“So how’d it go?” I asked, watching as AJ pulled out a chair and slumped into it. Kevin went over to the kitchen counter where I had put Nick’s unfinished burrito. He inspected it before noticing the other plate of untouched burritos. He grabbed one and went to sit at the table with AJ. I joined them there.
“I’m starving,” Kevin mumbled, taking a large bite from his burrito.
“Don’t tell Nick that,” Brian said, leaning against the kitchen counter. “I told him you guys went out for lunch.” After a few questioning stares he explained. “I didn’t know if you wanted him to know about all this, J.”
AJ nodded. “Yeah, good call Rok,” he sighed.
“So, what happened?” I asked again.
“I settled,” AJ said.
“How much?” Brian asked.
AJ looked over at Kevin as if asking permission to continue.
“Two and a half grand,” AJ admitted.
“Two and a half?!” Brian exclaimed. “What were you thin-“
Brian would have continued if it was not for the look Kevin gave him and the groan that escaped from AJ’s lips.
“I know Brian,” AJ said. “Okay, I know. But it’s a small price to pay.”
“What do you mean?” I asked curiously.
“That scumbag lawyer threatened him,” Kevin put down his half finished burrito.
“How did he threaten you?” I asked AJ alarmed.
“He just said that he would have no problems with destroying our career,” AJ said.
“And you believed him?” I asked sceptically.
AJ nodded. “I mean, come on,” he said. “We’ve been forgotten. And a large part of that is because of me,” he put his hand up when he saw us about to object. “I can admit it, it’s okay. But we have been forgotten. In the past year, the only news on us has been about Nick’s night time adventures. And then I get sued for violence and what does that do to the band? We’ll look like a train wreck. Is that what we want to be known for?”
“You didn’t have to settle for us,” I said compassionately.
“I did it for me,” AJ looked straight at me, unashamed. “I did it for the group. I did it for Nick.”
He paused and then turned to Brian.
“You were right to hide this from him,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on with him but I know it’s big. And I don’t want him to take this on because he will.”
“Or maybe he’ll be grateful,” Kevin said.
“If it was up to me, none of you would know,” he said. “Don’t tell him, okay?”
We all nodded. Just one more secret for me to keep.
AJ took in a deep breath. “There’s something else,” he said and this time he definitely looked at Kevin to get the older man’s approval. When Kevin nodded his head, AJ continued. “I want to do another album.”
Everyone looked at me, alarmed.
“Um, I mean,” I cleared my throat. My over the top enthusiasm was definitely suspicious. “I mean, I think that would be a really good idea.”
“Well Howie’s in,” Brian laughed.
Everyone looked away from me and I breathed a sigh of relief and AJ began to give his reasons for wanting to do another album. Personally, I was not opposed to doing another album, but I wasn’t exactly dying to do one either. The business with my brother was finally going somewhere and I had something that was all my own. But another album is the perfect opportunity for Nicky to get back on top with his finances.
I refocused my attention as Brian was speaking.
“I need to speak to Leighanne,” he said. “But I don’t see why not.”
I looked over at Kevin.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll need to talk it over with Kristin.”
“But she’d be cool with it, won’t she be?” I asked. I knew the answer to that question: Kristin would definitely be cool with it. Kevin’s wife was always incredibly supportive. If he wanted to do it, she would back him up all the way. But when Kevin refused to look me in the eye when he answered that question, I knew it wasn’t Kristin that would be hesitant about another album.
“I don’t know,” he said again, picking his burrito back up and taking a bite.
“Well I don’t think we should tell Nick until we’re all in,” Brian said.
“We’re keeping a fair bit from him already don’t you think?” I asked.
“And what if we get his hopes up and then one of us pulls out? He’ll be pissed.”
“Doubtful,” AJ said. “The way he’s been acting, he wants nothing to do with us. He’s just here because he’s got nowhere to go.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “Did he tell you that?”
AJ shook his head. “No, but why else is he still here?”
“Maybe he does want to do another album,” I suggested. “I think he does. I think it would be good for him.”
“Do you know something we don’t D?” AJ asked curiously.
I shook my head. “I just had a talk with him that’s all.”
“I thought you were the one that talked to him?” Kevin asked, swallowing his bite and looking over at Brian.
“I did,” Brian said. “But then we came down and he talked to Howie.”
Everyone looked over at me again.
“What did he say?” Kevin asked.
“You should talk to him,” I said simply.
“You’re not going to tell us what he said?” AJ asked.
I shook my head again. “That’s for him to tell you.”
I shouldn’t have walked away without that burrito. I was starving. I hadn’t eaten since before all this shit went down. But I didn’t want to stay there when Kevin got back. I don’t know why he still intimidates me, it makes no sense. I’m a man now, not some twelve year old kid. We’re almost the same height and it’s not like I need him to take care of me anymore. I didn’t need his approval anymore – but that’s not how I really feel. It’s like I want him to be proud of me. I want it more from him than I do from my own father. It probably had something to do with the fact that he was there for me when my father wasn’t. There are so many memories and as I opened my notebook to a new page and started writing notes to a new (yes, I’m starting all over again) song, I couldn’t help but think of one that always made me smile.
22 June, 1993
What in the holy hell just happened? One minute I was doing a vocal warm-up and the next minute...SHIT! What the FREAK just happened? This was NOT normal!
I opened my mouth and tried saying my name and it happened again! It wasn’t like this an hour ago, it wasn’t even like this ten minutes ago. I did have a sore throat this morning and a tingling sensation there also, but I thought I was coming down with a cold. Not this. And what the hell did it mean? Was it going to be like this forever? More importantly, what was I gonna tell the guys? They’re gonna kick me out of the band for sure.
“Hey Nick,” Brian poked his head into the bathroom. “Everyone’s waiting.”
I opened my mouth out of habit to say ‘okay’ but quickly closed it without saying anything and nodded instead. Brian left leaving me by myself again in front of the mirror.
I had to go out but I needed a plan and fast! So I came up with the most obvious one: don’t speak at all. Inhaling deeply (through my nose, because no way are these lips parting) I stepped out of the bathroom and joined the other guys and Donna Wright in the hall she had reserved for us to practice in.
“Great, we’re all here!” Donna exclaimed, clapping her hands together and smiling broadly. “Let’s get into position then boys!”
We all took our positions. AJ, Howie and Brian lined up in a row and Kevin and I stood behind them. Donna strode over to a radio player that had been plugged into the wall and inserted a tape. She pressed play and the first notes of the song began.
“Ok boys,” Donna walked back over to us and placed her hands on her hips. “Here we go.”
We had already begun the moves we had practiced over and over again. We were meant to sing at a middle school next week and Donna wanted us to be super prepared. As AJ started singing, I mouthed the backup vocals with the rest of the guys. The song finished without anyone noticing all I did was mime.
“Brilliant!” Donna clapped her hands enthusiastically. “That was perfect guys! Let’s do the next one.”
She walked back over to the radio player and switched the tape over to the other side. When the song started playing, I started to panic. I had one whole verse to myself in this song! I nearly forgot we were doing this one at all.
We started moving to the music and I tried to act normal. But the panic grew as the song progressed and we were getting closer to my verse. If I opened my mouth and attempted to sing, everyone would know and they’d kick me out of the band! I mean, we’d only really known each other less than a year – Brian less than two months – why would they want to keep me in at all?
Oh my God, here it comes. Here’s me verse. Right after Brian finishes with the chorus. And...
“Nick! You missed your part honey,” Donna didn’t look very impressed. She stopped the music and rewound the tape. “Let’s begin from the start.”
The other guys gave me weird looks, not angry or mad or anything, just a little impatient.
The song started again and again we moved to the music. I shouldn’t have let Donna start the song again, I should have mimed that I was unable to speak.
“Nick!” Donna really didn’t look impressed. She turned the music off again. “What is going on?”
The other guys turned to look at me and I felt cornered. So I opened my mouth, pointed a finger towards it and shrugged.
“You lost your voice?” Howie asked suspiciously.
“We heard you warming up you voice fifteen minutes ago,” Donna said.
I shrugged again, feeling my face go red. I was looking for the exits. There was only one door on the far side of the hall. Maybe if I run for it and leave them all here, they’ll think I’m sick and leave it at that.
“Yeah, stop playing around Nick,” Brian said.
I shook my head to let them know that I wasn’t playing around.
“How could you lose your voice so suddenly?” AJ asked. “You’re lying.”
I shook my head fiercely.
“Nick, enough!” Donna was getting madder. “Lou won’t be happy.”
That’s when the panic escalated. Lou was professional and everything. He wouldn’t put up with my refusal to sing for long. Mum said that I needed to be just as professional and always put on my best performance because otherwise I could be replaced.
“Are you ready to try again?” Donna almost barked it out – kind of a shift from the encouraging manager she had appeared to be just moments ago.
I didn’t know exactly how to answer that question, so I just stared at her.
No not good! Not even a little bit good!
She put the music back on and everyone started dancing again. My moves were shaky and completely not ‘alluring’ and ‘enticing’ as Donna and Lou liked to say.
There comes that verse again.
“NICK!” Donna didn’t even bother turning the music off this time. “What the hell is going on?”
They were all looking at me and Donna looked so mad! I needed to get away from all of them, so I did just that. I ran into the bathroom.
I started pacing the length of the bathroom. I needed to call my mum! She would know what to do. She could take me to the doctor and he could give me a new voice box or something. They can do that right? But it would have to be a voice box that had a good sound. But then I’d need new vocal chords too. I don’t think we have enough money for that – actually I know we don’t have enough money for that. What was I going to do? This group was my ticket to making my family happy! I was going to become rich and then everything would be good again!
The voice came from the door of the bathroom. Kevin was standing there. How did I not notice him enter?
I stood staring at him, petrified. He knew! How did he know?
“What’s going on Nick?” maybe he didn’t know.
I opened my mouth, pointed my finger to it and shrugged.
“You didn’t lose your voice,” he wasn’t angry or annoyed.
I nodded earnestly and then when I thought that might look as if I was agreeing with him, I shook my head instead.
“No,” he said again. “You didn’t lose your voice. It’s cracked, isn’t it?”
How the HELL did he know?
I shook my head. No way was I admitting it. All he would do was run and tell Donna and then Donna would tell Lou and then I’d be out.
“Yeah it is,” Kevin smiled. “Go on, speak.”
I shook my head fiercely.
“It’s okay, you know,” he said. “Every guy goes through it.”
I just stared at him.
“When my voice broke I spoke liiikkkee thIII----isss,” his imitation made me laugh. And my laugh cracked.
I looked at him in horror, my hand over my mouth.
He laughed. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It happens to every guy.”
I opened my mouth to speak but then thought better of it. I don’t think I could trust him fully yet – even if he did buy me ice-cream that one time.
“It’s okay, Nick,” Kevin assured. “I won’t laugh.”
I breathed in deeply, not sure if I still trusted him. He obviously knew and there was no denying it really. But if I spoke and he heard it for himself, there’d be no turning back.
“What if it stays like this forever?” it was just embarrassing.
“It won’t,” Kevin smiled – at least he didn’t laugh.
“Yeah, but what if it does?”
“Nick, it won’t.”
“Yeah but –“
“Nick! I told you, every guy goes through it,” he paused, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “Didn’t your dad ever give you ‘the talk’?”
When I just stared blankly back, his face got all red.
“You know,” he insisted. “The ‘talk’?”
It suddenly hit me what he was talking about and I inwardly shuddered. We had an all boy’s assembly in my last year of elementary school. They had talked to us in detail (way too much detail) about...well about everything. After I got over the initial shock of what Kevin had just asked me, I decided that if I was going to be embarrassed by this whole voice cracking situation, why should I be alone?
“Oh yeah, the talk,” I said and his face brightened. “Yeah, dad gave me ‘the talk’. About not eating too much chocolate because then I might break out,” it was great seeing his face fall. “Do you think that’s why my voice is cracking?”
Kevin groaned. “No, Nick,” he said uncomfortably. “When a boy –“
“GOD, NO!” I didn’t care how I sounded, he was actually going to give me the talk! I just wanted to see him squirm but he was just gonna plunge right in there. “I know what ‘the talk’ is. Please don’t tell me about changes or anything.”
“Oh thank God,” he sighed. “Why did you pretend you didn’t know then?”
“I was just playing,” I said, a little grossed out. “Why do you think you’re the best person to give me ‘the talk’ anyways and why were you about to give me ‘the talk’?”
Kevin opened his mouth but nothing came out. So we both stood there awkwardly, trying to forget what the hell just happened.
“Are you alright?” he finally asked.
“Are you sure it will go away?” I asked.
He nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “It’ll only last a couple of months.”
“A couple of months?!” I exclaimed, feeling the panic grow again.
“It’ll get better,” Kevin said. “And then you’ll stop sounding like a girl when you sing.”
I ignored that and asked the next question. “Willit change the way I sing?”
“Only that your voice will be deeper,” Kevin said.
“But what if Lou kicks me out?” I asked.
Kevin laughed again.
“He won’t,” he said. “Lou is aware that you’re not going to stay thirteen forever. He knows you have to grow.”
That made me feel a little better.
“Come on,” he walked towards me and put his hand on my back. “I’ll make up an excuse for you – say you vomited or something. That way we can tell Donna in private.”
I groaned. “Do we have to tell her?”
“Yes,” Kevin said. “You can’t mime the words to the song next week and she’s going to notice a change in your voice.”
“I am NOT going to be singing until my voice goes back to normal,” I said.
“It’s not that noticeable,” Kevin said. “Besides, I’m sure we can work something out.”
He led me out of the bathroom and towards my fate.
AN: Yay for new chapter! Thanks for reading. Again, a new chapter should be up this time next week. Hope you all enjoyed it and a special thankyou to emeraldbecca1991, Mare, KeepThisSecret, KimberlyCan and sj2429! I always love reviews so thank you so much guys! Makes my day when I see one! xxx