Chapter 18

“Take these broken wings

I need your hands to come and heal me once again

So I can fly

Until the end of time.”

            -Tupac, “Until the End of Time”



            “She’s not good,” Karen said worriedly. “I heard that one minute she was working in class, and the next she was on the floor.”

            “But why did she faint?” Lance asked, very concerned. The other guys were surrounding him, trying to listen in on the conversation.

            “The doctors at the infirmary said it was exhaustion and dehydration. Remember, I told you that she hadn’t been eating or sleeping much, and kept working instead,” Karen explained. “Also, she’s been kind of in this funk lately. That kind of attitude didn’t help anything.”

            “Yeah, I bet,” Lance sighed, running his hand through his hair. “Listen, what do you think would help her right now?”


            “Not just with the physical stuff,” he clarified. “Rest won’t do anything for her mindset.”

            “True,” she agreed. “I’m not sure, then. I guess that video you guys sent made her feel a little happier.”

            “Well, I’ll try to think of something. I’ll be in touch.” He ended the call and turned to his friends, looking at him with anticipation and concern.

            “What’s going on?” JC wanted to know.

            “Lily fainted, she’s in the campus infirmary for stress and dehydration,” Lance quickly explained.

            “Shoot,” Joey commented. “Is she going to be okay?”

            “Yeah, of course,” he reassured them. “It’s just her emotions right now that really worry me.” They all fell silent, knowing exactly why she wouldn't be feeling too good right then. And they refused to lay the blame on anyone. But Justin spoke up anyway.

            “It’s all my fault,” he said guiltily. “I was too harsh on her. And now I avoid her. Damn, if I was in her position I’d be the same way.”

            “J, come on, no one said it was your fault,” Chris began.

            “No, I know it’s because of what I did. But I can fix it,” he offered. “I’ll make things right.”


*                       *                       *                       *


            The red of the setting sun streamed through the towering trees and fell in scattered beams onto the sidewalks. The breeze calmed Lillian, lifting the strands of hair off her neck. Finally, after some stubborn arguing, the infirmary had allowed her to go back to her dorm instead of staying confined in the austere room she had been issued.

            I can’t believe I let myself become that weak. What was I thinking? I worried Karen and Lance, and now people treat me like I’m an invalid. And I have so much more work to catch up on. It’s like I’m trying to kill myself.

            She passed a couple leaving the dorm as she entered, and didn’t miss the looks they gave her. She could easily imagine what they were thinking. She’s that wacko who went on a pop tour but came back early, and then fainted in the middle of class. Better stay away from her.

            She had become almost accustomed to the curious and judging glances sent her way, but this last one was too much. Seeing their arms wrapped around each other, intoxicated by their own happiness, and pitying the outsiders.

            The tears came against her will, and she tried to fight them. She had cried more in those few months than she’d ever done in the previous five years. At least Karen’s staying late at the library today, so I won’t have to face her. She ran up the stairs to her floor instead of taking the elevator; she didn’t want to encounter anyone else today.

            The door to her room beckoned to her, and she gratefully hurried to it. She unlocked it and stepped inside the dark room, letting the sanctuary surround her. Except something was wrong. The room wasn’t dark, the lights were on. And there were two other people in the room with her.

            She wiped her eyes with her palm hastily, trying to eliminate any traces of tears. Then she cleared her throat. “Hi Lance.” She turned to the figure seated on one of the beds. “Justin.”

            Lance noticed her surreptitious attempt to disguise her tears and strode over to her, clasping her in a tight hug. “We were worried about you,” he murmured. “Are you okay now?” He felt her nod, and he smiled. “Good. But don’t ever do that again.”

            She gave him a weak smile. “It wasn’t really on my agenda to do it in the first place.”

            Lance chuckled softly, then saw her glance fleetingly at the still silent Justin before regarding him once again. Tension filled the room, and he was getting uncomfortable. “Uh, I’m going to go out for some air. Maybe observe the night life around here.”

            She merely nodded, and he grabbed a pair of sunglasses before heading out. The door clicked shut behind him, and she was alone with Justin.

            They both remained where they were, Justin perched on the side of the bed and Lillian standing next to the door. Their bodies were tensed and they appraised each other with wary eyes.

            Finally, Lillian shook herself out of her daze. We can’t just stand here forever. “So…” she began, fumbling for something to talk about. Anything to talk about. “Do you want anything to drink?” she asked, motioning to the small refrigerator in the corner of the room.

            Justin merely shook his head and continued to remain silent. His intense gaze was trained on her face, and she wanted to hide self-consciously.

            He noticed that her eyes were still suspiciously bright. “Were you crying?” he asked, although he already had a pretty good guess of what her answer would be.

            “Um, no,” she said, shaking her head and keeping her eyes downcast. “It’s just…allergies. Irritates my eyes.”

            Sure. But he didn’t argue with her. He knew what it felt like trying to keep his pride intact. “Okay,” he replied, letting the doubt show in his voice. She glanced at him quickly before lowering her gaze again. He sighed, not liking where their reunion was going. “Lillian, come sit with me.”

            She approached him cautiously and gingerly balanced herself next to him on the bed, keeping some space between them. She didn’t want him to get close enough. He would start analyzing her appearance and realize she was lying about the allergies.

            He cleared his throat and thought of how he should begin. “I…I was worried about you.”

            “There’s no reason to be,” she replied quickly. “I’m fine.”

            Justin scoffed at that obvious lie. “Fine? I don’t think so. Unless fainting in class is a normal thing for you. Damn it, Lillian, you know how to take care of yourself better. Are you two years old or something?!”

            She was beginning to get angry. She hadn’t asked him to come back into her life when he was the reason things became the way they were. And instead of apologizing for creating a riff between the two, he was insulting her. “Of course I know how to take care of myself! I’m not a child, or an idiot,” she retorted.

            “Well, you’re sure as hell acting like one. Not eating or sleeping, only working,” he said disapprovingly.

            “How would you know what I’ve been doing? Were you spying on me or something?” she demanded.

            “Hey, I wasn’t spying on you,” he immediately defended himself. “I heard it from Lance.”

            “Lance? How would Lance know? I didn’t tell him-“ she broke off quickly, realizing that she had just given herself away.

            “See? You can’t deny it,” he claimed, not missing her slip. “You think you can just work and work, and all your problems will go away? Dream on.”

            “Dream? Oh, it’s funny you say that,” Lillian bit out sarcastically. She was fuming, and shot to her feet. He was such a jerk, to just waltz back into her life after no phone calls or emails and start lording it over her. “Because I recall that I used to have a lot of dreams. But that was before my friend betrayed me.” She shook her head, trying to dispel the sudden onslaught of emotions. Her voice softened. “And I thought it had been my fault.”

            He looked at her sadly. He could see the small traces of blame still left in her clouded eyes, even though her words didn’t acknowledge them. “Lillian,” he entreated, grasping her hand carefully, “It wasn’t your fault.” She continued to shake her head, the words barely penetrating into her mind. “Come on now, don’t cry.”

            “I’m sorry,” she sniffed, hating herself for the pitiful way she was acting. “I was just…”

            “You were just upset because real friends don’t abandon each other,” he finished for her. He pulled her down next to him, this time eliminating any space between them. “Sweetheart, I’m the one who’s sorry. I should have believed in you, and if not that, at least kept in touch. I’m the biggest ass in the world.”

            She paused, this time fully hearing what he said. She tilted her head to the side, his endearment echoing in her ears. Sweetheart.

            Justin stared at her, waiting for her reaction. After a few seconds, he still didn’t receive one. “Lillian,” he prodded, nudging her shoulder.

            “What?” she asked, still distracted. “Oh! Yeah, you are an ass,” she agreed.

            “Yes, I am!” he responded eagerly, wanting her to forgive him. Then he caught the small hint of a smile lingering on her face. “Hey,” he drawled, grinning, “what’s that I see?”

            “What’s what?” she said mischievously, now fighting to keep a straight face.

            Unexpectedly, he reached out and pulled her cheeks. “A smile!” he proclaimed, laughing. She beamed at him, pushing his hands away. Then he calmed down. “Seriously. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?”

            Lillian searched his solemn face, and decided that she liked what she saw. “I forgive you.”

            The happiness flooded him, and he gathered her close for a tight hug, almost squeezing the breath out of her. Finally he released her, and she loved the adorable grin on his face. “We’re weird,” she said. “Five minutes ago, we were fighting, and now we’re all chummy again.”

            He shrugged and leaned back on the bed, pulling her down alongside with him. “Well, what can I say? No one can stay mad at the magic that is the Timberlake. It’s not humanly possible.”

            She laughed, then poked him in the ribs. “Just…just promise me that it won’t happen again.”

            He didn’t have to ask what ‘it’ was. “I promise,” he whispered.

            “Good,” she breathed out, yawning.

            “Tired?” he inquired, feeling a little drowsy himself.

            “Yeah. I don’t know why, usually I go to sleep a lot later than this,” she explained, trying to keep her eyes open.

            “I don’t blame you. You should be resting anyway. I mean, after what’s happened in the last twenty-four hours, you should be out like a light.” He paused after hearing no response. “Lillian?” He turned to her. Her eyes were shut.

            He smiled gently. “Goodnight,” he said softly, placing a kiss on her forehead.

            “Goodnight, Justin,” she murmured, only half-awake.

            He reached over her to turn the lamp off before lying back down and cushioning her head on his shoulder. “Sweet dreams, Lillian.”


*                       *                       *                       *


            I wonder how things went. Lance strolled down the dormitory hall, approaching Lillian’s room. He had been out, exploring the campus and observing college life. There wasn’t much going on, considering most of the students were studying for their finals, according to one of the workers at the local café. But the peace and quiet had allowed him to relax, and gave him a chance to make a call to the guys to update them on the situation. He reached to knock on the door, but it opened and his fist hit air.

            A woman stepped out of the dark room. She looked surprised to see him standing there, but she quickly recovered. “Lance.”

            “Karen, I’m guessing.”

            “You guessed right. Come on, let’s go out and get something to eat,” she suggested, pulling him away from the door.

            “I hope they didn’t kill each other,” he said, nodding at the room.

            Karen grinned at him. “Not even close. Take a look,” she said, opening the door and letting him peer in.

            He paused to let his eyes get adjusted to the darkness, and then he grinned too. “How cute is that,” he commented, looking at his two friends curled up on the small bed together. Lillian was using Justin’s arm as a pillow, and sleeping peacefully, he didn’t seem to mind.

            “Too cute,” she laughed quietly. “Now let’s give them some privacy. I bet they’re both pretty tired. And this gives us a chance to gossip! Now tell me, Mr. Bass, boxers or briefs?”


*                       *                       *                       *


            “Thanks,” Lillian smiled, giving Lance a hug.

            “You’re very welcome,” he replied. “Stay outta trouble, okay? I don’t want to have to come and baby-sit you again.”

            “Sure, sure,” she laughed. Then she turned to Justin. “And thank you, too. I’m glad we’re…okay again.”

            He nodded, completely understanding what she meant. “I’m glad too. Now we can make fun of Lance behind his back!” he exclaimed excitedly.

            “Man, shut up,” Lance complained, giving his friend a shove. “We all know who brought this whole friendship together again. Lance! Lance Bass. I rule!”

            Both Lillian and Justin rolled their eyes in unison. “Let’s just humor him,” Justin suggested.

            Her reply was interrupted by a car horn honking at them. It was one of the members of security, coming to take them to the airport. “I guess you should go now,” she said sadly.

            “Yeah,” Lance replied, picking his bag up and putting it in the trunk of the black car. “It’s been fun hanging out again. You should come back on tour with us,” he remarked before stepping into the back door.

            “You really should,” Justin immediately agreed. “Movie nights, watching our kickin’ concerts. Great stuff!” He glanced at the car, then added in a lowered voice, “And we can pull the ultimate prank on Poofoo.”

            “What was that?” came the shout from the backseat.

            “Nothing, nothing,” Justin answered nonchalantly. “Well, I’ll definitely keep in touch this time,” he said, grinning down at Lillian.

            “Me too,” she promised, wishing he could stay with her forever.

            He paused awkwardly, then quickly leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “See ya,” he called back to her as he got into the car.

            She automatically waved as the car drove away, still a little surprised over his show of affection. Wow, two kisses in two days. Well, he is a friendly guy, Lillian. Don’t exaggerate something so small. But still, a girl could dream.


*                       *                       *                       *

            “What was that?” Lance inquired curiously, examining the face of his friend sitting next to him.

            “What are you talking about?” Justin asked in return, shooting a quick glance at him before turning back to look out the window. He resumed his humming that had been interrupted by Lance’s question. And I swear, by the moon and the stars in the skies, I’ll be there. And I swear, like the shadow that’s by your side, I’ll be there.

            “What am I talking about?” Lance repeated incredulously. “That little kiss from before! And you guys were awfully close last night, if you know what I mean.”

            “Jeez, Bass. We’re friends,” Justin explained, stressing the word. “I’m like that with all my girl friends.”

            “Well, I don’t know if Lillian knows that you’re an affectionate guy.”

            “So? Why would that matter?”

            “Because she might…make it out to be something more than it actually is,” he warned.

            Justin laughed at the idea. “Whatever. She’s not stupid. I bet she’s gotten lots of hugs and kisses.”

            “Not really,” Lance replied. He decided not to mention how she used to tense up whenever he touched her. Eventually though, he supposed she had become used to them showing their friendship physically. But Justin had never been one to hug her much before.

            “Come on, Lance. It’s okay,” Justin argued. Why would Lillian be any different from his other friends?

            “Fine. But all I’m saying is, don’t lead her on,” he cautioned, his brotherly instincts taking over. He knew, even if Justin didn’t, that Lillian loved his friend.

            “I won’t,” Justin answered, rolling his eyes before going back to his humming.


*                       *                       *                       *


“Did you think our offer over?”

            “Lance, I don’t know. I’m pretty immersed in my schoolwork here,” Lillian replied ruefully, not wanting to disappoint her eager friend. She cradled the phone against her shoulder as she examined her English thesis before deleting a few words. “Stupid Shakespeare. I thought high school was the end of him,” she muttered.

            “What was that?” he asked curiously.

            “Oh, nothing. So how is everything on tour?”

            “It’s going well. Nothing like thousands of screaming girls to give a guy an ego-boost, you know? Plus, I think they like my new hair.”

            Lillian rolled her eyes. “And I thought Joey was the only one taken to dying his hair in completely random colors. I guess that dark blue does makes your face look thinner,” she added, giggling.

            “Well, thank you very much for that backward compliment, Miss Lily,” he drawled sarcastically. “Anyway, back to what we were talking about before. Screw the schoolwork. Tim will write a nice letter of apology to your professor, and then you can come back on tour with us! It’ll be great, I promise you.”

            She drummed her fingers thoughtfully against her chin as she read over her topic sentence. “What was that? I wasn’t paying attention.”


            “Sorry! English isn’t my specialty, you know. Science is. I don’t understand why we have to take so many English classes at a tech school anyway.”

            “Stop whining,” Lance laughed. Suddenly he exclaimed. “Hey! I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you come on tour with us again, so we can help you with your English! We’re not morons or anything, we’ve all been to school. And Chris and Justin should be pretty good with writing stuff. JC too.”

            “Hey!” she echoed. “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

            “Why not?”

            “Because I have a lot of makeup work. Because it’ll be weird to go back.”

            “Dang, I gotta go now. But you better think over the offer, because we really want our little buddy to come back.”

            “Okay, fine. I’ll think about it.”


*                       *                       *                       *

            Lance watched the others around him carefully, trying to gauge their reactions. Justin was nodding, his eyes closed tightly. Joey’s grin stretched across his whole face, and Chris looked just as excited. JC was fairly vibrating from his pent-up energy.

            “Sweet,” JC said. “I mean, this is amazing.”

            “I know!” Lance quickly responded. “The sound of it is like nothing we’ve ever done before.” He reached over and grabbed the jewel case from Chris. “Let me see that one more time.”

            Justin gathered in close behind him and together they examined their faces on the new CD album. “I’ve gotta say, guys, we look good! If I passed a mirror, I’d hit on my reflection. Damn!”

            “Calm down, J, and let’s focus on the music,” JC laughed. He took the stereo remote and skipped to the next track. “This should be good. Our main ballad.”

            They all quieted down to pay attention to their newest slow song. The beautiful strains of the piano streamed over the speakers and washed over their minds. For the next four and a half minutes, a hushed awe settled over the room. After the song ended, no one was willing to break the silence. Finally, Joey spoke up.


            His four friends nodded, completely understanding his babbling. The world would be completely blown away by this new side of ‘N Sync.


*                       *                       *                       *


            “Miss Oswald, I just don’t understand,” Professor Lee exclaimed, taking his glasses off and rubbing the bridge of his nose in frustration. Lillian sighed and shifted her weight to her other foot, preparing to explain the situation to her teacher once again.

            “A lot of personal things happened during the internship. I doubt I can go back and continue as if nothing had ever occurred. Everyone there thought I was malicious enough to try to hurt the group and sabotage their tour!” she said, still uncomfortable with telling other people about the tour.

            Professor Lee eased himself into his chair, then pulled out a piece of paper from his desk. Slowly he began to read. “’We are deeply sorry for the obvious inconvenience and abruptness of the whole situation, but we find that there is no other option available. Ms. Oswald’s knowledge and work ethic would be gratefully appreciated at such a busy time in our schedule. Please allow her to return to the internship as soon as possible.’ It looks like they want you back pretty urgently,” he observed, eyeing his student.

            She let out another sigh and shook her head. “I have some crazy friends,” she responded, knowing that the guys had personally written the letter. Tim would have just offered an apology, not a chance to return.

            Still, it would be fun to be with everyone again, a small voice inside of her reasoned. But she just didn’t know. What if another misunderstanding happened? She wouldn’t be able to survive a second time. And would Thompsen and the other crew members be willing to accept her back after such a long interim? There were too many possibilities to think of.

            “I just don’t know,” she finally said. “I’ll think about it.” Poor Professor Lee was about to fall asleep from their extensive debating.

            He perked up again and regarded her with the experienced eye of a mentor. “You should do that,” he said, nodding. “But Miss Oswald- Lillian- a word of advice, if you will. If whoever wrote me this letter is fighting so hard to get you back, they aren’t going through all this trouble for a coward. Don’t disappoint them.” He looked at his watch. “You can go now.”

            Lillian left the classroom, closing the door behind her. No one else was in the hall as she leaned limply against the wall and stared blankly at the bulletin board opposite her, deep in thought. Don’t disappoint them.


*                       *                       *                       *


            “She’s coming back?!” Joey shouted unbelievingly at hearing Lance’s news.

            “Yup,” Lance grinned satisfaction. “I guess Chris’ letter really worked.” He paused for a second. “Huh. Imagine that. Chris’ letter.”

            “Give us the details,” JC demanded, hitting Lance’s shoulder to prod him out of his surprise. “When’s Lily coming?”

            “Oh yeah. Sorry about that. Um, her flight comes in…” he broke off, turning to Joey. “What time is it?”

            Joey quickly flipped his wrist over to check the time. “Seven forty-five.”

            “Okay, then she should be here in twenty minutes.”

            “Who should be here in twenty minutes?” Chris asked, coming with Justin into the hotel room. He was sweating heavily, and Justin was bouncing a basketball against the carpeted floor.

            “Already back from your game?” Lance asked, receiving tired nods in reply. “I forgot to tell you guys, Lily’s coming back today.”

            “What?” Justin asked with wide eyes, letting the now forgotten basketball drop and roll across the floor. Chris wasn’t surprised, instead there was a smug expression on his face.

            “I knew it. That letter must have been the last nudge she needed. Am I good, or am I good!” he bragged, lifting his hand for a high-five.

            Lance stared at his outstretched hand. “So anyway,” he said, turning to the others, “Her plane’s probably landed by now.”

            “How’s she getting here?” Justin asked, pushing the different emotions out of his head and trying to focus on rational thoughts. “Taxi?”

            “Um, actually I don’t know,” Lance admitted. “Most likely a taxi.”

            “Most likely?” Justin repeated. “She doesn’t even know this city. And we’re a forty-minute drive from the airport! That will cost so much money, you realize that? You at least told her the hotel, right?”

            Silence met his question. Everyone turned to Lance incredulously.

            “Please tell me you told her where we’re staying,” JC pleaded.

            “I knew I forgot something,” Lance said sheepishly.

            “You ass!” Justin cried.

            “I’m sorry!” Lance replied. “Look, we can just send Mike or Todd over to the airport to pick her up, and tell her to wait a little. I don’t think she has enough cash to pay the taxi.”

            “But I wanna go too!” Joey whined playfully. “She’ll be so happy to see us be there to meet her. Trust me, the ladies love that.”

            “Okay, here’s the plan,” JC spoke up. Everyone quieted down to listen attentively to him.

            “Tell us, Daddy,” Justin joked.

            “Lance, you call Lily and tell her to stay put for a bit longer. Chris, you and Joey go find Todd and the limo. Me and Justin will go convince Tim to let us out for a few. Got that?” They nodded quickly. “Okay, let’s go then.”


*                       *                       *                       *


            “But I’m already late, I can find a taxi and get to the hotel if you give me the directions,” Lillian argued, holding her cell phone close to her ear. She was standing near a gift shop and had been about to buy a map before the ringing of her phone interrupted her.

            “No, Lily, just stay,” Lance replied. “Someone’s already going to pick you up.”

            “Are you sure? I don’t want to inconvenience anybo-“

            “Don’t worry about it, see ya!” he quickly cut her off. Ending the call, he turned back to the other four sitting with him in the limo. “Can we say stubborn?” he asked, groaning. “I thought she’d never give in.”

            “It’s okay,” JC said, “The important thing is that she won’t leave. Now we can have some fun!” He reached into a bag and pulled out some things, tossing them to his friends.

            And now we’ll see what happens, Lance thought, looking at Justin.


*                       *                       *                       *


            Lillian looked down at her phone in frustration. “I can’t believe he just hung up on me!” She put the cell phone away and grabbed her carry-on bag in one hand, then slung her laptop over her other shoulder. She looked around the airport, noticing how crowded it was even though it was getting late. Her glance fell on a nearby magazine stand.

            Special All-NSYNC Issue! It proclaimed proudly. Lillian laughed to herself, then walked over to examine it more closely.

            Below the hot pink bubble letters was a picture of the group mugging for the camera. Joey was in the middle with his arms flung out, effectively pushing the others out of the way. Lance was on his right side, trying to shove the arm away, and JC’s mouth was open in laughter. Chris was leaning in from the left side, apparently not noticing Justin, who had jumped onto his back. Lillian thought they looked adorable.

            She reached for the issue and read its price. It was only $2.99. She couldn’t pass it up. Still giggling quietly, she went over to the cashier to pay for the magazine. As she was walking, a broad back suddenly cut in front of her and she accidentally ran into the person.

            “Oomph. I’m sorry,” she immediately offered.

            The man turned around and looked down at her. He had a large cowboy hat on, and expensive looking sunglasses. “I didn’t see you there, little lady,” he said in a thick southern accent.

            Lillian stepped away from him and noticed he was holding a copy of the latest “Source” in his hand. Ja Rule was on the cover. A cowboy holding a hip hop magazine? “Um, that’s okay.”

            “Please, go ahead,” he smiled broadly from under a dark mustache.

            She looked at him, trying to figure out why he seemed so familiar. Then she shrugged the feeling away and quickly bought the magazine. When she looked back up again, the man was still there. Was it her, or did it seem like he was going to laugh any minute?

            “Thanks for letting me go first,” she said. “Bye.”

            He tipped his wide-brimmed hat down in reply, putting his purchase onto the counter.

            She glanced at him one more time before leaving the stand.

            As soon as she had disappeared, he started laughing hysterically.

            “JC!” a voice admonished, the owner coming out from behind a shelf of candy.

            “Sorry, sorry,” he managed to breath out between his laughs. “But did you see her face?! Jeez, it was priceless.”

            Chris laughed. “Yeah, it was. She looked kinda scared, now that I think about it.”

            “I can’t imagine why,” JC shrugged, pushing his cowboy hat higher on his head and opening his magazine. “Hey, look at that! Mystikal’s new album.”




“And then, oh man, he was like ‘go ahead little lady.’ Lily was probably thinking ‘who is this psycho hick.’ But it was great!” Chris exclaimed to his attentive audience. They burst into laughter after hearing of JC and Lillian’s encounter.

            “Now it’s our turn,” Joey said, grinning mischeviously at Lance. “Let’s move out!”




            Lillian glanced worriedly at her watch, then back at the people rushing in through the sliding glass doors. She didn’t see anyone who looked remotely familiar. Who did Lance send, anyway?

            Fifty feet away, two men began whispering conspiratorially.

            “There she is,” Joey said, pointing at her.

            “Here, put these on,” Lance commanded, handing a pair of bright red-framed sunglasses at Joey and putting on his own pair of Ray-Bans.

            “Maan,” Joey whined, “next time I better get to wear the Ray-Bans.”

            “Sure, sure” Lance replied distractedly. “Okay, I’ll go up first, and you follow.”

            “No!” Joey protested. “I’m wearing these goofy shades, I get to go first.”

            “Fine,” Lance sighed. “Just hurry up.”

            Joey grinned and rushed towards his target. He walked quickly, and as he neared Lillian he purposely jostled her hard. Surprised, she accidentally dropped her magazine. Both her and Joey bent down to retrieve it, and their heads collided.

            “Ouch!” they both exclaimed.

            “My bad,” Joey flirtatiously smiled. He reached out and steadied Lillian, then grabbed the magazine before she could get a hold of it. Hmm, handsome guys. Especially that Italian looking one.

            “Okay,” Lillian responded still half-dazed. What’s with me hitting people? And why do all the people have sunglasses on? She noticed that he continued to examine the ‘N Sync magazine, having pushed his fisherman’s hat further up his head so he could see the cover more clearly.

            “You like the Backstreet Boys?” the man asked.

            “’N Sync,” she replied wryly, holding her hand out for her belonging.

            “Oh, my bad,” he said again, still not releasing it.

            “Yeah,” she agreed, losing her patience for dealing with strange men in the airport. “My magazine, please.”

            “Okay,” he assented, but instead of giving it back he opened the cover and began flipping through the pages. “That Nick Carter’s a cute one, huh?” he commented, pointing at a picture of Justin.

            From nearby, Lance noticed that Lillian was now fuming. He quickly swallowed his laughter and moved in, before she attempted to physically harm Joey.

            “Hey,” he called out, thinking of a name to call his friend. “Uh, Tyrone.”

            Joey looked at him incredulously. Tyrone?! “Oh, there you are…Gaylord.” Haha, he laughed inwardly. Gaylord Focker.

            It was obvious that Lance remembered watching “Meet the Parents” too, because his eyes bulged out at the stupid name. But he couldn’t do anything about it because Lillian was watching them both curiously. He had to keep their disguises going. “Yeah, here I am. Anyway,” he said, turning to address Lillian, “I hope my brother here wasn’t bothering you too much. He was born premature,” he explained. “Very premature.”

            The sunglass men are brothers, was Lillian’s only inane thought.

            “So, here’s your magazine back,” he said, practically ripping the magazine from ‘Tyrone’s’ grasp.

            “Thanks,” she answered, taking the magazine and stuffing it in her bag. “I…have to go…now.”

            “Bye!” Joey cheerfully waved at her quickly retreating back, with Lance collapsing on his shoulder in fits of laughter. Then he turned to his blonde friend and they gave each other jubilant high-fives.


*                       *                       *                       *


            “Maybe it’s the water around here,” Lillian mumbled to herself. “Contaminated water can lead to lots of strange things.” But what kind of mother names her kids Tyrone and Gaylord? It’s wrong.

            She strode rapidly through the current of people heading to their boarding gates, feeling her laptop bang against her side repeatedly. Finally she stopped when she spotted a row of empty chairs. Dropping her bags in one seat, she sat down gratefully in the next one. I should call Lance. I’ve been here for an hour now.

            “Hello?” Lance said, answering his ringing cell phone. He smacked Joey, who was still cracking up.

            “Lance! The people you sent aren’t here yet. I should just go find a cab.”

            “What? No! Um, he should be there any second now. Stay there for a few more minutes, okay?” he pleaded, motioning his other friends over from where they were eating pretzels.

            “But-“ Lillian began.

            “Great! See you in a few!” he exclaimed before hanging up on her for the second time that night.

            “What’s up?” asked JC, stuffing the last bit of the baked bread into his mouth.

            “She’s getting impatient,” Lance explained. “We should go get her now.”

            “I have a better idea,” Chris grinned. “Justin should go get her now.” All their heads swiveled as one to regard their youngest friend, who was examining the leftover cheese sauce from his pretzel.

            Justin slowly raised his head when he realized everyone was staring at him intently. With faintly impish looks on their faces. “Okay…” he started, “Is there something on my face?”

            “Nope, other than your usual ugly mug,” Chris replied.

            “Oh, haha,” Justin sneered. “So can we go get Lillian now or what?”

            “No, no,” Lance shook his head. “Not ‘we.’ You”

            “What? Why me? Why can’t Lance go?” he asked, confused.

            “Because…because it’ll start your friendship on a good foot,” JC argued.

            “And you can spend some more quality time together, cause we only visited one night before,” Lance added.

            Quality time, huh? Justin’s mind flashed to the fun he’d had with Lillian at the movie theater. The movie wasn’t the best he’d seen, but they still had a good time. Suddenly he smiled and adjusted the visor on his head. It was time to get those good times back. “Okay. I’ll go.”


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