AJ's pause was like a shrug. "I'll have to check with my mum but I don't got plans," he answered.
"Do you wanna come here?" Brian asked, "Leighanne got this huge turkey expecting everyone in the US Army and Navy to swing by and my ma.. Well, you know my ma's mashed potato mountains..." he laughed.
"That'd be good," AJ answered, his voice thick, glad to have some place to go for Thanksgiving. He'd missed having huge family Thanksgiving dinners that had included the faces of the Backstreet cast - usually, an addition of his mom and one or two of Nick's siblings, and Howie's entire family, that seemed to include the entire island of Puerto Rico from sheer size alone. "Sort of will be like old times, huh?" AJ said softly.
Brian hesitated, remembering the email he'd received... He'd Googled the distance between Los Angeles and Atlanta and done the math. It would take approximately 31 days to walk that distance. That meant, if Nick had left in the week before November 3rd, he could be here in time for Thanksgiving.
"Do you, by any chance, know, uh, Mally Poulin?" Brian asked.
"No... why? Is she comin' to Thanksgiving, too?" AJ asked stupidly.
Brian blinked at the phone. "No," he said, momentarily thrown off guard, "No, she's not."
"Okay, who is she again?" AJ asked.
"She's this woman who emailed me the other day and, uh.... Well, she claims she's met Nick."
AJ was dead silent.
"She said he's--" Brian hesitated. "She just said he's walking... here."
"Walking there? To your house?"
"That's what the email said. But she didn't put any contact information and I tried replying to her, but I haven't heard anything back yet, and --" Brian sighed, "I don't know, Leighanne says it's a joke. She got mad."
"No, about the joke. She thinks its a fan fooling around..."
AJ mused. "Well, well then." He thought for a moment. "Mary Poulin, huh?"
"Mally Poulin," Brian said, "Like Ally with an M."
"Fuckin' weird name," AJ muttered. "Did you try looking her up to see if there's a phone number?"
Brian sighed, "Yeah, she's either unlisted or nonexistant."
"Yeah, that's what made Leighanne start getting mad about it... She's all set to post a notice on my website about it."
"Leighanne is such a lioness, seriously dude, she'd rip out someone's throat for hurting you, I swear it," AJ smiled sadly. "That's sweet though."
Brian sighed. He knew AJ was thinking of Rochelle. He'd never gotten over Rochelle. Brian pushed the pile of carrots that he'd finished peeling and slicing into little pennies aside and started cutting up potatoes that Leighanne was washing and peeling over the sink.
"So, anyways..." Brian said after an awkward pause where they'd both thought about how much AJ missed Rochelle, "Thanksgiving. You can stay over if you want, night before and night after, that's up to you."
"That'd be awesome," AJ said. The house around him suddenly felt too huge, too empty. He got up and started walking around at random. "Hey, how's Baylee?"
"Excited to turn thirteen."
"Hey that's right. You doing a party for him?"
"Well his birthday actually falls on Thanksgiving this day, and plus he says doesn't want one," Brian said and AJ could almost hear the raised eyebrow in his voice. "Instead, he requested that we spend all the money on his present because he wants us to buy him his own mini recording studio thing for his room so he can tape 'his beats'," Brian laughed.
AJ laughed, too. "Are you?"
"Of course," Brian laughed, "He's asking to grow up to be like Daddy, of course I am."
AJ ran his hand across the top of his mahogany desk in his office, which he never used. He looked around. The walls were covered with BSB stuff. Pictures, awards, all kinds of stuff. The key to the city of Orlando hung over a window. "Is Baylee still into soccer?" he asked.
"Yeah, he might be playing for his high school team next year, the coach says he's great at it and he's the star player this year." Brian smiled, "I'm really proud of him."
"Maybe I could take him to a game sometime," AJ suggested.
"I'm sure he'd love some face time with uncle AJ," Brian answered, "You're probably way cooler than I am anyways," he laughed.
AJ smirked, "I don't know about that."
Brian sighed and picked up the cutting board with all the veggies and dropped them into a giant pot, which Leighanne was pouring the water into. She turned the stove on and Brian sat down at the kitchen table while Leighanne set to work throwing the potato skins into a bag to put into the fridge to cook later.
"So I gotta get going," Brian said finally, "I'm helping Leighanne with dinner... But I'll see you the day before Thanksgiving... Give us a call and let us know when your flight will be in and we'll pick you up at the airport."
"Okay," AJ said.
"Miss ya man, can't wait to see you," Brian smiled.
"Miss ya too, B-Rok," AJ said.
Brian closed his eyes, his heart feeling happy, finally. "Aw Aje," he said, feeling his throat start to swell up. "See you Thanksgiving."