Quit Playing Games
Kat followed Nick docilely to the car. It was amazing, she thought, how much you can tell about a person’s mood just by the set of their shoulders. At the beginning of their conversation with Tanya he’d been depressed and embarrassed – his hunch clearly showed that. Now – well his shoulders were set in a stiff and rigid manner. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realized that he was furious.
"Nick…" she said hesitantly.
He spun around to look at her so quickly that she took a step back. The look on his face made her want to take several steps back.
"What?" he said bitingly.
She gulped but pointed across the street. A small group of girls were coming towards them quickly, obviously having heard that he was there.
He swore under his breath, then threw her the car keys telling her to start the car. As she watched the anger drained abruptly from his face and the famous Carter smile took its place.
Kat had started the engine and moved to the passenger seat by the time he was through signing autographs and having his picture taken. There were some disappointed squeals as he locked the door and put the car in reverse, but he ignored them and concentrated on his driving.
"Nick…" Kat tried again.
"I really need you to be quiet for a little while."
"Quiet!" he ordered.
She sat back in her seat, waiting in the uncomfortable silence. She tried to focus on the scenery, but it was no use. He was furious. And she knew it was her fault.
She should never have told him the truth. She should have just made something up. Surely if David could believe that asinine story, then Nick could have… Probably not: David was an idiot. Nick wasn’t.
For all that people made fun of his interests, saying that Nick was stupid, she knew he was anything but. It may not be school smarts or book smarts, but he had street smarts. Or rather Backstreet smarts.
And she didn’t mean that feciously. He had grown up in the music industry. He’d seen it from the bottom of the charts to the top. He’d seen the dark side and the light. He also knew people. Had seen their motivations quiet clearly. And he knew as much about "family" politics as, well, as she did. He was nobody’s fool.
She glanced at his rigid face. He wasn’t going to be talking about this anytime soon. She better relax. This was going to take a while.
Nick’s mind registered it as Kat settled deeper into her seat. How dare she/ How dare she relax when his world was shattering? He swerved suddenly then smiled maliciously as she swore and had to recompose herself.
His anger at her drained as quickly as it had appeared. She hadn’t wanted to tell him – he’d mad her. Just like he’d made her come down her to accompany him to Tanya’s. She’d even spend the last few days trying to talk him out of it. But he wouldn’t listen. It couldn’t be true, and he was going to prove it. No matter what he had said on the phone to her to get her down here, he was going to show her that it wasn’t true.
The joke really was on him.
What was he more angry about? The fact that Kat had been right? Tanya’s cheating? Howie’s betrayal? Definitely the latter.
There was so much going on in his mind, so much confusion. He needed to thnk. Perhaps that is why they ended up at his favourite beach. Obviously his subconscious had been working even if his mind hadn’t been – seeking out a place of peace.
He sat staring at the ocean through the front windshield then unbuckled his seatbelt and walked down to the shore.
Kat watched him go. He was so caught up in his thoughts he’d clearly forgotten she was there. Probably for the best at the moment. She slipped from the car and sat on the sandbank watching the waves, trying to relax. When Nick’d wandered down the beach far enough to almost be out of sight she slipped off her sandals and pants, revealing the swim suit she had seemed to put on automatically under her clothes. Nick was somewhat predictable; no matter what he’d planned for them it invariably involved water. She wandered through the warm water, enjoying the brush of the waves against her skin. She would have taken off her shirt and gone all the way in; swam for a while, but Nick’s mood was too fragile and it was a hell of a long walk back to the house from here. So she contented herself with just jumping the incoming tide.
A little over half an hour later there was still no sign of him and the temptation to just dive in the water was getting harder to resist when she felt someone push her into a large oncoming wave. She came up sputtering to see Nick’s grinning face.
"I don’t know which was funnier. The look on your face as you thought about diving in or the look on your face when you "fell" in."
She narrowed her eyes. "Why don’t I get you in here and then I can judge." She sprang out of the water and started to chase him down the beach.
It took a football tackle, a move she hadn’t even realized that she knew, to finally get him in the water. The accompanying face full of sand was just a perk. "Oh, the look on the face when you fell, definitely.’ She chuckled as he continued to spit sand out of his mouth, then ran quickly as he charged after her.
They were both drenched and a little breathless by the time they sat side by side at the edge of the water.
"Feeling better?" Kat asked.
Nick sighed. "No."
"Wanna talk yet?"
"Okay," she replied and splashed him.
"Hey!" he grabbed her and they started to wrestle in the sand than the water. After a minute or so she realized that some of the shaking that Nick was doing was not just from him trying to get the upper hand. He was crying.
She sat up and held him as he wept, knowing how hard the disillusion was hitting him. She’d already been through it.
"Sorry," he said when he calmed.
"What for? You did nothing wrong."
"For not believing you. And for hating you so much once I discovered the truth."
"Its okay. I hate myself a bit for being proved right."
He was silent. "I just thought… I mean Marissa is still angry at AJ. And she blames all of us for backing him. Helen, well Howie had a little crush on her. We all knew that. It could honestly have been an accident, you know? Like she said, just him trying to comfort her and it got out of hand."
"That’s possible," Kat agreed.
"But Tanya… He couldn’t stand her. There could be no logical reason for him to… Even if it was just him being the peacemaker and it being…" he broke off with a ragged breath.
"Marissa said it happened twice?"
He frowned. "Yeah. She did."
"Do you know when the second time was?"
"No. I was trying to get away from her by that point." He looked at her. "You asked Tanya that question too. Why?"
"Okay, Howie’s the peacemaker in the group, right?" Nick nodded. "Maybe he was trying to help."
"Look, with you and AJ, you were both stuck in bad relationships with people you just couldn’t seem to get away from. Maybe he was trying to do what he told me – getting a reason to get them to leave. I man if Tanya had told you that she’d cheated on you what would you have done?"
"See? She knew that, which is why she said nothing. AJ’d have done the same thing with Marissa. Howie could have told them both that he’d tell on them if they didn’t stay away."
"But he didn’t."
"Just because Marissa and Tanya didn’t mention it doesn’t mean that he didn’t."
"But Marissa…. Twice…"
"The first time could have been an accident. And you did say that she’d said he was different the second time. And Tanya admitted that it happened with him just a little bit before you two broke up the last time."
He was silent, his hands building little mountains in the sand. "It’s still a pretty sick way of getting rid of them."
"I didn’t say that is what truly happened. It’s just a theory."
"Is it what you think happened?"
"I don’t have all the information," she prevaricated.
"The truth, Kat. Do you think he is just doing this as a way to get AJ and I out of trouble?"
She was hesitant to answer. Then finally, "No. No, I don’t think that’s why he’s doing it."
"I don’t know. But Nick, you didn’t see him when he was telling me about it. He was… His eyes…" she started to shudder.
"Hey, its okay," he said, putting an arm around her.
"No it’s not, Nick. I just showed you that one of your best friends is some sort of sexual freak. And then told you I didn’t believe in the somewhat weird reasoning that could possibly explain why he is doing it. It is definitely not okay."
No. It wasn’t, he thought. But he didn’t know what to do about it.
"Come on," he finally said. "We’re both soaked."
"Ha! YOU’re soaked. I still have dry pants and shoes."
"Not if I get there first," he teased.
They ran up to the car, Kat rescuing her clothes before he could get there. He pulled some towels out of the back of the car, throwing one to her.
"Do you mind if we just drive around for a while? I need to think," he asked once they had clambered into the car.
The sun was starting to go down by the time that Kat started to doze off. It had been a long, traumatic day. And all that salt water had drained her. Nick waited until she was totally asleep before he slipped onto the road he had intended to go down.
It was full dark by the time they started to enter the outskirts. The increase in traffic was enough to startle Kat and she woke up with a sudden jolt. She blinked at the darkness, and the flashing lights.
"Where are we?"
He steeled himself for the inevitable anger.
(c) Kat Morgan