In my six short years with the Backstreet Boys I've noticed one thing
in particular.I don't know why this thing sticks out among everything
else that's always happening around us, but I notice it. Friends. Friends are the things one too many people take for granted. Lots of fans are always thanking me and the other four guys for bringing them back together with their best friend. They're always saying our music brought them together. I'm not sure how, but I guess it does. I just wish it could have been that easy for me and my best friend while we were growing up. Ashley was different. We met when we were just a little over five years old. At the place where a lot of little kids meet, the local park. She was nothing like I had ever met at the time.
She amazed me. "AJ." Ashley said calmly as she ran up my bedroom
stairs, "Bro, you got a audition in a half hour." "So what? We got enough time." I shrugged as I studied myself in the mirror. Ashley smirked, "AJ, it's a forty-five minute drive." I stopped messin around with my hair and turned to Ashley, "Don't mess with me like that girl." "I'm not messin." She laughed.
"Alex!" my mom yelled from the bottom of the stairs in our small two-bedroom home, "You are going to be so late!" "Girl! Why didn't you come get me sooner?" I yelled as I grabbed my leather jacket off the small wood chair in my room and raced down the hall. "What?" Ashley asked shocked as she followed, "Man, you should have all this under control yourself." I stopped in my tracks, right before the stairs, and turned to Ashley, "Ash, you know I couldn't do it without you." I said with a smile. "Yah right." She said as she rolled her eyes. "Well lets go, we're gonna be late." I said quickly as I slipped on my jacket and pulled on her arm. "Oh yah right, I'm not going with you again." She laughed. "Oh come on Ash!" I whined, "You gotta go. Please."
Ashley folded her arms over her chest and sighed, "AJ, why do I have
to be at every show you do." She sighed. "Cause, I always think of you as my good luck charm. Not only that, but you always do the set!" I said as I looked out the window where my mom was impatiently sitting in the car and honking the horn, "Common girl, you're holding up the show." "AJ, the sets fine. I had my mom drive me there last night to look at it." Ashley sighed. I dropped to my knees and grabbed Ashley's hand, "PLEASE!" I yelled as I kissed her hand.
"Get up you dork." She laughed as she pulled me up. "Alexander James McLean! I swear to God if you're not out here in ten seconds I'm gonna " my mom yelled with her head hanging out the driver's side of the car. "Alright mom." I laughed, "We're coming." I yelled as I looked at Ashley. "Oh fine! I'll go with!" she yelled as she stomped her foot. "Good. Lets go." I said as I raced to the front door, slipping on the woven rug on the way. "It's about time."
My mom said with a small laugh as we both jumped into the car, "Oh Ashley, it's good to see you coming with." She joked. My mom loved Ashley. Since I was her only child, she took Ashley as a daughter. I guess it worked out, cause my dad was gone and Ashley's dad took me as a son. Ashley's mom was gone, and my mom took her as a daughter. And me and Ashley were like brother and sister. Oh and of course, Ashley's older brother, Will, was like an older brother to me.
My mom, myself, and Ashley were on a way to a carnival that I was
doing a puppet show for. Little kids would probably throw rocks and God knows what, but I loved every minute of it. Ashley was always there to do what had to be done. She painted, designed, and built the set from scratch. She's probably the most talented person I've ever met. And when I would do sing and dance numbers, she would play the piano and choreograph the usually simple dance.
And she never took any credit for it. We arrived at the carnival
almost a hour late. Since I was the main show for the little kids, they didn't say anything that would make me mad, I just went to where I had to go and did my show. The kids laughed and yelled and everything that I had expected, but I guess that means they liked it. After the show my mom started to talk with some of the woman who had brought their kids to the show, so me and Ashley decided to go play some of the games. "Go AJ, go AJ." She sang as I threw a ball at a stack of bottles. They all fell and Ashley pumped her fist.
"Oh! Give it up for the king." I sang as the man at the booth handed me a little velvet box, "What? No big ol' bear or anything?" I joked. "Nope, sorry kid."
He smiled. I shrugged and started to walk away, I pulled out what was inside the box and carelessly threw it to the ground. "What is it?" Ashley asked as she ran next to me slurping her coke, "Whoa, that's pretty." She smiled as she looked at the gold chain with a small white diamond that rested in my hands. "It is isn't it?" I asked as I looked down at it, then I looked up at Ashley, "That's why I want you to have it." "No AJ, I couldn't take that."
She said as she shook her head, ponytail bouncing. "Yah, take it." I
smiled as I put my hand out, "It'll look nice on you." "Well I don't " "Turn around." I said simply. She sighed and did what she was told. I unclasped the necklace and placed it around her neck, "There." She looked down at the necklace than looked up at me and smiled, "Thanks AJ." "No problem." I smiled. It wasn't the most beautiful thing in the world, it was probably the cheapest thing in the world, but to a thirteen-year-old, it meant the world.
Excuse me. Alex?" An older woman asked as she approached me and
Ashley, "I just wanted to tell you my son Bobby loved your show, and that set was amazing." Ashley looked at me and smiled, I was about to open my mouth and tell the woman I didn't do it when she interrupted me, "I just wanted to tell you that you did a great job!" she kissed my cheek and slipped me a bill before jogging away. I turned to Ashley, "Why didn't you say anything?" I asked, "Why didn't you tell her you did the set?" Ashley looked down at the cup in her hands, "I don't know." She shrugged shyly, "I just think you deserve all the credit you can get anyway. I really didn't do anything."
"What are you talkin about?" I asked, "If it weren't for you there
would be no show." She looked up at me and smiled. Every once in awhile she needed that. She was always really shy since her mom left her and the rest of the family. Sometimes she just needed to be told that she was needed. By me.
"Here. We'll get this money she gave me split up and we'll spend it here."
I smiled as I looked down at the five-dollar bill in my hand. "Cool."
Ashley was always a shadow. She was always my shadow. It really must
have been cold back there. Not being in the light or anything, but she seemed to like it there. Maybe she felt safe. That summer flew by and I did tons of shows. Ashley was working her butt off at everyone too, but never once did she complain. Every once in awhile I would get really tired. I just wanted to give it up. But she would always sit me down "AJ, come on buddy." She smiled as she jogged backstage before a show where I would be singing in front of three hundred people. "Ash, I don't know if I can do this." I sighed as I put my head in my hands. "AJ, you never get stage fright." She said as she
sat down next to me, "You alright?" "Oh I don't know," I said as I looked up at her, "I just feel like I'm not going anywhere as a performer, you know. I'm always just doing little odd and end shows. I don't even know why I keep trying, I'm never gonna be anything special." "You're special to me." She said as she looked at me, "I don't know what I'd do without you." I looked at her and cracked a smile, "Really?" She smiled, "Yah. And AJ, I have complete faith that you'll make it huge someday. Just wait, you'll see." "Really? Huge?" "Huge." She smiled, "You'll sell millions of records and you'll
tour the world." "How do you know this?" I asked with a smile. "I don't know."
She shrugged as she looked off into nothing; "I just feel it." "Aright." I smiled as I jumped off of my seat, "Come on, we got a show to do." She smiled as she stood up, "You have a show to do." I looked back at her and smiled. I took her hand and squeezed it before jogging onto the stage. Every once in a while I would glance off to the corner of the backstage, and Ashley would be standing there, with her arms folded over her chest, and smiling. It would always make me smile because she looked like an angel standing there with the bright lights of the stage shining on her. It always made me feel secure, knowing if I screwed up, she'd do something to save me. As my song ended, the crowd stood up and applauded wildly. I guess they liked it. I looked back at Ashley and there she was, clapping her hands and smiling. I didn't know what I'd do without my angel there at every show, watching me and smiling.
Then the summer came once again and we were both fourteen. During the
winter Ashley would hang out with these kids that were a little older than we were.
Ok, a lot older, they were around sixteen and seventeen. Then a single summer night changed my life forever
It was really just a normal summer night. Nothing was different. Or so I thought. It was around midnight and I was lounging around my house, watching the tube when the phone rang. My mom picked it up and it was nothing in particular, I really thought nothing of it. Then my mom walked into the livingroom; she scared me at first. She was as white as a freshly painted wall, "Whoa mom, see a ghost?" I joked as I changed the channel on the TV.
"Alex." She choked out. I slowly looked up at her, something was
really wrong. There was an eternity of silence, I thought I was going to scream when I saw a tear streak down her face. "Mom! What?" I yelled as I threw my arms in the air."Ashley." Was all she said. "Ashley what?" I asked. As soon as I heard her name, I flew off the couch. "Ashley was in a car accident."
My mom said quickly as tears were now streaming down both sides of her face. "Oh my God!" I shrieked as I ran to the door, "Come on what are you waiting for? We gotta go see her!" I yelled as I held the front door open. "Alex baby, she didn't make it." My mom said. I could see the hurt in her eyes and I could hear it tearing apart my heart. I couldn't believe it. I must have looked as shocked as I was because my mom noticed. I just stood there with my hand on the knob. I just stared at it. So many thoughts were running through my head.
Every moment the two of us had shared together raced through my head
at an alarming pace. I felt sick to my stomach as my mother walked up behind me and put her hands on my shoulders, "She was out with some kids that had a car. I guess they were drinking and ran into a tree. None of them had seatbelts on and " "Don't." I said quickly as I looked into my mom's eyes, I just didn't need to hear it at that moment in time. "Sweetheart," she said as calmly as she could. "Mom, Ashley's dead?" I asked. I knew the answer, I was just hoping it was a bad dream and I would wake up. But I didn't. My mom nodded her head as more tears ran down her face. I wrapped my arms around my mom and cried for what felt like forever The funeral was three days later. It was easily the most horrible experience of my life. To this day I would rather die than live it again. People were always hugging me and telling me everything would be alright. The day before Ashley's dad called me and told me everything that had happened. Or what the police told him had happened anyway. As it turns out. She was with two guys and another girl. They all got drunk except for Ashley; she didn't even have a sip. The driver of the car swore he could drive alright and on the way to Ashley's house, he slammed into a tree. Ashley was the only one that died. The other three got away with barely a scratch. To this day it makes me so mad when I even just
think about it. It's so not fare. She shouldn't have died. She did nothing wrong nothing.
After the funeral service, her eighteen year old brother, Will, came
up to me with tears in his eyes, "AJ." He said quietly as he approached. I couldn't talk. Cause I knew if I did my voice would shake and I'd look stupid. If I could do it all over again, I would have cried my eyes out. "Ashley, uh, she told me not too long ago that if anything ever happened to her, she wants you to have this." He said as he slipped something into my hand. I looked down into my hand and there sat the necklace I had given her the summer before.
"If it makes you feel any better, she never took it off. Ever." Will
said as he looked into my eyes, maybe he saw some of her in me. I looked down at the necklace then over at the black casket across the room. "She really loved you AJ." Will said simply as he stepped back, "I would give my life for he to have felt the same way about me." And with that, he walked away.I look back down at the necklace before unclasping it and wrapping it around my neck, I slipped in under my dress shirt and to this day, it's always under my shirt.
Now as you all know, I'm a Backstreet Boy. Somehow she knew one day
I'd sell lots of records and tour the world, with the other guys of course. But somehow she knew, and she never let me give up. To this day that energy she gave me, that hope that I would someday live my dream, is still very much alive in me. And that will never ever die. Every once in awhile me and the other guys will be on stage, and I'll glance backstage, and sometimes I swear I see her, arms folded over her chest and smiling. Back then I just thought she looked like an angel, I guess now, she really is.