A Change Could Do You Good

A Change Could Do You Good
Chapter 26
By Sarah Donnen
The day Nick left was very hard, even harder than when he left the first time. I wasnít allowed to go to the airport with them, fans would be there and we couldnít be seen together. So, instead, we said our good-byes at his house, and I never thought it would be that hard. It was our anniversary and he was leaving, some present, huh? He left and I broke down and cried. My mom helped me home and I shut myself in my room for three days straight, not letting anyone convince me to come out. I finally came out because I was really hungry and my mom made me banana bread. I could smell it upstairs and the smell was getting to me. I had some, then my mom and I had a long talk. She made me feel marginally better and then I went over to the Carterís, where both Jane and BJ talked to me. They were the three most important people to me at the moment, but Nick was still at the top of my list.
I donít know how, but I survived the next few months without Nick. I only heard from him about once every two weeks, they were that busy. He constantly wrote me letters and sent me studio songs that they recorded but doubted they would ever put on albums. As an anniversary gift, the month after he left, he sent me a tape and I listened to it. It was the very first song they ever recorded, called ĎTell Me That Iím Dreamingí, and he dedicated it to me. He sent me the most wonderful letter with the tape and he told me everything that was going on, interrupting himself every few sentences to say that he missed me and that he loved me. Yes, he said that he loved me. I said it to him too, and I knew I was right to. He told me how that, on the day of our anniversary, he took the day off, no matter what anyone said, and locked himself in a room with a picture of me and his CDs. No one was allowed to bother him, cause otherwise theyíd hear it from him. Even Donna listened to him on that one.
I got tape after tape, first came ĎTell Meí, then songs from their demo tape, they were really good, and then just random things. He once had a tape recorder with him and he carried it around with him all day, talking to me and the guys even talked to me. It was so funny, they were walking all around Chicago talking into a tape recorder, talking to me. I was cracking up listening to it, the first time in a long time that I had laughed, or even smiled. Then, he had tapes where each guy took about ten minutes to talk to me, saying what they wanted, explaining what was going on. The most hilarious one, I believe, was when they took the recorder to rehearsal and I could hear them all goofing off and their choreographer, Fatima, yelling at them for it. The best thing was, she didnít know that the tape was rolling, so she didnít understand why they kept laughing.
I kept seeing the guys on TV and I noticed how tall Nick was getting. He was catching up to Kevinís six-foot-one height and it made me laugh. Nick towered over Brian, and it was quite a sight to see the two of them next to each other. I always imagined what it would be like to compare us now, I used to be the one to tower over Nick, then he came back a little taller than me, and now Iím wondering what would happen if we were compared now.
It was about a week before Christmas Eve, 1997. Nick and I had been going out for nearly a year and I was very depressed about not seeing him. My grades were slowly dropping and everyone could see the change. I needed Nick, it was killing me not seeing him. Heíd said that there was a surprise waiting for me for Christmas, but the only thing that I said would cheer me up was him. He simply hinted that I was going to get the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for. I simply said goodbye to him because I could hear Donna yelling at him on the other side of the line. We hung up and I cried, it was exactly one week until our anniversary and he wasnít anywhere close, at least not that I knew of. I locked myself in my room for the next week and would not come out, not even when Aaron came to sing to me. Over the years, Aaron had become a wonderful singer and was taking after Nick in performing. He looked so much like Nick, it made me want to cry. He was going to be opening for their US tour in the summer of next year, when I might be able to go to one of the dates. It wasnít for certain, just a thought. Aaron always tried to cheer me up, as did everyone else in his family. Angel tried to play my favorite piano pieces, Leslie played her guitar and sang, and BJ talked my ear off for hours on end. Nothing seemed to work, though, but I did appreciate it all. I just wanted Nick back.
Two days before Christmas, the twenty-third, I was lying in my bed at night, trying to go to sleep on yet another sleepless night. I couldnít get Nick off my mind, it was driving me insane. It was raining out, too, to make my mood worse. Nick hated it when it rained, he said it made him sad. I liked it when it rained, but at the moment, I was too depressed to enjoy the storm. I got up from my bed and walked downstairs, hoping that pacing would make me tired enough to go to sleep. I paced around downstairs, walking from the living room, through the hallway, to the kitchen, then through the dining room and end back up in the living room. I went around in the circle, trying to get anything on my mind besides Nick. It wasnít working and I just sat in my kitchen, looking outside. When the lightening flashed, I could see the back end of the Carterís house, it was only three doors away. When the lightening flashed again, a light went on in Nick and Aaronís room. I saw Aaron jumping on his bed and smiled, he always did do that, no matter what anyone else said. I saw him drop onto his bed, someone tickling him. I tilted my head to the side, who was there? I stood up and walked closer to the window, looking at the window down the street. I saw lightening strike again and then the person who was tickling Aaron stood up, smiling and laughing. I nearly screamed, it was Nick.
I hurried upstairs and grabbed my bright yellow slicker that I got from Sarah for my birthday and pulled on a pair of sandals. I hurried back down the stairs and out the door, making sure to not make a whole lot of noise and to close the door. I pulled the hood up and closed the slicker around me, suddenly noticing just how skinny Iíd become. Iíd missed Nick so much, I never felt like eating. I hurried to the fence, going to the back and propped my leg up on a tree and hoisted myself up and over, landing in the backyard. I could still see the light on in Nickís room, and him and Aaron playing around. I was practically in tears, I missed him so much and seeing him was killing me because I couldnít get much closer. I grabbed a few stones from Janeís garden and tossed one up to the window. It didnít get their attention and threw another. I was getting drenched, but I didnít care, I didnít want to wake up the rest of the family. I threw another stone and heard it hit the glass with a loud thunk. Nick turned to the window and gestured behind him and the light went out in the room. It went back on after a few seconds and Nick was gone from the window, but I saw lights coming on from all over the house. I traced them downstairs and ran to the patio door and watched as Nick ran into the kitchen and slide to a stop at the door. He opened it and I hurried inside.
"Aly, oh my God, youíre soaked!" Nick exclaimed, helping me take off my slicker and setting it on the back of a chair.
"I donít care," I said, breathing heavy, trying to control my tears.
Nick wiped away my tears and gave me a large hug, holding me close. I let loose the tears, knowing there was no way Iíd be able to hold them back. We just stood there, holding each other, until someone came in the kitchen.
"Aly!" Aaron exclaimed. He ran over to me and tackled my legs, practically knocking me over.
"Hey, Aaron," I said, smiling, laughing, and crying at the same time. I struggled out of his grasp and Nick helped me stand up, holding out a towel. He wrapped it around my shoulders and hugged me tight.
"Oh, Aly, Iíve missed you so much," he whispered.
"I missed you too," I whispered back. I could smell his cologne, such a familiar and comforting smell, and felt how strong his arms were. He was holding me tightly, but it was a comfortable tight, not too tight and not too loose. I could tell he missed me and that made me happy.
"Aly, are you happy now?" Aaron asked, interrupting my thoughts.
Nick looked between Aaron and me and then back at Aaron. "What are you talking about, AC?" He asked, confused.
"Aly was sad the entire time you were away, she wouldnít come out of the house, only to go to school and here, and even in both cases she sometimes didnít," Aaron explained. I suddenly felt ashamed and pathetic. It was kind of childish of me to have acted that way, but I hurt so much for Nick.
"Aly, baby, you stayed home the entire time I was gone?" Nick whispered, looking down into my eyes. His ocean colored eyes were full of concern and love, it made me want to break down and cry again.
I nodded. "Well, not the entire time, but a lot of the time."
"What did you do the entire time?"
"I listened to those tapes with your voice on them, listened to your CDs, or just sat there, thinking about you. Nick, I missed you so much over the last few months, it was like I was heart broken and I was never going to see you again," I said, knowing how pathetic it sounded. But I didnít care, Nick was back and I didnít have to act that way again.
"Aly," Nick started, rubbing his hands up and down my back, finally resting on my waist. "Honey, youíre so thin!" He exclaimed, wrapping his hands around my waist. His thumbs came very close to touching each other and he had the most shocked look on his face.
"She never ate, Frack, I told you she missed you," Brian said, coming into the kitchen from the hallway.
"Hi, Brian," I said, smiling at him.
"Hey, Aly, missed you, girly," he said, giving me a hug. He pulled away and looked closely at my face. "Aly, as my mom would say, eat something, sugar! Have something, please, you look like youíll drop any moment," he said, gesturing around the large kitchen. I had to admit, what I could see looked much more tempting than it did the day before when I was there.
"Aly, I missed you too, but how could you not eat?" Nick asked, taking me back in his arms from behind. I laid my head against his chest and sighed deeply, closing my eyes. I couldnít think about anything but being in his arms.
"That doesnít matter. Youíre back now, thatís all that matters," I whispered. I yawned, suddenly realizing just how tired I was. Nick took the hint and led me upstairs, closely followed by Brian and Aaron. We walked to Nick and Aaronís room and I said hi to the guys. Nick helped me onto his bed and covered me with the covers. I was out in no time, but only because Nick was sitting right next to me. Because I was asleep, though, I didnít hear the conversation that Nick and Aaron had with the other guys. I didnít learn about it until later and that was probably both a blessing and a sin.

**********

"Nick, what the hell happened to Aly? She looks skinnier than Bone!" Kevin exclaimed as Nick looked down at a deeply sleeping Aly.
"She hasnít eaten since I left. Guys, she couldnít eat," Nick said forlornly, speaking softly. "She hasnít?" Kevin asked.
"No, she was too de..depre... I canít say the word!" Aaron exclaimed, looking at his brother for help.
"Depressed?" Nick tried. Aaron nodded.
"Yeah, that word. Mom said that she was too depressed to eat and that we should be nice to her and try to not talk about Nick," Aaron said.
"Wow, I canít believe she held out so long for you, Frack," AJ said, looking at Aly, amazed. "I mean, I never knew any girl that would do something like that for me."
"Youíd be amazed what time and love can do to someone," Kevin said quietly, speaking from experience.
"I guess being love sick isnít just a figure of speech," Howie said.
Nick shook his head. "No, its not. She wrote a song about it. About missing me, I mean," he admitted.
"She did? I didnít know Aly wrote songs!" Brian said.
"She does, and sings and plays piano," Aaron said.
Nick got up and grabbed his still stuffed backpack, pulling out a tape cassette and two pieces of folded paper. He put the tape in his tape player and lowered the volume, pressing play. "This is the song she wrote for me," he said, handing Brian the lyrics.
"Wow, this is really good," AJ said as the song reached the music break.
"It gets better," Nick said, shushing him.
The song ended a few moments later and Nick looked around the room. "Wow," Brian and Kevin said.
"That was excellent," Howie said.
"Yeah, very powerful," AJ commented, taking the lyrics from Brian.
"It is good, isnít it? For a Christmas present, I sent a copy to Max, to get his opinion," Nick said, stopping the tape and rewinding it.
"What did he say?" Brian asked.
"He hasnít called me back yet, Iím supposing he will tomorrow," Nick said, turning off the sound system. "I guess you could say that if Max likes her stuff, Iíll convince her to write more and send it out to some people. I think she could really make it in the business."
"She could, but do you want her to?" AJ asked.
"What do you mean?" Nick questioned.
"I mean, you say it like itís a good thing, but I can tell that you donít really want her to do something like that. You just want her to be given credit, but you donít want her taken out of your life for the business. I can see it, bro, you donít want to share her with the world, but rather to keep her for yourself," AJ said.
"Since when did you get so philosophical?" Howie asked.
"Its late, my brain is shutting down," AJ explained. "But really, Nick, do you really want her to get a deal?"
Nick shook his head and looked at the sleeping figure curled up on his bed. "No, I donít, but she told me once that her dream was to perform like we do, something she said she never even told Sarah. She has such big hopes and dreams, I canít help but want her to make it," he admitted, brushing a few locks of hair away from Alyís face.
"She never even told Sarah? Thatís amazing, those two tell each other everything," Kevin said.
"Yeah, they even share journals," AJ said.
"How would you know?" Brian asked.
AJ smiled. "I was talking to Sarah and she told me about it... among other things. But she never mentioned a music career for Aly, in fact, she told me that Aly just had a wide interest range for music, that was about the extent of it."
Nick didnít turn away from Aly. "She does have a wide range of interest. Sheíll listen to every album I own, then move to Kevinís and Brianís CDs. She loves music, she canít get enough of it," he said quietly.
"Yeah, she does. And then thereís Sarah," AJ started.
"Hey, lay off, sheís her best friend!" Howie said.
"Yup, and she gets along great with me," Brian said, smiling.
"You mean me!" AJ insisted.
"Guys, donít start. Besides, this is Alyís best friend weíre talking about here. You do realize Aly would kill either one of you if you went for her best friend?" Kevin said.
Brian and AJ nodded. "Yup!"

**********

If I were awake to listen to that conversation, I wouldíve understood why Nick was so distant from me for the next day, yet so excited for me. When I woke up, he was lying next to me and Jane was trying to shake me awake without waking anyone else up.
"Aly, sweetie, come on, get up," Jane whispered. I opened my eyes and focused on Janeís friendly face in front of me. "Hi, Jane, sorry to come over unannounced," I whispered.
"Oh, thatís ok, honey, but it gave me a fright seeing an extra person in here. Come downstairs, your mom is on the phone," she whispered back, carefully walking over the guysí comatose bodies on the floor.
I nodded and sat up, careful to not wake Nick. I struggled out from under his arm and hurried out of the room, stepping over limbs as I walked. I found Jane downstairs with Leslie talking on the phone.
"Here she is, Liz," Jane said, holding the phone out to me.
"Hi, Mom," I said hoarsely.
"Aly, honey, you like your surprise?" She asked.
"Yeah, thank you for not being mad," I said, walking to the table.
"Its ok, baby, I knew you would go over there the moment you knew he was home," she said kindly.
"Yeah, we were talking all last night, then I finally fell asleep," I said, yawning.
"You finally went to sleep? Oh, novel concept. Are you going to eat anything?"
"Yeah, Jane just sat a large bowl of corn flakes in front of me," I said, smiling a thank you to Jane.
"Good, you eat, honey, give the phone back to Jane, I need to talk to her before I go to work." I nodded and handed the phone to Jane, crunching on a big mouthful of cereal. I loved cereal, I used to live on it. I never minded, it tasted good to me.
"Liz? No, he hasnít called. Yeah, but Nick said he should today. Ok, then Iíll talk to you later. Ok, bye," Jane said brokenly, then hung up the phone. I was too busy eating to notice what she was talking about.
"Well, Aly, seems like your appetite is back," Jane said, smiling as she sat across from me, next to Leslie.
"Yeah, I feel a lot better too," I said, smiling for the first time in so long.
"Oh, Aly, Nick missed you so much, and I know that if he couldíve, he wouldíve come home a lot sooner," Jane said, suddenly taking on the concerned mother role.
"I know, but I missed him just as much, and it was a lot to take at once," I admitted, finished with the cereal. I had eaten a large bowl full, more than I ever ate, I guess I was really hungry.
"Trust me, everytime he called here, the first thing he asked about was you, then he asked about everyone else. He was so set on seeing you and he was going to come and get you last night, but it was very late when they got back from the airport."
"Thatís ok, I understand, as long as I know heís here, I feel better," I said, sitting back in my chair.
"And knowing that I can see you when I wake up makes me feel like a very lucky guy," Nick said, wrapping his arms around me from behind.
I smiled and wrapped my arms around his. "Morning, sugar," I said, looking up at him.
"Hey, baby," he said, kissing my forehead. He sat next to me and took my hand, smiling at Leslie. "What are you doing here, Lez, I thought you had practice?" He asked.
"Nick, its Christmas Eve," Leslie said with a Ďduhí tone.
"Oh, right," Nick said, looking down.
I laughed and leaned my head on his shoulder, smiling. "Nicky, youíre so cute," I said.
"Hey, donít call me cute!" He exclaimed.
Jane, Leslie, and I all laughed. "Usually, heíll reprimand you for calling him Nicky first," Jane pointed out.
"Only when anyone else calls me it, I like the way she says it, she says it with a northern accent still," Nick explained, squeezing my hand.
"Do I?" I asked.
"Yes, you do. And it sounds so cute," Nick whispered, kissing my forehead again.
"Donít call me cute," I said, using the same tone as Nick had on me.
We all laughed and moved onto another subject, waiting until the other guys woke up.