I looked over at my wife, who slept so soundly that I really hated to wake her. I looked over at AJ and said, "We have to go, Leighanne is so tired." He nodded as I gently picked her up and walked to the door. AJ opened it for me and I smiled as I walked out to my car and set Leighanne in the back seat. She awoke for a second to buckle her seat belt and I smiled as she laid back down. I waved to AJ, who motioned for me to call him when I got home. He worried more now that he was a father. I started the car and drove off. I saw Amanda wave as we pulled away. AJ's five-year old son ran outside and waved as well. I sighed and scolded myself for not staying to say goodbye to the whole family. I waved and turned on the car radio just as Brian McKnight's "Back At One" came on. I hummed it to myself and looked back at Leighanne. I then turned onto Hill Avenue, the street we needed to go down in order to get home. The traffic was backed up as far as I could see and I cursed under my breath and sighed-it figured. When we got to the light, an hour had passed. Leighanne stirred, but did not wake. All of a sudden, my entire life flashed before my eyes. I had only briefly seen the car that had hit my side before I lost all consciousness. When I awoke, I felt sharp pains throughout my body. My head ached and I was bleeding uncontrollably. "Leighanne....." I muttered. It hurt so much to talk. When I looked up, I saw AJ's face and I grabbed the collar of his shirt and looked him in the eye as I asked, "Where's......Leighanne?" He had tears in his eyes, which told me she was gone. AJ started to shake his head.
"She...died on impact, Brian...I'm sorry."
I started to cry harder than I think I ever had in my life. I managed to stop long enough to look over at my car. It was trashed. The glass was shattered in every window and the frame was so bent out of shape that you couldn't tell what kind of car it used to be. Not to mention, I saw that blood was everywhere. I continued to cry as hard as before, maybe even harder. How hard I was crying, I am still not sure. All I know is that one of the EMT's pulled AJ aside and knelt in his place.
"Sir, your wife... " she started. I quickly cut her off, "Is dead, I know." They put me in the ambulance. As I lay there, waiting, I heard one of them talking to AJ. They were asking him his relation to me. When I heard his reply, I smiled faintly. I couldn't smile much because it hurt.
"I'm his brother."
With that, the EMT let him in the back with me. "My brother, eh?" Again, I gave a small, faint smile. The other EMT had been working on hooking me up to an IV. Before I could even realize it, we were off to the Emergency Room. AJ actually sat with me and held my hand as if I was his own son. It was until they were taking me to a room that he let go. He watched them take me back through the double doors. Looking through the glass, I then saw him slowly turn away and walk to the waiting room. Hours later, when I awoke, I found myself in a room. I heard a little boys' voice asking, "Is Uncle Brian gonna be okay, daddy?" It was AJ's son. I smiled at the sound of his voice.
"He will be...but you gotta be really gentle when ya give him a hug...he is hurtin' really bad," AJ said calmly to his son.
"Kinda like when I fell and hurt my head?" Jordan asked.
I knew he was referring to the time he fell down the stairs and cracked his skull.
"Well...kinda..." AJ said.
I heard the hurt in his voice as he started to remember that day. He was scared to death that Jordan was going to die. We all were. Leighanne had gone with me to see Jordan. Tears fell as I remembered her face. I longed for her touch. It had only been hours, and yet, it seemed like decades.
Chapter Two-The Visit
AJ, Amanda, and Jordan walked in cautiously. I smiled faintly as Jordan gave me a very soft hug. He backed away and looked at me. With his small, yet strong, voice he said, "You're gonna be okay, Uncle Brian." He gave me his big one-in-a-million smile.
"I am?" I asked with another small smile. "Why, thank you BJ." I smiled again, this time, a little wider than before. AJ had named his son Brian Jordan after me. Jordan still laughs to this day when someone calls out Brian and we both look up.
"How are you, Bro?" AJ asked.
"In pain." AJ rolled his eyes and grinned.
"Ah..I see..." he said.
"Oh Brian..I'm so sorry," Amanda said. She had obviously been crying once AJ told her. She and Leigh were such good friends.
"We all miss her. We prayed it was all a nightmare." AJ said. I knew he had a song in mind. I could tell by the look in his eyes. He could always come up with something, even out of the tiniest of words. Those where going to be the words that would soon become lyrics to our next single. "We prayed it was a nightmare, and we prayed it wasn't true. We were hoping that it wouldn't be you." I sang softly, not really to a beat. AJ re-sang it to a beat that fit his voice. "We got ourselves a single, Bro," I said faintly.
AJ smiled at me and softly hugged me. "We're gonna make it through this, Brian," he whispered in my ear. I cried and hugged him.
"God I hope so," I said.
The determination in his voice gave me a little more strength. He and the others would be there for me no matter what. Even through a song. A song that at the time, seemed inappropriate. But, it gave me hope. I had to live through this. I had to go on, if not for myself, then for Leighanne. (Kevin and his wife Kristin had gone back to Kentucky in hopes to start a family. Nick, I wasn't sure of. I think he needed time to relax. AJ was, of course, with his family. Now Howie I hadn't kept in touch with since after we all went our separate ways.) I had to be strong for all of them, too. The fellas really needed me almost as much as I need Leighanne.
Chapter Three-A New Beginning
Two months had passed since the accident. I was wheelchair bound for another three to six months according to the doctors. I let out a long sigh and looked over at AJ.
"Isn't there anything to do?" I asked, whining slightly.
"Stop whining." AJ replied with a smirk.
He had been going over the song with me. Had been, until I interrupted him. "Hah ha." I said sarcastically.
He reached under a table and pulled out a couple sheets of handwritten music. I went over it and looked at him. "Someone gonna play it?"
With a chuckle, he replied, "Yes." A smile spread acrossed his face. Kevin walked in, a little baby girl in his arms. My eyes went wide in amazement.
"Oh wow..." I said. Kevin and Kristin never called to tell me that they had a daughter. I glared at him. "Thanks for telling me CUZ!"
"Well...." He started with a grin as he handed his daughter to AJ.
"Dump the girl off on me...Brian Jordan, get down from there now!" AJ scolded Jordan as he climbed on the table.
"Sorry daddy." He said as he got down and pouted.
"Doesn't work that way...Amanda, babe, can you take Jennifer?" AJ looked over at her.
"Sure thing AJ." Amanda smiled as she took Jennifer. She sat over next to me and showed her to me. I held her for a little while and looked up at AJ and Kevin, who were probably going over the music for the song. Kevin sat down at the piano and started to play. AJ had a bass guitar that he played, but he, too got on the keyboards and started with the music. I listened and started to like the edge it had.
"Wow." I said.
AJ smiled faintly and turned the keyboard off.
"Glad you like it, Cuz. Took AJ and I a lot of long nights comin' up with the perfect sound." Kevin laughed as Jennifer poked my nose.
"Hey...the baby can beat me up..no fair." I pouted and looked at her. She was smiling and giggling up a storm. "She's beautiful Kevin," I whispered. Leigh and I always wanted kids, but we never had any. It made me upset greatly that I would never have kids to call my own. I could re-marry, but I loved Leigh so much. I just couldn't do that to her. I sighed and handed Jennifer back to Amanda, who handed her back to Kevin. Jennifer rolled her eyes and hugged Kevin. "I'm gonna go outside." I said softly as I wheeled my way out onto the front porch. There, I assume, I fell asleep because I later awoke inside the house. I looked over at the alarm clock and grumbled. It was nine o' clock in the evening and no one had even bothered to wake me up. I managed to get myself into my wheelchair and back out to the living room, where I saw Kevin and AJ leaning over a photo album. I knew right away when it was. Kevin's wedding pictures, my wedding pictures, and AJ's wedding pictures. We had all decided to put our favorite pictures in a photo album for us all to look at. It went to one person's house and stayed there until someone came to take it to their house. It was how we planned it. It was supposed to be sort of a keepsake game. Maybe to see who was the most forgetful of the three of us. AJ had had it and now, I guessed, it was Kevin's turn. "Real nice guys, don't wake me up." I grumbled as I wheeled my way over to them. They yawned and looked at me.
"Sorry Brian..we figured you needed your rest. With what little you've been gettin' lately." AJ said with a small grin. I knew he was tired. It showed in his dark brown eyes. AJ never really let someone get down too far without pulling them back up. He was always good at that. No matter what people say about him just based on appearance, AJ is one of the nicest and most considerate men I have ever met in my life. I don't think anyone other than Kevin, AJ, Howie, and Nick would have stayed by my side the way they have. My whole point for saying that was that even when AJ is tired, he'll still try to make a person feel better by doing something. Even if it just means giving them a smile. Howie and Nick had finally contacted me. Once they heard, they were devastated. They both were busy with lives of their own now, so they didn't manage to come and see me. But I knew that I was in their hearts as well as Leighanne.
Chapter Four-Here We Go Again
A year had passed. A year of sorrow and pain as well as a year of happiness and joy. AJ jumped down from the stage and ran up and down the empty aisles and empty rows of chairs.
"Don't get to used to it now, AJ!" Kevin yelled with a laugh as he tuned the piano. We actually had a real piano for once. Which thrilled Kevin.
"Oh trust me, I won't!!" AJ laughed like an insane clown as he ran back over to us. I stood there on the stage with crutches under my arms.
"I'm gonna have fun just sitting here while you guys dance." I groaned.
"Girls'll love ya just 'cause you're up there." AJ said with another insane laugh. He was acting more like himself now that we were going back on tour. Brief US tour I should say.
"Oh no...it's back...everyone run for your lives!!" I laughed as AJ rolled his eyes at me.
"Oh Hah hah...." He walked over to the bass guitar and picked it up. He played a little of...God knows what. It sounded like "Bad To The Bone" to me, but I wasn't really paying attention. I was off in my own little world thinking about Leighanne. A year. It had been a year since she was killed. I couldn't believe it. I still didn't want to believe it.
"Brian...cuz..." Kevin set his hand on my shoulder. "We don't have to perform tonight if you don't want to, Bri." I looked at him, my face almost expressionless. "No..I want to perform....I just miss her." I said while looking down at my feet.
"We all miss her Brian...but none of us know what you're going through. And we're not going to lie about that." AJ said as he came up to me.
"I want to perform...." I said as I moved away from them. I heard them sigh. I started to cry again. I had been crying almost every day since the accident. They tried everything to calm me down, but I could never stop. I would try not to cry, but I would always end up crying again. The tears seemed to sting my flesh like an acid. They always did. An acid that I wished would eat my soul. I needed her. I need her. And the guys needed me. I took a deep breath and tried to stop crying. It was hard, but I managed. "I said I want to perform." My voice was shaking as much as my body was. I turned and look towards them. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they didn't believe me. I gave them an annoyed look and tapped my watch. "We don't have a lot of time before the concert."
"Are you saying we should rehearse?" Nick said as he came up.
"Nick!" I gasped. I knew that it was a reunion concert, but I almost didn't expect Nick to show up. Not far behind him was Howie.
"Hey Brian." Nick said as he came up to me and gave me a gentle hug.
"How you been?" Howie asked.
"I'm holding up if that's what you mean." I said as I moved myself over to a mic on it's stand. I heard them sigh. They each took their places and our rehearsal began. This time, all five of us were there.
Chapter Five-Another Tragedy
Sirens blared, lights flashed. The lights of ambulances and police cars now illuminated the darkness of night. Tears fell down my face. I looked to Kevin, who was standing next to Nick, with a look of sadness. Kevin swallowed hard as he and Nick moved their ways over to me. "I can't believe this...not another tragedy...not another death..." I fell into Kevin's arms. He hugged me.
"Shhh cuz...everything's gonna be okay.." Kevin said. His voice was shaking. I saw the tears fall down his face. He doubted as much as I did that AJ was going to live. We knew better than to say he was going to make it.
"He can't leave..." I said. I looked to the sky. "HE CAN'T DIE!!" I cried. "He can't die..." I was crying so hard now that it hurt. I fell to the cold, hard asphalt. Cold, as cold as death. So much death. So much. I didn't think I could handle losing someone else. "Alexander, you have to live." I said softly. I watched the ambulance take him away. None of us had seen what happened exactly, but we knew. We knew. He was having problems with the stairs to his outside upper level porch. He had called somebody to fix it and he thought they did. But they must not have. I looked up at the stairs and cried softly. I saw where the side rail cracked and gave way. I saw where AJ fell. There was a pool of blood, probably the size of a basketball, if not larger, there.
"AJ's gonna live." Kevin said, helping me up. We walked to our cars and drove to the hospital. On the way, I called Amanda at work.
"Amanda, it's Brian. Listen, something happened to AJ." I said with a sob.
"What happened?" I heard the alarm in her voice.
"The stairs broke, while he was on them...he...he...he fell..." I heard a loud sob escaped her throat.
"Where is he?" She asked. I told her which hospital he was at. We said our goodbyes and hung up. I turned on the radio in my car to try and get my mind off of AJ. "He can't die..." I said to myself. "He can't."
Chapter Six-Another Life Lost
We waited. All of us where there in the waiting room now. Kevin and Kristin tried to comfort Amanda and Jordan. Nick and Howie stared off in to space with reddened eyes. All of our faces were stained with tears that may as well have been blood. I stood at the window and looked out into the lighted emergency entrance in which we just came in only minutes ago. Everyone went silent when they saw me looking outside.
"He's going to be okay." I heard Nick say. I couldn't help but hear the sound of doubt in his voice.
"Yeah.." Howie agreed. AJ was Howie's best friend. They had known each other since they both were little kids. I was listening to the almost always happy, friendliest person in our group have so much pain and doubt about whether or not his best friend lives or dies. In that one word, I could hear it all. All of his pain. All of his doubts.
"We're not gonna lose him, Howie." I said. The tone of my voice must have startled Howie. I saw him jump slightly. He nodded is head and stayed silent. I let my eyes wander down the hall. I watched as doctors and nurses went about doing what they were trained to do. I remembered the day I was in the hospital very clearly. I remembered all the sounds. I even recognized a couple of the nurses who had treated me. "I want to go see him." I said softly.
"Huh?" I saw Kevin look up. He had a magazine in his hand. He set it down on the table and put his hand over Kristin's.
"I said I want to go see AJ."
"I...uhh.." Kevin's face went blank and I chuckled.
"Kev just did a Nick." I said softly. Nick looked up at me and grumbled.
"That's not funny." I heard him say as he and Howie went back to their conversation.
"I did didn't I?" Kevin chuckled nervously. A nurse walked in then. Her eyes darted from each of us.
"How is he?" Amanda asked.
"AJ?" The nurse replied with a question.
"Yes." Amanda said as she stood up.
"He needs a blood transfusion....but..." The nurse let her words hang.
"But what!?" I asked.
"We don't have his type." She said quickly.
"WHAT!?" Kevin said with anger as he got up.
"He's got a fairly rare blood type...and there aren't enough donors of that type..." The nurse was cut off.
"What type is he?" Nick asked.
"A-B negative." The nurse replied.
"Hey.." I said as I looked up. "I...I'm A-B Negative..." I started.
"Whoa..couldn't you just give him O?" Howie asked.
"He lost too much and his body would fight it." The nurse, who was obviously a ditz, said.
"People, I said I was an A-B Negative..." I said. A doctor came in and glared at the nurse.
"Get back to wing 2, Laura." He growled. The nurse left and the doctor then turned to us.
"I'm Dr. Phillip Poleski. I have been treated Alexander. Um, as the nurse said, he is in need of a blood transfusion. I overheard one of you say you were an A-B Negative, which is what he needs...." The doctor trailed off.
"I'LL give blood to HIM." I said.
"Brian...are you sure...?" Kevin asked.
"Yup. I'm doing it." I said with determination. "If it's to save his life, then I'll do anything."
I glanced at an uncertain Kevin. I felt as though he didn't agree with my decision to do the blood transfusion. I'm sure it wasn’t that he did not want me to save AJ’s life, but perhaps it was something concerning me, possibly he knew something that I didn’t know. “Oh well, whatever it was this is definitely not the right time to think about it,” I said to myself as a way to help me get rid of that doubts that the look on Kevin’s face managed to create within me. I glanced over at Dr. Poleski. “Where should I go?” I asked, hoping he will show me quickly so I could get away from Kevin and the fact that I now came to fear and hate him. “Laura will lead you to the room,” said Dr. Poleski. The nurse gave me a soft smile. I guess it was her way of letting me know that she was Laura. I followed her as quickly as I possibly could to AJ's room. ~*Kevin’s point of view*~ “Doctor, I think that there is something that I should point out to you. I am not sure how important it is, but I think I should inform you as a precaution,” I said in one breath, hoping to get the doctor’s attention, which is not an easy thing to do when you are in a large hospital such as this one and not only that, but are in the middle of an emergency.
“Well, from the tone in your voice, it seems as though it is a serious subject. Proceed Mr. Richardson.”
“Well my cousin had an open heart surgery about 3 years ago,” I said, sighing at the end to prepare myself for my next sentence, however the doctor cut me off.
“Well that was a long time ago, it shouldn’t be a problem unless he was instructed by his doctor not to get involved in any transfusions and such.”
“Yeah, that’s my point. Brian barely had enough blood to support his own self. The doctor said that his blood level will not be back in full motion until at least 5 years after the surgery,” I whispered as though I was afraid Brian might hear me. The only people who knew about this matter were Leighanne, may God bless her soul, and myself. We tried to keep it down, especially from Brian, because we knew he would take a bit too hard.
“Oh, I am very familiar with his case. We shouldn't let him go through with this because if he does, then he would be risking his life as well. And I am afraid that almost all the odds are against his survival,” Doctor Poleski said carefully and slowly. I took a step back. It felt like someone had just stabbed me with a sharp knife. Sure, I knew it was a very serious issue, but I just never bothered to find out just how serious it was. This is a nightmare! Here I am on the verge of loosing my friend, hell he’s not just my friend, he’s like a little brother and a son that I love and treasure dearly. And like that isn't enough, now I learn that there is a very good chance that I might loose my cousin, too! My own blood relative! I would be heartbroken to lose either of them. I couldn't lose them .
"Wait a minute....what if I can do it?" I looked up at the doctor with a look of hope.
"What is your blood type?" he asked as he looked up from Brian’s medical chart, glancing at me.
"A positive," I exclaimed in a hopeful, and almost hushed, whisper.
"Sorry, I am afraid that your blood type is not what’s needed."
"Hello? Am I misunderstanding this or is Kevin trying to stop me from going through with the blood transfusion!?" Brian yelled angrily, storming back into the room, trying to attract both my attention and the doctor’s attention. "Damn it, Kevin! Why can‘t you ever trust me? Why won’t you just accept the fact that I am an adult and I have the right to make my own decisions?" he exclaimed in frustration and landed his gaze on my crying self. “It's okay Kev, don’t worry I can do this. I'll be fine. I'm not going anywher,. I promise. I‘ll be here and I am still gonna take you to that Laker’s game that I owe you," he said in one breath, trying hard to fight the tears that were already starting to fill his eyes. ‘I wish that I could believe you...' I thought to myself before approaching my cousin. I didn't want to ever have to tell him this, but there was no other way. Brian has to know about the situation, he has to know the risks that he is going to take. He also has to know that I am not willing to let him kill himself.
"You can kill yourself, Brian Thomas Littrell, and I refuse to let you go through with it. I'll do it!" I slammed my fist down on the table to ensure my point was made clear. Everyone in the room drew silent as their eyes focused on me, with tears now streaming down my face. "We can't have another life lost," I said in a hushed whisper.
"You heard the doctor, Kevin, you don’t have the right blood type, so it’s only me."
"But, Brian, you can die if you go through this, Leigh and I kept..." I was stopped by Brian’s fingers being placed on my lips.
"Shh…Kev...I know all about my condition...you don’t need to tell me," he looked down then up with a fresh set of tears burning his eyelashes. “Oh I almost forgot," Brian said as he reached his hand in his pocket and took out 6 envelopes then looked back at me, "Here this one is for you, and the rest are for the guys you know AJ, Nick, Howie, and mama and papa. Would you deliver them please?" At that moment I could no longer hold myself together, this was my breaking moment. I was watching my cousin, the man I now came to think of as my brother, and in many cases my son, give away his life in order to save another so dear to him and me, slowly slip away into darkness and say his final goodbyes.
"Brian, please, we can’t have another life lost, please," I begged in a whisper as I felt my body collapse on the floor, my sobs growning louder.
"No, Kevin, I said I would do it and I am going to do exactly that. No matter what you say," Brian said firmly. Each word cut through me like a sharp knife My vision then became blurry and I could no longer fight the tears that were falling swiftly.
“He's determined,” was the last thing I heard myself say as tears fell down my cheeks. "Please God, don't take them from me…" was the last prayer that I muttered to the skies as everything turned black. ~*Brian's Point Of View*~ I rested my hand on Kevin's shoulder after they had gotten him off the floor. "I'm sorry cuz," I whispered softly to him. I recited just what I wrote in his letter to him, just wanting him to hear my voice one final time. "I'm sorry Cuz, but this is what I have to do. Leighanne and I are meant to forever be together. We will after this. I know that AJ will be heartbroken as well, but please, be strong for him as well as yourself. You're the only father he knows.." I paused as I started to cry softly. "He can't lose you, too. Be strong, Kevin Scott Richardson. You are so like your father and that is a gift. Use it. Don't get so lost in my passing that you forget who you are and what a good person you are. Please...never forget. I know I won't forget you. Uncle Jerald is up there waiting for me as well as Leighanne. I won't be alone and nor will you. Remember that. I love you, rememeber that, too. Be strong, the others will need your help....expecially Nick...I love you cousin. And I always will. Love, Brian Thomas Littrell." I hugged Kevin as I started bawling. I hugged the others and stopped in front of Nick. "Nick, please, don't forget the good times we had....playing basketball and beating the others so bad it wasn't funny, playing video games until 2 in the morning. Don't forget that. I'm not leaving you, I'll still be with you always. Just not the way you want me to be. I love you, you're my little brother and I'll always be there," I pointed up. "When you need me." I gave him another hug as he cried on my shoulder.
"I love you, B-rok..." Nick said as he fell into Howie's arms. I waved to them as I walked back into the room once again and said goodbye to the air I breathed in and the water I felt against my hot skin. As I said goodbye to all things that I would miss greatly, I slowly drifted away into the light. Slowly, painlessly.
"So many words, for the broken heart. It's hard to see, in a crimson love. So hard to breathe, walk with me and maybe. Nights of light, so soon become, Wild and free, I could feel the sun. You're every wish, will be done, they tell me..."