CHAPTER FOUR - ANGER
Dressed impressingly in Versace suits, Brian and the boys rued the thought of facing the press conference in the next five minutes. Brian was a regular sweatbox, glancing at his watch, as it became closer and closer to his final minutes. Johnny paced anxiously behind them with his hands behind his back, glancing at his watch as well.
The Virgin Record music store was filled almost to capacity with reporters from all over, already taking pictures of them before the conference had even begun. But none of them were smiling.
AJ sat slumped over in his seat with his elbows rested on the table in front of him, eyeing his mic from over his shades as though it was his adversary. Maintenance men buzzed busily about them plugging in mics and hanging up Backstreet banners.
"Three minutes guys," Johnny warned, placing his hands on the backs of Nick and Howie. Howie jumped startled from his sleepy-like stage and nodded approvingly at him. The mics were already on.
Johnny walked over to Brian who sat with his head buried in his folded arms and blocked the mic in front of him with his hand so the press would not hear them.
"You gonna be okay, Brian?" he asked, looking at him apprehensively. Brian nodded but did not look up.
From the far end of the table, Kevin, with a solid expression stared at his troubled cousin. If he'd told Johnny what he did, he'd be in trouble. It was his and Brian's little clandestine, yet he couldn't help but feel responsible for all the pain Brian was going to go through as a result of getting off the medication.
Johnny stepped up in front of the table where the boys sat with a mic in his hand, which signalled the start of the press conference. Instantly, arms from reporters shot up holding tape recorders and mics, a few cameras from an MTV News crew were surprisingly among them.
He tapped the mic a few testing times and got to the point immediately.
"The reason we're here is to inform the press as well as the many fans of the Backstreet Boys some alarming news. About a month ago, the Backstreet tour was cancelled on account of one of the boys…Brian Littrell..." he paused, turning around to point him out laying discouraged, "went into cardiac arrest on stage."
Cameras flashed and questions were hurled in Johnny's and the boys' directions, but he ignored them and continued.
"The operation, so we thought, was a success, until we later found out the hole in his heart was still spreading…"
A loud wail was heard from Brian sulking bitterly into his arms but he fell silent again yet his body shook sadly. Johnny turned to look at him and tears swelled up in his eyes.
Anxious to go to him, Kevin arose half way and looked up at Johnny for permission, but he shook his head and gestured for him to sit still.
Annoyed, Kevin sat down again.
"…Because of his condition," he continued, again ignoring the riot of the press, "Brian will no longer be able to perform with us…"
"Why?" a stray voice asked, seemingly a little louder than everyone else's did.
"He won't live that long. He's dying."
The second those words escaped his lips the press went wild, piling question after question upon him and the boys. Johnny simply turned around and gestured for the others to get up.
"Mr. Littrell, Mr. Littrell! Is his statement accurate?!" a woman asked, trying to lean as close to him as possible with a tape recorder at her fingertips.
Brian looked up at her with tearful eyes and stuttered a pitiful "Yes," as he felt Johnny's careful hand escorting him up.
All sorts of things were being shouted at them, as though they didn't care, they just wanted to get as much out of this story as possible.
"Wait a minute! Wait a minute, you can't just leave! AJ, what do you have to say about your cousin dying? How long does he have to live?!" the reporter for Entertainment Weekly asked.
Everyone about him piped up in agreement and beckoned them to stay and answer more questions. AJ shook his head in disbelief and pointed at Kevin before he turned to exit behind the curtains from which they had came.
"I'm not his cousin," he called over his shoulder.
Kevin got up last and tucked in his chair. He leaned over to his mic and said, "Three months." The press went mad. The camera flashes were blinding and the noise from everyone talking at once was deafening.
Johnny emerged from behind the curtain and signalled for Kevin to come.
"Kevin! Kevin! How do you feel about this situation?!"
He looked at Johnny then leaned over to his mic again and said, "No comment"
Now that the world knew, none of them were safe from interviews. In each magazine it was a completely different story. Brian didn't even know the truth anymore. His life had been unconsciously abbreviated and already it was seeping into month two.
It was depressing for him, if his mind wasn't occupied, he'd think about his condition and cry for hours. And everyday when he woke up the first thing that drifted into his mind was that he was dying.
Never did a second go by and him not remember it. Never. It was impossible to forget something like that. The guys tried to get him out more, in less than three months they'd never be able to be with him again. No one would. Ever.
Kevin had taken it upon himself as his personally duty to be with Brian at all times. He practically moved in with him, he was his protector.
He refused interviews and press conferences and such that would interfere with their personal life, or cause stress.
The world was in shock to hear that Brian was dying, all over the TV, the news…fans were crying hysterically. It was the topic of conversations in chatrooms online, offline, and anywhere else with general access.
Johnny was constantly bombarded with questions and it seemed that everywhere he turned around, he had a camera in his face beckoning him to reveal unknown information about the "Brian enigma."
Why? Because there were so many unanswered questions. At the press conference Johnny announced to the world that Brian was dying and then they left. Only one question was answered: "How long does he have to live?"
What else did they need to know?
Brian was sitting on the armrest of his chair with a rolled up magazine clutched in his hand. Sweat was causing his shirt to cling to his chest and his hair to his forehead. Sweating--he'd been doing that a lot lately and he was beginning to tire faster than usual.
Kevin, his guardian, walked up to him and patted his back.
"You okay, Rok?" he asked.
That question was beginning to be a true bother to him. As though they always expected him to be feeling bad. He narrowed his brows in displeasure of the question, but was too tired to be further depressed.
Brian looked up at him and mopped the sweat off his brow.
"Did you read this article? It's bizarre. I don't know what to believe anymore," he sighed, tossing the magazine to the couch.
Kevin stood above him with his hands in his pockets searching his thoughts for something to say. How could Dr. St. Clair tell him to act like nothing was wrong, when every second his life was taken away from him? That wasn't something you could just forget, and he didn't want to spend his last months with Brian pretending that everything was normal. That was basically living a lie.
"Kev, this sucks," Brian started, almost in a whisper, pushing his hair back off his forehead. "I really didn't want to die like this. I was so busy with the group, I never got to accomplish half my dreams, and now I know I'll never get the chance. I'm twenty-four years old Kev...I never really had a girlfriend. No time to myself."
Kevin stared down to the floor with a blank expression, looking lost yet paying intense focus to what he was saying.
"You know what it feels like?" he asked, intending the question to be rhetorical. Brian continued, "To know you'll never have a family, or see where your life would've taken you? To spend… your entire life, entertaining people, and never get a chance to have someone entertain you. But when we're on stage no one sees it from our point of view, they don't know what's going on in our heads."
He stopped, thinking maybe that he sounded somewhat of a philosopher, then smiled a little, though his eyes were releasing quiet tears.
"But then again," he picked up again, looking over to Kevin, who glanced up at him but didn't relieve his stoical exposition, "No one really thinks of those things…not unless you're dying…Then, so very many things run through your mind every second it's scary."
Kevin sucked in his bottom lip, pitying Brian. This was the first time he'd ever valued his life so much, when 50 percent of the time people in general tend to take it for granted. It relates to the saying, "You never know what you got until you lose it." And the guys never realised how much Brian meant to them until now.
How the hell would all this turn out? What would the group be like when Brian died? Would they cease to exist the group because of this? His funeral should be ambrosial, after all, he was Brian Littrell.
Every day Kevin attempted to put himself in Brian's situation, but he could never imagine what it would be like to know you were dying and incompetent to do anything about it.
Brian coughed into his hand and quickly searched it for blotches of blood. Luckily, he was disappointed. He felt a slight tingling in his throat, as if bile was rising from his chest and radiating in the back of his throat.
He hoped that this was only heart burn and not what he expected it to be, but even if it was, Brian was panic stricken, "Oh God, not now, not again," he thought, looking up at Kevin.
"Kevin, I really don't feel well right now at all. Will you get me to the hospital?" he requested, grabbing at his chest cavity.
Kevin's eyes peeled open in alarm and grabbed his arms.
"What's wrong!?" he asked quickly, searching his dilating pupils.
Already he was panicked, though Brian was acting rather nonchalant and undaunted.
"I dunno, I feel dizzy, I feel like I'm gonna have another heart attack again…"
So quickly? Like he was slipping in and out of death again and again. Within moments he could just have a heart attack for no reason? Impossible. He was fine a moment ago.
"Oh god, no! Can you walk?!" he asked, patting his pockets for the keys.
"Yeah," Brian said softly, slowing arising from the couch still holding of his chest. "Don't worry about it, it might be just heartburn, but take me there in case it isn't."
Brian was strapped in the passenger seat still holding to his chest. The heartburn feeling had increased within the last five minutes they were driving and he was sweating madly-not because he was hot, but because he feared it really was a heart attack.
Kevin turned on the AC, noticing his suspiration had changed. It helped his sweating condition a little bit, but it didn't cease it.
Brian pulled the seatbelt strap from around his head and lifted up his shirt.
"Are you okay, Rok?" Kevin asked, taking his eyes from the road.
"No…not really…keep driving…" he urged, turning off the air.
"Please God, please don't let this be another heart attack," Brian prayed silently, taking quick breaths.
Kevin couldn't help but take his eyes off the road at him, fidgeting in his seat. He kept moving off his lane and he was already breaking the speed limit by thirty.
A slight pain crept down Brian's left arm and he grabbed it, wincing in displeasure. He knew in an instant from experience that it was no longer heartburn.
"Oh my God, I am having a heart attack…Kevin drive faster…"
"What!?" Kevin screamed, careening from his lane.
Quickly he regained control and a sharp horn brought him back to reality from the driver in the next lane. But he didn't give a damn about the other drivers now.
"Brian, I…I dunno what to do!" he said excitedly, body trembling uncontrollably with fear, he could barely steer the truck anymore. He kept glancing over at him every five seconds.
"I dunno what to do! Brian, please don't die!" he begged, tearing up again.
"Don't worry about it…just drive..." Brian instructed, letting his chair go as far back as possible.
He knew what he had to do before he actually went into cardiac arrest. He tilted his head back to clear his airway, and steadied his body, preparing for the attack.
Kevin again glanced at his pale body and reached a concerned hand over to his neck, and checked for a pulse. It was beating slowly, though it took him a few seconds even to find it. Panic stricken, he began to switch in and out of lanes without his indicator and run lights to get there before it was too late.
Suddenly, Brian's feet shot up onto the dashboard and he grabbed his chest, fighting with his lungs to take in more air. The noise startled Kevin and again he looked over at him and careened from his lane. Various horns and swears were thrown towards him and people around and behind him begun to merge left to get away from his reckless driving.
"Brian! Hold on, I'm almost there!" he yelled, gazing into his no longer blue, but grey eyes.
He panicked more when he realized that Brian hadn't even noticed him. The hospital was within sight but still he insisted on speeding to get there.
Without taking his eyes off the road this time he grabbed Brian's pale, sweaty hand and felt for an oscillation-but got none. Fearful, he swerved from behind an UPS truck into the next lane and cut it off ,then swung into the hospital parking lot blasting his horn for attention.
Again returned to them was the morbid feeling of the hospital waiting room, the room with the most suspense. Everyone in the whole damn hospital knew who they were, but at the moment, a bit of sheer common sense told them not to dare ask for an autograph.
Not a kind word in the English language could regain Kevin's physical conscience at the moment. He had his elbows rested on his knees and his chin rested in his hands, looking straight ahead regardless of what passed before him.
Howie was there in the next seat beside Kevin, resting his arm on his back looking sadly at Nick with his hands covering his face in the seat across from them. He had been crying a great deal while he was there, and no one had offered him consolation.
Despite all this, Johnny paced back and forth across the room. AJ got down on his hands and knees in front of Kevin, and tried to get him to look at him. He placed his hands around his arms and said, "Listen to me Kevin, you did everything you could…we can't depend on you to do any more than what you've already done…"
Kevin continued to stare right through AJ, like he was a transparent object. Nothing was going to break him.
AJ sighed, and looked to Howie for assistance but he shrugged.
"He's gonna be okay, man-"
Kevin whined and pulled away from him.
"Don't tell me that," he warned flatly.
"Don't give me that bullshit AJ. You know how many times I've heard that? Can you look me in the eye and honestly tell me he's gonna be okay? What do you think?" he asked, looking into his eyes for a truthful response.
AJ had a dumbfounded expression on his face, but he refused to give up on him. He was right. How many times were they going to hear that he'd be okay when he wasn't? What world were these doctors living in, the matrix?
He sighed again and flicked his shades on to block the uncomfortable and unyielding stare Kevin was giving him. He hadn't removed his gaze, so he was obviously awaiting an answer.
"No, you don't think," Kevin said explicitly, "Now get the hell away from me."
Sensing a bit of aggression in his voice, AJ got up reluctantly and reclaimed his position next to Nick.
Dr. St. Clair entered the room, but when she saw Kevin she was instantly disgusted, remembering their previous encounter.
Johnny saw her first and came to her quickly.
"What's his condition?" he asked her.
The others looked up to see whom he was talking to. Kevin shot up when he saw her and joined Johnny.
"He's fine, but…" she glanced angrily up at Kevin and continued, "..the heart attack could've been prevented."
Kevin seemed confused at first but when it hit him his eyes changed and he turned away from them in shame.
"What do you mean?" Johnny asked, confused.
"He should've been on Heart Med."
The way she said that make Kevin quiver with guilt, it daunted him without cease.
Johnny narrowed his brows at her and his worried expression modulated into an angry one.
"Okay, now you doctors are really pissing me off, we have him on Heart Med! What the hell are you talking about?!"
Before Dr. St. Clair could respond to his outburst, Kevin piped up.
"I took him off," he said softly.
"What?" Johnny asked, turning around to face him, thinking maybe he'd heard wrong.
"I took him off," he repeated, a little louder.
Johnny, filled with rage, narrowed his brows and begun to yell at him. "What the hell is your problem, Kevin? What are you trying to do? How dare you…. And without our consent? Kevin, have you lost your mind?!"
"NO!" he cried, yelling at him.
He suddenly threw his arms around Dr. St. Clair inflicting comfort upon himself. He just couldn't take the pressure anymore. He felt guilty enough, but now that everything was exposed all at once...it hurt like hell.
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, I didn't mean it...he just…and I couldn't…" he sobbed, not making any sense at all.
Surprised, Dr. St. Clair put her arms around him in return and somehow forgave him instantly.
"I'm sorry…you were right…" he sulked. "You were right."
"It's okay, Kevin," she informed, trying to comfort him.
The guys didn't bother to interfere with them, she was doing a far better job than any of them could have ever done reassuring him.
Tear-filled, curiously he whispered in her ear, "How long…does he have to live?"
He wanted an answer yet feared it at the same time
She sighed, hoping he wouldn't have asked her and whispered back, "A little less than two…but he's on the Heart Med. again…"
"Oh my God!" he cried, suddenly realising what he'd done.
He pulled away from Dr. St. Clair with a fearful expression and repeated again, "Oh my God! I killed him…I killed him…"