Running Up That Hill – Day 10

“When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors”

-The Beatles ‘Help’

I woke up late the next morning. Kevin, Howie and I had stayed up late, just doing guy stuff. Watching movies, hanging out, you know, the usual.

It had been nice, but things still didn’t feel the same. With AJ gone our whole group dynamic had changed. And I don’t just mean because he wasn’t there. It was because of what he was going through. I think it was making us all a little more aware of our actions.

I made it down to the kitchen to find that Kevin, Kristin and Leighanne were all already awake. Shocking, since it was only an hour until noon.

“Morning Brian,” Leighanne smiled as I sat down beside her. She gave me a light kiss on the cheek.

“Morning,” I replied, reaching for the coffee that Kristin had sat down in front of me. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought we were a bunch of college kids sitting around after a long night of parties.

“Isn’t this weird?” Kristin mused, looking around the table. “We never have quiet mornings like this. I can’t think of even one.”

“There was that time in Germany,” I pointed out, remembering a morning from our concert tour a few years beforehand.

Kevin laughed. “Right, because that was quiet.”

“It was,” I insisted. “We were all sitting around, having a nice coffee like this.”

“And then the waitress from one of the other tables recognized you guys, she screamed and it was all downhill from there,” Leighanne finished the rest. Story of my life I guess. Leighanne always finishing my sentences, fans always finding us when we just wanted some peace and quiet.

We were all silent after that. I think we were all just enjoying the fact that no one was going to come bother us. What a weird life we all had.

“Well, I’m going to go upstairs and get ready for the day,” Leighanne said after we’d finished our coffee. She looked over at me.

“Oh yeah,” I replied, knowing she wanted me to go with her. “Me too.”

I watched as she started gathering things to take with her to the bathroom. I didn’t even know what she needed me up there for. It wasn’t like she was going to let me shower with her. Especially not in Kevin’s house!

“Brian I’ve been thinking,” she started, looking at me from across the room. Oh, that was why I was here. She wanted to talk about something. “Remember that conversation we had a few days ago?”

How could I forget? “Yes.”

“Well, I was just thinking,” she said slowly, joining me on the bed. “That with you guys maybe putting out a greatest hits CD, if you took a little break it would be perfect timing.”

I raised an eyebrow. I didn’t know if she’d missed the entire point of what I’d told her, but we were going to try our very best to make sure the greatest hits didn’t happen! Everything was going to go back to how it was. Because that was what we all wanted. “We’re not putting out a greatest hits, Leigh. Remember? We’re going to tell Jive that we’re not doing it.”

“I know,” Leighanne pouted. “But, I just thought it was something to think about. A little break would be good for all of you, I think.”

“This is our break, Leigh,” I reminded her.

She just rolled her eyes. It was clear she didn’t like what I was saying. I didn’t even know if I liked what I was saying. So far, this had been the weirdest two weeks of my life and I was in no position to make any major life decisions!

“I think you need a break that lasts longer than a month. Just think about it, okay?” She asked sweetly. And then she was off to take her shower.

It’s not like I hadn’t already done enough thinking in the last little while.

~~~

I didn’t want to waste any time getting together with the record company. The longer we waited the harder it would be for us to talk them out of the greatest hits. And of course, none of us wanted that to happen. I was pretty certain we were all in agreement on that.

And AJ would be too, if he knew about it. But anyway.

I wanted to bring the other guys to the next meeting with the record company. It was fairly soon, in terms of them having to travel back to LA. Then again, it wasn’t like we weren’t used to the travelling.

I only hoped we’d be able to talk them out of it. They’d already seemed far into the planning stages, and of course with Jive we were always the last to know. In fact, they had probably been planning this since before Black and Blue came out. Or at least soon after. Once again they were milking us for all we were worth.

I tried my best not to think about it. It was better to put my mind to work at writing some new songs. So at least that way we would have something to show, proving we were serious about doing another album.

Which I was sure that we were.

I mean, I thought we were. I knew that AJ was of course feeling the pressure of our last six very stressful years. Brian was feeling overwhelmed and tired too. That much was evident by how much time he wanted to spend with Leighanne. Not that I blamed him for that at all, if I’d gotten married I’d want to spend lots of time with my wife too. Same goes for Kevin.

In fact it seemed like the only ones out of the five of us who were still ready to move forward to the next album, or at least still had that same drive were Nick and I.

~~~

“Duuuude,” I said, leaning over to Chris. I hadn’t wasted any time. After getting home the day before and having a nap all afternoon, Chris and I had hit the club. And then we’d gone back to my place, slept and now here we were. Back out at the bar again. Wooohooo! “Do you know what the best thing about being on a break is? But also still being famous is? Because I still get to be famous but I don’t have to be busy all day long!” I finished the rest of my beer in one gulp.

Chris rolled his eyes at me. He partied in a different way, and could definitely hold his liquor better than I could. I’m pretty sure I made myself look like an ass around him but I didn’t care. I’m Nick Carter! He’s the ass! That is, if he thinks I’m the ass, that makes him the ass.

God dammit, I don’t know what I’m saying.

“Easy, Nick, it’s not even ten yet. We just got here!” he laughed at me. Oh Chris. When will you ever understand my woes?

“Dude,” I said seriously, leaning over again. I tried to mesmerize him with my eyes. My eyes are good at the mesmerizing. “Seriously. It’s the best being on a break. And a break away from Kevin.”

“Okay, Nick.” He wasn’t really watching me. He was watching the girls in the bar. We had no girls at our table, it was just me and Chris. Hanging out like regular guys.

“But you know,” I put my finger on my chin, thinking. “The girls don’t really like regular Nick. Like this Nick,” I motioned to myself and Chris looked back at me. “They only like Backstreet Boy Nick. Nick who is slick. Slick Nick who can sing!”

Chris just laughed again and rolled his eyes. That guy was weird. He liked to have fun and party but he was also weird and serious about it. “You can still sing when you’re not on tour,” he pointed out.

“I can’t,” I shook my head. “I mean, I can. But it’s not the same when there’s not a million girls out in the crowd screaming for you.”

“Sure you can,” Chris shrugged, finishing off whatever sophisticated drink he had. Why couldn’t that guy just drink beer? “There’s a microphone and karaoke stuff over there.”

I looked over to where he was pointing. He was right, there was a bunch of karaoke stuff and a microphone, but I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t just go up there and start singing. I wouldn’t even know what to sing. It would be lame if I went up there and starting belting out More Than That!

I did consider it for a second before brushing it off. Everyone in the bar would probably think I was nuts! “Man, let’s just go talk to some girls or something.”

“Oh come on,” Chris said. Now he was grinning. “It’ll be funny. Girls aren’t paying any attention to you because you’re drunk off your ass and ten minutes ago your head was laying on the table.”

“I was just joking around!”

“Yeah but think how awesome it’ll be to be up there on stage again,” Chris winked. He was right. Being on stage was the best! I missed it.

I didn’t even have to say anything, because Chris knew he had won. He got up to go and try to talk the bartender into letting me use the equipment. I didn’t even know why he wanted me to go up there so badly. Maybe he was a closet Nick Carter fan and this had been his plan all along, to get a private show from me!

Okay, that probably wasn’t it. It was probably because girls would start paying more attention to us after I put on a little show.

“They’re gonna set you up,” Chris said when he got back. “Go find something in their library to sing.”

Well, that was easy. Before I knew it I was back up on the stage in the half full pub. It was definitely not what I was used to. Time to bust out my favourite karaoke classic.

Just a small town girl…

Chris raised his glass to me and I kept singing. Soon enough the girls who thought I was just a drunk idiot before were paying attention to me again. At least now I was a drunk idiot who could sing!

Livin’ in a lonely world…

~~~

Brian and Leighanne were in their room packing their things, while I was curled up on the couch with Kristin watching some movie on cable. It wasn’t a very good movie, it was more of a chick flick. I’m not into chick flicks so naturally my mind began to wander.

Howie had said that the next meeting he had with Jive was next Friday. That felt like a long time to me. I was worried that by then, their minds would already be made up. Hell, by then the CDs might already be printed!

Okay, that was going a little bit far, but sometimes that was what it felt like with them.

I didn’t have much time to think about it, since my cell phone started to ring. I reached over to the coffee table where it was sitting and was met with the caller ID.

Denise McLean

Kris glanced over my shoulder and saw who was calling. “Take it,” she urged me. I answered quickly.

“Hi Denise,” I said, a little uncertainly. I had spoken with her briefly before she and AJ had left that day in Boston, but I’d hardly spoken to her since. Not that I could blame her, I’m sure that I was the least of her worries in the last little while.

“Hi Kevin,” she replied. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but she sounded normal. Not that I was thinking she’d be sobbing uncontrollably on the phone or anything. “I’m sorry that I haven’t been in contact very much.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I’m sure you’ve been busy.”

“I have,” she paused for a second. I don’t think either of us knew what to say. “I know you must be thinking about Alex,” she started slowly.

“Yeah,” I replied dumbly. “We all are. Is he doing all right?”

“He is,” Denise said, and I felt a small sense of relief wash over me. Like this whole mess hadn’t been for nothing, and like I hadn’t forced him into something that wasn’t helping him. “This was the best thing for him,” she continued, almost reading my thoughts. “I’ve visited him a few times, and you can really see the beginnings of a difference in his attitude.”

“That’s good to hear, I’ll be sure to tell Brian, Howie and Nick.”

“He’s been asking about you guys. He feels awful about the tour having to be postponed.”

I shook my head, even though it was pointless. Denise couldn’t see me through the phone. “It’s fine,” I said, trying not to get choked up. There had been enough of that when we’d done all of our press about this. “Like I said before, his health is our main concern.”

“That’s good to know,” she said. “I’m sure he’d love a visit from you guys. Next weekend they are doing a family thing and I think he’d really like it if you and the others would come down on the Sunday.”

Sunday would work out perfectly. We’d all already be together after the record company meeting. I envisioned us flying down to Arizona all together and having a tearful reunion, just like something out of the movies. To me, it seemed perfect. I couldn’t wait. Finally we’d be able to see for ourselves that this decision had been the right one.

“Of course we’ll be there, Denise.”

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