Chapter 19

“In your arms I find some kind of love and peace of mind

‘Cause a miracle happened;

Heaven must have sent you, I know.”

                        -Marvin Gaye, “Heaven Sent You, I Know”



            After searching through the airport for ten minutes, Justin managed to spot Lillian sitting alone in a row of seats reading a magazine. His pulse jumped a little, out of both nervousness and anticipation. Why am I nervous? There’s no reason to be nervous. It’s just Lillian. Letting out a calming breath, he approached her slowly, taking in her appearance.

            She looked better than when he’d last seen her. No more shadows under her eyes and she didn’t seem as thin. That was good. Her health was important.

            Lillian remained immersed in her reading as he stopped a couple of feet away from her. Glancing curiously at the cover, he saw a picture of ‘N Sync, and was unable to stop the grin from spreading across his face. And that was how she finally noticed him.

            “J-Justin?” she stammered out, surprised to say the least. Color flooded her face. He was beautiful. A strong florescent light shone above him and he was bathed in it, just shining. Like an angel. And a very welcome sight at the moment.

            “Hey, Lillian,” he greeted hesitantly, gauging her reaction. She looked stunned. Not exactly happy. Come on, where’s that smile.

            Her face became radiant as she unconsciously obeyed his silent request. She rose to her feet, the magazine dropping to the seat. The pictures on its pages were nothing compared to the original. Timidly she took a step closer to him, her hands instinctively reaching out to him before falling back to her sides.

            Justin caught the surreptitious action, and he immediately gathered her in a hug. When her arms came slowly around his back to return the embrace, he finally allowed himself to relax. They stood there frozen, just enjoying the serene moment. “So you ready to get out of this place?” he asked, eventually pulling away and picking up her bags. 

            “Oh, yeah,” she replied, as if suddenly remembering where she was. His broad back began leading the way through the crowd, and she grabbed her magazine before following him. Her position gave her some time to examine him. And he looks good. Obviously, he had taken to his shorter hairstyle because it looked like it had just been trimmed again. It was shorter than it had been when he’d visited MIT. The hair, along with his visor and the sunglasses he slipped on, were enough to disguise him from a casual passerby. Which reminded her…

            “You won’t believe what happened to me today.”

            “What’s that?” he inquired, pushing his way through a door and holding it open for her with his foot. Oddly enough, he felt a slight twinge of emotion at carrying her bags and escorting her by himself in public. It wasn’t something he could do often.

            “Well, first there was this really strange guy at one of the newsstands. He was dressed like a cowboy, except he had these expensive looking sunglasses, and he spoke with a southern accent, but he was buying ‘Source’! It was just really weird,” she explained, shaking her head in confusion.

            Justin almost choked at hearing her story. JC! “Oh…um, yeah, I guess everyone likes rap and hip hop nowadays. Even cowboys.”

            “But that’s not all. Then, when I was waiting for you, this tall man with red tacky shades just ran into me and knocked my magazine out of my hand. And instead of giving it back, he started reading the whole thing with the biggest grin on his face!” Lillian waved the magazine around for extra emphasis.

            Joey. Gotta love that guy, Justin thought, suppressing his amusement.

            “And he called you Nick Carter.”

            I am gonna kill him.

            “And then, another man in sunglasses came up and started apologizing for his brother, whose name turns out to be Tyrone. And the new man’s name was Gaylord. It was too bizarre. Plus, it turns out that Tyrone was born premature or something,” Lillian finished with a touch of sympathy.

            “Yeah…that’s really something, huh?” Justin managed to respond, trying to keep a straight face. “You know, you might want to tell the rest of the guys about it. They’ll think it’s pretty funny.”

            “If you say so. But not so much as funny as just plain weird.”

            “Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll love hearing it.”


*                       *                       *                       *


            “You’re not gonna tell her?”

            “No, it’s just so much better this way, don’t you agree?” Joey snickered. Justin rolled his eyes at his screwed up logic, but he had to admit that it was pretty entertaining to keep Lillian out of the blue for once. He let his gaze roam to her figure.

            She was napping, nestled between him and Lance on one side of the limo. Obviously, the flight and waiting at the airport tired her out. Lance didn’t seem to notice her weight leaning on his shoulder as he wrestled with Chris for the remote control of the small television. JC and Joey had taken advantage of her momentary unconsciousness to flip through the magazine she had bought. Occasionally, they would erupt in small fits of laughter. He didn’t even want to know what they were laughing about.

            He leaned further down in the leather seat and stretched his legs out in front of him, thinking that it was pure bliss. And not just because of his relaxing position. His closest friends around him, the mending of a broken friendship, and the night air swirling past the metal that cocooned them from the outside world. All of it made him happier than he had been in a long time.

            Justin closed his eyes and let the sounds around him drown his ears. He was just nodding off when the limo made a hard swerve to the right, and something hit him just under the chin. Cocking open one eye, he saw that Lillian had fallen onto him. Lance reached for her to pull her off him, but he brushed his friend’s hand away. “It’s okay,” he grumbled half-asleep, shifting Lillian to a more comfortable position against him. She stirred a little, but didn’t wake up.

            Chris waited until he saw that they were both slumbering before turning to the others. “So I’m guessing they made up,” he commented to the wide-eyed gazes of his friends.

            “Yeah, I guess so,” JC nodded. “Damn, I wonder what happened.”

            “I know. I missed all the action!” Lance complained.

            “Now now,” Joey admonished, “Let’s give the two younguns some privacy and time to rest.”

            Chris turned the TV channel to a basketball game, and instantly they immersed themselves into the action.

            “Come on, what kind of lame-ass shot was that?!” Joey exclaimed.

            “Shut up, Joe, it was the kind of lame-ass shot you’d make,” Chris instantly retorted.

            “Hey, I wouldn’t be talking if I were you,” JC warned Chris. “Let’s remember who exactly won that nice little bet a while back.”

            Lance started laughing, because he was the only one who hadn’t had money riding on the situation. Everyone turned to him, glaring, and he put his hands up. “Sorry, guys.”

            “So ignoring Lance,” Chris said, “Back to the game.”

            A while later, Justin woke up from the exuberant shouts of JC and Lance and contrasting groans from Chris and Joey.

            “It was because of the bad refs, that’s all,” Joey claimed.

            “Whatever,” JC laughed.

            “Ahem!” Lance coughed. “Denial! Denial!”

            I’m guessing the game is over. Justin began to stretch, before realizing there was something pressing against him. Oh yeah, Lillian. He relaxed his body again, not quite willing to wake her yet. Under lowered lids he examined her carefully. He hadn’t been able to in the dorm room because it was too dark.

            The dark lashes shadowed her skin and he could see the fine baby hairs where her straight tresses grew. Her lips were slightly open and her mouth relaxed in sleep, and he could hear her shallow breathing. She smells like blueberries. Justin paused at that unexpected observation, then shrugged it off. Her mouth is beautiful. He forced himself to ignore that comment.

            Joey was now shouting at the top of his lungs for some unknown reason, and Lillian moved restlessly. Justin quickly stroked his hand down her soft hair, trying to sooth her back into sleep. She needed all the rest she could get, he didn’t want her collapsing anytime soon.

            Unexpectedly, she threw an arm over his stomach and tightened her grasp. Laughing softly, he couldn’t help himself. Gently, he lowered his head and kissed her smooth forehead, smelling the blueberries again. She let out small sigh.

            “Awww!” a voice exclaimed loudly.

            Justin yanked his gaze up to see his friends staring at him. Shoot, did they just see that?! But if they had, he couldn’t see it in their eyes. They looked oblivious to the kiss.

            “Looks like Lily found herself a new ‘pad,’” Joey grinned. He nudged Chris with his elbow. “Get it? ‘Lily.’ ‘Pad.’ Lilypad!”

            “Joey, never talk again,” Chris ordered. “But I have to admit, it is pretty cute.”

            “I know!” JC exclaimed. “Look at them.” Then all four proceeded to gawk at Justin and Lillian with unblinking gazes.

            “Okay, you know what? That’s pretty disturbing,” Justin commented. They didn’t respond, just continued to stare. “Guys, stop!”

            At his shout Lillian finally woke up. She blinked a few times and sat up before noticing four pairs of eyes were trained on her and the fifth pair stared at the floor of the limo. “Um…are we there yet?”

            They just smiled.


*                       *                       *                       *          



            “Hey, I know we really didn’t talk that much about the whole…tour sabotage and blaming you thing. But maybe…I guess…we could just live in the moment now,” Justin suggested hesitantly, peering at her face. “Because I thought we were getting to a good start, before all that crap happened.”

            Lillian was more than pleased with his suggestion, but she had to make one last thing clear. “I would love to put the past behind us. Provided that you remember one thing.”

            “What’s that?” he asked cautiously.

            “You can always trust me. If we’re friends, we’re friends. I’ve trusted you since we started acting civilized towards each other, so I hope you’ll be that way with me now.”

            He looked relieved. “Trust. I can definitely handle that.”

            “Well, that’s good then,” she smiled, glancing down at the ground.

            “Yeah, it is,” he agreed. They stood a few feet away from each other awkwardly before he gave a sigh of exasperation. “Come on and give me a hug, buddy!” he cried, throwing his arms out comically.

            She laughed and obliged quickly, stepping into his secure embrace. A few moments later they broke apart, both grinning happily.

            Justin checked his watch, suddenly remembering that he had to go rehearse. “Shoot, I have to go now.”

            “Yeah, me too,” Lillian replied, backing away from him reluctantly. “I guess I’ll-“ she broke off, waving.

            “Yeah,” he said, waving back. “So I’ll see you later then, right?”

            “Later,” she nodded, before turning and running off to meet the rest of the crew near the front of the stadium.

            He stared after her belatedly with a slightly dazed look on his face.

            “Justin!” someone shouted.

            “What?” he asked, startled. “Oh, JC. Sorry, I just got delayed a little bit. I was heading to rehearsals right now.”

            JC glanced in the direction his friend had been looking, searching for what had fixated Justin’s attention. Only some crew members. Except…No way! Was he staring at Lillian? “Uh, it’s okay, man. Just hurry up, cause Dominic’s getting really impatient.”

            “Hurry, huh? I’ll race you,” Justin grinned, feeling as if a huge weight had just been lifted off his shoulders and flung into space.

            “I like a challenge,” JC smirked in response. “Okay, on three. One…t-“

            “-Three!” Justin shouted, racing into the stadium, leaving his friend and his troubles well behind.


*                       *                       *                       *


            “I am a genius!” Lance proclaimed loudly.

            “Shut up,” Chris complained. “It wasn’t your note that convinced Lily to come back, now was it? No! It was me: Christopher Kirkpatrick. So I am the genius.”

            “Whatever,” Lance shrugged. “Who became friends with Lily first? Me!”

            “But you never would have even met her if I hadn’t pissed you off so much that you started screwing with the elevators,” Chris thought logically.

            Lance considered that possibility, then gave in. “Fine, that’s true. But still, she’s always liked me more.” That set off a whole new spate of arguing.

            Joey approached the corner the two were standing in, then slung his arms over their shoulders. “Guys, guys, let’s all calm down. Lilypad likes me the most! Problem solved.”

            They stared at him for five seconds before simultaneously busting out in laughter. “Joey, man, you are such a comedian,” Lance gasped through his laughs.

            “But I was serious!” he protested, only to have his words fall on deaf ears. “I give up,” he said, throwing his hands up in the air and walking back to his side of the stage.

            A while later, Lance and Chris finally recovered. “Actually,” Lance began as he caught Justin’s figure sneaking onto the stage ten minutes late, “I think we all know who Lily likes the most.”

            Chris followed his gaze and upon seeing his youngest friend, grinned knowingly. “Yeah, definitely. They’re so cute!” he squealed in an imitation of a proud parent.

            “What’s so cute?” JC asked, climbing onto the stage a few steps behind Justin and joining the two.

            “Guess,” Chris prompted.

            “Justin and Lillian,” he immediately responded.

            They stared at him in surprise. Usually JC was the last one who realized things like that. “Whoa, good guess,” Lance complimented. He hadn’t even told him about the kisses during the visit to Lillian’s college.

            “I saw him staring at her a few minutes ago,” JC confessed. “Not really that hard to guess, even for me.”

            “He was staring at her?” Lance questioned giddily. “Whoa.”

            “Yeah,” Chris agreed. “Whoa.”

            Dominic materialized onstage and clapped his hands sharply. “Let’s go, let’s go. We don’t have much time, so get in your places. Your turns are getting sloppy.”

            They obediently lined up to begin the rehearsal, thoughts of their youngest friends fleeing their minds.


*                       *                       *                       *


            “You can go now,” Thompsen said reluctantly, waving Lillian away.

            Lillian doubted he would ever get used to her being accepted back onto the tour, but she wasn’t complaining. Any snide remarks he had he kept private, and he was allowing her the night off so she could watch the concert. Oddly enough, it was the first concert she’d get to see. She had been kept busy with the tech crew during all the other performances.

            She nodded and said goodbye to the other members of the crew before hurrying away to look for the guys backstage. Tonight is going to be great. And unknown to everyone except JC, she had borrowed his camcorder earlier today so she could film the concert.

            Reaching the door to the dressing room, she tapped on it lightly. “It’s Lillian,” she called out.

            “Come in,” someone inside responded, the door opening.

            “Hey,” she greeted the crowded room. It was filled with people from makeup and others were putting last minute touches on clothes. The guys were dispersed throughout the room. Joey stood in front of a small table of snacks, tossing M&M’s into his mouth and occasionally throwing a few at Chris, who was arguing with a harried-looking woman over the cuffs of his pants.

            “No, I want a third of an inch to show, not half an inch! Lisa, I’m a fashion designer, can’t you trust my judgment?” he whined.

            “Nope,” the trendy woman said, adjusting his pants to suit her taste. “There we go. Now don’t you look cute?”

            Lillian’s attention was drawn to the opposite side of the room when she heard a shout of pain.

            “Are you trying to scalp me? Damn!” JC exclaimed. Marcelo, one of the hair guys, was yanking a wire comb through his hair, roughly pulling the ends up.

            “I warned you about growing your hair long and big,” Marcelo admonished without a trace of guilt. “But nooo, JC thinks he can do anything so JC does everything!”

            “Yeah, you should have left the ‘fro to me,” Justin snickered before quickly ducking to avoid the bottle of gel that was thrown at him. “Hey,” he protested, “There’s no need to get snippy.”

            “Snippy my ass,” JC retorted. “Ow!” he howled once again as Marcelo dug into his hair with no mercy. He squinted his eyes from the pain, and after opening them again he caught sight of Lillian. “Lily! Save me from the monster!”

            Marcelo sighed in frustration and handed the comb over to Lillian. “What the baby wants, the baby gets. Where’s Lance?” he called out, leaving in search of more docile prey.

            Lillian took the comb after no one else stepped forward to claim the task. She shrugged, and positioned herself behind JC in the bright dresser mirror. “You have to hold still,” she advised him, “I’ve never actually tried to tame a boy-band afro before.”

            “It’s not a ‘fro!” JC immediately argued over Justin’s chuckling. “That’s what Justin had. I just have…large hair.”

            “Just be quiet,” Lillian said, rolling her eyes.

            “Yes ma’am,” came the dutiful reply.

            Carefully, she combed through the tangled ends where someone had obviously used too much gel, and it had since dried up. After several minutes of no complaints, Justin broke the relative silence.

            “Hey! I think he’s dead,” he observed.

            A brush was thrown in his direction in response.

            “Okay, maybe not,” Justin assented. He watched surreptitiously as JC closed his eyes under Lillian’s gentle strokes. Looks like fun. The two began a quiet conversation, occasionally laughing at some whispered jokes. Justin began to get sullen. Hey, I’m here too! When did JC and Lillian become so friendly? Wait, what am I thinking. Why would it matter if two of my friends are closer? Snap out of it, J. What’s up with me lately?

            Luckily, the five-minute warning stopped his thoughts and prevented him from thinking any deeper on the subject.

            “Thanks,” JC said to Lillian. “We’ll see you after the concert.” He eagerly dashed out the room, tugging a still whining Chris behind him.

            “My cuffs! They’re all wrong!” Chris protested, his whines fading as he was dragged down the hall.

            Joey put down his M&Ms and yelled for Lance to hurry up before tossing a roguish grin at Lillian and leaving the room.

            “Have fun!” she called after him.

            Justin continued to wait for Lance, and he finally emerged from one of the smaller adjoining dressing rooms, his hair looking wild.

            “Man,” Justin said, “What’d Marcelo do to you?”

            Lance examined his hair in the mirror, frantically trying to pat it down to its normal height. “I don’t know! He just ran in and started messing with it!”

            Justin attempted to help fix his friend’s hair, but a stagehand rushed in and took a firm grip on the both of them.

            “Let’s go, you two, everyone’s waiting. There’s no time for this,” she said, pulling them out the door.

            “Bye, Lily!” Lance managed to shout as he vanished from the room.

            “Good luck,” she shouted back. Then she smiled and left the room also. She needed to find a place to stand so she could tape the concert. She couldn’t wait.



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