After Nick came out of the shower, barely a word was spoken for quite some time. He sat on the couch and smiled as Howie told us some crazy story about his uncle Emilio putting a lamp shade on his head and singing Santa Clause is Coming to Town, but yet Nick didn’t say anything.
Kevin noticed Nick looking at the phone almost on an hourly basis, maybe trying to will it to ring. He couldn’t figure out how parents could do that to one of their kids. Even if unintentionally, how could you possible ignore your child on Christmas? A day that was made for family?
That’s also when Kevin realized how strong Nick was, yes he cried a lot and yes he was whiny and needed CONSTANT attention which tended to annoy most of them on any given day, but beyond all that, he was handling this so much better then Kevin would have. If this had been Kevin being stood up by his family, the sadness would have driven him insane. Even at the age he was now, it would have been too much.
Probably the saddest part of that realization, Kevin thought to himself, was that this was something Nick has gotten used to. He’s gotten used to coming in last in a family who wants to live off of his eventual success. How sad is that?
Kevin glanced over at Nick who was staring straight ahead as if listening to what Brian was saying, even giving the occasional nod. He wasn’t listening though; his nods were misplaced, just like that smile.
“Remember that Kevin? Did Tim sock him in the face?” Kevin glanced over at his cousin, feeling bad for not listening either.
“That Christmas that grandpa wore that scary Santa mask. Didn’t Tim hit him or something? I swear that he had a shiner after that or maybe it was my imagination.”
“No, Tim didn’t hit him Brian! Geez, but he did scare the crap out of your brother and me.”
Brian laughed, “Yeah that part I remember quite well.”
Howie and Kevin laughed as well, but once again Nick only nodded. See? He wasn’t listening at all. Maybe in his head he was running through the different reasons why his family couldn’t get in touch with him.
Howie noticing the far away look in the young blonde’s eyes tried to bring him into the conversation. “Nicky what about you? Do you have a funny Christmas story?” Nick, now broken out of his thoughts looked over at Howie and shook his head.
“Nope, my Christmases have always been pretty good, nothing overly funny about any of them.”
“Never got into any trouble or anything? Never fell into the dessert tray?”
“There was never much of a dessert tray to fall into so nope, never did that before.”
Nick stood up and yawned, “Well, I think I’m going to bed if it’s okay with all of you.” That made Brian laugh, “Uh…Nick it’s only 7 o’clock. What are you an old man or something?”
He sat back down, “Oh I thought it was later,” He glanced at the phone again and everyone suddenly felt so bad for him. Kevin always the problem solver decided to try to distract him, by clapping his hands together and saying, “Hey why don’t we play a game?”
“We played poker already Kev, which you suck at by the way!” Brian said snickering under his breath, which made his cousin throw a pillow at his head.
“I’m not the best poker player but I’m a mean Pictionary player,” He glanced over at Nick who wasn’t even listening to the conversation. He was staring at the TV, trying to get lost in the happy families on the screen. “What do you say Nick? Me and you versus Howie and Brian?”
Nick looked over and shrugged, “Yeah okay…sounds fine. Whatever.”
“Wow he sounds so excited to be on your team Kevin, I can understand why too… what with your drawing skills and all!”
“Shut up Brian! Nick would you rather be on Brian’s team?”
“I don’t really care, whichever.”
Howie, Kevin and Brian all looked at each other and shrugged. “Let’s leave them the way we said then. Howie and Brian versus Nick and I.”
Brian walked over and shut off the TV making Nick turn his head and stand up, once again directing his gaze on the telephone. “They’ll call buddy don’t worry.” Brian said patting him on the back as they made their way to the kitchen table.
“No they won’t.” Nick whispered in a silent reply. “They’ve forgotten all about me.”
Brian ignored the answer because in truth he didn’t know what to say besides, ‘yup, I think you’re right about that one little buddy’ so instead he just ignored it by pretending he never heard it to begin with.
To make matters even worse, the phone rang which made all three of them stare at each other with hopeful eyes as Nick went to pick it up. He turned quickly and handed the phone to Brian, “It’s your mom,” He said, walking over and sitting down at the table, letting out a big sigh as he did.
Brian smiled, even though he felt guilty for being happy about the call. He grabbed the phone and walked into the bathroom and shut the door. “Well, while we wait for B you want to have some dessert?” Kevin said walking over to the bag that Howie brought home with him and pulling out a box of leftover cookies and pastries. “Come on Nicky, what do you say? You want an éclair?”
“You know normally if I went for one of those you’d swipe my hand away and tell me to lay off the sweets.”
“Well then aren’t you lucky that this is a special day and that I’m in a good mood?” Kevin wiggled his eyebrows at Nick who only pushed the pastry away and sighed again.
“Nicky, maybe they tried to call when Kevin was on the phone earlier. They’ll call you, they will, so stop being so sad and hum drum. It’s Christmas, smile and have a good time. I mean I know we’re not your real family but you’re kind of like a little brother to me so that has to count for something right?”
Kevin smiled, that was Howie’s way. He always knew what to say to try to make things better. “He’s right you know, I feel the same way Nick.”
“That’s nice of you guys to say but I know it’s not true. Come on, Kevin I drive you crazy all the time, I mean I can’t even count the number of times since I’ve been here that I have caught you wishing I wasn’t and Howie you roll your eyes at me so much, you guys are being nice but don’t lie. I’m annoying and hard to live with I mean hello? My parents pushed me aside so they could have a nice vacation.”
“Nicky that’s not true they sent you here because they knew about our performance. If we didn’t have it, you’d be with them. They’d never just throw you aside to have a better time.”
“Oh no? Well they’ve done it before. They’ve left me with my uncle and gone away before.”
“All by yourself or with all the kids?”
“Does it make a difference?”
“Yes, it does.”
“Well than yes, all by myself. They took the rest of the kids and left me, it was a punishment for doing something I don’t even remember what I did.”
Kevin and Howie looked at each knowing that their youngest band mate was very good at making stuff up to prove his point, but the sad look in his eyes made them both realize in this instance what he was saying was true.
“Wow it must have been pretty bad, whatever it was.”
“I don’t remember but I know it involved money...a lot of money that we didn’t have.”
“How many times have I told you…no robbing banks Nicky!” Howie said pointing an accusatory finger towards Nick which despite his mood, made him giggle.
Brian walked out of the bathroom with a smile on his, “What’s everyone laughing at?”
“You.” Nick said sticking out his tongue; once again maybe the bad mood was averted.
“Oh very nice, gee thanks. I think I’m going to cry now.”
“What scares me most about you Brian is that everyday you get more and more like this one over here,” Kevin pointed at Nick, “You guys are morphing into each other.”
“YAY! Mighty Morphing? Or just unmightily morphing?” Kevin shook his head at his cousin, “Oh your Mighty Morphing and you are the pink one!”
“Cool, I’m the red one. I’ve always wanted to be the red one.”
“That scares me a little bit that you always wanted to be any kind of Power Ranger Nick.”
“Why? Power Rangers are freaking awesome.”
“Riiiight…” The phone ringing once again brought the conversation to a sudden stop. Never in his life had hearing a phone ring been such a stressful experience. They just calmed the boy down now and because of the stupid phone, he was going to be all worked up again.
Nick didn’t run to get it this time so Brian got up and answered, Nick’s smile disappeared and was once again replaced by the rejected sigh, until…a smile laden Brian turned to wards Nick and spoke nice and loudly, “Oh hi Mrs. Carter, yes Merry Christmas to you too…” Nick’s head turned towards Brian in anticipation, “Yes he’s right here…hang on a sec…” Brian winked at Nick and held the phone out to him, “Seems like it’s someone’s Mother.”
Nick jumped out of his seat and grabbed for the phone, “Mom!” He yelled into it which made all three boys laugh, especially when they heard, “Sorry,” as the next word to come out of his mouth.
When Nick ran into the bathroom with phone in hand, he let out his sigh of relief, “Thank God that woman finally called.”
“Yeah, seriously, I was afraid I’d have to resort to standing on my head or something to get him to keep smiling.”
“Howie, you can stand on your head to get ME to smile.”
“Shut up Brian.”
“I didn’t realize that things were so hard for him, did you guys?” Brian asked, now with a more serious tinge to his voice.
“No, its weird isn’t it? Before he came to stay here I don’t think I hardly knew him at all. Just as the little kid who annoyed me, most of the time.”
“Well, I can tell you I have known the Carters for a while now and the way Nick acts explains a lot after spending time with all of them. It’s sad really.” Howie said grabbing his bottle of water and taking a sip.
“I hope this makes him happy, I mean it sucks when you are sad on Christmas, I mean I’m sad because I’m away from home but at least I know that my family cares about me. I don’t think Nick knows that feeling and it makes me mad.”
“His family cares about him, but I just don’t think they know how to show how much they do. We’re lucky you know that Brian?” Brian nodded at his cousin.
“I’m pretty lucky too.”
“Yeah you are D.”
After only about ten minutes in the bathroom, Nick walked out and hung up the phone. It was hard to gauge his mood, but Kevin was trying desperately. “So? How’s the fam?”
Nick turned and nodded, “Good, they said Merry Christmas.”
“See? I knew they’d call you Nick.”
Nick nodded at Brian and smiled a little bit. He still didn’t look happy but maybe it was a look of contentment.
“So can I have an éclair now?” He asked reaching over to the center of the table which made all three men smile. “And then Kevin and I can whoop your butts at Pictionary!”
They never did play the game though; instead they spent time just eating dessert and enjoying each others company. The rest of Christmas went by peacefully with all four of them sitting in the living room, sipping on eggnog and watching TV. It wasn’t a bad Christmas as Christmases went, in fact it would probably be one that they would look back on years later and remember with love.
Nick fell asleep on the couch with his head on Howie and his legs on Brian. Kevin placed a huge comforter on him and sat on the floor.
“Merry Christmas guys.” He said one last time winking at all of them.
“Same to you Kevin...same to you.”
Hey guys Happy New Year! Sorry about the lack of writing on this one!