A/N: Ok, I know I said I was taking a break before posting this but I'm a little nervous about this story. I decided to go ahead and post it now because I wanted some feedback (honest feedback) before I decide to go on with the story. I don't know how well this is going to come off. So here it is and please let me know if you think I should continue or not.
"Ok, everyone, make sure to stay with your buddy and stay with the group," I called out to the forty children anxiously peering into the fish tanks. Poor fish, I thought. I nodded at the guide and waited as the children lined up with the chaperones and started walking before I took the rear.
We walked through the aquarium, stopping periodically to listen to interesting facts the guide would tell us. We reached a sea turtle display and all the children oohed and aahed. I had to smile. We had watched 'Finding Nemo' twice this week to prepare for our big aquarium field trip and the turtles were by far the class favorite.
"Miss Bella," a dark haired girl with big brown eyes called out, yanking on my shirt.
I bent to her level. "Yes, Tessa?"
"Do turtles eat toes?"
I blinked. "Umm, no, I don't believe turtles eat toes."
She frowned. "Tyler said they did and that if I didn't give him my M&M's, he would let the turtles out of the tank and they would eat my toes."
I groaned. "Did you give him your M&M's" She nodded. I stood and found Tyler munching happily on the candy and smearing his chocolate fingers all over the box turtle display. "Tyler, give your sister back her M&M's right now."
He jumped and spilled them all over the floor. Tessa let out an ear splitting wail that caused anyone within a mile radius to look our way and cover their ears.
"Tessa, stop," I said, hugging the little girl to my chest, hoping to muffle the sound. "We'll get some more M&M's, I promise."
She turned her tear stained face up at me. "Really?"
"Yes. Please, stop crying."
She wiped her nose on her t-shirt and nodded. She looked at her brother, who had watched the whole scene wide eyed, and stuck her tongue out at him. "I'm telling Mommy that you lied again."
"Come on, now, let's get on with the tour," I said, taking Tessa with one hand and Tyler with the other.
"Miss Bella," Tessa asked as we listened to the guide explain about sea horses and how the males have the babies.
"Yes, Tessa," I asked patiently.
"Did you ever have a baby?"
"No, honey, I did not." Oh please don't let her ask me where they come from, I prayed.
"But you're married, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," I replied slowly.
"I thought when you got married you were sposed to have a baby."
"No, you stupid head," Tyler spit.
I sighed, let go of his hand and rubbed my temple. "Tessa, just because two people get married it doesn't mean they have to have a baby."
I grabbed Tyler's hand again and pulled them away from the sea horses and thankfully to the end of the tour. I counted heads and herded everyone back on the bus. Everyone settled in for the hour and a half drive back to Eastville. I usually enjoyed going into Chicago, especially to Shedd Aquarium, but today's field trip took a little more out of me than usual.
I sat back in my seat and rifled through the stack of magazines Morgan left for the adults to read. I frowned at the tabloids, having had my fair share of them a few years back, and nearly dropped the whole stack as I glanced at the next magazine in the pile. I looked around quickly to see if anyone was watching me then turned my gaze back to the cover. It was last week's edition of Rock Weekly and smiling on the cover was none other than Controlled Environment. I closed my eyes briefly then read the tagline next to the picture. It read Controlled Environment Rocks Back to the Top! Story on page 42.
My hands shook as I flipped through the pages until I found the right page. On page 42 was a shot of Ronnie Stone and Matt Wenslow standing back to back, each holding a guitar. On page 43 was a picture of Nick Collins and Jake Johnson standing the same way only with Nick holding a set of drum sticks across his chest.
Controlled Environment claims to be heading straight to the top of the charts, as per their new CD 'Back to the Top', after a three year hiatus from the music scene. And they weren't kidding. Since the release in early March, record sales have skyrocketed and 'Back to the Top' hit number one this week.
We sat down with Controlled Environment recently and here's what they had to say.
Rock Weekly: So, to what do you guys attribute the success of this new album?
Matt Wenslow: Definitely Jake's writing. It's more mature than what we've done in the past.
Ronnie Stone: I agree. I mean, we all contributed some how but the songs are a little more grown up than we usually do.
RW: What inspired these new improved, more mature songs?
Jake Johnson: I guess I just finally grew up.
Nick Collins: (laughs) It's about time too, man.
RW: Did rehab have any influence over your music?
JJ: I wouldn't say it had influence over my music, but I did write a lot while I was there.
RW: Rumor has it that you three were going to move on without Jake at one time. Is there any truth to that?
NC: No, man. No way. We stick together no matter what. Jake's our best friend. We couldn't abandon him when he needed us the most.
RS: That's right.
RW: So what's the plan for Controlled Environment now
NC: We're going to wrap this little promo tour up in Chicago and take a short break this summer before we launch a new tour this fall.
MW: We're going to shoot a few videos before going out on tour and then hopefully, after that tour, hit the studio again.
RW: Wow, sounds like you plan to keep busy. With such a hefty schedule, doesn't leave any of you much time for a social life.
RS: We keep Jake out of trouble that way.
RW: Jake, you have managed to keep out of trouble lately. Any special reason?
JJ: (laughs) My probation officer told me to keep my nose clean.
RW: Matt recently got married, I know. Any more weddings on the horizon?
NC: Matty always was the good boy!
JJ: Yeah. The rest of us can't seem to find the right one to settle down with.
I slammed the magazine shut and threw it in the aisle, temporarily forgetting I was on a bus full of children.
Tessa turned around and peered over the seat back at me wide eyed. "Miss Bella! Why'd you throw that book?"
"It um slipped. Sorry," I mumbled feebly. I reached over to pick it up but Tyler beat me to it.
"Oh cool! Controlled Environment! I love them," he exclaimed.
I rolled my eyes. "Aren't you a little young to be listening to them," I asked.
He shrugged. "I'm seven. And my brother Todd is twelve and he downloaded them to my MP3 player."
"My mommy says they're drug attics," Tessa said.
"Addicts, Tessa," I corrected. "And you shouldn't say things like that."
"Can I keep this," Tyler asked.
"No, it doesn't belong to me. Besides, I don't think it's appropriate reading material for you," I told him as I took the magazine from his hands. I shoved it back into the pile and chose something more tame to read for the remainder of the trip.
We arrived back at the school and I waited patiently for each child's parent to pick them up before collecting my bag to head home. I eyed the pile of magazines Morgan left and before I could change my mind, I snatched the Rock Weekly and shoved it in my bag.
I reached my house and unlocked the door, throwing the keys on the table and shuffling through the mail. I dropped the mail near the computer and picked up my cell phone. I dialed a number and waited for an answer.
"Hello, darling," a deep, male voice answered. "How was the field trip?"
"Long," I groaned.
He chuckled. "Well, how about if you meet me at Pierre's and we'll have a drink and some dinner?"
"Sounds perfect," I said, smiling. "I'll be there in an hour."
I hung up and headed down the hall to get ready for an evening with my husband.