A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
From “The Day is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
~ 24 ~
Sad Little Pebbles and Wind-up Dolls
As Howie walked out of the bedroom and away from his very sick friend, he tried not to look as scared as he felt, but the first thing he did was run to the bathroom and throw up what little pizza and cake he had for dinner. It was in that bathroom earlier, when he was left to take a shower that he realized the only way he was going to get himself and Nick out of this situation was by killing Tim. He’d actually have to end someone’s life. Not merely bop him on the head and make his escape, but actually end his life. He ran all the possible scenarios in his head as he let the hot water roll over his body. If there was any way at all he could get them out of there and spare his captor, but in every single instance, it wouldn’t work out. There were too many factors working against him.
Maybe if he was just a little bit bigger, he’d be able to take Tim on in a fight and then flee with Nick. Maybe if Nick was a little smaller, He’d be able to carry Nick to the car. Both of those things were far from true though. He would never be able to carry his friend and dragging him would be too risky for his baby brother’s health.
He knew Nicky was bad. He knew it long before he even looked under that shirt, but what was really starting to scare him was how fast his health seemed to be declining. Just at that thought, Howie felt another wave of nausea hit him so he placed his head over the bowl and once again puked. “Pull yourself together, Nicky needs you!” He wiped his mouth and got to work. This situation was urgent. He didn’t know how much time Nick had left. So he pulled open the medicine cabinet and started rifling through its contents.
It was kind of funny how many prescription drugs were in the cabinet. There were all kinds of bottles with names that sounded vaguely familiar to Howie because of late night commercials with sad looking pebbles and windup toys in them. Xanax, Effexor, Elavil, Kilonipin just to name a few. He was no medical expert, but he knew these were all meds that people took when they were not quite right in the head. He wondered how Tim got his hands on them but just looking at the expiration dates kind of answered his question. Most of them were at least 20 years or more passed their shelf life.
“Marilyn Muntkey.” He said out loud. That’s who most of the meds were prescribed to. “Wonder who that is.”
He grabbed the pill bottles as well as the huge thing of aspirin and made his way back into the bedroom to check on Nick. Just as he was afraid would happen, Nick was sound asleep, this time laying on his side and holding one of his pillows protectively against his stomach the way James would hold one of his teddy bears. Howie sighed, just thinking about his son. How he wanted nothing more than to just see him again, as well as Holden and his wife.
“Not now, Howie! You need to focus!”
He shook them out of his mind and sat on the bed and gently tapped Nick. “Nicky…” When he didn’t stir, he shook a little more forcefully as panic filled him, “Nick, wake up!” Howie actually felt himself go numb and was just about to resort to slapping him on the face when his eyes slowly opened.
“Howie, this is getting a little annoying now.” He whined.
Howie felt so much relief he actually leaned down and kissed Nick on the cheek, “Don’t ever do that to me again!”
“What? Sleep? And yuck I totally have Howie cooties now.” He tried to make himself sound like a smart ass kid but he was so weak and unwell anything he said just sounded like it was coming from someone in a dreamlike state. It broke D’s heart. He could tell Nick was trying to joke more to ease Howie’s mind then his own.
The two of them had always had a strange relationship. When he first met Nick at the tender age of twelve, he felt like he was in the middle of some kind of weird side show, the kind that harbors dancing cats and men who swallow swords. There Howie was with these two little kids, singing and dancing. He never really looked at Nick as anything more than just the blonde kid who’s in my singing group. It kind of felt awkward to think of him as anything more than that. Of course, that changed the longer they stayed together and the better they got to know one another. Even still, Nick always seemed to be more attached to Howie than Howie was to Nick. It kind of annoyed the older one. He wasn’t really ever joking when he said Nick was the younger brother he never wanted. The kid followed him everywhere he went and then would relentlessly torment him any chance he got.
As Nick got older, their relationship grew. Howie no longer felt uncomfortable with the idea of hanging around with the youngest member of the band and even began to enjoy it, although if asked, he’d deny it.
About a year or so before Kevin decided to leave the group is when their relationship really shifted. He found himself searching out for Nick at the end of a long day to see if he wanted to go to a club or just hang out. He found himself calling Nick just to talk and hang out away from the band and all the stupid stuff that went along with being famous. He legitimately enjoyed spending time with Nick Carter, again something he would never openly admit to anyone, least of all Nick, until now.
It’s not until you think you’re going to lose someone that you realize how important they really are to you. “Nicky, you’re my best friend.” He blurted out. “I’m not sure if I ever actually told you that, but you are.”
Nick smiled at his friend, even though he wasn’t looking as vibrant and alive as the old Nick, in that second, he was back to healthy and had that trademark smile of his on his face, “I knew I was your favorite Backstreet Boy!”
“That’s why I need to you to keep fighting, okay? Remember we talked about that.”
“I’m trying D, but it’s getting harder.”
“I know Nicky, but for me, okay? I can’t do this without you.”
Nick moved his pillow away from his stomach and motioned for Howie to help him to a sitting position, “Don’t worry, I got your back brother.” He then looked at all the bottles on the floor, “What are those?”
“I found them in his medicine cabinet. Maybe I can crush them and put them in a drink.”
Nick nodded, “That might work. Maybe something hot so they will melt. What about coffee or hot cocoa or something like that?”
Howie nodded while looking at all the medicine in front of him. He started opening up the bottles of psych meds and felt discouraged when he saw they weren’t full. Not that he was overly surprised, but he was kind of hoping there would be enough to do what needed to be done. He dropped some of the pills into his hand and started to rethink his plan. What if it didn’t work? That would pretty much insure his death at least. Tim was ready to kill him earlier and if it hadn’t been for Nick…
“What about the aspirin?” Nick pointed to the big bottle. “There’s certainly enough in there.”
Howie nodded but wasn’t sure if it would be potent enough. He remembered a friend of his in high school tried to kill herself using a bottle of aspirin, but all she managed to do was get really sick and spend a fair amount of time in a psych ward. When he had spoken to her mother, she mentioned how it caused her to bleed internally and…
“Jesus…” He looked at Nick, “Nicky, how much aspirin have you taken since you’ve been here?”
He shrugged, “I’m not sure, he just keeps giving it to me to help make me feel better.”
“Okay, listen to me; if he tries to give you anymore, you need to spit it out! It’s not helping you. I think it’s actually making you worse.”
“How? It’s aspirin!”
“Yeah, I know but it also thins your blood, well not really thins your blood but stops it from clotting.”
“Huh? When did you suddenly become a doctor?”
“I had a friend who…just never mind and please trust me, okay?”
Nick nodded, “It’s not like we’re going to have to worry about it anyway…”
“Just in case.”
Nick looked serious now, “In case what?”
Howie looked up at his friend from his position on the floor. “In case this doesn’t work. It might not work, Nicky.”
“You think if it doesn’t work, he’s going to kill you, don’t you?”
“There’s a possibility.”
“Then don’t do it!” Nick was now getting visibly upset which is what Howie was trying to avoid. “You need to just get out of here Howie. Before he comes back, please?” He started crying, “I couldn’t handle it of he killed you. I couldn’t do it.”
Howie moved to the bed and grabbed Nick into a hug, “Listen to me, I’m not leaving you here alone with this guy.”
“You will if he kills you.”
“Well I won’t let that happen then.”
“I can’t do this anymore D…” Nick had finally reached his breaking point. Howie knew because he had done this very same thing earlier. “I can’t…”
He rocked with Nick in his arms but he was also very aware that he didn’t have time to deal with this breakdown. He needed to set this plan in motion because he had no idea where Tim had gone and when he was coming back. Suddenly Nick felt limp in his arms which made him release his grasp.
His eyes were closed as his head tilted back. “Nicky!” He screamed as he led Nick’s head to the pillow and lifted his legs onto the bed. “Nick, wake up!” He started shaking Nick’s shoulders as hard as he could, as tears began to spill down his face. “Don’t you dare do this to me!! You wake up! You are not allowed to die here! Wake up!!!” He was full on yelling now, sounding like a madman.
Nick stirred slightly and half opened his eyes, “What happened?” He asked almost inaudibly.
“You passed out on me.”
“Sorry. I’m really tired D.”
Howie placed his hand on Nick’s head, “I know…you close your eyes and rest a bit. I’ll be right back, okay?” Howie was so upset he was shaking. He felt himself losing it all over again.
“You’re letting me sleep?”
“Just this once and only for a little bit.”
Nick nodded and swallowed hard, “Howie?”
He could tell Nick wanted to say something but he just couldn’t get his words out. He was pretty sure his lips were forming the word ‘careful’ so Howie answered, “I will be!” and winked at his best friend and little brother.
When Nick closed his eyes, Howie slid down to the floor, gathered the pills in his hand and just for a second considered taking them himself. He felt like there was no way out of this. Nick wasn’t going to live much longer and he didn’t want to live the rest of his life with the knowledge that he wasn’t able to save him or himself or the others. He had failed in every way imaginable.
Then the sound of his father’s voice came ringing in his ears. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself son. I didn’t raise you to give up!”
So, he took a deep breath, put the pills back into one of the bottles and got himself off the floor. He looked at Nick one more time, just to make sure he was still breathing and confident he was after seeing his chest rise and fall, he moved into the kitchen to make some hot cocoa.
“This ends now!” He said as he found a kettle and poured some water into it. His hands were shaking so much; the water was actually sloshing out of it as he made his way to the stovetop. He hadn’t even thought to check if Tim had cocoa or coffee in his pantry but after only opening one cabinet, was happy to see some instant coffee mix right in front of him.
He then placed all the medicine minus the aspirin, on the counter, took out a spoon and with the back of it, placed all his weight down and crushed them into a powder. While waiting for the water to boil, he decided to cut another piece of carrot cake and he sprinkled a little bit of the powdery substance on top of the icing. He figured he was going to offer Tim a piece of cake and coffee and apologize for not really celebrating his birthday earlier. There would be no way he would refuse that.
The tricky part of this plan was just knowing when to take the water off and giving the powder enough time to dissolve. He knew he couldn’t do it too early and risk the coffee being cold. There would be a chance Tim wouldn’t drink it then. He’d have to wait until he saw the headlights of the truck and then pour the coffee and hope to God the powder dissolved in time before Tim noticed anything odd about it. Even if he didn’t love the coffee, hopefully by having some of the cake laced with the stuff as well, it would be enough to at least knock him off his feet and then he’d have to go with his original plan and let the fire poker take care of the rest.
He took a deep breath, and sat down at the kitchen table, just waiting to see the headlights of the truck, as he uncontrollably shook.