Running Up That Hill – Day 33

You’re stuck in a riddle
You’re wrapped in a mystery
You’re caught in the middle
Between your dreams and reality

-Morgan Cameron Ross ‘Johnny’

Howie had a pretty nice setup in his house. He didn’t have a Playstation or anything like that, but his TV was nice and he had about a million channels.

I sort of wondered what he needed them for, because I didn’t think I’d ever seen him watch TV. Except for that one time I’d caught him watching TRL. Fuck, I needed to remind myself to make fun of him for that. Maybe that’s what he was always doing on his phone; calling in votes to MTV. Ha!

He still didn’t have anything interesting to watch though, even with all those channels he had. But that was okay, channel surfing gave me something to think about while I tried to ignore the fact that my mother was going to be in LA that afternoon and probably trying to get ahold of me.

Speak of the fucking devil. My cell phone started ringing and the call display lit up with the word, ‘Mom.’

I rolled my eyes, but if I didn’t answer it I knew she’d just keep calling. What the hell did she want? I’d already told her that I was going to perform with Aaron at whatever Nickelodeon thing he was doing. Kid’s Choice? Teen Choice? Can’t they all choose together? It’d make my life a hell of a lot easier.

“Hi,” I said shortly, suddenly very interested in the rerun of Seinfeld that was playing on the TV.

“Hi Nick, Aaron and I just got to our hotel in LA.”

And you think I care why? “How was your trip?” I asked, because I knew she didn’t care about talking to me, she only wanted to talk about herself.

“It was nice, the flight was a little bit bumpy but it wasn’t too bad.”

“That’s good.”

There was a weird silence but it didn’t really bother me. It’s not like my mom and I had a lot to talk about despite the two of us being in the same industry. How the hell were we in the same industry anyway? She can’t carry a note.

But she can carry a kid, and I guess that’s the same thing.

“Aaron and I were wondering if you wanted to go out to lunch with us.”

Oh, so that’s what she wanted. To get papped. No fucking way I was going to go sit through lunch with her while my brother sat there with that dazed on his face. “I’m busy,” I said shortly.

“Doing what?” she asked with annoyance. Oh come on, Mom. I normally wouldn’t have been so concerned with making up a story, but since I was going to have to deal with her for the rest of the weekend, I really didn’t need to get any more bullshit.

“Uh,” I said dumbly, looking around. Howie was walking down the stairs and glancing at his phone. “Howie,” I said, and he looked at me. I shook my head because I hadn’t been trying to get his attention, but trying to get my mother off my back. “Yeah, Howie,” I said again, realizing how perfect that was. My mom didn’t get along with Howie and Kevin, so she wouldn’t argue with me. “We’re going out to lunch. Sorry. Got band stuff to do.”

My mom sighed loudly but like I said, she didn’t argue. I should have name-dropped Kevin instead! Then she’d probably be off the phone already. “Fine,” she said. “See you tomorrow. And don’t be late!”

Then she hung up. I rolled my eyes and put my phone in my pocket. Stupid mom. Maybe I’d be late on purpose tomorrow just to piss her off.

“What’s this about lunch with Howie?” Howie asked, grinning at me like he knew he’d caught me in a lie.

“Nothing,” I said, going back to flipping the channels because I was sick of that bubble boy episode of Seinfeld. I’ve probably seen it about a million times. Every time I turn on Seinfeld it’s that episode. Sometimes I wonder if they ever produced other episodes of that show.

“Nick!”

“Huh?”

Howie rolled his eyes. Oops, I must have spaced out. “I said, do you actually want to come to lunch with me? Because I’m going with Leigh for sushi.”

I could deal with Sushi. Not that I wanted to be the third wheel on Howie’s date, but it was better than sitting around the house watching boring shit on TV.

~~~

I hadn’t actually expected Nick to agree to come to lunch with Leigh and I. I had just offered to be polite, not that I didn’t want him to come, but I didn’t have a lot of time left with Leigh before we went on tour. I don’t even know why I’d offered, but I figured he would have just brushed me off!

But of course the one time I do that is the one time that he decides to be sociable.

“So,” Nick said, stuffing a roll into his mouth. He doesn’t even bother with chopsticks, by the way. He just picks up the pieces, dips them in this sludgy wasabi and soy sauce concoction that he perfects the whole time you’re waiting for you food and drops them into his mouth. It’s really disgusting to watch.

Why did I invite him again?

“Is he really a Latin lover?” Nick asked, raising his eyebrows and looking at Leigh.

Ugh.

Leigh just burst out laughing, because Nick looked completely ridiculous with his quizzical expression and rice hanging out of his mouth.

“What?! I’m just trying to make conversation,” he protested.

“He’s very sweet,” Leigh said, sort of answering his question. I just stayed quiet because what the hell was I going to say?

“Yeah, Howie’s a ladies man,” Nick laughed, winking at me. “He obviously learned from the master,” he said, pointing to himself.

It was my turn to burst out laughing. “What?”

Nick shrugged. “You know. Chicks, and how I’m awesome with them.”

“Nick, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you legitimately court a girl.”

“I have!” he protested “I dated Mandy.”

“Okay,” I laughed. “Dated.”

He just smirked and went back to eating his food with a smug look on his face that told me he was obviously proud of his relationship with Mandy that could hardly have been classified as a relationship at all.

But that was fine. Nick could do what he wanted, I didn’t really care. After all, he was only twenty-one and it was better that he was out to lunch with me than moping around the house feeling sorry for himself and then going out and being self destructive in a club somewhere.

If he wanted to go out and be a complete womanizer I couldn’t really care less, just as long as he was smart about it. Which he usually wasn’t, but it wasn’t like he was going to listen to me. And discussing it with him over sushi with my girlfriend sitting right there probably wasn’t the best idea.

“Yeah anyway,” I said, changing the subject a little. “What’re you doing this weekend?”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Performing in some lame awards show with my brother.”

Oh, that was why he was here having sushi with me. Because his brother and likely his mother were in town and he was avoiding them. That was also probably the reason he wasn’t out being a manwhore, because whether he liked to admit it or not, he was craving some family time.

And apparently family time meant having sushi with Leigh and I. But suddenly I wasn’t so annoyed by his presence any longer.

“Sounds like fun,” I smiled.

Nick just shrugged. “Yeah, whatever. At least I’ll be performing something.”

I sighed and looked down at my food. So much for thinking he was doing a little better.

~~~

Kentucky always had a different smell. I can’t explain it, but as soon as I set foot outside of the airport and take that first breath of air, I know I’m home. It’s not the feeling of coming home and feeling like you never want to leave, like I feel when I’m in Atlanta, but the feeling of childhood and nostalgia.

Which is just as good, but it’s a fleeting feeling that’s wonderful for a week. After that you’re ready to go back to reality. That’s why I was glad we were only staying for the weekend. It was long enough to get a good visit in, but short enough to still feel good about the place when I left.

I parked the rental car in front of my parents driveway and gave Leighanne a small smile. I knew she liked visiting my family, and it definitely showed because she was in a good mood the entire day. Usually she hates early flights, but that morning she’d been all smiles.

I took her hand as we walked up the sidewalk and opened the door to their house without bothering to ring the bell. My parents had a habit of never locking their door, and it had always made me unsettled. Even when I was a child, I’d hated that and had always locked the door on my own. Now it was even worse, because who knows what sort of crazy person would just decide to walk into their house.

“Hello!” I said to the seemingly empty house. No one was in the living room, but the TV was on so someone had to have been home.

“Brian!” my mother shrieked, walking in briskly from the kitchen. “You’re here!”

“Yeah,” I smiled as she pulled me in for a hug. “Good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too,” she said, pulling away from me and hugging Leighanne. “Did you have a nice flight?”

I shrugged. Is any flight ever nice? “Yeah.”

“Good, good,” she said, looking back over her shoulder into the kitchen. “Have a seat, make yourselves at home. Do you want a drink? There’s coke in the fridge I think, I’ll get you some.”

I nearly laughed at how hospitable she was trying to be. “Sure, thanks,” I said.

“What do you have going on in the kitchen?” Leighanne asked her, because it was clear she was a little bit bustled.

“Oh,” she said, “I’m just making some food to take over to Ann’s tonight.”

Wait, what? Since when were we going Ann’s house for dinner? Although I guess I should have expected that, since Kevin was in town and all. “What?”

“Yeah,” she said as she walked back into the kitchen with Leighanne and I following her. “We thought it’d be nice since we rarely get to see everyone at the same time.”

I wondered what Kevin thought about all of this. Probably close to what I did.

“That’ll be fun,” Leighanne said, walking over to the stove and helping my mom out with whatever she was cooking.

“I think so,” she said, looking up and smiling at me. I forced a smile on my face and nodded.

I hoped so.

~~~

I always got roped into setting the table whenever we had big family dinners. Not that I minded, but it just seemed funny to me that it remained my chore through all the years that had gone by.

I heard the front door open, and right away there was a rush of greetings and laughter. Which could only mean one thing. Brian and Leighanne, along with the rest of the Littrells, had arrived.

Hopefully it wouldn’t be so bad. But naturally I always needed to worry about something, and this was the problem of the day.

“Relax, Kevin,” Kristin said to me, giving me a warm smile as she walked in front the kitchen, holding a dish of some kind of food and setting it down on the table. “It’s not a big deal.”

I was well aware of that, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t a small deal either. “Yeah, I know.”

She kept walking back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room, setting food down as she went. It didn’t take long before everyone was piling in, taking their usual seats at the table. Brian, Leighanne, Kris and I were all on one end, of course, being the youngest of both our families.

“So,” I said to Brian, raising my eyebrow a little once we were done praying and the food started getting passed around. “How was your flight?” I knew it was a stupid question, because how is any flight? They’re usually boring, and we’d been on enough of them to know that.

“It was nice,” he said, and the two of us smirked a little at our obvious attempt to make small talk.

“How long are you staying for?” I asked him, even though I was sure my mom had already told me.

“We’re leaving on Monday,” he said, scooping some mashed potatoes onto his plate. He passed the bowl over to me and I grabbed it, happy to have something to do with my hands. Where was the rest of the food? Oh, over at the other end of the table. Being on the tail end meant we were usually forgotten about.

But that was fine with me. Sometimes it was nice not to be the centre of attention. Even though the whole purpose of this dinner was to get everyone together. But that was what was great about coming home – it wasn’t just about us. We were a part of the family like everyone else.

Sometimes I forgot how much I missed that.

“Yeah, we’re leaving on Monday too,” I said, looking at him. “You gonna stay in LA for a bit?”

Brian shook his head. “No, we need to be getting back to Atlanta.”

I wasn’t sure what he needed to be getting back to Atlanta for exactly, but I let it slide. We didn’t have a lot of time left on our break, so he probably wanted to make the most of his time at home.

“Yeah,” I said, nodding. “But maybe it’d be nice for you to go visit AJ in the transitional care centre before going back to Atlanta.”

So much for letting it slide.

He gave me a bit of a look, but I didn’t care. Hell, even Nick had apparently gone to visit AJ, as Howie had told me so excitedly over the phone. Even though Brian had gone to visit him in Arizona, AJ would probably appreciate seeing him again.

“Maybe,” Brian shrugged, suddenly very interested in his food.

I sighed, turning to talk to my brother. It was obvious that Brian and I weren’t going to be going back to normal any time soon.

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