~ 9 ~
That night, Kevin had a really strange dream. He was camping with his family, just like they used to do when he was little. Almost every weekend during their summer vacation, Kevin’s father would take his three boys camping.
Kevin’s favorite part of those trips, besides spending quality time with his father, was the horseback riding excursions. In this particular dream, he was getting on his horse, ready to go on a brand new trail, but instead of his brothers there with him, Nick was.
Nick of course was whining about not knowing how to put a saddle on the horse, so Kevin’s father went over and helped him. Instead of being grateful, he had rolled his eyes when Mr. Richardson began explaining in a slow drawl how to do it correctly. The next time Kevin glanced over; Nick was on the horse, patting it’s back and anxious to get moving.
“What are you waiting for?” He asked in his ever present inpatient, whiny voice.
“Hold your horses…I’m coming.” Kevin had growled under his breath, annoyed that once again, he was the one stuck with the task of entertaining his youngest bandmate.
“HA!” Carter had responded to the unintentional pun.
Kevin’s father had then lovingly pat Nick’s leg before moving over to his son, “Watch out for him, Kevin. That’s all he needs is some guidance. I love you and am so proud of you!” He winked then and hugged his boy before disappearing.
When Kevin looked up he saw that Nick was gone, the horse seemingly galloping out of control while the blonde was screaming. “Kevin!!!” like he always did for any kind of situation, no matter how big or small.
Kevin jumped on his horse like a pro and took off after Nick down the trail. Every time he thought he was going to get close enough to reach out and grab him, the horse would pull away.
“I’m going to fall off, Kevin!”
“Just don’t let go!” but it was clear that Nick wasn’t listening. The teenager was only holding on with one hand now as he tried to turn around to face Kevin.
“Nick, what are you doing? Hold on with both hands!!”
“I’m going to fall!!”
“Not if you listen to me!”
But it was too late. The horse veered to the left while Nick was leaning towards the right and he flew off the horse and hit a tree full force.
Kevin’s eyes popped open and he shot up in his bed to see Nick staring at him, glassy eyes, hair all over the place and looking rather antsy himself.
The dream seemed so real that Kevin’s heart was actually racing to the point he was out of breath. It took him a few seconds to realize he had just been dreaming before a small sense of relief had washed over him.
“You even yell at me in your sleep.” Nick said groggily.
“Sorry…I was just…I had a nightmare.”
“Yeah, I figured that much. Nice to know I was in the middle of things. Did I eat your brains or something?”
Kevin was still discombobulated, “It was a horse.”
“A horse ate your brains?” Nick looked amused.
“What? No…no one ate my brains. I just…my dad was there…” Kevin pulled his hands through his hair.
Kevin nodded at the teenager who was now sitting cross legged on the bed, holding his pillow on his lap.
“Yeah, you were there too.”
“What happened? Why were you yelling at me?”
“I wasn’t yelling at you.”
“Yes you were. You said my name in that ‘way’ of yours.”
“Way of mine?”
“Yeah…you know…like all mad teacher-y like.”
Kevin smiled and yawned, “I wasn’t mad at you…you were…” For some reason he didn’t want to tell Nick what had happened in the dream. He wasn’t even sure why. He’d probably love the fact that Kevin had tried to rescue him, but for whatever reason, he kept it to himself. Instead he decided to say, “I wish you had gotten a chance to meet my dad.”
His father would have taken an instant liking to Nick. He also would have felt the need to take him under his wing. His dad was always great like that. Taking kids from troubled homes and making them feel like he was their surrogate father. It used to make Kevin jealous when he was about Nick’s age. He’d see his dad talking to some of the campers, arm around them and giving them encouraging words and he used to feel slighted, like they were trying to take his dad away from him. What an ignorant way to think… or maybe childlike way?
He tried just then to put himself in Nick’s shoes. How it always seemed that unless it came to his money, Bob Carter almost always chose just about anyone else over his own son, but not only Bob. Jane did as well. No wonder he would look to this psychopath for attention. Any attention was better than nothing.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Kevin didn’t realize he was staring at Nick until the question was posed.
“I mean it’s a little creepy.”
He and Howie had decided that they would confront Nick about this guy the next day. Possibly after doing a slew of fun, Nick centered activities that might soften the blow a bit but Kevin felt like maybe now would be the best time, so he took a deep breath while the teenager looked on confused and impatient.
“Still being creepy…” Nick decided to throw in there when at least a full minute went by in complete silence.
Kevin had no clue how to even start this conversation. He opened his mouth and said, “Want ice cream?”
Now Nick was even more confused as he looked at the clock on his nightstand.
That made Kevin glance in the direction of the clock to see it was 5:45 in the morning.
“Hell yeah I want ice cream for breakfast. Who wouldn’t?”
“Probably Mama D.”
Nick nodded and let out a small sigh, “You’re probably right, besides she makes killer pancakes! I hope she makes them this morning. I think I hinted enough.”
“You mean at dinner when you said about fifteen times…Gee you know what would be great for breakfast, Pancakes?”
“I guess I wasn’t very subtle then, huh?”
Kevin laughed, “Not so much.”
“Kev, are you okay? What’s wrong? Is it about your dad?”
Once again he wanted to be honest, tell him “Actually I’m worried about you. I am afraid you’re going to get hurt. I had a dream about you getting hurt and it almost gave me a heart attack. I have no idea why. I usually want to sucker punch you…” He couldn’t do it though and he hated himself for it.
“Maybe…I don’t know…it’s too damn early to be awake.”
“Well yeah… I mean if you didn’t scream out my name…”
“You never told me what I was doing in your dream.”
“You were eating Howie’s brains…”
They both laid back down in silence. Kevin on his back looking up at the ceiling and Nick on his side, staring at Kevin looking up at the ceiling.
“Remember when you said you got into a fight with those neighbor kids?”
“What really happened?”
He heard Nick move on the bed as it creaked under his weight. “Why don’t you ever believe me?”
“Who gave you that black eye?”
Nick let out a sigh, “I don’t remember his name. He was just a stupid kid who lived up the block.”
“Why would I lie?”
Now it was Kevin’s turn to shift. They had managed to reverse roles. Nick was now looking up at the ceiling while Kevin was staring at Nick.
“I don’t know…but you don’t have to. You can tell the truth.”
In the smallest of voices Nick replied, “No I can’t…”
Kevin closed his eyes and let out a sigh, knowing that if he wanted Nick to open up to him, he had to go first. Just like the other night. “I dreamt you fell off a horse and really hurt yourself. That’s why I screamed your name…I tried to grab you before you fell but I couldn’t get to you in time.”
There was a long pause; so long in fact, that Kevin thought maybe Nick had fallen asleep.
“He didn’t mean it, Kevin. Sometimes he just gets mad and doesn’t think before he does stuff. He didn’t mean to punch me. He never means to hurt me, really.” he finally answered in that small voice, the one that made him sound as young as he actually was.
Kevin swallowed, for some reason he wanted to cry. “Does he hit you a lot, your dad?” Hoping his guess was incorrect and they were not talking about Bob Carter.
“No…not anymore…he mostly yells and threatens but…no, not anymore.”
Kevin nodded and closed his eyes. Of course Bob wouldn’t hit him anymore because it’s the kid’s face that keeps money going into his pockets. At that moment he wanted to get out of bed, find Bob Carter and punch him in the face.
“Please don’t tell, Kevin. He really doesn’t mean it and like I said he doesn’t do it anymore.”
How many times had he heard his father mimic those same words over family dinner when talking about some of those troubled kids Kevin was jealous over? His dad would say how in tears they would beg him not to tell a soul about the abuse. It would only make things so much worse. In the end his dad always ended up having to tell. It would be against the law if he didn’t. The kids always felt betrayed afterwards, but maybe also a little relieved.
“Kevin? Please…” It sounded like Nick was the one crying now.
He was torn at that moment and kind of mad at himself for asking. If he had just allowed himself to stay in the dark, things would have been simpler, but no, he had to ask. He was also ashamed of himself for thinking so selfishly. This kid just admitted his father physically abused him and all Kevin could think was how he now had the burden of knowing…poor him.
“If you tell, they’ll pull me out of the band…” Nick now sounded absolutely panic stricken. He was sitting on the edge of his bed staring at Kevin, his eyes cutting through the gray of the early morning. “He doesn’t do it anymore, I promise!”
Kevin took a deep breath, “I won’t tell…”
A few sniffles followed a “Really?”
“Yes, but you have to promise me that if he ever touches you again, you’ll let me know.”
Kevin heard a creak of Nick’s bed before he felt the weight of the teenager next to him, giving him a hug and then a peck on the cheek. “Thanks, Kev…I promise.”
“Now go back to sleep…” Kevin ordered in a whisper, his voice cracking a little.
Nick hugged him tight once more. “Will do!” he said as he jumped off Kevin’s bed and back onto his own.
Within a few minutes, he heard heavy breathing followed by snores, but for Kevin there would be no more sleep, only troubling thoughts. He and Howie still had to confront Nick about this relative and the pager and now more than ever he just didn’t want to. He wasn’t sure how much more he wanted to know about this child. He wasn’t sure his heart could take it.