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Chapter Sixteen

June 23, 2014

En Route to L.A.

“Hey, you know what I just realized?”


“We never went paintballing.”

“We took you driving instead. Besides, AJ promised to go with us once we got to L.A. He said there’s this awesome new place that he thinks we’ll like.”

“Sweet. Hey, can we get some food? I’m starving.”

“It’s 2 a.m.”

“So? There’s a million things open at 2 a.m.”

“We’ve stopped four times for food. It’s been nine hours and my ass is asleep. I think you can wait until we go out for breakfast tomorrow.”

“My stomach is seriously going to eat itself.”

“I highly doubt that.”


“Just give him some food.”

I keep sliding in and out of sleep, but it seems like every single time I wake up Nick and Ben are talking about the same thing: Food.

“The average boy grows the fastest between 14 and 16 years of age,” I yawn.

“See? You don’t want me to be a midget! I have to be taller than dad. See up there? Taco Bell.”

“Taco Bell gives you death farts.”

“So? We’re almost home.”

“I don’t want you filling the house with death farts right when we walk in! It’s been closed up for a couple months as it is. If you add death fart to the stale air there’s no telling what might happen. I may have tried it once and burned Uncle Kevin’s eyebrows right off.”

“There’s no way anything would be able to burn those things off,” Ben laughs.

I press my forehead against the glass. The air is on in the car, but the night is warm and muggy. It reminds me of the night before the experiment when I couldn’t fall asleep.

“Besides, Taco Bell is healthier than In-n-Out Burger,” Ben begins to protest. “There’s lettuce and tomato and nutrients and junk.”

“One word: beans.”

“Taco Bell. No beans. Next block,” I yawn. My legs are asleep and I feel completely folded up even though the car is roomy. I’m not a good traveller. As terrifying as the plane was, at least it was mercifully quick.

A half hour later, the car smells like Taco Bell and Nick is pulling up to the most beautiful beach house I have ever seen in my entire life. Then again, I haven’t been face-to-face with a lot of beach houses. Most of the people who own them in Cali are too rich to associate with me.

“Home sweet home,” Nick declares. The driveway is endless and the house doubles in size the closer we get. Even in the darkness, I can tell there are walls of windows, so many that I almost don’t want to sleep so I can watch the sun rise.

“This is beautiful,” I say as we get out of the car. My legs are tingling from my hips to my toes.

“Don’t you remember the house?” Ben asks, frowning. “You and dad picked it out right after you got married.”

“It’s only been a couple of days, Ben,” Nick says before I can disappoint him. He yanks open the trunk and I go to him to help retrieve bags. “A brain as amazing as your mom’s is going to take a little more time to heal.”

“Then maybe she shouldn’t perform,” Ben adds.

My neck snaps up. “I think Ben may be right,” I say quickly.

“There’s nothing wrong with your mom’s singing voice,” Nick says. Even if the dark I can see his snarky smile.

“It might be detrimental to my health,” I whisper under my breath.

“I think it might just be the thing to snap a few more things into place,” Nick counters, louder so Ben can hear.

I shoot him a dirty laugh that I know he sees because he laughs. Nick tosses a couple bags at Ben and we head up to the front of the house. Nick types in some sort of code and presses his thumb to a panel. I am torn between curiosity and exhaustion.

“We’ll unpack these tomorrow,” Nick says, dumping his load of bags by the door. Ben quickly follows suit.

“What about clothes?” I ask dumbly, still holding onto my bag.

“We keep stuff here,” Ben says gently. “Like tons of stuff.”

“Oh, of course we do,” I laugh, even though I feel like face-palming. “I’m just exhausted.”

“We have rehearsals tomorrow afternoon so we all better get to bed,” Nick yawns.

“What about paintballing?”

“Dude, Ben, I promise you we’ll get it in.”

A noxious odor begins to fill the room. Ben is already walking backwards towards the biggest staircase I have ever seen, his hand reaching back for the ballast.

“Okay, cool. No problem. Well, love you guys! Have a good night!”

“BENJAMIN THOMAS LITTRELL!” Nick screams, yanking his t-shirt over his nose.

Ben is already gone, but I can hear him laughing maniacally from somewhere above us..

“The silent ones are the worst,” Nick groans behind his fabric wall. “C’mon, babe, we gotta get outta here before it kills us.”

He takes my hand and I follow him up the stairs. I’m so tired, but I feel like a bobblehead trying to soak it all in. If I were ever to design a house, this would be the one I would design. Everything about it is perfect.

The moment we walk into our bedroom I know I had died and gone to heaven. The bed is gigantic and the colors on the spread are a mix of ocean blues and grays. It is twice as big as the bedroom in Nashville and four times the size of my apartment back in real life.

“I will never leave this room,” I declare.

“As appealing as that sounds,” Nick rips off his shirt. If I weren’t so tired, I would have taken time to appreciate the view. Instead, I rip off my own. I am too tired to even hunt around for pajamas. “Actually, it sounds very appealing. I might have a little energy left.”

“I have none,” I announce, flinging my underwear-clad self onto the bed. The moment my skin hits the sheets my whole body unwinds. I am on a cloud.

“Well,” the bed doesn’t even creak as Nick climbs on. He hovers over me. “the room looks even sexier in the morning.”

“Mmm,” I mumble.

“Of course we have to be to the studio early.”

“I’m not singing.”

“We’re going early so it’s just you and me. It’ll be fine.”


Nick slides my hair off my neck and presses a kiss on me.

“Your voice is amazing.”


“You’re sleeping aren’t you?”


I am barely cognizant of his weight disappearing and reappearing to my side. “I love you babe,” he whispers.

It’s the last thing I hear.