|| chapter 8 ||

The next week - during rehearsals....

After the day at the restaurant, Nick locked himself in his room. He kept to himself. Mandy was never there to ease his pain either. He always looked so tired and stressed out at practice but he never said a word to any of us. Just worked his ass off and kept going. Mandy was still Mandy. She was always calling her ex Josh and they would talk for hours. She didn't care about Nick anymore. Throughout all of it, Nick still couldn't see that she was cheating on him. He separated himself away from the group but always kept a close eye on everyone during rehearsals. That was another story. It was Wednesday afternoon and it was around three and we were there learning the moves to 'Larger Than Life.' Considering there were 10 of us plus backups there was a lot of commotion going on. Fatima put us straight to work but we didn't mind because she was nice and easygoing. It was fun during rehearsals. There we were all 10 of us sitting there taking a break and Fatima came back into the room. We figured she'd tell us to get back to work but instead she told us something we've waited for awhile to hear.

"Looks like I've got a family emergency guys. Practice is done for the day. Be here at 8 sharp tomorrow though."

"All right! Off for the day! Whoo-hoo!"

"Don't get so excited bone. We have to work extra hard tomorrow."

"He's right you know. So I'd get a good night's sleep. I really have to go now. See you guys!"

"Bye Tima! Hope everything's alright!"

"Thanks Hun! Night!"

"So guys what does everyone want to do tonight?"

"I really don't care. I just wanna do something." Nessa answered.

"Yeah me too." I agreed.

"Why don't we pull out some movies, grab a whole bunch of junk food and pig out for the night? For time's sake?" Howie suggested.

"Sure. I'd love the idea. We haven't done that for awhile!"

"So who's in?" Brian asked counting hands.

"I'm in."

"I'll come."

In the end it was me, Brian, Tina, Howie and Jenni who were going to hang out. While AJ, Vanessa, and Amanda went out and shop. And Kevin and his fiancee Kristen went to spend some time alone together. Just the two of 'em.

"Do you think I should invite Nick?"

"You can if you want but I don't think he'll come join us."

"I miss the poor kid. He never says a word during practice and once practice is over he's off in his little world again."

"We all miss him Howie but he'll come back to us one day."

"I'm gonna go ask him anyway. I'll be right back guys. By the way who's room are we going in?"

"Yours."

"Okay, cool with me just as long as you guys help clean up."

"Sure...whatever..."

"See you in a few Mel."

"Uh-huh" I said walking to Nick's room. On the way to his room I heard voices around the corner. I turned and saw Mandy there with another guy. She was up and all over him. Then she started kissing him. 'I wish I had a camera with me' I thought as I saw the two walk away. She didn't even noticed that I was standing there. As I continued my journey to his room, I tried to push the thought of Mandy and the guy out of my head. I was about to knock on the door when Nick came out and almost collided into me.

"Nick....hi."

"I'm so sorry Mel. I didn't see you there."

"Oh it's alright."

"So what's up?"

"Look, I know we haven't talked for a while but I've missed you so much over the past week or so. Me and some others are getting together tonight to hang out. I was kinda hoping that you would come." I finished with a small smile.

"I'm sorry. I'd love to come but I have other business to do."

"I'm sorry to hear that." I said trying not to sound disappointed.

"Now if you excuse me I have to go find my girlfriend."

"You won't be able to do that Nick."

"Why not?"

"I just saw her walk of with some guy."

"Oh him. That's her cousin."

"You're telling me that she kisses him every time she sees him?"

"Look, I don't know what your problem is but I'm so tired of this shit." He was about to walk away when I pulled him back.

"Can you let go of my arm?"

"No Nick. Please don't do this. You're not gonna find her. I've missed you over the past week and a half. You were so distant from us but you kept watching me. You really scared me. I kept thinking that you're some kind of stalker or something. The others and I miss you and we want you back in our lives. You are so much better off without her Nick." I stopped to let him say something. But when he didn't I slumped to the floor and continued. "On my way up here, I heard voices up by the elevator. I went to find out who it was and I saw Mandy and her 'cousin'. She was all over him and then she started kissing him. I wish that I had a camera with me. Before I knew what was happening I saw them walk out of here hand-in-hand." By that time Nick had joined me on the floor.

"Nick you have to do something about her. She's no good. I can't stand seeing you this sad and so stressed out. You were so happy before she came along. Why can't you be that happy again? It hurts me so much to see you a bimbo like her."

"Let me ask you something."

"Ask me anything."

"Why do you and the others hate her so much?"

"Because she's using you to get money and the stuff that she yearns for. We don't want to lose you to her Nick. I don't want that to happen. I love you too much to see that happen."

"You're sweet Mel. But I can't take your word for it. It can't be true. If she loves me like she said she does then this isn't happening."

"Nick?"

"Hmm..?"

"If what I'm telling you is true will you leave her?"

"In a heartbeat."

"You would?"

"Uh-huh. I can't be with someone like that."

"But you said you loved her!"

"It doesn't matter. If she doesn't love me than I have no feelings for her."

"You would really do that?"

"Yeah."

Before I could say anything else I saw Jenni and Tina running towards us.

"Slow down guys! What's the rush?"

"Nick, you've got to read this. I think it was apart of a messed up letter or a diary entry or something but I found it on the floor. It's in Mandy's handwriting and I think you should read it."

Nick reluctantly took the papers from her and began reading it aloud.

June 17th, 2000

Dear Mom,

How are things are home? Things here are good. Nick and I have been closer than ever. He has been getting me a lot of the stuff I wanted. He's sweet but yet so gullible. After I get all that I've ever wanted, I'm done with him. You've seen him before. He's so boring. All he does is sleep and play his nintendo. What about me? I can't take it anymore but that's the least of my problems right now. Brian and the new dancers are onto me. They found me with Josh and they're trying to break me and Nick up. I cannot let that happen. Nick's all I have and without him in my life I have no career. What am I suppose to do? Help me here! I'll call you real soon. I promise.

Love,

Mandy

"So it's all true! Like you guys said."

"I hate to say this but we told you so!" Tina said.

"Teens, don't rub it in."

"Sorry Nick. Come on Jenni, let's go break the news to the guys. Don't worry Nick. We won't tell Mandy. You can break the news to her yourself okay?"

"Thanks guys. I'll be right down there."

"Okay. See you." Tina and Jenni said in unison.

"Are you going to be okay Nick?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine. But I can't believe she would do something like this. I gave her my life and my heart and all she did was took advantage of me."

"I'm really sorry Nick. If you ever need me I'll be here for you okay? Don't worry, you'll find someone else and I promise you that things will work out."

"Forgive me for treating you like crap?"

"Of course. I can't stay mad at you forever."

"Thanks sweetie. C'mon let's go find Mandy and tell her the good news!"

"Sure Nick anything you want."