Running Up That Hill – Day 8

“Out of the blue and into the black
They give you this but you pay for that
And once you’re gone you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue
And into the black”

Neil Young ‘My My, Hey Hey’

“Nick, wake up,” I said, trying to shake him awake. I swear, sometimes I felt like that kid’s mother. I’m sure all of us did at one point or another. He was always getting into trouble, sleeping in or not dressing appropriately for the occasion. I’m sure it bothered Kevin more than it bothered the rest of us, but still.

He stirred for a couple seconds before opening his eyes and looking around. Finally, he made eye contact with me. “What?”

“The guys are coming over in an hour.”

“So?” he muttered, rolling over on to his side. “Gives me another 45 minutes to sleep.”

I sighed, walking out of the guest room. At least I knew Nick hadn’t been up early pulling some elaborate prank on me. That was a nice comfort.

I went to the bathroom with the intention of taking a quick shower. When I pulled the shower curtain back I rolled my eyes at what I saw.

A bottle of Smirnoff Ice.

“Dude, you gotta drink it!” I heard Nick’s voice from the other side of the bathroom door. He must have set this up last night. So much for not getting pranked.

“I’m not drinking this, Nick.” I replied, wrapping a towel around my waist. I opened the door and tried to hand the drink to him, but he held his hands up and backed away.

“Okay, it’s clear you don’t know the rules to the Smirnoff Ice game.” Nick nodded his head and grinned. “Anytime you find one, you gotta get down on one knee and drink the entire thing. The only way you can get out of it is reversing the ice on me.”

This was one of his lamest pranks ever. “How would I do that?”

“Do you have an ice of your own that you were planning to hide there?” That stupid grin was still on his face. Of course he knew that I didn’t. If I had known the rules to his stupid Smirnoff Ice game I would have already reverse iced him.

“No, Nick!”

He nodded his head and looked down at me. Sometimes Nick had crazy eyes. This morning was no exception. “Then you gotta get down on one knee and chug, bro.”

“Nick, you do realize that AJ is in rehab for alcoholism, right?” Okay, that was a cheap shot, but it was true. It didn’t really seem right to be playing drinking games.

Nick shrugged his shoulders. “And you’re not. So chug the damn ice,” he laughed and I had no choice to down the sugary cooler all in one shot.

I hate Nickolas Gene Carter.

~~~

“How was your flight?” I asked Brian and Leighanne as they entered my house. I used to think that Leighanne being around all the time was sort of annoying, but since I’d gotten married I could understand their need to always be with one another. It was nice for Brian that he had someone who could accompany him on all of our trips.

“Pretty good, there was just a delay at the airport when we were leaving,” he shrugged. “That’s why we were a bit late getting here.”

I pretended to glance over at the clock, but I was well aware that Brian was late. I wasn’t about to give him hell for it, it wasn’t his fault that the flight had been delayed. I did feel a little bad, he wouldn’t even have time to take his shoes off before it was time to head over to Howie’s place, but such is our lives.

“Well, I guess we should head over to Howie’s place,” I said, slipping my shoes on and grabbing my keys. “You going to be okay here for a while, Leigh?”

“She’ll be fine!” Kristin said, entering the hallway with a smile on her face. “We’re going to have lunch and go shopping. Have fun at your meeting,” she winked. I love my wife.

Our drive over to Howie’s place was a quiet one, we didn’t really have much to say to each other besides some small talk. I didn’t really want to get into what we thought this meeting was about, after all we’d be hearing about it soon enough. In any case, I knew it wasn’t good news. Howie had made that much clear.

Howie lived in this really fancy house with a gate and an intercom. It was pretty posh, my house wasn’t nearly as nice. I rolled down the window of my car to press the buzzer. It seemed like such a formality.

“Who goes there?”

Brian and I exchanged a glance. It wasn’t surprising that Nick would use this opportunity to torment us. However, it was definitely surprising that he was there on time.

“Nick, it’s us,” I said, not wanting to deal with his banter. “Kevin and Brian,” I added, knowing he would be asking for clarification on who “us” was.

“You may enter, but only if you answer me these questions three.”

Nick must have been really bored at home in Florida for the past week. That was the only reason I could think of as to why he felt the need to be so irritating. I felt sorry for Howie, who had probably been getting it all morning. Or at least since he had arrived, whenever that was.

Brian laughed and leaned over to the intercom. “Tampa Bay Bucs, Saturday Night Live and Super Mario Brothers Three.”

“God dammit, Brian!” Was all we heard Nick say before he buzzed us in. I parked the car in the huge driveway and Nick was standing at the door waiting for us.

“Those questions were supposed to be for Kevin, he never would have got them,” he whined as he let Brian and myself inside.

“You only know trivia on three things, Nick,” Brian laughed.

“Yeah, three things Kevin knows nothing about.” Nick shot me a look and I just rolled my eyes.

“Where’s Howie?” I asked, wanting to get this meeting started. I was beyond curious about how the record company was planning to screw us over this time.

Nick smiled. “Follow me to the meeting room, gents!”

He was in a weird mood. It only furthered my suspicions that he was extremely lonely back in Florida. I often wondered why he still lived there, but never knew the right way to ask him. He didn’t ever seem happy to go back there anymore, so what was the point? He didn’t seem like there was anything there for him anymore, he’d got everything out of living in Florida that he could have.

That, and I was beginning to worry about him, being out there all alone. Nick didn’t always make the best choices, and the last thing I wanted to hear about was that he’d brought some creepy fans back to his house and they’d ransacked the place and kidnapped him.

Okay, maybe I was going a little bit overboard, but Nick’s behaviour was still scaring me. It probably shouldn’t have been, seeing as he usually does like to annoy all of us with his jokes and pranks, but the more I silently watched him talking with Brian, the more it seemed like it was an act and not like his regular self.

“Kevin, what are you staring at?” he asked me suddenly, pulling me out of my thought process.

“Nothing,” I replied, stupidly. “How are things in Florida?”

He shuffled a little in his seat and shrugged. “Fine. It’s kinda boring there.”

I couldn’t resist the urge to prod as Howie was setting up his computer. “It’s good to be a little bit bored though, right? I think we all need the break from the craziness.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Nick nodded, suddenly very interested in the pattern on the table we were all sitting at.

Sometimes, I wished I could read his mind.

~~~

Kevin, Nick and I were seated around the table in Howie’s meeting room. Howie, on the other hand had his computer booted up and an entire presentation ready to go. I was pretty sure he just liked making charts and that they didn’t serve much of a purpose. But what did I know? Out of all of us, Howie was definitely the business guy.

“Good afternoon, guys,” he smiled as he stood in front of us. I had to stifle a giggle and tried to steal a glance from Nick. Oddly enough, he didn’t find Howie’s demeanour as hilarious as I did.

“So,” Howie continued, ignoring the fact that I was grinning like a goofball. “The reason we’re here today is because of something I heard at a meeting last week with Jive.”

The three of us exchanged a look. Howie was always so formal with these meetings. This meeting was particularly amusing for me, and I wasn’t entirely sure why.

“As you can see,” he said, clicking to the next slide. It was just a chart with sales figures from all of our albums. I didn’t know what relevance that had and I was fairly certain it was only there because Howie had wanted to fill up slides. “We’ve had very strong sales with all of our albums. When we go into the studio to record our next album after the tour, the record company has this in mind.”

And that was the part where I started to zone out. Those numbers weren’t very interesting to me. The fabric of my shirt on the other hand… very interesting. I felt sort of like Nick as I began to play with the hem of it, which was strange because Nick had actually started paying attention to Howie.

Howie ignored the fact that I wasn’t really watching his presentation and kept talking. At least I was still listening to him. Sort of. He said something about how since the tour was postponed, it meant going into the studio was also postponed, and that Jive wanted to release a greatest hits album to make up for that.

Wait, what?!

I looked over at Kevin. His eyebrows were all furrowed and he didn’t look happy. Nick just had a confused look on his face, and Howie stood there for a minute, letting us all absorb that. I was pretty sure that this was the end of his control of the meeting, because pretty soon Kevin was going to start ranting.

“How can they do that?” he asked angrily, glaring at Howie, then at Nick and finally at me. “A greatest hits CD is going to make it look like we’re over. That’s the last thing we want after this whole….situation,” he said the last part slowly and carefully. I think that AJ had crept back into his mind.

But he wasn’t wrong. Postponing the tour and being out of the media spotlight was causing our fans to wonder. I should know, I’d read all about it on LiveDaily. They thought this was our last ever tour, they thought we weren’t coming back. They thought we were taking a break. What kind of message was a greatest hits compilation going to send?

“No,” Nick said firmly. That was a first for him in meetings like this. Usually he let Kevin take over and didn’t offer much of an opinion. Other than nodding in agreement at the end. “There’s no way in hell.”

They all looked at me. What did they want me to say? Of course I thought it was a bad idea. “I don’t think we should do it either,” I finally said.

“We need to approach them about this,” Kevin said, taking charge as he always did. “We need to make them realize that we aren’t going anywhere and that this is a terrible idea.”

“I know, that’s why I brought you guys here. We need to figure out a plan of attack.” Howie looked at all of us and finally sat down in his chair.

I couldn’t think of anything that we could do other than set up a meeting with Jive and try to plead our case. Of course, they usually ignored our wishes anyway. It was a negative way of thinking, but it was the truth. I didn’t know how we could begin to talk Jive out of it because a greatest hits would be a quick way for them to make some money while they waited for us to get back to recording.

Or maybe they didn’t think we were ever going to get back to recording. Maybe they thought we were done the same way the fans did.

“What?” Kevin asked, and the others were looking at me with wide eyes. Maybe I’d said all of that out loud instead of just thinking it. Oops.

“Yeah,” Nick said, nodding. “They think that we’re not coming back after this tour. That it’s the last one ever.”

“Why on earth would they think that?” You could tell Kevin was getting more and more frustrated by the minute. Not only was our record company turning their back on us, that was nothing new, but the fans as well? They were the ones who always stuck by us.

“Because of AJ being in rehab and they think we look tired and need a break,” Nick said quickly, looking timid. I hadn’t seen that look on his face since he was sixteen years old.

“Oh, so now the fans know us better than we know ourselves,” Kevin shot back, raising his hands in the air out of exasperation.

“I tried to tell them otherwise,” Nick muttered.

Bad idea.

“You what?” Kevin’s eyes were wide in disbelief.

“I mean, not as me,” Nick added, trying to calm Kevin down. “I have a fake name on there and stuff, but I just tried to be calm and say that they can’t assume shit.”

I saw that post. I didn’t know that was one of his dummy accounts. Tnthsndprmss28 was not liked on LD.

Kevin put his head in his hands. “Jesus Christ, Nick.”

Nick just shrugged and smirked a little. “Hey, if it makes you feel any better I got a two day ban for saying ‘shit’.”

“No Nick, it doesn’t make me feel better!” Kevin suddenly exploded. I felt bad for Nick. Kevin was obviously upset about the greatest hits situation, and he was just redirecting his anger at Nick since he was right there. This happened a lot with Kevin, and Nick or AJ were usually the ones who got the brunt of it.

“What do you want me to say?” Nick asked, raising his voice slightly. “You know that we can’t do a greatest hits. Brian knows it. Howie knows it. The only people who don’t know it are those assholes at Jive. Like they’re going to listen to us anyway.”

Nick was moody today, more so than Kevin. Kevin was just angry.

“Whoa guys,” Howie cut in. “We need to stick together on this, arguing amongst ourselves is only going to make us weaker. We need a united front.”

“We’re not arguing in front of the record company,” Nick mumbled, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back in his chair.

“No, Howie’s right,” I said, giving Kevin a sympathetic look. We were all stressed out for a lot of different reasons. Fighting with each other wasn’t going to help things. “We need to stick together.”

“Exactly,” Howie agreed with me. Nick and Kevin just nodded.

“I’m really hungry,” I said. Suddenly my long plane ride was catching up with me. “How about we continue this discussion somewhere that serves food?”

Everyone seemed to agree with that. Maybe getting something to eat and sitting in a public place would help calm our nerves down a little. We all needed that. It had been a stressful week.

~~~

We took two cars to the restaurant. I went with Howie, and Kevin and Brian went together. They said it was so that Brian and Kevin could just go straight back to his place after we had dinner, but I was sure it was to separate Kevin and me so we could stop being so pissed off.

Yeah, a great chance of that happening. First of all, the ride there wasn’t very long. Second of all, Kevin was just pissed off at the record company; we all were. A fifteen minute car ride wasn’t going to change that. He was just taking it out on me because I’d said something he didn’t agree with. He always did that to me, or AJ. I guess ’cause we were the young ones and we bugged him the most. I still hated it though. AJ did too. He was always on our case about something. Recently AJ more than me, but I guess with AJ out of the picture for now he only had me left to get angry with.

Stupid Kevin. Now I was in a crap-ass mood.

When we got there we were seated in a semi-secluded area. Not that I thought it really mattered. There were tons of celebrities in LA, and I didn’t think most people in that place were going to give a shit about us. It wasn’t the type of place a bunch of teenage girls would normally hang out in.

We were all really quiet as we looked over the menus. I just wanted a burger and fries. I didn’t see why we needed to come to some fancy steak house. I would have been just as happy with In N Out Burger. Actually I probably would have been happier. But the guys wanted to sit somewhere and talk about all this business stuff, and I guess we wouldn’t have been able to do that there.

Also, I guess that’s the kind of place where our fans would be.

Eventually, the waitress came by to take our drink orders. Kevin was always health conscious, so he ordered water. I’ve noticed that when we all go to a restaurant and someone orders water first, everyone else always orders water after. It’s like they feel self conscious about ordering something else after the first person made the healthy and cheaper choice of water. I never do that though. I always order what I want ’cause dammit, you only live once and I’m going to drink whatever I want with my dinner!

Anyway, Brian and Howie also ordered water just like I knew they would. But I was adventurous and decided to order this vanilla mudslide thing they had in the fancy drink and dessert menu. Because it looked like a milkshake. And I love milkshakes.

Too bad Kevin gave me a disapproving look after the waitress walked away. “What?” I asked, even though I knew I’d regret it.

“Do you really think you should be drinking that?” he asked, raising one of his really thick eyebrows.

“Lighten up Kev, the extra calories aren’t going to kill me,” I said, rolling me eyes as I put the menu back in its holder.

“I meant because of the alcohol, Nick.”

“I’m twenty one.” I said flatly. They didn’t even check my ID!

“Yes Nick, I realize that,” he shook his head. He was about to try the sympathetic approach instead of the angry one. “However I think you need to be a little more respectful to the fact that AJ’s in rehab.”

What was he talking about? Now that AJ was trying to get sober, did that mean that the rest of us couldn’t drink anymore? Kevin was just being paranoid again. “Yeah, I know. He’s not here. Once he gets out of rehab we can’t drink around him, but we have to stop now? I think that’s overdoing it, Kev.”

“I just think it’s a good idea to cool it on the drinking for a while,” he said, and looked at Brian and Howie for support. Both of them were all of a sudden very interested in the light fixtures. Thanks for the support guys!

“Whatever,” I muttered, not wanting to argue with Kevin. If he didn’t think I should be drinking, I didn’t really care. That wasn’t his call to make. I wondered if somehow Howie had told him about my Smirnoff Ice prank, but I didn’t bring it up.

The waitress brought our drinks and I sipped on my straw, making wide eyes at Kevin. He wasn’t amused, and changed the subject back to the record company business stuff.

“I think we should schedule a meeting with them,” Howie suggested. That guy was obsessed with meetings. I hate meetings, but I guess it was the best thing we could do.

Kevin and Brian nodded in agreement. I continued drinking my mudslide.

“And say what?” Brian asked, playing with the straw in his water and glancing over at me. I could tell he wanted a sip of my drink. I sort of wanted him to ask, that would stick it to Kevin. He’d never tell off Brian.

“Let’s just tell them that we’re going to go right back to the studio after the tour’s over,” I shrugged. It seemed to make the most sense.

“Are we?” Kevin asked.

“We always do,” I replied. I didn’t see any reason why we wouldn’t.

“We need to prove it to them,” Howie said. “We need to get in touch with some songwriters or start writing some stuff ourselves. We can’t just say that we’re going to do it, because usually by this point in the tour we’ve already started working on the next album in that regard. You can see why they’d be sceptical.”

“Well, let’s do that then,” I said quickly, and the rest of them agreed. I couldn’t wait to get back into the studio. I loved recording. Not as much as I loved performing, but we couldn’t really do one without the other. It would be nice to start creating a new record and then a new tour. Then we would finally be able to put Black and Blue behind us.

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