I jolt awake. My heart hammers in my chest as I approach the window carefully. The pigeon is twitching pathetically on the windowsill outside. It must have not known there was a window there. I smile sadly, watching it try to regain its composure. It was a rough smack, something that will bother it for quite a while.
I shiver as I turn around in the apartment room. Lauren is still fast asleep and I contemplate if I should be a jack ass and tickle her awake. She would absolutely murder me, so I decide against it. She definitely needs all the sleep she can get, I think, as I watch the ten month old baby sleeping next to her. He’s the very reason we don’t get much sleep, but I am so happy he and his mother are here with me, that I don’t mind at all.
Looking around, I fish my clothes from the chair next to the bed. We’ve only been in Vegas for two days, so the apartment isn’t as trashed as it would normally be with me living there, but there’s no doubt in my mind that my stuff will be all over once we finish the residency in March next month. What can I say? I am not a very neat person. Neither is Lauren, so how Odin is ever going to learn structure and discipline is beyond me.
“How long have you been staring at us?” Lauren interrupts my thoughts and my gaze travels to her face.
She looks tired, but smiles as she slowly sits up, careful not to disturb the little monster next to her.
Too late, as I notice Odin begins to squirm next to her and he lets out a huge yawn. His eyes, that I always think are too large for his head, open in an instant and he gazes up at the ceiling for a second before he promptly catches his left foot and stuffs it in his mouth.
“Well, looks like he doesn’t need breakfast,” I mumble, balancing on one leg while I try to put on my sock.
When I’m done, I notice I have two different socks on, but I couldn’t care less.
Lauren sighs, stretching as she gets out of bed. “What time is it even?”
“Nine thirty,” I answer, checking my phone.
“Do you mean to say he’s been sleeping through the entire morning?”
“Amazing, isn’t it?” I smile, kissing her lips softly.
Odin natters something unintelligible and I smirk back at him. To my delight, he gives me his full eight toothed grin and reaches his small, chubby arms up above his head.
“Can you take him, I have to see if I can find some clothes for both him and me?” Lauren asks and I nod frantically.
“Da-da!” Odin yells as I pick him up and revel him through the air.
“Oh yes, it’s all fun and games with dada, isn’t it?” Lauren mumbles as she skims the room for clothes.
“Mommy is just jealous,” I whisper to my son, who laughs as I put him on my shoulders. “You can see the whole world from up there!”
“Da-da!” Odin yells again in delight as we enter the kitchen. I open the fridge while my son plays with my hair and I retrieve the baby food.
“I still can’t believe you like this,” I mumble, scooping the foul smelling goo into a bowl and putting it in the microwave.
“Foo,” Odin hits the little table on his baby seat in impatience after I put him in there, his legs flailing excitedly.
“Yes, food,” I laugh.
“Baby, can you pick up the dry cleaning this afternoon after your rehearsal?” I hear Lauren ask from the bedroom.
“Sure,” I mumble, strategically zooming the baby spoon in front of Odin’s face.
“Thank you,” Lauren sings; then I hear her gasp out loud, “Nick?”
“Why is there a dead pigeon in the window?”
Only two more weeks for the first full-fledged show, and of course we don’t have half of it down yet. I sigh, it’s always the same. I try hard not to roll my eyes as I watch Howie stumble through the dance steps.
“What was that last one again?” he asks sheepishly.
“High, then down,” Brian offers, immediately jumping in front of him to demonstrate. I look at Kevin, who looks as stressed out as I feel. Almost twenty four years, and dance rehearsals still look as if we are nothing but amateurs sometimes. I feel the sweat rolling down my neck and grab the towel from one of the folding chairs.
“This way we’re gonna be here until midnight,” I mutter a little too loud. Brian gives me a furious stare and Kevin shakes his head disapprovingly.
“Sorry,” Howie mumbles a bit defensively.
“We only have two more weeks until the first show,” I state the obvious, but sometimes wonder if they even realize in what kind of tight time frame we are.
“Hey, we would have been able to start sooner, if someone wasn’t late,” Howie grumbles and all eyes travel to Brian.
“How is it my fault that my car broke down?” the accused puts up his hands in defense.
“You sure you put in enough gas?” AJ offers with an exasperated look. I can’t help but let a little smirk light up my face. None of us will ever forget that time that Brian thought he could make a two hundred mile trip with a quarter full tank. The Bleeding Banana was a bad ass truck, admitted, but even that monster wouldn’t run on water.
Brian’s eyes narrow, but he smiles as he too remembers the foolish action from over twenty years ago.
“Whatever,” he mutters, standing in position, “Let’s rehearse this shit.”
I take my place behind him and wait for the instructor to count us in. The poor guy would probably have taken any job other than coaching five middle-aged men through dance steps that had been meant for twenty year olds. I sometimes wonder if all this dancing shit isn’t highly overrated anyway. Would any fan really care if we just skipped it? I always assumed that the show would be fully awesome even without the dancing, as long our vocals were on point.
I watch Brian in front of me as he expertly already has all of the footwork memorized. He always was one of the better dancers in the group, although he never really cared much for it. I smile in relief as I think about how this whole rehearsal is a piece of cake in comparison to some of the stuff I had to do with Sharna back on the show. I think I was pretty much the worst Backstreet Boy they could have chosen for the program, as my movements were usually rough and uncoordinated.
But at least I have gotten so much better since. Brian or AJ would have easily won, but Brian is allergic to pretty much any reality tv show and has denied the invitation multiple times and I am not sure if they ever asked AJ.
“Ow!” I shout as Howie bumps into me and puts his full weight on my foot.
“You were supposed to move!” Howie shoots back.
“I know!” I say, pulling off my shoe to rub my poor foot.
“Your socks don’t even match,” Brian comments coolly.
“That wouldn’t matter if nobody would stand on my foot,” I simmer.
“It wouldn’t matter if you move when you’re supposed to,” Howie grumbles.
“Can I catch a ride after rehearsal with you?”
I look at Brian, wondering why he’s elected me of all people, “Okay.”
We are finally allowed to go home five hours later and I quickly walk to my car. Thank goodness that my rented apartment is nearby or I would go crazy screamingly.
Brian hurries to catch up with me, mumbling that I could have waited a few seconds before he was finished changing.
“Fuck,” I mumble as I step into a large puddle of water. It’s been raining pretty much nonstop for two days and I sigh as I see that my new jeans are now stained with mud and water.
Brian tries to give me a compassionate look, but I see that he can barely hold in his laughter.
I squint at him as I point at the car, “Get in,” I grumble.
“Alright boss,” he quips as I grudgingly shake my leg in a desperate attempt to get some of the water off and not into my clean car.
“I do have to go by the dry cleaner,” I inform my passenger, reminded of Lauren’s request as I look at my now ruined jeans.
“Aw, look at you,” Brian smirks next to me, “Getting all domesticated and stuff.”
“Had to happen sometime,” I sigh as I start the car. “What about you? You doing anything this evening?” I ask. Small talk is pretty much the only thing Brian and I are still capable of in the company of each other.
It’s actually been a long while since it’s been just me and him together.
“Baylee and I are supposed to go see this movie,” Brian replies, “But I kind of wonder how we’ll get there without a car.”
“Oh you can borrow mine,” I am a little amazed at my own offer, but try not to show it.
“Thanks dude,” Brian smiles and slaps my shoulder.
“Just- don’t break it,” I mutter.
“Man, I don’t break cars.”
“Buenos Aires, dude,” I comment, “Oh, and the Buffalo.”
“Hey, those girls in BA were crazy and it’s not my fault that you were a wuss in the Buffalo.”
“You went over a really steep hill with nearly fifty miles an hour and you call me a wuss.”
Brian scoffs and shakes his head, turning his eyes to the window. I snigger; we both know he’s not that dangerous driving a car, but I never fail to remind him of stupid driving actions. “Now if only I knew where that dry cleaner is supposed to be.”
Brian stares long and hard at me, “You’re kidding right?”
I lean over the wheel, in the hope to get a better view of the edge of the city to the right from us. It’s already getting dark and Vegas isn’t anything if not overly distracting. It should be here somewhere, I think as I drive past the McDonalds, the New Yorker, the hair salon and-
“Nick, watch out!”
I have a moment to turn my head and look at the giant freight truck that’s heading our way from the right side. I hit the brakes a second too late and all I can do is brace myself for impact, hearing the truck blare its horn and Brian scream in terror.
The first thing I notice is that I am upside down. I blink sluggishly, dazed and confused as I watch the small ladybug climb the blade of grass. I try to reach a hand to my head, but my body feels numb and uncooperative. Something wet is running down -or up- my face and somewhere in the back of my head, I know it’s blood. I gasp, a wet sound resounding from my lungs and coughing painfully, I try to turn my head. There’s glass literally everywhere and my own panicked breathing is deafening my senses. There’s blood in my mouth now too and for a second, I am sure I am going to die. The tears mix with the blood on my face and sobbing, I try to remember how I ended up in this car wreck.
A truck’s horn floods my memories and I gasp, recalling I wasn’t alone.
The passenger side was the place of impact and reluctantly I turn my head to Brian’s side with a lot of effort.
“Oh my God,” I groan, almost soundlessly.
Brian hangs limply in his seatbelt; his face a mask of blood, as I’m sure my own must be as well. But he’s not moving. Not even a little. I try to detect if he’s breathing, but I can’t tell and panicked, I reach out a bloodied hand to him.
“Brian?” I whisper, watching the blood drip from his lips to the grass beneath -or above- us. I hear people shouting outside of the car, but it’s like they’re not part of this world. With a lot of pain and effort, I get my hand up to Brian’s neck, waiting to feel the heartbeat against my fingertips.
There’s no pulse. He’s not breathing.
I whimper, gasping as the realization slams through me like a wrecking ball. The darkness that’s been nagging the back of my mind envelops me whole and with a sigh, I close my eyes.