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Chapter Nineteen

June 23, 2014

The Forum, L.A.

Brian. Brian Littrell. Brian, the Backstreet Boy who touched my hand twice at two different concerts. Brian, the Backstreet Boy who is the whole reason I am here. Brian, the Backstreet Boy who I remember getting drunk with (but not that much about the sloppy sex afterwards).

Brian, the Backstreet Boy who is the reason that Ben is here and squeezing my hand. Brian the Backstreet Boy who, if Nick is to be believed completely, is a douche.

“Hey Brian,” I say, my voice betraying me by cracking as if I’m a stupid teenager. Been there, done that. Twice it seems.

“Long time no see,” he grins. He steps forward and hugs both Ben and me. I hear a mutual backslap from father and son.

“Hey, dad. I got to drive yesterday.”

Brian pulls back, surprised. “What? Really? But your license--”

Ben shrugs. “Nick was cool with it.”

Brian smiles, but I can tell there’s tension there. “Of course he was. Nick’s totally cool with everything.”

“Cool? What’s cool?”

Nick is by my side, his hand hovering by my elbow. I’m being flanked by my two guys. It relaxes me. Slightly.

“You are,” Brian punches Nick’s arm and I’m not sure it’s all friendly. “Ben was telling me you guys played human Mario Kart yesterday.”

Nick just laughs. “Mario Kart? Not quite. This guy wasn’t dropping any banana peels.”

Ben beams with pride. “No way. And even when the cops pulled up--”


“It was nothing,” Nick says quickly. “Just checking that we weren’t lost. We were in an empty parking lot.”

“Dad, can we check my mic?”

From the shadows, Baylee runs up. He is a perfect little version of Brian complete with microphone. He tosses it in the air and catches it. He smiles at Ben. “Hey.”

“Hey, Bay.”

“I started football camp. I’m totally kicking butt. It’s the same camp that you got kicked out of.”

Ben’s smile falls. “I didn’t get kicked out. I just didn’t like playing. The coach was an ass.”


“Well he was!”

“Is it still Coach Mack?” Nick asks.

“Yeah, he’s super tough!” Baylee starts running in place as if to demonstrate the point.

“Yeah, he was totally an ass,” Nick agrees.


Nick just grins. “Yes?”

Brian just shakes his head. Suddenly, he grabs Baylee’s microphone. “Let’s run it through its paces, champ.”

Nick, Ben, and I watch them walk off. I see a split second of hurt in Ben’s face and then it is gone. He rocks back on his heels and smiles again. “Can I go check to see if catering’s set up yet, mom? I’m starving.”

I want to hug him. I want to tell him everything’s okay. I just don’t understand it all.

“Of course you can.”

Ben doesn’t waste a second. He is gone with a quick, mushed together ‘thank you.’

Nick and I are suddenly alone on stage.

“Doesn’t he realize that Ben doesn’t think he’s loved as much as Baylee?” I ask quietly.

Nick doesn’t answer immediately. When he does, he stares out into the darkess of the empty arena. “When Ben was little he was obsessed with Barney. I spent six months on a bus during the Black and Blue tour with that damn smiling short-armed purple bastard singing the I Love You song. Ben would poop and he wouldn’t tell either of us because he didn’t want to miss Barney and he didn’t believe me when I told him I could pause the tape.”

I laugh. “You’re so random.”

He gives me a small smile. “Not really. I’m telling you that for a reason. Even though life can be shitty, Ben has someone that loves him unconditionally. DNA isn’t everything. He’s my son and I love him. He may look like Brian, but he’s the amazing boy he is because you’re his mother and because I’ve never stopped butting into your lives.”

I let the tears come. I bury my face in Nick’s chest, my nails digging into his back.

“I love you,” I choke.

His arms tighten around me. I feel his body shake.

“It’s the first time you’ve said that since this whole crazy thing happened,” he whispers.

“You’re just...perfect…” I unpeel my face from his chest. “I love you. I love Ben. I love...I love this life.”

“It’s the Barney effect, right?” Nick asks.

We both smile before our lips meet.

I’m alone in my dressing room. My hair is done. My makeup is flawless.

I don’t know the person in the mirror.

I’m more nervous than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’ve drank enough lemon water to sink a small fleet of boats and my trips to the bathroom reflect it. My fingers are clenching and unclenching and I keep staring at myself in the mirror.

I’m beautiful.

My hair looks like silk and the way the makeup artist did my eyeshadow and liner makes my eyes look much larger than they really are. I’m wearing a low cut shirt and a pair of jeans that almost, almost, prevent me from being able to wear underwear. It’s modest compared to other singers I’ve seen, but it’s still so unlike me.

I keep glancing from the mirror to the papers spread in front of me. Lyrics to eight different songs. Nick has practiced them with me with the patience of a saint.

I can do this.

I’m reaching towards one of the sheets when someone knocks on the door. I assume it’s Nick.

“Come in!”

I grab the paper and pull it closer. The notes are foreign to me but I remember the words and match them up to the melody in my head. A pair of strong hands presses down on my almost bare shoulders.

“How do you keep getting more beautiful?”

I look up. It’s not Nick.

Brian’s face is reflected in the mirror.

I don’t know how to answer.

“You look happy,” he continues.

“I am happy.”

“You deserve it, Court. I just wanted to come in and say, again, how sorry I am about everything that’s gone on between us. I hate when we argue.”

His hands have moved down my arms slightly.

“It’s okay,” I say in an attempt to be the bigger person. “We’re in this together for Ben.”

“Ben’s an awesome kid. He’s growing up so fast.”

His hands slide down more. I squirm. The touch isn’t friendly. It’s--


“I was thinking this morning about the day Nick married Lauren.”

He pauses as if he’s waiting for me to say something. I don’t have anything to add. My brain is working quickly.

“Baylee was sick so Leighanne didn’t come. You arrived at the last minute in a blue little dress and your hair was soaking wet as if you had decided to come right in the middle of a shower. I thought about you and me in the wine cellar...your lips on my…”

His hand slides to my breast and I’m up out of my chair. I grab the nearest implement I can find. Unfortunately, it’s a mascara wand.

“Get out, douche!”

He looks confused. He’s so incredibly attractive and yet there’s a layer of anger.

“You’re seriously going to pull this? You’re treating me like I’m the creep? Get real Courtney. You’ve never hesitated to follow me around, pathetic and desperate, ready to drop your panties for me. Your goal in life is to ruin my marriage. Sadly, I think you might be succeeding.”

I grit my teeth. “You’re doing a damn good job of that all by yourself. Get out now.”

He turns to leave, but before he reaches the door he turns back around. His expression softens slightly. “Court, wait. You gotta listen. That wasn't the reason I came in here.”

“I don’t have to listen to anything. Get out!”

Brian holds his hands out, palm up. “It’s my heart again. I don’t want more surgery but Leighanne...Leighanne’s threatening to leave me if I don’t go through with it. I just can’t think about it anymore.”

I slowly lower the mascara wand. Brian Littrell, Backstreet Boy, is falling apart right in front of me.

“It’s just like it was back then,” a tear slides down his cheek. “I kept postponing because there was tour after tour and I wasn’t feeling bad, but my heart was wooshing and she left me and everything was going to pot. Then you came along and that one night…”

He sinks down on the couch. I sink back down in my chair.

“When I was getting wheeled into surgery, she was right there beside me and I hadn’t told her that I had slept with you that night. I was sure God was going to take me just to punish me for that.”

“But he didn’t.”

“No,” Brian wipes his face into his shirt. It doesn’t help. “I woke up and I made the sign for ‘I Love You More’ even before she could sign she loved me. I spent months feeling like a weakling and just when I thought I was getting stronger you were back and you were pregnant...”

I close my eyes. It’s almost like I can see things playing out under the curtains of my eyelids.

“You’re my place to go when I’m the most scared, when I’m at my weakest. I’m weak, Court.”

I open my eyes slowly, unbelieving. To a fan, Brian Littrell looks like Brian Littrell, Backstreet Boy. A little thinner maybe but that could be explained away by the non-stop touring.

Only when I look deeper into those blue eyes do I see the man behind the facade.

“If you’re really in that bad of shape,” I whisper. “You need the surgery. You don’t need me. You need Leighanne and you need Baylee and you need Ben. You need support and prayers. I can help with that. I won’t help you make any more mistakes. I won’t ever do that to Nick. He’s put up with enough of that from me in the past.”

We’re both quiet. Brian’s crying slows.

“It’s just hard,” he finally says, his throat tight. “I was Nick’s guardian when we first started and then I see him unknowingly paying me back by helping with Ben. I think Ben would hate me more if it wasn’t for Nick.”

“Ben doesn’t hate you.”

“He does a little,” Brian’s lips twitch. “I just wish there were some do-overs in life. Don’t you? I wish I was more involved with Ben. I wish that he didn’t think I love Baylee more than him.”

“You still have time. It’s not too late.”

Brian slowly stands up. He walks towards me slowly. I let him hug me and slowly I hug him back.

“Can you forgive me Court? Please say you will. You were wrong before. I do need Leighanne and Baylee and Ben, but I need you too. After fifteen years I need you as a friend.”

I swallow the lump in my throat. “Will you get your surgery?”


I hug him tighter.

“Then, yes.”

“Yes to it all.”