Falling Down

Falling Down

I didn’t want to talk about it.

When I first learned about my sister, all I wanted to do was shut down.

It came with a phone call from Aaron. He’d been calling for hours apparently, but I had no way of knowing. I’d been performing that night Charleston, doing soundcheck before that. It’d been a long and busy day. I was loving life. I was performing solo with songs I wrote and put my heart and soul into. I had Lauren traveling with me, and I’d just turned thirty-two. I was in the best shape of my life. The NKOTBSB was going to resume soon for our dates overseas. Kevin was officially back – we just couldn’t tell anyone yet.

I was on top of the world.

Until I got the phone call.

I barely understood Aaron, he’d been crying hysterically over the phone. I had to have him repeat it when I finally got what he was trying to tell me. The words just didn’t register with me. Not Leslie. Not Leslie. Not the little sister that reminded me so much of myself. I know fans called Aaron my mini-me, but really, it was Leslie.

She had my temper, she looked just like me, and she had the same issues.

I wish we’d been closer.

I didn’t know what to do. What could I do? Lauren had rushed to my side, asking if I was okay. I don’t remember what I said to her. To be honest, I can’t remember much of that night. The next morning, I had Lauren make the calls to cancel the next show. I didn’t know what I was going to do. But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to perform. Not at that moment.

People asked me if I was going to cancel the tour, and I told them no.

I know to many it looked heartless. Especially when Aaron left his Broadway show that week because of it. I didn’t care what they thought. That day’s show was too much for me to handle. But the rest? They would be what kept me sane. Music was my biggest therapy. It’s all I’ve ever known. I knew I would be burying myself in it to survive the pain. Leslie always understood that. She loved music, lived it. For a while, our mother ruined that for her in her attempts to turn Leslie into the next me. But once she got older she performed music her way. I couldn’t have been prouder. Maybe she wasn’t successful by the media’s standards, but she was doing what she loved and she was happy doing it. That’s all that mattered to me.

After House of Carters she pushed us all away again. I should’ve seen the signs. I missed so many. Out of all of us, I should’ve known them the best. Between my own problems, and seeing what AJ went through, I know I should’ve seen Leslie’s. That’s the real reason I didn’t go to her funeral. Because my mother called me that day and confirmed my own guilt.

“If you had just been there instead of abandoning this family, it never would’ve happened!”

I wasn’t welcome.

So for Leslie, I stayed away. She didn’t deserve another episode of “Carter Chaos” at her grave.

That night, I find myself approaching her grave. No one was there. I knew I had to get ready. I couldn’t stay in New York much longer. Tomorrow I had another performance in Boston. I flew out here straight from Philadelphia even though I’d had no plans to go to the funeral. I shouldn’t have told the truth to the press but part of me was angry. Angry at my mother who’d done nothing but slowly destroy this family and then blame me because I got sick of being her personal ATM. Angry at myself for not seeing her destroy herself.

No one even told me she had a problem.

I should’ve seen the signs. The way she tried so hard to keep away from us. Her body language, the way she’d talk about things or avoid topics. The others knew, she was trying to stay sober, Angel told me. I was the one who hadn’t even been told she had an addiction problem. I would’ve sent her to rehab. Instead I was kept in the dark, and believed what I was told. She seemed so happy finally. She had this beautiful little girl, one she vowed to raise the way none of us had been. She was so pretty, and I hated she’d never get to know her mother, the way I knew her. Alyssa Jane…Leslie hated the way I called her AJ when I first heard the name.

I only wish we’d been closer.

I sat down on the soft grass and didn’t care that it was getting my pants wet. I ran my hands along the tombstone, feeling the letters that spelled my sister’s name, her birth, and her death. I wanted to break the thing. It didn’t say what kind of life she lived. It didn’t say the kind of person she was. If people see this and didn’t know her, this wouldn’t tell them anything.

“Leslie…I’m sorry.”

Part of me felt stupid, talking to a tombstone.

“I’m sorry I failed you. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when I should’ve been.” My face felt wet and some part of me acknowledged it but I didn’t wipe the tears away. This was going to be my moment to get it out without anyone seeing. “I’m sorry we stopped talking, and only started again when AJ was born…I…”

“Haven’t you learned yet that not everything is your fault?”

I jumped out of my damn skin almost. Angel stepped up from behind me, looking down from where she stood at our sister’s grave. She held out her hand and helped me up, pulling me into a hug. Out of everyone, I was always the closest to Angel. Funny how the youngest of us seemed to be the one who actually had her shit together before the rest of us. Maybe because she was the one who didn’t really try to be famous.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself.” She smiled up at me. “I knew you’d be here. I’m sorry you couldn’t come to the funeral. Aaron’s mad but…I think BJ understood.”

“Mom was right. It’s my job to protect you guys and…”

“No Nick, it was their job. Not yours. And I know if Leslie was here, she’d tell you to stop being stupid.”

I stared up at the stars. Was she up there now? Watching us? Did she know how much I missed her?

“Why didn’t I see what was going on?”

“What, are you omniscient now? I mean it. She’d tell you this wasn’t your fault.”

Would she? I wasn’t sure.

All I knew, was how sorry I was that I couldn’t stop it from happening.

I only wished that was enough. That it could bring her back.

I’m sorry I couldn’t save you Leslie.

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