Chapter 7

“Once upon a time I was falling in love

But now I’m only falling apart.”

                        -“Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler



            “You guys were really good today. Even Chris shut up and paid some attention,” Lance commented.

            Hannah laughed. “Thanks, I guess. When are you going to start singing with us?”

            He shrugged. “I don’t know. Next week, I think. Don’t worry, we got plenty of time to practice.”

            They were sitting at the edge of the stage amidst the rush of the other musicians packing their instruments and music away. It had been another successful rehearsal, and the chatter that filled the auditorium signaled everyone’s eagerness to head back to their hotel rooms.

            Hannah glanced up as her cello case lying beside her was moved to make way for another person to join her and Lance.

            “Hey guys! Fill me in on the 411!” Joey exclaimed enthusiastically.

            Lance rolled his eyes. “We weren’t talking about anything important. Just the rehearsing and whatnot.”

            “Wasn’t Bobbie supposed to show up?” Joey asked. “I heard JC talking about it on the phone last night. That damn boy never hangs the phone up. ‘Sleeping is my hobby.’ Whatever.”

            Hannah looked at him in sympathy. She had noticed the dark bags under both his and JC’s eyes today. “That bad, huh?”

            Joey nodded. “We better switch rooms soon. I’m not getting any sleep. Granted, she’s calling from the west coast, but show some consideration!”

            “Yeah, because you have the best manners around,” Lance said sarcastically.

            “And what’s that supposed to mean, Lansten?” Joey questioned, glaring.

            “I’m just saying that incessant farting is not the best way to make a good impression,” Lance answered casually, shrugging.

            Joey groaned. “Man, I will never live that one incident down! Look, Chris promised that the black beans were good. It’s not my fault!”

            Hannah cracked up at hearing about yet another situation involving Chris and Joey. Joey turned red in embarrassment as his two friends started laughing.

            “Well, I have some nice stories about Lance, too!” Joey offered. “Like one time, at band camp-“

            Lance stared at him. “Um…that’s from a movie.”

            Joey’s frowned as he thought that over. “Oh yeah.”

            “So changing the subject,” Lance said abruptly, “Tell us more about yourself, Hannah.”

            Hannah paused, not expecting their attention to suddenly focus on her. Lance’s green-tinged eyes looked at her curiously from the left and Joey’s chocolate gaze peered at her on the right. I understand why millions of girls love them now…

            “There’s not much to say. I grew up in Maryland, in Bowie. Then after Juilliard, I moved back and live in D.C. now,” she said uninterestingly. “And here I am today.”

            “Wow, Hannah, that was so exciting I almost fell asleep,” Joey joked.

            “Seriously,” Lance added, stifling a yawn. “Let’s try again, this time with some pizzazz!”

            Joey started laughing. “You freak, you just said ‘pizzazz.’ What a loser!”

            Hannah immediately slapped her hands against their chests as they attempted to lunge at each other. “Hey, I’m in the middle here. Let’s try to keep the physicality to a minimum.”

            “Is physicality even a word?” Lance wondered.

            “Who cares?” Joey grinned. He draped his arm over Hannah’s shoulders. “This is all the physicality I need,” he proclaimed, leering suggestively.

            “This is not a manwich!” Hannah protested, throwing his arm off. “No touching.” After successfully escaping his grasp, she sighed as she saw JC standing at the doors of the auditorium, peering out anxiously. He’s probably worried about Bobbie.

            Lance observed the glumness in her expression, correctly attributing its cause to JC. Then he caught a glance of Lily and Justin cuddled together in their seats, whispering to each other. Lily was going to leave for the airport as soon as she met Bobbie. She had promised JC.

            “Relationships sure are a bitch,” he commented.

            Hannah immediately turned to him, a little put off that he had noticed. “You’ve been in that boat too, huh?”

            Joey snorted. “What Lansten knows about women could fill a thimble.”

            Lance shook his head calmly, not being baited. “I’ve had my share of the ups-and-downs.”

            Joey nodded, agreeing. It was true. They had all gotten their share. Some of them had experienced too much.

            “Did you ever notice that so many songs are written about love?” Hannah mused. “This person once said that the Cherokee sing about rain only when there’s a drought. Maybe people sing about love because they’re lacking.”

            They thought that over, each one remembering their own failed past relationships.


*                       *                       *


            Justin nudged Lillian. “Check it out,” he prompted.

            She looked up and saw Joey, Hannah, and Lance seated on the edge of the now empty stage, their legs dangling off the edge. The three of them were wearing the exact same expression of deep thought.

            “I wonder what they’re thinking about,” she said.

            Justin shrugged. “Beats me. At least Joey and Lance are getting along with Hannah, if not JC.”

            “I still don’t get him sometimes. I always thought he was the sweetest person in the world, not the immature guy he becomes when Hannah’s around,” Lillian explained. “Why is he acting this way?”

            “JC is JC. He has his reasons,” Justin said, for lack of a better response. “He has sides to him that no one even knows about. We’re all like that.”

            Lillian turned around for a second to see that he was still pacing at the entrance to the auditorium. For his sake, I hope Bobbie gets here soon.


*                       *                       *


            JC checked his watch again, for what seemed like the fiftieth time in the past few minutes. Three forty…she’s an hour late! He took a deep breath and forced himself to stop wearing the floor down. It’s okay. Probably just traffic or something. And LaGuardia has a lot of delays. That must be it.

            He didn’t really understand why he was so eager to see Bobbie again. Of course, she was his girlfriend and everything. But they had been separated before, and for a longer time than the month that had passed this time. Ever since she had called to tell him that she was coming, he had been acting jittery. This waiting was only making it worse.

            Sighing, he resumed his pacing across the length of the double-door entrance to the auditorium, his eyes looking up periodically to check if anyone was approaching.

            Then he froze as a dark-haired figured ran up the stairs to the doors.



*                       *                       *


            “Life sucks.”

            “I know.”

            “We suck.”


            “Your mom sucks.”

            “I completely agre-“ Joey paused. “Hey, wait a sec! Who said that?”

            Chris plopped down beside him, licking a fudgesicle. “Guess who.” The three stared at him, until the feeling of their gazes caused him to look up. “What?”

            “You realize that it’s thirty degrees outside,” Lance said.

            Chris nodded. “Oh yeah. Of course I do.”

            “And…” Lance trailed off, looking at him meaningfully.

            “What?” Chris asked, biting the end of the fudgesicle off. “And what?”

            “You’re eating a popsicle!” Joey burst out.

            “No, my friend. A fudgesicle. Duh,” Chris replied, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, why were you all acting so sad?”

            They gaped at him as he continued to lick the cold treat innocently.

            “Uh, we were talking about relationships and love,” Lance explained, the first to recover from Chris’ abrupt change of topic. “It got us thinking.”

            “Ah,” Chris said, nodding in understanding. “I see. Well, speaking of relationships and love…” He pointed over to the doors.

            Hannah quickly looked over, a heavy feeling in her chest.


*                       *                       *


            “Hey there, sweetie,” Bobbie greeted, smiling.

            JC enveloped her in a hug, her cheek cold against his. “What took you so long?”

            She pulled back and showed him a shopping bag. “I stopped by Saks. They were having a sale.”

            JC simply looked at her, taking in the flush of her face and the windblown hair. Her green eyes were sparkling with uninhibited excitement as she showed him a new skirt she had bought. 

            “What? JC, what’s with that face?” she asked as she put the skirt back in the bag, puzzled. “It’s okay. I’m here now, right? No worries.”

            He nodded. “You’re right. I just missed you.”

            “Well I missed you too, of course!” she replied, patting his cheek gently.

            JC smiled and hugged her again. He closed his eyes as he breathed in the scent of her hair, expecting to feel…something. But after they broke away, there was nothing there. No…there must have been something. Happiness, contentment, something. He stared into her eyes, searching.

            She looked at him oddly. “Are you okay, honey?”

            Something changed in his eyes, and it washed over his whole face, altering it. “Yeah…I’m fine. I just- I’m being silly.”

            He pulled her further into the auditorium, signaling everyone over.

            Hannah followed the others as they obediently climbed off the stage to go greet Bobbie. She was a very beautiful woman. Her smile was wide as they walked up the gentle slope of the aisle.

            Hannah unconsciously cracked the knuckles of her left hand, nervous at meeting JC’s girlfriend and even more worried at being compared to her in JC’s eyes.

            Someone took her hand soothingly, loosening the fist she had made. She glanced up and looked into Lance’s reassuring gaze. She smiled tensely at him.

            JC took in the sight of his gathered friends. He mustered up a happy, lovey-dovey grin. “Bobbie, you know the guys already. This is Lillian,” he introduced, motioning to his friend who was grasping Justin’s hand tightly.

            Lillian stepped forward and shook Bobbie’s hand with her free one. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

            Bobbie glanced curiously at Justin’s and Lillian’s joined hands but quickly covered it. “Likewise,” she replied, smiling.

            “Oh yeah, that’s Hannah,” JC said, pointing over at her.

            Hannah reached out to Bobbie, silently observing her as they shook hands. She wanted to see some form of malice, or an ugly trait that would give her a reason to dislike her. But I can’t. There was nothing objectionable at all. And the desire that she had felt for discovering anything immediately made her feel shameful.

            “I’m with the orchestra,” she explained. ‘I’m with the orchestra’? That’s almost as bad as ‘I’m with the band.’ Come on, Hannah, try to say something intelligent.

            Bobbie nodded. “Really? That must be pretty fun.” She smiled again.

            Hannah looked at her smile and wanted to groan in disappointment. That’s a Colgate smile if I ever saw one. Face it; it’s hopeless.

            “It’s great to meet both of you,” Bobbie said. “We should all go out sometime. Girl’s night out, you know.”

            “Lillian can’t,” Justin spoke up. “She’s leaving today.”

            “Actually, I should be leaving for the airport right now,” Lillian said. “I want to beat the traffic and everything.”

            JC nodded. “Remember to write and call.”

            She hugged the guys and Hannah and waved goodbye to Bobbie before heading outside with Justin by her side.

            “We ought to head back to the hotel,” Lance pointed out.

            “Yeah, I’m damn hungry,” Joey exclaimed.

            Bobbie laughed. “Joey, you’re still the same.”

            He shrugged. “Someone has to be.” With that cryptic remark, he grabbed Lance’s shoulder to propel him out the door, who in turn yanked Hannah with him, who waved at Chris to follow them.

            “So I guess we’re alone now,” Bobbie said, turning to JC and wrapping her arms around his waist.

            “Yeah,” he agreed softly. “Alone.”


*                       *                       *


            “Can I come with you?”

            Lillian shook her head. “No way. You have to march your hot self out of this terminal and back to the hotel. I would be in so much trouble if I tried to stash you in the overhead compartment.”

            Justin laughed. “That’s okay. I’d visit you in jail, you know.”

            She smiled. “I mean it, Justin. Turn around and go to Mike. He’s waiting for you.”

            “I’ll be waiting for you!” he proclaimed passionately, slapping his palm to his chest. “Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you,” he crooned.

            “No, please, no scene!” she pleaded with him. “Every time I leave, you have to make a scene.”

            He winked at her and swooped in for a quick kiss before turning around and sashaying back to Mike, who had buried his head in his hands as soon as the first notes had come out of Justin’s mouth.

            “Whatever it takes, or how my heart breaks, I will be right here waiting for you,” Justin continued to sing, despite the attention he was starting to attract.

            Lillian couldn’t stop herself. She ran back to Justin, grabbed him for one last kiss, and raced back to board the plane.

            Justin stared after her, no longer belting out the Richard Marx song. Slowly, a wide smile broke across his face.

            “Did you see that, Mike?” he asked.

            His bodyguard nodded forlornly. “I sure did. I also see a whole bunch of girls heading this way,” he said, pointing down the terminal.

            Justin shrugged and patted his pockets. “Then let’s go greet them. Do you have a Sharpie?”

            He smiled as fans surrounded him and Mike. Mechanically, he signed their napkins and ripped-out scraps of available paper, chatting with them. The only thing he felt was the soft pressure of Lillian’s lips on his.


*                       *                       *


            Hannah and the guys, with the exception of JC and Justin, had decided to go grab a bite to eat at their hotel’s bar. She was beside herself with self-reproach.

            “Should I feel guilty?” she asked, stirring her Coke with her straw.

            “Nah,” Lance said, waving the suggestion away. “It’s completely understandable.”

            Hannah sighed. “I don’t know. It was horrible of me to hope that Bobbie would be flawed somehow. JC is my friend! Well…sort of. But you know what I mean, right?”

            Chris nodded. “Of course we do. It’s the green-eyed monster.”

            Joey looked up from practically inhaling the complimentary buffalo wings and paused. “The green-eyed monster? Lance?”

            “No, dumbass,” Chris said, rolling his eyes. “Envy. Jealousy. That green-eyed monster.”

            Joey sneered at him before turning back to his food.

            “Anyway, we’ve all been there before,” Lance reassured Hannah. “If not with relationships, then definitely with our careers.”

            “Really?” Hannah asked incredulously. “Why would any of you feel jealous of another person? You have practically everything you could ever want.”

            Lance scoffed. “Sure. Critics pan us over, half the population hates us, we’re the butt of jokes. I mean, you learn to take it in stride, and sometimes it’s funny to poke fun at ourselves, but at the end of the day…everything comes full circle.”

            “Plus,” Joey began, wiping a napkin over his mouth, “Even within the group there’s a tiny bit of competition.”

            Hannah stared at him curiously. “How so?”

            “Well, you notice that Lance and I don’t really have many…opportunities to show our voices off,” he explained. “Don’t get me wrong, JC and Justin are great singers. But sometimes-“

            “Sometimes we want to prove that we’re capable too,” Lance finished for him. Joey nodded his agreement.

            “Then why don’t you ask?” Hannah suggested.

            Lance shook his head. “Like people want to hear a bass solo. And anyway, those two write a lot of the songs, so they deserve to sing the leads.”

            Hannah nodded in sympathy. “Well, even if that’s true, we all know that every single part of an ensemble is important. The orchestra would sound weak without cellos and basses, and a group would too.”

            Chris sighed in satisfaction and tipped his chair back. “You know, it’s times like this that I’m grateful for my beautiful voice.”

            “You mean your helium voice,” Joey corrected.

            “Chipmunk on crack voice,” Lance added.

            “Boy reaching puberty voice,” Hannah said.

            “Oh, I got one!” Chris exclaimed. “Midget kicked in the nuts voice!”

            All four of them burst out laughing, and Chris smiled proudly. He took a sip of his beer. “Okay, now it’s Lance’s turn. I’ll go first. Butch drag queen voice.”

            Lance groaned and shook his head. “Man, that sucks. How ‘bout…Mike Tyson- before he began boxing.”

            Joey laughed. “The voice of God…if He were a drunk Mississippi cowboy.”

            Hannah giggled. “But what about Joey?”

            Chris and Lance looked at each other before turning to look at Joey.

            “Fat Italian,” they said together.

            Joey shook his head and threw his hands in the air. “Can’t argue with the truth.”

            “And Justin?”

            “White Michael Jackson,” all three of them decided.

            “Oh no, I don’t even want to ask about JC anymore,” Hannah said, laughing so hard that she had to lean away from the table because she was shaking it.

            “Constipated-“ Joey began.

            “-high-“ Lance continued.

            “-hamster,” Chris concluded with an air of decisiveness. “Definitely a constipated, high hamster.”

            They cracked up and high-fived each other.

            “What have I unleashed?” Hannah asked with trepidation.

            “Don’t worry,” Lance said, patting her back. “We all gotta cut loose sometime. It’s all in good fun.”

            She shook her head, smiling. “I’ll keep it a secret.”

            Joey threw back the rest of his drink and stood up. “Now that we’re all properly hyper, let’s go find something to do.”

            Chris looked at the rest of them. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” he asked with a devilish glint in his brown eyes and the corner of his mouth quirked mischievously.

            Joey and Lance nodded, grinning back.



*                       *                       *


            JC kissed Bobbie and waved at her as she climbed into a taxi. The moment the car turned the corner of the block his smile fell. In the cold of the night he stood thoughtfully, his breath appearing in white puffs of air. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

            He closed his eyes tiredly and signaled Dre over, who was standing discreetly a few yards away. They walked back to the hotel silently, their footsteps echoing on the pavement.

            It just wasn’t supposed to be like this. The mantra ran through JC’s mind over and over, and he couldn’t ignore it. The moment Bobbie had appeared, he had been expecting…something. Maybe some relief or companionship or a simple sign of love. But if anything had been there, he missed it.

            The entire night he was in anticipation, waiting for the moment that the spark came back, and he became whole again. If she was my salvation, I don’t feel any different. The restlessness and solemnity was still inside him. But I love her. If Bobbie can’t help me…who’s left.

            Dre glanced concernedly at his younger charge. He had never seen JC look so morose. Without saying a word, he gave him a supporting pat on the back.

            JC felt the brief action, but he only continued to stare at the concrete in front of him. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.


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