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It was a long, drawn out conversation Kevin had with Mrs. Carter. He had hoped she wouldn’t be there, that maybe he would just get her voice mail. He’d just leave a friendly reminder that tomorrow was Christmas Eve and how happy Nick would be to hear from her and the family. Unfortunately not only was she there, she was in a bad mood.



Kevin found himself stammering over his words and she seemed put off by the call in the first place. When he finally found his tongue, he just let her know about the black eye to which she gasped and called AJ an immature little brat. At that point he had wanted to ask if she even knew her own son to be calling someone like AJ immature but he didn’t feel right dissing Nick to defend AJ.



The truth is, the more he got to know Jane and the rest of the Carter clan, the more he understood why Nick acted the way he did. It wasn’t his fault; he was doing the best he could under the circumstances.



His Mother had said that she was going to give Jane a call, but Kevin convinced her not to get involved. She hated the way Jane and Bob raised their family, and Kevin could understand why completely. They were from different sides of the tracks Jane Carter and his own mom. Night and day opposites and even though it wasn’t his mom’s nature to step into other people’s family situations she had always talked about how bad she felt for Nick.



It drove her crazy to the point of gossiping about it. She always felt the need to apologize afterwards but that wouldn’t stop her or Jackie Littrell sitting on a Sunday afternoon on the front porch talking about how much better it would be for Nick if they were to be raising that boy.



“She’s not a horrible woman…just she is in over her head you know what I mean? And I would hate for her to drag that beautiful boy down with her”



Kevin and Brian would just nod in agreement but never said anything about it.



The thought was always there though and when Kevin sat there talking to this woman he just felt like grabbing Nick, putting him in an envelope and mailing him to his mom’s house where Nick could get a real mom’s love for a change.



She asked how he was behaving since the last time they had talked. Kevin lied and said he was being an angel. Then he decided to come right out and ask, “I was wondering if maybe you could…call Nick tomorrow night?”



“Why wouldn’t I call him?” Jane sounded agitated which made Kevin squirm on the toilet seat.



“I’m not saying you won’t call him I’m just saying he misses you and would love a call from you that’s all”



“Well we plan on calling him tomorrow night and then again on Christmas day”



“Good”




So he felt like he had a productive call with Jane and when he walked out of the bathroom to join his friends he saw that peace had once again been fully restored. There everyone sat squished onto the couch watching TV and eating popcorn. Nick resting his legs on Brian and his head on Howie while AJ sat on the corner of the couch straddled on it as if it were a horse.



“I was wondering when you were going to get out of there, does it stink?” Kevin rolled his eyes at his cousin, “No it doesn’t stink”



“Good because if it did I’d bring in a gas mask or something”



“Very nice Brian” Brian made sure to give his cousin a friendly hug as he passed by, as a peace offering and Kevin took that opportunity to steal Brian’s spot on the couch. He lifted Nick’s legs and plopped them on his own legs as he sat down.



“Anybody nervous about the concert?” He asked during the next commercial break.



“A little, I mean according to Johnny and Lou, there are going to be very important people in the audience that can either make us or break us” AJ said grabbing a handful of popcorn and popping it into his mouth.



“I still don’t see why it had to be on Christmas Eve?” Kevin looked down at Nick who was biting on his bottom lip, “I mean couldn’t they have scheduled this for the middle of January or something?”



“What’s done is done lil man”



“I know but it still sucks” He yawned and once again nestled into Howie’s shoulder who ignored the extra weight as if it was just always there.



“Hey you stole my seat!”



“Serves you right for getting up Brian”



“Oh and the bathroom totally smells like ass of Kevin!”



“Sometimes I wish your mom could hear you. Her perfect angel of a son and the way he talks to his older cousin”



Brian moved to the chair and stuck his tongue out, “She’d never believe you anyway”



“You’re probably right about that” They all looked over at Nick when they heard a snore to see him sound asleep falling off Howie’s shoulder and lying more on his side.



“So what the hell do we do with him on Christmas?”



“What do you mean AJ?”



“Does Santa come or something”



“He’s 13 AJ”



“Yeah so? He acts like a freaking seven year old most of the time”



“Leave him alone AJ”



“It’s true Howie” Howie moved a pillow onto his lap and then guided Nicks’ head to the pillow.



“Well it’s not like you’re going to have to worry about that anyway. You get to spend Christmas with YOUR family” A small hint of jealousy was heard in Brian’s voice. Kevin was jealous as well though. Howie’s family originally invited all the boys over for the holidays but then their own plans changed which meant going to an aunt’s house. Momma D still had insisted that the three of them should come, they’d make room, but Kevin decided it was best if just he, Brian and Nick enjoyed a quiet Christmas alone.



He had asked Nick if he wanted to go along with Howie or stay with Brian and of course he chose Brian. AJ’s mom however didn’t extend an invitation to any of the boys which kind of hurt Kevin’s feelings. After all, she knew how badly they had all missed home. A break is a break though; at least that is what she told AJ. So yes there was a small amount of jealousy still hanging in the air about that.



“Are we buying each other presents? I mean have we bought each other presents?” Kevin felt horrible when his cousin asked that because truthfully he hadn’t thought about it. Not that he had no intention of buying his friends something but they had NO time to even think of shopping.



“No offense to you guys but I didn’t buy any of you a damn thing”



“Well that’s a shock and a half AJ”



“Well did you buy me anything Rok?”



“No, I haven’t had time to buy anybody anything, not even my family” Kevin nodded feeling horrible that his mom had sent this huge care package to him but yet they didn’t even receive as much as a card in return.



“We suck guys” They all nodded in agreement.



“So, no exchanging presents this year?” He looked at each boy as they shrugged, “Yeah guess not this year”



“Okay then”



“But what about him?” Again AJ asked while pointing over to Nick who was now sleeping with his mouth open and his tongue slightly hanging out.



“God I want to stick something in his mouth so bad right now”



“Brian” Kevin gave his cousin a warning glance. “What? I didn’t say I would actually do it but it is awfully tempting”



“Or at least placing his hand in warm water”



“Not while he’s on my couch your not AJ”



“Relax D!” Now they were giggling quietly. “So what do you mean by him AJ? You think we should still buy him gifts?”



“Well…yeah I mean you guys have gotten these incredible packages from home. I have my mom and my family spoiling me rotten as does Howie. Nick has no one”



“You know beneath that I’m a real badass mask you got going on there you’re a good kid” AJ rolled his eyes at Kevin.



“I just kind of feel for the kid you know?” Brian smiled, got up and ruffled the back of AJ’s hair, “We know”



Kevin glanced down at Nick, “Okay my question to you is when are we going to do that? We have a concert tomorrow”



“Afterwards, maybe my mom can keep him occupied”



“Good idea J”



“Well maybe it’s time we all hit the hay. We have a big day tomorrow, possibly a life changing one”



Kevin gently moved Nick’s legs up so he could get off the couch and then placed them back down. Howie did the same, laying him on the couch and then placing a blanket over him.



“So I guess I get stuck with the floor then?”



“Yup afraid so J”



“Life is so unfair I tell you”



“Goodnight little big man”



AJ laughed, “Little big man?”



“Well yes God forbid I call you lil man right?”



“Uh yes that is correct”



“Well then it’s little big man”



“You’re such a dork Kevin”



“Good night AJ”



“Night guys”



Before shutting the lights off Kevin took a look back into the living room as AJ was getting his floor ready and Nick lay fast asleep, feeling like the more he got to know these guys, the more like a family he felt with them.



He felt a warm feeling in the pit of his heart; he really did love these guys. Even though they drove him crazy most of the time, he did love them.



Which he would have to remind himself a numerous amount of times the following day when he almost quit the band.
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