Nick used to love me. Not THAT kind of love, you perverts! No, the ‘I worship the ground you walk on’ kind of love. He was like my own personal fan club before there was my own personal fan club. I get why he latched onto me though: Kevin was too strict with him sometimes; Howie could be too meek at times preferring not to jump on couches and prank the band; and AJ could be a little too mean – nothing bad, but when they were younger, I think it made AJ feel tough or cool to tease Nick a little. So then there was me: B-Rok. I was goofy, quirky, funny and, let’s be honest, fun. That’s not me being up myself or anything, I just had more fun than the other guys. But I think the main reason Nick latched on was because I was immature. I was only five years older than Nick, but being five years older than a teenager in age is the equivalent of being ten years older in maturity. Usually that’s the case, but not for me. So we had tonnes of fun together! And just as he loved following me around, I loved that he was following me around. Not only did we have goofy times together, but I also got to teach him how to play basketball and even the guitar! He was in every way the little brother I never had. We were Frick and Frack.
But when I got engaged to Leighanne, something happened. I don’t know if Nick expected me to goof around with him forever or something, but it was like our whole dynamic changed. I think Nick blames Leighanne. It’s not her fault. I was bound to grow up sometime. And it wasn’t like I had stopped being my loveable, quirky, funny self. But Nick did blame Leighanne. He also didn’t like her. It wasn’t as though it was completely unwarranted, I guess. Leighanne is eleven years older than Nick and she made no bones about how she felt about him: immature, childish and, if I allowed him to be, a bad influence. She actually said once that if I wasn’t careful, I would get swept up in his idiocy. Nick was not pleased with that, but she did have a point. Only a few seconds before she had said that, we were jumping on the furniture acting like zoo animals.
After I got married, Nick would purposely avoid me whenever Leighanne was around. I knew he wasn’t ignoring me, just Leighanne, but how was I meant to feel about that? My best friend hated my wife and that caused tension. So I guess it was a natural progression of things that when the band went on hiatus, so did my friendship with Nick. He never contacted me and I just thought he wanted it that way. That was until we locked eyes for the first time in two years after he had smashed the holy hell out of his phone.
When he looked at me, I knew: he was angry at me. I never thought I’d see the day. Did I feel guilty? Okay, maybe a little. But I was angry too! The kid took no responsibility for anything! I bet he expected me to call him and he never had to dial a number. But I was willing to let that go because it was obvious that the last thing Nick needed was me lecturing him on responsibilities.
After Nick ran upstairs, I took Kevin’s advice and waited a while before I went up to speak to Nick. In that time I learned that his parents had divorced. I wondered if this was connected to Nick losing his house, but I didn’t bring that up. In fact, I had gone out my way to ensure that secret was kept. When I woke up this morning it was to find Kevin ready to walk out the door and to Nick’s house. Fearing that Kevin might bump into the woman I had talked to on the phone, I offered to go instead. AJ gave me the directions to Nick’s house – I had never been. When I got there, there was a big ‘For Sale’ sign on his front lawn. Over the sign was placed a large sticker that read ‘Sold’. The auction went well by the looks of it. I went up to the front door and tried to peer inside through the windows, but there was hardly any light within to make out much. Nick wasn’t here, that much I knew.
Now heading up the stairs to talk to him, I wondered what I would actually say and how I would say it. Should I really be doing this now anyway? After that freak out downstairs, is it wise to bring up something that might set him off again? And how would I bring it up? How to you bring up something that personal with someone you haven’t spoken to in two years? How do you even start a conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to in two years?
I knocked on his door and when he didn’t answer I opened it anyway, hoping that he was decent. He was lying on his stomach on the bed. He had been writing in a notepad before he quickly shut it when I entered. He looked at me with an alarmed look on his face and if I had to guess, I would say I had an identical look on my face too.
“Hey Frack,” that’s it Brian, start chummy. Maybe he’ll ease into it. “Can I come in?”
“You already are,” he said in a deadpan sort of voice.
I looked down at my feet. He was right, I was over the threshold. I walked over to the foot of the bed and looked down at him. I really looked at him. It was the first time I’d seen him in two years. He hadn’t changed much – same height, weight, still had blonde hair – but the little he had changed made a difference. His eyes had aged. There was a sadness there that I knew that I had contributed to, even if it was only a little.
“I missed ya, dawg,” and I did. In fact, I didn’t know how much I really missed him, missed all of them, until I was standing in that living room watching Nick break down – like the good old days.
Nick sat up and I braced myself, not knowing what to expect but definitely not expecting what came next.
“I missed you too Frick.” I felt all the tension leave my body, that is until he said, “But I can’t speak to you right now.”
I took a step back from the bed, more out of surprise than anything else.
“No, Brian, I seriously can’t talk to you right now,” he said, averting his eyes. “Can you just leave?”
I stood there for a minute staring at him and then turned my back on him. I had reached the door when a burst of anger escaped from me.
“You know Nick, you could have rang me up some time,” I blurted. “You could have picked up the phone and dialled. I would have answered. So don’t act as if you’re so innocent.”
He didn’t say anything. Perhaps he knew I was right.
“And if it’s any consolation,” I said it almost sarcastically. “I hardly kept in touch with the other guys too.”
When he still refused to say anything, I said, “I know about your house.”
That got the effect I wanted. His eyes snapped towards me in a heartbeat and he instantly looked suspicious and nervous all at once.
“Yeah, I sold it,” he said.
“No, you lost it,” I said, staring at him unblinkingly.
He gave a nervous laugh and stood from the bed. “What are you talking about, dude?” His casual tone was not going to fool me.
“I’m talking about the bank lady I spoke to on the phone yesterday who had auctioned off your house,” Nick was fast, faster than I remembered, as he ran to close the door. I continued. “I’m talking about the fact that the bank took your home.”
“Brian, you cannot tell anyone!” Nick looked panicked. “I’ve got it sorted.”
I snorted. “Yeah, it really looks like it,” he said. “Where were you planning on living?”
When he didn’t answer I came to the horrible conclusion that he hadn’t thought that far ahead.
“Jesus, Nick,” If I were Catholic I would be going to confession.
“I’ve got it sorted,” he repeated, trying to stare me down, but that wasn’t going to work on me either. “I was going to rent an apartment.”
I shook my head but decided to move to a more pressing issue. “And what happened that the bank had to take your house?”
He looked away again.
“Nick, are you having financial problems?” it was a delicate question, but one I had to ask.
Still, he remained silent.
“If you talk to Howi-“
“Nick, Howie’s good with money and business,” I pushed, my voice soft. “If you’re going through some hard times, he can help.”
He went to sit back down on the bed and I decided to try something else.
“Nick, everyone is here for you,” I said kindly. “I left my wife and kid to be here and Kevin left Kristin. You taking PCP accidentally? Maybe that was God’s will. So that we can all be here together. Again. For you.”
He rolled his eyes, but I didn’t take offence, I was happy to see some of his old attitude back.
“Speak to Howie?”
Slowly, Nick nodded. “Okay,” he said and I smiled.
Kevin had contacted my lawyer for me. I didn’t mind – the less I had to directly deal with any of this, the better off I’d be. The lawyer had in turn contacted Juan Pellegrino’s lawyer. Yes, Juan Pellegrino. That was his name. Not a bad name, mind you. But a pain in the ass trying to say. I might just call him Pelli for short.
Anyway, the lawyer set up a meet with Pelli and his lawyer. Pelli, it seemed, was willing to settle out of court. This made me suspicious. Obviously Pelli knew who I was – he had sent some guy to drop a letter off to my house, so of course he knew who I was – and I couldn’t help but think that if I’d been some other average Joe, you know without the millions in his bank account, Pelli would have let it go.
The meet was at Pelli’s lawyer’s office at two this afternoon. I pushed for it to be as soon as possible. Like a bandaid right? But I instantly regretted it – I felt like I was gonna throw up a leg. The waiting was terrible. At twelve o’clock, Kevin and Howie offered to take me to lunch as Brian was still up in Nick’s room which, by the way, kinda pissed me off but that’s going on the backburner. I refused and instead did what I know I should not do in a time of extreme stress: retreated to my bedroom and sat with my thoughts. It didn’t take long before I could feel my brain eating away at itself, so I decided to return to an old safety blanket. NOT that safety blanket for those of you who like to jump to conclusions. No, I’m speaking about a good old fashioned ‘mum talk’.
She picked up on the third ring.
“Alex, baby, how are you?” she sounded happy to hear me, but there was nothing new in that.
“I’m good,” it was a lie.
“You’re lying,” she said. “Are you worried about Nick? I saw what happened in the papers.”
“He’s just going through some stuff,” I replied, not really wanting to talk about Nick at that moment. “He’s staying with me.”
“Is that wise Alex?”
I was taken aback by the question – I would have thought mum would have applauded me for taking in Nick.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, the papers said Nick was drunk,” she said slowly. “And knowing Nick, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more than alcohol he was taking. I don’t think you should be around him right now.”
For some reason I felt myself get mad. “He needs to be here,” I said simply. “All the guys are here to help him through.”
“Then why don’t you come stay with me for a while and let Kevin, Howie and Brian deal with Nick?”
Deal with Nick? No one was dealing with Nick.
“I want to be here for him,” I said trying to stow the attitude.
“And what if you are tempted?” she asked and as soon as she did I instantly regretted calling her.
“That’s not going to happen,” I said through clenched teeth. It dawned on me that it was probably not a good idea to tell her why Howie had come to stay initially.
“How do you know that?” my mum was pushing it like she had no faith in me. Another reason not to tell her why Howie came to visit.
“Mum, it’s not going to happen! Look I gotta go. I have to be somewhere,” yeah, a lawyer’s office.
“Alex, all I’m saying is...”
“I know what you’re saying mum,” I didn’t say it unfairly or unkindly. “But I really have to go. I’ll speak to you soon,” and before she had a chance to stop me, I said “I love you,” and hung up.
I took a moment to simmer down. I knew all my mum was doing was trying to help me but the way she spoke about Nick just made me so angry. She had even insinuated that I just turn my back on him! I couldn’t so that! Not again! He was my baby brother and it was about time that I started acting like his big brother.
When we were younger, I used to rag on him a lot. He was so gullible and emotional, it didn’t take long for me to wind him up or get him to do what I wanted. Despite all the shit I gave him, he still looked up to me like I was the cool big brother. Bad-ass AJ. A lot of the time, though, I had no patience for him and when he wasn’t trying to impress me we would constantly butt heads. Looking back on it now, I wish I had been more patient with him, especially when it came to his family.
20th April, 1996
“Nick stop sulking.”
“Does he even know how?”
“Shut up AJ.”
“Can’t you speak to Lou, Kev? He’ll listen to you.”
“I already have, buddy. He’s not letting up.”
We were in the green room of a Swedish television studio. Nick was sulking – as per usual. Kevin and Howie were trying to lighten him up but they should have realised that once the kid started whining, there was little anyone could do to stop him.
I watched the exchange from my spot on the couch. All five of us had just been told that the scheduled break that we were meant to have in a week would be postponed an extra month so that we could fit in interviews, picture shoots, and publicity. No one was happy about it, least of all me. But do you see me making such a stink?
“But I was meant to go home,” Nick whined. “I haven’t seen my family in months!”
“You’ll see them in another month, Nicky,” Howie assured.
“That’s not the point!” Nick screamed – yes, he screamed. “We were told we could go home!”
“Getting sick of us already Frack?” Brian joked.
Nick ignored him.
“I want to go home,” his voice was lower, but the danger was still in his tone.
“We all do Nick,” Kevin replied. “But we can’t and we all have to deal with it. So stop.”
Nick looked like he was about to explode again.
“He just wants to get out of working,” I quipped, knowing I was only adding fuel to the fire. Sometimes it was just too easy.
I watched as everyone turned to me. Kevin gave me a dirty look and Howie gave me a ‘what the fuck?’ look. But my comment seemed to have calmed down Nick. He looked deflated – not the reaction I was hoping to get out of him. He walked over to me and then flopped down on the couch beside me. I was a little confused. He put his arm around my neck and for a second I thought he was giving me a hug – that was until he started pummelling my head with his other fist.
“What the fu – KEVIN!”
Kevin grabbed Nick’s arm before he could try to punch me again but he still had his other arm around my neck and when Kevin tried to pull him away, he tightened his grip around my neck.
“Nick, let go!” Howie screamed, rushing forward and pulling on Nick’s other arm.
“GET HIM OFF ME!” I bellowed, coughing in between words.
I don’t know how they managed it, but Kevin and Howie finally pulled Nick away. He hadn’t been squeezing too tightly around my neck only enough to make me cough, but my head was pounding now from all the punches the little bastard landed.
I looked up. Kevin had his arms around Nick’s waist and was pulling him back. Howie grabbing onto the kid’s flailing arms. I stood up to retaliate but I felt a tug on the back of my collar: Brian was pulling me back.
I watched as Nick stopped struggling.
“Are you calm?” Kevin demanded.
“Yeah,” Nick said simply.
Howie and Kevin let him go and, surprisingly, he didn’t make a go for me.
“Take a walk Nick,” Kevin said fiercely.
“What? Why should I have to –“
Nick headed for the door, grumbling the whole way. He slammed the door on his way out. Brian quickly went after him.
“Why’d you have to say that AJ?” Kevin asked, anger in his eyes.
“It’s true though,” I defended.
“He really misses his family,” Howie said.
“Of course you’d be on his side!” I scowled. “Don’t worry about me, I just have a concussion!”
“You set him off!” Kevin said exasperated.
“Whatever,” I turned away from them and sat back on the couch. I wasn’t going to let them make me feel guilty over this.
A/N: Hi guys! Thanks to Mare, KimberlyCan and libragurl for the reviews! I overestimated my ability to work in this weather. It’s been 42-45C the past few days and I have done no work on my thesis but I promised that I would get this chapter in by the weekend so priorities first, right? Haha Hope you all enjoyed that chapter! I should have one out again by Wednesday. I know I am slowing down a bit but I promise I will not make you wait longer than a week between chapters! Thanks again to those that read and reviewed!!