"Tay, there she is again." Isaac said, pointing at the blonde girl across the room.
Taylor looked over at the girl, her blue eyes were glued to him. "Thanks, Ike, I was starting to relax, but now, I can get the creeps again." Taylor answered.
"She's very pretty." Isaac said, looking at her. She had straight blonde hair, cut in a bob and big blue eyes. She looked to be 16 or 17. Her short black shirt showed her navel which had a shiny silver ring in it.
"Hmph," Taylor answered curtly, "pretty creepy."
"What's creepy about her, other than that she seems to have some unnatural attraction to YOU?" Isaac smiled, knowing quite a few girls were attracted to his brother. But, as he watched her, she did seem a little different, something he couldn't quite put his finger on. She always seemed to manage to get backstage and concert after concert, she was there. And yet, no one had introduced her as their daughter or niece, or whatever.
"Well," Taylor interrupted his thoughts, "she hasn't talked to me once, she just watches me. She actually got an autograph a couple weeks ago, and when I asked for her name, she just smiled at me." He said as he popped a handful of M&M's into his mouth, "It's weird," he continued, "last night, I had a dream about her." His voice had dropped to a whisper.
Isaac's ears perked up, and he raised his eyebrows, "Really? Was it a good dream or a bad dream?"
Taylor glanced over at the girl, then back to the food table. He picked up a chunk of watermelon from a fruit tray, sniffed it, then took a huge bite, juice running down his chin, "I don't know—she was just in my room, watching like always." Then, he spit the seeds one by one into a garbage can about three feet away.
Isaac shook his head, "I don't care what anyone says Tay, you've got talent." Taylor grinned.
Just then, Walker came into the room, "Guys, they're ready for you." Then, he ducked back out. Taylor pitched the rind into the trash can, then looked over where the girl had been, but she was gone. He shook his head and followed Isaac back into the theatre where they were needed for the last sound check before the show that night.
That evening as the warm-up band was playing, Taylor decided he'd go to the bathroom one last time. After getting dehydrated a couple of times during a show, his mother had insisted he drink water all day, whether he was thirsty or not—it had become habit now. The meet-n-greet had gone smoothly, even Zac had seemed to enjoy it. And, to his relief, the girl hadn't been there. As he pushed the door open, he was surprised at how quiet it was inside. He walked into a stall and locked the door behind him. As he was relieving himself, he heard the door open, the sound of screaming fans drifted in, and then it was quiet again. Strange, he thought, as he zipped his pants and unlocked the door once more. He didn't see anyone in the room with him. He went to the sink to wash his hands and splash water on his face. He hadn't felt great today and now, he'd gotten that tired feeling again he'd had earlier. The cold water was helping and he took a handful and put it on the back of his neck. He opened his eyes and looked in the mirror. Over his shoulder, he saw her. His knees went weak and his hand flew to his chest, "Jesus! You scared the crap out of me!" he gasped, turning.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly, "I didn't mean to."
"What are you doing in here?!" he asked, angry.
"I've been trying to get you alone Taylor. Don't you ever want to be alone?"
He took a deep breath, then pulled a towel from the dispenser and wiped his face, "Yeah, I guess so." He said back.
"Well, now you are." She said and she stepped towards him. Her eyes had a shine to them and for a moment, he wondered if she were wearing some kind of weird contact lenses.
"Um, I wouldn't call this alone, exactly." He said back nervously, backing up against the sink.
"Oh, but you are." She said back, and she smiled as she continued to walk closer.
Zac stood at the edge of the stage watching the roadies finish setting up their instruments. Suddenly, Taylor was standing beside him. "Damn, you scared me!" he said.
Taylor looked over at him, "Sorry."
"You alright? You sound kind of funny." Zac asked, looking closely at his brother.
For a moment, Taylor didn't answer, then he shook his head, "Yeah, I feel kind of funny…"
Zac looked again, "Man, we're on in a couple minutes—are you sick?"
Taylor shook his head again, "I don't think so…"
Zac grabbed his arm and pulled him back towards their dressing room. Once in the light, he said, "You're sweatin' man." Taylor reached up and wiped off his lip, then sat down on a chair.
Jessica walked in, "Taylor! Mom's been looking for you—geez!" Then she looked at him, "Whatsa matter? You look sick or something." Taylor stood up, staggered a bit and tromped out the door to go find his mother. Zac and Jessica looked at each other and shrugged, "Well, he did." She said and they followed their brother out the door.
To the untrained eye, the large room where the family had set up camp would have appeared to be total chaos, but actually, it was just the reality of a family of nine on the road. A road they'd been on before and would be again, unless the boys decided they didn't want to be in a band anymore—or until Zac turned 18, whichever came first. After that, Diana had decided, they'd have to go it on their own. She understood, they'd more than likely be relieved not to have her and Walker watching their every move. As it was, at 15, 17, and 20, they already did pretty much what they wanted. But, now and then, they needed the care and guidance of their parents and so, she intended on being there. As Taylor walked into the room, to a mother's eye, it was one of those moments. "Where have you been, what's wrong?" she asked, rising from her chair where she was putting Zoë's hair into pigtails.
"I was in the bathroom." He said.
"Go get Jess to finish for me." She said to the little girl who skipped away to find her big sister. Diana stepped over closer and looked at his face, "For a half an hour?" she asked, placing her hand on his cheek.
He furrowed his brow, "I wasn't gone that long." He said, irritated.
"Yes you were—"
She was interrupted by their father, "Guys, you're on, hurry up!" She grabbed a banana from the bowl of fruit that was in the center of the table and put a bottle of water in his hand, "Here, you missed supper, you know you shouldn't—"
"Ok, Mom, ok." He said and he kissed her cheek as he ran out the door behind his brothers and his father.
An hour later, the show was in full swing. So far, it had been uneventful. So much so, that Zac and Isaac had looked at each other time and again, wondering where the normally bouncy trouncy Taylor had gone. This new Taylor sang the songs without missing a word or a beat, but the spark just wasn't there. When they left the stage for the road crew to get the stage ready for the acoustic set, Isaac and Zac approached him as he was gulping down a bottle of water. "What's up man?" Isaac asked him. Taylor's eyes met his, but he only continued drinking, reveling in the feel of the clear, cool liquid sliding down his throat.
"Tay, are you sure you're ok? You're sorta…subdued or something." Zac added.
At last, he emptied the bottle, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and answered, "I just feel tired or something—I'm alright though."
They were approached then by one of the stage hands, "Alright guys, you're set."
Isaac looked one more time at Taylor, "Do we need to change the song list?"
Taylor shook his head, "No, I said I was ok, for crying out loud!"
"Alright, alright! You just don't seem ok to me." Isaac said, and he turned and headed for the stage.
Taylor had made a conscious effort to be more "up" for the remainder of the show, but still, he found his mind drifting and his body dragging. As the show was drawing to a close, he knew everyone from his brothers to the audience expected him to give it his all during their last song, and so he did. At that point in the song that he and Isaac shared the microphone, Isaac watched his brother freeze up. He stopped singing, he stopped prancing, he just stood there as if in a trance. The band carried on as Isaac nudged him—the audience picked up on it as well, knowing full well, it wasn't part of the show. "Tay!", he hissed, "c'mon man, snap out of it!" Isaac looked at his face and followed his eyes—there in the third row was the girl who'd creeped Taylor out earlier.
Their eyes were locked and she mouthed the words, "I want you."
Isaac shot a glance at Zac, silently urging him to keep playing, which he did. Then he stepped in front of Taylor and shook his shoulder. He looked into his brother's eyes as he blinked and relief shot through Isaac as Taylor appeared to free himself of whatever had hold of him. To the side of the stage, both Diana and Walker were watching as well with worried looks on their faces. Isaac looked at them and nodded, letting them know Taylor was alright. Though it seemed like an eternity, the whole episode had only lasted around 15 or 20 seconds, but that was long enough for Taylor to have no idea where the song was, so Isaac leaned into the microphone and with his eyes on Taylor's, he sang his part. The next line, the two sang together and they managed to finish the song and end the show with no further problems.
As Taylor left the stage, he was immediately accosted by both his parents. Isaac grabbed a bodyguard and pulled him to the edge of the stage, pointing out the girl, "I don't know who she is, but she is seriously screwing with Taylor's head. Do NOT let her in anymore, ok? She's always got a pass somehow, but we can't let her around anymore."
"You got it." The man answered.
Isaac turned to see Zac looking as well. "You see her?" Isaac asked.
"Yeah, the little one, right?" he answered. Isaac nodded, and they watched her as people pushed past her as they left the auditorium. She stood alone, gazing at the stage, then, she abruptly turned and left, but not before shooting a look toward them in their hiding place. The two brothers looked at each other wide-eyed, then rushed back to join the rest of the family.
"Do we need to take you to the emergency room?" Diana was asking as Isaac and Zac walked into the room.
Taylor was sitting in a chair, his head in his hands, "No—I don't know—God, it's killing me." He said and he leaned back in the chair, still holding his head.
"What happened out there?" Walker said, walking over to Isaac and Zac.
Zac shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know, he just freaked."
Walker was now looking at his oldest son, "What were you all looking at, Ike?"
"He was like, staring at this girl and he just spazzed out, Dad. She was backstage earlier."
"Ike, she didn't give him anything, did she?" Walker asked.
"No, she wouldn't talk to him or anything. I don't get it." Isaac shook his head, watching his mother give Taylor something from a bottle in her purse.
Walker went back toward his wife, "Everybody's in the bus, can you walk Tay?" he asked his son.
Taylor nodded his head, then regretted it as pain shot through his skull. His father took hold of his arm and helped him stand up. Zac and Isaac followed as Diana and Walker got on either side of Taylor as he slowly walked out the door of the theatre and out into the parking lot. Getting out of the harsh lights of the building and into the cool night air made him feel better immediately. He climbed the three steps into the bus and stretched out on the small sofa in the sitting area. He placed his arm over his eyes as the rest of his family filed past him.
Avery, seeing her brother prostrate on the couch climbed out of her bed and padded down the small hallway and to the place where he lay. "Tay, does your head hurt?" she asked.
He sighed, "Yeah, Avie." She began to run her small fingers through his hair and hum the tune to Brahms' Lullaby softly into his ear. "That's nice, thanks." He muttered.
"Sssshhhh…" she put her finger on his lips, then continued her ministrations. Diana watched, and though she was concerned for Taylor, she had to smile as she watched her daughter. She reached up and flipped off the light as the driver pulled out into the street and headed for the highway. In five hours, they'd be in St. Louis.
At 4:30 a.m., the bus pulled into the parking lot of a hotel overlooking the Arch. The city was still sleeping as were it's passengers. The driver approached Diana, asleep in a chair across from her sleeping children. He lightly shook her shoulder, "Mrs. Hanson, we're here."
She blinked, sat up and looked over at the sofa. Taylor was asleep and Avery lay beside him, his arm draped over her. "Thanks," she told the driver, "we'll be out in a few minutes." He nodded and got out to open the luggage compartment and retrieve their bags. Diana walked to the rear of the bus where her husband lay, "Walk, we're here."
He stirred, but didn't open his eyes, "What time is it?" he grunted.
"Early, it's not five yet. I don't want to wake Taylor, how about if I get everybody out, and you stay on the bus with him and Avie." She answered.
"What's wrong with Avie?" he asked, opening his eyes.
"Nothing," she answered, "she's just laying beside him on the couch."
Walker nodded, "Sure, that'll be easy enough. Can you make it without me?" he asked, turning over.
"I'll manage somehow." She smiled.
It wasn't easy, but a half hour later, five children, a second busload full of crew members and Diana were all snug in their beds in the hotel. They had two days before the next show and "do not disturb" signs on all their doors.