Chapter 28

“By now I should know

That in time things must change

So it shouldn’t be so bad

Then why do I feel so sad.”

                        -Alicia Keys, “Why Do I Feel So Sad”


            “I can’t believe it’s already over,” Lance said, standing in the terminal surrounded by his friends and luggage.

            “I know,” JC agreed. “The last time we were in an airport, we were waiting to pick up Lily and bring her back to the tour. And now it’s over.”

            Lillian came back from checking in at the counter. “When’s your flight to Orlando leaving again?”

            “Half an hour after yours,” Lance answered, checking his ticket.

            “You guys could have just taken a private jet back,” she noted.

            “No way! We came to see you off,” Joey replied. “Besides, traveling on a commercial plane humbles us. And the flight attendants are hot!”

            She laughed. “I’m going to miss your fashion sense and horny sense of humor.”

            “I’ll miss dressing my real-life Barbie doll up,” he said, grinning. “Don’t worry, Lilypad, we all have your phone number and email address, and you have ours. There’s no way we can lose touch.”

            “I hope not.” She suddenly remembered something and pulled an envelope out of her purse. “This is for you, Joey. Don’t read it until you’re alone.”

            He tucked it into his pocket and winked at her. “I can’t wait, baby. A sexy letter, just for me.”

            She rolled her eyes. “Not exactly, but think what you want. I wrote a letter for everyone.”

            “Getting a little kinky, huh Lilypad?”

            “Joey! Man, go wait over there or something,” Lance ordered, pointing to the windows that stretched from floor to ceiling.

            Joey shrugged, ruffled Lillian’s hair, and went off, and Chris quickly took his place next to Lillian.

            “Where’s my kinky letter?” he demanded, holding his hands out.

            “Nothing is kinky!” she exclaimed loudly. An elderly woman standing nearby gave her a weird look before pointedly stepping a few feet away.

            “Be quiet,” she whispered furiously to Chris’ laughing. “Here’s your letter. And although I don’t feel like it right now, I am going to miss you. You’re a laugh and a half.”

            “Why thank you,” he said, pleased. “I’m glad someone appreciates me.” He gave her a hug and moved off to join Joey, who was staring at the planes outside. “Oh, and thanks for the kinky letter!” he shouted across the space between them.

            Lillian turned bright red and tried to ignore the stares of the other people in the terminal.

            “My turn!” Lance burst out. He quickly scooped her up in a bear hug. “I’m glad Chris made fun of my mom.”


            “Because that’s why I got mad and started torturing him with the elevator. And that’s how I met you,” he explained. “Kinda odd, huh?”

            “Definitely odd,” she agreed, holding on tightly to him. “Lance, you were my first friend around here, and you always stuck with me. Even through all our pranks. I’m going to miss you so much.”

            He patted her back soothingly. “I’ll miss you, too, sweetheart. Not your pranks really, but I’ll definitely miss you.”

            She laughed, feeling her eyes get a little misty. There was just something about the five of them that managed to get her crying all the time.

            He gave her one last quick hug before taking his letter and leaving.

            Lillian sighed and turned to see the last two people. JC and Justin. Might as well get it over with.

            JC nudged Justin forward, winking at Lillian.

            Justin stood stiffly in front of her, his hands thrust into his front pockets. “I-“ he began.

            “Well-“ she said at the same time.

            They laughed tensely.

            “I’m glad that we met,” Justin finally said.

            “Yeah. Me too,” she agreed softly before lapsing back into silence. “Oh, I almost forgot. This one’s for you.”

            Justin accepted the thin envelope, not disguising his surprise. “Thanks. I didn’t think that you would-“

            “Friends are friends,” she interrupted, pressing the envelope into his hand. He moved and their skin touched. She drew away quickly.

            “Yeah,” he said quietly, staring at where their hands had touched. “Friends.” He looked into her eyes. “I’ll see you around then.”

            She nodded.

            He reached out to hug her, but ended up giving her an awkward pat on the shoulder. “Okay, then. Bye.”

            Lillian gave him a small wave as he backed away and left to sit with Lance.

            “Dang, girl, I never saw so much tension,” JC commented, slipping his arm around her shoulder and watching her stare at Justin’s back.

            “You know me,” she said, laughing weakly. “I’m all about the drama.”

            “Yeah, I know you,” he agreed, turning her around and giving her a tight hug. “Someone I’ve been grateful getting to know. You’re really something, Lily.”

            She smiled at him, feeling the ball in her throat get even tighter. She’d be bawling any second now.

            “Flight 1985, now boarding at gate G8. Flight 1985, now boarding gate G8,” the PA system announced.

            “That’s you,” JC said, taking the letter she held out to him.

            She bent down and slung the strap to her laptop over her shoulder, then picked up her small carry-on bag. She grinned at him. “Bye, sis.”

            He laughed. “Later, Lily.”

            The other four guys gathered around him to see her off.

            Right before she disappeared through the door, she turned around to see the faces that had become so dear and familiar to her one last time. JC was grinning that easy grin of his, waving at her. Joey blew extravagant kisses at her. Chris was pretending to weep and Lance stood behind him, patting his back with one hand and waving to Lillian with the other. And Justin was standing to the side, simply looking at her with those blue eyes that managed to look impish and soulful at the same time.

            She mouthed a goodbye to them before stepping through the doorway, the first step in leaving the dream.


*                       *                       *


            JC fastened his seatbelt, watching the flight attendant go through the usual pre-flight directions. He glanced over at Justin, who sat with his head turned staring out the window.

            “Hey, put your seatbelt on,” he said, nudging his friend.

            Justin obediently clicked the two ends together over his lap without uttering a word. She’s gone now. Officially gone. He blinked rapidly, trying to clear the haze in his eyes.

            “You alright, man?” he heard JC ask in concern, tapping his arm.

            He nodded, surreptitiously wiping a tear away with his other hand. I’ll be fine.


*                       *                       *


            Joey pulled out the envelope Lillian had given him. Lance was the only one next to him, and he had dropped off to sleep as soon as the in-flight movie had come on a while ago.


            Hey Joey,

            I hope you haven’t already forgotten about your Lilypad, because I know there’s no way I could ever forget about the flamboyant (but lovable) Joseph Fatone, Jr.  I admit that I didn’t know too much about you before, even when I was a teenybopper. But ever since you gave me that little pep talk the night of Lance’s birthday, my whole perspective was changed. You taught me to be confident, or at least pretend to be. You were my fashion consultant, and your taste never went bad (except for that tiny black piece of cloth you made me try on…what were you thinking?!). I had never known that you were sensitive about your singing, and I’m grateful you decided to trust me with that knowledge. You always managed to brighten my days in some way, and thank you for that. Now, I know you don’t like that ‘sappy crap,’ so if you made it this far into my letter, congratulations. Whenever you’re too busy to watch TV, just call me and I’ll fill you in on the BET scene (I’m your ghetto girl, remember?). Don’t ever stop collecting your movies, but try to leave the porn out. One last word of advice: Stop taking Chris’ dares!

                                                                                    With love always,



            Joey couldn’t help but laugh as he read the letter. He could practically hear Lillian speaking in his ear. She was priceless.

            Lance awoke from his light slumber with a start. He glared at Joey, who was laughing.

            “Be quiet, you woke me up,” he complained.

            “Sorry,” Joey replied, folding the letter back up and putting it in his pocket. “The movie’s just funny, that’s all.”

            Lance looked at the small screen and turned back to his friend with an incredulous expression on his face.

            “Joey, it’s the credits.”

            Joey shrugged. “I thought it was funny.” He reached into his carry-on bag and pulled out his Discman. “Now leave me alone, you talk too much.”

            Lance shook his head, confused. Well, Joey’s distracted. I can finally read the letter.



            Curious about what this is about? I just wanted to give you all something, because you gave me so many things. You, in particular, gave me back my trust in strangers. I think you were the first one to actually look beyond appearances and status and get to know me. This tour was torture before you showed up that day, blocking the elevators. Who would’ve guessed that we’d become friends? You always defend me and help me out, even when I don’t think I need it. But I always realize later that yes, I do need it. Thank you so much.

            I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had never met you. Probably go back to MIT and lead a dull life, not even realizing how many memories I would be missing out on. I would never have known that Lance Bass, that quiet blonde guy from that band, is actually a person who gives hugs to sad little interns, sings Nat King Cole songs, is self-conscious about his hair, and indulges in the occasional prank or two (is that an understatement or what?). I want to just start weeping sometimes, but you’ve taught me to be stronger. So right now I’m holding back a tear, but it’s one of happiness and of course love. Don’t forget to wear your birthday present.


                                                                                    Hugs and smiles,



            A joyful grin spread across Lance’s face. He fingered the chain around his neck that held his engraved cross pendant. I won’t forget, Lily.


*                       *                       *


            Chris stretched out in his seat. He was bored out of his mind. The movie sucked, Joey was involved in listening to his music, JC was reading a magazine he’d bought at the airport, Justin had pulled his sweatshirt’s hood over his head and was doing God knows what, and Lance was examining his necklace with sudden rapt attention.

            Sometimes he wondered about that boy.

            He looked around the plane cabin. What to do, what to do? Oh wait, Lily gave me that letter.

            Grateful for something to occupy his time, he pulled it out of his jacket pocket.


            Hi Chris,

            How much do I have to bet that you almost forgot about this? Well, that’s okay. Your sense of humor makes up for any tiny flaws you may or may not have. And I have to say, you have the most unique personality. You collect kitschy seashell souvenirs, hold a degree in psychology, design clothes, act like a hyper teenager, insult people’s mothers, and hate the word ‘Crunk.’ I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that I was able to get to know you. I know I’m not the usual person you hang with, but that didn’t even matter to you. You accepted me into your warm graces almost instantaneously. Please don’t ever change that. This world needs more people like you. Go on, spread the love! (No, not literally). But please, stop daring Joey! He’s going to get himself hurt one day.


                                                From the only person able to realize the genius behind the jokes,



            Chris smiled. He couldn’t argue with the genius part. But stop daring Joey? Never!

            “Hey Chris.”

            He turned to face JC. “Yeah, man?”

            “Let me borrow your headphones, I want to see the next movie,” JC requested.

            Chris looked at him. “No way! Buy your own, cheapo.”

            “Come on, you don’t want to watch ‘Billy Elliot’ anyway,” JC reasoned.

            “You already watched that!” Chris exclaimed. “Now get away, I’m gonna listen to this hype airplane radio. Maybe I can memorize the order of the top 40 by the time dinner’s served.”

            JC sighed in frustration as Chris slipped his headphones on and closed his eyes. Well, I guess I don’t want to watch it that bad, anyway.

            He glanced over quickly at Justin, whose hood was hiding his face. Concerned, he peered under the hood and saw that Justin was sleeping. He sat back, glad that his younger friend was getting some much needed rest.

            JC got up from his seat to put his magazine into his carry-on bag that was stored in one of the overhead compartments. When he sat back down he noticed a white envelope fall out of Justin’s sweatshirt pocket.

            He reached down and picked it up from the floor. ‘To Justin’ it said simply on the front. He turned it over and saw that it was still sealed. Better put this somewhere safe, or else he’ll lose it. He stood up again and looked for Justin’s bag, carefully slipping the envelope in and zipping the luggage back up.

            Now time for my letter. He unfolded the paper and began reading.


            Dear Big Sis,

            I hope that got you smiling. If anyone from the press got a hold of this, they would have a field day. But let’s not dwell on that. You are seriously like the brother (or in this case, sister) I never had. Your real siblings should be so grateful that you’re there for them. I didn’t get to know you, and I mean really get to know you, until only a couple of weeks ago, but it’s felt like forever. You were always ready to comfort with a word of advice, encouragement, or just a little joke to get me laughing again. Things got rough sometimes, you know why, and it was so much easier for me to go through life with someone looking out for me. I don’t really know what else to write, I can’t put it into words, but hopefully you get the idea. Don’t be a stranger.


                                                                        Your other little sis,



            JC read the letter over another time, a smile on his face. That girl is really something.


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