Chapter 32

Come over the hills and far with me, / And be my love in the rain.”

                                                -Robert Frost, “A Line-Storm Song”



            You’re so stupid, Lillian. It’s too little too late. You’ve lost him.

            She berated herself over and over again, running as fast as she could and ignoring the curious glances of the employees as she passed them. She needed to get out of the stadium; it was stifling her. True, she had wanted closure. But not this type.

            She raced through the maze of tunnels and hallways, not knowing how to leave. All of a sudden she saw a glimpse of a red exit sign ahead. She just needed to get there, then she was home free.

            Her pace picked up again, and she made a dead run for the exit.

            Close…so close. Just a few more feet.

            But she didn’t notice that there was an adjoining hallway, and she didn’t see the security guard emerge from that hallway until it was too late.

            “Ouch!” she exclaimed as she collided with the burly man, getting knocked back a few steps.

            He quickly grabbed her arm to steady her, getting over the shock more quickly than her. “Sorry about that,” he said, looking her up and down but continuing to hold onto her.

            Lillian gave him a quick smile, breathing heavily. Please don’t notice that I don’t have a backstage pass. Just let me leave. Come on, Lillian, you can talk yourself out of this.

            “Um…I was -“ she began, but a shout echoing from further down the hall interrupted her.

            “Don’t let her go, Eddie!” a voice commanded.

            Justin. No, not now. Lillian attempted to yank her arm out of Eddie’s suddenly tight grip, but she only managed to make her arm hurt even more. It was useless. She sighed in misery and closed her eyes as Justin appeared in front of the two, looking tired and pissed off.

            “I can take it from here,” he said with finality, leaving no room for discussion. Eddie handed her over to him and walked a few yards away, keeping a watchful eye on them.

            Justin turned to Lillian, who refused to look at him and persisted in staring at the ground. “What the hell, Lillian! Why did you run?!”

            She shrugged lifelessly. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

            Justin looked around, seeing that they weren’t alone. Eddie was still standing nearby and other tour personnel were roaming the halls.

            “Come on,” he muttered, pulling her outside.

            Lillian felt a raindrop hit her brow and she glanced up, seeing that it was still raining. But Justin didn’t even seem to notice. He was concentrating only on her, staring with those eyes of his.

            “Okay, now that’s it’s private, you can explain to me why you ran from me,” Justin demanded. “And why if we’re friends and everything, you didn’t even come up to me and say hi. No, you ran instead. What the hell is that about?!”

            “I will explain,” Lillian said in a low voice. “I ran because I didn’t want to be in there anymore.”

            “Well, why not? We’re such good ‘friends’ and all. Isn’t that what you said in your letter?” Justin said, mocking her. His mind was still dwelling over the fact that she had led him on this damn chase through practically the whole stadium.

            She glared at him. “You know, Justin, it takes more than one person’s effort to have a friendship. I laid my emotions bare in that letter. You’re the one who never called. You’ve had a year, a full year, to call me, email me, send a note, something! But you didn’t! All I got was the silent treatment from you.”

            “I sent you flowers for your birthday,” Justin retorted.

            “Oh, that was you?! Because I’m not psychic, I didn’t know who they were from considering there was no note attached!” Lillian shot back.

            “Well you never called me either!” Justin shouted. “What’s that mean, huh?”

            She shook her head and crossed her arms over her damp shirt. “That doesn’t matter anymore. It’s in the past.”

            “Yeah, no smart comeback to that one, I see,” Justin said, rubbing the rain out of his eyes. “And you still haven’t given me a direct answer about making me chase after you.”

            “I didn’t make you do anything. You did that yourself.”

            “Come off it, Lillian. You expected me to see you run away and not go after you? That’s a joke.”

            “I decided to leave, and I did. It was your fault you tired yourself out trying to keep up,” Lillian snapped, pushing her wet hair behind her ear.

            “Well as long as we’re deciding whose fault it is, it’s your fault we stopped talking in the first place,” Justin accused.

            “My fault?! Are you crazy?” she shouted over the sound of the rain. “I don’t recall getting drunk and kissing you. Who was that again? Oh wait, it was you!”

            “So?! I was drunk!” he yelled. “I don’t remember you protesting. What’s your excuse?”

            She gave an angry sigh and didn’t answer. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing she had been in love with him and loved him, and still did, even now. Can you get any more pitiful, Lillian? You’re wet and humiliated.

            “At least you know what’s going on in my life,” she said, covering for her lack of a good response. “I find out what’s happening with you through random fans!”

            “Whatever, you talk to the guys. You know everything about what I do,” he scoffed.

            “That’s not true! If you actually paid attention, you would see that the others and I barely have time to have a whole conversation,” she pointed out. “This was the reason I pushed you away in the first place. I knew we were going to lose contact with each other, and I was right!”

            Justin glared at her through his wet eyelashes and began to cut in but she kept talking.

            “And then I wrote you that letter, trying to at least keep some sort of communication alive between us. But that didn’t happen. I never got a response of any sort from you. Unsigned flowers don’t count, you know.

            “Then, to make things worse, I come here and find out that you’re going out with Britney again. How long has that been going on?” she demanded, staring him in the eye through the haze of rain.

            Justin didn’t want to talk about Britney. He wanted to talk about him and Lillian. “If you never got a response to that damn letter, it was because I didn’t know what to respond with! And instead of sitting there waiting for a response, why didn’t you just pick up the phone and call me?! Don’t try to force all the responsibility on me, you could have done something too!

            “And honestly, we both know that you wrote a letter because you were scared of confrontation. A letter eliminates any unpleasant scenes, right? You don’t have to worry about it, because you can leave, satisfied that you did your part.”

            Lillian gasped, offended. “Scared of confrontation?! Look who’s talking! The bottom line is I attempted something, and you didn’t. You went and called Britney up instead.”

            “What the hell! Why do you keep bringing up Britney? This is between you and me!” Justin exclaimed.

            “I came here, didn’t I? That means something,” Lillian continued angrily.

            “You came here and gave a damn note to Karen to deliver to me! That doesn’t mean anything!” Justin challenged. “And that reminds me, I still have the note with me. Why don’t we read it together!”

            “No, why don’t you read it alone while I leave and get out of the rain,” Lillian disagreed. She didn’t plan on being around while he read about her love for him. Stupid. I’m so stupid.

            He reached out and grabbed her wrist before she could run off again. “No way, Lillian. We’re gonna duke it out right here, right now. You’re not leaving.”

            With his free hand he pulled the note out and shook it quickly, unfolding it. He ignored the raindrops that fell and smeared the ink, bent on reading it aloud.

            “ ’Dear Justin,’ ” he began. “Awww, that’s sweet of you. ‘Dear.’ ”

            Lillian sighed crossly and tried to kick him, but he quickly stepped out of the way and continued to read.

            “ ’I couldn’t summon up enough courage to tell you this face to face, but I need you to know. At least it will bring some closure to the whole situation. I have known you for a long time. Not always personally, but your face. I would see you on TV, on posters, in magazines, everywhere. I liked you then, but I never dreamed that I would be meeting you one day.’ ”

            Lillian stood still in his grasp, tightening and loosening her fist impotently. She couldn’t stand the disdain and mocking tone in his voice. 

            “ ’After getting to actually know the person and not the face, I started liking you more and more. Do you remember that day you asked me if I thought you weren’t good enough or smart enough, and I told you what I actually felt about you? It was all true. But the thing you didn’t realize was that I wasn’t talking from a friend’s standpoint. It was more than that.’ ” Justin stopped reading, the scornful tone in his voice now completely gone. He looked at Lillian carefully.

            “Go on,” she said angrily. “It’s not done yet.”

            He didn’t feel so sure of himself anymore. “Lillian, I’d rather not keep readi-“ 

             “No!” she shouted, interrupting him. “Finish reading.” There’s no turning back now.

            Justin gazed at her, but after several seconds he continued reading it out loud. “ ’When you gave me my first kiss that night at the club, I wasn’t upset or mad. I was happy. Ecstatically happy. You didn’t see that, but it’s okay. We were both thinking of other things. You were drunk, and I was in love. After everything that happened, I fell in love with you. I was scared, I guess, because I’ve never loved or been in love before and I knew you didn’t feel that way for me. I was confused, because I didn’t really understand why I loved you. I was afraid you would leave, just like everyone else eventually does.

            “ ’As I’m writing this, the night before your concert at MIT, I know I love you, and I’m still in love with you. If you read this far, I know that I don’t have to worry about it anymore because I’ve told you everything,’ ” he finished.

            He saw that it was signed simply ‘Lillian.’ A drop of rain fell and hit the name, smudging the ink. Lots of the words were blurred; he saw that now. But he didn’t know if they were blurred because of the rain or his tears.

            Lillian looked at his bent head, no longer feeling angry that he had insisted in reading the private words aloud. The last part was true. She did love him still. She couldn’t change that. 

            “Justin, look at me. Please,” she whispered, needing to see some reaction to baring her soul to him.

            He rubbed his sleeve over his eyes and raised his head, looking at her. She saw the deep vulnerability in his open gaze, and the uncertainty.

            “I don’t know what to do,” he confessed softly, casting his eyes downward.

            Lillian shook her head and stepped closer to him. “You don’t have to do anything.”

             She took her wrist from his grasp that had been tight but was now limp. Framing his strong face with her hands, she stared at him, trying to memorize all the planes of his face.

            “I’m not worth your unhappiness,” she said gently, seeing how his eyes were suspiciously bright. “The note wasn’t for that. I’m sorry for stirring up your life so much.”

            Reaching up, she brushed the water out of his curls like she had done a long time ago. “Bye, Justin,” she murmured, looking at his downcast eyes once more before turning around and walking away.


*                       *                       *


            He watched her walk away from him, each step taking her further and further out of his life. A life that he knew would not be complete without her. Who else would he lose to in a video game and not even care that he lost? Even more, what other person would play pranks with him one second, and recommend classic literature the next? He wouldn’t have anyone to gaze at the stars with, or merely sit alongside quietly for the pure sake of companionship.

            Justin saw the truth now. His own stubbornness and pride had kept him from seeing it before, but now that things were crucial, his mind was clear and his heart was pure. No other person could make him so happy with a simple smile or so completely sad with a single tear.

            “Lillian!” he shouted, urging her silently to stop walking.

            She paused, but didn’t turn around.

            “It’s true, I am with Britney,” he called out.

            A distance away, Lillian closed her eyes in utter defeat. His words stabbed into her. She didn’t think he could be so cruel. Taking a strengthening breath, she started walking again.

            Then she heard his steps splashing in the puddles on the concrete as he caught up with her and halted her movements by putting his hands on her shoulders.

            “Justin, I heard you the first time,” she said weakly. “I hope that she treats you well.”

            He shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. I’m with her, but I don’t love her.”

            “What is that supposed to mean?” she asked, not daring to even hope.

            “Look at me, and you’ll see.”

            Lillian turned around and gazed up at him. She could feel her tears threatening to spill over, but she refused to let them fall now.

            “It means,” Justin began, tucking a strand of wet hair behind her ear, “that I don’t love her, and I can’t love her. Because I love you.”

            “What?” she breathed.

            He cradled her head gently in his hands. “I love you, Lillian.”

            “But…you can’t,” she said disbelievingly.

            “And why not?”

            “I- because…” She didn’t know what to say. But it was too good to be true. He couldn’t love her. “Britney’s a pop princess. You’re her prince. You belong together.”

            He smiled tenderly at her. “She may be a pop princess, but you’re my princess. You’re also my little trooper. You are everything to me.”

            “But Justin-“

            “No, hear me out. You got your time to explain, now it’s my turn. I love you because I don’t know anyone else who understands me more. You didn’t even know me that well, and you already understood everything about me. You are the only girl who’s ever caused me so much confusion, but you’ve also been the only one I’ve been so happy with. You aren’t like the other girls, but I just love you even more because of that.”

            “Oh,” she said, sniffing. “I didn’t even know.”

            “Of course you didn’t know, I didn’t tell anyone. Don’t you see now, Lillian? You are the only one for me, just like I’m the only one for you,” Justin explained, smoothing his thumb over her cheek and wiping away her tears. He looked into her dark luminous eyes, willing her to believe him.

            Lillian stared into his clear blue eyes, seeing the truth in them. “I see now,” she agreed slowly. “You love me.”

            “And you love me,” he said, grinning happily. A heavy and grave weight was suddenly lifted from him, and he didn’t care that it was wet, windy, and uncomfortable standing outside. He would stand there as long as she stood with him.

            Slowly he bent down and took her lips with his. This time he was sober and he took his time with the sensation, enjoying every minute of it.

            Finally he lifted his head, the salty taste of her tears still on his lips.

            “Don’t cry anymore,” he murmured. “I don’t want you to cry unless you’re cutting an onion.”

            She laughed, letting him dry her tears with his hand. “I love you, Justin.”

            “I love you too, Princess,” he answered, bringing her into the safety of his arms. He rested his cheek on her wet hair, feeling a warmth emanating from their two bodies.

            “Look,” Lillian said, pointing up.

            He glanced up and saw that it wasn’t raining anymore. In fact, the clouds were clearing up and the sun was peeking through. He looked back down at her smiling face, never seeing her look so radiant before.

            “It’s a sign from heaven,” he whispered.

            She nodded, dropping her head down to his strong chest. She sighed in content. “A sign from heaven.”


*                       *                       *


            From the steel back door, Eddie took a last glance at the two lovers standing in the empty parking lot without a care in the world. Then he closed the door quietly and turned to the faces staring at him in anticipation.

            “They’ll be fine,” he assured them with a smile. “Just fine.”



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