Life is about choices. Everything that makes us who we are comes from those choices. All I wanted was for to go back and decide to never become a member of the Backstreet Boys. To change one single choice. But choices make us who we are. Who would I have been then? Would I have been a better person, a better man? What about the others?
“Where are we?”
She smiled. “You know the answer to that.”
Rolling his eyes he motioned around at their surroundings. “I know we’re in Los Angeles but this isn’t my place. And we didn’t change years.”
“You wanted to see a life without the Backstreet Boys. Or to be more accurate, without the group as you know it.”
“This is it.”
A brow rose as he moved to take a look at the personal photos and touches throughout the home. “You’re saying I live here.”
Grace smirked while crossing her arms over her chest. “No, I didn’t say that. See your choice doesn’t just affect you Nick. That group made it because of all five of you. If any of you had been replaced, if any of you had quit, nothing would’ve been as it was. Since this isn’t just about you I decided you needed to see just what this will do to everyone. Your family…” She ignored Nick’s snort. “And your friends. All of that is important. You’ll see a possibility of what your life could become, just not yet.”
Taking a deep breath, he nodded. I should’ve known it wasn’t going to be that fucking easy.
“So whose place is this?”
“I thought we’d start with Kevin. His departure affected you so much, I thought it’d make sense to see how yours, figuratively speaking, changes his life.”
As if on cue Kevin strolled through the front door, throwing a script and a jacket through the spirits and landing on the worn down leather chair in the tiny living room. Nick immediately glanced to Grace before looking back at the man who’d been his older brother for so many years. He appeared to be a shadow of the Kevin he’d known. His dark raven hair was streaked boldly with grey. A face that in Nick’s world had aged well despite the years, here it was haggard and wrinkled – completely worn down. His clothes weren’t the sleek simple styles either. Instead they were cheap and Nick wondered how long Kevin had had them. In essence he felt like he’d been dropped into one of those ancient black and white episodes of the Twilight Zone he’d sometimes watch on his bus because there was nothing else on. Granted, the entire night –technically morning – had been bizarre so far.
“This is Kevin?”
Grace nodded, following Kevin into the tiny kitchen. “Without you in the group the Backstreet Boys never scored a record deal, it was the five of you that made it so special. So in 2006 the Backstreet Boys don’t exist. They never did. Although the bright side of that, if there is any, is because Lou Pearlman wasn’t successful the first time, NSYNC never existed. He went back to scamming people in other ways. So there’s that.” She smirked to herself. Lou also got arrested a lot sooner but since in the life Nick knew it wouldn’t happen for another two years, she kept herself from saying it out loud. That man was just as guilty as Nick’s parents causing him to be so damaged.
Alright, so Nick hadn’t expected that. After so many years of being told he was nothing more than the pretty face of the group, he figured the group would’ve had another and been just as successful. “So all the copycat boybands…”
“Never existed here. Well there was Hanson but they stayed one-hit wonders.” She grinned. “It was the Girl Group explosion of the 90s, all trying to cash in off the Spice Girls instead. Good music actually. I wish some of it would’ve bled into the right reality, but call me biased; I prefer the Boy Band explosion that happened.”
“So what happened with Kevin?”
The phone started ringing and she shook her head. “Listen.”
With a roll of his eyes Kevin pulled out his cell and put it on speaker before practically slamming it on the counter. He turned back towards the cupboards in search of something to eat. “What is it now, Kristin?”
Nick blinked. “Wait, its Kristin he’s talking to like that?”
“The fact you never not met him didn’t change their meeting. He knew her before he knew you.”
“Well, yeah but he’s always loved her.”
“People change. He changed.” Grace explained gently. “Now listen.”
“I’m calling because you failed once again to pick up your son for the weekend! Mason’s up in his room crying because he thinks his father doesn’t give a damn about him! You think it’s fair I have to explain to our three year old son why Daddy doesn’t want to see him anymore?!”
Kevin whirled back around and glared at the phone. If looks could kill through technology, Nick had no doubts Kristin would be nothing but a pile of dust on the other end. “I forgot! I had an audition and-”
“An audition? Your desperate attempts for a career that will NEVER happen is your excuse for ditching your son? If you were any sort of father Kevin you’d get a real job, maybe attempt to support your son, be there for him…”
“Fuck you! See this is why I cheated on you! Because you can’t see that maybe my dreams are important to me. I know you’re the big shot now. That’s why I don’t bother to send you shit! You have more than you need!”
“Are we back to this again? It’s been ten years! I’m sorry your music career didn’t get off the ground, I really am. But stop holding that against me! Dammit Kevin, you fought so hard for weekend visitation rights. Why? To piss me off? I swear to God if you keep missing them I will see you back in court. I refuse to see Mason get upset every weekend because of his deadbeat father!”
Then, there was nothing but a dial tone. Kevin threw the phone against the wall, snickering when it broke. He opened the fridge. Now he was a man on a mission. Nick however, Nick recognized that gleam in the broken version of his former mentor’s eyes. A hungry glint that broke his heart. There wasn’t even an ounce of surprise in him when a bottle of jack was set on the counter, followed by a shot glass. Kevin poured himself one and immediately downed it. Another followed.
“Jesus. What the fuck happened to him?” He asked angrily. “Her miscarriage is what caused him to leave the group, right? But here he has a kid and can’t be bothered to give a shit! He’s just like my parents. And…” And I know he’s better than that.
He walked towards a shelf and with enough concentration was able to pick up a dusty photo. Blowing on it showed a younger, happier Kevin at Disney World. It must’ve been their day off because he was with Kristin but neither of them was in their costumes. Nick smiled sadly at the photo. It was a familiar one he’s seen countless times over the years no matter where Kevin lived. The couple was young and in love. He’d been jealous of that. No matter how many times they’d broken up due to distance in the band, they always came back together and survived it. But unlike his Kevin, there were no other photos. No wedding pictures. No photos of the band. Not even a photo of his family. There was this single one and it was forgotten like a tattered piece of clothing lost in a closet over the years.
His companion took the photograph and cleaned it before setting it back down. “Kristin and Kevin stayed together since they met. No breakups or anything. Ironically enough the breaks had been good for them in your world. It gave them room to explore and realize they had found their soul mates. Here that never happened. Kristin became the successful one without traveling on tour with you guys on occasion; she’s one of the better known actresses on TV. In the last couple years she successfully transitioned to movies. It was her first movie that broke the last straw for Kevin.”
Nick frowned at her. “What do you mean?”
Grace motioned around the room before focusing back on the increasingly intoxicated Kevin. “I mean Kevin took a risk and gave up everything for the Backstreet Boys. He loved music and acting equally but went for music. Because the group didn’t go anywhere, he wasted years and other auditions. Eventually he even tried for a solo career but that got him nowhere. When he finally did try his hand back at acting all he could ever get were bit parts but his girlfriend, later his wife, was having all the success he wasn’t.”
He shook his head, unable to accept this. “That can’t be right. Kevin’s not the type to be so fucking selfish. He would give anything up if he cared about them. He would’ve been happy for Kristin.”
“That Kevin knew he was blessed for what he had.” She shook her head sadly. “This Kevin doesn’t. So he started drinking more, getting fired from the small roles he did get. Finally Kristin started trying to use her pull to get him work. It worked for awhile but he couldn’t stay sober long enough anytime he had a role that could get him anywhere.”
The light sound of a key unlocking the door stopped Nick from asking further. A busty redhead walked in, her face was tight from years of facelifts and she smelled strongly of cigarettes. Her clothes were practically painted on her and left very little to the imagination “Hey baby, sorry I’m late. Work ran long.” She kicked off her heels. “I got some amazing tips tonight though.”
Kevin slid her his shot glass and forced a smile. “Good to hear it. I’m glad you came by after all, I needed to see you.”
“Who the hell is this bitch?” He asked, purely out of shock.
“That girl is the woman he cheated on her with.” Grace shrugged at him helplessly. “He got plastered one night at some strip club while his wife was filming on location and took one of the dancers home. Mason was with her this time so he had the freedom to do what he wanted. Soon she became this whole affair. Kristin caught him one time and filed for divorce, main custody and won. Sadly for her she’s paying for this place because of California’s divorce laws. He got half her earnings. That’s why Starla’s into him, because he’s the ex-husband of Kristin Kay.”
“Starla.” Nick muttered, using all his energy to knock off the now half empty bottle of Jack Daniels the couple was sharing though neither noticed. Kevin was practically swallowing her whole from the way they were kissing. “I fucked up his life whether he knows me or not. That takes some pretty serious skill.”
“Did you do this? Or were these Kevin’s choices in a different world?”
His gaze met hers, blue meeting blue. She could practically see the gears spinning in his head as he took her words into consideration. “Wait what are you saying?”
She sighed. “The same thing I’ve been saying this whole time. Nothing is as black or white as you think it is. Yes, you could change the world by changing that one decision you made fourteen years ago. But I told you every change after that is theirs. Not yours. Just, think about this. Obviously you have a strong bond with your friends. You’ve called them your brothers almost as long as you’ve known them. Doesn’t it make sense that without that, even if they don’t realize it’s missing, they’d have an empty place where it’s supposed to be?”
“You realize you’re making no fucking sense right?”
She shook her head. “I think you need to see more, that’s what I’m realizing.”
He left me first. Right? Even with those thoughts Nick didn’t look back as they left this reality’s version of Kevin behind.