"You'll see," he sang. Even Brian was intrigued, but being the Nick expert he was, he wasn't about to feed the monster by asking about the stop.
Tom drove them up the Canyon's side in the Jeep and Amanda stared wistfully back down at the river as it grew smaller and smaller behind them. The weekend had gone so fast, she was surprised it was over already. Would the whole trip fly by the way the Grand Canyon had, she wondered?
At the top, Tom helped them load their tents and bags into the rig and thanked them for staying. Brian and Nick shook his hand, and Amanda gave him a hug. He saluted them as Nick drove the bus out of the lot where they'd parked it and onto the highway once more.
Brian sat in the front of the bus with them and they talked about what their favorite moments had been. "Definitely your mountain lion," Brian said, laughing and poking Nick in the side.
"Yeah, that was pretty great," he agreed.
"I liked the burro ride," Amanda said with a smile.
They took turns picking songs off their various iPods for the next three hours of riding. Every genre of music imaginable played during that time. It was as they were entering Gallup, New Mexico that Nick selected That’s Not My Name by the Ting-Tings.
“They call me Stay-CEEE,” sang Amanda, bobbing her head, skipping over words she didn’t know (which was almost all of them), “That’s not my name. That’s not my name. That’s not my – name.”
Brian laughed and scrolled through his own iPod for a song, “Okay, this one’s one of my favorites,” he said when the Ting Ting’s had finished. He took the auxiliary outlet plug and stuck it into his headphone jack. “Its an interesting way to look at life.”
Amanda hadn’t heard the song before, though by the time it was over she knew she’d be looking up the singer on iTunes and downloading it, along with probably the rest of the guy’s music library. The lyrics were simple, yet piercing.
I'm gonna miss you
When you're gone
She says, I love you
I'm gonna miss you
And your songs
And I said, please
Don't talk about the end
Don't talk about how
Every living thing goes away
She said, friend
All along I thought
I was learning how to take
How to bend not how to break
How to live not how to cry
But really I've been learning how to die
I've been learning how to die
Nick’s face was stony by the time the song had ended. Amanda twisted in her seat to look at Brian and smiled, “That’s really poetic,” she said.
“I thought it was nice,” Brian answered. He disconnected the iPod and handed the plug to Nick, who just held it rather than attaching his own player. “Did you recognize the voice?” Brian asked. Amanda shook her head. “Do you know Switchfoot? They sang that song Dare You to Move?”
“Oh yeah, I remember them,” she said, nodding, “Yeah, I liked that album.”
“Well that’s their lead singer, Jon Foreman. He did some solo EPs a couple years ago and they’re all folky like that. They’re great albums.”
“I’ll have to look him up online,” Amanda said, smiling.
Without any comment, Nick suddenly hit play on his iPod and INXS filled the speakers. Amanda’s face lit up. “Oh my God I love these guys!” she started dancing in her seat to New Sensation. Brian leaned back, tucking his iPod into his pocket and studied the back of Nick’s head.
When they stopped in Gallup to fill up, Amanda stayed on the bus while the two Boys went inside to stock up. Nick maintained a distance of a foot and a half from Brian and avoided eye contact the entire time, as he had been doing since Brian had played the song. Brian frowned, catching Nick’s elbow near a display of Cheetos in front of the coolers, where Nick was debating between Pepsi and a Red Bull.
“Why are you mad at me?” Brian snapped in a hiss to Nick as he snagged his elbow.
Nick glared at him. “Seriously? You need to ask me that? I told you, I don’t feel comfortable telling Amanda everything about this trip, about why we’re really here. You’re not respecting that.”
Brian frowned even harder than he already had been. “I don’t think it’s really your choice what Amanda does and does not know about the real reason we’re here, is it?”
“She’s my girlfriend, that makes it my choice,” Nick retorted. “I don’t want her to know. Why is that so hard for you?”
“Because, she deserves to know,” Brian hissed. “She’s a good one, this one, and you only get one shot. Lesson one on girls, Nick, you don’t keep secrets. Particularly big ones like this.”
“I can do whatever I want,” Nick replied, grabbing a bag of Bugles off the shelf and opting for the Red Bull.
Brian shook his head. “So don’t tell her then, but I will.”
Nick growled, “You better not.”
Brian sighed, “Don’t be stupid, Nick. She should know, there’s so many reasons why she should. It’s not like it would go any further than us, right?”
Nick shoved by him, carrying the stuff he’d selected to the check out counter.
“Nick, you can’t just ignore it. Eventually everyone is going to know. Eventually even the fans will know. Then there’s no way for you to protect the secret anymore.” Brian paused, “I just think that Amanda is actually worth the effort of your trust for once.” Brian frowned. “I don’t understand what brought this up to begin with. I didn’t say anything, I don’t know why you think I did.”
“That fucking song,” Nick snapped. “I don’t wanna think about it Brian! We’re not supposed to be thinking about it! We’re supposed to be having fun and all you wanna do is think about it and talk about it and make me think about it! Well I don’t wanna!”
With that, he turned back to the register and yanked his wallet out of his pocket, ignoring Brian. Brian set his jaw, determined not to get mad at Nick. Yet, at the same time, he couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t him, Brian, that was supposed to be pissed off at the world, not Nick?
Nick went straight out to the bus after he paid, while Brian dawdled in the store, trying to cool off before rejoining Nick and Amanda on board Dot.
As Nick climbed the steps into the bus, he overheard Amanda on the phone. “It’s not that easy, I mean I can’t just produce something that isn’t there,” she was saying heatedly. Nick hung back in the door, holding the bag of stuff he’d bought. “Look, I don’t wanna talk about this, okay? I’ve got a lot going on right now. I’ll get it to you when I get it to you. Good-bye.” He heard her close the cell phone and sigh, and the sound of the seat flexing under her as she either sat or shifted her weight on it.
Deciding he’d waited long enough to look like he hadn’t been eavesdropping, Nick galloped up the stairs. “I got you a Red Bull,” he announced, tossing a can to her.
“Oh thank God,” Amanda popped the lid and started drinking, “I need energy so bad. Sleeping in a tent really wears on your back, huh?”
Nick laughed, “Try it sometime without the egg crates and get back to me.” He sat down across from her at the little table in the back and pulled out the Bugles and popped them open. He offered the bag to her, but Amanda waved it away.
“Inside still.” Nick’s voice was hardened at the mention of the name.
Amanda furrowed her brow, “What happened?” she asked, suspicious of the tone change in Nick’s voice and the stern look of his face.
“We had a little bit of an argument is all,” Nick replied, shrugging, “No biggie.”
“Over what?” Amanda asked.
Nick shook his head, “Nothing. Really.” But Amanda knew it was something.