Disclaimer: In an ideal world, Darren & Julia, Lauren & Walker, Brian & Meredith, Joey & Jaime, and Brian & Devin would ALL be married with babies. But clearly, that is not the world we live in, which means it's not MINE.
March 2009, University of Michigan, Arthur Miller Theatre
The wind howls outside, wracking the walls of the theatre that's empty except for two, a boy and a girl, back to back, lounging center stage surrounded by scripts and markers.
"We're graduating in less than two months…"
Darren heaves a sigh, sinking deeper under the UofM blanket draped over his lap, the one Jaime gave him for Christmas a few months ago. An overwhelming sense of homesickness takes over. In two months, the StarKids – that was the name they'd all decided on over pizza and squirt their sophomore year – will be graduating.
"Yeah Jules?" He stutters as she quietly turns around to rest her forehead softly between his shoulders. Hesitating for a moment, she wraps her arms around his torso, enjoying his warmth. "When you become famous, promise you won't forget about us…"
And abruptly Julia is falling into Darren's open arms as he shifts around to face her. She blushes and moves to get up, but finds herself encircled by strong arms. Suddenly, the room is far too hot. "Dare, I think I'd better get back. Lauren'll be – "
"Just shut up and hug me."
"Okay." She murmurs, thanking Dionysus that her flush, even deeper now, is hidden. And from there, only the wind can be heard, drowning out thoughts of the future and fears of the unknown. Unconsciously, a calm settles over the two, Darren's warmth lulling Julia closer and closer to sleep.
"Jules, I could never forget about you guys, not even if I wanted to. You're my family…" Darren exclaims quietly, drawing her closer. "I know…" She whispers in response.
"We really should get back…"
"Yeah, yeah, OK Mom. I'll make sure that little Julia makes it back to her dorm. Hop on!" He jokes, motioning for her to climb on his back as he pulls her to her feet. "Darren, you're crazy, you cannot –"
"Jules, you're as cute and as light as any snowflake I know. Now bundle up in the blanket and get on."
She contemplates arguing with him, but the idea of walking through the snow and wind without Darren as a space heater does not sound appealing. And, honestly, she's almost too tired to care now. So without a word, she does as she's told and they begin their hike across campus.
By the time they reach her door, Julia is shivering uncontrollably, and the second her feet hit the floor she sags against the wall sleepily. She's so tired that she almost can't find it in herself to scowl when she realizes Darren is laughing at her exhausted state. Fumbling with her keys, she manages to get it into the lock before turning around.
"You really mean it? You won't forget about us?"
He smiles. "I could never forget you Jules."
And without warning, Darren leans in, kisses her quickly, and skips away, leaving a stunned Julia in his wake. In fact, it's the intense prodding of her nosy roommate that breaks Julia from her shocked paralysis. And slowly, amidst Lauren's zealous questions, a subtle smile takes over her features, barely betraying the fiery rush of happiness now pulsing through her body.
Final Show of Apocalyptour, Roseland Ballroom, NYC, June 10, 2012
"Places in 10!" Julia calls.
"Places, thank you!" Everyone responds automatically, flittering about the green room which is humming with bottled energy. Once Julia leaves, Lauren plops down on on the couch between Joey and Walker and heaves a sigh; the boys ignore her. She sighs again. And finally, fed up, she whacks them both over the head.
"God dammit Lolo, what the hell was that for?" Joey whines, cradling his head. Joe, on the other hand, drags his girlfriend into his lap and, tugging at her cheeks like an aunt, demands, "Yeah Lo, we haven't done anything stupid yet." Both boys grin.
"Has anyone tried calling Darren yet?"
And suddenly, both boys still. "Um, I thought B-Hole was gonna call him 20 minutes ago…" Joey responds. Shaking her head, Lauren settles into Joe's embrace and sighs yet again. "He's been in the lighting booth 'talking' with Mer for the past half hour." She explains, air-quotes and all. "And when Julia finds out, she's gonna flip a shit. Dare promised to be here by 4 and you know how she is about punctuality… I'm afraid for the consequences." Lauren explains, massaging her temples.
She can't hold back a smile when Joe pushes her head to his chest and begins to rub her back. "Don't worry Lo, I'm sure he'll be here." Joe offers, silently praying on Darren's behalf.
- 4:30 PM, 30 Minutes Past Call, 1 ½ Hours till Showtime -
"I want to run 'Sami/Harry', 'Get Back Up', and 'Boy Toy' now and then we'll see where we stand. And Joey, remove your face from Jaime's for like, 10 seconds, please and thank you." Julia orders, continuing to pace in the orchestra at the base of the stage, noting a few things in her tech pad. She stops herself from looking at her watch for the 4th time in 2 minutes.
The cast sprints to their places, on edge as much as their director. Only Jaime, feeling brave, walks down center and takes a breath of courage before crouching down to grab the pad out of Julia's nervous clutches. The girl screeches in protest, but Jaime has already backed away.
"Jules, just go call Darren. We know you're worried. It's fine, we can handle a few songs by ourselves." Julia frowns, reaching for her pad again, but Jaime is already walking across the stage with all her notes. With one last warning look, Julia resigns and walks out of the house.
Finding the lobby empty, she deflates a bit. This is just like Darren, late for everything important… She rants to herself, tossing out a harsh lap. Whipping out her phone, she waits for it to ring. 1… 2… 3…
And the second it goes to voicemail, her worry is replaced by anger. About to leave a raging message, Julia literally jumps when a hand eases the phone out of her grip, followed by arms encircling her waist and a chin settling atop her head.
At the familiar voice, Julia relaxes slightly, instinctively sinking into Darren's arms. They both savor the calm that follows, reveling in the feeling of being together after several months apart.
Then suddenly, Julia breaks away and turns to face her now extremely late boyfriend. She scowls. "You're late," she starts, ignoring Darren's defensive look, "And I don't want to hear it. Go in there and learn the choreography, and quick. Joey knows all your blocking. I don't want to talk to you until this show is over."
And with that, she leaves a slightly startled, slightly crestfallen Darren behind her. Sprinting after his girlfriend, his frown turns upside down when a chorus of "Darren!" washes over him the moment he enters the house of the theatre.
So the production continues.
- After the Show -
Julia beams as she watches the cast congratulate one another as she makes her way to the girls' dressing room. The closer she gets, the more bittersweet it feels, knowing that that Apocalyptour is over. Standing before the dressing room door, she pauses for a moment, knowing Darren is waiting on the other side.
Truthfully, she's both horrified and frustrated that she feels so wary of him. She takes a deep breath.
Opening the door, Julia gasps. There, on one knee, with the most beautiful ring she's ever seen and Scarfy, of all things, around his neck is her stupidly always-late, too-charming-for-his-own-good boyfriend and she knows she should be thrilled. She should feel ecstatic. Instead, a lump of hysterical tears settles in her throat.
She closes the door behind her.
"Julia, I'm sorry. I messed up today, I know, and I'm sorry that this is so out of the blue, but I came here, not only for the show, but to say that I love you and –"
His voice flounders pathetically as she raises her hand to stop him, eyes overflowing with tears now. And suddenly, Darren is on his feet, just inches away from her, his own eyes begging for an explanation, and she can't take it.
She backs way until she feels the door behind her; the room feels absurdly small.
She struggles, sniffling, trying to get herself under control. Signaling again, this time with her finger, for a moment, Julia turns and rests her head against the cooling wood of the door. She takes a few more deep breaths, unaware that Darren is literally sweating in anticipation. She breathes…
And before he has time to react, she's made up her mind and she's whipped the door open and is running towards the house. Once she hits the lobby, Julia can feel the panic set in as she tries to find Lauren in the throngs of people.
Finally, towards the far exit, she sees her little roommate emphatically hugging a group of 13-year-olds and she can't help but laugh miserably. Half hazardly wiping away a few tears and, tossing a smile at the girls, she apologizes for dragging Lauren away.
"Jules! What's wrong?!" Lauren cries, enveloping her best friend in a hug. "Lolo, I don't have time to explain now, but can you make sure all my stuff gets home?"
"But, where are –"
Recognizing Julia's panic, Lauren becomes unusually calm. She nods. "Yeah, I'll see you at home." Lauren mumbles, watching as her best friend bolts for the door and disappears.
A few moments later, she feels a pair of familiar hands grip her shoulders, spinning her to face her unsuspecting boyfriend. Immediately, a frown settles across Joe's face. "What's wrong Lolo?" She remains silent for a few seconds before replying, with confused tears in her eyes, "I have no idea."