The ride to wherever we were going was one of the most uncomfortable ones I have ever experienced. Partly because I wasn’t ready for it, partly because I knew Kevin hated me but mostly because I had NO idea what to tell my brother. I didn’t know him well enough to just assume he would be okay with whatever it was I told him. He might have been there in the hotel waiting, looking at his watch for the fiftieth time wondering why it was I didn’t even bother to call him. Then he would leave, never to come back ever again. Well except to maybe go to all the tabloids and tell them what a horrible and inconsiderate brother I was in the first place.
“What are you thinking?” I turned to look at Brian who was watching me with a wondering look on his face. I know that they wished they could figure me out sometimes, I was kind of glad I was such an enigma to them.
“Just thinking about Mike”
“Oh” I could swear I heard a ‘pffft’ come from the front seat but I chose to ignore it.
“Yeah, I feel bad. I wanted to spend the day with him, I don’t even know where we are going” I whispered that last part because I didn’t feel the need to let Kevin know that since I had left him last night, I didn’t manage to figure out anything.
“Well, just tell him you are in Jersey and you’ll see him when we get back”
“Yeah Kaos, maybe we can all go to dinner or something” AJ offered. That was nice. Nothing would make me happier then to have Mike gel with the guys.
“Maybe, although it might be a little overwhelming for him at first”
“I think it’s a great idea…” Howie trying his hardest to be impartial, “What do you think Kevin?” Oh here we go.
“Yeah whatever” I rolled my eyes. I know that Brian was aware that Kevin and I had a little confrontation yesterday but I don’t think the other two did, until right then, when you could visibly see the tension in the car. I decided to not let Kevin get to me and instead focused my attention on calling my brother…one problem though, “Hey D…can I use your cell phone?”
“What about yours?”
“Mike has it” I swear another subtle grunt was heard coming from the front of the van.
Howie tossed his phone to me with a wink and a smile; “you know you would make a good Santa Clause D” He looked at me like I was odd. I however, thought it made perfect sense. Whenever anyone needed anything, it was Howie who would always come to the rescue. Just like Santa. See? It makes sense really.
I didn’t like the idea of calling and talking to Mike in front of everyone. Not sure why, but I found it embarrassing. I mean when we came to awkward pauses in our conversations, everyone would know. I was sure they would all be staring at me the whole time as well; I had to do it though, I didn’t want to wait until we reached our destination. It was probably juvenile of me to think that way, but I was afraid the longer I waited, the sooner he would lose interest.
I blame my short attention span for that.
SO, I turned away from them, the best I could considering I was in the middle and all and I called my cell phone.
He answered on the fifth ring. Turns out I had woken him up. Stupid me!
“Mike?” There was a long pause, Felt like hours but maybe only a couple of seconds.
“Nick…is that you?”
“Yeah man, I’m sorry; I woke you up didn’t I?” He yawned.
“Uh, no I was awake” Liar “What’s up tiger?”
“Tiger?” I laughed causing Brian to laugh as well even though he had NO idea what the conversation was.
“Yeah, you got a problem with me calling you tiger?”
“No, I kind of like that actually. Even though sharks are more my speed”
“Sharks huh? Well I think that would sound silly if I called you shark”
“Yeah me too” Wow what a dumb conversation we were having. Considering it was only our second or third real one as family.
“So, what’s up? You kind of sound like you’re breaking up, are you in a car or something?”
“Yes. A van actually, that’s why I called, um…” I bit my bottom lip. “I have this thing in New Jersey today”
“Joisey huh? What exit?” He cracked up but I didn’t get it. When he figured that out, his laughter kind of slowly faded, “So where in Jersey? Maybe I can meet you there” Now that was a good idea. Why didn’t I think of that? Just because I was working didn’t mean that he couldn’t come and spend the day with me. The thought of him following me around all day kind of excited me. One problem, I was still Captain Clueless as to where the heck we were going. I didn’t want them all to know that, especially Kev, but to see my brother I swallowed my pride and asked, “Hey guys, where are we going? Mike wants to meet us there”
There was silence, the kind I didn’t much like. The looking at each other, wondering who was going to break the news to me kind of silence. Finally it was Santa Clause himself that spoke, “Nick, we have a photo shoot and then a lunch with business executives who will be sponsoring our tour”
“I doubt Mike would be able to come join us”
“Oh” I said again. I found myself biting my bottom lip again, “Mike. It’s a tour sponsor thing, I don’t think they’ll let you come” There was a slight pause, “Oh that’s no problem Nickers, I’ll catch you when you get back then”
I smiled; I knew he wouldn’t be mad “Cool!”
“What time you think you’ll be back? Maybe we can do dinner”
“Yeah, that sounds great…” I turned away from the phone, “Hey guys, what time will be back? Mike wants to do dinner?”
“Not until really late buddy” Howie once again, Mr. Bearer of bad news.
“How late is really late?”
“My guess is midnight or so” That came from the front. I’m sure Kevin just couldn’t wait to say it. Nothing makes him happier than ruining my day.
“Shit!” I felt the need to cuss, then once again I turned my attention to the phone, “Um...Mikey….I won’t be back until midnight, they think”
This time there was an awkward silence. I could tell he was disappointed, I don’t blame him; I was too. “Okay, well how about tomorrow then?” He thought I was lying to him, I could tell by the hurt sound in his voice. The same sound I often had…sometimes too often.
“Tomorrow sounds great!” I said happily, “I’ll look forward to it and I’m really sorry, I wanted us to have the whole day”
“Awe, that’s okay tiger, it happens. We’ll just catch up tomorrow; after all, we do have our whole lives right?” That made me smile. “Right”
“So, I will see you tomorrow then. Call me when you get back tonight and we’ll talk about it”
“Really? It will be late”
“I don’t care”
“Nick…I uh…I’ll see you tomorrow”
“Okay, bye bye”
When I hung up the phone, just like I had predicted they were all staring at me, well three of them anyway, the fourth could care less; remember?
We’re gonna hang out tomorrow” I proudly announced. They all smiled, “That’s great Kaos, and I’m looking forward to getting to know him”
“I am too; he’ll get a kick out of you Rok”
“Nick, we have a really hectic schedule tomorrow as well, if you bothered to even look at your itinerary” Kevin was really annoying me now.
“Yeah he’s right kid, but I think you can at least steal some time to see him” I hated being SO busy that I couldn’t even spend time with my family.
“I’m really looking forward to it, I can’t wait for MOST of you guys to meet him” I had to add the word most. It seemed appropriate. Once again the tension in the car got thicker, “I already had the pleasure, now it’s everyone else’s turn” Stupid Kevin with his fast comebacks.
“You know Kev, I don’t know why you have to be such an ass about this” Was that AJ coming to my defense?
“I don’t care either way. I’m happy for you Nick. Really I am” He did sound kind of genuine. He was confusing me. I hate being confused. Why would Kevin say he was happy for me when he was anything but?
“Sure you are” I said sarcastically, not sure why as the words were leaving my mouth. Maybe I was in the mood for a fight. Another fight, speaking of which, “So, do you think the make up people will cover that bruise up?” I know, I was such a bastard sometimes.
“What bruise?” Oh he wanted to play that game then? Okay I was ready to play, “You know…from where I punched you in the face last night” Howie, Brian and AJ all looked at each other, but Kevin laughed, “In your dreams lil man. No bruise, it was only red. It’s all better now; like it never happened. I’d like to treat it that way. Like it never happened”
I rolled my eyes and by the look on Brian’s face, I knew he wanted the whole story as soon as we were able to get away from the rest. Howie and AJ looked amused but not that curious, they were used to my little outbursts by now but then again they didn’t know the entire tale.
That was the last thing discussed in the van. Everyone else pretty much rode in silence the rest of the way. I opted to close my eyes and try to get some sleep. If it was going to a long day, I wanted to be ready for it.
Mike hung up the phone with his work people, it was like some weird psychic thing, the minute his plans are all shot to hell, work manages to call and ask him if he can fill in for somebody at the last minute. The ironic thing was it was Melinda that had called off. He decided he would say yes since it would give him something to do, instead of sit at home and dwell on the fact that he didn’t feel welcomed into his little brother’s life. He didn’t know what he was expecting, maybe a red carpet, maybe a huge Oprah type moment when suddenly everyone surrounding his brother’s isolated pop bubble he lived in would open their arms to him.
After meeting Kevin, he knew that was not going to be the case. Kevin had made him feel anything but welcome. In fact, Kevin made him feel cheap. He didn’t blame the guy totally. It was true that if in the same situation he would most likely have done the same thing, what bothered him was the fact that he was never IN the same situation, when by all rights he should have been.
He felt cheated by everything. Not yesterday because reality hadn’t quite set in yet. Yesterday felt like a dream to him, something he had never thought would happen. He had ignored all the feelings of insecurity surrounding him then, all he had concentrated on was talking to his brother.
Today was a different ball game. After he talked to his brother, He felt like crap. He knew Nick wasn’t lying to him, but he just started to doubt that he would ever feel totally excepted into his brother’s life.
Maybe he was grateful for that call into work then. He could forget about things for the day. Just be good old Mike Alexander. So, he got up got dressed and headed for work. As he opened the door, he was a little surprised to see who was standing on the other side waiting for him.
“What are you doing here?” He asked surprised and a little caught off guard.
“Now is that anyway to great your Father?” John Alexander asked his son as he entered the apartment carrying nothing but a duffle bag and a smile.