Chapter 9

“I begged on the stars

To throw me a beam or two;

Wished on the stars

And asked for a dream or two.

I looked for every loveliness,

It all came true.

I wished on the moon for you.”

            -“I Wished On the Moon”



“Lance, I feel so stupid,” Lillian groaned into his shoulder. They were sitting on the bed in the back room, and discussing her situation with Justin.

            “Why should you feel stupid?” he asked, smiling secretly to himself. He knew that Lillian’s perspective of Justin had changed after he had actually started acting like a person, instead of a pig.

            “Because it’s hopeless. No one as amazing as him would ever like someone as plain or as stupid as me,” she elaborated, her eyes downcast. “I’ve never been anything special. The only close friend I’ve ever had is Karen. Why would he see something in me that I don’t even see myself.” It’s true. He has beautiful models and celebrities eating out of the palm of his hand. How could I ever compare with them?

            Lance grasped her shoulders firmly, and forced her to look him in the face. “Lillian, I don’t ever want to hear you put down yourself like that. Do you think I’d want to be friends with the person you’re describing? Hell, no! Do you think the others would want to be friends with that person? Hell, no!”

            “Okay,” she whispered. “I’m sorry. It’s just that sometimes, I-I’m so used to being the person that other people see me to be.”

            He sighed, and put a consoling arm around her shoulders. “It’s okay. But you have to realize that you’re not the same person who first came on tour with us. That person was timid, bland, and not the real you. The Lillian I know is funny, loves to laugh, and likes to hang out with boy-bands.”

            She gave a tiny laugh. “You know me too well, Lance. Although, I have to disagree with you on one point. ‘N Sync’s the only boy-band I’d ever willingly hang out with. And don’t cuss.”

            He laughed in his low voice and turned to give her a small hug. Just then, the light door slammed open.

            “I knew it!” Justin gloated. “I told them that you two were together, but they wouldn’t believe me. But the evidence is right in front of my face.” His arms. They were wrapped around her. They shouldn’t be touching her.

            Lance sighed and took his arms away from around Lillian. She had jumped away from his friendly embrace when the door banging against the wall startled her.

            “J, calm down,” Lance started, but he was interrupted.

            “No, I will not calm the hell down!” Justin exclaimed. “We are friends, Lance. That means you should tell me what’s going on in your life. You can’t just hide important things like this from me.”

            “If I should tell you what’s happening with my love life, why don’t you follow your own advice and tell me what’s up with Elaine,” Lance retorted, annoyed with his friend now.

            “That’s different,” Justin immediately replied. “And don’t change the subject.” He eyed Lillian, who was staring warily at him. She had scooted away from both him and Lance, and looked ready to bolt.

            “What?!” he snapped at her as she continued to remain silent.

            “We’re not going out,” she said calmly. Good, sound like you’re the one in control here. Don’t let him see how your heart is racing.

            “Oh! Well everything is resolved then, isn’t it?” he said sarcastically.

            Lillian looked over at Lance, and saw that he wasn’t going to contribute to the argument. She was alone in this one. It was time for her to take a step away from her old attitude.

“Yes, it is, actually. If you really want to know the truth, I was upset over something, and Lance was just being a good friend and listening to my problems.”

Justin looked intently into her unblinking gaze, trying to determine whether she was lying to him. After a few more tense seconds, he nodded stiffly. What is wrong with me? Why do I keep acting like this?

“Jesus, I’m sorry, Lance,” he apologized awkwardly, running a hand over his face. “I just jumped the gun, I guess. I didn’t mean to interrogate you like that.” He turned to Lillian, and said, “I really am sorry. Your business should remain your business.”

Lance merely nodded and Lillian answered with a quiet, “That’s okay.”

            Justin quickly mumbled another “sorry” before pivoting on his heel and leaving the room.

            Lillian moved to pat Lance’s back. “Don’t be mad at him,” she implored.

            “I’m not mad,” he said quietly, “Just a little frustrated. The clues are right in front of him, and he still doesn’t get it.” How obvious can it be? He’s trying to hide his feelings for Lillian and she doesn’t even realize the signals she’s giving off.

            “What do you mean?” Lillian asked, confused by his cryptic reply.

            “Nothing, don’t worry about it. Let’s just rest for awhile, okay?” he said, already lying down on the bed.

            She nodded, knowing that he didn’t want to discuss it anymore. She quietly left the room, deep in her own thoughts.

*                       *                       *                       *                       *


            Lillian laughed quietly as Justin and Lance stealthily threw bits of paper and trash at their three bandmates. One little ball hit Chris on the ear, and he looked around in confusion. She was glad that Justin and Lance seemed to have gotten over their fight earlier, and were now driving their friends up the wall together.

            She heard someone approach her seat in the third row of the stadium. It was Elaine.

            “Enjoying the soundcheck?” she asked, gracefully lowering herself into the spot next to Lillian.

            “Um, I guess,” Lillian replied cautiously. Why is she talking to me, out of the blue?

            “That’s nice,” Elaine commented, not listening to what Lillian had said. “Anyway, I’m only going to say this once. Justin is mine. He likes me, not you. He wouldn’t ever like you, anyway. I mean, come on! It’s like trying to substitute caviar with tuna. Not much of a comparison, if you ask me,” she sniffed.

            Lillian didn’t clam up and allow the hurtful words to bother her. She wouldn’t allow herself to be pushed around again. I’m a different person now.

            “I don’t know,” she said innocently, “caviar’s so overrated. All the high prices and fancy packaging hide the same thing inside- a pile of fish eggs.”

            Elaine’s flawless complexion became a blotched red. “Listen,” she said, grabbing Lillian’s arm. “Don’t try to act like you’re the queen of the whole damn world just because you’re Lance’s temporary whore. If you think any one of them will actually maintain contact after this tour is over- get real. They know that I have Justin, so you’re the only other girl around that’s the right age. Besides, they know how easy it is to get you to open your legs,” she sneered at the smaller girl.

            Lillian had managed to ignore most of Elaine’s tirade. A whore, huh? That’s the first time I’ve been called that one. Interesting. As Elaine continued to insult her, she finally became fed up.

            “Shut up,” she cut her off. “If you want to watch the guys here, just be quiet. Shut up or go away.”

            Elaine gaped at her sudden boldness. She had been expecting the mousy, hesitant girl, not this forward and unflinching person who had taken her place. She unthinkingly stood up to leave, before remembering what she had come over for.

            “I’ll leave then. But don’t forget- keep your hands off my man,” she threatened. “He’ll never like someone as stupid or ugly as you,” she added before waving in the direction of the stage and strutting away.

            Lillian turned to see who she had waved to. Justin. He was staring at them both curiously. I can’t believe I just told Elaine to shut up. Elaine, the goddess of the makeup department. Did Justin see us? Or hear us? If he did, he’ll probably agree with Elaine. I am stupid and ugly. Her resolve from before fled her, and all her insecurities immediately flooded back in.

            She thought about the times Justin had continuously insulted her. He called me a stray. An ugly one. No talents, no looks, no brains. What changed his mind?

            Lillian perched on her seat pensively. Then she made up her mind. True, I’ll never be his girlfriend or lover. Or anything close to that level. But for some reason, I’ve been given the chance to be his friend. And that’s what I’ll be.

            The soundcheck was finally over, and the guys began their rehearsal. They all stepped into their places and stiffened their muscles, ready for the music cue. Lillian got up, her break over, to join the rest of the tech crew backstage.

            As she walked through the row of seats, Justin looked at her receding back. She looked kinda strange a second ago. And why was she talking with Elaine. I wonder what-

            His thoughts were interrupted when the opening song blared over the speakers, and he immersed himself in the choreography and his singing.

*                       *                       *                       *                       *


            “Thank god nothing else happened today,” JC breathed a sigh of relief, relaxing into the overstuffed recliner in the hotel lobby. “After the lights, I thought we were jinxed for sure.”

            Lance shook his head. “See, I knew that those were just coincidences. You shouldn’t worry JC, and neither should you, Justin. Everything will be alright.”

            “Yeah,” Lillian chimed in, coming from the direction of the elevators. “Since that first concert, Thompsen’s been freaking out. He’s not taking any more chances. Everything’s double-checked, triple-checked, quadruple-checked.”  She approached their small gathering amidst the various potted plants scattered on the marble tile of the hotel floor.

            Justin laughed. “No, Lillian, he’s just scared shitless that I’ll get him fired and he’ll be reduced to working at Best Buy for the rest of his life.”

            Lillian smiled at him. “I was never able to thank you for your help that day.”

            The others looked interested in their conversation. They didn’t recall what happened. Justin helped Lillian when?

            “Who did what now?” Joey asked, completely lost.

            Justin ignored his friend and grinned back at Lillian. “Don’t mention it. He’s always been a prick, and you gave me a excuse to wring into him.”

            She stood awkwardly in the middle of the semicircle formed by the sofas and chairs, then decided to sit down next to Justin. Be his friend. Don’t be scared of him.

            Justin was a little surprised that she chose to sit with him instead of in the empty space next to Chris on the other couch. But I’m sure as hell not complaining.

            Lance didn’t miss the first physical move Lillian had ever attempted towards Justin. He tried to get the conversation to flow so that the two could get to know each other better.

            “So Lily, see any more interesting music videos?”

            “Yeah, ghetto girl! Enlighten us with your BET knowledge,” Joey added.

            She blushed a light pink. I’ll never live that one incident down.

            “Actually, I haven’t really been paying attention to BET lately. But I was watching MTV, and they were having a ‘Best of ‘N Sync Moments’ marathon thing going.”

            All the guys immediately grimaced.

            “Please no,” begged Justin. “It wasn’t the one with our TV appearances, was it?”

            “Hmm,” mused Lillian. “I don’t know. I mean, it showed a clip of you acting. Or, trying to act. And there was Lance, kissing that girl from ‘7th Heaven.’ But I’m not sure. Those mediocre actors just couldn’t have been you, right?”

            Everyone started cracking up, with the exception of Lance and Justin. They didn’t look like they appreciated the comments much.

            “Girl, you crossed the fine line,” Justin threatened, pretending to crack his knuckles intimidatingly.

            “Yeah,” said Lance, “Just wait. One day, you’ll be walking all alone, not noticing who’s behind you. And then . . . bam!”

            “’Bam?’” JC repeated. “What, is that the sound of you walking into a pole?”

            “Oh, haha, very funny,” Lance replied. “You’re just jealous. No one asked you to kiss a hot babe for ten takes.”

            “Jealous? Jealous?! No, I’m sorry, my delusional friend,” JC shot back. He and Lance then got themselves involved in an argument about who was the better actor, and who had kissed the most girls.

            Lillian watched them with interest and not without a small amount of shock. Wow, they’ve kissed that many girls? I haven’t even kissed anyone yet. She was once again reminded of her sheltered life and the importance her schoolwork had taken over personal issues. She hadn’t had time to focus on boys. Not to mention the effort she never felt like expelling.

            Distracted by her thoughts, she didn’t notice that JC and Lance were no longer arguing, and the others were no longer laughing. She glanced up, and detected that there was a new addition to their group.

            “Justy, I need to talk to you,” Elaine said tensely, her hands on her hips. “Now, if you don’t mind. And in private,” she added, glaring meaningfully at Lillian.

            Lillian, under that harsh look, unthinkingly moved to get up and leave. Justin grabbed her wrist and pulled her back down to the couch.

            “Stay, Lillian. I can take this somewhere else.”

            He rose from his seat and walked to the elevators, not even waiting for Elaine to catch up. She sped up her steps and grabbed onto his muscular arm, whispering rapidly in his ear.

            Lillian couldn’t drag her eyes away from him as he left. Stop lusting after him! she told herself. Friends, remember? All you can ever be is friends.

But can’t friends admire each other’s physiques, a small voice asked.

No! Not in this case, her sensible side replied.

            Unbeknownst to her, her friends had all stared at her as she argued with herself. It was pretty amusing to watch. Her face showed all her emotions to anyone who cared to see. Finally, JC reached over and took her hand.

            “Lily, wanna watch a movie with us tonight?” he invited.

            “Sure, sure, movies are good,” she replied, still trying to erase the image of Justin’s broad shoulders and long back.

            “Good. Go and get dressed in something nice, and meet us here at 8:00,” he instructed her.

            A small nod was his only response.


*                       *                       *                       *                       *


Ugh, she doesn’t own me. I’m not her little slave now, just because we made out once. Why the hell is she getting so uptight, anyway? I can’t understand her.

Justin hurried back to his hotel room, eager to distract himself from his earlier argument with Elaine. It pissed him off so much, the way she would act like they were married or something, and how she constantly asserted that he couldn’t talk to any other girls.

Why are you always with Lillian? Do you like her more than me?” he mimicked, pushing open the door of his room.

He stepped in to see JC spraying some Polo Sport on his wrist, with his hair combed back.

“Where are you going?” he asked, knowing that JC only put his cologne on when he planned on stepping out in public.

“J! Good, you’re back. Go change out of your sweats, we’re gonna watch a movie!” he said, smiling.

“Okay, now let’s slowly analyze that. Why should I change out of my sweats when we’re just going to watch a movie in Lance’s room?” Justin questioned.

“Well, little buddy, you’re going to change out of those smelly clothes because we’re not spending the night in Lance’s room. Ever hear of a movie theater?” JC replied rhetorically.

Justin stared at him. “Are you stupid or suicidal, Jace? We can’t go out! Especially to a public place filled with lots and lots of teenage girls. We’ll get mobbed!”

“Don’t worry ‘bout it! I asked Tim if we could hit the town before we really get into the hectic part of the tour schedule. After some serious begging, he gave in. And I got Lonnie and Mike to come with us.”

Justin just shook his head. “I don’t know . . .”

“Come on, Justin! We’ll split into smaller groups and each of us will have a bodyguard nearby. Plus, in a darkened theater, how will people recognize us?”

JC saw how his friend still looked doubtful, and he played his trump card. “Or,” he suggested slyly, “You could stay in tonight and see how long it’ll take for Elaine to find you. That should get pretty interesting.”

“No!” Justin exclaimed with panicked eyes. “You’re right, a movie sounds good. Let’s get going. Now.” He ran to his bag to change into some jeans and a clean shirt.

They met the others in the lobby. Their group looked a little suspicious, with five men all wearing sunglasses and various head accessories, two large black men in dark clothes, and one lone girl surrounded by the shaded-men.

Fortunately, if anyone at the Cineplex noticed anything out of the ordinary, they didn’t comment on it.

“Come on, let’s see this one!” Justin cried out, pointing at one of the movie posters.

“No,” Lance answered quickly.

“Why not?” he whined, almost bouncing on the balls of his feet. “It’ll be good, I promise!”

“Sorry,” Chris joined in, taking Lance’s side. “Ever since you forced us all to watch ‘The Sixth Day,’ you’ve lost your right to an opinion. Need I remind you, worst movie ever?”

“Guys, that was just one time! This movie will cru-, I mean, rule,” he argued, deftly changing his words at Chris’ warning glance.

Joey gestured at an advertisement for ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.’  “This one looks good. Lots of fighting, I heard.”

“Yeah, I want to see that, too,” JC agreed. “Did you know that Yo-Yo Ma played the cello in the soundtrack? Really moving.”

“Sounds good to me,” Chris nodded. “My sister even liked it. She said the romance was so sad.”

Justin continued to disagree. “I’m not in the mood for an epic in subtitles! I just want to relax tonight.”

Lillian spoke up. “’Crouching Tiger’ is really good. I saw it a few weeks ago.”

Lance’s mind worked quickly, and he came up with a solution for their movie problem. “I got it. I’ll go with the others to watch ‘Crouching Tiger,’ and Lily, you can go with Justin to watch something else because you’ve already seen it.”

Lillian tinged a slight pink at noticing her friend’s somewhat obvious ploy, but Justin didn’t seem to detect anything amiss.

“Good idea,” he supported. “Let’s go Lillian. I promise you, this will be such a good movie. And then we can see who picked the best movie,” he added, sticking his tongue out at his friends. He pulled Lillian along, faintly noticing how his fingers easily encircled her delicate wrist.

Mike rolled his eyes as he followed his exuberant charge towards the ticket booth. Why can’t this kid ever calm down? he asked himself.

Justin slapped down some bills on the counter. “Three for Dracula 2000, please,” he requested eagerly. He grabbed the tickets, thanked the bored teenage boy behind the glass, and reclaimed Lillian’s arm.

They approached the food counter, and Justin practically salivated, smelling the unique aroma of popcorn made fresh in the theater. It’s been so long since I’ve had some.

“Do you want anything?” he asked Lillian, turning his head down to look at her.

“I’ll get some candy,” she replied, reaching inside her purse to pull out her wallet.

“Great, I’ll be right back.” He rushed off to buy some food for them, ignoring the money she took out. She was left alone as Mike trailed behind him.

I am going to kill Lance. That meddler. Still, she supposed that a tiny bit of her felt grateful. She would never have taken the initiative to suggest that she go with Justin to watch his movie. And speaking of his movie, she couldn’t believe that he actually wanted to watch ‘Dracula 2000.’ She was surprised that it was still in theaters, and not already on its way to videotape.

Justin came back towards her holding a huge bag of popcorn, nachos, and a whole assortment of candy. Mike was beside him, all his efforts involved in balancing three large sodas and two pretzels. Lillian’s eyes grew large as she took in all the food before her.

“It’s kind of rude to leave no food behind for the other people in line,” she said.

“Haha, very funny. I didn’t buy everything, just . . . most of it. Here’s your candy,” he offered, dropping different types of chocolate, gummi-anything, and hard candy into her outstretched hands.

She looked at what he had bought. Nerds, Sour Patch Kids, Junior Mints, Snow Caps. Name it, and she was holding it.

“Um, thanks,” she replied, still a little astonished at his generousness.

“You’re very welcome. I forgot to ask what kind of candy you wanted, so I figured better safe than sorry,” he grinned.

“I can see that,” she laughed.

He reached over to take two of the drinks from a grateful Mike. “Let’s head in. Gotta get a good seat before it gets crowded.”

He dashed off in the direction of theater 10, with Lillian and Mike hurrying after him like obedient ducklings. When they caught of up with him, he was already sitting down in the second row of seats. Mike saw where he sat, then headed to his own seat several rows back to give the young people privacy.

Lillian, exasperated, sat down beside Justin. “I don’t understand why you’re sitting so close when the theater is deserted.”

“Lillian, we’re watching ‘Dracula 2000.’ You have to be up close and personal with the blood and gore to get the whole experience,” he explained as if to a small child.

She threw her hands up. “Sorry, O Master of Movies. I didn’t realize.”

“That’s okay, I forgive you,” he replied playfully. He checked his watch, seeing that they had ten more minutes before the movie started. He tapped his thighs with impatience.

“Why don’t you eat your popcorn?” Lillian suggested, noticing his restlessness.

“I don’t want to yet. I have to save it for when the movie starts. It would suck if it was gone before the previews were over. Besides, this is the first time I’ve watched a movie in an actual theater in a long, long time. I have to savor this event.”

She nodded, feeling sympathy for him. He’s not even able to do normal things like go out and have a good time. Everything’s a dangerous situation for him.

Justin rushed to elaborate, not wanting Lillian to think he was whining about his job. “Still, if I had a chance to go back and time and not ever be in ‘N Sync, I wouldn’t do it. The path I took is the one that’s best for me. I love what I do, you know? Making other people happy, giving them something to smile for. Creating music with the best guys I’ve ever known. And meeting so many people, around the country and around the world. There’s nothing else like it,” he ended, his voice soft and his eyes staring at something only he could see.

The two lapsed into a thoughtful quietness, before Justin turned back to regard Lillian. “Do you ever wish you could go back and change things?” he asked. He was curious to know more about her.

She mused over the question for a bit before answering. “Well, when I was younger I always wished I had been more outgoing when I did this, or tried harder when I did that. But now that I think about it, I wouldn’t want to change anything. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe being an outcast and a dork in high school gave me the ambition to work so hard to get into a good college. And that ultimately led me to you guys. So no, I wouldn’t change anything at all.”

He smiled softly at her, his expressive eyes crinkling up a little at the corners. “I hate to say it, but I think you missed your calling, Lillian. You should have worked for Hallmark.”

She laughed, and shrugged. “It’s the truth, though.”

“I know,” he answered. “I know.” How can anyone doubt a speech like that? I didn’t even know she could talk so much at once. He felt like he was with a whole different person from the one he had first met. And he didn’t regret it at all.

The lights to the theater dimmed, and the previews were projected onto the screen. Justin eagerly grabbed his popcorn just as the opening credits rolled, and settled back into the cushion of the seat.

Lillian was a little worried that the movie would be too violent, but luckily any blood that appeared was so obviously fake that she had to make an effort to prevent her laughter from bubbling out. During a particularly phony scene, her silent laughter shook her shoulders and Justin glanced over at her.

“Hush,” he whispered, nudging her with his elbow. “You’re ruining the movie.”

She wanted to retort that it was too late for that to happen, but she bit her tongue because she could see that he was engrossed in the digital effects. What was that saying? Oh yeah. There’s no accounting for good taste.

She tried to concentrate on what was happening onscreen, and as the movie played on she slouched further down into her seat, as Justin had already done. Neither of them seemed aware of the fact that they were leaning on each other, very comfortable with their close proximity.

When the laugh-a-thon was finally over, Lillian jumped to her feet and stretched. She yanked Justin from the chair, ignoring his attempts to stay seated.

“Great movie, really. Now come on, let’s go,” she said hastily. She grabbed his empty popcorn bag and filled it with their drained sodas and candy wrappers. Pulling her purse strap over her shoulder, she took his arm with one hand and gathered their trash in the other.

“Why the rush?” he whined. “Let’s watch the credits!”

“Unless you want to see whose acting careers are ruined, there’s no need for that,” she responded, escorting him out of the theater that had remained sadly empty. Mike was already outside in the lobby, obviously eager to leave the theater, too.

He laughed at her attitude. It really was cute. “Fine, fine,” he gave in. “We can go outside. I don’t think the other movie’s over yet.”

She agreed. It was a nice night. Not too warm, but not too cool either. They threw their trash away in a nearby trashcan and sat down on a small wrought-iron bench away from the streetlights. The sky was relatively clear, with only a few scattered clouds marring the stars.

Justin stretched out his body, still cramped from packing his frame into a small space for two hours. He gazed up at the constellations, automatically recognizing Orion’s Belt and then finding the Big Dipper from there. A tiny falling star flew into his field of vision.

“Hurry, make a wish,” he urged Lillian, already in the process himself.

 She quickly found the star and obeyed. I wish we could stay like this forever. Then the star disappeared behind a cluster of clouds.

“What’d you wish for?” she asked Justin.

“It won’t come true if I tell you,” he responded.

“Was it a good wish, then?” she prompted.

He nodded thoughtfully. “I hope so.”

She was about to change the topic, knowing he wanted to keep his wish private, for whatever reason, when the others burst out of the doors and headed to their bench.

“Mike told us you were out here,” called out Lance. Chris and Joey were behind him, boisterously pretending to fight each other using the new moves they saw in ‘Crouching Tiger.’ JC was talking to Lonnie, discussing the ending of the movie while Mike listened in with interest.

Justin and Lillian both smiled their greetings. “How was the movie?” Lillian asked, scooting over on the bench to allow Lance to sit down.

Chris paused in his battling with Joey to answer. “Really good! Like first they were running on rooftops, and then Michelle Yeoh and the other girl beat into each other with all these weapons, and then they were jumping around on bamboo trees!” he said excitedly.

“Yeah,” Joey added, “And even though it was subtitled, it was still good. I didn’t even notice them after the first fight scene.”

“How was your movie?” Lance wanted to know.

“Great!” answered Justin.

“Hilarious,” replied Lillian at the same time.

“Hilarious? Lillian, it wasn’t a comedy,” Justin said confused.

“I know,” she responded dryly. Lance laughed at Justin’s incredulous expression.

“You mean you didn’t like it? Oh no, Justin, you’re 0 for 2,” he joked.

“Well, I liked it just fine,” Justin retorted. “And this is the thanks I get for buying out the food counter. Some people these days,” he huffed.

Mike ambled over to the three of them. “Come on kids, we gotta get going. Tim wants us back by 10:30, on the dot.”

            They good-naturedly groaned, and obeyed. The outing had been a good experience for them all, but it had been particularly special for two of them.



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