Remember Me This Way – Chapter Twenty-Nine

Dramatic music began to play. The camera panned around a small enclosed area, the walls nothing but red curtain. It passed over Nick after hovering for only moments on him. Finally, it settled upon the middle aged red headed woman holding the microphone with a professional smile. Nick fidgeted as he observed her. It had only been an hour since the VMAs had ended, and all he wanted right then was to go sleep. He felt drained.

“Hello this is MTV News…I’m Sue Tenney here with a special bulletin.”

It felt so surreal, being there, about to be interviewed. Finally, there was nothing left for him to hide. Despite the media frenzy that was already there, the attention that was only going to get worse, it felt so liberating to have it off his chest completely. He glanced around, unable to keep himself still. It was something he’d never been able to do during interviews. This time it was worse than usual. He caught sight of AJ and Kevin waiting next to the cameraman filming them. Brian and Howie had gone off to give statements to the press so that Nick would be hounded less.

“I have here with me…” He tuned back into reality, hearing her voice. “Nick Carter, of the Backstreet Boys…” He watched her approach where he was sitting, and sat herself down across from him.

“Hey Sue.”

“Hello Nick, thank you for being here.” She made it sound as if he volunteered. Really, this had been the stipulation Jenn had agreed to, so that Nick could make the statement at the VMAs. Nick had to give MTV the first interview before anyone else. Nick only prayed he didn’t botch it up. So far, he’d been doing so well. The night was feeling long enough as it was without any mistakes adding to it.

“Now Nick, you made quite the stir tonight…can you tell us once again, what you said at the end of the show?”

He licked his lips and leaned back. “I’ve been diagnosed with the beginnings with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.” It was weird, how it never got any easier to say it, no matter how many times he’d had to. “Basically…um…my memory’s starting to go. One day, I’ll be to…um…to the point where I won’t remember anything at all.” A pause. “Um…it’s what President Regan had.”

Sue nodded, appearing interested it. He wondered if she actually was. Somehow, he doubted it. “When did you learn you had this terrible disease?”

“June…I forget the day…but, yeah, June 2015.”

“So over a year ago.”

“Yes.”

“What caused you to find out?”

Nick bit his lip. “When we, the Backstreet Boys, I um, mean…did a performance for our previous album, Phoenix, at the Early show, and I don’t know if anyone really caught it… but I forgot the lyrics. I’d never done that before. Brian covered it up, but I knew then something wasn’t right, and I got myself checked out soon after…and learned it was, well ya know.”

“Why the secrecy once you learned about it?”

“There…there were things I wanted to do, to finish.” He ran his hands through his hair. “I couldn’t do them if people knew.” He looked directly at the camera then, his eyes focused, passionate, and determined. “I love what I do. I love my fans, and I wanted to…to give them everything I could. I wanted to give back to the world with my new non-profit, living free. I wanted to really give my all, while I could still do it.”

“You still appear to have it pretty together Nick-”

“Thank you.”

“Why tell us now then?”

Nick sighed, looking agitated as his fingers tapped repeatedly against his legs. He didn’t answer. Instead, he simply gazed away with a glazed look within his eyes. Silence settled between them awkwardly till the interviewer touched his leg gently.

“Nick?”

“Huh?” He asked, startled from the reverie he had been in. His brow creased. What am I doing? Nick looked around almost panicked as he took in his surroundings. What the hell is going on? He saw the camera, and tried to stay calm. Don’t panic. He saw the woman across from him, and realized she looked pretty annoyed.

“Sorry.” He felt the need to apologize, even if he had no idea what he was apologizing for. Nick almost felt like crying, he hated feeling so damn confused so much lately.

“Would you like me to repeat the question?”

Nick nodded, realizing he was being interviewed. Must be about the VMAs. That he remembered. It was everything after the announcement that was a gigantic blank. Nick glanced at his watch and saw the time. He’d lost over an hour. Holding inside his raging frustration at having to guess what was happening, he spotted AJ and Kevin. He could see the worry written plainly upon their faces.

It would be for them that he would act like nothing was wrong.

“I asked why tell us now, when you seem to still be able to function?”

“Because it’s getting worse.” Nick replied, while thinking, Is it ever. He shifted in his seat, feeling more uncomfortable by the minute. He only prayed he wasn’t repeating whatever he had said earlier. “It’s more…visible, and I can feel the effects. I wanted to be able to talk about it, with my fans, with the world…while I still can. Hell, maybe I’ll bring more attention to it this way. I’d never wish this disease on anyone…and um, if the attention brings on a cure, then I’ll have done some good with all this.”

“How have people around you been handling this, once you told them?”

Nick smiled. “Amazing. They’ve been so um…there for me. It makes everything less…less frightening.” He looked directly at his band mates, his brothers, and the smile grew. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.”

****

The phone continuously rang the next morning, forcing Nick to be awake far sooner than he wanted to be. He stretched and yawned, staring up at the ceiling. He didn’t want to get out of bed. He didn’t want to try and even begin to deal with what he knew would be waiting for him once he got out of bed. Even so, he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Nick saw himself in the mirror, and took in his image. Something caught his eye and he ran for the mirror to get a closer look.

“Nooooo!” He whined, as he touched a single grey hair within a nest of blonde. “Dammit you’re not supposed to exist till I hit forty and don’t care anymore!”

Before he could curse out the world even more, the phone rang yet again, demanding his attention. He walked down the hall with only a pair of boxers on that hung low on his hips. He made it out into the living room, and stood before the phone and answering machine that decided not to leave him alone. The ringing then stopped. Nick stared at it for a moment. Gently, his finger hit the play button.

“Nick, it’s Angel, just seeing if you’re okay after last night. Hope you know everyone’s gonna call. They won’t leave me alone. Talk to you later okay? Love ya!”

BEEP!

“NICKOLAS GENE CARTER! This is your mother! How dare you tell the world before your own family!? How dare you not come to us? I’m in Los Angeles to see Aaron-” Nick blinked. Aaron was back in town? It hurt that he didn’t even have a clue. “-and I am going to stop by. We are going to talk and-”’

At this point, Nick hit the delete button.

BEEP!

“Nick, it’s Jana. You said you didn’t want to do a ton of interviews.” A wry grin appeared when he heard her voice. She’d been the PR agent for the group for years. “…Rolling Stone’s interested. It’ll be easier than a TV interview. Though if you want…” He could almost hear the smirk in her voice. “I bet I can get you Barbra Walters. Call me back Carter!”

BEEP!

“Hello Nick! It’s Leighanne sweetie. I’m gonna stop by today okay? I know everything’s been rough. And if your family stops by, the way Husband thinks they well, you’ll have some backup since Husband and the Boys decided they’re going to deal with the press today…” They are? He thought. “…to give you a break. So I’ll see you soon!”

BEEP!

“Nick, it’s BJ, call me back you little shit.” Nick laughed, it was pretty typical of his sister, and she did sound worried.

BEEP!

“Hey big brother, it’s Leslie…why, why didn’t you say anything?”

BEEP!

“Nick, it’s Lauren. I watched last night – you were amazing and I was so proud of you. I know you don’t want me coming by because…because it’s too hard, but I want you to know…that…well…I still love you.” His heart cracked at how broken she sounded. His eyes felt misty, but no tears fell.

I never did deserve her.

“You have no more messages.”

Nick ambled into the kitchen. What hurt wasn’t the messages, or who left them. Instead, it was the people who didn’t call. Even his mother, who was the last person he wanted to see, cared enough to call. His sisters had all called to check in on him. Unlike his dad. Or Aaron. They hadn’t cared enough to try and get in contact with him. He knew they knew by now, and the lack of any reaction at all hurt more than he wanted to admit. He shook his head at himself. Nick fixed himself a bowl of cereal silently, and went back into the living room. He flopped on the couch, holding the bowl in one hand and used the other to grab the remote and turned on the TV.

“Nick Carter shocks the world-“

He changed the channel.

“Alzheimer’s, Carter could not be reached for further comments-”

Nick rolled his eyes and changed it again. This time, he saw himself on stage at the tail end of his performance. His fist in the air, looking exhilarated and alive on the screen. A replay of the night before. He smiled a little.

“At least I killed it last night.”

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Expecting it to be his brother, or more hoping so than anything, he just glanced at the door.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

He knew he couldn’t ignore him. He didn’t even want to ignore him really, but he also wasn’t in the mood for the drama that was inevitable to follow.

“Door’s open!”

Leighanne walked inside, immediately spotting him on the couch. Nick jumped, the bowl falling to the ground. “Shit! Sorry Leigh, I thought it’d be Aaron.” She watched him, an eyebrow raised and her hands on her hips. “Let…let me go change.”

She laughed. “Please. I’ll clean up while you do.”

“You don’t have to.”

“It’s okay, now go get dressed!”

“Errr…right.” Nick ran off to his room, mentally kicking himself for forgetting Leighanne was dropping by. The relationship between them was a strange one. When she first began to date Brian, Nick had openly hated her. He’d done everything he could to try and split them up. He threw a random shirt on. He’d also tried to convince Brian she was nothing but a gold-digger. Nick had even gone as far as to go on and start that rumor that she’d originally been interested in AJ.

He rummaged around through his completely disorganized closet for a clean pair of pants. Once she’d married Brian who had ignored him and his warnings, their friendship had become distanced. Looking back, Nick realized this was his own fault. It had been because of his bad lifestyle choices that Brian couldn’t and wouldn’t abide by. Back then, Nick had blamed Leighanne. So much so that he would openly call her Yoko, even right in front of her. There had been a lot of tension between the two. It wasn’t until 2009, after Nick had gotten his act together, and after Nick began to repair his relationship with Brian, that the two of them were finally able to get on friendly terms.

Now, seven years later, she almost felt like another one of Nick’s sisters. It felt strange, yet right at the same time, anytime he really thought about it. Finally, he cheered when he discovered a pair of black pants in the back of the closet. He got them on, ran a hand though his hair without looking in the mirror, and headed back out. Nick didn’t wanna look and be reminded of the grey demon that had possessed one of his hairs.

He saw her on the floor, drying up the bit of carpet where the cereal had spilled. Nick reached a hand out to her and helped her up. She gave him a smile and the two headed into the kitchen with the towel and dishes. Neither said anything for a moment while Nick set them in the sink.

“How are you holding up?”

Nick shrugged. “Best as I can. You were right about coming by. Mom’s due to come by today.”

She nodded. “Angel called Husband, thought you might need the support.”

I owe Angel so much.

“How are you really Nick? You know you’re lying and so do I.”

Nick looked away. “I can’t go a day without forgetting something now. I’m losing time, and it’s scaring the heck out of me. Last night during the interview, I lost myself; I don’t even remember the first half. It felt like I was asleep and woke up mid-interview. But I wasn’t.”

She placed a hand on his shoulder. “I wish I knew a way to make all of this better.”

“Get in line for that one.”

She watched him carefully, eyeing his movements, the hitches in his body language. His wasn’t looking at her directly, he kept avoiding her gaze. Her eyes narrowed. “What are you not telling me?”

“Something I haven’t even told the fellas yet.”

“So, tell me.”

Lines formed in her face as her brows furrowed. She turned him towards her. It was weird, how many things could change over the years. Time was, he’d never tell her anything. Now, he wanted to, needed to.

“I didn’t tell them everything about the doctor’s visit. They um…” he paused, trying to find the words he was looking for. That was something else that was becoming harder. Nick always had his own way of saying things, even the fans joked about him having his own language. But now, it was becoming more difficult than it used to be.

“What?”

“They said to make sure I have my affairs in order. And I do. But, they, they’re worried about how far it’s going. They think it’s like…de-de-oh fuck it, they think it’s getting worse faster than they thought it would. That ya know, I don’t even have five years.” He looked down at her now, his eyes shining with unshed tears. “I’m fucking scared.”

For once, she didn’t’ chastise him about his language, the way she normally would. She simply hugged him. His face went into her shoulder, neither said anything. He was just thankful to have her, to have everyone he had in his life. She pulled away, giving him a weak smile.

“Husband and I, we’re praying for you. You know that right?”

He nodded. Before he could say anything, the two were interrupted by another set of knocks on the door. These were faster, angrier, than the ones from when Leighanne had been at the door. His jaw set. He had a burning suspicion about who would be on the other side. Nick simply hoped he’d be wrong as he had been earlier. The two walked over to the front door, and Nick could hear someone yelling on the other side. He groaned. This time he was right. He hesitated for a moment before opening the door.

“Hi mom.”

 

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