13 *rated R for language*
a sin, is it a crime
you dear, like I do?
it’s a crime then I’m guilty
of dreaming of you.”
-Ruth Etting, “Guilty”
those two look awfully chipper this morning,” Lance groaned, clutching his
head between his hands.
turned to regard Lillian and Justin playing a videogame at the front of the bus.
“That’s because they’re not nursing huge hangovers,” he replied.
knew it was a bad idea to drink so much last night. Why did I keep accepting
those drinks? Ugh, somebody shoot me,” his green-eyed friend pleaded.
Lillian had the right idea about the whole alcohol-is-bad thing,” Joey said
hoarsely, his eyes closed against the harsh glare of the sunlight coming in
through the side windows.
it’s so darn crazy it just might work,” added JC. “Someone slap me the
next time I order a margarita. And slap me harder when I order a second one.”
four of them were sprawled randomly on the couch and cushions in the den area of
the bus. Lillian was sitting cross-legged beside Justin, laughing as she
indiscriminately jammed the buttons of the Dreamcast controller. Justin was
shouting at the top of his lungs, much to the chagrin of their four older
fair! You’re not allowed to just keep doing the same move over and over.
That’s cheap, Lillian, and you know it!”
up, Justin, you’re just whining because I’m beating you so easily,” she
replied breezily, and continued to shove the different buttons as fast as she
could. On the television screen, her female character was seen thoroughly
kicking the butt of Justin’s character.
why I hate ‘Soul Calibur,’” Justin pouted, throwing down his own
controller as the screen displayed her character doing a victory pose. “It’s
not based on strategy at all. Any amateur could win.”
this amateur just did, so tough luck,” she replied flippantly. “To make it
easier for you, we’ll both be the character you’re best with.”
we’ll both be Kilik,” he said, choosing a young martial artist. She chose
Kilik also, and their next fight began.
Look who’s beating who!” Justing crowed, turning around to boast to his
squinted at the TV. “Lily’s beating your ass again,” he stated.
he exclaimed, spinning back around just in time to see his Kilik fall down.
“Not again! Okay, that’s it, Lillian. You have to play with your eyes
sighed at his outrageous command, but obeyed. “It’s not going to help
you,” she warned.
see,” he answered stubbornly. “Strategy will win out in the end.”
turned to his friends. “Doesn’t this seem just a tad uneven?” he asked.
all nodded, and he concluded, “Okay, just making sure I’m not going
howl of outrage reverberated throughout the bus. “I can’t believe this! How
did you knock me out with your eyes closed?!”
just give it up,” Chris suggested. “No need to embarrass yourself more.”
continue this later,” he warned Lillian before turning the Dreamcast off.
got up to sit next to Lance. “So, how does it feel to be twenty-two?”
hell,” he muttered. “Unless a trip to Hangover City sounds like your idea of
wouldn’t know,” she answered innocently. “I’ve never had a hangover.”
on, Lance, don’t get snippy. Or we’re not gonna give you your present,”
present?” Lance wanted to know.
replied for Justin. “We all got you something, but you seemed kind of
preoccupied last night, what with the heavy drinking and flirting. So we saved
it for today.”
couldn’t help but smile at his two younger friends’ eager expressions.
“Fine, fine. What’d you get me?”
reached into his pocket and pulled out a small gift-wrapped box. “Open it,
open it!” he demanded eagerly.
took the package and unraveled the ribbon slowly. Then he carefully pried the
tape off and unfolded the wrapping paper.
Come on, Lance, I know you’re slow, but this is insane!” Justin complained.
grinned slyly at his friend, ignoring his pounding headache. “Faster’s not always
better,” he stated. The other guys smiled knowingly, while Justin glared and
Lillian’s cheeks colored.
finally took opened the box and to the anticipation of his friends, pulled out a
chain with a cross dangling on the end. The pendant spun on its chain, catching
the rays of the sun streaming through the window and reflecting small sparks of
light. It was beautiful.
turned to Justin and Lillian, who looked at him and waited for his approval.
“Guys, this is unbelievable. It’s too perfect. Thank you so much,” he
said, still a little amazed at having received such a thoughtful gift.
hugged him quickly, glad that he liked his present. “Look on the back,” she
turned the cross over, and in tiny script a message was engraved. “To Lance on
his twenty-second birthday,” he read aloud. “Thank God for friends who
dearer grow as years increase.”
let out a collective “Aww” at the sincere inscription.
from a poem,” Lillian explained. “It’s by Thomas Curtis Clark. I found it
in one of my old poetry books, and we thought it applied to the situation.”
does,” Lance answered. “Thank you guys so much. I’m just speechless.” He
hugged Lillian one more time and then grabbed Justin to hug him, too.
to think,” Joey spoke up, “I only got you porn.”
I’m only going to tell you this one last time. We are not together. We will
never be together. So stop clinging onto me!”
Justy-“ Elaine protested, still holding his arm tightly.
do not call me that! I hate that name!” Justin practically screamed in her
face. Their conversation had started out bad, and it had gone downhill from
there. He didn’t know how much more obvious he could make his intentions. She
just wasn’t understanding him. Or maybe she was refusing to understand. Either
way, he was sick of arguing with her.
eyes were clouded, and she was crying. But Justin knew they were only crocodile
tears. Her flawless mascara wasn’t even running. The whole image she presented
even try crying, Elaine. That won’t work with me.”
glared at him, her tears immediately stopping. “Fine! Excuse me for loving
someone who doesn’t love me back!”
rolled his eyes, exasperated. “You don’t love me. You love the status. You
love the attention. But you sure as hell don’t love me.”
and I suppose you’ll find someone who loves you, and not those other things?
Who are we talking about, Lillian?” she demanded sarcastically.
didn’t say that. Stop making assumptions. When I find that person, I’ll be
the first to rub it in your face, believe me,” he retorted. I can’t
believe I ever got involved with this girl.
for you. You go and find that person. But in the end you’ll come back to
me,” she smirked.
sure, Elaine. Just leave me the hell alone,” he told her, already walking away
you say, Justy,” she mocked.
ignored her and continued down the hall to his hotel room. As an afterthought,
he turned back around to address her fuming figure once more.
you better not bother Lillian,” he warned. She merely glared at him in
response and flounced away in the opposite direction.
wasn’t troubled at all. Of course, he didn’t want their parting to be so
angry, but it was the only way to drive the message home. Subtleness wouldn’t
work with Elaine.
he grinned. He didn’t have to worry about her anymore. He was free from her
clutching hands and annoying simpering. She was hot, but definitely lacking in
other departments. And the physical part of their strained relationship
wouldn’t have lasted forever.
wanna be a fool for you, just another player in your game for two, you may hate
me but it ain’t no lie,” he sang softly to himself. He glanced back, and
seeing that she wasn’t in the hall anymore, he shouted at the top of his
lungs, “Baby bye bye bye!”
a small whoop, he hurried to his room to tell JC what had just happened.
little bitch,” came the spiteful accusation.
turned to look at Elaine confusedly. She had been brushing her hair and humming
to herself in front of the mirror when Elaine had stormed into the room and
she answered dumbly.
said that you’re a little bitch,” Elaine repeated angrily. “And don’t
act stupid with me. I know what you did.”
did I do?”
if you want me to make it easier for you to understand, Justin’s mad at me.
Because of you! You must have told him something. I can’t believe it. He must
be sick. Delirious maybe,” Elaine mused.
mad at you?” Lillian asked, trying to keep the eagerness out of her voice. It’s
about time! I knew Justin wasn’t blind. Elaine’s tricks wouldn’t work for
I not just say that?! Yes, he’s mad at me! Ugly and deaf, huh
Lillian?” she questioned cattily.
rolled her eyes, deciding to not respond. Sometimes it was just better that way.
She mentally continued to hum a song to herself. Stop, drop, shut ‘em down
open up shop.
to me!” Elaine demanded.
did you just say?” she breathed.
said no. No, I am not going to listen to you. No, I am not ugly. No, I am
not deaf. No, Justin did not get mad at you because of me,” Lillian stated
dare-“ Elaine began, grabbing her arm viciously and digging her nails into the
just did!” Lillian cut her roommate off, yanking her arm out of the tenacious
grasp. “As far as I know, Justin’s mad at you because you are a
bitch. Because you are deaf. And you might not realize it, but you’re
the one who’s ugly. Look in the mirror one day, Elaine,” she advised,
uncaringly pushing her roommate out of her way and leaving the room.
was left standing staring at her reflection. Her peaches-and-cream complexion
was blotched red, her carefully painted mouth was hanging open and gasping for
air, and her blue eyes were narrowed in small slits.
in the hallway, a high-pitched shriek could be heard coming from room 718.
can’t believe this. I just can’t believe this,” JC repeated, shaking his
head back and forth.
it,” Tim said. “I didn’t think it was possible either, but the facts are
right in front of us.”
Chris protested. “There must be something wrong with the file. It can’t be
were sitting with Joey, Lance, and Justin in one of the hotel’s conference
rooms. Various crew managers and production staff members were positioned around
the perimeter of the room.
stared blankly at the paper in front of him. He thought that his eyes must be
lying. But it was there. In black ink.
Lillian Anna. DoB: Sept. 25, 1981. Areas of Training: computer programming and
software, technical engineering, edifice infrastructures.
because she’s an expert at these things doesn’t necessarily mean she was the
one pulling all the accidents,” he reasoned.
Tim admitted. “But we talked to some crew members. She’s been around every
single piece of equipment that’s malfunctioned. And they placed her close to
the scene before every accident.”
spoke up, sneering slightly. “I got several reports from my crew. I can tell
you straight out, Oswald’s the one.”
she has no motive for doing this!” Joey exclaimed. “She’s our friend.
There’s never been any hostility between us.”
shrugged. “I’m not trying to explain why she did it, I’m just telling you
she did it. Hell, maybe she keeps her plans in that laptop she’s always
lost his patience with the man’s smirking face and he shouted his exasperation
to the room. “It’s not possible! Our friend wouldn’t do this to us! You
obviously wouldn’t know about how a friendship works because you don’t have
any, but we do! And this is not right. You’ve made a mistake somewhere.”
quickly stepped in before Thompsen could issue a retort to Chris’ insult.
“We’ve checked everyone’s files, all their backgrounds. And that can’t
be wrong, it’s in print, after all. Plus, even if we made a mistake, our four
witnesses couldn’t have,” he reasoned.
a voice quietly stated. Everyone swiveled their heads to look at the speaker.
have to be wrong,” Justin said emphatically.
Justin, I just told you that-“ Tim began.
I heard you! But I don’t believe you. To just think that Lillian would
do something like this is-“ he broke off and shook his head forcefully.
“It’s wrong. You’re wrong.”
regarded the young man sympathetically. “I know this is hard to take, trust
me. To find out that your friend betrayed you, it’s a tough situation to deal
with. But for your safety, and the group’s safety, we can’t take any
chances. We’re on a zero tolerance policy. She has to go.” Seeing all the
guys about to complain, he quickly cut them off and continued. “She has to go,
I said. No other options. No more arguments.”
boys sat in their seats, resigned to his decision. He was their tour manager,
and they could tell he wouldn’t relent to any of their protests.
me?” Tim asked.
nodded simultaneously. “Yes,” came the dutiful reply.
I don’t want you to talk to her anymore. She’ll be gone within the hour, you
won’t even notice the difference. So just go back to your rooms, relax, and
get ready for a busy day tomorrow.” He nodded briskly at them and left the
room, with the other staff following him out the door. As soon as it swung back
close, Justin surged to his feet.
have to do something,” he urged, looking earnestly into his friends’ faces.
what can we do? You heard Tim a second ago. I’ve never seen him look so
determined,” JC said.
We can at least see Lillian one last time.”
looked at his friend curiously. “Why do you care so much about her, anyway?
You started out on pretty bad terms, remember?”
appeared a little discomfited. He fumbled for his explanation. “I’m not
really sure. I know that I was a major jerk to her that first time.”
And the second time. And the third time, he thought. “But I
don’t know, after spending some real time talking to her and getting to know
her, my whole view changed.” He looked at Lance. “But you should be the one
explaining yourself right now. You’ve been friends with Lillian since the
beginning. And you don’t even want to see her anymore.”
not that I don’t want to see her,” Lance defended himself. “It’s more
like I don’t know what I would do if she admitted that she sabotaged the tour.
If I don’t talk to her, maybe I can keep my own perspective on who she is.
the bad things won’t hurt our memories of the good times,” Chris added.
nodded, able to understand their reasoning. But that didn’t mean he agreed
with it. “I’ll respect that. But I’m going to talk to her myself. Get the
news firsthand. This is all a misunderstanding.” He rose to his feet and
hurriedly strode out the room before the others could stop him.
making a huge mistake,” Joey commented after Justin had left.
friends all nodded sadly.
changed, Karen. My life’s never been so happy before. Lance loved his present,
and I don’t even understand what made Justin change his mind about me, but
I’m not arguing, that’s for sure. You should have seen it! We watched a
movie together (Dracula 2000, don’t get me started) and things just fell into
place after that. We sat outside and stared at the sky. It was wonderful, like
from an old black-and-white movie. I made a wish on a star, something I
haven’t done since I was five. I wished that things could stay like this
forever. And it looks like my wish is coming true. Maybe it’s love. Whatever
it is, it’s perfect. I could just go on forever about Justin and everything
that’s happened. ‘Perfect’ doesn’t describe it. It’s more like. . .
paused, searching for a better word. Is it even possible for something to be better than perfect?
she thought to herself. Then she smiled to herself. Justin is better than
perfect. Definitely better than perfect.
the fine hairs on the back of her neck rose. She could feel someone behind her.
Quickly, she slammed her laptop close and whirled around, her face flaming.
are you writing?” Justin asked, smiling. But there was something different
about his smile.
just a little note!” she replied hastily. What if he saw what I wrote about
nodded, trying to keep his expression relaxed. He let himself in after finding
the door unlocked, and found her sitting at the small table next to the window.
With that laptop. He was reminded of Thompsen’s words from before. Her
secretive actions seemed so suspicious. What was she typing in her laptop? A
little note wouldn’t make her so flustered. But there was no time to waste
right now. He had to find out the truth before Tim came. He pasted a broad smile
back on his face and leaned over her chair, lowering his head close to hers.
dropped her gaze and stared at her folded hands resting in her lap. What is
he doing?! Why does his smile seem so different?
cleared his tight throat, and let the words come out slowly. He had to choose
carefully, he didn’t want to scare her off. “Is there something . . .
looked at him with surprise and confusion. Bothering me? What does he mean? Suddenly,
a possibility dawned on her. He knows. Elaine must have told him about our
argument. Is he mad at me? Maybe he doesn’t like how I was so mean to her. I
didn’t intend to be so cruel about the whole thing. Now he’s angry
with me! Her panicked mind began reeling with all the possibilities.
observed her reaction to his question carefully. She had jerked her glance to
his, then quickly lowered it again, paling. He could hear her breath coming in
shallow gasps. In his eyes, she had just proved her guilt. An innocent person
wouldn’t act like this. His heart dropped, and the disappointment overwhelmed
him. Up until now, he had refused to believe that she would intentionally hurt
them. But now, what else was there to believe?
of the whole situation, he whispered tiredly to her. “Lillian, I know. I know
what you did.”
hurriedly jumped up from her seat, the shoved chair barely missing ramming into
Justin’s gut. She had to explain her side of things. She couldn’t stand
hearing the anguish in his beautiful voice.
I’m sorry! I really am. I wasn’t really thinking when I-“
sliced his hand through the air, ending her rushed words. “Don’t start. Just
don’t. I didn’t want to listen to Tim and the others. It couldn’t have
been true, I thought. But now-“ he broke off, shaking his head angrily. “I
was such a stupid fool.”
stared at him. “Tim?” What
did Tim have to do with anything?
Tim. He knows about you. About the things you did. I don’t understand. I
thought we were friends!” Justin exclaimed, his emotions beginning to change
from disappointment to anger. Anger that she had betrayed not just him, but
everyone else who had trusted her. Anger that she had presented such a harmless
appearance. Anger that she had earned his trust even when he didn’t want to
give it to her.
are frie-“ she started, baffled now.
We are not friends. Not anymore,” he said harshly, catching the hurt look in
her eyes before she averted them to the floor. He charged on, letting his rage
take control of his body. “Look at me when I talk to you! I don’t have
friends who are two-faced and liars. Who can seem so sweet and genuine one
minute and then prove to be a bitch in reality. I must have majorly pissed
someone off in a past life, because it sure as hell feels like I’m being
punished now.” In his mind he berated himself for allowing her to slip through
his initial impression of her and change his mind. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He
usually prided himself on his ability to look through the fakes, but first
Elaine and now Lillian. Two blows in one day.
do you mean?” she asked desperately, grasping to understand his words.
mean that we are no longer friends. I regret ever knowing you. I hate traitors
and fakes. I hate you,” he stated coldly, looking right in her stunned eyes.
can’t mean that,” she whispered as she backed away from him, all the while
trying to get her mind to stop concentrating on his last statement. I hate
you. I hate you. I hate you.
stalked to where she leaned weakly against the wall. “I mean it, alright. I
don’t think I’ve ever meant anything more. I hate you, Lillian.” The angry
blood coursed through his veins, and completely broke through his walls of
no,” she mumbled to herself, shaking her head back and forth dazedly, dragging
her eyes from his piercing gaze. Her head was throbbing all of a sudden, and she
didn’t know what she was supposed to be feeling. “This is a dream. A
grabbed her chin roughly in his hand and forced her to look him in the face.
“It’s not a damn dream. Wake up, because I’m only going to say this once.
I wish I hadn’t let you get close to me and be my friend. I wish I hadn’t
been so stupid and blind. I wish I had never fuckin’ met you,” he
finally shouted, spitting the dirty word at her and not caring about her
disapproval for cursing.
glared at her unsympathetically as he saw the small tears escape her now closed
eyes, and released his tight grip on her chin. His fingers left behind a red
mark that discolored her ashen complexion.
tense silence was interrupted by the sound of the door slamming open, and
Lillian started at the sudden disturbance, rubbing away the wetness of her
in here,” Elaine proclaimed, leading Tim and Thompsen into the room.
carefully removed any remaining emotion from his face and regarded Tim boldly.
what are you doing here?! I told you to stay in your room,” Tim began to
it, Tim. I’m leaving. My business here is done,” Justin replied, ignoring
the stares of the others in the room and brushing out the door. They warned
me about doing this. And they were right.