That night, once we got back to the hotel I remember thinking to myself how weird it was to have the lowest day of my life end as one of the happiest. Seeing my brother sitting around my hotel room talking and joking with the four other guys I have ever let into my world, made me smile. There they were plain as day, Howie sitting across from me, legs tucked under him as if he was in Kindergarten, AJ on the floor holding cards in one hand and a bottle of Pepsi in the other joking with Kevin who was playing a game with him. Brian and Mike talking about basketball on the other bed while I just looked from person to person and nodded.
This is what should have happened all along.
I was so afraid that once we got back to the hotel, the masks would come off and Kevin would throw my brother out of the hotel room. I was shocked when he instead invited him not only up to hang but later to spend the night because every once in a while you needed a good old fashioned slumber party. Whether you were eight or eighty.
We had started doing that back when I was thirteen as an excuse for me not having to be alone ever. Kevin at first shunned the entire idea, rolling his eyes and fighting with me every step of the way, but I think he got used to it in his own silly way. I am pretty sure he started to enjoy them as well.
Every time something bad happened to one of us in our short careers and brotherhood, we would have one of these things. A slumber party, of course you had to say it with a lisp ala AJ. That would make it complete. It was a thlumber partey. When I first made my way back into the room, I found a happy Brian, who came and tackled me to the ground, “Our prodigal son has returned home saints be praised” I had no idea what he was talking about but he made me laugh.
Odd that the only person to lecture me was AJ. He looked at me and actually yelled, “You better not pull that crap again Kaos! I mean it!!” How weird is that? Kevin actually was speechless for a little while.
When this was happening, Mike kind of hung in the background, perhaps waiting to be tackled by security. Who could blame the poor guy? Howie walked over to him and gave him a nice warm hug. That was the beginning of starting fresh for me.
Everything else quickly became a thing of the past at that point. Fresh start; do over. Worked for me.
So just watching Mike interact with my four other brothers was heaven to me. I almost thought it was a dream. Things usually didn’t end quite so happily for me.
About half way through the night and a pepperoni pizza later, I had almost forgotten about how cold I was and how lonely I had felt. The level of despair thinking that briefly no one in the world was on my side.
Mike came over and laid next to me on the bed while the rest of the guys continued to watch Alien.
“You feeling better?” I looked over at him and smiled, “Yup” He nodded almost relieved.
“What about you? I know you had kind of a tough day too” It made me sad that he seemed so surprised that I actually cared about his feelings. I wonder how little that has happened to him over the years. “I’m okay. I’ll live” I sat up now, looking to make sure the rest of the guys were in their own little world. Once I saw our conversation was going to be pretty much just between the two of us, I kept going, “Mike….you’re not going through this alone. Don’t lie to me, I know you are hurt by what happened today”
“Nickers, it’s all good really” He fidgeted and began to bite his bottom lip.
“Mike, you don’t have to do that. I won’t let you” I gave him my best Kevin look. For some reason it didn’t have the desired effect. He laughed at me.
“Okay kid…fine. I’m pretty bummed about everything but I have you so it’s all good”
“Yes you do have me and it works both ways you know. Just like I can come to you, you can come to me. You better!!” He ruffled my hair and smiled, “You are too much Nick”
“No, I’m serious as a heart attack! I love you Mike! And I want you to talk to me if you are upset” He smiled and looked back towards the television but I caught a glimpse of a tear in his eye.
“I’ll be right back” I said standing up and putting my shoes on.
“Oh God here we go again….get the leash Kev!”
“Ha Ha! Very funny Brian. I’m just running to the vending machine. Is that okay with everyone?” They all looked at me suspiciously and I rolled my eyes. Okay I knew I would never live running away down. Served me right I guess.
I left their questioning gazes and made my way out into the hallway. For some reason I felt I needed to do this and no don’t worry it wasn’t leave. I pulled my cell phone out and dialed my Mom.
I know I had said I never wanted to talk to her again and maybe on some level I really didn’t want to. With her came a lot of hurt. She always had a way of making me feel like complete crap. But on the other hand she was also my Mom. For many years she was all I ever had and we stuck to each other like glue. Over the years that relationship kind of withered away to the point where we were now. Small conversations about work. Anything else would end up in a fight like the last time we talked. When I told her about her son; the one she wanted to forget.
Just thinking about that made me hot under the collar and I almost put the phone away. I wasn’t calling for me though, not this time. I was calling for Mike because deep down inside, he needed his Mother even more than I did right now.
Now I was certain when I called it wouldn’t be Mom who answered. It was the little angry dance we did. Mom would make my dad answer the phone with some stupid excuse. “Oh she’s not here Nick, I’ll tell her you called and by the way you really need to apologize to her!” That’s pretty much how it always went and nine times out of ten, I would end up begging for forgiveness, even when she should have been the one asking for it not me.
So like I predicted it was my father, the one who I had actually given up a millisecond after finding my real one, that answered the phone.
“Hi daddy” Yup always called him daddy when I was knew he was mad at me. I know how hypocritical I am.
“Nicky, long time no speak how are you buddy?” Just like he called me Nicky and buddy when he was catapulted in the middle of our arguments.
“I’m okay…is Mom there?” He paused I could tell he was probably looking at her while she shook her head at him, maybe holding her hand to her temples, in an overly dramatic fashion.
“No buddy, I’m sorry but you know she’s kind of upset”
“Dad, I know she’s there. I really need to talk to her”
There was some shuffling and muffled voices. Probably some really nasty dirty looks, but eventually I heard her voice. Soft but stern at the same time.
“Mom, I know you’re mad at me but for once this isn’t about you or I, it’s about Mike”
Mike sat on the bed, watching the other four guys just sitting comfortable enough in each other’s company not to even have to say a word. He wanted to hate these guys, but he just couldn’t. That would be a very John Alexander thing to do; be angry at the other guys for having each other. Maybe take Nick away from them, manipulate him into thinking that they were no good for him.
How in the world was it that he could be raised by such a hate filled man and yet have a heart? He sometimes found himself wishing he had no heart. If he didn’t care than what was there to lose?
The sad truth was this was all soon coming to an end and then what would he have? No job meant no money and no money meant no place to live. He guessed he could maybe ask Melinda if he could stay with her until he got on his own two feet again.
Nick and the boys were set to leave New York in a day. Would they keep in touch he wondered. God he hoped so, but really what were the chances? He had such a busy life that there would be no chance he would find the time to keep in touch. Than there was also that pity factor. Mike knew he could ask Nick for money and he would give it to him without even flinching but the last thing he wanted to be was the loser brother that grubbed.
He looked down at his watch realizing that Nick had been gone for almost fifteen minutes already. He was just about to speak up, “Maybe he did leave us again” when Brian cut his intentions off, “Mike” He looked over at the blonde, “Yeah?” For some reason that brought about a chuckle from the group, “It’s it weird how he has the same blank expression as Our Kaos?” After saying that AJ quickly added, “No offense man…it’s just that the resemblance between you guys is unmistakable”
“Yeah…anyway, I’m sorry Rok what were you gonna say to Mike?” AJ put his fingers up to his lips and snapped right in front of them, zipping them shut. “I just wanted to apologize for being a jerk to you at the Tavern, I never got a chance to tell you that. I mean it” Mike smiled at Brian, someone he could see warming u to quickly, just like his brother had.
“It’s no problem. Thanks for looking out for Nick. He’s really lucky to have you guys. Really”
“Where is the little wanderer anyway?” Howie said making his way over to the door, “We need to put some bells on him or something”
He opened the front door and looked into the hallway. Mike craned his neck to see what was going on, but then Howie closed the door again. “He’s on the phone”
Then he glanced over Mike’s way, “I think he’s talking to your Mom”
“Why was he talking about money? OUCH!” Kevin punched AJ in the arm for saying that which made Mike laugh. He didn’t want his Mom and Nick to get along again. That was John coming out in him, but he couldn’t help it.
“It’s okay…I’m not a big fan either” Mike said winking at the boys. He felt a little better seeing that they also had no real love for his Mother. At first he thought it was only Kevin but apparently they all felt the same way.
“It’s not that we don’t like her but sometimes…well…sometimes her priorities aren’t straight” Howie said looking over at Mike and smiling.
“I know” He really didn’t because in all honesty he didn’t like her. He had no reason to. The woman shut him out of her life and threw away the key.
Nick walked in a few minutes later biting on his bottom lip which made Kevin and Mike both shake their heads. That woman did nothing but make that kid feel like total and complete crap. He walked over to the bed and sat down, still clutching his cell phone in his hand.
“I take it the conversation didn’t go well?” Brian asked; you could tell he was getting ready to summon all the goofy voices just in case they were needed.
“I’m not really sure. You can say we kind of left it out there”
“Was that Mom?” Mike hated calling her that but for Nick’s sake he felt like he owed it to her. Nick answered with a nod.
“I told her about what happened and what dad did” Mike nodded.
“Should I expect the police then?”
“Mike…No! She knows you had nothing to do with it, in fact she said she was sorry you had to go through that”
“Yeah…okay squirt, well whatever. At least I’m glad she talked to you and you guys straightened everything…” Nick’s cell phone started blaring which made Mike stop.
“Who is it?” Nick turned the phone around to look at the number even though he already knew, then he handed the phone over to Mike, “It’s mom and she is calling for you”
At first he was hesitant to take it from his brother’s hand. The other four guys looking on as if a big cliffhanger was about to be revealed. “It’s okay really...take it”
Finally he grabbed the phone from Nick and after the fifth ring, right before voicemail he placed it to his ear to talk to his mother.
“Michael?” She sounded softer now, almost like a different person entirely from the one who had been so vicious only a few days before. He couldn’t recall when the last time someone had actually called him Michael. He liked it, made him feel like a real guy.
Suddenly he became aware of all the stares and found himself getting up and moving into the hallway placing a loving hand on his brother’s shoulder as he did.
“Mike…I am so sorry about what happened with your father. He is a bad man”
“I know, I’ve lived with him all this time remember?” His words cut through the air and he hoped right into Jane’s heart.
“Nick told me what you did and how you found him. He said you have been so supportive while he’s been there”
“He’s my brother and I love him very much”
“I know you do and that’s wonderful” She paused; it was uncomfortable, “Look…I wanted to say…well…ask if maybe you and I could…could…”
Mike smiled and held the phone closer to his ear, “Could what?” Now his voice as soft as hers.
“Could maybe try to get together and talk, just you and I, fresh start”
“I would like that very much” He tried not to get choked up but it was hard, the woman who had rejected him his whole life was suddenly calling him home.
I sat there in the room explaining to the guys what my phone call was all about, how I had gone on and on talking about what a great guy Mike was and how bad he had been hurt by all of this. How he deserved some love and attention for once. Then I told them the part which was hardest for me, the part where I told Mom to either except Mike or forget about me.
Turned out I didn’t really have to even say that because she was more than willing to try to rekindle their relationship. She told me I should consider inviting him on tour as a roadie or something.
I told her I thought it was a great idea, which I did.
When Mike finally came back into the room he came and sat next to me, giving me a huge hug. Nothing more needed to be said, I was finally after all these years going to have my family back. The real one.