It was a long day of rehearsing for the boys. Going over the same songs about fifteen times a piece along with the dances that accompanied them. It seemed like all they did was dance, sing and be yelled at in that order. Nothing was ever good enough.
The yelling started the second they got into Denise’s car with a screaming Nick being carried like a sack of potatoes. Denise was less then pleased about the scene it was causing and the looks Kevin got from people as they walked along the sidewalks.
“Now someone is going to call the police on me thinking we are kidnapping that boy” She mumbled under her breath as she ran a few red lights in order to get the boys to their destination on time.
They were late anyway and got a lecture about responsibility followed by a screaming session by Johnny. “Boys this can’t happen again! You need to be more responsible, unless of course I am the only one who cares about your careers? He walked from boy to boy giving them all a look before stopping at Nick, “Am I?”
Nick just looked up and shook his head.
So that was the way the day started, and unfortunately it didn’t get much better from there.
By around 3 none of them were even talking to each other. Nick refused to even make eye contact with the other guys opting to take the only fifteen minute break they had to go sit in the bathroom.
All the others just sighed and ate in silence.
Kevin remembered days like this when he was in school. It was his second grade year and he had the meanest teacher in the world, at least that’s what the class was sure was written in her address book. Mrs. Marrow the meanest teacher in the world… All the woman did was scream and she wouldn’t stop until she made the kid she was screaming at cry.
Kevin was one of those quiet kids in school always did what he was told and never talked back to his teachers. Still, this woman would lay into him so bad sometimes that he would get physically sick. She didn’t like him for some reason. Maybe it was the bushy brows?
Finally one day his parents had enough and called the principal about it and he was happily moved out of the class.
As he sat there and listened to Johnny yell, then Fatima yell then Johnny yell again, he wondered if he could maybe call his mom and have it worked out that he could transfer out of this class and into another one. The only difference between that Kevin and this one was the fact that now he was more than willing to speak out for himself. Which he often did, “Johnny you don’t have to speak to me like I’m a child. We were late. It won’t happen again”
“It better not”
Finally Johnny gave up his tirade still going strong for the last 8 hours, “Well, I’m giving you guys time to go home for a bit since we are due in the studio tonight at 10”
“What?” Brian asked as if he thought Johnny was kidding.
“The only studio time we were able to score was for tonight, so go home and get some rest”
“But we still have to be tutored”
“Then go get tutored and take a nap”
“Johnny you never mentioned the late night session before” Kevin said moving his cousin away from their manager and taking over, “Well I am now”
“This sucks” Nick mumbled under his breath, the first words the kid practically said all day.
“Well that’s too bad” Johnny said literally stepping up and staring Nick down like he was a little ant. Seems like someone else was crabby today.
“So a van will be by to pick you up at Kevin’s place by ten. ON TIME!!” He screamed then their day of rehearsal came to an end.
By the time they got back to the apartment it was almost 5 and the tutor was scheduled to meet them at 6. Nick walked in, right past Kevin and went for the bathroom slamming the door as he did.
“God what is wrong with everybody today?” AJ asked walking over to Nick’s dog and picking it up off the floor and using it as a stress ball.
“The kid woke up crabby; we were making so much progress to…he actually leaned on me last night”
“I don’t think picking him up like a sack of flour made him feel any better Kev” Howie said kind of wishing he was there to witness all the excitement. Yes Howie, because he went to rehearsal on his own, was spared the wrath of Johnny making it there on time. Even showing up about fifteen minutes early.
“It was kind of funny” Brian admitted trying not to laugh.
“He said he didn’t feel good and I just snapped”
“He never feels good”
“I wonder how many days of school he got out of with that excuse”
Kevin shrugged, “Who knows but the locking himself in the bathroom thing is getting a little old too”
He didn’t mean to sound so harsh but he was having a hard day just like the other guys. So it was only natural for him to continue forgetting Nick’s admission that the walls in this place were very thin, “Hey AJ…do you think maybe we can convince your mom to take him for a night?”
“Hell no! Then I’d have to deal with his moody ass!”
“I bet he wouldn’t be so moody with you guys though”
“He’s moody with everyone Kev” Brian said walking over to the fridge and looking for something…anything to eat.
“Maybe he really doesn’t feel good” Howie added throwing a paper plate to AJ who was opening a jar of peanut butter.
“Doubtful…he can be a real baby sometimes D, you know that. He probably wasn’t getting his way and flipped”
Nick walked out of the bathroom and right over to Brian, “you know…they all hate me but I didn’t think YOU would talk crap about me too” Now he had a huge pool of tears in his eyes as he looked at them all, “I don’t feel good for your information but know one cares! I am so sick of this…just all of it”
Brian felt like crap now, you could tell by the dejected look on his face. The boy never said anything bad about anybody but he was having a bad day too. So he tried to approach Nick by giving him a hug, the kid pushed his arms away, “Get away from me!”
“Nick I know you’re tired, you went to bed late last night”
“There you go treating me like a kid again Kevin. Think that’s the only time I have ever stayed up that late?”
“Well no but…”
“But nothing I don’t feel well okay? I have had a headache for a few days and now I feel like crap. It’s probably just a stupid ass cold or something but still”
“Do you want some aspirin Nicky?” Howie walked off towards the bathroom, “I took some already and it’s not helping”
“Nick just sit down and relax” Brian pulled out a chair for the kid who was so upset his face was all red now.
“NO, I’m going to go in and take a nap”
“You can’t. Your tutor will be here in about forty minutes”
“Well she can wait”
“No she can’t Nick” Kevin wasn’t giving into his pity party which was only making the teenager madder.
“I don’t want to go to school today” For some reason that made everyone crack up. Maybe because they were over tired or maybe because it was such an overly used phrase but for whatever reason they all laughed.
It didn’t help.
“Let me ask you something Kevin…all of you”
“Okay go ahead” Kevin quickly became serious again.
“When you were my age and you said you didn’t feel well what happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what did your parents do about it?”
“Usually my dad would throw the covers off of me and say quit your playing around and get the heck up!”
“Okay but what if you weren’t fooling around?”
Now the guys were all quiet and listening, watching with amusement and understanding.
“Mom would…let me stay home I guess”
“What did she do for you?”
“Well before she let me stay home she’d make sure I was really ill and wasn’t faking”
“And if I wasn’t she’d make me stay in bed and she’d bring me in some dry toast and tea with lemon” Now Kevin was lost in his own memories, “No matter what was wrong with me it was always tea and lemon” Everyone smiled.
“And then what?” Now Nick wasn’t sounding angry anymore, his tone went to a sad and longing tone. “Well then she’d wheel our TV into my room, which always made my father mad. Those days we only had one TV so the sick person used to get full control of it”
“No wonder you played sick so often Kev” Brian joked.
“Yeah, so I would stay in bed and watch TV” You could tell by his facial expressions that he had transported himself to his old room where he was just an innocent kid. Some of those days off of school with just his mom were also some of his best memories. They had the best conversations when she would poke her head into his room to see if he was sleeping. He would be so bored and want nothing more to get up and go outside and play. So mom would come in, lie next to him on the bed and tell him stories about what it was like for her growing up.
Then he finally got it. Realization came crashing into him at full force as he stared at Nick. There was no mom telling him stories or tucking him in and making sure he was okay. It wasn’t as easy as calling a school and saying he’ll be staying in today. No hot tea and dry toast or TV’s rolled into rooms.
He wasn’t allowed to be a kid, he wasn’t even allowed to be sad about it.
“I’m sorry Nick” He almost whispered to the blonde who still had tears in his eyes.
“All I want it to sleep for a little bit, is that too much to ask?” Kevin shook his head and so did the others, seems they all had the same revelations.
“Why don’t you go ahead and I’ll wake you later okay?” Nick nodded. AJ not knowing what to do exactly walked over to Nick and handed him the dog, “Here” He said without another word, no glib remarks or name calling.
“Thanks” He said taking it and placing it behind his back embarrassed.
When Nick was in the bedroom Kevin walked over to the kitchen and started boiling some water. “I sometimes forget you know? How young he really is” He admitted turning his back to his band mates while he placed two slices of bread in the toaster.
“We are all kind of young” Brian answered and to that Kevin didn’t have a response. That was true. “But yeah he’s just a baby” he added.
“Should we tell her he’s not coming?” AJ asked when he heard their tutor walking up the steps.
Kevin nodded; he had one more call to make as well.
About fifteen minutes later he walked into the bedroom to find Nick lying on his side clutching a pillow while tears still streamed down his face.
“Hey” He said sitting down next to Nick with a tray in his hand.
“Is she here already?” Nick rolled over to face Kevin and was a little surprised to see the toast and tea.
“I brought you some food” Kevin smiled as Nick sat up not even trying to hide his tears anymore.
He reached over to Nick and felt his forehead, “You do feel warm baby”
“It’s probably just a head cold or something, I’ll be fine”
“Well you don’t have to worry about school OR the studio you have the night off”
“I do?” Kevin nodded. Johnny was not too pleased about it but Kevin stood his ground and wouldn’t back down until Johnny gave Nick the night off.
“Thanks Kevin” He said grabbing Kevin and giving him a huge hug.
“NO problem little man you just feel better okay?” Nick nodded taking a bit out of the toast.
“So Kev…tell me some more stories about when you were little”
Kev laid down beside him and told him story after story while Nick laughed the entire time.