Running Up That Hill – Day 6

“I need to be myself
I can’t be no one else
I’m feeling supersonic
Give me gin and tonic
You can have it all but how much do you want it?”

-Oasis ‘Supersonic’

“Hey Nick, it’s Howie. I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for the last couple of days but I guess you haven’t been around your phone. Give me a call back when you get this – the four of us are going to be meeting up in LA on Monday to discuss some record company stuff… uh, bye.”

I sighed to myself as I hung up the phone. After trying and failing to get a hold of Nick for the past day I finally gave in and decided to leave him a message on his cell. Even though he rarely returned them.. in fact, I’m not even sure he listens to the messages. For all I know they could be piled up from when he got the phone. It wouldn’t surprise me.

I stared at the phone, trying to will it to ring. To my surprise, it actually worked.

“Hey Nick.”

The person on the other end laughed. It wasn’t Nick. I should probably invest in caller ID. “No Howie, this is Leigh. Expecting another call, I take it?”

Oops. “Sorry about that. I’ve been trying to get in touch with him since yesterday.”

“That’s okay. I was just wondering if you wanted to get together for lunch again sometime soon. I had a nice time on Thursday.”

So did I. I had a feeling I would need the distraction after the meeting with the others on the weekend. “I did too. I have kind of a busy next couple of days, but Tuesday works for me.”

“That works for me too,” she said.

“I’ll give you a call closer to then and we can work out the details.”

“Sounds good… and again I’m sorry I wasn’t Nick.” I could practically hear her grinning through the phone. Leigh had a very calming presence about her. She was really good to talk to.

I laughed. “Believe me, it’s fine.”

~~~

“I hate band meetings like this,” I said. Meetings that were just the five of us (well, I guess four for now) usually meant that the record company was trying to screw us.

“It’ll be fine, Kevin. I’m sure it’s nothing that bad. It probably just has to do with what you guys will be doing while AJ is in rehab,” Kristin said, offering me a small smile.

“It hope that’s all it is,” I paused, thinking back to the conversation I’d had with Howie the day before. He sounded too concerned on the phone for it to be something as trivial as that. Obviously I knew Howie pretty well, and he didn’t get worried unless there was a legitimate reason to. He was usually the person to put things into perspective.

“I’m sure it is,” Kris was always good at reassuring me. “I mean, he’d need to talk to you guys about that, right? He can’t just go accepting promo stuff without talking to you guys first.”

“We could have just done a conference call for that.”

Kristin rolled her eyes. I think she could tell I was just being difficult. “You could. Except Brian really wanted to come and do it in person.”

Yeah, that was still weird. Kris was right, it hadn’t been Howie who said that we absolutely needed to get together. Brian was the one who had jumped at the idea.

“Speaking of which,” she continued, interrupting my thoughts. “Do you know what time they’re getting in on Monday?”

“I don’t even know if they’ve booked a flight yet… and do they really need to stay with us? I’m sure they can afford a hotel room.” That was also weird. Kristin had practically insisted that Brian and Leighanne stay at our place while they were in town for a night. Was that really necessary?

She gave me a weird look. “He’s your cousin.”

“I’m aware.”

She shook her head. “It’s fine that he stays here. And what about Nick? You’re not just going to expect him to go to a hotel, are you?”

“No, I was actually hoping we’d have a slumber party,” I said coolly. Why couldn’t we just have done a conference call? “Why not invite Howie too?”

Kristin wasn’t accepting my attitude. That was probably a good thing, I wasn’t in the greatest mood which was usual when I knew we had a problem with the record company hanging over our heads. Why did that happen so often? “You should invite Nick to stay with us. Better than him staying in a hotel alone, don’t you think?”

Again, she was right. I was about to respond when my phone rang.

“Speak of the devil,” I muttered as I answered my phone. “Hi Howie.”

“Hey, we’re all still on for Monday, right?”

“As far as I know.”

“Good… I’m still waiting on an answer from Nick though.”

That was a little strange, usually Nick was jumping at the chance to do group stuff. “He doesn’t want to come to LA or what?”

“I have no idea, I haven’t even managed to get a hold of him.”

That part wasn’t as strange. You’d think Nick had never heard of voicemail. “I’m sure you will. Let me know when you do, Kris wants him to stay here.”

“Oh no, you guys don’t have to do that. Nick can stay with me,” he said quickly. That worked for me!

“If he ever calls you back,” I laughed. Conversations with Howie always tended to cheer me up.

~~~

I put my hands in my pockets as Chris and I stood outside the bar. My hands didn’t even quite fit inside them nicely. These jeans were really tight, I was wearing three shirts and my hair was freshly coloured. It’s not like I’m not used to being pampered and dressed up, but I was definitely not used to my guy friends being the ones to force me into it. Chris was turning me into a metro-sexual. I still didn’t think this was necessary for me to pick up girls.

It was the middle of the summer, but for some reason I felt like it should be colder outside. Hell, I sort of wished it was winter and that there was snow. Maybe that was because the cold air on my face would have felt nice after spending hours drinking inside of a crowded club… with uncomfortable clothes.

“You want a drag?” Chris interrupted my thoughts as he went to hand me his cigarette.

I shook my head. “No thanks. I don’t.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “Whatever man. The smoke is a nice break after all the alcohol.”

I sighed. I wasn’t feeling great that night. Maybe I just needed to drink more, or maybe I was still hungover from the night before. I didn’t know what it was, but the only reason I was even there was because Chris insisted we couldn’t skip out on a Saturday night.

“On second thought, give me one of those,” I said, changing my mind. Maybe that was what I needed to relax. Chris looked relaxed. Then again, that guy always looked relaxed.

He nodded and handed me a fresh cigarette from the pack. My mind was in another place as I lit up and I suddenly became very paranoid that I was being watched. Which I probably was. I looked around to see if anyone was paying attention to me.

“Lighten up, Nick,” he said, breathing out the smoke that filled his lungs. I pretended that it was cold outside and that I could see his breath. “No one cares that you’re standing outside smoking. Everyone else out here is doing the same thing.”

He wasn’t wrong about that. We both stood quietly for a minute, looking up at the sky and at the people around us. Chris finished his smoke and dropped it on the ground, stomping it out with his foot.

“Back inside?” He asked, turning around to go back up the steps that led into the club.

I pointed to my half finished cigarette. “In a minute. I’ll meet you in there.”

“Cool,” he said, and disappeared.

Realizing I was left alone, I quickly pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. Hoping that would deter anyone from approaching me, I turned it on. I couldn’t even remember the last time it had been.

Within moments a message appeared on the screen letting me know that I had five new voice messages. I was used to this, and I rarely ever checked them. But I was feeling bored, and needed to do something on my phone.

One message from a fan who somehow managed to get my number. Delete. Two messages from Aaron. He would call back. Another message from a fan. I actually listened to that one the entire way through, and it turned out she was asking me for relationship advice. Deleting that and changing my number!

The last message was from Howie, something about how we were all meeting up in LA on Monday. I almost put my phone back in my pocket, but thought better of it and dialed Howie’s number.

“Hello?” He answered the phone quickly. I bet he’d been sitting next to it waiting for me to call.

“Hello Howard.”

“Nicky! It’s about time. Do you ever check your messages?”

Not unless I’m bored, kinda drunk and having a smoke break. “Hey, I checked them. I’m calling you back, aren’t I?”

“After I called you about ten times,” he pointed out.

“I’m still calling you back! You should be honoured. What’s this about a meeting in LA?” I changed the subject before this turned into a debate about how often I called people. Howie and Kevin were so picky about that!

“Yeah, Brian is coming in on Monday and we’re going to discuss the meeting I had the other day with the label.”

I thought about that for a second. “Is it really important?” I asked. I guess it must have been since Brian was flying into LA. Usually you had to pry that guy from Atlanta with the jaws of life.

“It’d be nice for you to be there, and yes it’s somewhat important. You can even stay at my place if you want.”

A sleepover with Howie? I’m so there. I started thinking about all the stuff I could do to him in his own house. Shrink wrap on the toilet was always a classic. “Sure. Hotels suck.”

“Yeah they do. Just one condition,” he said sternly. Well, as sternly as Howie could sound, anyway.

“What’s that?” I asked, letting my finished cigarette fall to the ground. I watched it die out for a couple of seconds before squishing it under my foot.

“No practical jokes.”

God dammit, he knew me too well.

~~~

I closed my eyes and tried to fall asleep. After I had fallen asleep on the couch the night before Leighanne practically had to force me upstairs to go to bed. I couldn’t really blame her, my sleeping habits were still weird, and I wasn’t looking forward to another infomercial anyway.

“Hey Brian,” Leighanne said softly. Weren’t we supposed to be here to sleep?

“Yeah?” I answered, not opening my eyes. She wanted to have a long conversation about our feelings, I could tell.

“Do you ever think about the future?”

What kind of question was that? Were were seventeen years old now? “No… I’ve been pretty focused on the present right now, Leigh.”

“You never think about it?” she pressed, and finally I rolled over to face her. “Not even a little?”

I sighed. Of course I had thought about the future. Excuse me for being focused on the fact that AJ was gone, we had to have a band meeting without him and our fans were left with tickets to concerts with uncertain dates. “I didn’t mean it like that, Leigh. I’ve just had a lot of things going on in my head right now.”

“I know… but I was just thinking, with this time off and all…” she trailed off, and I think she expected me to read her mind.

“This time off is just temporary,” I reminded her, and myself. It had been nearly a week, and in three more everything was going to go back to normal.

“Right,” she said, looking worried. “I know that, but I was just thinking about how maybe now was as good a time as any to start maybe thinking about expanding our family…”

I didn’t say anything for a couple of seconds. I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind before, and even multiple times. Especially right before Leigh and I had gotten married, we’d had a long talk about kids and the future and all that stuff. But that seemed so far away, and it really didn’t seem feasible with what our schedule was like.

“I don’t know, Leigh,” I replied. “In a few weeks we are going to be back on the road, and then recording a new album, and then all of the promo and touring will start again.”

“I know, I just thought you guys might be slowing it down. I mean you stopped the tour for AJ’s rehab.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Did she expect us to decide to have a child and then all of a sudden ask the group to take a year off? “That isn’t the same. AJ really needs the help, and you know that this is the first time we’ve ever stopped in our tracks.”

“Believe me Brian, I know it is,” she snapped, and I knew that she was thinking about my heart surgery a few years back. “I just wanted you to think about it. We can’t put our lives on hold forever.”

“I didn’t say we had to, but there are some sacrifices we have to make. I don’t know that now is the right time.”

“There’s never going to be a right time,” she sighed. “Nevermind, forget I said anything.”

She rolled over and that was the end of the conversation. For now, at least. I know my wife pretty well, and I knew that wasn’t the end of it.

In all honestly, I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea and if I didn’t have my career looming over my head I’d be all for it. The problem was that our group had been through a lot in the past year and I didn’t want to be the one to throw yet another reason we should slow things down into the pot.

Of course Leighanne had to bring this us right before I was about to go to sleep. I stared up at the ceiling and tried to think of any way that would be possible to make her happy and continue going at the same pace with the group. I closed my eyes, but still came up with nothing. Eventually I did fall asleep, but it took quite a while.

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