Hey kids. I was thinking about the fact that Kevin’s married now. But he wasn’t married when I started, so I can pretend that Kristin never happened, right? Fabulous. Thanks as always to Dru and everyone at the chat bungalow especially Karen and Kat and Casey and Dayse. As always, you can email me: Schuydncer@aol.com And don’t be stingy with the feedback!

Disclaimer: See Retreat 1-7

Retreat 8
by Schuyler

Corbett stood with the world rushing past her. Less than two weeks into her employment with the band and she was already up to her neck in their world. And she’d never loved anything more. She could hear Thomas over her headset shouting about something. There had been heavy rain all day in Hershey and it had turned the stadium into chaos as the crew tried to make up for lost time. “Corbett,” Thomas said, “I’m on my way.”
“Okay. After this, I need you to get the list of who’s coming after for the meet and greet. Then we’ll talk about later.” She could see him fighting his way down the hall to her. They were almost yelling over the commotion and bustle. Thomas gave her an exhausted smile and handed her the second set of costumes, freshly laundered. Corbett took them into the sweet silence of the dressing room, punctuated only by friendly chatter. She put on her calmest smile and hung the costumes. “How are things in here?”
“Perfect,” Lance replied. “How are things out there?”
“Fantastic,” she lied. They all performed better when they weren’t worried, especially Lance, who worried especially.
The boys were in high spirits and prepared to give their all. It was the last they’d have to give for a week.
Corbett didn’t get to sit down until she got back to her hotel room that night. She was thinking about a long, hot bath when JC and Lance trudged into her room and collapsed on either side of her. “Tired?” she asked. They grunted. Corbett started laughing. They laid quietly for some minutes until the door opened and they felt the bed bounce. Corbett opened her eyes to see Justin above her, dressed to go out.
“You wanna go out, hit a couple of clubs?” He did a comical little dance.
She chuckled once. Chris and Joey leaned over the bed too. “No, I think we’re a little too tired tonight. “ Chris kissed JC’s forehead and Justin kissed Corbett’s cheek, so Joey kissed Lance on the lips and everyone laughed. And the three club hoppers left.
Corbett, Lance, and JC gradually pushed themselves higher on the bed. Someone gathered the strength to turn on the television and they cuddled up together, Corbett’s head on Lance’s chest, JC”s head on her leg, to watch the late night talk shows. Corbett’s hand fell casually on Lance’s knee as his left hand, behind her back, entwined itself and gently, gently pulled apart her long loose braid. Corbett felt safe and warm. She felt his breathing get more regular until, finally, his hand fell from her back and he was asleep.
Corbett nudged JC. “He’s asleep,” she whispered.
JC got up and took her hand. “Come on, then. I want to talk to you.” They slipped off the bed as carefully as they could and went to the one beside it, sitting cross legged and facing each other.
“What’s going on, babe?”
He paused for a breath. “Chris and I aren’t going camping. We’re going back to Orlando. Our relationship needs work.”
“Things are still uncomfortable?”
“A little. We still love each other,” she saw his eyes get wet with tears, “but I’m so scared.”
She leaned over to hold him. “It’s gonna be okay.”
“He means everything to me.” He sniffled and smiled. “I just hope that you have someone like that someday.”
Lance’s eyes blinked open. “What’d I miss?”
Corbett let go and leaned back. “Not much.”
JC laid down on the bed. Lance rolled onto his stomach facing them. “CK, when do you go back to school?”
Corbett pulled a pillow into her lap. “School starts September 17th, but I’m not sure I’m going back.” Her voice dwindled to a whisper.
JC sat straight up and Lance looked shocked. “What do you mean you’re not sure?”
“I don’t know if I want to be there anymore. You guys are such a huge part of my life now and that’s just not acceptable to the people at school.”
“Corbett, a difference in musical taste is no reason to drop out of college.” JC sat close to her and sounded soothing.
“You don’t understand. My roommate Amelia, my best friend there, thinks I’m working for Colby traveling around Canada this summer. If she found out that I was here, she’d explode. And I don’t want to deal with that anymore. I want to stay with you.” Corbett was shaky now, JC wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight.
Lance sat up and reached across to hold her hands in his. “Corbett, I know you want to stay, and we want you to stay, but the day will come when you’ll need that diploma. And you’ll feel better about having finished something you’ve started. Don’t let those people win.” She was silent, staring into his eyes. “Promise me you’ll think about it? She just nodded her head.

Lance looked down at his tickets. “Noon?”
Corbett pushed him forward, dragging Justin by his duffel bag straps and watching easily distracted Joey and Chris out of the corner of her eye. “Yeah, what’s your point?”
“You booked my tickets for noon. I’m leaving first.”
They came up to Lance’s gate. “And you’re leaving now.” She kissed his cheek. “Your return tickets are in your computer bag. Call me if you need anything. Have a good time.” She hugged Joey and, before Lance knew it, he and Joey were on the plane. Chris and JC were sent off with hugs, then Corbett had herself and Justin buckled into their seats for the short flight to Boston.

Joey and Lance tried to keep the conversation going on the drive to the cabin, but Joey was excited and nervous and distracted. They rolled into the gravel drive to see Jerry’s red compact and Colby’s red truck parked. Lance smiled involuntarily. Such a beautiful place, such peaceful memories. They carried their bags into their bedrooms before heading upstairs to the kitchen and living room. Jerry looked up from where he say at the counter talking to Colby. “Lance!” Jerry ran to hug him. “Lance hadn’t realized how much he had missed his best friend.
After everyone had had their hugs, Lance noticed a pitcher of lemonade and five glasses on the counter. “Colby made lemonade?”
Colby laughed. “You’ve apparently got me mistaken for my little sister. That’s Jerry’s doing.”
Lance started to pour himself a glass. “Don’t get too excited,” Jerry said as he took his seat again. “It’s powdered.” Lance laughed and sat beside his friend. Joey had slipped off.
Lance's phone rang not ten minutes later. “Hello?”
“Hey, Lance. It’s Corbett. Just making sure you got there all right.”
“Yep. Everything’s great.” Lance made a face at Colby. He felt weird about keeping this secret from Corbett.
“You know how to get a hold of me if you need anything. This is your week to relax. Okay, sweetie?”
“No problem, Corbett. I’ll see you on Friday.”
Lance hung up and looked sort of woeful. “It just...”
Colby’s cell phone rang. “Hello?”
“Hey big sister. It’s Corbett. Just wanted to let you know that I got into Boston okay.”
“Thanks so much, kid. You have fun now.”
“Bye Colby.” There was a certain awkward silence, and Colby hung up.

Joey sat on the front stoop and just stared down the road. Two months and twenty-seven days, and just a handful of those together. Touring was exhausting, the cabin was relaxing. And things had fallen behind, and engagements had pushed into time off, and this trip to the cabin had been pushed farther and farther back, rescheduling and rescheduling until all four of them could be there. There were Lance and Jerry, two wonderful friends. But there was also Kevin, his Kevin. He just wanted Kevin in his arms again; he wanted to be in Kevin's arms.
There was the faint roar of an engine coming closer. Then a gleaming, expensive black luxury sedan came rushing around the bend and Joey stood up, a smile on his face. The car stopped and Kevin got out, tall and gorgeous. He walked calmly and silently to Joey, and put a hand on Joey’s spine and kissed him, slowly and passionately and lovingly. Kevin wanted to look strong and caring, but he felt as though his knees would buckle. It startled him every time how much emotion he felt for Joey. Joey pulled back a bit. “Hi.”
“Hey.” They stood for a moment, holding each other, breathing heavily. Kevin ran his fingertips along Joey’s cheek.
Joey closed his eyes and leaned into Kevin’s palm. “We should get your bags inside.” They reluctantly parted and dropped Kevin’s bags in Joey’s green bedroom before going up to see the others.

Chris walked out onto the porch to find JC sitting on a chaise, placid and handsome. He reached out, still staring at the view, and held Chris’ hand. Chris sat beside him, curling up in his arms, and watched the Orlando sun set red.