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I sat on the bed with the phone in my hands ready to dial up my cell phone and talk to my brother, but of course someone knocked on the door. I wasn’t surprised. I was certain that was going to happen. Maybe I would have even been a little disappointed if it didn’t. I sighed before getting up and opening the door. Brian was standing on the other side, fake smile plastered on his face. Brian was a man of many smiles, depending on the situation; he seemed to have one for everything. Brian was a Hallmark card. This smile said sorry about being a jerk written all over it.
“Can I come in?” I moved to the side, giving him his answer. He walked in, biting his bottom lip and sat down on the bed. “Thanks” he said as I made my way next to him. I decided I didn’t want to sit across from him. I wasn’t in the mood to have him reading my facial expressions.
“How come you never told me?”
“I don’t know”
He was hurt. I could read it in his voice. I told him everything, but yet didn’t mention this. I don’t blame him, I would have been just as hurt; probably even more. I sat swinging my feet off the edge of the bed, listening to my best friend breath next to me.
“Is that the Mike you talk about in your sleep?”
Then in a move I just knew he was going to make, he moved across from me onto the other bed. Damn predictable Brian. I looked down at the floor.
“Is there a reason you don’t talk about him? Is he a jerk?”
“No!” My head shot up and I said it sternly.
“Okay sorry, no need to take my head off; it’s just a little weird Nick. That’s all”
“I know” I found myself looking over at the phone afraid if I waited to long I was going to miss my window of opportunity to talk to him, not only that but also the longer I waited the more I grew anxious.
“He probably hates me” I whispered, taking Brian by surprise.
“Why would he hate you?”
“He just would”
I could tell by the way he was fidgeting that he had about a thousand questions for me. I was just waiting to be bombarded at any moment by them, but that never happened. He just sat there with me, waiting for me to make the first move. Whether it be to shoo him away, cry about everything or open up.
“My Mom was married before Bob” I looked over at him again, finally ready to tell him everything…well almost everything.
“Yeah, you mentioned that before, that Mike was from your Mom’s first marriage. So he is your half brother then?”
I shook my head which made him recoil. Poor Brian, he probably felt like he was watching one of those stupid soap operas. “Bob isn’t my real dad”
“He isn’t? You look just like him though”
“I know. It’s weird, but he and my Mom met long after I was born”
“Oh” Now I heard that in his voice again, the sound of hurt ringing in my ears.
His facial expressions said it all as I finally just threw it all on the table for him. The look of shock when I told him about the fierce fights my parents used to have. The look of anger about the disappearance of my father and brother, and most noticeable was the look of disgust when I told him my Mom no longer liked to remember the past. “What is done is done”
“So she never even bothered to go looking for him?”
“No” I was embarrassed. “That’s why he probably hates me”
“No Nick, it isn’t your fault. I mean you said you were only five when he left. You were way too young to do anything about it” I nodded even though I didn’t believe what he was saying. I mean I know I was only five but I’m not five anymore. I am 18 and I could have easily looked for him. But then again, I guess he could have just as easily looked for me.
“Don’t get all postal on me, but I have to ask…the big brother in me won’t let me NOT ask” I smiled, “Okay what is it?”
“Promise you won’t go postal?” I laughed “Yeah Bri, I promise”
“Okay” He took in a deep breath. “It’s just that…don’t you think it’s a little curious that he came to find you now?”
“No, I told you he saw my Mom’s book”
“Yeah I know…but even still. Are you sure it’s even him?”
“No…but how would he know those things if it weren’t him?”
“Nick, con artists can find out everything they need to make a quick buck” I rolled my eyes and rubbed my face. Brian seeing those actions knew I wasn’t happy with what he had to say. “Sorry kiddo, but I’m just saying…watch your back. You don’t really know anything about this guy”
“That’s why I need to call him. Because I WANT to get to know this guy”
He looked frustrated, as if I didn’t understand what he was getting at. I knew exactly what he meant. I just wanted to hear him say it. Which he finally did, “Don’t trust him”
“How would you feel if I said that about YOUR brother?” I couldn’t help but get all defensive.
“Why? Because it’s you and not me?”
“No! Because I have known MY brother all my life. This guy just walked up to you on the street and told you he’s your brother”
“He IS my brother”
“Nick you don’t know that…this guy could be anybody”
I didn’t answer he even paused expecting one. When nothing came I thought he would have taken the cue and left but NO, he used it as an excuse to keep going, “This guy might have heard about your Mom’s book, maybe he heard the name Mike somewhere, put 2 and 2 together and BAM, suddenly Mike comes back”
“But you didn’t even know about Mike and YOU know about everything” That made him pause.
“I don’t know buddy, I just don’t trust this guy”
“Brian, you don’t even know this guy. How can you not trust him?”
“It’s a gut feeling” I stood up, “Your gut is wrong this time, now if you don’t mind, I really need to call him back”
“Nick, I’m not going to tell you what to do…”
“I didn’t want to fight about this”
“I don’t either”
“Good, just do me a favor”
“Be careful and don’t be alone with him” That did it. I was mad ALL over again. I wanted to start spewing every cuss word I knew, I wanted to start insulting his brother, but I couldn’t. Harold was a great guy; so was Brian. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of nodding, “Yeah whatever” I walked him to the door and practically slammed it in his face.
Now came the hard part, of course by the time Brian left I had all but run out of nerve. What if this guy was a fake? Would I even see it? Or worse yet, if he wasn’t a fake but only wanted to see me to tell me off. Tell me that I am a rotten son of a bitch for never even trying to find him. I must have sat holding that phone in my hands for ten minutes, even having to hang up because of the busy tone that would happen after waiting to long to dial somebody. Finally I decided to just go for it.
Mike found himself back on those same seats that he and Melinda were occupying earlier. Back when they were staking out the joint. Back when he really thought he would NEVER actually meet his brother. It all felt like some kind of action game to him. Playing hide and seek, but the way grown ups would. Never in his wildest dreams did he actually think that Nick would have let him in with open arms. Mike smiled just thinking about the Journey song.
It made him feel good to know that he had influenced his brother musically. Hell, for all he knew maybe HE was the reason Nick went into show business in the first place. Had the Backstreet Boys ever won an award? Maybe he had been thanked without even realizing it. Mike had always wanted to be a performer. It was something that lived in his heart ever since he was old enough to walk. Even though it hadn’t happened for him, he was glad that it had for his little brother. Brother It seemed so odd to even think about it. He had found his brother.
He felt his hand vibrating, temporarily forgetting that he was still clinging onto a cell phone. “Here goes nothing” He said pulling the phone up to his ear.
There was silence at first on the other end. He almost hung up. Then a faint swallow was heard, followed by a small “Mike? It’s me… Nick”
Mike sat up a little straighter and found himself gulping as well. “Hi Nickers…How are you doing kiddo?”
“Um…I’m good. Sorry about all that before”
“It’s no problem. He was just doing his job. That’s all”
“No, I also mean about the way the guys were acting”
Mike shifted. He felt a nervous energy. It’s how you would feel talking to a stranger who you somehow felt an odd connection with. “It’s okay”
“I don’t really know what to say” Nick admitted openly to his brother, who smiled in return. “I’m glad you said it before I had a chance to. I think it’s normal to not know what to say. This is kind of an odd thing isn’t it?”
Mike was taken back by how shy his brother seemed over the phone. How could he be that famous but yet still so shy? “Yeah it is odd…so, how long have you been working at the record store?” At least it wasn’t a question or statement about the weather. That was a good sign.
“Not very long. Believe it or not this is only my first week there”
“How long have you been a pop star?” Mike joked, instantly regretting it by the uncomfortable silence from the other end of the line, “Sorry I was just joking. I have a whacky sense of humor” That made Nick laugh. “Whacky huh?”
“Well you know, some people are zany others are whacky…what are you?”
“People tend to think I have a silly sense of humor” He had answered the question as if he was being interviewed by Bop magazine.
“I can believe that about you. You were a silly kid”
“I was?” Suddenly his flat, guarded tone became slightly more animated.
“Yes you were. You used to run around the house naked all the time” Nick giggled.
“Yes, you don’t remember that?”
“You used to always have no clothes on and run around. Mom would chase after you with a diaper and you would bat her hand away” Now Nick was laughing, not giggling but laughing and the sound warmed Mike’s heart.
“That didn’t make me silly, I was just a baby”
“Okay maybe that didn’t make you silly but walking around with a dump truck on your head certainly made you silly”
“Oh my gosh! Mom still kids me about that. She said I used to walk all over the place with my toy dump truck on my head”
“You did, then you would hit the walls, fall down and cry”
“Okay maybe that was a little silly then”
“Yeah just a little”
Then there was some more silence. Mike was trying to figure out a good way to break the quiet but Nick beat him to it. “I remember you always reading to me at night” Mike sighed and just for a moment thought he was going to cry. It all felt so overwhelming to him suddenly. So many emotions flooding his mind. “You used to do the voices of the characters for me. Didn’t you?”
“Yes” He said in barely a voice.
“I loved that” Mike felt a tear make its way down his cheek and wiped at it before people noticed. “I did too”
More silence, this time not as uncomfortable. This time it felt nice, like two brothers in deep thought and fond memories, “Mike, you want to come back upstairs?”
“I would love that”
“Okay. You remember what room I am in?”
“Yes, but make sure no one tackles me this time” He laughed again.
“I’m glad you found me”
“I am too Nick”
“See ya in a little bit”
Mike hung up the phone and sat staring at it for a little while. That couldn’t have gone any better if he had written the dialogue himself. He stood up to get into the elevator when he was blocked by Kevin.
He stood up awkwardly then, not sure if this was going to be a good thing or a bad thing.
“Mike was it?” Mike answered with a nod.
“We need to have a little talk” And there Mike had his answer. This was going to be a bad thing.