Four

Zac "Wimps," I commented as Taylor's friend that had plowed him down with so much energy earlier dropped off just like a dead fly. Now all four of them had fallen asleep, though Scott had lasted a while longer than his brothers.

"They gotta be tired. Remember when we were promo-touring? That's what they're doing," reported Taylor to me.

"Don't remind me," I said dismissively. We were in a different country every three days, and we did every talk show on the circuit, playing "MMMBop" over and over and over and over, until we wanted to scream, and then we flew overseas to do it on every talk show there. I decided to change the subject. "So, are our Mo-phatt friends okay in the music area?"

"Moffatts," corrected Taylor.

"Mo-phatts," I repeated, smiling. Taylor's blue eyes glinted. I could tell how happy he was to have made a friend, and a friend in the biz, at that!

"Pretty good. Respectable talent," he replied.

"So they're not like some more Backstreet Boys carbon copies?"

"No, they don't have that kind of pop-dance music," Taylor told me. "As far as I know, they don't hop around on stage swinging their arms around and crap."

I chuckled.

"Looks like you're pretty buddy-buddy with blondie there," I commented, reaching for my backpack and pulling out my sketchbook.

"Who, Scott?"

"No, our stewardess."

Taylor laughed.

"Yeah, Scotty."

"Well, it's really cool to meet someone our age doing what we are," Tay said, turning around in his seat and standing on his knees to watch me draw. My brother Taylor was a very talkative person once you got him started, and I had a feeling I was about to get an earful. "And I think that they're really cool. You know what would be really cool? If we could tour with them or something. Wouldn't that be cool? You should listen to their CD sometime, Zac . . ."

I switched off my hearing and said "mm-hmm" every once in a while to make Taylor think I was still listening to him. Don't get me wrong, I was glad that Taylor had finally made some friends he felt like he could relate to, but listening to Tay yap on and on would make anybody nauseous. And it was kind of horrifying, too, the way Taylor and Scott had seemed to click so quickly. I thought I'd never meet anybody else that was quite like Taylor, who let alone could stand to talk to him for more than five minutes and not have the urge to make fun of his speech pattern and subtle feminine habits; the way he stands, for example. But Scott seemed like a good pairing for him. And the Moffatts were kinda cool. They had a sense of humor, I could tell, and Bob, Clint, Dave seemed pretty fun.

" . . . and they even have some subtle punk undertones in their last song, so I thought it was pretty cool, they definitely have a bunch of different musical influences in their music, you can tell . . . Zac, are you even listening to me?"

"Mmm-hmm."

"Zac?"

"Mmm-hmm."

"Are you gay?"

"Mmm-hmm." Then: "Taylor, shut the fuck up! If anyone is gay, it's you!"

"Zac, watch your mouth!" Dad piped. "You're lucky your mother isn't here."



Scott My nose itched. I flailed my hand to scratch it and hit something. Giggles pierced my ears. Something told me to open my eyes, but sleep had such a tight grip on me, I couldn't resist its peace, and slid back into it helplessly. Then came the annoying tickle on my nose again. I opened my eyes to see Zac Hanson and Clint hovering above me with a feather. The shrieked at being caught and turned red, laughing.

I grabbed them both by the collars and exclaimed,

"What the fork are you doing?!"

They couldn't stop laughing, their bodies hot and red from laughter, and convulsing. Zac had a truly evil "mwahahaha." Clint had a feather from his red feather pillow he dragged everywhere with him clutched in his fingers. I could only guess what they were trying to do.

"Oh, get lost," I breathed, letting them go and rolling onto my side facing the window to the plane. Zac and Clint gave each other a high-five, chortling mindlessly. Zac went to go sit with my brothers, and Bob, perturbed because he was still trying to sleep, went and took Zac's seat.

"Mind if I sit here?" he asked Isaac. "Sorry."

"Go ahead," Isaac said, moving Zac's stuff for Bob. "Hi, I'm Ike."

"I'm Bob. Thanks."

"Sure."

Our two brothers, the two calm ones at this moment, both became quiet and tried to return to their own little realms. I rolled back around to see what Taylor was doing. He was writing in a spiral or something. I just stared at him for a minute, not saying anything. I think he tended to bite his lip when he was concentrating on something. He was right-handed, and wore a silver watch and a woven friendship bracelet on his right wrist. On his right ring finger, there was a silver ring.

Wait . . . why was it on his ring finger? The finger that signifies "TAKEN" when there's a ring on it? I forced my lips into a smile. Boy, if any teenyboppers noticed that, there would be some hell to pay, for sure.

Taylor paused from his writing to look out his open window into the vivid orange sunset. A long, slender little blond rat tail hanging down his shoulder suddenly caught my attention. How - weird. I'd never seen that except on Obi-Wan Kenobi in the still-anticipated Star Wars flick. But obviously, he'd had it for a while, because of the length. Maybe Obi-Wan had stolen it from him. Taylor turned back, and played with his pen for a moment. He had the most sculpted eyebrows I'd ever seen. And they weren't dark, either. They were actually quite a golden color, reminiscent of his hair.

Suddenly, he looked over at me. I managed a smile, taken aback. I felt weird for studying him so intricately. Why did I do that? I wondered to myself.

"Tired?" he asked me.

"Yeah, definitely," I replied. "God, Taylor, how did you survive fourteen interviews a day? I think I'm going to literally fall apart."

"Um," he laughed. "Sorry, I forgot to tell you, you can call me Tay if you want to."

"Tay? Okay."

"It's kinda strenuous, isn't it?"

"Yeah. But . . . it's a lot of fun. I'm happy we're finally starting to get noticed, here, about six or seven years after we made the band."

"I know exactly what you mean," he told me, shutting his spiral and turning towards me. "We had two indie records released before we even got accepted by a record company. We got rejected by like twelve of them or something like that." He rolled his eyes. I shook my head.

"We had two country albums and a Christmas album out before we took a nice, long, three-year break from it," I told Taylor . . . Tay. "They were kinda popular with the country crowd, but no one ever took notice of a bunch of eleven-year-olds running around singing country."



Tay I nodded empathetically. "They don't like facing the fact that kids can make good music."

"Uh - well, it wasn't exactly good. I kinda cringe at it now," Scott laughed, running his hand through his hair again and sweeping his blond section back.

"Same," I grinned. "I kinda cringe at 'MMMBop' even though I feel like I owe it everything."

"Definitely. I know what you mean," he said, sleepily leaning back in his seat.

I smiled. "Scott, we've got maybe forty-five minutes left on this flight, so you might wanna get some sleep while you can."

"I'm sure we'll be crashing at a hotel there," Scott replied, waving his hand dismissively. Two seconds later, he yawned, then grinned because he knew I was right.

"What hotel?" I asked.

"DoubleTree," he replied. "I forgot to ask you, Tay, what are you going to LA for?"

"We're going to do Motown Live again and to talk to one of our producers about Album X . . . I mean, the new album we're working on." I couldn't keep the grin off my face. This was too weird.

"Cool, that's really cool. Maybe we'll see you around."

"I'm pretty sure you will . . . we're staying at the DoubleTree, too!" I told him.

"Oh my God, you're jerking me!"

"No," I said, laughing. "We always stay there, in room 323. The people there started calling it the Hanson Suite."

We both laughed.

"You're so lucky, Tay," Scott said softly, stifling a yawn. I knew what he meant. We were lucky to be recognized by so many people, embraced by fans. His band was only beginning to have that luck.

I smiled and leaned back, too. All that yawning he was doing was making me sleepy, too. His eyes fluttered shut. I allowed myself to look at him for a moment, when I was sure nobody was looking at me. (I think Zac was on a mission to prove to himself that I was a homo, or something . . . because once I made the deep, grave mistake of saying Ben Stiller was good-looking, at the MTV Video Music Awards last year.) He had such a strong jaw-line, and a deep, controlled voice, clear and strong. He had the kind of dark brown hair his brothers had, but straight-cut, in a way that emphasized the deep-set eyes that stared at everything so analytically. From talking to him, I could tell how much he noticed everything and absorbed it without thinking about it. And his eyes - I still wasn't completely sure what color they were. At times they were dark, and others I could see a glimmer of blue or hazel in them.

"Thanks," I replied out of nowhere, his last remark still in my brain. But Scott was asleep again, the worn-out look streaked across his still face, the edge of his clefted lips pressed against the seat of plane, which caused them to scrunch up a tad. I almost giggled. It was like looking at a sleepy two-year-old.

"Tay, how many hours behind is California?" Zac asked me, walking down the aisle.

"From where?" Bob asked from behind, beating me. I yawned.

"Oklahoma. Central," said Zac.

"Two, isn't it? . . . Maybe?"

"I have no clue. I know that New York is one hour ahead of us, Australia is fifteen ahead, and that's about it," Zac said.

"We'll see when we get there," I murmured, the aura of sleep radiating from Scott getting to me.

"Are you SLEEPING?" Zac demanded.

"I'm talking to you, aren't I?" I whined.

"It could be your butt," replied Zac. "It talks a lot after airplane food."

Bob and Ike burst out into peals of laughter.

"That was really good. Really good," Bob complimented Zac, applauding Zac's horrid humor. I reached for the in-flight magazine and didn't even roll it up - I just threw it hard at Zac.