Words Unspoken.


“I did it…”


Lance stared, hands trembling wildly, at the narrow slip of white paper in his hand. He had done it.  C minor, with two verses and a bridge…scrawled in that familiar all-caps lettering.  The edges of the paper were worn, as though they had been handled over and over again.  One side had the shredded seam of a spiral notebook, and the other a few random doodles in heavy black ink.  Experimentally, quietly, he hummed the few bars, his voice ringing out unnaturally loud in the silence of his hotel room.  He thought, if he strained hard enough, he could hear JC breathing in the next room, but he knew it was nothing more than his own guilty conscience.


It had been so easy…wait until the others had gone out to a club…sneak into JC’s room, rifling through bags and notebooks until he found a likely target, and with a quick tear, the ripping noise deafening in the quiet room, it was his.  He had used Joey as an unwitting accomplice, sending them out to Church’s for a bucket of chicken and shoving a Franklin into Joey’s outstretched hand.


“You sure you don’t want anything?” JC asked, always considerate.  Lance shook his head like one of those inane bobblehead figurines and tossed the older man his car keys, just as insurance.


“Take your time,” He replied, in what he hoped was a casual, non-suspicious tone.  To his ears, he sounded like a high, squeaky teenager.


He watched and waited until the green car retreated around the corner, and then made a mad dash to JC’s room.  In complete darkness, like the most hardened of criminals, Lance conducted his search, ransacking JC’s most personal items…finding little more than a few random phone numbers and a packet or two of trojans…until…jackpot.


It was only a scrap…a few bars of melody next to JC’s hastily scrawled snippets of lyric, but it was something to go on.  Something to build on.  A chance to make things his own.  Lance hastily retreated, his prize clutched tightly in sweaty palms, and dashed down the vacant hallway to his room, where he had sat, nervously, for hours…nothing more than a second-rate thief.


He had tried so hard for his day in the sun.  He was painfully aware of his lack of talent in both the composition and production arenas.  He wanted something completely separate from the music business; a crossover product that would ensure his livelihood should *NSYNC’s glass tower come clattering to the ground.  Ignoring earlier foibles by both Spicegirls and Spinal Tap, Lance had opted to make a movie…surely the young prepubescent females of America would fork over their parents’ hard-earned cash to see two-fifths of *NSYNC on the big screen, right?


The movie scored a dismal eleventh-place opening, which did nothing to ease the sting of the critics’ slap and the muffled giggles from his bandmates when they saw him on screen.  Those sounds, those muted guffaws and privately exchanged glances, hurt him the most.  After all, who knows how to hurt someone more than a member of one’s own “family?” In the darkness of the theatre, his bandmates by his side, Lance felt like an outcast.


He just wanted a chance to shine…something that people would distinguish as his alone.  The production company was insurance; something to filter endless funds into and amuse him when his fancy struck.  He still felt, as the others didn’t, that he was dreadfully inept without *NSYNC.


That’s why, when the opportunity presented itself, Lance had chosen to steal JC’s song.  It was a brazenly audacious move; something more fitting to Justin or Joey than quiet, pretty, meek Lance.  He knew, eventually, that the truth would come out.  He knew, by following his charted course of action, he would be identified as the thief.


He also knew that JC would never, ever accuse him of doing so.


And so he stole the song and doctored the lyrics—adding a “girl” here and a “baby” there, just to make it authentic, and quietly, quickly submitted it to the record company.


To his absolute horror, they loved it.  Wanted it on the album.  Replacing one of JC’s songs, a ballad about trust and friendship and fidelity.  Lance was sickened.  When the group met for pre-album production, or “*NSYNC Survivor,” as Chris had christened it, they had played another of JC’s songs, one he had brought with an anxious look and hopeful heart.


The melody was simple, with acoustic guitars and a drum track devoid of any special effects.  Nothing about the song was particularly outstanding except for the emotions behind it, and JC nibbled nervously on his thumbnail as the others deliberated.

“It’s not bad, C…” Justin said carefully, although his true feelings were transparent.  “What else you got?”


The older man shrugged, saying nothing, looking away, his eyes lowered in shame.  His hurt was palpable, though the others, in typical, practiced fashion, ignored it.


“Lance you got something?”  Justin said finally, and Lance could feel the beads of sweat gathering quickly along his upper lip.


“Uh…yeah…yeah I got something…it’s nothing special, but…”


His hands trembled violently as he placed the disc into the machine.  He had done a slipshod job at producing the song; grabbing little-known studio musicians in his haste to cover his tracks.  He knew he would not be able to do the song justice…but he timidly pressed play, and waited for his fate to be sealed.


Halfway through the track, as the second verse began to play, JC turned to Lance.  His blue eyes were filled with tears, hardened in anger, his gaze unwavering even as Lance looked away.  JC said nothing.


When the last of the notes rang through the air, the rest of the group sat in stunned silence. 


“Lance,” Justin finally breathed.  “That was AMAZING!”


“Who knew?” Chris chortled.  “Figures you’d get a song on the damn album before me.  Go fucking figure.”


“What do you think, C?” Joey asked, as JC sat quietly, stoically, in the corner, sorrow splashed across his face like the tears that gathered in his eyes.


His jaw was rigid, the muscles bunching under severe pressure.  His fingers were folded in his lap, his knee tapping incessantly against the carpeted floor.


“C?  Earth to C!  What did you think?” Justin asked again. 


JC finally looked Lance in the eye, and with tears escaping onto his cheeks, spat three words only: “I hate it.”


Justin stared in shocked silence at the older man, before saying quietly, firmly, echoing the others’ sentiments, “you’re just jealous.”


Lance, heart numb and stomach roiling, could only nod.





© 2002 ~A.