Chapter Fourteen: You’ve been served.
Sleep did not come easy for me. When it did come, it didn’t last. I gave up on the prospect of having a good night’s sleep somewhere around six. Instead, I tried calling Nick on his cell. There was no answer to the call, just like the other three-hundred times I tried that night. Eventually I gave up on that too and simply lay in bed worrying and thinking of all the ways I had failed in my duty as a big brother. We all had failed in truth – me, Brian, Howie and Kevin – but I was more to blame. Five damn blocks! That was all that separated us. All I needed to do was hop in my car and drive less than fifteen minutes. How hard was that? All I had to do was check up on him; make sure he was doing okay. So why hadn’t I?
By eight, I finally came to the realisation that laying around and brooding would not help find Nick any faster. I put on a pair of pants and headed out. On my way downstairs, I passed Nick’s room. I was disappointed to see that he had not returned. I found Howie and Kevin in the living room.
“He’s not back yet.” It wasn’t a question. I knew he hadn’t returned yet – I had made Howie promise me to wake me if he came back.
Howie shook his head. He looked terrible – they both did. They sat side by side on the couch, staring intently at the front door. They each had large rings around their eyes and judging by the empty coffee pot sitting on my coffee table, those rings were well earned – neither one had slept. Suddenly I felt guilty. I should have sat up with them.
“Rok still asleep?” I asked taking a seat in the armchair beside the couch.
Kevin shook his head. “Went to Nick’s house,” he said.
“To see if Nick turned up there,” Howie said “Kevin was gonna go. But Brian said he needed the walk.”
“If he’s not back by the time Brian gets back, I-“ Kevin never finished that sentence as he was cut off by the sound of someone ringing the doorbell.
We all jumped up from our seats and I bolted to the door.
“Nick! Thank Go...” But it wasn’t Nick who was standing at the door. “Who are you?” I asked abruptly, severely disappointed. The man standing on my doorstep was close to six foot. He wore dark sunglasses that complemented his black suit.
“Alexander James Mclean?” the man asked.
He pulled out an envelope from the inside of his jacket and handed it to me. I took it from him as his next words came.
“You’ve been served.”
My mouth just about fell open. It would have been comical had it not been so serious.
“What?” I ripped open the envelope and started reading. I instantly felt weak.
“AJ?” Kevin’s voice from behind me made me look back up to the man that had come to serve me legal documents, but he had left the front door and was getting into his car.
“AJ?” Kevin again. “What’s wrong?”
I turned to face him and Howie who both had worried looks on their faces. I wordlessly handed Kevin the letter then, not waiting for him to process what it said, I walked back into the living room and collapsed on the couch.
“You smashed someone’s camera?” Kevin didn’t sound angry, just surprised.
Remember when I said that sometimes I like to act like a tough guy? And then I said ‘so sue me’? I didn’t think anyone would actually do it!
Howie took the letter from Kevin and skimmed through it himself as Kevin went to stand in front of me. I sat on the couch, my face in my hands, a mix of emotions consuming me: shame, sad, anger, worry.
“That’s not like you J,” Kevin said, his voice soft and understanding. I had expected something different, but it didn’t surprise me – Kevin having a go at me for being a little confrontational was calling the kettle black.
“I know,” I muttered into my hands.
“So why did you do it?”
I looked up. Kevin had a sad look on his face. Howie looked annoyed, but judging by the way he flung the letter on the coffee table, I gathered he wasn’t annoyed at me.
“Because that...douche was taking pictures of Nick,” I said it fiercely, suddenly feeling not so ashamed. I don’t regret what I had done. That guy, and the other douches taking pictures, was having fun at Nick’s expense. I would do it again if it meant spearing Nick from any public humiliation.
Kevin simply nodded at my response and took a seat beside me.
“What am I gonna do Kev?” I asked, suddenly sounding so defeated.
“We’ll get you a lawyer,” he replied. “Settle outside of court.”
“It’s not that bad J,” Howie assured.
“Then how come I feel like complete and utter shit?” did that just come out of my mouth?
Kevin draped an arm around my shoulders and squeezed. “I’m so proud of you buddy,” by the way he said it, I knew he was being truthful. “You’re just worried about Nick. All this bullshit,” he waved at the discarded letter, “is easily sorted. You were doing so well before all this. Think about that.”
I looked at Howie. He gave me an encouraging smile but behind that smile I could see an uneasiness. He knew Kevin was wrong. He knew that I wasn’t doing as well as Kevin thought I was. That’s why Howie was here in the first place, before all this shit with Nick happened.
I hadn’t brought it up to Kevin or Brian – the reason Howie had come to visit. I hadn’t even brought it up to Howie since Nick arrived. I’d been so focused on Nick that I had almost forgotten about it myself. Now all I wanted so badly was to tell Kevin. And I was just about to when a creaking sound came from the front door as it was pushed open. Kevin, Howie and I watched anxiously as Nick stepped into the house.
Nick attempted to make an escape upstairs, but I stopped him before he could, blocking his way by standing between him and the staircase. I made sure to keep some space between us; I didn’t want to appear confrontational. I looked at him intently as he resigned to the fact that I was not about to get out of his way. He was looking down at the floor and when I didn’t say anything, he looked up, but not at me – he averted his eyes, looking anywhere other than at me.
“Where have you been Nick?” I asked, keeping my voice even and non-aggressive just like Howie had advised. I also tried to not jump to conclusions. Again like Howie said, Nick wouldn’t have gotten wasted after what happened to him. He’d be too freaked out to even go near alcohol or drugs. But the worry was creeping in and I was an emotional guy: I told Howie I wouldn’t react to Nick like I had to AJ, but I often let my emotions run things.
“Out,” his voice was gravelly, almost as if he’d been screaming for the past few hours.
“Where did you sleep?” The more he refused to meet my eyes the more I was becoming suspicious that he’d gotten wasted and spent the night on the streets.
When he didn’t answer, I felt as if my suspicions were confirmed. I stepped closer to him. He took a step back. In the corner of my eye I could see that Howie and AJ had gotten up from the couch and were watching us tentatively.
“I was out okay!” that’s when he looked at me. His eyes were red and for a second I thought the worst: alcohol, weed, ecstasy, coke, heroin. But I couldn’t smell alcohol on his breath when he yelled at me and he looked lucid. He wasn’t on anything. But he did look terrible. On one side of his face he had small indentations as if he had pressed that side of his face against pebbles. His hair was tousled and the collar of his shirt was a little torn. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions based on that alone – Nick’s clothing was usually always in disarray.
I put my hands out in front of me in a defensive position. “We were just worried, little man,” I thought maybe the old nickname would calm him and bring a little of our old older brother/younger brother dynamic back that we had lost in the past two years.
“Whatever,” he snorted. “Can I go now?”
“Can we just talk Nicky?” Howie asked. “Everyone came down to see you.”
Nick turned red, breathed in, and puffed himself up as if ready for a fight. But he didn’t move and he shifted his eyes away from me again.
“Yeah right,” was all he said.
It was in that moment, with those two words, that everything hit me. I finally realised that this was not a ‘party too hard’ situation, this was not some regular twenty-three year old who took the fame and fortune lifestyle too far. Something was seriously up. And those eyes weren’t red for no reason.
“Nick, I haven’t seen you in a while-“ I started, under the impression that maybe if I owned up to my faults, this would go a long ways in mending our relationship. But I was halted by a ringing.
Nick shoved his hand in his pocket and retrieved his cell. He looked at the caller ID and pressed a button. He had hung up on the caller.
“And last night I was out of line,” so says Howie. “If we just talk about –“
There was that ringing again. Nick shoved his hand back into his pocket more violently this time and didn’t even look at the caller ID before rejecting the call.
I tried again, noting the frustration in Nick’s face. “If we just talk about it, maybe whatever is –“
The phone went off again and again he rejected it. He looked up at me, waiting for me to continue. I took this as a sign that he was willing to talk after all.
“I mean, maybe I can help,” I finished dumbly.
“Help?” Nick asked furiously. “Now you want to hel – FUCK!” Before I knew that it was ringing again, Nick had thrown his phone clear across the room where it hit the wall. It did little damage to the phone though and the ringing continued incessantly. It was almost as if the sound was making Nick unhinged. He almost ran towards the phone where he then proceeded to stomp on it until the ringing faded into silence.
AJ, Howie and I could do no more than watch in complete shock.
“Nick,” Howie walked towards Nick tentatively when the younger man had finished stomping on his phone.
Nick looked at Howie for a second as if just realising what had happened. I wondered if perhaps maybe he honestly didn’t know what had just happened and what he had done.
“Howie...” Nick put his right hand on his forehead, his eyes wide, his voice shaky.
“Let’s sit down,” Howie suggested.
“Nick?” a new voice entered the scene. I turned to find Brian standing in the doorway, a look of horror on his face.
Nick’s face lit up for the briefest of seconds before he remembered that Brian hadn’t been in touch with him either. Probably the biggest betrayal he felt.
Nick turned away from Brian and spoke to Howie.
“I gotta go,” he said, backing away towards the stairs. “I...I need to go sleep...or....or something...”
“Kaos, let’s talk about this.”
“Nick, come on, little man. It’s going to be okay,” I really wanted it to be.
All he did was shake his head, turn around and rush upstairs. There was silence between the remaining four of us as we absorbed what had just happened.
“I’m gonna go speak to him,” I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect that to come from Brian.
“Just give it a couple of minutes,” I said, still staring at the staircase.
“Should we call a doctor?” AJ sounded scared.
“No,” I said quickly, turning away from the staircase to look at AJ.
“He’s going through something here AJ,” Howie said. “He’s going through a rough time. But we’re here now. He’s not sick. He’s just upset.”
“That’s not ‘just upset’ Howie,” Brian objected. “That’s more than ‘just upset’.”
“What if he...” AJ didn’t continue, but I knew what he was thinking.
“Having a rough patch in life doesn’t mean he’s going to do anything drastic,” I snapped, somehow offended by what AJ was insinuating. “We’ve all been where’s he is. He just needs a little help.”
“I agree,” Howie said. “If he was in that frame of mind, he wouldn’t have cared that he had taken PCP instead of ecstasy,” Howie, always thinking. “If he was in that frame of mind, he wouldn’t have come back here. My guess is he’s lonely, feels betrayed, and is angry that we haven’t kept in touch and is scared of what’s going on – whatever it is that’s going on.”
Brian made a noise as though he was about to speak but thought better of it.
“Brian?” I pushed.
He just shook his head.
“We found out that Bob and Jane got a divorce,” Howie continued. “It would explain why his mum is in contact with him a lot lately. I would take a bet that that was her on the phone just before.” He pointed at the phone that Nick had left on the floor. By the state of the thing, there was no way we would ever know that for sure unless Nick himself told us: the phone was completely broken.
There was silence again as everyone took in Howie’s words. If there was anything I was certain of, it was that Nick would not do something like that.
A/N: Okay so this chapter was a little too dramatic and angsty lol. I kind of put the last bit in there (the insinuation that Nick might want to do something drastic) because I felt like this was a bit dark and people’s minds would go there naturally. I dunno, maybe it’s not dark at all, but I didn’t want THAT to be an option. It really didn’t fit in the chapter very well but I felt I had t put it there.
Anyways, let me know how you think this chapter went. I will have a new chapter again within the next few days! It’s like 42 degrees Celsius everyday this week so I’m gonna be parked in front of the aircon writing. Thanks! xxx