February 21, 1998
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
“Kevin kept yelling at me for an hour and then my mom called---I can’t believe I have to deal with my mom all over again. I told her to go to hell as soon as I heard her voice. You can imagine how well that went over…”
The bag of m&m’s sitting open between us is almost gone. In the last two hours I’ve had a much needed shower and tossed the business suit. A quick, sneaky trip to a nearby tourist place has netted me a couple t-shirts and shorts, but tonight I’m in one of Nick’s jerseys. Nick grabs the bag of m&m’s and puts it on his nightstand. We both fall back, turning on our sides. Our foreheads touch.
“So do you think you’re...y’know?”
“I don’t know. Nick, I’m sorry. I didn’t know what else to do. I kept looking for you…”
“It’s probably better to stick to the plan,” he shrugs, but I know deep down that it has to bother him. How could it not?
“I don’t have any memories of anything after leaving Brian’s hotel room. Not until...not until much later.”
“Really?” he looks surprised. “How can that be? I have so many. I can see you with your huge belly and in the hospital and Ben peeing up into Brian’s mouth...”
I laugh. “That’s gross.”
“I’m remembering the craziest things,” he yawns. It is so late.
“I can’t stay here with you,” I say softly. Nick frowns.
“How will that look? How do we explain to Brian when I show up with you in the morning?”
Nick sighs. “I’ll tell him finders keepers.”
He presses his face into the crook of my neck. I snuggle up against him.
“I need you to help me get back to college.”
I nod. “Berkeley.”
“Is there another Berkeley?”
“But...that’s so far away.”
“I can’t...you have to stay. You have to.”
He holds me tight and I wrap my arms around his neck. The panic in his voice breaks my heart.
“Okay,” I say. “I’ll stay.”
Neither of us speak. Soon, Nick’s breathing regulates. He is asleep.
There’s nothing more that I want to do than sleep, but I can’t. For the second time, I worm my way out of a Backstreet Boy’s embrace. I swallow hard, hating what I’m about to do. Quietly, I rummage through his clothes and bags. By the time I’m done, I have a few hundred bucks.
I vaguely know that I’m the catalyst of Nick and Brian’s relationship. Being here in the morning would only make that worse.
I kiss Nick’s cheek before I leave. He looks so young. Not innocent, but young. I can’t imagine him helping me take care of a baby.
I can’t imagine me taking care of a baby.
I swallow hard. Maybe enough of the course of events changed that I won’t even be pregnant. I don’t feel pregnant.
I use Nick’s smallest duffle bag to pack my meager clothes.
By the time I slip through the door, the entire hotel is quiet. Everyone is asleep.
I don’t start crying until I get in the elevator.
I don’t stop crying until I’m on the Amtrak train two hours later. I press my forehead against the glass. I have three days and five layovers to think, to try to make sense of what has and is happening.
The answer seems to be just out of my grasp.
Los Angeles, California
“A pack of gum, a diet coke, and a bag of fritos, please.”
The guy at the newsstand smiles at me. I’m sure he thinks I’m a homeless person. I feel like a homeless person. My meager clothes are all wrinkled. As he pulls open his small refrigerator unit to get my Diet Coke, I scan the magazines.
Nick’s face looks back.
Slowly, I pick up the magazine. The article inside talks about their trip to Ireland in just a few days.
“Do you want the magazine?”
I stuff it back in the rack. “No, thank you,” I smile. I grab my stuff and turn towards the waiting area. The bus ride to Berkeley is another six hours. I can’t even fathom how many classes I’ve missed.
There’s also the little problem of me not remembering the number of my dorm room.
“Where the hell have you been?”
I haven’t even taken a step through the door before the voice attacks me. I stare at the red-headed girl with glasses so thick that safety shields aren’t necessary.
Her name is...starts with F….like her favorite singer.
“Fiona,” I say, relieved.
“No shit. Where have you been? Professor Telos is about ready to kick you out. You’ve missed three classes. I couldn’t even give him an excuse. And what are you wearing? Were you in Orlando? Did you just up and go to Florida?”
I don’t answer her right away. I dump the duffel and head over to what looks like my side of the small room. My purse is still right on top. I pull out a wallet.
I have a little cash.
I have an ID.
“Yeah, I went to Florida.”
“I needed to get away.”
“Without your purse? What did you do, hitchhike? You could have gotten raped or murdered or..” she shudders. “Forced to work at a Waffle House.”
I laugh. I don’t remember much about Fiona. I vaguely remember our rooming arrangements being short-lived. “That would have been much worse than being raped.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand. I mean where you come from I know there’s a Waffle House on every corner.”
I grit my teeth. I’m beginning to remember how much I hate Fiona.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” I ask.
She sighs dramatically. Dramatically...Fiona is a drama major. Why they put a physics major with a drama major….stupid Berkeley. “It was so nice with you gone. If you need me I will be with the other thespians.”
I don’t answer. I sink down on my bed as she grabs her purse and saunters out the door. She pauses before she closes it.
“Oh yeah, our RA left a note for you,” she points at my bulletin board. “Some guy called and gave her a message. Boyfriend?”
She doesn’t wait for the answer. I’m up again before the door even clicks.
The note is torn all along the right edge It’s a simple note.
Nick called - 407-689-3215. That’s all.
Nick found me. His number is a lifeline back into his world.
I stare at the numbers. That’s all? I laugh at my RA’s simple note.
Not on your life.