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Chapter 10- October 2001

 

              Justin ran off the plane.  Juli was meeting him here before they heaved to Hawaii for a vacation.  He was ecstatic to see her after months of being paired with Britney.

              “ Juliet, where art thou?” Justin scanned the airport.

              Juli came running up with airport security behind her.

              “ Juli,” Justin dropped all his bags and scooped her up.

              “ Get her out of here,” Barry ordered.

              “ Let her be,” Mike stepped in.

              “ Step away from me, Mike.  You’ve forgotten your place,” Barry snapped, pushing Mike’s hands away.

              “ No, you’ve forgotten your place.  I protect *N Sync and whomever they want me to.  Those other four guys owe a lot to Juli for even getting Justin in front of a mike.  She’s a part of *N Sync and stays here,” Mike replied.

              The other four *N Syncers joined them.

              “ Juli stays,” Mike repeated.

Barry stalked off.  Justin looked down at Juli.

              “ Hugs?” he pouted.

Juli flung her arms around him.  Justin leaned down and gave her forehead a quick kiss.

              “ Welcome home,” she squealed.

He pulled her closer and spun her around until they couldn’t walk straight.

              “ Miss me?” Justin asked.

              “ Not after that,” Juli answered.

              He slung an arm around her to walk with the rest of the band.

              “ Mom?” Justin spotted his Mom and ran towards her, scooping her up in a hug.

              “ Hey, Hun, come on.  We can talk on the plane,” Lynn took his hand, “ Where’s my Juli?”

Lynn pulled Juli close as they walked towards the next gate.

~*~

              Justin exited the plane with his Mom.  Juli and Lacy had paired up earlier.

              “ How did Britney end up with us?” Lynn asked.

              “ Barry’s trying to fix us up.  He’s worse than you and Aunt Leigh,” Justin answered.

              “ Don’t look so down.  I’ve promised not to bother in your love life after your 21st birthday, but I will be until then,” Lynn said.

              “ Thanks, Mom, for finally giving up,” Justin gave her a hug.

              “ I’m not giving up.  Have you ever thought that maybe the reason you two won’t be more is fear?  Both of you love each other, but you don’t want to lose your friendship if it goes wrong.  Trust me, Justin, that chance will be worth taking,” Lynn walked ahead to meet up with JC’s mom.

              Justin walked out of the airport, staring at the exotic scenery.  His Mom was right, but he knew Juli still wouldn’t want to take that chance.  He sat alone in the van.

              “ Why the long face?” Britney snuggled up to him as others entered.

              Lacy caught sight of Juli’s pained face.  Lacy followed her gaze to see Britney clinging to Justin.

              “ You’re so gone, girl.  Just tell him,” Lacy said.

              “ Uh huh, I’m sure he’d love to know that tomboy, Juli, the type of girl he’d never want as a girlfriend, likes him,” Juli rolled her ocean blue eyes.

Justin looked at Juli in time to see JC sit next to her.  Lance caught his sad puppy dog look at Juli.

              “ Man, you are so whipped,” Lance said.

              “ Not any worse than you,” Justin retorted.

Lacy glanced between the two.

              “ I don’t like that look, Lace,” Lance whispered in her ear.

              “ It’s time to play cupid again, Jamie,” Lacy smiled coyly.

              “ My little devil,” Lance pulled her close.

Justin sent them a curious look before closing his eyes for the trip to the hotel.

~*~

              Justin was out on his balcony when the intruder entered.  It moved quietly towards him.

              “ Hey, babe,” Britney purred, sitting on the bed.

              “ What are you doing in here?  Get out,” Justin yelled.

Britney’s bottom lip trembled.

              “ Get out.  I don’t know how you got my key, but just get out,” Justin continued.

              Juli came in, hearing his ranting.  She dropped her suitcases onto the other bed and sat on it to watch.

              “ You know you want me, Justin,” Britney said.

              “ Uh huh, and did I say that?  No, and I won’t be for either,” Justin retorted, “ Now get out.”

Britney stomped out in tears.

              Justin went back out onto the balcony.  Juli approached him.

              “ Justin,” she said softly.

              “ Get out, Brit,” Justin sighed.

              “ I’m hurt,” Juli replied.

              Justin turned and his anger turned to joy when he saw her suitcases on the other bed.

              “ Lacy kicked me out because Lance wanted to stay in there with her.  Can I room here or will I be in the way of you and Britney?” Juli asked.

              “ I’ll have to ask her first, but for now you can stay,” Justin answered, “ Come on out here.  I want to watch the sunset.”

              “ Let me grab my paints at least.  I promised Mom I’d get at least one sunset on canvas,” Juli replied.

              Juli set up her paints and Justin watched as colors came alive on the plain canvas. 

              “ Beautiful,” Justin murmured.

Juli looked up at him.          

              “ Isn’t it?  I’m so glad I brought my paints,” Juli said.

              He almost chuckled.  He’d been talking about her.  Little Juli had grown up and the dim light was accenting every tiny feature he’d never seen before, like the dimple in her right cheek when she smiled or the way her eyes crinkled when she was frustrated or even the reddish glow she seemed to be giving off.

              “ Beautiful to paint,” Justin said.

              “ I know.  Look at all the colors,” Juli waved her paintbrush at the sky.

              “ Blues and blondes along with some red,” Justin continued.

              Juli looked at his questioningly.

              “ I don’t see any blues or blondes,” she said.

              “ Sometimes what you’re looking for is right in front of you,” Justin replied.

It had to be the light, Juli decided.  Justin couldn’t be looking at her the way she’d seen Lance looking at Lacy so often.

              “ Justin, what…” Juli began.

He leaned down and gave her a soft kiss.  Juli stared at nothing as he walked back inside.

              “ Justin,” Juli got up and followed him out.

              He kept his head down as he jogged away.  The other guys saw him and looked at him with a questioning glance as he passed in the hotel hallway.

              “ Justin,” Juli sprinted by them.

She pulled him to face her.  He still refused to look up at her.

              “ Don’t you ever, ever, ever,” her words filled him with dread, “ Be ashamed of the way you feel.  I’m here so that you can tell me.”

Justin’s head snapped up. Juli gave him a hug before they headed back towards the room.

~*~

Justin ran a comb through his wet curls wincing when he hit a knot.  He finally exited to find Juli on his bed, asleep.  He laid beside her, gently stroking her face.

Juli felt the touch and snuggled closer to the warm body, not thinking it might be Justin.  Soft lips caressed the side of her face.     

“Mmm,” Juli moved closer.

Justin paused.  Should he or shouldn’t he?  Forget morals.  His lips slowly covered Juli’s.  Juli was lost in the passion as she responded.  Her hands ran though curls.  A loud banging stopped everything.  Juli opened her eyes to see Justin’s face turned towards the door debating whether or not to open it.

“ Was that you?” Juli asked softly, sitting up quickly.

Justin nodded guiltily.

              “ Man you’re good,” Juli replied.

              Justin’s face brightened considerably.

              “ Feel free to do that next time when I’m awake,” Juli watched him get up slowly.

He opened the door to reveal Lance.  Lance opened his mouth then closed it, reddening a little.

              “ Um, Justin,” Lance stammered, “ Outside now.”

              Justin looked back at Juli and smiled.

              “ Angel, put on a shirt,” Justin stripped off his sweatshirt and threw it at her.

Juli pulled it on, blushing furiously.

              “ I’ll be back later and we can finish that,” Justin said.

              Justin walked beside Lance silently. 

              “ Were you two really going at it?” Lance asked

              “ Nah, Juli was just having a blonde moment,” Justin answered.

Lance didn’t know if Justin was joking or not.  He wisely shut up.

              Juli fell across the bed.  She was thoroughly embarrassed with Lance seeing her in her bra, but what made that all better was remembering the minutes before hand.  She touched her lips tenderly.  He sure had changed from second grade.

              “ I look like I was struck by lightening,” Juli tried to soothe her tangled web of frizz.

She finally opted for the shower.

~*~

              Justin entered to hear the shower running.  He flopped down on his bed, waiting for her to come out.  The room was dark when the bathroom door opened.  Justin’s mouth dropped open.  The towel did little to conceal Juli.

              “ You might want to change in the bathroom for your own good,” Justin spoke up.

              Juli turned to face the darkness, her eyes darting around fearfully.

              “ I’m on my bed, Juli.  Just go back inside the bathroom before I get up,” Justin reassured her.

Juli did as told.  He was almost asleep when water dripped on his bare arm.

              Justin turned to face Juli who was busy staring at her hands.

              “ Why the long face, Angel?” Justin asked.

              “ I’m just tired,” Juli sighed.

              “ Your hair has to dry first,” Justin said.

              “ Ok, I’ll turn on the light,” Juli replied.

              She instantly regretted it when Justin’s eyes roamed up and down her pajamas.  Justin lifted himself up to show he was only in his boxers.

              “ Lay down, Juli,” Justin opened his arms.

Juli shakily did as told.

              “ Juli, its me.  The brat you love to beat on,” Justin whispered, “ I won’t hurt you.  I promise.”

              “ Promise me it won’t ruin our friendship,” Juli whispered back.

              “ Promise,” Justin nodded.

              His warm breath smelled of Colgate as he leaned his face down to hers.  Juli’s hands slid up his bare chest to his neck, willing his closer.  Justin hesitated, and then kissed her.  Excitement rippled through her as she returned the kisses, each one outdoing the last.  Justin felt guilty.  This wasn’t right.  This wasn’t what best friends did.  He pulled away.

              “ Justin,” Juli tried to pull him back.

              “ No, Juli, this isn’t right.  You’re my best friend,” Justin got up.

              Juli sat silently, noticing he was either frustrated or frightened.

              “ Juli, you deserve so much better than me.  I don’t want us to move so fast that you’re nothing but a one-night stand.  You deserve so much better,” Justin finally said.

Juli stiffened.  She hated those words.  No guy ever meant them.

              “ Night Jules,” Justin said.

He moved off to the other bed.  Juli curled up under the covers, memories she’d wanted to keep forgotten coming back.  Warm tears dripped down her face.

Chapter 11