If Only by Brittney

Story Notes: I know the real timeline for Lifebeat doesn’t match up, but we’re just going to pretend that Lifebeat happened in the fall and a year later than it actually did to make this story work.

Author Notes: This story got really long and took me a while to get through. I’m still not completely pleased with it, but it got to the point where either I was just going to finish it or scrap it all and start over. In the end, I just finished it.

I’m sure some people will be disappointed that there’s not more Hanson in the story than there is, but I’d intended it to be that from the start. I wanted the story be more about friendship and this one memory than about meeting a Hanson. I hope that came across in the story.

Last, but not least, thank you to my beta, Becca, for picking through my story so quickly. :)

Challenges:

“He said he was drunk at the time.” and/or “I don’t want to find anyone in an appliance.”

A can of Pringles used as a drum and/or a travel guide about an obscure location

“How did we  accumulate so much junk over the last four years?” I asked, sighing as I sifted  through a pile of papers that had previously been scattered across my desk.

Megan  Garrett, my best friend and college roommate, looked up from her own pile of junk  and scoffed. “Damned if I know.”

“What am I  going to do with all of this crap?” I wondered, knowing already that Meg had no  more answers than I did.

We’d been  putting this off for days now. The closer our graduation date had grown, the  more persistent we seemed to be that packing up could wait. Graduation was  three days away and our parents were coming the next day to help haul it all  away. It couldn’t be put off any longer.

I tried to  stack the pile of stuff from my desk in some sense of order, knowing there were  bits of information in the pile that I would most likely need again in the near  future. I dropped the stack into what was once my book bag. It seemed strange  being empty now. Perhaps stuffing it with various pieces of paper and magazines  was my way of avoiding the inevitable end to my college education.

It was  cliché to say that it seemed like only yesterday I’d gone away to college, but  it was the truth. Days had mixed into weeks and those weeks into months and  before I knew it four years had passed. In that time I’d gained so much. Aside  from the despised freshmen fifteen, I’d gained a friend for life. But more  importantly I’d found myself. The self I never knew I could be because before I  went away to college, I wasn’t just quiet and shy-I was socially awkward, and  any interaction between a stranger and myself was surrounded in discomfort.

Meg changed that, which wasn’t to  say she changed me. She just made me feel okay about being myself. Now I was  about to graduate. I knew many of my friends were excited about donning that  ridiculous cap and gown and walking across that stage, and I was too, but there  was a part of me that didn’t want it to be over yet. It had all been too great,  and I couldn’t help but wonder how anything else could ever compare to the  experiences I’ve encountered during my college career.

“You’re looking pretty thoughtful  over there, Livvie,” Meg commented.

I turned slowly and smiled, shaking  my head. “Just wondering what I’m going to do with all of this stuff,” I said.

“Uh huh,” Meg nodded. She wasn’t  convinced, but she didn’t push the topic. Instead, she threw a pile of stuff  that she’d gathered from beneath her bed into a box and picked up the box and  headed into the bathroom, presumably to throw in the rest of her stuff. Meg was  never concerned with order. She just liked to get things done.

I turned back to one of the boxes  I’d started to pack. I peeked inside to see how much room I had left, but  instead of noticing the amount of space, I found my eyes settling on a picture  that felt like a blast from the past.

I reached slowly into the box and  picked up the picture, smiling at the overly highlighted hair, copious amount  of necklaces and the red suspenders.

“Taylor Hanson,” I whispered to  myself, taking in his pose. His hands rested on his knees, though it couldn’t  be seen in the picture, and his suspenders fell loosely at his sides. His white  shirt stood out against the tan on his arms, and the slight smile on his face  felt so familiar, as if it were meant for me even though I’d seen him smile  that way in several pictures taken by other girls since then.

That day, though, that smile had been aimed at me. Thinking about  it now seemed surreal, but I let myself be pulled backwards into time, into  what had brought me to that moment in the first place.

 

“Livvie,  you have to come with me!” Meg begged. Those were the first words she said when  I stepped into our dorm room after a long day of classes.

I  frowned in confusion as I asked, “Come with you where?”

“Hanson  is going to be at Lifebeat!” Meg exclaimed. “I have to go! And you have  to come with me.”

I  paused in placing my bag on my bed and stared at her. I’d been expecting her to  ask me to go with her to a frat party or some new club that we weren’t yet old  enough to get into, so her answer was completely unexpected. “And when and  where is this taking place?” I asked. There was a part of me that dreaded her  answer. Of course, it had been this way since I first moved into the dorms  weeks earlier and met Megan Garrett.

From the moment I met Meg, she’d made it clear that her favorite band in the world  was Hanson. To me that had meant nothing, and telling that to Meg had been a  horrible mistake. She’d insisted upon “schooling” me, which really meant  converting me to Hansonism, or so I called it because it was like some sick  cult worshiping phenomenon from what I’d gathered.

Regardless  of my reservations, I enjoyed the music. I didn’t share nearly as much  enthusiasm, but I really didn’t know many normal people who did. Meg insisted  that she was mild compared to other fans, and the thought of taking this  statement seriously was somewhat scary because I couldn’t fathom anyone being  even more enthusiastic than Meg.

“It’s  next week, and it’s in Hollywood,” Meg answered, bouncing, no doubt due to her  enthusiasm, lightly on her bed.

“Meg,  that’s at least a two day drive,” I replied. “And we have school.”

Meg  rolled her eyes. “So what? We miss a couple of days of school. We’ll be able to  catch up easily,” she insisted. “I bet you could even get all of your work done  during the drive.”

I  gave Meg a doubtful look, but she was far too excited to notice. It seemed that  there was no room for negotiations. I was going to see Hanson whether I wanted  to or not.

So  I wasn’t too surprised when I found myself throwing my bag into the backseat of  Meg’s car the next week. I’d tried to get out of the trip, pulling out every  excuse I could think of, but Meg wouldn’t hear of it.

Even  my parents seemed to be part of the conspiracy because they, much to my  surprise, thought that it sounded like a delightful idea. When they’d decided  that ditching school was an acceptable act, I wasn’t sure, but I knew it had to  have happened sometime after I left home because if I’d tried to ditch high school,  I probably would have been grounded for the rest of the school year. Now they  seemed to think that a short trip was just what I needed.

It  seemed there was no escape, so my only option was to try and enjoy the  experience as best I could. At least I enjoyed the music. If I hadn’t enjoyed  the music, the drive of over a thousand miles south on the I-5 would have been  completely miserable because Meg insisted upon playing Hanson during the entire  drive.

“Come  on! It’ll help us get hyped up for the concert!” she proclaimed from her seat  behind the wheel.

“As  if you need any help getting hyped up,” I muttered, turning my head toward the  window.

“What  was that?” Meg asked. How she could hear anything over the sound of “Mmmbop”  remained a mystery to me. I was having trouble just hearing myself think, and when Meg spoke, she had to yell just to be heard.

“Nothing,”  I called, glancing at her over my shoulder before I turned my attention to the  window once more. Trying to do any of my homework was impossible. I couldn’t  concentrate because of the volume of the music, and Meg wouldn’t be quiet long  enough to let me get anything done.

I  tried not to be a downer the whole trip. I even chimed in on singing along with  the stereo a few times, and it was fun if I wanted to be honest with myself. It  was my first road trip, so I figured might as well try to enjoy it.

The  first day of the trip wasn’t too bad once I’d resigned myself to the fact that  this was actually happening and I would have to listen to Hanson for the next  few days straight. When we stopped at a hotel for the night, we ordered take  out and then promptly fell asleep watching television. I wondered why no one  had ever told me that road trips could be so exhausting.

The  next morning I woke up first, which was the first indication that something was  wrong. Meg was an early riser. Why, I couldn’t say, but she was always up with  the sun, bouncing around being her usual bubbly self, so when I looked over and  saw that she was still passed out in the bed next to mine, a feeling of dread  settled over me.

I  let her sleep and went about my business, taking a shower and getting ready to  stuff myself back into her tiny car for another day. When I came out of the  bathroom, Meg was no longer asleep but she wasn’t bouncing around either.

She  sat in her bed, looking miserable and completely un-Meg-like.

“What’s  wrong?” I asked, frowning as I came to sit on my bed across from her.

“I  don’t know,” she answered. “I just don’t feel well.”

“Is  it your stomach? Or head?” I prompted.

She  shook her head uncertainly. “I don’t know,” she said again. “I just don’t feel  well.”

“Well,  that cleared things up,” I commented.

“I’m  sorry,” Meg answered. “I just … don’t feel … right.”

“Do  you want to go back home?” I asked, biting my lip.

“No!”  Meg exclaimed. At least this answer seemed more like the Meg I knew. She moved,  slower than usual to stand.

“Where  are you going?” I asked as she started to walk away.

“I  need to shower so we can eat and get back on the road,” she answered in a tone  that made it sound like this should have been completely obvious as she bent to  her bag and began to dig around for clothes.

“Okay,”  I answered, watching her closely. “But I’m driving today.”

“Fine,”  Meg answered before she disappeared into the bathroom.

That  was the moment when I knew that there was something really wrong. Meg always  insisted upon driving, and for her to agree without any argument was enough to  tell me that she was feeling worse than she was letting on.

I  wondered if I should insist upon finding a doctor for her to see, maybe even  going to the nearest hospital’s emergency room, but before I could find the  phone book and start calling around to find the nearest doctor’s office or  hospital, Meg had reemerged from the bathroom.

She  deposited her dirty clothes into her bag, wordlessly, and I followed suit and  began to gather my things and place them back in my bag. Half an hour later,  after taking advantage of the continental breakfast, we were back on the road  with me behind the wheel.

The  contrast between the previous day’s drive and this one was startling. The lack  of blaring Hanson music was the most obvious. Instead, the music played softly,  background noise, on top of the sound of the tires rolling over the pavement,  and Meg spent most of the day dozing with the passenger’s seat slightly  reclined.

When  I stopped to stretch my legs and get something to eat, Meg muttered she wasn’t  hungry and tried to curly up further into the seat. My concern for her health  only increased because of this. I’d only known her for over a month, but we’d  lived together, sharing a room and being in such close quarters made it feel  like I’d known her much longer, and this behavior in her was unsettling.

Again,  I considered finding a doctor, but Meg seemed to sense that I was considering  something, or maybe it was simply because I hadn’t removed myself from the car  yet, but she turned her head and cracked her eyes. “Liv, get your ass out of  the car and stretch your legs. I don’t want you all cramped up tomorrow when we  go to see Hanson,” she commanded. “And buy me some crackers and water while  you’re stretching.”

I  couldn’t tell whether the request for food was simply to appease me or if she  was actually hungry for what seemed like the first time that day, but I  followed her orders, not seeing much point in arguing since she was right. I  climbed out of the car and stretched, hoping to regain feeling in all parts of  my body as I headed into the convenience store to relief first my bladder and then  the gnawing hunger in my belly.

I  bought the crackers Meg requested, but, instead of water, I opted for Sprite.  Sometime after getting back behind the wheel and carrying on toward our  destination, Meg woke from what seemed to be her perpetual nap and drank the  Sprite, without complaint, and ate some of the crackers before she started in  on the sour cream and onion Pringles  I’d bought for myself. She devoured the whole can in one sitting, claiming she  was ravenous.

She  seemed to perk up a bit after that, and I thought maybe whatever was wrong was  finally going away. This belief was only strengthened when she sat up in her  seat and turned the stereo up and began to drum on the now empty Pringles can  in time with the beat of “Runaway Run.”

“Feeling  better?” I asked, keeping my eyes on the road. It was getting dark, and I knew  we’d have to start looking for the hotel we’d made reservations at soon. I just  wondered if Meg would be able to sleep once we got there after sleeping most of  the day.

“Much  better, actually,” she answered.

I  glanced at her and something about her expression led me to believe that she  might have been exaggerating just a bit. She still looked a bit pale and tired,  and I couldn’t help but wonder if just sitting up and drumming on a can of  Pringles had her wiped out again, how she would fair the following evening in a  crowded venue.

We  found the hotel shortly after, and Meg crawled into bed almost immediately, and  my worries about her being unable to sleep were quickly quashed by the sound of  her even breathing. I wasn’t good at stuff like this, so I didn’t like it. I  didn’t know how I should be handling the situation. Part of me wanted to call  my mom and ask her what I should do because Meg was clearly sicker than she  wanted to let on, and I didn’t know if I should just stand idly by and let her  do what she wanted or if I should try to step in and talk some sense into her.  What if there was something really wrong with her and we were just ignoring it  and letting it get worse? I didn’t want to be responsible for my roommate’s  ultimate demise.

In  the end I just crawled into bed, hoping I was overreacting, and stared at the  ceiling until my eyelids became too heavy to hold open any longer.

 

The  next morning Meg woke me up, bright and early. She didn’t seem as pale, but she  still looked tired, but when I tried to ask her how she was feeling, she cut me  off, telling me to get my ass out of bed and get ready to go.

We  still had a short drive to make. The plan was to check into our hotel room  before heading to the venue, where Meg assured me a multitude of fans would be  lurking around, waiting for a chance to meet Hanson.

I  wasn’t really looking forward to encountering the infamous Hanson fans, but I  knew that Meg was extremely excited about this whole venture. I decided not to  rain on her parade, and since she seemed to be in much better health, I simply  did as she told me, showering quickly before changing into what I’d come to  think of as my riding attire, which  consisted of a comfortable pair of jeans and an old t-shirt, and stuffing my  things back into my bag and following her out to the car to load up.

Several  hours later when we arrived at the next hotel, I was ready to crawl back into  bed and get some sleep, but I knew that was impossible. The concert was just a  few short hours away, and Meg had made it clear that getting to a venue only a  few hours early was cutting it too close for her liking.

I  would have slept in the car, but Meg had the music back up at full volume,  singing along. Despite ruining any attempt as catching a few hours of sleep, I  was happy to see Meg was back to her usual self. I still didn’t like how pale  she looked, but then again it was possible she’d always been that pale and the  California sun was only making her look more under the weather than what she  was.

Since  there was no time for a real nap, I laid on the bed, not sleeping but simply  resting, while I listened to Meg moving around in front of the vanity,  preparing herself for the concert.

“I  really hope they sing If Only,” Meg commented absently.

I  lifted my head only slightly, wondering if she was actually speaking to me or  if this was a conversation she was having with herself. I’d noticed since I’d  met Meg that she often had conversations with herself even when other people  were in the room. If I didn’t do it myself – internally – I probably would have  found it slightly disconcerting.

“Isn’t  that an old song?” I asked just in case she was speaking to me. I didn’t know a  lot about Hanson. Meg was the source of my information, and as much as I tried  to follow and keep track of these facts, it wasn’t always easy. Meg rattled off  Hanson trivia like an auctioneer trying to peddle an antique.

“It  is,” Meg conceded, and I thought she sounded somewhat pleased that I knew this  fact. “But it’s my favorite.”

I  was tempted to remind Meg that she had several favorites, as she’d mentioned on  many occasions, but I just kept quiet and went back to relaxing on the bed. I  stifled a yawn and stared up at the ceiling as she continued to rattle around  at the vanity.

When  I heard her pad across the soft carpeting and move to the bed to my left, I  turned my head and watched as she dug through a bag. This bag had been sitting  in the trunk of her car since we left campus, and I’d been curious about why  she hadn’t brought it with her into the hotel rooms. I didn’t ask, though. I  didn’t like to be nosy, and, as with all things Meg, I figured I’d find out in  due time.

She  dug around for a moment before she pulled a few things out. Then she flung  something at me. It was a blur of green and it landed in a heap across my face  and chest.

“What  was that for?” I spluttered, pulling it away from my face and sitting up,  bewildered.

“Go  change,” Meg demanded before turning back to the bag before her.

I  frowned and then looked down, only to realize what she’d thrown at me appeared  to be a dress. “Into this?” I asked, incredulously.

“Yes,”  Meg answered.

“But  it’s a dress,” I said dubiously.

“I  know,” Meg said.

“Why  would I wear a dress to a concert?”

“Because,”  Meg shrugged, finally turning to look at me. “it’s cute. Besides, I’m wearing  one too if that’s what you’re worried about.”

I  didn’t have the heart to tell her I was more worried about everyone else  thinking I looked like some floozy, trying to catch the eye of a Hanson  brother. That was really the last thing on my mind. I doubted that was on Meg’s  mind either. Yes, she’d repeatedly mentioned how gorgeous Taylor was, but that  was just a fact. Besides, she had Brad waiting for her back at the dorms,  probably taking notes for her in all of the classes she was missing, even the  classes he didn’t have with her.

No,  Meg’s motivations were purely fashion oriented.

“What’s  yours look like?” I asked curiously.

She  turned around and grabbed a blob of white off of the bed and held it up to her.  It was a white and sleeveless with an appliqué all over it and a thick belt,  also white, around the middle. It was very pretty and very much Meg. Only she  would be brave enough to wear a white dress anywhere.

I  looked back down at the gob of green lying on my lap, but I couldn’t tell much  about the construction of the dress, other than there were bits of white and a  slightly darker shade of green around the bottom. At least mine appeared to  have a halter top. The idea of jumping or being pushed around with nothing to  hold up my dress, other than my rather inadequate chest, made me feel slightly  uncomfortable.

“Go  change,” Meg said. “We need to leave soon.”

I  nodded absently, still thinking this wasn’t the best idea, even as I stood and  went to the bathroom to change.

The dress was more comfortable than  I thought it would be. It was cool and silky. It flowed away from my body  rather than clinging to it, and I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Every  time I’d been to a concert, it had always turned stuffy and uncomfortable in a  matter of minutes. Maybe a dress wasn’t a bad idea. At least there would be a  bit of a draft. For once that didn’t necessarily sound like a bad thing, all  things considered.

I adjusted the halter and smoothed  the dress down before I stepped out of the bathroom. I was looking down at my  feet, wondering what shoes I should wear when I came out of the bathroom, so I  didn’t immediately notice anything was off, but when Meg didn’t coo over the  dress I was wearing, I looked up to find her sitting on the side of her bed.  She was wearing the white dress, and it looked even prettier on her than it did  when she held it up, but that wasn’t the first thing I noticed. Instead, it was  the look of discomfort on Meg’s face and the way she holding her stomach.

“Are you okay?” I asked softly.

She looked up, seeming to only  realize I’d returned at that moment. She forced a smile, though I was sure she  thought she had me fooled.

“You look perfect,” she said,  ignoring my inquiry altogether as she stood.

“Meg?” I said.

“I’m fine, Liv,” she said, swiftly.  She threw a pair of shoes my way, and I recognized my favorite black flats and  felt a rush of relief at seeing them. I’d been afraid Meg might have packed a  pair of pumps to go with my dress or something.

She pulled out a pair of shoes for  herself, white, flat and sensible and pushed her feet inside. She ran a hand  through her blonde hair, and I noticed at there was a slight sheen of  perspiration around her hairline.

“Hot?” I asked, trying to sound  casual, since she was obviously trying to wave off my concerns about her  health.

“A bit,” she answered. “It’s warmer  here than it is back home.”

“Yeah,” I said, but I wasn’t  convinced.

I knew trying to press the issue  would only make Meg snippy. There was no denying she was stubborn, so I figured  trying to talk her into lying down and resting instead of going to stand in  front of a venue for a few hours would be a waste of energy. Instead, I slipped  my feet into my shoes and grabbed my purse.

“So, are we going?” I asked.

She looked slightly surprised by my  question, as if she’d been mentally preparing herself for battle. She recovered  quickly, though, and grabbed her own purse, which I knew held at least a couple  of Hanson CDs and a Sharpie just in case we got close enough to ask for an  autograph.

I took the keys from Meg on the way  out to the car, and when she didn’t argue, I again knew that she wasn’t feeling  well. I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with her. That morning it  seemed as if she’d slept it off, whatever it was, but apparently her ailments  were returning. Of course, it was entirely possible that in the wake of all her  excitement she’d pushed away her sickness. I just hoped it wouldn’t come back  with a vengeance.

 

Naturally, it did come back with a  vengeance.

Before going to the venue, we  stopped for some food. Meg mostly picked at hers, saying she was too excited to  eat, but I knew Meg and I knew that wasn’t possible. She put away more food  than I thought possible of a girl her size. I tried not to look too  speculative. I knew if I did, she’d tell me to stop acting like her mother.

I guess that was the dynamic of our  relationship. We only barely knew each other, but our roles seemed clearly  defined. Meg was wild and free. She certainly wasn’t irresponsible by any  means. She just wasn’t inhibited. If she really wanted to do something, she’d  do it regardless of what anyone thought-like wearing a dress to a Hanson  concert, for instance.

Me, on the other hand? Well, I was  definitely reserved. I always had to think things through before do anything.  In most cases that wasn’t a bad thing, but spending fifteen minutes debating  whether or not I actually wanted to buy the super cute shorts that were  slightly overpriced, but fit me perfectly in every way was a bit excessive. My  parents always told me it was good to think ahead, like if buying those shorts  would keep me from being able to pay a bill or something, but I knew even they  thought I was a bit overcautious at times. I figured maybe that was why they  thought this road trip with Meg would be a good idea.

My parents loved Meg. They’d met her  on move in day, and she’d won them over immediately. Sometimes I’d come back to  the dorm and find Meg talking on the phone with one of my parents. They may  have called to talk to me, but in my absence Meg was a more than acceptable  alternative. Sometimes I thought they might have called while I was out on purpose  just so they could speak to her without having to actually ask me if they could  speak to her.

It didn’t bother me because I liked  Meg just as much as they did. Often times I thought that if she hadn’t been my  roommate and it would have been anyone else, my college career probably would  have turned out drastically different. Meg made it fun, worth while, so to see  her feeling ill and trying to hide it made me nervous.

After I finished eating, we headed  to the venue, where there was a line of girls waiting outside. It was a relief  to find that many of them were way more overdressed than we were. I thought we,  at least, looked tactful. I observed all of the many things Meg had told me  about Hanson fans but had refused to believe until I saw it all first hand.

They weren’t really vicious, as I’d  expected. Just very enthusiastic. There were, of course, line jumpers, which  seemed to aggravate Meg, but in her poor health, she couldn’t seem to find the  energy to confront said line jumpers and see to it that they went to the back  of the line like they should. She did manage to work herself into a full fledge  rant, but even that seemed to be lacking.

My concern was growing. I couldn’t  seem to work up enough nerve to ask her if she was sure this was a good idea,  though, because I knew how much this meant to her and I didn’t want her to  think that I was just trying to weasel my way out of going. And I wasn’t. I may  not have been a full fledge fangirl, but I enjoyed the music and I was curious  to experience it live.

There was a buzz around of us, the  voices of all of the people waiting talking amongst themselves. There really  wasn’t much happening, but many people seemed hopeful that Hanson would show  any minute. I noticed several girls clutching cameras just in case.  Meg noticed this too and seemed to think it  was a good idea because she dug her camera out of her purse.

“Here, can you hold this?” she asked  me, shoving the camera toward me as she held her stomach again. This time she  didn’t make an attempt to hide it.

“Meg?” I asked cautiously, as I put  my hand through the wrist strap on the camera. “Are you okay?”

Meg nodded, but she kept her head  down. “Yeah, just a bit dizzy all of a sudden,” she said. “Must be the sun.”

“Yeah,” I said vaguely, mostly to  appease her because I was sure that this idea was mostly wishful thinking on  her part.

We were quiet for a while, and I was  trying to watch Meg discreetly. I could see the way she was holding her  stomach, and she seemed to be closing on herself. I wanted to say or do  something, but I couldn’t find the words.

Then, suddenly, she brought her hand  to her mouth and pushed off from the building and ran down the street. I  jumped, pushing myself away from the building and staring after her stupidly  for a full second before I followed.

I didn’t have to go far. She had  stopped just down the street, seemingly unable to hold back any longer. When I  found her, she was leaning over a bush and I had to look away from the puddle  of sick on the bush.

“Meg?” I asked cautiously, putting  my hand on her back. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” she whispered.

“Do you need anything?” I asked  carefully. I really wasn’t the best at this sickness stuff. I was far too  squeamish for my own good.

Meg turned to glance at me but  before she could speak, there for a shriek from the multitude of girls down the  street. We watched as a taxi turned into the alley and the girls swarmed toward  it. I heard someone squeal that it was Taylor Hanson. From the way Meg  stiffened beside me, I knew she had to.

“Just great,” she muttered. I could  hear the disappointment if her voice. She wanted to be among those girls  swarming the taxi, trying to meet one of the three men she’d adored since she  was young.

“Meg?” I wasn’t sure what I was  asking, but she seemed to hear the question in my voice.

“Just go, Livvie,” Meg said. She  held her stomach and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. I frowned,  trying not to look toward the bush where she’d attempted to regurgitate the  nonexistent contents of her stomach. I just thanked the heavens above that she  hadn’t eaten anything earlier. Otherwise, this whole situation probably would  have been much worse.

“Go?” I asked, confused. “Go where?”

“Go see what’s going on,” she said.  “See if you can get a picture or just see Taylor or something.”

I frowned at her. “What? No, I can’t  do that.”

“Yes, you can,” she insisted.  “Please for me. I don’t want this whole trip to be a total waste for both of  us.”

“But will you be okay here?” I  asked. I couldn’t curb my worry for her.

“I’ll be fine,” she said, looking on  toward the alleyway the taxi had turned down, no doubt wishing she could be  among the other fans in the alley preparing themselves to snap pictures of  whatever Hanson brother was within. “I’ll go grab a Sprite and something for my  stomach,” she said, her eyes flickering back toward me. “Then I’ll meet you  back at the venue.”

I stared at her, trying to figure  out if I should go along with this or insist upon accompanying her. The look on  her face was forlorn, but she seemed resolute that I go, so I nodded. “Okay,  call me if you have any problems,” I insisted. I really didn’t like the idea of  leaving her, but the wistful look on her face made me feel like this was  something that needed to be done. As if it were crucial that at least one of us  got to be within reach of a Hanson.

It wasn’t really important to me. I  didn’t care if I got to see a Hanson up close or not, but because it was  important to Meg and she was in no shape to do so, I felt obligated to carry  the torch for her, make it a point to at least get a picture or something.

“Go,” Meg said, shaking me from my  uncertainty.

I nodded, looking her over one last  time with worry before I turned and scurried back down the street toward the  venue. The lines no longer existed outside the front door, and I found out why  when I reached the back of the venue. The fans were flocking around. I couldn’t  see from where I stood, but I heard a buzz of whispers that varied in range of  excitement saying that it was Taylor.

I tried to ease my way forward, but  it wasn’t easy. There were too many fans. There was some shoving and elbowing  going on, so I tried to walk around, but the security guards had come out and  were trying to keep people out of the way. It felt like a completely hopeless  effort, and I wanted to just go back and stand at my place in line since it  seemed impossible that I’d ever make it through this crowd and get anywhere  near Taylor Hanson just to take a picture, but then I thought of Meg, pale,  sick and crestfallen, and I pressed on.

I  made my way back into the crowd, easing my way through, sliding through the  breaks in the crowd. This, of course, earned me plenty of dirty looks, but I  just kept thinking about Meg, knowing that she wouldn’t let a dirty look deter  her from her mission. If anything, it would probably only cause her to press on  even harder.

Of  course, I didn’t have nearly as much nerve as Meg, so I just kept moving,  making my way through the crowd and hoping I was getting closer. I really  couldn’t tell. I heard everyone around me speaking, but I was trying to keep my  eyes on the prize. Or Meg’s prize, really, because this was all for her, after  all. She was my friend. She deserved something to show for this trip after  spending most of it feeling sick and having her façade of strength destroyed at  the most pivotal moment.

Somehow  I made it to the front of the crowd. I thought it impossible, but suddenly  there were no more people left to push past and there was just a barrier  blocking me off. I looked around, as if expecting Taylor Hanson to simply  materialize before my eyes, but he was nowhere in sight.

I  felt my breath catch, the way it always did right before I was about to burst  into tears. I blinked my eyes and looked around again. Where the hell was he?  Had I pushed myself through a crowd and, no doubt, bruised my shoulders and  shins all for nothing? I frowned and bit my trembling bottom lip. I looked  around again, hoping maybe I’d simply overlooked him, although that seemed  impossible, but there was still no Taylor Hanson.

I  felt the crowd around me slowly begin to fall back as they all seemed to make  the same realization as I had. I ran a trembling hand through my hair as I took  a moment to catch my breath. I just stood there for a while. I didn’t know how  long, but I didn’t see much point in trying to rush back around to the front of  the venue to stand in a line. Everyone else was probably busy arguing over  reclaiming his or her spot in line by now.

I  lifted my head toward the sky and groaned, letting my frustrations get the best  of me. I normally wasn’t verbal about these sort of things, but the thought of  going back to poor, sick Meg empty handed was just too heart breaking. I stood  there, crestfallen for an undetermined amount of time, trying to figure out  what I was going to do next. I knew I should probably go and try to find Meg.  She was sick, after all, and could probably use my help, either to hold her  hair back while she heaved or to keep her on her feet. But as I thought of what  her face would look like when I came back and told her that I hadn’t even  managed to get a picture of Taylor Hanson, my resolve to move back toward her  crumbled.

I  knew, rationally, she wouldn’t blame me. If he was gone, he was gone. But even  so, I knew how much this trip meant to Meg. The fact that she probably wouldn’t  even be able to enjoy the concert only made my wish to bring something back to  her even more important.

I  sighed and pushed my auburn hair back away from my face and squared my  shoulders, preparing myself to put on a brave face for Meg. Then as I started  to turn around on the heel of my shoe, I glanced upward. For the first time I  noticed a small awning that only stuck out a few feet from the back entrance to  the venue. It hadn’t been long enough to cover me from the sun, but now that I  had a clear view I could see that right above the awning was a window.

I  squinted my eyes against the harsh rays of the sun and brought up one hand, as  if to use as a shield. My breath caught as I saw a blond head just inside the  room. I stood on my tiptoes, hoping this would somehow give me a better view to  confirm my suspicions, but it wasn’t any use. Instead, I cleared my throat and  forced myself to project my voice, hoping it would be enough for the occupant  to hear me, and called, “TAYLOR!”

To  my astonishment, the person turned, giving me a full view of his face and  confirming my suspicions. Taylor Hanson was staring out the window down at me.  He didn’t look nearly as surprised to see me as I did see him, but then I  remembered this was probably a regular occurrence for him.

He  lifted a hand to wave, and then started to turn but I called out again. “Wait!”

He  paused and lifted the window so that it was fully open. He stuck his head out,  looking left and then right, apparently to see if there was anyone else around  before he called back down to me, “Yeah?”

Taylor Hanson was speaking to me.

Again,  I was stunned, but I came to my senses quicker this time. “Can I get your picture?”  I asked. He titled his head to the side, seeming to find my question odd for  some reason, but then I realized that most girls probably just took his picture  without bothering to ask.

“Yeah,  sure,” he answered, shrugging one shoulder and leaning further out the window.

I  switched the camera on, hoping I would remember how to use it. Meg had shown me  during the drive to the venue while she was trying to hide her discomfort.

“It’s  for my friend, Meg.” I felt the need to explain as I lifted the camera. I  zoomed in just enough so that I could get a good shot of Taylor’s face. “She’s  a huge fan.”

He  was already smiling as I prepared to take his picture and my words caused his  smile to become more pronounced as I snapped a picture. “I’ve heard that a lot,”  he commented.

I  blushed, realizing this was probably very true. “Yeah, I imagine so,” I  conceded. “But this whole trip was her idea, and she was really excited about  tonight, but then she got sick.” I didn’t know why I felt the need to explain  this to him.

“Is  she okay?” he asked, glancing around. I wondered if I was making him  uncomfortable by sharing mine and Meg’s sob story with him.

“I  think so,” I answered, hoping this was true. “The last time I saw her she was  dry heaving into a bush, but she was pretty adamant that I come and see what  all the fuss was about over here.”

Taylor  chuckled, and it sounded foreign to my ears. How was it possible I was talking  to Taylor Hanson and something I said made him chuckle? Maybe the sun was  getting to me too.

“Isaac’s  done that a few times,” he commented. “Of course,” he paused a moment as if  deciding whether to proceed with his next words. He looked at me for a moment  before the smile that had slightly wavered returned and he continued speaking,  “He said he was drunk at the time.”

“Oh,”  I replied, my eyes widening slightly. “Well, Meg’s not – I mean, she hasn’t  …” I took a deep breath, trying to form a coherent sentence. “We’re not old  enough to be doing that,” I finally admitted.

Taylor  nodded and smiled, “Well, you shouldn’t even when you’re old enough.”

“I’ll  keep that in mind,” I agreed. Then we stared at each other for a moment in  awkward silence. “So,” I finally said, “I just wanted to get a picture for Meg,  so thanks. I’ll leave you alone now.”

I  started to take a step back, but Taylor called out, “Hey, hang on a sec.”

I  stopped in my tracks and looked back up at him. “Your friend’s name is Meg?” he  asked, clarifying.

I  nodded.

“What’s  yours?” he asked.

“Livvie,”  I answered. I blushed when my voice seemed to waver slightly. This was all too  bizarre. I really was beginning to wonder if I was hallucinating. Maybe I was  coming down with something as well. It seemed too unbelievable that Taylor  Hanson would be speaking to me, let alone asking me my name.

“Wait  there,” Taylor said. “I’ll be right back.”

“Okay,”  I answered, but he’d already disappeared from the window. I stood there stunned  for a moment before I looked around, wondering what exactly I was waiting for.  The alleyway was empty now except for me, and I wondered what all of the other  girls were doing now. I wondered where Meg was and hoped she was okay. I knew  she wouldn’t believe this, never in a million years. In fact, I still couldn’t  believe it. Meek little me, calling  up to Taylor Hanson’s window and asking him for a picture? Too bizarre, I thought again.

I didn’t know  how long I stood there pondering the strangeness of this all, but then suddenly  he was back at the window. Instead of simply leaning out the window as he had  before, he climbed through the window, one long leg at time until he was  standing on top of the awning. I wondered briefly if it was sturdy enough to  hold him, as he stepped out until he was at the edge.

“Here,”  he called. Then I noticed he was holding something in his hand. I stepped  forward, forcing my feet to walk up to the edge of the awning. I had to tilt my  head back to look at him as he handed something down to me. I reached up and  took it. I lowered my arm and looked down at what he’d handed me, only to realize  that there were two signed CDs. One addressed to me, and the other to  Meg. I felt my jaw drop as I took a couple of steps back so I wouldn’t have to  break my neck to look up at Taylor.

“Thank  you,” I murmured in awe.

“You’re  welcome,” he smiled. Since it had been murmured all day that Isaac and Zac  hadn’t yet arrived, I figured that these CDs had probably already been signed.  Taylor must have added our names to them, though. Very thoughtful, I said to  myself.

I  couldn’t think of anything else to say right then. I was too in awe of the  events unfolding before my eyes. Things like this didn’t happen to me. I wasn’t  lucky. Which only seemed to make all of this even more fascinating and special.

“Can  I get another picture?” I asked, cautiously. I knew that Meg would want more  than just one picture and a couple of signed CDs to document this profound  moment, and the truth was, so did I.

“Sure,”  Taylor nodded. He ran a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes as I  took a few steps back and prepared the camera once again. This time he bent his  knees slightly and rested his hands on them.   For the first time I noticed his suspenders fell loosely at his sides.  His white shirt stood out against the tan on his arms, and the numerous amount  of necklaces around his throat hung away from his body. I snapped one picture  quickly and then another before I switched off the camera.

“Thank  you,” I said for what seemed like the umpteenth time.

“You’re  welcome,” he said again, still smiling. “I hope Meg feels better and enjoys the  concert.”

“I’m  sure she will,” I nodded. “If not,” I held up the signed CDs and the camera,  “this will more than make up for it.”

He  nodded as he carefully backed up toward the window. I smiled after him, and  once he was inside, he gave me a final wave before disappearing from sight.

I  shook my head again, wondering if this had all been some kind of weird daydream, but as I stared at the CDs  clutched firmly in my hand, I knew even I couldn’t have made  something like this up. I felt my smile widen as I quickly hurried down the  alleyway toward the front of the venue to find Meg.

When I found her, she was leaning  against the side of the building, sipping on water with a hand resting on her  stomach. She still looked pale and tired, but her eyes lit up when she saw me.

“Where have you been?” she demanded.  “I was starting to get worried.”

“I was getting these,” I grinned, holding up the CDs.

She looked at me for a moment,  confusion crossing her face. Obviously she was thinking of her own CDs still  tucked away in her purse. She grabbed the ones in my hand and inspected them  for a moment before a squeal erupted. “What? But everyone said … I thought …  How?” she seemed unable to form complete sentences.

My grin widened and I retold my  tale. She insisted upon looking through the pictures of Taylor on her digital  camera, and her spirits seemed to lift exponentially. Of course, Meg was still  rather weak throughout the concert, but she didn’t get sick again. Instead of  braving the crowd, we stood toward the back and sang along with the songs.

Toward the end of Hanson’s set,  Meg’s wish came true and they started to play “If Only.” I’d never paid much  attention to the song. I knew it and liked it well enough, but this time as it  played, it felt like it had a whole new meaning.

The  lyrics were still the same, but it was different because this time I did have  the guts. I didn’t have to say “if only” and wonder what would have happened if  I’d been brave enough. That day, I had been. I’d been brave enough to call out  to Taylor Hanson, to reach out and ask for something I wanted – no, needed. Needed for Meg. There were nerves, of course, but it had all worked out  even better than I could have anticipated.

I smiled and glanced at Meg. She too  wore a brilliant smile. I didn’t know what she was thinking, but she reached  over and pulled me into a smothering hug. “You’re the best friend in the  world,” she yelled over the sound of the music.

I didn’t know about that, but I knew  then that our friendship was cemented for life. It wasn’t about Hanson, though,  they had been the catalyst to it all. No, it was about friendship, courage and  doing what was necessary.

Even if I’d come back empty-handed,  I knew that Meg would have still been my friend, but as she told me several  times over the next few years, I’d gone above and beyond the call of duty for  something that meant a lot to her when most people wouldn’t have bothered. I  suppose that was true, but knowing how much it meant to Meg, made it important  to me, and maybe that was the key to a true friendship.

Our trip back home didn’t take  nearly as long, but that was mostly because Meg was behind the wheel, driving  at top speed, whether it was because she just wanted to get back to our dorms –  our home away from home – or because she wanted to show off her new Hanson  memorabilia or just because she wanted to get back to Brad, I couldn’t say.

Her mysterious sickness was deemed  the flu when we returned to the dorms to find everyone on our floor in the same  state Meg had been over the last few days. Even I picked up the wretched virus  and was doomed to three days in bed, therefore missing classes and worrying  constantly that I was going to fail.

But then Meg came through for me.  Bringing me my class assignments, notes she’d procured from various sources and  an abundant amount of soup, crackers and Sprite. I knew it was her way of  repaying me for what I’d done for her. And I couldn’t have been more grateful.

“You about done in there, Liv?”

My head snapped up at the sound of  Meg’s voice, tearing me away from the past and bringing me back to the present.  “Yeah, almost,” I called back.

I waited for her to say more, but my only answer was  the sound of a box sliding across the floor followed by a grunt and a slew of  unsavory words. I shook my head, smiling at the picture in my hands once more  before placing it in the box along with all of the other memories I’d collected  over the last four years before standing and going to see what Meg was up to now.

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