Chapter 11

“We're here and now, but will we ever be again
'Cause I have found
All that shimmers in this world is sure to fade
Away again.”

                        -“Shimmer,” Fuel


            Hannah surveyed the faces around her. Joey looked pensive, a rare state to see him in, that was for sure. Chris halfheartedly tapped at the buttons to the Gameboy, more subdued than usual. Lance’s heavy lids looked ready to drop as he struggled to keep his head up. Justin was leaning his elbow on his knee and resting his chin on his hand, looking like a modern day version of “The Thinker.” And Josh…
            He at least looked alive, but more in a sense of being agitated than excited. Every few minutes he pulled out his cell phone to check for any new messages before sighing and slipping it back into his pocket.

            She stared out of the large hotel window beyond Chris’ head, tracing the path of the early morning rain down the glass. They were all silent, except for the slight clicking of the Gameboy’s buttons and the occasional sigh from Josh.

            At the sound of what seemed like the hundredth sigh, she lost it.

            “Okay, that is it,” she burst out, quickly standing up and making all of them jump. “We have to do something. Now. I am going to go crazy in here.”

            “It’s raining,” Chris responded without looking up.

            “So what?!” she exclaimed. “Are you allergic or something? It’s not going to hurt you.”

            “I don’t feel like getting wet,” he whined in reply. “It’ll make my Gameboy go schizo.”

            I am going to go schizo,” Hannah argued. “Let’s get out of here and do something interesting!”

            She looked at each one of them in turn and groaned when they only shrugged or stared back at her with dull eyes.

“Why are you all so mopey?” she asked, exasperated.

            “Lily’s being weird,” Justin answered, appearing confused and petulant at the same time. “I was talking to her, and she was so quiet.”

            “Maybe she’s tired,” JC offered. “I know I am.” He reached into his pocket and grabbed the cell phone again.

            “Rainy days make me sleepy,” Lance drawled slowly, beginning to tip over on the couch.

            “Okay…this has got to stop,” Hannah decided. “Right now. You can’t be tired, because there wasn’t even a rehearsal yesterday. And I know for a fact that all you did was lounge around your hotel rooms in your sweats and pajamas.”

            “Damn it,” Justin grumbled. “Why does Dre always tell you what we do?”

            Hannah ignored him. “So today, we’re going to do something healthy that involves standing up and moving. Who’s with me?”

            A cough and a blinking of blank gazes answered her.

            “Alright. Fine. We’re going to have to do this the hard way, then,” she concluded, sighing. “I didn’t want it to have to come to this, but now I have no choice.”

            Out of the corner of her eye she caught Josh about to flip open his cell phone for what had to be the hundred-and-third time. Darting over, she grabbed it before he could protest.

            “This,” she proclaimed, holding it up, “Is now mine.” Then she leaned over and yanked the Gameboy out of Chris’ grasp. “And so is this.”

            “Mine, mine!” Chris bleated, reaching out and waving his hands, panicked.

            Hannah smirked at him, and at Josh’s offended and slightly annoyed look. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. “Do you want them?” she asked innocently.

            They nodded their heads, giving her the most charming smiles they could muster at the moment.

            “Then come and get them!” she laughed, turning and running out the door.

            Gaaamebooooy!” Chris wailed, jumping up and bolting right after her. Josh looked at the rest of his friends, who seemed a lot more awake than they had a few minutes ago.

            “I don’t feel like running,” he explained at their curious expressions.

            “Dude,” Joey spoke up, “She took your phone. Go be a man and get it.”

            “Man,” he groaned. “Fine.” He turned around and practically stomped out of the room.

            “I think I’m gonna go watch,” Joey decided. “I’ll help Hannah out.” Besides, it’s the least I can do, right? “Anyone wanna come with?”

            Lance shrugged. “Sure, why not.” He stood up and stretched, then regarded Justin. “You coming?”

            “I miss Princess,” Justin answered, forlornly. “What if she’s mad at me? What did I do?”

            “You’re like cream, J,” Joey observed. He waited for his friends to look at him questioningly before delivering the punchline. “Whipped.”

            “You are dead,” Justin threatened, getting off the bed and trying to grab Joey, only to have him run away and down the hall. “Come back here!”

            Lance was the last to leave, remembering to lock the door behind him.


*                       *                       *


            “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” Chris sang out, a menacing glint in his dark eyes. He flatted himself against the corner behind the large indoor plant before spinning into sight, his fingers held out in front of him like a gun. “Gotcha, sucka!”

            “What do you think you’re doing, Keebler?” Justin asked, staring back at him.

            “I thought you were Hannah,” Chris explained, sighing. “Gameboy! Gone!”

            “Chris, it’s been an hour. You still haven’t found her?” he asked disbelievingly.

            “It’s hard!” Chris defended. He pointed across the lobby. “See, Jace still doesn’t have his cell phone.”

            Justin turned and observed his friend who looked very pissed off. “So I see.” He hoped Hannah wouldn’t take this game too far. JC was definitely not in the mood.

            He and Chris sat down on a small bench that was positioned near the front of the lobby, watching as the other guys turned up, one by one. Except for Joey.

            “Where’d Fatone run off to?” Lance asked, approaching them.

            “Hell if I know,” Chris answered. “Do you have my Gameboy?”

            “Sorry, man,” Lance said, shrugging. “I haven’t seen Hannah either.”

            Twenty yards away, JC stood on the marble tile and tapped his foot impatiently. Where is that Brat?! He was just about ready to scream. Teeth clenched, he strode across the lobby and toward the large revolving glass door that led to the streets.

            He raised his hands to push the door…but it was stuck. “What the-“ he asked aloud, looking around in confusion. Hannah…

            She was standing on the other side, her foot firmly jammed in the way. In her right hand she held aloft his cell phone. And it was ringing.

            “Hannah, move out of the way,” he commanded, putting on his strictest face.

            She shook her head, grinning.

            “Now!” he shouted, pushing again on the door. She just stared at him. He had to change tactics.

            “Please, please let me answer my phone,” JC begged in a baby voice. “I’ll do anything you want, just give me the phone!”

            “Really?” she asked, happy.

            “Yes, of course,” he promised, holding his hand over his heart. “Scout’s honor.”

            “Well…” she hesitated. “You were never a boy scout. But I won’t hold that against you.” Then she shifted her foot abruptly, and he almost smacked his face against the glass of the door.

            He grabbed the cell phone and almost tore the cover off it in his haste to answer the caller. “Hello?”

            “Yo, Jace, what’s up?” came the cheerful voice.

            “Joey?! Why are you calling me?” he demanded. “I thought it was-“ He broke off before he gave too much away in front of Hannah, who was standing next to him and listening with interest.

            “Just wanted to say hi,” Joey answered, not noticing him pause. “So…hi there!”

            “Yeah, bye,” he replied, ending the call and sighing. He looked down at Hannah, her face delighted. “What are you so happy about, Brat?”

            She decided to ignore that name. “You promised to do anything I want,” she reminded him.

            “I lied,” he stated, turning around to go back to the room. But she jumped in his path.

            “Josh, you promised,” she said accusingly, poking him in the chest with a finger. “Besides, it’s not like it’s going to hurt you. It’ll be fun. I swear. And you have nothing else to do tonight. Dre told me so.”

            “Dre needs to keep his big trap shut,” JC muttered before letting out a breath and rolling his eyes. “Fine, I’ll do what you want. But only because I keep my word.”

            “Good.” She nodded in satisfaction. “I’ll meet you here at 7.” Without waiting for him to agree, she began walking off.

            “Wait!” he called out. “What are we going to do?”

            Hannah laughed. “Watch a movie, of course. You owe me one, remember?”

            JC stared after her retreating back, searching his mind. Remember what? Oh well. Come on, man, it’s only two hours. And you did promise.

            Resigned to his fate, he went over to Justin, Chris, and Lance, who were looking at him curiously. Might as well fill them in.


*                       *                       *


            “Hey, Princess.”

            Lillian smiled as the smooth sound of Justin’s voice filled her head. “Hi, sweetie. What are you doing?”

            “Getting ready to go out. The guys and I are going to watch a movie with Hannah,” Justin explained. “Against Jace’s will, of course.”

            “What about Bobbie? Is she going?” Lillian asked, settling down into the loveseat in the living room. “Or are JC and her in another fight?”

            “Fight,” Justin answered, sighing. “Well, they’re not fighting, really. But he’s kind of avoiding her, after she gave him a lecture today. He’s pretty much avoiding all women right now. But Hannah’s trying still.”

            “I think she likes him,” Lillian commented, smiling. She thought it was cute, to say the least. And she has to be better for him than Bobbie.

            “The feeling’s not mutual,” Justin stated. “She took his cell phone, and that snowballed into a whole load of crap. Bobbie was trying to call him, and she thought JC was purposely ignoring her calls. Then she ripped into him for half an hour, and now of course he is ignoring her.” He let out an exasperated breath. “So what happened over there?”

            Lillian laughed sympathetically. Working on the last tour of theirs had taught her that things never settled down for long. The only thing that differed was whether the problem was personal or music-related.

            “Nothing much. Went to some classes. That was about it,” she recalled. Other than another black and white picture. She had been trying to shrug it off, but an odd feeling kept needling her. She wanted to ask him about them, but she was afraid that her suspicions would turn out to be correct. That he really did love Britney more.

            “That’s all?” Justin asked, hearing a hollow tone in her voice. It was the same as it had been during their last conversation. He knew something was up. “There’s nothing else?” he prodded.

            She hesitated. “I…no. I mean, yes. Wait, no. Yeah, nothing else happened.”

            He frowned on the other end, easily noticing that she was flustered and lying. But it wasn’t like her to not tell him anything. Especially if it were important.

            The silence between them sat heavily. “So anyway,” he said slowly, searching for something else to talk about, “About the Grammy’s.”

            “Yes?” she asked, not knowing whether to feel relieved or disappointed that he didn’t pursue the issue.

            “Do you have a dress yet? If you don’t, I can buy one for you.”

            “But it’s still…” She mentally counted the days left until the big night. “It’s three weeks away.”

            “I know, but everyone always gets ready a long time in advance,” Justin explained. “It’s going to be amazing, Lillian. The first time I went, I was completely blown away by just being there, and every year it just gets even more fun.”

            “Am I going to be sitting with you?”

            “Of course you are!” he exclaimed. “Right next to me. You’re my girlfriend, and my date, after all.”

            “Of course,” she echoed quietly. But the public doesn’t know that. At least not the majority of them. And she didn’t even want to begin worrying about Britney being there.

            “So start looking for a dress. And if you can’t find a good one, just tell me and I’ll handle everything,” he went on. “It will be awesome, I promise.”

            She nodded, curling her legs under her. “Okay.”

            His head jerked up at the sound of Chris knocking on the door, signifying that it was time to go to the movies. “I have to go now, alright? I love you, Princess.”

            “Love you, too,” she said softly. “I miss you.”

            Justin, who had been darting around the hotel room to grab his jacket, watch, and wallet, paused in his haste upon hearing the subtle tone in her words. “I miss you, Lillian. Every day, more and more.”

            Then they both hung up their phones, the direct contact broken and once again separated. Justin grabbed his wallet and flipped it open, slowly calming down as he gazed at the small photo of Lillian he kept. It was taken last year, when she had been goofing off with JC and Lance, and he had covertly snapped a picture of the scene. A tender smile grew at seeing her special beauty and essence captured from that single moment in time. He loved her so much.


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