Chapter 24

“I know I'll see you soon
And like a distant star in the night
I'm reaching out for you.”

                        - “Tomorrow,” Dexter Freebish



            It had been so long. He stared out of the tinted rear window of the rented SUV, trying to remember how things had been the last time he was here.

            He had dragged his heavy suitcase out to the family station wagon by himself, scoffing at his dad when he had tried to help with the luggage. After all, he reasoned, this is the first time I’ll be alone away from them. I’ll be completely on my own in the Mickey Mouse Club. I need to be an adult now.

            Of course, his new independence didn’t prevent him from bringing along his favorite stuffed animal, a red and white floppy-eared dog that wore a pair or red overalls. It was his good luck charm. He figured he would need it where he was going.

            Looking at the familiar roads and houses again, JC could almost conjure up the many memories he had about his childhood and turn them into reality again. The hidden dirt path to the community park and the small patch of honey suckle, the crack in the sidewalk where he had tripped and scarred his knee while trying to skateboard, the lamppost in front of the his old friend Casey’s house where they would try to catch fireflies after dinner. It really did feel like only yesterday.

            He voiced his thoughts out loud, and Lance turned around to smile at him from the front passenger seat. “Homecoming, huh?”

            “Something like that, yeah.”

            “I’m glad you thought of this, Jace,” Justin commented from beside him. “A little vacation was just what we needed.”

            “A working vacation,” he corrected. “We only have a week to find some musicians, and only two weeks to write all the songs.”

            “Still, brilliant idea,” Justin maintained. He slouched down further in the back seat. “How’d you think of it, anyway?”

            “I didn’t.” It had all been someone else’s idea. He hadn’t even supported it in the beginning.

            “Then who…” Lance trailed off, quickly piecing things together. “It was Hannah’s idea, wasn’t it?”

            JC nodded. “She surprised me, to be completely honest. The things she suggested were actually interesting.” He shook his head, blushing. “I didn’t mean it like that. See what happens when I talk about Brat? The wrong thing always comes out.”

            “Of course, you had to shut your big mouth before you could hear anything she said,” Justin commented with a smirk.

            JC didn’t try to defend himself, knowing that he had been in the wrong. “That’s why I chose to come to D.C. to record this album. I’m going to fix what I messed up.”

            “And all the more fun for us to watch,” Lance said, relishing the chance to see his usually calm and in-control friend do some serious groveling.

            “Just remember the main reason we’re all here,” JC reminded him.

            “Yeah, yeah, we know by now,” Justin replied dryly. “’To get the respect of critics, to prove ourselves to the public, to-‘”

            “To have some fun,” JC interrupted with a smile. “Let’s go crazy with this album. We’re not going to be really distributing it anyway, at least not to the general public. This one’s going to be personal.”

            “Are you serious?” Lance questioned disbelievingly. “What about what you told Johnny? The whole ‘break the boy-band mold’ thing?”

            “We can do that and still get some fun out of it,” he reasoned. “See, that’s what I finally figured out. We’re trying so damn hard to impress people, me especially, that we’re struggling through everything. With the greatest singers, they always look like they’re having the time of their lives singing. We don’t, not anymore. And I think people pick up on that.”

            “Does this mean Daddy’s finally loosening up?” Justin asked with an impish grin.

            JC smiled back. “Hell, yeah. I know I’m kind of late, but I’m trying.”

            Justin shrugged. “That’s enough for us.”

            JC hoped it would be enough for Hannah, too.


*                       *                       *


            Hannah licked the adhesive of the envelope, grimacing at the bitter chemical taste. Then she pressed the envelope closed and stuck a first-class stamp on the front. Done. Now maybe some of her guilt would be relieved.

            After a day or so of indecision, she had finally resolved to write a letter to Lillian. She figured it was the least she could do, considering how she had practically fled from L.A. when her friend had been in trouble. All she had to do to find Lillian’s address was go to the MIT website and search the student directory.

            Hannah hoped that Lillian would understand the letter for the apology it really was.

            And now, back to the daily grind. She put the envelope next to her keys, where she would remember to drop it off in the mailbox the next morning.

            8:30, and she was already in her pajamas. Her nightlife became increasingly pitiful every day. She settled on the couch with her notebook, knowing that tonight would be just like last night- uneventful and long.

            Touching her pen to paper, she picked up where she had left off on her poem at least a week ago.


            The night has a thousand eyes,

            And the day but one;

            Yet the light of the bright world dies

            With the dying sun.*


            A chime of the doorbell interrupted her stream of thoughts. Hannah frowned and waited a moment, wondering why someone would be at her apartment unannounced on a Sunday night. She didn’t know of any door-to-door salesman that came this late.

            The doorbell rang again, followed by an insistent knock.

            Quickly she stood up and went to answer the door, hoping that no one was in serious trouble.

            Without thinking to peer through the spyglass, she swung open the door and stared into the face of an apparition.

            “Josh,” she greeted, the surprise clear in her voice.

            “Hi,” he replied quietly, his blue eyes shining in the light spilling from inside the door. He glanced down, then back up the length of her figure, appraising her appearance. Then he laughed to himself. “Snowflake pajamas, huh?”

            Hannah blushed, realizing what an immature slob she must have looked like to him. “They were a Christmas present from my mom. We didn’t get much snow last winter.”

            He nodded, still smiling. “Yeah, I remember how much you love you.” She had been absolutely ecstatic during the blizzard of ’87. Of course, he hadn’t been so amused when she had flung that snowball into his face.

            “Yeah.” She stared at him, trying to figure out which question, out of the many on her mind, she wanted to ask first.

            “Can I come in?” he asked, gesturing at the open doorway. “It’s kind of cold. Especially compared to Orlando and L.A.”

            She blushed again and stepped aside for him to enter. It was too embarrassing. She was always doing her best impression of a tomato whenever he was around.

            JC felt her behind him as she closed and locked the door. He didn’t turn around, instead gazing at her apartment and looking for any clues that would reveal more of the woman Brat had grown into. He had to keep reminding himself that this was not the same little tomboy anymore.

            He grinned suddenly. Despite the pajamas.

            “I guess you’re wondering what I’m doing here,” he began, watched her as she came around him.

            Hannah nodded, waiting for him to continue. Part of her was glad that he was taking the initiative. She had no idea what she was supposed to do in this sort of situation. Also, her shock at seeing him again so unexpectedly was just starting to fade.

            “We’re in DC to make our new album,” JC explained, following her as she led him into the living room. He kept talking as he sat down on the small sofa. “It’s a small project. Johnny couldn’t really endorse it with Jive’s money, so he gave us a short break to record it ourselves.”

            “Why couldn’t he endorse it?” she wondered.

            “Well, it’s sort of a new playing field for us. We’re going to record a live studio album.” He waited to see her reaction to his news. Would she remember who had proposed the idea in the first place?

            “That was my idea,” she realized, her lips curving upward in a shy but flattered smile. “You’re actually using my idea?” After the way he had brushed her off, she had thought that that would be the end of it.

            “Yeah, and it’s a good idea. A great one, actually.” He couldn’t believe how happy she looked. She wasn’t jumping around the room ecstatically, but he knew that this was one of those silent celebrations, when the moment had to be savored and not displayed for the whole world to see. And for some reason, he became happier at being the one to witness her joy.

            “Is that why you came?” she asked after a moment of quiet contemplation. “To just tell me about your new album?” So this visit would be strictly professional. No talk of what had happened in L.A.

            “No, not just that.” He leaned closer to her.

            She braced herself for what he would say. Or do.

            “I want you to help us?”

            “What? How?”

            “I know how good you are with music,” he said, halting her when she automatically began to shake her head. “No, just listen to me. I’ve seen you with Litz. And you’re a better cellist that you give yourself credit for.”

            “No,” she broke in, “I’m really not. There are so many that are better than me.”

            “Hannah, believe me, you are,” he argued. “I don’t know why you always underestimate yourself with your talent when others can see how it comes naturally to you.”

            “Are you kidding?” she scoffed. “Josh, I’ve never had any natural talent with anything, including the cello. I’ve had to work three times as hard as anyone else just to be on the same level!”

            “Well, what if during all that hard work something clicked, and you didn’t realize it?”

            “I would realize something like that.” Wouldn’t she? But then again, she did get the first cello chair for the Grammy performance. And her conductor had given her that solo in the new concerto.

            “Good, at least I’ve got you thinking. Because I want you to help us with the album.”


            “Yes. Collaborate with us to make the instrumental arrangements, help us put together a studio band, toss some ideas around with us when we have writer’s block- or whatever you call it for music.”

            “You really think I could help you?” she asked disbelievingly. “But what about all your producers and writers and -”

            “They’re not helping us with this album, and we don’t want them to, anyway. This whole project is going to be small and personal. We have to do the entire recording in three weeks. That doesn’t give us much time to write the songs, rehearse them, form a band, find a studio, and so on. I need to know if you’re in, Hannah.”

            She fidgeted with the sleeve of her pajama shirt. “I want to be in.”

            “Then do it.”

            “I can’t, though! I have a day job, you know. And I’ve never been involved in something like this. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do or how I’m supposed to do it.” She gazed at him. “Don’t you think that could pose a problem?”

            “No,” he answered decisively. “Everyone has to start somewhere, right?”

            She had no answer, but he could that that he would have to turn on the heavy persuasion. Common sense was still holding her back, but he, for one, was sick of common sense.

            “Look, you’re the only person I’ve asked to get involved with the album. Even if you say no, I’m not going to look for someone else, because you’re the only one I can trust to handle it. Come on, Hannah, it was even your idea to begin with!” Her unwavering gray eyes studied him as she listened carefully. “And it’ll be fun, won’t it? You, me, the guys, and music. It’s so simple. I realize that the pressure of the Grammy performance made it hard for everyone, including us. But the album’s not going to be anything like that, I promise. No two-hour rehearsals and curfews and strict conductors. Only good friends having a good time.”

            The offer was so tempting. But he still had made no mention of their kiss or any change in their relationship, and she wanted to hear something that would make things easier for her to understand. She wanted to hold out until he acknowledged what had happened.

            Then Hannah realized that she could be holding out forever if she did that. The two of them had time skewed to their own separate paces, and right now the kiss was not a timely issue for them both.

            She wanted to show off her creative side. She wanted the fun Josh was promising. Most of all, though, she wanted to simply be with him while he was here.

            “I’m in,” she announced.

            JC jumped to his feet, beaming. “Great. You won’t regret anything, Hannah, trust me.”

            She laughed, trying to contain her own growing excitement at seeing his. “I know, I know. But right now you have to go. I need to get to sleep early tonight because I have a morning rehearsal tomorrow.”

            He nodded, making his way to the door and watching as she unlocked it for him. “I’ll call you tomorrow, then?” he asked as the door swung open and let the brisk February night air in.

            Hannah smiled. “That’d be great. After ten.”

            “After ten,” he agreed, taking a step outside. She began to close the door after him, but then he abruptly turned back and put his palm against it, halting his movement. She looked at him curiously.

            “I didn’t forget you know,” he said, his voice lowering. “About that night.”

            He knew she immediately understood what he was referring to when her cheeks colored and she hastily adjusted her glasses.

            “I didn’t think you did,” she answered softly. “I hoped you didn’t.”

            “We’ll talk about it later,” he promised before turning around and heading down the front steps to a waiting SUV parked along the side of the road.

            She swung the door shut behind him after seeing the SUV pull away from the curb. She leaned heavily against the door’s support. Suddenly she was breathless. He hadn’t forgotten.

* “The night has a thousand eyes…” by Francis William Bourdillon

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

Fanfiction Index