Remember Me This Way – Chapter Nine

He was surrounded; it felt like there was no escape. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

“Nick!”

“Nick!”

“Nick!”

“Nick!”

And he didn’t want one either.

The mob of screaming girls sent a traditional thrill down his spine as he signed autographs outside the venue. There was always that feeling of shock, that so many loved him for the music he helped create. Despite what so many thought, he never once, took that for granted. Especially now. It always amused him that a signature could make people so happy, and he never really got how that whole thing got started long before his time. Finally, security came, ushering him on towards the tour bus that was waiting for him. The others were already ready to leave.

“Sorry guys, we got a long drive tonight so Nick’s got get going.”

“NICK I LOVE YOU!”

Nick beamed, blowing the mass of primarily female fans kisses as he boarded the bus. “I love you guys too! Peace!”

Peeking out the window, he waved to his fans happily. As the bus began to move, he turned to his laptop, waiting faithfully upon the table in the kitchen. It’d been a couple months since his tearful confession to the man who was in essence his big brother, and all in all the fight to make everything still seem normal was going well.

However, since Leighanne and Baylee weren’t due to join the tour for another ten tour dates; Brian had been sharing a bus with Nick. It seemed he wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Rather than debate it, Nick simply let him. It seemed more normal if he didn’t fight it, or so went his line of logic. He couldn’t wait for Baylee and Leighanne to join them though. Not only would it get Brian to finally use his own bus, but then he’d be able to bond again with his favorite pseudo nephew. He hadn’t done it as recently as he’d have liked and wanted to hang out with him again. Hanging out with the kids, who saw so much more with Nick but said far less about it was a great way to help Nick feel like himself again. To make him feel less like damaged goods and more like a person.

Nick sighed, checking his email.

You Have 1 New Message

Clicking his way through, a smile appeared. It was from Kevin.

Little Man,

I thought I’d drop a line to see how you’re doing. I do keep up on the internet, and while you look happy, I know you well enough to know that may be a complete act for the fans. I won’t break my word and tell the fellas. But you do need to tell them. Brian’s less suspicious but he still hasn’t given up and keeps wondering why I did. Am I really that anal and stubborn? I’ll see if I can’t stop at one of the shows. Keep me up to date on how you’re doing. And make sure to let your family know soon. You can’t hide forever, and I bet you could use us. Don’t shut everyone out and only let me in cause I’m not with you everyday.

Worried as always,

Kev

“Whatcha up to Nick?” He quickly closed out the email, bringing up Google instead just for a cover. Brian was walking up to him as the bus moved further and further from the mass of still screaming fans.

“Not much, just bored, we’ve got an all night ride right?”

Brian nodded. “Yeah, down to Ohio. I mentioned it this morning.”

He shrugged. “After awhile it blends.” Nick grinned. “I brought my Wii 3.0 on the bus, wanna go play it? I’ve got the new Mario Kart…”

“No thanks. You’ve been acting weird.”

“I’m always weird.”

“Don’t you have that call in radio interview to do in an hour?”

“Shit, I forgot.” Get used to saying that Nick.

He nodded, going back to his bunk, his cell phone in hand. The distance between him and Brian was growing at a rapid pace. Guilt filled him, but it was for the greater good. He’d fix it, somehow. For now, he had to prepare lines for whatever questions the DJ had for him. Nick was never a fan of radio interviews, and liked call in ones even less. Especially lately. He ended up simply feeling like a liar more than ever. He surfed the net though his beloved Blackberry, newly upgraded just a few months before. Back when the shallow life was more appealing in comparison to now. He clicked back into Kevin’s email, feeling safer to do so now.

Bushy Brow Man,

Before you get mad at that, admit it, you always loved that nickname! I’ll tell them. There’s just things I gotta do first. I’ma try to record my solo album during the tour. I gotta recording session planned first day off we got. Tell Brian something, anything, to make him think I ain’t acting weird. If I say it, he’ll never go for it. I feel like shit lying but…fuck do I gotta choice? They can’t know yet. I’m aight…as aight as I can be with my brain rotting all to hell. I sound bitter…and I am.

Thanks Big Bro,

Your fave annoying blonde

He lay back, sending it away. The email didn’t say what it needed to. It didn’t show the fear that kept building each day. It showed that he was angry, but anger was safer. Anger was expected from him, he knew. Nick drummed his fingers along his bed, wondering how he’d ever tell anyone else. The Boys. His Family. The Fans. The World. It all seemed so dark, and frightening. Part of him wanted to play along with the idea that if he ignored it, it could go away. Turning over in his bunk, he reached under his bed, pulling out his prescription bottle.

He read the label he’s seen a thousand times: Exelon. It was supposed to be the most successful drug treatment to date, able to help delay the inevitable. It also gave Nick the urge to vomit for the first few weeks he started taking it, forcing him to fake a bout with the flu. Now he’d adjusted, no longer vomiting. Still, he didn’t feel as hungry anymore, and the weight was dropping as a result.

A smirk appeared as a thought flittered through his mind. Maybe I’ll have to fight to actually gain weight. Fuck you irony.

The phone rang, and he checked his watch. It was time to sell the lies he told. Taking a deep breath, he answered, readying himself to sound as upbeat as possible. It used to be something so easy for him. Not now.

“This is XL 106.7 and tonight we have Nick Carter on the line, of the Backstreet Boys!”

“Hi, yep this is Nick Carter…in the flesh…sort of. Can you be in the flesh on the line? Really though, it’s great to be on tonight, only wish I was there to do this in person.”

Nothing was easy for Nick anymore.

****

There, sometimes you gotta crawl
Before you start to walk…
I’ve been there, I’ve had my rainy days
You try to keep a smile, you go the extra mile
You run the race no matter where you plaaaaace
You know which way to go, so turn the page

Everybody falls, everybody cries
Everybody feels like a nobody sometimes
You get up again, and give it one more try
Everybody’s got what it takes on the inside (on the insiiiiiiide!)
Story of your life…
Story of your life…
It’s the story of my life

It’s hard to be strong when right seems wrong
And nobody hears what you say
So don’t be afraid, hold on to your faith,
I swear to you there will be better daaaaaaays….

Nick pulled off the headphones he wore, signaling the man at the boards to cut the track. He sighed, catching his breath. Frustrated, he ran a hand through his hair, almost wanting to tear it out. It was getting a bit long anyway, falling into his eyes and creating a golden curtain impeding his vision. The fans loved it that way, maybe he should keep it like that.

“Cut the track man.”

“Is there a problem Nick?” The producer, Mike, asked. He wasn’t one of the well known hit making producers, but Nick figured he would be soon. He’d stumbled him by accident, simply through his now ex-friend, Myron who was known to Nick’s more dedicated fans as “MBA”. The two had hooked up to work on Myron’s record as he wanted to break into rap. Nick had tried helping in the past, but it’d been simply the genre of music he had no influence in. Mike soon learned Myron wanted a way to steal the beats Nick had been creating on his computer but hadn’t actually used. Nick cut all ties with Myron, and formed a good bond with the talented producer.

“Yeah, can we try that bridge again? It didn’t feel right.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks for flying out here man, I mean it.”

“No problem, you’re paying my rent dude.” Mike joked. He wasn’t what one expected when people thought of pop producers. Black, thick eighties glasses sat upon his freckled nose. He had a head of sandy colored hair that went every which way, and brown, almost black eyes made to look bigger through the glasses. He wasn’t a tall man, shorter than Brian even at only five feet, two inches, and a wiry frame. It matched his random personality in the end. His clothes were patched pants, a ripped Led Zeppelin shirt, and a fedora. Nick always thought of him as an AJ and Brian hybrid.

“Aight…playback!”

The track started once more. It was once a song the group recorded, though discarded during their “Unbreakable” recordings. The others had written it, Brian, Howie and AJ. Nick, that day had been at the checkup he once thought would change his life in a way nothing else ever would, due to his cardiomyopathy diagnosis. How wrong that logic had been. He’d always loved the song, but had no reason to revisit it. Till now.

It’s hard to be strong when right seems wrong
And nobody hears what you say
So don’t be afraid, hold on to your faith,
I swear to you there will be better daaaaaaays….
I swear to you…I sweaaaaaaa-aiiiiiiiiiiiirrrr!

“No…no…no, cut it Mike!”

“What’s wrong?”

What isn’t? “I ain’t sure…” Nick sat the headphones on the stool within the recording booth. He suppressed the urge to kick it. It was all about the anger control these days. “Give me a second, I’ll be back.”

His phone rang as he watched the sun begin to set. He was in Cincinnati, on one of their rare days off. They had another tomorrow, before their show the day after, so he took the chance to try and get the solo record started. Tomorrow, he had something else planned that Nick figured would get in the way of any recording. He hadn’t told the others, unsure of how they’d feel about it since the original plan was to start bouncing around thoughts for the next album during the tour. Nick sighed as he leaned against the wall, opening his phone to answer.

“Hello?”

“Hey man, where are ya?”

“AJ?”

“Yeah, you vanished on us this morning before anyone was up to notice and no one’s seen you all day. I think you’re gonna give Brian a hernia dude.” AJ snickered.

“That’s what he gets for trying to act like Kevin.” His tongue ran slowly along his lips as he thought about his words carefully. “I’m in a recording studio. Call it random inspiration, I ain’t doing anything fucking crazy.”

“Solo shit?”

“Yeah, you sound shocked.”

“I am, I thought you were cool with it waiting awhile.”

“I ain’t anymore. Look I gotta go, I’ll be back at the hotel later.” Nick clicked the phone shut. At least that was honest. That was when he realized his problem. When he was singing the song, he wasn’t singing it honestly. He wasn’t letting everything go into it. In trying to sound happy, like he wanted everyone to believe, he was lying in the one thing he shouldn’t be lying in. His music. Nick walked back inside, with a soft smile set upon his face.

At least for the moment, he could be honest.

***

“This is the first time I’ve had to travel for a patient.”

Nick smirked at Dr. Julewis, who was pushing a stray brown lock out of her eyes. The two were in a small coffee house, almost completely empty with the exception of a lone female writer on the other side of the room. The place was styled like a cozy cottage, giving an at home feeling Nick never experienced in his own places of residence at anytime during his life. Nick had tried to find the most out of the way place possible, in an attempt to keep the therapy sessions hidden. So many secrets, so little time to try and hide them. “Yeah well, I’m a bit of a problem; you should just pass me along to someone else.”

“Oh no Mr. Carter, you’re hard enough to track down. And honestly, a challenge can be fun.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever.” He sipped his coffee. He’d always been a coffee addict, but was drinking even more when he saw some article on the internet that said coffee could help with Alzheimer’s. Would it work? Who knew? But why not try it anyway, he figured.

“So, I see you’re coping with your depression well since you started touring. You’re more upbeat, and you seem to have hit the stage of acceptance in some form.”

“Do I got a fucking choice in that?”

She smirked. “You’re still stuck in the anger stage however.” The smirk softened into a smile. “You would probably feel less angry if you reached out to someone who’s with you. I know you said in our last session you told Kevin, but did you tell him because you wanted him, or because he’s safe?”

He rolled his eyes. “I told him cause I wanted to. Kev…well he has this way of making you tell him everything without even trying.”

“He’s not there to look at you differently though, to treat you differently than before. You think that may be a factor?”

“Maybe, what of it?” He spat back, leaning back in his cozy armchair. “I need time, there’s shit I gotta do before I tell anyone. I need them to see me the same old way till then.”

“But Nick, you’re not the same person anymore, this changed you. Not just with the memory, I mean as a person. You’ve told me so yourself. You think no one will notice?”

Nick sighed, setting his mug aside. “They won’t. I won’t let them.”

“So you’ll live a lie rather than get the support system you need at this time?”

He shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

 

**Lyrics taken from “Story Of My Life” by the Backstreet Boys

 

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