Justin saw Juli’s pale face. He knew she was still hurting from her dad’s death and now her mom had the gall to show up with her new husband, not ever six months later. It made Justin want to go throw something.
“ I’m not hungry, Lynn,” Juli began to walk away.
Justin caught her arm and dragged her out of the dining room.
“ Juli, you can’t leave me in there all alone,” Justin pleaded, “ Just sit between me and Steven. I promise to protect you.”
Juli smiled slightly at the little boy innocence he had retained even now.
“ You’ve always been my protector from her,” Juli said, “ I’ll go in, but I won’t eat or I may puke all over her.”
Justin gave her a hug.
“ I’m on your side,” he whispered.
They re-entered, noticing the smiles from the two mothers.
“ Justin, Auntie Lynn and Auntie Leigh said you guys are getting married soon. Can I be in it?” Steven spoke up.
“ Mom,” both Justin and Juli exclaimed.
Both of their mouths were open as they stared at their mothers.
“ What?” Leigh Thomas-Stevens looked innocently at her daughter.
“ I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to Aunt Lynn who is actually worthy of the name, Mom,” Juli snapped.
Justin put pressure on her arm, guiding her to her seat between him and Steven. Justin noticed his Mom leaning over to whisper to Leigh. He sent them both a mean look.
“ I’m going upstairs,” Justin stood up abruptly.
Juli looked up, her eyes questioning.
“ I wanna go to bed,” Steven yawned.
“ Come on, Sleepyhead,” Juli lifted him up.
Jonathan followed after being excused from the table. Justin and Juli told the boys to go get ready for bed, while they stood outside the dining room doors.
“ Ok, Leigh, what’s the plan? It’s your turn,” Lynn giggled.
“ I think you two need to stop interfering with their lives. It made them miserable the last time,” Randy Timberlake spoke up.
“ You stay out of this. Go watch a game,” Leigh ordered.
“ I just don’t want to see Juli and Justin hurt again or their friendship ruined,” Randy got up and left with the two other men.
“ Great, Lynn and Leigh are back in business,” Justin muttered.
“ When are you leaving for New York?” Maybe I’ll just get all my work for the week and go too,” Juli suggested, “ Or, I could get a tutor and join the crew?”
Juli’s parents were pretty well off and far from being poor. They had always had plenty of money, which had all been left to Juli when her dad died. Juli was a daddy’s girl.
“ You have to come with us. We need someone to keep Lacy away from Lance. Barry is chewing them out,” Justin led her towards his room.
Barry was their public relations man. He loved them like his kids, but he’d been under a lot of pressure from Jive lately.
“ He’s doing what’s best for you,” Juli’s hands massaged his tense shoulders, “ How’s Britney?”
Justin stiffened. He remembered that Britney and Juli were close friends. Juli had even sung the background vocals for a couple of Britney’s songs and had even been in some of the music videos.
“ She’s, um, great,” Justin said after a long silence.
“ Uh huh,” Juli pushed extra hard on his shoulders.
“ Wanna freak out our mothers?” Justin asked, sitting up on the bed.
“ Sure, how?” Juli lay facedown beside him.
Justin lowered his voice to a whisper.
Leigh and Lynn walked with their husbands. The Timberlake’s had left earlier that morning. Justin and Juli strolled behind their parents with Mike and a few other guards trailing them.
“ Operation get our mothers out of our love lives, has now begun,” Justin whispered.
Both glanced around. Justin pulled Juli close, like always, but too close. Mike’s eyes narrowed. They were up to something. Lynn glanced back to see her son pointing at things in a jewelry window with Juli.
“ Leigh, look,” she hissed.
“ I have been praying for this day for like, ever,” Leigh whispered.
Juli pulled Justin into the store. They were trying so hard to not start laughing.
“ Ok, let’s go through the store,” Justin chuckled before Juli pinched his ear.
“ Don’t mess this up, Curls or I’ll pull our every one, like I did to that one last night,” Juli threatened.
Mike noticed their shaking shoulders and the mother’s happy faces. He grinned to no one in particular. Justin and Juli were messing with minds again, he hoped.
“ Crap, they’re still there,” Juli whispered.
Justin pretended to point at rings so they could talk.
“ What are we going to do? I thought they’d leave by now,” Justin muttered.
“ We’re not going to act couplish, are we?” Juli looked disgusted by the thought.
Justin bit his lips nervously. He’d been hoping it didn’t come down to something like this. This was his best friend and they’re plan was failing. This never happened to a Timberlake and Thomas plan. Mike entered suddenly. Justin’s arms dropped quickly.
“ Pretend like we’re not doing anything. Like we got caught,” Justin whispered.
Juli simply walked towards the sapphire section.
“ What are you two up to?” Mike asked.
“ Nothing,” Justin looked at Mike innocently.
“ Boy, I know you’ve gone off the deep end. That’s your best friend,” Mike began.
“ Mike, its an act. We put it together last night,” Justin interrupted, “ Now go get my parents out of here.”
Mike nodded and left.
Juli was a good actress. Justin caught her quick glance at Mike as if she was making sure he was going. Justin slowly walked over to her.
“ See anything you like?” Justin’s chin rested comfortably on her shoulder as his hands fell around her, resting on the display case.
“ Yep, and I think I’M going to buy it MYSELF,” Juli empathized the I’s.
“ Nu uh, I’m gonna buy it. Show me or I’ll pick one out,” Justin replied.
“ No,” Juli was having a stubborn moment.
Justin looked at the rings.
“ Go ahead and be an brat. All I wanted to do was buy you something,” Justin said.
“ I will kill you when we get out of here,” Juli smiled sweetly, while her eyes shot daggers, “ It’s a good thing Mike is here or you’d already be dead.”
“ I think it’s that one,” Justin pointed at a ring.
Juli sighed when he pointed to the one she wanted. This was another thing she hated: mooching off Justin. Justin loved to buy her things, but it just never felt right.
“ Can I help you?” a salesman finally asked.
Justin pointed to the ring. He glanced back and sighed in relief. His parents were gone.
“ They’re gone,” Justin moved to the side.
“ Come on, then,” Juli said.
“ I’m getting you this ring, Jules,” Justin grabbed her right arm.
He fit the ring around her right ring finger. Perfect fit.
“ Justin,” Juli crossed her arms.
“ Someone’s been working out,” Justin noticed.
“ You don’t get too much homework having art as your major,” Juli shrugged.
Justin finished the purchase, insisting she wear the ring. Mike stayed with them, making various purchases so he wasn’t as noticeable. Justin and Juli tried to keep straight faces at their mother’s obviously happy ones. Both of them burst into laughter.
“ What’s going on?” Lynn asked.
“ Timberlake and Thomas are back in business,” Justin gave Juli a high five, “ That’s our best one yet.”
Both mothers looked between the two.
“ Did you really think we would look at engagement rings?” Juli asked.
By this time, the husbands were laughing too.
“ Looks like these two have outsmarted Leigh and Lynn,” Paul Harless laughed.
“ You two were acting?” Leigh looked suspicious, “ Then where did she get that ring?”
Justin and Juli were speechless.
“ I bought it,” Juli lied.
“ You did not,” Justin rolled his eyes.
“ I would’ve, but no, Mr. Platinum credit card had to,” Juli retorted.
“ Save all bodily abuse until you get home,” Mike ordered.
“ Yes siree, this boy is having those curls pulled out one by one,” Juli reached up and tugged on a short one.
“ Ow, Juli Raquel,” Justin pulled out the hair thing that held up her messy bun.
Mike looked up at the sky.
“ Why me?” he muttered.
He easily hoisted Juli over his shoulder as they continued out of the mall. Juli beat on his back, and then realized it was useless.
“ I promise not to hurt him, Mike,” Juli consented.
Justin looked surprised. She never gave up without a fight.
“ At least not until we get home, then he’d going down,” Juli continued, an evil smile on her lips.
“ Mommy,” Justin ran behind his mom.
Lynn smiled, these two were hams together and that had and never would change.