Here We Stand – Chapter Four

The Cruise – Brian

I was happy when Kevin first told me he wanted to come back.

It seemed like the old days at first, what few meetings we were having between the touring and the promotion and all the travel. I had almost forgotten what it was like to have a big arena tour like we had back in our Millennium days. It felt great. Maybe it wasn’t as personal, but there was something to the fact we seemed to be heading back to make our mark again. For now, it was simply a nostalgia tour. But, I was confident it would lead to bigger things.

Especially now that we were whole again.

That was how I was thinking.

Now, I was beginning to wish Kevin stayed out of the group. We weren’t those kids anymore than he had to keep under control. I know I tend to get hyper. I just love being in front of a crowd, seeing the joy on their faces light them up when they see us. I live for music, for performing. I think back to that fateful day when Kevin called me, and I can’t picture what I would’ve done with myself if that hadn’t ever happened.

So maybe I didn’t sound like I did back in the days where I could belt “One Last Cry” without missing a beat. Time happens. Age happens. Things change. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with my voice. I’ve just been tired. I still sound good though, I know I do! The others would’ve said something. Kevin’s just that anal and obsessive compulsive control freak when it comes to everything. He wants us to sound flawless. It’s nice to say but it doesn’t mean it’s possible. All we can do is sound our best.

We’d been fighting ever since that day he told me to look into a vocal coach.

A vocal coach, could you believe it?

The way I figured it, if I was as bad as Kevin said, someone would’ve told me before now.

“Brian?” I turned towards Leighanne who was sorting through some of her things. I felt bad for asking her to come on the cruise with me now. I’d forgotten we had a full charter which meant a lot less time to ourselves. Our fans were having a ball. You could see it on their faces anytime you passed them by. Part of me missed the relaxation of last year’s however. We only had half the boat, but it meant we only had to do each activity once. It was kind of like a working vacation, this time it’s just work. But I don’t mind, I love what we do.

“Brian?”

“Hmm?” I asked as I mentally kicked myself for spacing out again. Part of the problem was that it was the second day of the cruise, and that meant Kevin would be meeting with us here in Nassau. It was only 7:30 in the morning so we were due to dock soon. We only had once meeting since our blow out, and it wasn’t what I would call conductive. Howie was the one who had to keep the peace. That used to be his old role too, back in the day.

I guess a few things never did change.

“Are you alright?”

I nodded. No, they weren’t. I had to act like everything was okay today, that we were united. Then again, we hadn’t announced it yet. We had to make sure everything worked before declaring Kevin was back for good. Maybe it wouldn’t work. Wait, since when did I become the negative one? I usually left that to AJ.

“Then you should go find the others, we’re docking.” She reminded me, glancing out the window of our suite.

I walked out into the hallway and before I could blink I almost slammed into AJ. He was probably coming to get me. Backwards from how it usually was. Wow, this whole Kevin thing had me a bit out of sorts. But why shouldn’t I be? I was offended. I hated fighting, especially with family. And I know I couldn’t complain to anyone. Nick’s always had this bond with Kevin, and AJ idolized him. Where was Howie when I needed him?”

“Howie’s getting breakfast at the buffet with Nick.” AJ told me like he just read my mind.

“I don’t know how they can eat the food on here.” I really didn’t. For a cruise line, you would think the food would taste good. Nope!

“Howie eats anything, you know that. Nick…” He smirked. “If he’s hungry enough he doesn’t taste it. You alright Rok?”

I think AJ was the only one who still called me that. Most of our nicknames had been abandoned over the years. I can’t remember the last time Nick called me Frick, or I called him Frack. We’ve repaired a lot of the damage to our friendship over the past couple years after Kevin left, but we still couldn’t go back to that. No one called Howie “Sweet D” anymore, and “Bone” was a relic name of the 90’s. The relationships changed along with that I suppose.

“Yeah, just…nostalgic.”

“Or thinking all to hell cause you gotta deal with Kevin.”

Leave it to AJ to get right to the point.

We walked through the halls, security trailing behind us to keep the mob of fans from getting too close. That was the other bad thing about a full charter. There were a lot more fans and nowhere to hide. Some were really respectful. They kept their distance and perhaps just waved as they walked by. Like last night, at the 80’s deck party, I saw a fan dressed up in this great Michael Jackson Thriller costume, and her friend was done up as an 80’s zombie. All they did was wave and grin when I started singing and kept going to their room. Others would’ve mobbed me, or started screaming. I never did get the screaming thing. Like this one fan that’s constantly wearing a crown and seems to always be following one of us around the boat. I thought if I took a picture with her last night she’d stop. But I saw Q stop her out of the corner of my eye when I bumped into AJ.

I wonder, why she was wearing that anyway?

I’ll never understand some fans.

“You’re doing it again.”

“What?”

“Zoning out!” He rolled his eyes as we went down to the lowest floor and went through the checkpoint so that we could get to our shuttle. Thank the Lord no one else was allowed to disembark yet besides us! Howie and Nick were already waiting in the shuttle when we got in. Nick was typing into his laptop; I swear he carried that thing everywhere these days. Probably a song or something, he was doing that a lot lately.

“Brian…” Howie started, looking at me cautiously.

“We need to talk to you.” He nudged Nick, who looked up and definitely appeared like he wanted to be doing anything but having whatever conversation they were stepping into.

“Dude, Kevin was right before. We just were cowards and didn’t know how the hell to tell you.”

Nick still said nothing.

I had no idea what to say. I glared at AJ who was now trying to stare out the window. “You have no room to talk; your voice has been going bad thanks to your smoking habit.”

“But Brian…” Nick said, almost whispering. “You’re cracking more than you think.”

He hit something on his computer and then turned it towards me so I can see. It was our performance of “Don’t Turn Out The Lights” and “I Want It That Way” from Dancing With The Stars. I watched, and really listened for the first time. I could feel my face go red. I had no idea what to say. Maybe…maybe they were right. What was I going to do? Singing was my life. If my voice went, I’d have nothing. I even did these recordings for a mini-Christmas album with Leighanne that she was going to put up for sale the day after the cruise. She said I sounded great. Was she only telling me what I wanted to hear? I handed the computer back to Nick, and kept to myself the rest of the way.

I had no idea what to say. All I knew, was that I felt like an ass.

Also, for the record, try not to take a shuttle in the Bahamas.

I’m sure we almost died a good five times on the way there.

I spent most of the way praying we didn’t.

*****

After we sound checked that morning at the resort, I did my best to avoid them. Especially Kevin. I was never any good at admitting I was wrong. Even when I knew it was partly my fault Nick and I had gotten so distant, it took him approaching me first before I apologized for my share of it. I was a little stubborn, I had too much pride. We’d gone and taken little separate tours of the island, a way to relax and waste time before the fans showed up. That, and I think we all wanted space from each other, because of me. I felt guilty about that even though I did nothing to relieve it. Once we were inside the resort, we were still missing one. For the record, this was why we didn’t come out till long after the beach party was supposed to start. It was Nick’s fault for choosing that horrible driver. He was the one who decided to get in the taxi that was all dented and bent on one side! What was he thinking?

Oh right, that it would be “an adventure”.

Sometimes I think that boy is looking to get himself killed.

Basically it almost got into another accident and then got lost coming back here. Typical Backstreet chaos for you! But once we did finally make our way out there, and started the games, I felt myself ride the familiar rush that came with doing anything for our fans. It’s easy to forget any drama going on when you were able to be on that high. These were the ones who stuck it out, long after it became lame to like us anymore. They were the ones who were fans because they loved our music instead of because the media told them to. That’s what made things like this feel so good. It was why I loved being a singer.

It’s why it scared me so much, hearing that my voice was starting to deteriorate.

It wasn’t until after musical chairs, and the stage hands were setting things up for the three legged race that Kevin was able to come up to me. AJ, Howie, and Nick had all gone to eat and hide out in their tents. I couldn’t blame them, I wanted to eat but part of me just loved the attention. I braced myself for whatever my cousin had to say now. The mics were off, so we knew the fans wouldn’t be able to hear us above all their screaming. More than anything, they were thrilled to have Kevin back. He ended up signing autographs again and again for so many people that day; I could see how much he missed it.

“You know why I told you right?”

I glanced over him as he put his arm around me. “Because you don’t want to come back just to have me sound bad, right?”

He shook his head. “No, because I love you enough bro, that I had to be honest with you. I plan on the five of us being able to perform for a long time. I know how much you love it, love this, remember?”

Leave it to Kevin to make you feel so small, while feeling so good, at the same time.

Good to know he hadn’t lost his touch

*****

(Author’s Note – this chapter was partly inspired by the pics I took on the actual 2011 Cruise http://i48.tinypic.com/b4g9qw.jpg and http://i49.tinypic.com/hx2agl.jpg )

 

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