Sometimes, being a celebrity had its perks.
You can see a lot of cool shit. Like today. I was on my way to the Luxor for their newest exhibit on Ramses II. They’d found a few hidden chambers of his in Egypt about a year ago and the artifacts along with the mummy itself were touring the world. Right now they would be in Las Vegas over the next couple of months. I wanted to take Odin as he was old enough to appreciate it. Michelle though was a bit too young and I knew if I took one and not the other it’d break my daughter’s heart. So Angel took the kids to the movies while I enjoyed this solo.
Would you believe none of the fellas wanted to see this with me?
And all of this was because I saw a news clip on Twitter, so I tweeted about it. Then I got the invite to come down. Like I said, sometimes being famous had perks. So there I was, getting early access to this whole experience before the general public and was promised a bit of a tour through the relics that weren’t fully ready for display just yet.I was excited.
In fact I was already live streaming as I drove down towards the Strip.
“Good morning everybody! I’m just driving right now to the Luxor. The kids are with their Aunt Angel. I’m getting an early peak at the new Ramses the Second exhibit that’s opening up to the public in a couple weeks. So I’m off to see some MUMMIES. How badass is that?” I grinned as I pulled up to a red light and glanced to where my phone was in a holder on my dashboard. “Don’t worry, I’m at a light that’s why I’m looking at the comments now.”
I smirked at one that said ‘Be careful. Didn’t you watch The Mummy?’
“I did and you know, I think I’d be battling just as good as Brenden Frasier did. Definitely better than Tom Cruise. Bring it on Imhotep.” I glanced up as the light changed. “Okay I gotta drive again.”
It was a beautiful day in Vegas, despite the heat the town usually had clear blue skies for miles. I fell in love with this city back in 2017. The locals respected celebrities enough to leave them alone on their downtime and if you stayed clear of the Strip most of the time then you could avoid tourists who would try to watch and pester you when I was “off” so to speak. All the perks of a major city yet it felt like a small town if you got away from downtown. What I thought would be a temporary move ended up being permanent.
I thought I’d move, after losing Lauren. But oddly despite me wanting to travel all the time in an effort to avoid anything familiar, Vegas still managed to feel like home every time I came back. So I stayed. I thought about selling the house and moving at least into a different one. Southern Highlands had enough options and I did love the community there. But anytime I thought about it I couldn’t pull the trigger. Another way of hanging on I guess. Sometimes I could stand in the living and if I tried hard enough, I could hear her voice calling me, or the way she’d laugh when I was in one of my stupider moods. In a new house I knew it wouldn’t be so easy. So yes, it was a way to keep myself from letting go. Kevin used to suggest I find a new place, but finally he realized I wasn’t ready.
I guess I wasn’t ready for a lot of things.
I adjusted my phone as I hit another light. One of the downsides of Vegas is when you’re forced to drive down Las Vegas Boulevard. Be prepared for tons of tourists walking whenever they wanted and for it to take ten times longer than it should. It was better than any traffic ever in Los Angeles but still. I grinned at the camera, knowing the fans would love it.
‘ Why aren’t the kids there?’
“Why didn’t I bring the kids with me?” I laughed. “I thought about bringing Odin but Shelly is too young and I didn’t want to upset her by leaving her out. I might try to bring both of them when the exhibit officially opens but I was too nervous to bring her with me today. She’s too much like her daddy, long limbs and still learning how to handle them. Maybe later I’ll do another storytime live while I read to her.”
I scrolled through more of the comments while I fixed my hair. I swear these live videos are better than a damn mirror. “Don’t worry. I’m paying attention to the traffic too. Next solo album...I’m not sure. I’m trying to balance that with the group. Whenever I feel the itch you’ll know.”
It wasn’t too long before I was driving up again, pulling around to park on one of the upper levels where I knew I wouldn’t attract much attention. I waved at my phone screen where the fans were still peppering questions as fast as they could. I loved social media. The fans were always there for me no matter how tough things got. They were there through the shit Melissa Schuman and her psychotic family tried to do to me (and my fans), the struggles with Aaron and my mother, and of course through the loss of Lauren. In my darkest times, they could be my light. I knew I always wanted to be the same for them.
‘ We love you Nick! We’re here for you.’
‘Ride or die through everything!’
‘Did you say the latest about Thirsty Melissa?’
‘Hey, no need to bring HER up.’
I couldn’t help the smirk that formed as the thought of Melissa popped into my head even though I didn’t reply to that particular comment. It’d been awhile since she had. Mainly what goes around, had finally come back around. Last year, Melissa’s stalking of my family got a judge to grant me a five year restraining order that solved a lot of problems. After it got granted it sparked the story in the media again but this time questioning her story, her behavior, and her motives. Old friends of hers even spoke up as a result of her trying to pay them to lie about me and explaining they’d been afraid to do so before due to threats from her equally crazy father. In the end I was proven right but stains never quite fade. The effects her psychotic agenda had on my brother, I still believed were a major factor leading to what happened to him. If there was a hell that’s where she’d go.
Still, Karma is a bitch.
Just a few months ago it came out that the rape accusation that destroyed her now ex-husband’s dancing career back in 2021 was a false accusation from a fellow dancer who hated his religious bigotry. The truth came out too late to save anything, including their marriage. One lie ruining everything. Sound familiar? It shattered what was left of her credibility. She was blacklisted from everything including those advocate speeches she used to give thanks to trying to ruin my life.
Hard to feel sorry, though.
“Sorry guys, I got mummies to see! Shh, top secret. This thing won’t open for another two weeks. I’ll let you know how it is later. Byyyyyye!” I turned it off and climbed out of the range rover.
Part of me wished I wasn’t here alone. Lauren would’ve loved this shit. But I wasn’t about to not let myself have fun just because I had to do it solo. I couldn’t let myself stop living. It was something I often had to remind myself. If I didn’t, it was too damn easy to slip back into the darkness that almost got me before. I couldn’t let that happen. For Michelle, for Odin. I had to be there for them and be the parents mine never managed to become.
The owner of the exhibit, Carlos...something. I probably should’ve been nice enough to learn his last name. Shit. Oops. Well, it shouldn’t come up, right? I hoped not. He smiled as I was let inside past the somewhat cheesy neon lit Egyptian symbols. I’d expect nothing less in Vegas. Here, I’d be more shocked if it wasn’t in neon lights.
“Thank you again for letting me see this.”
“You’re welcome. Besides,” He chuckled. “My sister grew up a big fan of yours. She made me listen to your music as a kid just like everyone else that grew up in the nineties.”
I shook my head trying not to smile. I heard that a lot but it was something I never got used to. I just didn’t think of myself as the type to influence a generation like that. “I’ll make sure I sign a few things for her if you want.” I offered. “I’m sure she’d love it.”
He brightened. “That would be great. Thank you.” We walked along the halls into the first room which displayed a lot of artifacts. The set up was as if you were walking through an actual burial chamber. “There’s staff around if you need anything but I want you to get the full experience. Let us know if you need anything.”
And I was left alone surrounded by various pots, statues, and yes, mummies. I assumed the main one, Ramses the Second was probably at the end. I looked at some of the plaques describing the displays. Apparently these were some of his priests, sent to be buried with him so they could serve him in the afterlife. Hmm.
I used to never think much about heaven or hell. I would probably describe myself best, when I was younger agnostic at best. I thought there was some kind of god most likely. Did I know though? Hell no. But I respected people who seemed to know. I had to, growing up around Brian with his steadfast faith. Or even Kevin. Sometimes, I even got jealous. After Lauren entered my life, I thought maybe there was a God. I seemed to be pretty blessed with the life I was able to live. But after she died…
I wondered if maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was just random chance that life would give me the crazy highs and bottomless lows. It felt easier to believe that than to think my suffering anytime I found true happiness was part of some grand plan. If there was a God and that was the case? He had a sick sense of humor and there were a lot of things I wanted to say about it. I’d like to think my wife was up there watching over me, the way Brian always said she was. But that required my giving faith into what I felt was a fucked up God. I was torn. It was easier to not think about it. So I didn’t.
But in a place like this where obviously a whole culture’s ways and beliefs about what happens after you die, it got my brain going in a way I didn’t want it to go. So I continued down the hall and away from what Ancient Egyptians believed the afterlife contained. I read more information about Ramses himself, like finding out the Greeks called him Ozymandians. Which, what the hell? That isn’t even remotely similar. And this guy ruled Egypt a long time compared to other Pharaohs, a solid sixty six years. He was also a redhead and yeah, it’s a stereotype but I wasn’t thinking of that when I pictured it.
Looking at sarcophagi, I was suddenly flooded with thoughts about my own life. Egyptians made their own mark on the world. I guess you can say I’ve done the same. But really I just wanted to have my kids remember me with love. A long, long, long time from now. As much as I at times wished it’d all end, and I wished that more times than I ever wanted to admit...all I wanted now was to live. As hard as life was, I wanted it. I guess in that way, I was a lot better off than I was years ago.
Growth and all.
When I got to the final room, it was almost set up as a memorial. The area was dimly lit with a soft light surrounding the pedestal that hosted the glass case protecting Ramses II inside the open sarcophagus. Looking at mummies can be weird as shit because it’s a petrified human. But it’s also fucking cool. Set up in similar type stands were different figures, statues, and pottery that had been found in his burial chamber. Then just behind him on a small stand was a plate depicting one of the largest legends about him in various hieroglyphs.
A bible story but shit, it was one of the ones shown in a bunch of action movies that even I knew the basics of it. Despite Brian’s best efforts my bible knowledge was pretty weak. I went in to get a closer look and felt my leg get caught on itself. The dangers of having long limbs is sometimes you can’t control them. I saw myself lurch forward and it seemed like everything in that moment was moving in slow motion. I couldn’t catch myself fast enough.
I tried and in doing so knocked the plate off and cringed as it crashed onto the floor.
Smashing into who knows how many pieces.
Seconds later before I could even react to what I just did, everything started shaking. Suddenly I wasn’t giving two shits about breaking a priceless relic. I was diving for cover. It wasn’t my lucky day as there wasn’t much. Then again not much was falling from the ceiling as the ground trembled violently. Now I used to live in California. Earthquakes happened. But not in Vegas, at least not often. Definitely not this strong.
As suddenly as the quake started, it stopped.
Security rushed in before I could make heads or tails of it.
“Mr. Carter! Are you alright?!”
Slowly I stood, taking a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m good. Thanks.”
I probably should’ve admitted that I broke the plate. Not the quake. I was too scared to, I admit it. Instead I let myself be guided back outside after insisting again and again I was fine. Wasn’t their fault there was an earthquake, right? I took the win. Besides I knew Angel couldn’t keep the kids entertained forever. It was time to head home.
So head home I did.
I never light up as much as I do when I see my kids.
“DADDY!!!!” Shelly practically lunged herself at me. It was funny in that she had Lauren’s dark brown hair and her shade of blue eyes, but her face was all me. She reminded me of Leslie, which also hit where it hurts if I let it.
“Whoa!” I pretended to fall backwards onto the couch. “Getting stronger there princess.”
Angel smirked as she came up with Odin beside her and her own 4 year old daughter Harper who made a beeline for the TV. “I don’t know how she’s still running around. She’s been chasing her brother all day.”
I shrugged. “She’s an energizer bunny.” I grinned down at her while tickling her sides. “Aren’t ya?”
“Auntie Angel took us to Wet n Wild!” Odin declared with a grin. He was the perfect blend of myself and Lauren. My blonde hair and eyes but his face was more his own. Some from me, some from her. He didn’t share my love of performing and while part of me wished I could’ve bonded over music with him, another part of me was relieved. I wanted better for him. Maybe even normal. He was so smart too, learning came easier for him than it ever did for me. I’d look at him and think about how he could do anything, anything he wanted.
Shelly however, was a mini me and I suspected would end up following my footsteps. I wasn’t against this but I had bigger dreams. But I wanted to support her passions as best I could. Do what was best for her , something I wasn’t lucky enough to have. She shared my love of music, had my wild energy and loved showing off for people. Easily a performer in the making. But unlike with me, I knew I wouldn’t let her go for it till she was old enough to handle it and with me by her side to protect her. Like Kevin did for me. Unlike my parents trusting me in the hands of Lou. Time would tell if I was right about what her future would hold.
“Did she…?” I smirked. “Then that means I need you straight in the shower before dinner.”
“Daaaaaaaad…” I watched my son whine, side eying me in a way only Lauren used to be able to do.
“Those are the breaks pal.” I grinned down at Michelle as Angel headed into the kitchen. “Time for you to get one too.”
“Will u sing daddy?”
I found myself laughing. It was my own fault. She used to hate bathtime. The only way I could get her to cooperate was to play music for her. I’d sing along mainly due to my inability to not sing when music was playing. Turned out she loved it. I’d been trying to wean her off that but it wasn’t going well. Least it wasn’t Baby Shark . Odin drove me crazy with that shit when he was her age. It was mainly oldies. Lots of sixties music.
“Sure. What do you wanna hear?”
“The sun song!” Her way of saying Here Comes The Sun . I chuckled.
Standing, I stretched for a moment, hearing my back pop and reminding me of my age. Then I swung her up into my arms while Odin ran off to his bedroom. I knew he’d end up playing until I was done and forced him to shower, but that was fine. These were the moments I lived for. Because they were why I got up everyday. If I had to give up singing for the rest of my life but was able to keep my children? I would without a second thought.
They were my world, that simple.