Chapter 24

“No use, old girl

You may as well surrender

Your hope is getting slender

Why don’t somebody send a tender blue boy

To cheer little girl blue.”

                        -Ella Fitzgerald, “Little Girl Blue”



"I wanna be sedated," Chris sang out in an annoyingly loud voice, jumping on the bed.

            "Shut up, or you'll get what you want," Joey growled. He reached out and pulled Chris' leg out from under him, causing Chris to flop onto the bed.

            "Ow! I was just singing a classic, there's no need to get testy," Chris complained.

            Joey ignored his comment and turned to the others in the room. "Where's the food?!"

            "Give her some time, Joey," Lance answered. "Maybe if you hadn't ordered so much it wouldn't take the restaurant so long to make everything."

            "I'm hungry," Justin stated.

            "So what's new," JC commented. He ignored the pillow thrown at him and browsed through Justin's CD collection.

            "Hey, how'd you get this?" he asked, holding up the Eva Cassidy CD.

            "Oh yeah, Lillian let me borrow it. Your mom has good taste, JC," Justin replied.

            "She must have had good taste to create me!" JC exclaimed, grinning widely.

            His friends groaned simultaneously.

            "What? What'd I say?" he asked innocently.

            A knock came from the door and Joey bolted up to answer it. He yanked it open and embraced the stunned person in the hall.

            "Lilypad! My savior!" He began rummaging through the various plastic bags she was holding. "Which one's mine? Where's my food?"

            Justin approached them. "Joey, stop pawing like a dog and help with the bags," he admonished his friend, relieving Lillian of some of her load.

            She smiled her thanks and handed Joey two large paper bags. "Those are yours. And this is the last time I'm ordering food for you. The waiter was pretty surprised that I ordered baby back ribs and a double cheddar cheeseburger, but by the time I moved on to your main courses, let's just say he thought he was on Candid Camera."

            Joey shrugged and grinned at her. "You're a lifesaver, so I'm gonna ignore that little insult."

            Justin opened the other bags and took out the Styrofoam containers, distributing them amongst everyone.

            The next ten minutes were filled with the sounds of chewing and a few satisfied burps before anyone decided to talk again.

            "Gimme some of those fries," Justin demanded, reaching over and grabbing food from Lance's box.

            "I want a piece of that bacon," Lance requested in return.

            "Lily, they didn't give any jelly for the biscuit?" JC asked, looking through the empty bags. "How do I eat a biscuit with no jelly?!"

            "Oh, I don't think you're ready for this jelly," Chris began in a deadpan voice.

            "Because my body's too bootylicious," Joey added.

            JC rolled his eyes in reply.

            "Seriously though, use butter like a normal person," Chris said.

            "We can pig out all we want now, the tour's almost over and we don't have to be dancing and singing every night," Lance observed. "Just a week and a half left."

            They all quieted, suddenly remembering that he was right. There were ten days left before the tour was over and everyone resumed their normal lives. The interns would go back home, the technicians would find more jobs, and 'N Sync would head back to the studio.

            Lillian looked at the five people in front of her. They would continue to be celebrities, comfortable with the spotlight and attention. More songs and appearances would be made. It was their life. But what about her? Where would she go? This tour had become her life, and she couldn't imagine being without it. She couldn't imagine being without them. But she had to.

            JC noticed the stillness that had descended, and he spoke to dispel it. "Ten days. We might as well make them good."



*                       *                       *


            “Where’s Justin?”

            Lance looked up from his magazine to answer Wade, who had stopped by on the tour for a day. “He’s upstairs.”

            Wade looked confused. “Upstairs? The bus doesn’t have two levels.”

            “He means the roof of the bus,” Joey clarified. “That’s Justin’s special place. His happy place.”

            “Like in ‘Happy Gilmore,’ huh?” Wade asked.

            “Exactly! Just like that,” Joey confirmed, nodding.

            “Don’t feel offended that he’s not hanging with you right now,” JC added. “Our time with Lily is short, and she and J formed a bond.”

            Wade searched his mind to recall this Lily person. “Oh, you mean the small girl with the dark hair? What’s so special about her? I didn’t think Justin went for that type of person.”

            Lance quickly jumped on his words. “That type of person? What is that supposed to mean?”

            “I just thought she looked…average. Nothing like, well you know, Britney,” Wade answered, a little surprised that the usually calm Lance now appeared defensive. And the others were staring at him too. Did he say something wrong?

            “Justin’s not shallow,” Chris said. “Looks aren’t everything. Lily’s personality is great.”

            “But she’s not one of us!” Wade argued. “She’s a normal college student. What if she’s really interested in the fame and status, and not him. It happens a lot.”

            “Just because it happens a lot doesn’t guarantee it’ll happen now. Lilypad’s different. I doubt she even remembers that we’re ‘N Sync half of the time,” Joey commented. “She treats us like we’re ordinary guys.”

            “Yeah, and in Joey’s case, ordinary moronic guys,” Chris added, snickering.

            Wade shrugged, not understanding how they had become so close to one of the interns. “Considering there are like a thousand people involved in the tour, how did you meet this one girl? And more important, how did you get to be such great friends? That doesn’t happen!”

            “It was a coincidence,” Lance responded. “I bumped into her in the hotel one day.”

            “And it snowballed from there,” JC concluded. “Look, Wade, I can see why you’re a little suspicious. Justin is a friend to all of us, and you’re just being protective of him. But in the beginning he didn’t get along too well with her, and after he got to know her a bit better, they became friends. You probably need to spend some more time around her, too. She’s kinda shy, she won’t show her personality to a stranger.”

            Wade considered his words and sighed. “You’re probably right. She doesn’t look dangerous. Or ambitious. But if things turn, don’t come running to me for help.”

            “Nah, you’ll come running to us to gloat,” Joey joked.

            “Damn straight,” Wade agreed, grinning. He supposed if all of them approved of the girl, there was nothing wrong. After all, they’d been in the business for a while now, they were experienced pros.

            Chris stood up and grabbed a Nerf football that had been lying on the floor. “Now that we’re all cool, it’s time to have some fun.”

            Lance smiled wickedly and disappeared into the back area of the bus. When he emerged, his arms were carrying a large collection of Beanie Babies.

            “What’s going on?” Wade asked.

            “This,” Lance answered, nodding to the stuffed animals, “Is what we like to call revenge. Here, grab a few.” He threw a purple rabbit and a white bear to Wade. “Just follow our lead.”

            Chris looked up at the bus ceiling and drew his arm back, then quickly released the football. It emitted a large bang as it hit the metal.

            Then Lance joined in and began throwing the Beanie Babies as hard as he could against the ceiling. JC and Joey couldn’t resist being left out and they grabbed some more stuffed animals to help.

            Wade was about to ask what they were doing, but his question was soon answered when minutes later Justin stormed into the bus.

            “Hey! What the hell are you doing? I was up there, you know!” he fumed.

            Lance froze, conspicuously caught in the act of launching another Beanie Baby. “Um…oops?”

            Chris laughed impishly. “Aren’t you glad we finally found a use for Beanie Babies? Who would’ve guessed that they make such a ruckus upon impact? Not me, that’s for sure!”

            “Oh, haha, guys. Very mature of everyone,” Justin said sarcastically, noticing their snickers. “Well, I was anticipating this. So, I came prepared. Let’s go, Trooper!”

            Everyone looked around, confused. “I don’t get it,” Lance began, “Who’s Troop-“

            He was interrupted by a stream of cold water hitting him in the face.

            “Gotcha!” Lillian cried, laughing hysterically. She handed Justin the other water gun she had been holding, and they proceeded to soak everyone.

            Stuck with nowhere to hide, Wade quickly ran out of the bus and the others followed. JC was the last one out, and as soon as he stepped onto the concrete the bus door slammed closed.

            JC immediately turned around to open the door, but it was locked. “Dang, they locked us out!”

            “And we’re wet!” Joey complained.

            Lance turned to Chris. “I guess your plan didn’t work out so well, huh?”

            “Shut up,” Chris responded, wringing his shirt out. “We’ll get them. Just gotta go back to the drawing board for a while.”

            “Our time is running out, we better think of a good prank or our reps are ruined,” Lance reminded him.

            “Don’t worry,” Chris reassured him. “They’ll get theirs…believe you me,” he finished in an ominous tone. Then he walked off, his clothes dripping water onto the ground and leaving a trail behind him.

            Wade looked at the others. “I don’t know. The sight of a wet Chris just doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of men.”


*                       *                       *


            “I wanna be bad, and make that look so good,” Justin crooned, swiveling his hips.

            Lillian looked up quickly from her laptop. “Um…okay,” she replied before continuing to type away.

            “I give up. If my hotness doesn’t distract you, what will?” he joked. “Come on, Trooper, stop being boring. Let’s go think of another prank.”

            She raised an eyebrow at the nickname he had taken to calling her since their first talk “upstairs,” but she didn’t answer.

“Or we can go play some poker with JC and Lance,” he suggested, forging on. “Maybe watch some SNL. So which one do you want? Poker or TV?”

            “Yes,” she responded.

            “You’re not even listening to me!” he whined, putting on his puppy face. That would convince her.

            “Sure,” she answered, not even looking at his face.

            He sighed and flopped down next to her, jostling the bed. “What are you doing, anyway?”

            “I’m writing a report of my internship.”


            “Because I’m getting credit for being an intern, so I have to turn something in to show I’ve actually done some work. My teacher won’t be happy if I just tell him I made friends with the band and hung out every night.”

            “Can’t you write it later? There are only eight days left before the tour’s over!” Justin exclaimed. “We gotta do stuff!”

            “We are doing stuff,” Lillian said calmly. “You can always go play poker or watch TV without me.”

            “But I don’t want to,” he answered softly. He could be with the guys any time. In eight days, they wouldn’t be the ones leaving. She would.

            Finally, Lillian stopped typing and turned to face him. “In all honesty, I would love to go and do something fun with you. But it will just delay the inevitable. I’m going to leave, and you’re going to forget me.”

            “I won’t forget you,” he immediately argued.

            “Yes, you will,” she answered firmly. I wish it wasn’t true, but that’s impossible. “Our lives are completely different. With yours, especially, people will come and go. I’m not special, Justin. You’re going to find another person to replace me as soon as I’m gone.”

            “What about your life? You can’t just forget about this.”

            “No, I can’t forget. But that’s because these months have been a dream for me. I can die happy, because I’ve met ‘N Sync. And now you’re not ‘N Sync to me anymore, you’re Justin, Lance, JC, Chris and Joey. Real people with real personalities and quirks. I don’t want this to end, but it will.”

            “Don’t you care about us?” he asked angrily. If she cared, she wouldn’t be talking this way.

            “Of course I care. Maybe I care too much. I don’t know. But don’t you understand, Justin?” she demanded, throwing her hands up in frustration. “To you, this has been a little adventure, which I’m sure happens all the time. People want to be with you and around you. But for me, it became my life. And so my life is essentially going to end in eight days.”

            He started to interrupt her, but she cut him off quickly.

            “No, let me finish. I love all of you too much to let any one of you get sad over this. You all have people who are really important to you, and those people would be your family and best friends. I’m not one of them. And I don’t deserve to be, because we’ve only known each other since May.”

            “Wait, what are you trying to say? You do deserve to be close to us, you’re our friend!” he argued. “I don’t see what’s wrong with staying in touch after the tour’s over. It’s not a big deal.”

            Lillian didn’t answer, and sat thinking. I don’t want to feel so scared, but I do. It’s all going to end anyway, right? In six months, we would all become acquaintances again, and I wouldn’t be able to stand that. Separated and distant, communicating by awkward phone calls and short emails. If I stop it, that won’t happen. And the dream will continue to be happy.

            “We are friends,” she finally said. “I’m just saying, don’t get attached to the novelty of having an average person as your friend.” She looked away from his probing gaze and turned back to her laptop.

            Justin sat next to her for a few more moments before sighing in exasperation and springing up from the bed. “Whatever,” he bit out, leaving her hotel room and slamming the door.


*                       *                       *


            As soon as the door slammed loudly behind him he regretted it. Although her words had seriously pissed him off, he could have calmly reasoned with her. Instead, he got upset and probably ended up making things worse. But still, why would she say all that? I need to talk to someone.

            He hurried to JC and Lance’s room and let himself in. “I have a question,” he said, interrupting their card game.

            “What is it?” JC asked in concern, noticing that his friend looked troubled.

            “If you were friends with someone who was different from all of your other friends, and then suddenly that person became withdrawn, what would be the reason behind that?”

            “Is this about you and Lillian?” Lance inquired.

            Justin nodded. “I don’t get it. I was just talking to her, and she started acting so weird! Like she said she cared about me, but then she told me that I should forget about her. It doesn’t make any sense.”

            JC and Lance thought that over. “Well,” Lance began, “Maybe she’s confused. She doesn’t know exactly what she wants.”

            “Yeah,” JC joined in. “It sounds like she wants to distance herself from what she’ll feel when the tour ends and we all leave.”

            “But why? We’ll still be friends,” Justin argued. “She should know that she can count on us!” Then he realized something. Her whole life, she lost everyone close to her. Her parents, and since then she’s only been friends with Karen and us.

            “And knowing Lily, she doesn’t have that much self-confidence,” Lance continued. “She has a tendency to put herself down when things get too out of her control.”

            “She’s acting like a damn martyr or something,” Justin said. “She was all like ‘just forget me, it’ll be better that way.’ Doesn’t she realize I don’t need her to protect my feelings? I can handle it!”

            “It’s okay,” JC assured him. “I bet it’s the sadness that’s getting to her. Just act like everything’s fine, and she’ll probably get over it.”

            “After all, you don’t want to allow her to push herself away,” Lance observed sagely.

            “You’re right,” Justin agreed. “She’ll stop being this way if things turn normal again. If she pushes away, I’ll move forward.” He turned to leave the room before pausing and looking at his friends. “Thanks, guys. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

            “Chalk it up to experience,” JC replied, waving the thanks away.

            “Good luck,” Lance called out as their younger friend disappeared out the door.

            “He’s gonna need it,” JC said, picking his cards back up.


*                       *                       *


            The alarm came on and Lillian reached over and turned it off. She had already been awake for half an hour, just thinking. She hoped her plan to evade Justin had worked. She doubted she would be able to stay upbeat when she knew they would eventually grow apart. A small, persistent part of her argued that this was the coward’s way out of handling the situation, but what else could she do? She loved all of them, but she was in love with Justin. She hated heartache. Things had been easier when all she had to do was work hard and she only needed to worry about Karen.

            But she wasn’t happy with the way her last encounter with Justin had ended. If it was possible, she would want him to not be angry with her. You wanted to do it this way, you might as well live with the consequences.

            Lillian sighed. That nagging voice again.

            At least she accomplished what she wanted. He was so upset with her, they hadn’t talked in a day. She had made sure to avoid him. If he looked at her with that hurt face, she didn’t know if she’d be able to hold out again. Only six days left before everything returned to normal.

            The phone rang, interrupting the silence. Lillian stared at it, hoping it was a wake up call her roommate ordered. But for some reason, she doubted the caller was from the lobby. It continued to ring insistently, and her roommate didn’t budge from the other double bed. Might as well answer it.

            “Hello?” she asked, twisting the phone cord on her finger. Make it not be him. Please be someone else.

            “Trooper! I’m glad to see you’re awake so early,” came the perky voice over the phone.

            “Justin,” she sighed, “Why are you calling? I’m gonna be kept pretty busy today.” She hated lying.

            “Now, I know for a fact that you’re not busy at all today! I already checked with Thompsen, and he said the interns have a break today so they can finish their reports and get them signed by him. Naughty Lillian, lying to your good buddy like that.”

            “Sorry,” she said in defeat. Why did he have to talk with Thompsen? That wasn’t fair.

            “So knowing you, you’re already done with that report of yours and we have a whole day ahead of us! It’s only 6:30, we can do so much! What do you want to do first? We can take a jog around outside, eat some breakfast, go swimming, play a prank on Lance and Chris. You decide!”

            “Did you eat your cereal yet?”

            “I sure did! I ate three bowls of Apple Jacks, and washed it down with a bottle of Coke.”

            “Figures,” she responded. She wasn’t dealing with the normal Justin, she was dealing with the hyper sugar-high Justin. “Look, I still have lots of things to do today.”

            “Like what?” he asked curiously.

            “Like…a lot of errands that I made a list of,” she fibbed. “So maybe I’ll run into you or something, but otherwise I’m going to be busy the whole day.”


            “Bye Justin,” she said quickly, hanging up the phone. Don’t feel too bad, he’ll get over it. He’s young and popular, give him some time and he’ll forget you. It’s better this way.


*                       *                       *


            “Damn it!”

            From the other bed Chris groaned. “J, if you want to be awake at this ungodly hour, do it outside.”

            “Sorry,” he apologized, leaving the room. He was a little frustrated that he hadn’t been able to get Lillian to act like her normal self again. But there was still time. In fact, he just had to up the ante a little bit.

            He walked determinedly down the hall and to her hotel room. He betted that she was about to leave, trying to avoid him again. As he rounded the corner, he saw that he was right. She was heading to the elevators.

            “Hey Lillian!” he called out, running and catching up to her. “Where are you going?”

            She looked at him and quickly turned back to the elevator. Come on, what’s taking so long? “I’m going to eat something.”

            “Really? I’ll come with you,” he said, knowing how annoying he sounded.

            “You already ate breakfast, remember?” The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. She walked in, not waiting for his response.

            He quickly followed her into the empty elevator. “Yeah, I ate…but I’m still hungry! I’ll keep you company.”

            She shot a look at him. Why couldn’t he just let it go? All her good intentions were going to dust. “Fine, but don’t blame me if I don’t feel like talking.”

            He shrugged. “Fine with me.” He began humming a song.

            Why was she suddenly feeling a headache coming on?

            Suddenly he burst out into full-fledged singing. “And then I saw her face! Now I’m a believer!”

            Yup, she definitely had a headache.

            They reached the lobby floor and the doors opened. She rushed out and headed straight for the banquet room, with Justin hot on her tracks and still singing loudly.

            “Justin,” she finally said, turning around and causing him to almost run her over.

            “Yes?” he replied, flashing that perfect smile of his.

            “If you stop singing, we’ll eat together, okay?”

            “Deal! I’ll go get us some cereal,” he offered, rushing off. Yes, she’s giving up! He went over to one of the white linen-covered tables and grabbed two boxes of the Cheerios. Then he turned around to find her…but she wasn’t anywhere to be found. She had left.

            “Damn it!” he shouted for the second time that morning.

            The other people in the banquet room froze and stared at him. He grinned at them, embarrassed. “Uh…sorry. Gotta go!”

            He ignored their murmurs and ran out of the room, only to collide with Chris and Lance. “What are you guys doing up?” he asked.

            “I couldn’t go back to sleep after you disturbed me,” Chris replied, glaring at him.

            “And I always wake up early,” Lance said. “Remember?”

            “Oh yeah. Anyway, did you see Lillian out here?”

            “Nope,” they answered simultaneously.

            “Ugh! She’s driving me insane!” Justin exclaimed.

            “Your plan isn’t going as well as you thought it would, huh?” Lance asked sympathetically.

            “It isn’t even going. I’m gonna go find her.” Justin looked down and noticed he was still holding the two cereal boxes. “Oh. You guys can have these.” He thrust the boxes at them and ran off.


*                       *                       *


            “What are you doing?” JC asked.

            Lillian put her menu down and motioned for him to join her. He sat down in the booth obediently.

            “I’m hiding from Justin. I don’t think he’ll leave the hotel to look for me,” she answered. “Why are you at this diner?”

            “I love mom-and-pop diners. They always have the best food and service. Plus, no one usually recognizes me,” he explained. He motioned to the menu. “May I?”

            “Go ahead,” she said, sliding it across to him. “I already decided what I want.”

            He looked over the breakfast specials they had. “So why are you hiding from J in the first place?”

            She fiddled with the napkin dispenser at the edge of the table. “Long story.”

            “I got time,” he replied. “Remember, I’m your big sis!”

            Lillian couldn’t help but laugh at his goofy grin. “It’s kind of complicated. Don’t worry, things will turn out fine.”

            He shrugged. If she didn’t want to share, he wasn’t going to force her. He already knew enough from what Justin had said, anyway.

            The waitress came over to their booth and they ordered their breakfasts. After she left they sat in silence, Lillian examining the pepper shaker and JC staring at her.

            Lillian searched for something to distract him with. “Hey, it’s your birthday soon. In two days, in fact.”

            “You remembered,” he said, smiling. “I don’t know if the others know about it.”

            “I’m sure they do. Do you want anything special?” She had already found something for him, but she wanted to know if he wanted a certain thing.

            “Nah,” he replied. “I already got everything I want.”

            “So what are you going to do to celebrate?” she asked.

            “Probably go clubbin’. That’s what we usually do.”

            “Sounds good,” she nodded.

            “And you’re coming too, of course,” JC added.

            “I am?”

            “Yeah! How can you go to Lance’s little party and miss mine? You gotta come,” he pleaded.

            “But…it will be a little awkward,” she answered. Seeing Justin having the time of his life and knowing she would never see him again? No thank you.

            “Lily, come on. We’re friends. I want you to be there.”

            She couldn’t just skip out on his special day. That was wrong. “Fine,” she sighed. “But only because you’re my big sis.”

            He laughed. “That’s the spirit! Us sistas gotta stick togetha!”

            The waitress came with their food and she appeared just in time to catch his words. She gave him a suspicious look but didn’t say anything, opting to quickly drop the food off and leave.

            After she left, Lillian was reduced to giggling and JC had turned red.

            “You know, I really have to stop saying stuff like that in public.”


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