Running Up That Hill – Day 31

Folks know
If you’re falling on hard times
You can fall back home

-Alabama ‘Down Home’

The plane began its slow decent into Louisville as I peered out the window. The flight wasn’t an overly long one from LA, but it always felt like it. As soon as the plane was in the air, I was always anxious for it to land so I could get home and see my family.

“Are you excited?” Kristin asked, looking over at me with a warm smile.

You know, I really was. Once the plane had taken off, it was like I’d left all of my worries behind in LA. I’d seen AJ, and affirmed my faith that he was doing just fine since being in rehab.

Nick, obviously, was still a complete mess for lack of a better term, but me being in LA wouldn’t change that. Besides, he’d be with Howie. And as my wife had so eloquently put it, I really needed to get away and take some time for myself. This break had given all of us a chance to get back in touch with ourselves and our families, and so far I was the only one who hadn’t really done that.

Well, Brian hadn’t gone home to Kentucky either, but every day I got the feeling that he felt more and more like Atlanta was his true home. Which was fine, everyone grows up differently.

“Kevin?”

“Oh,” I had zoned out a little bit there. We weren’t even on the ground in Kentucky yet and already I was beginning to regress into my younger brother role. But that was alright. It would be nice to be the Kevin who everyone looked out for once in a while instead of the Kevin who looked out for everyone.

“Yeah, I’m really excited,” I smiled, putting my hand on her knee and squeezing it affectionately. “It’ll be nice to see everyone.”

“I was on the phone with your mom last night,” Kris said, leaning over to peer out the window. She’d always loved being in-flight. Guess it was a good thing she’d married me then – she gets to do a lot of it. “She’s a little bit worried about you, and she’s glad you’re coming home for a bit.”

I chuckled to myself slightly. My mother hadn’t allowed us to get our own hotel and had insisted that we stay with her. She was always babying me, and after the month I’d had, I couldn’t say I minded too much. “Oh yeah?” I asked Kris.

“Yeah, she thinks you’re taking the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

My mother knows me so well.

“Good thing I’m taking some time to relax then, huh?” I winked at Kris.

She only laughed. “Yeah, it is.”

She leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes as the plane rolled onto the runway.

Even though it was a bit of a bumpy landing, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm.

~~~

“You are too sweet for your own good,” Leigh smiled at me as the two of us sat over a picnic lunch I’d packed for her. I’d come to visit her at work, and we’d gone to sit out on the courtyard near her office.

It was a nice sunny day, and I was determined to enjoy as many of them as I could while I still had some time left in LA and before I had to leave to go back on tour again. I was looking forward to that part, but leaving Leigh? Definitely not. Our relationship was still far too new for me to even consider asking her to come with me.

Having a relationship with a profession like ours was tough. I felt like I was forgetting that tiny little aspect while I’d been courting Leigh over this unexpected break.

“Thanks,” I said with a smile, and popped a grape into my mouth. I just watched her as she sat there in the sunlight, radiant as ever.

“So…” she said, trailing off. “When are you guys going back out on the road?”

I paused. It wasn’t like I had to think about it – I already had the date ingrained in my head. I just didn’t quite want to say it out loud to her. It would make the fact that I was eventually leaving again seem all too real. “August 24th,” I said, “in Milwaukee.”

She just nodded. “So a couple weeks away still.”

“We’ve still got time,” I assured her. “Plus once I go I can still call you. I do have the technology for that,” I grinned.

She just laughed. “You’re a dork.”

But I was a cute dork. She didn’t have to say it, I knew. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s charming the ladies! They don’t call me Sweet D for nothing!

Actually no one really calls me that anymore, but still.

“Are you guys all ready to go back on tour?” she asked, not really changing the topic like I wanted her to.

No, we weren’t nearly ready to go back on tour. Not as a unit, anyway. As the days went by, it seemed like we were all growing further and further apart as we got closer and closer to being back on the road. It wasn’t exactly a great situation for a vocal group who prides themselves on being brotherly.

But I suppose brothers don’t always get along.

I shrugged a little. “Not really.”

“Are you going to do some rehearsals beforehand, or just jump right back into it?”

I figured we probably should do a couple of rehearsals, but to be honest I didn’t know if we actually would. “It’d be nice if we could at least run through the show once, but who knows if we’ll have the time.”

She smiled at me sympathetically. I think she knew what I was getting at even if I wasn’t outright saying it.

“I think you guys’ll be fine,” she smiled at me, taking a sip of her bottle of coke.

I wished I could have had that much confidence in us.

~~~

I held the phone away from my ear and put my head in my hand.

“You guys are going to have to do a rehearsal.”

Yes, I’m aware of that.

“The entire country will be watching you.”

I know. Well actually, not really. Maybe all the kids in the country. And let’s be honest, they didn’t really give a shit how well we sang. It’s not like they would notice.

“Are you even listening to me, Nickloas?”

Not really. “Huh?”

I knew that was going to piss her off. And I was right. I heard her sigh over the phone. She’d already called twice, and I’d been asleep. I had only picked up the third time because I’d figured listening to her would be better than listening to my fucking phone ring all day.

Turns out, I was wrong. Talking to my mother on the phone was my version of hell. Well, anyone’s version of hell, really. How Aaron puts up with her as his manager, I’ll never know. No wonder he smokes a shit ton of weed.

“Nick,” she said sweetly. Oh here we go. Turning on the charm after she got pissed off. That’s how I knew she wanted something from me. And that thing she wanted from me was for Aaron’s performance to go perfectly. Because if he fucked it up I guess she’d lose her cash cow. And no one wanted that.

Thank fucking God I was twenty-one years old and could make my own financial decisions. I was sick of her bullshit.

“Yes, mom?” I asked, plastering that fake grin on my face I was so good at. She couldn’t see it, but it helped me keep my my charade. We were both faking it over the phone, and we both knew it. God, my family is fucked up.

“I just want you guys to be successful,” she pleaded, with that fake mom-tone of hers. Yeah, successful for her sake, not ours. Mom needed another new Ferrari.

I just needed a mom, but I guess we can’t all have what we want.

“Yeah, I know.”

“So, will you do a rehearsal with Aaron the day before? To make sure everything goes smoothly?”

I sighed. Yeah, I was going to do it. Not for her, but for my brother so he wouldn’t have to deal with her bitching about me, or being stressed that it was going to be a shitty performance. I guess the last thing I wanted was for the world to watch it and laugh.

“Yeah, I will.”

I could almost hear her beaming over the phone. Once again, she’d gotten her fucking way. “Good, we’ll be in the city on the tenth.”

Great, I won’t see you until the rehearsal though! I wasn’t about to keep up any sort of facade about the fact that we’re this great family that visits and is happy to see each other just for the sake of it. I knew what this was.

“Okay, sounds good.”

And then she hung up without saying goodbye. Whatever, I was happy just to be off the phone with her.

~~~

“How’re you doing, baby duck?”

I smiled into the phone receiver. I hadn’t talked to my mom in a little while, but I was always happy to hear from her. “Good,” I said positively. “Really good.”

“I know this was an unexpected break, but are you two enjoying your time off?”

“Yeah, we really are.” It wasn’t a lie, and I didn’t feel bad about it either. We had this time off for AJ to better himself, I might as well use it for the same reason. There was no use in moping around and being depressed about the fact that we weren’t on tour.

“That’s good,” she paused. “So, why don’t you come home for a little bit before you’ve got to go back onto the road?”

Ah, the catch. I knew there was a reason that she’d called! Not that she needed a reason to call, but, well, you know how moms are.

“I don’t know,” I said honestly. I sort of wanted to stay in Atlanta.

“You know, Kevin and Kristin are going to be here for a few days.”

What? Kevin hadn’t told me that. Although I guess that made sense, he and I hadn’t spoken very much as of late. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to use that as incentive for me to come down, but it wasn’t exactly going to work. I was on break and needed time away from the group… and that included Kevin.

“Oh, really? He didn’t tell me that.”

“I think it was just a spur of the moment type of thing,” she said warmly. “But it was so nice to see him. We had a big family dinner. You two should come down. You hardly ever get this type of opportunity, and we’d all love to see you.”

I guess I couldn’t say no to that, but I’d still have to talk it over with Leighanne and see what she thought.

“We’ll see, ma,” I smiled. The more I thought about it, the more I sort of did want to go visit my family. At least for a couple of days.

“Well, talk it over with Leighanne and let me know.”

“I will,” I said honestly.

“I’ll talk to you later, baby duck,” she said. “Oh and Brian?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

I grinned. Amidst all the chaos that was happening in my life, I could always count on my family. “I love you too, ma.”

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