Nick awoke and sat up in bed a little disoriented at first. Even though he had been home from his tour for about two or three days now he was still not used to waking up in his own bed. It seems like I spend more time sleeping in hotel room beds than I do my own, he thought to himself as he sat up and stretched.
It had been a little over two weeks since his argument with Alyssa in the hotel lobby, but to Nick it felt almost like years. So much had changed since then for him. He hadn't tried to contact her and she hadn't made an effort to get in touch with him, but she was on his mind... A lot.
At first, Nick's reaction to their quarrel had been full of anger and outrage. He couldn't believe the audacity that she had to say those kind of things about him! Who does she think she is, telling me that I need to choose between her and my right to have fun? he had bitterly wondered. I'm an adult and I make my own decisions. If I want to go out and party and meet girls I will! If anything the fight made him want to continue his behavior even more so.
And he preceded to do just that. For the next few dates on the tour he partied even harder than usual. With every drink he gulped down and with every girl he slept with he felt as if he was really sticking it to Alyssa. His spiteful attitude towards her gave him a strange sort of satisfaction. In a way it was almost his opportunity to let her know that he could honestly give a fuck what she thought. He didn't owe her any explanations.
Then things began to change. He started to notice the rest of the guys beginning to shy away from him. When they had free time to hang out and relax before shows, he was usually holed up in his hotel room with a hangover, while the others took advantage of whatever city they happened to be in. Because of this there seemed to be a rift growing between him and his band mates. Nick could already tell by Kevin's disapproving glances when he'd report ten minutes late to where he was supposed to meet up with the guys because he could barely drag himself out of bed that he was disappointed in his behavior. It got to the point where Nick began to avoid him just to spare himself the impending lecture that he knew Kevin was just waiting to give him.
The real icing on the cake had been the day when AJ had pulled him aside to express his concerns about his "rock star" lifestyle.
"Hey Nick, can I talk to you about something?" AJ had asked pulling him aside one day after they had completed sound check.
"Sure man," Nick replied as he started to put his guitar away. "What about?"
AJ looked anxious as if he knew what he wanted to say, but was unsure of how to say it. Nick all of a sudden got the feeling that he was not going to like the words that were about to come out of his friends mouth.
"Well, all the guys have noticed that you've kind of been acting a little crazy lately," AJ started off. "I know you've always loved to party and have a good time, which isn't exactly a bad thing, but lately its just getting out of control."
"What do you mean 'its getting out of control'?" Nick asked, trying to hold back the anger that was beginning to loom before him.
AJ sighed. "Lately, it seems to be getting a lot more than just harmless fun. I see what happens Nick. I'm not stupid. You're staying out to all hours of the night and coming back with all kinds of girls. Then the next morning when you're too hung over to fulfill your responsibilities to the group. Kevin's pissed at you! He thinks you're really starting to become irresponsible and your behavior is starting to affect all of us negatively."
"Fuck Kevin! If he sent you to try to talk to me thinking that you can get through to me, he's dead wrong," he replied. "If he has a problem with me he should come and approach me face to face!"
"He's tried Nick! Every time he attempts a conversation you run off like you're scared of him or something."
"I'm not scared of Kevin!" Nick scoffed. "And I don't have any kind of problem. I just wish you'd all stop lecturing me all the damn time!"
AJ softened his voice. "Look, I'm not here because Kevin sent me. I wanted to talk to you because I am worried about you Nick. Looking at your behavior lately, I see a lot of traits that I had before I went into rehab. I care about you Nick. You're like a little brother to me and I don't want to see you make the same mistakes that I did. You can turn things around before they get any worse."
Nick suppressed a frustrated groan as he massaged his temples. Why was everyone against him all of a sudden? First Izzy, then Alyssa, and now AJ and the rest of the guys. He was only being a normal 25 year old guy! "Thanks for your concerns AJ, but I'm perfectly fine! I have it all together. I'm not as fucked up as you seem to think I am and I just wish that everybody would just lay off and stop trying to tell me how to live my life! I know I'm the youngest one of you all, but in case you haven't noticed, I'm not 14 anymore. I make my own choices, so just get off my back!"
AJ looked a little surprised at his outburst, but then remembered that the hardest part of his ordeal had been admitting the problem. He had been in denial for a long time before he was able to admit to anyone that he needed help. In fact, he had sounded a lot like Nick just had when the guys had tried to talk to him about his excessive partying. "All right Nick. I'm sorry I bought it up," he apologized as he backed away. "Just if you ever need anyone to talk to, I'm always around to listen."
"I appreciate it, but I have some shit I need to do before the show," Nick grumbled as he brushed past AJ.
God, I was a real dick to AJ, Nick thought to himself as he reflected back on the discussion. He was only trying to help me because he cares about me. And to think that I neglected that friendship because getting drunk and sleeping with girls meant more to me? Thank God I finally got a clue.
Of course it had taken one of the worst hangovers he had ever experienced in his life to put things into perspective for him. He could still vividly remember the pounding across his temples the minute he had woken up the next morning. Glancing over at the sleeping female form beside him, he nearly gagged at the smell of her cheap perfume on the sheets. He barely had the strength to sit up and pull on his boxers before he rushed to the bathroom to empty the contents of his stomach from the previous night.
It was only after he had kicked out his female companion and spent most of his morning with his head bent over the toilet, that it finally hit him. Alyssa's words from their fight seemed to ominously echo in his mind. Is it REALLY worth it? Nick was beginning to wonder himself, was it? He loved to go out and have a good time and while he was partying he'd have a blast. Yet, the next morning when he woke up and the girl or girls who had spent the night left, Nick realized that he was the one left all alone. His only companion would be the occasional resulting hangover, which he could honestly do without. All his real friends were turning away from him, seemingly disgusted with his behavior. Izzy and Alyssa had been bad enough, but now as he realized that the four men that he had looked up to so much were beginning to turn away from him, he began to see that he needed to stop. What use would it be to party every night away when he was neglecting his friendships with the people that mattered most in his life? They care about me, he realized. And I've been treating them like total crap... What have I done?
From that point on Nick vowed to cut down on his behavior. Alyssa had been right. His own self-interest had been getting in the way of his relations with others. Since that epiphany on the bathroom floor, Nick continued the rest of the tour without partying once. Since he had returned home he followed that same pattern. When friends of his had called to ask him if he wanted to go out to a club with them the other night, he had politely turned them down, leaving them to wonder what was up with him.
Now the next step is to try to rectify some of the friendships I've fucked up, he decided. Things with the guys were getting better. Once they realized that he had stopped staying out late and drinking, they seemed relieved and things improved upon them. He had even been able to spend some quality time with the guys, something that he found he had actually kind of missed. Next on his list was Alyssa.
She's not going to be an easy person to apologize to, Nick realized. And rightfully so he supposed. Most of what she had said during their fight was true. He really should've forgotten about those two girls and spent the evening with her, especially when she had traveled so far to see him. How can I make it up to her? he wondered.
Then he had an idea. Money is tight with me, but I came all the way to fucking California to visit you, she had angrily explained to him. The only fair way of making it up to her would be for him to take a trip out to New York City. He'd fly out there next week for a few days and let her call all the shots. Anything she wanted to do, he'd go along with. That would be appropriate, right?
Without another moments hesitation, he picked up his phone and made a phone call that unbeknownst to him, would change things between the two of them forever.
Today was the day from hell, Alyssa thought to herself as she walked in through her apartment door, threw her things onto the couch and collapsed into the deep cushioning, finally letting the tears that had been threatening to fall all day long.
How did you ever think that you could become a teacher? You can't even control a group of 25 second graders! How embarrassing is it that the principal had to come in and yell at the class because they refused to listen to you? she told herself as she let the tears flow freely down her face. It had only been her second time substituting in that particular school and after that day she was almost certain that she wouldn't be asked back a third time. I'm such a failure.
Who knew second graders could be so devilish? They had been downright rude to her. Maybe I really should think about a second career?
Her sobs were interrupted by the a low beeping sound coming from what she assumed was her cell phone. I bet its the principal calling to tell me that I suck and should have my teaching degree revoked, she thought as she located her phone from her pocketbook. The screen on the front indicated that she had one new voicemail.
She pressed the button to hear the message and almost gasped in shock when she heard the familiar voice.
Hi Alyssa. It's me Nick. I know I'm probably the last person you want to hear from right now, but I just wanted to let you know that I've been doing a lot of thinking since our fight. It made me put a lot of things into perspective. A lot of what you said to me that morning was true. I was a real asshole. I should've ditched those girls to hang out with you. I know how expensive it probably was for you to fly out to California to see me and I didn't consider your feelings. I really want to make it up to you somehow. I was thinking that maybe if you wanted I could fly out to New York next weekend and spend some time with you? You don't have to say yes or anything. I just thought it would be a good idea. We could do whatever you wanted and I promise I won't ditch you. So, if you'd like to have me come visit just please give me a call back as soon as possible, so I can book a flight. I... I missed you. Bye.
What the fuck was that about? Alyssa wondered as she stared at her phone in bewilderment. Had that really been Nick on the other end? Admitting that he was wrong no less.
He said he missed me, she realized. Did he really miss her? Her heart softened at those three words. Maybe it was because of the horrible mood she was in, but just then it felt damn good to be missed by someone. And he wants to come see me next weekend? Her mind was already reeling with everything that they could do. It'll almost be like old times...
Old times... The thought made Alyssa stiffen a little bit. Could Nick really be trusted to live up to his word? He always could be very charming when it came time to apologize.
As soon as Alyssa answered the door to her apartment and saw Nick standing on the other side with a bouquet of roses in his arm she started to slam the door in his face. What nerve of him to show up on her doorstep with flowers and think she'd forgive him just like that! What he had done to her was practically unforgivable.
"Come on Alyssa!" he begged, prying his foot in between the door, causing it to remain open a crack. "I came to explain."
"I don't want to hear it Nick," she briskly replied. "I don't see how you can possibly explain anything when its obvious what happened. You fucked another girl. End of story. Goodbye!"
"There's more to it than you think," he insisted. "Can you at least let me defend myself?"
Alyssa sighed. She'd never get rid of him unless she let him tell his pathetic excuse. "Fine," she agreed, opening the door wider, but standing in the frame, so that he couldn't step inside. "Let's hear it."
Nick craned his head inside the doorframe as much as he could. "Do we have to do this out here? Can't we sit down inside like two normal adults?"
Rolling her eyes, Alyssa stepped away from the door and slouched down on the couch, her arms crossed over her chest. Nick followed her inside, placing the bouquet of roses on the coffee table before taking a seat beside her.
"I hate roses," were the first words out of Alyssa's sullen mouth.
Nick bit down on his tongue trying to remain calm. "I'm sorry. I thought it would be a nice idea."
"You should've bought chocolate. Then maybe I'd be nicer," she replied. "So, lets hear the grand explanation. I'm dying to know who 'Katie' is and why you slept with her?"
Nick sighed and paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "Before I get into who Katie is I just need to explain something to you. Before I left for Sweden and you told me you loved me at the airport... well I was shocked to say the least. At that point I really cared about you Alyssa, but I hadn't even considered the term love yet. It kind of freaked me out a little bit."
"But when you called me up that night you said you loved me too," Alyssa pointed out.
"I admit I did, but I didn't want to hurt your feelings."
"So you basically lied to me?"
" I didn't lie exactly. I did really care about you. I still do! I just didn't know how I was supposed to react. I'd always been the first one in relationships to use the love term."
"It was such a stupid mistake to tell you that," Alyssa admitted. "I mean what do I know about love? I've never had any other serious relationships before. I don't know why I even said it."
"Well, point was you did and it got me thinking... a lot. For the first two weeks or so all I did was contemplate my feelings for you," he confessed. "Then I met Katie."
"And she made you forget ALL about me right?"
"Not exactly. Would you let me explain? The guys and I were out at this club one night and-"
"A ha! I KNEW you met the wench at some sleazy European club!" she exclaimed.
Nick just gave her a warning look. "Before you predict the whole scene, could you at least let me tell MY story? Well, anyway she was standing next to me at the bar and of course we got to talking. I thought she was beautiful, but honestly I really wasn't thinking at that point, Gee, I want to cheat on Alyssa with her. She was really easy to talk to and I felt really comfortable around her. She asked if I had a girlfriend and I was honest. I told her all about you. She told me that she had a boyfriend too, but things between them were a little weird at that point. Apparently, they had only been dating a few months and things had been going great until he started to hint that he really loved her and thought that she was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Katie started to get a little freaked out because she wasn't sure if she felt as strongly about him, so she suggested they take a break to see other people. He was devastated, but agreed. Then after two days without him Katie realized that she made a huge mistake and wanted him back. Only when she told him how she felt, he told her that he couldn't trust her anymore and couldn't be sure if she would run away every time they started to get serious again. So, basically they agreed to be friends for the time being, but Katie was having a real hard time adjusting."
"And let me guess? You helped her adjust just fine huh? I bet that whole story was just a load of shit to get you to feel sorry for her and sleep with her out of pity," Alyssa commented.
"If you really want to know I didn't sleep with her that night," Nick told her, staring her straight in the eye. "And it wasn't just a story she made up. No one is that good of an actress. I felt an immediate bond with her because of what was going on with us and I confided in her about it."
"You WHAT? You told a perfect stranger all about what is going on in our relationship?!" she cried, not bothering to mask her annoyance. "Maybe I don't want my personal problems spread around to anyone who asks!"
"I told her because I trusted her! And you know what? She listened and she could relate to what I was going to and it was not just an act. I can ensure you that," he explained. "Anyway before the night ended we exchanged numbers and made plans to hang out at a later date. She was going to show me around Sweden when I had some free time."
"And let me guess. The tour ended up in her bedroom?"
Nick decided to just ignore her snide commentary and continued his story. "We started to hang out more and like I said she was such a good listener and fun to be around. I kind of started to fall for her a little," he admitted, looking a little ashamed. "She was attracted to me too, but we never acted on it because we didn't want to hurt our significant others. Then one day it just sort of happened... I guess it was kind of inevitable. Afterwards, I felt guilty for betraying you, but then I figured that you'd never find out."
Alyssa didn't know what to say. She could almost accept him fucking the random girl at some club, but him actually having romantic feelings for another woman and acting upon them? That stung. Curiosity nagged at the back of her mind and even though, she knew the answer would hurt her she needed to know. "H-how many times?" she asked, swallowing hard.
"There was three separate occasions," he solemnly answered.
Oh God, it was practically a full blown love affair, she thought, with tears stinging her eyes. "Did you love her?"
"I don't think it was love. I was very attracted to her, I won't lie, but I think it was more out of circumstance. I could relate to her and because of that I felt a very deep connection, but I don't know if I'd call it love. I think we both knew it wasn't something that was going to last."
"How did it end? Are you keeping in touch? What's going on?" she demanded.
"We both agreed to give things another try with our partners. She was going to try to get back with her boyfriend. We said we'd keep in touch to let each other know how things turn out, but who knows what'll happen," Nick admitted. "Look, Alyssa I honestly feel guilty about the whole thing. As soon as I saw you that night I returned home I knew it was going to be harder than I thought to keep this from you. And then the way you were acting.... It was pretty shitty to go along with things, but I couldn't help it. I guess I was so worried about you finding out about Katie that I let her name slip out subconsciously."
Alyssa's eyes narrowed. "So you weren't like trying to pretend that I was her or anything right?"
"Not at all. Like I said it was probably just all the guilt that made me say her name instead of yours." The look in his eyes looked sad and forlorn. "I know I really fucked up Alyssa, but I hope you'll find it in your heart to forgive me."
She looked away. She couldn't do this right now. Wiping tears from her eyes, she stood up. "I need to think about this. It's a lot to consider and I don't think I can give you an answer right away like this."
"I understand," he told her, as he stood up. "Give me a call when you're ready to talk some more." He stepped closer to her and dropped a light kiss on her forehead before turning away.
"If I do forgive you Nick, you have to promise me one thing," she called after him.
He turned around. "What's that?"
"You have to promise me that you'll NEVER speak to Katie again. I mean it. I don't even want you to have her phone number."
Without a word Nick reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. After pressing a few buttons to presumably erase Katie's number from existence he looked up. "Consider it done."
Nick always did have that way with her. Of course ultimately she had forgiven him after much consideration. I still don't know how smart that was, she told herself.
She stared back at her cell phone thinking Should I call? Or should I not call? Finally she impulsively reached for the phone. She was so upset right now that she could use a comforting voice to talk to.
"Hello," the voice on the other end said.
"Hey Nick. It's me Alyssa. I got your message. I'd be glad to have you come for a visit next week."
Once the words were out of her mouth she wondered to herself, What have I done?