Running Up That Hill – Day 7

“That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you”

-R.E.M ‘Losing My Religion’

Kris was sleeping silently beside me. I couldn’t blame her, it was still pretty early. Even though it was a Sunday morning we weren’t ones to go to church. It didn’t always fit with my schedule and often got forgotten about.

I probably could have used it, I’m sure it would have helped me.

Either way, here I was, six in the morning and staring up at the ceiling. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed, but I couldn’t fall asleep either. I couldn’t shake the thoughts out of my head.

I could still hear Denise’s voice running through my mind. I was sure it was because it had now been a week since that day AJ had gone off to rehab. A week since the day I had given him his ‘intervention’ so to speak.

The other guys probably didn’t even realize that fact, or if they did it didn’t really impact them. But I am someone who pays a lot of attention to dates and timelines. Anniversaries of certain events mean a lot of me and I always take the time to reflect.

I really wanted to call AJ and see how he was doing. I didn’t know if I was able to do that. I didn’t think he was able to make phone calls and he probably wasn’t able to accept them either.

There were probably some kind of visiting hours, but I didn’t know what was overstepping my bounds. Denise had told me how grateful she was that AJ was getting the help and that I was the one to make that happen, but I wasn’t so sure that was how AJ felt. After all, the last time I’d seen him, well… the last time I’d seen him was what caused this whole mess in the first place. Or at least caused it to come to a head.

Either way, one week had gone by. I thought of it like a painful breakup, the first week was always the hardest. Not that I minded breaking up with AJ. I’d gladly say ‘good riddance’ to the person he’d become. I just didn’t know if he would want to see or speak to me once he was able to see clearly. If he would still want to be a part of the group of if he would decide that it was too much stress for him.

I didn’t even know what would happen if he decided to leave; if any of us decided to leave, really. It wasn’t really something I wanted to think about.

I took a deep breath and tried to push all those worries out of my head. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. AJ was going to be fine, and we were going to go back on tour in a few weeks as planned.

~~~

I scrolled through the flights listed on my computer screen. For once, I was sitting in silence. It was kind of nice. Usually I would listen to music or something, but I guess what Kevin always says is kinda true. “Silence is golden.”

Chris was gone home or to work. I wasn’t sure which. I didn’t even know where he worked, I just knew that he showed up at my place wanting to party. I liked partying, don’t get me wrong and Chris was a fun dude to hang around with, but I was starting to get sick of him.

Though, he was a pretty good wingman. He kept crazy fans in check somehow when they freaked out. He was smooth like that. I really wasn’t smooth and I really don’t think I ever will be. That’s okay. I don’t need to be. Chris could be Mr. Smooth and I could be Mr. Sexy who gets all the women. That sounds good to me!

Did I mention how much I don’t like booking flights? I don’t know how our managers do this stuff all the time. It really sucks, and it’s really boring. I don’t know what flight to buy or what class I should sit in. I don’t even like sitting on an actual plane. I can’t ever sleep because I’m so terrified that I’ll wake up and we’ll be crashing to our death. Or I’ll wake up and we’ll have already crashed to our death.

Well.. I guess I wouldn’t wake up in that instance, but still.

The only time I ever felt really safe on a plane was when we were on that private one for our Black and Blue promo thingy. I mean, you’d think that would be less scary than a commercial passenger plane but really they probably took all precautions so that their money makers would stay safe.

Anyway, booking flights sucks. I kind of wanted to sleep in the next day. But I also had to make our meeting.. which was in the afternoon. If I arrived at four the afternoon Kevin would probably flip out. He always liked to get stuff done early.

Too bad leaving at six in the morning and waiting around in the Orlando airport for a transfer didn’t seem like any fun! I scrolled around a little bit more, checked different websites but there was no way I was going to be able to sleep in and get to LA on time.

Unless I left for LA today! I looked at the clock in the bottom of the screen. It was only noon. If I threw some stuff into a bag and left right away I could get to LA… well, later today. That would be better than waking up really early to avoid a glare from Kevin!

~~~

Packing, to put it mildly, is not fun. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would agree with me on that. Still, it was a necessary evil that was unfortunately a big part of my life. It seemed like we were always on the go. Usually I hated that and wanted nothing more than to have some time off. However this time, packing felt comforting. I was heading off the next day to see the other three guys, and somehow that made things feel like they were a little bit back to normal.

I didn’t think I’d ever get used to referring to them as ‘the other three guys’ but hopefully once AJ returned I wouldn’t have to.

“Do you think I should bring something fancy?” Leighanne asked, cutting into my thoughts. She was good at that.

I turned my head to give her a questioning look, but she didn’t notice. She was too preoccupied looking at the wide array of dresses in her closet. “Why would you need something fancy? It’s just a meeting with Howie, Kevin and Nick.”

She shrugged, still flipping through her clothes. “I just thought we might go out or something. I think I will bring something nicer, just in case.”

Well then why even ask me? “Sure, sounds like a good idea.”

I didn’t even know why Leighanne was coming with me, to be honest. I mean yeah, she’s my wife and we do things together and all that, but it’s not like this was a big deal. It was essentially just a business trip. Lots of men went on business trips without their wives. There was no reason for her to be there, she was just going to be bored the whole time. And when Leighanne was bored, it meant that I had to entertain her. Which meant that I wouldn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with Kevin and the others.

Again, normally that wouldn’t bother me, but I was kind of hoping for a guys night. Call me lame, but I thought it might have been fun.

“Are you sure you want to come with me?” I asked her lightly, hoping that she would think better of it and decide to stay home and babysit the dogs.

“What?” That got her attention away from the closet. “Of course I do!”

“I just thought you might be bored.”

“Why on earth would you think that?” she asked. She looked really shocked, and I thought that was weird. It wasn’t like I’d asked her something insane, like if she wanted to replace AJ while he was gone.

“I don’t know, it’s just going to be meetings and stuff.”

“It’s going to be meetings with you, Nick, Kevin and Howie. It’s not like you’re meeting with the label. I’ll just hang out with Kristin while you guys are doing that. Maybe go shopping or something.”

I couldn’t argue with that. There was no reason for her to not come with me. It wasn’t like there wasn’t anything for her to do in LA.

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said, walking over to the closet and giving her a kiss on the cheek. “It’ll be fun.”

I wasn’t so sure about that, but I could be optimistic.

~~~

I was fiddling around on my computer, trying to prepare for our meeting the next day. I knew that the other guys didn’t really care about the format of our meeting, but I tried to use these small band meetings as practice. I’d even made a Power Point presentation.

Not that they’d know what Power Point was, and they’d probably just laugh at me, but I’d had fun making it. Even if the meeting was just going to be us sitting around my dining room table bitching about the label.

Still, I continued preparing and making slides until I heard my intercom go off. That was weird, who would be here at eleven thirty at night?

“Hello?”

“Howwwward!”

“Nick?” What was he doing here? His flight wasn’t supposed to get in until tomorrow morning. At least, that was what he’d told me.

“No dumbass, it’s Justin Timberlake. Hey why do you have this intercom thing anyway? It’s not like any fans come and steal your grass.”

Yeah, it was Nick alright. I sighed and buzzed him in. No use in pretending to be reluctant, that would just make my life harder. I knew that he was going to ignore my no practical joke request, so why give him more of a reason to annoy me?

I went down to the front hall to open the door for him. Sure enough, there he was, standing on my front step carrying only a backpack. He was definitely someone who travelled light. He’d probably only brought enough clothes for the next two days.

“No suitcase?” I asked him as he stepped inside.

“Nah,” he replied, kicking off his shoes and flopping down on my living room couch. “I didn’t want to deal with baggage claim.”

I gave him a weird look, he still hadn’t explained what he was doing here a day early. I hoped that he didn’t want to go clubbing or something.

“You’re probably wondering why I’m here early,” he said, grinning. Nick knew he could read my mind. Though, it wasn’t like I had any secret thoughts that weren’t easy to guess.

“Yeah, kinda. Not that I mind,” I added quickly, not wanting him to get the wrong impression.

Nick shrugged. “I didn’t want to wake up early and I knew Kevin would kick my ass if I was late.”

I nodded. That answer made enough sense, but I could tell that wasn’t all of it. Nick was pretty easy to read as well. Even though he probably thought he was excellent at hiding whatever he was feeling, I knew better.

“So how are things back in Florida?” I asked him, not really knowing what else to say. It was rare that Nick, or any of the guys, really, were at my place alone.

“Boring,” he said quickly, fumbling with one of the straps on his backpack. Sometimes Nick really reminded me of a lost little kid. I was glad he felt he could come here, it seemed like he needed a friend. “There’s nothing to do there.”

I remembered feeling that way about Florida, but it was sort of weird to hear Nick say it. Usually he went on an on about how much he loved the ocean and whatever he’d been doing with his boat. “No boat maintenance?”

“Nope,” he said, getting up and looking at all the pictures that hung on my living room wall. Yeah, it was no secret that a Backstreet Boy lived in this house. “Hey, I forgot all about that,” he laughed, pointing to a picture of us at some big Nintendo store in Japan.

Yeah, Nick definitely was a big kid at heart. It made me happy to see him smiling like that, especially after how sad he’d been the last time I’d seen him. It made me feel a little bit like Kevin, to be so worried about Nick, but I couldn’t exactly help it. That guy was cause for a lot of worry.

I could still see that he looked a little gloomy, even though he tried to hide it. I hoped that when we got together with Brian and Kevin the next day he would cheer up a little. Hopefully he would see that even though we were scattered around the country, we were all still a group and a unit.

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