Secrets Kept, Lies Told
Secrets Kept, Lies Told
"How did I do, Brian?"
Alexa asked as she backed away from Nick.
"Pretty good, Alexa,
you can't see it at all," Brian said.
"You can't? Good,
you know, I nearly got in trouble yesterday 'cause Denise almost saw it,"
Nick said, looking in the mirror in front of him.
Alexa smiled and snapped
close her compact. They were all crowded into Nick and Brian's bathroom,
about ten minutes before the appearance the guys were suppose to make.
She smiled at her handy work on Nick, then looked in the mirror.
"I know what you mean, she decided to wake me up this morning
and surprise me with breakfast out, just
the two of us, and I had my hair up. Thank God I knew it was her before
I opened the door, I had time to let down my hair, but now I don't have
to worry about it," she said.
"Whatever, just make
sure you have that thing handy from now on," Brian said to her as he walked
out of the bathroom.
"Are you kidding?
I don't go anywhere without this thing. Oh, and Nicky, don't rub
your neck, in fact, don't touch it. If you have an itch, try to ignore
it, otherwise my handy work will go out the window," Alexa
said, gesturing for him to get up and
out of the bathroom.
"I'll try, but knowing
my luck, I'll forget about it," Nick said, reaching for his coat and pulling
"Oh, that's another
thing. Mom wanted me to tell you guys that you have to act civilly
to AJ, even though I wouldn't if my life depended on it. You
just have to be nice and laugh with him every-once-in-a-while," Alexa said.
"What made you think
of that?" Brian asked as he pulled on his coat.
Alexa smiled as she
walked to the door. "When Nick said 'forget about it', it reminded
me that I've been forgetting AJ even exists!" She said as she opened
the door. She hurried to her hotel room and grabbed her coat. She
checked herself over one more time in the mirror and hurried out of the
room. She locked the door behind her, making sure she had her key,
and walked to the elevator to wait in the limo downstairs.
"Ma, are you sure they're
gonna do this?" AJ asked.
His mother nodded as
she handed him his coat. "Positive, they won't be able to do anything
for a while otherwise. Don't worry about it AJ, really the only two
people who are still holding it against you are Nick and Alexa, and to
tell you the truth, I can't blame them."
"I know, I was stupid
and I've apologized many times to them, but they don't seem to want to
"Just give them a little
more time, AJ, watch, I'm willing to bet that after today, you'll be talking
to all of the guys like you all used to."
"I hope so, Mom, I
hope so," AJ said as he walked out of his room. He saw Alexa disappear
into the elevator and hurried down the hall to try to catch her.
The doors closed in his face, with Alexa leaving him a look that said 'no
way'. AJ couldn't help but feel his heart plummet to his feet.
He wanted Alexa to forgive him so much, but he knew she would after she
found out his surprise. 'Only a few more days,' AJ thought.
'Then they'll both forgive me.'
"Come on, AJ, we have
to get downstairs," his mother said as she stepped into the now empty elevator.
AJ nodded and walked
in next to her. He waited as the elevator went down, praying that
everything would go ok at the appearance and no awkward questions would
Kevin looked around
the back of the music store that was blocked off for them. "Ooh,
new CDs," he heard AJ say as he attacked the display.
Kevin had to laugh.
"AJ, you get any more CDs, you won't have any room left in your bag for
anything else," he said.
AJ looked up at him
and smiled, as if he was glad he was talking to him.
Kevin felt somewhat
relieved, like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He felt
comfortable around AJ now, he wasn't afraid that he was going to try to
"Ok, guys, five minutes
left, then you all take your seats at the table. Basically, to really summarize
this, it's a press conference and signing rolled into one," AJ's mother
explained, sitting in her chair. "Answer any questions that come
your way, you know how to answer them, and just keep signing. Try
to not ignore the press, they're the ones who organized this all, and they're
bringing in about one to two hundred winners to get autographs. You
won't be here long, but it'll be long enough. After you're done with
the autographs, the winners will start asking you questions as well, be
prepared for what they ask you, don't answer something you'll regret later.
Feel free to clear up rumors, but don't lie, and be careful of how
you phrase things. Especially on
the subject of Alexa, do not, I repeat, do not say her name. And
do not have her go out there, any pictures of her could totally ruin this
and she doesn't want anything of the sort,
AJ nodded and could
see all the other guys nod. Out of the corner of his eye, he could
see Nick and Alexa, his arms around her waist. They both looked a
little tired, but happy to be together.
'Now that I really
look at them, they make a good couple,' AJ said to himself. 'I know
Nick will treat her right, and I know she wouldn't do anything to hurt
him, so why was I so protective of her?' He asked himself, looking
away as Nick caught his glance.
"All right, its time
guys, please, try to be nice to each other, you have to spend the next
few hours elbow to elbow, let's try to have fun with it, ok?" AJ's
AJ nodded and walked
towards the curtain, trying to paste a smile on his face. It wasn't
working, he was so upset that Alexa still wouldn't forgive him. "Hey, AJ."
AJ turned around and
saw Nick facing him, without Alexa.
"Look, I know that
you probably were just protecting Alexa and that I probably would've done
the same thing for BJ, Leslie, or Angel, so, I forgive you," Nick said
haltingly. It must've been hard for him to say that, but AJ understood
"Thanks bro," AJ said.
asked, holding out his hand.
"Friends," AJ said,
shaking Nick's hand. "And I'm sorry I mangled your face, I didn't
realize I was hitting you that hard."
Nick laughed and glanced
back at Alexa, who was talking to her mother. "I guess its ok, I mean,
I couldn't really feel anything after the first few punches," he said.
AJ winced. "Oops,
I think you might want to remind me about that next time I want to beat
Nick nodded and finally
caught Alexa's eye. "I will," he answered AJ as he waved to Alexa.
AJ watched as Alexa waved back and signed something to Nick. Nick
did the same gesture back and turned to follow the other guys to the front
of the store.
"What does that mean?"
"Alexa taught it to
me. It means 'I love you' in sign language," Nick replied as they
walked out from behind the curtain.
AJ was both surprised
and happy. His little sister wasn't as little as he'd hoped her to
be, but she was more grown up than he'd anticipated. "That's great," he
said to Nick as they sat down. He picked up his pen and smiled goofily
at Nick, who laughed.
"Glad to see the old
AJ back," Nick said, picking up his pen. He signed a poster
by his picture and pushed it over to AJ, who signed by his name.
"Ok, guys, now we'll
start asking questions, if you don't mind," someone said. AJ
looked up and recognized him as one of the editors of one of the local
"Ok, shoot," Kevin
said from AJ's other side.
AJ signed his name
again, half listening to the questions, only listening for ones directed
at him. One in particular, the question about Alexa.
Nick signed his name
for the final time and reached behind him for his bottle of water.
He opened it and took a sip, sitting back in his chair. They'd started
the signing only an hour and a half before and they were
already finished with all one hundred
and fifty people. He listened and waited as the reporters who'd been
asking questions talked to the winners around them. They explained
that some would go home, while others would stay and ask questions, if
they had their sheet of questions they wanted to ask and they weren't
already asked. About twenty people stayed behind, all girls, and
they sat in chairs that were set up across from the table he and the guys
were sitting behind.
"Ok, now we have time
for at least one question from each person, so start asking," the head
editor, Darcy, said. She was the one who'd organized the entire appearance
and Nick thought she was really nice. He liked her.
"Ok, why don't you
all say your names before you ask your questions," Brian suggested from
Nick's right side. At the table, it was Brian, Nick, AJ, Kevin, and
then Howie. The arrangement didn't bother Nick, he and AJ weren't
fighting anymore so he didn't feel uncomfortable.
"Umm, I guess I start,"
a small, pixie-like girl said. "Hi, I'm Carly, and my question is,
do any of you have girlfriends?"
"I don't," Brian said
"I don't," Kevin said.
"I don't," AJ and Howie
said at the same time.
said, snapping his fingers in front of his face.
Nick snapped out of
his thoughts and smiled. "Oh, what?" He asked.
"Answer the question, spacey," Brian said.
"Yeah, do you have
a girlfriend?" AJ asked.
"Umm, no, I'm just
seeing someone," Nick answered. He felt bad about not admitting the
truth, but Denise had warned him.
"Hi, I'm Mary, and
my question is, do any of you have bad habits that annoy anyone else?"
The girl next to Darcy asked, nervously twirling her hair around her finger.
"Howie snores a lot,"
Kevin said quickly.
"I do not!" Howie
"Brian bites his nails,"
"And you hog the nintendo!"
"Kevin likes to act
like our father a lot," Howie said.
"AJ just sits here
and listens to them bicker!" AJ exclaimed, making them all laugh.
"No, actually, AJ just
gets very defensive sometimes," Brian said.
'That's the understatement
of the year,' Nick thought, trying to hold back his expression. He
was quiet for the next few questions, as they were directed at the guys
individually. He listened, but his mind kept wandering to Alexa,
wondering how she was doing behind them, knowing it must be killing her
as much as it was him to not be able to see him.
"Nick, what is on your
mind right now?" Someone asked, interrupting his thoughts.
Nick snapped his head
up and looked at the little girl who'd asked him the question. She
was so adorable, a little six or seven year old blonde pigtailed girl in
a green T-shirt and a pair of shorts.
"Right now? I'm
"He's thinking about
what his next meal will be, he's hungry again," Brian said, interrupting
"Hey, shut up, it's
my question!" Nick exclaimed, hitting Brian's arm lightly.
I'm thinking about how strange it is to be doing this. I mean, I,
as well as the rest of the guys, still think of myself as a
regular everyday person, not someone that
deserves all of this," he said, gesturing around him. "I'm just doing
what I love and I get treated like a king for it."
"Hi, my name's Kelly,
and I was wondering, if you could be stranded on an island with only three
things, what would those three things be?" The next girl, a short
brunette with a black T-shirt, asked.
"My CDs, a radio, and
my family," Kevin answered after a few moments.
"My family, my guitar,
and my books," Howie said after a few moments.
"My family, my CDs,
and nintendo," Brian said, smiling.
"My family, my CDs, and the nintendo," he said.
"What about Butterfingers,
Nick?" AJ asked.
"She said three things,
I had to pick the three most important," Nick answered, smiling.
"Such a battle between
Butterfingers and the CDs, huh?" Kevin asked.
Nick just looked down
and blushed, knowing what he'd really take. 'Actually, it was more like
a battle to not say Alexa,' he thought.
"I think I'd take my
family, my CDs and my books," AJ said finally.
"Hi, my name's Natalie,
and I wanted to know, AJ, who is the girl that's in the picture with you?"
The girl asked, holding up the magazine that Alexa had told Nick about.
"That is my sister,"
"But I thought you
were an only child?"
"Well, a lot of people
did, but my sister has stayed out of the spot light for a long time for
a reason. She wants her privacy and asked that I not say anything
to anyone about her," AJ answered calmly.
"What's her name?"
"Natalie, only one
question, dear," Darcy said, interrupting her.
"No, its ok, Darcy,
I'll answer her," AJ said. "She said that she didn't want anyone
to know her name, she wants to keep her privacy as long as possible," he
"Is she here?"
"Yes," AJ said truthfully.
Nick was stunned, but tried to not let it show. He knew AJ wasn't
suppose to let out any information about Alexa that could endanger her
in any way.
"Is she allowed out
here?" Natalie squeezed out as Darcy tried to shush her.
"I don't think she
is," AJ said slowly, looking at Nick and Kevin.
"Oh, AJ, give it a
rest," Alexa's voice came.
"Is that her?"
Another girl asked, farther down the line. Nick vaguely remembered
her name as Terry.
"Yes, and I'll come
out only if you promise to not take any pictures," Alexa called.
Darcy looked at everyone.
"Cameras away, now," she demanded in a no-nonsense tone.
AJ stood up and walked
to the divider curtain and walked behind it. Nick waited and saw
him and Alexa come out together, hand in hand. He could tell the
smile on her face was forced, probably like the way she was holding his
"Hi," Alexa said nervously
to the people in the room.
"And you are?"
Natalie asked rudely.
"I'm AJ's sister,"
Alexa said, conveniently leaving out her name.
"Do you have a name?"
"Yes, I'm not going
to tell you though, I want my privacy as much as the next person," Alexa
answered, trying to keep her temper. Nick knew that she was ready
to strangle Natalie, but that she wasn't allowed to do anything about the
"Ok, next question,
please," Darcy said, pulling Natalie out of her seat and to the other side
of the room.
AJ led Alexa to his
seat, then sat in another chair at the end of the table, next to
Howie. Alexa smiled at Nick as she sat down, a real smile. Nick smiled
back and took her hand under the table. He squeezed it lightly, letting
her know that she didn't have to be nervous. He ignored the next
few questions, busy just holding Alexa's hand and thinking about her.
"Final question," Darcy
said. "Make it good, Tina."
The girl at the end,
a small red head, smiled brightly and looked at the guys. "If you
could give all of this up for your old lives of peace and quiet and boredom,
would you do it?" She asked.
Nick was blown away,
what a great question.
"Wow, umm, what a question,"
"A very good question,"
Kevin said, looking down at the table and thinking.
"I'm not sure, I mean,
I really can't imagine my life without all of this," Howie said.
"Yeah, neither can
I," AJ said.
"I think I wouldn't,"
Nick said. "I love what I do, I can't think of anything I would do
that wouldn't somehow involve music. I love music, music is my life."
"And I love my life,"
the guys all finished for him.
"So, no, I wouldn't
give it up. I love what I do and I can't imagine my life without
it," Nick said.
"Same with me, my life
would probably not exist if it weren't for music," Brian said.
"I wouldn't give it
up, this is what I was born to do, nothing can change that," Kevin said.
"I wouldn't give it
up, its too important to me," Howie said.
"I couldn't give it
up, no matter what other thing I tried to do, now or ever, has had to do
with music and the stage. Its my life, plain and simple," AJ said.
"Well, thank you guys,
for lending us your time," Darcy said as she walked back over. "Let's
all say thank you, everyone," she said, looking around at the other people
in the small audience.
"Thank you," came a
"You're quite welcome,
we were happy to do it," Brian said, smiling.
"Guys, do you mind
posing for a few group photos, for the papers? We tried to get them
in before, but we couldn't," Darcy said quietly as the contest winners
were led out of the store.
Kevin nodded as he
looked at the other guys. "Sure, we could do that." Darcy smiled
and walked back to her camera crew, away from the guys.
"I guess that means
I have to go back there and sit with my mom for another hour, huh?"
Alexa asked Nick, standing up and stretching, letting go of his hand.
"Yeah, we can't have
you in any pictures, Denise was clear on that," Kevin said.
Alexa nodded and turned
to Nick. "I'll see you in the limo, correct?" She asked.
"I'll be anxiously
looking forward to it," he answered quietly. "I want so badly to
kiss you, but I'm not allowed," he whispered.
"Me too, I wish we
could forget about this press shit, but we can't. I'll see you later,"
Alexa said, not touching him. Nick was itching to reach out and hold
her, but he couldn't. He watched as she walked behind the curtain,
then followed the rest of the guys to pose for some pictures.