By Julien Gregg
"You think he's your brother?" Wendy asked, peering out the back window of the car to look at Brian as he drove away. "He's cute."
"Hey!" protested Ben as he turned around in his seat to look at her.
"You know what I mean, Honey," she said without even bothering to turn to look at him.
"I'm fairly certain," I said as I put the car in drive and drove off the shoulder.
"Fairly certain about what?" she asked, still gawking.
"About Brian being my brother," I sighed.
"Right," she said, turning around in her seat. I guess Brian had driven far enough away that he was no longer interesting. "Why didn't you say something to him?"
"Ok," I laughed. "Do you ask perfect strangers if they're your siblings?"
"Point taken," she said. "So what are you going to do about it?"
"I don't know," I replied. I hadn't thought about it that hard. I'd only just gotten back into the car and driven away. "I suppose I could call him. I have his address and telephone number now."
"You really think that's your brother?" Ben asked.
"He sure looks like the boy in the picture my mother showed me," I said.
"That's just unreal, Tommy," he said. "The brother you've never met happens to smack you from behind in Chicago. It's just unreal."
"Tell me about it," I replied. "The world gets smaller and smaller."
"He may not be your brother, though," said Nick.
"That's right," I agreed. "Don't worry, I'm not getting my hopes up. Besides, if he is my brother he may not even want anything to do with me."
"Oh, I doubt that he'd have issues, Tommy," said Wendy.
We pulled into the hotel and searched for a place to park the car. I finally found a place just before I gave up, and then we got out of the car to stretch before going inside to check in. The hotel wasn't extravagant, but it wasn't a dump. It was six floors, had a pool and served breakfast in a dining room instead of the continental breakfast that most served.
The lobby looked nice with dark blue carpet and white marble walls. There were people coming and going as we walked in, so we had to wait a bit before we got to the counter. We checked in, got our keys and went upstairs. Each of us had carried our bags. Wendy had carried a bag, but the rest of hers were still in my trunk. Ben would have to go back down to get them soon. Our rooms adjoined and were on the fifth floor. At least there was an elevator. I could see Ben having to go up and down the stairs to get the bags.
"So which one of us is going to go and stand in line today?" Nick asked as he sat his bag down on the bed that he'd be sleeping in.
"We decided that yesterday," I laughed. "I have the first shift, you and Wendy are in charge of making sure I eat and have plenty to drink while I'm down there, then Ben comes to save me at nine, and you go and save him at three."
"What if we don't have the tickets by then?" he asked.
"Then I come down at get you at nine in the morning again," I replied. "So I'm going to grab something to eat and head on over there."
"I'll have to drop you off if we're supposed to be making sure you eat," he said, following me back out of the room and down the hall to the elevator.
"Hopefully Ben will have Wendy's bags upstairs by the time we leave then," I chuckled.
We went down to the restaurant and ordered burgers and sodas for everyone. We met Ben at the elevator, and he informed us that he had the last of her bags. We laughed about that. We were only going to be there until Sunday at the latest, so naturally Wendy packed for a month.
"That food?" he asked, nodding his head at the bag I was carrying.
"Yeah," I replied. "I figured we'd eat before Nick takes me down to the line."
"We should have just got tickets online like we did last time," said Ben. "The only reason we're here is so she can shop."
"There won't be any room for us in the car if she buys too much," said Nick.
"Easy," laughed Ben. "I won't let her shop too much. Besides, we'll be too busy making sure Tommy has something to eat in line for her to take off too far."
"Are you kidding?" I asked. "We'll be right in the parking lot of the very mall she's been talking about all week."
"Right," he sighed.
We ate in Ben and Wendy's room and talked about how all of this would work once again. Wendy promised not to run off shopping without at least taking her cell phone. I laughed at that look on Ben's face when she said that. We all rode to the mall together, and I was disgusted to see that the line was huge already. I got a bottle of water and made my way to the end of the line just as my cell phone started playing the theme from "Jeopardy". I didn't recognize the number.
"Hello?" I asked, wondering who it was. It was a Chicago area code, so I didn't know who it would be.
"Tommy Porter?" a guy's voice asked.
"This is Tommy," I replied. "Who is this?"
"This is Brian," he said. "We exchanged insurance info this morning."
"Right, hello," I said quickly. "Was there a problem?"
"No," he said. "I've just been thinking about something ever since I learned your name. Are you still in the city?"
"Actually, I'm standing in line to get tickets to see Skyler Thomas," I laughed.
"Mind if I come stand with you for a while?" he asked. "I really need to talk to you about something."
"Sure," I replied. "Come on out here."
"Thanks," he said. "I'll be there in twenty minutes. I know just where you are."
"Who was that?" Ben asked as I closed my phone and put it back on my hip.
"Brian," I replied. "I guess he wants to talk to me about something. He's on his way here."
"The guy that hit us this morning?" Wendy asked. I nodded. "Maybe he is your brother, Tommy."
"I think that might be what he wants to talk about," I said.
"Well, we'll just go into the mall for a while and give you some privacy," she said. Ben's eyes widened as he looked around at the people in line.
"Thanks, Wen," I chuckled. "Love ya."
"Mean it," she replied, kissing my cheek.
"I think I'll stay here, so Tommy and Brian can go talk when he gets here," said Nick as Ben and Wendy began to walk away. Ben gave him a dirty look before he took Wendy's hand and walked off toward the mall. I could just see him trotting after Wendy from store to store.
"Thanks, Nicky," I said as we watched them walk away.
"Sure, Tommy," he said, smiling. "No way in Hell was I going to be carrying bags!"
"I just knew there was an ulterior motive," I laughed.
"So you think this guy is your brother?" Nick asked as the line moved forward an inch.
"He looks like a grown up version of the picture my mom showed me of my brother, Brian, a long time ago," I said. "He must think I might be at least related to him. What else could he want to come out here to discuss?"
"Something to do with the accident?"
"No, I asked if there was anything wrong about that," I replied. "It has to be that he thinks we at least are related."
"So you'll know soon then," he said.
"I hope so," I replied.
The thought that this guy could be my older brother was both exciting and intimidating. For one thing, we knew nothing about each other. My life was sort of an open book. There were magazine articles and news archives from the trial, and what if Brian didn't like homosexuals? The really cool part about it was that I'd always wanted to meet him and be close to him. The very idea of having a brother out there somewhere when you're an only child is a cool one.
Then I thought about who he really was. I mean being my brother didn't define him. He'd have his own life story to tell me. I wondered what it would be like to get to know him. I hoped that we could at least be friends. I was working myself up pretty fast, and Nick smiled as he watched my face. He always knew when I was building something up in my mind.
"Easy," he said with a chuckle.
"Yeah," I agreed, but I wasn't laughing.
"Excuse me," said an older man in a suit. His dark hair was a bit white at the temples. "You're the five hundredth person in line as of right now. What's your name?"
"Tommy Porter," I said, looking around at everyone staring at us. I wondered what was going on.
"Well, Tommy, we've got a surprise for you," said the man as he reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope. "How many are in your party?"
"I came to buy ten tickets," I replied.
"Well this is your lucky day," he said. "I have here in this envelop a VIP pass. You take this with you, and when you get to the front of the line, hand this to the associate at the counter. We'll head up there in just a minute."
"VIP?" I asked. "What does that mean?"
"Well it means that you're tickets are free today, Tommy," he said. "It also means that you're the winner of five all access back stage passes."
I heard the crowd gasp, and I turned to look at Nick. His eyes were open almost as wide as his mouth. I couldn't believe it. For a second I thought it was a joke, but the man put the envelope in my hand and motioned for me to follow him to the front of the line. When we got there, I handed the woman at the counter the envelope. She took my information, and then someone took my picture. I walked away from the counter with ten free front row tickets and five all access back stage passes. I had to fill out a paper to get them, and I could only think of four people to list for the passes at first. Then I just wrote in Brian's name on the fifth line. I had no idea if he'd want to go to the concert at all, but he had a ticket and a back stage pass in his name now.
Nick was talking excitedly as we walked away from the counter. I was busy putting the tickets and passes in my pocket. I was thinking about calling Ben to come and take us back to the hotel, but then I saw Brian. He was looking at everyone in line as he walked. I walked over to him.
"Hey," I said. "I just won back stage passes and free tickets."
"Well that's great," he laughed. "So you have the tickets now?"
"Sure do," I said, tapping my pocket.
"Feel like grabbing a bite to eat so we can talk?" he asked.
"I'll call Ben, Tommy," said Nick. "I'll find them in the mall. Don't worry. You go ahead."
"I'll see you later then," I said as he walked off. He turned to wave.
"Your friends'll be all right?" Brian asked as I followed him back to his car.
"Oh, yeah," I said. "They know their way back to the hotel."
"Cool," he said, using his keypad to unlock and disarm his car. "We'll just head over to Denny's for a bit. Hungry?"
"I actually just ate a burger before I came down here," I said. "We were only here for maybe a half hour."
"Sodas it is then," he chuckled as we got into his car.
My mind was spinning. I didn't know this guy from Adam really, and I was in his car and heading for a restaurant. I'd just won the tickets I was supposed to put on my credit card and got five back stage passes for my trouble. That's when I remembered that I'd put Brian's name down as the fifth pass holder.
"Hey, I kind of have a ticket and pass for you, too," I said. "Sorry about that, but I was kind of in shock when they told me to write down five people on the form for the passes, and your name was the first one that popped into my head for the fifth line."
"Wow," he said as he drove out of the parking lot. "Thanks, Tommy. I wasn't going to buy a ticket, because I didn't think I'd be coming back up here, but now that I have one I guess I will."
"I didn't even know if you liked Skyler Thomas," I said. "I really hope it's ok."
"It's great," he said. "And I am a fan, so that makes it better. Thanks again."
"Sure," I laughed.
We pulled into a parking lot, and I saw the big sign that was so famous around the country. It hadn't taken us long to get there, so I assumed we were still close to the mall. Brian locked his car and armed his alarm as we got out. The place wasn't too crowded, and we were seated at a table in minutes.
"I bet you're wondering why I wanted to talk to you," he said as the waitress handed us menus.
"I think I might know why," I said before telling the waitress that I'd just have a soda. He followed suit, and she left to get the drinks.
"This might sound crazy to you, but do you have any siblings?" he asked.
"That doesn't sound crazy to me at all," I replied. "My parents are both dead, but my mom showed me a picture of a boy that she said was my brother a long time ago. She said his name was Brian. I've been thinking about that since we exchanged information."
"Was your mother's name Donna?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said with a smile. "That's her."
"Well then I think I might be your brother," he said. "My mom told me that my dad remarried after their divorce. She did, too, but she told me that not long after my dad got married, you were born."
"Yeah, but I don't remember my father," I said.
"I remember him a little," he said. "But what I wanted to know was if you really were my brother. I guess I have my answer, but what are you doing in Illinois? I thought you lived in Florida."
"Oh, we did live in Florida, but we moved to Storyville a few years ago," I explained. "My mom got a new job."
"You moved to Storyville?" he asked. His eyes grew large and he looked excited.
"Yeah," I replied. "I own a house there."
"So you still live in Storyville then?"
"Yeah," I chuckled. "Why?"
"Well, I've been going to school there," he explained. "It's a long story, but I'll be transferring to Storyville University this fall."
"I'll be a freshman at Storyville U this fall," I said with a smile.
"So it looks like we'll get to spend some time getting to know each other after all," he said.
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