“So,” Nick stated as he placed his hand on the back of Carrie’s seat to peer over his right shoulder to back out of the parking space, “what do you do for fun around here?”
Rolling her eyes, Carrie turned her head to face Nick, “Nick, you’re talking about Hickville here, the only things worthwhile here are the movies, Dairy Queen, and Walmart. Oh, not to mention a bunch of bars to cater to the college students cravings for alcohol.”
“So which bars are the hotspots?” Nick teased.
“I wouldn’t know. You probably know better than me. It’s been twenty-four hours, you must have hit all of them by now.” Carrie easily replied.
Grimacing at how true the statement was to his life for the past few months, Nick asked while steering the car, “Have you been keeping an eye on me?”
Rolling her eyes, Carrie answered, “I’ve been trying to avoid you guys but people tend to think that after what happened, I should know everything there is to know about you guys. So, I’ve been bombarded with unwanted information.”
“I see,” Nick paused, “so, umm, what have you heard?”
“I don’t think you want to know.”
“Shit,” Nick thought to himself, “I really didn’t’ think she would find out about all the partying. God, I hope she doesn’t use this as an excuse not to agree to the plan.”
Pulling into a parking spot at IHOP’s, Nick pulled the key out of the ignition. “I guess we have a lot to talk about,” Nick whispered.
“Whatever, Nick. You don’t need to explain anything to me. It’s your life.” Carrie stated nonchalantly, while exiting the car and punctuating her statement with the slam of the car door.
“Shit. Shit. Shit,” Nick repeated resting his forehead on the steering wheel. Running his fingers through his hair, Nick exited the car and entered the heated building of IHOP’s. Spotting Carrie by the waitress, Nick walked over in time to hear the waitress say, “I’ll take you to the back booth.”
Pulling his trucker hat over his eyes, to prevent any recognition, Nick walked behind Carrie giving him an excellent view of her ass in her form-fitting jeans.
The waitress swiftly led them to the back booth leaving two menus on the table with a mumble of, “I‘ll be right back.”
“Great service here,” Nick stated dryly, plopping down in the seat across from Carrie.
Wordlessly, Carrie opened her menu and scanned the options.
Staring intently at Carrie, Nick finally mustered the courage to say, “You’re wrong.”
Carrie raised her eyes to Nick’s, in confusion, “What?”
“You’re wrong,” Nick continued, “I do owe you an explanation because if not anything else, you are my friend. A very good friend who I don’t want to lose ‘cause of my stupidity.”
“I, uh--,” Carrie stuttered.
“No, just let me explain,” Nick interrupted, “yeah, I was stupid. I partied, a lot. Hell, I partied way too much. I know that. The fellas know that and called me out on it. It’s just,” Nick paused, “it’s just how I deal with things, you know? I guess I just like to avoid crap by doing that, you know?”
“Wow,” Carrie chuckled, “that was a lot of deep stuff, there.”
“Oh, shut up,” Nick said in mock offense, “I just opened my heart to you and all you do is laugh,” Nick finished in a feminine voice.
Controlling her giggles, Carrie quickly denied, “No, no, no. It’s not that, I swear. Heck, Nick what do you think I’ve been doing for the past six months?”
Both stared at each other for a millisecond before simultaneously laughing, gathering the stares of the other customers.
Seeing the fiery glint of laughter in her eyes, Nick abruptly stopped laughing, gazing at her in melancholy.
Still smiling, Carrie asked, “What?”
“Nothing,” Nick paused, “it’s just good to see you really smiling again.”
“Oh,” Carrie replied, shyly returning her eyes to the menu.
“Are y’all ready,” the middle-aged waitress asked Nick and Carrie. Taking their orders and menus, the waitress left no barrier between Nick and Carrie, allowing Nick to finally receive a full view of her.
Feeling confident over their recent exchange in laughter, Nick took a deep breath to initiate the conversation he was dreading. “So,” Nick began, staring at Carrie.
“So,” Carrie mimicked with a smirk.
“Yeah, so um, your winter break is coming up isn’t it?” Nick asked.
“Yeah, next week,” Carrie replied raising her eyebrow.
“That’s good. That’s good,” Nick mumbled realizing it was the wrong approach. “Umm, it’s been awhile since you’ve seen everyone, right?”
“Yeah, I guess it has,” Carrie stated warily.
“Yeah, so umm, I was wondering, err, I mean, we were wondering if you were busy during your winter break,” Nick struggled.
“Nick,” Carrie said annoyed, “will you just spit it out?”
“Okay, okay, sheesh. Can’t even let a guy talk,” Nick muttered good-naturedly.
Rolling her eyes, Carrie urged, “Just say it, Nick.”
“Fine. Okay, so the fellas and I were thinking that if you weren’t busy this winter break, that maybe we could all meet up and, you know, catch up,” Nick quickly stated all the while holding his breath for a positive reaction.
Carrie’s eyes widened with Nick’s words but before she could respond the waitress, with impeccable timing, brought them their breakfast.
Inwardly cursing the damn waitress, Nick frantically searched Carrie’s face for her answer. He watched as she thanked the waitress and fiddled with the napkin in her lap. Adamantly, Nick decided to wait for her response before he would vocalize any suggestions.
Finally, glancing up from her lap, Carrie noticed Nick’s eyes staring at her intently. “Nick, I--,” sighing and lifting her hands from her lap, Carrie brushed her bangs from her eyes. “I don’t know, Nick.” Seeing that he was about to make his opinions known, Carrie hurriedly added, “Let me explain. I don’t know if my parents will be okay with me seeing you guys again and to be honest, I don’t know if I’m ready.”
“Didn’t I already tell you, I’ve got your back?” Nick questioned amusedly. “And if your worried about your parents, don’t. Kevin has a knack at convincing parents. I know I wouldn’t have been able to go to certain places when I was younger if I didn’t have him fielding my mom,” Nick chuckled.
“I dunno...” Carrie trailed.
“C’mon, Please?” Nick pleaded attempting to give her best puppy-dog look.
Smiling Carrie timidly asked, “You’ll be there to hold my hand if I get nervous, right?”
“We’ll be handcuffed by the wrists, I swear.” Nick solemnly replied.
“That was dirty.”
“Only if you want it to be,” Nick playfully flirted.
Rolling her eyes, Carrie continued, “And Kevin will deal with my parents?”
“He’s probably already on it, considering how anal he is.” Nick answered.
Knowing she might regret it later if she didn’t accept, Carrie hesitantly said, “Okay, I’ll come but only if my parents okay it as well.”
Squelching a possible girlish squeal, Nick clenched his fist in excitement and replied, “Awesome! You won’t regret it, I promise. Don’t worry about the plane tickets and hotel stuff. I got it covered. We’ll probably be leaving on the--”
“Whoa! Whoa! Plane tickets?”
“Oh, I didn’t mention that we’re all meeting up in Atlanta, Georgia?” Nick questioned, feigning innocence.
“No, Nickolas. You conveniently left out that vital piece of information,” Carrie replied sarcastically.
“Oops,” Nick shrugged, “Well, Brian doesn’t want to leave his family behind or bring them out to Chicago for that matter so Atlanta is the meeting place. But I guess you already agreed so you can’t back down now, right?”
“Whatever, Nick. You are such a manipulative butt-munch,” Carrie huffed.
“People have told me that my derrière is quite scrumptious.” Nick replied with a smirk.
“That’s disgusting. Sorry, to burst your bubble but I’m not a member of the Carter ghetto-booty fan club,” Carrie retorted.
“I’ve seen you eyeing my ass. Don’t deny it.”
“How could you see me eyeing your butt if your back is turned?” Carrie smirked at Nick’s dumbfounded expression. “Anyway, as much as this conversation is stimulating I want to get back to the topic at hand,” Carrie paused to emphasize her return to seriousness, “If, and this is a major if, you can convince my parents that I should go out of state to have a Backstreet reunion, then we’ll talk about plane tickets.”
“That’s all I’m saying,” Nick agreed.
“Okay, as long as we’re clear. Now, let’s just eat and get out of here,” Carrie concluded.
Digging into their chocolate chip pancakes, Carrie and Nick took their first few bites before conversing.
“So what’s next project-wise with you,” Carrie politely asked.
“Mmmh,” Nick answered while chewing, “um well, I’ve been thinking about getting my family together.”
“Really?” Carrie asked surprised, “You mean your mom and dad?”
“No! No, not that, not yet. I meant my brother and sisters. I’ve been hanging out with Aaron a lot lately and I’ve been thinking maybe it’s time to get everyone together.”
“Wow. That’s great, Nick! I know you’ve missed them,” Carrie said sincerely.
“Yeah, I just gotta convince them, you know,” Nick chuckled.
“Yeah,” Carrie scrunched up her nose, “How are you going to do that? Isn’t everyone spread out doing their own thing?”
“I’m working on that part. I’ve gotta couple of ideas but we’ll see,” Nick answered.
“Well, I’m sure it’ll work out. It’s a good intention and I’m sure they’ll see it your way,” Carrie said supportively.
“So do you have any major exams coming up?” Nick asked.
“One this Wednesday and a group presentation later this week but otherwise I’m good exam-wise,” Carrie said.
“That’s good,” Nick replied as the waitress brought them their check. Carrie immediately snatched the check knowing Nick’s gentleman-like nature. “Carrie,” Nick scolded, “What do you think your doing?”
“You’re my guest, Nickolas, so I’m paying,” Carrie grinned in triumph. Getting up from her seat, Carrie hurriedly went to the cashier and paid for their meal.
Quickly following Carrie, Nick stood next to her, “I’m so getting you back for this, Fairy,” Nick whispered, as the cashier took Carrie’s credit card.
“Whatever, Nick,” Carrie replied. After signing the receipt and taking her card, Carrie exited the building and headed toward the car walking side-by-side with Nick.
Halfway to the car, Carrie heard her name being called, “Carrie! Carrie! Hey, wait up!”
“What the hell?” Nick questioned turning around.
Carrie whipped her head around to see a tall, dark-haired man jogging toward them. “Oh, this cannot be good,” Carrie thought to herself. “Hey, Nick do you think you could warm up the car while I talk to Scott.”
Glancing over at Carrie, Nick raised his eyebrows, in an effort to say, ‘I don’t think so.’
“Don’t worry, this baby has an automatic start engine,” Nick stated, with a press on the button. As the car ten feet away charged with life, the man in front of them halted in front of Carrie with a broad grin.
“Scott! Hey, how're you doing?” Carrie politely asked with a smile pasted on her face as Nick sized up the man in front of them.
“He’s built but I’ve got a good 20 pounds on this sucker,” Nick happily concluded.
“Carrie, Carrie, Carrie. I’ve been good, but I would be better if you had been returning my calls and emails,” Scott answered with a smirk.
Nick’s eyes narrowed, immediately feeling the strong need to wipe the smirk off of Scott’s face. “What the hell? Calls? Emails?”
“Yeah, about that…” Carrie trailed, “I’ve been busy with classes and exams lately so I haven’t gotten around to returning any of your calls or emails. Sorry about that.”
“Nah, that’s alright. Maybe we can get some coffee this Friday. You can’t study on a Fri—,”
Knowing where this was headed, Nick cleared his throat rather loudly.
“Oh! Where are my manners! I’m so sorry! Nick, this is Scott. Scott, this is my friend, Nick,” Carrie introduced.
“Yeah, a good friend,” Nick emphasized as he firmly shook Scott’s weak hands and glared into his eyes.
“Oh. So you’re Nick, Nick Carter. From the Backstreet Guys, right”
“Backstreet Boys,” Nick hissed.
“My bad. I forgot you were just boys,” Scott grinned innocently.
Attempting to relieve the tension, Carrie tried to make their escape, “Wow, it’s getting real cold. Um, maybe we should--,”
“Oh yeah! Your hands always did get cold whenever I walked you to class,” Scott said as he grabbed Carrie’s hands in an attempt to warm them.
If Nick’s eyes had been shooting daggers before, they were surely emitting fire now as he glared at Scott’s hands enveloping Carrie’s. “Motherfucker. Walking her to class?”
With a fake chuckle, Carrie replied, “Yeah,” all the while attempting to gently pull her hands away.
Not being able to restrain himself any longer, Nick swiftly pulled Carrie’s hands from Scott’s grasp and stated, “Don’t worry, Scott. I’ve always kept Carrie nice and warm. Anyway, we should be going but it was a pleasure meeting you.”
“Likewise,” Scott muttered with malice.
Flabbergasted, Carrie could only glance at Scott as Nick swept her away to the car never letting go of her hand. Opening the passenger-side door, Nick ungracefully dropped Carrie into her seat and slammed the door making sure all necessary limbs were inside. Making his way around the hood of the car, all Nick saw was red as he remembered the way Scott was eyeing Carrie. Getting into the car and slamming the door, Nick was too focused on his task of driving off with screeching tires to notice Carrie fuming beside him.
“Where the hell do you get off grabbing me like that?” Carrie asked through a haze of anger.
“What do you mean me grabbing? Did you see the way that prick grabbed your hands and wouldn’t let go?” Nick fiercely returned all the while speeding out of the IHOP’s parking lot.
“Even if he was holding my hands, I don’t see how it is any of your business. Who I see in my free time does not concern you.”
“Like hell it doesn’t. I’m—I’m your fucking friend and who you see is my concern,” Nick argued.
“It hasn’t been your concern for the last six months and it shouldn’t be now. If I didn’t know any better, I would say your jealous and I don’t really see why since we are nothing more than friends,” Carrie stated bitterly.
His heart clenching at her words, Nick scolded himself sullenly, “What did you think, Carter? That she was sitting around for six months by herself? Of course, she’s going out with guys. She’s beautiful, any guy can see that.”
Running his fingers through his hair, Nick sighed, attempting to explain himself without digging a deeper hole, “Look, after everything we’ve been through, I guess you can say I’m protective. I care about you and don’t want to see you get hurt, especially after everything.”
Knowing he wouldn’t be satisfied with a silent answer, Carrie verbally agreed, “Yeah,” knowing that both their hearts were saying something different.
The rest of the ride back to the dorm was in silence, neither not knowing what to say to each other without letting their hearts get in the way of reality. Nick would be leaving in the next few hours and the imminent goodbye hung in the air.
Upon reaching the dorm the silence ensued except for the occasional need based question and answer, while Nick gathered his possessions. Carrie’s stubborn rationale and Nick’s fear prevented them from verbalizing anything meaningful.
When the time came for Nick’s departure, both couldn’t look the other in the eye, fearing the look of need, as they stood by the car waiting for the other to say something.
Finally breaking the silence, Nick whispered, “Look, we’ve got to just sit down and talk about everything, okay? And I mean everything. I’ll send you all the plane ticket information in the next few days and I’ll see you again in a week, okay?”
Hearing his plead for truce, Carrie looked up at Nick and took a step forward, “Okay.”
“Good,” Nick stated, all the while grabbing Carrie in a fierce hug. Reluctantly, pulling apart, Nick found her eyes and whispered, “Bye, Fairy.”
Trying to keep her emotions at bay, Carrie whispered an equally hushed goodbye, “Bye, Nick.”
Knowing that nothing more could be said to conclude the weekend, Nick opened the car door, and closed it in his wake. Pulling out of the parking lot, Nick refused to glance in his rearview mirror, convincing himself that there was nothing that could be done in that moment and that he would do whatever it took to finally get into Carrie’s heart in the upcoming weeks.