Running Up That Hill – Day 17

“Everybody’s got their problems
Everybody says the same things to you
It’s just a matter how you solve them
And knowing how to change the things you’ve been through”

-Sum 41 ‘The Hell Song’

“Dude, I can’t believe you left your phone at her place,” Chris laughed. It was like two in the morning and we were completely drunk and stoned off our asses. Instead of picking up chicks we’d just decided to go back to my place and chill.

“Shut the fuck up!” I shouted, for no reason at all other than we were sitting on my back porch and I could be as loud as I wanted.

Chris took a drag from his cigarette and looked up at the sky. “So what are you gonna do? Are you gonna go back and get it?”

“Fuck no! I’ll just buy another one.” Go back and get it? Was he insane? What would a new phone cost me, a couple hundred bucks? So worth it to not have to see the crazy poster fan again. “It’s not like she can call me with it… cause you know, she’s the one who’s got it!”

“It’s got all your numbers in it though. She could call your friends with it.”

I laughed. “Like she gives a shit about calling any of my friends. None of the numbers on there would interest her.”

Chris leaned over and looked at me with the most serious face I’d ever seen on him. “I can think of four numbers on there that probably would. Maybe even five if you have your brother on there, since he’s all famous now too. Come to think of it, Aaron’s Party is a really fucking dope CD. I’ve never told anyone that before, but I rock out to it a lot.”

I stopped listening to Chris as he rambled on about my brother and felt my face turn white. It was true, Kevin’s and the other guys numbers were in my phone. Would she call them? I wanted to say she didn’t seem like that much of a psycho, but I never like to give my fans that much credit. They can do some crazy shit.

I had to get my phone back.

“We have to get it,” I said sharply, cutting Chris off in the middle of his rendition of That’s How I Beat Shaq.

“Get what?”

“My phone! We have to go back there and get it!” I stood up and stomped out the cigarette I’d been smoking. “We can’t just let her keep it and have access to all Backstreet Boys all the time! Do you know how fucking dangerous that is?” I continued ranting and talking to myself as I walked inside and started looking for my car keys. Chris wasn’t even listening, he just stayed on the deck. “I mean, okay, no one really goes as crazy over the rest of them as they do with me but still, if she calls Kevin, he will flip out! You do not want Kevin to flip out! Aha!” I pumped my fists in the air when I found my keys sitting on the table by the front door.

I ran back to the porch to get Chris. “Let’s go!”

Chris rolled his eyes, but he got up and followed me to the driveway where my car was parked anyway. “Do you even remember where she lives?”

“She lives near a 7-11.”

“Well, that really narrows it down.”

I thought really hard as we got into the car and I pulled out of the driveway. “It’s the one with the really good cherry slushies!” I remembered. “I know because I had one after I left her place and it was awesome.”

“Yeah but Nick that house could be any house! Was it a big house? Was it a small house? What colour was it?” Chris stared out the window of the passenger’s side. He didn’t really seem all that interested in the quest to find my cell phone. Well, it wasn’t him who was going to get in shit!

“It was a small house,” I said, and tried to concentrate on my driving. I was pretty sure I’d already run two red lights. Not that it really mattered because it was two in the morning and there was no one else around. Still, I didn’t think it would be so good to get caught driving drunk. The press would have a field day with that one!

“There are a lot of small houses around here.”

“Yeah Chris, I realize that okay! Will you just shut up and try to be on the lookout for a 7-11 that sells cherry slushies!”

“You’re the one driving the car, Nick.”

Oh yeah. I guess I would have to be the one to find the 7-11. Which eventually I did, thank you very much! I pulled into the parking lot and stopped the car. Glancing around, I tried to figure out what direction I’d come from earlier that day.

“Well?” Chris asked, looking bored.

“I think it’s down that street,” I said, pointing past the 7-11 to a bunch of houses.

Chris didn’t say anything, and I started the car up again. I drove slowly down the street, trying to find anything that looked familiar. After a while, all the houses started to look the same, but eventually I ended up in front of the one I thought I’d left earlier.

I mean, I sort of remembered it having a really long sidewalk, but that could have just been my imagination. Either way I stopped the car and urged Chris to get out.

“No way, man,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m not going in there with you.”

What a douche. I left him in the car and walked up to the house. I didn’t think it would be such a good idea to ring the doorbell at, what, almost four in the morning? Holy shit it was getting late! Anyway, I remembered that she had a big window in her bedroom so I walked around the back until I found it.

I tried to peer in through the window, but I couldn’t get a very good view. I couldn’t see my phone anywhere, hell I could hardly see anything!

“Damn it,” I cursed to myself, pressing my hands up against the window. I froze as it made a really loud sound. I could just knock on the window, she’d wake up, and give me my phone back! It was the perfect plan.

Except that it wasn’t.

I knocked on the window until she woke up. Anyone walking by probably would have thought I was a crazy person. Who goes around knocking on girl’s windows? Creepy guys, that’s who!

“Nick?” she asked through the screen when she finally got up, holding her hand on her chest. “You terrified me! What are you doing?”

“I missed you,” I said, flashing her the stupidest grin I could come up with. “And I uh, lost your phone number…” I said sheepishly, for added effect.

It worked, ’cause I’m fucking awesome like that. “Oh,” she said quickly. “Well, do you want to come in? I’ll go around and let you in through the front.”

I thought about how I was going to have to leave Chris in the car. I also thought about how, for the sake of my phone, I was going to have to spend another night in creepy Backstreet Boys picture room.

“Yeah…okay…” I said slowly, and she ran out of the room. I sighed, hanging my head as I walked around the house.

That was when I noticed my car was gone. God fucking dammit! Chris better have taken it back to my house!

~~~

“Brian and Leighanne are flying in tomorrow, are they going to stay with you again?” I asked Kevin. The two of us were going over our meeting plans at my house that afternoon.

“I don’t know, I guess so,” he said, looking deep in thought. “You really want Nick to stay with you again?”

“I don’t mind,” I really didn’t. It was better he actually be here and stay with me that out in Florida doing God knows what. This upcoming weekend was going to be hard for all of us. The meeting wasn’t even going to be the worst part. Seeing AJ was, of course, going to be the most tough.

Kevin shrugged. “Okay.”

“So what are we going to do about the meeting?” I asked cautiously. “Our plan sort of failed.”

“Yeah.”

I sighed. “The bottom line is, we can’t really stop them from putting out a greatest hits album. If they want to, they’ll do it. We don’t have to really do any promotion for it, but if we don’t it’ll probably cause some bad blood with Jive, which is the last thing we want.” I looked down at the papers in my hand. “I mean, maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

“I guess not.”

I frowned, looking at Kevin. He was being unusually passive, and it was worrying me. I was sure he had a lot on his mind. That’s the thing about Kevin, he’s always so busy being the big brother of the group that he rarely lets on when he’s upset about something.

“Something, wrong, Kev?” I asked lightly.

“Just thinking about the meetings,” he responded.

I dropped it. I knew by ‘meetings’ he was talking more about visiting with AJ than visiting with Jive. I was about to speak up again when my cell phone rang. I peered down at it and looked at the name on the caller ID.

Well, it was about time! I was so happy to finally hear from him I didn’t even crack a joke when I answered. “Hello?”

“Hey, D,” Nick’s voice came through the other line. “Um, what’s up?”

“Just planning our meetings for this weekend. Did you get my messages? Are you going to be joining us? We’re also going to visit AJ on Sunday,” I spoke really fast, trying to get everything I had to say him to out before he hung up. Not that I thought he’d hang up on me or anything, but I guess I was just anxious.

“Oh…” he said. I didn’t know what he was doing, but it sounded like there was a lot of background noise. “Yeah, um, I guess. I didn’t know you were going to see AJ. Is he doing okay?”

Before I had a chance to respond, Kevin glanced at me. “Is that Nick?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Can I talk to him?”

“Howie?” I heard Nick say over the phone. “Is Kevin with you?”

“Yeah he’s here.”

“He wants to talk to me, doesn’t he?” Nick’s voice on the phone sounded small. I wondered what he’d done and how Kevin knew about it.

I glanced at Kevin oddly when Nick said that. Nick and Kevin had a weird relationship. A lot of times Kevin acted like an older and wiser brother to Nick, which is basically what he was. But sometimes, they became like a parent and a child. Usually that was when Nick screwed up.

I hated being in the middle of it, and usually tried to avoid that situation at all costs. But it couldn’t really be helped this time, since I was quite literally in between the two of them.

“Yeah, he does,” I said, and Nick didn’t respond. “I’ll put him on.”

~~~

Howie handed the phone to me and I don’t think I could have felt any more confused or worried than I already did if I’d tried. In between pretty much admitting defeat against the label, thinking about our meeting with AJ and Nick finally contacting us, it was shaping up to be a very tiring and stressful afternoon.

“So you got your phone back, I see.”

“Uh, yeah, I left it at that girl’s house. I checked the call logs, she didn’t call any of you guys though. So that’s good, right? Hopefully she won’t give your numbers to all of her friends,” he laughed.

Leave it to Nick to forget his phone in the worst place possible. “Why would she want to give out our numbers to her friends?”

Nick didn’t say anything for a second, and I could hear some rustling in the background. “What are you doing?” I asked, knowing he wasn’t going to give me an answer to my first question.

“Walking home. I don’t have my car…”

“Don’t tell me this girl has your car too,” I said, only half jokingly.

“No. Chris has it, and I think he took it back to my place but I was trying to get my phone back last night and I was kinda drunk and I didn’t remember where this girl lived and look Kev, it’s all good, okay? No need to worry!”

I could practically hear him grin stupidly through the phone. I sighed. Nick acting like a drunken brat was not what I needed to deal with right now. We had too many other important things coming up that didn’t even compare to his bullshit. “So you drove drunk to retrieve your lost phone at some fan’s place. Left your car, some random guy now has your car, and I’m assuming also the keys to your house?”

“…yes.”

“Nick!”

“What?”

I sighed and tried to keep myself from going off on him, especially since I’d been so worried about him for the past few days. That was usually how it happened with Nick though, he’d do something stupid to cause me worry and then I’d flip out at him because he just couldn’t see how what he’d done affected others around him. It took everything I had to not ask him if he a complete idiot. The only reason I didn’t was because I already knew the answer. “Do you really think any of that was a good idea?”

“No, but I couldn’t exactly help it! It all just sort of happened. You know, shit happens. Some of it was a mistake and I’m sorry, jeez.”

The fact that he’d obviously been out in Florida not giving a shit about anything to do with the group or his responsibilities was driving me insane. I know that I’d been trying my best, as had Howie and Brian, to come up with something to present to the record company. We’d all been unable to write much of anything, but at least we’d been putting forth the effort. Nick didn’t seem like he could care less.

“Have you written anything to present to Jive on Friday?” I asked, ignoring his excuses.

He hesitated. “Um, well I’ve been really busy out here.”

I scoffed. “Yeah, it sounds like you’ve been really busy.”

“I have been!” he defended himself. “Look Kevin, I’ve been really stressed out and I don’t need you going all parental on me and shit. Just because you guys have nothing better to do than sit around and write songs all day long doesn’t mean I need to do the same thing. And I get that we don’t want to do a greatest hits album, and I’m sorry but you know what? It probably doesn’t even matter what we do because you know that Jive will just get their way anyway. So why should I waste time busting my ass when I could be having fun on my vacation?”

“It’s not supposed to be a vacation, Nick. If AJ hadn’t gone to rehab we’d still be on tour right now.” I glanced over at Howie, who just shrugged. I knew he didn’t like getting in the middle of my arguments with Nick, and I felt bad about doing this in front of him, on his phone no less, but I couldn’t help it. Sometimes that kid filled me with rage.

“Yeah, and if we’d been on tour we wouldn’t be doing any writing anyway, so…yeah,” he said, not really finishing his point.

I put my head in my hands. “Look, Nick. All of us were really worried about you. We called and called, and you never called any of us back. We didn’t know what to think or if you were even going to show up to the meeting on Friday.”

I could hear him getting frustrated through the phone. These sorts of talks were a lot easier in person. Probably because I’d see the look on his face and feel sorry for him. Then I’d go easier on him. This time, since I couldn’t hear any sort of remorse I didn’t really care that I was being overly harsh on him.

“I don’t even get why I need to come to this stupid meeting on Friday,” he grumbled.

“Because we were going to present a unified front to Jive.”

“I’m sure it won’t make a difference,” he said. I didn’t understand where his attitude was coming from. Last time we’d talked about this, he’d been more than happy about our plan with the record company. Now, it seemed like he wanted to do anything but.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “We all agreed to go and we’re all going. End of story.”

“Oh, sorry Kevin. I didn’t realize that you were my boss. I thought we were all having a unified front and that we were all on equal ground, but I guess it’s really what you say goes, isn’t it? Because we’re all just so worried about poor Nick down in Florida, fucking everything up as usual. Because I guess with AJ out of the picture there’s no one else to blame all the group problems on.”

“Don’t go blaming AJ for any of this,” I nearly yelled, and Howie jumped. “He’s not the one who’s down in Florida acting like a complete drunken mess.”

“No, he did it when we were out on tour,” he said lowly. “And you never gave him half the shit you’re giving me right now.”

I didn’t even know how this became about AJ. “Of course I did. Just because you weren’t around to see it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We’re not even talking about AJ right now, we’re talking about you and how you better get your blonde ass to LA by Friday.”

“You know what Kevin? No. I don’t have to take this bullshit from you. Isn’t that what you always say to me? That I need an attitude adjustment? Well, maybe, just maybe it’s not me. Maybe you need to respect me more as an equal member of the group. I’ll show up if I damn well please, and I was gonna, but what’s the point if you’re just going to be watching me like a hawk the whole time making sure I don’t fuck up? Forget it.”

And the he hung up.

I looked down at the phone in shock for a second before passing it back to Howie. Nick and I had argued before, but never quite like that. Usually he would own up to the fact that he’d been acting bratty. But that was different, and it sort of terrified me. That wasn’t the kind of path I wanted him to go down, especially after we’d all just experienced the same downward spiral with AJ.

“Is he okay?” Howie asked cautiously.

“He’s fine,” I replied, looking back down at the papers on the table. “He’s not coming with us to the meeting.”

“I’ll call him back later,” Howie said, looking sympathetic.

I sighed heavily. “Hopefully he’ll pick up the phone this time.”

~~~

“Ready for a big day of travelling tomorrow?” Leighanne asked as we got ready for bed that night.

I laughed. “I wouldn’t exactly call it a big day of travelling. More like a plane ride and then sitting down with the rest of the guys figuring out exactly what we’re going to say to Jive.”

She nodded as she turned down the covers and climbed into our bed. “What are you going to say to Jive?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, laying down next to her. “Probably not much. I only talked to Kevin for a couple of minutes, he didn’t seem to want to stay on the phone for very long. He just made sure we were still staying with him and Kris and that was it.”

“It’s going to be an interesting weekend,” she mused. “Are you nervous?”

About the record company meeting? Not at all. I already knew how that was going to go down. We were going to tell them we didn’t want to do the greatest hits, and they were basically going to throw a ton of business jargon at us until we agreed to it.

Going to see AJ? Yeah, I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect or even what I would say to him. It was weird, but I almost felt awkward about it. I’d known him for nearly ten years, and I’d definitely seen him at his worst, but what would I say to him now that he was on the path to recovery. Of course I’d tell him that I loved him and that I was glad he was doing better, but would that really be enough?

I guess I’d just have to cross that bridge when I came to it.

“Yes,” I answered her question. “Mostly about seeing AJ, though.”

“I know, that’s going to be so tough for you guys. You all left that tour on such a bad note, and you probably don’t know what to expect from your visit with him. Hopefully once you see that he’s doing much better you won’t feel so nervous about it. It’ll be fine once you guys are in the same room together.”

“I hope so,” I said. That was why I loved Leighanne. She was always able to put things into perspective for me.

“Trust me,” she smiled. “The five of you in the same room will be fine. Everything will go back to the way it was.” She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek before closing her eyes.

I knew she’d meant well by telling me everything would go back to the same, but I couldn’t stop hearing those words in my head over and over again. More albums, more promo, more touring and more record company headaches. The very thought of it all just made me tired.

I just had to trust that once we saw AJ and the five of us were together again, that our group dynamic would be fixed and that I wouldn’t feel so drained anymore. That was a lot riding on one visit, and I knew that it was sort of unrealistic, but maybe seeing AJ with a new attitude would give all of us a new one as well.

I could only hope.

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