“Have a good flight.” Leighanne smiled at him, a radiance that filled him with compassion.
“Have a good day.” Brian pecked Leighanne’s cheek before approaching the gate.
He wished Nick would have been there before his flight but he knew it wasn’t possible with his present condition. He had visited him the night before and had told him that he’d be out for a couple of nights.
“Bring some recordings with you.” Brian remember Nick tell him as he left.
He smiled at the woman who tore his ticket as part of procedure.
He was wearing a baseball cap turned backwards on hi head, a t-shirt that said, “We were born to be angels”, jeans that had a slight tater on the right knee – a part of fashion, and a pair of sneakers.
He didn’t take the time to dress comfortably since he knew he wouldn’t have a long flight going to Tennessee, where he would be recording yet for his solo album.
When Brian was settled in his first class seat, he looked up to see a teenage boy struggling to put his over-sized duffel bag inside the cabin.
“Excuse me, sir,” the female attendant protested when she saw the difficulty he was having, “but I think your bag needs to be checked in.”
The teenage boy ignored her and persisted to struggle with his bag.
“Excuse me, sir!” the female attendant raised her voice bringing attention to them.
“Okay, okay.” the teenager finally faced her, his eyes burning, “I’ll just get something inside.”
He placed his duffel bag on the seat beside Brian while he rummaged through his bag and pulled out a sheet of paper.
Brian wondered why a sheet of paper was that important to him. He then concluded that it was probably a project he had to do and just put it off till the last minute.
“Procrastination.” Brian thought as he fixed his eyes on the seat in front of him.
There were a couple of tour magazines and the airline’s ‘guidelines’ which he had probably read a million times.
His attention then went back to the teenage boy who had already given his duffel bag to the lady.
He watched as he sat morosely on the seat beside him clutching the sheet of paper in his hand.
Brian surveyed him carefully. He had jet black hair with blond highlights that stood up from his head. He was wearing faded jeans and a black t-shirt with crossbones on the front. He had a tattoo of a snake that ran from his neck to his left hand.
Definitely not Brian’s type, but it reminded him of AJ when he went to rehab.
He decided to start a conversation with him.
“Hey, what’s up?” Brian asked him trying to put on his friendliest voice.
He ignored him and merely looked into empty space.
Brian sighed inwardly to himself.
He would have a hard time getting through even one sentence from him.
“I’m Brian.” he introduced himself, taking off his baseball cap as he did.
“I’m Nick.” the teenager told Brian, still not making eye contact with him.
“At least he said something.” Brian thought to himself.
Brian was taken aback by his name, but then again, a lot of people are called Nick.
Brian was thinking whether he should venture into his singing career when Nick finally spoke up.
“My life has been awful lately.” Brian noticed his voice was chocked with emotion.
“It’s okay, man.” Brian replied, hoping that it would boost up his self-esteem, “Tell me what happened.”
Nick looked at Brian, his eyes welling with tears.
“I don’t even know you. How could I trust a stranger?” Nick seemed to be saying his thoughts out loud.
“Just trust me. I’ve gone through a lot these past days too.” Brian told him compassionately.
After a few minutes, Nick finally confessed his story, “My girlfriend broke up with me, my band mates abandoned me, and my mother died yesterday.”
Nick couldn’t even stand thinking about his circumstances and broke down in tears.
Brian was surprised that he used to be in a band, but he looked back at what happened to him when he joined Howie, AJ, Kevin, and Nick to form the Backstreet Boys in the tender age of 17.
He looked back at the events the week before.
“I know how you feel.” Brian looked at him directly in the eye, “My band mate’s currently in the hospital.”
Brian knew it would compare nothing to Nick’s situation since he also lost his girlfriend and mother.
“You’re in a band?” Nick’s tears were momentarily stopped in relief and shock.
“Yeah.” Brian kept his answer short.
Apparently, this teenager either hadn’t recognized him as ‘Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys’ or he didn’t’ know the Backstreet Boys at all.
Brian didn’t’ want to attract any attention from the passengers aboard the plane.
“So what brings you to Tennessee?” Nick questioned Brian.
“Recording.” Brian kept his response short and decided to take the spotlight away from him.
“So what brings you to Tennessee?” Brian asked him as he noticed a stray tear fall down his cheek.
“I’m going to my mother’s funeral.” Nick answered as he looked at him nervously.
For the next 30 minutes, the 16 year old teenager boy explained that his girl friend cheated on him by dating someone else and broke up with him. She told him that she felt he didn’t value their relationship and cheated on him. In succession, his band mates dumped him since they were good friends with his ex-girl friend. He was in the band in the first place because of his girl friend.
Since the relationship with his girl friend was lost, he didn’t find any point in staying in Atlanta. He would rather be with his sisters in Tennessee.
Brian also described his divorce with Leighanne and their remarriage (refer to Safest Place To Hide) which caused a change in him concerning prioritizing his family.
He also told him about Nick Carter’s car accident and his battle with tuberculosis.
Nick sympathized with him and hoped he’d be okay.
“So what was the name of your ‘former’ band?” Brian hoped he didn’t sound too sarcastic.
“Beat D Punk.” Nick grinned.
“Yeah, my band mates wanted it to sound unique.”
“Wait a minute,” Nick looked at him suspiciously, “you haven’t told me the name of your band.”
“Oh…” Brian wished he didn’t have to say it but he seemed to have no choice.
“The Backstreet Boys.”
Nick’s eyes darkened at the mention of the name and Brian expected the worst to happen.
“I used to think the Backstreet Boys suck.” Nick struggled to find the right words.
“When I watched a news report on your new album, I thought you guys didn’t deserve to sing again.” Nick’s eyes glimmered guiltily.
Brian felt like he was pierced in the heart by his words. He had never met a critic personally in his life. Most of the people he met were either total fans or people who used to like their music.
“But since I met you, I think I now know the reason why you guys came back. I’m beginning to realize myself why your fans really love you. It’s about who they really are and not whether their oldies or not. I’m so sorry. You helped me a lot and you don’t deserve my criticisms.” Nick was fully crying now.
Brian was inspired by what Nick said and all feelings of pain and anger faded away as he put an arm around him.
“It doesn’t mater, Nick. It’s all of the past.” Brian told him recalling the words he told Nick his band mate in the hospital.
“But I’m glad you’ve been honest to me. A lot of people would have a hard time doing what you just did.” Brian felt like he was a guidance counselor, but he knew Nick needed the guidance more than ever.
“I feel people like you deserve the support they needed.” Nick wiped his eyes with a black bandanna he found in his pocket.
“We are landing in 10 minutes. We advise everyone to stay in their seats and fasten their seatbelts throughout the landing.” the captain’s voice was heard through the speakers.
He then explained the weather in Tennessee, procedures for domestic and international flights, etc.
“Do you have paper?” Nick suddenly asked him.
“Yeah, I guess so.” Brian checked his jean pocked and found a small notebook and a pen.
“Here’s my e-mail address.” Nick wrote down his e-mail address and full name, Nick Pearson.
“You’re Nick Pearson?” Brian asked him.
“Yeah,” Nick responded giving back his notebook and pen, “it’s my mother’s last name. My mom and dad were divorced when I was a kid so my mom was practically almost the only family I had except for my sisters.”
“Wait a minute.” Brian replied as he jotted down his telephone number and e-mail address.
“Here.” Brian tore off the page and gave it to Nick, who accepted it gratefully.
“Just one thing, though.” Brian made sure no one was listening to their conversation and whispered to him, “Don’t show any of these to the media, because if you do, I’ll sue you.” Brian joked.
“I promise I won’t show it to ANYONE.” Nick swore as he put the piece of paper in his pocket.
Brian felt the plane jolt as they landed in Tennessee. He noticed a piece of paper on the floor but decided to pick it up when the plane made a complete stop.
Nick relaxed on his chair as the airplane cruised and finally stopped.
Brian took out his seatbelt and picked up the paper. Seeing that the paper wasn’t his, he showed it to Nick.
“Is this yours?”
“Yeah.” Nick took it from him, folded it, and put the piece of paper in his pocket, “It’s my speech for my mom’s funeral.”
“Okay.” Brian replied as he readied his backpack.
“Bye, man.” Nick hugged Brian tightly as fresh tears found his eyes, “You’ve helped me a lot. I hope we could see each other soon.”
“We will.” Brian broke their hug and looked directly in his swollen eyes, “I’m just a call away, so if you need me…”
“I’ll call you.” Nick finished as he grabbed his oversized duffel bag and suitcase and approached the exit.
“Bye.” Brian waved at him until he was lost in the crowd of people scurrying about.
“I’ll see you soon.” Brian whispered to himself as he walked to a Rent-A-Car office in the airport.