~*~Tracie~*~

The next week was normal. I mean for real normal, not the last few months normal. It felt good again. I was laughing and smiling my way through the day. I felt like everyone was doing well again. AJ would show up with his sunglasses on because it was sunny and not because he was so hungover that he looked like hell. Nick was laughing and goofy again. Kevin was better. He would still have times when he looked sad, but he wasnít staying numb, and he wasnít fucking anything that moved. We all went out a few times during the week and we all kept to ourselves. Only Kevin and I didnít have a date, and we just hung together. We danced with different people and flirted, but it went no further. Kevin was avoiding the one nighter, and I wasnít finding anything I really wanted. I was content to have fun with my friends. The guys were doing some interviews for local papers and news shows. They held Orlando as home, and liked to give them some special attention.

We were all sitting around the pool at the club on Saturday. The guys were definitely recognized at this point, but things were small and contained enough that it was fun for them. They liked to meet fans and let them see the Ďrealí them when it wasnít some huge crowd scene. Kids here were used to seeing them and would drop by and say hi, chat for a bit then leave. I also knew the kids enough to tell them when it was enough. So we were relaxing and talking under the umbrella. Next week was an off week.

"Iím going back home." Kevin rolled his eyes.

"Not happy about it, cuz?"

"I have to tell the family Iím getting the marriage annulled. Not looking forward to that." He shuddered.

All of us groaned, "You havenít told them?"

"I didnít think this was a phone conversation. So Iíll go back for a few days, and deal with it." He looked at me, "Wanna go with me?"

I didnít think twice, "If you want me too?"

Little kid Kevin reporting for duty, "Really?"

Nick smacked his head, "Did you really think she wouldnít? Youíre not that stupid."

He glared at Nick, "Wonít be the most fun trip."

"Shit, she doesnít care. Sheís your best friend. Have you lost your mind?"

I sat there watching them argue about what I would and wouldnít do.

Kevinís turn, "I know that Nick, but damn, Iíve asked a lot of her lately. This might be pushing it."

"It might hurt her feelings that you think that. Sheíd do anything for any of us. For you without thinking about it. Youíre lucky as hell to have that, Iím jealous as shit. Iíd love a best friend like that." Nick kissed my cheek. Wow, I was in the area.

Kevin looked at me, "Oh shit, I didnít mean to hurt your feelings."

I looked at Lee and we started laughing. I smiled, "I think you hurt Nickís feelings. Not mine. Iíd prefer you didnít take me for granted."

He stood up and walked around the table to me and hugged me. He whispered, "Iíd never take you for granted. I donít know what Iíd do without you."

I backed up, "When do we leave?"

He smiled, a real Kevin smile, "Monday?"

~*~Kevin~*~

I did wonder if it was pushing it. Iíd leaned on her a lot. I wasnít really used to that. I was always the strong one that people leaned on. I knew I was damn lucky to have her as a friend. Not a lot of friends would have done all that shit with Jessica without a question. Taking the rings away from her was above and beyond the call of duty. Loved that.

I thought about calling mom, then decided against it. Sheíd ask about Jessica, why she wasnít coming, why Tracie was. That would defeat the whole purpose of the trip.

We drove home. I wasnít sure about how long weíd be there, wasnít sure of the family reaction, and how much of it I could take. I wanted an escape vehicle. My truck makes a good escape vehicle. We drove straight home, no fun stops. Tracie would tease me about being driven. I wanted to get home and get the bad stuff over. Itís about a twelve hour drive from Orlando. We talked some, mostly about nothing. We kept the music going and sang and assed off.

I was tired when we headed into Irvine, opted for going to my cabin up in the mountains instead of momís house. I called her and told her Iíd see her in the morning. Tracie went to soak in the tub and I went out on the porch. I love it here. I love the smells, the sounds, the way I feel grounded. I sat in the swing and closed my eyes.

~*~Tracie~*~

I knew this was tough for him. His family had big expectations. I walked out on the porch and wasnít sure if he was awake. I sat down in a chair and looked out over the mountain. I could see why he would like this. Polar opposite of the other part of his life.

"How long have you been out here?"

"About 30 seconds. Just looking around. Why didnít you show me this last time we were here?"

He laughed, "Didnít want to shock your system, city girl."

"I went to the woods with Scott."

"This is better. Itís my mountain."

"I must admit I like being here with you better than being there with him. Youíre not "nice"." We both laughed.

"I wanted a peaceful calm night before I told mom. I am tired a little from the drive, and donít want to react or anything."

"Good idea." That was the last of the talking. We sat and soaked up the view and the noises. Itís amazing how noisy outside is. I went on to bed and left him with his thoughts.

The next morning we went into town to grab some breakfast, "Do you want me to go to your momís with you, or drive around, or what?"

"Um, hadnít thought of that. I donít think you being there would make any difference, and then I wouldnít have to tell you everything. Then again, I donít want you in the middle, or them to think youíre in the middle."

"How about I go with you, then excuse myself to go to that little antique shop."

"You hate antiques."

"Your mom doesnít know that."

~*~Kevin~*~

Tracie and I got to momís and sat on the back porch with her and my brothers having a glass of tea. Simple conversation about our trip and catching up. There was a lull in the conversation, waiting for the real story. Tracie stood up, "Iím going to go to that little antique shop at the corner, let you family catch up."

Mom stood with her, "Tracie, you seem to be family to Kevin, that makes you family to us."

Tracie and my mom hugged, "Thank you, Anne. You all need to talk without me. Iíll be back."

It was almost like mom didnít want her to leave. Iím not sure if thatís because she wanted her to be there for whatever I was gonna say, or she didnít want to hear it. Knowing my mom, and my history Iíd bet on the last one. Letís see . . . moving to Florida, singing, touring, yes Iíve done drugs, yes Iíve had sex with women, and Iím getting married in five days. Yeah, I can understand her hesitancy when her youngest son wants to talk to everyone. Tracie hugged me and wished me luck then walked out.

A little more silence, "Son, what is wrong?"

Guess I got that look Tracie talked about, "I donít know how to do this except straight up. My marriage is being annulled."

Tim spoke as mom sat there, "Annulled?"

"She lied about things. Very big things that definitely made it a fraud." I was quiet for a second then knelt down beside mom, "Iím sorry. I didnít mean to let you down. I swear I had every intention of making this marriage work. But she . . . she did something I canít forgive."

Mom put her hand on my face, which got me crying, "Kevin, what happened?"

I shook my head, "I canít, mom. It hurts too bad."

She pulled me up and hugged me, "Ok, little one." She had called me that since the day I was born, doesnít really fit now, but it felt damn good. "Son, I know that marriage is sacred to you. If you ended it, you had good reason."

"Thank you, mom."

"Us too." My brothers moved in and we had a family hug.

"Thanks guys. I felt like Iíd let you down again."

Mom addressed this, "You only let us down, when you let yourself down. Can you say that you did everything to make it work, and can you live with leaving?"

"I couldnít live with staying."

"Then you didnít let anyone down."

We sat back down and I gave them timeline, more or less. Tim looked over, "Does Tracie know what happened?"

"No, why?"

"Just thinking you probably need someone to talk to. Figured it would be her."

I just shook my head, "I have really depended a lot on her. Sheís been there and never asked questions."

Mom smiled, "Good, you need that in a friend."

 

~*~Tracie~*~

I gave them some time then headed back. I walked in and almost tiptoed out there, "Hey?"

His mom got up, hugged me, then kissed my cheek, "Thank you for being there for my son."

I smiled, "No problem."

"You are our family."

"Thank you. I donít have one of my own anymore." My parents had died almost ten years ago, Iíd been pretty much on my own since then.

We stayed through lunch and caught up and Kevin talked about the plans for the next months. A lot of down time, they needed a break. Slowly working on the next album, wanting it to be perfect. I liked seeing him like this, seemed back to normal. He decided it was time to go and we headed out. We all hugged and his mom thanked me again. Kevin and his mom hugged for a long time and I heard her say, "I am proud of you, little one." I knew how much that meant to him.

He was quiet in the car. I looked over and smirked, "Little one?"

"Um hum."

"Well . . . I guess she would know."

"You so suck."

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