The next few days, as Christmas neared it seemed their rehearsal schedules were almost torturous sometimes lasting as long as 15 hours; it was too much on them especially the two younger ones who had taken to whining when they got tired.
It wasn’t unusual for Nick to whine especially when he wasn’t feeling well on top of all of the work but it was odd for AJ to whine and sometimes he was even louder than Nick had been.
When Kevin approached Johnny with the idea of taking a little break he was all but laughed out of the room. “The kids need it they are exhausted!” He had argued but he was answered with the usual, “They knew what they were getting into when they signed on” answer.
He hated to go back and tell them that but he did and no surprise that Nick acted out in anger punching at the wall and then sticking his red knuckles into his mouth. AJ was the one with the most surprising reaction. He cried.
That’s when Kevin knew something was wrong. He let Denise know about the odd behavior her son was displaying as she came to pick them up from rehearsal to bring them back home.
They walked up the stairs with less and less energy with every passing day leading up to the Christmas concert. “At this point we won’t live to see the New Year” Brian said over dramatically.
“Come on guys it’s not so bad” Howie always the peacemaker trying to make the glass half full.
“It sucks” Kevin walked over to the fridge and sighed, there was nothing in there to eat at all and part of him was too tired to even care but he had to make sure the others at least ate something.
“It’s only going to be this way until the concert, than things will slow down again you’ll see”
“Yeah until we have another concert then another one”
“Brian quit bitching! You want to be here right?”
“Don’t tell me to quit bitching I’m entitled to bitch as much as anyone else”
“Guys stop fighting…” Howie looked from one cousin to the other. “It’s not going to do any good”
After a pause Brian continued, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to lose my temper it’s just that it’s too much and I want to go home… you know what I mean? I miss my parents and my family and my normal life”
Kevin walked over to his cousin and gave him a hug, “I’m sorry too”
“Do you think this is what it’s going to be like all the time?” They all looked over at Nick who had remained so quiet that they had forgotten he was in the room.
“What do you mean lil man?”
“I mean working like crazy and missing home”
“I’m not sure but that’s my guess”
“Oh” Kevin looked over at Howie, did any of them realize what they were in for when they signed their lives away?
They remained quiet as they sat and ate pizza, Brian stealing time to call his parents. “He misses home a lot” Kevin admitted to Howie looking over at his cousin as he talked happily on the phone.
“I know...so does that one” Howie said glancing over at Nick who was sitting cross legged in front of the TV playing with his pizza.
By the time he got off the phone, Brian seemed to be back to his happy old self, “Mom said she’s sending me a huge package from home”
“Uh huh, she wouldn’t tell me what was in it but she said it’s going to be heavy and I would love it”
“She said your mom is doing the same for you”
“I still can’t believe we aren’t going to be home for Christmas. It’ll suck”
“At least we’ll all be together though” Kevin tried to give his cousin a reassuring smile and Brian smiled back in appreciation.
The next morning they sat awaiting Denise to pick them up and were surprised when she was late. “That’s odd” Kevin looked out the window, “Usually by this time she has beeped a thousand times”
Howie walked over to the phone, “Maybe I’ll give her a call?”
“Nah...let’s wait a few more minutes, maybe she let Alex sleep in”
“Did you eat anything Nick?” Kevin looked over at Nick who had his head on the table almost near sleep, “You should eat a little something”
“Not hungry too tired”
“Are you still not feeling well?”
“How could he feel well he hasn’t had time to rest” Brian said walking past his friend and lovingly patting his head as he did.
“Nicky do you realize whenever you are tired you talk like Tarzan?”
“Me Tarzan and Howie stupid!” Howie ignored him.
“Nick your shoes put them on before we have to wait for you” Nick put up his head and rolled his eyes at Kevin.
“Maybe we should bust on Denise for being late like she always does for us”
“I hope everything is okay, I mean they should have been here a while ago”
A honk made Kevin walk over to the window and look out. He was surprised to see a black van instead of Denise’s car. “Looks like someone else is here to get us today…come on gang let’s go”
“Great I don’t get any breakfast AGAIN!”
“Quit complaining you could have eaten this whole time you just chose to sleep instead”
After another long rehearsal, ten hours to be exact they trudged back up into the apartment. Turns out it was one of the secretaries of Trans con that came to pick up the boys after Denise had called refusing to let her son go to rehearsal for the day. Supposedly AJ had woken up with the same thing that afflicted and still was afflicting Nick. She argued back and forth with Johnny but in the end she won and Alex got to stay home.
“How is it fair that AJ gets the whole day off?”
“You got the whole night off”
“That’s different” Nick was especially whiny after hearing that his friend was able to stay home in bed. Kevin as much as he hated to listen to it, couldn’t help but understand where the boy was coming from, he had a point.
“Well you guys can be sick together and bitch about it tomorrow, I’ll just make sure I am nowhere near either of you” Brian and Nick laughed but Howie remained quiet. What they didn’t know was Howie had decided he would give AJ a call while they had a little break just to see how things were with the kid and was surprised to find out that not only had Denise gotten him out of rehearsal for the day but also for the next two. Saying she wasn’t going to let her son dance around for hours at a time until he was fever free. He had a three day pass. Howie very wisely decided not to share this information with the rest of the guys until now.
“That is bullshit!!” Nick stood up and walked into the bathroom.
“How did she manage to do that?” Brian asked Howie who only shrugged in reply.
“Denise can be pretty persistent when she wants to be” Kevin even though he sometimes disagreed with AJ’s mother also couldn’t help but admire her and her strength. She did a great job raising AJ all alone.
“I can’t believe that Johnny gave him three days off with this important concert coming up” Brian made invisible quote marks in the air on the word important letting his sarcastic side shine through.
“You know what I think? I think this whole important concert is not very important then. I mean think about it Kev, would Johnny let AJ off for three days if this concert was that big of a deal? We are sacrificing our Christmas for no reason!”
“Brian, I know how much you want to go home, I do too but yes I think this concert is important. I mean there could be big people in the audience listening to us”
“Then why on earth wouldn’t AJ be…”
“Because his mom cares about him that’s why” Came the unexpected reply from the bathroom door as Nick opened it and walked past the guys into the living room.
“Of course she does that’s not the point”
“Than what is Brian? You asked a question and I’m answering it. The only reason AJ is off for three freaking days is because his mother stood up for him” Brian turned to Kevin, “Maybe I should make mom call Johnny about Christmas”
“No maybe he’s right Kevin. Have his mom call about Christmas and then maybe you and he can go back home, hell we already know Denise can take care of Johnny and then Howie you can have your mom call and I’ll just do the damn show alone because last time I checked there was no one in my corner”
They all stood looking at Nick, “What? Take a picture it lasts longer!” With that being said he harrumphed back onto the couch.
“Nick you know not everything that happens in this band is about you”
“That’s obvious” He mumbled under his breath.
“I’m going for a drive” Brian grabbed the keys to the one car that he and his cousin shared, “Is that okay?” Kevin nodded, “Don’t stay out too late”
Once Brian was gone Kevin walked over and sat next to Nick grabbing the remote out of the younger ones hand, “Maybe you should call your mom, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you” Nick let out a sarcastic laugh.
“Nick stop already with the poor me crap…call you’re...”
“I tried already, the morning I almost burnt your house down. I called her and left a message. She never called me back”
“Yup after I cleaned my mess, I thought she’d like to know I was sick. I was mistaken I suppose”
“Nick I’m sure she’s just busy I mean she has so many other kids”
“I know Kevin”
“Uh huh” he was only half listening which meant the conversation needed to be dropped. Kevin was good but he wasn’t about to try to convince this kid that his parents cared when clearly he wasn’t sure himself. So instead he placed his arm around the boy, “Well we care…sometimes” That made Nick smile.
“How many days till Christmas anyway?” Nick shrugged, “I think about 4 and a half but whose counting?” Kevin ruffled his hair, “Uh you are!”
“Lou’s rich ass better buy me something fun” Kevin laughed, “Yeah all of us for that matter”
“Do you think Brian is mad at me?” Nick looked up at Kevin with questioning eyes.
“No Nick, I don’t think he’s mad at you”
“Because he left without inviting me along”
“I think he needed some time alone. Just like you, he misses home buddy”
“Yeah” Nick turned his attention back to the TV as he and Kevin sat next to each other flipping aimlessly for something that would make them laugh.