It was another week before Lance gained the courage to mail the letter he'd left in his notebook. He and his physical therapist, Morgan, walked several blocks down to where the large blue mailbox stood on the corner. He dropped the letter in then waited for a second before opening the little drawer again; "Just making sure it went down." He explained softly as Morgan smiled and shook her head.
"Ready to head back?" She asked.
"Yeah." Lance nodded and turned around to walk back the way they came. The whole way back to his house his stomach did flip-flops. He'd just mailed a letter to the family of the man whose heart beat in his chest. The same heart that was pounding with the exertion of walking eight blocks once kept their loved one alive.
Lance couldn't help but wonder about the donor the young man who gave his organs to help others. A deep frown furrowed in his brow as his mind drifted to his donors family. What kind of job did he have? Did he play sports? Was he married? Did he have a family?
"Hey Paige?" Donna flagged her down as she walked quickly through the Donor Foundation's front office.
"Yeah?" Paige stopped in her tracks. She'd been volunteering her time there for the last few months, helping to distribute fliers to local hospitals and schools. A couple months after Travis' accident, she had packed up what few belongings she had and moved to up north to Flagstaff, just to get away from the memories in Tucson. Her father-in-law, Jim, had followed her there she was the only family he had left.
"Guess what?" Donna's question snapped Paige back to the present.
"Guess." Donna's eyes sparkled with the secret she held.
"I already know about the conference in Phoenix and Im even planning on going."
"Wrong. Guess again." Donna giggled like a child as she bounced up on her toes.
"I dont have time for games Donna, I have to grab those fliers and get to the clinic. It took longer than I thought to walk the two miles around the park." Paige tapped her watch and glanced down at her round body. It was only another week before her baby was due and she was filled with bittersweet emotions. The baby would be the light of her life and she couldn't wait to hold the kicker in her arms, to smell its sweet smell and feel its silky skin but at the same time she dreaded welcoming this new littler person into her life alone. Travis should have been there to celebrate with her, but instead there would be a void where he should have stood.
"You said you wanted to know if you got a response well kiddo, you did." Donna grinned and held out a small blue envelope.
The blood ran from Paiges face to her toes, "I what?"
"One of the recipients sent in a letter to you."
"To me?" Her heart did a cartwheel in her chest; "H-how did they find me?"
"Paige my dear, this is the Donor Foundation. This is where you registered so this is where the letters come."
"But but how did they find me?"
"They didnt. You know how this works, right?"
"Yes." Paige licked her lips then shook her head. "Remind me." Her mind went fuzzy and she wasnt sure shed remember how to walk, never mind the system of donor and recipient contact.
"The recipient sends a letter to their local donor foundation or any donor foundation actually, with their donation number on the envelope. Its matched up in the database and sent to the appropriate donor center where its kept until the donors family picks it up if they want to."
"And if they dont?"
"Then the letter stays there. Just in case." Donna shrugged.
"And if the donors family can do the same thing?"
"Yep, but in reverse."
"How do they know where to send it?"
"They send it to their local donor foundation where the donor number is matched up with the recipient." Donna spewed off the facts like she was reading a script.
"Wh-what if the letter says something horrible?"
"Paige whoever wrote this is grateful to you and Jim they arent upset."
"But what if things went wrong?"
"Do you want me to read it?" Donna asked as she held the letter in her hand.
"No!" Paige snatched the blue envelope from Donna's hand. "Ill read it." She turned on her heel and headed back for the door. "Thank you Donna."
"Wait Paige, what about the fliers?"
"Tell Dan Ill pick them up later." She waved over her head and let the heavy glass door swing shut behind her.
Paige took a deep breath as she dropped the envelope on the passenger's seat and started her car. She drove all the way to Jim's apartment complex without looking at the envelope, but when she pulled into the tight parking space she couldnt wait any longer.
The envelope was sealed and only marked with the donation number on the front, inside was a single sheet of lined paper folded into thirds. The original envelope was nowhere to be found, probably to protect the privacy of the recipient.
The paper unfolded easily and the sure, smooth flow of the words on the page brought tears to Paiges eyes. She read the letter quickly, then went back and read it another dozen times to absorb every last word and feeling, as if the letter might be taken away.
Travis. Travis heart was in this man. The man who wrote the letter, the man who sat down in his home and wrote out a full page of meaningful words was alive only because of Travis. Out of nowhere an overwhelming sense of anger washed over her. A feeling she hadnt felt since the funeral. She was angry. Angry at God for taking Travis away from her, for valuing the life of these other people more than him, for not letting him know he had a child on the way, for cursing her with this small daily reminder that Travis was still very much a part of her life, even though he was gone.
Paige re-folded the letter and shoved it in the envelope before she grabbed her bag and headed up to Jim's apartment. He would want to see this letter too and they could support each other as they dealt with this first contact from a recipient.
The boys stayed locked in the studio for several months between traveling to Los Angeles and New York to work with other seasoned producers and studios. When they finally returned to Florida, Wade came with them to start with the choreography for the upcoming tour that was also being planned. He worked out the dance moves and really paid attention to the guys requests for things they wanted to do and tour idea they had that would affect the dancing. He also revamped some of the moves to make it less physical and more visual, the crowd would have a lot more to see but with less actual movement from the guys. He promised it wouldn't be enough to where they'd notice, but after the show the guys would feel the difference.
"Lance? Hey kid, we've gotta talk." Johnny pulled Lance aside as the others left the dance studio in their fifth week or rehearsals.
"Yeah?" Lance quickly ran his hand over his lips to wipe away the thin coating of sweat.
"You feeling okay?"
"Yeah yeah I feel fine." Lance nodded. It felt great getting back to work and knowing that his heart was going to stay healthy and in working order. Even though they were doing a slightly altered dance routine, they still looked great and they all felt better. "What's up?"
"I don't know if you've heard or not, but there are rumors flying around the internet and even some of the news and teen magazines. They're calling our PR firm to confirm or deny the fact that you've had the heart transplant."
"What?" Lance's new heart skipped a beat. "Wh- how did they find out?"
"I don't know where it originated." Johnny shook his head. "At this point I'm not entirely sure that it matters. The point is that we've said you had heart surgery since the beginning so if you'd like to confirm this we can still do that and save face."
"If we deny it now and somehow, somewhere there's proof that could look bad."
"Yeah but but Johnny I don't know man." Lance shook his head and leaned against the wall. "What kind of details are out there already?"
"None that I know of." Johnny put his hands in his pockets. "Just the fact that you received a transplant. From what I've heard they're asking about several hospitals that allegedly did the operation, none of which are correct. None of them have a definite date and none have stated anything as truth."
"Why's this happening now? I mean, it's been a year almost. I'd have thought this would've been dug up last year or something." Lance ran his hands through his sweat-dampened hair.
"I don't know."
"Okay, so what do you think we should say?" He sighed.
"It's your call Lance."
"Yeah but what do you think?"
"I think we should confirm that you had the transplant and leave it at that. Giving any more details could possibly violate the privacy of the donor and I think the public can understand that."
"What about the hospital?"
"No, that information is not necessary, and again may violate the donor's privacy. As well as the date. I think everyone knows that it was around the time we were in Arizona last year simply because we cancelled shows after that."
"Shit." Lance sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "Can I make a statement?"
"You want to do it?"
"Yeah." Lance nodded. "We've got the coolest fans, they're the kind who don't believe anything till they hear it from our own mouths and I think I owe it to them to set their minds at ease. So there's no question at all what the truth is."
"That's up to you." Johnny shrugged; he hadn't expected Lance to take it so well.
"What time is it? Like four, right? Is TRL on?"
"You want to do this now?"
"As soon as I can before I lose my nerve." Lance gave Johnny a shaky smile and reached for his cell phone, "Is TRL on?"
"Yeah, yeah I think so." Johnny nodded.
"Okay, I'm gonna need a few minutes though." Lance said softly as he watched Joey and Chris run back into the studio. Their break was just about over but Lance would need more time.
"No problem, take your time. Just go back in when you're done. I'll let the other guys know what's going on so they're not broadsided by reporters."
"Okay." Lance nodded, "Thanks."
"You bet." Johnny raised his hand in a half wave and held the door open for JC to go into the studio. "See you in a few."
Lance waved his phone then headed for a quiet corner in the compound. It wasn't hard; he simply walked outside to the covered patio and sat on the old-fashioned porch swing. He dialed the number from memory and waited as it rang through to the first available operator, "TRL, can you hold please?"
"Actually, I need to speak to Heather please." Lance said.
"This is Lance Bass, I'm calling to surprise Carson."
"O-oh. Okay, just one moment." She stuttered then put him on hold where Alicia Keys played in his ear.
After a minute Heather came on the line, "Well, well, well Mr. Bass I never thought you'd be the one in the middle of a rumor tornado." She smiled. "How are you?"
"I'm good." Lance smiled, Heather was one of his favorite MTV people to work with.
"So what's up?"
"Not a lot, we're down here at the compound getting ready for the tour and Johnny let me know about the rumors and stuff."
"Ahh fun. Well hey, did you want to address these rumors live?"
"Yeah, if I can." Lance nodded.
"You bet." She laughed, "Hey listen, Carson is asking his trivia question so after this video I'll patch you through. He's going to play a snippet of the next song and you have to identify it, but even if you know what it is guess something else, okay? Otherwise he'll go into his 'this is what you've won' speech and you'll be lost forever."
"Okay." Lance chuckled lightly and tugged on his free ear.
"So when he asks for your name just tell him you're you and he'll take it from there."
"I can do that."
"So do I get to know before I hook you up?" She asked softly.
Lance smiled and thought for a second, she'd know soon enough. "Yeah, the rumors are actually true. Well, maybe. I haven't heard them all."
"You had a transplant?"
"Yeah." Lance nodded.
"Wow well hey man, you look awesome."
"Okay hang on for a second. The next person you'll hear is Carson, okay?"
"Thanks Heather." Lance smiled.
"No problem." She put him back on hold and he heard Carson setting up for this little contest.
"Okay, hello? Are you there?" Carson asked.
"Yeah." Lance smiled.
"Did you hear that little piece we played?"
"What's your guess?"
"Uhh, 'Beat it' by Michael Jackson?" Lance tried to sound serious.
"No, I'm sorry that's not right." Carson shook his head, "That was - hang on a second, who is this?" He smiled.
"This is Lance Bass, what's up Carson?" Lance laughed and ran his fingers through his hair.
"Hey Lance not much. This is a surprise, ladies and gentlemen this is Lance from Nsync on the phone." The crowd in the studio cheered loudly and made Lance laugh again. "Where are you guys?"
"Uh right now we're down here at the compound in Florida." Lance sighed and sat back in the swing. "We're going over the choreography and stuff for the new tour."
"That starts in a couple weeks, right?"
"Yeah, on the 20th in Miami."
"Sweet, are you guys ready?"
"Yeah, yeah just about."
"So you're just calling to check in or what?" Carson laughed and adjusted his in ear monitor. "Not that we mind you calling in or whatever."
"No actually, I uh, I heard there were some rumors out there about me so I thought I'd call and clear them up myself."
"Right on." Carson nodded. "Well go for it, you want me to go down the list?"
"Sure." Lance laughed, waiting to hear what Carson would have up his sleeve.
"Is it true that you guys are working on a song with Britney for her new album?"
"Um no, not that I know of. Justin might be, you know, working with her or whatever but not as a group."
"Right on, that'd be a cool sound though I think."
"Eh maybe." Lance shrugged.
"Is it true you're dating Lisa Ling from 'The View'? We saw you on that show a while back proposing marriage or something crazy like that."
Lance laughed, "No, no I'm not dating her. I proposed to Star on that show because she'd never been proposed to."
"So you're engaged?" Carson smiled and looked up at the camera.
"No nothing like that." Lance laughed again, "I'm 100% single, I'm not seeing anyone at all right now."
"Living the free life huh?"
"Yeah, something like that." Lance smiled and cleared his throat.
"Alright then there's only one more I can think of, is it true you had heart surgery?"
"Yeah, yeah that's true." His heart skipped a beat, as his palms became sticky with perspiration. "I actually uh, I had a transplant about a year ago. So that parts true too."
Lance was met by silence from Carson's end of the line, "Seriously?" He asked finally.
"Yeah, I've had a heart condition for a couple years and I had a heart attack about, man more than a year ago I guess. That's when they put me on the list then a couple months later I got lucky and a heart became available." Lance's voice shook ever so slightly and he knew that from that moment on people would look at him differently.
"Wow that's uh, that's amazing man. But you're doing alright now?"
"Yeah, I'm doing good. I've got about a hundred pills I have to take everyday and I have to be careful about germs and stuff."
"How about dancing?"
"We're working on that right now like I said. It's a little different; it's going to be the same old stuff just toned down a little. No one will probably even notice." Lance laughed lightly.
"Probably not, no one can keep up with you guys anyway. Carson smiled and cleared his throat. "Hey listen, do you mind if some of the fans here ask some questions? Do you have time?"
"Yeah, sure. I've got a couple minutes."
"Alright." Carson nodded and asked the studio audience if they had any questions.
He went to the first person and held out his microphone, "Hi Lance, my name is Julie."
"H-hi." She giggled. "Do you uh have you met the family of the person?" She asked nervously.
"No." Lance shook his head, "No I uh, it's all done anonymously. So I don't know whose heart I got and the family doesn't know that I got it."
"Would you want to?" She asked.
"I don't know I'm still trying to get used to everything."
"Yeah that's gotta be a big change in just about everything, huh?" Carson asked as he moved to the other side of the studio.
"You can say that again."
"Here's another question. Hi, what's your name?" Carson asked.
"Hi Lance, I'm Angela. Um, where did you have your surgery done? I've heard that it was in New York and then someone else said you had it in Florida."
"I'd rather not say. Out of respect for the donors family who may want to remain nameless, I'd rather not pinpoint a city or hospital. If someone had a loved one that passed in the city it happened I'd hate for them to have to know or think that I may have their heart if they didn't want to know. Know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I get where you're coming from." Carson nodded. "And the bottom line is that you're doing good and you're healthy, right?"
"Well hey man, we're all glad to hear that you've got a new heart and everything, and we're looking forward to your new tour."
"Thanks." Lance smiled and gave a small sigh of relief.
"Tell the guys I said hey."
"You'll be in the studio in pretty soon to kick off the tour, right?" Carson asked.
"Yeah, I think we'll be out in October when we play the coliseum."
"You're playing the coliseum?"
"Yeah, Nassau Coliseum, it's gonna be huge."
"Sounds like it. Well hey, thanks for checking in. I'll see you later."
"Catch you later Carson. Bye guys." Lance let out the breath he'd been holding and clicked his phone off. He took a few minutes to collect himself then stepped back into the house and bounced down the stairs to the soundproof dance studio in the basement.
As soon as he walked in the door the others in the room stopped talking, "Hey." He nodded in their general direction. He dropped his eyes to his hands as he nervously turned his phone around and around in his hand.
"You okay?" Joey asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
"Me? Yeah." Lance looked up quickly and smiled. "The shits gonna hit the fan though."
"Dont worry about it." JC pushed himself off the floor and brushed his pants off, "Its better you said something now, you know?"
"Yeah, but Im not gonna be the only one dealing with the backlash from this." Lance shook his head.
"Hey, Id rather deal with the why didnt you tell us sooner backlash than the whyd you lie to our faces backlash." Chris added from the couch on the far wall.
"True." Lance nodded, though he still felt bad for bringing the guys into the middle of this of all of this.
"I think our fans will surprise us." Justin smiled as he slid the CD into the player and advanced the track to the last song they were working on. "Ten bucks says that 80% of the posters at our first couple shows are all for the Mississippian."
"Jealous?" Lance smirked and kicked at a stray shirt on the floor.
"You wish." Justin rolled his eyes and laughed as they buckled down and got back to business.
Three days after Lance's transplant was thrust into the public eye, he celebrated his one-year anniversary at home with his family and friends. His parents, sister and brother-in-law spent the day with him to help him get things ready for his friends to come over that night. Stacey made a cake in the shape of a heart and brought along Valentines Day napkins and plates to help carry the mood.
"These are cute." Joey picked up an odd shaped cookie. "What is it?"
"It's a heart shaped cookie." Lance rolled his eyes with a slow smile. The whole 'heart' theme was getting to be a bit much, but others were having fun with it.
Joey gave his cookie a worried look and turned it from side to side. "Doesnt look like a heart to me."
"It's a real heart, not a heart shape thing." Lance turned the cookie right side up and shrugged. "I don't know where my mom found those."
"Kinda creepy." Joey raised his eyebrow, but took a bite anyway. "I don't know if I wanna know what a real heart looks like. I think I'm happy enough just thinking it looks like those Bugs Bunny cartoon hearts."
"I have a picture of mine." Lance took a sip of his juice and swirled the ice in his cup.
"You have what?"
"A picture. Of my heart."
"Of your of your heart or the one you have now?" Joey asked.
"The one I have now is mine." Lance snapped a little too quickly.
"No, I know I just mean well is it of your old heart or your new one?" Joey popped the rest of the cookie in his mouth and put his hands in his pockets.
"My new one." Lance bit his lip and looked toward the doors leading back into his house. "Do you want to see it?"
"Yeah." Joey nodded, trying to sound enthusiastic. "Have you had it this whole time?"
"Yeah, it's just not something you crack out over diner, you know?" Lance smiled and led the way back through the house and to his room at the far end. Joey made eye contact with the others as he followed Lance and nodded for them to follow.
When lance pushed the door to his room open, all four guys followed him in. Lance looked over his shoulder expecting only to see Joey, and was startled when he saw the others, "Ahh, I uh, didn't know this was going to be an exhibition." He laughed nervously.
"What is it?" Justin asked.
"He's got a picture of his heart, I thought it'd be cool to see it." Joey said as he leaned against Lance's dresser.
"For real?" Chris perked up and set his drink on Lance's nightstand. "You've really got a picture?"
"Yeah." Lance nodded. "My doctor gave me a copy before I left the hospital. He signed it and everything, kind of like a promo shot."
"That's sweet." Chris shoved his hands in his pockets and watched as Lance went into his walk-in closet and dug around in the boxes he had stashed above his clothes. A few minutes later, Lance came out with a small picture in his hands; "Here you go." He handed it to Joey first who turned it toward the light.
"Shit." Joey said under his breath as he began to feel faint. "This is in your chest right now?"
"Yeah." Lance nodded.
"Unreal." Joey shook his head and passed it to JC.
"That's awesome." JC shook his head. "Shit how many people can say they have a picture of their heart, huh?"
"Insane." Justin peeked over JC's shoulder before he passed it to Chris who just held it in his hands and stared.
"Has your mom seen this?"
"No." Lance shook his head. "No, no one has. It's weird." He raised his shoulder in a silent question, "It's kind of like it's not real, and I don't know what she'd say if she saw it. She worries about me so much, I think now she's even half convinced that I never even had the surgery."
"What do you mean?" Chris looked up from the picture.
"I don't know." Lance shrugged again. "It's hard to explain. If she saw that it would really freak her out, it's proof that I seriously have a new heart in me. It's one thing to know it in your head, " he tapped his temple, "But it's another to really know it. You know?"
"Yeah." They agreed. In that short amount of time they went from consciously knowing it, to knowing it.
"So anyway " Lance said abruptly as he took the photo back. He turned back to the closet and put the picture back in the box high on his shelf, then brushed past the others in the room. "So that's it."
"That's cool." Justin said softly.
"Yeah." Lance seemed in a hurry to leave the room, so the others followed him out and down the hall where they broke off again and mingled with the handful of other friends and family that were there for the occasion.
Lance's mother collected everyone around the kitchen table after the dinner and gave a short little sappy speech before she let Lance cut into the heart shaped cake to serve pieces to everyone. He bit his lip as she talked and kept his eyes low so no one could see the tears forming in the corners, but as soon as she was done he hugged her and took off for the far end of his lawn.
"You okay man?" JC asked as he walked up a few minutes later with a root beer in his hand. He sat on the dark bench beside Lance and balanced the bottle on his knee.
"Yeah." Lance sniffed quickly and wiped at his eyes. "I'm okay."
Lance nodded weakly and looked away from JC, "I just can't believe it's been a year, you know?" He exhaled slowly as his bottom lip quivered just the slightest.
"That's awesome though, I mean, the first year is the hardest right?"
"Yeah but that's not what I mean." Lance shook his head again and swept the back of his hand over his eyes. "It's just I can't stop thinking about the donor, you know?" He voice caught as a blush crept up into his cheeks. He was never the emotional type but that day he'd had the hardest time maintaining his composure. "A year ago tonight, I was getting a new heart so that I could live. But a year ago tonight, this guy died."
JC frowned deeply and picked at the label on his bottle. He and the others had noticed Lance acting weird for the last week or so, they just had no idea why. "You couldn't help that."
"I know." Lance nodded and sniffed again. "But that doesn't change the fact that right now there's a family out there tonight that's missing the guy."
Two thousand miles away Paige, Jim and baby Hope drove in silence toward the memorial park in Tucson. The sun was just beginning to set over the desert and Hope was beginning to get fussy in the back seat.
"Are things going okay back there sweets?" Jim asked as he looked in the rear view mirror.
"Yeah, we're okay." Paige nodded and pulled a bottle from the diaper bag at her side.
"Do you want to stop so you can take her out?"
"No." She shook her head swiftly. All she wanted to do was get to the cemetery and get it out of the way. She didn't want to stop or delay anything any more than she had to and if she had her way they never would have come. "Here you go honey." She cooed to the tiny pink baby in the car seat beside her.
At almost four months, Hope already looked so much like Travis that it hurt to look at her. Her narrow brown eyes and chestnut hair that curled just the slightest at the ends reflected Travis' best traits. Paige fed Hope, sending her back to sleep for the rest of the drive into Tucson.
They arrived at the memorial park a short while later and Jim drove on autopilot toward the back where Travis was buried. He parked on the curb, then slowly got out and opened Paige's door before stretching his arms over his head. Four stressful hours in the car had tightened his shoulders to the point of exhaustion and he knew the ride home would be just as unpleasant.
Paige took a deep breath as she arched her back outside in the fresh air, then leaned back inside to get Hope from her seat. She draped a thin blanket over the baby and rested her on her shoulder, then followed Jim across the well-kept grass.
She hadn't been to the cemetery since the funeral and felt almost uneasy as she and Hope stood above Travis' grave marker. His name stood out in black on the pale gray of the marble with the dates of his birth and death below. One year one whole year had gone by since she'd last seen him smile or heard his voice or felt his touch.
Blood tainted her taste buds as she bit her tongue to stop from crying. Jim had mentioned driving down to see Travis every now and then since the accident, so he was used to seeing the flat green grass and cold marble marker; but to Paige it was all new. She'd fled Tucson to get away from these feelings and from all of the familiar landmarks that reminded her of Travis, but she soon found that nowhere would be far enough to chase his memory from her mind. Every time she looked at Hope she felt Travis' hand at her back, or his shoulder against hers or even his fingers interlaced with hers. Every motorcycle she saw brought forth images of a horrible wreck that had demolished his bike. Everywhere she turned, even in her new city, something reminded her of Travis.
Paige sighed deeply as Jim put is arm protectively around her waist and hugged her close, "You doing okay sweets?" He asked softly.
Paige nodded slightly and tried to keep her voice from shaking, "Yeah." She managed to whisper as Hope wiggled in her blanket. "Can I " She looked up at Jim with tear stained eyes, then back at the grave.
"Sure." Jim understood what she was asking without her having to say it. He kissed her temple quickly then stepped away, walking quietly back toward the walkway.
With an unsure glance at the car behind her, Paige lowered herself to the ground and adjusted Hope in her arms so that her little pink face was visible. "Hey Trav." She whispered. For some reason, speaking softly seemed more appropriate considering her surroundings. "I miss you so much." Her voice caught and she wasn't sure she'd be able to continue. She took a few deeps breaths and gently stroked Hope's satiny hair. "I know you're around babe, I feel you all the time. And I know you know about Hope. I know you do. She looks just like you Trav she's got your eyes and your chin and your your everything. God she looks just like you." Paige's face crumpled as the tears fell freely.
"I know it looks like I'm doing okay over her, but I'm not. I'm really not. I'm barely holding on it seems like and I can't think of how to make things right again." Paige's bottom lip trembled as she wiped her eyes with the corner of Hope's blanket. "I got two letters from people who got your organs and I thought I'd feel better knowing that you were living on in them but I don't. That only made me more upset because you weren't here and I hate feeling this way Trav. I hate it. I just want to be normal again and be able to go to McDonalds without thinking about how you ordered your Big Macs or to see a motorcycle on the road and not think it's you. I'm going nuts down here I need your help. I need you to tell me what to do."
She waited for a moment not expecting, or getting, an answer. "I love you Travis, Hope does too... and we miss you a lot. A lot." She kissed the fingers on her free hand and pressed them against the marble marker as Hope began to fuss.
Paige carefully pushed herself to her feet and brushed the grass from her pants before wiping her eyes again. Jim made his way across the grass and stopped when he reached her side, "Whenever you're ready " Jim nodded back at the car.
"Did you uh did you want to do anything?"
"No sweets, I've said my piece. I just wanted to bring you on out here today to I don't know why to be honest. You just looked like you needed to."
"I did." She agreed softly.
"I'm worried about you, kid."
"I'm doing okay." Paige tried to smile, but Jim knew. "I'm going to be okay."
"Of course you are." Jim pulled her in for a tight hug, careful not to squish his grand daughter. "You're going to be just fine." He smoothed down her hair and hoped he was right.
"You're welcome." He said as he took a step back. "Are we ready to head home now?"
"Yeah." Paige sighed and they headed back to the car. Home was just where she wanted to be.
"Lance!" Johnny rapped on the bathroom door and shouted again, "Lance! Open up."
"Yeah?" Lance pulled the door open with a paper towel in his hand. "What's up?"
"The Donor Foundation is calling on my line."
"My office transferred them directly to the studio, come on." Johnny grabbed Lance's elbow to pull him down the hall.
"Wait, what are they calling for? I don't I mean, I'm not waiting or anything." Lance frowned. "What'd the say?"
"They asked to speak to you." Johnny practically ran while he dragged Lance back down the hall.
"Slow down, they aren't going anywhere." Lance removed his managers hand from his elbow and slowed down to a normal pace. By the time he got to the studio Johnny was holding the phone out to Lance, "Thanks."
Lance sat on the worn out couch and took a deep breath, "This is Lance."
"Hi Lance, my name is Mary Alice, I'm with the National Donor Foundation."
"Hi." Lance said as more of a question.
"Hi, how are you feeling?"
"I'm uh I'm okay." Lance nodded, "Kind of busy you know, but other than that I'm fine."
"That's really good to hear. I'll try to keep this short, I understand you're practicing for a tour?" She asked.
"Yeah, we're on a little break right now."
"Okay." Mary Alice smiled, "I'm not sure how much you know about the Foundation, but a few times a year we hold conferences on each coast, for donors and recipients. I was calling to invite you to speak at one of the upcoming conferences."
"To speak?" Lance's hands suddenly turned clammy. "I'm not a very good public speaker." He gave Johnny a worried look and shrugged.
"We're not looking for professional speakers, we're just looking for people to tell us their stories. I've read over your documentation and I have to say that your story is rather miraculous. The timing and everything was just unheard of."
"Yeah it was uh I was lucky."
"Our next conference will be on September 13th in Philadelphia, I know its kind of last minute but if you'd like to join us we'd be honored."
"I start my tour on the 20th so I really can't leave right then." Lance shook his head. "I uh, I don't know if I'm ready to get up and talk to a bunch of people just yet, I mean, everyone just found out about it."
"I understand that Lance." Mary Alice nodded in agreement again. "I think you would be a wonderful speaker to get to the younger patients we have."
"I'll really have to think about it." Lance bit his lower lip then frowned and consciously pulled it from between his lips. "Can you leave the dates and locations of the other conferences with my management? I'll see if I can fit one in but with being on tour and everything I don't there's not a lot of free time."
"I understand." She smiled, "I'll go ahead and call back to your management company and leave the information there, as well as a number where you can reach me if you decide you'd like to speak."
"Okay, thank you." Lance nodded.
"Of course, you're always more than welcome to come to a conference. You wouldn't have to speak you know."
"I know." He bit his lip harder than he intended, and winced. "I just I've gotta get used to people knowing first, then I'll think about going to conferences and stuff."
"Thank you Lance."
"I'll fax these dates and locations over right now and you can call me if you decide you'd like to go."
"Great." Lance nodded slowly again and sighed as he said goodbye and hung up the phone.
"So what's the deal?" Johnny asked, having heard Lance's half of the conversation.
"Um, they wanted to invite me out to one of their conferences and maybe stand up and speak." Lance wiped the thin layer of sweat off of his upper lip. "I can't speak man."
"You don't have to go."
"I'm serious. I know it's good for PR or whatever, but Johnny you know I can't stand up there and talk to people, I always sound like a rambling idiot."
Johnny laughed softly; not wanting to agree with Lance, but knowing he was pretty much right. Singing and dancing the boy could do, but giving speeches was not his forte. "You'll be alright." He smiled and tilted his head as the others stormed into the room behind him shouting about getting back to work. "You gonna go?"
Lance shrugged and blushed quickly, then smiled at Joey and slapped him on the back as he followed the rowdy bunch back into the dance studio.
The tour started on schedule and after the first three shows they had most of the kinks worked out. The choreography was flawless, and the guys had it all down to a science. The audience didnt seem to notice any difference and they went crazy for the new material the guys were performing.
After a week the guys had settled back into the touring mode and were back to lounging around their buses and having fun tormenting the crewmembers. Lance loved being back on the road, everything from the hurry up and wait schedules to the endless photo sessions and autograph signings. Each night in the crowd there were signs referencing Lances heart and how he had stolen theirs. But somewhere in the back of his mind, the call from the Donor Foundation kept replaying itself. He thought about it any time he had a spare moment and wondered if hed be able to make one of the conferences. With him being a celebrity he could probably reach a lot more people to educate them about becoming donors and things like that, which he knew he wanted to do.
Lance grabbed the list of dates and locations that had been faxed to the management office a few weeks before, and headed to Johnnys make shift office beside the green room backstage.
"Hey Johnny." Lance tapped on the open door as the older man waved him into the room.
"Yeah, I told you wed find a way to do that. Uh huh. Hey I dont know exactly which day, but Ill have them there that week. I know, and Ill let you know when I can. Sure thing Don, Ill see you later man." Johnny hung up the phone and looked up at Lance expectantly. "Whats up?"
"Not much." Lance dropped his eyes to the paper in his hand, "I uh I know we don't have a lot of free time and stuff, but I was wondering if I could swing one of these conferences." Lance placed the print out in front of Johnny then stood back with his hands in his pockets.
"Any of these?" Johnny looked over the dates.
"Yeah." Lance nodded and bit his lip, "I kinda think it'd be cool to go, you know? Even if I don't speak, I'd like to meet other people like other recipients."
Johnny nodded silently, it was clear that Lance really wanted to go. "I'll see what I can do, which one would you like to go to?"
"It doesn't matter, whichever one I can make would be cool."
"Some of these aren't until next year." Johnny pointed out softly.
"Yeah, I know." Lance nodded.
"Alright, I'll work something out and get back to you." He tucked the paper into his briefcase and smiled up at Lance, "How are things going out there? Are you holding up okay?"
"Yeah, I'm cool." Lance smiled. "The choreography is working out real well, the other guys like it too. It's kinda nice coming off the stage at the end of the show and actually being able to feel our legs."
"I bet." Johnny chuckled and stood up.
"The fans are into it too, I don't even think they notice."
"I doubt they do. Wade's an awesome choreographer and you guys work magic out there."
"Yeah." Lance smiled proudly. "So you'll let me know?"
"As soon as I find out."
"There's one in Arizona." Lance lowered his voice a notch; Arizona was where he wanted to go for obvious reasons.
"Yeah, I saw that."
"It's in November."
"I'll work on it Lance." Johnny smiled and held the door open. "Take care of yourself kid."
"Thanks Johnny, I will." Lance let out the breath he'd been holding and walked back to the dressing room to finish getting ready for the show.
That weekend while the guys were loading up their stuff to pile onto the bus, Johnny pulled Lance aside. Lance dropped his backpack over his shoulder and yawned, causing little clouds of white in the cold mountain air. "What's up?"
"You busy November 19th?" Johnny smiled.
"I don't know." Lance shrugged and tried not to yawn again. He looked over his shoulder at the warm and inviting bus as it gently rocked with the weight of the others moving around in it. "Am I?" He met Johnny's eye with a confused look. If anyone would know if he were busy, it'd be Johnny.
"Do you want to go to Phoenix?"
"Yeah, I guess. I mean, if that's where we - " Lance stopped as his heart skipped a beat. "You mean me. For the conference thing?"
"Yeah, it's on the 19th and I can give you three days. The 19th, 20th and 21st."
"Three days off?" Lance raised his eyebrow, there had to be a catch.
"It's not considered 'off', it's for your doctors and stuff. I've gone ahead and rescheduled your check-up for the 21st so you'll be flying into Phoenix on the 19th, do the conference that day then leave in the morning on the 20th to fly to Orlando for your doctors appointment and back out to meet us for the show on the 21st."
"Dang." Lance's lips turned cold and not just from the temperature outside. He felt like he was going to have a panic attack, only not in a bad way. It took a moment for him to realize that what he was feeling was excitement about going back to Arizona.
"Is that cool?"
"Yeah." Lance nodded, then looked back toward the bus again. "Do they know?"
"I just found out we got the 'okay' from your doctor." Johnny shook his head.
"You won't be missing much, an online chat deal and the individual TV guide shots which you can make up some other time."
"Okay." Lance adjusted his backpack again as the breeze threw his bangs across his forehead. "Thanks Johnny."
"I guess I should call the foundation now and set everything up, huh?"
"Yeah, that might be helpful." Johnny laughed and patted Lance's shoulder while turning him toward the buses. "Do you want me to call and set it up?"
"Nah, I can do it."
"Are you going to give a speech?"
Lance laughed under his breath as they walked the few feet to the door of the bus, "I don't know. I mean, if it's just me telling them about what happened I think I can do that. But if I've got to like I don't know, talk about stuff, then forget it."
"Maybe we can put it to a catchy beat and Wade can choreograph it. Would that be easier?" Johnny kidded and held the door open for Lance.
"Funny." Lance laughed and trotted up onto the bus. "See ya later." He waved as Johnny slammed the door shut and waved at the driver that everyone was set to go.
"Are you grounded?" Joey asked as Lance walked by him.
"When Papa Johnny pulls you aside when it's two fuckin degrees outside, you have to be getting grounded." Joey cupped his hands in front of his mouth and blew on them as he reached for the heating controls by his feet.
"Oh, no I uh I'm going to Arizona in November for this conference thing and he just wanted to let me know that I could go."
"'Conference thing? Who else is going? Please don't say me, I hate that kinda thing. Make JC go, he likes talking."
"Hey!" JC protested from the 'living room' area in the back of the bus.
"No, it's just me." Lance shook his head and kicked his shoes in the general direction of the bunks. "It's for the Donor Foundation." He explained.
"What do they do there?" Joey asked as he stretched out on the couch. JC thumped around in the back area and swore under his breath as he knocked over a stack of video games.
"I don't know. I guess people get together and share their stories or whatever."
"You'll blow them all outta the water."
"You think?" Lance smiled nervously as the bus lurched forward.
"Hell yeah." He laughed and put his arms behind his head. "You bust your toe and get a new heart? Shit like that doesn't happen to everyone, you know?"
"True." Lance nodded. "But that's a good thing. I mean, how freaked out would you be if you went in for a bashed toe and they said 'hey while you're here we're gonna give you someone else's heart'?" Lance smirked.
"You know what I mean." Joey looked up from untying his shoes and threw a look at Lance and laughed. "So you're going then?"
"Rad." Joey said as he turned his attention back to his shoes. Lance shrugged but didn't say anything. "Well hey, for real. If you want one of us to go, we will." Joey offered. "I'll go."
"Okay." Lance smiled and headed for the bunks. Just thinking about Joey at a conference with a bunch of organ recipients made Lance chuckle. "One of these things is not like the others " He sang under his breath as he pulled himself onto his bunk and flipped his light on.
Lance unzipped his backpack and pulled his notebook and cell phone out, then flipped through the pages to find his heart related numbers. He skimmed the page once he found it and immediately found the number for Mary Alice from the Donor Foundation. Her number was underlined a couple times with a red marker he'd found laying around one day. Lance quickly wrote the date of the Arizona conference beside the number then dialed his phone. It was after eleven wherever he was so it was no surprise when he went directly to her voicemail.
He listened to her brief outgoing message with the usual information on it, then took a deep breath and left his message. "Hi, Mary Alice? This is Lance Bass, you called me a couple weeks ago about speaking at one of your conferences, and I uh well I just found out I can make the one in Arizona in November. I know you said something about speaking and I guess uh I can do that. As long as it's just telling my story or whatever." He paused to take a deep breath, "So anyway, I don't know what I need to do or anything, but let me know the details and I'll uh I'll be there in November." He left her his cell phone number, then hung up and sat back on the couch as it rocked back and forth to the beat of the road. Yet another step in his road to complete recovery
Copyright © 2001, Amy Lynn