by Billy Burrew (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: No real Backstreet Boys were used, hurt or injured in the creation of this heartwarming fictional holiday story. Relax and allow this story to suspend your disbelief. Enjoy!
You never know when something completely unexpected will happen and change your life forever. People always say that Christmas is a time for miracles, well, I didn't believe that until just a few days ago. My name is Nick Carter and this is the story of the Christmas miracles that changed my life.
It started back in June. The guys and I were just getting out of a meeting with our management. See, we'd been due to go back into the studio to start recording our next album. Our last outing, with the greatest hits album, hadn't done very well and we wanted to get back into it and get the fans some new material. The meeting seemed to me, at least, to be a total waste of our time. The reps from the label kept telling us that they couldn't get any studio time for us now, and to wait til later in the year to go with it. As we finished up and got ready to leave, the one rep caught my eye and motioned for me to stay behind. After getting up to close the door behind the other departing members of my band, he turned and smiled and sat down across from me at the table.
"Nick," the rep said, pushing his glasses up his nose with his finger and then opening a briefcase and pulling out some papers, "My name is James Knessler. The Zomba team has asked me to talk with you a little and sound you out about maybe taking on a solo venture, something outside the group. If you are amenable to the idea, they were hoping to get you a solo album out in November."
I stood there, kinda stunned by it all. "So there's time for me to do a solo album but not enough time for the whole group to do an album?"
James' eyes thinned slightly and I could almost see his mind changing gears. "Nick. We feel that the Backstreet Boys need a bit more of a rest. We feel that, after this rest, the public will be ready for a new Backstreet album."
I nod my head slowly. "OK. Let's pretend for a minute that I'm interested in going solo for this album. What kind of control would I have over the content of this solo album?"
James smiled slightly. "What did you have in mind? We were hoping to see you do something maybe a little more acoustic, a little less pop, maybe more into classical rock and roll."
I couldn't stop the smile from forming on my face, "That's what I'd hoped you'd say. I was hoping to be able to write most of the songs...."
James nodded. "Can you meet up with a few of our writers after you've got some work done, then you all can hammer out the lyrics, or just polish it if that's what you need?"
I stood up and shook his hand "Yeah. OK. When did you want to meet back up...in a few weeks?"
James smiled widely. "Yes. That would be great. Let's keep this under wraps for now. We can announce a solo venture once we get some of the songs nailed down."
"Sounds good to me." I said as I opened the door and left the meeting room.
If I could edit out events of my life, like an editor cuts out pieces of songs or scenes of a movie, there wouldn't be a lot about my life that I would readily change if I could. My decisions and the events of that meeting would have to be one of those bits of my life that would chop out in a heartbeat. In the next few months after that meeting, I sat down with some writers and spent quite some time composing, re-tooling, and re-composing about 16 songs for my album. That part was OK.
The part that I would want to erase or change would have been the look on the faces of my friends, my bandmates in September when the surprise announcement came that our recording company had pushed aside the next album from the group to record and promote a solo album from me, their youngest member. That my album would be released in late October, early November and that the group's websites and public relations would be utilized to get the word out and push the album to the public.
"Um....Great" Kevin said, his voice thick with painfully false enthusiasm. He and the guys looking at me the way the Apostles would have looked at Judas at the last supper had they known of his betrayal. "Way to go, Nick!"
I felt shitty. No...shitty doesn't quite cover the way I felt. I was feeling lower than toe-jamb at that point. It was awful to watch the guys sit there and force smiles on their faces and try to sound happy for me.
It got worse after that, though. The guys stopped talking to me, and even when I called, they stayed distant and kept the calls short. When I performed and veejayed on MTV, I laughed and danced and sang in front of all those fans and the millions of people watching, but I've never felt more alone in all my life.
A few weeks after the album dropped, I was quietly informed by James that it was a good effort, but the audience for boyband soloists just wasn't there. I assumed that was his polite way to say that my solo career was over after one album. I decided against mentioning that the market was a bit deluged by the company when they dropped both my album and Justin Timberlake's album almost at the same time and that Timberlake's album didn't seem to be having problems finding its audience.
Time seemed to crawl for me over the next few weeks as I stumbled through November.
I saw the guys only once, right before Brian's wife gave birth to their son.
I had had way too much to drink, another lame attempt at drowning out my feelings.
I don't know if you know it, but when you're drunk, you're never bored. Time
seems to slip on by and you don't notice it that much.
Apparently, I had bumped into Kevin, Brian, and Howie at some bar a few days before Thanksgiving. I guess I was hammered and had made a complete ass out of myself. I don't really remember what I said, but apparently it was pretty pathetic, as just a few days later, the guys started calling again and they called a group meeting and grilled me about what James had said to me
back when they dropped the idea of the solo album on me.
A few days after Thanksgiving, I read online that the guys had brought a suit against Zomba for using the group website to promote my album and for stopping the group from recording and releasing a new album. Although I was named as one of the plaintiffs in the suit, I still felt like a heel.
About three weeks before Christmas, I got a call from from management asking if I could see them about a charity gig. I met with a PR lady named Libby for about an hour. Libby, 'please call me Lib', had just received a call from the local children's hospital and was wondering if I, or maybe myself and the guys, could stop by dressed up as Santa and do a little something nice for the kids at Christmas. I nodded and told her I'd do it myself. I asked her for directions to the hospital. I remembered Aaron having to go there once...but wasn't really clear about where it was exactly in the city. Lib nodded happily and printed me some directions. She also suggested I get a Santa suit from a costume shop down the street.
An hour and a half later, I found myself decked out in a Santa costume, complete with belt and beard and wig. I smiled, realizing that I kinda looked a bit young to be Santa.....but prolly could pull off being one of the junior Clauses. Happy with the size and the fit, I told the guy who helped me pick it out that I'd take it. He smiled and rung me up.
I called ahead to the children's hospital to let them know to expect Santa
on Saturday evening, the hospital PR guy I chatted with was delighted and said
he'd spread the word to the kids so that they'd be on their best behavior. Before
he hung up, he asked if I was going to reveal who I was to the kids after I
was done. I told him no, that it might not be cool, in case some of the kids
who still believed in Santa Claus got bummed out that it was only me in a costume.
The PR guy agreed. Although it's hard to imagine
being stoked to go to a hospital, the idea of playing Santa for a bunch of kids had me almost bouncing off the walls all day Saturday.
Late in the afternoon, I took a long shower and then put on some shorts and a shirt and, after putting the costume in the trunk of the car, headed out to the hospital. Once I got there, I ducked into a bathroom and changed into my costume. After applying a bit of rouge to my cheeks, I smiled as I looked at the reflection of the jolly elf that smiled back at me in the mirror. I put my clothes in my costume bag and headed out, dropping the bad off at the first nurses station I came to.
The nurse grinned at me and pointed at a middle aged man striding briskly towards me. "St. Nick!" he exclaimed, grinning at his own pun, "Thanks for coming tonight!"
I shook the man's hand and fell into step with him.
"I consolidated some of the kids into a few of the larger rooms so that you could visit with them at once. The others, the ones that couldn't get out of bed, or out of their rooms, you'll have to visit them separately.
I nodded and the man stopped and turned to me. "It's this room right here. I'll go in and introduce you. When you hear Santa Claus, just walk in."
I giggled and nodded as the man walked into the room and began his speech, telling the kids that they had special visitors and that they'd better behave. A minute later, the man introduced Santa and I walked into the room, smiling and "ho ho ho"-ing as deeply as I could. The kids went nuts and I felt my heart soar as they all clamored to form a line to sit on my lap to tell me what they wanted for Christmas.
The scene replayed itself out several more times that evening, as I met five other rooms filled with kids. As I bade goodbye to the kids in the fifth room, the PR guy grabbed my hand and led me along to some of the individual rooms. The kids in these rooms were just as happy to see Santa as the other kids, just not healthy enough to get out of bed and sit on my lap. I improvised and knelt by their bedside, putting an arm around their shoulders and listening intently as they told me what they wanted for Christmas. I visited about a dozen of these rooms over the next hour or so.
Finally, the PR guy smiled and said he had just one more room for me to visit. The man explained that the little girl's name was Jennifer, and that Jennifer's chances of making it past Christmas were not so good unless she found a matching bone marrow donor very soon. That thought seemed to suck the happiness out of me, so screwing up what remained of my cheer, I nodded and entered the room, laughing my Santa Claus laugh.
Unfortunately, my laughter faltered when I saw a pale, fragile looking little girl laying in bed, her mouth covered with an oxygen mask and her hands strapped down to the bedside, I assume to keep her from tearing off her mask or one of the plethora of tubes and wires that snaked their way down the wall and disappeared into her pajamas and under her covers. I walked over to her bedside, sat down, and saw that the little girl was awake and staring at me intently.
"Hello Jennifer," I smiled, trying to keep my voice deep, like Santa's. This was not an easy task as I'd been doing it all day, and my voice just isn't that deep to begin with.
Jennifer gave a little cough and then inhaled deeply. "Hi. Are you really Santa Claus?"
I nodded quickly. "I'm actually one of his great-great-great-great grandsons. Santa had to have a large family to help him get all the presents delivered in one night. We're all called Santa Claus, though, in private, you can call me Nick. I'm Nick Kringle."
Jennifer's eyes widened. "REALLY?!?"
I nodded. "We split the world into about 20 zones. Florida falls into my zone and so I take care of all the toy delivery and requests for this part of the country."
Jennifer's eyes were impossibly wide. "So there's 20 different Santa's?"
I nodded again. "Yep. We all look mostly alike too. Santa passed his good looks to all of us, it seems."
Jennifer's eyes bugged amazedly and her hands pulled on the restraints holding them in place.. "So...you're the real deal? I can ask you for something and really get it?"
I pretended to think about it for a second. "If you've been good all year long, I'm usually pretty good at getting you the presents you want at Christmas. Have you been good all year?"
Jennifer nodded enthusiastically. "Oh yes! I've been stuck in here most of the year."
I sniffed. "OK. Let's see then. What is it that you'd like?"
Jennifer nodded and gulped for a second before speaking her request so rapidly that it was almost unintelligible. "Iwannameetnickcarterandthebackstreetboys."
I smiled to myself as I realized what she said. That's easy...I can do that...and, mad at me or not, I could probably get the guys to do it too.
Jennifer stopped, her eyes filling up and shining slightly. "I don't want to die. I want to go outside and play like other kids do."
I felt my heart deflate like a balloon with a hole in it at that request. It it took me a moment to swallow the enormous lump that had formed out of nowhere and lodged itself firmly into my throat.
"Oh, Jennifer. I'll do my best. That's something that I don't have control over, though."
Jennifer nodded. "I thought so. That's not your department, huh?"
I shook my head. "I can ask...ask the BIG MAN... if you know what I mean." I said, nodding my head upwards, "But no, that one's not up to me."
Jennifer sniffed. "What about the other one?"
I nod my head slowly. "Yeah, I know a few people over there at JIVE. I'll see if they can get one of the guys, or all of them, over here to visit you."
Jennifer gawked, her hands nearly pulling free of the restraints. "Are you kidding!?!? Really?!? Ohmygawd! Thank you Santa. This is something I've wanted for, like, SO LONG, I couldn't go to their concerts here cause I was too sick. I am such a big fan too!"
I smiled and then thought about her second request. She needed a bone marrow donation. Maybe Santa couldn't help her, but Nick Carter and the Backstreet Boys could. Maybe we can do a few commercials and get a bone marrow drive going.
I patted her head and smiled. "I'll tell you what. I'll go give Nick a call personally. He's been a little bit naughty this year and I'll give him a chance to make it up."
Jennifer giggled through her mask. "He's been naughty?"
I nodded, stroking the white beard lightly as I watched her giggle at the idea of her idol being naughty.
I got up and smiled down at her. "I've got to be going...but I'll leave word at the nurse's station to let Nick through to see you when he gets here."
Jennifer's eyes went huge again. "Oh my God. Nick Carter's gonna come visit ME?!?"
I "Ho-ho-ho'd" out the door and smiled as I came to a halt well down the hallway where the PR man stood talking to a nurse.
The man smiled and turned to me. "How'd it go?"
I grinned. "Very well. I need to change and go back to see Jennifer though. I have a proposal for you."
The PR man's eyebrows lifted as he led me to his office so I could change and pitch my idea to him.
An hour later, the PR man smiled and ushered me back down the hallway to Jennifer's room. He went in before me and told her that she had a special visitor. I smiled as I could almost hear Jennifer straining at her restraints.
I walked in and smiled, grinning as I saw her eyes widen impossibly and heard her gulp back a scream behind her oxygen mask. "Hi Jennifer. I just got a call from Santa. He said you were my biggest fan and that you wanted to meet me."
Jennifer nodded mutely and I began to worry if this might have been too much for her to handle in one day.
I sat down on her bed and put my fingers in her hand and smiled. "You doing OK? I don't want to lose any of my fans, you know. Especially pretty ones like you."
I realized that this sort of flattery might have been a mistake, as Jennifer's fingers clamped down on my hand like an incredibly strong vice, and she began to shake all over.
"Hey... no need to get upset... it's just me. You'll be seeing a lot of me now." I said, trying to spread my hand to get blood circulating back into my now cold and numbing fingers.
"I will?" she asked hopefully.
I nodded. "Yeah. I heard that you were sick and that you needed a bone marrow transplant. I also heard that you haven't gotten a match yet. So I'm gonna get together with the guys and we're gonna do a drive to find you a match."
Jennifer's eyes glistened, filling with tears. "Really? You'd do that for me?"
I smiled. "Yeah. Santa said I might be able to help him make your other wish come true this way."
Jennifer's eyes boggled. "He REALLY WAS Santa Claus!! Ohmygawd!"
I got home that night and grabbed my cell phone. I called Brian first, hoping that things were OK enough between us that I could ask him and the other guys for this favor.
"Hello," Leigh Anne asked as she picked up the phone.
"Hi Leigh. It's Nick. Is Brian there?"
Leigh Anne giggled, "Yeah Nick. He's feeding the baby. It's good that you called. I was gonna go take over for him anyways... he's not holding the bottle properly and he's gonna give him gas."
I smiled as I realized that she was probably sitting right beside him and this was her way of letting him know he was screwing the feeding up. I heard Brian in the background saying that he was too holding the bottle right. A second later, I heard Brian swear and Leigh Anne giggle. A noise then told me that she had passed the phone to him.
I held back a laugh. "Hey Bri...Did he spit up all over you?"
Brian laughed loudly. "Yeah. All over my shirt. Just jike that time you got drunk when we were on tour in Germany back when you were 16 and barfed all over me as I carried you back to the hotel...only on a slightly smaller scale."
I laughed heartily. I remembered him trying to be mad at me for ruining his shirt for the next whole week.
"What's up, man?" Brian said.
"I was wondering if I could get a little favor from you?" I asked, uncertainly.
"Whatcha need?" Brian said, his voice still light with laughter.
It took me the better part of twenty minutes to explain to Brian what I did at the hospital today and what I wanted to do as well. In the end, Brian was really warm to the idea and seemed excited about it.
"Nick," Brian said as we wound the conversation up. "That was a real good thing you did today with the kids."
I felt myself blush at his words. "I've been feeling pretty shitty lately, what with all that happened with my album and our album and all the stuff between the guys and me. I felt like I needed to at least try to do something right this year."
Brian sighed. "It wasn't your fault. You got sucked in and duped by those schmucks. Once we realized that, we weren't angry with you. I wish... well... I think we should have told you we weren't mad. I knew you were upset over it all. That night we saw you at that club, you were so drunk and so miserable, I was really worried that I might lose my best friend. I didn't know what to do to help you, though."
I choked up at those words. I felt so stupid inside, and yet so happy that we were back to good as friends. It was all I could do to not blubber thanks on the phone. "Thanks Bri. You just did help me more than you could possibly know."
Brian said he'd call Kevin and the guys and we could all meet up on the bone marrow drive idea. If we hurried, we might be able to pitch it to the local radio and television stations, and maybe get a national feed and website up in a few days. Good as his word, Brian talked to the rest of the guys and they all agreed to help out. We called a few members of our management and promo people and had a meeting with them, pitching the idea and getting them going on sketching out a plan for immediate implementation.
Although it was "impossible" to get recording time for the group from the execs, it seemed almost too simple to get them behind this charity idea. In fact, it began to snowball like crazy after the first day, as I started to receive calls from other artists and performers, asking if they could join in with us on this cause, maybe sing a few of their songs or maybe sing some Christmas songs together. What had started on the small side quickly became a prime-time television event that spanned three nights, with some of the top-ranked performers of all time singing, dancing, and then being whisked away behind a curtain to donate blood and bone marrow. The Red Cross reported unheard of numbers of donations of blood and bone marrow from the public, citing that the television program had done miracles to fill the blood and marrow deficit the Red Cross had been working under for so long.
On Christmas Eve, as I shepherded the guys down the hospital hallway to visit with Jennifer, I smiled as I saw the hospital PR guy standing at the nurses station, his face flush with barely contained excitement.
"They found a match!" he said quickly, walking to me and shaking my hand.
"Awesome! Who was it?" I asked, overjoyed at this wonderful news.
"Let me see. The gentlemen's names are Nikolas Carter and Aaron Carter."
"Really?" I said, my eyes wide with excitement. "Me and Aaron?"
The man nodded. "Yeah. The chances of it being the two of you are astronomical, but there's no denying it's a perfect match."
"Does she know?" I asked, feeling enormously happy at this very good news.
The man shook his head. "I thought you might want to tell her yourself. She's due for her first transplant this weekend."
I smiled. "She's gonna go ballistic!"
OK. So ballistic was an understatement. Jennifer had known they had found a match, but when I told her who the bone marrow belonged to, I thought her head might just explode then and there. In less than a minute, three nurses had rushed into the room to see why her vitals had skyrocketed. When they found out, they cheered with her and headed back to their station.
The guys and I performed a few a capella songs for Jennifer, since she couldn't make our last concert, and it was her Christmas wish. We signed a few pictures and shirts and hats for her and then one at a time, wished her good luck with her operation and kissed her goodnight. I went last and as bent to kiss her cheek, she pulled her arms free from her restraints and pulled me in for a hug.
"Thank you, Nick Kringle." she said, smiling knowingly at the surprised look on my face. "Thank you for saving my life."
As I walked back to my car, I realized that not only are miracles possible, but that I had been part of two of them in just under two week's time. As I got inside my car, I thought about how blessed I was to have my friends back, how blessed I was to have been able to help save that little girl's life. These thoughts filled me with love, joy, and goodwill, and as I started the engine, I realized that those feelings are what Christmas is really all about. That those feelings are really the biggest miracle of all!
God Bless You All & Have A Wonderful Holiday Season!!