Title: Time Goes On
Chapter: Chapter 8 of 10
Warning: This fictional story contains mature content such as; alcohol-usage, profanity, sex and violence, consider youself warned.
Excerpt: I looked back outside, waiting to see a passionate kiss between the two. What I saw though confused me more than I already was. Zac pulled something out of his pocket and gave it to Karen. I couldn’t believe it. Isaac and I exchanged confused glances. Money? Zac was giving her money? A lot of it too.
“Melissa, are you sure you’re alright?” I heard Diana’s voice on the other end of the phone. “Uh-huh. I’m just, I don’t know, a little tired. Ready for a break.” She gave a small laugh and said “Well, I’m sure you are. Taylor said that he thought it had been a little rough. Touring isn’t easy and I may be wrong here but I’m guessing you thought you’d get to spend more time with Zac than you actually are.” I was thankful for her understanding of it all. “I’ll tell you something Melissa, between sound checks, meet and greets, the occasional photo shoot or interview, helping to update the website, the meetings about album and ticket sales and the merchandise, helping plan the route to each city and small changes needed for every stage, trying to find a minute here and there to eat and shower, plus staying in touch with us, I’m surprised that child gets the little bit of sleep he does.” She and I both laughed a little at her rundown of Zac’s life on tour. Well, I thought to myself, she hasn’t been told anything about Zac’s little vanishing acts or his attitude lately. We chatted for a bit longer and then said goodbye. I hung the phone up and returned Tori’s smile that she was giving me when I glanced up at her. “I know what you’re thinking.” she said, pointing her index finger at me. “Oh really? What?” I asked slyly. “You’re wondering why she doesn’t know about Zac’s stunts here in the last couple of days.” she said. I sighed and nodded. “Well, I’ll tell you.” She readjusted herself on the couch and faced me. “Number one, it would worry her more than she already is. Two, there really isn’t anything she could do. Three, it would make things worse because she would talk to Zac first thing. Then all hell would break loose and no one needs that.” I raised my eyebrows at her. I knew she was right, about all of it.
“All right y’all, we’re heading out in about fifteen minutes.” Shelly said from the door. Tori and I smiled and then began to gather things up to load back on the bus. We cleaned up the room as much as possible and then walked out. We slowly walked down the long hallway and out the back door where the bus was parked. Dave was sitting in the driver seat looking at a map and looked tired and confused as he ran his hand through his shoulder length gray hair. “You ok Dave, are we still behind?” Tori asked as we waited for the guys to get done signing autographs and get on the bus. “No, thanks to Taylor trailing Zac and keeping him on time and in sight tonight, we are back where we should be.” He smiled at the thought of seeing Taylor follow Zac around the venue all night. Even though everyone could tell Zac wasn’t happy about it, we were all surprised that he never said anything. I think in a way, we expected a fight to break out. Zac seemed anxious and almost paranoid, looking at his watch and pacing around, checking his cell phone and e-mail. He spent a lot of time on his laptop. I wondered what could have been so important. The noise of the fans outside shook me out of my thoughts. “Ahh, the rock stars must be emerging.” Tori said with a giggle. The guys waved and said goodbye as they filed onto the bus with Shelly and Mark. Mark sat next to Dave as the bus pulled out onto the highway and headed toward Georgia. We were in for another overnight drive and Shelly had started making coffee.
Isaac walked straight to the back of the bus and shut and the door without so much of the slightest acknowledgment of the people around him. “What the hell is going on with him? He’s been acting weird all evening.” Taylor said, sitting down next to Tori. “I don’t know Tay. You mean you weren’t babysitting him too?!” Zac asked, with a sarcastically surprised tone in his voice, without looking away from his laptop screen. “I thought that was your special job tonight.” he finished as he began typing. “No, I pretty much had my hands full babysitting you. Which, if I may add, I wouldn’t have to do if you would just show up to things on time and let someone know where you were going when you planned to leave.” Taylor replied. Zac simply rolled his eyes and continued on with whatever he had to do as soon as he’d walked onto the bus. “Seriously Zac, do you know what’s bothering him?” Taylor asked. Zac never looked away from the screen or stopped typing, his only answer was shaking his head ‘no’. Taylor sighed and he and Tori stood up. “He’s all yours. I’m on break.” Tay said as he leaned down toward me with a smile. Then he and Tori walked into their room and Shelly turned to go sit up front with Dave and Mark.
“Zac, who are you talking to?” I asked. He looked up and smiled. Then he ran a hand through his hair and sat back away from the computer. “How much is Taylor paying you?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest. “What? Zac, I was just wondering is all.” was my reply. He stood up and walked over to sit next to me. He pulled me close to him with one arm and ran the back of the other hand down my cheek. “Didn’t you get enough of me last night?” he asked teasingly. “Isn’t that what you’ve been wanting, attention?” he asked, gripping my chin to make me look up at him. I nodded and he quickly kissed me. Then stood up and went back to the booth and began typing again. I rolled my eyes and walked to the back of the bus. I knocked on the door and Ike said “C’mon in Mel.” I opened the door and shut it asking “how’d you…” Ike smiled and said “Just a guess.” He patted the couch next to him and I sit down. He let out a long, almost shaky, sigh. “Ike, what is it? What’s going on? Please tell me.”
He sat up on the edge of the seat and rested his elbows on his knees. His head hung down and he said very quietly, barely above a whisper, “I saw her.” I leaned up to sit right next to him and asked “Who? Who did you see.” He sighed again and looked over at me. His eyes held a hurt and confusion that I’d never seen in him before. My stomach tightened and I knew the answer before he spoke. “Karen. I saw Karen.” My heartbeat quickened as I asked “What? Well, When? Did you talk to her?” He looked back down at his hands and said “I saw Karen. Tonight, before the show. No, I didn’t talk to her.” Before I could say anything else, he started the story. “I don’t think anyone else did. I was walking down the hall and as I turned the corner, I saw her by the door. She had a pass around her neck and she was walking up and down in front of the door that led outside. She kept looking at her watch and out the window. Melissa, I know you think I’m crazy, but I swear it was her. I couldn’t get any closer at first. I was too shocked. Just as I was about to yell out at her, she left. She just looked at her watch again and then walked out. She was angry. I thought she was gonna break the door the way she pushed it open. Really hard, like with all the force she had in her.”
I sat there in silence, my mind was spinning and my heart was beating so fast.
Karen, that was it, she was the old friend. I couldn’t even guess how it had happened or for how long it had been going on. It all fell into place though. It was Karen. Zac couldn’t meet her because of Taylor following him around. Zac was not only cheating on me (which I had already suspected long ago, call it woman’s instinct.) but he was cheating with his brother’s ex-wife. I couldn’t understand. Why Karen? I tried to calm myself down before I spoke, but I couldn’t before he did. “Melissa,” Isaac turned to me and took my hand, “I’ve been suspecting this for a long time. Trust me, I didn’t want to believe it any more than you do. I honestly think she and Zac are well, ya know, and that’s why she was pacing and looking at her watch. She was waiting for him and she got angry when he didn’t show up. He couldn’t because this is obviously a secret and Taylor was on Zac’s heels all night. That’s why he immediately went to the computer when he got on the bus, to e-mail her and let her know why he didn’t meet her. That’s why he was acting so anxious, looking at his watch every five minutes.” He hugged me gently and asked “Mel, what are we gonna do? I can’t handle this.” I sighed as we pulled away and answered. “I don’t know. I just don’t know. I think that maybe…” Suddenly I heard him yell down the hall. “Melissa?!” I quickly wiped away the tears that had filled my eyes and looked at Ike. He just nodded and said quietly “Go, don’t want him getting angry that you and I were alone too long.” I smiled an apologetic smile. He nodded again and slightly smiled “Go on. We’ll talk later.” I squeezed his hand and stood up. Then I heard Taylor’s voice say “She’s probably back here Zac.” I heard him walking toward the back of the bus and and whispered “Later” to Ike as I quickly walked out and shut the door.
“All right, you ready?” Tori said as I walked to the front of the bus. “Yeah, I guess so.” I replied, slinging the duffel bag onto my shoulder and putting my pass around my neck. We walked off of the bus, through the small crowd of fans waiting outside and into the arena. We were in Georgia that night. Only one more week before two weeks at home in Tulsa. I sighed at the idea of a break. All night long I had been thinking about the conversation I’d had with Isaac. We’d agreed that morning not to say anything to anyone about it until we figured out what to do and how to do it. “Gosh, why is it that things always have to be so chaotic around these places?” Tori asked, pulling me away from my thoughts. She and I made our way through the noisy halls. As we turned the corner, we saw Ike leaning against the wall. As soon as he saw us he came up and grabbed my arm. “I gotta talk to you now. Here,” he said opening a door and ushering us both inside. “Leave that stuff in here and come out in the hall.” Then he quickly walked out. I looked over at Taylor, who was on the phone and had barely noticed us. He slightly smiled and I put the bag down and whispered to Tori, “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She gave me a weak smile and nod. I had a sick feeling when I walked out and saw the look on Ike’s face. His expression held shock, confusion and worry… like a lost child. “What is it?” I asked as I walked up to him. He looked around as if to see if someone was watching him then he took my hand and said “Come with me.” He and I walked down the long hallway, around the corner and down some stairs. As we approached a door he turned to me and held up his finger up to his lips. I nodded and he pushed me past him and pointed to the small window on the door. He leaned against the wall and whispered “Look out there.” I slowly turned and looked out the window. There was Zac standing by a car. His arm was up on top and his other hand was on the top of the open driver door. His back was toward me and he then moved to stand in front of the driver. He crossed his arms and they seemed to having an argument. I turned back to Ike who then came up to the window. We both looked back as Ike raised his eyebrows. Then the driver got out of the car, Karen! It was Karen! They seemed to argue for a minute until Zac put one arm around her and then the other hand over her mouth. He leaned in and said something in her ear. After he let go, I expected them to kiss. I glanced at Ike and could tell he was using all his strength to stay where he was. His jaw was clenched tight and his eyes were narrow and clouded. I looked back outside, waiting to see a passionate kiss between the two. What I saw though confused me more than I already was. Zac pulled something out of his pocket and gave it to Karen. I couldn’t believe it. Isaac and I exchanged confused glances. Money? Zac was giving her money? A lot of it too. She began to count it, and after she was done, she glanced at him. Then she reached in the seat for a moment and backed out with her purse. She unzipped it and pulled out what looked like a few pictures. She handed them to him, then put the money into her purse and tossed it back into the front seat. He looked through the pictures then smiled a huge smile before giving her a hug. They talked for a few more minutes as Ike and I watched trying to figure out what was going on. They were laughing and pointing at the pictures. Then they hugged again and she got back into the car. Zac watched as she drove away. When we saw him walking toward the door Ike and I hurried away and down the hall into the Hanson room. Taylor and Tori both looked up at us shocked. “What’s wrong?” Taylor asked walking toward us. “We’re fine. Just… we’re fine.” Ike said glancing at me. We were a little out of breath but quickly composed ourselves and never said anything more to anyone. Although Taylor did give us strange looks the rest of the night.
I watched as Isaac paced the floor of his hotel room. We were staying in a hotel so maintenance could be done on the bus. (Oil change, tire check, engine tune, etc.) Zac had left while I was in the shower and Taylor and Tori had gone to eat with some crew members. Isaac had called and asked me to come to his room. I sat on the small couch and watched as he continued to pace and furiously run his hands through his hair. Neither of us said anything. We’d both been trying to figure out what exactly was going on. Both of us had suspected a relationship between Karen and Zac but we’d started thinking we were wrong. We had both wracked our brains trying to figure out why Zac had given her money and what the pictures were about. I had tried to find them while he’d been in the shower but I couldn’t.
“I don’t get, I just don’t understand. What the fuck is going on here?” Ike said as he sat down in the chair to the side of the couch. “I don’t know.” I replied quietly. “If only I could find something, anything. If we knew what the money was for then maybe everything else would start falling into place.” I continued. “Are you sure you looked through his things good? Maybe he put the pictures in a pocket of his jeans or something. Did you try his laptop? Maybe he has something on there that would give us a clue.” Ike said as he began to pace again. “Well, I didn’t think about his laptop but I looked through his suitcase. Not through his pockets though. Do you think he’d have put them somewhere like that?” I asked, almost shocked at the idea. Ike then grabbed the key to his room and said “Come on.” I stood up and walked to the door with him. “I’m not sure what to think at this point. All I know is that we need to figure out what’s going on and fast.” Isaac said quietly as we walked down the hall. As we came to the room Zac and I shared Ike continued “I’m just not going to put anything past him anymore. He’s been so unpredictable lately.” I unlocked our door and looked around inside, Zac was still gone, I glanced at Ike and he and I walked into the room and closed the door. “Okay, remember that the most ridiculous and incomprehensible acts seems to be his best ideas lately.” I sighed as we began to look through Zac’s stuff. “Dammit! Shit, I should’ve guessed!” Ike said. “What?” I asked. “His laptop, he’s got it sealed. I can’t do anything without the password. I can’t even see the fucking homepage.” I sighed as I wiped the hair out of my face. “Mel, take a guess. Do you two have a secret code or anything?” Isaac asked as I felt through Zac’s jeans pockets. “Uh,” I thought for a moment. “I don’t know. Try maybe a birthday.” I began digging through the compartments of Zac’s suitcase as Ike typed. “It’s none of ours or your’s. Not mom or dad’s either.” Ike said shaking his head. “Hey what about that nickname he calls you sometimes, ya know from the day he put ice on the back of your neck. What was that he called you?” I tried to remember what Isaac was talking about. Then it came to me. “Crash.” I answered. “He called me crash. And it was a cold Dr.Pepper.” Ike grinned, “Yeah, that’s it.” He typed it in and then sighed as he shook his head. I tried to think as I zipped up the suitcase. “Nothing in here.” I said. “Try Oklahoma. Maybe something having to do with your home.” I said as I started flipping through Zac’s planner. Ike typed in several words before he said “I just can’t get it.” The sound of my cell phone ringing made us both jump. I answered it quickly and heard Taylor’s voice on the other end of the line. “If you are alone with Isaac, you might wanna get around some people quick. Zac’s back and he’s signing autographs in the lobby. He said he was coming to your room in a minute.” I felt my heart begin to race as I thanked Tay and hung up. Isaac and I both had already heard more than once that we were ‘spending too much time alone together.’ I put the planner back on the table and said “Ike, we gotta get things back in order. Zac’s back.”
We hurriedly put everything back like it was and then walked out, locking the door. We saw Shelly in the hall. “Shelly!” Ike called as we began to jog to catch her before she went into her room. She smiled at us but her smile quickly faded as we reached her. “Don’t ask any questions and don’t ever say anything about this just go with it.” Ike instructed her. She nodded and Isaac said, “Yeah, I’ll be glad to get a break too,” as Taylor, Tori and Zac stepped off of the elevator and began walking toward us. Although she was very confused, Shelly played along. Taylor and Tori went into their room and Zac gave me a small peck on the forehead as he continued on to our room. “What’s going on?” Shelly whispered. “Nothing, really it’s ok. Thanks.” Ike slowly walked to his door. Just as he unlocked the door to his room, he turned back to me and mouthed the words “You and me later.” I nodded, smiled at Shelly and the walked into the room I shared with Zac.
A little while later, as I lay in bed, listening to Zac’s steady breathing, the events of the day were running fast through my mind. Suddenly a thought hit me. I eased out of bed and tip toed over to the chair. I carefully reached into the pockets of the jeans he’d been wearing… empty. “Shit.” I said under my breath to myself. I looked over to find him still unmoved and breathing the same as he was moments ago. I glanced at the nightstand table and saw something sticking out of his wallet. “Bingo.” I barely whispered. I gently pulled out a small white envelope. I glanced at Zac again and then slowly made my way into the bathroom. After locking the door, I sat on the side of the tub and opened the envelope. I pulled out two small photos of a baby I’d never seen before. I tried to remember the baby but what really got to me was the next picture… I nearly fell over when I saw it. I quickly put them back in the envelope and opened the bathroom door. I slid the photos back into his wallet and climbed back into bed. Well, this added a whole other part to this story. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I kept thinking that what was apparently going on was worse than what Ike or I had even started to imagine. I dreaded the thought of telling him but I’d have to. He had as much right to know as I did. I still couldn’t seem to piece together exactly how it had taken place or how it had been gotten past everyone. My mind was spinning with so many different thoughts… more than I could really handle. I lay in bed and watched as the light begin to get brighter through the curtains. I felt sick thinking about it, but I couldn’t think of anything else.
His breath was heavy but seemed restricted. He just sit there silent. I glanced at his hands and noticed a slight trembling. I slowly raised my head and noticed that his lips were pressed tightly together and saw that his brown eyes were a bit clouded. His forehead was wrinkled in confusion and a forced disbelief. I wondered what he was thinking. He looked over at me and in a shaky voice asked “How did you get these again?” I licked my dry lips and replied “He left his wallet in his bag when we were on the bus. It was in our room.” Isaac brought his hands up and rubbed his face. “I never thought that…” he began, “I just wouldn’t have guessed. Not this.” I looked again at the pictures on the table. Shelly stuck her head in the door and said “Ike, show time.” He nodded then turned back to me. “We need to tell Taylor and Tori about this. I hate to but I have a feeling we’ll need some help. We’ll have to confront him.” I sighed and said “I’ll tell Tori and then she can tell Taylor. Ike, I didn’t think it was this.” He stood up and said “Me either. It’ll be all right. We’re gonna get this all straightened out.” He gave me a quick hug and then walked out. I put the pictures in my purse and zipped it up. I wondered how long it’d take before Zac noticed that they were missing from his wallet.
A few minutes later Tori came in and said “Mel, while we have some time alone, I need to talk to you.” I smiled as she sat down. “Please don’t get all defensive ’cause I’m not accusing you of anything. It’s just that Taylor and I have been talking for a few days now and we’ve noticed some things that have made us feel, well, I guess unsure of what the whole deal is. So we decided that I should talk to you and then we’ll know just how stupid we are for even thinking anything like this.” I felt knots in my stomach wondering what she was going to ask. I hoped that it was about Zac. It’d be an easy way to start the conversation and tell her what Ike and I knew. She didn’t ask about Zac though. “Melissa, are you and Isaac, ya know, seeing each other?” My heart sank at her words. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. I guess my silence and surprised expression was taken as the wrong answer. “Look, it’s all right that you like Ike and that you two get a long so well. It’s great. You’ve been a good friend to him. We know things haven’t been good with you and Zac but,” I began to shake my head and she put her hand on mine and continued “There’s no reason to lie to us. I mean it would be awkward but it’d get worked out.” I suddenly shouted “No! We’re not! Oh God Tori, how can you even think such a thing?! You think I could do that, that Ike could do that?! No! You are way off here. That’s not even close to what is going on.” I stood up and started pacing. She sat back and said “Then what is it? What is wrong Mel? Please tell me.” I sighed as I turned to face her. Then I pulled a chair in front of her. I walked over to the door and locked it as Tori’s eyes grew full of concern and watched my every move. I sat down in the chair and took a deep breath. At that moment, everything came out. I told her about Zac’s behavior after the baby shower, I told her about his lack of attention and affection toward me, I told her about his reactions to me questioning his recent disappearing and secretive e-mails. Then I began telling her about Ike seeing Karen and the suspensions we’d both had and about seeing Karen and Zac in the parking lot. Then about Ike and me going through his things and me finding the pictures the night before, then about the conversation Ike and I had just minutes before he got called to start the show.
When I finished, I glanced at her. She sat still and quiet. Her breathing was relaxed but her face was a picture of disbelief, of shock and sadness. “Melissa,” she whispered, “Where’s the pictures? Let me see them.” I picked up my purse and unzipped it. Then I pulled the pictures out and handed them to her. She took them and silently looked at the first two of the baby. When she came to the last one, her hand raised to her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. “Oh God, Melissa.” She grabbed me in a hug and we both cried for a few moments. Then she pulled away and looked at me. “I am so, so sorry.” I nodded and looked down. Then I heard her whisper the words that sent me once again into a world of confusion and shock. Like with the pictures, another piece to the puzzle was added. “I should have told you. Oh my God, why didn’t I tell you?” I looked at her quickly. “You knew?!” I asked. She shrugged and said “I thought. When they were gone to promote the album and tour, Tay e-mailed me several times and talked about Zac’s nights out. Sometimes Taylor said that he wouldn’t come back until the next morning. He had seen her once. He just didn’t believe that it was what it was. I didn’t know what to make of the whole thing. He was too scared that it was nothing and so he never told anyone except me, not even Isaac. We didn’t want to stir up anything without knowing for sure.” She took a breath and then looked at the photos again. “He didn’t see her and Zac together, just her. Melissa, I’m sorry. We should have told you but we were both scared that we were wrong.”
I could barely comprehend what she had said. I felt my heart sink to the floor and I had a tightening in my chest that I didn’t think would ever ease up. My stomach was in knots and my hands trembled. My head was spinning and I’d started crying again. We both cried and talked for a while longer. I couldn’t blame Tori. I probably wouldn’t have believed it anyway. Tori and I quickly composed ourselves when we heard a knock on the door. I walked over and opened it to find Dave there with a worried expression. “Are you girls all right?” he asked. I nodded and said “Yes, we are. We just needed some privacy to talk about something.” He looked past me at Tori on the couch. The he sighed and said “Okay, well, I’m going to go pull the bus around so we can leave. Y’all get your stuff together and come on out.” I nodded and smiled as Tori stood up and began to gather empty cups from around the room. Dave walked away and I closed the door. With a heavy sigh, I picked up the duffel bag we always carried and took it over to the couch.
I once again looked at the pictures laying on the table. The baby was chubby, very cute, with the same nose and smile as Zac but mostly he looked like who was obviously his mother. He wasn’t very old, apparently not able to sit up on his own yet. It was just three snapshots. In one, he was laying on a small blanket on the couch and grinning, his hands clasped together, looking up at the camera. In the other, he was leaning back against a pillow, in a chair. In front of him was a small red drum and he held a plastic drum stick in one hand and a cookie in the other. He was looking straight ahead at the camera but not smiling. Still he had a peaceful expression. The baby had just noticeable dark hair and the same round face as his mother. Then, I saw the last one. It was her holding him up close to her face. Both had huge smiles on their faces. It was close up and the light was good in the photo. Both had dark green eyes. He wore a small t-shirt that was white and said in red, crooked letters Little Rockstar. His mother’s auburn hair was mostly down with just a bit of it pinned back on top of her head. Her roots were dark and her slightly tanned skin sparkled with blue body glitter. So many questions were floating through my mind. To make it worse, we still couldn’t figure out how Karen had gotten in it. “I guess that’s it.” Tori said. I slipped the pictures into the pocket of my jeans and slung the bag and my purse over my shoulder.
With one last look around, Tori and I walked to the door, switched off the light, and walked out into the quiet, slightly dark, hallway. We walked slowly to the door that led out the back of the arena. “I’ll tell Taylor later and then the four of us can talk.” Tori said as we continued walking to the bus. “I don’t understand what Karen has to do with it.” She said. “I don’t either but I guess we’ll find out.” I had more of an urge to know now more than ever. I wanted to know the whole story. I had an overwhelming need to know everything about this confusing mess that we were beginning to untangle. I wanted to ask Zac why. I wanted to ask him about the baby. I wanted an answer to the question that, when Taylor found out, would probably be weighing the heaviest for all of us: How did Karen become the middle ground between Zac and Courtney?
The next few days on the tour passed without much changing. Life and rest had become all but impossible on the bus with the tension so high. The looks that both Zac and I had been getting from Taylor said that he had been completely informed about everything. (Sometimes he didn’t talk much but his eyes are always honest about what he thinks.) Zac seemed not to notice. Ike and I had decided to stop trying to keep an eye on him. We had the basics and honestly, I don’t think either of us wanted to know anymore of the situation at that time. It was nearly too much fr us. Tori and Taylor were occupying themselves thinking, and talking about the baby. Tori was due in another week and she and Tay had decided on a name for each gender but were keeping it a complete secret from everyone. The idea of a new baby around brought out hope for a breath of life into the family. Diana and Walker had already begun to pick up on the fact that something terrible was going on but we’d all manged to get away with just saying that we’d talk to them when we got home. I could only imagine the worry that had set over them. Ike had taken up the habit of looking for Karen everywhere. He always seemed to be relieved but also let down when he didn’t see her. Zac continued to be anxious and distant, guarding his laptop and constantly checking his e-mails and missed calls on his cell phone. Sometimes, I’d noticed, that he also seemed to be a bit sad and looked as though he was very depressed.
The night before the final show before our break, we were all on the bus, tired but no one was sleeping. Isaac had gone to bed almost immediately but the shuffling in his room let everyone know he was wide awake. Taylor and Tori were up front talking to Shelly and Dave. Mark had decided two days before that the tension was too much for him and had taken to riding on the other bus. Zac and I were in the back, reclined on the couch, watching a movie. I had tried to spend time with him whenever possible and although I was now uncomfortable doing so, I knew that changing my eagerness to be alone with him or take all of the attention that he was willing to give, would only raise his suspensions… and believe me, they were already high.
“Melissa, I’m going to ask you something and don’t think about lying to me.” Zac said in a hushed voice. I sat up and looked at him. “I won’t lie to you.” I replied shaking my head. I was a little nervous but tried hard to appear calm. “Are you and Ike sleeping together?” he asked looking straight at me. “No. Zac where did you hear…” He suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me close to him. “It doesn’t matter. I’m asking you and I want you to tell me the truth,” he said through clenched teeth. I felt an urge to brace myself for him to hit me but I just looked at him and said. “No Zac, we’re not. I would never do anything like that and neither would he.” With a slight jerk, he let go of my arm and turned back toward the TV. He sighed and seemed to relax. As I laid back on the couch and tried to stop the trembling I felt inside I heard his voice, raspy and harsh but quiet. “Good. Don’t ever do that to me Melissa. Don’t ever think that I’ll accept you being with anyone else, especially Isaac.” I watched as he slowly turned and looked right into my eyes. “Because if I ever find out that you have become a whore to my brother, I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you before I’ll let someone else have you.” His breathing was steady and he spoke calmly. As my heart sank and I began to feel a lump in my throat, he stood up and walked out. His words echoed through my mind the rest of the night and then the next day.
Throughout the next morning and early afternoon our trip continued to Kansas. Two weeks off was talked about like a month in paradise by the road crew but to the five of us, it was dreaded. Even Zac had started seeming to not be all that thrilled about a short vacation. Taylor, Tori, Ike and I knew that it would be one of a lot of conversations and explaining. Diana and Walker still had not been informed of anything and the idea of trying to tell them just plain scared us.
As the bus pulled into the arena parking lot, the guys gathered their stuff and quickly got off. Dave slowly walked up to me and Tori as we stood chatting about going home, and said softly “Melissa, Isaac asked me to give you this.” He handed me a small, folded piece of paper and then sighed. “Well, I’m gonna go to the other bus and try to get some sleep. You two don’t forget to lock up.” We watched as he walked off and shut the door. It was just Tori and me on the bus. “Well,” Tori said, “I’m gonna go on in and you just come on when you’re ready all right. That may be something he only wants you to see,” she said pointing to the note I was holding “and if I see your face change while you read it, I’ll go crazy not knowing what it is.” She smiled and picked up her purse. Then she stepped off of the bus and a small crowd began to call to her. I glanced out of the window and saw that Mark was beside her as she smiled and shook hands while laughing with the crowd and graciously accepting the flowers and cards and baby gifts. I sit down and smiled to myself as my thoughts once again drifted toward the idea of a new baby being around. I sighed and looked down at the piece of paper in my hand. I braced for what it could possibly say, although at that time, I really don’t think anything would have surprised me. I slowly unfolded it and read what Isaac had written:
Mel, please meet me by the merchandise table. I have to talk to you and it’s VERY important. It can’t wait anymore. Don’t take too long. Don’t worry about Zac, I told Tay that I needed to talk to you and he’s going to keep Zac busy. Please come as soon as you get inside. – Isaac.
I quickly folded the note and stuck it in my purse. Then I picked up the duffel bag and my purse. I grabbed the keys and a bottle of water and walked off of the bus, locking the door behind me. The crowd began to call me but I just smiled and waved answering their yells with “I’m sorry, I’m in a hurry.” They accepted that and I walked into the arena. I made my way past the crew members and security and on to the backstage room. It was empty which surprised me but I put the bag and my purse down on the floor and then walked out. I stopped a venue security guard and asked where the merchandise was being set up. He had a deep southern drawl in his voice as he pointed down the long hallway and said “At the end, take a right, then on the left about midway there’s a double door. Go through that and take the first left. Then you’ll come to another double door. Through there, it’s the second door on the right.”
I thanked him and tried to remember his confusing directions as I walked in a fast pace. “Dammit, this is a maze filled with crazy rats!” I said out loud to myself as I walked through the chaos that was known as preparations for a Hanson concert. I finally got to the table and breathlessly asked Shelly where Ike was. “He’s right over there.” She said pointing to the corner across the merchandise area. “Thanks.” I said. She nodded as she began to unpack some t-shirts and lay them on the table. “Ike!” I called to him as I walked over. He turned and looked at me and then sighed heavily as he shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. “Alright, I’m here.” I said trying to catch my breath. “What’s wrong?” I asked. He looked around and then pulled me out into another hall and then into a small dressing room. “Ike, what is it?” I asked. He closed the door and then said “Nothing is really wrong. I’ve needed to tell you this for so long. At first I was lying to myself but Tay and I talked today and even if you hate me, I have to tell you.” I felt my stomach tighten. I watched as he slowly began to pace and sweat formed on his forehead. His hands trembled and he began to stutter his words so badly that I had to stop him. “Ike please calm down. I could never hate you. Now, look, c’mere. Sit down.” I led him to a chair and then got him a cup if water. “Whatever it is it’ll be alright. Just take some breaths and then tell me what’s going on.” I waited quietly as he took a few sips of the water and then finally began to breathe normally. “Now,” I sighed as I put my hand on his shoulder, “What is it?” I slid myself onto the counter in front of the mirror and he leaned forward toward me. “First,” he began, “I want you to know that I have tried so hard to tell you this so many times. I have thought about it and even talked to mom and dad about it once on the phone. This is, well, it’s scaring the hell out of me but I’m just going to say it all right?” I nodded as worry crept over me. “I don’t know how to tell you how much you mean to me Melissa. You are so wonderful and have helped me so much. I really care about you.” He got quiet and I began to softly laugh. He looked at me confused “What?” he asked. “That’s what you’ve had a hard time telling me? Ike, I really care about you too but honest to God, you didn’t have to make it sound so major. Don’t do that. You nearly gave me a damn heart attack!” I said smiling as I slid off of the counter. I started toward the door and felt a gentle grip on my arm. I turned to face Isaac who was now stepping in front of me. Without even another word or warning he leaned closer to me. I slowly backed away but found that I was between him and the wall. “Ike, what are you…” Those were the only words I could say before I felt his lips touch mine.He stiffened for a moment as did I.However he relaxed quickly but I remained tense. I couldn’t move. The second our mouths met, my body locked and I was frozen. He moved his mouth over mine but never once did our tongues meet. I felt an electricity go through my whole body from my face to my feet and back up again. The kiss lasted maybe fifteen to thirty seconds and was so uneasy that my mind could barely register what was happening. Then, as quickly as it began, he ended it. He pulled back and stood staring at me for a few seconds. Neither of us spoke, nor did we move toward each other again. He suddenly said “I’m sorry” and walked out before I could respond. I leaned there against the wall for what seemed like hours but was only a minute or two. My heart felt like it would come out of my chest and my mind was blurred. I was having a hard time catching my breath and I felt a slight weakness to my legs when I did try to walk and had to hold the wall for support. I walked out and saw that no one was in the hall. Then Shelly came out of the merchandise room and said “Melissa, what happened to you? You’re pale. You’re shaking. My God, did someone attack you?” Shaking my head and smiling was the only answer I could give. She looked at me and then said “C’mon, Taylor has sent out for pizza.” I smiled again and nodded. I didn’t think it was possible, but the whole situation had just become worse… or at least more confusing.
For the rest of the night, I thought about the kiss I’d had with Isaac and what it meant. I must admit that given the chance, I thought that I’d probably kiss him again. We’d avoided each other as much as possible since and I had started feeling guilty. I didn’t want him to think that he’d done anything wrong. Although in a sense he had, I had convinced myself that he’d simply been confused and hurt by all that had happened. I knew that deep down he missed Karen and thought about her a lot.
The bus traveled on to Tulsa through the light rain. It was late and Tori had gone to bed, shortly followed by Taylor. Dave was up front with Shelly and Zac had fallen asleep in the back while watching TV. I had slipped out and made my way up to the booth and kitchen area. I was sitting, with my knees to my chest, looking out of the window. It was slightly open and I could hear the tires splashing through the rain as the dark interstate surroundings flew past. Once in a while a semi truck or car would roll past us. I was kinda lost in thought and had barely become aware that I was being watched. I slowly turned to see Isaac leaning against the wall, a worried look on his face as he stared at me. I sighed and he walked towards me and sat down. He faced me but didn’t say anything. I turned back towards the window until he finally spoke. “I want to take back my apology,” he said softly. “What?” I asked. He repeated himself. “I want to take back my apology.” I stared at him. “What do you mean? What apology?” He looked down at his hands on the table and replied “After I kissed you, I said that I was sorry. I want to take it back. I’m not sorry. I’m sorry that I’ve made this whole thing worse for you, but I’m not sorry for kissing you. In fact, I’d do it again if I knew you wanted me to. So I’m taking back the apology.” I looked at him until he finally raised his head and our eyes met.
“Isaac, I know you still love Karen. I know that you think about her a lot more than you’d want people to know. Then, all this stuff with Zac and Courtney and the baby and then Karen… it’s been too much for all of us. I know that once all of this is out in the open and explained, things will get back to normal.”
He glared at me “I’m not thinking about Karen, this has nothing to do with her. How can you possibly think that anything will ever be normal? I love you Melissa. Plain and simple. You are everything to me. I have loved you since I met you. That’s why I wanted to get you away from Zac because I couldn’t stand to see you hurt. I have ignored this for so long and blamed it on losing Angel and the divorce. I even blamed it on you for being so beautiful and sweet. I’ve done everything to try and block out what I feel for you but I can’t anymore. I love you and I will never be sorry for that. I understand if you don’t feel the same way but I had to tell you.It scares me to death and I can’t even begin to think of what will happen either way. I just know that this is not going away. Nothing is going to change how I feel about you.”
I listened quietly while he talked. The way he spoke told me that he was being completely honest. “Oh Ike,” I said, “I just don’t know what to do.” I started to cry. “All of this is just so heavy.” He sighed and then stood up and came around the table to sit next to me. His strong arm wrapped around me and pulled me close. He spoke so softly. “I know, shhhh. It’s going to be all right. I don’t know how but it will be. Mom always says that everything will be the way it’s supposed to be in the end. I know this is hard on you and I haven’t made it any easier.” After the feelings he’d just confessed to me, I should have pushed him away. I didn’t though. Instead, I leaned against his body and allowed him to comfort me. He continued. “Time goes on and as it does, things fall into place. We will realize what the reason for all of this was. We learn why things happen the way they do and how they do. My grandfather used to say that only time can answer all questions of life.” I smiled. “Your grandfather was smart.” He laughed a little. Then he brought his hand to my chin and lifted my face toward him. He looked down at me before gently brushing a tear away with his thumb. His hand continued down to my neck. His skin was warm on caused me to feel a tightening in my stomach. Slowly he leaned down and brushed his lips on my forehead. Then to my cheek. He pulled away just for a second before lightly kissing the bridge of my nose. His finger traced my lips and he whispered “Should I stop?” I guess he should have. I knew it never needed to go any farther. I just shook my head though. I didn’t want him to stop. I needed to hang on to the feeling just a little bit longer. He leaned down and barely touched my lips. His hand slid to the back of my neck as he pulled me closer to him and I tensed. To my surprise though, I relaxed immediately. I felt his lips part against mine and I mimicked his action. I felt my body jerk as his tongue brushed against mine. He became tense until I reached up and gripped his shoulder. The kiss continued for a few moments, only getting slightly deeper, until he pulled away. As he looked me, his hand slid from my neck down my arm and he took my hand in his. I watched as he brought it to his lips and kissed each finger tip, then the palm and finally the back. He leaned in close to my ear and whispered “I want to take care of you.” I smiled when he raised his head and looked at me again. It was like he looking straight into my heart, through my eyes he could see inside me. I had no secrets from him, no uneasiness with him. He then softly said “I think I really need to let go of you.” I brushed the back of my hand down the side of his face and watched as he closed his eyes and then opened them again. “No, please don’t.” I said. “I don’t want you to let go.” I confessed with the slight sting of tears in my eyes again. I felt a tug at my heart at the thought of him letting go of me. He sighed and kissed the side of my head. “I don’t want to,” he said, “I think I really need to though. At least for now. We can’t do this, you know that.” I shut my eyes tight and nodded.
Then our grips on each other loosened when we heard Taylor cough and the sound of shuffling in the small room he shared with Tori. “I’m gonna find out how close we are to Tulsa.” Ike said standing up. I nodded and he then walked through the door to where Dave and Shelly were seated. I could faintly hear them talking and I tried to slow my breathing and bring my thoughts back to the present. I glanced up and saw Ike walking back toward me. All I could think was that I wanted to kiss him again, I wanted to feel him close to me again.
“Are we almost there?” Taylor said, walking toward Ike. Isaac answered his brother with raised eyebrows and a sigh. “How much longer?” Tay asked, as he flopped down opposite of me. “Dave says if nothing holds us up, we should get into Tulsa in about three hours. So it’ll be about four more hours until we’re home.” Taylor groaned and then replied “I can’t wait to see everybody. Ya know, mom said this morning on the phone that she has a surprise for us. It didn’t sound good either.” We both looked at him. “What do you mean? What did it sound like?” Ike asked as he casually sat back down next to me. “Serious.” Taylor answered with an almost scared expression coming over his face. Ike looked back at his brother from his seat next to me. “Oh God.” Ike groaned as his head hit the table. Taylor and I laughed. Diana’s surprises were not anything to look forward to really. If she said she had a surprise, it usually meant that there was something serious about to take place when she saw them… and most of the time, she had discovered something they had tried to cover up. “What’s so funny?” Tori asked yawning. “Hey momma, I was telling them about our surprise from mom.” Taylor answered as she sat next to him. Tori nodded. “Yeah, I wonder if it has anything to do with,” she turned and glanced back toward the bedrooms, “Ya know,” she finished, turning back to us. “What time is it?” Taylor asked to get rid of the terrible feeling that took us over for a few seconds. I glanced at my phone that was on the table. “4:45.” I answered.
We all chatted quietly as the bus rolled on. I still hadn’t told anyone about the first kiss at the venue. It had been a hard night for everyone. The show was supposed to end at 9:30 but the fans kept screaming for another song and so the guys had played on until 10:30.When they did get off the stage and had come out to get on the bus, they stopped to take pictures and sign autographs. The crowd was more demanding than the others and the number of fans had forced them to stay for over 30 minutes. The bus didn’t get on the road until nearly midnight. Then a rain storm had started, making Dave drive at a slower pace. The drive back to Tulsa was now taking over nine hours. Shelly had called Diana from the venue and let them know that it’d be much later than planned when we got home.
“I’m hungry.” Tori said. “Uh, there’s not much. You want some cereal?” Taylor asked her. “Yep, that’d be good.” Zac joined us soon after and seemed to be very happy about going home. We’d noticed that he’d been happy and polite to everyone. He’d mention how much he was looking forward to seeing his family, sleeping in his own bed and eating Diana’s famous home cooking. He’d also talked a lot about the baby being born and how much he was wanting to ride his motorcycle. It’d been a complete turn around from the previous days. It was nice but we all wondered why he’d become so easy going and less secretive all of a sudden. We’d all become unsure of what had taken place but it had obviously made a huge difference. All of us knew though that once we were settled at home and had caught up, Diana and Walker would want to know exactly what had been going on. How would we tell them? We knew that Courtney would more than likely be the first brought in to explain everything, then Karen. I also wondered what would happen with Zac and I after everything was out in the open… and besides that, what would happen with Isaac and me afterwards. I closed my eyes and began to feel his hand on my face again. I felt his lips touch mine. “Mel, you ok?” Taylor asked, causing everyone to become quiet as they looked at me. “Uh-huh.” I nodded and smiled. I traded glances with Ike once the conversation resumed. His expression held pleasure. For he, as well as I did, knew that in my moment of reflection, our encounter didn’t stop with a kiss. The slight smile he gave me as a blush began to take over his face and he quickly turned away, told me all I wanted to know. His mind had let him take our kiss to a farther point as well. What are you thinking? I scolded myself. What is wrong with you? You’ll never get away with anything like this. Oh God, Isaac, damn you for this! I had to stop. I couldn’t though. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I wanted to kiss him again. I wanted him to touch me. I began to drift into my own world of day dreaming. I wonder what his skin tasted like, what it would feel like to dig into his back with my fingernails. I wondered what he felt like. I knew I had to find out. I felt a burning inside that made me want him more and I wondered if he was thinking about me, had he ever thought about me that way I was thinking about him? I needed to know, I needed an answer to all of those questions. At that moment, I knew that nothing or no one, even Zac and the threats he’d made, would stop me. I slowly came back to the present time and place. I sighed and glanced at Ike who looked back at me. I watched with a new desire as he slowly licked his lips. He brought his hand to his mouth and brushed his finger tips along his lips. Yes, he is thinking of you. I thought. I smiled and then the sound of Dave’s voice broke our silent conversation. “Ok kids, we’re gonna stop to fill up.” Zac replied “Fill up what? Us or the bus?” We laughed as did Dave. He answered “Both smart ass!” That caused a fit of laughter as the bus took an exit off of the expressway and pulled into a fuel station. It was nearly empty which added some relief to the guys. We made our selections and placed them on the counter where Dave was paying for the gas to fill up the bus tank. Afterwards, we filed onto the bus again and got back on the road.
For the next couple of hours, we’d all snacked and taken naps. Then we began to pack things up and clean the bus a little bit. The morning sun was very bright and we were even more anxious to be at home. The bus rolled down the highway and into the country part of Tulsa. Slowly, through the trees, the Hanson house came into view. As Dave pulled in through the gate and up beside the house, Zoe came running outside followed by Avery. Dave opened the door and we stepped off. Diana and Walker came outside, soon trailed by Jessica and Mack. We all hugged and chatted excitedly before making our way into the house. Dave and Shelly were also anxious to get home so they left within a few minutes. The house came to life with conversation and laughter. The smell of home cooking from that morning and country garden air freshener filled the whole downstairs part of the house. We were finally home. The feeling of joy that only a long overdue homecoming could bring was thick in the air. I wanted to feel it as long as I possibly could. Diana and Walker seemed to hang onto it as well. Taylor, Tori and Ike also made it go on longer than it really was expected to. Zac and his younger siblings all seemed to be completely unaware of how quickly it would fade. They knew nothing of the shock, sadness and regret that would set over the home within the next two weeks.
This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author Chelle.