dancers, B."

She props herself up on her elbows and scoots backwards 'til they're side by side with heads leaning on the walls while turned to each other. X is looking at her curiously. She likes thinking of Christina as X because it's the name Christina's chosen for herself, at least for the moment, and in that choice with the dirrty-ass clothing, or flagrant lack thereof, Britney finds someone she understands, although the woman in front of her now is hardly the same little girl she used to play with and compete against while they were working for The Mouse. Heck, she's changed herself. She's changing all the time. Although many people might not like to think so.

"What's wrong?" Christina asks.

This reminds Britney of baby!Christina, and she's not sure whether to hug her or not, as she's suddenly struck with the slightly absurd dissonance of trying to juxtapose baby!Christina and the MMC friendship with the picture they must present right now: bare-breasted, sheets tangled with barely-covered hips, with smeared make-up on their faces and the room smelling of cigarettes, booze, expensive perfume and sex.

"We totally just had a meaningless fuck."

"No strings attached," Christina agrees.

She blanches. "What?"

"It's in my song." At Britney's look of incomprehension, Christina speaks,

"We have a physical thing. We make love, but don't fall in love. We spend time, just enough so you get yours and I get mine. No strings attached."

"I want your body, not your heart, " Britney finishes.

X laughs delightedly.


Christina called Britney while they were waiting at different airports for their respective flights. They traded friendly jokes about Justin, and Britney empathized with the stress over the collapsing stage, and what that meant in terms of safety and of having to let fans down with canceled concerts. She had a pretty good guess what Christina was going through, but at the end of the convo had convinced her that the next show was going to be fantastic.

"I'd love to see you again some time," Christina said.

"Bye, sweetie." Britney said back.

The airplane takes off. She looks out the window.

It does not mean anything, she thinks firmly.


She's visibly shopping ever other day now. Like the song goes, (dozens, probably, but there's one song in particular- the Beth Hart one) "I'm back in L.A."

With each day, the number of photographers following her party are increasing. As are tip offs to TV crews. She makes Entertainment Tonight, posing in a fake forest wearing a skimpy green top without a push-up bra on. She looks at the stills critically, especially the ones taken from the side, and figures some people might finally be convinced they're real.

She finds Christina in a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf wearing so much warpaint that her face looks like a colorful mask, with a tan so heavy Britney wonders if she fell asleep nude a tanning bed after slathering on a bucket of self-tanning lotion.



"You're here."

"So are you."

"I'm recording."

"I'm having an ice blended. Want some?"

"I can get my own."

"You didn't call me, Brit."

"Well, neither did you."

"I was on tour."

"Fuck you," Britney says lightly. Christina doesn't laugh.

"Already did."

Britney's assistant's assistant returns with an ice blended, and "I have to go," she gestures to the door.

"Alright, look. Where are you staying?"

"My house."

Christina wonders what is up with that, the reserved look.

"Well, give me the details so I can come over later."



When Christina appears at her door she is not wearing any makeup. Britney lets her in, thinking-- she's never been here before.


Later, in bed, there is no makeup, no cigarettes or booze, no heavy scent but that of recent sex. Christina asks: "So how did you like posing in the nude?"

Britney says, "I liked it. The shoot with the bottom on took forever to do because they had to keep on fixing the lighting, but the one with the feather boa was absolutely fabulous. It was fun!"

"Heh. Took you long enough."

"Hey, just because you did it a couple of months--"

"many months-"

"before me, doesn't mean-"

"Doesn't mean what?"

"Doesn't mean. Dick."

They fall into giggles.

"Well, I had the greatest time doing the Versace shoot."

"Oh, I saw those. You looked great."

"Yeah, I thought I looked awesome when I got the pics. Then the other day it just totally freaked me out."


"I looked lifeless, colorless. Pale."

"You looked beautiful."

"I looked like Grandma Death."

"You looked like a porcelain doll."

"Exactly. Grandma Death as a perpetual pre-pubescent." Christina shudders.

"You have breasts."

"Like a ghost of a princess," Christina adds, "with a really bad hair day."

"When was the last time you didn't wear make up every day?"

"Before I got a record deal."

"I got mine bee fooore youu, " Britney sing-songs.

"Bitch," Christina says disgustedly.

"But you love me anyways."

"What if I did?" Christina says intently.

Britney has no answer.


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