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Chapter 3

 

               Justin stood in his bathroom, brushing his teeth.  He examined his bare stomach, eyeing the blue bruises from the whooping Juli had given him.

              “ Someone still needs an ego buster,” Juli’s amused voice came from the doorway.

              Justin almost hit his tiled ceiling hearing her voice.  He sent her a mean look, walking by in only his boxers.

              “ Oh, don’t even give me that look.  I will rip off those boxers and post a wonderful picture for all your adoring fans,” Juli caught the glare.

              “ I’m not the only one in my boxers,” Justin retorted.

              He pulled on some sweats quickly, just in case she wasn’t bluffing on that threat.  Juli glared at him.

              “ I’m wearing a bra, shirt, boxers and sweats.  Do I need to put on my armor too?” Juli snapped.

              “ How about underwear?” Justin teased.

              “ That too, if you must know,” Juli reddened a little.

              “ Uh huh, PMS week?” Justin asked.

              “ Nope, Justin’s home week,” Juli answered.

              She fell face down on the bed beside him.  Justin breathed in quickly.  He blinked slowly, smelling the fragrance she wore, Lucky by lucky you.  He watched her as she watched TV.  Juli’s hair fell over her back and shoulders in a river of curls.  Her blue eyes glowed in laughter at whatever was funny on the TV.

              Juli glanced at Justin.  Was he staring at her?  She simply smiled, then turned back to the TV.  Justin glanced back at her.  He was her best friend and her natural beauty still mesmerized him.  Why someone hadn’t snatched her up already was beyond him.

              “ You’re tired, so I’ll go,” Juli began to get up.

              “ Stay,” Justin pleaded.

              Juli smiled, stopping herself before she flung her arms around his adorable little boy neck.  She almost grinned.  They even fell asleep better.

              “ Justin, if any of our parents catch us in here, first we’ll get the big lecture on sex, then they’ll think we’re in love,” Juli began.

              “ Stay,” Justin repeated.

              He sounded and looked so much like Steven with that pleading voice and protruding bottom lip.  Juli shook her head and climbed under the covers.

              “ Night Juli,” Justin said.

              “ Night, Joey, I mean Justin,” Juli giggled.

              “ If you were sleeping with Joey, I’d send you off to Alaska,” Justin said.

              “ And I’d hunt you down,” Juli replied, “ You know what?”

              “ What?” Justin asked, turning over.

              Juli paused, looking at him.  He was so incredibly adorable when he was half-asleep.

              “ I think its kinda weird Britney hasn’t called yet,” Juli answered.

              “ She’ll call,” Justin replied, “ When she’s good and ready.”

              “ Just like you’ll tell me what’s bothering you?” Juli stated.

              A pained look crossed Justin’s face, but was gone before Juli could analyze it.

              “ Just give me time, Jules.  I promise I’ll tell you,” Justin gave her forehead a quick kiss, then reached up and turned off the lights.

              Lynn came by to check on Justin and found the two snuggled together.

              “ Leigh, bring me a camera,” Lynn ordered softly.

Leigh handed Lynn a camera.  Lynn took a picture of them snuggled together.

              “ To show the grandkids one day,” Lynn explained.

They both walked away.

              Juli balled and unballed her fists.  No matter how much she wanted to slug her mom, she couldn’t.  Juli slipped out from Justin’s arms.  He reached out and grabbed her wrist.

              “ Juli, please stay,” Justin’s hoarse whisper broke her heart.

              Juli noticed the tears in the dim light from the hallway.  She locked the door and flipped on the lights.  Juli sat on the bed beside him silently.

              “ Britney and I broke up a few days ago,” Justin finally said, “ Barry had us take our relationship public and it’s just not working.  She doesn’t want to fight.”

Juli simply pulled him close.  She didn’t say one word as his mouth moved.

              “ Little brat I’d love to burn her at the stake,” Jul muttered.

              “ Jules,” Justin sniffed.

              Juli’s heart broke again for him.  For Britney to throw away her relationship with Justin, oh, it made Juli want to throw something sharp at a certain pop princess.

              “ Justin, I need to go before I hurt something,” Juli bolted out.

              Justin smiled.  Juli was always there to pick up the pieces after his heart broke.  He got up to see what she was doing to vent.

~*~

              Juli dove into the pool, her long arms pulling her across it quickly.  Her mind was on the many ways to torment a pop princess.

              “ You just wait, Britney,” Juli muttered.

Water filled her mouth.  She swallowed, getting even more water in her mouth.  Juli began coughing, trying desperately to get her footing in the deep water as she sunk further underwater.

              Another body dove in.  Two arms pulled her up onto the ground.

              “ Juli,” Justin shook her hard.

Memories flooded back as he checked his breathing.

              “ Come on, Juli, breathe,” Justin whispered, before starting AR (artificial respiration).

She finally started coughing.

              “ Juli, are you ok?” Justin asked.

              Juli looked at him with her frightened blue eyes.

              “ I’m peachy, Justin.  I just almost drowned from talking to myself.  Do you think I’m ok?” Juli shrieked softly.

              “ Shh, I’m here,” Justin pulled her close.

**~Flashback~**

              Juli stood on the shore.

              “ Come on, Justin,” she beckoned.

Justin waved her on, talking to a blonde that filled out the swimsuit Juli wished she did.  Juli shrugged and unhappily went out into the ocean alone.

              Justin almost never forgave himself for not going out with her.  The girl moved on and Justin turned to look for Juli.

              “ Juli?” Juli was nowhere to be found.

Her boogie board had washed up onto the sand.  Justin stripped off his shirt, grabbed the board and ran out into he waves.

              “ Juli,” Justin searched for her, “ Come on, God, where is she?”

              Like an answered prayer, a hand shot up from the surface.  Justin swam towards it, grabbing her and pulling her up onto the boogie board.  The lifeguards finally reached them.

              “ Is she going to be ok?” Justin asked.

              The lifeguards ignored him and began AR once they got back to the beach.  Juli wouldn’t start breathing.  Justin sat in the hospital for eleven hours until she was finally stabilized.  He still blamed himself for it and had dubbed himself her protector at the tender age of fourteen.  It had taken Justin years to get her to get near a pool, much less the ocean.

**~End Flashback~**

              Now this had to happen.

              “ Juli, are you ok?” Justin repeated, “ Do I need to call 911?”

Juli noticed his worry by the way his eyes were clouded with gray.

              “ I’ll be fine,” Juli gave him a hug, “ Always my hero, as usual.”

Justin flushed slightly, and then noticed the swimsuit she wore when she stood up.

              “ Holy cow, Juli,” Justin threw her a towel, “ Where did you learn to dress like hoe?”

              Juli wrapped the towel around her body.  She picked up the clothes she’d discarded, since she’d swam in her bra and underwear.

              “ You don’t like it?” Juli teased.

              “ It’s a little revealing, especially the baby blue thong,” Justin retorted.

              Juli’s face turned crimson.

              “ You saw?” her words were barely a whisper.

              “ You should’ve auditioned for Sisqo’s video,” Justin was enjoying making her blush.

              “ Justin,” Juli chased his upstairs.

              Justin felt her long fingers attack his sides.  He began laughing harder.

              “ No, stop, Juli,” Justin laughed.

              “ It’s payback time,” somehow Juli still had the towel wrapped around her.

              There was a loud banging at the door.  Juli turned and Justin snatched the towel.  Juli tried to cover herself, then grabbed one of his shirts.

              “ Yeah,” Justin opened up the door.

              “ What’s going on?” Lynn asked.

              She scanned the room.  Justin stood smirking by the door.  The room was a mess.  Juli was in the bathroom in only a shirt.  The bed was…  Lynn stopped, looking back at Juli standing in the bathroom, brushing her hair.

              “ Hey, Aunt Lynn,” Juli put down the brush.

              “ Do you always sleep in a shirt?” Lynn asked.

              “ No, she sleeps in a th-” Justin began.

              “ Justin,” Juli threw a towel at him.

              “ Ong,” Justin finished.

              Juli chased his through the room.  Lynn watched as a pillow fight erupted.

              “ Try to be quiet, Justin.  We have guests and I could hear you two from the other side of the house,” Lynn shut the door.

              “ I’m tired,” Juli hit Justin one last time with the pillow, before laying on it.

Justin turned the lights off and snuggled next to her.  He hummed the ‘Thong Song’ and got a pillow in his face.  He smiled.  Juli would never change.

Chapter 4