Written By Special Guest Author Becca O.
Howie’s office was empty when he returned, and for just a moment he feared the worst. He was about to head back out the door when the door to his bathroom opened, and Nick emerged, shoeless and shirtless, with a drier towel wrapped around his shoulders.
“You thought I’d bailed.”
“Don’t sweat it, D. I can’t say as I blame you.” Nick was still quite inebriated, but his temper had cooled, leaving Howie to wonder just what to say.
“I made coffee, and there’s some soup heating up.” He watched Nick take a sip of the strong, black coffee and winced when Nick burned his tongue. “It’s-”
“Hot. No shit. I figured that part out.” Nick sighed, and Howie decided the only way to get answers was to ask questions.
“What’s going on Nick?”
Nick was silent. Avoiding the question? Thinking? Howie wasn’t sure.
“I heard what you said to Becca tonight.”
“What? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Sarah and I called her. You were … on your way out, Nick. Becca answered the phone and we heard what you said.”
Nick blushed and turned his head. “You had no right listening.”
“Nick, it’s not like we had any choice. Look, we just want to help.”
“I don’t want your help.”
“No, I suppose not. You’re doing a great job of screwing things up all by yourself.” If he’d hoped to get a rise out Nick, he was about to be disappointed.
“Yeah, I am.”
“Nick, come on, you know what I mean. You drop out of sight, you refuse to talk to any of us, you go and get yourself arrested- Jesus, Nick. Talk to me. Please?”
“It’s all so messed up, Howie.” Nick sniffed as his eyes spilled over once again.
“I’ve got all night, Nick, why don’t you start at the beginning.”
Once he started to talk, it all poured out of him.
“I thought it was going to be great. The tour was finally over, and we could come home, like we wanted. Bec and I could spend time together, do stuff and be a family.”
“I’m so screwed up, Howie.” Nick set his mug on the side table and began to pace.
“I guess … I don’t know how to do this. I’ve messed up everything.”
“I don’t follow you, Nick. What have you messed up?”
“I just … I suck at this. My marriage is a joke, I can’t even be a good parent to GT.”
“I think you’re being too hard on yourself.”
“No, I’m not. I can’t do this. I can’t sit home and be ‘Mister Dad’. I lasted two fucking weeks before I was crawling the walls.”
“What did Becca say when you told her?”
“Nick, come on, surely she understands how you feel.”
“She said nothing because I didn’t tell her.”
Howie sighed. “Nick-”
“Look at her, Howie. She’s happy. She’s in her element, man. She dotes on GT, she has his room all decorated, the house is spotless and she has a hot meal on the table every night.”
Laughing, Howie leaned back and relaxed. This was all there was to it? Piece of cake. “Nicky, you’re living every man’s fantasy.”
“I thought so too. But then she started getting calls to come back to work.”
“You encouraged her Nick, I remember that.”
“Yeah, D, I did. I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t know why I feel like this and I don’t LIKE feeling like this.”
“So you go out drinking with your old buddies?”
“That’s not how it is!”
“Nick, you were with them the night you got arrested.”
“So suddenly it all adds up, right?” Nick was disgusted. No one understood, no one knew how it was. They had all just put two and two together and come up with a very wrong answer. “I know Bec loves her work, and she’s damn good at what she does. I don’t even mind watching GT while she’s gone.”
“Nick, you’ve totally lost me.”
“See? I told you I was screwed up. I’m hungry.” And with that, he walked out the door and headed for the Tabu kitchen.
“God above, it’s like talking to Jesse,” Howie mumbled, picking up their mugs and following Nick down the stairs.
“Y’see …” In the kitchen, Nick was ladling soup into a bowl and picked up right where he’d left off.
“I know what it’s like to enjoy your work. I love performing, and recording …”
Maybe this was the problem? “Speaking of recording, how’s the cd coming?”
“You really care?” he snorted. “If you do, then you’re the only one.”
“Nick, come on-”
“No. You didn’t hear the things Brian said to me. You didn’t see the look on Kevin’s face when I told him what I wanted to do.”
“Nick that’s not fair.”
“Oh? Then what part of ‘you’re betraying the group’ IS fair? Brian said that to me, Howie. Point blank.”
“You know how Brian is.” Howie was quickly running out of excuses.
“That hurt me, Howie. You have no damn idea how much that hurt me. I have given ten years, almost half my life, to this group. And what happens the first time I want to go out and do something? Something for me? I don’t wanta take a break, Howie. I want to sing. I HAVE to sing. It’s what I do. I love my family, I do. But if I‘m not singing, I’m not ‘me’. And nobody seems to get that.”
The soup he’d fixed for himself was looking more unappealing by the second. Finally, unable to stomach even a spoonful, he dumped it out in disgust.
“You need to eat.”
“Go home to your wife, Howie. I already have one and you don’t need to stand in for her.”
“Damnit Nick.” He was the most frustrating, irritating man alive and if Howie didn’t care so much, he’d toss his ass out. There had to be something he could say to get through to him. “Come sit down. You need to calm down before I take you home.”
“Home? Why should I go home? I’m not needed there.”
Howie was speechless. There was no way to respond to this, no way at all.
Nick continued. “Becca has her work, she has the baby, she has-”
“What about the Foundation? You could help her with the Foundation. Sarah says it’s going really well.”
“The Foundation? Fuck the foundation. She certainly doesn’t need me there.”
“Andrew has taken care of the foundation, Howie.”
Howie sat in shocked silence as Nick relayed the details of their meeting with Robert Callahan. He listened as Nick explained the financial ramifications of Becca’s inheritance, and as he listened he paid even closer attention to what Nick wasn’t saying.
“So to celebrate Becca’s newfound fortune, you went to a club in Tampa and got ripped. Smooth move.”
“Thanks, D, I always knew I could count on you to be Captain Obvious.”
“So what really happened?”
“At the club? Exactly what you heard. The cops said clear out and I refused to go. Smart, huh?”
“Yep. Why?” Nick was dim sometimes, but he wasn’t dim enough to blatantly ignore the law, at least not without reason.
“There was this girl…” Nick realized how it sounded and immediately backtracked. “She was with one of the other guys, Howie. Shit man, I’m an ass, but I’d never cheat on Becca.”
“There was this drunk guy, well, you know, drunker than I was, and he was messing with her. I just wanted to help her out. I almost had her, too, and then the cops came in and started throwin’ people out.”
“Nick, did you tell anyone about this?” Nick’s silence was answer enough. “It would have made a difference, Nick. Becca doesn’t know either, does she?”
“No, and you’re not going to tell her.”
“That’s right. YOU are, just as soon as I drive you home. You’re an idiot, Carter. You have everything a man could ever want; a home, a beautiful family, talent … and you let your petty jealousy and fucking pride nearly destroy it all.”
“I’m not jealous! Andrew was an ass.”
“And he’s dead, Nick. He can’t do anything to Becca OR you anymore. He died a horrible death Nick, and even dead he turned it around and has tried to make amends for things. Tell me something. Has Becca used the money for anything?”
“A car … a shopping spree … anything.”
“No, it’s all tied up in the foundation.”
“The foundation? You mean the one that helps runaways and kids with AIDS? The one that pays for educational materials for schools all over the country? That one?”
Nick had the grace to look chagrined. “Yeah,” he whispered. “That one.”
“Nick, I love you like a brother, but damn you’re stupid sometimes. It was a year ago, a YEAR ago, that you let Andrew drive a wedge between you and Becca and you nearly lost her. She came back to you once, Nick. What are the chances that she’ll come back to you again if you let Andrew come between you like this again?” He let his words sink in before delivering his final comment. “Do you really want to take that chance?”
Nick stood silently, his shoulders drooping and his head bowed.
“Take me home, Howie. I’ll have Becca drive me back tomorrow to get my Jeep.”
Chapter 13 Index