The next morning Kevin awoke anxious and disoriented, not remembering why he was outside in the first place. Looking over at the hibachi and then at the loudly snoring Howie lying next to him, he nodded and smiled. Rubbing at his shoulder, he climbed out of the tent and took in the smell of Florida in the morning. He had to admit that he loved this place, for all the sudden downpours and completely hot, humid days, he never really regretted the move to the Sunshine state.
Glancing at his watch he allowed himself to sit down on one of the blankets they had left by the hibachi and just take in the peace and quiet that this morning had to offer. This time of day was always his favorite. A time reserved just for him. He was always the first one to rise in his house, even his mother liked to sleep in, so Kevin would delight in waking up early especially on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and go downstairs and pretend the house was all his.
He pulled his knees closer to his chest as he felt himself yawn, how he would so much enjoy not having to do anything at all today. When was the last day he was able to do that? Just hang in front of the television without moving all day? No worries or cares in the world.
He heard someone moving around in the tent which meant that soon he would have company and within a few seconds of that thought he felt arms around his neck and a hug from behind.
“Thanks for having us do this Kevin.” He knew it was Nick even before he turned around, he could tell by the scrawny little arms so he put his arms up over his head and with all his strength pulled the child over his head flipping him onto the ground.
This took Nick by surprise who giggled as it happened making the others groan inside the tent, “Aw now see? You woke everyone up squirt!”
“Hey it was your fault not mine!” Nick said still laughing as he lay on the ground. Kevin was happy to see that the baby of the group was looking a little more refreshed but not as refreshed as he should have looked. The exhaustion still lived around his eyes in the form of darkish and puffy circles.
“Let’s play hookey today Kevin…please?” It was as if Nick was reading his friend’s thoughts.
“Nicky, it’s not that simple, I mean it’s not like a normal job where we can all call in sick to work.”
“And why is that?” That was a good question, one that Kevin didn’t have an answer for.
“Must you both be so loud? I mean if you are going to kidnap a guy out of his own nice soft bed, could you at least have the decency to stay quiet and let him sleep?”
Kevin turned to AJ and rolled his eyes, “Good morning Mr. Happy pants.”
“Excuse me…did you just call me Mr. Happy pants?”
“Yes I did.”
“Okay who are you and what have you done with Kevin?”
Nick laughed once more still lying on the ground and watching AJ as he plopped down next to Kevin. “It’s me AJ...can’t a guy make a joke?”
“Most guys yes…but not you. Kevin no offense man...but you are the unfunniest guy I have ever met!”
“Yeah and serious too, don’t you think we should play hookey today AJ?”
“Oh….hookey…me likes that idea Nick.”
“Now wait a minute why do you think I’m not funny and so serious all the time? And no we can NOT play hookey today kids.”
Both boys laughed, “Kevin you just answered your own question dude!”
“Just because I’m responsible doesn’t make me serious and unfunny.”
“No, begin unfunny makes you unfunny.”
AJ gave Brian a high five as he wandered out of the tent yawning and stretching while dissing his cousin. Brian was such a multi-tasker.
“Says the comedian of the family.”
“You know it cousin!”
Nick sat up when he saw Brian appear from out of the tent, “And how are you doing munchkin? Any better today?”
“Don’t call me that Brian, you know I HATE it when you call me that.”
“Of course why do you think I do it?”
“I would be much better if Kevin would let us all play hookey today.”
“Guys it’s not the simple…we have a schedule to keep and people to please.”
“But I’m so tired.” It’s like the kid knew exactly what to say and do to get his way. Nick put his head down and pouted rubbing at his already puffy eyes as he said that.
“I know little man but still…”
“Do you really think Lou would go ballistic on us if we took one day off? I mean AJ took like three months off when he was sick.”
“Exaggerate much Brian?” AJ asked batting his friend on the head.
“Not by much no…anyway, Kevin I bet Lou will say yes. Just tell him that we are all so tired and exhausted and Nick is a baby so he needs his nap-page.”
“Stop!” The young blonde whined.
There was nothing more that Kevin would have liked than to do exactly that. Call Lou and ask him for a day off, or better yet, demand a day off.
“Man Howie snores like a…I don’t know…like a big snoring thing!”
Everyone laughed at AJ’s brilliant description of Howie’s snoring patterns but Kevin caught Nick staring at him. He had a pleading look on his face and the thing that killed Kevin was the fact that he knew if anyone needed a day off it was Nick.
“Okay I’ll tell you what; I’ll see what I can do okay?” They all jumped on top of Kevin and tackled him to the ground as Howie was startled awake.
“What’s going on?” He asked which brought about more laughter from the kids as they played on the weedy grass.
“Lou, I wish you would reconsider. Nick had a complete meltdown last night; I mean he was bawling his eyes out and looks like he’s ready to drop now.” Kevin shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he held the phone to his ear. It took him about three tries to get the nerve to actually let the call go through, hanging up every time as soon as the first ring sounded.
“I understand your concern Kevin but we have been through this before, this is your job.”
“Yeah but Lou everyone gets a sick day now and then. I just really think it’s something we all need.”
Kevin glanced over at the boys as they sat on the couch all in a row staring at him like puppy dogs in a store window, greatly anticipating what the answer would be. He looked away, just in case it was an answer he didn’t want to hear. Even though he only knew these guys for a brief amount of time he already figured out that he was the barometer of their emotions, especially the two youngest ones. If he acted sad or angry than they would as well.
Lou was quiet for a little bit before continuing, “Is it really that bad? Because you know as you guys get more popular it’s only going to get worse.”
“Yes Lou it is that bad and I do understand that it’s going to get worse. For now though, I think we need time. Some of us haven’t even been able to go home and see our families or anything all I’m asking is just for one day…that’s all.”
“Okay Kevin, that’s fine if you are willing to put in extra hours tomorrow I’ll give you today to rest…but I mean rest! No running all over the place.”
He felt the need to object, say he was an adult and if he wanted a personal day to do anything he pleased he should be entitled to it, but looking over at the rest of the guys he found himself nodding, “Okay Lou it’s a deal!”
“Kevin I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. This is only the beginning of our journey. It’s going to get a lot harder.”
“I know and I’m sorry Lou.”
He felt guilty up until he hung up the phone, once Lou’s voice was nothing but a memory he suddenly felt a huge release of tension as he looked at his band brothers and smiled. “Guess what gang? We got the day off!”
“Kevin stop playing with our emotions!”
“I ain’t lying Brian…he actually gave us the day off.”
“Did he ask for sexual favors in return or something?”
“What? I mean I guess we can throw the little blonde at him if worse came to worse.”
“So this means no dancing or singing or….or….school?” When Nick said the last word his eyes grew wide as saucers.
“Oh not sure about that last one little man, we might want to double check on that.”
“No school! Even if she shows up here I say we lock her out.” To that AJ and Nick high fived and then butted heads which garnered interesting looks from the rest but after a few seconds they went on as if it never happened.
“So what do we plan on doing then?”
“I want to sleep until noon,” Brian said throwing himself on the couch and closing his eyes.
“Yeah and I want to get in my pajamas and eat cereal in front of the television.”
“You get cereal and milk all over the carpet and you’re cleaning it with your mouth Nicky.” Nick stuck his tongue out at Howie who shook his fist and scowled.
Ignoring that he continued, “I want to go swimming.”
“I thought you just said you want to go watch TV in your pajamas.”
“Yeah but then when I get bored with that, I want to go swimming! Can we do that Kevin?”
“I don’t know Nick, Lou was pretty adamant about us just staying home and relaxing. I think if he found out we were out doing things like swimming he’d be mad.”
“Yes I can see that,” Brian put a pillow under his shirt to try to make himself chubby and then in his best Lou voice he said, “Now boys you can have the day off but absolutely no fun! Got it? You…Howie you go clean the toilet with a toothbrush…and you Alexander…you better go take out the garbage…Kevin you must go shine my shoes and teach my pet monkey how to sing and Nick you get on all fours and become my footrest!”
That got all the boys laughing and Kevin once again shaking his head, “You are a nut job Brian.”
“Who? Lil ole me?” He said taking the pillow out from under his shirt and holding it over his head as if it were a bonnet.
“What do you plan on doing Kev?” Kevin glanced over at Howie who looked much the same way he felt, at ease for once.
“I think I’m just taking Mr. Pearlman’s advice and chilling out. Maybe find something good to watch on the TV, take a nap and then call home.”
“Thanks for sticking up for us Kevin…for asking Lou for the day off. That took guts.”
Kevin looked down at Nick who was now standing next to him ready to embrace him in a hug. It seemed the little one was always no further than an arms length away from any of them at any given time, something that they’d all get used to eventually.
“No problem little man, now why don’t you go get some more rest and maybe later we’ll sneak out and play mini golf or something.”
Nick nodded and flung himself onto the couch that Brian was still occupying bringing a fake groan from his cousin on impact. Kevin couldn’t help but smile watching his cousin interact with Nick. For as long as he knew Brian, he used to bug his mother for a little brother and now finally years later he got his wish.
Kevin walked over to the boys and sat on the recliner, taking the remote control from his cousin’s hand as he wrestled with Nick.
“I’m in charge of the flipper boys!”
Howie and AJ made their way over to the living room as well, scooting Brian and Nick over and all four squishing onto the couch. “Hey how come you get your own chair? I’m the guest shouldn’t I get the recliner?”
“Uh…no but nice try AJ. I’m the oldest I should get the comfy chair.”
“I’m the youngest so shouldn’t we share?” Nick said walking over and just like that, plopping onto Kevin’s lap as if he was five.
Kevin scooted over a little bit to allow Nick to fall next to him onto the recliner. Funny to think that once he was so small he was able to do that and that’s where he fell asleep head tilted off to the side, next to his big brother who also fell asleep using Nick’s head as an arm rest.
Looking back on that day for the five of them, it was probably the most memorable vacation they had. They didn’t do much, in fact most of them slept the day away, Howie the only one to leave and go spend some time with his family. Just as Kevin promised, the remaining foursome snuck out to the nearest Putt Putt to play a few rounds of mini golf. They laughed as Nick managed to lose his ball four times in the course of the game. Brian won by a landslide to which they all owed him the chant: Brian is our God all hail to Brian the sporting God.
That night they had some take out Chinese and laughed as they played Uno. No one had a breakdown; no one got mad and stressed out. It was a perfect day, one that they would look back on for years and smile about. Memorable because it was the last day off they would have for the next two years.
I have no idea why it takes me so long to update in-between chapters on this one but I do hope some of you are reading it. I updated because I recently recieved some new feedback on it so thanks to Mandy, BSB fan forever, Anita and Swenglish for the feedback and motivating me to finally get my butt working on this one again lol