Brian's voice was a mixture of relief and anger when AJ and I walked through the door at 8:30 in the morning. He was wearing his University of Kentucky sweatpants and a white tshirt, bright yellow duck-shaped slippers on his feet. Howie was sitting on an uncomfortable looking chair a couple feet beyond him. His head had snapped up to look at us when we'd come in, and his face had melted out of an expression of panic as he realized it was us.
"We just went out," AJ answered, "That's all."
"Well, Jesus, thanks for leaving us a note," Brian snapped irritably. He turned and stormed away, going into the conjoined hotel room that belonged to him. AJ, childishly, stuck his tongue out as Brian slammed the door behind him.
"What the hell is up his ass?" AJ asked.
Howie stood up and approached us. "He was just really worried." He shot a glance at me. "Are you two okay?"
I nodded, but AJ announced, "Fine? Fine? More than fine - right Nicky?" He punched my arm. I turned red. AJ had just assumed that my absence had meant I'd scored.
"Nick?" Howie looked at me, raising an eyebrow.
"Nah, nothing happened," I said.
"That's what he keeps insisting, but dude, D, this woman was fine!" He dragged out the "i" in fine to emphasize the point.
Howie looked at me, "Do you like her?"
"Howie, Howie," AJ shook his head, "What are we? Middle school girls?" He mimicked Howie's question with sarcasm, making his voice high pitched. "Do you, like, like her Nick? Oh do you?!"
"I did not say it like that," Howie defended himself.
Realizing this battering of each other would go on for a very, very long time, I snuck away as AJ began mimicking Howie more and Howie started shouting at him to stop. I knocked on Brian's hotel room door.
His voice was stoic, hard, and a bit muffled.
"Can I come in?" I asked him.
"Whatever," he answered.
I pushed my way into the room and closed the door behind me, blocking out the sound of AJ and Howie bickering. Brian was sitting on the bed, a pillow hugged to his chest, the TV on. He watched as I crossed the room and tossed myself onto the bed next to him.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"I'm sorry we didn't leave a note or something," I said.
He considered me for a moment, then said, finally, "Its not your fault." He sighed.
"I didn't even wanna go."
"Where'd you go?" he asked, pushing the pillow aside.
"A fan's yacht." Brian made a face that clearly showed he didn't think the yacht sounded like fun. "It was pretty lame. But... I did meet this girl."
"Yeah?" Now he looked interested.
"Her name is Amie."
"You picked this woman up at the fan boat?" he asked, "She isn't a fa--"
"No," I answered, "She thinks we suck."
"Well, I wouldn't go that far," Brian smirked. "So, c'mon.. Tell me about her. You know you're busting to."
"Well, she's different than most girls are," I said cautiously.
He smiled, "You always pick those obscure ones. What makes her different?"
"I'm not entirely sure," I said truthfully.
I stared at Brian, wondering what he would think if he knew what I thought I knew about Amie. I imagined, first, what he'd say if he knew about me.
"Ohmigawsh," he'd say.
"I know," I'd answer.
"That's so cool," he'd exclaim. Then, after thinking about it, "So wait, you can never die?"
"Not that I'm aware of," I'd explain. "But," I'd add, "I don't think I'm alone anymore."
“What’s she like?” he asked in reality.
“She’s … nice,” I answered. Outside of what I thought I knew, I didn’t know how to describe her. Amie had, after all, not exactly been the most pleasant person the entire time we’d talked. She’d been downright rude at times.
Brian chewed on his lip, I could tell he wasn’t sure how to take my hesitant/lame responses.
“Do you ever read scifi books?” I asked him randomly.
Brian looked surprised by the question. As far as he knew, this question was far out in left field. He thought about his answer a moment, then answered, “No. Not really.”
I nodded, “Okay.”
“I don’t like it because I always wonder how much of it is real,” he said with a laugh. “Like aliens and stuff.” He looked at me carefully. “Look, Nick, I know there’s something you aren’t telling me, but whatever it is –“ he paused, “Well, whatever it is I’ll be your best friend no matter what.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I told him.
I knocked on the door of the RV seven hours later, glancing over my shoulder at the bus. Chris had parked at the entrance to the RV park, to give me a chance to talk to Amie. Nobody had understood why it was so imperative that I speak to her in person before I left NH to continue the tour, but somehow asking a person if they can see time is something that shouldn’t be done on the telephone.
Amie opened the door, dressed in a raggy old bathrobe and a pair of fuzzy pink slippers. Her hair was down, messy compared to the perfection it’d been the night before, and clutching a glass of orange juice. “Nick?” she asked. She looked confused. She glanced around, then spotted the tour bus, where our security guards were standing sentinels at the door, waiting for me to motion for them to come bail me out, should there be any trouble. “What’s going on?”
“Can I talk to you?” I asked. Her eyes flitted between my face and the guards. “Inside,” I added, “Alone.”
“Yeah, sure,” she stepped back, holding the door with an extended arm until I’d caught hold of it. Amie moved deeper into the RV and leaned against the counter while I took the steps two at a time.
I looked her over. She looked normal enough, except for the expression of confusion and dismay as she looked at me. Her eyes moved from my eyes to the space over my head, a space that I was willing to bet was as blatantly blank to her as the space over her head was blank to me. I cleared my throat. “I have a question for you,” I said, “And if I’m wrong about you, it’s going to sound crazy. But... I don’t think I’m wrong about you.”
Amie eyed me carefully.
“Do you know what I am about to ask you?”
“Should I ask you?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No.”
“So I am right?”
“But you don’t want to tell me?”
I nodded. I could respect that. “Okay.” I turned to leave.
“Where are you going?”
“To finish the tour,” I answered, gesturing to the door, and, beyond, the bus.
Amie nodded. “Okay.”
I paused, one hand clutching the latch to the door, and looked at Amie carefully. “Do you think you will tell me in the future?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she answered. “Eventually.”
“I’ve never found…another,” I answered quietly, “And…I have questions.”
Amie nodded. “Okay.”
“I’ll be back,” I assured her. “I’ll call.”
“I’ll be around,” she replied. “Somewhere.”
Walking across the grass, I was halfway to the tour bus before I heard her call out, “Can you see mine?”
I turned to look at her from where I stood. She was standing on the top step of the entry way, clutching the bathrobe around her ample chest. “No,” I called back, “I don’t think we have any.”
Amie shook her head, “Impossible. I can see yours.”
My heart thumped in my chest. “What?” I took a few steps closer to her RV. “Mine?”
Amie nodded. “I- I’ve never…” she paused. “I’ve never seen them on one of us before,” she said. “But… they’re… yours are different.”
“Different?” I asked.
“I knew you were special,” Amie clarified, “Not…human…because the numbers are different.”
“But we can’t die. I can’t die,” I said. I was feet away from her now, standing by the bottom step. My words breathed from within my chest, like whispers and afterthoughts. “Can I?”
Amie gnawed her lower lip. “I didn’t think so,” she said.