- Text Size +
Author's Chapter Notes:
Two chapters within a week?! Wow! I'm on a roll. And the next chapter should be up in a few days, so stick with me please.

Here I was, heading to another funeral…black suit…black tie…completed with a heavy heart. Today’s weather was much too sunny for what I thought it should be. In my mind, I figured it should be cold…rainy…gloomy…everything that represented sadness and loss. For some reason, though, it was cheery weather…the type of weather where you take your kids to the park…or take a date on a picnic. It was the kind of day that should make you feel happy. Too bad it was far from a happy day…it was a miserable one.

I argued with myself about this…going back and forth on whether I should come today, or not…but then I got the oddest call…just yesterday…from Brian and Leighanne’s lawyer. I think his name was Lester. Lester Kalihan. He advised me that I need, not only to be at the funeral, but also to attend the reading of the will directly afterward.

What did that mean? I had no clue. Brian probably left me some stash of silly string he had hidden in some secret place, or something crazy like that. I’m sure Leighanne had no clue of Brian’s secret stash. I bet it’s blue silly string and he hid it…in his home studio. No, no…it’s in the attic…behind some old family heirloom truck from the 1800’s.

The corner of my lips curled a tiny bit, thinking about all the things I could do with a secret stash of blue silly string that I inherited from Brian. After all…what else could he be leaving me? Everything of importance and value would be passed down to Baylee…of that, I was sure. I guess it was kinda nice that, in the midst of such chaos, at least I was sure of something. Everything else had spiraled so far out of my control that the possibility of me regaining any control, whatsoever, seemed to dwindle with every passing day.

Pulling up and parking the car, I solemnly stepped out of the car. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion now…as I stood up, looking around and buttoned the solitary button of my suit jacket. Even the blink of my eyes seemed to be in super slow motion, as I walked toward the brick building. I found myself asking, again, why do the bad moments in life seem to last forever? I don’t think anyone, in this world, knew how badly I wanted to turn back the hands of time to a moment when Brian and I were pulling pranks on the other guys…just to have Leighanne pop in. She always was quick to scold us, but you’d be surprised by the number of times she actually joined in and helped us out.

Leighanne got a bad rap sometimes and I’m not saying she was a saint, but she really wasn’t that bad. I could name a few women that had invaded the Backstreet world, who were a million times worse than Leighanne. Mainly they were always AJ’s chicks…but that doesn’t really matter, I guess. The point I’m trying to make is that Leighanne was actually a pretty okay woman. Granted she took up most of my best friend’s time and attention…but I couldn’t blame him. The guy was madly in love.

He wasn’t just in love with her, either. Brian would have thrown himself under a bus, in order to save Baylee from harm, too. I guess any descent father would, but Brian was like…Brian was the definition of a good father. They were both amazing parents, when it came right down to it…and no one that knew the family, could deny that.

As I made my way inside, seeing so many familiar faces with tear stained cheeks, I couldn’t help but remember how amazing their little family was…so filled with love and devotion. It was shocking, to me, that God would tear it apart, but I guess there had to be a reason…or, at least, that’s what Brian would be telling me, if he were here, right now. The hard part…was actually believing that there was a good reason for something to tragic.

I couldn’t really even tell you what happened at the funeral that afternoon. I know the pastor had some short message…something about heaven and eternal life, I think. Then…some people spoke. There might have been a song…or two…hell, maybe even three. Of course there had to be prayers said, too. But other than those basics…I can’t tell you much.

When it came time for the reading of Leighanne and Brian’s will, my attention span wasn’t much better. After leaving the church and driving across town, I parked outside of the upscale law office building. Like a robot, I got out and headed into the plush lobby, meeting up with the family. Once everyone had arrived, we walked down this long hallway that was lined with all sorts of certificates, degrees and things of that nature. Once we got to the room, I paused outside the doorway, watching everyone else file inside. Something about this, scared me senseless, but that seemed ridiculous to me, at the moment. What did I have to be scared of? I already figured out what he was leaving me. Silly string. So why were my hands sweating? And my heart pounding? Why did I have the strong urge to run, like hell, out of there?

The oak table, in the center of the room was a pretty good size, with like twelve really nice leather office chairs surrounding it. There were probably 25 of us, so I stood against the wall, allowing the family to have the chairs and the space right up close to the table. After all, they were the ones who had the right to be here. I was more of an outsider…the only one in this group that wasn’t actually part of the family.

My eyes followed Lester as he, and his assistant, sat down at the head of the table, with their folders. Even though I was watching the scene unfold before me…hearing the words as they read the will…my mind was wondering and wasn’t catching a single word. Yeah…that’s what the funeral was like…I heard it all but my brain wasn’t processing any of it…and now the same thing was happening here.

I don’t know how long I was standing there, staring into space, just thinking about my past adventures with Brian, but loud gasps snapped me back to reality and everyone was staring at me. Looking around the room, I saw every family member had their jaw practically on the floor and their eyes couldn’t have gotten any bigger. What did I miss? It was obviously something big…I think.

“What?” My brows snapped together, still wondering why, the hell, everyone was gawking at me. No one answered me though; they all just sprung to their feet and started shouting. Something “wasn’t fair”. There was no way of sorting out all the arguing, but I could make out that I “didn’t deserve” something.

“He can’t handle that!”

“That’s absurd!”

“I won’t allow it!”

“Stop! Everyone, please…calm down!” Lester was on his feet, trying to get everyone settled, but it wasn’t working the best for him. “ENOUGH!!” That did it. Mumbling, everyone sat back down…obviously upset. “Mr. Carter…”

“Yeah…when do I pick up the silly string he left me?” Even with the forced chuckle, I could tell that no one was amused, so obviously…my prize wasn’t silly string. Darn. I actually could have had fun with that. I guess he must have left me with his vid…

“…you are hereby awarded full guardianship of Baylee.” Now my eyes were bugging out, too, and I think I may have just gotten a bit of rug burn on the underside of my jaw. Lester was holding out a folder, to me, but I couldn’t lift my hand to take it.

“Wh…wh…what?!?” Yep…that was me, stuttering like a fool. Great. Seriously, this had to be a dream though, so it didn’t really matter if I sounded or looked like a damn fool.

“Aside from the items already discussed and divided among the family, you are hereby given all rights to the rest of the Littrell estate, on Baylee’s behalf, since he is still a minor.” With a hard swallow, I leaned back against the wall, staring at the tall man with salt and pepper hair.

Oh boy…I was starting to feel a little…dizzy…and my stomach was flip flopping…

“We can make an appointment for tomorrow…” He was looking around, at everyone else, as if he didn’t want the others hearing what he had to say. “…to discuss the estate further. As for now, Mr. Carter, you are to take the young boy with you and take over your title as guardian.”

…now everything was…getting fuzzy…and…I…feel…