“Uh-huh. That’s for sure. You can’t even pack your bags.”
“Why are you so obsessed with that? Jesus. It’s not like I need all that much stuff. I get one outfit for the entire show, and I already know what it’s going to be.”
Jake whipped his head around in alarm. “You’re not going to wear that stupid t-shirt and the short shorts, are you?”
Of course I wasn’t, but Jake didn’t need to know that. I grinned and shrugged like it was already a done deal.
“Oh, my god, Kyle,” he whined. “Do you have to be such a dipshit?”
“Hey, you said you couldn’t wait to see me make an ass of myself, so there you go. You’re welcome. Besides, you don’t even know which t-shirt I was talking about,” I teased, although we both knew which one he was referring to – my current favorite, a t-shirt with a beaver holding onto a log with the caption Are you looking at my wood?
Jake rolled his eyes. “The beaver one.”
“Seriously? You don’t like that one?”
“You know I don’t.”
“You have to admit it’s funny.”
“For a ten-year-old boy, maybe, yeah.”
I grinned. “Okay, if you don’t like the beaver t-shirt, what about the one with the bucks on it?”
“Nooo,” Jake laughed. “That one’s even worse.”
I shook my head emphatically. I thought that one was hysterical. I didn’t know what Jake had against it. What’s better than two bucks checking out a doe and stating, I’d hit that?
“Can’t you just try to be normal for once?” Jake asked, looking way less wary and annoyed.
I hesitated like I was pondering the seriousness of his request. “I… I guess I could try.”
Jake grinned. “Get out. I have to take a shower. And go pack, you idiot!”
Wandering into the green room, I plopped down on the couch. I was in no hurry to pack my bags. Honestly, I was never in a hurry. Playing second fiddle to my handsome, successful, talented older brother meant there were zero expectations on me. And contrary to what people might think, I frickin’ loved it! I’d made a pretty goddamn good living out of doing jack shit. My job mainly consisted of following Jake around all the time, which I would do whether I was getting paid to or not. Hell, I had been shadowing him my whole life. Why stop now that he was rich and famous?
Even as a toddler, I’d idolized Jake, and I’d shamelessly followed him around like an attention-seeking puppy. I’d taken hero worship of my big brother to a whole new level. Jake was the golden boy – charming, handsome, and talented. Everyone loved him. I was none of those things; and yet, for whatever reason, having no labels to call my own rarely bothered me. Somehow my worth had become tangled in his splendor. I basked in his glory, never striving for any of my own.
Although there were only eleven months separating us in age, Jake was the mature and composed brother and I was the hyperactive mess. If there was trouble to be had, I made damn sure I found it. I hadn’t been a malicious kid, just a dumb one. The reckless choices I’d made never resulted in anything more than a few days of house arrest implemented by my irritated parents… that is, until that day. Flashes of it filled my senses with dread.
No. I never went there. My mind wouldn’t allow it. I shook off the memory and sealed it back up where it belonged – far away from the life I lived today.
Refocusing on happier times, I remembered what a poser I’d been. Whatever Jake did, I copied… until it came to music. There was no competing with him in that regard. Don’t get me wrong – I tried. I really did. And I guess I could be considered a decent guitarist by everyday standards; but I had never been up against average. When you grow up in the same household as a prodigy, even the smallest of accomplishments seems mundane in comparison. And it was clear from a very young age that Jake was truly gifted. Obviously, when the musical fairy was sprinkling her talent dust, she bequeathed Jake with a double dose. And I, of course, got none.
From my spot on the couch, I scanned the gathering of people in search of the hot chick from earlier. Had she made it past security? Sometimes the guys would let the smokin’ ones slip by just for the viewing pleasure of our beauty-deprived roadies. And, bless their hearts, some of those hotties even occasionally went slumming, hooking up with a roadie when they couldn’t nail down one of the more desirable members of the tour.
Yeah, there was definitely a hook-up hierarchy on the road. It started on the low end of the spectrum, with the sweaty, overweight truck drivers; moved up a step to the dentally challenged roadies, followed in equal parts by the more ‘put-together’ tech guys, managers, and security guards; and then on to the highly visible, and coveted, band members. Those guys got probably ninety percent of the booty to be had on any given night, leaving the others to fight for the leftovers.
Jake, of course, was the holy grail of hook-ups. It was, after all, his show. But given that he was so damn picky and cranky most of the time, getting into his pants was like winning the lottery. And who was there to pick up the pieces when the rock god didn’t magically appear to whisk them away into a life of riches? That’s right. Me. The consolation prize. See, just before the ninety percent trickled down to the band mates, they filtered through me.
That was the truly awesome part of my life: I got to share in the spoils. I didn’t have to be a rock star to live the life of one. Hell, I was more into the lifestyle than Jake was. All I had to do was mention my last name, and boom – instant respect. Well, maybe respect was too strong a word. It was more like instant curiosity.
Really, the only obstacle with these singularly fixated ladies was getting the focus off Jake and onto me. First I had to get passed all the annoying questions about Jake and then all the nauseating begging to go back and meet him. Once the desperate women understood that their chances with Jake were nil to none, I started looking a whole lot more appealing… certainly not ideal, but better than nothing.
I yawned and glanced around the green room. The crowd inside had almost doubled. I didn’t recognize anyone; but then, why would I? These were people lucky enough to get backstage passes: VIPs, contest winners, people with connections… and, of course, hot chicks. Tonight’s group milled around excitedly, waiting for Jake and the other band members to make their appearance. My brother was not done performing yet, and this was clearly his least favorite part of the night. He wasn’t good at interacting with strangers on a social level. At times it was almost painful to watch. But there were reasons behind his awkwardness, reasons that had shaped his personality and pushed him inside his own head. Jake’s life, for all its riches and awards, had not been an easy one. The kidnapping had turned his life upside down. I doubted anyone outside our family really understood what it took for him to stand in front of those people every night and make them feel welcome.