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Chapter 3: That Sound



We arrived at Billboards at twenty-five to four. I had thought that by now, people would be getting ready to go home. Apparently I've been away from the club scene for a little too long. AJ was fortunate enough to find a parking spot right in front of the club and as he manoeuvred his Mercedes in to the tight fit, my leg started shaking worse than ever. That's my nervous tick. Shaking my leg. AJ says it's weird. I say it's better than tearing holes in your shirt.

It had been a long time since I had been to Billboards and I had forgotten how big it was. It was a massive three storeys, each floor dedicated a different type of music genre. The first floor was dance and a quick search indicated to us that Nick was not on this level. The second floor was RnB, but again, no Nick. As we stepped out of the elevator and on to the third floor, rock music blasted out to us and we became hopeful. If Nick was on any floor, it would be this one. But a five minute search left us in despair.

"It's almost been an hour since Kevin got that phone call," AJ pointed out as we left the club, our ears ringing. "Maybe he left."

I shook my head. "Let's split up. Maybe he went to another club." I looked up and down the street, peering closely at the signs on the front of nearby clubs, hoping to read a name that sounded familiar.

"How about we just ring him?" AJ was losing patience again.

"Kevin already rang him," I reminded him. "He didn't pick up."

"Well maybe he'll pick up for me." AJ pulled out his phone and punched in Nick's number.

I half expected to hear Nirvana drifting faintly towards us from somewhere, you know, like in the movies? Like when one character goes missing and then on the search and rescue mission, someone has the idea to phone their cell and then the character's ringtone signals that he's somewhere close? Yer, that didn't happen.

AJ hung up in a puff of frustration. His frustration was amplified when two clubbers ran into him in their hurry to join what looked to be a gathering in one of the alleyways adjacent to Billboards. How did we not notice this gathering before? Whilst AJ was busy cursing the clubbers, my interest was piqued by a group of giggling girls who all but sprinted to join the gathering. Wait a minute. A crowd? Giggling girls? And was that a camera flash I just saw? Uh oh.

"Shit! AJ he's in the alley!"

I ran towards the alley, pushing people fiercely out of the way. All I could think was "shit, shit, shit". I pushed my way down the alley, ignoring the shouts of contempt, my heart suddenly in my throat because at that moment a new sound greeted my ears. One that I hadn't heard in over two years.


July 9, 2001

Carson Daly led us off the stage and we followed silently. Kevin strode beside me and I could hear him taking in shaky breaths. This had been hard on him. It had been hard on all of us.

"We've cleared out the Green Room," Carson said, opening the doors to let us in. We filed in, struck numb by the interview. We all gaped at him, not quite sure what to do now. I think we were waiting for some encouraging words. "I'll give you twenty, and then we'll do a backstage interview."

He left us standing in the Green Room like that. What a tool.

We all stood there for a minute, staring at the door dumbly. Nick was the first to move. He walked to the back of the room and took a seat in the corner. Brian and Kevin followed suit and took a chair each at the small coffee table in the middle of the room. I joined them.

"He'll be alright," I said it softly, but it felt like my voice was bouncing off the walls.

I didn't know what to say. No one did. So we just sat there in silence for what seemed like ages.

"Of course he will," Kevin said after a while. "This will be good for him. He'll come out a better man."

Brian nodded. "And we won't have to clean up his puke anymore, either." I smiled at him. He was trying to lighten the mood and I was grateful.

I glanced over at Nick in the corner. His was slumped in the chair, his head resting on its back, staring up at the ceiling. I was getting a bit worried. He hadn't spoken at all during the interview for TRL. He just sat there, staring off into nothingness, and playing with his cast. Nick has always been nervous going on tv, and I expected him to be a bit torn up over AJ's sudden decision to enter rehab, but I didn't expect him to go into total silence.

"You okay over there, Nicky?"

He didn't look up or even acknowledge that I had just spoken to him.


Trust Brian to get through to Nick. His head shot up from the chair and he looked around the room quickly before focusing on Brian.


"Howie asked you a question."

Nick turned to face me. He looked so sad, unshed tears filled his eyes and I was tempted to leave it. But I didn't.

"How are you doing?"

"My hand hurts." And that's when the tears fell. He leaned forward in his seat and covered his face with his one good hand.

Brian, Kevin and I just looked at each other helpless. We knew he wasn't crying because of his hand. If Nick was fourteen again this would be much easier. Whenever he cried, it only took one of us to be by his side to ease his pain. But now he was a twenty-one year old adult - as he liked to constantly remind us - and as he started to individuate from us, it became harder for us to know how to treat him.

But when the sobs came, age didn't seem to matter anymore. Kevin was in the seat next to Nick in an instant and, tears pouring down his own face, grabbed Nick by the shoulder and pulled him into a sidewards embrace. Nick didn't even attempt to protest; he simply laid his head on Kevin's shoulder and allowed himself to cry. In an instant, Brian was in the seat on Nick's other side and I sat on the floor by his feet. I allowed myself to be calmed by the gentle words Kevin whispered to Nick, over and over again.

It turns out, whether he's fourteen or twenty-one, Nick always found comfort and peace with us.