There was a bonfire going on down the beach. A bunch of kids dancing, smoking, making out and all the rest. I passed by them, knowing Nick wouldn’t be among them. The lights from the street lamps and the fire the kids had lit were enough to battle the darkness of the night and I could see the coast for miles around as it circled the bay. Aside from the kids who had lit the bonfire, there weren’t much people on the beach and I was beginning to worry that I had been wrong and Nick had gone to a club or elsewhere. When the light of the bonfire began to dwindle away behind me and there was no sign of people anywhere, I picked up my pace. I knew I should have turned back – the odds of him being out here were getting slimmer by the second – but something pushed me into a run. I ran for what felt like mere seconds before I tripped on something. I caught myself before I landed flat on my face. Frustrated I looked down at what I had tripped on.
A pair of sneakers.
“The fuck?” I muttered to myself, taking a closer look. They were Nick’s size and they looked like something he would wear. I looked up and down the beach, trying to locate him. “Why the hell would he take off his shoes?”
And then it occurred to me. I looked out to the waves. At first I didn’t see anything and then he appeared, floating on the water.
“Nick!” I screamed, seized with terror. Before I knew it, I had kicked off my shoes and taken off my shirt. I ran into the water, going as fast as I could. The water was still but the closer I got to Nick, the deeper I got and the slower I became.
I was so close to him now, only a few feet away. He was floating on the water, his eyes closed and fully clothed. Oh my God. Was he even breathing? What had he done?
As soon as I called his name, he went under then re-emerged, splashing and coughing. I felt myself start to shake, not realising how much adrenaline had been in my body. I let out a shaky breath.
“Nick, you scared me,” I said, so relieved the thought of being mad at him just seemed so ridiculous. I was standing in just in front of him now, the water up to my chest.
“I’m sorry,” he said between coughs. “But I’m okay. You can go back to AJ’s.”
He never looked at me. His voice was calm but at the same time he sounded distressed. He kicked back and started floating on the water again.
I stood there for a minute, watching him. He looked so peaceful but so sad. I wasn’t about to let him stay here by himself but I was done arguing with him. So I did the one thing that would show him that I wasn’t going anywhere: I lay on my back and floated beside him.
We stayed there in silence for a few minutes and I wondered if he knew I was there beside him – his eyes had been closed since he lay back down.
“Why are you in the water?” I asked. “Why didn’t you stay on the sand?”
When he didn’t snap at me or seem surprised to hear my voice, I knew that he knew I was there with him and that I hadn’t left. He wanted me there just as much as I wanted to be there.
“It didn’t work,” he said.
I didn’t have to ask what didn’t work. Nick used to always come to the beach when he felt down; it’s what made me think to check the beach.
“Is this working?” I asked him.
“Not really,” there was a break in his voice.
“Well maybe we should go back to AJ’s,” I suggested.
“I can’t go back there,” he said. He was quiet and I had to lift my head out of the water to hear him properly. “Not after what happened.”
“That’s not your fault,” I said. “And AJ knows that.”
He didn’t say anything, just continued to float there.
“I’m proud of you little man,” I said, hearing my own voice break as I realised the truth in what I had said. I was proud of him. So proud.
As soon as he heard it, he splashed around until he was standing up again. I followed his lead.
“God, Kevin, why do you have to do that?” he yelled, wading back towards shore.
I followed him. “Do what?” I asked, confused.
“Lie!” he shouted, not stopping. “Why do you have to lie?”
The water was up to our hips now. “I’m not lying,” I said calmly. “I am proud of you.”
“Bullshit!” he said, finally turning around to face me for the first time. “You’ve never been proud of me!”
“That’s not true,” I said, but he continued, ignoring me.
“And now suddenly you’re proud of me? When I’ve fucked up everything? I’m a complete fuck up and you don’t even know half of it!”
“I know everything,” I said, my voice a little raised now, not out of anger though. “Howie told us everything.” When Nick looked upset, I quickly said. “We made him. After what you and Jane were talking about, it had to come out.”
“Great,” he flung his arms up in the air and then let them crash into the water, splashing me. “So that makes you an even bigger liar!”
He went to turn around again but I pulled him back. Evidently I pulled too hard because he went crashing down into the water.
“What the hell?” he screamed when he resurfaced, spitting out mouthfuls of water.
“Just listen to me!” I exclaimed.
He stood back up, slicking his hair back and crossing his arms across his chest.
“I’m proud of you,” I repeated calmly. “And that’s not a lie.”
His arms dropped to his sides. “How can you say that after everything?” he asked, the break back in his voice.
“Because when I think of why you did what you did, how could I not be proud of you?” I said. “You risked everything for your mum. Sure, you made some not so smart choices. But at the end of the day you did it for family, love and loyalty. I couldn’t be more proud.”
He looked away. I wasn’t sure if those were tears on his face or water from the ocean.
“I had her arrested...”
“She pushed you to it,” I said firmly. “She broke into AJ’s house, broke all his things and tried to injure us. No one would blame you for it and maybe this will be the wakeup call she needs.”
“I really fucked up, Kev,” his lower lip was quivering now. “I really needed you.”
It was a rare thing for Nick to admit when he needed me. Usually he would go to great lengths to try and avoid it.
“I’m here now,” I said. “And mark my words, I will always be here to lift you up,” I paused as his eyes came back to meet mine. “We’ll get through this together. We’ll fix it.”
“I’m broke, Kev!” he exclaimed. “What am I meant to do? Get a job at a fast food joint? I have no qualifications! I’ve got nothing!”
I hesitated, but I knew what I had to say next. It was the only possible solution to Nick’s financial problems. It would mean I would have to wait another couple of years before I could start a family with Kristin, but I knew it was what I had to do.
“Not if we make another album,” I said.
“Is that something that you would want to do?”
“I...I,” he looked startled. “Do you want to make another album?”
“Nick, we never officially broke up,” I said. “We always said it was temporary. Being back together again feels right, doesn’t it?” I was only partly lying, but making another album needed to happen.
“What about the others?” he asked.
“They want to do it too,” I said, feeling my body begin to shiver.
“I...I would like to do another album,” Nick said hopefully, a little hesitant as if this was some kind of joke.
“Then that is something that we should all talk about,” I said. “But for now, let’s go back to AJ’s. We need to go to the police station tomorrow morning to fill in a statement and by the looks of you, you need some sleep.”
Nick looked a little nervous. “Everything is going to work out,” he said. “Isn’t it?”
I smiled a little and pulled him into a hug. “Of course it will, little man,” I said. “Of course it will.”
I didn’t sleep that night, at least that’s what it felt like. But Kevin shaking me awake and telling me to prepare to go to the police station would suggest otherwise. When he left, I realised I was lying with my notebook on my chest. When we had gotten back to AJ’s last night, the others had already gone to bed, the house was still a mess and a metal sheet hammered over the hole in the glass of the door.
My bedroom hadn’t been disturbed. I guess my mum hadn’t wondered upstairs. I was grateful for that at least. I showered, got the salt out of my hair and had every intention to go to bed. But when I flopped down on the mattress, my eyes already closed, I landed on something hard. I pulled it out from underneath me: it was my notebook, opened up to the last page I had written on. As I began to read the lyrics of the song I had started to compose, I was filled with new energy.
Now, the notebook on my chest held the finished product. I read it, sang it in my head and then sang it out loud, but softly, to myself. It was perfect. It was everything that I felt but it was more than that: it was a reminder of who I was. A Backstreet Boy.
“Nick!” Kevin screamed from downstairs. They were waiting for me.
I didn’t know how I was going to go down to the station and condemn my mother so publicly. I would have been filled with anxiety had I not been holding the notebook.
I quickly changed into fresh clothes, grabbed my notebook and dashed downstairs. They were in the kitchen which seemed to have fared better under my mother’s wrath than the living room. Howie and Brian were munching on pieces of toast. Kevin was gulping down a cup of coffee and AJ was sitting at the table, looking much worse than I had hoped.
“Hi guys,” I said, a little nervously.
“Nick,” Howie swallowed the piece he had in his mouth. “About last night, none of that was your fault. Everyone agrees.”
I shook my head. “It wasn’t my fault,” I admitted. “But I brought her here. AJ, I will pay you back for everything as soon as I can.”
“You didn’t bring her here Nick,” AJ said gently. “I should have answered my damn cell.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Your mum called my mum,” he explained. “Jane somehow got the impression we live together...you know, permanently. My mum tried to ring me last night to warn me Jane was on her way.”
“Oh,” I felt ashamed for some reason.
“But it’s not your fault,” AJ repeated. “And insurance will cover everything.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“Come have some breakfast before we leave, Nick,” Brian said, pointing to a stack of toasts sitting in the middle of the kitchen table.
I went to sit beside him, placing the notebook in front of me. I ate three pieces of toast in a span of two minutes – it felt like I hadn’t eaten in years!
“Slow down there,” Brian laughed. “No one’s chasing you.”
I wiped my mouth and swallowed the last of my toast. Now was as good a time as ever.
“Guys...Kev, take a seat,” I said, pointing at the empty chairs. “I need to say something.”
Kevin sat down and they all looked at me nervously.
“You’re not gonna start apologising again Kaos, are you?” AJ said.
I ignored him. “I wrote a song,” I explained, picking up my notebook and holding it out. “I thought maybe we could record it for the new album.”
“Nothing’s been finalised yet Nicky,” Howie said quickly. “We have to be really cautious about saying anything for certain. Nothing is set in stone.”
I felt myself start to panic. Doing another album had to happen. It was the only thing that would get my life back on track – my relationship with the guys, my finances, my happiness, it all depended on this album. “But Kevin said...”
“Howie’s just talking from a business perspective,” Kevin said. “We’re doing another album. No doubt about it.”
“Oh,” I said, relieved. If Kev said we were going to do another album, we were going to do another album.
“So let’s hear this song then,” Brian said. “Do you have a guitar?”
“I don’t need one,” I said, standing from my seat and opening the notebook to the first page of the song.
“One man acapella group?” AJ teased.
“Something like that,” I smirked, feeling a little nervous and suddenly wondering if this was such a good idea. I hadn’t even put much thought into what I was about to do. What if they didn’t like it? What if they want nothing to do with it? What if they thought I was a complete idiot?
I looked down at the notebook again, rethinking this whole thing. Maybe I could get out of it.
“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” I said, feeling myself blush.
“Well now you’ve got us wanting to hear it,” Brian said. “Get on with it.”
“Yeah,” AJ chimed in. “I want to hear some tunes!”
“Just sing the song, Nick,” Kevin said, almost a little impatiently as if he thought I was being purposely modest.
Brian, Howie and AJ began to cheer and so I opened my mouth and started to sing.
A/N: So I know what you’re thinking: “who would have thought that Jess could be so unreliable and not post for two weeks without an explanation! Because she would never do that!” Lol! Sorry about the lack of updates! I am behind in my thesis and it’s been very stressful and when I stress I procrastinate which makes me stress more, so vicious circle thing. So behind on reading, writing and reviewing! Anyway, two chapters left!
Thanks to everyone who read and thanks to DelphinaCarter, KeepThisSecret, Mare, emeraldbecca1991 and libragurl for reviewing! Hoping to get the next chapter in soon!