just hold me, simply control me
your arms, they keep away the lonely
I look into your eyes
I need is you in my life.”
-Alicia Keys, “Never Felt This Way”
How’s everything? Sorry that I haven’t written you any e-mails
lately, but life back on tour is pretty distracting. I was worried that the
other people working here would act awkwardly towards me, but nothing bad
happened. I just kind of fell into the regular grind again. The guys are the
same as before…optimistic, happy, funny. I’m allowed to spend more time with
them, I think because Tim and Thompsen are feeling some guilt over the false
accusations. Or maybe they don’t consider me a threat to the single statuses
of some of the guys.
I’ve been having a great time. And Justin and I are having some more
heart-to-heart conversations. Can you actually believe that he thought I
didn’t respect him? Or worse, that I thought he was stupid! The look in his
eyes was so self-conscious. I guess when you’re constantly known for singing
and looking good, intelligence doesn’t become an important trait to the
public. But that wasn’t the most surprising thing. What I did next was even
more of a shocker. I practically spelled out my feelings for him! I don’t know
what came over me, but I just began this type of character analysis of him, and
I couldn’t stop. Haha, maybe I’ve been watching too many romantic shows and
movies. That would make sense.
I think he felt better though. I hope he did. But this platonic
relationship is becoming hard to handle. Everything I do seems to emphasize the
‘buddy’ feelings he has for me, while I just fall deeper and deeper in love.
What a messed up situation, huh? You can always count on Lillian to get into the
most exciting adventures! Sorry for that sarcasm. I promise to write something
more upbeat next time!
KIT and love always,
read the email over and nodded satisfactorily. Hopefully, Karen wouldn’t mind
too much that it sounded a little glum. Lillian would definitely remember to
give some details of the concert and the hotel water fight in her next email.
“Why such a downer?” came a voice from behind her shoulder.
Surprised, she immediately whipped around to see who it was.
“Chris! You shouldn’t be reading my email!” she reprimanded him,
but faintly relieved that it hadn’t been Justin. At least Chris knew of her
feelings for his friend, and he didn’t mind them.
Chris shrugged. “Then you shouldn’t be typing it when people are
trying to get some sleep,” he whispered, motioning to his bandmates who were
all taking quick naps on the bus.
“Touché,” she murmured. “I thought you were asleep too.”
“I was, but I got thirsty,” he explained, showing her his soda.
“Did you really have such a deep conversation with Justin?”
Lillian nodded. “A couple of days ago.”
Chris sat down next to her. “I’m just curious, but why exactly do you
like him so much? I mean, we all saw the hostility running between you two when
you first met.”
“The hostility was from him, not me. I like ‘N Sync, remember?” she
“True. But how could you love someone who didn’t even remotely like
you before?” he asked. “I know it sounds kinda harsh, but it was what
happened. I know some psychology, so it’s not the usual thing that happens.”
Lillian couldn’t deny that Justin had no affection for her in the
beginning. “At first, I was upset that he had supposedly turned out to be such
a jerk. I mean, this was not the Justin I saw on TV and was used to admiring. So
I fought back to his rudeness, in a way. But however it happened, he stopped
with the cut-downs and glares, and turned civil.”
“And things turned out great,” Chris concluded.
“In a way. I never forget that he was so mean before. How can you
ignore the time your celebrity crush insulted you?”
He laughed. “I know what you mean. I would be traumatized if Mya made
fun of me.”
“But we’ve all moved on since then. Like, I would hope to assume that
his and my personalities balance each other out. We get along now, at least.”
Chris nodded. “You guys definitely get along. I think J likes having
someone normal around to keep him reminded of the real world. He started getting
kinda cynical before.” He paused, then grinned at Lillian. “But please
don’t compliment him anymore! He’s getting such a big head from your
She laughed softly. “Sorry, but he really needed it at the time.”
“Maybe he needs you,” Chris answered, wanting to give her something
to think about. He patted her head with one last departing smile and went to
wake everyone up from their naps. Time to get ready for a photo shoot.
Justin took the bag from Mike and peered inside.
“Is this what you wanted?” Mike asked.
He nodded and pulled the contents of the bag out. “Exactly what I
wanted. Thanks, man.”
Mike tipped his head and went off in search of Lonnie, leaving Justin
alone in one of the stadium's seats.
Justin looked at the cover of the book. Dandelion
Wine. JC wasn't done reading it yet, so he figured he should just buy it
instead. He didn't understand why, but he had an inexplicable urge to prove to
Lillian that he was smart and worthy of the description she had shared with him.
It had been disconcerting at first, because she seemed to know so much
about him while he knew practically nothing about her. Part of that was due to
his being a celebrity and her being a college intern, but they were friends. And
in his eyes, friends were supposed to know everything about each other.
She liked the book a lot, so maybe reading it would give some insight
into her personality. He already listened to the Eva Cassidy CD, and it was
amazing. It had blues, gospel, pop, and jazz. A whole array of musical genres.
So Lillian obviously didn't limit herself to listening to rap and hip hop. In
fact, she was a lot like him. He knew he appeared to be only interested in the
kind of music on BET, but he appreciated most every genre.
We're friends, but she's turning
out to be more interesting than I thought. It was a little mean, but it was
true. Who would have known that Lillian loved to laugh, read classic novels as
well as watch TV in her spare time, and ruled at video games. Definitely not
He smiled softly to himself. He hadn't known all of that before, but he
was glad he could get to know her better now.
"Where'd J run off to?" Joey asked, holding a bottle of
Gatorade in his hand. "Why doesn't he have to practice too?"
"For the last time, Dominic already made him stay late a couple of
days ago to get the steps perfect," JC explained.
"Oh yeah," Joey said, remembering. He scanned the stadium and
caught sight of Justin sitting in one of the front row seats. "There he is!
What is he doing?!"
Lance and Chris joined the two at the edge of the stage.
"It's called reading,"
Lance explained slowly. "People do that sometimes, you know."
JC snickered and Joey glared at his blonde friend. "Shut up, Lansten.
I know that he's reading. I mean, why
is he reading? Shouldn't he be...I don't know...eating or something?"
Chris rolled his eyes. "No, Joey, that's just you."
JC quickly stepped in before Joey could lunge at Chris. "Let's stop
with both the Joey and Justin bashing. Joey, for your information, J's
interested in reading the book Lily recommended."
Joey nodded, understanding. "I see. The book Lilypad
recommended. It makes sense now."
"Give him some credit, he's not a moron or anything," Chris
said. "I think it's good that he's doing something educational."
"Plus, it's fine if he wants to impress Lily. It'll keep him more
grounded," Lance added. "Usually girls are trying to wow him, not the
other way around."
"He's whipped," Joey responded. At seeing the looks his friends
gave him, he quickly elaborated. "But it's cute, all the same."
Chris put his arm around Joey's shoulders. "Isn't it though? And
just think- one day, Uncle Chris will teach little Joseph how to read,
too!" He laughed and ran off the stage, with Joey in pursuit after him.
Lance and JC looked at each other and sighed simultaneously. "Let's
go sit with Justin," JC suggested. "They won't be done for another
thirty minutes, at the least," he said, referring to the other two.
Lance agreed and they went to join their younger friend.
“Need any help with those harder words? You know, the ones with three
syllables?” Lance asked Justin, sitting down next to him.
Justin looked up from the book and sneered at Lance before turning back
to continue his reading.
Lance sighed. “What’s so amazing about this book that’s gotten
everyone so worked up?” he asked JC.
JC shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s easy to relate to, I guess. It
deals with death, change, summer, childhood. Lots of nostalgia in that book.”
“Well, nostalgia’s all fun and good, but can we please get a move on?
I’m hungry, and Chris and Joey will be starving after chasing each other
around,” Lance said, pulling the book out of Justin’s grasp.
“Hey! Didn’t your mama raise you better than that?” Justin asked,
grabbing it back. “Just taking people’s things against their will. Kinda
“Come on Tennman, I’m getting hungry too. You can read when we get
back to the hotel,” JC offered. He yanked the book away and closed it before
handing it back to Justin.
Justin grumbled good-naturedly. “Fine, fine. Let’s go get some
Justin stood outside in the comfortable night air. Summer nights were the
best. Not too hot, and not cold either. Just the right climate for relaxing in.
He turned and opened the bus door.
“Guys, I’m gonna be upstairs,” he called to his friends. After
hearing their answering shouts, he went to the back bumper of the bus and
climbed on top of it. Then he hoisted himself up onto the roof of the bus, or
‘upstairs,’ as he liked to call it.
His own place to be alone. He was never able to stay out there for a long
time, only around forty minutes at the longest. That was the time it took to get
all the buses loaded and ready to hit the road. But those forty minutes were a
relief. He was able to feel like he owned the world, and he could see the sky
better and think more clearly.
He used to sit on the roof of his house when he was a kid, and he still
loved that feeling he got whenever he was alone and gazing at the world above
and below him.
Justin stretched out on his back and pillowed his head on his folded
arms. The best feeling in the world.
Lillian headed back to the bus, humming a song softly. She had forgotten
one of her bags, so she had gone to retrieve it. I
know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, the gleam in your
eyes is so familiar a gleam.
From the top of the bus, Justin felt the vehicle shake slightly as
something was loaded onboard. He could hear the faint tune of an old song. Who
would be humming a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ song? Nudging close to the edge of
the bus, he peered over to see who it was. Lillian. Well,
duh. Who did you think it was, Chris? He shook his head and called down to
“What?” Lillian asked, looking around for the voice. She finally
gazed up and saw Justin’s face peeking from the bus roof. “Justin? What’re
He grinned at her. “I’m just thinking. Wanna come up?”
“Oh. Um, I guess, if you don’t mind company,” Lillian answered.
“How am I supposed to get up there?”
“Get on the bumper, and I’ll help you up,” he instructed her. She
nodded and went to the back of the bus. He stood up and walked over, rocking the
“Now what?” she asked, looking up at him nervously and perching
carefully on the bumper.
“Here,” he said, reaching down with his hand. “Just grab on and
She obediently followed his directions and soon found herself on top of
“See? That was easy,” he smiled. “Before we sit down, let’s piss
the guys off a little.” He jumped up and down a few times, effectively moving
They laughed as they heard shouts and bangs coming from the inside.
“Okay, that’s enough. Come sit with me,” he requested, plopping
down onto the roof and stretching his legs in front of him.
Lillian sank down next to him. “Nice place you have here,” she
complimented, gazing up at the sky.
Justin nodded. “I think it is. Everyone needs to be alone sometime, you
know? To think or dream. Whatever.”
She agreed with him. She had her own private place back at MIT, so she
knew exactly what he was talking about.
The two of them lapsed into silence. Then Justin began humming “Once
Upon a Dream.” Lillian looked over at him and blushed. She didn’t know
he’d heard her.
“Why Disney?” he asked her, grinning. She could see his white teeth
in the darkness.
“I don’t know. Just in a Disney mood, I guess.”
“Disney mood?” he repeated. “What, like huge castles and beautiful
princesses and a handsome prince?”
“And a happy ending,” she added. “There’s always a happy ending.
It didn’t matter what happened to the princess, whether it was a curse or a
gender barrier or an evil relative. In the end, she always finds a prince and
they love each other and are happy forever.”
Justin stared at her. “So that’s what really matters, huh?”
“Of course,” she answered matter-of-factly.
“What about this princess?” he inquired, nudging her gently. “Is
she gonna find her prince and live happily ever after?”
She laughed softly. “I don’t know.” I’ve
found the prince, but I’m not sure about the happily ever after part yet.
“Well, if you’re not sure about what’s gonna happen in the future,
tell me what’s in your past. You know so much about me. Now I want to know
about your life.”
“What are you interested in?” she asked.
“Let’s start with the basics. You know, stuff that goes in a profile.
For example, birthday, siblings, likes and dislikes.”
“Well,” she began, “I was born on September 25th, the
same year you were born, but you’re a few months older. I don’t have any
brothers or sisters. You already know what I like, and I don’t like fake and
Justin snorted. “Come on, be more specific than that. You have to have
a really weird pet peeve, everyone does.”
“Fine, fine,” Lillian sighed. “I hate it when guys have nail polish
on. That’s so disgusting!”
He laughed. “A real prince would never wear nail polish, right?”
“Exactly,” she agreed. “Is that the end of the interview
“Nope, I’m not done yet!” he answered. “Where were you born? I
wanna know about your childhood.”
“I was born in one of the many Massachusetts suburbs. It was like the
place in ‘American Beauty,’ but not as messed up. It was actually pretty
normal,” she recalled, picturing her old neighborhood in her mind. The large
oaks lining the quiet streets, the colonial style houses, and the customary
white picket fences. “But that was before my dad lost his job and we had to
move to some more affordable housing.”
“We relocated to the less affluent part of Boston. There were some odds
and ends my dad could do there, so he could support the family. I was about ten
when that happened.”
“What about your mom?” Justin wanted to know. His mom was so
important in his own life, he couldn’t imagine Lillian’s being any
“She separated from my dad and they divorced about two years before we
moved,” Lillian responded, her voice flat.
“You didn’t stay with her? I thought most children went with their
mothers, not their fathers.”
“Not this time. She didn’t want anything to do with me. I think I
wasn’t enough of a girl for her. I was never into the dolls and dresses, I
liked to build legos and read books. That’s what probably led to MIT.”
Justin looked at her with an unbelieving expression on his face. “Not
enough of a girl? That’s crazy.” Her mother sounded like a total prick.
Lillian shrugged. “I would have preferred to stay with my dad anyway,
so it didn’t really matter when she left. Or so I thought. In ninth grade, we
found out that she had a rare form of melanoma. My dad and I didn’t have too
much money at the time, so we had to save up before we could fly to California
and see her. But it wasn’t fast enough, because the day we were supposed to
leave news came in that she died that morning.”
Lillian paused and fought the haze of memory to remember that day. The
bags were packed and laid out on the small kitchen’s creaky floor, and she had
been finishing the toast her dad made for her every morning. Then the phone rang
and they had received word of her mother’s death.
The next moment was crystal clear to Lillian. Her father had hung up the
phone and relayed the message to her in a simple sentence. Then he’d gone into
his room down the hall and closed the door and turned up the radio. Lillian
remembered sitting alone at the little round table, the crumbs of toast on the
plate in front of her and the pieces of luggage, still waiting next to the door.
That instant in time was a snapshot, stored in her mind to never be forgotten.
“I…I guess she meant more to me than I thought,” she finally said,
her throat tight. “And to my dad, too. Because I couldn’t stop crying for a
while. And after the tears stopped, I wasn’t the same. The grades dropped from
A’s to C’s because I just lost the motivation.
“Then how’d you get into MIT?” Justin asked.
“Well, while I was becoming a delinquent, my dad was turning depressed.
Not just sad, but clinically depressed. I didn’t even notice it until the end
of sophomore year in high school, when I caught him drinking in the bathroom. He
reeked of liquor.”
“Damn,” Justin murmured.
“This was the person I could always depend on, through thick and
thin,” she continued. “And there he was, lying on the bathroom tiles and
nursing a bottle of Heineken in his arms. My perfect impression of him burst,
but he was still my father and the only family I had. It was my turn to take
care of him. And in order to do that, I had to be successful. So I worked hard
and the grades went back up, and I got some part-time jobs to help with the
“Wow,” Justin breathed in admiration. He couldn’t even begin to
wonder the effort and dedication it took to recover from seeing a beloved parent
reach pitch bottom. And even more, Lillian took on the role of parent and was
forced to grow up in an instant. “But then everything turned out good,
She shook her head sadly. “Things were fine for a while. A year and a
half passed, but it seemed so much longer. I guess that’s what happens when
you take care of your recovering father. He did
recover, though. No longer depressed, and he didn’t depend on the bottle
anymore. And that’s what makes me mad the most. When he died, he was sober and
relatively happy. But the person who was driving the other car was under the
influence, and he crashed right into my dad in the middle of an intersection.”
“Shoot,” Justin whispered. What else was there to say?
“So that’s why I really hate drinking, in case you were wondering why
back at that club. It killed my dad, and he wasn’t even able to see me
graduate and actually make it in this world!” she exclaimed with emotion. “I
would have wanted to give him that comfort- that his daughter was a survivor and
could carry his love with pride. Even through all the hell we stuck together.”
Justin heard the tears in her voice. Quickly, he moved next to her and
put a comforting arm around her. “Shh,” he said softly, trying to sooth her.
“I know he saw you graduate and become a beautiful person. Maybe you don’t
always feel or see him, but he’s there. Trust me, you’re not alone
Lillian quickly wiped her eyes and shrugged out of his embrace. She
laughed shakily. “I know this sounds like a lie, but I hate crying. But these
past few months, I’ve done an awful lot of it. I don’t know what’s wrong
Justin smiled. “Nothing’s wrong with you. Maybe it’s Joey. He
brings out the worst in people.” He looked at her and caught a glimmer of a
smile. “Come on, let me see that brilliant smile of yours.”
Obediently she smiled, her eyes shining up at him.
He laughed approvingly. “Good, that’s what I like to see.”
A bang emitted from the roof of the bus. Justin looked down and sighed.
“That means it’s time to get down. Here, I’ll help you off.” He nimbly
climbed back down and then assisted Lillian in reaching the ground once again.
“So I guess you know my whole sordid past now,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess I do,” Justin concurred.
"Justin, please don't tell other people about this. I don't want
He nodded his agreement. Suddenly, he pulled her close and kissed the top
of her head. “You’re a real trooper, you know that?” He smiled softly and
disappeared inside the bus.
Lillian stood staring after him, thinking. Then she smiled too, blushing,
and boarded the bus.