The tour starts and Nick has to comfort Casey unexpectedly.
The following weeks leading up to the first concert of the tour were busy for the group. She hung around her father to see how things worked, and also because she had nowhere else to be. Occasionally she hung out with friends, but soon it came time for her to pack and get ready for the tour. After their first concert, they began using the buses to travel between cities. Kevin gave her a run down of the buses, explaining how things would work.
“Wait, you mean I’m sleeping on a bus?”
“Only when necessary,” Kevin told her. “We stay at hotels, but with the schedule we usually drive overnight to the hotel, so we end up sleeping for a few hours before we actually get there. So we have bunks in both buses so we have a semi-comfortable place to sleep.”
“Do I get top or bottom?”
“That’s up to you, and who claims a bunk before you. It’ll change every night though, since the buses aren’t our permanent homes during the tour.”
Casey knew she’d get a top bunk every time. She didn’t like the thought of having someone above her. During the first concert, she was already getting settled in her bunk on one of the buses. Her father had told her to stay in the bus to avoid any crazy fans. After the concert ended, she listened to the girls scream as the guys scrambled onto the buses. Then they headed onto the road towards their next concert location.
She found out that she would share a bus with her father every time. He wanted to be with her and keep an eye on her. On the first night, Brian was the other person on their bus. Howie, AJ, and Nick were on the other bus. Casey fell asleep slowly. She had a hard time drifting off when every time she came close the bus jostled her awake. Eventually they reached their hotel and she was elated to find out she’d have a whole room to herself. Naturally, she wouldn’t share a room with any of the other guys, and right now there weren’t any women on tour with the group.
Only a few days into the tour, Casey realized it was the one year anniversary of her mother’s death. Throughout the day, she tried to act normal. She felt it wasn’t fair to the guys to bring down their moods when they had to put on a concert. During their performance, she stayed on the buses as usual, waiting for the guys to get on so they could leave for the next hotel. While she waited, memories of her mother flooded her mind.
When Casey started kindergarten, she’d been terrified about leaving her mother for so long a time. Unable to convince her to get out of the car, her mother promised that Kevin would be waiting for her after school. So Casey went, and she called Kevin. He agreed to be there.
A few years later, Kevin went on tour with the Backstreet Boys. Casey didn’t take the separation from him well, so her mother used her savings to purchase plane tickets to Kentucky. They spent the summer at her parents’ house, and Casey was able to accept Kevin’s absence with the help of her grandparents.
On Casey’s twelfth birthday, her mom couldn’t afford much for a celebration. Casey’s friends had teased her about being poor, which sent Casey home in tears. Her mother hated to see her cry, so she took on a second job to make more money. She saved the extra money and used it to make her thirteenth birthday party extra special.
More memories sprang to mind, reminding Casey of just how much her mother had sacrificed to bring her up with everything she could ever have wanted. She told Casey a few years ago that her parents helped her raise Casey while she was in high school, so she could finish school and still have Casey raised properly. She recalled how her mother hadn’t been able to date in school, since all the kids knew that she was already a mother. Even when she was older, men often left her the minute they found out she already had a child. But she never complained. On the contrary, she told Casey it saved her from having to make hard decisions between her daughter and her boyfriend, and it gave her more time to spend with her daughter.
Finally Casey heard her father talking to Nick as he got on the bus. Apparently Nick wasn’t done talking though, and followed Kevin onto the bus. They finished their discussion, something about Nick’s solo album, within a few minutes. Kevin whispered something to Nick before falling onto one of the bunks and drifting off to sleep almost immediately. Casey assumed he’d told Nick to stay away from her on the bus. That wouldn’t be a problem since Nick rarely talked to her at all, no matter where they were. He was probably afraid of Kevin.
Nick got into the bunk below Casey, unaware that she was above him. Casey waited a few minutes, listening for sounds of sleep. He was breathing quietly, and from what she could tell, evenly. Thinking him asleep, she finally let the tears she’d been holding in all day come. She cried silently, only shaking a little. After a few seconds, she heard Nick moving below.
“Casey, what’s wrong?” His head appeared by her bed, looking at her. She took a few breaths, wondering what she should say. She decided the truth was the best.
“I’m sorry,” she started. She felt bad for disturbing him. “It was a year ago today that my mom died.”
“Oh. Casey, why didn’t you say anything?” He hesitated for a minute, and then climbed up next to her on the bunk. “I’m so sorry.” He pulled her into a hug, not knowing what else to say. He’d never lost anyone close to him before, so he had no idea how she was feeling. He wanted to say something to make her feel better, but was afraid he’d say something stupid and end up making things worse.
They sat there like that for a few minutes, Nick awkwardly patting her back and Casey crying silently. Nick felt Casey start to relax, and knew he didn’t want her falling asleep against him. That would make things much more complicated, not to mention Kevin would kill him if he found them. So he gave her a final hug and climbed back into his own bunk.
“Thanks Nick,” Casey whispered after they’d both settled into their bunks.
“You’re welcome,” he whispered back. Several minutes later he heard her breathing even out and knew she was asleep. He drifted off shortly after her.