A Letter To Santa
Nick didn't want to be there, sitting in the particularly uncomfortable chairs on the set of the talk show that he and the rest of the Backstreet Boys were currently guests on. Nick looked out over the studio audience, making doubly sure not to make eye contact again with the guy interviewing them. Nick had already made that mistake twice and had suffered dearly for it, having to throw out some relatively pseudo-unrehearsed answers in such a way that either the mob of adoring fans thought was amusing and cute, or just inane and crazy. Hewasn't sure which of the two he had pulled off .but Nick was sure that Kevin would address that point in the verbal dressing down that he gave him after the show on the way back to the hotel.
Nick sighed deeply. He was exhausted, mentally and physically. The group had worked endlessly on recording and finishing up their new album. Then they went "all-out" on a worldwide promotion that took them around the globe in just two days. Nick had seen himself drifting away from the other guys before they even went into the studio to start recording, but now he felt that he had drifted so far he wasn't sure he would ever make it back. To say the very least, not everything was well in Backstreet Land.
It was a week before Christmas and the tour was due to start very soon. The guys were scheduled to be shipped off to an undisclosed arena to practice their steps and their show for a few weeks before their first performance. Nick looked forward to have to stay and work non-stop with the guys for weeks like a man would look forward to sticking a red hot poker into his eye.
It's not as if he hated the guys, far from it. It was just that he felt like he wasn't part of the group anymore. Brian and Kevin had gotten married this summer, AJ had his girlfriend around, and Howie seemed to never be without some companionship, whether it be family or friends. That left Nick the odd man out. In as far as his own private life was concerned, his ex Mandah had split with Nick a few months prior to the release of the new album.She was one person Nick was happy to see completely out of his life. Nick was not one to speak or even think badly of his ex-girlfriends, but she was truly a bitch on a class that he had never experienced before. Mandah had wormed her way into his life and his career, then turned into this Medusa, this terror, that scared not only the rest of the guys, but himself at times.
Mandah was the first woman, hell the first person ever to hit Nick and get away with it. Nick shook his head slightly as he remembered how well and how often she did hit him. Nick had never seen a woman who could punch, kick and claw like Mandah did and he had the scars on his back, cheek, wrists, and arms from their less than civil encounters to prove it.
Nick finally saw the line drawn in the sand after she came to his house one night when the guys were over and dragged him outside into the yard in a fury and broke his nose with one well-placed punch that Nick had never seen coming. Brian was by his side in an instant and both he and Nick were shocked to see Leigh Anne grab hold of Mandah's hair and smash her face repeatedly into the side of the house. After Leigh Anne had tenderized Mandah to her liking, she tossed her into a car and had security escort back to her home with instructions that she was never to return.
Brian took Nick to the hospital where he registered under his Jive given pseudonym and had his nose set. Brian sat on the side of the bed as the doctor performed the procedure and held Nick's hand, rubbing it as he assured Nick that everything would be allright now and that the doctor would make it all better. Nick was relatively surprised a week later when the doctor pulled off the bandages and Nick saw that there was no change in the way his nose looked, despite the two black eyes he suffered from the break.
Nick had begun to drift away after that episode, pushing everyone out of his life. He felt that he was nothing more than a bother to them after what had happened that night. That he wasn't able to handle his own problems and that he was just causing the guys more heartache than anything else.
On top of everything, Nick had begun to gain weight since Mandah had left and he felt powerless to stop it. Nick's weight had always been a constant bother to him, though he honestly didn't see himself as fat or even close to being obese. On their previous concert tour, Nick had gained about 15 lbs and though he had to have some of his clothes let out and his costume re-fitted, medically speaking, he still was in the range of normal weight for his height and build. Jive had seen it differently and had leaned on the entire staff of the tour to monitor exactly what went into the youngest Backstreet Boys mouth. With that kind of babysitting, Nick had quickly lost the added pounds and everyone had stopped taking notice. The press and the fans still made a point of bringing it up, much to Nick's embarrassment every time it was mentioned publicly. Nick felt more and more ashamed of his body and his inability to look the way everyone expected him to. Nick tried not to think of how everyone was gonna freak when he wore something tight and the weight he had put on over the past month or so was a lot more obvious.
Nick pulled himself out of his reverie and realized that the interview was barely half over and that it seemed to be dragging on for an interminable amount of time. Nick looked over at Brian, who was sitting two chairs down from him and sighed as he saw Brian writing something on a tablet in front of him. Brian must have sensed Nick's stare because he looked up and nodded to him. Nick nodded back and then dropped his head down away from Brian's stare.
Nick remembered when Brian would sit beside him during interviews and the two would play hangman on Brian's notepad to pass some of the time. Brian didn't do that anymore, and the loss of those kind of little things made Nick miss those days. After Brian had gotten married, Nick noticed that he saw less and less of his best friend, who had taken to long days at home with his wife when he could get them, or out on the golf course or basketball court when he had any free time. Nick sighed as he realized that his friend was married now and didn't have time to sit and play nanny to him anymore. He had more important things to look out for now and Nick was not one of them.
The more Nick thought of it, the more he wished that he could drop out of band and out of the public eye and save them any more problems. Nick was nothing but a problem, at least, that is how he felt.
Nick's head popped up as he heard his name mentioned and he plastered on the closest thing he could muster to a smile and nodded.
Kevin hissed and Nick realized that he should have been paying a little more attention to the interview because he had no idea what he was smiling and nodding at.
Howie jumped in and covered for Nick and Nick let out his breath and nudged Howie in thanks for the cover. Howie looked at Nick for a second and Nick could tell that Howie was angry behind his smile because of the look of his eyes. Nick could always tell when the guys were angry with him each one had their individual way of showing it. Kevin's was to yell or hiss or growl, AJ's was to call him a dumbass or something like that, Howie's was to throw an icy stare or a disdainful head shake his way, and Brian's was just not talking to him or ignoring him until he cooled off and forgot about what had made him angry in the first place.
Right now, it seemed by the array of angry vibes he was picking up on, Nick had pissed off everyone well, except for Brian, who's head was still buried in his notepad, writing furiously.
Nick sighed and got up to stretch when the interview was over and then asked the nearest gaffer where the restroom was. Nick hurried off to the bathroom while Kevin fumed at being denied his sermon. Nick went into the bathroom and rushed to the last stall, sitting down on the lid and putting his head in his hands. As he sat there, a bunch of kids came in and were talking.
"Aren't they awesome?!?"
"Yeah well except Nick is he like a space cadet today or what?"
Nick sighed and then sat still as more voices spoke up.
"Brian is quiet today too. I wonder if they're feeling OK?"
"I dunno....I think Nick looks upset. I hope he's OK."
"How would you know?"
"He looks like my friend's big brother looked after his younger sister died. Just upset you know?"
Nick looked up and realized the voice was coming from right in front of him and that the young boy was standing at the sink a few feet in front of his stall.
"You might be right. He's kinda gained some weight too .maybe he is upset. I hope he'll be OK too."
Nick sighed, wondering if he really was so transparent or if the kids in the bathroom were just exceptionally bright.
"Wasn't that cool of Brian tho telling everyone that he had been sitting there writing a letter to Santa Claus."
Nick's head shot up. 'WHAT?!'
"Yeah. That's pretty cool. I wonder if it's for real or if he's just writing a song or playing hangman or something so as to not answer as many questions."
Nick suppressed a knowing giggle as the kids headed out of the bathroom and he got up and headed out himself.
Kevin grabbed him three feet away from the bathroom and quickly ushered him out to the waiting limousine.
"Where were you?"
"In the bathroom."
"NO In the interview .you certainly weren't with the rest of us in the interview. Jeez Nick you looked like you didn't even care!"
Nick put his head down and sighed and remained quiet as he listened to Kevin's sermon in the limousine and was never so happy to see a hotel as he was when they arrived at the one where they were staying.
Nick walked to the first elevator and smiled as Brian got on and immediately hit the close door button and the elevator took the two of them to their floor.
"I think Kevin needs to retire and become a preacher."
Nick laughed in spite of himself. He had never heard Brian crack on his cousin and it was pretty funny.
"Yeah. He missed his calling. But I hear that there's always openings at those "snake handlin'-holy roller" churches for a man with his mouth .er .his talents."
Brian laughed and nodded. "Mmmm .I'll have to start leaving brochures for him to read on that."
Nick giggled as the doors opened to their floor. The two men made their way quietly down the hall to the bank of rooms that they had reserved. Nick was unlocking his door when he heard Brian clear his voice from behind him.
"Like some company?"
Nick nodded and opened the door and waved Brian in. Brian smiled and walked into the room.
Brian sat down on the bed and smiled as Nick sat down on the opposite side of the bed and held up the remote.
"Wanna watch TV?"
Brian shook his head and looked at Nick with concern.
"Are you OK, Nick?"
Nick looked over at Brian and met his gaze.
"Yeah I guess so."
Brian shook his head.
"You never used to lie to me. Why start now?"
Nick closed his eyes and let out his breath.
"Well I guess I just don't know. I feel like I'm holding everyone back, Brian. That everyone has to baby me like they always used to when we first started. I just think the group would be better off without me."
Brian's eyes widened.
"What? Why do you think that? Because of today? Because of Mandah?"
Brian held out his hand and grabbed Nick's and held onto it tight.
"Frack. You never hold us back. We're a team. We can't work without you. We need you now as much as we ever did. And as for Mandah .she didn't really love you, did she? If she did, she wouldn't have tried to hurt you or dent the side of your house with her face when my wife practiced her jujitsu on her. Yow! That musta hurt!"
Nick giggled. "There's this oily splotch there .on the side of the house .it's like the Shroud of Turin only not as old .I wonder if people will think it's a religious artifact 2000 years from now."
Brian snorted. "Doubtful. But Nick don't shut me out. I'm not mad at you, Frack. I just feel like I am losing touch with you."
Nick looked at Brian and his lip began to quiver.
"But you have your own family now Brian, You don't need to be babysitting me anymore."
Brian looked down at Nick and shook his head.
"I've never had to babysit you, Nick. When we hung out, it was always because we're friends and because I enjoy being around you. I thought you knew that."
Brian got up off the bed and sighed then shook his head and walked out the door and back to his own room.
Nick sat there, stunned and upset by Brian's words, realizing that it was he that had pushed himself away from Brian more than Brian had pushed away from him. Nick looked up and saw Brian's notepad sitting on the nightstand by the bed.
"I wonder if he really was writing a letter to Santa." Nick thought as he grabbed the pad and flipped up the cover sheet.
Nick smiled as he recognized an unfinished hangman game and some of Brian's doodling.Nick turned to the next page and scanned the text and gasped as the words registered in his mind. This was the letter Brian had said he was writing...it was to Santa Claus...and it was about him.
I know a lot of people think that, at 25, I am too old to believe in Santa Claus. I even thought I had outgrown you until about 7 years ago. About 7 years ago, at Christmas, you gave me the best present ever and that's when I started to believe in you again.
The group had just started coming together and I felt really out of place. I felt like I didn't belong and that's when I met Nick. Nick was this cool kid with this amazing voice and he and I got to talking and next thing I knew we became friends and all the feelings I had about not fitting in went away. Then, while singing and touring, we just hung out so much that we became the best of friends. Nick and I became so close that I began to consider him a part of my family, my brother...my Frack.
Santa, you gave me the best present that Christmas when you gave me my best friend Nick, and I don't know what I did to deserve being friends with such a great guy.
A few years ago, when I had to have my heart surgery, Kevin said that Nick sat by my bed for hours after I got out of the Operating Room, just sitting with me until I woke up. I kinda remember hearing him talk as I came to, tho I can't remember everything he said because of the drugs they gave me but I do remember hearing him prayin' for me and asking God that I be OK that I live.
I knew then that I just wanted to get through the recovery just so that I could stick around with Nick because he's really special to me. So special that I sometimes wish the rest of the world could know him like I know him. And that they could love him like I love him. He's the best friend I've ever had. I love him so much that I'd be lost if anything ever happened to him or to our friendship.
But now, Santa, it seems that I've done something wrong
I've taken a wrong turn, because Nick is moving away from me. He and I
don't talk or hang out much anymore, and I've noticed that since he broke
up with that psycho Mandah girl, he doesn't like to be around me. He doesn't
say it in so many words, but I can tell in his eyes
like just now
as I write you this letter. I just looked up and our eyes met and I nodded
at him and he just looked away like he didn't want to see me.
I don't know what I'd do if he ever left me or the group.
Santa, I don't know what to do to make things go back to being the way they were between us. I don't know what to say to him to make him want to talk to me or hang out with me anymore.
But Santa, that's all I want really.
I want my best friend
my brother, my Frack back the way he
Nick's face was wet with tears as he finished the letter and he heard a noise from the hall and turned to see Brian as he walked into the room.
"Nick? Have you seen my notebook? Oh...Frack? Are you OK?"
Nick nodded and got up off the bed and walked over to Brian and grabbed him into a tight hug. Nick let go and handed him his notepad, still open to the letter.
"I'm sorry I've not been myself lately, Brian .I didn't think anyone cared and I felt like I was just a deadweight."
Brian moved to protest but Nick grabbed him into another fierce hug.
"I love you too, Frick. I'm sorry I hurt you...sorry that I closed up on you. I won't ever do that again."
Brian pulled back from Nick and looked down at the letter on his notepad as it fell out of his hand and onto the bed and he smiled as he felt his own tears fall down his cheeks. Brian looked up as if to the heavens and smiled widely.
"Thank you, Santa Claus!"
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