Begin Again by BiLittrell
Summary:


After the death of his sister, Nick goes on an emotional roller coaster, leaving behind a path of destruction and heartache, not to mention everything he’s ever known.


Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Group, Nick, Other
Genres: Angst, Drama, Suspense
Warnings: Death
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 7 Completed: No Word count: 8465 Read: 9177 Published: 10/28/12 Updated: 12/10/12
Story Notes:

Some warnings may change.

1. Prologue by BiLittrell

2. Chapter 1 by BiLittrell

3. Chapter 2 by BiLittrell

4. Chapter 3 by BiLittrell

5. Chapter 4 by BiLittrell

6. Chapter 5 by BiLittrell

7. Chapter 6 by BiLittrell

Prologue by BiLittrell

 

Feb 5th, 2012

I was in the middle of a sold out solo tour, but I felt a million miles away.

No, what I wished for was to be a million miles away.

My eyes hurt, my head hurt, and my heart hurt.

If only I had been there for her

She was only 25, had the rest of her life to live, a little girl to watch grow up, more children to be had.

Instead she was gone. Just like that. Gone.

And I couldn’t help but think it was all my fault.

I was the one who joined a boy band. I was the one who started making money, making our parents money hungry. It was me who pushed that divide between our parents, making them divorce.

And it was me who abandoned them all when they needed me the most.

I hated everything I had become. I hated the fame, the money, the attention. I hated being Nick Carter, pop star.

As soon as this tour was over with, I was going to be Nick Carter the pop star, no more.

 

Chapter 1 by BiLittrell

August 17th, 2012

My condo in Malibu used to be my sanctuary, my favourite place to be. Now, it was just something that reminded me of what I used to have, and who I used to be.

A year before I had moved here with my long term girlfriend, Lauren. This was our new home, our place on the beach away from the busy of the city, and the prying eyes of the paparazzi. We were happy. In some ways we were like a little family, with our two dogs being our fur babies.

After I finished my solo tour in February, everything changed. I went on tour the same old Nick, and came home a new person.

I really didn’t think Lauren would leave, but eventually she did, taking the dogs with her. I didn’t blame her, all I could talk about was how much I hated myself and what I’d become. It was only time before she would hate me too.

And despite the fact she had promised me she didn’t hate me, I hadn’t heard from her in close to two months. And it only made me realize that I’d done just what I had planned to do.

Push everyone I cared about the most as far away from me as possible.

My family, surprisingly, had been the easiest. They seemed to despise me already, so not going to Leslie’s funeral had made their decisions for them. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t bear to see her buried in the ground, and see everyone’s sad faces. Or see my little niece, who must have been so confused.

The guys had been a little harder to push away. Brian had been the easiest. After one argument, which consisted of me telling him to go fuck himself and leave me alone, he’d done just that. Well, maybe not fuck himself, but who knew.

Next on my list had been Howie. It fucking killed me being so mean to him, when I could see in his big brown eyes that he was concerned, but he backed off. I knew he hadn’t given up though, for Kevin constantly reminded me.

Kevin… now he was one stubborn motherfucker. I chuckled to myself as I walked through the double doors in my living room to the balcony. I’d managed to get rid of Brian, Howie and even AJ, but Kevin hung around like a bad smell. I knew he would, he was always watching out for me, and whilst that had made me feel warm and fuzzy, I didn’t want him to anymore.

I was 32 years old, and my mind had been set.

It was just a little harder to go through plans when the old man kept coming around.

“Here..”

I looked beside me at Kevin, who held out a mug of coffee. I took the mug and brought it to my lips, taking a hefty mouthful despite the fact it was piping hot.

“You need a hair cut, boy.”

I ran my hands through my hair. I’d been growing it out for kicks, and had all intentions of cutting it at some point, but then decided I liked it. People thought I looked fugly and old with it. It made them not like me. “Eh, I like it.”

Kevin chuckled and sat on one of the chairs on the balcony. “Lord knows why, you look like…” He trailed off, making me look at him.

“Look like what?”

Kevin shook his head. “Never mind. Drink your coffee.”

I frowned. “Look like what, Kev?”

Green eyes met blue, and I froze at the look in them. I knew what was coming.

“You kinda look like Leslie.”

I sighed and looked down at the sand below, wishing I was running along it instead of standing beside Kevin.

“Sorry, bud.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Whatever. When are you leaving? I wanna be alone.”

“I just ordered us a pizza. I thought we could watch the game.”

I snorted. “No thanks.”

“Bucs are playing.”

“I don’t care.” I took another mouthful of coffee and hissed when it burnt my tongue. “Just go.” I didn’t even glance at him as I walked back inside and through to the kitchen. I tipped the coffee from my mug down the drain before leaving it on the side.

“Wash that up, I just cleaned in here.”

I groaned and turned around. “Yes, MOM!” I rolled my eyes. “I’m an adult, Kevin. Not a baby!”

“So you keep saying, but you’re pushing everyone away like some child.” Kevin walked in and began washing my mug up, making me furious.

“GET OUT! Leave my fucking mug alone, leave me alone, FUCK OFF!” I glared at him as he slowly turned to look at me.

“Fine.” He slowly dried his hands before picking his keys up from the side. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I watched him leave, waiting until the door slammed shut before letting out the breath I’d been holding. “No you won’t.”

Chapter 2 by BiLittrell

Leaving LA had been a lot easier than I’d anticipated.

For one, Kevin hadn’t bothered me the next morning like he normally did, and it gave me free reign to tie up some loose ends and leave the house with a couple of suitcases.

The drive to the airport had been awful, LA traffic at its finest, and once I got that I parked my car in the short stay car park, got my bags out, shoved the keys in an envelope and as soon as I found a mailbox in the airport I mailed out several letters, all saying the same thing.

I was leaving. I’ll be fine. Don’t try to find me.

I knew one person would be hell bent on finding me, which was why I was glad he’d left me be that morning, so I could make sure I left no trace of where I was going in my condo.

I was leaving Kevin my car, my condo, and everything that had been my life before this moment., including half of my money.

I didn’t want to be that guy anymore.

The decision on where to go hadn’t been easy, which was why it had taken me so long to make a choice. I wanted to go somewhere I could feel normal, where people would leave me alone and I could live a new life. Places like Asia and South America were a big no no, as were places like Germany, Spain and Italy.

But then I came across a website talking about foreign students enrolling in university in the UK, and the thought struck me. I had my high school diploma, but apart from that, and a music career, I had nothing.
Maybe I could make myself become something.

I did my research, looking at different classes, universities, and then places to live. It all would work out quite expensive and my original plan had been to take next to no money with me. So I ended up paying for the university in full, my flights, and taking a decent amount of money from my main account and putting it in a new account for when I get over there.

Oxford University welcomes international students, so enrolling had been easy. I’d had to take a test before finding out if I got in, and for that I waited in baited breath, only to find out I was accepted.

Me, accepted into University!

The only thing that was going to be a challenge was finding somewhere to live. I’d looked at house prices over in the UK, and it was expensive. Being that I wanted to be normal, I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money as I wanted to fit in, so I did what everyone else did.

And put in to share a house with a bunch of students.

I would be living not far from the university, and a bus ride to the city center. It was going to be weird adapting, but I would do it.

I had to do it.

****

I was tired and cranky by the time I landed in Heathrow airport. It was in the middle of the day, and heaving with people. I’d been stuck at customs for a while, showing them all my documents and visas indicating I was living in the UK. I think the guy had it in for me as my passport was stamped heavily. But still, the moment I got through and was able to collect my cases I was relieved.

Until I realized I had no one picking me up, no car to drive, and I was going to have to find my way to Oxford. Alone.

I think I stood in the airport a good ten minutes just wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself in for when I realized I needed to snap out of it, and head to the travel information counter. They’d be able to tell me where to go.

I shoved my baseball cap on my head before dragging both cases behind me. There was a bit of a queue, and I tried to wait as patiently as I could.

I clearly wasn’t used to being normal.

Eventually I made it to the counter.

“Hi, How can I help?”

I looked at the pretty brunette sitting behind the desk all smartly dressed and sighed. “I’ve just arrived from LA, and totally realized I have no way in getting to Oxford. Is there anyway you can help?”

The brunette looked at me a moment before smiling. “Sure, so you’re heading to Oxford. What you’ll need to do is take the elevator down to the underground, and get on the Picadilly line train towards London. Your best bet would be to take an overground train from Kings cross to Oxford. You’ll need to buy yourself a travel card, and then an additional ticket at Kings Cross to Oxford. That any help?”

I stared at the girl like she was crazy before shaking my head. “Any chance you can write that down for me?”

She quietly nodded before doing so, whilst my head swam with the information. “Here you go sir, anything else I can help with?”

“No.. thanks.” I took the piece of paper, gripping it in one hand as I took both handles of my case and walked away.

I found the elevator for the underground, and waited there with a big group of other people.

I prayed I wouldn’t get lost.

****

It was 9pm when I climbed out the taxi cab I’d taken at the train station. I looked up at the three bedroom house I was going to be sharing with two other guys for the next year and sighed.

“Need help with your cases?”

I looked up at the driver and shook my head before paying him and watching him drive away.

This was it.

I grabbed both handles and dragged the cases up the small garden path. There was a little front garden, with a small patch of grass, and nothing else. The front door was white, with a small window that only a tall person could see through, and a small knocker on the front. I went to knock on the door when it swung open.

“You must be Nick! Welcome mate! We’ve been waiting for you!”

The guy must have been no older than 20, and was holding a can of beer in his hands.

“Yup, I’m Nick… you are?”

“Darren! Here, let me get your other case.” He literally tore one of my cases from my hands and pulled it inside. He sat it on the floor by the staircase as I shut the door. “You’re the last to arrive. I was first, so naturally I picked a bedroom first. Ste, who arrive a few hours after me, picked his room, so sorry mate.. you’re left with the one we didn’t want.”

I shrugged. “It’s no problem.” I could smell cigarettes from upstairs, and instantly I craved one. It had been a long day. “I think I might shower then go to bed.”

“Sure, mate. You had a long flight right?”

“Something like that.” I lifted one of my cases up, ready to take the stairs. “It was great meeting you.”

“Likewise! Here, let me help with your other case and show you you’re room.”

I followed Darren up the stairs. He didn’t seem to stop talking the whole time, and I wondered if he was just being overly nice, or if he was just genuinely friendly.

“Ste! Nick is here!” Darren yelled at one of the closed doors.

”Fuck off!”

I frowned and looked at Darren.

“He’s a little quiet.” Darren replied before opening a door and walking inside. “Welcome to you’re bedroom.”

I stepped inside and looked around. A small desk sat under the window, and there was a single bed in one corner, with a dresser opposite. The room wasn’t big, it was pretty damn small. But I didn’t need much room. “Thanks.”

“No problem! You want a beer, I’ve got some downstairs.. just give me a shout!” Darren patted my arm before leaving the room and I quickly shut, and locked the door before leaning against it.

Welcome home, Nick.

Chapter 3 by BiLittrell

Settling in to the house had been easy.

By the third day of living there, I’d unpacked my cases in the small built in wardrobe, and gone out and brought a few accessories for my room. A desk lamp, an adapter so I can use my laptop, and some books. Ok, not some books, A LOT of books.

I’d had an email telling me what I’d need for the semester, and boy.. was it a lot of books! I’d also gone and got myself a new cellphone. I didn’t know if my old cell was traceable, so leaving it off and hidden and buying a whole new handset and getting a new number seemed like the best option.

I’d decided to take art, and English Lit. I was also taking a class in creative writing. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, but Art was a hobby of mine, and I’d written screen plays and enjoyed it, but knew I needed to work on my writing.

It didn’t mean that I was going to go right back into writing screen plays or songs once I was done. I enjoyed writing.

It was a week before school started, and I was feeling a little nervous. We’d been told to explore the campus before the first day, so I packed up my mac and made Darren show me the way.

“The bus runs every half hour, and if you miss it… well, it’s tough shit.” Darren laughed as he perched himself on the bench at the bus stop.

“So, you lived around here before then?”

Darren nodded. “It’s my second year. We lived across town before, actually.. on campus. It’s usually in the second year that you move into student homes. How did you get away with it?”

I shuffled on my feet. I knew I got away with it because I paid my fees in full. “I guess I was just lucky.”

Darren snorted. “Luck my ass. Gotta be cos you’re American.”

“Yea, maybe it’s that.” I said, knowing full well it wasn’t. I looked down the road and turned back to Darren when I saw a bus. “Is this it?”

He jumped off the bus and looked out. “Yup. You sure you don’t want me to come with you?”

I shook my head. “It’s cool. I need to figure it out at some point.”

Darren patted my back before waving the bus down. “Ok dude. I’ll bring us some beers back later. Gonna chill at the pub!” He walked off laughing, leaving me to climb on the bus and figure out what money to give the driver. It took a moment or two, and by the time I had my ticket in my hand and was walking along the bus to find an empty seat all the old ladies on the bus were glaring at me. I sat myself in the only seat available, next to a girl who seemed amused.

“It’s like you stole their pension or something.”

I looked beside me at the girl, who was looking at me with a smile on her face. “What?”

“The old ladies shooting you daggers because you held up their precious bus.” She chuckled, but I just stared at her.

“Oh. Ok.” I looked away, feeling a little awkward. It was the first time a girl had spoken to me since I’d been here. To say I was a little worried I would be recognized was an understatement.

The girl didn’t say anything else to me, and I was glad. Instead I focused on the journey, and listened out for where my stop was. I jumped when the girl leaned across me and pressed the red stop button, telling the driver her stop was next.

It was only as the bus slowed down that I realized it was mine too. I climbed out my seat and walked over to the doors as they opened. I stepped outside and pulled my cap on my head tighter before looking around.

The girl had already stepped off the bus and was walking up towards the university. I didn’t have a clue where to go. I vaguely remembered Darren’s instructions on where to walk, so aimlessly headed in the same direction the girl had gone in and prayed I was right.

***

I didn’t mean to, but I ended up following the girl right into the library. I had no clue how we got here, or even how to make my way out, so I sat myself at a table as far away from her as possible and pulled out my MacBook from its bag.

I hadn’t turned it on since I’d been in the UK, and in the back of my mind I’d wondered if the guys had received their letters I’d sent. It had been three days, so I figured they would have them now.

Still, I didn’t log in to my email right away. I doodled online, logging in to my twitter to see the usual fans tweeting me nonsense. Why they did it, I had no idea. I hadn’t tweeted in months. In fact I’d been MIA from social networking sites for months. Nothing was different there, so I decided to brave it and sign in to my email.

Three new emails.

One was from World Of Warcraft, reminding me that I hadn’t played in a while, another was a twitter newsletter, and the other… well that made me freeze.

It was from Kevin.

Title: You better answer this!
Sender: Kevin Richardson
Body: Nickolas Gene Carter! I swear If I could smack the shit out of you, I would! I received your letter this morning. A letter?! Boy, you have NO idea how pissed I am. Why didn’t you just talk to me, tell me you were THAT unhappy and we could of worked on that! You didn’t need to run away!
Now you best tell me where you are. Don’t think I won’t hire someone to find your ass.
Kristin’s telling me to be easy on you, but you have NO idea how concerned I am right now. You better be ok, and you best reply to this email!

I rolled my eyes after reading it and went to hit delete, but something told me I should keep it. I had no intentions of replying, so instead I made a folder up named “Eyebrows” and added the email to that. I deleted the other two and logged out before looking around the library.

Pair of eyes watching me from across the room made me frown.


[Mila]

The library was my sanctuary. Even before Uni I’d forever be at my local library, thumbing my way through books, or just sitting there reading, enjoying the silence.

Today was no different day. I was getting ready for my first year at Oxford University and to say I was excited was an understatement. I had been waiting for the day I could leave home and go make something of myself, and now the days were getting closer and closer until I could start doing that.

Still, being someone that loved the library, I decided to get a head start on my learning, and had been at the library daily for a week, reading the books we would be working on in classes.

Only today had been the first day I’d spent procrastinating, rather than reading. My book had been open on page 45 for the last half hour, and instead of reading, I’d been watching a guy across the room, frowning at his laptop screen.

It wasn’t like me to just randomly watch guys. But the guy was the only person sat in here with a hat on, and he was without a doubt unaware he was tapping his finger on the table.

I could see people giving him wayward glances, but no one had the guts to tell him to stop, so, me being me, I shut my book, grabbed my stuff and moved over to the table he was on. I slid in the seat beside him and was surprised he didn’t even look up. I sat my book down and looked at him a moment before tapping him on the arm.
The finger tapping stopped as he looked at me, a look of irritation on his face.

“You were tapping.” I whispered, nodding towards his figures.

“Oh, sorry.” He moved his hand into his lap and went to look back at his laptop screen.

“I’m Mila.” I whispered back, making him glance back at me.

“Nick.”

He went back to frowning at his laptop screen, so I reopened my book and tried to focus on reading, but from the corner of my eye I could see his leg bouncing up and down. Did this guy have a nervous tic?

“Your leg..” I hissed, glancing at him. He stopped his bouncing leg, and his face flushed red.

“Sorry. Again..”

I snorted, before hiding my face behind my book as a few people looked up in annoyance. I heard Nick chuckle beside me before the sound of him shutting his mac book lid made me look up.

“Wanna go for a coffee?” He whispered a small smile on his face.

I pondered his offer for a moment before shutting my book and shoving it in my bag. “Sure, but you’re buying. Whoever offers, buys.” I grinned at him before standing up and throwing my bag over my shoulder. I waited for Nick to pack his macbook away before we left the library and headed over to the Manor Road café.

“So, you followed me here.” I stated as we took a slow walk. I glanced up at Nick, who couldn’t look at me.

“Did not.”

“You did. You’re new here? I’ve never seen you around, and you definitely don’t sound like you are from here.”

Nick chuckled. “Nosy much?”

“Pretty much.” I smiled at him before grabbing his arm and pulling him into a building. “So, American?”

Nick followed me up a flight of stairs before we reached the café. “Yea, what gave that away?”

I glanced at Nick to see him smirking. “Gee, I wonder. Well, welcome to Oxford. Expect a lot of parties, rain, cold weather, more rain.. and not a lot of sleep.”

Nick laughed before walking us over to the server. “That I can pretty much deal with.” He orders us our coffee, and paid for it before telling me to go find us a table. I found us one by the window and waited for him to come over.

“So, you from around here?” Nick slid in the seat opposite me, placing my coffee infront of me.

“Actually, no. I’m from the coast. Cornwall. Beautiful beaches and no congestion. I kinda miss it.” I put two sugars in my coffee before stirring it.

“Only kinda? I miss being by the beach.”

I looked up at Nick, who was gazing out the window. “You lived by the beach?”

Nick nodded. “Yea, In California.”

“Woah! You swapped California for boring Oxfordshire? Are you crazy?”

Nick looked at me and laughed before sipping his coffee. “Probably..”

I watched him a moment before sipping my own drink. There was something about this guy that made me feel like I knew him, I just couldn’t pin point what.

Chapter 4 by BiLittrell

[Mila]

I got home much later than I usually did, strolling in as the other girls were on the living room floor doing yoga. I rolled my eyes and climbed over them before throwing myself down on the couch with a grunt. I watched them stretch themselves into some awkward position before snorting.

“You look like you’re about to shit yourself.”

Both the girls looked up. Sarah, who I’d known pretty much my whole life, grinned, whilst Kayleigh rolled her eyes.

“Like to see you get in this position.” Kayleigh retorted, making me laugh.

“Yea, you couldn’t pay me to.”

Sarah flopped down onto the floor with a sigh before rolling onto her back. “So I saw you at the library today.” She turned her head to look at me and smiled. “Who was he?”

“Who?” I tucked my legs up under me and smiled when Sarah sat up.

“The pretty blonde dude who you were chatting up.”

“Oh, as if Mila was chatting anyone up!” Kayleigh stood up. “I think its obvious you are a lesbian.”

Me and Sarah started cracking up, making Kayleigh leave the room.

“Do I really come across as a lesbian?”

Sarah sat down beside me. “Nah, but I seriously think she is. So, who was the guy?” She turned on the sofa so she was facing me, so I did the same and crossed my legs.

“His name is Nick. He’s from America and he’s come over to study. He seems… different. I can’t pin point it.”

“Uh oh…” Sarah said, making me roll my eyes and sigh.

“What?”

“You’re intrigued. Which means your gonna pursue and pursue until you find out what it is about him that makes him seem different to you.”

“No, I won’t.” I shook my head. “I just meant he seems different from everyone else around here. I thought he came off as shy when I first spoke to him.”

“Probably gay then… or a virgin!”

I leant over and playfully smacked Sarah’s leg before getting up. “No, it’s not that. Anyways, it’s his first year too. I said I’d meet him on the first day.”

“Ah, admit it, you’re gonna befriend him.”

I stopped at the doorway and looked at her. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Everything, Mila. And you know it.”

I rolled my eyes before leaving the room and heading upstairs. I could hear Kayleigh singing in her room and snorted before going into mine.

So what I had made a friend with a guy. What’s so bad about that?

***

[Nick]

My room was in complete darkness, other than the light outside my window casting a glow from under the blind in the window. My mind was on everything. The guys, my family, Leslie. It was the first time since I’d left that I really missed them all.

I just had to keep telling myself that this was for good, that they will eventually see that I was doing the right thing. Although at this moment it didn’t feel right, and I was blaming Kevin.

Kevin and his stupid, stupid email.

I was thankful that Mila had distracted me. She was easy to talk to and took my mind off the mess at home. I’d kept waiting for her to tell me she recognized me, but it never came. It made me feel… well, weird.

”Yo Nick, you want pizza?!”

I sighed softly before looking toward my doorway. Sure enough light was shining underneath it from where Darren stood in the hall. “Sure!”

Kevin was not going to make me lose my focus. He could email me all he liked, it would not work.

I walked out my room and collided with Ste as he walked out his room.

“Watch it..”

I stepped back and let Ste walk forward first. He walked into the bathroom and slammed the door, making me shake my head.

“Someone don’t like you.” Darren commented as I joined him on the stairs.

“He’s barely given me a chance to talk to him. He’s always in his room.”

“So are you.”

I looked at Darren who cracked up before jumping down the stairs.

“Pizza, beer and a movie sound alright?” Darren walked into the kitchen whilst I went and sat on the sofa. Two pizza boxes were on the table in front of me, and a stack of DVD’s, all of which I’d already seen countless times.

“Sounds great.” I replied, leaning back on the couch as Darren walked in carrying a 6 pack.
He put the first Transformers DVD in the player before we both sat back and started eating. I would of loved to have gotten into the film, but it reminded me too much of Aaron, and how we’d gone to the movies to see it. Afterwards we’d gone back to my place and Leslie had been sat on the doorstep, waiting for us.

I sighed loudly and reached for a bottle of beer, uncapping it before taking a big swig. I glanced over at Darren and found him watching me. “What?”

“That was some sigh. Am I boring you?”

I shook my head. “No.. not at all. It’s a long story.”

Darren chuckled. “Ah, we’ve all got them. We’re days away from starting uni.. now is the time to have fun and ignore all those “Long stories..” Embrace it my friend! This… is where the fun begins!”

He picked up his beer and leaned over to me, holding it out. I slowly leaned over before clinking out bottles together. Darren sat back satisfied, and started watching the film, but my mind wouldn’t shut off.

In some ways I wished that I was back at that café with Mila, who kept my mind off everything. Or that I was back in Malibu, a year ago and happy with Lauren…. And that Leslie would still be alive.

“Sorry man, I’m gonna head up to bed. Thanks for the beer and pizza though.” I stood up, picking up the empty pizza boxes.

“You ok?”

I nodded. “I’m ok, just tired.”

“Night man!”

I smiled before leaving the room and heading back upstairs. A part of me was wondering if Kevin had emailed me again. Another part of me was wondering if anyone had left messages on my cell phone, which was hid in the back of the wardrobe, off. I knew these feelings would hit me at some point, and in a way I was glad it was now, and now when I was studying.

These feelings had to shift before the first day of school.

Chapter 5 by BiLittrell

[Nick]

I really didn’t know what to expect when the first day of university came around. I thought it would be full of introductions and slowly being led into the course. I left each class with essays and a load of books.
So much so I pretty much couldn’t carry everything in my messenger bag. I was juggling a couple of books and trying to see my way down a small flight of steps when I felt a couple of the books slip from my grip.

“Fuck..” I muttered to myself before jogging down the steps to grab my books. I bent down to retrieve them when someone rushed over to help. “Thanks..”

“Tough first day, huh?”

I bent down and grab the remaining book, but looked up when the girl spoke. It was Mila. “Something like that.”

We both stood up and she handed me my books. “You need a bigger bag.” She nodded at my messenger bag before showing me her backpack.

“Tell me about it. No class?”

Mila shook her head. “I’m done for the day. You?”

“Same.”

“Walk with me to the bus stop?”

I nodded. “Sure.”

We silently walked toward the bus stop. The sun was out, but there was a cool breeze in the air. It was nothing like home, and I was missing the warm weather a little.

“So how did you find your day?” Mila asked me as she sat on the bench in the bus stop.

“Eh.. Overwhelming. I’m not used to all this..” I looked down at the books before back at her.

“I know. They kinda sprung it on us right? Should of realized my days of freedom are over with now.” Mila sat beside me and sighed. “You wanna go for some food?”

“What?”

“Food, you know.. you eat it, cook it..”

I rolled my eyes and laughed. “Sure, but I don’t really want to drag these books out. What about meeting up later?”

Mila nodded. “Sure! We could go for dinner and a couple of drinks. I know this great pub that serves the best food!”

I smiled as she started chatting wildly about the “awesome steak and chips” and how she used to go there to study. “Just one thing though…”

“Huh?” Mila stopped talking to look at me.

“Well, I’m not from around here, so I have no idea where this pub is. Maybe we should swap digits?”

“You want my number?” Mila pulled her cell out her pocket.

“Sure.. that way you can text me directions or something.” I slid my new phone out my pocket and we quickly swapped numbers. I actually was looking forward to going out than staying at the house. Darren was a great guy, but all he ever did was talk and it got boring quickly. Ste hid out in his room, and I was starting to think he had the right idea.

“Ooh my bus! I’ll text you when I get home! See ya!” Mila threw me a smile before jumping off the bench and waving the bus down.

I watched her climb on the bus and wave at me from her seat as the bus drove away. I kept on watching until the bus disappeared from sight before sighing softly.

Was it right to be looking forward to something after how I’d been feeling the past few months? It was a welcome feeling, but at the same time it felt so wrong.

I wish I knew what was write.

****

[Mila]

The house was quiet when I got home. MUCH too quiet.

“Hellooo?”

I was greeted with no reply, so I walked into the living area and threw my bags on the couch. I hadn’t been home alone since before the summer, so I was willing to take full advantage. I turned the TV on, switching it to “The Vault” music channel and cranked the volume up before walking into the kitchen, singing along to an old Boyzone song on TV.

It had been a long time since I’d asked a guy out. I was pretty sure this wasn’t a date, but either way… I was going out with a guy for dinner.

That hadn’t happened in forever.

I poured myself a glass of juice before walking back into the living room. It seemed the TV was in full on boyband mode, for the Boyzone song ended, and an NSYNC one started. I wasn’t much of a fan of them, but I kept the channel on as I pulled out all my books from my bag and checked them over.

Course work was a passion of mine. I LOVED to write essays and research. I know, weird right? I made sure I had all my notes in the correct books when the song changed on the channel. I looked up, hearing something familiar and cracked up when I saw the beginning of Backstreet boys “Backstreets Back” video start.

“Man this is old..” I shook my head and finished off putting my notes in the right books before shoving them back in my bag. I pulled my phone out and sang along to the TV as I opened up a new text.

”Still on for food? I was thinking of meeting in 2 hours? What’s ur address and I’ll find out where the pub is to you. Mila”

 

I turned the TV off halfway through the song before grabbing my stuff and heading upstairs. Even though I wasn’t sure if this was a date or not, I still wanted to look better than the few times Nick had seen me. He always looked well dressed, whereas I was either rocking holey jeans or leggings. Anyone who knew me knew I was more of a dress girl.

I pulled out my favourite summer dress, a black and purple dress that skimmed my knee, and my sandals before changing. I didn’t want to come across like I was desperate or trying too hard, I just wanted him to realise I wasn’t a complete bum. I ran a brush through my hair, and jumped when my mobile beeped at me.

”Of course I’m still on for food, I’m a man! 2 hours is cool, 132 green road. Uh.. dunno the rest, Lol!

 

I smiled at the text before grabbing my laptop off the side. I opened it up and pulled up google maps before typing his address in.

Google maps was my friend.

***

I was a regular at The Trout Inn. So much so that the moment I walked in the bartender told me my usual table was free. I smiled and gave him a little wave before walking over and sitting down.

Nick said he would be there around the same time I would arrive, but I wasn’t surprised when he wasn’t. He was new to the country and probably lost. I pulled out my phone, ready to text Nick asking if he was lost when the chair opposite me was pulled out, making me look up.

“Oh, hey! I thought you got lost.” I put my phone away as Nick sat down.

“I nearly did. Nice place.”

I took the chance to look at Nick as he scanned the pub whilst taking his jacket off. His hair was all windswept and unruly. It made me want to run my fingers through it, so instead forward and chuckled. “It windy outside?”

“Huh?”

I pointed at my head. “Your hair…”

“Oh..” Nick laughed as he ran his fingers through his hair. “..It’s a little long, I know.”

“I like it.” I said, making Nick look at me.

“You do?”

I shrugged. “Sure. It suits you. Some guys just look like Fabio gone wrong with long hair. You… well, kinda look like Prince Charming from Shrek.”

Nick laughed. “Well, at least I don’t look like Shrek.”

I snorted and grabbed the menus off the table. “Your menu, your highness..”

Nick was still chuckling as he took a menu off me. We both opened our menus and scanned it quietly. I knew what I wanted from the get go, but I didn’t want to seem like a pig.

“So, what’s good here?”

I looked up to see Nick looking at me. “Well.. the pie and mash is good.”

“Steak?”

I nodded. “Yea, that’s good too.”

“I might get a burger.. and a beer.”

I smiled. “I think I’m gonna get the steak.. and a beer.”

“Beer for you too?” Nick raised his eyebrows, making me smile.

“What? Never met a girl who can drink beer?”

Nick shrugged. “I have, just… well.. uh..”

I looked at Nick amused as he blushed slightly. “You.. what?”

“I didn’t think girls drank beer over here.”

I cracked up laughing, making Nick blush more. I could tell that I needed to teach Nick about British girls, and how we weren’t as posh and well-spoken as we were portrayed.

Chapter 6 by BiLittrell

[Nick]

Dinner with Mila had been great.. so great I was almost scared about how I was able to forget about everything for a short time and feel normal. She was a character, someone who I knew I would get along with.
It was nice to find someone to befriend who wasn’t just out to get wasted and fool around: like Darren.

I arrived home in good spirits to find one hell of a house party going on. There were people everywhere, and I pretty much had to squeeze past them just to get through to the living room.

I spotted Darren standing on the coffee table bumping and grinding with some drunk chick.

“YO, DARREN!” I grabbed his arm, making him stumble and look at me.

“HEY IT’S NICK!” He yelled out, jumping down to hug me.

“What the hell is going on, dude?!” I waved around at the room, which was a mess as well as filled with people.

“It’s a party! Come celebrate!” Darren grabbed my arm, pulling me through to the kitchen.

“I can’t, I have to study.”

Darren laughed. “Study? But.. this is uni! It’s time for fun! Go grab a girl and have a good time! Here.. this is Katrina..” He grabbed some brunette, who immediately grinned at me. It made my skin crawl.

“I’m alright..” I waved him off before pushing through all the people to get up the stairs. It amazed me how just a year or two previous and I would have been on that girl like a shot, and now… it pretty much repulsed me.

Maybe because I’d pretty much been there, done that and worn the t-shirt.

A couple making out on the stairs made me groan as I stepped over them and jogged up the rest of the stairs. Darren’s bedroom door was wide open, mine and Ste’s were still closed. I wondered if Ste was down in the party or still in his room, still… I fought the urge to knock on his door and instead walked into my room, shutting and locking my door behind me.

The music was pumping through the house so much that everything on my desk was shaking. I wondered how long it would be before the neighbours complained. I was tempted to complain myself, but decided against it and pulled my macbook out.

It had been a week since I’d used the internet for anything other than research and studying, so the first thing I did was log in to my email.

Big mistake.

As well as the usual junk, there were three emails from Kevin, and my guess was he was sending them every other day in hopes of a reply. I clicked on the oldest one and moved over to my bed, reclining back and resting my laptop on my stomach.

Title: No Subject
Sender: Kevin Richardson
Body: So I’ve called everyone we know, the rest of the fellas, your family, even Lauren. No one has heard from you… where are you, boy? We are worried sick. I am worried sick. Just a word, just something to let me know you are at least alive.
I won’t give up, boy. Mark my words.

I sighed, hating that he’d now contacted everyone and they knew I was gone. I only wanted that information to be between the guys.
I clicked on the next mail.

Title: No Subject
Sender: Kevin Richardson
Body: So tell me what I am to do. Go to the cops? Announce you are missing on the internet? Forget you? Tell me, because I’m wracking my brains trying to figure out what your game is.
Call me stupid if you want, but I know you.. I know you have a plan up your sleeve. I know you don’t give up so easy.
Please Nick, just one word, just let me know you are safe.

I hovered the mouse over the reply button, but shook my head and went to view the next message.

Title: You are aging me
Sender: Kevin Richardson
Body: So Kristin advised me against reporting you missing. So for now I will stay quiet, but I hope you know this is aging me immensely. It isn’t right for a person to worry so much about another person. We love you, Nick. And we miss you. I beg of you… just give us a call, or a text, or reply to my goddamn emails.
Leslie won’t want this, Nick, and you know it.

I slammed my macbook lid down and sighed loudly. He just had to mention Leslie’s name. After the great evening I’d had I now felt like crap.

This party was doing my head in, and I actually wished I was back in my condo in Malibu, sat on the balcony enjoying the sound of the ocean and the gulls. Not listening to an outdated remix of Rihanna’s Umbrella.

I climbed off my bed, shoving my macbook back in its bag before stripping down to my underwear and climbing into my bed.

For the first night since I’d been here, I went to bed feeling completely homesick.

*****

[Mila]

“How was your date?”

I looked over at Sarah, who stuffed a generous mouthful of ice cream into her mouth. “Date?”

“Mm hmmm..” Sarah nodded, finishing off her ice cream before speaking.

“You went out with that American dude.”

I rolled my eyes. “How the hell did you know? And it wasn’t a date…”

“Yea right, and of course I know!” Sarah grinned at me. “I saw you go into the pub, and a few minutes later blondie followed.. after I gave him directions.”

I raised my eyebrows and glared at her. “And where the hell were you?”

“At the bus stop.” Sarah looked way too amused. “So, kiss him yet?”

I chuckled. “No. It wasn’t a date. We just went for dinner.”

“On a date.”

“Sarah!” I yelled out, making her laugh.

“Ok, ok, fine it wasn’t a date.” Sarah dug out another spoonful of ice cream from the tub sat in her lap. “But you like him.”

“He’s a friend, yes.” I groaned as Sarah laughed.

“Sure, but you liiiiike him!” She shoved the spoon in her mouth.

“Sarah, he’s just a friend. Yes, he intrigues me, but that’s it. Now are you going to share that ice cream?” I waved my spoon in the air waiting for Sarah to pass me the tub.

“Fine, here.” She handed the tub of ice cream over before leaning back against the couch. “So when are you seeing him next?”

“Tomorrow… and no it’s not a date! We have English Lit together.” I scooped some of the chocolate ice cream out and shoved the spoon in my mouth.

“Would it be so bad if it was a date?” Sarah asked, making me look at her.

“Why do you ask?”

She shrugged. “Well, you’re constantly denying that it’s a date, and won’t be a date. But would it be so bad if it was?”

I bit my lip and sighed. Sarah watched me the whole time, waiting for my answer. “Well…”

“You can’t think of anything, can you?” Sarah raised her eyebrow and kept her gaze on me.

“No..” I muttered, looking away.

“You have to give guys the benefit of the doubt. Not all of them are out to hurt you, Mila. I mean you wanna be his friend, and that’s cool. But what if he asks you out? You can’t just run away.”

I looked back at her. “I won’t. And anyways, he won’t. I don’t get them kinda vibes from him.”

Sarah chuckled. “Mila, you’ve known him all of five minutes. Just… give him a chance, ok? From what I saw he seems nice. Plus.. Americans are hot.”

I snorted. “Sarah, your taste in men is rank!” I laughed as Sarah pretended to be offended.

“How mean! Give me back my ice cream!” She lunged towards me and grabbed the tub off me, making me laugh more.

“Thanks, Sarah.”

“You’re welcome..” She hugged the tub and looked at me. “But for what?”

I smiled. “Being there.”

“Always, Mila.”

***

I laid awake much later that evening thinking over what Sarah had said to me before. She had known me since we were pretty much born, and had been there for me through all the good and bad times. She knew me just as much as I knew myself.

So she knew why I was nervous about even talking about dating guys.

My last relationship had ended badly. He had cheated, breaking my heart, then went on to spread lies about me around our small town. It was one of the reasons why I was so excited to move away.

Clean slate and all that.

Still, it didn’t make the scars of hurt go away. My trust was close to zero, and I kept most guys at arm’s length. Nick was no exception, even if Sarah was convinced he was.

He was a friend, and that was it.

We both had English Lit together, which I’d found out this evening whilst at dinner. He seemed relieved to find out that we had classes together, and that made me smile. I got the feeling he had no friends here at all. He never mentioned his roommates, so I guessed that he was alone apart from.. well, me.

Although there was still something about him I couldn’t quite place. Sometimes I felt like I knew him, but then I knew I didn’t. I’d never met an American before. Sounds sad I know, but I’d spent most of my life in Cornwall, I hadn’t travelled much.

So whatever it was about Nick that I couldn’t place, well I was determined to find out. Otherwise I knew it would drive me crazy.

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