“Aren’t you going to let me in Nick?”
Nick and Leighanne stepped back, to make room for Jane Carter. She looked around the place with an air of disdain as Nick shut the door. He watched her, saying nothing. Nick knew what was coming, and from past experience he knew the best thing was to just let her say it before even attempting to say anything himself.
“Hello Mrs. Carter.” Leighanne said tightly. Nick was suddenly amused, there wasn’t much that truly got to her like that. Then again, he always knew his mother had a knack for that.
Jane Carter glanced around the place, patting her bleached blonde hair. She turned back to Nick as he watched her. Leighanne stood there, and Nick felt bad. She probably felt awkward. Nick took a deep breath, readying himself. The two stared at each other, eye to eye, mother and son.
“I can’t believe you.”
He scoffed in disbelief. “Me? You can’t believe…me.”
“Yes! The fact you care so little about us that you couldn’t even tell us before you announced it on National TV!”
Nick rolled his eyes at her. “Couldn’t? How about you wouldn’t let me? You want to know when I originally planned to tell you? New Years Fucking Eve! Yeah, that’s right. But ohhhh no, instead you guys wanted to fight about how awful I am. I even tried to get back in touch with you guys before this. But no. You asked for money and then hung the hell up when I said no!”
Jane stared at him, her eyes wide with shock. “That’s ridiculous! I am your mother and-”
“You’re my mother? No. You haven’t been my mother in nineteen years. All you’ve seen me as is a fucking ATM and it’s about damn time I told you so flat out!”
“I can’t believe this, I am absolutely outraged!”
“You shouldn’t be!”
“I should be! You’re a disgrace Nickolas Gene! You’ve done nothing but make me ashamed I’m your mother. Between the drugs, the problems, and the therapy…”
“You know what caused all that? Wondering why you and dad did the shit you did! Never thinking I’m good enough! You know who fucked me up so bad it took me years to try and fix it? You! You and your money obsessed bullshit! I’ve fucking had it!”
“Money obsessed?” She scoffed. “You owe it to me! Who drove you to all the auditions? Who put your career before everything else?!”
“Who paid all the damn bills because dad couldn’t keep a damn job? It wasn’t you! If I owed you anything I paid it all off before I even hit eighteen!”
Leighanne stepped between them, eyeing Nick carefully. “Okay, I think that’s enough. Everyone needs to calm down, sit, and try talking this out, okay?”
Jane looked at her hauntingly. “I don’t need some self-righteous religious nut trying to come between me and Nicky!”
“Don’t talk to her that way! And don’t fucking call me Nicky! I hate being called Nicky! I’m not Nicky! I’m Nick! And another thing! Don’t talk to me this way in my fucking house! You can leave if this is what you’re gonna do!”
His face was red, he hated saying all this. Even though all of it was true, he had never been able to bring himself to this level of honesty with his mother. But now, it was as if the floodgates holding all of this inside him had finally been released. “This is exactly why I didn’t fucking tell you! Because of this! Why, why do you gotta be like this?! Why am I just dollar signs to you mom?”
Jane stared at him at a loss for words. “I…I…”
His tone lowered, wavered with emotion. “You try to trick me for money; you try to “bond” as a way to scam money out of me. Why, why is money always more important to you than me? I’m your son…why don’t you see me as that?”
The question hung within the air. It thickened it, weighed heavily on the three of them. None of them were able to say anything. Minutes passed by awkwardly. They didn’t look at each other. Their eyes continually shifted around to avoid the others. Nick was staring at the floor when he heard the door slam, and the footsteps that followed. A glance up and he saw Leighanne shaking her head sadly as she embraced him.
I’ll never find out why she loves money more than me.
The trick, he realized, would be learning to finally accept that.
“I’m sorry…for everything.”
Nick glanced over at his sister, the female spitting image of his own face. Over the years he was always told they looked more twins than Aaron and Angel. What he hadn’t known, was how much Leslie resented him for it. The two were sitting in an airport, waiting for her bags. She’d called an hour after their mother had stormed out of his home, asking him to pick her up. The call had shocked him. This wasn’t the reaction he expected. Still, his heart was warmed by the fact she was here, and by their open conversation. This had been something their relationship had needed for some time. They sat on the hard, stiff, chairs, swinging their legs in a similar fashion.
“I used to hate you, you know.”
He glanced over at her. “Why?”
“Part of me was jealous. You were the Carter that made it, people loved you-”
“You mean my looks.”
“Your voice too. You were famous; you got to live the dream. And it’s weird, because it was my dream too. But it didn’t take long for mom to make it a nightmare. Suddenly she was obsessed with getting us out there too. At first it was fun…being “just like Nick”, but it doesn’t take long for that to get old, ya know? I wanted to be a singer, but doing it my way, not yours.”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t there, and I-”
“You couldn’t be. You were touring. You weren’t home, how were you supposed to protect us from what was going on when you were overseas performing for thousands of fans? So, I started hating you, I felt like all of it was your fault.”
“I didn’t know.”
“I know, and…I never told you. It’s not your fault mom forced me to try and be you. In her eyes, it worked for you and Aaron, why not me too?” Leslie shrugged, giving a smirk. “I loved music, you know that. I live it…you know how that is. I just wasn’t the mainstream pop artist she wanted me to be. And she’s never forgiven me for it.”
Nick sighed. “Maybe if I never became a singer, you guys…”
“Would’ve still been put through all this, only without you being able to help as much as you did.” She finished for him. “For years I made excuses for mom, part of the guilt thing. I felt bad for not being the popstar she wanted me to be. So she always made me feel like I was supposed to always be there to take care of her. I fell for it, maybe I wanted to. I wanted her to love me for me and not hate me because I’m not…not you. We’d talk about you and Aaron a lot.”
He blinked. “You did?”
“Yeah… She always made it look like…like you were happy when she was down, that…”
“It’s okay, that’s what mom does. She manipulates, to try and get what she wants.”
“You sound like you hate her.”
“I don’t hate her, I hate what she does. What she and dad did to us, to our family.”
“I do too.”
Nick pulled her close, hugged her from the side. “Thanks for coming all the way out here. You didn’t have to, ya know.”
Leslie rolled her eyes, blowing a stray dyed blonde lock away from her eyes. She began to fidget, a trait they also shared. Years ago, she’d been diagnosed as bi-polar, but Nick always wondered if he wasn’t the only one with ADD in the family. If anyone was to have it, he’d have guessed Leslie. At least the medication stabilized her. He used to worry about her and her old attention seeking behaviors a lot, and feared they would lead her down a path similar path to Aaron’s. Thankfully, that never happened.
“Of course I did. You don’t learn your brother is…” She paused. “Well, you don’t learn it and just blow it off like nothing. I’m sorry Nick. I’m sorry for treating you the way I did, I’m sorry for always believing mom…and I’m sorry that I made you feel like you couldn’t tell me. That’s what bugs me the most, that you felt like you couldn’t tell any of us but Angel.”
Nick glanced away, and thought maybe her bags had been lost on the luggage carousel. “Maybe I should’ve tried harder to tell you guys.”
A pause came between them.
“Have you heard from dad yet?”
“…No. BJ called. Aaron hasn’t yet. He’s still mad cause we fought. I told him to get his act together.”
“Aaron doesn’t care about anyone anymore.”
“I don’t believe that.” I can’t believe that.
“Oh! I think I see my stuff!”
“About time, you’d think they came from Egypt or something.”
The bags finally slid down into their view, causing his sister to jump up. Her leg caught Nick’s as she did. Nick, who was also trying to stand, flew forward. Leslie tried to regain her balance and instead ran into Nick. Nick who was trying to stay standing bumped into someone pushing a luggage cart. The poor lady tripped as a result, shoving the cart as she did. The cart raced down the aisle, causing people to jump out of the way. The scene looked like it belonged in an offbeat comedy movie.
Leslie landed on top of Nick and immediately she rolled off of him. Her purse had flown out of her grip, gone up in the air. The two watched it in what felt like slow motion before it slammed down on Nick’s stomach. The body spray within burst on impact, filling the air with the overly strong scent of roses. The two looked around at the chaotic scene they had just created. Neither said anything. Instead, they just laughed. People were watching them, eyed them as if they were just released from the insane asylum, and the two continued to laugh. Nick’s laugh was an infectious one, childish and light. Leslie grinned at him, and he grinned back.
For the first time in years, he felt close to her again.