~ 10 ~
A big stack of chocolate chip pancakes were waiting for the boys when they finally woke up for the day and headed downstairs. Kevin felt himself dragging since he was unable to go back to sleep after his dream and ensuing conversation with his young roommate. Nick however woke up refreshed and relaxed as if no deep and intense discussion had occurred between the two just a few hours earlier.
Howie didn’t appear to have slept well either. He sat oddly quiet during their breakfast and hardly said two words as he just kind of pushed his whipped cream from one side of the dish to the other while his mother looked on disapprovingly.
After they finished eating and helped Mama D wash the dishes and put everything away, they sat in the living room to decide on what they would do for the day. Nick’s idea of horseback riding was quickly shot down by Kevin, which of course didn’t see it was just a joke as the blonde gave a quick wink right after suggesting it.
Howie suggested they have just a simple day on the beach or even stick close to home. Maybe just chill out by their family pool and then at night, catch a movie at the local cinema. Neither Kevin nor Nick felt like being by the water again after yesterday’s fiasco, so it was Kevin’s idea of miniature golfing that won out in the end. So at around 3 in the afternoon, the trio ended up at Putt U.
They had tackled two holes before Kevin was able to pull Howie aside, while Nick was just up ahead taking a shot on the penguin filled green. “Is everything okay, D?”
Howie looked over at Kevin and smiled, “Yeah, why do you ask?”
“You’ve just been kind of quiet.”
Howie let out a small sigh but then quickly smiled over at Nick who seemed very proud of himself for getting his ball into the hole in about his third try. D moved over and placed his own purple ball into the middle groove and gripped his putter tight before answering Kevin’s question. “I’ve just been thinking a lot about what that pager said.”
Kevin nodded as Howie pulled his arms back to swing at the ball. It moved slowly up the hill and then traveled back down to where he was standing which got Nick positively giggling.
“Wow Howie that royally sucked!”
“Shut up kid, I’m just warming up!”
“Yeah sure you are!” Nick goaded from his spot off the green.
Howie turned to Kevin and whispered, “I feel horrible for saying it, but I can’t help but feel like I’m putting my family in danger just by having Nicky stay with us, you know what I mean? I was thinking about telling my dad about the message. Do you think I should?”
Kevin hadn’t even thought about that. But it was true, if it really was this guy, he said he knew where Nick was which meant he also knew where Howie lived.
“Come on Howieeeee make your shot already!!” Nick whined, growing impatient and looking at his wrist as if he was wearing or even knew how to read a watch.
Once again Howie pulled back and hit the ball, this time getting it all the way up the hill and through the huge penguin’s feet as it landed right in the hole. “Yes!”
“No way!!” Nick yelled, “You totally cheated!”
“Well it’s not like it was a hole in one or anything.”
Howie glanced back at Kevin “I don’t know what to do.”
“We’ll figure it out D.” Kevin said as he placed his ball down and aimed.
Throughout the entire round of golf, Kevin and Howie discreetly went back and forth about how to handle the situation with the mysterious message on Nick’s pager. Whether or not it was a good idea to let his parent’s know about it or if they should just confront Nick first. Kevin was unsure if he should tell Howie about their conversation last night. He had promised not to tell anyone, including Howie he supposed, but then again, if he told D, then at least the two of them could share the burden of knowing about Bob’s abuse.
Nick seemed to be in a very good mood, striking up casual conversation with the group of teens who were put-putting before them. He was smiling and flirting with a teenage girl about his age as she tried her best to get her ball into the hole.
“Look at that little player.” Howie whispered to Kevin as they both watched the blond in action.
“Howie…last night, Nick told me it was Bob who gave him that black eye.”
The smile on D’s face instantly disappeared, “What? You mean when he said those kids were ganging up on him?”
“And he just told you this out of the blue?”
“I know, I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“Well it didn’t take you long to break that promise.”
“I felt like you needed to know because I’m not sure if after telling me that, he’d be so willing to talk about this other guy now.”
They were both interrupted by the young brunette giggling as Nick had his arms around her waist, showing her the correct way to hold the putter. “He just thinks he knows it all, doesn’t he?” Howie said with a smile on his face.
“He’s like a young version of my cousin.” Kevin couldn’t help but think of Brian and his ‘vast’ knowledge about everything, well at least in his own mind. Nick pretty much had built a shrine to his little cousin so it was no wonder he picked up this trait as well.
“He’s had a hard life, this kid…” Howie said turning his attention back to Kevin.
“I’m starting to get that.” Kevin agreed.
~ * ~
When they were finished with their round of golf, they gathered at the small snack area to add up their scores and grab some ice cream. It was there that Nick who had pretty much all but left his bandmates behind to hang with the cute brunette, requested that he be allowed to go play one more round of golf with his new found friends, if it was okay with them of course. Kevin and Howie both said it was fine but not before stressing that if either one of them did that to him, he’d be whining and complaining about how unfair life was. Nick then had to bring up the fact that by leaving him to go out clubbing and then canceling their fishing trip, they owed him!
So, as the two men watched their young band mate head back onto the golf course they sat back, put their feet up on the bench and enjoyed just relaxing for a bit.
“That was kind of fun.”
Kevin nodded, “I haven’t played mini golf in a long time.”
“Same here.” Howie took a bite out of his ice cream taco, slurping the melted vanilla ice cream before it landed on his shirt. “I love these things.”
Kevin decided on an Italian Ice as he grabbed the overly small wooden spoon and scraped at the top of the watermelon flavored treat. “So, have we decided what to do about Nick?”
“I think we should talk to him. Maybe it’s best to leave my parents out of it for now. Who knows? Maybe it was someone else and not anyone we should be worried about. I don’t want to send my parents into a needless tizzy for nothing.”
“And what about Bob?”
Howie took one final bite of his taco and then threw the overly messy wrapper away, leaving a puddle of melted ice cream on the ground. “Bob needs to be kicked in the ass.”
“That was my thought too, but I mean do we tell someone?”
“I don’t know…” and he honestly looked as lost as Kevin felt last night when Nick had confided in him. “I mean…Nicky could be taken out of his home if that were to happen and he’s famous, you know? It would make all the papers and headlines overseas. Here no one cares, but in Canada and everywhere else? Then there are the others to consider too. All the kids would probably end up being removed from the home or at least they would be investigated. I don’t know, Kev…”
Kevin nodded “At least he’s not with his parents most of the time.” It was sad he even had to say that, but the more he got to know Nick, the more he understood that it was a saving grace that his family remained absent from that kid’s life.
As if he knew he was the subject of conversation, Nick came running over towards them and sat beside Kevin.
“Wow, you’re done already?”
“No, but we’re right by a food truck and I wanted to be nice and treat everyone to lunch.”
“So, why are you over here then?”
“Because I was wondering if I can borrow some cash?”
Kevin looked over at Howie and rolled his eyes as D smiled.
“So, basically I’m the one that’s being nice and treating your new friends to lunch?”
“Well, either you or Howie…either way works…so? Do either of you have $50?”
“What the hell? Are you buying the entire truck?” Howie asked fishing in his wallet for cash.
“Have you ever eaten at a food truck? That crap is pricey.”
Howie handed Nick a $20. “That’s all I have, buddy.”
He then glanced over at Kevin, “Kevy?”
Kevin let out a sigh and then opened his own wallet, pulling out another $20 and handing it over, “That means dinner is on you!”
Nick leaned over and gave Kevin a sloppy kiss! “No problem! Thanks guys!”
“And Nicky, let’s not stay here forever, okay?”
“If you guys want to head back home, I’m sure I can get a ride from one of them.” He said nodding over at his new friends.
“Nah, we’ll wait here…just don’t take forever.” Kevin said, not feeling like it was a good idea leaving him with these new kids.
Nick nodded and smiled at his friends. “Thanks, guys!” He turned and then ran back to the small group of teenagers.
It was nice how normal things felt in that moment for Kevin, just being able to hang out with his best friend and do nothing. No deadlines or press conferences to worry about. No chance of being recognized. He felt like a normal human being for once. A feeling of calmness overtook him at that moment, which for him was a pretty rare occurrence. It seemed like he was always worrying about something.
“They’re probably using him for free food.” Howie said.
“Kind of like how he just used us for free food?”
“Okay, good point… so, what now? Nick will probably be gone for at least an hour, you want to be a kid and hit the arcade? I haven’t played videogames in years!”
Kevin smiled, “You know what? Yes! Let’s go for it!!” They both stood up and made their way into the game room, Kevin making sure to take one last look at Nick as he stood off in the distance by the food truck with his new friends.
About an hour later, Kevin and Howie walked out of the game room where they found the table they had vacated earlier, still empty. They once again sat down but this time Howie had a really ugly stuffed dog with him.
“You are like some kind of Zen master when it comes to those pick it up type games, D. Seriously, I’ve never seen anyone that can maneuver that claw thing like you can.”
Howie picked up the blue dog that said ‘World’s Best Mom’ on it and smiled, “I know…it’s a gift. Now where is that kid? I’m starving!”
“You know he’s not going to want to go eat after stuffing his face at the food truck, right?”
“Well then he can sit in the car, give us money and we can go in and eat!”
Kevin laughed, “I’d like to see that happen.”
“They should be finishing up soon.” Howie looked out onto the course, trying to see if he could spot the kids but they were nowhere to be found.
“It must be nice for him to hang around with kids his own age for once.” Kevin had liked the look on Nick's face when he had come over and asked for money. He seemed to be genuinely happy.
“Here they come!” Howie said as he stood up and stretched. “Wait…he’s not with them.”
Kevin looked over in the direction that the kids were coming from and there were the four kids Nick had been hanging with, including the cute brunette, but Nick was nowhere to be found. They were joking around and laughing as they walked past Howie and Kevin.
“Hey!” Kevin snapped at them.
All of them stopped, “Yeah?”
“Where is Nick, the blonde kid who was playing golf with you?”
One of them answered, “Oh, some older guy called him over and started talking to him so we split.”
Kevin’s stomach dropped, “Some guy?”
The cute brunette shrugged, “It looked like it could have been his dad or something.”
“When?” Now Howie asked in a slightly panicked voice.
“I don’t know…about an hour ago maybe? We were hanging by the food truck.” She looked confused by the inquisition. “Tell him my name is Wendy and I had a great time when you see him again, okay?”
Howie nodded as he dropped the blue bear, “Yeah…okay…sure.” He half answered as the teens walked away.
The calmness Kevin had been feeling earlier was replaced by a sudden surge of panic and dread as both boys went running towards the food truck as the words, “World’s Best Mom” fell into that small melted pile of ice cream on the ground.