Title: Time Goes On
Chapter: Chapter 7 of 10
Warning: This fictional story contains mature content such as; alcohol-usage, profanity, sex and violence, consider youself warned.
Excerpt: I still couldn’t understand why he’d been so upset about what I’d worn. Maybe he thought the shirt was too tight? Maybe too low cut? Maybe he thought the skirt was too short? I finally drifted off with the hope that things would not return to the way they had been and a mental note not to wear that shirt or skirt again.
The days passed with the tour getting closer. We were all looking forward to it. Ike and Karen had finally settled everything and she’d moved back to her hometown in Louisiana. Ike and the rest of the family had stopped going to the cemetery so often and things had begun to get better. The guys left for New York to promote the tour on the talk shows. During that time the family would watch the TV and gather around the radio. Zac had announced that he “has a girlfriend back home.” The fans would get these disappointed looks on their faces and then perk up again when he’d make a joke about “She makes me behave myself.” or “She keeps me in check.” I always smiled at that because I’d be reminded of his wit and ability to make people laugh, two things I’d always admired.
Ike had made the announcement that he was officially “divorced and single,” that would make the fans scream with delight that they now had a chance and they seemed sincerely happy that he was doing all right. They also let their excitement be known when Taylor would talk about how happy he was with expecting a new addition. The guys were in bliss being out there again. They were so excited about the tour and were pleased that their fans had remained loyal and were just as anxious for a Hanson return as they were. They seemed so happy performing together and the people loved hearing the new music. The album had been released so the fans already knew the words to some songs and would sing along with the band. It had been decided that the guys would do more promotion in Los Angeles for another week, it was disappointing but it made the family happy to see them so happy.
Although it was obvious that a DJ/host would hit a sensitive spot for Isaac when asking about his divorce, he’d always handle it very well. Once or twice, Zac would get asked how he was doing with his “recovery.” That question was always handled well too. They would call every evening and Zac and I e-mailed a lot. Tori was planning to have her baby shower the next weekend so she and Taylor talked about that quite a bit. When they’d call, Taylor and Ike would assure all of us that Zac was doing good. To help him out when the other band members and road crew had been hanging around with beers in their hands, Ike would choose to drink water or soda with Zac and Taylor would only have one beer. They seemed to get a lot of joy out of it when that would earn them subtle smiles and thank you nods from their younger brother. Still, I wondered how long it would last… Zac never seemed to be able to face too much uneasiness.
That weekend, Walker took Mac with him to his brother’s house and the girls got busy preparing for Tori’s baby shower. She and Taylor were expecting a boy so by 11 on Saturday morning, the living room was decorated all in blue and white. Blue balloons, mixed with a few white, were everywhere. Blue streamers lined the walls and were draped down the banister, blue and white ribbons held two helium filled balloons, both announcing that a baby boy was on the way, to an end on the banister. A curtain made of blue and white streamers separated the kitchen and living room. Tori and Diana had gone to the store to buy the food and other stuff needed while Avery and I arranged the furniture and Zoe helped Jessica make a wreath for the front door. “I wish our brothers were home.” Zoe said as she held a piece of ribbon so Jess could cut it. “Even if they were in Tulsa, they couldn’t be here. This is just for girls.” Avery replied, smiling, as she carried three large coffee table books to the hall closet. Zoe gave one of her ‘I’m bored’ sighs and handed Jessica another piece of ribbon. “Now just another snip here…” Jessica said as she cut through a streamer, “and done!” I looked up as I sat the large lamp on the corner table I’d just moved and saw Jess proudly holding her latest work of art up to be admired. “So, what do you think?” I smiled. “Wow, that’s great,” Avery said. Jessica was very artistic and loved making crafts. She’d found an old brown wicker wreath, spray painted it white, the only color we had and had made a huge blue bow in the middle with several pieces of left over ribbon. Long pieces of blue and white ribbon danged from the bottom at different lengths. She had used a dark blue glitter pen to write “BABY ON THE WAY!” on a piece of streamer that went across the bottom and had added some blue glitter to the wreath.
“Oh Jessica, that’s beautiful. You did a great job.” She smiled and walked over to the front door. “You too Zoe!” I said when I saw the ‘hey what about me.’ expression on Zoe’s face. “Hey you guys, we better hurry. Mom and Tori will be back in a minute and then things are gonna get crazy!” Avery said. “We still have to decorate the dinning room.”
Jessica replied. “Ok. Avery, let’s get the cake started. Zoe, Jessica, you two get the dining room table cleared and dusted. Stack the chairs in the corner, and sprinkle some freshener on the carpet. Avery, where did you put the carpet freshener?” I asked as Avery started toward the kitchen. “It’s over on the shelf,” she replied. Jessica picked up the carpet freashener and a dusting rag out of the cleaning supply box and said “C’mon Zo.” I reached down to get the furniture polish as Zoe walked past me to follow her sister. “Zoe, here.” I said. She stopped and turned. I stretched out my hand, handing her the can. She took it and walked into the dining room behind Jessica. I sighed and took one last look around, before heading into the kitchen. Within an hour and a half, the cleaning and decorating done, Diana, Jessica and me were all in the kitchen preparing the rest of the food. Tori, Avery and Zoe were setting the dining room table for the buffet.
We had managed to all get showers and get dressed. Tori’s hair was still in a towel and Diana had simply pulled all of hers up so that it was one less thing she had to worry with. I had just dried mine and had settled on a swept up kinda style since I didn’t feel like dealing with the flat iron and gel. “Melissa, help.” Tori said walking into the kitchen and taking the towel out of her tangled hair. I smiled and got a couple of sodas out of the fridge. “Come on.” I said, ushering Tori upstairs. “Me too, fix mine too!” Zoe said loudly. “All right,” I smiled “I’ll fix your’s too.” The three of us headed upstairs and had settled in Tori and Taylor’s bathroom. After about thirty minutes of drying, combing, twisting, spraying and a few yelps, Tori’s hair was done, some of it pulled back with a layered look to her bangs. It took less time for Zoe. Her hair had been dried and brushed already and I’d gotten her to settle on on jeweled clip to pin a little hair and her long bangs. When we heard the door bell, Tori said “Well, let’s go.” I applied some lip gloss and sprayed Zoe’s hair once on top, then we walked out of the bathroom and down the stairs.
Soon, the living room was filled with 17 guest and Tori sat in the middle of the couch with the gifts surrounding her feet. I sat on her right side and Diana on her left. The other attendants gathered around where there was a free seat. The gifts were mostly baby clothes and baby toys. She also got a couple of photo albums, a knitted blanket with blue and yellow yarn, a few very cute picture frames and a baby book from Diana and Walker. Everyone had a great time and the visiting continued past the 4 pm end date. Once everyone had left, we’d started cleaning and Tori sat down to e-mail some of the pictures to Taylor. She then went upstairs to take a nap while Avery and Zoe went to watch a movie in the den. Jessica decided to check her e-mail and Diana and I sat on the couch taking a much needed rest. The phone suddenly rang, causing us both to jump a little bit. “Hello?” Diana answered with a yawn. “Oh hi honey. Did you get them?” She continued to chat about the day and it became obvious that she was talking to Taylor. They chatted for a few minutes as I stretched out on the huge couch. I dozed for a bit but when I heard “Yeah put him on she’s right here.” I opened my eyes. After a greeting and a minute of talking, she handed the phone to me and said “Zac wants to talk to you.” I took the phone as Diana went upstairs to take a bath. “Hey.” I said. “Hey there.” was his reply. We talked for a little while about the baby shower and the guys coming home that Tuesday. I could tell from his voice that he was tired… but there was also something else. Just as we were about to hang up, he said my name in a way that made my stomach tighten. The way he used to say my name just before he’d hit me. He hadn’t talked that way in so long but I remembered the tone so well. That very serious tone that told me I had displeased him in some way and that he wanted to speak with me about it.
“What?” had been my answer. “I saw the pictures of all of you at the baby shower.” Frantically, I tried to remember what all had gone on. I wasn’t sure what pictures Tori had sent. What could he be upset about? “Yes, did you not like them?” I asked. “Oh, we all liked them. They were good pictures of all of you, they turned out great,” he said. Then he was quiet for a moment before he he finally spoke again.
I hated those pauses.
“Melissa,” he spoke quietly close to the phone now. That let me know that other people were in the room, most likely his brothers. They would recognize his tone and become concerned. His voice was strained and his teeth were clenched. “I don’t ever want to see another picture of you dressed like that. Do you understand?” I couldn’t speak, I tried to think of what could have possibly be wrong with what I was wearing. “Melissa, you are not a whore and I won’t have people thinking that. You will not dress like that again. Is that understood?”
I simply said “Yes” still not knowing what the problem was. With a quick “I love you” he hung up. I didn’t tell anyone what had been said. The rest of the evening went on without much happening. We were all tired and didn’t feel much like doing a lot. We had dinner and then all went to bed. As I was undressing, I thought again, about what Zac had said. I felt an uneasy feeling in my whole body. He talked just like he had so many times before he’d gone to the treatment center. He seemed like the old Zac. As I lay in bed and looked at my clothes on the chair. I’d worn a jean skirt with a jeweled belt, a white, lacy top with flared sleeves and flat dress shoes. I hadn’t worn any pantyhose and the only jewelery I’d had on was a silver necklace that had a M on it and a silver ring Zac had given me that he’d bought at a discount store when we were out just before they’d left for New York. I still couldn’t understand why he’d been so upset about what I’d worn. Maybe he thought the shirt was too tight? Maybe too low cut? Maybe he thought the skirt was too short? I finally drifted off with the hope that things would not return to the way they had been and a mental note not to wear that shirt or skirt again.
When they came home, chaos hit the house like a tornado. For three days, everyone ran around trying to prepare. Nothing else had been said about Zac’s objection to the clothes I’d worn at the baby shower and no one else seemed to know. The tour would be their first in years and high expectations had been placed on it. The album hadn’t done amazingly well but better than anyone expected. The buses had been arranged and the tour was already sold out… adding stress on the guys. They wanted so much to make their fans happy and we all just hoped that everyone attending the shows would think that it had been worth the wait. The guys were putting so much thought and planning into the whole tour. They were so busy trying to make sure that everything would work out and that no one would be even slightly disappointed.
Tori, me, Taylor, Ike, Zac, an assistant, security guard and driver would travel on one bus, while another bus would carry two security guards (one driving), two road crew members and four other band members. The buses were needless to say, large. They were both nicely decorated and made to be like a home on wheels. Both had a kitchen area with microwave and fridge. The bus the guys would be on had a full bathroom, sitting area with two mounted TVs and a VCR, a full length couch and booth table, three separate bedrooms and two bunks.
The other bus had two booth seats, a TV, VCR, half bath and ten bunks. The day before the tour started, with the first show planned for Little Rock, Arkansas, we packed and loaded the buses.
Finally when we had time to rest I retreated into the den. I was stretched out on the day bed when the double doors slowly opened and Taylor walked in. “Hey, I was wondering where you were hiding,” he said with a smile. I grinned and said “Just looking for a place out of the chaos. Come have a seat.” He nodded and sat across from me in a chair. He stretched his arms above his head then let his hands drop into his lap. “I kinda wanted to talk to you alone,” he said. “Ok, go ahead,”I said. He sighed deeply and then finally spoke. “I never had a chance to tell you this. I know it might be late and I should have said it sooner but better late than never.” I was lost on what he could have possibly been talking about. “Taylor, what?” I asked sitting up. “I wanted to say that I’m sorry Melissa.” Now I really was confused. Why would he be apologizing? “Sorry? For what? You’ve never done anything to me that you need to apologize for.” He looked over at me and slightly smiled. I could see a look of guilt and concern in his face. “Melissa, I feel like I am partly to blame for all the shit that happened with you and Zac, all that crap he did, and I’ve never told you that I was sorry. I’ve just been thinking about that lately and I realized that I never apologized to you.” I sighed heavily as his words brought back the painful memories and the fear that I would be hurt again because of Zac’s comments on the phone. “Taylor, you are in no way to blame for any of that. Why are you feeling that way?” Slowly, he stood up and walked over to sit down next to me. He turned to face me and then looked down. “I know that I said you’d be better for him than Courtney, that day at your house. I tried to pretend for so long that Zac didn’t do anything to Courtney. I’d seen the bruises and I saw him get angry. I just kept thinking that there was no way my little brother could do any of that. I guess I knew in the back of my mind that it was true but I tried so hard to convince myself that it wasn’t. In a way, to me, he was that goofy little Zac that used to try to fly and was always making stupid remarks in interviews. Even now, I still see him that way sometimes. I kept thinking that all he needed was someone who’d help him get over his past with Courtney. She hurt him by cheating on him and I thought that if you and him were together, you’d treat him the way he deserved and that he’d never hurt you. I was so wrong and I’m sorry that I was part of you and him getting together.”
I listened to Taylor and tried to understand how he felt. To me though, I was the only one responsible for Zac and me getting together and I couldn’t figure out why he would be saying he was sorry. “You didn’t do anything to be sorry for. Don’t feel like you hold the blame for any of it. You couldn’t have known and if you had and had tried to tell me, I probably wouldn’t have listened. Ike and your mom tried to warn me about how bad it would get, and so did Courtney. I never listened to any of them. Anyway, things are going great now. He’s better, he got the help he needed. So don’t worry because none of that is going to happen again. It’s over and I really believe that this family has a bright future.”
He looked at me and suddenly grabbed me in a tight hug.
“Well now, so here’s where you both ran off to. Taylor, I swear, if you don’t get your hands off my woman I’m gonna beat you from Tulsa to to the other side of Oklahoma!” Taylor let out a sigh and then pulled away from me. “Oh take a pill,” he said as Zac walked closer.
“Hey! You happen to be trespassing on private property!” Zac replied teasingly, pointing a finger in Taylor’s face. Tay stood up and the two began playfully shoving each other and trading taunts back and forth. Then with a laugh, Zac said “Tori’s looking for you.” Taylor smiled and said “All right.” He walked out and closed the door.
“So, you better not make a habit of getting that close to my brothers on a regular basis.” Zac said as he sit next to me. “I won’t, I promise.” I said.
“Yeah? Good, that’s good,” was his reply. Then he leaned down and kissed me, for the first time in nearly two days. I held the kiss as long as possible. Then he got up and walked out. I can’t explain it, but I got a feeling at that moment… a terrible feeling. I had begun to notice that Zac was not even close to as affectionate as he used to be. He was distant and when he did kiss me, he always seemed to want the kiss to stop before I did. When we’d first got together, and for months after that, he’d kiss me and hold me to him… I couldn’t pull away before he was ready. As a matter of fact, that’s the way it had been up until he’d left for New York to promote the tour. He’d always been affectionate and loving with me, even before and after his anger would be known. Not anymore though. He seemed like he could go for days without a simple hug or kiss and I wanted him more than ever. At first, I had thought that maybe that was it, it was one of his games and he knew he was making me want to kiss him and hug him more and that maybe he got something out of breaking up a kiss or moving away from an embrace.
The more I thought about it though, the more I just knew that wasn’t it. Something was wrong. He was very different and I didn’t like this side of him. “Melissa!” Avery called just before she opened the double doors that led to the den. “There you are,” she said as she approached me. “Are you all right?” she asked. I looked up at her. “Oh, yeah, fine.” I smiled.
“Ok, well, we are gonna order some pizza and rent some movies. C’mon and put your order in.” She offered her hand to help me up. We walked out of the den and into the living room.
I, once again, put the thoughts about the changes in Zac out of my mind and resumed my happiness with the rest of the family. At times like that, I found myself looking to Taylor and Ike for signs of them noticing changes in Zac. For the last three days though, I’d gotten no signals from either of them. They both seemed to be unaware that anything was different… or they were doing a hell of a job acting.
“Melissa! Have you seen that blue duffel bag?!” Tori called from the back of the bus. I threw my hair brush back into my purse and turned around, spotting the bag on the floor next to the door. “Yep, here it is,” I said. I picked up the bag and held it out to her as she walked through the sliding door that separated the front of the bus from the bedrooms in the back. “Oh good. Thanks,” she said, taking the bag and placing it on the couch. She began pulling her hair back into a ponytail. “I just wanted to make sure we didn’t leave it out here,” she said with a smile. I smiled and nodded as we continued to gather things to take inside. We had learned that the fewer trips we had to make back out to the bus, the better.
The tour had been going on for a month and a week. Although, I’ll be the first to admit that the traveling had been great, it was also hard. Hotels and being in a different city everyday was not all that everyone makes it out to be. There’s a lot of rush and confusion to it. The fans had started taking an interest in me, which was all right but sometimes I wished that I could be back home. It was tiring and sometimes even boring. Being on a bus for hours at a time or hanging out in a room backstage while Zac did sound check and the meet and greet, or had meetings about last minute changes or talked to this person or that person or took a nap.
There was always some reason why we could never have any time to spend with each other. Even when we were on the bus going to the next stop, something besides me always occupied his time. It was hard to sleep on the bus and so we rarely tried. I found myself spending more time with Ike than I ever thought I would. We’d talk or watch TV or play cards. Recently, our favorite past time had become books. Late at night, there wasn’t always something interesting on TV and we’d gotten our fill of card games for a while. So once we were all settled on the bus and had started the ride to the next city, Ike and I would sit on the couch in the back room with a snack and take turns reading to each other from his collection of mystery novels. That was among the many things we had in common, a love of mystery stories.
“All right, I think that’s about it. You got your pass?” Tori pulled me away from my thoughts. I watched as she picked up our purses and then grabbed the keys from the booth table. “Yeah, right here,” I replied, taking my pass out of the back pocket of my jeans and slinging the now packed duffel bag over my shoulder. We walked toward the door and when Tori slowly opened it, we heard the girls waiting outside begin to scream. Tori turned around and smiled.
“They have seen the guys get off and go inside, they know it’s us,” I said. “Yeah, well, just remember, wave and smile and get inside as quickly as possible,” she replied. I nodded and we each took a deep breath. We stepped off the bus and Tori locked the door. We quickly walked passed the crowd, smiling and waving, and into the venue. There were people going in every direction yelling at each other about the show time and the equipment. We walked down the long hallway, and into the room that had been set up for the guys. I closed the door and tossed the bag on the floor. Tori slid our purses off of her shoulder and set them on the couch.
“Well,” she said looking around and placing her hands on her hips, “I wonder where they are.” She glanced at her watch. “The meet and greet don’t start for another hour.” she looked over at me “Did you see them anywhere when we were coming in?” I slipped my pass around my neck and shook my head at her. “Nope. Maybe they went to eat,” I shrugged.
Tori nodded, “Yeah maybe so. Hey eating is not a bad idea. Let’s go see what the selections are.” She and I walked out of the room and down the long hallway into the lounge where the food was set up. As we walked in, we saw road and venue crew members. The room was somewhat noisy. We slowly made our way through the people standing around and saw Taylor in the corner talking to the bus driver. “Hey!” he called to us with a wave, “Did either of you happen to see Isaac or Zac anywhere?” As we got closer we both shook our heads. “Nope,” Tori answered, “We were coming in here to look for you guys.” Taylor’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “I can’t find Ike. We lost him as soon as we came in and now Zac has completely disappeared.” That caught my attention. “You don’t know where he is?” I asked, a little surprised. It wasn’t like Zac to take off and not tell Taylor or Ike where he would be. “Uh-uh. Not for about an hour. I know he got a call on his cell before he left though. He seemed upset, almost in shock, but he just got up and walked out without saying anything to anyone.” Taylor answered. I sighed, “All right. I’ll go see if I can find them. Be back in a while.”
I turned and grabbed a candy bar and a coke off the table and walked out. I walked up and down the hallways, looking in the dressing room and meet and greet room. I looked in the road crew rooms and asked most everyone I passed if they had seen either of them at any time. They all had the same answer. No one knew where Ike was and no one had seen or heard from Zac in about an hour. I tried calling his cell phone, which was turned off, that didn’t alarm me on other occasions but since no one knew where he was it did cause me to worry a little, and even went back outside and asked the fans if they’d seen them since they’d gotten off of the bus earlier. No one had. I walked around to the stage and then asked a venue security guard to please check in the restrooms. They were no where to be found. I sighed again and slowly made my way back to the lounge wondering where they could possibly be.
When I got back, I found that the room had basically cleared out. Taylor, Tori, Shelly, one of the assistants, and to some relief, Isaac were the only ones in there. “Hey Ike! I see one long lost brother has made a return.” I said as I shut the door and joined them by the table.
“Yep, I found him.” Shelly said as she started toward the door. “I’ll catch you guys later,” she said as she walked out. “Yeah, I just needed some air so I walked out outside for a little while.” Ike said. “Hey Mel, did you see Karen anywhere?” I was stunned at his question. For the first time in what seemed like years, Ike actually mentioned Karen. “Karen?! Your Karen?! No, why?” Taylor rolled his eyes. “Ike man, it wasn’t her. C’mon, think, why would she be here? I’m sure more than one person drives that kind of car.” Ike looked at Taylor and then looked down and nodded. “Yeah, I know, I just thought…” He sighed and then said “Be right back.” He walked out rather quickly. I turned back to Taylor and Tori and asked “What was that all about?” I was still stunned. Taylor sighed and shook his head as he flopped down in a chair. “Oh, he saw a car in the parking lot and he came in swearing it was Karen’s and asking everyone if they’d seen her.” Tori said as she sat on the couch.
I suddenly got the feeling that Ike must have been thinking randomly about Karen for some reason. He hadn’t mentioned her since their divorce and he’d seen the same kind of car that she’d drove before and never gave it a second look.
“Hey Ike! Wait up.” I said as I jogged down the hall to catch up with him. He turned and smiled a tired smile and then we began to walk together. “Are you all right?” I asked softly. He just nodded in response and said “Yeah. I guess you never found Zac.” I shook my head and replied “No, I looked everywhere.” Ike said, “Well, let’s look around again. The meet and greet will be starting in a few minutes.” So we looked again in the dressing room and around the stage, Ike looked in the restrooms and we stopped at the meet and greet room. Taylor was walking toward us. “Did you guys find Zac yet?” he asked with a very worried and slightly angry expression. “No. We looked all over. We couldn’t find him and no one’s seen him.” Ike answered. “Melissa, Tori’s in our room back here. Would you go stay with her and make sure she stays off her feet as much as possible.” I nodded and walked back down the hall to the “Hanson Room”. (as it was called) I turned back once to see Taylor and Ike talking quietly and standing very close to each other. I immediately got a sick feeling in my stomach. Yeah, there is obviously something going on. I thought to myself as I walked into the room. Tori had gotten lost in a movie on the television but I couldn’t concentrate on anything except Zac and the terrible feeling I was getting.
“Hey you two, time to pack up.” Shelly said when she walked through the door. “The guys are signing autographs and the buses has been pulled around back.” she continued as Tori and I got up and began helping her gather stuff so that we could leave. About fifteen minutes later, we were on the bus and as Zac walked on with a last wave to the fans, the door shut and then (followed by the other bus that carried the rest of the band and other road crew members, and the truck carrying the interments, stage equipment and merchandise) Dave pulled out onto the road. We were in for an overnight trip to South Carolina.
Tori and Taylor retreated to their small room and Zac got lost in e-mails and an online chat about something that was obviously very important. I walked to the back of the bus and into the room that was used as an entertainment room. I settled on the couch and waited for Ike. He had said that he needed to talk to the bus driver, Dave, for a minute and then he’d be back there to finish the book we’d started reading a week before that. I was relaxed and content when I was with Isaac. Zac had begun making me feel really uneasy. I sat back on the couch and thought about how preoccupied Zac had been. It was past the worry stage and had become more frustrating than anything.
“Hey.” Ike said as he walked in carrying 2 Dr.Peppers and a bag of chips. “Hey.” I said with a smile watching him sit down next to me. “Here ya go.” he said handing me a Dr.Pepper and placing the bag of chips between us. “Thanks. I got the book right here.” I replied.
“Ok, let’s see now…” Ike began flipping to our mark of the last page we’d read and settled back. I curled up and sipped my drink as he began to read. This book had been one of our favorites so far and I got lost in the story and started to forget about Zac, and how worried I’d been that day, and how neglected I’d been feeling. I knew something was going on, but no one else seemed to notice that much. One way or another Zac’s behavior had been dismissed and no one really talked about it. Somehow, though, I couldn’t shake that feeling, that sick feeling that things were about to take a bad turn.
“Zac, could I talk to you for a minute?” I asked. Zac looked up from the set list for that night’s show. “Yeah, I guess. What’s up?” I slowly walked toward him and sit opposite of him in the booth seat. We were on the bus, just pulling into South Carolina, and I had managed to keep busy throughout the morning and early afternoon. I had braced myself to have this talk with him since the night before. I hadn’t gotten much sleep and was a little scared of what his reaction was going to be. I had learned early on in our relationship not to question his actions and here I was about to do just that. I took a deep breath and looked at him to find him still looking at the set list. “Zac, could you put that down and listen to me please.”
He glanced up and his eyes took on a cold stare. With a deep sigh, he laid the paper down and interlaced his fingers laying his hands on the table. He leaned forward and it seemed as though he was looking straight into me. “What Melissa? You know I don’t like serious talks before a show. It disturbs my focus.” I looked down at my hands and began to think of a way to ask him without making him angry. “C’mon let’s have it. You’ve been acting weird since last night when you and Isaac made your routine retreat into the back of the bus. Now, what the hell is wrong with you?!” My heartbeat quickened slightly at his tone, and I was surprised at his choice of words. “I wanted to know where you were yesterday.” I said quietly. After a moment of silence, I looked at him to find him staring at me with an almost sarcastic smile that told he was somewhat amused. “You want to know where I was?” he asked with a slight laugh. I simply nodded. “Well, all right then.” I glanced back at him, expecting an answer that would make me feel stupid for worrying like I had when no one could find him the day before, until he suddenly showed up just as the meet and greet started and then for nearly three hours had given a flawless concert without ever giving any explanation as to where he’d disappeared to.
“I ran into an old friend and we started talking. I lost track of time.”
I sat waiting for him to say something else, but he didn’t. “That’s it?” I asked. “I mean, you couldn’t tell anyone that before you had everyone in the building looking for you? Why didn’t you just tell someone? Taylor said that you were a little upset after you got that phone call just before you vanished Zac. We were worried. No one knew where you were and no one could get in touch with you. I called your cell phone and I…”
He suddenly slammed his hand on the table. I jumped and looked at him only to see that hard stare and hear a tone in his voice that I knew all too well. That hushed anger through clenched teeth. “What are you, the appointed babysitter? They got you checking up on me now? Ya know what? I don’t have to answer to anyone, ever, for anything. I will go where I want and do what I want, when I want and with whomever I want and you and my brothers can all just mind your own fucking business!” Then, he simply stood up and turned to walk away before stopping and walking back over to me.
He stood over me, with one hand in front of me on the table and the other hand on the back of the booth seat. leaning down and spoke just above a whisper, so close to my face that I could feel his breath. “And one more thing, you and Ike are spending too much time alone together. I want it to stop. From now on, I don’t want to see or hear of the two of you being alone together in a room again. I will not have you behaving that way.” He moved his hand from the table and grabbed my face, pulling me to him, and kissed me. When he broke away from me, he stayed close to my face and whispered, “I want you to stay up all night with me tonight, with no reading involved.” Then he simply smiled a smile mixed with sincerity and a sense of satisfaction, and walked away, into the room we shared on the bus shutting the door.
I sat there, for a few moments, thinking about what had just happened. Zac hadn’t kissed me in a few days and I was shocked to say the least. His words and and the way he spoke had just convinced me even more that the old Zac had slowly been returning since the night of Tori’s baby shower. The bad feeling I’d had started to get stronger. Looking back on it now, I think that at that moment, mentally, I began to prepare myself for the return of the life I thought I’d finally left behind. It was clear to me that although they never mentioned it, Taylor and Ike, and even Tori, had to have noticed the changes in Zac since the night of the baby shower and possibly even before. Maybe they didn’t want to believe it either. Maybe they thought that I didn’t notice. Maybe they hoped it was just temporary. I’m not sure.
“Hi.” I glanced up to see Taylor walking toward the booth, yawning. “Hey. How’s Tori?” Taylor nodded as he poured a glass of tea and sat down. “She’s alright. Dozed off so I thought I’d just let her sleep some more.” I smiled at his concern for his wife. Taylor had taken on the role of future father and was always making sure ‘Our little mother’, as Diana had begun calling her, was getting enough rest and enough of the right foods. He was also taking care of the arrangements so that we would be in Tulsa when the baby was born. Tori was just entering her eighth month now and having a much easier pregnancy than anticipated. Other than complaining about a backache once in a while, or giving a little whine and a small pout when she’d realize we were out of apples and banana pudding (her most recent craving) it was a fairly uneventful pregnancy.
“What’s wrong?” Taylor asked. “Huh? Oh, nothing, just tired I guess.” I answered. He gave a small laugh and replied “Well, we’ll have some time off soon. I know it’s been stressful on you. You’re not used to this like we are. Even Tori was on the last tour so she got a taste for it then. Just another two weeks and we’ll be home for fifteen days.” I smiled again, trying to hide the dread I felt. “Hey, you guys get yourselves together. We’ll be at the venue in about an hour.” Shelly said from the front of the bus. “We’re gonna have to haul ass once we’re on the expressway. That traffic really held us up.” Dave added. Taylor smiled at me and then got up to go help Tori.
“I can’t believe this! I mean, honestly for the love of God!” Taylor was pacing around in the ‘Hanson Room’ while I sat next to Tori on the couch and Ike talked to Dave over in the corner. “Taylor, please calm down. He’ll be back.” Tori said in a soothing voice. Taylor, however, was angrier than I’d ever seen him. “Oh yeah, he’ll be back alright. And I’m gonna beat the shit out of him the minute his irresponsible, inconsiderate ass walks through the door! I swear, why is he doing this? What is his fucking problem?!” Ike walked over and placed a hand on Taylor’s shoulder. “Tay, I want you to get some water and sit down.” Taylor looked at Ike and then walked over and got a bottle of water. “I’m gonna go outside for a bit,” he said as he walked out the door. “Ike sighed heavily and said “Well, I’m gonna make rounds again and look for him. If either of you hear or see him, call my cell phone.” I nodded and he slowly walked out of the door. “I just can’t believe he’d do this. I mean, miss the meet and greet and the show.” I said shaking my head. “I know, it’s just not like him at all.” Tori replied.
Zac had disappeared once again after sound check. A few of the fans did say they had gotten autographs from him and that afterwards he walked toward the back parking lot and they thought he was going back to the bus for something. That had been almost five hours ago and no one had seen or heard from him since. His cell phone had been turned off and we even had security look around outside. The guys had to cancel the show and we were all waiting backstage for him to return. The fans had been sent home and Dave had informed us that if we waited for more than another hour, the beach photo shoot and the concert planned for the next day would both have to be canceled cause we wouldn’t be there on time. (There had been a wreck and the expressway was backed up with traffic.)
I sighed as I leaned back on the couch. Tori was right it wasn’t like him. Suddenly, my mind flashed to what had taken place that night he’d disappeared in Tulsa. I’d found him laying on my bed and he was drunk and then he… I quickly shook it out of my mind. I wondered where he could have gone… or who he could be with. Oh God, that sick feeling immediately returned and I couldn’t shake it. The ‘old friend’ he’d mentioned earlier came back and I once again tried to figure out just who it was.
“Hey everybody! I didn’t know I’d have an audience. I would have dressed better. What are you all doing in here? I know it’s late but it’s really a nice evening.” Zac said with a smile. He walked through the door just as we were discussing what to do. It was almost 12:30 and the venue staff had just told Dave that we would have to leave because they normally closed at midnight. “Zac! You sorry piece of shit! Where in the hell have you been?! We’ve been worried sick! What is your fucking problem man, seriously? Somebody needs to beat the shit out of you for this! Do you have any idea what you have done?! You have thrown everything off track!” Taylor had immediately jumped to his feet and started yelling. Zac crossed his arms over his chest and stood only a few inches from his brother. He didn’t speak, he just stood there with a slight smile on his face and a calm expression. Tori got up and she and I walked over to step between them. Ike stopped us and said “That’s enough Taylor! What’s done is done and you yelling in his face isn’t going to help anything. Now the venue was supposed to close 30 minutes ago so we need to get out of here. We’ll have to cancel the photo shoot but if we leave now we might just be able to make it to the next show.”
Within 10 minutes, we were all on the bus and had started our trip to the next stop. Taylor and Tori had gone into their room and Isaac was up front reading a map and helping Dave navigate through the rain that had started. Zac had come up behind me while Shelly and I were talking on the couch and had given me a light kiss on the back of my neck. “Uh Shel, I need to borrow her for a while. I’m sure you can handle whatever y’all are doing on your own.” He then took my hand and began tugging on my arm. I smiled at Shelly and then Zac and I went into our room. He shut the door and pulled me to him. Wrapping his arms around my waist, he kissed me and began to pull my t-shirt up. His finger tips were cold as they ran across my stomach and then up and down my back. I was a little uneasy as he pulled my shirt over my head and then kissed me again. He slowly made his way to my neck. He was kissing me so easy, gentle, like the first time he’d kissed me. It was as if he was waiting for me to make him stop. I didn’t though. I felt like I needed to take all the attention I could possibly get from him. It’d had been a while, he’d been so preoccupied with what seemed like everything and everyone except me. I wanted him, I wanted him to want me. As he walked me the few steps over to the double bed and I laid down, he stood over me. He had a little smile on his face and an almost mischievous expression. He didn’t move, he just stood there and looked at me. I became unsure of what he would do. I wasn’t sure of his intentions really. I took a deep breath and started to say his name. His finger immediately covered my lips and he whispered “Shhhh, we have to be quiet.” He then tore off his shirt and laid on top of me, supporting his weight on his forearms. “You are still so beautiful. I have missed you.” he said, then kissed me again. He slowly kissed my neck and across my collarbone. I tried to keep my mind on him and his words about loving me and wanting me. I’d still find myself wondering where he’d been earlier, who was the old friend, why wouldn’t he tell anyone anything. So many questions flooded through my mind as he slid the straps of my bra off and pulled it down as he kissed my breasts. His lips were warm and his breath was hot. I never did become convinced that it was a good thing for Zac to know just how to make me forget I was ever mad at him or that he had hurt me. He kissed down to my stomach and then back up again to my lips. “Damn baby. I have thought about this nearly all day. Melissa, tell me you love me.” he whispered as he bit down on my ear. “I love you.” I said quietly. He turned onto his back, pulling me on top of him. He took my face in his hands and said “Do you remember what I told you about how no one would ever take you away from me?” I nodded as his eyes looked right into mine. “Melissa, I want you with me forever. I swear you are going to be my wife. No one else could ever come close to making me feel the way you do.” I just smiled as he raised his head to kiss me again. “I’m all your’s tonight baby. Take me as you wish.” he said with a little laugh and I began kissing up and down his neck and chest. I’d long ago discovered a new form of torturous pleasure by looking into his eyes while I licked his nipple. I knew doing this would cause Zac to go into a fit because he couldn’t be loud. We both knew that although the door was locked, we had to be quiet. When our eyes met and I began to flick the end of my tongue on his nipple, he immediately reacted. By the time I’d made my way down to his stomach, his breathing had become quick. When I raised my head and glanced up at him, he hand one of his hands in his hair, his head tilted back and his eyes closed. He was biting his bottom lip to stay quiet. I kissed him a few more times and then licked from his abs to his mouth. When I raised up and looked down at him, he let out a long but harsh breath, before kissing me again. Quickly he pulled off his jeans as I took off mine. We got under the blanket and kissed again. I felt his hand slid from my hip, down my leg and back up. His skin was hot by now and the quick pace we were now moving at told me that he was past ready. Without warning, his fingers went from gripping my thigh to suddenly sliding inside me. I would have screamed had he not kissed me. I was lost now. His index and middle finger moved inside me and his tongue against my own as his lips covered mine sent me to a whole other place and time. Only breaking apart for a second, he climbed on top of me and gently slid his erection in. He moved slow at first, both of us moaning quietly. Then he began to move faster and then faster. His breath quickened and our bodies trembled. It took all the strength I had not to scream out in pleasure. His face was so close to mine and I could barely hear him grunting with each thrust. Faster and harder he moved as sweat began to form on his forehead and neck. His fingers slid up and into my hair and he made a fist as the orgasm came so close. Both of us gripping each other harder, breathing quicker and feeling the strain of having to keep from moaning. Then it came, an intense relief hit us both. Zac’s hand covered my mouth as my fingernails dug deep into his shoulder blades and I started to moan with pleasure and he fell onto me. Once it had begun to subside, his hand slid off of my mouth and he shakily raised his head and kissed me gently. Then he rolled off of me and onto his back. Running a hand through his hair his breathing started to slow down and he looked over at me. I saw the Zac I loved. The loving, gentle, sweet Zac that I had given myself to willingly. He started to run his finger tips through my bangs which had since come out of my ponytail.
The tires could be heard splashing through the rain outside as the bus continued down the highway. Tori and Taylor were laughing and talking with Shelly and Isaac up front and once in a while, Dave’s voice could be heard in the conversation and laughter. The faint sounds of the TV in the front room of the bus could be heard where Mark, one of the security guards, was trying to catch up on the weather among the noise, no doubt.
Zac and I were in our own world in our room, away from the entertainment up front. I laid next to him, listening to the steady breathing that told me he’d fallen asleep, reveling in the feeling of being next to him and having just had his complete attention and affection for the first time in days. I knew, come day light though, when we would wake up in a different city and at a different venue, for yet another show, somehow, I would have to find out once and for all who this old friend was and where Zac had disappeared to. I didn’t know the whole story, and I dreaded hearing it, because deep down, I already knew what the answer to the main question would be. Zac was the type to think that he could have everyone fooled at once, especially his family. Maybe he could. I couldn’t help telling myself that, certainly though, I wasn’t the only one who thought that his recent behavior couldn’t keep being dismissed as easily as it had been. I also knew that when all was said and done, I was not the only one who would be hurt. I glanced up and looked at him laying next to me, sleeping peacefully. As a tear fell down the side of my face and into my hair, I whispered the words that I knew I’d want to say but would never be able to again. “I love you Zachary Walker Hanson… and I will miss you.” I slowly buried my face in the pillow next to his and drifted off into a restless sleep.
This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author Chelle.