“My hair is GREEN!”
Nick snickered as he walked down the halls of the hotel building. He’d just passed by Brian’s room, where Brian must’ve finally used that new shampoo he and Baylee had tampered with two weeks prior. He’d just gotten out of the meeting with Jenn and the executives from Universal. It felt freeing, having his album decisions made, knowing it wouldn’t be too long before it was out. They weren’t a hundred percent pleased with the idea that there would be virtually no profit from the album, but then decided the promotion alone would be worth it.
He knew he likely should’ve told them that he wasn’t ever planning on touring for this album. That by that point, he wouldn’t be able to handle it. As it was, there were slip ups now and then with the newer material just on the group tour. He knew it would’ve probably been worse if he didn’t have the fellas helping and supporting him. But even with that, he didn’t want them helping too much. He wanted to know he could still handle himself. He needed to know he could still keep a grip on things. They’d just landed in Japan the night before for their last leg of the tour. It felt too soon to Nick, a beginning to the end of everything that he didn’t want to see.
Nick would tell them, just before he announced it to the world. Until then, he felt no need for them to know. There was just so much that had to be worked out first. Like his family.
Like his future.
“NICKOLAS GENE CARTER!” Brian yelled. It was rare for him to call him by his full name, and did cause him to turn around. A mischievous grin began to form.
It was so bright and vivid. His best friend looked hilarious as his balding green head poked out the door. Nick couldn’t help it, he cracked up. He had originally opted for pink, but felt maybe trying to get the rest of the group to be an intense rainbow all the way would be better. The only tragedy had been that Baylee had gone back home before Brian finally used that new bottle of shampoo they’d “adjusted”. They hadn’t counted on the other bottle being over half full and taking two weeks to finally be used up.
“Hey, I like your hair.” Nick said between guffaws, clutching his stomach. “Got jealous at how attention grabbing mine is?”
He could see Brian struggling not to laugh. “Hey now, I don’t need you frying my hair the way AJ did his!”
Nick snickered. “Dude, I hate to tell ya cause I love ya bro, but you’re already on the verge of Donald Trump’s hairdo. I just spiced it up a bit.”
Now where Brian lacked in height and bulk, he made up for in flexibility and speed. He lunged and Nick barely ducked out of the way, before bolting down the hall. Nick may not be as nimble as him, but his long legs were definitely coming to his advantage. He ran down the halls, picking up speed to get away from Brian
“Trust me Frack when I get a hold of you…” Nick beamed. At least he used the nickname, that was always a good sign. He felt no need to test that though, as he made another turn to double back to where their rooms were.
He ran for AJ’s room, no real reason other than that Howie would immediately side with Brian. Hoping it was unlocked; he grabbed for the handle, just seconds before Brian could nab him, and burst into the room. He came to an immediate stop, frozen by the image before him. Nick could hear Brian suddenly do the same thing only moments later.
And immediately wished he had gone for Howie’s room.
Now they all knew what went on during tours by now. They knew, they’d joke; they’d razz each other about it. Still, they never thought about it in detail. There were never any mental images attached. But when he stood there, the door wide open, he knew there would be after that. Then again, maybe not. It was the first time he wished for the alternative as he stood there gaping. Brian stood beside him, also staring.
Upon the sole bed of the room was AJ locked in some weird position Nick was shocked to find he didn’t have a name for. Beneath him was some woman partially obscured from view with long raven colored hair. On top of him was another woman with long brown hair, her fingernails digging into his side. They were twisted at what Nick could best describe as the human attempt at becoming a pretzel. A third woman had been coming over stark nude. She was Japanese with the silkiest hair, and her face painted to remind Nick of a Geisha. Nick really didn’t want to know what she was holding. It looked like a sexual toy of some kind, and he would probably know if he had a closer look. AJ was shooting him one of the deadliest glares he’d ever seen. If looks could kill, he’d have died before even walking through the door.
The three women stared at him, the one carrying the toy began yelling at AJ in a flurry of Japanese he couldn’t even begin to understand. The body language told him it was far from pleasant however.
“Um…” He finally spoke after a few minutes of surprised silence. “Wow. You know what, wrong room.”
“Sorry!” Brian cried. “Carry on with what you’re doing!” He tilted his head, taking in their current positions. “How did you even do that?” Nick yanked Brian behind him and the two ran out the door like their lives depended on it. The door slammed behind them as they leaned up against the wall, slowly sliding down to the floor.
“I’m gonna have nightmares.”
“I didn’t know you could twist your body like that and still…”
“You’d be surprised what groupies teach you.” A smirk. “You thinking about showing that one to Leighanne?”
Brian flamed red, laughing. “Don’t think she’d go for it.”
“I never wanted to see that much of AJ’s ass.”
“It does prove once and for all he doesn’t have one. Poor AJ’s ass, it’s missing somewhere in a black hole, or the land of the lost.”
“Dude! We sound so gay right now.”
“World still thinks we are anyway.”
“Ooooh they just jealous honey!”
“Could be worse.”
“We could be AJ right now.”
“I have a feeling those ladies aren’t too happy with him right now.”
“Man hell hath no fury…”
The two laughed comfortably, just enjoying the moment of peace. Not much else was said for a few moments, falling into a comfortable silence that could only be shared by friends who’d known each other as long as they have. They’d have to hide back out in their rooms again, or fans would soon find them. Brian sighed. Nick looked at him suddenly, cracking up. His eyes had lit up as if they were seeing him for the first time that morning. “Ha! You used the shampoo, you know, I think green’s your color.”
Brian blinked, staring at him. “Nick, are you okay?”
Nick frowned. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He snickered. “I’m surprised you’re not mad at me about it. I hope Baylee sees you like that.”
“I can’t believe you guys!” AJ almost shouted as he threw open his door, clothed only in a robe. “You know ya gotta knock before bursting in.” He sighed. “Jesus Christ’s shit on a shingle, I never needed you guys to see that much.” He smirked. “It might be a blow to your egos.”
Nick stared at him. “What are you talking about?”
“What do you mean what I’m talking about? You’re the reason those girls are ready to slaughter me! I mean when you-” A shared glance between the two men caused AJ to shake his head.
“Never mind, I’m talking crazy man.” Still, he couldn’t hide the look of worry that settled in his face. And that was what Nick focused in on, his eyes narrowed.
“Aren’t you always?” Nick glanced around, standing and stretching. “So where’s Baylee? He’s still got a couple more days with us doesn’t he?”
Brian stood as well, giving AJ another look when Nick wasn’t paying attention. The two were staring at him, unsure of what move to make next. They had dealt with blackouts in his memory more lately, but none of them had spanned that long of a time. They seemed to both be struggling for a decision to make, and how to explain it to Nick without upsetting them. Nick just looked baffled at the way the two of them were behaving.
Nick watched the two of them, raising a brow. “Why are you guys looking at me like I’m crazy?”
“We’re not man.”
“Nick, when was your last doctor’s appointment?”
“What are you, your cousin now?”
“Nick, just answer me.”
He shrugged, suddenly finding the stripped wallpaper incredibly interesting. Nick wasn’t sure when it was, now that he thought about it. It seemed to feel like he’d just gone a lot lately, so when any of the guys asked, that’s what he would tell them. He wanted to be able to handle all of this on his own. He could handle this on his own. Nick didn’t need the guys babying him, not yet, he was far from ready. He was supposed to have a couple of years before that started to happen.
“Recently. I’m fine, so just leave me alone.”
“Don’t do this; we’re just trying to look out for you.”
“I don’t need you to!”
He brushed his way past the two men, went to his room, and slammed the door behind him.
Nick lay on his bed, a pencil in hand with his sketchpad before him. He had begun the work on a self portrait, shadowing the lines along his face. The eyes of the Nick he drew looked blank and unseeing. Nick sighed. This is what he figured he would look like soon. He hated this. He hated feeling so perplexed all the time. He hated feeling as if he wasn’t part of the world around him anymore, that he was just drifting through it on a path no one else could travel. He glanced down at the sketch pad again, and angrily threw it against the wall. It bounced off and slammed into the nearby lamp, causing it to crash on to the floor.
“I fucking hate this!” He screamed, feeling just so much fury. There was no true source to it. It was just there, bubbling from within. He picked up a decorative vase, thrusting it against the window. Both shattered instantly, pieces of both littering the floor. Nick winced at the repair bill he’d now have to pay when they checked out.
He walked over, picking up the pieces, and staring intently at a long shard of glass he held in his hand. It would be so easy, to just slice his wrists and go that way. It would be so dramatic, so tragic. The world wouldn’t see him as much of a joke, the way he will be soon enough. He knew how to do it, how to cut it vertically along his wrist, instead of horizontally. Nick could just picture it, the way the guys would eventually burst in here after they’d knock and never hear a response. They’d see him there on the bed, his blood dripping slowly upon the floor, his face caught in an expression of eternal peace.
He’d dismissed the thought of suicide before, and the guys knew that. But he would never tell the fellas the truth. The truth was that even though he’d tossed it side, the idea was becoming more and more tempting. It was hard to fight, that simple dream of escaping now.
Is it cowardly if I choose to die, rather than sit back and wait to become a helpless mess? Wouldn’t it be more like a chicken shit to just sit back and wait? He mused thoughtfully.
A knock interrupted his thoughts. He sighed, dropping the pieces back down to the floor, making his way grudgingly over to answer the door. He figured it was probably Brian or AJ, trying to talk to him yet again. He loved them, and deep down, he knew their motives were good. But he felt he could handle this, and he wanted them to know that. Maybe they’d recruited Howie this time. That wouldn’t surprise him either, seeing as they knew he was pretty irritated with them at the moment.
The knock came again, sounding more impatient this time as he hovered over the door. “All right! I’m coming. Fucking hell man…”
He decided he’d tell them what they wanted to hear and opt out of the conversation as soon as possible. Maybe even set up a new appointment, not that he saw the good it would do. The doctors couldn’t cure it, and he was already struggling to delay it. What was the point of any of it? He opened the door, feeling fully prepared to handle Howie, AJ or Brian.
What he hadn’t expected was to see Kevin waiting on the other side of the door.