That first time we all sang together, it was like magic. Brian had just arrived at the band house and in that moment it made all the problems in the world fade away. I wished that feeling could last forever. But it’s like that one poem from that movie The Outsiders, nothing gold can stay.
Their next jump was only a few months forward. Grace led Nick down what was once an achingly familiar path. The cracked pavement where one night, angry at his mom he jumped on every single one in hopes her back would break. Maybe then he’d get to stay here. It was a small complex where most people knew one another. It was nothing fancy but typical middle class, kids were playing outside and that old feeling of longing managed to rise up in him again even after so many years. As well as the pain that followed when he remembered the fat bastard who’d bought this place.
“Okay, why are we here at the band house?”
She smiled at him. “I can’t spoil everything. Let’s go inside.”
Falling in step behind her they walked through the door and into the tiny building that after awhile felt more like a home than his one back then ever could. He shivered a little. “It feels weird walking through shit.”
“You get used to it.”
“If I die…would I be like you?”
Grace turned towards him, gazing at him with big blue eyes so much like his own as she tilted her in head consideration. “You might. I do this to undo some of my own bad choices. Especially seeing that recklessness runs deep in the family. He might let you do the same. Or make you watch over others to repent. I don’t know. Every soul is different.”
Nick nodded, gazing around. “I know what you’re trying to do. I don’t think it’ll help. I remember what got me to where I was.”
“Do you?” She shrugged. “You should remember this day but sometimes seeing it again does funny things. Besides, I have plenty of tricks up my sleeve.”
“What’s so special about this day?” He asked pointedly.
She shushed him, placing a finger to his lips. “You’ll see.”
It was clearly still 1993 as Nick was still short and scrawny, AJ looked normal, and Howie was sporting his Rico Suave look. This time however, Kevin was there, his hair a knock off of the Kurt Cobain look. Howie was in the kitchen making some salsa from the looks of it. Behind Kevin was a fresh faced and country bred Brian Littrell, barely eighteen years old. He was still looking around with amazement as Kevin gave him the tour. He looked every bit the country bumpkin rather than the cool guy the thirteen year old had thought he’d be. Of course since he’d been dropped off at the band house earlier, he watched with a grin.
“Man, did you come straight off the farm or something?”
Howie laughed. “Nicky he just got here from the airport, try to be nice.”
Kevin rolled his eyes. “Brian, that’s Nick, you’ll…learn how to deal with him. This is Howie, he lives here to. And lazybones on the couch is AJ. He and Nick don’t live here but they’re here enough they should be paying rent.”
AJ snorted as he changed the channel on the TV. “You don’t even pay rent. Lou covers all that shit.”
Brian simply chuckled. “Nice to meet y’all.” He replied, his accent thick as molasses. “Is Lou coming here? I mean you know I had that private audition at his place after I flew in earlier but he didn’t say or anything.”
“In a couple hours. He wanted you get settled before we worked you to the bone.”
Brian nodded, glancing to Nick who looked like he wanted to say something. “Why don’t we try singing together? Ya know, mess around before he gets here.”
“Cool!” Nick bounced over. “What song?”
Howie shrugged. “Don’t look at me. What about I’ll be loving you?”
The eldest made face and shook his head immediately. “None of us are capable of being as pitchy as Jordan Knight.”
Present day Nick smiled to himself while the others debated about the song. “We always said the first song we sang was It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye by Boyz II Men in interviews. And it was, sort of. It was the first song we sang at an official rehearsal. It wasn’t the first song we ever sang. None of us ever corrected it. I think we just wanted to keep this memory personal. Because the first time we sang, I can’t describe it…”
“I thought we were supposed to be like them?” Brian asked. He had sung a little bit of one of their songs over the phone for someone who worked for Lou when he’d still been in Kentucky, and then another one at his earlier audition.
Nick smirked. “We sing better.”
Howie laughed and shook his head. “Okay, so what about Boyz II Men?”
“No Nick, c’mon, something we can do a capella.”
Grace smiled back at him. In the background they kept tossing around songs. “Sometimes when the stars align like that…” She touched his shoulder gently. “You can feel an influence you can’t explain. That was His guidance you felt that day Nick. Things happened that day because it was the path He hoped you’d choose.” But every path diverged and that was what she was there for, to help the lost one back onto the road.
“I don’t believe in fate.” Was his soft reply. “I-”
“Wait.” She stopped him.
The five boys had gathered into a circle, trying to find a harmony. It was Kevin who finally got it going and the others soon joined in. It was something to be seen but no one was there to witness it, no one but the boys themselves. None of them had any inkling then of what had really begun. All they knew was that finally despite the changing members, the bad rehearsal space—or lack of one at all on days they’d be outside literally pounding the pavement, this was it. This felt right. As Brian would say years later – when the five of them sang together it was like magic.
And so they began, snapping their fingers in unison.
Sha doop shobe doo, Sha doop shobe doo, Sha doop shobe doo, Sha doop shobe doo…
Brian took the reins first, singing with a precision and purity that none of the others had. It was simple, strong, and beautiful. If any of the others had their doubts they were silenced here. Years of church choir had done nothing but help hone the raw talent the teen possessed.
In the still of the night
I held you, held you tight
Oh how I love, love you so
Promise I’ll never let you go
In the still of the night
The rest of the group joined in, their harmony simplistic and beautiful.
In the still of the night
Nick stepped in while Brian moved back out. Here he possessed a confidence he never did in school. This wasn’t the kid who got bullied or mocked for what he loved. Here he was the consummate performer who knew exactly what he could do.
That night in May
Were bright up above
I’ll hope and I’ll pray
To keep your precious love
And at the very end came Kevin, a professionalism the others hadn’t quite grasped yet because it had more to do with age than experience. He brought with him a maturity that would day influence the others though it would take years to come for the two youngest of the group.
So before the light
Hold me again with all of your might
In the still of the night
(In the still of the night)
In the still of the night
Then it was all five again, singing together. Their voices blending together in such a way nothing else could match it. Each member was strong on his own but together was where they were at their best.
Shoo wap shoo wa, Shoo wap shoo wa, Shoo wap shoo wa, Shoo wap shoo wa, Shoo wap shoo wa…
In the still of the night
“That was fucking awesome!” Nick said after they were all silent for a few moments.
“Watch your language!” Kevin retorted but he was smiling.
“Good luck with that Kev.”
“Hey he’s right, for once.” AJ smirked and walked into the kitchen for some water.
Before the others could really discuss what had just transpired, and before Brian could chime in, Nick practically lunged at him. “Kevin said you’re good at basketball, are you?”
“I was captain of my high school’s team.” Brian said with a grin, amused by the youngest member’s antics. He could see why he’d drive his cousin crazy but he liked it. “Why?”
“Because, I’m gonna kick your ass before Lou gets here.” The blonde kid raced for Kevin’s basketball and practically dragged the newcomer out the door. “Come on!”
Brian laughed but let himself get pulled. “I’m coming, I’m coming! Y’all just wanna tire me out before we gotta rehearse.”
Nick was about to walk outside and follow them but Grace grabbed his arm and shook her head. “We’ve seen all we need to see here. I have so much more I need to show you before you can make any decisions.”
“What do you mean?”
She smiled. “You think you can make a decision based only on the earliest memories of the group when it first formed? I know better. You need to see everything. The past, the present, your family, and what could’ve been.”
A brow quirked at her as he crossed his arms. This whole thing was getting stranger and stranger. “What could’ve been?”
“Perhaps, if this isn’t enough.” She laughed and grabbed his hands. That now familiar feeling of blinding light and the rush of energy of coming over him. “But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”
And with that, they left the year of 1993 behind them.
Merry Christmas Orlando! This is FLZ 106.7 and with the holidays here and only six more days till 1996 is upon us, what do you think your resolution might be? Call in and tell us at 985-1067. And now here we have Boyz II Men with their rendition of “Let It Snow…
Nick glanced around only to see that once again, he was in the band house. But the furniture had changed and it’d become a lot homier in the two and a half year gap from the last time jump. He smirked to himself. Brian’s mom had come to visit once and immediately helped them redecorate the place. He sighed deeply and looked around for Grace but this time, she wasn’t here to accompany him. He supposed for now, he was on his own. Nick walked over and sat by the Christmas tree Kevin, Howie and Brian had put up. Ever since he was a little kid he always loved to sit and just gaze at the tree and that habit never quite died.
It was a little off putting though when he glanced over only to see himself eleven years younger.
Even when it was why he was here.
Fifteen year old Nick was wiping at his eyes and hugging himself. It was something his older self remembered clearer than anything. That was how he tried to pretend his parents were there to hug him and make him feel loved. Many times it was on nights they were keeping him up with their shouting matches and the crashes from random items hitting the wall during the fights. Or after they’d demand he pick which one he’d want to live with if they got a divorce. This night was different. He racked his brains for why the Guardian might’ve brought him here. Obviously it was a memory he’d fought to block out over the years since it wouldn’t immediately come to mind.
Footsteps caused both Nicks to glance over, the elder one momentarily distracted.
“Why are you still up? It’s four in the freaking morning.”Kevin said gently, sitting down beside the depressed teen. His hair was all over the place and it was easy to see that the crying had awoken him.
“I’m fine.” The younger Nick said defiantly.
“You can talk to me you know.”
He snorted. “Yeah right. You hate me. I heard you tell Brian this wasn’t how you’d wanted to celebrate Christmas. Why doesn’t anyone want me?”
Kevin frowned, his fuzzy brows furrowing. “Nick when I said that it wasn’t cause I was mad at you. I was mad at your parents for abandoning you here.” He shook his head. “I don’t think its right and while yeah, you can drive me crazy…” He chuckled. “I don’t hate you. Spending Christmas with you, Brian, and Howie is still being with family. Just a different one. We want you around. I wish I could tell you why your parents did this…but I can’t.”
He gazed up at Kevin with sad blue eyes. “You really think I’m family?”
He nudged him playfully. “Yeah you knucklehead! You’re the little brother I never wanted!” He grinned at Nick. “But I wouldn’t give you up for anything now that I got you little man.”
“I’m not so little anymore.” He retorted but the teen was also trying to fight back a grin.
“You’re always gonna be seen as little to me. And so you know, I chose to stay behind for you. I could’ve left to go back home but I knew I was needed more here. I don’t blame you for your parents, and I never will. I’m glad we’re spending Christmas together even if you are a pain in the ass.” Kevin laughed while grabbing a present from under the tree. “Here, go on and open this. I won’t tell Brian you got to have one early otherwise I’ll never stop hearing about it.”
The teen tore the paper apart furiously before grinning up at him. “A new walkman! Kevin you’re the fucking best!”
He smirked before tousling the blonde’s floppy hair. “Watch your language. It’s the one thing that can keep you quiet the longest besides your Gameboy. Besides your other one was looking pretty beat up.”
“Cause AJ freaking dropped it.”
As he watched the scene Nick remembered why he’d blocked this out. The feelings of abandonment had been so strong. While he’d been dropped off and left there before for weekends at a time without much warning, this had been the first holiday where his parents dismissed him. A week of arguments and then suddenly he was left at the apartment after a rehearsal without being picked up. Just phone calls asking Brian if they could let Nick stay there. Why they’d asked Brian rather than Kevin, he’d never understood. But Kevin had risen up to the challenge of being sure Nick felt wanted despite his parents. They all had.
“Come on.” Grace’s voice came out of nowhere, as did she. “We should go.”
When it came down to it, fellas had been there for him that Christmas.
Like a real family should be.