Chapter 2

“I told you we’d make it to the sunshine one day, you just got there a little quicker. . .” – Tupac Shakur



            “Lillian, pay attention! This is important. One screw-up and one of the guys could be burned.”

            “I’m sorry, Thompsen,” Lillian replied contritely. She knew that his demonstration was important because it dealt with pyrotechnics, and anytime fire and explosives were involved everyone had to pay extra attention.

            She had been distracted because in the middle of the empty stadium she could see the band getting warmed up, and Justin was on the stage chatting with a few of the musicians. He was messing with their instruments and generally being a pest while they were attempting to tune their guitars and horns. Furtively sneaking another glance at the elevated platform, she couldn’t help but giggle as JC approached his friend and almost dragged him away bodily. Justin waved innocently to the band as they spoke as one, “Go away!

            “Ms. Oswald, do you need another warning?!” Thompsen snapped. He was the supervisor of the tech crew, and although Lillian didn’t like to harbor any ill will towards anyone, he was turning out to be an exception. She was the only female on the whole tech crew, and Thompsen enjoyed lording it over her more than any other person.

            “No, sir. I’m paying attention,” she replied dutifully. The tour was turning out to be high school revisited, only in a stadium instead of a classroom. The snickering peers, the condescending instructor, and the futile crush. If she knew that the internship would have been like this, she never would have accepted the position.

            Thompsen droned on again, enjoying the sound of his own voice. Suddenly, he frowned to himself. Another crew member asked what was wrong, and he answered, “Nothing, just . . . I’m not sure this will work. If these are attached to their wrists, the trajectory of the sparks could be altered due to a slight wind. We can’t risk that.”

            Lillian piped up with an idea. “If we just change the voltage of the wrist packs, then it would produce a thinner stream of sparks, but more concentrated too. Also, putting fireproof wristbands around the packs could prevent any possible burns.”

            The ten other interns from around the country turned to look at her in surprise. This was the first time she had spoken in front of them for so long. Then as a group they swiveled their gazes back to Thompsen, to gauge his reaction. He didn’t disappoint them.

            “Oswald, I will tell you if I need your interruptions. Don’t try to be an upstart smartass. You might be number one in your college class, but here we have the best of the best. Try to keep your thoughts and ideas to a higher standard,” he sneered at her.

            Lillian was astonished. People never spoke to her that way. At least not to her face, and not in front of an interested crowd. She quickly nodded and mumbled a quick apology before staring down at the ground. I hate this. I wish I was in my dorm room, talking to Karen on the phone. What a dream come true. More like a nightmare.

            After finally finishing up his lecture and demo, Thompsen let the group go and have some free time. Like always, Lillian went to sit in one of the front row seats with a good view of the stage. The band was warming up now, having at last ended adjusting their instruments and equipment. She watched as the guys from ‘N Sync fooled around on the stage, improvising their own silly dance moves to accompany the music.

            Joey seemed fascinated with the fine art of pelvic thrusts, and Chris was doing his own crack-head version of the Macarena. JC fairly bounced to the beat on his toes, and Lance seemed too self-conscious to do anything more than bob his head. Justin was a completely different story. He concentrated all his efforts in perfecting the choreographed moves, while putting little actions in to embellish the routine and make it his own. He even began to sing along to the song.

            Lillian stared at him, intrigued. Suddenly, he stopped and walked over to JC, who had begun talking to one of the girls from makeup. He sneaked behind JC’s back and began freak-dancing, pretending to grind up against his friend. The tall blonde girl was a receptive audience, and shouted with laughter. JC finally realized something was up and spun around quickly.

            “Justin!” he shouted. “Try not to freak unsuspecting bystanders.”

            Justin grinned at him in reply and launched into a song. “I like big butts and I cannot lie, all you other brothers can’t deny, that when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face you get-“

            “SPRUNG!” the others shouted. Justin, encouraged by their participation, shook his rear like there was no tomorrow. Joey whooped and joined in the fun, while the band shook their heads at another practice being spoiled. JC groaned, then shrugged as if saying If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

            Justin pulled the blonde girl up onto the stage, and they preceded to get extremely close. To Lillian, it looked like they were trying to meld their bodies into one. The girl smiled up coyly at Justin while his strong arms snugly held her to him and lowered his head to whisper in her ear. Abruptly, Lillian turned away from the scene. It seemed too personal.

*                       *                       *                       *                       *

            During the lunch break, all the harried crew and band members gathered in the backstage area around several long folding tables to dig into the various subs and snacks. Lance was peeking cautiously under the bread of one sandwich to examine the ingredients when his friend grabbed it from his hands and took a huge bite.

            “Chris, please! Close your mouth when you freakin’ chew! You’re like a cow.”

            “Your mom’s like a cow,” Chris mumbled through the meat and bread in his mouth, “in BED.”

            “I can’t believe you just said that,” Lance said wide-eyed. “So rude. I don’t even know who you are anymore,” he finished passionately, pretending to wipe a tear from his eye.

            “I’m Chris,” came the deadpan response.

            Before Lance could say anything else, someone jumped on his back and almost knocked him into the soda bin. He staggered to get his balance, then managed to shrug the person off him.

            “Joey?! What is this, Harass Lance and His Mom Day?” he cried out exasperated, rolling his expressive eyes.

            “We gotta get our kicks some way, and Lancey-baby, you are it!” Joey smiled at him exuberantly.

            “Thank you, Joseph, that means a lot to me. Ugh,” he groaned. “Look, it’s Justin. You can pick on him. He’s the baby anyway.”

            Justin approached the group, with food cradled in one arm and a tall, statuesque girl hanging on the other. She was chattering to him, while he nodded distractedly.

            He pulled her up to his friends and introduced her. “Guys, this is Elaine. She works in makeup. Elaine, you know everyone here.”

            Elaine flipped her perfectly styled golden hair over her shoulder and extended a well-manicured hand to each of them, smiling brightly at them all.

            “Hi! Wow, I was on your last tour too, but I never got to meet any of you! Now I can die happy!” she exclaimed cheerfully. Her attitude was contagious, and the others immediately grinned back at her.

            “It’s nice to meet you, angel. I can’t believe you were here all this time and I never noticed! Shame on me,” Joey leered at her, falling into his Casanova act. She giggled in reply, and flipped her hair again.

            Chris offered her a bag of chips, but she declined politely. Lance just offered a small smile in greeting, then looked at Justin, who was busily stuffing his food into his mouth.

            “Hey, I gotta get going, I have to call my mom. I’ll see you later, ok man?”

            Justin nodded, then turned all his attention back to his food. Chris couldn’t resist one last jab at his retreating friend.

            “Tell your mom I said hi!”

*                       *                       *                       *                       *


            Hey Karen,

How are you? I'm great! Today I met Justin and he told me that we would have to get together sometime. All the guys in the group have been so nice, and the tech crew has given me such an opportunity to express my ideas. I know you’ve been dying to hear about my endless adventures on this tour, so here they are. But actually, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Reality: I have made no friends, no one respects me, and I am having the biggest pity party for myself. Hey, you’re invited! I don’t know what I’m

            doing here. I am out of my league, I just wish I were back in my tiny room reading a good book. That’s

            all that’s new with me, I guess. Write back.

                        Wait, there is another thing I want to tell you. Here’s something for the gossip mill. But don’t tell

            anyone. Remember, a secret. There’s this girl, Elaine, and she’s beautiful, self-assured, bubbly. Like

            you. Only, she’s got a mean streak. I’m her roommate, and she can barely manage to be civil to a lowly

            peasant like me. But anyway, her and Justin have been getting awfully close lately. So yes, that’s

            another dream for me, shot down. Lillian: 0. World: 2



She inspected her message one last time before hitting the “send” button. She regretted that she had no good news to tell Karen and the email was so glum, but her situation on the tour just got worse and worse. Thompsen seemed to have a personal vendetta against her. He would treat any other member of the female species with a simpering attitude, but as soon as she came into view he would turn mean. She couldn’t figure out why, either. Maybe he only respects remotely attractive women.

            She groaned silently to herself. She had to stop having such a pessimistic attitude. It didn’t help things any. It was a few minutes before midnight, and she was up in her room alone. Elaine, after dropping some things off and checking her appearance in the mirror, breezed out the door to check out the hotel lobby’s social scene. Lillian herself didn’t feel up to standing around aimlessly in a busy lobby, and opted instead to stay in the room.

            Twenty minutes later, she shut the laptop with frustration. She was absolutely bored out of her mind. Might as well leave. Maybe I can take a walk or something.

            She left the room, remembering to grab her room card, and headed to the elevators at the end of the hall. As she turned the corner, she heard some laughter and cursing.

            Stop it. I am so serious, Lance. Get your damn foot out of the way!”

            “Haha, this is revenge, buddy. Insult my mom, face the consequences.” Lance was having the time of his life, annoying Chris to no end. He had stepped out of the elevator to go get some money from his room when he had suddenly turned, and right before the elevator doors slid close, stuck his shoe in their path. That was five minutes ago. Things had gotten progressively worse.

            “I am gonna kill you. Stop it!” Chris whined.

            “I don’t think so! I could do this forever and ever and ever and-“

            Stooooop!” Chris cut him off, screaming now. “I’m sorry. I will never make fun of your mom again. I will be your slave for eternity. I will be her slave for eternity. Come on, I need to go back down! There was this girl! Hot! You know what I’m saying? Please, Scoop!”

            Lance tapped his chin, pretending to be thinking over Chris’ offer, all the while keeping his foot jammed in place. He ignored his friend’s attempts to kick it out of the way. He heard a noise behind him, and looked to see who it was.

            “Um, I could just take the stairs,” Lillian mumbled quickly. She had frozen at the green gaze, and after a few moments had forced her mouth to say something. Unfortunately, as soon as she said it, another pair of eyes turned to regard her, this time dark brown.

            Lance realized how stupid he and Chris looked to the casual observer, and swiftly jerked his foot out of the way. The elevator doors immediately slid close, cutting off Chris’ protest. He turned back to the petite girl who was still standing several feet away.

            “I’m sorry, we were being immature. Long story, you don’t want to know,” he offered, walking towards her.

            She looked at him nervously, then gave him a tentative smile. “That’s okay, I’m not in a hurry or anything. Besides, it looked like you were having fun.”

            Lance laughed at that comment. He sure was having fun. But he had to remember his manners. “Hi, I’m Lance Bass,” he greeted, sticking out his hand and shaking her much smaller one.

            “Lillian,” she replied. “You didn’t have to introduce yourself. Along with more than half the teenage population in the country, I already know who you are.”

            “Well, it’s just so much nicer this way, right?”

            She smiled widely at him and nodded. He was being so friendly. Not at all acting like a pampered celebrity. She immediately felt comfortable. Well, as comfortable as any girl could be talking to Lance Bass.

            He was stunned for a moment at seeing her face completely change as she smiled. It was a prime example of the type of smile that could light a room. Her ordinary features rearranged themselves in a way that made her seem almost beautiful. The next thing he did surprised him. It wasn’t something that he did often, but he just felt compelled to do it.

            “Do you want to come with me to my room? I mean so I can pick something up. Then we can go downstairs and talk some more.”

            Lillian looked taken aback by the offer, but quickly agreed. This was the most fortunate thing to happen to her since the tour began. He gave her a smile, and they went off together.


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