Chapter 8

“If dreams come true

I’ll be with you
I love that smile in your eyes.” 

                        -“If Dreams Come True”, Benny Goodman


            “I can’t believe you did that!” Hannah practically screeched. She grabbed a pillow from the bed she was sitting on and chucked it at the other bed, directly at Chris.

            He ducked it, giggling hysterically. “I don’t see what’s so bad about it.”

            “You wrote my telephone number in all the bathroom stalls! That sounds pretty bad to me!” she shouted. She searched around the bed with her hand, looking for more ammo.

            “Aw, it was only your hotel phone number,” Chris said, rolling his eyes at her behavior.

            Joey began laughing and that prompted him to burst out into giggles all over again.

            “You’re impossible,” she huffed, shoving the loads of sheets in her way off the bed and climbing to the ground. “I’ll get you back.”

            Chris snorted. “I sincerely doubt that.”

            Hannah merely gave him an enigmatic smile and went over to the door. She pulled on her shoes. “I’ll be back in a sec.”

            Before anyone could stop her, she had raced out of the room and slammed the door behind her.

            “Should I be worried?” Chris asked himself. He thought for a few seconds. “Nah. Stop laughing, Joey.”

            Joey buried his face in the bed. “Sorry,” came the muffled response. “This is just too funny.”

            Lance looked over from his seated position in front of the large TV. “I knew I should have stopped you from drinking all that Jolt. Now you’re hyper.”

            Chris nodded. “Yeah, Joseph. You can’t handle your caffeinated beverages.” Then he flopped down on the bed and started singing a tuneless song.

            Lance sighed and turned back to the television program. JC was gonna kill him for letting Chris discover their stash of Jolt. And worse, when he found out that Chris had decided to practically inhale Justin’s pixie sticks…Dead man walking.

            “I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves,” Chris sang out in that shrill voice of his. But because of his sugar high, his voice had become even louder and gratingly high-pitched.

            “I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves and this is how it goes,” Joey burst out, joining in on the fun.

            “Shut up!” Lance shouted. “That is so annoying.”

            “I think it’s getting on somebody’s nerves,” Chris said teasingly before dissolving into laughter.

            Hannah opened the door to be greeted with an odd scene. Chris was jumping on his bed, singing at the top of his lungs. Joey had wandered over to the minibar to examine what was left, and Lance was throwing anything he could get his hands on at Chris.

            She didn’t notice that someone else had followed her into room until the shocked voice erupted from behind her.

            “What the hell is going on here?!”

            Everyone paused in mid-action and turned to look at the newcomer.

            “Oh good, Juju, it’s only you,” Chris breathed in relief.

            Justin nodded and came into the room, thinking that it looked like a hurricane had run through it. Hurricane Chris. Forgetting to close the door, he immediately strode over to a pile of bedsheets and picked them up from the floor.

            “It may be me now, but you better clean up this mess before someone else sees it,” he commented sensibly.

            Chris snorted. “Fat chance.”

            “Who you callin’ fat?!” Joey demanded before cracking up. He drained the rest of the Jolt from the can he was holding and crushed it.

            “That’s my Jolt!” came an outraged shout.

            Hannah swiftly turned around and saw JC standing frozen in the empty doorway. His blue eyes were wide and his jaw was hanging open. She nearly cringed as his gaze took in the disarray of the room and its occupants…including her.

            “What is going on,” he bit out, taking a couple of cautious steps into the room.

            “Um…surprise?” Chris offered.

            JC walked over to Joey and examined the empty cans of Jolt littering the floor. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the Jolt was mine.”

            Joey immediately dropped the crushed can and pointed at Chris. “He made me do it.”

            “What?” Chris exclaimed. “I didn’t do anything. It was all Lance’s fault!”

            “Excuse me? My fault? I don’t think so, Keebler,” Lance refuted, shaking his head. “I had no part in this.” He turned to JC. “Look at my pupils. Notice how mine are not dilated…unlike some people’s.”

            “Damn,” Chris said. “He’s got us there.”

            JC sighed. He stopped Justin, who was scrambling around the room, tossing things back where they roughly belonged. “It’s okay, J. Just leave it.”

            Justin stared at him. “Are you sure?”

            He nodded. “It’s late. You should go back to your room and get some rest. Same with you, Lance.”

            “But what about the mess?” Lance asked, not used to seeing JC react so calmly.

            “Leave it,” JC repeated. He rubbed his hand over his eyes, tired and showing it.

            “We’re sorry,” Hannah said softly, sad that he was feeling so drained.

            He looked up and trained his eyes on her, their brilliant shade of blue now clouded over. “And what did you do?” he asked.

            “She didn’t do anything,” Joey defended. “If you need to punish someone, punish me. Better yet, punish Chris.”

            “Shut up,” Chris shot back. He turned back to JC. “But Hannah wasn’t even in here when we went crazy. Don’t blame her.”

            JC shook his head. Was he such a monster, that his friends jumped to defend someone from his wrath? What have I become? My friends actually think of me this way? “I’m not blaming you, Hannah,” he said murmured. “I only blame myself.” Then he turned around and walked out the open doorway.

            Justin stared after him. “Okay…and what just happened here?”

            “Hell if I know,” Lance muttered. “What’s eating Jace?”

            Hannah peeked out the room and saw him walking down the hall, his head down and shoulders sagging. It was like he had been broken. Her childhood hero had actually broken.

            “I have to go,” she excused, leaving the room and following him. She ran up to him and caught his arm. “Josh, wait.”

            He tugged his arm out of her grasp, his eyes filling with sad and frustrated tears at hearing his old name. I’m not Josh anymore. He was a different person. It’s JC now. “Leave me alone, Hannah.”

            “No, I won’t. You shouldn’t be alone like this. It doesn’t help anything,” she said, trying to pull him to a stop again.

            He gave an exasperated sigh and threw her hand off him. “What would you know about that? You have no idea what I’m feeling right now.”

            “Look, Josh,” she began, only to hesitate. “I mean JC. Whatever you’re calling yourself, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I know full well what you’re going through.”

            He finally stopped walking and turned to look at her. “You know what I’m going through,” he repeated incredulously. “Sorry, Brat, but I don’t believe that. You’ve never felt like this before. The feeling just eats at you, and empties you. All that’s left is bitterness and misery. So understand me when I say that, no, you have never been through what I am going through.”

            She gazed intently at him, shocked to see him like this. “Then explain to me. Tell me why.”

            He tore his eyes away from her searching stare. I shouldn’t have even started this conversation. “Go away,” he ordered, walking determinedly down the hall again.

            “No!” she exclaimed, catching up with him and planting herself in his path. “Where are you going, anyway?”

            “To get drunk,” he said. “What else?”

            “You’ll regret that,” she informed him. “You shouldn’t do it.”

            He scoffed. “Oh, and I’m going to listen to you. Sorry, I’m not drunk yet.” He tried to cut past her but she swiftly blocked his way.

            “Don’t be such a jerk,” she reprimanded. When he attempted to sidestep her she quickly managed to stop him again. “I could do this all day long,” she lied.

            “You’re so annoying,” he insulted. He pretended to head left before rushing to the right.

            “And you’re an idiot,” Hannah replied, cutting him off. “You’re not too fast, either.”

            JC let out a groan, his head pounding. “Get out of my way,” he said in a low voice.

            “Nope!” she answered flippantly. “Does ‘JC’ stand for ‘jerk commando’? Because if it doesn’t, you could have fooled me.”

            “And you wonder why I call you Brat,” he said sarcastically. “I suggest you move. Now.”

            “I suggest I don’t. Ever.”

            He observed her obstinacy and gave a resigned sigh. “Alright. Don’t blame me, then.” As gently as he could, while still showing he meant business, he pushed her shoulders.

            “Don’t push me,” she exclaimed. In return, she shoved him back.

            JC fell back a few steps, not expecting an answering push. A hard one too. He regained his control and stepped up close to her. “Don’t push me.

            She stared up at him, breathing in his cologne that mingled with his aftershave. His gaze was so close. So was his well-formed mouth. And that annoyingly stubborn chin. He’s intoxicating…

            He looked down at her, watching closely as her pupils focused on him. The odd gray color of her eyes shined from behind the lenses of her glasses, and a few stray wisps of hair had fallen from her ponytail and over her forehead. He couldn’t stop himself as his hand rose and gently touched her face, his fingers stretching to-

            What is he doing? He’s touching me. Why is he touching my face? Hannah’s breath picked up in anticipation.

            “Got your glasses!” he boasted, yanking them off.

            “Josh! JC! Ugh, whatever! Give them back!” she demanded, jumping up and trying to reach them as he held them far above her head.

            “Nuh uh, I don’t think so,” he said, smiling fatly. “Now who’s going to move?”

            “Not me,” she stated. “I think I’m very comfortable right here.”

            “Fine,” he decided. “Then I guess you won’t be wanting your glasses back. I wonder how you’ll read your sheet music tomorrow.”

            “I’ve got it memorized,” she retorted.

            “Then how will you watch TV and read the newspaper and walk around? You need these glasses,” JC argued. “You need them bad.”

            “No, I don’t. I have contacts.”

            He glared at her. “That’s not true.”

            “Isn’t it?” she asked calmly, his expression blurry to her.

            “It’s not fair!” he shouted. “Here, here are your stupid glasses. Jeez, all I wanted was a drink and some peace. But nooo, the little brat has to get in my way. Why does nothing go right for me?!”

            Hannah slipped her glasses back on and blinked as his annoyed face came back into focus. “There there, it’s alright,” she comforted, patting his back.

            “I’m going to sleep. At least you can’t bother me there,” he decided. He looked at her for a few more seconds before sighing in exasperation and heading back to his room.

            Hannah watched him retreat, letting herself smile after the door closed behind him. She was glad that he had opted to return her glasses, because the contacts thing was a bluff. If he had called it…she didn’t know what she’d be doing right now. Probably walking into a plant.

            For even those short minutes without her familiar glasses covering her face, she had felt terribly vulnerable and exposed. At least she hadn’t been able to see him clearly, or she would have probably crumbled under his examination.

            She walked to the elevators and pressed the button. At least he wasn’t sad anymore. She would rather he be mad at her than sad with himself. That was something she was definitely sure about. I never want to see you sad, Josh.


*                       *                       *


            “Jace, man, are you okay?”

            JC looked at his concerned friend and nodded. “I’m fine, Justin.” He climbed into the bed that Chris had switched with him, to make up for the mess he had made in the other room.

            “Because you look kinda annoyed,” Justin continued, not accepting his response. “What happened?”

            “I wanted to go get a drink from the bar, but a certain annoying pest stopped me,” JC explained, rolling his eyes. He rolled over onto his side, hoping that the action would dissuade Justin from carrying on the conversation.

            “Why did you want to go down to the bar?” Justin persisted.

            “No reason,” JC grumbled. “Just a bad day. That’s all.”

            “How so?”

            “Justin!” he exclaimed. “Stop asking so many questions and let me sleep! Please. I have the biggest headache because of Brat, and this isn’t helping anything.”

            There was silence from the other bed, and then the light switch clicked as Justin turned it off. “Sorry, I was only worried about you,” he mumbled apologetically.

            An uncomfortable mood settled over the two in the room. JC tried to force himself to go to sleep, but his conscious wouldn’t shut up. You didn’t have to be so mean about it. He’s only concerned. It’s not his fault.

            “J, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that,” he finally said, staring up at the ceiling. “It’s just…”

            “What?” Justin asked.

            “You know how sometimes you get that feeling? The one that hits you right in the chest? It’s like there’s something empty inside,” JC explained quietly. “And it’s not exactly sadness, and not depression either. It just doesn’t go away.”

            Justin thought his words over. I guess I’ve felt that way. The explanation was a little vague, but he got the gist of it. “Yeah. Is that what you’re feeling?”

            JC sighed. “I don’t know how to make it go away. I thought that maybe when Bobbie came, it would disappear. But it didn’t.”

            “How long have you felt like this?” Justin demanded, growing even more worried.

            “I don’t know,” came the confused reply. “On and off, for I guess a few weeks. But J, don’t think I’m going to do something stupid. I’m not suicidal or anything.”

            “I know,” Justin assured him. “But if this is bothering you so much, maybe you should find a way to fix it.”

            JC frowned in the dark. He wished it were as simple as that.

            “Were you like this the whole day?”

            He pondered the question. “Actually, I wasn’t,” he said in surprise. “I wasn’t when Hannah stopped me in the hall.”

            “Well, that’s good,” Justin offered optimistically.

            JC snorted rudely. “Is it? You should have seen her, man. She was so annoying! She shoved me. It’s like she hasn’t even grown up after all these years.”

            Justin laughed. “Hannah shoved you? Did it hurt?”

            “What?! No, it didn’t hurt. What are you implying, boy?” JC mock-threatened.

            “Hey, I ain’t implying nothing!” Justin exclaimed. “But you were the one whining about it. ‘She shoved me’,” he mimicked in a high-pitched voice. “’Oh boo hoo!’”

            “I will so get you when this headache’s gone,” JC promised.

            “I’ll be sure to hide the Advil,” Justin answered, still laughing. “Hannah shoved you. That’s great! Yet another reason to like her.”

            Their threats continued in the no longer stifling atmosphere of the room. Neither one of them paused to think about how the barely acknowledged topic of Bobbie was moved over to make room for their discussion of Hannah. It didn’t strike either one of them as odd.


*                       *                       *


            “Hey, Lillian, these are for you,” Karen said, tossing her friend a stack of envelopes.

            “Thanks. Where are you going?” Lillian asked, flipping through the usual fare of junkmail and bills.

            “Clubbin’, girl! Wanna come?” Karen stood in front of the front hallway’s mirror, doing some last minute primping.

            “No, I can’t. I have to catch up on some schoolwork,” Lillian explained. “But you go have fun. Don’t get into any trouble.”

            Karen laughed. “Yes, mom.” She grabbed her keys, gave Lillian a departing wave, and sweeped out the door.

            Lillian picked out two envelopes from the rest, both of them with handwritten addresses and no company logo anywhere to be seen. Finally. Some real mail. She hoped that one was from Justin.

            Ripping open the first envelope eagerly, she drew out a folded piece of white paper. There was nothing written on it. Curious, she opened it and a small picture fell out. It was the size of a wallet photo.

            She smiled as she realized that it was a photograph of her and Justin. A white heart was drawn around their heads, probably from a white-out pen. But there was something odd about the picture. She and Justin weren’t looking at the camera. They were talking with each other and seemed to be ignoring the photographer. And the quality wasn’t very good, either.

            Then Lillian paused. The clothes they were wearing. The background. It was from New York, only a few days ago. Why would Justin send me a picture like this? Neither of us are even smiling.

            She shook her head and reached for the second envelope. She quickly opened it and took its contents out. It was a letter.


Hey there Princess,

            I’m already missing you. Did you get my little surprise? I know it was a little weird, but I thought it was unique. How’s school? I hope they’re not killing you up there. Remember my offer; I still need a personal assistant! And no, I don’t think Lance would be a good candidate. I know you too well, don’t even try to suggest something like that. Anyway, just wanted to tell you that I love you, and I miss seeing your beautiful smile everyday. I think Mike misses you, too. Today he asked me if I would shut up if he brought you back. Yeah, that man is hilarious. Write back, sweetie.

                                                                        Love always,



P.S.- Here’s a kiss for you. <Muah> Yes, I really kissed the paper.


            Lillian smiled happily, laughing. He was so sweet. And poor Mike. If he wasn’t already bald, his hair would be falling out in clumps. Being on the receiving end of Justin’s persistence was not easy.

            She picked the picture back up and shrugged. Well, if he thinks it’s unique…I guess it’s okay. She placed it on the coffee table and went back to writing up her lab report.



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