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Prologue

 

              “ I can’t believe they were only born a day apart,” a blonde woman said, cuddling a little bundle, “ Now all we have to do is make sure they grow up and marry each other.”

              “ Now, Leigh, need I remind you that I get to pick out the wedding cake,” the other grinned at her friend.

              Lynn Timberlake and Leigh Thomas had been born friends.  No one could ever remember a time when they weren’t together.

              “ Here’s a Mr. Justin Timberlake calling for his mother,” a nurse entered with a screaming baby.

              Lynn tenderly took her firstborn son.

              “ At least I know he’s got some lungs.  Maybe I’ll put him in singing,” Lynn muttered.

The baby quieted and Leigh held her breath nervously when hers opened its tiny mouth.

              “ What did you name her, Leigh?” Lynn asked.

              “ Juli Raquel Thomas,” Leigh answered.

The baby’s mouth closed, almost in satisfaction.

~*~

              “ Juli, where are you?” a little curly haired boy of six stopped short in his search, seeing all the beads scattered around.

              “ I broke Mommy’s necklace and she’s gonna be mad,” the little girl looked about ready to cry.

              “ Don’t cry, Juli,” Justin said.

              “ I won’t.  Will you help me?” Juli asked hesitantly.

              “ Sure,” Justin answered.

              “ You’re my best friend,” Juli gave him a hug, “ Come on, let’s get the doggies to eat it up so Mommy won’t see.”

Justin nodded and followed her out to the dogs.

~*~

              “ Justin, Justin, guess what?” Juli, now fourteen, ran out of her house, her long blonde curls flying behind her.

The tall curly haired teen boy froze as he went to shoot.  He glanced at the other guys, and then looked at her questioningly.

              “ What, Jules?” Justin asked.

              “ Guess who’s coming for dinner tonight at your house?” she practically sang.

              The other guys were silent, knowing she could beat them black and blue if they interrupted.

              “ Who?” Justin shot at the hoop.

              “ Don’t get too excited there,” Juli rebounded the ball, butting him out and watching in satisfaction, as he lay sprawled on the ground.

              A couple of hoots from the guys made Justin send them a dirty look.  He placed his hands on his hips.

              “ Who’s coming tonight, Juli Raquel?” Justin asked, knowing she hated him to use her middle name.

              “ I’m not telling you, Justin Randall,” Juli replied.

She took careful aim, then shot from the 3-point line, smiling smugly when it dropped in.

              Justin grabbed the ball.

              “ One on one, Thomas?” Justin challenged.

              “ Prepare to get your butt whooped on, Timberlake,” Juli replied.

              “ Juli Raquel Thomas, if your cute little backside isn’t in here now, I’m going to make sure you aren’t doing any sitting for weeks,” a woman yelled.

Juli sighed, straightening from her defensive position.

              “ We’ll finish this later,” she promised, “ And JC’s coming over for dinner.”

She waved, and then was gone.

              Juli Raquel Thomas and Justin Randall Timberlake had always been best friends.  What worried everyone the most was their ability to accomplish ANYTHING together AND get away with it.  The two were inseparable.

              Justin dribbled the ball, frowning slightly.  He knew Juli had a crush on JC and for some reason it irked him.

              “ What’s wrong, Timberlake?  Someone trying to steal your girl?” a guy jeered.

              “ Shut it, Jerry,” Justin snapped.

The guy backed off as they got back in position to continue their game.

              Juli watched from the kitchen window of her house.  She wasn’t paying attention to the vegetables she was cutting and wasn’t surprised when the knife sliced through her finger.

              “ Ow,” Juli whimpered.

              Her mother calmly handed her a towel.  Juli glared at her mother’s back.  Her mom was trying to get her to cook.  Juli wrinkled her nose in disgust.  She hated to cook.  She’d rather be out here playing basketball, beating Justin.  She smiled cockily.  She was the only person to accomplish that feat so far.

              “ Hey, Mrs. Thomas,” Justin bounded in.

              Leigh Thomas chuckled as Justin headed straight for the refrigerator.  Sometimes it felt like she had two sons, not one daughter.

              “ Your mother called and left a message.  You need to call a Chris Kirkpatrick at this number,” Leigh handed him a piece of paper.

              Justin’s face wrinkled in concentration.

              “ Don’t hurt yourself there.  Your brain might explode from usage,” Juli was perched on the counter.

Justin jumped up next to her.

              “ What happened, Jules?” Justin asked.

              “ Just a little cut,” Juli shrugged, her blue eyes never meeting his.

              Leigh stared at the crimson towel.  She’d thought it to be a small cut.  Leigh shook her head.  The emergency room doctors knew her and Lynn Harless well, too well.  She grabbed her purse and keys.

              “ Into the car, you two.  I’ll drop you off on the way, Justin.  And tell your Mom we’re headed to the emergency room, again,” Leigh ordered.

              Juli winced at the word again.  Both slumped glumly in the car.  Justin glanced at Juli in time to see her brush away a tear.  He put an arm around her, pulling her close.

              “ Hope you feel better, Jules,” Justin said before getting out.

Juli sighed as they began the silent drive to the hospital.

~*~

              “ I can’t believe I’m gonna miss your first performance,” Juli tried not to cry, “ I’m still trying to convince Mom and Daddy to move to Orlando.”

Her hands fluttered, fixing and re-fixing his collar.  Justin caught the tears.

              “ Jules, I’m gonna miss you,” Justin said, “ Please don’t cry.”

              Juli turned her head defiantly as Justin almost groaned.  He hated the rare moments when she was stubborn.

              “ Juli, promise me you won’t cry,” Justin said.

              “ I can’t,” Juli shook her head.

              Justin noticed his Mom slowly approaching and pulled out a tiny white bear.  Juli smiled seeing JT, as they’d named it.  Justin and her were constantly fighting over which house he was at.

              “ You keep JT,” Justin whispered, then louder, “ I promise to call everyday.”

              “ You two will certainly keep the phone companies busy,” Lynn Harless said, “ The plane’s boarding, Justin.”

              Justin gave Juli a hug then walked away with his mom.

              “ Was that JT you gave Juli?” Lynn asked.

Justin nodded, then looked out the window, refusing to talk to anyone.  Lynn muttered a prayer.  If this was how he was going to be without Juli, she was going to need all the help she could get.  She sighed and took out a magazine.

Chapter 1