hear your voice in the wind
feel you under my skin
my heart and soul
wait for you.”
-Lara Fabian, “Adagio”
“Ugh, rehearsals suck,” Justin groaned, coming into the hotel room.
After the extra hour and a half, Dominic had made him stay longer to practice
some new moves. He was still sweaty, and as soon as the door shut behind him he
yanked his wifebeater off. He looked at the other occupants in the room. “What
are you guys doing?”
JC looked from the half-naked Justin to the staring Lillian, and back to
Justin. “We’re just talking about a book.” He nudged Lillian on the bed
beside him, who was still in a stupor.
“Oh! Yeah, a book,” she said, dragging her eyes away from Justin’s
torso. It’s just skin. Not a big deal.
And all those muscles aren’t a big deal either.
Justin shrugged and went into the bathroom to take a shower. When they
heard the water turn on, JC regarded Lillian closely.
“What? What’s wrong?” she asked, uncomfortable under his gaze.
“You like Justin!” he sang, laughing.
Lillian rolled her eyes. “Good job, JC.”
“You want to kiss him!”
“So getting back to the book-“ she began, to be cut off by his
“You think he’s gorgeous.”
“Stop with the ‘Miss Congeniality’ lines! We never should have
watched that on the way to Las Vegas,” she exclaimed, throwing the paperback
He caught it easily, and tossed it back. “Don’t deny your passion!”
he burst out in a melodramatic voice.
“I think you’re more excited than I am,” Lillian observed dryly.
JC leaned across the expanse of the king-size bed and propped his chin on
his hand. “So, girl, come on! Dish!”
She started laughing at his eager expression. “I would never have
thought I’d find a big sister among ‘N Sync. Fixing each other’s hair.
Gossiping about guys.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” JC decided. “So tell me!”
“There’s not much to say,” Lillian shrugged. “He’s amazing.”
“Oh come on! You have to be more specific than that. Don’t girls like
to talk about body parts? What parts do you like the most?”
“I am not sharing anything concerning body parts,” Lillian stated
“Okay, I’ll tell you about what I like, and then you can tell me
about the parts you enjoy!” JC offered. “I like-“
Lillian quickly interrupted him. “I don’t want to hear this. You’re
“Ah,” he breathed. “Crazy…like a fox!”
“And very, very hyper tonight,” she said.
“I can’t deny the truth!” JC laughed. “But seriously, I am pretty
curious about the whole ‘thing’ going on between you two.”
“There isn’t any ‘thing.’ Even though sometimes I wish there
were,” Lillian admitted quietly. “But I already decided that nothing will
ever come of this, and I should just be thankful to have met him and be his
friend.” No matter that it’s hard to
remember that sometimes.
JC groaned in disappointment. “Lily! That’s boring! Why don’t you
fight for him?”
“Because it’s stupid! Besides, why do you care so much? I would have
thought that you’d support Justin being with Britney, considering they’re
both your friends.”
“Nah, I know they’re too much like brother and sister sometimes.
Plus, the same industry and professions can ruin a relationship. It’s like a
cop being married to a cop. Why would you want to live with your job every hour
of your life?”
Lillian listened attentively. “Oh. I guess that makes sense.”
“And the reason I care so much is because I think it would work between
you guys. He’s never known someone like you before.”
“And when you say ‘like me’ you mean someone unglamorous and
JC shook his head. “No! You have to stop insulting yourself. What I
mean is, someone down-to-earth with a good sense of humor and no ulterior
motives in wanting to know a celebrity. Just for the sake of friendship.”
Lillian immediately argued with him. “It wouldn’t happen, JC. We’re
not alike. Justin needs someone beautiful and popular and bubbly. It’s the
type of woman who would balance him. He deserves that person.”
“He deserves whoever makes him happy. And you two have a lot of fun
“We’re friends, nothing more.”
JC sighed, seeing that he was getting nowhere. Who would’ve thought
Lily could be so stubborn? “Fine, fine. But if you wanna talk, just call me,
your big sis!”
Lillian laughed. “Okay, sis.”
Oddly enough, at that moment Justin chose to walk into the room. He froze
at the last bit of their conversation. “Okay…I’ll just pretend I didn’t
hear Lillian call JC her sister,” he said aloud to himself.
“Shut up, J! It’s private!” JC retorted.
Justin snorted. “Just make sure you keep it private. I’m gonna go
look for a basketball hoop. I think someone said there was one in the back
“Hey, I have a great idea!” JC burst out before Justin could leave
the room. “Why don’t we come with you? I wanna play, too. And Lily can
watch.” He ignored the exasperated sigh from Lillian in the background.
Justin mulled over the suggestion. “Alright. It won’t hurt to
practice beating you in some one-on-one.”
“Come on,” JC urged Lillian, putting the book aside and tugging her
to the door.
“Hold on, let me go find Lance,” she said. “I’ve been kind of
neglecting him lately, and maybe he’ll want to watch too.”
“Hurry up,” Justin responded, already down the hall. “You don’t
want to miss any of the action!” The elevator opened and he ran in, with JC
Lillian went next door and knocked softly. After no one answered, she put
her hand on the doorknob and found that it wasn’t locked. She pushed the door
open and stepped into the silent hotel room. Where
are Lance and Chris? They said they were going to be reviewing the new wardrobe
“Hello?” she called out. “Lance? Chris? Where’d you guys go?”
After surveying the dark room she shrugged and turned to leave, only to
run into something solid and warm.
“Oh my gosh!” she screamed in surprise.
Lance started laughing hysterically. “I got you, I got you!”
The door opened behind him and Chris stepped in. He looked at the howling
Lance and Lillian, who was holding a hand to her chest. “What? What
“I scared Lily,” Lance said in between his laughter. “Her
“Lance, shut up!” Lillian exclaimed, smacking him on the shoulder.
“That was so immature!”
His only response was to crack up even more.
Chris shook his head. “I leave you alone for one minute, Lansten, and
when I come back you’re frightening little girls. Shame on you.”
“Thank you, Chris,” Lillian smiled at him.
He continued on. “I mean, you should have had the decency to wait until
I got back so I could have been in on the plan. At the least you could have made
sure I was in the room so I would be able to see her face!”
“Chris, you’re asking for it,” she muttered.
“Sorry, Lily, we’re a team now,” Lance grinned, motioning to Chris
and himself. “You and J wanted to pull pranks on me, so now I’ve found
someone to get my back.”
“You just wait. We’ll get you both when you’re least expecting
it,” Lillian warned, narrowing her eyes. “And now that I’m so mad at you,
I won’t invite you to watch Justin and JC’s basketball game.” She stuck
her tongue out at them playfully.
“Basketball game?” Chris asked with interest. She nodded. “Well
let’s go then!”
“Nope. You can’t come anymore.”
“Who’s gonna stop us?” Lance wanted to know.
“I am!” Lillian declared.
Chris and Lance exchanged a look, then turned back to Lillian with evil
glints in their eyes.
“Hey,” she protested. “What’s going on?”
They slowly began walking towards her.
“Guys, stop! Wait a minute, don’t even try-“
Her objection was cut off as they picked her up bodily and ran out of the
“You are so dead!”
Justin, who had been about to check the ball to JC, paused and looked up
towards the shout. “That sounded like-“
The metal door to the back parking lot banged open and Lillian appeared,
carried squirming in the grasps of Lance and Chris. They were trying to quiet
her down, but to no avail.
“I will not shut up! I can’t believe you carried me through the whole
hotel! And don’t tell me that I’m attracting attention, Chris! Maybe if you
hadn’t decided to lug me all the way down here, I wouldn’t be shouting right
Justin and JC looked at each other, and both of them tried to stifle
“Ow!” Lance exclaimed. He promptly let go of Lillian’s feet and
rubbed his side, and she was finally able to stand on her own.
“That’s what you get! Don’t try it again,” Lillian glared,
pulling her arms away from Chris.
JC ambled over to the three. “Now, now. What happened here?”
“Daddy, she kicked me!” Lance whined.
“Whatever, Lance, it was your fault!”
“Children, let’s all calm down. Tell me the whole story.”
They obediently recalled what had happened, interrupting each other when
someone lied or strayed a little too far from the truth. Finally, JC held up his
“I’ve decided that this is all Lance and Chris’s fault. I give Lily
permission to take revenge on all y'all's asses.”
Lillian laughed and high-fived JC. “Thanks.” She turned to Chris and
Lance. “Take that!”
Justin came over and put his hand on her shoulder. “The L and J
connection’s coming for you,” he said to the two. “But for now…let’s
get back to some ball!”
JC grabbed the basketball from Justin and dribbled to the hoop, executing
a graceful lay-up.
“Oh no you didn’t!” Justin shouted, running over to his friend.
“Okay, these will be the teams. Me and Jace, against Lance and Chris. And
“Sounds a little uneven to me,” Lillian commented. They turned and
stared at her. “Hey, I watched Challenge for the Children!”
“Fine, fine,” Justin assented. “So much for an easy win. How
about…me and Lance, versus JC and Chris.”
“That’s better,” Lillian agreed.
After a few minutes of smack-talking, the four finally began the game.
Lillian stood watching on the sidelines, smiling softly. She couldn’t be
Lillian stared out of the bus window, her eyes looking at the other cars
but not seeing them. The music in her ears drowned her mind, and everything
surrounding her faded. Suddenly, someone snapped the headphones.
Startled, she looked up to see who it was.
“Justin. Do you want your CD player back?”
He sat down next to her. “Nope, just wanted to know what you’re
listening to that’s so interesting. You looked zoned out.”
“Oh. Well, here’s the jewel case.” She gave the plastic case to
He read it. “Eva Cassidy?”
“Yeah. JC’s mom sent him the CD, and he let me borrow it in return
for the book. I think you’ll like it, too. She’s amazing.”
Justin flipped through the insert in the case, and stopped on a page. He
read the words, then looked up. “She died?”
Lillian nodded sadly. “A few years ago. She was really famous locally
in DC, which was probably why Mrs. Chasez knew about her. But now she’s
popular in Europe, and she’s becoming more famous here.”
“That’s sad,” Justin observed. “To become famous after your
death. You wouldn’t even realize what an impact you’ve made.”
“I guess she made music to satisfy herself, and not the rest of the
world. Sometimes it's enough,” Lillian mused.
Justin nodded, then looked pensive. He ran his finger along the edge of
the page, not even seeming to realize what he was doing.
Lillian immediately noticed his slightly furrowed brow and thoughtful
eyes. “What? What’s wrong?”
He sighed. “I was wondering…” he began, before trailing off.
“Wondering?” she prompted.
“I know this sounds kinda weird…but- I don’t know,” he said
awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. How would he say this?
“Tell me,” Lillian urged him.
He looked at her concerned gaze and tried again. “Well, I guess…”
he paused, then figured it would be better to ask all at once. “Am I stupid?
Like, do you not respect me?” After the words rushed out, he peered up at her
“Stupid?” she repeated, surprised. “But Justin, why would you think
that? Of course I respect you!” Respect was nowhere near the strongest thing
she felt for him.
“I said it was gonna sound strange. Forget about it,” he said, trying
to avoid the subject. He moved to get up from the seat, but Lillian quickly took
his wrist and pulled him back down.
“No, let’s not forget about it. Why do you think I don’t respect
Justin looked around the bus, and saw that no one would overhear their
conversation. Lance and JC were sleeping, he knew, and Joey and Chris were
deeply engrossed in a video game. It was safe to talk.
“I just get this feeling that you don’t think I’m as smart as other
people,” he admitted softly.
“What other people?” she asked curiously. His vulnerable expression
was breaking her heart.
“Like, you don’t talk to me on an intellectual level,” he went on,
avoiding her question. “We just joke around. We’ve never…discussed
Lillian thought over his words. What did he mean? Discussed things? Then
she caught on. “You mean discussed books. Or exchanged CD’s.”
Justin was a little shocked that she’d figured it out so quickly, but
relieved too. He nodded slowly. “Yeah.”
“Look, it’s true that JC and I like to talk. I hadn’t really known
him that well before, and we’re pretty similar. But that in no way means that
he’s smart and you’re not.” She took his tanned hand in her smaller one
carefully. “I think you’re a wonderful and intelligent person.” At
the very least, she added in her mind.
He gazed at her. “Really?”
“Yes, really! We’re the same age, right? Well, look what you’ve
done with your life already! You write your own songs and vocal arrangements,
you’re involved in lots of charities, you have your own
charity named after you, and let’s not even get into the phenomenon that is
‘N Sync,” she elaborated, smiling gently at him.
He chuckled, but then became sober again. “But that’s what the public
sees. I want to know what you see.”
Lillian paused to think of how to phrase her words. “I see…the most
amazing person I’ve ever met, and will probably ever meet. I know that you
love your friends and family deeply, and will do anything to protect them. I
know that the guys look up to you, even though you’re the youngest.”
She stopped to see his reaction, and noticing that
he was staring down at his lap she continued.
“When I look at you, I see a person who is an old soul, someone who has
grown old so young. You want to be loved and appreciated, which you are. But
sometimes you feel insecure, so you like to make jokes and lighten the mood. In
a way, you’ve become the entertainer. When there’s a dull moment, everyone
looks to you to provide some fun. But you don’t like how you’re expected to
be happy and go-lucky every moment of your life. And when a joke fails, you feel
like you’re a disappointment.”
Justin stared at her in amazement. How did she know so much?
She carried on with her description, not noticing his intent look. She
was speaking from the heart now. “You’re a private person too, but of course
this lifestyle wars with your personality. You act like you love the limelight,
which you do, but not all the time. You just want to be alone at times.
“You’re intimidated by all the interviews and public appearances
because you’re thrown into strange environments with people you don’t know.
But people expect you to be smooth, so that’s what you act like. You’ve
become a little cynical, so you try to distance yourself, even though it’s
hard for you.
“And you’re frustrated over lots of things, I bet. No one would ever
think you’re stupid, because you’re the exact opposite. You always think and
plan, and wonder what everyone else is thinking. You’re full of
contradictions, but that’s what ultimately makes you human and interesting,
and it’s what separates the façade from the person. It’s what makes m-…I
mean, your friends and family, love you.” She stopped talking, and let go of
Did I just say all of that? she
They sat in silence, each thinking deeply. One worried, and the other
How was it possible? How did she
know? He couldn’t believe it. He hadn’t thought anyone knew his jokester
persona was just an act sometimes, or that all the public situations scared him.
“Lillian,” he said, his voice soft, “That’s incredible.”
“I-I’m sorry. If I intruded or offended you. Because I didn’t mean
to! I just wanted-“ Her explanation was silenced when he placed his hand over
“Can I talk now?” he asked. After she nodded, he smiled and removed
his hand. “You didn’t intrude at all. And how could I be offended? It’s
weird. I’ve never heard myself be described so well.
It was a little scary.”
“I’m sor-“ she began again.
“No, don’t ever apologize. I should be thanking you. In fact, I will
thank you. Lillian, thank you so much for showing me that I’m not stupid, or
not deserving of respect.” This time, he took her hand. “It’s uncanny. You
know so much about me, but not what people usually know. You know who
I am, and not my stats or hobbies or pet peeves.”
She shrugged, trying to take the attention away from herself. “You get
used to being able to read people when you’re invisible.”
“Invisible? What do you mean?” he asked, confused.
Invisible because the person I love
doesn’t notice. Because we’re so alike, but he doesn’t even realize it.
Because the hurt makes me want to fade away sometimes. “I don’t know.
Just acting a little angsty, don’t pay attention,” she said instead.
“Are you sure?” he inquired, not wanting to tread in unfamiliar
territory. “Because we’re friends, and I want to listen.”
She shook her head. “I’m fine. Here, why don’t you listen to the
CD? Try tracks one and ten, they’re the best I think.”
He slipped the headphones on, and she rose to leave. “Where are you
“I was just leaving you alone to listen,” she responded hesitantly.
He simply tugged her back down next to him. “Come on, sit with me. I
want some company from my friend!” He slung his arm around her shoulders.
She nodded, and allowed herself to be pulled into his loose embrace. Your
Justin closed his eyes as he became more involved in the flowing music,
and his breathing slowed. The music was
amazing, just like she’d said. It carried him somewhere he’d never been
before, and floated him away from his worries.
He felt Lillian relax more against his side, but he didn’t detect her
shaky sigh, full of unspoken emotions.